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Title: A Life for a Life, Volume 2 (of 3)
Author: Craik, Dinah Maria Mulock
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Life for a Life, Volume 2 (of 3)" ***

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A LIFE FOR A LIFE

By Dinah Maria Craik

The Author Of “John Halifax, Gentleman,” “A Woman’s Thoughts About
Women,” &c., &c.

In Three Volumes. Vol. II.

London: Hurst And Blackett, Publishers,

1859


“_When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath
committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his
soul alive_.”

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



A LIFE FOR A LIFE.



CHAPTER I. HIS STORY.

|I ended the last page with “I shall write no more here.” It used to
be my pride never to have broken a promise nor changed a resolution.
Pride! What have I to do with pride?

And resolutions, forsooth! What,--are we omnipotent and omniscient,
that against all changes of circumstances, feelings, or events, we
should set up our paltry resolutions, urge them and hold to them,
in spite of reason and conviction, with a tenacity that we suppose
heroic, god-like, yet which may be merely the blind obstinacy of a
brute?

I will never make a resolution again. I will never again say to
myself, “You, Max Urquhart, in order to keep up that character for
virtue, honour, and steadfastness, which heaven only knows whether or
no you deserve, ought to do so and so; and, come what will, you
must do it.” Out upon me and my doings! Was I singled out to be the
scapegoat of the world?

It is my intention here, regularly to set down, for certain reasons,
which I may, or may not, afterwards allude to, certain events, which
have happened without any act of mine, almost without my volition,
if a man can be so led on by force of circumstances, that there
seems only one course of conduct open to him to pursue. Whither these
circumstances may lead, I am at this moment as utterly ignorant as on
the day I was born, and almost as powerless. I make no determinations,
attempt no previsions, follow no set line of conduct; doing only from
day to day, what is expected of me, and leaving all the rest to--is
it? it must be--to God.

The sole thing in which I may be said to exercise any absolute
volition, is in writing down what I mean to write here, the only
record that will exist of the veritable me--Max Urquhart,--as he might
have been known, not to people in general, but to--any one who looked
into his deepest heart, and was his friend, his beloved, his very own.

The form of Imaginary Correspondent I henceforward throw aside. I am
perfectly aware to whom and for whom I write: yet who, in all human
probability, will never read a single line.

Once, an officer in the Crimea, believing himself dying, gave me a
packet of letters to burn. He had written them, year by year, under
every change of fortune, to a friend he had, to whom he occasionally
wrote other letters, _not_ like these; which were never sent nor meant
to be sent, during his life-time--though sometimes I fancy he dreamed
of _giving_ them, and of their being read, smiling, by two together.
He was mistaken. Circumstances which happen not rarely to dreamers
like him, made it unnecessary, nay, impossible, for them to be
delivered at all. He bade me burn them--at once--in case he died. In
so doing there started out of the embers, clear and plain, _the name_.
But the fire and I told no tales; I took the poker and buried it.
Poor fellow! He did not die, and I meet him still; but we have never
referred to those burnt letters.

These letters of mine I also may one day burn. In the meantime, there
shall be no name or superscription on them--no beginning or ending,
nor, if I can avoid it, anything which could particularise the person
to whom they are written. For all others, they will take the form of a
mere statement--nothing more.

To begin. I was sitting about eleven at night, over the fire, in
my hut. I had been busy all day, and had had little rest the night
before.

It was not my intention to attend our camp concert; but I was in
a manner compelled to do so. Ill news from home reached poor young
Ansdell of ours--and his colonel sent me to break it to him. I then
had to wait about, in order to see the good colonel as he came out
from the concert-room. It was, therefore, purely by accident that I
met those friends whom I afterwards did not leave for several minutes.

The reason of this delay in their company may be told. It was a sudden
agony about the uncertainty of life--young life; fresh and hopeful as
pretty Laura Ansdell’s--whom I had chanced to see riding through the
North Camp, not two weeks ago--and now she was dead. Accustomed as I
am to almost every form of mortality, I had never faced the grim fear
exactly in this shape before. It put me out of myself for a little
time.

I did not go near Granton the following day, but received from him a
message and my plaid. She--the lady to whom I had lent it--was “quite
well.” No more: how could I possibly expect any more?

I was, as I say, sitting over my hut-fire, with the strangest medley
in my mind--rosy Laura Ansdell--now galloping across the moor--now
lying still and colourless in her coffin; and another face, about
the same age, though I suppose it would not be considered nearly as
pretty, with the scarlet hood drawn over it; pallid with cold, yet
with such a soft light in the eyes, such a trembling sweetness about
the mouth! She must be a very happy-minded creature. I hardly ever
saw her, or was with her any length of time, that she did not look the
picture of content and repose. She always puts me in mind of Dallas’s
pet song, when we were boys--“Jessie, the Flower o’ Dunblane."=

```"She’s modest as ony, and blithe as she’s bonnie,

````And guileless simplicity marks her its ain,

```And far be the villain, divested o’ feelin’,

````Wha’d blight in its bud the sweet Flower o’ Dunblane."=

I say amen to that.

It was--to return, for the third time, to simple narrative--somewhere
about eleven o’clock, when a man on horseback stopped at my hut-door.
I thought it might be a summons to the Ansdells, but it was not. It
was the groom from Rockmount, bringing me a letter.

Her letter--her little letter! I ought to burn it--but, as yet, I
cannot--and where it is kept, it will be quite safe. For reasons, I
shall copy it here.

“Dear Sir,--

“My father has met with a severe accident. Dr. Black is from home, and
there is no other doctor in the neighbourhood upon whom we can depend.
Will you pardon the liberty I am taking, and come to us at once?

“Yours truly,

“Theodora Johnston.”

There it lies, brief and plain; a firm heart guided the shaking hand.
Few things show character in a woman more than her handwriting: this,
when steady, must be remarkably neat, delicate, and clear. I did well
to put it by--I may never get another line.

In speaking to Jack, I learnt that his master and one of the young
ladies had been out to dinner--that master had insisted on driving
home himself, probably from Jack’s incompetence, but he was sober
enough now, poor lad!--that, coming through the fir-wood, one of the
wheels got fixed in a deep rut, and the phaeton was overturned.

I asked, was any one hurt--besides Mr. Johnston?

“Miss Johnston was, a little.”

“Which Miss Johnston?”

“Miss Penelope, sir.”

“No one else?”

“No, sir.”

I had evidence enough of all this before, but just then, at that
instant, it went out of my mind in a sudden oppression of fear. The
facts of the case gained, I called Jack in to the fire, and went into
my bed-room to settle with myself what was best to be done.

Indecision, as to the matter of going or not going, was of course
impossible; but it was a sudden and startling position to be placed
in. True, I could avoid it by pleading hospital business, and sending
the assistant surgeon of our regiment, who is an exceedingly clever
young man--but not a young man whom women would like in a sick house,
in the midst of great distress or danger. And in that distress and
danger, she had called upon _me_, trusted _me_.

I determined to go. The cost, whatever it might be, would be purely
personal, and in that brief minute I counted it all. I state this,
because I wish to make clear that no secondary motive, dream, or
desire, prompted me to act as I have done.

On questioning Jack more closely, I found that Mr. Johnston had
fallen, they believed, on a stone; that he had been picked up
senseless, and had never spoken since.

This indicated at once on what a thread of chance the case hung.
_The case_--simply that and no more; as to treat it at all, I must so
consider it. I have saved lives, by God’s blessing--this, then, must
be regarded merely as one other life to be saved, if, through His
mercy, it were granted me to do it.

I unlocked my desk, and put her letter in the secret drawer; wrote a
line to our assistant-surgeon, with hospital orders, in case I should
be absent part of the next day; took out any instruments I might want;
then, with a glance round my room, and an involuntary wondering as to
how and when I might return to it, I mounted Jack’s horse and rode
off to Rockmount. The whole had not occupied fifteen minutes, for I
remember looking at my watch, which stood at a quarter-past eleven.

Hard-riding makes thinking impossible; and, indeed, my whole mind was
bent upon not missing my road in the darkness. A _detour_ of a mile
or two, one lost half-hour, might, humanly speaking, have cost the old
man’s life; for, in similar cases, it is generally a question of time.

It is said, our profession is that, which, of all others, most
inclines a man to materialism. I never found it so. The first time I
ever was brought close to death---- but that train of thought must
be stopped. Since, death and I have walked so long together, that the
mere vital principle, common to all breathing creatures, “the life of
a beast which goeth downwards,” as the Bible has it, I never think
of confounding with “the soul of a man which goeth upwards.” Quite
distinct from the life, dwelling in blood or breath, or at that “vital
point” which has been lately discovered, showing that in a spot
the size of a pin’s head, resides the principle of mortality--quite
distinct, I say, from this something which perishes or vanishes so
mysteriously from the dead friends we bury, the corpses we anatomize,
seems to me the spirit, the ghost; which being able to conceive of
and aspire to, must necessarily return to, the one Holy Ghost, the
one Eternal Spirit, Himself once manifest in flesh, this very flesh of
ours.

And it seemed on that strange, wild night, just such another winter’s
night as I remember, years and years ago,--as if this distinction
between the life and the soul, grew clearer to me than ever before;
as if, pardoning all that had happened to its mortal part, a ghost,
which, were such visitations allowed, though I do not believe
they are, might be supposed often to visit me--followed my ghost,
harmlessly,--nay, pitifully, I=

````"Being a tiling immortal as itself,"=

the whole way between the camp and Rockmount.

I dismounted under the ivy-bush which overhangs the garden-gate,
which gate had been left open, so I was able to go, at once, up to the
hall-door, where the fan-light flickered on the white stone-floor; the
old man’s stick was in the corner, and the young ladies’ hats hung up
on the branching stag’s horns.

For the moment, I half-believed myself dreaming; and that I should
wake as I have often done, after half an hour’s rest, with the salt
morning breeze blowing on me, in the outside gallery of Scutari
Hospital,--start up, take my lamp, and go round my wards.

But minutes were precious. I rang the bell; and, almost immediately, a
figure slid down the staircase, and opened the door. I might not have
thought it flesh and blood, but for the touch of its little cold hand.

“Ah! it is you, at last; I was sure you would come.”

“Certainly.”

Perhaps she thought me cold, “professional,” as if she had looked for
a friend, and found only the doctor. Perhaps,--nay, it must be so, she
never thought of me at all, except as “the doctor.”

“Where is your father?”

“Upstairs; we carried him at once to his room. Will you come?”

So I followed--I seemed to have nothing to do but to follow that light
figure, with the voice so low, the manner so quiet,--quieter than I ever
expected to see hers, or any woman’s, under such an emergency. I? what
did I ever know of women? What did I deserve to know, except that a
woman bore me? It is an odd fancy, but I have never thought so much
about my mother as within the last few months. And sometimes, turning
over the sole relics I have of hers, a ribbon or two, and a curl of
hair, and calling to mind the few things Dallas remembered about her, I
have imagined my mother, in her youth, must have been something like
this young girl.

She entered the bed-room first.

“You may come in now. You will not startle him; I think he knows
nobody.”

I sat down beside my patient. He lay, just as he had been brought
in from the road, with a blanket and counterpane thrown over him,
breathing heavily, but quite unconscious.

“The light, please. Can you hold it for me? Is your hand steady?” And
I held it a moment to judge. That weakness cost me too much; I took
care not to risk it again.

When I finished my examination, and looked up, Miss Theodora was still
standing by me. Her eyes only asked the question--which, thank God, I
could answer as I did.

“Yes--it is a more hopeful case than I expected.”

At this shadow of hope--for it was only a shadow--the deadly quiet
in which she had kept herself was stirred. She began to tremble
exceedingly. I took the candle from her, and gave her a chair.

“Never mind me. It is only for a minute,” she said. One or two deep,
hard sighs came, and then she recovered herself. “Now, what is to be
done?”

I told her I would do all that was necessary, if she would bring me
various things I mentioned.

“Can I help you? There is no one else. Penelope has hurt her foot, and
cannot move, and the servants are mere girls. Shall I stay? If there
is to be an operation, I am not afraid.”

For I had, unguardedly, taken out of my pocket the case of instruments
which, after all, would not be needed. I told her so, adding that I
had rather she left me alone with my patient.

“Very well. You will take care of him? You will not hurt him--poor
papa!”

Not very likely. If he and I could have changed places,--he assuming
my strength and life, I lying on that bed, with death before me, under
such a look as his child left him with,--I think I should at that
moment have done it.

When I had laid the old man comfortably in his bed, I sat with his
wrist under my fingers, counting, beat by beat, the slow pulse, which
was one of my slender hopes for his recovery. As the hand dropped over
my knee, powerless, almost, as a dead hand, it recalled, I know not
how or why, the helpless drop of _that_, the first dead hand I ever
saw. Happily the fancy lasted only a moment; in seasons like this,
when I am deeply occupied in the practice of my profession, all
such phantasms are laid. And the present case was urgent enough to
concentrate all my thoughts and faculties.

I had just made up my mind concerning it, when a gentle knock came to
the door, and on my answering, she walked in; glided rather, for she
had taken off her silk gown, and put on something soft and dark,
which did not rustle. In her face, white as it was, there was a quiet
preparedness, more touching than any wildness of grief--a quality
which few women possess, but which heaven never seems to give except
to women, compelling us men, as it were, to our knees, in recognition
of something diviner than anything we have, or are, or were ever meant
to be. I mention this, lest it might be thought of me, as is often
thought of doctors, that I did not feel.

She asked me no questions, but stood silently beside me, with her eyes
fixed on her father. His just opened, as they had done several times
before, wandered vacantly over the bed-curtains, and closed again,
with a moan.

She looked at me, frightened--the poor child.

I explained to her that this moaning was no additional cause of alarm,
rather the contrary; that her father might lie in his present state
for hours--days.

“And can you do nothing for him?”

If I could--at any cost which mortal man could pay!

Motioning her to the furthest corner of the room, I there, as is my
habit, when the friends of the patient seem capable of listening and
comprehending, gave her my opinion about the course of treatment I
intended to adopt, and my reasons for the same. In this case, of all
others, I wished not to leave the relatives in the dark, lest they
might afterwards blame me for doing nothing; when, in truth, to do
nothing was the only chance. I told her my belief that it would be
safest to maintain perfect silence and repose, and leave benignant
Nature to work in her own mysterious way--Nature, whom the longer one
lives, the more one trusts in as the only true physician.

“Therefore,” I said, “will you understand that however little I do, I
am acting as I believe to be best? Will you trust me?”

She looked up searchingly, and then said, “Yes.” After a few moments
she asked me how long I could stay? if I were obliged to return to the
camp immediately?

I told her “No; I did not intend to return till morning.”

“Ah, that is well! Shall I order a room to be prepared for you?”

“Thank you, but I prefer sitting up.”

“You are very kind. You will be a great comfort.”

I, “a great comfort!” I--“kind.”

My thoughts must needs return into their right channel. I believe the
next thing she said was something about my going to see “Penelope:” at
least I found myself with my hand on the door, all but touching hers,
as she was showing me how to open it.

“There: the second room to the left. Shall I go with you? No! I will
stay here then, till you return.”

So, after she had closed the door, I remained alone in the dim passage
for a few moments. It was well. No man can be his own master at all
times.

Miss Johnston was a good deal more hurt than she had confessed. As she
lay on the bed, still in her gay dress, with artificial flowers in her
hair--her face, pallid and drawn with pain, looked almost like that
of an old woman. She seemed annoyed at my coming--she dislikes me, I
know: but anxiety about her father, and her own suffering, kept her
aversion within bounds. She listened to my medical report from the
next room, and submitted to my orders concerning herself, until she
learnt that at least a week’s confinement, to rest her foot, would be
necessary. Then she rebelled.

“That is impossible. I must be up and about. There is nobody to do
anything but me.”

“Your sister?”

“Lisabel is married. Oh, you meant Dora?--We never expect any useful
thing from Dora.”

This speech did not surprise me. It merely confirmed a good deal which
I had already noticed in this family. Also, it might in degree be
true. I think, so far from being blind to them, I see clearer than
most people every fault she has.

Neither contradicting nor arguing, I repeated to Miss Johnston the
imperative necessity for her attending to my’ orders: adding that I
had known more than one case of a person being made a cripple for life
by neglecting such an injury as hers.

“A cripple for life!” She started--her color came and went--her
eye wandered to the chair beside her, on which was her little
writing-case; I conclude that in the intervals of her pain she had
been trying to send these ill news, or to apply for help to some one.

“You will be lame for life,” I repeated, “unless you take care.”

“Shall I now?”

“No--with reasonable caution I trust you will do well.”

“That is enough. Do not trouble yourself any more about me. Pray go
back to my father.”.

She turned from me and closed her eyes. There was nothing more to be
done with Miss Penelope. Calling a servant who stood by, I gave my
last orders concerning her, and departed. A strange person--this elder
sister. What differences of character exist in families!

There was no change in my other patient. As I stood looking at him,
his daughter glided round to my side. We exchanged a glance only--she
seemed quite to understand that talking was inadmissible. Then she
stood by me, silently gazing.

“You are sure there is no change?”

“None.”

“Lisa--ought she not to know? I never sent a telegraph message; will
you tell me how to do it?”

Her quiet assumption of duty--her thoughtful methodical arrangements;
surely the sister was wrong,--that is, as I knew well, any great
necessity would soon prove her to be wrong--about Miss Theodora.

I said there was no need to telegraph until morning, when, as I rode
back to the camp, I would do it myself.

“Thank you.”

No objection or apology; only that soft “thank you”--taking all things
calmly and naturally, as a man would like to see a woman take the gift
of his life, if necessary. No, not life; that is owed--but any or all
of its few pleasures would be cheerfully laid down for such another
“thank you.”

While I was considering what should be done for the night, there came
a rustling and chattering outside in the passage. Miss Johnston had
sent a servant to sit up with her father. She came--knocking at the
door-handle, rattling the candlestick, and tramping across the floor
like a regiment of soldiers--so that my patient moaned, and put up his
hand to his head.

I said--sharply enough, no doubt--that I must have quiet. A loud
voice, a door slammed to, even a heavy step across the floor, and I
would not answer for the consequences. If Mr. Johnston were meant
to recover, there must be no one in his room but the doctor and the
nurse.

“I understand--Susan, come away.”

There was a brief conference outside; then Miss Theodora re-entered
alone, bolted the door, and was again at my side.

“Will that do?”

“Yes.”

The clock struck two while we were standing there. I stole a glance at
her white, composed face.

“Can you sit up?--do you think?”

“Certainly.”

Without more ado--for I was just then too much occupied with a passing
change in my patient--the matter was decided. When I next looked for
her, she had slipped round the foot of the bed, and taken her place
behind the curtain on the other side. There we both sat, hour after
hour, in total silence.

I tell everything, you see, just as minutely as I remember it--and
shall remember--long after every circumstance, trivial or great, has
faded out of every memory except mine. If these letters are ever read
by other than myself, words and incidents long forgotten may revive:
that when I die, as in the course of nature I shall do, long before
younger persons, it may be seen that it is not youth alone which can
receive impressions vividly and retain them strongly.

I could not see her--I could only see the face on the pillow, where a
dim light fell; just enough to shew me the slightest change, did any
come. But, closely as I watched, none did come. Not even a twitch or
quiver broke that blank expression of repose which was neither life
nor death.

I thought several times that it would settle into death before
morning. And then?

Where was all my boasted skill, my belief in my own powers of saving
life. Why, sitting here, trusted and looked up to, depended upon as
the sole human stay--my countenance examined, as I felt it was, even
as if it were the index and arbiter of fate--I--watching as I never
watched before by any sick bed, this breath which trembled in the
balance, felt myself as ignorant and useless as a child. Nay, I was
“as a dead man before Thee,” O Thou humbler of pride!

Crying to myself thus--Job’s cry--I thought of another Hebrew, who
sought “not unto the Lord, but unto the physicians;” and died. It came
into my mind, May there not be, even in these days, such a thing as
“seeking the Lord?”

I believe there is: I _know_ there is.

The candle went out. I had sat with my eyes shut, and had not noticed
it, till I heard her steal across the room, trying to get a light.
Afraid to trust my own heavy step--hers seemed as soft as snow--I
contrived to pull the window-blind aside, so that a pale white streak
fell across the hearth where she was kneeling--the cheerless hearth,
for I had not dared to risk the noise of keeping up a fire.

She looked up, and shivered.

“Is that light morning?”

“Yes. Are you cold?”

“A little.”

“It is always cold at day-break. Go and get a shawl.”

She took no notice, but put the candle in its place and came over to
me.

“How do you think he is?”

“No worse.”

A sigh, patient, but hopeless. I took an opportunity of examining her
closely, to judge how long her self-control was likely to last; or
whether, after this great shock and weary night-watch, her physical
strength would fail. So looking, I noticed a few blood-drops trickling
over her forehead, oozing from under her hair:--

“What is this?”

“Oh, nothing. I struck myself as we were lifting papa from the
carriage. I thought it had ceased bleeding.”

“Let me look at it a moment. There--I shall not hurt you.”

“Oh, no. I am not afraid.”

I cut the hair from round the place, and plastered it up. It hardly
took a minute; was the smallest of surgical operations; yet she
trembled. I saw her strength was beginning to yield; and she might
need it all.

“Now, you must go and lie down for an hour.”

She shook her head.

“You must.”

There might have been something harsh in the words--I did not quite
know what I was saying--for she looked surprised.

“I mean you ought; which is enough argument with a girl like you. If
you do not rest, you will never be able to keep up for another twelve
hours, during which your father may need you. He does not need you
now.”

“And you?”

“I had much rather be alone.” Which was most true.

So she left me; but, ten minutes after, I heard again the light step
at the door.

“I have brought you this” (some biscuits and a glass of milk) “I know
you never take wine.”

Wine! O Heaven, no! Would that, years ago, the first drop had burnt
my lips--been as gall to my tongue--proved to me not drink, but
poison--as the poor old man now lying there once wished it might
have happened to any son of his. Well might my father, my young happy
father, who married my mother, and, loving and loved, spent with her
the brief years of their youth--well, indeed, might my father have
wished it for me!

So there I sat, after the food she brought me had been swallowed
down somehow--for it would have hurt her to come back and find it
untouched. Thus watching, hope lessened by degrees, sank into mere
conjectures as to the manner in which the watch would end. Possibly,
in this state of half-consciousness, the breath would quietly pass
away, without struggle or pain; which would be easiest for them all.

I laid my plans, in that case, either to be of any use to the family
if I could, by remaining until the Trehernes arrived, or to leave
immediately all was over. Circumstances, and their apparent wish, must
be my only guide. Afterwards there would be no difficulty; the less
they saw of any one who had been associated with such a painful time,
the better. Better for all of them.

The clock below struck--what hour I did not count, but it felt like
morning. It was,--must be--I must make it morning.

I went to the window to refresh my eyes with the soft white dawn,
which, as I opened the blind, stole into the room, making the candle
buRN yellow and dim. The night was over and gone. Across the moorland,
and up on the far hills, it was already morning.

A thought struck me, suggesting one more chance. Extinguishing the
candle, I drew aside all the curtains, so as to throw the daylight in
a full stream across the foot of the bed; and by the side of it--with
the patient’s hand between mine, and my eyes fixed steadily on his
face--I sat down.

His eyes opened, not in the old blank way, but with an expression in
them that I never expected to see again. They turned instinctively
to the light; then, with a slow, a wandering, but perfectly rational,
look towards me, feebly, the old man smiled.

That minute was worth dying for; or rather, having lived for, all
these twenty years.

The rest which I have to tell must be told another time.



CHAPTER II. HIS STORY.

|I have not been able to continue this. Every day has been full of
business, and every night I have spent at Rockmount for the last three
weeks.

Such was, I solemnly aver--from no fixed intention: I meant only to go
as an ordinary doctor--in order, if possible, to serve the life that
was valuable in itself, and most precious to some few; afterwards,
whichever way the case terminated, to take my leave, like any other
medical attendant: receiving thanks, or fee. Yes--if they offered it,
I determined to take a fee; in order to show, both to them and myself,
that I was only the doctor--the paid physician. But this last wound
has been spared me--and I only name it now in proof that nothing has
happened as I expected or intended.

I remember Dallas, in reading to me the sermons he used to write
for practice, preparing for the sacred duties which, to him, never
came--had one upon the text “Thy will be done,”--where, in words more
beautiful than I dare try to repeat in mine, he explained how good
it was for us that things so seldom fell out according to our
shortsighted plannings; how many a man had lived to bless God that
his own petty will had not been done; that nothing had happened to him
according as he expected or intended.

Do you know, you to whom I write, how much it means, my thus naming to
you of Dallas--whose name, since he died, has never but once passed my
lips.

I think you would have liked my brother Dallas. He was not at all like
me--I took after my father, people said, and he after our mother.
He had soft, English features, and smooth, fine, dark hair. He was
smaller than I, though so much the elder. The very last Christmas we
had at St. Andrews, I mind lifting him up and carrying him several
yards in play, laughing at him for being as thin and light as a lady.
We were merry-hearted fellows, and had many a joke, the two of us,
when we were together. Strange to think, that I am a man nigh upon
forty, and that he has been dead twenty years.

It is you--little as you guess it, who have made me think upon these
my dead, my father, mother, and Dallas, whom I have never dared to
think of until now. Let me continue.

Mr. Johnston’s has been a difficult case--more so in its secondary
stages than at first. I explained this to his daughter--the second
daughter; the only one whom I found of much assistance. Miss Johnston
being extremely nervous, and irritable, and Mrs. Treherne, whom I
trusted would have taken her share in the nursing, proving more of a
hindrance than a help. She could not be made to comprehend why, when
her father was out of danger, she should not rush in and out of the
sick room continually, with her chattering voice, and her noisy silk
dresses. And she was offended because, when Mr. Charteris, having come
for a day from London, was admitted, quiet, scared, and shocked, to
spend a few minutes by the old man’s bed-side--her Augustus, full of
lively rattle and rude animal spirits, was carefully kept out of the
room.

“You plan it all between you,” she said, one day, half sulkily, to her
sister and myself. “You play into one another’s hands as if you had
lived together all your lives. Confess, Doctor,--confess, Miss Nurse,
you would keep me too out of papa’s room, if you could.”

I certainly would. Though an excellent person, kind-hearted and
good-tempered to a degree, Mrs. Treherne contrived to try my temper
more than I should like to say, for two intolerable days.

The third, I resolved on a little conversation with Miss Theodora;
who, having sat up till my watch began at two, now came in to me while
I was taking breakfast, to receive my orders for the day. These were
simple enough; quiet, silence; and, except old Mrs. Cartwright, whom I
had sent for, only one person to be allowed in my patient’s room.

“Ah, yes, I’m glad of that. Just hearken!” Doors slamming--footsteps
on the stairs--Mrs. Treherne calling out to her husband not to smoke
in the hall.--“That is how it is all day, when you are away. What can
I do? Help me, please, help me!”

An entreaty, almost childish in its earnestness; now and then, through
all this time, she has seemed in her behaviour towards me, less like a
woman than a trusting dependant child.

I sent for Treherne and his wife, and told them that the present was
a matter of life and death, in which there could be no standing upon
ceremony; that in this house, where no legitimate rule existed, and
all were young and inexperienced, I, as the physician, must have
authority, which authority must be obeyed. If they wished, I would
resign the case altogether--but I soon saw that was not desired. They
promised obedience; and I repeated the medical orders, adding, that
during my absence, only one person, the person I chose, should be left
in charge of my patient.

“Very well, Doctor,” said Mrs. Treherne, “and that is--”

“Miss Theodora.”

“Theodora--oh, nonsense! She never nursed anybody. She never was fit
for anything.”

“She is fit for all I require, and her father wishes for her also;
therefore, if you please, will you at once go up to him, Miss
Theodora?”

She had stood patient and impassive till I spoke, then the colour
rushed into her face and the tears into her eyes. She left the room
immediately.

But, as I went, she was lying in wait for me at the door. “Thank
you--thank you so much! But do you really think I shall make a good
careful nurse for dear papa?”

I told her “Certainly--better than any one else here--better indeed
than anyone I knew.”

It was good to see her look of happy surprise.

“Do you really think that? Nobody ever thought so well of me before. I
will try--ah! won’t I try, to deserve your good opinion.”

Ignorant, simple heart.

Most people have some other person, real or imaginary, who is more
“comfortable” to them than anyone else--to whom in trouble the
thoughts always first fly, who in sickness would be chosen to smooth
the weary pillow, and holding whose hand they would like to die. Now,
it would be quite easy, quite happy to die in a certain chamber I
know, shadowy and still, with a carpet of a green leafy pattern, and
bunches of fuchsias papering the walls. And about the room, a little
figure moving; slender, noiseless, busy and sweet--in a brown dress,
soft to touch, and making no sound, with a white collar fastened by a
little coloured bow above it; the delicate throat and small head like
a deer’s; and the eyes something like a deer’s eyes also, which turn
round large and quiet, to look you right in the face--as they did
then.

I wonder if any accident or illness were to happen to me here, while
staying in the camp--something that would make it certain I had only
a few days, or hours, to live, and I happened to have sufficient
consciousness and will to say what I wished done, whom I desired to
see, in those few last hours, when the longing of a dying man could
injure nobody,--Enough--this is the merest folly. To live, not to die,
is likely to be my portion I accept it--blame me not.

Day after day has gone on in the same round--my ride to Rockmount
after dusk, tea there, and my evening sleep in “the Doctor’s room.”
 There, at midnight, Treherne wakes me--I dress and return to that
quiet chamber where the little figure rises from beside the bed with a
smile and a whisper--“Not at all tired, thank you.” A few words
more, and I give it my candle, bid it good night, and take its place,
sitting down in the same armchair, and leaning my head back against
the same cushion, which still keeps the indentation, soft and warm;
and so I watch by the old man till morning.

This is how it has regularly been.

Until lately, night was the patient’s most trying time. He used to lie
moaning, or watching the shadows of the fire-light on the curtains.
Sometimes, when I gave him food or medicine, turning upon me with a
wild stare, as if he hardly knew me, or thought I was someone else. Or
he would question me vaguely as to where was Dora?--and would I take
care that she had a good long sleep--poor Dora!

Dora--Theodora--“the gift of God,”--it is good to have names with
meanings to them, though people so seldom resemble their names. Her
father seems beginning to feel that she is not unlike hers.

“She is a good girl, Doctor,” he said one evening, when, after having
safely borne moving from bed to his arm-chair, I pronounced my patient
convalescent, and his daughter was sent to take tea and spend the
evening downstairs, “she is a very good girl. Perhaps I have never
thought of my daughters.”

I answered vaguely, daughters were a great blessing--often more so
than sons.

“You are right, sir,” he said suddenly, after a few minutes’ pause.
“You were never married I believe?”

“No.”

“If you do marry--never long for a son. Never build your hopes on
him--trusting he will keep up your name, and be the stay of your old
age. I had one boy, sir; he was more to me than all my daughters.”

A desperate question was I prompted to ask--I could not withhold
it--though the old man’s agitated countenance showed that it must be
one passing question only.

“Is your son living?”

“No. He died young.”

This, then, must be the secret--simple and plain enough. He was “a
boy”--he died “young,” perhaps about eighteen or nineteen--the age
when boys are most prone to run wild. This lad must have done so;
putting all the circumstances together, the conclusion was obvious,
that in some way or other he had, before his death, or in his death,
caused his father great grief and shame.

I could well imagine it; fancy drew the whole picture, filling it
up pertinaciously, line by line. A man of Mr. Johnston’s character,
marrying late in life--as he must have done, to be seventy when his
youngest child was not much over twenty--would be a dangerous father
for any impetuous headstrong boy. A motherless boy too; Mrs. Johnston
died early. It was easy to understand how strife would rise between
him and the father, no longer young, with all his habits and
peculiarities formed, sensitive, over-exacting; rigidly good, yet
of somewhat narrow-minded virtue: scrupulously kind, yet not tender;
alive to the lightest fault, yet seldom warming into sympathy or
praise. The sort of man who compels respect, and whom, being oneself
blameless, one might even love; but having committed any error, one’s
first impulse would be to fly from him to the very end of the earth.

Such, no doubt, had been the case with that poor boy, who “died
young.” Out of England, no doubt, or surely they would have brought
him home and buried him under the shadow of his father’s church, and
his memory would have left some trace in the family, the village,
or the neighbourhood. As it was, it seemed blotted out--as if he had
never existed. No one knew about him--no one spoke about him, not even
the sisters, his playmates. So she--the second sister--had said. It
was a tacit hint for me also to keep silence; otherwise I would have
liked to ask her more about him--this poor fallen boy. I know
how suddenly, how involuntarily, as it seems, a wretched boy can
fall--into some perdition never afterwards retrieved.

Thinking thus--sitting by the bedroom fire with Mr. Johnston asleep
opposite--poor old man, it must have been his boy’s case and not his
own which has made him so sensitive about only sons--I suddenly called
to mind how, in the absorbing anxiety of the last three weeks--_that
day_--the anniversary---had slipped by, and I had not even recollected
it. It could be forgotten then?--was this a warning that I might let
it pass, if it would, into oblivion--and yield like any other man, to
pleasant duties, and social ties, the warmth of which stole into
me, body and soul, like this blessed household fire. It could not
last--but while it did last, why not share it; why persist in sitting
outside in the cold?

You will not understand this. There are some things I cannot explain,
till the last letter, if ever I should come to write it. Then you will
know.

Tea over, Miss Theodora came to see after “our patient,” as she called
him, asking if he had behaved well, and done nothing he ought not to
have done?

I told her, that was an amount of perfection scarcely to be exacted
from any mortal creature; at which she laughed, and replied, she
was sure I said this with an air of deprecation, as if afraid such
perfection might be required of me.

Often her little hand carries an invisible sword. I try to hide
the wounds, but the last hour’s meditation made them sharper than
ordinary. For once, she saw it. She came and knelt by the fire, not
far from me, thoughtfully. Then, suddenly turning round, said:--

“If ever I say a rude thing to you, forgive it. I wish I were only
half as good as you.”

The tone, so earnest, yet so utterly simple,--a child might have
said the same, looking into one’s face with the same frank eyes. God
forgive me! God pity me!

I rose and went to the bedside to speak to her father, who just then
woke, and called for “Dora.”

If in nothing else, this illness has been a blessing; drawing closer
together the father and daughter. She must have been thinking so, when
to-day she said to me:--

“It is strange how many mouthfuls of absolute happiness one sometimes
tastes in the midst of trouble,” adding--I can see her attitude as she
talked, standing with eyes cast down, mouth sweet and smiling, and
fingers playing with her apron-tassels--a trick she has--“that she now
felt as if she should never be afraid of trouble any more.”

That also is comprehensible. Anything which calls out the dormant
energies of the character must do a woman good. With some women, to be
good and to be happy is one and the same thing.

She is changed too, I can see. Pale as she looks, there is a softness
in her manner and a sweet composure in her face, different from the
restlessness I once noticed there--the fitful irritability, or morbid
pain, perceptible at times, though she tried hard to disguise both.
And succeeded doubtless, in all eyes but mine.

She is more cheerful too than she ever used to be, not restlessly
lively, like her eldest sister, but seeming to carry about in her
heart a well-spring of content, which bubbles out refreshingly upon
everything and everybody about her. It is especially welcome in the
sick room, where, she knows, our chief aim is to keep the mind
at ease, and the feeble brain in absolute rest. I could smile,
remembering the hours we have spent--patient, doctor and nurse, in the
most puerile amusements, and altogether delicious nonsense, since Mr.
Johnston became convalescent.

All this is over now. I knew it was. I sat by the fire, watching
her play off her loving jests upon her father, and prattle with him,
childish-like, about all that was going on downstairs.

“You little quiz!” he cried at last. “Doctor, this girl is growing--I
can’t say witty--but absolutely mischievous.”

I said, talents long dormant sometimes appeared. We might yet discover
in Miss Theodora Johnston the most brilliant wit of her day.

“Doctor Urquhart, it’s a shame! How can you laugh at me so? But I
don’t care. You are all the better for having somebody to laugh at.
You know you are.”

I did know it--only too well, and my eyes might have betrayed it, for
hers sank. She coloured a little, sat down to her work, and sewed on
silently, thoughtfully, for a good while.

What was in her mind? Was it pity? Did she fancy she had hurt
me--touched unwittingly one of my many sores? She knows I have had a
hard life, with few pleasures in it; she would gladly give me some;
she is sorry for me.

Most people’s compassion is worse than their indifference; but
hers--given out of the fullness of the pure, tender, unsuspicious
heart--I can bear it. I can be grateful for it.

On this first evening that broke the uniformity of the sick-room, we
thought it better, she and I, considering the peculiarities of the
rest of the family, which she seems to take for granted I am aware of,
and can make allowance for--that none of them should be admitted this
night. A prohibition not likely to afflict them much.

“And pray, Miss Dora, how do you mean to entertain the doctor and me?”

“I mean to give you a large dose of my brilliant conversation, and,
lest it becomes too exciting, to season it with a little reading, out
of something that neither of you take the smallest interest in, and
will be able to go to sleep over properly. Poetry--most likely.”

“Some of yours?”

She coloured deeply. “Hush, papa, I thought you had forgotten--you
said it was ‘nonsense,’ you know.”

“Very likely it was. But I mean to give it another reading some day.
Never mind--nobody heard.”

So she writes poetry. I always knew she was very clever, besides being
well-educated. Talented women--modern Corinnes--my impression of
them was rather repulsive. But she--that soft, shy girl, with her gay
simplicity, her meek, household ways--

I said, if Miss Theodora were going to read, perhaps she might
remember she had once promised to improve my mind with a course
of German literature. There was a book about a gentleman of my own
name--Max--Max something or other--

“Piccolomini. You have not forgotten him! What a memory you have
for little things.” She thought so! I said, if she considered a
poor doctor, accustomed to deal more with bodies than souls, could
comprehend the sort of books she seemed so fond of, I would like to
hear about Max Piccolomini.

“Certainly. Only--”

“You think I could not understand it.”

“I never thought any such thing,” she cried out in her old abrupt way,
and went out of the room immediately.

The book she fetched was a little dainty one. Perhaps it had been a
gift. I asked to look at it.

“Can you read German?”

“Not a line.” For my few words of conversational foreign tongues have
been learnt orally, the better to communicate with stray patients in
hospitals. I told her so. “I am very ignorant, as you must have long
since found out, Miss Theodora.”

She said nothing, but began to read. At first translating line by
line; then saying a written translation would be less trouble, she
fetched one. It was in her handwriting--probably her own doing.

No doubt every one, except such an unlearned ass as myself, is
familiar with the story--historical, I believe she said--how a young
soldier, Max Piccolomini, fell in love with the daughter of his
General Wallenstein, who, heading an insurrection, wished the youth
to join in-promising him the girl’s hand. There is one scene where the
father tempts, and brings the daughter to tempt him, by hope of this
bliss, to turn rebel; but the young man is firm--the girl, too, when
he appeals to her, bids him keep to his duty, and renounce his
love. It is a case such as may have happened--might happen in these
days--were modern men and women capable of such attachments. Something
of the sort of love upon which Dallas used to theorise when we were
boys, always winding up with his favourite verse--how strange that it
should come back to my mind now:--=

```"I could not love thee, dear, so much,

```Loved I not honour more."=

Max--odd enough the name sounded, and she hesitated over it at first,
with a half-laughing apology, then forgetting all but her book, it
came out naturally and sweetly--oh, so sweetly sometimes--Max _died._
How, I do not clearly remember, but I know he died, and never married
the girl he loved; that the time when he held her in his arms, and
kissed her before her father and them all, was the last time they ever
saw one another.

She read, sometimes hurriedly and almost inaudibly, and then just like
the people who were speaking, as if quite forgetting herself in them.
I do not think she even recognised that there was a listener in the
room. Perhaps she thought, because I sat so still, that I did not hear
or feel, that I, Max Urquhart, have altogether forgotten what it is to
be young and to love.

When she ceased, Mr. Johnston was sound asleep; we both sat silent.
I stretched out my hand for the written pages, to go over some of the
sentences again; she went on reading the German volume to herself. Her
face was turned away, but I could see the curve of her cheek, and the
smooth, spiral twist of her hair behind--I suppose, if untwisted, it
would reach down to her knees. This German girl, Thekla, might have
had just such hair; this boy--this Max--might have been allowed
sometimes to touch it--reverently to kiss it.

*****

I was interrupted here. A case at the hospital; James
McDermot--fever-ward--cut his throat in a fit of delirium. There must
have been great neglect in the nurse or orderly--perhaps in more than
they. These night absences were bad--this pre-occupation--though I
have tried earnestly to fulfil all my duties. Yet, as I walked back,
the ghastly figure of the dead man was ever before me.

Have I not a morbid conscience, which revels in self-accusation?
Suppose there were one who knew me as I knew myself--could shew myself
unto myself, and say, “Poor soul, ‘tis nothing. Forget thyself, think
of another--thy other self--of me.”

Why recount this, one of the countless painful incidents that are
always recurring to our profession? Because, having begun, I must
tell you all that happens to me, as a man would, coming home after his
day’s labour to his--let me write down the word steadily--his _wife_.
His wife; nearer to him than any mortal thing--bone of his bone and
flesh of his flesh; his rest, comfort, and delight--whom, more than
almost any man, a doctor requires, seeing that on the dark side of
human life his path must continually lie.

Sometimes, though, bright bits come across us--such as when the heavy
heart is relieved, or the shadow of death lifted off from a dwelling:
moments when the doctor, much to his own conscious humiliation, is apt
to be regarded as an angel of deliverance--seasons when he is glad to
linger a little amidst the glow of happiness he has been instrumental
in bringing, before he turns out again into the shadows of his
appointed way.

And such will always be this, which I may v consider the last of my
nights at Rockmount.

They would not hear of my leaving, though it was needless to sit up.
And when I had seen Mr. Johnston safe, and snug for the night, they
insisted on my joining the merry supper-table, where, relieved now
from all care, the family assembled. The family included, of course,
Mr. Charteris. I was the only stranger.

They did not treat me as a stranger--you know that. Sometimes falling,
as the little party naturally did, into two, and two, and two, it
seemed as if the whole world were conspiring to wrap me in the
maddest of delusions; as if I always had sat, and were meant to sit,
familiarly, brotherly, at that family table; as if my old solitude
were quite over and gone, never to return more. And, over all, was the
atmosphere of that German love-tale, which came up curiously to the
surface, and caused a conversation, which, in some parts of it, seems
the strangest thing of all that strange evening.

It was Mrs. Treherne who originated it. She asked her sister what had
we been doing that we were so exceedingly quiet upstairs?

“Reading--papa wished it.” And being further questioned, Miss Theodora
told what had been read.

Mrs. Treherne burst out laughing immoderately.

It would hardly be expected of such well-bred and amiable ladies,
but I have often seen the eldest and youngest sisters annoy her--the
second one--in some feminine way--men would never think of doing it,
or guess how it is done--sufficient to call the angry blood to her
cheeks, and cause her whole manner to change from gentleness into
defiance. It was so now.

“I do not see anything so very ridiculous in my reading to papa out of
any book I choose.”

I explained that I myself had begged for this one.

“Oh! and I’m sure she was delighted to oblige you.”

“I was,” she said, boldly; “and I consider that anything, small or
great, which either I, or you, or Penelope, can do to oblige Doctor
Urquhart, we ought to be happy and thankful to do for the remainder of
our lives.”

Mrs. Treherne was silenced. And here, Mr. Charteris--breaking the
uncomfortable pause--good-naturedly began a disquisition on the play
in question. He bore, for some time, the chief part in a literary and
critical conversation, of which I did not hear or follow much. Then
the ladies took up the story in its moral and personal phase, and
talked it over pretty well.

The youngest sister was voluble against it. She hated doleful books:
she liked a pleasant ending, where the people were all married,
cheerfully and comfortably.

It was suggested, from my side of the table, that this play had not an
uncomfortable ending, though the lovers both died.

“What an odd notion of comfort Dora has,” said Mr. Charteris.

“Yes, indeed,” added Mrs. Treherne. For if they hadn’t died, were they
not supposed never to meet again? My dear child, how do you intend to
make your lover happy?

“By bidding him an eternal farewell, allowing him to get killed, and
then dying on his tomb?”

Everybody laughed. Treherne said he was thankful his Lisa was not of
her sister’s mind.

“Ay, Gus dear, well you may! Suppose I had come and said to you, like
Dora’s heroine, ‘my dear boy, we are very fond of one another, but we
can’t ever be married. It’s of no consequence. Never mind. Give me a
kiss, and good-bye,’--what would you have done, eh, Augustus?”

“Hanged myself,” replied Augustus, forcibly.

“If you did not think better of it while searching for a cord,” drily
observed Mr. Charteris. (I have for various reasons noticed this
gentleman rather closely of late.) “Dora’s theories about love are
pretty enough, but too much on the gossamer style. Poor human nature
requires a little warmer clothing than these ‘sky robes of iris woof,’
which are _not_ ‘warranted to wear.’”

As he spoke, I saw Miss Johnston’s black eyes dart over to his face in
keen observation, but he did not see them. Immediately afterwards she
said:--

“Francis is quite right. Dora’s heroics do her no good--nor anybody;
because such characters do not exist, and never did. Max and Thekla,
for instance, are a pair of lovers utterly impossible in this world.”

“True,” said Mr. Charteris, “even as Romeo and Juliet are impossible,
Shakspere himself owns=

````'These violent delights have violent ends.’=

Had Juliet lived, she would probably not by force, but in the most
legal, genteel, and satisfactory way, have been ‘married to the
County;’ or, supposing she had got off safe to Mantua, obtained
parental forgiveness, and returned to set up house-keeping as Mrs.
R. Montague; depend upon it she and Romeo would have wearied of one
another in a year, quarrelled, parted, and she might, after all,
have consoled herself with Paris, who seems such a sweet-spoken,
pretty-behaved young gentleman throughout. Do you not think so, Doctor
Urquhart? that is, if you are a reader of Shakspere.”

Which he apparently thought I was not. I answered, what has often
struck me about this play, “that Shakspere only meant it as a tale of
boy and girl passion. Whether it would have lasted, or grown out of
passion into love, one need not speculate, any more than the poet
does. Enough, that while it lasts, it is a true and beautiful picture
of youthful love--that is, youth’s ideal of love. Though the love of
maturer life is often a far deeper, higher, and better thing.”

Here Mrs. Treherne, bursting into one of her hearty laughs, accused
her sister of having “turned Doctor Urquhart poetical.”

It is painful to appear like a fool, even when a lively young woman is
trying to make you do so. I sat, cruelly conscious how little I have
to say--how like an awkward, dull clod I often feel--in the society of
young and clever people, when I heard her speaking from the other end
of the table--I mean, Miss Theodora.

“Lisabel, you are talking of what you do not understand. You never
did, and never will understand my Max and Thekla, any more than
Francis there, though he once thought it so fine, when he was teaching
Penelope German, a few years ago.”

“Dora, your excitement is unlady-like.”

“I do not care,” she answered, turning upon her elder sister with
flashing eyes. “To sit by quietly and hear such doctrines, is worse
than unlady-like--unwoman-like! You two girls may think as you please
on the matter; but I know what I have always thought--and think
still.”

“Pray, will you indulge us with your creed?” cried Mr. Charteris.

She hesitated--her cheeks burnt like fire--but still she spoke out
bravely.

“I believe, spite of all you say, that there is, not only in books,
but in the world, such a thing as love, unselfish, faithful and true,
like that of my Thekla and my Max. I believe that such a love--a
_right_ love--teaches people to think of the _right_ first, and
themselves afterwards; and, therefore, if necessary, they could bear
to part for any number of years--or even for ever.”

“Bless us all; I wouldn’t give two farthings for a man who would not
do anything--do wrong even--for my sake.”

“And I, Lisabel, should esteem a man a selfish coward, whom I might
pity, but I don’t think I could ever love him again, if in any way he
did wrong for mine.”

From my corner, whither I had gone and sat down a little out of the
circle, I saw this young face--flashing, full of a new expression.
Dallas, when he talked sometimes, used to have just such a light in
his eyes--just such a glory streaming from all his features; but then
he was a boy, and this was a woman. Ay, one felt her womanhood, the
passion and power of it, with all its capabilities for either blessing
or maddening, in the very core of one’s being.

The others chattered a little more, and then I heard her speaking
again.

“Yes, Lisabel, you are quite right; I do _not_ think it of so very
much importance, whether people who are very deeply attached, ever
live to be married or not. In one sense they are married already, and
nothing can come between them, so long as they love one another.”

This seemed an excellent joke to the Trehernes, and drew a remark or
two from Mr. Charteris, to which she refused to reply.

“No; you put me in a passion, and forced me to speak; but I have done
now. I shall not argue the point any more.”

Her voice trembled, and her little hands nervously clutched and
plaited the table-cloth; but she sat in her place, without moving
features or eyes. Gradually the burning in her cheeks faded, and she
grew excessively pale; but no one seemed to notice her. They were too
full of themselves.

I had time to learn the picture by heart. every line; this little
figure sitting by the table, bent head, drooping shoulders, and loose
white sleeves shading the two hands, which were crushed so tightly
together, that when she stirred I saw the finger-marks of one imprinted
on the other. What could she have been thinking of?

“Miss Dora, please.”

It was only a servant, saying her father wished to speak to her before
he went to sleep.

“Say I am coming.” She rose quickly, but turned before she reached
the door. “I may not see you again before you go. Good night, Dr.
Urquhart.”

We have said good night, and shaken hands every night for three weeks.
I know I have done my duty; no lingering, tender clasping what I had
no right to clasp; a mere “good night,” and shake of the hand. But,
to-night?

I did not say a word--I did not look at her. Yet the touch of that
little cold, passive hand has never left mine since. If I lay my hand
down here, on this table, it seems to creep into it and nestle there;
if I let it go, it comes back again; if I crush my fingers down upon
it, though there is nothing, I feel it still--feel it through every
nerve and pulse, in heart, soul, body, and brain.

This is the merest hallucination, like some of the spectral illusions
I have been subject to at times;--the same which made Coleridge once
say “he had seen too many ghosts to believe in them.”

Let me gather up my faculties.

I am sitting in my hut. There is no fire--no one ever thinks of
lighting a fire, for me, of course, unless I specially order it. The
room is chill, warning me that winter is nigh at hand: disorderly--no
one ever touches my goods and chattels, and I have been too much from
home lately to institute any arrangement myself. All solitary, too;
even my cat, who used to be the one living thing lingering about me,
marching daintily over my books, or stealing up purring to lay
her head upon my knee, even my cat, weary of my long absence, has
disappeared to my next-door neighbour. I am quite alone.

Well, such is the natural position of a man without near kindred, who
has reached my years, and has not married. He has no right to expect
aught else to the end of his days.

I rode home from Rockmount two hours ago, leaving a still lively group
sitting round the fire in the parlour--Miss Johnston on her sofa,
with Mr. Charteris beside her; Treherne sitting opposite, with his arm
round his wife’s waist.

And upstairs, I know how things will look--the shadowy bed-chamber,
the little white china lamp on the table, and one curtain half-looped
back, so that the old man may just catch a glimpse of the bending
figure, reading to him the Evening Psalms; or else she will, by this
time, have said “Good night, papa,” and kissed him, and gone away to
the upper part of the house, of which I know nothing, and have never
seen. Therefore, I can only fancy her as I one night happened to see,
going upstairs, candle in hand, softly, step by step, as saintly souls
slip away into paradise, and we below, though we would cling to the
hem of their garments, crush our lips in the very print of their feet,
can neither hold them, nor dare beseech them to stay.

Oh, if I were only dead, that you might have this letter,--might know,
feel, comprehend all these things!

I have been “doing wrong.” I owe it to myself--to more than myself,
not to yield to weak lamentation or unmanly bursts of frenzy against
inevitable fate.

Is it inevitable?

Before beginning to write to-night, for two hours I sat arguing with
myself this question; viewing the circumstances of both parties, for
such a question necessarily includes both, with a calmness which I
believe even I can attain, when the matter involves not myself alone.
I have come to the conclusion that it _is_ inevitable.

When you reach these my years, when you have experienced all those
changes which you now dream over, and theorise upon in your innocent,
unconscious heart, you also will see that my judgment was right.

To seek and sue a woman’s yet unwon love, implies the telling her,
when won, the whole previous history of her lover, concealing nothing,
fair or foul, which does not compromise any other than himself. This
confidence she has a right to expect, and the man who withholds it
is either a coward in himself, or doubts the woman of his choice, as,
should he so doubt his wife,--woe to him and to her! To carry into the
sanctuary of a true wife’s breast, some accursed thing which must
be for ever hidden in his own, has always seemed to me one of the
blackest treasons against both honour and love, of which a man could
be capable.

Could I tell my wife, or the woman whom I would fain teach to love
me, my whole history? And if I did, would it not close the door of her
heart eternally against me? or, supposing it was too late for
that, and she already loved me, would it not make her, for my sake,
miserable for life? I believe it would.

On this account merely, things are inevitable.

There is another reason; whether it comes second or first in my
arguments with myself, I do not know. When a man has vowed a vow, dare
he break it?

There is a certain vow of mine, which, did I marry, _must_ be broken.
No man in his senses, or possessing the commonest feelings of justice
and tenderness, would give his name to a beloved woman, with the
possibility of children to inherit it, and then bring upon each
and all of them _the end_, which I have all my life resolutely
contemplated as a thing necessary to be done--either immediately
before my death, or after it.

Therefore, also, it is inevitable.

That word--inevitable--always calms me. It is the will of God. If He
had meant otherwise, He would have found out a way--perhaps by sending
me some good woman to love me, as men are loved sometimes, but not
such men as I. There is no fear--or hope--which shall I say?--of any
one ever loving me.

Sleep, child! You are fast asleep by this hour, I am sure: you once
said, you always fall asleep the instant your head touches the pillow.
Blessed pillow! precious, tender, lovely head!

“Good night.” Sleep well, happy ignorant child.



CHAPTER III. HER STORY.

|Finished to-morrow.” What a life-time seems to have elapsed since I
wrote that line!

A month and four days ago, I sat here, waiting for papa and Penelope
to come home from their dinner party. Trying to be cheerful--wondering
why I was not so: yet with my heart as heavy as lead all the time.

I think it will never be quite so heavy any more. Never weighed down
by imaginary wrongs and ideal woes. It has known real anguish and been
taught wisdom.

We have been very near losing our beloved father. Humanly speaking, we
should have lost him but for Doctor Urquhart, to whose great skill and
unremitting care, Doctor Black himself confessed yesterday, papa has,
under God, owed his life.

It is impossible for me to write down here the particulars of dear
papa’s accident, and the illness which followed, every day of which
seems at once so vivid and so unreal. I shall never forget it while I
live, and yet, even now, am afraid to recall it. Though at the time I
seemed afraid of nothing--strong enough for everything. I felt--or it
now appears as though I must have done so--as I did on one sunshiny
afternoon, at a pic-nic, about a dozen years ago--when I, following
Colin Granton, walked round the top of a circular rock, on a ledge two
feet wide, a sloping ledge of short slippery grass, where, if we had
slipped, it was about ninety perpendicular feet to fall.

I shudder to think of that feat, even now; and telling it to Doctor
Urquhart in illustration of what I am here mentioning, namely,
the quiet unconsciousness with which one sometimes passes through
exceeding great danger, he too shuddered, turned deadly white. I never
saw a strong man lose colour so suddenly and completely as he does, at
times.

Can he be really strong? Those nights of watching must have told
upon his health; which is so valuable. Doubly valuable to one in his
profession. We must try to make him take care of himself, and allow
us--Rockmount generally--to take care of him. Though, since his
night-watchings ceased, he has not given us much opportunity, having
only paid his due medical visit once a-day, and scarcely stayed ten
minutes afterwards,--until to-day, when by papa’s express desire,
Augustus drove over and fetched him to dinner.

It is pleasant to be able to write down here, how very much better I
like my brother-in-law. His thorough goodness of nature, his kindly
cheering ways, and his unaffected, if rather obstreperous love for
his wife, which is reflected, as it should be, upon every creature
belonging to her, make it impossible not to like him. I am heartily
glad he has sold out, so that even if war breaks out again, there will
be no chance of his being ordered off on foreign service. Though
in that case, he declares he should feel himself in honour bound to
volunteer. But Lisabel only laughs; she knows better.

Still, I trust there may be no occasion. War, viewed in the abstract,
is sufficiently terrible; but when it comes home, when one’s self, and
one’s own, are bound up in the chances of it, the case is altogether
changed. Some misfortunes contemplated as personal possibilities, seem
more than human nature could bear. How the mothers, sisters, wives,
have borne them all through this war is--

My head turned dizzy here, and I was obliged to leave off writing,
and lie down. I have not felt very strong lately--that is, not bodily
strong. In my heart I have--thoroughly calm, happy, and thankful--as
God knows we have all need to be, since he has spared our dear father,
never loved so dearly as now. But physically, I am rather tired and
weak, as if I would fain rest my head somewhere and be taken care
of. If there were anybody to do it, which there is not. Since I can
remember, nobody ever took care of me.

While writing this last line, old Mrs. Cartwright came up to bring me
some arrowroot with wine in it, for my supper, entreating me to to
go to bed “like a good child.” She said “the Doctor” told her to look
after me; but she should have done it herself, anyhow. She is a
good old body--I wish we could find out anything about her poor lost
daughter.

What was I writing about? Oh, the history of to-day: where I take up
the thread of my journal, leaving the whole interval between, a blank.
I could not write about it if I would.

I did not go to church with them this morning, feeling sure I could
not walk so far, and some one ought to stay with papa. So the girls
went, and Doctor Urquhart also, at which papa seemed just a little
disappointed, he having counted on a long morning’s chat.

I never knew papa attach himself to any man before, or take such
exceeding delight in any one’s company. He said the other day, when
Augustus annoyed him about some trifle or other, that “he wished he
might have chosen his own son-in-law--Lisabel had far better have
married Doctor Urquhart.”

Our Lisabel and Doctor Urquhart! I could not help laughing. Day and
night--fire and water, would have best described their union.

Penelope now, though she has abused him so much--but that was
Francis’s fault,--would have suited him a deal better. They are more
friendly than they used to be--indeed he is on good terms with all
Rockmount. We feel, every one of us, I trust, that our obligations
to him are of a kind of which we never can acquit ourselves while we
live.

This great grief has been in many ways, like most afflictions, “a
blessing in disguise.” It has drawn us altogether, as nothing but
trouble ever does, as I did not think anything ever would, so queer a
family are we. But we are improving. We do not now shut ourselves
up in our rooms, hiding each in her hole like a selfish bear until
feeding time--we assemble in the parlor--we sit and talk round papa’s
study-chair. There, this morning after church, we held a convocation
and confabulation before papa came down.

And, strange to say--almost the first time such a thing ever happened
in ours, though a clergyman’s family--we talked about church and the
sermon.

It was preached by the young man whom papa has been obliged to take
as curate, and who, Penelope said, she feared would never suit, if he
took such eccentric texts, and preached such out-of-the-way sermons
as the one this morning. I asked what it was about, and was answered,
“the cities of refuge.”

I fear I do not know my Bible--the historic portion of it--so well as
I might; for I scandalized Penelope exceedingly by inquiring what were
“the cities of refuge.” She declared any child in her school would
have been better acquainted with the Old Testament, and I had it at
my tongue’s end to say that a good many of her children seemed far too
glibly and irreverently acquainted with the Old Testament, for I once
overheard a knot of them doing the little drama of Elijah, the mocking
children, and the bears in the wood, to the confusion of our poor
bald-headed organist, and their own uproarious delight, especially
the two boys who enacted the bears. But ‘tis wicked to teaze our good
Penelope--at least I think it wicked now.

So I said nothing; but after the sermon had been well talked over
as “extraordinary,” “unheard of in our church,” “such a mixing of
politics and religion, and bringing up everyday subjects into the
pulpit,”--for it seems he had alluded to some question of capital
punishment, which now fills the newspapers--I took an opportunity of
asking Doctor Urquhart what the sermon really had been about. I can
often speak to him of things which I never should dream of discussing
with my sisters, or even papa. For, whatever the subject is, he will
always listen, answer, explain; either laughing away my follies, or
talking to me seriously and kindly.

This time, though, he was not so patient; asked me abruptly, “Why I
wanted to know?”

“About the sermon? From harmless curiosity. Or rather,”--for I would
not wish him to think that in any religious matter I was guided by no
higher motive than curiosity, “because I doubt Penelope’s judgment of
the curate. She is rather harsh sometimes.”

“Is she?”

“Will you find for me,”--and I took out of my pocket my little Bible,
which I had been reading in the garden,--“about the cities of refuge?
That is, unless you dislike to talk on the subject.”

“Who--I--what made you suppose so?”

I replied candidly, his own manner, while they were arguing it.

“You must not mind my manner--it is not kind--it is not friendly.” And
then he begged my pardon, saying he knew he often spoke more rudely to
me than to anyone else.

If he does it harms me not. He must have so many causes of anxiety and
irritation, which escape by expression. I wish he would express them
a little more, indeed. One could bear to be really scolded, if it
did him any good. But, of course, I should have let the theological
question slip by, had he not, some minutes after, referred to it
himself. We were standing outside the window; there was no one within
hearing; indeed, he rarely talks very seriously unless he and I happen
to be alone.

“Did you think as they do--your sisters, I mean--that the Mosaic law
is still our law--an eye for an eye--a tooth for a tooth--a life for a
life--and so on?”

I said I did not quite understand him.

“It was the subject of the sermon. Whether he who takes life forfeits
his own. The law of Moses enacted this. Even the chance murderer, the
man guilty of manslaughter, as we should term it now, was not safe
out of the bounds of the three cities of refuge. The avenger of blood
finding him, might slay him.”

I asked, what he thought was meant by “the avenger of blood.” Was it
divine or human retribution?

“I cannot tell. How should I know? Why do you question me?”

I might have said, because I liked to talk to him, and hear him talk;
because, in many a perplexed subject over which I had been wearying
myself, his opinion had guided me and set me right. I did hint
something of the kind, but he seemed not to hear or heed it, and
continued:--

“Do you think, with the minister of this morning, that, except in very
rare cases, we--we Christians, have no right to exact a life for a
life? Or do you believe, on religious as well as rational grounds,
that every man-slayer, should inevitably be hanged?”

I have often puzzled over that question, which Doctor Urquhart
evidently felt as much as I did. Truly, many a time have I turned
sick at the hangings which I have had to read to papa in the
newspapers--have wakened at seven in the morning, and counted, minute
by minute some wretched convict’s last hour--till the whole scene grew
so vivid that the execution seemed more of a murder than the original
crime of which it was the expiation. But still, to say that there
ought to be no capital punishments? I could not tell. I only repeated
softly, words that came into my mind at that instant.

“_For we know that no murderer hath eternal life in him?_

“But if he were _not_ a wilful murderer?--if life were taken--let us
suppose such a case--in violent passion, or under circumstances which
made the man not himself?--if his crime were repented of and atoned
for in every possible way--the lost life re-purchased by his own--not
by dying, but by the long torment of living?”

“Yes,” I said, “I could well imagine a convict’s existence, or that
of one convicted in his own conscience--a duellist, for instance--far
more terrible than death upon the scaffold.”

“You are right; I have seen such cases.”

No doubt he has, since, as an officer once told me, the army still
holds duelling to be the necessary defence of a gentleman’s “honor.”
 The recollections aroused were apparently very sore; so much so that
I suggested our changing the subject, which seemed both painful and
unprofitable.

“Not quite. Besides, would you quit a truth because it happened to be
painful? That is not like you.”

“I hope not.”

After a few minutes’ silence, he continued:--“This is a question I
have thought over deeply. I have my own opinion concerning it, and
I know that of most men; but I should like to hear a woman’s--a
Christian woman’s. Tell me, do you believe the avenger of blood walks
through the Christian world, as through the land of Israel, requiring
retribution; that for blood-shedding as for all other crimes, there
is, in this world, whatever there may be in another, expiation, but no
pardon. Think well, answer slowly, for it is a momentous question.”

“I know that--the one question of our times.”

Doctor Urquhart bent his head without replying. He hardly could speak;
I never saw him so terribly in earnest. His agitation roused me from
the natural shyness I have in lifting up my own voice and setting
forth my own girlish opinion on topics of which every one has a right
to think, but very few to speak.

“I believe that in the Almighty’s gradual teaching of His creatures,
a Diviner than Moses brought to us a higher law--in which the sole
expiation required is penitence, with obedience: “_Repent ye? “Go
and sin no more?_ It appears to me, so far as I can judge and read
here”--my Bible was still in my hand--“that throughout the New, and in
many parts of the Old Testament, runs one clear doctrine, namely, that
any sin, however great, being repented of and forsaken, is by God, and
ought to be by man, altogether pardoned, blotted out and done away.”

“God bless you!”

For the second time he said to me those words--said them twice over,
and left me.

Rather abruptly; but he is sometimes abrupt when thinking deeply of
anything.

Thus ended our little talk: yet it left a pleasant impression. True,
the subject was strange enough; my sisters might have been shocked
at it; and at my freedom in asking and giving opinions. But oh! the
blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on
any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most
foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort--the
inexpressible comfort of feeling _safe_ with a person--having neither
to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out,
just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful
hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then
with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Somebody must have done a good deal of the winnowing business this
afternoon; for in the course of it I gave him as much nonsense as
any reasonable man could stand--even such an ultra-reasonable man
as Doctor Urquhart. Papa said once, that she was “taking too great
liberty of speech with our good friend, the Doctor”--that foolish
little Dora but foolish little Dora knows well enough what she is
about--when to be silly and when to be wise. She believes in her heart
that there are some people to whom it does great good to be dragged
down from their heights of wisdom, and forced to talk and smile, until
the clouds wears off, and the smile becomes permanent--grows into a
sunshine that warms every one else all through. Oh, if he had had
a happy life--if Dallas had lived--this Dallas, whom I often think
about, and seem to know quite well--what a cheerful blithe nature his
would have been!

Just before tea, when papa was taking his sleep, Doctor Urquhart
proposed that we should all go for a walk. Penelope excused herself;
besides, she thinks it wrong to walk out on a Sunday; but Lisabel and
Augustus were very glad to go. So was I, having never been beyond the
garden since papa’s illness.

If I try to remember all the trivial incidents of to-day, at full
length, it is because it has been such an exceedingly happy day: to
preserve which from the chances of this mortal life, “the sundry and
manifold changes of this world,” as the prayer says, I here write them
down.

How vague, how incompatible with the humdrum tenor of our quiet days
at Rockmount that collect used to sound!

“_That amidst the sundry and manifold changes of this world, our
hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to le found,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen_.” Now, as if newly understanding
it, I also repeat, “Amen.”

We started, Lisabel, Augustus, Doctor Urquhart, and I. We went
through the village, down the moorland-road, to the ponds, which
Augustus wanted to examine, with a view to wild-duck shooting, next,
or, rather, I might say, this winter, for Christmas is coming close
upon us, though the weather is still so mild.

Lisa and her husband walked on first, and quickly left us far behind;
for, not having been out for so long, except the daily stroll round
the garden, which Doctor Urquhart had insisted upon, the fresh air
seemed to turn me dizzy. I managed to stumble on through the village,
keeping up talk, too, for Doctor Urquhart hardly said anything, until
we came out upon the open moor, bright, breezy, sunshiny. Then I felt
a choking--a longing to cry out or sob--my head swam round and round.

“Are you wearied?--you look as if you were.”

“Will you like to take my arm?”

“Sit down--sit down on this stone--my child!”

I heard these sentences distinctly, one after the other, but could not
answer. I felt my bonnet-strings untied, and the wind blowing on my
face--then all grew light again, and I looked round.

“Do not be frightened; you will be well in a minute or two. I only
wonder that you have kept up so bravely, and are so strong.”

This I heard too--in a cheerful kind voice--and soon after I became
quite myself, but ready to cry with vexation, or something, I don’t
know what.

“You will not tell anybody?” I entreated.

“No, not anybody,” said he, smiling, “if turning faint was such a
crime. Now, you can walk? Only not alone, just at present, if you
please.”

I do not marvel at the almost unlimited power which, Augustus says,
Doctor Urquhart has over his patients. A true physician--not only of
bodies, but souls.

We walked on, I holding his arm. For a moment, I was half afraid of
Lisabel’s laugh, and the silly etiquette of our neighbourhood; which
holds that if a lady and gentleman walk arm-in-arm they must be going
to be married. Then _I_ forgot both, and only thought what a comfort
it was in one’s weakness to have an arm to lean on, and one that you
knew, you felt, was not unwilling to have you resting there.

I have never said, but I will say it here, that I know Doctor Urquhart
likes me--better than any other of my family; better, perhaps,
than any friend he has, for he has not many. He is a man of great
kindliness of nature, but few personal attachments. I have heard him
say “that though he liked a great many people, only one or two were
absolutely necessary to him.” Dallas might have been, had he lived.
He told me, one day, there was a certain look in me which occasionally
reminded him of Dallas. It is by these little things that I guess he
likes me--at least, enough to make me feel, when with him, that rest
and content that I never feel with those who do not care for me.

I made him laugh, and he made me laugh, several times, about trifles
that, now I call them to mind, were not funny at all. Yet “it takes a
wise man to make a fool, and none but a fool is always wise.”

With which sapient saying we consoled ourselves, standing at the
edge of the larger pool, watching the other couple strolling along,
doubtless very busy over the wild-duck affair.

“Your sister and Treherne seem to suit one another remarkably well. I
doubted once if they would.”

“So did I. It ought to be a warning to us against hasty judgments.
Especially here.” Mischief prompted the latter suggestion, for Doctor
Urquhart must have recollected, as well as I did, the last and only
time he and I had walked across this moorland-road, when we had such a
serious quarrel, and I was more passionate and rude to him than I ever
was to anybody--out of my own family. I hope he has forgiven me. Yet
he was a little wrong too.

“Yes, especially here,” he repeated, smiling--so I have no doubt he
did remember.

Just then, Lisabel’s laugh, and her husband’s with it, rang distantly
across the pool.

“They seem very happy, those two.”

I said, I felt sure they were, and that it was a blessed thing to
find, the older one grew, how very much of happiness there is in life.

“Do you think so?”

“Do _you_ not think so?”

“I do; but not in your sense exactly. Remember, Miss Theodora, people
see life in a different aspect at twenty-five and at--”

“Forty. I know that.”

“That I am forty? Which I am not quite, by the bye. No doubt it seems
to you a most awful age.”

I said, it was perhaps for a woman, but for a man no more than the
prime of life, with many years before him in which both to work and
enjoy.

“Yes, for work is enjoyment, the only enjoyment that ever satisfies.”

He stood gazing across the moorland, _my_ moorland, which put on its
best smile for us to-day. Ay, though the heather was brown, and the
furze-bushes had lost their gold. But so long as there is free air,
sunshine, and sky, the beauty never can vanish from my beloved moor.
I wondered how anyone could look at it and not enjoy it; could stand
here as we stood and not be satisfied.

Perhaps in some slight way I hinted this, at least, so far as
concerned myself, to whom everything seemed so delicious, after this
month of sorrow.

“Ah, yes, I understand,” said Doctor Urquhart, “and so it should be
with me also. So it is, I trust. This is a lovely day, lovely to its
very close, you see.”

For the sun was sinking westward, and the clouds robing themselves for
one of those infinitely varied late autumn sunsets, of the glory of
which no human eye can ever tire.

“You never saw a tropical sunset? I have, many. I wonder if I shall
ever see another.” After a little hesitation, I asked if he thought it
likely? Did he wish to go abroad again?

“For some reasons, yes!” Then speaking forcibly:--“Do not think
me morbid; of all things, morbid, cowardly sentimentality is my
abhorrence--but I am not naturally a cheerful-minded man. That is, I
believe I was, but circumstances have been stronger than nature; and
it now costs me an effort to attain what I think every man ought to
have, if he is not absolutely a wicked man.”

“You mean an even, happy temper, that tries to make the best of all
things, which I am sure you do.”

“An idle life,” he went on, unheeding, “is of all things the very
worst for me. Unless I have as much work as ever I can do, I am never
happy.”

This was comprehensible in degree. Though one thing surprised and
pained me, that even Doctor Urquhart was not “happy.” Is anybody
“happy?”

“Do not misunderstand me.” (I had not spoken, but he often guesses
my thoughts in a way that makes me thankful I have nothing to hide).
“There are as many degrees of happiness as of goodness, and the
perfection of either is impossible. But I have my share. Yes, truly, I
have my share.”

“Of both?”

“Don’t--don’t!”

Nor ought I to have jested when he was in such heavy earnest.

And then for some time we were so still, that I remember hearing a
large bee, deluded by the mild weather, come swinging and singing over
the moor, and stop at the last, the very last, blue-bell--I dared
not call it a hare-bell with Doctor Urquhart by--of the year, for
his honey-supper. While he was eating it, I picked one of the
flower-stalks, and stroked it softly over his great brown back and
wings.

“What a child you are still!”

(But for once Doctor Urquhart was mistaken.)

“How quiet everything is here!” he added.

“Yes, that wavy purple line always reminded me of the hills in the
‘Happy Valley’ of Prince Kasselas. Beyond them lies the world.”

“If you knew what ‘the world’ is, as you must one day. But I hope you
will only see the best half of it. I hope you will have a happy life.”

I was silent.

“This picture; the moorland, hills, and lake,--your pond is as wide
and bright as a lake--will always put me in mind of Rasselas, but
one cannot live for ever in our ‘Happy Valley,’ nor in our lazy camp
either. I often wish I had more work to do.”

“How--and where?”

As soon as I had put it I blushed at the intrusiveness of this
question. In all he tells me of his affairs I listen, but never dare
to enquire, aware that I have no right to ask of him more than he
chooses to reveal.

Right or not, he was not offended; he replied to me fully and long;
talking more as if I had been a man and his confidential friend, than
only a simple girl, who has in this at least some sense, that she
feels she can understand him.

It appears, that in peace-time, the duties of a regimental surgeon are
almost nothing, except in circumstances where they become as hopeless
as they are heavy; such as the cases of unhealthy barracks, and other
avoidable causes of mortality, which Doctor Urquhart and Augustus
discussed, and which he has since occasionally referred to, when
talking to papa and me. He told me with what anxiety he had tried
to set on foot reforms in these matters; how all his plans had been
frustrated, by the tardiness of Government; and how he was hopeless
of ever attaining his end. Indeed he showed me an official letter,
received that morning, finally dismissing the question.

“You see, Miss Theodora,=

````'To mend the world’s a vast design.’=

too vast for my poor powers.”

“Are you discouraged?”

“No. But I suspect I began at the wrong end; that I attempted too
much, and gave myself credit for more influence than I possessed. It
does not do to depend upon other people; much safer is that amount of
work which a man can do with his own two hands and head. I should be
far freer, and therefore more useful, if I left the army altogether,
and set up practice on my own account.

“That is, if you settled somewhere as a consulting physician, like
Doctor Black?”

“No,” he smiled--“not exactly like Doctor Black. Mine would be a much
humbler position. You know, I have no income except my pay.”

I confessed that I had never given a thought to his income, and again
smiling, he answered--“No, he was sure of that.”

He then went on to explain that he believed moral and physical evil to
be so bound up together, that it was idle to attack one without trying
to cure the other. He thought, better than all building of gaols
and reformatories, or even of churches--since the Word can be spread
abroad without need of bricks and mortar--would be the establishing
of sanitary improvements in our great towns, and trying to teach
the poor, not how to be taken care of in workhouses, prisons, and
hospitals, but how to take care of themselves, in their own homes.
And then, in answer to my questions, he told me many things about
the life, say rather existence, of the working-classes in most large
towns, which made me turn sick at heart; marvelling how, with all this
going on around me, I could ever sit dreamily gazing over my moorland,
and play childish tricks with bees!

Yes, something ought to be done. I was glad, I was proud, that it
had come into his mind to do it. Better far to labour thus in his own
country than to follow an idle regiment into foreign parts, or even
a fighting regiment into the terrible campaign. I said so. “Ah--you
‘hate soldiers’ still.”

I did not answer, but met his eyes. I know mine were full--I know my
lips were quivering. Horribly painful it was to be jested with just
then.

Doctor Urquhart said gravely; “I was not in earnest; I beg your
pardon.”

We then returned to the discussion of his plans and intentions. I
asked him how he meant to begin his labors?

“From a very simple starting-point. ‘The doctor’ has, of all persons,
the greatest influence among the poor--if only he cares to use it. As
a commencement, and also because I must earn salt to my porridge, you
know, my best course would be to obtain the situation of surgeon to
some dispensary, workhouse, hospital, or even gaol. Thence, I could
widen my field of work at pleasure, so far as time and money were
forthcoming.”

“If some one could only give you a fortune now!”

“I do not believe in fortunes. A man’s best wealth consists of his
personal labors, personal life. ‘Silver and gold have I none’--but
wherever I am, I can give myself, my labors, and my life.”

I said something about that being a great gift--many men would call it
a great sacrifice.

“Less to me than to most men--since, as you know, I have no relatives;
nor is it likely I shall ever marry.”

I believed so. Not constantly; but at intervals. Something in his
manner and mode of thought fixed the conviction in my mind, from our
earliest acquaintance.

Of course, I merely made some silent assent to this confidence. What
was there to say? Perhaps he expected something--for as we turned to
walk home, the sun having set, he remained a long time silent. But I
could not speak. In truth, nothing came into my head to say.

At last I lifted my eyes from the ground, and saw the mist beginning
to rise over my moorland--my grey, soft, dreamy moorland. Ay, dreamy,
it was, and belonging only to dreams. But the world beyond--the
struggling suffering, sinning world of which he had told me--that was
a reality.

I said to my friend who walked beside me, feeling keenly that he was
my friend, and that I had a right to look up into his good noble face,
wherein all his life was written as clearly as on a book--thinking too
what a comfort and privilege it was to have more than any one else had
the reading of that book--I said to Doctor Urquhart--my old hesitation
having somehow altogether vanished--that I wished to know all he could
possibly tell me of his plans and projects: that I liked to listen to
them, and would fain do more than listen--help.

He thanked me. “Listening is helping. I hope you will not refuse
sometimes to help me in that way--it is a great comfort to me. But the
labor I hope for is exclusively a man’s--if any woman could give aid
you could, for you are the bravest woman I ever knew.”

“And do you think I never can help you?”

“No.”

So our walk ended.

I say “ended,” because, though there was a great deal of laughing with
Augustus and Lisabel--who had pushed one another ancle-deep into the
pond, and behaved exactly like a couple of school-children out on
a holiday, and though, they, hurrying home, Doctor Urquhart and I
afterwards followed leisurely, walking together slowly, along the
moor-land road--we did not renew our conversation. We scarcely
exchanged more than a few words;--but walking thus arm-in-arm we did
not feel--that is, I did not feel, either apart, or unfriendly, or
sad.

There is more in life than mere happiness--even as there are more
things in the world than mere marrying and giving in marriage. If,
from circumstances, he has taken that resolution, he is perfectly
justified in having done so, and in keeping to it. I would do exactly
the same. The character of a man who marries himself to a cause, or
a duty--has always been an ideal of mine--like my Max--Max and
Thekla.--But they were lovers, betrothed lovers; free to _say_ “I love
you” with eyes and lips--just once, for a day or two--a little hour or
two.--Would this have made parting less bitter or more? I cannot tell;
I do not know. I shall never know aught about these things. So I will
not think of them.

When we came home--Doctor Urquhart and myself--I left him at the door,
and went up into my own room.

In the parlour I found Colin Granton come to tea--he had missed me at
church, he said, and was afraid I had made myself ill; so walked over
to Rockmount to see. It was very kind--though, while acknowledging, it
he seemed half ashamed of the kindness.

He and Augustus, now on the best of terms, kept us alive all the
evening with their talking and laughing. They planned all sorts of
excursions--hunting, shooting, and what not--to take place during the
grand Christmas gathering which is to be at Treherne Court. Doctor
Urquhart--one of the invited guests, listened to all, with a look of
amused content.

Yes--he is content. More than once, as I caught his eye following
me about the room, we exchanged a smile--friendly, even
affectionate.--Ay, he does like me. If I were a little younger--if I
were a little girl in curls, I should say he is “fond” of me.--“Fond
of”--what an idle phrase!--such as one would use towards a dog, or
cat, or bird. What a difference between that and the holy words, “I
love”--not as silly young folks say, I am “in love”--but “_I love_;”
 with all my reason, will, and strength; with all the tenderness of my
heart, all the reverence of my soul.

Be quiet, heart--be silent, soul! I have, as I said before--nought to
do with these things.

The evening passed pleasantly and calmly enough, all parties seeming
to enjoy themselves: even poor Colin coming out his brilliantest and
best; and making himself quite at home with us. Though he got into a
little disgrace before going away, by saying something which irritated
papa; and which made me glad that the little conversation this morning
between Doctor Urquhart and myself had been not in family conclave,
but private.

Colin was speaking of the sermon, and how “shocked” his mother had
been at its pleading against capital punishment.

“Against capital punishment, did you say?”--cried papa. “Did my
curate bring this disgraceful subject into my pulpit in order to speak
against the law of the land--the law of God?--Girls, why did you not
tell me. Dora, remind me I must see the young man to-morrow.”

I was mortally afraid this would end in the poor young man’s summary
dismissal; for papa never allows any “new-fangled notions” in his
curates; they must think and preach as he does--or quit. I pleaded a
little for this one, who has a brother and sister dependent on him,
lodging in the village; and, as far as I dared and could, I pleaded
for his sermon. Colin tried to aid me, honest fellow, backing my
words, every one, with the most eager asseverations--well-meant,
though they did not exactly help the argument.

“Dora,” cried papa, in utmost astonishment, “what do you mean?”

“Miss Dora’s quite right: she always is,”--said Colin, stoutly. “I
don’t think anybody ever ought to be hanged; least of all a poor
fellow who, like--” he mentioned the name, but I forget it--it was the
case that has been so much in the newspapers--“killed another fellow
out of jealousy--or in a passion--or being drunk--which was it? I say,
Urquhart--Treherne--won’t you bear me out?”

“In what?” asked Augustus, laughing. “That many a man has sometimes
felt inclined to commit murder?--I have myself--ha! ha!--and many a
poor devil is kicked out of the world dancing upon nothing, who isn’t
a bit worse, may be better, than a great many young scoundrels who die
unhung. That’s truth, Mr. Johnston, though I say it.”

“Sir,” said papa, turning white with anger, “you are at perfect
liberty to say exactly what you please--provided it is not in my
presence. No one, before me, shall so insult my cloth, and blaspheme
my Maker, as to deny His law set down here,” dropping his hand over
our great Family Bible, which he allows no one but himself to touch,
because, as we know, there is the fly-leaf pasted down, not to be read
by any one, nor written on again during poor papa’s life-time. “God’s
law is blood for blood. ‘_Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall
his blood be shed!_ That law, sir, my church believes never has
been--never will be--annulled. And though your maudlin, loose charity
may sympathize with hanged murderers, uphold duellists, and exalt
into heroes cowardly man-slayers, I say that I will no more have in my
house the defenders of such, than I would, under any pretext, grasp in
mine the hand of a man who had taken the life of another.”

To see papa so excited, alarmed us all. Colin, greatly distressed,
begged his pardon and retracted everything--but the mischief was done.
Though we anticipate no serious results, indeed he has been now for
some hours calmly asleep in his bed, still he was made much worse by
this unfortunate dispute.

Doctor Urquhart stayed, at our earnest wish, till midnight, though he
did not go into papa’s room. When I asked him what was to be done in
case of papa’s head suffering for this excitement--if we should send
to the camp for him--he said, “No, he would rather we sent for Doctor
Black.”

Yet he was anxious, I know; for after Colin left, he sat by himself
in the study, saying he had a letter to write and post, but would
come upstairs to papa if we sent for him. And when, satisfied that the
danger was past and papa asleep, he prepared to leave--I never, in all
the time of our acquaintance, saw him looking so exceedingly pale and
weary.

I wanted him to take something--wine or food; or at least to have one
of our ponies saddled that he might ride instead of walking home. But
he would not.

We were standing at the hall--only he and I--the others having gone to
bed. He took both my hands, and looked long and steadily in my face as
he said good-bye.

“Keep up heart. I do not think any harm will come to your father.”

“I hope not. Dear, dear papa--it would indeed be terrible.”

“It would. Nothing must be allowed to grieve him in any way--as long
as he lives.”

“No.”

Doctor Urquhart was not more explicit than this; but I am sure he
wished me to understand that in any of those points discussed today,
wherein he and I agreed, and both differed from my father--it was
our duty henceforth, as much as possible, to preserve a respectful
silence. And I thanked him in my heart--and with my eyes too, I
know--for this, and for his forbearance in not having contradicted
papa, even when most violent and unjust.

“When shall you be coming again, Doctor Urquhart?”

“Some day--some day.”

“Do not let it be very long first. Good-bye.”

“Good-bye.”

And here befell a thing so strange--so unexpected, that if I think
of it, it seems as if I must have been dreaming; as if, while all the
rest of the events of to-day, which I have so quietly written down,
were perfectly natural, real, and probable--this alone were something
unreal, and impossible to tell--hardly right to tell.

And yet--oh me! it is not wrong--though it makes my cheek burn and my
hand tremble--this poor little hand.

I thought he had gone--and was standing on the door-step, preparing to
lock up--when Doctor Urquhart came back again along the walk. It was
he--though in manner and voice so unlike himself--that even now I can
hardly believe the whole is not a delusion.

“For God’s sake--for pity’s sake--do not utterly forget me, Theodora.”

And then--then--

He said once, that every man ought to hold every woman sacred; that,
if not of her own kindred, he had no right, except as the merest
salutation, even to press her hand. Unless--unless he loved her.

Then, why--

No: I ought not to write it, and I will not. It is--if it is
anything--something sacred between him and me--something in which no
one else has any part--which may not be told to anyone--except in my
prayers.

My heart is so full. I will close this and say my prayers.



CHAPTER IV. HER STORY.


_Treherne Court_.

Where, after another month’s pause, I resume my journal.

Papa and I have been here a week. At the last moment Penelope declined
going, saying that some one ought to keep house at Rock-mount. I
wished to do so; but she would not allow me.

This is a fine place, and papa enjoys it extremely. The enforced
change, the complete upsetting of his former solitary ways, first by
Lisabel’s marriage, and then by his own illness, seem to have made
him quite young again. Before we left, Doctor Black pronounced
him entirely recovered; that he might reasonably look forward to a
healthy, green old age. God grant it! For, altered as he is, in so
many ways, by some imperceptible influence; having wider interests--is
it wrong to write affections?--than he has had for the last twenty
years, he will enjoy life far more than ever before. Ah me; how can
any body really enjoy life without having others to make happy, and to
draw happiness from?

Doctor Black wished, as a matter of professional etiquette, that papa
should once again consult Dr. Urquhart, about his taking this long
northern journey; but on sending to the camp we found he was “absent
on leave,” and had been for some time. Papa was disappointed and a
little annoyed. It was strange, rather; but might have been sudden and
important business, connected with the plans of which he told me, and
which I did not quite feel justified in communicating further, till he
informs papa himself.

I had a week of that restless laziness, which I suppose most people
unaccustomed to leave home experience for the first few days of a
visit: not unpleasant laziness, neither, for there was the Christmas
week to anticipate and plan for, and every nook in this beautiful
place to investigate, as its own possessors scarcely care to do; but
which I, and other visitors, shall so intensely enjoy. I am trying to
feel settled now.

In this octagon room, which Lisabel--such a thoughtful, kindly
hostess, as Lisa makes! has specially appropriated mine, I take up my
rest. It is the wee-est room attainable in this great, wide, wandering
mansion; where I still at times feel as strange as a bird in a crystal
palace; such birds as in the Aladdin Palace of 1851. we used to see
flying about the tops of these gigantic, motionless trees, caught
under the glass, and cheated by those green, windless, unstirred
leaves into planning a natural wild-wood nest. Poor little things!
To have once dreamed of a nest, and then never to be able to find or
build it, must be a sore thing.

This grand “show” house has no pretensions to the character of “nest,”
 or “home.” To use the word in it seems half-ridiculous, or pathetic;
though Lisa does not find it so. Stately and easy, our girl moves
through these magnificent rooms, and enjoys her position as if she
were born to it. She shows good taste and good feeling too--treats
meek, prosy, washed-out Lady Augusta Treherne, and little, fussy,
infirm Sir William, whose brown scratch-wig and gold spectacles rarely
appear out of his own room, with unfailing respect and consideration.
They are mightily proud of her, as they need to be. Truly the best
thing this their patrician blood could do, was to ally itself with our
plebeian line.

But, thank goodness that Lisa, not I, was the victim of that union!
To me, this great house, so carefully swept and garnished, sometimes
feels like a beautiful body without a soul: I should dread a demon’s
entering and possessing it, compelling me to all sorts of wild and
wicked deeds, in order to break the suave harmony of things. For
instance, the three drawing-rooms, _en suite_, where Lis and I spend
our mornings, amidst a labyrinth of costly lumber--sofas, tables and
chairs, with our choice of five fires to warm at, glowing in steel and
gilded grates, and glittering with pointed china tiles; having eleven
mirrors, large and small, wherein to catch, at all points, views of
our sweet selves--in this splendid wilderness, I should, did trouble
seize me, roam, rage, or ramp about like any wild animal. The
oppression of it would be intolerable. Better, a thousand times, my
little room at Rockmount, with its little window, in at which the
branches wave; I can see them as I lie in bed. My own dear little
bed, beside which I flung myself down the night before I left it, and
prayed that my coming back might be as happy as my going.

This is the first time since then, that I have suffered myself to cry.
When people feel happy causelessly, it is said to be a sign that the
joy cannot last, that there is sorrow coming. So, on the other hand,
it may be a good omen to feel one’s heart aching, without cause. Yet,
a tear or two seems to relieve it and do it good. Enough now.

I was about to describe Treherne Court. Had any of us seen it before
the wedding, ill-natured people might have said, that Miss Lisabel
Johnston married the Court and not the master--so magnificent is it.
Estate, extending goodness knows where; park, with deer; avenue,
two miles long; plantations, sloping down to the river--one of the
“principal rivers of England,” as we used to learn in Pinnock’s
Geography--the broad, quiet, and yet fast-running Dee. How lovely it
must look in summer, with those great trees dipping greenly into it,
and those meadows dotted with lazy cows.

There are gardens, too, and an iron bridge, and statues, and a lawn
with a sun-dial, though not half so pretty as that one at the Cedars,
and a quadrangular stable, almost as grand as the house; and which
Augustus thinks of quite as much importance. He has made Lisa a
first-rate horse-woman, and they used to go careering half over the
country, until lately. Certainly, those two have the most thorough
enjoyment of life, fresh, young, animal life and spirits, that it is
possible to conceive. Their whole existence, present and future, seems
to be one blaze of sunshine.

I broke off here to write to Penelope. I wish Penelope were with
us. She will find her Christmas very dull without us all; and,
consequently, without Francis; though he could not have come
to Rockmount under any circumstances, he said. “Important
business.”--This “business” alack, is often hard to brook. Well!=

````"Men must work, and women must weep."=

No, they ought not to weep; they are cowards if they do. They ought
to cheer and encourage the men, never to bemoan and blame them. Yet,
I wish--I wish Penelope could get a sight of Francis this Christmas
time. It is such a holy time, when hearts seem “knit together in
love”--when one would like to have all one’s best-beloved about one.

And she loves Francis--has loved him for so long.

Dr. Urquhart said to me once, the only time he ever referred to the
matter--for he is too delicate to gossip about family love-affairs;
“that he wished sincerely my sister and Mr. Charteris had been
married--it would have been the best thing which could have happened
to him--and to her, if she loved him.” I smiled; little doubt about
that “if.” In truth, though I once thought differently, it is one of
the chief foundations of the esteem and sympathy which I take shame
to myself for not having hitherto given to my elder sister. I shall do
better, please God, in time to come; better in every way.

And to begin:--In order to shake off a certain half-fretful
dreaminess that creeps over me, it may be partly in consequence of
the breaking-up of home-habits, and the sudden plunge into a life
so totally new, I mean to write regularly at my journal; to put down
everything that happens from this time; so that it may be a complete
history of this visit at Treherne Court; if at a future time, I, or
any one, should ever read it. Will any one ever do so? Will any one
ever have the right? No; rights enforced are ugly things; will any
one ever come and say to me, “Dora,” or “Theodora,”--I think I like my
full name best--“I _should like_ to read your journal.”

Let me see: to-night is Sunday; I seem always to choose Sunday for
these entries, because we usually retire early, and it is such a
peaceful family day at Rockmount; which indeed is the case here. We
only went to church once, and dined as usual at seven, so that I had
a long afternoon’s wander about the grounds; first with papa, and then
by myself. I hope it was a truly Sunday walk; that I was content and
thankful, as I ought to be.

So endeth Sunday. Let us see what Monday will bring.

_Monday._--It brought an instalment of visitors; the first for our
Christmas, week.

At church-time a fly drove up to the door, and who should leap out of
it, with the brightest faces in the world, but Colin Granton and his
mother. I was so surprised--startled indeed, for I happened to be
standing at the hall-door when the fly appeared; that I hardly could
find two words to say to either. Only my eyes might have shewn--I
trust they did--that, after the first minute, I was very glad to see
them.

I tucked the dear old lady under my arm, and marched her through
all the servants into the dining-room, leaving Colin to take care of
himself, a duty of which the young man is well capable. Then I had
a grand hunt after papa and Lisa; finally way-laying the shy Lady
Augusta, and begging to introduce to her my dear old friend. Every
friend’s face is so welcome when one is away from home.

After lunch, the gentlemen adjourned to the stables; while Mrs.
Treherne escorted her guest in hospitable state through the long
corridors to her room, and I was glad to see the very best bed-room of
all was assigned to the old lady. Lisa--bless the girl!--looked just
a little bit proud of her beautiful house, and not unnatural either. A
wife has a right to be proud of all the good things her husband’s
love endows her with; only they might be better things than houses and
lands, clothes and furniture. When Lisa has said sometimes, “My dear,
I am the happiest girl in the world. Don’t you envy me?” my heart has
never found the least difficulty in replying.

Yet she is happy. There is a look of contented matronhood growing
in her face day by day, far sweeter than anything her girlhood could
boast. She is very fond of her husband too. It was charming to see the
bright blush with which she started up from Mrs. Granton’s fireside,
the instant Augustus was heard calling outside, “Lis! Lis! Mrs.
Treherne! Where’s Mrs. Treherne?”

“Run away to your husband, my dear. I see he can’t do without you. How
well she looks, and how happy she seems!” added the old lady, who has
apparently forgotten the slight to “my Colin.”

By the way, I do not suppose Colin ever actually proposed to our Lisa;
only it was a sort of received notion in our family that he would. If
he had, his mother never would have brought him here, to be a daily
witness of Mrs. Treherne’s beauty and contentment; which he bears with
a stoicism most remarkable in a young man who has ever been in love
with her. Do men so easily forget?--Some, perhaps; not all. It is
oftentimes honorable and generous to conquer an unfortunate love; but
there is something discreditable in totally ignoring and forgetting
it. I doubt, I should rather despise a man who despised his first
love, even for me.

Let me see: where did I leave myself? Oh, sitting by Mrs. Granton’s
fire; or helping; her to take off her things--a sinecure office, for
her “things”--no other word befits them--are popped off and on with
the ease and untidiness of fifteen, instead of the preciseness of
sixty-five: order and regularity being omitted by Providence in
the manufacture of this dear old lady. Also listening--which is
no sinecure; for she always has plenty to say about everything and
everybody, except herself.

I may never have said it in so many words, but I love Mrs. Granton.
Every line in her nice old withered face is pleasant to me; every
creak of her quick footstep; every angular fold in her everlasting
black silk gown--a very shabby gown often, for she does not care
how she dresses. She is by no means one of your picturesque,
ancient gentlewomen, looking as if they had just stepped out of a
gilt-frame--she is only a little, active, bright old lady. As a girl,
she might have been pretty--I am not sure, though she has still a
delicate expressive mouth, and soft grey eyes; but I am very sure that
she often looks beautiful now.

And why?--for, guessing what all the grand people at the dinner
to-night will think of her and myself, I cannot help smiling as this
application of the word--because she has one of the most beautiful
natures that can adorn an old woman--or a young one, either: all
loving-kindness, energy, cheerfulness. Because age has failed to sour
her; affliction to harden her heart. Of all people I know, she is the
quickest to praise, the slowest to judge, the gentlest to condemn. A
living homily on the text, which, specifying the trinity of Christian
virtues, names--“these three--_but the greatest of these is charity_.”

Long familiarity made me unmindful of these qualities in her, till,
taught by the observations of others, and by my own comparison of the
people I meet out in the world, which may be supposed to mean Treherne
Court, with my good old friend.

“Have you much company, then?” asked she, while I was trying to
persuade her to let me twist into a little more form the shapeless
“bob” of her dear old grey hair, and put her cap not quite so much
on one side. “And do you enjoy it, my dear? Have you seen anybody you
liked very much?”

“None that I liked better than myself, be sure. How should I?”

A true saying, though she did not understand its under-meaning. I have
set more value on myself of late, and taken pains to be pleasant to
every one. It would not do to have people saying, “What a disagreeable
girl is that Theodora Johnston! I wonder how anybody can like her?”
 Has Mrs. Granton an idea that anybody--nay, let it come out--that
anybody does like me?

Her eyes were very sharp, and her questions keen, as I entertained
her with our doings at Treherne Court, and the acquaintances we had
made--a large number--from county nobility to clerical dignitaries,
and gay young officers from Whitchester, which seems made up entirely
of barracks and cathedral. But she gave me no news in return, except
that Colin found the Cedars so dull that he had never rested till he
had got his mother away here; which fact did not extremely interest
me. He was always a restless youth, but I trusted his late occupations
had inclined him to homequietness. Can his interest in them have
ended?--or is there no friend at hand to keep him steadily at work?

We sat so long gossipping, that Lisabel, ready for dinner, with
Treherne diamonds blazing on her white neck and arms, called us to
order, and sent me away to dress. As I left, I heard her say, Augustus
had sent her to ask if Mrs. Granton had seen Doctor Urquhart lately?

“Oh, yes! Colin saw him a few days since. He is quite well, and very
busy.”

“And where is he? Will he be here this week; Augustus wants to know?”

“I have not the slightest idea. He did not say a word about it.”

Lisabel inquired no further, but began exhibiting her velvet dress,
and her beautiful point-lace ruffles, Lady Treherne’s present--to
her a far more interesting subject. Verily gratitude is not the most
lasting of human emotions in young women who have homes, and husbands,
and everything they can desire.

Quite well and very busy; though not too busy to write to Colin
Granton. I am glad. I have sometimes thought he might be ill.

The dinner-party was the largest since we have been here. Two long
rows of faces; not one in whom I took the slightest interest, save
Mrs. Granton and Colin. I tried to sit next the former, and the
latter to sit next to me; but both designs failed, and we fell among
strangers, which is sometimes as bad as falling among thieves. I did
not enjoy my evening as much as I expected; but I hope I behaved well;
that, as Mrs. Treherne’s sister, I tried to be attentive and courteous
to the people, that no one need have been ashamed of poor Theodora.

And it was some comfort when, by the merest chance, I overheard Mrs.
Granton say to Lisabel, “that she never saw a girl so much improved as
Miss Dora.”

Improved! Yes, I ought to be. There was room for it. Oh, that I
may go on improving--growing better and better every day! Too good I
cannot be.

“Quite well and very busy.” Again runs in my head that sweet sad
ditty:--=

````"Men must work and women must weep,

````For there’s little to earn and many to keep.” =

Oh! to think of any one’s ever working _for me!_

_Tuesday_.--Nothing at all happened. No letters, no news. Colin drove
out his mother and me towards the Welsh hills, which I had expressed
a wish to see, and after lunch, asked if I would go with him to the
river side in search of a boat, for he thought we may still have a
row, though it is December, the weather being so mild. He remembered
how I used to like his pulling Lisabel and me up and down the ponds in
the moorland--we won’t say how many years ago. I think Colin also is
“improved.” He is so exceedingly attentive and kind.

_Wednesday_.--A real event happened to-day--quite a surprise. Let me
make the most of it; for this journal seems very uninteresting.

I was standing, “flattening my nose,” as children say, against the
great iron gates of the avenue; peering through them at the two
lines of bare trees, planted three deep, and the broad gravel-drive,
straight as an arrow, narrowing in perspective almost to a point--the
lodge plainly visible at the end of the two miles, which seems no
distance at all; but when you have to walk it, it’s “awfu’ lang,” as
says the old Scotch gardener, who is my very particular friend, and
my informant on all subjects, animal, vegetable, and historical,
pertaining to Treherne Court. And, looking at it from these gates, the
road does seem “awfu’ lang,” like life. I was thinking so, when some
one touched me, and said, “Dora.”

Francis startled me so: I am sure I must have blushed as much as if I
had been Penelope; that is, as Penelope used to blush in former days.
The next minute, I thought of her, and felt alarmed.

“Oh, Francis, nothing is the matter--nothing has happened to
Penelope?”

“You silly girl, what should happen? I do not know anything about
Rockmount, was not aware but that you were all at home, till I saw
you here, and knew by the sentimental attitude it could be nobody but
Dora. Tell me, when did you come?”

“When did _you_ come? I understood it was impossible for you to leave
London.”

“I had business with my uncle, Sir William. Besides, if Penelope is
here--”

“You must know quite well, Francis, that Penelope is not here.”

I never scruple to speak my mind to Francis Charteris. We do not
much like one another, and are both aware of it. His soft, silken
politeness often strikes me as insincere, and my “want of refinement,”
 as he terms it, may be quite as distasteful to him. We do not suit,
and were we ever so fond of one another, this incompatibility would be
apparent. People may like and respect one another extremely, yet
not suit, even as two good tunes are not always capable of being
harmonised. I once heard an ingenious performer try to play at once,
“The Last Rose of Summer,” and “Garry Owen.” The result resembled many
a conversation between Francis and me.

This promised to be one of them; so, as a preventive measure, I
suggested luncheontime.

“Oh, thank you, I am not hungry, I lunched at Birmingham.”

Still, it might have struck Francis that other people had not.

We crossed the gardens towards the river, under the great Portugal
laurels, which he stood to admire.

“I have watched their growth ever since I was a boy. You know, Dora,
once this place was to have been mine.”

“It would have given you a vast deal of trouble, and you don’t like
trouble. You will enjoy it much more as a visitor.”

Francis made no reply, and when I asked the reason of his sudden
change of plans, and if Penelope were acquainted with it, he seemed
vexed.

“Of course Penelope knows; I wrote today, and told her my purpose in
coming here was to see Sir William. Cannot a man pay his respects to
his uncle without being questioned and suspected?”

“I never suspected you, Francis,--until now, when you look as if you
were afraid I should. What is the matter? Do tell me.”

For, truly, I felt alarmed. He was so extremely nervous and irritable,
and his sensitive features, which he cannot keep from telling tales,
betrayed so much inward discomfiture, that I dreaded some ill,
threatening him or Penelope. If one, of course both.

“Do tell, me, Francis. Forgive my rudeness. We are almost brother and
sister.”

“Which tie is supposed to excuse any rudeness. But really I have
nothing to tell--except that your ladyship is growing blunter
than ever, under the instruction, no doubt, of your friend, Doctor
Urquhart. Pray, is he here?”

“No.”

“Is he expected?”

“You had better ask Captain Treherne.”

“Pshaw! What do men care for one another? I thought a young lady
was the likeliest person to take an interest in the proceedings of a
young--I beg his pardon--a middle-aged gentleman.”

If Francis thought either to irritate or confuse me, he was
disappointed. A month ago it might have been. Not now. But probably,
--and I have since felt sure of it--he was merely pursuing his own
ends without heeding me.

“Now, Dora, seriously, I want to know something of Doctor Urquhart’s
proceedings, and where a letter might reach him. Do find out for me,
there’s a good girl.”

And he put his arm round me, in the elder-brotherly caressing manner
which he sometimes adopted with Lisa and me, and which I never used to
mind. Now, I felt as if I could not endure it, and slipped away.

“I don’t see, Francis, why you should not ask such a simple question
yourself. It is no business of mine.”.

“Then you really know nothing of Doctor Urquhart’s whereabouts lately?
He has not been to Rockmount?”

“No.”

“Nor written?”

“I believe not. Why do you want to know? Have you been quarrelling
with him?”

For, aware that they two were not over fond of one another--a
sudden idea, so ridiculously romantic that I laughed at it the next
minute--made me, for one second, turn quite sick and cold.

“Quarrelling, my dear child--young lady, I mean--am I ever so silly,
so ungentlemanly, as to quarrel with anybody? I assure you not. There
is the Dee! What a beautiful view this is!”

He began to expatiate on its beauties, with that delicate appreciative
taste which he has in such perfection, and in the expression of
which he never fails. Under such circumstances, when he really seems
pleased--not languidly, but actively, and tries to please others, I
grant all Francis’s claims to be a charming companion--for an hour’s
walk. For life--ah! that is a different matter! When with him, I often
think of _Beatrices_ answer when _Don Pedro_ asks if she will have
him as a husband?--“_No, my lord, unless I might have another for
working-days. Your Grace is too costly to wear every day._”

Love--fit for constant wear and tear, able to sink safely down=

`````"to the level of every day’s ```Most quiet need; by sun and
candle-light,"=

must be a rare thing, and precious as rare.

“I think I never saw such a Christmas-eve. Look, Dora, the sky is blue
as June. How sharp and clear the reflection of those branches in the
river. Heigho! this is a lovely place. What a difference it would have
made to me if Sir William had never married, and I had been heir to
Treherne Court.”

“No difference to you in yourself,” said I, stoutly. “Penelope would
not have loved you one whit the more, only you would have been married
a little sooner, which might have been the better for both parties.”

“Heaven knows--yes,” muttered he, in such anguish of regret, that I
felt sorry for him. Then, suddenly: “Do you think your sister is tired
of waiting? Would she wish the--our engagement broken?”

“Not at all. Indeed, I meant not to vex you. Penelope wishes no such
thing.”

“If she did,” and he looked more vexed still, “it would be quite
natural.”

“No, indeed,” I cried, in some indignation, “it would not be natural.
Do you suppose we women are in such a frightful hurry to be married,
that love promised and sure, such as Penelope has--or ought to
have--is not sufficient to make us happy for any number of years?
If you doubt it, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. You don’t know
women; least of all such women as my sister Penelope.”

“Ay, she has been a good, faithful girl,” said he, again sighing.
“Poor Penelope.”

And then he recurred to the beautiful scenery which I, feeling that
extreme want of topics of conversation which always appals me in
_tete-â-tetes_ with Francis Charteris--gladly accepted. It lasted till
we re-entered the house, and, not unwillingly, parted company.

After luncheon--being unable to find anybody in this great, wide
house--I sat in my own room awhile; till, finding it was not good to
be lazy and dreaming, I went to Mrs. Granton’s and listened to her
pleasant gossip about people with whom she had been mixed up during
her long life. Who have every one this remarkable characteristic, that
they are all the very best people that ever lived. The burthen of her
talk is, of course, “my Colin,” who she makes out to have been the
most angelic babe, the sweetest school-boy, the noblest youth, and the
most perfect man upon this poor earth. One cannot smile at the fond
old mother. Besides, I am fond of Colin myself. Was he not my first
love?

Hush! let me not, even in jest, profane that holy word,

I sat with Mrs. Granton a long time--sometimes hearing, sometimes
not; probably saying, “yes,” and “no,” and “certainly,” to many things
which now I have not the least idea of. My thoughts wandered--lulled
by the wind, which began to rise into a regular Christmas blast.

Yes, to-night was Christmas-eve, and all the Christmas guests were
now gathering in country-houses. Ours, too; there were rings at the
resonant door-bell, and feet passing up and down the corridor. I like
to recall--just for a moment’s delusion--the sensations of that
hour, between the lights, resting by Mrs. Granton’s fire, lazy,
warm, content. The only drawback to my content was the thought of
Penelope--poor girl--all alone at Rockmount, and expecting nobody.

At the dressing-bell, I slipped through the long, half-dark
staircases--to my room. As it was to be a large party at dinner I
thought I would put on my new dress--Augustus’s present; black velvet;
“horridly old-womanish” Lisa had protested. Yet it looked well--I
stood before the glass and admired myself in it--just a little. I was
so glad to look well.

Foolish vanity--only lasting a minute. Yet that minute was pleasant.
Lisabel, who came into my room with her husband following her to the
very door, must have real pleasure in her splendours. I told her so.

“Oh, nonsense, child. Why I am as vexed and cross as possible. So many
disappointments to-night. People with colds, and rheumatism, and dead
relatives.”

“Oh, Lisa!”

“Well, but is it not annoying? Everybody wanted, does not come; those
not wanted, do. For instance: Doctor Urquhart--who always keeps both
papa and Sir William in the best of humours, is not here. And Francis,
who fidgets them both to death, and whom I was so thankful was not
coming--he is just come. You stupid girl, you seem not the least bit
sorry. You are thinking of something else the whole time.”

I said, I was sorry, and was not thinking of anything else.

“Augustus wanted to see him particularly; but I forgot, you don’t
know--however, you will soon, child. Still, isn’t it a downright shame
of Doctor Urquhart neither to come nor send?”

I suggested something might have happened.

“A railway accident. Dear me, I never thought of that.”

“Nor I. Heaven knows, no!”

I had a time-table, and searched through it for the last train
stopping at Whitchester, then counted how long it would take to drive
to Treherne Court, and looked at my watch. No, he could not be here
to-night.

“And if there had been any accident, there was time for us to have
heard of it,” said Lisa, carelessly, as she took up her fan and gloves
to go downstairs. “So, child, we must make the best we can of your
friend’s behaviour. Are you ready for dinner?”.

“In two minutes.”

I shut the door after my sister, and stood still, before the glass,
fastening a brooch, or something.

Mine, my friend. He was that. Whenever they were vexed with him, all
the family usually called him so.

It was very strange his not coming--having promised Augustus, for some
reason which I did not know of. Also, there was another reason--which
they did not know of--he had promised _me_. He once said to me,
positively, that this, the first Christmas he has kept in England for
many years, should be kept with us--with me.

Now, a promise is a promise. I, myself, would keep one, at all costs,
that involved no wrong to any other person. He is of the same mind.
Then something must have happened.

For a moment I had been angry, though scarcely with him; for wherever
he was he would be doing his duty. Yet, why should he be always doing
his duty to everyone, _except_ me? Had I no right? I, to whom even
Lisa, who knew nothing, called him my friend?

Yes, _mine_. Of a sudden I seemed to feel all that the word meant, and
to take all the burthen of it. It quieted me.

I went downstairs. There were the usual two lines of dinner-table
faces--the usual murmur of dinner-table talk; but all was dim and
uncertain, like a picture, or the sound of people chattering very far
off. Colin beside me, kept talking about how well I looked in my new
gown--how he would like to see me dressed as fine as a queen--and
how he hoped we should spend many a Christmas as merry as this--till
something seemed tempting me to bid him hold his tongue--myself to
start up and scream.

At dessert, the butler brought a large letter to Sir William. It was a
telegraph message--I recognized the look of the things we had several
during papa’s illness. Easy to sit still now. I seemed to know quite
well what was coming, but the only clear thought was “mine--mine.”

Sir William read, folded up the message, and passed it on to Augustus,
then rose.

“Friends, fill your glasses. I have just had good news; not
unexpected, but still good news. Ladies and gentlemen, I have the
honour to give you the health of my nephew, Francis Charteris,
Esquire, Governor-elect of ------------.”

In the cheering, confusion, and congratulation that followed, Lisa
passed the telegram to me, and I saw it was from “Max Urquhart,
London.”

As soon as we got into a corner by ourselves, my sister burst out with
the whole mystery.

“Thank goodness, it’s over; I never kept a secret before, and Augustus
was so frightened lest I should tell--and then what would Doctor
Urquhart have said? It’s Doctor Urquhart’s planning, and he was to
have brought the good news to-day; and I’m very sorry I abused him,
for he has been working like a horse for Fancis’s interest, and--did
you ever see a young fellow take a piece of good fortune so coolly--a
lovely West Indian Island, with Government house, and salary large
enough to make Penelope a most magnificent governor’s wife--yet he is
not a bit thankful for it--I declare I am ashamed of Francis
Charteris.”

She went on a good deal more in this fashion, but I had nothing to
say--I felt so strange and confused; till at last I leant my head
on her shoulder, and cried softly. Which brought me into great
opprobrium, and subjected me to the accusation of always weeping when
there was the least prospect of a marriage in the family.

Marriage! just at that moment, there might not have been such a thing
as marriage in the world. I never thought of it. I only thought of
life, a life still kept safe, labouring busily to make everybody
happy, true to itself and to its promises, forgetting nothing and no
one, kind to the thankful and unthankful alike. Compared to it, my own
insignificant life, with its small hopes and petty pains, all crumbled
down into nothingness.

“Well, are you glad, Dora?”

Ay, I was; very glad--very content.

Papa came in soon, and he and I walked up and down, arm-in-arm,
talking the matter over; till, seeing Francis sitting alone in a
recess, we went up to him, and papa again wished him all happiness.
He merely said, “thank you,” and muttered something about “wishing to
explain by-and-by.”

“Which means, I suppose, that I am shortly to be left with only one
girl to take care of me--eh! Francis,” said papa, smiling.

“Sir--I did not mean--I” he actually stammered. “I hope, Mr. Johnston,
you understand that this appointment is not yet accepted--indeed I am
uncertain if I shall accept it.”

Papa looked exceedingly surprised; and remembering some of
Francis’s sayings to me this morning, I was rather more than
surprised--indignant. But no remark was made, and just then Augustus
called the whole party to go down into the great kitchen and see the
Christmas mummers or guizers, as they are called in that county.

We looked at them for a long half-hour, and then everybody, great
and small, got into the full whirl of Christmas merriment. Colin,
in particular, grew so lively, that he wanted to lead me under the
mistletoe; but when I declined, first gaily, and then seriously, he
desisted, saying he would not offend me for the world. Nevertheless,
he and one or two more kissed Lisabel. How could she endure it? when
I,--I now sometimes feel jealous over even a strange touch of this my
hand.

The revels ended early, and as I sit writing, the house is quite
still. I have just drawn up my blind, and looked out. The wind has
sunk; snow is falling. I like snow on a Christmas morning.

Already it is Christmas morning. Unto whom have I silently to wish
those good wishes which always lie nearest to one’s heart? My own
family, of course; papa and Lisa, and Penelope, far away. Poor dear
Penelope! may she find herself a happy woman this time next year. Are
these all? They were, last Christmas. But I am richer now. Richer, it
often seems to me, than anybody in the whole world.

Good night! a merry--no--for “often in mirth the heart is sad”--a
happy Christmas, and a good new year!

I



CHAPTER V. HIS STORY.

_Dec. 31st,_ 1855. |The merry-making of my neighbours in the flat
above--probably Scotch or Irish, both of which greatly abound in this
town--is a sad counteraction of work for to-night. But why grumble,
when I am one of the few people who pretend to work at all on this
holiday--a night which used to be such a treat to us boys. The sounds
overhead put me in mind of that old festival of Hogmanay, which, for
a good many things, would be “more honoured in the breach than the
observance.”

This Liverpool is an awful town for drinking. Other towns may be as
bad; statistics prove it; but I know no place where intoxication is so
open and shameless. Not only in bye streets and foul courts, where
one expects to see it, but everywhere. I never take a short railway
journey in the after part of the day, but I am liable to meet at least
one drunken “gentleman” snoozing in his first-class carriage; or, in
the second class, two or three drunken “men,” singing, swearing, or
pushed stupidly about by pale-faced wives. The sadness of the thing
is, that the wives do not seem to mind it, that everybody takes it
quite as a matter of course. The “gentleman,” often grey-haired, is but
“merry,” as he is accustomed to be every night of his life; the poor
man has only “had a drop or two,” as all his comrades are in the habit
of taking, whenever they get the chance: they see no disgrace in it; so
they laugh at him a bit, and humour him, and are quite ready to
stand up for him against all in-comers who may object to such a
fellow-passenger. _They_ don’t; nor do the women belonging to them, who
are well-used to tolerate drunken sweethearts, and lead about and
pacify drunken husbands. It makes me sick at heart sometimes to see a
decent, pretty girl, sit tittering at a foul-mouthed beast opposite; or
a tidy young mother with two or three bonnie children, trying to coax
home, without harm to himself or them, some brutish husband, who does
not know his right hand from his left, so utterly stupid is he with
drink. To-night, but for my chance hand at a railway-station, such a
family party as this might have reached home fatherless, and no great
misfortune, one might suppose. Yet the wife had not even looked
sad--had only scolded and laughed at him.

In this, as in most cases of reform, it is the women who must make the
first step. There are two great sins of men: drunkenness in the lower
classes; a still worse form of vice in the higher, which I believe
women might help to stop, if they tried. Would to God I could cry to
every young working woman, “Never encourage a drunken sweetheart!” and
to every young lady thinking of marriage, “Beware! better die, than
live to give children to a loose-principled, unchaste father.”

These are strong words--dare I leave them for eyes that may, years
hence, read this page?--Ay, for by then, they will--they must, in
the natural course of things--have gained at least a tithe of my own
bitter knowledge of the world. God preserve them from all knowledge
beyond what is actually necessary! when I think of any suffering
coming to them, any sight of sin or avoidable sorrow troubling those
dear eyes, it almost drives me mad. If, for instance, you were to
marry a man, like some men I have known, and who indeed form the
majority of our sex, and he were unkind to you, or wronged you in the
smallest degree, I think I could murd----

Hush!--not that word!

You see how my mind keeps wandering purposelessly, having nothing to
communicate. I had indeed, for some time, avoided writing here at all.
And I have been, and am, necessarily occupied, laying the groundwork
of that new plan of life which I explained to you.

Its whole bearing you did not see, noe did I intend you should; though
your own words originated it; lit it with a ray of hope so exquisite
that I could follow on cheerfully for indefinite years.

It only lasted an hour or two; and then your father’s words--though,
heaven be praised, they were not yours--plunged me into darkness
again; a darkness out of which I had never crept, had I been still the
morbid coward I was a year ago.

As it was, you little guessed all the thoughts you shut in with me
behind the study door, till your light foot came back to it--that
night. Nor that in the interval I had had strength to weigh all
circumstances, and form a definite deliberate plan, firm as I believe
my heart to be--since I have known you.

I have resolved, in consequence of some words of yours, to change my
whole scheme of life. That is, I will at some future day, whether near
or far, circumstances must decide, submit to you every event of my
history, and then ask you dispassionately as a friend, to decide if I
shall still live on according to my purpose, in prospect of _the
end_, or, shaking off the burthen of it, shall trust in God’s mercy,
consider all things past and gone, and myself at liberty like any
other, to love, and woo, and marry.

Afterwards, according to your decision, may or may not follow that
other question--the very hope and suspense of which is like passing
into a new life, through the gate of death.

Your father said distinctly--but I will not repeat it. It is enough
to make me dread to win my best blessing, lest I might also win her
father’s curse. To evoke that curse, knowingly to sow dissension
between a man and his own daughter, is an awful thing. I dare not do
it. During his life-time I must wait.

So, for the present, farewell, innocent child! for no child can be more
innocent and happy than you.

But you will not always be a child. If you do not marry--and you seem
of an opposite mind to your sisters in that particular--you will,
years hence, be a woman, no longer young, perhaps little sought
after, for you are not beautiful to most eyes, nor from your peculiar
temperament do you please many people. By then, you may have known
care and sorrow--will be an orphan and alone. I should despise myself
for reckoning up these possibilities, did I not know that in so far
as any human hand can shield you from trouble, you shall be shielded,
that while one poor life lasts, you never shall be left desolate.

I have given up entirely my intention of quitting England. Even if I
am not able to get sight of you from year’s end to year’s end, if I
have to stretch out and diminish to the slenderest link which will
remain unbroken my acquaintance with your family, I must keep within
reach of you. Nothing must happen to you or any one belonging to you,
without my informing myself of it. And though you may forget--I say
not you will, but you may--I am none the less resolved that you shall
never lose me, while a man can protect a woman, a friend sustain and
comfort a friend.

You will probably set down to mere friendship one insane outburst
of mine. Wrong, I confess; but to see you standing in the lamplight,
looking after me into the dark, with a face so tender, mild, and
sweet, and to know I should not look at that face again for so long,
it nearly maddened me. But you were calm--you would not understand.

It will never do for me to see you often, or to live in your
neighbourhood, and therefore it was best to take immediate steps for
the change I contemplate, and of which I told you. Accordingly, the
very next day, I applied for leave of absence. The colonel was just
riding over to call at Rockmount, so I sent a message to your father.
I shrank from writing to him: to you, it was of course impossible.
In this, as in many a future instance, I can only trust to that good
heart which knows me--not wholly--alas, will it ever know me wholly?
but better than any other human being does, or ever will. I believe it
will judge me charitably, patiently, faithfully; for is it not itself
the truest, simplest, faithfullest heart?

Let me here say one word. I believe there is no love in it; nothing
that need make a man hesitate lest his own happiness should not be
the only sacrifice. Sympathy, affection, you have for me; but I do not
think you ever knew what love was. Any one worthy of you may yet have
free opportunity of winning you--of making you happy. And if I saw you
happy, thoroughly and righteously happy, I could endure it.

I will tell you my plans.

I am trying for the appointment of surgeon to a gaol near this town.
I hope to obtain it: for it will open a wide field of work--to me the
salt of life: and it is only fifty miles from Treherne Court, where
you will visit, and where, from time to time, I may be able to meet
you.

You see--this my hope, dim as it is in the future, and vague enough
as to present comfort--does not make me weaker but stronger for the
ordinary concerns of life; therefore I believe it to be a holy hope,
and one that I dare carry along with me in all my worldly
doings and plannings. Believe one fact, for my nature has sufficient
unity of purpose never to do things by halves--that no single plan,
act, or thought, is without reference to you.

Shall I tell you my ways and means, as calculated to-night, the last
night of the year?

Selling out of the army will supply me with a good sum. Which I
mean to put by, letting the interest accumulate, as a provision for
accidental illness, or old age, if I live to be old: or for--do you
guess?

My salary will be about 300L. a-year. Now, half of that ought to
suffice a man of my moderate habits. Many a poor clerk, educated, and
obliged to appear as a gentleman, has no larger income, and contrives
to marry upon it, too, if love seizes hold of him while still in the
venturesome stage of existence.

We men are strange animals: at twenty, ready to rush into matrimony
on any prospects whatever, or none at all; at thirty, having thought
better of it, rejoice in our escape; but after forty, when the shadows
begin to fall, when the outer world darkens, and the fireside feels
comfortless and lone, then, we sit and ponder--I mean, most men. Mine
is an individual and special case, not germane to the subject.

With all deference to young Tom Turton, his friend Mr. Charteris, and
others of the set, which I have lately been among in London, the sum
of one hundred and fifty pounds a-year seems to me amply sufficient
to maintain in as much comfort as is good for him, and in all the
necessary outward decencies of middle-class life, a man without any
expensive habits or relations dependent on him, and who has neither
wife nor child.

Neither wife nor child! As I write them, the words smite hard.

To have no wife, no child! Never to seek what the idlest, most drunken
loon of a mechanic may get for the asking; never to experience the joy
which I saw on a poor fellow’s face only yesterday; when, in the same
room with one dead lad, and another sickening, the wife brought into
the world a third, a living child, and the ragged, starved father
cried out, “Lord be thankit!” that it _was_ a living child.

O Lord, Thy ways are equal: it is ours only which are unequal. Forbid
it Thou that I should have given Thee of that which cost me nothing!

Yet, on this night--this last night of a year so momentous--let me
break silence, and cry--Thou alone wilt hear.

I want her--I crave her; my very heart and soul are hungry for her!
Not as a brief possession, like gathering a flower and wearying of it,
or throwing it away. I want her for always--to have her morning, noon,
and night; day after day and year after year; happy or sorrowful,
good or faulty, young or old; only mine, mine! I feel sometimes as if,
found thus late, all eternity could not give me enough of her. It is
not the body she inhabits,--though, from head to foot, my love is all
fair, fair as daylight and pure as snow--it is herself I want, ever
close at hand to be the better self of this me, who have tried
vainly all these years to stand alone, to live and endure alone!
Folly!--proud folly! such is not a natural state of things; God
himself said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

I think I never shall be so solitary as I have been. That good heart,
pure and unselfish as I never saw woman’s before, will always incline
kindly to as much of mine as I dare show; those sweet, honest eyes
will never be less trustful than now--unless I gave them cause to
doubt me. Her friendship, like her character, is steadfast as a rock.

But oh! if she _loved_ me! If I were one of those poor clerks at a
hundred a-year; if we had only meat, raiment, and a roof to cover us,
and she loved me! If I were, as I might have been, a young doctor,
toiling day and night, with barely time for food and sleep; but with a
home to come to, and her to love me! If we sat in this room, poor and
mean as it is, with this scanty supper between us, asking a blessing
upon it, while, her hand in mine and her lips on my forehead, told me,
“Max, I love you!”

God forgive me if I murmur! I am not young; my life is slipping
away--my life, which is _owed_. Oh! that I might live long enough to
teach her to say, “Max, I love you!”

Enough. The last minutes of this year--this blessed year! shall not be
wasted in moans.

Already the streets are growing quiet. People do not seem to keep
this festival here as we do, north of the Tweed; they think more of
Christmas. Most likely she will have forgotten all about the day,
and be peacefully sleeping the old year out and the new year in--this
little English girl. Well, I am awake, and that will do for both.

My letter to Treherne--could you have seen it? I suppose you did. It
made no excuses for not coming at Christmas, because I intended to
come and see you as to-morrow.

I mean to wish you a happy New Year, on this, the first since I knew
you, since I was aware of there being such a little creature existing
in the world.

Also, I mean to come and see you every New Year, if possible. The word
possible, implying so far as my own will can control circumstances.
I desire to see you; it is life to me to see you, and see you I will.
Not often, for I dare not, but as often as I dare. And--for I have
faith in anniversaries, always on the anniversary of the day I first
saw you, and on New Year’s Day.

One--two--three; I waited for the clock to cease striking, and now
all the bells are ringing from every church-tower. Is this an
English custom? I must ask you tomorrow, that is, to-day, for it is
morning--it is the New Year.

My day-dawn, my gift of God, my little English girl, a happy New Year!

Max Urquhart.



CHAPTER VI. HER STORY.

|New Year’s Morning. So, this long-anticipated festival-week is ended,
and the old year gone. Poor old year!=

```"He gave me a friend and true, true love,

```And the New Year will take them away."=

Ah, no, no, no!

Things are strange. The utmost I can say of them is, that they seem
very strange. One would suppose, if one liked a friend, and there
existed no reasonable cause for not shewing it, why one would shew
it, just a little? That, with only forty miles between--a half-hour’s
railway ride not to run over and shake hands--to write a letter and
not to mention one’s name therein, was, at least, strange. Such a
small thing, even under any pressure of business--just a line written,
an hour spared. Talk of want of time! Why, if I were a man I would
make time, I would--

Simpleton! what would you do, indeed, when your plainest duty you do
not do,--just to wait and trust.

Yet I do trust. Once believing in people, I believe in them always,
against all evidence except their own--ay, and should to the very
last--“until death us do part.”

Those words have set me right again, showing me that I am not afraid,
either for myself or any other, even of that change. As I have read
somewhere, all pure love of every kind partakes in this of the nature
of the love divine, “neither life nor death, nor things present nor
things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature,” are
able to separate or annihilate it. One feels that--or if one does not
feel it, it is not true love, is worth nothing, and had better be let
go.

I write idly,--perhaps from having been somewhat tired this week. Let
me tell my troubles, it is only to this paper. Troubles indeed, they
would scarcely deserve to be called, had they not happened in this
festive week, when everyone expected to be so uncommonly happy.

First, there was Francis’s matter, which ought to have been a great
joy, and yet has seemed to weigh us down like a great care; perhaps
because the individual most concerned took it as such, never once
looking pleased, nor giving a hearty “thank you,” to a single
congratulation. Also, instead of coming to talk over his happy
prospects with papa and me, he has avoided us pertinaciously. Whenever
we lighted upon him, it was sure to be by accident, and he slipped
away as soon as he could, to do the polite to Treherne cousins, or
to play interminably at billiards, which he considered “the most
fascinating game in the world.”

I hate it. What can be the charm of prowling for hours round and round
a green-baize table, trying to knock so many red and white balls into
so many holes? I never could discover, and told him so. He laughed,
and said it was only my ignorance; but Colin, who stood by, blushed up
to the eyes, and almost immediately left off playing. Who would have
supposed the lad so sensitive?

I am beginning to understand the interest taken by a friend of theirs
and mine in these two young men. Augustus Treherne and Colin Granton.
Though neither particularly clever, they have both two qualities
sufficiently rare in all men to make one thankful to find them in
any--uprightness of character and unselfishness of disposition.
By-the-by, I never knew but one thoroughly unselfish man in all my
life, and that was--

Well, and it was _not_ Francis Charteris, of whom I am now speaking.
The aforesaid little interchange of civility passed between him and
me on the Saturday after Christmas-day, when I had been searching for
him with a letter from Penelope. (There was in the postbag another
letter, addressed to Sir William, which made me feel sure we should
have no more guests to-day, nor, consequently, till Monday. Indeed,
the letter, which, after some difficulty, I obtained in the shape of
cigar-lighters, made no mention of any such possibility at all; but
then it had been _a promise._)

Francis put my sister’s note into his pocket, and went on with the
game so earnestly that when Augustus came behind and caught hold of
him, he started as if he had been collared by a policeman.

“My dear fellow, beg pardon, but the governor wants to know if you
have written that letter?”

Lisa had told me what it was--the letter of acceptance of the
appointment offered him, which ought to have been sent immediately.

Francis looked annoyed. “Plenty of time.--My compliments to Sir
William, and I’ll--think about it.”

“Cool!” muttered Augustus. “‘Tis your look-out, Charteris, not
mine--only, one way or other, your answer must go to-day, for my
father has heard from--”

Here he reined up, as he himself would say; but having seen the
handwriting in the post-bag, I guessed who was meant.

“Heard from whom, did you say? Some of the officious persons who are
always so obliging as to keep my uncle informed of my affairs?”

“Nonsense--that is one of your crotchets. You have no warmer friend
than my father, if only you wouldn’t rub him up the wrong way. Come
along, and have done with it. Otherwise--you know him of old--the old
gentleman will get uncommon savage.”

“Though I have the honour of knowing Sir William Treherne of old, I
really cannot be accountable for his becoming ‘uncommon savage,’” said
Francis, haughtily. “Mr. Granton, will you be marker this game?”

“Upon my word, he is the coolest customer! By George, Charteris, if
you wanted Penelope as much as I did my wife--”

“Excuse me,” returned Francis, “_I_ have never mentioned Miss
Johnston’s name.”

Certainly Augustus goes awkwardly to work with his cousin, who
has good points if you know how to take hold of them. To use my
brother-in-law’s own phrase, Francis too gets “rubbed up the wrong
way,” especially when something has annoyed him. I saw him afterwards
stand by a window, of the library, reading Penelope’s letter, with
an expression of such perplexity and pain that I should have been
alarmed, had not hers to me been so cheerful. They cannot have been
quarrelling, for then she is never cheerful. No wonder. Silences, or
slight clouds of doubt between friends are hard enough to bear: a
real quarrel, and between lovers, must be heart-breaking. With all
Francis’s peculiarities, I trust it will never come to that.

Yet something must have been amiss, for there he stood, looking out
vacantly on the Italian garden, with the dreary statues half clad
in snow--on Antinous, almost seeming to shiver under anything but
an Egyptian sky; and a white-limbed Egeria pouring out of her urn
a stream of icicles. Of my presence he was scarcely conscious, I do
believe, until I ventured to speak.

“Francis, do you see how near it is to post-time?”

Again a start, which with difficulty he concealed. “Et tu Brute? You
also among my tormentors?--I quit the field.”

--And the room: whence he was just escaping, had not his uncle’s
wheeled-chair filled up the door-way.

“Just in search of you”--cried the querulous voice, which Francis
declares goes through his nervous system like a galvanic shock. “Have
you written that letter?”

“My dear Sir William--”

“Have you written that letter?”

“No sir, but--”

“Can’t wait for ‘buts’--I know your ways. There’s pen and ink--and--I
mean to wait here till the letter is done.”

I thought Francis would have been indignant. And with reason: Sir
William, despite his good blood, is certainly a degree short of a
gentleman:--but old habit may have force with his nephew, who, without
more remonstrance, quietly sat down to write.

A long half hour, only broken by the rustle of Sir William’s _Times_,
and Lady Augusta’s short cough--she was more nervous than usual, and
whispered me that she hoped Mr. Charteris would not offend his uncle,
for the gout was threatening. An involuntary feeling of suspense
oppressed even me; until, slipping across the room, I saw that a few
stray scribblings were the only writing on Francis’s sheet of paper.

That intolerable procrastination of his! he would let everything
slip--his credit, his happiness--nor his alone. And, the more people
irritated him, the worse he was. I thought, in despair, I would try
my hand at this incorrigible young man, who makes me often feel as
if, clever and pleasing as he is, he were not half good enough for our
Penelope.

“Francis”--I held out my watch with a warning whisper. He caught at it
with great relief, and closed the letter-case.

“Too late for to-day; I’ll do it to-morrow.”

“To-morrow will indeed be too late: Augustus said so distinctly. The
appointment will be given to some one else--and then--”

“And then, you acute, logical and businesslike young lady?”

There was no time for ultra-delicacy. “And then you may not be able to
marry Penelope for ten more years.”

“Penelope will be exceedingly obliged to you for suggesting the
possibility, and taking me to task for it in this way--such a child as
you?”

Am I a child? but it mattered not to him how old I seem to have grown.
Nor did his satirical tone vex me as it once might have done.

“Forgive me,” I said; “I did not mean to take you to task. But it is
not your own happiness alone which is at stake, and Penelope is my
sister.”

Strange to say, he was not offended. Perhaps, if Penelope had
sometimes spoken her mind to him, instead of everlastingly adoring
him, he might have been the better for it.

Francis sighed, and made another scribble on his paper--“Do you think,
you who seem to be well acquainted with your sister’s mind, that
Penelope would be exceedingly unhappy if--if I were to decline this
appointment?”

“Decline--oh!--you’re jesting.”

“Not at all. The governorship looks far finer than it is. A hot
climate--and I detest warm weather: no society--and I should lose all
my London enjoyments--give up all my friends and acquaintance.”

“So would Penelope.”

“So would Penelope, as you say. But--”

“But women count that as nothing--they are used to it. Easy for them
to renounce home and country, kindred and friends, and follow a
man to the ends of the earth. Quite natural, and they ought to be
exceedingly obliged to him for taking them.”

He looked at me; then begged me not to fly into a passion, as somebody
might hear.

I said he might trust me for that; I would rather not, for his
sake--for all our sakes, that anybody did hear--and then the thought
of Penelope’s gay letter suddenly choked me.

“Don’t cry, Dora--I never could bear to see a girl cry. I am very
sorry. Heaven help me! was there ever such an unfortunate fellow born?
but it is all circumstances: I have been the sport of circumstances
during my whole life. No, you need not contradict. What the devil do
you torment me for?”

I have thought since, how great must have been the dormant irritation
and excitement which could have forced that ugly word out of the
elegant lips of Francis Charteris. And, the smile being off it, I saw
a face, haggard and sallow with anxiety.

I told him, as gently as I could, that the only thing wanted of him
was to make up his mind, either way.--If he saw good reasons for
declining--why, decline; Penelope would be content.

“Do as you think best--only do it--and let my sister know. There are
two things which you men, the best of you, count for nought; but which
are the two things which almost break a woman’s heart--one is, when
you keep secrets from her; the other when you hesitate and hesitate,
and never know your own minds. Pray, Francis, don’t do so with
Penelope. She is very fond of you.”

“I know that. Poor Penelope!” He dropped his head, with something very
like a groan.

Much shocked, to see that what ought to have been his comfort, seemed
to be his worst pain, I forgot all about the letter in my anxiety lest
anything should be seriously amiss between them: and my great concern
roused him.

“Nonsense, child. Nothing is amiss. Very likely I shall be Governor
of------------ after all, and your sister governor’s lady, if she
chooses. Hush!--not a word; Sir William is calling.--Yes, sir, nearly
ready. There, Dora, you can swear the letter is begun.” And he hastily
wrote the date--Treherne Court.

Even then, though, I doubt if he would have finished it, save for the
merest accident, which shows what trifles apparently cause important
results, especially with characters so impressible and variable as
Francis.

Sir William, opening his letters, called me to look at one with a name
written on the corner.

“Is that meant for my nephew? His correspondent writes an atrocious
hand, and cannot spell. ‘Mr. F. Chatters!’--the commonest tradesman
might have had the decency to put ‘Francis Charteris, Esquire.’
Perhaps it is not for him, but for one of the servants.”

It was not: for Francis, looking rather confused, claimed it as from
his tailor--and then, under his uncle’s keen eyes, turned scarlet.
These two must have had some sharp encounters, in former days, since,
even now, their power of provoking one another is grievous to see.
Heartily vexed for Francis, I took up the ugly letter to give to him,
but Sir William interfered.

“No thank you, young lady. Tradesmen’s bills can always wait. Mr.
Francis shall have this letter when he has written his own.”

Rude as this behaviour, was, Francis bore with it. I was called out of
the library, but half an hour afterwards I learned that the letter was
written--a letter of acceptance.

So I conclude his hesitation was all talk--or else his better self,
sees that a good and loving wife, in any nook of the world, outweighs
a host of grand London acquaintance, miscalled “friends.”

Dear old Mrs. Granton beamed with delight at the hope of another
marriage at Rockmount.

“Only,” said she--“what will become of your poor papa, when he has
lost all his daughters?”

I reminded her that Francis did not intend marrying more than one of
us, and the other was likely to be a fixture for many years.

“Not so sure of that, my dear; but it is very pretty of you to say so.
We’ll see--something will be thought of for your good papa when the
time comes.”

What could she mean?--But I was afterwards convinced that only
my imagination suspected her of meaning anything beyond her usual
old-ladyish eagerness in getting young people “settled.”

Sunday was another long day--they seem so long and still in spite of
all the gaiety with which these country cousins fill Treherne Court,
which is often so oppressive to me, and affects me-with such a strange
sensation of nervous irritation, that when Colin and his mother, who
take a special charge of me, have hunted me out of stray corners,
their affectionate kindness has made me feel like to cry.

--Now, I did not mean to write about myself--I have been trying
desperately to fill my mind with other people’s affairs--but it will
out. I am not myself, I know. All Sunday, a formal and dreary day at
Treherne Court, I do think a dozen gentle words would have made me
cry like a baby. I did cry once, but it was when nobody saw me, in the
firelight, by Mrs. Granton’s arm-chair.

“What is ailing you my dear?” she had been saying. “You are not near
so lively as you were a week ago. Has any body been vexing my Dora?”

Which, of course, Dora at once denied, and tried to be as blithe as a
lark, all the evening.

No, not vexed, that would be impossible--but just a little hurt. If
I could only talk about some things that puzzle me--talk in a cursory
way, or mention names carelessly, like other names, or ask a question
or two, that might throw a light on circumstances not clear, then they
would be easier to bear. But I dare not trust my tongue, or my cheeks,
so all goes inwards--I keep pondering and wondering till my brain is
bewildered, and my whole heart sore. People should not--cannot--that
is good people cannot--say things they do not mean; it would not be
kind or generous; it would not be _right_ in short; and as good people
usually act rightly, or what they believe to be right, that doubt
falls to the ground.

Has there risen up somebody better than I? with fewer faults and
nobler virtues? God knows I have small need to be proud. Yet I am
myself--this Theodora Johnston--as I was from the first, no better and
no worse; honest and true if nothing else, and he knew it. Nobody ever
knew me so thoroughly--faults and all.

We women must be constituted differently from men. A word said, a line
written and we are happy; omitted, our hearts ache--ache as if for a
great misfortune. Men cannot feel it, or guess at it--if they did, the
most careless of them would be slow to wound us so.

There’s Penelope, now, waiting alone at Rockmount. Augustus wanted
to go post haste and fetch her here, but Francis objected. He had to
return to London immediately, he said, and yet, here he is still. How
can men make themselves so content abroad, while the women are wearing
their hearts out at home?

I am bitter--naughty--I know I am. I was even cross to Colin to-day,
when he wanted me to take a walk with him, and then persisted in
staying beside me indoors. Colin likes me--Colin is kind to me--Colin
would walk twenty miles for an hour of his old playmate’s company--he
told me so. And yet I was cross with him.

Oh, I am wicked, wicked! But my heart is so sore. One look into eyes
I knew--one clasp of a steadfast kindly hand, and I would be all right
again. Merry, happy, brave--afraid of nothing and nobody--not even of
myself; it cannot be so bad a self if it is worth being cared for. I
can’t see to write. There now, there now--as one would say to a child
in a passion--cry your heart out, it will do you good, Theodora.

After that, I should have courage to tell the last thing, which, this
evening, put a climax to my ill-humours, and in some sense cleared
them off, thunder-storm fashion. An incident so unexpected, a story
so ridiculous, so cowardly, that had Francis been less to me than my
expected brother-in-law, I declare I would have cut his acquaintance
for ever and ever, and never spoken to him again.

I was sitting in a corner of the billiard-room, which, when the
players are busy, is as quiet unobserved a nook as any in the house. I
had a book--but read little, being stopped by the eternal click-clack
of the billiard-balls. There were only three in the room--Francis,
Augustus, and Colin Granton, who came up and asked my leave to play
just one game. My leave? How comical! I told him he might play on till
Midsummer, for all I cared.

They were soon absorbed in their game, and their talk between whiles
went in and out of my head as vaguely as the book itself had done,
till something caught my attention.

“I say, Charteris, you know Tom Turton? He was the cleverest fellow at
a cannon. It was refreshing only to watch him hold the cue, so long as
his hand was steady, and even after he got a little “screwed.” He was
a wild one, rather. What has become of him?”

“I cannot say. Doctor Urquhart might, in whose company I last met
him.”

Augustus stared.

“Well, that is a good joke. Doctor Urquhart with Tom Turton. I was
nothing to boast of myself before I married; but Tom Turton!’’ “They
seemed intimate enough; dined, and went to the theatre together and
finished the evening--I really forget where. Your friend the doctor
made himself uncommonly agreeable.”

“Urquhart and Tom Turton,” Augustus kept repeating, quite unable to
get over his surprise at such a juxtaposition; from which I conclude
that Mr. Turton, whose name I never heard before, was one of the not
too creditable associates of my brother-in-law in his bachelor days.
When, some one calling, he went out, Colin took up the theme; being
also familiar with this notorious person, it appeared.

“Very odd, Doctor Urquhart’s hunting in couples with Tom Turton.
However, I hope he may do him good--there was room for it.”

“In Tom, of course; your doctor being one of those china patterns of
humanity, in which it is vain to find a flaw, and whose mission it is
to go about as patent cementers of all cracked and unworthy vessels.”

“Eh?” said Colin, opening his good, stupid eyes.

“Query--whether your humdrum Scotch doctor is one whit better than
his neighbours. (Score that as twenty, Granton). I once heard he has
a wife and six children living in the shade, near some cathedral town,
Canterbury, or Salisbury.”

“What!” and Colin’s eyes almost started out of his head with
astonishment.

I laugh now--I could have laughed then, the minute after, to recollect
what a “stound” it gave us both, Colin and me, this utterly improbable
and ridiculous tale, which Francis so coolly promulgated.

“I don’t believe it,” said Colin, doggedly, bless his honest heart! Beg
your pardon, Charteris, but there must be some mistake. I don’t believe
it.”

“As you will--it is a matter of very little consequence. Your game,
now.”

“I won’t believe it,” persisted Colin, who, once getting a thing into
his head, keeps it there. “Doctor Urquhart isn’t the sort of man to do
it. If he had married ever so low a woman, he would have made the best
of her. He’d never take a wife and keep her in the background. Six
young ones, too--and he so fond of children.”

Francis laughed.

And all this while I sat quiet in my chair.

“Children are sometimes inconvenient--even to a gentleman of your
friend’s parental propensities. Perhaps--we know such things do occur,
and can’t be helped, sometimes--perhaps the tale is all true, except
that he omitted the marriage ceremony.”

“Charteris, that girl’s sitting there.”

It was this hurried whisper of Colin’s, and a certain tone of
Francis’s, which made me guess at the meaning, which, when I clearly
caught it--for I am not a child exactly, and Lydia Cartwright’s story
has lately made me sorrowfully wise,--sent me burning hot all over,
and then so cold.

“That girl.” Yes, she was but a girl. Perhaps she ought to have crept
blushing away, or pretended not to have heard a syllable of
these men’s talk. But, girl as she was, she scorned to be such a
hypocrite--such a coward. What! sit still to hear a friend sneered at,
and his character impeached.

While one--the only one at hand to do it--durst not so much as say
“The tale is false--prove it.” And why? Because she happened to be a
woman! Out upon it! I should despise the womanhood that skulked behind
such rags of miscalled modesty as these.

“Mr. Granton,” I said, as steadily and coolly as I could, “your
caution comes too late. If you gentlemen wished to talk about anything
I should not hear, you ought to have gone into another room. I have
heard every word you uttered.”

“I’m sorry for it,” said Colin, bluntly.

Francis proposed carelessly “to drop the subject.” What! take away a
man’s good name, behind his back, and then merely “drop the subject.”
 Suppose the listener had been other than I, and had believed: or Colin
had been a less honest fellow than he is, and he had believed, and
we had both gone and promulgated the story, with a few elegant
improvements of our own, where would it have ended? These are the
things that destroy character--foul tales, that grow up in darkness,
and before a man can seize hold of them, root them up, and drag them
to light, homes are poisoned, reputation gone.

Such thoughts came in a crowd upon me. I hardly knew till then how
much I cared for him--I mean his honour, his stainless name, all that
helps to make his life valuable and noble. And he absent, too, unable
to defend himself. I was right to do as I did; I take shame to myself
even for this long preamble lest it might look like an apology.

“Francis,” I said, holding fast by the billiard-table, and trying
to smother down the heat of my face, and the beat at my heart, which
nearly choked me, “if you please, you have no right to say such
things, and then drop the subject. You are quite mistaken. Doctor
Urquhart was never married, he told papa so. Who informed you that he
had a wife and six children living at Salisbury?”

“My dear girl, I do not vouch for any such fact; I merely ‘tell the
tale, as it was told to me.’”

“By whom? Remember the name, if you can. Any one who repeated it,
ought to be able to give full confirmation.”

“Faith, I almost forget what the story was.”

“You said, he had a wife and six children, living near Salisbury.
Or,” and I looked Francis direct in the face, “a woman who was not his
wife, but who ought to have been.”

He must have been ashamed of himself, I think; for he turned away and
began striking irritably at the balls.

“I must say, Dora, these are extraordinary questions to put. Young
ladies ought to know nothing about such things; what possible concern
is this of yours?”

I did not shrink; or I am sure he could not have seen me do so. “It
is my concern, as much as it is Colin’s, there; or that of any honest
stander-by. Francis, I think that to take away a man’s character
behind his back, as you have been doing, is as bad as murdering him.”

“She’s right,” cried Colin; “upon my soul she is!--Dora--Miss Dora, if
Charteris will only give me the scoundrel’s name that told him this,
I’ll hunt him down, and unearth him, wherever he is. Come, my dear
fellow, try and remember. Who was it?”

“I think,” observed Francis, after a pause; “his name was Augustus
Treherne.”

Colin started--but I only said, “Very well, I shall go and ask him.”

And just then it chanced that papa and Augustus were seen passing the
window. I was well nigh doing, great mischief by forgetting, for the
moment, how that the name of the place was Salisbury. It would never
have done to hurt papa even by the mention of Salisbury, so I let him
go by. I then called in my brother-in-law, and at once, without an
instant’s delay, put the question.

He utterly and instantly denied having said any such thing. But
afterwards, just in time to prevent a serious fracas between him and
Francis, he suddenly burst out laughing violently.

“I have it, and if it isn’t one of the best jokes going! Once, when I
was chaffing Urquhart about marrying, I told him he ‘looked as savage,
as if he had a wife and six children hidden somewhere on Salisbury
Plain.’ And I dare say afterwards, I told some fellow at the camp, who
told somebody else, and so it got round.”

“And that was all?”

“‘Upon my word of honour, Granton, that was all.”

Mr. Charteris said, he was exceedingly happy to hear it. They all
seemed to consider it a capital joke, and in the midst of their mirth
I slipped out.

But, the thing ended, my courage gave way. O the wickedness of this
world and of the men in it! Oh! if there were any human being to speak
to, to trust, to lean upon! I laid my head in my hands and cried. If
he could know how bitterly I have cried.

* * * * *

New Year’s night.

Feeling wakeful, I will just put down the remaining occurrences of
this New Year’s day.

When I was writing the last line, Lisa knocked at the door.

“Dora, Dr. Urquhart is in the library; make haste, if you care to see
him; he says he can only stop half an hour.”

So, after a minute, I shut and locked my desk. Only half an hour!

I have the credit of “flying into a passion,” as Francis says, about
things that vex and annoy me. Things that wound, that stab to the
heart, affect me quite differently. Then, I merely say “yes,” or
“no,” or “of’ course,” and go about quietly, as if nothing were amiss.
Probably, did there come any mortal blow, I should be like one of
those poor soldiers one hears of, who, being shot, will stand up as
if unhurt, or even fight on for a minute or so, then suddenly drop
down--dead.

I fastened my neck-ribbon, smoothed my hair, and descended. I knew I
should have entered the library all proper, and put out my hand. Ah!
he should not--he ought not, that night--this very same right hand.

I mean to say, I should have met Doctor Urquhart exactly as usual, had
I not, just in the corridor, entering from the garden, come upon him
and Colin Granton in close talk.

“How do you do?” and “It is a very cold morning.” Then they passed
on. I have since thought that their haste was Colin’s doing. He looked
confused, as if it were a confidential conversation I had interrupted,
which very probably it was. I hope, not the incident of the morning,
for it would vex Doctor Urquhart so; and blunt as Colin is, his kind
heart teaches him tact, oftentimes.

Doctor Urquhart stayed out his half-hour punctually, and over the
luncheon-table there was plenty of general conversation. He also
took an opportunity to put to me, in my character of nurse, various
questions about papa’s health, and desired me, still in the same
general half-medical tone, to be careful of my own, as Treherne Court
was a much colder place than Rockmount, and we were likely to have a
severe winter. I said it would not much signify, as we did not purpose
remaining more than a week longer; to which he merely answered, “Oh,
indeed!”

We had no more conversation, except that on taking leave, having
resisted all the Trehernes’ entreaties to remain, he wished me “a
happy New Year.”

“I may not see you again for some time to come; if not, good-bye;
good-bye!”

Twice over, good-bye; and that was all.

A happy New Year. So now, the Christmas time is over and gone; and
to-morrow, January 2nd, 1857, will be like all other days in all other
years. If I ever thought or expected otherwise, I was mistaken.

One thing made me feel deeply and solemnly glad of Doctor Urquhart’s
visit to-day. It was, that if ever Francis, or any one else, was
inclined to give a moment’s credence to that atrocious lie, his
whole appearance and demeanour were, its instantaneous contradiction.
Whether Colin had told him anything, I could not discover; he looked
grave, and somewhat anxious, but his manner was composed and at
ease--the air of a man whose life, if not above sorrow, was wholly
above suspicion; whose heart was steadfast and whose conscience free.

“A thoroughly good man, if ever there was one,” said papa,
emphatically, when he had gone away.

“Yes,” Augustus answered, looking at Francis and then at me. “As
honest and upright a man as God ever made.”

Therefore, no matter--even if I was mistaken.



CHAPTER VII. HIS STORY.

|I continue these letters, having hitherto been made aware of no
reason why they should cease. If that reason comes, they shall cease
at once, and for ever; and these now existing be burnt immediately,
by my own hand, as I did those of my sick friend in the Crimea. Be
satisfied of that.

You will learn to-morrow morning, what, had an opportunity offered, I
meant to have told you on New Year’s Day--my appointment as surgeon
to the gaol, where I shall shortly enter upon my duties. The other
portion of them, my private practice in the neighbourhood, I mean to
commence as soon as ever I can, afterwards.

Thus, you see my “Ishmaelitish wanderings” as you once called them,
are ended. I have a fixed position in one place. I begin to look on
this broad river with an eye of interest, and am teaching myself to
grow familiar with its miles of docks, forests of shipping, and its
two busy, ever-growing towns along either shore, even as one accustoms
one’s self to the natural features of the place, wherever it be, that
we call “home.”

If not home, this is at least my probable sphere of labour for many
years to come: I shall try to take root here, and make the best of
everything.

The information that will reach you tomorrow, comes necessarily
through Treherne. He will get it at the breakfast-table, pass it on to
his wife, who will make her lively comments on it, and then it will
be almost sure to go on to you. You will, in degree, understand, what
they will not, why I should give up my position as regimental surgeon
to establish myself here. For all else, it is of little moment what my
friends think, as I am settled in my own mind--strengthened by certain
good words of yours, that soft, still, autumn day, with the haze over
the moorland and the sun setting in the ripples of the pool.

You will have discovered by this time a fact of which, so far as I
could judge, you were a week since entirely ignorant--that you have
a suitor for your hand. He himself informed me of his intentions with
regard to you--asking my advice and good wishes. What could I say?

I will tell you, being unwilling that in the smallest degree a nature
so candid and true as yours could suppose me guilty of doubledealing.
I said, “that I believed you would make the best of wives to any man
you loved, and that I hoped when you did marry, it would be under
those circumstances. Whether he himself were that man, it rested with
your suitor alone to discover and decide.” He confessed honestly
that on this point he was as ignorant as myself, but declared that he
should “do his best.” Which implies that while I have been occupied
in this gaol business, he has had daily, hourly access to your sweet
company, with every opportunity in his favour--money, youth, consent
of friends,--he said you have been his mother’s choice for years.
With, best of all, an honest heart, which vows that, except a passing
“smite” or two, it has been yours since you were children together.
That such an honest heart should not have its fair chance with you,
God forbid.

Though I will tell you the truth; I did not believe he had any chance.
Nothing in you has ever given me the slightest indication of it. Your
sudden blush when you met him surprised me, also your exclamation--I
was not aware you were in the habit of calling him by his Christian
name. But that you love this young man, I do not believe.

Some women can be persuaded into love, but you are not of that sort,
so far as I can judge. Time will show. You are entirely and absolutely
free.

Pardon me, but after the first surprise of this communication I
rejoiced that you were thus free. Even were I other than I am--young,
handsome, with a large income and everything favourable, you should
still, at this crisis, be left exactly as you are, free to elect
your own fate, as every woman ought to do. I may be proud, but were I
seeking a wife, the only love that ever would satisfy me would be that
which was given spontaneously and unsought:--dependent on nothing I
gave, but on what I was. If you choose this suitor, my faith in you
will convince me that your feelings was such, for him, and I shall be
able to say, “Be happy, and God bless you.”

Thus far, I trust, I have written with the steadiness of one who,
in either case, has no right to be even surprised--who has nothing
whatever to claim, and who accordingly claims nothing.

Treherne will of course answer--and I shall find his letter at the
camp when I return, which will be the day after to-morrow. It may
bring me--as, indeed, I have expected day by day, being so much the
friend of both parties--definite tidings.

Let me stop writing here. My ghosts of old have been haunting
me, every day this week; is it because my good angel is
vanishing--vanishing--far away? Let me recall your words, which
nothing ever can obliterate from my memory--and which in any case I
shall bless you for as long as I live.

“_I believe that every sin, however great, being repented of and
forsaken, is by God, and ought to be by men, altogether forgiven,
blotted out and done away?_”

A truth, which I hope never to forget, but to set forth continually--I
shall have plenty of opportunity, as a gaol-surgeon. Ay, I shall
probably live and die as a poor gaol-surgeon.

And you?=

````"The children of Alice call Bartrum father."=

This line of Elia’s has been running in my head all day. A very quiet,
patient, pathetically sentimental line. But Charles Lamb was only a
gentle dreamer--or he wrote it when he was old.

Understand, I do _not_ believe you love this young man. If you
do--marry him! But if, not loving him, you marry him--I had rather you
died. Oh, child, child, with your eyes so like my mother and Dallas--I
had rather, ten thousand times, that you died.



CHAPTER VIII HER STORY.

|Penelope has brought me my desk to pass away the long day during her
absence in London--whither she has gone up with Mrs. Granton to buy
the first instalment of her wedding-clothes. She looked very sorry
that I could not accompany her. She is exceedingly kind--more so than
ever in her life before, though I have given her a deal of trouble,
and seem to be giving more every day.

I have had “fever-and-agur,” as the poor folk hereabouts call
it--caught, probably, in those long walks over the moorlands, which I
indulged in after our return from the north --supposing they would do
me good. But the illness has done me more; so it comes to the same
thing in the end.

I could be quite happy now, I believe, were those about me happy too;
and, above all, were Penelope less anxious on my account, so as to
have no cloud on her own prospects. She is to be married in April, and
they will sail in May; I must contrive to get well long before then,
if possible. Francis has been very little down here; being fully
occupied in official arrangements; but Penelope only laughs, and says
he is better out of the way during this busy time. She is so happy,
she can afford to jest. Mrs. Granton takes my place in assisting her,
which is good for the dear old lady too.

Poor Mrs. Granton! it cut me to the heart at first to see how
puzzled she was at the strange freak which took Colin off to the
Mediterranean--only puzzled, never cross--how could she be cross at
anything “my Colin” does? he is always right, of course. He was really
right this time, though it made her unhappy for awhile; but she would
have been more so, had she known all. Now, she only wonders a little;
regards me with a sort of half-pitying curiosity; is specially kind
to me, brings me every letter of her son’s to read--thank heaven, they
are already very cheerful letters--and treats me altogether as if she
thought I were breaking my heart for her Colin, and that Colin had not
yet discovered what was good for himself concerning me, but would in
time. It is of little consequence--so as she is content and discovers
nothing.

Poor Colin! I can only reward him by loving his old mother for his
sake.

After a long pause, writing being somewhat fatiguing, I have thought
it best to take this opportunity of setting down a circumstance which
befell me since I last wrote in my journal. It was at first not my
intention to mention it here at all, but on second thoughts I do so,
lest, should anything happen to prevent my destroying this journal
during my life time, there might be no opportunity, through the
omission of it, for any misconstructions as to Colin’s conduct or
mine. I am weak enough to feel that, not even after I was dead,
would I like it to be supposed I had given any encouragement to Colin
Granton, or cared for him in any other way than as I shall always care
for him, and as he well deserves.

It is a most painful thing to confess, and one for which I still take
some blame to myself, for not having seen and prevented it, but the
day before we left Treherne Court, Colin Granton made me an offer of
marriage.

When I state that this was unforeseen, I do not mean up to the actual
moment of its befalling me. They say, women instinctively find out
when a man is in love with them, so long as they themselves are
indifferent to him; but I did not, probably because my mind was
so full of other things. Until the last week of our visit, such a
possibility never entered my mind. I mention this, to explain my not
having prevented--what every girl ought to prevent if she can--the
final declaration, which it must be such a cruel mortification to any
man to make, and be denied.

This was how it happened. After the new year came in, our gaieties and
late hours, following the cares of papa’s illness, were too much for
me, or else this fever was coming on. I felt--not ill exactly--but not
myself, and Mrs. Granton saw it. She petted me like a mother, and was
always telling me to regard her as such, which I innocently promised;
when she would look at me earnestly, and say, often with tears in her
eyes, that “she was sure I would never be unkind to the old lady,” and
that “she should get the best of daughters.”

Yet still I had not the least suspicion. No, nor when Colin was
continually about me, watching me, waiting upon me, sometimes almost
irritating me, and then again touching me inexpressibly with his
unfailing kindness, did I suspect anything for long. At last, I did.

There is no need to relate what trifles first opened my eyes, nor
the wretchedness of the two intermediate days between my dreading and
being sure of it.

I suppose it must always be a very terrible thing to any woman, the
discovery that some one whom she likes heartily, and only likes, loves
her. Of course, in every possible way that it could be done, without
wounding him, or betraying him to other people, I avoided Colin; but
it was dreadful, notwithstanding. The sight of his honest, happy
face, was sadder to me than the saddest face in the world, yet when it
clouded over, my heart ached. And then his mother, with her caresses
and praises, made me feel the most conscience-stricken wretch that
ever breathed.

Thus things went on. I shall set down no incidents, though bitterly
I remember them all. At last it came to an end. I shall relate this,
that there may be no doubt left as to what passed between us--Colin
and me.

We were standing in the corridor, his mother having just quitted us,
to settle with papa about to-morrow’s journey, desiring us to wait for
her till she returned. Colin suggested waiting in the library, but I
preferred the corridor, where continually there were persons coming
and going. I thought if I never gave him any opportunity of saying
anything, he might understand what I so earnestly wished to save him
from being plainly told. So we stood looking out of the hall-windows.
I can see the view this minute, the large, level circle of snow, with
the sun-dial in the centre, and beyond, the great avenue-gates, with
the avenue itself, two black lines and a white one between, lessening
and fading away in the mist of a January afternoon.

“How soon the day is closing in--our last day here!”

I said this without thinking. The next minute I would have given
anything to recall it. For Colin answered something--I hardly remember
what--but the manner, the tone, there was no mistaking. I suppose the
saying is true;--no woman with a heart in her bosom can mistake for
long together when a man really loves her. I felt it was coming;
perhaps better let it come, and, then it would be over, and there
would be an end of it.

So I just stood still, with my eyes on the snow, and my hands locked
tight together, for Colin had tried to take one of them. He was
trembling much, and so I am sure was I. He had said only half-a-dozen
words, when I begged him to stop, “unless he wished to break my
heart.” And seeing him turn pale as death, and lean against the wall,
I did indeed feel as if my heart were breaking.

For a moment the thought came--let me confess it--how cruel things
were, as they were; how happy had they been otherwise, and I could
have made him happy--this good honest soul that loved me, his dear old
mother, and every one belonging to us; also, whether anyhow I ought
not to try.--No: that was not possible. I can understand women’s
renouncing love, or dying of it, or learning to live without it: but
marrying without it, either for “spite,” or for money, necessity,
pity, or persuasion, is to me utterly incomprehensible. Nay, the
self-devoted heroines of the _Emilia Wyndham_ school seem creatures so
weak that if not compassionating one would simply despise them. Out of
duty or gratitude, it might be possible to work, live, or even die for
a person, but _never_ to marry him.

So, when Colin, recovering, tried to take my hand again, I shrunk
into myself, and became my right self at once. For which, lest tried
overmuch, and liking him as I do, some chance emotion might have led
him momentarily astray, I most earnestly thank God.

And then I had to look him in the eyes and tell him the plain truth.

“Colin, I do not love you; I never shall be able to love you, and so
it would be wicked even to think of this. You must give it all up, and
let us go back to our old ways.”

“Dora?”

“Yes, indeed, it is true. You _must_ believe it.”

For a long time, the only words he said were:--

“I knew it--knew I was not half good enough for you.”

It being nearly dark, no one came by until we heard his mother’s
step, and her cheerful “Where’s my Colin?”--loud enough as if she
meant--poor dear!--in fond precaution, to give us notice of her
coming. Instinctively we hid from her in the library. She looked in
at the door, but did not, or would not, see us, and went trotting away
down the corridor. Oh, what a wretch I felt!

When she had departed, I was stealing away, but Colin caught my dress.

“One word--just one. Did you never care for me--never the least bit in
all the world?”

“Yes,” I answered sorrowfully, feeling no more ashamed of telling
this, or anything, than one would be in a dying confession. “Yes,
Colin, I was once very fond of you, when I was about eleven years
old.”

“And never afterwards?”

“No--as my saying this proves. Never afterwards, and never should, by
any possible chance--in the sort of way you wish.”

“That is enough--I understand,” he said, with a sort of mournful
dignity quite new in Colin Granton. “I was only good enough for you
when you were a child, and we are not children now. We never shall be
children any more.”

“No--ah, no.” And the thought of that old time came upon me like
a flood--the winter games at the Cedars--the blackberrying and
bilberrying upon the sunshiny summer moors--the grief when he went
to school, and the joy when he came home again--the love that was
so innocent, so painless. And he had loved me ever since--me, not
Lisabel; though for a time he tried flirting with her, he owned, just
to find out whether or not I cared for him. I hid my face and sobbed.

And then, I had need to recover self-control; it is such an awful thing
to see a man weep.

I stood by Colin till we were both calmer: trusting all was safe over;
and that without the one question I most dreaded. But it came.

“Dora, _why_ do you not care for me? Is there--tell me or not, as you
like--is there any one else?”

Conscience! let me be as just to myself as I would be to another in my
place.

Once, I wrote that I had been “mistaken,” as I have been in some
things, but not in all. Could I have honestly said so, taking all
blame on myself and freeing all others from everything save mere
kindness to a poor girl who was foolish enough, but very honest and
true, and wholly ignorant of where things were tending, till too late;
if I could have done this, I believe I should then and there have
confessed the whole truth to Colin Granton. But as things are, it was
impossible.

Therefore I said, and started to notice how literally my words
imitated other words, the secondary meaning of which had struck me
differently from their first, “that it was not likely I should ever be
married.”

Colin asked no more.

The dressing-bell rang, and I again tried to get away; but he
whispered “Stop one minute--my mother--what am I to tell my mother?”

“How much does she know?”

“Nothing. But she guesses, poor dear--and I was always going to tell
her outright; but somehow I couldn’t. But now, as you will tell your
father and sisters, and--”

“No, Colin; I shall not tell any human being.”

And I was thankful that if I could not return his love I could at
least save his pride, and his mother’s tender heart.

“Tell her nothing; go home and be brave for her sake. Let her see that
her boy is not unhappy. Let her feel that not a girl in the land is
more precious to him than his old mother.”

“That’s true!” he said, with a hard breath. “I won’t break her dear
old heart. I’ll will, Dora.” hold my tongue and bear it.

“I know you will,” and I held out my hand. Surely, that clasp wronged
no one; for it was hardly like a lover’s--only my old playmate--Colin,
my dear.

We then agreed, that if his mother asked any questions, he should
simply tell her that he had changed his mind concerning me, and that
otherwise the matter should be buried with him and me, now and always.
“Except only”--and he seemed about to tell me something, but stopped,
saying it was of no matter--it was all as one now. I asked no farther,
only desiring to get away.

Then, with another long, sorrowful, silent clasp of the hand, Colin
and I parted.

A long parting it has proved; for he kept aloof from me at dinner, and
instead of travelling home with us, went round another way. A week
or two afterwards, he called at Rockmount, to tell us he had bought a
yacht, and was going a cruise to the Mediterranean. I being out on the
moor, did not see him; he left next day, telling his mother to “wish
good-bye for him to his playmate Dora.”

Poor Colin! God bless him and keep him safe, so that I may feel I only
wounded his heart, but did his soul no harm. I meant it not! And when
he comes back to his old mother, perhaps bringing her home a fair
daughter-in-law, as no doubt he will one day, I shall be happy enough
to smile at all the misery of that time at Treherne Court and
afterwards, and at all the tender compassion which has been wasted upon
me by good Mrs. Granton, because “my Colin” changed his mind, and went
away without marrying his playmate Dora. Only “Dora.” I am glad he
never called me my full name. There is but one person who ever called
me “Theodora.”,

I read in a book, the other day, this extract:--

“People do not sufficiently remember that in every relation of life as
in the closest one of all, they ought to take one another ‘for better,
for worse.’ That, granting the tie of friendship, gratitude, or
esteem, be strong enough to have existed at all, it ought, either
actively or passively, to exist for ever. And seeing we can, at best,
know our neighbour, companion or friend, as little as, alas! we often
find he knoweth of us, it behoveth us to treat him with the most
patient fidelity, the tenderest forbearance; granting, unto all his
words and actions that we do not understand, the utmost limit of
faith that common sense and Christian justice will allow. Nay, these
failing, is there not still left Christian charity? which, being past
‘believing’ and ‘hoping,’ still ‘endureth all things?’”

I hear the carriage-wheels.

*****

They will not let me go downstairs at all to-day.

I have been lying looking at the fire, alone, for Francis returned
with Mrs. Granton and Penelope yesterday. They have gone a long walk
across the moors. I watched them, strolling arm-in-arm--Darby and Joan
fashion--till their two small black figures vanished over the hilly
road, which always used to remind me of the Sleeping Beauty and her
prince.=

````"And on her lover’s arm she leant,

````And round her waist she felt it fold,

````And far across the hills they went,

````To that new world which is the old."=

They must be very happy--Francis and Penelope. ‘

I wonder how soon I shall be well. This fever and ague lasts sometimes
for months; I remember Doctor Urquhart’s once saying so.

Here, following my plan of keeping this journal accurate and complete,
I ought to put down something which occurred yesterday, and which
concerns Doctor Urquhart.

Driving through the camp, my sister Penelope saw him, and papa stopped
the carriage and waited for him. He could not pass them by, as Francis
declared he seemed intending to do, with a mere salutation, but stayed
and spoke. The conversation was not told me, for, on mentioning it,
a few sharp words took place between papa and Penelope. She protested
against his taking; so much trouble in cultivating the society of
a man, who, she said, was evidently, out of his own profession, “a
perfect boor.”

Papa replied more warmly than I had at all expected.

“You will oblige me, Penelope, by allowing your father to have a will
of his own in this as in most other matters, even if you do suppose
him capable of choosing for his associate and friend ‘a perfect boor.’
And were that accusation as true as it is false, I trust I should
never forget that a debt of gratitude, such as I owe to Doctor
Urquhart, once incurred, is seldom to be repaid, and never to be
obliterated.”

So the discourse ended. Penelope left my room, and papa took a chair
by me. I tried to talk to him, but we soon both fell into silence.
Once or twice, when I thought he was reading the newspaper, I found
him looking at me, but he made no remark.

Papa and I have had much less of each other’s company lately, though
we have never lost the pleasant footing on which we learned to be
during his illness. I wonder if, now that he is quite well, he has
any recollection of the long, long hours, nights and days, with only
daylight or candle-light to mark the difference between them, when he
lay motionless in his bed, watched and nursed by us two.

I was thinking thus, when he asked a question, the abrupt coincidence
of which with my secret thoughts startled me out of any answer than a
simple “No, papa.”

“My dear, have you ever had any letter from Doctor Urquhart?”

How could he possibly imagine such a thing? Could Mrs. Granton,
or Penelope, who is quick-sighted in some things, have led papa to
think--to suppose--something, the bare idea of which turned me sick
with fear. Me, they might blame as they liked; it would not harm me;
but a word, a suggestion of blame to any other person, would drive me
wild, furious. So I summoned up all my strength.

“You know, papa, Doctor Urquhart could have nothing to write to me
about. Any message for me he could have put in a letter to you.”

“Certainly. I merely enquired, considering him so much a friend of the
family, and aware that you had seen more of him, and liked him better
than your sisters did. But if he had written to you, you would, of
course, have told me?”

“Of course, papa.”

I did not say another word than this.

Papa went on, smoothing his newspaper, and looking direct at the
fire:--

“I have not been altogether satisfied with Doctor Urquhart of late,
much as I esteem him. He does not appear sufficiently to value what--I
may say it without conceit--from an old man to a younger one, is
always of some worth. Yesterday, when I invited him here, he declined
again, and a little too--too decidedly.”

Seeing an answer waited for, I said, “Yes, papa.”

“I am sorry, having such great respect for him, and such pleasure in
his society.” Papa paused. “When a man desires to win or retain his
footing in a family, he usually takes some pains to secure it. If he
does not, the natural conclusion is that he does _not_ desire it.”
 Another pause. “Whenever Doctor Urquhart chooses to come here, he
will always be welcome--most welcome; but I cannot again invite him to
Rockmount.”

“No, papa.”

This was all. He then took up his Times, and read it through: I lay
quiet; quiet all the evening--quiet until I went to bed.

To-day I find in the same old book before quoted:--

“The true theory of friendship is this:--Once a friend, always a
friend. But, answerest thou, doth not every day’s practice give the
lie to that doctrine? Many, if not most friendships, be like a glove,
that however well fitting at first, doth by constant use wax loose and
ungainly, if it doth not quite wear out. And others, not put off and
on, but close to a man as his own skin and flesh, are yet liable to
become diseased: he may have to lose them, and live on without them,
as after the lopping off of a limb, or the blinding of an eye. And
likewise, there be friendships which a man groweth out of, naturally
and blamelessly, even as out of his child-clothes: the which, though
no longer suitable for his needs, he keepeth religiously, unforgotten
and undestroyed, and often visiteth with a kindly tenderness, though
he knoweth they can cover and warm him no more. All these instances do
clearly prove that a friend is not always a friend.”

“‘Yea,’ quoth Fidelis, ‘he is. Not in himself, may be, but unto thee.
The future and the present are thine and his; the past is beyond ye
both; an unalienable possession, a bond never disannulled. Ye may let
it slip, of natural disuse, throw it aside as worn-out and foul; cut
it off, cover it up, and bury it; but it hath been, and therefore in
one sense for ever must be. Transmutation is the law of all mortal
things; but so far as we know, there is not, and will not be, until
the great day of the second death--in the whole universe, any such
thing as annihilation.

“And so take heed. Deceive not thyself, saying that, because a thing
is not, it never was. Respect thyself--thine old self, as well as
thy new. Be faithful to thyself, and to all that ever was thine.
Thy friend is always thy friend. Not to have or to hold, to love or
rejoice in, but _to remember_.

“And if it befall thee, as befalleth most, that in course of time
nothing will remain for thee, except to remember, be not afraid! Hold
fast that which was thine--it is thine for ever. Deny it not--despise
it not; respect its secrets--be silent over its wrongs. And, so kept,
it shall never lie like a dead thing in thy heart, corrupting and
breeding-corruption there, as dead things do. Bury it, and go thy way.
It may chance that, one day, long hence, thou shalt come suddenly upon
the grave of it--and behold! it is dewy-green!”



CHAPTER IX. HIS STORY.

|That face,--that poor little white, patient face! How she is changed!

I wish to write down how it was I chanced to see you, though chance is
hardly the right word. I _would_ have seen you, even if I had waited
all day and all night, like a thief, outside your garden-wall. If I
could have seen you without your seeing me (as actually occurred) all
the better; but in any case I would have seen you. So far as relates
to you, the will of heaven only is strong enough to alter this
resolute “I will,” of mine.

You had no idea I was so near you. You did not seem to be thinking of
anybody or anything in particular, but came to your bedroom-window,
and stood there a minute, looking wistfully across the moorlands;
the still, absorbed, hopeless look of a person who has had some heavy
loss, or resigned something very dear to the heart--Dallas’s look,
almost, as I remember it when he quietly told me that instead of
preaching his first sermon, he must go away at once abroad, or give up
hope of ever living to preach at all. Child, if you should slip away
and leave me as Dallas did!

You must have had a severe illness. And yet, if so, surely I should
have heard of it, or your father and sister would have mentioned it
when I met them. But no mere bodily illness could account for that
expression--it is of the mind. You have been suffering mentally
also. Can it be out of pity for that young man, who, I hear, has left
England? Why, it is not difficult to guess, nor did I ever expect
otherwise, knowing him and you. Poor fellow! But he was honest, and
rich, and your friends would approve him. Have they been urging you on
his behalf? Have you had family feuds to withstand? Is it this which
has made you waste away, and turn so still and pale? You would just
do that; you would never yield, but only break your heart quietly,
and say nothing about it. I know you; nobody knows you half so well.
Coward that I was, not to have taken care of you. I might have done
it easily, as the friend of the family--the doctor--a grim fellow of
forty. There was no fear for anybody save myself. Yes, I have been a
coward. My child,--my gentle, tender, childlike child--they have been
breaking your heart, and I have held aloof and let them do it.

You had a cough in autumn, and your eyes are apt to get that bright,
limpid look, dilated pupils, with a dark shade under the lower
eye-lid, which is supposed to indicate the consumptive tendency.
Myself, I differ; believing it in you, as in many others, merely to
indicate that which for want of a clearer term we call the nervous
temperament; exquisitely sensitive, and liable to slight derangements,
yet healthy and strong at the core. I see no trace of disease in you,
no reason why, even fragile as you are, you should not live to be
an old woman. That is, if treated as you ought to be, judiciously,
tenderly; watched over, cared for, given a peaceful, cheerful life
with plenty of love in it. Plenty of anxieties also, maybe; no one
could shield you from these--but the love would counter-balance all,
and you would feel that--you should feel it--I could make you feel it.

I must find out what has ailed you and who has been attending you.
Doctor Black, probably. You disliked him, had almost a terror of him,
I know. Yet they would of course have placed you in his hands, my
little tender thing, my dove, my flower. It makes me mad.

Forgive! Forgive also that word “my,” though in one sense you are even
now mine. No one understands you as I do, or loves you. Not selfishly
either; most solemnly do I here protest that if I could find myself
now your father or your brother, through the natural tie of blood,
which for ever prevents any other, I would rejoice in it, rather than
part with you, rather than that you should slip away like Dallas, and
bless my eyes no more.

You see now what you are to me, that a mere apparition of your little
face at a window, could move me thus.

I must go to work now. To-morrow I shall have found out all about you.

*****

I wish you to know how the discovery was made; since, be assured,
I have ever guarded against the remotest possibility of friends or
strangers finding out my secret, or gossipping neighbours coupling my
name with yours.

Therefore, instead of going to Mrs. Granton,

I paid a visit to Widow Cartwright, whom I had news to give concerning
her daughter. And here, lest at any time evil or careless tongues
should bring you a garbled statement, let me just name all I have had
to do with this matter of Lydia Cartwright, which your sister once
spoke of as my “impertinent interference.”

Widow Cartwright, in her trouble, begged me to try and learn something
about her child, who had disappeared from the family where by Miss
Johnston’s recommendation, she went as parlour-maid, and in spite of
various inquiries set on foot by Mr. Charteris and others, had, to
your sister’s great regret, never more been heard of. She was believed
not to be dead, for she once or twice sent money to her mother; and
lately she was seen in a private box at the theatre by a person named
Turton, who recognized her, having often dined at the house where
she once was servant. This information was what I had to give to her
mother.

I would not have mentioned such a story to you, but that long ere you
read these letters, if ever you do read them, you will have learnt
that such sad and terrible facts do exist, and that even the purest
woman dare not ignore them. Also, who knows, but in the infinite
chances of life, you may have opportunities of doing in other cases,
what I would fain have done, and one day entreated your sister to
do--to use every effort for the redemption of this girl, who, from
all I hear, must have been unusually pretty, affectionate and
simple-minded.

Her poor old mother being a little comforted, I learnt tidings of you.
Three weeks of fever and ague, or something, like it, nobody quite
knew what; they, your family, had no notion till lately that there was
anything ailing you.

No--they never would. They would let you go on in your silent, patient
way, sick or well, happy or sorry, till you suddenly sunk, and then
they would turn round astonished:--“Really, why did she not say she
was ill? Who would have guessed there was anything the matter with
her?”

And I--I who knew every change in your little face, every mood in that
strange, quaint, variable spirit--I have let you slip, and been afraid
to take care of you. Coward!

I proceeded at once to Rockmount, but learnt from the gardener that
your father and sister were out, and “Miss Dora was ill in her room.”
 So I waited, hung about the road for an hour or more, till at last it
struck me to seek for information at the Cedars.

Mrs. Granton was glad to see me. She told me all about her son’s
departure--gentle heart! you have kept his secret--and, asking if
I had seen you lately, poured out in a stream all her anxieties
concerning you.

So, something must be done for you--something sudden and determined.
They may all think what they like--act as they choose--and so shall I.

I advised Mrs. Granton to fetch you at once to the Cedars, by
persuasion if she could; if not, by compulsion--bringing you there as
if for a drive and keeping you. She has a will, that good old lady,
when she sees fit to use it--and she has considerable influence with
your father. She said, she thought she could persuade him to let her
have you, and nurse you.

“And if the poor child herself is obstinate--she has been rather
variable of temper lately--I may say that you ordered me to bring her
here? She has a great respect for your opinion. I may tell her I acted
by Dr. Urquhart’s desire?”

I considered a moment, and then said she might.

We arranged everything as seemed best for your removal--a serious
undertaking for an invalid. You, an invalid, my bright-eyed,
lightfooted, moorland girl!

I do not think Mrs. Granton had a shadow of suspicion. She thanked
me continually, in her warm-hearted fashion for my “great kindness.”
 Kindness! She also begged me to call immediately--as _her_ friend,
lest I might have any professional scruples of etiquette about
interfering with Doctor Black.

Scruples! I cast them all to the winds. Come what will, I must see
you, must assure myself that there is no danger, that all is done for
you which gives you a fair chance of recovery.

If not--if with the clear vision that I know

I can use on occasion, I see you fading from me--I shall snatch at
you. I will have you--be it only for a day or an hour, I will have
you, I say,--on my heart, in my arms. My love, my darling, my wife
that ought to have been--you could not die out of my arms. I will make
you live--I will make you love me. I will have you for my wife yet. I
will----

God’s will be done!



CHAPTER X. HER STORY.

|I am at home again. I sit by my bed-room fire in a new easy-chair.
Oh, such care am I taken of now! I cast my eyes over the white waves
of moorland:--=

```"Moor and pleasaunce looking equal in one snow."=

Let me see, how does that verse begin?=

```"God be with thee, my beloved, God be with thee,

````As alone thou goest forth

````With thy face unto the North,

```Moor and pleasaunce looking equal in one snow:

````While I follow, vainly follow

````With the farewell and the hollow

```But cannot reach thee so."=

Ah, but I can--I can! Can reach any where; to the north or the south;
over the land or across the sea, to the world’s end. Yea, beyond there
if need be; even into the other unknown world.

Since I last wrote here, in this room, things have befallen me, sudden
and strange. And yet so natural do they seem, that I almost forget I
was ever otherwise than I am now. I, Theodora Johnston, the same, yet
not the same. I, just as I was, to be thought worthy of being--what
I am, and what I hope some one day to be--God willing. My heart is
full--how shall I write about these things--which never could be
spoken about, which only to think of makes me feel as if I could but
lay my head down in a wonder-stricken silence, that all should thus
have happened unto me, this unworthy me.

It is not likely I shall keep this journal much longer--but, until
closing it finally, it shall go on as usual. Perhaps, it may be
pleasant to read over, some day when I am old--when _we_ are old.

One morning, I forget how long after the last date here, Mrs. Granton
surprised me and everybody by insisting that the only thing for me was
change of air, and that I should go back at once with her to be
nursed at the Cedars. There was an invalid-carriage at the gate,
with cushions, mats, and furs; there was papa waiting to help me
downstairs, and Penelope with my trunk packed--in short, I was taken
by storm, and had only to submit. They all said, it was the surest way
of recovering, and must be tried.

Now, I wished to get well, and fast, too; it was necessary I should,
for several reasons.

First, there was Penelope’s marriage, with the after responsibility of
my being the only daughter now left to keep the house and take care of
papa.

Secondly, Lisabel wrote that, before autumn, she should want me for
a new duty and new tie; which, though we never spoke of it to one
another, we all thought of with softened hearts; even papa,
who, Penelope told me she had seen brushing the dust off our old
rocking-horse in an absent sort of way, and stopping in his walk to
watch Thomas, the gardener, toss his grandson. Poor dear papa!

I had a third reason. Sometimes I feared, by words Penelope dropped,
that she and my father had laid their heads together concerning me and
my weak health, and imagined--things which were not true. No; I repeat
they were not true. I was ill of fever and ague, that was all; I
should have recovered in time. If I were not quite happy, I should
have recovered from that, also, in time. I should not have broken my
heart. No one ought who has still another good heart to believe in; no
one need, who has neither done wrong nor been wronged. So, it seemed
necessary, or I fancied it so, thinking over all things during the
long wakeful nights, that, not for my own sake alone, I should rouse
myself, and try to get well as fast as possible.

Therefore, I made no objections to what, on some accounts, was to me
an excessively painful thing--a visit to the Cedars.

Pain or no pain, it was to be, and it was done. I lay in a dream of
exhaustion that felt like peace, in the little sitting-room, which
looked on the familiar view--the lawn, the sun-dial, the boundary of
evergreen bushes, and, farther off, the long, narrow valley, belted by
fir-topped hills, standing out sharp against the western sky.

Mrs. Granton bustled in and out, and did everything for me as tenderly
as if she had been my mother.

When we are sick and weak, to find comfort; when we are sore at heart,
to be surrounded by love; when, at five-and-twenty, the world looks
blank and dreary, to see it looking bright and sunshiny at sixty--this
does one good. If I said I loved Mrs.

Granton, it but weakly expressed what I owed and now owe her--more
than she is ever likely to know.

I had been a day and a night at the Cedars without seeing anyone,
except the dear old lady, who watched me incessantly, and administered
perpetual doses of “kitchen physic,” promising me faithfully that if I
continued improving, the odious face of Doctor Black should never
cross the threshold of the Cedars.

“But for all that, it would be more satisfactory to me if you would
consent to see a medical friend of mine, my dear.”

Sickness sharpens our senses, making nothing seem sudden or unnatural.
I knew as well as if she had told me, who it was she wanted me to
see--who it was even now at the parlour-door.

Doctor Urquhart came in, and sat down beside my sofa. I do not
remember anything that was said or done by any of us, except that I
felt him sitting there, and heard him in his familiar voice talking
to Mrs. Granton, about the pleasant view from this low window, and the
sunshiny morning, and the blackbird that was solemnly hopping about
under the sun-dial.

I will not deny it, why should I? The mere tone of his voice--the mere
smile of his eyes, filled my whole soul with peace. I neither knew how
he had come, nor why. I did not want to know; I only knew he was there;
and in his presence I was like a child who has been very forlorn, and
is now taken care of; very hungry and is satisfied.

Some one calling Mrs. Granton out of the room, he suddenly turned and
asked me, “how long I had been ill?”

I answered briefly; then said, in reply to further questions, that I
believed it was fever and ague, caught in the moorland cottages, but
that I was fast recovering--indeed, I was almost well again now.

“Are you? Give me your hand.” He felt my pulse, counting it by his
watch; it did not beat much like a convalescent’s then, I know. “I see
Mrs. Granton in the garden--I must have a little talk with her about
you.”

He went out of the room abruptly, and soon after I saw them walking
together, up and down the terrace. Dr. Urquhart only came to me again
to bid me good-bye.

But after that, we saw him every day for a week.

He used to appear at uncertain hours, sometimes forenoon, sometimes
evening; but faithfully, if ever so late, he came. I had not been
aware he was thus intimate at the Cedars, and one day when Mrs.
Gran-ton was speaking about him, I happened to say so.

She smiled.

“Yes, certainly; his coming here daily is a new thing; though I was
always glad to see him, he was so kind to my Colin. But, in truth, my
dear, if I must let out the secret, he now comes to see _you_.”

“Me!” I was glad of the dim light we sat in, and horribly ashamed of
myself when the old lady continued, matter-of-fact and grave.

“Yes, you, by my special desire. Though he willingly consented to
attend you; he takes a most kindly interest in you. He was afraid
of your being left to Doctor Black, whom in his heart I believe he
considers an old humbug; so he planned your being brought here, to be
petted and taken care of. And I am sure he himself has taken care of
you, in every possible way that could be done without your finding it
out. You are not offended, my dear?”

“No.”

“I can’t think how we shall manage about his fees; still it would
have been wrong to have refused his kindness--so well meant and
so delicately offered. I am sure he has the gentlest ways, and the
tenderest heart of any man I ever knew. Don’t you think so?”

“Yes.”

But, for all that, after the first week, I did not progress so fast
as they two expected--also papa and Penelope, who came over to see
me, and seemed equally satisfied with Doctor Urquhart’s “kindness.”
 Perhaps this very “kindness,” as I, like the rest, now believed it,
made things a little more trying for me. Or else the disease--the
fever and ague--had taken firmer hold on me than anybody knew. Some
days I felt as if health were a long way off--in fact, not visible at
all in this mortal life, and the possibility seemed to me sometimes
easy to bear, sometimes hard. I had many changes of mood and temper,
very sore to struggle against--for all of which I now humbly crave
forgiveness of my dear and kind friends, who were so patient with me,
and of Him, the most merciful of all.

Doctor Urquhart came daily, as I have said. We had often very long
talks together, sometimes with Mrs. Granton, sometimes alone. He told
me of all his doings and plans, and gradually brought me out of the
narrow sickroom world into which I was falling, towards the current
of outward life--his own active life, with its large aims, duties
and cares. The interest of it roused me; the power and beauty of it
strengthened me. All the dreams of my youth, together with one I had
dreamt that evening by the moorland pool, came back again. I sometimes
longed for life, that I might live as he did; in any manner, anywhere,
at any sacrifice, so that it was a life in some way resembling, and
not unworthy of his own. This sort of life--equally solitary, equally
painful, devoted more to duty than to joy, was--heaven knows--all
I then thought possible. And I still think, with it, and with my
thorough reverence and trust in him, together with what I now felt
sure of--his sole, special, unfailing affection for me, I could have
been content all my days.

My spirit was brave enough, but sometimes my heart was weak. When one
has been accustomed to rest on any other--to find each day the tie
become more familiar, more necessary, belonging to daily life, and
daily want; to feel the house empty, as it were, till there comes the
ring at the door or the step in the hall, and to be aware that all
this cannot last, that it must come to an end, and one must go back
to the old, old life--shut up in oneself, with no arm to lean on, no
smile to cheer and guide, no voice to say, “You are right, do it,” or
“There I think you are wrong,” then, one grows frightened.

When I thought of his going to Liverpool, my courage broke down.
I would hide my head in my pillow of nights, and say to myself,
“Theodora, you are a coward; will not the good God make you strong
enough by yourself, even for any sort of life He requires of you?
Leave all in His hands.” So I tried to do: believing that from any
feeling that was holy and innocent He would not allow me to suffer
more than I could bear, or more than is good for all of us to suffer
at times.

(I did not mean to write thus; I meant only to tell my outward story;
but such as is written let it be. I am not ashamed of it.)

Thus things went on, and I did not get stronger.

One Saturday afternoon Mrs. Granton went a long drive, to see some
family in whom Doctor Urquhart had made her take an interest, if,
indeed, there was need to do more than mention any one’s being in
trouble, in the dear woman’s hearing, in order to unseal a whole
torrent of benevolence. The people’s name was Ansdell; they were
strangers, belonging to the camp; there was a daughter dying of
consumption.

It was one of my dark days: and I lay, thinking how much useless
sentiment is wasted upon the young who die; how much vain regret at
their being so early removed from the enjoyments they share, and the
good they are doing, when they often do no good and have little joy
to lose. Take, for instance, Mrs. Granton and me: if Death hesitated
between us, I know which he had better choose: the one who had least
pleasure in living, and who would be easiest spared--who, from either
error or fate, or some inherent faults, which, become almost equal to
a fate, had lived twenty-five years without being of the smallest use
to anybody; and to whom the best that could happen would apparently be
to be caught up in the arms of the Great Reaper, and sown afresh in a
new world, to begin again.

Let me confess all this--because it explains the mood which I
afterwards betrayed; and because it caused me to find out that I was
not the only person into whose mind such wild and wicked thoughts have
come, to be reasoned down--battled down--prayed down.

I was in the large drawing-room, supposed to be lying peacefully on
the sofa--but in reality, cowering down all in a heap, within the
small circle of the fire-light. Beyond, it was very dark--so dark that
the shadows would have frightened me, were there not too many spectres
close at hand: sad, or evil spirits,--such as come about us all in
our dark days. Still, the silence was so ghostly, that when the door
opened, I slightly screamed.

“Do not be afraid. It is only I.”

I was shaken hands with; and I apologised for having been so startled.
Doctor Urquhart said, it was he who ought to apologise, but he had
knocked and I did not answer, and he had walked in, being “anxious.”
 Then he spoke about other things, and I soon became myself, and sat
listening, with my eyes closed, till, suddenly seeing him, I saw him
looking at me.

“You have been worse to-day.”

“It was my bad day.”

“I wish I could see you really better.”

“Thank you.”

My eyes closed again--all things seemed dim and far off, as if my life
were floating away, and I had no care to seize hold of it--easier to
let it go.

“My patient does not do me much credit. When do you intend to honour
me by recovering, Miss Theodora?”

“I don’t know;--it does not much matter.” It wearied me to answer even
him.

He rose, walked up and down the room, several times, and returned to
his place.

“Miss Theodora, I wish to say a few words to you seriously, about
your health. I should like to see you better--very much better than
now--before I go away.”

“Possibly you may.”

“In any case, you will have to take great care--to be taken great care
of--for months to come. Your health is very delicate. Are you aware of
that?”

“I suppose so.”

“You must listen--”

The tone roused me.

“If you please, you _must_ listen, to what I am saying. It is useless
telling any one else, but I tell _you_, that if you do not take care
of yourself you will die.”

I looked up. No one but he would have said such a thing to me--if he
said it, it must be true.

“Do you know that it is wrong to die--to let yourself carelessly slip
out of God’s world, in which He put you to do good work there?”

“I have no work to do.”

“None of us can say that. You ought not--you shall not. I will not
allow it.”

His words struck me. There was truth in them--the truth, the faith of
my first youth though both had faded in after years--till I knew him.
And this was why I clung to this friend of mine, because amidst all
the shams and falsenesses around me, and even in myself--in him I ever
found, clearly acknowledged, and bravely outspoken--the _truth_. Why
should he not help me now?

Humbly I asked him, “if he were angry with me?”

“Not angry, but grieved; you little know how deeply.”

Was it for my dying, or my wickedly wishing to die? I knew not; but
that he was strongly affected, more even than he liked me to see, I
did see, and it lifted the stone from my heart.

“I know I have been very wicked. If any one would thoroughly scold
me--if I could only tell anybody--”

“Why cannot you tell me?”

So I told him, as far as I could, all the dark thoughts that had been
troubling me this day; I laid upon him all my burthens; I confessed
to him all my sins; and when I ended, not without agitation, for I
had never spoken so plainly of myself to any creature before, Doctor
Urquhart talked to me long and gently upon the things wherein he
considered me wrong in myself and in my home; and of other things
where he thought I was only “foolish,” or “mistaken.” Then he spoke of
the manifold duties I had in life; of the glory and beauty of living;
of the peace attainable, even in this world, by a life which, if ever
so sad and difficult, has done the best it could with the materials
granted to it--has walked, so far as it could see, in its appointed
course, and left the rewarding and the brightening of it solely in the
hands of Him who gave it, who never gives anything in vain.

This was his “sermon”--as, smiling, I afterwards called it, though all
was said very simply, and as tenderly as if he had been talking with
a child. At the end of it, I looked at him by a sudden blaze of the
fire; and it seemed as if, mortal man as he was, with faults enough
doubtless--and some of them I already knew, though there is no
necessity to publish them here--I “saw his face as it had been the
face of an angel.” And I thanked God, who sent him to me--who sent us
each to one another.

For what should Doctor Urquhart reply when I asked him how he came to
learn all these good things? but--also smiling:--

“Some of them I learned from you.”

“Me?” I said, in amazement.

“Yes; perhaps I may tell you how it was some day, but not now.” He
spoke hurriedly; and immediately began talking about other things;
informing me,--as he had now got a habit of doing,--exactly how his
affairs stood. Now, they were nearly arranged; and it became needful
he should leave the camp, and begin his new duties by a certain day.

After a little more talk, he fixed--or rather, we fixed, for he asked
me to decide--that day; briefly, as if it had been like any other day
in the year; and quietly as if it had not involved the total ending
for the present, with an indefinite future, of all this--what shall I
call it?--between him and me, which, to one, at least, had become as
natural and necessary as daily bread.

Thinking now of that two or three minutes of silence which followed--I
could be very sorry for myself--far more so than then; for then I
hardly felt it at all.

Doctor Urquhart rose, and said he must go--he could not wait longer
for Mrs. Granton.

“Thursday week is the day then,” he added, “after which I shall not
see you again for many months.”

“I suppose not.”

“I cannot write to you. I wish I could; but such a correspondence
would not be possible, would not be right.”

I think I answered mechanically, “No.”

I was standing by the mantel-piece, steadying myself with one hand,
the other hanging down. Doctor Urquhart touched it for a second.

“It is the very thinnest hand I ever saw!--You will remember,” he then
said, “in case this should be our last chance of talking together--you
will remember all we have been saying? You will do all you can to
recover perfect health, so as to be happy and useful? You will never
think despondingly of your life; there is many a life much harder than
yours; you will have patience, and faith, and hope, as a girl ought to
have, who is so precious to--many! Will you promise?”

“I will.”

“Good-bye, then.”

“Good-bye.”

Whether he took my hands, or I gave them, I do not know; but I felt
them held tight against his breast, and him looking at me as if he
could not part with me, or as if, before we parted, he was compelled
to tell me something. But when I looked up at him we seemed of a
sudden to understand everything, without need of telling. He only said
four words,--“Is this my wife?” And I said “Yes.”

Then--he kissed me.

Once, I used to like reading and hearing all about love and lovers,
what they said and how they looked, and how happy they were in one
another. Now, it seems as if these things ought never to be read or
told by any mortal tongue or pen.

When Max went away, I sat where I was, almost without stirring, for a
whole hour; until Mrs. Granton came in and gave me the history of her
drive, and all about Lucy Ansdell, who had died that afternoon. Poor
girl--poor girl..



CHAPTER XI. HER STORY.

|Here, between the locked leaves of my journal, I keep the first
letter I ever had from Max.

It came early in the morning, the morning after that evening which
will always seem to us two, I think, something like what we read of,
that “the evening and the morning were the first day.” It was indeed
like the first day of a new world.

When the letter arrived, I was still fast asleep, for I had not gone
and lain awake all night, which, under the circumstances, (as I told
Max) it was a young lady’s duty to have done: I only laid my head down
with a feeling of ineffable rest--rest in heaven’s kindness, which
had brought all things to this end--and rest in his love, from which
nothing could ever thrust me, and in the thought of which I went to
sleep, as safe as a tired child; knowing I should be safe for all my
life long, with him--my Max--my husband.

“Lover” was a word that did not seem to suit him--grave as he was,
and so much older than I: I never expected from him anything like the
behaviour of a lover--indeed, should hardly like to see him in that
character; it would not look natural. But from the hour he said, “Is
this my wife?” I have ever and only thought of him as “my husband.”

My dear Max! Here is his letter--which lay before my eyes in the dim
dawn; it did not come by post--he must have left it himself: and the
maid brought it in; no doubt thinking it a professional epistle. And
I take great credit to myself for the composed matter-of-fact way in
which I said “it was all right, and there was no answer,” put down my
letter, and made believe to go to sleep again.

Let me laugh--it is not wrong; and I laugh still as much as ever I
can; it is good for me and good for Max. He says scarcely anything in
the world does him so much good as to see me merry.

It felt very strange at first to open his letter and see my name
written in his hand.

_Saturday night_.

My dear Theodora,

|I do not say “dearest,” because there is no one to put in comparison
with you: you are to me the one woman in the world.

My dear Theodora;--let me write it over again to assure myself that it
may be written at all, which perhaps it ought not to be till you have
read this letter.

Last night I left you so soon, or it seemed soon, and we said so
little, that I never told you some things which you ought to have been
made aware of at once; even before you were allowed to answer that
question of mine. Forgive me. In my own defence let me say, that when
I visited you yesterday, I meant only to have the sight of you--the
comfort of your society--all I hoped or intended to win for years to
come. But I was shaken out of all self-control--first by the terror of
losing you, and then by a look in your sweet eyes. You know! It was to
be, and it was. Theodora--gift of God!--may He bless you for shewing,
just for that one moment, what there was in your heart towards me.

My feelings towards you, you can guess--a little: the rest you must
believe in. I cannot write about them..

The object of this letter is to tell you something which you ought to
be told before I see you again.

You may remember my once saying it was not likely I should ever marry.
Such, indeed, was long my determination, and the reason was this. When
I was a mere boy--just before Dallas died--there happened to me an
event so awful, both in itself and its results, that it changed my
whole character, darkened my life, turned me from a lively, careless,
high-spirited lad, into a morbid and miserable man, whose very
existence was a burthen to him for years. And though gradually, thank
God! I recovered from this state, so as not to have an altogether
useless life; still I never was myself again--never knew happiness,
till I knew you. You came to me as unforeseen a blessing as if you
had fallen from the clouds: first you interested, then you cheered me,
then, in various ways, you brought light into my darkness, hope to my
despair. And then I loved you.

The same cause, which I cannot now fully explain, because I must first
take a journey, but you shall know everything within a week or ten
days--the same cause which has oppressed my whole life prevented my
daring to win you. I always believed that a man circumstanced as I
was, had no right ever to think of marriage. Some words of yours led
me of late to change this opinion. I resolved, at some future time, to
lay my whole history before you--as to a mere friend--to ask you the
question whether or not, under the circumstances, I was justified in
seeking any woman for my wife, and on your answer to decide either to
try and make you love me, or only to love you, as I should have loved
and shall for ever.

What I then meant to tell you is still to be told. I do not dread the
revelation as I once did: all things seem different to me.

I am hardly the same man that I was twelve hours ago. Twelve hours
ago I had never told you what you are to me--never had you in my
arms--never read the love in your dear eyes--oh, child, do not ever be
afraid or ashamed of letting me see you love me, unworthy as I am.
If you had not loved me, I should have drifted away into perdition--I
mean, I might have lost myself altogether, so far as regards this
world.

That is not likely now. You will save me, and I shall be so happy that
I shall be able to make you happy. We will never be two again--only
one. Already you feel like a part of me: and it seems as natural to
write to you thus as if you had been mine for years. Mine. Some day
you will find out all that is sealed up in the heart of a man of my
age and of my disposition--when the seal is once broken.

Since, until I have taken my journey I cannot speak to your father, it
seems right that my next visit to you should be only that of a friend.
Whether after having read this letter, which at once confesses so much
and so little, you think me worthy even of that title, your first look
will decide. I shall find out, without need of your saying one word.

I shall probably come on Monday, and then not again; to meet you
only as a friend, used to be sufficiently hard; to meet you with this
uncertainty overhanging me, would be all but impossible. Besides,
honour to your father compels this absence and silence, until my
explanations are made.

Will you forgive me? Will you trust me? I think you will.

I hope you have minded my “orders,” rested all evening and retired
early? I hope on Monday I may see a rose on your cheeks--a tiny,
delicate, winter-rose? That poor little thin cheek, it grieves my
heart. You _must_ get strong.

If by your manner you show that this letter has changed your opinion
of me, that you desire yesterday to be altogether forgotten, I shall
understand it, and obey.

Remember, whatever happens, whether you are ever my own or not, that
you are the only woman I ever wished for my wife; the only one I shall
ever marry.

Yours,

Max. Urquhart.

I read his letter many times over.

Then I rose and dressed myself, carefully, as if it had been my
marriage morning. He loved me; I was the only woman he had ever wished
for his wife. It was in truth my marriage morning.

Coming downstairs, Mrs. Granton met me, all delight at my having risen
so soon.

“Such an advance! we must be sure and tell Dr. Urquhart. By the bye,
did he not leave a note or message early this morning?”

“Yes; he will probably call on Monday.”

She looked surprised that I did not produce the note, but made no
remark. And I, two days before, I should have been scarlet and
tongue-tied; but now things were quite altered. I was his chosen, his
wife; there was neither hypocrisy nor deceit in keeping a secret
between him and me. We belonged to one another, and the rest of the
world had nothing to do with us.

Nevertheless, my heart felt running over with tenderness towards
the dear old lady;--as it did towards my father and my sisters, and
everything belonging to me in this wide world. When Mrs. Granton went
to church, I sat for a long time in the west parlour, reading the
Bible, all alone; at least as much alone as I ever can be in this world
again, after knowing that Max loves me.

It being such an exceedingly mild and warm day--wonderful for the
first day of February, an idea came into my head, which was indeed
strictly according to “orders;” only I never yet had had the courage
to obey. Now, I thought I would. It would please him so, and Mrs.
Granton too.

So I put on my out-door gear, and actually walked, all by myself,
to the hill-top, a hundred yards or more. There I sat down on the
familiar bench, and looked round on the well-known view. Ah me! for
how many years and under how many various circumstances, have I come
and sat on that bench and looked at that view!

It was very beautiful to-day, though almost death-like in its
supernatural sunshiny calm: such as one only sees in these accidental
fine days which come in early winter, or sometimes as a kind of
spectral anti-type of spring. Such utter stillness, everywhere. The
sole thing that seemed alive or moving in the whole landscape was a
wreath of grey smoke, springing from some invisible cottage behind
the fir-wood, and curling away upwards till if lost itself in the opal
air. Hill, moorland, wood and sky, lay still as a picture, and fair as
the Land of Beulah, the Celestial Country. It would hardly have been
strange to see spirits walking there, or to have turned and found
sitting on the bench beside me, my mother and my halfbrother Harry,
who died so long ago, and whose faces in the Celestial country I shall
first recognise.

My mother.--Never till now did I feel the want of her. It seems only
her--only a mother--to whom I could tell, “Max loves me--I am going to
be Max’s wife.”

And Harry--poor Harry, whom also I never knew--whose life was so
wretched, and whose death so awful; he might have been a better man,
if he had only known my Max. I am forgetting, though, how old he would
have been now; and how Max must have been a mere boy when my brother
died.

I do not often think of Harry. It would be hardly natural that I
should; all happened so long ago that his memory has never been
more than a passing shadow across the family lives. But to-day, when
everyone of my own flesh and blood seemed to grow nearer to me, I
thought of him more than once; tried to recall the circumstances
of his dreadful end; and then to think of him only as a glorified,
purified spirit, walking upon those hills of Beulah. Perhaps now
looking down upon me, “baby” that was, whom he was once reported, in
one of his desperate visits home, to have snatched out of the cradle
and kissed; knowing all that had lately happened to me, and wishing me
a happy life with my dear Max.

I took out Max’s letter, and read it over again, in the sunshine and
open air.

O the happiness of knowing that one can make another happy--entirely
happy! O how good I ought to grow!

For the events which have caused him so much pain, and which he has
yet to tell papa and me--they did not weigh much on my mind. Probably
there is no family in which there is not some such painful revelation
to be made; we also have to tell him about poor Harry. But these
things are purely accidental and external. His fear that I should
“change my opinion of him” made me smile. “Max,” I said, out loud,
addressing myself to the neighbouring heather-bush, which might be
considered a delicate compliment to the land where he was born, “Oh,
Max, what nonsense you do talk!’ While you are you, and I am myself,
you and I are one.”

Descending the hill-top, I pressed all these my happy thoughts deep
down into my heart, covered them up, and went back in the world again.

Mrs. Granton and I spent a quiet day; the quieter, that I afterwards
paid for my feats on the hill-top by hours of extreme exhaustion.
It was my own folly, I told her, and tried to laugh at it, saying, I
should be better to-morrow.

But many a time the thought came, what if I should not be better
to-morrow, nor any to-morrow? What if, after all, I should have to go
away and leave him with no one to make him happy? And then I learned
how precious life had grown, and tasted, in degree, what is meant by
“the bitterness of death.”

But it did not last. And by this I know that our love is holy: that I
can now think of either his departure or my own, without either terror
or despair. I know that even death itself can never part Max and me.

Monday came. I was really better, and went about the house with Mrs.
Granton all the forenoon. She asked me what time Doctor Urquhart had
said he should be here; with various other questions about him. All
of which I answered without confusion or hesitation; it seemed as if
I had now belonged to him for a long time. But when, at last, his
ring came to the hall-door, all the blood rushed to my heart, and back
again into my face--and Mrs. Granton saw it.

What was I to do? to try and “throw dust” into those keen, kind eyes,
to tell or act a falsehood, as if I were ashamed of myself or him? I
could not. So I simply sat silent, and let her think what she chose.

Whatever she thought, the good old lady said nothing. She sighed--ah,
it went to my conscience that sigh--and yet I had done no wrong either
to her or Colin; then, making some excuse, she slipped out of the
room, and the four walls only beheld Max and me when we met.

After we had shaken hands, we sat down in silence. Then I asked him
what he had been doing with himself all yesterday, and he told me he
had spent it with the poor Ansdells.

“They wished this, and I thought it was best to go.”

“Yes; I am very glad you went.”

Doctor Urquhart (of course I shall go on calling him “Doctor
Urquhart,” to people in general; nobody but me has any business with
his Christian name), Doctor Urquhart looked at me and smiled; then he
began telling me about these friends of his; and how brokenhearted
the old mother was, having lost both daughters in a few months--did
I remember the night of the camp concert, and young Ansdell who sung
there?

I remembered some young man being called for, as Doctor Urquhart
wanted him.

“Yes--I had to summon him home; his eldest sister had suddenly died.
Only a cold and fever--such as you yourself might have caught that
night--you thoughtless girl. You little knew how angry you made me.”

“Did I? Something was amiss with you--I did not know what--but I saw
it in your looks.”

“Could you read my looks even then, little lady?”

It was idle to deny it--and why should I, when it made him happy?
Radiantly happy his face was now--the sharp lines softened, the
wrinkles smoothed out. He looked ten years younger; ah! I am glad I am
only a girl still; in time I shall actually make him young.

Here, the hall-bell sounded--and though visitors are never admitted
to this special little parlour, still Max turned restless, and said he
must go.

“Why?”

He hesitated--then said hastily:--

“I will tell you the truth; I am happier out of your sight than in it,
just at present.”

I made no answer.

“To-night, I mean to start--on that journey I told you of.” Which was
to him a very painful one, I perceived.

“Go then, and get it over. You will come back to me soon.”

“God grant it.” He was very much agitated.

The only woman he had ever wished for his wife. This, I was. And
I felt like a wife. Talk of Penelope’s long courtship--Lisabel’s
marriage--it was I that was, in heart and soul, the real _wife_; ay,
though Max and I were never more to one another than now; though I
lived as Theodora Johnston to the end of my days.

So I took courage--and since it was not allowed me to comfort him
in any other way, I just stole my hand inside his, which clasped
instantly and tightly round it. That was all, and that was enough.
Thus we sat side by side, when the door opened--and in walked papa.

How strangely the comic and the serious are mixed up together in life,
and even in one’s own nature. While writing this, I have gone off into
a hearty fit of laughter, at the recollection of papa’s face when he
saw us sitting there.

Though at the time it was no laughing matter. For a moment he was dumb
with astonishment--then he said severely:--

“Doctor Urquhart, I suppose I must conclude--indeed, I can only
conclude one thing. But you might have spoken to me, before addressing
yourself to my daughter.”

Max did not answer immediately--when he did, his voice absolutely made
me start.

“Sir, I have been very wrong--but I will make amends--you shall know
all. Only first--as my excuse,” here he spoke out passionately, and
told papa all that I was to him, all that we were to one another.

Poor papa! it must have reminded him of his own young days--I have
heard he was very fond of his first wife, Harry’s mother--for when
I hung about his neck, mine were not the only tears. He held out his
hand to Max.

“Doctor, I forgive you; and there is not a man alive on whom I would
so gladly bestow this little girl, as you.”

And here Max tried me--as I suppose people not yet quite familiar will
be sure to try one another at first. Without saying a word, or even
accepting papa’s hand, he walked straight out of the room.

It was not right--even if he were ever so much unnerved; why should he
be too proud to show it? and it might have seriously offended papa.
I softened matters as well as I could, by explaining that he had not
wished to ask me of papa till a week hence, when he should be able
fully to enter into his circumstances.

“My dear,” papa interrupted, “go and tell him he may communicate
them at whatever time he chooses. When such a man as Doctor Urquhart
honestly comes and asks me for my daughter, you may be sure the very
last question I should ask him, would be about his circumstances.”

With my heart brimful at papa’s kindness, I went to explain this to
Max. I found him alone in the library, standing motionless at the
window. I touched him on the arm, with some silly coquettish speech
about how he could think of letting me run after him in this fashion.
He turned round.

“Oh, Max, what is the matter? Oh, Max!--” I could say no more.

“My child!”--He soothed me by calling me that and several other fond
names, but all these things are between him and me alone.--“Now,
good-bye. I must bid you good-bye at once.”

I tried to make him understand there was no necessity--that papa
desired to hear nothing, only wished him to stay with us till evening.
That indeed, looking as wretched as he did, I could not and would not
let him go. But in vain.

“I cannot stay. I cannot be a hypocrite. Do not ask it. Let me go--oh!
my child, let me go.”

And he might have gone--being very obstinate, and not in the least
able to see what is good for him or for me either--had it not
fortunately happened that, overpowered with the excitement of the last
ten minutes, my small strength gave way. I felt myself falling--tried
to save ‘myself by catching hold of Max’s arm, and fell. When I awoke,
I was lying on the sofa, with papa and Mrs. Gran-ton beside me..

Also Max--though I did not at first see him. He had taken his rights,
or they had been tacitly yielded to him; I do not know how it was, but
my head was on my betrothed husband’s breast.

So he stayed. Nobody asked any questions, and he himself explained
nothing. He only sat by me, all afternoon, taking care of me, watching
me with his eyes of love--the love that is to last me my whole life. I
know it will.

Therefore, in the evening, it was I who was the first to say, “Now,
Max, you must go.

“You are quite better?”

“Yes, and it is almost dark--it will be very dark across the moors.
You must go.”

He rose, and shook hands mechanically with papa and Mrs. Granton. He
was going to do the same by me, but I loosed my hands and clasped them
round his neck. I did not care for what anybody might say or think; he
was mine and I was his--they were all welcome to know it. And I
wished him to know and feel that, through everything, and in spite of
everything, I--his own--loved him and would love him to the last.

So he went away.

That is more than a week ago, and I have had no letter; but he did not
say he would write. He would rather come, I think. Thus, any moment I
may hear his ring at the door.

They--papa and Penelope--think I take things quietly. Penelope,
indeed, hardly believes I care for him at all! But they do not know;
oh, Max, they do not know! _You_ know, or you will know, some day.



CHAPTER XII. HIS STORY.

|My dear Theodora,

I trust you may never read this letter, which, as a preventive
measure, I am about to write; I trust we may burn it together, and
that I may tell you its contents at accidental times, after the one
principal fact has been communicated.

I mean to communicate it face to face, by word of mouth. It will not
seem so awful then: and I shall see the expression of your countenance
on first hearing it. That will guide me as to my own conduct--and as
to the manner in which it had best be broken to your father. I have
hope, at times, that even after such a communication, his regard for
me will not altogether fail--and it may be that his present opinions
will not be invincible. He may suggest some atonement, some probation,
however long or painful I care not, so that it ends in his giving me
you.

But first I ought to furnish him with full information about things
into which I have never yet dared to inquire. I shall do so to-morrow.
Much, therefore, depends upon to-morrow. Such a crisis almost unnerves
me; add to that the very sight of this place--and I went by chance
to the same Inn, the White Hart, Salisbury. When you have read this
letter through, you will not wonder that this is a terrible night
for me. I never would have revisited this town--but in the hope of
learning every particular, so as to tell you and your father the truth
and the whole truth.

He will assuredly pity me. The thought of his own boy, your brother,
whom you once mentioned, and whom Mr. Johnston informed me “died
young” after some great dereliction--this thought may make him deal
gently with me. Whether he will ever forgive me, or receive me into
his family, remains doubtful. It is with the fear of this, or any
other possibility which I cannot now foresee, that I write this
letter; in order that whatever happens, my Theodora may be acquainted
with my whole history.

My Theodora! Some day, when she comes to read a few pages which I seal
up to-night, marking them with her name, and “To be delivered to her
after my death,” she will understand how I have loved her. Otherwise,
it never could have been found out, even by her--for I am not a
demonstrative man. Only my wife would have known it.

In case this letter and those other letters do reach you, they will
then be your last mementos of me. Read them and burn them; they are
solely meant for you.

Should all go well, so that they become needless, we will, as I said,
burn them together, read or unread, as you choose. You shall do it
with your own hand, sitting by me, at our own fireside. _Our_ fireside.
The thought of it--the terror of losing it, makes me almost powerless
to write on. Will you ever find out how I love you, my love--my love!

I begin by reminding you that I have been long aware your name is not
properly Johnston. You told me yourself that the _t_ had been inserted
of late years. That you are not an aristocratic, but a plebeian
family. My thankfulness at learning this, you will understand
afterwards.

That cathedral clock--how it has startled me! Striking twelve with the
same tongue as it did twenty years ago. Were I superstitious, I might
fancy I heard in the coffee-room below, the clink of glasses, the tune
of “Glorious Apollo,” and the “Bravo,” of that uproarious voice.

The town is hardly the least altered. Except that I came in by railway
instead of by coach, it might be the very same Salisbury on that
very same winter’s night--the quaint, quiet English town that I stood
looking at from this same window--its streets shining with rain, and
its lights glimmering here and there through the general gloom. How
I stared, boy-like, till _he_ came behind and slapped me on the
shoulder. But I have a few things to tell you before I tell you the
history of that night. Let me delay it as long as I can.

You know about my father and mother, and how they both died when
Dallas and I were children. We had no near kindred; we had to take
care of ourselves--or rather he took care of me; he was almost as good
as a father to me, from the time he was twelve years old.

Let me say a word or two more about my brother Dallas. If ever there
was a perfect character on this earth, he was one. Every creature who
knew him thought the same. I doubt not the memory of him still lingers
in those old cloisters of St. Mary and St. Salvador, where he spent
eight years, studying for the ministry. I feel sure there is not a lad
who was at college with him--greyheaded lads they would be now, grave
professors, or sober ministers of the Kirk, with country manses,
wives, and families--not one of them but would say as I say, if you
spoke to him of Dallas Urquhart.

Being five years my elder, he had almost ended his curriculum when
I began mine; besides, we were at different colleges; but we went
through some sessions together a time on which I look back with
peculiar tenderness, as I think all boys do who have studied at St.
Andrew’s. You English do not altogether know us Scotch. I have seen
hard-headed, possibly hard-hearted men, grim divines, stern military
officers, and selfish Anglo-Indian valetudinarians, melt to the
softness of a boy, as they talked of their boyish days at St Andrews.

You never saw the place, my little lady? You would like it, I know.
To me, who have not seen it these twenty years, it still seems like a
city in a dream. I could lead you, hand-in-hand, through everyone of
its quiet old streets, where you so seldom hear the noise of either
carriage or cart: could point out the notable historical corners, and
tell you which professor lived in this house and which in that;
could take you along the Links, to the scene of our celebrated
golfing-match, calling over the names of the principal players,
including his who won it--a fine fellow he was, too! What became of
him, I wonder?

Also, I could show you the exact spot where you get the finest view
of the Abbey and St. Kegulus’ Tower, and then away back to our
lodgings--Dallas’s and mine--along the Scores, where, of moonlight
nights, the elder and more sentimental of the college lads would be
caught strolling with their sweethearts--bonnie lassies too they were
at St. Andrews--or we beheld them in all the glamour of our teens, and
fine havers we talked to them along those Scores, to the sound of the
sea below. I can hear it now. What a roar it used to come in with, on
stormy nights, against those rocks beyond the Castle, where a lad and
his tutor were once both drowned!

I am forgetting myself, and all I had to tell you. It is a long time
since I have spoken of those old days.

Theodora, I should like you some time to go and see St. Andrews. Go
there, in any case, and take a look at the old place. You will likely
find, in St. Mary’s Cloisters, on the third arch to the right hand as
you enter, my initials and Dallas’s; and if you ask, some old janitor
or librarian may still remember “the two Urquharts”--that is, if you
like to name us. But, go if you can. Faithful heart! I know you will
always care for anything that concerned me.

All the happy days of my life were spent at St. Andrews. They lasted
until Dallas fell ill, and had to go abroad at once. I was to follow,
and stay with him the winter, missing thereby one session, for he
did not like to part with me. Perhaps he foresaw his end, which I,
boy-like, never thought of, for I was accustomed to his being always
delicate; perhaps he knew what a lad of nineteen might turn out, left
to himself.

I was “left to myself,” in our Scotch interpretation of the phrase;
which, no doubt, originated in the stern Presbyterian belief of what
human nature is, abandoned by God. _Left to himself._ Many a poor
wretch’s more wretched parents know what that means.

How it came about, I do not call to mind, but I found myself in
London, my own master, spending money like dross; and spending what
was worse, my time, my conscience, my innocence. How low I fell, God
knows, for I hardly know myself! Things which happened afterwards made
me oblivious even of this time. While it lasted, I never once wrote to
Dallas.

A letter from him, giving no special reason for my joining him, but
urging me to come, and quickly, made me recoil conscience-stricken
from the Gehenna into which I was falling. You will find the
letter--the last I had from him, in this packet: read it, and burn it
with mine. Of course, no one has ever seen it, or will ever see it,
except yourself.

I started from London immediately, in great restlessness and anguish of
mind; for though I had been no worse than my neighbours, or so bad as
many of them--I knew what Dallas was--and how his pure life,
sanctified, though I guessed it not, by the shadow of coming death,
would look beside this evil life of mine. I was very miserable; and a
lad not used to misery is then in the quicksands of temptation. He is
grateful to any one who will save him from himself--give him a narcotic
and let his torment sleep.

I mention this only as a fact, not an extenuation. Though, in some
degree, Max Urquhart the man has long since learned to pity Max
Urquhart the boy.

--Here I paused, to read this over, and see if I have said all I
wished therein. The narrative seems clear. You will perceive, I try as
much as I can to make it a mere history as if of another person, and
thus far I think I have done so. The rest I now proceed to tell you,
as circumstantially and calmly as I can.

But first, before you learn any more about me, let me bid you remember
how I loved you, how you permitted me to love you--how you have been
mine, heart, and eyes, and tender lips; you know you were mine. You
cannot alter that. If I were the veriest wretch alive, you once saw in
me something worth loving, and you did love me. Not after the fashion
of those lads and lassies who went courting along the Scores at St.
Andrews--but solemnly--deeply--as those love who expect one day to be
husband and wife. Remember, we were to have been married, Theodora.--

I found my quickest route to Pau was by Southampton to Havre. But in
the dusk of the morning I mistook the coach; my luggage went direct,
and I found myself, having travelled some hours, on the road--not to
Southampton, but to Salisbury. This was told me after some jocularity,
at what he thought a vastly amusing piece of “greenness” on my part,
by the coachman. That is, the gentleman who drove the coach.

He soon took care to let me know he was a gentleman--and that, like
many young men of rank and fashion at that time, he was acting Jehu
only “for a spree.” He talked so large, I should have taken him for
a nobleman, or a baronet at least--had he not accidently told me his
name; though he explained that it was not as humble as it seemed,
and expatiated much upon the antiquity, wealth, and aristocratic
connections of his “family.”

His conversation, though loud and coarse, was amusing; and he
patronised me extremely.

I would rather not say a word more than is necessary concerning this
person--he is dead. As before stated, I never knew anything of him
excepting his name, which you shall have by-and-by; but I guessed that
his life had not been a creditable one. He looked about thirty, or a
little older.

When the coach stopped--at the very inn where I am now writing, the
White Hart, Salisbury, he insisted on my stopping too, as it was
a bitter cold night and the moon would not rise till two in the
morning--he said that, I mind well.

Finally, he let the coach go on without us, and I heard him laying a
bet to drive across Salisbury Plain, in a gig, or dog-cart, and meet
it again on the road to Devizes by daybreak next morning. The landlord
laughed, and advised him to give up such a mad, “neck-or-nothing”
 freak; but he swore, and said he always went at everything
“neck-or-nothing.”

I can remember to this day nearly every word he uttered, and his
manner of saying it. Under any circumstances this might have been the
case, for he attracted me, bad as I felt him to be, with his bold,
devil-may-care jollity, mixed with a certain English frankness, not
unpleasant. He was a small, dark man, hollow-eyed and dissipated
looking. His face--no, better not call up his face.

I was persuaded to stay and drink with this man and one or two
others--regular topers, as I soon found he was. He appeared poor too;
the drinking was to be at my expense. I was very proud to have the
honor of entertaining such a clever and agreeable gentleman.

Once, watching him, and listening to his conversation, sudden doubt
seized me of what Dallas would think of my new acquaintance, and what
he would say, or look--he seldom reproved aloud--were he to walk in,
and find me in this present company. And, supper being done, I tried
to get away, but this man held me by the shoulders, mocking me, and
setting the rest on to mock me as a “milksop.” The good angel fled.
From that moment, I believe, the devil entered both into him and me.

I got drunk. It was for the first time in my life, though more than
once lately I had been “merry,” but stopped at that stage. This time I
stopped at nothing. My blood was at boiling heat, with just enough of
conscience left to make me snatch at any means to deaden it.

Of the details of that orgie, or of those who joined in it, except
this one person--I have, as was likely, no distinct recollection. They
were habitual drinkers; none of them had any pity for me, and I--I was
utterly “left to myself,” as I have said. A raw, shy, Scotch lad, I
soon became the butt of the company.

The last thing I remember is their trying to force me to tell my name,
which, hitherto, I had not done; first, from natural reserve among
strangers, and then from an instinctive feeling that I was not in the
most creditable of society, and therefore the less I said about myself
the better. All I had told, was that I was on my way to France, to
join my brother, who was ill. They could not get any more out of me
than that: a few taunts--which some English people are rather too
ready to use against us Scotch--made me savage, as well as sullen. I
might have deserved it, or not--I cannot tell; but the end was,
they turned me out--the obstinate, drunken, infuriated lad--into the
street.

I staggered through the dark, silent town, into a lane, and fell
asleep on the road-side.

The next thing I call to mind is being awakened by the cut of a whip
across my shoulders, and seeing a man standing over me. I flew at his
throat like a wild creature; for it was he--the “gentleman” who had
made me drunk, and mocked me; and whom I seemed then and there to hate
with a fury of hatred that would last to my dying day. Through it all,
came the thought of Dallas, sick and solitary, half way towards whom I
ought to have travelled by now.

How he--the man--soothed me, I do not know, but I think it was by
offering to take me towards Dallas; he had a horse and gig standing
by, and said if I would mount, he would drive me to the coast, whence
I could take boat to France. At least, that is the vague impression
my mind retains of what passed between us. He helped me up beside him,
and I dozed off to sleep again.

My next wakening was in the middle of a desolate plain. I rubbed my
eyes, but saw nothing except stars and sky, and this black, black
plain, which seemed to have no end.

He pulled up, and told me to “tumble out,” which I did mechanically.
On the other side of the gig was something tall and dark, which I took
at first for a half-way inn; but perceived it was only a huge stone--a
circle of stones.

“Hollo! what’s this?”

“Stonehenge! comfortable lodging for man and beast; so you’re all
right. Good-bye, young fellow. You’re such dull company, that I mean
to leave you here till morning.”

This was what he said to me, laughing uproariously. At first, I
thought he was in jest, and laughed too; then, being sleepy and
maudlin, I remonstrated. Lastly, I got half frightened, for when
I tried to mount, he pushed me down. I was so helpless, and he so
strong; from this solitary place, miles and miles from any human
dwelling--how should I get on to Dallas?--Dallas, who, stupefied as I
was, still remained my prominent thought.

I begged, as if I had been begging for my life, that he would keep his
promise, and take me on my way towards my brother.

“To the devil with your brother!” and he whipped his horse on.

The devil was in me, as I said. I sprang at him, my strength doubled
and trebled with rage, and, catching him unawares, dragged him from
the gig, and threw him violently on the ground; his head struck
against one of the great stones--and--and--

Now, you see how it was. I murdered him. He must have died
easily--instantaneously; he never moaned nor stirred once; but, for
all that, it was murder.

Not with intent, God knows. So little idea had I he was dead, that
I shook him as he lay, told him to “get up and fight it out:” oh, my
God!--my God!

Thus I have told it, the secret, which until now has never been
written or spoken to any human being. I was then nineteen--I am now
nine-and-thirty; twenty years. Theodora, have pity: only think of
carrying such a secret--the blood of a man, on one’s conscience for
twenty years!

If, instead of my telling you all this, as I may do in a few days, you
should have to read it here, it will by then have become an old tale.
Still, pity me.

To continue, for it is getting far on into the night.

On the first few minutes after I discovered what I had done, you will
not expect me to dilate.

I was perfectly sober, now. I had tried every means in my power to
revive him; and then to ascertain for certain that he was dead; I
forgot to tell you I had already begun my classes in medicine, so I
knew a good deal. I sat with his head on my knee, fully aware that I
had killed him; that I had taken the life of a man, and that his blood
would be upon me for ever and ever.

Nothing, short of the great condemnation of the last judgment-day,
could parallel that horror of despair; under it my reason seemed to
give way. I was seized with the delusion that, bad and cruel man as he
was, he was only shamming to terrify me. I held him up in my arms, so
that the light of the gig-lamps fell full on his face.

It was a dead face--not frightful to look at, beautiful rather, as the
muscles slowly settled--but dead, quite dead. I laid him down again,
still resting his head against my knee, till he gradually stiffened
and grew cold.

This was just at moon-rise; he had said the moon would rise at two
o’clock, and so she did, and struck her first arrowy ray across the
plain upon his face--that still face with its half-open mouth and
eyes.

I had not been afraid of him hitherto; now I was. It was no longer a
man, but a corpse, and I was the murderer.

The sight of the moon rising, is my last recollection of this night.
Probably, the fit of insanity which lasted for many months after,
at that instant came on, and under its influence, I must have fled,
leaving him where he lay, with the gig standing by, and the horse
quietly feeding beside the great stones; but I do not recollect
anything. Doubtless, I had all the cunning of madness, for I contrived
to gain the coast and get over to France; but how, or when, I have not
the slightest remembrance to this day.

As I have told you, I never saw Dallas again. When I reached Pau, he
was dead and buried. The particulars of his death were explained to
me months afterwards by the good curé, who, Catholic as he was, had
learned to love Dallas like a son, and who watched over me for his
sake, during the long melancholy mania which, as he thought, resulted
from the shock of my brother’s death.

Some day I should like you, if possible, to see the spot where Dallas
is buried--the church-yard of Bilhéres, near Pau; but his grave is
not within the churchyard, as he, being a Protestant, the authorities
would not allow it. You will find it just outside the hedge--the
head-stone placed in the hedge--though the little mound is by this
time level with the meadow outside. You know, we Presbyterians have
not your English feeling about “consecrated” ground; we believe that
“the whole earth is the Lord’s,” and no human consecration can make
it holier than it is, both for the worship of the living, and the
interment of the dead. Therefore, it does not shock me that the cattle
feed, and the grass grows tall, over Dallas’s body. But I should like
the headstone preserved--as it is; for yearly, in different quarters
of the globe, I have received letters from the old curé and his
successor, concerning it. You are much younger than I, Theodora; after
my death I leave this charge to you. You will fulfil it for my sake, I
know.

Must I tell you any more? Yes, for now comes what some might say was
a crime as heavy as the first one. I do not attempt to extenuate it.
I can only say that it has been expiated--such as it was, by twenty
miserable years, and that the last expiation is even yet not come.
Your father once said, and his words dashed from me the first hope
which ever entered my mind concerning you, that he never would clasp
the hand of a man who had taken the life of another. What would he
say to a man who had taken a life, and _concealed the fact_ for twenty
years? I am that man.

How it came about, I will tell you.

For a twelvemonth after that night, I was, you will remember, not
myself: in truth, a maniac, though a quiet and harmless one. My
insanity was of the sullen and taciturn kind, so that I betrayed
nothing; if indeed I had any remembrance of what had happened, which I
believe I had not. The first dawn of recollection came through reading
in an English newspaper, which the old curé brought to amuse me,
an account of a man who was hanged for murder. I read it line by
line--the trial--the verdict--the latter days of the criminal--who was
a young lad like me--and the last day of all, when he was hanged.

By degrees, first misty as a dream, then ghastly clear, impressed on
my mind with a tenacity and minuteness all but miraculous, considering
the long blank which followed,--returned the events of that night. I
became conscious that I too had killed a man, that if any eye had seen
the act, I should have been taken, tried, and hanged, for murder.

Young as I was, and ignorant of English criminal law, I had sufficient
common sense to arrive at the conclusion, that, as things stood, there
was not a fragment of evidence against me individually, nor, indeed,
any clear evidence to shew that the man was murdered at all. It
was now a year ago--he must have long since been found and
buried--probably, with little inquiry; they would conclude he had been
killed accidentally through his own careless, drunken driving. But
if I once confessed and delivered myself up to justice, I myself only
knew, and no evidence could ever prove, that it was not a case of
wilful murder. I should be hanged--hanged by the neck till I was
dead--and my name--our name, Dallas’s and mine, blasted for evermore.

The weeks that elapsed after my first recovery of reason, were such,
that when I hear preachers thunder about the literal “worm that
dieth not, and fire that is never quenched,” I could almost smile.
Sufficient are the torments of a spiritual hell.

Sometimes, out of its depths, I felt as if

Satan himself had entered my soul, to rouse me into atheistic
rebellion. I, a boy not twenty yet, with all my future before me,
to lose it through a moment’s fury against a man who must have been
depraved to the core, a man against whom I had no personal grudge--of
whom I knew nothing but his name. Yet I must surrender my life for
his--be tried, condemned--publicly disgraced--finally die the death of
a dog. I had never been a coward--yet night after night I woke, bathed
in a cold sweat of terror, feeling the rope round my neck, and seeing
the forty thousand upturned faces--as in the newspaper account of the
poor wretch who was hanged.

Remember; I plead nothing. I know there are those who would say that
the most dishonourable wretch alive, was this same man of honour--this
Max Urquhart, who carries such a fair reputation; that the only thing
I should have done was to go back to England, surrender myself to
justice, and take all the consequences of this one act of drunkenness
and ungovernable passion. However, I did it not. But my sin--as every
sin must,--be sure has found me out.

Theodora, it is hardly eight hours since your innocent arms were round
my neck, and your kisses on my mouth--and now! Well, it will be over
soon. However I have lived, I shall not die a hypocrite.

I do not attempt to retrace the course of reasoning by which I
persuaded myself to act as I did. I was only a boy; this long sleep
of the mind had re-established my bodily health;--life and youth were
strong within me--also the hope of honour--the dread of shame. Yet
sometimes conscience struggled so fiercely with all these, that I was
half tempted to a medium course, the coward’s last escape--suicide.

You must remember, religion was wanting in me--and Dallas was dead.
Nay, I had for the time already forgotten him.

One day,--when, driven distracted with my doubts, I had almost made up
my mind to end them in the one sharp easy way I have spoken of,--while
putting my brother’s papers in order, I found his Bible.--Underneath
his name he had written--and the date was that of the last day of
his life--my name. I looked at it, as we look at a handwriting long
familiar, till of a sudden we remember that the hand is bold, that no
earthly power can ever reproduce of this known writing a single line.
Child, did you ever know--no, you never could have known--that total
desolation, that helpless craving for the dead who return no more?

After I grew calmer, I did the only thing which seemed to bring me a
little nearer to Dallas:--I read in his Bible. The chapter I opened
at was so remarkable that at first I recoiled as if it had been my
brother--he who being now a spirit, might, for all I could tell,
have a spirit’s knowledge of all things--speaking to me out of the
invisible world. The chapter was Exekiel xvii.; and among other verses
were these:--

“When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath
committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his
soul alive.

“Because he considereth and turneth away from all his transgressions
that he hath committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die....

“For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord
God: wherefore turn yourselves and live ye.”

I turned and lived. I resolved to give a life--my own--for the
life which I had taken; to devote it wholly to the saving of other
lives;--and at its close, when I had built up a good name, and shown
openly that after _any_ crime a man might recover himself, repent
and atone, I meant to pay the full price of the sin of my youth, and
openly to acknowledge it before the world.--How far I was right or
wrong in this decision, I cannot tell--perhaps no human judgment ever
can tell: I simply state what I then resolved, and have never swerved
from--till I saw you.

Of necessity, with this ultimate confession ever before me, all
the pleasures of life, and all its closest ties, friendship, love,
marriage--were not to be thought of. I set them aside as impossible.
To me, life could never be enjoyment, but simply atonement.

My subsequent history you are acquainted with --how, after the needful
term of medical study-in Britain, (I chose Dublin as being the place
where I was utterly a stranger, and remained there till my four years
ended), I went as an army surgeon half over the world. The first time I
ever set foot in England again, was not many weeks before I saw, in the
ballroom of the Cedars, that little sweet face of yours. The same face
in which, two days ago, I read the look of love which stirs a
man’s heart to the very core. In a moment it obliterated the
resolutions--conflicts--sufferings of twenty years, and restored me to
a man’s right and privilege of loving, wooing, marrying.--Shall we ever
be married?

By the time you read this, if ever you do read it, that question will
have been answered. It can do you no harm if for one little minute I
think of you as my wife; no longer friend, child, mistress, but _my
wife_.

Think of all that would have been implied by that name. Think of
coming home, and of all that home would have been--however humble--to
me who never had a home in my whole life. Think of all I would have
tried to make it to you. Think of sitting by my fireside, knowing that
you were the only one required to make it happy and bright; that,
good and pleasant, and dear as many others might be--the only absolute
necessity to each of us was one another.

Then, the years that would have followed, in which we never had to
say good-bye, in which our two hearts would daily lie open, clear and
plain, never to have a doubt or a secret any more.

Then--if we should not always be only two!--I think of you as my
wife--the mother of my children--

* * * * *

I was unable to conclude this last night. Now I only add a line before
going into the town to gain information about--about this person: by
whom his body was found, and where buried; with that intent I have
already been searching the cathedral burying-ground; but there is no
sign of graves there, all is smooth green turf, with the dew upon it
glittering like a sheet of diamonds in the bright spring morning.

It reminded me of you--this being your hour for rising, you early
bird, you little methodical girl. You may at this moment be out on the
terrace, looking up to the hill-top, or down towards your favourite
cedar-trees, with that sunshiny spring morning face of yours.

Pray for me, my love, my wife, my Theodora.

*****

I have found his grave at last.

“_In memory of Henry Johnston, only son of the Reverend William Henry
Johnston, of Rockmount Surrey: who met his death by an accident near
this town, and was buried here. Born May 19, 1806. Died November_ 19,
1836.”

Farewell, Theodora.





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