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Title: In the Year of Jubilee
Author: Gissing, George
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.

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By George Gissing

Part I: Miss. Lord


At eight o’clock on Sunday morning, Arthur Peachey unlocked his front
door, and quietly went forth. He had not ventured to ask that early
breakfast should be prepared for him. Enough that he was leaving
home for a summer holiday--the first he had allowed himself since his
marriage three years ago.

It was a house in De Crespigny Park; unattached, double-fronted, with
half-sunk basement, and a flight of steps to the stucco pillars at
the entrance. De Crespigny Park, a thoroughfare connecting Grove
Lane, Camberwell, with Denmark Hill, presents a double row of similar
dwellings; its clean breadth, with foliage of trees and shrubs in front
gardens, makes it pleasant to the eye that finds pleasure in suburban
London. In point of respectability, it has claims only to be appreciated
by the ambitious middle-class of Camberwell. Each house seems to remind
its neighbour, with all the complacence expressible in buff brick, that
in this locality lodgings are _not_ to let.

For an hour after Peachey’s departure, the silence of the house was
unbroken. Then a bedroom door opened, and a lady in a morning gown of
the fashionable heliotrope came downstairs. She had acute features;
eyes which seemed to indicate the concentration of her thoughts upon a
difficult problem, and cheeks of singular bloom. Her name was Beatrice
French; her years numbered six and twenty.

She entered the dining-room and drew up the blind. Though the furniture
was less than a year old, and by no means of the cheapest description,
slovenly housekeeping had dulled the brightness of every surface. On
a chair lay a broken toy, one of those elaborate and costly playthings
which serve no purpose but to stunt a child’s imagination. Though
the time was midsummer, not a flower appeared among the pretentious
ornaments. The pictures were a strange medley--autotypes of some
artistic value hanging side by side with hideous oleographs framed in
ponderous gilding. Miss. ------ then violently rang the bell. When the
summons had been twice French looked about her with an expression of
strong disgust, repeated, there appeared a young woman whose features
told of long and placid slumbers.

‘Well? what does this mean?’

‘The cook doesn’t feel well, miss; she can’t get up.’

‘Then get breakfast yourself, and look sharp about it.’

Beatrice spoke with vehemence; her cheeks showed a circle of richer hue
around the unchanging rose. The domestic made insolent reply, and there
began a war of words. At this moment another step sounded on the stairs,
and as it drew near, a female voice was raised in song.

‘_And a penny in his pocket, la-de-da, la-de-da,--and a penny in his
pocket, la-de-da_!’

A younger girl, this, of much slighter build; with a frisky gait, a
jaunty pose of the head; pretty, but thin-featured, and shallow-eyed;
a long neck, no chin to speak of, a low forehead with the hair of
washed-out flaxen fluffed all over it. Her dress was showy, and in a
taste that set the teeth on edge. Fanny French, her name.

‘What’s up? Another row?’ she asked, entering the room as the servant
went out.

‘I’ve known a good many fools,’ said Beatrice, ‘but Ada’s the biggest
I’ve come across yet.’

‘Is she? Well, I shouldn’t wonder,’ Fanny admitted impartially. And
with a skip she took up her song again. ‘_A penny paper collar round his
neck, la-de-da_--’

‘Are you going to church this morning?’ asked her sister.

‘Yes. Are you?’

‘Come for a walk instead. There’s something I want to talk to you

‘Won’t it do afterwards? I’ve got an appointment.’

‘With Lord?’

Fanny laughed and nodded.

Interrupted by the reappearance of the servant, who brought a tray and
began to lay the table, they crossed the hall to the drawing-room. In
half-an-hour’s time a sluttish meal was prepared for them, and whilst
they were satisfying their hunger, the door opened to admit Mrs.
Peachey. Ada presented herself in a costume which, at any season but
high summer, would have been inconveniently cool. Beneath a loose thin
dressing-gown her feet, in felt slippers, showed stockingless, her neck
was bare almost to the bosom, and the tresses of pale yellow, upon which
she especially prided herself, lay raggedly pinned together on the top
of her flat head. She was about twenty-eight years old, but at present
looked more than thirty. Her features resembled Fanny’s, but had a much
less amiable expression, and betokened, if the thing were possible, an
inferior intellect. Fresh from the morning basin, her cheeks displayed
that peculiar colourlessness which results from the habitual use of
paints and powders; her pale pink lips, thin and sullen, were curiously
wrinkled; she had eyes of slate colour, with lids so elevated that she
always seemed to be staring in silly wonder.

‘So you’ve got breakfast, have you?’ were her first words, in a thin and
rather nasal voice. ‘You may think yourselves lucky.’

‘You have a cheek of your own,’ replied Beatrice. ‘Whose place is it to
see that we get meals?’

‘And what can any one do with servants like I’ve got?’ retorted the
married sister.

‘It’s your own fault. You should get better; and when you’ve got them,
you should manage them. But that’s just what you can’t do.’

‘Oh, _you_‘d be a wonderful housekeeper, we know all about that. If
you’re not satisfied, you’d better find board and lodging somewhere
else, as I’ve told you often enough. You’re not likely to get it as

They squabbled for some minutes, Fanny looking on with ingenuous
amusement, and putting in a word, now for this side, now for that.

‘And what am I going to have for breakfast?’ demanded Mrs. Peachey
at length, surveying the table. ‘You’ve taken jolly good care of
yourselves, it seems to me.’

She jumped up, and rang the bell. When a minute’s interval brought no
reply, she rang again. Beatrice thought it probable that the bell might
be rung without effect, ‘till all was blue.’

‘We’ll see about that,’ answered her sister, and forthwith invaded the
lower parts of the house. Thence, presently, her voice became audible,
rising gradually to shrillness; with it there blended the rougher
accents of the housemaid, now in reckless revolt. Beatrice listened for
a minute or two in the hall, then passed on into the drawing-room with a
contemptuous laugh. Fanny, to whom the uproar seemed to bring a renewal
of appetite, cut herself a slice of bread and butter, and ate it as she
stood at the window.

‘Dirty cat! beast! swine!’

The mistress of the house, fairly beaten away by superior force of
vocabulary, reappeared with these and other exclamations, her face
livid, her foolish eyes starting from their sockets. Fanny, a sort of
Mother Cary’s chicken, revelled in the row, and screamed her merriment.

It was long before the domestic uproar wholly subsided, but
towards eleven o’clock the sisters found themselves together in the
drawing-room. Ada sprawled limply on a sofa; Beatrice sat with legs
crossed in the most comfortable chair; and Fanny twirled about on a
music stool.

The only books in the room were a few show-volumes, which belonged to
Arthur Peachey, and half-a-dozen novels of the meaner kind, wherewith
Ada sometimes beguiled her infinite leisure. But on tables and chairs
lay scattered a multitude of papers: illustrated weeklies, journals of
society, cheap miscellanies, penny novelettes, and the like. At the end
of the week, when new numbers came in, Ada Peachey passed many hours
upon her sofa, reading instalments of a dozen serial stories, paragraphs
relating to fashion, sport, the theatre, answers to correspondents
(wherein she especially delighted), columns of facetiae, and gossip
about notorious people. Through a great deal of this matter Beatrice
followed her, and read much besides in which Ada took no interest;
she studied a daily newspaper, with special note of law suits, police
intelligence, wills, bankruptcies, and any concern, great or small,
wherein money played a part. She understood the nature of investments,
and liked to talk about stocks and shares with her male acquaintances.

They were the daughters of a Camberwell builder, lately deceased; to
each of them had fallen a patrimony just sufficient for their support
in elegant leisure. Ada’s money, united with a small capital in her
husband’s possession, went to purchase a share in the business of
Messrs. Ducker, Blunt & Co., manufacturers of disinfectants; Arthur
Peachey, previously a clerk to the firm, became a junior partner, with
the result that most of the hard work was thrown upon his shoulders. At
their marriage, the happy pair first of all established themselves in a
modest house near Camberwell Road; two years later, growing prosperity
brought about their removal to De Crespigny Park, where they had now
resided for some twelve months. Unlike their elder sister, Beatrice and
Fanny had learnt to support themselves, Beatrice in the postal service,
and Fanny, sweet blossom! by mingling her fragrance with that of a
florist’s shop in Brixton; but on their father’s death both forsook
their employment, and came to live with Mrs. Peachey. Between them,
these two were the owners of house-property, which produced L140 a year.
They disbursed, together, a weekly sum of twenty-four shillings for
board and lodging, and spent or saved the rest as their impulses


Ada brooded over her wrongs; Beatrice glanced over _The Referee_. Fanny,
after twirling awhile in maiden meditation, turned to the piano and
jingled a melody from ‘The Mikado.’ She broke off suddenly, and, without
looking round, addressed her companions.

‘You can give the third seat at the Jubilee to somebody else. I’m
provided for.’

‘Who are you going with?’ asked Ada.

‘My masher,’ the girl replied with a giggle.


‘Shop-windows in the Strand, I think.’

She resumed her jingling; it was now ‘Queen of my Heart.’ Beatrice,
dropping her paper, looked fixedly at the girl’s profile, with an eyelid
droop which signified calculation.

‘How much is he really getting?’ she inquired all at once.

‘Seventy-five pounds a year. “_Oh where, oh where, is my leetle dog

‘Does he say,’ asked Mrs. Peachey, ‘that his governor will stump up?’

They spoke a peculiar tongue, the product of sham education and mock
refinement grafted upon a stock of robust vulgarity. One and all
would have been moved to indignant surprise if accused of ignorance
or defective breeding. Ada had frequented an ‘establishment for young
ladies’ up to the close of her seventeenth year; the other two had
pursued culture at a still more pretentious institute until they were
eighteen. All could ‘play the piano;’ all declared--and believed--that
they ‘knew French.’ Beatrice had ‘done’ Political Economy; Fanny had
‘been through’ Inorganic Chemistry and Botany. The truth was, of course,
that their minds, characters, propensities had remained absolutely proof
against such educational influence as had been brought to bear upon
them. That they used a finer accent than their servants, signified only
that they had grown up amid falsities, and were enabled, by the help of
money, to dwell above-stairs, instead of with their spiritual kindred

Anticipating Fanny’s reply, Beatrice observed, with her air of sagacity:

‘If you think you’re going to get anything out of an old screw like
Lord, you’ll jolly soon find your mistake.’

‘Don’t you go and make a fool of yourself, Fanny,’ said Mrs. Peachey.
‘Why, he can’t be more than twenty-one, is he?’

‘He’s turned twenty-two.’

The others laughed scornfully.

‘Can’t I have who I like for a masher?’ cried Fanny, reddening a little.
‘Who said I was going to marry him? I’m in no particular hurry to get
married. You think everybody’s like yourselves.’

‘If there was any chance of old Lord turning up his toes,’ said Beatrice
thoughtfully. ‘I dare say he’ll leave a tidy handful behind him, but
then he may live another ten years or more.’

‘And there’s Nancy,’ exclaimed Ada. ‘Won’t she get half the plunder?’

‘May be plenty, even then,’ said Beatrice, her head aside. ‘The piano
business isn’t a bad line. I shouldn’t wonder if he leaves ten or
fifteen thousand.’

‘Haven’t you got anything out of Horace?’ asked Ada of Fanny. ‘What has
he told you?’

‘He doesn’t know much, that’s the fact.’

‘Silly! There you are. His father treats him like a boy; if he talked
about marrying, he’d get a cuff on the ear. Oh, I know all about old
Lord,’ Ada proceeded. ‘He’s a regular old tyrant. Why, you’ve only to
look at him. And he thinks no small beer of himself, either, for all he
lives in that grubby little house; I shouldn’t wonder if he thinks us
beneath him.’

She stared at her sisters, inviting their comment on this _ludicrous_
state of things.

‘I quite believe Nancy does,’ said Fanny, with a point of malice.

‘She’s a stuck-up thing,’ declared Mrs. Peachey. ‘And she gets worse as
she gets older. I shall never invite her again; it’s three times she has
made an excuse--all lies, of course.

‘Who will _she_ marry?’ asked Beatrice, in a tone of disinterested

Mrs. Peachey answered with a sneer:

‘She’s going to the Jubilee to pick up a fancy Prince.’

‘As it happens,’ objected Fanny, ‘she isn’t going to the Jubilee at all.
At least she says she isn’t. She’s above it--so her brother told me.’

‘I know who _wants_ to marry her,’ Ada remarked, with a sour smile.

‘Who is that?’ came from the others.

‘Mr. Crewe.’

With a significant giggle, Fanny glanced at the more sober of her
sisters; she, the while, touched her upper lip with the point of her
tongue, and looked towards the window.

‘Does he?’ Fanny asked of the ceiling.

‘He wants money to float his teetotal drink,’ said Beatrice. ‘Hasn’t he
been at Arthur about it?’

‘Not that I know,’ answered the wife.

‘He tried to get round me, but I--’

A scream of incredulity from Fanny, and a chuckle from Mrs. Peachey,
covered the rest of the sentence. Beatrice gazed at them defiantly.

‘Well, idiots! What’s up now?’

‘Oh, nothing.’

‘There’s nobody knows Luckworth Crewe better than I do,’ Beatrice
pursued disdainfully, ‘and I think he knows _me_ pretty well. He’ll make
a fool of himself when he marries; I’ve told him so, and he as good as
said I was right. If it wasn’t for that, I should feel a respect for
him. He’ll have money one of these days.’

‘And he’ll marry Nancy Lord,’ said Ada tauntingly.

‘Not just yet.’

Ada rolled herself from the sofa, and stood yawning.

‘Well, I shall go and dress. What are you people going to do? You
needn’t expect any dinner. I shall have mine at a restaurant.’

‘Who have you to meet?’ asked Fanny, with a grimace.

Her sister disregarded the question, yawned again, and turned to

‘Who shall we ask to take Fan’s place on Tuesday? Whoever it 15, they’ll
have to pay. Those seats are selling for three guineas, somebody told

Conversation lingered about this point for a few minutes, till Mrs.
Peachey went upstairs. When the door was open, a child’s crying could
be heard, but it excited no remark. Presently the other two retired, to
make themselves ready for going out. Fanny was the first to reappear,
and, whilst waiting for her sister, she tapped out a new music-hall
melody on the piano.

As they left the house, Beatrice remarked that Ada really meant to
have her dinner at Gatti’s or some such place; perhaps they had better
indulge themselves in the same way.

‘Suppose you give Horace Lord a hint that we’ve no dinner at home? He
might take us, and stand treat.’

Fanny shook her head.

‘I don’t think he could get away. The guv’nor expects him home to dinner
on Sundays.’

The other laughed her contempt.

‘You see! What good is he? Look here, Fan, you just wait a bit, and
you’ll do much better than that. Old Lord would cut up rough as soon as
ever such a thing was mentioned; I know he would. There’s something I
have had in my mind for a long time. Suppose I could show you a way
of making a heap of money--no end of money--? Shouldn’t you like it
better,--to live as you pleased, and be independent?’

The listener’s face confessed curiosity, yet was dubious.

‘What do you say to going into business with me?’ pursued Miss French.
‘We’ve only to raise a little money on the houses, and in a year or two
we might be making thousands.’

‘Business? What sort of business?’

‘Suppose somebody came to you and said: Pay me a sovereign, and I’ll
make you a member of an association that supplies fashionable clothing
at about half the ordinary price,--wouldn’t you jump at it?’

‘If I thought it wasn’t a swindle,’ Fanny replied ingenuously.

‘Of course. But you’d be made to see it wasn’t. And suppose they went on
to say: Take a ten-pound share, and you shall have a big interest on it,
as well as your dresses for next to nothing. How would you like that?’

‘Can it be done?’

‘I’ve got a notion it can, and I think I know two or three people who
would help to set the thing going. But we must have some capital to
show. Have you the pluck to join in?’

‘And suppose I lose my money?’

‘I’ll guarantee you the same income you’re getting now--if that will
satisfy you. I’ve been looking round, and making inquiries, and I’ve got
to know a bit about the profits of big dressmakers. We should start in
Camberwell, or somewhere about there, and fish in all the women who want
to do the heavy on very little. There are thousands and thousands of
them, and most of them’--she lowered her voice--‘know as much about cut
and material as they do about stockbroking. Do you twig? People like
Mrs. Middlemist and Mrs. Murch. They spend, most likely, thirty or forty
pounds a year on their things, and we could dress them a good deal more
smartly for half the money. Of course we should make out that a dress we
sold them for five guineas was worth ten in the shops, and the real cost
would be two. See? The thing is to persuade them that they’re getting an
article cheap, and at the same time making money out of other people.’

Thus, and at much greater length, did Miss. French discourse to her
attentive sister. Forgetful of the time, Fanny found at length that it
would be impossible to meet Horace Lord as he came out of church; but it
did not distress her.


Nancy Lord stood at the front-room window, a hand grasping each side of
her waist, her look vaguely directed upon the limetree opposite and the
house which it in part concealed. She was a well-grown girl of three
and twenty, with the complexion and the mould of form which indicate,
whatever else, habitual nourishment on good and plenteous food. In her
ripe lips and softly-rounded cheeks the current of life ran warm. She had
hair of a fine auburn, and her mode of wearing it, in a plaited diadem,
answered the purpose of completing a figure which, without being tall,
had some stateliness and promised more. Her gown, trimmed with a collar
of lace, left the neck free; the maiden cincture at her waist did no
violence to natural proportion.

This afternoon--it was Monday--she could not occupy or amuse herself in
any of the familiar ways. Perhaps the atmosphere of national Jubilee had
a disturbing effect upon her,--in spite of her professed disregard
for the gathering tumult of popular enthusiasm. She had not left home
to-day, and the brilliant weather did not tempt her forth. On the
table lay a new volume from the circulating library,--something about
Evolution--but she had no mind to read it; it would have made her too
conscious of the insincerity with which she approached such profound
subjects. For a quarter of an hour and more she had stood at the window,
regarding a prospect, now as always, utterly wearisome and depressing to

Grove Lane is a long acclivity, which starts from Camberwell suburban
dwellings. The houses vary considerably in size and Green, and, after
passing a few mean shops, becomes a road of aspect, also in date,--with
the result of a certain picturesqueness, enhanced by the growth of fine
trees on either side. Architectural grace can nowhere be discovered,
but the contract-builder of today has not yet been permitted to work
his will; age and irregularity, even though the edifices be but so many
illustrations of the ungainly, the insipid, and the frankly hideous,
have a pleasanter effect than that of new streets built to one pattern
by the mile. There are small cottages overgrown with creepers, relics
of Camberwell’s rusticity; rows of tall and of squat dwellings that lie
behind grassy plots, railed from the road; larger houses that stand in
their own gardens, hidden by walls. Narrow passages connect the Lane
with its more formal neighbour Camberwell Grove; on the other side are
ways leading towards Denmark Hill, quiet, leafy. From the top of
the Lane, where Champion Hill enjoys an aristocratic seclusion, is
obtainable a glimpse of open fields and of a wooded horizon southward.

It is a neighbourhood in decay, a bit of London which does not keep pace
with the times. And Nancy hated it. She would have preferred to live
even in a poor and grimy street which neighboured the main track of
business and pleasure.

Here she had spent as much of her life as she remembered, from the end
of her third year. Mr. Lord never willingly talked of days gone by,
but by questioning him she had learnt that her birthplace was a vaguely
indicated part of northern London; there, it seemed, her mother had
died, a year or so after the birth of her brother Horace. The relatives
of whom she knew were all on her father’s side, and lived scattered
about England. When she sought information concerning her mother, Mr.
Lord became evasive and presently silent; she had seen no portrait of
the dead parent. Of late years this obscure point of the family history
had often occupied her thoughts.

Nancy deemed herself a highly educated young woman,--‘cultured’ was the
word she would have used. Her studies at a day-school which was reputed
‘modern’ terminated only when she herself chose to withdraw in her
eighteenth year; and since then she had pursued ‘courses’ of
independent reading, had attended lectures, had thought of preparing for
examinations--only thought of it. Her father never suggested that she
should use these acquirements for the earning of money; little as she
knew of his affairs, it was obviously to be taken for granted that
he could ensure her life-long independence. Satisfactory, this; but
latterly it had become a question with her how the independence was to
be used, and no intelligible aim as yet presented itself to her roving
mind. All she knew was, that she wished to live, and not merely to
vegetate. Now there are so many ways of living, and Nancy felt no
distinct vocation for any one of them.

She was haunted by an uneasy sense of doubtfulness as to her social
position. Mr. Lord followed the calling of a dealer in pianos; a
respectable business, to be sure, but, it appeared, not lucrative enough
to put her above caring how his money was made. She knew that one’s
father may be anything whatever, yet suffer no social disability,
provided he reap profit enough from the pursuit. But Stephen Lord,
whilst resorting daily to his warehouse in Camberwell Road--not
a locality that one would care to talk about in ‘cultured’
circles--continued, after twenty years, to occupy this small and ugly
dwelling in Grove Lane. Possibly, owing to an imperfect education, he
failed to appreciate his daughter’s needs, and saw no reason why she
should not be happy in the old surroundings.

On the other hand, perhaps he cared very little about her.
Undoubtedly his favourite was Horace, and in Horace he had suffered a
disappointment. The boy, in spite of good schooling, had proved unequal
to his father’s hope that he would choose some professional career,
by preference the law; he idled away his schooldays, failed at
examinations, and ultimately had to be sent into ‘business.’ Mr Lord
obtained a place for him in a large shipping agency; but it still seemed
doubtful whether he would make any progress there, notwithstanding the
advantage of his start; at two-and-twenty he was remunerated with a mere
thirty shillings a week, a nominal salary,’ his employers called it.
Nancy often felt angry with her brother for his lack of energy and
ambition; he might so easily, she thought, have helped to establish,
by his professional dignity, her own social status at the level she

There came into view a familiar figure, crossing from the other side of
the way. Nancy started, waved her hand, and went to open the door. Her
look had wholly altered; she was bright, mirthful, overflowing with
affectionate welcome.

This friend of hers, Jessica Morgan by name, had few personal
attractions. She looked overwrought and low-spirited; a very plain
and slightly-made summer gown exhibited her meagre frame with undue
frankness; her face might have been pretty if health had filled and
coloured the flesh, but as it was she looked a ghost of girlhood, a
dolorous image of frustrate sex. In her cotton-gloved hand she carried
several volumes and notebooks.

‘I’m so glad you’re in,’ was her first utterance, between pants after
hasty walking and the jerks of a nervous little laugh. ‘I want to
ask you something about Geometrical Progression. You remember that

‘How can I remember what I never knew?’ exclaimed Nancy. ‘I always hated
those formulas; I couldn’t learn them to save my life.’

‘Oh, that’s nonsense! You were much better at mathematics than I was. Do
just look at what I mean.’

She threw her books down upon a chair, and opened some pages of scrawled
manuscript, talking hurriedly in a thin falsetto.

Her family, a large one, had fallen of late years from a position of
moderate comfort into sheer struggle for subsistence. Jessica, armed
with certificates of examinational prowess, got work as a visiting
governess. At the same time, she nourished ambitions, discernible
perhaps in the singular light of her deep-set eyes and a something
of hysteric determination about her lips. Her aim, at present, was to
become a graduate of London University; she was toiling in her leisure
hours--the hours of exhaustion, that is to say--to prepare herself for
matriculation, which she hoped to achieve in the coming winter. Of
her intimate acquaintances only one could lay claim to intellectual
superiority, and even she, Nancy Lord to wit, shrank from the ordeals of
Burlington House. To become B.A., to have her name in the newspapers, to
be regarded as one of the clever, the uncommon women--for this Jessica
was willing to labour early and late, regardless of failing health,
regardless even of ruined complexion and hair that grew thin beneath the

She talked only of the ‘exam,’ of her chances in this or that ‘paper,’
of the likelihood that this or the other question would be ‘set.’
Her brain was becoming a mere receptacle for dates and definitions,
vocabularies and rules syntactic, for thrice-boiled essence of history,
ragged scraps of science, quotations at fifth hand, and all the
heterogeneous rubbish of a ‘crammer’s’ shop. When away from her books,
she carried scraps of paper, with jottings to be committed to memory.
Beside her plate at meals lay formulae and tabulations. She went to bed
with a manual and got up with a compendium.

Nancy, whose pursuit of ‘culture’ followed a less exhausting track,
regarded the girl with a little envy and some compassion. Esteeming
herself in every respect Jessica’s superior, she could not help a slight
condescension in the tone she used to her; yet their friendship had much
sincerity on both sides, and each was the other’s only confidante. As
soon as the mathematical difficulty could be set aside, Nancy began to
speak of her private troubles.

‘The Prophet was here last night,’ she said, with a girlish grimace.
‘He’s beginning again. I can see it coming. I shall have to snub him
awfully next time.’

‘Oh, what a worry he is!’

‘Yes, but there’s something worse. I suspected that the Pasha knew of
it; now I feel sure he’s encouraging him.’

By this oriental style Nancy signified her father. The Prophet was her
father’s partner in business, Mr. Samuel Bennett Barmby.

‘I feel sure now that they talked it over when the Prophet was taken
into partnership. I was thrown in as a “consideration.”’

‘But how could your father possibly think--?’

‘It’s hard to say what he _does_ think about me. I’m afraid I shall
have to have a talk with him. If so, it will be a long talk, and a very
serious talk. But he isn’t well just now, and I must put it off.’

‘He isn’t well?’

‘A touch of gout, he says. Two days last week he didn’t go to business,
and his temper was _that ‘orrible_!’ Nancy had a habit of facetiously
quoting vulgarities; this from an acquaintance of theirs who
often supplied them with mirth. ‘I suppose the gout does make one

‘Has he been coming often?--Mr. Barmby, I mean.’

‘Pretty well. I think I must turn matchmaker, and get him married to
some one. It oughtn’t to be difficult. The Prophet “has points.”’

‘I dare say some people would think him handsome,’ assented Miss Morgan,
nibbling a finger which showed an ink-stain, and laughing shyly.

‘And his powers of conversation!--Don’t you know any one that would do
for him?’

They jested on this theme until Nancy chose to become serious again.

‘Have you any lessons to-morrow?’

‘No. Thank goodness every one is going to see the procession, or the
decorations, or the illuminations, and all the rest of the nonsense,’
Jessica replied. ‘I shall have a good long day of work; except that I’ve
promised to go in the afternoon, and have tea with the little girls at
Champion Hill. I wish you’d come too; they’d be delighted to see you,
and there’ll be nobody except the governess.’

Nancy looked up in doubt.

‘Are you sure? Won’t the dowager be at home?’

‘She hasn’t left her room for three weeks.’

They exchanged a look of some special significance.

‘Then I suppose,’ said Nancy, with a peculiar smile, ‘that’s why Mr
Tarrant has been calling?’

‘Has he? How do you know?’

Again they looked at each other, and Nancy laughed.

‘I have happened to meet him twice, the last few days.’ She spoke in an
off-hand way. ‘The first time, it was just at the top of the lane; he
was coming away. The second time, I was walking along Champion Hill, and
he came up behind me, going to the house.’

‘Did he talk?’

Nancy gave a nod.

‘Yes, both times. But he didn’t tell me that the dowager was worse.’

‘High and mighty?’ asked Jessica.

‘Not quite so majestic as usual, I thought. I didn’t feel quite so much
of a shrimp before him. And decidedly he was in better spirits. Perhaps
the dowager’s death would be important to him?’

‘Very likely. Will you come to-morrow?’

Miss. Lord hesitated--then, with a sudden frankness:

‘To tell you the truth, I’m afraid he might be there.’

‘Oh, I don’t think so, not on Jubilee Day.’

‘But that’s the very reason. He may come to be out of the uproar.’

‘I meant he was more likely to be out of town altogether.’

Nancy, still leaning over the table, propped her chin on her hands, and

‘Where does he go, I wonder?’

‘Oh, all sorts of places, no doubt. Men of that kind are always
travelling. I suppose he goes shooting and fishing--’

Nancy’s laugh made an interruption.

‘No, no, he doesn’t! He told me once that he didn’t care for that sort
of thing.’

‘Oh, well, you know much more about him than I do,’ said Miss Morgan,
with a smile.

‘I’ve often meant to ask you--have they anything to do with Tarrant’s

Jessica declared that she had never heard of it.

‘Never heard of it? nonsense! A few years ago it used to be posted up
everywhere, and I see it sometimes even now, but other kinds seem to
have driven it out of the market. Now that’s just like you! Pray, did
you ever hear of Pears’ Soap?’

‘Of course.’

‘Really? Oh, there’s hope of you. You’ll be a woman of the world some

‘Don’t tease, Nancy. And what would it matter if he _was_ there

‘Oh! I don’t know. But I shouldn’t particularly like his lordship to
imagine that I went in the hope of paying my respects to him, and having
the reward of a gracious smile.’

‘One can’t always be thinking about what other people think,’ said
Jessica impatiently. ‘You’re too sensitive. Any one else in your
position would have lots of such friends.’

‘In my position! What _is_ my position?’

‘Culture is everything now-a-days,’ observed Miss. Morgan, with the air
of one who feels herself abundantly possessed of that qualification.

But Nancy laughed.

‘You may depend upon it, Mr. Tarrant doesn’t think so.’

‘He calls himself a democrat.’

‘And talks like one: doesn’t he?’

‘Oh! that’s only his way, I think. He doesn’t really mean to be haughty,
and--and so on.’

‘I wish I knew if he had any connection with Tarrant’s blacklead,’ said
Miss. Lord mischievously.

‘Why not ask him?’

They laughed merrily, Jessica’s thin note contrasting with the mellow
timbre of her friend’s voice.

‘I will some day.’

‘You would never dare to!’

‘I daren’t? Then I will!’

‘It would be dreadfully rude.’

‘I don’t mind being thought rude,’ replied Nancy, with a movement of the
head, ‘if it teaches people that I consider myself as good as they are.’

‘Well, will you come to-morrow?’

‘Ye-es; if you’ll go somewhere else with me in the evening.’

‘Where to?’

‘To walk about the streets after dark, and see the crowds and the

Nancy uttered this with a sly mirthfulness. Her friend was astonished.

‘Nonsense! you don’t mean it.’

‘I do. I want to go for the fun of the thing. I should feel ashamed of
myself if I ran to stare at Royalties, but it’s a different thing at
night. It’ll be wonderful, all the traffic stopped, and the streets
crammed with people, and blazing with lights. Won’t you go?’

‘But the time, the time! I can’t afford it. I’m getting on so wretchedly
with my Greek and my chemistry.’

‘You’ve time enough,’ said Nancy. ‘And, you know, after all it’s a
historical event. In the year 3000 it will be ‘set’ in an examination
paper, and poor wretches will get plucked because they don’t know the

This was quite a new aspect of the matter to Jessica Morgan. She
pondered it, and smiled.

‘Yes, I suppose it will. But we should have to be out so late.’

‘Why not, for once? It needn’t be later than half-past eleven.’ Nancy
broke off and gesticulated. ‘That’s just why I want to go! I should like
to walk about all night, as lots of people will. The public-houses are
going to be kept open till two o’clock.’

‘Do you want to go into public-houses?’ asked Jessica, laughing.

‘Why not? I should like to. It’s horrible to be tied up as we are; we’re
not children. Why can’t we go about as men do?’

‘Won’t your father make any objection?’ asked Jessica.

‘We shall take Horace with us. Your people wouldn’t interfere, would

‘I think not. Father is away in Yorkshire, and will be till the end of
the week. Poor mother has her rheumatism. The house is so dreadfully
damp. We ought never to have taken it. The difference of rent will all
go in doctors’ bills.--I don’t think mother would mind; but I must be
back before twelve, of course.’

‘I don’t see the “of course,”’ Nancy returned impatiently, ‘but we could
manage that. I’ll speak to the Pasha to-night, and either come, or let
you have a note, to-morrow morning. If there’s any objection, I’m not
sure that I shan’t make it the opportunity for setting up my standard of
revolt. But I don’t like to do that whilst the Pasha is out of sorts--it
might make him worse.’

‘You could reason with him quietly.’

‘Reason with the Pasha--How innocent you are, Jess! How unworldly! It
always refreshes me to hear you talk.’


Only twelve months ago Stephen Lord had renewed the lease of his
house for a period of seven years. Nancy, had she been aware of this
transaction, would assuredly have found courage to enter a protest, but
Mr. Lord consulted neither son nor daughter on any point of business;
but for this habit of acting silently, he would have seemed to his
children a still more arbitrary ruler than they actually thought him.

The dwelling consisted of but eight rooms, one of which, situated at
the rear of the entrance passage, served Mr. Lord as sitting-room and
bed-chamber; it overlooked a small garden, and afforded a side glimpse
of the kitchen with its outer appurtenances. In the front room the
family took meals. Of the chambers in the storey above, one was Nancy’s,
one her brother’s; the third had, until six years ago, been known as
‘Grandmother’s room,’ and here its occupant, Stephen Lord’s mother, died
at the age of seventy-eight. Wife of a Norfolk farmer, and mother of
nine children, she was one of the old-world women whose thoughts found
abundant occupation in the cares and pleasures of home. Hardship she had
never known, nor yet luxury; the old religion, the old views of sex and
of society, endured with her to the end.

After her death the room was converted into a parlour, used almost
exclusively by the young people. At the top of the house slept two
servants, each in her own well-furnished retreat; one of them was a
girl, the other a woman of about forty, named Mary Woodruff. Mary had
been in the house for twenty years; she enjoyed her master’s confidence,
and, since old Mrs. Lord’s death, exercised practical control in the
humbler domestic affairs.

With one exception, all parts of the abode presented much the same
appearance as when Stephen Lord first established himself antiquated,
and in primitive taste. Nancy’s bedroom alone here. The furniture was
old, solid, homely; the ornaments were displayed the influence of modern
ideas. On her twentieth birthday, the girl received permission to dress
henceforth as she chose (a strict sumptuary law having previously been
in force), and at the same time was allowed to refurnish her chamber.
Nancy pleaded for modern reforms throughout the house, but in vain; even
the drawing-room kept its uninviting aspect, not very different, save
for the removal of the bed, from that it had presented when the ancient
lady slept here. In her own little domain, Miss. Lord made a clean
sweep of rude appointments, and at small expense surrounded herself with
pretty things. The woodwork and the furniture were in white enamel; the
paper had a pattern of wild-rose. A choice chintz, rose-leaf and flower
on a white ground, served for curtains and for bed-hangings. Her carpet
was of green felt, matching in shade the foliage of the chintz. On
suspended shelves stood the books which she desired to have near her,
and round about the walls hung prints, photographs, chromolithographs,
selected in an honest spirit of admiration, which on the whole did no
discredit to Nancy’s sensibilities.

To the best of Nancy’s belief, her father had never seen this room.
On its completion she invited him to inspect it, but Mr. Lord coldly
declined, saying that he knew nothing, and cared nothing, about

His return to-day was earlier than usual. Shortly after five o’clock
Nancy heard the familiar heavy step in the passage, and went downstairs.

‘Will you have a cup of tea, father?’ she asked, standing by the door of
the back room, which was ajar.

‘If it’s ready,’ replied a deep voice.

She entered the dining-room, and rang the bell. In a few minutes Mary
Woodruff appeared, bringing tea and biscuits. She was a neat, quiet,
plain-featured woman, of strong physique, and with set lips, which
rarely parted save for necessary speech. Her eyes had a singular
expression of inquietude, of sadness. A smile seldom appeared on her
face, but, when it did, the effect was unlooked for: it touched the
somewhat harsh lineaments with a gentleness so pleasing that she became
almost comely.

Having set down the tray, she went to Mr. Lord’s door, gave a soft tap,
and withdrew into the kitchen.

Nancy, seated at the table, turned to greet her father. In early life,
Stephen Lord must have been handsome; his face was now rugged, of
unhealthy tone, and creased with lines betokening a moody habit. He
looked much older than his years, which were fifty-seven. Dressed with
excessive carelessness, he had the appearance rather of one at odds
with fortune than of a substantial man of business. His short beard was
raggedly trimmed; his grizzled hair began to show the scalp. Judging
from the contour of his visage, one might have credited him with a
forcible and commanding character; his voice favoured that impression;
but the countenance had a despondent cast, the eyes seemed to shun
observation, the lips suggested a sullen pride, indicative of some
defect or vice of will.

Yet in the look which he cast upon her, Nancy detected a sign of more
amiability than she had found in him of late. She addressed him with

‘Early to-day, father.’


The monosyllable sounded gruff, but again Nancy felt satisfaction. Mr.
Lord, who disliked to seat himself unless he were going to keep his
position for some time, took the offered beverage from his daughter’s
hand, and stood with it before the fireplace, casting glances about the

‘How have you felt, father?’

‘Nothing to complain of.’

His pronunciation fell short of refinement, but was not vulgar.
Something of country accent could still be detected in it. He talked
like a man who could strike a softer note if he cared to, but despises
the effort.

‘I suppose you will have a rest to-morrow?’

‘I suppose so. If your grandmother had lived,’ he added thoughtfully,
‘she would have been eighty-four this week on Thursday.’

‘The 23rd of June. Yes, I remember.’

Mr. Lord swallowed his tea at two draughts, and put down the cup.
Seemingly refreshed, he looked about him with a half smile, and said

‘I’ve had the pleasure of punishing a scoundrel to-day. That’s worth
more than the Jubilee.’

Nancy waited for an explanation, but it was not vouchsafed.

‘A scoundrel?’ she asked.

Her father nodded--the nod which signified his pleasure that the subject
should not be pursued. Nancy could only infer that he spoke of some
incident in the course of business, as indeed was the case.

He had no particular aptitude for trade, and that by which he lived (he
had entered upon it thirty years ago rather by accident than choice) was
thoroughly distasteful to him. As a dealer in pianofortes, he came into
contact with a class of people who inspired him with a savage contempt,
and of late years his business had suffered considerably from the
competition of tradesmen who knew nothing of such conflicts between
sentiment and interest. A majority of his customers obtained their
pianos on the ‘hire-purchase system,’ and oftener than not, they were
persons of very small or very precarious income, who, rabid in the
pursuit of gentility, signed agreements they had little chance of
fulfilling; when in pecuniary straits, they either raised money upon
the instruments, or allowed them to fall into the hands of distraining
creditors. Inquiry into the circumstances of a would-be customer
sometimes had ludicrous results; a newly-married couple, for instance,
would be found tenanting two top-floor rooms, the furnishing whereof
seemed to them incomplete without the piano of which their friends and
relatives boasted. Not a few professional swindlers came to the office;
confederate rogues, vouching for each other’s respectability, got
possession of pianos merely to pawn or sell them, having paid no more
than the first month’s charge. It was Mr Lord’s experience that year by
year the recklessness of the vulgar became more glaring, and deliberate
fraud more artful. To-day he had successfully prosecuted a man who
seemed to have lived for some time on the hire-purchase system, and it
made him unusually cheerful.

‘You don’t think of going to see the Queen to-morrow?’ said his
daughter, smiling.

‘What have I to do with the Queen? Do you wish to go?’

‘Not to see Her Majesty. I care as little about her as you do. But I
thought of having a walk in the evening.’

Nancy phrased it thus with intention. She wished to intimate that, at
her age, it could hardly be necessary to ask permission. But her father
looked surprised.

‘In the evening? Where?’

‘Oh, about the main streets--to see the people and the illuminations.’

Her voice was not quite firm.

‘But,’ said her father, ‘there’ll be such a swarm of blackguards as
never was known. How can you go into such a crowd? It’s astonishing that
you should think of it.’

‘The blackguards will be outnumbered by the decent people, father.’

‘You suppose that’s possible?’ he returned gloomily.

‘Oh, I think so,’ Nancy laughed. ‘At all events, there’ll be a great
majority of people who pretend to be decent. I have asked Jessica Morgan
to go with me.’

‘What right had you to ask her, without first finding out whether you
could go or not?’

It was spoken rather gravely than severely. Mr. Lord never looked
fixedly at his daughter, and even a glance at her face was unusual; but
at this juncture he met her eyes for an instant. The nervous motion with
which he immediately turned aside had been marked by Nancy on previous
occasions, and she had understood it as a sign of his lack of affection
for her.

‘I am twenty-three years old, father,’ she replied, without

‘That would be something of an answer if you were a man,’ observed the
father, his eyes cast down.

‘Because I am a woman, you despise me?’

Stephen was startled at this unfamiliar mode of address. He moved

‘If I despised you, Nancy, I shouldn’t care very much what you did. I
suppose you must do as you like, but you won’t go with my permission.’

There was a silence, then the girl said:

‘I meant to ask Horace to go with us.’


Again a silence. Mr. Lord laid down his cup, moved a few steps away, and
turned back.

‘I didn’t think this kind of thing was in your way,’ he said gruffly. ‘I
thought you were above it.’

Nancy defended herself as she had done to Jessica, but without the
playfulness. In listening, her father seemed to weigh the merits of the
case conscientiously with wrinkled brows. At length he spoke.

‘Horace is no good. But if Samuel Barmby will go with you, I make no

A movement of annoyance was Nancy’s first reply. She drummed with her
fingers on the table, looking fixedly before her.

‘I certainly can’t ask Mr. Barmby to come with us,’ she said, with an
effort at self-control.

‘Well, you needn’t. I’ll speak about it myself.’

He waited, and again it chanced that their eyes met. Nancy, on the point
of speaking, checked herself. A full minute passed, and Stephen stood
waiting patiently.

‘If you insist upon it,’ said Nancy, rising from her chair, ‘we will
take Mr. Barmby with us.’

Without comment, Mr. Lord left the room, and his own door closed rather
loudly behind him.

Not long afterwards Nancy heard a new foot in the passage, and her
brother made his appearance. Horace had good looks, but his face showed
already some of the unpleasant characteristics which time had developed
on that of Stephen Lord, and from which the daughter was entirely free;
one judged him slow of intellect and weakly self-willed. His hair was
of pale chestnut, the silky pencillings of his moustache considerably
darker. His cheek, delicately pink and easily changing to a warmer hue,
his bright-coloured lips, and the limpid glistening of his eyes, showed
him of frail constitution; he was very slim, and narrow across
the shoulders. The fashion of his attire tended to a dandiacal
extreme,--modish silk hat, lavender necktie, white waistcoat, gaiters
over his patent-leather shoes, gloves crushed together in one hand,
and in the other a bamboo cane. For the last year or two he had been
progressing in this direction, despite his father’s scornful remarks and
his sister’s good-natured mockery.

‘Father in yet?’ he asked at the door of the dining-room, in subdued

Nancy nodded, and the young man withdrew to lay aside his outdoor

‘What sort of temper?’ was his question when he returned.

‘Pretty good--until I spoilt it.’

Horace exhibited a pettish annoyance.

‘What on earth did you do that for? I want to have a talk with him

‘About what?’

‘Oh, never mind; I’ll tell you after.’

Both kept their voices low, as if afraid of being overheard in the next
room. Horace began to nibble at a biscuit; the hour of his return made
it unnecessary for him, as a rule, to take anything before dinner, but
at present he seemed in a nervous condition, and acted mechanically.

‘Come out into the garden, will you?’ he said, after receiving a brief
explanation of what had passed between Nancy and her father. ‘I’ve
something to tell you.’

His sister carelessly assented, and with heads uncovered they went
through the house into the open air. The garden was but a strip of
ground, bounded by walls of four feet high; in the midst stood a
laburnum, now heavy with golden bloom, and at the end grew a holly-bush,
flanked with laurels; a border flower-bed displayed Stephen Lord’s taste
and industry. Nancy seated herself on a rustic bench in the shadow of
the laburnum, and Horace stood before her, one of the branches in his

‘I promised Fanny to take her to-morrow night,’ he began awkwardly.

‘Oh, you have?’

‘And we’re going together in the morning, you know.’

‘I know now. I didn’t before,’ Nancy replied.

‘Of course we can make a party in the evening.’

‘Of course.’

Horace looked up at the ugly house-backs, and hesitated before

‘That isn’t what I wanted to talk about,’ he said at length. ‘A very
queer thing has happened, a thing I can’t make out at all.’

The listener looked her curiosity.

‘I promised to say nothing about it, but there’s no harm in telling you,
you know. You remember I was away last Saturday afternoon? Well, just
when it was time to leave the office, that day, the porter came to say
that a lady wished to see me--a lady in a carriage outside. Of course I
couldn’t make it out at all, but I went down as quickly as possible,
and saw the carriage waiting there,--a brougham,--and marched up to the
door. Inside there was a lady--a great swell, smiling at me as if we
were friends. I took off my hat, and said that I was Mr. Lord. “Yes,”
 she said, “I see you are;” and she asked if I could spare her an hour
or two, as she wished to speak to me of something important. Well, of
course I could only say that I had nothing particular to do,--that I was
just going home. “Then will you do me the pleasure,” she said, “to come
and have lunch with me? I live in Weymouth Street, Portland Place.”

The young man paused to watch the effect of his narrative, especially of
the last words. Nancy returned his gaze with frank astonishment.

‘What sort of lady was it?’ she asked.

‘Oh, a great swell. Somebody in the best society--you could see that at

‘But how old?’

‘Well, I couldn’t tell exactly; about forty, I should think.’

‘Oh!--Go on.’

‘One couldn’t refuse, you know; I was only too glad to go to a house in
the West End. She opened the carriage-door from the inside, and I got
in, and off we drove. I felt awkward, of course, but after all I
was decently dressed, and I suppose I can behave like a gentleman,
and--well, she sat looking at me and smiling, and I could only smile
back. Then she said she must apologise for behaving so strangely, but I
was very young, and she was an old woman,--one couldn’t call her that,
though,--and she had taken this way of renewing her acquaintance with
me. Renewing? But I didn’t remember to have ever met her before, I said.
“Oh, yes, we have met before, but you were a little child, a baby in
fact, and there’s no wonder you don’t remember me?” And then she said,
“I knew your mother very well.”

Nancy leaned forward, her lips apart.

‘Queer, wasn’t it? Then she went on to say that her name was Mrs.
Damerel; had I ever heard it? No, I couldn’t remember the name at all.
She was a widow, she said, and had lived mostly abroad for a great many
years; now she was come back to settle in England. She hadn’t a house of
her own yet, but lived at a boarding-house; she didn’t know whether to
take a house in London, or somewhere just out in the country. Then she
began to ask about father, and about you; and it seemed to amuse her
when I looked puzzled. She’s a jolly sort of person, always laughing.’

‘Did she say anything more about our mother?’

‘I’ll tell you about that presently. We got to the house, and went in,
and she took me upstairs to her own private sitting-room, where the
table was laid for two. She said that she usually had her meals with
the other people, but it would be better for us to be alone, so that we
could talk.’

‘How did she know where to find you?’ Nancy inquired.

‘Of course I wondered about that, but I didn’t like to ask. Well, she
went away for a few minutes, and then we had lunch. Everything was A-1
of course; first-rate wines to choose from, and a rattling good cigar
afterwards--for me, I mean. She brought out a box; said they were her
husband’s, and had a laugh about it.’

‘How long has she been a widow?’ asked Nancy.

‘I don’t know. She didn’t wear colours, I noticed; perhaps it was a
fashionable sort of mourning. We talked about all sorts of things; I
soon made myself quite at home. And at last she began to explain. She
was a friend of mother’s, years and years ago, and father was the cause
of their parting, a quarrel about something, she didn’t say exactly
what. And it had suddenly struck her that she would like to know how we
were getting on. Then she asked me to promise that I would tell no one.’

‘She knew about mother’s death, I suppose?’

‘Oh yes, she knew about that. It happened not very long after the affair
that parted them. She asked a good many questions about you. And she
wanted to know how father had got on in his business.’

‘What did you say?’

‘Oh, I told her I really didn’t know much about it, and she laughed at

‘How long did you stay there?’

‘Till about four. But there’s something else. Before I went away she
gave me an invitation for next Saturday. She wants me to meet her at
Portland Road Station, and go out to Richmond, and have dinner there.’

‘Shall you go?’

‘Well, it’s very awkward. I want to go somewhere else on Saturday, with
Fanny. But I didn’t see how to refuse.’

Nancy wore a look of grave reflection, and kept silence.

‘It isn’t a bad thing, you know,’ pursued her brother, ‘to have a friend
of that sort. There’s no knowing what use she might be, especially just

His tone caused Nancy to look up.

‘Why just now?’

‘I’ll tell you after I’ve had a talk with father to-night,’ Horace
replied, setting his countenance to a show of energetic resolve.

‘Shall I guess what you’re going to talk about?’

‘If you like.’

She gazed at him.

‘You’re surely not so silly as to tell father about all that nonsense?’

‘What nonsense?’ exclaimed the other indignantly.

‘Why, with Fanny French.’

‘You’ll find that it’s anything but nonsense,’ Horace replied, raising
his brows, and gazing straight before him, with expanded nostrils.

‘All right. Let me know the result. It’s time to go in.’

Horace sat alone for a minute or two, his legs at full length, his
feet crossed, and the upper part of his body bent forward. He smiled to
himself, a smile of singular fatuity, and began to hum a popular tune.


When they assembled at table, Mr. Lord had recovered his moderate
cheerfulness. Essentially, he was anything but ill-tempered; Horace and
Nancy were far from regarding him with that resentful bitterness which
is produced in the victims of a really harsh parent. Ten years ago, as
they well remembered, anger was a rare thing in his behaviour to them,
and kindness the rule. Affectionate he had never shown himself; reserve
and austerity had always distinguished him. Even now-a-days, it was
generally safe to anticipate mildness from him at the evening meal. In
the matter of eating and drinking his prudence notably contradicted his
precepts. He loved strong meats, dishes highly flavoured, and partook of
them without moderation. At table his beverage was ale; for wine--unless
it were very sweet port--he cared little; but in the privacy of his
own room, whilst smoking numberless pipes of rank tobacco, he indulged
freely in spirits. The habit was unknown to his children, but for some
years he had seldom gone to bed in a condition that merited the name of

When the repast was nearly over, Mr. Lord glanced at his son and said

‘You have heard that Nancy wants to mix with the rag-tag and bobtail
to-morrow night?’

‘I shall take care of her,’ Horace replied, starting from his reverie.

‘Doesn’t it seem to you rather a come-down for an educated young lady?’

‘Oh, there’ll be lots of them about.’

‘Will there? Then I can’t see much difference between them and the
servant girls.’

Nancy put in a word.

‘That shows you don’t in the least understand me, father.’

‘We won’t argue about it. But bear in mind, Horace, that you bring
your sister back not later than half-past eleven. You are to be here by
half-past eleven.’

‘That’s rather early,’ replied the young man, though in a submissive

‘It’s the hour I appoint. Samuel Barmby will be with you, and he will
know the arrangement; but I tell you now, so that there may be no

Nancy sat in a very upright position, displeasure plain upon her
countenance. But she made no remark. Horace, who had his reasons for
desiring to preserve a genial tone, affected acquiescence. Presently he
and his sister went upstairs to the drawing-room, where they sat down at
a distance apart--Nancy by the window, gazing at the warm clouds above
the roofs opposite, the young man in a corner which the dusk already
shadowed. Some time passed before either spoke, and it was Horace’s
voice which first made itself heard.

‘Nancy, don’t you think it’s about time we began to behave firmly?’

‘It depends what you mean by firmness,’ she answered in an absent tone.

‘We’re old enough to judge for ourselves.’

‘I am, no doubt. But I’m not so sure about you.’

‘Oh, all right. Then we won’t talk about it.’

Another quarter of an hour went by. The room was in twilight. There came
a knock at the door, and Mary Woodruff, a wax-taper in her hand, entered
to light the gas. Having drawn the blind, and given a glance round
to see that everything was in order, she addressed Nancy, her tone
perfectly respectful, though she used no formality.

‘Martha has been asking me whether she can go out to-morrow night for an
hour or two.’

‘You don’t wish to go yourself?’ Miss. Lord returned, her voice
significant of life-long familiarity.

‘Oh no!’

And Mary showed one of her infrequent smiles.

‘She may go immediately after dinner, and be away till half-past ten.’

The servant bent her head, and withdrew. As soon as she was gone, Horace

‘There you are! What did father say?’

Nancy was silent.

‘Well, I’m going to have a word with him,’ continued the young man,
sauntering towards the door with his hands in his pockets. He looked
exceedingly nervous. ‘When I come back, I may have something to tell

‘Very likely,’ remarked his sister in a dry tone, and seated herself
under the chandelier with a book.

Horace slowly descended the stairs. At the foot he stood for a moment,
then moved towards his father’s door. Another hesitancy, though briefer,
and he knocked for admission, which was at once granted. Mr. Lord sat in
his round-backed chair, smoking a pipe, on his knees an evening paper.
He looked at Horace from under his eyebrows, but with good humour.

‘Coming to report progress?’

‘Yes, father,--and to talk over things in general.’

The slim youth--he could hardly be deemed more than a lad tried
to assume an easy position, with his elbow on the corner of the
mantelpiece; but his feet shuffled, and his eyes strayed vacantly. It
cost him an effort to begin his customary account of how things were
going with him at the shipping-office. In truth, there was nothing
particular to report; there never was anything particular; but Horace
always endeavoured to show that he had made headway, and to-night he
spoke with a very pronounced optimism.

‘Very well, my boy,’ said his father. ‘If you are satisfied, I shall try
to be the same. Have you your pipe with you?--At your age I hadn’t begun
to smoke, and I should advise you to be moderate; but we’ll have a whiff
together, if you like.’

‘I’ll go and fetch it,’ Horace replied impulsively.

He came back with a rather expensive meerschaum, recently purchased.

‘Hollo! luxuries!’ exclaimed his father.

‘It kept catching my eye in a window,--and at last I couldn’t resist.
Tobacco’s quite a different thing out of a pipe like this, you know.’

No one, seeing them thus together, could have doubted of the
affectionate feeling which Stephen Lord entertained for his son. It
appeared in his frequent glances, in the relaxation of his features,
in a certain abandonment of his whole frame, as though he had only just
begun to enjoy the evening’s repose.

‘I’ve something rather important to speak about, father,’ Horace began,
when he had puffed for a few minutes in silence.

‘Oh? What’s that?’

‘You remember telling me, when I was one and twenty, that you wished me
to work my way up, and win an income of my own, but that I could look to
you for help, if ever there was need of it--?’

Yes, Stephen remembered. He had frequently called it to mind, and
wondered whether it was wisely said, the youth’s character considered.

‘What of that?’ he returned, still genially. ‘Do you think of starting a
new line of ocean steamships?’

‘Well, not just yet,’ Horace answered, with an uncertain laugh. ‘I have
something more moderate in view. I may start a competition with the P.
and O. presently.’

‘Let’s hear about it.’

‘I dare say it will surprise you a little. The fact is, I--I am thinking
of getting married.’

The father did not move, but smoke ceased to issue from his lips, and
his eyes, fixed upon Horace, widened a little in puzzled amusement.

‘Thinking of it, are you?’ he said, in an undertone, as one speaks
of some trifle. ‘No harm in thinking. Too many people do it without
thinking at all.’

‘I’m not one of that kind,’ said Horace, with an air of maturity which
was meant to rebuke his father’s jest. ‘I know what I’m about. I’ve
thought it over thoroughly. You don’t think it too soon, I hope?’

Horace’s pipe was going out; he held it against his knee and regarded it
with unconscious eyes.

‘I dare say it won’t be,’ said Mr. Lord, ‘when you have found a suitable

‘Oh, but you misunderstand me. I mean that I have decided to marry a
particular person.’

‘And who may that be?’

‘The younger Miss. French--Fanny.’

His voice quivered over the name; at the end he gave a gasp and a
gulp. Of a sudden his lips and tongue were very dry, and he felt a
disagreeable chill running down his back. For the listener’s face had
altered noticeably; it was dark, stern, and something worse. But Mr.
Lord could still speak with self-control.

‘You have asked her to marry you?’

‘Yes, I have; and she has consented.’

Horace felt his courage returning, like the so-called ‘second wind’ of
a runner. It seemed to him that he had gone through the worst. The
disclosure was made, and had resulted in no outbreak of fury; now he
could begin to plead his cause. Imagination, excited by nervous stress,
brought before him a clear picture of the beloved Fanny, with fluffy
hair upon her forehead and a laugh on her never-closed lips. He spoke
without effort.

‘I thought that there would be no harm in asking you to help us. We
should be quite content to start on a couple of hundred a year--quite.
That is only about fifty pounds more than we have.’

Calf-love inspires many an audacity. To Horace there seemed nothing
outrageous in this suggestion. He had talked it over with Fanny French
several times, and they had agreed that his father could not in decency
offer them _less_ than a hundred a year. He began to shake out the ashes
from his pipe, with a vague intention of relighting it.

‘You really imagine,’ said his father, ‘that I should give you money to
enable you to marry that idiot?’

Evidently he put a severe restraint upon himself. The veins of his
temples were congested; his nostrils grew wide; and he spoke rather
hoarsely. Horace straightened his back, and, though in great fear,
strung himself for conflict.

‘I don’t see--what right--to insult the young lady.’

His father took him up sternly.

‘Young lady? What do you mean by “young lady”? After all your education,
haven’t you learnt to distinguish a lady from a dressed-up kitchen
wench? _I_ had none of your advantages. There was--there would have been
some excuse for _me_, if I had made such a fool of myself. What were you
doing all those years at school, if it wasn’t learning the difference
between real and sham, getting to understand things better than poor
folks’ children? You disappointed me, and a good deal more than I ever
told you. I had hoped you would come from school better able to make a
place in the world than your father was. I made up my mind long ago that
you should never go into my business; you were to be something a good
deal better. But after all you couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do what I wanted.
Never mind--I said to myself--never mind; at all events, he has learnt
to _think_ in a better way than if I had sent him to common schools,
and after all that’s the main thing. But here you come to me and talk
of marrying a low-bred, low-minded creature, who wouldn’t be good enough
for the meanest clerk!’

‘How do you know that, father? What--what right have you to say such
things, without knowing more of her than you do?’

There was a brief silence before Mr. Lord spoke again.

‘You are very young,’ he said, with less vehement contempt. ‘I must
remember that. At your age, a lad has a sort of devil in him, that’s
always driving him out of the path of common sense, whether he will or
no. I’ll try my best to talk quietly with you. Does your sister know
what has been going on?’

‘I daresay she does. I haven’t told her in so many words.’

‘I never thought of it,’ pursued Mr. Lord gloomily. ‘I took it for
granted that everybody must see those people as I myself did. I have
wondered now and then why Nancy kept up any kind of acquaintance with
them, but she spoke of them in the rational way, and that seemed enough.
I may have thought that they might get some sort of good out of _her_,
and I felt sure she had too much sense to get harm from _them_. If it
hadn’t been so, I should have forbidden her to know them at all. What
have you to say for yourself? I don’t want to think worse of you than I
need. I can make allowance for your age, as I said. What do you see in
that girl? Just talk to me freely and plainly.’

‘After all you have said,’ replied Horace, his voice still shaky,
‘what’s the use? You seem to be convinced that there isn’t a single good
quality in her.’

‘So I am. What I want to know is, what good _you_ have found.’

‘A great deal, else I shouldn’t have asked her to marry me.’

A vein of stubbornness, unmistakable inheritance from Stephen Lord,
had begun to appear in the youth’s speech and bearing. He kept his head
bent, and moved it a little from side to side.

‘Do you think her an exception in the family, then?’

‘She’s a great deal better in every way than her sisters. But I don’t
think as badly of them as you do.’

Mr. Lord stepped to the door, and out into the passage, where he shouted
in his deep voice ‘Nancy!’ The girl quickly appeared.

‘Shut the door, please,’ said her father. All three were now standing
about the room. ‘Your brother has brought me a piece of news. It ought
to interest you, I should think. He wants to marry, and out of all the
world, he has chosen Miss. French--the youngest.’ Horace’s position was
trying. He did not know what to do with his hands, and he kept balancing
now on one foot, now on the other. Nancy had her eyes averted from him,
but she met her father’s look gravely.

‘Now, I want to ask you,’ Mr. Lord proceeded, ‘whether you consider
Miss. French a suitable wife for your brother? Just give me a plain yes
or no.’

‘I certainly don’t,’ replied the girl, barely subduing the tremor of her

‘Both my children are not fools, thank Heaven! Now tell me, if you can,
what fault you have to find with the “young lady,” as your brother calls

‘For one thing, I don’t think her Horace’s equal. She can’t really be
called a lady.’

‘You are listening?’

Horace bit his lip in mortification, and again his head swung doggedly
from side to side.

‘We might pass over that,’ added Mr. Lord. ‘What about her character? Is
there any good point in her?’

‘I don’t think she means any harm. But she’s silly, and I’ve often
thought her selfish.’

‘You are listening?’

Horace lost patience.

‘Then why do you pretend to be friends with her?’ he demanded almost

‘I don’t,’ replied his sister, with a note of disdain. ‘We knew each
other at school, and we haven’t altogether broken off, that’s all.’

‘It isn’t all!’ shouted the young man on a high key. ‘If you’re not
friendly with her and her sisters, you’ve been a great hypocrite. It’s
only just lately you have begun to think yourself too good for them.
They used to come here, and you went to them; and you talked just like
friends would do. It’s abominable to turn round like this, for the sake
of taking father’s side against me!’

Mr. Lord regarded his son contemptuously. There was a rather long
silence; he spoke at length with severe deliberation.

‘When you are ten years older, you’ll know a good deal more about young
women as they’re turned out in these times. You’ll have heard the talk
of men who have been fools enough to marry choice specimens. When common
sense has a chance of getting in a word with you, you’ll understand
what I now tell you. Wherever you look now-a-days there’s sham and
rottenness; but the most worthless creature living is one of these
trashy, flashy girls,--the kind of girl you see everywhere, high and
low,--calling themselves “ladies,”--thinking themselves too good for
any honest, womanly work. Town and country, it’s all the same. They’re
educated; oh yes, they’re educated! What sort of wives do they make,
with their education? What sort of mothers are they? Before long,
there’ll be no such thing as a home. They don’t know what the word
means. They’d like to live in hotels, and trollop about the streets day
and night. There won’t be any servants much longer; you’re lucky if you
find one of the old sort, who knows how to light a fire or wash a dish.
Go into the houses of men with small incomes; what do you find but filth
and disorder, quarrelling and misery? Young men are bad enough, I know
that; they want to begin where their fathers left off, and if they can’t
do it honestly, they’ll embezzle or forge. But you’ll often find there’s
a worthless wife at the bottom of it,--worrying and nagging because she
has a smaller house than some other woman, because she can’t get silks
and furs, and wants to ride in a cab instead of an omnibus. It is
astounding to me that they don’t get their necks wrung. Only wait a bit;
we shall come to that presently!’

It was a rare thing for Stephen Lord to talk at such length. He ceased
with a bitter laugh, and sat down again in his chair. Horace and his
sister waited.

‘I’ve no more to say,’ fell from their father at length. ‘Go and talk
about it together, if you like.’

Horace moved sullenly towards the door, and with a glance at his sister
went out. Nancy, after lingering for a moment, spoke.

‘I don’t think you need have any fear of it, father.’

‘Perhaps not. But if it isn’t that one, it’ll be another like her.
There’s not much choice for a lad like Horace.’

Nancy changed her purpose of leaving the room, and drew a step nearer.

‘Don’t you think there _might_ have been?’

Mr. Lord turned to look at her.

‘How? What do you mean?’

‘I don’t want to make you angry with me--’

‘Say what you’ve got to say,’ broke in her father impatiently.

‘It isn’t easy, when you so soon lose your temper.’

‘My girl,’--for once he gazed at her directly,--‘if you knew all I
have gone through in life, you wouldn’t wonder at my temper being
spoilt.--What do you mean? What could I have done?’

She stood before him, and spoke with diffidence.

‘Don’t you think that if we had lived in a different way, Horace and I
might have had friends of a better kind?’

‘A different way?--I understand. You mean I ought to have had a big
house, and made a show. Isn’t that it?’

‘You gave us a good education,’ replied Nancy, still in the same tone,
‘and we might have associated with very different people from those you
have been speaking of; but education alone isn’t enough. One must live
as the better people do.’

‘Exactly. That’s your way of thinking. And how do you know that I could
afford it, to begin with?’

‘Perhaps I oughtn’t to have taken that for granted.’

‘Perhaps not. Young women take a good deal for granted now a-days. But
supposing you were right, are you silly enough to think that richer
people are better people, as a matter of course?’

‘Not as a matter of course,’ said Nancy. ‘But I’m quite sure--I know
from what I’ve seen--that there’s more chance of meeting nice people
among them.’

‘What do you mean by “nice”?’ Mr. Lord was lying back in his chair, and
spoke thickly, as if wearied. ‘People who can talk so that you forget
they’re only using words they’ve learnt like parrots?’

‘No. Just the contrary. People who have something to say worth listening

‘If you take my advice, you’ll pay less attention to what people say,
and more to what they do. What’s the good of a friend who won’t come to
see you because you live in a small house? That’s the plain English of
it. If I had done as I thought right, I should never have sent you to
school at all. I should have had you taught at home all that’s necessary
to make a good girl and an honest woman, and have done my best to keep
you away from the kind of life that I hate. But I hadn’t the courage to
act as I believed. I knew how the times were changing, and I was weak
enough to be afraid I might do you an injustice. I did give you the
chance of making friends among better people than your father. Didn’t
I use to talk to you about your school friends, and encourage you when
they seemed of the right kind? And now you tell me that they don’t
care for your society because you live in a decent, unpretending way. I
should think you’re better without such friends.’

Nancy reflected, seemed about to prolong the argument, but spoke at
length in another voice.

‘Well, I will say good-night, father.’

It was not usual for them to see each other after dinner, so that a
good-night could seldom be exchanged. The girl, drawing away, expected a
response; she saw her father nod, but he said nothing.

‘Good-night, father,’ she repeated from a distance.

‘Good-night, Nancy, good-night,’ came in impatient reply.


On Tuesday afternoon, when, beneath a cloudless sky, the great London
highways reeked and roared in celebration of Jubilee, Nancy and her
friend Miss. Morgan walked up Grove Lane to Champion Hill. Here and
there a house had decked itself with colours of loyalty; otherwise the
Lane was as quiet as usual.

Champion Hill is a gravel byway, overhung with trees; large houses and
spacious gardens on either hand. Here the heat of the sun was tempered.
A carriage rolled softly along; a nurse with well-dressed children
loitered in the shade. One might have imagined it a country road, so
profound the stillness and so leafy the prospect.

A year ago, Jessica Morgan had obtained a three months’ engagement as
governess to two little girls, who were sent under her care to the house
of their grandmother at Teignmouth. Their father, Mr Vawdrey of Champion
Hill, had recently lost his wife through an illness contracted at a
horse-race, where the lady sat in wind and rain for some hours. The
children knew little of what is learnt from books, but were surprisingly
well informed on matters of which they ought to have known nothing; they
talked of theatres and race-courses, of ‘the new murderer’ at Tussaud’s,
of police-news, of notorious spendthrifts and demi-reps; discussed
their grown-up acquaintances with precocious understanding, and repeated
scandalous insinuations which could have no meaning for them. Jessica
was supposed to teach them for two hours daily; she found it an
impossibility. Nevertheless a liking grew up between her and her
charges, and, save by their refusal to study, the children gave her no
trouble; they were abundantly good-natured, they laughed and sported
all day long, and did their best to put life into the pale, overworked

Whilst living thus at the seaside, Jessica was delighted by the arrival
of Nancy Lord, who came to Teignmouth for a summer holiday. With her
came Mary Woodruff. The faithful servant had been ill; Mr Lord sent
her down into Devon to make a complete recovery, and to act as Nancy’s
humble chaperon. Nancy’s stay was for three weeks. The friends saw
a great deal of each other, and Miss. Lord had the honour of being
presented to Mrs. Tarrant, the old lady with whom Jessica lived, Mr.
Vawdrey’s mother-in-law. At the age of three score and ten, Mrs. Tarrant
still led an active life, and talked with great volubility, chiefly of
herself; Nancy learnt from her that she had been married at seventeen,
and had had two children, a son and a daughter, both deceased; of
relatives there remained to her only Mr Vawdrey and his family, and a
grandson, Lionel Tarrant.

One evening, as Jessica returned from a ramble with the children,
they encountered a young man who was greeted, without much fervour,
as ‘cousin Lionel.’ Mr. Tarrant professed himself merely a passing
visitant; he had come to inquire after the health of his grandmother,
and in a day or two must keep an appointment with friends elsewhere.
Notwithstanding this announcement, he remained at Teignmouth for a
fortnight, exhibiting a pious assiduity in his attendance upon the old
lady. Naturally, he made acquaintance with Miss. Lord, whom his cousins
regarded as a great acquisition, so vivacious was she, so ready to take
part in any kind of lively amusement. Mr. Tarrant had been at Oxford;
his speech was marked with the University accent; he talked little, and
seemed to prefer his own society. In conversation with Nancy, though
scrupulously courteous and perfectly good-natured, he never forgot that
she was the friend of his cousins’ governess, that their intercourse
must be viewed as an irregular sort of thing, and that it behoved him
to support his dignity whilst condescending to a social inferior. So, at
all events, it struck Miss. Lord, very sensitive in such matters. Fond
of fitting people with nicknames, she called this young man sometimes
‘His Royal Highness,’ sometimes ‘His Majesty.’

Of Mr. Tarrant’s station in life nothing was discovered. His
grandmother, though seemingly in possession of ample means, betrayed
an indifferent education, and in her flow of gossip never referred to
ancestral dignities, never made mention of the calling her husband had
pursued. Mr. Vawdrey was known to be ‘in business,’--a business which
must be tolerably lucrative.

On their return to London, the children passed from Miss. Morgan’s care
into that of Mrs. Baker, who kept house for the widower at Champion
Hill; but Jessica did not wholly lose sight of them, and, at their
request, she persuaded Nancy Lord to make an occasional call with her.
Mrs. Baker (relict, it was understood, of a military officer who
had fallen in Eastern warfare) behaved to the young ladies with much
friendliness. They did not meet Mr. Vawdrey.

Early in the following year, old Mrs. Tarrant, forsaking Teignmouth,
came to live under her son-in-law’s roof; the winter had tried her
health, and henceforth she seldom left home.

To-day, as on former occasions (only two or three in all), Nancy was
reluctant to approach the big house; its imposing front made her feel
that she came only on sufferance; probably even Mrs. Baker did not
regard her as having a right to call here on terms of equality. Yet the
place touched her curiosity and her imagination; she liked to study
the luxurious appointments within, and to walk about the neglected but
pleasant garden, quiet and secluded as if whole counties divided it from
Camberwell. In the hall she and Jessica were at once welcomed by the
children, who first informed them that tea would be served out of doors,
and next made known that ‘cousin Lionel’ was here, in Mrs. Tarrant’s
drawing-room. The second piece of news vexed Nancy; she resolved never
to come again, unless on formal invitation.

Mrs. Baker, an agreeable woman, received them as if she were the
mistress of the house. With Jessica she chatted about matters
examinational, which she seemed thoroughly to understand; with Miss Lord
she talked of wider subjects, in a tone not unpleasing to Nancy, seeing
that it presumed, on her part, some knowledge of the polite world.
It was observable that Mr. Vawdrey’s daughters had benefited by the
superintendence of this lady; they no longer gossiped loudly about
murders and scandals, but demeaned themselves more as became their

On the arrival of other ladies to call upon Mrs. Baker, the children
drew their friends away into the garden, where tea now awaited them.
Amid the trees and flowers time passed not unpleasantly, until,
on happening to turn her head, Nancy perceived at a distance the
approaching figure of Mr. Lionel Tarrant. He sauntered over the grass
with easy, indolent step; his straw hat and light lounge costume
(excellent tailoring) suited the season and the place. Jessica, who
regarded the young man with something of awe, stood up to shake hands,
but Miss. Lord kept her place in the garden chair.

‘Did you see the procession?’ Tarrant inquired. ‘Ah, then I can give you
very important news--thrilling news. I know the colour of the Queen’s
bonnet, and of her parasol.’

‘Please don’t keep us in suspense,’ said Nancy.

‘They were of pale primrose. Touching, don’t you think?’

He had seated himself crosswise on a camp-stool, and seemed to be
admiring the contour of his brown boots. Lionel’s age was not more
than seven-and-twenty; he enjoyed sound health, and his face signified
contentment with the scheme of things as it concerned himself; but a
chronic languor possessed him. It might be sheer laziness, possibly a
result of that mental habit, discernible In his look, whereby he had
come to regard his own judgment as the criterion of all matters in
heaven and earth. Yet the conceit which relaxed his muscles was in
the main amiable; it never repelled as does the conceit of a fop or a
weakling or a vulgar person; he could laugh heartily, even with his
own affectations for a source of amusement. Of personal vanity he had
little, though women esteemed him good-looking; his steady, indolent
gaze made denial of such preoccupation. Nor could he be regarded as
emasculate; his movements merely disguised the natural vigour of a manly
frame, and his conversational trifling hinted an intellectual reserve, a
latent power of mind, obvious enough in the lines of his countenance.

Nancy was excusable for supposing that he viewed her slightingly. He
spoke as one who did not expect to be quite understood by such a hearer,
addressing her, without the familiarity, much as he addressed his
young cousins. To her, his careful observance of formalities seemed the
reverse of flattering; she felt sure that with young women in his
own circle he would allow himself much more freedom. Whether the
disparagement applied to her intellect or to her social status might be
a question; Nancy could not decide which of the two she would prefer.
Today an especial uneasiness troubled her from the first moment of
his appearance; she felt a stronger prompting than hitherto to assert
herself, and, if possible, to surprise Mr. Tarrant. But, as if he
understood her thought, his manner became only more bland, his calm
aloofness more pronounced.

The children, who were never at ease in their cousin’s presence,
succeeded in drawing Jessica apart, and chattered to her about the
educational methods imposed by Mrs. Baker, airing many grievances. They
nourished a hope that Miss. Morgan might again become their governess;
lessons down at Teignmouth had been nothing like so oppressive as here
at Champion Hill.

Tarrant, meanwhile, having drunk a cup of tea, and touched his moustache
with a silk handkerchief, transferred himself from the camp-stool to
the basket chair vacated by Jessica. He was now further from Nancy, but
facing her.

‘I have been talking with Mrs. Bellamy,’ fell from him, in the same
tone of idle good nature. ‘Do you know her? She has but one subject of
conversation; an engrossing topic, to be sure; namely, her servants.
Do you give much thought to the great servant question? I have my own
modest view of the matter. It may not be novel, but my mind has worked
upon it in the night watches.’

Nancy, resolved not to smile, found herself smiling. Not so much at what
he said, as at the manner of it. Her resentment was falling away; she
felt the influence of this imperturbable geniality.

‘Shall I tell you my theory?’

He talked with less reserve than on the last occasion when they had sat
together. The mellow sunlight, the garden odours, the warm, still air,
favoured a growth of intimacy.

‘By all means,’ was Nancy’s reply.

‘We must begin by admitting that the ordinary woman hates nothing so
much as to have another woman set in authority over her.’ He paused,
and laughed lazily. ‘Now, before the triumph of glorious Democracy, only
those women kept servants who were capable of rule,--who had by birth
the instinct of authority. They knew themselves the natural superiors
of their domestics, and went through an education fitting them to rule.
Things worked very well; no servant-difficulty existed. Now-a-days,
every woman who can afford it must have another woman to wait upon her,
no matter how silly, or vulgar, or depraved she may be; the result, of
course, is a spirit of rebellion in the kitchen. Who could have expected
anything else?’

Nancy played with a dandelion she had plucked, and gave sign neither of
assent nor disagreement.

‘Mrs. Bellamy,’ continued the young man, ‘marvels that servants revolt
against her. What could be more natural? The servants have learnt that
splendid doctrine that every one is as good as everybody else, and Mrs.
Bellamy is by no means the person to make them see things differently.
And this kind of thing is going on in numberless houses--an utterly
incompetent mistress and a democratic maid in spirited revolt. The
incompetents, being in so vast a majority, will sooner or later spoil
all the servants in the country.’

‘You should make an article of it,’ said Nancy, ‘and send it to _The
Nineteenth Century_.’

‘So I might.’ He paused, and added casually, ‘You read _The Nineteenth

‘Now and then.’

Nancy felt herself an impostor, for of leading reviews she knew
little more than the names. And Tarrant’s look, so steady, yet so
good-tempered, disturbed her conscience with the fear that he saw
through her. She was coming wretchedly out of this dialogue, in which
she had meant to make a figure.

He changed the subject; was it merely to spare her?

‘Shall you go to Teignmouth again this year?’

‘I don’t know yet. I think not.’

Silence followed. Tarrant, to judge from his face, was absorbed in
pleasant thought; Nancy, on the other hand, felt so ill at ease that she
was on the point of rising, when his voice checked her.

‘I have an idea’--he spoke dreamily--‘of going to spend next winter in
the Bahamas.’

‘Why the Bahamas?’

Speaking with all the carelessness she could command, Nancy shivered a
little. Spite of her ‘culture,’ she had but the vaguest notion where the
Bahamas were. To betray ignorance would be dreadful. A suspicion awoke
in her that Tarrant, surprised by her seeming familiarity with current
literature, was craftily testing the actual quality of her education.
Upon the shiver followed a glow, and, in fear lest her cheeks would
redden, she grew angry.

He was replying.

‘Partly because it is a delightful winter climate; partly because I have
a friend there; partly because the islands are interesting. A man I knew
at Oxford has gone out there, and is likely to stay. His father owns
nearly the whole of an island; and as he’s in very bad health, my friend
may soon come into possession. When he does, he’s going to astonish the


A vision of savages flashed before Nancy’s mind. She breathed more
freely, thinking the danger past.

‘Simply by making a fortune out of an estate that is lying all but
barren. Before the emancipation of the niggers, the Bahamas flourished
wonderfully; now they are fallen to decay, and ruled, so far as I
understand it, by a particularly contemptible crew of native whites, who
ought all to be kicked into the sea. My friend’s father is a man of
no energy; he calls himself magistrate, coroner, superintendent of the
customs, and a dozen other things, but seems to have spent his time for
years in lying about, smoking and imbibing. His son, I’m afraid, waits
impatiently for the old man’s removal to a better world. He believes
there are immense possibilities of trade.’

Trying hard to recollect her geography, Miss. Lord affected but a slight

‘There’s no direct way of getting there,’ Tarrant pursued. ‘What route
should you suggest?’

She was right, after all. He wished to convict her of ignorance. Her
cheeks were now burning, beyond a doubt, and she felt revengeful.

‘I advise you to make inquiries at a shipping-office,’ was her distant

‘It seems’--he was smiling at Nancy--‘I shall have to go to New York,
and then take the Cuba mail.’

‘Are you going to join your friend in business?’

‘Business, I fear, is hardly my vocation.’

There was a tremor on Nancy’s lips, and about her eyelids. She said

‘I thought you were perhaps in business?’

‘Did you? What suggested it?’

Tarrant looked fixedly at her; in his expression, as in his voice, she
detected a slight disdain, and that decided her to the utterance of the
next words.

‘Oh’--she had assumed an ingenuous air--‘there’s the Black Lead that
bears your name. Haven’t you something to do with it?’

She durst not watch him, but a change of his countenance was distinctly
perceptible, and for the moment caused her a keen gratification.
His eyes had widened, his lips had set themselves; he looked at once
startled and mortified.

‘Black lead?’ The words fell slowly, in a voice unlike that she had been
hearing. ‘No. I have nothing to do with it.’

The silence was dreadful. Nancy endeavoured to rise, but her limbs would
not do their office. Then, her eyes fixed on the grass, she became aware
that Tarrant himself had stood up.

‘Where are the children?’ he was saying absently.

He descried them afar off with Miss. Morgan, and began to saunter in
that direction. As soon as his back was turned, Nancy rose and began to
walk towards the house. In a few moments Jessica and the girls were with

‘I think we must go,’ she said.

They entered, and took leave of Mrs. Baker, who sat alone in the

‘Did you say good-bye to Mr. Tarrant?’ Jessica asked, as they came forth


‘I didn’t. But I suppose it doesn’t matter.’

Nancy had thought of telling her friend what she had done, of boasting
that she had asked the impossible question. But now she felt ashamed of
herself, and something more than ashamed. Never again could she enter
this garden. And it seemed to her that, by a piece of outrageous, of
wanton, folly, she had for ever excluded herself from the society of all
‘superior’ people.


‘Now, _I_ look at it in this way. It’s to celebrate the fiftieth year
of the reign of Queen Victoria--yes: but at the same time, and far more,
it’s to celebrate the completion of fifty years of Progress. National
Progress, without precedent in the history of mankind! One may say,
indeed, Progress of the Human Race. Only think what has been done in
this half-century: only think of it! Compare England now, compare the
world, with what it was in 1837. It takes away one’s breath!’

Thus Mr. Samuel Bennett Barmby, as he stood swaying forward upon his
toes, his boots creaking. Nancy and Jessica listened to him. They were
ready to start on the evening’s expedition, but Horace had not yet come
home, and on the chance of his arrival they would wait a few minutes

‘I shall make this the subject of a paper for our Society next
winter--the Age of Progress. And with special reference to one
particular--the Press. Only think now, of the difference between our
newspapers, all our periodicals of to-day, and those fifty years ago.
Did you ever really consider, Miss. Morgan, what a marvellous thing one
of our great newspapers really is? Printed in another way it would
make a volume--absolutely; a positive volume; packed with thought and
information. And all for the ridiculous price of one penny!’

He laughed; a high, chuckling, crowing laugh; the laugh of triumphant
optimism. Of the man’s sincerity there could be no question; it beamed
from his shining forehead, his pointed nose; glistened in his prominent
eyes. He had a tall, lank figure, irreproachably clad in a suit of grey:
frock coat, and waistcoat revealing an expanse of white shirt. His cuffs
were magnificent, and the hands worthy of them. A stand-up collar, of
remarkable stiffness, kept his head at the proper level of self-respect.

‘By the bye, Miss. Lord, are you aware that the Chinese Empire, with
four _hundred_ MILLION inhabitants, has only _ten_ daily papers?
Positively; only ten.’

‘How do you know?’ asked Nancy.

‘I saw it stated in a paper. That helps one to _grasp_ the difference
between civilisation and barbarism. One doesn’t think clearly enough
of common things. Now that’s one of the benefits one gets from Carlyle.
Carlyle teaches one to see the marvellous in everyday life. Of course
in many things I don’t agree with him, but I shall never lose an
opportunity of expressing my gratitude to Carlyle. Carlyle and
Gurty! Yes, Carlyle and Gurty; those two authors are an education in

He uttered a long ‘Ah!’ and moved his lips as if savouring a delicious

‘Now here’s an interesting thing. If all the cabs in London were put
end to end,’--he paused between the words, gravely,--‘what do you think,
Miss. Morgan, would be the total length?’

‘Oh, I have no idea, Mr. Barmby.’

‘Forty miles--positively! Forty miles of cabs!’

‘How do you know?’ asked Nancy.

‘I saw it stated in a paper.’

The girls glanced at each other, and smiled. Barmby beamed upon them
with the benevolence of a man who knew his advantages, personal and

And at this moment Horace Lord came in. He had not the fresh appearance
which usually distinguished him; his face was stained with perspiration,
his collar had become limp, the flower at his buttonhole hung faded.

‘Well, here I am. Are you going?’

‘I suppose you know you have kept us waiting,’ said his sister.

‘Awf’ly sorry. Couldn’t get here before.’

He spoke as if he had not altogether the command of his tongue, and with
a fixed meaningless smile.

‘We had better not delay,’ said Barmby, taking up his hat. ‘Seven
o’clock. We ought to be at Charing Cross before eight; that will allow
us about three hours.’

They set forth at once. By private agreement between the girls, Jessica
Morgan attached herself to Mr. Barmby, allowing Nancy to follow with her
brother, as they walked rapidly towards Camberwell Green. Horace kept
humming popular airs; his hat had fallen a little to the side, and he
swung his cane carelessly. His sister asked him what he had been doing
all day.

‘Oh, going about. I met some fellows after the procession. We had a
splendid view, up there on the top of Waterloo House.’

‘Did Fanny go home?’

‘We met her sisters, and had some lunch at a restaurant. Look here;
you don’t want me to-night. You won’t mind if I get lost in the crowd?
Barmby will be quite enough to take care of you.’

‘You are going to meet her again, I suppose?’

Horace nodded.

‘We had better agree on a rendezvous at a certain time. I say, Barmby,
just a moment; if any of us should get separated, we had better know
where to meet, for coming home.’

‘Oh, there’s no fear of that.’

‘All the same, it _might_ happen. There’ll be a tremendous crush,
you know. Suppose we say the place where the trams stop, south of
Westminster Bridge, and the time a quarter to eleven?’

This was agreed upon.

At Camberwell Green they mingled with a confused rush of hilarious
crowds, amid a clattering of cabs and omnibuses, a jingling of tram-car
bells. Public-houses sent forth their alcoholic odours upon the hot air.
Samuel Barmby, joyous in his protectorship of two young ladies, for
he regarded Horace as a mere boy, bustled about them whilst they stood
waiting for the arrival of the Westminster car.

‘It’ll have to be a gallant rush! You would rather be outside, wouldn’t
you, Miss. Lord? Here it comes: charge!’

But the charge was ineffectual for their purpose. A throng of far more
resolute and more sinewy people swept them aside, and seized every
vacant place on the top of the vehicle. Only with much struggle did they
obtain places within. In an ordinary mood, Nancy would have resented
this hustling of her person by the profane public; as it was, she half
enjoyed the tumult, and looked forward to get more of it along the
packed streets, with a sense that she might as well amuse herself in
vulgar ways, since nothing better was attainable. This did not, however,
modify her contempt of Samuel Barmby; it seemed never to have occurred
to him that the rough-and-tumble might be avoided, and time gained, by
the simple expedient of taking a cab.

Sitting opposite to Samuel, she avoided his persistent glances by
reading the rows of advertisements above his head. Somebody’s ‘Blue;’
somebody’s ‘Soap;’ somebody’s ‘High-class Jams;’ and behold, inserted
between the Soap and the Jam--‘God so loved the world, that He gave His
only-begotten Son, that whoso believeth in Him should not perish, but
have everlasting life.’ Nancy perused the passage without perception of
incongruity, without emotion of any kind. Her religion had long since
fallen to pieces, and universal defilement of Scriptural phrase by
the associations of the market-place had in this respect blunted her

Barmby was talking to Jessica Morgan. She caught his words now and then.

‘Can you tell me what is the smallest tree in the world?--No, it’s the
Greenland birch. Its full-grown height is only three inches--positively!
But it spreads over several feet.’

Nancy was tempted to lean forward and say, ‘How do you know?’ But the
jest seemed to involve her in too much familiarity with Mr Barmby; for
her own peace it was better to treat him with all possible coldness.

A woman near her talked loudly about the procession, with special
reference to a personage whom she called ‘Prince of Wiles.’ This
enthusiast declared with pride that she had stood at a certain street
corner for seven hours, accompanied by a child of five years old, the
same who now sat on her lap, nodding in utter weariness; together they
were going to see the illuminations, and walk about, with intervals
devoted to refreshments, for several hours more. Beyond sat a
working-man, overtaken with liquor, who railed vehemently at the
Jubilee, and in no measured terms gave his opinion of our Sovereign
Lady; the whole thing was a ‘lay,’ an occasion for filling the Royal
pocket, and it had succeeded to the tune of something like half a
million of money, wheedled, most of it, from the imbecile poor. ‘Shut
up!’ roared a loyalist, whose patience could endure no longer. ‘We’re
not going to let a boozing blackguard like you talk in that way about
‘er Majesty!’ Thereupon, retort of insult, challenge to combat, clamour
from many throats, deep and shrill. Nancy laughed, and would rather have
enjoyed it if the men had fought.

At Westminster Bridge all jumped confusedly into the street and ran
for the pavement. It was still broad daylight; the sun--a potentate who
keeps no Jubilee--dropping westward amid the hues of summer eventide,
was unmarked, for all his splendour, by the roaring multitudes.

‘Where are you going to leave us?’ Nancy inquired of her brother.

‘Charing Cross, or somewhere about there.’

‘Keep by me till then.’

Barmby was endeavouring to secure her companionship. He began to cross
the bridge at her side, but Nancy turned and bade him attend upon Miss.
Morgan, saying that she wished to talk with her brother. In this order
they moved towards Parliament Street, where the crowd began to thicken.

‘Now let us decide upon our route,’ exclaimed Barmby, with the air of a
popular leader planning a great demonstration. ‘Miss. Lord, we will be
directed by your wishes. Where would you like to be when the lighting-up

‘I don’t care. What does it matter? Let us go straight on and see
whatever comes in our way.’

‘That’s the right spirit! Let us give ourselves up to the occasion! We
can’t be wrong in making for Trafalgar Square. Advance!’

They followed upon a group of reeling lads and girls, who yelled in
chorus the popular song of the day, a sentimental one as it happened--

‘_Do not forget me, Do not forget me, Think sometimes of me still_’--

Nancy was working herself into a nervous, excited state. She felt it
impossible to walk on and on under Barmby’s protection, listening to
his atrocious commonplaces, his enthusiasms of the Young Men’s Debating
Society. The glow of midsummer had entered into her blood; she resolved
to taste independence, to mingle with the limitless crowd as one of its
units, borne in whatever direction. That song of the streets pleased
her, made sympathetic appeal to her; she would have liked to join in it.

Just behind her--it was on the broad pavement at Whitehall--some one
spoke her name.

‘Miss. Lord! Why, who would have expected to see you here? Shouldn’t
have dared to think of such a thing; upon my word, I shouldn’t!’

A man of about thirty, dressed without much care, middle-sized, wiry,
ruddy of cheek, and his coarse but strong features vivid with festive
energy, held a hand to her. Luckworth Crewe was his name. Nancy had come
to know him at the house of Mrs. Peachey, where from time to time she
had met various people unrecognised in her own home. His tongue bewrayed
him for a native of some northern county; his manner had no polish, but
a genuine heartiness which would have atoned for many defects. Horace,
who also knew him, offered a friendly greeting; but Samuel Barmby, when
the voice caught his ear, regarded this intruder with cold surprise.

‘May I walk on with you?’ Crewe asked, when he saw that Miss. Lord felt
no distaste for his company.

Nancy deigned not even a glance at her nominal protector.

‘If you are going our way,’ she replied.

Barmby, his dignity unobserved, strode on with Miss. Morgan, of whom he
sought information concerning the loud-voiced man. Crewe talked away.

‘So you’ve come out to have a look at it, after all. I saw the Miss
Frenches last Sunday, and they told me you cared no more for the Jubilee
than for a dog-fight. Of course I wasn’t surprised; you’ve other things
to think about. But it’s worth seeing, that’s my opinion. Were you out
this morning?’

‘No. I don’t care for Royalties.’

‘No more do I. Expensive humbugs, that’s what I call ‘em. But I had a
look at them, for all that. The Crown Prince was worth seeing; yes, he
really was. I’m not so prejudiced as to deny that. He’s the kind of chap
I should like to get hold of, and have a bit of a talk with, and ask him
what he thought about things in general. It’s been a big affair, hasn’t
it? I know a chap who made a Jubilee Perfume, and he’s netting something
like a hundred pounds a day.’

‘Have you any Jubilee speculation on hand?’

‘Don’t ask me! It makes me mad. I had a really big thing,--a Jubilee
Drink,--a teetotal beverage; the kind of thing that would have sold
itself, this weather. A friend of mine hit on it, a clerk in a City
warehouse, one of the cleverest chaps I ever knew. It really was _the_
drink; I’ve never tasted anything like it. Why, there’s the biggest
fortune on record waiting for the man who can supply _the_ drink for
total-abstainers. And this friend of mine had it. He gave me some to
taste one night, about a month ago, and I roared with delight. It was
all arranged. I undertook to find enough capital to start with, and
to manage the concern. I would have given up my work with Bullock and
Freeman. I’d have gone in, tooth and nail, for that drink! I sat up all
one night trying to find a name for it; but couldn’t hit on the right
one. A name is just as important as the stuff itself that you want to
sell. Next morning--it was Sunday--I went round to my friend’s lodgings,
and’--he slapped his thigh--‘I’m blest if the chap hadn’t cut his


‘Betting and forgery. He would have been arrested next day. But the
worst of it was that his beverage perished with him. I hadn’t a notion
how it was made; he wouldn’t tell me till I planked down money to start
with; and not a drop of it could be found anywhere. And to think that he
had absolutely struck oil, as they say; had nothing to do but sit down
and count the money as it came in! That’s the third man I’ve known
go wrong in less than a year. Betting and embezzlement; betting and
burglary; betting and forgery. I’ll tell you some time about the chap
who went in for burglary. One of the best fellows I ever knew; when he
comes out, I must give him a hand. But ten to one he’ll burgle again;
they always do; burglary grows on a man, like drink.’

His laughter rang across the street; Barmby, who kept looking back,
surprised and indignant that this acquaintance of Miss. Lord’s was
not presented to him, paused for a moment, but Nancy waved to him
commandingly, ‘Straight on!’

They reached Charing Cross. Horace, who took no part in the
conversation, and had dropped behind, at this point found an opportunity
of stealing away. It was Crewe who first remarked his absence.

‘Hollo! where’s your brother?’

‘Gone, evidently.--Hush! Don’t say anything. Will you do something for
me, Mr. Crewe?’

‘Of course I will. What is it?’

Nancy pursued in a low voice.

‘He’s gone to meet Fanny French. At least, he told me so; but I want to
know whether it is really Fanny, or some one else. He said they were to
meet in front of the Haymarket Theatre. Will you go as quickly as you
can, and see if Fanny is there?’

Crewe laughed.

‘Like a bird!--But how am I to meet you again?’

‘We’ll be at the top of Regent Street at nine o’clock,--by Peter
Robinson’s. Don’t lose time.’

He struck off in the westerly direction, and Barmby, looking round at
that moment, saw him go. Engrossed in thought of Nancy, Samuel did not
yet perceive that her brother had vanished.

‘Your friend isn’t coming any further?’ he said, in a tone of


‘But where’s Mr. Lord?’ exclaimed Jessica.

Nancy pretended to look back for him, and for a minute or two they
waited. Barmby, glad to be delivered from both male companions, made
light of the matter; Horace could take care of himself; they had the
appointment for a quarter to eleven;--on! And he now fixed himself
resolutely at Nancy’s side.

She, delighted with the success of her stratagem, and careless of what
might result from it, behaved more companionably. To Luckworth Crewe’s
society she had no objection; indeed, she rather liked him; but his
presence would have hindered the escape for which she was preparing.
Poor Jessica might feel it something of a hardship to pass hours alone
with ‘the Prophet,’ but that could not be helped. Nancy would be free
to-night, if never again. They turned into the Strand, and Barmby voiced
his opinion of the public decorations.

‘There’s very little of what can be called Art,--very little indeed. I’m
afraid we haven’t made much progress in Art.--Now what would Ruskin say
to this kind of thing? The popular taste wants educating. My idea is
that we ought to get a few leading men Burne Jones and--and William
Morris--and people of that kind, you know, Miss. Lord,--to give lectures
in a big hall on the elements of Art. A great deal might be done in that
way, don’t you think so, Miss. Morgan?’

‘I have no faith in anything popular,’ Jessica replied loftily.

‘No, no. But, after all, the people have got the upper hand now-a-days,
and we who enjoy advantages of education, of culture, ought not to
allow them to remain in darkness. It isn’t for our own interest, most
decidedly it isn’t.’

‘Did your sisters go to see the procession?’ Nancy asked.

‘Oh, they were afraid of the crowd. The old gentleman took them out to
Tooting Common this afternoon, and they enjoyed themselves. Perhaps
I should have been wiser if I had imitated their example; I mean this
morning; of course I wouldn’t have missed this evening for anything
whatever. But somehow, one feels it a sort of duty to see something of
these great public holidays. I caught a glimpse of the procession. In
its way it was imposing--yes, really. After all, the Monarchy is a great
_fact_--as Gurty would have said. I like to keep my mind open to facts.’

The sun had set, and with approach of dusk the crowds grew denser. Nancy
proposed a return westwards; the clubs of Pall Mall and of St James’s
Street would make a display worth seeing, and they must not miss

‘A little later,’ said their escort, with an air of liberality, ‘we
must think of some light refreshment. We shall be passing a respectable
restaurant, no doubt.’

Twilight began to obscure the distance. Here and there a house-front
slowly marked itself with points of flame, shaping to wreath, festoon,
or initials of Royalty. Nancy looked eagerly about her, impatient for
the dark, wishing the throng would sweep her away. In Pall Mall, Barmby
felt it incumbent upon him to name the several clubs, a task for which
he was inadequately prepared. As he stood staring in doubt at one of the
coldly insolent facades, Jessica gazing in the same direction, Nancy
saw that her moment had come. She darted off, struggled through a moving
crowd, and reached the opposite pavement. All she had now to do was to
press onward with the people around her; save by chance, she could not
possibly be discovered.

Alarm at her daring troubled her for a few minutes. As a matter of
course Barmby would report this incident to her father,--unless she
plainly asked him not to do so, for which she had no mind. Yet what did
it matter? She had escaped to enjoy herself, and the sense of freedom
soon overcame anxieties. No one observed her solitary state; she was one
of millions walking about the streets because it was Jubilee Day, and
every moment packed her more tightly among the tramping populace. A
procession, this, greatly more significant than that of Royal personages
earlier in the day. Along the main thoroughfares of mid-London,
wheel-traffic was now suspended; between the houses moved a double
current of humanity, this way and that, filling the whole space, so
that no vehicle could possibly have made its way on the wonted track.
At junctions, pickets of police directed progress; the slowly advancing
masses wheeled to left or right at word of command, carelessly obedient.
But for an occasional bellow of hilarious blackguardism, or for a song
uplifted by strident voices, or a cheer at some flaring symbol that
pleased the passers, there was little noise; only a thud, thud of
footfalls numberless, and the low, unvarying sound that suggested some
huge beast purring to itself in stupid contentment.

Nancy forgot her identity, lost sight of herself as an individual. Her
blood was heated by close air and physical contact. She did not think,
and her emotions differed little from those of any shop-girl let loose.
The ‘culture,’ to which she laid claim, evanesced in this atmosphere
of exhalations. Could she have seen her face, its look of vulgar
abandonment would have horrified her.

Some one trod violently on her heel, and she turned with a half-angry
laugh, protesting. ‘Beg your pardon, miss,’ said a young fellow of the
clerkly order. ‘A push be’ind made me do it.’ He thrust himself to a
place beside her, and Nancy conversed with him unrestrainedly, as though
it were a matter of course. The young man, scrutinising her with much
freedom, shaped clerkly compliments, and, in his fashion, grew lyrical;
until, at a certain remark which he permitted himself, Nancy felt it
time to shake him off. Her next encounter was more noteworthy. Of a
sudden she felt an arm round her waist, and a man, whose breath declared
the source of his inspiration, began singing close to her ear the
operatic ditty, ‘Queen of my Heart.’ He had, moreover, a good tenor
voice, and belonged, vaguely, to some stratum of educated society.

‘I think you had better leave me alone,’ said Nancy, looking him
severely in the face.

‘Well, if you really think so,’--he seemed struck by her manner of
speech,--‘of course I will: but I’d much rather not.’

‘I might find it necessary to speak to a policeman at the next corner.’

‘Oh, in that case.’--He raised his hat, and fell aside. And Nancy felt
that, after all, the adventure had been amusing.

She was now in Regent Street, and it came to her recollection that she
had made an appointment with Luckworth Crewe for nine o’clock. Without
any intention of keeping it; but why not do so? Her lively acquaintance
would be excellent company for the next hour, until she chose to bring
the escapade to an end. And indeed, save by a disagreeable struggle,
she could hardly change the direction of her steps. It was probably past
nine; Crewe might have got tired of waiting, or have found it impossible
to keep a position on the pavement. Drawing near to the top of Regent
Street, she hoped he might be there. And there he was, jovially
perspiring; he saw her between crowded heads, and crushed through to her


‘Where are your friends?’

‘That’s more than I can tell you.’

They laughed together.

‘It’s a miracle we’ve been able to meet,’ said Crewe. ‘I had to thrash a
fellow five minutes ago, and was precious near getting run in. Shall we
go the Tottenham Court Road way? Look out! You’d better hold on to my
arm. These big crossings are like whirlpools; you might go round and
round, and never get anywhere. Don’t be afraid; if any one runs up
against you, I’ll knock him down.’

‘There wouldn’t be room for him to fall,’ said Nancy, wild with
merriment, as they swayed amid the uproar. For the first time she
understood how perilous such a crowd might be. A band of roisterers,
linked arm in arm, were trying to break up the orderly march of
thousands into a chaotic fight. The point for which Crewe made was
unattainable; just in front of him a woman began shrieking hysterically;
another fainted, and dropped into her neighbour’s arms.

‘Don’t get frightened!’

‘Not I! I like it. It’s good fun.’

‘You’re the right sort, you are. But we must get out of this. It’s worse
than the pit-door on the first night of a pantomime. I must hold you up;
don’t mind.’

His arm encircled her body, and for a moment now and then he carried
rather than led her. They were safe at length, in the right part of
Oxford Street, and moving with the stream.

‘I couldn’t find your brother,’ Crewe had leisure to say; ‘and I didn’t
see Fanny French. There weren’t many people about just then, either.
They must have gone off before I came.’

‘Yes, they must. It doesn’t matter.’

‘You have some life in you.’ He gazed at her admiringly. ‘You’re worth
half a million of the girls that squeak and wobble when there’s a bit of
rough play going on.’

‘I hope so. Did you set me down as one of that kind?’

Nancy found that her tongue had achieved a liberty suitable to the
occasion. She spoke without forethought, and found pleasure in her

‘Not I,’ Crewe answered. ‘But I never had a chance before now of telling
you what I thought.’

Some one in front of them ignited a Bengal light and threw it into the
air; the flame flashed across Nancy’s features, and fell upon the hat of
a man near her.

‘How do you mean to get home?’ asked Crewe presently. Nancy explained
that all her party were to meet on the other side of the river.

‘Oh, then, there’s plenty of time. When you’ve had enough of this kind
of thing we can strike off into the quiet streets. If you were a man,
which I’m glad you’re not, I should say I was choking for a glass of

‘Say it, and look for a place where you can quench your thirst.’

‘It must be a place, then, where you can come in as well. You don’t
drink beer, of course, but we can get lemonade and that kind of thing.
No wonder we get thirsty; look up there.’

Following the direction of his eyes, Nancy saw above the heads of the
multitude a waving dust-canopy, sent up by myriad tramplings on the
sun-scorched streets. Glare of gas illumined it in the foreground;
beyond, it dimmed all radiance like a thin fog.

‘We might cut across through Soho,’ he pursued, ‘and get among the
restaurants. Take my arm again. Only a bit of cross-fighting, and we
shall be in the crowd going the other way. Did you do physics at school?
Remember about the resultant of forces? Now _we_‘re a force tending
to the right, and the crowd is a force making for straight on; to find

His hat was knocked over his eyes, and the statement of the problem
ended in laughter.

With a good deal of difficulty they reached one of the southward byways;
and thenceforth walking was unimpeded.

‘You know that I call myself Luckworth Crewe,’ resumed Nancy’s companion
after a short silence.

‘Of course I do.’

‘Well, the fact is, I’ve no right to either of the names. I thought I’d
just tell you, for the fun of the thing; I shouldn’t talk about it to
any one else that I know. They tell me I was picked up on a doorstep
in Leeds, and the wife of a mill-hand adopted me. Their name was Crewe.
They called me Tom, but somehow it isn’t a name I care for, and when I
was grown up I met a man called Luckworth, who was as kind as a father
to me, and so I took his name in place of Tom. That’s the long and short
of it.’

Nancy looked a trifle disconcerted.

‘You won’t think any worse of me, because I haven’t a name of my own?’

‘Why should I? It isn’t your fault.’

‘No. But I’m not the kind of man to knuckle under. I think myself just
as good as anybody else I’ll knock the man down that sneers at me; and
I won’t thank anybody for pitying me; that’s the sort of chap I am.
And I’m going to have a big fortune one of these days. It’s down in the
books. I know I shall live to be a rich man, just as well as I know that
I’m walking down Dean Street with Miss. Lord.’

‘I should think it very possible,’ his companion remarked.

‘It hasn’t begun yet. I can only lay my hand on a few hundred pounds,
one way and another. And I’m turned thirty. But the next ten years are
going to do it. Do you know what I did last Saturday? I got fifteen
hundred pounds’ worth of advertising for our people, from a chap that’s
never yet put a penny into the hands of an agent. I went down and talked
to him like a father. He was the hardest nut I ever had to crack, but in
thirty-five minutes I’d got him--like a roach on a hook. And it’ll be
to his advantage, mind you. That fifteen hundred ‘ll bring him in more
business than he’s had for ten years past. I got him to confess he was
going down the hill. “Of course,” I said, “because you don’t know how to
advertise, and won’t let anybody else know for you?” In a few minutes
he was telling me he’d dropped more than a thousand on a patent that
was out of date before it got fairly going. “All right,” said I. “Here’s
your new cooking-stove. You’ve dropped a thousand on the other thing;
give your advertising to us, and I’ll guarantee you shall come home on
the cooking-stove.”’

‘Come home on it?’ Nancy inquired, in astonishment.

‘Oh, it’s our way of talking,’ said the other, with his hearty laugh.
‘It means to make up one’s loss. And he’ll do it. And when he has, he’ll
think no end of me.’

‘I daresay.’

‘Not long ago, I boxed a chap for his advertising. A fair turn-up with
the gloves. Do you suppose I licked him? Not I; though I could have done
it with one hand. I just let him knock me out of time, and two minutes
after he put all his business into my hands.’

‘Oh, you’ll get rich,’ declared Nancy, laughing. ‘No doubt about it.’

‘There was a spot down the South Western Railway where we wanted to
stick up a board, a great big board, as ugly as they make ‘em. It was in
a man’s garden; a certain particular place, where the trains slow, and
folks have time to read the advertisement and meditate on it. That
chap wouldn’t listen. What! spoil his garden with our da----with our
confounded board! not for five hundred a year! Well, I went down, and I
talked to him--’

‘Like a father,’ put in Nancy.

‘Just so, like a father. “Look here,” said I, “my dear sir, you’re
impeding the progress of civilisation. How could we have become what we
are without the modern science and art of advertising? Till advertising
sprang up, the world was barbarous. Do you suppose people kept
themselves clean before they were reminded at every corner of the
benefits of soap? Do you suppose they were healthy before every wall and
hoarding told them what medicine to take for their ailments? Not they
indeed! Why, a man like you--an enlightened man, I see it in your face
(he was as ugly as Ben’s bull-dog), ought to be proud of helping on the
age.” And I made him downright ashamed of himself. He asked me to have a
bit of dinner, and we came to terms over the cheese.’

In this strain did Luckworth Crewe continue to talk across the gloomy
solitudes of Soho. And Nancy would on no account have had him cease.
She was fascinated by his rough vigour and by his visions of golden
prosperity. It seemed to her that they reached very quickly the
restaurant he had in view. With keen enjoyment of the novelty, she
followed him between tables where people were eating, drinking, smoking,
and took a place beside him on a cushioned seat at the end of the room.

‘I know you’re tired,’ he said. ‘There’s nearly half-an-hour before you
need move.’

Nancy hesitated in her choice of a refreshment. She wished to have
something unusual, something that fitted an occasion so remarkable,
yet, as Crewe would of course pay, she did not like to propose anything

‘Now let me choose for you,’ her companion requested. ‘After all that
rough work, you want something more than a drop of lemonade. I’m going
to order a nice little bottle of champagne out of the ice, and a pretty
little sandwich made of whatever you like.’


It had been in her thoughts, a sparkling audacity. Good; champagne let
it be. And she leaned back in defiant satisfaction.

‘I didn’t expect much from Jubilee Day,’ observed the man of business,
‘but that only shows how things turn out--always better or worse than
you think for. I’m not likely to forget it; it’s the best day I’ve had
in my life yet, and I leave you to guess who I owe _that_ to.’

‘I think this is good wine,’ remarked Nancy, as if she had not heard

‘Not bad. You wouldn’t suppose a fellow of my sort would know anything
about it. But I do. I’ve drunk plenty of good champagne, and I shall
drink better.’

Nancy ate her sandwich and smiled. The one glass sufficed her; Crewe
drank three. Presently, looking at her with his head propped on his
hand, he said gravely:

‘I wonder whether this is the last walk we shall have together?’

‘Who can say?’ she answered in a light tone.

‘Some one ought to be able to say.’

‘I never make prophecies, and never believe other people’s.’

‘Shows your good sense. But _I_ make wishes, and plenty of them.’

‘So do I,’ said Nancy.

‘Then let us both make a wish to ourselves,’ proposed Crewe, regarding
her with eyes that had an uncommon light in them.

His companion laughed, then both were quiet for a moment.

They allowed themselves plenty of time to battle their way as far
as Westminster Bridge. At one point police and crowd were in brief
conflict; the burly guardians of order dealt thwacking blows, right and
left, sound fisticuffs, backed with hearty oaths. The night was young;
by magisterial providence, hours of steady drinking lay before the
hardier jubilants. Thwacks and curses would be no rarity in another hour
or two.

At the foot of Parliament Street, Nancy came face to face with Samuel
Barmby, on whose arm hung the wearied Jessica. Without heeding their
exclamations, she turned to her protector and bade him a hearty
good-night. Crewe accepted his dismissal. He made survey of Barmby, and
moved off singing to himself, ‘_Do not forget me--do not forget me_--’

Part II: Nature’s Graduate


The disorder which Stephen Lord masked as a ‘touch of gout’ had in
truth a much more disagreeable name. It was now twelve months since his
doctor’s first warning, directed against the savoury meats and ardent
beverages which constituted his diet; Stephen resolved upon a change
of habits, but the flesh held him in bondage, and medical prophecy was
justified by the event. All through Jubilee Day he suffered acutely;
for the rest of the week he remained at home, sometimes sitting in the
garden, but generally keeping his room, where he lay on a couch.

A man of method and routine, sedentary, with a strong dislike of
unfamiliar surroundings, he could not be persuaded to try change of
air. The disease intensified his native stubbornness, made him by turns
fretful and furious, disposed him to a sullen solitude. He would accept
no tendance but that of Mary Woodruff; to her, as to his children, he
kept up the pretence of gout. He was visited only by Samuel Barmby, with
whom he discussed details of business, and by Mr. Barmby, senior, his
friend of thirty years, the one man to whom he unbosomed himself.

His effort to follow the regimen medically prescribed to him was even
now futile. At the end of a week’s time, imagining himself somewhat
better, he resumed his daily walk to Camberwell Road, but remained at
the warehouse only till two or three o’clock, then returned and sat
alone in his room. On one of the first days of July, when the weather
was oppressively hot, he entered the house about noon, and in a few
minutes rang his bell. Mary Woodruff came to him. He was sitting on the
couch, pale, wet with perspiration, and exhausted.

‘I want something to drink,’ he said wearily, without raising his eyes.

‘Will you have the lime-water, sir?’

‘Yes--what you like.’

Mary brought it to him, and he drank two large glasses, with no pause.

‘Where is Nancy?’

‘In town, sir. She said she would be back about four.’

He made an angry movement.

‘What’s she doing in town? She said nothing to me. Why doesn’t she come
back to lunch? Where does she go to for all these hours?’

‘I don’t know, sir.’

The servant spoke in a low, respectful voice, looking at her master with
eyes that seemed to compassionate him.

‘Well, it doesn’t matter.’ He waved a hand, as if in dismissal.
‘Wait--if I’m to be alone, I might as well have lunch now. I feel
hungry, as if I hadn’t eaten anything for twenty-four hours. Get me
something, Mary.’

Later in the afternoon his bell again sounded, and Mary answered it. As
he did not speak at once,--he was standing by the window with his hands
behind him,--she asked him his pleasure.

‘Bring me some water, Mary, plain drinking-water.’

She returned with a jug and glass, and he took a long draught.

‘No, don’t go yet. I want to--to talk to you about things. Sit down
there for a minute.’

He pointed to the couch, and Mary, with an anxious look, obeyed him.

‘I’m thinking of leaving this house, and going to live in the country.
There’s no reason why I shouldn’t. My partner can look after the
business well enough.’

‘It might be the best thing you could do, sir. The best for your

‘Yes, it might. I’m not satisfied with things. I want to make a decided
change, in every way.’

His face had grown more haggard during the last few days, and his eyes
wandered, expressing fretfulness or fear; he spoke with effort, and
seemed unable to find the words that would convey his meaning.

‘Now I want you to tell me plainly, what do you think of Nancy?’

‘Think of her, sir?’

‘No, no--don’t speak in that way. I don’t want you to call me ‘sir’; it
isn’t necessary; we’ve known each other so long, and I think of you as
a friend, a very good friend. Think of me in the same way, and speak
naturally. I want to know your opinion of Nancy.’

The listener had a face of grave attention: it signified no surprise, no
vulgar self-consciousness, but perhaps a just perceptible pleasure. And
in replying she looked steadily at her master for a moment.

‘I really don’t feel I can judge her, Mr. Lord. It’s true, in a way, I
ought to know her very well, as I’ve seen her day by day since she was
a little thing. But now she’s a well-educated and clever young lady, and
she has got far beyond me--’

‘Ay, there it is, there it is!’ Stephen interrupted with bitterness.
‘She’s got beyond us--beyond me as well as you. And she isn’t what
I meant her to be, very far from it. I haven’t brought them up as I
wished. I don’t know--I’m sure I don’t know why. It was in own hands.
When they were little children, I said to myself: hey shall grow up
plain, good, honest girl and boy. I said that I wouldn’t educate them
very much; I saw little good that came of it, in our rank of life.
I meant them to be simple-minded. I hoped Nancy would marry a plain
countryman, like the men I used to know when I was a boy; a farmer, or
something of that kind. But see how it’s come about. It wasn’t that I
altered my mind about what was best. But I seemed to have no choice.
For one thing, I made more money at business than I had expected, and
so--and so it seemed that they ought to be educated above me and mine.
There was my mother, did a better woman ever live? She had no education
but that of home. She could have brought up Nancy in the good,
old-fashioned way, if I had let her. I wish I had, yes, I wish I had.’

‘I don’t think you could have felt satisfied,’ said the listener, with
intelligent sympathy.

‘Why not? If she had been as good and useful a woman as _you_ are--’

‘Ah, you mustn’t think in that way, Mr. Lord. I was born and bred to
service. Your daughter had a mind given her at her birth, that would
never have been content with humble things. She was meant for education
and a higher place.’

‘What higher place is there for her? She thinks herself too good for the
life she leads here, and yet I don’t believe she’ll ever find a place
among people of a higher class. She has told me herself it’s my fault.
She says I ought to have had a big house for her, so that she might make
friends among the rich. Perhaps she’s right. I have made her neither
one thing nor another. Mary, if I had never come to London, I might have
lived happily. My place was away there, in the old home. I’ve known that
for many a year. I’ve thought: wait till I’ve made a little more money,
and I’ll go back. But it was never done; and now it looks to me as if
I had spoilt the lives of my children, as well as my own. I can’t trust
Nancy, that’s the worst of it. You don’t know what she did on Jubilee
night. She wasn’t with Mr. Barmby and the others--Barmby told me about
it; she pretended to lose them, and went off somewhere to meet a man
she’s never spoken to me about. Is that how a good girl would act? I
didn’t speak to her about it; what use? Very likely she wouldn’t tell me
the truth. She takes it for granted I can’t understand her. She thinks
her education puts her above all plain folk and their ways--that’s it.’

Mary’s eyes had fallen, and she kept silence.

‘Suppose anything happened to me, and they were left to themselves. I
have money to leave between them, and of course they know it. How could
it do them anything but harm? Do you know that Horace wants to marry
that girl Fanny French--a grinning, chattering fool--if not worse.
He has told me he shall do as he likes. Whether or no it was right to
educate Nancy, I am very sure that I ought to have done with _him_ as I
meant at first. He hasn’t the brains to take a good position. When his
schooling went on year after year, I thought at last to make of him
something better than his father--a doctor, or a lawyer. But he hadn’t
the brains: he disappointed me bitterly. And what use can he make of
my money, when I’m in my grave? If I die soon he’ll marry, and ruin
his life. And won’t it be the same with Nancy? Some plotting, greedy
fellow--the kind of man you see everywhere now-a-days, will fool her for
the money’s sake.’

‘We must hope they’ll be much older and wiser before they have to act
for themselves,’ said Mary, looking into her master’s troubled face.

‘Yes!’ He came nearer to her, with a sudden hopefulness. ‘And whether I
live much longer or not, I can do something to guard them against their
folly. They needn’t have the money as soon as I am gone.’

He seated himself in front of his companion.

‘I want to ask you something, Mary. If they were left alone, would you
be willing to live here still, as you do now, for a few more years?’

‘I shall do whatever you wish--whatever you bid me, Mr. Lord,’ answered
the woman, in a voice of heartfelt loyalty.

‘You would stay on, and keep house for them?’

‘But would they go on living here?’

‘I could make them do so. I could put it down as a condition, in my
will. At all events, I would make Nancy stay. Horace might live where he
liked--though not with money to throw about. They have no relatives that
could be of any use to them. I should wish Nancy to go on living here,
and you with her; and she would only have just a sufficient income, paid
by my old friend Barmby, or by his son. And that till she was--what?
I have thought of six-and-twenty. By that time she would either have
learnt wisdom, or she never would. She must be free sooner or later.’

‘But she couldn’t live by herself, Mr. Lord.’

‘You tell me you would stay,’ he exclaimed impulsively.

‘Oh, but I am only her servant. That wouldn’t be enough.’

‘It would be. Your position shall be changed. There’s no one living to
whom I could trust her as I could to you. There’s no woman I respect so
much. For twenty years you have proved yourself worthy of respect--and
it shall be paid to you.’

His vehemence would brook no opposition.

‘You said you would do as I wished. I wish you to have a new position
in this house. You shall no longer be called a servant; you shall be
our housekeeper, and our friend. I will have it, I tell you!’ he cried
angrily. ‘You shall sit at table with us, and live with us. Nancy still
has sense enough to acknowledge that this is only your just reward; from
her, I know, there won’t be a word of objection. What can you have to
say against it?’

The woman was pale with emotion. Her reserve and sensibility shrank from
what seemed to her an invidious honour, yet she durst not irritate the
sick man by opposition.

‘It will make Nancy think,’ he pursued, with emphasis. ‘It will help
her, perhaps, to see the difference between worthless women who put
themselves forward, and the women of real value who make no pretences.
Perhaps it isn’t too late to set good examples before her. I’ve never
found her ill-natured, though she’s wilful; it isn’t her heart that’s
wrong--I hope and think not--only her mind, that’s got stuffed with
foolish ideas. Since her grandmother’s death she’s had no guidance. You
shall talk to her as a woman can; not all at once, but when she’s used
to thinking of you in this new way.’

‘You are forgetting her friends,’ Mary said at length, with eyes of
earnest appeal.

‘Her friends? She’s better without such friends. There’s one thing I
used to hope, but I’ve given it up. I thought once that she might have
come to a liking for Samuel Barmby, but now I don’t think she ever will,
and I believe it’s her friends that are to blame for it. One thing I
know, that she’ll never meet with any one who will make her so good a
husband as he would. We don’t think alike in every way; he’s a young
man, and has the new ideas; but I’ve known him since he was a boy, and
I respect his character. He has a conscience, which is no common thing
now-a-days. He lives a clean, homely life--and you won’t find many of
his age who do. Nancy thinks herself a thousand times too good for him;
I only hope he mayn’t prove a great deal too good for _her_. But I’ve
given up that thought. I’ve never spoken to her about it, and I never
shall; no good comes of forcing a girl’s inclination. I only tell you of
it, Mary, because I want you to understand what has been going on.’

They heard a bell ring; that of the front door.

‘It’ll be Miss. Nancy,’ said Mary, rising.

‘Go to the door then. If it’s Nancy, tell her I want to speak to her,
and come back yourself.’

‘Mr. Lord--’

‘Do as I tell you--at once!’

All the latent force of Stephen’s character now declared itself. He
stood upright, his face stern and dignified. In a few moments, Nancy
entered the room, and Mary followed her at a distance.

‘Nancy,’ said the father, ‘I want to tell you of a change in the house.
You know that Mary has been with us for twenty years. You know that for
a long time we haven’t thought of her as a servant, but as a friend, and
one of the best possible. It’s time now to show our gratitude. Mary will
continue to help us as before, but henceforth she is one of our family.
She will eat with us and sit with us; and I look to you, my girl, to
make the change an easy and pleasant one for her.’

As soon as she understood the drift of her father’s speech, Nancy
experienced a shock, and could not conceal it. But when silence came,
she had commanded herself. An instant’s pause; then, with her brightest
smile, she turned to Mary and spoke in a voice of kindness.

‘Father is quite right. Your place is with us. I am glad, very glad.’

Mary looked from Mr. Lord to his daughter, tried vainly to speak, and
left the room.


His father’s contemptuous wrath had an ill effect upon Horace. Of an
amiable disposition, and without independence of character, he might
have been guided by a judicious parent through all the perils of his
calf-love for Fanny French; thrown upon his own feeble resources, he
regarded himself as a victim of the traditional struggle between prosaic
age and nobly passionate youth, and resolved at all hazards to follow
the heroic course--which meant, first of all, a cold taciturnity towards
his father, and, as to his future conduct, a total disregard of the
domestic restraints which he had hitherto accepted. In a day or two
he sat down and wrote his father a long letter, of small merit as a
composition, and otherwise illustrating the profitless nature of the
education for which Stephen Lord had hopefully paid. It began with
a declaration of rights. He was a man; he could no longer submit
to childish trammels. A man must not be put to inconvenience by
the necessity of coming home at early hours. A man could not brook
cross-examination on the subject of his intimacies, his expenditure, and
so forth. Above all, a man was answerable to no one but himself for his
relations with the other sex, for the sacred hopes he cherished, for
his emotions and aspirations which transcended even a man’s
vocabulary.--With much more of like tenor.

To this epistle, delivered by post, Mr. Lord made no answer.

Horace flattered himself that he had gained a victory. There was nothing
like ‘firmness,’ and that evening, about nine, he went to De Crespigny
Park. As usual, he had to ring the bell two or three times before any
one came; the lively notes of a piano sounded from the drawing-room,
intimating, no doubt, that Mrs. Peachey had guests. The door at length
opened, and he bade the servant let Miss. Fanny know that he was here;
he would wait in the dining-room.

It was not yet dark, but objects could only just be distinguished; the
gloom supplied Horace with a suggestion at which he laughed to himself.
He had laid down his hat and cane, when a voice surprised him.

‘Who’s that?’ asked some one from the back of the room.

‘Oh, are _you_ there, Mr. Peachey?--I’ve come to see Fanny. I didn’t
care to go among the people.’

‘All right. We’d better light the gas.’

With annoyance, Horace saw the master of the house come forward, and
strike a match. Remains of dinner were still on the table. The two
exchanged glances.

‘How is your father?’ Peachey inquired. He had a dull, depressed look,
and moved languidly to draw down the blind.

‘Oh, he isn’t quite up to the mark. But it’s nothing serious, I think.’

‘Miss. Lord quite well?--We haven’t seen much of her lately.’

‘I don’t know why, I’m sure.--Nobody can depend upon her very much.’

‘Well, I’ll leave you,’ said the other, with a dreary look about the
room. ‘The table ought to have been cleared by now--but that’s nothing

‘Confounded servants,’ muttered Horace.

‘Oh yes, the servants,’ was Peachey’s ironical reply.

As soon as he was left alone, Horace turned out the gas. Then he stood
near the door, trembling with amorous anticipation. But minutes went
by; his impatience grew intolerable; he stamped, and twisted his fingers
together. Then of a sudden the door opened.

‘Why, it’s dark, there’s nobody here.’

Fanny discovered her mistake. She was seized and lifted off her feet.

‘Oh! Do you want to eat me? I’ll hit you as hard as I can, I will!
You’re spoiling my dress?’

The last remonstrance was in a note that Horace did not venture to

‘Strike a light, silly! I know you’ve done something to my dress.’

Horace pleaded abjectly to be forgiven, and that the room might remain
shadowed; but Fanny was disturbed in temper.

‘If you don’t light the gas, I’ll go at once.’

‘I haven’t any matches, darling.’

‘Oh, just like you! You never have anything. I thought every man carried

She broke from him, and ran out. Wretched in the fear that she might not
return, Horace waited on the threshold. In the drawing-room some one
was singing ‘The Maid of the Mill.’ It came to an end, and there sounded
voices, which the tormented listener strove to recognise. For at least
ten minutes he waited, and was all but frantic, when the girl made her
appearance, coming downstairs.

‘Never do that again,’ she said viciously. ‘I’ve had to unfasten my
things, and put them straight. What a nuisance you are!’

He stood cowed before her, limp and tremulous.

‘There, light the gas. Why couldn’t you come into the drawing-room, like
other people do?’

‘Who is there?’ asked the young man, when he had obeyed her.

‘Go and see for yourself.’

‘Don’t be angry, Fanny.’ He followed her, like a dog, as she walked
round the table to look at herself in the mirror over the fireplace. ‘It
was only because I’m so fond of you.’

‘Oh, what a silly you are!’ she laughed, seating herself on the arm of
an easy-chair. ‘Go ahead! What’s the latest?’

‘Well, for one thing, I’ve had a very clear understanding with the
gov’nor about my independence. I showed him that I meant having my own
way, and he might bully as much as he liked.’

It was not thus that Horace would naturally have spoken, not thus
that he thought of his father. Fanny had subdued him to her own level,
poisoned him with the desires excited by her presence. And he knew his
baseness; he was not ignorant of the girl’s ignoble nature. Only the
fury of a virgin passion enabled him to talk, and sometimes think, as
though he were in love with ideal purity.

‘I didn’t think you had the pluck,’ said Fanny, swinging one of her feet
as she tittered.

‘That shows you haven’t done me justice.’

‘And you’re going to stay out late at night?’

‘As late as I like,’ Horace answered, crossing his arms.

‘Then where will you take me to-morrow?’

It happened that Horace was in funds just now; he had received his
quarter’s salary. Board and lodging were no expense to him; he provided
his own clothing, but, with this exception, had to meet no serious
claim. So, in reply to Fanny’s characteristic question, he jingled

‘Wherever you like.--“Dorothy,” “Ruddigore--“’

Delighted with his assent, she became more gracious, permitted a modest
caress, and presently allowed herself to be drawn on to her lover’s
knee. She was passive, unconcerned; no second year graduate of the
pavement could have preserved a completer equanimity; it did not appear
that her pulse quickened ever so slightly, nor had her eyelid the
suspicion of a droop. She hummed ‘Queen of my Heart,’ and grew absent in
speculative thought, whilst Horace burned and panted at the proximity of
her white flesh.

‘Oh, how I do love you, Fanny!’

She trod playfully on his toe.

‘You haven’t told the old gentleman yet?’

‘I--I’m thinking about it. But, Fanny, suppose he was to--to refuse
to do anything for us. Would it make any difference? There are lots of
people who marry on a hundred and fifty a year--oh lots!’

The maiden arched her brows, and puckered her lips. Hitherto it had been
taken for granted that Mr. Lord would be ready with subsidy; Horace,
in a large, vague way, had hinted that assurance long ago. Fanny’s
disinclination to plight her troth--she still deemed herself absolutely
free--had alone interfered between the young man and a definite project
of marriage.

‘What kind of people?’ she asked coldly.

‘Oh--respectable, educated people, like ourselves.’

‘And live in apartments? Thank you; I don’t quite see myself. There
isn’t a bit of hurry, dear boy. Wait a bit.’ She began to sing ‘Wait
till the clouds roll by.’

‘If you thought as much of me as I do of you--’

Tired of her position, Fanny jumped up and took a spoonful of sweet
jelly from a dish on the table.

‘Have some?’

‘Come here again. I’ve something more to tell you. Something very

She could only be prevailed upon to take a seat near him. Horace, beset
with doubts as to his prudence, but unable to keep the secret, began to
recount the story of his meeting with Mrs. Damerel, whom he had now seen
for the second time. Fanny’s curiosity, instantly awakened, grew eager
as he proceeded. She questioned with skill and pertinacity, and elicited
many more details than Nancy Lord had been able to gather.

‘You’ll promise me not to say a word to any one?’ pleaded Horace.

‘I won’t open my lips. But you’re quite sure she’s as old as you say?’

‘Old enough to be my mother, I assure you.’

The girl’s suspicions were not wholly set at rest, but she made no
further display of them.

‘Now just think what an advantage it might be to you, to know her,’
Horace pursued. ‘She’d introduce you at once to fashionable society,
really tip-top people. How would you like that?’

‘Not bad,’ was the judicial reply.

‘She must have no end of money, and who knows what she might do for me!’

‘It’s a jolly queer thing,’ mused the maiden.

‘There’s no denying that. We must keep it close, whatever we do.’

‘You haven’t told anybody else?’

‘Not a soul!’ Horace lied stoutly.

They were surprised by the sudden opening of the door; a servant
appeared to clear the table. Fanny reprimanded her for neglecting to

‘We may as well go into the drawing-room. There’s nobody particular.
Only Mrs. Middlemist, and Mr. Crewe, and--’

In the hall they encountered Crewe himself, who stood there conversing
with Beatrice. A few words were exchanged by the two men, and Horace
followed his enchantress into the drawing-room, where he found, seated
in conversation with Mrs. Peachey, two persons whom he had occasionally
met here. One of them, Mrs. Middlemist, was a stout, coarse,
high-coloured woman, with fingers much bejewelled. Until a year or
two ago she had adorned the private bar of a public-house kept by her
husband; retired from this honourable post, she now devoted herself to
society and the domestic virtues. The other guest, Mrs. Murch by name,
proclaimed herself, at a glance, of less prosperous condition, though
no less sumptuously arrayed. Her face had a hungry, spiteful, leering
expression; she spoke in a shrill, peevish tone, and wriggled nervously
on her chair. In eleven years of married life, Mrs. Murch had borne six
children, all of whom died before they were six months old. She lived
apart from her husband, who had something to do with the manufacture of
an Infants’ Food.

Fanny was requested to sing. She sat down at the piano, rattled a
prelude, and gave forth an echo of the music-halls:

‘_It’s all up with poor Tommy now. I shall never more be happy, I vow.
It’s just a week to-day Since my Sairey went away, And it’s all up with
poor Tommy now_.’

Mrs. Middlemist, who prided herself upon serious vocal powers, remarked
that comic singing should be confined to men.

‘You haven’t a bad voice, my dear, if you would only take pains with it.
Now sing us “For Ever and for Ever.”’

This song being the speaker’s peculiar glory, she was of course
requested to sing it herself, and, after entreaty, consented. Her eyes
turned upward, her fat figure rolling from side to side, her mouth very
wide open, Mrs. Middlemist did full justice to the erotic passion of
this great lyric:

‘_Perchawnce if we ‘ad never met, We ‘ad been spared this mad regret,
This hendless striving to forget--For hever--hand--for he-e-e-ver!_’

Mrs. Murch let her head droop sentimentally. Horace glanced at Fanny,
who, however, seemed absorbed in reflections as unsentimental as could

In the meanwhile, on a garden seat under the calm but misty sky, sat
Luckworth Crewe and Beatrice French. Crewe smoked a cigar placidly;
Beatrice was laying before him the suggestion of her great commercial
scheme, already confided to Fanny.

‘How does it strike you?’ she asked at length.

‘Not bad, old chap. There’s something in it, if you’re clever enough to
carry it through. And I shouldn’t wonder if you are.’ ‘Will you help to
set it going?’

‘Can’t help with money,’ Crewe replied.

‘Very well; will you help in other ways? Practical hints, and so on?’

‘Of course I will. Always ready to encourage merit in the money-making
line. What capital are you prepared to put into it?’

‘Not much. The public must supply the capital.’

‘A sound principle,’ Crewe laughed. ‘But I shouldn’t go on the old
lines. You didn’t think of starting a limited company? You’d find
difficulties. Now what you want to start is a--let us call it the South
London Dress Supply Association, or something of that kind. But you
won’t get to that all at once. You ought to have premises to begin

‘I’m aware of it.’

‘Can you raise a thousand or so?’

‘Yes, I could--if I chose.’

‘Now, look here. Your notion of the Fashion Club is a deuced good one,
and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be pretty easily started. Out of every
five hundred women, you can reckon on four hundred and ninety-nine being
fools; and there isn’t a female fool who wouldn’t read and think about
a circular which promised her fashionable dresses for an unfashionable
price. That’s a great and sound basis to start on. What I advise is,
that you should first of all advertise for a dress-making concern that
would admit a partner with a small capital. You’ll have between ten
and twelve hundred replies, but don’t be staggered; go through
them carefully, and select a shop that’s well situated, and doing a
respectable trade. Get hold of these people, and induce them to make
changes in their business to suit your idea. Then blaze away with
circulars, headed “South London Fashion Club;” send them round the whole
district, addressed to women. Every idiot of them will, at all events,
come and look at the shop; that can be depended upon; in itself no bad
advertisement. Arrange to have a special department--special entrance,
if possible--with “The Club” painted up. Yes, by jingo! Have a big room,
with comfortable chairs, and the women’s weekly papers lying about,
and smart dresses displayed on what-d’ye-call-’ems, like they have in
windows. Make the subscription very low at first, and give rattling good
value; never mind if you lose by it. Then, when you’ve got hold of a lot
of likely people, try them with the share project. By-the-bye, if you
lose no time, you can bring in the Jubilee somehow. Yes, start with the
“Jubilee Fashion Club.” I wonder nobody’s done it already.’

Beatrice was growing elated.

‘The public has to wait for its benefactors,’ she replied.

‘I’ll tell you what, would you like me to sketch you out a prospectus of
the Club?’

‘Yes, you might do that if you like. You won’t expect to be paid?’

‘Hang it! what do you take me for?’

‘Business is business,’ Miss. French remarked coldly.

‘So it is. And friendship is friendship. Got a match?’ He laughed. ‘No,
I suppose you haven’t.’

‘I’ll go and get you one if you like.’

‘There’s a good fellow. I’ll think in the meantime.’

Beatrice rose lazily, and was absent for several minutes. When she
returned, Crewe re-lit his cigar.

‘Why shouldn’t I start the shop on my own account?’ Beatrice asked.

‘You haven’t capital enough. A little place wouldn’t do.’

‘I think I can get Fanny to join me.’

‘Can you? What will young Lord have to say to that?’

‘Psh! That’s all fooling. It’ll never come to anything. Unless, of
course, the old man turned up his toes, and left the boy a tidy sum. But
he won’t just yet. I’ve told Fanny that if she’ll raise something on her
houses, I’ll guarantee her the same income she has now.’

‘Take my advice,’ said Crewe weightily, ‘and hook on to an established
business. Of course, you can change the name if you like; and there’d
have to be alterations, and painting up, to give a new look.’

‘It’s risky, dealing with strangers. How if they got hold of my idea,
and then refused to take me in?’

‘Well now, look here. After all, I’ll make a bargain with you, old chap.
If I can introduce you to the right people, and get you safely started,
will you give me all your advertising, on the usual commission?’

‘You mean, give it to Bullock and Freeman?’

‘No, I don’t. It’s a secret just yet, but I’m going to start for

Beatrice was silent. They exchanged a look in the gloom, and Crewe
nodded, in confirmation of his announcement.

‘How much have you got?’ Miss. French inquired carelessly.

‘Not much. Most of the capital is here.’ He touched his forehead. ‘Same
as with you.’

The young woman glanced at him again, and said in a lower voice:

‘You’d have had more by now, if--’

Crewe waited, puffing his cigar, but she did not finish.

‘Maybe,’ he replied impartially. ‘Maybe not.’

‘Don’t think I’m sorry,’ Beatrice hastened to add. ‘It was an idea, like
any other.’

‘Not half a bad idea. But there were obstacles.’

After a pause, Beatrice inquired:

‘Do you still think the same about women with money?’

‘Just the same,’ Crewe replied at once, though with less than his usual
directness; the question seemed to make him meditative. ‘Just the same.
Every man looks at it in his own way, of course. I’m not the sort
of chap to knuckle under to my wife; and there isn’t one woman in a
thousand, if she gave her husband a start, could help reminding him of
it. It’s the wrong way about. Let women be as independent as they
like as long as they’re not married. I never think the worse of them,
whatever they do that’s honest. But a wife must play second fiddle, and
think her husband a small god almighty--that’s my way of looking at the

Beatrice laughed scornfully.

‘All right. We shall see.--When do you start business?’

‘This side Christmas. End of September, perhaps.’

‘You think to snatch a good deal from B. & F., I daresay?’

Crewe nodded and smiled.

‘Then you’ll look after this affair for me?’ said Beatrice, with a
return to the tone of strict business.

‘Without loss of time. You shall be advised of progress. Of course I
must debit you with exes.’

‘All right. Mind you charge for all the penny stamps.’

‘Every one--don’t you forget it.’

He stood up, tilted forward on his toes, and stretched himself.

‘I’ll be trotting homewards. It’ll be time for by-by when I get to


Nancy was undisturbed by the promotion of Mary Woodruff. A short time
ago it would have offended her; she would have thought her dignity, her
social prospects, imperilled. She was now careless on that score, and
felt it a relief to cast off the show of domestic authority. Henceforth
her position would be like that of Horace. All she now desired was
perfect freedom from responsibility,--to be, as it were, a mere lodger
in the house, to come and go unquestioned and unrestrained by duties.

Thus, by aid of circumstance, had she put herself into complete accord
with the spirit of her time. Abundant privilege; no obligation. A
reference of all things to her sovereign will and pleasure. Withal, a
defiant rather than a hopeful mood; resentment of the undisguisable fact
that her will was sovereign only in a poor little sphere which she would
gladly have transcended.

Now-a-days she never went in the direction of Champion Hill, formerly
her favourite walk. If Jessica Morgan spoke of her acquaintances there,
she turned abruptly to another subject. She thought of the place as
an abode of arrogance and snobbery. She recalled with malicious
satisfaction her ill-mannered remark to Lionel Tarrant. Let him think of
her as he would; at all events he could no longer imagine her overawed
by his social prestige. The probability was that she had hurt him in a
sensitive spot; it might be hoped that the wound would rankle for a long

Her personal demeanour showed a change. So careful hitherto of feminine
grace and decorum, she began to affect a mannishness of bearing, a
bluntness of speech, such as found favour at De Crespigny Park. In a
few weeks she had resumed friendly intercourse with Mrs. Peachey and
her sisters, and spent an occasional evening at their house. Her father
asked no questions; she rarely saw him except at meals. A stranger must
have observed the signs of progressive malady in Mr. Lord’s face, but
Nancy was aware of nothing to cause uneasiness; she thought of him as
suffering a little from ‘gout;’ elderly people were of course subject
to such disorders. On most days he went to business; if he remained
at home, Mary attended him assiduously, and he would accept no other

Nancy was no longer inclined to study, and cared little for reading of
any sort. That new book on Evolution, which she had brought from the
library just before Jubilee Day, was still lying about; a dozen times
she had looked at it with impatience, and reminded herself that it must
be returned. Evolution! She already knew all about Darwinism, all she
needed to know. If necessary she could talk about it--oh, with an air.
But who wanted to talk about such things? After all, only priggish
people,--the kind of people who lived at Champion Hill. Or idiots like
Samuel Bennett Barmby, who bothered about the future of the world. What
was it to _her_--the future of the world? She wanted to live in the
present, to enjoy her youth. An evening like that she had spent in the
huge crowd, with a man like Crewe to amuse her with his talk, was worth
whole oceans of ‘culture.’

‘Culture’ she already possessed, abundance of it. The heap of books she
had read! Last winter she had attended a course of lectures, delivered
by ‘a young University gentleman with a tone of bland omniscience,
on ‘The History of Hellenic Civilisation;’ her written answers to the
little ‘test papers’ had been marked ‘very satisfactory.’ Was it not a
proof of culture achieved? Education must not encroach upon the years of
maturity. Nature marked the time when a woman should begin to live.

There was poor Jessica. As July drew on, Jessica began to look
cadaverous, ghostly. She would assuredly break down long before the time
of her examination. What a wretched, what an absurd existence! Her
home, too, was so miserable. Mrs. Morgan lay ill, unable to attend to
anything; if she could not have a change of air, it must soon be all
over with her. But they had no money, no chance of going to the seaside.

It happened at length that Mr. Lord saw Jessica one evening, when she
had come to spend an hour in Grove Lane. After her departure, he
asked Nancy what was the matter with the girl, and Nancy explained the

‘Well, why not take her with you, when you go away?’

‘I didn’t know that I was going away, father. Nothing has been said of

‘It’s your own business. I leave you to make what plans you like.’

Nancy reflected.

‘_You_ ought to have a change,’ she said considerately. ‘It would do you
good. Suppose we all go to Teignmouth? I should think that would suit

‘Why Teignmouth?’

‘I enjoyed it last year. And the lodgings were comfortable. We could
have the same, from the first week in August.’

‘How do you know?’

‘I wrote the other day, and asked,’ Nancy replied with a smile.

But Mr. Lord declined to leave home. Mary Woodruff did her best to
persuade him, until he angrily imposed silence. In a day or two he said
to Nancy:

‘If you wish to go to Teignmouth, take Jessica and her mother. People
mustn’t die for want of a five-pound note. Make your arrangements, and
let me know what money you’ll need.’

‘It’s very kind of you, father.’

Mr. Lord turned away. His daughter noticed that he walked feebly, and
she felt a moment’s compunction.

‘Father--you are not so well to-day.’

Without looking round, he replied that he would be well enough if left
alone; and Nancy did not venture to say more.

A few days later, she called in De Crespigny Park after dinnertime. Mrs.
Peachey and Fanny were at Brighton; Beatrice had preferred to stay in
London, being very busy with her great project. Whilst she talked of
it with Nancy, Peachey and Luckworth Crewe came in together. There was
sprightly conversation, in which the host, obviously glad of his wife’s
absence, took a moderate part. Presently, Miss. Lord and he found
themselves gossiping alone; the other two had moved aside, and, as a
look informed Nancy, were deep in confidential dialogue.

‘What do you think of that business?’ she asked her companion in an

‘I shouldn’t wonder if it answers,’ said the young man, speaking as
usual, with a soft, amiable voice. ‘Our friend is helping, and he
generally knows what he’s about.’

Crewe remained only for half-an-hour; on shaking hands with him, Nancy
made known that she was going to the seaside next Monday for a few
weeks, and the man of business answered only with ‘I hope you’ll enjoy
yourself.’ Soon afterwards, she took leave. At the junction of De
Crespigny Park and Grove Lane, some one approached her, and with no
great surprise Nancy saw that it was Crewe.

‘Been waiting for you,’ he said. ‘You remember you promised me another

‘Oh, it’s much too late.’

‘Of course it is. I didn’t mean now. But to-morrow.’

‘Impossible.’ She moved on, in the direction away from her home. ‘I
shall be with friends in the evening, the Morgans.’

‘Confound it! I had made up my mind to ask you for last Saturday, but
some country people nabbed me for the whole of that day. I took them up
the Monument, and up St Paul’s.’

‘I’ve never been up the Monument,’ said Nancy.

‘Never? Come to-morrow afternoon then. You can spare the afternoon.
Let’s meet early somewhere. Take a bus to London Bridge. I’ll be at the
north end of London Bridge at three o’clock.’

‘All right; I’ll be there,’ Nancy replied off-hand.

‘You really will? Three, sharp. I was never late at an appointment,
business or pleasure.’

‘Which do you consider this?’ asked his companion, with a shrewd glance.

‘Now that’s unkind. I came here to-night on business, though. You quite
understand that, didn’t you? I shouldn’t like you to make any mistake.
Business, pure and simple.’

‘Why, of course,’ replied Nancy, with an ingenuous air. ‘What else could
it be?’ And she added, ‘Don’t come any further. Ta-ta!’

Crewe went off into the darkness.

The next afternoon, Nancy alighted at London Bridge a full quarter of an
hour late. It had been raining at intervals through the day, and clouds
still cast a gloom over the wet streets. Crewe, quite insensible to
atmospheric influence, came forward with his wonted brisk step and
animated visage. At Miss. Lord’s side he looked rather more plebeian
than when walking by himself; his high-hat, not of the newest, utterly
misbecame his head, and was always at an unconventional angle, generally
tilting back; his clothes, of no fashionable cut, bore the traces of
perpetual hurry and multifarious impact. But he carried a perfectly new
and expensive umbrella, to which, as soon as he had shaken hands with
her, he drew Nancy’s attention.

‘A present this morning, from a friend of mine in the business. I ran
into his shop to get shelter. Upon my word, I had no intention; didn’t
think anything about it. However, he owed me an acknowledgment;
I’ve sent him three customers from our office since I saw him last.
By-the-bye, I shall have half a day at the seaside on Monday. There’s
a sale of building-plots down at Whitsand. The estate agents run a
complimentary special train for people going down to bid, and give a
lunch before the auction begins. Not bad business.’

‘Are _you_ going to bid?’ asked Nancy.

‘I’m going to have a look, at all events; and if I see anything that
takes my fancy--. Ever been to Whitsand? I’m told it’s a growing place.
I should like to get hold of a few advertising stations.--Where is it
you are going to on Monday? Teignmouth? I don’t know that part of the
country. Wish I could run down, but I shan’t have time. I’ve got my work
cut out for August and September. Would you like to come and see the
place where I think of opening shop?’

‘Is it far?’

‘No. We’ll walk round when we’ve been up the Monument. You don’t often
go about the City, I daresay. Nothing doing, of course, on a Saturday

Nancy made him moderate his pace, which was too quick for her. Part of
the pleasure she found in Crewe’s society came from her sense of being
so undeniably his superior; she liked to give him a sharp command,
and observe his ready obedience. To his talk she listened with a
good-natured, condescending smile, occasionally making a remark which
implied a more liberal view, a larger intelligence, than his. Thus, as
they stood for a moment to look down at the steamboat wharf, and Crewe
made some remark about the value of a cargo just being discharged, she
said carelessly:

‘I suppose that’s the view you take of everything? You rate everything
at market price.’

‘Marketable things, of course. But you know me well enough to
understand that I’m not always thinking of the shop. Wait till I’ve made
money.--Now then, clumsy!’

A man, leaning over the parapet by Nancy’s side, had pushed against her.
Thus addressed he glared at the speaker, but encountered a bellicose
look which kept him quiet.

‘I shall live in a big way,’ Crewe continued, as they walked on towards
Fish Street Hill. ‘Not for the swagger of it; I don’t care about that,
but because I’ve a taste for luxury. I shall have a country house, and
keep good horses. And I should like to have a little farm of my own, a
model farm; make my own butter and cheese, and know that I ate the real
thing. I shall buy pictures. Haven’t I told you I like pictures? Oh yes.
I shall go round among the artists, and encourage talent that hasn’t
made itself known.’

‘Can you recognise it?’ asked Nancy.

‘Well, I shall learn to. And I shall have my wife’s portrait painted by
some first-rate chap, never mind what it costs, and hung in the Academy.
That’s a great idea of mine--to see my wife’s portrait in the Academy.’

His companion laughed.

‘Take care, then, that your wife is ornamental.’

‘I’ll take precious good care of that!’ Crewe exclaimed merrily. ‘Do you
suppose I should dream of marrying a woman who wasn’t good-looking?’

‘Don’t shout, please. People can hear you.’

‘I beg your pardon.’ His voice sank to humility. ‘That’s a bad habit of
mine. But I was going to say--I went to the Academy this year just to
look at the portraits of men’s wives. There was nothing particular in
that line. Not a woman I should have felt particularly proud of. Tastes
differ, of course. Mine has altered a good deal in the last ten years. A
man can’t trust himself about women till he’s thirty or near it.’

‘Talk of something else,’ Nancy commanded.

‘Certainly. There’s the sun coming out. You see, I was afraid it would
keep on raining, and you would have an excuse for staying at home.’

‘I needed no excuse,’ said Nancy. ‘If I hadn’t wished to come, you may
be sure I should have said so.’

Crewe flashed a look at her.

‘Ah, that’s how I like to hear you speak! That does one good. Well,
here we are. People used to be fond of going up, they say, just to
pitch themselves down. A good deal of needless trouble, it seems to
me. Perhaps they gave themselves the off-chance of changing their minds
before they got to the top.’

‘Or wanted to see if life looked any better from up there,’ suggested

‘Or hoped somebody would catch them by the coat-tails, and settle a
pension on them out of pity.’

Thus jesting, they began the ascent. Crewe, whose spirits were at high
pressure, talked all the way up the winding stairs; on issuing into
daylight, he became silent, and they stood side by side, mute before the
vision of London’s immensity. Nancy began to move round the platform.
The strong west wind lashed her cheeks to a glowing colour; excitement
added brilliancy to her eyes. As soon as she had recovered from the
first impression, this spectacle of a world’s wonder served only to
exhilarate her; she was not awed by what she looked upon. In her conceit
of self-importance, she stood there, above the battling millions of men,
proof against mystery and dread, untouched by the voices of the past,
and in the present seeing only common things, though from an odd point
of view. Here her senses seemed to make literal the assumption by which
her mind had always been directed: that she--Nancy Lord--was the mid
point of the universe. No humility awoke in her; she felt the stirring
of envies, avidities, unavowable passions, and let them flourish

Crewe had his eyes fixed upon her; his lips parted hungrily.

‘Now _that’s_ how I should like to see you painted,’ he said all at
once. ‘Just like that! I never saw you looking so well. I believe you’re
the most beautiful girl to be found anywhere in this London!’

There was genuine emotion in his voice, and his sweeping gesture suited
the mood of vehemence. Nancy, having seen that the two or three other
people on the platform were not within hearing, gave an answer of which
the frankness surprised even herself.

‘Portraits for the Academy cost a great deal, you know.’

‘I know. But that’s what I’m working for. There are not many men down
yonder,’ he pointed over the City, ‘have a better head for money-making
than I have.’

‘Well, prove it,’ replied Nancy, and laughed as the wind caught her

‘How long will you give me?’

She made no answer, but walked to the side whence she could look
westward. Crewe followed close, his features still set in the hungry
look, his eyes never moving from her warm cheek and full lips.

‘What it must be,’ she said, ‘to have about twenty thousand a year!’

The man of business gave a gasp. In the same moment he had to clutch at
his hat, lest it should be blown away.

‘Twenty thousand a year?’ he echoed. ‘Well, it isn’t impossible. Men get
beyond that, and a good deal beyond it. But it’s a large order.’

‘Of course it is. But what was it you said? The most beautiful girl in
all London? That’s a large order, too, isn’t it? How much is she worth?’

‘You’re talking for the joke now,’ said Crewe. ‘I don’t like to hear
that kind of thing, either. You never think in that way.’

‘My thoughts are my own. I may think as I choose.’

‘Yes. But you have thoughts above money.’

‘Have I? How kind of you to say so.--I’ve had enough of this wind; we’ll
go down.’

She led the way, and neither of them spoke till they were in the street
again. Nancy felt her hair.

‘Am I blown to pieces?’ she asked.

‘No, no; you’re all right. Now, will you walk through the City?’

‘Where’s the place you spoke of?’

‘Farringdon Street. That’ll bring you round to Blackfriars Bridge, when
you want to go home. But there’s plenty of time yet.’

So they rambled aimlessly by the great thoroughfares, and by hidden
streets of which Nancy had never heard, talking or silent as the mood
dictated. Crewe had stories to tell of this and that thriving firm, of
others struggling in obscurity or falling from high estate; to him the
streets of London were so many chapters of romance, but a romance always
of to-day, for he neither knew nor cared about historic associations.
Vast sums sounded perpetually on his lips; he glowed with envious
delight in telling of speculations that had built up great fortunes.
He knew the fabulous rents that were paid for sites that looked
insignificant; he repeated anecdotes of calls made from Somerset House
upon men of business, who had been too modest in returning the statement
of their income; he revived legends of dire financial disaster, and
of catastrophe barely averted by strange expedients. To all this Nancy
listened with only moderate interest; as often as not, she failed to
understand the details which should have excited her wonder. None the
less, she received an impression of knowledge, acuteness, power, in the
speaker; and this was decidedly pleasant.

‘Here’s the place where I think of starting for myself,’ said Crewe, as
he paused at length before a huge building in Farringdon Street.

‘This?--Can you afford such a rent?’

Her companion burst into laughter.

‘I don’t mean the whole building. Two or three rooms, that’s all,
somewhere upstairs.’

Nancy made a jest of her mistake.

‘An advertising agent doesn’t want much space,’ said Crewe. ‘I know
a chap who’s doing a pretty big business in one room, not far from
here.--Well, we’ve had a long walk; now you must rest a bit, and have a
cup of tea.’

‘I thought you were going to propose champagne.’

‘Oh--if you like--’

They went to a restaurant in Fleet Street, and sat for half an hour over
the milder beverage. Crewe talked of his projects, his prospects; and
Nancy, whom the afternoon had in truth fatigued a little, though her
mind was still excited, listened without remark.

‘Well,’ he said at length, leaning towards her, ‘how long do you give

She looked away, and kept silence.

‘Two years:--just to make a solid start; to show that something worth
talking ‘about is to come?’

‘I’ll think about it.’

He kept his position, and gazed at her.

‘I know it isn’t money that would tempt you.’ He spoke in a very low
voice, though no one was within earshot. ‘Don’t think I make any mistake
about _that_! But I have to show you that there’s something in me.
I wouldn’t marry any woman that thought I made love to her out of

Nancy began to draw on her gloves, and smiled, just biting her lower

‘Will you give me a couple of years, from to-day? I won’t bother you.
It’s honour bright!’

‘I’ll think about it,’ Nancy repeated.

‘Whilst you’re away?’

‘Yes, whilst I’m away at Teignmouth.’

‘And tell me when you come back?’

‘Tell you--how long. Yes.’

And she rose.


From the mouth of Exe to the mouth of Teign the coast is uninteresting.
Such beauty as it once possessed has been destroyed by the railway.
Cliffs of red sandstone drop to the narrow beach, warm between the blue
of sky and sea, but without grandeur, and robbed of their native
grace by navvy-hewing, which for the most part makes of them a mere
embankment: their verdure stripped away, their juttings tunnelled, along
their base the steel parallels of smoky traffic. Dawlish and Teignmouth
have in themselves no charm; hotel and lodging-house, shamed by the
soft pure light that falls about them, look blankly seaward, hiding what
remains of farm or cottage in the older parts. Ebb-tide uncovers no fair
stretch of sand, and at flood the breakers are thwarted on a bulwark of
piled stone, which supports the railway, or protects a promenade.

But inland these discontents are soon forgotten; there amid tilth and
pasture, gentle hills and leafy hollows of rural Devon, the eye rests
and the mind is soothed. By lanes innumerable, deep between banks of
fern and flower; by paths along the bramble-edge of scented meadows;
by the secret windings of copse and brake and stream-worn valley--a way
lies upward to the long ridge of Haldon, where breezes sing among the
pines, or sweep rustling through gorse and bracken. Mile after mile
of rustic loveliness, ever and anon the sea-limits blue beyond grassy
slopes. White farms dozing beneath their thatch in harvest sunshine;
hamlets forsaken save by women and children, by dogs and cats and
poultry, the labourers afield. Here grow the tall foxgloves, bending a
purple head in the heat of noon; here the great bells of the convolvulus
hang thick from lofty hedges, massing their pink and white against dark
green leafage; here amid shadowed undergrowth trail the long fronds
of lustrous hartstongue; wherever the eye falls, profusion of summer’s
glory. Here, in many a nook carpeted with softest turf, canopied with
tangle of leaf and bloom, solitude is safe from all intrusion--unless it
be that of flitting bird, or of some timid wild thing that rustles for a
moment and is gone. From dawn to midnight, as from midnight to dawn, one
who would be alone with nature might count upon the security of these
bosks and dells.

By Nancy Lord and her companions such pleasures were unregarded. For the
first few days after their arrival at Teignmouth, they sat or walked on
the promenade, walked or sat on the pier, sat or walked on the Den--a
long, wide lawn, decked about with shrubs and flower-beds, between
sea-fronting houses and the beach. Nancy had no wish to exert herself,
for the weather was hot; after her morning bathe with Jessica, she found
amusement enough in watching the people--most of whom were here simply
to look at each other, or in listening to the band, which played
selections from Sullivan varied with dance music, or in reading a novel
from the book-lender’s,--that is to say, gazing idly at the page, and
letting such significance as it possessed float upon her thoughts.

She was pleasantly conscious that the loungers who passed by, male and
female, gave something of attention to her face and costume. Without
attempting to rival the masterpieces of fashion which invited envy or
wonder from all observers, she thought herself nicely dressed, and had
in fact, as always, made good use of her father’s liberality. Her taste
in garments had a certain timidity that served her well; by avoiding the
extremes of mode, and in virtue of her admirable figure, she took the
eye of those who looked for refinement rather than for extravagance. The
unconsidered grace of her bearing might be recognised by all whom such
things concerned; it by no means suggested that she came from a small
house in Camberwell. In her companions, to be sure, she was unfortunate;
but the over-modest attire and unimpressive persons of Mrs. Morgan and
Jessica at least did her the office of relief by contrast.

Nancy had made this reflection; she was not above it. Yet her actual
goodness of heart saved her from ever feeling ashamed of the Morgans. It
gratified her to think that she was doing them a substantial kindness;
but for her, they would have dragged through a wretched summer in their
unwholesome, jimcrack house, without a breath of pure air, without a
sight of the free heaven. And to both of them that would probably have
meant a grave illness.

Mrs. Morgan was a thin, tremulous woman, with watery eyes and a singular
redness about the prominent part of her face, which seemed to indicate a
determination of blood to the nose. All her married life had been spent
in a cheerless struggle to maintain the externals of gentility. Not
that she was vain or frivolous--indeed her natural tendencies made for
homeliness in everything--but, by birth and by marriage connected with
genteel people, she felt it impossible to abandon that mode of living
which is supposed to distinguish the educated class from all beneath it.
She had brought into the world three sons and three daughters; of the
former, two were dead, and of the latter, one,--in each case, poverty of
diet having proved fatal to a weak constitution. For close upon thirty
years the family had lived in houses of which the rent was out of all
reasonable proportion to their means; at present, with a total income
of one hundred and sixty pounds (Mr. Morgan called himself a commission
agent, and seldom had anything to do), they paid in rent and rates a
matter of fifty-five, and bemoaned the fate which neighboured them with
people only by courtesy to be called gentlefolk. Of course they kept
a servant,--her wages nine pounds a year. Whilst the mother and elder
daughter were at Teignmouth, Mr Morgan, his son, and the younger girl
felt themselves justified in making up for lack of holiday by an extra
supply of butcher’s meat.

Well-meaning, but with as little discretion in this as in other things,
Mrs. Morgan allowed scarce an hour of the day to pass without uttering
her gratitude to Nancy Lord for the benefit she was enjoying. To escape
these oppressive thanks, Nancy did her best never to be alone with the
poor lady; but a _tete-a-tete_ was occasionally unavoidable, as, for
instance, on the third or fourth day after their arrival, when Mrs.
Morgan had begged Nancy’s company for a walk on the Den, whilst Jessica
wrote letters. At the end of a tedious hour Jessica joined them, and her
face had an unwonted expression. She beckoned her friend apart.

‘You’ll be surprised. Who do you think is here?’

‘No one that will bore us, I hope.’

‘Mr. Tarrant. I met him near the post-office, and he stopped me.’

Nancy frowned.

‘Are they all here again?’

‘No; he says he’s alone.--One minute, mamma; please excuse us.’

‘He was surprised to see you?’ said Nancy, after reflecting.

‘He said so. But--I forgot to tell you--in a letter to Mrs. Baker I
spoke of our plans. She had written to me to propose a pupil for after
the holidays.--Perhaps she didn’t mention it to Mr. Tarrant.’

‘Evidently not!’ Nancy exclaimed, with some impatience. ‘Why should you
doubt his word?’

‘I can’t help thinking’--Jessica smiled archly--‘that he has come just
to meet--somebody.’

‘Somebody? Who do you mean?’ asked her friend, with a look of sincere

‘I may be mistaken’--a glance completed the suggestion.


For the rest of that day the subject was unmentioned. Nancy kept rather
to herself, and seemed meditative. Next morning she was in the same
mood. The tide served for a bathe at eleven o’clock; afterwards, as
the girls walked briskly to and fro near the seat where Mrs. Morgan had
established herself with a volume of Browning,--Jessica insisted on her
reading Browning, though the poor mother protested that she scarcely
understood a word,--they came full upon the unmistakable presence of Mr.
Lionel Tarrant. Miss. Morgan, in acknowledging his salute, offered her
hand; it was by her that the young man had stopped. Miss. Lord only bent
her head, and that slightly. Tarrant expected more, but his half-raised
hand dropped in time, and he directed his speech to Jessica. He had
nothing to say but what seemed natural and civil; the dialogue--Nancy
remained mute--occupied but a few minutes, and Tarrant went his way,
sauntering landwards.

As Mrs. Morgan had observed the meeting, it was necessary to offer her
an explanation. But Jessica gave only the barest facts concerning their
acquaintance, and Nancy spoke as though she hardly knew him.

The weather was oppressively hot; in doors or out, little could be done
but sit or lie in enervated attitudes, a state of things accordant with
Nancy’s mood. Till late at night she watched the blue starry sky from
her open window, seeming to reflect, but in reality wafted on a stream
of fancies and emotions. Jessica’s explanation of the arrival of Lionel
Tarrant had strangely startled her; no such suggestion would have
occurred to her own mind. Yet now, she only feared that it might not
be true. A debilitating climate and absolute indolence favoured that
impulse of lawless imagination which had first possessed her on the
evening of Jubilee Day. With luxurious heedlessness she cast aside every
thought that might have sobered her; even as she at length cast off all
her garments, and lay in the warm midnight naked upon her bed.

The physical attraction of which she had always been conscious in
Tarrant’s presence seemed to have grown stronger since she had dismissed
him from her mind. Comparing him with Luckworth Crewe, she felt only a
contemptuous distaste for the coarse vitality and vigour, whereto
she had half surrendered herself, when hopeless of the more ambitious

Rising early, she went out before breakfast, and found that a little
rain had fallen. Grass and flowers were freshened; the air had an
exquisite clearness, and a coolness which struck delightfully on the
face, after the close atmosphere within doors. She had paused to watch a
fishing-boat off shore, when a cheery voice bade her ‘good-morning,’ and
Tarrant stepped to her side.

‘You are fond of this place,’ he said.

‘Not particularly.’

‘Then why do you choose it?’

‘It does for a holiday as well as any other.’

He was gazing at her, and with the look which Nancy resented, the look
which made her feel his social superiority. He seemed to observe her
features with a condescending gratification. Though totally ignorant of
his life and habits, she felt a conviction that he had often bestowed
this look upon girls of a class below his own.

‘How do you like those advertisements of soaps and pills along the
pier?’ he asked carelessly.

‘I see no harm in them.’

Perversity prompted her answer, but at once she remembered Crewe, and
turned away in annoyance. Tarrant was only the more good-humoured.

‘You like the world as it is? There’s wisdom in that. Better be in
harmony with one’s time, advertisements and all.’ He added, ‘Are you
reading for an exam?’

‘I? You are confusing me with Miss. Morgan.’

‘Oh, not for a moment! I couldn’t possibly confuse you with any one
else. I know Miss. Morgan is studying professionally; but I thought you
were reading for your own satisfaction, as so many women do now-a-days.’

The distinction was flattering. Nancy yielded to the charm of his voice
and conversed freely. It began to seem not impossible that he found some
pleasure in her society. Now and then he dropped a word that made her
pulses flutter; his eyes were constantly upon her face.

‘Don’t you go off into the country sometimes?’ he inquired, when she had
turned homewards.

‘We are thinking of having a drive to-day.’

‘And I shall most likely have a ride; we may meet.’

Nancy ordered a carriage for the afternoon, and with her friends drove
up the Teign valley; but they did not meet Tarrant. But next morning
he joined them on the pier, and this time Jessica had no choice but to
present him to her mother. Nancy felt annoyed that this should have come
about; Tarrant, she supposed, would regard poor Mrs. Morgan with secret
ridicule. Yet, if that were his disposition, he concealed it perfectly;
no one could have behaved with more finished courtesy. He seated
himself by Mrs. Morgan, and talked with her of the simplest things in a
pleasant, kindly humour. Yesterday, so he made known, he had ridden to
Torquay and back, returning after sunset. This afternoon he was going by
train to Exeter, to buy some books.

Again he strolled about with Nancy, and talked of idle things with an
almost excessive amiability. As the girl listened, a languor crept upon
her, a soft and delicious subdual of the will to dreamy luxury. Her
eyes were fixed on the shadows cast by her own figure and that of her
companion. The black patches by chance touched. She moved so as to part
them, and then changed her position so that they touched again--so that
they blended.


Nancy had written to her father, a short letter but affectionate,
begging him to let her know whether the improvement in his health, of
which he had spoken before she left home, still continued. The answer
came without delay. On the whole, said Mr. Lord, he was doing well
enough; no need whatever to trouble about him. He wrote only a few
lines, but closed with ‘love to you, my dear child,’ an unwonted

At the same time there came a letter from Horace.

‘You will be surprised,’ it began, ‘at the address I write from. As you
know, I had planned to go to Brighton; but on the day before my holiday
commenced I heard from F. F., saying that she and Mrs. Peachey had had a
quarrel, and she was tired of Brighton, and was coming home. So I waited
a day or two, and then, as I had half promised, I went to see Mrs. D.
We had a long talk, and it ended in my telling her about F., and all the
row there’s been. Perhaps you will think I had better have kept it to
myself, but Mrs. D. and I are on first-rate terms, and she seems
to understand me better than any one I ever met. We talked about my
holiday, and she persuaded me to come to Scarborough, where she herself
was going for a week or two. It’s rather an expensive affair, but worth
the money. Of course I have lodgings of my own. Mrs. D. is at a big
hotel, where friends of hers are staying. I have been introduced to two
or three people, great swells, and I’ve had lunch with Mrs. D. at the
hotel twice. This kind of life suits me exactly. I don’t think I get on
badly with the swells. Of course I say not a word about my position, and
of course nobody would think of asking questions. You would like this
place; I rather wish you were here. Of course father thinks I have come
on my own hook. It’s very awkward having to keep a secret of this kind;
I must try and persuade Mrs. D. to have a talk with father. But one
thing I can tell you,--I feel pretty sure that she will get me, somehow
or other, out of that beastly City life; she’s always talking of things
I might do. But not a word to any one about all this--be sure.’

This news caused Nancy to ponder for a long time. The greater part of
the morning she spent at home, and in her own room; after lunch, she sat
idly on the promenade, little disposed for conversation.

It was the second day since Tarrant had told her that he was going to
Exeter, and they had not again met; the Morgans had not seen him either.
The next morning, however, as all three were sitting in one of their
favourite places, Tarrant approached them. Mrs. Morgan, who was
fluttered by the natural supposition of a love affair between Miss. Lord
and the interesting young man, made it easy for them to talk together.

‘Did you get your books?’ Nancy asked, when silence followed on

‘Yes, and spent half a day with them in a favourite retreat of mine,
inland. It’s a very beautiful spot. I should like you to see it. Indeed,
you ought to.’

Nancy turned her eyes to the sea.

‘We might walk over there one afternoon,’ he added.

‘Mrs. Morgan can’t walk far.’

‘Why should we trouble her? Are you obliged to remain under Mrs.
Morgan’s wing?’

It was said jestingly, but Nancy felt piqued.

‘Certainly not. I am quite independent.’

‘So I should have supposed. Then why not come?’

He seemed perfectly self-possessed, but the voice was not quite his own.
To Nancy, her eyes still looking straight forward, it sounded as though
from a distance; it had an effect upon her nerves similar to that she
had experienced three days ago, when they were walking about the pier.
Her hands fell idly; she leaned back more heavily on the seat; a weight
was on her tongue.

‘A country ramble of an hour or two,’ pursued the voice, which itself
had become languorous. ‘Surely you are sometimes alone? It isn’t
necessary to give a detailed account of your time?’

She answered impatiently. ‘Of course not.’ In this moment her thoughts
had turned to Luckworth Crewe, and she was asking herself why this
invitation of Tarrant’s affected her so very differently from anything
she had felt when Crewe begged her to meet him in London. With him
she could go anywhere, enjoying a genuine independence, a complete
self-confidence, thinking her unconventional behaviour merely good fun.
Tarrant’s proposal startled her. She was not mistress of the situation,
as when trifling with Crewe. A sense of peril caused her heart to beat

‘This afternoon, then,’ the voice was murmuring.

She answered mechanically. ‘It’s going to rain, I think.’

‘I think not. But, if so, to-morrow.’

‘To-morrow is Sunday.’

‘Yes. Monday, then.’

Nancy heard him smother a laugh. She wished to look at him, but could

‘It won’t rain,’ he continued, still with the ease of one who speaks of
everyday matters. ‘We shall see, at all events. Perhaps you will want to
change your book at the library.’ A novel lay on her lap. ‘We’ll leave
it an open possibility--to meet there about three o’clock.’

Nancy pointed out to sea, and asked where the steamer just passing might
be bound for. Her companion readily turned to this subject.

The rain--she half hoped for it--did not come. By luncheon-time every
doubtful cloud had vanished. Before sitting down to table, she observed
the sky at the open window.

‘Lovely weather!’ sighed Mrs. Morgan behind her. ‘But for you, dear
Nancy, I should have been dreaming and wishing--oh, how vainly!--in the
stifling town.’

‘We’ll have another drive this afternoon,’ Nancy declared.

‘Oh, how delightful! But pray, pray, not on our account--’

‘Jessica,’--Nancy turned to her friend, who had just entered the
room,--‘we’ll have the carriage at three. And a better horse than last
time; I’ll take good care of that. Pen, ink, and paper!’ she cried
joyously. ‘The note shall go round at once.’

‘You’re a magnificent sort of person,’ said Jessica. ‘Some day, no
doubt, you’ll keep a carriage and pair of your own.’

‘Shan’t I, just! And drive you down to Burlington House, for your exams.
By-the-bye, does a female Bachelor of Arts lose her degree if she gets

Nancy was sprightlier than of late. Her mood maintained itself
throughout the first half of the drive, then she seemed to be overcome
by a sudden weariness, ceased to talk, and gave only a listless look at
things which interested her companions. By when they reached home again,
she had a pale troubled countenance. Until dinner nothing more was seen
of her, and after the meal she soon excused herself on the plea of a

Again there passed two days, Sunday and Monday, without Tarrant’s
appearing. Mrs. Morgan and Jessica privately talked much of the
circumstance. Sentimental souls, they found this topic inexhaustible;
Jessica, having her mind thus drawn away from Burlington House,
benefited not a little by the mystery of her friend’s position;
she thought, however, that Nancy might have practised a less severe
reticence. To Mrs. Morgan it never occurred that so self-reliant a
young woman as Miss. Lord stood in need of matronly counsel, of strict
chaperonage; she would have deemed it an impertinence to allow herself
the most innocent remark implying such a supposition.

On Wednesday afternoon, about three o’clock, Nancy walked alone to the
library. There, looking at books and photographs in the window, stood
Lionel Tarrant. He greeted her as usual, seemed not to remark the hot
colour in her cheeks, and stepped with her into the shop. She had meant
to choose a novel, but, with Tarrant looking on, felt constrained to
exhibit her capacity for severe reading. The choice of grave works was
not large, and she found it difficult to command her thoughts even for
the perusal of titles; however, she ultimately discovered a book that
promised anything but frivolity, Helmholtz’s ‘Lectures on Scientific
Subjects,’ and at this she clutched.

Two loudly-dressed women were at the same time searching the shelves.

‘I wonder whether this is a pretty book?’ said one to the other, taking
down a trio of volumes.

‘Oh, it looks as if it might be pretty,’ returned her friend, examining
the cover.

They faced to the person behind the counter.

‘Is this a pretty book?’ one of them inquired loftily.

‘Oh yes, madam, that’s a very pretty book--very pretty.’

Nancy exchanged a glance with her companion and smiled. When they were
outside again Tarrant asked:

‘Have you found a pretty book?’

She showed the title of her choice.

‘Merciful heavens! You mean to read that? The girls of to-day! What mere
man is worthy of them? But--I must rise to the occasion. We’ll have a
chapter as we rest.’

Insensibly, Nancy had followed the direction he chose. His words took
for granted that she was going into the country with him.

‘My friends are on the pier,’ she said, abruptly stopping.

‘Where doubtless they will enjoy themselves. Let me carry your book,
please. Helmholtz is rather heavy.’

‘Thanks, I can carry it very well. I shall turn this way.’

‘No, no. My way this afternoon.’

Nancy stood still, looking up the street that led towards the sea.
She was still bright-coloured; her lips had a pathetic expression, a
child-like pouting.

‘There was an understanding,’ said Tarrant, with playful firmness.

‘Not for to-day.’

‘No. For the day when you disappointed me. The day after, I didn’t think
it worth while to come here; yesterday I came, but felt no surprise that
I didn’t meet you. To-day I had a sort of hope. This way.’

She followed, and they walked for several minutes in silence.

‘Will you let me look at Helmholtz?’ said the young man at length. ‘Most
excellent book, of course. “Physiological Causes of Harmony in Music,”
 “Interaction of Natural Forces,” “Conservation of Force.”--You enjoy
this kind of thing?’

‘One must know something about it.’

‘I suppose so. I used to grind at science because everybody talked
science. In reality I loathed it, and now I read only what I like.
Life’s too short for intellectual make-believe. It is too short for
anything but enjoyment. Tell me what you read for pure pleasure.

They had left the streets, and were pursuing a road bordered with
gardens, gardens of glowing colour, sheltered amid great laurels,
shadowed by stately trees; the air was laden with warm scents of flower
and leaf. On an instinct of resistance, Nancy pretended that the
exact sciences were her favourite study. She said it in the tone
of superiority which habit had made natural to her in speaking of
intellectual things. And Tarrant appeared to accept her declaration
without scepticism; but, a moment after, he turned the talk upon novels.

Thus, for half an hour and more, they strolled on by upward ways, until
Teignmouth lay beneath them, and the stillness of meadows all about.
Presently Tarrant led from the beaten road into a lane all but overgrown
with grass. He began to gather flowers, and offered them to Nancy.
Personal conversation seemed at an end; they were enjoying the brilliant
sky and the peaceful loveliness of earth. They exchanged simple, natural
thoughts, or idle words in which was no thought at all.

Before long, they came to an old broken gate, half open; it was the
entrance to a narrow cartway, now unused, which descended windingly
between high thick hedges. Ruts of a foot in depth, baked hard by
summer, showed how miry the track must be in the season of rain.

‘This is our way,’ said Tarrant, his hand on the lichened wood. ‘Better
than the pier or the promenade, don’t you think?’

‘But we have gone far enough.’

Nancy drew back into the lane, looked at her flowers, and then shaded
her eyes with them to gaze upward.

‘Almost. Another five minutes, and you will see the place I told you of.
You can’t imagine how beautiful it is.’

‘Another day--’

‘We are all but there--’

He seemed regretfully to yield; and Nancy yielded in her turn. She
felt a sudden shame in the thought of having perhaps betrayed timidity.
Without speaking, she passed the gate.

The hedge on either side was of hazel and dwarf oak, of hawthorn and
blackthorn, all intertwined with giant brambles, and with briers
which here and there met overhead. High and low, blackberries hung in
multitudes, swelling to purple ripeness. Numberless the trailing and
climbing plants. Nancy’s skirts rustled among the greenery; her cheeks
were touched, as if with a caress, by many a drooping branchlet; in
places, Tarrant had to hold the tangle above her while she stooped to

And from this they emerged into a small circular space, where the
cartway made a turn at right angles and disappeared behind thickets.
They were in the midst of a plantation; on every side trees closed about
them, with a low and irregular hedge to mark the borders of the grassy
road. Nancy’s eyes fell at once upon a cluster of magnificent foxgloves,
growing upon a bank which rose to the foot of an old elm; beside
the foxgloves lay a short-hewn trunk, bedded in the ground, thickly
overgrown with mosses, lichens, and small fungi.

‘Have I misled you?’ said Tarrant, watching her face with frank

‘No, indeed you haven’t. This is very beautiful!’

‘I discovered it last year, and spent hours here alone. I couldn’t ask
you to come and see it then,’ he added, laughing.

‘It is delightful!’

‘Here’s your seat,--who knows how many years it has waited for you?’

She sat down upon the old trunk. About the roots of the elm above grew
masses of fern, and beneath it a rough bit of the bank was clothed
with pennywort, the green discs and yellowing fruity spires making
an exquisite patch of colour. In the shadow of bushes near at hand
hartstongue abounded, with fronds hanging to the length of an arm.

‘Now,’ said Tarrant, gaily, ‘you shall have some blackberries. And he
went to gather them, returning in a few minutes with a large leaf
full. He saw that Nancy, meanwhile, had taken up the book from where he
dropped it to the ground; it lay open on her lap.

‘Helmholtz! Away with him!’

‘No; I have opened at something interesting.’

She spoke as though possession of the book were of vital importance to
her. Nevertheless, the fruit was accepted, and she drew off her gloves
to eat it. Tarrant seated himself on the ground, near her, and gradually
fell into a half-recumbent attitude.

‘Won’t you have any?’ Nancy asked, without looking at him.

‘One or two, if you will give me them.’

She chose a fine blackberry, and held it out. Tarrant let it fall into
his palm, and murmured, ‘You have a beautiful hand.’ When, a moment
after, he glanced at her, she seemed to be reading Helmholtz.

The calm of the golden afternoon could not have been more profound.
Birds twittered softly in the wood, and if a leaf rustled, it was
only at the touch of wings. Earth breathed its many perfumes upon the
slumberous air.

‘You know,’ said Tarrant, after a long pause, and speaking as though he
feared to break the hush, ‘that Keats once stayed at Teignmouth.’

Nancy did not know it, but said ‘Yes.’ The name of Keats was familiar
to her, but of his life she knew hardly anything, of his poetry very
little. Her education had been chiefly concerned with names.

‘Will you read me a paragraph of Helmholtz?’ continued the other,
looking at her with a smile. ‘Any paragraph, the one before you.’

She hesitated, but read at length, in an unsteady voice, something about
the Conservation of Force. It ended in a nervous laugh.

‘Now I’ll read something to you,’ said Tarrant. And he began to repeat,
slowly, musically, lines of verse which his companion had never heard:

‘_O what can ail thee, Knight-at-arms, Alone and palely loitering? The
sedge has wither’d from the lake, And no birds sing_.’

He went through the poem; Nancy the while did not stir. It was as
though he murmured melody for his own pleasure, rather than recited to
a listener; but no word was inaudible. Nancy knew that his eyes rested
upon her; she wished to smile, yet could not. And when he ceased, the
silence held her motionless.

‘Isn’t it better?’ said Tarrant, drawing slightly nearer to her.

‘Of course it is.’

‘I used to know thousands of verses by heart.’

‘Did you ever write any?’

‘Half-a-dozen epics or so, when I was about seventeen. Yet, I don’t come
of a poetical family. My father--’

He stopped abruptly, looked into Nancy’s face with a smile, and said in
a tone of playfulness:

‘Do you remember asking me whether I had anything to do with--’

Nancy, flushing over all her features, exclaimed, ‘Don’t! please don’t!
I’m ashamed of myself!’

‘I didn’t like it. But we know each other better now. You were quite
right. That was how my grandfather made his money. My father, I believe,
got through most of it, and gave no particular thought to me. His
mother--the old lady whom you know--had plenty of her own--to be mine,
she tells me, some day. Do you wish to be forgiven for hurting my
pride?’ he added.

‘I don’t know what made me say such a thing--’

She faltered the words; she felt her will subdued. Tarrant reached a
hand, and took one of hers, and kissed it; then allowed her to draw it

‘Now will you give me another blackberry?’

The girl was trembling; a light shone in her eyes. She offered the leaf
with fruit in it; Tarrant, whilst choosing, touched the blue veins of
her wrist with his lips.

‘What are you going to do?’ she asked presently. ‘I mean, what do you
aim at in life?’

‘Enjoyment. Why should I trouble about anything else. I should be
content if life were all like this: to look at a beautiful face, and
listen to a voice that charms me, and touch a hand that makes me thrill
with such pleasure as I never knew.’

‘It’s waste of time.’

‘Oh, never time was spent so well! Look at me again like that--with the
eyes half-closed, and the lips half-mocking. Oh, the exquisite lips! If
I might--if I might--’

He did not stir from his posture of languid ease, but Nancy, with a
quick movement, drew a little away from him, then rose.

‘It’s time to go back,’ she said absently.

‘No, no; not yet. Let me look at you for a few minutes more!’

She began to walk slowly, head bent.

‘Well then, to-morrow, or the day after. The place will be just as
beautiful, and you even more. The sea-air makes you lovelier from day to

Nancy looked back for an instant. Tarrant followed, and in the deep
leafy way he again helped her to pass the briers. But their hands never
touched, and the silence was unbroken until they had issued into the
open lane.


The lodgings were taken for three weeks, and more than half the time had
now elapsed.

Jessica, who declared herself quite well and strong again, though her
face did not bear out the assertion, was beginning to talk of matters
examinational once more. Notwithstanding protests, she brought forth
from their hiding-place sundry arid little manuals and black-covered
notebooks; her thoughts were divided between algebraic formulae and
Nancy’s relations with Lionel Tarrant. Perhaps because no secret was
confided to her, she affected more appetite for the arid little books
than she really felt. Nancy would neither speak of examinations, nor
give ear when they were talked about; she, whether consciously or not,
was making haste to graduate in quite another school.

On the morning after her long walk with Tarrant, she woke before
sunrise, and before seven o’clock had left the house. A high wind and
hurrying clouds made the weather prospects uncertain. She strayed
about the Den, never losing sight for more than a minute or two of the
sea-fronting house where Tarrant lived. But no familiar form approached
her, and she had to return to breakfast unrewarded for early rising.

Through the day she was restless and silent, kept alone as much as
possible, and wore a look which, as the hours went on, darkened from
anxiety to ill-humour. She went to bed much earlier than usual.

At eleven next morning, having lingered behind her friends, she found
Tarrant in conversation with Mrs. Morgan and Jessica on the pier. His
greeting astonished her; it had precisely the gracious formality of a
year ago; a word or two about the weather, and he resumed his talk
with Miss. Morgan--its subject, the educational value of the classics.
Obliged to listen, Nancy suffered an anguish of resentful passion. For
a quarter of an hour she kept silence, then saw the young man take leave
and saunter away with that air which, in satire, she had formerly styled

And then passed three whole days, during which Lionel was not seen.

The evening of the fourth, between eight and nine o’clock, found
Nancy at the door of the house which her thoughts had a thousand times
visited. A servant, in reply to inquiry, told her that Mr Tarrant was in
London; he would probably return to-morrow.

She walked idly away--and, at less than a hundred yards’ distance,
met Tarrant himself. His costume showed that he had just come from the
railway station. Nancy would gladly have walked straight past him, but
the tone in which he addressed her was a new surprise, and she stood
in helpless confusion. He had been to London--called away on sudden

‘I thought of writing--nay, I did write, but after all didn’t post the
letter. For a very simple reason--I couldn’t remember your address.’

And he laughed so naturally, that the captive walked on by his side,
unresisting. Their conversation lasted only a few minutes, then Nancy
resolutely bade him good-night, no appointment made for the morrow.

A day of showers, then a day of excessive heat. They saw each other
several times, but nothing of moment passed. The morning after they met
before breakfast.

‘To-morrow is our last day,’ said Nancy.

‘Yes, Mrs. Morgan told me.’ Nancy herself had never spoken of departure.
‘This afternoon we’ll go up the hill again.’

‘I don’t think I shall care to walk so far. Look at the mist; it’s going
to be dreadfully hot again.’

Tarrant was in a mood of careless gaiety; his companion appeared to
struggle against listlessness, and her cheek had lost its wonted colour.

‘You have tea at four or five, I suppose. Let us go after that, when the
heat of the day is over.’

To this, after various objections, Nancy consented. Through the hours
of glaring sunshine she stayed at home, lying inert, by an open window.
Over the tea-cups she was amiable, but dreamy. When ready to go out, she
just looked into the sitting-room, where Jessica bent over books, and
said cheerfully:

‘I may be a little late for dinner. On no account wait--I forbid it!’

And so, without listening to the answer, she hurried away.

In the upward climbing lanes, no breeze yet tempered the still air; the
sky of misted sapphire showed not a cloud from verge to verge. Tarrant,
as if to make up for his companion’s silence, talked ceaselessly, and
always in light vein. Sunshine, he said, was indispensable to his life;
he never passed the winter in London; if he were the poorest of mortals,
he would, at all events, beg his bread in a sunny clime.

‘Are you going to the Bahamas this winter?’ Nancy asked, mentioning the
matter for the first time since she heard of it at Champion Hill.

‘I don’t know. Everything is uncertain.’

And he put the question aside as if it were of no importance.

They passed the old gate, and breathed with relief in the never-broken
shadow of tangled foliage. Whilst pushing a bramble aside, Tarrant let
his free arm fall lightly on Nancy’s waist. At once she sprang forward,
but without appearing to notice what had happened.

‘Stay--did you ever see such ivy as this?’

It was a mass of large, lustrous leaves, concealing a rotten trunk.
Whilst Nancy looked on, Tarrant pulled at a long stem, and tried to
break it away.

‘I must cut it.’


‘You shall see.’

He wove three stems into a wreath.

‘There now, take off your hat, and let me crown you. Have I made it too
large for the little head?’

Nancy, after a moment’s reluctance, unfastened her hat, and stood
bareheaded, blushing and laughing.

‘You do your hair in the right way--the Greek way. A diadem on the
top--the only way when the hair and the head are beautiful. It leaves
the outline free--the exquisite curve that unites neck and head. Now the
ivy wreath; and how will you look?’

She wore a dress of thin, creamy material, which, whilst seeming to
cumber her as little as garments could, yet fitted closely enough to
declare the healthy beauty of her form. The dark green garland, for
which she bent a little, became her admirably.

‘I pictured it in my letter,’ said Tarrant, ‘the letter you never got.’

‘Where is it?’

‘Oh, I burnt it.’

‘Tell me what was in it.’

‘All sorts of things--a long letter.’

‘I think that’s all nonsense about forgetting my address.’

‘Mere truth. In fact, I never knew it.’

‘Be so good as to tell me,’ she spoke as she walked on before him, ‘what
you meant by your behaviour that morning before you went to London.’

‘But how did I behave?’

‘Very strangely.’

Tarrant affected not to understand; but, when she again turned, Nancy
saw a mischievous smile on his face.

‘A bit of nonsense.--Shall I tell you?’ He stepped near, and suddenly
caught both her hands,--one of them was trailing her sunshade. ‘Forgive
me in advance--will you?’

‘I don’t know about that.’ And she tried, though faintly, to get free.

‘But I will make you--now, refuse!’

His lips had just touched hers, just touched and no more. Rosy red, she
trembled before him with drooping eyelids.

‘It meant nothing at all, really,’ he pursued, his voice at its softest.
‘A sham trial--to see whether I was hopelessly conquered or not. Of
course I was.’

Nancy shook her head.

‘You dare to doubt it?--I understand now what the old poet meant, when
he talked of bees seeking honey on his lady’s lips. That fancy isn’t so
artificial as it seemed.’

‘That’s all very pretty’--she spoke between quick breaths, and tried to
laugh--‘but you have thrown my hat on the ground. Give it me, and take
the ivy for yourself.’

‘I am no Bacchus.’ He tossed the wreath aside. ‘Take the hat; I like you
in it just as well.--You shall have a girdle of woodbine, instead.’

‘I don’t believe your explanation,’ said Nancy.

‘Not believe me?’

With feigned indignation, he moved to capture her again; but Nancy
escaped. Her hat in her hand, she darted forward. A minute’s run brought
her into the open space, and there, with an exclamation of surprise, she
stopped. Tarrant, but a step or two behind her, saw at almost the same
moment the spectacle which had arrested her flight. Before them stood
two little donkeys munching eagerly at a crop of rosy-headed thistles.
They--the human beings--looked at each other; Tarrant burst into
extravagant laughter, and Nancy joined him. Neither’s mirth was
spontaneous; Nancy’s had a note of nervous tension, a ring of something
like recklessness.

‘Where can they come from?’ she asked.

‘They must have strayed a long way. I haven’t seen any farm or
cottage.--But perhaps some one is with them. Wait, I’ll go on a little,
and see if some boy is hanging about.’

He turned the sharp corner, and disappeared. For two or three minutes
Nancy stood alone, watching the patient little grey beasts, whose
pendent ears, with many a turn and twitch, expressed their joy in the
feast of thistles. She watched them in seeming only; her eyes beheld

A voice sounded from behind her--‘Nancy!’ Startled, she saw Tarrant
standing high up, in a gap of the hedge, on the bank which bordered the

‘How did you get there?’

‘Went round.’ He showed the direction with his hand. ‘I can see no one,
but somebody may come. It’s wonderful here, among the trees. Come over.’

‘How can I?--We will drive the donkeys away.’

‘No; it’s much better here; a wild wood, full of wonderful things. The
bank isn’t too steep. Give me your hand, and you can step up easily,
just at this place.’

She drew near.

‘Your sunshade first.’

‘Oh, it’s too much trouble,’ she said languidly, all but plaintively.
‘I’d rather be here.’

‘Obey!--Your sunshade--’

She gave it.

‘Now, your hand.’

He was kneeling on the top of the bank. With very little exertion,
Nancy found herself beside him. Then he at once leapt down among the
brushwood, a descent of some three feet.

‘We shall be trespassing,’ said Nancy.

‘What do I care? Now, jump!’

‘As if you could catch me!’ Again she uttered her nervous laugh. ‘I am

‘Obey! Jump!’ he cried impatiently, his eyes afire.

She knelt, seated herself, dropped forward. Tarrant caught her in his

‘You heavy! a feather weight! Why, I can carry you; I could run with

And he did carry her through the brushwood, away into the shadow of the

At dinner-time, Mrs. Morgan and her daughter were alone. They agreed to
wait a quarter of an hour, and sat silent, pretending each to be engaged
with a book. At length their eyes met.

‘What does it mean, Jessica?’ asked the mother timidly.

‘I’m sure I don’t know. It doesn’t concern us. She didn’t mean to be
back, by what she said.’

‘But--isn’t it rather--?’

‘Oh, Nancy is all right. I suppose she’ll have something to tell you,
to-night or to-morrow. We must have dinner; I’m hungry.’

‘So am I, dear.--Oh, I’m quite afraid to think of the appetites we’re
taking back. Poor Milly will be terrified.’

Eight o’clock, nine o’clock. The two conversed in subdued voices; Mrs.
Morgan was anxious, all but distressed. Half-past nine. ‘What _can_ it
mean, Jessica? I can’t help feeling a responsibility. After all,
Nancy is quite a young girl; and I’ve sometimes thought she might be

‘Hush! That was a knock.’

They waited. In a minute or two the door was opened a few inches, and a
voice called ‘Jessica!’

She responded. Nancy was standing in the gloom.

‘Come into my room,’ she said curtly.

Arrived there, she did not strike a light. She closed the door, and took
hold of her friend’s arm.

‘We can’t go back the day after to-morrow, Jessica. We must wait a day
longer, till the afternoon of Friday.’

‘Why? What’s the matter, Nancy?’

‘Nothing serious. Don’t be frightened, I’m tired, and I shall go to

‘But why must we wait?’

‘Listen: will you promise me faithfully--as friend to friend, faith
fully--not to tell the reason even to your mother?’

‘I will, faithfully.’

‘Then, it’s this. On Friday morning I shall be married to Mr Tarrant.’


‘I may tell you more, before then; but perhaps not. We shall be married
by licence, and it needs one day between getting the licence and the
marriage. You may tell your mother, if you like, that I want to stay
longer on _his_ account. I don’t care; of course she suspects something.
But not a syllable to hint at the truth. I have been your best friend
for a long time, and I trust you.’

She spoke in a passionate whisper, and Jessica felt her trembling.

‘You needn’t have the least fear of me, dear.’

‘I believe it. Kiss me, and good-night!’

Part III: Into Bontage


During his daughter’s absence, Stephen Lord led a miserable life. The
wasting disease had firm hold upon him; day by day it consumed his
flesh, darkened his mind. The more need he had of nursing and restraint,
the less could he tolerate interference with his habits, invasion of
his gloomy solitude. The doctor’s visits availed nothing; he listened to
advice, or seemed to listen, but with a smile of obstinate suspicion on
his furrowed face which conveyed too plain a meaning to the adviser.

On one point Mary had prevailed with him. After some days’ resistance,
he allowed her to transform the cabin-like arrangements of his room, and
give it the appearance of a comfortable bed-chamber. But he would not
take to his bed, and the suggestion of professional nursing excited his

‘Do you write to Nancy?’ he asked one morning of his faithful attendant,
with scowling suspicion.


‘You are telling me the truth?’

‘I never write to any one.’

‘Understand plainly that I won’t have a word said to her about me.’

This was when Horace had gone away to Scarborough, believing, on his
father’s assurance, that there was no ground whatever for anxiety.
Sometimes Mr. Lord sat hour after hour in an unchanging position, his
dull eyes scarcely moving from one point. At others he paced his room,
or wandered about the house, or made an attempt at gardening--which
soon ended in pain and exhaustion. Towards night he became feverish,
his hollow cheeks glowing with an ominous tint. In the morning he
occasionally prepared himself as if to start for his place of business;
he left the house, and walked for perhaps a couple of hundred yards,
then slackened his pace, stopped, looked about him in an agony of
indecision, and at length returned. After this futile endeavour, he
had recourse to the bottles in his cupboard, and presently fell into a
troubled sleep.

At the end of the second week, early one evening, three persons came to
him by appointment: his partner Samuel Barmby, Mr. Barmby, senior, and a
well-dressed gentleman whom Mary--she opened the door to them--had never
seen before. They sat together in the drawing-room for more than
an hour; then the well-dressed gentleman took his leave, the others
remaining for some time longer.

The promoted servant, at Mr. Lord’s bidding, had made a change in her
dress; during the latter part of the day she presented the appearance
of a gentlewoman, and sat, generally with needlework, sometimes with
a book, alone in the dining-room. On a Sunday, whilst Nancy and
her brother were away, the Barmby family--father, son, and two
daughters--came to take tea and spend the evening, Mary doing the
honours of the house; she bore herself without awkwardness, talked
simply, and altogether justified Mr. Lord’s opinion of her. When the
guests were gone, Stephen made no remark, but, in saying good-night to
her, smiled for an instant--the first smile seen upon his face for many

Mary remained ignorant of the disease from which he was suffering;
in the matter of his diet, she consulted and obeyed him, though often
enough it seemed to her that his choice suited little with the state of
an invalid. He ate at irregular times, and frequently like a starving
man. Mary suspected that, on the occasions when he went out for
half-an-hour after dark, he brought back food with him: she had seen him
enter with something concealed beneath his coat. All his doings were to
her a subject of ceaseless anxiety, of a profound distress which, in
his presence, she was obliged to conceal. If she regarded him sadly,
the sufferer grew petulant or irate. He would not endure a question
concerning his health.

On the day which was understood to be Nancy’s last at Teignmouth, he
brightened a little, and talked with pleasure, as it seemed, of her
return on the morrow. Horace had written that he would be home this
evening, but Mr. Lord spoke only of his daughter. At about six o’clock
he was sitting in the garden, and Mary brought him a letter just
delivered; he looked at the envelope with a smile.

‘To tell us the train she’s coming by, no doubt.’

Mary waited. When Mr. Lord had read the brief note, his face darkened,
first with disappointment, then with anger.

‘Here, look at it,’ he said harshly. ‘What else was to be expected?’

‘Dearest Father,’ wrote Nancy, ‘I am sorry that our return must be put
off; we hope to get back on Friday evening. Of course this will make no
difference to you.--With best love, dear father, and hoping I shall find
you much better--’

‘What does she mean by behaving in this way?’ resumed the angry voice,
before Mary had read to the end. ‘What does she mean by it? Who gave her
leave to stay longer? Not a word of explanation. How does she know it
will make no difference to me? What does she mean by it?’

‘The fine weather has tempted them,’ replied Mary. ‘I daresay they want
to go somewhere.’

‘What right has she to make the change at a moment’s notice?’
vociferated the father, his voice suddenly recovering its old power,
his cheeks and neck suffused with red wrath. ‘And hopes she will find me
better. What does _she_ care whether she finds me alive or dead?’

‘Oh, don’t say that! You wouldn’t let her know that you were worse.’

‘What does it mean? I hate this deceitful behaviour! She knew before, of
course she knew; and she left it to the last moment, so that I couldn’t
write and prevent her from staying. As if I should have wished to! As
if I cared a brass farthing how long she stays, or, for that matter,
whether I ever see her again!’

He checked the course of his furious speech, and stood staring at the

‘What did you say?’ He spoke now in a hoarse undertone. ‘You thought
they were going somewhere?’

‘Last year there used to be steamers that went to places on certain

‘Nonsense! She wouldn’t alter all their plans for that. It’s something I
am not to know--of course it is. She’s deceitful--like all women.’

He met Mary’s eye, suddenly turned upon him. His own fell before it, and
without speaking again he went into the house.

In half-an-hour’s time his bell rang, and not Mary, but the young
servant responded. According to her directions, she knocked at the door,
and, without opening it, asked her master’s pleasure. Mr. Lord said that
he was going out, and would not require a meal till late in the evening.

It was nearly ten o’clock when he returned. Mary, sitting in the front
room, rose at his entrance.

‘I want nothing,’ he said. ‘I’ve been to the Barmbys’.’ Voice and
movements proved how the effort had taxed him. In sitting down,
he trembled; fever was in his eyes, and pain in every line of his

Mary handed him a letter; it came from Horace, and was an intimation
that the young gentleman would not return to-night, but to-morrow. When
Mr. Lord had read it, he jerked a contemptuous laugh, and threw the
sheet of note-paper across the table.

‘There you are. Not much to choose between daughter and son. He’s due at
business in the morning; but what does that matter? It doesn’t suit his
lordship to keep time.’

He laughed again, his emphasis on ‘lordship’ showing that he consciously
played with the family name.

‘But I was a fool to be angry. Let them come when they will.’

For a few minutes he lay back in the chair, gazing at vacancy.

‘Has the girl gone to bed?’

‘I’ll tell her she can go.’

Mary soon returned, and took up the book with which she had been
engaged. In a low voice, and as if speaking without much thought,
Stephen asked her what she was reading. It was a volume of an old
magazine, bought by Mr. Lord many years ago.

‘Yes, yes. Nancy laughs at it--calls it old rubbish. These young people
are so clever.’

His companion made no remark. Unobserved, he scrutinised her face for a
long time, and said at length:

‘Don’t let _us_ fall out, Mary. You’re not pleased with me, and I know
why. I said all women were deceitful, and you took it too seriously.
You ought to know me better. There’s something comes on me every now and
then, and makes me say the worst I can no matter who it hurts. Could I
be such a fool as to think ill of _you_?’

‘It did hurt me,’ replied the other, still bent over her book. ‘But it
was only the sound of it. I knew you said more than you meant.’

‘I’m a fool, and I’ve been a fool all my life. Is it likely I should
have wise children? When I went off to the Barmbys’, I thought of
sending Samuel down to Teignmouth, to find out what they were at. But I
altered my mind before I got there. What good would it have done? All
I _can_ do I’ve done already. I made my will the other day; it’s signed
and witnessed. I’ve made it as I told you I should. I’m not much longer
for this world, but I’ve saved the girl from foolishness till she’s
six-and-twenty. After that she must take care of herself.’

They sat silent whilst the clock on the mantelpiece ticked away a
few more minutes. Mr. Lord’s features betrayed the working of turbid
thought, a stern resentment their prevailing expression. When reverie
released him, he again looked at his companion.

‘Mary, did you ever ask yourself what sort of woman Nancy’s mother may
have been?’

The listener started, like one in whom a secret has been surprised. She
tried to answer, but after all did not speak.

‘I’ll tell you,’ Stephen pursued. ‘Yes, I’ll tell you. You must know it.
Not a year after the boy’s birth, she left me. And I made myself free of
her--I divorced her.’

Their eyes just met.

‘You needn’t think that it cost me any suffering. Not on her account;
not because I had lost my wife. I never felt so glad, before or since,
as on the day when it was all over, and I found myself a free man again.
I suffered only in thinking how I had fooled away some of the best
years of my life for a woman who despised me from the first, and was as
heartless as the stones of the street. I found her in beggary, or close
upon it. I made myself her slave--it’s only the worthless women who
accept from a man, who expect from him, such slavish worship as she had
from me. I gave her clothing; she scarcely thanked me, but I thought
myself happy. I gave her a comfortable home, such as she hadn’t
known for years; for a reward she mocked at my plain tastes and quiet
ways--but I thought no ill of it--could see nothing in it but a girlish,
lighthearted sort of way that seemed one of her merits. As long as we
lived together, she pretended to be an affectionate wife; I should
think no one ever matched her in hypocrisy. But the first chance she
had--husband, children, home, all flung aside in a moment. Then I saw
her in the true light, and understood all at once what a blind fool I
had been.’

He breathed quickly and painfully. Mary sat without a movement.

‘I thought I had done a great thing in marrying a wife that was born
above me. Her father had been a country gentleman; horse-racing and
such things had brought him down, and from her twelfth year his daughter
lived--I never quite knew how, but on charity of some kind. She grew up
without trying to earn her own living; she thought herself too good for
that, thought she had a claim to be supported, because as a child she
was waited upon by servants. When I asked her once if she couldn’t have
done something, she stared at me and laughed in my face. For all that
she was glad enough to marry a man of my sort--rough and uneducated as
I was. She always reminded me of it, though--that I had no education;
I believe she thought that she had a perfect right to throw over such
a husband, whenever she chose. Afterwards, I saw very well that _her_
education didn’t amount to much. How could it, when she learnt nothing
after she was twelve? She was living with very poor people who came from
my part of the country--that’s how I met her. The father led some sort
of blackguard life in London, but had no money for her, nor yet for his
other girl, who went into service, I was told, and perhaps made herself
a useful, honest woman. He died in a hospital, and he was buried at my
expense--not three months before his daughter went off and left me.’

‘You will never tell your children,’ said Mary, when there had been a
long pause.

‘I’ve often thought it would only be right if I told them. I’ve often
thought, the last year or two, that Nancy ought to know. It might make
her think, and do her good.’

‘No, no,’ returned the other hurriedly. ‘Never let her know of
it--never. It might do her much harm.’

‘You know now, Mary, why I look at the girl so anxiously. She’s not like
her mother; not much like her in face, and I can’t think she’s like her
in heart. But you know what her faults are as well as I do. Whether I’ve
been right or wrong in giving her a good education, I shall never know.
Wrong, I fear--but I’ve told you all about that.’

‘You don’t know whether she’s alive or not?’ asked Mary, when once more
it was left to her to break silence.

‘What do I care? How should I know?’

‘Don’t be tempted to tell them--either of them!’ said the other

‘My friend Barmby knows. Whether he’s told his son, I can’t say; it’s
twenty years since we spoke about it. If he _did_ ever mention it to
Samuel, then it might somehow get known to Horace or the girl, when I’m
gone.--I won’t give up the hope that young Barmby may be her husband.
She’ll have time to think about it. But if ever she should come to you
and ask questions--I mean, if she’s been told what happened--you’ll set
me right in her eyes? You’ll tell her what I’ve told you?’

‘I hope it may never--’

‘So do I,’ Stephen interrupted, his voice husky with fatigue. ‘But
I count on you to make my girl think rightly of me, if ever there’s
occasion. I count on you. When I’m dead, I won’t have her think that I
was to blame for her mother’s ill-doing. That’s why I’ve told you. You
believe me, don’t you?’

And Mary, lifting her eyes, met his look of appeal with more than a
friend’s confidence.


From chambers in Staple Inn, Lionel Tarrant looked forth upon the
laborious world with a dainty enjoyment of his own limitless leisure.
The old gables fronting upon Holborn pleased his fancy; he liked to pass
under the time-worn archway, and so, at a step, estrange himself from
commercial tumult,--to be in the midst of modern life, yet breathe an
atmosphere of ancient repose.

He belonged to an informal club of young men who called themselves,
facetiously, the Hodiernals. _Vixi hodie_! The motto, suggested by some
one or other after a fifth tumbler of whisky punch, might bear more than
a single interpretation. Harvey Munden, the one member of this genial
brotherhood who lived by the sweat of his brow, proposed as a more
suitable title, Les Faineants; that, however, was judged pedantic,
not to say offensive. For these sons of the Day would not confess to
indolence; each deemed himself, after his own fashion, a pioneer in art,
letters, civilisation. They had money of their own, or were supported by
some one who could afford that privilege; most of them had, ostensibly,
some profession in view; for the present, they contented themselves with
living, and the weaker brethren read in their hodiernity an obligation
to be ‘up to date.’

Tarrant professed himself critical of To-day, apprehensive of To-morrow;
he cast a backward eye. None the less, his avowed principle was to
savour the passing hour. When night grew mellow, and the god of whisky
inspired his soul, he shone in a lyrical egoism which had but slight
correspondence with the sincerities of his solitude. His view of
woman--the Hodiernals talked much of woman--differed considerably from
his thoughts of the individual women with whom he associated; protesting
oriental sympathies, he nourished in truth the chivalry appropriate to
his years and to his education, and imaged an ideal of female excellence
whereof the prime features were moral and intellectual.

He had no money of his own. What could be saved for him from
his father’s squandered estate--the will established him sole
inheritor--went in the costs of a liberal education, his grandmother
giving him assurance that he should not go forth into the world
penniless. This promise Mrs. Tarrant had kept, though not exactly in the
manner her grandson desired. Instead of making him a fixed allowance,
the old lady supplied him with funds at uncertain intervals; with the
unpleasant result that it was sometimes necessary for him to call to her
mind his dependent condition. The cheques he received varied greatly in
amount,--from handsome remittances of a hundred pounds or so, down to
minim gifts which made the young man feel uncomfortable when he received
them. Still, he was provided for, and it could not be long before this
dependency came to an end.

He believed in his own abilities. Should it ever be needful, he could
turn to journalism, for which, undoubtedly, he had some aptitude. But
why do anything at all, in the sense of working for money? Every year he
felt less disposed for that kind of exertion, and had a greater relish
of his leisurely life. Mrs. Tarrant never rebuked him; indeed she had
long since ceased to make inquiry about his professional views. Perhaps
she felt it something of a dignity to have a grandson who lived as
gentleman at large.

But now, in the latter days of August, the gentleman found himself, in
one most important particular, at large no longer. On returning
from Teignmouth to Staple Inn he entered his rooms with a confused,
disagreeable sense that things were not as they had been, that his
freedom had suffered a violation, that he could not sit down among
his books with the old self-centred ease, that his prospects were
completely, indescribably changed, perchance much for the worse. In
brief, Tarrant had gone forth a bachelor, and came back a married man.

Could it be sober fact? Had he in very deed committed so gross an

He had purposed no such thing. Miss. Nancy Lord was not by any means the
kind of person that entered his thoughts when they turned to marriage.
He regarded her as in every respect his inferior. She belonged to the
social rank only just above that of wage-earners; her father had a small
business in Camberwell; she dressed and talked rather above her station,
but so, now-a-days, did every daughter of petty tradesfolk. From
the first he had amused himself with her affectation of intellectual
superiority. Miss. Lord represented a type; to study her as a sample of
the pretentious half-educated class was interesting; this sort of girl
was turned out in thousands every year, from so-called High Schools;
if they managed to pass some examination or other, their conceit grew
boundless. Craftily, he had tested her knowledge; it seemed all sham.
She would marry some hapless clerk, and bring him to bankruptcy by the
exigencies of her ‘refinement.’

So had he thought of Nancy till a few months ago. But in the
spring-time, when his emotions blossomed with the blossoming year, he
met the girl after a long interval, and saw her with changed eyes. She
had something more than prettiness; her looks undeniably improved. It
seemed, too, that she bore herself more gracefully, and even talked
with, at times, an approximation to the speech of a lady. These
admissions signified much in a man of Tarrant’s social prejudice--so
strong that it exercised an appreciable effect upon his every-day
morals. He began to muse about Miss. Lord, and the upshot of his musing
was that, having learnt of her departure for Teignmouth, he idly betook
himself in the same direction.

But as for marriage, he would as soon have contemplated taking to wife a
barmaid. Between Miss. Lord and the young lady who dispenses refreshment
there were distinctions, doubtless, but none of the first importance.
Then arose the question, in what spirit, with what purpose, did he seek
her intimacy? The answer he simply postponed.

And postponed it very late indeed. Until the choice was no longer
between making love in idleness, and conscientiously holding aloof;
but between acting like a frank blackguard, and making the amends of an
honest man.

The girl’s fault, to be sure. He had not credited himself with this
power of fascination, and certainly not with the violence of passion
which recklessly pursues indulgence. Still, the girl’s fault; she had
behaved--well, as a half-educated girl of her class might be expected
to behave. Ignorance she could not plead; that were preposterous. Utter
subjugation by first love; that, perhaps; she affirmed it, and possibly
with truth; a flattering assumption, at all events. But, all said and
done, the issue had been of her own seeking. Why, then, accuse himself
of blackguardly conduct, if he had turned a deaf ear to her pleading?
Not one word of marriage had previously escaped his lips, nor anything
that could imply a promise.

Well, there was the awkward and unaccountable fact that he _felt_
himself obliged to marry her; that, when he seemed to be preparing
resistance, downright shame rendered it impossible. Her face--her
face when she looked at him and spoke! The truth was, that he had not
hesitated at all; there was but one course open to him. He gave glances
in the other direction; he wished to escape; he reviled himself for his
folly; he saw the difficulties and discontents that lay before him; but
choice he had none.

Love, in that sense of the word which Tarrant respected, could not be
said to influence him. He had uttered the word; yes, of course he had
uttered it; as a man will who is goaded by his raging blood. But he was
as far as ever from loving Nancy Lord. Her beauty, and a certain growing
charm in her companionship, had lured him on; his habitual idleness,
and the vagueness of his principles, made him guilty at last of what a
moralist would call very deliberate rascality. He himself was inclined
to see his behaviour in that light; yet why had Nancy so smoothed the
path of temptation?

That _her_ love was love indeed, he might take for granted. To a certain
point, it excused her. But she seemed so thoroughly able to protect
herself; the time of her green girlhood had so long gone by. For
explanation, he must fall back again on the circumstances of her origin
and training. Perhaps she illustrated a social peril, the outcome of
modern follies. Yes, that was how he would look at it. A result of
charlatan ‘education’ operating upon crude character.

Who could say what the girl had been reading, what cheap philosophies
had unsettled her mind? Is not a little knowledge a dangerous thing?

Thus far had he progressed in the four and twenty hours which followed
his--or Nancy’s--conquest. Meanwhile he had visited the office of the
registrar, had made his application for a marriage licence, a proceeding
which did not tend to soothe him. Later, when he saw Nancy again, he
experienced a revival of that humaner mood which accompanied his pledge
to marry her, the mood of regret, but also of tenderness, of compassion.
A tenderness that did not go very deep, a half-slighting compassion. His
character, and the features of the case, at present allowed no more; but
he preferred the kindlier attitude.

Of course he preferred it. Was he not essentially good-natured? Would he
not, at any ordinary season, go out of his way to do a kindness? Did
not his soul revolt against every form of injustice? Whom had he ever
injured? For his humanity, no less than for his urbanity, he claimed a
noteworthy distinction among young men of the time.

And there lay the pity of it. But for Nancy’s self-abandonment, he might
have come to love her in good earnest. As it was, the growth of their
intimacy had been marked with singular, unanticipated impulses on
his side, impulses quite inconsistent with heartless scheming. In the
compunctious visitings which interrupted his love-making at least twice,
there was more than a revolt of mere honesty, as he recognised during
his brief flight to London. Had she exercised but the common prudence of

Why, that she did not, might tell both for and against her. Granting
that she lacked true dignity, native refinement, might it not have been
expected that artfulness would supply their place? Artful fencing
would have stamped her of coarse nature. But coarseness she had never
betrayed; he had never judged her worse than intellectually shallow. Her
self-surrender might, then, indicate a trait worthy of admiration. Her
subsequent behaviour undeniably pleaded for respect. She acquainted
him with the circumstances of her home life, very modestly, perhaps
pathetically. He learnt that her father was not ill to do, heard of her
domestic and social troubles, that her mother had been long dead, things
weighing in her favour, to be sure.

If only she had loved him less!

It was all over; he was married. In acting honourably, it seemed
probable that he had spoilt his life. He must be prepared for anything.
Nancy said that she should not, could not, tell her father, yet awhile;
but that resolution was of doubtful stability. For his own part, he
thought it clearly advisable that the fact should not become known at
Champion Hill; but could he believe Nancy’s assurance that Miss. Morgan
remained in the dark? Upon one catastrophe, others might naturally

Here, Saturday at noon, came a letter of Nancy’s writing. A long letter,
and by no means a bad one; superior, in fact, to anything he thought
she could have written. It moved him somewhat, but would have moved him
more, had he not been legally bound to the writer. On Sunday she could
not come to see him; but on Monday, early in the afternoon--

Well, there were consolations. A wise man makes the best of the


Since his return he had seen no one, and none of his friends knew where
he had been. A call from some stray Hodiernal would be very unseasonable
this Monday afternoon; but probably they were all enjoying their elegant
leisure in regions remote from town. As the hour of Nancy’s arrival drew
near, he sat trying to compose himself--with indifferent success. At
one moment his thoughts found utterance, and he murmured in a strange,
bewildered tone--‘My wife.’ Astonishing words! He laughed at their
effect upon him, but unmirthfully. And his next murmur was--‘The devil!’
A mere ejaculation, betokening his state of mind.

He reached several times for his pipe, and remembered when he had
touched it that the lips with which he greeted Nancy ought not to be
redolent of tobacco. In outward respect, at all events, he would not
fall short.

Just when his nervousness was becoming intolerable, there sounded a
knock. The knock he had anticipated--timid, brief. He stepped hastily
from the room, and opened. Nancy hardly looked at him, and neither of
them spoke till the closing of two doors had assured their privacy.

‘Well, you had no difficulty in finding the place?’

‘No--none at all.’

They stood apart, and spoke with constraint. Nancy’s bosom heaved, as
though she had been hastening overmuch; her face was deeply coloured;
her eyes had an unwonted appearance, resembling those of a night-watcher
at weary dawn. She cast quick glances about the room, but with
the diffidence of an intruder. Her attitude was marked by the same
characteristic; she seemed to shrink, to be ashamed.

‘Come and sit down,’ said Tarrant cheerfully, as he wheeled a chair.

She obeyed him, and he, stooping beside her, offered his lips. Nancy
kissed him, closing her eyes for the moment, then dropping them again.

‘It seems a long time, Nancy--doesn’t it?’

‘Yes--a very long time.’

‘You couldn’t come on Sunday?’

‘I found my father very ill. I didn’t like to leave home till to-day.’

‘Your father ill?--You said nothing of it in your letter.’

‘No--I didn’t like to--with the other things.’

A singular delicacy this; Tarrant understood it, and looked at her
thoughtfully. Again she was examining the room with hurried glance;
upon him her eyes did not turn. He asked questions about Mr. Lord. Nancy
could not explain the nature of his illness; he had spoken of gout, but
she feared it must be something worse; the change in him since she went
away was incredible and most alarming. This she said in short, quick
sentences, her voice low. Tarrant thought to himself that in her too,
a very short time had made a very notable change; he tried to read its
significance, but could reach no certainty.

‘I’m sorry to hear all this--very sorry. You must tell me more about
your father. Take off your hat, dear, and your gloves.’

Her gloves she removed first, and laid them on her lap; Tarrant took
them away. Then her hat; this too he placed on the table. Having done
so, he softly touched the plaits of her hair. And, for the first time,
Nancy looked up at him.

‘Are you glad to see me?’ she asked, in a voice that seemed subdued by
doubt of the answer.

‘I am--very glad.’

His hand fell to her shoulder. With a quick movement, a stifled
exclamation, the girl rose and flung her arms about him.

‘Are you really glad?--Do you really love me?’

‘Never doubt it, dear girl.’

‘Ah, but I can’t help. I have hardly slept at night, in trying to get
rid of the doubt. When you opened the door, I felt you didn’t welcome
me. Don’t you think of me as a burden? I can’t help wondering why I am

He took hold of her left hand, and looked at it, then said playfully:

‘Of course you wonder. What business has a wife to come and see her
husband without the ring on her finger?’

Nancy turned from him, opened the front of her dress, unknotted a string
of silk, and showed her finger bright with the golden circlet.

‘That’s how I must wear it, except when I am with you. I keep
touching--to make sure it’s there.’

Tarrant kissed her fingers.

‘Dear,’--she had her face against him--‘make me certain that you love
me. Speak to me like you did before. Oh, I never knew in my life what it
was to feel ashamed!’

‘Ashamed? Because you are married, Nancy?’

‘Am I really married? That seems impossible. It’s like having dreamt
that I was married to you. I can hardly remember a thing that happened.’

‘The registry at Teignmouth remembers,’ he answered with a laugh. ‘Those
books have a long memory.’

She raised her eyes.

‘But wouldn’t you undo it if you could?--No, no, I don’t mean that. Only
that if it had never happened--if we had said good-bye before those last
days--wouldn’t you have been glad now?’

‘Why, that’s a difficult question to answer,’ he returned gently. ‘It
all depends on your own feeling.’

For whatever reason, these words so overcame Nancy that she burst into
tears. Tarrant, at once more lover-like, soothed and fondled her, and
drew her to sit on his knee.

‘You’re not like your old self, dear girl. Of course, I can understand
it. And your father’s illness. But you mustn’t think of it in this way.
I do love you, Nancy. I couldn’t unsay a word I said to you--I don’t
wish anything undone.’

‘Make me believe that. I think I should be quite happy then. It’s the
hateful thought that perhaps you never wanted me for your wife; it
_will_ come, again and again, and it makes me feel as if I would rather
have died.’

‘Send such thoughts packing. Tell them your husband wants all your heart
and mind for himself.’

‘But will you never think ill of me?’

She whispered the words, close-clinging.

‘I should be a contemptible sort of brute.’

‘No. I ought to have--. If we had spoken of our love to each other, and

‘A very proper twelvemonth’s engagement,--meetings at five o’clock
tea,--fifty thousand love-letters,--and all that kind of thing. Oh, we
chose a better way. Our wedding was among the leaves and flowers. You
remember the glow of evening sunlight between the red pine and the
silver birch? I hope that place may remain as it is all our lives; we
will go there--’

‘Never! Never ask me to go there. I want to forget--I hope some day I
may forget.’

‘If you hope so, then I will hope the same.’

‘And you love me--with real, husband’s love--love that will last?’

‘Why should _I_ answer all the questions?’ He took her face between his
hands. What if the wife’s love should fail first?’

‘You can say that lightly, because you know--’

‘What do I know?’

‘You know that I am _all_ love of you. As long as I am myself, I must
love you. It was because I had no will of my own left, because I lived
only in the thought of you day and night--’

Their lips met in a long silence.

‘I mustn’t stay past four o’clock,’ were Nancy’s next words. ‘I don’t
like to be away long from the house. Father won’t ask me anything, but
he knows I’m away somewhere, and I’m afraid it makes him angry with me.’
She examined the room. ‘How comfortable you are here! what a delightful
old place to live in!’

‘Will you look at the other rooms?’

‘Not to-day--when I come again. I must say good-bye very soon--oh, see
how the time goes! What a large library you have! You must let me look
at all the books, when I have time.’

‘Let you? They are yours as much as mine.’

Her face brightened.

‘I should like to live here; how I should enjoy it after that hateful
Grove Lane! Shall I live here with you some day?’

‘There wouldn’t be room for two. Why, your dresses would fill the whole

She went and stood before the shelves.

‘But how dusty you are! Who cleans for you?’

‘No one. A very rickety old woman draws a certain number of shillings
each week, on pretence of cleaning.’

‘What a shame! She neglects you disgracefully. You shall go away some
afternoon, and leave me here with a great pile of dusters.’

‘You can do that kind of thing? It never occurred to me to ask you: are
you a domestic person?’

She answered with something of the old confident air.

‘That was an oversight, wasn’t it? After all, how little you know about

‘Do you know much more of me?’

Her countenance fell.

‘You are going to tell me--everything. How long have you lived here?’

‘Two years and a half.’

‘And your friends come to see you here? Of course they do. I meant, have
you many friends?’

‘Friends, no. A good many acquaintances.’

‘Men, like yourself?’

‘Mostly men, fellows who talk about art and literature.’

‘And women?’ Nancy faltered, half turning away.

‘Oh, magnificent creatures--Greek scholars--mathematicians--all that is
most advanced!’

‘That’s the right answer to a silly question,’ said Nancy humbly.

Whereat, Tarrant fixed his gaze upon her.

‘I begin to think that--’

He checked himself awkwardly. Nancy insisted on the completion of his

‘That of all the women I know, you have the most sense.’

‘I had rather hear you say that than have a great fortune.’ She blushed
with joy. ‘Perhaps you will love me some day, as I wish to be loved.’


‘I’ll tell you another time. If it weren’t for my father’s illness, I
think I could go home feeling almost happy. But how am I to know what
you are doing?’

‘What do you wish me to do?’

‘Just tell me how you live. What shall you do now, when I’m gone?’

‘Sit disconsolate,’--he came nearer--‘thinking you were just a little

‘No, don’t say that.’ Nancy was flurried. ‘I have told you the real
reason. Our housekeeper says that father was disappointed and angry
because I put off my return from Teignmouth. He spoke to me very coldly,
and I have hardly seen him since. He won’t let me wait upon him; and
I have thought, since I know how ill he really is, that I must seem
heartless. I will come for longer next time.’

To make amends for the reproach he had uttered in spite of himself,
Tarrant began to relate in full the events of his ordinary day.

‘I get my own breakfast--the only meal I have at home. Look, here’s
the kitchen, queer old place. And here’s the dining-room. Cupboards
everywhere, you see; we boast of our cupboards. The green paint is _de
rigueur_; duck’s egg colour; I’ve got to like it. That door leads into
the bedroom. Well, after breakfast, about eleven o’clock that’s to say,
I light up--look at my pipe-rack--and read newspapers. Then, if it’s
fine, I walk about the streets, and see what new follies men are
perpetrating. And then--’

He told of his favourite restaurants, of his unfashionable club, of
a few houses where, at long intervals, he called or dined, of the
Hodiernals, of a dozen other small matters.

‘What a life,’ sighed the listener, ‘compared with mine!’

‘We’ll remedy that, some day.’

‘When?’ she asked absently.

‘Wait just a little.--You don’t wish to tell your father?’

‘I daren’t tell him. I doubt whether I shall ever dare to tell him face
to face.’

‘Don’t think about it. Leave it to me.’

‘I must have letters from you--but how? Perhaps, if you could
promise always to send them for the first post--I generally go to the
letter-box, and I could do so always--whilst father is ill.’

This was agreed upon. Nancy, whilst they were talking, took her hat from
the table; at the same moment, Tarrant’s hand moved towards it. Their
eyes met, and the hand that would have checked her was drawn back.
Quickly, secretly, she drew the ring from her finger, hid it somewhere,
and took her gloves.

‘Did you come by the back way?’ Tarrant asked, when he had bitten his
lips for a sulky minute.

‘Yes, as you told me.’

He said he would walk with her into Chancery Lane; there could be no
risk in it.

‘You shall go out first. Any one passing will suppose you had business
with the solicitor underneath. I’ll overtake you at Southampton

Impatient to be gone, she lingered minute after minute, and broke
hurriedly from his restraining arms at last. The second outer door,
which Tarrant had closed on her entrance, surprised her by its
prison-like massiveness. In the wooden staircase she stopped timidly,
but at the exit her eyes turned to an inscription above, which she had
just glanced at when arriving: _Surrexit e flammis_, and a date. Nancy
had no Latin, but guessed an interpretation from the last word.
Through the little court, with its leafy plane-trees and white-worn
cobble-stones, she walked with bent head, hearing the roar of Holborn
through the front archway, and breathing more freely when she gained the
quiet garden at the back of the Inn.

Tarrant’s step sounded behind her. Looking up she asked the meaning of
the inscription she had seen.

‘You don’t know Latin? Well, why should you? _Surrexit e flammis_, “It
rose again from the flames.”

‘I thought it might be something like that. You will be patient with my

A strange word upon Nancy’s lips. No mortal ere this had heard her
confess to ignorance.

‘But you know the modern languages?’ said Tarrant, smiling.

‘Yes. That is, a little French and German--a very little German.’

Tarrant mused, seemingly with no dissatisfaction.


In her brother’s looks and speech Nancy detected something mysterious.
Undoubtedly he was keeping a secret from her, and there could be just as
little doubt that he would not keep it long. Whenever she questioned him
about the holiday at Scarborough, he put on a smile unlike any she
had ever seen on his face, so profoundly thoughtful was it, so loftily
reserved. On the subject of Mrs. Damerel he did not choose to be very
communicative; Nancy gathered little more than she had learnt from his
letter. But very plainly the young man held himself in higher esteem
than hitherto; very plainly he had learnt to think of ‘the office’ as a
burden or degradation, from which he would soon escape. Prompted by her
own tormenting conscience, his sister wondered whether Fanny French
had anything to do with the mystery; but this seemed improbable. She
mentioned Fanny’s name one evening.

‘Do you see much of her?’

‘Not much,’ was the dreamy reply. ‘When are you going to call?’

‘Oh, not at present,’ said Nancy.

‘You’ve altered again, then?’

She vouchsafed no answer.

‘There’s something I think I ought to tell you,’ said Horace, speaking
as though he were the elder and felt a responsibility. ‘People have been
talking about you and Mr. Crewe.’

‘What!’ She flashed into excessive anger. ‘Who has been talking?’

‘The people over there. Of course I know it’s all nonsense. At
least’--he raised his eyebrows--‘I suppose it is.’

‘_I_ should suppose so,’ said Nancy, with vehement scorn.

Their father’s illness imposed a restraint upon trifling conversation.
Mary Woodruff, now attending upon Mr. Lord under the doctor’s
directions, had held grave talk with Nancy. The Barmbys, father and
son, called frequently, and went away with gloomy faces. Nancy and her
brother were summoned, separately, to the invalid’s room at uncertain
times, but neither was allowed to perform any service for him; their
sympathy, more often than not, excited irritation; the sufferer always
seemed desirous of saying more than the few and insignificant words
which actually passed his lips, and generally, after a long silence, he
gave the young people an abrupt dismissal. With his daughter he spoke
at length, in language which awed her by its solemnity; Nancy could only
understand him as meaning that his end drew near. He had been reviewing,
he said, the course of her life, and trying to forecast her future.

‘I give you no more advice; it would only be repeating what I have said
hundreds of times. All I can _do_ for your good, I have done. You will
understand me better if you live a few more years, and I think, in the
end, you will be grateful to me.’

Nancy, sitting by the bedside, laid a hand upon her father’s and sobbed.
She entreated him to believe that even now she understood how wisely he
had guided her.

‘Tried to, Nancy; tried to, my dear. Guidance isn’t for young people
now-a-days. Don’t let us shirk the truth. I have never been satisfied
with you, but I have loved you--’

‘And I you, dear father--I have! I have!--I know better now how good
your advice was. I wish--far, far more sincerely than you think--that
I had kept more control upon myself--thought less of myself in every

Whilst she spoke through her tears, the yellow, wrinkled face upon the
pillow, with its sunken eyes and wasted lips, kept sternly motionless.

‘If you won’t mock at me,’ Stephen pursued, ‘I will show you an example
you would do well to imitate. It is our old servant, now my kindest,
truest friend. If I could hope that you will let her be _your_ friend,
it would help to put my mind at rest. Don’t look down upon her,--that’s
such a poor way of thinking. Of all the women I have known, she is the
best. Don’t be too proud to learn from her, Nancy. In all these twenty
years that she has been in my house, whatever she undertook to do, she
did well;--nothing too hard or too humble for her, if she thought it her
duty. I know what that means; I myself have been a poor, weak creature,
compared with her. Don’t be offended because I ask you to take pattern
by her. I know her value now better than I ever knew it before. I owe
her a debt I can’t pay.’

Nancy left the room burdened with strange and distressful thoughts. When
she saw Mary she looked at her with new feelings, and spoke to her less
familiarly than of wont. Mary was very silent in these days; her face
had the dignity of a profound unspoken grief.

To his son, Mr. Lord talked only of practical things, urging sound
advice, and refraining, now, from any mention of their differences.
Horace, absorbed in preoccupations, had never dreamt that this illness
might prove fatal; on finding Nancy in tears, he was astonished.

‘Do you think it’s dangerous?’ he asked.

‘I’m afraid he will never get well.’

It was Sunday morning. The young man went apart and pondered. After the
mid-day meal, having heard from Mary that his father was no worse, he
left home without remark to any one, and from Camberwell Green took a
cab to Trafalgar Square. At the Hotel Metropole he inquired for Mrs.
Damerel; her rooms were high up, and he ascended by the lift. Sunk in a
deep chair, her feet extended upon a hassock, Mrs. Damerel was amusing
herself with a comic paper; she rose briskly, though with the effort of
a person who is no longer slim.

‘Here I am, you see!--up in the clouds. Now, _did_ you get my letter?’

‘No letter, but a telegram.’

‘There, I thought so. Isn’t that just like me? As soon as I had sent
out the letter to post, I said to myself that I had written the wrong
address. What address it _was_, I couldn’t tell you, to save my life,
but I shall see when it comes back from the post-office. I rather
suspect it’s gone to Gunnersbury; just then I was thinking about
somebody at Gunnersbury--or somebody at Hampstead, I can’t be sure
which. What a good thing I wired!--Oh, now, Horace, I _don’t_ like that,
I don’t really!’

The young man looked at her in bewilderment.

‘What don’t you like?’

‘Why, that tie. It won’t do at all. Your taste is generally very good,
but that tie! I’ll choose one for you to-morrow, and let you have it
the next time you come. Do you know, I’ve been thinking that it might
be well if you parted your hair in the middle. I don’t care for it as a
rule; but in your case, with your soft, beautiful hair, I think it would
look well. Shall we try? Wait a minute; I’ll run for a comb.’

‘But suppose some one came--’

‘Nobody will come, my dear boy. Hardly any one knows I’m here. I like to
get away from people now and then; that’s why I’ve taken refuge in this

She disappeared, and came back with a comb of tortoise-shell.

‘Sit down there. Oh, what hair it is, to be sure! Almost as fine as my
own. I think you’ll have a delicious moustache.’

Her personal appearance was quite in keeping with this vivacity. Rather
short, and inclining--but as yet only inclining--to rotundity of figure,
with a peculiarly soft and clear complexion, Mrs. Damerel made a gallant
battle against the hostile years. Her bright eye, her moist lips, the
admirable smoothness of brow and cheek and throat, bore witness to
sound health; as did the rows of teeth, incontestably her own, which she
exhibited in her frequent mirth. A handsome woman still, though not
of the type that commands a reverent admiration. Her frivolity did not
exclude a suggestion of shrewdness, nor yet of capacity for emotion, but
it was difficult to imagine wise or elevated thought behind that narrow
brow. She was elaborately dressed, with only the most fashionable
symbols of widowhood; rings adorned her podgy little hand, and
a bracelet her white wrist. Refinement she possessed only in the
society-journal sense, but her intonation was that of the idle class,
and her grammar did not limp.

‘There--let me look. Oh, I think that’s an improvement--more
_distingue_. And now tell me the news. How is your father?’

‘Very bad, I’m afraid,’ said Horace, when he had regarded himself in a
mirror with something of doubtfulness. ‘Nancy says that she’s afraid he
won’t get well.’

‘Oh, you don’t say that! Oh, how very sad! But let us hope. I can’t
think it’s so bad as that.’

Horace sat in thought. Mrs. Damerel, her bright eyes subduing their
gaiety to a keen reflectiveness, put several questions regarding the
invalid, then for a moment meditated.

‘Well, we must hope for the best. Let me know to-morrow how he gets
on--be sure you let me know. And if anything _should_ happen--oh, but
that’s too sad; we won’t talk about it.’

Again she meditated, tapping the floor, and, as it seemed, trying not to

‘Don’t be downcast, my dear boy. Never meet sorrow half-way--if you knew
how useful I have found it to remember that maxim. I have gone through
sad, sad things--ah! But now tell me of your own affairs. Have you seen
_la petite_?’

‘I just saw her the other evening,’ he answered uneasily.

‘Just? What does that mean, I wonder? Now you don’t look anything like
so well as when you were at Scarborough. You’re worrying; yes, I know
you are. It’s your nervous constitution, my poor boy. So you just saw
her? No more imprudences?’

She examined his face attentively, her lips set with tolerable firmness.

‘It’s a very difficult position, you know,’ said Horace, wriggling in
his chair. ‘I can’t get out of it all at once. And the truth is, I’m not
sure that I wish to.’

Mrs. Damerel drew her eyebrows together, and gave a loud tap on the

‘Oh, that’s weak--that’s very weak! After promising me! Now listen;
listen seriously.’ She raised a finger. ‘If it goes on, I have
nothing--more--whatever to do with you. It would distress me very, very
much; but I can’t interest myself in a young man who makes love to a
girl so very far beneath him. Be led by me, Horace, and your future
will be brilliant. Prefer this young lady of Camberwell, and lose

Horace leaned forward and drooped his head.

‘I don’t think you form anything like a right idea of her,’ he said.

The other moved impatiently.

‘My dear boy, I know her as well as if I’d lived with her for years. Oh,
how silly you are! But then you are so young, so very young.’

With the vexation on her face there blended, as she looked at him, a
tenderness unmistakably genuine.

‘Now, I’ll tell you what. I have really no objection to make Fanny’s
acquaintance. Suppose, after all, you bring her to see me one of these
days. Not just yet. You must wait till I am in the mood for it. But
before very long.’

Horace looked up with pleasure and gratitude.

‘Now, that’s really kind of you!’

‘Really? And all the rest is only pretended kindness? Silly boy! Some
day you will know better. Now, think, Horace; suppose you were so
unhappy as to lose your father. Could you, as soon as he was gone, do
something that you know would have pained him deeply?’

The pathetic note was a little strained; putting her head aside, Mrs.
Damerel looked rather like a sentimental picture in an advertisement.
Horace did not reply.

‘You surely wouldn’t,’ pursued the lady, with emphasis, watching him
closely; ‘you surely wouldn’t and couldn’t marry this girl as soon as
your poor father was in his grave?’

‘Oh, of course not.’

Mrs. Damerel seemed relieved, but pursued her questioning.

‘You couldn’t think of marrying for at least half a year?’

‘Fanny wouldn’t wish it.’

‘No, of course not,--well now, I think I must make her acquaintance.
But how weak you are, Horace! Oh, those nerves! All finely, delicately
organised people, like you, make such blunders in life. Your sense of
honour is such a tyrant over you. Now, mind, I don’t say for a moment
that Fanny isn’t fond of you,--how could she help being, my dear boy?
But I do insist that she will be very much happier if you let her marry
some one of her own class. You, Horace, belong to a social sphere so
far, far above her. If I could only impress that upon your modesty.
You are made to associate with people of the highest refinement. How
deplorable to think that a place in society is waiting for you, and you
keep longing for Camberwell!’

The listener’s face wavered between pleasure in such flattery and the
impulse of resistance.

‘Remember, Horace, if anything _should_ happen at home, you are your own
master. I could introduce you freely to people of wealth and fashion. Of
course you could give up the office at once. I shall be taking a house
in the West-end, or a flat, at all events. I shall entertain a good
deal--and think of your opportunities! My dear boy, I assure you that,
with personal advantages such as yours, you might end by marrying an
heiress. Nothing more probable! And you can talk of such a girl as Fanny
French--for shame!

‘I mustn’t propose any gaieties just now,’ she said, when they had been
together for an hour. ‘And I shall wait so anxiously for news of your
father. If anything _did_ happen, what would your sister do, I wonder?’

‘I’m sure I don’t know--except that she’d get away from Camberwell.
Nancy hates it.’

‘Who knows? I may be able to be of use to her. But, you say she is such
a grave and learned young lady? I am afraid we should bore each other.’

To this, Horace could venture only an uncertain reply. He had not much
hope of mutual understanding between his sister and Mrs. Damerel.

At half-past five he was home again, and there followed a cheerless
evening. Nancy was in her own room until nine o’clock. She came down
for supper, but had no appetite; her eyes showed redness from weeping;
Horace could say nothing for her comfort. After the meal, they went up
together to the drawing-room, and sat unoccupied.

‘If we lose father,’ said Nancy, in a dull voice very unlike her
ordinary tones, ‘we shall have not a single relative left, that is
anything to us.’

Her brother kept silence.

‘Has Mrs. Damerel,’ she continued, ‘ever said anything to you about
mother’s family?’

After hesitation, Horace answered, ‘Yes,’ and his countenance showed
that the affirmative had special meaning. Nancy waited with an inquiring

‘I haven’t told you,’ he added, ‘because--we have had other things to
think about. But Mrs. Damerel is mother’s sister, our aunt.’

‘How long have you known that?’

‘She told me at Scarborough.’

‘But why didn’t she tell you so at first?’

‘That’s what I can’t understand. She says she was afraid I might mention
it; but I don’t believe that’s the real reason.’

Nancy’s questioning elicited all that was to be learnt from her brother,
little more than she had heard already; the same story of a disagreement
between Mrs. Damerel and their father, of long absences from England,
and a revival of interest in her relatives, following upon Mrs.
Damerel’s widowhood.

‘She would be glad to see you, if you liked. But I doubt whether you
would get on very well.’


‘She doesn’t care about the same things that you do. She’s a woman of
society, you know.’

‘But if she’s mother’s sister. Yes, I should like to know her.’ Nancy
spoke with increasing earnestness. ‘It makes everything quite different.
I must see her.’

‘Well, as I said, she’s quite willing. But you remember that I’m
supposed not to have spoken about her at all. I should have to get her
to send you a message, or something of that kind. Of course, we have
often talked about you.’

‘I can’t form an idea of her,’ said Nancy impatiently. ‘Is she good? Is
she really kind? Couldn’t you get her portrait to show me?’

‘I should be afraid to ask, unless she had given me leave to speak to

‘She really lives in good society?’

‘Haven’t I told you the sort of people she knows? She must be very well
off; there can’t be a doubt of it.’

I don’t care so much about that,’ said Nancy in a brooding voice. ‘It’s
herself,--whether she’s kind and good and wishes well to us.

The next day there was no change in Mr. Lord’s condition; a deep silence
possessed the house. In the afternoon Nancy went to pass an hour with
Jessica Morgan; on her return she met Samuel Barmby, who was just
leaving after a visit to the sick man. Samuel bore himself with
portentous gravity, but spoke only a few commonplaces, affecting hope;
he bestowed upon Nancy’s hand a fervent pressure, and strode away with
the air of an undertaker who had called on business.

Two more days of deepening gloom, then a night through which Nancy sat
with Mary Woodruff by her father’s bed. Mr. Lord was unconscious, but
from time to time a syllable or a phrase fell from his lips, meaningless
to the watchers. At dawn, Nancy went to her chamber, pallid, exhausted.
Mary, whose strength seemed proof against fatigue, moved about the room,
preparing for a new day; every few minutes she stood with eyes fixed
on the dying face, and the tears she had restrained in Nancy’s presence
flowed silently.

When the sun made a golden glimmer upon the wall, Mary withdrew, and was
absent for a quarter of an hour. On returning, she bent at once over the
bed; her eyes were met by a grave, wondering look.

‘Do you know me?’ she whispered.

The lips moved; she bent lower, but could distinguish no word. He was
speaking; the murmur continued; but she gathered no sense.

‘You can trust me, I will do all I can.’

He seemed to understand her, and smiled. As the smile faded away,
passing into an austere calm, Mary pressed her lips upon his forehead.


After breakfast, and before Arthur Peachey’s departure for business,
there had been a scene of violent quarrel between him and his wife. It
took place in the bed-room, where, as usual save on Sunday morning, Ada
consumed her strong tea and heavily buttered toast; the state of her
health--she had frequent ailments, more or less genuine, such as afflict
the indolent and brainless type of woman--made it necessary for her to
repose till a late hour. Peachey did not often lose self-control, though
sorely tried; the one occasion that unchained his wrath was when Ada’s
heedlessness or ill-temper affected the well-being of his child. This
morning it had been announced to him that the nurse-girl, Emma, could no
longer be tolerated; she was making herself offensive to her mistress,
had spoken insolently, disobeyed orders, and worst of all, defended
herself by alleging orders from Mr. Peachey. Hence the outbreak of
strife, signalled by furious shrill voices, audible to Beatrice and
Fanny as they sat in the room beneath.

Ada came down at half-past ten, and found Beatrice writing letters. She
announced what any who did not know her would have taken for a final

‘I’m going--I won’t put up with that beast any longer. I shall go and
live at Brighton.’

Her sister paid not the slightest heed; she was intent upon a business
letter of much moment.

‘Do you hear what I say? I’m going by the first train this afternoon.’

‘All right,’ remarked Beatrice placidly. ‘Don’t interrupt me just now.

The result of this was fury directed against Beatrice, who found herself
accused of every domestic vice compatible with her position. She was a
sordid creature, living at other people’s expense,--a selfish, scheming,
envious wretch--

‘If I were your husband,’ remarked the other without looking up, ‘I
should long since have turned you into the street--if I hadn’t broken
your neck first.’

Exercise in quarrel only made Ada’s voice the clearer and more shrill.
It rose now to the highest points of a not inconsiderable compass. But
Beatrice continued to write, and by resolute silence put a limit to her
sister’s railing. A pause had just come about, when the door was thrown
open, and in rushed Fanny, hatted and gloved from a walk.

‘He’s dead!’ she said excitedly. ‘He’s dead!’

Beatrice turned with a look of interest. ‘Who? Mr. Lord?’

‘Yes. The blinds are all down. He must have died in the night.’

Her cheeks glowed and her eyes sparkled, as though she had brought the
most exhilarating news.

‘What do I care?’ said Mrs. Peachey, to whom her sister had addressed
the last remark.

‘Just as much as I care about your affairs, no doubt,’ returned Fanny,
with genial frankness.

‘Don’t be in too great a hurry,’ remarked Beatrice, who showed the
calculating wrinkle at the corner of her eye. ‘Because he’s dead, that
doesn’t say that your masher comes in for money.’

‘Who’ll get it, then?’

‘There may be nothing worth speaking of to get, for all we know.’

Beatrice had not as yet gained Fanny’s co-operation in the commercial
scheme now being elaborated; though of far more amiable nature than Mrs.
Peachey, she heartily hoped that the girl might be disappointed in her
expectations from Mr. Lord’s will. An hour later, she walked along Grove
Lane, and saw for herself that Fanny’s announcement was accurate; the
close-drawn blinds could mean but one thing.

To-day there was little likelihood of learning particulars, but on the
morrow Fanny might perchance hear something from Horace Lord. However,
the evening brought a note, hand-delivered by some stranger. Horace
wrote only a line or two, informing Fanny that his father had died about
eight o’clock that morning, and adding: ‘Please be at home to-morrow at

At twelve next day Fanny received her lover alone in the drawing-room.
He entered with the exaggerated solemnity of a very young man who
knows for the first time a grave bereavement, and feels the momentary
importance it confers upon him. Fanny, trying to regard him without a
smile, grimaced; decorous behaviour was at all times impossible to her,
for she neither understood its nature nor felt its obligation. In a few
minutes she smiled unrestrainedly, and spoke the things that rose to her

‘I’ve been keeping a secret from you,’ said Horace, in the low voice
which had to express his sorrow,--for he could not preserve a gloomy
countenance with Fanny before him. ‘But I can tell you now.’

‘A secret? And what business had you to keep secrets from me?’

‘It’s about Mrs. Damerel. When I was at the seaside she told me who she
really is. She’s my aunt--my mother’s sister. Queer, isn’t it? Of course
that makes everything different. And she’s going to ask you to come and
see her. It’ll have to be put off a little--now; but not very long, I
dare say, as she’s a relative. You’ll have to do your best to please

‘I’m sure I shan’t put myself out of the way. People must take me as
they find me.’

‘Now don’t talk like that, Fanny. It isn’t very kind--just now. I
thought you’d be different to-day.’

‘All right.--Have you anything else to tell me?’

Horace understood her significant glance, and shook his head.

‘I’ll let you know everything as soon as I know myself.’

Having learnt the day and hour of Mr. Lord’s funeral, Ada and Fanny
made a point of walking out to get a glimpse of it. The procession of
vehicles in Grove Lane excited their contempt, so far was it from the
splendour they had anticipated.

‘There you are!’ said Ada; ‘I shouldn’t wonder if it’s going to be a
jolly good take in for you, after all. If he’d died worth much, they
wouldn’t have buried him like that.’

Fanny’s heart sank. She could conceive no other explanation of a simple
burial save lack of means, or resentment in the survivors at the
disposition made of his property by the deceased. When, on the morrow,
Horace told her that his father had strictly charged Mr Barmby to have
him buried in the simplest mode compatible with decency, she put it down
to the old man’s excessive meanness.

On this occasion she learnt the contents of Mr. Lord’s will, and having
learnt them, got rid of Horace as soon as possible that she might
astonish her sisters with the report.

In the afternoon of that day, Beatrice had an appointment with Luckworth
Crewe. She was to meet him at the office he had just taken in
Farringdon Street, whence they would repair to a solicitor’s in the same
neighbourhood, for the discussion of legal business connected with Miss.
French’s enterprise. She climbed the staircase of a big building, and
was directed to the right door by the sound of Crewe’s voice, loudly and
jocularly discoursing. He stood with two men in the open doorway, and at
the sight of Beatrice waved a hand to her.

‘Take your hook, you fellows; I have an engagement.’ The men, glancing
at Miss. French facetiously, went their way. ‘How do, old chum? It’s all
in a mess yet; hold your skirts together. Come along this way.’

Through glue-pots and shavings and an overpowering smell of paint,
Beatrice followed to inspect the premises, which consisted of three
rooms; one, very much the smallest, about ten feet square. Three
workmen were busy, and one, fitting up shelves, whistled a melody with
ear-piercing shrillness.

‘Stop that damned noise!’ shouted Crewe. ‘I’ve told you once already.
Try it on again, my lad, and I’ll drop you down the well of the
staircase--you’ve too much breath, you have.’

The other workmen laughed. It was evident that Crewe had made friends
with them all.

‘Won’t be bad, when we get the decks cleared,’ he remarked to Beatrice.
‘Plenty of room to make twenty thousand a year or so.’

He checked himself, and asked in a subdued voice, ‘Seen anything of the

Beatrice nodded with a smile. ‘And heard about the will. Have you?’

‘No, I haven’t. Come into this little room.’

He closed the door behind them, and looked at his companion with
curiosity, but without show of eagerness.

‘Well, it’s a joke,’ said Miss. French.

‘Is it? How?’

‘Fanny’s that mad about it! She’d got it into her silly noddle that
Horace Lord would drop in for a fortune at once. As it is, he gets
nothing at all for two years, except what the Barmbys choose to
give him. And if he marries before he’s four-and-twenty, he loses
everything--every cent!’

Crewe whistled a bar of a street-melody, then burst into laughter.

‘That’s how the old joker has done them, is it? Quite right too. The
lad doesn’t know his own mind yet. Let Fanny wait if she really wants
him--and if she can keep hold of him. But what are the figures?’

‘Nothing startling. Of course I don’t know all the ins and outs of it,
but Horace Lord will get seven thousand pounds, and a sixth share in the
piano business. Old Barmby and his son are trustees. They may let Horace
have just what they think fit during the next two years. If he wants
money to go into business with, they may advance what they like. But
for two years he’s simply in their hands, to be looked after. And if he
marries--pop goes the weasel!’

‘And Miss. Lord?’ asked Crewe carelessly.

Beatrice pointed a finger at him.

‘You want to know badly, don’t you? Well, it’s pretty much the same
as the other. To begin with, if she marries before the age of
six-and-twenty, she gets nothing whatever. If she doesn’t marry, there’s
two hundred a year to live on and to keep up the house.--Oh, I was
forgetting; she must not only keep single to twenty-six, but continue to
live where she does now, with that old servant of theirs for companion.
At six-and-twenty she takes the same as her brother, about seven
thousand, and a sixth share in Lord and Barmby.’

Again Crewe whistled.

‘That’s about three years still to live in Grove Lane,’ he said
thoughtfully. ‘Well, the old joker has pinned them, and no mistake. I
thought he had more to leave.’

‘Of course you did,’ remarked Beatrice significantly.

‘Look here, old fellow, don’t talk to me like that,’ he replied
good-humouredly, but with a reproof not to be mistaken. ‘I thought
nothing about it in the way that _you_ mean. But it isn’t much, after
living as he has done. I suppose you don’t know how the money lies?’

‘I have it all from Fanny, and it’s a wonder she remembered as much as
she did.’

‘Oh, Fanny’s pretty smart in L. s. d. But did she say what becomes of
the money if either of them break the terms?’

‘Goes to a girl’s orphanage, somewhere in the old man’s country. But
there’s more than I’ve accounted for yet. Young Barmby’s sisters get
legacies--a hundred and fifty apiece. And, last of all, the old servant
has an annuity of two hundred. He made her a sort of housekeeper not
long ago, H. L. says; thought no end of her.’

‘Don’t know anything about her,’ said Crewe absently. ‘I should like to
know the business details. What arrangement was made, I wonder, when he
took Barmby into partnership?’

‘I shouldn’t be surprised if he simply gave him a share. Old Barmby and
Lord were great chums. Then, you see, Samuel Barmby has a third of his
profits to pay over, eventually.’

Beatrice went on to speak of the mysterious Mrs. Damerel, concerning
whom she had heard from Fanny. The man of business gave particular ear
to this story, and asked many questions. Of a sudden, as if dismissing
matters which hardly concerned him, he said mirthfully:

‘You’ve heard about the row at Lillie Bridge yesterday?’

‘I saw something about it in the paper.’

‘Well, I was there. Pure chance; haven’t been at that kind of place
for a year and more. It was a match for the Sprint Championship and a
hundred pounds. Timed for six o’clock, but at a quarter past the
chaps hadn’t come forward. I heard men talking, and guessed there was
something wrong; they thought it a put-up job. When it got round that
there’d be no race, the excitement broke out, and then--I’d have given
something for you to see it! First of all there was a rush for the
gate-money; a shilling a piece, you know, we’d all paid. There were a
whole lot of North-of-England chaps, fellow countrymen of mine, and I
heard some of them begin to send up a roar that sounded dangerous. I
was tumbling along with the crowd, quite ready for a scrimmage--I rather
enjoy a fight now and then,--and all at once some chap sang out just
in front, ‘Let’s burst up the blooming show!’--only he used a stronger
word. And a lot of us yelled hooray, and to it we went. I don’t mean I
had a hand in the pillaging and smashing,--it wouldn’t have done for
a man just starting in business to be up at the police-court,--but I
looked on and laughed--laughed till I could hardly stand! They set
to work on the refreshment place. It was a scene if you like! Fellows
knocking off the heads of bottles, and drinking all they could, then
pouring the rest on the ground. Glasses and decanters flying right and
left,--sandwiches and buns, and I don’t know what, pelting about. They
splintered all the small wood they could lay their hands on, and set
fire to it, and before you could say Jack Robinson the whole place was
blazing. The bobbies got it pretty warm--bottles and stones and logs of
wood; I saw one poor chap with the side of his face cut clean open. It
does one good, a real stirring-up like that; I feel better to-day than
for the last month. And the swearing that went on! It’s a long time
since I heard such downright, hearty, solid swearing. There was one chap
I kept near, and he swore for a full hour without stopping, except when
he had a bottle at his mouth; he only stopped when he was speechless
with liquor.’

‘I wish I’d been there,’ said Miss. French gaily. ‘It must have been no
end of fun.’

‘A right down good spree. And it wasn’t over till about eight o’clock.
I stayed till the police had cleared the grounds, and then came home,
laughing all the way. It did me good, I tell you!’

‘Well, shall we go and see the lawyer?’ suggested Beatrice.

‘Right you are.--Have a drink first? Nice quiet place round in Fleet
Street--glass of wine. No? As you please, old chum.--Think this shop
‘ll do, don’t you? You must come round when it’s finished. But I daresay
you’ll be here many a time--on biz.’

‘Oh, I daresay.’

And as they went down the stairs, Crewe laughed again at his
recollections of yesterday’s sport.


Gusts of an October evening swept about the square of the old Inn,
and made rushes at the windows; all the more cosy seemed it here in
Tarrant’s room, where a big fire, fed into smokeless placidity,
purred and crackled. Pipe in mouth, Tarrant lay back in his big chair,
gracefully indolent as ever. Opposite him, lamp-light illuminating her
face on one side, and fire-gloom on the other, Nancy turned over an
illustrated volume, her husband’s gift today. Many were the presents he
had bestowed upon her, costly some of them, all flattering the recipient
by a presumption of taste and intelligence.

She had been here since early in the afternoon, it was now near seven

Nancy looked at the pictures, but inattentively, her brows slightly
knitted, and her lips often on the point of speech that concerned some
other matter. Since the summer holiday she had grown a trifle thinner in
face; her beauty was no longer allied with perfect health; a heaviness
appeared on her eyelids. Of course she wore the garb of mourning,
and its effect was to emphasise the maturing change manifest in her

For several minutes there had passed no word; but Tarrant’s face,
no less than his companion’s, signalled discussion in suspense. No
unfriendly discussion, yet one that excited emotional activity in both
of them. The young man, his pipe-hand falling to his knee, first broke

‘I look at it in this way. We ought to regard ourselves as married
people living under exceptionally favourable circumstances. One has to
bear in mind the brutal fact that man and wife, as a rule, see a great
deal too much of each other--thence most of the ills of married life:
squabblings, discontents, small or great disgusts, leading often
enough to _altri guai_. People get to think themselves victims of
incompatibility, when they are merely suffering from a foolish
custom--the habit of being perpetually together. In fact, it’s an
immoral custom. What does immorality mean but anything that tends
to kill love, to harden hearts? The common practice of man and wife
occupying the same room is monstrous, gross; it’s astounding that
women of any sensitiveness endure it. In fact, their sensitiveness is
destroyed. Even an ordinary honeymoon generally ends in quarrel--as
it certainly ought to. You and I escape all that. Each of us lives a
separate life, with the result that we like each other better as time
goes on; I speak for myself, at all events. I look forward to our
meetings. I open the door to you with as fresh a feeling of pleasure
as when you came first. If we had been ceaselessly together day and
night--well, you know the result as well as I do.’

He spoke with indulgent gravity, in the tone of kindness to which his
voice was naturally attuned. And Nancy’s reply, though it expressed a
stronger feeling, struck the same harmonious note.

‘I can agree with all that. But it applies to people married in the
ordinary way. I was speaking of ourselves, placed as we are.’

‘I don’t pretend to like the concealment,’ said Tarrant. ‘For one thing,
there’s a suggestion of dishonour about it. We’ve gone over all that--’

‘Oh, I don’t mean that for a moment. It isn’t really dishonourable. My
father could never have objected to _you_ for my husband. He only wanted
to guard me--Mary says so, and he told her everything. He thought me a
silly, flighty girl, and was afraid I should be trapped for the sake of
my money. I wish--oh how I wish I had had the courage to tell him! He
would have seen you, and liked and trusted you--how could he help?’

‘It might have been better--but who knows whether he would have seen me
with your eyes, Nancy?’

‘Yes, yes. But I was going to say----’

She hesitated.

‘Say on.’

‘There are so many difficulties before us, dear.’

‘Not if we continue to think of each other as we do now. Do you mean it
might be discovered?’

‘Yes, through no fault of ours.’

She hesitated again.

‘Quite sure you haven’t told anybody?’

‘No one.’

Tarrant had a doubt on this point. He strongly suspected that Jessica
Morgan knew the truth, but he shrank from pressing Nancy to an avowal of
repeated falsehood.

‘Then it’s very unlikely we should be found out. Who would dream of
tracking you here, for instance? And suppose we were seen together
in the street or in the country, who would suspect anything more than
love-making? and that is not forbidden you.’

‘No. But--’


‘But suppose I--’

She rose, crossed to him, seated herself on his knee and put an arm
about his neck. Before she had spoken another word, Tarrant understood;
the smile on his face lost its spontaneity; a bitter taste seemed to
distort his lips.

‘You think--you are afraid--’

He heard a monosyllable, and sat silent. This indeed had not entered
into his calculations; but why not? He could hardly say; he had ignored
the not unimportant detail, as it lurked among possibilities. Perhaps
had willingly ignored it, as introducing a complication oppressive
to his indolence, to his hodiernal philosophy. And now he arraigned
mother-nature, the very divinity whom hitherto he had called upon to
justify him. All at once he grew cold to Nancy. The lulled objections to
matrimony awoke in him again; again he felt that he had made a fool of
himself. Nancy was better than he had thought; he either loved her, or
felt something towards her, not easily distinguishable from love. His
inferior she remained, but not in the sense he had formerly attributed
to the word. Her mind and heart excelled the idle conception he had
formed of them. But Nancy was not his wife, as the world understands
that relation; merely his mistress, and as a mistress he found her
charming, lovable. What she now hinted at, would shatter the situation.
Tarrant thought not of the peril to her material prospects; on that
score he was indifferent, save in so far as Mr Lord’s will helped to
maintain their mutual independence. But he feared for his liberty, in
the first place, and in the second, abhorred the change that must come
over Nancy herself. Nancy a mother--he repelled the image, as though it
degraded her.

Delicacy, however, constrained him to a disguise of these emotions. He
recognised the human sentiments that should have weighed with him; like
a man of cultivated intelligence, he admitted their force, their beauty.
None the less, a syllable on Nancy’s lips had arrested the current of
his feelings, and made him wish again that he had been either more or
less a man of honour down at Teignmouth.

‘And yet,’ he said to himself, ‘could I have resisted an appeal for
marriage _now_? That comes of being so confoundedly humane. It’s a
marvel that I didn’t find myself married to some sheer demirep long

Nancy was speaking.

‘Will it make you love me less?’

‘I have always refused to prophesy about love,’ he answered, with forced

‘But you wouldn’t--you wouldn’t?’

‘We should find ourselves in a very awkward position.’

‘I know,’ said Nancy hurriedly. ‘I can’t see what would be done. But you
seem colder to me all at once, Lionel. Surely it oughtn’t to--to turn
you away from me. Perhaps I am mistaken.’

This referred to the alarming possibility, and Tarrant caught at hope.
Yes, she might be mistaken; they wouldn’t talk about it; he shook it

‘Let me fill my pipe again. Yes, you can do it for me. That reminds me
of a story Harvey Munden tells. A man he knew, a doctor, got married,
and there was nothing his wife wouldn’t do for him. As he sat with her
one evening, smoking, a patient called him into the consulting-room. He
had only just lighted a fresh pipe, and laid it down regretfully. ‘I’ll
keep it in for you,’ said his wife. And she did so, with dainty and
fearful puffs, at long intervals. But the doctor was detained, and when
he came back--well, the poor wife had succumbed to her devotion. She
never kept in his pipe again.

Nancy tried to laugh. She was in her own chair again, and sat resting
her cheek upon her hand, gazing at the fire.

‘How is it, Lionel, that no one ever knocks at your door when I’m here.’

‘Oh, very simple. I sport the oak--as you know.’

‘But don’t you think some friend of yours might see a light in your
window, and come up?’

‘If so, _il respecte la consigne_.’

‘No, no; I don’t like you when you begin to use French words. I think
it reminds me of once when you did it a long time ago,--and I thought
you--never mind.’

Tarrant laughed.

‘Weren’t they strange--those meetings of ours at Champion Hill? What did
you think me? Arrogant? Insolent? That is my tendency with strangers, I

‘But I was asking you a question,’ said Nancy. ‘You mean that no one
would knock, if he saw your outer door closed. But what would they

‘No doubt--that I was working. I am supposed to be secretly engaged on
some immortal composition.’

Nancy pondered.

‘I do hope no one that knows you will ever see me coming or going.’

‘What could it matter? They wouldn’t know who you were.’

‘But to have such things thought. I should feel it just as if they knew
me. I believe I could never come again.’

‘Why, what’s the matter with you?’ Tarrant asked. ‘You have tears in
your eyes. You’re not well to-day.’ He checked himself on an unwelcome
thought, and proceeded more carelessly. ‘Do you suppose for a moment
that any friend of mine is ass enough to think with condemnation of a
girl who should come to my rooms--whatever the circumstances? You must
get rid of that provincialism--let us call it Camberwellism.’

‘They wouldn’t think it any harm--even if--?’

‘My dear girl, we have outgrown those ancestral prejudices.’ Tarrant’s
humour never quite deserted him, least of all when he echoed the talk
of his world; but his listener kept a grave face. ‘We have nothing to do
with Mrs. Grundy’s morals.’

‘But you believe in a morality of some kind?’ she pursued with
diffidence. ‘You used the word “immoral” just now.’

Nancy felt no consciousness of the gulf that yawned between herself as
she spoke now and the old self which had claimed ‘superiority.’ Her mind
was so completely unsettled that she never tried to connect its present
state with its earlier phases. For the most part, her sensations and
her reflections were concerned with the crude elements of life; the
exceptional moments she spent in a world of vague joys and fears,
wherein thought, properly speaking, had no share. Before she could
outlive the shock of passion which seemed at once to destroy and to
re-create her, she was confronted with the second supreme crisis of
woman’s existence,--its natural effects complicated with the trials of
her peculiar position. Tarrant’s reception of her disclosure came as a
new disturbance--she felt bewildered and helpless.

He, preoccupied with the anxiety he affected to dismiss, had no
inclination to debate ethical problems. For a while he talked jestingly,
and at length fell into a mood of silence. Nancy did not stay much
longer; they parted without mention of the subject uppermost in their

They had no stated times of meeting. Tarrant sent an invitation whenever
it pleased him. When the next arrived, in about a week, Nancy made reply
that she did not feel well enough to leave home. It was the briefest
letter Tarrant had yet received from her, and the least affectionate. He
kept silence for a few days, and wrote again. This time Nancy responded
as usual, and came.

To the involuntary question in his eyes, hers answered unmistakably. For
the first few minutes they said very little to each other. Tarrant was
struggling with repulsions and solicitudes of which he felt more than
half ashamed; Nancy, reticent for many reasons, not the least of them a
resentful pride, which for the moment overcame her fondness, endeavoured
to speak of trivial things. They kept apart, and at length the
embarrassment of the situation held them both mute.

With a nervous movement, the young man pushed forward the chair on which
Nancy usually sat.

‘I see that you don’t look well.’

Nancy turned to the window. She had unbuttoned her jacket, and taken off
her gloves, but went no further in the process of preparing herself for
the ordinary stay of some hours.

‘Did something in my letter displease you?’ inquired her husband.

‘You mean--because I didn’t come? No; I really didn’t feel well enough.’

Tarrant hesitated, but the softer feeling prevailed with him. He helped
to remove her jacket, seated her by the fire, and led her to talk.

‘So there’s no doubt of it?’

Her silence made answer.

‘Then of course there’s just as little doubt as to what we must do.’

His voice had not a convincing sincerity; he waited for the reply.

‘You mean that we can’t keep the secret?’

‘How is it possible?’

‘But you are vexed about it. You don’t speak to me as you used to. I
don’t think you ever will again.’

‘It will make no change in _me_,’ said Tarrant, with resolute good
humour. ‘All I want to be sure of is that you are quite prepared for the
change in your prospects.’

‘Are _you_, dear?’

Her tone and look deprived the inquiry of unpleasant implication. He
answered her with a laugh.

‘You know exactly how I regard it. In one way I should feel relief. Of
course I don’t like the thought that I shall have caused you to suffer
such a loss.’

‘I should never have that thought. But are you quite sure about the
result to yourself? You remember saying that you couldn’t be certain

‘How it will be taken at Champion Hill? I was going to tell you the
latest report from there. It is very doubtful whether I should ever have
to break the news.’

They did not look at each other.

‘Everything, in that quarter, must be long since settled. Pray remember
that I have no vast expectations. Quite certainly, it won’t be a large
fortune; very likely not more than your own. But enough to live on, no
doubt. I know the value of money--no man better. It would be pleasant
enough to play with thousands a year. But I don’t grumble so long as I
have a competency.’

Nancy meditated, and sighed.

‘Oh, it’s a pity. Father never meant me to be penniless if I married

‘I suppose not.’

‘Of course not!’

They both meditated.

‘It wouldn’t be possible--would it?’

‘Why,’ he answered with a laugh, ‘last time you were here you spoke in
quite the other way. You were utterly miserable at the thought of living
through it alone.’

‘Yes--I don’t know whether I could--even if--’

‘What are you thinking of?’

‘I’ve been talking with Mary,’ she replied, after an uneasy pause.
‘She has lived with us so long; and since father’s death it seems quite
natural to make a friend of her. No one could be more devoted to me than
she is. I believe there’s nothing she wouldn’t do. I believe I might
trust her with any secret.’

The obvious suggestion demanded thought.

‘By-the-bye,’ said Tarrant, looking up, ‘have you seen your aunt again?’

Nancy’s face changed to a cold expression.

‘No. And I don’t think I shall.’

‘Probably you were as little sympathetic to her as she to you.’

‘I don’t like her,’ was the brief reply.

‘I’ve had curious thoughts about that lady,’ said Tarrant, smiling. ‘The
mystery, it seems to me, is by no means solved. You think she really
_is_ your aunt?’

‘Impossible to doubt it. Any one could see her likeness to Horace at

‘Ah, you didn’t mention that. I had a fear that she might be simply an
adventuress, with an eye to your brother’s money.’

‘She is what she says, I’m sure. But I shall never ask her to come and
see me again, and I don’t think she’ll want to. That would be fortunate
if--if we wished--’

Tarrant nodded. At the same moment they heard a sound that startled

‘That’s a knock at the door,’ said Nancy, rising as if to escape.

‘So it is. Banging with a stick. Let him bang. It must be a stranger, or
he’d respect the oak.’

They sat listening. The knock sounded again, loud and prolonged. Tarrant
joked about it; but a third time came the summons.

‘I may as well go and see who it is.’

‘Oh--you won’t let any one--’

‘Of course not. Sit quietly.’

He went out, closing the room-door behind him, and opened the heavy door
which should have ensured his privacy. For five minutes he was absent,
then returned with a face portending news.

‘It was Vawdrey. He knew my habit of sporting the oak, and wouldn’t go
away till he had made sure. My grandmother is dying. They telegraphed
to Vawdrey in the City, and he came here at once to tell me. I must go.
Perhaps I shall be too late.’

‘What did he think of your keeping him outside?’

‘I made some sort of excuse. He’s a good-natured fellow; it didn’t
matter. Stay a little after I’m gone; stay as long as you like, In fact.
You can pull to the inner door when you go.’

‘What did the telegram say?’

‘Mrs. Tarrant sinking. Come immediately.’ Of course we expected it. It’s
raining hard: wait and see if it stops; you must take care of yourself.’

For this, Nancy was not slow in exhibiting her gratitude, which served
as mask of the pleasure she could not decently betray. When her husband
had hastened off, she sat for a few minutes in thought; then, alone
here for the first time, she began to walk about the rooms, and to make
herself more intimately acquainted with their contents.


Whilst she was thus occupied, darkness came on. She did not care to
light the lamp, so made herself ready, and stole forth.

The rain had ceased. Walking alone at night was a pleasure in which
she now indulged herself pretty frequently; at such times Mary Woodruff
believed her in the company of Miss. Morgan. The marked sobriety of
her demeanour since Mr. Lord’s death, and the friendliness, even the
affection, she evinced in their common life at home, had set Mary’s
mind at ease concerning her. No murmur at her father’s will had escaped
Nancy, in this respect very unlike her brother, who, when grief was
forgotten, declared himself ill-used; she seemed perfectly content with
the conditions laid upon her, and the sincerity of her mourning could
not be doubted. Anxious to conciliate the girl in every honest way, Mary
behaved to her with the same external respect as ever, and without a
hint of express guardianship. The two were on excellent terms. It seemed
likely that before long they would have the house to themselves; already
Horace had spoken of taking lodgings in a part of London more congruous
with the social aspirations encouraged by his aunt, Mrs. Damerel.

From Chancery Lane she passed into Fleet Street, and sauntered along
with observation of shop-windows. She was unspeakably relieved by the
events of the afternoon; it would now depend upon her own choice whether
she preserved her secret, or declared herself a married woman. Her
husband had proved himself generous as well as loving; yes, she repeated
to herself, generous and loving; her fears and suspicions had
been baseless. Mrs. Tarrant’s death freed them from all sordid
considerations. A short time, perhaps a day or two, might put an end to
irregularities, and enable her to hold up her head once more.

Feeling hungry, she entered a restaurant, and dined. Not carelessly, but
with fastidious choice of viands. This was enjoyable; she began to look
more like herself of a few months ago.

She would return to Camberwell by train from Ludgate Hill. At the
circus, crowding traffic held her back for a minute or two; just as
she ran forward, a familiar voice caused her to stop again. She became
flurried, lost her head, stood still amid a tumult of omnibuses, cabs
and carts; but a hand grasped her by the arm, and led her safely to the
opposite pavement.

‘What do you mean by shouting at me in the street?’ were her first

The person addressed was Luckworth Crewe; he had by no means anticipated
such wrathful greeting, and stood in confusion.

‘I beg your pardon, Miss. Lord. I didn’t think I shouted. I only meant
to call your attention.’

‘Why should you call my attention?’ Her cheeks were flushed with anger;
she regarded him as though he were a stranger guilty of mere insolence.
‘I don’t wish to speak to you.’

With astonishment, Crewe found himself alone. But a rebuff such as this,
so irrational as he thought it, so entirely out of keeping with Miss.
Lord’s behaviour, he could by no means accept. Nancy was walking towards
the railway-station; he followed. He watched her as she took a ticket,
then put himself in her way, with all the humility of countenance he
could command.

‘I’m so sorry I offended you. It wasn’t the right thing to do; I ought
to have waited till you were across. I’m a blundering sort of fellow in
those things. Do let me beg your pardon, and forgive me.’

She was calmer now, though still tremulous. But for the attack of
nervousness, she would have met Crewe with nothing worse than a slight
reserve, to mark a change in their relations. Very soon after her
father’s death he had written a becoming letter, though it smacked of
commercial phraseology. To the hope expressed in it, that he might be
allowed to call upon her in a few weeks’ time, Nancy made no reply. A
fortnight later he wrote again, this time reminding her, with modest
propriety, of what had occurred between them before she left town in
August. Nancy responded, and in grave, friendly language, begged him to
think of her no more; he must not base the slightest hope upon anything
she might have said. To her surprise, Crewe held his peace, and she saw
him now for the first time since their ascent of the Monument.

‘I’m ashamed that I lost my temper, Mr. Crewe. I am in a hurry to get

In the booking-office at Ludgate Hill it is not easy to detain, by
chivalrous discourse, a lady bent on escaping; but Crewe attempted it.
He subdued his voice, spoke rapidly and with emotion, implored that he
might be heard for a moment. Would she not permit him to call upon her?
He had waited, respecting her seclusion. He asked for nothing whatever
but permission to call, as any acquaintance might.

‘Have you heard I have opened an office in Farringdon Street? I should
so like to tell you all about it--what I’m doing--’

‘No one calls to see me,’ said Nancy, with firmness. ‘I wish to live
quite alone. I’m very sorry to seem unfriendly.’

‘Is it anything I’ve done?’

‘No--nothing whatever. I assure you, nothing. Let us say good-bye; I
can’t stop another moment.’

They shook hands and so parted.

‘You’re back early,’ said Mary, when Nancy entered the drawing-room.

‘Yes. I left Jessica to her books sooner than usual. The examination
draws near.’

Quiet, sad, diligent ever, Mary kept unchanged the old domestic routine.
There was the same perfect order, the same wholesome economy, as when
she worked under the master’s eyes. Nancy had nothing to do but enjoy
the admirable care with which she was surrounded; she took it all as a
matter of course, never having considered the difference between her own
home and those of her acquaintances.

Horace had dined, and was gone out again. They talked of him; Mary said
that he had spoken of moving into lodgings very soon.

‘Of course he doesn’t tell us everything,’ said Nancy. ‘I feel pretty
sure that he’s going to leave the office, but how he means to live I
don’t understand. Perhaps Mrs. Damerel will give him money, or lend it
him. I only hope she may break it off between him and Fanny.’

‘Hasn’t he told you that Fanny is often with Mrs. Damerel?’

‘With her?’ Nancy exclaimed. ‘He never said a word of it to me.’

‘He said so to me this evening, and laughed when I looked surprised.’

‘Well then, I don’t pretend to understand what’s going on. We can’t do

About nine o’clock the servant entered the room, bringing Miss. Lord a
note, which had just been left by a cab-driver. Nancy, seeing that the
address was in Tarrant’s hand, opened it with a flutter of joy; such
a proceeding as this, openly sending a note by a messenger, could
only mean that her husband no longer cared to preserve secrecy. To her
astonishment, the envelope contained but a hurried line.

‘Not a word yet to any one. Without fail, come to-morrow afternoon, at

With what show of calmness she could command, she looked up at her

‘The idea of his sending in this way! It’s that Mr. Crewe I’ve told
you of. I met him as I was coming home, and had to speak to him rather
sharply to get rid of him. Here comes his apology, foolish man!’

Living in perpetual falsehood, Nancy felt no shame at a fiction such as
this. Mere truth-telling had never seemed to her a weighty matter of
the law. And she was now grown expert in lies. But Tarrant’s
message disturbed her gravely. Something unforeseen must have
happened--something, perhaps, calamitous. She passed a miserable night.

When she ascended the stairs at Staple Inn, next afternoon, it wanted
ten minutes to four. As usual at her coming, the outer door stood open,
exposing the door with the knocker. She had just raised her hand,
when, with a sound of voices from inside, the door opened, and Tarrant
appeared in company with a stranger. Terror-stricken, she stepped back.
Tarrant, after a glance, paid no attention to her.

‘All right,’ he was saying to his friend, ‘I shall see you in a day or
two. Good-bye, old man.’

The stranger had observed Nancy, but withheld his eyes from her, and
quickly vanished down the stairs.

‘Who was that?’ she whispered.

‘I told you four o’clock.’

‘It is four.’

‘No--ten minutes to at least. It doesn’t matter, but if you had been
punctual you wouldn’t have had a fright.’

Nancy had dropped into a chair, white and shaking. Tarrant’s voice,
abruptly reproachful, affected her scarcely less than the preceding
shock. In the struggle to recover herself she sobbed and choked, and at
length burst into tears. Tarrant spoke impatiently.

‘What’s the matter? Surely you are not so childish’--

She stood up, and went into the bedroom, where she remained for several
minutes, returning at length without her jacket, but with her hat still

‘I couldn’t help it; and you shouldn’t speak to me in that way. I have
felt ill all the morning.’

Looking at her, the young man said to himself, that love was one thing,
wedded life another. He could make allowance for Nancy’s weakness--but
it was beyond his power to summon the old warmth and tenderness. If
henceforth he loved her, it must be with husband’s love--a phrase which
signified to him something as distinct as possible from the ardour he
had known; a moral attachment instead of a passionate desire.

And there was another reason for his intolerant mood.

‘You hadn’t spoken to any one before you got my note?’

‘No.--Why are you treating me like this? Are you ashamed that your
friend saw me?’

‘Ashamed? not at all.’

‘Who did he think I was?’

‘I don’t know. He doesn’t know anything about you, at all events. As you
may guess, I have something not very pleasant to tell. I didn’t mean
to be unkind; it was only the surprise at seeing you when I opened the
door. I had calculated the exact time. But never mind. You look cold;
warm yourself at the fire. You shall drink a glass of wine; it will put
your nerves right again.’

‘No, I want nothing. Tell me at once what it is.’

But Tarrant quietly brought a bottle and glass from his cupboard. Nancy
again refused, pettishly.

‘Until you have drunk,’ he said, with a smile of self-will, ‘I shall
tell you nothing.’

‘I don’t know what I’ve done to make you like this.’

Her sobs and tears returned. After a moment of impatience, Tarrant went
up to her with the glass, laid a hand upon her shoulder, and kissed her.

‘Now, come, be reasonable. We have uncommonly serious things to talk

‘What did your friend think of me?’

‘That you were one of the prettiest girls he had ever been privileged
to see, and that I was an enviable fellow to have such a visitor. There
now, another sip, and let us have some colour back into your cheeks.
There’s bad news, Nancy; confoundedly bad news, dear girl. My
grandmother was dead when I got there. Well, the foolish old woman has
been muddling her affairs for a long time, speculating here and there
without taking any one’s advice, and so on; and the result is that she
leaves nothing at all.’

Nancy was mute.

‘Less than nothing, indeed. She owed a few hundreds that she had
no means of paying. The joke of the thing is, that she has left an
elaborate will, with legacies to half-a-dozen people, myself first of
all. If she had been so good as to die two years ago, I should have come
in for a thousand a year or so. No one suspected what was going on; she
never allowed Vawdrey, the one man who could have been useful to her,
to have an inkling of the affair. An advertising broker got her in his
clutches. Vawdrey’s lawyer has been going through her papers, and finds
everything quite intelligible. The money has gone in lumps, good after
bad. Swindling, of course, but perfectly legal swindling, nothing to
be done about it. A minute or two before her death she gasped out some
words of revelation to the nurse, enough to set Vawdrey on the track,
when he was told.’

Still the listener said nothing.

‘Well, I had a talk with Vawdrey. He’s a blackguard, but not a bad
fellow. Wished he could help me, but didn’t quite see how, unless I
would go into business. However, he had a suggestion to make.’

For Nancy, the pause was charged with apprehensions. She seemed to
discover in her husband’s face a purpose which he knew would excite her

‘He and I have often talked about my friend Sutherland, in the Bahamas,
and Vawdrey has an idea that there’ll be a profitable opening in that
quarter, before long. Sutherland has written to me lately that he thinks
of bestirring himself in the projects I’ve told you about; he has got
the old man’s consent to borrow money on the property. Now Vawdrey,
naturally enough, would like Sutherland to join him in starting a
company; the thoughts of such men run only on companies. So he offers,
if I will go out to the Bahamas for a month or two, and look about me,
and put myself in a position to make some kind of report--he offers to
pay my expenses. Of course if the idea came to anything, and a company
got floated, I should have shares.’

Again he paused. The listener had wide, miserable eyes.

‘Well, I told him at once that I would accept the proposal. I have no
right to refuse. All I possess in the world, at this moment, is about
sixty pounds. If I sold all my books and furniture, they might bring
another sixty or so. What, then, is to become of me? I must set to work
at something, and here’s the first work that comes to hand. But,’ his
voice softened, ‘this puts us face to face with a very grave question;
doesn’t it? Are we to relinquish your money, and be both of us
penniless? Or is there any possibility of saving it?’

‘How _can_ we? How could the secret be kept?’

Voice and countenance joined in utter dismay.

‘It doesn’t seem to me,’ said Tarrant slowly, ‘a downright
impossibility. It _might_ be managed, with the help of your friend Mary,
and granting that you yourself have the courage. But’--he made a large
gesture--‘of course I can’t exact any such thing of you. It must seem
practicable to you yourself.’

‘What are we to do if my money is lost?’

‘Don’t say _we_.’ He smiled generously, perhaps too generously. ‘A man
must support his wife. I shall arrange it somehow, of course, so that
_you_ have no anxiety. But--’

His voice dropped.

‘Lionel!’ She sprang up and approached him as he stood by the fireplace.
‘You won’t leave me, dear? How can you think of going so far away--for
months--and leaving me as I am now? Oh, you won’t leave me!’

He arched his eyebrows, and smiled gently.

‘If that’s how you look at it--well, I must stay.’

‘You can do something here,’ Nancy continued, with rapid pleading. ‘You
can write for the papers. You always said you could--yes, you did
say so. We don’t need very much to live upon--at first. I shall be

‘A moment. You mean that the money must be abandoned.’

She had meant it, but under his look her confused thoughts took a new

‘No. We needn’t lose it. Only stay near me, and I will keep the secret,
through everything. You will only need, then, just to support yourself,
and that is so easy. I will tell Mary how it is. She can be trusted, I
am sure she can. She would do anything for me. She knows that father was
not thinking of a man such as you. It would be cruelly wrong if I lost
everything. I will tell her, and she will help me. Scarcely any one
comes to the house, as it is; and I will pretend to have bad health, and
shut myself up. And then, when the time comes, Mary will go away with
me, and--and the child shall be taken care of by some people we can
trust to be kind to it. Horace is going to live in lodgings; and Mrs.
Damerel, I am sure, won’t come to see me again; and I can get rid of
other people. The Barmbys shall think I am sulking about the will; I’m
sure they think already that I dislike them because of it. Let them
think it; I will refuse, presently, to see them at all. It’s only a few
months. If I tell people I’m not well, nobody will feel surprised if I
go away for a month or two--now--soon. Mary would go with me, of course.
I might go for December and January. Father didn’t mean I was never to
have change of air. Then there would be February and March at home. And
then I might go away again till near the end of May. I’m sure we can
manage it.’

She stopped, breathless. Tarrant, who had listened with averted face,
turned and spoke judicially.

‘There’s one thing you’re forgetting, Nancy. Do you propose that we
shall never acknowledge the child? Remember that even if you were bold
enough, after our second marriage, to acknowledge it in the face of
scandal--that wouldn’t be safe. Any one, if suspicion is aroused, can
find out when we were actually married.’

‘We can’t think of that. The child may not live.’

Tarrant moved, and the movement startled Nancy. It meant that she had
pained him, perhaps made him think of her with repugnance.

‘I hardly know what I am saying. You know I don’t wish that. But all I
can think of now is to keep you near me. I can’t bear to be separated
from you. I love you so much more than you love me.’

‘Let me just tell you what I had in mind, Nancy. Supposing the secret
can be kept, we must eventually live abroad, that is to say, if our
child is not to grow up a stranger to us, which neither you nor I could
wish. Now, at Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, a lot of Americans
always spend the winter. If I made acquaintances among them, it might be
a very useful step, it would be preparing for the future.’

To Nancy this sounded far from convincing. She argued against it in
a perfectly natural way, and as any one else would have done who knew
Tarrant. More than once he had declared to her that he would rather die
than drag out his life in one of the new countries, that he could
not breathe in an atmosphere of commercialism unrelieved by historic
associations. Nancy urged that it would be better to make a home on
the continent, whither they could go, at any moment, without a sense of

‘So it comes to this,’ he interrupted, with an air of resignation.
‘I must refuse Vawdrey’s offer, and, in doing so, refuse an excellent
chance of providing for our future, _if_--what is by no means
improbable--the secret should be discovered. I must turn to journalism,
or be a clerk. Well and good. My wife decrees it.’

And he began to hum an air, as if the matter were dismissed. There was a
long silence.

‘How long would you be away?’ murmured Nancy, at length.

‘I suppose two months at most.’


‘The second of those months you might be spending, as you said, away
from London. Down in Devon, perhaps. I can’t blame your thoughts about
it; but it seems--doesn’t it?--a trifle inconsiderate, when you think
what may result from my journey.’

‘Would you promise me to be back by the end of the year?’

‘Not promise, Nancy. But do my best. Letters take fourteen days, that’s
all. You should hear by every mail.’

‘Why not promise?’

‘Because I can’t foresee how much I may have to do there, and how
long it will take me. But you may be very sure that Vawdrey won’t pay
expenses for longer than he can help. It has occurred to me that I might
get materials for some magazine articles. That would help to float me
with the editors, you know, if it’s necessary.’

Nancy sighed.

‘If I consented--if I did my best not to stand in your way--would you
love me better when you came back?’

The answer was a pleased laugh.

‘Why, there,’ he cried, ‘you’ve given in a nutshell the whole duty of a
wife who wishes to be loved!’

Nancy tried to laugh with him.


He must be a strong man whom the sudden stare of Penury does not daunt
and, in some measure, debase. Tarrant, whatever the possibilities of his
nature, had fallen under a spell of indolent security, which declared
its power only when he came face to face with the demand for vigorous
action. The moment found him a sheer poltroon. ‘What! Is it possible
that I--_I_--am henceforth penniless? I, to whom the gods were so
gracious? I, without warning, flung from sheltered comfort on to the
bare road side, where I must either toil or beg?’ The thing seemed
unintelligible. He had never imagined such ruin of his hopes.

For the first time, he turned anxious thoughts upon the money to which
his wife was--would be--might be--entitled. He computed the chances of
success in the deception he and she were practising, and knew with
shame that he must henceforth be party to a vulgar fraud. Could Nancy
be trusted to carry through this elaborate imposition--difficult for the
strongest-minded woman? Was it not a certainty that some negligence, or
some accident, must disclose her secret? Then had he a wife and child
upon his hands, to support even as common men support wife and child, by
incessant labour. The prospect chilled him.

If he went to the West Indies, his absence would heighten the
probability of Nancy’s detection. Yet he desired to escape from her.
Not to abandon her; of that thought he was incapable; but to escape
the duty--repulsive to his imagination--of encouraging her through the
various stages of their fraud. From the other side of the Atlantic he
would write affectionate, consolatory letters; face to face with her,
could he support the show of tenderness, go through an endless series of
emotional interviews, always reminding himself that the end in view was
hard cash? Not for love’s sake; he loved her less than before she proved
herself his wife in earnest. Veritable love--no man knew better--would
have impelled him to save himself and her from a degrading position.

Was he committing himself to a criminality which the law would visit?
Hardly that--until he entered into possession of money fraudulently

In miserable night-watchings, he fell to the most sordid calculations.
Supposing their plot revealed, would Nancy in fact be left without
resources? Surely not,--with her brother, her aunt, her lifelong friends
the Barmbys, to take thought for her. She could not suffer extremities.
And upon this he blushed relief.

Better to make up his mind that the secret must inevitably out. For the
moment, Nancy believed she had resigned herself to his departure, and
that she had strength to go through with the long ordeal. But a woman in
her situation cannot be depended upon to pursue a consistent course. It
is Nature’s ordinance that motherhood shall be attained through phases
of mental disturbance, which leave the sufferer scarce a pretence of
responsibility. Nancy would play strange pranks, by which, assuredly, he
would be driven to exasperation if they passed under his eyes. He had no
mind to be called father; perhaps even his humanity might fail under
the test to which, as a lover, he had given scarce a casual thought. By
removing himself, and awaiting the issue afar off, he gained time and
opportunity for reflection. Of course his wife could not come to want;
that, after all, was the one clearly comforting thought. Her old servant
would take good care of her, happen what might.

He must taste of liberty again before sinking into the humdrum of
married life. The thought of an ocean voyage, of the new life amid
tropic splendours, excited his imagination all the more because it
blended with the thought of recovered freedom. Marriage had come upon
him with unfair abruptness; for such a change as that, even the ordinary
bachelor demands a season preparative; much more, then, the young man
who revelled in a philosophic sense of detachment, who wrote his motto
‘Vixi hodie!’ For marriage he was simply unfit; forced together, he and
his wife would soon be mutually detestable. A temporary parting might
mature in the hearts of both that affection of which the seed was
undeniably planted. With passion they had done; the enduring tenderness
of a reasonable love must now unite them, were they to be united at all.
And to give such love a chance of growing in him, Tarrant felt that he
must lose sight of Nancy until her child was born.

Yes, it had begun already, the trial he dreaded. A letter from Nancy,
written and posted only an hour or two after her return home--a long,
distracted letter. Would he forgive her for seeming to be an obstacle
in the way of what he had proposed? Would he promise her to be faithful?
Would he--

He had hardly patience to read it through.

The next evening, on returning home about ten o’clock, he was startled
by the sight of Nancy’s figure at the foot of his staircase.

‘What has happened?’

‘Nothing--don’t be frightened. But I wanted to see you tonight.’

She gripped his hand.

‘How long have you waited? What! Hours? But this is downright
madness--such a night as this! Couldn’t you put a note for me in the

‘Don’t--don’t speak so! I wanted to see you.’ She hurried her words, as
if afraid he would refuse to listen. ‘I have told Mary--I wanted you to

‘Come in. But there’s no fire, and you’re chilled through. Do you want
to be ill? What outrageous silliness!’

Her vitality was indeed at a low ebb, and reproaches made her weep.
Tarrant half carried her up to his room, made a light, and fell to his
knees at fire-building.

‘Let me do it,’ Nancy exclaimed. ‘Let me wait upon you--’

‘If you don’t sit still and keep quiet, you’ll make me angry in

‘Then you’re not _really_ angry with me? I couldn’t help it.’

‘No, I’m afraid you couldn’t,’ Tarrant muttered cheerlessly.

‘I wanted to tell you that Mary will be our friend. She was speechless
with astonishment; at first I didn’t know what she would say; she looked
at me as she had never looked before--as if she were the mistress, and
I the servant. But see what I have come to; all I felt was a dread lest
she should think it her duty to cast me off. I haven’t a bit of pride
left. I could have fallen on my knees before her; I almost did. But she
was very good and kind and gentle at last. She’ll do everything she can
for me.’

The fire in a blaze, Tarrant stood up and regarded it gloomily.

‘Well, did she think it possible?’ he asked at length.

‘Yes, she did. She said it would be very difficult, but the secret might
be kept--if I were strong enough. And I _am_ strong enough--I _will_

‘It doesn’t look like it,’ said Tarrant, taking the edge off his words
with a smile.

‘I won’t come again in this way. Where have you been tonight?’

‘Oh, with friends.’

‘Which friends? where?’

He moved impatiently.

‘People you don’t know, Nancy, and wouldn’t care about if you did. Do
you know what time it is?’

‘Do tell me where you have been. It isn’t prying into your affairs. Your
friends ought to be mine; at least, I mean, I ought to know their names,
and something about them. Suppose I were to tell you I had been spending
the evening with friends--’

‘My dear girl, I shouldn’t ask a question, unless you invited it.
However, it’s better to tell you that I have been making arrangements to
sublet these chambers. I can’t afford to keep them, even if there were
any use in it. Harvey Munden has introduced me to a man who is likely to
relieve me of the burden. I shall warehouse my books and furniture--’

‘Then you are going? Really going to leave England?’

He affected astonishment; in truth, nothing now could surprise him.

‘But wasn’t it all decided between us? Didn’t you repeat it in your

‘Yes--I know--but I didn’t think it would come so soon.’

‘We won’t talk about it to-night,’ said Tarrant firmly. ‘For one thing,
there’s no time. Come closer to the fire, and get warm through; then I
must see you home.’

Nancy hung her head. When, in a few moments, she looked up again, it was
to say drily:

‘There’s no need for you to see me home.’

‘I’m going to, at all events.’

‘Why? You don’t care much about me. I might as well be run over--or

To this remark no sort of answer was vouchsafed. Nancy sat with her
feet on the fender, and Tarrant kept up a great blaze with chips, which
sputtered out their moisture before they began to crackle. He and she
both seemed intent on this process of combustion.

‘Now you’re quite warm,’ said the young man, as if speaking to a child,
‘and it’s time to go.’

Nancy rose obediently, gazed at him with dreaming eyes, and suffered
herself to be led away by the arm. In Chancery Lane, Tarrant hailed a
crawling hansom. When they were driving rapidly southward, Nancy began
to question him about the date of his departure; she learnt that he
might be gone in less than a week.

‘If you could behave quietly and sensibly, we would have an evening to
make final arrangements.’

‘I can,’ she answered, with a calm that surprised him. ‘If you go
without letting me see you again, I don’t know what I might do. But I
can be as sensible as you are, if I’m treated fairly.’

He grasped her hand.

‘Remember, dear girl, that I have a good deal to worry me just now. Do
you suppose I leave you with a light heart?’

‘If you can persuade me that you care--’

‘I care a good deal more than I can easily say. Your position is a very
hard one,--harder than mine. But I’m going away to work for your future.
I see clearly that it’s the best thing I could do. Whether Vawdrey’s
ideas come to anything or not, I shall make profit out of the journey;
I mean to write,--I think it’s all I can do to any purpose,--and the
material I shall get together over there will give me a start. Don’t
think I am cold-hearted because I talk in this way; if I broke down, so
much the worse for both of us. The time has come for serious work.’

‘But we shan’t lose my money. I’ve made up my mind we shan’t.’

‘It’s impossible for you to guard against every danger. We must be
prepared for the worst, and that responsibility rests on me. Try and
keep your mind at ease; whatever happens, to protect you is my duty, and
I shall not fail in it.’

Speaking thus, Tarrant felt the glow of virtue. His words were
perfectly sincere, but had reference to a future which his thoughts left
comfortably vague.

They were to meet again, probably for the definite parting, three days
hence. Tarrant, whose desire for escape had now become incontrollable,
used the intervening time in a rush of preparations. He did not debate
with himself as to the length of his sojourn in the West Indies; that
must be determined by circumstances. Explicitly he had avoided a promise
on the subject. What money he possessed he would take with him; it might
be to his interest, for Nancy’s likewise, to exceed the term of
absence provided for in his stipulations with Mr. Vawdrey. But all he
deliberately thought of was the getting away. Impatient with Nancy,
because of the vagaries resultant from her mental and physical state,
he himself exhibited a flagrant triumph of instinct over reason. Once
in enjoyment of liberty, he would reflect, like a practical man, on the
details of his position, review and recognise his obligations, pay his
debt to honour; but liberty first of all. Not his the nature to accept
bondage; it demoralised him, made him do and say things of which he
was ashamed. Only let him taste the breezes of ocean, and the healthful
spirit which is one with rectitude would again inspire him.

Much to his surprise, he neither saw nor heard from Nancy until the hour
appointed. She came very punctually. On opening the door to her, with an
air of resolute cheerfulness, he saw something in her face that removed
the necessity for playing a part. It was the look which had so charmed
him in their love-days, the indescribable look, characteristic of Nancy,
and of her alone; a gleam between smile and laughter, a glance mingling
pride with submission, a silent note of personality which thrilled the
senses and touched the heart.

‘What now?’ he asked, holding her hand and gazing at her. ‘Some good

‘None that I know of. How hot your room is! Why, you look glad to see

‘Was I ever anything else?’

She answered him with a smile.

‘It’s a very pleasant surprise,’ he continued, watching her as she threw
off her out-door things. ‘I expected a doleful visage, eyes red with

‘Did you? See how much a man thinks of himself! If you choose to go
away, I choose to think as little of you as possible. That’s common
sense--isn’t it?’

‘I don’t want you to cry about it.’

‘Oh yes, you do. It flatters you, and you like flattery. But I’ve been
too obliging. I feel myself again, and there’s no more flattery for
you--till you come back. I don’t ask you when that will be. I ask you
nothing at all. I am independent of you.’

Tarrant grew uneasy. He feared that this mood of jest would change only
too suddenly, and her collapse into feminine feebleness be the more

‘Be as independent as you like,’ he said; ‘only keep your love for me.’

‘Oh, indeed! It’s your experience, is it, that the two things can go
together? That’s the difference between man and woman, I suppose. I
shall love you just as little as possible--and how little that will be,
perhaps I had better not tell you.’

Still he stood gazing at her.

‘You look very beautiful to-day.’

‘I know. I saw it for myself before I left home. But we won’t talk about
that. When do you go?’

‘My goods will be warehoused to-morrow, and the next day I go to

‘I’m glad it’s so soon. We shan’t need to see each other again. Smoke
your pipe. I’m going to make a cup of tea.’

‘Kiss me first. You forgot when you came in.’

‘You get no kiss by ordering it. Beg for it prettily, and we’ll see.’

‘What does it all mean, Nancy? How can you have altered like this?’

‘You prefer me as I was last time?’

‘Not I, indeed. You make me feel that it will be very hard to leave you.
I shall carry away a picture of you quite different from the dreary face
that I had got to be afraid of.’

Nancy laughed, and of a sudden held out her hands to him.

‘Haven’t I thought of that? These were the very words I hoped to hear
from you. Now beg for a kiss, and you shall have one.’

Never, perhaps, had they spent together so harmonious an evening.
Nancy’s tenderness took at length a graver turn, but she remained
herself, face and speech untroubled by morbid influence.

‘I won’t see you again,’ she said, ‘because I mightn’t be able to behave
as I can to-day. To-day I am myself; for a long time I have been living
I don’t know how.’

Tarrant murmured something about her state of health.

‘Yes, I know all about that. A strange thought came to me last night.
When my father was alive I fretted because I couldn’t be independent; I
wanted to be quite free, to live as I chose; I looked forward to it as
the one thing desirable. Now, I look back on that as a time of liberty.
I am in bondage, now--threefold bondage.’

‘How threefold?’

‘To you, because I love you, and couldn’t cease loving you, however I
tried. Then, to my father’s will, which makes me live in hiding, as if I
were a criminal. And then--’

‘What other tyranny?’

‘You mustn’t expect all my love. Before long some one else will rule
over me.--What an exchange I have made! And I was going to be so

To the listener, her speech seemed to come from a maturer mind than she
had hitherto revealed. But he suffered from the thought that this might
be merely a pathological phase. In reminding him of her motherhood, she
checked the flow of his emotion.

‘You’ll remember,’ Nancy went on, ‘that I’m not enjoying myself whilst
you are away. I don’t want you to be unhappy--only to think of me, and
keep in mind what I’m going through. If you do that, you won’t be away
from me longer than you can help.’

It was said with unforced pathos, and Tarrant’s better part made
generous reply.

‘If you find it too hard, dear, write to me, and tell me, and there
shall be an end of it.’

‘Never. You think me wretchedly weak, but you shall see--’

‘It’s of your own free will you undertake it?’

‘Yes, of my own free will,’ she answered firmly. ‘I won’t come to you
penniless. It isn’t right I should do so. My father didn’t mean that. If
I had had the sense and the courage to tell him, all this misery would
have been spared. That money is mine by every right, and I won’t lose
it. Not only for your sake and my own--there is some one else to think

Tarrant gave her a kind look.

‘Don’t count upon it. Trust to me.’

‘I like to hear you say that, but I don’t wish you to be put to proof.
You are not the kind of man to make money.’

‘How do you mean it?’

‘As you like to take it. Silly boy, don’t I love you just because you
are _not_ one of the money-making men? If you hadn’t a penny in the
world, I should love you just the same; and I couldn’t love you more if
you had millions.’

The change which Tarrant expected did not come. To the end, she was
brave and bright, her own best self. She said good-bye without a tear,
refused to let him accompany her, and so, even as she had resolved, left
in her husband’s mind an image beckoning his return.

Part IV: The Veiled Figure


Before his admission to a partnership in Mr. Lord’s business, Samuel
Barmby lived with his father and two sisters in Coldharbour Lane. Their
house was small, old and crumbling for lack of repair; the landlord, his
ground-lease having but a year or two to run, looked on with equanimity
whilst the building decayed. Under any circumstances, the family must
soon have sought a home elsewhere, and Samuel’s good fortune enabled
them to take a house in Dagmar Road, not far from Grove Lane; a new
and most respectable house, with bay windows rising from the half-sunk
basement to the second storey. Samuel, notwithstanding his breadth of
mind, privately admitted the charm of such an address as ‘Dagmar Road,’
which looks well at the head of note-paper, and falls with sonority from
the lips.

The Barmby sisters, Lucy and Amelia by name, were unpretentious
young women, without personal attractions, and soberly educated. They
professed a form of Dissent; their reading was in certain religious and
semi-religious periodicals, rarely in books; domestic occupations took
up most of their time, and they seldom had any engagements. At appointed
seasons, a festivity in connection with ‘the Chapel’ called them forth;
it kept them in a flutter for many days, and gave them a headache. In
the strictest sense their life was provincial; nominally denizens of
London, they dwelt as remote from everything metropolitan as though
Camberwell were a village of the Midlands. If they suffered from
discontent, no one heard of it; a confession by one or the other that
she ‘felt dull’ excited the sister’s surprise, and invariably led to the
suggestion of ‘a little medicine.’

Their brother they regarded with admiration, tempered by anxiety. ‘Great
talents,’ they knew by report, were often perilous to the possessor, and
there was reason to fear that Samuel Bennett Barmby had not resisted
all the temptations to which his intellect exposed him. At the age of
one-and-twenty he made a startling announcement; ‘the Chapel’ no longer
satisfied the needs of his soul, and he found himself summoned to join
the Church of England as by law established. Religious intolerance not
being a family characteristic, Mr. Barmby and his daughters, though they
looked grave over the young man’s apostasy, admitted his freedom in this
matter; their respected friend Mr. Lord belonged to the Church, and it
could not be thought that so earnest-minded a man walked in the way to
perdition. At the same time, Samuel began to exhibit a liking for social
pleasures, which were, it might be hoped, innocent, but, as they kept
him from home of evenings, gave some ground for uneasiness. He had
joined a society of young men who met for intellectual debate, and his
success as an orator fostered the spiritual pride already discernible in
him. His next step could not be regarded without concern, for he became
a member of the National Sunday League. Deceptive name! At first
the Miss. Barmbys supposed this was a union for safe-guarding the
Sabbath-day; it appalled them to discover that the League had quite an
opposite tendency, that its adherents sallied forth together on ‘Sunday
excursions,’ that they received tickets for Sunday admission to picture
galleries, and in various other ways offended orthodox feeling. But
again the father and sisters gave patient ear to Samuel’s elaborate
arguments. They became convinced that he had no evil intentions. The
elder girl, having caught up a pregnant phrase in some periodical she
approved, began to remark that Samuel had ‘a modern mind;’ and this
eventually consoled them.

When it began to be observed that Samuel talked somewhat frequently of
Miss. Lord, the implied suggestion caused a tremor of confused feeling.
To the Miss. Barmbys, Nancy seemed an enigmatic person; they had
tried to like her, but could not; they objected to her assumption of
superiority, and were in grave doubt as to her opinions on cardinal
points of faith and behaviour. Yet, when it appeared a possibility that
their brother might woo Miss. Lord and win her for a wife, the girls did
their best to see her in a more favourable light. Not for a moment
did it occur to them that Nancy could regard a proposal from Samuel as
anything but an honour; to _them_ she might behave slightingly, for they
were of her own sex, and not clever; but a girl who prided herself on
intellectual attainments must of course look up to Samuel Bennett with
reverence. In their unworldliness--of a truth they were good, simple
creatures--the slight difference of social position seemed unimportant.
And with Samuel’s elevation to a partnership, even that one shadowy
obstacle was removed. Henceforth they would meet Nancy in a conciliatory
spirit, and, if she insisted upon it, bow down before her.

Mr. Barmby, senior, whose years drew nigh to three-score, had a great
advantage in point of physical health over his old friend Stephen Lord,
and his mind enjoyed a placidity which promised him length of days.
Since the age of seventeen he had plied a pen in the office of a Life
Assurance Company, where his salary, by small and slow increments, had
grown at length to two hundred and fifty a year. Himself a small and
slow person, he had every reason to be satisfied with this progress, and
hoped for no further advance. He was of eminently sober mind, profoundly
conscientious, and quite devoid of social ambition,--points of character
which explained the long intimacy between him and Stephen Lord. Yet one
habit he possessed which foreshadowed the intellectual composition of
his son,--he loved to write letters to the newspapers. At very long
intervals one of these communications achieved the honour of type, and
then Mr Barmby was radiant with modest self-approval. He never signed
such letters with his own name, but chose a pseudonym befitting the
subject. Thus, if moved to civic indignation by pieces of orange-peel on
the pavement, he styled himself ‘Urban Rambler;’ if anxious to protest
against the overcrowding of ‘bus or railway-carriage, his signature was
‘Otium cum Dignitate.’ When he took a holiday at the seaside, unwonted
leisure and novel circumstances prompted him to address local editors at
considerable length. The preservation of decency by bathers was then
his favourite topic, and he would sign ‘Pudor,’ or perchance
‘Paterfamilias.’ His public epistles, if collected, would have made an
entertaining and instructive volume, so admirably did they represent
one phase of the popular mind. ‘No, sir,’--this sentence frequently
occurred,--‘it was not thus that our fathers achieved national and civic
greatness.’ And again: ‘All the feelings of an English parent revolt,’
&c. Or: ‘And now, sir, where is this to end?’--a phrase applied at one
moment to the prospects of religion and morality, at another to the
multiplication of muffin-bells.

On a Sunday afternoon, Mr. Barmby often read aloud to his daughters, and
in general his chosen book was ‘Paradise Lost.’ These performances had
an indescribable solemnity, but it unfortunately happened that, as his
fervour increased, the reader became regardless of aspirates. Thus, at
the culmination of Satanic impiety, he would give forth with shaking

‘_Ail, orrors, ail! and thou profoundest Ell, Receive thy new

This, though it did not distress the girls, was painful to Samuel
Bennett, who had given no little care to the correction of similar
lapses in his own speech.

Samuel conceived himself much ahead of his family. Quite uneducated, in
any legitimate sense of the word, he had yet learnt that such a thing as
education existed, and, by dint of busy perusal of penny popularities,
had even become familiar with names and phrases, with modes of thought
and of ambition, appertaining to a world for ever closed against him. He
spoke of Culture, and imagined himself far on the way to attain it. His
mind was packed with the oddest jumble of incongruities; Herbert Spencer
jostled with Charles Bradlaugh, Matthew Arnold with Samuel Smiles; in
one breath he lauded George Eliot, in the next was enthusiastic over
a novel by Mrs. Henry Wood; from puerile facetiae he passed to
speculations on the origin of being, and with equally light heart.
Save for Pilgrim’s Progress and Robinson Crusoe, he had read no English
classic; since boyhood, indeed, he had probably read no book at all,
for much diet of newspapers rendered him all but incapable of sustained
attention. Whatever he seemed to know of serious authors came to him
at second or third hand. Avowing his faith in Christianity when with
orthodox people, in the society of sceptics he permitted himself to
smile at the old faiths,--though he preferred to escape this temptation,
the Nonconformist conscience still reigning within him. At home he posed
as a broad-minded Anglican, and having somewhere read that Tennyson’s
‘In Memoriam’ represented this attitude, he spoke of the poem as ‘one of
the books that have made me what I am.’

His circle of acquaintances lay apart from that in which the Lords
moved; it consisted for the most part of young men humbly endowed in
the matter of income, and making little pretence of social dignity. When
others resorted to theatre or public-house, or places not so readily
designated, Samuel and his friends met together to discourse on subjects
of which they knew somewhat less than nothing. Some of them occasionally
held audacious language, especially when topics such as the relations of
the sexes invited their wisdom; they had read something somewhere
which urged them to cast off the trammels of conventional thought;
they ‘ventured to say’ that in a very few years ‘surprising changes of
opinion would come about.’ These revolutionaries, after startling the
more sober of their hearers, went quietly home to mother or landlady,
supped on cheese and cocoa, and next day plied the cleric pen with
exemplary zeal.

Samuel believed himself in love. That he should conceive matrimonial
intentions with regard to Stephen Lord’s daughter was but the natural
issue of circumstance; from that conception resulted an amorous mood, so
much inflamed by Nancy’s presence that a young man, whose thoughts did
not often transgress decorum, had every reason to suppose himself her
victim. When Nancy rejected his formal offer of devotion, the desire to
wed her besieged him more vigorously; Samuel was piqued at the tone of
lofty trifling in which the girl answered his proposal; for assuredly
he esteemed himself no less remarkable a person than he appeared in the
eyes of his sisters, and his vanity had been encouraged by Mr. Lord’s
favour. Of his qualities as a man of business there was no doubt; in
one direction or another, he would have struck the road to fortune; why
Nancy should regard him with condescension, and make him feel at
once that his suit was hopeless, puzzled him for many a day. He tried
flattery, affecting to regard her as his superior in things of the
intellect, but only with the mortifying result that Miss. Lord accepted
his humility as quite natural. Then he held apart in dignified reserve,
and found no difficulty in maintaining this attitude until after Mr.
Lord’s death. Of course he did not let his relatives know of the repulse
he had suffered, but, when speaking to them of what had happened on
Jubilee night, he made it appear that his estimate of Miss. Lord
was undergoing modification. ‘She has lost him, all through her
flightiness,’ said the sisters to each other. They were not sorry, and
felt free again to criticise Nancy’s ideas of maidenly modesty.

The provisions of Mr. Lord’s will could not but trouble the intercourse
between Grove Lane and Dagmar Road. Mr. Barmby, senior, undertook with
characteristic seriousness the guardianship conferred upon him. He had
long interviews with Horace and Nancy, in which he acquitted himself
greatly to his own satisfaction. Samuel, equally a trustee, showed his
delicacy by holding aloof save when civility dictated a call upon the
young people. But his hopes had revived; he was quite willing to wait
three years for Nancy, and it seemed to him more than probable that
this period of reflection would bring the young lady to a sense of his
merits. In the meantime, he would pursue with energy the business now at
his sole direction, and make it far more lucrative than when managed on
Mr. Lord’s old-fashioned principles.

As the weeks went on, it seemed more clear than at first that Nancy
resented the authority held by Samuel and his father. They were not
welcome at the house in Grove Lane; the Miss. Barmbys called several
times without being admitted, though they felt sure that Nancy was at
home. Under these circumstances, it became desirable to discover some
intermediary who would keep them acquainted with the details of Nancy’s
life and of her brother’s. Such intermediary was at hand, in the person
of Miss. Jessica Morgan.


Until of late there had existed a bare acquaintance between Jessica and
the Barmby family. The two or three hours which she perforce spent
in Samuel’s company on Jubilee night caused Jessica no little
embarrassment; as a natural result, their meetings after that had a
colour of intimacy, and it was not long before Miss. Morgan and the
Miss. Barmbys began to see more of each other. Nancy, on a motive
correspondent with that which actuated her guardians, desired Jessica’s
familiarity with the household in Dagmar Road; her friend could thus
learn and communicate sundry facts of importance, else hidden from her
in the retirement to which she was now condemned. How did the Barmbys
regard her behaviour to them? Did they, in their questioning, betray
any suspicion fraught with danger? Jessica, enjoying the possession of
a most important secret, which she had religiously guarded even from her
mother, made time to accept the Barmbys’ invitations pretty frequently,
and invited the girls to her own home as often as she could afford a
little outlay on cakes and preserves.

It made a salutary distraction in her life. As December drew near, she
exhibited alarming symptoms of over-work, and but for the romance which
assured to her an occasional hour of idleness, she must have collapsed
before the date of her examination. As it was, she frightened one of her
pupils, at the end of a long lesson, by falling to the floor and lying
there for ten minutes in unconsciousness. The warning passed unheeded;
day and night she toiled at her insuperable tasks, at times half
frenzied by the strangest lapses of memory, and feeling, the more she
laboured, only the more convinced that at the last moment every fact she
had acquired would ruthlessly desert her.

Her place of abode favoured neither health nor mental tranquillity. It
was one of a row of new houses in a new quarter. A year or two ago the
site had been an enclosed meadow, portion of the land attached to what
was once a country mansion; London, devourer of rural limits, of a
sudden made hideous encroachment upon the old estate, now held by a
speculative builder; of many streets to be constructed, three or four
had already come into being, and others were mapped out, in mud and
inchoate masonry, athwart the ravaged field. Great elms, the pride of
generations passed away, fell before the speculative axe, or were left
standing in mournful isolation to please a speculative architect;
bits of wayside hedge still shivered in fog and wind, amid hoardings
variegated with placards and scaffolding black against the sky. The
very earth had lost its wholesome odour; trampled into mire, fouled with
builders’ refuse and the noisome drift from adjacent streets, it sent
forth, under the sooty rain, a smell of corruption, of all the town’s
uncleanliness. On this rising locality had been bestowed the title of
‘Park.’ Mrs. Morgan was decided in her choice of a dwelling here by the
euphonious address, Merton Avenue, Something-or-other Park.

The old mansion--not very old, and far from beautiful, but stoutly
built--stood grim and desolate, long dismantled, and waiting only to be
torn down for the behoof of speculative dealers in old material. What
aforetime was a tree-bordered drive, now curved between dead stumps, a
mere slushy cartway; the stone pillars, which had marked the entrance,
damaged in the rending away of metal with a market value, drooped
sideways, ready at a touch to bury themselves in slime.

Through summer months the Morgans had suffered sufficiently from
the defects of their house; with the coming on of winter, they found
themselves exposed to miseries barely endurable. At the first slight
frost, cistern and water-pipes went to ruin; already so damp that
unlovely vegetation had cropped up on cellar walls, the edifice was now
drenched with torrents of water. Plaster fell from the ceilings; paper
peeled away down the staircase; stuccoed portions of the front began to
crack and moulder. Not a door that would close as a door should; not a
window that would open in the way expected of it; not a fireplace but
discharged its smoke into the room, rather than by the approved
channel. Everywhere piercing draughts, which often entered by orifices
unexplained and unexplainable. From cellar floor to chimney-pot, no
square inch of honest or trustworthy workmanship. So thin were the
parti-walls that conversation not only might, but must, be distinctly
heard from room to room, and from house to house; the Morgans learnt to
subdue their voices, lest all they said should become common property of
the neighbourhood. For the privilege of occupying such a residence, ‘the
interior,’ said advertisement, ‘handsomely decorated,’ they were racked
with an expenditure which, away in the sweet-scented country, would have
housed them amid garden graces and orchard fruitfulness.

At this time, Mr. Morgan had joined an acquaintance in the establishment
of a debt-collecting agency; his partner provided the modest capital
needful for such an enterprise, and upon himself fell the disagreeable
work. A man of mild temper and humane instincts, he spent his day in
hunting people who would not or could not pay the money they owed,
straining his wits to circumvent the fraudulent, and swooping
relentlessly upon the victims of misfortune. The occupation revolted
him, but at present he saw no other way of supporting the genteel
appearances which--he knew not why--were indispensable to his life. He
subsisted like a bird of prey; he was ever on the look out for carrion
which the law permitted him to seize. From the point of view forced upon
him, society became a mere system of legalised rapine. ‘You are in debt;
behold the bond. Behold, too, my authority for squeezing out of you the
uttermost farthing. You must beg or starve? I deplore it, but I, for my
part, have a genteel family to maintain on what I rend from your grip.’
He set his forehead against shame; he stooped to the basest chicanery;
he exposed himself to insult, to curses, to threats of violence.
Sometimes a whole day of inconceivably sordid toil resulted in the
pouching of a few pence; sometimes his reward was a substantial sum. He
knew himself despised by many of the creditors who employed him. ‘Bad
debts? For how much will you sell them to me?’ And as often as not he
took away with his bargain a glance which was equivalent to a kick.

The genteel family knew nothing of these expedients. Mrs. Morgan talked
dolorously to her friends of ‘commercial depression,’ and gave it to be
vaguely understood that her husband had suffered great losses because
he conducted his affairs in the spirit of a gentleman. Her son was in an
office;’ her elder daughter was attempting the art of fiction, which
did not promise to be lucrative; Jessica, more highly educated, would
shortly matriculate at the University of London--a consoling prospect,
but involving the payment of a fee that could with difficulty be

Every friend of the family held it a matter of course that Jessica would
succeed in the examination. It seemed probable that she would have a
place in Honours.

And, meanwhile, the poor girl herself was repenting of the indiscreet
boastfulness with which she had made known her purpose. To come out in
an inferior class would be painful enough; how support the possibility
of absolute failure? Yet she knew only too well that in certain
‘subjects’ she was worse than shaky. Her Greek--her Chemistry--her

By way of propitiating the stern fates, she began to talk with Lucy and
Amelia Barmby in a tone of diffidence. Half a year ago, she would have
held her head very high in such company; now the simple goodness of the
old-fashioned girls made an appeal to her aching heart, and their homely
talk soothed her exhausted brain.

‘It’s fearfully difficult,’ she said to them one evening, as she sat
in their parlour. ‘And I lose so much time with my pupils. Really, you
know, I haven’t a fair chance. I was showing Nancy Lord the Algebra
paper set last summer, and she confessed she could hardly do a single

‘She couldn’t?’ exclaimed one of the sisters in astonishment. ‘But we
always thought she was so very clever.’

‘So she is--in many things. But she never dreamt of going in for such an
examination as this.’

‘And do you really know more than she does?’

Jessica smiled with affected modesty.

‘Oh, I have studied so much more.’

It was sweet to gain this triumph over her friend, whose progress in
the school of life she watched with the jealousy of a girl condemned to
sterile passions.

Their talk was interrupted by the entrance of Samuel Barmby, and his
elder sister, addressing him without reflection, said wonderingly:

‘Sam, did you know that Nancy Lord couldn’t pass the examination that
Miss. Morgan is going in for?’

Jessica blushed, and hastened to extenuate this crude statement.

‘Oh, I didn’t say that. Only that she would have to study very hard if
she went in for the matriculation.’

‘Of course she would,’ Samuel assented, largely, as he took his stand
before the fireplace and beamed upon the female trio. ‘Miss Lord goes
in for broad culture; that’s quite a different thing from studying for

To the hearers, Jessica not excepted, this seemed to argue the spirit of
broad culture in Samuel himself. Miss. Morgan pursued nervously:

‘Examinations are nothing. I believe very stupid people often do well in
them, and clever people often fail.’

Her voice sank on the last word, and she tried to read Barmby’s face
without meeting his look. Of late, a change had come about in her
estimation of Samuel. Formerly she spoke of him with contemptuous
amusement, in the tone set by Nancy; since she had become a friend of
the family, his sisters’ profound respect had influenced her way of
thinking, and in secret she was disposed rather to admire ‘the
Prophet.’ He had always struck her as a comely man, and, her education
notwithstanding, she never perceived in his remarks that downright
imbecility which excited Nancy’s derision. On Jubilee night he was
anything but a tedious companion; apart from her critical friend,
Jessica had listened without impatience to his jests, his instructive
facts, his flowing rhetoric. Now-a-days, in her enfeebled state of
body and mind, she began to look forward with distinct pleasure to her
occasional meetings with Samuel, pleasure which perhaps was enhanced
by the air of condescension wherewith he tempered his courtesy. Morbid
miseries brought out the frailty of her character. Desiring to be highly
esteemed by Mr. Barmby, she found herself no less willing to join his
sisters in a chorus of humbly feminine admiration, when he discoursed
to them from an altitude. At moments, after gazing upon his eloquent
countenance, she was beset by strange impulses which brought blood to
her cheek, and made her dread the Miss. Barmbys’ scrutiny.

‘I look upon examinations,’ Samuel was saying, ‘as a professional
matter. I never went in for them myself, simply because I--I turned my
energies in another direction.’

‘You _could_ have passed them,’ remarked one of his sisters, ‘easily

‘In Miss. Morgan’s presence,’--he stroked his chin, and smiled with
delicious fatuity--‘I prefer to say nothing on that point.’

‘Oh but of course you could, Mr. Barmby,’ sounded Jessica’s voice, in
an unsteady falsetto, whilst her eyes were turned upon the floor. ‘You
would have thought nothing of this matriculation, which seems to me so

Profoundly flattered, Samuel addressed the girl in his suavest tones.

‘I have a theory, Miss. Morgan, that young ladies ought not to undergo
these ordeals. The delicacy of their nervous system unfits them for such
a strain. I’m sure we shall all feel very glad when you are successfully
through the trial. After it, you ought to have a long rest.’

‘Oh, you ought--indeed you ought,’ assented the girls.

‘By the bye,’ said Samuel, ‘my father has heard from Miss. Lord that she
is going away for a month or two. She says her health requires it.’

Jessica sat silent, still with downcast eyes.

‘But it’s a new thing, isn’t it,’ remarked Amelia, ‘for Miss. Lord to be
in bad health?’

‘She has suffered a good deal, I’m afraid,’ said Jessica, ‘since her
father’s death. The doctor tells her she oughtn’t to live in that dull
house through the winter.’

‘In that case,’ Samuel exclaimed, ‘of course she must go at once--of

He never spoke of Nancy but with stress of unctuous generosity. This, if
his hearers knew what he had suffered at her hands, must tell greatly
to his credit; if they were not aware of the circumstances, such a tone
would become him as the young lady’s hopeful admirer.

‘I fear her nerves are affected,’ pursued Jessica. ‘She can’t
bear society. So unlike her, isn’t it? She goes out very little
indeed,--sometimes not for days together. And really she sees nobody.
I’m getting quite anxious about her.’

The subject was an awkward one in this house, and it soon gave place to
freer conversation. On her way home, though mechanically repeating dates
and formulae, Jessica could not resist the tendency of her thoughts,
to dwell on Samuel’s features and Samuel’s eloquence. This was a new
danger; she had now little more than a fortnight for her final ‘cram,’
and any serious distraction meant ruin.

In a day or two she took leave of Nancy, who had chosen for her winter
retreat no less remote a spot than Falmouth. Horace having settled
himself in lodgings, the house was to be shut up; Mary Woodruff of
course went down into Cornwall. Nancy had written a letter to Mr.
Barmby, senior, excusing herself for not being able to see him before
her departure; it was an amiable letter, but contained frank avowal of
pain and discontent at the prospect of her long pupilage. ‘Of course I
submit to the burden my father chose to lay upon me, and before long,
I hope, I shall be able to take things in a better spirit. All I ask of
you, dear Mr. Barmby, is to have forbearance with me until I get back
my health and feel more cheerful. You know that I could not be in better
hands whilst Mary is with me. I shall write frequently, and give you
an account of myself. Let me hear sometimes, and show me that you make
allowance for my very trying position.’

Jessica heard the letter discussed by its recipient and his family.
Samuel spoke with his wonted magnanimity; his father took a liberal view
of the matter. And in writing to her friend a few days later, Jessica
was able to say: ‘I think you may safely stay at Falmouth for the whole
winter. You will not be interfered with if you write nicely. I shouldn’t
wonder if they would let you keep out of their reach _as long as it is

The week of Jessica’s ordeal was now at hand. She had had another
fainting-fit; her sleep was broken every night with hideous dreams; she
ate scarce enough to keep herself alive; a perpetual fever parched her
throat and burned at her temples.

On the last day of ‘cram,’ she sat from morning to night in her
comfortless little bedroom, bending over the smoky fire, reading
desperately through a pile of note-books. The motive of vanity no
longer supported her; gladly she would have crept away into a life of
insignificance; but the fee for the examination was paid, and she must
face the terrors, the shame, that waited her at Burlington House. No
hope of ‘passing.’ Perhaps at the last moment a stroke of mortal illness
would come to her relief.

Not so. She found herself in the ghastly torture-hall, at a desk on
which lay sheets of paper, not whiter than her face. Somebody gave her
a scroll, stereotyped in imitation of manuscript--the questions to be
answered. For a quarter of an hour she could not understand a word. She
saw the face of Samuel Barmby, and heard his tones--‘The delicacy of a
young lady’s nervous system unfits her for such a strain.’

That evening she went home with a half-formed intention of poisoning

But the morrow saw her seated again before another scroll of stereotype,
still thinking of Samuel Barmby, still hearing his voice. The man was
grown hateful to her; he seemed to haunt her brain malignantly, and to
paralyse her hand.

Day after day in the room of torture, until all was done. Then upon her
long despair followed a wild, unreasoning hope. Though it rained, she
walked all the way home, singing, chattering to herself, and reached the
house-door without consciousness of the distance she had traversed. Her
mother and sister came out into the hall; they had been watching for

‘I did a good paper to-day--I think I’ve passed after all--yes, I feel
sure I’ve passed!’

‘You look dreadful,’ exclaimed Mrs. Morgan. ‘And you’re wet through--’

‘I did a good paper to-day--I feel sure I’ve passed!’

She sat down to a meal, but could not swallow.

‘I feel sure I’ve passed--I feel sure--’

And she fell from the chair, to all appearances stone-dead.

They took her upstairs, undressed her, sent for the doctor. When he
came, she had been lying for half-an-hour conscious, but mute. She
looked gravely at him, and said, as if repeating a lesson:

‘The delicacy of a young lady’s nervous system unfits her for such a

‘Undoubtedly,’ repeated the doctor, with equal gravity.

‘But,’ she added eagerly, ‘let Mr. Barmby know at once that I have

‘He shall know at once,’ said the doctor.


A lady who lived at Kilburn, and entertained largely in a house not
designed for large entertainment, was ‘at home’ this evening. At eleven
o’clock the two drawing-rooms contained as many people as could sit and
stand with semblance of comfort; around the hostess, on the landing,
pressed a crowd, which grew constantly thicker by affluence from the
staircase. In the hall below a ‘Hungarian band’ discoursed very loud
music. Among recent arrivals appeared a troupe of nigger minstrels,
engaged to give their exhilarating entertainment--if space could be
found for them. Bursts of laughter from the dining-room announced the
success of an American joker, who, in return for a substantial cheque,
provided amusement in fashionable gatherings. A brilliant scene. The
air, which encouraged perspiration, was rich with many odours; voices
endeavouring to make themselves audible in colloquy, swelled to a
tumultuous volume that vied with the Hungarian clangours.

In a corner of the staircase, squeezed behind two very fat women in very
low dresses, stood Horace Lord. His heated countenance wore a look of
fretful impatience; he kept rising upon his toes in an endeavour to
distinguish faces down in the hall. At length his expression changed,
and with eager eyes he began to force a way for himself between the
fat women. Not unrewarded with glaring glances, and even with severe
remarks, he succeeded in gaining the foot of the staircase, and came
within reach of the persons for whom he had been waiting. These were
Mrs. Damerel and Fanny French. The elder lady exhibited a toilet of
opulence corresponding with her mature charms; the younger, as became a
_debutante_, wore graceful white, symbol of her maiden modesty.

‘You promised to be early,’ said Horace, addressing Mrs. Damerel,
but regarding Fanny, who stood in conversation with a florid man of
uncertain age.

‘Couldn’t get here before, my dear boy.’

‘Surely you haven’t brought that fellow with you?’

‘Hush! You mustn’t talk in that way. We met at the door. Mrs. Dane knows
him. What does it matter?’

Horace moved aside to Fanny. Flushed with excitement, her hair adorned
with flowers, she looked very pretty.

‘Come along,’ he said, gripping her hand more violently than he
intended. ‘Let us get upstairs.’

‘Oh, you hurt me! Don’t be so silly.’

The man beside her gave Horace a friendly nod. His name was Mankelow.
Horace had met him once or twice of late at Mrs. Damerel’s, but did not
like him, and felt still less disposed to do so now that Mankelow
was acquainted with Fanny French. He suspected that the two were more
familiar than Fanny pretended. With little ceremony, he interposed
himself between the girl and this possible rival.

‘Why didn’t you make her come earlier?’ he said to Fanny, as they began
a slow upward struggle in the rear of Mrs. Damerel.

‘It isn’t fashionable to come early.’

‘Nonsense! Look at the people here already.’

Fanny threw up her chin, and glanced back to see that Mankelow was
following. In his vexation, Horace was seized with a cough--a cough
several times repeated before he could check it.

‘Your cold’s no better,’ said Fanny. ‘You oughtn’t to have come out at

‘It _is_ better,’ he replied sharply. ‘That’s the first time I’ve
coughed to-day. Do you mean you would rather not have found me here?’

‘How silly you are! People will hear what you’re saying.’

It was Fanny’s ‘first season,’ but not her first ‘at home.’ Mrs. Damerel
seemed to be taking an affectionate interest in her, and had introduced
her to several people. Horace, gratified in the beginning, now suffered
from jealousy; it tortured him to observe Fanny when she talked with
men. That her breeding was defective, mattered nothing in this
composite world of pseudo-elegance. Young Lord, who did not lack native
intelligence, understood by this time that Mrs. Damerel and her friends
were far from belonging to a high order of society; he saw vulgarity
rampant in every drawing-room to which he was admitted, and occasionally
heard things which startled his suburban prejudices. But Fanny, in
her wild enjoyment of these novel splendours, appeared to lose all
self-control. She flirted outrageously, and before his very eyes. If he
reproached her, she laughed at him; if he threatened to free himself,
she returned a look which impudently bade him try. Horace had all her
faults by heart, and no longer tried to think that he respected her, or
that, if he married such a girl, his life could possibly be a happy one;
but she still played upon his passions, and at her beck he followed like
a dog.

The hostess, Mrs. Dane, a woman who looked as if she had once been
superior to the kind of life she now led, welcomed him with peculiar
warmth, and in a quick confidential voice bade him keep near her for a
few minutes.

‘There’s some one I want to introduce you to--some one I’m sure you will
like to know.’

Obeying her, he soon lost sight of Fanny; but Mrs. Dane continued to
talk, at intervals, in such a flattering tone, that his turbid emotions
were soothed. He had heard of the Chittles? No? They were very old
friends of hers, said Mrs. Dane, and she particularly wanted him to know
them. Ah, here they came; mother and daughter. Horace observed them.
Mrs. Chittle was a frail, worn, nervous woman, who must once have been
comely; her daughter, a girl of two-and-twenty, had a pale, thin face of
much sweetness and gentleness. They seemed by no means at home in this
company; but Mrs. Chittle, when she conversed, assumed a vivacious air;
the daughter, trying to follow her example, strove vainly against an
excessive bashfulness, and seldom raised her eyes. Why he should be
expected to pay special attention to these people, Horace was at a loss
to understand; but Mrs. Chittle attached herself to him, and soon led
him into familiar dialogue. He learnt from her that they had lived for
two or three years in a very quiet country place; they had come up for
the season, but did not know many people. She spoke of her daughter, who
stood just out of earshot,--her eyes cast down, on her face a sad fixed
smile,--and said that it had been necessary almost to force her into
society. ‘She loves the country, and is so fond of books; but at her age
it’s really a shame to live like a nun--don’t you think so, Mr. Lord?’
Decidedly it was, said Horace. ‘I’m doing my best,’ pursued Mrs.
Chittle, ‘to cure her of her shyness. She is really afraid of
people--and it’s such a pity. She says that the things people talk about
don’t interest her; but _all_ people are not frivolous--are they, Mr.
Lord?’ Horace hoped not; and presently out of mere good-nature he tried
to converse with the young lady in a way that should neither alarm her
shyness nor prove distasteful to her intelligence. But with very
little success. From time to time the girl glanced at him with strange
timidity, yet seemed quite willing to listen as long as he chose to

Fanny, being at a considerable distance from home, was to return to the
boarding-house where her chaperon now lived, and have a room there
for the night. Horace disliked this arrangement, for the objectionable
Mankelow lived in the same house. When he was able to get speech with
Fanny, he tried to persuade her to go with him all the way home to
Camberwell in a cab. Miss. French would not listen to the suggestion.

‘Who ever heard of such a thing? It wouldn’t be proper.’

‘Proper! Oh, I like that!’ he replied, with scathing irony.

‘You can either like it or not. Mrs. Damerel wouldn’t dream of allowing
it. I think she’s quite as good a judge of propriety as you are.’

They were in a corner of the dining-room. Fanny, having supped much to
her satisfaction, had a high colour, and treated her lover with more
than usual insolence. Horace had eaten little, but had not refrained
from beverages; he was disposed to assert himself.

‘It seems to me that we ought to have an understanding. You never do as
I wish in a single thing. What do you mean by it?’

‘Oh, if you’re going to be nasty--’

She made the gesture of a servant-girl who quarrels with her young man
at the street-corner.

‘I can’t stand the kind of treatment you’ve given me lately,’ said
Horace, with muffled anger.

‘I’ve told you I shall do just as I like.’

‘Very well. That’s as much as to say that you care nothing about me. I’m
not going to be the slave of a girl who has no sense of honour--not even
of decency. If you wish me to speak to you again you must speak first.’

And he left her, Fanny laughing scornfully.

It drew towards one o’clock when, having exhausted the delights of the
evening, and being in a decidedly limp condition, Mrs. Damerel and her
protegee drove home. Fanny said nothing of what had passed between her
and Horace. The elder lady, after keeping silence for half the drive,
spoke at length in a tone of indulgent playfulness.

‘So you talked a good deal with Mr. Mankelow?’

‘Not for long. Now and then. He took me down to supper--the first time.’

‘I’m afraid somebody will be a little jealous. I shall get into trouble.
I didn’t foresee this.’

‘Somebody must treat me in a reasonable way,’ Fanny answered, with a dry

‘I’m quite sure he will,’ said Mrs. Damerel suavely. ‘But I feel myself
a little responsible, you know. Let me put you on your guard against Mr.
Mankelow. I’m afraid he’s rather a dangerous man. I have heard rather
alarming stories about him. You see he’s very rich, and very rich men,
if they’re rather handsome as well, say and do things--you understand?’

‘Is he really very rich?’

‘Well, several thousands a year, and a prospect of more when relatives
die. I don’t mean to say that he is a bad man. He belongs to a very good
family, and I believe him perfectly honourable. He would never do any
one any harm--or, if he happened to, without meaning it, I’m quite sure
he’d repair it in the honourable way.’

‘You said he was dangerous--’

‘To a young lady who is already engaged. Confess that you think him
rather good-looking.’

Having inflamed the girl’s imagination, Mrs. Damerel presently dropped
the subject, and fell again into weary silence.

At noon of the next day she received a call from Horace, who found her
over tea and toast in her private sitting-room. The young man looked
bilious; he coughed, too, and said that he must have caught fresh cold
last night.

‘That house was like an oven. I won’t go to any more such places. That
isn’t my idea of enjoying myself.’

Mrs. Damerel examined him with affectionate solicitude, and reflected
before speaking.

‘Haven’t you been living rather fast lately?’

He avoided her eyes.

‘Not at all.’

‘Quite sure? How much money have you spent this last month?’

‘Not much.’

By careful interrogation--the caressing notes of her voice seemed to
convey genuine feeling--Mrs. Damerel elicited the fact that he had spent
not less than fifty pounds in a few weeks. She looked very grave.

‘What would our little Fanny say to this?’

‘I don’t care what she would say.’

And he unburdened himself of his complaints against the frivolous
charmer, Mrs. Damerel listening with a compassionate smile.

‘I’m afraid it’s all too true, dear boy. But didn’t I warn you?’

‘You have made her worse. And I more than half believe you have
purposely put her in the way of that fellow Mankelow. Now I tell you
plainly’--his voice quivered--‘if I lose her, I’ll raise all the money I
can and play the very devil.’

‘Hush! no naughty words! Let us talk about something else till you are
quieter.--What did you think of Mrs. Chittle?’

‘I thought nothing of her, good or bad.’

‘Of her daughter, then. Isn’t she a sweet, quiet girl? Do you know that
she is rich? It’s perfectly true. Mrs. Chittle is the widow of a man who
made a big fortune out of a kind of imitation velvet. It sold only for a
few years, then something else drove it out of the market; but the money
was made. I know all about it from Mrs. Dane.’

‘It’s nothing to me,’ said Horace peevishly.

But Mrs. Damerel continued:

‘The poor girl has been very unfortunate. In the last year of her
father’s life they lived in good style, town-house and country-house.
And she fell in love with somebody who--who treated her badly; broke it
off, in fact, just before the wedding. She had a bad illness, and since
then she has lived as her mother told you.’

‘How do you know she told me?’

‘I--oh, I took it for granted. She said you had had a long talk. You can
see, of course, that they’re not ordinary people. Didn’t Winifred--her
name is Winifred--strike you as very refined and lady-like?’

‘She hardly spoke half-a-dozen words.’

‘That’s her nervousness. She has quite got out of the habit of society.
But she’s very clever, and so good. I want you to see more of her.
If she comes here to tea, will you--just to please me--look in for

She bent her head aside, wistfully. Horace vouchsafed no reply.

‘Dear boy, I know very well what a disappointment you are suffering. Why
not be quite open with me? Though I’m only a tiresome old aunt, I feel
every bit as anxious for your happiness as if I were your mother--I do
indeed, Horace. You believe me, don’t you?’

‘You have been very kind, in many ways. But you’ve done harm to Fanny--’

‘No harm whatever, Horace--believe me. I have only given her an
opportunity of showing what she really is. You see now that she thinks
of nothing at all but money and selfish pleasures. Compare her, my dear,
with such a girl as Winifred Chittle. I only mean--just to show you the
difference between a lady and such a girl as Fanny. She has treated you
abominably, my poor boy. And what would she bring you? Not that I wish
you to marry for money. I have seen too much of the world to be so
foolish, so wicked. But when there _are_ sweet, clever, lady-like girls,
with large incomes--! And a handsome boy like you! You may blush, but
there’s no harm in telling the truth. You are far too modest. You don’t
know how you look in the eyes of an affectionate, thoughtful girl--like
Winifred, for instance. It’s dreadful to think of you throwing yourself
away! My dear, it may sound shocking to you, but Fanny French isn’t the
sort of girl that men _marry_.’

Horace showed himself startled.

‘You are so young,’ pursued the mature lady, with an indulgent smile.
‘You need the advice of some one who knows the world. In years to come,
you will feel very grateful to me. Now don’t let us talk any more of
that, just now; but tell me something about Nancy. How much longer does
she mean to stay in Cornwall?’

He answered absently.

‘She talks of another month or two.’

‘But what have her guardians to say to that? Why, she has been away for
nearly half a year. How can that be called living at the old house?’

‘It’s no business of mine.’

‘Nor of mine, you mean to say. Still, it does seem rather strange. I
suppose she is quite to be trusted?’

‘Trusted? What harm can come to her? She’s keeping out of Sam Barmby’s
way, that’s all. I believe he plagued her to marry him. A nice husband
for Nancy!’

‘I wish we had taken to each other,’ said Mrs. Damerel musingly. ‘I
think she was a little jealous of the attention I had paid to _you_. But
perhaps we shall do better some day. And I’m quite content so long as
_you_ care a little for me, dear boy. You’ll never give me up, will

It was asked with unusual show of feeling; she leaned forward, her eyes
fixed tenderly upon the boy’s face.

‘You would never let a Fanny French come between us, Horace dear?’

‘I only wish you hadn’t brought her among your friends.’

‘Some day you will be glad of what I did. Whatever happens, I am your
best friend--the best and truest friend you will ever have. You will
know it some day.’

The voice impressed Horace, its emotion was so true. Several times
through the day he recalled and thought of it. As yet he had felt
nothing like affection for Mrs. Damerel, but before their next meeting
an impulse he did not try to account for caused him to write her
a letter--simply to assure her that he was not ungrateful for her
kindness. The reply that came in a few hours surprised and touched him,
for it repeated in yet warmer words all she had spoken. ‘Let me be in
the place of a mother to you, dear Horace. Think of me as if I were your
mother. If I were your mother indeed, I could not love you more.’ He
mused over this, and received from it a sense of comfort which was quite
new to him.

All through the winter he had been living as a gentleman of assured
independence. This was managed very simply. Acting on Mrs. Damerel’s
counsel he insured his life, and straightaway used the policy as
security for a loan of five hundred pounds from a friend of Mrs.
Damerel’s. The insurance itself was not effected without a disagreeable
little episode. As a result of the medical examination, Horace learnt,
greatly to his surprise, that he would have to pay a premium somewhat
higher than the ordinary. Unpleasant questions were asked: Was he quite
sure that he knew of no case of consumption in his family? Quite sure,
he answered stoutly, and sincerely. Why? Did the doctor think _him_
consumptive? Oh dear no, but--a slight constitutional weakness. In fine,
the higher premium must be exacted. He paid it with the indifference of
his years, but said nothing to Mrs. Damerel.

And thereupon began the sowing of wild oats. At two-and-twenty, after
domestic restraint and occupations that he detested, he was let loose
upon life. Five hundred pounds seemed to him practically inexhaustible.
He did not wish to indulge in great extravagance; merely to see and to
taste the world.

Ah, the rapture of those first nights, when he revelled amid the tumult
of London, pursuing joy with a pocket full of sovereigns! Theatres,
music-halls, restaurants and public-houses--he had seen so little of
these things, that they excited him as they do a lad fresh from the
country. He drew the line nowhere. Love of a worthy woman tells for
chastity even in the young and the sensual; love of a Fanny French
merely debauches the mind and inflames the passions. Secure in his
paganism, Horace followed where the lures of London beckoned him; he
knew not reproach of conscience; shame offered but thin resistance to
his boiling blood. By a miracle he had as yet escaped worse damage to
health than a severe cold, caught one night after heroic drinking. That
laid him by the heels for a time, and the cough still clung to him.

In less than two years he would command seven thousand pounds, and a
share in the business now conducted by Samuel Barmby. What need to stint
himself whilst he felt able to enjoy life? If Fanny deceived him, were
there not, after all, other and better Fannys to be won by his money?
For it was a result of this girl’s worthlessness that Horace, in most
things so ingenuous, had come to regard women with unconscious cynicism.
He did not think he could be loved for his own sake, but he believed
that, at any time, the show of love, perhaps its ultimate sincerity,
might be won by display of cash.

Midway in the month of May he again caught a severe cold, and was
confined to the house for nearly three weeks. Mrs. Damerel, who nursed
him well and tenderly, proposed that he should go down for change of
air to Falmouth. He wrote to Nancy, asking whether she would care to
see him. A prompt reply informed him that his sister was on the point
of returning to London, so that he had better choose some nearer seaside

He went to Hastings for a few days, but wearied of the place, and came
back to his London excitements. Nancy, however, had not yet returned;
nor did she until the beginning of July.


This winter saw the establishment of the South London Fashionable Dress
Supply Association--the name finally selected by Beatrice French and her
advisers. It was an undertaking shrewdly conceived, skilfully planned,
and energetically set going. Beatrice knew the public to which her
advertisements appealed; she understood exactly the baits that would
prove irresistible to its folly and greed. In respect that it was a
public of average mortals, it would believe that business might be
conducted to the sole advantage of the customer. In respect that it
consisted of women, it would give eager attention to a scheme that
permitted each customer to spend her money, and yet to have it. In
respect that it consisted of ignorant and pretentious women, this
public could be counted upon to deceive itself in the service of its own
vanity, and maintain against all opposition that the garments obtained
on this soothing system were supremely good and fashionable.

On a basis of assumptions such as these, there was every possibility of
profitable commerce without any approach to technical fraud.

By means of the familiar ‘goose-club,’ licensed victuallers make
themselves the bankers of people who are too weak-minded to save their
own money until they wish to spend it, and who are quite content to
receive in ultimate return goods worth something less than half the
deposit. By means of the familiar teapot, grocers persuade their
customers that an excellent trade can be done by giving away the whole
profit on each transaction. Beatrice French, an observant young woman,
with a head for figures, had often noted and reflected upon these two
egregious illustrations of human absurdity. Her dressmaking enterprise
assimilated the features of both, and added novel devices that sprang
from her own fruitful brain. The ‘Fashion Club,’ a wheel within a wheel,
was merely the goose-club; strictly a goose-club, for the licensed
victualler addresses himself to the male of the species. The larger net,
cast for those who lacked money or a spirit of speculation, caught all
who, in the realm of grocery, are lured by the teapot. Every sovereign
spent with the Association carried a bonus, paid not in cash but in
kind. These startling advantages were made known through the medium
of hand-bills, leaflets, nicely printed little pamphlets, gorgeously
designed placards; the publicity department, being in the hands of Mr.
Luckworth Crewe, of Farringdon Street, was most ably and vigorously

Thanks also to Luckworth Crewe, Beatrice had allied herself with
partners, who brought to the affair capital, experience, and activity.
Before Christmas--an important point--the scene of operations was ready:
a handsome shop, with the new and attractive appendages (so-called
‘club-room,’ refreshment-bar, &c.) which Crewe and Beatrice had visioned
in their prophetic minds. Before the close of the year substantial
business had been done, and 1888 opened with exhilarating prospects.

The ineptitude of uneducated English women in all that relates to their
attire is a fact that it boots not to enlarge upon. Beatrice French
could not be regarded as an exception; for though she recognised
monstrosities, she very reasonably distrusted her own taste in the
choice of a garment. For her sisters, monstrosities had a distinct
charm, and to this class of women belonged all customers of the
Association who pretended to think for themselves as to wherewithal they
should be clothed. But women in general came to the shop with confessed
blankness of mind; beyond the desire to buy something that was modish,
and to pay for it in a minus quantity, they knew, felt, thought nothing
whatever. Green or violet, cerulean or magenta, all was one to them.
In the matter of shape they sought merely a confident assurance from
articulate man or woman--themselves being somewhat less articulate than
jay or jackdaw--that this or that was ‘the feature of the season.’ They
could not distinguish between a becoming garment and one that called for
the consuming fires of Heaven. It is often assumed as a commonplace that
women, whatever else they cannot do, may be trusted to make up their
minds about habiliments. Nothing more false, as Beatrice French was
abundantly aware. A very large proportion of the servant-keeping females
in Brixton, Camberwell, and Peckham could not, with any confidence, buy
a chemise or a pair of stockings; and when it came to garments visible,
they were lost indeed.

Fanny French began to regret that she had not realised her capital, and
put it into the Association. Wishing at length to do so, she met with a
scornful rebuff. Beatrice would have none of her money, but told her she
might use the shop like any other customer, which of course Fanny did.

Mrs. Peachey, meanwhile, kept declaring to both her sisters that they
must not expect to live henceforth in De Crespigny Park on the old
nominal terms. Beatrice was on the way to wealth; Fanny moved in West
End society, under the chaperonage of a rich woman; they ought to be
ashamed of themselves for not volunteering handsome recognition of the
benefits they had received beneath their sister’s roof. But neither
Beatrice nor Fanny appeared to see the matter in this light. The truth
was, that they both had in view a change of domicile. The elder desired
more comfort and more independence than De Crespigny Park could afford
her; the younger desired a great many things, and flattered herself that
a very simple step would put her in possession of them.

The master of the house no longer took any interest in the fortunes of
his sisters-in-law. He would not bid them depart, he would not bid them
stay, least of all would he demand money from them. Of money he had no
need, and he was the hapless possessor of a characteristic not to be
found in any other member of his household--natural delicacy.

Arthur Peachey lived only for his child, the little boy, whose newly
prattling tongue made the sole welcome he expected or cared for on his
return from a hard day’s work. Happily the child had good health, but
he never left home without dread of perils that might befall it in his
absence. On the mother he counted not at all; a good-tempered cow
might with more confidence have been set to watch over the little one’s
safety. The nurse-girl Emma, retained in spite of her mistress’s malice,
still seemed to discharge her duties faithfully; but, being mortal, she
demanded intervals of leisure from time to time, and at such seasons,
as Peachey too well knew, the child was uncared for. Had his heart been
resolute as it was tender, he would long ago have carried out a project
which haunted him at every moment of anger or fear. In the town of
Canterbury lived a sister of his who for several years had been happily
wedded, but remained childless. If the worst came to the worst, if his
wife compelled him to the breaking-up of a home which was no home, this
married sister would gladly take the little boy into her motherly care.
He had never dared to propose the step; but Ada might perchance
give ready assent to it, even now. For motherhood she had no single
qualification but the physical. Before her child’s coming into the
world, she snarled at the restraints it imposed upon her; at its birth,
she clamoured against nature for the pains she had to undergo, and hated
her husband because he was the intermediate cause of them. The helpless
infant gave her no pleasure, touched no emotion in her heart, save when
she saw it in the nurse’s care, and received female compliments upon its
beauty. She rejected it at night because it broke her sleep; in the
day, because she could not handle it without making it cry. When Peachey
remonstrated with her, she stared in insolent surprise, and wished that
_he_ had had to suffer all her hardships of the past year.

Peachey could not be said to have any leisure. On returning from
business he was involved forthwith in domestic troubles and broils,
which consumed the dreary evening, and invaded even his sleep. Thus it
happened that at long intervals he was tempted, instead of going home
to dinner, to spend a couple of hours at a certain small eating-house, a
resort of his bachelor days, where he could read the newspapers, have
a well-cooked chop in quietude, and afterwards, if acquaintances were
here, play a game of chess. Of course he had to shield this modest
dissipation with a flat falsehood, alleging to his wife that business
had kept him late. Thus on an evening of June, when the soft air and the
mellow sunlight overcame him with a longing for rest, he despatched a
telegram to De Crespigny Park, and strolled quietly about the streets
until the hour and his appetite pointed him tablewards. The pity of
it was that he could not dismiss anxieties; he loathed the coward
falsehood, and thought more of home than of his present freedom. But at
least Ada’s tongue was silent.

He seated himself in the familiar corner, and turned over illustrated
papers, whilst his chop hissed on the grid. Ah, if he were but
unmarried, what a life he might make for himself now that the day’s
labour brought its ample reward! He would have rooms in London, and a
still, clean lodging somewhere among the lanes and fields. His ideals
expressed the homeliness of the man. On intellect he could not pride
himself; his education had been but of the ‘commercial’ order; he liked
to meditate rather than to read; questions of the day concerned him not
at all. A weak man, but of clean and kindly instincts. In mercantile
life he had succeeded by virtue of his intensely methodical habits--the
characteristic which made him suffer so from his wife’s indolence,
incapacity, and vicious ill-humour.

Before his marriage he had thought of women as domestic beings. A wife
was the genius of home. He knew men who thanked their wives for all the
prosperity and content that they enjoyed. Others he knew who told quite
a different tale, but these surely were sorrowful exceptions. Nowadays
he saw the matter in a light of fuller experience. In his rank of life
married happiness was a rare thing, and the fault could generally be
traced to wives who had no sense of responsibility, no understanding of
household duties, no love of simple pleasures, no religion.

Yes, there was the point--no religion. Ada had grown up to regard
church-going as a sign of respectability, but without a shadow of
religious faith. Her incredible ignorance of the Bible story, of
Christian dogmas, often amazed him. Himself a believer, though careless
in the practice of forms, he was not disturbed by the modern tendency to
look for morals apart from faith; he had not the trouble of reflecting
that an ignorant woman is the last creature to be moralised by anything
but the Christian code; he saw straight into the fact--that there was
no hope of impressing Ada with ideas of goodness, truthfulness, purity,
simply because she recognised no moral authority.

For such minds no moral authority--merely as a moral authority--is
or can be valid. Such natures are ruled only by superstition--the
representative of reasoned faith in nobler beings. Rob them of their
superstition, and they perish amid all uncleanliness.

Thou shalt not lie--for God consumes a liar in the flames of hell! Ada
Peachey could lend ear to no admonition short of that. And, living when
she did, bred as she was, only a John Knox could have impressed her with
this menace--to be forgotten when the echoes of his voice had failed.

He did not enjoy his chop this evening. In the game of chess that
followed he played idly, with absent thoughts. And before the glow
of sunset had died from the calm heaven he set out to walk homeward,
anxious, melancholy.

On approaching the house he suffered, as always, from quickened pulse
and heart constricted with fear. Until he knew that all was well, he
looked like a man who anticipates dread calamity. This evening, on
opening the door, he fell back terror-stricken. In the hall stood a
police-constable, surrounded by a group of women: Mrs. Peachey, her
sisters, Emma the nurse-girl, and two other servants.

‘Oh, here you are at last!’ exclaimed his wife, in a voice exhausted
with rage. ‘You’re just in time to see this beast taken off to the
lock-up. Perhaps you’ll believe me now!’

‘What is it? What has she done?’

‘Stolen money, that’s what she’s done--your precious Emma! She’s been at
it for a long time; I’ve told you some one was robbing me. So I marked
some coins in my purse, and left it in the bedroom whilst we were at
dinner; and then, when I found half-a-crown gone--and it was her evening
out, too--I sent for a policeman before she knew anything, and we made
her turn out her pockets. And there’s the half-crown! Perhaps you’ll
believe it this time!’

The girl’s face declared her guilt; she had hardly attempted denial.
Then, with a clamour of furious verbosity, Ada enlightened her husband
on other points of Emma’s behaviour. It was a long story, gathered, in
the last few minutes, partly from the culprit herself, partly from her
fellow-servants. Emma had got into the clutches of a jewellery
tallyman, one of the fellows who sell trinkets to servant-girls on the
pay-by-instalment system. She had made several purchases of gewgaws, and
had already paid three or four times their value, but was still in debt
to the tallyman, who threatened all manner of impossible proceedings
if she did not make up her arrears. Bottomless ignorance and imbecile
vanity had been the girl’s ruin, aided by a grave indiscretion on
Peachey’s part, of which he was to hear presently.

Some one must go to the police-station and make a formal charge. Ada
would undertake this duty with pious eagerness, enjoying it all the more
because of loud wailings and entreaties which the girl now addressed to
her master. Peachey looked at his sisters-in-law, and in neither face
perceived a compassionate softening. Fanny stood by as at a spectacle
provided for her amusement, without rancour, but equally without pity.
Beatrice was contemptuous. What right, said her countenance, had a
servant-girl to covet jewellery? And how pitiable the spirit that
prompted to a filching of half-crowns! For the criminals of finance, who
devastate a thousand homes, Miss French had no small admiration; crimes
such as the present were mean and dirty.

Ada reappeared, hurriedly clad for going forth; but no one had fetched a
cab. Incensed, she ordered her husband to do so.

‘Who are you speaking to?’ he replied wrathfully. ‘I am not your

Fanny laughed. The policeman, professionally calm, averted a smiling

‘It’s nothing to me,’ said Mrs. Peachey. ‘I’m quite willing to walk.
Come along, constable.’

Her husband interposed.

‘The girl doesn’t go from my house until she’s properly dressed.’ He
turned to the other servants. ‘Please to blow the whistle at the door,
or get a cab somehow. Emma, go upstairs and put your things on.’

‘It was about time you behaved like a man,’ fell quietly from Beatrice.

‘You’re right.’ He looked sternly at the speaker. ‘It _is_ time, and
that you shall all know.’

The culprit, suddenly silent, obeyed his order. The constable went
out at the front door, and there waited whilst a cab-summoning whistle
shrilled along De Crespigny Park.

Ada had ascended to the first landing, to make sure that the culprit did
not escape her. Beatrice and Fanny retired into the drawing-room.
After a lapse of some ten minutes two cabs rattled up to the door
from opposite directions, each driver lashing his horse to gain the
advantage. So nearly were they matched, that with difficulty the
vehicles avoided a collision. The man who had secured a place
immediately in front of the doorsteps, waved his whip and uttered a
shout of insulting triumph; his rival answered with volleys of abuse,
and drove round as if meditating an assault; it was necessary for the
policeman to interfere. Whereupon the defeated competitor vowed that
it was sanguinary hard lines; that for the sanguinary whole of this
sanguinary day had he waited vainly for a sanguinary fare, and but for a
sanguinary stumble of his sanguinary horse--

Tired of waiting, and suspicious of the delay, Ada went up to the room
where the servant was supposed to be making ready. It was a little room,
which served as night-nursery; by the girl’s bed stood a cot occupied by
the child. Ada, exclaiming ‘Now, come along!’ opened the door violently.
A candle was burning; the boy, awake but silent, sat up in his cot, and
looked about with sleepy, yet frightened eyes.

‘Where are you?’

Emma could not be seen. Astonished and enraged, Ada rushed forward; she
found the girl lying on the floor, and after bending over her, started
back with a cry half of alarm, half of disgust.

‘Come up here at once!’ she screamed down the staircase. ‘Come up! The
wretch has cut her throat!’

There was a rush of feet. Peachey, the first to enter, saw a gash on the
neck of the insensible girl; in her hand she held a pair of scissors.

‘I hope you’re satisfied,’ he said to his wife.

The police-officer, animated by a brisk succession of events such as he
could not hope for every day, raised the prostrate figure, and speedily
announced that the wound was not mortal.

‘She’s fainted, that’s all. Tried to do for herself with them scissors,
and didn’t know the way to go about it. We’ll get her off sharp to the

‘It’ll be attempted suicide, now, as well as stealing,’ cried Ada.

Terrified by the crowd of noisy people, the child began to cry loudly.
Peachey lifted him out of the cot, wrapped a blanket about him, and
carried him down to his own bedroom. There, heedless of what was going
on above, he tried to soothe the little fellow, lavishing caresses and
tender words.

‘My little boy will be good? He’ll wait here, quietly, till father comes
back? Only a few minutes, and father will come back, and sit by him.
Yes--he shall sleep here, all night--’

Ada burst into the room.

‘I should think you’d better go and look after your dear Emma. As if I
didn’t know what’s been going on! It’s all come out, so you needn’t tell
me any lies. You’ve been giving her money. The other servants knew of
it; she confessed it herself. Oh, you’re a nice sort of man, you are!
Men of your sort are always good at preaching to other people. You’ve
given her money--what does _that_ mean? I suspected it all along. You
wouldn’t have her sent away; oh no! She was so good to the child--and so
good to somebody else! A dirty servant! I’d choose some one better than
that, if I was a man. How much has she cost you? As much, no doubt, as
one of the swell women in Piccadilly Circus--’

Peachey turned upon her, the sweat beading on his ghastly face.

‘Go!--Out of this room--or by God I shall do something fearful!--Out!’

She backed before him. He seized her by the shoulders, and flung her
forth, then locked the door. From without she railed at him in the
language of the gutter and the brothel. Presently her shouts were
mingled with piercing shrieks; they came from the would-be-suicide, who,
restored to consciousness, was being carried down for removal in the
cab. Peachey, looking and feeling like a man whom passion had brought
within sight of murder, stopped his ears and huddled himself against the
bedside. The child screamed in terror.

At length came silence. Peachey opened the door, and listened. Below,
voices sounded in quiet conversation.

‘Who is down there?’ he called.

‘All of us except Ada,’ replied Beatrice. ‘The policeman said she
needn’t go unless she liked, but she _did_ like.’

‘Very well.’

He ran up to the deserted bedroom, carefully gathered together his
child’s day-garments, and brought them down. Then, as well as he could,
he dressed the boy.

‘Is it time to get up?’ inquired the little three-year-old, astonished
at all that was happening, but soothed and amused by the thought that
his father had turned nurse. ‘It isn’t light yet.’

‘You are going somewhere with father, dear. Somewhere nice.’

The dialogue between them, in sweet broken words such as the child had
not yet outgrown, and the parent did not wish to abandon for common
speech, went on until the dressing was completed.

‘Now, will my boy show me where his clothes are for going out? His cap,
and his coat--’

Oh yes, they were up in the nursery; boy would show father--and laughed
merrily that he knew something father didn’t. A few minutes more, and
the equipment was completed.

‘Now wait for me here--only a minute. My boy won’t cry, if I leave him
for a minute?’

‘Cry! of course not!’ Peachey descended to the drawing-room, closed the
door behind him, and stood facing his sisters-in-law.

‘I want to tell you that I am going away, and taking the child with me.
Ada needn’t expect me back to-night--nor ever. As long as I live I will
never again be under the same roof with her. You, Beatrice, said it was
about time I behaved like a man. You were right. I’ve put up long enough
with things such as no man ought to endure for a day. Tell your sister
that she may go on living here, if she chooses, for another six
months, to the end of the year--not longer. She shall be supplied with
sufficient money. After Christmas she may find a home for herself where
she likes; money will be paid to her through a lawyer, but from this
day I will neither speak nor write to her. You two must make your own
arrangements; you have means enough. You know very well, both of you,
why I am taking this step; think and say about me what you like. I have
no time to talk, and so I bid you good-bye.’

They did not seek to detain him, but stood mute whilst he left the room.

The little boy, timid and impatient, was at the head of the stairs. His
father enveloped him warmly in a shawl, and so they went forth. It was
not long before they met with a vacant cab. Half-an-hour’s drive brought
them to the eating-house where Peachey had had his chop that evening,
and here he obtained a bedroom for the night.

By eleven o’clock the child slept peacefully. The father, seated at a
table, was engaged in writing to a solicitor.

At midnight he lay softly down by the child’s side, and there, until
dawn, listened to the low breathing of his innocent little bedfellow.
Though he could not sleep, it was joy, rather than any painful
excitement, that kept him wakeful. A great and loathsome burden had
fallen from him, and in the same moment he had rescued his boy out of
an atmosphere of hated impurity. At length he could respect himself,
and for the first time in four long years he looked to the future with
tranquil hope.

Careless of the frank curiosity with which the people of the house
regarded him, he went down at seven o’clock, and asked for a railway
time-table. Having found a convenient train to Canterbury, he ordered
breakfast for himself and the child to be laid in a private room. It was
a merry meal. Sunshine of midsummer fell warm and bright upon the table;
the street below was so full of busy life that the little boy must needs
have his breakfast by the window, where he could eat and look forth at
the same time. No such delightful holiday had he ever enjoyed. Alone
with father, and going away by train into wonderful new worlds.

‘Is Emma coming?’ he asked.

It was significant that he did not speak of his mother.

They drove to the railway station, Peachey no less excited than the
child. From here he despatched a telegram to his partners, saying that
he should be absent for a day or two.

Then the train, struggling slowly out of London’s welter, through the
newest outposts of gloom and grime, bore them, hearts companioned
in love and blamelessness, to the broad sunny meadows and the sweet
hop-gardens of Kent.


‘Serves her jolly well right,’ said Beatrice.

‘A lot _she’ll_ care,’ said Fanny. ‘I should think myself precious
lucky. She gets rid of him, and of the kid too, and has as much as she
wants to live on. It’s better than she deserves.--Do you believe he’s
been carrying on with that girl?’

Miss. French laughed contemptuously.

‘Not he!’

‘Well, there’s been a jolly good row to-night, if we never see another.
We shall all be in the papers!’ The prospect had charms for Fanny. ‘What
are you going to do? Live here till Christmas?’

Beatrice was quietly reviewing the situation. She kept silence, and her
sister also became meditative. Suddenly Fanny inquired:

‘What sort of a place is Brussels?’

‘Brussels? Why? I know nothing about it. Not much of a place, I think;
sprouts come from there, don’t they?’

‘It’s a big town,’ said the other, ‘and a lively sort of place, they

‘Why do you ask me, if you know? What about it?’

As usual when performing the operation which, in her, answered to
thought, Fanny shuffled with her hands on her waist. At a distance from
Beatrice she stood still, and said:

‘Some one I know is going there. I’ve a good mind to go too. I want to
see abroad.’

Her sister asked several searching questions, but Fanny would not make
known whether the friend was male or female.

‘I shouldn’t be much surprised,’ remarked the woman of business,
indifferently, ‘if you go and make a fool of yourself before long. That
Mrs. Damerel is up to some game with you; any one could see it with half
an eye. I suppose it isn’t Lord that’s going to Brussels?’

Fanny sputtered her disdain.

‘If you had any common sense,’ pursued her sister, ‘you’d stick to him;
but you haven’t. Oh yes, you think you can do better. Very well, we
shall see. If you find yourself in a hole one of these days, don’t
expect _me_ to pull you out. I wouldn’t give you a penny to save you
from the workhouse.’

‘Wait till you’re asked. I know where all _your_ money ‘ll go to. And
that’s into Crewe’s pocket. He’ll fool you out of all you have.’

Beatrice reddened with wrath. But, unlike the other members of her
family, she could command her tongue. Fanny found it impossible to draw
another word from her.

On returning from the police-station, haggard and faint with excitement,
but supported by the anticipation of fresh attacks upon her husband,
Ada immediately learnt what had happened. For the first moment she
could hardly believe it. She rushed upstairs, and saw that the child
was really gone; then a blind frenzy took hold upon her. Alarming and
inexplicable sounds drew her sisters from below; they found her,
armed with something heavy, smashing every breakable object in her
bedroom--mirrors, toilet-ware, pictures, chimney-piece ornaments.

‘She’s gone mad!’ shrieked Fanny. ‘She’ll kill us!’

‘That beast shall pay for it!’ yelled Ada, with a frantic blow at the

Wanton destruction of property revolted all Beatrice’s instincts.
Courageous enough, she sprang upon the wild animal, and flung her down.

Now indeed the last trace of veneer was gone, the last rag of
pseudo-civilisation was rent off these young women; in physical
conflict, vilifying each other like the female spawn of Whitechapel,
they revealed themselves as born--raw material which the mill of
education is supposed to convert into middle-class ladyhood. As a result
of being held still by superior strength Ada fell into convulsions,
foamed at the mouth, her eyes starting from their sockets; then she lay
as one dead.

‘You’ve killed her,’ cried the terrified Fanny.

‘No fear. Give me some water to pitch over her.’

With a full jug from another bedroom, she drenched the prostrate figure.
When Ada came round she was powerless; even her rancorous lips could
utter only a sound of moaning. The sisters stripped her stark naked on
the floor, made a show of drying her with towels, and tumbled her into
bed. Then Beatrice brewed a great jorum of hot whisky-punch, and after
drinking freely to steady her shaken nerves, poured a pint or so down
Mrs. Peachey’s throat.

‘There won’t be a funeral just yet,’ she remarked, with a laugh. ‘Now
we’ll have supper; I feel hungry.’

They went to bed at something after midnight. The servants, having
stolen a bottle of spirits from the cupboard, which Beatrice left open,
both got drunk, and slept till morning upon the kitchen-floor.

On the morrow, Miss. French, attired as a walking advertisement of the
South London Fashionable Dress Supply Association, betook herself to
Farringdon Street for an interview with her commercial friend. Crewe was
absent, but one of three clerks, who occupied his largest room, informed
her that it could not be very long before he returned, and being
so familiar a figure here, she was permitted to wait in the agent’s
sanctum. When the door closed upon her, the three young men discussed
her character with sprightly freedom. Beatrice, the while, splendidly
indifferent to the remarks she could easily divine, made a rapid
examination of loose papers lying on Crewe’s desk, read several letters,
opened several books, and found nothing that interested her until,
on turning over a slip of paper with pencilled figures upon it, she
discovered a hotel-bill, the heading: Royal Hotel, Falmouth. It was for
a day and night’s entertainment, the debtor ‘Mr. Crewe,’ the date less
than a week gone by. This document she considered attentively, her brows
knitted, her eyes wide. But a sound caused her to drop it upon the desk
again. Another moment, and Crewe entered.

He looked keenly at her, and less good-humouredly than of wont. These
persons never shook hands, and indeed dispensed, as a rule, with all
forms of civility.

‘What are you staring at?’ asked Crewe bluffly.

‘What are _you_ staring at?’

‘Nothing, that I know.’ He hung up his hat, and sat down. ‘I’ve a note
to write; wait a minute.’

The note written, and given to a clerk, Crewe seemed to recover
equanimity. His visitor told him all that happened in De Crespigny Park,
even to the crudest details, and they laughed together uproariously.

‘I’m going to take a flat,’ Beatrice then informed him. ‘Just find me
something convenient and moderate, will you? A bachelor’s flat.’

‘What about Fanny?’

‘She has something on; I don’t know what it is. Talks about going to
Brussels--with a friend.’

Crewe looked astonished.

‘You ought to see after her. I know what the end ‘ll be. Brussels? I’ve
heard of English girls going there, but they don’t usually come back.’

‘What can I do? I’m pretty certain that Damerel woman has a game on
hand. She doesn’t want Fanny to marry her nephew--if Lord _is_ her
nephew. She wants his money, that’s my idea.’

‘Mine, too,’ remarked the other quietly. ‘Look here, old chap, it’s your
duty to look after your little damned fool of a sister; I tell you that
plainly. I shan’t think well of you if you don’t.’

Beatrice displayed eagerness to defend herself. She had done her best;
Fanny scorned all advice, and could not be held against her will.

‘Has she given up all thought of Lord?’

‘I’m not sure, but I think so. And it looks as if he was going his own
way, and didn’t care much. He never writes to her now. Of course it’s
that woman’s doing.’

Crewe reflected.

‘I shall have to look into Mrs. Damerel’s affairs. Might be worth while.
Where is she living?’ He made a note of the information. ‘Well, anything
else to tell me?’

Beatrice spoke of business matters, then asked him if he had been out
of town lately. The question sounded rather abrupt, and caused Crewe to
regard her with an expression she privately interpreted.

‘A few short runs. Nowhere particular.’

‘Oh?--Not been down into Cornwall?’

He lost his temper.

‘What are you after? What business is it of yours? If you’re going
to spy on me, I’ll soon let you know that I won’t stand that kind of

‘Don’t disturb yourself,’ said Beatrice, with a cold smile. ‘I haven’t
been spying, and you can go where you like for anything I care. I
guessed you _had_ been down there, that’s all.’

Crewe kept silence, his look betraying uneasiness as well as anger.
Speaking at length, he fixed her with keen eyes.

‘If it’s any satisfaction to you, you’re welcome to know that I have
been into Cornwall--and to Falmouth.’

Beatrice merely nodded, and still he searched her face.

‘Just answer me a plain question, old chap. Come, there’s no nonsense
between us; we know each other--eh?’

‘Oh yes, we know each other,’ Miss. French answered, her lips puckering
a little.

‘What do you know about _her_? What has she been doing all this time?’

Beatrice laughed.

‘I know just as little about her as I care.’

‘You care a good deal more than you’ll confess. I wouldn’t be up to
women’s tricks, if I were you.’

She revolted.

‘After all, I suppose I _am_ a woman?’

‘Well, I suppose so.’ Crewe grinned good-naturedly. ‘But that isn’t
in the terms of our partnership, you remember. You can be a reasonable
fellow enough, when you like. Just tell me the truth. What do you know
about Nancy Lord?’ Beatrice assumed an air of mystery.

‘I’ll tell you that, if you tell me what it is you want of her. Is it
her money?’

‘Her money be damned!’

‘It’s herself, then.’

‘And what if it is? What have _you_ to say to it?’

Her eyes fell, and she muttered ‘Nothing.’

‘Just bear that in mind, then. And now that I’ve answered your question,
answer mine. What have you heard about her? Or what have you found out?’

She raised her eyes again and again, but in a mocking voice said,

‘You’re telling me a lie.’

‘You’re a brute to say so!’

They exchanged fierce glances, but could not meet each other’s eyes
steadily. Crewe, mastering his irritation, said with a careless laugh:

‘All right, I believe you. Didn’t mean to offend you, old chap.’

‘I won’t be called that!’ She was trembling with stormy emotions. ‘You
shall treat me decently.’

‘Very well. Old girl, then.’

‘I’m a good deal younger than you are. And I’m a good deal better than
you, in every way. I’m a lady, at all events, and you can’t pretend to
be a gentleman. You’re a rough, common fellow--’

‘Holloa! Holloa! Draw it mild.’

He was startled, and in some degree abashed; his eyes, travelling to
the door, indicated a fear that this singular business-colloquy might be
overheard. But Beatrice went on, without subduing her voice, and, having
delivered herself of much plain language, walked from the room, leaving
the door open behind her.

As a rule, she returned from her day’s occupations to dinner, in
De Crespigny Park, at seven o’clock. To-day her arrival at home
was considerably later. About three o’clock she made a call at the
boarding-house where Mrs. Damerel lived, but was disappointed in her
wish to see that lady, who would not be in before the hour of
dining. She called again at seven, and Mrs. Damerel received her very
graciously. It was the first time they had met. Beatrice, in no mood for
polite grimaces, at once disclosed the object of her visit; she wanted
to talk about Fanny; did Mrs. Damerel know anything of a proposed
journey to Brussels? The lady professed utter ignorance of any such
intention on Fanny’s part. She had not seen Fanny for at least a

‘How can that be? She told me she dined here last Sunday.’

‘That’s very strange,’ answered Mrs. Damerel, with suave concern. ‘She
certainly did not dine here.’

‘And the Sunday before?’

‘Your sister has dined here only once, Miss. French, and that was three
months ago.’

‘Then I don’t understand it. Haven’t you been taking her to theatres,
and parties, and that kind of thing?’

‘I have taken her once to a theatre, and twice to evening “at homes.”
 The last time we were together anywhere was at Mrs. Dane’s, about the
middle of May. Since then I have seen her hardly at all. I’m very
much afraid you are under some misconception. Thinking your sister was
engaged to marry my nephew, Mr. Lord, I naturally desired to offer her
a few friendly attentions. But it came out, at length, that she did not
regard the engagement as serious. I was obliged to speak gravely to my
young nephew, and beg him to consider his position. There is the second
dinner-bell, but I am quite at your service, Miss. French, if you wish
to question me further.’

Beatrice was much inclined to resent this tone, and to use her
vernacular. But it seemed only too probable that Fanny had been
deceiving her, and, as she really feared for the girl’s safety, prudence
bade her be civil with Mrs. Damerel.

‘Can’t you help me to find out what Fanny has really been doing?’

‘I’m afraid it’s quite out of my power. She never confided in me, and it
is so long since I have seen anything of her at all.’

‘It’s best to speak plainly,’ said Beatrice, in her business tone.
‘Can’t you think of any man, in the society you introduced her to, who
may be trying to lead her astray?’

‘Really, Miss. French! The society in which I move is not what you seem
to suppose. If your sister is in any danger of _that_ kind, you must
make your inquiries elsewhere--in an inferior rank of life.’

Beatrice no longer contained herself.

‘Perhaps I know rather more than you think about your kind of society.
There’s not much to choose between the men and the women.’

‘Miss. French, I believe you reside in a part of London called
Camberwell. And I believe you are engaged in some kind of millinery
business. This excuses you for ill-manners. All the same, I must beg you
to relieve me of your presence.’ She rang the bell. ‘Good evening.’

‘I dare say we shall see each other again,’ replied Beatrice, with an
insulting laugh. ‘I heard some one say to-day that it might be as well
to find out _who you really are_. And if any harm comes to Fanny, I
shall take a little trouble about that inquiry myself.’

Mrs. Damerel changed colour, but no movement betrayed anxiety. In the
attitude of dignified disdain, she kept her eyes on a point above Miss.
French’s head, and stood so until the plebeian adversary had withdrawn.

Then she sat down, and for a few minutes communed with herself. In the
end, instead of going to dinner, she rang her bell again. A servant

‘Is Mr. Mankelow in the dining-room?’

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘Ask him to be kind enough to come here for a moment.’

With little delay, Mr. Mankelow answered the summons which called him
from his soup. He wore evening dress; his thin hair was parted down the
middle; his smooth-shaven and rather florid face expressed the annoyance
of a hungry man at so unseasonable an interruption.

‘Do forgive me,’ began Mrs. Damerel, in a pathetic falsetto. ‘I have
been so upset, I felt obliged to seek advice immediately, and no one
seemed so likely to be of help to me as you--a man of the world. Would
you believe that a sister of that silly little Miss. French has just
been here--a downright virago--declaring that the girl has been
led astray, and that I am responsible for it? Can you imagine such
impertinence? She has fibbed shockingly to the people at home--told
them she was constantly here with me in the evenings, when she must have
been--who knows where. It will teach me to meddle again with girls of
that class.’

Mankelow stood with his hands behind him, and legs apart, regarding the
speaker with a comically puzzled air.

‘My dear Mrs. Damerel,’--he had a thick, military sort of voice,--‘why
in the world should this interpose between us and dinner? Afterwards, we

‘But I am really anxious about the silly little creature. It would be
extremely disagreeable if my name got mixed up in a scandal of any
kind. You remember my telling you that she didn’t belong exactly to
the working-class. She has even a little property of her own; and I
shouldn’t wonder if she has friends who might make a disturbance if
her--her vagaries could be in any way connected with me and my circle.
Something was mentioned about Brussels. She has been chattering about
some one who wanted to take her to Brussels--’

The listener arched his eyebrows more and more.

‘What _can_ it matter to you?’

‘To be sure, I have no acquaintance with any one who could do such

‘Why, of course not. And even if you had, I understand that the girl is
long out of her teens--’

‘Long since.’

‘Then it’s her own affair--and that of the man who cares to purchase
such amusement. By-the-bye, it happens rather oddly that I myself have
to run over to Brussels on business; but I trust’--he laughed--‘that my
years and my character--’

‘Oh, Mr. Mankelow, absurd! It’s probably some commercial traveller, or
man of that sort, don’t you think? The one thing I _do_ hope is, that,
if anything like this happens, the girl will somehow make it clear to
her friends that _I_ had no knowledge whatever of what was going on. But
that can hardly be hoped, I fear!--’

Their eyes crossed; they stood for a moment perusing vacancy.

‘Yes, I think it might be hoped,’ said Mankelow airily. ‘She seemed to
me a rather reckless sort of young person. It’s highly probable she will
write letters which release every one but herself from responsibility.
In fact’--he gazed at her with a cynical smile--‘my knowledge of human
nature disposes me to assure you that she certainly will. She might
even, I should say, write a letter to _you_--perhaps a cheeky sort of
letter, which would at once set your mind at ease.’

‘Oh, if you really take that view--’

‘I do indeed. Don’t you think we might dismiss the matter, and dine?’

They did so.

Until noon of to-day, Mrs. Peachey had kept her bed, lying amid the
wreck wrought by last night’s madness. She then felt well enough to
rise, and after refreshment betook herself by cab to the offices of
Messrs Ducker, Blunt & Co., manufacturers of disinfectants, where she
conversed with one of the partners, and learnt that her husband had
telegraphed his intention to be absent for a day or two. Having, with
the self-respect which distinguished her, related her story from the
most calumnious point of view, she went home again to nurse her headache
and quarrel with Fanny. But Fanny had in the meantime left home,
and, unaccountable fact, had taken with her a large tin box and a
dress-basket; heavily packed, said the servants. Her direction to the
cabman was merely Westminster Bridge, which conveyed to Mrs. Peachey no
sort of suggestion.

When Beatrice came back, and learnt this event, she went apart in
wrathful gloom. Ada could not engage her in a quarrel. It was a
wretchedly dull evening.

They talked next morning, and Beatrice announced her purpose of going
to live by herself as soon as possible. But she would not quarrel. Left
alone, Ada prepared to visit certain of their relatives in different
parts of London, to spread among them the news of her husband’s infamy.


When Mary Woodruff unlocked the house-door and entered the little hall,
it smelt and felt as though the damp and sooty fogs of winter still
lingered here, untouched by the July warmth. She came alone, and
straightway spent several hours in characteristic activity--airing,
cleaning, brightening. For a few days there would be no servant; Mary,
after her long leisure down in Cornwall, enjoyed the prospect of doing
all the work herself. They had reached London last evening, and had
slept at a family hotel, where Nancy remained until the house was in
order for her.

Unhappily, their arrival timed with a change of weather, which brought
clouds and rain. The glories of an unshadowed sky would have little
more than availed to support Nancy’s courage as she passed the creaking
little gate and touched the threshold of a home to which she returned
only on compulsion; gloom overhead, and puddles underfoot, tried her
spirit sorely. She had a pale face, and thin cheeks, and moved with
languid step.

Her first glance was at the letter-box.


Mary shook her head. During their absence letters had been re-addressed
by the post-office, and since the notice of return nothing had come.

‘I’m quite sure a letter has been lost.’

‘Yes, it may have been. But there’ll be an answer to your last very

‘I don’t think so. Most likely I shall never hear again.’

And Nancy sat by the window of the front room, looking, as she had
looked so many a time, at the lime tree opposite and the house visible
through wet branches. A view unchanged since she could remember;
recalling all her old ambitions, revolts, pretences, and ignorances;
recalling her father, who from his grave still oppressed her living

Somewhere near sounded the wailing shout of a dustman. It was like the
voice of a soul condemned to purge itself in filth.

‘Mary!’ She rose up and went to the kitchen. ‘I can’t live here! It will
kill me if I have to live in this dreadful place. Why, even you have
been crying; I can see you have. If _you_ give way, think what it must
be to me!’

‘It’s only for a day or two, dear,’ answered Mary. ‘We shall feel at
home again very soon. Miss. Morgan will come this evening, and perhaps
your brother.’

‘I must do something. Give me some work.’

Mary could not but regard this as a healthy symptom, and she suggested
tasks that called for moderate effort. Sick of reading--she had read
through a whole circulating library in the past six months--Nancy
bestirred herself about the house; but she avoided her father’s room.

Horace did not come to-day; a note arrived from him, saying that he
would call early to-morrow morning. But at tea-time Jessica presented
herself. She looked less ghostly than half a year ago; the grave
illness through which she had passed seemed to have been helpful to her
constitution. Yet she was noticeably changed. In her letters Nancy had
remarked an excessive simplicity, a sort of childishness, very unlike
Jessica’s previous way of writing; and the same peculiarity now appeared
in her conversation. By turns she was mawkish and sprightly, tearful
and giggling. Her dress, formerly neglected to the point of untidiness,
betrayed a new-born taste for fashionable equipment; she suddenly drew
attention to it in the midst of serious talk, asking with a bashful
smirk whether Nancy thought it suited her.

‘I got it at Miss. French’s place--the Association, you know. It’s
really wonderful how cheap things are there. And the very best cut, by
dressmakers from Paris.’

Nancy wondered, and felt that her diminishing regard for Miss. Morgan
had suffered a fresh blow.

There was much news to receive and impart. In writing from Falmouth,
Nancy had referred to the details of her own life with studied
ambiguity. She regretted having taken Jessica into her confidence, and
avoided penning a word which, if read by any one but her correspondent,
would betray the perilous secret. Jessica, after her illness, was
inclined to resent this extreme caution, which irritated her curiosity;
but in vain she assured Nancy that there was not the least fear of her
letters falling into wrong hands. For weeks at a time she heard nothing,
and then would come a letter, long indeed, but without a syllable of the
information she desired. Near the end of May she received a line or two,
‘I have been really ill, but am now much better. I shall stay here only
a few weeks more. Don’t be anxious; I am well cared for, and the worst
is over.’

She heard the interpretation from Nancy’s lips, and laughed and cried
over it.

‘What you must have suffered, my poor dear! And to be separated from the
little darling! Oh, it’s too cruel! You are sure they will be kind to

‘Mary has every confidence in the woman. And I like the look of her; I
don’t feel uneasy. I shall go there very often, of course.’

‘And when is _he_ coming back? He oughtn’t to have kept away all this
time. How unkind!’

‘Not at all,’ Nancy replied, with sudden reserve. ‘He is acting for the
best. You mustn’t ask me about that; you shall know more some day.’

Jessica, whose face made legible presentment of her every thought,
looked disappointed and peevish.

‘And you are really going in for the examination again?’ Nancy asked.

‘Oh, of course I am!’ answered the other perkily; ‘but not till summer
of next year. I’m not allowed to study much yet; the doctor says I might
do my brain a serious injury. I read a great deal; books that rest the
mind--poetry and fiction; of course only the very best fiction. I shall
soon be able to begin teaching again; but I must be very careful. Only
an hour or two a day at first, and perhaps quite young children.’

Evidently the girl felt a certain pride in what she had undergone. Her
failure to matriculate was forgotten in the sense that she offered
a most interesting case of breakdown from undue mental exertion.
The doctor had declared his astonishment that she held up until the
examination was over.

‘He simply wouldn’t believe me when I told him the hours I worked. He
said I ought to be on my trial for attempted suicide!’

And she laughed with extravagant conceit.

‘You have quite made friends with the Barmbys,’ said Nancy, eyeing her

‘They are very nice people. Of course the girls quite understand what a
difference there is between themselves and me. I like them because they
are so modest; they would never think of contradicting my opinion about

‘And what about the Prophet?’

‘I don’t think you ever quite understood him,’ Jessica replied, with an
obvious confusion which perplexed her friend. ‘He isn’t at all the kind
of man you thought.’

‘No doubt I was wrong,’ Nancy hastened to say. ‘It was prejudice.
And you remember that I never had any fault to find with his--his

‘You disliked him,’ said the other sharply. ‘And you still dislike him.
I’m sure you do.’

So plainly did Jessica desire a confirmation of this statement, that
Nancy allowed herself to be drawn into half avowing a positive dislike
for Samuel. Whereupon Jessica looked pleased, and tossed her head in a
singular way.

‘I needn’t remind you,’ fell from Nancy, after a moment of troubled
reflection, ‘how careful you must be in talking about me to the

‘Oh, don’t have the slightest fear.’

‘Weren’t you delirious in your illness?’

‘I should think I was indeed! For a long time.’

‘I hope you said nothing--’

‘About you? Oh, not a word; I’m quite sure. I talked all the time about
my studies. The doctor heard me one day repeating a long bit of Virgil.
And I kept calling for bits of paper to work out problems in Geometrical
Progression. Just fancy! I don’t think most girls are delirious in that
way. If I had said anything about you that sounded queer, of course
mother would have told me afterwards. Oh, it was quite an intellectual

Had Jessica, since her illness, become an insufferable simpleton?
or--Nancy wondered--was it she herself who, through experience and
sorrows, was grown wiser, and saw her friend in a new light? It troubled
her gravely that the preservation of a secret more than ever momentous
should depend upon a person with so little sense. The girl’s departure
was a relief; but in the silence that followed upon silly talk, she had
leisure to contemplate this risk, hitherto scarce taken into account.
She spoke of it with Mary, the one friend to whom her heart went out
in absolute trust, from whom she concealed but few of her thoughts, and
whose moral worth, only understood since circumstances compelled her
reliance upon it, had set before her a new ideal of life. Mary, she well
knew, abhorred the deceit they were practising, and thought hard things
of the man who made it a necessity; so it did not surprise her that the
devoted woman showed no deep concern at a new danger.

‘It’s more the shame than anything else, that I fear now,’ said Nancy.
‘If I have to support myself and my child, I shall do it. How, I don’t
know; but other women find a way, and I should. If he deserts me, I am
not such a poor creature as to grieve on that account; I should despise
him too much even to hate him. But the shame of it would be
terrible. It’s common, vulgar cheating--such as you read of in the
newspapers--such as people are punished for. I never thought of it in
that way when he was here. Yet he felt it. He spoke of it like that, but
I wouldn’t listen.’

Mary heard this with interest.

‘Did he wish you to give it up?’ she asked. ‘You never told me that.’

‘He said he would rather we did. But that was when he had never thought
of being in want himself. Afterwards--yes, even then he spoke in the
same way; but what could we do?’

‘Don’t fear that he will forsake you,’ said Mary. ‘You will hear from
him very soon. He knows the right and the wrong, and right will be
stronger with him in the end.’

‘If only I were sure that he has heard of his child’s birth. If he
_has_, and won’t even write to me, then he is no man, and it’s better we
should never see each other again.’

She knew the hours of postal delivery, and listened with throbbing heart
to the double knocks at neighbouring houses. When the last postman was
gone by, she sat down, sick with disappointment.

At bedtime she said to Mary, ‘My little baby is asleep; oh, if I could
but see it for a moment!’ And tears choked her as she turned away.

It was more than two months since she had heard from her husband.

At first Tarrant wrote as frequently as he had promised. She learnt
speedily of his arrival at New York, then that he had reached Nassau,
the capital of the Bahamas, then that he was with his friend Sutherland
on the little island amid the coral reefs. Subsequent letters, written
in buoyant spirits, contained long descriptions of the scenery
about him, and of the life he led. He expressed a firm confidence in
Sutherland’s enterprises; beyond a doubt, there was no end of money to
be made by an energetic man; he should report most favourably to Mr.
Vawdrey, whose co-operation would of course be invaluable. For his own
part, whether he profited or not from these commercial schemes, he had
not been mistaken in foreseeing material for journalism, even for a
book. Yes, he should certainly write a book on the Bahamas, if only to
expose the monstrous system of misgovernment which accounted for the
sterility into which these islands had fallen. The climate, in winter
at all events, was superb. Sutherland and he lay about in delicious
sunshine, under a marvellous sky, smoking excellent cigars, and talking
over old Oxford days. He quoted Tennyson: ‘Larger constellations
burning,’ &c.

At the end of December, when Nancy, according to their agreement, began
to hope for his return, a letter in a very different tone burdened
her with dismal doubts. Tarrant had quarrelled with his friend. He had
discovered that Sutherland was little better than a swindler. ‘I see
that the fellow’s professed energy was all sham. He is the laziest scamp
imaginable; lazier even than his boozing old father. He schemes only to
get money out of people; and his disappointment on finding that _I_ have
no money to lose, has shown itself at length in very gross forms. I find
he is a gambler; there has just been a tremendous row between him and an
American, whom he is said to have cheated at cards. Last year he was for
several weeks in Mexico City, a place notorious for gambling, and there
lost a large sum of money that didn’t belong to him.’ The upshot was
that he could no longer advise Mr. Vawdrey to have anything to do with
Sutherland. But he must not leave the Bahamas yet; that would be most
unwise, as he was daily gathering most valuable information. Vawdrey
might be induced to lend him a hundred pounds or so. But he would write
again very soon.

It was the close of January when he dated his next letter. Vawdrey had
sent him fifty pounds; this, however, was to include the cost of his
return to England. ‘See, then, what I have decided. I shall make a
hurried tour through the West Indian Islands, then cross to the States,
and travel by land to New York or Boston, seeing all I can afford to
on the way. If I have to come home as a steerage passenger, never
mind; that, too, will be valuable experience.’ There followed many
affectionate phrases, but Nancy’s heart remained cold.

He wrote next from Washington, after six weeks’ silence. Difficulties
of which he would speak at length in another letter had caused him to
postpone answering the two letters he had received. Nancy must never
lose faith in him; his love was unshaken; before the birth of her child
he would assuredly be back in England. Let her address to New York. He
was well, but could not pretend to be very cheerful. However, courage!
He had plans and hopes, of which she should soon hear.

After that, Nancy knew nothing of him, save that he was living in New
York. He wrote two or three times, but briefly, always promising
details in the next epistle. Then he ceased to correspond. Not even
the announcement of the child’s birth elicited a word from him. One
subsequent letter had Nancy despatched; this unanswered, she would write
no more.

She was herself surprised at the calmness with which she faced so
dreadful a possibility as desertion by the man she had loved and
married, the father of her baby. It meant, perhaps, that she could not
believe such fate had really befallen her. Even in Tarrant’s last short
letter sounded a note of kindness, of truthfulness, incompatible, it
seemed to her, with base cruelty. ‘I dreamt of you last night, dearest,
and woke up with a heart that ached for your suffering.’ How could a man
pen those words, and be meditating dastardly behaviour to the woman he
addressed? Was he ill, then? or had fatal accident befallen him? She
feared such explanation only in her weakest moments. If, long ago, he
could keep silence for six weeks at a time, why not now for months?
As for the news she had sent him--does a man think it important that a
little child has been born into the world? Likely enough that again he
merely ‘postponed’ writing. Of course he no longer loved her, say what
he might; at most he thought of her with a feeling of compassion--not
strong enough to overcome his dislike of exertion. He would come
back--when it pleased him.

Nancy would not sully her mind by thinking that he might only return
when her position made it worth his while. He was not a man of that
stamp. Simply, he had ceased to care for her; and having no means of his
own, whilst she was abundantly provided, he yielded to the temptation
to hold aloof from a woman whose claim upon him grew burdensome. Her
thoughts admitted no worse accusation than this. Did any grave ill
befall her; if, for instance, the fact of her marriage became known, and
she were left helpless; her letter to New York would not be disregarded.
To reflect thus signified a mental balance rare in women, and remarkable
in one situated as Nancy was. She talked with her companion far less
consistently, for talk served to relieve the oppression of her heart and

When, next morning, Horace entered the sitting-room, brother and sister
viewed each other with surprise. Neither was prepared for the outward
change wrought in both by the past half-year. Nancy looked what she
in truth had become, a matronly young woman, in uncertain health, and
possessed by a view of life too grave for her years; Horace, no longer
a mere lad, exhibited in sunken cheeks and eyes bright with an unhappy
recklessness, the acquisition of experience which corrupts before it can
mature. Moving to offer her lips, Nancy was checked by the young man’s

‘What on earth has been the matter with you? I never saw any one so

His voice, with its deepened note, and the modification of his very
accent, due to novel circumstances, checked the hearer’s affectionate
impulse. If not unfeeling, the utterance had nothing fraternal. Deeply
pained, and no less alarmed by this warning of the curiosity her
appearance would excite in all who knew her, Nancy made a faltering

‘Why should you seem astonished? You know very well I have had an

‘But what sort of illness? What caused it? You used always to be well

‘You had better go and talk to my medical attendant,’ said Nancy, in a
cold, offended voice.

Horace resumed with irritability.

‘Isn’t it natural for me to ask such questions? You’re not a bit like
yourself. And what did you mean by telling me you were coming back at
once, when I wanted to join you at Falmouth?’

‘I meant to. But after all, I had to stay longer.’

‘Oh well, it’s nothing to me.’

They had not even shaken hands, and now felt no desire to correct the
omission, which was at first involuntary. Horace seemed to have lost all
the amiability of his nature; he looked about him with restless, excited

‘Are you in a hurry?’ asked his sister, head erect.

‘No hurry that I know of.--You haven’t heard what’s been going on?’


‘Of course it won’t interest you. There’s something about you I can’t
understand. Is it father’s will that has spoilt your temper, and made
you behave so strangely?’

‘It is not _my_ temper that’s spoilt. And as for behaving strangely--.’
She made an effort to command herself. ‘Sit down, Horace, and let me
know what is the matter with you. Why we should be unfriendly, I really
can’t imagine. I have suffered from ill health, that’s all. I’m sorry
I behaved in that way when you talked of coming to Falmouth; it wasn’t
meant as you seem to think. Tell me what you have to tell.’

He could not take a reposeful attitude, but, after struggling with some
reluctance, began to explain the agitation that beset him.

‘Mrs. Damerel has done something I didn’t think any woman would be
capable of. For months she has been trying to ruin Fanny, and now it has
come--she has succeeded. She made no secret of wanting to break things
off between her and me, but I never thought her plotting could go as
far as this. Fanny has run away--gone to the Continent with a man Mrs.
Damerel introduced to her.’

‘Perhaps they are married,’ said Nancy, with singular impulsiveness.

‘Of course they’re not. It’s a fellow I knew to be a scoundrel the first
time I set eyes on him. I warned Fanny against him, and I told Mrs.
Damerel that I should hold her responsible if any harm came of the
acquaintance she was encouraging between him and Fanny. She did
encourage it, though she pretended not to. Her aim was to separate me
and Fanny--she didn’t care how.’

He spoke in a high, vehement note; his cheeks flushed violently, his
clenched fist quivered at his side.

‘How do you know where she is gone?’ Nancy asked.

‘She as good as told her sister that she was going to Brussels with
some one. Then one day she disappeared, with her luggage. And that
fellow--Mankelow’s his name--has gone too. He lived in the same
boarding-house with Mrs. Damerel.’

‘That is all the evidence you have?’

‘Quite enough,’ he replied bitterly.

‘It doesn’t seem so to me. But suppose you’re right, what proof have
you that Mrs. Damerel had anything to do with it? If she is our mother’s
sister--and you say there can be no doubt of it--I won’t believe that
she could carry out such a hateful plot as this.’

‘What does it matter who she is? I would swear fifty times that she has
done it. You know very well, when you saw her, you disliked her at once.
You were right in that, and I was wrong.’

‘I can’t be sure. Perhaps it was she that disliked me, more than I did
her. For one thing, I don’t believe that people make such plots. And
what plotting was needed? Couldn’t any one have told you what a girl
like Fanny French would do if she lost her head among people of a higher

‘Then Mrs. Damerel must have foreseen it. That’s just what I say. She
pretended to be a friend to the girl, on purpose to ruin her.’

‘Have you accused her of it?’

‘Yes, I have.’ His eyes flashed. Nancy marvelled at this fire,
drawn from a gentle nature by what seemed to her so inadequate, so
contemptible a cause. ‘Of course she denied it, and got angry with me;
but any one could see she was glad of what had happened. There’s an end
between us, at all events. I shall never go to see her again; she’s
a woman who thinks of nothing but money and fashion. I dislike her
friends, every one of them I’ve met. I told her that what she had done
ought to be a punishable crime.’

Nancy reflected, then said quietly:

‘Whether you are right or wrong, I don’t think you would have got any
good from her. But will you tell me what you are going to do? I told you
that I thought borrowing money only to live on it in idleness was very

Her brother stiffened his neck.

‘You must allow me to judge for myself.’

‘But have you judged for yourself? Wasn’t it by Mrs. Damerel’s advice
that you gave up business?’

‘Partly. But I should have done it in any case.’

‘Have you any plans?’

‘No, I haven’t,’ he answered. ‘You can’t expect a man to have plans
whose life has been thoroughly upset.’

Nancy, reminded of his youthfulness by the tone in which he called
himself a ‘man,’ experienced a revival of natural feeling. Though
revolting against the suggestion that a woman akin to them had been
guilty of what her brother believed, she was glad to think that Fanny
French had relinquished all legitimate claim upon him, and that his
connection with ‘smart’ society had come to an end. Obvious enough were
the perils of his situation, and she, as elder sister, recognised a duty
towards him; she softened her voice, and endeavoured to re-establish the
confidence of old time. Impossible at once, though with resolution she
might ultimately succeed. Horace, at present, was a mere compound of
agitated and inflamed senses. The life he had been leading appeared in
a vicious development of his previously harmless conceit and egoism.
All his characteristics had turned out, as it were, the seamy side; and
Nancy with difficulty preserved her patience as he showed point after
point of perverted disposition. The result of their talk was a careless
promise from Horace that he would come to Grove Lane not seldomer than
once a week.

He stayed only an hour, resisting Nancy’s endeavour to detain him at
least for the mid-day meal. To Mary he spoke formally, awkwardly, as
though unable to accept her position in the house, and then made his
escape like one driven by an evil spirit.


With the clearing of the sky, Nancy’s spirit grew lighter. She went
about London, and enjoyed it after her long seclusion in the little
Cornish town; enjoyed, too, her release from manifold restraints and
perils. Her mental suffering had made the physical harder to bear; she
was now recovering health of mind and body, and found with surprise that
life had a new savour, independent of the timorous joy born with her
child. Strangely, as it seemed to her, she grew conscious of a personal
freedom not unlike what she had vainly desired in the days of petulant
girlhood; the sense came only at moments, but was real and precious;
under its influence she forgot everything abnormal in her situation,
and--though without recognising this significance--knew the exultation
of a woman who has justified her being.

A day or two of roaming at large gave her an appetite for activity.
Satisfied that her child was safe and well cared for, she turned her
eyes upon the life of the world, and wished to take some part in
it--not the part she had been wont to picture for herself before reality
supplanted dreams. Horace’s example on the one hand, and that of Jessica
Morgan on the other, helped her to contemn mere social excitement and
the idle vanity which formerly she styled pursuit of culture. Must there
not be discoverable, in the world to which she had, or could obtain,
access, some honest, strenuous occupation, which would hold in check her
unprofitable thoughts and soothe her self-respect?

That her fraud, up to and beyond the crucial point, had escaped
detection, must be held so wonderful, that she felt justified in an
assurance of impunity. The narrowest escape of which she was aware had
befallen only a few weeks ago. On the sixth day after the birth of the
child, there was brought to her lodgings at Falmouth a note addressed to
‘Miss. Lord.’ Letters bearing this address had arrived frequently, and
by the people of the house were supposed to be for Mary Woodruff, who
went by the name of ‘Miss. Lord,’ Nancy having disguised herself as
‘Mrs. Woodruff;’ but they had always come by post, and the present
missive must be from some acquaintance actually in the town. Nancy could
not remember the handwriting. Breaking open the envelope as she lay
in bed, she saw with alarm the signature ‘Luckworth Crewe.’ He was at
Falmouth on business, Crewe wrote, and, before leaving London, he had
ventured to ask Miss Lord’s address from her brother, whom he casually
met somewhere. Would Nancy allow him to see her, were it but for a
minute or two? Earnestly he besought this favour. He desired nothing
more than to see Miss. Lord, and to speak with her in the way of an
ordinary acquaintance. After all this time, she had, he felt sure,
forgiven his behaviour at their last meeting. Only five minutes of

All seemed lost. Nancy was silent in despair. But Mary faced the
perilous juncture, and, to all appearances, averted catastrophe. She
dressed herself, and went straight to the hotel where Crewe had put
up, and where he awaited an answer. Having made known who she was, she
delivered a verbal message: Miss. Lord was not well enough to see any
one to-day, and, in any case, she could not have received Mr Crewe;
she begged him to pardon her; before long, they might perhaps meet
in London, but, for her own part, she wished Mr. Crewe would learn to
regard her as a stranger. Of course there followed a dialogue; and Mary,
seeming to speak with all freedom, convinced Crewe that his attempt
to gain an interview was quite hopeless. She gave him much information
concerning her mistress--none of it false, but all misleading--and in
the end had to resist an offer of gold coins, pressed upon her as a
bribe for her good word with Nancy.

The question was--had Crewe been content to leave Falmouth without
making inquiries of other people? To a man of his experience, nothing
was easier than such investigation. But, with other grounds of anxiety,
this had ceased to disturb Nancy’s mind. Practically, she lived as
though all danger were at an end. The task immediately before her seemed
very simple; she had only to resume the old habits, and guard against
thoughtless self-betrayal in her everyday talk. The chance that any one
would discover her habit of visiting a certain house at the distance of
several miles from Camberwell, was too slight for consideration.

She wrote to Mr. Barmby, senior, informing him of her return, in
improved health, to Grove Lane, and thanking him once more for his
allowing her to make so long a stay in Cornwall. If he wished to see
her, she would be at home at any time convenient to him. In a few days
the old gentleman called, and for an hour or two discoursed well-meaning
commonplace. He was sorry to observe that she looked a trifle pale; in
the autumn she must go away again, and to a more bracing locality--he
would suggest Broadstairs, which had always exercised the most
beneficial effect upon his own health. Above all, he begged her to
refrain from excessive study, most deleterious to a female constitution.
Then he asked questions about Horace, and agreed with Nancy that the
young man ought to decide upon some new pursuit, if he had definitely
abandoned the old; lack of steady occupation was most deleterious at his
age. In short, Mr. Barmby rather apologised for his guardianship than
sought to make assertion of it; and Nancy, by a few feminine devices,
won a better opinion than she had hitherto enjoyed. On the day
following, Samuel Barmby and his sisters waited upon Miss. Lord; all
three were surprisingly solemn, and Samuel talked for the most part of a
‘paragraph’ he had recently read, which stated that the smoke of London,
if properly utilised, would be worth a vast sum of money. ‘The English
are a wasteful people,’ was his conclusion; to which Nancy assented with
a face as grave as his own.

Not a little to her astonishment, the next day brought her a long letter
in Samuel’s fair commercial hand. It began by assuring her that the
writer had no intention whatever of troubling her with the renewal of
a suit so firmly rejected on more than one occasion; he wished only to
take this opportunity of her return from a long absence to express the
abiding nature of his devotion, which years hence would be unbroken
as to-day. He would never distress her by unwelcome demonstrations;
possibly she might never again hear from his lips what he now committed
to paper. Enough for him, Samuel, to cherish a love which could not but
exalt and purify him, which was indeed, ‘in the words of Shakespeare, “a
liberal education.”’ In recompense of his self-command, he only besought
that Miss. Lord would allow him, from time to time, to look upon her
face, and to converse with her of intellectual subjects. ‘A paper,’
he added, ‘which I read last week at our Society, is now being
printed--solely at the request of friends. The subject is one that may
interest you, “The Influence of Culture on Morality.” I beg that you
will accept the copy I shall have the pleasure of sending you, and that,
at some future date, you will honour me with your remarks thereon.’

Which epistle Nancy cruelly read aloud to Mary, with a sprightliness and
sarcastic humour not excelled by her criticisms of ‘the Prophet’ in days
gone by. Mary did not quite understand, but she saw in this behaviour a
proof of the wonderful courage with which Nancy faced her troubles.

A week had passed, and no news from America.

‘I don’t care,’ said Nancy. ‘Really and truly, I don’t care. Yesterday
I never once thought of it--never once looked for the postman. The worst
is over now, and he may write or not, as he likes.’

Mary felt sure there would be an explanation of such strange silence.

‘Only illness or death would explain it so as to make me forgive him.
But he isn’t ill. He is alive, and enjoying himself.’

There was no bitterness in her voice. She seemed to have outlived all
sorrows and anxieties relative to her husband.

Mary suggested that it was always possible to call at Mr. Vawdrey’s
house and make inquiries of Mrs. Baker.

‘No, I won’t do that. Other women would do it, but I won’t. So long as I
mayn’t tell the truth, I should only set them talking about me; you know
how. I see the use, now, of having a good deal of pride. I’m only sorry
for those letters I wrote when I wasn’t in my senses. If he writes now,
I shall not answer. He shall know that I am as independent as he is.
What a blessed thing it is for a woman to have money of her own! It’s
because most women haven’t, that they’re such poor, wretched slaves.’

‘If he knew you were in want,’ said her companion, ‘he would never have
behaved like this.’

‘Who can say?--No, I won’t pretend to think worse of him than I do.
You’re quite right. He wouldn’t leave his wife to starve. It’s certain
that he hears about me from some one. If I were found out, and lost
everything, some one would let him know. But I wouldn’t accept support
from him, now. He might provide for his child, but he shall never
provide for me, come what may--never!’

It was in the evening, after dinner. Nancy had a newspaper, and was
reading the advertisements that offered miscellaneous employment.

‘What do you think this can be?’ she asked, looking up after a long
silence. ‘“To ladies with leisure. Ladies desiring to add to their
income by easy and pleasant work should write”’--&c. &c.

‘I’ve no faith in those kind of advertisements,’ said Mary.

‘No; of course it’s rubbish. There’s no easy and pleasant way of earning
money; only silly people expect it. And I don’t want anything easy
or pleasant. I want honest hard work. Not work with my hands--I’m not
suited for that, but real work, such as lots of educated girls are
doing. I’m quite willing to pay for learning it; most likely I shall
have to. Who could I write to for advice?’

They were sitting upstairs, and so did not hear a visitor’s knock that
sounded at the front door. The servant came and announced that Miss.
French wished to see Miss. Lord.

‘Miss. French? Is it the younger Miss. French?’

The girl could not say; she had repeated the name given to her. Nancy
spoke to her friend in a low voice.

‘It may be Fanny. I don’t think Beatrice would call, unless it’s to say
something about her sister. She had better come up here, I suppose?’

Mary retired, and in a few moments there entered, not Fanny, but
Beatrice. She was civilly, not cordially, welcomed. Her eye, as
she spoke the words natural at such a meeting, dwelt with singular
persistency on Nancy’s face.

‘You are quite well again?’

‘Quite, thank you.’

‘It has been a troublesome illness, I’m afraid.’

Nancy hesitated, detecting a peculiarity of look and tone which caused
her uneasiness.

‘I had a sort of low fever--was altogether out of sorts--“below par,”
 the doctor said. Are you all well?’

Settling herself comfortably, as if for a long chat, Beatrice sketched
with some humour the course of recent events in De Crespigny Park.

‘I’m out of it all, thank goodness. I prefer a quiet life. Then there’s
Fanny. You know all about _her_, I dare say?’

‘Nothing at all,’ Nancy replied distantly.

‘But your brother does. Hasn’t he been to see you yet?’

Nancy was in no mood to submit to examination.

‘Whatever I may have heard, I know nothing about Fanny’s, affairs, and,
really, they don’t concern me.

‘I should have thought they might,’ rejoined the other, smiling
absently. ‘She has run away from her friends’--a pause--‘and is living
somewhere rather mysteriously’--another pause--‘and I think it more than
likely that she’s _married_.’

The listener preserved a face of indifference, though the lines were
decidedly tense.

‘Doesn’t that interest you?’ asked Beatrice, in the most genial tone.

‘If it’s true,’ was the blunt reply.

‘You mean, you are glad if she has married somebody else, and not your

‘Yes, I am glad of that.’

Beatrice mused, with wrinkles at the corner of her eye. Then, fixing
Nancy with a very keen look, she said quietly:

‘I’m not sure that she’s married. But if she isn’t, no doubt she ought
to be.’

On Nancy’s part there was a nervous movement, but she said nothing. Her
face grew rigid.

‘I have an idea who the man is,’ Miss. French pursued; ‘but I can’t
be quite certain. One has heard of similar cases. Even _you_ have, no

‘I don’t care to talk about it,’ fell mechanically from Nancy’s lips,
which had lost their colour.

‘But I’ve come just for that purpose.’

The eyes of mocking scrutiny would not be resisted. They drew a gaze
from Nancy, and then a haughty exclamation.

‘I don’t understand you. Please say whatever you have to say in plain

‘Don’t be angry with me. You were always too ready at taking offence.
I mean it in quite a friendly way; you can trust me; I’m not one of the
women that chatter. Don’t you think you ought to sympathise a little
with Fanny? She has gone to Brussels, or somewhere about there. But she
_might_ have gone down into Cornwall--to a place like Falmouth. It was
quite far enough off--don’t you think?’

Nancy was stricken mute, and her countenance would no longer disguise
what she suffered.

‘No need to upset yourself,’ pursued the other in smiling confidence.
‘I mean no harm. I’m curious, that’s all; just want to know one or two
things. We’re old friends, and whatever you tell me will go no further,
depend upon that.’

‘What do you mean?’

The words came from lips that moved with difficulty. Beatrice, still
smiling, bent forward.

‘Is it any one that I know?’

‘Any one--? Who--?’

‘That made it necessary for you to go down into Cornwall, my dear.’

Nancy heaved a sigh, the result of holding her breath too long. She half
rose, and sat down again. In a torture of flashing thoughts, she
tried to determine whether Beatrice had any information, or spoke
conjecturally. Yet she was able to discern that either case meant
disaster; to have excited the suspicions of such a person, was the same
as being unmasked; an inquiry at Falmouth, and all would at once be

No, not all. Not the fact of her marriage; not the name of her husband.

Driven to bay by such an opponent, she assumed an air wholly unnatural
to her--one of cynical effrontery.

‘You had better say what you know.’

‘All right. Who was the father of the child born not long ago?’

‘That’s asking a question.’

‘And telling what I know at the same time. It saves breath.’

Beatrice laughed; and Nancy, become a mere automaton, laughed too.

‘That’s more like it,’ said Miss. French cheerfully. ‘Now we shall get
on together. It’s very shocking, my dear. A person of my strict morality
hardly knows how to look you in the face. Perhaps you had rather I
didn’t try. Very well. Now tell me all about it, comfortably. I have a
guess, you know.’

‘What is it?’

‘Wait a little. I don’t want to be laughed at. Is it any one I know?’

‘You have never seen him, and I dare say never heard of him.’

Beatrice stared incredulously.

‘I wouldn’t tell fibs, Nancy.’

‘I’m telling the truth.’

‘It’s very queer, then.’

‘Who did you think--?’

The speaking automaton, as though by defect of mechanism, stopped short.

‘Look straight at me. I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear that it
was Luckworth Crewe.’

Nancy’s defiant gaze, shame in anguish shielding itself with the front
of audacity, changed to utter astonishment. The blood rushed back into
her cheeks; she voiced a smothered exclamation of scorn.

‘The father of my child? Luckworth Crewe?’

‘I thought it not impossible,’ said Beatrice, plainly baffled.

‘It was like you.’ Nancy gave a hard laugh. ‘You judged me by yourself.
Have another guess!’

Surprised both at the denial, so obviously true, and at the unexpected
tone with which Nancy was meeting her attack, Miss. French sat

‘It’s no use guessing,’ she said at length, with complete good-humour.
‘I don’t know of any one else.’

‘Very well. You can’t expect me to tell you.’

‘As you please. It’s a queer thing; I felt pretty sure. But if you’re
telling the truth, I don’t care a rap who the man is.’

‘You can rest in peace,’ said Nancy, with careless scorn.

‘Any way of convincing me, except by saying it?’

‘Yes. Wait here a moment.’

She left the room, and returned with the note which Crewe had addressed
to her from the hotel at Falmouth.

‘Read that, and look at the date.’

Beatrice studied the document, and in silence canvassed the
possibilities of trickery. No; it was genuine evidence. She remembered
the date of Crewe’s journey to Falmouth, and, in this new light, could
interpret his quarrelsome behaviour after he had returned. Only the
discovery she had since made inflamed her with a suspicion which till
then had never entered her mind.

‘Of course, you didn’t let him see you?’

‘Of course not.’.

‘All right. Don’t suppose I wanted to insult you. I took it for granted
you were married. Of course it happened before your father’s death, and
his awkward will obliged you to keep it dark?’

Again Nancy was smitten with fear. Deeming Miss. French an unscrupulous
enemy, she felt that to confess marriage was to abandon every hope.
Pride appealed to her courage, bade her, here and now, have done
with the ignoble fraud; but fear proved stronger. She could not face
exposure, and all that must follow.

She spoke coldly, but with down-dropt eyes.

‘I am not married.’

The words cost her little effort. Practically, she had uttered them
before; her overbold replies were an admission of what, from the first,
she supposed Beatrice to charge her with--not secret wedlock, but secret
shame. Beatrice, however, had adopted that line of suggestion merely
from policy, hoping to sting the proud girl into avowal of a legitimate
union; she heard the contrary declaration with fresh surprise.

‘I should never have believed it of Miss. Lord,’ was her half ingenuous,
half sly comment.

Nancy, beginning to realise what she had done, sat with head bent,

‘Don’t distress yourself,’ continued the other. ‘Not a soul will hear of
it from me. If you like to tell me more, you can do it quite safely; I’m
no blabber, and I’m not a rascal. I should never have troubled to make
inquiries about you, down yonder, if it hadn’t been that I suspected
Crewe. That’s a confession, you know; take it in return for yours.’

Nancy was tongue-tied. A full sense of her humiliation had burst upon
her. She, who always condescended to Miss. French, now lay smirched
before her feet, an object of vulgar contempt.

‘What does it matter?’ went on Beatrice genially. ‘You’ve got over the
worst, and very cleverly. Are you going to marry him when you come in
for your money?’

‘Perhaps--I don’t know--’

She faltered, no longer able to mask in impudence, and hardly
restraining tears. Beatrice ceased to doubt, and could only wonder with

‘Why shouldn’t we be good friends, Nancy? I tell you, I am no rascal.
I never thought of making anything out of your secret--not I. If it had
been Crewe, marriage or no marriage--well, I might have shown my temper.
I believe I have a pretty rough side to my tongue; but I’m a good enough
sort if you take me in the right way. Of course I shall never rest for
wondering who it can be--’

She paused, but Nancy did not look up, did not stir.

‘Perhaps you’ll tell me some other time. But there’s one thing I should
like to ask about, and it’s for your own good that I should know it.
When Crewe was down there, don’t you think he tumbled to anything?’

Perplexed by unfamiliar slang, Nancy raised her eyes.

‘Found out anything, you mean? I don’t know.’

‘But you must have been in a jolly fright about it?’

‘I gave it very little thought,’ replied Nancy, able now to command a
steady voice, and retiring behind a manner of frigid indifference.

‘No? Well, of course I understand that better now I know that you can’t
lose anything. Still, it is to be hoped he didn’t go asking questions.
By-the-bye, you may as well just tell me: he has asked you to marry him,
hasn’t he?’


Beatrice nodded.

‘Doesn’t matter. You needn’t be afraid, even if he got hold of anything.
He isn’t the kind of man to injure you out of spite.’

‘I fear him as little as I fear you.’

‘Well, as I’ve told you, you needn’t fear me at all. I like you better
for this--a good deal better than I used to. If you want any help, you
know where to turn; I’ll do whatever I can for you; and I’m in the way
of being useful to my friends. You’re cut up just now; it’s natural. I
won’t bother you any longer. But just remember what I’ve said. If I can
be of any service, don’t be above making use of me.’

Nancy heard without heeding; for an anguish of shame and misery once
more fell upon her, and seemed to lay waste her soul.

Part V: Compassed Round


There needed not Mary Woodruff’s suggestion to remind Nancy that no
further away than Champion Hill were people of whom, in extremity, she
might inquire concerning her husband. At present, even could she
have entertained the thought, it seemed doubtful whether the Vawdrey
household knew more of Tarrant’s position and purposes than she herself;
for, only a month ago, Jessica Morgan had called upon the girls and had
ventured a question about their cousin, whereupon they answered that
he was in America, but that he had not written for a long time. To Mrs.
Baker, Jessica did not like to speak on the subject, but probably that
lady could have answered only as the children did.

Once, indeed, a few days after her return, Nancy took the familiar walk
along Champion Hill, and glanced, in passing, at Mr. Vawdrey’s house;
afterwards, she shunned that region. The memories it revived were
infinitely painful. She saw herself an immature and foolish girl,
behaving in a way which, for all its affectation of reserve and dignity,
no doubt offered to such a man as Lionel Tarrant a hint that here, if he
chose, he might make a facile conquest. Had he not acted upon the
hint? It wrung her heart with shame to remember how, in those days, she
followed the lure of a crude imagination. A year ago? Oh, a lifetime!

Unwilling, now, to justify herself with the plea of love; doubtful, in
very truth, whether her passion merited that name; she looked back in
the stern spirit of a woman judging another’s frailty. What treatment
could she have anticipated at the hands of her lover save that she had
received? He married her--it was much; he forsook her--it was natural.
The truth of which she had caught troublous glimpses in the heyday of
her folly now stood revealed as pitiless condemnation. Tarrant never
respected her, never thought of her as a woman whom he could seriously
woo and wed. She had a certain power over his emotions, and not the
sensual alone; but his love would not endure the test of absence. From
the other side of the Atlantic he saw her as he had seen her at first,
and shrank from returning to the bondage which in a weak moment he had

One night about this time she said to herself:

‘I was his mistress, never his wife.’

And all her desperate endeavours to obscure the history of their love,
to assert herself as worthy to be called wife, mother, had fallen
fruitless. Those long imploring letters, despatched to America from her
solitude by the Cornish sea, elicited nothing but a word or two which
sounded more like pity than affection. Pity does not suffice to recall
the wandering steps of a man wedded against his will.

In her heart, she absolved him of all baseness. The man of ignoble
thought would have been influenced by her market value as a wife.
Tarrant, all the more because he was reduced to poverty, would
resolutely forget the crude advantage of remaining faithful to her.

Herein Nancy proved herself more akin to her father than she had ever
seemed when Stephen Lord sought eagerly in her character for hopeful

The severity of her self-judgment, and the indulgence tempering her
attitude towards Tarrant, declared a love which had survived its phase
of youthful passion. But Nancy did not recognise this symptom of moral
growth. She believed herself to have become indifferent to her husband,
and only wondered that she did not hate him. Her heart seemed to spend
all its emotion on the little being to whom she had given life--a
healthy boy, who already, so she fancied, knew a difference between his
mother and his nurse, and gurgled a peculiar note of contentment when
lying in her arms. Whether wife or not, she claimed every privilege of
motherhood. Had the child been a weakling, she could not have known this
abounding solace: the defect would have reproached her. But from the day
of his birth he manifested so vigorous a will to live, clung so hungrily
to the fountain-breast, kicked and clamoured with such irresistible
self-assertion, that the mother’s pride equalled her tenderness. ‘My own
brave boy! My son!’ Wonderful new words: honey upon the lips and rapture
to the ear. She murmured them as though inspired with speech never
uttered by mortal.

The interval of a day between her journeys to see the child taxed her
patience; but each visit brought a growth of confidence. No harm would
befall him: Mary had chosen wisely.

Horace kept aloof and sent no message. When at length she wrote to him
a letter all of sisterly kindness, there came a stinted reply. He
said that he was going away for a holiday, and might be absent until
September. ‘Don’t bother about me. You shall hear again before long.
There’s just a chance that I may go in for business again, with prospect
of making money. Particulars when I see you.’

Nancy found this note awaiting her after a day’s absence from home, and
with it another. To her surprise, Mrs. Damerel had written. ‘I called
early this afternoon, wishing particularly to see you. Will you please
let me know when I should find you at home? It is about Horace that
I want to speak.’ It began with ‘My dear Nancy,’ and ended, ‘Yours
affectionately.’ Glad of the opportunity thus offered, she answered at
once, making an appointment for the next day.

When Mrs. Damerel came, Nancy was even more struck than at their former
meeting with her resemblance to Horace. Eyes and lips recalled Horace at
every moment. This time, the conversation began more smoothly. On both
sides appeared a disposition to friendliness, though Nancy only marked
her distrust in the hope of learning more about this mysterious relative
and of being useful to her brother.

‘You have a prejudice against me,’ said the visitor, when she had
inquired concerning Nancy’s health. ‘It’s only natural. I hardly seem
to you a real relative, I’m afraid--you know so little about me; and now
Horace has been laying dreadful things to my charge.’

‘He thinks you responsible for what has happened to Fanny French,’ Nancy
replied, in an impartial voice.

‘Yes, and I assure you he is mistaken. Miss. French deceived him and her
own people, leading them to think that she was spending her time with
me, when really she was--who knows where? To you I am quite ready to
confess that I hoped something might come between her and Horace; but as
for plotting--really lam not so melodramatic a person. All I did in the
way of design was to give Horace an opportunity of seeing the girl in
a new light. You can imagine very well, no doubt, how she conducted
herself. I quite believe that Horace was getting tired and ashamed of
her, but then came her disappearance, and that made him angry with me.’

Even the voice suggested Horace’s tones, especially when softened in
familiar dialogue. Nancy paid closer attention to the speaker’s looks
and movements than to the matter of what she said. Mrs. Damerel might
possibly be a well-meaning woman--her peculiarities might result from
social habits, and not from insincerity; yet Nancy could not like her.
Everything about her prompted a question and a doubt. How old was
she? Probably much older than she looked. What was her breeding, her
education? Probably far less thorough than she would have one believe.
Was she in good circumstances? Nancy suspected that her fashionable and
expensive dress signified extravagance and vanity rather than wealth.

‘I have brought a letter to show you which she has sent me from abroad.
Read it, and form your own conclusion. Is it the letter of an injured

A scrawl on foreign note-paper, which ran thus:

DEAR MRS DAMEREL,--Just a word to console you for the loss of my
society. I have gone to a better world, so dry your tears. If you see my
masher, tell him I’ve met with somebody a bit more like a man. I should
advise him to go to school again and finish his education. I won’t
trouble you to write. Many thanks for the kindness you _didn’t_ mean to
do me.--Yours in the best of spirits (I don’t mean Cognac),


Nancy returned the paper with a look of disgust, saying, ‘I didn’t think
she was as bad as that.’

‘No more did I. It really gave me a little shock of surprise.’

‘Do you think it likely she is married?’

Mrs. Damerel pursed her lips and arched her eyebrows with so unpleasant
an effect on Nancy that she looked away.

‘I have no means whatever of forming an opinion.’

‘But there’s no more fear for Horace,’ said Nancy.

‘I hope not--I think not. But my purpose in coming was to consult with
you about the poor boy. He has renounced me; he won’t answer my
letters; and I am so dreadfully afraid that a sort of despair--it sounds
ridiculous, but he is so very young--may drive him into reckless living.
You have taken part with him against me, I fear--’

‘No, I haven’t. I told him I was quite sure the girl had only herself to
blame, whatever happened.’

‘How kind of you!’ Mrs. Damerel sank her voice to a sort of cooing,
not unmelodious, but to Nancy’s ear a hollow affectation. ‘If we
could understand each other! I am so anxious for your dear brother’s
happiness--and for yours, believe me. I have suffered greatly since he
told me I was his enemy, and cast me off.’

Here sounded a note of pathos which impressed the critical listener.
There was a look, too, in Mrs. Damerel’s eyes quite unlike any that
Nancy had yet detected.

‘What do you wish him to do?’ she asked. ‘If I must tell you the truth,
I don’t think he’ll get any good in the life of society.’

Society’s representative answered in a tone of affectionate frankness:

‘He won’t; I can see that. I don’t wish him to live idly. The
question is, What ought he to do? I think you know a gentleman of his
acquaintance, Mr. Crewe?’

The question was added rather abruptly, and with a watchful gaze.

‘I know him a little.’

‘Something has been said, I believe, about Horace investing money in Mr.
Crewe’s business. Do you think it would be advisable?’

Surprise kept Nancy silent.

‘Is Mr. Crewe trustworthy? I understand he has been in business for
himself only a short time.’

Nancy declared herself unable to judge Mr. Crewe, whether in private
or in commercial life. And here she paused, but could not refrain from
adding the question whether Mrs. Damerel had personal knowledge of him.

‘I have met him once.’

Immediately, all Nancy’s suspicions were revived. She had felt a desire
to talk of intimate things, with mention of her mother’s name; but the
repulsion excited in her by this woman’s air of subtlety, by looks,
movements, tones which she did not understand, forbade it. She could
not speak with satisfaction even of Horace, feeling that Mrs. Damerel’s
affection, however genuine, must needs be baleful. From this point her
part in the dialogue was slight.

‘If any of Miss. French’s relatives,’ said the visitor presently,
‘should accuse me to you, you will be able to contradict them. I am sure
I can depend upon you for that service?’

‘I am not likely to see them; and I should have thought you would care
very little what was said about you by people of that kind.’

‘I care little enough,’ rejoined Mrs. Damerel, with a curl of the lips.
‘It’s Horace I am thinking of. These people will embitter him against
me, so long as they have any ground to go upon.’

‘But haven’t you let him know of that letter?’

Mrs. Damerel seemed to fall into abstraction, answered with a vague
‘Yes,’ and after surveying the room, said softly:

‘So you must live here alone for another two or three years?’

‘It isn’t compulsory: it’s only a condition.’

Another vague ‘Yes.’ Then:

‘I do so wish Horace would come back and make his home here.’

‘I’m afraid you have spoilt him for that,’ said Nancy, with relief in
this piece of plain speaking.

Mrs. Damerel did not openly resent it. She looked a mild surprise, and
answered blandly:

‘Then I must undo the mischief. You shall help me. When he has got over
this little trouble, he will see who are his true friends. Let us work
together for his good.’

Nancy was inclined, once more, to reproach herself, and listened with
patience whilst her relative continued talking in grave kindly tones.
Lest she should spoil the effect of these impressive remarks, Mrs.
Damerel then took leave. In shaking hands, she bent upon the girl a gaze
of affection, and, as she turned away, softly sighed.

Of what had passed in the recent interview with Beatrice French, Nancy
said nothing to her faithful companion. This burden of shame must be
borne by herself alone. It affected profoundly the courageous mood
which had promised to make her life tolerable; henceforth, she all but
abandoned the hope of gaining that end for which she had submitted to
so deep a humiliation. Through Beatrice, would not her secret, coloured
shamefully, become known to Luckworth Crewe, and to others? Already,
perchance, a growing scandal attached to her name. Fear had enabled
her to endure dishonour in the eyes of one woman, but at any moment the
disgrace might front her in an intolerable shape; then, regardless of
the cost, she would proclaim her marriage, and have, in return for all
she had suffered, nothing but the reproach of an attempted fraud.

To find employment, means of honourable support, was an urgent

She had written in reply to sundry advertisements, but without result.
She tried to draw up an advertisement on her own account, but found the
difficulty insuperable. What was there she could do? Teach children,
perhaps; but as a visiting governess, the only position of the kind
which circumstances left open to her, she could hope for nothing more
than the paltriest remuneration. Be somebody’s ‘secretary’? That sounded
pleasant, but very ambitious: a sense of incompetency chilled her. In an
office, in a shop, who would dream of giving her an engagement?

Walking about the streets of London in search of suggestions, she gained
only an understanding of her insignificance. In the battle of life every
girl who could work a sewing-machine or make a matchbox was of more
account than she. If she entered a shop to make purchases, the young
women at the counter seemed to smile superiority. Of what avail her
‘education,’ her ‘culture’? The roar of myriad industries made mocking
laughter at such futile pretensions. She shrank back into her suburban

A little book on ‘employments for women,’ which she saw advertised and
bought, merely heightened her discouragement. Here, doubtless, were
occupations she might learn; but, when it came to choosing, and
contemplating the practical steps that must be taken, her heart sank.
She was a coward; she dreaded the world; she saw as never yet the
blessedness of having money and a secure home.

The word ‘home’ grew very sweet to her ears. A man, she said to herself,
may go forth and find his work, his pleasure, in the highways; but is
not a woman’s place under the sheltering roof? What right had a mother
to be searching abroad for tasks and duties? Task enough, duty obvious,
in the tending of her child. Had she but a little country cottage with
needs assured, and her baby cradled beside her, she would ask no more.

How idle all the thoughts of her girlhood! How little she knew of life
as it would reveal itself to her mature eyes!

Fatigued into listlessness, she went to the lending-library, and chose a
novel for an hour’s amusement. It happened that this story was concerned
with the fortunes of a young woman who, after many an affliction sore,
discovered with notable suddenness the path to fame, lucre, and the
husband of her heart: she became at a bound a successful novelist.
Nancy’s cheek flushed with a splendid thought. Why should not _she_
do likewise? At all events--for modesty was now her ruling
characteristic--why should she not earn a little money by writing
Stories? Numbers of women took to it; not a few succeeded. It was a
pursuit that demanded no apprenticeship, that could be followed in the
privacy of home, a pursuit wherein her education would be of service.
With imagination already fired by the optimistic author, she began to
walk about the room and devise romantic incidents. A love story, of
course--and why not one very like her own? The characters were ready to
her hands. She would begin this very evening.

Mary saw the glow upon her face, the delightful frenzy in her eyes, and

‘I have an idea,’ said Nancy. ‘Don’t ask me about it. Just leave me
alone. I think I see my way.’

Daily she secluded herself for several hours; and, whatever the literary
value of her labour, it plainly kept her in good spirits, and benefited
her health. Save for the visits to her baby, regular as before, she
hardly left home.

Jessica Morgan came very often, much oftener than Nancy desired; not
only was her talk wearisome, but it consumed valuable time. She much
desired to see the baby, and Nancy found it difficult to invent excuses
for her unwillingness. When importunity could not be otherwise defeated,
she pretended a conscientious scruple.

‘I have deceived my husband in telling him that no one knows of our
marriage but Mary. If I let you see the child, I should feel that I was
deceiving him again. Don’t ask me; I can’t.’

Not unnaturally this struck Jessica as far-fetched. She argued against
it, and became petulant. Nancy lost patience, but remembered in time
that she was at Jessica’s mercy, and, to her mortification, had to adopt
a coaxing, almost a suppliant, tone, with the result that Miss. Morgan’s
overweening conceit was flattered into arrogance. Her sentimental
protestations became strangely mixed with a self-assertiveness very
galling to Nancy’s pride. Without the slightest apparent cause for
ill-humour, she said one day:

‘I do feel sorry for you; it must be a dreadful thing to have married a
man who has no sense of honour.’

Nancy fired up.

‘What do you mean?’

‘How can he have, when he makes you deceive people in this way for the
sake of the money he’ll get?’

‘He doesn’t! It’s my own choice.’

‘Then he oughtn’t let you do it. No honourable man would.’

‘That has nothing to do with you,’ Nancy exclaimed, anger blanching her
cheek. ‘Please don’t talk about my husband. You say things you ought to
be ashamed of.’

‘Oh, don’t be angry!’ The facile tears started in Jessica’s eyes. ‘It’s
because I feel indignant on your account, dear.’

‘I don’t want your indignation. Never mention this subject again, or I
shall feel sure you do it on purpose to annoy me.’

Jessica melted into mawkishness; none the less, Nancy felt a slave
to her former friend, who, for whatever reason, seemed to have grown
hypocritical and spiteful. When next the girl called, she was told that
Miss. Lord had left home for the day, a fiction which spared Nancy an
hour’s torment. Miss. Morgan made up for it by coming very early on the
next Sunday afternoon, and preparing herself avowedly for a stay until
late in the evening. Resolute to avoid a long _tete-a-tete_, which was
sure to exasperate her temper, Nancy kept Mary in the room, and listened
to no hint from Jessica that they should retire for the accustomed

At four o’clock they were joined by Samuel Barmby, whom, for once, Nancy
welcomed with pleasure. Samuel, who had come in the hope of finding
Miss. Lord alone, gave but the coldest attention to Jessica; Mary,
however, he greeted with grave courtesy, addressing to her several
remarks which were meant as a recognition of social equality in the
quondam servant. He was dressed with elaborate care. Snowy cuffs
concealed half his hands; his moustache, of late in training, sketched
the graceful curl it would presently achieve; a faint perfume attended
the drawing forth of his silk handkerchief.

Samuel never lacked a subject for the display of eloquence. Today it was
one that called for indignant fervour.

‘A most disgraceful fact has come under my notice, and I am sorry
to say, Miss. Lord, that it concerns some one with whom you are

‘Indeed?’ said Nancy, not without tremor. ‘Who is that?’

‘Mr. Peachey, of De Crespigny Park. I believe you are on terms of
friendship with the family.’

‘Oh, you can hardly call it friendship. I know them.’

‘Then I may speak without fear of paining you. You are aware that Mr
Peachey is a member of the firm of Ducker, Blunt & Co., who manufacture
disinfectants. Now, if any manufacture should be carried on in a
conscientious spirit--as of course _all_ manufactures should--surely it
is that of disinfectants. Only think what depends upon it! People who
make disinfectants ought to regard themselves as invested with a sacred
trust. The whole community looks to them for protection against disease.
The abuse of such confidence cannot be too severely condemned, all
the more so, that there is absolutely no legal remedy against the
adulteration of disinfectants. Did you know that, Miss. Lord? The law
guards against adulteration of food, but it seems--I have been making
inquiry into the matter--that no thought has ever been given by the
legislature to the subject of disinfectants!’

Nancy saw that Jessica was watching the speaker with jealous eyes, and,
in spite of prudence, she could not help behaving to Mr. Barmby more
graciously than usual; a small revenge for the treatment she had
suffered at the hands of Miss. Morgan.

‘I could point out a great number of such anomalies,’ pursued Samuel.
‘But this matter of disinfectants is really one of the gravest. My
father has written to _The Times_ about it, and his letter will probably
be inserted to-morrow. I am thinking of bringing it before the attention
of our Society.’

‘Do Mr. Peachey’s people adulterate their disinfectants?’ inquired

‘I was going to tell you. Some acquaintances of ours have had a severe
illness in their house, and have been using disinfectants made by
Ducker, Blunt & Co. Fortunately they have a very good medical man, and
through him it has been discovered that these pretended safeguards are
all but absolutely worthless. He had the stuff analysed. Now, isn’t
this shameful? Isn’t this abominable? For my own part, I should call it
constructive murder.’

The phrase came by haphazard to Samuel’s tongue, and he uttered it with
gusto, repeating it twice or thrice.

‘Constructive murder--nothing short of that. And to think that these
people enjoy a positive immunity--impunity.’ He corrected himself
quickly; then, uncertain whether he had really made a mistake, reddened
and twisted his gloves. ‘To think’--he raised his voice--‘that they are
capable of making money out of disease and death! It is one of the worst
illustrations of a corrupt spirit in the commercial life of our times
that has yet come under my observation.’

He remained for a couple of hours, talking ceaselessly. A glance which
he now and then cast at Miss. Morgan betrayed his hope that she would
take her leave before the necessary time of his own departure. Jessica,
perfectly aware of this desire, sat as though no less at home than
Nancy. Every remark she made was a stroke of malice at her friend, and
in her drawn features appeared the passions by which she was tormented.

As soon as Mr. Barmby had regretfully withdrawn, Nancy turned upon the
girl with flashing eyes.

‘I want to speak to you. Come downstairs.’

She led the way to the dining-room. Jessica followed without a word.

‘Why are you behaving like this? What has come to you?’

The feeble anaemic creature fell back before this outbreak of wholesome
wrath; her eyes stared in alarm.

‘I won’t put up with it,’ cried Nancy. ‘If you think you can insult me
because I trusted you when you were my only friend, you’ll find your
mistake. A little more, and you shall see how little your power over me
is worth. Am I to live at _your_ mercy! I’d starve rather. What do you
mean by it?’

‘Oh--Nancy--to think you should speak to me like this.’

‘You are to be allowed to spit poison at me--are you? And I must bear
it? No, that I won’t! Of course I know what’s the matter with you. You
have fallen in love with Samuel Barmby.--You have! Any one can see
it. You have no more command of yourself than a child. And because he
prefers me to you, you rage against me. Idiot! What is Samuel Barmby to
me? Can I do more to keep him off? Can I say to him, “Do have pity on
poor Miss. Morgan, who--“’

She was interrupted by a scream, on which followed a torrent of frenzied
words from Jessica.

‘You’re a bad-hearted woman! You’ve behaved disgracefully yourself--oh!
I know more than you think; and now you accuse me of being as bad. Why
did you get married in such a hurry? Do you think I didn’t understand
it? It’s you who have no command over yourself. If the truth were known,
no decent woman would ever speak to You again. And you’ve got your
reward. Pretend as you like, I know your husband has deserted you. What
else could you expect? That’s what makes you hate every one that hasn’t
fallen into the mud. I wouldn’t have such a character as yours! All this
afternoon you’ve been looking at that man as no married woman could who
respected herself. You encourage him; he comes here often--’

Hysterical passion strangled her voice, and before she could recover
breath, Nancy, terrible in ire, advanced upon her.

‘Leave this house, and never dare to show yourself here again! Do what
you like, I’ll endure you no longer--be off!’

Jessica retreated, her bloodless lips apart, her eyes starting as in
suffocation. She stumbled against a chair, fell to the ground, and, with
a cry of anguish, threw herself upon her knees before Nancy.

‘What did I say? I didn’t mean it--I don’t know what I have been
saying--it was all madness. Oh, do forgive me! That isn’t how I really
think of you--you know it isn’t--I’m not so wicked as that. We have been
friends so long--I must have gone mad to speak such words. Don’t drive
me away from you, dear, dear Nancy! I implore you to forgive me! Look, I
pray to you on my knees to forget it. Despise me for being such a weak,
wicked creature, but don’t drive me away like that! I didn’t mean one
word I said.’

‘Rubbish! Of course you meant it. You have thought it every day, and
you’ll say it again, behind my back, if not to my face. Stand up, and
don’t make yourself sillier than you are.’

‘You can’t call me anything too bad--but don’t drive me away. I can’t
bear it. You are the only friend I have in the world--the only, only
friend. No one was ever kind and good to me but you, and this is how
I have repaid you. Oh, I hate myself! I could tear my tongue out
for saying such things. Only say that you’ll try to forgive me--dear

She fell with face upon the carpet, and grovelled there in anguish of
conflicting passions, a lamentable object. Unable to bear the sight of
her, Nancy moved away, and stood with back turned, perforce hearing the
moans and sobs and half-articulate words which lasted until the fit
of hysteria left its victim in mute exhaustion. Then, contemptuously
pitiful, she drew near again to the prostrate figure.

‘Stand up at once, and let us have an end of this vulgar folly. Stand
up, or I’ll leave you here, and never speak to you again.’

‘Nancy--can you forgive me?’

‘I believe you have never got over your illness. If I were you, I should
see the doctor again, and try to be cured. You’ll end in an asylum, if
you don’t mind.’

‘I often feel almost mad--I do really. Will you forget those dreadful
words I spoke? I know you can’t forgive me at once--’

‘Only stand up, and try to behave like a reasonable being. What do I
care for your words?’

The girl raised herself, threw her arms over a chair, and wept


On an afternoon at the end of October, Samuel Barmby, returned from
business, found Miss. Morgan having tea with his sisters. For a month
or two after Midsummer the Barmbys had scarcely seen her; now their
friendly intercourse was renewed, and Jessica came at least once a week.
She had an engagement at a girls’ school in this neighbourhood, and,
though her health threatened another collapse, she talked of resuming
study for the Matriculation of next year.

Samuel, perfectly aware of the slavish homage which Miss. Morgan paid
him, took pleasure in posing before her. It never entered his mind to
make any return beyond genial patronage, but the incense of a female
devotee was always grateful to him, and he had come to look upon Jessica
as a young person peculiarly appreciative of intellectual distinction. A
week ago, walking with her to the omnibus after an evening she had spent
in Dagmar Road, he had indulged a spirit of confidence, and led her
to speak of Nancy Lord. The upshot of five minutes’ conversation was a
frank inquiry, which he could hardly have permitted himself but for the
shadow of night and the isolating noises around them. As an intimate
friend, did she feel able to tell him whether or not Miss. Lord was
engaged to be married? Jessica, after a brief silence, answered that she
did _not_ feel at liberty to disclose what she knew on the subject; but
the words she used, and her voice in uttering them, left no doubt as to
her meaning. Samuel said no more. At parting, he pressed the girl’s hand

This afternoon, they began by avoiding each other’s look. Samuel
seemed indisposed for conversation; he sipped at a cup of tea with an
abstracted and somewhat weary air, until Miss. Morgan addressed him.

‘To-morrow is the evening of your lecture, isn’t it, Mr. Barmby?’


By the agency of a friend who belonged to a society of mutual
improvement at Pentonville, Samuel had been invited to go over and
illumine with his wisdom the seekers after culture in that remote
district, a proposal that flattered him immensely, and inspired him with
a hope of more than suburban fame. For some months he had spoken of
the engagement. He was to discourse upon ‘National Greatness: its
Obligations and its Dangers.’

‘Of course it will be printed afterwards?’ pursued the devotee.

‘Oh, I don’t know. It’s hardly worth that.’

‘Oh, I’m sure it will be!’

And Jessica appealed to the sisters, who declared that certain passages
they had been privileged to hear seemed to them very remarkable.

Ladies were to be admitted, but the Miss. Barmbys felt afraid to
undertake so long a journey after dark.

‘I know some one who would very much like to go,’ said Jessica,
steadying her voice. ‘Could you spare me a ticket to give away, Mr

Samuel smiled graciously, and promised the ticket.

Of course it was for Jessica’s own use. On the following evening,
long before the hour which would have allowed her ample time to reach
Pentonville by eight o’clock, she set forth excitedly. Unless Samuel
Barmby were accompanied by some friend from Camberwell,--only too
probable,--she might hope to make the return journey under his
protection. Perhaps he would speak again of Nancy Lord, and this time he
should be answered with less reserve. What harm if she even told him the
name of the man whom Nancy was ‘engaged’ to marry?

Nancy was no longer her friend. A show of reconciliation had followed
that scene on the Sunday afternoon three months ago; but Jessica well
knew that she had put herself beyond forgiveness, nor did she desire it.
Even without the memory of her offence, by this time she must needs have
regarded Nancy with steadfast dislike. Weeks had gone by since their
last meeting, which was rendered so unpleasant by mutual coldness that a
renewal of intercourse seemed out of the question.

She would not be guilty of treachery. But, in justice to herself, she
might give Samuel Barmby to understand how hopeless was his wooing.

To her disappointment, the lecture-room was small and undignified; she
had imagined a capacious hall, with Samuel Bennett Barmby standing up
before an audience of several hundred people. The cane-bottomed chairs
numbered not more than fifty, and at eight o’clock some of them were
still unoccupied. Nor did the assembly answer to her expectation. It
seemed to consist of young shopmen, with a few females of their kind
interspersed. She chose a place in the middle of the room, where the
lecturer could hardly fail to observe her presence.

With Barmby’s entrance disillusion gave way before the ardours of flesh
and spirit. The whole hour through she never took her eyes from him.
His smooth, pink face, with its shining moustache, embodied her ideal of
manly beauty; his tall figure inflamed her senses; the words that fell
from his lips sounded to her with oracular impressiveness, conveying
a wisdom before which she bowed, and a noble enthusiasm to which she
responded in fervent exaltation. And she had been wont to ridicule this
man, to join in mockery of his eloquence with a conceited wanton such
as Nancy Lord! No, it never came from her heart; it was moral cowardice;
from the first she had recognised Samuel Barmby’s infinite superiority
to the ignoble, the impure girl who dared to deride him.

He saw her; their eyes met once, and again, and yet again. He knew that
she alone in the audience could comprehend his noble morality, grasp the
extent of his far-sighted speculations. To her he spoke. And in his deep
glowing heart he could not but thank her for such evidence of sympathy.

There followed a tedious debate, a muddy flow of gabble and balderdash.
It was over by ten o’clock. With jealous eyes she watched her hero
surrounded by people who thought, poor creatures, that they were worthy
of offering him congratulations. At a distance she lingered. And behold,
his eye once more fell upon her! He came out from among the silly
chatterers, and walked towards her.

‘You played me a trick, Miss. Morgan. I should never have allowed you to
come all this way to hear me.’

‘If I had come ten times the distance, I should have been repaid!’

His round eyes gloated upon the flattery.

‘Well, well, I mustn’t pretend that I think the lecture worthless. But
you might have had the manuscript to read. Are you quite alone? Then I
must take care of you. It’s a wretched night; we’ll have a cab to King’s

He said it with a consciousness of large-handed generosity. Jessica’s
heart leapt and throbbed.

She was by his side in the vehicle. Her body touched his. She felt
his warm breath as he talked. In all too short a time they reached the
railway station.

‘Did you come this way? Have you a ticket? Leave that to me.’

Again largely generous, he strode to the booking-office.

They descended and stood together upon the platform, among hurrying
crowds, in black fumes that poisoned the palate with sulphur. This
way and that sped the demon engines, whirling lighted waggons full of
people. Shrill whistles, the hiss and roar of steam, the bang, clap,
bang of carriage-doors, the clatter of feet on wood and stone--all
echoed and reverberated from a huge cloudy vault above them. High and
low, on every available yard of wall, advertisements clamoured to the
eye: theatres, journals, soaps, medicines, concerts, furniture, wines,
prayer-meetings--all the produce and refuse of civilisation announced
in staring letters, in daubed effigies, base, paltry, grotesque. A
battle-ground of advertisements, fitly chosen amid subterranean din and
reek; a symbol to the gaze of that relentless warfare which ceases not,
night and day, in the world above.

For the southward train they had to wait ten minutes. Jessica, keeping
as close as possible to her companion’s side, tried to converse, but her
thoughts were in a tumult like to that about her. She felt a faintness,
a quivering in her limbs.

‘May I sit down for a moment?’ she said, looking at Barmby with a
childlike appeal.

‘To be sure.’

She pointed in a direction away from the crowd.

‘I have something to say--it’s quieter--’

Samuel evinced surprise, but allowed himself to be led towards the black
mouth of the tunnel, whence at that moment rushed an engine with glaring
lights upon its breast.

‘We may not be alone in the train,’ continued Jessica. ‘There’s
something you ought to know I must tell you to-night. You were asking me
about Nancy Lord.’

She spoke with panting breath, and looked fixedly at him. The eagerness
with which he lent ear gave her strength to proceed.

‘You asked me if she was engaged.’


He had even forgotten his politeness; he saw in her a mere source of
information. Jessica moved closer to him on the bench.

‘Had you any reason for thinking she was?’

‘No particular reason, except something strange in her behaviour.’

‘Would you like to know the whole truth?’

It was a very cold night, and a keen wind swept the platform; but
Jessica, though indifferently clad, felt no discomfort from this cause.
Yet she pressed closer to her companion, so that her cheek all but
touched his shoulder.

‘Of course I should,’ Barmby answered. ‘Is there any mystery?’

‘I oughtn’t to tell.’

‘Then you had better not. But why did you begin?’

‘You ought to know.’

‘Why ought I to know?’

‘Because you--.’ She broke off. A sudden chill made her teeth chatter.

‘Well--why?’ asked Samuel, with impatience.

‘Are you--are you in love with her?’

Voice and look embarrassed him. So did the girl’s proximity; she was
now all but leaning on his shoulder. Respectable Mr. Barmby could not be
aware that Jessica’s state of mind rendered her scarcely responsible for
what she said or did.

‘That’s a very plain question,’ he began; but she interrupted him.

‘I oughtn’t to ask it. There’s no need for you to answer. I know you
have wanted to marry her for a long time. But you never will.’

‘Perhaps not--if she has promised somebody else.’

‘If I tell you--will you be kind to me?’


‘I didn’t mean that,’ she added hurriedly. ‘I mean--will you understand
that I felt it a duty? I oughtn’t to tell a secret; but it’s a secret
that oughtn’t to be kept. Will you understand that I did it out of--out
of friendship for you, and because I thought it right?’

‘Oh, certainly. After going so far, you had better tell me and have done
with it.’

Jessica approached her lips to his ear, and whispered:

‘She is married.’

‘What? Impossible!’

‘She was married at Teignmouth, just before she came back from her
holiday, last year.’

‘Well! Upon my word! And that’s why she has been away in Cornwall?’

Again Jessica whispered, her body quivering the while:

‘She has a child. It was born last May.’

‘Well! Upon my word! Now I understand. Who could have imagined!’

‘You see what she is. She hides it for the sake of the money.’

‘But who is her husband?’ asked Samuel, staring at the bloodless face.

‘A man called Tarrant, a relative of Mr. Vawdrey, of Champion Hill. She
thought he was rich. I don’t know whether he is or not, but I believe he
doesn’t mean to come back to her. He’s in America now.’

Barmby questioned, and Jessica answered, until there was nothing left
to ask or to tell,--save the one thing which rose suddenly to Jessica’s

‘You won’t let her know that I have told you?’

Samuel gravely, but coldly, assured her that she need not fear betrayal.


It was to be in three volumes. She saw her way pretty clearly to the end
of the first; she had ideas for the second; the third must take care
of itself--until she reached it. Hero and heroine ready to her hand;
subordinate characters vaguely floating in the background. After an hour
or two of meditation, she sat down and dashed at Chapter One.

Long before the end of the year it ought to be finished.

But in August came her baby’s first illness; for nearly a fortnight she
was away from home, and on her return, though no anxiety remained, she
found it difficult to resume work. The few chapters completed had a
sorry look; they did not read well, not at all like writing destined
to be read in print. After a week’s disheartenment she made a new

At the end of September baby again alarmed her. A trivial ailment as
before, but she could not leave the child until all was well. Again
she reviewed her work, and with more repugnance than after the previous
interruption. But go on with it she must and would. The distasteful
labour, slow, wearisome, often performed without pretence of hope, went
on until October. Then she broke down. Mary Woodruff found her crying by
the fireside, feverish and unnerved.

‘I can’t sleep,’ she said. ‘I hear the clock strike every hour, night
after night.’

But she would not confess the cause. In writing her poor novel she
had lived again through the story enacted at Teignmouth, and her heart
failed beneath its burden of hopeless longing. Her husband had forsaken
her. Even if she saw him again, what solace could be found in the mere
proximity of a man who did not love her, who had never loved her? The
child was not enough; its fatherless estate enhanced the misery of her
own solitude. When the leaves fell, and the sky darkened, and the long
London winter gloomed before her, she sank with a moan of despair.

Mary’s strength and tenderness were now invaluable. By sheer force of
will she overcame the malady in its physical effects, and did wonders in
the assailing of its moral source. Her appeal now, as formerly, was to
the nobler pride always struggling for control in Nancy’s character.
A few days of combat with the besieging melancholy that threatened
disaster, and Nancy could meet her friend’s look with a smile. She put
away and turned the key upon her futile scribbling; no more of that.
Novel-writing was not her vocation; she must seek again.

Early in the afternoon she made ready to go forth on the only business
which now took her from home. It was nearly a week since she had seen
her boy.

Opening the front door, she came unexpectedly under two pairs of eyes.
Face to face with her stood Samuel Barmby, his hand raised to signal at
the knocker, just withdrawn from him. And behind Barmby was a postman,
holding a letter, which in another moment would have dropped into the

Samuel performed the civil salute.

‘Ha!--How do you do, Miss. Lord?--You are going out, I’m afraid.’

‘Yes, I am going out.’

She replied mechanically, and in speaking took the letter held out to
her. A glance at it sent all her blood rushing upon the heart.

‘I want to see you particularly,’ said Samuel. ‘Could I call again, this

Nancy gazed at him, but did not hear. He saw the sudden pallor of her
cheeks, and thought he understood it. As she stood like a statue, he
spoke again.

‘It is very particular business. If you could give me an appointment--’

‘Business?--Oh, come in, if you like.’

She drew back to admit him, but in the passage stood looking at her
letter. Barmby was perplexed and embarrassed.

‘You had rather I called again?’

‘Called again? Just as you like.’

‘Oh, then I will stay,’ said Samuel bluntly. For he had things in mind
which disposed him to resent this flagrant discourtesy.

His voice awakened Nancy. She opened the door of the dining-room.

‘Will you sit down, Mr. Barmby, and excuse me for a few minutes?’

‘Certainly. Don’t let me inconvenience you, Miss. Lord.’

At another time Nancy would have remarked something very unusual in his
way of speaking, especially in the utterance of her name. But for the
letter in her hand she must have noticed with uneasiness a certain
severity of countenance, which had taken the place of Barmby’s wonted
smile. As it was, she scarcely realised his presence; and, on closing
the door of the room he had entered, she forthwith forgot that such a
man existed.

Her letter! His handwriting at last. And he was in England.

She flew up to her bedroom, and tore open the envelope. He was in
London; ‘Great College Street, S. W.’ A short letter, soon read.

DEAREST NANCY,--I am ashamed to write, yet write I must. All your
letters reached me; there was no reason for my silence but the
unwillingness to keep sending bad news. I have still nothing good to
tell you, but here I am in London again, and you must know of it.

When I posted my last letter to you from New York, I meant to come back
as soon as I could get money enough to pay my passage. Since then I have
gone through a miserable time, idle for the most part, ill for a few
weeks, and occasionally trying to write something that editors would pay
for. But after all I had to borrow. It has brought me home (steerage, if
you know what that means), and now I must earn more.

If we were to meet, I might be able to say something else. I can’t write
it. Let me hear from you, if you think me worth a letter.--Yours ever,
dear girl,


For a quarter of an hour she stood with this sheet open, as though still
reading. Her face was void of emotion; she had a vacant look, cheerless,
but with no more decided significance.

Then she remembered that Samuel Barmby was waiting for her downstairs.
He might have something to say which really concerned her. Better see
him at once and get rid of him. With slow step she descended to the
dining-room. The letter, folded and rolled, she carried in her hand.

‘I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, Mr. Barmby.’

‘Don’t mention it. Will you sit down?’

‘Yes, of course.’ She spoke abstractedly, and took a seat not far from
him. ‘I was just going out, but--there’s no hurry.’

‘I hardly know how to begin. Perhaps I had better prepare you by saying
that I have received very strange information.’

His air was magisterial; he subdued his voice to a note of profound

‘What sort of information?’ asked Nancy vaguely, her brows knitted in a
look rather of annoyance than apprehension.

‘Very strange indeed.’

‘You have said that already.’

Her temper was failing. She felt a nervous impulse to behave rudely, to
declare the contempt it was always difficult to disguise when talking
with Barmby.

‘I repeat it, because you seem to have no idea what I am going to speak
of. I am the last person to find pleasure in such a disagreeable duty as
is now laid upon me. In that respect, I believe you will do me justice.’

‘Will you speak plainly? This roundabout talk is intolerable.’

Samuel drew himself up, and regarded her with offended dignity. He had
promised himself no small satisfaction from this interview, had foreseen
its salient points. His mere aspect would be enough to subdue Nancy, and
when he began to speak she would tremble before him. Such a moment would
repay him for the enforced humility of years. Perhaps she would weep;
she might even implore him to be merciful. How to act in that event he
had quite made up his mind. But all such anticipations were confused by
Nancy’s singular behaviour. She seemed, in truth, not to understand the
hints which should have overwhelmed her.

More magisterial than ever, he began to speak with slow emphasis.

‘Miss. Lord,--I will still address you by that name,--though for a very
long time I have regarded you as a person worthy of all admiration, and
have sincerely humbled myself before you, I cannot help thinking that a
certain respect is due to me. Even though I find that you have deceived
me as to your position, the old feelings are still so strong in me that
I could not bear to give you needless pain. Instead of announcing to my
father, and to other people, the strange facts which I have learnt, I
come here as a friend,--I speak with all possible forbearance,--I do my
utmost to spare you. Am I not justified in expecting at least courteous

A pause of awful impressiveness. The listener, fully conscious at length
of the situation she had to face, fell into a calmer mood. All was over.
Suspense and the burden of falsehood had no longer to be endured. Her
part now, for this hour at all events, was merely to stand by whilst
Fate unfolded itself.

‘Please say whatever you have to say, Mr. Barmby,’ she replied with
quiet civility. ‘I believe your intention was good. You made me nervous,
that was all.’

‘Pray forgive me. Perhaps it will be best if I ask you a simple
question. You will see that the position I hold under your father’s will
leaves me no choice but to ask it. Is it true that you are married?’

‘I will answer if you tell me how you came to think that I was married.’

‘I have been credibly informed.’

‘By whom?’

‘You must forgive me. I can’t tell you the name.’

‘Then I can’t answer your question.’

Samuel mused. He was unwilling to break a distinct promise.

‘No doubt,’ said Nancy, ‘you have undertaken not to mention the person.’

‘I have.’

‘If it is some one who used to be a friend of mine, you needn’t have any
scruples. She as good as told me what she meant to do. Of course it is
Miss. Morgan?’

‘As you have yourself spoken the name--’

‘Very well. She isn’t in her senses, and I wonder she has kept the
secret so long.’

‘You admit the truth of what she has told me?’

‘Yes. I am married.’

She made the avowal in a tone very like that in which, to Beatrice
French, she had affirmed the contrary.

‘And your true name is Mrs. Tarrant?’

‘That is my name.’

The crudely masculine in Barmby prompted one more question, but some
other motive checked him. He let his eyes wander slowly about the room.
Even yet there was a chance of playing off certain effects which he had
rehearsed with gusto.

‘Can you imagine,’--his voice shook a little,--‘how much I suffer in
hearing you say this?’

‘If you mean that you still had the hopes expressed in your letter
some time ago, I can only say, in my defence, that I gave you an honest

‘Yes. You said you could never marry me. But of course I couldn’t
understand it in this sense. It is a blow. I find it very hard to bear.’

He rose and went to the window, as if ashamed of the emotion he could
not command. Nancy, too much occupied with her own troubles to ask or
care whether his distress was genuine, laid Tarrant’s letter upon a
side-table, and began to draw off her gloves. Then she unbuttoned her
jacket. These out-of-door garments oppressed her. Samuel turned his head
and came slowly back.

‘There are things that might be said, but I will not say them. Most men
in my position would yield to the temptation of revenge. But for many
years I have kept in view a moral ideal, and now I have the satisfaction
of conquering my lower self. You shall not hear one word of reproach
from my lips.’

He waited for the reply, the expected murmur of gratitude. Nancy said

‘Mrs. Tarrant,’--he stood before her,--‘what do you suppose must be the
result of this?’

‘There can only be one.’

‘You mean the ruin of your prospects. But do you forget that all the
money you have received since Mr. Lord’s death has been obtained by
false pretences? Are you not aware that this is a criminal offence?’

Nancy raised her eyes and looked steadily at him.

‘Then I must bear the punishment.’

For a minute Barmby enjoyed her suffering. Of his foreseen effects, this
one had come nearest to succeeding. But he was not satisfied; he hoped
she would beseech his clemency.

‘The punishment might be very serious. I really can’t say what view my
father may take of this deception.’

‘Is there any use in talking about it? I am penniless--that’s all you
have to tell me. What else I have to bear, I shall know soon enough.’

‘One thing I must ask. Isn’t your husband in a position to support you?’

‘I can’t answer that. Please to say nothing about my husband.’

Barmby caught at hope. It might be true, as Jessica Morgan believed,
that Nancy was forsaken. The man Tarrant might be wealthy enough to
disregard her prospects. In that case an assiduous lover, one who, by
the exercise of a prudent generosity, had obtained power over the girl,
could yet hope for reward. Samuel had as little of the villain in his
composition as any Camberwell householder. He cherished no dark designs.
But, after the manner of his kind, he was in love with Nancy, and even
the long pursuit of a lofty ideal does not render a man proof against
the elementary forces of human nature.

‘We will suppose then,’ he said, with a certain cheerfulness, ‘that you
have nothing whatever to depend upon but your father’s will. What is
before you? How can you live?’

‘That is my own affair.’

It was not said offensively, but in a tone of bitter resignation. Barmby
sat down opposite to her, and leaned forward.

‘Do you think for one moment,’--his voice was softly melodious,--‘that
I--I who have loved you for years--could let you suffer for want of

He had not skill to read her countenance. Trouble he discerned, and
shame; but the half-veiled eyes, the quivering nostril, the hard, cold
lips, spoke a language beyond Samuel’s interpretation. Even had he known
of the outrages previously inflicted upon her pride, and that this new
attack came at a moment when her courage was baffled, her heart cruelly
wounded, he would just as little have comprehended the spirit which now
kept her mute.

He imagined her overcome by his generosity. Another of his great effects
had come off with tolerable success.

‘Put your mind at rest,’ he pursued mellifluously. ‘You shall suffer no
hardships. I answer for it.’

Still mute, and her head bowed low. Such is the power of nobility
displayed before an erring soul!

‘You have never done me justice. Confess that you haven’t!’

To this remarkable appeal Nancy perforce replied:

‘I never thought ill of you.’

When she had spoken, colour came into her cheeks. Observing it, Samuel
was strangely moved. Had he impressed her even more profoundly than he
hoped to do? Jessica Morgan’s undisguised subjugation had flattered him
into credulity respecting his influence over the female mind.

‘But you didn’t think me capable of--of anything extraordinary?’ Even in
her torment, Nancy marvelled at this revelation of fatuity. She did not
understand the pranks of such a mind as Barmby’s when its balance is
disturbed by exciting circumstance.

‘What are you offering me?’ she asked, in a low voice. ‘How could I take
money from you?’

‘I didn’t mean that you should. Your secret has been betrayed to me.
Suppose I refuse to know anything about it, and leave things as they

Nancy kept her eyes down.

‘Suppose I say: Duty bids me injure this woman who has injured _me_; but
no, I will not! Suppose I say: I can make her regret bitterly that she
married that other man; but no, I will not! Suppose, instead of making
your secret known, I do my utmost to guard it! What would be your
opinion of this behaviour?’

‘I should think it was kindly meant, but useless.’

‘Useless? Why?’

‘Because it isn’t in your power to guard the secret. Jessica Morgan
won’t leave her work half done.’

‘If that’s all, I say again that you can put your mind at rest. I answer
for Miss. Morgan. With her my will is law.’

Samuel smiled. A smile ineffable. The smile of a suburban deity.

‘Why should you take any trouble about me?’ said Nancy. ‘I can do
nothing for you in return.’

‘You can.’

She looked anxiously at him, for his voice sounded ominous.


‘You can acknowledge that you never did me justice.’

‘It’s true that I didn’t,’ she answered languidly; speaking as though
the concession mattered little.

Barmby brightened. His hands were upon his knees; he raised his chin,
and smiled at vacancy.

‘You thought me unworthy of you. You can confess to me that you were

‘I didn’t know you as I do now,’ fell from the expressionless lips.

‘Thank you for saying that! Well, then, your anxiety is at an end. You
are not in the hands of a mercenary enemy, but of a man whose principles
forbid him to do anything ignoble, who has an ideal of life, the result
of much study and thought. You have never heard me speak about religion,
but you would be gravely mistaken if you thought I had no religious
convictions. Some day I shall treat that subject before our Society,
and it is probable that my views will give rise to a good deal of
discussion. I have formed a religion for myself; when I write my essay,
I think I shall call it “The Religion of a Man of Business.” One of
the great evils of the day is the vulgar supposition that commerce has
nothing to do with religious faith. I shall show how utterly wrong
that is. It would take too long to explain to you my mature views of
Christianity. I am not sure that I recognise any of the ordinary dogmas;
I think I have progressed beyond them. However, we shall have many
opportunities of talking about these things.’

Nancy uttered a mere ‘Yes.’ She was looking at Tarrant’s letter on the
side-table, and wishing to be alone that she might read it again.

‘In the meantime,’ Samuel pursued, ‘whatever difficulty arises, confide
it to me. Probably you will wish to tell me more before long; you know
that I am not unworthy to be your adviser. And so let us shake hands, in
sign of genuine friendship.’

Nancy gave her fingers, which felt very cold upon Barmby’s warm, moist

‘This conversation has been trying to you,’ he said, ‘but relief of mind
will soon follow. If anything occurs to me that may help to soothe you,
I will write.’

‘Thank you.’

‘At the beginning of our interview you didn’t think it would end like

There was something of the boy in Samuel, perhaps the wholesomest
part of him. Having manifested his admirable qualities, he felt a
light-hearted pleasure in asking for renewed assurance of the good
opinion he had earned.

‘I hardly cared,’ said Nancy, as she rose with a sigh of weariness.

‘But you have got over that. You will be quite cheerful now?’

‘In time, no doubt.’

‘I shall call again--let us say on Wednesday evening. By that time I
shall be able to put you entirely at ease with regard to Miss Morgan.’

Nancy made no reply. In shaking hands, she regarded the radiant Samuel
with a dreamy interest; and when he had left her, she still gazed for a
few moments at the door.


The habit of confidence prompted Nancy to seek Mary Woodruff, and show
her the long-expected letter. But for Barmby’s visit she would have done
so. As it was, her mind sullenly resisted the natural impulse. Forlorn
misery, intensified by successive humiliations, whereof the latest
was the bitterest, hardened her even against the one, the indubitable
friend, to whom she had never looked in vain for help and solace. Of
course it was not necessary to let Mary know with what heart-breaking
coldness Tarrant had communicated the fact of his return; but she
preferred to keep silence altogether. Having sunk so low as to accept,
with semblance of gratitude, pompous favours, dishonouring connivance,
at the hands of Samuel Barmby, she would now stand alone in her
uttermost degradation. Happen what might, she would act and suffer in

Something she had in mind to do which Mary, if told of it, would regard
with disapproval. Mary was not a deserted and insulted wife; she could
reason and counsel with the calmness of one who sympathised, but had
nothing worse to endure. Even Mary’s sympathy was necessarily imperfect,
since she knew not, and should never know, what had passed in the
crucial interviews with Beatrice French, with Jessica Morgan, and
with Samuel Barmby. Bent on indulging her passionate sense of injury,
hungering for a taste of revenge, however poor, Nancy executed with
brief delay a project which had come into her head during the hour of
torture just elapsed.

She took a sheet of notepaper, and upon it wrote half-a-dozen lines,

‘As your reward for marrying me is still a long way off, and as you tell
me that you are in want, I send you as much as I can spare at present.
Next month you shall hear from me again.’

Within the paper she folded a five-pound note, and placed both in an
envelope, which she addressed to Lionel Tarrant, Esq., at his lodgings
in Westminster. Having posted this at the first pillar-box she walked

Her only object was to combat mental anguish by bodily exercise, to
distract, if possible, the thoughts which hammered upon her brain by
moving amid the life of the streets. In Camberwell Road she passed the
place of business inscribed with the names ‘Lord and Barmby’; it made
her think, not of the man who, from being an object of her good-natured
contempt, was now become a hated enemy, but of her father, and she
mourned for him with profounder feeling than when her tears flowed
over his new-made grave. But for headstrong folly, incredible in the
retrospect, that father would have been her dear and honoured companion,
her friend in every best sense of the word, her guide and protector.
Many and many a time had he invited her affection, her trust. For long
years it was in her power to make him happy, and, in doing so, to enrich
her own life, to discipline her mind as no study of books, even had it
been genuine, ever could. Oh, to have the time back again--the despised
privilege--the thwarted embittered love! She was beginning to understand
her father, to surmise with mature intelligence the causes of his
seeming harshness. To her own boy, when he was old enough, she would
talk of him and praise him. Perhaps, even thus late, his spirit of stern
truthfulness might bear fruit in her life and in her son’s.

The tender memory and pure resolve did not long possess her. They soon
yielded before the potency of present evil, and for an hour or more she
walked along the sordid highway, nursing passions which struck their
venom into her heart.

It was one of those cold, dry, clouded evenings of autumn, when London
streets affect the imagination with a peculiar suggestiveness. New-lit
lamps, sickly yellow under the dying day, stretch in immense vistas,
unobscured by fog, but exhibit no detail of the track they will
presently illumine; one by one the shop-fronts grow radiant on deepening
gloom, and show in silhouette the figures numberless that are hurrying
past. By accentuating a pause between the life of daytime and that which
will begin after dark, this grey hour excites to an unwonted perception
of the city’s vastness and of its multifarious labour; melancholy, yet
not dismal, the brooding twilight seems to betoken Nature’s compassion
for myriad mortals exiled from her beauty and her solace. Noises far and
near blend into a muffled murmur, sound’s equivalent of the impression
received by the eye; it seems to utter the weariness of unending
ineffectual toil.

Nancy had now walked as far as Newington, a district unfamiliar to
her, and repulsive. By the Elephant and Castle she stood watching the
tumultuous traffic which whirls and roars at this confluence of six
highways; she had neither a mind to go on, nor yet to return. The
conductor of an omnibus close at hand kept bellowing ‘London Bridge!’
and her thoughts wandered to that day of meeting with Luckworth Crewe,
when he took her up the Monument. She had never felt more than an idle
interest in Crewe, and whenever she remembered him nowadays, it was
only to reflect with bitterness that he doubtless knew a part of her
secret,--the part that was known to Beatrice French,--and on that
account had ceased to urge his suit; yet at this moment she wished that
she had pledged herself to him in good faith. His behaviour argued the
steadfast devotion of an honest man, however lacking in refinement.
Their long engagement would have been brightened with many hopes; in the
end she might have learned to love him, and prosperity would have opened
to her a world of satisfactions, for which she could no longer hope.

It grew cold. She allowed the movements of a group of people to direct
her steps, and went eastward along New Kent Road. But when the shops
were past, and only a dreary prospect of featureless dwellings
lay before her, she felt her heart sink, and paused in vacillating

From a house near by sounded a piano; a foolish jingle, but it smote her
with a longing for companionship, for friendly, cheerful talk. And
then of a sudden she determined that this life of intolerable isolation
should come to an end. Her efforts to find employment that would bring
her among people had failed simply because she applied to strangers, who
knew nothing of her capabilities, and cared nothing for her needs. But a
way offered itself if she could overcome the poor lingering vestiges of
pride and shame which hitherto had seemed to render it impossible. In
this hour her desolate spirit rejected everything but the thought of
relief to be found in new occupation, fresh society. She had endured to
the limit of strength. Under the falling night, before the grey vision
of a city which, by its alien business and pleasure, made her a mere
outcast, she all at once found hope in a resource which till now had
signified despair.

Summoning the first empty cab, she gave an address known to her only by
hearsay, that of the South London Fashionable Dress Supply Association,
and was driven thither in about a quarter of an hour. The shop, with its
windows cunningly laid out to allure the female eye, spread a brilliant
frontage between two much duller places of business; at the doorway
stood a commissionaire, distributing some newly printed advertisements
to the persons who entered, or who paused in passing. Nancy accepted a
paper without thinking about it, and went through the swing doors held
open for her by a stripling in buttons; she approached a young woman at
the nearest counter, and in a low voice asked whether Miss. French was
on the premises.

‘I’m not sure, madam. I will inquire at once.’

‘She calls me “madam,”’ said Nancy to herself whilst waiting. ‘So do
shopkeepers generally. I suppose I look old.’

The young person (she honeyed a Cockney twang) speedily came back to
report that Miss. French had left about half-an-hour ago, and was not
likely to return.

‘Can you give me her private address?’

Not having seen Miss. French since the latter’s unwelcome call in Grove
Lane, she only knew that Beatrice had left De Crespigny Park to inhabit
a flat somewhere or other.

‘I wish to see her particularly, on business.’

‘Excuse me a moment, madam.’

On returning, the young person requested Nancy to follow her up the
shop, and led into a glass-partitioned office, where, at a table covered
with fashion-plates, sat a middle-aged man, with a bald head of peculiar
lustre. He rose and bowed; Nancy repeated her request.

‘Could I despatch a message for you, madam?’

‘My business is private.’

The bald-headed man coughed urbanely, and begged to know her name.

‘Miss. Lord--of Grove Lane.’

Immediately his countenance changed from deprecating solemnity to a
broad smile of recognition.

‘Miss. Lord! Oh, to be sure; I will give you the address at once. Pray
pardon my questions; we have to be so very careful. So many people
desire private interviews with Miss. French. I will jot down the

He did so on the back of an advertisement, and added verbal directions.
Nancy hurried away.

Another cab conveyed her to Brixton, and set her down before a block
of recently built flats. She ascended to the second floor, pressed the
button of a bell, and was speedily confronted by a girl of the natty
parlour-maid species. This time she began by giving her name, and had
only a moment to wait before she was admitted to a small drawing-room,
furnished with semblance of luxury. A glowing fire and the light of an
amber-shaded lamp showed as much fashionable upholstery and bric-a-brac
as could be squeezed into the narrow space. Something else was
perceptible which might perhaps have been dispensed with; to wit,
the odour of a very savoury meal, a meal in which fried onions had no
insignificant part. But before the visitor could comment to herself upon
this disadvantage attaching to flats, Beatrice joined her.

‘I could hardly believe it! So you have really looked me up? Awfully
jolly of you! I’m quite alone; we’ll have a bit of dinner together.’

Miss. French was in her most expansive mood. She understood the call as
one of simple friendliness.

‘I wasn’t sure that you knew the address. Got it at the shop? They don’t
go telling everybody, I hope--’

‘Some one there seemed to know my name,’ said Nancy, whom the warmth and
light and cheery welcome encouraged in the step she had taken. And she

‘Ah, Mr. Clatworthy--rum old cove, when you get to know him. Yes, yes;
no doubt he has heard me speak of you--in a general way, you know. Come
into my snooze-corner, and take your things off.’

The snooze-corner, commonly called a bedroom, lacked one detail of
comfort--pure air. The odour of dinner blending with toilet perfumes
made an atmosphere decidedly oppressive. Beatrice remarked on the
smallness of the chamber, adding archly, ‘But I sleep single.’

‘What’s your brother doing?’ she asked, while helping to remove Nancy’s
jacket. ‘I passed him in Oxford Street the other day, and he either
didn’t see me, or didn’t want to. Thought he looked rather dissipated.’

‘I know very little about him,’ answered the visitor, who spoke and
acted without reflection, conscious chiefly at this moment of faintness
induced by fatigue and hunger.

‘Fanny’s in Paris,’ pursued Miss. French. ‘Writes as if she was amusing
herself. I think I shall run over and have a look at her. Seen Ada?
She’s been playing the fool as usual. Found out that Arthur had taken
the kid to his sister’s at Canterbury; went down and made a deuce of a
kick-up; they had to chuck her out of the house. Of course she cares no
more about the child than I do; it’s only to spite her husband. She’s
going to law with him, she says. She won’t leave the house in De
Crespigny Park, and she’s running up bills--you bet!’

Nancy tried to laugh. The effort, and its semi-success, indicated
surrender to her companion’s spirit rather than any attention to the
subject spoken of.

They returned to the drawing-room, but had not time to begin a
conversation before the servant summoned them to dinner. A very
satisfying meal it proved; not badly cooked, as cooking is understood in
Brixton, and served with more of ceremony than the guest had expected.
Fried scallops, rump steak smothered in onions, an apple tart, and very
sound Stilton cheese. Such fare testified to the virile qualities of
Beatrice’s mind; she was above the feminine folly of neglecting honest
victuals. Moreover, there appeared two wines, sherry and claret.

‘Did you ever try this kind of thing?’ said the hostess finally,
reaching a box of cigarettes.

‘I?--Of course not,’ Nancy replied, with a laugh.

‘It’s expected of a sensible woman now-a-days. I’ve got to like it.
Better try; no need to make yourself uncomfortable. Just keep the smoke
in your mouth for half-a-minute, and blow it out prettily. I buy these
in the Haymarket; special brand for women.’

‘And you dine like this, by yourself, every day?’

‘Like this, but not always alone. Some one or other drops in. Luckworth
Crewe was here yesterday.’

Speaking, she watched Nancy, who bore the regard with carelessness, and
replied lightly:

‘It’s an independent sort of life, at all events.’

‘Just the kind of life that suits me. I’m my own mistress.’

There was a suggested allusion in the sly tone of the last phrase; but
Nancy, thinking her own thoughts, did not perceive it. As the servant
had left them alone, they could now talk freely. Beatrice, by her
frequent glance of curiosity, seemed to await some explanation of a
visit so unlooked-for.

‘How are things going with you?’ she asked at length, tapping the ash of
her cigarette over a plate.

‘I want something to do,’ was the blunt reply.

‘Too much alone--isn’t that it?’


‘Just what I thought. You don’t see him often?’

Nancy had ceased her pretence of smoking, and leaned back. A flush
on her face, and something unwonted in the expression of her
eyes,--something like a smile, yet touched with apathy,--told of
physical influences which assisted her resolve to have done with scruple
and delicacy. She handled her wine-glass, which was half full, and,
before answering, raised it to her lips.

‘No, I don’t see him often.’

‘Well, I told you to come to me if I could be any use. What’s your

‘Do you know of anything I could do? It isn’t so much to earn money,
as to--to be occupied, and escape from loneliness. But I must have two
afternoons in the week to myself.’

Beatrice nodded and smiled.

‘No,--not for that,’ Nancy added hastily. ‘To see my boy.’

The other appeared to accept this correction.

‘All right. I think I can find you something. We’re opening a
branch.’ She mentioned the locality. ‘There’ll be a club-room, like
at headquarters, and we shall want some one ladylike to sit there and
answer questions. You wouldn’t be likely to see any one that knows you,
and you’d get a good deal of fun out of it. Hours from ten to five, but
Saturday afternoon off, and Wednesday after three, if that would do?’

‘Yes, that would do very well. Any payment, at first?’

‘Oh, we wouldn’t be so mean as all that. Say ten shillings a week till
Christmas, and afterwards we could see’--she laughed--‘whether you’re
worth more.’

‘I know nothing about fashions.’

‘You can learn all you need to know in an hour. It’s the ladylike
appearance and talk more than anything else.’

Nancy sipped again from her wine-glass.

‘When could I begin?’

‘The place ‘ll be ready on Monday week. Next week you might put in a
few hours with us. Just sit and watch and listen, that’s all; to get the
hang of the thing.’

‘Thank you for being so ready to help me.’

‘Not a bit of it. I haven’t done yet. There’s a condition. If I fix up
this job for you, will you tell me something I want to know?’

Nancy turned her eyes apprehensively.

‘You can guess what it is. I quite believe what you told me some time
ago, but I shan’t feel quite easy until I know--’

She finished the sentence with a look. Nancy’s eyes fell.

‘Curiosity, nothing else,’ added the other. ‘Just to make quite sure it
isn’t anybody I’ve thought of.’

There was a long silence. Leaning forward upon the table, Nancy turned
her wine-glass about and about. She now had a very high colour, and
breathed quickly.

‘Is it off, then?’ said Beatrice, in an indifferent tone.

Thereupon Nancy disclosed the name of her husband--her lover, as Miss.
French thought him. Plied with further questions, she told where he
was living, but gave no account of the circumstances that had estranged
them. Abundantly satisfied, Beatrice grew almost affectionate, and
talked merrily.

Nancy wished to ask whether Luckworth Crewe had any knowledge of her
position. It was long before her lips could utter the words, but at
length they were spoken. And Beatrice assured her that Crewe, good silly
fellow, did not even suspect the truth.


‘For a man,’ said Tarrant, ‘who can pay no more than twelve and sixpence
a week, it’s the best accommodation to be found in London. There’s
an air of civilisation about the house. Look; a bath, and a little
book-case, and an easy-chair such as can be used by a man who respects
himself. You feel you are among people who tub o’ mornings and know the
meaning of leisure. Then the view!’

He was talking to his friend Harvey Munden, the journalist. The room
in which they stood might with advantage have been larger, but as a
bed-chamber it served well enough, and only the poverty of its occupant,
who put it to the additional use of sitting-room and study, made the
lack of space particularly noticeable. The window afforded a prospect
pleasant enough to eyes such as theirs. Above the lower houses on the
opposite side of the way appeared tall trees, in the sere garb of later
autumn, growing by old Westminster School; and beyond them, grey in
twilight, rose the towers of the Abbey. From this point of view no
vicinage of modern brickwork spoilt their charm; the time-worn monitors
stood alone against a sky of ruddy smoke-drift and purple cloud.

‘The old Adam is stronger than ever in me,’ he pursued. ‘If I were
condemned for life to the United States, I should go mad, and perish in
an attempt to swim the Atlantic.’

‘Then why did you stay so long?’

‘I could have stayed with advantage even longer. It’s something to have
studied with tolerable thoroughness the most hateful form of society yet
developed. I saw it at first as a man does who is living at his ease;
at last, as a poor devil who is thankful for the institution of free
lunches. I went first-class, and I came back as a steerage passenger. It
has been a year well spent.’

It had made him, in aspect, more than a twelve-month older. His lounging
attitude, the spirit of his talk, showed that he was unchanged in bodily
and mental habits; but certain lines new-graven upon his visage, and
an austerity that had taken the place of youthful self-consciousness,
signified a more than normal progress in experience.

‘Do you know,’ said Munden slyly, ‘that you have brought back a
trans-Atlantic accent?’

‘Accent? The devil! I don’t believe it.’

‘Intonation, at all events.’

Tarrant professed a serious annoyance.

‘If that’s true, I’ll go and live for a month in Limerick.’

‘It would be cheaper to join a Socialist club in the East End. But just
tell me how you stand. How long can you hold out in these aristocratic

‘Till Christmas. I’m ashamed to say how I’ve got the money, so don’t
ask. I reached London with empty pockets. And I’ll tell you one thing I
have learnt, Munden. There’s no villainy, no scoundrelism, no baseness
conceivable, that isn’t excused by want of money. I understand the whole
“social question.” The man who has never felt the perspiration come out
on his forehead in asking himself how he is going to keep body and soul
together, has no right to an opinion on the greatest question of the

‘What particular scoundrelism or baseness have you committed?’ asked the

Tarrant averted his eyes.

‘I said I could understand such things.’

‘One sees that you have been breathed upon by democracy.’

‘I loathe the word and the thing even more than I did, which is saying a
good deal.’

‘Be it so. You say you are going to work?’

‘Yes, I have come back to work. Even now, it’s difficult to realise that
I must work or starve. I understand how fellows who have unexpectedly
lost their income go through life sponging on relatives and friends.
I understand how an educated man goes sinking through all the social
grades, down to the common lodging-house and the infirmary. And I
honestly believe there’s only one thing that saves me from doing

‘And what’s that?’

‘I can’t tell you--not yet, at all events.’

‘I always thought you a very fine specimen of the man born to do
nothing,’ said Munden, with that smile which permitted him a surprising
candour in conversation.

‘And you were quite right,’ returned Tarrant, with a laugh. ‘I am a born
artist in indolence. It’s the pity of pities that circumstances will
frustrate Nature’s purpose.’

‘You think you can support yourself by journalism?’

‘I must try.--Run your eye over that.’

He took from the table a slip of manuscript, headed, ‘A Reverie in Wall
Street.’ Munden read it, sat thoughtful for a moment, and laughed.

‘Devilish savage. Did you write it after a free lunch?’

‘Wrote it this morning. Shall I try one of the evening papers with
it,--or one of the weeklies?’

Munden suggested a few alterations, and mentioned the journal which he
thought might possibly find room for such a bit of satire.

‘Done anything else?’

‘Here’s a half-finished paper--“The Commercial Prospects of the

‘Let me look.’

After reading a page or two with critically wrinkled forehead, Munden
laid it down.

‘Seems pretty solid,--libellous, too, I should say. You’ve more stuff
in you than I thought. All right: go ahead.--Come and dine with me
to-morrow, to meet a man who may be useful.’

‘To-morrow I can’t. I dine at Lady Pollard’s.’

‘Who is she?’

‘Didn’t you know Pollard of Trinity?--the only son of his mother, and
she a widow.’

‘Next day, then.’

‘Can’t. I dine with some people at Bedford Park.’

Munden lifted his eyebrows.

‘At this rate, you may live pretty well on a dress suit. Any more

‘None that I know of. But I shall accept all that offer. I’m hungry
for the society of decent English people. I used to neglect my
acquaintances; I know better now. Go and live for a month in a cheap
New York boarding-house, and you’ll come out with a wholesome taste for
English refinement.’

To enable his friend to read, Tarrant had already lit a lamp. Munden,
glancing about the room, said carelessly:

‘Do you still possess the furniture of the old place?’

‘No,’ was the answer, given with annoyance. ‘Vawdrey had it sold for

‘Pictures, books, and all the nick-nacks?’

‘Everything.--Of course I’m sorry for it; but I thought at the time that
I shouldn’t return to England for some years.’

‘You never said anything of that kind to me.’

‘No, I didn’t,’ the other replied gloomily. And all at once he fell into
so taciturn a mood, that his companion, after a few more remarks and
inquiries, rose from his chair to leave.

From seven to nine Tarrant sat resolutely at his table, and covered a
few pages with the kind of composition which now came most easily to
him,--a somewhat virulent sarcasm. He found pleasure in the work; but
after nine o’clock his thoughts strayed to matters of personal interest,
and got beyond control. Would the last post of the evening bring him
an answer to a letter he had despatched this morning? At length he laid
down his pen, and listened nervously for that knock which, at one time
or another, is to all men a heart-shaking sound.

It came at the street door, and was quickly followed by a tap at his
own. Nancy had lost no time in replying. What her letter might contain
he found it impossible to conjecture. Reproaches? Joyous welcome? Wrath?
Forgiveness? He knew her so imperfectly, that he could not feel
sure even as to the probabilities of the case. And his suspense was
abundantly justified. Her answer came upon him with the force of a shock
totally unexpected.

He read the lines again and again; he stared at the bank-note. His
first sensation was one of painful surprise; thereupon succeeded fiery
resentment. Reason put in a modest word, hinting that he had deserved
no better; but he refused to listen. Nothing could excuse so gross an
insult. He had not thought Nancy capable of this behaviour. Tested, she
betrayed the vice of birth. Her imputation upon his motive in marrying
her was sheer vulgar abuse, possible only on vulgar lips. Well and
good; now he knew her; all the torment of conscience he had suffered was
needless. And for the moment he experienced a great relief.

In less than ten minutes letter and bank-note were enclosed in a new
envelope, and addressed back again to the sender. With no word of
comment; she must interpret him as she could, and would. He went out,
and threw the offensive packet into the nearest receptacle for such

Work was over for to-night. After pacing in the obscurity of Dean’s Yard
until his pulse had recovered a normal beat, he issued into the peopled
ways, and turned towards Westminster Bridge.

Despite his neglect of Nancy, he had never ceased to think of her with a
tenderness which, in his own judgment, signified something more than the
simple fidelity of a married man. Faithful in the technical sense he
had not been, but the casual amours of a young man caused him no
self-reproach; Nancy’s image remained without rival in his mind; he had
continued to acknowledge her claims upon him, and, from time to time, to
think of her with a lover’s longing. As he only wrote when prompted by
such a mood, his letters, however unsatisfying, were sincere. Various
influences conflicted with this amiable and honourable sentiment. The
desire of independence which had speeded him away from England still
accompanied him on his return; he had never ceased to regret his
marriage, and it seemed to him that, without this legal bondage, it
would have been much easier to play a manly part at the time of Nancy’s
becoming a mother. Were she frankly his mistress, he would not be
keeping thus far away when most she needed the consolation of his
presence. The secret marriage condemned him to a course of shame, and
the more he thought of it, the more he marvelled at his deliberate
complicity in such a fraud. When poverty began to make itself felt, when
he was actually hampered in his movements by want of money, this form
of indignity, more than any galling to his pride, intensified the
impatience with which he remembered that he could no longer roam the
world as an adventurer. Any day some trivial accident might oppress him
with the burden of a wife and child who looked to him for their support.
Tarrant the married man, unless he were content to turn simple rogue and
vagabond, must make for himself a place in the money-earning world. His
indolence had no small part in his revolt against the stress of such
a consideration. The climate of the Bahamas by no means tended
to invigorate him, and in the United States he found so much to
observe,--even to enjoy,--that the necessity of effort was kept out
of sight as long as, by one expedient and another, he succeeded in
procuring means to live upon without working.

During the homeward voyage--a trial such as he had never known, amid
squalid discomforts which enraged even more than they disgusted him--his
heart softened in anticipation of a meeting with Nancy, and of the
sight of his child. Apart from his fellow-travellers,--in whom he could
perceive nothing but coarseness and vileness,--he spent the hours in
longing for England and for the home he would make there, in castigating
the flagrant faults of his character, moderating his ambitions, and
endeavouring to find a way out of the numerous grave difficulties with
which his future was beset.

Landed, he rather forgot than discarded these wholesome meditations.
What he had first to do was so very unpleasant, and taxed so rudely his
self-respect, that he insensibly fell back again into the rebellious
temper. Choice there was none; reaching London with a few shillings in
his pocket, of necessity he repaired forthwith to Mr Vawdrey’s office in
the City, and made known the straits into which he had fallen.

‘Now, my dear fellow,’ said Mr. Vawdrey, with his usual good-humour,
‘how much have you had of me since you started for the Bahamas?’

‘That is hardly a fair question,’ Tarrant replied, endeavouring not to
hang his head like an everyday beggar. ‘I went out on a commission--’

‘True. But after you ceased to be a commissioner?’

‘You have lent me seventy pounds. Living in the States is expensive.
What I got for my furniture has gone as well, yet I certainly haven’t
been extravagant; and for the last month or two I lived like a tramp.
Will you make my debt to you a round hundred? It shall be repaid, though
I may be a year or two about it.’

The loan was granted, but together with a great deal of unpalatable
counsel. Having found his lodging, Tarrant at once invested ten pounds
in providing himself with a dress suit, and improving his ordinary
attire,--he had sold every garment he could spare in New York. For
the dress suit he had an immediate use; on the very platform of Euston
Station, at his arrival, a chance meeting with one of his old college
friends resulted in an invitation to dine, and, even had not policy
urged him to make the most of such acquaintances, he was in no mood for
rejecting a summons back into the world of civilisation. Postponing the
purposed letter to Nancy (which, had he written it sooner, would have
been very unlike the letter he subsequently sent), he equipped himself
once more as a gentleman, and spent several very enjoyable hours in
looking up the members of his former circle--Hodiernals and others. Only
to Harvey Munden did he confide something of the anxieties which lay
beneath his assumed lightheartedness. Munden was almost the only man he
knew for whom he had a genuine respect.

Renewal of intercourse with people of good social standing made him
more than ever fretful in the thought that he had clogged himself with
marriage. Whatever Nancy’s reply to his announcement that he was home
again, he would have read it with discontent. To have the fact forced
upon him (a fact he seriously believed it) that his wife could not be
depended upon even for elementary generosity of thought, was at this
moment especially disastrous; it weighed the balance against his
feelings of justice and humanity, hitherto, no matter how he acted,
always preponderant over the baser issues of character and circumstance.

He stood leaning upon the parapet of Westminster Bridge, his eyes
scanning the dark facade of the Houses of Parliament.

How would the strong, unscrupulous, really ambitious man act in such
a case? What was to prevent him from ignoring the fact that he was
married, and directing his course precisely as he would have done
if poverty had come upon him before his act of supreme foolishness?
Journalism must have been his refuge then, as now; but Society would
have held out to him the hope of every adventurer--a marriage with
some woman whose wealth and connections would clear an upward path
in whatever line he chose to follow. Why not abandon to Nancy the
inheritance it would degrade him to share, and so purchase back his
freedom? The bargain might be made; a strong man would carry it through,
and ultimately triumph by daring all risks.

Having wrought himself to this point of insensate revolt, he quitted his
musing-station on the bridge, and walked away.

Nancy did not write again. There passed four or five days, and Tarrant,
working hard as well as enjoying the pleasures of Society, made up
his mind not to see her. He would leave events to take their course.
A heaviness of heart often troubled him, but he resisted it, and told
himself that he was becoming stronger.

After a long day of writing, he addressed a packet to a certain
periodical, and went out to post it. No sooner had he left the house
than a woman, who had been about to pass him on the pavement, abruptly
turned round and hurriedly walked away. But for this action, he would
not have noticed her; as it was, he recognised the figure, and an
impulse which allowed of no reflection brought him in a moment to
her side. In the ill-lighted street a face could with difficulty be
observed, but Nancy’s features were unmistakable to the eye that now
fell upon them.

‘Stop, and let me speak to you,’ he exclaimed.

She walked only the more quickly, and he was obliged to take her by the

‘What do you want?’

She spoke as if to an insolent stranger, and shook off his grasp.

‘If you have nothing to say to me, why are you here?’

‘Here? I suppose the streets are free to me?’

‘Nothing would bring you to Great College Street if you didn’t know that
I was living here. Now that we have met, we must talk.’

‘I have nothing at all to say to you.’

‘Well, then _I_ will talk.--Come this way; there’s a quiet place where
no one will notice us.’

Nancy kept her eyes resolutely averted from him; he, the while, searched
her face with eagerness, as well as the faint rays of the nearest lamp
allowed it.

‘If you have anything to say, you must say it here.’

‘It’s no use, then. Go your way, and I’ll go mine.’

He turned, and walked slowly in the direction of Dean’s Yard. There
was the sound of a step behind him, and when he had come into the dark,
quiet square, Nancy was there too.

‘Better to be reasonable,’ said Tarrant, approaching her again. ‘I want
to ask you why you answered a well-meant letter with vulgar insult?’

‘The insult came from you,’ she answered, in a shaking voice.

‘What did I say that gave you offence?’

‘How can you ask such a question? To write in that way after never
answering my letter for months, leaving me without a word at such a
time, making me think either that you were dead or that you would never
let me hear of you again--’

‘I told you it was a mere note, just to let you know I was back. I said
you should hear more when we met.’

‘Very well, we have met. What have you to say for yourself?’

‘First of all, this. That you are mistaken in supposing I should ever
consent to share your money. The thought was natural to you, no doubt;
but I see things from a different point of view.’

His cold anger completely disguised the emotion stirred in him by
Nancy’s presence. Had he not spoken thus, he must have given way to joy
and tenderness. For Nancy seemed more beautiful than the memory he had
retained of her, and even at such a juncture she was far from
exhibiting the gross characteristics attributed to her by his rebellious

‘Then I don’t understand,’ were her next words, ‘why you wrote to me
again at all.’

‘There are many things in me that you don’t understand, and can’t

‘Yes, I think so. That’s why I see no use in our talking.’

Tarrant was ashamed of what he had said--a meaningless retort, which
covered his inability to speak as his heart prompted.

‘At all events I wanted to see you, and it’s fortunate you passed just
as I was coming out.’

Nancy would not accept the conciliatory phrase.

‘I hadn’t the least intention of seeing you,’ she replied. ‘It was a
curiosity to know where you lived, nothing else. I shall never forgive
you for the way in which you have behaved to me, so you needn’t try to
explain yourself.’

‘Here and now, I should certainly not try. The only thing I will say
about myself is, that I very much regret not having made known that you
were married to me when plain honesty required it. Now, I look upon it
as something over and done with, as far as I am concerned. I shall never
benefit by the deception--’

She interrupted him.

‘How do you know that _I_ shall benefit by it? How can you tell what has
been happening since you last heard from me in America?’

‘I have taken it for granted that things are the same.’

‘Then you didn’t even take measures to have news of me from any one

‘What need? I should always have received any letter you sent.’

‘You thought it likely that I should appeal to you if I were in

He stood silent, glad of the obscurity which made it needless for him to
command his features. At length:

‘What is the simple fact? Has your secret been discovered, or not?’

‘How does it concern you?’

‘Only in this way: that if you are to be dependent upon any one, it must
be upon me.’

Nancy gave a scornful laugh.

‘That’s very generous, considering your position. But happily you can’t
force me to accept your generosity, any more than I can compel you to
take a share of my money.’

‘Without the jibe at my poverty,’ Tarrant said, ‘that is a sufficient
answer. As we can’t even pretend to be friendly with each other, I
am very glad there need be no talk of our future relations. You are
provided for, and no doubt will take care not to lose the provision.
If ever you prefer to forget that we are legally bound, I shall be no

‘I have thought of that,’ replied Nancy, after a pause, her voice
expressing satisfaction. ‘Perhaps we should do better to make the
understanding at once. You are quite free; I should never acknowledge
you as my husband.’

‘You seriously mean it?’

‘Do I seem to be joking?’

‘Very well. I won’t say that I should never acknowledge you as my wife;
so far from that, I hold myself responsible whenever you choose to make
any kind of claim upon me. But I shall not dream of interfering with
your liberty. If ever you wish to write to me, you may safely address
to the house at Champion Hill.--And remember always,’ he added sternly,
‘that it was not I who made such a parting necessary.’

Nancy returned his look through the gloom, and said in like tone:

‘I shall do my best never to think of it at all. Fortunately, my time
and my thoughts are occupied.’

‘How?’ Tarrant could not help asking, as she turned away; for her tone
implied some special significance in the words.

‘You have no right to ask anything whatever about me,’ came from Nancy,
who was already moving away.

He allowed her to go.

‘So it is to be as I wished,’ he said to himself, with mock courage. ‘So
much the better.’

And he went home to a night of misery.


Not long after the disappearance of Fanny French, Mrs. Damerel called
one day upon Luckworth Crewe at his office in Farringdon Street. Crewe
seldom had business with ladies, and few things could have surprised him
more than a visit from this lady in particular, whom he knew so well by
name, and regarded with such special interest. She introduced herself as
a person wishing to find a good investment for a small capital; but
the half-hour’s conversation which followed became in the end almost a
confidential chat. Mrs. Damerel spoke of her nephew Horace Lord, with
whom, she understood, Mr. Crewe was on terms of intimacy; she professed
a grave solicitude on his account, related frankly the unhappy
circumstances which had estranged the young man from her, and ultimately
asked whether Crewe could not make it worth his own while to save Horace
from the shoals of idleness, and pilot him into some safe commercial
haven. This meeting was the first of many between the fashionable lady
and the keen man of affairs. Without a suspicion of how it had come
about, Horace Lord presently found himself an informal partner in
Crewe’s business; he invested only a nominal sum, which might be looked
upon as a premium of apprenticeship; but there was an understanding that
at the close of the term of tutelage imposed by his father’s will, he
should have the offer of a genuine partnership on very inviting terms.

Horace was not sorry to enter again upon regular occupation. He had
considerably damaged his health in the effort to live up to his ideal
of thwarted passion, and could no longer entertain a hope that Fanny’s
escapade was consistent with innocence. Having learnt how money slips
through the fingers of a gentleman with fastidious tastes, he welcomed a
prospect of increased resources, and applied himself with some energy to
learning his new business. But with Mrs. Damerel he utterly refused to
be reconciled, and of his sister he saw very little. Nancy, however,
approved the step he had taken, and said she would be content to know
that all was well with him.

Upon a Sunday morning, when the church bells had ceased to clang,
Luckworth Crewe, not altogether at his ease in garb of flagrant
respectability, sat by the fireside of a pleasant little room conversing
with Mrs. Damerel. Their subject, as usual at the beginning of talk, was
Horace Lord.

‘He won’t speak of you at all,’ said Crewe, in a voice singularly
subdued, sympathetic, respectful. ‘I have done all I could, short of
telling him that I know you. He’s very touchy still on that old affair.’

‘How would he like it,’ asked the lady, ‘if you told him that we are

‘Impossible to say. Perhaps it would make no difference one way or

Mrs. Damerel was strikingly, yet becomingly, arrayed. The past year had
dealt no less gently with her than its predecessors; if anything,
her complexion had gained in brilliancy, perhaps a consequence of the
hygienic precautions due to her fear of becoming stout. A stranger, even
a specialist in the matter, might have doubted whether the fourth decade
lay more than a month or two behind her. So far from seeking to impress
her visitor with a pose of social superiority, she behaved to him as
though his presence honoured as much as it delighted her; look,
tone, bearing, each was a flattery which no obtuseness could fail
to apprehend, and Crewe’s countenance proved him anything but
inappreciative. Hitherto she had spoken and listened with her head
drooping in gentle melancholy; now, with a sudden change intended to
signify the native buoyancy of her disposition, she uttered a rippling
laugh, which showed her excellent teeth, and said prettily:

‘Poor boy! I must suffer the penalty of having tried to save him from
one of my own sex.--Not,’ she added, ‘that I foresaw how that poor silly
girl would justify my worst fears of her. Perhaps,’ her head drooping
again, ‘I ought to reproach myself with what happened.’

‘I don’t see that at all,’ replied Crewe, whose eyes lost nothing of
the exhibition addressed to them. ‘Even if you had been the cause of it,
which of course you weren’t, I should have said you had done the right
thing. Every one knew what Fanny French must come to.’

‘Isn’t it sad? A pretty girl--but so ill brought up, I fear. Can you
give me any news of her sister, the one who came here and frightened me

‘Oh, she’s going on as usual.’

Crewe checked himself, and showed hesitation.

‘She almost threatened me,’ Mrs. Damerel pursued, with timid sweetness.
‘Do you think she is the kind of person to plot any harm against one?’

‘She had better not try it on,’ said Crewe, in his natural voice. Then,
as if recollecting himself, he pursued more softly: ‘But I was going to
speak of her. You haven’t heard that Miss. Lord has taken a position in
the new branch of that Dress Supply Association?’

Mrs. Damerel kept an astonished silence.

‘There can’t be any doubt of it; I have been told on the best authority.
She is in what they call the “club-room,” a superintendent. It’s a queer
thing; what can have led her to it?’

‘I must make inquiries,’ said Mrs. Damerel, with an air of concern. ‘How
sad it is, Mr. Crewe, that these young relatives of mine,--almost the
only relatives I have,--should refuse me their confidence and their
affection. Pray, does Horace know of what his sister is doing?’

‘I thought I wouldn’t speak to him about it until I had seen you.’

‘How very kind! How grateful I am to you for your constant

Why Crewe should have practised such reticence, why it signified
kindness and thoughtfulness to Mrs. Damerel, neither he nor she could
easily have explained. But their eyes met, with diffident admiration on
the one side, and touching amiability on the other. Then they discussed
Nancy’s inexplicable behaviour from every point of view; or rather, Mrs.
Damerel discussed it, and her companion made a pretence of doing so.
Crewe’s manner had become patently artificial; he either expressed
himself in trivial phrases, which merely avoided silence, or betrayed an
embarrassment, an abstraction, which caused the lady to observe him with
all the acuteness at her command.

You haven’t seen her lately?’ she asked, when Crewe had been staring at
the window for a minute or two.

‘Seen her?--No; not for a long time.’

‘I think you told me you haven’t called there since Mr. Lord’s death?’

‘I never was there at all,’ he answered abruptly.

‘Oh, I remember your saying so. Of course there is no reason why she
shouldn’t go into business, if time is heavy on her hands, as I dare
say it may be. So many ladies prefer to have an occupation of that
kind now-a-days. It’s a sign of progress; we are getting more
sensible; Society used to have such silly prejudices. Even within my
recollection--how quickly things change!--no lady would have dreamt
of permitting her daughter to take an engagement in a shop or any such
place. Now we have women of title starting as milliners and modistes,
and soon it will be quite a common thing to see one’s friends behind the

She gave a gay little laugh, in which Crewe joined unmelodiously,--for
he durst not be merry in the note natural to him,--then raised her eyes
in playful appeal.

‘If ever I should fall into misfortune, Mr. Crewe, would you put me in
the way of earning my living.’

‘You couldn’t. You’re above all that kind of thing. It’s for the rough
and ready sort of women, and I can’t say I have much opinion of them.’

‘That’s a very nice little compliment; but at the same time, it’s rather
severe on the women who are practical.--Tell me frankly: Is my--my niece
one of the people you haven’t much opinion of?’

Crewe shuffled his feet.

‘I wasn’t thinking of Miss. Lord.’

‘But what is really your opinion of her?’ Mrs. Damerel urged softly.

Crewe looked up and down, smiled in a vacant way, and appeared very

‘May I guess the truth?’ said his playful companion.

‘No, I’ll tell you. I wanted to marry her, and did my best to get her to

‘I thought so!’ She paused on the note of arch satisfaction, and mused.
‘How nice of you to confess!--And that’s all past and forgotten, is it?’

Never man more unlike himself than the bold advertising-agent in this
colloquy. He was subdued and shy; his usual racy and virile talk had
given place to an insipid mildness. He seemed bent on showing that
the graces of polite society were not so strange to him as one might
suppose. But under Mrs. Damerel’s interrogation a restiveness began to
appear in him, and at length he answered in his natural blunt voice:

‘Yes, it’s all over--and for a good reason.’

The lady’s curiosity was still more provoked.

‘No,’ she exclaimed laughingly, ‘I am _not_ going to ask the reason.
That would be presuming too far on friendship.’

Crewe fixed his eyes on a corner of the room, and seemed to look there
for a solution of some difficulty. When the silence had lasted more than
a minute, he began to speak slowly and awkwardly.

‘I’ve half a mind to--in fact, I’ve been thinking that you ought to

‘The good reason?’

‘Yes. You’re the only one that could stand in the place of a mother to
her. And I don’t think she ought to be living alone, like she is, with
no one to advise and help her.’

‘I have felt that very strongly,’ said Mrs. Damerel. ‘The old servant
who is with her can’t be at all a suitable companion--that is, to be
treated on equal terms. A very strange arrangement, indeed. But you
don’t mean that you thought less well of her because she is living in
that way?’

‘Of course not. It’s something a good deal more serious than that.’

Mrs. Damerel became suddenly grave.

‘Then I certainly ought to know.’

‘You ought. I think it very likely she would have been glad enough to
make a friend of you, if it hadn’t been for this--this affair, which
stood in the way. There can’t be any harm in telling you, as you
couldn’t wish anything but her good.’

‘That surely you may take for granted.’

‘Well then, I have an idea that she’s trying to earn money because
some one is getting all he can out of her--leaving her very little for
herself; and if so, it’s time you interfered.’

The listener was so startled that she changed colour.

‘You mean that some man has her in his power?’

‘If I’m not mistaken, it comes to that. But for her father’s will, she
would have been married long ago, and--she ought to be.’

Having blurted out these words, Crewe felt much more at ease. As Mrs.
Damerel’s eyes fell, the sense of sexual predominance awoke in him, and
he was no longer so prostrate before the lady’s natural and artificial

‘How do you know this?’ she asked, in an undertone.

‘From some one who had it from Miss. Lord herself.’

‘Are you quite sure that it isn’t a malicious falsehood?’

‘As sure as I am that I sit here. I know the man’s name, and where he
lives, and all about him. And I know where the child is at nurse.

‘The child?--Oh--surely--never!’

A genuine agitation possessed her; she had a frightened, pain-stricken
look, and moved as if she must act without delay.

‘It’s nearly six months old,’ Crewe continued. ‘Of course that’s why she
was away so long.’

‘But why haven’t you told me this before? It was your duty to tell
me--your plain duty. How long have you known?’

‘I heard of it first of all about three months ago, but it was only the
other day that I was told the man’s name, and other things about him.’

‘Is it known to many people? Is the poor girl talked about?’

‘No, no,’ Crewe replied, with confidence. ‘The person who told me is the
only one who has found it out; you may depend upon that.’

‘It must be a woman,’ said Mrs. Damerel sharply.

‘Yes, it’s a woman. Some one _I_ know very well. She told me just
because she thought I was still hoping to marry Miss. Lord, and--well,
the truth is, though we’re good friends, she has a little spite against
me, and I suppose it amused her to tell me something disagreeable.’

‘I have no doubt,’ said Mrs. Damerel, ‘that the secret has been betrayed
to a dozen people.’

‘I’ll go bail it hasn’t!’ returned Crewe, falling into his vernacular.

‘I can hardly believe it at all. I should never have dreamt that such a
thing was possible. What is the man’s name? what is his position?’

‘Tarrant is his name, and he’s related somehow to a Mr. Vawdrey, well
known in the City, who has a big house over at Champion Hill. I have no
notion how they came together, or how long it was going on. But this Mr.
Tarrant has been in America for a year, I understand; has only just come
back; and now he’s living In poorish lodgings,--Great College Street,
Westminster. I’ve made a few inquiries about him, but I can’t get at
very much. A man who knows Vawdrey tells me that Tarrant has no means,
and that he’s a loafing, affected sort of chap. If that’s true,--and
it seems likely from the way he’s living,--of course he will be ready
enough to marry Miss. Lord when the proper time has come; I’m only
afraid that’s all he had in view from the first. And I can’t help
suspecting, as I said, that she’s supporting him now. If not, why should
she go and work in a shop? At all events, a decent man wouldn’t allow
her to do it.’

‘A decent man,’ said the listener, ‘would never have allowed her to fall
into disgrace.’

‘Certainly not,’ Crewe assented with energy. ‘And as for my keeping
quiet about it, Mrs. Damerel, you’ve only to think what an awkward
affair it was to mention. I’m quite sure you’ll have a little feeling
against me, because I knew of it--’

‘I beg you not to think that!’ She returned to her manner of suave
friendliness. ‘I shall owe you gratitude for telling me, and nothing but
gratitude. You have behaved with very great delicacy; I cannot say how
highly I appreciate your feeling on the poor girl’s behalf.’

‘If I can be of any use, I am always at your service.’

‘Thank you, dear Mr. Crewe, thank you! In you I have found a real
friend,--and how rarely they are met with! Of course I shall make
inquiries at once. My niece must be protected. A helpless girl in that
dreadful position may commit unheard-of follies. I fear you are right.
He is making her his victim. With such a secret, she is absolutely at
his mercy. And it explains why she has shunned me. Oh, do you think her
brother knows it?’

‘I’m quite sure he doesn’t; hasn’t the least suspicion.’

‘Of course not. But it’s wonderful how she has escaped. Your
informant--how did she find it out? You say she had the story from the
girl’s own lips. But why? She must have shown that she knew something.’

Crewe imparted such details as had come to his knowledge; they were
meagre, and left many obscurities, but Mrs. Damerel rewarded him with
effusive gratitude, and strengthened the spell which she had cast upon
this knight of Farringdon Street.


Every day Tarrant said to himself: ‘I am a free man; I was only married
in a dream.’ Every night he thought of Nancy, and suffered heartache.

He thought, too, of Nancy’s child, his own son. That Nancy was a tender
mother, he knew from the letter she had written him after the baby’s
birth,--a letter he would have liked to read again, but forbore. Must
not the separation from her child be hard? If he saw the poor little
mortal, how would the sight affect him? At moments he felt a longing
perhaps definable as the instinct of paternity; but he was not the man
to grow sentimental over babies, his own or other people’s. Irony and
sarcasm--very agreeable to a certain class of newspaper readers--were
just now his stock-in-trade, and he could not afford to indulge any
softer mode of meditation.

His acquaintances agreed that the year of absence had not improved him.
He was alarmingly clever; he talked well; but his amiability, the poetry
of his mind, seemed to have been lost in America. He could no longer
admire or praise.

For his own part, he did not clearly perceive this change. It struck
him only that the old friends were less interesting than he had thought
them; and he looked for reception in circles better able to appreciate
his epigrams and paradoxes.

A few weeks of such life broke him so completely to harness, that he
forgot the seasonable miseries which had been wont to drive him from
London at the approach of November. When the first fog blackened against
his windows, he merely lit the lamp and wrote on, indifferent. Two years
ago he had declared that a London November would fatally blight his
soul; that he must flee to a land of sunshine, or perish. There was
little time, now, to think about his soul.

One Monday morning arrived a letter which surprised and disturbed him.
It ran thus:

‘Mrs. Eustace Damerel presents her compliments to Mr. Tarrant, and would
take it as a great favour if he could call upon her, either to-morrow or
Tuesday, at any hour between three and seven. She particularly desires
to see Mr. Tarrant on a private matter of mutual interest.’

Now this could have but one meaning. Mrs. Eustace Damerel was, of
course, Nancy’s relative; from Nancy herself, or in some other way, she
must have learnt the fact of his marriage. Probably from Nancy, since
she knew where he lived. He was summoned to a judicial interview.
Happily, attendance was not compulsory.

Second thoughts advised him that he had better accept the invitation.
He must know what measures were in progress against him. If Nancy had
already broken her word, she might be disposed to revenge herself in
every way that would occur to an angry woman of small refinement; she
might make life in London impossible for him.

He sat down and penned a reply, saying that he would call upon Mrs.
Damerel at five to-morrow. But he did not post this. After all, a day’s
delay would only irritate him; better to go this afternoon, in which
case it was not worth while sending an answer.

It seemed to him very probable that Nancy would be with her aunt, to
confront him. If so,--if indeed she were going to act like any coarse
woman, with no regard but for her own passions and Interests,--he would
at least have the consolation of expelling from his mind, at once and
for ever, her haunting image.

Mrs. Damerel, who during the past twelve months had changed her abode
half-a-dozen times, now occupied private lodgings in Tyburnia. On his
admittance, Tarrant sat alone for nearly five minutes in a pretentiously
furnished room--just the room in which he had expected to find Nancy’s
relative; the delay and the surroundings exasperated his nervous mood,
so that, when the lady entered, he behaved with slighter courtesy than
became his breeding. Nothing in her appearance surprised or interested
him. There was a distant facial resemblance to Nancy, natural in her
mother’s sister; there was expensive, though not particularly tasteful
dress, and a gait, a manner, distinguishable readily enough from what
they aimed at displaying--the grace of a woman born to social privilege.

It would be a humiliating conversation; Tarrant braced himself to go
through with it. He stood stiffly while his hostess regarded him with
shrewd eyes. She had merely bent her head.

‘Will you sit down, Mr. Tarrant?’

He took a chair without speaking.

‘I think you know me by name?’

‘I have heard of a Mrs. Damerel.’

‘Some time ago, I suppose? And in that you have the advantage of me. I
heard your name yesterday for the first time.’

It was the sharp rejoinder of a woman of the world. Tarrant began to
perceive that he had to do with intelligence, and would not be allowed
to perform his share of the talking _de haut en bas._

‘In what can I be of service to you?’ he asked with constrained

‘You can tell me, please, what sort of connection there is between you
and my niece, Miss. Lord.’

Mrs. Damerel was obviously annoyed by his demeanour, and made little
effort to disguise her feeling. She gave him the look of one who does
not mean to be trifled with.

‘Really,’ answered the young man with a smile, ‘I don’t know what
authority you have to make such inquiries. You are not, I believe, Miss.
Lord’s guardian.’

‘No, but I am her only relative who can act on her behalf where
knowledge of the world is required. As a gentleman, you will bear this
in mind. It’s quite true that I can’t oblige you to tell me anything;
but when I say that I haven’t spoken even to my niece of what I have
heard, and haven’t communicated with the gentlemen who _are_ her
guardians, I think you will see that I am not acting in a way you ought
to resent.’

‘You mean, Mrs. Damerel, that what passes between us is in confidence?’

‘I only mean, Mr. Tarrant, that I am giving you an opportunity of
explaining yourself--so that I can keep the matter private if your
explanation is satisfactory.’

‘You have a charge of some kind to bring against me,’ said Tarrant
composedly. ‘I must first of all hear what it is. The prisoner at the
bar can’t be prosecuting counsel at the same time.’

‘Do you acknowledge that you are on intimate terms with Miss. Lord?’

‘I have known her for a year or two.’

Tarrant began to exercise caution. Nancy had no hand in this matter;
some one had told tales about her, that was all. He must learn, without
committing himself, exactly how much had been discovered.

‘Are you engaged to her?’

‘Engaged to marry her? No.’

He saw in Mrs. Damerel’s clear eye that she convicted him of

‘You have not even made her a promise of marriage?’

‘How much simpler, if you would advance a clear charge. I will answer it

Mrs. Damerel seemed to weigh the value of this undertaking. Tarrant met
her gaze with steady indifference.

‘It may only be a piece of scandal,--a mistake, or a malicious
invention. I have been told that--that you are in everything but law my
niece’s husband.’

They regarded each other during a moment’s silence. Tarrant’s look
indicated rapid and anxious thought.

‘It seems,’ he said at length, ‘that you have no great faith in the
person who told you this.’

‘It is the easiest matter in the world to find out whether the story
is true or not. Inquiries at Falmouth would be quite sufficient, I dare
say. I give you the opportunity of keeping it quiet, that’s all.’

‘You won’t care to let me know who told you?’

‘There’s no reason why I shouldn’t,’ said Mrs. Damerel, after
reflection. ‘Do you know Mr. Luckworth Crewe?’

‘I don’t think I ever heard the name.’

‘Indeed? He is well acquainted with Miss. Lord. Some one he wouldn’t
mention gave him all the particulars, having learnt them from Miss Lord
herself, and he thought it his duty to inform me of my niece’s very
painful position.’

‘Who is this man?’ Tarrant asked abruptly.

‘I am rather surprised you have never heard of him. He’s a man of
business. My nephew, Mr. Horace Lord, is shortly to be in partnership
with him.’

‘Crewe? No, the name is quite strange to me.’

Tarrant’s countenance darkened; he paused for an instant, then added

‘You say he had “all the particulars.” What were they, these

‘Will one be enough? A child was born at Falmouth, and is now at a place
just outside London, in the care of some stranger.’

The source of this information might, or might not, be Nancy herself. In
either case, there was no further hope of secrecy. Tarrant abandoned his
reserve, and spoke quietly, civilly.

‘So far, you have heard the truth. What have you to ask of me, now?’

‘You have been abroad for a long time, I think?’

‘For about a year.’

‘Does that mean that you wished to see no more of her?’

‘That I deserted her, in plain words? It meant nothing of the kind.’

‘You are aware, then, that she has taken a place in a house of business,
just as if she thought it necessary to earn her own living?’

Tarrant displayed astonishment.

‘I am aware of no such thing. How long has that been going on?’

‘Then you don’t see her?’

‘I have seen her, but she told me nothing of that.’

‘There’s something very strange in this, Mr. Tarrant. You seem to me to
be speaking the truth. No, please don’t take offence. Before I saw you,
you were a total stranger to me, and after what I had heard, I couldn’t
think very well of you. I may as well confess that you seem a different
kind of man from what I expected. I don’t wish to offend you, far from
it. If we can talk over this distressing affair in a friendly way,
so much the better. I have nothing whatever in view but to protect my
niece--to do the best that can be done for her.’

‘That I have taken for granted,’ Tarrant replied. ‘I understand that you
expected to meet a scoundrel of a very recognisable type. Well, I am
not exactly that. But what particular act of rascality have you in mind?
Something worse than mere seduction, of course.’

‘Will you answer a disagreeable question? Are you well-to-do?’

‘Anything but that.’

‘Indeed? And you can form no idea why Nancy has gone to work in a shop?’

Tarrant raised his eyebrows.

‘I see,’ he said deliberately. ‘You suspect that I have been taking
money from her?’

‘I _did_ suspect it; now it seems to me more unlikely.’

‘Many thanks,’ he answered, with cold irony. ‘So the situation was this:
Miss. Lord had been led astray by a rascally fellow, who not only left
her to get on as best she could, but lived on her income, so that she
had at length to earn money for her own needs. There’s something very
clear and rounded, very dramatic, about that. What I should like to know
is, whether Miss. Lord tells the story in this way.’

‘I can’t say that she does. I think it was Mr. Crewe who explained
things like that.’

‘I am obliged to Mr. Crewe. But he may, after all, only repeat what he
has heard. It’s a pity we don’t know Miss. Lord’s actual confidante.’

‘Of course you have _not_ received assistance from her?’

Tarrant stared for a moment, then laughed unpleasantly.

‘I have no recollection of it.’

‘Another disagreeable question. Did you really go away and leave her to
get on as best she could?’

He looked darkly at her.

‘And if I did?’

‘Wasn’t it rather unaccountable behaviour--in a gentleman?’


‘I can’t believe it. There is something unexplained.’

‘Yes, there _is_ something unexplained.--Mrs. Damerel, I should have
thought you would naturally speak first to your niece. Why did you send
for me before doing so?’

‘To find out what sort of man you were, so that I should be able to form
my own opinion of what Nancy chose to tell me. Perhaps she may refuse to
tell me anything at all--we are not like ordinary relatives, I am sorry
to say. But I dare say you know better than I do how she thinks of me.’

‘I have heard her speak of you only once or twice. At all events, now
that you are prepared, you will go and see her?’

‘I must. It would be wrong to stand by and do nothing.’

‘And you will see her guardians?’

‘That must depend. I certainly shall if she seems to be suffering
hardships. I must know why she goes out to work, as if she were pinched
for money. There is her child to support, of course, but that wouldn’t
make any difference to her; she is well provided for.’

‘Yes. There’s no choice but to fall back upon the villain theory.’

He rose, and took up his hat.

‘You mustn’t go yet, Mr. Tarrant,’ said his hostess firmly. ‘I have said
that I can’t believe such things of you. If you would only explain--’

‘That’s just what I can’t do. It’s as much a mystery to me as to
you--her wishing to earn money.’

‘I was going to say--if you would only explain your intentions as to the

‘My intentions will depend entirely on what I hear from your niece. I
shall see her as soon as possible. Perhaps you can tell me at what hour
she returns from business?’

‘No, I can’t. I wish you would talk a little longer.’

His eyes flashed angrily.

‘Mrs. Damerel, I have said all that I am willing to say. What you have
heard is partly true; you probably won’t have to wait very long for the
rest of the story, but I have no time and no inclination to tell it.
Go and see your niece to-morrow by all means,--or her guardians, if it
seems necessary.

‘I am very sorry we are parting in this way.’

‘You must remember how difficult it is to keep one’s temper under
certain kinds of accusation.’

‘I don’t accuse you.’

‘Well, then, to explain calmly that one couldn’t commit this or that
sordid rascality;--it comes to the same thing. However, I am obliged to
you for opening my eyes. I have got into a very foolish position, and I
promise you I will get out of it as quickly as may be.’

Whereupon he bowed his leave-taking, and withdrew.


It was not yet dark, but street-lamps had begun to flare and flicker in
the gust of a cold, damp evening. A thin and slippery mud smeared the
pavement. Tarrant had walked mechanically as far as to the top of Park
Lane before he began to consider his immediate course. Among the people
who stood waiting for omnibuses, he meditated thus:

‘She may not get home until seven or half-past; then she will have a
meal. I had better put it off till about half-past eight. That leaves me
some four hours to dispose of. First of all I’ll walk home, and--yes, by
all the devils! I’ll finish that bit of writing. A year ago I could
no more have done it, under such circumstances, than have built a
suspension bridge. To-day I will--just to show that I’ve some grit in

Down Park Lane, and by Buckingham Palace across to Westminster, he kept
his thoughts for the most part on that bit of writing. Only thus could
he save himself from an access of fury which would only have injured
him--the ire of shame in which a man is tempted to beat his head against
stone walls. He composed aloud, balancing many a pretty antithesis, and
polishing more than one lively paradox.

In his bedroom-study the fire had gone out. No matter; he would write in
the cold. It was mere amanuensis work, penning at the dictation of his
sarcastic demon. Was he a sybarite? Many a poor scribbler has earned bed
and breakfast with numb fingers. The fire in his body would serve him
for an hour or two.

So he sat down, and achieved his task to the last syllable. He read it
through, corrected it, made it up for post, and rose with the plaudits
of conscience. ‘Who shall say now that I am a fop and a weakling?’

Half-past seven. Good; just time enough to appease his hunger and reach
Grove Lane by the suitable hour. He went out to the little coffee-shop
which was his resort in Spartan moods, ate with considerable appetite,
and walked over Westminster Bridge to the Camberwell tram. To kill time
on the journey he bought a halfpenny paper.

As he ascended Grove Lane his heart throbbed more than the exercise
warranted. At the door of the house, which he had never yet entered,
and which he had not looked upon for more than a year, he stood to calm
himself, with lips set and cheek pale in the darkness. Then a confident
peal at the knocker.

It was Mary who opened. He had never seen her, but knew that this grave,
hard-featured person, not totally unlike a born gentlewoman, must be
Mary Woodruff. And in her eyes he read a suspicion of his own identity.

‘Is Miss. Lord at home?’ he asked, in a matter-of-fact way.

‘Yes.--What name shall I mention?’

‘Mr. Tarrant.’

Her eyes fell, and she requested him to enter, to wait in the hall for
a moment; then went upstairs. She was absent for a few minutes, and on
returning asked him to follow her. She led to the drawing-room: on the
way, Tarrant felt a surprise that in so small a house the drawing-room
should be correctly situated on the upper floor.

Here he had again to wait. A comfortable room, he thought, and with a
true air of home about it. He knew how significant is this impression
first received on entering a strange abode; home or encampment,
attraction or repulsion, according to the mind of the woman who rules
there. Was it Nancy, or Mary, who made the atmosphere of the house?

The door opened, and he faced towards it.

Nancy’s dress had an emphasis of fashion formerly unknown to it;
appropriate enough considering her new occupation. The flush upon her
cheeks, the light of doubtful meaning in her eyes, gave splendour to
a beauty matured by motherhood. In the dark street, a fortnight ago,
Tarrant could hardly be said to have seen her; he gazed in wonder and

‘What has brought you here?’

‘A cause quite sufficient.--This is a little house; can we talk without
being overheard?’

‘You can shout if you wish to,’ she answered flippantly. ‘The servant is
Out, and Mary is downstairs.’

Nancy did not seat herself, and offered no seat to the visitor.

‘Why have you made yourself a shop-girl?’

‘I didn’t know that I had.’

‘I am told you go daily to some shop or other.’

‘I am engaged at a place of business, but I don’t.--However, that
doesn’t matter. What business is it of yours?’

‘Who is Mr. Luckworth Crewe?’

Nancy kept her eyes still more resolutely fronting his severe look.

‘A man I used to know.’

‘You don’t see him now-a-days?’

‘It’s many months since I saw him.’

‘Who, then, is the woman who has told him your whole story--with
embellishments, and who says she has had it from you yourself?’

Nancy was speechless.

‘I don’t say there is any such person,’ Tarrant continued. ‘The man may
have lied in that particular. But he has somehow got to know a good deal
about you,--where and when your child was born, where it is now, where
I live, and so on. And all this he has reported to your aunt, Mrs.

‘To her?--How do you know?’

For answer he held out Mrs. Damerel’s note of invitation, then added:

‘I have been with her this afternoon. She is coming to offer you her
protection against the scoundrel who has ruined you, and who is now
living upon you.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘That’s the form the story has taken, either in Mr. Crewe’s mind, or in
that of the woman who told it to him.’

‘Don’t they know that I am married?’

‘Evidently not.’

‘And they think you--are having money from me?’

‘That’s how they explain your taking a place in a shop.’

Nancy laughed, and laughed again.

‘How ridiculous!’

‘I’m glad you can get amusement out of it. Perhaps you can suggest how
the joke began?’

She moved a few steps, then turned again to him.

‘Yes, I know who the woman must be. It’s Beatrice French.’

‘A bosom friend of yours, of course.’

‘Nothing of the kind.’

‘But you have taken her into your confidence--up to a certain point?’

‘Yes, I have told her. And she told Mr. Crewe? I understand that. Well,
what does it matter?’

Tarrant was at a loss to interpret this singular levity. He had never
truly believed that reading of Nancy’s character by means of which he
tried to persuade himself that his marriage was an unmitigated calamity,
and a final parting between them the best thing that could happen.
His memories of her, and the letters she had written him, coloured her
personality far otherwise. Yet was not the harsh judgment after all the
true one?

‘It doesn’t matter to you,’ he said, ‘that people think you an unmarried
mother,--that people are talking about you with grins and sneers?’

Nancy reddened in angry shame.

‘Let them talk!’ she exclaimed violently. ‘What does it matter, so long
as they don’t know I’m married?’

‘So long as they don’t know?--How came you to tell this woman?’

‘Do you suppose I told her for amusement? She found out what had
happened at Falmouth,--found out simply by going down there and making
inquiries; because she suspected me of some secret affair with a man she
wants to marry herself--this Mr. Crewe. The wonder of wonders is that
no one else got to know of it in that way. Any one who cared much what
happened to me would have seen the all but impossibility of keeping such
a secret.’

It is a notable instance of evolutionary process that the female mind,
in wrath, flies to just those logical ineptitudes which most surely
exasperate the male intelligence. Tarrant gave a laugh of irate scorn.

‘Why, you told me the other day that I cared particularly whether your
secret was discovered or not--that I only married you in the hope of
profiting by it?’

‘Wouldn’t any woman think so?’

‘I hope not. I believe there are some women who don’t rush naturally to
a base supposition.’

‘Did I?’ Nancy exclaimed, with a vehement passion that made her breast
heave. ‘Didn’t I give you time enough--believe in you until I could
believe no longer?’

The note of her thrilling voice went to Tarrant’s heart, and his head

‘That may be true,’ he said gravely. ‘But go on with your explanation.
This woman came to you, and told you what she had discovered?’


‘And you allowed her to think you unmarried?’

‘What choice had I? How was my child to be brought up if I lost

‘Good God, Nancy! Did you imagine I should leave you to starve?’

His emotion, his utterance of her name, caused her to examine him with a
kind of wonder.

‘How did I know?--How could I tell, at that time, whether you were alive
or dead?--I had to think of myself and the child.’

‘My poor girl!’

The words fell from him involuntarily. Nancy’s look became as scornful
and defiant as before.

‘Oh, that was nothing. I’ve gone through a good deal more than that.’

‘Stop. Tell me this. Have you in your anger--anger natural
enough--allowed yourself to speak to any one about me in the way I
should never forgive? In the spirit of your letter, I mean. Did you give
this Beatrice French any ground for thinking that I made a speculation
of you?’

‘I said nothing of that kind.’

‘Nor to any one else?’

‘To no one.’

‘Yet you told this woman where I was living, and that I had been abroad
for a long time. Why?’

‘Yes, I told her so much about you,’ Nancy replied. ‘Not when she first
came to me, but afterwards--only the other day. I wanted employment, and
didn’t know how to get it, except through her. She promised me a place
if I would disclose your name; not that she knew or cared anything
about _you_, but because she still had suspicions about Mr. Crewe. I was
desperate, and I told her.’

‘Desperate? Why?’

‘How can I make you understand what I have gone through? What do you
care? And what do _I_ care whether you understand or not? It wasn’t for
money, and Beatrice French knew it wasn’t.’

‘Then it must have been that you could not bear the monotony of your

Her answer was a short, careless laugh.

‘Where is this shop? What do you do?’

‘It’s a dress-supply association. I advise fools about the fashions,
and exhibit myself as a walking fashion-plate. I can’t see how it should
interest you.’

‘Whatever concerns you, Nancy, interests me more than anything else in
the world.’

Again she laughed.

‘What more do you want to know?’

She was half turned from him, leaning at the mantelpiece, a foot on the

‘You said just now that you have gone through worse things than the
shame of being thought unmarried. Tell me about it all.’

‘Not I, indeed. When I was willing to tell you everything, you didn’t
care to hear it. It’s too late now.’

‘It’s not too late, happily, to drag you out of this wretched slough
into which you are sinking. Whatever the cost, _that_ shall be done!’

‘Thank you, I am not disposed to let any one drag me anywhere. I want
no help; and if I did, you would be the last person I should accept it
from. I don’t know why you came here after the agreement we made the
other night.’

Tarrant stepped towards her.

‘I came to find out whether you were telling lies about me, and I should
never have thought it possible but for my bad conscience. I know you had
every excuse for being embittered and for acting revengefully. It seems
you have only told lies about yourself. As, after all, you are my wife,
I shan’t allow that.’

Once more she turned upon him passionately.

‘I am _not_ your wife! You married me against your will, and shook me
off as soon as possible. I won’t be bound to you; I shall act as a free

‘Bound to me you are, and shall be--as I to you.’

‘You may say it fifty times, and it will mean nothing.--How bound to
you? Bound to share my money?’

‘I forgive you that, because I have treated you ill. You don’t mean it
either. You know I am incapable of such a thought. But that shall very
soon be put right. Your marriage shall be made known at once.’

‘Known to whom?’

‘To the people concerned--to your guardians.’

‘Don’t trouble yourself,’ she answered, with a smile. ‘They know it

Tarrant half closed his eyes as he looked at her.

‘What’s the use of such a silly falsehood?’

‘I told you I had gone through a good deal more than you imagined. I
have struggled to keep my money, in spite of shames and miseries, and I
will have it for myself--and my child! If you want to know the truth,
go to Samuel Barmby, and ask him what he has had to do with me. I owe no
explanation to _you_.’

Tarrant could see her face only in profile. Marvelling at the
complications she gradually revealed, he felt his blood grow warm with
desire of her beauty. She was his wife, yet guarded as by maidenhood.
A familiar touch would bring the colour to her cheeks, the light of
resentment to her eyes. Passion made him glad of the estrangement which
compelled a new wooing, and promised, on her part, a new surrender.

‘You don’t owe it me, Nancy; but if I beg you to tell me all--because
I have come to my senses again--because I know how foolish and cruel I
have been--’

‘Remember what we agreed. Go your way, and let me go mine.’

‘I had no idea of what I was agreeing to. I took it for granted that
your marriage was strictly a secret, and that you might be free in the
real sense if you chose.’

‘Yes, and you were quite willing, because it gave you your freedom as
well. I am as free as I wish to be. I have made a life for myself
that satisfies me--and now you come to undo everything. I won’t be
tormented--I have endured enough.’

‘Then only one course is open to me. I shall publish your marriage
everywhere. I shall make a home for you, and have the child brought to
it; then come or not, as you please.’

At mention of the child Nancy regarded him with cold curiosity.

‘How are you to make a home for me? I thought you had difficulty enough
in supporting yourself.’

‘That is no concern of yours. It shall be done, and in a day or two.
Then make your choice.’

‘You think I can be forced to live with a man I don’t love?’

‘I shouldn’t dream of living with a woman who didn’t love me. But you
are married, and a mother, and the secrecy that is degrading you shall
come to an end. Acknowledge me or not, I shall acknowledge _you_, and
make it known that I am to blame for all that has happened.’

‘And what good will you do?’

‘I shall do good to myself, at all events. I’m a selfish fellow, and
shall be so to the end, no doubt.’

Nancy glanced at him to interpret the speech by his expression. He was

‘What good will it do you to have to support me? The selfishness I see
in it is your wishing to take me from a comfortable home and make me

‘That can’t be helped. And, what’s more, you won’t think it a hardship.’

‘How do you know that? I have borne dreadful degradations rather than
lose my money.’

‘That was for the child’s sake, not for your own.’

He said it softly and kindly, and for the first time Nancy met his eyes
without defiance.

‘It was; I could always have earned my own living, somehow.’

Tarrant paused a moment, then spoke with look averted.

‘Is he well, and properly cared for?’

‘If he were not well and safe, I shouldn’t be away from him.’

‘When will you let me see him, Nancy?’

She did not smile, but there was a brightening of her countenance, which
she concealed. Tarrant stepped to her side.

‘Dear--my own love--will you try to forgive me? It was all my cursed
laziness. It would never have happened if I hadn’t fallen into poverty.
Poverty is the devil, and it overcame me.’

‘How can you think that _I_ shall be strong enough to face it?’ she
asked, moving half a step away. ‘Leave me to myself; I am contented; I
have made up my mind about what is before me, and I won’t go through all
that again.’

Tired of standing, she dropped upon the nearest chair, and lay back.

‘You can’t be contented, Nancy, in a position that dishonours you. From
what you tell me, it seems that your secret is no secret at all. Will
you compel me to go to that man Barmby and seek information from him
about my own wife?’

‘I have had to do worse things than that.’

‘Don’t torture me by such vague hints. I entreat you to tell me at once
the worst that you have suffered. How did Barmby get to know of your
marriage? And why has he kept silent about it? There can’t be anything
that you are ashamed to say.’

‘No. The shame is all yours.’

‘I take it upon myself, all of it; I ought never to have left you; but
that baseness followed only too naturally on the cowardice which kept
me from declaring our marriage when honour demanded it. I have played a
contemptible part in this story; don’t refuse to help me now that I am
ready to behave more like a man. Put your hand in mine, and let us be
friends, if we mayn’t be more.’

She sat irresponsive.

‘You were a brave girl. You consented to my going away because it seemed
best, and I took advantage of your sincerity. Often enough that last
look of yours has reproached me. I wonder how I had the heart to leave
you alone.’

Nancy raised herself, and said coldly:

‘It was what I might have expected. I had only my own folly to thank.
You behaved as most men would.’

This was a harder reproach than any yet. Tarrant winced under it. He
would much rather have been accused of abnormal villainy.

‘And I was foolish,’ continued Nancy, ‘in more ways than you knew. You
feared I had told Jessica Morgan of our marriage, and you were right; of
course I denied it. She has been the cause of my worst trouble.’

In rapid sentences she told the story of her successive humiliations,
recounted her sufferings at the hands of Jessica and Beatrice and Samuel
Barmby. When she ceased, there were tears in her eyes.

‘Has Barmby been here again?’ Tarrant asked sternly.

‘Yes. He has been twice, and talked in just the same way, and I had to
sit still before him--’

‘Has he said one word that--?’

‘No, no,’ she interrupted hastily. ‘He’s only a fool--not man enough

‘That saves me trouble,’ said Tarrant; ‘I have only to treat him like
a fool. My poor darling, what vile torments you have endured! And
you pretend that you would rather live on this fellow’s interested
generosity--for, of course, he hopes to be rewarded--than throw the
whole squalid entanglement behind you and be a free, honest woman, even
if a poor one?’

‘I see no freedom.’

‘You have lost all your love for me. Well, I can’t complain of that. But
bear my name you shall, and be supported by me. I tell you that it was
never _possible_ for me actually to desert you and the little one--never
possible. I shirked a duty as long as I could; that’s all it comes to.
I loafed and paltered until the want of a dinner drove me into honesty.
Try to forget it, dear Nancy. Try to forgive me, my dearest!’

She was dry-eyed again, and his appeal seemed to have no power over her

‘You are forgetting,’ she said practically, ‘that I have lived on money
to which I had no right, and that I--or you--can be forced to repay it.’

‘Repaid it must be, whether demanded or not. Where does Barmby live?
Perhaps I could see him to-night.’

‘What means have you of keeping us all alive?’

‘Some of my work has been accepted here and there; but there’s something
else I have in mind. I don’t ask you to become a poverty-stricken wife
in the ordinary way. I can’t afford to take a house. I must put you,
with the child, into as good lodgings as I can hope to pay for, and work
on by myself, just seeing you as often as you will let me. Even if you
were willing, it would be a mistake for us to live together. For one
thing, I couldn’t work under such conditions; for another, it would
make you a slave. Tell me: are you willing to undertake the care of the
child, if nothing else is asked of you?’

Nancy gave him a disdainful smile, a smile like those of her girlhood.

‘I’m not quite so feeble a creature as you think me.’

‘You would rather have the child to yourself, than be living away from

‘If you have made up your mind, why trouble to ask such questions?’

‘Because I have no wish to force burdens upon you. You said just now
that you could see little prospect of freedom in such a life as I have
to offer you. I thought you perhaps meant that the care of the child

‘I meant nothing,’ Nancy broke in, with fretful impatience.

‘Where is he--our boy?’

‘At Dulwich. I told you that in my last letter.’

‘Yes--yes. I thought you might have changed.’

‘I couldn’t have found a better, kinder woman. Can you guess how many
answers I had to the advertisement? Thirty-two.’

‘Of course five-and-twenty of them took it for granted you would pay so
much a week and ask no questions. They would just not have starved the
baby,--unless you had hinted to them that you were willing to pay a lump
sum for a death-certificate, in which case the affair would have been
more or less skilfully managed.’

‘Mary knew all about that. She came from Falmouth, and spent two days
in visiting people. I knew I could rely on her judgment. There were only
four or five people she cared to see at all, and of these only one that
seemed trustworthy.’

‘To be sure. One out of two-and-thirty. A higher percentage than would
apply to mankind at large, I dare say. By-the-bye, I was afraid you
might have found a difficulty in registering the birth.’

‘No. I went to the office myself, the morning that I was leaving
Falmouth, and the registrar evidently knew nothing about me. It isn’t
such a small place that everybody living there is noticed and talked

‘And Mary took the child straight to Dulwich?’

‘Two days before I came,--so as to have the house ready for me.

‘Perhaps it was unfortunate, Nancy, that you had so good a friend. But
for that, I should have suffered more uneasiness about you.’

She answered with energy:

‘There is no husband in the world worth such a friend as Mary.’

At this Tarrant first smiled, then laughed. Nancy kept her lips rigid.
It happened that he again saw her face in exact profile, and again it
warmed the current of his blood.

‘Some day you shall think better of that.’

She paid no attention. Watching her, he asked:

‘What are you thinking of so earnestly?’

Her answer was delayed a little, but she said at length, with an absent

‘Horace might lend me the money to pay back what I owe.’

‘Your brother?--If he can afford it, there would be less objection to
that than to any other plan I can think of. But I must ask it myself;
you shall beg no more favours. I will ask it in your presence.’

‘You will do nothing of the kind,’ Nancy replied drily. ‘If you think to
please me by humiliating yourself, you are very much mistaken. And you
mustn’t imagine that I put myself into your hands to be looked after
as though I had no will of my own. With the past you have nothing to
do,--with _my_ past, at all events. Care for the future as you like.’

‘But I must see your guardians.’

‘No. I won’t have that.’

She stood up to emphasise her words.

‘I must. It’s the only way in which I can satisfy myself--’

‘Then I refuse to take a step,’ said Nancy. ‘Leave all that to me, and I
will go to live where you please, and never grumble, however poor I
am. Interfere, and I will go on living as now, on Samuel Barmby’s

There was no mistaking her resolution. Tarrant hesitated, and bit his

‘How long, then, before you act?’ he inquired abruptly.

‘When my new home is found, I am ready to go there.’

‘You will deal honestly with me? You will tell every one, and give up
everything not strictly yours?’

‘I have done with lies,’ said Nancy.

‘Thank heaven, so have I!’

Part VI: A Virtue of Necessity


Upon the final tempest in De Crespigny Park there followed, for Arthur
Peachey, a calmer and happier season than he had ever known. To have
acted with stern resolve is always a satisfaction, especially to the man
conscious of weak good-nature, and condemned for the most part to yield.
In his cheap lodging at Clapham, Peachey awoke each morning with a
vague sense of joy, which became delight as soon as he had collected his
senses. He was a free man. No snarl greeted him as he turned his head
upon the pillow; he could lie and meditate, could rise quietly when the
moment sounded, could go downstairs to a leisurely meal, cheered perhaps
by a letter reporting that all was well with his dear little son.
Simple, elementary pleasures, but how he savoured them after his years
of sordid bondage!

It was the blessedness of divorce, without squalid publicity. It was the
vast relief of widowerhood, without dreary memories of death and burial.

In releasing himself from such companionship, the man felt as though he
had washed and become clean.

Innocent of scientific speculation, he had the misfortune about this
time to read in paper or magazine something on the subject of heredity,
the idle verbiage of some half-informed scribbler. It set him anxiously
thinking whether his son would develop the vices of the mother’s mind,
and from that day he read all the printed chatter regarding natural
inheritance that he could lay his hands on. The benefit he derived from
this course of study was neither more nor less than might have been
expected; it supplied him with a new trouble, which sometimes kept
him wakeful. He could only resolve that his boy should have the best
education procurable for money, if he starved himself in providing it.

He had begun to live with the utmost economy, and for a twofold reason:
the business of Messrs Ducker, Blunt & Co. threatened a decline, and,
this apart, he desired to get out of it, to obtain an interest in some
more honourable concern. For a long time it had been known to him that
the disinfectants manufactured by his firm were far from trustworthy,
and of late the complaints of purchasers had become frequent. With the
manufacturing department he had nothing to do; he tried to think himself
free from responsibility; for, in spite of amiable qualities, he was
a man of business, and saw a great part of life through the commercial
spectacles commonly worn now-a-days. Nevertheless conscience unsettled
him. One day he heard his partners joking over the legislative omission
by virtue of which they were able to adulterate their disinfectants to
any extent without fear of penalty; their laughter grated upon him, and
he got out of the way. If he could lay aside a few thousands of pounds,
assuredly his connection with the affair should be terminated. So he
lived, for his own part, on a pound a week, and informed Ada through
his solicitor that she must be satisfied with a certain very moderate

Mrs. Peachey naturally laid herself out to give every one as much
trouble as possible. Insulting post-cards showered upon her husband at
his place of business. After a few weeks she discovered his lodging, and
addressed the post-cards thither; but she made no attempt at personal
molestation. The loss of her child gave her not the slightest concern,
yet she determined to find out where the boy was living. She remembered
that Peachey had relatives at Canterbury, and after a troublesome search
succeeded in her purpose. An interview with her husband’s married sister
proved so unsatisfactory to Ada, that she had recourse to her familiar
weapons, rage, insult, and menace; with the result that she was forcibly
removed, and made a scandal in the quiet street.

Then she consulted men of law, and found one who encouraged her to sue
for restitution of conjugal rights. It came to nothing, however; for in
the meantime she was growing tired of her solitary existence,--friends
of course she had none,--and the spirit moved her to try a change of

She wrote a long, long letter, penitent, tear-bestained. ‘I have behaved
outrageously to you, dearest Arthur; I must have been mad to say and do
such things. The doctor tells me that my health has been in a very
bad state for a long time, and I really don’t remember half that has
happened. You were quite right when you told me that I should be better
if I didn’t live such an idle life, and I have quite, quite made up my
mind to be an industrious and a _good_ woman. All yesterday I spent
in needlework and crying. Oh, the tears that I have shed! My darling
husband, what can I do to win your forgiveness? Do consider how lonely I
am in this house. Beatrice has been horrid to me. If I said all I think
about _her_, she wouldn’t like to hear it; but I am learning to control
my tongue. She lives alone in a flat, and has men to spend every evening
with her; it’s disgraceful! And there’s Fanny, who I am sure is leading
an immoral life abroad. Of course I shall never speak to her again. You
were quite right when you said my sisters were worthless.’--Peachey had
never permitted himself any such remark.--‘I will have no one but you,
my dear, good, sweet husband.’

So on, over several pages. Reading it, the husband stood aghast at this
new revelation of female possibilities; at the end, he hurriedly threw
it into the fire, fearing, and with good reason, that weakness in his
own character to which the woman addressed herself.

Every day for a week there arrived a replica of this epistle, and at
length he answered. It was the fatal concession. Though he wrote with
almost savage severity, Ada replied in terms of exuberant gratitude.
Oh, how delighted she was to see his dear handwriting once more! How it
reminded her of happy days, when they loved each other so tenderly! Then
came two strophes of a sentimental drawing-room song, and lastly, an
impassioned appeal to be allowed to see her husband, were it only for
five minutes.

Another week of such besieging, and the poor fellow’s foolish heart gave
way. He would see the wretched woman, and tell her that, though never
could he consent to live with her again, he had no malicious feeling,
and was willing to be her friend at a distance. So, at six o’clock one
evening, behold him tremulously approaching the house in De Crespigny
Park,--tremulously, because he dreaded the assault upon his emotions to
which he so recklessly exposed himself. He was admitted by a very young
servant, in a very clean cap and apron. Silence possessed the
dwelling; he did not venture to tread with natural step. He entered
the drawing-room, and there, from amid a heap of household linen which
required the needle, rose the penitent wife. Ostentatiously she drew
from her finger a thimble, then advanced with head bent.

‘How kind of you, Arthur! How--how very--’

And she was dissolved in tears--so genuine, that they marked pale
rillets across the bloom of her cheeks.

About a month after that the furniture was removed from De Crespigny
Park to a much smaller house at Brixton, where Mr. and Mrs. Peachey
took up their abode together. A medical man shortly called, and Ada,
not without secret disgust, smilingly made known to her husband that she
must now be very careful of her health.

On one point only the man had held to a rational resolve; he would not
allow his little son to be brought back to London, away from the home
where he was happy and thriving. Out of mere self-will Ada strove for a
long time to overcome this decision; finding argument and artifice of no
avail, she dropped the matter. Peachey owed this triumph largely to the
firm commonsense of his sister, who plainly refused to let the little
fellow quit her care for that of such a woman as he was unfortunate
enough to call mother.

Christmas came, and with it an unanticipated call from Miss. Fanny
French, who said she had lately recovered from a serious illness in
Paris; the nature of her malady she did not specify; it had left her
haggard and thin, but by no means deficient in vivacity. She was dressed
with tawdry extravagance, wore a mass of false yellow hair, had her
eyebrows dyed black,--piquant contrast,--and her cheeks and lips richly
carmined. No veritable information as to her past and present could be
gleaned from the mixture of French and English which she ceaselessly
gabbled. She had come over for Christmas, that was all; could not dream
of returning to live in wretched England. At Brussels and in Paris she
had made hosts of friends, just the right sort of people.

Ada told her all the news. Of most interest was that which related to
Nancy Lord. Only a month ago it had become known that Nancy was married,
and the mother of a child.

‘The Barmbys found it out somehow,’ Ada narrated. ‘She was married to a
man called Tarrant, some one we never heard of, on the very day of her
father’s death, and, of course, before she knew anything about his will.
Then, of course, it had to be kept dark, or she’d lose all her money.
Her husband hadn’t a farthing. She supported him, and they say he lived
most of the time in her house. He’s a regular scamp, a drinking, betting
fellow. Well, it all came out, and the Barmbys turned her into the
street at a moment’s notice--serve her right!’

Fanny shrieked with merriment.

‘And what is she doing?’

‘She went on her knees to Beatrice, and begged for a place at the shop,
if it was only a few shillings a week. Nice come-down for Nancy Lord,
wasn’t it? Of course Beatrice sent her off with a flea in her ear. I
don’t know where she’s living, but I’ve heard that her husband has gone
to America, and left her to shift for herself, now there’s nothing more
to be got out of her.’

For supplementary details of this racy narrative, Fanny sought out
Beatrice; but to her astonishment and annoyance Beatrice would tell
nothing. The elder sister urged Fanny to give an account of herself, and
used some very plain speech of the admonitory kind.

‘What has become of that jackanapes, Horace Lord?’ asked Fanny, after a
contemptuous remark about ‘sermons.’

‘I don’t know. The question is, what’s going to become of _you_?’

Whereupon the girl grew vituperative in two languages, and made off. Her
relatives saw no more of her for a long time.

To Mrs. Peachey was born a daughter. Naturally, the months preceding
this event had been, for her husband, a renewal of martyrdom; his one
supporting solace lay in the thought of the little lad at Canterbury.
All the old troubles were revived; from morning to night the house rang
with brawls between mistress and servants; in the paroxysms favoured
by her physical condition, Ada behaved like a candidate for Bedlam, and
more than once obliged her husband to seek temporary peace in lodgings.
He left home at eight o’clock every morning, and returned as late as
possible. The necessity of passing long evenings made him haunt places
of entertainment, and he sometimes had recourse to drink,--he by
nature the soberest of men,--in fear of what awaited him on his tardy
appearance at Brixton. A month after Ada’s confinement he once more
acted a sane part, and announced by letter that he would die rather than
continue living with his wife. As it was fine autumn weather he went
down to a seaside place, where his Canterbury relatives and the little
boy joined him for a holiday of several weeks. Again Ada was to receive
an allowance. She despatched a few very virulent post-cards, but
presently grew quiet, and appeared to accept the situation.

In early winter Fanny French came over to England. She had again been
ill, and this time with results obviously graver. Her first call was
upon Beatrice, who still occupied the flat at Brixton, and here she
unbosomed herself of a dolorous story. All her money had vanished;
stolen, most of it, Fanny declared; she was without resources, and, as
any one could see, in a wretched state of health. Would Beatrice have
compassion on her? Would she lend her money till she was well enough to
‘look round’?

Miss. French at once took the girl into her own home, and had her looked
after. Fanny coughed in an alarming way; the doctor, speaking privately
with Beatrice, made an unpleasant report; was it possible to send the
patient to a mild climate for the winter months? Yes, Miss. French could
manage that, and would. A suitable attendant having been procured, Fanny
was despatched to Bournemouth, whence, in a day or two, she wrote to her
sister thus:

‘You’ve been awfully kind to me, and I shan’t forget it when I’m well
again. Feel a good deal fitter already. Dullish place this, but I’ve got
to put up with it. I’ve had a letter from Ada. If you see her, tell her
she’s a beast, and I wish Arthur would wring her scraggy neck. She says
it’s all my own fault; wait till I’m back again, and I’ll pay her a
call. My own fault indeed! It seems to me I’m very much to be pitied.’

Walking one day along the sea-front by herself, Fanny observed a young
man’s figure a few paces in advance of her, which seemed to awaken
recollections. Presently the young man turned and showed, beyond doubt,
the countenance of Horace Lord. He met her eyes, gave a doubtful,
troubled look, and was going past when Fanny accosted him.

‘Well, don’t you know me?’

‘Why, it _is_--it really _is_! How glad I am to see you! But what on
earth are you doing here?’

‘Amusing myself--_comme vous voyez_; and you?’

‘Oh, doing the same.’

They had shaken hands, and were sauntering on together.

‘Anything wrong with your health?’ Fanny asked, scrutinising the pale
thin face, with its touch of warmth on the cheeks.

‘Oh, I’ve had a bit of a cold; nothing to speak of. You been out of

‘A little run down. Over-study, they say.’

Horace looked his surprise.

‘Why, I didn’t know you went in for that kind of thing.’

‘Didn’t you? I’ve been studying abroad for a long time. Thinking of
taking a place as French teacher in some tip-top high school.’

‘I am very glad to hear it. Capital idea. Sure I hope you’ll be

‘Thanks awf’ly. Tell me something about yourself. Why, it’s two years
since we saw each other, isn’t it? Are you married yet?’

Horace smiled and coloured.

‘No, no--not yet. I’m in business with Luckworth Crewe,--sort of
sleeping partner just now.’

‘Are you really? And how’s your sister?’

The young man bent his brows uncomfortably.

‘Don’t you know anything about her?’ he asked.

‘I’ve heard she’s married.’

‘Yes, a man called Tarrant. Very clever fellow; he writes for the
papers.--I say, Miss. French, I generally have a glass of wine and a
biscuit, at the confectioner’s, about this time. Will you give me the
pleasure of your company?’

‘_Charmee_, _Monsieur_! I generally go in for the same kind of thing.’

So they repaired to the cake-shop, and sat talking for half-an-hour of
trifles which made them laugh.

‘And you really didn’t know me?’ said Fanny, when her glass of wine was
finished. ‘Have I changed so much?’

‘A good deal. Not for the worse, oh dear no!’

The girl giggled.

‘Well, I don’t mind saying that _you_ have changed a good deal for the

Horace flushed at the compliment.

‘I’m much older,’ he answered with a sigh, as though the years of a
sexagenarian weighed upon him.

‘That’s just what I like in you. You’re so much more of a man. Don’t be

They went forth again into the sunshine. At the door both coughed, and
both pretended that it wasn’t a cough at all, but a voluntary little


Mrs. Damerel was younger than ever. She had spent October abroad, with
her friends Mrs. and Miss. Chittle, and the greater part of November at
Brighton, with other friends. Back in town she established herself
at one of the various boarding-houses honoured by her patronage, and
prepared to enjoy the social life of winter.

Half a year ago an unwonted depression had troubled her serene
existence. At the close of the London season she seemed weary and
spiritless, very unlike herself; having no invitation for the next two
months, she withdrew to Whitsand, and there spent some cheerless weeks.

Whitsand was the as yet unfashionable seaside place which had attracted
the speculative eye of Luckworth Crewe. For the past two years he had
been trying to inspire certain men of capital with his own faith in
the possibilities of Whitsand; he owned a share in the new hotel just
opened; whenever his manifold affairs allowed him a day’s holiday,
he spent it at Whitsand, pacing the small esplanade, and meditating
improvements. That these ‘improvements’ signified the conversion of a
pretty little old-world spot into a hideous brand new resort of noisy
hordes, in no degree troubled Mr. Crewe’s conscience. For his own part,
he could appreciate the charms of Whitsand as it stood; he was by
no means insensible to natural beauty and the ancient peace which so
contrasted with his life of every day; but first and foremost in his
mind came the necessity of making money; and to fill his pockets he
would no more hesitate about destroying the loveliest spot on earth,
than the starving hunter would stay his hand out of admiration for bird
or beast.

It was with much delight that he heard of Mrs. Damerel’s retreat to
Whitsand. To the note in which she acquainted him with her arrival
there he replied effusively. ‘The patronage of a few really fashionable
people, such as yourself, would soon do wonders. We must have a
special paragraph in the local paper, drawing attention to your being
there’--and so on. An answer by return of post rather disappointed him.
On no account, wrote Mrs. Damerel, must her name be specially mentioned
in the paper. She had taken very simple lodgings, very inexpensive, and
wished to live as quietly as possible. But, after seeing the place, she
quite agreed with Mr Crewe that it had a future, and if he could run
down some day, whilst she was here, it would give her great pleasure to
hear his projects explained on the spot.

Crewe ran down. In speaking of Mrs. Damerel as a ‘really fashionable’
person, he used no insincerity; from their first meeting he had seen in
this lady his ideal of social distinction; she was, in fact, the only
woman of skilfully pretentious demeanour with whom he had ever spoken.
Her distant likeness to Nancy Lord interested and attracted him; her
suave superiority awed his conscious roughness; she seemed to him
exquisitely gracious, wonderfully sweet. And as, little by little,
he attained the right to think of her almost as a friend, his humble
admiration became blended with feelings he took particular care not to
betray, lest he should expose himself to ridicule. That her age exceeded
his own by some years he was of course aware, but this fact soon dropped
out of his mind, and never returned to it. Not only did he think Mrs.
Damerel a type of aristocratic beauty, he saw in her countenance all the
freshness and the promise of youth.

The slight mystery attaching to her position only increased his
susceptibility to her charms. It seemed to him very probable that she
had but a moderate income; perhaps she was not free from anxieties on
that score. But such a woman would of course marry again, and marry
well. The thought grew troublesome, and presently accounted for
ebullitions of wrath, accompanied by more than usually vigorous
language, when business matters went wrong.

At Whitsand, Mrs. Damerel showed herself more than ever sweetly affable.
The season, she said, had been rather too much for her; she must
take care of her health; besides--and her smile played upon Crewe’s
pulses--there were troubles, cares, of which she could not speak _even_
to so valued a friend.

‘I’m afraid you’re anxious about your nephew,’ murmured the man of
business; though at the same time he suspected other things, for the
lodgings in which he found Mrs. Damerel were certainly modest.

‘Yes, I trouble a good deal about him. If only dear Horace would be
reconciled to me. It seems such a long, long time. You know that we have
corresponded, but he refuses to see me. It pains me deeply, Mr Crewe.’

And, after a silence:

‘There’s a special reason why I wish he would be friends with me,--a
reason that concerns his own future. Why should I not tell you? I
am sure you will respect my confidence.--He will very soon become
independent, and then I do so fear he may make a foolish marriage. Yet
all the time there is a chance waiting for him which would establish his
fortune and his happiness for life. Did he ever speak to you of Miss.

‘I don’t remember the name.’

‘Such a dear, sweet girl, and with really large means. He was introduced
to her during the happy time when we saw so much of each other, and she
at once became interested in him. Her dear mother assured me of it. She
is a very shy, retiring girl, and has refused many offers, before and
since then. Isn’t it a pity? But I am losing all hope, and I so fear he
may have formed some other attachment.’

Crewe went back to London resolved that Horace Lord should no longer
‘play the fool.’ And he was successful. Horace had all but lost
his resentment against Mrs. Damerel; he kept aloof out of stubborn
conceit--it had not dignity enough to be called pride; the same feeling
that still estranged him from Nancy, though he would gladly have
welcomed his sister’s offer of affection. Persuaded, or commanded, by
Luckworth Crewe, he took the train to Whitsand, and remained there
for several days. Mrs. Damerel wrote her friend in Farringdon Street
a letter of gratitude, which acted upon him like champagne. In a
postscript she said: ‘Mrs. Chittle and her daughter have consented to
come here for a week or two. They will take rooms at the Imperial.’

Before the end of September, Horace Lord was engaged to Winifred

Two years had made very little change in Miss. Chittle’s appearance. She
was still colourless and abnormally shy, still had the look of one who
sheds secret tears, and her repugnance to Society had, if possible,
increased. Horace thought her pretty, was impressed by her extreme
gentleness and refinement, but she obtained no power over his emotions
such as that formerly exercised by Fanny French. It struck him, too, as
a very strange thing, that a young lady with a large fortune should be
willing to marry a man of his social insignificance. ‘My dear,’ said
Mrs. Damerel, ‘it was a case of love at first sight.’ But Horace, who
had gained some experience of life, could not believe this. He wooed,
and won; yet even when Winifred accepted him, he felt that she did it
under some constraint. Her pale face declared no happiness.

Had she chosen, Mrs. Damerel could have explained the mystery. She knew
that, several years ago, Winifred’s name had been blighted by a scandal,
and that the girl’s shrinking from every proposal of marriage was due,
in part perhaps, to the memory of love betrayed, in part to a sense of
honour, and to the suspicion that men, knowing her disgrace, condoned
it for the sake of her wealth. Interest made Mrs. Damerel generous;
she admitted every excuse for Winifred, and persuaded herself that in
procuring Horace such a wife she was doing him only a nominal wrong. The
young people could live apart from that corner of Society in which Miss.
Chittle’s name gave occasion to smiles or looks of perfunctory censure.
If Winifred, after marriage, chose to make confession, why, that was her
own affair, and Horace would be wise enough, all advantages considered,
to take the matter philosophically.

That was the view of a practical-minded observer. To read Winifred
perfectly, there needed a much more subtle and sympathetic intelligence.
The girl had, in truth, conceived a liking for Horace Lord, and it grew
stronger when she learnt that neither by birth nor present circumstances
did he belong to her own world. To please her mother she was willing to
take a husband, but the husband must be of her own choice. She wished to
enter upon a wholly new life, remote from the social conditions which
of late years had crushed her spirit. From the men who had hitherto
approached her, she shrank in fear. Horace Lord, good-looking and not
uneducated, yet so far from formidable, suggested a new hope; even
though he might be actuated by the ordinary motives, she discerned in
him a softness, a pliability of nature, which would harmonise with her
own timid disposition. To the thought of deceiving him on the subject of
her past, she was reconciled by a resolve to make his happiness the sole
object of her existence in the future. Horace was amiability itself, and
seemed, if not to love her ardently (which, perhaps, she did not even
desire), at least to regard her with an increasing affection.

Nothing was said about the condition of the prospective bridegroom’s
health, though Horace had confided to Mrs. Damerel that he suffered from
a troublesome cough, accompanied now and then by an alarming symptom. In
her boundless exultation at the end achieved, Mrs. Damerel made light of
this complaint. Horace was not free to marry until nearly the end of
the year; for, though money would henceforth be no matter of anxiety,
he might as well secure the small inheritance presently due to him.
November and December he should spend at Bournemouth under the best
medical care, and after that, if needful, his wife would go with him to
Madeira or some such place.

No wonder Mrs. Damerel could think of nothing but the great fact that
Horace had secured a fortune. Her own resources were coming to an end,
and but for the certainty that Horace would not grudge her an ample
provision, she must at this moment have been racking her brains (even
as through the summer) for help against the evil that drew near.
Constitutional lightness of heart had enabled her to enjoy life on a
steadily, and rapidly, diminishing fund. There had been hope in Nancy’s
direction, as well as in her brother’s; but the disclosure of Nancy’s
marriage, and Horace’s persistency in unfriendliness, brought Mrs.
Damerel to a sense of peril. One offer of marriage she had received
and declined; it came from a man of advanced years and small property.
Another offer she might, or thought she might, at any moment provoke;
but only in direst extremity could she think of bestowing her hand upon
Luckworth Crewe. Crewe was in love with her, an amusing fact in itself,
and especially so in regard to his former relations with Nancy Lord. He
might become a wealthy man; on the other hand, he might not; and in any
case he was a plebeian.

All such miseries were now dismissed from her mind. She went abroad with
the Chittles, enjoyed herself at Brighton, and came home to prepare for
Horace’s wedding, Horace himself being at Bournemouth. After her letter
of gratitude to Crewe she had ceased to correspond with him; she did not
trouble to acquaint him with Horace’s engagement; and when Crewe,
having heard the news from his partner, ventured to send her a letter of
congratulation, Mrs. Damerel replied in two or three very civil but cold
sentences. Back in London, she did not invite the man of projects to
call upon her. The status she had lost when fears beset her must now be
recovered. Let Crewe cherish a passion for her if he liked, but let him
understand that social reasons made it laughably hopeless.

Horace was to come up to London in the third week of December, and to be
married on New Year’s Day; the honeymoon would be spent at Ventnor, or
somewhere thereabout. Afraid to lose sight of her relative for more than
a week or two, Mrs. Damerel had already been twice to Bournemouth, and
now she decided to go for a third time, just to talk quietly over the
forthcoming event, and, whether Horace broached the subject or not, to
apprise him of the straits into which she was drifting. Unannounced
by letter, she reached Bournemouth early in the afternoon, and went
straight to Horace’s lodgings. The young man had just finished luncheon,
and, all things considered, including the fact that it was a remarkably
bright and warm day for the time of year, he might have been expected to
welcome Mrs. Damerel cheerfully. Yet on seeing her his countenance
fell; he betrayed an embarrassment which the lady noted with anxious

‘Aren’t you glad to see me, dear boy?’ she began, with a kiss upon his

‘Yes--oh yes. I never dreamt of your appearing just now, that was all.’

‘I couldn’t resist the temptation. Such a morning in London! Almost as
fine as it is here. And how is your cough?’

Even as she made the inquiry, he answered it by coughing very badly.

‘I don’t think this place suits you, Horace,’ said Mrs. Damerel gravely.
‘You’re not imprudent, I hope? Don’t go out after dark?’

Oh, it was nothing, Horace maintained; for several days he had hardly
coughed at all. But with every word he uttered, Mrs. Damerel became more
convinced of something unusual in his state of mind; he could not keep
still, and, in trying to put himself at ease, assumed strange postures.

‘When did you hear from Winifred?’ she asked.

‘Yesterday--no, the day before.’

He shrank from her scrutiny, and an expression of annoyance began to
disturb his features. Mrs. Damerel knew well enough the significance
of that particular look; it meant the irritation of his self-will, the
summoning of forces to resist something he disliked.

‘There has been no difference between you, I hope?’

‘No--oh no,’ Horace replied, wriggling under her look.

At that moment a servant opened the door.

‘Two ladies have called in a carriage, sir, and would like to see you.’

‘I’ll go down. Excuse me for a moment, aunt.’

‘Who are they, Horace?’ asked Mrs. Damerel, rising with an ill-concealed
look of dismay.

‘Some friends I have made here. I’ll just go and speak to them.’

He hurried away. No sooner was he gone than Mrs. Damerel sprang to the
window, where she could look down upon the carriage standing before the
house; it was open, and in it sat two ladies, one middle-aged, the other
much younger. To her vexation she could not, from this distance, clearly
discern their faces; but on glancing rapidly round the room, she saw
Horace’s little binocular. An instant brought it into focus upon the
carriage, and what she then saw gave Mrs. Damerel such a shock, that an
exclamation escaped her. Still she gazed through the glasses, and only
turned away when the vehicle drove on.

Horace came up flushed and panting.

‘It’s all right. They wanted me to go for a drive, but I explained--’

He saw the binocular in Mrs. Damerel’s hand, and at the same moment read
detection on her countenance. She gazed at him; he answered the look
with lowering challenge.

‘Horace, that was Fanny French.’

‘So it was, aunt.’

‘What is going on between you?’

The young man took a seat on the edge of the table, and swung his leg.
He looked suddenly obstinate.

‘We met by accident--here--the other day.’

‘How can I believe that, Horace?’ said Mrs. Damerel, in a voice of soft
reproach. And she drew near to him. ‘Be truthful with me, dear. Do tell
me the truth!--Is she anything to you?’

‘I have told you the truth, aunt. She came here, as I have done, for her
health. I haven’t seen her for two years.’

‘And you don’t wish to renew acquaintance with her,--I’m sure you

He looked away, and said nothing.

‘My dear, do you know her character?’

‘What about her?’

The tone was startling, but Mrs. Damerel kept firm, though agitated.

‘She has led the most disgraceful life. I heard about her half a year
after she ran away, but of course I wouldn’t tell you such painful

Horace reddened with anger.

‘And who is to blame for it?’ he cried passionately. ‘Who drove her to

‘Oh, don’t, don’t come back to that again, Horace!’ pleaded the other.
‘How can any one drive a girl into a life of scandalous immorality? It
was in herself, dear. She took to it naturally, as so many women do.
Remember that letter she wrote from Brussels, which I sent you a copy

‘It was a forgery!’ thundered Horace. ‘I have asked her. She says she
never wrote any such letter.’

‘Then she lies, as such creatures always do.’

Bitterness of apprehension overcame Mrs. Damerel’s prudence. With
flashing eyes, she faced the young man and dared his wrath. As they
stood thus, the two were astonishingly like each other, from forehead to

‘It’s no use, I’m not going to quarrel with you, aunt. Think what you
like of Miss. French, _I_ know the truth about her.’

He slipped from the table, and moved away.

‘I will say no more, Horace. You are independent, and must have your own
acquaintances. But after you are married--’

The other voice interrupted.

‘I had better tell you at once. I shall not marry Miss. Chittle. I am
going to write this afternoon to break it off.’

Mrs. Damerel went pale, and stood motionless.

‘Horace, you can’t be so wicked as that!’

‘It’s better,’ he pursued recklessly, ‘to break it off now, than to
marry her and make her miserable. I don’t love her, and I have never
really thought I did. I was going to marry her only for her money.
Why she wants to marry me, I don’t know. There’s something wrong; she
doesn’t really care for me.’

‘She does! I assure you she does!’

‘Then I can’t help it.’

Mrs. Damerel went close to him, and touched his arm.

‘My dear,’--her voice was so low that it seemed terror-stricken,--‘you
don’t mean to marry--any one else?’

He drew apart, she followed him.

‘Oh, that would be terrible! What can I say to open your eyes and show
you what you are doing? Horace, have you no sense of honour? Can you
find it in your heart to cast off a girl who loves you, and thinks that
in so short a time she will be your wife?’

‘This again is your fault,’ he replied, with a violence which proved the
conflict of emotions in him. ‘But for you, I should never have proposed
to Winifred--never dreamt of such a thing. What do I want with her
money? I have enough of my own, and I shall make more in business. Why
have you driven me into this? Did you expect to get some profit out of

The blow struck home, and Mrs. Damerel flinched.

‘I had your happiness in view, my dear.’

‘My happiness! that’s your view of things; that’s why I couldn’t really
like you, from the first. You think of nothing but money. Why you
objected to Fanny French at first was because you wished me to marry
some one richer. I don’t thank you for that kind of happiness; I had
rather marry a woman I can love.’

‘And you can love such a creature as that?’

Again she lost her self-command; the mere thought of Fanny’s possible
triumph exasperated her.

‘I won’t hear her abused,’ cried Horace, with answering passion. ‘You
are the last person who ought to do it. Comparing her and you, I can’t
help saying--’

An exclamation of pain checked his random words; he looked at Mrs.
Damerel, and saw her features wrung with anguish.

‘You mustn’t speak to me like that!’ Once more she approached him. ‘If
you only knew--I can’t bear it--I’ve always been a worldly woman, but
you are breaking my heart, Horace! My dear, my dear, if only out of pity
for me--’

‘Why should I pity you?’ he cried impatiently.

‘Because--Horace--give me your hand, dear; let me tell you something.--I
am your mother.’

She sobbed and choked, clinging to his arm, resting her forehead against
it. The young man, stricken with amazement, stared at her, speechless.

‘I am your own mother, dear,’ she went on, in a quivering voice. ‘Your
mother and Nancy’s. And neither of you can love me.’

‘How can that be?’ Horace asked, with genuine perplexity. ‘How could you
have married some one else?’

She passed an arm about his neck, and hid her face against him.

‘I left your father--and he made me free to marry again.’

‘You were divorced?’

Horace did not mean to speak brutally; in his wonderment he merely
pressed for a complete explanation. The answer was a sob, and for some
moments neither of them spoke. Then the mother, her face still hidden,
went on in a thick voice:

‘I married because I was poor--for no other reason--and then came the
temptation. I behaved wickedly, I deserted my little children. Don’t
revenge yourself upon me now, darling! If only I could have told you
this before--I did so want to, but I was afraid. I had to conceal half
my love for you. You can’t imagine how I have suffered from your anger,
and from Nancy’s coldness. You don’t know me; I have never been able
to let you see what I really think and feel. I am worldly; I can’t live
without luxuries and society and amusements; but I love you, my dear
son, and it will break my heart if you ruin yourself. It’s true I
thought of Winifred’s money, but she is very fond of you, Horace; her
mother has told me she is. And it was because of my own position. I have
spent nearly all my husband left me; it wasn’t enough to supply me
with an income; I could only hope that something--that you, dear, would
forgive your poor mother, and help her. If you cast me off, what shall I

There was a silence. Then the young man spoke gravely:

‘You are welcome, mother, to half my income. But you must leave me free
to marry as I like.’

‘Then I can’t take a penny from you,’ she answered, weeping. ‘If you
ruin yourself, you ruin me as well.’

‘The ruin would come if I married Winifred. I love Fanny; I love her
with all my heart and soul, and have never ceased to love her. Tell me
what you like about her, it will make no difference.’

A fit of violent coughing stopped his speech; he turned away, and stood
by the window, holding his handkerchief to his mouth.

Mrs. Damerel sank upon a chair in mute misery.


Below the hill at Harrow, in a byway which has no charm but that of
quietness, stands a row of small plain houses, built not long ago,
yet at a time when small houses were constructed with some regard for
soundness and durability. Each contains six rooms, has a little strip
of garden in the rear, and is, or was in 1889, let at a rent of
six-and-twenty pounds. The house at the far end of the row (as the
inhabitants described it) was then tenanted by Mary Woodruff, and with
her, as a lodger, lived Mrs. Tarrant.

As a lodger, seeing that she paid a specified weekly sum for her shelter
and maintenance; in no other respect could the wretched title apply to
her. To occupy furnished lodgings, is to live in a house owned and ruled
by servants; the least tolerable status known to civilisation. From her
long experience at Falmouth, Nancy knew enough of the petty miseries
attendant upon that condition to think of it with dread when the stress
of heroic crisis compelled her speedy departure from the old home. It is
seldom that heroic crisis bears the precise consequence presumed by
the actors in it; supreme moments are wont to result in some form
of compromise. So Nancy, prepared to go forth into the wilderness of
landladies, babe in arm, found that so dreary a self-sacrifice neither
was exacted of her, nor would indeed be permitted; she had to reckon
with Mary Woodruff. Mary, thanks to her old master, enjoyed an
income more than sufficient to her needs; if Nancy must needs go into
lodgings,--inevitable, perhaps, as matters stood,--her friend was ready
with kind and practical suggestion; to wit, that she should take and
furnish a house for herself, and place a portion of it at Mrs. Tarrant’s
disposal. To this even Tarrant could offer no objection; he stipulated
only that his wife should find a temporary refuge from the home she had
occupied on false pretences until Mary had her new house in readiness.
This was managed without difficulty. Nancy went to Dulwich, and for
several weeks dwelt with the honest woman who took care of her child.

Of the dealings between Nancy and her legal guardians Tarrant learned
nothing, save the bare fact that her marriage was avowed, and all
benefit under her father’s will renounced. He did not visit the house
at Dulwich, and only saw his child after the removal to Harrow. On this
occasion he asked Nancy what arrangements had been made concerning the
money that must be reimbursed to the Messrs Barmby; she replied that
justice would be done, but the affair was hers alone, and to her must be

Tarrant himself suggested the neighbourhood of Harrow for Nancy’s abode.
It united the conditions of being remote from Camberwell, of lying
beyond the great smoke-area, and of permitting him, poor as he was, to
visit his wife whenever he thought fit.

In December, Nancy had lived thus for all but a twelvemonth, seeing the
while none of her old acquaintances, and with very little news from her
old world. What she heard came through Horace, who, after learning
with astonishment the secret in his sister’s life, came by degrees to
something like the old terms of affection with her, and went over to
Harrow pretty frequently. Of his engagement to Winifred Chittle he at
once informed Nancy, who tried to be glad of it, but could have little
faith in anything traceable to the influence of Mrs. Damerel. With
that lady the Harrow household had no direct communication; Tarrant had
written to her on the night of crisis, civilly requesting her to keep
aloof, as her advice and assistance were in nowise needed. She answered
him with good temper, and wrote kindly to Nancy; after that, silence on
both sides.

It wanted a few days to Christmas; with nightfall had come a roaring
wind and sleety rain; the house-door was locked; within, lamps and fires
burned cheerily. At half-past six, Nancy--she occupied the two front
rooms--sat in her parlour, resting after the exertion of putting her
son to bed. To judge from her countenance, she was well and happy. The
furniture about her aimed at nothing but homely comfort; the pictures
and books, being beyond dispute her own, had come from Grove Lane.

Save when Tarrant was here, Nancy and Mary of course lived like friends
who share a house, eating together and generally sitting together.
During an hour or two each day the younger woman desired solitude, for a
reason understood by her companion, who then looked after the baby. This
present evening Nancy had proposed to spend alone; but, after sitting
idly for a few minutes, she opened the door and called Mary--just then
occupied in teaching a young servant how to iron.

‘I shall not write, after all,’ she said, when her friend came. ‘I’m too
tired. Bring your sewing, or your book, here.’

Mary was never talkative; Nancy kept a longer silence than usual.

‘How,’ she exclaimed at length, ‘do poor women with a lot of children
manage? It really is a mystery to me. Here am I with one baby, and with
the constant help of two people; yet he tires me out. Not a troublesome
baby, either; healthy and good-tempered. Yet the thought and anxiety and
downright hard labour for a good twelve hours out of the twenty-four! I
feel that a second child would be too much for me.’

She laughed, but looked seriously for the reply.

‘Poor mothers,’ said Mary, ‘can’t give the same care to their children
that you give to baby. The little ones grow up, or they don’t grow
up--that’s what it comes to.’

‘Yes; that is to say, only the fit survive. A very good thing--when
other people’s children are in question. But I should kill myself in
taking care of them, if I had a large family.’

‘I have known mothers who did,’ Mary remarked.

‘It comes to this. Nature doesn’t intend a married woman to be anything
_but_ a married woman. In the natural state of things, she must either
be the slave of husband and children, or defy her duty. She can have no
time to herself, no thoughts for herself. It’s a hard saying, but who
can doubt that it is Nature’s law? I should like to revolt against it,
yet I feel revolt to be silly. One might as well revolt against being
born a woman instead of a man.’

Mary reflected, but held her peace.

‘Then comes in money,’ pursued Nancy, ‘and that alters the state of the
case at once. The wife with money says to people: Come here, and be
my slaves. Toil for me, whilst I am enjoying myself in ways that Dame
Nature wouldn’t allow. I want to read, to play music, to see my friends,
to see the world. Unless you will slave for me, I can’t budge from
nursery and kitchen.--Isn’t it a queer thing?’

The less sophisticated woman had a difficulty in catching Nancy’s point
of view. She began to argue that domestic service was no slavery.

‘But it _comes_ to that,’ Nancy insisted. ‘And what I mean is, that the
thought has made me far more contented than I was at first. After all,
one can put up with a great deal, if you feel you’re obeying a law of
Nature. Now, I have brains, and I should like to use them; but Nature
says that’s not so important as bringing up the little child to whom I
have given life. One thought that troubles me is, that every generation
of women is sacrificed to the generation that follows; and of course
that’s why women are so inferior to men. But then again, Nature says
that women are born _only_ to be sacrificed. I always come round to
that. I don’t like it, but I am bound to believe it.’

‘Children grow up,’ said Mary, ‘and then mothers are free.’

‘Free to do what? To think of what they _might_ have done in the best
years of their life.’

It was not said discontentedly; Nancy’s mood seemed to be singularly
calm and philosophical. She propped her chin on her hand, and gazed at
the fire.

‘Well,’ remarked Mary, with a smile, ‘you, at all events, are not one of
the poorest women. All seems to be going well, and you will be able, I
am sure, to get all the help you need.’

‘Perhaps. But I shall never feel quiet in my conscience. I shall feel
as if I had defeated Nature by a trick, and fear that she’ll somehow be
revenged on me.’

This was quite beyond Mary’s scope of thought, and she frankly said so.

‘One thing I’m quite sure of, Nancy,’ she added, ‘and that is, that
education makes life very much harder to live. That’s why I don’t
hold with educating the poor--not beyond reading and writing. Without
education, life is very plain, though it may be a struggle. But from
what I have seen of highly-taught people, I’m very sure they suffer
worse in their minds than the poor ever do in their bodies.’

Nancy interrupted her.

‘Hush! Was that baby?’

‘Only the wind, I think.’

Not content, Nancy went to the foot of the stairs. Whilst she stood
there listening, Mary came out, and said in a low voice:

‘There’s a tap at the window.’

‘No!--You must have been mistaken.’

‘I’m sure it was a tap on the glass.’

She withdrew to the back sitting-room, and Nancy, with quick step, went
to open the house-door. A great gust of wind forced it against her as
soon as she turned the handle; standing firm, she peeped into darkness.

‘Any one there?’

‘No enemy but winter and rough weather,’ chanted a familiar voice.

‘Why, what brings you here, frightening lone women at this time of
night? Shut and lock the door for me. The house will be blown out of the

Nancy retreated to her parlour, and stood there in an attitude of joyous
expectation. Without hurry Tarrant hung up his coat and hat in the
passage, then came forward, wiping rain from his moustache. Their eyes
met in a smile, frank and confident.

‘Why have you come, Lionel?’

‘No reason in particular. The fancy took me. Am I unwelcome?’

For answer, his wife’s arms were thrown about him. A lovers’ meeting,
with more of tenderness, and scarcely less of warmth, than when Nancy
knocked at the door in Staple Inn.

‘Are you hungry?’

‘Only for what you have given me.’

‘Some tea, then, after that wretched journey.’

‘No. How’s the boy?’

He drew her upon his knee, and listened laughingly whilst the newest
marvels of babyhood were laughingly related.

‘Anything from Horace?’

‘Not a word. He must be in London now; I shall write tomorrow.’

Tarrant nodded carelessly. He had the smallest interest in his wife’s
brother, but could not help satisfaction in the thought that Horace
was to be reputably, and even brilliantly, married. From all he knew
of Horace, the probability had seemed that his marriage would be some
culmination of folly.

‘I think you have something to tell me,’ Nancy said presently, when her
hand had been fondled for a minute or two.

‘Nothing much, but good as far as it goes. Bunbury has asked me to write
him an article every week for the first six months of ‘90. Column and a
half, at two guineas a column.’

‘Three guineas a week.’

‘O rare head!’

‘So there’s no anxiety for the first half of next year, at all events,’
said Nancy, with a sigh of relief.

‘I think I can count on a margin of fifty pounds or so by
midsummer--towards the debt, of course.’

Nancy bit her lip in vexation, but neither made nor wished to make any
protest. Only a week or two ago, since entering upon his patrimony,
Horace Lord had advanced the sum necessary to repay what Nancy owed to
the Barmbys. However rich Horace was going to be, this debt to him must
be cancelled. On that, as on most other points, Tarrant and his wife
held a firm agreement of opinion. Yet they wanted money; the past year
had been a time of struggle to make ends meet. Neither was naturally
disposed to asceticism, and if they did not grumble it was only because
grumbling would have been undignified.

‘Did you dine with the great people on Thursday?’ Nancy asked.

‘Yes, and rather enjoyed it. There were one or two clever women.’

‘Been anywhere else?’

‘An hour at a smoking-concert the other evening. Pippit, the actor,
was there, and recited a piece much better than I ever heard him speak
anything on the stage. They told me he was drunk; very possibly that
accounted for it.’

To a number of such details Nancy listened quietly, with bent head. She
had learned to put absolute faith in all that Tarrant told her of his
quasi-bachelor life; she suspected no concealment; but the monotony of
her own days lay heavy upon her whilst he talked.

‘Won’t you smoke?’ she asked, rising from his knee to fetch the pipe and
tobacco-jar kept for him upon a shelf. Slippers also she brought him,
and would have unlaced his muddy boots had Tarrant permitted it. When
he presented a picture of masculine comfort, Nancy, sitting opposite,
cautiously approached a subject of which as yet there had been no word
between them.

‘Oughtn’t you to get more comfortable lodgings?’

‘Oh, I do very well. I’m accustomed to the place, and I like the

He had kept his room in Great College Street, though often obliged to
scant his meals as the weekly rent-day approached.

‘Don’t you think we might make some better--some more economical


Nancy took courage, and spoke her thoughts.

‘It’s more expensive to live separately than if we were together.’

Tarrant seemed to give the point his impartial consideration.

‘H’m--no, I think not. Certainly not, with our present arrangements. And
even if it were we pay for your comfort, and my liberty.’

‘Couldn’t you have as much liberty if we were living under the same
roof? Of course I know that you couldn’t live out here; it would put
a stop to your work at once. But suppose we moved. Mary might take a
rather larger house--it needn’t be much larger--in a part convenient
for you. We should be able to pay her enough to set off against her
increased expenses.’

Smoking calmly, Tarrant shook his head.

‘Impracticable. Do you mean that this place is too dull for you?’

‘It isn’t lively, but I wasn’t thinking of the place. If _you_ lived
here, it would be all I should wish.’

‘That sounds so prettily from your lips, Nancy, that I’m half ashamed
to contradict it. But the truth is that you can only say such things
because we live apart. Don’t deceive yourself. With a little more money,
this life of ours would be as nearly perfect as married life ever can

Nancy remembered a previous occasion when he spoke to the same purpose.
But it was in the time she did not like to think of, and in spite of
herself the recollection troubled her.

‘You must have more variety,’ he added. ‘Next year you shall come into
town much oftener--’

‘I’m not thinking of that. I always like going anywhere with you; but I
have plenty of occupations and pleasures at home.--I think we ought to
be under the same roof.’

‘Ought? Because Mrs. Tomkins would cry _haro_! if her husband the
greengrocer wasn’t at her elbow day and night?’

‘Have more patience with me. I didn’t mean _ought_ in the vulgar
sense--I have as little respect for Mrs. Tomkins as you have. I don’t
want to interfere with your liberty for a moment; indeed it would be
very foolish, for I know that it would make you detest me. But I so
often want to speak to you--and--and then, I can’t quite feel that you
acknowledge me as your wife so long as I am away.’

Tarrant nodded.

‘I quite understand. The social difficulty. Well, there’s no doubt it is
a difficulty; I feel it on your account. I wish it were possible for
you to be invited wherever I am. Some day it will be, if I don’t get run
over in the Strand; but--’

‘I should like the invitations,’ Nancy broke in, ‘but you still don’t
understand me.’

‘Yes, I think I do. You are a woman, and it’s quite impossible for a
woman to see this matter as a man does. Nancy, there is not one wife in
fifty thousand who retains her husband’s love after the first year of
marriage. Put aside the fools and the worthless; think only of women
with whom you might be compared--brave, sensible, pure-hearted; they can
win love, but don’t know how to keep it.’

‘Why not put it the other way about, and say that men can love to begin
with, but so soon grow careless?’

‘Because I am myself an instance to the contrary.’

Nancy smiled, but was not satisfied.

‘The only married people,’ Tarrant pursued, ‘who can live together with
impunity, are those who are rich enough, and sensible enough, to have
two distinct establishments under the same roof. The ordinary eight or
ten-roomed house, inhabited by decent middle-class folk, is a gruesome
sight. What a huddlement of male and female! They are factories of
quarrel and hate--those respectable, brass-curtain-rodded sties--they
are full of things that won’t bear mentioning. If our income never rises
above that, we shall live to the end of our days as we do now.’

Nancy looked appalled.

‘But how can you hope to make thousands a year?’

‘I have no such hope; hundreds would be sufficient. I don’t aim at a
house in London; everything there is intolerable, except the fine old
houses which have a history, and which I could never afford. For
my home, I want to find some rambling old place among hills and
woods,--some house where generations have lived and died,--where my boy,
as he grows up, may learn to love the old and beautiful things about
him. I myself never had a home; most London children don’t know what is
meant by home; their houses are only more or less comfortable lodgings,
perpetual change within and without.’

‘Your thoughts are wonderfully like my father’s, sometimes,’ said Nancy.

‘From what you have told me of him, I think we should have agreed in a
good many things.’

‘And how unfortunate we were! If he had recovered from that illness,--if
he had lived only a few months,--everything would have been made easy.’

‘For me altogether too easy,’ Tarrant observed.

‘It has been a good thing for you to have to work,’ Nancy assented. ‘I
understand the change for the better in you. But’--she smiled--‘you have
more self-will than you used to have.’

‘That’s just where I have gained.--But don’t think that I find it easy
or pleasant to resist your wish. I couldn’t do it if I were not so sure
that I am acting for your advantage as well as my own. A man who finds
himself married to a fool, is a fool himself if he doesn’t take his own
course regardless of his wife. But I am in a very different position;
I love you more and more, Nancy, because I am learning more and more to
respect you; I think of your happiness most assuredly as much as I think
of my own. But even if my own good weighed as nothing against yours, I
should be wise to resist you just as I do now. Hugger-mugger marriage is
a defilement and a curse. We know it from the experience of the world
at large,--which is perhaps more brutalised by marriage than by anything
else.--No need to test the thing once more, to our own disaster.’

‘What I think is, that, though you pay me compliments, you really have
a very poor opinion of me. You think I should burden and worry you in
endless silly ways. I am not such a simpleton. In however small a house,
there could be your rooms and mine. Do you suppose I should interfere
with your freedom in coming and going?’

‘Whether you meant to or not, you would--so long as we are struggling
with poverty. However self-willed I am, I am not selfish; and to see you
living a monotonous, imprisoned life would be a serious hindrance to me
in my own living and working. Of course the fact is so at present, and
I often enough think in a troubled way about you; but you are out of my
sight, and that enables me to keep you out of mind. If I am away from
home till one or two in the morning, there is no lonely wife fretting
and wondering about me. For work such as mine, I must live as though I
were not married at all.’

‘But suppose we got out of our poverty,’ urged Nancy, ‘you would be
living the same life, I suppose; and how would it be any better for you
or me that we had a large house instead of a small one?’

‘Your position will be totally changed. When money comes, friends come.
You are not hiding away from Society because you are unfit for it, only
because you can’t live as your social equals do. When you have friends
of your own, social engagements, interests on every hand, I shall
be able to go my own way without a pang of conscience. When we come
together, it will be to talk of your affairs as well as of mine. Living
as you do now, you have nothing on earth but the baby to think about--a
miserable state of things for a woman with a mind. I know it is
miserable, and I’m struggling tooth and nail to help you out of it.’

Nancy sighed.

‘Then there are years of it still before me.’

‘Heaven forbid! Some years, no doubt, before we shall have a home; but
not before I can bring you in contact with the kind of people you ought
to know. You shall have a decent house--socially possible--somewhere out
west; and I, of course, shall still go on in lodgings.’

He waited for Nancy’s reply, but she kept silence.

‘You are still dissatisfied?’

She looked up, and commanded her features to the expression which makes
whatever woman lovely--that of rational acquiescence. On the faces of
most women such look is never seen.

‘No, I am content. You are working hard, and I won’t make it harder for

‘Speak always like that!’ Tarrant’s face was radiant. ‘That’s the kind
of thing that binds man to woman, body and soul. With the memory of that
look and speech, would it be possible for me to slight you in my life
apart? It makes you my friend; and the word friend is better to my ear
than wife. A man’s wife is more often than not his enemy. Harvey Munden
was telling me of a poor devil of an author who daren’t be out after ten
at night because of the fool-fury waiting for him at home.’

Nancy laughed.

‘I suppose she can’t trust him.’

‘And suppose she can’t? What is the value of nominal fidelity, secured
by mutual degradation such as that? A rational woman would infinitely
rather have a husband who was often unfaithful to her than keep him
faithful by such means. Husband and wife should interfere with each
other not a jot more than two friends of the same sex living together.
If a man, under such circumstances, worried his friend’s life out
by petty prying, he would get his head punched. A wife has no more
justification in worrying her husband with jealousies.’

‘How if it were the wife that excited suspicion?’ asked Nancy.

‘Infidelity in a woman is much worse than in a man. If a man really
suspects his wife, he must leave her, that’s all; then let her justify
herself if she can.’

Nancy cared little to discuss this point. In argument with any one else,
she would doubtless have maintained the equality of man and woman before
the moral law; but that would only have been in order to prove herself
modern-spirited. Tarrant’s dictum did not revolt her.

‘Friends are equals,’ she said, after a little thought. ‘But you don’t
think me your equal, and you won’t be satisfied with me unless I follow
your guidance.’

Tarrant laughed kindly.

‘True, I am your superior in force of mind and force of body. Don’t you
like to hear that? Doesn’t it do you good--when you think of the maudlin
humbug generally talked by men to women? We can’t afford to disguise
that truth. All the same, we are friends, because each has the other’s
interest at heart, and each would be ashamed to doubt the other’s

The latter part of the evening they spent with Mary, in whom Tarrant
always found something new to admire. He regarded her as the most
wonderful phenomenon in nature--an uneducated woman who was neither
vulgar nor foolish.

Baby slept in a cot beside Nancy’s bed. For fear of waking him, the
wedded lovers entered their room very softly, with a shaded candle.
Tarrant looked at the curly little head, the little clenched hand, and
gave a silent laugh of pleasure.

On the breakfast-table next morning lay a letter from Horace. As soon
as she had opened it, Nancy uttered an exclamation which prepared her
companion for ill news.

‘Just what I expected--though I tried not to think so. “I write aline
only to tell you that my marriage is broken off. You will know the
explanation before long. Don’t trouble yourself about it. I should never
have been happy with Winifred, nor she with me. We may not see each
other for some time, but I will write again soon.” He doesn’t say
whether he or she broke it off. I hope it was Winifred.’

‘I’m afraid not,’ said Tarrant, ‘from the tone of that letter.’

‘I’m afraid not, too. It means something wretched. He writes from his
London lodgings. Lionel, let me go back with you, and see him.’

‘By all means.’

Her gravest fear Nancy would not communicate. And it hit the truth.


They parted at Baker Street, Tarrant for his lodgings and the work that
awaited him there, Nancy to go westward by another train.

When she reached the house from which her brother had dated his letter,
it was half-past ten. At the door stood a cab, and a servant was helping
the driver to hoist a big trunk on to the top.

‘Is Mr. Lord still here?’ Nancy asked of the girl.

‘He’s just this minute a-goin’, miss. This is his luggage.’

She sent her name, and was quickly led up to the first floor. There
stood Horace, ready for departure.

‘Why have you come?’ he asked, with annoyance.

‘What else could I do on hearing such news?’

‘I told you I should write again, and I said plainly that it was better
we shouldn’t see each other for some time.--Why will people pester me
out of my life?--I’m not a child to be hunted like this!’

On the instant, he had fallen into a state of excitement which alarmed
his sister. There were drops of sweat on his forehead, and tears in his
eyes; the blood had rushed to his cheeks, and he trembled violently.

‘I am so troubled about you,’ said Nancy, with anxious tenderness. ‘I
have been looking forward with such hope to your marriage,--and now--’

‘I can’t tell you anything about it just now. It was all Mrs. Damerel’s
doing; the engagement, I mean. It’s a good thing I drew back in
time.--But I have a train to catch; I really mustn’t stay talking.’

‘Are you going far, Horace?’

‘To Bournemouth again,--for the present. I’ve given up these rooms, and
I’m taking all my things away. In a month or two I may go abroad; but
I’ll let you know.’

Already he was out of the room; his sister had no choice but to
follow him downstairs. He looked so ill, and behaved with such lack
of self-restraint, that Nancy kept her eyes upon him in an awestricken
gaze, as though watching some one on the headlong way to destruction.
Pouring rain obliged her to put up her umbrella as she stepped down
on to the pavement. Horace, having shouted a direction to the driver,
entered the cab.

‘You haven’t even shaken hands with me, Horace,’ Nancy exclaimed,
standing at the window.

‘Good-bye, dear; good-bye! You shouldn’t have come in weather such as
this. Get home as fast as you can. Good-bye!--Tell the fellow to drive

And the cab clattered away, sending spurts of mud on to Nancy’s

She walked on for a few paces without reflection, until the vehicle
disappeared round a corner. Coming to herself, she made for the railway
again, which was at only a few minutes’ distance, and there she sat down
by the fire in the waiting-room. Her health for the last year had been
sound as in the days of girlhood; it was rarely that she caught cold,
and weather would have been indifferent to her but for the discomfort
which hindered her free movement.

Vexed at so futile a journey, she resolved not to return home without
making another effort to learn something about Horace. The only person
to whom she could apply was the one who would certainly be possessed of
information,--Mrs. Damerel. At the time of Horace’s engagement, Nancy
had heard from Mrs. Damerel, and replied to the letter; she remembered
her aunt’s address, and as the distance was not great, the temptation to
go there now proved irresistible. Her husband would dislike to hear of
such a step, but he had never forbidden communication with Mrs. Damerel.

By help of train and omnibus she reached her new destination in
half-an-hour, and felt a relief on learning that Mrs. Damerel was at
home. But it surprised her to be conducted into a room where lamps were
burning, and blinds drawn close; she passed suddenly from cheerless day
to cosy evening. Mrs. Damerel, negligently attired, received her with a
show of warm welcome, but appeared nervous and out of spirits.

‘I am not very well,’ she admitted, ‘and that’s why I have shut out the
dreadful weather. Isn’t it the most sensible way of getting through the
worst of a London winter? To pretend that there is daylight is quite
ridiculous, so one may as well have the comforts of night.’

‘I have come to speak about Horace,’ said Nancy, at once. In any case,
she would have felt embarrassment, and it was increased by the look
with which Mrs. Damerel kept regarding her,--a look of confusion, of
shrinking, of intense and painful scrutiny.

‘You know what has happened?’

‘I had a letter from him this morning, to say that his marriage was
broken off--nothing else. So I came over from Harrow to see him. But
he had hardly a minute to speak to me. He was just starting for

‘And what did he tell you?’ asked Mrs. Damerel, who remained
standing,--or rather had risen, after a pretence of seating herself.

‘Nothing at all. He was very strange in his manner. He said he would

‘You know that he is seriously ill?’

‘I am afraid he must be.’

‘He has grown much worse during the last fortnight. Don’t you suspect
any reason for his throwing off poor Winifred?’

‘I wondered whether he had met that girl again. But it seemed very

‘He has. She was at Bournemouth for her health. She, too, is ill;
consumptive, like poor Horace,--of course a result of the life she has
been leading. And he is going to marry her.’Nancy’s heart sank. She
could say nothing. She remembered Horace’s face, and saw in him the
victim of ruthless destiny.

‘I have done my utmost. He didn’t speak of me?’

‘Only to say that his engagement with Winifred was brought about by

‘And wasn’t I justified? If the poor boy must die, he would at least
have died with friends about him, and in peace. I always feared just
what has happened. It’s only a few months ago that he forgave me for
being, as he thought, the cause of that girl’s ruin; and since then
I have hardly dared to lose sight of him. I went down to Bournemouth
unexpectedly, and was with him when that creature came to the door in a
carriage. You haven’t seen her. She looks what she is, the vilest of the
vile. As if any one can be held responsible for that! She was born to be
what she is. And if I had the power, I would crush out her hateful life
to save poor Horace!’

Nancy, though at one with the speaker in her hatred of Fanny French,
found it as difficult as ever to feel sympathetically towards Mrs.
Damerel. She could not credit this worldly woman with genuine affection
for Horace; the vehemence of her speech surprised and troubled her, she
knew not how.

‘He said nothing more about me?’ added Mrs. Damerel, after a silence.

‘Nothing at all.’

It seemed to Nancy that she heard a sigh of relief. The other’s face was
turned away. Then Mrs. Damerel took a seat by the fire.

‘They will be married to-morrow, I dare say, at Bournemouth--no use
trying to prevent it. I don’t know whether you will believe me, but it
is a blow that will darken the rest of my life.’

Her voice sounded slightly hoarse, and she lay back in the chair, with
drooping head.

‘You have nothing to reproach yourself with,’ said Nancy, yielding to a
vague and troublous pity. ‘And you have done as much as any one could on
his behalf.’

‘I shall never see him again--that’s the hardest thought. She will
poison him against me. He told me I had lied to him about a letter
that girl wrote from Brussels; she has made him think her a spotless
innocent, and he hates me for the truth I told about her.’

‘However short his life,’ said Nancy, ‘he is only too likely to find out
what she really is.’

‘I am not sure of that. She knows he is doomed, and it’s her interest to
play a part. He will die thinking the worst of me.--Nancy, if he writes
to you, and says anything against me, you will remember what it means?’

‘My opinion of people is not affected by hearsay,’ Nancy replied.

It was a remark of dubious significance, and Mrs. Damerel’s averted
eyes seemed to show that she derived little satisfaction from it. As the
silence was unbroken, Nancy rose.

‘I hope you will soon get rid of your cold.’

‘Thank you, my dear. I haven’t asked how the little boy is. Well, I

‘Very well, I am glad to say.’

‘And your husband--he is prospering?’

‘I shouldn’t like to say he is prospering; it seems to mean so much; but
I think he is doing good work, and we are satisfied with the results.’

‘My dear, you are an admirable wife.’

Nancy coloured; for the first time, a remark of Mrs. Damerel’s had given
her pleasure. She moved forward with hand offered for leave-taking.
They had never kissed each other, but, as if overcoming diffidence, Mrs.
Damerel advanced her lips; then, as suddenly, she drew back.

‘I had forgotten. I may give you my sore throat.’

Nancy kissed her cheek.

That night Mrs. Damerel was feverish, and the next day she kept her
bed. The servant who waited upon her had to endure a good many sharp
reproofs; trouble did not sweeten this lady’s temper, yet she never lost
sight of self-respect, and even proved herself capable of acknowledging
that she was in the wrong. Mrs. Damerel possessed the elements of

This illness tried her patience in no slight degree. Something she had
wished to do, something of high moment, was vexatiously postponed. A
whole week went by before she could safely leave the house, and even
then her mirror counselled a new delay. But on the third day of the new
year she made a careful toilette, and sent for a cab,--the brougham she
had been wont to hire being now beyond her means.

She drove to Farringdon Street, and climbed to the office of Mr
Luckworth Crewe. Her knowledge of Crewe’s habits enabled her to choose
the fitting hour for this call; he had lunched, and was smoking a cigar.

‘How delightful to see you here!’ he exclaimed. ‘But why did you trouble
to come? If you had written, or telegraphed, I would have saved you the
journey. I haven’t even a chair that’s fit for you to sit down on.’

‘What nonsense! It’s a most comfortable little room. Haven’t you
improved it since I called?’

‘I shall have to look out for a bigger place. I’m outgrowing this.’

‘Are you really? That’s excellent news. Ah, but what sad things have
been happening!’

‘It’s a bad business,’ Crewe answered, shaking his head.

‘I thought I should have heard from you about it.’

The reason of his silence she perfectly understood. Since Horace’s
engagement, there had been a marked change in her demeanour towards the
man of business; she had answered his one or two letters with such
cold formality, and, on the one occasion of his venturing to call, had
received him with so marked a reserve, that Crewe, as he expressed it
to himself, ‘got his back up.’ His ideas of chivalrous devotion were
anything but complex; he could not bend before a divinity who snubbed
him; if the once gracious lady chose to avert her countenance, he would
let her know that it didn’t matter much to him after all. Moreover,
Mrs. Damerel’s behaviour was too suggestive; he could hardly be wrong
in explaining it by the fact that her nephew, about to be enriched by
marriage, might henceforth be depended upon for all the assistance she
needed. This, in the Americanism which came naturally to Crewe’s lips,
was ‘playing it rather low down,’ and he resented it.

The sudden ruin of Horace Lord’s prospects (he had learnt the course of
events from Horace himself) amused and gratified him. How would the
high and mighty Mrs. Damerel relish this catastrophe? Would she have the
‘cheek’ to return to her old graciousness? If so, he had the game in
his hands; she should see that he was not to be made a fool of a second

Yet the mere announcement of her name sufficed to shatter his resolve.
Her smile, her soft accents, her polished manners, laid the old spell
upon him. He sought to excuse himself for having forsaken her in her

‘It really floored me. I didn’t know what to say or do. I was afraid you
might think I was meddling with what didn’t concern me.’

‘Oh, how could I have thought that? It has made me ill; I have suffered
more than I can tell you.’

‘You don’t look quite the thing,’ said Crewe, searching her face.

‘Have you heard all?’

‘I think so. He is married, and that’s the end of it, I suppose.’

Mrs. Damerel winced at this blunt announcement.

‘When was it?’ she asked, in an undertone. ‘I only knew he had made up
his mind.’

Crewe mentioned the date; the day after Nancy’s call upon her.

‘And are they at Bournemouth?’

‘Yes. Will be for a month or so, he says.’

‘Well, we won’t talk of it. As you say, that’s the end. Nothing worse
could have happened. Has he been speaking of me again like he used to?’

‘I haven’t heard him mention your name.’

She heaved a sigh, and began to look round the office.

‘Let us try to forget, and talk of pleasanter things. It seems such a
long time since you told me anything about your business. You remember
how we used to gossip. I suppose I have been so absorbed in that poor
boy’s affairs; it made me selfish--I was so overjoyed, I really could
think of nothing else. And now--! But I must and will drive it out of my
mind. I have been moping at home, day after day, in wretched solitude. I
wanted to write to you, but I hadn’t the heart--scarcely the strength.
I kept hoping you might call--if only to ask how I was. Of course
everything had to be explained to inquisitive people--how I hate them
all! It’s the nature of the world to mock at misfortunes such as this.
It would really have done me good to speak for a few minutes with such a
friend as you--a real friend. I am going to live a quiet, retired life.
I am sick of the world, its falsity, and its malice, and its bitter,
bitter disappointments.’

Crewe’s native wit and rich store of experience availed him nothing when
Mrs. Damerel discoursed thus. The silvery accents flattered his ear,
and crept into the soft places of his nature. He felt as when a clever
actress in a pathetic part wrought upon him in the after-dinner mood.

‘You must bear up against it, Mrs. Damerel. And I don’t think a retired
life would suit you at all. You are made for Society.’

‘Don’t seek for compliments. I am speaking quite sincerely. Ah, those
were happy days that I spent at Whitsand! Tell me what you have been
doing. Is there any hope of the pier yet?’

‘Why, it’s as good as built!’ cried the other. ‘Didn’t you see the
advertisements, when we floated the company a month ago? I suppose you
don’t read that kind of thing. We shall begin at the works in early
spring.--Look here!’

He unrolled a large design, a coloured picture of Whitsand pier as it
already existed in his imagination. Not content with having the
mere structure exhibited, Crewe had persuaded the draughtsman to add
embellishments of a kind which, in days to come, would be his own
peculiar care; from end to end, the pier glowed with the placards of
advertisers. Below, on the sands, appeared bathing-machines, and
these also were covered with manifold advertisements. Nay, the very
pleasure-boats on the sunny waves declared the glory of somebody’s soap,
of somebody’s purgatives.

‘I’ll make that place one of the biggest advertising stations in
England--see if I don’t! You remember the caves? I’m going to have them
lighted with electricity, and painted all round with advertisements of
the most artistic kind.’

‘What a brilliant idea!’

‘There’s something else you might like to hear of. It struck me I would
write a Guide to Advertising, and here it is.’ He handed a copy of the
book. ‘It advertises _me_, and brings a little grist to the mill on
its own account. Three weeks since I got it out, and we’ve sold three
thousand of it. Costs nothing to print; the advertisements more than pay
for that. Price, one shilling.’

‘But how you do work, Mr. Crewe! It’s marvellous. And yet you look so
well,--you have really a seaside colour!’

‘I never ailed much since I can remember. The harder I work, the better
I feel.’

‘I, too, have always been rather proud of my constitution.’ Her eyes
dropped. ‘But then I have led a life of idleness. Couldn’t you make me
useful in some way? Set me to work! I am convinced I should be so much
happier. Let me help you, Mr. Crewe. I write a pretty fair hand, don’t

Crewe smiled at her, made a sound as if clearing his throat, grasped his
knee, and was on the very point of momentous utterance, when the door
opened. Turning his head impatiently, he saw, not the clerk whose duty
it was to announce people, but a lady, much younger than Mrs. Damerel,
and more fashionably dressed, who for some reason had preferred to
announce herself.

‘Why do you come in like that?’ Crewe demanded, staring at her. ‘I’m

‘Are you indeed?’

‘You ought to send in your name.

‘They said you had a lady here, so I told them another would make no
difference.--How do you do, Mrs. Damerel? It’s so long since I had the
pleasure of seeing you.’

Beatrice French stepped forward, smiling ominously, and eyeing first
Crewe then his companion with curiosity of the frankest impertinence.
Mrs. Damerel stood up.

‘We will speak of our business at another time, Mr. Crewe.’

Crewe, red with anger, turned upon Beatrice.

‘I tell you I am engaged--’

‘To Mrs. Damerel?’ asked the intruder airily.

‘You might suppose,’--he addressed the elder lady,--‘that this woman has
some sort of hold upon me--’

‘I’m sure I hope not,’ said Mrs. Damerel, ‘for your own sake.’

‘Nothing of the kind. She has pestered me a good deal, and it began in
this way.’

Beatrice gave him so fierce a look, that his tongue faltered.

‘Before you tell that little story,’ she interposed, ‘you had better
know what I’ve come about. It’s a queer thing that Mrs. Damerel should
be here; happens more conveniently than things generally do. I had
something to tell you about her. You may know it, but most likely you
don’t.--You remember,’ she faced the other listener, ‘when I came to see
you a long time ago, I said it might be worth while to find out who you
really were. I haven’t given much thought to you since then, but I’ve
got hold of what I wanted, as I knew I should.’

Crewe did not disguise his eagerness to hear the rest. Mrs. Damerel
stood like a statue of British respectability, deaf and blind to
everything that conflicts with good-breeding; stony-faced, she had set
her lips in the smile appropriate to one who is braving torture.

‘Do you know who she is--or not?’ Beatrice asked of Crewe.

He shuffled, and made no reply.

‘Fanny has just told me in a letter; she got it from her husband. Our
friend here is the mother of Horace Lord and of Nancy. She ran away
from her first husband, and was divorced. Whether she really married
afterwards, I don’t quite know; most likely not. At all events, she has
run through her money, and wants her son to set her up again.’

For a few seconds Mrs. Damerel bore the astonished gaze of her admirer,
then, her expression scarcely changing, she walked steadily to the door
and vanished. The silence was prolonged till broken by Beatrice’s laugh.

‘Has she been bamboozling you, old man? I didn’t know what was going on.
You had bad luck with the daughter; shouldn’t wonder if the mother would
suit you better, all said and done.’

Crewe seated himself and gave vent to his feelings in a phrase of pure
soliloquy: ‘Well, I’m damned!’

‘I cut in just at the right time, did I?--No malice. I’ve had my hit
back at her, and that’s enough.’

As the man of business remained absorbed in his thoughts, Beatrice took
a chair. Presently he looked up at her, and said savagely:

‘What the devil do you want?’


‘Then take it and go.’

But Beatrice smiled, and kept her seat.


Nancy stood before her husband with a substantial packet in brown paper.
It was after breakfast, at the moment of their parting.

‘Here is something I want you to take, and look at, and speak about the
next time you come.’

‘Ho, ho! I don’t like the look of it.’ He felt the packet. ‘Several
quires of paper here.’

‘Be off, or you’ll miss the train.’

‘Poor little girl! _Et tu_!’

He kissed her affectionately, and went his way. In the ordinary
course of things Nancy would not have seen him again for ten days or a
fortnight. She expected a letter very soon, but on the fourth evening
Tarrant’s fingers tapped at the window-pane. In his hand was the brown
paper parcel, done up as when he received it.

Nancy searched his face, her own perturbed and pallid.

‘How long have you been working at this?’

‘Nearly a year. But not every day, of course. Sometimes for a week or
more I could get no time. You think it bad?’

‘No,’--puff--‘not in any sense’--puff--‘bad. In one sense, it’s good.
But’--puff--‘that’s a private sense; a domestic sense.’

‘The question is, dear, can it be sold to a publisher.’

‘The question is nothing of the kind. You mustn’t even try to sell it to
a publisher.’

‘Why not? You mean you would be ashamed if it came out. But I shouldn’t
put my own name to it. I have written it only in the hope of making
money, and so helping you. I’ll put any name to it you like.’

Tarrant smoked for a minute or two, until his companion gave a sign of
impatience. He wore a very good-humoured look.

‘It’s more than likely you might get the thing accepted--’

‘Oh, then why not?’ she interrupted eagerly, with bright eyes.

‘Because it isn’t literature, but a little bit of Nancy’s mind and
heart, not to be profaned by vulgar handling. To sell it for hard cash
would be horrible. Leave that to the poor creatures who have no choice.
You are not obliged to go into the market.’

‘But, Lionel, if it is a bit of my mind and heart, it must be a good
book. You have often praised books to me just on that account because
they were genuine.’

‘The books I praised were literature. Their authors came into the world
to write. It isn’t enough to be genuine; there must be workmanship. Here
and there you have a page of very decent English, and you are nowhere on
the level of the ordinary female novelist. Indeed--don’t take it ill--I
was surprised at what you had turned out. But--’

He finished the sentence in smoke wreaths.

‘Then I’ll try again. I’ll do better.’

‘Never _much_ better. It will never be literature.’

‘What does that matter? I never thought myself a Charlotte Bronte or a
George Eliot. But so many women make money out of novels, and as I
had spare time I didn’t see why I shouldn’t use it profitably. We want
money, and if it isn’t actually disgraceful--and if I don’t use my own

‘We don’t want money so badly as all that. I am writing, because I must
do something to live by, and I know of nothing else open to me except
pen-work. Whatever trash I turned out, I should be justified; as a man,
it’s my duty to join in the rough-and-tumble for more or less dirty
ha’pence. You, as a woman, have no such duty; nay, it’s your positive
duty to keep out of the beastly scrimmage.’

‘It seemed to me that I was _doing_ something. Why should a woman be
shut out from the life of the world?’

‘It seems to me that your part in the life of the world is very
considerable. You have given the world a new inhabitant, and you are
shaping him into a man.’

Nancy laughed, and reflected, and returned to her discontent.

‘Oh, every woman can do that.’

‘Not one woman in a thousand can bear a sound-bodied child; and not one
in fifty thousand can bring up rightly the child she has borne. Leisure
you must have; but for Heaven’s sake don’t waste it. Read, enjoy, sit
down to the feast prepared for you.’

‘I wanted to _do_ something,’ she persisted, refusing to catch his eye.
‘I have read enough.’

‘Read enough? Ha, then there’s no more to be said.’

His portentous solemnity overcame her. Laughter lighted her face, and
Tarrant, laying down his pipe, shouted extravagant mirth.

‘Am I to burn it then?’

‘You are not. You are to seal it with seven seals, to write upon it
_peche de jeunesse_, and to lay it away at the back of a very private
drawer. And when you are old, you shall some day bring it out, and we’ll
put our shaky heads together over it, and drop a tear from our dim old
eyes.--By-the-bye, Nancy, will you go with me to a music-hall to-morrow

‘A music-hall?’

‘Yes. It would do us both good, I think. I feel fagged, and you want a
change.--Here’s the end of March; please Heaven, another month shall see
us rambling in the lanes somewhere; meantime, we’ll go to a music-hall.
Each season has its glory; if we can’t hear the lark, let us listen to
the bellow of a lion-comique.--Do you appreciate this invitation? It
means that I enjoy your company, which is more than one man in ten
thousand can say of his wife. The ordinary man, when he wants to
dissipate, asks--well, not his wife. And I, in plain sober truth, would
rather have Nancy with me than anyone else.’

‘You say that to comfort me after my vexation.’

‘I say it because I think it.--The day after to-morrow I want you to
come over in the morning to see some pictures in Bond Street. And the
next day we’ll go to the theatre.’

‘You can’t afford it.’

‘Mind your own business. I remembered this morning that I was young, and
that I shall not be so always. Doesn’t that ever come upon you?’

The manuscript, fruit of such persevering toil, was hidden away, and
its author spoke of it no more. But she suffered a grave disappointment.
Once or twice a temptation flashed across her mind; if she secretly
found a publisher, and if her novel achieved moderate success (she might
alter the title), would not Tarrant forgive her for acting against his
advice? It was nothing more than advice; often enough he had told her
that he claimed no coercive right; that their union, if it were to
endure, must admit a genuine independence on both sides. But herein, as
on so many other points, she subdued her natural impulse, and conformed
to her husband’s idea of wifehood. It made her smile to think how little
she preserved of that same ‘genuine independence;’ but the smile had no

Meanwhile, nothing was heard of Horace. The winter passed, and June
had come before Nancy again saw her brother’s handwriting. It was on an
ordinary envelope, posted, as she saw by the office-stamp, at Brighton;
the greater her surprise to read a few lines which coldly informed
her that Horace’s wife no longer lived. ‘She took cold one evening a
fortnight ago, and died after three days’ illness.’

Nancy tried to feel glad, but she had little hope of any benefit to her
brother from this close of a sordid tragedy. She answered his letter,
and begged that, as soon as he felt able to do so, he would come and see
her. A month’s silence on Horace’s part had led her to conclude that he
would not come, when, without warning, he presented himself at her door.
It was morning, and he stayed till nightfall, but talked very little.
Sitting in the same place hour after hour, he seemed overcome with a
complete exhaustion, which made speech too great an effort and kept his
thoughts straying idly. Fanny’s name did not pass his lips; when Nancy
ventured an inquiry concerning her, he made an impatient gesture, and
spoke of something else.

His only purpose in coming, it appeared, was to ask for information
about the Bahamas.

‘I can’t get rid of my cough, and I’m afraid it may turn to something
dangerous. You said, I remember, that people with weak chests wintered
in the Bahamas.’

‘Lionel can tell you all about it. He’ll be here to-morrow. Come and
have a talk with him.’

‘No.’ He moved pettishly. ‘Tell me as much as you know yourself. I don’t
feel well enough to meet people.’

Looking at him with profound compassion, Nancy thought it very doubtful
whether he would see another winter. But she told him all she could
remember about Nassau, and encouraged him to look forward with pleasure
and hopefulness to a voyage thither.

‘How are you going to live till then?’

‘What do you mean?’ he answered, with a startled and irritated look.
‘I’m not so bad as all that.’

‘I meant--how are you going to arrange your life?’ Nancy hastened to

‘Oh, I have comfortable lodgings.’

‘But you oughtn’t to be quite alone.--I mean it must be so cheerless.’

She made a proposal that he should have a room in this little house,
and use it as a home whenever he chose; but Horace so fretted under the
suggestion, that it had to be abandoned. His behaviour was that of
an old man, enfeebled in mind and body. Once or twice his manner of
speaking painfully reminded Nancy of her father during the last days of
his life.

With a peevish sort of interest he watched his little nephew toddling
about the room, but did not address a word to the child.

A cab was sent for to convey him to the railway station. Nancy had known
few such melancholy days as this.

On the morning when, by agreement, she was to go into town to see her
brother, there arrived a note from him. He had been advised to try a
health-resort in Switzerland, and was already on the way. Sorry he could
not let Nancy know before; would visit her on his return. Thus, in the
style of telegraphy, as though he wrote in hot haste.

From Switzerland came two letters, much more satisfactory in tone and
contents. The first, written in July, announced a distinct improvement
of health. No details being supplied, Nancy could only presume that her
brother was living alone at the hotel from which he dated. The second
communication, a month later, began thus: ‘I think I forgot to tell you
that I came here with Mrs. Damerel. She will stay till the end of the
summer, and then, perhaps, go with me to the Bahamas, if that seems
necessary. But I am getting wonderfully well and strong. Mrs. Damerel is
kinder to me than any one in the world ever was. I shall tell you more
about her some day.’ The writer went on to describe a project he had
of taking a small farm in Devonshire, and living upon it as a country

Tarrant warned his wife not to build hopes upon this surprising report,
and a few weeks brought news that justified him. Horace wrote that he
had suffered a very bad attack, and was only now sufficiently recovered
to hold a pen. ‘I don’t know what we shall do, but I am in good hands.
No one was ever better nursed, night and day--More before long.’

Indeed, it was not long. A day or two after Nancy’s return from a
seaside holiday, Mary brought in a telegram. It came from Mrs. Damerel.
‘Your brother died at ten o’clock last night, suddenly, and without
pain. I am posting a letter he had written for you.’

When the promised letter arrived, it was found to bear a date two months
ago. An unwonted tenderness marked the opening words.

MY DEAREST SISTER--What I am going to write is not to be sent to you
at once. Sometimes I feel afraid that I can’t live very long, so I have
been making a will, and I want you to know why I have left you only half
of what I have to leave. The other half will go to some one who has an
equal claim on me, though you don’t know it. She has asked me to tell
you. If I get thoroughly well again, there will be no need of this
letter, and I shall tell you in private something that will astonish
you very much. But if I were to die, it will be best for you to learn in
this way that Mrs. Damerel is much more to us than our mother’s sister;
she is our own mother. She told me at the time when I was behaving like
an idiot at Bournemouth. It ought to have been enough to stop me. She
confessed that she had done wrong when you and I were little children;
that was how she came to marry again whilst father was still alive.
Though it seemed impossible, I have come to love her for her great
kindness to me. I know that I could trust you, dearest Nancy, to let her
share whatever you have; but it will be better if I provide for her
in my will. She has been living on a small capital, and now has little
left. What I can give her is little enough, but it will save her from
the worst extremities. And I beg you, dear sister, to forgive her fault,
if only for my sake, because she has been so loving to a silly and
useless fellow.

I may as well let you know about my wife’s death. She was consumptive,
but seemed to get much better at Bournemouth; then she wanted to go to
Brighton. We lived there at a boardinghouse, and she behaved badly, very
badly. She made acquaintances I didn’t like, and went about with them in
spite of my objections. Like an obstinate fool, I had refused to believe
what people told me about her, and now I found it all out for myself. Of
course she only married me because I had money. One evening she made
up her mind to go with some of her friends in a boat, by moonlight. We
quarrelled about it, but she went all the same. The result was that she
got inflammation of the lungs, and died. I don’t pretend to be sorry for
her, and I am thankful to have been released from misery so much sooner
than I deserved.

And now let me tell you how my affairs stand--

At the first reading, Nancy gave but slight attention to this concluding
paragraph. Even the thought of her brother’s death was put aside by
the emotions with which she learnt that her mother still lived. After
brooding over the intelligence for half a day, she resolved to question
Mary, who perhaps, during so long a residence in Grove Lane, had
learnt something of the trouble that darkened her master’s life. The
conversation led to a disclosure by Mary of all that had been confided
to her by Mr. Lord; the time had come for a fulfilment of her promise to
the dead man.


Horace’s letter Nancy sent by post to her husband, requesting him to let
her know his thoughts about it in writing before they again met. Of her
own feeling she gave no sign. ‘I want you to speak of it just as if
it concerned a stranger, plainly and simply. All I need say is, that I
never even suspected the truth.’

Tarrant did not keep her long in suspense, and his answer complied in
reasonable measure with the desire she had expressed.

‘The disclosure has, of course, pained you. Equally, of course, you wish
it were not necessary to let me know of it; you are in doubt as to
how it will affect me; you perhaps fear that I shall--never mind about
phrasing. First, then, a word on that point. Be assured once for all
that nothing external to yourself can ever touch the feeling which I now
have for you. “One word is too often profaned;” I will say simply that I
hold you in higher regard that any other human being.

‘Try not to grieve, my dearest. It is an old story, in both senses.
You wish to know how I view the matter. Well, if a wife cannot love her
husband, it is better she should not pretend to do so; if she love
some one else, her marriage is at an end, and she must go. Simple
enough--provided there be no children. Whether it is ever permissible
for a mother to desert her children, I don’t know. I will only say that,
in you yourself, I can find nothing more admirable than the perfect love
which you devote to your child. Forsake it, you could not.

‘In short, act as feeling dictates. Your mother lives; that fact cannot
be ignored. In your attitude towards her, do not consult me at all;
whatever your heart approves, I shall find good and right. Only, don’t
imagine that your feeling of to-day is final--I would say, make no
resolve; they are worth little, in any concern of life.

‘Write to me again, and say when you wish to see me.

After reading this, Nancy moved about with the radiance of a great joy
on her countenance. She made no haste to reply; she let a day elapse;
then, in the silence of a late hour, took pen and paper.

‘When do I wish to see you? Always; in every moment of my day. And yet I
have so far conquered “the unreasonable female”--do you remember saying
that?--that I would rather never see you again than bring you to my
side except when it was your pleasure to be with me. Come as soon as you
can--as soon as you will.

‘My mother--how shall I word it? She is nothing to me. I don’t feel that
Nature bids me love her. I could pardon her for leaving my father; like
you, I see nothing terrible in that; but, like you, I _know_ that she
did wrong in abandoning her little children, and her kindness to Horace
at the end cannot atone for it. I don’t think she has any love for _me_.
We shall not see each other; at all events, that is how I feel about it
at present. But I am very glad that Horace made provision for her--that
of course was right; if he had not done it, it would have been my duty.

‘I had better tell you that Mary has known my mother’s story for a long
time--but not that she still lived. My father told her just before his
death, and exacted her promise that, if it seemed well, she would repeat
everything to me. You shall know more about it, though it is bad all
through. My dear father had reason bitterly to regret his marriage long
before she openly broke it.

‘But come and see me, and tell me what is to be done now that we are
free to look round. There is no shame in taking what poor Horace has
given us. You see that there will be at least three thousand pounds for
our share, apart from the income we shall have from the business.’

He was sure to come on the evening of the morrow. Nancy went out before
breakfast to post her letter; light-hearted in the assurance that her
husband’s days of struggle were over, that her child’s future no longer
depended upon the bare hope that its father would live and thrive by a
profession so precarious as that of literature, she gave little thought
to the details of the new phase of life before her. Whatever Tarrant
proposed would be good in her sight. Probably he would wish to live in
the country; he might discover the picturesque old house of which he
had so often spoken. In any case, they would now live together. He had
submitted her to a probation, and his last letter declared that he was
satisfied with the result.

Midway in the morning, whilst she was playing with her little boy,--rain
kept them in the house,--a knock at the front door announced some
unfamiliar visit. Mary came to the parlour, with a face of surprise.

‘Who is it?’

‘Miss. Morgan.’

‘What? Jessica?’

Mary handed an envelope, addressed to ‘Mrs. Tarrant.’ It contained a
sheet of paper, on which was written in pencil: ‘I beg you to see me, if
only for a minute.’

‘Yes, I will see her,’ said Nancy, when she had frowned in brief

Mary led away the little boy, and, a moment after, introduced Jessica
Morgan. At the appearance of her former friend, Nancy with difficulty
checked an exclamation; Miss. Morgan wore the garb of the Salvation
Army. Harmonious therewith were the features shadowed by the hideous
bonnet: a face hardly to be recognised, bloodless, all but fleshless,
the eyes set in a stare of weak-minded fanaticism. She came hurriedly
forward, and spoke in a quick whisper.

‘I was afraid you would refuse to see me.’

‘Why have you come?’

‘I was impelled--I had a duty to perform.’

Coldly, Nancy invited her to sit down, but the visitor shook her head.

‘I mustn’t take a seat in your house. I am unwelcome; we can’t pretend
to be on terms of friendliness. I have come, first of all,’--her eyes
wandered as she spoke, inspecting the room,--‘to humble myself before
you--to confess that I was a dishonourable friend,--to make known with
my lips that I betrayed your secret--’

Nancy interrupted the low, hurrying, panting voice, which distressed her
ear as much as the facial expression that accompanied it did her eyes.

‘There’s no need to tell me. I knew it at the time, and you did me no
harm. Indeed, it was a kindness.’

She drew away, but Jessica moved after her.

‘I supposed you knew. But it is laid upon me to make a confession before
you. I have to ask your pardon, most humbly and truly.’

‘Do you mean that some one has told you to do this?’

‘Oh no!’ A gleam of infinite conceit shot over the humility of Jessica’s
countenance. ‘I am answerable only to my own soul. In the pursuit of an
ideal which I fear you cannot understand, I subdue my pride, and confess
how basely I behaved to you. Will you grant me your forgiveness?’

She clasped her gloveless hands before her breast, and the fingers
writhed together.

‘If it is any satisfaction to you,’ replied Nancy, overcome with wonder
and pity, ‘I will say those words. But don’t think that I take upon

‘Only say them. I ask your pardon--say you grant it.’

Nancy uttered the formula, and with bowed head Jessica stood for a
minute in silence; her lips moved.

‘And now,’ she said at length, ‘I must fulfil the second part of
the duty which has brought me here.’ Her attitude changed to one of
authority, and her eyes fixed themselves on Nancy’s, regarding her with
the mild but severe rebuke of a spiritual superior. ‘Having acknowledged
my wrong-doing, I must remind you of your own. Let me ask you first of
all--have you any religious life?’

Nancy’s eyes had turned away, but at these words they flashed sternly
upon the speaker.

‘I shall let you ask no such question.’

‘I expected it,’ Jessica sighed patiently. ‘You are still in the
darkness, out of which _I_ have been saved.’

‘If you have nothing more to say than this, I must refuse to talk any

‘There is a word I must speak,’ pursued Jessica. ‘If you will not heed
it now, it will remain in your memory, and bear fruit at the appointed
time. I alone know of the sin which poisons your soul, and the
experiences through which I have passed justify me in calling you to

Nancy raised her hand.

‘Stop! That is quite enough. Perhaps you are behaving conscientiously;
I will try to believe it. But not another word, or I shall speak as I
don’t wish to.’

‘It is enough. You know very well what I refer to. Don’t imagine that
because you are now a married woman--’

Nancy stepped to the door, and threw it open.

‘Leave the house,’ she said, in an unsteady tone. ‘You said you were
unwelcome, and it was true. Take yourself out of my sight!’

Jessica put her head back, murmured some inaudible words, and with a
smile of rancorous compassion went forth into the rain.

On recovering from the excitement of this scene, Nancy regretted her
severity; the poor girl in the hideous bonnet had fallen very low,
and her state of mind called for forbearance. The treachery for
which Jessica sought pardon was easy to forgive; not so, however, the
impertinent rebuke, which struck at a weak place in Nancy’s conscience.
Just when the course of time and favour of circumstances seemed to
have completely healed that old wound, Jessica, with her crazy malice
grotesquely disguised, came to revive the half-forgotten pangs, the
shame and the doubt that had seemed to be things gone by. It would have
become her, Nancy felt, to treat her hapless friend of years ago in a
spirit of gentle tolerance; that she could not do so proved her--and
she recognised the fact--still immature, still a backward pupil in the
school of life.--‘And in the Jubilee year I thought myself a decidedly
accomplished person!’

Never mind. Her husband would come this evening. Of him she could learn
without humiliation.

His arrival was later than of wont. Only at eleven o’clock, when with
disappointment she had laid aside her book to go to bed, did Tarrant’s
rap sound on the window.

‘I had given you up,’ said Nancy.

‘Yet you are quite good-tempered.’

‘Why not?’

‘It is the pleasant custom of wives to make a husband uncomfortable if
he comes late.’

‘Then I am no true wife!’ laughed Nancy.

‘Something much better,’ Tarrant muttered, as he threw off his overcoat.

He began to talk of ordinary affairs, and nearly half-an-hour elapsed
before any mention was made of the event that had bettered their
prospects. Nancy looked over a piece of his writing in an evening paper
which he had brought; but she could not read it with attention. The
paper fell to her lap, and she sat silent. Clearly, Tarrant would not
be the first to speak of what was in both their minds. The clock ticked;
the rain pattered without; the journalist smoked his pipe and looked
thoughtfully at the ceiling.

‘Are you sorry,’ Nancy asked, ‘that I am no longer penniless?’

‘Ah--to be sure. We must speak of that. No, I’m not sorry. If I get run
over, you and the boy--’

‘Can make ourselves comfortable, and forget you; to be sure. But for the
present, and until you do get run over?’

‘You wish to make changes?’

‘Don’t you?’

‘In one or two respects, perhaps. But leave me out of the question. You
have an income of your own to dispose of; nothing oppressively splendid,
I suppose. What do you think of doing?’

‘What do you advise?’

‘No, no. Make your own suggestion.

Nancy smiled, hesitated, and said at length:

‘I think we ought to take a house.’

‘In London?’

‘That’s as you wish.’

‘Not at all. As _you_ wish. Do you want society?’

‘In moderation. And first of all, yours.

Tarrant met her eyes.

‘Of my society, you have quite as much as is good for you,’ he answered
amiably. ‘That you should wish for acquaintances, is reasonable enough.
Take a house somewhere in the western suburbs. One or two men I know
have decent wives, and you shall meet them.’

‘But you? You won’t live with me?’

‘You know my view of that matter.’

Nancy kept her eyes down, and reflected.

‘Will it be known to everybody that we don’t live together?’

‘Well,’ answered Tarrant, with a laugh, ‘by way of example, I should
rather like it to be known; but as I know _you_ wouldn’t like it, let
the appearances be as ordinary as you please.’

Again Nancy reflected. She had a struggle with herself.

‘Just one question,’ she said at length. ‘Look me in the face. Are
you--ever so little--ashamed of me?’

He regarded her steadily, smiling.

‘Not in the least.’

‘You were--you used to be?’

‘Before I knew you; and before I knew myself. When, in fact, _you_ were
a notable young lady of Camberwell, and _I_--’

He paused to puff at his pipe.

‘And you?’

‘A notable young fool of nowhere at all.’

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Year of Jubilee" ***

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