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Title: Man and Wife
Author: Collins, Wilkie
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 "Man and Wife" ***

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MAN AND WIFE

by Wilkie Collins



PROLOGUE.--THE IRISH MARRIAGE.



Part the First.



THE VILLA AT HAMPSTEAD.

I.

ON a summer’s morning, between thirty and forty years ago, two girls
were crying bitterly in the cabin of an East Indian passenger ship,
bound outward, from Gravesend to Bombay.

They were both of the same age--eighteen. They had both, from childhood
upward, been close and dear friends at the same school. They were now
parting for the first time--and parting, it might be, for life.

The name of one was Blanche. The name of the other was Anne.

Both were the children of poor parents, both had been pupil-teachers at
the school; and both were destined to earn their own bread. Personally
speaking, and socially speaking, these were the only points of
resemblance between them.

Blanche was passably attractive and passably intelligent, and no more.
Anne was rarely beautiful and rarely endowed. Blanche’s parents
were worthy people, whose first consideration was to secure, at any
sacrifice, the future well-being of their child. Anne’s parents were
heartless and depraved. Their one idea, in connection with their
daughter, was to speculate on her beauty, and to turn her abilities to
profitable account.

The girls were starting in life under widely different conditions.
Blanche was going to India, to be governess in the household of a Judge,
under care of the Judge’s wife. Anne was to wait at home until the
first opportunity offered of sending her cheaply to Milan. There, among
strangers, she was to be perfected in the actress’s and the singer’s
art; then to return to England, and make the fortune of her family on
the lyric stage.

Such were the prospects of the two as they sat together in the cabin of
the Indiaman locked fast in each other’s arms, and crying bitterly.
The whispered farewell talk exchanged between them--exaggerated and
impulsive as girls’ talk is apt to be--came honestly, in each case,
straight from the heart.

“Blanche! you may be married in India. Make your husband bring you back
to England.”

“Anne! you may take a dislike to the stage. Come out to India if you
do.”

“In England or out of England, married or not married, we will meet,
darling--if it’s years hence--with all the old love between us; friends
who help each other, sisters who trust each other, for life! Vow it,
Blanche!”

“I vow it, Anne!”

“With all your heart and soul?”

“With all my heart and soul!”

The sails were spread to the wind, and the ship began to move in the
water. It was necessary to appeal to the captain’s authority before the
girls could be parted. The captain interfered gently and firmly. “Come,
my dear,” he said, putting his arm round Anne; “you won’t mind _me!_
I have got a daughter of my own.” Anne’s head fell on the sailor’s
shoulder. He put her, with his own hands, into the shore-boat alongside.
In five minutes more the ship had gathered way; the boat was at the
landing-stage--and the girls had seen the last of each other for many a
long year to come.

This was in the summer of eighteen hundred and thirty-one.

II.

Twenty-four years later--in the summer of eighteen hundred and
fifty-five--there was a villa at Hampstead to be let, furnished.

The house was still occupied by the persons who desired to let it. On
the evening on which this scene opens a lady and two gentlemen were
seated at the dinner-table. The lady had reached the mature age of
forty-two. She was still a rarely beautiful woman. Her husband, some
years younger than herself, faced her at the table, sitting silent and
constrained, and never, even by accident, looking at his wife. The third
person was a guest. The husband’s name was Vanborough. The guest’s name
was Kendrew.

It was the end of the dinner. The fruit and the wine were on the table.
Mr. Vanborough pushed the bottles in silence to Mr. Kendrew. The lady of
the house looked round at the servant who was waiting, and said, “Tell
the children to come in.”

The door opened, and a girl twelve years old entered, lending by the
hand a younger girl of five. They were both prettily dressed in white,
with sashes of the same shade of light blue. But there was no family
resemblance between them. The elder girl was frail and delicate, with a
pale, sensitive face. The younger was light and florid, with round red
cheeks and bright, saucy eyes--a charming little picture of happiness
and health.

Mr. Kendrew looked inquiringly at the youngest of the two girls.

“Here is a young lady,” he said, “who is a total stranger to me.”

“If you had not been a total stranger yourself for a whole year past,”
 answered Mrs. Vanborough, “you would never have made that confession.
This is little Blanche--the only child of the dearest friend I have.
When Blanche’s mother and I last saw each other we were two poor
school-girls beginning the world. My friend went to India, and married
there late in life. You may have heard of her husband--the famous Indian
officer, Sir Thomas Lundie? Yes: ‘the rich Sir Thomas,’ as you call him.
Lady Lundie is now on her way back to England, for the first time since
she left it--I am afraid to say how many years since. I expected her
yesterday; I expect her to-day--she may come at any moment. We exchanged
promises to meet, in the ship that took her to India--‘vows’ we called
them in the dear old times. Imagine how changed we shall find each other
when we _do_ meet again at last!”

“In the mean time,” said Mr. Kendrew, “your friend appears to have sent
you her little daughter to represent her? It’s a long journey for so
young a traveler.”

“A journey ordered by the doctors in India a year since,” rejoined Mrs.
Vanborough. “They said Blanche’s health required English air. Sir Thomas
was ill at the time, and his wife couldn’t leave him. She had to send
the child to England, and who should she send her to but me? Look at her
now, and say if the English air hasn’t agreed with her! We two mothers,
Mr. Kendrew, seem literally to live again in our children. I have an
only child. My friend has an only child. My daughter is little Anne--as
_I_ was. My friend’s daughter is little Blanche--as _she_ was. And, to
crown it all, those two girls have taken the same fancy to each other
which we took to each other in the by-gone days at school. One has often
heard of hereditary hatred. Is there such a thing as hereditary love as
well?”

Before the guest could answer, his attention was claimed by the master
of the house.

“Kendrew,” said Mr. Vanborough, “when you have had enough of domestic
sentiment, suppose you take a glass of wine?”

The words were spoken with undisguised contempt of tone and manner.
Mrs. Vanborough’s color rose. She waited, and controlled the momentary
irritation. When she spoke to her husband it was evidently with a wish
to soothe and conciliate him.

“I am afraid, my dear, you are not well this evening?”

“I shall be better when those children have done clattering with their
knives and forks.”

The girls were peeling fruit. The younger one went on. The elder
stopped, and looked at her mother. Mrs. Vanborough beckoned to Blanche
to come to her, and pointed toward the French window opening to the
floor.

“Would you like to eat your fruit in the garden, Blanche?”

“Yes,” said Blanche, “if Anne will go with me.”

Anne rose at once, and the two girls went away together into the garden,
hand in hand. On their departure Mr. Kendrew wisely started a new
subject. He referred to the letting of the house.

“The loss of the garden will be a sad loss to those two young ladies,”
 he said. “It really seems to be a pity that you should be giving up this
pretty place.”

“Leaving the house is not the worst of the sacrifice,” answered Mrs.
Vanborough. “If John finds Hampstead too far for him from London,
of course we must move. The only hardship that I complain of is the
hardship of having the house to let.”

Mr. Vanborough looked across the table, as ungraciously as possible, at
his wife.

“What have _you_ to do with it?” he asked.

Mrs. Vanborough tried to clear the conjugal horizon b y a smile.

“My dear John,” she said, gently, “you forget that, while you are at
business, I am here all day. I can’t help seeing the people who come to
look at the house. Such people!” she continued, turning to Mr. Kendrew.
“They distrust every thing, from the scraper at the door to the chimneys
on the roof. They force their way in at all hours. They ask all sorts
of impudent questions--and they show you plainly that they don’t mean to
believe your answers, before you have time to make them. Some wretch
of a woman says, ‘Do you think the drains are right?’--and sniffs
suspiciously, before I can say Yes. Some brute of a man asks, ‘Are you
quite sure this house is solidly built, ma’am?’--and jumps on the floor
at the full stretch of his legs, without waiting for me to reply. Nobody
believes in our gravel soil and our south aspect. Nobody wants any of
our improvements. The moment they hear of John’s Artesian well, they
look as if they never drank water. And, if they happen to pass my
poultry-yard, they instantly lose all appreciation of the merits of a
fresh egg!”

Mr. Kendrew laughed. “I have been through it all in my time,” he said.
“The people who want to take a house are the born enemies of the people
who want to let a house. Odd--isn’t it, Vanborough?”

Mr. Vanborough’s sullen humor resisted his friend as obstinately as it
had resisted his wife.

“I dare say,” he answered. “I wasn’t listening.”

This time the tone was almost brutal. Mrs. Vanborough looked at her
husband with unconcealed surprise and distress.

“John!” she said. “What _can_ be the matter with you? Are you in pain?”

“A man may be anxious and worried, I suppose, without being actually in
pain.”

“I am sorry to hear you are worried. Is it business?”

“Yes--business.”

“Consult Mr. Kendrew.”

“I am waiting to consult him.”

Mrs. Vanborough rose immediately. “Ring, dear,” she said, “when you
want coffee.” As she passed her husband she stopped and laid her hand
tenderly on his forehead. “I wish I could smooth out that frown!” she
whispered. Mr. Vanborough impatiently shook his head. Mrs. Vanborough
sighed as she turned to the door. Her husband called to her before she
could leave the room.

“Mind we are not interrupted!”

“I will do my best, John.” She looked at Mr. Kendrew, holding the door
open for her; and resumed, with an effort, her former lightness of tone.
“But don’t forget our ‘born enemies!’ Somebody may come, even at this
hour of the evening, who wants to see the house.”

The two gentlemen were left alone over their wine. There was a strong
personal contrast between them. Mr. Vanborough was tall and dark--a
dashing, handsome man; with an energy in his face which all the world
saw; with an inbred falseness under it which only a special observer
could detect. Mr. Kendrew was short and light--slow and awkward in
manner, except when something happened to rouse him. Looking in _his_
face, the world saw an ugly and undemonstrative little man. The special
observer, penetrating under the surface, found a fine nature beneath,
resting on a steady foundation of honor and truth.

Mr. Vanborough opened the conversation.

“If you ever marry,” he said, “don’t be such a fool, Kendrew, as I have
been. Don’t take a wife from the stage.”

“If I could get such a wife as yours,” replied the other, “I would take
her from the stage to-morrow. A beautiful woman, a clever woman, a woman
of unblemished character, and a woman who truly loves you. Man alive!
what do you want more?”

“I want a great deal more. I want a woman highly connected and highly
bred--a woman who can receive the best society in England, and open her
husband’s way to a position in the world.”

“A position in the world!” cried Mr. Kendrew. “Here is a man whose
father has left him half a million of money--with the one condition
annexed to it of taking his father’s place at the head of one of the
greatest mercantile houses in England. And he talks about a position,
as if he was a junior clerk in his own office! What on earth does your
ambition see, beyond what your ambition has already got?”

Mr. Vanborough finished his glass of wine, and looked his friend
steadily in the face.

“My ambition,” he said, “sees a Parliamentary career, with a Peerage at
the end of it--and with no obstacle in the way but my estimable wife.”

Mr. Kendrew lifted his hand warningly. “Don’t talk in that way,”
 he said. “If you’re joking--it’s a joke I don’t see. If you’re in
earnest--you force a suspicion on me which I would rather not feel. Let
us change the subject.”

“No! Let us have it out at once. What do you suspect?”

“I suspect you are getting tired of your wife.”

“She is forty-two, and I am thirty-five; and I have been married to her
for thirteen years. You know all that--and you only suspect I am tired
of her. Bless your innocence! Have you any thing more to say?”

“If you force me to it, I take the freedom of an old friend, and I say
you are not treating her fairly. It’s nearly two years since you broke
up your establishment abroad, and came to England on your father’s
death. With the exception of myself, and one or two other friends of
former days, you have presented your wife to nobody. Your new position
has smoothed the way for you into the best society. You never take your
wife with you. You go out as if you were a single man. I have reason to
know that you are actually believed to be a single man, among these
new acquaintances of yours, in more than one quarter. Forgive me for
speaking my mind bluntly--I say what I think. It’s unworthy of you to
keep your wife buried here, as if you were ashamed of her.”

“I _am_ ashamed of her.”

“Vanborough!”

“Wait a little! you are not to have it all your own way, my good fellow.
What are the facts? Thirteen years ago I fell in love with a handsome
public singer, and married her. My father was angry with me; and I had
to go and live with her abroad. It didn’t matter, abroad. My father
forgave me on his death-bed, and I had to bring her home again. It does
matter, at home. I find myself, with a great career opening before me,
tied to a woman whose relations are (as you well know) the lowest of
the low. A woman without the slightest distinction of manner, or the
slightest aspiration beyond her nursery and her kitchen, her piano
and her books. Is _that_ a wife who can help me to make my place in
society?--who can smooth my way through social obstacles and political
obstacles, to the House of Lords? By Jupiter! if ever there was a woman
to be ‘buried’ (as you call it), that woman is my wife. And, what’s
more, if you want the truth, it’s because I _can’t_ bury her here that
I’m going to leave this house. She has got a cursed knack of making
acquaintances wherever she goes. She’ll have a circle of friends
about her if I leave her in this neighborhood much longer. Friends
who remember her as the famous opera-singer. Friends who will see her
swindling scoundrel of a father (when my back is turned) coming drunk to
the door to borrow money of her! I tell you, my marriage has wrecked
my prospects. It’s no use talking to me of my wife’s virtues. She is a
millstone round my neck, with all her virtues. If I had not been a born
idiot I should have waited, and married a woman who would have been of
some use to me; a woman with high connections--”

Mr. Kendrew touched his host’s arm, and suddenly interrupted him.

“To come to the point,” he said--“a woman like Lady Jane Parnell.”

Mr. Vanborough started. His eyes fell, for the first time, before the
eyes of his friend.

“What do you know about Lady Jane?” he asked.

“Nothing. I don’t move in Lady Jane’s world--but I do go sometimes to
the opera. I saw you with her last night in her box; and I heard what
was said in the stalls near me. You were openly spoken of as the favored
man who was singled out from the rest by Lady Jane. Imagine what would
happen if your wife heard that! You are wrong, Vanborough--you are in
every way wrong. You alarm, you distress, you disappoint me. I never
sought this explanation--but now it has come, I won’t shrink from it.
Reconsider your conduct; reconsider what you have said to me--or you
count me no longer among your friends. No! I want no farther talk about
it now. We are both getting hot--we may end in saying what had better
have been left unsaid. Once more, let us change the subject. You wrote
me word that you wanted me here to-day, because you needed my advice on
a matter of some importance. What is it?”

Silence followed that question. Mr. Vanborough’s face betrayed signs of
embarrassment. He poured himself out another glass of wine, and drank it
at a draught before he replied.

“It’s not so easy to tell you what I want,” he said, “after the tone you
have taken with me about my wife.”

Mr. Kendrew looked surprised.

“Is Mrs. Vanborough concerned in the matter?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Does she know about it?”

“No.”

“Have you kept the thing a secret out of regard for _her?_”

“Yes.”

“Have I any right to advise on it?”

“You have the right of an old friend.”

“Then, why not tell me frankly what it is?”

There was another moment of embarrassment on Mr. Vanborough’s part.

“It will come better,” he answered, “from a third person, whom I expect
here every minute. He is in possession of all the facts--and he is
better able to state them than I am.”

“Who is the person?”

“My friend, Delamayn.”

“Your lawyer?”

“Yes--the junior partner in the firm of Delamayn, Hawke, and Delamayn.
Do you know him?”

“I am acquainted with him. His wife’s family were friends of mine before
he married. I don’t like him.”

“You’re rather hard to please to-day! Delamayn is a rising man, if ever
there was one yet. A man with a career before him, and with courage
enough to pursue it. He is going to leave the Firm, and try his luck at
the Bar. Every body says he will do great things. What’s your objection
to him?”

“I have no objection whatever. We meet with people occasionally whom
we dislike without knowing why. Without knowing why, I dislike Mr.
Delamayn.”

“Whatever you do you must put up with him this evening. He will be here
directly.”

He was there at that moment. The servant opened the door, and
announced--“Mr. Delamayn.”

III.

Externally speaking, the rising solicitor, who was going to try his
luck at the Bar, looked like a man who was going to succeed. His hard,
hairless face, his watchful gray eyes, his thin, resolute lips, said
plainly, in so many words, “I mean to get on in the world; and, if
you are in my way, I mean to get on at your expense.” Mr. Delamayn was
habitually polite to every body--but he had never been known to say one
unnecessary word to his dearest friend. A man of rare ability; a man of
unblemished honor (as the code of the world goes); but not a man to be
taken familiarly by the hand. You would never have borrowed money
of him--but you would have trusted him with untold gold. Involved in
private and personal troubles, you would have hesitated at asking him
to help you. Involved in public and producible troubles, you would have
said, Here is my man. Sure to push his way--nobody could look at him and
doubt it--sure to push his way.

“Kendrew is an old friend of mine,” said Mr. Vanborough, addressing
himself to the lawyer. “Whatever you have to say to _me_ you may say
before _him._ Will you have some wine?”

“No--thank you.”

“Have you brought any news?”

“Yes.”

“Have you got the written opinions of the two barristers?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“‘Because nothing of the sort is necessary. If the facts of the case are
correctly stated there is not the slightest doubt about the law.”

With that reply Mr. Delamayn took a written paper from his pocket, and
spread it out on the table before him.

“What is that?” asked Mr. Vanborough.

“The case relating to your marriage.”

Mr. Kendrew started, and showed the first tokens of interest in the
proceedings which had escaped him yet. Mr. Delamayn looked at him for a
moment, and went on.

“The case,” he resumed, “as originally stated by you, and taken down in
writing by our head-clerk.”

Mr. Vanborough’s temper began to show itself again.

“What have we got to do with that now?” he asked. “You have made your
inquiries to prove the correctness of my statement--haven’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And you have found out that I am right?”

“I have found out that you are right--if the case is right. I wish to be
sure that no mistake has occurred between you and the clerk. This is a
very important matter. I am going to take the responsibility of giving
an opinion which may be followed by serious consequences; and I mean to
assure myself that the opinion is given on a sound basis, first. I have
some questions to ask you. Don’t be impatient, if you please. They won’t
take long.”

He referred to the manuscript, and put the first question.

“You were married at Inchmallock, in Ireland, Mr. Vanborough, thirteen
years since?”

“Yes.”

“Your wife--then Miss Anne Silvester--was a Roman Catholic?”

“Yes.”

“Her father and mother were Roman Catholics?”

“They were.”

“_Your_ father and mother were Protestants? and _you_ were baptized and
brought up in the Church of England?”

“All right!”

“Miss Anne Silvester felt, and expressed, a strong repugnance to
marrying you, because you and she belonged to different religious
communities?”

“She did.”

“You got over her objection by consenting to become a Roman Catholic,
like herself?”

“It was the shortest way with her and it didn’t matter to _me_.”

“You were formally received into the Roman Catholic Church?”

“I went through the whole ceremony.”

“Abroad or at home?”

“Abroad.”

“How long was it before the date of your marriage?”

“Six weeks before I was married.”

Referring perpetually to the paper in his hand, Mr. Delamayn was
especially careful in comparing that last answer with the answer given
to the head-clerk.

“Quite right,” he said, and went on with his questions.

“The priest who married you was one Ambrose Redman--a young man recently
appointed to his clerical duties?”

“Yes.”

“Did he ask if you were both Roman Catholics?”

“Yes.”

“Did he ask any thing more?”

“No.”

“Are you sure he never inquired whether you had both been Catholics _for
more than one year before you came to him to be married?_”

“I am certain of it.”

“He must have forgotten that part of his duty--or being only a beginner,
he may well have been ignorant of it altogether. Did neither you nor the
lady think of informing him on the point?”

“Neither I nor the lady knew there was any necessity for informing him.”

Mr. Delamayn folded up the manuscript, and put it back in his pocket.

“Right,” he said, “in every particular.”

Mr. Vanborough’s swarthy complexion slowly turned pale. He cast one
furtive glance at Mr. Kendrew, and turned away again.

“Well,” he said to the lawyer, “now for your opinion! What is the law?”

“The law,” answered Mr. Delamayn, “is beyond all doubt or dispute. Your
marriage with Miss Anne Silvester is no marriage at all.”

Mr. Kendrew started to his feet.

“What do you mean?” he asked, sternly.

The rising solicitor lifted his eyebrows in polite surprise. If Mr.
Kendrew wanted information, why should Mr. Kendrew ask for it in that
way? “Do you wish me to go into the law of the case?” he inquired.

“I do.”

Mr. Delamayn stated the law, as that law still stands--to the disgrace
of the English Legislature and the English Nation.

“By the Irish Statute of George the Second,” he said, “every marriage
celebrated by a Popish priest between two Protestants, or between a
Papist and any person who has been a Protestant within twelve months
before the marriage, is declared null and void. And by two other Acts
of the same reign such a celebration of marriage is made a felony on
the part of the priest. The clergy in Ireland of other religious
denominations have been relieved from this law. But it still remains in
force so far as the Roman Catholic priesthood is concerned.”

“Is such a state of things possible in the age we live in!” exclaimed
Mr. Kendrew.

Mr. Delamayn smiled. He had outgrown the customary illusions as to the
age we live in.

“There are other instances in which the Irish marriage-law presents some
curious anomalies of its own,” he went on. “It is felony, as I have just
told you, for a Roman Catholic priest to celebrate a marriage which may
be lawfully celebrated by a parochial clergyman, a Presbyterian mini
ster, and a Non-conformist minister. It is also felony (by another law)
on the part of a parochial clergyman to celebrate a marriage that may be
lawfully celebrated by a Roman Catholic priest. And it is again felony
(by yet another law) for a Presbyterian minister and a Non-conformist
minister to celebrate a marriage which may be lawfully celebrated by a
clergyman of the Established Church. An odd state of things. Foreigners
might possibly think it a scandalous state of things. In this country
we don’t appear to mind it. Returning to the present case, the results
stand thus: Mr. Vanborough is a single man; Mrs. Vanborough is a single
woman; their child is illegitimate, and the priest, Ambrose Redman, is
liable to be tried, and punished, as a felon, for marrying them.”

“An infamous law!” said Mr. Kendrew.

“It _is_ the law,” returned Mr. Delamayn, as a sufficient answer to him.

Thus far not a word had escaped the master of the house. He sat with his
lips fast closed and his eyes riveted on the table, thinking.

Mr. Kendrew turned to him, and broke the silence.

“Am I to understand,” he asked, “that the advice you wanted from me
related to _this?_”

“Yes.”

“You mean to tell me that, foreseeing the present interview and the
result to which it might lead, you felt any doubt as to the course you
were bound to take? Am I really to understand that you hesitate to set
this dreadful mistake right, and to make the woman who is your wife in
the sight of Heaven your wife in the sight of the law?”

“If you choose to put it in that light,” said Mr. Vanborough; “if you
won’t consider--”

“I want a plain answer to my question--‘yes, or no.’”

“Let me speak, will you! A man has a right to explain himself, I
suppose?”

Mr. Kendrew stopped him by a gesture of disgust.

“I won’t trouble you to explain yourself,” he said. “I prefer to leave
the house. You have given me a lesson, Sir, which I shall not forget.
I find that one man may have known another from the days when they were
both boys, and may have seen nothing but the false surface of him in
all that time. I am ashamed of having ever been your friend. You are a
stranger to me from this moment.”

With those words he left the room.

“That is a curiously hot-headed man,” remarked Mr. Delamayn. “If you
will allow me, I think I’ll change my mind. I’ll have a glass of wine.”

Mr. Vanborough rose to his feet without replying, and took a turn in
the room impatiently. Scoundrel as he was--in intention, if not yet in
act--the loss of the oldest friend he had in the world staggered him for
the moment.

“This is an awkward business, Delamayn,” he said. “What would you advise
me to do?”

Mr. Delamayn shook his head, and sipped his claret.

“I decline to advise you,” he answered. “I take no responsibility,
beyond the responsibility of stating the law as it stands, in your
case.”

Mr. Vanborough sat down again at the table, to consider the alternative
of asserting or not asserting his freedom from the marriage tie. He had
not had much time thus far for turning the matter over in his mind.
But for his residence on the Continent the question of the flaw in his
marriage might no doubt have been raised long since. As things were,
the question had only taken its rise in a chance conversation with Mr.
Delamayn in the summer of that year.

For some minutes the lawyer sat silent, sipping his wine, and the
husband sat silent, thinking his own thoughts. The first change that
came over the scene was produced by the appearance of a servant in the
dining-room.

Mr. Vanborough looked up at the man with a sudden outbreak of anger.

“What do you want here?”

The man was a well-bred English servant. In other words, a human
machine, doing its duty impenetrably when it was once wound up. He had
his words to speak, and he spoke them.

“There is a lady at the door, Sir, who wishes to see the house.”

“The house is not to be seen at this time of the evening.”

The machine had a message to deliver, and delivered it.

“The lady desired me to present her apologies, Sir. I was to tell you
she was much pressed for time. This was the last house on the house
agent’s list, and her coachman is stupid about finding his way in
strange places.”

“Hold your tongue, and tell the lady to go to the devil!”

Mr. Delamayn interfered--partly in the interests of his client, partly
in the interests of propriety.

“You attach some importance, I think, to letting this house as soon as
possible?” he said.

“Of course I do!”

“Is it wise--on account of a momentary annoyance--to lose an opportunity
of laying your hand on a tenant?”

“Wise or not, it’s an infernal nuisance to be disturbed by a stranger.”

“Just as you please. I don’t wish to interfere. I only wish to say--in
case you are thinking of my convenience as your guest--that it will be
no nuisance to _me._”

The servant impenetrably waited. Mr. Vanborough impatiently gave way.

“Very well. Let her in. Mind, if she comes here, she’s only to look into
the room, and go out again. If she wants to ask questions, she must go
to the agent.”

Mr. Delamayn interfered once more, in the interests, this time, of the
lady of the house.

“Might it not be desirable,” he suggested, “to consult Mrs. Vanborough
before you quite decide?”

“Where’s your mistress?”

“In the garden, or the paddock, Sir--I am not sure which.”

“We can’t send all over the grounds in search of her. Tell the
house-maid, and show the lady in.”

The servant withdrew. Mr. Delamayn helped himself to a second glass of
wine.

“Excellent claret,” he said. “Do you get it direct from Bordeaux?”

There was no answer. Mr. Vanborough had returned to the contemplation of
the alternative between freeing himself or not freeing himself from the
marriage tie. One of his elbows was on the table, he bit fiercely at his
finger-nails. He muttered between his teeth, “What am I to do?”

A sound of rustling silk made itself gently audible in the passage
outside. The door opened, and the lady who had come to see the house
appeared in the dining-room.

IV.

She was tall and elegant; beautifully dressed, in the happiest
combination of simplicity and splendor. A light summer veil hung over
her face. She lifted it, and made her apologies for disturbing the
gentlemen over their wine, with the unaffected ease and grace of a
highly-bred woman.

“Pray accept my excuses for this intrusion. I am ashamed to disturb you.
One look at the room will be quite enough.”

Thus far she had addressed Mr. Delamayn, who happened to be nearest to
her. Looking round the room her eye fell on Mr. Vanborough. She started,
with a loud exclamation of astonishment. _“You!”_ she said. “Good
Heavens! who would have thought of meeting _you_ here?”

Mr. Vanborough, on his side, stood petrified.

“Lady Jane!” he exclaimed. “Is it possible?”

He barely looked at her while she spoke. His eyes wandered guiltily
toward the window which led into the garden. The situation was a
terrible one--equally terrible if his wife discovered Lady Jane, or if
Lady Jane discovered his wife. For the moment nobody was visible on the
lawn. There was time, if the chance only offered--there was time for
him to get the visitor out of the house. The visitor, innocent of all
knowledge of the truth, gayly offered him her hand.

“I believe in mesmerism for the first time,” she said. “This is an
instance of magnetic sympathy, Mr. Vanborough. An invalid friend of mine
wants a furnished house at Hampstead. I undertake to find one for her,
and the day _I_ select to make the discovery is the day _you_ select for
dining with a friend. A last house at Hampstead is left on my list--and
in that house I meet you. Astonishing!” She turned to Mr. Delamayn. “I
presume I am addressing the owner of the house?” Before a word could
be said by either of the gentlemen she noticed the garden. “What pretty
grounds! Do I see a lady in the garden? I hope I have not driven her
away.” She looked round, and appealed to Mr. Vanborough. “Your friend’s
wife?” she asked, and, on this occasion, waited for a reply.

In Mr. Vanborough’s situation what reply was possible?

Mrs. Vanborough was not only visible--but audible--in the garden; giving
her orders to one of the out-of-door servants with the tone and manner
which proclaimed the mistress of the house. Suppose he said, “She is
_not_ my friend’s wife?” Female curiosity would inevitably put the
next question, “Who is she?” Suppose he invented an explanation? The
explanation would take time, and time would give his wife an opportunity
of discovering Lady Jane. Seeing all these considerations in one
breathless moment, Mr. Vanborough took the shortest and the boldest
way out of the difficulty. He answered silently by an affirmative
inclination of the head, which dextrously turned Mrs. Vanborough into to
Mrs. Delamayn without allowing Mr. Delamayn the opportunity of hearing
it.

But the lawyer’s eye was habitually watchful, and the lawyer saw him.

Mastering in a moment his first natural astonishment at the liberty
taken with him, Mr. Delamayn drew the inevitable conclusion that there
was something wrong, and that there was an attempt (not to be permitted
for a moment) to mix him up in it. He advanced, resolute to contradict
his client, to his client’s own face.

The voluble Lady Jane interrupted him before he could open his lips.

“Might I ask one question? Is the aspect south? Of course it is! I ought
to see by the sun that the aspect is south. These and the other two
are, I suppose, the only rooms on the ground-floor? And is it quiet? Of
course it’s quiet! A charming house. Far more likely to suit my friend
than any I have seen yet. Will you give me the refusal of it till
to-morrow?” There she stopped for breath, and gave Mr. Delamayn his
first opportunity of speaking to her.

“I beg your ladyship’s pardon,” he began. “I really can’t--”

Mr. Vanborough--passing close behind him and whispering as he
passed--stopped the lawyer before he could say a word more.

“For God’s sake, don’t contradict me! My wife is coming this way!”

At the same moment (still supposing that Mr. Delamayn was the master of
the house) Lady Jane returned to the charge.

“You appear to feel some hesitation,” she said. “Do you want a
reference?” She smiled satirically, and summoned her friend to her aid.
“Mr. Vanborough!”

Mr. Vanborough, stealing step by step nearer to the window--intent, come
what might of it, on keeping his wife out of the room--neither heeded
nor heard her. Lady Jane followed him, and tapped him briskly on the
shoulder with her parasol.

At that moment Mrs. Vanborough appeared on the garden side of the
window.

“Am I in the way?” she asked, addressing her husband, after one steady
look at Lady Jane. “This lady appears to be an old friend of yours.”
 There was a tone of sarcasm in that allusion to the parasol, which might
develop into a tone of jealousy at a moment’s notice.

Lady Jane was not in the least disconcerted. She had her double
privilege of familiarity with the men whom she liked--her privilege as
a woman of high rank, and her privilege as a young widow. She bowed to
Mrs. Vanborough, with all the highly-finished politeness of the order to
which she belonged.

“The lady of the house, I presume?” she said, with a gracious smile.

Mrs. Vanborough returned the bow coldly--entered the room first--and
then answered, “Yes.”

Lady Jane turned to Mr. Vanborough.

“Present me!” she said, submitting resignedly to the formalities of the
middle classes.

Mr. Vanborough obeyed, without looking at his wife, and without
mentioning his wife’s name.

“Lady Jane Parnell,” he said, passing over the introduction as rapidly
as possible. “Let me see you to your carriage,” he added, offering his
arm. “I will take care that you have the refusal of the house. You may
trust it all to me.”

No! Lady Jane was accustomed to leave a favorable impression behind her
wherever she went. It was a habit with her to be charming (in widely
different ways) to both sexes. The social experience of the upper
classes is, in England, an experience of universal welcome. Lady Jane
declined to leave until she had thawed the icy reception of the lady of
the house.

“I must repeat my apologies,” she said to Mrs. Vanborough, “for coming
at this inconvenient time. My intrusion appears to have sadly disturbed
the two gentlemen. Mr. Vanborough looks as if he wished me a hundred
miles away. And as for your husband--” She stopped and glanced toward
Mr. Delamayn. “Pardon me for speaking in that familiar way. I have not
the pleasure of knowing your husband’s name.”

In speechless amazement Mrs. Vanborough’s eyes followed the direction of
Lady Jane’s eyes--and rested on the lawyer, personally a total stranger
to her.

Mr. Delamayn, resolutely waiting his opportunity to speak, seized it
once more--and held it this time.

“I beg your pardon,” he said. “There is some misapprehension here, for
which I am in no way responsible. I am _not_ that lady’s husband.”

It was Lady Jane’s turn to be astonished. She looked at the lawyer.
Useless! Mr. Delamayn had set himself right--Mr. Delamayn declined to
interfere further. He silently took a chair at the other end of the
room. Lady Jane addressed Mr. Vanborough.

“Whatever the mistake may be,” she said, “you are responsible for it.
You certainly told me this lady was your friend’s wife.”

“What!!!” cried Mrs. Vanborough--loudly, sternly, incredulously.

The inbred pride of the great lady began to appear behind the thin outer
veil of politeness that covered it.

“I will speak louder if you wish it,” she said. “Mr. Vanborough told me
you were that gentleman’s wife.”

Mr. Vanborough whispered fiercely to his wife through his clenched
teeth.

“The whole thing is a mistake. Go into the garden again!”

Mrs. Vanborough’s indignation was suspended for the moment in dread, as
she saw the passion and the terror struggling in her husband’s face.

“How you look at me!” she said. “How you speak to me!”

He only repeated, “Go into the garden!”

Lady Jane began to perceive, what the lawyer had discovered some minutes
previously--that there was something wrong in the villa at Hampstead.
The lady of the house was a lady in an anomalous position of some
kind. And as the house, to all appearance, belonged to Mr. Vanborough’s
friend, Mr. Vanborough’s friend must (in spite of his recent disclaimer)
be in some way responsible for it. Arriving, naturally enough, at this
erroneous conclusion, Lady Jane’s eyes rested for an instant on Mrs.
Vanborough with a finely contemptuous expression of inquiry which would
have roused the spirit of the tamest woman in existence. The implied
insult stung the wife’s sensitive nature to the quick. She turned once
more to her husband--this time without flinching.

“Who is that woman?” she asked.

Lady Jane was equal to the emergency. The manner in which she wrapped
herself up in her own virtue, without the slightest pretension on the
one hand, and without the slightest compromise on the other, was a sight
to see.

“Mr. Vanborough,” she said, “you offered to take me to my carriage just
now. I begin to understand that I had better have accepted the offer at
once. Give me your arm.”

“Stop!” said Mrs. Vanborough, “your ladyship’s looks are looks of
contempt; your ladyship’s words can bear but one interpretation. I am
innocently involved in some vile deception which I don’t understand.
But this I do know--I won’t submit to be insulted in my own house. After
what you have just said I forbid my husband to give you his arm.”

Her husband!

Lady Jane looked at Mr. Vanborough--at Mr. Vanborough, whom she
loved; whom she had honestly believed to be a single man; whom she had
suspected, up to that moment, of nothing worse than of trying to screen
the frailties of his friend. She dropped her highly-bred tone; she lost
her highly-bred manners. The sense of her injury (if this was true), the
pang of her jealousy (if that woman was his wife), stripped the human
nature in her bare of all disguises, raised the angry color in her
cheeks, and struck the angry fire out of her eyes.

“If you can tell the truth, Sir,” she said, haughtily, “be so good as
to tell it now. Have you been falsely presenting yourself to the
world--falsely presenting yourself to _me_--in the character and with
the aspirations of a single man? Is that lady your wife?”

“Do you hear her? do you see her?” cried Mrs. Vanborough, appealing to
her husband, in her turn. She suddenly drew back from him, shuddering
from head to foot. “He hesitates!” she said to herself, faintly. “Good
God! he hesitates!”

Lady Jane sternly repeated her question.

“Is that lady your wife?”

He roused his scoundrel-courage, and said the fatal word:

“No!”

Mrs. Vanborough staggered back. She caught at the white curtains of the
window to save herself from falling, and tore them. She looked at her
husband, with the torn curtain clenched fast in her hand. She asked
herself, “Am I mad? or is he?”

Lady Jane drew a deep breath of relief. He was not married! He was
only a profligate single man. A profligate single man is shocking--but
reclaimable. It is possible to blame him severely, and to insist on his
reformation in the most uncompromising terms. It is also possible to
forgive him, and marry him. Lady Jane took the necessary position
under the circumstances with perfect tact. She inflicted reproof in the
present without excluding hope in the future.

“I have made a very painful discovery,” she said, gravely, to
Mr. Vanborough. “It rests with _you_ to persuade me to forget it!
Good-evening!”

She accompanied the last words by a farewell look which aroused Mrs.
Vanborough to frenzy. She sprang forward and prevented Lady Jane from
leaving the room.

“No!” she said. “You don’t go yet!”

Mr. Vanborough came forward to interfere. His wife eyed him with a
terrible look, and turned from him with a terrible contempt. “That man
has lied!” she said. “In justice to myself, I insist on proving it!”
 She struck a bell on a table near her. The servant came in. “Fetch my
writing-desk out of the next room.” She waited--with her back turned on
her husband, with her eyes fixed on Lady Jane. Defenseless and alone
she stood on the wreck of her married life, superior to the husband’s
treachery, the lawyer’s indifference, and her rival’s contempt. At
that dreadful moment her beauty shone out again with a gleam of its old
glory. The grand woman, who in the old stage days had held thousands
breathless over the mimic woes of the scene, stood there grander than
ever, in her own woe, and held the three people who looked at her
breathless till she spoke again.

The servant came in with the desk. She took out a paper and handed it to
Lady Jane.

“I was a singer on the stage,” she said, “when I was a single woman. The
slander to which such women are exposed doubted my marriage. I provided
myself with the paper in your hand. It speaks for itself. Even the
highest society, madam, respects _that!_”

Lady Jane examined the paper. It was a marriage-certificate. She turned
deadly pale, and beckoned to Mr. Vanborough. “Are you deceiving me?” she
asked.

Mr. Vanborough looked back into the far corner of the room, in which the
lawyer sat, impenetrably waiting for events. “Oblige me by coming here
for a moment,” he said.

Mr. Delamayn rose and complied with the request. Mr. Vanborough
addressed himself to Lady Jane.

“I beg to refer you to my man of business. _He_ is not interested in
deceiving you.”

“Am I required simply to speak to the fact?” asked Mr. Delamayn. “I
decline to do more.”

“You are not wanted to do more.”

Listening intently to that interchange of question and answer, Mrs.
Vanborough advanced a step in silence. The high courage that had
sustained her against outrage which had openly declared itself shrank
under the sense of something coming which she had not foreseen. A
nameless dread throbbed at her heart and crept among the roots of her
hair.

Lady Jane handed the certificate to the lawyer.

“In two words, Sir,” she said, impatiently, “what is this?”

“In two words, madam,” answered Mr. Delamayn; “waste paper.”

“He is _not_ married?”

“He is _not_ married.”

After a moment’s hesitation Lady Jane looked round at Mrs. Vanborough,
standing silent at her side--looked, and started back in terror. “Take
me away!” she cried, shrinking from the ghastly face that confronted her
with the fixed stare of agony in the great, glittering eyes. “Take me
away! That woman will murder me!”

Mr. Vanborough gave her his arm and led her to the door. There was dead
silence in the room as he did it. Step by step the wife’s eyes followed
them with the same dreadful stare, till the door closed and shut them
out. The lawyer, left alone with the disowned and deserted woman, put
the useless certificate silently on the table. She looked from him to
the paper, and dropped, without a cry to warn him, without an effort to
save herself, senseless at his feet.

He lifted her from the floor and placed her on the sofa, and waited
to see if Mr. Vanborough would come back. Looking at the beautiful
face--still beautiful, even in the swoon--he owned it was hard on her.
Yes! in his own impenetrable way, the rising lawyer owned it was hard on
her.

But the law justified it. There was no doubt in this case. The law
justified it.

The trampling of horses and the grating of wheels sounded outside. Lady
Jane’s carriage was driving away. Would the husband come back? (See what
a thing habit is! Even Mr. Delamayn still mechanically thought of him as
the husband--in the face of the law! in the face of the facts!)

No. Then minutes passed. And no sign of the husband coming back.

It was not wise to make a scandal in the house. It was not desirable (on
his own sole responsibility) to let the servants see what had happened.
Still, there she lay senseless. The cool evening air came in through
the open window and lifted the light ribbons in her lace cap, lifted
the little lock of hair that had broken loose and drooped over her neck.
Still, there she lay--the wife who had loved him, the mother of his
child--there she lay.

He stretched out his hand to ring the bell and summon help.

At the same moment the quiet of the summer evening was once more
disturbed. He held his hand suspended over the bell. The noise outside
came nearer. It was again the trampling of horses and the grating of
wheels. Advancing--rapidly advancing--stopping at the house.

Was Lady Jane coming back?

Was the husband coming back?

There was a loud ring at the bell--a quick opening of the house-door--a
rustling of a woman’s dress in the passage. The door of the room opened,
and the woman appeared--alone. Not Lady Jane. A stranger--older, years
older, than Lady Jane. A plain woman, perhaps, at other times. A woman
almost beautiful now, with the eager happiness that beamed in her face.

She saw the figure on the sofa. She ran to it with a cry--a cry of
recognition and a cry of terror in one. She dropped on her knees--and
laid that helpless head on her bosom, and kissed, with a sister’s
kisses, that cold, white cheek.

“Oh, my darling!” she said. “Is it thus we meet again?”

Yes! After all the years that had passed since the parting in the cabin
of the ship, it was thus the two school-friends met again.


Part the Second.


THE MARCH OF TIME.

V.

ADVANCING from time past to time present, the Prologue leaves the date
last attained (the summer of eighteen hundred and fifty-five), and
travels on through an interval of twelve years--tells who lived, who
died, who prospered, and who failed among the persons concerned in the
tragedy at the Hampstead villa--and, this done, leaves the reader at the
opening of THE STORY in the spring of eighteen hundred and sixty-eight.

The record begins with a marriage--the marriage of Mr. Vanborough and
Lady Jane Parnell.

In three months from the memorable day when his solicitor had informed
him that he was a free man, Mr. Vanborough possessed the wife he
desired, to grace the head of his table and to push his fortunes in the
world--the Legislature of Great Britain being the humble servant of his
treachery, and the respectable accomplice of his crime.

He entered Parliament. He gave (thanks to his wife) six of the grandest
dinners, and two of the most crowded balls of the season. He made a
successful first speech in the House of Commons. He endowed a church in
a poor neighborhood. He wrote an article which attracted attention in a
quarterly review. He discovered, denounced, and remedied a crying abuse
in the administration of a public charity. He received (thanks once
more to his wife) a member of the Royal family among the visitors at his
country house in the autumn recess. These were his triumphs, and this
his rate of progress on the way to the peerage, during the first year of
his life as the husband of Lady Jane.

There was but one more favor that Fortune could confer on her spoiled
child--and Fortune bestowed it. There was a spot on Mr. Vanborough’s
past life as long as the woman lived whom he had disowned and deserted.
At the end of the first year Death took her--and the spot was rubbed
out.

She had met the merciless injury inflicted on her with a rare patience,
with an admirable courage. It is due to Mr. Vanborough to admit that he
broke her heart, with the strictest attention to propriety. He offered
(through his lawyer ) a handsome provision for her and for her child.
It was rejected, without an instant’s hesitation. She repudiated his
money--she repudiated his name. By the name which she had borne in her
maiden days--the name which she had made illustrious in her Art--the
mother and daughter were known to all who cared to inquire after them
when they had sunk in the world.

There was no false pride in the resolute attitude which she thus assumed
after her husband had forsaken her. Mrs. Silvester (as she was now
called) gratefully accepted for herself, and for Miss Silvester,
the assistance of the dear old friend who had found her again in her
affliction, and who remained faithful to her to the end. They lived with
Lady Lundie until the mother was strong enough to carry out the plan of
life which she had arranged for the future, and to earn her bread as a
teacher of singing. To all appearance she rallied, and became herself
again, in a few months’ time. She was making her way; she was winning
sympathy, confidence, and respect every where--when she sank suddenly
at the opening of her new life. Nobody could account for it. The doctors
themselves were divided in opinion. Scientifically speaking, there was
no reason why she should die. It was a mere figure of speech--in no
degree satisfactory to any reasonable mind--to say, as Lady Lundie said,
that she had got her death-blow on the day when her husband deserted
her. The one thing certain was the fact--account for it as you might.
In spite of science (which meant little), in spite of her own courage
(which meant much), the woman dropped at her post and died.

In the latter part of her illness her mind gave way. The friend of her
old school-days, sitting at the bedside, heard her talking as if she
thought herself back again in the cabin of the ship. The poor soul found
the tone, almost the look, that had been lost for so many years--the
tone of the past time when the two girls had gone their different ways
in the world. She said, “we will meet, darling, with all the old love
between us,” just as she had said almost a lifetime since. Before the
end her mind rallied. She surprised the doctor and the nurse by begging
them gently to leave the room. When they had gone she looked at Lady
Lundie, and woke, as it seemed, to consciousness from a dream.

“Blanche,” she said, “you will take care of my child?”

“She shall be _my_ child, Anne, when you are gone.”

The dying woman paused, and thought for a little. A sudden trembling
seized her.

“Keep it a secret!” she said. “I am afraid for my child.”

“Afraid? After what I have promised you?”

She solemnly repeated the words, “I am afraid for my child.”

“Why?”

“My Anne is my second self--isn’t she?”

“Yes.”

“She is as fond of your child as I was of you?”

“Yes.”

“She is not called by her father’s name--she is called by mine. She is
Anne Silvester as I was. Blanche! _Will she end like Me?_”

The question was put with the laboring breath, with the heavy accents
which tell that death is near. It chilled the living woman who heard it
to the marrow of her bones.

“Don’t think that!” she cried, horror-struck. “For God’s sake, don’t
think that!”

The wildness began to appear again in Anne Silvester’s eyes. She made
feebly impatient signs with her hands. Lady Lundie bent over her, and
heard her whisper, “Lift me up.”

She lay in her friend’s arms; she looked up in her friend’s face; she
went back wildly to her fear for her child.

“Don’t bring her up like Me! She must be a governess--she must get her
bread. Don’t let her act! don’t let her sing! don’t let her go on the
stage!” She stopped--her voice suddenly recovered its sweetness of
tone--she smiled faintly--she said the old girlish words once more,
in the old girlish way, “Vow it, Blanche!” Lady Lundie kissed her, and
answered, as she had answered when they parted in the ship, “I vow it,
Anne!”

The head sank, never to be lifted more. The last look of life flickered
in the filmy eyes and went out. For a moment afterward her lips moved.
Lady Lundie put her ear close to them, and heard the dreadful question
reiterated, in the same dreadful words: “She is Anne Silvester--as I
was. _Will she end like Me?_”

VI.

Five years passed--and the lives of the three men who had sat at the
dinner-table in the Hampstead villa began, in their altered aspects, to
reveal the progress of time and change.

Mr. Kendrew; Mr. Delamayn; Mr. Vanborough. Let the order in which they
are here named be the order in which their lives are reviewed, as seen
once more after a lapse of five years.

How the husband’s friend marked his sense of the husband’s treachery has
been told already. How he felt the death of the deserted wife is still
left to tell. Report, which sees the inmost hearts of men, and delights
in turning them outward to the public view, had always declared that
Mr. Kendrew’s life had its secret, and that the secret was a hopeless
passion for the beautiful woman who had married his friend. Not a hint
ever dropped to any living soul, not a word ever spoken to the woman
herself, could be produced in proof of the assertion while the woman
lived. When she died Report started up again more confidently than ever,
and appealed to the man’s own conduct as proof against the man himself.

He attended the funeral--though he was no relation. He took a few
blades of grass from the turf with which they covered her grave--when he
thought that nobody was looking at him. He disappeared from his club.
He traveled. He came back. He admitted that he was weary of England.
He applied for, and obtained, an appointment in one of the colonies.
To what conclusion did all this point? Was it not plain that his usual
course of life had lost its attraction for him, when the object of his
infatuation had ceased to exist? It might have been so--guesses less
likely have been made at the truth, and have hit the mark. It is, at any
rate, certain that he left England, never to return again. Another man
lost, Report said. Add to that, a man in ten thousand--and, for once,
Report might claim to be right.

Mr. Delamayn comes next.

The rising solicitor was struck off the roll, at his own request--and
entered himself as a student at one of the Inns of Court. For three
years nothing was known of him but that he was reading hard and keeping
his terms. He was called to the Bar. His late partners in the firm knew
they could trust him, and put business into his hands. In two years he
made himself a position in Court. At the end of the two years he made
himself a position out of Court. He appeared as “Junior” in “a famous
case,” in which the honor of a great family, and the title to a great
estate were concerned. His “Senior” fell ill on the eve of the trial.
He conducted the case for the defendant and won it. The defendant
said, “What can I do for you?” Mr. Delamayn answered, “Put me into
Parliament.” Being a landed gentleman, the defendant had only to issue
the necessary orders--and behold, Mr. Delamayn was in Parliament!

In the House of Commons the new member and Mr. Vanborough met again.

They sat on the same bench, and sided with the same party. Mr. Delamayn
noticed that Mr. Vanborough was looking old and worn and gray. He put a
few questions to a well-informed person. The well-informed person shook
his head. Mr. Vanborough was rich; Mr. Vanborough was well-connected
(through his wife); Mr. Van borough was a sound man in every sense of
the word; _but_--nobody liked him. He had done very well the first year,
and there it had ended. He was undeniably clever, but he produced a
disagreeable impression in the House. He gave splendid entertainments,
but he wasn’t popular in society. His party respected him, but when they
had any thing to give they passed him over. He had a temper of his
own, if the truth must be told; and with nothing against him--on the
contrary, with every thing in his favor--he didn’t make friends. A
soured man. At home and abroad, a soured man.

VII.

Five years more passed, dating from the day when the deserted wife was
laid in her grave. It was now the year eighteen hundred and sixty six.

On a certain day in that year two special items of news appeared in
the papers--the news of an elevation to the peerage, and the news of a
suicide.

Getting on well at the Bar, Mr. Delamayn got on better still in
Parliament. He became one of the prominent men in the House. Spoke
clearly, sensibly, and modestly, and was never too long. Held the House,
where men of higher abilities “bored” it. The chiefs of his party said
openly, “We must do something for Delamayn,” The opportunity offered,
and the chiefs kept their word. Their Solicitor-General was advanced
a step, and they put Delamayn in his place. There was an outcry on the
part of the older members of the Bar. The Ministry answered, “We want
a man who is listened to in the House, and we have got him.” The papers
supported the new nomination. A great debate came off, and the new
Solicitor-General justified the Ministry and the papers. His enemies
said, derisively, “He will be Lord Chancellor in a year or two!” His
friends made genial jokes in his domestic circle, which pointed to the
same conclusion. They warned his two sons, Julius and Geoffrey (then at
college), to be careful what acquaintances they made, as they might find
themselves the sons of a lord at a moment’s notice. It really began to
look like something of the sort. Always rising, Mr. Delamayn rose next
to be Attorney-General. About the same time--so true it is that “nothing
succeeds like success”--a childless relative died and left him a
fortune. In the summer of ‘sixty-six a Chief Judgeship fell vacant.
The Ministry had made a previous appointment which had been universally
unpopular. They saw their way to supplying the place of their
Attorney-General, and they offered the judicial appointment to Mr.
Delamayn. He preferred remaining in the House of Commons, and refused
to accept it. The Ministry declined to take No for an answer. They
whispered confidentially, “Will you take it with a peerage?” Mr.
Delamayn consulted his wife, and took it with a peerage. The London
_Gazette_ announced him to the world as Baron Holchester of Holchester.
And the friends of the family rubbed their hands and said, “What did we
tell you? Here are our two young friends, Julius and Geoffrey, the sons
of a lord!”

And where was Mr. Vanborough all this time? Exactly where we left him
five years since.

He was as rich, or richer, than ever. He was as well-connected as ever.
He was as ambitious as ever. But there it ended. He stood still in the
House; he stood still in society; nobody liked him; he made no friends.
It was all the old story over again, with this difference, that the
soured man was sourer; the gray head, grayer; and the irritable temper
more unendurable than ever. His wife had her rooms in the house and he
had his, and the confidential servants took care that they never met
on the stairs. They had no children. They only saw each other at their
grand dinners and balls. People ate at their table, and danced on their
floor, and compared notes afterward, and said how dull it was. Step by
step the man who had once been Mr. Vanborough’s lawyer rose, till the
peerage received him, and he could rise no longer; while Mr. Vanborough,
on the lower round of the ladder, looked up, and noted it, with no more
chance (rich as he was and well-connected as he was) of climbing to the
House of Lords than your chance or mine.

The man’s career was ended; and on the day when the nomination of the
new peer was announced, the man ended with it.

He laid the newspaper aside without making any remark, and went out.
His carriage set him down, where the green fields still remain, on the
northwest of London, near the foot-path which leads to Hampstead. He
walked alone to the villa where he had once lived with the woman whom he
had so cruelly wronged. New houses had risen round it, part of the old
garden had been sold and built on. After a moment’s hesitation he
went to the gate and rang the bell. He gave the servant his card. The
servant’s master knew the name as the name of a man of great wealth,
and of a Member of Parliament. He asked politely to what fortunate
circumstance he owed the honor of that visit. Mr. Vanborough answered,
briefly and simply, “I once lived here; I have associations with the
place with which it is not necessary for me to trouble you. Will you
excuse what must seem to you a very strange request? I should like
to see the dining-room again, if there is no objection, and if I am
disturbing nobody.”

The “strange requests” of rich men are of the nature of “privileged
communications,” for this excellent reason, that they are sure not to be
requests for money. Mr. Vanborough was shown into the dining-room. The
master of the house, secretly wondering, watched him.

He walked straight to a certain spot on the carpet, not far from the
window that led into the garden, and nearly opposite the door. On that
spot he stood silently, with his head on his breast--thinking. Was it
_there_ he had seen her for the last time, on the day when he left the
room forever? Yes; it was there. After a minute or so he roused himself,
but in a dreamy, absent manner. He said it was a pretty place, and
expressed his thanks, and looked back before the door closed, and then
went his way again. His carriage picked him up where it had set him
down. He drove to the residence of the new Lord Holchester, and left
a card for him. Then he went home. Arrived at his house, his secretary
reminded him that he had an appointment in ten minutes’ time. He thanked
the secretary in the same dreamy, absent manner in which he had thanked
the owner of the villa, and went into his dressing-room. The person with
whom he had made the appointment came, and the secretary sent the valet
up stairs to knock at the door. There was no answer. On trying the lock
it proved to be turned inside. They broke open the door, and saw him
lying on the sofa. They went close to look--and found him dead by his
own hand.

VIII.

Drawing fast to its close, the Prologue reverts to the two girls--and
tells, in a few words, how the years passed with Anne and Blanche.

Lady Lundie more than redeemed the solemn pledge that she had given to
her friend. Preserved from every temptation which might lure her into
a longing to follow her mother’s career; trained for a teacher’s life,
with all the arts and all the advantages that money could procure,
Anne’s first and only essays as a governess were made, under Lady
Lundie’s own roof, on Lady Lundie’s own child. The difference in the
ages of the girls--seven years--the love between them, which seemed,
as time went on, to grow with their growth, favored the trial of the
experiment. In the double relation of teacher and friend to little
Blanche, the girlhood of Anne Silvester the younger passed safely,
happily, uneventfully, in the modest sanctuary of home. Who could
imagine a contrast more complete than the contrast between her early
life and her mother’s? Who could see any thing but a death-bed delusion
in the terrible question which had tortured the mother’s last moments:
“Will she end like Me?”

But two events of importance occurred in the quiet family circle during
the lapse of years which is now under review. In eighteen hundred and
fifty-eight the household was enlivened by the arrival of Sir Thomas
Lundie. In eighteen hundred and sixty-five the household was broken up
by the return of Sir Thomas to India, accompanied by his wife.

Lady Lundie’s health had b een failing for some time previously. The
medical men, consulted on the case, agreed that a sea-voyage was the one
change needful to restore their patient’s wasted strength--exactly at
the time, as it happened, when Sir Thomas was due again in India. For
his wife’s sake, he agreed to defer his return, by taking the sea-voyage
with her. The one difficulty to get over was the difficulty of leaving
Blanche and Anne behind in England.

Appealed to on this point, the doctors had declared that at Blanche’s
critical time of life they could not sanction her going to India with
her mother. At the same time, near and dear relatives came forward, who
were ready and anxious to give Blanche and her governess a home--Sir
Thomas, on his side, engaging to bring his wife back in a year and a
half, or, at most, in two years’ time. Assailed in all directions, Lady
Lundie’s natural unwillingness to leave the girls was overruled. She
consented to the parting--with a mind secretly depressed, and secretly
doubtful of the future.

At the last moment she drew Anne Silvester on one side, out of hearing
of the rest. Anne was then a young woman of twenty-two, and Blanche a
girl of fifteen.

“My dear,” she said, simply, “I must tell _you_ what I can not tell Sir
Thomas, and what I am afraid to tell Blanche. I am going away, with
a mind that misgives me. I am persuaded I shall not live to return to
England; and, when I am dead, I believe my husband will marry again.
Years ago your mother was uneasy, on her death-bed, about _your_ future.
I am uneasy, now, about Blanche’s future. I promised my dear dead friend
that you should be like my own child to me--and it quieted her
mind. Quiet my mind, Anne, before I go. Whatever happens in years to
come--promise me to be always, what you are now, a sister to Blanche.”

She held out her hand for the last time. With a full heart Anne
Silvester kissed it, and gave the promise.

IX.

In two months from that time one of the forebodings which had weighed on
Lady Lundie’s mind was fulfilled. She died on the voyage, and was buried
at sea.

In a year more the second misgiving was confirmed. Sir Thomas Lundie
married again. He brought his second wife to England toward the close of
eighteen hundred and sixty six.

Time, in the new household, promised to pass as quietly as in the old.
Sir Thomas remembered and respected the trust which his first wife had
placed in Anne. The second Lady Lundie, wisely guiding her conduct in
this matter by the conduct of her husband, left things as she found them
in the new house. At the opening of eighteen hundred and sixty-seven the
relations between Anne and Blanche were relations of sisterly sympathy
and sisterly love. The prospect in the future was as fair as a prospect
could be.

At this date, of the persons concerned in the tragedy of twelve years
since at the Hampstead villa, three were dead; and one was self-exiled
in a foreign land. There now remained living Anne and Blanche, who had
been children at the time; and the rising solicitor who had discovered
the flaw in the Irish marriage--once Mr. Delamayn: now Lord Holchester.



THE STORY.



FIRST SCENE.--THE SUMMER-HOUSE.



CHAPTER THE FIRST.


THE OWLS.

IN the spring of the year eighteen hundred and sixty-eight there lived,
in a certain county of North Britain, two venerable White Owls.

The Owls inhabited a decayed and deserted summer-house. The summer-house
stood in grounds attached to a country seat in Perthshire, known by the
name of Windygates.

The situation of Windygates had been skillfully chosen in that part
of the county where the fertile lowlands first begin to merge into the
mountain region beyond. The mansion-house was intelligently laid out,
and luxuriously furnished. The stables offered a model for ventilation
and space; and the gardens and grounds were fit for a prince.

Possessed of these advantages, at starting, Windygates, nevertheless,
went the road to ruin in due course of time. The curse of litigation
fell on house and lands. For more than ten years an interminable lawsuit
coiled itself closer and closer round the place, sequestering it from
human habitation, and even from human approach. The mansion was closed.
The garden became a wilderness of weeds. The summer-house was choked up
by creeping plants; and the appearance of the creepers was followed by
the appearance of the birds of night.

For years the Owls lived undisturbed on the property which they had
acquired by the oldest of all existing rights--the right of taking.
Throughout the day they sat peaceful and solemn, with closed eyes, in
the cool darkness shed round them by the ivy. With the twilight they
roused themselves softly to the business of life. In sage and silent
companionship of two, they went flying, noiseless, along the quiet lanes
in search of a meal. At one time they would beat a field like a setter
dog, and drop down in an instant on a mouse unaware of them. At another
time--moving spectral over the black surface of the water--they would
try the lake for a change, and catch a perch as they had caught the
mouse. Their catholic digestions were equally tolerant of a rat or an
insect. And there were moments, proud moments, in their lives, when they
were clever enough to snatch a small bird at roost off his perch. On
those occasions the sense of superiority which the large bird feels
every where over the small, warmed their cool blood, and set them
screeching cheerfully in the stillness of the night.

So, for years, the Owls slept their happy sleep by day, and found their
comfortable meal when darkness fell. They had come, with the creepers,
into possession of the summer-house. Consequently, the creepers were a
part of the constitution of the summer-house. And consequently the Owls
were the guardians of the Constitution. There are some human owls who
reason as they did, and who are, in this respect--as also in respect of
snatching smaller birds off their roosts--wonderfully like them.

The constitution of the summer-house had lasted until the spring of the
year eighteen hundred and sixty-eight, when the unhallowed footsteps
of innovation passed that way; and the venerable privileges of the Owls
were assailed, for the first time, from the world outside.

Two featherless beings appeared, uninvited, at the door of the
summer-house, surveyed the constitutional creepers, and said, “These
must come down”--looked around at the horrid light of noonday, and
said, “That must come in”--went away, thereupon, and were heard, in the
distance, agreeing together, “To-morrow it shall be done.”

And the Owls said, “Have we honored the summer-house by occupying it all
these years--and is the horrid light of noonday to be let in on us at
last? My lords and gentlemen, the Constitution is destroyed!”

They passed a resolution to that effect, as is the manner of their kind.
And then they shut their eyes again, and felt that they had done their
duty.

The same night, on their way to the fields, they observed with dismay a
light in one of the windows of the house. What did the light mean?

It meant, in the first place, that the lawsuit was over at last. It
meant, in the second place that the owner of Windygates, wanting money,
had decided on letting the property. It meant, in the third place, that
the property had found a tenant, and was to be renovated immediately out
of doors and in. The Owls shrieked as they flapped along the lanes in
the darkness, And that night they struck at a mouse--and missed him.

The next morning, the Owls--fast asleep in charge of the
Constitution--were roused by voices of featherless beings all round
them. They opened their eyes, under protest, and saw instruments of
destruction attacking the creepers. Now in one direction, and now in
another, those instruments let in on the summer-house the horrid light
of day. But the Owls were equal to the occasion. They ruffled their
feathers, and cried, “No surrender!” The featherless beings plied their
work cheerfully, and answered, “Reform!” The creepers were torn down
this way and that. The horrid daylight poured in brighter and brighter.
The Owls had barely time to pass a new resolution, namely, “That we do
stand by the Constitution,” when a ray of the outer sunlight flashed
into their eyes, and sent them flying headlong to the nearest shade.
There they sat winking, while the summer-house was cleared of the rank
growth that had choked it up, while the rotten wood-work was renewed,
while all the murky place was purified with air and light. And when the
world saw it, and said, “Now we shall do!” the Owls shut their eyes
in pious remembrance of the darkness, and answered, “My lords and
gentlemen, the Constitution is destroyed!”


CHAPTER THE SECOND.

THE GUESTS.

Who was responsible for the reform of the summer-house? The new tenant
at Windygates was responsible.

And who was the new tenant?

Come, and see.



In the spring of eighteen hundred and sixty-eight the summer-house had
been the dismal dwelling-place of a pair of owls. In the autumn of the
same year the summer-house was the lively gathering-place of a crowd
of ladies and gentlemen, assembled at a lawn party--the guests of the
tenant who had taken Windygates.

The scene--at the opening of the party--was as pleasant to look at as
light and beauty and movement could make it.

Inside the summer-house the butterfly-brightness of the women in their
summer dresses shone radiant out of the gloom shed round it by the
dreary modern clothing of the men. Outside the summer-house, seen
through three arched openings, the cool green prospect of a lawn led
away, in the distance, to flower-beds and shrubberies, and, farther
still, disclosed, through a break in the trees, a grand stone house
which closed the view, with a fountain in front of it playing in the
sun.

They were half of them laughing, they were all of them talking--the
comfortable hum of their voices was at its loudest; the cheery pealing
of the laughter was soaring to its highest notes--when one dominant
voice, rising clear and shrill above all the rest, called imperatively
for silence. The moment after, a young lady stepped into the vacant
space in front of the summer-house, and surveyed the throng of guests as
a general in command surveys a regiment under review.

She was young, she was pretty, she was plump, she was fair. She was not
the least embarrassed by her prominent position. She was dressed in the
height of the fashion. A hat, like a cheese-plate, was tilted over her
forehead. A balloon of light brown hair soared, fully inflated, from the
crown of her head. A cataract of beads poured over her bosom. A pair of
cock-chafers in enamel (frightfully like the living originals) hung at
her ears. Her scanty skirts shone splendid with the blue of heaven. Her
ankles twinkled in striped stockings. Her shoes were of the sort called
“Watteau.” And her heels were of the height at which men shudder, and
ask themselves (in contemplating an otherwise lovable woman), “Can this
charming person straighten her knees?”

The young lady thus presenting herself to the general view was Miss
Blanche Lundie--once the little rosy Blanche whom the Prologue has
introduced to the reader. Age, at the present time, eighteen. Position,
excellent. Money, certain. Temper, quick. Disposition, variable. In a
word, a child of the modern time--with the merits of the age we live in,
and the failings of the age we live in--and a substance of sincerity and
truth and feeling underlying it all.

“Now then, good people,” cried Miss Blanche, “silence, if you please! We
are going to choose sides at croquet. Business, business, business!”

Upon this, a second lady among the company assumed a position of
prominence, and answered the young person who had just spoken with a
look of mild reproof, and in a tone of benevolent protest.

The second lady was tall, and solid, and five-and-thirty. She presented
to the general observation a cruel aquiline nose, an obstinate straight
chin, magnificent dark hair and eyes, a serene splendor of fawn-colored
apparel, and a lazy grace of movement which was attractive at
first sight, but inexpressibly monotonous and wearisome on a longer
acquaintance. This was Lady Lundie the Second, now the widow (after four
months only of married life) of Sir Thomas Lundie, deceased. In other
words, the step-mother of Blanche, and the enviable person who had taken
the house and lands of Windygates.

“My dear,” said Lady Lundie, “words have their meanings--even on a young
lady’s lips. Do you call Croquet, ‘business?’”

“You don’t call it pleasure, surely?” said a gravely ironical voice in
the back-ground of the summer-house.

The ranks of the visitors parted before the last speaker, and disclosed
to view, in the midst of that modern assembly, a gentleman of the bygone
time.

The manner of this gentleman was distinguished by a pliant grace and
courtesy unknown to the present generation. The attire of this gentleman
was composed of a many-folded white cravat, a close-buttoned blue
dress-coat, and nankeen trousers with gaiters to match, ridiculous
to the present generation. The talk of this gentleman ran in an
easy flow--revealing an independent habit of mind, and exhibiting a
carefully-polished capacity for satirical retort--dreaded and disliked
by the present generation. Personally, he was little and wiry and
slim--with a bright white head, and sparkling black eyes, and a wry
twist of humor curling sharply at the corners of his lips. At his lower
extremities, he exhibited the deformity which is popularly known as “a
club-foot.” But he carried his lameness, as he carried his years, gayly.
He was socially celebrated for his ivory cane, with a snuff-box artfully
let into the knob at the top--and he was socially dreaded for a hatred
of modern institutions, which expressed itself in season and out of
season, and which always showed the same, fatal knack of hitting smartly
on the weakest place. Such was Sir Patrick Lundie; brother of the late
baronet, Sir Thomas; and inheritor, at Sir Thomas’s death, of the title
and estates.

Miss Blanche--taking no notice of her step-mother’s reproof, or of her
uncle’s commentary on it--pointed to a table on which croquet mallets
and balls were laid ready, and recalled the attention of the company to
the matter in hand.

“I head one side, ladies and gentlemen,” she resumed. “And Lady Lundie
heads the other. We choose our players turn and turn about. Mamma has
the advantage of me in years. So mamma chooses first.”

With a look at her step-daughter--which, being interpreted, meant, “I
would send you back to the nursery, miss, if I could!”--Lady Lundie
turned and ran her eye over her guests. She had evidently made up her
mind, beforehand, what player to pick out first.

“I choose Miss Silvester,” she said--with a special emphasis laid on the
name.

At that there was another parting among the crowd. To us (who know her),
it was Anne who now appeared. Strangers, who saw her for the first
time, saw a lady in the prime of her life--a lady plainly dressed in
unornamented white--who advanced slowly, and confronted the mistress of
the house.

A certain proportion--and not a small one--of the men at the lawn-party
had been brought there by friends who were privileged to introduce
them. The moment she appeared every one of those men suddenly became
interested in the lady who had been chosen first.

“That’s a very charming woman,” whispered one of the strangers at the
house to one of the friends of the house. “Who is she?”

The friend whispered back.

“Miss Lundie’s governess--that’s all.”

The moment during which the question was put and answered was also the
moment which brought Lady Lundie and Miss Silvester face to face in the
presence of the company.

The stranger at the house looked at the two women, and whispered again.

“Something wrong between the lady and the governess,” he said.

The friend looked also, and answered, in one emphatic word:

“Evidently!”

There are certain women whose influence over men is an unfathomable
mystery to observers of their own sex. The governess was one of those
women. She had inherited the charm, but not the beauty, of her unhappy
mother. Judge her by the standard set up in the illustrated gift-books
and the print-shop windows--and the sentence must have inevitably
followed. “She has not a single good feature in her face.”

There was nothing individually remarkable about Miss Silvester, seen in
a state of repose. She was of the average height. She was as well made
as most women. In hair and complexion she was neither light nor dark,
but provokingly neutral just between the two. Worse even than this,
there were positive defects in her face, which it was impossible to
deny. A nervous contraction at one corner of her mouth drew up the
lips out of the symmetrically right line, when, they moved. A nervous
uncertainty in the eye on the same side narrowly escaped presenting the
deformity of a “cast.” And yet, with these indisputable drawbacks, here
was one of those women--the formidable few--who have the hearts of men
and the peace of families at their mercy. She moved--and there was some
subtle charm, Sir, in the movement, that made you look back, and suspend
your conversation with your friend, and watch her silently while she
walked. She sat by you and talked to you--and behold, a sensitive
something passed into that little twist at the corner of the mouth, and
into that nervous uncertainty in the soft gray eye, which turned defect
into beauty--which enchained your senses--which made your nerves thrill
if she touched you by accident, and set your heart beating if you looked
at the same book with her, and felt her breath on your face. All this,
let it be well understood, only happened if you were a man.

If you saw her with the eyes of a woman, the results were of quite
another kind. In that case you merely turned to your nearest female
friend, and said, with unaffected pity for the other sex, “What _can_
the men see in her!”

The eyes of the lady of the house and the eyes of the governess met,
with marked distrust on either side. Few people could have failed to
see what the stranger and the friend had noticed alike--that there was
something smoldering under the surface here. Miss Silvester spoke first.

“Thank you, Lady Lundie,” she said. “I would rather not play.”

Lady Lundie assumed an extreme surprise which passed the limits of
good-breeding.

“Oh, indeed?” she rejoined, sharply. “Considering that we are all here
for the purpose of playing, that seems rather remarkable. Is any thing
wrong, Miss Silvester?”

A flush appeared on the delicate paleness of Miss Silvester’s face.
But she did her duty as a woman and a governess. She submitted, and so
preserved appearances, for that time.

“Nothing is the matter,” she answered. “I am not very well this morning.
But I will play if you wish it.”

“I do wish it,” answered Lady Lundie.

Miss Silvester turned aside toward one of the entrances into the
summer-house. She waited for events, looking out over the lawn, with a
visible inner disturbance, marked over the bosom by the rise and fall of
her white dress.

It was Blanche’s turn to select the next player.

In some preliminary uncertainty as to her choice she looked about among
the guests, and caught the eye of a gentleman in the front ranks. He
stood side by side with Sir Patrick--a striking representative of the
school that is among us--as Sir Patrick was a striking representative of
the school that has passed away.

The modern gentleman was young and florid, tall and strong. The parting
of his curly Saxon locks began in the center of his forehead, traveled
over the top of his head, and ended, rigidly-central, at the ruddy nape
of his neck. His features were as perfectly regular and as perfectly
unintelligent as human features can be. His expression preserved an
immovable composure wonderful to behold. The muscles of his brawny arms
showed through the sleeves of his light summer coat. He was deep in the
chest, thin in the flanks, firm on the legs--in two words a magnificent
human animal, wrought up to the highest pitch of physical development,
from head to foot. This was Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn--commonly called “the
honorable;” and meriting that distinction in more ways than one. He was
honorable, in the first place, as being the son (second son) of that
once-rising solicitor, who was now Lord Holchester. He was honorable,
in the second place, as having won the highest popular distinction which
the educational system of modern England can bestow--he had pulled the
stroke-oar in a University boat-race. Add to this, that nobody had ever
seen him read any thing but a newspaper, and that nobody had ever
known him to be backward in settling a bet--and the picture of this
distinguished young Englishman will be, for the present, complete.

Blanche’s eye naturally rested on him. Blanche’s voice naturally picked
him out as the first player on her side.

“I choose Mr. Delamayn,” she said.

As the name passed her lips the flush on Miss Silvester’s face died
away, and a deadly paleness took its place. She made a movement to leave
the summer-house--checked herself abruptly--and laid one hand on the
back of a rustic seat at her side. A gentleman behind her, looking at
the hand, saw it clench itself so suddenly and so fiercely that
the glove on it split. The gentleman made a mental memorandum, and
registered Miss Silvester in his private books as “the devil’s own
temper.”

Meanwhile Mr. Delamayn, by a strange coincidence, took exactly the same
course which Miss Silvester had taken before him. He, too, attempted to
withdraw from the coming game.

“Thanks very much,” he said. “Could you additionally honor me by
choosing somebody else? It’s not in my line.”

Fifty years ago such an answer as this, addressed to a lady, would have
been considered inexcusably impertinent. The social code of the present
time hailed it as something frankly amusing. The company laughed.
Blanche lost her temper.

“Can’t we interest you in any thing but severe muscular exertion,
Mr. Delamayn?” she asked, sharply. “Must you always be pulling in a
boat-race, or flying over a high jump? If you had a mind, you would want
to relax it. You have got muscles instead. Why not relax _them_?”

The shafts of Miss Lundie’s bitter wit glided off Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn
like water off a duck’s back.

“Just as you please,” he said, with stolid good-humor. “Don’t be
offended. I came here with ladies--and they wouldn’t let me smoke. I
miss my smoke. I thought I’d slip away a bit and have it. All right!
I’ll play.”

“Oh! smoke by all means!” retorted Blanche. “I shall choose somebody
else. I won’t have you!”

The honorable young gentleman looked unaffectedly relieved. The petulant
young lady turned her back on him, and surveyed the guests at the other
extremity of the summer-house.

“Who shall I choose?” she said to herself.

A dark young man--with a face burned gipsy-brown by the sun; with
something in his look and manner suggestive of a roving life, and
perhaps of a familiar acquaintance with the sea--advanced shyly, and
said, in a whisper:

“Choose me!”

Blanche’s face broke prettily into a charming smile. Judging from
appearances, the dark young man had a place in her estimation peculiarly
his own.

“You!” she said, coquettishly. “You are going to leave us in an hour’s
time!”

He ventured a step nearer. “I am coming back,” he pleaded, “the day
after to-morrow.”

“You play very badly!”

“I might improve--if you would teach me.”

“Might you? Then I will teach you!” She turned, bright and rosy, to her
step-mother. “I choose Mr. Arnold Brinkworth,” she said.

Here, again, there appeared to be something in a name unknown to
celebrity, which nevertheless produced its effect--not, this time, on
Miss Silvester, but on Sir Patrick. He looked at Mr. Brinkworth with a
sudden interest and curiosity. If the lady of the house had not claimed
his attention at the moment he would evidently have spoken to the dark
young man.

But it was Lady Lundie’s turn to choose a second player on her side.
Her brother-in-law was a person of some importance; and she had her
own motives for ingratiating herself with the head of the family. She
surprised the whole company by choosing Sir Patrick.

“Mamma!” cried Blanche. “What can you be thinking of? Sir Patrick won’t
play. Croquet wasn’t discovered in his time.”

Sir Patrick never allowed “his time” to be made the subject of
disparaging remarks by the younger generation without paying the
younger generation back in its own coin.

“In _my_ time, my dear,” he said to his niece, “people were expected to
bring some agreeable quality with them to social meetings of this sort.
In your time you have dispensed with all that. Here,” remarked the old
gentleman, taking up a croquet mallet from the table near him, “is
one of the qualifications for success in modern society. And here,” he
added, taking up a ball, “is another. Very good. Live and learn. I’ll
play! I’ll play!”

Lady Lundie (born impervious to all sense of irony) smiled graciously.

“I knew Sir Patrick would play,” she said, “to please me.”

Sir Patrick bowed with satirical politeness.

“Lady Lundie,” he answered, “you read me like a book.” To the
astonishment of all persons present under forty he emphasized those
words by laying his hand on his heart, and quoting poetry. “I may say
with Dryden,” added the gallant old gentleman:

     “‘Old as I am, for ladies’ love unfit,
     The power of beauty I remember yet.’”

Lady Lundie looked unaffectedly shocked. Mr. Delamayn went a step
farther. He interfered on the spot--with the air of a man who feels
himself imperatively called upon to perform a public duty.

“Dryden never said that,” he remarked, “I’ll answer for it.”

Sir Patrick wheeled round with the help of his ivory cane, and looked
Mr. Delamayn hard in the face.

“Do you know Dryden, Sir, better than I do?” he asked.

The Honorable Geoffrey answered, modestly, “I should say I did. I have
rowed three races with him, and we trained together.”

Sir Patrick looked round him with a sour smile of triumph.

“Then let me tell you, Sir,” he said, “that you trained with a man who
died nearly two hundred years ago.”

Mr. Delamayn appealed, in genuine bewilderment, to the company
generally:

“What does this old gentleman mean?” he asked. “I am speaking of Tom
Dryden, of Corpus. Every body in the University knows _him._”

“I am speaking,” echoed Sir Patrick, “of John Dryden the Poet.
Apparently, every body in the University does _not_ know _him!”_

Mr. Delamayn answered, with a cordial earnestness very pleasant to see:

“Give you my word of honor, I never heard of him before in my life!
Don’t be angry, Sir. _I’m_ not offended with _you._” He smiled, and took
out his brier-wood pipe. “Got a light?” he asked, in the friendliest
possible manner.

Sir Patrick answered, with a total absence of cordiality:

“I don’t smoke, Sir.”

Mr. Delamayn looked at him, without taking the slightest offense:

“You don’t smoke!” he repeated. “I wonder how you get through your spare
time?”

Sir Patrick closed the conversation:

“Sir,” he said, with a low bow, “you _may_ wonder.”

While this little skirmish was proceeding Lady Lundie and her
step-daughter had organized the game; and the company, players and
spectators, were beginning to move toward the lawn. Sir Patrick stopped
his niece on her way out, with the dark young man in close attendance on
her.

“Leave Mr. Brinkworth with me,” he said. “I want to speak to him.”

Blanche issued her orders immediately. Mr. Brinkworth was sentenced to
stay with Sir Patrick until she wanted him for the game. Mr. Brinkworth
wondered, and obeyed.

During the exercise of this act of authority a circumstance occurred
at the other end of the summer-house. Taking advantage of the confusion
caused by the general movement to the lawn, Miss Silvester suddenly
placed herself close to Mr. Delamayn.

“In ten minutes,” she whispered, “the summer-house will be empty. Meet
me here.”

The Honorable Geoffrey started, and looked furtively at the visitors
about him.

“Do you think it’s safe?” he whispered back.

The governess’s sensitive lips trembled, with fear or with anger, it was
hard to say which.

“I insist on it!” she answered, and left him.

Mr. Delamayn knitted his handsome eyebrows as he looked after her, and
then left the summer-house in his turn. The rose-garden at the back of
the building was solitary for the moment. He took out his pipe and hid
himself among the roses. The smoke came from his mouth in hot and hasty
puffs. He was usually the gentlest of masters--to his pipe. When he
hurried that confidential servant, it was a sure sign of disturbance in
the inner man.


CHAPTER THE THIRD.

THE DISCOVERIES.

BUT two persons were now left in the summer-house--Arnold Brinkworth and
Sir Patrick Lundie.

“Mr. Brinkworth,” said the old gentleman, “I have had no opportunity of
speaking to you before this; and (as I hear that you are to leave us,
to-day) I may find no opportunity at a later time. I want to introduce
myself. Your father was one of my dearest friends--let me make a friend
of your father’s son.”

He held out his hands, and mentioned his name.

Arnold recognized it directly. “Oh, Sir Patrick!” he said, warmly, “if
my poor father had only taken your advice--”

“He would have thought twice before he gambled away his fortune on the
turf; and he might have been alive here among us, instead of dying an
exile in a foreign land,” said Sir Patrick, finishing the sentence which
the other had begun. “No more of that! Let’s talk of something else.
Lady Lundie wrote to me about you the other day. She told me your aunt
was dead, and had left you heir to her property in Scotland. Is that
true?--It is?--I congratulate you with all my heart. Why are you
visiting here, instead of looking after your house and lands? Oh! it’s
only three-and-twenty miles from this; and you’re going to look after
it to-day, by the next train? Quite right. And--what? what?--coming back
again the day after to-morrow? Why should you come back? Some special
attraction here, I suppose? I hope it’s the right sort of attraction.
You’re very young--you’re exposed to all sorts of temptations. Have you
got a solid foundation of good sense at the bottom of you? It is not
inherited from your poor father, if you have. You must have been a mere
boy when he ruined his children’s prospects. How have you lived from
that time to this? What were you doing when your aunt’s will made an
idle man of you for life?”

The question was a searching one. Arnold answered it, without the
slightest hesitation; speaking with an unaffected modesty and simplicity
which at once won Sir Patrick’s heart.

“I was a boy at Eton, Sir,” he said, “when my father’s losses ruined
him. I had to leave school, and get my own living; and I have got it,
in a roughish way, from that time to this. In plain English, I have
followed the sea--in the merchant-service.”

“In plainer English still, you met adversity like a brave lad, and you
have fairly earned the good luck that has fallen to you,” rejoined Sir
Patrick. “Give me your hand--I have taken a liking to you. You’re not
like the other young fellows of the present time. I shall call you
‘Arnold.’ You mus’n’t return the compliment and call me ‘Patrick,’
mind--I’m too old to be treated in that way. Well, and how do you get on
here? What sort of a woman is my sister-in-law? and what sort of a house
is this?”

Arnold burst out laughing.

“Those are extraordinary questions for you to put to me,” he said. “You
talk, Sir, as if you were a stranger here!”

Sir Patrick touched a spring in the knob of his ivory cane. A little
gold lid flew up, and disclosed the snuff-box hidden inside. He took a
pinch, and chuckled satirically over some passing thought, which he did
not think it necessary to communicate to his young friend.

“I talk as if I was a stranger here, do I?” he resumed. “That’s exactly
what I am. Lady Lundie and I correspond on excellent terms; but we run
in different grooves, and we see each other as seldom as possible. My
story,” continued the pleasant old man, with a charming frankness which
leveled all differences of age and rank between Arnold and himself,
“is not entirely unlike yours; though I _am_ old enough to be your
grandfather. I was getting my living, in my way (as a crusty old Scotch
lawyer), when my brother married again. His death, without leaving a son
by either of his wives, gave me a lift in the world, like you. Here I
am (to my own sincere regret) the present baronet. Yes, to my sincere
regret! All sorts of responsibilities which I never bargained for are
thrust on my shoulders. I am the head of the family; I am my niece’s
guardian; I am compelled to appear at this lawn-party--and (between
ourselves) I am as completely out of my element as a man can be. Not a
single familiar face meets _me_ among all these fine people. Do you know
any body here?”

“I have one friend at Windygates,” said Arnold. “He came here this
morning, like you. Geoffrey Delamayn.”

As he made the reply, Miss Silvester appeared at the entrance to the
summer-house. A shadow of annoyance passed over her face when she saw
that the place was occupied. She vanished, unnoticed, and glided back to
the game.

Sir Patrick looked at the son of his old friend, with every appearance
of being disappointed in the young man for the first time.

“Your choice of a friend rather surprises me,” he said.

Arnold artlessly accepted the words as an appeal to him for information.

“I beg your pardon, Sir--there’s nothing surprising in it,” he returned.
“We were school-fellows at Eton, in the old times. And I have met
Geoffrey since, when he was yachting, and when I was with my ship.
Geoffrey saved my life, Sir Patrick,” he added, his voice rising, and
his eyes brightening with honest admiration of his friend. “But for
him, I should have been drowned in a boat-accident. Isn’t _that_ a good
reason for his being a friend of mine?”

“It depends entirely on the value you set on your life,” said Sir
Patrick.

“The value I set on my life?” repeated Arnold. “I set a high value on
it, of course!”

“In that case, Mr. Delamayn has laid you under an obligation.”

“Which I can never repay!”

“Which you will repay one of these days, with interest--if I know any
thing of human nature,” answered Sir Patrick.

He said the words with the emphasis of strong conviction. They were
barely spoken when Mr. Delamayn appeared (exactly as Miss Silvester
had appeared) at the entrance to the summer-house. He, too, vanished,
unnoticed--like Miss Silvester again. But there the parallel stopped.
The Honorable Geoffrey’s expression, on discovering the place to be
occupied, was, unmistakably an expression of relief.

Arnold drew the right inference, this time, from Sir Patrick’s language
and Sir Patrick’s tones. He eagerly took up the defense of his friend.

“You said that rather bitterly, Sir,” he remarked. “What has Geoffrey
done to offend you?”

“He presumes to exist--that’s what he has done,” retorted Sir Patrick.
“Don’t stare! I am speaking generally. Your friend is the model young
Briton of the present time. I don’t like the model young Briton. I
don’t see the sense of crowing over him as a superb national production,
because he is big and strong, and drinks beer with impunity, and takes a
cold shower bath all the year round. There is far too much glorification
in England, just now, of the mere physical qualities which an Englishman
shares with the savage and the brute. And the ill results are beginning
to show themselves already! We are readier than we ever were to practice
all that is rough in our national customs, and to excuse all that is
violent and brutish in our national acts. Read the popular books--attend
the popular amusements; and you will find at the bottom of them all a
lessening regard for the gentler graces of civilized life, and a growing
admiration for the virtues of the aboriginal Britons!”

Arnold listened in blank amazement. He had been the innocent means
of relieving Sir Patrick’s mind of an accumulation of social protest,
unprovided with an issue for some time past. “How hot you are over it,
Sir!” he exclaimed, in irrepressible astonishment.

Sir Patrick instantly recovered himself. The genuine wonder expressed in
the young man’s face was irresistible.

“Almost as hot,” he said, “as if I was cheering at a boat-race, or
wrangling over a betting-book--eh? Ah, we were so easily heated when
I was a young man! Let’s change the subject. I know nothing to the
prejudice of your friend, Mr. Delamayn. It’s the cant of the day,” cried
Sir Patrick, relapsing again, “to take these physically-wholesome men
for granted as being morally-wholesome men into the bargain. Time will
show whether the cant of the day is right.--So you are actually coming
back to Lady Lundie’s after a mere flying visit to your own property? I
repeat, that is a most extraordinary proceeding on the part of a landed
gentleman like you. What’s the attraction here--eh?”

Before Arnold could reply Blanche called to him from the lawn. His color
rose, and he turned eagerly to go out. Sir Patrick nodded his head with
the air of a man who had been answered to his own entire satisfaction.
“Oh!” he said, “_that’s_ the attraction, is it?”

Arnold’s life at sea had left him singularly ignorant of the ways of the
world on shore. Instead of taking the joke, he looked confused. A deeper
tinge of color reddened his dark cheeks. “I didn’t say so,” he answered,
a little irritably.

Sir Patrick lifted two of his white, wrinkled old fingers, and
good-humoredly patted the young sailor on the cheek.

“Yes you did,” he said. “In red letters.”

The little gold lid in the knob of the ivory cane flew up, and the old
gentleman rewarded himself for that neat retort with a pinch of snuff.
At the same moment Blanche made her appearance on the scene.

“Mr. Brinkworth,” she said, “I shall want you directly. Uncle, it’s your
turn to play.”

“Bless my soul!” cried Sir Patrick, “I forgot the game.” He looked about
him, and saw his mallet and ball left waiting on the table. “Where are
the modern substitutes for conversation? Oh, here they are!” He bowled
the ball out before him on to the lawn, and tucked the mallet, as if it
was an umbrella, under his arm. “Who was the first mistaken person,” he
said to himself, as he briskly hobbled out, “who discovered that human
life was a serious thing? Here am I, with one foot in the grave; and the
most serious question before me at the present moment is, Shall I get
through the Hoops?”

Arnold and Blanche were left together.

Among the personal privileges which Nature has accorded to women, there
are surely none more enviable than their privilege of always looking
their best when they look at the man they love. When Blanche’s eyes
turned on Arnold after her uncle had gone out, not even the hideous
fashionable disfigurements of the inflated “chignon” and the tilted hat
could destroy the triple charm of youth, beauty, and tenderness beaming
in her face. Arnold looked at her--and remembered, as he had never
remembered yet, that he was going by the next train, and that he was
leaving her in the society of more than one admiring man of his own age.
The experience of a whole fortnight passed under the same roof with her
had proved Blanche to be the most charming girl in existence. It was
possible that she might not be mortally offended with him if he told her
so. He determined that he _would_ tell her so at that auspicious moment.

But who shall presume to measure the abyss that lies between the
Intention and the Execution? Arnold’s resolution to speak was as firmly
settled as a resolution could be. And what came of it? Alas for human
infirmity! Nothing came of it but silence.

“You don’t look quite at your ease, Mr. Brinkworth,” said Blanche. “What
has Sir Patrick been saying to you? My uncle sharpens his wit on every
body. He has been sharpening it on _you?”_

Arnold began to see his way. At an immeasurable distance--but still he
saw it.

“Sir Patrick is a terrible old man,” he answered. “Just before you
came in he discovered one of my secrets by only looking in my face.” He
paused, rallied his courage, pushed on at all hazards, and came headlong
to the point. “I wonder,” he asked, bluntly, “whether you take after
your uncle?”

Blanche instantly understood him. With time at her disposal, she would
have taken him lightly in hand, and led him, by fine gradations, to the
object in view. But in two minutes or less it would be Arnold’s turn to
play. “He is going to make me an offer,” thought Blanche; “and he has
about a minute to do it in. He _shall_ do it!”

“What!” she exclaimed, “do you think the gift of discovery runs in the
family?”

Arnold made a plunge.

“I wish it did!” he said.

Blanche looked the picture of astonishment.

“Why?” she asked.

“If you could see in my face what Sir Patrick saw--”

He had only to finish the sentence, and the thing was done. But the
tender passion perversely delights in raising obstacles to itself. A
sudden timidity seized on Arnold exactly at the wrong moment. He stopped
short, in the most awkward manner possible.

Blanche heard from the lawn the blow of the mallet on the ball, and the
laughter of the company at some blunder of Sir Patrick’s. The precious
seconds were slipping away. She could have boxed Arnold on both ears for
being so unreasonably afraid of her.

“Well,” she said, impatiently, “if I did look in your face, what should
I see?”

Arnold made another plunge. He answered: “You would see that I want a
little encouragement.”

“From _me?_”

“Yes--if you please.”

Blanche looked back over her shoulder. The summer-house stood on an
eminence, approached by steps. The players on the lawn beneath were
audible, but not visible. Any one of them might appear, unexpectedly, at
a moment’s notice. Blanche listened. There was no sound of approaching
footsteps--there was a general hush, and then another bang of the mallet
on the ball and then a clapping of hands. Sir Patrick was a privileged
person. He had been allowed, in all probability, to try again; and he
was succeeding at the second effort. This implied a reprieve of some
seconds. Blanche looked back again at Arnold.

“Consider yourself encouraged,” she whispered; and instantly added, with
the ineradicable female instinct of self-defense, “within limits!”

Arnold made a last plunge--straight to the bottom, this time.

“Consider yourself loved,” he burst out, “without any limits at all.”

It was all over--the words were spoken--he had got her by the hand.
Again the perversity of the tender passion showed itself more strongly
than ever. The confession which Blanche had been longing to hear, had
barely escaped her lover’s lips before Blanche protested against it! She
struggled to release her hand. She formally appealed to Arnold to let
her go.

Arnold only held her the tighter.

“Do try to like me a little!” he pleaded. “I am so fond of _you!_”

Who was to resist such wooing as this?--when you were privately fond of
him yourself, remember, and when you were certain to be interrupted in
another moment! Blanche left off struggling, and looked up at her young
sailor with a smile.

“Did you learn this method of making love in the merchant-service?” she
inquired, saucily.

Arnold persisted in contemplating his prospects from the serious point
of view.

“I’ll go back to the merchant-service,” he said, “if I have made you
angry with me.”

Blanche administered another dose of encouragement.

“Anger, Mr. Brinkworth, is one of the bad passions,” she answered,
demurely. “A young lady who has been properly brought up has no bad
passions.”

There was a sudden cry from the players on the lawn--a cry for “Mr.
Brinkworth.” Blanche tried to push him out. Arnold was immovable.

“Say something to encourage me before I go,” he pleaded. “One word will
do. Say, Yes.”

Blanche shook her head. Now she had got him, the temptation to tease him
was irresistible.

“Quite impossible!” she rejoined. “If you want any more encouragement,
you must speak to my uncle.”

“I’ll speak to him,” returned Arnold, “before I leave the house.”

There was another cry for “Mr. Brinkworth.” Blanche made another effort
to push him out.

“Go!” she said. “And mind you get through the hoop!”

She had both hands on his shoulders--her face was close to his--she was
simply irresistible. Arnold caught her round the waist and kissed her.
Needless to tell him to get through the hoop. He had surely got through
it already! Blanche was speechless. Arnold’s last effort in the art of
courtship had taken away her breath. Before she could recover herself a
sound of approaching footsteps became plainly audible. Arnold gave her a
last squeeze, and ran out.

She sank on the nearest chair, and closed her eyes in a flutter of
delicious confusion.

The footsteps ascending to the summer-house came nearer. Blanche opened
her eyes, and saw Anne Silvester, standing alone, looking at her. She
sprang to her feet, and threw her arms impulsively round Anne’s neck.

“You don’t know what has happened,” she whispered. “Wish me joy,
darling. He has said the words. He is mine for life!”

All the sisterly love and sisterly confidence of many years was
expressed in that embrace, and in the tone in which the words were
spoken. The hearts of the mothers, in the past time, could hardly
have been closer to each other--as it seemed--than the hearts of the
daughters were now. And yet, if Blanche had looked up in Anne’s face at
that moment, she must have seen that Anne’s mind was far away from her
little love-story.

“You know who it is?” she went on, after waiting for a reply.

“Mr. Brinkworth?”

“Of course! Who else should it be?”

“And you are really happy, my love?”

“Happy?” repeated Blanche “Mind! this is strictly between ourselves. I
am ready to jump out of my skin for joy. I love him! I love him! I love
him!” she cried, with a childish pleasure in repeating the words. They
were echoed by a heavy sigh. Blanche instantly looked up into Anne’s
face. “What’s the matter?” she asked, with a sudden change of voice and
manner.

“Nothing.”

Blanche’s observation saw too plainly to be blinded in that way.

“There _is_ something the matter,” she said. “Is it money?” she added,
after a moment’s consideration. “Bills to pay? I have got plenty of
money, Anne. I’ll lend you what you like.”

“No, no, my dear!”

Blanche drew back, a little hurt. Anne was keeping her at a distance for
the first time in Blanche’s experience of her.

“I tell you all my secrets,” she said. “Why are _you_ keeping a secret
from _me?_ Do you know that you have been looking anxious and out of
spirits for some time past? Perhaps you don’t like Mr. Brinkworth? No?
you _do_ like him? Is it my marrying, then? I believe it is! You fancy
we shall be parted, you goose? As if I could do without you! Of course,
when I am married to Arnold, you will come and live with us. That’s
quite understood between us--isn’t it?”

Anne drew herself suddenly, almost roughly, away from Blanche, and
pointed out to the steps.

“There is somebody coming,” she said. “Look!”

The person coming was Arnold. It was Blanche’s turn to play, and he had
volunteered to fetch her.

Blanche’s attention--easily enough distracted on other
occasions--remained steadily fixed on Anne.

“You are not yourself,” she said, “and I must know the reason of it. I
will wait till to-night; and then you will tell me, when you come into
my room. Don’t look like that! You _shall_ tell me. And there’s a kiss
for you in the mean time!”

She joined Arnold, and recovered her gayety the moment she looked at
him.

“Well? Have you got through the hoops?”

“Never mind the hoops. I have broken the ice with Sir Patrick.”

“What! before all the company!”

“Of course not! I have made an appointment to speak to him here.”

They went laughing down the steps, and joined the game.

Left alone, Anne Silvester walked slowly to the inner and darker part of
the summer-house. A glass, in a carved wooden frame, was fixed
against one of the side walls. She stopped and looked into it--looked,
shuddering, at the reflection of herself.

“Is the time coming,” she said, “when even Blanche will see what I am in
my face?”

She turned aside from the glass. With a sudden cry of despair she flung
up her arms and laid them heavily against the wall, and rested her head
on them with her back to the light. At the same moment a man’s figure
appeared--standing dark in the flood of sunshine at the entrance to the
summer-house. The man was Geoffrey Delamayn.


CHAPTER THE FOURTH.

THE TWO.

He advanced a few steps, and stopped. Absorbed in herself, Anne failed
to hear him. She never moved.

“I have come, as you made a point of it,” he said, sullenly. “But, mind
you, it isn’t safe.”

At the sound of his voice, Anne turned toward him. A change of
expression appeared in her face, as she slowly advanced from the back
of the summer-house, which revealed a likeness to her moth er, not
perceivable at other times. As the mother had looked, in by-gone days,
at the man who had disowned her, so the daughter looked at Geoffrey
Delamayn--with the same terrible composure, and the same terrible
contempt.

“Well?” he asked. “What have you got to say to me?”

“Mr. Delamayn,” she answered, “you are one of the fortunate people of
this world. You are a nobleman’s son. You are a handsome man. You are
popular at your college. You are free of the best houses in England.
Are you something besides all this? Are you a coward and a scoundrel as
well?”

He started--opened his lips to speak--checked himself--and made an
uneasy attempt to laugh it off. “Come!” he said, “keep your temper.”

The suppressed passion in her began to force its way to the surface.

“Keep my temper?” she repeated. “Do _you_ of all men expect me to
control myself? What a memory yours must be! Have you forgotten the time
when I was fool enough to think you were fond of me? and mad enough to
believe you could keep a promise?”

He persisted in trying to laugh it off. “Mad is a strongish word to use,
Miss Silvester!”

“Mad is the right word! I look back at my own infatuation--and I can’t
account for it; I can’t understand myself. What was there in _you_,”
 she asked, with an outbreak of contemptuous surprise, “to attract such a
woman as I am?”

His inexhaustible good-nature was proof even against this. He put his
hands in his pockets, and said, “I’m sure I don’t know.”

She turned away from him. The frank brutality of the answer had not
offended her. It forced her, cruelly forced her, to remember that she
had nobody but herself to blame for the position in which she stood at
that moment. She was unwilling to let him see how the remembrance
hurt her--that was all. A sad, sad story; but it must be told. In her
mother’s time she had been the sweetest, the most lovable of children.
In later days, under the care of her mother’s friend, her girlhood
had passed so harmlessly and so happily--it seemed as if the sleeping
passions might sleep forever! She had lived on to the prime of her
womanhood--and then, when the treasure of her life was at its richest,
in one fatal moment she had flung it away on the man in whose presence
she now stood.



Was she without excuse? No: not utterly without excuse.

She had seen him under other aspects than the aspect which he presented
now. She had seen him, the hero of the river-race, the first and
foremost man in a trial of strength and skill which had roused the
enthusiasm of all England. She had seen him, the central object of the
interest of a nation; the idol of the popular worship and the popular
applause. _His_ were the arms whose muscle was celebrated in the
newspapers. _He_ was first among the heroes hailed by ten thousand
roaring throats as the pride and flower of England. A woman, in an
atmosphere of red-hot enthusiasm, witnesses the apotheosis of Physical
Strength. Is it reasonable--is it just--to expect her to ask herself,
in cold blood, What (morally and intellectually) is all this worth?--and
that, when the man who is the object of the apotheosis, notices her, is
presented to her, finds her to his taste, and singles her out from the
rest? No. While humanity is humanity, the woman is not utterly without
excuse.

Has she escaped, without suffering for it?

Look at her as she stands there, tortured by the knowledge of her own
secret--the hideous secret which she is hiding from the innocent girl,
whom she loves with a sister’s love. Look at her, bowed down under a
humiliation which is unutterable in words. She has seen him below the
surface--now, when it is too late. She rates him at his true value--now,
when her reputation is at his mercy. Ask her the question: What was
there to love in a man who can speak to you as that man has spoken,
who can treat you as that man is treating you now? you so clever, so
cultivated, so refined--what, in Heaven’s name, could _you_ see in him?
Ask her that, and she will have no answer to give. She will not even
remind you that he was once your model of manly beauty, too--that you
waved your handkerchief till you could wave it no longer, when he took
his seat, with the others, in the boat--that your heart was like to jump
out of your bosom, on that later occasion when he leaped the last
hurdle at the foot-race, and won it by a head. In the bitterness of her
remorse, she will not even seek for _that_ excuse for herself. Is there
no atoning suffering to be seen here? Do your sympathies shrink from
such a character as this? Follow her, good friends of virtue, on the
pilgrimage that leads, by steep and thorny ways, to the purer atmosphere
and the nobler life. Your fellow-creature, who has sinned and has
repented--you have the authority of the Divine Teacher for it--is
your fellow-creature, purified and ennobled. A joy among the angels of
heaven--oh, my brothers and sisters of the earth, have I not laid my
hand on a fit companion for You?



There was a moment of silence in the summer-house. The cheerful tumult
of the lawn-party was pleasantly audible from the distance. Outside, the
hum of voices, the laughter of girls, the thump of the croquet-mallet
against the ball. Inside, nothing but a woman forcing back the bitter
tears of sorrow and shame--and a man who was tired of her.

She roused herself. She was her mother’s daughter; and she had a
spark of her mother’s spirit. Her life depended on the issue of that
interview. It was useless--without father or brother to take her
part--to lose the last chance of appealing to him. She dashed away
the tears--time enough to cry, is time easily found in a woman’s
existence--she dashed away the tears, and spoke to him again, more
gently than she had spoken yet.

“You have been three weeks, Geoffrey, at your brother Julius’s place,
not ten miles from here; and you have never once ridden over to see me.
You would not have come to-day, if I had not written to you to insist on
it. Is that the treatment I have deserved?”

She paused. There was no answer.

“Do you hear me?” she asked, advancing and speaking in louder tones.

He was still silent. It was not in human endurance to bear his contempt.
The warning of a coming outbreak began to show itself in her face. He
met it, beforehand, with an impenetrable front. Feeling nervous about
the interview, while he was waiting in the rose-garden--now that he
stood committed to it, he was in full possession of himself. He
was composed enough to remember that he had not put his pipe in its
case--composed enough to set that little matter right before other
matters went any farther. He took the case out of one pocket, and the
pipe out of another.

“Go on,” he said, quietly. “I hear you.”

She struck the pipe out of his hand at a blow. If she had had the
strength she would have struck him down with it on the floor of the
summer-house.

“How dare you use me in this way?” she burst out, vehemently. “Your
conduct is infamous. Defend it if you can!”

He made no attempt to defend it. He looked, with an expression of
genuine anxiety, at the fallen pipe. It was beautifully colored--it had
cost him ten shillings. “I’ll pick up my pipe first,” he said. His face
brightened pleasantly--he looked handsomer than ever--as he examined the
precious object, and put it back in the case. “All right,” he said to
himself. “She hasn’t broken it.” His attitude as he looked at her again,
was the perfection of easy grace--the grace that attends on cultivated
strength in a state of repose. “I put it to your own common-sense,” he
said, in the most reasonable manner, “what’s the good of bullying me?
You don’t want them to hear you, out on the lawn there--do you? You
women are all alike. There’s no beating a little prudence into your
heads, try how one may.”

There he waited, expecting her to speak. She waited, on her side, and
forced him to go on.

“Look here,” he said, “there’s no need to quarrel, you know. I don’t
want to break my promise; but what can I do? I’m not the eldest son.
I’m dependent on my father for every farthing I have; and I’m on bad
terms with him already. Can’t you see it yourself? You’re a lady, and
all that, I know. But you’re only a governess. It’s your interest as
well as mine to wait till my father has provided for me. Here it is in a
nut-shell: if I marry you now, I’m a ruined man.”

The answer came, this time.

“You villain if you _don’t_ marry me, I am a ruined woman!”

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean. Don’t look at me in that way.”

“How do you expect me to look at a woman who calls me a villain to my
face?”

She suddenly changed her tone. The savage element in humanity--let the
modern optimists who doubt its existence look at any uncultivated man
(no matter how muscular), woman (no matter how beautiful), or child (no
matter how young)--began to show itself furtively in his eyes, to utter
itself furtively in his voice. Was he to blame for the manner in which
he looked at her and spoke to her? Not he! What had there been in the
training of _his_ life (at school or at college) to soften and subdue
the savage element in him? About as much as there had been in the
training of his ancestors (without the school or the college) five
hundred years since.

It was plain that one of them must give way. The woman had the most at
stake--and the woman set the example of submission.

“Don’t be hard on me,” she pleaded. “I don’t mean to be hard on _you._
My temper gets the better of me. You know my temper. I am sorry I forgot
myself. Geoffrey, my whole future is in your hands. Will you do me
justice?”

She came nearer, and laid her hand persuasively on his arm.

“Haven’t you a word to say to me? No answer? Not even a look?” She
waited a moment more. A marked change came over her. She turned slowly
to leave the summer-house. “I am sorry to have troubled you, Mr.
Delamayn. I won’t detain you any longer.”

He looked at her. There was a tone in her voice that he had never heard
before. There was a light in her eyes that he had never seen in them
before. Suddenly and fiercely he reached out his hand, and stopped her.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

She answered, looking him straight in the face, “Where many a miserable
woman has gone before me. Out of the world.”

He drew her nearer to him, and eyed her closely. Even _his_ intelligence
discovered that he had brought her to bay, and that she really meant it!

“Do you mean you will destroy yourself?” he said.

“Yes. I mean I will destroy myself.”

He dropped her arm. “By Jupiter, she _does_ mean it!”

With that conviction in him, he pushed one of the chairs in the
summer-house to her with his foot, and signed to her to take it. “Sit
down!” he said, roughly. She had frightened him--and fear comes seldom
to men of his type. They feel it, when it does come, with an angry
distrust; they grow loud and brutal, in instinctive protest against it.
“Sit down!” he repeated. She obeyed him. “Haven’t you got a word to say
to me?” he asked, with an oath. No! there she sat, immovable, reckless
how it ended--as only women can be, when women’s minds are made up.
He took a turn in the summer-house and came back, and struck his hand
angrily on the rail of her chair. “What do you want?”

“You know what I want.”

He took another turn. There was nothing for it but to give way on
his side, or run the risk of something happening which might cause an
awkward scandal, and come to his father’s ears.

“Look here, Anne,” he began, abruptly. “I have got something to
propose.”

She looked up at him.

“What do you say to a private marriage?”

Without asking a single question, without making objections, she
answered him, speaking as bluntly as he had spoken himself:

“I consent to a private marriage.”

He began to temporize directly.

“I own I don’t see how it’s to be managed--”

She stopped him there.

“I do!”

“What!” he cried out, suspiciously. “You have thought of it yourself,
have you?”

“Yes.”

“And planned for it?”

“And planned for it!”

“Why didn’t you tell me so before?”

She answered haughtily; insisting on the respect which is due to
women--the respect which was doubly due from _him,_ in her position.

“Because _you_ owed it to _me,_ Sir, to speak first.”

“Very well. I’ve spoken first. Will you wait a little?”

“Not a day!”

The tone was positive. There was no mistaking it. Her mind was made up.

“Where’s the hurry?”

“Have you eyes?” she asked, vehemently. “Have you ears? Do you see how
Lady Lundie looks at me? Do you hear how Lady Lundie speaks to me? I am
suspected by that woman. My shameful dismissal from this house may be
a question of a few hours.” Her head sunk on her bosom; she wrung her
clasped hands as they rested on her lap. “And, oh, Blanche!” she
moaned to herself, the tears gathering again, and falling, this time,
unchecked. “Blanche, who looks up to me! Blanche, who loves me! Blanche,
who told me, in this very place, that I was to live with her when she
was married!” She started up from the chair; the tears dried suddenly;
the hard despair settled again, wan and white, on her face. “Let me
go! What is death, compared to such a life as is waiting for _me?_” She
looked him over, in one disdainful glance from head to foot; her voice
rose to its loudest and firmest tones. “Why, even _you_; would have the
courage to die if you were in my place!”

Geoffrey glanced round toward the lawn.

“Hush!” he said. “They will hear you!”

“Let them hear me! When _I_ am past hearing _them_, what does it
matter?”

He put her back by main force on the chair. In another moment they must
have heard her, through all the noise and laughter of the game.

“Say what you want,” he resumed, “and I’ll do it. Only be reasonable. I
can’t marry you to-day.”

“You can!”

“What nonsense you talk! The house and grounds are swarming with
company. It can’t be!”

“It can! I have been thinking about it ever since we came to this house.
I have got something to propose to you. Will you hear it, or not?”

“Speak lower!”

“Will you hear it, or not?”

“There’s somebody coming!”

“Will you hear it, or not?”

“The devil take your obstinacy! Yes!”

The answer had been wrung from him. Still, it was the answer she
wanted--it opened the door to hope. The instant he had consented to hear
her her mind awakened to the serious necessity of averting discovery by
any third person who might stray idly into the summer-house. She held
up her hand for silence, and listened to what was going forward on the
lawn.

The dull thump of the croquet-mallet against the ball was no longer to
be heard. The game had stopped.

In a moment more she heard her own name called. An interval of another
instant passed, and a familiar voice said, “I know where she is. I’ll
fetch her.”

She turned to Geoffrey, and pointed to the back of the summer-house.

“It’s my turn to play,” she said. “And Blanche is coming here to look
for me. Wait there, and I’ll stop her on the steps.”

She went out at once. It was a critical moment. Discovery, which meant
moral-ruin to the woman, meant money-ruin to the man. Geoffrey had not
exaggerated his position with his father. Lord Holchester had twice paid
his debts, and had declined to see him since. One more outrage on his
father’s rigid sense of propriety, and he would be left out of the will
as well as kept out of the house. He looked for a means of retreat,
in case there was no escaping unperceived by the front entrance.
A door--intended for the use of servants, when picnics and gipsy
tea-parties were given in the summer-house--had been made in the back
wall. It opened outward, and it was locked. With his strength it was
easy to remove that obstacle. He put his shoulder to the door. At the
moment when he burst it open he felt a hand on his arm. Anne was behind
him, alone.

“You may want it before long,” she said, observing the open door,
without expressing any surprise, “You don’t want it now. Another person
will play for me--I have told Blanche I am not well. Sit down. I have
secured a respite of five minutes, and I must make the most of it. In
that time, or less, Lady Lundie’s suspicions will bring her here--to see
how I am. For the present, shut the door.”

She seated herself, and pointed to a second chair. He took it--with his
eye on the closed door.

“Come to the point!” he said, impatiently. “What is it?”

“You can marry me privately to-day,” she answered. “Lis ten--and I will
tell you how!”


CHAPTER THE FIFTH.

THE PLAN.

SHE took his hand, and began with all the art of persuasion that she
possessed.

“One question, Geoffrey, before I say what I want to say. Lady Lundie
has invited you to stay at Windygates. Do you accept her invitation? or
do you go back to your brother’s in the evening?”

“I can’t go back in the evening--they’ve put a visitor into my room. I’m
obliged to stay here. My brother has done it on purpose. Julius helps me
when I’m hard up--and bullies me afterward. He has sent me here, on
duty for the family. Somebody must be civil to Lady Lundie--and I’m the
sacrifice.”

She took him up at his last word. “Don’t make the sacrifice,” she said.
“Apologize to Lady Lundie, and say you are obliged to go back.”

“Why?”

“Because we must both leave this place to-day.”

There was a double objection to that. If he left Lady Lundie’s, he would
fail to establish a future pecuniary claim on his brother’s indulgence.
And if he left with Anne, the eyes of the world would see them, and the
whispers of the world might come to his father’s ears.

“If we go away together,” he said, “good-by to my prospects, and yours
too.”

“I don’t mean that we shall leave together,” she explained. “We will
leave separately--and I will go first.”

“There will be a hue and cry after you, when you are missed.”

“There will be a dance when the croquet is over. I don’t dance--and I
shall not be missed. There will be time, and opportunity to get to
my own room. I shall leave a letter there for Lady Lundie, and a
letter”--her voice trembled for a moment--“and a letter for Blanche.
Don’t interrupt me! I have thought of this, as I have thought of every
thing else. The confession I shall make will be the truth in a few
hours, if it’s not the truth now. My letters will say I am privately
married, and called away unexpectedly to join my husband. There will be
a scandal in the house, I know. But there will be no excuse for sending
after me, when I am under my husband’s protection. So far as you are
personally concerned there are no discoveries to fear--and nothing which
it is not perfectly safe and perfectly easy to do. Wait here an hour
after I have gone to save appearances; and then follow me.”

“Follow you?” interposed Geoffrey. “Where?” She drew her chair nearer to
him, and whispered the next words in his ear.

“To a lonely little mountain inn--four miles from this.”

“An inn!”

“Why not?”

“An inn is a public place.”

A movement of natural impatience escaped her--but she controlled
herself, and went on as quietly as before:

“The place I mean is the loneliest place in the neighborhood. You have
no prying eyes to dread there. I have picked it out expressly for that
reason. It’s away from the railway; it’s away from the high-road: it’s
kept by a decent, respectable Scotchwoman--”

“Decent, respectable Scotchwomen who keep inns,” interposed Geoffrey,
“don’t cotton to young ladies who are traveling alone. The landlady
won’t receive you.”

It was a well-aimed objection--but it missed the mark. A woman bent on
her marriage is a woman who can meet the objections of the whole world,
single-handed, and refute them all.

“I have provided for every thing,” she said, “and I have provided for
that. I shall tell the landlady I am on my wedding-trip. I shall say
my husband is sight-seeing, on foot, among the mountains in the
neighborhood--”

“She is sure to believe that!” said Geoffrey.

“She is sure to _dis_believe it, if you like. Let her! You have only
to appear, and to ask for your wife--and there is my story proved to be
true! She may be the most suspicious woman living, as long as I am alone
with her. The moment you join me, you set her suspicions at rest. Leave
me to do my part. My part is the hard one. Will you do yours?”

It was impossible to say No: she had fairly cut the ground from under
his feet. He shifted his ground. Any thing rather than say Yes!

“I suppose _you_ know how we are to be married?” he asked. “All I can
say is--_I_ don’t.”

“You do!” she retorted. “You know that we are in Scotland. You know that
there are neither forms, ceremonies, nor delays in marriage, here. The
plan I have proposed to you secures my being received at the inn, and
makes it easy and natural for you to join me there afterward. The
rest is in our own hands. A man and a woman who wish to be married (in
Scotland) have only to secure the necessary witnesses and the thing is
done. If the landlady chooses to resent the deception practiced on her,
after that, the landlady may do as she pleases. We shall have gained
our object in spite of her--and, what is more, we shall have gained it
without risk to _you._”

“Don’t lay it all on my shoulders,” Geoffrey rejoined. “You women
go headlong at every thing. Say we are married. We must separate
afterward--or how are we to keep it a secret?”

“Certainly. You will go back, of course, to your brother’s house, as if
nothing had happened.”

“And what is to become of _you?_”

“I shall go to London.”

“What are you to do in London?”

“Haven’t I already told you that I have thought of every thing? When I
get to London I shall apply to some of my mother’s old friends--friends
of hers in the time when she was a musician. Every body tells me I have
a voice--if I had only cultivated it. I _will_ cultivate it! I can live,
and live respectably, as a concert singer. I have saved money enough to
support me, while I am learning--and my mother’s friends will help me,
for her sake.”

So, in the new life that she was marking out, was she now unconsciously
reflecting in herself the life of her mother before her. Here was the
mother’s career as a public singer, chosen (in spite of all efforts to
prevent it) by the child! Here (though with other motives, and under
other circumstances) was the mother’s irregular marriage in Ireland,
on the point of being followed by the daughter’s irregular marriage in
Scotland! And here, stranger still, was the man who was answerable for
it--the son of the man who had found the flaw in the Irish marriage, and
had shown the way by which her mother was thrown on the world! “My Anne
is my second self. She is not called by her father’s name; she is called
by mine. She is Anne Silvester as I was. Will she end like Me?”--The
answer to those words--the last words that had trembled on the dying
mother’s lips--was coming fast. Through the chances and changes of many
years, the future was pressing near--and Anne Silvester stood on the
brink of it.

“Well?” she resumed. “Are you at the end of your objections? Can you
give me a plain answer at last?”

No! He had another objection ready as the words passed her lips.

“Suppose the witnesses at the inn happen to know me?” he said. “Suppose
it comes to my father’s ears in that way?”

“Suppose you drive me to my death?” she retorted, starting to her feet.
“Your father shall know the truth, in that case--I swear it!”

He rose, on his side, and drew back from her. She followed him up. There
was a clapping of hands, at the same moment, on the lawn. Somebody had
evidently made a brilliant stroke which promised to decide the game.
There was no security now that Blanche might not return again. There
was every prospect, the game being over, that Lady Lundie would be free.
Anne brought the interview to its crisis, without wasting a moment more.

“Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn,” she said. “You have bargained for a private
marriage, and I have consented. Are you, or are you not, ready to marry
me on your own terms?”

“Give me a minute to think!”

“Not an instant. Once for all, is it Yes, or No?”

He couldn’t say “Yes,” even then. But he said what was equivalent to it.
He asked, savagely, “Where is the inn?”

She put her arm in his, and whispered, rapidly, “Pass the road on the
right that leads to the railway. Follow the path over the moor, and the
sheep-track up the hill. The first house you come to after that is the
inn. You understand!”

He nodded his head, with a sullen frown, and took his pipe out of his
pocket again.

“Let it alone this time,” he said, meeting her eye. “My mind’s upset.
When a man’s mind’s upset, a man can’t smoke. What’s the name of the
place?”

“Craig Fernie.”

“Who am I to ask for at the door?”

“For your wife.”

“Suppose they want you to give your name when you get there?”

“If I must give a name, I shall call myself Mrs., instead of Miss,
Silvester. But I shall do my best to avoid giving any name. And you will
do your best to avoid making a mistake, by only asking for me as your
wife. Is there any thing else you want to know?”

“Yes.”

“Be quick about it! What is it?”

“How am I to know you have got away from here?”

“If you don’t hear from me in half an hour from the time when I have
left you, you may be sure I have got away. Hush!”

Two voices, in conversation, were audible at the bottom of the
steps--Lady Lundie’s voice and Sir Patrick’s. Anne pointed to the door
in the back wall of the summer-house. She had just pulled it to again,
after Geoffrey had passed through it, when Lady Lundie and Sir Patrick
appeared at the top of the steps.


CHAPTER THE SIXTH.

THE SUITOR.

LADY LUNDIE pointed significantly to the door, and addressed herself to
Sir Patrick’s private ear.

“Observe!” she said. “Miss Silvester has just got rid of somebody.”

Sir Patrick deliberately looked in the wrong direction, and (in the
politest possible manner) observed--nothing.

Lady Lundie advanced into the summer-house. Suspicious hatred of the
governess was written legibly in every line of her face. Suspicious
distrust of the governess’s illness spoke plainly in every tone of her
voice.

“May I inquire, Miss Silvester, if your sufferings are relieved?”

“I am no better, Lady Lundie.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I said I was no better.”

“You appear to be able to stand up. When _I_ am ill, I am not so
fortunate. I am obliged to lie down.”’

“I will follow your example, Lady Lundie. If you will be so good as to
excuse me, I will leave you, and lie down in my own room.”

She could say no more. The interview with Geoffrey had worn her out;
there was no spirit left in her to resist the petty malice of the woman,
after bearing, as she had borne it, the brutish indifference of the man.
In another moment the hysterical suffering which she was keeping down
would have forced its way outward in tears. Without waiting to know
whether she was excused or not, without stopping to hear a word more,
she left the summer-house.

Lady Lundie’s magnificent black eyes opened to their utmost width, and
blazed with their most dazzling brightness. She appealed to Sir Patrick,
poised easily on his ivory cane, and looking out at the lawn-party, the
picture of venerable innocence.

“After what I have already told you, Sir Patrick, of Miss Silvester’s
conduct, may I ask whether you consider _that_ proceeding at all
extraordinary?”

The old gentleman touched the spring in the knob of his cane, and
answered, in the courtly manner of the old school:

“I consider no proceeding extraordinary Lady Lundie, which emanates from
your enchanting sex.”

He bowed, and took his pinch. With a little jaunty flourish of the hand,
he dusted the stray grains of snuff off his finger and thumb, and looked
back again at the lawn-party, and became more absorbed in the diversions
of his young friends than ever.

Lady Lundie stood her ground, plainly determined to force a serious
expression of opinion from her brother-in-law. Before she could speak
again, Arnold and Blanche appeared together at the bottom of the steps.
“And when does the dancing begin?” inquired Sir Patrick, advancing to
meet them, and looking as if he felt the deepest interest in a speedy
settlement of the question.

“The very thing I was going to ask mamma,” returned Blanche. “Is she in
there with Anne? Is Anne better?”

Lady Lundie forthwith appeared, and took the answer to that inquiry on
herself.

“Miss Silvester has retired to her room. Miss Silvester persists in
being ill. Have you noticed, Sir Patrick, that these half-bred sort of
people are almost invariably rude when they are ill?”

Blanche’s bright face flushed up. “If you think Anne a half-bred person,
Lady Lundie, you stand alone in your opinion. My uncle doesn’t agree
with you, I’m sure.”

Sir Patrick’s interest in the first quadrille became almost painful to
see. “_Do_ tell me, my dear, when _is_ the dancing going to begin?”

“The sooner the better,” interposed Lady Lundie; “before Blanche picks
another quarrel with me on the subject of Miss Silvester.”

Blanche looked at her uncle. “Begin! begin! Don’t lose time!” cried the
ardent Sir Patrick, pointing toward the house with his cane. “Certainly,
uncle! Any thing that _you_ wish!” With that parting shot at her
step-mother, Blanche withdrew. Arnold, who had thus far waited in
silence at the foot of the steps, looked appealingly at Sir Patrick. The
train which was to take him to his newly inherited property would start
in less than an hour; and he had not presented himself to Blanche’s
guardian in the character of Blanche’s suitor yet! Sir Patrick’s
indifference to all domestic claims on him--claims of persons who
loved, and claims of persons who hated, it didn’t matter which--remained
perfectly unassailable. There he stood, poised on his cane, humming an
old Scotch air. And there was Lady Lundie, resolute not to leave him
till he had seen the governess with _her_ eyes and judged the governess
with _her_ mind. She returned to the charge--in spite of Sir Patrick,
humming at the top of the steps, and of Arnold, waiting at the bottom.
(Her enemies said, “No wonder poor Sir Thomas died in a few months after
his marriage!” And, oh dear me, our enemies _are_ sometimes right!)

“I must once more remind you, Sir Patrick, that I have serious reason
to doubt whether Miss Silvester is a fit companion for Blanche. My
governess has something on her mind. She has fits of crying in private.
She is up and walking about her room when she ought to be asleep. She
posts her own letters--_and,_ she has lately been excessively insolent
to Me. There is something wrong. I must take some steps in the
matter--and it is only proper that I should do so with your sanction, as
head of the family.”

“Consider me as abdicating my position, Lady Lundie, in your favor.”

“Sir Patrick, I beg you to observe that I am speaking seriously, and
that I expect a serious reply.”

“My good lady, ask me for any thing else and it is at your service. I
have not made a serious reply since I gave up practice at the
Scottish Bar. At my age,” added Sir Patrick, cunningly drifting into
generalities, “nothing is serious--except Indigestion. I say, with the
philosopher, ‘Life is a comedy to those who think, and tragedy to those
who feel.’” He took his sister-in-law’s hand, and kissed it. “Dear Lady
Lundie, why feel?”

Lady Lundie, who had never “felt” in her life, appeared perversely
determined to feel, on this occasion. She was offended--and she showed
it plainly.

“When you are next called on, Sir Patrick, to judge of Miss Silvester’s
conduct,” she said, “unless I am entirely mistaken, you will find
yourself _compelled_ to consider it as something beyond a joke.” With
those words, she walked out of the summer-house--and so forwarded
Arnold’s interests by leaving Blanche’s guardian alone at last.

It was an excellent opportunity. The guests were safe in the
house--there was no interruption to be feared, Arnold showed himself.
Sir Patrick (perfectly undisturbed by Lady Lundie’s parting speech) sat
down in the summer-house, without noticing his young friend, and asked
himself a question founded on profound observation of the female sex.
“Were there ever two women yet with a quarrel between them,” thought
the old gentleman, “who didn’t want to drag a man into it? Let them drag
_me_ in, if they can!”

Arnold advanced a step, and modestly announced himself. “I hope I am not
in the way, Sir Patrick?”

“In the way? of course not! Bless my soul, how serious the boy looks!
Are _you_ going to appeal to me as the head of the family next?”

It was exactly what Arnold was about to do. But it was plain that if he
admitted it just then Sir Patrick (for some unintelligible reason) would
decline to listen to him. He answered cautiously, “I asked leave to
consult you in private, Sir; and you kindly said you would give me the
opportunity before I left Windygates?”

“Ay! ay! to be sure. I remember. We were both engaged in the serious
business of croquet at the time--and it was doubtful which of us did
that business most clumsily. Well, here is the opportunity; and here
am I, with all my worldly experience, at your service. I have only one
caution to give you. Don’t appeal to me as ‘the head of the family.’ My
resignation is in Lady Lundie’s hands.”

He was, as usual, half in jest, half in earnest. The wry twist of humor
showed itself at the corners of his lips. Arnold was at a loss how to
approach Sir Patrick on the subject of his niece without reminding him
of his domestic responsibilities on the one hand, and without setting
himself up as a target for the shafts of Sir Patrick’s wit on the other.
In this difficulty, he committed a mistake at the outset. He hesitated.

“Don’t hurry yourself,” said Sir Patrick. “Collect your ideas. I can
wait! I can wait!”

Arnold collected his ideas--and committed a second mistake. He
determined on feeling his way cautiously at first. Under the
circumstances (and with such a man as he had now to deal with), it
was perhaps the rashest resolution at which he could possibly have
arrived--it was the mouse attempting to outmanoeuvre the cat.

“You have been very kind, Sir, in offering me the benefit of your
experience,” he began. “I want a word of advice.”

“Suppose you take it sitting?” suggested Sir Patrick. “Get a chair.” His
sharp eyes followed Arnold with an expression of malicious enjoyment.
“Wants my advice?” he thought. “The young humbug wants nothing of the
sort--he wants my niece.”

Arnold sat down under Sir Patrick’s eye, with a well-founded suspicion
that he was destined to suffer, before he got up again, under Sir
Patrick’s tongue.

“I am only a young man,” he went on, moving uneasily in his chair, “and
I am beginning a new life--”

“Any thing wrong with the chair?” asked Sir Patrick. “Begin your new
life comfortably, and get another.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the chair, Sir. Would you--”

“Would I keep the chair, in that case? Certainly.”

“I mean, would you advise me--”

“My good fellow, I’m waiting to advise you. (I’m sure there’s something
wrong with that chair. Why be obstinate about it? Why not get another?)”

“Please don’t notice the chair, Sir Patrick--you put me out. I want--in
short--perhaps it’s a curious question--”

“I can’t say till I have heard it,” remarked Sir Patrick. “However,
we will admit it, for form’s sake, if you like. Say it’s a curious
question. Or let us express it more strongly, if that will help you.
Say it’s the most extraordinary question that ever was put, since the
beginning of the world, from one human being to another.”

“It’s this!” Arnold burst out, desperately. “I want to be married!”

“That isn’t a question,” objected Sir Patrick. “It’s an assertion. You
say, I want to be married. And I say, Just so! And there’s an end of
it.”

Arnold’s head began to whirl. “Would you advise me to get married, Sir?”
 he said, piteously. “That’s what I meant.”

“Oh! That’s the object of the present interview, is it? Would I advise
you to marry, eh?”

(Having caught the mouse by this time, the cat lifted his paw and
let the luckless little creature breathe again. Sir Patrick’s manner
suddenly freed itself from any slight signs of impatience which it might
have hitherto shown, and became as pleasantly easy and confidential as
a manner could be. He touched the knob of his cane, and helped himself,
with infinite zest and enjoyment, to a pinch of snuff.)

“Would I advise you to marry?” repeated Sir Patrick. “Two courses
are open to us, Mr. Arnold, in treating that question. We may put it
briefly, or we may put it at great length. I am for putting it briefly.
What do you say?”

“What you say, Sir Patrick.”

“Very good. May I begin by making an inquiry relating to your past
life?”

“Certainly!”

“Very good again. When you were in the merchant service, did you ever
have any experience in buying provisions ashore?”

Arnold stared. If any relation existed between that question and the
subject in hand it was an impenetrable relation to _him_. He answered,
in unconcealed bewilderment, “Plenty of experience, Sir.”

“I’m coming to the point,” pursued Sir Patrick. “Don’t be astonished.
I’m coming to the point. What did you think of your moist sugar when you
bought it at the grocer’s?”

“Think?” repeated Arnold. “Why, I thought it was moist sugar, to be
sure!”

“Marry, by all means!” cried Sir Patrick. “You are one of the few men
who can try that experiment with a fair chance of success.”

The suddenness of the answer fairly took away Arnold’s breath. There was
something perfectly electric in the brevity of his venerable friend. He
stared harder than ever.

“Don’t you understand me?” asked Sir Patrick.

“I don’t understand what the moist sugar has got to do with it, Sir.”

“You don’t see that?”

“Not a bit!”

“Then I’ll show you,” said Sir Patrick, crossing his legs, and setting
in comfortably for a good talk “You go to the tea-shop, and get your
moist sugar. You take it on the understanding that it is moist sugar.
But it isn’t any thing of the sort. It’s a compound of adulterations
made up to look like sugar. You shut your eyes to that awkward fact, and
swallow your adulterated mess in various articles of food; and you and
your sugar get on together in that way as well as you can. Do you follow
me, so far?”

Yes. Arnold (quite in the dark) followed, so far.

“Very good,” pursued Sir Patrick. “You go to the marriage-shop, and
get a wife. You take her on the understanding--let us say--that she
has lovely yellow hair, that she has an exquisite complexion, that her
figure is the perfection of plumpness, and that she is just tall enough
to carry the plumpness off. You bring her home, and you discover that
it’s the old story of the sugar over again. Your wife is an adulterated
article. Her lovely yellow hair is--dye. Her exquisite skin is--pearl
powder. Her plumpness is--padding. And three inches of her height
are--in the boot-maker’s heels. Shut your eyes, and swallow your
adulterated wife as you swallow your adulterated sugar--and, I tell you
again, you are one of the few men who can try the marriage experiment
with a fair chance of success.”

With that he uncrossed his legs again, and looked hard at Arnold. Arnold
read the lesson, at last, in the right way. He gave up the hopeless
attempt to circumvent Sir Patrick, and--come what might of it--dashed at
a direct allusion to Sir Patrick’s niece.

“That may be all very true, Sir, of some young ladies,” he said. “There
is one I know of, who is nearly related to you, and who doesn’t deserve
what you have said of the rest of them.”

This was coming to the point. Sir Patrick showed his approval of
Arnold’s frankness by coming to the point himself, as readily as his own
whimsical humor would let him.

“Is this female phenomenon my niece?” he inquired.

“Yes, Sir Patrick.”

“May I ask how you know that my niece is not an adulterated article,
like the rest of them?”

Arnold’s indignation loosened the last restraints that tied Arnold’s
tongue. He exploded in the three words which mean three volumes in every
circulating library in the kingdom.

“I love her.”

Sir Patrick sat back in his chair, and stretched out his legs
luxuriously.

“That’s the most convincing answer I ever heard in my life,” he said.

“I’m in earnest!” cried Arnold, reckless by this time of every
consideration but one. “Put me to the test, Sir! put me to the test!”

“Oh, very well. The test is easily put.” He looked at Arnold, with the
irrepressible humor twinkling merrily in his eyes, and twitching sharply
at the corners of his lips. “My niece has a beautiful complexion. Do you
believe in her complexion?”

“There’s a beautiful sky above our heads,” returned Arnold. “I believe
in the sky.”

“Do you?” retorted Sir Patrick. “You were evidently never caught in a
shower. My niece has an immense quantity of hair. Are you convinced that
it all grows on her head?”

“I defy any other woman’s head to produce the like of it!”

“My dear Arnold, you greatly underrate the existing resources of the
trade in hair! Look into the shop-windows. When you next go to London
pray look into the show-windows. In the mean time, what do you think of
my niece’s figure?”

“Oh, come! there can’t be any doubt about _that!_ Any man, with eyes in
his head, can see it’s the loveliest figure in the world.”

Sir Patrick laughed softly, and crossed his legs again.

“My good fellow, of course it is! The loveliest figure in the world
is the commonest thing in the world. At a rough guess, there are forty
ladies at this lawn-party. Every one of them possesses a beautiful
figure. It varies in price; and when it’s particularly seductive you may
swear it comes from Paris. Why, how you stare! When I asked you what you
thought of my niece’s figure, I meant--how much of it comes from Nature,
and how much of it comes from the Shop? I don’t know, mind! Do you?”

“I’ll take my oath to every inch of it!”

“Shop?”

“Nature!”

Sir Patrick rose to his feet; his satirical humor was silenced at last.

“If ever I have a son,” he thought to himself, “that son shall go
to sea!” He took Arnold’s arm, as a preliminary to putting an end to
Arnold’s suspense. “If I _can_ be serious about any thing,” he resumed,
“it’s time to be serious with you. I am convinced of the sincerity of
your attachment. All I know of you is in your favor, and your birth and
position are beyond dispute. If you have Blanche’s consent, you have
mine.” Arnold attempted to express his gratitude. Sir Patrick, declining
to hear him, went on. “And remember this, in the future. When you next
want any thing that I can give you, ask for it plainly. Don’t attempt to
mystify _me_ on the next occasion, and I will promise, on my side, not
to mystify _you._ There, that’s understood. Now about this journey of
yours to see your estate. Property has its duties, Master Arnold, as
well as its rights. The time is fast coming when its rights will be
disputed, if its duties are not performed. I have got a new interest in
you, and I mean to see that you do your duty. It’s settled you are to
leave Windygates to-day. Is it arranged how you are to go?”

“Yes, Sir Patrick. Lady Lundie has kindly ordered the gig to take me to
the station, in time for the next train.”

“When are you to be ready?”

Arnold looked at his watch. “In a quarter of an hour.”

“Very good. Mind you _are_ ready. Stop a minute! you will have plenty of
time to speak to Blanche when I have done with you. You don’t appear to
me to be sufficiently anxious about seeing your own property.”

“I am not very anxious to leave Blanche, Sir--that’s the truth of it.”

“Never mind Blanche. Blanche is not business. They both begin with a
B--and that’s the only connection between them. I hear you have got one
of the finest houses in this part of Scotland. How long are you going to
stay in Scotland? How long are you going to stay in it?”

“I have arranged (as I have already told you, Sir) to return to
Windygates the day after to-morrow.”

“What! Here is a man with a palace waiting to receive him--and he is
only going to stop one clear day in it!”

“I am not going to stop in it at all, Sir Patrick--I am going to stay
with the steward. I’m only wanted to be present to-morrow at a dinner
to my tenants--and, when that’s over, there’s nothing in the world to
prevent my coming back here. The steward himself told me so in his last
letter.”

“Oh, if the steward told you so, of course there is nothing more to be
said!”

“Don’t object to my coming back! pray don’t, Sir Patrick! I’ll promise
to live in my new house when I have got Blanche to live in it with me.
If you won’t mind, I’ll go and tell her at once that it all belongs to
her as well as to me.”

“Gently! gently! you talk as if you were married to her already!”

“It’s as good as done, Sir! Where’s the difficulty in the way now?”

As he asked the question the shadow of some third person, advancing
from the side of the summer-house, was thrown forward on the open sunlit
space at the top of the steps. In a moment more the shadow was followed
by the substance--in the shape of a groom in his riding livery. The man
was plainly a stranger to the place. He started, and touched his hat,
when he saw the two gentlemen in the summer-house.

“What do you want?” asked Sir Patrick

“I beg your pardon, Sir; I was sent by my master--”

“Who is your master?”

“The Honorable Mr. Delamayn, Sir.”

“Do you mean Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn?” asked Arnold.

“No, Sir. Mr. Geoffrey’s brother--Mr. Julius. I have ridden over from
the house, Sir, with a message from my master to Mr. Geoffrey.”

“Can’t you find him?”

“They told me I should find him hereabouts, Sir. But I’m a stranger, and
don’t rightly know where to look.” He stopped, and took a card out of
his pocket. “My master said it was very important I should deliver this
immediately. Would you be pleased to tell me, gentlemen, if you happen
to know where Mr. Geoffrey is?”

Arnold turned to Sir Patrick. “I haven’t seen him. Have you?”

“I have smelt him,” answered Sir Patrick, “ever since I have been in
the summer-house. There is a detestable taint of tobacco in the
air--suggestive (disagreeably suggestive to _my_ mind) of your friend,
Mr. Delamayn.”

Arnold laughed, and stepped outside the summer-house.

“If you are right, Sir Patrick, we will find him at once.” He looked
around, and shouted, “Geoffrey!”

A voice from the rose-garden shouted back, “Hullo!”

“You’re wanted. Come here!”

Geoffrey appeared, sauntering doggedly, with his pipe in his mouth, and
his hands in his pockets.

“Who wants me?”

“A groom--from your brother.”

That answer appeared to electrify the lounging and lazy athlete.
Geoffrey hurried, with eager steps, to the summer-house. He addressed
the groom before the man had time to speak With horror and dismay in his
face, he exclaimed:

“By Jupiter! Ratcatcher has relapsed!”

Sir Patrick and Arnold looked at each other in blank amazement.

“The best horse in my brother’s stables!” cried Geoffrey, explaining,
and appealing to them, in a breath. “I left written directions with the
coachman, I measured out his physic for three days; I bled him,” said
Geoffrey, in a voice broken by emotion--“I bled him myself, last night.”

“I beg your pardon, Sir--” began the groom.

“What’s the use of begging my pardon? You’re a pack of infernal
fools! Where’s your horse? I’ll ride back, and break every bone in the
coachman’s skin! Where’s your horse?”

“If you please, Sir, it isn’t Ratcatcher. Ratcatcher’s all right.”

“Ratcatcher’s all right? Then what the devil is it?”

“It’s a message, Sir.”

“About what?”

“About my lord.”

“Oh! About my father?” He took out his handkerchief, and passed it over
his forehead, with a deep gasp of relief. “I thought it was Ratcatcher,”
 he said, looking at Arnold, with a smile. He put his pipe into his
mouth, and rekindled the dying ashes of the tobacco. “Well?” he went on,
when the pipe was in working order, and his voice was composed again:
“What’s up with my father?”

“A telegram from London, Sir. Bad news of my lord.”

The man produced his master’s card.

Geoffrey read on it (written in his brother’s handwriting) these words:

“I have only a moment to scribble a line on my card. Our father is
dangerously ill--his lawyer has been sent for. Come with me to London by
the first train. Meet at the junction.”

Without a word to any one of the three persons present, all silently
looking at him, Geoffrey consulted his watch. Anne had told him to wait
half an hour, and to assume that she had gone if he failed to hear from
her in that time. The interval had passed--and no communication of
any sort had reached him. The flight from the house had been safely
accomplished. Anne Silvester was, at that moment, on her way to the
mountain inn.


CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.

THE DEBT.

ARNOLD was the first who broke the silence. “Is your father seriously
ill?” he asked.

Geoffrey answered by handing him the card.

Sir Patrick, who had stood apart (while the question of Ratcatcher’s
relapse was under discussion) sardonically studying the manners and
customs of modern English youth, now came forward, and took his part
in the proceedings. Lady Lundie herself must have acknowledged that he
spoke and acted as became the head of the family, on t his occasion.

“Am I right in supposing that Mr. Delamayn’s father is dangerously ill?”
 he asked, addressing himself to Arnold.

“Dangerously ill, in London,” Arnold answered. “Geoffrey must leave
Windygates with me. The train I am traveling by meets the train his
brother is traveling by, at the junction. I shall leave him at the
second station from here.”

“Didn’t you tell me that Lady Lundie was going to send you to the
railway in a gig?”

“Yes.”

“If the servant drives, there will be three of you--and there will be no
room.”

“We had better ask for some other vehicle,” suggested Arnold.

Sir Patrick looked at his watch. There was no time to change the
carriage. He turned to Geoffrey. “Can you drive, Mr. Delamayn?”

Still impenetrably silent, Geoffrey replied by a nod of the head.

Without noticing the unceremonious manner in which he had been answered,
Sir Patrick went on:

“In that case, you can leave the gig in charge of the station-master.
I’ll tell the servant that he will not be wanted to drive.”

“Let me save you the trouble, Sir Patrick,” said Arnold.

Sir Patrick declined, by a gesture. He turned again, with undiminished
courtesy, to Geoffrey. “It is one of the duties of hospitality, Mr.
Delamayn, to hasten your departure, under these sad circumstances. Lady
Lundie is engaged with her guests. I will see myself that there is no
unnecessary delay in sending you to the station.” He bowed--and left the
summer-house.

Arnold said a word of sympathy to his friend, when they were alone.

“I am sorry for this, Geoffrey. I hope and trust you will get to London
in time.”

He stopped. There was something in Geoffrey’s face--a strange mixture of
doubt and bewilderment, of annoyance and hesitation--which was not to
be accounted for as the natural result of the news that he had received.
His color shifted and changed; he picked fretfully at his finger-nails;
he looked at Arnold as if he was going to speak--and then looked away
again, in silence.

“Is there something amiss, Geoffrey, besides this bad news about your
father?” asked Arnold.

“I’m in the devil’s own mess,” was the answer.

“Can I do any thing to help you?”

Instead of making a direct reply, Geoffrey lifted his mighty hand, and
gave Arnold a friendly slap on the shoulder which shook him from head
to foot. Arnold steadied himself, and waited--wondering what was coming
next.

“I say, old fellow!” said Geoffrey.

“Yes.”

“Do you remember when the boat turned keel upward in Lisbon Harbor?”

Arnold started. If he could have called to mind his first interview in
the summer-house with his father’s old friend he might have remembered
Sir Patrick’s prediction that he would sooner or later pay, with
interest, the debt he owed to the man who had saved his life. As it was
his memory reverted at a bound to the time of the boat-accident. In
the ardor of his gratitude and the innocence of his heart, he almost
resented his friend’s question as a reproach which he had not deserved.

“Do you think I can ever forget,” he cried, warmly, “that you swam
ashore with me and saved my life?”

Geoffrey ventured a step nearer to the object that he had in view.

“One good turn deserves another,” he said, “don’t it?”

Arnold took his hand. “Only tell me!” he eagerly rejoined--“only tell me
what I can do!”

“You are going to-day to see your new place, ain’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Can you put off going till to-morrow?”

“If it’s any thing serious--of course I can!”

Geoffrey looked round at the entrance to the summer-house, to make sure
that they were alone.

“You know the governess here, don’t you?” he said, in a whisper.

“Miss Silvester?”

“Yes. I’ve got into a little difficulty with Miss Silvester. And there
isn’t a living soul I can ask to help me but _you._”

“You know I will help you. What is it?”

“It isn’t so easy to say. Never mind--you’re no saint either, are
you? You’ll keep it a secret, of course? Look here! I’ve acted like an
infernal fool. I’ve gone and got the girl into a scrape--”

Arnold drew back, suddenly understanding him.

“Good heavens, Geoffrey! You don’t mean--”

“I do! Wait a bit--that’s not the worst of it. She has left the house.”

“Left the house?”

“Left, for good and all. She can’t come back again.”

“Why not?”

“Because she’s written to her missus. Women (hang ‘em!) never do these
things by halves. She’s left a letter to say she’s privately married,
and gone off to her husband. Her husband is--Me. Not that I’m married to
her yet, you understand. I have only promised to marry her. She has gone
on first (on the sly) to a place four miles from this. And we settled I
was to follow, and marry her privately this afternoon. That’s out of
the question now. While she’s expecting me at the inn I shall be bowling
along to London. Somebody must tell her what has happened--or she’ll
play the devil, and the whole business will burst up. I can’t trust any
of the people here. I’m done for, old chap, unless you help me.”

Arnold lifted his hands in dismay. “It’s the most dreadful situation,
Geoffrey, I ever heard of in my life!”

Geoffrey thoroughly agreed with him. “Enough to knock a man over,” he
said, “isn’t it? I’d give something for a drink of beer.” He produced
his everlasting pipe, from sheer force of habit. “Got a match?” he
asked.

Arnold’s mind was too preoccupied to notice the question.

“I hope you won’t think I’m making light of your father’s illness,” he
said, earnestly. “But it seems to me--I must say it--it seems to me that
the poor girl has the first claim on you.”

Geoffrey looked at him in surly amazement.

“The first claim on me? Do you think I’m going to risk being cut out of
my father’s will? Not for the best woman that ever put on a petticoat!”

Arnold’s admiration of his friend was the solidly-founded admiration
of many years; admiration for a man who could row, box, wrestle,
jump--above all, who could swim--as few other men could perform those
exercises in contemporary England. But that answer shook his faith. Only
for the moment--unhappily for Arnold, only for the moment.

“You know best,” he returned, a little coldly. “What can I do?”

Geoffrey took his arm--roughly as he took every thing; but in a
companionable and confidential way.

“Go, like a good fellow, and tell her what has happened. We’ll start
from here as if we were both going to the railway; and I’ll drop you at
the foot-path, in the gig. You can get on to your own place afterward by
the evening train. It puts you to no inconvenience, and it’s doing the
kind thing by an old friend. There’s no risk of being found out. I’m
to drive, remember! There’s no servant with us, old boy, to notice, and
tell tales.”

Even Arnold began to see dimly by this time that he was likely to pay
his debt of obligation with interest--as Sir Patrick had foretold.

“What am I to say to her?” he asked. “I’m bound to do all I can do to
help you, and I will. But what am I to say?”

It was a natural question to put. It was not an easy question to answer.
What a man, under given muscular circumstances, could do, no person
living knew better than Geoffrey Delamayn. Of what a man, under given
social circumstances, could say, no person living knew less.

“Say?” he repeated. “Look here! say I’m half distracted, and all that.
And--wait a bit--tell her to stop where she is till I write to her.”

Arnold hesitated. Absolutely ignorant of that low and limited form of
knowledge which is called “knowledge of the world,” his inbred delicacy
of mind revealed to him the serious difficulty of the position which his
friend was asking him to occupy as plainly as if he was looking at it
through the warily-gathered experience of society of a man of twice his
age.

“Can’t you write to her now, Geoffrey?” he asked.

“What’s the good of that?”

“Consider for a minute, and you will see. You have trusted me with a
very awkward secret. I may be wrong--I never was mixed up in such a
matter before--but to present myself to this lady as your messenger
seems exposing her to a dreadful humiliation. Am I to go and tell her
to her face: ‘I know what you are hiding from the knowledge of all the
world;’ and is she to be expected to endure it?”

“Bosh!” said Geoffrey. “They can endure a deal more than you think.
I wish you had heard how she bullied me, in this very place. My good
fellow, you don’t understand women. The grand secret, in dealing with a
woman, is to take her as you take a cat, by the scruff of the neck--”

“I can’t face her--unless you will help me by breaking the thing to
her first. I’ll stick at no sacrifice to serve you; but--hang it!--make
allowances, Geoffrey, for the difficulty you are putting me in. I am
almost a stranger; I don’t know how Miss Silvester may receive me,
before I can open my lips.”

Those last words touched the question on its practical side. The
matter-of-fact view of the difficulty was a view which Geoffrey
instantly recognized and understood.

“She has the devil’s own temper,” he said. “There’s no denying that.
Perhaps I’d better write. Have we time to go into the house?”

“No. The house is full of people, and we haven’t a minute to spare.
Write at once, and write here. I have got a pencil.”

“What am I to write on?”

“Any thing--your brother’s card.”

Geoffrey took the pencil which Arnold offered to him, and looked at the
card. The lines his brother had written covered it. There was no room
left. He felt in his pocket, and produced a letter--the letter which
Anne had referred to at the interview between them--the letter which she
had written to insist on his attending the lawn-party at Windygates.

“This will do,” he said. “It’s one of Anne’s own letters to me. There’s
room on the fourth page. If I write,” he added, turning suddenly on
Arnold, “you promise to take it to her? Your hand on the bargain!”

He held out the hand which had saved Arnold’s life in Lisbon Harbor, and
received Arnold’s promise, in remembrance of that time.

“All right, old fellow. I can tell you how to find the place as we go
along in the gig. By-the-by, there’s one thing that’s rather important.
I’d better mention it while I think of it.”

“What is that?”

“You mustn’t present yourself at the inn in your own name; and you
mustn’t ask for her by _her_ name.”

“Who am I to ask for?”

“It’s a little awkward. She has gone there as a married woman, in case
they’re particular about taking her in--”

“I understand. Go on.”

“And she has planned to tell them (by way of making it all right and
straight for both of us, you know) that she expects her husband to join
her. If I had been able to go I should have asked at the door for ‘my
wife.’ You are going in my place--”

“And I must ask at the door for ‘my wife,’ or I shall expose Miss
Silvester to unpleasant consequences?”

“You don’t object?”

“Not I! I don’t care what I say to the people of the inn. It’s the
meeting with Miss Silvester that I’m afraid of.”

“I’ll put that right for you--never fear!”

He went at once to the table and rapidly scribbled a few lines--then
stopped and considered. “Will that do?” he asked himself. “No; I’d
better say something spooney to quiet her.” He considered again, added a
line, and brought his hand down on the table with a cheery smack.
“That will do the business! Read it yourself, Arnold--it’s not so badly
written.”

Arnold read the note without appearing to share his friend’s favorable
opinion of it.

“This is rather short,” he said.

“Have I time to make it longer?”

“Perhaps not. But let Miss Silvester see for herself that you have no
time to make it longer. The train starts in less than half an hour. Put
the time.”

“Oh, all right! and the date too, if you like.”

He had just added the desired words and figures, and had given the
revised letter to Arnold, when Sir Patrick returned to announce that the
gig was waiting.

“Come!” he said. “You haven’t a moment to lose!”

Geoffrey started to his feet. Arnold hesitated.

“I must see Blanche!” he pleaded. “I can’t leave Blanche without saying
good-by. Where is she?”

Sir Patrick pointed to the steps, with a smile. Blanche had followed him
from the house. Arnold ran out to her instantly.

“Going?” she said, a little sadly.

“I shall be back in two days,” Arnold whispered. “It’s all right! Sir
Patrick consents.”

She held him fast by the arm. The hurried parting before other people
seemed to be not a parting to Blanche’s taste.

“You will lose the train!” cried Sir Patrick.

Geoffrey seized Arnold by the arm which Blanche was holding, and
tore him--literally tore him--away. The two were out of sight, in the
shrubbery, before Blanche’s indignation found words, and addressed
itself to her uncle.

“Why is that brute going away with Mr. Brinkworth?” she asked.

“Mr. Delamayn is called to London by his father’s illness,” replied Sir
Patrick. “You don’t like him?”

“I hate him!”

Sir Patrick reflected a little.

“She is a young girl of eighteen,” he thought to himself. “And I am an
old man of seventy. Curious, that we should agree about any thing. More
than curious that we should agree in disliking Mr. Delamayn.”

He roused himself, and looked again at Blanche. She was seated at the
table, with her head on her hand; absent, and out of spirits--thinking
of Arnold, and set, with the future all smooth before them, not thinking
happily.

“Why, Blanche! Blanche!” cried Sir Patrick, “one would think he had gone
for a voyage round the world. You silly child! he will be back again the
day after to-morrow.”

“I wish he hadn’t gone with that man!” said Blanche. “I wish he hadn’t
got that man for a friend!”

“There! there! the man was rude enough I own. Never mind! he will leave
the man at the second station. Come back to the ball-room with me. Dance
it off, my dear--dance it off!”

“No,” returned Blanche. “I’m in no humor for dancing. I shall go up
stairs, and talk about it to Anne.”

“You will do nothing of the sort!” said a third voice, suddenly joining
in the conversation.

Both uncle and niece looked up, and found Lady Lundie at the top of the
summer-house steps.

“I forbid you to mention that woman’s name again in my hearing,” pursued
her ladyship. “Sir Patrick! I warned you (if you remember?) that the
matter of the governess was not a matter to be trifled with. My worst
anticipations are realized. Miss Silvester has left the house!”


CHAPTER THE EIGHTH.

THE SCANDAL.

IT was still early in the afternoon when the guests at Lady Lundie’s
lawn-party began to compare notes together in corners, and to agree in
arriving at a general conviction that “some thing was wrong.”

Blanche had mysteriously disappeared from her partners in the dance.
Lady Lundie had mysteriously abandoned her guests. Blanche had not
come back. Lady Lundie had returned with an artificial smile, and a
preoccupied manner. She acknowledged that she was “not very well.” The
same excuse had been given to account for Blanche’s absence--and, again
(some time previously), to explain Miss Silvester’s withdrawal from the
croquet! A wit among the gentlemen declared it reminded him of declining
a verb. “I am not very well; thou art not very well; she is not very
well”--and so on. Sir Patrick too! Only think of the sociable Sir
Patrick being in a state of seclusion--pacing up and down by himself in
the loneliest part of the garden. And the servants again! it had even
spread to the servants! _They_ were presuming to whisper in corners,
like their betters. The house-maids appeared, spasmodically, where house
maids had no business to be. Doors banged and petticoats whisked in the
upper regions. Something wrong--depend upon it, something wrong! “We
had much better go away. My dear, order the carriage”--“Louisa, love,
no more dancing; your papa is going.”--“_Good_-afternoon, Lady
Lundie!”--“Haw! thanks very much!”--“_So_ sorry for dear Blanche!”--“Oh,
it’s been _too_ charming!” So Society jabbered its poor, nonsensical
little jargon, and got itself politely out of the way before the storm
came.

This was exactly the consummation of events for which Sir Patrick had
been waiting in the seclusion of the garden.

There was no evading the responsibility which was now thrust upon him.
Lady Lundie had announced it as a settled resolution, on her part, to
trace Anne to the place in which she had taken refuge, and discover
(purely in the interests of virtue) whether she actually was married
or not. Blanche (already overwrought by the excitement of the day) had
broken into an hysterical passion of tears on hearing the news, and had
then, on recovering, taken a view of her own of Anne’s flight from the
house. Anne would never have kept her marriage a secret from Blanche;
Anne would never have written such a formal farewell letter as she had
written to Blanche--if things were going as smoothly with her as she
was trying to make them believe at Windygates. Some dreadful trouble
had fallen on Anne and Blanche was determined (as Lady Lundie was
determined) to find out where she had gone, and to follow, and help her.

It was plain to Sir Patrick (to whom both ladies had opened their
hearts, at separate interviews) that his sister-in-law, in one way, and
his niece in another, were equally likely--if not duly restrained--to
plunge headlong into acts of indiscretion which might lead to very
undesirable results. A man in authority was sorely needed at Windygates
that afternoon--and Sir Patrick was fain to acknowledge that he was the
man.

“Much is to be said for, and much is to be said against a single
life,” thought the old gentleman, walking up and down the sequestered
garden-path to which he had retired, and applying himself at shorter
intervals than usual to the knob of his ivory cane. “This, however,
is, I take it, certain. A man’s married friends can’t prevent him from
leading the life of a bachelor, if he pleases. But they can, and do,
take devilish good care that he sha’n’t enjoy it!”

Sir Patrick’s meditations were interrupted by the appearance of a
servant, previously instructed to keep him informed of the progress of
events at the house.

“They’re all gone, Sir Patrick,” said the man.

“That’s a comfort, Simpson. We have no visitors to deal with now, except
the visitors who are staying in the house?”

“None, Sir Patrick.”

“They’re all gentlemen, are they not?”

“Yes, Sir Patrick.”

“That’s another comfort, Simpson. Very good. I’ll see Lady Lundie
first.”

Does any other form of human resolution approach the firmness of a
woman who is bent on discovering the frailties of another woman whom she
hates? You may move rocks, under a given set of circumstances. But here
is a delicate being in petticoats, who shrieks if a spider drops on her
neck, and shudders if you approach her after having eaten an onion. Can
you move _her,_ under a given set of circumstances, as set forth above?
Not you!

Sir Patrick found her ladyship instituting her inquiries on the same
admirably exhaustive system which is pursued, in cases of disappearance,
by the police. Who was the last witness who had seen the missing person?
Who was the last servant who had seen Anne Silvester? Begin with the
men-servants, from the butler at the top to the stable boy at the
bottom. Go on with the women-servants, from the cook in all her glory
to the small female child who weeds the garden. Lady Lundie had
cross-examined her way downward as far as the page, when Sir Patrick
joined her.

“My dear lady! pardon me for reminding you again, that this is a
free country, and that you have no claim whatever to investigate Miss
Silvester’s proceedings after she has left your house.”

Lady Lundie raised her eyes, devotionally, to the ceiling. She looked
like a martyr to duty. If you had seen her ladyship at that moment, you
would have said yourself, “A martyr to duty.”

“No, Sir Patrick! As a Christian woman, that is not _my_ way of looking
at it. This unhappy person has lived under my roof. This unhappy person
has been the companion of Blanche. I am responsible--I am, in a manner,
morally responsible. I would give the world to be able to dismiss it
as you do. But no! I must be satisfied that she _is_ married. In the
interests of propriety. For the quieting of my own conscience. Before I
lay my head on my pillow to-night, Sir Patrick--before I lay my head on
my pillow to-night!”

“One word, Lady Lundie--”

“No!” repeated her ladyship, with the most pathetic gentleness. “You
are right, I dare say, from the worldly point of view. I can’t take the
worldly point of view. The worldly point of view hurts me.” She turned,
with impressive gravity, to the page. “You know where you will go,
Jonathan, if you tell lies!”

Jonathan was lazy, Jonathan was pimply, Jonathan was fat--_but_ Jonathan
was orthodox. He answered that he did know; and, what is more, he
mentioned the place.

Sir Patrick saw that further opposition on his part, at that moment,
would be worse than useless. He wisely determined to wait, before he
interfered again, until Lady Lundie had thoroughly exhausted herself and
her inquiries. At the same time--as it was impossible, in the present
state of her ladyship’s temper, to provide against what might happen
if the inquiries after Anne unluckily proved successful--he decided on
taking measures to clear the house of the guests (in the interests of
all parties) for the next four-and-twenty hours.

“I only want to ask you a question, Lady Lundie,” he resumed. “The
position of the gentlemen who are staying here is not a very pleasant
one while all this is going on. If you had been content to let the
matter pass without notice, we should have done very well. As things
are, don’t you think it will be more convenient to every body if I
relieve you of the responsibility of entertaining your guests?”

“As head of the family?” stipulated Lady Lundie.

“As head of the family!” answered Sir Patrick.

“I gratefully accept the proposal,” said Lady Lundie.

“I beg you won’t mention it,” rejoined Sir Patrick.

He quitted the room, leaving Jonathan under examination. He and his
brother (the late Sir Thomas) had chosen widely different paths in life,
and had seen but little of each other since the time when they had been
boys. Sir Patrick’s recollections (on leaving Lady Lundie) appeared
to have taken him back to that time, and to have inspired him with a
certain tenderness for his brother’s memory. He shook his head, and
sighed a sad little sigh. “Poor Tom!” he said to himself, softly, after
he had shut the door on his brother’s widow. “Poor Tom!”

On crossing the hall, he stopped the first servant he met, to inquire
after Blanche. Miss Blanche was quiet, up stairs, closeted with her maid
in her own room. “Quiet?” thought Sir Patrick. “That’s a bad sign. I
shall hear more of my niece.”

Pending that event, the next thing to do was to find the guests.
Unerring instinct led Sir Patrick to the billiard-room. There he found
them, in solemn conclave assembled, wondering what they had better do.
Sir Patrick put them all at their ease in two minutes.

“What do you say to a day’s shooting to-morrow?” he asked.

Every man present--sportsman or not--said yes.

“You can start from this house,” pursued Sir Patrick; “or you can start
from a shooting-cottage which is on the Windygates property--among the
woods, on the other side of the moor. The weather looks pretty well
settled (for Scotland), and there are plenty of horses in the stables.
It is useless to conceal from you, gentlemen, that events have taken a
certain unexpected turn in my sister-in-law’s family circle. You will
be equally Lady Lundie’s guests, whether you choose the cottage or the
house. For the next twenty-four hours (let us say)--which shall it be?”

Every body--with or without rheumatism--answered “the cottage.”

“Very good,” pursued Sir Patrick, “It is arranged to ride over to the
shooting-cottage this evening, and to try the moor, on that side, the
first thing in the morning. If events here will allow me, I shall be
delighted to accompany you, and do the honors as well as I can. If not,
I am sure you will accept my apologies for to-night, and permit Lady
Lundie’s steward to see to your comfort in my place.”

Adopted unanimously. Sir Patrick left the guests to their billiards, and
went out to give the necessary orders at the stables.



In the mean time Blanche remained portentously quiet in the upper
regions of the house; while Lady Lundie steadily pursued her inquiries
down stairs. She got on from Jonathan (last of the males, indoors) to
the coachman (first of the males, out-of-doors), and dug down, man by
man, through that new stratum, until she struck the stable-boy at the
bottom. Not an atom of information having been extracted in the house
or out of the house, from man or boy, her ladyship fell back on
the women next. She pulled the bell, and summoned the cook--Hester
Dethridge.

A very remarkable-looking person entered the room.

Elderly and quiet; scrupulously clean; eminently respectable; her gray
hair neat and smooth under her modest white cap; her eyes, set deep in
their orbits, looking straight at any person who spoke to her--here,
at a first view, was a steady, trust-worthy woman. Here also on closer
inspection, was a woman with the seal of some terrible past suffering
set on her for the rest of her life. You felt it, rather than saw it, in
the look of immovable endurance which underlain her expression--in the
deathlike tranquillity which never disappeared from her manner. Her
story was a sad one--so far as it was known. She had entered Lady
Lundie’s service at the period of Lady Lundie’s marriage to Sir Thomas.
Her character (given by the clergyman of her parish) described her as
having been married to an inveterate drunkard, and as having suffered
unutterably during her husband’s lifetime. There were drawbacks to
engaging her, now that she was a widow. On one of the many occasions on
which her husband had personally ill-treated her, he had struck her a
blow which had produced very remarkable nervous results. She had lain
insensible many days together, and had recovered with the total loss of
her speech. In addition to this objection, she was odd, at times, in her
manner; and she made it a condition of accepting any situation, that she
should be privileged to sleep in a room by herself As a set-off against
all this, it was to be said, on the other side of the question, that she
was sober; rigidly honest in all her dealings; and one of the best cooks
in England. In consideration of this last merit, the late Sir Thomas
had decided on giving her a trial, and had discovered that he had never
dined in his life as he dined when Hester Dethridge was at the head of
his kitchen. She remained after his death in his widow’s service. Lady
Lundie was far from liking her. An unpleasant suspicion attached to the
cook, which Sir Thomas had over-looked, but which persons less sensible
of the immense importance of dining well could not fail to regard as
a serious objection to her. Medical men, consulted about her case
discovered certain physiological anomalies in it which led them to
suspect the woman of feigning dumbness, for some reason best known
to herself. She obstinately declined to learn the deaf and dumb
alphabet--on the ground that dumbness was not associated with deafness
in her case. Stratagems were invented (seeing that she really did
possess the use of her ears) to entrap her into also using her speech,
and failed. Efforts were made to induce her to answer questions relating
to her past life in her husband’s time. She flatly declined to reply
to them, one and all. At certain intervals, strange impulses to get a
holiday away from the house appeared to seize her. If she was resisted,
she passively declined to do her work. If she was threatened with
dismissal, she impenetrably bowed her head, as much as to say, “Give
me the word, and I go.” Over and over again, Lady Lundie had decided,
naturally enough, on no longer keeping such a servant as this; but she
had never yet carried the decision to execution. A cook who is a perfect
mistress of her art, who asks for no perquisites, who allows no waste,
who never quarrels with the other servants, who drinks nothing stronger
than tea, who is to be trusted with untold gold--is not a cook easily
replaced. In this mortal life we put up with many persons and things,
as Lady Lundie put up with her cook. The woman lived, as it were, on the
brink of dismissal--but thus far the woman kept her place--getting her
holidays when she asked for them (which, to do her justice, was not
often) and sleeping always (go where she might with the family) with a
locked door, in a room by herself.

Hester Dethridge advanced slowly to the table at which Lady Lundie was
sitting. A slate and pencil hung at her side, which she used for making
such replies as were not to be expressed by a gesture or by a motion
of the head. She took up the slate and pencil, and waited with stony
submission for her mistress to begin.

Lady Lundie opened the proceedings with the regular formula of inquiry
which she had used with all the other servants,

“Do you know that Miss Silvester has left the house?”

The cook nodded her head affirmatively.

“Do you know at what time she left it?”

Another affirmative reply. The first which Lady Lundie had received to
that question yet. She eagerly went on to the next inquiry.

“Have you seen her since she left the house?”

A third affirmative reply.

“Where?”

Hester Dethridge wrote slowly on the slate, in singularly firm upright
characters for a woman in her position of life, these words:

“On the road that leads to the railway. Nigh to Mistress Chew’s Farm.”

“What did you want at Chew’s Farm?”

Hester Dethridge wrote: “I wanted eggs for the kitchen, and a breath of
fresh air for myself.”

“Did Miss Silvester see you?”

A negative shake of the head.

“Did she take the turning that leads to the railway?”

Another negative shake of the head.

“She went on, toward the moor?”

An affirmative reply.

“What did she do when she got to the moor?”

Hester Dethridge wrote: “She took the footpath which leads to Craig
Fernie.”

Lady Lundie rose excitedly to her feet. There was but one place that a
stranger could go to at Craig Fernie. “The inn!” exclaimed her ladyship.
“She has gone to the inn!”

Hester Dethridge waited immovably. Lady Lundie put a last precautionary
question, in these words:

“Have you reported what you have seen to any body else?”

An affirmative reply. Lady Lundie had not bargained for that. Hester
Dethridge (she thought) must surely have misunderstood her.

“Do you mean that you have told somebody else what you have just told
me?”

Another affirmative reply.

“A person who questioned you, as I have done?”

A third affirmative reply.

“Who was it?”

Hester Dethridge wrote on her slate: “Miss Blanche.”

Lady Lundie stepped back, staggered by the discovery that Blanche’s
resolution to trace Anne Silvester was, to all appearance, as firmly
settled as her own. Her step-daughter was keeping her own counsel, and
acting on her own responsibility--her step-daughter might be an awkward
obstacle in the way. The manner in which Anne had left the house had
mortally offended Lady Lundie. An inveterately vindictive woman, she had
resolved to discover whatever compromising elements might exist in the
governess’s secret, and to make them public property (from a paramount
sense of duty, of course) among her own circle of friends. But to do
this--with Blanche acting (as might certainly be anticipated) in direct
opposition to her, and openly espousing Miss Silvester’s interests--was
manifestly impossible.

The first thing to be done--and that instantly--was to inform Blanche
that she was discovered, and to forbid her to stir in the matter.

Lady Lundie rang the bell twice--thus intimating, according to the laws
of the household, that she required the attendance of her own maid.
She then turned to the cook--still waiting her pleasure, with stony
composure, slate in hand.

“You have done wrong,” said her ladyship, severely. “I am your mistress.
You are bound to answer your mistress--”

Hester Dethridge bowed her head, in icy acknowledgment of the principle
laid down--so far.

The bow was an interruption. Lady Lundie resented it.

“But Miss Blanche is _not_ your mistress,” she went on, sternly. “You
are very much to blame for answering Miss Blanche’s inquiries about Miss
Silvester.”

Hester Dethridge, perfectly unmoved, wrote her justification on her
slate, in two stiff sentences: “I had no orders _not_ to answer. I keep
nobody’s secrets but my own.”

That reply settled the question of the cook’s dismissal--the question
which had been pending for months past.

“You are an insolent woman! I have borne with you long enough--I will
bear with you no longer. When your month is up, you go!”

In those words Lady Lundie dismissed Hester Dethridge from her service.

Not the slightest change passed over the sinister tranquillity of
the cook. She bowed her head again, in acknowledgment of the sentence
pronounced on her--dropped her slate at her side--turned about--and left
the room. The woman was alive in the world, and working in the world;
and yet (so far as all human interests were concerned) she was as
completely out of the world as if she had been screwed down in her
coffin, and laid in her grave.

Lady Lundie’s maid came into the room as Hester left it.

“Go up stairs to Miss Blanche,” said her mistress, “and say I want her
here. Wait a minute!” She paused, and considered. Blanche might decline
to submit to her step-mother’s interference with her. It might be
necessary to appeal to the higher authority of her guardian. “Do you
know where Sir Patrick is?” asked Lady Lundie.

“I heard Simpson say, my lady, that Sir Patrick was at the stables.”

“Send Simpson with a message. My compliments to Sir Patrick--and I wish
to see him immediately.”

* * * * *

The preparations for the departure to the shooting-cottage were just
completed; and the one question that remained to be settled was, whether
Sir Patrick could accompany the party--when the man-servant appeared
with the message from his mistress.

“Will you give me a quarter of an hour, gentlemen?” asked Sir Patrick.
“In that time I shall know for certain whether I can go with you or
not.”

As a matter of course, the guests decided to wait. The younger men
among them (being Englishmen) naturally occupied their leisure time in
betting. Would Sir Patrick get the better of the domestic crisis? or
would the domestic crisis get the better of Sir Patrick? The domestic
crisis was backed, at two to one, to win.

Punctually at the expiration of the quarter of an hour, Sir Patrick
reappeared. The domestic crisis had betrayed the blind confidence which
youth and inexperience had placed in it. Sir Patrick had won the day.

“Things are settled and quiet, gentlemen; and I am able to accompany
you,” he said. “There are two ways to the shooting-cottage. One--the
longest--passes by the inn at Craig Fernie. I am compelled to ask you
to go with me by that way. While you push on to the cottage, I must drop
behind, and say a word to a person who is staying at the inn.”

He had quieted Lady Lundie--he had even quieted Blanche. But it was
evidently on the condition that he was to go to Craig Fernie in their
places, and to see Anne Silvester himself. Without a word more
of explanation he mounted his horse, and led the way out. The
shooting-party left Windygates.



SECOND SCENE.--THE INN.


CHAPTER THE NINTH.

ANNE.

“YE’LL just permit me to remind ye again, young leddy, that the hottle’s
full--exceptin’ only this settin’-room, and the bedchamber yonder
belonging to it.”

So spoke “Mistress Inchbare,” landlady of the Craig Fernie Inn, to Anne
Silvester, standing in the parlor, purse in hand, and offering the price
of the two rooms before she claimed permission to occupy them.

The time of the afternoon was about the time when Geoffrey Delamayn had
started in the train, on his journey to London. About the time also,
when Arnold Brinkworth had crossed the moor, and was mounting the first
rising ground which led to the inn.

Mistress Inchbare was tall and thin, and decent and dry. Mistress
Inchbare’s unlovable hair clung fast round her head in wiry little
yellow curls. Mistress Inchbare’s hard bones showed themselves, like
Mistress Inchbare’s hard Presbyterianism, without any concealment or
compromise. In short, a savagely-respectable woman who plumed herself on
presiding over a savagely-respectable inn.

There was no competition to interfere with Mistress Inchbare. She
regulated her own prices, and made her own rules. If you objected to
her prices, and revolted from her rules, you were free to go. In other
words, you were free to cast yourself, in the capacity of houseless
wanderer, on the scanty mercy of a Scotch wilderness. The village of
Craig Fernie was a collection of hovels. The country about Craig Fernie,
mountain on one side and moor on the other, held no second house of
public entertainment, for miles and miles round, at any point of the
compass. No rambling individual but the helpless British Tourist wanted
food and shelter from strangers in that part of Scotland; and nobody
but Mistress Inchbare had food and shelter to sell. A more thoroughly
independent person than this was not to be found on the face of the
hotel-keeping earth. The most universal of all civilized terrors--the
terror of appearing unfavorably in the newspapers--was a sensation
absolutely unknown to the Empress of the Inn. You lost your temper,
and threatened to send her bill for exhibition in the public journals.
Mistress Inchbare raised no objection to your taking any course you
pleased with it. “Eh, man! send the bill whar’ ye like, as long as ye
pay it first. There’s nae such thing as a newspaper ever darkens my
doors. Ye’ve got the Auld and New Testaments in your bedchambers, and
the natural history o’ Pairthshire on the coffee-room table--and if
that’s no’ reading eneugh for ye, ye may een gae back South again, and
get the rest of it there.”

This was the inn at which Anne Silvester had appeared alone, with
nothing but a little bag in her hand. This was the woman whose
reluctance to receive her she innocently expected to overcome by showing
her purse.

“Mention your charge for the rooms,” she said. “I am willing to pay for
them beforehand.”

Her majesty, Mrs. Inchbare, never even looked at her subject’s poor
little purse.

“It just comes to this, mistress,” she answered. “I’m no’ free to tak’
your money, if I’m no’ free to let ye the last rooms left in the hoose.
The Craig Fernie hottle is a faimily hottle--and has its ain gude name
to keep up. Ye’re ower-well-looking, my young leddy, to be traveling
alone.”

The time had been when Anne would have answered sharply enough. The hard
necessities of her position made her patient now.

“I have already told you,” she said, “my husband is coming here to
join me.” She sighed wearily as she repeated her ready-made story--and
dropped into the nearest chair, from sheer inability to stand any
longer.

Mistress Inchbare looked at her, with the exact measure of compassionate
interest which she might have shown if she had been looking at a stray
dog who had fallen footsore at the door of the inn.

“Weel! weel! sae let it be. Bide awhile, and rest ye. We’ll no’ chairge
ye for that--and we’ll see if your husband comes. I’ll just let the
rooms, mistress, to _him,_, instead o’ lettin’ them to _you._ And, sae,
good-morrow t’ ye.” With that final announcement of her royal will and
pleasure, the Empress of the Inn withdrew.

Anne made no reply. She watched the landlady out of the room--and then
struggled to control herself no longer. In her position, suspicion was
doubly insult. The hot tears of shame gathered in her eyes; and the
heart-ache wrung her, poor soul--wrung her without mercy.

A trifling noise in the room startled her. She looked up, and detected
a man in a corner, dusting the furniture, and apparently acting in the
capacity of attendant at the inn. He had shown her into the parlor on
her arrival; but he had remained so quietly in the room that she had
never noticed him since, until that moment.

He was an ancient man--with one eye filmy and blind, and one eye moist
and merry. His head was bald; his feet were gouty; his nose was justly
celebrated as the largest nose and the reddest nose in that part of
Scotland. The mild wisdom of years was expressed mysteriously in his
mellow smile. In contact with this wicked world, his manner revealed
that happy mixture of two extremes--the servility which just
touches independence, and the independence which just touches
servility--attained by no men in existence but Scotchmen. Enormous
native impudence, which amused but never offended; immeasurable cunning,
masquerading habitually under the double disguise of quaint prejudice
and dry humor, were the solid moral foundations on which the character
of this elderly person was built. No amount of whisky ever made him
drunk; and no violence of bell-ringing ever hurried his movements. Such
was the headwaiter at the Craig Fernie Inn; known, far and wide, to
local fame, as “Maister Bishopriggs, Mistress Inchbare’s right-hand
man.”

“What are you doing there?” Anne asked, sharply.

Mr. Bishopriggs turned himself about on his gouty feet; waved his duster
gently in the air; and looked at Anne, with a mild, paternal smile.

“Eh! Am just doostin’ the things; and setin’ the room in decent order
for ye.”

“For _me?_ Did you hear what the landlady said?”

Mr. Bishopriggs advanced confidentially, and pointed with a very
unsteady forefinger to the purse which Anne still held in her hand.

“Never fash yoursel’ aboot the landleddy!” said the sage chief of the
Craig Fernie waiters. “Your purse speaks for you, my lassie. Pet it up!”
 cried Mr. Bishopriggs, waving temptation away from him with the duster.
“In wi’ it into yer pocket! Sae long as the warld’s the warld, I’ll
uphaud it any where--while there’s siller in the purse, there’s gude in
the woman!”

Anne’s patience, which had resisted harder trials, gave way at this.

“What do you mean by speaking to me in that familiar manner?” she asked,
rising angrily to her feet again.

Mr. Bishopriggs tucked his duster under his arm, and proceeded to
satisfy Anne that he shared the landlady’s view of her position, without
sharing the severity of the landlady’s principles. “There’s nae man
livin’,” said Mr. Bishopriggs, “looks with mair indulgence at human
frailty than my ain sel’. Am I no’ to be familiar wi’ ye--when I’m auld
eneugh to be a fether to ye, and ready to be a fether to ye till further
notice? Hech! hech! Order your bit dinner lassie. Husband or no husband,
ye’ve got a stomach, and ye must een eat. There’s fesh and there’s
fowl--or, maybe, ye’ll be for the sheep’s head singit, when they’ve done
with it at the tabble dot?”

There was but one way of getting rid of him: “Order what you like,” Anne
said, “and leave the room.” Mr. Bishopriggs highly approved of the first
half of the sentence, and totally overlooked the second.

“Ay, ay--just pet a’ yer little interests in my hands; it’s the wisest
thing ye can do. Ask for Maister Bishopriggs (that’s me) when ye want a
decent ‘sponsible man to gi’ ye a word of advice. Set ye doon again--set
ye doon. And don’t tak’ the arm-chair. Hech! hech! yer husband will
be coming, ye know, and he’s sure to want it!” With that seasonable
pleasantry the venerable Bishopriggs winked, and went out.

Anne looked at her watch. By her calculation it was not far from the
hour when Geoffrey might be expected to arrive at the inn, assuming
Geoffrey to have left Windygates at the time agreed on. A little more
patience, and the landlady’s scruples would be satisfied, and the ordeal
would be at an end.

Could she have met him nowhere else than at this barbarous house, and
among these barbarous people?

No. Outside the doors of Windygates she had not a friend to help her in
all Scotland. There was no place at her disposal but the inn; and she
had only to be thankful that it occupied a sequestered situation, and
was not likely to be visited by any of Lady Lundie’s friends. Whatever
the risk might be, the end in view justified her in confronting it. Her
whole future depended on Geoffrey’s making an honest woman of her. Not
her future with _him_--that way there was no hope; that way her life was
wasted. Her future with Blanche--she looked forward to nothing now but
her future with Blanche.

Her spirits sank lower and lower. The tears rose again. It would only
irritate him if he came and found her crying. She tried to divert her
mind by looking about the room.

There was very little to see. Except that it was solidly built of good
sound stone, the Craig Fernie hotel differed in no other important
respect from the average of second-rate English inns. There was the
usual slippery black sofa--constructed to let you slide when you wanted
to rest. There was the usual highly-varnished arm-chair, expressly
manufactured to test the endurance of the human spine. There was the
usual paper on the walls, of the pattern designed to make your eyes ache
and your head giddy. There were the usual engravings, which humanity
never tires of contemplating. The Royal Portrait, in the first place of
honor. The next greatest of all human beings--the Duke of Wellington--in
the second place of honor. The third greatest of all human beings--the
local member of parliament--in the third place of honor; and a hunting
scene, in the dark. A door opposite the door of admission from the
passage opened into the bedroom; and a window at the side looked out on
the open space in front of the hotel, and commanded a view of the vast
expanse of the Craig Fernie moor, stretching away below the rising
ground on which the house was built.

Anne turned in despair from the view in the room to the view from the
window. Within the last half hour it had changed for the worse. The
clouds had gathered; the sun was hidden; the light on the landscape was
gray and dull. Anne turned from the window, as she had turned from the
room. She was just making the hopeless attempt to rest her weary limbs
on the sofa, when the sound of voices and footsteps in the passage
caught her ear.

Was Geoffrey’s voice among them? No.

Were the strangers coming in?

The landlady had declined to let her have the rooms: it was quite
possible that the strangers might be coming to look at them. There was
no knowing who they might be. In the impulse of the moment she flew to
the bedchamber and locked herself in.

The door from the passage opened, and Arnold Brinkworth--shown in by Mr.
Bishopriggs--entered the sitting-room.

“Nobody here!” exclaimed Arnold, looking round. “Where is she?”

Mr. Bishopriggs pointed to the bedroom door. “Eh! yer good leddy’s joost
in the bedchamber, nae doot!”

Arnold started. He had felt no difficulty (when he and Geoffrey had
discussed the question at Windygates) about presenting himself at
the inn in the assumed character of Anne’s husband. But the result of
putting the deception in practice was, to say the least of it, a little
embarrassing at first. Here was the waiter describing Miss Silvester
as his “good lady;” and leaving it (most naturally and properly) to the
“good lady’s” husband to knock at her bedroom door, and tell her that he
was there. In despair of knowing what else to do at the moment, Arnold
asked for the landlady, whom he had not seen on arriving at the inn.

“The landleddy’s just tottin’ up the ledgers o’ the hottle in her ain
room,” answered Mr. Bishopriggs. “She’ll be here anon--the wearyful
woman!--speerin’ who ye are and what ye are, and takin’ a’ the business
o’ the hoose on her ain pair o’ shouthers.” He dropped the subject of
the landlady, and put in a plea for himself. “I ha’ lookit after a’ the
leddy’s little comforts, Sir,” he whispered. “Trust in me! trust in me!”

Arnold’s attention was absorbed in the very serious difficulty of
announcing his arrival to Anne. “How am I to get her out?” he said to
himself, with a look of perplexity directed at the bedroom door.

He had spoken loud enough for the waiter to hear him. Arnold’s look of
perplexity was instantly reflected on the face of Mr. Bishopriggs.
The head-waiter at Craig Fernie possessed an immense experience of the
manners and customs of newly-married people on their honeymoon trip.
He had been a second father (with excellent pecuniary results) to
innumerable brides and bridegrooms. He knew young married couples in
all their varieties:--The couples who try to behave as if they had been
married for many years; the couples who attempt no concealment, and
take advice from competent authorities about them. The couples who are
bashfully talkative before third persons; the couples who are bashfully
silent under similar circumstances. The couples who don’t know what
to do, the couples who wish it was over; the couples who must never
be intruded upon without careful preliminary knocking at the door; the
couples who _can_ eat and drink in the intervals of “bliss,” and the
other couples who _can’t._ But the bridegroom who stood helpless on
one side of the door, and the bride who remained locked in on the other,
were new varieties of the nuptial species, even in the vast experience
of Mr. Bishopriggs himself.

“Hoo are ye to get her oot?” he repeated. “I’ll show ye hoo!” He
advanced as rapidly as his gouty feet would let him, and knocked at
the bedroom door. “Eh, my leddy! here he is in flesh and bluid.
Mercy preserve us! do ye lock the door of the nuptial chamber in your
husband’s face?”

At that unanswerable appeal the lock was heard turning in the door. Mr.
Bishopriggs winked at Arnold with his one available eye, and laid his
forefinger knowingly along his enormous nose. “I’m away before she
falls into your arms! Rely on it I’ll no come in again without knocking
first!”

He left Arnold alone in the room. The bedroom door opened slowly by a
few inches at a time. Anne’s voice was just audible speaking cautiously
behind it.

“Is that you, Geoffrey?”

Arnold’s heart began to beat fast, in anticipation of the disclosure
which was now close at hand. He knew neither what to say or do--he
remained silent.

Anne repeated the question in louder tones:

“Is that you?”

There was the certain prospect of alarming her, if some reply was not
given. There was no help for it. Come what come might, Arnold answered,
in a whisper:

“Yes.”

The door was flung wide open. Anne Silvester appeared on the threshold,
confronting him.

“Mr. Brinkworth!!!” she exclaimed, standing petrified with astonishment.

For a moment more neither of them spoke. Anne advanced one step into
the sitting-room, and put the next inevitable question, with an
instantaneous change from surprise to suspicion.

“What do you want here?”

Geoffrey’s letter represented the only possible excuse for Arnold’s
appearance in that place, and at that time.

“I have got a letter for you,” he said--and offered it to her.

She was instantly on her guard. They were little better than strangers
to each other, as Arnold had said. A sickening presentiment of some
treachery on Geoffrey’s part struck cold to her heart. She refused to
take the letter.

“I expect no letter,” she said. “Who told you I was here?” She put
the question, not only with a tone of suspicion, but with a look of
contempt. The look was not an easy one for a man to bear. It required
a momentary exertion of self-control on Arnold’s part, before he could
trust himself to answer with due consideration for her. “Is there a
watch set on my actions?” she went on, with rising anger. “And are _you_
the spy?”

“You haven’t known me very long, Miss Silvester,” Arnold answered,
quietly. “But you ought to know me better than to say that. I am the
bearer of a letter from Geoffrey.”

She was an the point of following his example, and of speaking of
Geoffrey by his Christian name, on her side. But she checked herself,
before the word had passed her lips.

“Do you mean Mr. Delamayn?” she asked, coldly.

“Yes.”

“What occasion have _I_ for a letter from Mr. Delamayn?”

She was determined to acknowledge nothing--she kept him obstinately at
arm’s-length. Arnold did, as a matter of instinct, what a man of larger
experience would have done, as a matter of calculation--he closed with
her boldly, then and there.

“Miss Silvester! it’s no use beating about the bush. If you won’t take
the letter, you force me to speak out. I am here on a very unpleasant
errand. I begin to wish, from the bottom of my heart, I had never
undertaken it.”

A quick spasm of pain passed across her face. She was beginning, dimly
beginning, to understand him. He hesitated. His generous nature shrank
from hurting her.

“Go on,” she said, with an effort.

“Try not to be angry with me, Miss Silvester. Geoffrey and I are old
friends. Geoffrey knows he can trust me--”

“Trust you?” she interposed. “Stop!”

Arnold waited. She went on, speaking to herself, not to him.

“When I was in the other room I asked if Geoffrey was there. And this
man answered for him.” She sprang forward with a cry of horror.

“Has he told you--”

“For God’s sake, read his letter!”

She violently pushed back the hand with which Arnold once more offered
the letter. “You don’t look at me! He _has_ told you!”

“Read his letter,” persisted Arnold. “In justice to him, if you won’t in
justice to me.”

The situation was too painful to be endured. Arnold looked at her, this
time, with a man’s resolution in his eyes--spoke to her, this time, with
a man’s resolution in his voice. She took the letter.

“I beg your pardon, Sir,” she said, with a sudden humiliation of tone
and manner, inexpressibly shocking, inexpressibly pitiable to see. “I
understand my position at last. I am a woman doubly betrayed. Please to
excuse what I said to you just now, when I supposed myself to have some
claim on your respect. Perhaps you will grant me your pity? I can ask
for nothing more.”

Arnold was silent. Words were useless in the face of such utter
self-abandonment as this. Any man living--even Geoffrey himself--must
have felt for her at that moment.

She looked for the first time at the letter. She opened it on the wrong
side. “My own letter!” she said to herself. “In the hands of another
man!”

“Look at the last page,” said Arnold.

She turned to the last page, and read the hurried penciled lines.
“Villain! villain! villain!” At the third repetition of the word, she
crushed the letter in the palm of her hand, and flung it from her to the
other end of the room. The instant after, the fire that had flamed up in
her died out. Feebly and slowly she reached out her hand to the nearest
chair, and sat down in it with her back to Arnold. “He has deserted me!”
 was all she said. The words fell low and quiet on the silence: they were
the utterance of an immeasurable despair.

“You are wrong!” exclaimed Arnold. “Indeed, indeed you are wrong! It’s
no excuse--it’s the truth. I was present when the message came about his
father.”

She never heeded him, and never moved. She only repeated the words

“He has deserted me!”

“Don’t take it in that way!” pleaded Arnold--“pray don’t! It’s dreadful
to hear you; it is indeed. I am sure he has _not_ deserted you.” There
was no answer; no sign that she heard him; she sat there, struck to
stone. It was impossible to call the landlady in at such a moment as
this. In despair of knowing how else to rouse her, Arnold drew a chair
to her side, and patted her timidly on the shoulder. “Come!” he said, in
his single-hearted, boyish way. “Cheer up a little!”

She slowly turned her head, and looked at him with a dull surprise.

“Didn’t you say he had told you every thing?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Don’t you despise a woman like me?”

Arnold’s heart went back, at that dreadful question, to the one woman
who was eternally sacred to him--to the woman from whose bosom he had
drawn the breath of life.

“Does the man live,” he said, “who can think of his mother--and despise
women?”

That answer set the prisoned misery in her free. She gave him her
hand--she faintly thanked him. The merciful tears came to her at last.

Arnold rose, and turned away to the window in despair. “I mean well,” he
said. “And yet I only distress her!”

She heard him, and straggled to compose herself “No,” she answered, “you
comfort me. Don’t mind my crying--I’m the better for it.” She looked
round at him gratefully. “I won’t distress you, Mr. Brinkworth. I ought
to thank you--and I do. Come back or I shall think you are angry with
me.” Arnold went back to her. She gave him her hand once more. “One
doesn’t understand people all at once,” she said, simply. “I thought you
were like other men--I didn’t know till to-day how kind you could be.
Did you walk here?” she added, suddenly, with an effort to change
the subject. “Are you tired? I have not been kindly received at this
place--but I’m sure I may offer you whatever the inn affords.”

It was impossible not to feel for her--it was impossible not to be
interested in her. Arnold’s honest longing to help her expressed itself
a little too openly when he spoke next. “All I want, Miss Silvester, is
to be of some service to you, if I can,” he said. “Is there any thing
I can do to make your position here more comfortable? You will stay at
this place, won’t you? Geoffrey wishes it.”

She shuddered, and looked away. “Yes! yes!” she answered, hurriedly.

“You will hear from Geoffrey,” Arnold went on, “to-morrow or next day. I
know he means to write.”

“For Heaven’s sake, don’t speak of him any more!” she cried out. “How do
you think I can look you in the face--” Her cheeks flushed deep, and her
eyes rested on him with a momentary firmness. “Mind this! I am his wife,
if promises can make me his wife! He has pledged his word to me by all
that is sacred!” She checked herself impatiently. “What am I saying?
What interest can _you_ have in this miserable state of things? Don’t
let us talk of it! I have something else to say to you. Let us go back
to my troubles here. Did you see the landlady when you came in?”

“No. I only saw the waiter.”

“The landlady has made some absurd difficulty about letting me have
these rooms because I came here alone.”

“She won’t make any difficulty now,” said Arnold. “I have settled that.”

“_You!_”

Arnold smiled. After what had passed, it was an indescribable relief to
him to see the humorous side of his own position at the inn.

“Certainly,” he answered. “When I asked for the lady who had arrived
here alone this afternoon--”

“Yes.”

“I was told, in your interests, to ask for her as my wife.”

Anne looked at him--in alarm as well as in surprise.

“You asked for me as your wife?” she repeated.

“Yes. I haven’t done wrong--have I? As I understood it, there was
no alternative. Geoffrey told me you had settled with him to present
yourself here as a married lady, whose husband was coming to join her.”

“I thought of _him_ when I said that. I never thought of _you_.”

“Natural enough. Still, it comes to the same thing (doesn’t it?) with
the people of this house.”

“I don’t understand you.”

“I will try and explain myself a little better. Geoffrey said your
position here depended on my asking for you at the door (as _he_ would
have asked for you if he had come) in the character of your husband.”

“He had no right to say that.”

“No right? After what you have told me of the landlady, just think
what might have happened if he had _not_ said it! I haven’t had much
experience myself of these things. But--allow me to ask--wouldn’t it
have been a little awkward (at my age) if I had come here and inquired
for you as a friend? Don’t you think, in that case, the landlady might
have made some additional difficulty about letting you have the rooms?”

It was beyond dispute that the landlady would have refused to let the
rooms at all. It was equally plain that the deception which Arnold
had practiced on the people of the inn was a deception which Anne had
herself rendered necessary, in her own interests. She was not to blame;
it was clearly impossible for her to have foreseen such an event as
Geoffrey’s departure for London. Still, she felt an uneasy sense
of responsibility--a vague dread of what might happen next. She sat
nervously twisting her handkerchief in her lap, and made no answer.

“Don’t suppose I object to this little stratagem,” Arnold went on. “I am
serving my old friend, and I am helping the lady who is soon to be his
wife.”

Anne rose abruptly to her feet, and amazed him by a very unexpected
question.

“Mr. Brinkworth,” she said, “forgive me the rudeness of something I am
about to say to you. When are you going away?”

Arnold burst out laughing.

“When I am quite sure I can do nothing more to assist you,” he answered.

“Pray don’t think of _me_ any longer.”

“In your situation! who else am I to think of?”

Anne laid her hand earnestly on his arm, and answered:

“Blanche!”

“Blanche?” repeated Arnold, utterly at a loss to understand her.

“Yes--Blanche. She found time to tell me what had passed between you
this morning before I left Windygates. I know you have made her an
offer: I know you are engaged to be married to her.”

Arnold was delighted to hear it. He had been merely unwilling to leave
her thus far. He was absolutely determined to stay with her now.

“Don’t expect me to go after that!” he said. “Come and sit down again,
and let’s talk about Blanche.”

Anne declined impatiently, by a gesture. Arnold was too deeply
interested in the new topic to take any notice of it.

“You know all about her habits and her tastes,” he went on, “and what
she likes, and what she dislikes. It’s most important that I should talk
to you about her. When we are husband and wife, Blanche is to have
all her own way in every thing. That’s my idea of the Whole Duty of
Man--when Man is married. You are still standing? Let me give you a
chair.”

It was cruel--under other circumstances it would have been
impossible--to disappoint him. But the vague fear of consequences which
had taken possession of Anne was not to be trifled with. She had no
clear conception of the risk (and it is to be added, in justice to
Geoffrey, that _he_ had no clear conception of the risk) on which
Arnold had unconsciously ventured, in undertaking his errand to the inn.
Neither of them had any adequate idea (few people have) of the infamous
absence of all needful warning, of all decent precaution and restraint,
which makes the marriage law of Scotland a trap to catch unmarried men
and women, to this day. But, while Geoffrey’s mind was incapable of
looking beyond the present emergency, Anne’s finer intelligence told her
that a country which offered such facilities for private marriage as the
facilities of which she had proposed to take advantage in her own case,
was not a country in which a man could act as Arnold had acted, without
danger of some serious embarrassment following as the possible result.
With this motive to animate her, she resolutely declined to take the
offered chair, or to enter into the proposed conversation.

“Whatever we have to say about Blanche, Mr. Brinkworth, must be said at
some fitter time. I beg you will leave me.”

“Leave you!”

“Yes. Leave me to the solitude that is best for me, and to the sorrow
that I have deserved. Thank you--and good-by.”

Arnold made no attempt to disguise his disappointment and surprise.

“If I must go, I must,” he said, “But why are you in such a hurry?”

“I don’t want you to call me your wife again before the people of this
inn.”

“Is _that_ all? What on earth are you afraid of?”

She was unable fully to realize her own apprehensions. She was doubly
unable to express them in words. In her anxiety to produce some reason
which might prevail on him to go, she drifted back into that very
conversation about Blanche into which she had declined to enter but the
moment before.

“I have reasons for being afraid,” she said. “One that I can’t give; and
one that I can. Suppose Blanche heard of what you have done? The longer
you stay here--the more people you see--the more chance there is that
she _might_ hear of it.”

“And what if she did?” asked Arnold, in his own straightforward way. “Do
you think she would be angry with me for making myself useful to _you?_”

“Yes,” rejoined Anne, sharply, “if she was jealous of me.”

Arnold’s unlimited belief in Blanche expressed itself, without the
slightest compromise, in two words:

“That’s impossible!”

Anxious as she was, miserable as she was, a faint smile flitted over
Anne’s face.

“Sir Patrick would tell you, Mr. Brinkworth, that nothing is impossible
where women are concerned.” She dropped her momentary lightness of tone,
and went on as earnestly as ever. “You can’t put yourself in Blanche’s
place--I can. Once more, I beg you to go. I don’t like your coming here,
in this way! I don’t like it at all!”

She held out her hand to take leave. At the same moment there was a loud
knock at the door of the room.

Anne sank into the chair at her side, and uttered a faint cry of alarm.
Arnold, perfectly impenetrable to all sense of his position, asked what
there was to frighten her--and answered the knock in the two customary
words:

“Come in!”


CHAPTER THE TENTH.

MR. BISHOPRIGGS.

THE knock at the door was repeated--a louder knock than before.

“Are you deaf?” shouted Arnold.

The door opened, little by little, an inch at a time. Mr. Bishopriggs
appeared mysteriously, with the cloth for dinner over his arm, and with
his second in command behind him, bearing “the furnishing of the table”
 (as it was called at Craig Fernie) on a tray.

“What the deuce were you waiting for?” asked Arnold. “I told you to come
in.”

“And _I_ tauld _you,_” answered Mr. Bishopriggs, “that I wadna come in
without knocking first. Eh, man!” he went on, dismissing his second in
command, and laying the cloth with his own venerable hands, “d’ye think
I’ve lived in this hottle in blinded eegnorance of hoo young married
couples pass the time when they’re left to themselves? Twa knocks at the
door--and an unco trouble in opening it, after that--is joost the least
ye can do for them! Whar’ do ye think, noo, I’ll set the places for you
and your leddy there?”

Anne walked away to the window, in undisguised disgust. Arnold found Mr.
Bishopriggs to be quite irresistible. He answered, humoring the joke,

“One at the top and one at the bottom of the table, I suppose?”

“One at tap and one at bottom?” repeated Mr. Bishopriggs, in high
disdain. “De’il a bit of it! Baith yer chairs as close together as
chairs can be. Hech! hech!--haven’t I caught ‘em, after goodness knows
hoo many preleeminary knocks at the door, dining on their husbands’
knees, and steemulating a man’s appetite by feeding him at the fork’s
end like a child? Eh!” sighed the sage of Craig Fernie, “it’s a short
life wi’ that nuptial business, and a merry one! A mouth for yer billin’
and cooin’; and a’ the rest o’ yer days for wondering ye were ever such
a fule, and wishing it was a’ to be done ower again.--Ye’ll be for a
bottle o’ sherry wine, nae doot? and a drap toddy afterwards, to do yer
digestin’ on?”

Arnold nodded--and then, in obedience to a signal from Anne, joined her
at the window. Mr. Bishopriggs looked after them attentively--observed
that they were talking in whispers--and approved of that proceeding, as
representing another of the established customs of young married couples
at inns, in the presence of third persons appointed to wait on them.

“Ay! ay!” he said, looking over his shoulder at Arnold, “gae to your
deerie! gae to your deerie! and leave a’ the solid business o’ life to
Me. Ye’ve Screepture warrant for it. A man maun leave fether and mother
(I’m yer fether), and cleave to his wife. My certie! ‘cleave’ is
a strong word--there’s nae sort o’ doot aboot it, when it comes
to ‘cleaving!’” He wagged his head thoughtfully, and walked to the
side-table in a corner, to cut the bread.

As he took up the knife, his one wary eye detected a morsel of crumpled
paper, lying lost between the table and the wall. It was the letter from
Geoffrey, which Anne had flung from her, in the first indignation of
reading it--and which neither she nor Arnold had thought of since.

“What’s that I see yonder?” muttered Mr. Bishopriggs, under his breath.
“Mair litter in the room, after I’ve doosted and tidied it wi’ my ain
hands!”

He picked up the crumpled paper, and partly opened it. “Eh! what’s here?
Writing on it in ink? and writing on it in pencil? Who may this belong
to?” He looked round cautiously toward Arnold and Anne. They were both
still talking in whispers, and both standing with their backs to him,
looking out of the window. “Here it is, clean forgotten and dune with!”
 thought Mr. Bishopriggs. “Noo what would a fule do, if he fund this?
A fule wad light his pipe wi’ it, and then wonder whether he wadna ha’
dune better to read it first. And what wad a wise man do, in a seemilar
position?” He practically answered that question by putting the letter
into his pocket. It might be worth keeping, or it might not; five
minutes’ private examination of it would decide the alternative, at the
first convenient opportunity. “Am gaun’ to breeng the dinner in!” he
called out to Arnold. “And, mind ye, there’s nae knocking at the door
possible, when I’ve got the tray in baith my hands, and mairs the pity,
the gout in baith my feet.” With that friendly warning, Mr. Bishopriggs
went his way to the regions of the kitchen.

Arnold continued his conversation with Anne in terms which showed that
the question of his leaving the inn had been the question once more
discussed between them while they were standing at the window.

“You see we can’t help it,” he said. “The waiter has gone to bring the
dinner in. What will they think in the house, if I go away already, and
leave ‘my wife’ to dine alone?”

It was so plainly necessary to keep up appearances for the present,
that there was nothing more to be said. Arnold was committing a
serious imprudence--and yet, on this occasion, Arnold was right. Anne’s
annoyance at feeling that conclusion forced on her produced the first
betrayal of impatience which she had shown yet. She left Arnold at the
window, and flung herself on the sofa. “A curse seems to follow me!”
 she thought, bitterly. “This will end ill--and I shall be answerable for
it!”

In the mean time Mr. Bishopriggs had found the dinner in the kitchen,
ready, and waiting for him. Instead of at once taking the tray on which
it was placed into the sitting-room, he conveyed it privately into his
own pantry, and shut the door.

“Lie ye there, my freend, till the spare moment comes--and I’ll look
at ye again,” he said, putting the letter away carefully in the
dresser-drawer. “Noo aboot the dinner o’ they twa turtle-doves in the
parlor?” he continued, directing his attention to the dinner tray. “I
maun joost see that the cook’s ‘s dune her duty--the creatures are no’
capable o’ decidin’ that knotty point for their ain selves.” He took off
one of the covers, and picked bits, here and there, out of the dish with
the fork, “Eh! eh! the collops are no’ that bad!” He took off another
cover, and shook his head in solemn doubt. “Here’s the green meat. I
doot green meat’s windy diet for a man at my time o’ life!” He put the
cover on again, and tried the next dish. “The fesh? What the de’il does
the woman fry the trout for? Boil it next time, ye betch, wi’ a pinch
o’ saut and a spunefu’ o’ vinegar.” He drew the cork from a bottle of
sherry, and decanted the wine. “The sherry wine?” he said, in tones of
deep feeling, holding the decanter up to the light. “Hoo do I know but
what it may be corkit? I maun taste and try. It’s on my conscience,
as an honest man, to taste and try.” He forthwith relieved his
conscience--copiously. There was a vacant space, of no inconsiderable
dimensions, left in the decanter. Mr. Bishopriggs gravely filled it up
from the water-bottle. “Eh! it’s joost addin’ ten years to the age
o’ the wine. The turtle-doves will be nane the waur--and I mysel’ am
a glass o’ sherry the better. Praise Providence for a’ its maircies!”
 Having relieved himself of that devout aspiration, he took up the tray
again, and decided on letting the turtle-doves have their dinner.

The conversation in the parlor (dropped for the moment) had been
renewed, in the absence of Mr. Bishopriggs. Too restless to remain
long in one place, Anne had risen again from the sofa, and had rejoined
Arnold at the window.

“Where do your friends at Lady Lundie’s believe you to be now?” she
asked, abruptly.

“I am believed,” replied Arnold, “to be meeting my tenants, and taking
possession of my estate.”

“How are you to get to your estate to-night?”

“By railway, I suppose. By-the-by, what excuse am I to make for going
away after dinner? We are sure to have the landlady in here before long.
What will she say to my going off by myself to the train, and leaving
‘my wife’ behind me?”

“Mr. Brinkworth! that joke--if it _is_ a joke--is worn out!”

“I beg your pardon,” said Arnold.

“You may leave your excuse to me,” pursued Anne. “Do you go by the up
train, or the down?”

“By the up train.”

The door opened suddenly; and Mr. Bishopriggs appeared with the dinner.
Anne nervously separated herself from Arnold. The one available eye of
Mr. Bishopriggs followed her reproachfully, as he put the dishes on the
table.

“I warned ye baith, it was a clean impossibility to knock at the door
this time. Don’t blame me, young madam--don’t blame _me!”_

“Where will you sit?” asked Arnold, by way of diverting Anne’s attention
from the familiarities of Father Bishopriggs.

“Any where!” she answered, impatiently; snatching up a chair, and
placing it at the bottom of the table.

Mr. Bishopriggs politely, but firmly, put the chair back again in its
place.

“Lord’s sake! what are ye doin’? It’s clean contrary to a’ the laws
and customs o’ the honey-mune, to sit as far away from your husband as
that!”

He waved his persuasive napkin to one of the two chairs placed close
together at the table.

Arnold interfered once more, and prevented another outbreak of
impatience from Anne.

“What does it matter?” he said. “Let the man have his way.”

“Get it over as soon as you can,” she returned. “I can’t, and won’t,
bear it much longer.”

They took their places at the table, with Father Bishopriggs behind
them, in the mixed character of major domo and guardian angel.

“Here’s the trout!” he cried, taking the cover off with a flourish.
“Half an hour since, he was loupin’ in the water. There he lies noo,
fried in the dish. An emblem o’ human life for ye! When ye can spare any
leisure time from yer twa selves, meditate on that.”

Arnold took up the spoon, to give Anne one of the trout. Mr. Bishopriggs
clapped the cover on the dish again, with a countenance expressive of
devout horror.

“Is there naebody gaun’ to say grace?” he asked.

“Come! come!” said Arnold. “The fish is getting cold.”

Mr. Bishopriggs piously closed his available eye, and held the cover
firmly on the dish. “For what ye’re gaun’ to receive, may ye baith be
truly thankful!” He opened his available eye, and whipped the cover off
again. “My conscience is easy noo. Fall to! Fall to!”

“Send him away!” said Anne. “His familiarity is beyond all endurance.”

“You needn’t wait,” said Arnold.

“Eh! but I’m here to wait,” objected Mr. Bishopriggs. “What’s the use o’
my gaun’ away, when ye’ll want me anon to change the plates for ye?”
 He considered for a moment (privately consulting his experience) and
arrived at a satisfactory conclusion as to Arnold’s motive for wanting
to get rid of him. “Tak’ her on yer knee,” he whispered in Arnold’s
ear, “as soon as ye like! Feed him at the fork’s end,” he added to Anne,
“whenever ye please! I’ll think of something else, and look out at the
proaspect.” He winked--and went to the window.

“Come! come!” said Arnold to Anne. “There’s a comic side to all this.
Try and see it as I do.”

Mr. Bishopriggs returned from the window, and announced the appearance
of a new element of embarrassment in the situation at the inn.

“My certie!” he said, “it’s weel ye cam’ when ye did. It’s ill getting
to this hottle in a storm.”

Anne started and looked round at him. “A storm coming!” she exclaimed.

“Eh! ye’re well hoosed here--ye needn’t mind it. There’s the cloud down
the valley,” he added, pointing out of the window, “coming up one way,
when the wind’s blawing the other. The storm’s brewing, my leddy, when
ye see that!”

There was another knock at the door. As Arnold had predicted, the
landlady made her appearance on the scene.

“I ha’ just lookit in, Sir,” said Mrs. Inchbare, addressing herself
exclusively to Arnold, “to see ye’ve got what ye want.”

“Oh! you are the landlady? Very nice, ma’am--very nice.”

Mistress Inchbare had her own private motive for entering the room, and
came to it without further preface.

“Ye’ll excuse me, Sir,” she proceeded. “I wasna in the way when ye cam’
here, or I suld ha’ made bauld to ask ye the question which I maun e’en
ask noo. Am I to understand that ye hire these rooms for yersel’, and
this leddy here--yer wife?”

Anne raised her head to speak. Arnold pressed her hand warningly, under
the table, and silenced her.

“Certainly,” he said. “I take the rooms for myself, and this lady
here--my wife!”

Anne made a second attempt to speak.

“This gentleman--” she began.

Arnold stopped her for the second time.

“This gentleman?” repeated Mrs. Inchbare, with a broad stare of
surprise. “I’m only a puir woman, my leddy--d’ye mean yer husband here?”

Arnold’s warning hand touched Anne’s, for the third time. Mistress
Inchbare’s eyes remained fixed on her in merciless inquiry. To have
given utterance to the contradiction which trembled on her lips would
have been to involve Arnold (after all that he had sacrificed for her)
in the scandal which would inevitably follow--a scandal which would be
talked of in the neighborhood, and which might find its way to Blanche’s
ears. White and cold, her eyes never moving from the table, she accepted
the landlady’s implied correction, and faintly repeated the words: “My
husband.”

Mistress Inchbare drew a breath of virtuous relief, and waited for what
Anne had to say next. Arnold came considerately to the rescue, and got
her out of the room.

“Never mind,” he said to Anne; “I know what it is, and I’ll see about
it. She’s always like this, ma’am, when a storm’s coming,” he went on,
turning to the landlady. “No, thank you--I know how to manage her. Well
send to you, if we want your assistance.”

“At yer ain pleasure, Sir,” answered Mistress Inchbare. She turned, and
apologized to Anne (under protest), with a stiff courtesy. “No offense,
my leddy! Ye’ll remember that ye cam’ here alane, and that the hottle
has its ain gude name to keep up.” Having once more vindicated “the
hottle,” she made the long-desired move to the door, and left the room.

“I’m faint!” Anne whispered. “Give me some water.”

There was no water on the table. Arnold ordered it of Mr.
Bishopriggs--who had remained passive in the back-ground (a model of
discreet attention) as long as the mistress was in the room.

“Mr. Brinkworth!” said Anne, when they were alone, “you are acting with
inexcusable rashness. That woman’s question was an impertinence. Why did
you answer it? Why did you force me--?”

She stopped, unable to finish the sentence. Arnold insisted on her
drinking a glass of wine--and then defended himself with the patient
consideration for her which he had shown from the first.

“Why didn’t I have the inn door shut in your face”--he asked, good
humoredly--“with a storm coming on, and without a place in which you can
take refuge? No, no, Miss Silvester! I don’t presume to blame you for
any scruples you may feel--but scruples are sadly out of place with such
a woman as that landlady. I am responsible for your safety to Geoffrey;
and Geoffrey expects to find you here. Let’s change the subject. The
water is a long time coming. Try another glass of wine. No? Well--here
is Blanche’s health” (he took some of the wine himself), “in the
weakest sherry I ever drank in my life.” As he set down his glass,
Mr. Bishopriggs came in with the water. Arnold hailed him satirically.
“Well? have you got the water? or have you used it all for the sherry?”

Mr. Bishopriggs stopped in the middle of the room, thunder-struck at the
aspersion cast on the wine.

“Is that the way ye talk of the auldest bottle o’ sherry wine in
Scotland?” he asked, gravely. “What’s the warld coming to? The new
generation’s a foot beyond my fathoming. The maircies o’ Providence, as
shown to man in the choicest veentages o’ Spain, are clean thrown away
on ‘em.”

“Have you brought the water?”

“I ha’ brought the water--and mair than the water. I ha’ brought ye
news from ootside. There’s a company o’ gentlemen on horseback, joost
cantering by to what they ca’ the shootin’ cottage, a mile from this.”

“Well--and what have we got to do with it?”

“Bide a wee! There’s ane o’ them has drawn bridle at the hottle, and
he’s speerin’ after the leddy that cam’ here alane. The leddy’s your
leddy, as sure as saxpence. I doot,” said Mr. Bishopriggs, walking away
to the window, “_that’s_ what ye’ve got to do with it.”

Arnold looked at Anne.

“Do you expect any body?”

“Is it Geoffrey?”

“Impossible. Geoffrey is on his way to London.”

“There he is, any way,” resumed Mr. Bishopriggs, at the window. “He’s
loupin’ down from his horse. He’s turning this way. Lord save us!” he
exclaimed, with a start of consternation, “what do I see? That incarnate
deevil, Sir Paitrick himself!”

Arnold sprang to his feet.

“Do you mean Sir Patrick Lundie?”

Anne ran to the window.

“It _is_ Sir Patrick!” she said. “Hide yourself before he comes in!”

“Hide myself?”

“What will he think if he sees you with _me?”_

He was Blanche’s guardian, and he believed Arnold to be at that moment
visiting his new property. What he would think was not difficult to
foresee. Arnold turned for help to Mr. Bishopriggs.

“Where can I go?”

Mr. Bishopriggs pointed to the bedroom door.

“Whar’ can ye go? There’s the nuptial chamber!”

“Impossible!”

Mr. Bishopriggs expressed the utmost extremity of human amazement by a
long whistle, on one note.

“Whew! Is that the way ye talk o’ the nuptial chamber already?”

“Find me some other place--I’ll make it worth your while.”

“Eh! there’s my paintry! I trow that’s some other place; and the door’s
at the end o’ the passage.”

Arnold hurried out. Mr. Bishopriggs--evidently under the impression that
the case before him was a case of elopement, with Sir Patrick mixed
up in it in the capacity of guardian--addressed himself, in friendly
confidence, to Anne.

“My certie, mistress! it’s ill wark deceivin’ Sir Paitrick, if that’s
what ye’ve dune. Ye must know, I was ance a bit clerk body in his
chambers at Embro--”

The voice of Mistress Inchbare, calling for the head-waiter, rose shrill
and imperative from the regions of the bar. Mr. Bishopriggs disappeared.
Anne remained, standing helpless by the window. It was plain by this
time that the place of her retreat had been discovered at Windygates.
The one doubt to decide, now, was whether it would be wise or not to
receive Sir Patrick, for the purpose of discovering whether he came as
friend or enemy to the inn.


CHAPTER THE ELEVENTH.

SIR PATRICK.

THE doubt was practically decided before Anne had determined what to do.
She was still at the window when the sitting-room door was thrown open,
and Sir Patrick appeared, obsequiously shown in by Mr. Bishopriggs.

“Ye’re kindly welcome, Sir Paitrick. Hech, Sirs! the sight of you is
gude for sair eyne.”

Sir Patrick turned and looked at Mr. Bishopriggs--as he might have
looked at some troublesome insect which he had driven out of the window,
and which had returned on him again.

“What, you scoundrel! have you drifted into an honest employment at
last?”

Mr. Bishopriggs rubbed his hands cheerfully, and took his tone from his
superior, with supple readiness,

“Ye’re always in the right of it, Sir Paitrick! Wut, raal wut in that
aboot the honest employment, and me drifting into it. Lord’s sake, Sir,
hoo well ye wear!”

Dismissing Mr. Bishopriggs by a sign, Sir Patrick advanced to Anne.

“I am committing an intrusion, madam which must, I am afraid, appear
unpardonable in your eyes,” he said. “May I hope you will excuse me when
I have made you acquainted with my motive?”

He spoke with scrupulous politeness. His knowledge of Anne was of the
slightest possible kind. Like other men, he had felt the attraction of
her unaffected grace and gentleness on the few occasions when he had
been in her company--and that was all. If he had belonged to the present
generation he would, under the circumstances, have fallen into one of
the besetting sins of England in these days--the tendency (to borrow an
illustration from the stage) to “strike an attitude” in the presence
of a social emergency. A man of the present period, in Sir Patrick’s
position, would have struck an attitude of (what is called) chivalrous
respect; and would have addressed Anne in a tone of ready-made sympathy,
which it was simply impossible for a stranger really to feel. Sir
Patrick affected nothing of the sort. One of the besetting sins of _his_
time was the habitual concealment of our better selves--upon the whole,
a far less dangerous national error than the habitual advertisement of
our better selves, which has become the practice, public and privately,
of society in this age. Sir Patrick assumed, if anything, less sympathy
on this occasion than he really felt. Courteous to all women, he was as
courteous as usual to Anne--and no more.

“I am quite at a loss, Sir, to know what brings you to this place. The
servant here informs me that you are one of a party of gentlemen who
have just passed by the inn, and who have all gone on except yourself.”
 In those guarded terms Anne opened the interview with the unwelcome
visitor, on her side.

Sir Patrick admitted the fact, without betraying the slightest
embarrassment.

“The servant is quite right,” he said. “I am one of the party. And I
have purposely allowed them to go on to the keeper’s cottage without
me. Having admitted this, may I count on receiving your permission to
explain the motive of my visit?”

Necessarily suspicious of him, as coming from Windygates, Anne answered
in few and formal words, as coldly as before.

“Explain it, Sir Patrick, if you please, as briefly as possible.”

Sir Patrick bowed. He was not in the least offended; he was even (if the
confession may be made without degrading him in the public estimation)
privately amused. Conscious of having honestly presented himself at the
inn in Anne’s interests, as well as in the interests of the ladies at
Windygates, it appealed to his sense of humor to find himself kept
at arm’s-length by the very woman whom he had come to benefit. The
temptation was strong on him to treat his errand from his own whimsical
point of view. He gravely took out his watch, and noted the time to a
second, before he spoke again.

“I have an event to relate in which you are interested,” he said. “And
I have two messages to deliver, which I hope you will not object to
receive. The event I undertake to describe in one minute. The messages
I promise to dispose of in two minutes more. Total duration of this
intrusion on your time--three minutes.”

He placed a chair for Anne, and waited until she had permitted him, by a
sign, to take a second chair for himself.

“We will begin with the event,” he resumed. “Your arrival at this place
is no secret at Windygates. You were seen on the foot-road to Craig
Fernie by one of the female servants. And the inference naturally drawn
is, that you were on your way to the inn. It may be important for you to
know this; and I have taken the liberty of mentioning it accordingly.”
 He consulted his watch. “Event related. Time, one minute.”

He had excited her curiosity, to begin with. “Which of the women saw
me?” she asked, impulsively.

Sir Patrick (watch in hand) declined to prolong the interview by
answering any incidental inquiries which might arise in the course of
it.

“Pardon me,” he rejoined; “I am pledged to occupy three minutes only. I
have no room for the woman. With your kind permission, I will get on to
the messages next.”

Anne remained silent. Sir Patrick went on.

“First message: ‘Lady Lundie’s compliments to her step-daughter’s late
governess--with whose married name she is not acquainted. Lady Lundie
regrets to say that Sir Patrick, as head of the family, has threatened
to return to Edinburgh, unless she consents to be guided by his
advice in the course she pursues with the late governess. Lady Lundie,
accordingly, foregoes her intention of calling at the Craig Fernie inn,
to express her sentiments and make her inquiries in person, and commits
to Sir Patrick the duty of expressing her sentiments; reserving to
herself the right of making her inquiries at the next convenient
opportunity. Through the medium of her brother-in-law, she begs to
inform the late governess that all intercourse is at an end between
them, and that she declines to act as reference in case of future
emergency.’--Message textually correct. Expressive of Lady Lundie’s view
of your sudden departure from the house. Time, two minutes.”

Anne’s color rose. Anne’s pride was up in arms on the spot.

“The impertinence of Lady Lundie’s message is no more than I should
have expected from her,” she said. “I am only surprised at Sir Patrick’s
delivering it.”

“Sir Patrick’s motives will appear presently,” rejoined the incorrigible
old gentleman. “Second message: ‘Blanche’s fondest love. Is dying to
be acquainted with Anne’s husband, and to be informed of Anne’s married
name. Feels indescribable anxiety and apprehension on Anne’s account.
Insists on hearing from Anne immediately. Longs, as she never longed
for any thing yet, to order her pony-chaise and drive full gallop to
the inn. Yields, under irresistible pressure, to t he exertion of her
guardian’s authority, and commits the expression of her feelings to Sir
Patrick, who is a born tyrant, and doesn’t in the least mind breaking
other people’s hearts.’ Sir Patrick, speaking for himself, places his
sister-in-law’s view and his niece’s view, side by side, before the lady
whom he has now the honor of addressing, and on whose confidence he is
especially careful not to intrude. Reminds the lady that his influence
at Windygates, however strenuously he may exert it, is not likely to
last forever. Requests her to consider whether his sister-in-law’s view
and his niece’s view in collision, may not lead to very undesirable
domestic results; and leaves her to take the course which seems best to
herself under those circumstances.--Second message delivered textually.
Time, three minutes. A storm coming on. A quarter of an hour’s ride from
here to the shooting-cottage. Madam, I wish you good-evening.”

He bowed lower than ever--and, without a word more, quietly left the
room.

Anne’s first impulse was (excusably enough, poor soul) an impulse of
resentment.

“Thank you, Sir Patrick!” she said, with a bitter look at the closing
door. “The sympathy of society with a friendless woman could hardly have
been expressed in a more amusing way!”

The little irritation of the moment passed off with the moment. Anne’s
own intelligence and good sense showed her the position in its truer
light.

She recognized in Sir Patrick’s abrupt departure Sir Patrick’s
considerate resolution to spare her from entering into any details on
the subject of her position at the inn. He had given her a friendly
warning; and he had delicately left her to decide for herself as to the
assistance which she might render him in maintaining tranquillity at
Windygates. She went at once to a side-table in the room, on which
writing materials were placed, and sat down to write to Blanche.

“I can do nothing with Lady Lundie,” she thought. “But I have more
influence than any body else over Blanche and I can prevent the
collision between them which Sir Patrick dreads.”

She began the letter. “My dearest Blanche, I have seen Sir Patrick, and
he has given me your message. I will set your mind at ease about me as
soon as I can. But, before I say any thing else, let me entreat you,
as the greatest favor you can do to your sister and your friend, not to
enter into any disputes about me with Lady Lundie, and not to commit
the imprudence--the useless imprudence, my love--of coming here.” She
stopped--the paper swam before her eyes. “My own darling!” she thought,
“who could have foreseen that I should ever shrink from the thought of
seeing _you?”_ She sighed, and dipped the pen in the ink, and went on
with the letter.

The sky darkened rapidly as the evening fell. The wind swept in fainter
and fainter gusts across the dreary moor. Far and wide over the face of
Nature the stillness was fast falling which tells of a coming storm.


CHAPTER THE TWELFTH.

ARNOLD.

MEANWHILE Arnold remained shut up in the head-waiter’s pantry--chafing
secretly at the position forced upon him.

He was, for the first time in his life, in hiding from another person,
and that person a man. Twice--stung to it by the inevitable loss of
self-respect which his situation occasioned--he had gone to the door,
determined to face Sir Patrick boldly; and twice he had abandoned the
idea, in mercy to Anne. It would have been impossible for him to set
himself right with Blanche’s guardian without betraying the unhappy
woman whose secret he was bound in honor to keep. “I wish to Heaven I
had never come here!” was the useless aspiration that escaped him, as
he doggedly seated himself on the dresser to wait till Sir Patrick’s
departure set him free.

After an interval--not by any means the long interval which he had
anticipated--his solitude was enlivened by the appearance of Father
Bishopriggs.

“Well?” cried Arnold, jumping off the dresser, “is the coast clear?”

There were occasions when Mr. Bishopriggs became, on a sudden,
unexpectedly hard of hearing, This was one of them.

“Hoo do ye find the paintry?” he asked, without paying the slightest
attention to Arnold’s question. “Snug and private? A Patmos in the
weelderness, as ye may say!”

His one available eye, which had begun by looking at Arnold’s face,
dropped slowly downward, and fixed itself, in mute but eloquent
expectation, on Arnold’s waistcoat pocket.

“I understand!” said Arnold. “I promised to pay you for the Patmos--eh?
There you are!”

Mr. Bishopriggs pocketed the money with a dreary smile and a sympathetic
shake of the head. Other waiters would have returned thanks. The sage
of Craig Fernie returned a few brief remarks instead. Admirable in many
things, Father Bishopriggs was especially great at drawing a moral. He
drew a moral on this occasion from his own gratuity.

“There I am--as ye say. Mercy presairve us! ye need the siller at every
turn, when there’s a woman at yer heels. It’s an awfu’ reflection--ye
canna hae any thing to do wi’ the sex they ca’ the opposite sex without
its being an expense to ye. There’s this young leddy o’ yours, I doot
she’ll ha’ been an expense to ye from the first. When you were
coortin’ her, ye did it, I’ll go bail, wi’ the open hand. Presents and
keep-sakes, flowers and jewelery, and little dogues. Sair expenses all
of them!”

“Hang your reflections! Has Sir Patrick left the inn?”

The reflections of Mr. Bishopriggs declined to be disposed of in any
thing approaching to a summary way. On they flowed from their parent
source, as slowly and as smoothly as ever!

“Noo ye’re married to her, there’s her bonnets and goons and
under-clothin’--her ribbons, laces, furbelows, and fallals. A sair
expense again!”

“What is the expense of cutting your reflections short, Mr.
Bishopriggs?”

“Thirdly, and lastly, if ye canna agree wi’ her as time gaes on--if
there’s incompaitibeelity of temper betwixt ye--in short, if ye want a
wee bit separation, hech, Sirs! ye pet yer hand in yer poaket, and come
to an aimicable understandin’ wi’ her in that way. Or, maybe she takes
ye into Court, and pets _her_ hand in your poaket, and comes to a
hoastile understandin’ wi’ ye there. Show me a woman--and I’ll show ye
a man not far off wha’ has mair expenses on his back than he ever
bairgained for.” Arnold’s patience would last no longer--he turned to
the door. Mr. Bishopriggs, with equal alacrity on his side, turned to
the matter in hand. “Yes, Sir! The room is e’en clear o’ Sir Paitrick,
and the leddy’s alane, and waitin’ for ye.”

In a moment more Arnold was back in the sitting-room.

“Well?” he asked, anxiously. “What is it? Bad news from Lady Lundie’s?”

Anne closed and directed the letter to Blanche, which she had just
completed. “No,” she replied. “Nothing to interest _you_.”

“What did Sir Patrick want?”

“Only to warn me. They have found out at Windygates that I am here.”

“That’s awkward, isn’t it?”

“Not in the least. I can manage perfectly; I have nothing to fear. Don’t
think of _me_--think of yourself.”

“I am not suspected, am I?”

“Thank heaven--no. But there is no knowing what may happen if you stay
here. Ring the bell at once, and ask the waiter about the trains.”

Struck by the unusual obscurity of the sky at that hour of the evening,
Arnold went to the window. The rain had come--and was falling heavily.
The view on the moor was fast disappearing in mist and darkness.

“Pleasant weather to travel in!” he said.

“The railway!” Anne exclaimed, impatiently. “It’s getting late. See
about the railway!”

Arnold walked to the fire-place to ring the bell. The railway time-table
hanging over it met his eye.

“Here’s the information I want,” he said to Anne; “if I only knew how
to get at it. ‘Down’--‘Up’--‘A. M.’--P. M.’ What a cursed confusion! I
believe they do it on purpose.”

Anne joined him at the fire-place.

“I understand it--I’ll help you. Did you say it was the up train you
wanted?”

“What is the name of the station you stop at?”

Arnold told her. She followed the intricate net-work of lines and
figures with her finger--suddenly stopped--looked again to make
sure--and turned from the time-table with a face of blank despair. The
last train for the day had gone an hour since.

In the silence which followed that discovery, a first flash of lightning
passed across the window and the low roll of thunder sounded the
outbreak of the storm.

“What’s to be done now?” asked Arnold.

In the face of the storm, Anne answered without hesitation, “You must
take a carriage, and drive.”

“Drive? They told me it was three-and-twenty miles, by railway, from
the station to my place--let alone the distance from this inn to the
station.”

“What does the distance matter? Mr. Brinkworth, you can’t possibly stay
here!”

A second flash of lightning crossed the window; the roll of the thunder
came nearer. Even Arnold’s good temper began to be a little ruffled by
Anne’s determination to get rid of him. He sat down with the air of a
man who had made up his mind not to leave the house.

“Do you hear that?” he asked, as the sound of the thunder died away
grandly, and the hard pattering of the rain on the window became audible
once more. “If I ordered horses, do you think they would let me have
them, in such weather as this? And, if they did, do you suppose the
horses could face it on the moor? No, no, Miss Silvester--I am sorry to
be in the way, but the train has gone, and the night and the storm have
come. I have no choice but to stay here!”

Anne still maintained her own view, but less resolutely than before.
“After what you have told the landlady,” she said, “think of the
embarrassment, the cruel embarrassment of our position, if you stop at
the inn till to-morrow morning!”

“Is that all?” returned Arnold.

Anne looked up at him, quickly and angrily. No! he was quite unconscious
of having said any thing that could offend her. His rough masculine
sense broke its way unconsciously through all the little feminine
subtleties and delicacies of his companion, and looked the position
practically in the face for what it was worth, and no more. “Where’s the
embarrassment?” he asked, pointing to the bedroom door. “There’s your
room, all ready for you. And here’s the sofa, in this room, all ready
for _me._ If you had seen the places I have slept in at sea--!”

She interrupted him, without ceremony. The places he had slept in, at
sea, were of no earthly importance. The one question to consider, was
the place he was to sleep in that night.

“If you must stay,” she rejoined, “can’t you get a room in some other
part of the house?”

But one last mistake in dealing with her, in her present nervous
condition, was left to make--and the innocent Arnold made it. “In some
other part of the house?” he repeated, jestingly. “The landlady would be
scandalized. Mr. Bishopriggs would never allow it!”

She rose, and stamped her foot impatiently on the floor. “Don’t
joke!” she exclaimed. “This is no laughing matter.” She paced the room
excitedly. “I don’t like it! I don’t like it!”

Arnold looked after her, with a stare of boyish wonder.

“What puts you out so?” he asked. “Is it the storm?”

She threw herself on the sofa again. “Yes,” she said, shortly. “It’s the
storm.”

Arnold’s inexhaustible good-nature was at once roused to activity again.

“Shall we have the candles,” he suggested, “and shut the weather out?”
 She turned irritably on the sofa, without replying. “I’ll promise to go
away the first thing in the morning!” he went on. “Do try and take it
easy--and don’t be angry with me. Come! come! you wouldn’t turn a dog
out, Miss Silvester, on such a night as this!”

He was irresistible. The most sensitive woman breathing could not
have accused him of failing toward her in any single essential of
consideration and respect. He wanted tact, poor fellow--but who could
expect him to have learned that always superficial (and sometimes
dangerous) accomplishment, in the life he had led at sea? At the sight
of his honest, pleading face, Anne recovered possession of her gentler
and sweeter self. She made her excuses for her irritability with a grace
that enchanted him. “We’ll have a pleasant evening of it yet!” cried
Arnold, in his hearty way--and rang the bell.

The bell was hung outside the door of that Patmos in the
wilderness--otherwise known as the head-waiter’s pantry. Mr. Bishopriggs
(employing his brief leisure in the seclusion of his own apartment) had
just mixed a glass of the hot and comforting liquor called “toddy” in
the language of North Britain, and was just lifting it to his lips, when
the summons from Arnold invited him to leave his grog.

“Haud yer screechin’ tongue!” cried Mr. Bishopriggs, addressing the
bell through the door. “Ye’re waur than a woman when ye aince begin!”

The bell--like the woman--went on again. Mr. Bishopriggs, equally
pertinacious, went on with his toddy.

“Ay! ay! ye may e’en ring yer heart out--but ye won’t part a Scotchman
from his glass. It’s maybe the end of their dinner they’ll be wantin’.
Sir Paitrick cam’ in at the fair beginning of it, and spoilt the
collops, like the dour deevil he is!” The bell rang for the third time.
“Ay! ay! ring awa’! I doot yon young gentleman’s little better than a
belly-god--there’s a scandalous haste to comfort the carnal part o’ him
in a’ this ringin’! He knows naething o’ wine,” added Mr. Bishopriggs,
on whose mind Arnold’s discovery of the watered sherry still dwelt
unpleasantly.



The lightning quickened, and lit the sitting-room horribly with its
lurid glare; the thunder rolled nearer and nearer over the black gulf of
the moor. Arnold had just raised his hand to ring for the fourth time,
when the inevitable knock was heard at the door. It was useless to say
“come in.” The immutable laws of Bishopriggs had decided that a second
knock was necessary. Storm or no storm, the second knock came--and
then, and not till then, the sage appeared, with the dish of untasted
“collops” in his hand.

“Candles!” said Arnold.

Mr. Bishopriggs set the “collops” (in the language of England, minced
meat) upon the table, lit the candles on the mantle-piece, faced about
with the fire of recent toddy flaming in his nose, and waited for
further orders, before he went back to his second glass. Anne declined
to return to the dinner. Arnold ordered Mr. Bishopriggs to close the
shutters, and sat down to dine by himself.

“It looks greasy, and smells greasy,” he said to Anne, turning over the
collops with a spoon. “I won’t be ten minutes dining. Will you have some
tea?”

Anne declined again.

Arnold tried her once more. “What shall we do to get through the
evening?”

“Do what you like,” she answered, resignedly.

Arnold’s mind was suddenly illuminated by an idea.

“I have got it!” he exclaimed. “We’ll kill the time as our
cabin-passengers used to kill it at sea.” He looked over his shoulder at
Mr. Bishopriggs. “Waiter! bring a pack of cards.”

“What’s that ye’re wantin’?” asked Mr. Bishopriggs, doubting the
evidence of his own senses.

“A pack of cards,” repeated Arnold.

“Cairds?” echoed Mr. Bishopriggs. “A pack o’ cairds? The deevil’s
allegories in the deevil’s own colors--red and black! I wunna execute
yer order. For yer ain saul’s sake, I wunna do it. Ha’ ye lived to your
time o’ life, and are ye no’ awakened yet to the awfu’ seenfulness o’
gamblin’ wi’ the cairds?”

“Just as you please,” returned Arnold. “You will find me awakened--when
I go away--to the awful folly of feeing a waiter.”

“Does that mean that ye’re bent on the cairds?” asked Mr. Bishopriggs,
suddenly betraying signs of worldly anxiety in his look and manner.

“Yes--that means I am bent on the cards.”

“I tak’ up my testimony against ‘em--but I’m no’ telling ye that I canna
lay my hand on ‘em if I like. What do they say in my country? ‘Him that
will to Coupar, maun to Coupar.’ And what do they say in your country?
‘Needs must when the deevil drives.’” With that excellent reason for
turning his back on his own principles, Mr. Bishopriggs shuffled out of
the room to fetch the cards.

The dresser-drawer in the pantry contained a choice selection of
miscellaneous objects--a pack of cards being among them. In searching
for the cards, the wary hand of the head-waiter came in contact with a
morsel of crumpled-up paper. He drew it out, and recognized the letter
which he had picked up in the sitting-room some hours since.

“Ay! ay! I’ll do weel, I trow, to look at this while my mind’s runnin’
on it,” said Mr. Bishopriggs. “The cairds may e’en find their way to the
parlor by other hands than mine.”

He forthwith sent the cards to Arnold by his second in command, closed
the pantry door, and carefully smoothed out the crumpled sheet of paper
on which the two letters were written. This done, he trimmed his candle,
and began with the letter in ink, which occupied the first three pages
of the sheet of note-paper.

It ran thus:



“WINDYGATES HOUSE, _August_ 12, 1868.

“GEOFFREY DELAMAYN,--I have waited in the hope that you would ride over
from your brother’s place, and see me--and I have waited in vain. Your
conduct to me is cruelty itself; I will bear it no longer. Consider! in
your own interests, consider--before you drive the miserable woman who
has trusted you to despair. You have promised me marriage by all that is
sacred. I claim your promise. I insist on nothing less than to be
what you vowed I should be--what I have waited all this weary time to
be--what I _am_, in the sight of Heaven, your wedded wife. Lady Lundie
gives a lawn-party here on the 14th. I know you have been asked. I
expect you to accept her invitation. If I don’t see you, I won’t answer
for what may happen. My mind is made up to endure this suspense no
longer. Oh, Geoffrey, remember the past! Be faithful--be just--to your
loving wife,

“ANNE SILVESTER.”



Mr. Bishopriggs paused. His commentary on the correspondence, so far,
was simple enough. “Hot words (in ink) from the leddy to the gentleman!”
 He ran his eye over the second letter, on the fourth page of the paper,
and added, cynically, “A trifle caulder (in pencil) from the gentleman
to the leddy! The way o’ the warld, Sirs! From the time o’ Adam
downwards, the way o’ the warld!”

The second letter ran thus:



“DEAR ANNE,--Just called to London to my father. They have telegraphed
him in a bad way. Stop where you are, and I will write you. Trust the
bearer. Upon my soul, I’ll keep my promise. Your loving husband that is
to be,

“GEOFFREY DELAMAYN.”

WINDYGATES HOUSE, _Augt._ 14, 4 P. M.

“In a mortal hurry. Train starts at 4.30.”



There it ended!

“Who are the pairties in the parlor? Is ane o’ them ‘Silvester?’ and
t’other ‘Delamayn?’” pondered Mr. Bishopriggs, slowly folding the letter
up again in its original form. “Hech, Sirs! what, being intairpreted,
may a’ this mean?”

He mixed himself a second glass of toddy, as an aid to reflection, and
sat sipping the liquor, and twisting and turning the letter in his gouty
fingers. It was not easy to see his way to the true connection between
the lady and gentleman in the parlor and the two letters now in his own
possession. They might be themselves the writers of the letters, or they
might be only friends of the writers. Who was to decide?

In the first case, the lady’s object would appear to have been as good
as gained; for the two had certainly asserted themselves to be man and
wife, in his own presence, and in the presence of the landlady. In the
second case, the correspondence so carelessly thrown aside might, for
all a stranger knew to the contrary, prove to be of some importance
in the future. Acting on this latter view, Mr. Bishopriggs--whose past
experience as “a bit clerk body,” in Sir Patrick’s chambers, had made
a man of business of him--produced his pen and ink, and indorsed the
letter with a brief dated statement of the circumstances under which
he had found it. “I’ll do weel to keep the Doecument,” he thought to
himself. “Wha knows but there’ll be a reward offered for it ane o’ these
days? Eh! eh! there may be the warth o’ a fi’ pun’ note in this, to a
puir lad like me!”

With that comforting reflection, he drew out a battered tin cash-box
from the inner recesses of the drawer, and locked up the stolen
correspondence to bide its time.



The storm rose higher and higher as the evening advanced.

In the sitting-room, the state of affairs, perpetually changing, now
presented itself under another new aspect.

Arnold had finished his dinner, and had sent it away. He had next drawn
a side-table up to the sofa on which Anne lay--had shuffled the pack of
cards--and was now using all his powers of persuasion to induce her
to try one game at _Ecarte_ with him, by way of diverting her
attention from the tumult of the storm. In sheer weariness, she gave up
contesting the matter; and, raising herself languidly on the sofa, said
she would try to play. “Nothing can make matters worse than they are,”
 she thought, despairingly, as Arnold dealt the cards for her. “Nothing
can justify my inflicting my own wretchedness on this kind-hearted boy!”

Two worse players never probably sat down to a game. Anne’s attention
perpetually wandered; and Anne’s companion was, in all human
probability, the most incapable card-player in Europe.

Anne turned up the trump--the nine of Diamonds. Arnold looked at
his hand--and “proposed.” Anne declined to change the cards. Arnold
announced, with undiminished good-humor, that he saw his way clearly,
now, to losing the game, and then played his first card--the Queen of
Trumps!

Anne took it with the King, and forgot to declare the King. She played
the ten of Trumps.

Arnold unexpectedly discovered the eight of Trumps in his hand. “What
a pity!” he said, as he played it. “Hullo! you haven’t marked the King!
I’ll do it for you. That’s two--no, three--to you. I said I should lose
the game. Couldn’t be expected to do any thing (could I?) with such
a hand as mine. I’ve lost every thing now I’ve lost my trumps. You to
play.”

Anne looked at her hand. At the same moment the lightning flashed into
the room through the ill-closed shutters; the roar of the thunder burst
over the house, and shook it to its foundation. The screaming of some
hysterical female tourist, and the barking of a dog, rose shrill from
the upper floor of the inn. Anne’s nerves could support it no longer.
She flung her cards on the table, and sprang to her feet.

“I can play no more,” she said. “Forgive me--I am quite unequal to it.
My head burns! my heart stifles me!”

She began to pace the room again. Aggravated by the effect of the storm
on her nerves, her first vague distrust of the false position into which
she and Arnold had allowed themselves to drift had strengthened, by this
time, into a downright horror of their situation which was not to be
endured. Nothing could justify such a risk as the risk they were now
running! They had dined together like married people--and there they
were, at that moment, shut in together, and passing the evening like man
and wife!

“Oh, Mr. Brinkworth!” she pleaded. “Think--for Blanche’s sake, think--is
there no way out of this?”

Arnold was quietly collecting the scattered cards.

“Blanche, again?” he said, with the most exasperating composure. “I
wonder how she feels, in this storm?”

In Anne’s excited state, the reply almost maddened her. She turned from
Arnold, and hurried to the door.

“I don’t care!” she cried, wildly. “I won’t let this deception go on.
I’ll do what I ought to have done before. Come what may of it, I’ll tell
the landlady the truth!”

She had opened the door, and was on the point of stepping into the
passage--when she stopped, and started violently. Was it possible, in
that dreadful weather, that she had actually heard the sound of carriage
wheels on the strip of paved road outside the inn?

Yes! others had heard the sound too. The hobbling figure of Mr.
Bishopriggs passed her in the passage, making for the house door.
The hard voice of the landlady rang through the inn, ejaculating
astonishment in broad Scotch. Anne closed the sitting-room door again,
and turned to Arnold--who had risen, in surprise, to his feet.

“Travelers!” she exclaimed. “At this time!”

“And in this weather!” added Arnold.

“_Can_ it be Geoffrey?” she asked--going back to the old vain delusion
that he might yet feel for her, and return.

Arnold shook his head. “Not Geoffrey. Whoever else it may be--not
Geoffrey!”

Mrs. Inchbare suddenly entered the room--with her cap-ribb ons flying,
her eyes staring, and her bones looking harder than ever.

“Eh, mistress!” she said to Anne. “Wha do ye think has driven here to
see ye, from Windygates Hoose, and been owertaken in the storm?”

Anne was speechless. Arnold put the question: “Who is it?”

“Wha is’t?” repeated Mrs. Inchbare. “It’s joost the bonny young
leddy--Miss Blanche hersel’.”

An irrepressible cry of horror burst from Anne. The landlady set it down
to the lightning, which flashed into the room again at the same moment.

“Eh, mistress! ye’ll find Miss Blanche a bit baulder than to skirl at a
flash o’ lightning, that gait! Here she is, the bonny birdie!” exclaimed
Mrs. Inchbare, deferentially backing out into the passage again.

Blanche’s voice reached them, calling for Anne.

Anne caught Arnold by the hand and wrung it hard. “Go!” she whispered.
The next instant she was at the mantle-piece, and had blown out both the
candles.

Another flash of lightning came through the darkness, and showed
Blanche’s figure standing at the door.


CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH.

BLANCHE.

MRS. INCHBARE was the first person who acted in the emergency. She
called for lights; and sternly rebuked the house-maid, who brought them,
for not having closed the house door. “Ye feckless ne’er-do-weel!” cried
the landlady; “the wind’s blawn the candles oot.”

The woman declared (with perfect truth) that the door had been closed.
An awkward dispute might have ensued if Blanche had not diverted Mrs.
Inchbare’s attention to herself. The appearance of the lights disclosed
her, wet through with her arms round Anne’s neck. Mrs. Inchbare
digressed at once to the pressing question of changing the young lady’s
clothes, and gave Anne the opportunity of looking round her, unobserved.
Arnold had made his escape before the candles had been brought in.

In the mean time Blanche’s attention was absorbed in her own dripping
skirts.

“Good gracious! I’m absolutely distilling rain from every part of me.
And I’m making you, Anne, as wet as I am! Lend me some dry things. You
can’t? Mrs. Inchbare, what does your experience suggest? Which had I
better do? Go to bed while my clothes are being dried? or borrow from
your wardrobe--though you _are_ a head and shoulders taller than I am?”

Mrs. Inchbare instantly bustled out to fetch the choicest garments
that her wardrobe could produce. The moment the door had closed on her
Blanche looked round the room in her turn.

The rights of affection having been already asserted, the claims of
curiosity naturally pressed for satisfaction next.

“Somebody passed me in the dark,” she whispered. “Was it your husband?
I’m dying to be introduced to him. And, oh my dear! what _is_ your
married name?”

Anne answered, coldly, “Wait a little. I can’t speak about it yet.”

“Are you ill?” asked Blanche.

“I am a little nervous.”

“Has any thing unpleasant happened between you and my uncle? You have
seen him, haven’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Did he give you my message?”

“He gave me your message.--Blanche! you promised him to stay at
Windygates. Why, in the name of heaven, did you come here to-night?”

“If you were half as fond of me as I am of you,” returned Blanche, “you
wouldn’t ask that. I tried hard to keep my promise, but I couldn’t do
it. It was all very well, while my uncle was laying down the law--with
Lady Lundie in a rage, and the dogs barking, and the doors banging, and
all that. The excitement kept me up. But when my uncle had gone, and
the dreadful gray, quiet, rainy evening came, and it had all calmed down
again, there was no bearing it. The house--without you--was like a tomb.
If I had had Arnold with me I might have done very well. But I was
all by myself. Think of that! Not a soul to speak to! There wasn’t a
horrible thing that could possibly happen to you that I didn’t fancy was
going to happen. I went into your empty room and looked at your things.
_That_ settled it, my darling! I rushed down stairs--carried away,
positively carried away, by an Impulse beyond human resistance. How
could I help it? I ask any reasonable person how could I help it? I ran
to the stables and found Jacob. Impulse--all impulse! I said, ‘Get the
pony-chaise--I must have a drive--I don’t care if it rains--you come
with me.’ All in a breath, and all impulse! Jacob behaved like an angel.
He said, ‘All right, miss.’ I am perfectly certain Jacob would die for
me if I asked him. He is drinking hot grog at this moment, to prevent
him from catching cold, by my express orders. He had the pony-chaise out
in two minutes; and off we went. Lady Lundie, my dear, prostrate in
her own room--too much sal volatile. I hate her. The rain got worse. I
didn’t mind it. Jacob didn’t mind it. The pony didn’t mind it. They
had both caught my impulse--especially the pony. It didn’t come on to
thunder till some time afterward; and then we were nearer Craig Fernie
than Windygates--to say nothing of your being at one place and not at
the other. The lightning was quite awful on the moor. If I had had one
of the horses, he would have been frightened. The pony shook his darling
little head, and dashed through it. He is to have beer. A mash with beer
in it--by my express orders. When he has done we’ll borrow a lantern,
and go into the stable, and kiss him. In the mean time, my dear, here
I am--wet through in a thunderstorm, which doesn’t in the least
matter--and determined to satisfy my own mind about you, which matters a
great deal, and must and shall be done before I rest to-night!”

She turned Anne, by main force, as she spoke, toward the light of the
candles.

Her tone changed the moment she looked at Anne’s face.

“I knew it!” she said. “You would never have kept the most interesting
event in your life a secret from _me_--you would never have written me
such a cold formal letter as the letter you left in your room--if there
had not been something wrong. I said so at the time. I know it now! Why
has your husband forced you to leave Windygates at a moment’s notice?
Why does he slip out of the room in the dark, as if he was afraid of
being seen? Anne! Anne! what has come to you? Why do you receive me in
this way?”

At that critical moment Mrs. Inchbare reappeared, with the choicest
selection of wearing apparel which her wardrobe could furnish. Anne
hailed the welcome interruption. She took the candles, and led the way
into the bedroom immediately.

“Change your wet clothes first,” she said. “We can talk after that.”

The bedroom door had hardly been closed a minute before there was a tap
at it. Signing to Mrs. Inchbare not to interrupt the services she was
rendering to Blanche, Anne passed quickly into the sitting-room, and
closed the door behind her. To her infinite relief, she only found
herself face to face with the discreet Mr. Bishopriggs.

“What do you want?” she asked.

The eye of Mr. Bishopriggs announced, by a wink, that his mission was of
a confidential nature. The hand of Mr. Bishopriggs wavered; the breath
of Mr. Bishopriggs exhaled a spirituous fume. He slowly produced a slip
of paper, with some lines of writing on it.

“From ye ken who,” he explained, jocosely. “A bit love-letter, I trow,
from him that’s dear to ye. Eh! he’s an awfu’ reprobate is him that’s
dear to ye. Miss, in the bedchamber there, will nae doot be the one he’s
jilted for _you?_ I see it all--ye can’t blind Me--I ha’ been a frail
person my ain self, in my time. Hech! he’s safe and sound, is the
reprobate. I ha’ lookit after a’ his little creature-comforts--I’m joost
a fether to him, as well as a fether to you. Trust Bishopriggs--when
puir human nature wants a bit pat on the back, trust Bishopriggs.”

While the sage was speaking these comfortable words, Anne was reading
the lines traced on the paper. They were signed by Arnold; and they ran
thus:

“I am in the smoking-room of the inn. It rests with you to say whether I
must stop there. I don’t believe Blanche would be jealous. If I knew how
to explain my being at the inn without betraying the confidence which
you and Geoffrey have placed in me, I wouldn’t be away from her another
moment. It does grate on me so! At the same time, I don’t want to make
your position harder than it is. Think of yourself first. I leave it
in your hands. You have only to say, Wait, by the bearer--and I shall
understand that I am to stay where I am till I hear from you again.”

Anne looked up from the message.

“Ask him to wait,” she said; “and I will send word to him again.”

“Wi’ mony loves and kisses,” suggested Mr. Bishopriggs, as a necessary
supplement to the message. “Eh! it comes as easy as A. B. C. to a man o’
my experience. Ye can ha’ nae better gae-between than yer puir servant
to command, Sawmuel Bishopriggs. I understand ye baith pairfeckly.” He
laid his forefinger along his flaming nose, and withdrew.

Without allowing herself to hesitate for an instant, Anne opened the
bedroom door--with the resolution of relieving Arnold from the new
sacrifice imposed on him by owning the truth.

“Is that you?” asked Blanche.

At the sound of her voice, Anne started back guiltily. “I’ll be with you
in a moment,” she answered, and closed the door again between them.

No! it was not to be done. Something in Blanche’s trivial question--or
something, perhaps, in the sight of Blanche’s face--roused the
warning instinct in Anne, which silenced her on the very brink of the
disclosure. At the last moment the iron chain of circumstances made
itself felt, binding her without mercy to the hateful, the degrading
deceit. Could she own the truth, about Geoffrey and herself, to Blanche?
and, without owning it, could she explain and justify Arnold’s conduct
in joining her privately at Craig Fernie? A shameful confession made to
an innocent girl; a risk of fatally shaking Arnold’s place in Blanche’s
estimation; a scandal at the inn, in the disgrace of which the others
would be involved with herself--this was the price at which she must
speak, if she followed her first impulse, and said, in so many words,
“Arnold is here.”

It was not to be thought of. Cost what it might in present
wretchedness--end how it might, if the deception was discovered in the
future--Blanche must be kept in ignorance of the truth, Arnold must be
kept in hiding until she had gone.

Anne opened the door for the second time, and went in.

The business of the toilet was standing still. Blanche was in
confidential communication with Mrs. Inchbare. At the moment when Anne
entered the room she was eagerly questioning the landlady about her
friend’s “invisible husband”--she was just saying, “Do tell me! what is
he like?”

The capacity for accurate observation is a capacity so uncommon, and is
so seldom associated, even where it does exist, with the equally rare
gift of accurately describing the thing or the person observed, that
Anne’s dread of the consequences if Mrs. Inchbare was allowed time
to comply with Blanches request, was, in all probability, a dread
misplaced. Right or wrong, however, the alarm that she felt hurried
her into taking measures for dismissing the landlady on the spot. “We
mustn’t keep you from your occupations any longer,” she said to Mrs.
Inchbare. “I will give Miss Lundie all the help she needs.”

Barred from advancing in one direction, Blanche’s curiosity turned back,
and tried in another. She boldly addressed herself to Anne.

“I _must_ know something about him,” she said. “Is he shy before
strangers? I heard you whispering with him on the other side of the
door. Are you jealous, Anne? Are you afraid I shall fascinate him in
this dress?”

Blanche, in Mrs. Inchbare’s best gown--an ancient and high-waisted
silk garment, of the hue called “bottle-green,” pinned up in front, and
trailing far behind her--with a short, orange-colored shawl over her
shoulders, and a towel tied turban fashion round her head, to dry her
wet hair, looked at once the strangest and the prettiest human anomaly
that ever was seen. “For heaven’s sake,” she said, gayly, “don’t tell
your husband I am in Mrs. Inchbare’s clothes! I want to appear suddenly,
without a word to warn him of what a figure I am! I should have nothing
left to wish for in this world,” she added, “if Arnold could only see
me now!”

Looking in the glass, she noticed Anne’s face reflected behind her, and
started at the sight of it.

“What _is_ the matter?” she asked. “Your face frightens me.”

It was useless to prolong the pain of the inevitable misunderstanding
between them. The one course to take was to silence all further
inquiries then and there. Strongly as she felt this, Anne’s inbred
loyalty to Blanche still shrank from deceiving her to her face. “I might
write it,” she thought. “I can’t say it, with Arnold Brinkworth in the
same house with her!” Write it? As she reconsidered the word, a sudden
idea struck her. She opened the bedroom door, and led the way back into
the sitting-room.

“Gone again!” exclaimed Blanche, looking uneasily round the empty room.
“Anne! there’s something so strange in all this, that I neither can, nor
will, put up with your silence any longer. It’s not just, it’s not kind,
to shut me out of your confidence, after we have lived together like
sisters all our lives!”

Anne sighed bitterly, and kissed her on the forehead. “You shall know
all I can tell you--all I _dare_ tell you,” she said, gently. “Don’t
reproach me. It hurts me more than you think.”

She turned away to the side table, and came back with a letter in her
hand. “Read that,” she said, and handed it to Blanche.

Blanche saw her own name, on the address, in the handwriting of Anne.

“What does this mean?” she asked.

“I wrote to you, after Sir Patrick had left me,” Anne replied. “I meant
you to have received my letter to-morrow, in time to prevent any little
imprudence into which your anxiety might hurry you. All that I _can_
say to you is said there. Spare me the distress of speaking. Read it,
Blanche.”

Blanche still held the letter, unopened.

“A letter from you to me! when we are both together, and both alone
in the same room! It’s worse than formal, Anne! It’s as if there was a
quarrel between us. Why should it distress you to speak to me?”

Anne’s eyes dropped to the ground. She pointed to the letter for the
second time.

Blanche broke the seal.

She passed rapidly over the opening sentences, and devoted all her
attention to the second paragraph.

“And now, my love, you will expect me to atone for the surprise and
distress that I have caused you, by explaining what my situation really
is, and by telling you all my plans for the future. Dearest Blanche!
don’t think me untrue to the affection we bear toward each other--don’t
think there is any change in my heart toward you--believe only that I
am a very unhappy woman, and that I am in a position which forces me,
against my own will, to be silent about myself. Silent even to you, the
sister of my love--the one person in the world who is dearest to me!
A time may come when I shall be able to open my heart to you. Oh, what
good it will do me! what a relief it will be! For the present, I must be
silent. For the present, we must be parted. God knows what it costs me
to write this. I think of the dear old days that are gone; I remember
how I promised your mother to be a sister to you, when her kind eyes
looked at me, for the last time--_your_ mother, who was an angel from
heaven to _mine!_ All this comes back on me now, and breaks my heart.
But it must be! my own Blanche, for the present, it must be! I will
write often--I will think of you, my darling, night and day, till a
happier future unites us again. God bless _you,_ my dear one! And God
help _me!_”

Blanche silently crossed the room to the sofa on which Anne was sitting,
and stood there for a moment, looking at her. She sat down, and laid
her head on Anne’s shoulder. Sorrowfully and quietly, she put the letter
into her bosom--and took Anne’s hand, and kissed it.

“All my questions are answered, dear. I will wait your time.”

It was simply, sweetly, generously said.

Anne burst into tears.

* * * * *

The rain still fell, but the storm was dying away.

Blanche left the sofa, and, going to the window, opened the shutters to
look out at the night. She suddenly came back to Anne.

“I see lights,” she said--“the lights of a carriage coming up out of
the darkness of the moor. They are sending after me, from Windygates. Go
into t he bedroom. It’s just possible Lady Lundie may have come for me
herself.”

The ordinary relations of the two toward each other were completely
reversed. Anne was like a child in Blanche’s hands. She rose, and
withdrew.

Left alone, Blanche took the letter out of her bosom, and read it again,
in the interval of waiting for the carriage.

The second reading confirmed her in a resolution which she had privately
taken, while she had been sitting by Anne on the sofa--a resolution
destined to lead to far more serious results in the future than any
previsions of hers could anticipate. Sir Patrick was the one person she
knew on whose discretion and experience she could implicitly rely.
She determined, in Anne’s own interests, to take her uncle into her
confidence, and to tell him all that had happened at the inn “I’ll first
make him forgive me,” thought Blanche. “And then I’ll see if he thinks
as I do, when I tell him about Anne.”

The carriage drew up at the door; and Mrs. Inchbare showed in--not Lady
Lundie, but Lady Lundie’s maid.

The woman’s account of what had happened at Windygates was simple
enough. Lady Lundie had, as a matter of course, placed the right
interpretation on Blanche’s abrupt departure in the pony-chaise, and
had ordered the carriage, with the firm determination of following her
step-daughter herself. But the agitations and anxieties of the day had
proved too much for her. She had been seized by one of the attacks
of giddiness to which she was always subject after excessive mental
irritation; and, eager as she was (on more accounts than one) to go to
the inn herself, she had been compelled, in Sir Patrick’s absence, to
commit the pursuit of Blanche to her own maid, in whose age and good
sense she could place every confidence. The woman seeing the state
of the weather--had thoughtfully brought a box with her, containing a
change of wearing apparel. In offering it to Blanche, she added, with
all due respect, that she had full powers from her mistress to go on,
if necessary, to the shooting-cottage, and to place the matter in Sir
Patrick’s hands. This said, she left it to her young lady to decide
for herself, whether she would return to Windygates, under present
circumstances, or not.

Blanche took the box from the woman’s hands, and joined Anne in the
bedroom, to dress herself for the drive home.

“I am going back to a good scolding,” she said. “But a scolding is no
novelty in my experience of Lady Lundie. I’m not uneasy about that,
Anne--I’m uneasy about you. Can I be sure of one thing--do you stay here
for the present?”

The worst that could happen at the inn _had_ happened. Nothing was to be
gained now--and every thing might be lost--by leaving the place at which
Geoffrey had promised to write to her. Anne answered that she proposed
remaining at the inn for the present.

“You promise to write to me?”

“Yes.”

“If there is any thing I can do for you--?”

“There is nothing, my love.”

“There may be. If you want to see me, we can meet at Windygates without
being discovered. Come at luncheon-time--go around by the shrubbery--and
step in at the library window. You know as well as I do there is nobody
in the library at that hour. Don’t say it’s impossible--you don’t know
what may happen. I shall wait ten minutes every day on the chance of
seeing you. That’s settled--and it’s settled that you write. Before I
go, darling, is there any thing else we can think of for the future?”

At those words Anne suddenly shook off the depression that weighed on
her. She caught Blanche in her arms, she held Blanche to her bosom with
a fierce energy. “Will you always be to me, in the future, what you are
now?” she asked, abruptly. “Or is the time coming when you will hate
me?” She prevented any reply by a kiss--and pushed Blanche toward the
door. “We have had a happy time together in the years that are gone,”
 she said, with a farewell wave of her hand. “Thank God for that! And
never mind the rest.”

She threw open the bedroom door, and called to the maid, in the
sitting-room. “Miss Lundie is waiting for you.” Blanche pressed her
hand, and left her.

Anne waited a while in the bedroom, listening to the sound made by the
departure of the carriage from the inn door. Little by little, the tramp
of the horses and the noise of the rolling wheels lessened and lessened.
When the last faint sounds were lost in silence she stood for a moment
thinking--then, rousing on a sudden, hurried into the sitting-room, and
rang the bell.

“I shall go mad,” she said to herself, “if I stay here alone.”

Even Mr. Bishopriggs felt the necessity of being silent when he stood
face to face with her on answering the bell.

“I want to speak to him. Send him here instantly.”

Mr. Bishopriggs understood her, and withdrew.

Arnold came in.

“Has she gone?” were the first words he said.

“She has gone. She won’t suspect you when you see her again. I have told
her nothing. Don’t ask me for my reasons!”

“I have no wish to ask you.”

“Be angry with me, if you like!”

“I have no wish to be angry with you.”

He spoke and looked like an altered man. Quietly seating himself at the
table, he rested his head on his hand--and so remained silent. Anne
was taken completely by surprise. She drew near, and looked at him
curiously. Let a woman’s mood be what it may, it is certain to feel the
influence of any change for which she is unprepared in the manner of a
man--when that man interests her. The cause of this is not to be found
in the variableness of her humor. It is far more probably to be traced
to the noble abnegation of Self, which is one of the grandest--and to
the credit of woman be it said--one of the commonest virtues of the sex.
Little by little, the sweet feminine charm of Anne’s face came softly
and sadly back. The inbred nobility of the woman’s nature answered the
call which the man had unconsciously made on it. She touched Arnold on
the shoulder.

“This has been hard on _you,_” she said. “And I am to blame for it. Try
and forgive me, Mr. Brinkworth. I am sincerely sorry. I wish with all my
heart I could comfort you!”

“Thank you, Miss Silvester. It was not a very pleasant feeling, to be
hiding from Blanche as if I was afraid of her--and it’s set me thinking,
I suppose, for the first time in my life. Never mind. It’s all over now.
Can I do any thing for you?”

“What do you propose doing to-night?”

“What I have proposed doing all along--my duty by Geoffrey. I have
promised him to see you through your difficulties here, and to provide
for your safety till he comes back. I can only make sure of doing that
by keeping up appearances, and staying in the sitting-room to-night.
When we next meet it will be under pleasanter circumstances, I hope. I
shall always be glad to think that I was of some service to you. In the
mean time I shall be most likely away to-morrow morning before you are
up.”

Anne held out her hand to take leave. Nothing could undo what had been
done. The time for warning and remonstrance had passed away.

“You have not befriended an ungrateful woman,” she said. “The day may
yet come, Mr. Brinkworth, when I shall prove it.”

“I hope not, Miss Silvester. Good-by, and good luck!”

She withdrew into her own room. Arnold locked the sitting-room door, and
stretched himself on the sofa for the night.

* * * * *

The morning was bright, the air was delicious after the storm.

Arnold had gone, as he had promised, before Anne was out of her room.
It was understood at the inn that important business had unexpectedly
called him south. Mr. Bishopriggs had been presented with a handsome
gratuity; and Mrs. Inchbare had been informed that the rooms were taken
for a week certain.

In every quarter but one the march of events had now, to all appearance,
fallen back into a quiet course. Arnold was on his way to his estate;
Blanche was safe at Windygates; Anne’s residence at the inn was assured
for a week to come. The one present doubt was the doubt which hung over
Geoffrey’s movements. The one event still involved in darkness turned on
the question of life or death waiting for solution in London--otherwise,
the question of Lord Holchester’s health. Taken by itself, the
alternative, either way, was plain enough. If my lord lived--Geoffrey
would be free to come back, and marry her privately in Scotland. If
my lord died--Geoffrey would be free to send for her, and marry her
publicly in London. But could Geoffrey be relied on?

Anne went out on to the terrace-ground in front of the inn. The cool
morning breeze blew steadily. Towering white clouds sailed in grand
procession over the heavens, now obscuring, and now revealing the sun.
Yellow light and purple shadow chased each other over the broad brown
surface of the moor--even as hope and fear chased each other over Anne’s
mind, brooding on what might come to her with the coming time.

She turned away, weary of questioning the impenetrable future, and went
back to the inn.

Crossing the hall she looked at the clock. It was past the hour when the
train from Perthshire was due in London. Geoffrey and his brother were,
at that moment, on their way to Lord Holchester’s house.



THIRD SCENE.--LONDON.



CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH.

GEOFFREY AS A LETTER-WRITER.

LORD HOLCHESTER’S servants--with the butler at their head--were on the
look-out for Mr. Julius Delamayn’s arrival from Scotland. The appearance
of the two brothers together took the whole domestic establishment by
surprise. Inquiries were addressed to the butler by Julius; Geoffrey
standing by, and taking no other than a listener’s part in the
proceedings.

“Is my father alive?”

“His lordship, I am rejoiced to say, has astonished the doctors, Sir.
He rallied last night in the most wonderful way. If things go on for the
next eight-and-forty hours as they are going now, my lord’s recovery is
considered certain.”

“What was the illness?”

“A paralytic stroke, Sir. When her ladyship telegraphed to you in
Scotland the doctors had given his lordship up.”

“Is my mother at home?”

“Her ladyship is at home to _you,_, Sir.”’

The butler laid a special emphasis on the personal pronoun. Julius
turned to his brother. The change for the better in the state of
Lord Holchester’s health made Geoffrey’s position, at that moment, an
embarrassing one. He had been positively forbidden to enter the house.
His one excuse for setting that prohibitory sentence at defiance rested
on the assumption that his father was actually dying. As matters
now stood, Lord Holchester’s order remained in full force. The
under-servants in the hall (charged to obey that order as they valued
their places) looked from “Mr. Geoffrey” to the butler, The butler
looked from “Mr. Geoffrey” to “Mr. Julius.” Julius looked at his
brother. There was an awkward pause. The position of the second son was
the position of a wild beast in the house--a creature to be got rid of,
without risk to yourself, if you only knew how.

Geoffrey spoke, and solved the problem

“Open the door, one of you fellows,” he said to the footmen. “I’m off.”

“Wait a minute,” interposed his brother. “It will be a sad
disappointment to my mother to know that you have been here, and gone
away again without seeing her. These are no ordinary circumstances,
Geoffrey. Come up stairs with me--I’ll take it on myself.”

“I’m blessed if I take it on _my_self!” returned Geoffrey. “Open the
door!”

“Wait here, at any rate,” pleaded Julius, “till I can send you down a
message.”

“Send your message to Nagle’s Hotel. I’m at home at Nagle’s--I’m not at
home here.”

At that point the discussion was interrupted by the appearance of a
little terrier in the hall. Seeing strangers, the dog began to bark.
Perfect tranquillity in the house had been absolutely insisted on by the
doctors; and the servants, all trying together to catch the animal and
quiet him, simply aggravated the noise he was making. Geoffrey solved
this problem also in his own decisive way. He swung round as the dog was
passing him, and kicked it with his heavy boot. The little creature
fell on the spot, whining piteously. “My lady’s pet dog!” exclaimed the
butler. “You’ve broken its ribs, Sir.” “I’ve broken it of barking, you
mean,” retorted Geoffrey. “Ribs be hanged!” He turned to his brother.
“That settles it,” he said, jocosely. “I’d better defer the pleasure of
calling on dear mamma till the next opportunity. Ta-ta, Julius. You know
where to find me. Come, and dine. We’ll give you a steak at Nagle’s that
will make a man of you.”

He went out. The tall footmen eyed his lordship’s second son with
unaffected respect. They had seen him, in public, at the annual festival
of the Christian-Pugilistic-Association, with “the gloves” on. He could
have beaten the biggest man in the hall within an inch of his life in
three minutes. The porter bowed as he threw open the door. The whole
interest and attention of the domestic establishment then present was
concentrated on Geoffrey. Julius went up stairs to his mother without
attracting the slightest notice.

The month was August. The streets were empty. The vilest breeze that
blows--a hot east wind in London--was the breeze abroad on that day.
Even Geoffrey appeared to feel the influence of the weather as the cab
carried him from his father’s door to the hotel. He took off his hat,
and unbuttoned his waistcoat, and lit his everlasting pipe, and growled
and grumbled between his teeth in the intervals of smoking. Was it only
the hot wind that wrung from him these demonstrations of discomfort? Or
was there some secret anxiety in his mind which assisted the depressing
influences of the day? There was a secret anxiety in his mind. And the
name of it was--Anne.

As things actually were at that moment, what course was he to take with
the unhappy woman who was waiting to hear from him at the Scotch inn?

To write? or not to write? That was the question with Geoffrey.

The preliminary difficulty, relating to addressing a letter to Anne at
the inn, had been already provided for. She had decided--if it proved
necessary to give her name, before Geoffrey joined her--to call herself
Mrs., instead of Miss, Silvester. A letter addressed to “Mrs.
Silvester” might be trusted to find its way to her without causing any
embarrassment. The doubt was not here. The doubt lay, as usual, between
two alternatives. Which course would it be wisest to take?--to inform
Anne, by that day’s post, that an interval of forty-eight hours must
elapse before his father’s recovery could be considered certain? Or
to wait till the interval was over, and be guided by the result?
Considering the alternatives in the cab, he decided that the wise course
was to temporize with Anne, by reporting matters as they then stood.

Arrived at the hotel, he sat down to write the letter--doubted--and tore
it up--doubted again--and began again--doubted once more--and tore
up the second letter--rose to his feet--and owned to himself (in
unprintable language) that he couldn’t for the life of him decide which
was safest--to write or to wait.

In this difficulty, his healthy physical instincts sent him to healthy
physical remedies for relief. “My mind’s in a muddle,” said Geoffrey.
“I’ll try a bath.”

It was an elaborate bath, proceeding through many rooms, and combining
many postures and applications. He steamed. He plunged. He simmered. He
stood under a pipe, and received a cataract of cold water on his head.
He was laid on his back; he was laid on his stomach; he was respectfully
pounded and kneaded, from head to foot, by the knuckles of accomplished
practitioners. He came out of it all, sleek, clear rosy, beautiful. He
returned to the hotel, and took up the writing materials--and behold
the intolerable indecision seized him again, declining to be washed out!
This time he laid it all to Anne. “That infernal woman will be the ruin
of me,” said Geoffrey, taking up his hat. “I must try the dumb-bells.”

The pursuit of the new remedy for stimulating a sluggish brain took him
to a public house, kept by the professional pedestrian who had the honor
of training him when he contended at Athletic Sports.

“A private room and the dumb-bells!” cried Geoffrey. “The heaviest you
have got.”

He stripped himself of his upper clothing, and set to work, with the
heavy weights in each hand, waving them up and down, and backward and
forward, in every attainable variety o f movement, till his magnificent
muscles seemed on the point of starting through his sleek skin. Little
by little his animal spirits roused themselves. The strong
exertion intoxicated the strong man. In sheer excitement he swore
cheerfully--invoking thunder and lightning, explosion and blood, in
return for the compliments profusely paid to him by the pedestrian and
the pedestrian’s son. “Pen, ink, and paper!” he roared, when he could
use the dumb-bells no longer. “My mind’s made up; I’ll write, and have
done with it!” He sat down to his writing on the spot; actually finished
the letter; another minute would have dispatched it to the post--and, in
that minute, the maddening indecision took possession of him once more.
He opened the letter again, read it over again, and tore it up again.
“I’m out of my mind!” cried Geoffrey, fixing his big bewildered blue
eyes fiercely on the professor who trained him. “Thunder and lightning!
Explosion and blood! Send for Crouch.”

Crouch (known and respected wherever English manhood is known and
respected) was a retired prize-fighter. He appeared with the third
and last remedy for clearing the mind known to the Honorable Geoffrey
Delamayn--namely, two pair of boxing-gloves in a carpet-bag.

The gentleman and the prize-fighter put on the gloves, and faced each
other in the classically correct posture of pugilistic defense. “None of
your play, mind!” growled Geoffrey. “Fight, you beggar, as if you were
in the Ring again with orders to win.” No man knew better than the great
and terrible Crouch what real fighting meant, and what heavy blows
might be given even with such apparently harmless weapons as stuffed
and padded gloves. He pretended, and only pretended, to comply with his
patron’s request. Geoffrey rewarded him for his polite forbearance by
knocking him down. The great and terrible rose with unruffled composure.
“Well hit, Sir!” he said. “Try it with the other hand now.” Geoffrey’s
temper was not under similar control. Invoking everlasting destruction
on the frequently-blackened eyes of Crouch, he threatened instant
withdrawal of his patronage and support unless the polite pugilist
hit, then and there, as hard as he could. The hero of a hundred fights
quailed at the dreadful prospect. “I’ve got a family to support,”
 remarked Crouch. “If you _will_ have it, Sir--there it is!” The fall of
Geoffrey followed, and shook the house. He was on his legs again in an
instant--not satisfied even yet. “None of your body-hitting!” he roared.
“Stick to my head. Thunder and lightning! explosion and blood! Knock it
out of me! Stick to the head!” Obedient Crouch stuck to the head.
The two gave and took blows which would have stunned--possibly have
killed--any civilized member of the community. Now on one side of
his patron’s iron skull, and now on the other, the hammering of the
prize-fighter’s gloves fell, thump upon thump, horrible to hear--until
even Geoffrey himself had had enough of it. “Thank you, Crouch,” he
said, speaking civilly to the man for the first time. “That will do. I
feel nice and clear again.” He shook his head two or three times, he was
rubbed down like a horse by the professional runner; he drank a mighty
draught of malt liquor; he recovered his good-humor as if by magic.
“Want the pen and ink, Sir?” inquired his pedestrian host. “Not I!”
 answered Geoffrey. “The muddle’s out of me now. Pen and ink be hanged!
I shall look up some of our fellows, and go to the play.” He left the
public house in the happiest condition of mental calm. Inspired by the
stimulant application of Crouch’s gloves, his torpid cunning had been
shaken up into excellent working order at last. Write to Anne? Who but a
fool would write to such a woman as that until he was forced to it? Wait
and see what the chances of the next eight-and-forty hours might bring
forth, and then write to her, or desert her, as the event might decide.
It lay in a nut-shell, if you could only see it. Thanks to Crouch, he
did see it--and so away in a pleasant temper for a dinner with “our
fellows” and an evening at the play!


CHAPTER THE FIFTEENTH.

GEOFFREY IN THE MARRIAGE MARKET.

THE interval of eight-and-forty hours passed--without the occurrence of
any personal communication between the two brothers in that time.

Julius, remaining at his father’s house, sent brief written bulletins of
Lord Holchester’s health to his brother at the hotel. The first bulletin
said, “Going on well. Doctors satisfied.” The second was firmer in tone.
“Going on excellently. Doctors very sanguine.” The third was the most
explicit of all. “I am to see my father in an hour from this. The
doctors answer for his recovery. Depend on my putting in a good word for
you, if I can; and wait to hear from me further at the hotel.”

Geoffrey’s face darkened as he read the third bulletin. He called once
more for the hated writing materials. There could be no doubt now as to
the necessity of communicating with Anne. Lord Holchester’s recovery had
put him back again in the same critical position which he had occupied
at Windygates. To keep Anne from committing some final act of despair,
which would connect him with a public scandal, and ruin him so far as
his expectations from his father were concerned, was, once more, the
only safe policy that Geoffrey could pursue. His letter began and ended
in twenty words:



“DEAR ANNE,--Have only just heard that my father is turning the corner.
Stay where you are. Will write again.”



Having dispatched this Spartan composition by the post, Geoffrey lit his
pipe, and waited the event of the interview between Lord Holchester and
his eldest son.

Julius found his father alarmingly altered in personal appearance, but
in full possession of his faculties nevertheless. Unable to return
the pressure of his son’s hand--unable even to turn in the bed without
help--the hard eye of the old lawyer was as keen, the hard mind of the
old lawyer was as clear, as ever. His grand ambition was to see Julius
in Parliament. Julius was offering himself for election in Perthshire,
by his father’s express desire, at that moment. Lord Holchester entered
eagerly into politics before his eldest son had been two minutes by his
bedside.

“Much obliged, Julius, for your congratulations. Men of my sort are not
easily killed. (Look at Brougham and Lyndhurst!) You won’t be called to
the Upper House yet. You will begin in the House of Commons--precisely
as I wished. What are your prospects with the constituency? Tell me
exactly how you stand, and where I can be of use to you.”

“Surely, Sir, you are hardly recovered enough to enter on matters of
business yet?”

“I am quite recovered enough. I want some present interest to occupy
me. My thoughts are beginning to drift back to past times, and to things
which are better forgotten.” A sudden contraction crossed his livid
face. He looked hard at his son, and entered abruptly on a new question.
“Julius!” he resumed, “have you ever heard of a young woman named Anne
Silvester?”

Julius answered in the negative. He and his wife had exchanged cards
with Lady Lundie, and had excused themselves from accepting her
invitation to the lawn-party. With the exception of Blanche, they were
both quite ignorant of the persons who composed the family circle at
Windygates.

“Make a memorandum of the name,” Lord Holchester went on. “Anne
Silvester. Her father and mother are dead. I knew her father in former
times. Her mother was ill-used. It was a bad business. I have been
thinking of it again, for the first time for many years. If the girl is
alive and about the world she may remember our family name. Help
her, Julius, if she ever wants help, and applies to you.” The painful
contraction passed across his face once more. Were his thoughts taking
him back to the memorable summer evening at the Hampstead villa? Did
he see the deserted woman swooning at his feet again? “About your
election?” he asked, impatiently. “My mind is not used to be idle. Give
it something to do.”

Julius stated his position as plainly and as briefly as he could.
The father found nothing to object to in the report--except the son’s
absence from the field of action. He blamed Lady Holchester for
summoning Julius to London. He was annoyed at his son’s being there, at
the bedside, when he ought to have been addressing the electors. “It’s
inconvenient, Julius,” he said, petulantly. “Don’t you see it yourself?”

Having previously arranged with his mother to take the first opportunity
that offered of risking a reference to Geoffrey, Julius decided to “see
it” in a light for which his father was not prepared. The opportunity
was before him. He took it on the spot.

“It is no inconvenience to me, Sir,” he replied, “and it is no
inconvenience to my brother either. Geoffrey was anxious about you too.
Geoffrey has come to London with me.”

Lord Holchester looked at his eldest son with a grimly-satirical
expression of surprise.

“Have I not already told you,” he rejoined, “that my mind is not
affected by my illness? Geoffrey anxious about me! Anxiety is one of the
civilized emotions. Man in his savage state is incapable of feeling it.”

“My brother is not a savage, Sir.”

“His stomach is generally full, and his skin is covered with linen and
cloth, instead of red ochre and oil. So far, certainly, your brother is
civilized. In all other respects your brother is a savage.”

“I know what you mean, Sir. But there is something to be said for
Geoffrey’s way of life. He cultivates his courage and his strength.
Courage and strength are fine qualities, surely, in their way?”

“Excellent qualities, as far as they go. If you want to know how far
that is, challenge Geoffrey to write a sentence of decent English, and
see if his courage doesn’t fail him there. Give him his books to read
for his degree, and, strong as he is, he will be taken ill at the sight
of them. You wish me to see your brother. Nothing will induce me to see
him, until his way of life (as you call it) is altered altogether. I
have but one hope of its ever being altered now. It is barely possible
that the influence of a sensible woman--possessed of such advantages
of birth and fortune as may compel respect, even from a savage--might
produce its effect on Geoffrey. If he wishes to find his way back into
this house, let him find his way back into good society first, and bring
me a daughter-in-law to plead his cause for him--whom his mother and I
can respect and receive. When that happens, I shall begin to have some
belief in Geoffrey. Until it does happen, don’t introduce your brother
into any future conversations which you may have with Me. To return to
your election. I have some advice to give you before you go back. You
will do well to go back to-night. Lift me up on the pillow. I shall
speak more easily with my head high.”

His son lifted him on the pillows, and once more entreated him to spare
himself.

It was useless. No remonstrances shook the iron resolution of the man
who had hewed his way through the rank and file of political humanity to
his own high place apart from the rest. Helpless, ghastly, snatched out
of the very jaws of death, there he lay, steadily distilling the clear
common-sense which had won him all his worldly rewards into the mind of
his son. Not a hint was missed, not a caution was forgotten, that could
guide Julius safely through the miry political ways which he had trodden
so safely and so dextrously himself. An hour more had passed before the
impenetrable old man closed his weary eyes, and consented to take his
nourishment and compose himself to rest. His last words, rendered barely
articulate by exhaustion, still sang the praises of party manoeuvres
and political strife. “It’s a grand career! I miss the House of Commons,
Julius, as I miss nothing else!”

Left free to pursue his own thoughts, and to guide his own movements,
Julius went straight from Lord Holchester’s bedside to Lady Holchester’s
boudoir.

“Has your father said any thing about Geoffrey?” was his mother’s first
question as soon as he entered the room.

“My father gives Geoffrey a last chance, if Geoffrey will only take it.”

Lady Holchester’s face clouded. “I know,” she said, with a look of
disappointment. “His last chance is to read for his degree. Hopeless,
my dear. Quite hopeless! If it had only been something easier than that;
something that rested with me--”

“It does rest with you,” interposed Julius. “My dear mother!--can you
believe it?--Geoffrey’s last chance is (in one word) Marriage!”

“Oh, Julius! it’s too good to be true!”

Julius repeated his father’s own words. Lady Holchester looked twenty
years younger as she listened. When he had done she rang the bell.

“No matter who calls,” she said to the servant, “I am not at home.” She
turned to Julius, kissed him, and made a place for him on the sofa by
her side. “Geoffrey shall take _that_ chance,” she said, gayly--“I will
answer for it! I have three women in my mind, any one of whom would suit
him. Sit down, my dear, and let us consider carefully which of the three
will be most likely to attract Geoffrey, and to come up to your father’s
standard of what his daughter-in-law ought to be. When we have decided,
don’t trust to writing. Go yourself and see Geoffrey at his hotel.”

Mother and son entered on their consultation--and innocently sowed the
seeds of a terrible harvest to come.


CHAPTER THE SIXTEENTH.

GEOFFREY AS A PUBLIC CHARACTER.

TIME had advanced to after noon before the selection of Geoffrey’s
future wife was accomplished, and before the instructions of Geoffrey’s
brother were complete enough to justify the opening of the matrimonial
negotiation at Nagle’s Hotel.

“Don’t leave him till you have got his promise,” were Lady Holchester’s
last words when her son started on his mission.

“If Geoffrey doesn’t jump at what I am going to offer him,” was the
son’s reply, “I shall agree with my father that the case is hopeless;
and I shall end, like my father, in giving Geoffrey up.”

This was strong language for Julius to use. It was not easy to rouse the
disciplined and equable temperament of Lord Holchester’s eldest son.
No two men were ever more thoroughly unlike each other than these two
brothers. It is melancholy to acknowledge it of the blood relation of
a “stroke oar,” but it must be owned, in the interests of truth, that
Julius cultivated his intelligence. This degenerate Briton could digest
books--and couldn’t digest beer. Could learn languages--and couldn’t
learn to row. Practiced the foreign vice of perfecting himself in the
art of playing on a musical instrument and couldn’t learn the English
virtue of knowing a good horse when he saw him. Got through life.
(Heaven only knows how!) without either a biceps or a betting-book.
Had openly acknowledged, in English society, that he didn’t think the
barking of a pack of hounds the finest music in the world. Could go to
foreign parts, and see a mountain which nobody had ever got to the top
of yet--and didn’t instantly feel his honor as an Englishman involved in
getting to the top of it himself. Such people may, and do, exist among
the inferior races of the Continent. Let us thank Heaven, Sir, that
England never has been, and never will be, the right place for them!

Arrived at Nagle’s Hotel, and finding nobody to inquire of in the hall,
Julius applied to the young lady who sat behind the window of “the
bar.” The young lady was reading something so deeply interesting in the
evening newspaper that she never even heard him. Julius went into the
coffee-room.

The waiter, in his corner, was absorbed over a second newspaper. Three
gentlemen, at three different tables, were absorbed in a third, fourth,
and fifth newspaper. They all alike went on with their reading without
noticing the entrance of the stranger. Julius ventured on disturbing
the waiter by asking for Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn. At the sound of that
illustrious name the waiter looked up with a start. “Are you Mr.
Delamayn’s brother, Sir?”

“Yes.”

The three gentlemen at the tables looked up with a start. The light of
Geoffrey’s celebrity fell, reflected, on Geoffrey’s brother, and made a
public character of him.

“You’ll find Mr. Geoffrey, Sir,” said the waiter, in a flurried, excited
manner, “at the Cock and Bottle, Putney.”

“I expected to find him here. I had an appointment with him at this
hotel.”

The wait er opened his eyes on Julius with an expression of blank
astonishment. “Haven’t you heard the news, Sir?”

“No!”

“God bless my soul!” exclaimed the waiter--and offered the newspaper.

“God bless my soul!” exclaimed the three gentlemen--and offered the
three newspapers.

“What is it?” asked Julius.

“What is it?” repeated the waiter, in a hollow voice. “The most dreadful
thing that’s happened in my time. It’s all up, Sir, with the great
Foot-Race at Fulham. Tinkler has gone stale.”

The three gentlemen dropped solemnly back into their three chairs, and
repeated the dreadful intelligence, in chorus--“Tinkler has gone stale.”

A man who stands face to face with a great national disaster, and who
doesn’t understand it, is a man who will do wisely to hold his tongue
and enlighten his mind without asking other people to help him. Julius
accepted the waiter’s newspaper, and sat down to make (if possible) two
discoveries: First, as to whether “Tinkler” did, or did not, mean a man.
Second, as to what particular form of human affliction you implied when
you described that man as “gone stale.”

There was no difficulty in finding the news. It was printed in the
largest type, and was followed by a personal statement of the facts,
taken one way--which was followed, in its turn, by another personal
statement of the facts, taken in another way. More particulars, and
further personal statements, were promised in later editions. The royal
salute of British journalism thundered the announcement of Tinkler’s
staleness before a people prostrate on the national betting book.

Divested of exaggeration, the facts were few enough and simple enough.
A famous Athletic Association of the North had challenged a famous
Athletic Association of the South. The usual “Sports” were to take
place--such as running, jumping, “putting” the hammer, throwing
cricket-balls, and the like--and the whole was to wind up with a
Foot-Race of unexampled length and difficulty in the annals of human
achievement between the two best men on either side. “Tinkler” was the
best man on the side of the South. “Tinkler” was backed in innumerable
betting-books to win. And Tinkler’s lungs had suddenly given way under
stress of training! A prospect of witnessing a prodigious achievement in
foot-racing, and (more important still) a prospect of winning and losing
large sums of money, was suddenly withdrawn from the eyes of the British
people. The “South” could produce no second opponent worthy of the North
out of its own associated resources. Surveying the athletic world in
general, but one man existed who might possibly replace “Tinkler”--and
it was doubtful, in the last degree, whether he would consent to come
forward under the circumstances. The name of that man--Julius read it
with horror--was Geoffrey Delamayn.

Profound silence reigned in the coffee-room. Julius laid down the
newspaper, and looked about him. The waiter was busy, in his corner,
with a pencil and a betting-book. The three gentlemen were busy, at the
three tables, with pencils and betting-books.

“Try and persuade him!” said the waiter, piteously, as Delamayn’s
brother rose to leave the room.

“Try and persuade him!” echoed the three gentlemen, as Delamayn’s
brother opened the door and went out.

Julius called a cab and told the driver (busy with a pencil and a
betting-book) to go to the Cock and Bottle, Putney. The man brightened
into a new being at the prospect. No need to hurry him; he drove,
unasked, at the top of his horse’s speed.

As the cab drew near to its destination the signs of a great national
excitement appeared, and multiplied. The lips of a people pronounced,
with a grand unanimity, the name of “Tinkler.” The heart of a people
hung suspended (mostly in the public houses) on the chances for and
against the possibility of replacing “Tinkler” by another man. The
scene in front of the inn was impressive in the highest degree. Even the
London blackguard stood awed and quiet in the presence of the national
calamity. Even the irrepressible man with the apron, who always turns up
to sell nuts and sweetmeats in a crowd, plied his trade in silence, and
found few indeed (to the credit of the nation be it spoken) who had
the heart to crack a nut at such a time as this. The police were on the
spot, in large numbers, and in mute sympathy with the people, touching
to see. Julius, on being stopped at the door, mentioned his name--and
received an ovation. His brother! oh, heavens, his brother! The people
closed round him, the people shook hands with him, the people invoked
blessings on his head. Julius was half suffocated, when the police
rescued him, and landed him safe in the privileged haven on the inner
side of the public house door. A deafening tumult broke out, as he
entered, from the regions above stairs. A distant voice screamed,
“Mind yourselves!” A hatless shouting man tore down through the people
congregated on the stairs. “Hooray! Hooray! He’s promised to do it! He’s
entered for the race!” Hundreds on hundreds of voices took up the cry.
A roar of cheering burst from the people outside. Reporters for the
newspapers raced, in frantic procession, out of the inn, and rushed into
cabs to put the news in print. The hand of the landlord, leading Julius
carefully up stairs by the arm, trembled with excitement. “His brother,
gentlemen! his brother!” At those magic words a lane was made through
the throng. At those magic words the closed door of the council-chamber
flew open; and Julius found himself among the Athletes of his native
country, in full parliament assembled. Is any description of them
needed? The description of Geoffrey applies to them all. The manhood
and muscle of England resemble the wool and mutton of England, in this
respect, that there is about as much variety in a flock of athletes as
in a flock of sheep. Julius looked about him, and saw the same man in
the same dress, with the same health, strength, tone, tastes, habits,
conversation, and pursuits, repeated infinitely in every part of the
room. The din was deafening; the enthusiasm (to an uninitiated stranger)
something at once hideous and terrifying to behold. Geoffrey had been
lifted bodily on to the table, in his chair, so as to be visible to the
whole room. They sang round him, they danced round him, they cheered
round him, they swore round him. He was hailed, in maudlin terms of
endearment, by grateful giants with tears in their eyes. “Dear old man!”
 “Glorious, noble, splendid, beautiful fellow!” They hugged him. They
patted him on the back. They wrung his hands. They prodded and punched
his muscles. They embraced the noble legs that were going to run
the unexampled race. At the opposite end of the room, where it was
physically impossible to get near the hero, the enthusiasm vented itself
in feats of strength and acts of destruction. Hercules I. cleared a
space with his elbows, and laid down--and Hercules II. took him up in
his teeth. Hercules III. seized the poker from the fireplace, and broke
it on his arm. Hercules IV. followed with the tongs, and shattered them
on his neck. The smashing of the furniture and the pulling down of the
house seemed likely to succeed--when Geoffrey’s eye lighted by accident
on Julius, and Geoffrey’s voice, calling fiercely for his brother,
hushed the wild assembly into sudden attention, and turned the fiery
enthusiasm into a new course. Hooray for his brother! One, two,
three--and up with his brother on our shoulders! Four five, six--and
on with his brother, over our heads, to the other end of the room! See,
boys--see! the hero has got him by the collar! the hero has lifted him
on the table! The hero heated red-hot with his own triumph, welcomes
the poor little snob cheerfully, with a volley of oaths. “Thunder and
lightning! Explosion and blood! What’s up now, Julius? What’s up now?”

Julius recovered his breath, and arranged his coat. The quiet little
man, who had just muscle enough to lift a dictionary from the shelf, and
just training enough to play the fiddle, so far from being daunted by
the rough reception accorded to him, appeared to feel no other sentiment
in relation to it than a sentiment of unmitigated contempt.

“You’re not frightened, are you?” said Geoffrey. “Our fellows are a
roughish lot, but they mean well.”

“I am not frightened,” answered Julius. “I am only wondering--when the
Schools and Universities of England turn out such a set of ruffians as
these--how long the Schools and Universities of England will last.”

“Mind what you are about, Julius! They’ll cart you out of window if they
hear you.”

“They will only confirm my opinion of them, Geoffrey, if they do.”

Here the assembly, seeing but not hearing the colloquy between the two
brothers, became uneasy on the subject of the coming race. A roar of
voices summoned Geoffrey to announce it, if there was any thing wrong.
Having pacified the meeting, Geoffrey turned again to his brother, and
asked him, in no amiable mood, what the devil he wanted there?

“I want to tell you something, before I go back to Scotland,” answered
Julius. “My father is willing to give you a last chance. If you don’t
take it, _my_ doors are closed against you as well as _his._”

Nothing is more remarkable, in its way, than the sound common-sense and
admirable self-restraint exhibited by the youth of the present time when
confronted by an emergency in which their own interests are concerned.
Instead of resenting the tone which his brother had taken with him,
Geoffrey instantly descended from the pedestal of glory on which
he stood, and placed himself without a struggle in the hands which
vicariously held his destiny--otherwise, the hands which vicariously
held the purse. In five minutes more the meeting had been dismissed,
with all needful assurances relating to Geoffrey’s share in the coming
Sports--and the two brothers were closeted together in one of the
private rooms of the inn.

“Out with it!” said Geoffrey. “And don’t be long about it.”

“I won’t be five minutes,” replied Julius. “I go back to-night by the
mail-train; and I have a great deal to do in the mean time. Here it is,
in plain words: My father consents to see you again, if you choose to
settle in life--with his approval. And my mother has discovered where
you may find a wife. Birth, beauty, and money are all offered to you.
Take them--and you recover your position as Lord Holchester’s son.
Refuse them--and you go to ruin your own way.”

Geoffrey’s reception of the news from home was not of the most
reassuring kind. Instead of answering he struck his fist furiously on
the table, and cursed with all his heart some absent woman unnamed.

“I have nothing to do with any degrading connection which you may have
formed,” Julius went on. “I have only to put the matter before you
exactly as it stands, and to leave you to decide for yourself. The
lady in question was formerly Miss Newenden--a descendant of one of the
oldest families in England. She is now Mrs. Glenarm--the young widow
(and the childless widow) of the great iron-master of that name. Birth
and fortune--she unites both. Her income is a clear ten thousand a
year. My father can and will, make it fifteen thousand, if you are lucky
enough to persuade her to marry you. My mother answers for her personal
qualities. And my wife has met her at our house in London. She is now,
as I hear, staying with some friends in Scotland; and when I get back I
will take care that an invitation is sent to her to pay her next visit
at my house. It remains, of course, to be seen whether you are fortunate
enough to produce a favorable impression on her. In the mean time you
will be doing every thing that my father can ask of you, if you make the
attempt.”

Geoffrey impatiently dismissed that part of the question from all
consideration.

“If she don’t cotton to a man who’s going to run in the Great Race at
Fulham,” he said, “there are plenty as good as she is who will! That’s
not the difficulty. Bother _that!_”

“I tell you again, I have nothing to do with your difficulties,” Julius
resumed. “Take the rest of the day to consider what I have said to you.
If you decide to accept the proposal, I shall expect you to prove you
are in earnest by meeting me at the station to-night. We will travel
back to Scotland together. You will complete your interrupted visit at
Lady Lundie’s (it is important, in my interests, that you should treat a
person of her position in the county with all due respect); and my wife
will make the necessary arrangements with Mrs. Glenarm, in anticipation
of your return to our house. There is nothing more to be said, and no
further necessity of my staying here. If you join me at the station
to-night, your sister-in-law and I will do all we can to help you. If I
travel back to Scotland alone, don’t trouble yourself to follow--I have
done with you.” He shook hands with his brother, and went out.

Left alone, Geoffrey lit his pipe and sent for the landlord.

“Get me a boat. I shall scull myself up the river for an hour or two.
And put in some towels. I may take a swim.”

The landlord received the order--with a caution addressed to his
illustrious guest.

“Don’t show yourself in front of the house, Sir! If you let the people
see you, they’re in such a state of excitement, the police won’t answer
for keeping them in order.”

“All right. I’ll go out by the back way.”

He took a turn up and down the room. What were the difficulties to be
overcome before he could profit by the golden prospect which his brother
had offered to him? The Sports? No! The committee had promised to
defer the day, if he wished it--and a month’s training, in his physical
condition, would be amply enough for him. Had he any personal
objection to trying his luck with Mrs. Glenarm? Not he! Any woman would
do--provided his father was satisfied, and the money was all right. The
obstacle which was really in his way was the obstacle of the woman whom
he had ruined. Anne! The one insuperable difficulty was the difficulty
of dealing with Anne.

“We’ll see how it looks,” he said to himself, “after a pull up the
river!”

The landlord and the police inspector smuggled him out by the back way
unknown to the expectant populace in front The two men stood on the
river-bank admiring him, as he pulled away from them, with his long,
powerful, easy, beautiful stroke.

“That’s what I call the pride and flower of England!” said the
inspector. “Has the betting on him begun?”

“Six to four,” said the landlord, “and no takers.”



Julius went early to the station that night. His mother was very
anxious. “Don’t let Geoffrey find an excuse in your example,” she said,
“if he is late.”

The first person whom Julius saw on getting out of the carriage was
Geoffrey--with his ticket taken, and his portmanteau in charge of the
guard.



FOURTH SCENE.--WINDYGATES.



CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH

NEAR IT.

THE Library at Windygates was the largest and the handsomest room in
the house. The two grand divisions under which Literature is usually
arranged in these days occupied the customary places in it. On the
shelves which ran round the walls were the books which humanity in
general respects--and does not read. On the tables distributed over
the floor were the books which humanity in general reads--and does not
respect. In the first class, the works of the wise ancients; and
the Histories, Biographies, and Essays of writers of more modern
times--otherwise the Solid Literature, which is universally respected,
and occasionally read. In the second class, the Novels of our own
day--otherwise the Light Literature, which is universally read, and
occasionally respected. At Windygates, as elsewhere, we believed History
to be high literature, because it assumed to be true to Authorities
(of which we knew little)--and Fiction to be low literature, because it
attempted to be true to Nature (of which we knew less). At Windygates as
elsewhere, we were always more or less satisfied with ourselves, if
we were publicly discovered consulting our History--and more or less
ashamed of ourselves, if we were publicly discovered devouring our
Fiction. An architectural peculiarity in the original arrangement of the
library favored the development of this common and curious form of human
stupidity. While a row of luxurious arm-chairs, in the main thoroughfare
of the room, invited the reader of solid literature to reveal himself
in the act of cultivating a virtue, a row of snug little curtained
recesses, opening at intervals out of one of the walls, enabled the
reader of light literature to conceal himself in the act of indulging
a vice. For the rest, all the minor accessories of this spacious and
tranquil place were as plentiful and as well chosen as the heart could
desire. And solid literature and light literature, and great writers and
small, were all bounteously illuminated alike by a fine broad flow of
the light of heaven, pouring into the room through windows that opened
to the floor.



It was the fourth day from the day of Lady Lundie’s garden-party, and
it wanted an hour or more of the time at which the luncheon-bell usually
rang.

The guests at Windygates were most of them in the garden, enjoying the
morning sunshine, after a prevalent mist and rain for some days past.
Two gentlemen (exceptions to the general rule) were alone in the
library. They were the two last gentlemen in the would who could
possibly be supposed to have any legitimate motive for meeting each
other in a place of literary seclusion. One was Arnold Brinkworth, and
the other was Geoffrey Delamayn.

They had arrived together at Windygates that morning. Geoffrey had
traveled from London with his brother by the train of the previous
night. Arnold, delayed in getting away at his own time, from his own
property, by ceremonies incidental to his position which were not to be
abridged without giving offense to many worthy people--had caught the
passing train early that morning at the station nearest to him, and had
returned to Lady Lundie’s, as he had left Lady Lundie’s, in company with
his friend.

After a short preliminary interview with Blanche, Arnold had rejoined
Geoffrey in the safe retirement of the library, to say what was still
left to be said between them on the subject of Anne. Having completed
his report of events at Craig Fernie, he was now naturally waiting to
hear what Geoffrey had to say on his side. To Arnold’s astonishment,
Geoffrey coolly turned away to leave the library without uttering a
word.

Arnold stopped him without ceremony.

“Not quite so fast, Geoffrey,” he said. “I have an interest in Miss
Silvester’s welfare as well as in yours. Now you are back again in
Scotland, what are you going to do?”

If Geoffrey had told the truth, he must have stated his position much as
follows:

He had necessarily decided on deserting Anne when he had decided on
joining his brother on the journey back. But he had advanced no farther
than this. How he was to abandon the woman who had trusted him, without
seeing his own dastardly conduct dragged into the light of day, was more
than he yet knew. A vague idea of at once pacifying and deluding Anne,
by a marriage which should be no marriage at all, had crossed his mind
on the journey. He had asked himself whether a trap of that sort might
not be easily set in a country notorious for the looseness of its
marriage laws--if a man only knew how? And he had thought it likely that
his well-informed brother, who lived in Scotland, might be tricked
into innocently telling him what he wanted to know. He had turned the
conversation to the subject of Scotch marriages in general by way of
trying the experiment. Julius had not studied the question; Julius knew
nothing about it; and there the experiment had come to an end. As the
necessary result of the check thus encountered, he was now in Scotland
with absolutely nothing to trust to as a means of effecting his release
but the chapter of accidents, aided by his own resolution to marry Mrs.
Glenarm. Such was his position, and such should have been the substance
of his reply when he was confronted by Arnold’s question, and plainly
asked what he meant to do.

“The right thing,” he answered, unblushingly. “And no mistake about it.”

“I’m glad to hear you see your way so plainly,” returned Arnold. “In
your place, I should have been all abroad. I was wondering, only the
other day, whether you would end, as I should have ended, in consulting
Sir Patrick.”

Geoffrey eyed him sharply.

“Consult Sir Patrick?” he repeated. “Why would you have done that?”

“_I_ shouldn’t have known how to set about marrying her,” replied
Arnold. “And--being in Scotland--I should have applied to Sir Patrick
(without mentioning names, of course), because he would be sure to know
all about it.”

“Suppose I don’t see my way quite so plainly as you think,” said
Geoffrey. “Would you advise me--”

“To consult Sir Patrick? Certainly! He has passed his life in the
practice of the Scotch law. Didn’t you know that?”

“No.”

“Then take my advice--and consult him. You needn’t mention names. You
can say it’s the case of a friend.”

The idea was a new one and a good one. Geoffrey looked longingly toward
the door. Eager to make Sir Patrick his innocent accomplice on the
spot, he made a second attempt to leave the library; and made it for the
second time in vain. Arnold had more unwelcome inquiries to make, and
more advice to give unasked.

“How have you arranged about meeting Miss Silvester?” he went on. “You
can’t go to the hotel in the character of her husband. I have prevented
that. Where else are you to meet her? She is all alone; she must be
weary of waiting, poor thing. Can you manage matters so as to see her
to-day?”

After staring hard at Arnold while he was speaking, Geoffrey burst out
laughing when he had done. A disinterested anxiety for the welfare of
another person was one of those refinements of feeling which a muscular
education had not fitted him to understand.

“I say, old boy,” he burst out, “you seem to take an extraordinary
interest in Miss Silvester! You haven’t fallen in love with her
yourself--have you?”

“Come! come!” said Arnold, seriously. “Neither she nor I deserve to
be sneered at, in that way. I have made a sacrifice to your interests,
Geoffrey--and so has she.”

Geoffrey’s face became serious again. His secret was in Arnold’s hands;
and his estimate of Arnold’s character was founded, unconsciously,
on his experience of himself. “All right,” he said, by way of timely
apology and concession. “I was only joking.”

“As much joking as you please, when you have married her,” replied
Arnold. “It seems serious enough, to my mind, till then.” He
stopped--considered--and laid his hand very earnestly on Geoffrey’s arm.
“Mind!” he resumed. “You are not to breathe a word to any living soul,
of my having been near the inn!”

“I’ve promised to hold my tongue, once already. What do you want more?”

“I am anxious, Geoffrey. I was at Craig Fernie, remember, when Blanche
came there! She has been telling me all that happened, poor darling, in
the firm persuasion that I was miles off at the time. I swear I couldn’t
look her in the face! What would she think of me, if she knew the truth?
Pray be careful! pray be careful!”

Geoffrey’s patience began to fail him.

“We had all this out,” he said, “on the way here from the station.
What’s the good of going over the ground again?”

“You’re quite right,” said Arnold, good-humoredly. “The fact is--I’m out
of sorts, this morning. My mind misgives me--I don’t know why.”

“Mind?” repeated Geoffrey, in high contempt. “It’s flesh--that’s what’s
the matter with _you._ You’re nigh on a stone over your right weight.
Mind he hanged! A man in healthy training don’t know that he has got
a mind. Take a turn with the dumb-bells, and a run up hill with a
great-coat on. Sweat it off, Arnold! Sweat it off!”

With that excellent advice, he turned to leave the room for the third
time. Fate appeared to have determined to keep him imprisoned in the
library, that morning. On this occasion, it was a servant who got in the
way--a servant, with a letter and a message. “The man waits for answer.”

Geoffrey looked at the letter. It was in his brother’s handwriting.
He had left Julius at the junction about three hours since. What could
Julius possibly have to say to him now?

He opened the letter. Julius had to announce that Fortune was favoring
them already. He had heard news of Mrs. Glenarm, as soon as he reached
home. She had called on his wife, during his absence in London--she
had been inv ited to the house--and she had promised to accept the
invitation early in the week. “Early in the week,” Julius wrote, “may
mean to-morrow. Make your apologies to Lady Lundie; and take care not
to offend her. Say that family reasons, which you hope soon to have
the pleasure of confiding to her, oblige you to appeal once more to her
indulgence--and come to-morrow, and help us to receive Mrs. Glenarm.”

Even Geoffrey was startled, when he found himself met by a sudden
necessity for acting on his own decision. Anne knew where his brother
lived. Suppose Anne (not knowing where else to find him) appeared at
his brother’s house, and claimed him in the presence of Mrs. Glenarm? He
gave orders to have the messenger kept waiting, and said he would send
back a written reply.

“From Craig Fernie?” asked Arnold, pointing to the letter in his
friend’s hand.

Geoffrey looked up with a frown. He had just opened his lips to answer
that ill-timed reference to Anne, in no very friendly terms, when a
voice, calling to Arnold from the lawn outside, announced the appearance
of a third person in the library, and warned the two gentlemen that
their private interview was at an end.


CHAPTER THE EIGHTEENTH.

NEARER STILL.

BLANCHE stepped lightly into the room, through one of the open French
windows.

“What are you doing here?” she said to Arnold.

“Nothing. I was just going to look for you in the garden.”

“The garden is insufferable, this morning.” Saying those words, she
fanned herself with her handkerchief, and noticed Geoffrey’s presence
in the room with a look of very thinly-concealed annoyance at the
discovery. “Wait till I am married!” she thought. “Mr. Delamayn will be
cleverer than I take him to be, if he gets much of his friend’s company
_then!_”

“A trifle too hot--eh?” said Geoffrey, seeing her eyes fixed on him, and
supposing that he was expected to say something.

Having performed that duty he walked away without waiting for a reply;
and seated himself with his letter, at one of the writing-tables in the
library.

“Sir Patrick is quite right about the young men of the present day,”
 said Blanche, turning to Arnold. “Here is this one asks me a question,
and doesn’t wait for an answer. There are three more of them, out in
the garden, who have been talking of nothing, for the last hour, but the
pedigrees of horses and the muscles of men. When we are married, Arnold,
don’t present any of your male friends to me, unless they have turned
fifty. What shall we do till luncheon-time? It’s cool and quiet in here
among the books. I want a mild excitement--and I have got absolutely
nothing to do. Suppose you read me some poetry?”

“While _he_ is here?” asked Arnold, pointing to the personified
antithesis of poetry--otherwise to Geoffrey, seated with his back to
them at the farther end of the library.

“Pooh!” said Blanche. “There’s only an animal in the room. We needn’t
mind _him!_”

“I say!” exclaimed Arnold. “You’re as bitter, this morning, as Sir
Patrick himself. What will you say to Me when we are married if you talk
in that way of my friend?”

Blanche stole her hand into Arnold’s hand and gave it a little
significant squeeze. “I shall always be nice to _you,_” she
whispered--with a look that contained a host of pretty promises in
itself. Arnold returned the look (Geoffrey was unquestionably in the
way!). Their eyes met tenderly (why couldn’t the great awkward brute
write his letters somewhere else?). With a faint little sigh, Blanche
dropped resignedly into one of the comfortable arm-chairs--and asked
once more for “some poetry,” in a voice that faltered softly, and with a
color that was brighter than usual.

“Whose poetry am I to read?” inquired Arnold.

“Any body’s,” said Blanche. “This is another of my impulses. I am dying
for some poetry. I don’t know whose poetry. And I don’t know why.”

Arnold went straight to the nearest book-shelf, and took down the first
volume that his hand lighted on--a solid quarto, bound in sober brown.

“Well?” asked Blanche. “What have you found?”

Arnold opened the volume, and conscientiously read the title exactly as
it stood:

“Paradise Lost. A Poem. By John Milton.”

“I have never read Milton,” said Blanche. “Have you?”

“No.”

“Another instance of sympathy between us. No educated person ought to be
ignorant of Milton. Let us be educated persons. Please begin.”

“At the beginning?”

“Of course! Stop! You musn’t sit all that way off--you must sit where
I can look at you. My attention wanders if I don’t look at people while
they read.”

Arnold took a stool at Blanche’s feet, and opened the “First Book” of
Paradise Lost. His “system” as a reader of blank verse was simplicity
itself. In poetry we are some of us (as many living poets can testify)
all for sound; and some of us (as few living poets can testify) all for
sense. Arnold was for sound. He ended every line inexorably with a
full stop; and he got on to his full stop as fast as the inevitable
impediment of the words would let him. He began:

     “Of Man’s first disobedience and the fruit.
     Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste.
     Brought death into the world and all our woe.
     With loss of Eden till one greater Man.
     Restore us and regain the blissful seat.
     Sing heavenly Muse--”

“Beautiful!” said Blanche. “What a shame it seems to have had Milton all
this time in the library and never to have read him yet! We will have
Mornings with Milton, Arnold. He seems long; but we are both young, and
we _may_ live to get to the end of him. Do you know dear, now I look
at you again, you don’t seem to have come back to Windygates in good
spirits.”

“Don’t I? I can’t account for it.”

“I can. It’s sympathy with Me. I am out of spirits too.”

“You!”

“Yes. After what I saw at Craig Fernie, I grow more and more uneasy
about Anne. You will understand that, I am sure, after what I told you
this morning?”

Arnold looked back, in a violent hurry, from Blanche to Milton. That
renewed reference to events at Craig Fernie was a renewed reproach to
him for his conduct at the inn. He attempted to silence her by pointing
to Geoffrey.

“Don’t forget,” he whispered, “that there is somebody in the room
besides ourselves.”

Blanche shrugged her shoulders contemptuously.

“What does _he_ matter?” she asked. “What does _he_ know or care about
Anne?”

There was only one other chance of diverting her from the delicate
subject. Arnold went on reading headlong, two lines in advance of the
place at which he had left off, with more sound and less sense than
ever:

     “In the beginning how the heavens and earth.
     Rose out of Chaos or if Sion hill--”

At “Sion hill,” Blanche interrupted him again.

“Do wait a little, Arnold. I can’t have Milton crammed down my throat
in that way. Besides I had something to say. Did I tell you that I
consulted my uncle about Anne? I don’t think I did. I caught him alone
in this very room. I told him all I have told you. I showed him Anne’s
letter. And I said, ‘What do you think?’ He took a little time (and a
great deal of snuff) before he would say what he thought. When he did
speak, he told me I might quite possibly be right in suspecting Anne’s
husband to be a very abominable person. His keeping himself out of my
way was (just as I thought) a suspicious circumstance, to begin with.
And then there was the sudden extinguishing of the candles, when I first
went in. I thought (and Mrs. Inchbare thought) it was done by the wind.
Sir Patrick suspects it was done by the horrid man himself, to prevent
me from seeing him when I entered the room. I am firmly persuaded Sir
Patrick is right. What do _you_ think?”

“I think we had better go on,” said Arnold, with his head down over his
book. “We seem to be forgetting Milton.”

“How you do worry about Milton! That last bit wasn’t as interesting as
the other. Is there any love in Paradise Lost?”

“Perhaps we may find some if we go on.”

“Very well, then. Go on. And be quick about it.”

Arnold was _so_ quick about it that he lost his place. Instead of going
on he went back. He read once more:

     “In the beginning how the heavens and earth.
     Rose out of  Chaos or if Sion hill--”

“You read that before,” said Blanche.

“I think not.”

“I’m sure you did. When you said ‘Sion hill’ I recollect I thought of
the Methodists directly. I couldn’t have thought of the Methodists, if
you hadn’t said ‘Sion hill.’ It stands to reason.”

“I’ll try the next page,” said Arnold. “I can’t have read that
before--for I haven’t turned over yet.”

Blanche threw herself back in her chair, and flung her handkerchief
resignedly over her face. “The flies,” she explained. “I’m not going to
sleep. Try the next page. Oh, dear me, try the next page!”

Arnold proceeded:

     “Say first for heaven hides nothing from thy view.
     Nor the deep tract of hell say first what cause.
     Moved our grand parents in that happy state--”

Blanche suddenly threw the handkerchief off again, and sat bolt upright
in her chair. “Shut it up,” she cried. “I can’t bear any more. Leave
off, Arnold--leave off!”

“What’s, the matter now?”

“‘That happy state,’” said Blanche. “What does ‘that happy state’ mean?
Marriage, of course! And marriage reminds me of Anne. I won’t have any
more. Paradise Lost is painful. Shut it up. Well, my next question to
Sir Patrick was, of course, to know what he thought Anne’s husband had
done. The wretch had behaved infamously to her in some way. In what way?
Was it any thing to do with her marriage? My uncle considered again. He
thought it quite possible. Private marriages were dangerous things (he
said)--especially in Scotland. He asked me if they had been married in
Scotland. I couldn’t tell him--I only said, ‘Suppose they were? What
then?’ ‘It’s barely possible, in that case,’ says Sir Patrick, ‘that
Miss Silvester may be feeling uneasy about her marriage. She may even
have reason--or may think she has reason--to doubt whether it is a
marriage at all.’”

Arnold started, and looked round at Geoffrey still sitting at the
writing-table with his back turned on them. Utterly as Blanche and Sir
Patrick were mistaken in their estimate of Anne’s position at Craig
Fernie, they had drifted, nevertheless, into discussing the very
question in which Geoffrey and Miss Silvester were interested--the
question of marriage in Scotland. It was impossible in Blanche’s
presence to tell Geoffrey that he might do well to listen to Sir
Patrick’s opinion, even at second-hand. Perhaps the words had found
their way to him? perhaps he was listening already, of his own accord?

(He _was_ listening. Blanche’s last words had found their way to him,
while he was pondering over his half-finished letter to his brother. He
waited to hear more--without moving, and with the pen suspended in his
hand.)

Blanche proceeded, absently winding her fingers in and out of Arnold’s
hair as he sat at her feet:

“It flashed on me instantly that Sir Patrick had discovered the
truth. Of course I told him so. He laughed, and said I mustn’t jump at
conclusions We were guessing quite in the dark; and all the distressing
things I had noticed at the inn might admit of some totally different
explanation. He would have gone on splitting straws in that provoking
way the whole morning if I hadn’t stopped him. I was strictly logical.
I said _I_ had seen Anne, and _he_ hadn’t--and that made all the
difference. I said, ‘Every thing that puzzled and frightened me in the
poor darling is accounted for now. The law must, and shall, reach
that man, uncle--and I’ll pay for it!’ I was so much in earnest that
I believe I cried a little. What do you think the dear old man did? He
took me on his knee and gave me a kiss; and he said, in the nicest way,
that he would adopt my view, for the present, if I would promise not to
cry any more; and--wait! the cream of it is to come!--that he would put
the view in quite a new light to me as soon as I was composed again. You
may imagine how soon I dried my eyes, and what a picture of composure I
presented in the course of half a minute. ‘Let us take it for granted,’
says Sir Patrick, ‘that this man unknown has really tried to deceive
Miss Silvester, as you and I suppose. I can tell you one thing: it’s as
likely as not that, in trying to overreach _her,_ he may (without in the
least suspecting it) have ended in overreaching himself.’”

(Geoffrey held his breath. The pen dropped unheeded from his fingers. It
was coming. The light that his brother couldn’t throw on the subject was
dawning on it at last!)

Blanche resumed:

“I was so interested, and it made such a tremendous impression on me,
that I haven’t forgotten a word. ‘I mustn’t make that poor little head
of yours ache with Scotch law,’ my uncle said; ‘I must put it plainly.
There are marriages allowed in Scotland, Blanche, which are called
Irregular Marriages--and very abominable things they are. But they have
this accidental merit in the present case. It is extremely difficult for
a man to pretend to marry in Scotland, and not really to do it. And it
is, on the other hand, extremely easy for a man to drift into marrying
in Scotland without feeling the slightest suspicion of having done it
himself.’ That was exactly what he said, Arnold. When _we_ are married,
it sha’n’t be in Scotland!”

(Geoffrey’s ruddy color paled. If this was true he might be caught
himself in the trap which he had schemed to set for Anne! Blanche went
on with her narrative. He waited and listened.)

“My uncle asked me if I understood him so far. It was as plain as the
sun at noonday, of course I understood him! ‘Very well, then--now for
the application!’ says Sir Patrick. ‘Once more supposing our guess to be
the right one, Miss Silvester may be making herself very unhappy without
any real cause. If this invisible man at Craig Fernie has actually
meddled, I won’t say with marrying her, but only with pretending to make
her his wife, and if he has attempted it in Scotland, the chances are
nine to one (though _he_ may not believe it, and though _she_ may not
believe it) that he has really married her, after all.’ My uncle’s own
words again! Quite needless to say that, half an hour after they were
out of his lips, I had sent them to Craig Fernie in a letter to Anne!”

(Geoffrey’s stolidly-staring eyes suddenly brightened. A light of
the devil’s own striking illuminated him. An idea of the devil’s own
bringing entered his mind. He looked stealthily round at the man whose
life he had saved--at the man who had devotedly served him in return. A
hideous cunning leered at his mouth and peeped out of his eyes. “Arnold
Brinkworth pretended to be married to her at the inn. By the lord Harry!
that’s a way out of it that never struck me before!” With that thought
in his heart he turned back again to his half-finished letter to Julius.
For once in his life he was strongly, fiercely agitated. For once in
his life he was daunted--and that by his Own Thought! He had written to
Julius under a strong sense of the necessity of gaining time to delude
Anne into leaving Scotland before he ventured on paying his addresses to
Mrs. Glenarm. His letter contained a string of clumsy excuses, intended
to delay his return to his brother’s house. “No,” he said to himself, as
he read it again. “Whatever else may do--_this_ won’t!” He looked round
once more at Arnold, and slowly tore the letter into fragments as he
looked.)

In the mean time Blanche had not done yet. “No,” she said, when Arnold
proposed an adjournment to the garden; “I have something more to say,
and you are interested in it, this time.” Arnold resigned himself to
listen, and worse still to answer, if there was no help for it, in the
character of an innocent stranger who had never been near the Craig
Fernie inn.

“Well,” Blanche resumed, “and what do you think has come of my letter to
Anne?”

“I’m sure I don’t know.”

“Nothing has come of it!”

“Indeed?”

“Absolutely nothing! I know she received the letter yesterday morning. I
ought to have had the answer to-day at breakfast.”

“Perhaps she thought it didn’t require an answer.”

“She couldn’t have thought that, for reasons that I know of. Besides, in
my letter yesterday I implored her to tell me (if it was one line only)
whether, in guessing at what her trouble was, Sir Patrick and I had not
guessed right. And here is the day getting on, and no answer! What am I
to conclude?”

“I really can’t say!”

“Is it possible, Arnold, that we have _not_ guessed right, after all?
Is the wickedness of that man who blew the candles out wickedness beyond
our discovering? The doubt is so dreadful that I have made up my mind
not to bear it after to-day. I count on your sympathy and assistance
when to-morrow comes!”

Arnold’s heart sank. Some new complication was evidently gathering round
him. He waited in silence to hear the worst. Blanche bent forward, and
whispered to him.

“This is a secret,” she said. “If that creature at the writing-table has
ears for any thing but rowing and racing, he mustn’t hear this! Anne
may come to me privately to-day while you are all at luncheon. If she
doesn’t come and if I don’t hear from her, then the mystery of her
silence must be cleared up; and You must do it!”

“I!”

“Don’t make difficulties! If you can’t find your way to Craig Fernie, I
can help you. As for Anne, you know what a charming person she is, and
you know she will receive you perfectly, for my sake. I must and will
have some news of her. I can’t break the laws of the household a second
time. Sir Patrick sympathizes, but he won’t stir. Lady Lundie is a
bitter enemy. The servants are threatened with the loss of their places
if any one of them goes near Anne. There is nobody but you. And to Anne
you go to-morrow, if I don’t see her or hear from her to-day!”

This to the man who had passed as Anne’s husband at the inn, and who had
been forced into the most intimate knowledge of Anne’s miserable secret!
Arnold rose to put Milton away, with the composure of sheer despair.
Any other secret he might, in the last resort, have confided to the
discretion of a third person. But a woman’s secret--with a woman’s
reputation depending on his keeping it--was not to be confided to any
body, under any stress of circumstances whatever. “If Geoffrey doesn’t
get me out of _this,_,” he thought, “I shall have no choice but to leave
Windygates to-morrow.”

As he replaced the book on the shelf, Lady Lundie entered the library
from the garden.

“What are you doing here?” she said to her step-daughter.

“Improving my mind,” replied Blanche. “Mr. Brinkworth and I have been
reading Milton.”

“Can you condescend so far, after reading Milton all the morning, as to
help me with the invitations for the dinner next week?”

“If _you_ can condescend, Lady Lundie, after feeding the poultry all the
morning, I must be humility itself after only reading Milton!”

With that little interchange of the acid amenities of feminine
intercourse, step-mother and step-daughter withdrew to a writing-table,
to put the virtue of hospitality in practice together.

Arnold joined his friend at the other end of the library.

Geoffrey was sitting with his elbows on the desk, and his clenched fists
dug into his cheeks. Great drops of perspiration stood on his forehead,
and the fragments of a torn letter lay scattered all round him. He
exhibited symptoms of nervous sensibility for the first time in his
life--he started when Arnold spoke to him.

“What’s the matter, Geoffrey?”

“A letter to answer. And I don’t know how.”

“From Miss Silvester?” asked Arnold, dropping his voice so as to prevent
the ladies at the other end of the room from hearing him.

“No,” answered Geoffrey, in a lower voice still.

“Have you heard what Blanche has been saying to me about Miss
Silvester?”

“Some of it.”

“Did you hear Blanche say that she meant to send me to Craig Fernie
to-morrow, if she failed to get news from Miss Silvester to-day?”

“No.”

“Then you know it now. That is what Blanche has just said to me.”

“Well?”

“Well--there’s a limit to what a man can expect even from his best
friend. I hope you won’t ask me to be Blanche’s messenger to-morrow. I
can’t, and won’t, go back to the inn as things are now.”

“You have had enough of it--eh?”

“I have had enough of distressing Miss Silvester, and more than enough
of deceiving Blanche.”

“What do you mean by ‘distressing Miss Silvester?’”

“She doesn’t take the same easy view that you and I do, Geoffrey, of my
passing her off on the people of the inn as my wife.”

Geoffrey absently took up a paper-knife. Still with his head down, he
began shaving off the topmost layer of paper from the blotting-pad under
his hand. Still with his head down, he abruptly broke the silence in a
whisper.

“I say!”

“Yes?”

“How did you manage to pass her off as your wife?”

“I told you how, as we were driving from the station here.”

“I was thinking of something else. Tell me again.”

Arnold told him once more what had happened at the inn. Geoffrey
listened, without making any remark. He balanced the paper-knife
vacantly on one of his fingers. He was strangely sluggish and strangely
silent.

“All _that_ is done and ended,” said Arnold shaking him by the shoulder.
“It rests with you now to get me out of the difficulty I’m placed in
with Blanche. Things must be settled with Miss Silvester to-day.”

“Things _shall_ be settled.”

“Shall be? What are you waiting for?”

“I’m waiting to do what you told me.”

“What I told you?”

“Didn’t you tell me to consult Sir Patrick before I married her?”

“To be sure! so I did.”

“Well--I am waiting for a chance with Sir Patrick.”

“And then?”

“And then--” He looked at Arnold for the first time. “Then,” he said,
“you may consider it settled.”

“The marriage?”

He suddenly looked down again at the blotting-pad. “Yes--the marriage.”

Arnold offered his hand in congratulation. Geoffrey never noticed it.
His eyes were off the blotting-pad again. He was looking out of the
window near him.

“Don’t I hear voices outside?” he asked.

“I believe our friends are in the garden,” said Arnold. “Sir Patrick may
be among them. I’ll go and see.”

The instant his back was turned Geoffrey snatched up a sheet of
note-paper. “Before I forget it!” he said to himself. He wrote the word
“Memorandum” at the top of the page, and added these lines beneath it:

“He asked for her by the name of his wife at the door. He said, at
dinner, before the landlady and the waiter, ‘I take these rooms for my
wife.’ He made _her_ say he was her husband at the same time. After
that he stopped all night. What do the lawyers call this in
Scotland?--(Query: a marriage?)”

After folding up the paper he hesitated for a moment. “No!” he thought,
“It won’t do to trust to what Miss Lundie said about it. I can’t be
certain till I have consulted Sir Patrick himself.”

He put the paper away in his pocket, and wiped the heavy perspiration
from his forehead. He was pale--for _him,_ strikingly pale--when Arnold
came back.

“Any thing wrong, Geoffrey?--you’re as white as ashes.”

“It’s the heat. Where’s Sir Patrick?”

“You may see for yourself.”

Arnold pointed to the window. Sir Patrick was crossing the lawn, on
his way to the library with a newspaper in his hand; and the guests at
Windygates were accompanying him. Sir Patrick was smiling, and saying
nothing. The guests were talking excitedly at the tops of their voices.
There had apparently been a collision of some kind between the old
school and the new. Arnold directed Geoffrey’s attention to the state of
affairs on the lawn.

“How are you to consult Sir Patrick with all those people about him?”

“I’ll consult Sir Patrick, if I take him by the scruff of the neck and
carry him into the next county!” He rose to his feet as he spoke those
words, and emphasized them under his breath with an oath.

Sir Patrick entered the library, with the guests at his heels.


CHAPTER THE NINETEENTH.

CLOSE ON IT.

THE object of the invasion of the library by the party in the garden
appeared to be twofold.

Sir Patrick had entered the room to restore the newspaper to the place
from which he had taken it. The guests, to the number of five, had
followed him, to appeal in a body to Geoffrey Delamayn. Between these
two apparently dissimilar motives there was a connection, not visible on
the surface, which was now to assert itself.

Of the five guests, two were middle-aged gentlemen belonging to that
large, but indistinct, division of the human family whom the hand of
Nature has painted in unobtrusive neutral tint. They had absorbed the
ideas of their time with such receptive capacity as they possessed;
and they occupied much the same place in society which the chorus in an
opera occupies on the stage. They echoed the prevalent sentiment of the
moment; and they gave the solo-talker time to fetch his breath.

The three remaining guests were on the right side of thirty. All
profoundly versed in horse-racing, in athletic sports, in pipes, beer,
billiards, and betting. All profoundly ignorant of every thing else
under the sun. All gentlemen by birth, and all marked as such by the
stamp of “a University education.” They may be personally described as
faint reflections of Geoffrey; and they may be numerically distinguished
(in the absence of all other distinction) as One, Two, and Three.

Sir Patrick laid the newspaper on the table and placed himself in one of
the comfortable arm-chairs. He was instantly assailed, in his domestic
capacity, by his irrepressible sister-in-law. Lady Lundie dispatched
Blanche to him with the list of her guests at the dinner. “For your
uncle’s approval, my dear, as head of the family.”

While Sir Patrick was looking over the list, and while Arnold was making
his way to Blanche, at the back of her uncle’s chair, One, Two, and
Three--with the Chorus in attendance on them--descended in a body on
Geoffrey, at the other end of the room, and appealed in rapid succession
to his superior authority, as follows:

“I say, Delamayn. We want You. Here is Sir Patrick running a regular
Muck at us. Calls us aboriginal Britons. Tells us we ain’t educated.
Doubts if we could read, write, and cipher, if he tried us. Swears he’s
sick of fellows showing their arms and legs, and seeing which fellow’s
hardest, and who’s got three belts of muscle across his wind, and who
hasn’t, and the like of that. Says a most infernal thing of a chap.
Says--because a chap likes a healthy out-of-door life, and trains for
rowing and running, and the rest of it, and don’t see his way to stewing
over his books--_therefore_ he’s safe to commit all the crimes in the
calendar, murder included. Saw your name down in the newspaper for the
Foot-Race; and said, when we asked him if he’d taken the odds, he’d
lay any odds we liked against you in the other Race at the
University--meaning, old boy, your Degree. Nasty, that about the
Degree--in the opinion of Number One. Bad taste in Sir Patrick to rake
up what we never mention among ourselves--in the opinion of Number Two.
Un-English to sneer at a man in that way behind his back--in the opinion
of Number Three. Bring him to book, Delamayn. Your name’s in the papers;
he can’t ride roughshod over You.”

The two choral gentlemen agreed (in the minor key) with the general
opinion. “Sir Patrick’s views are certainly extreme, Smith?” “I think,
Jones, it’s desirable to hear Mr. Delamayn on the other side.”

Geoffrey looked from one to the other of his admirers with an expression
on his face which was quite new to them, and with something in his
manner which puzzled them all.

“You can’t argue with Sir Patrick yourselves,” he said, “and you want me
to do it?”

One, Two, Three, and the Chorus all answered, “Yes.”

“I won’t do it.”

One, Two, Three, and the Chorus all asked, “Why?”

“Because,” answered Geoffrey, “you’re all wrong. And Sir Patrick’s
right.”

Not astonishment only, but downright stupefaction, struck the deputation
from the garden speechless.

Without saying a word more to any of the persons standing near him,
Geoffrey walked straight up to Sir Patrick’s arm-chair, and personally
addressed him. The satellites followed, and listened (as well they
might) in wonder.

“You will lay any odds, Sir,” said Geoffrey “against me taking my
Degree? You’re quite right. I sha’n’t take my Degree. You doubt whether
I, or any of those fellows behind me, could read, write, and cipher
correctly if you tried us. You’re right again--we couldn’t. You say you
don’t know why men like Me, and men like Them, may not begin with rowing
and running and the like of that, and end in committing all the crimes
in the calendar: murder included. Well! you may be right again there.
Who’s to know what may happen to him? or what he may not end in doing
before he dies? It may be Another, or it may be Me. How do I know?
and how do you?” He suddenly turned on the deputation, standing
thunder-struck behind him. “If you want to know what I think, there it
is for you, in plain words.”

There was something, not only in the shamelessness of the declaration
itself, but in the fierce pleasure that the speaker seemed to feel in
making it, which struck the circle of listeners, Sir Patrick included,
with a momentary chill.

In the midst of the silence a sixth guest appeared on the lawn, and
stepped into the library--a silent, resolute, unassuming, elderly man
who had arrived the day before on a visit to Windygates, and who
was well known, in and out of London, as one of the first consulting
surgeons of his time.

“A discussion going on?” he asked. “Am I in the way?”

“There’s no discussion--we are all agreed,” cried Geoffrey, answering
boisterously for the rest. “The more the merrier, Sir!”

After a glance at Geoffrey, the surgeon suddenly checked himself on the
point of advancing to the inner part of the room, and remained standing
at the window.

“I beg your pardon,” said Sir Patrick, addressing himself to Geoffrey,
with a grave dignity which was quite new in Arnold’s experience of him.
“We are not all agreed. I decline, Mr. Delamayn, to allow you to connect
me with such an expression of feeling on your part as we have just
heard. The language you have used leaves me no alternative but to meet
your statement of what you suppose me to have said by my statement
of what I really did say. It is not my fault if the discussion in the
garden is revived before another audience in this room--it is yours.”

He looked as he spoke to Arnold and Blanche, and from them to the
surgeon standing at the window.

The surgeon had found an occupation for himself which completely
isolated him among the rest of the guests. Keeping his own face in
shadow, he was studying Geoffrey’s face, in the full flood of light
that fell on it, with a steady attention which must have been generally
remarked, if all eyes had not been turned toward Sir Patrick at the
time.

It was not an easy face to investigate at that moment.

While Sir Patrick had been speaking Geoffrey had seated himself near the
window, doggedly impenetrable to the reproof of which he was the object.
In his impatience to consult the one authority competent to decide
the question of Arnold’s position toward Anne, he had sided with Sir
Patrick, as a means of ridding himself of the unwelcome presence of his
friends--and he had defeated his own purpose, thanks to his own brutish
incapability of bridling himself in the pursuit of it. Whether he was
now discouraged under these circumstances, or whether he was simply
resigned to bide his time till his time came, it was impossible, judging
by outward appearances, to say. With a heavy dropping at the corners of
his mouth, with a stolid indifference staring dull in his eyes, there
he sat, a man forearmed, in his own obstinate neutrality, against all
temptation to engage in the conflict of opinions that was to come.

Sir Patrick took up the newspaper which he had brought in from the
garden, and looked once more to see if the surgeon was attending to him.

No! The surgeon’s attention was absorbed in his own subject. There he
was in the same position, with his mind still hard at work on something
in Geoffrey which at once interested and puzzled it! “That man,” he was
thinking to himself, “has come here this morning after traveling from
London all night. Does any ordinary fatigue explain what I see in his
face? No!”

“Our little discussion in the garden,” resumed Sir Patrick, answering
Blanche’s inquiring look as she bent over him, “began, my dear, in a
paragraph here announcing Mr. Delamayn’s forthcoming appearance in a
foot-race in the neighborhood of London. I hold very unpopular opinions
as to the athletic displays which are so much in vogue in England just
now. And it is possible that I may have expressed those opinions a
little too strongly, in the heat of discussion, with gentlemen who
are opposed to me--I don’t doubt, conscientiously opposed--on this
question.”

A low groan of protest rose from One, Two, and Three, in return for the
little compliment which Sir Patrick had paid to them. “How about rowing
and running ending in the Old Bailey and the gallows? You said that,
Sir--you know you did!”

The two choral gentlemen looked at each other, and agreed with the
prevalent sentiment. “It came to that, I think, Smith.” “Yes, Jones, it
certainly came to that.”

The only two men who still cared nothing about it were Geoffrey and the
surgeon. There sat the first, stolidly neutral--indifferent alike to
the attack and the defense. There stood the second, pursuing his
investigation--with the growing interest in it of a man who was
beginning to see his way to the end.

“Hear my defense, gentlemen,” continued Sir Patrick, as courteously
as ever. “You belong, remember, to a nation which especially claims to
practice the rules of fair play. I must beg to remind you of what I said
in the garden. I started with a concession. I admitted--as every person
of the smallest sense must admit--that a man will, in the great majority
of cases, be all the fitter for mental exercise if he wisely combines
physical exercise along with it. The whole question between the two is a
question of proportion and degree, and my complaint of the present time
is that the present time doesn’t see it. Popular opinion in England
seems to me to be, not only getting to consider the cultivation of the
muscles as of equal importance with the cultivation of the mind, but to
be actually extending--in practice, if not in theory--to the absurd
and dangerous length of putting bodily training in the first place of
importance, and mental training in the second. To take a case in point:
I can discover no enthusiasm in the nation any thing like so genuine and
any thing like so general as the enthusiasm excited by your University
boat-race. Again: I see this Athletic Education of yours made a
matter of public celebration in schools and colleges; and I ask any
unprejudiced witness to tell me which excites most popular enthusiasm,
and which gets the most prominent place in the public journals--the
exhibition, indoors (on Prize-day), of what the boys can do with their
minds? or the exhibition, out of doors (on Sports-day), of what the
boys can do with their bodies? You know perfectly well which performance
excites the loudest cheers, which occupies the prominent place in the
newspapers, and which, as a necessary consequence, confers the highest
social honors on the hero of the day.”

Another murmur from One, Two, and Three. “We have nothing to say to
that, Sir; have it all your own way, so far.”

Another ratification of agreement with the prevalent opinion between
Smith and Jones.

“Very good,” pursued Sir Patrick. “We are all of one mind as to which
way the public feeling sets. If it is a feeling to be respected and
encouraged, show me the national advantage which has resulted from it.
Where is the influence of this modern outburst of manly enthusiasm on
the serious concerns of life? and how has it improved the character of
the people at large? Are we any of us individually readier than we ever
were to sacrifice our own little private interests to the public good?
Are we dealing with the serious social questions of our time in a
conspicuously determined, downright, and definite way? Are we becoming a
visibly and indisputably purer people in our code of commercial morals?
Is there a healthier and higher tone in those public amusements which
faithfully reflect in all countries the public taste? Produce me
affirmative answers to these questions, which rest on solid proof, and
I’ll accept the present mania for athletic sports as something better
than an outbreak of our insular boastfulness and our insular barbarity
in a new form.”

“Question! question!” in a general cry, from One, Two, and Three.

“Question! question!” in meek reverberation, from Smith and Jones.

“That is the question,” rejoined Sir Patrick. “You admit the existence
of the public feeling and I ask, what good does it do?”

“What harm does it do?” from One, Two, and Three.

“Hear! hear!” from Smith and Jones.

“That’s a fair challenge,” replied Sir Patrick. “I am bound to meet you
on that new ground. I won’t point, gentlemen, by way of answer, to the
coarseness which I can see growing on our national manners, or to the
deterioration which appears to me to be spreading more and more widely
in our national tastes. You may tell me with perfect truth that I am too
old a man to be a fair judge of manners and tastes which have got beyond
my standards. We will try the issue, as it now stands between us, on its
abstract merits only. I assert that a state of public feeling which does
practically place physical training, in its estimation, above moral and
mental training, is a positively bad and dangerous state of feeling in
this, that it encourages the inbred reluctance in humanity to submit to
the demands which moral and mental cultivation must inevitably make on
it. Which am I, as a boy, naturally most ready to do--to try how high I
can jump? or to try how much I can learn? Which training comes easiest
to me as a young man? The training which teaches me to handle an oar?
or the training which teaches me to return good for evil, and to love
my neighbor as myself? Of those two experiments, of those two trainings,
which ought society in England to meet with the warmest encouragement?
And which does society in England practically encourage, as a matter of
fact?”

“What did you say yourself just now?” from One, Two, and Three.

“Remarkably well put!” from Smith and Jones.

“I said,” admitted Sir Patrick, “that a man will go all the better
to his books for his healthy physical exercise. And I say that
again--provided the physical exercise be restrained within fit limits.
But when public feeling enters into the question, and directly exalts
the bodily exercises above the books--then I say public feeling is in a
dangerous extreme. The bodily exercises, in that case, will be uppermost
in the youth’s thoughts, will have the strongest hold on his
interest, will take the lion’s share of his time, and will, by those
means--barring the few purely exceptional instances--slowly and surely
end in leaving him, to all good moral and mental purpose, certainly an
uncultivated, and, possibly, a dangerous man.”

A cry from the camp of the adversaries: “He’s got to it at last! A man
who leads an out-of-door life, and uses the strength that God has given
to him, is a dangerous man. Did any body ever hear the like of that?”

Cry reverberated, with variations, by the two human echoes: “No! Nobody
ever heard the like of that!”

“Clear your minds of cant, gentlemen,” answered Sir Patrick. “The
agricultural laborer leads an out-of-door life, and uses the strength
that God has given to him. The sailor in the merchant service does the
name. Both are an uncultivated, a shamefully uncultivated, class--and
see the result! Look at the Map of Crime, and you will find the most
hideous offenses in the calendar, committed--not in the towns, where the
average man doesn’t lead an out-of-door life, doesn’t as a rule, use his
strength, but is, as a rule, comparatively cultivated--not in the towns,
but in the agricultural districts. As for the English sailor--except
when the Royal Navy catches and cultivates him--ask Mr. Brinkworth,
who has served in the merchant navy, what sort of specimen of the moral
influence of out-of-door life and muscular cultivation _he_ is.”

“In nine cases out of ten,” said Arnold, “he is as idle and vicious as
ruffian as walks the earth.”

Another cry from the Opposition: “Are _we_ agricultural laborers? Are
_we_ sailors in the merchant service?”

A smart reverberation from the human echoes: “Smith! am I a laborer?”
 “Jones! am I a sailor?”

“Pray let us not be personal, gentlemen,” said Sir Patrick. “I am
speaking generally, and I can only meet extreme objections by pushing
my argument to extreme limits. The laborer and the sailor have served my
purpose. If the laborer and the sailor offend you, by all means let them
walk off the stage! I hold to the position which I advanced just now. A
man may be well born, well off, well dressed, well fed--but if he is an
uncultivated man, he is (in spite of all those advantages) a man with
special capacities for evil in him, on that very account. Don’t mistake
me! I am far from saving that the present rage for exclusively muscular
accomplishments must lead inevitably downward to the lowest deep of
depravity. Fortunately for society, all special depravity is more or
less certainly the result, in the first instance, of special temptation.
The ordinary mass of us, thank God, pass through life without being
exposed to other than ordinary temptations. Thousands of the young
gentlemen, devoted to the favorite pursuits of the present time, will
get through existence with no worse consequences to themselves than
a coarse tone of mind and manners, and a lamentable incapability of
feeling any of those higher and gentler influences which sweeten and
purify the lives of more cultivated men. But take the other case (which
may occur to any body), the case of a special temptation trying a modern
young man of your prosperous class and of mine. And let me beg Mr.
Delamayn to honor with his attention what I have now to say, because it
refers to the opinion which I did really express--as distinguished from
the opinion which he affects to agree with, and which I never advanced.”

Geoffrey’s indifference showed no signs of giving way. “Go on!” he
said--and still sat looking straight before him, with heavy eyes, which
noticed nothing, and expressed nothing.

“Take the example which we have now in view,” pursued Sir Patrick--“the
example of an average young gentleman of our time, blest with every
advantage that physical cultivation can bestow on him. Let this man be
tried by a temptation which insidiously calls into action, in his own
interests, the savage instincts latent in humanity--the instincts of
self-seeking and cruelty which are at the bottom of all crime. Let this
man be placed toward some other person, guiltless of injuring him, in a
position which demands one of two sacrifices: the sacrifice of the other
person, or the sacrifice of his own interests and his own desires.
His neighbor’s happiness, or his neighbor’s life, stands, let us say,
between him and the attainment of something that he wants. He can wreck
the happiness, or strike down the life, without, to his knowledge, any
fear of suffering for it himself. What is to prevent him, being the man
he is, from going straight to his end, on those conditions? Will the
skill in rowing, the swiftness in running, the admirable capacity and
endurance in other physical exercises, which he has attained, by a
strenuous cultivation in this kind that has excluded any similarly
strenuous cultivation in other kinds--will these physical attainments
help him to win a purely moral victory over his own selfishness and his
own cruelty? They won’t even help him to see that it _is_ selfishness,
and that it _is_ cruelty. The essential principle of his rowing and
racing (a harmless principle enough, if you can be sure of applying it
to rowing and racing only) has taught him to take every advantage of
another man that his superior strength and superior cunning can suggest.
There has been nothing in his training to soften the barbarous hardness
in his heart, and to enlighten the barbarous darkness in his mind.
Temptation finds this man defenseless, when temptation passes his way.
I don’t care who he is, or how high he stands accidentally in the social
scale--he is, to all moral intents and purposes, an Animal, and nothing
more. If my happiness stands in his way--and if he can do it with
impunity to himself--he will trample down my happiness. If my life
happens to be the next obstacle he encounters--and if he can do it with
impunity to himself--he will trample down my life. Not, Mr. Delamayn, in
the character of a victim to irresistible fatality, or to blind chance;
but in the character of a man who has sown the seed, and reaps the
harvest. That, Sir, is the case which I put as an extreme case only,
when this discussion began. As an extreme case only--but as a perfectly
possible case, at the same time--I restate it now.”

Before the advocates of the other side of the question could open their
lips to reply, Geoffrey suddenly flung off his indifference, and started
to his feet.

“Stop!” he cried, threatening the others, in his fierce impatience to
answer for himself, with his clenched fist.

There was a general silence.

Geoffrey turned and looked at Sir Patrick, as if Sir Patrick had
personally insulted him.

“Who is this anonymous man, who finds his way to his own ends, and
pities nobody and sticks at nothing?” he asked. “Give him a name!”

“I am quoting an example,” said Sir Patrick. “I am not attacking a man.”

“What right have you,” cried Geoffrey--utterly forgetful, in the strange
exasperation that had seized on him, of the interest that he had in
controlling himself before Sir Patrick--“what right have you to pick out
an example of a rowing man who is an infernal scoundrel--when it’s
quite as likely that a rowing man may be a good fellow: ay! and a better
fellow, if you come to that, than ever stood in your shoes!”

“If the one case is quite as likely to occur as the other (which I
readily admit),” answered Sir Patrick, “I have surely a right to choose
which case I please for illustration. (Wait, Mr. Delamayn! These are
the last words I have to say and I mean to say them.) I have taken
the example--not of a specially depraved man, as you erroneously
suppose--but of an average man, with his average share of the mean,
cruel, and dangerous qualities, which are part and parcel of unreformed
human nature--as your religion tells you, and as you may see for
yourself, if you choose to look at your untaught fellow-creatures any
where. I suppose that man to be tried by a temptation to wickedness, out
of the common; and I show, to the best of my ability, how completely the
moral and mental neglect of himself, which the present material tone
of public feeling in England has tacitly encouraged, leaves him at the
mercy of all the worst instincts in his nature; and how surely, under
those conditions, he _must_ go down (gentleman as he is) step by
step--as the lowest vagabond in the streets goes down under _his_
special temptation--from the beginning in ignorance to the end in crime.
If you deny my right to take such an example as that, in illustration of
the views I advocate, you must either deny that a special temptation to
wickedness can assail a man in the position of a gentleman, or you must
assert that gentlemen who are naturally superior to all temptation are
the only gentlemen who devote themselves to athletic pursuits. There
is my defense. In stating my case, I have spoken out of my own sincere
respect for the interests of virtue and of learning; out of my own
sincere admiration for those young men among us who are resisting the
contagion of barbarism about them. In _their_ future is the future hope
of England. I have done.”

Angrily ready with a violent personal reply, Geoffrey found himself
checked, in his turn by another person with something to say, and with a
resolution to say it at that particular moment.



For some little time past the surgeon had discontinued his steady
investigation of Geoffrey’s face, and had given all his attention to the
discussion, with the air of a man whose self-imposed task had come to
an end. As the last sentence fell from the last speaker’s lips, he
interposed so quickly and so skillfully between Geoffrey and Sir
Patrick, that Geoffrey himself was taken by surprise,

“There is something still wanting to make Sir Patrick’s statement of the
case complete,” he said. “I think I can supply it, from the result of
my own professional experience. Before I say what I have to say, Mr.
Delamayn will perhaps excuse me, if I venture on giving him a caution to
control himself.”

“Are _you_ going to make a dead set at me, too?” inquired Geoffrey.

“I am recommending you to keep your temper--nothing more. There are
plenty of men who can fly into a passion without doing themselves any
particular harm. You are not one of them.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t think the state of your health, Mr. Delamayn, is quite so
satisfactory as you may be disposed to consider it yourself.”

Geoffrey turned to his admirers and adherents with a roar of derisive
laughter. The admirers and adherents all echoed him together. Arnold
and Blanche smiled at each other. Even Sir Patrick looked as if he
could hardly credit the evidence of his own ears. There stood the modern
Hercules, self-vindicated as a Hercules, before all eyes that looked at
him. And there, opposite, stood a man whom he could have killed with one
blow of his fist, telling him, in serious earnest, that he was not in
perfect health!

“You are a rare fellow!” said Geoffrey, half in jest and half in anger.
“What’s the matter with me?”

“I have undertaken to give you, what I believe to be, a necessary
caution,” answered the surgeon. “I have _not_ undertaken to tell
you what I think is the matter with you. That may be a question for
consideration some little time hence. In the meanwhile, I should like
to put my impression about you to the test. Have you any objection to
answer a question on a matter of no particular importance relating to
yourself?”

“Let’s hear the question first.”

“I have noticed something in your behavior while Sir Patrick was
speaking. You are as much interested in opposing his views as any of
those gentlemen about you. I don’t understand your sitting in
silence, and leaving it entirely to the others to put the case on your
side--until Sir Patrick said something which happened to irritate you.
Had you, all the time before that, no answer ready in your own mind?”

“I had as good answers in my mind as any that have been made here
to-day.”

“And yet you didn’t give them?”

“No; I didn’t give them.”

“Perhaps you felt--though you knew your objections to be good ones--that
it was hardly worth while to take the trouble of putting them into
words? In short, you let your friends answer for you, rather than make
the effort of answering for yourself?”

Geoffrey looked at his medical adviser with a sudden curiosity and a
sudden distrust.

“I say,” he asked, “how do you come to know what’s going on in my
mind--without my telling you of it?”

“It is my business to find out what is going on in people’s bodies--and
to do that it is sometimes necessary for me to find out (if I can) what
is going on in their minds. If I have rightly interpreted what was going
on in _your_ mind, there is no need for me to press my question. You
have answered it already.”

He turned to Sir Patrick next

“There is a side to this subject,” he said, “which you have not touched
on yet. There is a Physical objection to the present rage for muscular
exercises of all sorts, which is quite as strong, in its way, as the
Moral objection. You have stated the consequences as they _may_ affect
the mind. I can state the consequences as they _do_ affect the body.”

“From your own experience?”

“From my own experience. I can tell you, as a medical man, that a
proportion, and not by any means a small one, of the young men who are
now putting themselves to violent athletic tests of their strength and
endurance, are taking that course to the serious and permanent injury of
their own health. The public who attend rowing-matches, foot-races, and
other exhibitions of that sort, see nothing but the successful results
of muscular training. Fathers and mothers at home see the failures.
There are households in England--miserable households, to be counted,
Sir Patrick, by more than ones and twos--in which there are young men
who have to thank the strain laid on their constitutions by the popular
physical displays of the present time, for being broken men, and
invalided men, for the rest of their lives.”

“Do you hear that?” said Sir Patrick, looking at Geoffrey.

Geoffrey carelessly nodded his head. His irritation had had time to
subside; the stolid indifference had got possession of him again. He had
resumed his chair--he sat, with outstretched legs, staring stupidly
at the pattern on the carpet. “What does it matter to Me?” was the
sentiment expressed all over him, from head to foot.

The surgeon went on.

“I can see no remedy for this sad state of things,” he said, “as long
as the public feeling remains what the public feeling is now. A fine
healthy-looking young man, with a superb muscular development,
longs (naturally enough) to distinguish himself like others. The
training-authorities at his college, or elsewhere, take him in hand
(naturally enough again) on the strength of outward appearances. And
whether they have been right or wrong in choosing him is more than they
can say, until the experiment has been tried, and the mischief has been,
in many cases, irretrievably done. How many of them are aware of the
important physiological truth, that the muscular power of a man is no
fair guarantee of his vital power? How many of them know that we all
have (as a great French writer puts it) two lives in us--the surface
life of the muscles, and the inner life of the heart, lungs, and brain?
Even if they did know this--even with medical men to help them--it would
be in the last degree doubtful, in most cases, whether any previous
examination would result in any reliable discovery of the vital fitness
of the man to undergo the stress of muscular exertion laid on him. Apply
to any of my brethren; and they will tell you, as the result of their
own professional observation, that I am, in no sense, overstating this
serious evil, or exaggerating the deplorable and dangerous consequences
to which it leads. I have a patient at this moment, who is a young man
of twenty, and who possesses one of the finest muscular developments
I ever saw in my life. If that young man had consulted me, before
he followed the example of the other young men about him, I can not
honestly say that I could have foreseen the results. As things are,
after going through a certain amount of muscular training, after
performing a certain number of muscular feats, he suddenly fainted one
day, to the astonishment of his family and friends. I was called in and
I have watched the case since. He will probably live, but he will never
recover. I am obliged to take precautions with this youth of twenty
which I should take with an old man of eighty. He is big enough and
muscular enough to sit to a painter as a model for Samson--and only last
week I saw him swoon away like a young girl, in his mother’s arms.”

“Name!” cried Geoffrey’s admirers, still fighting the battle on their
side, in the absence of any encouragement from Geoffrey himself.

“I am not in the habit of mentioning my patients’ names,” replied the
surgeon. “But if you insist on my producing an example of a man broken
by athletic exercises, I can do it.”

“Do it! Who is he?”

“You all know him perfectly well.”

“Is he in the doctor’s hands?”

“Not yet.”

“Where is he?”

“There!”

In a pause of breathless silence--with the eyes of every person in the
room eagerly fastened on him--the surgeon lifted his hand and pointed to
Geoffrey Delamayn.


CHAPTER THE TWENTIETH.

TOUCHING IT.

As soon as the general stupefaction was allayed, the general incredulity
asserted itself as a matter of course.

The man who first declared that “seeing” was “believing” laid his finger
(whether he knew it himself or not) on one of the fundamental follies
of humanity. The easiest of all evidence to receive is the evidence
that requires no other judgment to decide on it than the judgment of
the eye--and it will be, on that account, the evidence which humanity is
most ready to credit, as long as humanity lasts. The eyes of every
body looked at Geoffrey; and the judgment of every body decided, on
the evidence there visible, that the surgeon must be wrong. Lady Lundie
herself (disturbed over her dinner invitations) led the general protest.
“Mr. Delamayn in broken health!” she exclaimed, appealing to the better
sense of her eminent medical guest. “Really, now, you can’t expect us to
believe that!”

Stung into action for the second time by the startling assertion of
which he had been made the subject, Geoffrey rose, and looked the
surgeon, steadily and insolently, straight in the face.

“Do you mean what you say?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“You point me out before all these people--”

“One moment, Mr. Delamayn. I admit that I may have been wrong in
directing the general attention to you. You have a right to complain of
my having answered too publicly the public challenge offered to me by
your friends. I apologize for having done that. But I don’t retract a
single word of what I have said on the subject of your health.”

“You stick to it that I’m a broken-down man?”

“I do.”

“I wish you were twenty years younger, Sir!”

“Why?”

“I’d ask you to step out on the lawn there and I’d show you whether I’m
a broken-down man or not.”

Lady Lundie looked at her brother-in-law. Sir Patrick instantly
interfered.

“Mr. Delamayn,” he said, “you were invited here in the character of a
gentleman, and you are a guest in a lady’s house.”

“No! no!” said the surgeon, good humoredly. “Mr. Delamayn is using a
strong argument, Sir Patrick--and that is all. If I _were_ twenty years
younger,” he went on, addressing himself to Geoffrey, “and if I _did_
step out on the lawn with you, the result wouldn’t affect the question
between us in the least. I don’t say that the violent bodily exercises
in which you are famous have damaged your muscular power. I assert that
they have damaged your vital power. In what particular way they have
affected it I don’t consider myself bound to tell you. I simply give
you a warning, as a matter of common humanity. You will do well to
be content with the success you have already achieved in the field of
athletic pursuits, and to alter your mode of life for the future.
Accept my excuses, once more, for having said this publicly instead of
privately--and don’t forget my warning.”

He turned to move away to another part of the room. Geoffrey fairly
forced him to return to the subject.

“Wait a bit,” he said. “You have had your innings. My turn now. I can’t
give it words as you do; but I can come to the point. And, by the Lord,
I’ll fix you to it! In ten days or a fortnight from this I’m going into
training for the Foot-Race at Fulham. Do you say I shall break down?”

“You will probably get through your training.”

“Shall I get through the race?”

“You may _possibly_ get through the race. But if you do--”

“If I do?”

“You will never run another.”

“And never row in another match?”

“Never.”

“I have been asked to row in the Race, next spring; and I have said I
will. Do you tell me, in so many words, that I sha’n’t be able to do
it?”

“Yes--in so many words.”

“Positively?”

“Positively.”

“Back your opinion!” cried Geoffrey, tearing his betting-book out of his
pocket. “I lay you an even hundred I’m in fit condition to row in the
University Match next spring.”

“I don’t bet, Mr. Delamayn.”

With that final reply the surgeon walked away to the other end of the
library. Lady Lundie (taking Blanche in custody) withdrew, at the same
time, to return to the serious business of her invitations for the
dinner. Geoffrey turned defiantly, book in hand, to his college friends
about him. The British blood was up; and the British resolution to bet,
which successfully defies common decency and common-law from one end of
the country to the other, was not to be trifled with.

“Come on!” cried Geoffrey. “Back the doctor, one of you!”

Sir Patrick rose in undisguised disgust, and followed the surgeon. One,
Two, and Three, invited to business by their illustrious friend, shook
their thick heads at him knowingly, and answered with one accord, in one
eloquent word--“Gammon!”

“One of _you_ back him!” persisted Geoffrey, appealing to the two choral
gentlemen in the back-ground, with his temper fast rising to fever heat.
The two choral gentlemen compared notes, as usual. “We weren’t born
yesterday, Smith?” “Not if we know it, Jones.”

“Smith!” said Geoffrey, with a sudden assumption of politeness ominous
of something unpleasant to come.

Smith said “Yes?”--with a smile.

“Jones!”

Jones said “Yes?”--with a reflection of Smith.

“You’re a couple of infernal cads--and you haven’t got a hundred pound
between you!”

“Come! come!” said Arnold, interfering for the first time. “This is
shameful, Geoffrey!”

“Why the”--(never mind what!)--“won’t they any of them take the bet?”

“If you must be a fool,” returned Arnold, a little irritably on his
side, “and if nothing else will keep you quiet, _I’ll_ take the bet.”

“An even hundred on the doctor!” cried Geoffrey. “Done with you!”

His highest aspirations were satisfied; his temper was in perfect order
again. He entered the bet in his book; and made his excuses to Smith and
Jones in the heartiest way. “No offense, old chaps! Shake hands!”
 The two choral gentlemen were enchanted with him. “The English
aristocracy--eh, Smith?” “Blood and breeding--ah, Jones!”

As soon as he had spoken, Arnold’s conscience reproached him: not for
betting (who is ashamed of _that_ form of gambling in England?) but for
“backing the doctor.” With the best intention toward his friend, he was
speculating on the failure of his friend’s health. He anxiously assured
Geoffrey that no man in the room could be more heartily persuaded that
the surgeon was wrong than himself. “I don’t cry off from the bet,”
 he said. “But, my dear fellow, pray understand that I only take it to
please _you._”

“Bother all that!” answered Geoffrey, with the steady eye to business,
which was one of the choicest virtues in his character. “A bet’s a
bet--and hang your sentiment!” He drew Arnold by the arm out of ear-shot
of the others. “I say!” he asked, anxiously. “Do you think I’ve set the
old fogy’s back up?”

“Do you mean Sir Patrick?”

Geoffrey nodded, and went on.

“I haven’t put that little matter to him yet--about marrying in
Scotland, you know. Suppose he cuts up rough with me if I try him now?”
 His eye wandered cunningly, as he put the question, to the farther end
of the room. The surgeon was looking over a port-folio of prints. The
ladies were still at work on their notes of invitation. Sir Patrick was
alone at the book-shelves immersed in a volume which he had just taken
down.

“Make an apology,” suggested Arnold. “Sir Patrick may be a little
irritable and bitter; but he’s a just man and a kind man. Say you were
not guilty of any intentional disrespect toward him--and you will say
enough.”

“All right!”

Sir Patrick, deep in an old Venetian edition of The Decameron, found
himself suddenly recalled from medieval Italy to modern England, by no
less a person than Geoffrey Delamayn.

“What do you want?” he asked, coldly.

“I want to make an apology,” said Geoffrey. “Let by-gones be
by-gones--and that sort of thing. I wasn’t guilty of any intentional
disrespect toward you. Forgive and forget. Not half a bad motto,
Sir--eh?”

It was clumsily expressed--but still it was an apology. Not even
Geoffrey could appeal to Sir Patrick’s courtesy and Sir Patrick’s
consideration in vain.

“Not a word more, Mr. Delamayn!” said the polite old man. “Accept my
excuses for any thing which I may have said too sharply, on my side; and
let us by all means forget the rest.”

Having met the advance made to him, in those terms, he paused,
expecting Geoffrey to leave him free to return to the Decameron. To
his unutterable astonishment, Geoffrey suddenly stooped over him, and
whispered in his ear, “I want a word in private with you.”

Sir Patrick started back, as if Geoffrey had tried to bite him.

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Delamayn--what did you say?”

“Could you give me a word in private?”

Sir Patrick put back the Decameron; and bowed in freezing silence. The
confidence of the Honorable Geoffrey Delamayn was the last confidence in
the world into which he desired to be drawn. “This is the secret of the
apology!” he thought. “What can he possibly want with Me?”

“It’s about a friend of mine,” pursued Geoffrey; leading the way toward
one of the windows. “He’s in a scrape, my friend is. And I want to ask
your advice. It’s strictly private, you know.” There he came to a full
stop--and looked to see what impression he had produced, so far.

Sir Patrick declined, either by word or gesture, to exhibit the
slightest anxiety to hear a word more.

“Would you mind taking a turn in the garden?” asked Geoffrey.

Sir Patrick pointed to his lame foot. “I have had my allowance of
walking this morning,” he said. “Let my infirmity excuse me.”

Geoffrey looked about him for a substitute for the garden, and led the
way back again toward one of the convenient curtained recesses opening
out of the inner wall of the library. “We shall be private enough here,”
 he said.

Sir Patrick made a final effort to escape the proposed conference--an
undisguised effort, this time.

“Pray forgive me, Mr. Delamayn. Are you quite sure that you apply to the
right person, in applying to _me?_”

“You’re a Scotch lawyer, ain’t you?”

“Certainly.”

“And you understand about Scotch marriages--eh?”

Sir Patrick’s manner suddenly altered.

“Is _that_ the subject you wish to consult me on?” he asked.

“It’s not me. It’s my friend.”

“Your friend, then?”

“Yes. It’s a scrape with a woman. Here in Scotland. My friend don’t know
whether he’s married to her or not.”

“I am at your service, Mr. Delamayn.”

To Geoffrey’s relief--by no means unmixed with surprise--Sir Patrick not
only showed no further reluctance to be consulted by him, but actually
advanced to meet his wishes, by leading the way to the recess that was
nearest to them. The quick brain of the old lawyer had put Geoffrey’s
application to him for assistance, and Blanche’s application to him for
assistance, together; and had built its own theory on the basis thus
obtained. “Do I see a connection between the present position of
Blanche’s governess, and the present position of Mr. Delamayn’s
‘friend?’” thought Sir Patrick. “Stranger extremes than _that_ have met
me in my experience. Something may come out of this.”

The two strangely-assorted companions seated themselves, one on each
side of a little table in the recess. Arnold and the other guests had
idled out again on to the lawn. The surgeon with his prints, and the
ladies with their invitations, were safely absorbed in a distant part
of the library. The conference between the two men, so trifling in
appearance, so terrible in its destined influence, not over Anne’s
future only, but over the future of Arnold and Blanche, was, to all
practical purposes, a conference with closed doors.

“Now,” said Sir Patrick, “what is the question?”

“The question,” said Geoffrey, “is whether my friend is married to her
or not?”

“Did he mean to marry her?”

“No.”

“He being a single man, and she being a single woman, at the time? And
both in Scotland?”

“Yes.”

“Very well. Now tell me the circumstances.”

Geoffrey hesitated. The art of stating circumstances implies the
cultivation of a very rare gift--the gift of arranging ideas. No one
was better acquainted with this truth than Sir Patrick. He was purposely
puzzling Geoffrey at starting, under the firm conviction that his
client had something to conceal from him. The one process that could be
depended on for extracting the truth, under those circumstances, was
the process of interrogation. If Geoffrey was submitted to it, at the
outset, his cunning might take the alarm. Sir Patrick’s object was
to make the man himself invite interrogation. Geoffrey invited it
forthwith, by attempting to state the circumstances, and by involving
them in the usual confusion. Sir Patrick waited until he had thoroughly
lost the thread of his narrative--and then played for the winning trick.

“Would it be easier to you if I asked a few questions?” he inquired,
innocently.

“Much easier.”

“I am quite at your service. Suppose we clear the ground to begin with?
Are you at liberty to mention names?”

“No.”

“Places?”

“No.”

“Dates?”

“Do you want me to be particular?”

“Be as particular as you can.”

“Will it do, if I say the present year?”

“Yes. Were your friend and the lady--at some time in the present
year--traveling together in Scotland?”

“No.”

“Living together in Scotland?”

“No.”

“What _were_ they doing together in Scotland?”

“Well--they were meeting each other at an inn.”

“Oh? They were meeting each other at an inn. Which was first at the
rendezvous?”

“The woman was first. Stop a bit! We are getting to it now.” He produced
from his pocket the written memorandum of Arnold’s proceedings at Craig
Fernie, which he had taken down from Arnold’s own lips. “I’ve got a bit
of note here,” he went on. “Perhaps you’d like to have a look at it?”

Sir Patrick took the note--read it rapidly through to himself--then
re-read it, sentence by sentence, to Geoffrey; using it as a text to
speak from, in making further inquiries.

“‘He asked for her by the name of his wife, at the door,’” read
Sir Patrick. “Meaning, I presume, the door of the inn? Had the lady
previously given herself out as a married woman to the people of the
inn?”

“Yes.”

“How long had she been at the inn before the gentleman joined her?”

“Only an hour or so.”

“Did she give a name?”

“I can’t be quite sure--I should say not.”

“Did the gentleman give a name?”

“No. I’m certain _he_ didn’t.”

Sir Patrick returned to the memorandum.

“‘He said at dinner, before the landlady and the waiter, I take these
rooms for my wife. He made _her_ say he was her husband, at the same
time.’ Was that done jocosely, Mr. Delamayn--either by the lady or the
gentleman?”

“No. It was done in downright earnest.”

“You mean it was done to look like earnest, and so to deceive the
landlady and the waiter?”

“Yes.”

Sir Patrick returned to the memorandum.

“‘After that, he stopped all night.’ Stopped in the rooms he had taken
for himself and his wife?”

“Yes.”

“And what happened the next day?”

“He went away. Wait a bit! Said he had business for an excuse.”

“That is to say, he kept up the deception with the people of the inn?
and left the lady behind him, in the character of his wife?”

“That’s it.”

“Did he go back to the inn?”

“No.”

“How long did the lady stay there, after he had gone?”

“She staid--well, she staid a few days.”

“And your friend has not seen her since?”

“No.”

“Are your friend and the lady English or Scotch?”

“Both English.”

“At the time when they met at the inn, had they either of them arrived
in Scotland, from the place in which they were previously living, within
a period of less than twenty-one days?”

Geoffrey hesitated. There could be no difficulty in answering for Anne.
Lady Lundie and her domestic circle had occupied Windygates for a much
longer period than three weeks before the date of the lawn-party. The
question, as it affected Arnold, was the only question that required
reflection. After searching his memory for details of the conversation
which had taken place between them, when he and Arnold had met at the
lawn-party, Geoffrey recalled a certain reference on the part of his
friend to a performance at the Edinburgh theatre, which at once decided
the question of time. Arnold had been necessarily detained in Edinburgh,
before his arrival at Windygates, by legal business connected with his
inheritance; and he, like Anne, had certainly been in Scotland, before
they met at Craig Fernie, for a longer period than a period of three
weeks He accordingly informed Sir Patrick that the lady and gentleman
had been in Scotland for more than twenty-one days--and then added a
question on his own behalf: “Don’t let me hurry you, Sir--but, shall you
soon have done?”

“I shall have done, after two more questions,” answered Sir Patrick.
“Am I to understand that the lady claims, on the strength of the
circumstances which you have mentioned to me, to be your friend’s wife?”

Geoffrey made an affirmative reply. The readiest means of obtaining Sir
Patrick’s opinion was, in this case, to answer, Yes. In other words,
to represent Anne (in the character of “the lady”) as claiming to be
married to Arnold (in the character of “his friend”).

Having made this concession to circumstances, he was, at the same time,
quite cunning enough to see that it was of vital importance to the
purpose which he had in view, to confine himself strictly to this one
perversion of the truth. There could be plainly no depending on the
lawyer’s opinion, unless that opinion was given on the facts exactly a
s they had occurred at the inn. To the facts he had, thus far, carefully
adhered; and to the facts (with the one inevitable departure from them
which had been just forced on him) he determined to adhere to the end.

“Did no letters pass between the lady and gentleman?” pursued Sir
Patrick.

“None that I know of,” answered Geoffrey, steadily returning to the
truth.

“I have done, Mr. Delamayn.”

“Well? and what’s your opinion?”

“Before I give my opinion I am bound to preface it by a personal
statement which you are not to take, if you please, as a statement of
the law. You ask me to decide--on the facts with which you have supplied
me--whether your friend is, according to the law of Scotland, married or
not?”

Geoffrey nodded. “That’s it!” he said, eagerly.

“My experience, Mr. Delamayn, is that any single man, in Scotland, may
marry any single woman, at any time, and under any circumstances. In
short, after thirty years’ practice as a lawyer, I don’t know what is
_not_ a marriage in Scotland.”

“In plain English,” said Geoffrey, “you mean she’s his wife?”

In spite of his cunning; in spite of his self-command, his eyes
brightened as he said those words. And the tone in which he
spoke--though too carefully guarded to be a tone of triumph--was, to a
fine ear, unmistakably a tone of relief.

Neither the look nor the tone was lost on Sir Patrick.

His first suspicion, when he sat down to the conference, had been
the obvious suspicion that, in speaking of “his friend,” Geoffrey was
speaking of himself. But, like all lawyers, he habitually distrusted
first impressions, his own included. His object, thus far, had been
to solve the problem of Geoffrey’s true position and Geoffrey’s real
motive. He had set the snare accordingly, and had caught his bird.

It was now plain to his mind--first, that this man who was consulting
him, was, in all probability, really speaking of the case of another
person: secondly, that he had an interest (of what nature it was
impossible yet to say) in satisfying his own mind that “his friend” was,
by the law of Scotland, indisputably a married man. Having penetrated
to that extent the secret which Geoffrey was concealing from him,
he abandoned the hope of making any further advance at that present
sitting. The next question to clear up in the investigation, was the
question of who the anonymous “lady” might be. And the next discovery
to make was, whether “the lady” could, or could not, be identified with
Anne Silvester. Pending the inevitable delay in reaching that result,
the straight course was (in Sir Patrick’s present state of uncertainty)
the only course to follow in laying down the law. He at once took the
question of the marriage in hand--with no concealment whatever, as to
the legal bearings of it, from the client who was consulting him.

“Don’t rush to conclusions, Mr. Delamayn,” he said. “I have only told
you what my general experience is thus far. My professional opinion on
the special case of your friend has not been given yet.”

Geoffrey’s face clouded again. Sir Patrick carefully noted the new
change in it.

“The law of Scotland,” he went on, “so far as it relates to Irregular
Marriages, is an outrage on common decency and common-sense. If you
think my language in thus describing it too strong--I can refer you
to the language of a judicial authority. Lord Deas delivered a recent
judgment of marriage in Scotland, from the bench, in these words:
‘Consent makes marriage. No form or ceremony, civil or religious; no
notice before, or publication after; no cohabitation, no writing, no
witnesses even, are essential to the constitution of this, the most
important contract which two persons can enter into.’--There is a Scotch
judge’s own statement of the law that he administers! Observe, at the
same time, if you please, that we make full legal provision in Scotland
for contracts affecting the sale of houses and lands, horses and dogs.
The only contract which we leave without safeguards or precautions of
any sort is the contract that unites a man and a woman for life. As
for the authority of parents, and the innocence of children, our law
recognizes no claim on it either in the one case or in the other. A
girl of twelve and a boy of fourteen have nothing to do but to cross the
Border, and to be married--without the interposition of the slightest
delay or restraint, and without the slightest attempt to inform their
parents on the part of the Scotch law. As to the marriages of men and
women, even the mere interchange of consent which, as you have just
heard, makes them man and wife, is not required to be directly proved:
it may be proved by inference. And, more even than that, whatever the
law for its consistency may presume, men and women are, in point of
fact, held to be married in Scotland where consent has never been
interchanged, and where the parties do not even know that they are
legally held to be married persons. Are you sufficiently confused about
the law of Irregular Marriages in Scotland by this time, Mr. Delamayn?
And have I said enough to justify the strong language I used when I
undertook to describe it to you?”

“Who’s that ‘authority’ you talked of just now?” inquired Geoffrey.
“Couldn’t I ask _him?_”

“You might find him flatly contradicted, if you did ask him by another
authority equally learned and equally eminent,” answered Sir Patrick.
“I am not joking--I am only stating facts. Have you heard of the Queen’s
Commission?”

“No.”

“Then listen to this. In March, ‘sixty-five, the Queen appointed a
Commission to inquire into the Marriage-Laws of the United Kingdom. The
Report of that Commission is published in London; and is accessible to
any body who chooses to pay the price of two or three shillings for
it. One of the results of the inquiry was, the discovery that high
authorities were of entirely contrary opinions on one of the vital
questions of Scottish marriage-law. And the Commissioners, in announcing
that fact, add that the question of which opinion is right is still
disputed, and has never been made the subject of legal decision.
Authorities are every where at variance throughout the Report. A haze of
doubt and uncertainty hangs in Scotland over the most important contract
of civilized life. If no other reason existed for reforming the Scotch
marriage-law, there would be reason enough afforded by that one fact. An
uncertain marriage-law is a national calamity.”

“You can tell me what you think yourself about my friend’s case--can’t
you?” said Geoffrey, still holding obstinately to the end that he had in
view.

“Certainly. Now that I have given you due warning of the danger of
implicitly relying on any individual opinion, I may give my opinion with
a clear conscience. I say that there has not been a positive marriage in
this case. There has been evidence in favor of possibly establishing a
marriage--nothing more.”

The distinction here was far too fine to be appreciated by Geoffrey’s
mind. He frowned heavily, in bewilderment and disgust.

“Not married!” he exclaimed, “when they said they were man and wife,
before witnesses?”

“That is a common popular error,” said Sir Patrick. “As I have already
told you, witnesses are not legally necessary to make a marriage in
Scotland. They are only valuable--as in this case--to help, at some
future time, in proving a marriage that is in dispute.”

Geoffrey caught at the last words.

“The landlady and the waiter _might_ make it out to be a marriage,
then?” he said.

“Yes. And, remember, if you choose to apply to one of my professional
colleagues, he might possibly tell you they were married already. A
state of the law which allows the interchange of matrimonial consent
to be proved by inference leaves a wide door open to conjecture. Your
friend refers to a certain lady, in so many words, as his wife. The lady
refers to your friend, in so many words, as her husband. In the rooms
which they have taken, as man and wife, they remain, as man and wife,
till the next morning. Your friend goes away, without undeceiving any
body. The lady stays at the inn, for some days after, in the character
of his wife. And all these circumstances take place in the presence o f
competent witnesses. Logically--if not legally--there is apparently an
inference of the interchange of matrimonial consent here. I stick to
my own opinion, nevertheless. Evidence in proof of a marriage (I
say)--nothing more.”

While Sir Patrick had been speaking, Geoffrey had been considering with
himself. By dint of hard thinking he had found his way to a decisive
question on his side.

“Look here!” he said, dropping his heavy hand down on the table. “I want
to bring you to book, Sir! Suppose my friend had another lady in his
eye?”

“Yes?”

“As things are now--would you advise him to marry her?”

“As things are now--certainly not!”

Geoffrey got briskly on his legs, and closed the interview.

“That will do,” he said, “for him and for me.”

With those words he walked back, without ceremony, into the main
thoroughfare of the room.

“I don’t know who your friend is,” thought Sir Patrick, looking after
him. “But if your interest in the question of his marriage is an honest
and a harmless interest, I know no more of human nature than the babe
unborn!”

Immediately on leaving Sir Patrick, Geoffrey was encountered by one of
the servants in search of him.

“I beg your pardon, Sir,” began the man. “The groom from the Honorable
Mr. Delamayn’s--”

“Yes? The fellow who brought me a note from my brother this morning?”

“He’s expected back, Sir--he’s afraid he mustn’t wait any longer.”

“Come here, and I’ll give you the answer for him.”

He led the way to the writing-table, and referred to Julius’s letter
again. He ran his eye carelessly over it, until he reached the final
lines: “Come to-morrow, and help us to receive Mrs. Glenarm.” For a
while he paused, with his eye fixed on that sentence; and with the
happiness of three people--of Anne, who had loved him; of Arnold, who
had served him; of Blanche, guiltless of injuring him--resting on the
decision that guided his movements for the next day. After what had
passed that morning between Arnold and Blanche, if he remained at Lady
Lundie’s, he had no alternative but to perform his promise to Anne. If
he returned to his brother’s house, he had no alternative but to desert
Anne, on the infamous pretext that she was Arnold’s wife.

He suddenly tossed the letter away from him on the table, and snatched
a sheet of note-paper out of the writing-case. “Here goes for Mrs.
Glenarm!” he said to himself; and wrote back to his brother, in
one line: “Dear Julius, Expect me to-morrow. G. D.” The impassible
man-servant stood by while he wrote, looking at his magnificent breadth
of chest, and thinking what a glorious “staying-power” was there for the
last terrible mile of the coming race.

“There you are!” he said, and handed his note to the man.

“All right, Geoffrey?” asked a friendly voice behind him.

He turned--and saw Arnold, anxious for news of the consultation with Sir
Patrick.

“Yes,” he said. “All right.”

     ------------ NOTE.--There are certain readers who feel a
     disposition to doubt Facts, when they meet with them in a work of
     fiction. Persons of this way of thinking may be profitably
     referred to the book which first suggested to me the idea of
     writing the present Novel. The book is the Report of the Royal
     Commissioners on The Laws of Marriage. Published by the Queen’s
     Printers For her Majesty’s Stationery Office. (London, 1868.)
     What Sir Patrick says professionally of Scotch Marriages in this
     chapter is taken from this high authority. What the lawyer (in
     the Prologue) says professionally of Irish Marriages is also
     derived from the same source. It is needless to encumber these
     pages with quotations. But as a means of satisfying my readers
     that they may depend on me, I subjoin an extract from my list of
     references to the Report of the Marriage Commission, which any
     persons who may be so inclined can verify for themselves.

     _Irish Marriages_ (In the Prologue).--See Report, pages XII.,
     XIII., XXIV.

     _Irregular Marriages in Scotland._--Statement of the law by Lord
     Deas. Report, page XVI.--Marriages of children of tender years.
     Examination of Mr. Muirhead by Lord Chelmsford (Question
     689).--Interchange of consent, established by inference.
     Examination of Mr. Muirhead by the Lord Justice Clerk (Question
     654)--Marriage where consent has never been interchanged.
     Observations of Lord Deas. Report, page XIX.--Contradiction of
     opinions between authorities. Report, pages XIX., XX.--Legal
     provision for the sale of horses and dogs. No legal provision for
     the marriage of men and women. Mr. Seeton’s Remarks. Report, page
     XXX.--Conclusion of the Commissioners. In spite of the arguments
     advanced before them in favor of not interfering with Irregular
     Marriages in Scotland, the Commissioners declare their opinion
     that “Such marriages ought not to continue.” (Report, page
     XXXIV.)

     In reference to the arguments (alluded to above) in favor of
     allowing the present disgraceful state of things to continue, I
     find them resting mainly on these grounds: That Scotland doesn’t
     like being interfered with by England (!). That Irregular
     Marriages cost nothing (!!). That they are diminishing in number,
     and may therefore be trusted, in course of time, to exhaust
     themselves (!!!). That they act, on certain occasions, in the
     capacity of a moral trap to catch a profligate man (!!!!). Such
     is the elevated point of view from which the Institution of
     Marriage is regarded by some of the most pious and learned men in
     Scotland. A legal enactment providing for the sale of your wife,
     when you have done with her, or of your husband; when you “really
     can’t put up with him any longer,” appears to be all that is
     wanting to render this North British estimate of the “Estate of
     Matrimony” practically complete. It is only fair to add that, of
     the witnesses giving evidence--oral and written--before the
     Commissioners, fully one-half regard the Irregular Marriages of
     Scotland from the Christian and the civilized point of view, and
     entirely agree with the authoritative conclusion already
     cited--that such marriages ought to be abolished.

     W. C.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FIRST.

DONE!

ARNOLD was a little surprised by the curt manner in which Geoffrey
answered him.

“Has Sir Patrick said any thing unpleasant?” he asked.

“Sir Patrick has said just what I wanted him to say.”

“No difficulty about the marriage?”

“None.”

“No fear of Blanche--”

“She won’t ask you to go to Craig Fernie--I’ll answer for that!” He said
the words with a strong emphasis on them, took his brother’s letter from
the table, snatched up his hat, and went out.

His friends, idling on the lawn, hailed him. He passed by them quickly
without answering, without so much as a glance at them over his
shoulder. Arriving at the rose-garden, he stopped and took out his pipe;
then suddenly changed his mind, and turned back again by another path.
There was no certainty, at that hour of the day, of his being left alone
in the rose-garden. He had a fierce and hungry longing to be by himself;
he felt as if he could have been the death of any body who came and
spoke to him at that moment. With his head down and his brows knit
heavily, he followed the path to see what it ended in. It ended in a
wicket-gate which led into a kitchen-garden. Here he was well out of
the way of interruption: there was nothing to attract visitors in the
kitchen-garden. He went on to a walnut-tree planted in the middle of the
inclosure, with a wooden bench and a broad strip of turf running round
it. After first looking about him, he seated himself and lit his pipe.

“I wish it was done!” he said.

He sat, with his elbows on his knees, smoking and thinking. Before long
the restlessness that had got possession of him forced him to his feet
again. He rose, and paced round and round the strip of greensward under
the walnut-tree, like a wild beast in a cage.

What was the meaning of this disturbance in the inner man? Now that he
had committed himself to the betrayal of the friend who had trusted and
served him, was he torn by remorse?

He was no more torn by remorse than you are while your eye is passing
over this sentence. He was simply in a raging fever of impatience to see
himself safely la nded at the end which he had in view.

Why should he feel remorse? All remorse springs, more or less directly,
from the action of two sentiments, which are neither of them inbred in
the natural man. The first of these sentiments is the product of the
respect which we learn to feel for ourselves. The second is the product
of the respect which we learn to feel for others. In their highest
manifestations, these two feelings exalt themselves, until the first he
comes the love of God, and the second the love of Man. I have injured
you, and I repent of it when it is done. Why should I repent of it if
I have gained something by it for my own self and if you can’t make me
feel it by injuring Me? I repent of it because there has been a sense
put into me which tells me that I have sinned against Myself, and sinned
against You. No such sense as that exists among the instincts of the
natural man. And no such feelings as these troubled Geoffrey Delamayn;
for Geoffrey Delamayn was the natural man.

When the idea of his scheme had sprung to life in his mind, the
novelty of it had startled him--the enormous daring of it, suddenly
self-revealed, had daunted him. The signs of emotion which he had
betrayed at the writing-table in the library were the signs of mere
mental perturbation, and of nothing more.

That first vivid impression past, the idea had made itself familiar
to him. He had become composed enough to see such difficulties as it
involved, and such consequences as it implied. These had fretted him
with a passing trouble; for these he plainly discerned. As for the
cruelty and the treachery of the thing he meditated doing--that
consideration never crossed the limits of his mental view. His position
toward the man whose life he had preserved was the position of a dog.
The “noble animal” who has saved you or me from drowning will fly at
your throat or mine, under certain conditions, ten minutes afterward.
Add to the dog’s unreasoning instinct the calculating cunning of a man;
suppose yourself to be in a position to say of some trifling thing,
“Curious! at such and such a time I happened to pick up such and such
an object; and now it turns out to be of some use to me!”--and there you
have an index to the state of Geoffrey’s feeling toward his friend when
he recalled the past or when he contemplated the future. When Arnold
had spoken to him at the critical moment, Arnold had violently irritated
him; and that was all.

The same impenetrable insensibility, the same primitively natural
condition of the moral being, prevented him from being troubled by the
slightest sense of pity for Anne. “She’s out of my way!” was his first
thought. “She’s provided for, without any trouble to Me!” was his second.
He was not in the least uneasy about her. Not the slightest doubt
crossed his mind that, when once she had realized her own situation,
when once she saw herself placed between the two alternatives of facing
her own ruin or of claiming Arnold as a last resource, she would claim
Arnold. She would do it as a matter of course; because _he_ would have
done it in her place.

But he wanted it over. He was wild, as he paced round and round the
walnut-tree, to hurry on the crisis and be done with it. Give me my
freedom to go to the other woman, and to train for the foot-race--that’s
what I want. _They_ injured? Confusion to them both! It’s I who am
injured by them. They are the worst enemies I have! They stand in my
way.

How to be rid of them? There was the difficulty. He had made up his mind
to be rid of them that day. How was he to begin?

There was no picking a quarrel with Arnold, and so beginning with _him._
This course of proceeding, in Arnold’s position toward Blanche, would
lead to a scandal at the outset--a scandal which would stand in the way
of his making the right impression on Mrs. Glenarm. The woman--lonely
and friendless, with her sex and her position both against her if _she_
tried to make a scandal of it--the woman was the one to begin with.
Settle it at once and forever with Anne; and leave Arnold to hear of it
and deal with it, sooner or later, no matter which.

How was he to break it to her before the day was out?

By going to the inn and openly addressing her to her face as Mrs. Arnold
Brinkworth? No! He had had enough, at Windygates, of meeting her face
to face. The easy way was to write to her, and send the letter, by the
first messenger he could find, to the inn. She might appear afterward at
Windygates; she might follow him to his brother’s; she might appeal to
his father. It didn’t matter; he had got the whip-hand of her now. “You
are a married woman.” There was the one sufficient answer, which was
strong enough to back him in denying any thing!

He made out the letter in his own mind. “Something like this would do,”
 he thought, as he went round and round the walnut-tree: “You may be
surprised not to have seen me. You have only yourself to thank for it.
I know what took place between you and him at the inn. I have had a
lawyer’s advice. You are Arnold Brinkworth’s wife. I wish you joy, and
good-by forever.” Address those lines: “To Mrs. Arnold Brinkworth;”
 instruct the messenger to leave the letter late that night, without
waiting for an answer; start the first thing the next morning for his
brother’s house; and behold, it was done!

But even here there was an obstacle--one last exasperating
obstacle--still in the way.

If she was known at the inn by any name at all, it was by the name of
Mrs. Silvester. A letter addressed to “Mrs. Arnold Brinkworth” would
probably not be taken in at the door; or if it was admitted and if
it was actually offered to her, she might decline to receive it, as a
letter not addressed to herself. A man of readier mental resources would
have seen that the name on the outside of the letter mattered little or
nothing, so long as the contents were read by the person to whom they
were addressed. But Geoffrey’s was the order of mind which expresses
disturbance by attaching importance to trifles. He attached an absurd
importance to preserving absolute consistency in his letter, outside and
in. If he declared her to be Arnold Brinkworth’s wife, he must direct
to her as Arnold Brinkworth’s wife; or who could tell what the law might
say, or what scrape he might not get himself into by a mere scratch of
the pen! The more he thought of it, the more persuaded he felt of his
own cleverness here, and the hotter and the angrier he grew.

There is a way out of every thing. And there was surely a way out of
this, if he could only see it.

He failed to see it. After dealing with all the great difficulties, the
small difficulty proved too much for him. It struck him that he might
have been thinking too long about it--considering that he was not
accustomed to thinking long about any thing. Besides, his head was
getting giddy, with going mechanically round and round the tree. He
irritably turned his back on the tree and struck into another path:
resolved to think of something else, and then to return to his
difficulty, and see it with a new eye.

Leaving his thoughts free to wander where they liked, his thoughts
naturally busied themselves with the next subject that was uppermost
in his mind, the subject of the Foot-Race. In a week’s time his
arrangements ought to be made. Now, as to the training, first.

He decided on employing two trainers this time. One to travel to
Scotland, and begin with him at his brother’s house. The other to take
him up, with a fresh eye to him, on his return to London. He turned over
in his mind the performances of the formidable rival against whom he was
to be matched. That other man was the swiftest runner of the two.
The betting in Geoffrey’s favor was betting which calculated on the
unparalleled length of the race, and on Geoffrey’s prodigious powers of
endurance. How long he should “wait on” the man? Whereabouts it would
be safe to “pick the man up?” How near the end to calculate the man’s
exhaustion to a nicety, and “put on the spurt,” and pass him? These were
nice points to decide. The deliberations of a pedestrian-privy-council
would be required to help him under this heavy responsibility. What men
could he trust? He could trust A. and B.--both of them authorities:
both of them stanch. Query about C.? As an authority, unexceptionable;
as a man, doubtful. The problem relating to C. brought him to a
standstill--and declined to be solved, even then. Never mind! he could
always take the advice of A. and B. In the mean time devote C. to the
infernal regions; and, thus dismissing him, try and think of something
else. What else? Mrs. Glenarm? Oh, bother the women! one of them is the
same as another. They all waddle when they run; and they all fill their
stomachs before dinner with sloppy tea. That’s the only difference
between women and men--the rest is nothing but a weak imitation of Us.
Devote the women to the infernal regions; and, so dismissing _them,_ try
and think of something else. Of what? Of something worth thinking of,
this time--of filling another pipe.

He took out his tobacco-pouch; and suddenly suspended operations at the
moment of opening it.

What was the object he saw, on the other side of a row of dwarf
pear-trees, away to the right? A woman--evidently a servant by her
dress--stooping down with her back to him, gathering something: herbs
they looked like, as well as he could make them out at the distance.

What was that thing hanging by a string at the woman’s side? A slate?
Yes. What the deuce did she want with a slate at her side? He was in
search of something to divert his mind--and here it was found. “Any
thing will do for me,” he thought. “Suppose I ‘chaff’ her a little about
her slate?”

He called to the woman across the pear-trees. “Hullo!”

The woman raised herself, and advanced toward him slowly--looking at
him, as she came on, with the sunken eyes, the sorrow-stricken face, the
stony tranquillity of Hester Dethridge.

Geoffrey was staggered. He had not bargained for exchanging the dullest
producible vulgarities of human speech (called in the language of slang,
“Chaff”) with such a woman as this.

“What’s that slate for?” he asked, not knowing what else to say, to
begin with.

The woman lifted her hand to her lips--touched them--and shook her head.

“Dumb?”

The woman bowed her head.

“Who are you?”

The woman wrote on her slate, and handed it to him over the pear-trees.
He read:--“I am the cook.”

“Well, cook, were you born dumb?”

The woman shook her head.

“What struck you dumb?”

The woman wrote on her slate:--“A blow.”

“Who gave you the blow?”

She shook her head.

“Won’t you tell me?”

She shook her head again.

Her eyes had rested on his face while he was questioning her; staring
at him, cold, dull, and changeless as the eyes of a corpse. Firm as his
nerves were--dense as he was, on all ordinary occasions, to any thing in
the shape of an imaginative impression--the eyes of the dumb cook slowly
penetrated him with a stealthy inner chill. Something crept at the
marrow of his back, and shuddered under the roots of his hair. He felt
a sudden impulse to get away from her. It was simple enough; he had only
to say good-morning, and go on. He did say good-morning--but he never
moved. He put his hand into his pocket, and offered her some money, as a
way of making _her_ go. She stretched out her hand across the pear-trees
to take it--and stopped abruptly, with her arm suspended in the air. A
sinister change passed over the deathlike tranquillity of her face. Her
closed lips slowly dropped apart. Her dull eyes slowly dilated; looked
away, sideways, from _his_ eyes; stopped again; and stared, rigid and
glittering, over his shoulder--stared as if they saw a sight of horror
behind him. “What the devil are you looking at?” he asked--and turned
round quickly, with a start. There was neither person nor thing to be
seen behind him. He turned back again to the woman. The woman had left
him, under the influence of some sudden panic. She was hurrying away
from him--running, old as she was--flying the sight of him, as if the
sight of him was the pestilence.

“Mad!” he thought--and turned his back on the sight of her.

He found himself (hardly knowing how he had got there) under the
walnut-tree once more. In a few minutes his hardy nerves had recovered
themselves--he could laugh over the remembrance of the strange
impression that had been produced on him. “Frightened for the first time
in my life,” he thought--“and that by an old woman! It’s time I went
into training again, when things have come to this!”

He looked at his watch. It was close on the luncheon hour up at the
house; and he had not decided yet what to do about his letter to Anne.
He resolved to decide, then and there.

The woman--the dumb woman, with the stony face and the horrid
eyes--reappeared in his thoughts, and got in the way of his decision.
Pooh! some crazed old servant, who might once have been cook; who was
kept out of charity now. Nothing more important than that. No more of
her! no more of her!

He laid himself down on the grass, and gave his mind to the serious
question. How to address Anne as “Mrs. Arnold Brinkworth?” and how to
make sure of her receiving the letter?

The dumb old woman got in his way again.

He closed his eyes impatiently, and tried to shut her out in a darkness
of his own making.

The woman showed herself through the darkness. He saw her, as if he
had just asked her a question, writing on her slate. What she wrote he
failed to make out. It was all over in an instant. He started up, with
a feeling of astonishment at himself--and, at the same moment his brain
cleared with the suddenness of a flash of light. He saw his way, without
a conscious effort on his own part, through the difficulty that had
troubled him. Two envelopes, of course: an inner one, unsealed, and
addressed to “Mrs. Arnold Brinkworth;” an outer one, sealed, and
addressed to “Mrs. Silvester:” and there was the problem solved! Surely
the simplest problem that had ever puzzled a stupid head.

Why had he not seen it before? Impossible to say.

How came he to have seen it now?

The dumb old woman reappeared in his thoughts--as if the answer to the
question lay in something connected with _her._

He became alarmed about himself, for the first time in his life. Had
this persistent impression, produced by nothing but a crazy old woman,
any thing to do with the broken health which the surgeon had talked
about? Was his head on the turn? Or had he smoked too much on an empty
stomach, and gone too long (after traveling all night) without his
customary drink of ale?

He left the garden to put that latter theory to the test forthwith. The
betting would have gone dead against him if the public had seen him at
that moment. He looked haggard and anxious--and with good reason too.
His nervous system had suddenly forced itself on his notice, without the
slightest previous introduction, and was saying (in an unknown tongue),
Here I am!

Returning to the purely ornamental part of the grounds, Geoffrey
encountered one of the footmen giving a message to one of the gardeners.
He at once asked for the butler--as the only safe authority to consult
in the present emergency.

Conducted to the butler’s pantry, Geoffrey requested that functionary to
produce a jug of his oldest ale, with appropriate solid nourishment in
the shape of “a hunk of bread and cheese.”

The butler stared. As a form of condescension among the upper classes
this was quite new to him.

“Luncheon will be ready directly, Sir.”

“What is there for lunch?”

The butler ran over an appetizing list of good dishes and rare wines.

“The devil take your kickshaws!” said Geoffrey. “Give me my old ale, and
my hunk of bread and cheese.”

“Where will you take them, Sir?”

“Here, to be sure! And the sooner the better.”

The butler issued the necessary orders with all needful alacrity. He
spread the simple refreshment demanded, before his distinguished guest,
in a state of blank bewilderment. Here was a nobleman’s son, and a
public celebrity into the bargain, filling himself with bread and cheese
and ale, in at once the most voracious and the most unpretending
manner, at _his_ table! The butler ventured on a little complimentary
familiarity. He smiled, and touched the betting-book in his
breast-pocket. “I’ve put six pound on you, Sir, for the Race.” “All
right, old boy! you shall win your money!” With those noble words the
honorable gentleman clapped him on the back, and held out his tumbler
for some more ale. The butler felt trebly an Englishman as he filled the
foaming glass. Ah! foreign nations may have their revolutions! foreign
aristocracies may tumble down! The British aristocracy lives in the
hearts of the people, and lives forever!

“Another!” said Geoffrey, presenting his empty glass. “Here’s luck!” He
tossed off his liquor at a draught, and nodded to the butler, and went
out.

Had the experiment succeeded? Had he proved his own theory about himself
to be right? Not a doubt of it! An empty stomach, and a determination of
tobacco to the head--these were the true causes of that strange state of
mind into which he had fallen in the kitchen-garden. The dumb woman
with the stony face vanished as if in a mist. He felt nothing now but
a comfortable buzzing in his head, a genial warmth all over him, and an
unlimited capacity for carrying any responsibility that could rest on
mortal shoulders. Geoffrey was himself again.

He went round toward the library, to write his letter to Anne--and so
have done with that, to begin with. The company had collected in the
library waiting for the luncheon-bell. All were idly talking; and some
would be certain, if he showed himself, to fasten on _him._ He turned
back again, without showing himself. The only way of writing in peace
and quietness would be to wait until they were all at luncheon, and then
return to the library. The same opportunity would serve also for finding
a messenger to take the letter, without exciting attention, and for
going away afterward, unseen, on a long walk by himself. An absence of
two or three hours would cast the necessary dust in Arnold’s eyes;
for it would be certainly interpreted by him as meaning absence at an
interview with Anne.

He strolled idly through the grounds, farther and farther away from the
house.



The talk in the library--aimless and empty enough, for the most
part--was talk to the purpose, in one corner of the room, in which Sir
Patrick and Blanche were sitting together.

“Uncle! I have been watching you for the last minute or two.”

“At my age, Blanche? that is paying me a very pretty compliment.”

“Do you know what I have seen?”

“You have seen an old gentleman in want of his lunch.”

“I have seen an old gentleman with something on his mind. What is it?”

“Suppressed gout, my dear.”

“That won’t do! I am not to be put off in that way. Uncle! I want to
know--”

“Stop there, Blanche! A young lady who says she ‘wants to know,’
expresses very dangerous sentiments. Eve ‘wanted to know’--and see what
it led to. Faust ‘wanted to know’--and got into bad company, as the
necessary result.”

“You are feeling anxious about something,” persisted Blanche. “And,
what is more, Sir Patrick, you behaved in a most unaccountable manner a
little while since.”

“When?”

“When you went and hid yourself with Mr. Delamayn in that snug corner
there. I saw you lead the way in, while I was at work on Lady Lundie’s
odious dinner-invitations.”

“Oh! you call that being at work, do you? I wonder whether there was
ever a woman yet who could give the whole of her mind to any earthly
thing that she had to do?”

“Never mind the women! What subject in common could you and Mr. Delamayn
possibly have to talk about? And why do I see a wrinkle between your
eyebrows, now you have done with him?--a wrinkle which certainly wasn’t
there before you had that private conference together?”

Before answering, Sir Patrick considered whether he should take Blanche
into his confidence or not. The attempt to identify Geoffrey’s unnamed
“lady,” which he was determined to make, would lead him to Craig Fernie,
and would no doubt end in obliging him to address himself to Anne.
Blanche’s intimate knowledge of her friend might unquestionably be made
useful to him under these circumstances; and Blanche’s discretion was
to be trusted in any matter in which Miss Silvester’s interests were
concerned. On the other hand, caution was imperatively necessary, in
the present imperfect state of his information--and caution, in Sir
Patrick’s mind, carried the day. He decided to wait and see what came
first of his investigation at the inn.

“Mr. Delamayn consulted me on a dry point of law, in which a friend of
his was interested,” said Sir Patrick. “You have wasted your curiosity,
my dear, on a subject totally unworthy of a lady’s notice.”

Blanche’s penetration was not to be deceived on such easy terms as
these. “Why not say at once that you won’t tell me?” she rejoined.
“_You_ shutting yourself up with Mr. Delamayn to talk law! _You_ looking
absent and anxious about it afterward! I am a very unhappy girl!” said
Blanche, with a little, bitter sigh. “There is something in me that
seems to repel the people I love. Not a word in confidence can I get
from Anne. And not a word in confidence can I get from you. And I do so
long to sympathize! It’s very hard. I think I shall go to Arnold.”

Sir Patrick took his niece’s hand.

“Stop a minute, Blanche. About Miss Silvester? Have you heard from her
to-day?”

“No. I am more unhappy about her than words can say.”

“Suppose somebody went to Craig Fernie and tried to find out the cause
of Miss Silvester’s silence? Would you believe that somebody sympathized
with you then?”

Blanche’s face flushed brightly with pleasure and surprise. She raised
Sir Patrick’s hand gratefully to her lips.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “You don’t mean that _you_ would do that?”

“I am certainly the last person who ought to do it--seeing that you went
to the inn in flat rebellion against my orders, and that I only forgave
you, on your own promise of amendment, the other day. It is a miserably
weak proceeding on the part of ‘the head of the family’ to be turning
his back on his own principles, because his niece happens to be anxious
and unhappy. Still (if you could lend me your little carriage), I
_might_ take a surly drive toward Craig Fernie, all by myself, and I
_might_ stumble against Miss Silvester--in case you have any thing to
say.”

“Any thing to say?” repeated Blanche. She put her arm round her uncle’s
neck, and whispered in his ear one of the most interminable messages
that ever was sent from one human being to another. Sir Patrick
listened, with a growing interest in the inquiry on which he was
secretly bent. “The woman must have some noble qualities,” he thought,
“who can inspire such devotion as this.”

While Blanche was whispering to her uncle, a second private
conference--of the purely domestic sort--was taking place between Lady
Lundie and the butler, in the hall outside the library door.

“I am sorry to say, my lady, Hester Dethridge has broken out again.”

“What do you mean?”

“She was all right, my lady, when she went into the kitchen-garden, some
time since. She’s taken strange again, now she has come back. Wants the
rest of the day to herself, your ladyship. Says she’s overworked, with
all the company in the house--and, I must say, does look like a person
troubled and worn out in body and mind.”

“Don’t talk nonsense, Roberts! The woman is obstinate and idle and
insolent. She is now in the house, as you know, under a month’s notice
to leave. If she doesn’t choose to do her duty for that month I shall
refuse to give her a character. Who is to cook the dinner to-day if I
give Hester Dethridge leave to go out?”

“Any way, my lady, I am afraid the kitchen-maid will have to do her
best to-day. Hester is very obstinate, when the fit takes her--as your
ladyship says.”

“If Hester Dethridge leaves the kitchen-maid to cook the dinner,
Roberts, Hester Dethridge leaves my service to-day. I want no more words
about it. If she persists in setting my orders at defiance, let her
bring her account-book into the library, while we are at lunch, and lay
it out my desk. I shall be back in the library after luncheon--and if I
see the account-book I shall know what it means. In that case, you will
receive my directions to settle with her and send her away. Ring the
luncheon-bell.”

The luncheon-bell rang. The guests all took the direction of the dining
-room; Sir Patrick following, from the far end of the library, with
Blanche on his arm. Arrived at the dining-room door, Blanche stopped,
and asked her uncle to excuse her if she left him to go in by himself.

“I will be back directly,” she said. “I have forgotten something up
stairs.”

Sir Patrick went in. The dining-room door closed; and Blanche returned
alone to the library. Now on one pretense, and now on another, she had,
for three days past, faithfully fulfilled the engagement she had made at
Craig Fernie to wait ten minutes after luncheon-time in the library, on
the chance of seeing Anne. On this, the fourth occasion, the faithful
girl sat down alone in the great room, and waited with her eyes fixed on
the lawn outside.

Five minutes passed, and nothing living appeared but the birds hopping
about the grass.

In less than a minute more Blanche’s quick ear caught the faint sound of
a woman’s dress brushing over the lawn. She ran to the nearest window,
looked out, and clapped her hands with a cry of delight. There was
the well-known figure, rapidly approaching her! Anne was true to their
friendship--Anne had kept her engagement at last!

Blanche hurried out, and drew her into the library in triumph. “This
makes amends, love for every thing! You answer my letter in the best of
all ways--you bring me your own dear self.”

She placed Anne in a chair, and, lifting her veil, saw her plainly in
the brilliant mid-day light.

The change in the whole woman was nothing less than dreadful to the
loving eyes that rested on her. She looked years older than her real
age. There was a dull calm in her face, a stagnant, stupefied submission
to any thing, pitiable to see. Three days and nights of solitude and
grief, three days and nights of unresting and unpartaken suspense, had
crushed that sensitive nature, had frozen that warm heart. The animating
spirit was gone--the mere shell of the woman lived and moved, a mockery
of her former self.

“Oh, Anne! Anne! What _can_ have happened to you? Are you frightened?
There’s not the least fear of any body disturbing us. They are all at
luncheon, and the servants are at dinner. We have the room entirely to
ourselves. My darling! you look so faint and strange! Let me get you
something.”

Anne drew Blanche’s head down and kissed her. It was done in a dull,
slow way--without a word, without a tear, without a sigh.

“You’re tired--I’m sure you’re tired. Have you walked here? You sha’n’t
go back on foot; I’ll take care of that!”

Anne roused herself at those words. She spoke for the first time. The
tone was lower than was natural to her; sadder than was natural to
her--but the charm of her voice, the native gentleness and beauty of it,
seemed to have survived the wreck of all besides.

“I don’t go back, Blanche. I have left the inn.”

“Left the inn? With your husband?”

She answered the first question--not the second.

“I can’t go back,” she said. “The inn is no place for me. A curse seems
to follow me, Blanche, wherever I go. I am the cause of quarreling
and wretchedness, without meaning it, God knows. The old man who is
head-waiter at the inn has been kind to me, my dear, in his way, and
he and the landlady had hard words together about it. A quarrel, a
shocking, violent quarrel. He has lost his place in consequence. The
woman, his mistress, lays all the blame of it to my door. She is a hard
woman; and she has been harder than ever since Bishopriggs went away. I
have missed a letter at the inn--I must have thrown it aside, I suppose,
and forgotten it. I only know that I remembered about it, and couldn’t
find it last night. I told the landlady, and she fastened a quarrel on
me almost before the words were out of my mouth. Asked me if I charged
her with stealing my letter. Said things to me--I can’t repeat them.
I am not very well, and not able to deal with people of that sort. I
thought it best to leave Craig Fernie this morning. I hope and pray I
shall never see Craig Fernie again.”

She told her little story with a total absence of emotion of any sort,
and laid her head back wearily on the chair when it was done.

Blanche’s eyes filled with tears at the sight of her.

“I won’t tease you with questions, Anne,” she said, gently. “Come up
stairs and rest in my room. You’re not fit to travel, love. I’ll take
care that nobody comes near us.”

The stable-clock at Windygates struck the quarter to two. Anne raised
herself in the chair with a start.

“What time was that?” she asked.

Blanche told her.

“I can’t stay,” she said. “I have come here to find something out if I
can. You won’t ask me questions? Don’t, Blanche, don’t! for the sake of
old times.”

Blanche turned aside, heart-sick. “I will do nothing, dear, to annoy
you,” she said, and took Anne’s hand, and hid the tears that were
beginning to fall over her cheeks.

“I want to know something, Blanche. Will you tell me?”

“Yes. What is it?”

“Who are the gentlemen staying in the house?”

Blanche looked round at her again, in sudden astonishment and alarm.
A vague fear seized her that Anne’s mind had given way under the heavy
weight of trouble laid on it. Anne persisted in pressing her strange
request.

“Run over their names, Blanche. I have a reason for wishing to know who
the gentlemen are who are staying in the house.”

Blanche repeated the names of Lady Lundie’s guests, leaving to the last
the guests who had arrived last.

“Two more came back this morning,” she went on. “Arnold Brinkworth and
that hateful friend of his, Mr. Delamayn.”

Anne’s head sank back once more on the chair. She had found her way
without exciting suspicion of the truth, to the one discovery which she
had come to Windygates to make. He was in Scotland again, and he had
only arrived from London that morning. There was barely time for him to
have communicated with Craig Fernie before she left the inn--he, too,
who hated letter-writing! The circumstances were all in his favor: there
was no reason, there was really and truly no reason, so far, to believe
that he had deserted her. The heart of the unhappy woman bounded in
her bosom, under the first ray of hope that had warmed it for four days
past. Under that sudden revulsion of feeling, her weakened frame shook
from head to foot. Her face flushed deep for a moment--then turned
deadly pale again. Blanche, anxiously watching her, saw the serious
necessity for giving some restorative to her instantly.

“I am going to get you some wine--you will faint, Anne, if you don’t
take something. I shall be back in a moment; and I can manage it without
any body being the wiser.”

She pushed Anne’s chair close to the nearest open window--a window at
the upper end of the library--and ran out.

Blanche had barely left the room, by the door that led into the hall,
when Geoffrey entered it by one of the lower windows opening from the
lawn.

With his mind absorbed in the letter that he was about to write, he
slowly advanced up the room toward the nearest table. Anne, hearing
the sound of footsteps, started, and looked round. Her failing strength
rallied in an instant, under the sudden relief of seeing him again. She
rose and advanced eagerly, with a faint tinge of color in her cheeks. He
looked up. The two stood face to face together--alone.

“Geoffrey!”

He looked at her without answering--without advancing a step, on his
side. There was an evil light in his eyes; his silence was the brute
silence that threatens dumbly. He had made up his mind never to see her
again, and she had entrapped him into an interview. He had made up his
mind to write, and there she stood forcing him to speak. The sum of
her offenses against him was now complete. If there had ever been the
faintest hope of her raising even a passing pity in his heart, that hope
would have been annihilated now.

She failed to understand the full meaning of his silence. She made her
excuses, poor soul, for venturing back to Windygates--her excuses to the
man whose purpose at that moment was to throw her helpless on the world.

“Pray forgive me for coming here,” she said. “I have done nothing to
compromise you, Geoffrey. Nobody but Blanche knows I am at Windygates.
And I have contrived to make my inquiries about you without allowing
her to suspect our secret.” She stopped, and began to tremble. She saw
something more in his face than she had read in it at first. “I got your
letter,” she went on, rallying her sinking courage. “I don’t complain
of its being so short: you don’t like letter-writing, I know. But you
promised I should hear from you again. And I have never heard. And oh,
Geoffrey, it was so lonely at the inn!”

She stopped again, and supported herself by resting her hand on the
table. The faintness was stealing back on her. She tried to go on again.
It was useless--she could only look at him now.

“What do you want?” he asked, in the tone of a man who was putting an
unimportant question to a total stranger.

A last gleam of her old energy flickered up in her face, like a dying
flame.

“I am broken by what I have gone through,” she said. “Don’t insult me by
making me remind you of your promise.”

“What promise?”’

“For shame, Geoffrey! for shame! Your promise to marry me.”

“You claim my promise after what you have done at the inn?”

She steadied herself against the table with one hand, and put the other
hand to her head. Her brain was giddy. The effort to think was too much
for her. She said to herself, vacantly, “The inn? What did I do at the
inn?”

“I have had a lawyer’s advice, mind! I know what I am talking about.”

She appeared not to have heard him. She repeated the words, “What did
I do at the inn?” and gave it up in despair. Holding by the table, she
came close to him and laid her hand on his arm.

“Do you refuse to marry me?” she asked.

He saw the vile opportunity, and said the vile words.

“You’re married already to Arnold Brinkworth.”

Without a cry to warn him, without an effort to save herself, she
dropped senseless at his feet; as her mother had dropped at his father’s
feet in the by-gone time.

He disentangled himself from the folds of her dress. “Done!” he said,
looking down at her as she lay on the floor.

As the word fell from his lips he was startled by a sound in the inner
part of the house. One of the library doors had not been completely
closed. Light footsteps were audible, advancing rapidly across the hall.

He turned and fled, leaving the library, as he had entered it, by the
open window at the lower end of the room.


CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SECOND.

GONE.

BLANCHE came in, with a glass of wine in her hand, and saw the swooning
woman on the floor.

She was alarmed, but not surprised, as she knelt by Anne, and raised her
head. Her own previous observation of her friend necessarily prevented
her from being at any loss to account for the fainting fit. The
inevitable delay in getting the wine was--naturally to her mind--alone
to blame for the result which now met her view.

If she had been less ready in thus tracing the effect to the cause,
she might have gone to the window to see if any thing had happened,
out-of-doors, to frighten Anne--might have seen Geoffrey before he had
time to turn the corner of the house--and, making that one discovery,
might have altered the whole course of events, not in her coming
life only, but in the coming lives of others. So do we shape our own
destinies, blindfold. So do we hold our poor little tenure of happiness
at the capricious mercy of Chance. It is surely a blessed delusion which
persuades us that we are the highest product of the great scheme of
creation, and sets us doubting whether other planets are inhabited,
because other planets are not surrounded by an atmosphere which _we_ can
breathe!

After trying such simple remedies as were within her reach, and trying
them without success, Blanche became seriously alarmed. Anne lay, to all
outward appearance, dead in her arms. She was on the point of calling
for help--come what might of the discovery which would ensue--when the
door from the hall opened once more, and Hester Dethridge entered the
room.

The cook had accepted the alternative which her mistress’s message had
placed before her, if she insisted on having her own time at her own
sole disposal for the rest of that day. Exactly as Lady Lundie had
desired, she intimated her resolution to carry her point by placing her
account-book on the desk in the library. It was only when this had been
done that Blanche received any answer to her entreaties for help. Slowly
and deliberately Hester Dethridge walked up to the spot where the young
girl knelt with Anne’s head on her bosom, and looked at the two without
a trace of human emotion in her stern and stony face.

“Don’t you see what’s happened?” cried Blanche. “Are you alive or dead?
Oh, Hester, I can’t bring her to! Look at her! look at her!”

Hester Dethridge looked at her, and shook her head. Looked again,
thought for a while and wrote on her slate. Held out the slate over
Anne’s body, and showed what she had written:

“Who has done it?”

“You stupid creature!” said Blanche. “Nobody has done it.”

The eyes of Hester Dethridge steadily read the worn white face, telling
its own tale of sorrow mutely on Blanche’s breast. The mind of Hester
Dethridge steadily looked back at her own knowledge of her own miserable
married life. She again returned to writing on her slate--again showed
the written words to Blanche.

“Brought to it by a man. Let her be--and God will take her.”

“You horrid unfeeling woman! how dare you write such an abominable
thing!” With this natural outburst of indignation, Blanche looked
back at Anne; and, daunted by the death-like persistency of the swoon,
appealed again to the mercy of the immovable woman who was looking down
at her. “Oh, Hester! for Heaven’s sake help me!”

The cook dropped her slate at her side and bent her head gravely in
sign that she submitted. She motioned to Blanche to loosen Anne’s dress,
and then--kneeling on one knee--took Anne to support her while it was
being done.

The instant Hester Dethridge touched her, the swooning woman gave signs
of life.

A faint shudder ran through her from head to foot--her eyelids
trembled--half opened for a moment--and closed again. As they closed, a
low sigh fluttered feebly from her lips.

Hester Dethridge put her back in Blanche’s arms--considered a little
with herself--returned to writing on her slate--and held out the written
words once more:

“Shivered when I touched her. That means I have been walking over her
grave.”

Blanche turned from the sight of the slate, and from the sight of the
woman, in horror. “You frighten me!” she said. “You will frighten _her_
if she sees you. I don’t mean to offend you; but--leave us, please leave
us.”

Hester Dethridge accepted her dismissal, as she accepted every thing
else. She bowed her head in sign that she understood--looked for the
last time at Anne--dropped a stiff courtesy to her young mistress--and
left the room.

An hour later the butler had paid her, and she had left the house.

Blanche breathed more freely when she found herself alone. She could
feel the relief now of seeing Anne revive.

“Can you hear me, darling?” she whispered. “Can you let me leave you for
a moment?”

Anne’s eyes slowly opened and looked round her--in that torment and
terror of reviving life which marks the awful protest of humanity
against its recall to existence when mortal mercy has dared to wake it
in the arms of Death.

Blanche rested Anne’s head against the nearest chair, and ran to the
table upon which she had placed the wine on entering the room.

After swallowing the first few drops Anne begun to feel the effect of
the stimulant. Blanche persisted in making her empty the glass, and
refrained from asking or answering questions until her recovery under
the influence of the wine was complete.

“You have overexerted yourself this morning,” she said, as soon as
it seemed safe to speak. “Nobody has seen you, darling--nothing has
happened. Do you feel like yourself again?”

Anne made an attempt to rise and leave the library; Blanche placed her
gently in the chair, and went on:

“There is not the least need to stir. We have another quarter of an
hour to ourselves before any body is at all likely to disturb us. I have
something to say, Anne--a little proposal to make. Will you listen to
me?”

Anne took Blanche’s hand, and p ressed it gratefully to her lips. She
made no other reply. Blanche proceeded:

“I won’t ask any questions, my dear--I won’t attempt to keep you here
against your will--I won’t even remind you of my letter yesterday. But
I can’t let you go, Anne, without having my mind made easy about you in
some way. You will relieve all my anxiety, if you will do one thing--one
easy thing for my sake.”

“What is it, Blanche?”

She put that question with her mind far away from the subject before
her. Blanche was too eager in pursuit of her object to notice the absent
tone, the purely mechanical manner, in which Anne had spoken to her.

“I want you to consult my uncle,” she answered. “Sir Patrick is
interested in you; Sir Patrick proposed to me this very day to go and
see you at the inn. He is the wisest, the kindest, the dearest old man
living--and you can trust him as you could trust nobody else. Will you
take my uncle into your confidence, and be guided by his advice?”

With her mind still far away from the subject, Anne looked out absently
at the lawn, and made no answer.

“Come!” said Blanche. “One word isn’t much to say. Is it Yes or No?”

Still looking out on the lawn--still thinking of something else--Anne
yielded, and said “Yes.”

Blanche was enchanted. “How well I must have managed it!” she thought.
“This is what my uncle means, when my uncle talks of ‘putting it
strongly.’”

She bent down over Anne, and gayly patted her on the shoulder.

“That’s the wisest ‘Yes,’ darling, you ever said in your life. Wait
here--and I’ll go in to luncheon, or they will be sending to know what
has become of me. Sir Patrick has kept my place for me, next to himself.
I shall contrive to tell him what I want; and _he_ will contrive (oh,
the blessing of having to do with a clever man; these are so few of
them!)--he will contrive to leave the table before the rest, without
exciting any body’s suspicions. Go away with him at once to the
summer-house (we have been at the summer-house all the morning; nobody
will go back to it now), and I will follow you as soon as I have
satisfied Lady Lundie by eating some lunch. Nobody will be any the
wiser but our three selves. In five minutes or less you may expect Sir
Patrick. Let me go! We haven’t a moment to lose!”

Anne held her back. Anne’s attention was concentrated on her now.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Are you going on happily with Arnold, Blanche?”

“Arnold is nicer than ever, my dear.”

“Is the day fixed for your marriage?”

“The day will be ages hence. Not till we are back in town, at the end of
the autumn. Let me go, Anne!”

“Give me a kiss, Blanche.”

Blanche kissed her, and tried to release her hand. Anne held it as if
she was drowning, as if her life depended on not letting it go.

“Will you always love me, Blanche, as you love me now?”

“How can you ask me!”

“_I_ said Yes just now. _You_ say Yes too.”

Blanche said it. Anne’s eyes fastened on her face, with one long,
yearning look, and then Anne’s hand suddenly dropped hers.

She ran out of the room, more agitated, more uneasy, than she liked
to confess to herself. Never had she felt so certain of the urgent
necessity of appealing to Sir Patrick’s advice as she felt at that
moment.



The guests were still safe at the luncheon-table when Blanche entered
the dining-room.

Lady Lundie expressed the necessary surprise, in the properly graduated
tone of reproof, at her step-daughter’s want of punctuality. Blanche
made her apologies with the most exemplary humility. She glided into her
chair by her uncle’s side, and took the first thing that was offered to
her. Sir Patrick looked at his niece, and found himself in the company
of a model young English Miss--and marveled inwardly what it might mean.

The talk, interrupted for the moment (topics, Politics and Sport--and
then, when a change was wanted, Sport and Politics), was resumed
again all round the table. Under cover of the conversation, and in
the intervals of receiving the attentions of the gentlemen, Blanche
whispered to Sir Patrick, “Don’t start, uncle. Anne is in the library.”
 (Polite Mr. Smith offered some ham. Gratefully declined.) “Pray, pray,
pray go to her; she is waiting to see you--she is in dreadful trouble.”
 (Gallant Mr. Jones proposed fruit tart and cream. Accepted with thanks.)
“Take her to the summer-house: I’ll follow you when I get the chance.
And manage it at once, uncle, if you love me, or you will be too late.”

Before Sir Patrick could whisper back a word in reply, Lady Lundie,
cutting a cake of the richest Scottish composition, at the other end of
the table, publicly proclaimed it to be her “own cake,” and, as such,
offered her brother-in-law a slice. The slice exhibited an eruption of
plums and sweetmeats, overlaid by a perspiration of butter. It has been
said that Sir Patrick had reached the age of seventy--it is, therefore,
needless to add that he politely declined to commit an unprovoked
outrage on his own stomach.

“MY cake!” persisted Lady Lundie, elevating the horrible composition on
a fork. “Won’t that tempt you?”

Sir Patrick saw his way to slipping out of the room under cover of a
compliment to his sister-in-law. He summoned his courtly smile, and laid
his hand on his heart.

“A fallible mortal,” he said, “is met by a temptation which he can not
possibly resist. If he is a wise mortal, also, what does he do?”

“He eats some of My cake,” said the prosaic Lady Lundie.

“No!” said Sir Patrick, with a look of unutterable devotion directed at
his sister-in-law.

“He flies temptation, dear lady--as I do now.” He bowed, and escaped,
unsuspected, from the room.

Lady Lundie cast down her eyes, with an expression of virtuous
indulgence for human frailty, and divided Sir Patrick’s compliment
modestly between herself and her cake.



Well aware that his own departure from the table would be followed in a
few minutes by the rising of the lady of the house, Sir Patrick hurried
to the library as fast as his lame foot would let him. Now that he was
alone, his manner became anxious, and his face looked grave. He entered
the room.

Not a sign of Anne Silvester was to be seen any where. The library was a
perfect solitude.

“Gone!” said Sir Patrick. “This looks bad.”

After a moment’s reflection he went back into the hall to get his hat.
It was possible that she might have been afraid of discovery if
she staid in the library, and that she might have gone on to the
summer-house by herself.

If she was not to be found in the summer-house, the quieting of
Blanche’s mind and the clearing up of her uncle’s suspicions alike
depended on discovering the place in which Miss Silvester had taken
refuge. In this case time would be of importance, and the capacity of
making the most of it would be a precious capacity at starting. Arriving
rapidly at these conclusions, Sir Patrick rang the bell in the hall
which communicated with the servants’ offices, and summoned his own
valet--a person of tried discretion and fidelity, nearly as old as
himself.

“Get your hat, Duncan,” he said, when the valet appeared, “and come out
with me.”

Master and servant set forth together silently on their way through the
grounds. Arrived within sight of the summer-house, Sir Patrick ordered
Duncan to wait, and went on by himself.

There was not the least need for the precaution that he had taken.
The summer-house was as empty as the library. He stepped out again
and looked about him. Not a living creature was visible. Sir Patrick
summoned his servant to join him.

“Go back to the stables, Duncan,” he said, “and say that Miss Lundie
lends me her pony-carriage to-day. Let it be got ready at once and kept
in the stable-yard. I want to attract as little notice as possible.
You are to go with me, and nobody else. Provide yourself with a railway
time-table. Have you got any money?”

“Yes, Sir Patrick.”

“Did you happen to see the governess (Miss Silvester) on the day when we
came here--the day of the lawn-party?”

“I did, Sir Patrick.”

“Should you know her again?”

“I thought her a very distinguished-looking person, Sir Patrick. I
should certainly know her again.”

“Have you any reason to think she noticed you?”

“She never even looked at me, Sir Patrick.”

“Very good. Put a change of linen into your bag, Duncan--I may possibly
want you to take a journey by railway. Wait for me in the stable-yard.
This is a matter in which every thing is trusted to my discretion, and
to yours.”

“Thank you, Sir Patrick.”

With that acknowledgment of the compliment which had been just paid to
him, Duncan gravely went his way to the stables; and Duncan’s master
returned to the summer-house, to wait there until he was joined by
Blanche.

Sir Patrick showed signs of failing patience during the interval of
expectation through which he was now condemned to pass. He applied
perpetually to the snuff-box in the knob of his cane. He fidgeted
incessantly in and out of the summer-house. Anne’s disappearance had
placed a serious obstacle in the way of further discovery; and there
was no attacking that obstacle, until precious time had been wasted in
waiting to see Blanche.

At last she appeared in view, from the steps of the summer-house;
breathless and eager, hasting to the place of meeting as fast as her
feet would take her to it.

Sir Patrick considerately advanced, to spare her the shock of making the
inevitable discovery. “Blanche,” he said. “Try to prepare yourself, my
dear, for a disappointment. I am alone.”

“You don’t mean that you have let her go?”

“My poor child! I have never seen her at all.”

Blanche pushed by him, and ran into the summer-house. Sir Patrick
followed her. She came out again to meet him, with a look of blank
despair. “Oh, uncle! I did so truly pity her! And see how little pity
she has for _me!_”

Sir Patrick put his arm round his niece, and softly patted the fair
young head that dropped on his shoulder.

“Don’t let us judge her harshly, my dear: we don’t know what serious
necessity may not plead her excuse. It is plain that she can trust
nobody--and that she only consented to see me to get you out of the room
and spare you the pain of parting. Compose yourself, Blanche. I don’t
despair of discovering where she has gone, if you will help me.”

Blanche lifted her head, and dried her tears bravely.

“My father himself wasn’t kinder to me than you are,” she said. “Only
tell me, uncle, what I can do!”

“I want to hear exactly what happened in the library,” said Sir Patrick.
“Forget nothing, my dear child, no matter how trifling it may be.
Trifles are precious to us, and minutes are precious to us, now.”

Blanche followed her instructions to the letter, her uncle listening
with the closest attention. When she had completed her narrative,
Sir Patrick suggested leaving the summer-house. “I have ordered your
chaise,” he said; “and I can tell you what I propose doing on our way to
the stable-yard.”

“Let me drive you, uncle!”

“Forgive me, my dear, for saying No to that. Your step-mother’s
suspicions are very easily excited--and you had better not be seen with
me if my inquiries take me to the Craig Fernie inn. I promise, if you
will remain here, to tell you every thing when I come back. Join the
others in any plan they have for the afternoon--and you will prevent my
absence from exciting any thing more than a passing remark. You will do
as I tell you? That’s a good girl! Now you shall hear how I propose to
search for this poor lady, and how your little story has helped me.”

He paused, considering with himself whether he should begin by telling
Blanche of his consultation with Geoffrey. Once more, he decided that
question in the negative. Better to still defer taking her into his
confidence until he had performed the errand of investigation on which
he was now setting forth.

“What you have told me, Blanche, divides itself, in my mind, into two
heads,” began Sir Patrick. “There is what happened in the library before
your own eyes; and there is what Miss Silvester told you had happened at
the inn. As to the event in the library (in the first place), it is too
late now to inquire whether that fainting-fit was the result, as you
say, of mere exhaustion--or whether it was the result of something that
occurred while you were out of the room.”

“What could have happened while I was out of the room?”

“I know no more than you do, my dear. It is simply one of the
possibilities in the case, and, as such, I notice it. To get on to what
practically concerns us; if Miss Silvester is in delicate health it is
impossible that she could get, unassisted, to any great distance from
Windygates. She may have taken refuge in one of the cottages in our
immediate neighborhood. Or she may have met with some passing vehicle
from one of the farms on its way to the station, and may have asked the
person driving to give her a seat in it. Or she may have walked as far
as she can, and may have stopped to rest in some sheltered place, among
the lanes to the south of this house.”

“I’ll inquire at the cottages, uncle, while you are gone.”

“My dear child, there must be a dozen cottages, at least, within a
circle of one mile from Windygates! Your inquiries would probably occupy
you for the whole afternoon. I won’t ask what Lady Lundie would think of
your being away all that time by yourself. I will only remind you of two
things. You would be making a public matter of an investigation which
it is essential to pursue as privately as possible; and, even if you
happened to hit on the right cottage your inquiries would be completely
baffled, and you would discover nothing.”

“Why not?”

“I know the Scottish peasant better than you do, Blanche. In his
intelligence and his sense of self-respect he is a very different being
from the English peasant. He would receive you civilly, because you
are a young lady; but he would let you see, at the same time, that
he considered you had taken advantage of the difference between your
position and his position to commit an intrusion. And if Miss Silvester
had appealed, in confidence, to his hospitality, and if he had granted
it, no power on earth would induce him to tell any person living that
she was under his roof--without her express permission.”

“But, uncle, if it’s of no use making inquiries of any body, how are we
to find her?”

“I don’t say that nobody will answer our inquiries, my dear--I only say
the peasantry won’t answer them, if your friend has trusted herself to
their protection. The way to find her is to look on, beyond what Miss
Silvester may be doing at the present moment, to what Miss Silvester
contemplates doing--let us say, before the day is out. We may assume,
I think (after what has happened), that, as soon as she can leave this
neighborhood, she assuredly will leave it. Do you agree, so far?”

“Yes! yes! Go on.”

“Very well. She is a woman, and she is (to say the least of it) not
strong. She can only leave this neighborhood either by hiring a vehicle
or by traveling on the railway. I propose going first to the station.
At the rate at which your pony gets over the ground, there is a fair
chance, in spite of the time we have lost, of my being there as soon as
she is--assuming that she leaves by the first train, up or down, that
passes.”

“There is a train in half an hour, uncle. She can never get there in
time for that.”

“She may be less exhausted than we think; or she may get a lift; or she
may not be alone. How do we know but somebody may have been waiting in
the lane--her husband, if there is such a person--to help her? No! I
shall assume she is now on her way to the station; and I shall get there
as fast as possible--”

“And stop her, if you find her there?”

“What I do, Blanche, must be left to my discretion. If I find her there,
I must act for the best. If I don’t find her there, I shall leave Duncan
(who goes with me) on the watch for the remaining trains, until the last
to-night. He knows Miss Silvester by sight, and he is sure that _she_
has never noticed _him._ Whether she goes north or south, early or late,
Duncan will have my orders to follow her. He is thoroughly to be relied
on. If she takes the railway, I answer for it we shall know where she
goes.”

“How clever of you to think of Duncan!”

“Not in the least, my dear. Duncan is my factotum; and the course I am
taking is the obvious course which would have occurred to any body.
Let us get to the re ally difficult part of it now. Suppose she hires a
carriage?”

“There are none to be had, except at the station.”

“There are farmers about here--and farmers have light carts, or chaises,
or something of the sort. It is in the last degree unlikely that
they would consent to let her have them. Still, women break through
difficulties which stop men. And this is a clever woman, Blanche--a
woman, you may depend on it, who is bent on preventing you from tracing
her. I confess I wish we had somebody we could trust lounging about
where those two roads branch off from the road that leads to the
railway. I must go in another direction; _I_ can’t do it.”

“Arnold can do it!”

Sir Patrick looked a little doubtful. “Arnold is an excellent fellow,”
 he said. “But can we trust to his discretion?”

“He is, next to you, the most perfectly discreet person I know,”
 rejoined Blanche, in a very positive manner; “and, what is more, I have
told him every thing about Anne, except what has happened to-day. I am
afraid I shall tell him _that,_ when I feel lonely and miserable,
after you have gone. There is something in Arnold--I don’t know what
it is--that comforts me. Besides, do you think he would betray a secret
that I gave him to keep? You don’t know how devoted he is to me!”

“My dear Blanche, I am not the cherished object of his devotion; of
course I don’t know! You are the only authority on that point. I stand
corrected. Let us have Arnold, by all means. Caution him to be careful;
and send him out by himself, where the roads meet. We have now only one
other place left in which there is a chance of finding a trace of her. I
undertake to make the necessary investigation at the Craig Fernie inn.”

“The Craig Fernie inn? Uncle! you have forgotten what I told you.”

“Wait a little, my dear. Miss Silvester herself has left the inn, I
grant you. But (if we should unhappily fail in finding her by any other
means) Miss Silvester has left a trace to guide us at Craig Fernie. That
trace must be picked up at once, in case of accidents. You don’t seem
to follow me? I am getting over the ground as fast as the pony gets
over it. I have arrived at the second of those two heads into which your
story divides itself in my mind. What did Miss Silvester tell you had
happened at the inn?”

“She lost a letter at the inn.”

“Exactly. She lost a letter at the inn; that is one event. And
Bishopriggs, the waiter, has quarreled with Mrs. Inchbare, and has left
his situation; that is another event. As to the letter first. It is
either really lost, or it has been stolen. In either case, if we can
lay our hands on it, there is at least a chance of its helping us to
discover something. As to Bishopriggs, next--”

“You’re not going to talk about the waiter, surely?”

“I am! Bishopriggs possesses two important merits. He is a link in my
chain of reasoning; and he is an old friend of mine.”

“A friend of yours?”

“We live in days, my dear, when one workman talks of another workman as
‘that gentleman.’--I march with the age, and feel bound to mention my
clerk as my friend. A few years since Bishopriggs was employed in the
clerks’ room at my chambers. He is one of the most intelligent and
most unscrupulous old vagabonds in Scotland; perfectly honest as to
all average matters involving pounds, shillings, and pence; perfectly
unprincipled in the pursuit of his own interests, where the violation
of a trust lies on the boundary-line which marks the limit of the law. I
made two unpleasant discoveries when I had him in my employment. I found
that he had contrived to supply himself with a duplicate of my seal; and
I had the strongest reason to suspect him of tampering with some papers
belonging to two of my clients. He had done no actual mischief, so far;
and I had no time to waste in making out the necessary case against him.
He was dismissed from my service, as a man who was not to be trusted to
respect any letters or papers that happened to pass through his hands.”

“I see, uncle! I see!”

“Plain enough now--isn’t it? If that missing letter of Miss Silvester’s
is a letter of no importance, I am inclined to believe that it is merely
lost, and may be found again. If, on the other hand, there is any thing
in it that could promise the most remote advantage to any person in
possession of it, then, in the execrable slang of the day, I will lay
any odds, Blanche, that Bishopriggs has got the letter!”

“And he has left the inn! How unfortunate!”

“Unfortunate as causing delay--nothing worse than that. Unless I am very
much mistaken, Bishopriggs will come back to the inn. The old rascal
(there is no denying it) is a most amusing person. He left a terrible
blank when he left my clerks’ room. Old customers at Craig Fernie
(especially the English), in missing Bishopriggs, will, you may rely on
it, miss one of the attractions of the inn. Mrs. Inchbare is not a woman
to let her dignity stand in the way of her business. She and Bishopriggs
will come together again, sooner or later, and make it up. When I have
put certain questions to her, which may possibly lead to very important
results, I shall leave a letter for Bishopriggs in Mrs. Inchbare’s
hands. The letter will tell him I have something for him to do, and will
contain an address at which he can write to me. I shall hear of him,
Blanche and, if the letter is in his possession, I shall get it.”

“Won’t he be afraid--if he has stolen the letter--to tell you he has got
it?”

“Very well put, my child. He might hesitate with other people. But I
have my own way of dealing with him--and I know how to make him tell
Me.--Enough of Bishopriggs till his time comes. There is one other
point, in regard to Miss Silvester. I may have to describe her. How
was she dressed when she came here? Remember, I am a man--and (if an
Englishwoman’s dress _can_ be described in an Englishwoman’s language)
tell me, in English, what she had on.”

“She wore a straw hat, with corn-flowers in it, and a white veil.
Corn-flowers at one side uncle, which is less common than cornflowers in
front. And she had on a light gray shawl. And a _Pique;_--”

“There you go with your French! Not a word more! A straw hat, with a
white veil, and with corn-flowers at one side of the hat. And a light
gray shawl. That’s as much as the ordinary male mind can take in; and
that will do. I have got my instructions, and saved precious time. So
far so good. Here we are at the end of our conference--in other words,
at the gate of the stable-yard. You understand what you have to do while
I am away?”

“I have to send Arnold to the cross-roads. And I have to behave (if I
can) as if nothing had happened.”

“Good child! Well put again! you have got what I call grasp of mind,
Blanche. An invaluable faculty! You will govern the future domestic
kingdom. Arnold will be nothing but a constitutional husband. Those are
the only husbands who are thoroughly happy. You shall hear every
thing, my love, when I come lack. Got your bag, Duncan? Good. And the
time-table? Good. You take the reins--I won’t drive. I want to think.
Driving is incompatible with intellectual exertion. A man puts his
mind into his horse, and sinks to the level of that useful animal--as a
necessary condition of getting to his destination without being upset.
God bless you, Blanche! To the station, Duncan! to the station!”


CHAPTER THE TWENTY-THIRD.

TRACED.

THE chaise rattled our through the gates. The dogs barked furiously. Sir
Patrick looked round, and waved his hand as he turned the corner of the
road. Blanche was left alone in the yard.

She lingered a little, absently patting the dogs. They had especial
claims on her sympathy at that moment; they, too, evidently thought it
hard to be left behind at the house. After a while she roused herself.
Sir Patrick had left the responsibility of superintending the crossroads
on her shoulders. There was something to be done yet before the
arrangements for tracing Anne were complete. Blanche left the yard to do
it.

On her way back to the house she met Arnold, dispatched by Lady Lundie
in search of her.

The plan of occupation for the afternoon had been settled during
Blanche’s absence. Some demon had whispered to Lady Lundie to cultivate
a taste for feudal antiquities, and to insist on spreading that taste
among her guests. She had proposed an excursion to an old baronial
castle among the hills--far to the westward (fortunately for Sir
Patrick’s chance of escaping discovery) of the hills at Craig Fernie.
Some of the guests were to ride, and some to accompany their hostess in
the open carriage. Looking right and left for proselytes, Lady Lundie
had necessarily remarked the disappearance of certain members of her
circle. Mr. Delamayn had vanished, nobody knew where. Sir Patrick and
Blanche had followed his example. Her ladyship had observed, upon this,
with some asperity, that if they were all to treat each other in
that unceremonious manner, the sooner Windygates was turned into a
Penitentiary, on the silent system, the fitter the house would be for
the people who inhabited it. Under these circumstances, Arnold suggested
that Blanche would do well to make her excuses as soon as possible at
head-quarters, and accept the seat in the carriage which her step-mother
wished her to take. “We are in for the feudal antiquities, Blanche; and
we must help each other through as well as we can. If you will go in the
carriage, I’ll go too.”

Blanche shook her head.

“There are serious reasons for _my_ keeping up appearances,” she said.
“I shall go in the carriage. You mustn’t go at all.”

Arnold naturally looked a little surprised, and asked to be favored with
an explanation.

Blanche took his arm and hugged it close. Now that Anne was lost, Arnold
was more precious to her than ever. She literally hungered to hear at
that moment, from his own lips, how fond he was of her. It mattered
nothing that she was already perfectly satisfied on this point. It was
so nice (after he had said it five hundred times already) to make him
say it once more!

“Suppose I had no explanation to give?” she said. “Would you stay behind
by yourself to please me?”

“I would do any thing to please you!”

“Do you really love me as much as that?”

They were still in the yard; and the only witnesses present were
the dogs. Arnold answered in the language without words--which is
nevertheless the most expressive language in use, between men and women,
all over the world.

“This is not doing my duty,” said Blanche, penitently. “But, oh Arnold,
I am so anxious and so miserable! And it _is_ such a consolation to know
that _you_ won’t turn your back on me too!”

With that preface she told him what had happened in the library. Even
Blanche’s estimate of her lover’s capacity for sympathizing with her was
more than realized by the effect which her narrative produced on Arnold.
He was not merely surprised and sorry for her. His face showed plainly
that he felt genuine concern and distress. He had never stood higher in
Blanche’s opinion than he stood at that moment.

“What is to be done?” he asked. “How does Sir Patrick propose to find
her?”

Blanche repeated Sir Patrick’s instructions relating to the crossroads,
and also to the serious necessity of pursuing the investigation in the
strictest privacy. Arnold (relieved from all fear of being sent back
to Craig Fernie) undertook to do every thing that was asked of him, and
promised to keep the secret from every body.

They went back to the house, and met with an icy welcome from Lady
Lundie. Her ladyship repeated her remark on the subject of turning
Windygates into a Penitentiary for Blanche’s benefit. She received
Arnold’s petition to be excused from going to see the castle with the
barest civility. “Oh, take your walk by all means! You may meet your
friend, Mr. Delamayn--who appears to have such a passion for walking
that he can’t even wait till luncheon is over. As for Sir Patrick--Oh!
Sir Patrick has borrowed the pony-carriage? and gone out driving by
himself?--I’m sure I never meant to offend my brother-in-law when I
offered him a slice of my poor little cake. Don’t let me offend any
body else. Dispose of your afternoon, Blanche, without the slightest
reference to me. Nobody seems inclined to visit the ruins--the most
interesting relic of feudal times in Perthshire, Mr. Brinkworth. It
doesn’t matter--oh, dear me, it doesn’t matter! I can’t force my guests
to feel an intelligent curiosity on the subject of Scottish Antiquities.
No! no! my dear Blanche!--it won’t be the first time, or the last, that
I have driven out alone. I don’t at all object to being alone. ‘My
mind to me a kingdom is,’ as the poet says.” So Lady Lundie’s outraged
self-importance asserted its violated claims on human respect, until
her distinguished medical guest came to the rescue and smoothed his
hostess’s ruffled plumes. The surgeon (he privately detested ruins)
begged to go. Blanche begged to go. Smith and Jones (profoundly
interested in feudal antiquities) said they would sit behind, in the
“rumble”--rather than miss this unexpected treat. One, Two, and Three
caught the infection, and volunteered to be the escort on horseback.
Lady Lundie’s celebrated “smile” (warranted to remain unaltered on her
face for hours together) made its appearance once more. She issued her
orders with the most charming amiability. “We’ll take the guidebook,”
 said her ladyship, with the eye to mean economy, which is only to be met
with in very rich people, “and save a shilling to the man who shows the
ruins.” With that she went up stairs to array herself for the drive,
and looked in the glass; and saw a perfectly virtuous, fascinating, and
accomplished woman, facing her irresistibly in a new French bonnet!

At a private signal from Blanche, Arnold slipped out and repaired to his
post, where the roads crossed the road that led to the railway.

There was a space of open heath on one side of him, and the stonewall
and gates of a farmhouse inclosure on the other. Arnold sat down on
the soft heather--and lit a cigar--and tried to see his way through the
double mystery of Anne’s appearance and Anne’s flight.

He had interpreted his friend’s absence exactly as his friend had
anticipated: he could only assume that Geoffrey had gone to keep a
private appointment with Anne. Miss Silvester’s appearance at Windygates
alone, and Miss Silvester’s anxiety to hear the names of the gentlemen
who were staying in the house, seemed, under these circumstances,
to point to the plain conclusion that the two had, in some way,
unfortunately missed each other. But what could be the motive of her
flight? Whether she knew of some other place in which she might meet
Geoffrey? or whether she had gone back to the inn? or whether she had
acted under some sudden impulse of despair?--were questions which Arnold
was necessarily quite incompetent to solve. There was no choice but
to wait until an opportunity offered of reporting what had happened to
Geoffrey himself.

After the lapse of half an hour, the sound of some approaching
vehicle--the first sound of the sort that he had heard--attracted
Arnold’s attention. He started up, and saw the pony-chaise approaching
him along the road from the station. Sir Patrick, this time, was
compelled to drive himself--Duncan was not with him. On discovering
Arnold, he stopped the pony.

“So! so!” said the old gentleman. “You have heard all about it, I see?
You understand that this is to be a secret from every body, till further
notice? Very good, Has any thing happened since you have been here?”

“Nothing. Have you made any discoveries, Sir Patrick?”

“None. I got to the station before the train. No signs of Miss Silvester
any where. I have left Duncan on the watch--with orders not to stir till
the last train has passed to-night.”

“I don’t think she will turn up at the station,” said Arnold. “I fancy
she has gone back to Craig Fernie.”

“Quite possible. I am now on my way to Craig Fernie, to make inquiries
about her. I don’t know how long I may be detained, or what it may
lead to. If you see Blanche before I do tell her I have instructed the
station-master to let me know (if Miss Silvester does take the railway)
what place she books for. Thanks to that arrangement, we sha’n’t have
to wait for news till Duncan can telegraph that he has seen her to her
journey’s end. In the mean time, you understand what you are wanted to
do here?”

“Blanche has explained every thing to me.”

“Stick to your post, and make good use of your eyes. You were accustomed
to that, you know, when you were at sea. It’s no great hardship to pass
a few hours in this delicious summer air. I see you have contracted the
vile modern habit of smoking--that will be occupation enough to amuse
you, no doubt! Keep the roads in view; and, if she does come your
way, don’t attempt to stop her--you can’t do that. Speak to her (quite
innocently, mind!), by way of getting time enough to notice the face of
the man who is driving her, and the name (if there is one) on his cart.
Do that, and you will do enough. Pah! how that cigar poisons the air!
What will have become of your stomach when you get to my age?”

“I sha’n’t complain, Sir Patrick, if I can eat as good a dinner as you
do.”

“That reminds me! I met somebody I knew at the station. Hester Dethridge
has left her place, and gone to London by the train. We may feed at
Windygates--we have done with dining now. It has been a final quarrel
this time between the mistress and the cook. I have given Hester my
address in London, and told her to let me know before she decides on
another place. A woman who _can’t_ talk, and a woman who _can_ cook, is
simply a woman who has arrived at absolute perfection. Such a treasure
shall not go out of the family, if I can help it. Did you notice the
Bechamel sauce at lunch? Pooh! a young man who smokes cigars
doesn’t know the difference between Bechamel sauce and melted
butter. Good afternoon! good afternoon!”

He slackened the reins, and away he went to Craig Fernie. Counting by
years, the pony was twenty, and the pony’s driver was seventy. Counting
by vivacity and spirit, two of the most youthful characters in Scotland
had got together that afternoon in the same chaise.

An hour more wore itself slowly out; and nothing had passed Arnold on
the cross-roads but a few stray foot-passengers, a heavy wagon, and a
gig with an old woman in it. He rose again from the heather, weary of
inaction, and resolved to walk backward and forward, within view of his
post, for a change. At the second turn, when his face happened to be set
toward the open heath, he noticed another foot-passenger--apparently a
man--far away in the empty distance. Was the person coming toward him?

He advanced a little. The stranger was doubtless advancing too, so
rapidly did his figure now reveal itself, beyond all doubt, as the
figure of a man. A few minutes more and Arnold fancied he recognized it.
Yet a little longer, and he was quite sure. There was no mistaking the
lithe strength and grace of _that_ man, and the smooth easy swiftness
with which he covered his ground. It was the hero of the coming
foot-race. It was Geoffrey on his way back to Windygates House.

Arnold hurried forward to meet him. Geoffrey stood still, poising
himself on his stick, and let the other come up.

“Have you heard what has happened at the house?” asked Arnold.

He instinctively checked the next question as it rose to his lips.
There was a settled defiance in the expression of Geoffrey’s face, which
Arnold was quite at a loss to understand. He looked like a man who
had made up his mind to confront any thing that could happen, and to
contradict any body who spoke to him.

“Something seems to have annoyed you?” said Arnold.

“What’s up at the house?” returned Geoffrey, with his loudest voice and
his hardest look.

“Miss Silvester has been at the house.”

“Who saw her?”

“Nobody but Blanche.”

“Well?”

“Well, she was miserably weak and ill, so ill that she fainted, poor
thing, in the library. Blanche brought her to.”

“And what then?”

“We were all at lunch at the time. Blanche left the library, to speak
privately to her uncle. When she went back Miss Silvester was gone, and
nothing has been seen of her since.”

“A row at the house?”

“Nobody knows of it at the house, except Blanche--”

“And you? And how many besides?”

“And Sir Patrick. Nobody else.”

“Nobody else? Any thing more?”

Arnold remembered his promise to keep the investigation then on foot
a secret from every body. Geoffrey’s manner made him--unconsciously to
himself--readier than he might otherwise have been to consider Geoffrey
as included in the general prohibition.

“Nothing more,” he answered.

Geoffrey dug the point of his stick deep into the soft, sandy ground.
He looked at the stick, then suddenly pulled it out of the ground and
looked at Arnold. “Good-afternoon!” he said, and went on his way again
by himself.

Arnold followed, and stopped him. For a moment the two men looked at
each other without a word passing on either side. Arnold spoke first.

“You’re out of humor, Geoffrey. What has upset you in this way? Have you
and Miss Silvester missed each other?”

Geoffrey was silent.

“Have you seen her since she left Windygates?”

No reply.

“Do you know where Miss Silvester is now?”

Still no reply. Still the same mutely-insolent defiance of look and
manner. Arnold’s dark color began to deepen.

“Why don’t you answer me?” he said.

“Because I have had enough of it.”

“Enough of what?”

“Enough of being worried about Miss Silvester. Miss Silvester’s my
business--not yours.”

“Gently, Geoffrey! Don’t forget that I have been mixed up in that
business--without seeking it myself.”

“There’s no fear of my forgetting. You have cast it in my teeth often
enough.”

“Cast it in your teeth?”

“Yes! Am I never to hear the last of my obligation to you? The devil
take the obligation! I’m sick of the sound of it.”

There was a spirit in Arnold--not easily brought to the surface,
through the overlying simplicity and good-humor of his ordinary
character--which, once roused, was a spirit not readily quelled.
Geoffrey had roused it at last.

“When you come to your senses,” he said, “I’ll remember old times--and
receive your apology. Till you _do_ come to your senses, go your way by
yourself. I have no more to say to you.”

Geoffrey set his teeth, and came one step nearer. Arnold’s eyes met his,
with a look which steadily and firmly challenged him--though he was
the stronger man of the two--to force the quarrel a step further, if he
dared. The one human virtue which Geoffrey respected and understood
was the virtue of courage. And there it was before him--the undeniable
courage of the weaker man. The callous scoundrel was touched on the
one tender place in his whole being. He turned, and went on his way in
silence.

Left by himself, Arnold’s head dropped on his breast. The friend who had
saved his life--the one friend he possessed, who was associated with
his earliest and happiest remembrances of old days--had grossly insulted
him: and had left him deliberately, without the slightest expression of
regret. Arnold’s affectionate nature--simple, loyal, clinging where
it once fastened--was wounded to the quick. Geoffrey’s fast-retreating
figure, in the open view before him, became blurred and indistinct. He
put his hand over his eyes, and hid, with a boyish shame, the hot tears
that told of the heartache, and that honored the man who shed them.

He was still struggling with the emotion which had overpowered him, when
something happened at the place where the roads met.

The four roads pointed as nearly as might be toward the four points of
the compass. Arnold was now on the road to the eastward, having advanced
in that direction to meet Geoffrey, between two and three hundred yards
from the farm-house inclosure before which he had kept his watch. The
road to the westward, curving away behind the farm, led to the nearest
market-town. The road to the south was the way to the station. And the
road to the north led back to Windygates House.

While Geoffrey was still fifty yards from the turning which would take
him back to Windygates--while the tears were still standing thickly in
Arnold’s eyes--the gate of the farm inclosure opened. A light four-wheel
chaise came out with a man driving, and a woman sitting by his side. The
woman was Anne Silvester, and the man was the owner of the farm.

Instead of taking the way which led to the station, the chaise pursued
the westward road to the market-town. Proceeding in this direction, the
backs of the persons in the vehicle were necessarily turned on Geoffrey,
advancing behind them from the eastward. He just carelessly noticed
the shabby little chaise, and then turned off north on his way to
Windygates.

By the time Arnold was composed enough to look round him, the chaise
had taken the curve in the road which wound behind the farmhouse. He
returned--faithful to the engagement which he had undertaken--to his
post before the inclosure. The chaise was then a speck in the distance.
In a minute more it was a speck out of sight.

So (to use Sir Patrick’s phrase) had the woman broken through
difficulties which would have stopped a man. So, in her sore need, had
Anne Silvester won the sympathy which had given her a place, by the
farmer’s side, in the vehicle that took him on his own business to the
market-town. And so, by a hair’s-breadth, did she escape the treble risk
of discovery which threatened her--from Geoffrey, on his way back; from
Arnold, at his post; and from the valet, on the watch for her appearance
at the station.



The afternoon wore on. The servants at Windygates, airing themselves
in the grounds--in the absence of their mistress and her guests--were
disturbed, for the moment, by the unexpected return of one of “the
gentlefolks.” Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn reappeared at the house alone; went
straight to the smoking-room; and calling for another supply of the old
ale, settled himself in an arm-chair with the newspaper, and began to
smoke.

He soon tired of reading, and fell into thinking of what had happened
during the latter part of his walk.

The prospect before him had more than realized the most sanguine
anticipations that he could have formed of it. He had braced
himself--after what had happened in the library--to face the outbreak
of a serious scandal, on his return to the house. And here--when he came
back--was nothing to face! Here were three people (Sir Patrick, Arnold,
and Blanche) who must at least know that Anne was in some serious
trouble keeping the secret as carefully as if they felt that his
interests were at stake! And, more wonderful still, here was Anne
herself--so far from raising a hue and cry after him--actually taking
flight without saying a word that could compromise him with any living
soul!

What in the name of wonder did it mean? He did his best to find his way
to an explanation of some sort; and he actually contrived to account for
the silence of Blanche and her uncle, and Arnold. It was pretty clear
that they must have all three combined to keep Lady Lundie in ignorance
of her runaway governess’s return to the house.

But the secret of Anne’s silence completely baffled him.

He was simply incapable of conceiving that the horror of seeing herself
set up as an obstacle to Blanche’s marriage might have been vivid
enough to overpower all sense of her own wrongs, and to hurry her away,
resolute, in her ignorance of what else to do, never to return again,
and never to let living eyes rest on her in the character of Arnold’s
wife. “It’s clean beyond _my_ making out,” was the final conclusion at
which Geoffrey arrived. “If it’s her interest to hold her tongue, it’s
my interest to hold mine, and there’s an end of it for the present!”

He put up his feet on a chair, and rested his magnificent muscles after
his walk, and filled another pipe, in thorough contentment with himself.
No interference to dread from Anne, no more awkward questions (on the
terms they were on now) to come from Arnold. He looked back at the
quarrel on the heath with a certain complacency--he did his friend
justice; though they _had_ disagreed. “Who would have thought the fellow
had so much pluck in him!” he said to himself as he struck the match and
lit his second pipe.

An hour more wore on; and Sir Patrick was the next person who returned.

He was thoughtful, but in no sense depressed. Judging by appearances,
his errand to Craig Fernie had certainly not ended in disappointment.
The old gentleman hummed his favorite little Scotch air--rather
absently, perhaps--and took his pinch of snuff from the knob of his
ivory cane much as usual. He went to the library bell and summoned a
servant.

“Any body been here for me?”--“No, Sir Patrick.”--“No letters?”--“No,
Sir Patrick.”--“Very well. Come up stairs to my room, and help me on
with my dressing-gown.” The man helped him to his dressing-gown and
slippers “Is Miss Lundie at home?”--“No, Sir Patrick. They’re all away
with my lady on an excursion.”--“Very good. Get me a cup of coffee; and
wake me half an hour before dinner, in case I take a nap.” The servant
went out. Sir Patrick stretched himself on the sofa. “Ay! ay! a little
aching in the back, and a certain stiffness in the legs. I dare say
the pony feels just as I do. Age, I suppose, in both cases? Well! well!
well! let’s try and be young at heart. ‘The rest’ (as Pope says) ‘is
leather and prunella.’” He returned resignedly to his little Scotch air.
The servant came in with the coffee. And then the room was quiet, except
for the low humming of insects and the gentle rustling of the creepers
at the window. For five minutes or so Sir Patrick sipped his coffee, and
meditated--by no means in the character of a man who was depressed by
any recent disappointment. In five minutes more he was asleep.

A little later, and the party returned from the ruins.

With the one exception of their lady-leader, the whole expedition was
depressed--Smith and Jones, in particular, being quite speechless. Lady
Lundie alone still met feudal antiquities with a cheerful front. She
had cheated the man who showed the ruins of his shilling, and she was
thoroughly well satisfied with herself. Her voice was flute-like in
its melody, and the celebrated “smile” had never been in better order.
“Deeply interesting!” said her ladyship, descending from the carriage
with ponderous grace, and addressing herself to Geoffrey, lounging under
the portico of the house. “You have had a loss, Mr. Delamayn. The next
time you go out for a walk, give your hostess a word of warning, and you
won’t repent it.” Blanche (looking very weary and anxious) questioned
the servant, the moment she got in, about Arnold and her uncle. Sir
Patrick was invisible up stairs. Mr. Brinkworth had not come back. It
wanted only twenty minutes of dinner-time; and full evening-dress was
insisted on at Windygates. Blanche, nevertheless, still lingered in the
hall in the hope of seeing Arnold before she went up stairs. The hope
was realized. As the clock struck the quarter he came in. And he, too,
was out of spirits like the rest!

“Have you seen her?” asked Blanche.

“No,” said Arnold, in the most perfect good faith. “The way she has
escaped by is not the way by the cross-roads--I answer for that.”

They separated to dress. When the party assembled again, in the library,
before dinner, Blanche found her way, the moment he entered the room, to
Sir Patrick’s side.

“News, uncle! I’m dying for news.”

“Good news, my dear--so far.”

“You have found Anne?”

“Not exactly that.”

“You have heard of her at Craig Fernie?”

“I have made some important discoveries at Craig Fernie, Blanche. Hush!
here’s your step-mother. Wait till after dinner, and you may hear more
than I can tell you now. There may be news from the station between this
and then.”

The dinner was a wearisome ordeal to at least two other persons
present besides Blanche. Arnold, sitting opposite to Geoffrey, without
exchanging a word with him, felt the altered relations between his
former friend and himself very painfully. Sir Patrick, missing the
skilled hand of Hester Dethridge in every dish that was offered to
him, marked the dinner among the wasted opportunities of his life, and
resented his sister-in-law’s flow of spirits as something simply inhuman
under present circumstances. Blanche followed Lady Lundie into the
drawing-room in a state of burning impatience for the rising of
the gentlemen from their wine. Her step-mother--mapping out a new
antiquarian excursion for the next day, and finding Blanche’s ears
closed to her occasional remarks on baronial Scotland five hundred years
since--lamented, with satirical emphasis, the absence of an intelligent
companion of her own sex; and stretched her majestic figure on the sofa
to wait until an audience worthy of her flowed in from the dining-room.
Before very long--so soothing is the influence of an after-dinner
view of feudal antiquities, taken through the medium of an approving
conscience--Lady Lundie’s eyes closed; and from Lady Lundie’s nose
there poured, at intervals, a sound, deep like her ladyship’s learning;
regular, like her ladyship’s habits--a sound associated with nightcaps
and bedrooms, evoked alike by Nature, the leveler, from high and
low--the sound (oh, Truth what enormities find publicity in thy
name!)--the sound of a Snore.

Free to do as she pleased, Blanche left the echoes of the drawing-room
in undisturbed enjoyment of Lady Lundie’s audible repose.

She went into the library, and turned over the novels. Went out again,
and looked across the hall at the dining-room door. Would the men never
have done talking their politics and drinking their wine? She went up to
her own room, and changed her ear-rings, and scolded her maid. Descended
once more--and made an alarming discovery in a dark corner of the hall.

Two men were standing there, hat in hand whispering to the butler. The
butler, leaving them, went into the dining-room--came out again with Sir
Patrick--and said to the two men, “Step this way, please.” The two men
came out into the light. Murdoch, the station-master; and Duncan, the
valet! News of Anne!

“Oh, uncle, let me stay!” pleaded Blanche.

Sir Patrick hesitated. It was impossible to say--as matters stood at
that moment--what distressing intelligence the two men might not have
brought of the missing woman. Duncan’s return, accompanied by the
station-master, looked serious. Blanche instantly penetrated the secret
of her uncle’s hesitation. She turned pale, and caught him by the
arm. “Don’t send me away,” she whispered. “I can bear any thing but
suspense.”

“Out with it!” said Sir Patrick, holding his niece’s hand. “Is she found
or not?”

“She’s gone by the up-train,” said the station-master. “And we know
where.”

Sir Patrick breathed freely; Blanche’s color came back. In different
ways, the relief to both of them was equally great.

“You had my orders to follow her,” said Sir Patrick to Duncan. “Why have
you come back?”

“Your man is not to blame, Sir,” interposed the station-master. “The
lady took the train at Kirkandrew.”

Sir Patrick started and looked at the station-master. “Ay? ay? The next
station--the market-town. Inexcusably stupid of me. I never thought of
that.”

“I took the liberty of telegraphing your description of the lady to
Kirkandrew, Sir Patrick, in case of accidents.”

“I stand corrected, Mr. Murdoch. Your head, in this matter, has been the
sharper head of the two. Well?”

“There’s the answer, Sir.”

Sir Patrick and Blanche read the telegram together.

“Kirkandrew. Up train. 7.40 P.M. Lady as described. No luggage. Bag in
her hand. Traveling alone. Ticket--second-class. Place--Edinburgh.”

“Edinburgh!” repeated Blanche. “Oh, uncle! we shall lose her in a great
place like that!”

“We shall find her, my dear; and you shall see how. Duncan, get me
pen, ink, and paper. Mr. Murdoch, you are going back to the station, I
suppose?”

“Yes, Sir Patrick.”

“I will give you a telegram, to be sent at once to Edinburgh.”

He wrote a carefully-worded telegraphic message, and addressed it to The
Sheriff of Mid-Lothian.

“The Sheriff is an old friend of mine,” he explained to his niece. “And
he is now in Edinburgh. Long before the train gets to the terminus
he will receive this personal description of Miss Silvester, with my
request to have all her movements carefully watched till further notice.
The police are entirely at his disposal; and the best men will be
selected for the purpose. I have asked for an answer by telegraph. Keep
a special messenger ready for it at the station, Mr. Murdoch. Thank you;
good-evening. Duncan, get your supper, and make yourself comfortable.
Blanche, my dear, go back to the drawing-room, and expect us in to tea
immediately. You will know where your friend is before you go to bed
to-night.”

With those comforting words he returned to the gentlemen. In ten minutes
more they all appeared in the drawing-room; and Lady Lundie (firmly
persuaded that she had never closed her eyes) was back again in baronial
Scotland five hundred years since.

Blanche, watching her opportunity, caught her uncle alone.

“Now for your promise,” she said. “You have made some important
discoveries at Craig Fernie. What are they?”

Sir Patrick’s eye turned toward Geoffrey, dozing in an arm-chair in a
corner of the room. He showed a certain disposition to trifle with the
curiosity of his niece.

“After the discovery we have already made,” he said, “can’t you wait, my
dear, till we get the telegram from Edinburgh?”

“That is just what it’s impossible for me to do! The telegram won’t come
for hours yet. I want something to go on with in the mean time.”

She seated herself on a sofa in the corner opposite Geoffrey, and
pointed to the vacant place by her side.

Sir Patrick had promised--Sir Patrick had no choice but to keep his
word. After another look at Geoffrey, he took the vacant place by his
niece.


CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FOURTH.

BACKWARD.

“WELL?” whispered Blanche, taking her uncle confidentially by the arm.

“Well,” said Sir Patrick, with a spark of his satirical humor flashing
out at his niece, “I am going to do a very rash thing. I am going to
place a serious trust in the hands of a girl of eighteen.”

“The girl’s hands will keep it, uncle--though she _is_ only eighteen.”

“I must run the risk, my dear; your intimate knowledge of Miss Silvester
may be of the greatest assistance to me in the next step I take. You
shall know all that I can tell you, but I must warn you first. I
can only admit you into my confidence by startling you with a great
surprise. Do you follow me, so far?”

“Yes! yes!”

“If you fail to control yourself, you place an obstacle in the way of
my being of some future use to Miss Silvester. Remember that, and now
prepare for the surprise. What did I tell you before dinner?”

“You said you had made discoveries at Craig Fernie. What have you found
out?”

“I have found out that there is a certain person who is in full
possession of the information which Miss Silvester has concealed from
you and from me. The person is within our reach. The person is in this
neighborhood. The person is in this room!”

He caught up Blanche’s hand, resting on his arm, and pressed it
significantly. She looked at him with the cry of surprise suspended
on her lips--waited a little with her eyes fixed on Fir Patrick’s
face--struggled resolutely, and composed herself.

“Point the person out.” She said the words with a self-possession which
won her uncle’s hearty approval. Blanche had done wonders for a girl in
her teens.

“Look!” said Sir Patrick; “and tell me what you see.”

“I see Lady Lundie, at the other end of the room, with the map of
Perthshire and the Baronial Antiquities of Scotland on the table. And I
see every body but you and me obliged to listen to her.”

“Every body?”

Blanche looked carefully round the room, and noticed Geoffrey in the
opposite corner; fast asleep by this time in his arm-chair.

“Uncle! you don’t mean--?”

“There is the man.”

“Mr. Delamayn--!”

“Mr. Delamayn knows every thing.”

Blanche held mechanically by her uncle’s arm, and looked at the sleeping
man as if her eyes could never see enough of him.

“You saw me in the library in private consultation with Mr. Delamayn,”
 resumed Sir Patrick. “I have to acknowledge, my dear, that you were
quite right in thinking this a suspicious circumstance, And I am now
to justify myself for having purposely kept you in the dark up to the
present time.”

With those introductory words, he briefly reverted to the earlier
occurrences of the day, and then added, by way of commentary, a
statement of the conclusions which events had suggested to his own mind.

The events, it may be remembered, were three in number. First,
Geoffrey’s private conference with Sir Patrick on the subject of
Irregular Marriages in Scotland. Secondly, Anne Silvester’s appearance
at Windygates. Thirdly, Anne’s flight.

The conclusions which had thereupon suggested themselves to Sir
Patrick’s mind were six in number.

First, that a connection of some sort might possibly exist between
Geoffrey’s acknowledged difficulty about his friend, and Miss
Silvester’s presumed difficulty about herself. Secondly, that Geoffrey
had really put to Sir Patrick--not his own case--but the case of a
friend. Thirdly, that Geoffrey had some interest (of no harmless kind)
in establishing the fact of his friend’s marriage. Fourthly, that Anne’s
anxiety (as described by Blanche) to hear the names of the gentlemen who
were staying at Windygates, pointed, in all probability, to Geoffrey.
Fifthly, that this last inference disturbed the second conclusion, and
reopened the doubt whether Geoffrey had not been stating his own case,
after all, under pretense of stating the case of a friend. Sixthly, that
the one way of obtaining any enlightenment on this point, and on all the
other points involved in mystery, was to go to Craig Fernie, and consult
Mrs. Inchbare’s experience during the period of Anne’s residence at the
inn. Sir Patrick’s apology for keeping all this a secret from his niece
followed. He had shrunk from agitating her on the subject until he
could be sure of proving his conclusions to be true. The proof had been
obtained; and he was now, therefore, ready to open his mind to Blanche
without reserve.

“So much, my dear,” proceeded Sir Patrick, “for those necessary
explanations which are also the necessary nuisances of human
intercourse. You now know as much as I did when I arrived at Craig
Fernie--and you are, therefore, in a position to appreciate the value of
my discoveries at the inn. Do you understand every thing, so far?”

“Perfectly!”

“Very good. I drove up to the inn; and--behold me closeted with Mrs.
Inchbare in her own private parlor! (My reputation may or may not
suffer, but Mrs. Inchbare’s bones are above suspicion!) It was a long
business, Blanche. A more sour-tempered, cunning, and distrustful
witness I never examined in all my experience at the Bar. She would have
upset the temper of any mortal man but a lawyer. We have such wonderful
tempers in our profession; and we can be so aggravating when we like! In
short, my dear, Mrs. Inchbare was a she-cat, and I was a he-cat--and I
clawed the truth out of her at last. The result was well worth
arriving at, as you shall see. Mr. Delamayn had described to me certain
remarkable circumstances as taking place between a lady and a gentleman
at an inn: the object of the parties being to pass themselves off at
the time as man and wife. Every one of those circumstances, Blanche,
occurred at Craig Fernie, between a lady and a gentleman, on the day
when Miss Silvester disappeared from this house And--wait!--being
pressed for her name, after the gentleman had left her behind him at the
inn, the name the lady gave was, ‘Mrs. Silvester.’ What do you think of
that?”

“Think! I’m bewildered--I can’t realize it.”

“It’s a startling discovery, my dear child--there is no denying that.
Shall I wait a little, and let you recover yourself?”

“No! no! Go on! The gentleman, uncle? The gentleman who was with Anne?
Who is he? Not Mr. Delamayn?”

“Not Mr. Delamayn,” said Sir Patrick. “If I have proved nothing else, I
have proved that.”

“What need was there to prove it? Mr. Delamayn went to London on the day
of the lawn-party. And Arnold--”

“And Arnold went with him as far as the second station from this. Quite
true! But how was I to know what Mr. Delamayn might have done after
Arnold had left him? I could only make sure that he had not gone back
privately to the inn, by getting the proof from Mrs. Inchbare.”

“How did you get it?”

“I asked her to describe the gentleman who was with Miss Silvester.
Mrs. Inchbare’s description (vague as you will presently find it to be)
completely exonerates that man,” said Sir Patrick, pointing to Geoffrey
still asleep in his chair. “_He_ is not the person who passed Miss
Silvester off as his wife at Craig Fernie. He spoke the truth when he
described the case to me as the case of a friend.”

“But who is the friend?” persisted Blanche. “That’s what I want to
know.”

“That’s what I want to know, too.”

“Tell me exactly, uncle, what Mrs. Inchbare said. I have lived with Anne
all my life. I _must_ have seen the man somewhere.”

“If you can identify him by Mrs. Inchbare’s description,” returned
Sir Patrick, “you will be a great deal cleverer than I am. Here is the
picture of the man, as painted by the landlady: Young; middle-sized;
dark hair, eyes, and complexion; nice temper, pleasant way of speaking.
Leave out ‘young,’ and the rest is the exact contrary of Mr. Delamayn.
So far, Mrs. Inchbare guides us plainly enough. But how are we to
apply her description to the right person? There must be, at the
lowest computation, five hundred thousand men in England who are young,
middle-sized, dark, nice-tempered, and pleasant spoken. One of the
footmen here answers that description in every particular.”

“And Arnold answers it,” said Blanche--as a still stronger instance of
the provoking vagueness of the description.

“And Arnold answers it,” repeated Sir Patrick, quite agreeing with her.

They had barely said those words when Arnold himself appeared,
approaching Sir Patrick with a pack of cards in his hand.

There--at the very moment when they had both guessed the truth, without
feeling the slightest suspicion of it in their own minds--there stood
Discovery, presenting itself unconsciously to eyes incapable of seeing
it, in the person of the man who had passed Anne Silvester off as
his wife at the Craig Fernie inn! The terrible caprice of Chance, the
merciless irony of Circumstance, could go no further than this. The
three had their feet on the brink of the precipice at that moment. And
two of them were smiling at an odd coincidence; and one of them was
shuffling a pack of cards!

“We have done with the Antiquities at last!” said Arnold; “and we are
going to play at Whist. Sir Patrick, will you choose a card?”

“Too soon after dinner, my good fellow, for _me_. Play the first rubber,
and then give me another chance. By-the-way,” he added “Miss Silvester
has been traced to Kirkandrew. How is it that you never saw her go by?”

“She can’t have gone my way, Sir Patrick, or I must have seen her.”

Having justified himself in those terms, he was recalled to the other
end of the room by the whist-party, impatient for the cards which he had
in his hand.

“What were we talking of when he interrupted us?” said Sir Patrick to
Blanche.

“Of the man, uncle, who was with Miss Silvester at the inn.”

“It’s useless to pursue that inquiry, my dear, with nothing better than
Mrs. Inchbare’s description to help us.”

Blanche looked round at the sleeping Geoffrey.

“And _he_ knows!” she said. “It’s maddening, uncle, to look at the brute
snoring in his chair!”

Sir Patrick held up a warning hand. Before a word more could be said
between them they were silenced again by another interruption.

The whist-party comprised Lady Lundie and the surgeon, playing as
partners against Smith and Jones. Arnold sat behind the surgeon, taking
a lesson in the game. One, Two, and Three, thus left to their own
devices, naturally thought of the billiard-table; and, detecting
Geoffrey asleep in his corner, advanced to disturb his slumbers, under
the all-sufficing apology of “Pool.” Geoffrey roused himself, and rubbed
his eyes, and said, drowsily, “All right.” As he rose, he looked at
the opposite corner in which Sir Patrick and his niece were sitting.
Blanche’s self-possession, resolutely as she struggled to preserve it,
was not strong enough to keep her eyes from turning toward Geoffrey with
an expression which betrayed the reluctant interest that she now felt in
him. He stopped, noticing something entirely new in the look with which
the young lady was regarding him.

“Beg your pardon,” said Geoffrey. “Do you wish to speak to me?”

Blanche’s face flushed all over. Her uncle came to the rescue.

“Miss Lundie and I hope you have slept well Mr. Delamayn,” said Sir
Patrick, jocosely. “That’s all.”

“Oh? That’s all?” said Geoffrey still looking at Blanche. “Beg your
pardon again. Deuced long walk, and deuced heavy dinner. Natural
consequence--a nap.”

Sir Patrick eyed him closely. It was plain that he had been honestly
puzzled at finding himself an object of special attention on Blanche’s
part. “See you in the billiard-room?” he said, carelessly, and followed
his companions out of the room--as usual, without waiting for an answer.

“Mind what you are about,” said Sir Patrick to his niece. “That man is
quicker than he looks. We commit a serious mistake if we put him on his
guard at starting.”

“It sha’n’t happen again, uncle,” said Blanche. “But think of _his_
being in Anne’s confidence, and of _my_ being shut out of it!”

“In his friend’s confidence, you mean, my dear; and (if we only avoid
awakening his suspicion) there is no knowing how soon he may say or do
something which may show us who his friend is.”

“But he is going back to his brother’s to-morrow--he said so at
dinner-time.”

“So much the better. He will be out of the way of seeing strange things
in a certain young lady’s face. His brother’s house is within easy reach
of this; and I am his legal adviser. My experience tells me that he has
not done consulting me yet--and that he will let out something more
next time. So much for our chance of seeing the light through Mr.
Delamayn--if we can’t see it in any other way. And that is not our only
chance, remember. I have something to tell you about Bishopriggs and the
lost letter.”

“Is it found?”

“No. I satisfied myself about that--I had it searched for, under my own
eye. The letter is stolen, Blanche; and Bishopriggs has got it. I have
left a line for him, in Mrs. Inchbare’s care. The old rascal is missed
already by the visitors at the inn, just as I told you he would be. His
mistress is feeling the penalty of having been fool enough to vent her
ill temper on her head-waiter. She lays the whole blame of the quarrel
on Miss Silvester, of course. Bishopriggs neglected every body at
the inn to wait on Miss Silvester. Bishopriggs was insolent on being
remonstrated with, and Miss Silvester encouraged him--and so on. The
result will be--now Miss Silvester has gone--that Bishopriggs will
return to Craig Fernie before the autumn is over. We are sailing with
wind and tide, my dear. Come, and learn to play whist.”

He rose to join the card-players. Blanche detained him.

“You haven’t told me one thing yet,” she said. “Whoever the man may be,
is Anne married to him?”

“Whoever the man may be,” returned Sir Patrick, “he had better not
attempt to marry any body else.”

So the niece unconsciously put the question, and so the uncle
unconsciously gave the answer on which depended the whole happiness of
Blanche’s life to come, The “man!” How lightly they both talked of the
“man!” Would nothing happen to rouse the faintest suspicion--in their
minds or in Arnold’s mind--that Arnold was the “man” himself?

“You mean that she _is_ married?” said Blanche.

“I don’t go as far as that.”

“You mean that she is _not_ married?”

“I don’t go so far as _that._”

“Oh! the law!”

“Provoking, isn’t it, my dear? I can tell you, professionally, that (in
my opinion) she has grounds to go on if she claims to be the man’s wife.
That is what I meant by my answer; and, until we know more, that is all
I can say.”

“When shall we know more? When shall we get the telegram?”

“Not for some hours yet. Come, and learn to play whist.”

“I think I would rather talk to Arnold, uncle, if you don’t mind.”

“By all means! But don’t talk to him about what I have been telling you
to-night. He and Mr. Delamayn are old associates, remember; and he might
blunder into telling his friend what his friend had better not know. Sad
(isn’t it?) for me to be instilling these lessons of duplicity into the
youthful mind. A wise person once said, ‘The older a man gets the
worse he gets.’ That wise person, my dear, had me in his eye, and was
perfectly right.”

He mitigated the pain of that confession with a pinch of snuff, and went
to the whist table to wait until the end of the rubber gave him a place
at the game.


CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FIFTH.

FORWARD.

BLANCHE found her lover as attentive as usual to her slightest wish, but
not in his customary good spirits. He pleaded fatigue, after his long
watch at the cross-roads, as an excuse for his depression. As long as
there was any hope of a reconciliation with Geoffrey, he was unwilling
to tell Blanche what had happened that afternoon. The hope grew fainter
and fainter as the evening advanced. Arnold purposely suggested a
visit to the billiard-room, and joined the game, with Blanche, to give
Geoffrey an opportunity of saying the few gracious words which would
have made them friends again. Geoffrey never spoke the words; he
obstinately ignored Arnold’s presence in the room.

At the card-table the whist went on interminably. Lady Lundie, Sir
Patrick, and the surgeon, were all inveterate players, evenly matched.
Smith and Jones (joining the game alternately) were aids to whist,
exactly as they were aids to conversation. The same safe and modest
mediocrity of style distinguished the proceedings of these two gentlemen
in all the affairs of life.

The time wore on to midnight. They went to bed late and they rose late
at Windygates House. Under that hospitable roof, no intrusive hints, in
the shape of flat candlesticks exhibiting themselves with ostentatious
virtue on side-tables, hurried the guest to his room; no vile bell
rang him ruthlessly out of bed the next morning, and insisted on his
breakfasting at a given hour. Life has surely hardships enough that
are inevitable without gratuitously adding the hardship of absolute
government, administered by a clock?

It was a quarter past twelve when Lady Lundie rose blandly from the
whist-table, and said that she supposed somebody must set the example of
going to bed. Sir Patrick and Smith, the surgeon and Jones, agreed on a
last rubber. Blanche vanished while her stepmother’s eye was on her;
and appeared again in the drawing-room, when Lady Lundie was safe in the
hands of her maid. Nobody followed the example of the mistress of the
house but Arnold. He left the billiard-room with the certainty that it
was all over now between Geoffrey and himself. Not even the attraction
of Blanche proved strong enough to detain him that night. He went his
way to bed.

It was past one o’clock. The final rubber was at an end, the accounts
were settled at the card-table; the surgeon had strolled into the
billiard-room, and Smith and Jones had followed him, when Duncan came
in, at last, with the telegram in his hand.

Blanche turned from the broad, calm autumn moonlight which had drawn her
to the window, and looked over her uncle’s shoulder while he opened the
telegram.

She read the first line--and that was enough. The whole scaffolding of
hope built round that morsel of paper fell to the ground in an instant.
The train from Kirkandrew had reached Edinburgh at the usual time. Every
passenger in it had passed under the eyes of the police, and nothing had
been seen of any person who answered the description given of Anne!

Sir Patrick pointed to the two last sentences in the telegram:
“Inquiries telegraphed to Falkirk. If with any result, you shall know.”

“We must hope for the best, Blanche. They evidently suspect her of
having got out at the junction of the two railways for the purpose
of giving the telegraph the slip. There is no help for it. Go to bed,
child--go to bed.”

Blanche kissed her uncle in silence and went away. The bright young face
was sad with the first hopeless sorrow which the old man had yet seen in
it. His niece’s parting look dwelt painfully on his mind when he was up
in his room, with the faithful Duncan getting him ready for his bed.

“This is a bad business, Duncan. I don’t like to say so to Miss Lundie;
but I greatly fear the governess has baffled us.”

“It seems likely, Sir Patrick. The poor young lady looks quite
heart-broken about it.”

“You noticed that too, did you? She has lived all her life, you see,
with Miss Silvester; and there is a very strong attachment between them.
I am uneasy about my niece, Duncan. I am afraid this disappointment will
have a serious effect on her.”

“She’s young, Sir Patrick.”

“Yes, my friend, she’s young; but the young (when they are good for any
thing) have warm hearts. Winter hasn’t stolen on _them,_ Duncan! And
they feel keenly.”

“I think there’s reason to hope, Sir, that Miss Lundie may get over it
more easily than you suppose.”

“What reason, pray?”

“A person in my position can hardly venture to speak freely, Sir, on a
delicate matter of this kind.”

Sir Patrick’s temper flashed out, half-seriously, half-whimsically, as
usual.

“Is that a snap at Me, you old dog? If I am not your friend, as well as
your master, who is? Am _I_ in the habit of keeping any of my harmless
fellow-creatures at a distance? I despise the cant of modern Liberalism;
but it’s not the less true that I have, all my life, protested against
the inhuman separation of classes in England. We are, in that respect,
brag as we may of our national virtue, the most unchristian people in
the civilized world.”

“I beg your pardon, Sir Patrick--”

“God help me! I’m talking polities at this time of night! It’s your
fault, Duncan. What do you mean by casting my station in my teeth,
because I can’t put my night-cap on comfortably till you have brushed
my hair? I have a good mind to get up and brush yours. There! there! I’m
uneasy about my niece--nervous irritability, my good fellow, that’s all.
Let’s hear what you have to say about Miss Lundie. And go on with my
hair. And don’t be a humbug.”

“I was about to remind you, Sir Patrick, that Miss Lundie has another
interest in her life to turn to. If this matter of Miss Silvester ends
badly--and I own it begins to look as if it would--I should hurry my
niece’s marriage, Sir, and see if _that_ wouldn’t console her.”

Sir Patrick started under the gentle discipline of the hair-brush in
Duncan’s hand.

“That’s very sensibly put,” said the old gentleman. “Duncan! you are,
what I call, a clear-minded man. Well worth thinking of, old Truepenny!
If the worst comes to the worst, well worth thinking of!”

It was not the first time that Duncan’s steady good sense had struck
light, under the form of a new thought, in his master’s mind. But never
yet had he wrought such mischief as the mischief which he had innocently
done now. He had sent Sir Patrick to bed with the fatal idea of
hastening the marriage of Arnold and Blanche.

The situation of affairs at Windygates--now that Anne had apparently
obliterated all trace of herself--was becoming serious. The one chance
on which the discovery of Arnold’s position depended, was the chance
that accident might reveal the truth in the lapse of time. In this
posture of circumstances, Sir Patrick now resolved--if nothing happened
to relieve Blanche’s anxiety in the course of the week--to advance the
celebration of the marriage from the end of the autumn (as originally
contemplated) to the first fortnight of the ensuing month. As dates
then stood, the change led (so far as free scope for the development of
accident was concerned) to this serious result. It abridged a lapse of
three months into an interval of three weeks.



The next morning came; and Blanche marked it as a memorable morning,
by committing an act of imprudence, which struck away one more of
the chances of discovery that had existed, before the arrival of the
Edinburgh telegram on the previous day.

She had passed a sleepless night; fevered in mind and body; thinking,
hour after hour, of nothing but Anne. At sunrise she could endure it no
longer. Her power to control herself was completely exhausted; her own
impulses led her as they pleased. She got up, determined not to let
Geoffrey leave the house without risking an effort to make him reveal
what he knew about Anne. It was nothing less than downright treason to
Sir Patrick to act on her own responsibility in this way. She knew it
was wrong; she was heartily ashamed of herself for doing it. But the
demon that possesses women with a recklessness all their own, at the
critical moments of their lives, had got her--and she did it.

Geoffrey had arranged overnight, to breakfast early, by himself, and to
walk the ten miles to his brother’s house; sending a servant to fetch
his luggage later in the day.

He had got on his hat; he was standing in the hall, searching his pocket
for his second self, the pipe--when Blanche suddenly appeared from the
morning-room, and placed herself between him and the house door.

“Up early--eh?” said Geoffrey. “I’m off to my brother’s.”

She made no reply. He looked at her closer. The girl’s eyes were trying
to read his face, with an utter carelessness of concealment, which
forbade (even to his mind) all unworthy interpretation of her motive for
stopping him on his way out.

“Any commands for me?” he inquired

This time she answered him. “I have something to ask you,” she said.

He smiled graciously, and opened his tobacco-pouch. He was fresh and
strong after his night’s sleep--healthy and handsome and good-humored.
The house-maids had had a peep at him that morning, and had wished--like
Desdemona, with a difference--that “Heaven had made all three of them
such a man.”

“Well,” he said, “what is it?”

She put her question, without a single word of preface--purposely to
surprise him.

“Mr. Delamayn,” she said, “do you know where Anne Silvester is this
morning?”

He was filling his pipe as she spoke, and he dropped some of the tobacco
on the floor. Instead of answering before he picked up the tobacco he
answered after--in surly self-possession, and in one word--“No.”

“Do you know nothing about her?”

He devoted himself doggedly to the filling of his pipe. “Nothing.”

“On your word of honor, as a gentleman?”

“On my word of honor, as a gentleman.”

He put back his tobacco-pouch in his pocket. His handsome face was as
hard as stone. His clear blue eyes defied all the girls in England put
together to see into _his_ mind. “Have you done, Miss Lundie?” he asked,
suddenly changing to a bantering politeness of tone and manner.

Blanche saw that it was hopeless--saw that she had compromised her own
interests by her own headlong act. Sir Patrick’s warning words came
back reproachfully to her now when it was too late. “We commit a serious
mistake if we put him on his guard at starting.”

There was but one course to take now. “Yes,” she said. “I have done.”

“My turn now,” rejoined Geoffrey. “You want to know where Miss Silvester
is. Why do you ask Me?”

Blanche did all that could be done toward repairing the error that she
had committed. She kept Geoffrey as far away as Geoffrey had kept _her_
from the truth.

“I happen to know,” she replied “that Miss Silvester left the place
at which she had been staying about the time when you went out walking
yesterday. And I thought you might have seen her.”

“Oh? That’s the reason--is it?” said Geoffrey, with a smile.

The smile stung Blanche’s sensitive temper to the quick. She made a
final effort to control herself, before her indignation got the better
of her.

“I have no more to say, Mr. Delamayn.” With that reply she turned her
back on him, and closed the door of the morning-room between them.

Geoffrey descended the house steps and lit his pipe. He was not at the
slightest loss, on this occasion, to account for what had happened. He
assumed at once that Arnold had taken a mean revenge on him after his
conduct of the day before, and had told the whole secret of his errand
at Craig Fernie to Blanche. The thing would get next, no doubt, to Sir
Patrick’s ears; and Sir Patrick would thereupon be probably the first
person who revealed to Arnold the position in which he had placed
himself with Anne. All right! Sir Patrick would be an excellent witness
to appeal to, when the scandal broke out, and when the time came for
repudiating Anne’s claim on him as the barefaced imposture of a woman
who was married already to another man. He puffed away unconcernedly at
his pipe, and started, at his swinging, steady pace, for his brother’s
house.

Blanche remained alone in the morning-room. The prospect of getting at
the truth, by means of what Geoffrey might say on the next occasion when
he consulted Sir Patrick, was a prospect that she herself had closed
from that moment. She sat down in despair by the window. It commanded a
view of the little side-terrace which had been Anne’s favorite walk at
Windygates. With weary eyes and aching heart the poor child looked at
the familiar place; and asked herself, with the bitter repentance that
comes too late, if she had destroyed the last chance of finding Anne!

She sat passively at the window, while the hours of the morning wore on,
until the postman came. Before the servant could take the letter bag she
was in the hall to receive it. Was it possible to hope that the bag had
brought tidings of Anne? She sorted the letters; and lighted suddenly
on a letter to herself. It bore the Kirkandrew postmark, and It was
addressed to her in Anne’s handwriting.

She tore the letter open, and read these lines:

“I have left you forever, Blanche. God bless and reward you! God make
you a happy woman in all your life to come! Cruel as you will think me,
love, I have never been so truly your sister as I am now. I can only
tell you this--I can never tell you more. Forgive me, and forget me, our
lives are parted lives from this day.”



Going down to breakfast about his usual hour, Sir Patrick missed
Blanche, whom he was accustomed to see waiting for him at the table at
that time. The room was empty; the other members of the household having
all finished their morning meal. Sir Patrick disliked breakfasting
alone. He sent Duncan with a message, to be given to Blanche’s maid.

The maid appeared in due time Miss Lundie was unable to leave her room.
She sent a letter to her uncle, with her love--and begged he would read
it.

Sir Patrick opened the letter and saw what Anne had written to Blanche.

He waited a little, reflecting, with evident pain and anxiety, on what
he had read--then opened his own letters, and hurriedly looked at the
signatures. There was nothing for him from his friend, the sheriff,
at Edinburgh, and no communication from the railway, in the shape of a
telegram. He had decided, overnight, on waiting till the end of the week
before he interfered in the matter of Blanche’s marriage. The events of
the morning determined him on not waiting another day. Duncan returned
to the breakfast-room to pour out his master’s coffee. Sir Patrick sent
him away again with a second message,

“Do you know where Lady Lundie is, Duncan?”

“Yes, Sir Patrick.”

“My compliments to her ladyship. If she is not otherwise engaged, I
shall be glad to speak to her privately in an hour’s time.”



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SIXTH.

DROPPED.

SIR PATRICK made a bad breakfast. Blanche’s absence fretted him, and
Anne Silvester’s letter puzzled him.

He read it, short as it was, a second time, and a third. If it meant any
thing, it meant that the motive at the bottom of Anne’s flight was to
accomplish the sacrifice of herself to the happiness of Blanche. She had
parted for life from his niece for his niece’s sake! What did this mean?
And how was it to be reconciled with Anne’s position--as described to
him by Mrs. Inchbare during his visit to Craig Fernie?

All Sir Patrick’s ingenuity, and all Sir Patrick’s experience, failed to
find so much as the shadow of an answer to that question.

While he was still pondering over the letter, Arnold and the surgeon
entered the breakfast-room together.

“Have you heard about Blanche?” asked Arnold, excitedly. “She is in no
danger, Sir Patrick--the worst of it is over now.”

The surgeon interposed before Sir Patrick could appeal to him.

“Mr. Brinkworth’s interest in the young lady a little exaggerates the
state of the case,” he said. “I have seen her, at Lady Lundie’s request;
and I can assure you that there is not the slightest reason for any
present alarm. Miss Lundie has had a nervous attack, which has yielded
to the simplest domestic remedies. The only anxiety you need feel is
connected with the management of her in the future. She is suffering
from some mental distress, which it is not for me, but for her friends,
to alleviate and remove. If you can turn her thoughts from the painful
subject--whatever it may be--on which they are dwelling now, you will do
all that needs to be done.” He took up a newspaper from the table, and
strolled out into the garden, leaving Sir Patrick and Arnold together.

“You heard that?” said Sir Patrick.

“Is he right, do you think?” asked Arnold.

“Right? Do you suppose a man gets _his_ reputation by making mistakes?
You’re one of the new generation, Master Arnold. You can all of you
stare at a famous man; but you haven’t an atom of respect for his fame.
If Shakspeare came to life again, and talked of playwriting, the first
pretentious nobody who sat opposite at dinner would differ with him as
composedly as he might differ with you and me. Veneration is dead among
us; the present age has buried it, without a stone to mark the place. So
much for that! Let’s get back to Blanche. I suppose you can guess what
the painful subject is that’s dwelling on her mind? Miss Silvester has
baffled me, and baffled the Edinburgh police. Blanche discovered that we
had failed last night and Blanche received that letter this morning.”

He pushed Anne’s letter across the breakfast-table.

Arnold read it, and handed it back without a word. Viewed by the new
light in which he saw Geoffrey’s character after the quarrel on the
heath, the letter conveyed but one conclusion to his mind. Geoffrey had
deserted her.

“Well?” said Sir Patrick. “Do you understand what it means?”

“I understand Blanche’s wretchedness when she read it.”

He said no more than that. It was plain that no information which he
could afford--even if he had considered himself at liberty to give
it--would be of the slightest use in assisting Sir Patrick to trace
Miss Silvester, under present circumstances, There was--unhappily--no
temptation to induce him to break the honorable silence which he
had maintained thus far. And--more unfortunately still--assuming the
temptation to present itself, Arnold’s capacity to resist it had never
been so strong a capacity as it was now.

To the two powerful motives which had hitherto tied his tongue--respect
for Anne’s reputation, and reluctance to reveal to Blanche the deception
which he had been compelled to practice on her at the inn--to these
two motives there was now added a third. The meanness of betraying the
confidence which Geoffrey had reposed in him would be doubled meanness
if he proved false to his trust after Geoffrey had personally insulted
him. The paltry revenge which that false friend had unhesitatingly
suspected him of taking was a revenge of which Arnold’s nature was
simply incapable. Never had his lips been more effectually sealed
than at this moment--when his whole future depended on Sir Patrick’s
discovering the part that he had played in past events at Craig Fernie.

“Yes! yes!” resumed Sir Patrick, impatiently. “Blanche’s distress is
intelligible enough. But here is my niece apparently answerable for this
unhappy woman’s disappearance. Can you explain what my niece has got to
do with it?”

“I! Blanche herself is completely mystified. How should _I_ know?”

Answering in those terms, he spoke with perfect sincerity. Anne’s vague
distrust of the position in which they had innocently placed themselves
at the inn had produced no corresponding effect on Arnold at the time.
He had not regarded it; he had not even understood it. As a necessary
result, not the faintest suspicion of the motive under which Anne was
acting existed in his mind now.

Sir Patrick put the letter into his pocket-book, and abandoned all
further attempt at interpreting the meaning of it in despair.

“Enough, and more than enough, of groping in the dark,” he said. “One
point is clear to me after what has happened up stairs this morning. We
must accept the position in which Miss Silvester has placed us. I shall
give up all further effort to trace her from this moment.”

“Surely that will be a dreadful disappointment to Blanche, Sir Patrick?”

“I don’t deny it. We must face that result.”

“If you are sure there is nothing else to be done, I suppose we must.”

“I am not sure of anything of the sort, Master Arnold! There are two
chances still left of throwing light on this matter, which are both of
them independent of any thing that Miss Silvester can do to keep it in
the dark.”

“Then why not try them, Sir? It seems hard to drop Miss Silvester when
she is in trouble.”

“We can’t help her against her own will,” rejoined Sir Patrick. “And
we can’t run the risk, after that nervous attack this morning, of
subjecting Blanche to any further suspense. I have thought of my niece’s
interests throughout this business; and if I now change my mind, and
decline to agitate her by more experiments, ending (quite possibly) in
more failures, it is because I am thinking of her interests still. I
have no other motive. However numerous my weaknesses may be, ambition
to distinguish myself as a detective policeman is not one of them. The
case, from the police point of view, is by no means a lost case. I
drop it, nevertheless, for Blanche’s sake. Instead of encouraging her
thoughts to dwell on this melancholy business, we must apply the remedy
suggested by our medical friend.”

“How is that to be done?” asked Arnold.

The sly twist of humor began to show itself in Sir Patrick’s face.

“Has she nothing to think of in the future, which is a pleasanter
subject of reflection than the loss of her friend?” he asked. “You are
interested, my young gentleman, in the remedy that is to cure Blanche.
You are one of the drugs in the moral prescription. Can you guess what
it is?”

Arnold started to his feet, and brightened into a new being.

“Perhaps you object to be hurried?” said Sir Patrick.

“Object! If Blanche will only consent, I’ll take her to church as soon
as she comes down stairs!”

“Thank you!” said Sir Patrick, dryly. “Mr. Arnold Brinkworth, may you
always be as ready to take Time by the forelock as you are now! Sit down
again; and don’t talk nonsense. It is just possible--if Blanche consents
(as you say), and if we can hurry the lawyers--that you may be married
in three weeks’ or a month’s time.”

“What have the lawyers got to do with it?”

“My good fellow, this is not a marriage in a novel! This is the most
unromantic affair of the sort that ever happened. Here are a young
gentleman and a young lady, both rich people; both well matched in birth
and character; one of age, and the other marrying with the full consent
and approval of her guardian. What is the consequence of this purely
prosaic state of things? Lawyers and settlements, of course!”

“Come into the library, Sir Patrick; and I’ll soon settle the
settlements! A bit of paper, and a dip of ink. ‘I hereby give every
blessed farthing I have got in the world to my dear Blanche.’ Sign that;
stick a wafer on at the side; clap your finger on the wafer; ‘I deliver
this as my act and deed;’ and there it is--done!”

“Is it, really? You are a born legislator. You create and codify your
own system all in a breath. Moses-Justinian-Mahomet, give me your arm!
There is one atom of sense in what you have just said. ‘Come into the
library’--is a suggestion worth attending to. Do you happen, among your
other superfluities, to have such a thing as a lawyer about you?”

“I have got two. One in London, and one in Edinburgh.”

“We will take the nearest of the two, because we are in a hurry. Who is
the Edinburgh lawyer? Pringle of Pitt Street? Couldn’t be a better man.
Come and write to him. You have given me your abstract of a marriage
settlement with the brevity of an ancient Roman. I scorn to be outdone
by an amateur lawyer. Here is _my_ abstract: You are just and generous
to Blanche; Blanche is just and generous to you; and you both combine
to be just and generous together to your children. There is a model
settlement! and there are your instructions to Pringle of Pitt Street!
Can you do it by yourself? No; of course you can’t. Now don’t be
slovenly-minded! See the points in their order as they come. You are
going to be married; you state to whom, you add that I am the lady’s
guardian; you give the name and address of my lawyer in Edinburgh; you
write your instructions plainly in the fewest words, and leave details
to your legal adviser; you refer the lawyers to each other; you request
that the draft settlements be prepared as speedily as possible, and you
give your address at this house. There are the heads. Can’t you do it
now? Oh, the rising generation! Oh, the progress we are making in these
enlightened modern times! There! there! you can marry Blanche, and make
her happy, and increase the population--and all without knowing how
to write the English language. One can only say with the learned
Bevorskius, looking out of his window at the illimitable loves of the
sparrows, ‘How merciful is Heaven to its creatures!’ Take up the pen.
I’ll dictate! I’ll dictate!”

Sir Patrick read the letter over, approved of it, and saw it safe in the
box for the post. This done, he peremptorily forbade Arnold to speak to
his niece on the subject of the marriage without his express permission.
“There’s somebody else’s consent to be got,” he said, “besides Blanche’s
consent and mine.”

“Lady Lundie?”

“Lady Lundie. Strictly speaking, I am the only authority. But my
sister-in-law is Blanche’s step-mother, and she is appointed guardian in
the event of my death. She has a right to be consulted--in courtesy, if
not in law. Would you like to do it?”

Arnold’s face fell. He looked at Sir Patrick in silent dismay.

“What! you can’t even speak to such a perfectly pliable person as Lady
Lundie? You may have been a very useful fellow at sea. A more helpless
young man I never met with on shore. Get out with you into the garden
among the other sparrows! Somebody must confront her ladyship. And if
you won’t--I must.”

He pushed Arnold out of the library, and applied meditatively to the
knob of his cane. His gayety disappeared, now that he was alone. His
experience of Lady Lundie’s character told him that, in attempting to
win her approval to any scheme for hurrying Blanche’s marriage, he was
undertaking no easy task. “I suppose,” mused Sir Patrick, thinking of
his late brother--“I suppose poor Tom had some way of managing her. How
did he do it, I wonder? If she had been the wife of a bricklayer, she
is the sort of woman who would have been kept in perfect order by a
vigorous and regular application of her husband’s fist. But Tom wasn’t
a bricklayer. I wonder how Tom did it?” After a little hard thinking on
this point Sir Patrick gave up the problem as beyond human solution. “It
must be done,” he concluded. “And my own mother-wit must help me to do
it.”

In that resigned frame of mind he knocked at the door of Lady Lundie’s
boudoir.


CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SEVENTH.

OUTWITTED.

SIR PATRICK found his sister-in-law immersed in domestic business. Her
ladyship’s correspondence and visiting list, her ladyship’s household
bills and ledgers; her ladyship’s Diary and Memorandum-book (bound in
scarlet morocco); her ladyship’s desk, envelope-case, match-box, and
taper candlestick (all in ebony and silver); her ladyship herself,
presiding over her responsibilities, and wielding her materials, equal
to any calls of emergency, beautifully dressed in correct morning
costume, blessed with perfect health both of the secretions and the
principles; absolutely void of vice, and formidably full of virtue,
presented, to every properly-constituted mind, the most imposing
spectacle known to humanity--the British Matron on her throne, asking
the world in general, When will you produce the like of Me?

“I am afraid I disturb you,” said Sir Patrick. “I am a perfectly idle
person. Shall I look in a little later?”

Lady Lundie put her hand to her head, and smiled faintly.

“A little pressure _here,_ Sir Patrick. Pray sit down. Duty finds me
earnest; Duty finds me cheerful; Duty finds me accessible. From a poor,
weak woman, Duty must expect no more. Now what is it?” (Her ladyship
consulted her scarlet memorandum-book.) “I have got it here, under
its proper head, distinguished by initial letters. P.--the poor.
No. H.M.--heathen missions. No. V.T.A.--Visitors to arrive. No. P. I.
P.--Here it is: private interview with Patrick. Will you forgive me the
little harmless familiarity of omitting your title? Thank you! You are
always so good. I am quite at your service when you like to begin. If
it’s any thing painful, pray don’t hesitate. I am quite prepared.”

With that intimation her ladyship threw herself back in her chair, with
her elbows on the arms, and her fingers joined at the tips, as if
she was receiving a deputation. “Yes?” she said, interrogatively. Sir
Patrick paid a private tribute of pity to his late brother’s memory, and
entered on his business.

“We won’t call it a painful matter,” he began. “Let us say it’s a matter
of domestic anxiety. Blanche--”

Lady Lundie emitted a faint scream, and put her hand over her eyes.

“_Must_ you?” cried her ladyship, in a tone of touching remonstrance.
“Oh, Sir Patrick, _must_ you?”

“Yes. I must.”

Lady Lundie’s magnificent eyes looked up at that hidden court of human
appeal which is lodged in the ceiling. The hidden court looked down at
Lady Lundie, and saw--Duty advertising itself in the largest capital
letters.

“Go on, Sir Patrick. The motto of woman is Self-sacrifice. You sha’n’t
see how you distress me. Go on.”

Sir Patrick went on impenetrably--without betraying the slightest
expression of sympathy or surprise.

“I was about to refer to the nervous attack from which Blanche has
suffered this morning,” he said. “May I ask whether you have been
informed of the cause to which the attack is attributable?”

“There!” exclaimed Lady Lundie with a sudden bound in her chair, and a
sudden development of vocal power to correspond. “The one thing I shrank
from speaking of! the cruel, cruel, cruel behavior I was prepared to
pass over! And Sir Patrick hints on it! Innocently--don’t let me do an
injustice--innocently hints on it!”

“Hints on what, my dear Madam?”

“Blanche’s conduct to me this morning. Blanche’s heartless secrecy.
Blanche’s undutiful silence. I repeat the words: Heartless secrecy.
Undutiful silence.”

“Allow me for one moment, Lady Lundie--”

“Allow _me,_ Sir Patrick! Heaven knows how unwilling I am to speak of
it. Heaven knows that not a word of reference to it escaped _my_ lips.
But you leave me no choice now. As mistress of the household, as a
Christian woman, as the widow of your dear brother, as a mother to this
misguided girl, I must state the facts. I know you mean well; I know you
wish to spare me. Quite useless! I must state the facts.”

Sir Patrick bowed, and submitted. (If he had only been a bricklayer! and
if Lady Lundie had not been, what her ladyship unquestionably was, the
strongest person of the two!)

“Permit me to draw a veil, for your sake,” said Lady Lundie, “over the
horrors--I can not, with the best wish to spare you, conscientiously
call them by any other name--the horrors that took place up stairs. The
moment I heard that Blanche was ill I was at my post. Duty will always
find me ready, Sir Patrick, to my dying day. Shocking as the whole thing
was, I presided calmly over the screams and sobs of my step-daughter.
I closed my ears to the profane violence of her language. I set
the necessary example, as an English gentlewoman at the head of her
household. It was only when I distinctly heard the name of a person,
never to be mentioned again in my family circle, issue (if I may use
the expression) from Blanche’s lips that I began to be really alarmed. I
said to my maid: ‘Hopkins, this is not Hysteria. This is a possession of
the devil. Fetch the chloroform.’”

Chloroform, applied in the capacity of an exorcism, was entirely new to
Sir Patrick. He preserved his gravity with considerable difficulty. Lady
Lundie went on:

“Hopkins is an excellent person--but Hopkins has a tongue. She met our
distinguished medical guest in the corridor, and told him. He was so
good as to come to the door. I was shocked to trouble him to act in his
professional capacity while he was a visitor, an honored visitor, in my
house. Besides, I considered it more a case for a clergyman than for a
medical man. However, there was no help for it after Hopkins’s tongue.
I requested our eminent friend to favor us with--I think the exact
scientific term is--a Prognosis. He took the purely material view
which was only to be expected from a person in his profession. He
prognosed--_am_ I right? Did he prognose? or did he diagnose? A habit of
speaking correctly is _so_ important, Sir Patrick! and I should be _so_
grieved to mislead you!”

“Never mind, Lady Lundie! I have heard the medical report. Don’t trouble
yourself to repeat it.”

“Don’t trouble myself to repeat it?” echoed Lady Lundie--with her
dignity up in arms at the bare prospect of finding her remarks abridged.
“Ah, Sir Patrick! that little constitutional impatience of yours!--Oh,
dear me! how often you must have given way to it, and how often you must
have regretted it, in your time!”

“My dear lady! if you wish to repeat the report, why not say so, in
plain words? Don’t let me hurry you. Let us have the prognosis, by all
means.”

Lady Lundie shook her head compassionately, and smiled with angelic
sadness. “Our little besetting sins!” she said. “What slaves we are to
our little besetting sins! Take a turn in the room--do!”

Any ordinary man would have lost his temper. But the law (as Sir Patrick
had told his niece) has a special temper of its own. Without
exhibiting the smallest irritation, Sir Patrick dextrously applied his
sister-in-law’s blister to his sister-in-law herself.

“What an eye you have!” he said. “I was impatient. I _am_ impatient. I
am dying to know what Blanche said to you when she got better?”

The British Matron froze up into a matron of stone on the spot.

“Nothing!” answered her ladyship, with a vicious snap of her teeth, as
if she had tried to bite the word before it escaped her.

“Nothing!” exclaimed Sir Patrick.

“Nothing,” repeated Lady Lundie, with her most formidable emphasis of
look and tone. “I applied all the remedies with my own hands; I cut her
laces with my own scissors, I completely wetted her head through with
cold water; I remained with her until she was quite exhausted--I took
her in my arms, and folded her to my bosom; I sent every body out of the
room; I said, ‘Dear child, confide in me.’ And how were my advances--my
motherly advances--met? I have already told you. By heartless secrecy.
By undutiful silence.”

Sir Patrick pressed the blister a little closer to the skin. “She was
probably afraid to speak,” he said.

“Afraid? Oh!” cried Lady Lundie, distrusting the evidence of her own
senses. “You can’t have said that? I have evidently misapprehended you.
You didn’t really say, afraid?”

“I said she was probably afraid--”

“Stop! I can’t be told to my face that I have failed to do my duty by
Blanche. No, Sir Patrick! I can bear a great deal; but I can’t bear
that. After having been more than a mother to your dear brother’s child;
after having been an elder sister to Blanche; after having toiled--I say
_toiled,_ Sir Patrick!--to cultivate her intelligence (with the sweet
lines of the poet ever present to my memory: ‘Delightful task to rear
the tender mind, and teach the young idea how to shoot!’); after having
done all I have done--a place in the carriage only yesterday, and a
visit to the most interesting relic of feudal times in Perthshire--after
having sacrificed all I have sacrificed, to be told that I have behaved
in such a manner to Blanche as to frighten her when I ask her to confide
in me, is a little too cruel. I have a sensitive--an unduly sensitive
nature, dear Sir Patrick. Forgive me for wincing when I am wounded.
Forgive me for feeling it when the wound is dealt me by a person whom I
revere.”

Her ladyship put her handkerchief to her eyes. Any other man would have
taken off the blister. Sir Patrick pressed it harder than ever.

“You quite mistake me,” he replied. “I meant that Blanche was afraid to
tell you the true cause of her illness. The true cause is anxiety about
Miss Silvester.”

Lady Lundie emitted another scream--a loud scream this time--and closed
her eyes in horror.

“I can run out of the house,” cried her ladyship, wildly. “I can fly to
the uttermost corners of the earth; but I can _not_ hear that person’s
name mentioned! No, Sir Patrick! not in my presence! not in my room!
not while I am mistress at Windygates House!”

“I am sorry to say any thing that is disagreeable to you, Lady Lundie.
But the nature of my errand here obliges me to touch--as lightly as
possible--on something which has happened in your house without your
knowledge.”

Lady Lundie suddenly opened her eyes, and became the picture of
attention. A casual observer might have supposed her ladyship to be not
wholly inaccessible to the vulgar emotion of curiosity.

“A visitor came to Windygates yesterday, while we were all at lunch,”
 proceeded Sir Patrick. “She--”

Lady Lundie seized the scarlet memorandum-book, and stopped her
brother-in-law, before he could get any further. Her ladyship’s next
words escaped her lips spasmodically, like words let at intervals out of
a trap.

“I undertake--as a woman accustomed to self-restraint, Sir Patrick--I
undertake to control myself, on one condition. I won’t have the name
mentioned. I won’t have the sex mentioned. Say, ‘The Person,’ if
you please. ‘The Person,’” continued Lady Lundie, opening her
memorandum-book and taking up her pen, “committed an audacious invasion
of my premises yesterday?”

Sir Patrick bowed. Her ladyship made a note--a fiercely-penned note
that scratched the paper viciously--and then proceeded to examine her
brother-in-law, in the capacity of witness.

“What part of my house did ‘The Person’ invade? Be very careful, Sir
Patrick! I propose to place myself under the protection of a justice of
the peace; and this is a memorandum of my statement. The library--did I
understand you to say? Just so--the library.”

“Add,” said Sir Patrick, with another pressure on the blister, “that The
Person had an interview with Blanche in the library.”

Lady Lundie’s pen suddenly stuck in the paper, and scattered a little
shower of ink-drops all round it. “The library,” repeated her ladyship,
in a voice suggestive of approaching suffocation. “I undertake to
control myself, Sir Patrick! Any thing missing from the library?”

“Nothing missing, Lady Lundie, but The Person herself. She--”

“No, Sir Patrick! I won’t have it! In the name of my own sex, I won’t
have it!”

“Pray pardon me--I forgot that ‘she’ was a prohibited pronoun on the
present occasion. The Person has written a farewell letter to Blanche,
and has gone nobody knows where. The distress produced by these events
is alone answerable for what has happened to Blanche this morning. If
you bear that in mind--and if you remember what your own opinion is of
Miss Silvester--you will understand why Blanche hesitated to admit you
into her confidence.”

There he waited for a reply. Lady Lundie was too deeply absorbed in
completing her memorandum to be conscious of his presence in the room.

“‘Carriage to be at the door at two-thirty,’” said Lady Lundie,
repeating the final words of the memorandum while she wrote them.
“‘Inquire for the nearest justice of the peace, and place the privacy
of Windygates under the protection of the law.’--I beg your pardon!”
 exclaimed her ladyship, becoming conscious again of Sir Patrick’s
presence. “Have I missed any thing particularly painful? Pray mention it
if I have!”

“You have missed nothing of the slightest importance,” returned Sir
Patrick. “I have placed you in possession of facts which you had a right
to know; and we have now only to return to our medical friend’s report
on Blanche’s health. You were about to favor me, I think, with the
Prognosis?”

“Diagnosis!” said her ladyship, spitefully. “I had forgotten at the
time--I remember now. Prognosis is entirely wrong.”

“I sit corrected, Lady Lundie. Diagnosis.”

“You have informed me, Sir Patrick, that you were already acquainted
with the Diagnosis. It is quite needless for me to repeat it now.”

“I was anxious to correct my own impression, my dear lady, by comparing
it with yours.”

“You are very good. You are a learned man. I am only a poor ignorant
woman. Your impression can not possibly require correcting by mine.”

“My impression, Lady Lundie, was that our so friend recommended moral,
rather than medical, treatment for Blanche. If we can turn her thoughts
from the painful subject on which they are now dwelling, we shall do all
that is needful. Those were his own words, as I remember them. Do you
confirm me?”

“Can _I_ presume to dispute with you, Sir Patrick? You are a master of
refined irony, I know. I am afraid it’s all thrown away on poor me.”

(The law kept its wonderful temper! The law met the most exasperating of
living women with a counter-power of defensive aggravation all its own!)

“I take that as confirming me, Lady Lundie. Thank you. Now, as to the
method of carrying out our friend’s advice. The method seems plain. All
we can do to divert Blanche’s mind is to turn Blanche’s attention to
some other subject of reflection less painful than the subject which
occupies her now. Do you agree, so far?”

“Why place the whole responsibility on my shoulders?” inquired Lady
Lundie.

“Out of profound deference for your opinion,” answered Sir Patrick.
“Strictly speaking, no doubt, any serious responsibility rests with me.
I am Blanche’s guardian--”

“Thank God!” cried Lady Lundie, with a perfect explosion of pious
fervor.

“I hear an outburst of devout thankfulness,” remarked Sir Patrick. “Am
I to take it as expressing--let me say--some little doubt, on your
part, as to the prospect of managing Blanche successfully, under present
circumstances?”

Lady Lundie’s temper began to give way again--exactly as her
brother-in-law had anticipated.

“You are to take it,” she said, “as expressing my conviction that I
saddled myself with the charge of an incorrigibly heartless, obstinate
and perverse girl, when I undertook the care of Blanche.”

“Did you say ‘incorrigibly?’”

“I said ‘incorrigibly.’”

“If the case is as hopeless as that, my dear Madam--as Blanche’s
guardian, I ought to find means to relieve you of the charge of
Blanche.”

“Nobody shall relieve _me_ of a duty that I have once undertaken!”
 retorted Lady Lundie. “Not if I die at my post!”

“Suppose it was consistent with your duty,” pleaded Sir Patrick, “to
be relieved at your post? Suppose it was in harmony with that
‘self-sacrifice’ which is ‘the motto of women?’”

“I don’t understand you, Sir Patrick. Be so good as to explain
yourself.”

Sir Patrick assumed a new character--the character of a hesitating man.
He cast a look of respectful inquiry at his sister-in-law, sighed, and
shook his head.

“No!” he said. “It would be asking too much. Even with your high
standard of duty, it would be asking too much.”

“Nothing which you can ask me in the name of duty is too much.”

“No! no! Let me remind you. Human nature has its limits.”

“A Christian gentlewoman’s sense of duty knows no limits.”

“Oh, surely yes!”

“Sir Patrick! after what I have just said your perseverance in doubting
me amounts to something like an insult!”

“Don’t say that! Let me put a case. Let’s suppose the future interests
of another person depend on your saying, Yes--when all your own most
cherished ideas and opinions urge you to say, No. Do you really mean to
tell me that you could trample your own convictions under foot, if
it could be shown that the purely abstract consideration of duty was
involved in the sacrifice?”

“Yes!” cried Lady Lundie, mounting the pedestal of her virtue on the
spot. “Yes--without a moment’s hesitation!”

“I sit corrected, Lady Lundie. You embolden me to proceed. Allow me to
ask (after what I just heard)--whether it is not your duty to act
on advice given for Blanche’s benefit, by one the highest medical
authorities in England?” Her ladyship admitted that it was her
duty; pending a more favorable opportunity for contradicting her
brother-in-law.

“Very good,” pursued Sir Patrick. “Assuming that Blanche is like most
other human beings, and has some prospect of happiness to contemplate,
if she could only be made to see it--are we not bound to make her see
it, by our moral obligation to act on the medical advice?” He cast a
courteously-persuasive look at her ladyship, and paused in the most
innocent manner for a reply.

If Lady Lundie had not been bent--thanks to the irritation fomented by
her brother-in-law--on disputing the ground with him, inch by inch, she
must have seen signs, by this time, of the snare that was being set
for her. As it was, she saw nothing but the opportunity of disparaging
Blanche and contradicting Sir Patrick.

“If my step-daughter had any such prospect as you describe,”
 she answered, “I should of course say, Yes. But Blanche’s is an
ill-regulated mind. An ill-regulated mind has no prospect of happiness.”

“Pardon me,” said Sir Patrick. “Blanche _has_ a prospect of happiness.
In other words, Blanche has a prospect of being married. And what is
more, Arnold Brinkworth is ready to marry her as soon as the settlements
can be prepared.”

Lady Lundie started in her chair--turned crimson with rage--and opened
her lips to speak. Sir Patrick rose to his feet, and went on before she
could utter a word.

“I beg to relieve you, Lady Lundie--by means which you have just
acknowledged it to be your duty to accept--of all further charge of an
incorrigible girl. As Blanche’s guardian, I have the honor of proposing
that her marriage be advanced to a day to be hereafter named in the
first fortnight of the ensuing month.”

In those words he closed the trap which he had set for his
sister-in-law, and waited to see what came of it.

A thoroughly spiteful woman, thoroughly roused, is capable of
subordinating every other consideration to the one imperative necessity
of gratifying her spite. There was but one way now of turning the tables
on Sir Patrick--and Lady Lundie took it. She hated him, at that moment,
so intensely, that not even the assertion of her own obstinate will
promised her more than a tame satisfaction, by comparison with the
priceless enjoyment of beating her brother-in-law with his own weapons.

“My dear Sir Patrick!” she said, with a little silvery laugh, “you have
wasted much precious time and many eloquent words in trying to entrap
me into giving my consent, when you might have had it for the asking.
I think the idea of hastening Blanche’s marriage an excellent one. I am
charmed to transfer the charge of such a person as my step-daughter to
the unfortunate young man who is willing to take her off my hands. The
less he sees of Blanche’s character the more satisfied I shall feel of
his performing his engagement to marry her. Pray hurry the lawyers, Sir
Patrick, and let it be a week sooner rather than a week later, if you
wish to please Me.”

Her ladyship rose in her grandest proportions, and made a courtesy
which was nothing less than a triumph of polite satire in dumb show. Sir
Patrick answered by a profound bow and a smile which said, eloquently,
“I believe every word of that charming answer. Admirable woman--adieu!”

So the one person in the family circle, whose opposition might have
forced Sir Patrick to submit to a timely delay, was silenced by adroit
management of the vices of her own character. So, in despite of herself,
Lady Lundie was won over to the project for hurrying the marriage of
Arnold and Blanche.


CHAPTER THE TWENTY-EIGHTH.

STIFLED.

IT is the nature of Truth to struggle to the light. In more than one
direction, the truth strove to pierce the overlying darkness, and to
reveal itself to view, during the interval between the date of Sir
Patrick’s victory and the date of the wedding-day.

Signs of perturbation under the surface, suggestive of some hidden
influence at work, were not wanting, as the time passed on. The one
thing missing was the prophetic faculty that could read those signs
aright at Windygates House.

On the very day when Sir Patrick’s dextrous treatment of his
sister-in-law had smoothed the way to the hastening of the marriage,
an obstacle was raised to the new arrangement by no less a person than
Blanche herself. She had sufficiently recovered, toward noon, to be able
to receive Arnold in her own little sitting-room. It proved to be a very
brief interview. A quarter of an hour later, Arnold appeared before Sir
Patrick--while the old gentleman was sunning himself in the garden--with
a face of blank despair. Blanche had indignantly declined even to think
of such a thing as her marriage, at a time when she was heart-broken by
the discovery that Anne had left her forever.

“You gave me leave to mention it, Sir Patrick--didn’t you?” said Arnold.

Sir Patrick shifted round a little, so as to get the sun on his back,
and admitted that he had given leave.

“If I had only known, I would rather have cut my tongue out than have
said a word about it. What do you think she did? She burst out crying,
and ordered me to leave the room.”

It was a lovely morning--a cool breeze tempered the heat of the sun; the
birds were singing; the garden wore its brightest look. Sir Patrick was
supremely comfortable. The little wearisome vexations of this mortal
life had retired to a respectful distance from him. He positively
declined to invite them to come any nearer.

“Here is a world,” said the old gentleman, getting the sun a little more
broadly on his back, “which a merciful Creator has filled with lovely
sights, harmonious sounds, delicious scents; and here are creatures
with faculties expressly made for enjoyment of those sights, sounds, and
scents--to say nothing of Love, Dinner, and Sleep, all thrown into the
bargain. And these same creatures hate, starve, toss sleepless on their
pillows, see nothing pleasant, hear nothing pleasant, smell nothing
pleasant--cry bitter tears, say hard words, contract painful illnesses;
wither, sink, age, die! What does it mean, Arnold? And how much longer
is it all to go on?”

The fine connecting link between the blindness of Blanche to the
advantage of being married, and the blindness of humanity to the
advantage of being in existence, though sufficiently perceptible no
doubt to venerable Philosophy ripening in the sun, was absolutely
invisible to Arnold. He deliberately dropped the vast question opened by
Sir Patrick; and, reverting to Blanche, asked what was to be done.

“What do you do with a fire, when you can’t extinguish it?” said Sir
Patrick. “You let it blaze till it goes out. What do you do with a woman
when you can’t pacify her? Let _her_ blaze till she goes out.”

Arnold failed to see the wisdom embodied in that excellent advice. “I
thought you would have helped me to put things right with Blanche,” he
said.

“I _am_ helping you. Let Blanche alone. Don’t speak of the marriage
again, the next time you see her. If she mentions it, beg her pardon,
and tell her you won’t press the question any more. I shall see her in
an hour or two, and I shall take exactly the same tone myself. You have
put the idea into her mind--leave it there to ripen. Give her distress
about Miss Silvester nothing to feed on. Don’t stimulate it by
contradiction; don’t rouse it to defend itself by disparagement of her
lost friend. Leave Time to edge her gently nearer and nearer to the
husband who is waiting for her--and take my word for it, Time will have
her ready when the settlements are ready.”

Toward the luncheon hour Sir Patrick saw Blanche, and put in practice
the principle which he had laid down. She was perfectly tranquil before
her uncle left her. A little later, Arnold was forgiven. A little later
still, the old gentleman’s sharp observation noted that his niece was
unusually thoughtful, and that she looked at Arnold, from time to time,
with an interest of a new kind--an interest which shyly hid itself
from Arnold’s view. Sir Patrick went up to dress for dinner, with a
comfortable inner conviction that the difficulties which had beset him
were settled at last. Sir Patrick had never been more mistaken in his
life.

The business of the toilet was far advanced. Duncan had just placed the
glass in a good light; and Duncan’s master was at that turning point in
his daily life which consisted in attaining, or not attaining, absolute
perfection in the tying of his white cravat--when some outer barbarian,
ignorant of the first principles of dressing a gentleman’s throat,
presumed to knock at the bedroom door. Neither master nor servant moved
or breathed until the integrity of the cravat was placed beyond the
reach of accident. Then Sir Patrick cast the look of final criticism in
the glass, and breathed again when he saw that it was done.

“A little labored in style, Duncan. But not bad, considering the
interruption?”

“By no means, Sir Patrick.”

“See who it is.”

Duncan went to the door; and returned, to his master, with an excuse for
the interruption, in the shape of a telegram!

Sir Patrick started at the sight of that unwelcome message. “Sign the
receipt, Duncan,” he said--and opened the envelope. Yes! Exactly as he
had anticipated! News of Miss Silvester, on the very day when he had
decided to abandon all further attempt at discovering her. The telegram
ran thus:

“Message received from Falkirk this morning. Lady, as described, left
the train at Falkirk last night. Went on, by the first train this
morning, to Glasgow. Wait further instructions.”

“Is the messenger to take any thing back, Sir Patrick?”

“No. I must consider what I am to do. If I find it necessary I will send
to the station. Here is news of Miss Silvester, Duncan,” continued Sir
Patrick, when the messenger had gone. “She has been traced to Glasgow.”

“Glasgow is a large place, Sir Patrick.”

“Yes. Even if they have telegraphed on and had her watched (which
doesn’t appear), she may escape us again at Glasgow. I am the last man
in the world, I hope, to shrink from accepting my fair share of any
responsibility. But I own I would have given something to have kept this
telegram out of the house. It raises the most awkward question I have
had to decide on for many a long day past. Help me on with my coat. I
must think of it! I must think of it!”

Sir Patrick went down to dinner in no agreeable frame of mind. The
unexpected recovery of the lost trace of Miss Silvester--there is no
disguising it--seriously annoyed him.

The dinner-party that day, assembling punctually at the stroke of the
bell, had to wait a quarter of an hour before the hostess came down
stairs.

Lady Lundie’s apology, when she entered the library, informed her
guests that she had been detained by some neighbors who had called at
an unusually late hour. Mr. and Mrs. Julius Delamayn, finding themselves
near Windygates, had favored her with a visit, on their way home, and
had left cards of invitation for a garden-party at their house.

Lady Lundie was charmed with her new acquaintances. They had included
every body who was staying at Windygates in their invitation. They had
been as pleasant and easy as old friends. Mrs. Delamayn had brought the
kindest message from one of her guests--Mrs. Glenarm--to say that she
remembered meeting Lady Lundie in London, in the time of the late Sir
Thomas, and was anxious to improve the acquaintance. Mr. Julius Delamayn
had given a most amusing account of his brother. Geoffrey had sent to
London for a trainer; and the whole household was on the tip-toe of
expectation to witness the magnificent spectacle of an athlete preparing
himself for a foot-race. The ladies, with Mrs. Glenarm at their head,
were hard at work, studying the profound and complicated question of
human running--the muscles employed in it, the preparation required for
it, the heroes eminent in it. The men had been all occupied that morning
in assisting Geoffrey to measure a mile, for his exercising-ground, in a
remote part of the park--where there was an empty cottage, which was
to be fitted with all the necessary appliances for the reception of
Geoffrey and his trainer. “You will see the last of my brother,” Julius
had said, “at the garden-party. After that he retires into athletic
privacy, and has but one interest in life--the interest of watching the
disappearance of his own superfluous flesh.” Throughout the dinner Lady
Lundie was in oppressively good spirits, singing the praises of her new
friends. Sir Patrick, on the other hand, had never been so silent within
the memory of mortal man. He talked with an effort; and he listened with
a greater effort still. To answer or not to answer the telegram in his
pocket? To persist or not to persist in his resolution to leave Miss
Silvester to go her own way? Those were the questions which insisted on
coming round to him as regularly as the dishes themselves came round in
the orderly progression of the dinner.

Blanche---who had not felt equal to taking her place at the
table--appeared in the drawing-room afterward.

Sir Patrick came in to tea, with the gentlemen, still uncertain as to
the right course to take in the matter of the telegram. One look at
Blanche’s sad face and Blanche’s altered manner decided him. What would
be the result if he roused new hopes by resuming the effort to trace
Miss Silvester, and if he lost the trace a second time? He had only to
look at his niece and to see. Could any consideration justify him in
turning her mind back on the memory of the friend who had left her at
the moment when it was just beginning to look forward for relief to the
prospect of her marriage? Nothing could justify him; and nothing should
induce him to do it.

Reasoning--soundly enough, from his own point of view--on that basis,
Sir Patrick determined on sending no further instructions to his friend
at Edinburgh. That night he warned Duncan to preserve the strictest
silence as to the arrival of the telegram. He burned it, in case of
accidents, with his own hand, in his own room.

Rising the next day and looking out of his window, Sir Patrick saw
the two young people taking their morning walk at a moment when
they happened to cross the open grassy space which separated the two
shrubberies at Windygates. Arnold’s arm was round Blanche’s waist, and
they were talking confidentially with their heads close together.
“She is coming round already!” thought the old gentleman, as the two
disappeared again in the second shrubbery from view. “Thank Heaven!
things are running smoothly at last!”

Among the ornaments of Sir Patrick’s bed room there was a view (taken
from above) of one of the Highland waterfalls. If he had looked at the
picture when he turned away from his window, he might have remarked that
a river which is running with its utmost smoothness at one moment may be
a river which plunges into its most violent agitation at another; and he
might have remembered, with certain misgivings, that the progress of a
stream of water has been long since likened, with the universal consent
of humanity, to the progress of the stream of life.



FIFTH SCENE.--GLASGOW.



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-NINTH.

ANNE AMONG THE LAWYERS.

ON the day when Sir Patrick received the second of the two telegrams
sent to him from Edinburgh, four respectable inhabitants of the City of
Glasgow were startled by the appearance of an object of interest on the
monotonous horizon of their daily lives.

The persons receiving this wholesome shock were--Mr. and Mrs. Karnegie
of the Sheep’s Head Hotel--and Mr. Camp, and Mr. Crum, attached as
“Writers” to the honorable profession of the Law.

It was still early in the day when a lady arrived, in a cab from the
railway, at the Sheep’s Head Hotel. Her luggage consisted of a black
box, and of a well-worn leather bag which she carried in her hand. The
name on the box (recently written on a new luggage label, as the color
of the ink and paper showed) was a very good name in its way, common
to a very great number of ladies, both in Scotland and England. It was
“Mrs. Graham.”

Encountering the landlord at the entrance to the hotel, “Mrs. Graham”
 asked to be accommodated with a bedroom, and was transferred in due
course to the chamber-maid on duty at the time. Returning to the little
room behind the bar, in which the accounts were kept, Mr. Karnegie
surprised his wife by moving more briskly, and looking much brighter
than usual. Being questioned, Mr. Karnegie (who had cast the eye of
a landlord on the black box in the passage) announced that one “Mrs.
Graham” had just arrived, and was then and there to be booked as
inhabiting Room Number Seventeen. Being informed (with considerable
asperity of tone and manner) that this answer failed to account for
the interest which appeared to have been inspired in him by a total
stranger, Mr. Karnegie came to the point, and confessed that “Mrs.
Graham” was one of the sweetest-looking women he had seen for many a
long day, and that he feared she was very seriously out of health.

Upon that reply the eyes of Mrs. Karnegie developed in size, and the
color of Mrs. Karnegie deepened in tint. She got up from her chair and
said that it might be just as well if she personally superintended the
installation of “Mrs. Graham” in her room, and personally satisfied
herself that “Mrs. Graham” was a fit inmate to be received at the
Sheep’s Head Hotel. Mr. Karnegie thereupon did what he always did--he
agreed with his wife.

Mrs. Karnegie was absent for some little time. On her return her eyes
had a certain tigerish cast in them when they rested on Mr. Karnegie.
She ordered tea and some light refreshment to be taken to Number
Seventeen. This done--without any visible provocation to account for the
remark--she turned upon her husband, and said, “Mr. Karnegie you are
a fool.” Mr. Karnegie asked, “Why, my dear?” Mrs. Karnegie snapped
her fingers, and said, “_That_ for her good looks! You don’t know a
good-looking woman when you see her.” Mr. Karnegie agreed with his wife.

Nothing more was said until the waiter appeared at the bar with
his tray. Mrs. Karnegie, having first waived the tray off, without
instituting her customary investigation, sat down suddenly with a thump,
and said to her husband (who had not uttered a word in the interval),
“Don’t talk to Me about her being out of health! _That_ for her health!
It’s trouble on her mind.” Mr. Karnegie said, “Is it now?” Mrs. Karnegie
replied, “When I have said, It is, I consider myself insulted if another
person says, Is it?” Mr. Karnegie agreed with his wife.

There was another interval. Mrs. Karnegie added up a bill, with a
face of disgust. Mr. Karnegie looked at her with a face of wonder. Mrs.
Karnegie suddenly asked him why he wasted his looks on _her_,  when he
would have “Mrs. Graham” to look at before long. Mr. Karnegie, upon
that, attempted to compromise the matter by looking, in the interim, at
his own boots. Mrs. Karnegie wished to know whether after twenty years
of married life, she was considered to be not worth answering by her own
husband. Treated with bare civility (she expected no more), she might
have gone on to explain that “Mrs. Graham” was going out. She might also
have been prevailed on to mention that “Mrs. Graham” had asked her a
very remarkable question of a business nature, at the interview between
them up stairs. As it was, Mrs. Karnegie’s lips were sealed, and let
Mr. Karnegie deny if he dared, that he richly deserved it. Mr. Karnegie
agreed with his wife.

In half an hour more, “Mrs. Graham” came down stairs; and a cab was sent
for. Mr. Karnegie, in fear of the consequences if he did otherwise, kept
in a corner. Mrs. Karnegie followed him into the corner, and asked him
how he dared act in that way? Did he presume to think, after twenty
years of married life, that his wife was jealous? “Go, you brute, and
hand Mrs. Graham into the cab!”

Mr. Karnegie obeyed. He asked, at the cab window, to what part of
Glasgow he should tell the driver to go. The reply informed him that the
driver was to take “Mrs. Graham” to the office of Mr. Camp, the lawyer.
Assuming “Mrs. Graham” to be a stranger in Glasgow, and remembering that
Mr. Camp was Mr. Karnegie’s lawyer, the inference appeared to be, that
“Mrs. Graham’s” remarkable question, addressed to the landlady, had
related to legal business, and to the discovery of a trust-worthy person
capable of transacting it for her.

Returning to the bar, Mr. Karnegie found his eldest daughter in charge
of the books, the bills, and the waiters. Mrs. Karnegie had retired to
her own room, justly indignant with her husband for his infamous conduct
in handing “Mrs. Graham” into the cab before her own eyes. “It’s the old
story, Pa,” remarked Miss Karnegie, with the most perfect composure.
“Ma told you to do it, of course; and then Ma says you’ve insulted her
before all the servants. I wonder how you bear it?” Mr. Karnegie looked
at his boots, and answered, “I wonder, too, my dear.” Miss Karnegie
said, “You’re not going to Ma, are you?” Mr. Karnegie looked up from his
boots, and answered, “I must, my dear.”



Mr. Camp sat in his private room, absorbed over his papers.
Multitudinous as those documents were, they appeared to be not
sufficiently numerous to satisfy Mr. Camp. He rang his bell, and ordered
more.

The clerk appearing with a new pile of papers, appeared also with a
message. A lady, recommended by Mrs. Karnegie, of the Sheep’s Head,
wished to consult Mr. Camp professionally. Mr. Camp looked at his watch,
counting out precious time before him, in a little stand on the table,
and said, “Show the lady in, in ten minutes.”

In ten minutes the lady appeared. She took the client’s chair and lifted
her veil. The same effect which had been produced on Mr. Karnegie was
once more produced on Mr. Camp. For the first time, for many a long year
past, he felt personally interested in a total stranger. It might have
been something in her eyes, or it might have been something in her
manner. Whatever it was, it took softly hold of him, and made him, to
his own exceeding surprise, unmistakably anxious to hear what she had to
say!

The lady announced--in a low sweet voice touched with a quiet
sadness--that her business related to a question of marriage (as
marriage is understood by Scottish law), and that her own peace of mind,
and the happiness of a person very dear to her, were concerned alike
in the opinion which Mr. Camp might give when he had been placed in
possession of the facts.

She then proceeded to state the facts, without mentioning names:
relating in every particular precisely the same succession of events
which Geoffrey Delamayn had already related to Sir Patrick Lundie--with
this one difference, that she acknowledged herself to be the woman who
was personally concerned in knowing whether, by Scottish law, she was
now held to be a married woman or not.

Mr. Camp’s opinion given upon this, after certain questions had been
asked and answered, differed from Sir Patrick’s opinion, as given at
Windygates. He too quoted the language used by the eminent judge--Lord
Deas--but he drew an inference of his own from it. “In Scotland, consent
makes marriage,” he said; “and consent may be proved by inference. I see
a plain inference of matrimonial consent in the circumstances which you
have related to me and I say you are a married woman.”

The effect produced on the lady, when sentence was pronounced on her in
those terms, was so distressing that Mr. Camp sent a message up stairs
to his wife; and Mrs. Camp appeared in her husband’s private room,
in business hours, for the first time in her life. When Mrs. Camp’s
services had in some degree restored the lady to herself, Mr. Camp
followed with a word of professional comfort. He, like Sir Patrick,
acknowledged the scandalous divergence of opinions produced by the
confusion and uncertainty of the marriage-law of Scotland. He, like
Sir Patrick, declared it to be quite possible that another lawyer might
arrive at another conclusion. “Go,” he said, giving her his card, with a
line of writing on it, “to my colleague, Mr. Crum; and say I sent you.”

The lady gratefully thanked Mr. Camp and his wife, and went next to the
office of Mr. Crum.

Mr. Crum was the older lawyer of the two, and the harder lawyer of the
two; but he, too, felt the influence which the charm that there was in
this woman exercised, more or less, over every man who came in contact
with her. He listened with a patience which was rare with him: he put
his questions with a gentleness which was rarer still; and when _he_
was in possession of the circumstances---behold, _his_ opinion flatly
contradicted the opinion of Mr. Camp!

“No marriage, ma’am,” he said, positively. “Evidence in favor of perhaps
establishing a marriage, if you propose to claim the man. But that, as I
understand it, is exactly what you don’t wish to do.”

The relief to the lady, on hearing this, almost overpowered her. For
some minutes she was unable to speak. Mr. Crum did, what he had never
done yet in all his experience as a lawyer. He patted a client on the
shoulder, and, more extraordinary still, he gave a client permission
to waste his time. “Wait, and compose yourself,” said Mr.
Crum--administering the law of humanity. The lady composed herself. “I
must ask you some questions, ma’am,” said Mr. Crum--administering the
law of the land. The lady bowed, and waited for him to begin.

“I know, thus far, that you decline to claim the gentleman,” said Mr.
Cram. “I want to know now whether the gentleman is likely to claim
_you._”

The answer to this was given in the most positive terms. The gentleman
was not even aware of the position in which he stood. And, more yet, he
was engaged to be married to the dearest friend whom the lady had in the
world.

Mr. Crum opened his eyes--considered--and put another question as
delicately as he could. “Would it be painful to you to tell me how the
gentleman came to occupy the awkward position in which he stands now?”

The lady acknowledged that it would be indescribably painful to her to
answer that question.

Mr. Crum offered a suggestion under the form of an inquiry:

“Would it be painful to you to reveal the circumstances--in the
interests of the gentleman’s future prospects--to some discreet person
(a legal person would be best) who is not, what I am, a stranger to you
both?”

The lady declared herself willing to make any sacrifice, on those
conditions--no matter how painful it might be--for her friend’s sake.

Mr. Crum considered a little longer, and then delivered his word of
advice:

“At the present stage of the affair,” he said, “I need only tell you
what is the first step that you ought to take under the circumstances.
Inform the gentleman at once--either by word of mouth or by writing--of
the position in which he stands: and authorize him to place the case in
the hands of a person known to you both, who is competent to decide on
what you are to do next. Do I understand that you know of such a person
so qualified?”

The lady answered that she knew of such a person.

Mr. Crum asked if a day had been fixed for the gentleman’s marriage.

The lady answered that she had made this inquiry herself on the last
occasion when she had seen the gentleman’s betrothed wife. The marriage
was to take place, on a day to be hereafter chosen, at the end of the
autumn.

“That,” said Mr. Crum, “is a fortunate circumstance. You have time
before you. Time is, here, of very great importance. Be careful not to
waste it.”

The lady said she would return to her hotel and write by that night’s
post, to warn the gentleman of the position in which he stood, and to
authorize him to refer the matter to a competent and trust-worthy friend
known to them both.

On rising to leave the room she was seized with giddiness, and with some
sudden pang of pain, which turned her deadly pale and forced her to
drop back into her chair. Mr. Crum had no wife; but he possessed a
housekeeper--and he offered to send for her. The lady made a sign in the
negative. She drank a little water, and conquered the pain. “I am sorry
to have alarmed you,” she said. “It’s nothing--I am better now.” Mr.
Crum gave her his arm, and put her into the cab. She looked so pale and
faint that he proposed sending his housekeeper with her. No: it was only
five minutes’ drive to the hotel. The lady thanked him--and went her way
back by herself.

“The letter!” she said, when she was alone. “If I can only live long
enough to write the letter!”


CHAPTER THE THIRTIETH.

ANNE IN THE NEWSPAPERS.

MRS. KARNEGIE was a woman of feeble intelligence and violent temper;
prompt to take offense, and not, for the most part, easy to appease. But
Mrs. Karnegie being--as we all are in our various degrees--a compound of
many opposite qualities, possessed a character with more than one side
to it, and had her human merits as well as her human faults. Seeds of
sound good feeling were scattered away in the remoter corners of her
nature, and only waited for the fertilizing occasion that was to help
them to spring up. The occasion exerted that benign influence when the
cab brought Mr. Crum’s client back to the hotel. The face of the weary,
heart-sick woman, as she slowly crossed the hall, roused all that was
heartiest and best in Mrs. Karnegie’s nature, and said to her, as if in
words, “Jealous of this broken creature? Oh, wife and mother is there no
appeal to your common womanhood _here?_”

“I am afraid you have overtired yourself, ma’am. Let me send you
something up stairs?”

“Send me pen, ink, and paper,” was the answer. “I must write a letter. I
must do it at once.”

It was useless to remonstrate with her. She was ready to accept any
thing proposed, provided the writing materials were supplied first. Mrs.
Karnegie sent them up, and then compounded a certain mixture of eggs and
hot wine for which The Sheep’s Head was famous, with her own hands. In
five minutes or so it was ready--and Miss Karnegie was dispatched by
her mother (who had other business on hand at the time) to take it up
stairs.

After the lapse of a few moments a cry of alarm was heard from the upper
landing. Mrs. Karnegie recognized her daughter’s voice, and hastened to
the bedroom floor.

“Oh, mamma! Look at her! look at her!”

The letter was on the table with the first lines written. The woman was
on the sofa with her handkerchief twisted between her set teeth, and her
tortured face terrible to look at. Mrs. Karnegie raised her a little,
examined her closely--then suddenly changed color, and sent her daughter
out of the room with directions to dispatch a messenger instantly for
medical help.

Left alone with the sufferer, Mrs. Karnegie carried her to her bed. As
she was laid down her left hand fell helpless over the side of the bed.
Mrs. Karnegie suddenly checked the word of sympathy as it rose to her
lips--suddenly lifted the hand, and looked, with a momentary sternness
of scrutiny, at the third finger. There was a ring on it. Mrs.
Karnegie’s face softened on the instant: the word of pity that had been
suspended the moment before passed her lips freely now. “Poor soul!”
 said the respectable landlady, taking appearances for granted. “Where’s
your husband, dear? Try and tell me.”

The doctor made his appearance, and went up to the patient.

Time passed, and Mr. Karnegie and his daughter, carrying on the business
of the hotel, received a message from up stairs which was ominous of
something out of the common. The message gave the name and address of an
experienced nurse--with the doctor’s compliments, and would Mr. Karnegie
have the kindness to send for her immediately.

The nurse was found and sent up stairs.

Time went on, and the business of the hotel went on, and it was getting
to be late in the evening, when Mrs. Karnegie appeared at last in the
parlor behind the bar. The landlady’s face was grave, the landlady’s
manner was subdued. “Very, very ill,” was the only reply she made to her
daughter’s inquiries. When she and her husband were together, a little
later, she told the news from up stairs in greater detail. “A child born
dead,” said Mrs. Karnegie, in gentler tones than were customary with
her. “And the mother dying, poor thing, so far as _I_ can see.”

A little later the doctor came down. Dead? No.--Likely to live?
Impossible to say. The doctor returned twice in the course of the night.
Both times he had but one answer. “Wait till to-morrow.”

The next day came. She rallied a little. Toward the afternoon she began
to speak. She expressed no surprise at seeing strangers by her bedside:
her mind wandered. She passed again into insensibility. Then back to
delirium once more. The doctor said, “This may last for weeks. Or it may
end suddenly in death. It’s time you did something toward finding her
friends.”

(Her friends! She had left the one friend she had forever!)

Mr. Camp was summoned to give his advice. The first thing he asked for
was the unfinished letter.

It was blotted, it was illegible in more places than one. With pains and
care they made out the address at the beginning, and here and there some
fragments of the lines that followed. It began: “Dear Mr. Brinkworth.”
 Then the writing got, little by little, worse and worse. To the eyes of
the strangers who looked at it, it ran thus: “I should ill requite * *
* Blanche’s interests * * * For God’s sake! * * * don’t think of _me_ *
* *” There was a little more, but not so much as one word, in those last
lines, was legible.

The names mentioned in the letter were reported by the doctor and the
nurse to be also the names on her lips when she spoke in her wanderings.
“Mr. Brinkworth” and “Blanche”--her mind ran incessantly on those two
persons. The one intelligible thing that she mentioned in connection
with them was the letter. She was perpetually trying, trying, trying to
take that unfinished letter to the post; and she could never get there.
Sometimes the post was across the sea. Sometimes it was at the top of an
inaccessible mountain. Sometimes it was built in by prodigious walls all
round it. Sometimes a man stopped her cruelly at the moment when she was
close at the post, and forced her back thousands of miles away from it.
She once or twice mentioned this visionary man by his name. They made it
out to be “Geoffrey.”

Finding no clew to her identity either in the letter that she had tried
to write or in the wild words that escaped her from time to time, it was
decided to search her luggage, and to look at the clothes which she had
worn when she arrived at the hotel.

Her black box sufficiently proclaimed itself as recently purchased. On
opening it the address of a Glasgow trunk-maker was discovered inside.
The linen was also new, and unmarked. The receipted shop-bill was found
with it. The tradesmen, sent for in each case and questioned, referred
to their books. It was proved that the box and the linen had both been
purchased on the day when she appeared at the hotel.

Her black bag was opened next. A sum of between eighty and ninety pounds
in Bank of England notes; a few simple articles belonging to the toilet;
materials for needle-work; and a photographic portrait of a young
lady, inscribed, “To Anne, from Blanche,” were found in the bag--but no
letters, and nothing whatever that could afford the slightest clew by
which the owner could be traced. The pocket in her dress was searched
next. It contained a purse, an empty card-case, and a new handkerchief
unmarked.

Mr. Camp shook his head.

“A woman’s luggage without any letters in it,” he said, “suggests to
my mind a woman who has a motive of her own for keeping her movements
a secret. I suspect she has destroyed her letters, and emptied her
card-case, with that view.” Mrs. Karnegie’s report, after examining the
linen which the so-called “Mrs. Graham” had worn when she arrived at
the inn, proved the soundness of the lawyer’s opinion. In every case the
marks had been cut out. Mrs. Karnegie began to doubt whether the ring
which she had seen on the third finger of the lady’s left hand had been
placed there with the sanction of the law.

There was but one chance left of discovering--or rather of attempting to
discover--her friends. Mr. Camp drew out an advertisement to be inserted
in the Glasgow newspapers. If those newspapers happened to be seen by
any member of her family, she would, in all probability, be claimed.
In the contrary event there would be nothing for it but to wait for her
recovery or her death--with the money belonging to her sealed up, and
deposited in the landlord’s strongbox.

The advertisement appeared. They waited for three days afterward, and
nothing came of it. No change of importance occurred, during the same
period, in the condition of the suffering woman. Mr. Camp looked in,
toward evening, and said, “We have done our best. There is no help for
it but to wait.”



Far away in Perthshire that third evening was marked as a joyful
occasion at Windygates House. Blanche had consented at last to listen
to Arnold’s entreaties, and had sanctioned the writing of a letter to
London to order her wedding-dress.



SIXTH SCENE.--SWANHAVEN LODGE.



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FIRST

SEEDS OF THE FUTURE (FIRST SOWING).

“NOT SO large as Windygates. But--shall we say snug, Jones?”

“And comfortable, Smith. I quite agree with you.”

Such was the judgment pronounced by the two choral gentlemen on Julius
Delamayn’s house in Scotland. It was, as usual with Smith and Jones, a
sound judgment--as far as it went. Swanhaven Lodge was not half the
size of Windygates; but it had been inhabited for two centuries when
the foundations of Windygates were first laid--and it possessed the
advantages, without inheriting the drawbacks, of its age. There is in an
old house a friendly adaptation to the human character, as there is in
an old hat a friendly adaptation to the human head. The visitor who left
Swanhaven quitted it with something like a sense of leaving home. Among
the few houses not our own which take a strong hold on our sympathies
this was one. The ornamental grounds were far inferior in size and
splendor to the grounds at Windygates. But the park was beautiful--less
carefully laid out, but also less monotonous than an English park. The
lake on the northern boundary of the estate, famous for its breed of
swans, was one of the curiosities of the neighborhood; and the house had
a history, associating it with more than one celebrated Scottish name,
which had been written and illustrated by Julius Delamayn. Visitors
to Swanhaven Lodge were invariably presented with a copy of the volume
(privately printed). One in twenty read it. The rest were “charmed,” and
looked at the pictures.

The day was the last day of August, and the occasion was the
garden-party given by Mr. and Mrs. Delamayn.

Smith and Jones--following, with the other guests at Windygates, in Lady
Lundie’s train--exchanged their opinions on the merits of the house,
standing on a terrace at the back, near a flight of steps which led down
into the garden. They formed the van-guard of the visitors, appearing by
twos and threes from the reception rooms, and all bent on going to see
the swans before the amusements of the day began. Julius Delamayn came
out with the first detachment, recruited Smith and Jones, and other
wandering bachelors, by the way, and set forth for the lake. An interval
of a minute or two passed--and the terrace remained empty. Then two
ladies--at the head of a second detachment of visitors--appeared under
the old stone porch which sheltered the entrance on that side of the
house. One of the ladies was a modest, pleasant little person, very
simply dressed. The other was of the tall and formidable type of “fine
women,” clad in dazzling array. The first was Mrs. Julius Delamayn. The
second was Lady Lundie.

“Exquisite!” cried her ladyship, surveying the old mullioned windows
of the house, with their framing of creepers, and the grand stone
buttresses projecting at intervals from the wall, each with its bright
little circle of flowers blooming round the base. “I am really grieved
that Sir Patrick should have missed this.”

“I think you said, Lady Lundie, that Sir Patrick had been called to
Edinburgh by family business?”

“Business, Mrs. Delamayn, which is any thing but agreeable to me, as one
member of the family. It has altered all my arrangements for the autumn.
My step-daughter is to be married next week.”

“Is it so near as that? May I ask who the gentleman is?”

“Mr. Arnold Brinkworth.”

“Surely I have some association with that name?”

“You have probably heard of him, Mrs. Delamayn, as the heir to Miss
Brinkworth’s Scotch property?”

“Exactly! Have you brought Mr. Brinkworth here to-day?”

“I bring his apologies, as well as Sir Patrick’s. They went to Edinburgh
together the day before yesterday. The lawyers engage to have the
settlements ready in three or four days more, if a personal consultation
can be managed. Some formal question, I believe, connected with
title-deeds. Sir Patrick thought the safest way and the speediest
way would be to take Mr. Brinkworth with him to Edinburgh--to get the
business over to-day--and to wait until we join them, on our way south,
to-morrow.”

“You leave Windygates, in this lovely weather?”

“Most unwillingly! The truth is, Mrs. Delamayn, I am at my
step-daughter’s mercy. Her uncle has the authority, as her guardian--and
the use he makes of it is to give her her own way in every thing. It was
only on Friday last that she consented to let the day be fixed--and even
then she made it a positive condition that the marriage was not to take
place in Scotland. Pure willfulness! But what can I do? Sir Patrick
submits; and Mr. Brinkworth submits. If I am to be present at
the marriage I must follow their example. I feel it my duty to be
present--and, as a matter of course, I sacrifice myself. We start for
London to-morrow.”

“Is Miss Lundie to be married in London at this time of year?”

“No. We only pass through, on our way to Sir Patrick’s place in
Kent--the place that came to him with the title; the place associated
with the last days of my beloved husband. Another trial for _me!_ The
marriage is to be solemnized on the scene of my bereavement. My old
wound is to be reopened on Monday next--simply because my step-daughter
has taken a dislike to Windygates.”

“This day week, then, is the day of the marriage?”

“Yes. This day week. There have been reasons for hurrying it which
I need not trouble you with. No words can say how I wish it was
over.--But, my dear Mrs. Delamayn, how thoughtless of me to assail
_you_ with my family worries! You are so sympathetic. That is my only
excuse. Don’t let me keep you from your guests. I could linger in this
sweet place forever! Where is Mrs. Glenarm?”

“I really don’t know. I missed her when we came out on the terrace. She
will very likely join us at the lake. Do you care about seeing the lake,
Lady Lundie?”

“I adore the beauties of Nature, Mrs. Delamayn--especially lakes!”

“We have something to show you besides; we have a breed of swans on the
lake, peculiar to the place. My husband has gone on with some of our
friends; and I believe we are expected to follow, as soon as the rest of
the party--in charge of my sister--have seen the house.”

“And what a house, Mrs. Delamayn! Historical associations in every
corner of it! It is _such_ a relief to my mind to take refuge in the
past. When I am far away from this sweet place I shall people Swanhaven
with its departed inmates, and share the joys and sorrows of centuries
since.”

As Lady Lundie announced, in these terms, her intention of adding to the
population of the past, the last of the guests who had been roaming over
the old house appeared under the porch. Among the members forming this
final addition to the garden-party were Blanche, and a friend of her own
age whom she had met at Swanhaven. The two girls lagged behind the rest,
talking confidentially, arm in arm--the subject (it is surely needless
to add) being the coming marriage.

“But, dearest Blanche, why are you not to be married at Windygates?”

“I detest Windygates, Janet. I have the most miserable associations with
the place. Don’t ask me what they are! The effort of my life is not to
think of them now. I long to see the last of Windygates. As for being
married there, I have made it a condition that I am not to be married in
Scotland at all.”

“What has poor Scotland done to forfeit your good opinion, my dear?”

“Poor Scotland, Janet, is a place where people don’t know whether they
are married or not. I have heard all about it from my uncle. And I
know somebody who has been a victim--an innocent victim--to a Scotch
marriage.”

“Absurd, Blanche! You are thinking of runaway matches, and making
Scotland responsible for the difficulties of people who daren’t own the
truth!”

“I am not at all absurd. I am thinking of the dearest friend I have. If
you only knew--”

“My dear! _I_ am Scotch, remember! You can be married just as well--I
really must insist on that--in Scotland as in England.”

“I hate Scotland!”

“Blanche!”

“I never was so unhappy in my life as I have been in Scotland. I never
want to see it again. I am determined to be married in England--from the
dear old house where I used to live when I was a little girl. My uncle
is quite willing. _He_ understands me and feels for me.”

“Is that as much as to say that _I_ don’t understand you and feel for
you? Perhaps I had better relieve you of my company, Blanche?”

“If you are going to speak to me in that way, perhaps you had!”

“Am I to hear my native country run down and not to say a word in
defense of it?”

“Oh! you Scotch people make such a fuss about your native country!”

“_We_ Scotch people! you are of Scotch extraction yourself, and you
ought to be ashamed to talk in that way. I wish you good-morning!”

“I wish you a better temper!”

A minute since the two young ladies had been like twin roses on one
stalk. Now they parted with red cheeks and hostile sentiments and
cutting words. How ardent is the warmth of youth! how unspeakably
delicate the fragility of female friendship!

The flock of visitors followed Mrs. Delamayn to the shores of the lake.
For a few minutes after the terrace was left a solitude. Then there
appeared under the porch a single gentleman, lounging out with a flower
in his mouth and his hands in his pockets. This was the strongest man at
Swanhaven--otherwise, Geoffrey Delamayn.

After a moment a lady appeared behind him, walking softly, so as not to
be heard. She was superbly dressed after the newest and the most
costly Parisian design. The brooch on her bosom was a single diamond of
resplendent water and great size. The fan in her hand was a master-piece
of the finest Indian workmanship. She looked what she was, a person
possessed of plenty of superfluous money, but not additionally blest
with plenty of superfluous intelligence to correspond. This was the
childless young widow of the great ironmaster--otherwise, Mrs. Glenarm.

The rich woman tapped the strong man coquettishly on the shoulder with
her fan. “Ah! you bad boy!” she said, with a slightly-labored archness
of look and manner. “Have I found you at last?”

Geoffrey sauntered on to the terrace--keeping the lady behind him with
a thoroughly savage superiority to all civilized submission to the
sex--and looked at his watch.

“I said I’d come here when I’d got half an hour to myself,” he mumbled,
turning the flower carelessly between his teeth. “I’ve got half an hour,
and here I am.”

“Did you come for the sake of seeing the visitors, or did you come for
the sake of seeing Me?”

Geoffrey smiled graciously, and gave the flower another turn in his
teeth. “You. Of course.”

The iron-master’s widow took his arm, and looked up at him--as only a
young woman would have dared to look up--with the searching summer light
streaming in its full brilliancy on her face.

Reduced to the plain expression of what it is really worth, the average
English idea of beauty in women may be summed up in three words--youth,
health, plumpness. The more spiritual charm of intelligence and
vivacity, the subtler attraction of delicacy of line and fitness of
detail, are little looked for and seldom appreciated by the mass of
men in this island. It is impossible otherwise to account for the
extraordinary blindness of perception which (to give one instance only)
makes nine Englishmen out of ten who visit France come back declaring
that they have not seen a single pretty Frenchwoman, in or out of Paris,
in the whole country. Our popular type of beauty proclaims itself, in
its fullest material development, at every shop in which an illustrated
periodical is sold. The same fleshy-faced girl, with the same inane
smile, and with no other expression whatever, appears under every form
of illustration, week after week, and month after month, all the year
round. Those who wish to know what Mrs. Glenarm was like, have only to
go out and stop at any bookseller’s or news-vendor’s shop, and there
they will see her in the first illustration, with a young woman in it,
which they discover in the window. The one noticeable peculiarity in
Mrs. Glenarm’s purely commonplace and purely material beauty, which
would have struck an observant and a cultivated man, was the curious
girlishness of her look and manner. No stranger speaking to this
woman--who had been a wife at twenty, and who was now a widow at
twenty-four--would ever have thought of addressing her otherwise than as
“Miss.”

“Is that the use you make of a flower when I give it to you?” she said
to Geoffrey. “Mumbling it in your teeth, you wretch, as if you were a
horse!”

“If you come to that,” returned Geoffrey, “I’m more a horse than a man.
I’m going to run in a race, and the public are betting on me. Haw! haw!
Five to four.”

“Five to four! I believe he thinks of nothing but betting. You great
heavy creature, I can’t move you. Don’t you see I want to go like the
rest of them to the lake? No! you’re not to let go of my arm! You’re to
take me.”

“Can’t do it. Must be back with Perry in half an hour.”

(Perry was the trainer from London. He had arrived sooner than he had
been expected, and had entered on his functions three days since.)

“Don’t talk to me about Perry! A little vulgar wretch. Put him off. You
won’t? Do you mean to say you are such a brute that you would rather be
with Perry than be with me?”

“The betting’s at five to four, my dear. And the race comes off in a
month from this.”

“Oh! go away to your beloved Perry! I hate you. I hope you’ll lose the
race. Stop in your cottage. Pray don’t come back to the house. And--mind
this!--don’t presume to say ‘my dear’ to me again.”

“It ain’t presuming half far enough, is it? Wait a bit. Give me till the
race is run--and then I’ll presume to marry you.”

“You! You will be as old as Methuselah, if you wait till I am your wife.
I dare say Perry has got a sister. Suppose you ask him? She would be
just the right person for you.”

Geoffrey gave the flower another turn in his teeth, and looked as if he
thought the idea worth considering.

“All right,” he said. “Any thing to be agreeable to you. I’ll ask
Perry.”

He turned away, as if he was going to do it at once. Mrs. Glenarm put
out a little hand, ravishingly clothed in a blush-colored glove, and
laid it on the athlete’s mighty arm. She pinched those iron muscles (the
pride and glory of England) gently. “What a man you are!” she said. “I
never met with any body like you before!”

The whole secret of the power that Geoffrey had acquired over her was in
those words.

They had been together at Swanhaven for little more than ten days; and
in that time he had made the conquest of Mrs. Glenarm. On the day
before the garden-party--in one of the leisure intervals allowed him by
Perry--he had caught her alone, had taken her by the arm, and had asked
her, in so many words, if she would marry him. Instances on record of
women who have been wooed and won in ten days are--to speak it with all
possible respect--not wanting. But an instance of a woman willing to
have it known still remains to be discovered. The iron-master’s widow
exacted a promise of secrecy before the committed herself When Geoffrey
had pledged his word to hold his tongue in public until she gave
him leave to speak, Mrs. Glenarm, without further hesitation, said
Yes--having, be it observed, said No, in the course of the last two
years, to at least half a dozen men who were Geoffrey’s superiors in
every conceivable respect, except personal comeliness and personal
strength.

There is a reason for every thing; and there was a reason for this.

However persistently the epicene theorists of modern times may deny it,
it is nevertheless a truth plainly visible in the whole past history of
the sexes that the natural condition of a woman is to find her master in
a man. Look in the face of any woman who is in no direct way dependent
on a man: and, as certainly as you see the sun in a cloudless sky,
you see a woman who is not happy. The want of a master is their
great unknown want; the possession of a master is--unconsciously to
themselves--the only possible completion of their lives. In ninety-nine
cases out of a hundred this one primitive instinct is at the bottom of
the otherwise inexplicable sacrifice, when we see a woman, of her own
free will, throw herself away on a man who is unworthy of her. This
one primitive instinct was at the bottom of the otherwise inexplicable
facility of self-surrender exhibited by Mrs. Glenarm.

Up to the time of her meeting with Geoffrey, the young widow had
gathered but one experience in her intercourse with the world--the
experience of a chartered tyrant. In the brief six months of her married
life with the man whose grand-daughter she might have been--and ought to
have been--she had only to lift her finger to be obeyed. The doting old
husband was the willing slave of the petulant young wife’s slightest
caprice. At a later period, when society offered its triple welcome to
her birth, her beauty, and her wealth--go where she might, she found
herself the object of the same prostrate admiration among the suitors
who vied with each other in the rivalry for her hand. For the first time
in her life she encountered a man with a will of his own when she met
Geoffrey Delamayn at Swanhaven Lodge.

Geoffrey’s occupation of the moment especially favored the conflict
between the woman’s assertion of her influence and the man’s assertion
of his will.

During the days that had intervened between his return to his brother’s
house and the arrival of the trainer, Geoffrey had submitted himself
to all needful preliminaries of the physical discipline which was to
prepare him for the race. He knew, by previous experience, what exercise
he ought to take, what hours he ought to keep, what temptations at the
table he was bound to resist. Over and over again Mrs. Glenarm tried to
lure him into committing infractions of his own discipline--and over
and over again the influence with men which had never failed her before
failed her now. Nothing she could say, nothing she could do, would move
_this_ man. Perry arrived; and Geoffrey’s defiance of every attempted
exercise of the charming feminine tyranny, to which every one else had
bowed, grew more outrageous and more immovable than ever. Mrs. Glenarm
became as jealous of Perry as if Perry had been a woman. She flew
into passions; she burst into tears; she flirted with other men; she
threatened to leave the house. All quite useless! Geoffrey never once
missed an appointment with Perry; never once touched any thing to eat
or drink that she could offer him, if Perry had forbidden it. No other
human pursuit is so hostile to the influence of the sex as the pursuit
of athletic sports. No men are so entirely beyond the reach of women as
the men whose lives are passed in the cultivation of their own physical
strength. Geoffrey resisted Mrs. Glenarm without the slightest effort.
He casually extorted her admiration, and undesignedly forced her
respect. She clung to him, as a hero; she recoiled from him, as a brute;
she struggled with him, submitted to him, despised him, adored him, in a
breath. And the clew to it all, confused and contradictory as it seemed,
lay in one simple fact--Mrs. Glenarm had found her master.

“Take me to the lake, Geoffrey!” she said, with a little pleading
pressure of the blush-colored hand.

Geoffrey looked at his watch. “Perry expects me in twenty minutes,” he
said.

“Perry again!”

“Yes.”

Mrs. Glenarm raised her fan, in a sudden outburst of fury, and broke it
with one smart blow on Geoffrey’s face.

“There!” she cried, with a stamp of her foot. “My poor fan broken! You
monster, all through you!”

Geoffrey coolly took the broken fan and put it in his pocket. “I’ll
write to London,” he said, “and get you another. Come along! Kiss, and
make it up.”

He looked over each shoulder, to make sure that they were alone then
lifted her off the ground (she was no light weight), held her up in the
air like a baby, and gave her a rough loud-sounding kiss on each
cheek. “With kind compliments from yours truly!” he said--and burst out
laughing, and put her down again.

“How dare you do that?” cried Mrs. Glenarm. “I shall claim Mrs.
Delamayn’s protection if I am to be insulted in this way! I will never
forgive you, Sir!” As she said those indignant words she shot a look at
him which flatly contradicted them. The next moment she was leaning on
his arm, and was looking at him wonderingly, for the thousandth time, as
an entire novelty in her experience of male human kind. “How rough
you are, Geoffrey!” she said, softly. He smiled in recognition of that
artless homage to the manly virtue of his character. She saw the smile,
and instantly made another effort to dispute the hateful supremacy of
Perry. “Put him off!” whispered the daughter of Eve, determined to lure
Adam into taking a bite of the apple. “Come, Geoffrey, dear, never mind
Perry, this once. Take me to the lake!”

Geoffrey looked at his watch. “Perry expects me in a quarter of an
hour,” he said.

Mrs. Glenarm’s indignation assumed a new form. She burst out crying.
Geoffrey surveyed her for a moment with a broad stare of surprise--and
then took her by both arms, and shook her!

“Look here!” he said, impatiently. “Can you coach me through my
training?”

“I would if I could!”

“That’s nothing to do with it! Can you turn me out, fit, on the day of
the race? Yes? or No?”

“No.”

“Then dry your eyes and let Perry do it.”

Mrs. Glenarm dried her eyes, and made another effort.

“I’m not fit to be seen,” she said. “I’m so agitated, I don’t know what
to do. Come indoors, Geoffrey--and have a cup of tea.”

Geoffrey shook his head. “Perry forbids tea,” he said, “in the middle of
the day.”

“You brute!” cried Mrs. Glenarm.

“Do you want me to lose the race?” retorted Geoffrey.

“Yes!”

With that answer she left him at last, and ran back into the house.

Geoffrey took a turn on the terrace--considered a little--stopped--and
looked at the porch under which the irate widow had disappeared from
his view. “Ten thousand a year,” he said, thinking of the matrimonial
prospect which he was placing in peril. “And devilish well earned,” he
added, going into the house, under protest, to appease Mrs. Glenarm.

The offended lady was on a sofa, in the solitary drawing-room. Geoffrey
sat down by her. She declined to look at him. “Don’t be a fool!”
 said Geoffrey, in his most persuasive manner. Mrs. Glenarm put her
handkerchief to her eyes. Geoffrey took it away again without ceremony.
Mrs. Glenarm rose to leave the room. Geoffrey stopped her by main force.
Mrs. Glenarm threatened to summon the servants. Geoffrey said, “All
right! I don’t care if the whole house knows I’m fond of you!” Mrs.
Glenarm looked at the door, and whispered “Hush! for Heaven’s sake!”
 Geoffrey put her arm in his, and said, “Come along with me: I’ve got
something to say to you.” Mrs. Glenarm drew back, and shook her head.
Geoffrey put his arm round her waist, and walked her out of the room,
and out of the house--taking the direction, not of the terrace, but of
a fir plantation on the opposite side of the grounds. Arrived among the
trees, he stopped and held up a warning forefinger before the offended
lady’s face. “You’re just the sort of woman I like,” he said; “and there
ain’t a man living who’s half as sweet on you as I am. You leave off
bullying me about Perry, and I’ll tell you what I’ll do--I’ll let you
see me take a Sprint.”

He drew back a step, and fixed his big blue eyes on her, with a look
which said, “You are a highly-favored woman, if ever there was one yet!”
 Curiosity instantly took the leading place among the emotions of Mrs.
Glenarm. “What’s a Sprint, Geoffrey?” she asked.

“A short run, to try me at the top of my speed. There ain’t another
living soul in all England that I’d let see it but you. _Now_ am I a
brute?”

Mrs. Glenarm was conquered again, for the hundredth time at least. She
said, softly, “Oh, Geoffrey, if you could only be always like this!” Her
eyes lifted themselves admiringly to his. She took his arm again of her
own accord, and pressed it with a loving clasp. Geoffrey prophetically
felt the ten thousand a year in his pocket. “Do you really love me?”
 whispered Mrs. Glenarm. “Don’t I!” answered the hero. The peace was
made, and the two walked on again.

They passed through the plantation, and came out on some open ground,
rising and falling prettily, in little hillocks and hollows. The last
of the hillocks sloped down into a smooth level plain, with a fringe of
sheltering trees on its farther side--with a snug little stone cottage
among the trees--and with a smart little man, walking up and down before
the cottage, holding his hands behind him. The level plain was the
hero’s exercising ground; the cottage was the hero’s retreat; and the
smart little man was the hero’s trainer.

If Mrs. Glenarm hated Perry, Perry (judging by appearances) was in
no danger of loving Mrs. Glenarm. As Geoffrey approached with his
companion, the trainer came to a stand-still, and stared silently at the
lady. The lady, on her side, declined to observe that any such person
as the trainer was then in existence, and present in bodily form on the
scene.

“How about time?” said Geoffrey.

Perry consulted an elaborate watch, constructed to mark time to the
fifth of a second, and answered Geoffrey, with his eye all the while on
Mrs. Glenarm.

“You’ve got five minutes to spare.”

“Show me where you run, I’m dying to see it!” said the eager widow,
taking possession of Geoffrey’s arm with both hands.

Geoffrey led her back to a place (marked by a sapling with a little
flag attached to it) at some short distance from the cottage. She glided
along by his side, with subtle undulations of movement which appeared
to complete the exasperation of Perry. He waited until she was out of
hearing--and then he invoked (let us say) the blasts of heaven on the
fashionably-dressed head of Mrs. Glenarm.

“You take your place there,” said Geoffrey, posting her by the sapling.
“When I pass you--” He stopped, and surveyed her with a good-humored
masculine pity. “How the devil am I to make you understand it?” he went
on. “Look here! when I pass you, it will be at what you would call (if
I was a horse) full gallop. Hold your tongue--I haven’t done yet. You’re
to look on after me as I leave you, to where the edge of the cottage
wall cuts the trees. When you have lost sight of me behind the wall,
you’ll have seen me run my three hundred yards from this flag. You’re
in luck’s way! Perry tries me at the long Sprint to-day. You understand
you’re to stop here? Very well then--let me go and get my toggery on.”

“Sha’n’t I see you again, Geoffrey?”

“Haven’t I just told you that you’ll see me run?”

“Yes--but after that?”

“After that, I’m sponged and rubbed down--and rest in the cottage.”

“You’ll come to us this evening?”

He nodded, and left her. The face of Perry looked unutterable things
when he and Geoffrey met at the door of the cottage.

“I’ve got a question to ask you, Mr. Delamayn,” said the trainer. “Do
you want me? or don’t you?”

“Of course I want you.”

“What did I say when I first come here?” proceeded Perry, sternly. “I
said, ‘I won’t have nobody a looking on at a man I’m training. These
here ladies and gentlemen may all have made up their minds to see you.
I’ve made up my mind not to have no lookers-on. I won’t have you timed
at your work by nobody but me. I won’t have every blessed yard of ground
you cover put in the noospapers. I won’t have a living soul in
the secret of what you can do, and what you can’t, except our two
selves.’--Did I say that, Mr. Delamayn? or didn’t I?”

“All right!”

“Did I say it? or didn’t I?”

“Of course you did!”

“Then don’t you bring no more women here. It’s clean against rules. And
I won’t have it.”

Any other living creature adopting this tone of remonstrance would
probably have had reason to repent it. But Geoffrey himself was afraid
to show his temper in the presence of Perry. In view of the coming race,
the first and foremost of British trainers was not to be trifled with,
even by the first and foremost of British athletes.

“She won’t come again,” said Geoffrey. “She’s going away from Swanhaven
in two days’ time.”

“I’ve put every shilling I’m worth in the world on you,” pursued Perry,
relapsing into tenderness. “And I tell you I felt it! It cut me to the
heart when I see you coming along with a woman at your heels. It’s a
fraud on his backers, I says to myself--that’s what it is, a fraud on
his backers!”

“Shut up!” said Geoffrey. “And come and help me to win your money.” He
kicked open the door of the cottage--and athlete and trainer disappeared
from view.

After waiting a few minutes by the little flag, Mrs. Glenarm saw the
two men approaching her from the cottage. Dressed in a close-fitting
costume, light and elastic, adapting itself to every movement, and made
to answer every purpose required by the exercise in which he was abo
ut to engage, Geoffrey’s physical advantages showed themselves in their
best and bravest aspect. His head sat proud and easy on his firm, white
throat, bared to the air. The rising of his mighty chest, as he drew in
deep draughts of the fragrant summer breeze; the play of his lithe and
supple loins; the easy, elastic stride of his straight and shapely
legs, presented a triumph of physical manhood in its highest type. Mrs.
Glenarm’s eyes devoured him in silent admiration. He looked like a
young god of mythology--like a statue animated with color and life. “Oh,
Geoffrey!” she exclaimed, softly, as he went by. He neither answered,
nor looked: he had other business on hand than listening to soft
nonsense. He was gathering himself up for the effort; his lips were set;
his fists were lightly clenched. Perry posted himself at his place, grim
and silent, with the watch in his hand. Geoffrey walked on beyond the
flag, so as to give himself start enough to reach his full speed as he
passed it. “Now then!” said Perry. In an instant more, he flew by (to
Mrs. Glenarm’s excited imagination) like an arrow from a bow. His action
was perfect. His speed, at its utmost rate of exertion, preserved its
rare underlying elements of strength and steadiness. Less and less and
less he grew to the eyes that followed his course; still lightly flying
over the ground, still firmly keeping the straight line. A moment
more, and the runner vanished behind the wall of the cottage, and the
stop-watch of the trainer returned to its place in his pocket.

In her eagerness to know the result, Mrs. Glenarm forget her jealousy of
Perry.

“How long has he been?” she asked.

“There’s a good many besides you would be glad to know that,” said
Perry.

“Mr. Delamayn will tell me, you rude man!”

“That depends, ma’am, on whether _I_ tell _him._”

With this reply, Perry hurried back to the cottage.

Not a word passed while the trainer was attending to his man, and while
the man was recovering his breath. When Geoffrey had been carefully
rubbed down, and clothed again in his ordinary garments, Perry pulled
a comfortable easy-chair out of a corner. Geoffrey fell into the
chair, rather than sat down in it. Perry started, and looked at him
attentively.

“Well?” said Geoffrey. “How about the time? Long? short? or middling?”

“Very good time,” said Perry.

“How long?”

“When did you say the lady was going, Mr. Delamayn?”

“In two days.”

“Very well, Sir. I’ll tell you ‘how long’ when the lady’s gone.”

Geoffrey made no attempt to insist on an immediate reply. He smiled
faintly. After an interval of less than ten minutes he stretched out his
legs and closed his eyes.

“Going to sleep?” said Perry.

Geoffrey opened his eyes with an effort. “No,” he said. The word had
hardly passed his lips before his eyes closed again.

“Hullo!” said Perry, watching him. “I don’t like that.”

He went closer to the chair. There was no doubt about it. The man was
asleep.

Perry emitted a long whistle under his breath. He stooped and laid two
of his fingers softly on Geoffrey’s pulse. The beat was slow, heavy, and
labored. It was unmistakably the pulse of an exhausted man.

The trainer changed color, and took a turn in the room. He opened a
cupboard, and produced from it his diary of the preceding year. The
entries relating to the last occasion on which he had prepared Geoffrey
for a foot-race included the fullest details. He turned to the report
of the first trial, at three hundred yards, full speed. The time was,
by one or two seconds, not so good as the time on this occasion. But the
result, afterward, was utterly different. There it was, in Perry’s own
words: “Pulse good. Man in high spirits. Ready, if I would have let him,
to run it over again.”

Perry looked round at the same man, a year afterward--utterly worn out,
and fast asleep in the chair.

He fetched pen, ink, and paper out of the cupboard, and wrote two
letters--both marked “Private.” The first was to a medical man, a great
authority among trainers. The second was to Perry’s own agent in
London, whom he knew he could trust. The letter pledged the agent to the
strictest secrecy, and directed him to back Geoffrey’s opponent in the
Foot-Race for a sum equal to the sum which Perry had betted on Geoffrey
himself. “If you have got any money of your own on him,” the letter
concluded, “do as I do. ‘Hedge’--and hold your tongue.”

“Another of ‘em gone stale!” said the trainer, looking round again at
the sleeping man. “He’ll lose the race.”


CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SECOND.

SEEDS OF THE FUTURE (SECOND SOWING).

AND what did the visitors say of the Swans?

They said, “Oh, what a number of them!”--which was all that was to be
said by persons ignorant of the natural history of aquatic birds.

And what did the visitors say of the lake?

Some of them said, “How solemn!” Some of them said, “How romantic!” Some
of them said nothing--but privately thought it a dismal scene.

Here again the popular sentiment struck the right note at starting. The
lake was hidden in the centre of a fir wood. Except in the middle, where
the sunlight reached them, the waters lay black under the sombre shadow
of the trees. The one break in the plantation was at the farther end of
the lake. The one sign of movement and life to be seen was the ghostly
gliding of the swans on the dead-still surface of the water. It was
solemn--as they said; it was romantic--as they said. It was dismal--as
they thought. Pages of description could express no more. Let pages of
description be absent, therefore, in this place.

Having satiated itself with the swans, having exhausted the lake, the
general curiosity reverted to the break in the trees at the farther
end--remarked a startlingly artificial object, intruding itself on the
scene, in the shape of a large red curtain, which hung between two of
the tallest firs, and closed the prospect beyond from view--requested an
explanation of the curtain from Julius Delamayn--and received for answer
that the mystery should be revealed on the arrival of his wife with the
tardy remainder of the guests who had loitered about the house.

On the appearance of Mrs. Delamayn and the stragglers, the united party
coasted the shore of the lake, and stood assembled in front of the
curtain. Pointing to the silken cords hanging at either side of it,
Julius Delamayn picked out two little girls (children of his wife’s
sister), and sent them to the cords, with instructions to pull, and
see what happened. The nieces of Julius pulled with the eager hands
of children in the presence of a mystery--the curtains parted in the
middle, and a cry of universal astonishment and delight saluted the
scene revealed to view.

At the end of a broad avenue of firs a cool green glade spread its
grassy carpet in the midst of the surrounding plantation. The ground
at the farther end of the glade rose; and here, on the lower slopes,
a bright little spring of water bubbled out between gray old granite
rocks.

Along the right-hand edge of the turf ran a row of tables, arrayed in
spotless white, and covered with refreshments waiting for the guests. On
the opposite side was a band of music, which burst into harmony at the
moment when the curtains were drawn. Looking back through the avenue,
the eye caught a distant glimpse of the lake, where the sunlight played
on the water, and the plumage of the gliding swans flashed softly in
brilliant white. Such was the charming surprise which Julius Delamayn
had arranged for his friends. It was only at moments like these--or when
he and his wife were playing Sonatas in the modest little music-room
at Swanhaven--that Lord Holchester’s eldest son was really happy.
He secretly groaned over the duties which his position as a landed
gentleman imposed upon him; and he suffered under some of the highest
privileges of his rank and station as under social martyrdom in its
cruelest form.

“We’ll dine first,” said Julius, “and dance afterward. There is the
programme!”

He led the way to the tables, with the two ladies nearest to
him--utterly careless whether they were or were not among the ladies of
the highest rank then present. To Lady Lundie’s astonishment he took the
first seat he came to, without appearing to care what place he occupied
at his own feast. The guests, following his example, sat where they
pleased, reckless of precedents and dignities. Mrs. Delamayn, feeling
a special interest in a young lady who was shortly to be a bride, took
Blanche’s arm. Lady Lundie attached herself resolutely to her hostess
on the other side. The three sat together. Mrs. Delamayn did her best to
encourage Blanche to talk, and Blanche did her best to meet the advances
made to her. The experiment succeeded but poorly on either side. Mrs.
Delamayn gave it up in despair, and turned to Lady Lundie, with a
strong suspicion that some unpleasant subject of reflection was preying
privately on the bride’s mind. The conclusion was soundly drawn.
Blanche’s little outbreak of temper with her friend on the terrace, and
Blanche’s present deficiency of gayety and spirit, were attributable to
the same cause. She hid it from her uncle, she hid it from Arnold--but
she was as anxious as ever, and as wretched as ever, about Anne; and she
was still on the watch (no matter what Sir Patrick might say or do) to
seize the first opportunity of renewing the search for her lost friend.

Meanwhile the eating, the drinking, and the talking went merrily on.
The band played its liveliest melodies; the servants kept the glasses
constantly filled: round all the tables gayety and freedom reigned
supreme. The one conversation in progress, in which the talkers were
not in social harmony with each other, was the conversation at Blanche’s
side, between her step-mother and Mrs. Delamayn.

Among Lady Lundie’s other accomplishments the power of making
disagreeable discoveries ranked high. At the dinner in the glade she had
not failed to notice--what every body else had passed over--the absence
at the festival of the hostess’s brother-in-law; and more remarkable
still, the disappearance of a lady who was actually one of the guests
staying in the house: in plainer words, the disappearance of Mrs.
Glenarm.

“Am I mistaken?” said her ladyship, lifting her eye-glass, and looking
round the tables. “Surely there is a member of our party missing? I
don’t see Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn.”

“Geoffrey promised to be here. But he is not particularly attentive, as
you may have noticed, to keeping engagements of this sort. Every thing
is sacrificed to his training. We only see him at rare intervals now.”

With that reply Mrs. Delamayn attempted to change the subject. Lady
Lundie lifted her eye-glass, and looked round the tables for the second
time.

“Pardon me,” persisted her ladyship--“but is it possible that I have
discovered another absentee? I don’t see Mrs. Glenarm. Yet surely she
must be here! Mrs. Glenarm is not training for a foot-race. Do you see
her? _I_ don’t.”

“I missed her when we went out on the terrace, and I have not seen her
since.”

“Isn’t it very odd, dear Mrs. Delamayn?”

“Our guests at Swanhaven, Lady Lundie, have perfect liberty to do as
they please.”

In those words Mrs. Delamayn (as she fondly imagined) dismissed the
subject. But Lady Lundie’s robust curiosity proved unassailable by even
the broadest hint. Carried away, in all probability, by the infection
of merriment about her, her ladyship displayed unexpected reserves of
vivacity. The mind declines to realize it; but it is not the less true
that this majestic woman actually simpered!

“Shall we put two and two together?” said Lady Lundie, with a ponderous
playfulness wonderful to see. “Here, on the one hand, is Mr. Geoffrey
Delamayn--a young single man. And here, on the other, is Mrs. Glenarm--a
young widow. Rank on the side of the young single man; riches on the
side of the young widow. And both mysteriously absent at the same time,
from the same pleasant party. Ha, Mrs. Delamayn! should I guess wrong,
if I guessed that _you_ will have a marriage in the family, too, before
long?”

Mrs. Delamayn looked a little annoyed. She had entered, with all her
heart, into the conspiracy for making a match between Geoffrey and Mrs.
Glenarm. But she was not prepared to own that the lady’s facility
had (in spite of all attempts to conceal it from discovery) made the
conspiracy obviously successful in ten days’ time.

“I am not in the secrets of the lady and gentleman whom you mention,”
 she replied, dryly.

A heavy body is slow to acquire movement--and slow to abandon movement,
when once acquired. The playfulness of Lady Lundie, being essentially
heavy, followed the same rule. She still persisted in being as lively as
ever.

“Oh, what a diplomatic answer!” exclaimed her ladyship. “I think I can
interpret it, though, for all that. A little bird tells me that I shall
see a Mrs. Geoffrey Delamayn in London, next season. And I, for one,
shall not be surprised to find myself congratulating Mrs. Glenarm.”

“If you persist in letting your imagination run away with you, Lady
Lundie, I can’t possibly help it. I can only request permission to keep
the bridle on _mine._”

This time, even Lady Lundie understood that it would be wise to say
no more. She smiled and nodded, in high private approval of her own
extraordinary cleverness. If she had been asked at that moment who was
the most brilliant Englishwoman living, she would have looked inward on
herself--and would have seen, as in a glass brightly, Lady Lundie, of
Windygates.

From the moment when the talk at her side entered on the subject of
Geoffrey Delamayn and Mrs. Glenarm--and throughout the brief period
during which it remained occupied with that topic--Blanche became
conscious of a strong smell of some spirituous liquor wafted down on
her, as she fancied, from behind and from above. Finding the odor grow
stronger and stronger, she looked round to see whether any special
manufacture of grog was proceeding inexplicably at the back of her
chair. The moment she moved her head, her attention was claimed by a
pair of tremulous gouty old hands, offering her a grouse pie, profusely
sprinkled with truffles.

“Eh, my bonny Miss!” whispered a persuasive voice at her ear, “ye’re
joost stairving in a land o’ plenty. Tak’ my advice, and ye’ll tak’ the
best thing at tebble--groose-poy, and trufflers.”

Blanche looked up.

There he was--the man of the canny eye, the fatherly manner, and the
mighty nose--Bishopriggs--preserved in spirits and ministering at the
festival at Swanhaven Lodge!

Blanche had only seen him for a moment on the memorable night of the
storm, when she had surprised Anne at the inn. But instants passed in
the society of Bishopriggs were as good as hours spent in the company of
inferior men. Blanche instantly recognized him; instantly called to
mind Sir Patrick’s conviction that he was in possession of Anne’s
lost letter; instantly rushed to the conclusion that, in discovering
Bishopriggs, she had discovered a chance of tracing Anne. Her first
impulse was to claim acquaintance with him on the spot. But the eyes of
her neighbors were on her, warning her to wait. She took a little of the
pie, and looked hard at Bishopriggs. That discreet man, showing no sign
of recognition on his side, bowed respectfully, and went on round the
table.

“I wonder whether he has got the letter about him?” thought Blanche.

He had not only got the letter about him--but, more than that, he was
actually then on the look-out for the means of turning the letter to
profitable pecuniary account.

The domestic establishment of Swanhaven Lodge included no formidable
array of servants. When Mrs. Delamayn gave a large party, she depended
for such additional assistance as was needed partly on the contributions
of her friends, partly on the resources of the principal inn at
Kirkandrew. Mr. Bishopriggs, serving at the time (in the absence of any
better employment) as a supernumerary at the inn, made one among the
waiters who could be spared to assist at the garden-party. The name of
the gentleman by whom he was to be employed for the day had struck him,
when he first heard it, as having a familiar sound. He had made his
inquiries; and had then betaken himself for additional information, to
the letter which he had picked up from the parlor floor at Craig Fernie.

The sheet of note-paper, lost by Anne, contained, it may be remembered,
two letters--one signed by herself; the other signed by Geoffrey--and
both suggestive, to a stranger’s eye, of relations between the writers
which they were interested in concealing from the public view.

Thinking it just possible--if he kept his eyes and ears well open at
Swanhaven--that he might improve his prospect of making a marketable
commodity of the stolen correspondence, Mr. Bishopriggs had put the
letter in his pocket when he left Kirkandrew. He had recognized Blanche,
as a friend of the lady at the inn--and as a person who might perhaps be
turned to account, in that capacity. And he had, moreover, heard every
word of the conversation between Lady Lundie and Mrs. Delamayn on the
subject of Geoffrey and Mrs. Glenarm. There were hours to be passed
before the guests would retire, and before the waiters would be
dismissed. The conviction was strong in the mind of Mr. Bishopriggs that
he might find good reason yet for congratulating himself on the chance
which had associated him with the festivities at Swanhaven Lodge.

It was still early in the afternoon when the gayety at the dinner-table
began, in certain quarters, to show signs of wearing out.

The younger members of the party--especially the ladies--grew restless
with the appearance of the dessert. One after another they looked
longingly at the smooth level of elastic turf in the middle of the
glade. One after another they beat time absently with their fingers
to the waltz which the musicians happened to be playing at the moment.
Noticing these symptoms, Mrs. Delamayn set the example of rising; and
her husband sent a message to the band. In ten minutes more the
first quadrille was in progress on the grass; the spectators were
picturesquely grouped round, looking on; and the servants and waiters,
no longer wanted, had retired out of sight, to a picnic of their own.

The last person to leave the deserted tables was the venerable
Bishopriggs. He alone, of the men in attendance, had contrived to
combine a sufficient appearance of waiting on the company with a
clandestine attention to his own personal need of refreshment. Instead
of hurrying away to the servants’ dinner with the rest, he made the
round of the tables, apparently clearing away the crumbs--actually,
emptying the wine-glasses. Immersed in this occupation, he was startled
by a lady’s voice behind him, and, turning as quickly as he could, found
himself face to face with Miss Lundie.

“I want some cold water,” said Blanche. “Be so good as to get me some
from the spring.”

She pointed to the bubbling rivulet at the farther end of the glade.

Bishopriggs looked unaffectedly shocked.

“Lord’s sake, miss,” he exclaimed “d’ye relly mean to offend yer stomach
wi’ cauld water--when there’s wine to be had for the asking!”

Blanche gave him a look. Slowness of perception was not on the list of
the failings of Bishopriggs. He took up a tumbler, winked with his
one available eye, and led the way to the rivulet. There was nothing
remarkable in the spectacle of a young lady who wanted a glass of
spring-water, or of a waiter who was getting it for her. Nobody was
surprised; and (with the band playing) nobody could by any chance
overhear what might be said at the spring-side.

“Do you remember me at the inn on the night of the storm?” asked
Blanche.

Mr. Bishopriggs had his reasons (carefully inclosed in his pocketbook)
for not being too ready to commit himself with Blanche at starting.

“I’m no’ saying I canna remember ye, miss. Whar’s the man would mak’ sic
an answer as that to a bonny young leddy like you?”

By way of assisting his memory Blanche took out her purse. Bishopriggs
became absorbed in the scenery. He looked at the running water with the
eye of a man who thoroughly distrusted it, viewed as a beverage.

“There ye go,” he said, addressing himself to the rivulet, “bubblin’ to
yer ain annihilation in the loch yonder! It’s little I know that’s gude
aboot ye, in yer unconvairted state. Ye’re a type o’ human life, they
say. I tak’ up my testimony against _that._ Ye’re a type o’ naething
at all till ye’re heated wi’ fire, and sweetened wi’ sugar, and
strengthened wi’ whusky; and then ye’re a type o’ toddy--and human life
(I grant it) has got something to say to ye in that capacity!”

“I have heard more about you, since I was at the inn,” proceeded
Blanche, “than you may suppose.” (She opened her purse: Mr. Bishopriggs
became the picture of attention.) “You were very, very kind to a lady
who was staying at Craig Fernie,” she went on, earnestly. “I know that
you have lost your place at the inn, because you gave all your attention
to that lady. She is my dearest friend, Mr. Bishopriggs. I want to thank
you. I do thank you. Please accept what I have got here?”

All the girl’s heart was in her eyes and in her voice as she emptied her
purse into the gouty (and greedy) old hand of Bishopriggs.

A young lady with a well-filled purse (no matter how rich the young
lady may be) is a combination not often witnessed in any country on the
civilized earth. Either the money is always spent, or the money has
been forgotten on the toilet-table at home. Blanche’s purse contained a
sovereign and some six or seven shillings in silver. As pocket-money for
an heiress it was contemptible. But as a gratuity to Bishopriggs it was
magnificent. The old rascal put the money into his pocket with one hand,
and dashed away the tears of sensibility, which he had _not_ shed, with
the other.

“Cast yer bread on the waters,” cried Mr. Bishopriggs, with his one eye
raised devotionally to the sky, “and ye sall find it again after monny
days! Heeh! hech! didna I say when I first set eyes on that puir leddy,
‘I feel like a fether to ye?’ It’s seemply mairvelous to see hoo a man’s
ain gude deeds find him oot in this lower warld o’ ours. If ever I heard
the voice o’ naitural affection speaking in my ain breast,” pursued Mr.
Bishopriggs, with his eye fixed in uneasy expectation on Blanche, “it
joost spak’ trumpet-tongued when that winsome creature first lookit at
me. Will it be she now that told ye of the wee bit sairvice I rendered
to her in the time when I was in bondage at the hottle?”

“Yes--she told me herself.”

“Might I mak’ sae bauld as to ask whar’ she may be at the present time?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Bishopriggs. I am more miserable about it than I can
say. She has gone away--and I don’t know where.”

“Ow! ow! that’s bad. And the bit husband-creature danglin’ at her
petticoat’s tail one day, and awa’ wi’ the sunrise next mornin’--have
they baith taken leg-bail together?”

“I know nothing of him; I never saw him. You saw him. Tell me--what was
he like?”

“Eh! he was joost a puir weak creature. Didn’t know a glass o’ good
sherry-wine when he’d got it. Free wi’ the siller--that’s a’ ye can say
for him--free wi’ the siller!”

Finding it impossible to extract from Mr. Bishopriggs any clearer
description of the man who had been with Anne at the inn than this,
Blanche approached the main object of the interview. Too anxious to
waste time in circumlocution, she turned the conversation at once to the
delicate and doubtful subject of the lost letter.

“There is something else that I want to say to you,” she resumed. “My
friend had a loss while she was staying at the inn.”

The clouds of doubt rolled off the mind of Mr. Bishopriggs. The lady’s
friend knew of the lost letter. And, better still, the lady’s friend
looked as if she wanted it!

“Ay! ay!” he said, with all due appearance of carelessness. “Like
eneugh. From the mistress downward, they’re a’ kittle cattle at the inn
since I’ve left ‘em. What may it ha’ been that she lost?”

“She lost a letter.”

The look of uneasy expectation reappeared in the eye of Mr. Bishopriggs.
It was a question--and a serious question, from his point of
view--whether any suspicion of theft was attached to the disappearance
of the letter.

“When ye say ‘lost,’” he asked, “d’ye mean stolen?”

Blanche was quite quick enough to see the necessity of quieting his mind
on this point.

“Oh no!” she answered. “Not stolen. Only lost. Did you hear about it?”

“Wherefore suld _I_ ha’ heard aboot it?” He looked hard at Blanche--and
detected a momentary hesitation in her face. “Tell me this, my young
leddy,” he went on, advancing warily near to the point. “When ye’re
speering for news o’ your friend’s lost letter--what sets ye on comin’
to _me?_”

Those words were decisive. It is hardly too much to say that Blanche’s
future depended on Blanche’s answer to that question.

If she could have produced the money; and if she had said, boldly, “You
have got the letter, Mr. Bishopriggs: I pledge my word that no questions
shall be asked, and I offer you ten pounds for it”--in all probability
the bargain would have been struck; and the whole course of coming
events would, in that case, have been altered. But she had no money
left; and there were no friends, in the circle at Swanhaven, to whom she
could apply, without being misinterpreted, for a loan of ten pounds,
to be privately intrusted to her on the spot. Under stress of sheer
necessity Blanche abandoned all hope of making any present appeal of a
pecuniary nature to the confidence of Bishopriggs.

The one other way of attaining her object that she could see was to arm
herself with the influence of Sir Patrick’s name. A man, placed in her
position, would have thought it mere madness to venture on such a
risk as this. But Blanche--with one act of rashness already on her
conscience--rushed, woman-like, straight to the commission of another.
The same headlong eagerness to reach her end, which had hurried her into
questioning Geoffrey before he left Windygates, now drove her, just
as recklessly, into taking the management of Bishopriggs out of Sir
Patrick’s skilled and practiced hands. The starving sisterly love in her
hungered for a trace of Anne. Her heart whispered, Risk it! And Blanche
risked it on the spot.

“Sir Patrick set me on coming to you,” she said.

The opening hand of Mr. Bishopriggs--ready to deliver the letter, and
receive the reward--closed again instantly as she spoke those words.

“Sir Paitrick?” he repeated “Ow! ow! ye’ve een tauld Sir Paitrick aboot
it, have ye? There’s a chiel wi’ a lang head on his shouthers, if ever
there was ane yet! What might Sir Paitrick ha’ said?”

Blanche noticed a change in his tone. Blanche was rigidly careful (when
it was too late) to answer him in guarded terms.

“Sir Patrick thought you might have found the letter,” she said, “and
might not have remembered about it again until after you had left the
inn.”

Bishopriggs looked back into his own personal experience of his old
master--and drew the correct conclusion that Sir Patrick’s view of
his connection with the disappearance of the letter was not the purely
unsuspicious view reported by Blanche. “The dour auld deevil,” he
thought to himself, “knows me better than _that!_”

“Well?” asked Blanche, impatiently. “Is Sir Patrick right?”

“Richt?” rejoined Bishopriggs, briskly. “He’s as far awa’ from the truth
as John o’ Groat’s House is from Jericho.”

“You know nothing of the letter?”

“Deil a bit I know o’ the letter. The first I ha’ heard o’ it is what I
hear noo.”

Blanche’s heart sank within her. Had she defeated her own object, and
cut the ground from under Sir Patrick’s feet, for the second time?
Surely not! There was unquestionably a chance, on this occasion, that
the man might be prevailed upon to place the trust in her uncle which
he was too cautious to confide to a stranger like herself. The one wise
thing to do now was to pave the way for the exertion of Sir Patrick’s
superior influence, and Sir Patrick’s superior skill. She resumed the
conversation with that object in view.

“I am sorry to hear that Sir Patrick has guessed wrong,” she resumed.
“My friend was anxious to recover the letter when I last saw her; and I
hoped to hear news of it from you. However, right or wrong, Sir Patrick
has some reasons for wishing to see you--and I take the opportunity of
telling you so. He has left a letter to wait for you at the Craig Fernie
inn.”

“I’m thinking the letter will ha’ lang eneugh to wait, if it waits till
I gae back for it to the hottle,” remarked Bishopriggs.

“In that case,” said Blanche, promptly, “you had better give me an
address at which Sir Patrick can write to you. You wouldn’t, I suppose,
wish me to say that I had seen you here, and that you refused to
communicate with him?”

“Never think it!” cried Bishopriggs, fervently. “If there’s ain thing
mair than anither that I’m carefu’ to presairve intact, it’s joost the
respectful attention that I owe to Sir Paitrick. I’ll make sae bauld,
miss, au to chairge ye wi’ that bit caird. I’m no’ settled in ony place
yet (mair’s the pity at my time o’ life!), but Sir Paitrick may hear o’
me, when Sir Paitrick has need o’ me, there.” He handed a dirty
little card to Blanche containing the name and address of a butcher in
Edinburgh. “Sawmuel Bishopriggs,” he went on, glibly. “Care o’ Davie
Dow, flesher; Cowgate; Embro. My Patmos in the weelderness, miss, for
the time being.”

Blanche received the address with a sense of unspeakable relief. If
she had once more ventured on taking Sir Patrick’s place, and once
more failed in justifying her rashness by the results, she had at
least gained some atoning advantage, this time, by opening a means of
communication between her uncle and Bishopriggs. “You will hear from Sir
Patrick,” she said, and nodded kindly, and returned to her place among
the guests.

“I’ll hear from Sir Paitrick, wull I?” repeated Bishopriggs when he was
left by himself. “Sir Paitrick will wark naething less than a meeracle
if he finds Sawmuel Bishopriggs at the Cowgate, Embro!”

He laughed softly over his own cleverness; and withdrew to a lonely
place in the plantation, in which he could consult the stolen
correspondence without fear of being observed by any living creature.
Once more the truth had tried to struggle into light, before the day of
the marriage, and once more Blanche had innocently helped the darkness
to keep it from view.


CHAPTER THE THIRTY-THIRD.

SEEDS OF THE FUTURE (THIRD SOWING).

AFTER a new and attentive reading of Anne’s letter to Geoffrey, and of
Geoffrey’s letter to Anne, Bishopriggs laid down comfortably under a
tree, and set himself the task of seeing his position plainly as it was
at that moment.

The profitable disposal of the correspondence to Blanche was no longer
among the possibilities involved in the case. As for treating with Sir
Patrick, Bishopriggs determined to keep equally dear of the Cowgate,
Edinburgh, and of Mrs. Inchbare’s inn, so long as there was the faintest
chance of his pushing his own interests in any other quarter. No person
living would be capable of so certainly extracting the correspondence
from him, on such ruinously cheap terms as his old master. “I’ll no’ put
myself under Sir Paitrick’s thumb,” thought Bishopriggs, “till I’ve gane
my ain rounds among the lave o’ them first.”

Rendered into intelligible English, this resolution pledged him to hold
no communication with Sir Patrick--until he had first tested his success
in negotiating with other persons, who might be equally interested in
getting possession of the correspondence, and more liberal in giving
hush-money to the thief who had stolen it.

Who were the “other persons” at his disposal, under these circumstances?

He had only to recall the conversation which he had overheard between
Lady Lundie and Mrs. Delamayn to arrive at the discovery of one person,
to begin with, who was directly interested in getting possession of his
own letter. Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn was in a fair way of being married to
a lady named Mrs. Glenarm. And here was this same Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn
in matrimonial correspondence, little more than a fortnight since, with
another lady--who signed herself “Anne Silvester.”

Whatever his position between the two women might be, his interest in
possessing himself of the correspondence was plain beyond all doubt. It
was equally clear that the first thing to be done by Bishopriggs was
to find the means of obtaining a personal interview with him. If the
interview led to nothing else, it would decide one important question
which still remained to be solved. The lady whom Bishopriggs had waited
on at Craig Fernie might well be “Anne Silvester.” Was Mr. Geoffrey
Delamayn, in that case, the gentleman who had passed as her husband at
the inn?

Bishopriggs rose to his gouty feet with all possible alacrity, and
hobbled away to make the necessary inquiries, addressing himself, not to
the men-servants at the dinner-table, who would be sure to insist on
his joining them, but to the women-servants left in charge of the empty
house.

He easily obtained the necessary directions for finding the cottage. But
he was warned that Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn’s trainer allowed nobody to see
his patron at exercise, and that he would certainly be ordered off again
the moment he appeared on the scene.

Bearing this caution in mind, Bishopriggs made a circuit, on reaching
the open ground, so as to approach the cottage at the back, under
shelter of the trees behind it. One look at Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn was
all that he wanted in the first instance. They were welcome to order him
off again, as long as he obtained that.

He was still hesitating at the outer line of the trees, when he heard a
loud, imperative voice, calling from the front of the cottage, “Now, Mr.
Geoffrey! Time’s up!” Another voice answered, “All right!” and, after an
interval, Geoffrey Delamayn appeared on the open ground, proceeding to
the point from which he was accustomed to walk his measured mile.

Advancing a few steps to look at his man more closely, Bishopriggs
was instantly detected by the quick eye of the trainer. “Hullo!” cried
Perry, “what do you want here?” Bishopriggs opened his lips to make an
excuse. “Who the devil are you?” roared Geoffrey. The trainer answered
the question out of the resources of his own experience. “A spy,
Sir--sent to time you at your work.” Geoffrey lifted his mighty fist,
and sprang forward a step. Perry held his patron back. “You can’t do
that, Sir,” he said; “the man’s too old. No fear of his turning up
again--you’ve scared him out of his wits.” The statement was strictly
true. The terror of Bishopriggs at the sight of Geoffrey’s fist restored
to him the activity of his youth. He ran for the first time for twenty
years; and only stopped to remember his infirmities, and to catch his
breath, when he was out of sight of the cottage, among the trees.

He sat down to rest and recover himself, with the comforting inner
conviction that, in one respect at least, he had gained his point.
The furious savage, with the eyes that darted fire and the fist that
threatened destruction, was a total stranger to him. In other words,
_not_ the man who had passed as the lady’s husband at the inn.

At the same time it was equally certain that he _was_ the man involved
in the compromising correspondence which Bishopriggs possessed. To
appeal, however, to his interest in obtaining the letter was entirely
incompatible (after the recent exhibition of his fist) with the strong
regard which Bishopriggs felt for his own personal security. There was
no alternative now but to open negotiations with the one other person
concerned in the matter (fortunately, on this occasion, a person of
the gentler sex), who was actually within reach. Mrs. Glenarm was at
Swanhaven. She had a direct interest in clearing up the question of a
prior claim to Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn on the part of another woman. And
she could only do that by getting the correspondence into her own hands.

“Praise Providence for a’ its mercies!” said Bishopriggs, getting on his
feet again. “I’ve got twa strings, as they say, to my boo. I trow the
woman’s the canny string o’ the twa--and we’ll een try the twanging of
her.”

He set forth on his road back again, to search among the company at the
lake for Mrs. Glenarm.

The dance had reached its climax of animation when Bishopriggs
reappeared on the scene of his duties; and the ranks of the company had
been recruited, in his absence, by the very person whom it was now his
foremost object to approach.

Receiving, with supple submission, a reprimand for his prolonged absence
from the chief of the servants, Bishopriggs--keeping his one observant
eye carefully on the look-out--busied himself in promoting the
circulation of ices and cool drinks.

While he was thus occupied, his attention was attracted by two persons
who, in very different ways, stood out prominently as marked characters
among the rank and file of the guests.

The first person was a vivacious, irascible old gentleman, who
persisted in treating the undeniable fact of his age on the footing of a
scandalous false report set afloat by Time. He was superbly strapped
and padded. His hair, his teeth, and his complexion were triumphs of
artificial youth. When he was not occupied among the youngest women
present--which was very seldom--he attached himself exclusively to the
youngest men. He insisted on joining every dance. Twice he measured his
length upon the grass, but nothing daunted him. He was waltzing again,
with another young woman, at the next dance, as if nothing had happened.
Inquiring who this effervescent old gentleman might be, Bishopriggs
discovered that he was a retired officer in the navy; commonly known
(among his inferiors) as “The Tartar;” more formally described in
society as Captain Newenden, the last male representative of one of the
oldest families in England.

The second person, who appeared to occupy a position of distinction at
the dance in the glade, was a lady.

To the eye of Bishopriggs, she was a miracle of beauty, with a small
fortune for a poor man carried about her in silk, lace, and jewelry. No
woman present was the object of such special attention among the men as
this fascinating and priceless creature. She sat fanning herself with
a matchless work of art (supposed to be a handkerchief) representing an
island of cambric in the midst of an ocean of lace. She was surrounded
by a little court of admirers, who fetched and carried at her slightest
nod, like well-trained dogs. Sometimes they brought refreshments, which
she had asked for, only to decline taking them when they came. Sometimes
they brought information of what was going on among the dancers, which
the lady had been eager to receive when they went away, and in which she
had ceased to feel the smallest interest when they came back. Every body
burst into ejaculations of distress when she was asked to account for
her absence from the dinner, and answered, “My poor nerves.” Every body
said, “What should we have done without you!”--when she doubted if she
had done wisely in joining the party at all. Inquiring who this favored
lady might be, Bishopriggs discovered that she was the niece of the
indomitable old gentleman who _would_ dance--or, more plainly still, no
less a person than his contemplated customer, Mrs. Glenarm.

With all his enormous assurance Bishopriggs was daunted when he found
himself facing the question of what he was to do next.

To open negotiations with Mrs. Glenarm, under present circumstances,
was, for a man in his position, simply impossible. But, apart from this,
the prospect of profitably addressing himself to that lady in the future
was, to say the least of it, beset with difficulties of no common kind.

Supposing the means of disclosing Geoffrey’s position to her to be
found--what would she do, when she received her warning? She would in
all probability apply to one of two formidable men, both of whom were
interested in the matter. If she went straight to the man accused
of attempting to marry her, at a time when he was already engaged to
another woman--Bishopriggs would find himself confronted with the owner
of that terrible fist, which had justly terrified him even on a distant
and cursory view. If, on the other hand she placed her interests in the
care of her uncle--Bishopriggs had only to look at the captain, and to
calculate his chance of imposing terms on a man who owed Life a bill of
more than sixty years’ date, and who openly defied time to recover the
debt.

With these serious obstacles standing in the way, what was to be done?
The only alternative left was to approach Mrs. Glenarm under shelter of
the dark.

Reaching this conclusion, Bishopriggs decided to ascertain from the
servants what the lady’s future movements might be; and, thus informed,
to startle her by anonymous warnings, conveyed through the post, and
claiming their answer through the advertising channel of a newspaper.
Here was the certainty of alarming her, coupled with the certainty of
safety to himself! Little did Mrs. Glenarm dream, when she capriciously
stopped a servant going by with some glasses of lemonade, that the
wretched old creature who offered the tray contemplated corresponding
with her before the week was out, in the double character of her
“Well-Wisher” and her “True Friend.”

The evening advanced. The shadows lengthened. The waters of the lake
grew pitchy black. The gliding of the ghostly swans became rare and more
rare. The elders of the party thought of the drive home. The juniors
(excepting Captain Newenden) began to flag at the dance. Little by
little the comfortable attractions of the house--tea, coffee, and
candle-light in snug rooms--resumed their influence. The guests
abandoned the glade; and the fingers and lungs of the musicians rested
at last.

Lady Lundie and her party were the first to send for the carriage and
say farewell; the break-up of the household at Windygates on the next
day, and the journey south, being sufficient apologies for setting the
example of retreat. In an hour more the only visitors left were the
guests staying at Swanhaven Lodge.

The company gone, the hired waiters from Kirkandrew were paid and
dismissed.

On the journey back the silence of Bishopriggs created some surprise
among his comrades.

“I’ve got my ain concerns to think of,” was the only answer he
vouchsafed to the remonstrances addressed to him. The “concerns” alluded
to, comprehended, among other changes of plan, his departure from
Kirkandrew the next day--with a reference, in case of inquiries, to his
convenient friend at the Cowgate, Edinburgh. His actual destination--to
be kept a secret from every body--was Perth. The neighborhood of this
town--as stated on the authority of her own maid--was the part of
Scotland to which the rich widow contemplated removing when she left
Swanhaven in two days’ time. At Perth, Bishopriggs knew of more than
one place in which he could get temporary employment--and at Perth he
determined to make his first anonymous advances to Mrs. Glenarm.

The remainder of the evening passed quietly enough at the Lodge.

The guests were sleepy and dull after the excitement of the day. Mrs.
Glenarm retired early. At eleven o’clock Julius Delamayn was the only
person left up in the house. He was understood to be in his study,
preparing an address to the electors, based on instructions sent from
London by his father. He was actually occupied in the music-room--now
that there was nobody to discover him--playing exercises softly on his
beloved violin.

At the trainer’s cottage a trifling incident occured, that night, which
afforded materials for a note in Perry’s professional diary.

Geoffrey had sustained the later trial of walking for a given time and
distance, at his full speed, without showing any of those symptoms of
exhaustion which had followed the more serious experiment of running,
to which he had been subjected earlier in the day. Perry, honestly
bent--though he had privately hedged his own bets--on doing his best
to bring his man in good order to the post on the day of the race, had
forbidden Geoffrey to pay his evening visit to the house, and had sent
him to bed earlier than usual. The trainer was alone, looking over
his own written rules, and considering what modifications he should
introduce into the diet and exercises of the next day, when he was
startled by a sound of groaning from the bedroom in which his patron lay
asleep.

He went in, and found Geoffrey rolling to and fro on the pillow, with
his face contorted, with his hands clenched, and with the perspiration
standing thick on his forehead--suffering evidently under the nervous
oppression produced by the phantom-terrors of a dream.

Perry spoke to him, and pulled him up in the bed. He woke with a scream.
He stared at his trainer in vacant terror, and spoke to his trainer in
wild words. “What are your horrid eyes looking at over my shoulder?”
 he cried out. “Go to the devil--and take your infernal slate with you!”
 Perry spoke to him once more. “You’ve been dreaming of somebody, Mr.
Delamayn. What’s to do about a slate?” Geoffrey looked eagerly round the
room, and heaved a heavy breath of relief. “I could have sworn she was
staring at me over the dwarf pear-trees,” he said. “All right, I know
where I am now.” Perry (attributing the dream to nothing more important
than a passing indigestion) administered some brandy and water, and left
him to drop off again to sleep. He fretfully forbade the extinguishing
of the light. “Afraid of the dark?” said Perry, with a laugh. No. He was
afraid of dreaming again of the dumb cook at Windygates House.



SEVENTH SCENE.--HAM FARM.



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FOURTH.

THE NIGHT BEFORE.

THE time was the night before the marriage. The place was Sir Patrick’s
house in Kent.

The lawyers had kept their word. The settlements had been forwarded, and
had been signed two days since.

With the exception of the surgeon and one of the three young gentlemen
from the University, who had engagements elsewhere, the visitors at
Windygates had emigrated southward to be present at the marriage.
Besides these gentlemen, there were some ladies among the guests invited
by Sir Patrick--all of them family connections, and three of them
appointed to the position of Blanche’s bridesmaids. Add one or two
neighbors to be invited to the breakfast--and the wedding-party would be
complete.

There was nothing architecturally remarkable about Sir Patrick’s
house. Ham Farm possessed neither the splendor of Windygates nor the
picturesque antiquarian attraction of Swanhaven. It was a perfectly
commonplace English country seat, surrounded by perfectly commonplace
English scenery. Snug monotony welcomed you when you went in, and snug
monotony met you again when you turned to the window and looked out.

The animation and variety wanting at Ham Farm were far from being
supplied by the company in the house. It was remembered, at an
after-period, that a duller wedding-party had never been assembled
together.

Sir Patrick, having no early associations with the place, openly
admitted that his residence in Kent preyed on his spirits, and that he
would have infinitely preferred a room at the inn in the village. The
effort to sustain his customary vivacity was not encouraged by persons
and circumstances about him. Lady Lundie’s fidelity to the memory of the
late Sir Thomas, on the scene of his last illness and death, persisted
in asserting itself, under an ostentation of concealment which tried
even the trained temper of Sir Patrick himself. Blanche, still depressed
by her private anxieties about Anne, was in no condition of mind to
look gayly at the last memorable days of her maiden life. Arnold,
sacrificed--by express stipulation on the part of Lady Lundie--to the
prurient delicacy which forbids the bridegroom, before marriage, to
sleep in the same house with the bride, found himself ruthlessly shut
out from Sir Patrick’s hospitality, and exiled every night to a bedroom
at the inn. He accepted his solitary doom with a resignation which
extended its sobering influence to his customary flow of spirits. As for
the ladies, the elder among them existed in a state of chronic protest
against Lady Lundie, and the younger were absorbed in the essentially
serious occupation of considering and comparing their wedding-dresses.
The two young gentlemen from the University performed prodigies of
yawning, in the intervals of prodigies of billiard playing. Smith said,
in despair, “There’s no making things pleasant in this house, Jones.”
 And Jones sighed, and mildly agreed with him.

On the Sunday evening--which was the evening before the marriage--the
dullness, as a matter of course, reached its climax.

But two of the occupations in which people may indulge on week days are
regarded as harmless on Sunday by the obstinately anti-Christian tone of
feeling which prevails in this matter among the Anglo-Saxon race. It is
not sinful to wrangle in religious controversy; and it is not sinful
to slumber over a religious book. The ladies at Ham Farm practiced the
pious observance of the evening on this plan. The seniors of the sex
wrangled in Sunday controversy; and the juniors of the sex slumbered
over Sunday books. As for the men, it is unnecessary to say that the
young ones smoked when they were not yawning, and yawned when they were
not smoking. Sir Patrick staid in the library, sorting old letters and
examining old accounts. Every person in the house felt the oppression of
the senseless social prohibitions which they had imposed on themselves.
And yet every person in the house would have been scandalized if the
plain question had been put: You know this is a tyranny of your own
making, you know you don’t really believe in it, you know you don’t
really like it--why do you submit? The freest people on the civilized
earth are the only people on the civilized earth who dare not face that
question.

The evening dragged its slow length on; the welcome time drew nearer and
nearer for oblivion in bed. Arnold was silently contemplating, for the
last time, his customary prospects of banishment to the inn, when he
became aware that Sir Patrick was making signs to him. He rose and
followed his host into the empty dining-room. Sir Patrick carefully
closed the door. What did it mean?

It meant--so far as Arnold was concerned--that a private conversation
was about to diversify the monotony of the long Sunday evening at Ham
Farm.

“I have a word to say to you, Arnold,” the old gentleman began, “before
you become a married man. Do you remember the conversation at dinner
yesterday, about the dancing-party at Swanhaven Lodge?”

“Yes.”

“Do you remember what Lady Lundie said while the topic was on the
table?”

“She told me, what I can’t believe, that Geoffrey Delamayn was going to
be married to Mrs. Glenarm.”

“Exactly! I observed that you appeared to be startled by what my
sister-in-law had said; and when you declared that appearances must
certainly have misled her, you looked and spoke (to my mind) like a man
animated by a strong feeling of indignation. Was I wrong in drawing that
conclusion?”

“No, Sir Patrick. You were right.”

“Have you any objection to tell me why you felt indignant?”

Arnold hesitated.

“You are probably at a loss to know what interest _I_ can feel in the
matter?”

Arnold admitted it with his customary frankness.

“In that case,” rejoined Sir Patrick, “I had better go on at once with
the matter in hand--leaving you to see for yourself the connection
between what I am about to say, and the question that I have just put.
When I have done, you shall then reply to me or not, exactly as you
think right. My dear boy, the subject on which I want to speak to you
is--Miss Silvester.”

Arnold started. Sir Patrick looked at him with a moment’s attention, and
went on:

“My niece has her faults of temper and her failings of judgment,” he
said. “But she has one atoning quality (among many others) which ought
to make--and which I believe will make--the happiness of your married
life. In the popular phrase, Blanche is as true as steel. Once her
friend, always her friend. Do you see what I am coming to? She has
said nothing about it, Arnold; but she has not yielded one inch in
her resolution to reunite herself to Miss Silvester. One of the first
questions you will have to determine, after to-morrow, will be the
question of whether you do, or not, sanction your wife in attempting to
communicate with her lost friend.”

Arnold answered without the slightest reserve

“I am heartily sorry for Blanche’s lost friend, Sir Patrick. My
wife will have my full approval if she tries to bring Miss Silvester
back--and my best help too, if I can give it.”

Those words were earnestly spoken. It was plain that they came from his
heart.

“I think you are wrong,” said Sir Patrick. “I, too, am sorry for Miss
Silvester. But I am convinced that she has not left Blanche without a
serious reason for it. And I believe you will be encouraging your wife
in a hopeless effort, if you encourage her to persist in the search for
her lost friend. However, it is your affair, and not mine. Do you wish
me to offer you any facilities for tracing Miss Silvester which I may
happen to possess?”

“If you _can_ help us over any obstacles at starting, Sir Patrick, it
will be a kindness to Blanche, and a kindness to me.”

“Very good. I suppose you remember what I said to you, one morning, when
we were talking of Miss Silvester at Windygates?”

“You said you had determined to let her go her own way.”

“Quite right! On the evening of the day when I said that I received
information that Miss Silvester had been traced to Glasgow. You won’t
require me to explain why I never mentioned this to you or to
Blanche. In mentioning it now, I communicate to you the only positive
information, on the subject of the missing woman, which I possess. There
are two other chances of finding her (of a more speculative kind) which
can only be tested by inducing two men (both equally difficult to deal
with) to confess what they know. One of those two men is--a person named
Bishopriggs, formerly waiter at the Craig Fernie inn.”

Arnold started, and changed color. Sir Patrick (silently noticing him)
stated the circumstances relating to Anne’s lost letter, and to the
conclusion in his own mind which pointed to Bishopriggs as the person in
possession of it.

“I have to add,” he proceeded, “that Blanche, unfortunately, found an
opportunity of speaking to Bishopriggs at Swanhaven. When she and Lady
Lundie joined us at Edinburgh she showed me privately a card which had
been given to her by Bishopriggs. He had described it as the address at
which he might be heard of--and Blanche entreated me, before we started
for London, to put the reference to the test. I told her that she had
committed a serious mistake in attempting to deal with Bishopriggs on
her own responsibility; and I warned her of the result in which I was
firmly persuaded the inquiry would end. She declined to believe that
Bishopriggs had deceived her. I saw that she would take the matter
into her own hands again unless I interfered; and I went to the place.
Exactly as I had anticipated, the person to whom the card referred me
had not heard of Bishopriggs for years, and knew nothing whatever about
his present movements. Blanche had simply put him on his guard, and
shown him the propriety of keeping out of the way. If you should ever
meet with him in the future--say nothing to your wife, and communicate
with me. I decline to assist you in searching for Miss Silvester; but I
have no objection to assist in recovering a stolen letter from a thief.
So much for Bishopriggs.--Now as to the other man.”

“Who is he?”

“Your friend, Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn.”

Arnold sprang to his feet in ungovernable surprise.

“I appear to astonish you,” remarked Sir Patrick.

Arnold sat down again, and waited, in speechless suspense, to hear what
was coming next.

“I have reason to know,” said Sir Patrick, “that Mr. Delamayn is
thoroughly well acquainted with the nature of Miss Silvester’s present
troubles. What his actual connection is with them, and how he came into
possession of his information, I have not found out. My discovery begins
and ends with the simple fact that he has the information.”

“May I ask one question, Sir Patrick?”

“What is it?”

“How did you find out about Geoffrey Delamayn?”

“It would occupy a long time,” answered Sir Patrick, “to tell you
how--and it is not at all necessary to our purpose that you should know.
My present obligation merely binds me to tell you--in strict confidence,
mind!--that Miss Silvester’s secrets are no secrets to Mr. Delamayn. I
leave to your discretion the use you may make of that information. You
are now entirely on a par with me in relation to your knowledge of the
case of Miss Silvester. Let us return to the question which I asked
you when we first came into the room. Do you see the connection, now,
between that question, and what I have said since?”

Arnold was slow to see the connection. His mind was running on Sir
Patrick’s discovery. Little dreaming that he was indebted to Mrs. Inchb
are’s incomplete description of him for his own escape from detection,
he was wondering how it had happened that _he_ had remained unsuspected,
while Geoffrey’s position had been (in part at least) revealed to view.

“I asked you,” resumed Sir Patrick, attempting to help him, “why the
mere report that your friend was likely to marry Mrs. Glenarm roused
your indignation, and you hesitated at giving an answer. Do you hesitate
still?”

“It’s not easy to give an answer, Sir Patrick.”

“Let us put it in another way. I assume that your view of the report
takes its rise in some knowledge, on your part, of Mr. Delamayn’s
private affairs, which the rest of us don’t possess.--Is that conclusion
correct?”

“Quite correct.”

“Is what you know about Mr. Delamayn connected with any thing that you
know about Miss Silvester?”

If Arnold had felt himself at liberty to answer that question, Sir
Patrick’s suspicions would have been aroused, and Sir Patrick’s
resolution would have forced a full disclosure from him before he left
the house.

It was getting on to midnight. The first hour of the wedding-day was
at hand, as the Truth made its final effort to struggle into light. The
dark Phantoms of Trouble and Terror to come were waiting near them both
at that moment. Arnold hesitated again--hesitated painfully. Sir Patrick
paused for his answer. The clock in the hall struck the quarter to
twelve.

“I can’t tell you!” said Arnold.

“Is it a secret?”

“Yes.”

“Committed to your honor?”

“Doubly committed to my honor.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that Geoffrey and I have quarreled since he took me into his
confidence. I am doubly bound to respect his confidence after that.”

“Is the cause of your quarrel a secret also?”

“Yes.”

Sir Patrick looked Arnold steadily in the face.

“I have felt an inveterate distrust of Mr. Delamayn from the first,”
 he said. “Answer me this. Have you any reason to think--since we first
talked about your friend in the summer-house at Windygates--that my
opinion of him might have been the right one after all?”

“He has bitterly disappointed me,” answered Arnold. “I can say no more.”

“You have had very little experience of the world,” proceeded Sir
Patrick. “And you have just acknowledged that you have had reason to
distrust your experience of your friend. Are you quite sure that you are
acting wisely in keeping his secret from _me?_ Are you quite sure that
you will not repent the course you are taking to-night?” He laid a
marked emphasis on those last words. “Think, Arnold,” he added, kindly.
“Think before you answer.”

“I feel bound in honor to keep his secret,” said Arnold. “No thinking
can alter that.”

Sir Patrick rose, and brought the interview to an end.

“There is nothing more to be said.” With those words he gave Arnold his
hand, and, pressing it cordially, wished him good-night.

Going out into the hall, Arnold found Blanche alone, looking at the
barometer.

“The glass is at Set Fair, my darling,” he whispered. “Good-night for
the last time!”

He took her in his arms, and kissed her. At the moment when he released
her Blanche slipped a little note into his hand.

“Read it,” she whispered, “when you are alone at the inn.”

So they parted on the eve of their wedding day.


CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FIFTH.

THE DAY.

THE promise of the weather-glass was fulfilled. The sun shone on
Blanche’s marriage.

At nine in the morning the first of the proceedings of the day began. It
was essentially of a clandestine nature. The bride and bridegroom
evaded the restraints of lawful authority, and presumed to meet together
privately, before they were married, in the conservatory at Ham Farm.

“You have read my letter, Arnold?”

“I have come here to answer it, Blanche. But why not have told me? Why
write?”

“Because I put off telling you so long; and because I didn’t know how
you might take it; and for fifty other reasons. Never mind! I’ve made my
confession. I haven’t a single secret now which is not your secret too.
There’s time to say No, Arnold, if you think I ought to have no room
in my heart for any body but you. My uncle tells me I am obstinate and
wrong in refusing to give Anne up. If you agree with him, say the word,
dear, before you make me your wife.”

“Shall I tell you what I said to Sir Patrick last night?”

“About _this?_”

“Yes. The confession (as you call it) which you make in your pretty
note, is the very thing that Sir Patrick spoke to me about in the
dining-room before I went away. He told me your heart was set on finding
Miss Silvester. And he asked me what I meant to do about it when we were
married.”

“And you said--?”

Arnold repeated his answer to Sir Patrick, with fervid embellishments
of the original language, suitable to the emergency. Blanche’s delight
expressed itself in the form of two unblushing outrages on propriety,
committed in close succession. She threw her arms round Arnold’s neck;
and she actually kissed him three hours before the consent of State and
Church sanctioned her in taking that proceeding. Let us shudder--but let
us not blame her. These are the consequences of free institutions.

“Now,” said Arnold, “it’s my turn to take to pen and ink. I have a
letter to write before we are married as well as you. Only there’s this
difference between us--I want you to help me.”

“Who are you going to write to?”

“To my lawyer in Edinburgh. There will be no time unless I do it now. We
start for Switzerland this afternoon--don’t we?’

“Yes.”

“Very well. I want to relieve your mind, my darling before we go.
Wouldn’t you like to know--while we are away--that the right people are
on the look-out for Miss Silvester? Sir Patrick has told me of the last
place that she has been traced to--and my lawyer will set the right
people at work. Come and help me to put it in the proper language, and
the whole thing will be in train.”

“Oh, Arnold! can I ever love you enough to reward you for this!”

“We shall see, Blanche--in Switzerland.”

They audaciously penetrated, arm in arm, into Sir Patrick’s own
study--entirely at their disposal, as they well knew, at that hour
of the morning. With Sir Patrick’s pens and Sir Patrick’s paper
they produced a letter of instructions, deliberately reopening the
investigation which Sir Patrick’s superior wisdom had closed. Neither
pains nor money were to be spared by the lawyer in at once taking
measures (beginning at Glasgow) to find Anne. The report of the result
was to be addressed to Arnold, under cover to Sir Patrick at Ham Farm.
By the time the letter was completed the morning had advanced to
ten o’clock. Blanche left Arnold to array herself in her bridal
splendor--after another outrage on propriety, and more consequences of
free institutions.

The next proceedings were of a public and avowable nature, and strictly
followed the customary precedents on such occasions.

Village nymphs strewed flowers on the path to the church door (and sent
in the bill the same day). Village swains rang the joy-bells (and got
drunk on their money the same evening). There was the proper and awful
pause while the bridegroom was kept waiting at the church. There was the
proper and pitiless staring of all the female spectators when the bride
was led to the altar. There was the clergyman’s preliminary look at
the license--which meant official caution. And there was the clerk’s
preliminary look at the bridegroom--which meant official fees. All the
women appeared to be in their natural element; and all the men appeared
to be out of it.

Then the service began--rightly-considered, the most terrible, surely,
of all mortal ceremonies--the service which binds two human beings, who
know next to nothing of each other’s natures, to risk the tremendous
experiment of living together till death parts them--the service
which says, in effect if not in words, Take your leap in the dark: we
sanctify, but we don’t insure, it!

The ceremony went on, without the slightest obstacle to mar its effect.
There were no unforeseen interruptions. There were no ominous mistakes.

The last words were spoken, and the book was closed. They signed their
names on the register; the husband was congratulated; the wife was
embraced. They went back aga in to the house, with more flowers strewn
at their feet. The wedding-breakfast was hurried; the wedding-speeches
were curtailed: there was no time to be wasted, if the young couple were
to catch the tidal train.

In an hour more the carriage had whirled them away to the station,
and the guests had given them the farewell cheer from the steps of the
house. Young, happy, fondly attached to each other, raised securely
above all the sordid cares of life, what a golden future was theirs!
Married with the sanction of the Family and the blessing of the
Church--who could suppose that the time was coming, nevertheless, when
the blighting question would fall on them, in the spring-time of their
love: Are you Man and Wife?


CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SIXTH.

THE TRUTH AT LAST.

Two days after the marriage--on Wednesday, the ninth of September
a packet of letters, received at Windygates, was forwarded by Lady
Lundie’s steward to Ham Farm.

With one exception, the letters were all addressed either to Sir Patrick
or to his sister-in-law. The one exception was directed to
“Arnold Brinkworth, Esq., care of Lady Lundie, Windygates House,
Perthshire”--and the envelope was specially protected by a seal.

Noticing that the post-mark was “Glasgow,” Sir Patrick (to whom the
letter had been delivered) looked with a certain distrust at the
handwriting on the address. It was not known to him--but it was
obviously the handwriting of a woman. Lady Lundie was sitting opposite
to him at the table. He said, carelessly, “A letter for Arnold”--and
pushed it across to her. Her ladyship took up the letter, and dropped
it, the instant she looked at the handwriting, as if it had burned her
fingers.

“The Person again!” exclaimed Lady Lundie. “The Person, presuming to
address Arnold Brinkworth, at My house!”

“Miss Silvester?” asked Sir Patrick.

“No,” said her ladyship, shutting her teeth with a snap. “The Person may
insult me by addressing a letter to my care. But the Person’s name shall
not pollute my lips. Not even in your house, Sir Patrick. Not even to
please _you._”

Sir Patrick was sufficiently answered. After all that had
happened--after her farewell letter to Blanche--here was Miss Silvester
writing to Blanche’s husband, of her own accord! It was unaccountable,
to say the least of it. He took the letter back, and looked at it again.
Lady Lundie’s steward was a methodical man. He had indorsed each
letter received at Windygates with the date of its delivery. The
letter addressed to Arnold had been delivered on Monday, the seventh of
September--on Arnold’s wedding day.

What did it mean?

It was pure waste of time to inquire. Sir Patrick rose to lock the
letter up in one of the drawers of the writing-table behind him. Lady
Lundie interfered (in the interest of morality).

“Sir Patrick!”

“Yes?”

“Don’t you consider it your duty to open that letter?”

“My dear lady! what can you possibly be thinking of?”

The most virtuous of living women had her answer ready on the spot.

“I am thinking,” said Lady Lundie, “of Arnold’s moral welfare.”

Sir Patrick smiled. On the long list of those respectable disguises
under which we assert our own importance, or gratify our own love of
meddling in our neighbor’s affairs, a moral regard for the welfare of
others figures in the foremost place, and stands deservedly as number
one.

“We shall probably hear from Arnold in a day or two,” said Sir Patrick,
locking the letter up in the drawer. “He shall have it as soon as I know
where to send it to him.”

The next morning brought news of the bride and bridegroom.

They reported themselves to be too supremely happy to care where they
lived, so long as they lived together. Every question but the question
of Love was left in the competent hands of their courier. This sensible
and trust-worthy man had decided that Paris was not to be thought of as
a place of residence by any sane human being in the month of September.
He had arranged that they were to leave for Baden--on their way to
Switzerland--on the tenth. Letters were accordingly to be addressed to
that place, until further notice. If the courier liked Baden, they would
probably stay there for some time. If the courier took a fancy for the
mountains, they would in that case go on to Switzerland. In the mean
while nothing mattered to Arnold but Blanche--and nothing mattered to
Blanche but Arnold.

Sir Patrick re-directed Anne Silvester’s letter to Arnold, at the
Poste Restante, Baden. A second letter, which had arrived that morning
(addressed to Arnold in a legal handwriting, and bearing the post-mark
of Edinburgh), was forwarded in the same way, and at the same time.

Two days later Ham Farm was deserted by the guests. Lady Lundie had
gone back to Windygates. The rest had separated in their different
directions. Sir Patrick, who also contemplated returning to Scotland,
remained behind for a week--a solitary prisoner in his own country
house. Accumulated arrears of business, with which it was impossible for
his steward to deal single-handed, obliged him to remain at his estates
in Kent for that time. To a man without a taste for partridge-shooting
the ordeal was a trying one. Sir Patrick got through the day with the
help of his business and his books. In the evening the rector of a
neighboring parish drove over to dinner, and engaged his host at the
noble but obsolete game of Piquet. They arranged to meet at each other’s
houses on alternate days. The rector was an admirable player; and Sir
Patrick, though a born Presbyterian, blessed the Church of England from
the bottom of his heart.

Three more days passed. Business at Ham Farm began to draw to an end.
The time for Sir Patrick’s journey to Scotland came nearer. The two
partners at Piquet agreed to meet for a final game, on the next night,
at the rector’s house. But (let us take comfort in remembering it)
our superiors in Church and State are as completely at the mercy of
circumstances as the humblest and the poorest of us. That last game of
Piquet between the baronet and the parson was never to be played.

On the afternoon of the fourth day Sir Patrick came in from a drive, and
found a letter from Arnold waiting for him, which had been delivered by
the second post.

Judged by externals only, it was a letter of an unusually
perplexing--possibly also of an unusually interesting--kind. Arnold was
one of the last persons in the world whom any of his friends would have
suspected of being a lengthy correspondent. Here, nevertheless, was
a letter from him, of three times the customary bulk and weight--and,
apparently, of more than common importance, in the matter of news,
besides. At the top the envelope was marked “_Immediate._.” And at one
side (also underlined) was the ominous word, “_Private._.”

“Nothing wrong, I hope?” thought Sir Patrick.

He opened the envelope.

Two inclosures fell out on the table. He looked at them for a moment.
They were the two letters which he had forwarded to Baden. The third
letter remaining in his hand and occupying a double sheet, was from
Arnold himself. Sir Patrick read Arnold’s letter first. It was dated
“Baden,” and it began as follows:

“My Dear Sir Patrick,--Don’t be alarmed, if you can possibly help it. I
am in a terrible mess.”

Sir Patrick looked up for a moment from the letter. Given a young man
who dates from “Baden,” and declares himself to be in “a terrible
mess,” as representing the circumstances of the case--what is the
interpretation to be placed on them? Sir Patrick drew the inevitable
conclusion. Arnold had been gambling.

He shook his head, and went on with the letter.

“I must say, dreadful as it is, that I am not to blame--nor she either,
poor thing.”

Sir Patrick paused again. “She?” Blanche had apparently been gambling
too? Nothing was wanting to complete the picture but an announcement in
the next sentence, presenting the courier as carried away, in his turn,
by the insatiate passion for play. Sir Patrick resumed:

“You can not, I am sure, expect _me_ to have known the law. And as for
poor Miss Silvester--”

“Miss Silvester?” What had Miss Silvester to do with it? And what could
be the meaning of the reference to “the law?”

Sir Patrick had re ad the letter, thus far, standing up. A vague
distrust stole over him at the appearance of Miss Silvester’s name
in connection with the lines which had preceded it. He felt nothing
approaching to a clear prevision of what was to come. Some indescribable
influence was at work in him, which shook his nerves, and made him
feel the infirmities of his age (as it seemed) on a sudden. It went no
further than that. He was obliged to sit down: he was obliged to wait a
moment before he went on.

The letter proceeded, in these words:

“And, as for poor Miss Silvester, though she felt, as she reminds me,
some misgivings--still, she never could have foreseen, being no lawyer
either, how it was to end. I hardly know the best way to break it to
you. I can’t, and won’t, believe it myself. But even if it should be
true, I am quite sure you will find a way out of it for us. I will stick
at nothing, and Miss Silvester (as you will see by her letter) will
stick at nothing either, to set things right. Of course, I have not
said one word to my darling Blanche, who is quite happy, and suspects
nothing. All this, dear Sir Patrick, is very badly written, I am afraid,
but it is meant to prepare you, and to put the best side on matters at
starting. However, the truth must be told--and shame on the Scotch
law is what _I_ say. This it is, in short: Geoffrey Delamayn is even a
greater scoundrel than you think him; and I bitterly repent (as things
have turned out) having held my tongue that night when you and I had
our private talk at Ham Farm. You will think I am mixing two things up
together. But I am not. Please to keep this about Geoffrey in your mind,
and piece it together with what I have next to say. The worst is still
to come. Miss Silvester’s letter (inclosed) tells me this terrible
thing. You must know that I went to her privately, as Geoffrey’s
messenger, on the day of the lawn-party at Windygates. Well--how it
could have happened, Heaven only knows--but there is reason to fear that
I married her, without being aware of it myself, in August last, at the
Craig Fernie inn.”

The letter dropped from Sir Patrick’s hand. He sank back in the chair,
stunned for the moment, under the shock that had fallen on him.

He rallied, and rose bewildered to his feet. He took a turn in the room.
He stopped, and summoned his will, and steadied himself by main force.
He picked up the letter, and read the last sentence again. His face
flushed. He was on the point of yielding himself to a useless out burst
of anger against Arnold, when his better sense checked him at the last
moment. “One fool in the family is, enough,” he said. “_My_ business in
this dreadful emergency is to keep my head clear for Blanche’s sake.”

He waited once more, to make sure of his own composure--and turned again
to the letter, to see what the writer had to say for himself, in the way
of explanation and excuse.

Arnold had plenty to say--with the drawback of not knowing how to
say it. It was hard to decide which quality in his letter was most
marked--the total absence of arrangement, or the total absence of
reserve. Without beginning, middle, or end, he told the story of his
fatal connection with the troubles of Anne Silvester, from the memorable
day when Geoffrey Delamayn sent him to Craig Fernie, to the equally
memorable night when Sir Patrick had tried vainly to make him open his
lips at Ham Farm.

“I own I have behaved like a fool,” the letter concluded, “in keeping
Geoffrey Delamayn’s secret for him--as things have turned out. But how
could I tell upon him without compromising Miss Silvester? Read her
letter, and you will see what she says, and how generously she releases
me. It’s no use saying I am sorry I wasn’t more cautious. The mischief
is done. I’ll stick at nothing--as I have said before--to undo it. Only
tell me what is the first step I am to take; and, as long as it don’t
part me from Blanche, rely on my taking it. Waiting to hear from you, I
remain, dear Sir Patrick, yours in great perplexity, Arnold Brinkworth.”

Sir Patrick folded the letter, and looked at the two inclosures lying on
the table. His eye was hard, his brow was frowning, as he put his hand
to take up Anne’s letter. The letter from Arnold’s agent in Edinburgh
lay nearer to him. As it happened, he took that first.

It was short enough, and clearly enough written, to invite a reading
before he put it down again. The lawyer reported that he had made the
necessary inquiries at Glasgow, with this result. Anne had been traced
to The Sheep’s Head Hotel. She had lain there utterly helpless, from
illness, until the beginning of September. She had been advertised,
without result, in the Glasgow newspapers. On the 5th of September she
had sufficiently recovered to be able to leave the hotel. She had been
seen at the railway station on the same day--but from that point all
trace of her had been lost once more. The lawyer had accordingly stopped
the proceedings, and now waited further instructions from his client.

This letter was not without its effect in encouraging Sir Patrick to
suspend the harsh and hasty judgment of Anne, which any man, placed
in his present situation, must have been inclined to form. Her illness
claimed its small share of sympathy. Her friendless position--so plainly
and so sadly revealed by the advertising in the newspapers--pleaded
for merciful construction of faults committed, if faults there were.
Gravely, but not angrily, Sir Patrick opened her letter--the letter that
cast a doubt on his niece’s marriage.

Thus Anne Silvester wrote:



“GLASGOW, _September_ 5.

“DEAR MR. BRINKWORTH,--Nearly three weeks since I attempted to write to
you from this place. I was seized by sudden illness while I was engaged
over my letter; and from that time to this I have laid helpless in
bed--very near, as they tell me, to death. I was strong enough to be
dressed, and to sit up for a little while yesterday and the day before.
To-day, I have made a better advance toward recovery. I can hold my pen
and control my thoughts. The first use to which I put this improvement
is to write these lines.

“I am going (so far as I know) to surprise--possibly to alarm--you.
There is no escaping from it, for you or for me; it must be done.

“Thinking of how best to introduce what I am now obliged to say, I can
find no better way than this. I must ask you to take your memory back to
a day which we have both bitter reason to regret--the day when Geoffrey
Delamayn sent you to see me at the inn at Craig Fernie.

“You may possibly not remember--it unhappily produced no impression
on you at the time--that I felt, and expressed, more than once on that
occasion, a very great dislike to your passing me off on the people of
the inn as your wife. It was necessary to my being permitted to remain
at Craig Fernie that you should do so. I knew this; but still I shrank
from it. It was impossible for me to contradict you, without involving
you in the painful consequences, and running the risk of making a
scandal which might find its way to Blanche’s ears. I knew this also;
but still my conscience reproached me. It was a vague feeling. I was
quite unaware of the actual danger in which you were placing yourself,
or I would have spoken out, no matter what came of it. I had what is
called a presentiment that you were not acting discreetly--nothing
more. As I love and honor my mother’s memory--as I trust in the mercy of
God--this is the truth.

“You left the inn the next morning, and we have not met since.

“A few days after you went away my anxieties grew more than I could bear
alone. I went secretly to Windygates, and had an interview with Blanche.

“She was absent for a few minutes from the room in which we had met.
In that interval I saw Geoffrey Delamayn for the first time since I
had left him at Lady Lundie’s lawn-party. He treated me as if I was a
stranger. He told me that he had found out all that had passed between
us at the inn. He said he had taken a lawyer’s opinion. Oh, Mr.
Brinkworth! how can I break it to you? how can I write the words which
repeat what he said to me next? It must be done. Cruel as it is, it
must be done. He refused to my face to marr y me. He said I was married
already. He said I was your wife.

“Now you know why I have referred you to what I felt (and confessed
to feeling) when we were together at Craig Fernie. If you think hard
thoughts, and say hard words of me, I can claim no right to blame you. I
am innocent--and yet it is my fault.

“My head swims, and the foolish tears are rising in spite of me. I must
leave off, and rest a little.

“I have been sitting at the window, and watching the people in the
street as they go by. They are all strangers. But, somehow, the sight
of them seems to rest my mind. The hum of the great city gives me heart,
and helps me to go on.

“I can not trust myself to write of the man who has betrayed us both.
Disgraced and broken as I am, there is something still left in me which
lifts me above _him._ If he came repentant, at this moment, and offered
me all that rank and wealth and worldly consideration can give, I would
rather be what I am now than be his wife.

“Let me speak of you; and (for Blanche’s sake) let me speak of myself.

“I ought, no doubt, to have waited to see you at Windygates, and to have
told you at once of what had happened. But I was weak and ill and the
shock of hearing what I heard fell so heavily on me that I fainted.
After I came to myself I was so horrified, when I thought of you and
Blanche that a sort of madness possessed me. I had but one idea--the
idea of running away and hiding myself.

“My mind got clearer and quieter on the way to this place; and, arrived
here, I did what I hope and believe was the best thing I could do. I
consulted two lawyers. They differed in opinion as to whether we were
married or not--according to the law which decides on such things in
Scotland. The first said Yes. The second said No--but advised me to
write immediately and tell you the position in which you stood. I
attempted to write the same day, and fell ill as you know.

“Thank God, the delay that has happened is of no consequence. I asked
Blanche, at Windygates, when you were to be married--and she told me not
until the end of the autumn. It is only the fifth of September now. You
have plenty of time before you. For all our sakes, make good use of it.

“What are you to do?

“Go at once to Sir Patrick Lundie, and show him this letter. Follow
his advice--no matter how it may affect _me._ I should ill requite your
kindness, I should be false indeed to the love I bear to Blanche, if
I hesitated to brave any exposure that may now be necessary in your
interests and in hers. You have been all that is generous, all that is
delicate, all that is kind in this matter. You have kept my disgraceful
secret--I am quite sure of it--with the fidelity of an honorable man who
has had a woman’s reputation placed in his charge. I release you, with
my whole heart, dear Mr. Brinkworth, from your pledge. I entreat you, on
my knees, to consider yourself free to reveal the truth. I will make any
acknowledgment, on my side, that is needful under the circumstances--no
matter how public it may be. Release yourself at any price; and then,
and not till then, give back your regard to the miserable woman who has
laden you with the burden of her sorrow, and darkened your life for a
moment with the shadow of her shame.

“Pray don’t think there is any painful sacrifice involved in this. The
quieting of my own mind is involved in it--and that is all.

“What has life left for _me?_ Nothing but the barren necessity of
living. When I think of the future now, my mind passes over the years
that may be left to me in this world. Sometimes I dare to hope that the
Divine Mercy of Christ--which once pleaded on earth for a woman like
me--may plead, when death has taken me, for my spirit in Heaven.
Sometimes I dare to hope that I may see my mother, and Blanche’s mother,
in the better world. Their hearts were bound together as the hearts of
sisters while they were here; and they left to their children the legacy
of their love. Oh, help me to say, if we meet again, that not in vain
I promised to be a sister to Blanche! The debt I owe to her is the
hereditary debt of my mother’s gratitude. And what am I now? An obstacle
in the way of the happiness of her life. Sacrifice me to that happiness,
for God’s sake! It is the one thing I have left to live for. Again
and again I say it--I care nothing for myself. I have no right to be
considered; I have no wish to be considered. Tell the whole truth about
me, and call me to bear witness to it as publicly as you please!

“I have waited a little, once more, trying to think, before I close my
letter, what there may be still left to write.

“I can not think of any thing left but the duty of informing you how you
may find me if you wish to write--or if it is thought necessary that we
should meet again.

“One word before I tell you this.

“It is impossible for me to guess what you will do, or what you will be
advised to do by others, when you get my letter. I don’t even know that
you may not already have heard of what your position is from Geoffrey
Delamayn himself. In this event, or in the event of your thinking it
desirable to take Blanche into your confidence, I venture to suggest
that you should appoint some person whom you can trust to see me on
your behalf--or, if you can not do this that you should see me in the
presence of a third person. The man who has not hesitated to betray us
both, will not hesitate to misrepresent us in the vilest way, if he can
do it in the future. For your own sake, let us be careful to give lying
tongues no opportunity of assailing your place in Blanche’s estimation.
Don’t act so as to risk putting yourself in a false position _again!_
Don’t let it be possible that a feeling unworthy of her should be roused
in the loving and generous nature of your future wife!

“This written, I may now tell you how to communicate with me after I
have left this place.

“You will find on the slip of paper inclosed the name and address of the
second of the two lawyers whom I consulted in Glasgow. It is arranged
between us that I am to inform him, by letter, of the next place to
which I remove, and that he is to communicate the information either to
you or to Sir Patrick Lundie, on your applying for it personally or by
writing. I don’t yet know myself where I may find refuge. Nothing is
certain but that I can not, in my present state of weakness, travel far.

“If you wonder why I move at all until I am stronger, I can only give a
reason which may appear fanciful and overstrained.

“I have been informed that I was advertised in the Glasgow newspapers
during the time when I lay at this hotel, a stranger at the point of
death. Trouble has perhaps made me morbidly suspicious. I am afraid of
what may happen if I stay here, after my place of residence has been
made publicly known. So, as soon as I can move, I go away in secret. It
will be enough for me, if I can find rest and peace in some quiet place,
in the country round Glasgow. You need feel no anxiety about my means
of living. I have money enough for all that I need--and, if I get well
again, I know how to earn my bread.

“I send no message to Blanche--I dare not till this is over. Wait till
she is your happy wife; and then give her a kiss, and say it comes from
Anne.

“Try and forgive me, dear Mr. Brinkworth. I have said all. Yours
gratefully,

“ANNE SILVESTER.”



Sir Patrick put the letter down with unfeigned respect for the woman who
had written it.

Something of the personal influence which Anne exercised more or less
over all the men with whom she came in contact seemed to communicate
itself to the old lawyer through the medium of her letter. His thoughts
perversely wandered away from the serious and pressing question of his
niece’s position into a region of purely speculative inquiry relating to
Anne. What infatuation (he asked himself) had placed that noble creature
at the mercy of such a man as Geoffrey Delamayn?

We have all, at one time or another in our lives, been perplexed as Sir
Patrick was perplexed now.

If we know any thing by experience, we know that women cast themselves
away impulsively on unworthy men, and that men ruin themselves headlong
for unworthy w omen. We have the institution of Divorce actually among
us, existing mainly because the two sexes are perpetually placing
themselves in these anomalous relations toward each other. And yet,
at every fresh instance which comes before us, we persist in being
astonished to find that the man and the woman have not chosen each other
on rational and producible grounds! We expect human passion to act on
logical principles; and human fallibility--with love for its guide--to
be above all danger of making a mistake! Ask the wisest among Anne
Silvester’s sex what they saw to rationally justify them in choosing the
men to whom they have given their hearts and their lives, and you will
be putting a question to those wise women which they never once
thought of putting to themselves. Nay, more still. Look into your own
experience, and say frankly, Could you justify your own excellent
choice at the time when you irrevocably made it? Could you have put your
reasons on paper when you first owned to yourself that you loved him?
And would the reasons have borne critical inspection if you had?

Sir Patrick gave it up in despair. The interests of his niece were at
stake. He wisely determined to rouse his mind by occupying himself with
the practical necessities of the moment. It was essential to send an
apology to the rector, in the first place, so as to leave the evening
at his disposal for considering what preliminary course of conduct he
should advise Arnold to pursue.

After writing a few lines of apology to his partner at Piquet--assigning
family business as the excuse for breaking his engagement--Sir Patrick
rang the bell. The faithful Duncan appeared, and saw at once in his
master s face that something had happened.

“Send a man with this to the Rectory,” said Sir Patrick. “I can’t dine
out to-day. I must have a chop at home.”

“I am afraid, Sir Patrick--if I may be excused for remarking it--you
have had some bad news?”

“The worst possible news, Duncan. I can’t tell you about it now. Wait
within hearing of the bell. In the mean time let nobody interrupt me. If
the steward himself comes I can’t see him.”

After thinking it over carefully, Sir Patrick decided that there was no
alternative but to send a message to Arnold and Blanche, summoning them
back to England in the first place. The necessity of questioning Arnold,
in the minutest detail, as to every thing that had happened between
Anne Silvester and himself at the Craig Fernie inn, was the first and
foremost necessity of the case.

At the same time it appeared to be desirable, for Blanche’s sake, to
keep her in ignorance, for the present at least, of what had happened.
Sir Patrick met this difficulty with characteristic ingenuity and
readiness of resource.

He wrote a telegram to Arnold, expressed in the following terms:

“Your letter and inclosures received. Return to Ham Farm as soon as you
conveniently can. Keep the thing still a secret from Blanche. Tell her,
as the reason for coming back, that the lost trace of Anne Silvester
has been recovered, and that there may be reasons for her returning to
England before any thing further can be done.”

Duncan having been dispatched to the station with this message, Duncan’s
master proceeded to calculate the question of time.

Arnold would in all probability receive the telegram at Baden, on the
next day, September the seventeenth. In three days more he and Blanche
might be expected to reach Ham Farm. During the interval thus placed
at his disposal Sir Patrick would have ample time in which to recover
himself, and to see his way to acting for the best in the alarming
emergency that now confronted him.



On the nineteenth Sir Patrick received a telegram informing him that
he might expect to see the young couple late in the evening on the
twentieth.

Late in the evening the sound of carriage-wheels was audible on the
drive; and Sir Patrick, opening the door of his room, heard the familiar
voices in the hall.

“Well!” cried Blanche, catching sight of him at the door, “is Anne
found?”

“Not just yet, my dear.”

“Is there news of her?”

“Yes.”

“Am I in time to be of use?”

“In excellent time. You shall hear all about it to-morrow. Go and take
off your traveling-things, and come down again to supper as soon as you
can.”

Blanche kissed him, and went on up stairs. She had, as her uncle thought
in the glimpse he had caught of her, been improved by her marriage. It
had quieted and steadied her. There were graces in her look and manner
which Sir Patrick had not noticed before. Arnold, on his side, appeared
to less advantage. He was restless and anxious; his position with Miss
Silvester seemed to be preying on his mind. As soon as his young wife’s
back was turned, he appealed to Sir Patrick in an eager whisper.

“I hardly dare ask you what I have got it on my mind to say,” he began.
“I must bear it if you are angry with me, Sir Patrick. But--only tell me
one thing. Is there a way out of it for us? Have you thought of that?”

“I can not trust myself to speak of it clearly and composedly to-night,”
 said Sir Patrick. “Be satisfied if I tell you that I have thought it all
out--and wait for the rest till to-morrow.”

Other persons concerned in the coming drama had had past difficulties
to think out, and future movements to consider, during the interval
occupied by Arnold and Blanche on their return journey to England.
Between the seventeenth and the twentieth of September Geoffrey Delamayn
had left Swanhaven, on the way to his new training quarters in the
neighborhood in which the Foot-Race at Fulham was to be run. Between
the same dates, also, Captain Newenden had taken the opportunity, while
passing through London on his way south, to consult his solicitors. The
object of the conference was to find means of discovering an anonymous
letter-writer in Scotland, who had presumed to cause serious annoyance
to Mrs. Glenarm.

Thus, by ones and twos, converging from widely distant quarters, they
were now beginning to draw together, in the near neighborhood of the
great city which was soon destined to assemble them all, for the first
and the last time in this world, face to face.


CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SEVENTH.

THE WAY OUT.

BREAKFAST was just over. Blanche, seeing a pleasantly-idle morning
before her, proposed to Arnold to take a stroll in the grounds.

The garden was blight with sunshine, and the bride was bright with
good-humor. She caught her uncle’s eye, looking at her admiringly, and
paid him a little compliment in return. “You have no idea,” she said,
“how nice it is to be back at Ham Farm!”

“I am to understand then,” rejoined Sir Patrick, “that I am forgiven for
interrupting the honey-moon?”

“You are more than forgiven for interrupting it,” said Blanche--“you are
thanked. As a married woman,” she proceeded, with the air of a matron of
at least twenty years’ standing, “I have been thinking the subject over;
and I have arrived at the conclusion that a honey-moon which takes the
form of a tour on the Continent, is one of our national abuses which
stands in need of reform. When you are in love with each other (consider
a marriage without love to be no marriage at all), what do you want with
the excitement of seeing strange places? Isn’t it excitement enough, and
isn’t it strange enough, to a newly-married woman to see such a total
novelty as a husband? What is the most interesting object on the face
of creation to a man in Arnold’s position? The Alps? Certainly not! The
most interesting object is the wife. And the proper time for a bridal
tour is the time--say ten or a dozen years later--when you are beginning
(not to get tired of each other, that’s out of the question) but to
get a little too well used to each other. Then take your tour to
Switzerland--and you give the Alps a chance. A succession of honey-moon
trips, in the autumn of married life--there is my proposal for an
improvement on the present state of things! Come into the garden,
Arnold; and let us calculate how long it will be before we get weary of
each other, and want the beauties of nature to keep us company.”

Arnold looked appealingly to Sir Patrick. Not a word had passed between
them, as yet, on the serious subject of Anne Silvester’s letter. Sir
Patrick undertook the responsibility of making the necessary excuses to
Blanche.

“Forgive me,” he said, “if I ask leave to interfere with your monopoly
of Arnold for a little while. I have something to say to him about
his property in Scotland. Will you leave him with me, if I promise to
release him as soon as possible?”

Blanche smiled graciously. “You shall have him as long as you like,
uncle. There’s your hat,” she added, tossing it to her husband, gayly.
“I brought it in for you when I got my own. You will find me on the
lawn.”

She nodded, and went out.

“Let me hear the worst at once, Sir Patrick,” Arnold began. “Is it
serious? Do you think I am to blame?”

“I will answer your last question first,” said Sir Patrick. “Do I think
you are to blame? Yes--in this way. You committed an act of unpardonable
rashness when you consented to go, as Geoffrey Delamayn’s messenger,
to Miss Silvester at the inn. Having once placed yourself in that false
position, you could hardly have acted, afterward, otherwise than you
did. You could not be expected to know the Scotch law. And, as an
honorable man, you were bound to keep a secret confided to you, in which
the reputation of a woman was concerned. Your first and last error
in this matter, was the fatal error of involving yourself in
responsibilities which belonged exclusively to another man.”

“The man had saved my life.” pleaded Arnold--“and I believed I was
giving service for service to my dearest friend.”

“As to your other question,” proceeded Sir Patrick. “Do I consider your
position to be a serious one? Most assuredly, I do! So long as we are
not absolutely certain that Blanche is your lawful wife, the position is
more than serious: it is unendurable. I maintain the opinion, mind,
out of which (thanks to your honorable silence) that scoundrel Delamayn
contrived to cheat me. I told him, what I now tell you--that your
sayings and doings at Craig Fernie, do _not_ constitute a marriage,
according to Scottish law. But,” pursued Sir Patrick, holding up a
warning forefinger at Arnold, “you have read it in Miss Silvester’s
letter, and you may now take it also as a result of my experience, that
no individual opinion, in a matter of this kind, is to be relied on.
Of two lawyers, consulted by Miss Silvester at Glasgow, one draws a
directly opposite conclusion to mine, and decides that you and she are
married. I believe him to be wrong, but in our situation, we have no
other choice than to boldly encounter the view of the case which he
represents. In plain English, we must begin by looking the worst in the
face.”

Arnold twisted the traveling hat which Blanche had thrown to him,
nervously, in both hands. “Supposing the worst comes to the worst,” he
asked, “what will happen?”

Sir Patrick shook his head.

“It is not easy to tell you,” he said, “without entering into the legal
aspect of the case. I shall only puzzle you if I do that. Suppose we
look at the matter in its social bearings--I mean, as it may possibly
affect you and Blanche, and your unborn children?”

Arnold gave the hat a tighter twist than ever. “I never thought of the
children,” he said, with a look of consternation.

“The children may present themselves,” returned Sir Patrick, dryly, “for
all that. Now listen. It may have occurred to your mind that the
plain way out of our present dilemma is for you and Miss Silvester,
respectively, to affirm what we know to be the truth--namely, that you
never had the slightest intention of marrying each other. Beware of
founding any hopes on any such remedy as that! If you reckon on it, you
reckon without Geoffrey Delamayn. He is interested, remember, in proving
you and Miss Silvester to be man and wife. Circumstances may arise--I
won’t waste time in guessing at what they may be--which will enable a
third person to produce the landlady and the waiter at Craig Fernie
in evidence against you--and to assert that your declaration and Miss
Silvester’s declaration are the result of collusion between you two.
Don’t start! Such things have happened before now. Miss Silvester is
poor; and Blanche is rich. You may be made to stand in the awkward
position of a man who is denying his marriage with a poor woman,
in order to establish his marriage with an heiress: Miss Silvester
presumably aiding the fraud, with two strong interests of her own as
inducements--the interest of asserting the claim to be the wife of a man
of rank, and the interest of earning her reward in money for resigning
you to Blanche. There is a case which a scoundrel might set up--and with
some appearance of truth too--in a court of justice!”

“Surely, the law wouldn’t allow him to do that?”

“The law will argue any thing, with any body who will pay the law for
the use of its brains and its time. Let that view of the matter alone
now. Delamayn can set the case going, if he likes, without applying to
any lawyer to help him. He has only to cause a report to reach Blanche’s
ears which publicly asserts that she is not your lawful wife. With her
temper, do you suppose she would leave us a minute’s peace till the
matter was cleared up? Or take it the other way. Comfort yourself, if
you will, with the idea that this affair will trouble nobody in the
present. How are we to know it may not turn up in the future under
circumstances which may place the legitimacy of your children in doubt?
We have a man to deal with who sticks at nothing. We have a state of
the law which can only be described as one scandalous uncertainty from
beginning to end. And we have two people (Bishopriggs and Mrs. Inchbare)
who can, and will, speak to what took place between you and Anne
Silvester at the inn. For Blanche’s sake, and for the sake of your
unborn children, we must face this matter on the spot--and settle it at
once and forever. The question before us now is this. Shall we open the
proceedings by communicating with Miss Silvester or not?”



At that important point in the conversation they were interrupted by the
reappearance of Blanche. Had she, by any accident, heard what they had
been saying?

No; it was the old story of most interruptions. Idleness that considers
nothing, had come to look at Industry that bears every thing. It is
a law of nature, apparently, that the people in this world who have
nothing to do can not support the sight of an uninterrupted occupation
in the hands of their neighbors. Blanche produced a new specimen from
Arnold’s collection of hats. “I have been thinking about it in the
garden,” she said, quite seriously. “Here is the brown one with the high
crown. You look better in this than in the white one with the low crown.
I have come to change them, that’s all.” She changed the hats with
Arnold, and went on, without the faintest suspicion that she was in the
way. “Wear the brown one when you come out--and come soon, dear. I won’t
stay an instant longer, uncle--I wouldn’t interrupt you for the world.”
 She kissed her hand to Sir Patrick, and smiled at her husband, and went
out.



“What were we saying?” asked Arnold. “It’s awkward to be interrupted in
this way, isn’t it?”

“If I know any thing of female human nature,” returned Sir Patrick,
composedly, “your wife will be in and out of the room, in that way, the
whole morning. I give her ten minutes, Arnold, before she changes her
mind again on the serious and weighty subject of the white hat and the
brown. These little interruptions--otherwise quite charming--raised
a doubt in my mind. Wouldn’t it be wise (I ask myself), if we made a
virtue of necessity, and took Blanche into the conversation? What do you
say to calling her back and telling her the truth?”

Arnold started, and changed color.

“There are difficulties in the way,” he said.

“My good fellow! at every step of this business there are difficulties
in the way. Sooner or later, your wife must know what has happened. The
time for telling her is, no doubt, a matter for your decision, not mine.
All I say is this. Consider whether the disclosure won’t come from you
with a better grace, if you make it before you are fairly driven to the
wall, and obliged to open your lips.”

Arnold rose to his fee t--took a turn in the room--sat down again--and
looked at Sir Patrick, with the expression of a thoroughly bewildered
and thoroughly helpless man.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “It beats me altogether. The truth
is, Sir Patrick, I was fairly forced, at Craig Fernie, into deceiving
Blanche--in what might seem to her a very unfeeling, and a very
unpardonable way.”

“That sounds awkward! What do you mean?”

“I’ll try and tell you. You remember when you went to the inn to see
Miss Silvester? Well, being there privately at the time, of course I was
obliged to keep out of your way.”

“I see! And, when Blanche came afterward, you were obliged to hide from
Blanche, exactly as you had hidden from me?”

“Worse even than that! A day or two later, Blanche took me into her
confidence. She spoke to me of her visit to the inn, as if I was a
perfect stranger to the circumstances. She told me to my face, Sir
Patrick, of the invisible man who had kept so strangely out of her
way--without the faintest suspicion that I was the man. And I never
opened my lips to set her right! I was obliged to be silent, or I must
have betrayed Miss Silvester. What will Blanche think of me, if I tell
her now? That’s the question!”

Blanche’s name had barely passed her husband’s lips before Blanche
herself verified Sir Patrick’s prediction, by reappearing at the open
French window, with the superseded white hat in her hand.

“Haven’t you done yet!” she exclaimed. “I am shocked, uncle, to
interrupt you again--but these horrid hats of Arnold’s are beginning to
weigh upon my mind. On reconsideration, I think the white hat with the
low crown is the most becoming of the two. Change again, dear. Yes! the
brown hat is hideous. There’s a beggar at the gate. Before I go quite
distracted, I shall give him the brown hat, and have done with the
difficulty in that manner. Am I very much in the way of business? I’m
afraid I must appear restless? Indeed, I _am_ restless. I can’t imagine
what is the matter with me this morning.”

“I can tell you,” said Sir Patrick, in his gravest and dryest manner.
“You are suffering, Blanche, from a malady which is exceedingly
common among the young ladies of England. As a disease it is quite
incurable--and the name of it is Nothing-to-Do.”

Blanche dropped her uncle a smart little courtesy. “You might have told
me I was in the way in fewer words than that.” She whisked round, kicked
the disgraced brown hat out into the veranda before her, and left the
two gentlemen alone once more.



“Your position with your wife, Arnold,” resumed Sir Patrick, returning
gravely to the matter in hand, “is certainly a difficult one.” He
paused, thinking of the evening when he and Blanche had illustrated
the vagueness of Mrs. Inchbare’s description of the man at the inn, by
citing Arnold himself as being one of the hundreds of innocent people
who answered to it! “Perhaps,” he added, “the situation is even more
difficult than you suppose. It would have been certainly easier for
_you_--and it would have looked more honorable in _her_ estimation--if
you had made the inevitable confession before your marriage. I am, in
some degree, answerable for your not having done this--as well as for
the far more serious dilemma with Miss Silvester in which you now
stand. If I had not innocently hastened your marriage with Blanche,
Miss Silvester’s admirable letter would have reached us in ample time to
prevent mischief. It’s useless to dwell on that now. Cheer up, Arnold!
I am bound to show you the way out of the labyrinth, no matter what the
difficulties may be--and, please God, I will do it!”

He pointed to a table at the other end of the room, on which writing
materials were placed. “I hate moving the moment I have had my
breakfast,” he said. “We won’t go into the library. Bring me the pen and
ink here.”

“Are you going to write to Miss Silvester?”

“That is the question before us which we have not settled yet. Before
I decide, I want to be in possession of the facts--down to the smallest
detail of what took place between you and Miss Silvester at the inn.
There is only one way of getting at those facts. I am going to examine
you as if I had you before me in the witness-box in court.”

With that preface, and with Arnold’s letter from Baden in his hand as a
brief to speak from, Sir Patrick put his questions in clear and endless
succession; and Arnold patiently and faithfully answered them all.

The examination proceeded uninterruptedly until it had reached that
point in the progress of events at which Anne had crushed Geoffrey
Delamayn’s letter in her hand, and had thrown it from her indignantly to
the other end of the room. There, for the first time, Sir Patrick
dipped his pen in the ink, apparently intending to take a note. “Be very
careful here,” he said; “I want to know every thing that you can tell me
about that letter.”

“The letter is lost,” said Arnold.

“The letter has been stolen by Bishopriggs,” returned Sir Patrick, “and
is in the possession of Bishopriggs at this moment.”

“Why, you know more about it than I do!” exclaimed Arnold.

“I sincerely hope not. I don’t know what was inside the letter. Do you?”

“Yes. Part of it at least.”

“Part of it?”

“There were two letters written, on the same sheet of paper,” said
Arnold. “One of them was written by Geoffrey Delamayn--and that is the
one I know about.”

Sir Patrick started. His face brightened; he made a hasty note. “Go on,”
 he said, eagerly. “How came the letters to be written on the same sheet?
Explain that!”

Arnold explained that Geoffrey, in the absence of any thing else to
write his excuses on to Anne, had written to her on the fourth or blank
page of a letter which had been addressed to him by Anne herself.

“Did you read that letter?” asked Sir Patrick.

“I might have read it if I had liked.”

“And you didn’t read it?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Out of delicacy.”

Even Sir Patrick’s carefully trained temper was not proof against this.
“That is the most misplaced act of delicacy I ever heard of in my life!”
 cried the old gentleman, warmly. “Never mind! it’s useless to regret
it now. At any rate, you read Delamayn’s answer to Miss Silvester’s
letter?”

“Yes--I did.”

“Repeat it--as nearly as you can remember at this distance of time.”

“It was so short,” said Arnold, “that there is hardly any thing to
repeat. As well as I remember, Geoffrey said he was called away to
London by his father’s illness. He told Miss Silvester to stop where she
was; and he referred her to me, as messenger. That’s all I recollect of
it now.”

“Cudgel your brains, my good fellow! this is very important. Did he make
no allusion to his engagement to marry Miss Silvester at Craig Fernie?
Didn’t he try to pacify her by an apology of some sort?”

The question roused Arnold’s memory to make another effort.

“Yes,” he answered. “Geoffrey said something about being true to his
engagement, or keeping his promise or words to that effect.”

“You’re sure of what you say now?”

“I am certain of it.”

Sir Patrick made another note.

“Was the letter signed?” he asked, when he had done.

“Yes.”

“And dated?”

“Yes.” Arnold’s memory made a second effort, after he had given his
second affirmative answer. “Wait a little,” he said. “I remember
something else about the letter. It was not only dated. The time of day
at which it was written was put as well.”

“How came he to do that?”

“I suggested it. The letter was so short I felt ashamed to deliver it
as it stood. I told him to put the time--so as to show her that he was
obliged to write in a hurry. He put the time when the train started; and
(I think) the time when the letter was written as well.”

“And you delivered that letter to Miss Silvester, with your own hand, as
soon as you saw her at the inn?”

“I did.”

Sir Patrick made a third note, and pushed the paper away from him with
an air of supreme satisfaction.

“I always suspected that lost letter to be an important document,” he
said--“or Bishopriggs would never have stolen it. We must get possession
of it, Arnold, at any sacrifice. The first thing to be done (exactly
as I anticipated), is to write to the Glasgow lawyer, and find Miss
Silvester.”

“Wait a little!” cried a voice at the veranda. “Don’t forget that I
have come back from Baden to help you!”

Sir Patrick and Arnold both looked up. This time Blanche had heard the
last words that had passed between them. She sat down at the table by
Sir Patrick’s side, and laid her hand caressingly on his shoulder.

“You are quite right, uncle,” she said. “I _am_ suffering this morning
from the malady of having nothing to do. Are you going to write to Anne?
Don’t. Let me write instead.”

Sir Patrick declined to resign the pen.

“The person who knows Miss Silvester’s address,” he said, “is a lawyer
in Glasgow. I am going to write to the lawyer. When he sends us word
where she is--then, Blanche, will be the time to employ your good
offices in winning back your friend.”

He drew the writing materials once more with in his reach, and,
suspending the remainder of Arnold’s examination for the present, began
his letter to Mr. Crum.

Blanche pleaded hard for an occupation of some sort. “Can nobody give
me something to do?” she asked. “Glasgow is such a long way off, and
waiting is such weary work. Don’t sit there staring at me, Arnold! Can’t
you suggest something?”

Arnold, for once, displayed an unexpected readiness of resource.

“If you want to write,” he said, “you owe Lady Lundie a letter. It’s
three days since you heard from her--and you haven’t answered her yet.”

Sir Patrick paused, and looked up quickly from his writing-desk.

“Lady Lundie?” he muttered, inquiringly.

“Yes,” said Blanche. “It’s quite true; I owe her a letter. And of course
I ought to tell her we have come back to England. She will be finely
provoked when she hears why!”

The prospect of provoking Lady Lundie seemed to rouse Blanche s dormant
energies. She took a sheet of her uncle’s note-paper, and began writing
her answer then and there.

Sir Patrick completed his communication to the lawyer--after a look at
Blanche, which expressed any thing rather than approval of her present
employment. Having placed his completed note in the postbag, he silently
signed to Arnold to follow him into the garden. They went out together,
leaving Blanche absorbed over her letter to her step-mother.

“Is my wife doing any thing wrong?” asked Arnold, who had noticed the
look which Sir Patrick had cast on Blanche.

“Your wife is making mischief as fast as her fingers can spread it.”

Arnold stared. “She must answer Lady Lundie’s letter,” he said.

“Unquestionably.”

“And she must tell Lady Lundie we have come back.”

“I don’t deny it.”

“Then what is the objection to her writing?”

Sir Patrick took a pinch of snuff--and pointed with his ivory cane to
the bees humming busily about the flower-beds in the sunshine of the
autumn morning.

“I’ll show you the objection,” he said. “Suppose Blanche told one of
those inveterately intrusive insects that the honey in the flowers
happens, through an unexpected accident, to have come to an end--do
you think he would take the statement for granted? No. He would plunge
head-foremost into the nearest flower, and investigate it for himself.”

“Well?” said Arnold.

“Well--there is Blanche in the breakfast-room telling Lady Lundie that
the bridal tour happens, through an unexpected accident, to have come
to an end. Do you think Lady Lundie is the sort of person to take the
statement for granted? Nothing of the sort! Lady Lundie, like the
bee, will insist on investigating for herself. How it will end, if she
discovers the truth--and what new complications she may not introduce
into a matter which, Heaven knows, is complicated enough already--I
leave you to imagine. _My_ poor powers of prevision are not equal to
it.”

Before Arnold could answer, Blanche joined them from the breakfast-room.

“I’ve done it,” she said. “It was an awkward letter to write--and it’s a
comfort to have it over.”

“You have done it, my dear,” remarked Sir Patrick, quietly. “And it may
be a comfort. But it’s not over.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think, Blanche, we shall hear from your step-mother by return of
post.”


CHAPTER THE THIRTY-EIGHTH.

THE NEWS FROM GLASGOW.

THE letters to Lady Lundie and to Mr. Crum having been dispatched
on Monday, the return of the post might be looked for on Wednesday
afternoon at Ham Farm.

Sir Patrick and Arnold held more than one private consultation, during
the interval, on the delicate and difficult subject of admitting Blanche
to a knowledge of what had happened. The wise elder advised and the
inexperienced junior listened. “Think of it,” said Sir Patrick; “and do
it.” And Arnold thought of it--and left it undone.

Let those who feel inclined to blame him remember that he had only been
married a fortnight. It is hard, surely, after but two weeks’ possession
of your wife, to appear before her in the character of an offender on
trial--and to find that an angel of retribution has been thrown into the
bargain by the liberal destiny which bestowed on you the woman whom you
adore!

They were all three at home on the Wednesday afternoon, looking out for
the postman.

The correspondence delivered included (exactly as Sir Patrick had
foreseen) a letter from Lady Lundie. Further investigation, on the
far more interesting subject of the expected news from Glasgow,
revealed--nothing. The lawyer had not answered Sir Patrick’s inquiry by
return of post.

“Is that a bad sign?” asked Blanche.

“It is a sign that something has happened,” answered her uncle. “Mr.
Crum is possibly expecting to receive some special information, and is
waiting on the chance of being able to communicate it. We must hope, my
dear, in to-morrow’s post.”

“Open Lady Lundie’s letter in the mean time,” said Blanche. “Are you
sure it is for you--and not for me?”

There was no doubt about it. Her ladyship’s reply was ominously
addressed to her ladyship’s brother-in-law. “I know what that means.”
 said Blanche, eying her uncle eagerly while he was reading the letter.
“If you mention Anne’s name you insult my step-mother. I have mentioned
it freely. Lady Lundie is mortally offended with me.”

Rash judgment of youth! A lady who takes a dignified attitude, in
a family emergency, is never mortally offended--she is only deeply
grieved. Lady Lundie took a dignified attitude. “I well know,” wrote
this estimable and Christian woman, “that I have been all along regarded
in the light of an intruder by the family connections of my late beloved
husband. But I was hardly prepared to find myself entirely shut out
from all domestic confidence, at a time when some serious domestic
catastrophe has but too evidently taken place. I have no desire, dear
Sir Patrick, to intrude. Feeling it, however, to be quite inconsistent
with a due regard for my own position--after what has happened--to
correspond with Blanche, I address myself to the head of the family,
purely in the interests of propriety. Permit me to ask whether--under
circumstances which appear to be serious enough to require the recall of
my step-daughter and her husband from their wedding tour--you think it
DECENT to keep the widow of the late Sir Thomas Lundie entirely in the
dark? Pray consider this--not at all out of regard for Me!--but out of
regard for your own position with Society. Curiosity is, as you know,
foreign to my nature. But when this dreadful scandal (whatever it may
be) comes out--which, dear Sir Patrick, it can not fail to do--what will
the world think, when it asks for Lady Lundie’s, opinion, and hears that
Lady Lundie knew nothing about it? Whichever way you may decide I shall
take no offense. I may possibly be wounded--but that won’t matter. My
little round of duties will find me still earnest, still cheerful.
And even if you shut me out, my best wishes will find their way,
nevertheless, to Ham Farm. May I add--without encountering a sneer--that
the prayers of a lonely woman are offered for the welfare of all?”

“Well?” said Blanche.

Sir Patrick folded up the letter, and put it in his pocket.

“You have your step-mother’s best wishes, my dear.” Having answered in
those terms, he bowed to his niece with his best grace, and walked out
of the room.

“Do I think it decent,” he repeated to himself, as he closed the door,
“to leave the widow of the late Sir Thomas Lundie in the dark? When a
lady’s temper is a little ruffled, I think it more than decent, I think
it absolutely desirable, to let that lady have the last word.” He went
into the library, and dropped his sister-in-law’s remonstrance into a
box, labeled “Unanswered Letters.” Having got rid of it in that way, he
hummed his favorite little Scotch air--and put on his hat, and went out
to sun himself in the garden.

Meanwhile, Blanche was not quite satisfied with Sir Patrick’s reply. She
appealed to her husband. “There is something wrong,” she said--“and my
uncle is hiding it from me.”

Arnold could have desired no better opportunity than she had offered to
him, in those words, for making the long-deferred disclosure to her of
the truth. He lifted his eyes to Blanche’s face. By an unhappy fatality
she was looking charmingly that morning. How would she look if he told
her the story of the hiding at the inn? Arnold was still in love with
her--and Arnold said nothing.



The next day’s post brought not only the anticipated letter from Mr.
Crum, but an unexpected Glasgow newspaper as well.

This time Blanche had no reason to complain that her uncle kept his
correspondence a secret from her. After reading the lawyer’s letter,
with an interest and agitation which showed that the contents had taken
him by surprise, he handed it to Arnold and his niece. “Bad news there,”
 he said. “We must share it together.”

After acknowledging the receipt of Sir Patrick’s letter of inquiry,
Mr. Crum began by stating all that he knew of Miss Silvester’s
movements--dating from the time when she had left the Sheep’s Head
Hotel. About a fortnight since he had received a letter from her
informing him that she had found a suitable place of residence in a
village near Glasgow. Feeling a strong interest in Miss Silvester, Mr.
Crum had visited her some few days afterward. He had satisfied himself
that she was lodging with respectable people, and was as comfortably
situated as circumstances would permit. For a week more he had heard
nothing from the lady. At the expiration of that time he had received
a letter from her, telling him that she had read something in a Glasgow
newspaper, of that day’s date, which seriously concerned herself, and
which would oblige her to travel northward immediately as fast as her
strength would permit. At a later period, when she would be more certain
of her own movements, she engaged to write again, and let Mr. Crum know
where he might communicate with her if necessary. In the mean time, she
could only thank him for his kindness, and beg him to take care of any
letters or messages which might be left for her. Since the receipt of
this communication the lawyer had heard nothing further. He had waited
for the morning’s post in the hope of being able to report that he had
received some further intelligence. The hope had not been realized. He
had now stated all that he knew himself thus far--and he had forwarded
a copy of the newspaper alluded to by Miss Silvester, on the chance
that an examination of it by Sir Patrick might possibly lead to further
discoveries. In conclusion, he pledged himself to write again the moment
he had any information to send.

Blanche snatched up the newspaper, and opened it. “Let me look!” she
said. “I can find what Anne saw here if any body can!”

She ran her eye eagerly over column after column and page after
page--and dropped the newspaper on her lap with a gesture of despair.

“Nothing!” she exclaimed. “Nothing any where, that I can see, to
interest Anne. Nothing to interest any body--except Lady Lundie,” she
went on, brushing the newspaper off her lap. “It turns out to be all
true, Arnold, at Swanhaven. Geoffrey Delamayn is going to marry Mrs.
Glenarm.”

“What!” cried Arnold; the idea instantly flashing on him that this was
the news which Anne had seen.

Sir Patrick gave him a warning look, and picked up the newspaper from
the floor.

“I may as well run through it, Blanche, and make quite sure that you
have missed nothing,” he said.

The report to which Blanche had referred was among the paragraphs
arranged under the heading of “Fashionable News.” “A matrimonial
alliance” (the Glasgow journal announced) “was in prospect between the
Honorable Geoffrey Delamayn and the lovely and accomplished relict of
the late Mathew Glenarm, Esq., formerly Miss Newenden.” The marriage
would, in all probability, “be solemnized in Scotland, before the end of
the present autumn;” and the wedding breakfast, it was whispered, “would
collect a large and fashionable party at Swanhaven Lodge.”

Sir Patrick handed the newspaper silently to Arnold. It was plain to any
one who knew Anne Silvester’s story that those were the words which had
found their fatal way to her in her place of rest. The inference that
followed seemed to be hardly less clear. But one intelligible object,
in the opinion of Sir Patrick, could be at the end of her journey to
the north. The deserted woman had rallied the last relics of her old
energy--and had devoted herself to the desperate purpose of stopping the
marriage of Mrs. Glenarm.

Blanche was the first to break the silence.

“It seems like a fatality,” she said. “Perpetual failure! Perpetual
disappointment! Are Anne and I doomed never to meet again?”

She looked at her uncle. Sir Patrick showed none of his customary
cheerfulness in the face of disaster.

“She has promised to write to Mr. Crum,” he said. “And Mr. Crum has
promised to let us know when he hears from her. That is the only
prospect before us. We must accept it as resignedly as we can.”

Blanche wandered out listlessly among the flowers in the conservatory.
Sir Patrick made no secret of the impression produced upon him by Mr.
Crum’s letter, when he and Arnold were left alone.

“There is no denying,” he said, “that matters have taken a very serious
turn. My plans and calculations are all thrown out. It is impossible to
foresee what new mischief may not come of it, if those two women meet;
or what desperate act Delamayn may not commit, if he finds himself
driven to the wall. As things are, I own frankly I don’t know what to
do next. A great light of the Presbyterian Church,” he added, with
a momentary outbreak of his whimsical humor, “once declared, in my
hearing, that the invention of printing was nothing more or less than a
proof of the intellectual activity of the Devil. Upon my honor, I feel
for the first time in my life inclined to agree with him.”

He mechanically took up the Glasgow journal, which Arnold had laid
aside, while he spoke.

“What’s this!” he exclaimed, as a name caught his eye in the first line
of the newspaper at which he happened to look. “Mrs. Glenarm again! Are
they turning the iron-master’s widow into a public character?”

There the name of the widow was, unquestionably; figuring for the
second time in type, in a letter of the gossiping sort, supplied by an
“Occasional Correspondent,” and distinguished by the title of “Sayings
and Doings in the North.” After tattling pleasantly of the prospects
of the shooting season, of the fashions from Paris, of an accident to a
tourist, and of a scandal in the Scottish Kirk, the writer proceeded
to the narrative of a case of interest, relating to a marriage in the
sphere known (in the language of footmen) as the sphere of “high life.”

Considerable sensation (the correspondent announced) had been caused in
Perth and its neighborhood, by the exposure of an anonymous attempt
at extortion, of which a lady of distinction had lately been made
the object. As her name had already been publicly mentioned in an
application to the magistrates, there could be no impropriety in stating
that the lady in question was Mrs. Glenarm--whose approaching union with
the Honorable Geoffrey Delamayn was alluded to in another column of the
journal.

Mrs. Glenarm had, it appeared, received an anonymous letter, on the
first day of her arrival as guest at the house of a friend, residing
in the neighborhood of Perth. The letter warned her that there was an
obstacle, of which she was herself probably not aware, in the way of
her projected marriage with Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn. That gentleman had
seriously compromised himself with another lady; and the lady would
oppose his marriage to Mrs. Glenarm, with proof in writing to produce in
support of her claim. The proof was contained in two letters exchanged
between the parties, and signed by their names; and the correspondence
was placed at Mrs. Glenarm’s disposal, on two conditions, as follows:

First, that she should offer a sufficiently liberal price to induce the
present possessor of the letters to part with them. Secondly, that she
should consent to adopt such a method of paying the money as should
satisfy the person that he was in no danger of finding himself brought
within reach of the law. The answer to these two proposals was
directed to be made through the medium of an advertisement in the local
newspaper--distinguished by this address, “To a Friend in the Dark.”

Certain turns of expression, and one or two mistakes in spelling,
pointed to this insolent letter as being, in all probability, the
production of a Scotchman, in the lower ranks of life. Mrs. Glenarm had
at once shown it to her nearest relative, Captain Newenden. The captain
had sought legal advice in Perth. It had been decided, after due
consideration, to insert the advertisement demanded, and to
take measures to entrap the writer of the letter into revealing
himself--without, it is needless to add, allowing the fellow really to
profit by his attempted act of extortion.

The cunning of the “Friend in the Dark” (whoever he might be) had, on
trying the proposed experiment, proved to be more than a match for the
lawyers. He had successfully eluded not only the snare first set for
him, but others subsequently laid. A second, and a third, anonymous
letter, one more impudent than the other had been received by Mrs.
Glenarm, assuring that lady and the friends who were acting for her that
they were only wasting time and raising the price which would be asked
for the correspondence, by the course they were taking. Captain Newenden
had thereupon, in default of knowing what other course to pursue,
appealed publicly to the city magistrates, and a reward had been
offered, under the sanction of the municipal authorities, for the
discovery of the man. This proceeding also having proved quite
fruitless, it was understood that the captain had arranged, with the
concurrence of his English solicitors, to place the matter in the hands
of an experienced officer of the London police.

Here, so far as the newspaper correspondent was aware, the affair rested
for the present.

It was only necessary to add, that Mrs. Glenarm had left the
neighborhood of Perth, in order to escape further annoyance; and had
placed herself under the protection of friends in another part of the
county. Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn, whose fair fame had been assailed (it
was needless, the correspondent added in parenthesis, to say how
groundlessly), was understood to have expressed, not only the
indignation natural under the circumstances but also his extreme regret
at not finding himself in a position to aid Captain Newenden’s efforts
to bring the anonymous slanderer to justice. The honorable gentleman
was, as the sporting public were well aware, then in course of strict
training for his forthcoming appearance at the Fulham Foot-Race. So
important was it considered that his mind should not be harassed by
annoyances, in his present responsible position, that his trainer and
his principal backers had thought it desirable to hasten his removal to
the neighborhood of Fulham--where the exercises which were to prepare
him for the race were now being continued on the spot.



“The mystery seems to thicken,” said Arnold.

“Quite the contrary,” returned Sir Patrick, briskly. “The mystery is
clearing fast--thanks to the Glasgow newspaper. I shall be spared
the trouble of dealing with Bishopriggs for the stolen letter. Miss
Silvester has gone to Perth, to recover her correspondence with Geoffrey
Delamayn.”

“Do you think she would recognize it,” said Arnold, pointing to the
newspaper, “in the account given of it here?”

“Certainly! And she could hardly fail, in my opinion, to get a step
farther than that. Unless I am entirely mistaken, the authorship of the
anonymous letters has not mystified _her._”

“How could she guess at that?”

“In this way, as I think. Whatever she may have previously thought, she
must suspect, by this time, that the missing correspondence has been
stolen, and not lost. Now, there are only two persons whom she can think
of, as probably guilty of the theft--Mrs. Inchbare or Bishopriggs. The
newspaper description of the style of the anonymous letters declares
it to be the style of a Scotchman in the lower ranks of life--in other
words, points plainly to Bishopriggs. You see that? Very well. Now
suppose she recovers the stolen property. What is likely to happen then?
She will be more or less than woman if she doesn’t make her way next,
provided with her proofs in writing, to Mrs. Glenarm. She may innocently
help, or she may innocently frustrate, the end we have in view--either
way, our course is clear before us again. Our interest in communicating
with Miss Silvester remains precisely the same interest that it was
before we received the Glasgow newspaper. I propose to wait till Sunday,
on the chance that Mr. Crum may write again. If we don’t hear from him,
I shall start for Scotland on Monday morning, and take my chance of
finding my way to Miss Silvester, through Mrs. Glenarm.”

“Leaving me behind?”

“Leaving you behind. Somebody must stay with Blanche. After having only
been a fortnight married, must I remind you of that?”

“Don’t you think Mr. Crum will write before Monday?”

“It will be such a fortunate circumstance for us, if he does write, that
I don’t venture to anticipate it.”

“You are down on our luck, Sir.”

“I detest slang, Arnold. But slang, I own, expresses my state of mind,
in this instance, with an accuracy which almost reconciles me to the use
of it--for once in a way.”

“Every body’s luck turns sooner or later,” persisted Arnold. “I can’t
help thinking our luck is on the turn at last. Would you mind taking a
bet, Sir Patrick?”

“Apply at the stables. I leave betting, as I leave cleaning the horses,
to my groom.”

With that crabbed answer he closed the conversation for the day.

The hours passed, and time brought the post again in due course--and the
post decided in Arnold’s favor! Sir Patrick’s want of confidence in the
favoring patronage of Fortune was practically rebuked by the arrival of
a second letter from the Glasgow lawyer on the next day.

“I have the pleasure of announcing” (Mr. Crum wrote) “that I have heard
from Miss Silvester, by the next postal delivery ensuing, after I had
dispatched my letter to Ham Farm. She writes, very briefly, to inform
me that she has decided on establishing her next place of residence in
London. The reason assigned for taking this step--which she certainly
did not contemplate when I last saw her--is that she finds herself
approaching the end of her pecuniary resources. Having already decided
on adopting, as a means of living, the calling of a concert-singer, she
has arranged to place her interests in the hands of an old friend of
her late mother (who appears to have belonged also to the musical
profession): a dramatic and musical agent long established in the
metropolis, and well known to her as a trustworthy and respectable man.
She sends me the name and address of this person--a copy of which you
will find on the inclosed slip of paper--in the event of my having
occasion to write to her, before she is settled in London. This is the
whole substance of her letter. I have only to add, that it does not
contain the slightest allusion to the nature of the errand on which she
left Glasgow.”



Sir Patrick happened to be alone when he opened Mr. Crum’s letter.

His first proceeding, after reading it, was to consult the railway
time-table hanging in the hall. Having done this, he returned to
the library--wrote a short note of inquiry, addressed to the musical
agent--and rang the bell.

“Miss Silvester is expected in London, Duncan. I want a discreet person
to communicate with her. You are the person.”

Duncan bowed. Sir Pa trick handed him the note.

“If you start at once you will be in time to catch the train. Go to that
address, and inquire for Miss Silvester. If she has arrived, give her
my compliments, and say I will have the honor of calling on her (on
Mr. Brinkworth’s behalf) at the earliest date which she may find it
convenient to appoint. Be quick about it--and you will have time to get
back before the last train. Have Mr. and Mrs. Brinkworth returned from
their drive?”

“No, Sir Patrick.”

Pending the return of Arnold and Blanche, Sir Patrick looked at Mr.
Crum’s letter for the second time.

He was not quite satisfied that the pecuniary motive was really
the motive at the bottom of Anne’s journey south. Remembering that
Geoffrey’s trainers had removed him to the neighborhood of London, he
was inclined to doubt whether some serious quarrel had not taken
place between Anne and Mrs. Glenarm--and whether some direct appeal to
Geoffrey himself might not be in contemplation as the result. In that
event, Sir Patrick’s advice and assistance would be placed, without
scruple, at Miss Silvester’s disposal. By asserting her claim, in
opposition to the claim of Mrs. Glenarm, she was also asserting herself
to be an unmarried woman, and was thus serving Blanche’s interests as
well as her own. “I owe it to Blanche to help her,” thought Sir Patrick.
“And I owe it to myself to bring Geoffrey Delamayn to a day of reckoning
if I can.”

The barking of the dogs in the yard announced the return of the
carriage. Sir Patrick went out to meet Arnold and Blanche at the gate,
and tell them the news.



Punctual to the time at which he was expected, the discreet Duncan
reappeared with a note from the musical agent.

Miss Silvester had not yet reached London; but she was expected to
arrive not later than Tuesday in the ensuing week. The agent had already
been favored with her instructions to pay the strictest attention to any
commands received from Sir Patrick Lundie. He would take care that
Sir Patrick’s message should be given to Miss Silvester as soon as she
arrived.

At last, then, there was news to be relied on! At last there was a
prospect of seeing her! Blanche was radiant with happiness, Arnold was
in high spirits for the first time since his return from Baden.

Sir Patrick tried hard to catch the infection of gayety from his young
friends; but, to his own surprise, not less than to theirs, the effort
proved fruitless. With the tide of events turning decidedly in his
favor--relieved of the necessity of taking a doubtful journey to
Scotland; assured of obtaining his interview with Anne in a few days’
time--he was out of spirits all through the evening.

“Still down on our luck!” exclaimed Arnold, as he and his host finished
their last game of billiards, and parted for the night. “Surely, we
couldn’t wish for a more promising prospect than _our_ prospect next
week?”

Sir Patrick laid his hand on Arnold’s shoulder.

“Let us look indulgently together,” he said, in his whimsically grave
way, “at the humiliating spectacle of an old man’s folly. I feel, at
this moment, Arnold, as if I would give every thing that I possess in
the world to have passed over next week, and to be landed safely in the
time beyond it.”

“But why?”

“There is the folly! I can’t tell why. With every reason to be in
better spirits than usual, I am unaccountably, irrationally, invincibly
depressed. What are we to conclude from that? Am I the object of a
supernatural warning of misfortune to come? Or am I the object of
a temporary derangement of the functions of the liver? There is the
question. Who is to decide it? How contemptible is humanity, Arnold,
rightly understood! Give me my candle, and let’s hope it’s the liver.”



EIGHTH SCENE--THE PANTRY.



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-NINTH.

ANNE WINS A VICTORY.

ON a certain evening in the month of September (at that period of the
month when Arnold and Blanche were traveling back from Baden to Ham
Farm) an ancient man--with one eye filmy and blind, and one eye moist
and merry--sat alone in the pantry of the Harp of Scotland Inn, Perth,
pounding the sugar softly in a glass of whisky-punch. He has hitherto
been personally distinguished in these pages as the self-appointed
father of Anne Silvester and the humble servant of Blanche at the dance
at Swanhaven Lodge. He now dawns on the view in amicable relations with
a third lady--and assumes the mystic character of Mrs. Glenarm’s “Friend
in the Dark.”

Arriving in Perth the day after the festivities at Swanhaven,
Bishopriggs proceeded to the Harp of Scotland--at which establishment
for the reception of travelers he possessed the advantage of being known
to the landlord as Mrs. Inchbare’s right-hand man, and of standing high
on the head-waiter’s list of old and intimate friends.

Inquiring for the waiter first by the name of Thomas (otherwise Tammy)
Pennyquick, Bishopriggs found his friend in sore distress of body and
mind. Contending vainly against the disabling advances of rheumatism,
Thomas Pennyquick ruefully contemplated the prospect of being laid up
at home by a long illness--with a wife and children to support, and with
the emoluments attached to his position passing into the pockets of the
first stranger who could be found to occupy his place at the inn.

Hearing this doleful story, Bishopriggs cunningly saw his way to serving
his own private interests by performing the part of Thomas Pennyquick’s
generous and devoted friend.

He forthwith offered to fill the place, without taking the emoluments,
of the invalided headwaiter--on the understanding, as a matter of
course, that the landlord consented to board and lodge him free of
expense at the inn. The landlord having readily accepted this condition,
Thomas Pennyquick retired to the bosom of his family. And there was
Bishopriggs, doubly secured behind a respectable position and a virtuous
action against all likelihood of suspicion falling on him as a stranger
in Perth--in the event of his correspondence with Mrs. Glenarm being
made the object of legal investigation on the part of her friends!

Having opened the campaign in this masterly manner, the same sagacious
foresight had distinguished the operations of Bishopriggs throughout.

His correspondence with Mrs. Glenarm was invariably written with the
left hand--the writing thus produced defying detection, in all cases,
as bearing no resemblance of character whatever to writing produced by
persons who habitually use the other hand. A no less far-sighted cunning
distinguished his proceedings in answering the advertisements which the
lawyers duly inserted in the newspaper. He appointed hours at which he
was employed on business-errands for the inn, and places which lay
on the way to those errands, for his meetings with Mrs. Glenarm’s
representatives: a pass-word being determined on, as usual in such
cases, by exchanging which the persons concerned could discover each
other. However carefully the lawyers might set the snare--whether they
had their necessary “witness” disguised as an artist sketching in the
neighborhood, or as an old woman selling fruit, or what not--the wary
eye of Bishopriggs detected it. He left the pass-word unspoken; he
went his way on his errand; he was followed on suspicion; and he was
discovered to be only “a respectable person,” charged with a message by
the landlord of the Harp of Scotland Inn!

To a man intrenched behind such precautions as these, the chance of
being detected might well be reckoned among the last of all the chances
that could possibly happen.

Discovery was, nevertheless, advancing on Bishopriggs from a quarter
which had not been included in his calculations. Anne Silvester was in
Perth; forewarned by the newspaper (as Sir Patrick had guessed) that the
letters offered to Mrs. Glenarm were the letters between Geoffrey and
herself, which she had lost at Craig Fernie, and bent on clearing up the
suspicion which pointed to Bishopriggs as the person who was trying to
turn the correspondence to pecuniary account. The inquiries made for
him, at Anne’s request, as soon as she arrived in the town, openly
described his name, and his former position as headwaiter at Craig
Fernie--and thu s led easily to the discovery of him, in his publicly
avowed character of Thomas Pennyquick’s devoted friend. Toward
evening, on the day after she reached Perth, the news came to Anne that
Bishopriggs was in service at the inn known as the Harp of Scotland.
The landlord of the hotel at which she was staying inquired whether he
should send a message for her. She answered, “No, I will take my message
myself. All I want is a person to show me the way to the inn.”



Secluded in the solitude of the head-waiter’s pantry, Bishopriggs sat
peacefully melting the sugar in his whisky-punch.

It was the hour of the evening at which a period of tranquillity
generally occurred before what was called “the night-business” of the
house began. Bishopriggs was accustomed to drink and meditate daily in
this interval of repose. He tasted the punch, and smiled contentedly as
he set down his glass. The prospect before him looked fairly enough. He
had outwitted the lawyers in the preliminary negotiations thus far. All
that was needful now was to wait till the terror of a public scandal
(sustained by occasional letters from her “Friend in the Dark”) had
its due effect on Mrs. Glenarm, and hurried her into paying the
purchase-money for the correspondence with her own hand. “Let it breed
in the brain,” he thought, “and the siller will soon come out o’ the
purse.”

His reflections were interrupted by the appearance of a slovenly
maid-servant, with a cotton handkerchief tied round her head, and an
uncleaned sauce-pan in her hand.

“Eh, Maister Bishopriggs,” cried the girl, “here’s a braw young leddy
speerin’ for ye by yer ain name at the door.”

“A leddy?” repeated Bishopriggs, with a look of virtuous disgust. “Ye
donnert ne’er-do-weel, do you come to a decent, ‘sponsible man like me,
wi’ sic a Cyprian overture as that? What d’ye tak’ me for? Mark Antony
that lost the world for love (the mair fule he!)? or Don Jovanny that
counted his concubines by hundreds, like the blessed Solomon himself?
Awa’ wi’ ye to yer pots and pans; and bid the wandering Venus that sent
ye go spin!”

Before the girl could answer she was gently pulled aside from the
doorway, and Bishopriggs, thunder-struck, saw Anne Silvester standing in
her place.

“You had better tell the servant I am no stranger to you,” said Anne,
looking toward the kitchen-maid, who stood in the passage staring at her
in stolid amazement.

“My ain sister’s child!” cried Bishopriggs, lying with his customary
readiness. “Go yer ways, Maggie. The bonny lassie’s my ain kith and kin.
The tongue o’ scandal, I trow, has naething to say against that.--Lord
save us and guide us!” he added In another tone, as the girl closed the
door on them, “what brings ye here?”

“I have something to say to you. I am not very well; I must wait a
little first. Give me a chair.”

Bishopriggs obeyed in silence. His one available eye rested on Anne,
as he produced the chair, with an uneasy and suspicious attention. “I’m
wanting to know one thing,” he said. “By what meeraiculous means, young
madam, do ye happen to ha’ fund yer way to this inn?”

Anne told him how her inquiries had been made and what the result had
been, plainly and frankly. The clouded face of Bishopriggs began to
clear again.

“Hech! hech!” he exclaimed, recovering all his native impudence, “I hae
had occasion to remark already, to anither leddy than yersel’, that it’s
seemply mairvelous hoo a man’s ain gude deeds find him oot in this lower
warld o’ ours. I hae dune a gude deed by pure Tammy Pennyquick, and
here’s a’ Pairth ringing wi the report o’ it; and Sawmuel Bishopriggs
sae weel known that ony stranger has only to ask, and find him.
Understand, I beseech ye, that it’s no hand o’ mine that pets this new
feather in my cap. As a gude Calvinist, my saul’s clear o’ the smallest
figment o’ belief in Warks. When I look at my ain celeebrity I joost
ask, as the Psawmist asked before me, ‘Why do the heathen rage, and the
people imagine a vain thing?’ It seems ye’ve something to say to me,” he
added, suddenly reverting to the object of Anne’s visit. “Is it humanly
possible that ye can ha’ come a’ the way to Pairth for naething but
that?”

The expression of suspicion began to show itself again in his face.
Concealing as she best might the disgust that he inspired in her, Anne
stated her errand in the most direct manner, and in the fewest possible
words.

“I have come here to ask you for something,” she said.

“Ay? ay? What may it be ye’re wanting of me?”

“I want the letter I lost at Craig Fernie.”

Even the solidly-founded self-possession of Bishopriggs himself was
shaken by the startling directness of that attack on it. His glib tongue
was paralyzed for the moment. “I dinna ken what ye’re drivin’ at,” he
said, after an interval, with a sullen consciousness that he had been
all but tricked into betraying himself.

The change in his manner convinced Anne that she had found in
Bishopriggs the person of whom she was in search.

“You have got my letter,” she said, sternly insisting on the truth. “And
you are trying to turn it to a disgraceful use. I won’t allow you to
make a market of my private affairs. You have offered a letter of mine
for sale to a stranger. I insist on your restoring it to me before I
leave this room!”

Bishopriggs hesitated again. His first suspicion that Anne had been
privately instructed by Mrs. Glenarm’s lawyers returned to his mind as
a suspicion confirmed. He felt the vast importance of making a cautious
reply.

“I’ll no’ waste precious time,” he said, after a moment’s consideration
with himself, “in brushing awa’ the fawse breath o’ scandal, when it
passes my way. It blaws to nae purpose, my young leddy, when it blaws on
an honest man like me. Fie for shame on ye for saying what ye’ve joost
said--to me that was a fether to ye at Craig Fernie! Wha’ set ye on to
it? Will it be man or woman that’s misca’ed me behind my back?”

Anne took the Glasgow newspaper from the pocket of her traveling cloak,
and placed it before him, open at the paragraph which described the act
of extortion attempted on Mrs. Glenarm.

“I have found there,” she said, “all that I want to know.”

“May a’ the tribe o’ editors, preenters, paper-makers, news-vendors,
and the like, bleeze together in the pit o’ Tophet!” With this devout
aspiration--internally felt, not openly uttered--Bishopriggs put on his
spectacles, and read the passage pointed out to him. “I see naething
here touching the name o’ Sawmuel Bishopriggs, or the matter o’ ony loss
ye may or may not ha’ had at Craig Fernie,” he said, when he had done;
still defending his position, with a resolution worthy of a better
cause.

Anne’s pride recoiled at the prospect of prolonging the discussion with
him. She rose to her feet, and said her last words.

“I have learned enough by this time,” she answered, “to know that the
one argument that prevails with you is the argument of money. If money
will spare me the hateful necessity of disputing with you--poor as I
am, money you shall have. Be silent, if you please. You are personally
interested in what I have to say next.”

She opened her purse, and took a five-pound note from it.

“If you choose to own the truth, and produce the letter,” she resumed,
“I will give you this, as your reward for finding, and restoring to me,
something that I had lost. If you persist in your present prevarication,
I can, and will, make that sheet of note-paper you have stolen from me
nothing but waste paper in your hands. You have threatened Mrs. Glenarm
with my interference. Suppose I go to Mrs. Glenarm? Suppose I interfere
before the week is out? Suppose I have other letters of Mr. Delamayn’s
in my possession, and produce them to speak for me? What has Mrs.
Glenarm to purchase of you _then?_ Answer me that!”

The color rose on her pale face. Her eyes, dim and weary when
she entered the room, looked him brightly through and through in
immeasurable contempt. “Answer me that!” she repeated, with a burst
of her old energy which revealed the fire and passion of the woman’s
nature, not quenched even yet!

If Bishopriggs had a merit, it was a rare merit, as men go, of
knowing when he was beaten. If he had an accomplishment, it was the
accomplishment of retiring defeated, with all the honors of war.

“Mercy presairve us!” he exclaimed, in the most innocent manner. “Is it
even You Yersel’ that writ the letter to the man ca’ed Jaffray Delamayn,
and got the wee bit answer in pencil on the blank page? Hoo, in Heeven’s
name, was I to know _that_ was the letter ye were after when ye cam’ in
here? Did ye ever tell me ye were Anne Silvester, at the hottle? Never
ance! Was the puir feckless husband-creature ye had wi’ ye at the inn,
Jaffray Delamayn? Jaffray wad mak’ twa o’ him, as my ain eyes ha’ seen.
Gi’ ye back yer letter? My certie! noo I know it is yer letter, I’ll gi’
it back wi’ a’ the pleasure in life!”

He opened his pocket-book, and took it out, with an alacrity worthy of
the honestest man in Christendom--and (more wonderful still) he looked
with a perfectly assumed expression of indifference at the five-pound
note in Anne’s hand.

“Hoot! toot!” he said, “I’m no’ that clear in my mind that I’m free to
tak’ yer money. Eh, weel! weel! I’ll een receive it, if ye like, as a
bit Memento o’ the time when I was o’ some sma’ sairvice to ye at the
hottle. Ye’ll no’ mind,” he added, suddenly returning to business,
“writin’ me joost a line--in the way o’ receipt, ye ken--to clear me o’
ony future suspicion in the matter o’ the letter?”

Anne threw down the bank-note on the table near which they were
standing, and snatched the letter from him.

“You need no receipt,” she answered. “There shall be no letter to bear
witness against you!”

She lifted her other hand to tear it in pieces. Bishopriggs caught her
by both wrists, at the same moment, and held her fast.

“Bide a wee!” he said. “Ye don’t get the letter, young madam, without
the receipt. It may be a’ the same to _you,_ now ye’ve married the other
man, whether Jaffray Delamayn ance promised ye fair in the by-gone time,
or no. But, my certie! it’s a matter o’ some moment to _me,_ that ye’ve
chairged wi’ stealin’ the letter, and making a market o’t, and Lord
knows what besides, that I suld hae yer ain acknowledgment for it in
black and white. Gi’ me my bit receipt--and een do as ye will with yer
letter after that!”

Anne’s hold of the letter relaxed. She let Bishopriggs repossess himself
of it as it dropped on the floor between them, without making an effort
to prevent him.

“It may be a’ the same to _you,_ now ye’ve married the other man,
whether Jaffray Delamayn ance promised ye fair in the by-gone time,
or no.” Those words presented Anne’s position before her in a light in
which she had not seen it yet. She had truly expressed the loathing that
Geoffrey now inspired in her, when she had declared, in her letter to
Arnold, that, even if he offered her marriage, in atonement for the
past, she would rather be what she was than be his wife. It had never
occurred to her, until this moment, that others would misinterpret the
sensitive pride which had prompted the abandonment of her claim on the
man who had ruined her. It had never been brought home to her until now,
that if she left him contemptuously to go his own way, and sell himself
to the first woman who had money enough to buy him, her conduct would
sanction the false conclusion that she was powerless to interfere,
because she was married already to another man. The color that had risen
in her face vanished, and left it deadly pale again. She began to see
that the purpose of her journey to the north was not completed yet.

“I will give you your receipt,” she said. “Tell me what to write, and it
shall be written.”

Bishopriggs dictated the receipt. She wrote and signed it. He put it in
his pocket-book with the five-pound note, and handed her the letter in
exchange.

“Tear it if ye will,” he said. “It matters naething to _me._”

For a moment she hesitated. A sudden shuddering shook her from head to
foot--the forewarning, it might be, of the influence which that letter,
saved from destruction by a hair’s-breadth, was destined to exercise on
her life to come. She recovered herself, and folded her cloak closer to
her, as if she had felt a passing chill.

“No,” she said; “I will keep the letter.”

She folded it and put it in the pocket of her dress. Then turned to
go--and stopped at the door.

“One thing more,” she added. “Do you know Mrs. Glenarm’s present
address?”

“Ye’re no’ reely going to Mistress Glenarm?”

“That is no concern of yours. You can answer my question or not, as you
please.”

“Eh, my leddy! yer temper’s no’ what it used to be in the auld times at
the hottle. Aweel! aweel! ye ha’ gi’en me yer money, and I’ll een gi’
ye back gude measure for it, on my side. Mistress Glenarm’s awa’ in
private--incog, as they say--to Jaffray Delamayn’s brither at Swanhaven
Lodge. Ye may rely on the information, and it’s no’ that easy to come
at either. They’ve keepit it a secret as they think from a’ the warld.
Hech! hech! Tammy Pennyquick’s youngest but twa is page-boy at the hoose
where the leddy’s been veesitin’, on the outskirts o’ Pairth. Keep a
secret if ye can frae the pawky ears o’ yer domestics in the servants’
hall!--Eh! she’s aff, without a word at parting!” he exclaimed, as Anne
left him without ceremony in the middle of his dissertation on secrets
and servants’ halls. “I trow I ha’ gaen out for wool, and come back
shorn,” he added, reflecting grimly on the disastrous overthrow of the
promising speculation on which he had embarked. “My certie! there was
naething left for’t, when madam’s fingers had grippit me, but to slip
through them as cannily as I could. What’s Jaffray’s marrying, or no’
marrying, to do wi’ _her?_” he wondered, reverting to the question which
Anne had put to him at parting. “And whar’s the sense o’ her errand, if
she’s reely bent on finding her way to Mistress Glenarm?”

Whatever the sense of her errand might be, Anne’s next proceeding proved
that she was really bent on it. After resting two days, she left Perth
by the first train in the morning, for Swanhaven Lodge.



NINTH SCENE.--THE MUSIC-ROOM.



CHAPTER THE FORTIETH.

JULIUS MAKES MISCHIEF.

JULIUS DELAMAYN was alone, idly sauntering to and fro, with his violin
in his hand, on the terrace at Swanhaven Lodge.

The first mellow light of evening was in the sky. It was the close of
the day on which Anne Silvester had left Perth.

Some hours earlier, Julius had sacrificed himself to the duties of his
political position--as made for him by his father. He had submitted to
the dire necessity of delivering an oration to the electors, at a public
meeting in the neighboring town of Kirkandrew. A detestable atmosphere
to breathe; a disorderly audience to address; insolent opposition to
conciliate; imbecile inquiries to answer; brutish interruptions to
endure; greedy petitioners to pacify; and dirty hands to shake: these
are the stages by which the aspiring English gentleman is compelled
to travel on the journey which leads him from the modest obscurity of
private life to the glorious publicity of the House of Commons. Julius
paid the preliminary penalties of a political first appearance, as
exacted by free institutions, with the necessary patience; and returned
to the welcome shelter of home, more indifferent, if possible, to the
attractions of Parliamentary distinction than when he set out. The
discord of the roaring “people” (still echoing in his ears) had
sharpened his customary sensibility to the poetry of sound, as composed
by Mozart, and as interpreted by piano and violin. Possessing himself of
his beloved instrument, he had gone out on the terrace to cool himself
in the evening air, pending the arrival of the servant whom he had
summoned by the music-room bell. The man appeared at the glass door
which led into the room; and reported, in answer to his master’s
inquiry, that Mrs. Julius Delamayn was out paying visits, and was not
expected to return for another hour at least.

Julius groaned in spirit. The finest music which Mozart has written for
the violin associates that instrument with the piano. Without the wife
to help him, the husband was mute. After an instant’s consideration,
Julius hit on an idea which promised, in some degree, to remedy the
disaster of Mrs. Delamayn’s absence from home.

“Has Mrs. Glenarm gone out, too?” he asked.

“No, Sir.”

“My compliments. If Mrs. Glenarm has nothing else to do, will she be so
kind as to come to me in the music-room?”

The servant went away with his message. Julius seated himself on one of
the terrace-benches, and began to tune his violin.

Mrs. Glenarm--rightly reported by Bishopriggs as having privately
taken refuge from her anonymous correspondent at Swanhaven Lodge--was,
musically speaking, far from being an efficient substitute for Mrs.
Delamayn. Julius possessed, in his wife, one of the few players on
the piano-forte under whose subtle touch that shallow and soulless
instrument becomes inspired with expression not its own, and produces
music instead of noise. The fine organization which can work this
miracle had not been bestowed on Mrs. Glenarm. She had been carefully
taught; and she was to be trusted to play correctly--and that was all.
Julius, hungry for music, and reigned to circumstances, asked for no
more.

The servant returned with his answer. Mrs. Glenarm would join Mr.
Delamayn in the music-room in ten minutes’ time.

Julius rose, relieved, and resumed his sauntering walk; now playing
little snatches of music, now stopping to look at the flowers on the
terrace, with an eye that enjoyed their beauty, and a hand that fondled
them with caressing touch. If Imperial Parliament had seen him at that
moment, Imperial Parliament must have given notice of a question to
his illustrious father: Is it possible, my lord, that _you_ can have
begotten such a Member as this?

After stopping for a moment to tighten one of the strings of his violin,
Julius, raising his head from the instrument, was surprised to see
a lady approaching him on the terrace. Advancing to meet her, and
perceiving that she was a total stranger to him, he assumed that she
was, in all probability, a visitor to his wife.

“Have I the honor of speaking to a friend of Mrs. Delamayn’s?” he asked.
“My wife is not at home, I am sorry to say.”

“I am a stranger to Mrs. Delamayn,” the lady answered. “The servant
informed me that she had gone out; and that I should find Mr. Delamayn
here.”

Julius bowed--and waited to hear more.

“I must beg you to forgive my intrusion,” the stranger went on. “My
object is to ask permission to see a lady who is, I have been informed,
a guest in your house.”

The extraordinary formality of the request rather puzzled Julius.

“Do you mean Mrs. Glenarm?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Pray don’t think any permission necessary. A friend of Mrs. Glenarm’s
may take her welcome for granted in this house.”

“I am not a friend of Mrs. Glenarm. I am a total stranger to her.”

This made the ceremonious request preferred by the lady a little more
intelligible--but it left the lady’s object in wishing to speak to Mrs.
Glenarm still in the dark. Julius politely waited, until it pleased her
to proceed further, and explain herself The explanation did not appear
to be an easy one to give. Her eyes dropped to the ground. She hesitated
painfully.

“My name--if I mention it,” she resumed, without looking up, “may
possibly inform you--” She paused. Her color came and went. She
hesitated again; struggled with her agitation, and controlled it. “I am
Anne Silvester,” she said, suddenly raising her pale face, and suddenly
steadying her trembling voice.

Julius started, and looked at her in silent surprise.

The name was doubly known to him. Not long since, he had heard it from
his father’s lips, at his father’s bedside. Lord Holchester had charged
him, had earnestly charged him, to bear that name in mind, and to help
the woman who bore it, if the woman ever applied to him in time to come.
Again, he had heard the name, more lately, associated scandalously with
the name of his brother. On the receipt of the first of the anonymous
letters sent to her, Mrs. Glenarm had not only summoned Geoffrey himself
to refute the aspersion cast upon him, but had forwarded a private copy
of the letter to his relatives at Swanhaven. Geoffrey’s defense had not
entirely satisfied Julius that his brother was free from blame. As
he now looked at Anne Silvester, the doubt returned upon him
strengthened--almost confirmed. Was this woman--so modest, so gentle, so
simply and unaffectedly refined--the shameless adventuress denounced
by Geoffrey, as claiming him on the strength of a foolish flirtation;
knowing herself, at the time, to be privately married to another man?
Was this woman--with the voice of a lady, the look of a lady, the manner
of a lady--in league (as Geoffrey had declared) with the illiterate
vagabond who was attempting to extort money anonymously from Mrs.
Glenarm? Impossible! Making every allowance for the proverbial
deceitfulness of appearances, impossible!

“Your name has been mentioned to me,” said Julius, answering her after
a momentary pause. His instincts, as a gentleman, made him shrink from
referring to the association of her name with the name of his brother.
“My father mentioned you,” he added, considerately explaining his
knowledge of her in _that_ way, “when I last saw him in London.”

“Your father!” She came a step nearer, with a look of distrust as
well as a look of astonishment in her face. “Your father is Lord
Holchester--is he not?”

“Yes.”

“What made him speak of _me?_”

“He was ill at the time,” Julius answered. “And he had been thinking of
events in his past life with which I am entirely unacquainted. He said
he had known your father and mother. He desired me, if you were ever in
want of any assistance, to place my services at your disposal. When he
expressed that wish, he spoke very earnestly--he gave me the impression
that there was a feeling of regret associated with the recollections on
which he had been dwelling.”

Slowly, and in silence, Anne drew back to the low wall of the terrace
close by. She rested one hand on it to support herself. Julius had said
words of terrible import without a suspicion of what he had done. Never
until now had Anne Silvester known that the man who had betrayed her was
the son of that other man whose discovery of the flaw in the marriage
had ended in the betrayal of her mother before her. She felt the shock
of the revelation with a chill of superstitious dread. Was the chain of
a fatality wound invisibly round her? Turn which way she might was she
still going darkly on, in the track of her dead mother, to an appointed
and hereditary doom? Present things passed from her view as the awful
doubt cast its shadow over her mind. She lived again for a moment in
the time when she was a child. She saw the face of her mother once more,
with the wan despair on it of the bygone days when the title of wife was
denied her, and the social prospect was closed forever.

Julius approached, and roused her.

“Can I get you any thing?” he asked. “You are looking very ill. I hope I
have said nothing to distress you?”

The question failed to attract her attention. She put a question herself
instead of answering it.

“Did you say you were quite ignorant of what your father was thinking of
when he spoke to you about me?”

“Quite ignorant.”

“Is your brother likely to know more about it than you do?”

“Certainly not.”

She paused, absorbed once more in her own thoughts. Startled, on the
memorable day when they had first met, by Geoffrey’s family name, she
had put the question to him whether there had not been some acquaintance
between their parents in the past time. Deceiving her in all else,
he had not deceived in this. He had spoken in good faith, when he had
declared that he had never heard her father or her mother mentioned at
home.

The curiosity of Julius was aroused. He attempted to lead her on into
saying more.

“You appear to know what my father was thinking of when he spoke to me,”
 he resumed. “May I ask--”

She interrupted him with a gesture of entreaty.

“Pray don’t ask! It’s past and over--it can have no interest for you--it
has nothing to do with my errand here. I must return,” she went on,
hurriedly, “to my object in trespassing on your kindness. Have you heard
me mentioned, Mr. Delamayn, by another member of your family besides
your father?”

Julius had not anticipated that sh e would approach, of her own accord,
the painful subject on which he had himself forborne to touch. He was a
little disappointed. He had expected more delicacy of feeling from her
than she had shown.

“Is it necessary,” he asked, coldly, “to enter on that?”

The blood rose again in Anne’s cheeks.

“If it had not been necessary,” she answered, “do you think I could have
forced myself to mention it to _you?_ Let me remind you that I am here
on sufferance. If I don’t speak plainly (no matter at what sacrifice
to my own feelings), I make my situation more embarrassing than it is
already. I have something to tell Mrs. Glenarm relating to the anonymous
letters which she has lately received. And I have a word to say to her,
next, about her contemplated marriage. Before you allow me to do this,
you ought to know who I am. (I have owned it.) You ought to have heard
the worst that can be said of my conduct. (Your face tells me you have
heard the worst.) After the forbearance you have shown to me, as a
perfect stranger, I will not commit the meanness of taking you by
surprise. Perhaps, Mr. Delamayn, you understand, _now,_ why I felt
myself obliged to refer to your brother. Will you trust me with
permission to speak to Mrs. Glenarm?”

It was simply and modestly said--with an unaffected and touching
resignation of look and manner. Julius gave her back the respect and the
sympathy which, for a moment, he had unjustly withheld from her.

“You have placed a confidence in me,” he said “which most persons in
your situation would have withheld. I feel bound, in return to place
confidence in you. I will take it for granted that your motive in
this matter is one which it is my duty to respect. It will be for Mrs.
Glenarm to say whether she wishes the interview to take place or not.
All that I can do is to leave you free to propose it to her. You _are_
free.”

As he spoke the sound of the piano reached them from the music-room.
Julius pointed to the glass door which opened on to the terrace.

“You have only to go in by that door,” he said, “and you will find Mrs.
Glenarm alone.”

Anne bowed, and left him. Arrived at the short flight of steps which led
up to the door, she paused to collect her thoughts before she went in.



A sudden reluctance to go on and enter the room took possession of
her, as she waited with her foot on the lower step. The report of Mrs.
Glenarm’s contemplated marriage had produced no such effect on her as
Sir Patrick had supposed: it had found no love for Geoffrey left to
wound, no latent jealousy only waiting to be inflamed. Her object in
taking the journey to Perth was completed when her correspondence with
Geoffrey was in her own hands again. The change of purpose which
had brought her to Swanhaven was due entirely to the new view of her
position toward Mrs. Glenarm which the coarse commonsense of Bishopriggs
had first suggested to her. If she failed to protest against Mrs.
Glenarm’s marriage, in the interests of the reparation which Geoffrey
owed to her, her conduct would only confirm Geoffrey’s audacious
assertion that she was a married woman already. For her own sake
she might still have hesitated to move in the matter. But Blanche’s
interests were concerned as well as her own; and, for Blanche’s sake,
she had resolved on making the journey to Swanhaven Lodge.

At the same time, feeling toward Geoffrey as she felt now--conscious as
she was of not really desiring the reparation on which she was about
to insist--it was essential to the preservation of her own self-respect
that she should have some purpose in view which could justify her to her
own conscience in assuming the character of Mrs. Glenarm’s rival.

She had only to call to mind the critical situation of Blanche--and to
see her purpose before her plainly. Assuming that she could open the
coming interview by peaceably proving that her claim on Geoffrey was
beyond dispute, she might then, without fear of misconception, take the
tone of a friend instead of an enemy, and might, with the best grace,
assure Mrs. Glenarm that she had no rivalry to dread, on the one easy
condition that she engaged to make Geoffrey repair the evil that he had
done. “Marry him without a word against it to dread from _me_--so long
as he unsays the words and undoes the deeds which have thrown a doubt
on the marriage of Arnold and Blanche.” If she could but bring the
interview to this end--there was the way found of extricating Arnold, by
her own exertions, from the false position in which she had innocently
placed him toward his wife! Such was the object before her, as she now
stood on the brink of her interview with Mrs. Glenarm.

Up to this moment, she had firmly believed in her capacity to realize
her own visionary project. It was only when she had her foot on the step
that a doubt of the success of the coming experiment crossed her mind.
For the first time, she saw the weak point in her own reasoning. For
the first time, she felt how much she had blindly taken for granted, in
assuming that Mrs. Glenarm would have sufficient sense of justice and
sufficient command of temper to hear her patiently. All her hopes of
success rested on her own favorable estimate of a woman who was a total
stranger to her! What if the first words exchanged between them proved
the estimate to be wrong?

It was too late to pause and reconsider the position. Julius Delamayn
had noticed her hesitation, and was advancing toward her from the end
of the terrace. There was no help for it but to master her own
irresolution, and to run the risk boldly. “Come what may, I have gone
too far to stop _here._” With that desperate resolution to animate her,
she opened the glass door at the top of the steps, and went into the
room.



Mrs. Glenarm rose from the piano. The two women--one so richly, the
other so plainly dressed; one with her beauty in its full bloom, the
other worn and blighted; one with society at her feet, the other an
outcast living under the bleak shadow of reproach--the two women stood
face to face, and exchanged the cold courtesies of salute between
strangers, in silence.

The first to meet the trivial necessities of the situation was Mrs.
Glenarm. She good-humoredly put an end to the embarrassment--which the
shy visitor appeared to feel acutely--by speaking first.

“I am afraid the servants have not told you?” she said. “Mrs. Delamayn
has gone out.”

“I beg your pardon--I have not called to see Mrs. Delamayn.”

Mrs. Glenarm looked a little surprised. She went on, however, as amiably
as before.

“Mr. Delamayn, perhaps?” she suggested. “I expect him here every
moment.”

Anne explained again. “I have just parted from Mr. Delamayn.” Mrs.
Glenarm opened her eyes in astonishment. Anne proceeded. “I have come
here, if you will excuse the intrusion--”

She hesitated--at a loss how to end the sentence. Mrs. Glenarm,
beginning by this time to feel a strong curiosity as to what might be
coming next, advanced to the rescue once more.

“Pray don’t apologize,” she said. “I think I understand that you are
so good as to have come to see _me._ You look tired. Won’t you take a
chair?”

Anne could stand no longer. She took the offered chair. Mrs. Glenarm
resumed her place on the music-stool, and ran her fingers idly over the
keys of the piano. “Where did you see Mr. Delamayn?” she went on. “The
most irresponsible of men, except when he has got his fiddle in his
hand! Is he coming in soon? Are we going to have any music? Have you
come to play with us? Mr. Delamayn is a perfect fanatic in music, isn’t
he? Why isn’t he here to introduce us? I suppose you like the classical
style, too? Did you know that I was in the music-room? Might I ask your
name?”

Frivolous as they were, Mrs. Glenarm’s questions were not without their
use. They gave Anne time to summon her resolution, and to feel the
necessity of explaining herself.

“I am speaking, I believe, to Mrs. Glenarm?” she began.

The good-humored widow smiled and bowed graciously.

“I have come here, Mrs. Glenarm--by Mr. Delamayn’s permission--to ask
leave to speak to you on a matter in which you are interested.”

Mrs. Glenarm’s many-ringed fingers paused over the keys of the piano.
Mrs. Gle narm’s plump face turned on the stranger with a dawning
expression of surprise.

“Indeed? I am interested in so many matters. May I ask what _this_
matter is?”

The flippant tone of the speaker jarred on Anne. If Mrs. Glenarm’s
nature was as shallow as it appeared to be on the surface, there was
little hope of any sympathy establishing itself between them.

“I wished to speak to you,” she answered, “about something that happened
while you were paying a visit in the neighborhood of Perth.”

The dawning surprise in Mrs. Glenarm’s face became intensified into
an expression of distrust. Her hearty manner vanished under a veil
of conventional civility, drawn over it suddenly. She looked at Anne.
“Never at the best of times a beauty,” she thought. “Wretchedly out of
health now. Dressed like a servant, and looking like a lady. What _does_
it mean?”

The last doubt was not to be borne in silence by a person of Mrs.
Glenarm’s temperament. She addressed herself to the solution of it with
the most unblushing directness--dextrously excused by the most winning
frankness of manner.

“Pardon me,” she said. “My memory for faces is a bad one; and I don’t
think you heard me just now, when I asked for your name. Have we ever
met before?”

“Never.”

“And yet--if I understand what you are referring to--you wish to speak
to me about something which is only interesting to myself and my most
intimate friends.”

“You understand me quite correctly,” said Anne. “I wish to speak to you
about some anonymous letters--”

“For the third time, will you permit me to ask for your name?”

“You shall hear it directly--if you will first allow me to finish what
I wanted to say. I wish--if I can--to persuade you that I come here as a
friend, before I mention my name. You will, I am sure, not be very sorry
to hear that you need dread no further annoyance--”

“Pardon me once more,” said Mrs. Glenarm, interposing for the second
time. “I am at a loss to know to what I am to attribute this kind
interest in my affairs on the part of a total stranger.”

This time, her tone was more than politely cold--it was politely
impertinent. Mrs. Glenarm had lived all her life in good society, and
was a perfect mistress of the subtleties of refined insolence in her
intercourse with those who incurred her displeasure.

Anne’s sensitive nature felt the wound--but Anne’s patient courage
submitted. She put away from her the insolence which had tried to sting,
and went on, gently and firmly, as if nothing had happened.

“The person who wrote to you anonymously,” she said, “alluded to a
correspondence. He is no longer in possession of it. The correspondence
has passed into hands which may be trusted to respect it. It will be put
to no base use in the future--I answer for that.”

“You answer for that?” repeated Mrs. Glenarm. She suddenly leaned
forward over the piano, and fixed her eyes in unconcealed scrutiny on
Anne’s face. The violent temper, so often found in combination with the
weak nature, began to show itself in her rising color, and her lowering
brow. “How do _you_ know what the person wrote?” she asked. “How do
_you_ know that the correspondence has passed into other hands? Who are
you?” Before Anne could answer her, she sprang to her feet, electrified
by a new idea. “The man who wrote to me spoke of something else besides
a correspondence. He spoke of a woman. I have found you out!” she
exclaimed, with a burst of jealous fury. “_You_ are the woman!”

Anne rose on her side, still in firm possession of her self-control.

“Mrs. Glenarm,” she said, calmly, “I warn--no, I entreat you--not to
take that tone with me. Compose yourself; and I promise to satisfy you
that you are more interested than you are willing to believe in what I
have still to say. Pray bear with me for a little longer. I admit that
you have guessed right. I own that I am the miserable woman who has been
ruined and deserted by Geoffrey Delamayn.”

“It’s false!” cried Mrs. Glenarm. “You wretch! Do you come to _me_ with
your trumped-up story? What does Julius Delamayn mean by exposing me
to this?” Her indignation at finding herself in the same room with Anne
broke its way through, not the restraints only, but the common decencies
of politeness. “I’ll ring for the servants!” she said. “I’ll have you
turned out of the house.”

She tried to cross the fire-place to ring the bell. Anne, who was
standing nearest to it, stepped forward at the same moment. Without
saying a word, she motioned with her hand to the other woman to stand
back. There was a pause. The two waited, with their eyes steadily fixed
on one another--each with her resolution laid bare to the other’s view.
In a moment more, the finer nature prevailed. Mrs. Glenarm drew back a
step in silence.

“Listen to me,” said Anne.

“Listen to you?” repeated Mrs. Glenarm. “You have no right to be in this
house. You have no right to force yourself in here. Leave the room!”

Anne’s patience--so firmly and admirably preserved thus far--began to
fail her at last.

“Take care, Mrs. Glenarm!” she said, still struggling with herself.
“I am not naturally a patient woman. Trouble has done much to tame my
temper--but endurance has its limits. You have reached the limits of
mine. I have a claim to be heard--and after what you have said to me, I
_will_ be heard!”

“You have no claim! You shameless woman, you are married already. I know
the man’s name. Arnold Brinkworth.”

“Did Geoffrey Delamayn tell you that?”

“I decline to answer a woman who speaks of Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn in that
familiar way.”

Anne advanced a step nearer.

“Did Geoffrey Delamayn tell you that?” she repeated.

There was a light in her eyes, there was a ring in her voice, which
showed that she was roused at last. Mrs. Glenarm answered her, this
time.

“He did tell me.”

“He lied!”

“He did _not!_ He knew. I believe _him._ I don’t believe _you._”

“If he told you that I was any thing but a single woman--if he told
you that Arnold Brinkworth was married to any body but Miss Lundie of
Windygates--I say again he lied!”

“I say again--I believe _him,_ and not you.”

“You believe I am Arnold Brinkworth’s wife?”

“I am certain of it.”

“You tell me that to my face?”

“I tell you to your face--you may have been Geoffrey Delamayn’s
mistress; you are Arnold Brinkworth’s wife.”

At those words the long restrained anger leaped up in Anne--all the more
hotly for having been hitherto so steadily controlled. In one breathless
moment the whirlwind of her indignation swept away, not only all
remembrance of the purpose which had brought her to Swanhaven, but
all sense even of the unpardonable wrong which she had suffered at
Geoffrey’s hands. If he had been there, at that moment, and had offered
to redeem his pledge, she would have consented to marry him, while Mrs.
Glenarm s eye was on her--no matter whether she destroyed herself in her
first cool moment afterward or not. The small sting had planted itself
at last in the great nature. The noblest woman is only a woman, after
all!

“I forbid your marriage to Geoffrey Delamayn! I insist on his performing
the promise he gave me, to make me his wife! I have got it here in his
own words, in his own writing. On his soul, he swears it to me--he will
redeem his pledge. His mistress, did you say? His wife, Mrs. Glenarm,
before the week is out!”

In those wild words she cast back the taunt--with the letter held in
triumph in her hand.

Daunted for the moment by the doubt now literally forced on her, that
Anne might really have the claim on Geoffrey which she advanced, Mrs.
Glenarm answered nevertheless with the obstinacy of a woman brought to
bay--with a resolution not to be convinced by conviction itself.

“I won’t give him up!” she cried. “Your letter is a forgery. You have
no proof. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t give him up!” she repeated, with the
impotent iteration of an angry child.

Anne pointed disdainfully to the letter that she held. “Here is his
pledged and written word,” she said. “While I live, you will never be
his wife.”

“I shall be his wife the day after the race. I am going to him in
London--to warn him against You!”

“You will find me in London, before you--with this in my hand. Do you
know his writing?”

She held up the letter, open. Mrs. Glenarm’s hand flew out with the
stealthy rapidity of a cat’s paw, to seize and destroy it. Quick as she
was, her rival was quicker still. For an instant they faced each other
breathless--one with the letter held behind her; one with her hand still
stretched out.

At the same moment--before a word more had passed between them--the
glass door opened; and Julius Delamayn appeared in the room.

He addressed himself to Anne.

“We decided, on the terrace,” he said, quietly, “that you should speak
to Mrs. Glenarm, if Mrs. Glenarm wished it. Do you think it desirable
that the interview should be continued any longer?”

Anne’s head drooped on her breast. The fiery anger in her was quenched
in an instant.

“I have been cruelly provoked, Mr. Delamayn,” she answered. “But I have
no right to plead that.” She looked up at him for a moment. The hot
tears of shame gathered in her eyes, and fell slowly over her cheeks.
She bent her head again, and hid them from him. “The only atonement I
can make,” she said, “is to ask your pardon, and to leave the house.”

In silence, she turned away to the door. In silence, Julius Delamayn
paid her the trifling courtesy of opening it for her. She went out.

Mrs. Glenarm’s indignation--suspended for the moment--transferred itself
to Julius.

“If I have been entrapped into seeing that woman, with your approval,”
 she said, haughtily, “I owe it to myself, Mr. Delamayn, to follow her
example, and to leave your house.”

“I authorized her to ask you for an interview, Mrs. Glenarm. If she has
presumed on the permission that I gave her, I sincerely regret it, and I
beg you to accept my apologies. At the same time, I may venture to add,
in defense of my conduct, that I thought her--and think her still--a
woman to be pitied more than to be blamed.”

“To be pitied did you say?” asked Mrs. Glenarm, doubtful whether her
ears had not deceived her.

“To be pitied,” repeated Julius.

“_You_ may find it convenient, Mr. Delamayn, to forget what your brother
has told us about that person. _I_ happen to remember it.”

“So do I, Mrs. Glenarm. But, with my experience of Geoffrey--” He
hesitated, and ran his fingers nervously over the strings of his violin.

“You don’t believe him?” said Mrs. Glenarm.

Julius declined to admit that he doubted his brother’s word, to the lady
who was about to become his brother’s wife.

“I don’t quite go that length,” he said. “I find it difficult to
reconcile what Geoffrey has told us, with Miss Silvester’s manner and
appearance--”

“Her appearance!” cried Mrs. Glenarm, in a transport of astonishment and
disgust. “_Her_ appearance! Oh, the men! I beg your pardon--I ought to
have remembered that there is no accounting for tastes. Go on--pray go
on!”

“Shall we compose ourselves with a little music?” suggested Julius.

“I particularly request you will go on,” answered Mrs. Glenarm,
emphatically. “You find it ‘impossible to reconcile’--”

“I said ‘difficult.’”

“Oh, very well. Difficult to reconcile what Geoffrey told us, with Miss
Silvester’s manner and appearance. What next? You had something else to
say, when I was so rude as to interrupt you. What was it?”

“Only this,” said Julius. “I don’t find it easy to understand Sir
Patrick Lundie’s conduct in permitting Mr. Brinkworth to commit bigamy
with his niece.”

“Wait a minute! The marriage of that horrible woman to Mr. Brinkworth
was a private marriage. Of course, Sir Patrick knew nothing about it!”

Julius owned that this might be possible, and made a second attempt to
lead the angry lady back to the piano. Useless, once more! Though she
shrank from confessing it to herself, Mrs. Glenarm’s belief in the
genuineness of her lover’s defense had been shaken. The tone taken by
Julius--moderate as it was--revived the first startling suspicion of the
credibility of Geoffrey’s statement which Anne’s language and conduct
had forced on Mrs. Glenarm. She dropped into the nearest chair, and
put her handkerchief to her eyes. “You always hated poor Geoffrey,” she
said, with a burst of tears. “And now you’re defaming him to me!”

Julius managed her admirably. On the point of answering her seriously,
he checked himself. “I always hated poor Geoffrey,” he repeated, with
a smile. “You ought to be the last person to say that, Mrs. Glenarm!
I brought him all the way from London expressly to introduce him to
_you._”

“Then I wish you had left him in London!” retorted Mrs. Glenarm,
shifting suddenly from tears to temper. “I was a happy woman before I
met your brother. I can’t give him up!” she burst out, shifting back
again from temper to tears. “I don’t care if he _has_ deceived me.
I won’t let another woman have him! I _will_ be his wife!” She threw
herself theatrically on her knees before Julius. “Oh, _do_ help me to
find out the truth!” she said. “Oh, Julius, pity me! I am so fond of
him!”

There was genuine distress in her face, there was true feeling in her
voice. Who would have believed that there were reserves of merciless
insolence and heartless cruelty in this woman--and that they had been
lavishly poured out on a fallen sister not five minutes since?

“I will do all I can,” said Julius, raising her. “Let us talk of it when
you are more composed. Try a little music,” he repeated, “just to quiet
your nerves.”

“Would _you_ like me to play?” asked Mrs. Glenarm, becoming a model of
feminine docility at a moment’s notice.

Julius opened the Sonatas of Mozart, and shouldered his violin.

“Let’s try the Fifteenth,” he said, placing Mrs. Glenarm at the piano.
“We will begin with the Adagio. If ever there was divine music written
by mortal man, there it is!”

They began. At the third bar Mrs. Glenarm dropped a note--and the bow of
Julius paused shuddering on the strings.

“I can’t play!” she said. “I am so agitated; I am so anxious. How _am_ I
to find out whether that wretch is really married or not? Who can I ask?
I can’t go to Geoffrey in London--the trainers won’t let me see him. I
can’t appeal to Mr. Brinkworth himself--I am not even acquainted with
him. Who else is there? Do think, and tell me!”

There was but one chance of making her return to the Adagio--the chance
of hitting on a suggestion which would satisfy and quiet her. Julius
laid his violin on the piano, and considered the question before him
carefully.

“There are the witnesses,” he said. “If Geoffrey’s story is to be
depended on, the landlady and the waiter at the inn can speak to the
facts.”

“Low people!” objected Mrs. Glenarm. “People I don’t know. People who
might take advantage of my situation, and be insolent to me.”

Julius considered once more; and made another suggestion. With the fatal
ingenuity of innocence, he hit on the idea of referring Mrs. Glenarm to
no less a person than Lady Lundie herself!

“There is our good friend at Windygates,” he said. “Some whisper of the
matter may have reached Lady Lundie’s ears. It may be a little awkward
to call on her (if she _has_ heard any thing) at the time of a serious
family disaster. You are the best judge of that, however. All I can do
is to throw out the notion. Windygates isn’t very far off--and something
might come of it. What do you think?”

Something might come of it! Let it be remembered that Lady Lundie had
been left entirely in the dark--that she had written to Sir Patrick in
a tone which plainly showed that her self-esteem was wounded and her
suspicion roused--and that her first intimation of the serious dilemma
in which Arnold Brinkworth stood was now likely, thanks to Julius
Delamayn, to reach her from the lips of a mere acquaintance. Let this
be remembered; and then let the estimate be formed of what might come of
it--not at Windygates only, but also at Ham Farm!

“What do you think?” asked Julius.

Mrs. Glenarm was enchanted. “The very person to go to!” she said. “If I
am not let in I can easily write--and explain my object as an apology.
Lady Lundie is so right-minded, so sympathetic. If she sees no one
else--I have only to confide my anxieties to her, and I am sure she will
see me. You will lend me a carriage, won’t you? I’ll go to Windygates
to-morrow.”

Julius took his violin off the pi ano.

“Don’t think me very troublesome,” he said coaxingly. “Between this and
to-morrow we have nothing to do. And it is _such_ music, if you once get
into the swing of it! Would you mind trying again?”

Mrs. Glenarm was willing to do any thing to prove her gratitude, after
the invaluable hint which she had just received. At the second trial the
fair pianist’s eye and hand were in perfect harmony. The lovely melody
which the Adagio of Mozart’s Fifteenth Sonata has given to violin and
piano flowed smoothly at last--and Julius Delamayn soared to the seventh
heaven of musical delight.


The next day Mrs. Glenarm and Mrs. Delamayn went together to Windygates
House.



TENTH SCENE--THE BEDROOM.



CHAPTER THE FORTY-FIRST.

LADY LUNDIE DOES HER DUTY.

THE scene opens on a bedroom--and discloses, in broad daylight, a lady
in bed.

Persons with an irritable sense of propriety, whose self-appointed duty
it is to be always crying out, are warned to pause before they cry out
on this occasion. The lady now presented to view being no less a person
than Lady Lundie herself, it follows, as a matter of course, that the
utmost demands of propriety are, by the mere assertion of that fact,
abundantly and indisputably satisfied. To say that any thing short of
direct moral advantage could, by any possibility, accrue to any living
creature by the presentation of her ladyship in a horizontal, instead
of a perpendicular position, is to assert that Virtue is a question of
posture, and that Respectability ceases to assert itself when it ceases
to appear in morning or evening dress. Will any body be bold enough to
say that? Let nobody cry out, then, on the present occasion.



Lady Lundie was in bed.

Her ladyship had received Blanche’s written announcement of the
sudden stoppage of the bridal tour; and had penned the answer to Sir
Patrick--the receipt of which at Ham Farm has been already described.
This done, Lady Lundie felt it due to herself to take a becoming
position in her own house, pending the possible arrival of Sir Patrick’s
reply. What does a right-minded woman do, when she has reason to believe
that she is cruelly distrusted by the members of her own family? A
right-minded woman feels it so acutely that she falls ill. Lady Lundie
fell ill accordingly.

The case being a serious one, a medical practitioner of the highest
grade in the profession was required to treat it. A physician from the
neighboring town of Kirkandrew was called in.

The physician came in a carriage and pair, with the necessary bald head,
and the indispensable white cravat. He felt her ladyship’s pulse, and
put a few gentle questions. He turned his back solemnly, as only a great
doctor can, on his own positive internal conviction that his patient had
nothing whatever the matter with her. He said, with every appearance of
believing in himself, “Nerves, Lady Lundie. Repose in bed is essentially
necessary. I will write a prescription.” He prescribed, with perfect
gravity: Aromatic Spirits of Ammonia--16 drops. Spirits of Red
Lavender--10 drops. Syrup of Orange Peel--2 drams. Camphor Julep--1
ounce. When he had written, Misce fiat Hanstus (instead of Mix a
Draught)--when he had added, Ter die Sumendus (instead of To be taken
Three times a day)--and when he had certified to his own Latin, by
putting his initials at the end, he had only to make his bow; to slip
two guineas into his pocket; and to go his way, with an approving
professional conscience, in the character of a physician who had done
his duty.

Lady Lundie was in bed. The visible part of her ladyship was perfectly
attired, with a view to the occasion. A fillet of superb white lace
encircled her head. She wore an adorable invalid jacket of white
cambric, trimmed with lace and pink ribbons. The rest was--bed-clothes.
On a table at her side stood the Red Lavender Draught--in color soothing
to the eye; in flavor not unpleasant to the taste. A book of devotional
character was near it. The domestic ledgers, and the kitchen report
for the day, were ranged modestly behind the devout book. (Not even
her ladyship’s nerves, observe, were permitted to interfere with her
ladyship’s duty.) A fan, a smelling-bottle, and a handkerchief lay
within reach on the counterpane. The spacious room was partially
darkened. One of the lower windows was open, affording her ladyship the
necessary cubic supply of air. The late Sir Thomas looked at his widow,
in effigy, from the wall opposite the end of the bed. Not a chair was
out of its place; not a vestige of wearing apparel dared to show itself
outside the sacred limits of the wardrobe and the drawers. The sparkling
treasures of the toilet-table glittered in the dim distance, The jugs
and basins were of a rare and creamy white; spotless and beautiful to
see. Look where you might, you saw a perfect room. Then look at the
bed--and you saw a perfect woman, and completed the picture.



It was the day after Anne’s appearance at Swanhaven--toward the end of
the afternoon.

Lady Lundie’s own maid opened the door noiselessly, and stole on tip-toe
to the bedside. Her ladyship’s eyes were closed. Her ladyship suddenly
opened them.

“Not asleep, Hopkins. Suffering. What is it?”

Hopkins laid two cards on the counterpane. “Mrs. Delamayn, my lady--and
Mrs. Glenarm.”

“They were told I was ill, of course?”

“Yes, my lady. Mrs. Glenarm sent for me. She went into the library,
and wrote this note.” Hopkins produced the note, neatly folded in
three-cornered form.

“Have they gone?”

“No, my lady. Mrs. Glenarm told me Yes or No would do for answer, if you
could only have the goodness to read this.”

“Thoughtless of Mrs. Glenarm--at a time when the doctor insists on
perfect repose,” said Lady Lundie. “It doesn’t matter. One sacrifice
more or less is of very little consequence.”

She fortified herself by an application of the smelling-bottle, and
opened the note. It ran thus:

“So grieved, dear Lady Lundie, to hear that you are a prisoner in your
room! I had taken the opportunity of calling with Mrs. Delamayn, in the
hope that I might be able to ask you a question. Will your inexhaustible
kindness forgive me if I ask it in writing? Have you had any unexpected
news of Mr. Arnold Brinkworth lately? I mean, have you heard any thing
about him, which has taken you very much by surprise? I have a serious
reason for asking this. I will tell you what it is, the moment you are
able to see me. Until then, one word of answer is all I expect. Send
word down--Yes, or No. A thousand apologies--and pray get better soon!”

The singular question contained in this note suggested one of two
inferences to Lady Lundie’s mind. Either Mrs. Glenarm had heard a report
of the unexpected return of the married couple to England--or she was in
the far more interesting and important position of possessing a clew
to the secret of what was going on under the surface at Ham Farm. The
phrase used in the note, “I have a serious reason for asking this,”
 appeared to favor the latter of the two interpretations. Impossible as
it seemed to be that Mrs. Glenarm could know something about Arnold of
which Lady Lundie was in absolute ignorance, her ladyship’s curiosity
(already powerfully excited by Blanche’s mysterious letter) was only
to be quieted by obtaining the necessary explanation forthwith, at a
personal interview.

“Hopkins,” she said, “I must see Mrs. Glenarm.”

Hopkins respectfully held up her hands in horror. Company in the bedroom
in the present state of her ladyship’s health!

“A matter of duty is involved in this, Hopkins. Give me the glass.”

Hopkins produced an elegant little hand-mirror. Lady Lundie carefully
surveyed herself in it down to the margin of the bedclothes. Above
criticism in every respect? Yes--even when the critic was a woman.

“Show Mrs. Glenarm up here.”

In a minute or two more the iron-master’s widow fluttered into
the room--a little over-dressed as usual; and a little profuse in
expressions of gratitude for her ladyship’s kindness, and of anxiety
about her ladyship’s health. Lady Lundie endured it as long as she
could--then stopped it with a gesture of polite remonstrance, and came
to the point.

“Now, my dear--about this question in your note? Is it possible you have
heard already that Arnold Brinkworth and his wife have come back from
Baden?” Mrs. Glenarm opened her eyes in astonishment. Lady Lundie put it
more plainly. “They were to have gone on to Switzerland, you know, for
their wedding tour, and they suddenly altered their minds, and came back
to England on Sunday last.”

“Dear Lady Lundie, it’s not that! Have you heard nothing about Mr.
Brinkworth except what you have just told me?”

“Nothing.”

There was a pause. Mrs. Glenarm toyed hesitatingly with her parasol.
Lady Lundie leaned forward in the bed, and looked at her attentively.

“What have _you_ heard about him?” she asked.

Mrs. Glenarm was embarrassed. “It’s so difficult to say,” she began.

“I can bear any thing but suspense,” said Lady Lundie. “Tell me the
worst.”

Mrs. Glenarm decided to risk it. “Have you never heard,” she asked,
“that Mr. Brinkworth might possibly have committed himself with another
lady before he married Miss Lundie?”

Her ladyship first closed her eyes in horror and then searched blindly
on the counterpane for the smelling-bottle. Mrs. Glenarm gave it to her,
and waited to see how the invalid bore it before she said any more.

“There are things one _must_ hear,” remarked Lady Lundie. “I see an act
of duty involved in this. No words can describe how you astonish me. Who
told you?”

“Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn told me.”

Her ladyship applied for the second time to the smelling-bottle. “Arnold
Brinkworth’s most intimate friend!” she exclaimed. “He ought to know if
any body does. This is dreadful. Why should Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn tell
_you?_”

“I am going to marry him,” answered Mrs. Glenarm. “That is my excuse,
dear Lady Lundie, for troubling you in this matter.”

Lady Lundie partially opened her eyes in a state of faint bewilderment.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “For Heaven’s sake explain yourself!”

“Haven’t you heard about the anonymous letters?” asked Mrs. Glenarm.

Yes. Lady Lundie had heard about the letters. But only what the public
in general had heard. The name of the lady in the background not
mentioned; and Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn assumed to be as innocent as the
babe unborn. Any mistake in that assumption? “Give me your hand, my poor
dear, and confide it all to _me!_”

“He is not quite innocent,” said Mrs. Glenarm. “He owned to a foolish
flirtation--all _her_ doing, no doubt. Of course, I insisted on a
distinct explanation. Had she really any claim on him? Not the shadow of
a claim. I felt that I only had his word for that--and I told him so.
He said he could prove it--he said he knew her to be privately married
already. Her husband had disowned and deserted her; she was at the
end of her resources; she was desperate enough to attempt any thing. I
thought it all very suspicious--until Geoffrey mentioned the man’s name.
_That_ certainly proved that he had cast off his wife; for I myself knew
that he had lately married another person.”

Lady Lundie suddenly started up from her pillow--honestly agitated;
genuinely alarmed by this time.

“Mr. Delamayn told you the man’s name?” she said, breathlessly.

“Yes.”

“Do I know it?”

“Don’t ask me!”

Lady Lundie fell back on the pillow.

Mrs. Glenarm rose to ring for help. Before she could touch the bell, her
ladyship had rallied again.

“Stop!” she cried. “I can confirm it! It’s true, Mrs. Glenarm! it’s
true! Open the silver box on the toilet-table--you will find the key in
it. Bring me the top letter. Here! Look at it. I got this from Blanche.
Why have they suddenly given up their bridal tour? Why have they gone
back to Sir Patrick at Ham Farm? Why have they put me off with an
infamous subterfuge to account for it? I felt sure something dreadful
had happened. Now I know what it is!” She sank back again, with closed
eyes, and repeated the words, in a fierce whisper, to herself. “Now I
know what it is!”

Mrs. Glenarm read the letter. The reason given for the suspiciously
sudden return of the bride and bridegroom was palpably a
subterfuge--and, more remarkable still, the name of Anne Silvester was
connected with it. Mrs. Glenarm became strongly agitated on her side.

“This _is_ a confirmation,” she said. “Mr. Brinkworth has been found
out--the woman _is_ married to him--Geoffrey is free. Oh, my dear
friend, what a load of anxiety you have taken off my mind! That vile
wretch--”

Lady Lundie suddenly opened her eyes.

“Do you mean,” she asked, “the woman who is at the bottom of all the
mischief?”

“Yes. I saw her yesterday. She forced herself in at Swanhaven. She
called him Geoffrey Delamayn. She declared herself a single woman. She
claimed him before my face in the most audacious manner. She shook my
faith, Lady Lundie--she shook my faith in Geoffrey!”

“Who is she?”

“Who?” echoed Mrs. Glenarm. “Don’t you even know that? Why her name is
repeated half a dozen times in this letter!”

Lady Lundie uttered a scream that rang through the room. Mrs. Glenarm
started to her feet. The maid appeared at the door in terror. Her
ladyship motioned to the woman to withdraw again instantly, and then
pointed to Mrs. Glenarm’s chair.

“Sit down,” she said. “Let me have a minute or two of quiet. I want
nothing more.”

The silence in the room was unbroken until Lady Lundie spoke again.
She asked for Blanche’s letter. After reading it carefully, she laid it
aside, and fell for a while into deep thought.

“I have done Blanche an injustice!” she exclaimed. “My poor Blanche!”

“You think she knows nothing about it?”

“I am certain of it! You forget, Mrs. Glenarm, that this horrible
discovery casts a doubt on my step-daughter’s marriage. Do you think, if
she knew the truth, she would write of a wretch who has mortally injured
her as she writes here? They have put her off with the excuse that
she innocently sends to _me._ I see it as plainly as I see you! Mr.
Brinkworth and Sir Patrick are in league to keep us both in the dark.
Dear child! I owe her an atonement. If nobody else opens her eyes, I
will do it. Sir Patrick shall find that Blanche has a friend in Me!”

A smile--the dangerous smile of an inveterately vindictive woman
thoroughly roused--showed itself with a furtive suddenness on her face.
Mrs. Glenarm was a little startled. Lady Lundie below the surface--as
distinguished from Lady Lundie _on_ the surface--was not a pleasant
object to contemplate.

“Pray try to compose yourself,” said Mrs. Glenarm. “Dear Lady Lundie,
you frighten me!”

The bland surface of her ladyship appeared smoothly once more; drawn
back, as it were, over the hidden inner self, which it had left for the
moment exposed to view.

“Forgive me for feeling it!” she said, with the patient sweetness which
so eminently distinguished her in times of trial. “It falls a little
heavily on a poor sick woman--innocent of all suspicion, and insulted by
the most heartless neglect. Don’t let me distress you. I shall rally, my
dear; I shall rally! In this dreadful calamity--this abyss of crime and
misery and deceit--I have no one to depend on but myself. For Blanche’s
sake, the whole thing must be cleared up--probed, my dear, probed to the
depths. Blanche must take a position that is worthy of her. Blanche must
insist on her rights, under My protection. Never mind what I suffer, or
what I sacrifice. There is a work of justice for poor weak Me to do.
It shall be done!” said her ladyship, fanning herself with an aspect of
illimitable resolution. “It shall be done!”

“But, Lady Lundie what can you do? They are all away in the south. And
as for that abominable woman--”

Lady Lundie touched Mrs. Glenarm on the shoulder with her fan.

“I have my surprise in store, dear friend, as well as you. That
abominable woman was employed as Blanche’s governess in this house.
Wait! that is not all. She left us suddenly--ran away--on the pretense
of being privately married. I know where she went. I can trace what
she did. I can find out who was with her. I can follow Mr. Brinkworth’s
proceedings, behind Mr. Brinkworth’s back. I can search out the truth,
without depending on people compromised in this black business, whose
interest it is to deceive me. And I will do it to-day!” She closed the
fan with a sharp snap of triumph, and settled herself on the pillow in
placid enjoyment of her dear friend’s surprise.

Mrs. Glenarm drew confidentially closer to the bedside. “How can you
manage it?” she asked, eagerly. “Don’t think me curious. I have my
interest, too, in getting at the truth. Don’t leave me out of it, pray!”

“Can you come back to-morrow, at this time?”

“Yes! yes!”

“Come, then--and you shall know.”

“Can I be of any use?”

“Not at present.”

“Can my uncle be of any use?”

“Do you know where to communicate with Captain Newenden?”

“Yes--he is staying with some friends in Sussex.”

“We may possibly want his assistance. I can’t tell yet. Don’t keep Mrs.
Delamayn waiting any longer, my dear. I shall expect you to-morrow.”

They exchanged an affectionate embrace. Lady Lundie was left alone.

Her ladyship resigned herself to meditation, with frowning brow and
close-shut lips. She looked her full age, and a year or two more, as she
lay thinking, with her head on her hand, and her elbow on the pillow.
After committing herself to the physician (and to the red lavender
draught) the commonest regard for consistency made it necessary that
she should keep her bed for that day. And yet it was essential that the
proposed inquiries should be instantly set on foot. On the one hand, the
problem was not an easy one to solve; on the other, her ladyship was
not an easy one to beat. How to send for the landlady at Craig Fernie,
without exciting any special suspicion or remark--was the question
before her. In less than five minutes she had looked back into her
memory of current events at Windygates--and had solved it.

Her first proceeding was to ring the bell for her maid.

“I am afraid I frightened you, Hopkins. The state of my nerves. Mrs.
Glenarm was a little sudden with some news that surprised me. I am
better now--and able to attend to the household matters. There is a
mistake in the butcher’s account. Send the cook here.”

She took up the domestic ledger and the kitchen report; corrected the
butcher; cautioned the cook; and disposed of all arrears of domestic
business before Hopkins was summoned again. Having, in this way,
dextrously prevented the woman from connecting any thing that her
mistress said or did, after Mrs. Glenarm’s departure, with any thing
that might have passed during Mrs. Glenarm’s visit, Lady Lundie felt
herself at liberty to pave the way for the investigation on which she
was determined to enter before she slept that night.

“So much for the indoor arrangements,” she said. “You must be my prime
minister, Hopkins, while I lie helpless here. Is there any thing wanted
by the people out of doors? The coachman? The gardener?”

“I have just seen the gardener, my lady. He came with last week’s
accounts. I told him he couldn’t see your ladyship to-day.”

“Quite right. Had he any report to make?”

“No, my lady.”

“Surely, there was something I wanted to say to him--or to somebody
else? My memorandum-book, Hopkins. In the basket, on that chair. Why
wasn’t the basket placed by my bedside?”

Hopkins brought the memorandum-book. Lady Lundie consulted it (without
the slightest necessity), with the same masterly gravity exhibited
by the doctor when he wrote her prescription (without the slightest
necessity also).

“Here it is,” she said, recovering the lost remembrance. “Not the
gardener, but the gardener’s wife. A memorandum to speak to her about
Mrs. Inchbare. Observe, Hopkins, the association of ideas. Mrs. Inchbare
is associated with the poultry; the poultry are associated with
the gardener’s wife; the gardener’s wife is associated with the
gardener--and so the gardener gets into my head. Do you see it? I am
always trying to improve your mind. You do see it? Very well. Now about
Mrs. Inchbare? Has she been here again?”

“No, my lady.”

“I am not at all sure, Hopkins, that I was right in declining to
consider the message Mrs. Inchbare sent to me about the poultry. Why
shouldn’t she offer to take any fowls that I can spare off my hands? She
is a respectable woman; and it is important to me to live on good terms
with al my neighbors, great and small. Has she got a poultry-yard of her
own at Craig Fernie?”

“Yes, my lady. And beautifully kept, I am told.”

“I really don’t see--on reflection, Hopkins--why I should hesitate to
deal with Mrs. Inchbare. (I don’t think it beneath me to sell the game
killed on my estate to the poulterer.) What was it she wanted to buy?
Some of my black Spanish fowls?”

“Yes, my lady. Your ladyship’s black Spaniards are famous all round the
neighborhood. Nobody has got the breed. And Mrs. Inchbare--”

“Wants to share the distinction of having the breed with me,” said Lady
Lundie. “I won’t appear ungracious. I will see her myself, as soon as I
am a little better, and tell her that I have changed my mind. Send
one of the men to Craig Fernie with a message. I can’t keep a trifling
matter of this sort in my memory--send him at once, or I may forget it.
He is to say I am willing to see Mrs. Inchbare, about the fowls, the
first time she finds it convenient to come this way.”

“I am afraid, my lady--Mrs. Inchbare’s heart is so set on the black
Spaniards--she will find it convenient to come this way at once as fast
as her feet can carry her.”

“In that case, you must take her to the gardener’s wife. Say she is to
have some eggs--on condition, of course, of paying the price for them.
If she does come, mind I hear of it.”

Hopkins withdrew. Hopkins’s mistress reclined on her comfortable pillows
and fanned herself gently. The vindictive smile reappeared on her face.
“I fancy I shall be well enough to see Mrs. Inchbare,” she thought to
herself. “And it is just possible that the conversation may get beyond
the relative merits of her poultry-yard and mine.”



A lapse of little more than two hours proved Hopkins’s estimate of the
latent enthusiasm in Mrs. Inchbare’s character to have been correctly
formed. The eager landlady appeared at Windygates on the heels of the
returning servant. Among the long list of human weaknesses, a passion
for poultry seems to have its practical advantages (in the shape
of eggs) as compared with the more occult frenzies for collecting
snuff-boxes and fiddles, and amassing autographs and old postage-stamps.
When the mistress of Craig Fernie was duly announced to the mistress of
Windygates, Lady Lundie developed a sense of humor for the first time
in her life. Her ladyship was feebly merry (the result, no doubt, of the
exhilarating properties of the red lavender draught) on the subject of
Mrs. Inchbare and the Spanish fowls.

“Most ridiculous, Hopkins! This poor woman must be suffering from
a determination of poultry to the brain. Ill as I am, I should have
thought that nothing could amuse me. But, really, this good creature
starting up, and rushing here, as you say, as fast as her feet can carry
her--it’s impossible to resist it! I positively think I must see
Mrs. Inchbare. With my active habits, this imprisonment to my room is
dreadful. I can neither sleep nor read. Any thing, Hopkins, to divert my
mind from myself: It’s easy to get rid of her if she is too much for me.
Send her up.”

Mrs. Inchbare made her appearance, courtesying deferentially; amazed at
the condescension which admitted her within the hallowed precincts of
Lady Lundie’s room.

“Take a chair,” said her ladyship, graciously. “I am suffering from
illness, as you perceive.”

“My certie! sick or well, yer leddyship’s a braw sight to see!” returned
Mrs. Inchbare profoundly impressed by the elegant costume which illness
assumes when illness appears in the regions of high life.

“I am far from being in a fit state to receive any body,” proceeded Lady
Lundie. “But I had a motive for wishing to speak to you when you next
came to my house. I failed to treat a proposal you made to me, a short
time since, in a friendly and neighborly way. I beg you to understand
that I regret having forgotten the consideration due from a person in
my position to a person in yours. I am obliged to say this under very
unusual circumstances,” added her ladyship, with a glance round her
magnificent bedroom, “through your unexpected promptitude in favoring me
with a call. You have lost no time, Mrs. Inchbare, in profiting by the
message which I had the pleasure of sending to you.”

“Eh, my leddy, I wasna’ that sure (yer leddyship having ance changed yer
mind) but that ye might e’en change again if I failed to strike, as they
say, while the iron’s het. I crave yer pardon, I’m sure, if I ha’
been ower hasty. The pride o’ my hairt’s in my powltry--and the black
Spaniards’ (as they ca’ them) are a sair temptation to me to break the
tenth commandment, sae lang as they’re a’ in yer leddyship’s possession,
and nane o’ them in mine.”

“I am shocked to hear that I have been the innocent cause of your
falling into temptation, Mrs. Inchbare! Make your proposal--and I shall
be happy to meet it, if I can.”

“I must e’en be content wi’ what yer leddyship will condescend on. A
haitch o’ eggs if I can come by naething else.”

“There is something else you would prefer to a hatch of eggs?”

“I wad prefer,” said Mrs. Inchbare, modestly, “a cock and twa pullets.”

“Open the case on the table behind you,” said Lady Lundie, “and you will
find some writing paper inside. Give me a sheet of it--and the pencil
out of the tray.”

Eagerly watched by Mrs. Inchbare, she wrote an order to the
poultry-woman, and held it out with a gracious smile.

“Take that to the gardener’s wife. If you agree with her about the
price, you can have the cock and the two pullets.”

Mrs. Inchbare opened her lips--no doubt to express the utmost extremity
of human gratitude. Before she had said three words, Lady Lundie’s
impatience to reach the end which she had kept in view from the
time when Mrs. Glenarm had left the house burst the bounds which had
successfully restrained it thus far. Stopping the landlady without
ceremony, she fairly forced the conversation to the subject of Anne
Silvester’s proceedings at the Craig Fernie inn.

“How are you getting on at the hotel, Mrs. Inchbare? Plenty of tourists,
I suppose, at this time of year?”

“Full, my leddy (praise Providence), frae the basement to the ceiling.”

“You had a visitor, I think, some time since of whom I know something? A
person--” She paused, and put a strong constraint on herself. There was
no alternative but to yield to the hard necessity of making her inquiry
intelligible. “A lady,” she added, “who came to you about the middle of
last month.”

“Could yer leddyship condescend on her name?”

Lady Lundie put a still stronger constraint on herself. “Silvester,” she
said, sharply.

“Presairve us a’!” cried Mrs. Inchbare. “It will never be the same that
cam’ driftin’ in by hersel’--wi’ a bit bag in her hand, and a husband
left daidling an hour or mair on the road behind her?”

“I have no doubt it is the same.”

“Will she be a freend o’ yer leddyship’s?” asked Mrs. Inchbare, feeling
her ground cautiously.

“Certainly not!” said Lady Lundie. “I felt a passing curiosity about
her--nothing more.”

Mrs. Inchbare looked relieved. “To tell ye truth, my leddy, there was
nae love lost between us. She had a maisterfu’ temper o’ her ain--and I
was weel pleased when I’d seen the last of her.”

“I can quite understand that, Mrs. Inchbare--I know something of her
temper myself. Did I understand you to say that she came to your hotel
alone, and that her husband joined her shortly afterward?”

“E’en sae, yer leddyship. I was no’ free to gi’ her house-room in the
hottle till her husband daidled in at her heels and answered for her.”

“I fancy I must have seen her husband,” said Lady Lundie. “What sort of
a man was he?”

Mrs. Inchbare replied in much the same words which she had used in
answering the similar question put by Sir Patrick.

“Eh! he was ower young for the like o’ _her._ A pratty man, my
leddy--betwixt tall and short; wi’ bonny brown eyes and cheeks, and fine
coal-blaik hair. A nice douce-spoken lad. I hae naething to say against
him--except that he cam’ late one day, and took leg-bail betimes the
next morning, and left madam behind, a load on my hands.”

The answer produced precisely the same effect on Lady Lundie which it
had produced on Sir Patrick. She, also, felt that it was too vaguely
like too many young men of no uncommon humor and complexion to be
relied on. But her ladyship possessed one immense advantage over her
brother-in-law in attempting to arrive at the truth. _She_ suspected
Arnold--and it was possible, in her case, to assist Mrs. Inchbare’s
memory by hints contributed from her own superior resources of
experience and observation.

“Had he any thing about him of the look and way of a sailor?” she asked.
“And did you notice, when you spoke to him, that he had a habit of
playing with a locket on his watch-chain?”

“There he is, het aff to a T!” cried Mrs. Inchbare. “Yer leddyship’s weel
acquented wi’ him--there’s nae doot o’ that.”

“I thought I had seen him,” said Lady Lundie. “A modest, well-behaved
young man, Mrs. Inchbare, as you say. Don’t let me keep you any longer
from the poultry-yard. I am transgressing the doctor’s orders in seeing
any body. We quite understand each other now, don’t we? Very glad to
have seen you. Good-evening.”

So she dismissed Mrs. Inchbare, when Mrs. Inchbare had served her
purpose.

Most women, in her position, would have been content with the
information which she had now obtained. But Lady Lundie--having a man
like Sir Patrick to deal with--determined to be doubly sure of her facts
before she ventured on interfering at Ham Farm. She had learned from
Mrs. Inchbare that the so-called husband of Anne Silvester had joined
her at Craig Fernie on the day when she arrived at the inn, and had left
her again the next morning. Anne had made her escape from Windygates
on the occasion of the lawn-party--that is to say, on the fourteenth of
August. On the same day Arnold Brinkworth had taken his departure for
the purpose of visiting the Scotch property left to him by his aunt. If
Mrs. Inchbare was to be depended on, he must have gone to Craig Fernie
instead of going to his appointed destination--and must, therefore, have
arrived to visit his house and lands one day later than the day which he
had originally set apart for that purpose. If this fact could be proved,
on the testimony of a disinterested witness, the case against Arnold
would be strengthened tenfold; and Lady Lundie might act on her
discovery with something like a certainty that her information was to be
relied on.

After a little consideration she decided on sending a messenger with a
note of inquiry addressed to Arnold’s steward. The apology she invented
to excuse and account for the strangeness of the proposed question,
referred it to a little family discussion as to the exact date of
Arnold’s arrival at his estate, and to a friendly wager in which the
difference of opinion had ended. If the steward could state whether his
employer had arrived on the fourteenth or on the fifteenth of August,
that was all that would be wanted to decide the question in dispute.

Having written in those terms, Lady Lundie gave the necessary directions
for having the note delivered at the earliest possible hour on the next
morning; the messenger being ordered to make his way back to Windygates
by the first return train on the same day.

This arranged, her ladyship was free to refresh herself with another
dose of the red lavender draught, and to sleep the sleep of the just who
close their eyes with the composing conviction that they have done their
duty.



The events of the next day at Windygates succeeded each other in due
course, as follows:

The post arrived, and brought no reply from Sir Patrick. Lady Lundie
entered that incident on her mental register of debts owed by her
brother-in-law--to be paid, with interest, when the day of reckoning
came.

Next in order occurred the return of the messenger with the steward’s
answer.

He had referred to his Diary; and he had discovered that Mr. Brinkworth
had written beforehand to announce his arrival at his estate for the
fourteenth of August--but that he had not actually appeared until the
fifteenth. The one discovery needed to substantiate Mrs. Inchbare’s
evidence being now in Lady Lundie’s possession, she decided to allow
another day to pass--on the chance that Sir Patrick might al ter his
mind, and write to her. If no letter arrived, and if nothing more was
received from Blanche, she resolved to leave Windygates by the next
morning’s train, and to try the bold experiment of personal interference
at Ham Farm.

The third in the succession of events was the appearance of the doctor
to pay his professional visit.

A severe shock awaited him. He found his patient cured by the draught!
It was contrary to all rule and precedent; it savored of quackery--the
red lavender had no business to do what the red lavender had done--but
there she was, nevertheless, up and dressed, and contemplating a journey
to London on the next day but one. “An act of duty, doctor, is involved
in this--whatever the sacrifice, I must go!” No other explanation could
be obtained. The patient was plainly determined--nothing remained for
the physician but to retreat with unimpaired dignity and a paid fee.
He did it. “Our art,” he explained to Lady Lundie in confidence, “is
nothing, after all, but a choice between alternatives. For instance. I
see you--not cured, as you think--but sustained by abnormal excitement.
I have to ask which is the least of the two evils--to risk letting
you travel, or to irritate you by keeping you at home. With your
constitution, we must risk the journey. Be careful to keep the window of
the carriage up on the side on which the wind blows. Let the extremities
be moderately warm, and the mind easy--and pray don’t omit to provide
yourself with a second bottle of the Mixture before you start.” He
made his bow, as before--he slipped two guineas into his pocket, as
before--and he went his way, as before, with an approving conscience,
in the character of a physician who had done his duty. (What an enviable
profession is Medicine! And why don’t we all belong to it?)

The last of the events was the arrival of Mrs. Glenarm.

“Well?” she began, eagerly, “what news?”

The narrative of her ladyship’s discoveries--recited at full length;
and the announcement of her ladyship’s resolution--declared in the most
uncompromising terms--raised Mrs. Glenarm’s excitement to the highest
pitch.

“You go to town on Saturday?” she said. “I will go with you. Ever since
that woman declared she should be in London before me, I have been dying
to hasten my journey--and it is such an opportunity to go with you! I
can easily manage it. My uncle and I were to have met in London, early
next week, for the foot-race. I have only to write and tell him of my
change of plans.--By-the-by, talking of my uncle, I have heard, since I
saw you, from the lawyers at Perth.”

“More anonymous letters?”

“One more--received by the lawyers this time. My unknown correspondent
has written to them to withdraw his proposal, and to announce that
he has left Perth. The lawyers recommended me to stop my uncle from
spending money uselessly in employing the London police. I have
forwarded their letter to the captain; and he will probably be in town
to see his solicitors as soon as I get there with you. So much for
what _I_ have done in this matter. Dear Lady Lundie--when we are at our
journey’s end, what do _you_ mean to do?”

“My course is plain,” answered her ladyship, calmly. “Sir Patrick will
hear from me, on Sunday morning next, at Ham Farm.”

“Telling him what you have found out?”

“Certainly not! Telling him that I find myself called to London by
business, and that I propose paying him a short visit on Monday next.”

“Of course, he must receive you?”

“I think there is no doubt of that. Even _his_ hatred of his
brother’s widow can hardly go to the length--after leaving my letter
unanswered--of closing his doors against me next.”

“How will you manage it when you get there?”

“When I get there, my dear, I shall be breathing an atmosphere of
treachery and deceit; and, for my poor child’s sake (abhorrent as all
dissimulation is to me), I must be careful what I do. Not a word will
escape my lips until I have first seen Blanche in private. However
painful it may be, I shall not shrink from my duty, if my duty compels
me to open her eyes to the truth. Sir Patrick and Mr. Brinkworth will
have somebody else besides an inexperienced young creature to deal with
on Monday next. I shall be there.”

With that formidable announcement, Lady Lundie closed the conversation;
and Mrs. Glenarm rose to take her leave.

“We meet at the Junction, dear Lady Lundie?”

“At the Junction, on Saturday.”



ELEVENTH SCENE.--SIR PATRICK’S HOUSE.



CHAPTER THE FORTY-SECOND.

THE SMOKING-ROOM WINDOW.

“I CAN’T believe it! I won’t believe it! You’re trying to part me from
my husband--you’re trying to set me against my dearest friend. It’s
infamous. It’s horrible. What have I done to you? Oh, my head! my head!
Are you trying to drive me mad?”

Pale and wild; her hands twisted in her hair; her feet hurrying her
aimlessly to and fro in the room--so Blanche answered her step-mother,
when the object of Lady Lundie’s pilgrimage had been accomplished, and
the cruel truth had been plainly told.

Her ladyship sat, superbly composed, looking out through the window at
the placid landscape of woods and fields which surrounded Ham Farm.

“I was prepared for this outbreak,” she said, sadly. “These wild words
relieve your over-burdened heart, my poor child. I can wait, Blanche--I
can wait!”

Blanche stopped, and confronted Lady Lundie.

“You and I never liked each other,” she said. “I wrote you a pert letter
from this place. I have always taken Anne’s part against you. I have
shown you plainly--rudely, I dare say--that I was glad to be married and
get away from you. This is not your revenge, is it?”

“Oh, Blanche, Blanche, what thoughts to think! what words to say! I can
only pray for you.”

“I am mad, Lady Lundie. You bear with mad people. Bear with me. I
have been hardly more than a fortnight married. I love _him_--I love
_her_--with all my heart. Remember what you have told me about them.
Remember! remember! remember!”

She reiterated the words with a low cry of pain. Her hands went up to
her head again; and she returned restlessly to pacing this way and that
in the room.

Lady Lundie tried the effect of a gentle remonstrance. “For your own
sake,” she said, “don’t persist in estranging yourself from me. In this
dreadful trial, I am the only friend you have.”

Blanche came back to her step-mother’s chair; and looked at her
steadily, in silence. Lady Lundie submitted to inspection--and bore it
perfectly.

“Look into my heart,” she said. “Blanche! it bleeds for you!”

Blanche heard, without heeding. Her mind was painfully intent on its
own thoughts. “You are a religious woman,” she said, abruptly. “Will you
swear on your Bible, that what you told me is true?”

“_My_ Bible!” repeated Lady Lundie with sorrowful emphasis. “Oh, my
child! have _you_ no part in that precious inheritance? Is it not _your_
Bible, too?”

A momentary triumph showed itself in Blanche’s face. “You daren’t swear
it!” she said. “That’s enough for me!”

She turned away scornfully. Lady Lundie caught her by the hand, and drew
her sharply back. The suffering saint disappeared, and the woman who was
no longer to be trifled with took her place.

“There must be an end to this,” she said. “You don’t believe what I have
told you. Have you courage enough to put it to the test?”

Blanche started, and released her hand. She trembled a little. There
was a horrible certainty of conviction expressed in Lady Lundie’s sudden
change of manner.

“How?” she asked.

“You shall see. Tell me the truth, on your side, first. Where is Sir
Patrick? Is he really out, as his servant told me?”

“Yes. He is out with the farm bailiff. You have taken us all by
surprise. You wrote that we were to expect you by the next train.”

“When does the next train arrive? It is eleven o’clock now.”

“Between one and two.”

“Sir Patrick will not be back till then?”

“Not till then.”

“Where is Mr. Brinkworth?”

“My husband?”

“Your husband--if you like. Is he out, too?”

“He is in the smoking-room.”

“Do you mean the long room, built out from the back of the house?”

“Yes.”

“Come down stairs at once with me.”

Blanche advanced a step--and drew back. “What do you want of me?” she
asked, inspired by a sudden distrust.

Lady Lundie turned round, and looked at her impatiently.

“Can’t you see yet,” she said, sharply, “that your interest and my
interest in this matter are one? What have I told you?”

“Don’t repeat it!”

“I must repeat it! I have told you that Arnold Brinkworth was privately
at Craig Fernie, with Miss Silvester, in the acknowledged character of
her husband--when we supposed him to be visiting the estate left him
by his aunt. You refuse to believe it--and I am about to put it to
the proof. Is it your interest or is it not, to know whether this man
deserves the blind belief that you place in him?”

Blanche trembled from head to foot, and made no reply.

“I am going into the garden, to speak to Mr. Brinkworth through the
smoking-room window,” pursued her ladyship. “Have you the courage to
come with me; to wait behind out of sight; and to hear what he says with
his own lips? I am not afraid of putting it to that test. Are you?”

The tone in which she asked the question roused Blanche’s spirit.

“If I believed him to be guilty,” she said, resolutely, “I should _not_
have the courage. I believe him to be innocent. Lead the way, Lady
Lundie, as soon as you please.”

They left the room--Blanche’s own room at Ham Farm--and descended to the
hall. Lady Lundie stopped, and consulted the railway time-table hanging
near the house-door.

“There is a train to London at a quarter to twelve,” she said. “How long
does it take to walk to the station?”

“Why do you ask?”

“You will soon know. Answer my question.”

“It’s a walk of twenty minutes to the station.”

Lady Lundie referred to her watch. “There will be just time,” she said.

“Time for what?”

“Come into the garden.”

With that answer, she led the way out

The smoking-room projected at right angles from the wall of the house,
in an oblong form--with a bow-window at the farther end, looking into
the garden. Before she turned the corner, and showed herself within the
range of view from the window Lady Lundie looked back, and signed to
Blanche to wait behind the angle of the wall. Blanche waited.

The next instant she heard the voices in conversation through the open
window. Arnold’s voice was the first that spoke.

“Lady Lundie! Why, we didn’t expect you till luncheon time!”

Lady Lundie was ready with her answer.

“I was able to leave town earlier than I had anticipated. Don’t put out
your cigar; and don’t move. I am not coming in.”

The quick interchange of question and answer went on; every word being
audible in the perfect stillness of the place. Arnold was the next to
speak.

“Have you seen Blanche?”

“Blanche is getting ready to go out with me. We mean to have a walk
together. I have many things to say to her. Before we go, I have
something to say to _you._”

“Is it any thing very serious?”

“It is most serious.”

“About me?”

“About you. I know where you went on the evening of my lawn-party at
Windygates--you went to Craig Fernie.”

“Good Heavens! how did you find out--?”

“I know whom you went to meet--Miss Silvester. I know what is said of
you and of her--you are man and wife.”

“Hush! don’t speak so loud. Somebody may hear you!”

“What does it matter if they do? I am the only person whom you have kept
out of the secret. You all of you know it here.”

“Nothing of the sort! Blanche doesn’t know it.”

“What! Neither you nor Sir Patrick has told Blanche of the situation you
stand in at this moment?”

“Not yet. Sir Patrick leaves it to me. I haven’t been able to bring
myself to do it. Don’t say a word, I entreat you. I don’t know how
Blanche may interpret it. Her friend is expected in London to-morrow. I
want to wait till Sir Patrick can bring them together. Her friend will
break it to her better than I can. It’s _my_ notion. Sir Patrick thinks
it a good one. Stop! you’re not going away already?”

“She will be here to look for me if I stay any longer.”

“One word! I want to know--”

“You shall know later in the day.”



Her ladyship appeared again round the angle of the wall. The next words
that passed were words spoken in a whisper.

“Are you satisfied now, Blanche?”

“Have you mercy enough left, Lady Lundie, to take me away from this
house?”

“My dear child! Why else did I look at the time-table in the hall?”


CHAPTER THE FORTY-THIRD.

THE EXPLOSION.

ARNOLD’S mind was far from easy when he was left by himself again in the
smoking-room.

After wasting some time in vainly trying to guess at the source from
which Lady Lundie had derived her information, he put on his hat, and
took the direction which led to Blanche’s favorite walk at Ham Farm.
Without absolutely distrusting her ladyship’s discretion, the idea
had occurred to him that he would do well to join his wife and her
step-mother. By making a third at the interview between them, he might
prevent the conversation from assuming a perilously confidential turn.

The search for the ladies proved useless. They had not taken the
direction in which he supposed them to have gone.

He returned to the smoking-room, and composed himself to wait for events
as patiently as he might. In this passive position--with his
thoughts still running on Lady Lundie--his memory reverted to a brief
conversation between Sir Patrick and himself, occasioned, on the
previous day, by her ladyship’s announcement of her proposed visit to
Ham Farm. Sir Patrick had at once expressed his conviction that his
sister-in-law’s journey south had some acknowledged purpose at the
bottom of it.

“I am not at all sure, Arnold” (he had said), “that I have done wisely
in leaving her letter unanswered. And I am strongly disposed to think
that the safest course will be to take her into the secret when she
comes to-morrow. We can’t help the position in which we are placed.
It was impossible (without admitting your wife to our confidence) to
prevent Blanche from writing that unlucky letter to her--and, even if
we had prevented it, she must have heard in other ways of your return to
England. I don’t doubt my own discretion, so far; and I don’t doubt the
convenience of keeping her in the dark, as a means of keeping her from
meddling in this business of yours, until I have had time to set it
right. But she may, by some unlucky accident, discover the truth for
herself--and, in that case, I strongly distrust the influence which she
might attempt to exercise on Blanche’s mind.”

Those were the words--and what had happened on the day after they had
been spoken? Lady Lundie _had_ discovered the truth; and she was, at
that moment, alone somewhere with Blanche. Arnold took up his hat once
more, and set forth on the search for the ladies in another direction.

The second expedition was as fruitless as the first. Nothing was to be
seen, and nothing was to be heard, of Lady Lundie and Blanche.

Arnold’s watch told him that it was not far from the time when Sir
Patrick might be expected to return. In all probability, while he had
been looking for them, the ladies had gone back by some other way to the
house. He entered the rooms on the ground-floor, one after another. They
were all empty. He went up stairs, and knocked at the door of Blanche’s
room. There was no answer. He opened the door and looked in. The room
was empty, like the rooms down stairs. But, close to the entrance, there
was a trifling circumstance to attract notice, in the shape of a note
lying on the carpet. He picked it up, and saw that it was addressed to
him in the handwriting of his wife.

He opened it. The note began, without the usual form of address, in
these words:

“I know the abominable secret that you and my uncle have hidden from
me. I know _your_ infamy, and _her_ infamy, and the position in which,
thanks to you and to her, I now stand. Reproaches would be wasted words,
addressed to such a man as you are. I write these lines to tell you that
I have placed myself under my step-mother’s protection in London. It
is useless to attempt to follow me. Others will find out whether the
ceremony of marriage which you went through with me is binding on you or
not. For myself, I know enough already. I have gone, never to come back,
and never to let you see me again.--Blanche.”

Hurrying headlong down the stairs with but one clear idea in his
mind--the idea of instantly following his wife--Arnold encountered Sir
Patrick, standing by a table in the hall, on which cards and notes left
by visitors were usually placed, with an open letter in his hand. Seeing
in an instant what had happened, he threw one of his arms round Arnold,
and stopped him at the house-door.

“You are a man,” he said, firmly. “Bear it like a man.”

Arnold’s head fell on the shoulder of his kind old friend. He burst into
tears.

Sir Patrick let the irrepressible outbreak of grief have its way. In
those first moments, silence was mercy. He said nothing. The letter
which he had been reading (from Lady Lundie, it is needless to say),
dropped unheeded at his feet.

Arnold lifted his head, and dashed away the tears.

“I am ashamed of myself,” he said. “Let me go.”

“Wrong, my poor fellow--doubly wrong!” returned Sir Patrick. “There is
no shame in shedding such tears as those. And there is nothing to be
done by leaving _me._”

“I must and will see her!”

“Read that,” said Sir Patrick, pointing to the letter on the floor. “See
your wife? Your wife is with the woman who has written those lines. Read
them.”

Arnold read them.



“DEAR SIR PATRICK,--If you had honored me with your confidence, I should
have been happy to consult you before I interfered to rescue Blanche
from the position in which Mr. Brinkworth has placed her. As it is, your
late brother’s child is under my protection at my house in London. If
_you_ attempt to exercise your authority, it must be by main force--I
will submit to nothing less. If Mr. Brinkworth attempts to exercise
_his_ authority, he shall establish his right to do so (if he can) in a
police-court.

“Very truly yours, JULIA LUNDIE.”


Arnold’s resolution was not to be shaken even by this. “What do I care,”
 he burst out, hotly, “whether I am dragged through the streets by
the police or not! I _will_ see my wife. I _will_ clear myself of the
horrible suspicion she has about me. You have shown me your letter. Look
at mine!”

Sir Patrick’s clear sense saw the wild words that Blanche had written in
their true light.

“Do you hold your wife responsible for that letter?” he asked. “I see
her step-mother in every line of it. You descend to something unworthy
of you, if you seriously defend yourself against _this!_ You can’t see
it? You persist in holding to your own view? Write, then. You can’t get
to her--your letter may. No! When you leave this house, you leave it
with me. I have conceded something on my side, in allowing you to write.
I insist on your conceding something, on your side, in return. Come into
the library! I answer for setting things right between you and Blanche,
if you will place your interests in my hands. Do you trust me or not?”

Arnold yielded. They went into the library together. Sir Patrick pointed
to the writing-table. “Relieve your mind there,” he said. “And let me
find you a reasonable man again when I come back.”

When he returned to the library the letter was written; and Arnold’s
mind was so far relieved--for the time at least.

“I shall take your letter to Blanche myself,” said Sir Patrick, “by the
train that leaves for London in half an hour’s time.”

“You will let me go with you?”

“Not to-day. I shall be back this evening to dinner. You shall hear all
that has happened; and you shall accompany me to London to-morrow--if
I find it necessary to make any lengthened stay there. Between this and
then, after the shock that you have suffered, you will do well to be
quiet here. Be satisfied with my assurance that Blanche shall have your
letter. I will force my authority on her step-mother to that extent (if
her step-mother resists) without scruple. The respect in which I hold
the sex only lasts as long as the sex deserves it--and does _not_ extend
to Lady Lundie. There is no advantage that a man can take of a woman
which I am not fully prepared to take of my sister-in-law.”

With that characteristic farewell, he shook hands with Arnold, and
departed for the station.



At seven o’clock the dinner was on the table. At seven o’clock Sir
Patrick came down stairs to eat it, as perfectly dressed as usual, and
as composed as if nothing had happened.

“She has got your letter,” he whispered, as he took Arnold’s arm, and
led him into the dining-room.

“Did she say any thing?”

“Not a word.”

“How did she look?”

“As she ought to look--sorry for what she has done.”

The dinner began. As a matter of necessity, the subject of Sir Patrick’s
expedition was dropped while the servants were in the room--to be
regularly taken up again by Arnold in the intervals between the courses.
He began when the soup was taken away.

“I confess I had hoped to see Blanche come back with you!” he said,
sadly enough.

“In other words,” returned Sir Patrick, “you forgot the native obstinacy
of the sex. Blanche is beginning to feel that she has been wrong. What
is the necessary consequence? She naturally persists in being wrong.
Let her alone, and leave your letter to have its effect. The serious
difficulties in our way don’t rest with Blanche. Content yourself with
knowing that.”

The fish came in, and Arnold was silenced--until his next opportunity
came with the next interval in the course of the dinner.

“What are the difficulties?” he asked

“The difficulties are my difficulties and yours,” answered Sir Patrick.
“My difficulty is, that I can’t assert my authority, as guardian, if
I assume my niece (as I do) to be a married woman. Your difficulty
is, that you can’t assert your authority as her husband, until it is
distinctly proved that you and Miss Silvester are not man and wife. Lady
Lundie was perfectly aware that she would place us in that position,
when she removed Blanche from this house. She has cross-examined Mrs.
Inchbare; she has written to your steward for the date of your arrival
at your estate; she has done every thing, calculated every thing, and
foreseen every thing--except my excellent temper. The one mistake she
has made, is in thinking she could get the better of _that._ No, my dear
boy! My trump card is my temper. I keep it in my hand, Arnold--I keep it
in my hand!”

The next course came in--and there was an end of the subject again.
Sir Patrick enjoyed his mutton, and entered on a long and interesting
narrative of the history of some rare white Burgundy on the table
imported by himself. Arnold resolutely resumed the discussion with the
departure of the mutton.

“It seems to be a dead lock,” he said.

“No slang!” retorted Sir Patrick.

“For Heaven’s sake, Sir, consider my anxiety, and tell me what you
propose to do!”

“I propose to take you to London with me to-morrow, on this
condition--that you promise me, on your word of honor, not to attempt to
see your wife before Saturday next.”

“I shall see her then?”

“If you give me your promise.”

“I do! I do!”

The next course came in. Sir Patrick entered on the question of the
merits of the partridge, viewed as an eatable bird, “By himself,
Arnold--plainly roasted, and tested on his own merits--an overrated
bird. Being too fond of shooting him in this country, we become too fond
of eating him next. Properly understood, he is a vehicle for sauce and
truffles--nothing more. Or no--that is hardly doing him justice. I am
bound to add that he is honorably associated with the famous French
receipt for cooking an olive. Do you know it?”

There was an end of the bird; there was an end of the jelly. Arnold got
his next chance--and took it.

“What is to be done in London to-morrow?” he asked.

“To-morrow,” answered Sir Patrick, “is a memorable day in our calendar.
To-morrow is Tuesday--the day on which I am to see Miss Silvester.”

Arnold set down the glass of wine which he was just raising to his lips.

“After what has happened,” he said, “I can hardly bear to hear her name
mentioned. Miss Silvester has parted me from my wife.”

“Miss Silvester may atone for that, Arnold, by uniting you again.”

“She has been the ruin of me so far.”

“She may be the salvation of you yet.”

The cheese came in; and Sir Patrick returned to the Art of Cookery.

“Do you know the receipt for cooking an olive, Arnold?”

“No.”

“What _does_ the new generation know? It knows how to row, how to shoot,
how to play at cricket, and how to bat. When it has lost its muscle and
lost its money--that is to say, when it has grown old--what a generation
it will be! It doesn’t matter: I sha’n’t live to see it. Are you
listening, Arnold?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“How to cook an olive! Put an olive into a lark, put a lark into a
quail; put a quail into a plover; put a plover into a partridge; put a
partridge into a pheasant; put a pheasant into a turkey. Good. First,
partially roast, then carefully stew--until all is thoroughly done down
to the olive. Good again. Next, open the window. Throw out the turkey,
the pheasant, the partridge, the plover, the quail, and the lark. _Then,
eat the olive._ The dish is expensive, but (we have it on the highest
authority) well worth the sacrifice. The quintessence of the flavor of
six birds, concentrated in one olive. Grand idea! Try another glass of
the white Burgundy, Arnold.”

At last the servants left them--with the wine and dessert on the table.

“I have borne it as long as I can, Sir,” said Arnold. “Add to all your
kindness to me by telling me at once what happened at Lady Lundie’s.”

It was a chilly evening. A bright wood fire was burning in the room. Sir
Patrick drew his chair to the fire.

“This is exactly what happened,” he said. “I found company at Lady
Lundie’s, to begin with. Two perfect strangers to me. Captain Newenden,
and his niece, Mrs. Glenarm. Lady Lundie offered to see me in another
room; the two strangers offered to withdraw. I declined both proposals.
First check to her ladyship! She has reckoned throughout, Arnold, on our
being afraid to face public opinion. I showed her at starting that we
were as ready to face it as she was. ‘I always accept what the French
call accomplished facts,’ I said. ‘You have brought matters to a crisis,
Lady Lundie. So let it be. I have a word to say to my niece (in
your presence, if you like); and I have another word to say to you
afterward--without presuming to disturb your guests.’ The guests sat
down again (both naturally devoured by curiosity). Could her ladyship
decently refuse me an interview with my own niece, while two witnesses
were looking on? Impossible. I saw Blanche (Lady Lundie being present,
it is needless to say) in the back drawing-room. I gave her your
letter; I said a good word for you; I saw that she was sorry, though
she wouldn’t own it--and that was enough. We went back into the front
drawing-room. I had not spoken five words on our side of the question
before it appeared, to my astonishment and delight, that Captain
Newenden was in the house on the very question that had brought me into
the house--the question of you and Miss Silvester. My business, in the
interests of _my_ niece, was to deny your marriage to the lady. His
business, in the interests of _his_ niece, was to assert your marriage
to the lady. To the unutterable disgust of the two women, we joined
issue, in the most friendly manner, on the spot. ‘Charmed to have the
pleasure of meeting you, Captain Newenden.’--‘Delighted to have the
honor of making your acquaintance, Sir Patrick.’--‘I think we can settle
this in two minutes?’--‘My own idea perfectly expressed.’--‘State your
position, Captain.’--‘With the greatest pleasure. Here is my niece,
Mrs. Glenarm, engaged to marry Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn. All very well,
but there happens to be an obstacle--in the shape of a lady. Do I put
it plainly?’--‘You put it admirably, Captain; but for the loss to the
British navy, you ought to have been a lawyer. Pray, go on.’--‘You are
too good, Sir Patrick. I resume. Mr. Delamayn asserts that this person
in the back-ground has no claim on him, and backs his assertion by
declaring that she is married already to Mr. Arnold Brinkworth. Lady
Lundie and my niece assure me, on evidence which satisfies _them,_ that
the assertion is true. The evidence does not satisfy _me._ ‘I hope, Sir
Patrick, I don’t strike you as being an excessively obstinate man?’--‘My
dear Sir, you impress me with the highest opinion of your capacity
for sifting human testimony! May I ask, next, what course you mean to
take?’--‘The very thing I was going to mention, Sir Patrick! This is
my course. I refuse to sanction my niece’s engagement to Mr. Delamayn,
until Mr. Delamayn has actually proved his statement by appeal to
witnesses of the lady’s marriage. He refers me to two witnesses; but
declines acting at once in the matter for himself, on the ground that
he is in training for a foot-race. I admit that that is an obstacle, and
consent to arrange for bringing the two witnesses to London myself. By
this post I have written to my lawyers in Perth to look the witnesses
up; to offer them the necessary terms (at Mr. Delamayn’s expense) for
the use of their time; and to produce them by the end of the week. The
footrace is on Thursday next. Mr. Delamayn will be able to attend after
that, and establish his own assertion by his own witnesses. What do you
say, Sir Patrick, to Saturday next (with Lady Lundie’s permission) in
this room?’--There is the substance of the captain’s statement. He is
as old as I am and is dressed to look like thirty; but a very pleasant
fellow for all that. I struck my sister-in-law dumb by accepting the
proposal without a moment’s hesitation. Mrs. Glenarm and Lady Lundie
looked at each other in mute amazement. Here was a difference about
which two women would have mortally quarreled; and here were two men
settling it in the friendliest possible manner. I wish you had seen
Lady Lundie’s face, when I declared myself deeply indebted to Captain
Newenden for rendering any prolonged interview with her ladyship quite
unnecessary. ‘Thanks to the captain,’ I said to her, in the most cordial
manner, ‘we have absolutely nothing to discuss. I shall catch the next
train, and set Arnold Brinkworth’s mind quite at ease.’ To come back to
serious things, I have engaged to produce you, in the presence of every
body--your wife included--on Saturday next. I put a bold face on it
before the others. But I am bound to tell _you_ that it is by no means
easy to say--situated as we are now--what the result of Saturday’s
inquiry will be. Every thing depends on the issue of my interview with
Miss Silvester to-morrow. It is no exaggeration to say, Arnold, that
your fate is in her hands.”

“I wish to heaven I had never set eyes on her!” said Arnold.

“Lay the saddle on the right horse,” returned Sir Patrick. “Wish you had
never set eyes on Geoffrey Delamayn.”

Arnold hung his head. Sir Patrick’s sharp tongue had got the better of
him once more.



TWELFTH SCENE.--DRURY LANE.



CHAPTER THE FORTY-FOURTH.

THE LETTER AND THE LAW.

THE many-toned murmur of the current of London life--flowing through the
murky channel of Drury Lane--found its muffled way from the front room
to the back. Piles of old music lumbered the dusty floor. Stage masks
and weapons, and portraits of singers and dancers, hung round the walls.
An empty violin case in one corner faced a broken bust of Rossini in
another. A frameless print, representing the Trial of Queen Caroline,
was pasted over the fireplace. The chairs were genuine specimens of
ancient carving in oak. The table was an equally excellent example of
dirty modern deal. A small morsel of drugget was on the floor; and a
large deposit of soot was on the ceiling. The scene thus presented,
revealed itself in the back drawing-room of a house in Drury Lane,
devoted to the transaction of musical and theatrical business of the
humbler sort. It was late in the afternoon, on Michaelmas-day. Two
persons were seated together in the room: they were Anne Silvester and
Sir Patrick Lundie.

The opening conversation between them--comprising, on one side, the
narrative of what had happened at Perth and at Swanhaven; and, on the
other, a statement of the circumstances attending the separation of
Arnold and Blanche--had come to an end. It rested with Sir Patrick
to lead the way to the next topic. He looked at his companion, and
hesitated.

“Do you feel strong enough to go on?” he asked. “If you would prefer to
rest a little, pray say so.”

“Thank you, Sir Patrick. I am more than ready, I am eager to go on. No
words can say how anxious I feel to be of some use to you, if I can. It
rests entirely with your experience to show me how.”

“I can only do that, Miss Silvester, by asking you without ceremony
for all the information that I want. Had you any object in traveling to
London, which you have not mentioned to me yet? I mean, of course, any
object with which I have a claim (as Arnold Brinkworth’s representative)
to be acquainted?”

“I had an object, Sir Patrick. And I have failed to accomplish it.”

“May I ask what it was?”

“It was to see Geoffrey Delamayn.”

Sir Patrick started. “You have attempted to see _him!_ When?”

“This morning.”

“Why, you only arrived in London last night!”

“I only arrived,” said Anne, “after waiting many days on the journey. I
was obliged to rest at Edinburgh, and again at York--and I was afraid
I had given Mrs. Glenarm time enough to get to Geoffrey Delamayn before
me.”

“Afraid?” repeated Sir Patrick. “I understood that you had no serious
intention of disputing the scoundrel with Mrs. Glenarm. What motive
could possibly have taken you _his_ way?”

“The same motive which took me to Swanhaven.”

“What! the idea that it rested with Delamayn to set things right? and
that you might bribe him to do it, by consenting to release him, so far
as your claims were concerned?”

“Bear with my folly, Sir Patrick, as patiently as you can! I am always
alone now; and I get into a habit of brooding over things. I have been
brooding over the position in which my misfortunes have placed Mr.
Brinkworth. I have been obstinate--unreasonably obstinate--in believing
that I could prevail with Geoffrey Delamayn, after I had failed with
Mrs. Glenarm. I am obstinate about it still. If he would only have heard
me, my madness in going to Fulham might have had its excuse.” She sighed
bitterly, and said no more.

Sir Patrick took her hand.

“It _has_ its excuse,” he said, kindly. “Your motive is beyond reproach.
Let me add--to quiet your mind--that, even if Delamayn had been willing
to hear you, and had accepted the condition, the result would still
have been the same. You are quite wrong in supposing that he has only to
speak, and to set this matter right. It has passed entirely beyond
his control. The mischief was done when Arnold Brinkworth spent those
unlucky hours with you at Craig Fernie.”

“Oh, Sir Patrick, if I had only known that, before I went to Fulham this
morning!”

She shuddered as she said the words. Something was plainly associated
with her visit to Geoffrey, the bare remembrance of which shook her
nerves. What was it? Sir Patrick resolved to obtain an answer to that
question, before he ventured on proceeding further with the main object
of the interview.

“You have told me your reason for going to Fulham,” he said. “But I have
not heard what happened there yet.”

Anne hesitated. “Is it necessary for me to trouble you about that?” she
asked--with evident reluctance to enter on the subject.

“It is absolutely necessary,” answered Sir Patrick, “because Delamayn is
concerned in it.”

Anne summoned her resolution, and entered on her narrative in these
words:



“The person who carries on the business here discovered the address for
me,” she began. “I had some difficulty, however, in finding the house.
It is little more than a cottage; and it is quite lost in a great
garden, surrounded by high walls. I saw a carriage waiting. The coachman
was walking his horses up and down--and he showed me the door. It was a
high wooden door in the wall, with a grating in it. I rang the bell. A
servant-girl opened the grating, and looked at me. She refused to let
me in. Her mistress had ordered her to close the door on all
strangers--especially strangers who were women. I contrived to pass some
money to her through the grating, and asked to speak to her mistress.
After waiting some time, I saw another face behind the bars--and it
struck me that I recognized it. I suppose I was nervous. It startled me.
I said, ‘I think we know each other.’ There was no answer. The door was
suddenly opened--and who do you think stood before me?”

“Was it somebody I know?”

“Yes.”

“Man? or woman?”

“It was Hester Dethridge.”

“Hester Dethridge!”

“Yes. Dressed just as usual, and looking just as usual--with her slate
hanging at her side.”

“Astonishing! Where did I last see her? At the Windygates station, to
be sure--going to London, after she had left my sister-in-law’s service.
Has she accepted another place--without letting me know first, as I told
her?”

“She is living at Fulham.”

“In service?”

“No. As mistress of her own house.”

“What! Hester Dethridge in possession of a house of her own? Well! well!
why shouldn’t she have a rise in the world like other people? Did she
let you in?”

“She stood for some time looking at me, in that dull strange way that
she has. The servants at Windygates always said she was not in her right
mind--and you will say, Sir Patrick, when you hear what happened, that
the servants were not mistaken. She must be mad. I said, ‘Don’t you
remember me?’ She lifted her slate, and wrote, ‘I remember you, in a
dead swoon at Windygates House.’ I was quite unaware that she had been
present when I fainted in the library. The discovery startled me--or
that dreadful, dead-cold look that she has in her eyes startled me--I
don’t know which. I couldn’t speak to her just at first. She wrote on
her slate again--the strangest question--in these words: ‘I said, at the
time, brought to it by a man. Did I say true?’ If the question had been
put in the usual way, by any body else, I should have considered it too
insolent to be noticed. Can you understand my answering it, Sir Patrick?
I can’t understand it myself, now--and yet I did answer. She forced me
to it with her stony eyes. I said ‘yes.’”

“Did all this take place at the door?”

“At the door.”

“When did she let you in?”

“The next thing she did was to let me in. She took me by the arm, in
a rough way, and drew me inside the door, and shut it. My nerves are
broken; my courage is gone. I crept with cold when she touched me. She
dropped my arm. I stood like a child, waiting for what it pleased her to
say or do next. She rested her two hands on her sides, and took a long
look at me. She made a horrid dumb sound--not as if she was angry;
more, if such a thing could be, as if she was satisfied--pleased even,
I should have said, if it had been any body but Hester Dethridge. Do you
understand it?”

“Not yet. Let me get nearer to understanding it by asking something
before you go on. Did she show any attachment to you, when you were both
at Windygates?”

“Not the least. She appeared to be incapable of attachment to me, or to
any body.”

“Did she write any more questions on her slate?”

“Yes. She wrote another question under what she had written just before.
Her mind was still running on my fainting fit, and on the ‘man’ who had
‘brought me to it.’ She held up the slate; and the words were these:
‘Tell me how he served you, did he knock you down?’ Most people would
have laughed at the question. _I_ was startled by it. I told her, No.
She shook her head as if she didn’t believe me. She wrote on her slate,
‘We are loth to own it when they up with their fists and beat us--ain’t
we?’ I said, ‘You are quite wrong.’ She went on obstinately with her
writing. ‘Who is the man?’--was her next question. I had control enough
over myself to decline telling her that. She opened the door, and
pointed to me to go out. I made a sign entreating her to wait a
little. She went back, in her impenetrable way, to the writing on the
slate--still about the ‘man.’ This time, the question was plainer still.
She had evidently placed her own interpretation of my appearance at the
house. She wrote, ‘Is it the man who lodges here?’ I saw that she would
close the door on me if I didn’t answer. My only chance with her was
to own that she had guessed right. I said ‘Yes. I want to see him.’ She
took me by the arm, as roughly as before--and led me into the house.”

“I begin to understand her,” said Sir Patrick. “I remember hearing, in
my brother’s time, that she had been brutally ill-used by her husband.
The association of id eas, even in _her_ confused brain, becomes plain,
if you bear that in mind. What is her last remembrance of you? It is the
remembrance of a fainting woman at Windygates.”

“Yes.”

“She makes you acknowledge that she has guessed right, in guessing that
a man was, in some way, answerable for the condition in which she found
you. A swoon produced by a shock indicted on the mind, is a swoon that
she doesn’t understand. She looks back into her own experience, and
associates it with the exercise of actual physical brutality on the part
of the man. And she sees, in you, a reflection of her own sufferings
and her own case. It’s curious--to a student of human nature. And it
explains, what is otherwise unintelligible--her overlooking her own
instructions to the servant, and letting you into the house. What
happened next?”

“She took me into a room, which I suppose was her own room. She made
signs, offering me tea. It was done in the strangest way--without the
least appearance of kindness. After what you have just said to me, I
think I can in some degree interpret what was going on in her mind.
I believe she felt a hard-hearted interest in seeing a woman whom she
supposed to be as unfortunate as she had once been herself. I declined
taking any tea, and tried to return to the subject of what I wanted in
the house. She paid no heed to me. She pointed round the room; and then
took me to a window, and pointed round the garden--and then made a sign
indicating herself. ‘My house; and my garden’--that was what she meant.
There were four men in the garden--and Geoffrey Delamayn was one of
them. I made another attempt to tell her that I wanted to speak to him.
But, no! She had her own idea in her mind. After beckoning to me to
leave the window, she led the way to the fire-place, and showed me a
sheet of paper with writing on it, framed and placed under a glass, and
hung on the wall. She seemed, I thought, to feel some kind of pride in
her framed manuscript. At any rate, she insisted on my reading it. It
was an extract from a will.”

“The will under which she had inherited the house?”

“Yes. Her brother’s will. It said, that he regretted, on his death-bed,
his estrangement from his only sister, dating from the time when she had
married in defiance of his wishes and against his advice. As a proof
of his sincere desire to be reconciled with her, before he died, and as
some compensation for the sufferings that she had endured at the hands
of her deceased husband, he left her an income of two hundred pounds a
year, together with the use of his house and garden, for her lifetime.
That, as well as I remember, was the substance of what it said.”

“Creditable to her brother, and creditable to herself,” said Sir
Patrick. “Taking her odd character into consideration, I understand her
liking it to be seen. What puzzles me, is her letting lodgings with an
income of her own to live on.”

“That was the very question which I put to her myself. I was obliged
to be cautious, and to begin by asking about the lodgers first--the men
being still visible out in the garden, to excuse the inquiry. The rooms
to let in the house had (as I understood her) been taken by a person
acting for Geoffrey Delamayn--his trainer, I presume. He had surprised
Hester Dethridge by barely noticing the house, and showing the most
extraordinary interest in the garden.”

“That is quite intelligible, Miss Silvester. The garden you have
described would be just the place he wanted for the exercises of his
employer--plenty of space, and well secured from observation by the high
walls all round. What next?”

“Next, I got to the question of why she should let her house in lodgings
at all. When I asked her that, her face turned harder than ever. She
answered me on her slate in these dismal words: ‘I have not got a friend
in the world. I dare not live alone.’ There was her reason! Dreary and
dreadful, Sir Patrick, was it not?”

“Dreary indeed! How did it end? Did you get into the garden?”

“Yes--at the second attempt. She seemed suddenly to change her mind; she
opened the door for me herself. Passing the window of the room in which
I had left her, I looked back. She had taken her place, at a table
before the window, apparently watching for what might happen. There was
something about her, as her eyes met mine (I can’t say what), which made
me feel uneasy at the time. Adopting your view, I am almost inclined to
think now, horrid as the idea is, that she had the expectation of seeing
me treated as _she_ had been treated in former days. It was actually a
relief to me--though I knew I was going to run a serious risk--to lose
sight of her. As I got nearer to the men in the garden, I heard two of
them talking very earnestly to Geoffrey Delamayn. The fourth person, an
elderly gentleman, stood apart from the rest at some little distance. I
kept as far as I could out of sight, waiting till the talk was over.
It was impossible for me to help hearing it. The two men were trying
to persuade Geoffrey Delamayn to speak to the elderly gentleman. They
pointed to him as a famous medical man. They reiterated over and over
again, that his opinion was well worth having--”

Sir Patrick interrupted her. “Did they mention his name?” he asked.

“Yes. They called him Mr. Speedwell.”

“The man himself! This is even more interesting, Miss Silvester, than
you suppose. I myself heard Mr. Speedwell warn Delamayn that he was in
broken health, when we were visiting together at Windygates House
last month. Did he do as the other men wished him? Did he speak to the
surgeon?”

“No. He sulkily refused--he remembered what you remember. He said, ‘See
the man who told me I was broken down?--not I!’ After confirming it
with an oath, he turned away from the others. Unfortunately, he took the
direction in which I was standing, and discovered me. The bare sight
of me seemed to throw him instantly into a state of frenzy. He--it is
impossible for me to repeat the language that he used: it is bad enough
to have heard it. I believe, Sir Patrick, but for the two men, who ran
up and laid hold of him, that Hester Dethridge would have seen what she
expected to see. The change in him was so frightful--even to me, well as
I thought I knew him in his fits of passion--I tremble when I think of
it. One of the men who had restrained him was almost as brutal, in his
way. He declared, in the foulest language, that if Delamayn had a fit,
he would lose the race, and that I should be answerable for it. But for
Mr. Speedwell, I don’t know what I should have done. He came forward
directly. ‘This is no place either for you, or for me,’ he said--and
gave me his arm, and led me back to the house. Hester Dethridge met us
in the passage, and lifted her hand to stop me. Mr. Speedwell asked her
what she wanted. She looked at me, and then looked toward the garden,
and made the motion of striking a blow with her clenched fist. For the
first time in my experience of her--I hope it was my fancy--I thought I
saw her smile. Mr. Speedwell took me out. ‘They are well matched in that
house,’ he said. ‘The woman is as complete a savage as the men.’ The
carriage which I had seen waiting at the door was his. He called it up,
and politely offered me a place in it. I said I would only trespass on
his kindness as far as to the railway station. While we were talking,
Hester Dethridge followed us to the door. She made the same motion again
with her clenched hand, and looked back toward the garden--and then
looked at me, and nodded her head, as much as to say, ‘He will do it
yet!’ No words can describe how glad I was to see the last of her. I
hope and trust I shall never set eyes on her again!”

“Did you hear how Mr. Speedwell came to be at the house? Had he gone of
his own accord? or had he been sent for?”

“He had been sent for. I ventured to speak to him about the persons whom
I had seen in the garden. Mr. Speedwell explained everything which I was
not able of myself to understand, in the kindest manner. One of the two
strange men in the garden was the trainer; the other was a doctor, whom
the trainer was usually in the habit of consulting. It seems that the
real reason for their bringing Geof frey Delamayn away from Scotland
when they did, was that the trainer was uneasy, and wanted to be near
London for medical advice. The doctor, on being consulted, owned that he
was at a loss to understand the symptoms which he was asked to treat.
He had himself fetched the great surgeon to Fulham, that morning. Mr.
Speedwell abstained from mentioning that he had foreseen what would
happen, at Windygates. All he said was, ‘I had met Mr. Delamayn in
society, and I felt interest enough in the case to pay him a visit--with
what result, you have seen yourself.’”

“Did he tell you any thing about Delamayn’s health?”

“He said that he had questioned the doctor on the way to Fulham, and
that some of the patient’s symptoms indicated serious mischief. What the
symptoms were I did not hear. Mr. Speedwell only spoke of changes for
the worse in him which a woman would be likely to understand. At one
time, he would be so dull and heedless that nothing could rouse him. At
another, he flew into the most terrible passions without any apparent
cause. The trainer had found it almost impossible (in Scotland) to keep
him to the right diet; and the doctor had only sanctioned taking
the house at Fulham, after being first satisfied, not only of the
convenience of the garden, but also that Hester Dethridge could be
thoroughly trusted as a cook. With her help, they had placed him on an
entirely new diet. But they had found an unexpected difficulty even in
doing that. When the trainer took him to the new lodgings, it turned
out that he had seen Hester Dethridge at Windygates, and had taken
the strongest prejudice against her. On seeing her again at Fulham, he
appeared to be absolutely terrified.”

“Terrified? Why?”

“Nobody knows why. The trainer and the doctor together could only
prevent his leaving the house, by threatening to throw up the
responsibility of preparing him for the race, unless he instantly
controlled himself, and behaved like a man instead of a child. Since
that time, he has become reconciled, little by little, to his new
abode--partly through Hester Dethridge’s caution in keeping herself
always out of his way; and partly through his own appreciation of the
change in his diet, which Hester’s skill in cookery has enabled the
doctor to make. Mr. Speedwell mentioned some things which I have
forgotten. I can only repeat, Sir Patrick, the result at which he has
arrived in his own mind. Coming from a man of his authority, the opinion
seems to me to be startling in the last degree. If Geoffrey Delamayn
runs in the race on Thursday next, he will do it at the risk of his
life.”

“At the risk of dying on the ground?”

“Yes.”

Sir Patrick’s face became thoughtful. He waited a little before he spoke
again.

“We have not wasted our time,” he said, “in dwelling on what happened
during your visit to Fulham. The possibility of this man’s death
suggests to my mind serious matter for consideration. It is very
desirable, in the interests of my niece and her husband, that I should
be able to foresee, if I can, how a fatal result of the race might
affect the inquiry which is to be held on Saturday next. I believe you
may be able to help me in this.”

“You have only to tell me how, Sir Patrick.”

“I may count on your being present on Saturday?”

“Certainly.”

“You thoroughly understand that, in meeting Blanche, you will meet a
person estranged from you, for the present--a friend and sister who has
ceased (under Lady Lundie’s influence mainly) to feel as a friend and
sister toward you now?”

“I was not quite unprepared, Sir Patrick, to hear that Blanche had
misjudged me. When I wrote my letter to Mr. Brinkworth, I warned him
as delicately as I could, that his wife’s jealousy might be very easily
roused. You may rely on my self-restraint, no matter how hardly it may
be tried. Nothing that Blanche can say or do will alter my grateful
remembrance of the past. While I live, I love her. Let that assurance
quiet any little anxiety that you may have felt as to my conduct--and
tell me how I can serve those interests which I have at heart as well as
you.”

“You can serve them, Miss Silvester, in this way. You can make me
acquainted with the position in which you stood toward Delamayn at the
time when you went to the Craig Fernie inn.”

“Put any questions to me that you think right, Sir Patrick.”

“You mean that?”

“I mean it.”

“I will begin by recalling something which you have already told me.
Delamayn has promised you marriage--”

“Over and over again!”

“In words?”

“Yes.”

“In writing?”

“Yes.”

“Do you see what I am coming to?”

“Hardly yet.”

“You referred, when we first met in this room, to a letter which you
recovered from Bishopriggs, at Perth. I have ascertained from Arnold
Brinkworth that the sheet of note-paper stolen from you contained two
letters. One was written by you to Delamayn--the other was written by
Delamayn to you. The substance of this last Arnold remembered. Your
letter he had not read. It is of the utmost importance, Miss Silvester,
to let me see that correspondence before we part to-day.”

Anne made no answer. She sat with her clasped hands on her lap. Her eyes
looked uneasily away from Sir Patrick’s face, for the first time.

“Will it not be enough,” she asked, after an interval, “if I tell you
the substance of my letter, without showing it?”

“It will _not_ be enough,” returned Sir Patrick, in the plainest manner.
“I hinted--if you remember--at the propriety of my seeing the letter,
when you first mentioned it, and I observed that you purposely abstained
from understanding me, I am grieved to put you, on this occasion, to a
painful test. But if you _are_ to help me at this serious crisis, I have
shown you the way.”

Anne rose from her chair, and answered by putting the letter into Sir
Patrick’s hands. “Remember what he has done, since I wrote that,” she
said. “And try to excuse me, if I own that I am ashamed to show it to
you now.”

With those words she walked aside to the window. She stood there, with
her hand pressed on her breast, looking out absently on the murky London
view of house roof and chimney, while Sir Patrick opened the letter.

It is necessary to the right appreciation of events, that other
eyes besides Sir Patrick’s should follow the brief course of the
correspondence in this place.

1. _From Anne Silvester to Geoffrey Delamayn._

WINDYGATES HOUSE. _August_ 19, 1868.

“GEOFFREY DELAMAYN,--I have waited in the hope that you would ride over
from your brother’s place, and see me--and I have waited in vain. Your
conduct to me is cruelty itself; I will bear it no longer. Consider! in
your own interests, consider--before you drive the miserable woman who
has trusted you to despair. You have promised me marriage by all that is
sacred. I claim your promise. I insist on nothing less than to be
what you vowed I should be--what I have waited all this weary time to
be--what I _am,_ in the sight of Heaven, your wedded wife. Lady Lundie
gives a lawn-party here on the 14th. I know you have been asked. I
expect you to accept her invitation. If I don’t see you, I won’t answer
for what may happen. My mind is made up to endure this suspense no
longer. Oh, Geoffrey, remember the past! Be faithful--be just--to your
loving wife,

“ANNE SILVESTER.”

2. _From Geoffrey Delamayn to Anne Silvester._

“DEAR ANNE,--Just called to London to my father. They have telegraphed
him in a bad way. Stop where you are, and I will write you. Trust the
bearer. Upon my soul, I’ll keep my promise. Your loving husband that is
to be,

“GEOFFREY DELAMAYN.

“WINDYGATES HOUSE _Augt._ 14, 4 P. M.

“In a mortal hurry. The train starts 4.30.”


Sir Patrick read the correspondence with breathless attention to the
end. At the last lines of the last letter he did what he had not done
for twenty years past--he sprang to his feet at a bound, and he crossed
a room without the help of his ivory cane.

Anne started; and turning round from the window, looked at him in silent
surprise. He was under the influence of strong emotion; his face, his
voice, his manner, all showed it.

“How long had you been in Scotland, when you wrote this?” He pointed to
Anne’s letter as he asked the question, put ting it so eagerly that he
stammered over the first words. “More than three weeks?” he added, with
his bright black eyes fixed in absorbing interest on her face.

“Yes.”

“Are you sure of that?”

“I am certain of it.”

“You can refer to persons who have seen you?”

“Easily.”

He turned the sheet of note-paper, and pointed to Geoffrey’s penciled
letter on the fourth page.

“How long had _he_ been in Scotland, when _he_ wrote this? More than
three weeks, too?”

Anne considered for a moment.

“For God’s sake, be careful!” said Sir Patrick. “You don’t know what
depends on this, If your memory is not clear about it, say so.”

“My memory was confused for a moment. It is clear again now. He had been
at his brother’s in Perthshire three weeks before he wrote that. And
before he went to Swanhaven, he spent three or four days in the valley
of the Esk.”

“Are you sure again?”

“Quite sure!”

“Do you know of any one who saw him in the valley of the Esk?”

“I know of a person who took a note to him, from me.”

“A person easily found?”

“Quite easily.”

Sir Patrick laid aside the letter, and seized in ungovernable agitation
on both her hands.

“Listen to me,” he said. “The whole conspiracy against Arnold Brinkworth
and you falls to the ground before that correspondence. When you and he
met at the inn--”

He paused, and looked at her. Her hands were beginning to tremble in
his.

“When you and Arnold Brinkworth met at the inn,” he resumed, “the law of
Scotland had made you a married woman. On the day, and at the hour,
when he wrote those lines at the back of your letter to him, you were
_Geoffrey Delamayn’s wedded wife!_”

He stopped, and looked at her again.

Without a word in reply, without the slightest movement in her from head
to foot, she looked back at him. The blank stillness of horror was in
her face. The deadly cold of horror was in her hands.

In silence, on his side, Sir Patrick drew back a step, with a faint
reflection of _her_ dismay in his face. Married--to the villain who had
not hesitated to calumniate the woman whom he had ruined, and then to
cast her helpless on the world. Married--to the traitor who had not
shrunk from betraying Arnold’s trust in him, and desolating Arnold’s
home. Married--to the ruffian who would have struck her that morning, if
the hands of his own friends had not held him back. And Sir Patrick had
never thought of it! Absorbed in the one idea of Blanche’s future, he
had never thought of it, till that horror-stricken face looked at him,
and said, Think of _my_ future, too!

He came back to her. He took her cold hand once more in his.

“Forgive me,” he said, “for thinking first of Blanche.”

Blanche’s name seemed to rouse her. The life came back to her face; the
tender brightness began to shine again in her eyes. He saw that he might
venture to speak more plainly still: he went on.

“I see the dreadful sacrifice as _you_ see it. I ask myself, have I any
right, has Blanche any right--”

She stopped him by a faint pressure of his hand.

“Yes,” she said, softly, “if Blanche’s happiness depends on it.”



THIRTEENTH SCENE.--FULHAM.



CHAPTER THE FORTY-FIFTH.

THE FOOT-RACE.

A SOLITARY foreigner, drifting about London, drifted toward Fulham on
the day of the Foot-Race.

Little by little, he found himself involved in the current of a throng
of impetuous English people, all flowing together toward one given
point, and all decorated alike with colors of two prevailing hues--pink
and yellow. He drifted along with the stream of passengers on the
pavement (accompanied by a stream of carriages in the road) until they
stopped with one accord at a gate--and paid admission money to a man in
office--and poured into a great open space of ground which looked like
an uncultivated garden.

Arrived here, the foreign visitor opened his eyes in wonder at the scene
revealed to view. He observed thousands of people assembled, composed
almost exclusively of the middle and upper classes of society. They
were congregated round a vast inclosure; they were elevated on
amphitheatrical wooden stands, and they were perched on the roofs of
horseless carriages, drawn up in rows. From this congregation there rose
such a roar of eager voices as he had never heard yet from any assembled
multitude in these islands. Predominating among the cries, he detected
one everlasting question. It began with, “Who backs--?” and it ended in
the alternate pronouncing of two British names unintelligible to foreign
ears. Seeing these extraordinary sights, and hearing these stirring
sounds, he applied to a policeman on duty; and said, in his best
producible English, “If you please, Sir, what is this?”

The policeman answered, “North against South--Sports.”

The foreigner was informed, but not satisfied. He pointed all round the
assembly with a circular sweep of his hand; and said, “Why?”

The policeman declined to waste words on a man who could ask such a
question as that. He lifted a large purple forefinger, with a broad
white nail at the end of it, and pointed gravely to a printed Bill,
posted on the wall behind him. The drifting foreigner drifted to the
Bill.

After reading it carefully, from top to bottom, he consulted a polite
private individual near at hand, who proved to be far more communicative
than the policeman. The result on his mind, as a person not thoroughly
awakened to the enormous national importance of Athletic Sports, was
much as follows:

The color of North is pink. The color of South is yellow. North produces
fourteen pink men, and South produces thirteen yellow men. The meeting
of pink and yellow is a solemnity. The solemnity takes its rise in
an indomitable national passion for hardening the arms and legs, by
throwing hammers and cricket-balls with the first, and running and
jumping with the second. The object in view is to do this in public
rivalry. The ends arrived at are (physically) an excessive development
of the muscles, purchased at the expense of an excessive strain on the
heart and the lungs--(morally), glory; conferred at the moment by the
public applause; confirmed the next day by a report in the newspapers.
Any person who presumes to see any physical evil involved in these
exercises to the men who practice them, or any moral obstruction in
the exhibition itself to those civilizing influences on which the true
greatness of all nations depends, is a person without a biceps, who is
simply incomprehensible. Muscular England develops itself, and takes no
notice of him.

The foreigner mixed with the assembly, and looked more closely at the
social spectacle around him.

He had met with these people before. He had seen them (for instance) at
the theatre, and observed their manners and customs with considerable
curiosity and surprise. When the curtain was down, they were so little
interested in what they had come to see, that they had hardly spirit
enough to speak to each other between the acts. When the curtain was up,
if the play made any appeal to their sympathy with any of the higher and
nobler emotions of humanity, they received it as something wearisome, or
sneered at it as something absurd. The public feeling of the countrymen
of Shakespeare, so far as they represented it, recognized but two duties
in the dramatist--the duty of making them laugh, and the duty of getting
it over soon. The two great merits of a stage proprietor, in England
(judging by the rare applause of his cultivated customers), consisted
in spending plenty of money on his scenery, and in hiring plenty of
brazen-faced women to exhibit their bosoms and their legs. Not at
theatres only; but among other gatherings, in other places, the
foreigner had noticed the same stolid languor where any effort was
exacted from genteel English brains, and the same stupid contempt where
any appeal was made to genteel English hearts. Preserve us from enjoying
any thing but jokes and scandal! Preserve us from respecting any thing
but rank and money! There were the social aspirations of these insular
ladies and gentlemen, as expressed under other circumstances, and as
betrayed amidst other scenes. Here, all was changed. Here was the strong
feeling, the breathless interest, the hearty enthusiasm, not visible
elsewhere. Here were the superb gentlemen who were too weary to speak,
when an Art was addressing them, shouting themselves hoarse with burst
on burst of genuine applause. Here were the fine ladies who yawned
behind their fans, at the bare idea of being called on to think or
to feel, waving their handkerchiefs in honest delight, and actually
flushing with excitement through their powder and their paint. And all
for what? All for running and jumping--all for throwing hammers and
balls.

The foreigner looked at it, and tried, as a citizen of a civilized
country, to understand it. He was still trying--when there occurred a
pause in the performances.

Certain hurdles, which had served to exhibit the present satisfactory
state of civilization (in jumping) among the upper classes, were
removed. The privileged persons who had duties to perform within the
inclosure, looked all round it; and disappeared one after another. A
great hush of expectation pervaded the whole assembly. Something of no
common interest and importance was evidently about to take place. On a
sudden, the silence was broken by a roar of cheering from the mob in
the road outside the grounds. People looked at each other excitedly,
and said, “One of them has come.” The silence prevailed again--and was
a second time broken by another roar of applause. People nodded to each
other with an air of relief and said, “Both of them have come.” Then the
great hush fell on the crowd once more, and all eyes looked toward one
particular point of the ground, occupied by a little wooden pavilion,
with the blinds down over the open windows, and the door closed.

The foreigner was deeply impressed by the silent expectation of the
great throng about him. He felt his own sympathies stirred, without
knowing why. He believed himself to be on the point of understanding the
English people.

Some ceremony of grave importance was evidently in preparation. Was a
great orator going to address the assembly? Was a glorious anniversary
to be commemorated? Was a religious service to be performed? He looked
round him to apply for information once more. Two gentlemen--who
contrasted favorably, so far as refinement of manner was concerned, with
most of the spectators present--were slowly making their way, at that
moment, through the crowd near him. He respectfully asked what national
solemnity was now about to take place. They informed him that a pair
of strong young men were going to run round the inclosure for a given
number of turns, with the object of ascertaining which could run the
fastest of the two.

The foreigner lifted his hands and eyes to heaven. Oh, multifarious
Providence! who would have suspected that the infinite diversities of
thy creation included such beings as these! With that aspiration, he
turned his back on the race-course, and left the place.

On his way out of the grounds he had occasion to use his handkerchief,
and found that it was gone. He felt next for his purse. His purse was
missing too. When he was back again in his own country, intelligent
inquiries were addressed to him on the subject of England. He had but
one reply to give. “The whole nation is a mystery to me. Of all the
English people I only understand the English thieves!”



In the mean time the two gentlemen, making their way through the crowd,
reached a wicket-gate in the fence which surrounded the inclosure.

Presenting a written order to the policeman in charge of the gate, they
were forthwith admitted within the sacred precincts The closely packed
spectators, regarding them with mixed feelings of envy and curiosity,
wondered who they might be. Were they referees appointed to act at
the coming race? or reporters for the newspapers? or commissioners of
police? They were neither the one nor the other. They were only Mr.
Speedwell, the surgeon, and Sir Patrick Lundie.

The two gentlemen walked into the centre of the inclosure, and looked
round them.

The grass on which they were standing was girdled by a broad smooth
path, composed of finely-sifted ashes and sand--and this again was
surrounded by the fence and by the spectators ranked behind it. Above
the lines thus formed rose on one side the amphitheatres with their
tiers of crowded benches, and on the other the long rows of carriages
with the sight-seers inside and out. The evening sun was shining
brightly, the light and shade lay together in grand masses, the varied
colors of objects blended softly one with the other. It was a splendid
and an inspiriting scene.

Sir Patrick turned from the rows of eager faces all round him to his
friend the surgeon.

“Is there one person to be found in this vast crowd,” he asked, “who has
come to see the race with the doubt in his mind which has brought _us_
to see it?”

Mr. Speedwell shook his head. “Not one of them knows or cares what the
struggle may cost the men who engage in it.”

Sir Patrick looked round him again. “I almost wish I had not come to see
it,” he said. “If this wretched man--”

The surgeon interposed. “Don’t dwell needlessly, Sir Patrick, on the
gloomy view,” he rejoined. “The opinion I have formed has, thus far, no
positive grounds to rest on. I am guessing rightly, as I believe, but at
the same time I am guessing in the dark. Appearances _may_ have misled
me. There may be reserves of vital force in Mr. Delamayn’s constitution
which I don’t suspect. I am here to learn a lesson--not to see a
prediction fulfilled. I know his health is broken, and I believe he
is going to run this race at his own proper peril. Don’t feel too sure
beforehand of the event. The event may prove me to be wrong.”

For the moment Sir Patrick dropped the subject. He was not in his usual
spirits.

Since his interview with Anne had satisfied him that she was Geoffrey’s
lawful wife, the conviction had inevitably forced itself on his mind
that the one possible chance for her in the future, was the chance of
Geoffrey’s death. Horrible as it was to him, he had been possessed by
that one idea--go where he might, do what he might, struggle as he might
to force his thoughts in other directions. He looked round the broad
ashen path on which the race was to be run, conscious that he had a
secret interest in it which it was unutterably repugnant to him to feel.
He tried to resume the conversation with his friend, and to lead it to
other topics. The effort was useless. In despite of himself, he returned
to the one fatal subject of the struggle that was now close at hand.

“How many times must they go round this inclosure,” he inquired, “before
the race is ended?”

Mr. Speedwell turned toward a gentleman who was approaching them at the
moment. “Here is somebody coming who can tell us,” he said.

“You know him?”

“He is one of my patients.”

“Who is he?”

“After the two runners he is the most important personage on the ground.
He is the final authority--the umpire of the race.”

The person thus described was a middle-aged man, with a prematurely
wrinkled face, with prematurely white hair and with something of a
military look about him--brief in speech, and quick in manner.

“The path measures four hundred and forty yards round,” he said, when
the surgeon had repeated Sir Patrick’s question to him. “In plainer
words, and not to put you to your arithmetic once round it is a quarter
of a mile. Each round is called a ‘Lap.’ The men must run sixteen Laps
to finish the race. Not to put you to your arithmetic again, they must
run four miles--the longest race of this kind which it is customary to
attempt at Sports like these.”

“Professional pedestrians exceed that limit, do they not?”

“Considerably--on certain occasions.”

“Are they a long-lived race?”

“Far from it. They are exceptions when they live to be old men.”

Mr. Speedwell looked at Sir Patrick. Sir Patrick put a question to the
umpire.

“You have just told us,” he said, “that the two young men who appear
to-day are going to run the longest distance yet attempted in their
experience. Is it generally thought, by persons who understand such
things, that they are both fit to bear the exertion demanded of them?”

“You can judge for yourself, Sir. Here is one of them.”

He pointed toward the pavilion. At the same moment there rose a mighty
clapping of hands from the great throng of spectators. Fleetwood,
champion of the North, decorated in his pink colors, descended the
pavilion steps and walked into the arena.

Young, lithe, and elegant, with supple strength expressed in every
movement of his limbs, with a bright smile on his resolute young face,
the man of the north won the women’s hearts at starting. The murmur
of eager talk rose among them on all sides. The men were
quieter--especially the men who understood the subject. It was a serious
question with these experts whether Fleetwood was not “a little too
fine.” Superbly trained, it was admitted--but, possibly, a little
over-trained for a four-mile race.

The northern hero was followed into the inclosure by his friends and
backers, and by his trainer. This last carried a tin can in his hand.
“Cold water,” the umpire explained. “If he gets exhausted, his trainer
will pick him up with a dash of it as he goes by.”

A new burst of hand-clapping rattled all round the arena. Delamayn,
champion of the South, decorated in his yellow colors, presented himself
to the public view.

The immense hum of voices rose louder and louder as he walked into the
centre of the great green space. Surprise at the extraordinary contrast
between the two men was the prevalent emotion of the moment. Geoffrey
was more than a head taller than his antagonist, and broader in full
proportion. The women who had been charmed with the easy gait and
confident smile of Fleetwood, were all more or less painfully impressed
by the sullen strength of the southern man, as he passed before them
slowly, with his head down and his brows knit, deaf to the applause
showered on him, reckless of the eyes that looked at him; speaking to
nobody; concentrated in himself; biding his time. He held the men who
understood the subject breathless with interest. There it was! the
famous “staying power” that was to endure in the last terrible half-mile
of the race, when the nimble and jaunty Fleetwood was run off his legs.
Whispers had been spread abroad hinting at something which had gone
wrong with Delamayn in his training. And now that all eyes could judge
him, his appearance suggested criticism in some quarters. It was exactly
the opposite of the criticism passed on his antagonist. The doubt as to
Delamayn was whether he had been sufficiently trained. Still the
solid strength of the man, the slow, panther-like smoothness of his
movements--and, above all, his great reputation in the world of
muscle and sport--had their effect. The betting which, with occasional
fluctuations, had held steadily in his favor thus far, held, now that he
was publicly seen, steadily in his favor still.

“Fleetwood for shorter distances, if you like; but Delamayn for a
four-mile race.”

“Do you think he sees us?” whispered Sir Patrick to the surgeon.

“He sees nobody.”

“Can you judge of the condition he is in, at this distance?”

“He has twice the muscular strength of the other man. His trunk and
limbs are magnificent. It is useless to ask me more than that about his
condition. We are too far from him to see his face plainly.”

The conversation among the audience began to flag again; and the silent
expectation set in among them once more. One by one, the different
persons officially connected with the race gathered together on the
grass. The trainer Perry was among them, with his can of water in his
hand, in anxious whispering conversation with his principal--giving him
the last words of advice before the start. The trainer’s doctor, leaving
them together, came up to pay his respects to his illustrious colleague.

“How has he got on since I was at Fulham?” asked Mr. Speedwell.

“First-rate, Sir! It was one of his bad days when you saw him. He has
done wonders in the last eight-and-forty hours.”

“Is he going to win the race?”

Privately the doctor had done what Perry had done before him--he had
backed Geoffrey’s antagonist. Publicly he was true to his colors. He
cast a disparaging look at Fleetwood--and answered Yes, without the
slightest hesitation.

At that point, the conversation was suspended by a sudden movement in
the inclosure. The runners were on their way to the starting-place. The
moment of the race had come.



Shoulder to shoulder, the two men waited--each with his foot touching
the mark. The firing of a pistol gave the signal for the start. At the
instant when the report sounded they were off.

Fleetwood at once took the lead, Delamayn following, at from two to
three yards behind him. In that order they ran the first round, the
second, and the third--both reserving their strength; both watched with
breathless interest by every soul in the place. The trainers, with their
cans in their hands, ran backward and forward over the grass, meeting
their men at certain points, and eying them narrowly, in silence. The
official persons stood together in a group; their eyes following the
runners round and round with the closest attention. The trainer’s
doctor, still attached to his illustrious colleague, offered the
necessary explanations to Mr. Speedwell and his friend.

“Nothing much to see for the first mile, Sir, except the ‘style’ of the
two men.”

“You mean they are not really exerting themselves yet?”

“No. Getting their wind, and feeling their legs. Pretty runner,
Fleetwood--if you notice Sir? Gets his legs a trifle better in front,
and hardly lifts his heels quite so high as our man. His action’s the
best of the two; I grant that. But just look, as they come by, which
keeps the straightest line. There’s where Delamayn has him! It’s a
steadier, stronger, truer pace; and you’ll see it tell when they’re
half-way through.” So, for the first three rounds, the doctor expatiated
on the two contrasted “styles”--in terms mercifully adapted to the
comprehension of persons unacquainted with the language of the running
ring.

At the fourth round--in other words, at the round which completed the
first mile, the first change in the relative position of the runners
occurred. Delamayn suddenly dashed to the front. Fleetwood smiled as the
other passed him. Delamayn held the lead till they were half way through
the fifth round--when Fleetwood, at a hint from his trainer, forced the
pace. He lightly passed Delamayn in an instant; and led again to the
completion of the sixth round.

At the opening of the seventh, Delamayn forced the pace on his side. For
a few moments, they ran exactly abreast. Then Delamayn drew away inch
by inch; and recovered the lead. The first burst of applause (led by the
south) rang out, as the big man beat Fleetwood at his own tactics, and
headed him at the critical moment when the race was nearly half run.

“It begins to look as if Delamayn _was_ going to win!” said Sir Patrick.

The trainer’s doctor forgot himself. Infected by the rising excitement
of every body about him, he let out the truth.

“Wait a bit!” he said. “Fleetwood has got directions to let him
pass--Fleetwood is waiting to see what he can do.”

“Cunning, you see, Sir Patrick, is one of the elements in a manly
sport,” said Mr. Speedwell, quietly.

At the end of the seventh round, Fleetwood proved the doctor to be
right. He shot past Delamayn like an arrow from a bow. At the end of the
eight round, he was leading by two yards. Half the race had then been
run. Time, ten minutes and thirty-three seconds.

Toward the end of the ninth round, the pace slackened a little; and
Delamayn was in front again. He kept ahead, until the opening of the
eleventh round. At that point, Fleetwood flung up one hand in the air
with a gesture of triumph; and bounded past Delamayn with a shout of
“Hooray for the North!” The shout was echoed by the spectators. In
proportion as the exertion began to tell upon the men, so the excitement
steadily rose among the people looking at them.

At the twelfth round, Fleetwood was leading by six yards. Cries of
triumph rose among the adherents of the north, met by counter-cries of
defiance from the south. At the next turn Delamayn resolutely lessened
the distance between his antagonist and himself. At the opening of the
fourteenth round, they were coming sid e by side. A few yards more, and
Delamayn was in front again, amidst a roar of applause from the whole
public voice. Yet a few yards further, and Fleetwood neared him, passed
him, dropped behind again, led again, and was passed again at the end
of the round. The excitement rose to its highest pitch, as the
runners--gasping for breath; with dark flushed faces, and heaving
breasts--alternately passed and repassed each other. Oaths were heard
now as well as cheers. Women turned pale and men set their teeth, as the
last round but one began.

At the opening of it, Delamayn was still in advance. Before six yards
more had been covered, Fleetwood betrayed the purpose of his running in
the previous round, and electrified the whole assembly, by dashing past
his antagonist--for the first time in the race at the top of his speed.
Every body present could see, now, that Delamayn had been allowed to
lead on sufferance--had been dextrously drawn on to put out his whole
power--and had then, and not till then, been seriously deprived of the
lead. He made another effort, with a desperate resolution that roused
the public enthusiasm to frenzy. While the voices were roaring; while
the hats and handkerchiefs were waving round the course; while
the actual event of the race was, for one supreme moment, still in
doubt--Mr. Speedwell caught Sir Patrick by the arm.

“Prepare yourself!” he whispered. “It’s all over.”

As the words passed his lips, Delamayn swerved on the path. His trainer
dashed water over him. He rallied, and ran another step or two--swerved
again--staggered--lifted his arm to his mouth with a hoarse cry of
rage--fastened his own teeth in his flesh like a wild beast--and fell
senseless on the course.

A Babel of sounds arose. The cries of alarm in some places, mingling
with the shouts of triumph from the backers of Fleetwood in others--as
their man ran lightly on to win the now uncontested race. Not the
inclosure only, but the course itself was invaded by the crowd. In the
midst of the tumult the fallen man was drawn on to the grass--with Mr.
Speedwell and the trainer’s doctor in attendance on him. At the terrible
moment when the surgeon laid his hand on the heart, Fleetwood passed the
spot--a passage being forced for him through the people by his friends
and the police--running the sixteenth and last round of the race.

Had the beaten man fainted under it, or had he died under it? Every body
waited, with their eyes riveted on the surgeon’s hand.

The surgeon looked up from him, and called for water to throw over his
face, for brandy to put into his mouth. He was coming to life again--he
had survived the race. The last shout of applause which hailed
Fleetwood’s victory rang out as they lifted him from the ground to carry
him to the pavilion. Sir Patrick (admitted at Mr. Speedwell’s request)
was the one stranger allowed to pass the door. At the moment when he was
ascending the steps, some one touched his arm. It was Captain Newenden.

“Do the doctors answer for his life?” asked the captain. “I can’t get my
niece to leave the ground till she is satisfied of that.”

Mr. Speedwell heard the question and replied to it briefly from the top
of the pavilion steps.

“For the present--yes,” he said.

The captain thanked him, and disappeared.

They entered the pavilion. The necessary restorative measures were
taken under Mr. Speedwell’s directions. There the conquered athlete lay:
outwardly an inert mass of strength, formidable to look at, even in its
fall; inwardly, a weaker creature, in all that constitutes vital
force, than the fly that buzzed on the window-pane. By slow degrees the
fluttering life came back. The sun was setting; and the evening light
was beginning to fail. Mr. Speedwell beckoned to Perry to follow him
into an unoccupied corner of the room.

“In half an hour or less he will be well enough to be taken home. Where
are his friends? He has a brother--hasn’t he?”

“His brother’s in Scotland, Sir.”

“His father?”

Perry scratched his head. “From all I hear, Sir, he and his father don’t
agree.”

Mr. Speedwell applied to Sir Patrick.

“Do you know any thing of his family affairs?”

“Very little. I believe what the man has told you to be the truth.”

“Is his mother living?”

“Yes.”

“I will write to her myself. In the mean time, somebody must take him
home. He has plenty of friends here. Where are they?”

He looked out of the window as he spoke. A throng of people had gathered
round the pavilion, waiting to hear the latest news. Mr. Speedwell
directed Perry to go out and search among them for any friends of his
employer whom he might know by sight. Perry hesitated, and scratched his
head for the second time.

“What are you waiting for?” asked the surgeon, sharply. “You know his
friends by sight, don’t you?”

“I don’t think I shall find them outside,” said Perry.

“Why not?”

“They backed him heavily, Sir--and they have all lost.”

Deaf to this unanswerable reason for the absence of friends, Mr.
Speedwell insisted on sending Perry out to search among the persons
who composed the crowd. The trainer returned with his report. “You were
right, Sir. There are some of his friends outside. They want to see
him.”

“Let two or three of them in.”

Three came in. They stared at him. They uttered brief expressions of
pity in slang. They said to Mr. Speedwell, “We wanted to see him. What
is it--eh?”

“It’s a break-down in his health.”

“Bad training?”

“Athletic Sports.”

“Oh! Thank you. Good-evening.”

Mr. Speedwell’s answer drove them out like a flock of sheep before a
dog. There was not even time to put the question to them as to who was
to take him home.

“I’ll look after him, Sir,” said Perry. “You can trust me.”

“I’ll go too,” added the trainer’s doctor; “and see him littered down
for the night.”

(The only two men who had “hedged” their bets, by privately backing his
opponent, were also the only two men who volunteered to take him home!)

They went back to the sofa on which he was lying. His bloodshot
eyes were rolling heavily and vacantly about him, on the search for
something. They rested on the doctor--and looked away again. They turned
to Mr. Speedwell--and stopped, riveted on his face. The surgeon bent
over him, and said, “What is it?”

He answered with a thick accent and laboring breath--uttering a word at
a time: “Shall--I--die?”

“I hope not.”

“Sure?”

“No.”

He looked round him again. This time his eyes rested on the trainer.
Perry came forward.

“What can I do for you, Sir?”

The reply came slowly as before. “My--coat--pocket.”

“This one, Sir?”

“No.”

“This?”

“Yes. Book.”

The trainer felt in the pocket, and produced a betting-book.

“What’s to be done with this. Sir?”

“Read.”

The trainer held the book before him; open at the last two pages on
which entries had been made. He rolled his head impatiently from side to
side of the sofa pillow. It was plain that he was not yet sufficiently
recovered to be able to read what he had written.

“Shall I read for you, Sir?”

“Yes.”

The trainer read three entries, one after another, without result; they
had all been honestly settled. At the fourth the prostrate man said,
“Stop!” This was the first of the entries which still depended on a
future event. It recorded the wager laid at Windygates, when Geoffrey
had backed himself (in defiance of the surgeon’s opinion) to row in the
University boat-race next spring--and had forced Arnold Brinkworth to
bet against him.

“Well, Sir? What’s to be done about this?”

He collected his strength for the effort; and answered by a word at a
time.

“Write--brother--Julius. Pay--Arnold--wins.”

His lifted hand, solemnly emphasizing what he said, dropped at his side.
He closed his eyes; and fell into a heavy stertorous sleep. Give him his
due. Scoundrel as he was, give him his due. The awful moment, when his
life was trembling in the balance, found him true to the last living
faith left among the men of his tribe and time--the faith of the
betting-book.



Sir Patrick and Mr. Speedwell quitted the race-ground together; Geoffrey
having been previously removed to his lodgings hard by. They met Arnold
Brinkworth at the gate. He had, by his own desire, kept out of view
among the crowd; and he decided on walking back by himself. The
separation from Blanche had changed him in all his habits. He asked but
two favors during the interval which was to elapse before he saw his
wife again--to be allowed to bear it in his own way, and to be left
alone.

Relieved of the oppression which had kept him silent while the race was
in progress, Sir Patrick put a question to the surgeon as they drove
home, which had been in his mind from the moment when Geoffrey had lost
the day.

“I hardly understand the anxiety you showed about Delamayn,” he said,
“when you found that he had only fainted under the fatigue. Was it
something more than a common fainting fit?”

“It is useless to conceal it now,” replied Mr. Speedwell. “He has had a
narrow escape from a paralytic stroke.”

“Was that what you dreaded when you spoke to him at Windygates?”

“That was what I saw in his face when I gave him the warning. I was
right, so far. I was wrong in my estimate of the reserve of vital power
left in him. When he dropped on the race-course, I firmly believed we
should find him a dead man.”

“Is it hereditary paralysis? His father’s last illness was of that
sort.”

Mr. Speedwell smiled. “Hereditary paralysis?” he repeated. “Why the man
is (naturally) a phenomenon of health and strength--in the prime of his
life. Hereditary paralysis might have found him out thirty years
hence. His rowing and his running, for the last four years, are alone
answerable for what has happened to-day.”

Sir Patrick ventured on a suggestion.

“Surely,” he said, “with your name to compel attention to it, you ought
to make this public--as a warning to others?”

“It would be quite useless. Delamayn is far from being the first man
who has dropped at foot-racing, under the cruel stress laid on the vital
organs. The public have a happy knack of forgetting these accidents.
They would be quite satisfied when they found the other man (who happens
to have got through it) produced as a sufficient answer to me.”

Anne Silvester’s future was still dwelling on Sir Patrick’s mind. His
next inquiry related to the serious subject of Geoffrey’s prospect of
recovery in the time to come.

“He will never recover,” said Mr. Speedwell. “Paralysis is hanging over
him. How long he may live it is impossible for me to say. Much depends
on himself. In his condition, any new imprudence, any violent emotion,
may kill him at a moment’s notice.”

“If no accident happens,” said Sir Patrick, “will he be sufficiently
himself again to leave his bed and go out?”

“Certainly.”

“He has an appointment that I know of for Saturday next. Is it likely
that he will be able to keep it?”

“Quite likely.”

Sir Patrick said no more. Anne’s face was before him again at the
memorable moment when he had told her that she was Geoffrey’s wife.



FOURTEENTH SCENE.--PORTLAND PLACE.


CHAPTER THE FORTY-SIXTH.

A SCOTCH MARRIAGE.

IT was Saturday, the third of October--the day on which the assertion of
Arnold’s marriage to Anne Silvester was to be put to the proof.

Toward two o’clock in the afternoon Blanche and her step-mother entered
the drawing-room of Lady Lundie’s town house in Portland Place.

Since the previous evening the weather had altered for the worse. The
rain, which had set in from an early hour that morning, still fell.
Viewed from the drawing-room windows, the desolation of Portland Place
in the dead season wore its aspect of deepest gloom. The dreary opposite
houses were all shut up; the black mud was inches deep in the roadway;
the soot, floating in tiny black particles, mixed with the falling rain,
and heightened the dirty obscurity of the rising mist. Foot-passengers
and vehicles, succeeding each other at rare intervals, left great gaps
of silence absolutely uninterrupted by sound. Even the grinders of
organs were mute; and the wandering dogs of the street were too wet to
bark. Looking back from the view out of Lady Lundie’s state windows
to the view in Lady Lundie’s state room, the melancholy that reigned
without was more than matched by the melancholy that reigned within.
The house had been shut up for the season: it had not been considered
necessary, during its mistress’s brief visit, to disturb the existing
state of things. Coverings of dim brown hue shrouded the furniture.
The chandeliers hung invisible in enormous bags. The silent clocks
hibernated under extinguishers dropped over them two months since. The
tables, drawn up in corners--loaded with ornaments at other times--had
nothing but pen, ink, and paper (suggestive of the coming proceedings)
placed on them now. The smell of the house was musty; the voice of the
house was still. One melancholy maid haunted the bedrooms up stairs,
like a ghost. One melancholy man, appointed to admit the visitors, sat
solitary in the lower regions--the last of the flunkies, mouldering
in an extinct servants’ hall. Not a word passed, in the drawing-room,
between Lady Lundie and Blanche. Each waited the appearance of the
persons concerned in the coming inquiry, absorbed in her own thoughts.
Their situation at the moment was a solemn burlesque of the situation
of two ladies who are giving an evening party, and who are waiting to
receive their guests. Did neither of them see this? Or, seeing it, did
they shrink from acknowledging it? In similar positions, who does not
shrink? The occasions are many on which we have excellent reason to
laugh when the tears are in our eyes; but only children are bold enough
to follow the impulse. So strangely, in human existence, does the
mockery of what is serious mingle with the serious reality itself, that
nothing but our own self-respect preserves our gravity at some of the
most important emergencies in our lives. The two ladies waited the
coming ordeal together gravely, as became the occasion. The silent maid
flitted noiseless up stairs. The silent man waited motionless in the
lower regions. Outside, the street was a desert. Inside, the house was a
tomb.

The church clock struck the hour. Two.

At the same moment the first of the persons concerned in the
investigation arrived.

Lady Lundie waited composedly for the opening of the drawing-room door.
Blanche started, and trembled. Was it Arnold? Was it Anne?

The door opened--and Blanche drew a breath of relief. The first arrival
was only Lady Lundie’s solicitor--invited to attend the proceedings
on her ladyship’s behalf. He was one of that large class of purely
mechanical and perfectly mediocre persons connected with the practice
of the law who will probably, in a more advanced state of science,
be superseded by machinery. He made himself useful in altering the
arrangement of the tables and chairs, so as to keep the contending
parties effectually separated from each other. He also entreated Lady
Lundie to bear in mind that he knew nothing of Scotch law, and that he
was there in the capacity of a friend only. This done, he sat down, and
looked out with silent interest at the rain--as if it was an operation
of Nature which he had never had an opportunity of inspecting before.

The next knock at the door heralded the arrival of a visitor of a
totally different order. The melancholy man-servant announced Captain
Newenden.

Possibly, in deference to the occasion, possibly, in defiance of the
weather, the captain had taken another backward step toward the days of
his youth. He was painted and padded, wigged and dressed, to represent
the abstract idea of a male human being of five-and twenty in robust
health. There might have been a little stiffness in the region of
the waist, and a slight want of firmness in the eyelid and the
chin. Otherwise there was the fiction of five-and twenty, founded in
appearance on the fact of five-and-thirty--with the truth invisible
behind it, counting seventy years! Wearing a flower in his buttonhole,
and carrying a jaunty little cane in his hand--brisk, rosy, smiling,
perfumed--the captain’s appearance brightened the dreary room. It was
pleasantly suggestive of a morning visit from an idle young man. He
appeared to be a little surprised to find Blanche present on the scene
of approaching conflict. Lady Lundie thought it due to herself to
explain. “My step-daughter is here in direct defiance of my entreaties
and my advice. Persons may present themselves whom it is, in my opinion,
improper she should see. Revelations will take place which no young
woman, in her position, should hear. She insists on it, Captain
Newenden--and I am obliged to submit.”

The captain shrugged his shoulders, and showed his beautiful teeth.

Blanche was far too deeply interested in the coming ordeal to care
to defend herself: she looked as if she had not even heard what her
step-mother had said of her. The solicitor remained absorbed in the
interesting view of the falling rain. Lady Lundie asked after Mrs.
Glenarm. The captain, in reply, described his niece’s anxiety as
something--something--something, in short, only to be indicated by
shaking his ambrosial curls and waving his jaunty cane. Mrs. Delamayn
was staying with her until her uncle returned with the news. And where
was Julius? Detained in Scotland by election business. And Lord and Lady
Holchester? Lord and Lady Holchester knew nothing about it.

There was another knock at the door. Blanche’s pale face turned paler
still. Was it Arnold? Was it Anne? After a longer delay than usual, the
servant announced Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn and Mr. Moy.

Geoffrey, slowly entering first, saluted the two ladies in silence, and
noticed no one else. The London solicitor, withdrawing himself for a
moment from the absorbing prospect of the rain, pointed to the places
reserved for the new-comer and for the legal adviser whom he had brought
with him. Geoffrey seated himself, without so much as a glance round the
room. Leaning his elbows on his knees, he vacantly traced patterns on
the carpet with his clumsy oaken walking-stick. Stolid indifference
expressed itself in his lowering brow and his loosely-hanging mouth.
The loss of the race, and the circumstances accompanying it, appeared
to have made him duller than usual and heavier than usual--and that was
all.

Captain Newenden, approaching to speak to him, stopped half-way,
hesitated, thought better of it--and addressed himself to Mr. Moy.

Geoffrey’s legal adviser--a Scotchman of the ruddy, ready, and convivial
type--cordially met the advance. He announced, in reply to the captain’s
inquiry, that the witnesses (Mrs. Inchbare and Bishopriggs) were waiting
below until they were wanted, in the housekeeper’s room. Had there been
any difficulty in finding them? Not the least. Mrs. Inchbare was, as
a matter of course, at her hotel. Inquiries being set on foot for
Bishopriggs, it appeared that he and the landlady had come to an
understanding, and that he had returned to his old post of headwaiter at
the