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Title: The Duchess of Rosemary Lane - A Novel
Author: Farjeon, B. L. (Benjamin Leopold)
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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      (Harvard University)



THE DUCHESS OF ROSEMARY LANE.



THE
DUCHESS OF ROSEMARY LANE.

A Novel.



BY
B. L. FARJEON,

AUTHOR OF
"GREAT PORTER SQUARE," "DEVLIN THE BARBER,"
"GRIF," "THE SACRED NUGGET," &c., &c.



_SECOND EDITION_.



LONDON:
F. V. WHITE & CO.,
31, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C.
1893.



PRINTED BY
KELLY AND CO. LIMITED, GATE STREET, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS,
AND MIDDLE MILL, KINGSTON-ON-THAMES.



CONTENTS.

The Prologue.

Part The First.--Spring

Part The Second.--Summer

Part The Third.--Autumn

Part The Fourth.--Winter

----------

Part The First.--The Child

Part The Second.--The Woman



THE DUCHESS OF ROSEMARY LANE,



THE
DUCHESS OF ROSEMARY LANE.



The Prologue.

   "We see
    The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
    Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose;
    And on old Hymen's chin and icy crown
    An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
    Is, as in mockery, set."



PART THE FIRST.
SPRING.


It is a lovely morning in April. The last drops of a radiant shower
have fallen, and Nature is smiling through her tears, as might a happy
maiden in the sparkling face of her lover, who, suddenly and
unexpectedly, has brought her joyful tidings. The titlark and the
whitethroat, and other feathered visitors of spring, are flying hither
and thither in glad delight, singing their blithest songs, and
carrying rays of sunlight on their wings to illumine the summer nests
which they are building. Joyously busy are these graceful citizens of
the woods, and proud of their work; they chirp, and twitter, and
exchange glad greetings, as they fly hither and thither, and when they
rest from their labour of love on the sprays of the common beech, they
seem to be sitting in bell-shaped thrones of emerald, while the dew
upon the flowers of the silver birch glitters like drops of molten
gold in the eye of the sun.

Surrounded by these and myriad other evidences of spring, stands a
fair and beautiful girl, herself in the spring of life. The name of
the place is appropriate to her and to the season. Springfield is an
enclosed park of forty acres, the beauties of which are jealously
hidden from vulgar gaze. It is the most picturesque portion of an
important estate, at present in the possession of Lady Josephine
Temple, who lies sick in the quaint old house yonder, built in the
Elizabethan style, the designs for which are said to have been
prepared by John of Padua. But John of Padua and all the historical
associations of the house are as dead letters to Lady Temple, who has
sufficient food for contemplation in her own immediate affairs and
condition. The blinds of the room in which she lies are drawn down for
the express purpose of shutting out the day, in accordance with the
ancient formula, which provided that the sick should be depressed and
weakened by dim light and silence, instead of cheered and strengthened
by sunlight and cheerfulness.

To beautiful Nelly Marston, as she stands by the quaint old windows in
the laughing sunlight, with diamond drops of rain glistening in her
bonny brown hair, and on her lashes,--


    "The April in her eyes; it is love's spring,
     And these the showers to bring it on,"--


to her comes, with a bashful air upon him, the son of the head
gardener of Springfield, a young man of twenty-five or thereabouts,
fairly handsome, fairly well-made, and, through the long services of
his father, fairly well-to-do in the world. He has in his hand some
loose flowers, and a small bouquet of lilies of the valley, arranged
in good taste, and looking, with their white petals and their
background of exquisitely green leaves, like turrets of ivory carved
out one above another, built up on emerald mountains. The young man,
with a world of admiration expressed in his manner, holds out the
lilies to Miss Nelly Marston, with a shyness that would have been
comical in one so strong had his earnestness allowed scope for any
quality less strong than itself.

"May I offer you these, miss?"

As though he were offering her his heart, which, indeed, he was ready
and eager to do, but lacked the courage.

"Thank you, John," she says, turning the flowers this way and that,
with as dainty a coquetting with man and flower--though she does not
look at _him_--as well could be. Then she selects two or three of the
lilies, and places them in her brown hair, where they rest like white
doves in an autumn forest. John's heart is full as he sees his flowers
thus disposed. Nelly, then, inhales the fresh air, demonstratively, as
though it were nectar. "What a lovely morning! And yet it was blowing
last night, almost like winter."

"Ah, you heard the wind, miss," responds the young gardener, delighted
at the opportunity of exchanging a few words with the girl who had but
lately come to Springfield, and who had taken his heart captive the
moment his eyes rested on her fair face. A thrill actually runs
through his foolish heart at the thought that he and she were awake at
the same moment listening to the wind. "It is a good sign, miss, for
harvest."

"I have heard you are weather-wise, John," says Nelly Marston, with a
little laugh sweeter to the young fellow than the sweetest chime of
bells, or the sweetest music of birds. "Harvest-time is far off. In
what way is it a good sign?"

"When April blows his horn, it's good for hay and corn. An old saying,
miss."

"As old, I dare say, as that April showers make May flowers." (Nelly
Marston is almost as pleased as the young gardener himself at the
opportunity for conversation. She finds Springfield very dull. Every
soul in it, with the exception of the mistress, is a servant, and Lady
Temple, a childless widow, is not remarkable for cheerfulness or
lively manners. There is no one at Springfield with whom the girl can
associate.) "These lilies are very, very pretty, John! What is that
flower you have in your hand, that one with the spotted leaves?"

"This, miss? It isn't very handsome, but I can't resist picking a bit
when I first catch sight of it in the spring hedges, because it
reminds me of the time when I was a little un, and when me and the
others used to play at lords-and-ladies with it. It's almost a
medicine flower, too, miss, the cuckoo-pint."

"The cuckoo-pint! Is lords-and-ladies another name for it?"

"Not a proper name, miss, but that's what we used to call it. It's
come down to us in that way."

"And the cuckoo flower, too! I have heard of the cuckoo flower, of
course, but never of the cuckoo-pint. Lords-and-ladies! Give it to me,
John, will you?"

"With pleasure, miss," answers the delighted and palpitating John.
"I'll pick you a bunch of them, if you like, miss."

"Yes, do! But--I am a very curious person, John, always wanting to
know things--_why_ is it called lords-and-ladies?"

"I don't exactly know, miss, except, perhaps, that it changes more
than any other flower."

"And lords-and-ladies do that?"

"It isn't for me to say, miss. I only repeat what I have heard.
There's other names for it. If you'll allow me, miss." John's nerves
tingle as he takes the flower from the girl's hand, and in doing so,
touches her fingers. The contact of her soft flesh with his is a
concentrated bliss to him, and sets his sensitive soul on fire. "You
see, I pull down this hood"--(he suits the action to the word, and
turns down the outer leaf)--"and here's the Parson in his Pulpit. You
might fancy 'twas something like it, miss."

"You must not make fun of parsons, John. My father was one."

John, who is a staunch church-goer, and by no means irreverently
inclined, is instantly imbued with a deeper reverence than ever for
parsons, and says apologetically,

"Tis not making fun of them, miss, to liken them to flowers. If I was
to liken them to medicine bottles, now, with the white labels tied
round their necks, 'twould be different; but I wouldn't go so far as
that."

Nelly Marston laughs, the likeness of medicine bottles to the clergy
is so clearly apparent.

"It is a long stretch either way, John. I must go in now. Don't forget
to pick me a bunch of lords-and-ladies!"

"I'll not forget, miss."

The happy young gardener touches his cap, and walks away with a blithe
heart, to search at once among the hedges for this particular species
of the arum. Be sure that none but the very finest specimens will meet
with his approval. From this day forth the cuckoo-pint holds a
curiously-tender place in his memory, and the season


    "When daisies pied, and violets blue,
      And lady-smocks, all silver-white,
     And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue,
      Do paint the meadows with delight,"


never comes round without bringing with it a vision of himself and a
fair and beautiful girl by the old house at Springfield, she with
white lilies and cuckoo flowers in her hands, and he standing before
her, with a heart pulsing with love and adoration.

Nelly Marston would have stopped a longer time conversing with him,
had she not seen a maid approaching her from the house to summon her
to Lady Temple's room.

"I have been waiting for you, Miss Marston," says the sick lady, in a
peevish tone, as the girl enters, "and wondering where you were. What
have you in your hand? Flowers! Send them away. You know I am
expressly forbidden to have flowers about me. Stay. What are they?
Don't bring them too close."

"Only a few lilies of the valley, Lady Temple, that the gardener's son
gave me."

"And you have some in your hair, too--that the gardener's son gave
you! And those other flowers, the yellow ones?"

"This is the cuckoo flower--the cuckoo pint, rather. Lords-and-ladies,
he called it."

"And that's why you choose it, I suppose. So you have been gossiping
with the gardener's son! You are like your mother, I am afraid."

"My mother, Lady Temple," says the girl proudly, straightening her
slight figure, "during her lifetime, always spoke of you with respect
and affection. I shall be glad if you will explain the meaning of your
words--if they have a meaning."

"There, there, don't worry me, Miss Marston. I am not strong enough
for scenes. It seems to be a bright morning."

"It is very fresh and lovely out of doors. Spring is come in real
earnest. The apple-blossoms look beautiful----"

"And I lie here," interrupts Lady Temple querulously, "shut out from
it all, shut out from it all! I have never had any happiness in my
life, never! Shall I never rise from this horrible bed?" She gazes at
Nelly Marston, envious of the girl's youth and brightness. "I suppose,
Miss Marston, if you were mistress of this house and grounds, you
think you could be very happy?"

"I think so, Lady Temple. I should not require much else."

"You would!" cried Lady Temple, fiercely. "One thing. Love! That is
what your mother sacrificed herself for, the fool!"

"Why speak of her in that way," asks the girl, in a quiet tone, but
with a bright colour in her face which shows how deeply she resents
the words of her mistress, "before her daughter? She was your friend,
remember. You say you have never had happiness in your life. I am
sorry for you, and I am glad to think that my mother had much."

"There, there! Be still. Your mother was a good creature, and no one's
enemy but her own. What are those shadows on the blind?"

"Swallows, Lady Temple. I lay awake for a long time this morning,
watching them. They are building nests just outside my window."

"Never mind them," says Lady Temple, fretfully. "Listen to me, Miss
Marston. I am not quite alone in the world. I have relatives who love
me very much just now--oh, yes, very much just now, when they think I
have not long to live! But only one shall darken my doors. My nephew,
Mr. Temple, will be here in a few days; you must see that his rooms
are ready for him when he arrives. Give me his letter. There it is, on
my dressing-table. What have you dropped? What are you looking at?"

"A portrait, Lady Temple. It slipped from the envelope. Is it Mr.
Temple's picture?"

"Yes, yes; give it to me. It is a handsome face, is it not, Miss
Marston? Now sit down, and do not annoy me any longer. When I am
asleep, go softly, and see to Mr. Temple's rooms. _He_ will have this
house when I am gone, if he does not thwart me. But I will take
care--I will take care----"

The sentence is not finished, and there is silence in the sick room.
Lady Temple dozes, and Nelly Marston sits quietly by the window,
stealthily raising a corner of the blind now and then, to catch a
glimpse of the sun and the beautiful grounds upon which it shines.



PART THE SECOND.
SUMMER.


The moon shines on a rippling brook in Springfield, and the summer
flowers are sleeping. But even in sleep the foxglove lights up the
underwood, and the clover retains the sunset's crimson fire. It is a
beautiful and peaceful night; an odorous stillness is in the air, and


                           "the floor of heaven
    Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold."


The shadows of gently-undulating branches and the delicate traceries
of the feather-grass--so subtly sensitive that in the stillest night
its bells are tremulous; mayhap in response to fairy whisperings--are
reflected in the stream which reflects also the shadow of Nelly
Marston, who is bending low to look at her fair face in the depths
made luminous by stars. As with sparkling eyes she stoops lower and
lower in half-sportive, half-earnest admiration of herself, her face
rises in the water to greet her, until the smiling lips of flesh
almost kiss their shadow.

As she gazes, another shadow bends over hers, blotting the fairer
vision, and a strong arm is thrown around her waist.

"Why, Nelly--Miss Marston! Are you about to play Ophelia in my aunt's
pretty brook?"

The girl starts to her feet, and swiftly releases herself from his
embrace. Not far from them, but unseen by either, stands the
gardener's son, watching them. _Their_ breasts are stirred by emotions
which bring an agitated pleasure to them; _his_ is stirred by darker
passions.

"I was simply," replies Nelly, with burning blushes in her face,
"bending over the water to--to----"

And pauses for lack of words.

Mr. Temple assists her.

"To look at your pretty face, or perhaps to kiss yourself, as a spirit
might. Labour thrown away, Miss Marston, and most certainly
unprofitable, if what the poet says is true:


    "Some there be that shadows kiss;
     Such have but a shadow's bliss."


Nelly Marston regains her composure.

"We did not expect you to-night, Mr. Temple."

"Then I should be all the more welcome," he answers gaily. "I am
starving, Nelly----"

She checks him by a look.

"I beg your pardon. Miss Nelly Marston, I am starving with hunger. I
have not had a morsel of food in my mouth since the morning."

"There will be no difficulty in reviving your fainting soul, Mr.
Temple," she says, with a desperate attempt to imitate his light
manner; "but Lady Temple must not know you are here. 'Miss Marston,'
she said to me this afternoon, my nephew will be absent for some time.
He will write to me regularly. Directly his letters arrive, let me
have them. If I am asleep place them at once by my side.'"

Mr. Temple, a handsome, graceful man, not less than thirty-five years
of age, interposes with a merry laugh.

"I posted one to her ladyship three hours ago, twenty miles from this
spot."

"All the more reason," says Nelly Marston seriously, "why she should
not know you are in Springfield."

He tries to stop her remonstrance by, "Now, my dear Mother Hubbard!"
but she will not listen to him.

"Lady Temple unfortunately magnifies the smallest trifles into serious
vexations. She is very, very fretful"--this with a little weary
sigh--"and the doctor says it is most important she should not be
annoyed in any way. Mr. Temple, if she suspects you are in the house
to-night, she will never forgive you."

"And houses, lands, and money," he rejoins, with a careless shrug of
his shoulders, "would melt away into such airy distances that, though
my limbs were quickened with mercury, I should never be able to
overtake them. But what are all these when weighed against love----"

Flushed and palpitating, Nelly finds strength to interrupt him.

"Mr. Temple, I must not listen to you. I am not ignorant of the reason
why your aunt sent you away--for you _were_ sent, you know!" she adds,
somewhat saucily.

"Oh, yes, I know I was sent away. I am sure I did not want to go."

"Twice to-day Lady Temple has spoken seriously to me--I leave you to
guess upon what subject. Mr. Temple, you know what my position is. I
am a dependent, without parents, without friends, without money.
Sometimes when I look into the future, and think of what would become
of me if I were thrown upon the world, I tremble with fear."

"And yet you have a strong will of your own," he mutters, not in the
most amiable tone; but in another instant he relapses into his lighter
mood.

There is a moment's hesitation on her part, as though her strong will
were about to desert her; but she, also, succeeds in controlling
herself.

"No, I am weak, very, very weak; but for my own sake I must strive to
be strong. And now I will leave you, please. No; do not walk with me
to the house. We shall be seen, and the servants will talk."

"Let them talk!" he cries impetuously.

She looks him steadily in the face.

"If they do, Mr. Temple, who will suffer--you or I?"

"You don't understand me, Nelly--nay, I _will_ call you Nelly when no
one is by to hear!--I will answer for their discretion; but indeed and
indeed, we shall not be seen!"

While he speaks, she is walking towards the house, and he is by her
side. After them, through the path where the shadows lie, steals the
gardener's son, quivering with excitement. If he could but hear what
these two were saying to each other! He loves Nelly Marston with all
the strength of his nature. He not only loves her; he respects her.
The very ground she walks upon is sacred in his eyes. Until lately he
had fed hopefully upon small crumbs of comfort which the girl,
wittingly or unwittingly, had given him. Nelly had spoken pleasantly
to him; Nelly had smiled upon him as she tripped past him; Nelly wore
a flower he gave her. But he had never found the courage to open his
heart to her, she being in his estimation so far above him, and now he
fears that a rival has stepped in, and that what he yearns for with
all his soul is slipping from him.

"Mr. Temple," says Nelly, when they are near the house, "you said just
now that you were starving of hunger. You had best bribe one of the
servants, and get something to eat. Then I should advise you to quit
Springfield, and not return till you are sent for."

"Should you!" he replies, defiantly and yet beseechingly. "Advice is a
cheap gift. _You_ would not send for me, I warrant."

"By what right should I?"

"Hungry for food I am," he says, "but I have another kind of hunger
upon me which makes me regardless of that."

"Indeed!" she exclaims, with a pretty gesture of surprise.

"Nelly, you are merciless. You see that I am starving of love for you,
and you systematically----"

She stays to hear no more, and gliding from him, passes into the
house. But he, stung by her avoidance of him, steps swiftly after her,
and before she is aware of his presence, stands with her in the sick
chamber, where Lady Temple lies sleeping.

Within this man is working the instinct of our common nature. The more
difficult to win becomes the prize--without question of its worth: the
measure of difficulty gauges that--the more ardent is he in its
pursuit, and the greater value it assumes. And being piqued in this
instance, all the forces of his intellect come to his aid.

And Nelly? Well, loving him already, she loves him the more because of
his persistence, and because of the value he by his recklessness
appears to place upon her.

"O Mr. Temple," she whispers, deeply agitated, "how can you so
compromise me? Go, for Heaven's sake, before she wakes!'

"On one condition," he answers, lowering his voice to the pitch of
hers; "that you meet me by the brook in an hour from this."

"Anything--anything!--but go!"

"You promise, then?"

"Yes, yes--I promise."

He is about to seal the promise, she being at his mercy, when Lady
Temple moves restlessly, and opens her eyes. He has barely time to
slip behind the curtains at the head of the bed before the sick lady
speaks.

"Is that you, Miss Marston?"

"Yes, Lady Temple."

"I thought I heard voices!"

"I have this moment come in."

"I went to sleep without taking my medicine, Miss Marston. Why did you
let me go to sleep without it?"

"You fell asleep suddenly, Lady Temple, and I thought it best not to
wake you."

"Give it to me now."

Nelly takes a bottle from a table at the head of the bed, pours out
the medicine, and gives it to the sick lady. As she replaces the
bottle, Mr. Temple, with unthinking and cruel audacity, seizes her
hand, and kisses it. Lady Temple, with the medicine at her lips does
not drink, but gazes suspiciously at Nelly, who cannot keep the colour
from her cheeks.

"What sound is that?" asks Lady Temple. "What makes your face so red,
Miss Marston?"

Nelly busies herself--her hand being released--about the pillows, and
replies:

"You should not gaze at me so strangely. You are full of fancies
to-night, Lady Temple."

"Maybe, maybe. Hold up the candle, so that I may see the room--higher,
higher!"

Her inquisitive eyes peer before her, but she sees nothing to verify
her suspicions, Mr. Temple being safely concealed behind the curtains.

"That will do, Miss Marston. Put down the candle--the glare hurts my
eyes. Full of fancies!" she murmurs. "It is true I see shadows; I hear
voices: I am not certain at times whether I am awake or asleep. But
what I said to you to-day," she exclaims in a louder tone, "is no
fancy, Miss Marston."

"There is no occasion for you to repeat it, Lady Temple."

"I am the best judge of that, Miss Marston, and I do not intend to be
misunderstood. I tell you now, plainly, that I sent my nephew away
because I saw what was going on between you."

"Lady Temple!" cries Nelly indignantly.

"You must not agitate me, Miss Marston. Oblige me by holding this
glass while I speak. If you wish to leave the house, you may do so."

"It is so generous and good of you to threaten me!" says the girl
scornfully; "knowing my position. If I had any shelter but this, I
would not stop with you another day."

"You are only showing your ingratitude, Miss Marston, I do not
threaten you, and I will not be contradicted. I promised your mother
before she died that you should have a home here while I live, and I
will not turn you away. If you go, you go of your own accord. I tell
you again I know perfectly well what is stirring within that busy head
of yours. You are like your mother, no better, and no worse, and I
knew her well enough; never content, never content unless every man
she saw was at her feet."

"And yet," says Nelly more quietly, "you have spoken slightingly of
her more than once because she sacrificed herself, as you term it, for
love."

"Yes, she was caught at last, and was punished."

"It was a happy punishment, then. She would not have changed her lot
with yours, Lady Temple."

"She was punished, I tell you. As you will be, if you do not take
care. You will live to prove it, if you are not mindful of yourself.
You have a pretty face--psha! we are women and no one but ourselves
hears what I say. I had a pretty face once, and I knew its power, and
used it as you wish to do. But not with my nephew, Miss Marston, mark
that! You have all the world to choose from, with the exception of my
nephew. And you fancy you know him, I have no doubt--simpleton! You
know as much as a baby of the world and of men of the world. Take an
old woman's counsel--marry in your own station----"

"My mother was a lady," interrupts Nelly, with a curl of her lip, "and
I am one."

"Pooh! Nonsense! You have no money. You are a poor girl, and no
lady--as ladies go," she adds unconsciously uttering a truism in her
attempt to soften the effect of her words. "There's the gardener's
son. You can't do better than marry him. His father has been all his
life at Springfield, and has saved money I hear. He is continually
making you presents of flowers, and the housekeeper tells me----"

With a burning consciousness that these words are reaching other ears
than her own, Nelly again interrupts her mistress:

"When you have finished insulting me, Lady Temple, I shall be glad to
leave the room."

"You shall not leave the room till I am asleep. Marry whom you like
except my nephew. If he marries you he is a beggar by it. I am tired
of talking. I will take my medicine."

She empties the glass, and sinks back on her pillow. The medicine is
an opiate, but even while she yields to its influence, she continues
to murmur, in a tone so low that only Nelly now can hear her.

"Marriage, indeed! As if he means it, and as if, meaning it even, he
dared to thwart me! A pair of fools! They will rue the day!"

Thus she mutters until sleep overpowers her, and she takes her theme
with her into the land of dreams.

Mr. Temple steals from his hiding-place.

"She is in a sweet temper," he says in a whisper, placing his hands on
Nelly's shoulders, and drawing her to him. "I was very nearly coming
forward and spoiling everything; but I couldn't afford to do it.
Nelly, I want to know about that gardener's son."

She yields to his embrace for a moment, then draws away.

"I can tell you nothing now. Go, for my sake, lest she should awake."

"For your sake, then. Do not forget. In an hour, by the brook."

"I ought not to come."

"You have promised," he says, in a louder tone.

"Hush--hush!" she entreats. "Yes, I will come."

Before the hour has passed, he has appeased his hunger, and is
standing by the brook, waiting for Nelly. The night is most peaceful
and lovely, and Mr. Temple, as he smokes his cigar, pays homage to it
in an idle way, and derives a patronising pleasure from the shadows in
the starlit waters. His thoughts are not upon the graceful shapes,
although his eyes behold them. What, then, does he see in their place?
Do the floating reflections bear a deeper meaning to his senses than
they would convey under ordinary conditions? Does he see any
foreshadowing of the future there? No. His thoughts are all upon the
present, and what he beholds is merely tinged with such poetry as
springs from animal sentiment. He may trick himself into a finer
belief, but he cannot alter its complexion. He is in an ineffably
pleasant mood, and his pulses are stirred by just that feeling of
pleasurable excitement which sheds a brighter gloss on all surrounding
things. At the sound of a step behind him he smiles and his heart
beats faster. "It is Nelly," he whispers. But when he turns, and
confronts the gardener's son, the smile leaves his face.

"I ask your pardon, sir," says the young man, "can I have a word with
you?"

"Ah!" says Mr. Temple, with a look of curiosity at the young fellow,
"you are the gardener's son."

"Yes, sir."

Mr. Temple regards the intruder attentively, and says, rather
haughtily:

"You have selected a singular time for a conference."

"I must speak to you now, sir."

"Must?"

"If you please, sir."

"By-and-by will not do?"

"By-and-by may be too late, sir."

Mr. Temple looks at the gardener's son still more earnestly.

"Attend to what I am about to say, young man. You have lived all your
life at Springfield, I believe?"

"I was born here, sir."

"Have you an idea as to who will be the next master of this estate?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you wish to continue on it?"

"That's as it may be, sir."

These questions have been asked with a perfect consciousness of the
subject which the gardener's son wishes to approach, and have been so
worded as to have an indirect bearing upon it. The answer to the last,
spoken with manly independence, conveys to Mr. Temple the knowledge
that the gardener's son is not ignorant of their bearing, and the tone
in which it is given, although perfectly respectful, does not please
him.

"I must request you," he says, with a masterful wave of his hand, "to
choose some other time for your confidence."

"You expect some one, perhaps, sir."

Mr. Temple smiles complacently. In the few words that have passed, the
battle has been fairly opened. He determines that it shall be short.

"As you seem resolved," he says, taking out his watch and consulting
it, "to force yourself upon me, I will give you just five minutes.
Now, what have you to say?"

He is aware that he is taking the young fellow at a disadvantage by
his abrupt method; but, being a lawyer, he is not nice as to the means
of gaining an advantage.

"It is about Miss Marston," says the gardener's son, after a slight
pause.

"What of that young lady?"

"I don't know whether I have a right to speak----"

"That is candid of you."

The arrow misses its mark.

"But it may be," proceeds the young fellow, "that I have, for the
reason that I love her."

His voice trembles, but his earnestness imparts power to it.

"I am obliged to you for your confidence," observes Mr. Temple,
watching for Nelly Marston as he speaks, "unsolicited as it is. A
pretty young lady generally inspires that passion in many breasts."

"But not in all alike," quickly retorts the gardener's son.

"That is fair philosophy. Proceed."

"You speak lightly, sir, while I am serous. It stands in this way,
sir. People are beginning to talk----"

"People _will_ talk," interrupts Mr. Temple, with malicious relish;
"as in the present instance."

"And Miss Marston's name and yours have got mixed up together in a
manner it would grieve her to know."

"You forget, in the first place," says Mr. Temple haughtily, with an
ominous frown on his face, "that Miss Marston is a lady; and in the
second, you forget to whom you are speaking."

"Truly I am not thinking of you, sir," replies the gardener's son
quietly and simply, "I am thinking of her. A young lady's good name is
not a thing to be lightly played with."

"Therefore," says Mr. Temple impatiently, "I would advise you to take
that very lesson to heart, and to tell those persons who are, as you
say, making light of her good name--you are evidently acquainted with
them--that it will be wise for them to choose other topics of gossip.
I cannot acknowledge your right to address me on this matter, and this
conversation must come to an end. Young ladies nowadays are perfectly
well able to take care of themselves, and as a rule choose for
themselves. We rougher creatures are often more sensitive than they,
and more particular on certain points. And now let me tell you, my
man, it is a dangerous thing for you to seek me out at night and
address me on such a subject in the tone and manner you have assumed.
You are speaking to a gentleman, remember. You----"

"Are not one," interposes the gardener's son, with sad significance;
"I know it, sir."

"I will waive that, however, and say this much to you. If Miss Marston
had constituted you her champion and had authorised you to speak, I
should be willing to listen to you. But that is not the case, I
presume, and I wish you goodnight."

The gardener's son twines his fingers convulsively. Were Mr. Temple
his equal in station, it would have fared ill with him, smarting as
the man is with passionate jealousy and the sting of unrequited love.
He controls himself sufficiently to say,

"I must ask you one question, sir. Do you remain at Springfield?"

"No; I leave to-night, and I shall probably be absent for weeks. Ah, I
perceive that answer is satisfactory to you. I see a lady approaching.
Shall you or I retire?"

The gardener's son, casting one glance at the advancing form, walks
slowly away, and his shadow is soon swallowed up by other shadows,
among which he walks in pain and grief.

Nelly Marston is in no holiday humour; she is trembling with shame at
the thought of what passed in the sick-chamber of her peevish
mistress, and she approaches Mr. Temple with downcast head. Love and
humiliation are fighting a desperate battle within her breast, and she
does not respond sympathetically to her lover's glad greeting. He uses
his best arts to soothe and comfort her; he addresses her by every
endearing title, saying she is dearer to him than all the world, and
beseeching her to throw all the rest aside. She listens in silence at
the first, as he pours this sweet balm of Gilead upon her troubled
soul. He is in his brightest mood, and his speech which tells the
oft-told tale flows sweetly and tenderly. They stand beneath the
stars, and he calls upon them to witness his love, his truth, his
honour. Every word that falls from his lips sinks into her soul, and
her heart is like a garden filled with unfading flowers. Humiliation
and unrest melt into oblivion, never more to rise and agonise her. He
loves her; he tells her so a hundred times and in a hundred ways. He
will be true to her; he swears it by all the beautiful signs around
them. Fairer and more lovely grows the night as he kisses away her
tears. The moon rises higher in the heavens and bathes them in light.
Softly, more tenderly he speaks, and she, like a child listens,
listens--listens and believes, and hides her blushing face from him.
Ah, if truth lives, it lives in him--in him, the symbol of all that is
good and manly, and noble! She is so weak, he so strong! She knows so
little, he so much! The sweet and enthralling words he whispers into
her ears as her head lies upon his breast, form the first page of the
brightest book that life can open to her; and the sighing of the
breeze, the sleeping flowers, the hushed melody of the waving grass,
the laughing, flashing lights of heaven playing about the dreamy
shadows in the waters of the brook, are one and all delicious
evidences of his truth, his honour, and his love.

"I love you--I love you--I love you!" he vows and vows again. "Put
your arms about my neck--so! and whispers to me what I am dying to
hear."

"You are my life!" she sighs, and their lips meet; and then they sit
and talk, and, as she gazes into the immeasurable distances of the
stars, she sees, with the eyes of her soul, a happy future, filled
with fond and sweet imaginings,



PART THE THIRD.
AUTUMN.


The season of England's loveliest sunsets is here. The golden
corn, ripe and ready for the sickle, bows gracefully beneath the
lavender-perfumed breeze, and whispers to bountiful earth, "My time
has come. Farewell!"

In a garden attached to a cottage situated twenty miles from
Springfield stands Nelly Marston, by the side of an old apple-tree
loaded with fair fruit, and looking, with the white moss gathered
about its limbs, like an ancient knight clothed in silver armour. The
cottage has many rooms of delightfully odd shapes, is tastefully
furnished, and is built in the centre of an acre of land so prettily
laid out and so bright with colour that few strangers see it without
pausing a while to admire.

Nelly Marston is more beautiful than when we saw her last at
Springfield, and to the poetical mind presents a fine contrast to the
gnarled and ancient tree, which, could it speak, might honestly say,
"Old I am, but am yet fair to the eye and can produce good things.
Come, my girl, gather sweetness from me, and wisdom too, if you need
it."

She gathers sweetness and that is enough for her. From where she
stands, she has a broken view of the winding lane which, from distant
wider spaces, leads to the front of the cottage. Often and again her
eyes are directed towards this lane, with a look which denotes that
her heart is in them. She is like fair Rosamond waiting for her
prince. He comes! A horseman turns into the winding path and waves his
hand to her. She replies with the gladdest of smiles and with a waving
of her own pretty hand, and her heart beats joyfully to the music of
the horse's hoof. Her prince draws rein at the cottage-door, and she
is there to meet him. A lad with face deeply pock-marked takes the
horse to the stable, casting as many admiring glances towards Nelly as
time will permit of.

"Now, Nelly," says the prince gaily, as he throws his arms about her
and kisses her again and again, "was ever lover more punctual than I?"

"How can I tell?" she answers, "I never had but one."

"Ah, Nelly, Nelly!" he exclaims, with uplifted finger and an arch
smile; "do you forget the gardener's son?"

"No, I do not forget him; he was very good to me. But I do not mean in
that way."

"In what way, then, puss?"

"You'll tease me till I tell you. I don't know how to say it."

"Say it you must, though, my queen."

"Of course I must. You have got what you call a strong will. Isn't
that it?"

"That is it," he assents, with a nod which is both careless and
determined.

"And are never to be turned from your purpose?"

"Never. That is the only way to get on in life, and I mean to get on."

"Nothing can prevent that. You are so clever that I am half inclined
to be frightened of you. And I should be, if I were not sure you loved
me."

He kisses her as he observes, "Put the strongest will into the
crucible of love, and it melts like lead in a furnace. In such a test
steel would become as pliant as running water. Love is the most
intoxicating poison, my darling."

"I don't like the word," she says.

"The word 'darling'?" he inquires.

"No, the word 'poison.' Love is not a poison; it is an elixir." She
winds her arms round his neck, and murmurs, "It has given me a new
life. The world is more beautiful than it used to be I am sure."

He smiles at her sentiment. "I remember telling you once that _you_
had a strong will of your own, Nelly."

"I haven't that much," she says, placing the nail of her thumb to the
tip of her little finger. "Not that much!"

"But you are a cunning puss, for all that," he says, as he draws her
face to his. They are in the cottage now, and she is sitting on his
knee. "You want to fly away from the subject we were speaking of, so
my strong will must bring you back to it. Well, I'll be content with a
compromise. Who is this lover that so limits your knowledge?"

"I shall not tell you that, sir. You must guess it--if you can! As
_if_ you could! No, I'll not say! I can keep a secret. Oh, you may
laugh, but I can!"

"Well, then, where is he?"

"Where? Why, thousands of miles away of course!"

"Let me not catch him!" he cries gaily. "Well, now, pet, to spite that
person, who I hope will not suffer _very_ much in consequence, I
intend to stop with you a whole fortnight."

Her face lights up with joy.

"I have important business in London," he continues, with a sly laugh;
"oh, most important! My presence is imperatively required in the great
city. The interests of an influential client depend personally upon
me, so Lady Temple has given me leave of absence. Confiding old soul!"

"Lady Temple is the same as ever?"

"The same as ever. No change. Fretful and peevish, throwing out all
sorts of dark innuendoes one minute, and smiling upon me the next. Now
a lamb, now a tigress. I have the temper of an angel, Nell, or I could
never stand it. But I humour her--for your sake, pet, as well as my
own. Our future depends upon her.

"Does she speak of me?"

"She mentioned your name once last week, and not amiably. But enough
of her. Goodbye, my worthy aunt, for a happy fortnight. If she
guessed how matters stood, Nell, between me and you, I should
be----well, best not think of that. The prospect is not a pleasant
one. Now tell me how you have passed the time, how many new laid-eggs
you get a day, and how the chickens are, whether the new little pig
has any idea of its ultimate fate, how the fruit is getting on, and
how you like the new boy I sent to look after the stable. You did not
want him you wrote to me; but thereby hangs a tale, which you shall
hear presently. Upon my word, Nell, I suspect he is in love with you,
like everybody else who sees you. I have a kind of belief that you are
a love-witch. He never took his eyes off you, all the time he was
waiting for my nag. Now for the reason of his being here. Nelly,
to-morrow morning, before you are up, there will arrive at this little
cottage the prettiest basket-carriage and the prettiest pair of ponies
in England. A present for you, pet, from your lover thousands of miles
away. Ah, you kiss me for that, do you! Then I take it, you are
pleased with this mysterious lover of yours!"

"I believe no woman in the world was ever half so happy as I. When you
are with me, there is not a cloud on my life."

"That's a good hearing," he says, heartily. "Why, Nelly, you are a
living wonder! A satisfied woman! I shall scarcely be surprised to
hear you say you have not a wish ungratified."

"Not quite that. I have one wish."

"To wit," he prompts.

She whispers it to him.

"That the next fortnight would last for ever, so that you would never
have to leave me!"

"A woman's wish all over," he says. "But the old man with the scythe
will not be denied, my pet. While lovers dream, time flies the faster,
I can't imagine you with white hair, Nell; yet you would look lovely
anyway."

"_Your_ hair will be white, too, remember," she says, in a tone of
tender jesting. "It will be strange to look back so many years, and
think and talk of the past. But we shall be to each other then what we
are now. Say that we shall."

"Say it! I swear it, my pet! Let Time do his worst, then. You shall
not pluck another white hair out of my head. Nelly, I love you more
and more every day of my life."

"And nothing shall ever part us!"

"Nothing, my darling!"

She is, indeed, supremely happy. The springtime of youth and love is
hers, and no deeper heresy could have been whispered to her than the
warning such a springtime resembles


    "The uncertain glory of an April day,
     Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
     And by-and-by a cloud takes all away."


The minutes fly all too quickly, and Love, with magic brush, paints
the present and the time to come.



PART THE FOURTH.
WINTER.


Fifteen months have passed. It is winter, and the snow is falling;
weather-wise men say that it will continue to fall for days. Peaceful
and solemn are the fields, with Nature's carpet of virgin snow
covering and protecting the seedlings in the soil beneath. White and
graceful devices beautify the woods, the traceries of which are so
wonderfully delicate and exquisite that none but spirit fingers could
have shaped them, and every little branch stands out bright and clear
in the life-giving air.

The scene is the same as the last, but the pretty cottage shows signs
of neglect. Our Nelly is there, and there is also a change in her. She
is no longer the bright and winsome girl we looked upon a short time
since. Her face is thin and haggard, and the expression on her
features is one of despair and agony. In the clear light of the
healthy winter's day she walks up and down, and round and round the
little room where love once dwelt, and where she called up fair
visions. Her fingers are tightly interlaced, her lips are white and
trembling, her eyes dilate with fear and helpless bewilderment. She
does not speak, and for an hour at least she walks about the room with
tumultuous agony at her breast.

Watching her from without, with sympathising eyes, and with an air
which denotes that he bears magnetically a share in her pain, is the
stable-lad who was hired to look after the prettiest pair of ponies in
the world, a present to her from her lover, who vowed that nothing
should ever part them--from her lover, who had stolen "her soul with
many vows of love, and ne'er a true one." And ne'er a true one! Ah,
kind Heaven, can it be possible? Can such treachery exist in a world
where goodness is? No, she will not believe it. She strives to shake
the doubt from her, feebly she wrestles with it, but it clings to her
with the tenacity of truth, and inflicts unspeakable torture upon her.

"If she'd only set down!" muttered the stable-boy. "If she'd only be
still a bit! If she'd only drop off asleep!"

But her whole soul is quivering; as her flesh might under the
influence of a keen, palpable torture. Pale as she is, a fire is
burning within her which almost maddens her, and a thousand feverish
pulses in her being are beating in cruel sympathy. Is love left in the
world? Is faithfulness? Is manliness? No. The world is filled with
shame, and dishonour, and treachery, and she stands there, their
living, suffering symbol.

Why the stable-lad is near her no one but himself could explain, and
he perhaps would have been puzzled to do so. He was dismissed from his
service months ago, when the ponies and basket-carriage were sold; but
he refused to leave. He lingers about the house, picks up his food
anyhow, sleeps anywhere, and during the daylight hours is always ready
to Nelly's call. She has sometimes, from the despair born of
loneliness, made a companion of him. She has no other now.

He experiences a feeling of relief when, after more than an hour has
passed, he observes a change in her movements. She throws on her hat
hurriedly, and passes out of the house. The lad follows her at a
distance. She does not know that she has forgotten her cloak, and she
heeds not the snow. The fire burning within her warms her with a
terrible, dangerous warmth. To all external impressions she seems to
be absolutely dead. She walks for a mile into the village, and enters
a stationer's shop, where the post-office is kept.

"Have you any letters for me?" she asks.

She is evidently known to the woman behind the counter, who replies
with small courtesy, "There is nothing for you."

Nelly holds out her hand with eager imploring. She has not heard the
answer.

"I told you there are no letters," says the woman.

"I beg your pardon," sighs Nelly, humbly; and looking round the shop,
as though to find some other excuse for having entered, picks up a
paper, pays for it, and retraces her steps home. Home! Alas!

The stable-lad follows her and is presently aware that somebody is
following _him_. It is a man, and the lad turns and confronts him. The
stranger takes no notice of the lad, and strives to pass.

"Where are you pushing to?" cries the lad, being himself the
obstructive party.

"Out of my way, my lad," says the man, adding under his breath, "I
must not lose her now."

"What are you following that lady for?" demands the lad.

The question is answered by another.

"You have something to do with her, then?"

"I should think I have."

"I want to know where she lives. I am a friend of hers."

"She wants 'em, I should say--badly."

This remark is made after a keen observance of the stranger's face. It
is a well-looking, honest, ruddy face, and the examination appears to
satisfy the lad.

"Wants what?" asks the stranger.

"Friends."

"I thought she had--rich ones."

"If she had," answers the lad, "and mind, I don't say she hadn't--if
she had, she hasn't got 'em now."

"Ah," says the stranger, drawing a deep breath, "he has left her,
then. Poor Nelly!"

The last two words, uttered with feeling, and in a low tone not
intended to be heard, reach the lad's sharp ears, and dispose him
still more favourably towards the stranger.

"Look here," he blurts out, "are you a gentleman?"

"Does that mean, am I rich?"

The lad looks dubious, not being quite sure.

"Am I a gentleman?" continues the stranger. "That's as it may be.
Every true man is a gentleman; every gentleman is not a true man." The
lad grins. Some understanding of the aphorism penetrates his
uneducated mind. "Best ask me if I'm a true man, my lad."

"Well, then, are you?"

"I think so. So far as regards that lady, I am sure so."

"A true man, and a friend," says the lad. "That's just what she wants.
No more gentlemen; she's had enough of them, I should say. I ain't a
bit of use to her--was turned off when the ponies was sold, but
couldn't go. Thought she might make use of me in some way, you see.
She never give me a hard word--never. Not like him; he was as hard as
nails--not to her; oh, no; he was always soft to her with his tongue,
as far as I could see, and I kept my eyes open, and my ears too!"

By this time they have reached the cottage, and Nelly enters, without
turning her head.

"There," says the lad, "that's where she lives, and if she ain't
caught her death of cold, coming out without her shawl, I'll stand on
my head for a week. But _I_ can't do anything for her. She wants a man
to stand by her, not a poor beggar like me."

The stranger looks kindly at the lad.

"My boy," he says, "if you have sisters, look sharp after them, and
never let them play the game of lords and ladies. Now come with me,
and tell me what I want to know."


It is a few hours later, and the snow is still falling. A candle is
alight in the little room in which Nelly restlessly sits or walks. The
paper she bought at the post-office lies unfolded on the table.
Suddenly a moan escapes her lips; an inward pain has forced it from
her. She grasps the table convulsively, and her fingers mechanically
clutch the paper. The pain dies away, and she sits exhausted on her
chair. Listlessly and without purpose she looks at the paper, seeing
at first but a dim confusion of words; but presently something in the
column she is gazing at presents itself to her mind in a coherent
form. She passes her hands across her eyes, to clear the mist from
them, bends eagerly down to the paper, and reads the words that have
attracted her attention. Starting to her feet, with the paper in her
hand, she is hurrying to the door, when it opens from without, and the
stranger who had followed her home appears.

"John!" she cries, with her hand to her heart. "Ah, he has sent you,
then! Thank God! He has sent you!"

"No one has sent me," says the gardener's son, who played his part in
the Spring and Summer of our Prologue. "I am here of my own accord."

"What for?" she asks, shrinkingly, imploringly. It is remarkable in
her that every word she speaks, every movement she makes, implies
fear. She bears the appearance of a hunted animal, in dread of an
unknown, unseen torture. "Why are you here?"

"I come to ask if I can serve you."

"You! You!"

"I--in truth and sincerity. I will not insult you by telling you that
my feelings are unchanged--Good heavens! you are in pain!"

"Don't touch me! Don't come near me!" Two or three minutes pass in
silence. Then the lines about her lips relax, and she speaks again,
with a strange mingling of timidity and recklessness. "Do you know
anything?"

"Much. Enough. Believe me, I wish to know nothing from you."

"And you come to ask me if you can serve me? Meaning it, in truth and
sincerity?"

"Meaning it, in truth and sincerity."

She gazes at him, striving to discover whether his face bears truthful
witness to the evidence of his lips, and, failing, makes a despairing
motion with her hands.

"God help me!" she cries. "I cannot see. I do not know. But I believe
you. I must, or I shall go mad. If you do not mean me to take you
simply at your word, leave me at once without a sign."

"I will stop and serve you."

Her lips quiver at this exhibition of fidelity. Silently she hands him
the paper, and points to the passage which appears to have aroused her
to life. His eyes glitter as he reads the paragraph, which announces
that on this evening Mr. Temple will take the chair at a lecture on
"Man's Duty," to be delivered at a certain institution in a small town
twenty miles away.

"I must go to that place," she says.

"To-night?"

"To-night. I must see him. I must speak to him to-night."

"You are not well; you are not fit to travel. To-morrow----"

"To-morrow I may not be able to travel. To-morrow will be too late.
What I have said, I must do. You don't know what hangs upon it." Her
lips contract with pain again. "If you leave me alone, and I do not
see him to-night, I--I----"

Her eyes wander as her tongue refuses to shape the thought which holds
her enthralled with fear and horror.

"A word first," says the gardener's son. "How long is it since you
have seen him?"

"Three months."

"You have written to him?"

"Yes--yes. Ask me nothing more, for God's sake!"

"The place is twenty miles away. It is now six o'clock. In four hours
the lecture will be over. It is snowing hard."

She comes close to his side; she looks straight into his eyes.

"John, your mother is dead."

"Yes."

"I heard of her at Springfield"--she shudders at the name--"and of
your devotion to her. You loved her."

"I loved her."

"You stood at her deathbed."

"I held her in my arms when she died."

"Did she speak to you then?"

"A few words."

"They are sacred to you."

"Ay."

She pauses but for a moment; he looks at her wonderingly.

"John, you loved _me!_" He clenches his hands, and digs his nails into
his palms. "This that I am about to say will live in your mind till
the last hour of your life, with the last words your mother spoke to
you. If you do not take me at once to the place I wish to go to, I
will not live till midnight!"

He sees the deadly resolution in her white face, and he determines to
obey her.

"Remain here till I return," he says. "I will not be gone a quarter of
an hour. Wrap yourself up well, for the wind is enough to freeze one.
Put on a thick veil to keep the snow from your face. I will do as you
wish."

"Ah, you are good! You are good!" she sighs, and for the first time
during the day, for the first time for many days, the tears gush
forth. "God reward you--and pity me!"

He goes, and returns within the time he named. A light American buggy
is at the door, and the stable-lad is at the horse's head. Nelly is so
weak that the young gardener has to support her as she walks from
the house; he lifts her with ease in his strong arms into the
conveyance--marvelling at her lightness, and loving and pitying her
the more because of it--and mounts by her side. The stable-lad looks
on wistfully.

"There is no room for you, my lad," says the gardener's son. "Stop
here till we return. He can sleep in the house?" He asks this question
of Nelly.

"Oh, yes," she answers, listlessly.

The next moment they are off.

The boy runs after them, keeps them in sight for a little while, but
is compelled at length to stop for rest.

"Never mind," he mutters, when he has recovered his breath. "I know
where they've gone to. I'll follow them the best way I can." And off
he starts, at a more reasonable pace for a human being.

The snow comes down faster and faster, and the gardener's son, with
his head bent to his breast, plies whip and rein. Their road lies
through many winding lanes, lined and dotted with hedges and cottages.
Not a soul is out but themselves, and the home-light gleams from the
cottage windows. Echoes of voices are heard from within some laughing,
some singing, some quarrelling. The gardener's son notices all the
signs as they rattle past; Nelly is indifferent to them. They stop at
a wayside inn, to give the horse breathing time. The gardener's son
urges Nelly to take some refreshment; she refuses, with sad and
fretful impatience, and begrudges the horse its needful rest. They
start again, he striving to keep up her spirits with tender and
cheerful words.

"Another milepost," he says, shaking up the reins, and in a few
minutes proclaims blithely, "and another milepost! That's quick work,
that last mile. What's the matter with the nag?" he cries, as the
beast shies in sudden fright, "It's not a milepost. It's a woman."

The woman, who has been crouching by the roadside, rises, and walks
silently into the gloom. They can see that she is in rags--a sad,
poverty-stricken mortal, too numbed with cold and misery to make an
appeal for charity. This thought is expressed by the young gardener,
who concludes his remarks with, "Poor creature!" Nelly shudders at the
words and the pitying tone in which they are uttered. White are the
roads they traverse, leaving a clear-cut black gash behind them, into
which the soft snow falls gently, as though to heal the wounds
inflicted. White is the night, but Nelly's face bids fair to rival it.
A sigh escapes her bosom, and she sinks back, insensible.

The gardener's son calls to her in alarm, but she does not reply. He
sees a light in a cottage window a short distance off, and he draws up
at the door. Yet even as he lifts Nelly down with gentle care, she
recovers, and asks him with a frightened air why he has stopped.

"You fainted," he explains.

"I am well now," she cries, with feverish eagerness. "Go on--go on!"

He answers, with a determination, that he will not proceed until she
has taken something to sustain her strength--a cup of tea, a little
brandy, anything--and she is compelled to yield. He knocks at the
cottage door. A labourer opens it. The young gardener explains the
nature of his errand, and produces money.

"You are in luck's way," says the labourer. "The missus has just made
herself a cup of tea."

His wife turns her head, with a reproachful look, towards the door,
the opening of which has brought a blast of cold air into the room.
She is kneeling by a cradle at the fireside, and with common, homely
words of love is singing her baby to sleep. Nelly catches her breath
as the song and its meaning fall upon her ears and understanding, and
in an agony of agitation she begs the young gardener to take her away.
The tears stream down her cheeks, and her face is convulsed as she
thus implores him. The soft sweet song of the mother has cut into her
heart with the sharp keenness of cruelly-edged steel.

"Let me go," she cries wildly, "let me go! O my heart, my heart!"

The labourer's wife comes hurriedly forward, still with the mother's
love-light in her eyes. But instead of speaking soothing words to the
girl, she exclaims,

"Lord save us! What brings you out on such a night as this, and where
do you belong to? You ought to be ashamed of yourself"--(this to the
young gardener)--"carrying the poor child about in such a condition!"

"Ay, ay, dame," replies the young gardener, gently, with an observant
glance at Nelly, a glance which brings a troubled look into his own
face; "it _is_ a bitter night----"

Nelly stops his further speech, and putting her arm about the woman's
neck, whispers to her. The young gardener turns his back upon the
women, and the labourer sits on a chair, with his eyes to the ground.
For a minute or so the men do not stir from the positions they have
assumed; then, as though moved by a common thought, they step softly
from the cottage, and stand in silence outside for many minutes, until
the wife comes to the door, and beckons them in. Nelly is on her knees
by the cradle.

"Get along as quick as you can," whispers the labourer's wife to the
young gardener; "there's little time to lose."

There are tears on her face, and on Nelly's also, as she rises from
her knees.

"God bless you, my dear!" says the woman to the unhappy girl; and when
Nelly and her protector have departed, she turns to her husband, and
kisses his weather-worn face, with a grateful feeling in her breast,
to which she could not have given expression in speech. But words are
not needed at this moment.

In the meanwhile the travellers are speeding onwards.

"Only four miles to go now," says the young gardener, cheerfully;
"keep up your strength."

Nelly nods, and hides her face from her companion. It might make _his_
heart faint to see the suffering depicted there.

It is difficult travelling, for the snow lies nearly a foot thick on
the road, but John works with such good will, and the horse is so
willing a creature, that they make fair progress. On they go, through
wide and narrow spaces, clothed in purest white, and John now begins
to wonder how this night's work will end. The reflection disturbs him,
and he shakes the reins briskly, as though, by doing so, he can shake
off distressing thoughts. Another mile is done, and another, and
another. The young gardener's tongue keeps wagging all the way.

"I see the lights in the town," he says, in a tone of satisfaction,
pointing with his whip.

The words have no sooner passed his lips than the horse twists its
hoof in a hole hidden by the snow, and falls to the ground. John jumps
out hastily, and lifts Nelly from the conveyance. The willing animal,
in obedience to the gardener's urging, strives to rise, and partially
succeeds, but slips down immediately with a groan.

"The horse is lamed," says John; "what shall we do now?"

He looks around for assistance. Not a house nor a human being is near
them, and the town is nearly a mile distant. The lights which they
could see from their elevation in the conveyance are no longer visible
to them. Nelly's hands are tightly clasped as she looks imploringly
into the face of her companion. "Can you walk?" asks John.

The reply comes from lips contracted with pain. "I must."

"I will carry you. I can!"

She shrinks from him, and moans that he must not touch her, and that
she will try to walk. Slowly they plod along through the heavy snow,
he encouraging her by every means in his power. Half an hour passes,
and a church clock strikes ten. The church is quite close to them--a
pretty, old-time place of worship, with many gables and an ancient
porch; and a quaint churchyard adjoining, where hearts are at rest,
and where human passions no longer bring woe and suffering.

Nelly clings to the gate of the church.

"John," she whispers.

"Yes," he answers, bending down to her.

"You have been a good friend to me. Will you continue to do what I
wish?"

She speaks very slowly, with a pause between each word. She feels that
consciousness is departing from her, that her strength has utterly
left her, that she cannot walk another dozen yards. But she has
something to say, and by a supreme effort of will--only to be summoned
in such a bitter crisis as this in her young life--she retains her
senses until it is said.

"I will do as you wish," says John, supporting her fainting form, and
knowing instinctively, as he places his arms about her, that it is
almost death to her that _he_ shall touch her.

"I cannot walk another step. My strength is gone."

"What must I do?"

"Take me to that porch. Lay me there--and leave me."

"Leave you!"

"If you raise me in your arms, I shall die! If you attempt to carry me
into the town, I shall die! If you do not obey me, I shall die, and
think of you as my enemy!"

He listens in awe. He has never heard language like this--he has never
heard a voice like this.

"Lay me in that porch. Then seek a woman with a kind heart, and send
her to me. Then--then----"

She struggles with nature. With the strength of a death's agony she
fights for another minute of consciousness.

"And then?" he prompts, with his ear close to her lips, for the snow
falls scarcely less lightly than the word; she breathes forth.

"Then," she whispers, "seek _him_, and bring him to my side."

She has finished, and sinks into his arms, where she lies insensible
and motionless, with her white face turned upwards to the sky, and the
soft snow floating down upon it.

Implicitly he obeys her. Swiftly, and with the gentleness of a good
woman, he bears her to the porch, and stripping off his outer coat,
wraps her in it, and lays her within the holy hood of the house of
prayer. Once or twice he speaks to her, but receives no answer; and
once, with a sudden fear upon him, he places his ear to her heart, and
hears with thankfulness its faint beating. He wipes the snow from her
face, and, his task being thus far accomplished, he leaves her to seek
for help.

The churchyard, with its silent dead, is not outwardly more still than
is the form of this hapless girl; and but for the mystery within her,
hidden mercifully from the knowledge of men, she might have been as
dead as any buried in that ancient place. The soft snow falls and
falls, and vagrant flakes float into the porch, and rest lightly upon
her, like white-winged heralds of love and pity. In the churchyard are
tombs of many designs--some lying low in humility, some rearing their
heads with an arrogance befitting, mayhap, the clay they cover when it
was animated with life. Lies there beneath these records the dust of
any woman's heart, which, when it beat, suffered as Nelly suffers now?
Lie there, in this solemn place, the ashes of any who was wronged as
she is wronged, deserted as she is deserted, wrecked as she is
wrecked? If such there be, mayhap the spirits of the dead look down
pityingly upon this suffering child, and hover about her in sympathy
and love.

Where, when haply she is once more conscious of the terror of her
position, shall she look for succour, for practical pity and love? If
man deserts her, can the angels help her?

Comes the answer so soon? A gentleman approaches the church with
blithe steps. His face is flushed with pleasure, his eyes are bright,
his heart beats high. He has had a triumph to-night. A thousand
persons have listened to his praises, and have indorsed them--proud to
see him, proud to know him, proud to have him among them, proud to add
their tribute to his worth and goodness. He is elate and joyful. The
moon, emerging from a cloud, shines upon his face. It is Mr. Temple.

The light shines also upon the white tombs of the dead, and upon
Nelly's face.

He is not aware of her presence until he is close upon her, and then
he only sees a woman's form lying within the porch.

Animated by an impulse of humanity, he hastens to her; he bends over
her; his hand touches her cheek as he puts aside a curl of brown hair
which the light breeze has blown across her face.

"Good God!" he cries. "It is Nelly!"

Is it pity, or fear, or annoyance, that is expressed in him? No man,
seeking to know, could answer the question at this moment, for a cloud
Obscures the moon, and throws darkness on his face.

He hears voices in the near distance. The speakers are almost upon
him. He starts from his stooping posture with a look of alarm, and
retreats to a safe shelter, where he can see and not be seen.

The voices proceed from two women and two men. One of the men is the
young gardener; the other is a doctor, whom John has brought to the
assistance of the girl he loves.

The doctor kneels by the side of the insensible girl, and raises her
in his arms.

"She lives," he says, almost immediately.

"Thank God!" exclaims John.

Stronger evidence of life is given by Nelly herself. She moans and
writhes in the doctor's arms.

The young gardener has two warm rugs with him. The doctor looks at him
inquiringly.

"You are her husband?"

"No."

The doctor frowns.

"You had best retire, then. Place those wraps here. Stay--you must do
something. Go to my house as quickly as you can, and bring---- No,
there might be some difficulty. I will write what I want."

With Nelly's head still lying on his knee, he takes from his pocket a
book, writes instructions upon a leaf, tears it out and gives it to
the gardener.

"Do not delay," he says. "You and my man must bring the couch and the
blankets at once. There's not a moment to lose."

John darts away, and the doctor beckons the women to him, and whispers
gravely to them.

Mr. Temple, in his retreat, clasps his hands, and listens. For what?
He cannot hear a word that passes between the women and the doctor,
and their forms shut Nelly from his sight. But presently a sound
reaches his ears that makes him tremble. It is a baby's cry. Another
soul is added to the world's many. In the stillness of the beautiful
night, while the snow is falling upon the ancient church and on the
tombs of the dead who worshipped there, a child is born, and the
mother's sharpest physical agony is over.


THE END OF THE PROLOGUE.



Part the First.
THE CHILD.



CHAPTER I.

As in a theatre, after the overture is played, the first thing shown
to the audience is the scene in which the action of the drama
commences, so let our first words be devoted to the locality in which
the story opens.

I doubt whether the pretty shrub from which Rosemary Lane derived its
name was ever seen in the locality, or whether, being seen, it would
have been recognised as a familiar sign. Rosemary has a peculiarly
sweet odour; Rosemary Lane had not. In one sense there was fitness in
the name; for as the flower of rosemary has frequently been used as an
emblem of constancy and fidelity, so in Rosemary Lane, poor and humble
as it was, might be found living proofs of the existence of those
qualities.

It was in this locality that our heroine was reared.

Where she came from, whether she had a relative in the world, and what
was her real name, were sealed mysteries to the inhabitants of
Rosemary Lane.

As to where she came from, the hazard of a kind gossip, who said that
the child dropped as it might be from heaven among them, was accepted,
in lieu of a hazard more reasonable.

She must have had at some time, a mother, but whether that mother was
alive or dead, was not known, and there were no means of ascertaining.
Her father, we will, for the present, leave out of the question--as
fathers are frequently willing, and occasionally grateful, to be left.

As to her real name, it mattered little. One was found for her in
Rosemary Lane.

What little else was known concerning her shall be briefly told.



CHAPTER II.


In the year 1848, Europe was convulsed with civil war. Firebrands were
abundant, but not more abundant than the hands ready to use them. Red
was the favourite colour, and blood and fire supplied it freely. The
gutters ran with the stream of the one, and the heavens reflected the
glare of the other.

It was a time of solemn awful tragedies. And because the gutters were
not purified when the blood was cleared away, men despaired who had
grasped at shadows. And because the heavens were bright and fair when
the dreadful glare had died out of them, milder theorists still hoped
that the day would come when their dreams should be realised.

There was to be a monster meeting at Bonner's Fields, and the
inhabitants of Rosemary Lane and the surrounding neighbourhood flocked
to the spot made historically famous by the bishop who played his
ruthless part in the reign of bloody Mary.

Troops were massed to meet the mob, but happily there was little need
for them. Copious and beneficent showers of rain spoilt the bad
promise of the day. Back to their homes went the idlers; for, indeed,
there was little of serious purpose in ninety-nine out of every
hundred who assembled; and the arm of the law came down lightly,
comparatively few persons being arrested.

In the evening Rosemary Lane was exceedingly animated. There was more
light in the Royal George than in all the private houses within a
radius of five hundred yards. This particular gin palace was a grand
stone building, abounding in bright glass and gilt cornices, and it
was situated within a short distance of the residence of Mr. Richard
Chester, who for a sufficient reason, was not at the present moment
one of the throng there assembled. He was at home, beating his wife,
who happened to be possessed of fifteen pence.

He employed all his arts to wheedle the money out of his wife; but she
was firm and would not be wheedled. He even rehearsed a speech on
liberty, which he was burning to deliver at the Royal George. It had
no more effect upon her than if she had been a dummy woman. Mr.
Chester took a strap into his hand and drew it between his palms. Mrs.
Chester held her breath, and bit her lips.

"I must have it, old woman," he said, in a musing tone. "Liberty soars
upon heavenly wings, and cries for----"

"Gin!" interrupted Mrs. Chester, with scornful emphasis.

He flourished his strap, and brought it down upon her shoulders. The
stroke was neither savage nor vindictive, and seemed to be
administered more in sorrow than in anger. Yet she cried,

"O Dick!"

"Come," he said, persuasively, "the money."

"You may beat me black and blue," she replied "but you'll get no money
out of me to-night."

"Won't I!" exclaimed the tipsy humourist, as he flourished his strap,
and brought it down again. "Take that, and that, and that!"

His wife took that, and that, and that, meekly, so far as her outward
manner denoted. She was really not hurt much, for his blows were
light; but the tears gathered in her eyes, as she asked:

"Do you know why, if you killed me I would not give you the money?"

"Because you're an obstinate woman," he replied, with hand upraised.

"Because I want it for medicine, for Sally."

At this point the door of the room opened, and two persons appeared--a
man, certainly wide awake and a very little girl, certainly almost
fast asleep, holding on to the skirts of his coat. No sooner did the
man pause on the right side of the door, than the child converted
"almost" into "quite." With a bit of his coat tightly clasped in her
little hand, she closed her eyes and went to sleep, using his leg as a
resting place for her head. The one candle which lighted the room
showed dimly the form of the man but the child, being exceedingly
small, was hidden from the Chesters in the shadows which lay upon the
floor.

The intruder, at a glance, recognised the position of affairs.

"Don't mind me," he said with a coarse laugh, "this is a free
country."

"What do you want here?" demanded Mr. Chester angrily.

"You've got a bedroom to let; I made out the bill in the window----"

"All right, just you wait a bit." He turned to his wife.

"What's the matter with Sally?"

"She's took ill again. She fainted dead away again this afternoon, all
of a sudden, and Dr. Lyons says she must have strengthening things."

Utterly forgetting her declaration that if her husband killed her she
would not give him the money, Mrs. Chester dragged the fifteen pence
out of her pocket, and flinging it upon the table, cried passionately:

"Take it! and drink the child's life away!"

"Not quite so bad as that, old woman," he said, in a shame-faced tone,
"I've enough to reproach myself with one. Is Sal asleep?"

His question was answered by the pattering of two little bare feet,
and Sally herself appeared from an inner room, which, with the parlour
in which this scene was taking place, formed the domestic
establishment of the Chester family.

"No, father, I'm not asleep," cried Sally, as she ran.

Sally was only five years of age, and was such a mite of a child that
she might have been no age at all. Waking suddenly, she had scrambled
out of bed on hearing her father's voice.

"You parcel of bones!" exclaimed Mr. Chester, with rough tenderness,
lifting the child in his arms. "What have you been up to again?"

"I fainted dead away, father!" replied Sally, gleefully; "dead away!"

The proud tone in which, in her thin shrill voice, she made this
evidently familiar statement respecting herself was very remarkable.

"Why, Sally, you're always at it!"

"Yes, father," said Sally, with a triumphant laugh.

"But," said Mr. Chester, "if you go on fainting away like this, Sally,
one of these days you'll faint so dead away that you'll never come to
again."

This conveyed no terrors to Sally's mind, for she clapped her bony
hands in delight at the idea. She stopped in the midst of her
clapping, and struggling out of her father's arms, ran to the sleeping
child, and gazed earnestly at the pretty face. Following Sally's
movements, Mr. and Mrs. Chester saw for the first time that the man
who had intruded upon them was not alone.

The two children presented a notable contrast. Sally had not a spare
ounce of flesh upon her body; the newcomer was plump, and her limbs
were well proportioned. Sally was dark and sallow; the newcomer was
fair, and despite her weariness, there were roses in her cheeks.
Sally's hair was black, and hung straight in lank disorder about her
forehead; the newcomer's hair was flaxen, and hung about her forehead
in naturally-graceful curls. She was like one of Raphael's angels,
fresh from heaven; Sally was like an elf from dark woods.

Sally gazed upon the sleeping girl in solemn wonder and admiration,
and presently put forward one of her fingers and touched the rosy
cheek--drawing it quickly back, as though it were a presumptuous thing
to do. Again she stretched forth her hand, and played with the flaxen
curls. Then, emboldened by success, Sally wetted her forefinger on her
tongue, and rubbed it softly up and down over the roses in the
sleeping child's face. That, when she looked at her finger after this
operation, there was no red upon it, was evidently a puzzle to Sally.
Her next proceeding was to take the sleeping child's plump hand in her
bony one, and make an examination of the fat little fingers,
separating them one by one, and curiously comparing them with her own.
While thus employed Sally happened to glance up at the man, and,
meeting his eyes, her arm stole round the sleeping child's neck. The
next moment Sally was sitting on the floor, nursing the new little
girl on her lap.

Sally had had her dreams, as all children have--bright dreams of
flowers, and gardens, and light, and colour, and beautiful shapes--of
dolls with pink faces and spangled silk dresses--but never, in her
wildest fancies, had she compassed the possession of such a lovely
doll as this she now nursed in her lap. She had never seen anything so
sweetly exquisite, and she sat in her thin night-dress, poor wan
little elf, rocking her new treasure, and fondling it in purest
delight.

Mrs. Chester gazed at the children, and her tender heart began to
bleed. That this strange child should be so beautiful, and rosy, and
plump, and her child so forlorn-looking, and pale, and thin, smote her
with keenest pain.

"Get up from the cold floor, Sally!" she cried; "you'll catch your
death setting there with nothing on!"

Sally staggered to her feet, with the little stranger in her arms.

"Mercy take the child!" cried Mrs. Chester, still more crossly.
"You'll let her fall! Here, give her to me!"

But Sally, heavy as her burden was, held her precious possession close
to her, and managed to reach the bedroom door, where she stood still
awhile.

Mr. Chester brought affairs to some sort of a climax. He looked at the
silver shilling and the few coppers upon the table, and his hand stole
slowly towards them; but happening to look over his shoulder at Sally,
he swiftly withdrew his hand, and left the money undisturbed. Then he
turned abruptly to the stranger.

"Now, then," said he, "what's _your_ name when you are at home?"

"When I'm at home I'll tell you," replied the stranger. "Let's come to
business. You've got a bedroom to let. What's the rent of it?"

"Three shillings a week. Respectable references, of course?" inquired
Mr. Chester, vaguely.

"Stuff!" exclaimed the stranger, taking some silver pieces from his
pocket. "Here's my reference."

"Not a bad one," said Mr. Chester, "but I shall require two weeks in
advance."

"Here you are," said the stranger, counting out six shillings into Mr.
Chester's hand. "And that's settled."

"Not so fast; you're a stranger to us, and a man's got to be careful
what kind of people he takes into his house. You see, you're not
alone. You bring a little girl with you, and we've got one of our own
already. Now we don't wish to be left with another on our hands that
don't rightly belong to us. Children are no rarity round about in
these parts."

Sally, by this time, had found her burden too heavy for her, and the
baby-child, with her golden curls and perfectly beautiful features,
was now lying on the ground, and Sally was bending over her.

Mrs. Chester, who had thrown a thin shawl over Sally, listened to the
conversation with interest. She was glad to let her room, but she
could not make up her mind as to the character of her new tenant. He
was a tall spare man, with thin yellow whiskers and light-grey eyes.
His hands were somewhat delicately shaped, and his nails were in good
condition, denoting that he was not a common workman, nor one who
gained a livelihood by manual labour. His clothes were shabby, and an
air of shabby refinement pervaded him. Mrs. Chester was puzzled what
to think of him.

"You don't want to be left with her on your hands?" exclaimed the
stranger boisterously. "Not a likely thing that. Why, every hair of
the darling's head is as precious to me as--as----" Not being able to
find an appropriate simile, he gave it up, and continued--"Look there.
Your little girl seems to have taken a fancy to--to--my little girl.
They'll be company for each other. I warrant, if I tried to take her
upstairs to bed now, Sally would begin to cry."

He was wrong. Sally did not cry as the stranger approached her, but
standing, with flashing eyes before her treasure, she struck at him
viciously with her little fists.

"Didn't I tell you?" inquired the stranger of Mr. Chester, without
ill-humour. "Sally's a game little bird. What do you say to letting
the children sleep together, just for this night? To-morrow we'll make
things straight and comfortable."

"All right," replied Mr. Chester, anxious to be off. "The old woman'll
see to that. You come along with me now, and have a glass at the Royal
George. Goodnight, Sally. Give us a kiss."

He stooped to Sally's face, and kissed her. With her arms round his
neck, she pulled him to his knees, and made him kiss the sleeping
child on the ground. Then, when he raised his face, she kissed him
again, and with her mouth close to his, inhaled his breath, and
exclaimed:

"Oh, shouldn't I like some to drink! I can only smell it now."

"Like some what, Sally?" asked the stranger, as in a shame-faced way,
Mr. Chester turned from his child. "Some gin," answered Sally, with a
smack of her lips.

Mr. Chester rose to his feet, with a rueful look.

"Give me a kiss, too, Sally," said the stranger; "I'm fond of game
little girls."

But Sally was not to be won over, and when the stranger tried to force
the kiss from her, she dug her fingers into his sandy whiskers with
such spiteful intention that he was glad to free himself from her
clutches.

"There, get out!" cried Mrs. Chester. "Can't you see the child don't
want to have anything to do with you? You'll find your bed ready when
you come home, which I expect won't be till you're turned out of the
Royal George. Dick'll show you your room."

She caught up the sleeping child, and taking the candle, retired to
the inner room, driving Sally before her.



CHAPTER III.


"I've enough to reproach myself with one."

These words, spoken by Mr. Chester in the course of his late domestic
difference with his wife, brought with them a feeling of deep remorse.

He had another child, a son, now a man, and a sharp pain shot through
the hearts of husband and wife as the words were uttered. But Mr.
Chester, once more at the Royal George, did his best to drown
uncomfortable reminiscences. His new tenant, who accompanied him to
the gin-palace, scarcely opened his lips except to drink. His manner
of taking his liquor was not attractive; he raised his glass to his
lips with a sly furtive air, and conducted himself throughout in so
objectionable and jarring a spirit, that when, within half-an-hour of
midnight, he said, churlishly: "I think I may as well get home;" Mr.
Chester replied: "All right; you'll not be missed in _this_ company."
Thereupon, the stranger, with another sly watchful look around took
his leave, to everyone's satisfaction.

Within a few moments of his departure, Mr. Chester, in the act of
drinking, suddenly held up his hand. His attitude of attention was
magnetically repeated in the attitudes of the persons around him. As
when a person in the street stands still, and points at nothing in the
sky, he speedily draws about him a throng of interested ones, who all
look up, and point at nothing also.

What had arrested Mr. Chester's attention was the faint sound of music
from without. Only half-a-dozen notes reached his ears, and they were
softly borne to him from a wind instrument.

The glass which he held trembled in his hand, and, had he not placed
it on the counter, would have fallen to the ground.

He walked slowly to the door, and looked out in the street for the
musician. He could not see him, and the sound had died away. Returning
to his companions, he abruptly asked:

"Did any of you observe whether that man"--referring, with a backward
pointing of his thumb, to his new tenant--"had anything in his breast
pocket?"

Two or three answered, No, they had not observed any thing particular;
but one said he thought, now Mr. Chester mentioned it, that the
stranger _did_ have something in his breast pocket.

"Something that stuck out," suggested Mr. Chester vivaciously.

Perceiving that he had made a hit, the man replied that he thought it
_was_ something that stuck out.

"Might have been a stick?" proceeded Mr. Chester.

"Yes, it might have been a stick."

"Or a flute?"

"Yes, it might have been a flute."

"Or," asked Mr. Chester, coming now to his climax, "a penny tin
whistle?"

Yes, the man thought it might decidedly have been penny tin whistle;
which so satisfied Mr. Chester, that he inhaled a long breath of
relief, and asked the man what he would take to drink.



CHAPTER IV.


In the meantime, Mrs. Chester proceeded with her domestic duties. She
commenced to undress the baby-child whom Sally had already adopted as
her own, and she was filled with wonder and curiosity as she noted the
superior order of the child's clothes. The shoes, though dirty and
dusty, were sound; the socks had not a hole in toe or heel--a state of
sock which Sally seldom enjoyed; the frock was of beautiful blue
cashmere, and as her mother handed it to her, Sally pressed her lips
and eyes against the comfortable material, with a sense of great
enjoyment; then came a petticoat, of black merino; then a white
petticoat, with tucks and insertions, which increased Sally's
admiration; then the little petticoat of flannel, not like the flannel
in Sally's petticoat, hard and unsympathetic; this was thick, and
soft, and cosy to the touch--there was real warmth and comfort in it;
then the pretty white stays; and the child lay in Mrs. Chester's lap,
in her chemise, with its delicate edgings of lace round the dimpled
arms and fat little bosom--lay like a rose dipped in milk, as the good
woman afterwards expressed it to neighbouring gossips. The lovely
picture was to Mrs. Chester like sparks of fire upon dry tinder. Soft
lights of memory glowed upon her, lighting up the dark sky; sweet
reminiscences sprang up in her mind and bloomed there like flowers in
an arid soil, and for a few moments she experienced a feeling of
delicious happiness. But soon, in the light of sad reality, the stars
paled in the sky, the flowers faded, and sorrowful tears were welling
from the mother's eyes. Sally did not see them, for her face was
hidden in the sleeping baby's neck, and she was kissing her lovely
treasure with profound and passionate devotion.

"Come now," abruptly said Mrs. Chester, furtively wiping away her
tears, "just you get to bed. I shall be having nice work with you
to-morrow if you've caught cold."

Sally's reply denoted that her thoughts were not on herself.

"Ain't she a beauty, mother? She's ever so much better then the
collerbine that dances in the street. Mother, _she_ didn't come from a
parsley-bed, did she?"

This was in reference to her belief in her own origin, but Mrs.
Chester declined to be led into conversation  so Sally wriggled
herself between the bedclothes, and holding out her arms received the
pretty child in them. Supremely happy, she curled herself up, with her
baby-treasure pressed tightly to her bony breast, and was soon fast
asleep.

Mrs. Chester, after seeing that the children were warmly tucked up,
took Sally's clothes, and commenced the mother's never-ending task
among the poor of stitching and mending. And as she stitched and
patched, the words her husband had spoken, "I've enough to reproach
myself with one," recurred to her, and brought grief and sadness with
them. Her tears fell upon Sally's tattered garments as she dwelt upon
the bright promise of the first years of her married life and the
marring of her most cherished hopes. Absorbed in these contemplations,
she did not notice that the candle was almost at its last gasp;
presently it went out with a sob, leaving Mrs. Chester in darkness.
Wearied with a long day's toil, she closed her eyes; her tear-stained
work fell to the ground; her head sank upon the pillow, and her hand
sought Sally's. As she gained it, and clasped it within her own, she
fell asleep by the children's side. Her sleep was dreamless until
nearly midnight, when a few tremulous notes, played outside the house
on a penny tin whistle, stirred imagination into creative action, and
inspired strangely-contrasted dreams within the minds of mother and
child.


*    *    *    *    *    *

She had been married for twenty-five years, and had had two
children--one, a boy, a year after her marriage; the other, a girl,
the Sally of this story, twenty years afterwards. Upon her darling
boy, Ned, she lavished all the strength of her love. He was a handsome
child, the very opposite to Sally; full of spirit and mischief; always
craving for pleasure and excitement, always being indulged in his
cravings to the full extent of his mother's means. This unvarying
kindness should have influenced him for good, but he glided into the
wrong track, and at an early age developed a remarkable talent for
appropriation. The father had no time to look after his son's morals,
being himself absorbingly engaged in the cultivation of a talent for
which he, also, had shown early aptitude--a talent for gin-drinking.

The lad was much to be pitied on two special grounds. He had a "gift"
on his thumb, and he was born with a mole on his right temple.

His mother was overjoyed when she saw this mole. It was the luckiest
of omens. For had not seers of old--never mind what seers--declared
that the child that was born with a mole on his right temple would
surely, in the course of his life, arrive at sudden wealth and honour?

Meanwhile, with a dutiful regard for parental example, Ned followed
his father's footsteps to the public-house, and, at a very early age,
was fond of draining pots and glasses.

As Ned grew older, he extended the field of his operations. Thus it
came about that one fine morning the young thief found himself in a
police-court, and was sent to prison as a rogue and a vagabond. There
was no doubt he was both.

When he was released from prison, he did not go home immediately; he
thought it best to wait until his hair grew again.

He wandered about, at fairs chiefly, picking up food anyhow, and
enjoying the life; and by the time he made his appearance again in
Rosemary Lane, his hair was as long as ever, and his mother wept over
him, and killed the fatted calf for her lovely lad. He brought home
with him a new accomplishment in the shape of a tin whistle, upon
which he discoursed the most eloquent music. With this whistle he
charmed and soothed the tender nature of his mother, and the less
impressionable nature of his father, who thoughtlessly helped him in
his downward course by taking him to the public-house, where he
delighted all around him. There he got his fill of drink, from the
customers, and in after days, when the lovely lad's character was
about as bad as his worst enemy could have desired, it caused the
father real remorse to think that he had helped his son to his
undoing. It was this which caused Mr. Chester to utter the words,
"I've enough to reproach myself with one." The reprobate would not
work; all that he would do was to drink, and thieve, and play upon a
tin whistle; and five years ago Ned Chester disappeared from the
neighbourhood of Rosemary Lane, and nothing had since been heard of
him.

But the mother's heart never went from her boy. Not a day passed but
her thoughts dwelt lovingly upon him. He had caused her the bitterest
anguish of her life, and she loved him the more for it.


*    *    *    *    *    *


This brief digression ended, we return to Mrs. Chester, who lies
asleep by the side of Sally and her baby-treasure. There is no light
in the room, there is no moon in the sky. With trembling fingers, the
man in the street plays upon the keys of his instrument, and pauses in
the middle of a note, and shakes as though an ague were on him. It is
a terrible fit, and lasts for minutes; when it subsides, he looks
around him fearsomely, and sees monstrous shapes in the air coming
towards him. Descending from the dark clouds, uprising from the black
pavement, emerging from the viewless air, with eyes that glower, with
features that threaten, with limbs that appal, they glide upon and
surround him. With hoarse cries and shuddering hands he strives to
beat them off, and staggers to the door of the house in which the
mother and children are sleeping, with smiles upon their lips.



CHAPTER V.


The first impression of the dreaming woman is that she and her young
son are in a cart, out for a day's holiday in the country. It is early
morning, and they are in the heart of the country, with its fields,
and hedges, and scent of sweet flowers and fresh-mown hay. The clouds
are bright, and the mother's heart is filled with love and gratitude
as the horse jogs steadily along.

Their pace is slow, but not so slow as that of this white-smocked
carter, sitting on the shaft of his lumbering wagon, which, as it
rumbles onwards, makes noise enough for a dozen. The wagon is in the
middle of the road--as though it were made solely for them to creep
over, and nothing else had any business there--and when at length it
moves aside, it does so in an indolent, reluctant fashion most
tantalising to men and cattle more briskly inclined. Behind them
thunders the mail-coach, and the guard's horn sounds merrily on the
air.

"There comes the mail-coach!" the driver of the cart exclaims, and the
dreamer watches it grow, as it were, out of the distant sky and land,
where Liliputia lies. And now it is upon them, with no suspicion of
Liliputia about it. On it comes, with Hillo! hallo! hi! hi! hi!
heralding and proclaiming itself blithely. Their manner is right and
proper, for are they not--guard, coachman, and horses--kings of the
road? Out of the way, then, everybody and everything, and make room
for their excellencies! Out of the way, you lumbering, white-smocked
carter, and open your sleepy eyes! Out of the way, you pair of young
dreamers, you, who, arm-in-arm so closely, are surely asleep and
dreaming also! She, the first awake, starts in sudden alarm, with
bright blushes now in her pretty, pensive face, and he--glad of the
chance--throws his arm around her, and hurries her to the roadside,
but a yard or two away from the bounding cattle, whose ringing hoofs
play a brisker air upon the roadway than ever Apollo's son played upon
the lyre. Away goes the coach, and the mother holds her lovely lad
aloft in her arms, and in silent wonder, listens to the fading horn,
and watches the coach grow smaller and smaller, until it disappears
entirely from the sight. Onward they go through the dreamy solitudes,
and shadows of green leaves and branches wave about them in
never-ending beauty and variety.

How lovely is the day! The birds are singing, the bees are busy, all
nature is glad. What a morning for a holiday--what a morning for
lovers to walk through shady paths and narrow lanes, over stiles, and
under great spreading branches, whose arms bend down caressingly to
shield them from the sun! What a morning to bring a long courtship to
a sweet conclusion, and to whisper the words that make lads' and
lasses' hearts happier than the thrush that pipes its tremulous notes
above them as they sit!

And now the mother and her child are in a narrow lane, with hedges on
either side, over which they see the ripe corn waving. The mother
sings a song about the days when we went gipsying a long time ago, and
her friend, the driver, joins in the chorus heartily. At its
conclusion, he says, incidentally:

"How about that mole on Neddy's right temple that Jane was telling me
of?" (Jane is his young wife.) "What does it really signify?"

"You ask any fortune-teller," says the mother. "It's the very luckiest
thing that ever can happen. When a child is born with a mole on the
right temple, it is certain sure to arrive at sudden wealth and
honour."

"That's a real piece of good fortune," says the driver. "If _our_
young un's born with a mole on the right temple, it'll be the luckiest
day of our lives."

"I'm sure I hope it will be," says the mother, "and that it'll be in
the right place."

While this conversation is proceeding, the horse has slackened his
pace--and the driver jumps off the cart to pick some sweet
honeysuckle, a piece of which he gives to the mother and the
child--and the heavens are beautifully bright, and fairy ships are
sailing in the clouds--and they go jogging, jogging, jogging on, until
they arrive at their journey's end.

Pulling up at a pretty little cottage, with a pretty little green gate
for its boundary, a pretty little woman runs hastily out, wiping her
hands, which are all over flour, on her apron. This is his Jane, whose
visitors have caught her in the act of making a pudding. The first
embraces over, they go into the kitchen, where the pudding is tied up,
and put into the pot, and is cooked by magic, for the next moment they
are eating their dinner. They pass a happy time within the cottage,
and then the scene fades, and she and her child are in a field,
pelting each other with flowers.

The child grows tired, and the mother makes a nest of fern for her
darling to rest in, at the foot of an old tree, whose branches
presently fill all the landscape, and cover them with delicious shade.
Not a variation of colour in the sky, not a bird's note, not a whisper
of the leaves, that the fond mother does not convert into a symbol of
happiness for her heart's treasure. And as he sleeps, she sits by his
side, until the tree fades and becomes the cottage again, where they
are all clustered round the tea-table, eating the sweetest
bread-and-butter and the freshest radishes that love can produce.

Then the moon comes out and pierces the ceiling, which changes into
night-clouds and solemnly-silent roads, through and over which they
are riding peacefully home. A river, of which they had a glimpse when
the sun's rays were playing on it, changes now into a white road, over
which the cart is slowly passing; now into a field of waving corn,
through which they are calmly wending their way without breaking a
stalk; now into the stairs of her own cosy home-nest, up which she is
walking, with her darling, very sleepy, in her arms. And when she has
softly sung a few words of a familiar cradle-song, she points to the
stars, not deeming it strange that they are shining all around her,
and tells her child that heaven is there!

An amazing transformation takes place. She is alone, with blackness
all around her. The rain pours down like a deluge, and a terrific
explosion occurs, which shakes the earth to its foundations.


Aroused by the violent banging of the street door, Mrs. Chester starts
from the bed. The rain is softly pattering in the street, and she
hears the sound of uncertain footsteps groping up the stairs.

"It is the new lodger," she murmurs. "He might have made less noise
with the door." Then, rubbing her eyes, she calls, "Sally, are you
awake?"

Sally hears her mother's voice through a mist of softly falling rain,
and murmuring some indistinct words in reply, cuddles closer to her
treasure-baby, and the next moment is asleep again.

"The brute!" exclaims Mrs. Chester. "Waking the children with his row!
I'll talk to him to-morrow."

Standing in the dark, she listens. The person who is ascending the
stairs to the bedroom in the upper part of the house staggers and
stumbles on his way. Thus much Mrs. Chester is conscious of, but she
does not hear his low moans, nor see him shake and tremble, as he
drags his feet along in fear and dread. When he reaches his room, he
falls, dressed, upon the bed, and claws at the air, and picks at the
bedclothes in ceaseless unrest, being beset by demons of every shape
and form, presenting themselves in a thousand monstrously-grotesque
disguises.

Mrs. Chester has heard sufficient to cause her to form a just
conclusion.

"Drunk of course," she murmurs; "and Dick'll be as bad when he comes
home."

Then she lights a candle, and patiently resumes her task of stitching
and patching.



CHAPTER VI.
SALLY ALSO HAS A DREAM.


Sounds of music in the air; strange and fantastic shapes and forms;
blooming flowers, and grass of rarest shades of green; glittering
water, for white swans and paper ships to sail on; waving branches
laden with dew-diamonds; birds flying on silver threads that reach
from heaven to earth; and standing in the midst of all these wonders,
little Sally Chester herself, in her ragged clothes. Comes a
procession from the skies, heralded by a glittering white star, which
widens into an avenue of light, through which the actors move. Comes a
small drummer-boy in the British army, with a drum slung round his
shoulders; behind him trots a donkey, familiar to the neighbourhood,
who smiles grotesquely at Sally, and asks her when she is going to
faint dead away again. The entire contents of a toy and cake shop
follow the eccentric donkey. First appear the royal beefeaters,
represented by men cut out of rich brown gingerbread, with features
formed of Dutch metal, their legs and arms also being magnificently
slashed with strips of the same; their features are diabolical, but
this does not lessen their attractiveness. Then come a legion of
wooden dolls, with not a vestige of clothing on their bodies, their
staring expressionless features testifying to their shamelessness and
their indifference to public opinion; then the animals from Noah's
arks, so indiscriminately coupled as to betray a disgraceful
Scriptural ignorance; then tin soldiers on slides, their outstretched
swords proclaiming that they are on the straight road to glory;
concluding with an army of wooden grenadiers with fixed bayonets, who
march without bending a joint. All these move through the avenue of
light, and the drummer-boy appears arm-in-arm with a little girl with
whom, until she died twelve months ago, Sally used to play at grocers'
shops in dark kitchens and on back-window sills. With a grand
fanfaronade of trumpets, on marches a gay troop of soldiers, followed
by men carrying huge flags, the devices in which are quick with life.
Upon the waving folds of silk, fish are swimming, horses are prancing,
artizans are following their trades, and the lion and the unicorn are
fighting for the crown. These precede more soldiers and carriages and
flags, until the shouts that rend the air proclaim the approach of the
principal figure in the procession. This proves to be a gilt coach of
antique shape, with coachmen and footmen blazing with gold lace, and
Sally jumps up and down in frantic excitement as she recognises the
inmate of the coach, who is staring in wonder out of the window at the
people huzzaing and waving their hats in her honour. It is her own
baby-treasure, with flushed and beautiful face, and with eyes bluer
and more beautiful than the brightest and bluest clouds. In the midst
of this triumphant display a man suddenly appears, and with sinister
looks, stands by the coach in which the child is sitting. It is the
new tenant who has taken the bedroom in her mother's house, and his
menacing attitude proclaims that he is bent on mischief. The child
looks imploringly towards Sally for protection, and instantaneously
Sally is on the donkey's back, riding full tilt at their common enemy,
who goes down in great confusion before her. Upon this the crowd and
the entire pageant melt away like vapour from a glass, and Sally, with
her baby-treasure safe in her arms, is walking along a dark street,
the houses in which are so tall that they shut out the sky. The night
is cold, the rain is falling, and they are alone, walking for many
hours through the dreary thoroughfares, until from an archway a shadow
steals and strives to seize the child. It is the new tenant again.
Sally, terror-stricken, flies from him as fast as her little legs will
allow her--and flies so swiftly, and through so many streets, for
seemingly-interminable hours, that her breath fails, and life is
leaving her: and all through this terrible flight the pursuer is at
her heels, with flashing eyes and with death in his face. Sally knows
that this is expressed in him, and that he is bent on destruction,
although her back is towards him. She feels his hot breath on her
neck; she hears a hissing sound from remorseless lips; closer and
closer he comes, and his arms are about to close around her, when she
falls over a precipice, down, down, into the spreading branches of a
tree, where she places her baby safely in a cradle of flowers, and
watches the form of their enemy flash, like a glance of light, into
the abyss, the yawning mouth of which closes upon him with a snap. As
the light of the child's golden hair falls on the green branches, they
become magically transformed into the likeness of Sally's playmates
and acquaintances round and about Rosemary Lane. There is Jane Preedy
without any boots, and Ann Taylor without any stockings, and Jimmy
Platt with the hair of his head falling over his weak eyes and
sticking through the peak of his cap, and Young Stumpy with bits of
his shirt thrusting themselves forward from unwarrantable places, and
Betsy Newbiggin selling liquorice-water for pins; and there, besides,
is the sailor-beggar without legs, who lives next door to the
Chesters, comfortably strapped to his little wooden platform on
wheels. Then the actors in the Lord Mayor's procession loom out on
other branches, conspicuous among them being the drummer-boy, standing
on his head on the donkey's back, and valiantly playing the drum in
that position. The cradle of flowers fades, and its place is occupied
by a square piece of carpet, upon which Sally's baby-treasure is
dancing. The child is now dressed in the oddest fashion, her garments
being composed of stray bits of silk and ribbon, which hang about her
incongruously, but with picturesque effect. As she dances, the
drummer-boy, who is now, in addition to his drum, supplied with
pandean pipes, beats and pipes to the admiration of the audience.
Carried away by the applause, he, in an inadvertent moment, bangs
so loudly on his drum that he bangs the entire assemblage into air,
and Sally is again alone, sitting in the tree by the side of the
empty flower cradle. As she looks disconsolately around for her
baby-treasure, comes a vision in the clouds. Thousands of angels, with
bright wings and faces of lustrous beauty, are clustered about a
cobbler, a friend of Sally's, who occupies a stall in Rosemary Lane,
and who for the nonce transferred to a heavenly sphere, now plies his
awl on Olympian heights. Very busy is he, with his shirt-sleeves
tucked up to his shoulders, mending shoes for the angels, who are
flying to him from every bright cloud in the heavens, with old shoes
and slippers in their hands. And presently all the lustrous shapes are
gazing tenderly on Sally's baby-treasure, upon whose tiny feet the
cobbler is fitting a pair of shining slippers. A sudden clap of
thunder inspires multitudinous images of beauty, all of which
presently merge into the sound of falling water, and the air is filled
with a myriad slender lines of flashing light. Fainter and fainter
they grow, and Sally awakes from her dream.

She hears the rain falling softly in the streets, and hears her mother
ask her if she is awake. Almost unconscious, she murmurs she knows not
what in reply, and pressing the baby closer to her, is in a moment
asleep again; but her sleep now is dreamless.



CHAPTER VII.


The handle of the street door of Mr. Chester's house could be so
worked from without by any person initiated into the secret that it
yielded easily to practised fingers. This was Mr. Chester's ingenious
invention. Early in his married life he had found it not agreeable to
his sensitive feelings that, after a night's carouse, the door should
be opened for him by his wife. Hence the device.

At one o'clock on this morning he opened his street door and entered
his house. Mrs. Chester was still up, mending Sally's clothes. On a
corner of the table at which she was working, his supper of
bread-and-cheese was laid. As he entered, his wife glanced at him, and
then bent her eyes to her work, without uttering a word. Receiving no
favourable response to his weak smile, he fell-to upon his supper.

By the time Mr. Chester had finished, the silence had become
intolerable to him. His wife, having mended Sally's clothes, was now
gathering them together. He made another conciliatory step.

"How is Sally?" he asked.

Mrs. Chester's lip curled. "Sally's asleep," she answered.

"Did you get her any--any strengthening things?"

"No. All the shops were shut--except the public-houses."

"Ah, yes, I forgot. But you might have asked her if she fancied
anything."

"I said to her last week," replied the mother, with a dark, fierce
flash into her husband's face, "when she came out of one of her
faints, 'Sally, what would you like?' 'I'd like some gin, mother,' she
answered. I was afraid she might give me the same answer again."

He quailed before the look, and the strong reproach conveyed in the
mother's words.

"Don't let's have any more quarrelling to-night, old woman," he said.

"I don't want any quarrelling: I'm not a match for you, Dick."

"That's as it should be, old woman," he said, recovering his spirits.
"Man's the master."

"You're good at words, Dick."

"That's so," he chuckled vainfully.

"But better at something else."

"At what, old woman?"

With a scornful glance she laid before him the strap with which he was
in the habit of striking her.

"There's no arguing with a woman," he said, with rare discretion.
"Come, it's time to get to bed. I suppose the new lodger is in."

"He came in an hour ago."

"And the little girl?"

"She's asleep with Sally."

Mr. Chester, who had risen, stood silent for a few moments, drumming
gently with his fingers on the table.

"Did you see him when he came home?"

Mrs. Chester's anger was spent, and her husband's kinder tone now met
with a kindred response.

"No, Dick."

"Ah, then, there's no use asking. But you might have heard something,
Loo."

"What might I have heard, Dick?" she asked, approaching close to his
side. He passed his arms around her.

"Something that would have reminded you----" He broke off abruptly
with, "No matter."

"But tell me, Dick."

"When I was at the Royal George I fancied I heard a man playing on a
tin whistle."

Mrs. Chester's lips quivered, and a shudder ran through her frame.

"The new tenant," pursued Mr. Chester, "hang him! he's got into my
head like a black fog!--the new tenant had just gone away, and good
riddance to him, when I heard the music, as I thought, and I went to
the door to look. I saw nobody, and a man in the Royal George said
that our new lodger had something in his pocket that looked like a
whistle or a flute. As he came straight home, I thought you might have
heard him play it."

"I was asleep, Dick, when he came home; the slamming of the street
door woke me." She paused and played nervously with a button of her
husband's coat. "Dick, I dreamt of our Ned to-night."

"Ay, Loo," he answered softly.

"What can have become of him? Where is he now, the dear lad?"

"Best for us not to know, perhaps," replied Mr. Chester gloomily.

"I've thought of him a good deal lately," said Mrs. Chester; "more
than I've done for a long time past. And my dreaming of him to-night
is a good sign. Dick, I've got it into my head that he'll open the
door one day, as handsome as ever, and rich too, and that he'll make
it up to us----"

Mr. Chester interrupted her with a bitter laugh.

"If my head doesn't ache till then----There! Stop talking of him, and
let's get to bed."

They went into the bedroom together, and Mrs. Chester held the candle
over the sleeping children, turning the coverlid down, so that their
faces could be seen. They were both fast asleep: the baby's head was
lying on Sally's bare shoulder, and their lips almost touched.

It was not upon Sally's face that Mr. Chester's eyes rested. He gazed
intently upon the child sleeping in Sally's arms, much as though he
were striving to find the solution of some perplexing problem.

"What's bothering you, Dick?" asked Mrs. Chester.

"The difference between this new child and the man upstairs," he
replied. "There's our Sally now. She's dark, and skinny, and
queer-looking all round; but anybody can see with half an eye that
she's our child.  It's the same with Ned; he was about the handsomest
lad that you could see in a mile's walk----"

"Ay, that he was, Dick," said the fond mother.

"--Not a bit like Sal, and not much like us to speak of, in a general
way. And yet nobody could doubt that they were brother and sister, and
that he was our boy. Nature works out these things in her own way.
Very well, then. In what way has Nature worked out a likeness between
this new baby and the man sleeping upstairs?"

"In no way that I can see," replied Mrs. Chester, receiving with
favour this evidence against a man to whom she had taken a dislike at
first sight.

"There ain't a feature in their faces alike--not one. Nature doesn't
tell lies as a rule; but she has told a whopper if that man is this
young un's father. Do you mean to tell me that a father would behave
to his own flesh and blood as that fellow behaved to this little one
to-night? Look here, old woman. I go wrong more often than I go right.
I might be a better man to you, I dare say, and a better father to
Sal; but things have gone too far for me to alter. But for all that, I
think I've got the feelings of a father towards our lass, and I
wouldn't part with her for her weight in gold."

Which speech, uttered with rough, genuine feeling, was a recompense to
Mrs. Chester for months of neglect and unfair usage.

"Well, Dick," she said, "don't bother any more about it now. We've got
two weeks' rent in advance, at any rate."

And this practical commentary Mrs. Chester considered a satisfactory
termination to the conversation--at least, for the present.

Mr. Chester was a heavy sleeper. Being an earnest man, he was as
earnest in his sleep as in other matters, and his wife had often
observed that it would take the house on fire to rouse him. It was
singular, therefore, that on this night he should wake up within an
hour of his closing his eyes, with an idea in his mind which had not
before presented itself in an intelligible shape.

"I say, old woman," he mumbled, "are you awake?" The instinct of habit
caused Mrs. Chester to answer drowsily, "Yes, Dick," and to instantly
fall asleep again.

"Rouse yourself." (Assisting her by a push.) "What time was it you
told me the new lodger came in?"

Under the impression that the question had been put to her many hours
since, and therefore not quite clear as to its purport, Mrs. Chester
said,

"Eh, Dick?"

"Eh, Dick! and eh, Dick!" retorted Mr. Chester. "Now, then, are you
listening?"

"Of course I am," she said reproachfully, throwing upon him the onus
of evading the question. "Go on."

"I'm going on. Slow." (With a pause between each word.) "What--time
--did--you--tell--me--that--the--new--lodger--came--in--to-night?"

"He came home about an hour before you."

"And you were asleep?"

"Yes, and I'm almost asleep now. That's enough for to-night, Dick."

"Not half enough, old woman," he said, shaking her without mercy. "If
you were asleep, how do you know what time he came in?"

"He woke me up," replied Mrs. Chester, goaded to desperation, "with
the way he slammed the door. I'll give him a bit of my mind in the
morning. There's other lodgers in the house besides him, and I ain't
going to have them disturbed in that way. I shouldn't wonder if some
of 'em don't give us warning to-morrow. For the Lord's sake, don't
talk to me any more! I've got to be up at six o'clock."

He proceeded, without paying the slightest regard to her appeal:

"When the new lodger comes home a couple of hours ago, you are asleep.
He wakes you up with the way he bangs the door. He comes into the
house, and goes upstairs to his room. That's it, isn't it?"

"That's it, Dick," replied Mrs. Chester listlessly.

"And you don't set your eyes on him?"

"No, and don't want to."

"Now, old woman, just keep your mind on what I'm saying--" but here
Mr. Chester interrupted himself by exclaiming, "What's that row
upstairs? It comes from his room."

The noise proceeded undoubtedly from the room let to the new lodger,
and, as well as she could judge, was caused by the stealthy moving
about of furniture. It did not last long and presently all was quiet
again.

"I shall have to go up to him," said Mr. Chester, shaking his head at
himself in the dark, "if he gives us any more of that fun. He's a
stranger in the neighbourhood. Not a soul in the Royal George ever set
eyes on him before to-night. He comes here with a child--a mere
baby--that don't seem as if it had any right to be here at all. He
takes the room and pays a fortnight in advance, without ever asking
for a receipt, and without ever saying his name is George, or Jim, or
Jo or whatever else it might be. He pulls out a handful of money, too.
Does this sound suspicious, or doesn't it?"

"It _does_, as you put it," acquiesced Mrs. Chester, now awake.

"And, by Jove! there's something more suspicious behind. Who showed
him his bedroom?"

"I didn't."

"And _I_ didn't. Who showed him how to open the street-door without a
key?"

"I didn't."

"And _I_ didn't. Then how the devil _does_ he open it without being
shown how it is done? and how the devil does he find his way, without
a light, to a room he's never seen? I'm going to look into this, Loo,
before I close my eyes again."

Mr. Chester jumped out of bed energetically, with the intention of
putting his purpose into execution. But if his determination of
looking into the matter had not been formed by his own reasoning, it
would have been forced upon him by what took place immediately his
feet touched the floor. The moving of furniture in the new lodger's
room recommenced--not stealthily now, but with great violence, and
much as though it were being thrown about with the wilful intention of
breaking it to pieces. The noise had aroused the other lodgers in the
house, and a knocking at Mr. Chester's door, followed by a pathetic
inquiry about that disturbance upstairs, and an entreaty that it
should be stopped at once, as the speaker's old man had a racking
headache and the row was driving him out of his mind, quickened Mr.
Chester to speedier action.

"All right, Mrs. Midge," Mr. Chester called out, "I'm going upstairs
this minute. It's only a new lodger we've taken in to-night. If he
don't stop his row, I'll bundle him neck and crop into the street."

With the handle of the open door in his hand, he turned to his wife,
and telling her not to be frightened, groped his way to the upper part
of the house.

Mrs. Chester, disregarding her husband's injunction sat up in bed, and
listened to the noise, which so increased in violence every moment
that she got out of bed before Mr. Chester was halfway upstairs, and
stood ready to fly to his assistance.

The person who was causing this commotion had, when he entered the
bedroom, fallen upon the bed in a stupor. He had had no rest for a
week, and was utterly exhausted. For days he had been haunted and
pursued by horrible phantoms, which had driven him almost mad. When
the fit first seized him, he was in the country, fifty miles from
Rosemary Lane, and the thought occurred to him that there was but one
house in all the wide world in which he could find refuge from his
enemies. To this refuge he slowly made his way, eating nothing, but
drinking whenever the opportunity for doing so presented itself. It
gave him for the time a fictitious strength, and enabled him at length
to reach Mr. Chester's house.

The room was in total darkness, and for two hours he lay helpless and
supine, unaware that even in his stupor he was ceaselessly picking
unearthly reptiles from the blanket upon which he had fallen. For two
hours he lay thus, and then consciousness returned to him.

It slowly dawned upon his fevered imagination that he was no longer
alone. The frightful shapes which had pursued him for a week had
discovered his sanctuary, and were stealing upon him. They were subtle
and powerful enough to force their way through stone walls, through
closed doors, and they had done so now. Perhaps, thought he--if it can
be said that he thought at all--if I keep my eyes closed, they will
not discover me. It is dark, and I shall evade them. They will not
think of searching too closely for me here.

He lay still and quiet, as he believed, with loudly-beating heart; but
all the time he struck at the air with his hands, helpless, impotent,
terror-bound. Soon, encouraged by the silence, he ventured to open his
eyes, and a spasm of despair escaped him as he discovered how he had
been juggled. Creeping towards him stealthily was a huge shapeless
shadow. Form it had none, its face and eyes were veiled, but he could
see huge limbs moving within dark folds. The window and door were fast
closed, and it could only have entered the room by way of the chimney
and fireplace. If he could thrust it back to that aperture, and block
it up, he would be safe. He rose from the bed, shaking and trembling
like a leaf in a strong wind, and moved the common washstand between
himself and the shadow. Pushing it before him, he whispered
triumphantly to himself as he perceived his enemy retreat. Cunningly
he drove it towards the fireplace and compelled it into that niche,
where it passed away like the passing of a cloud. Thank God! it was
gone. And so that it should not again find entrance, he placed against
the fireplace all the available furniture in the room. That being
done, he lay down upon the bed, with a sense of inexpressible relief.

But peace was not for him. Within five minutes the shadows began again
to gather about him, and the same monstrous shape which had previously
threatened him reappeared. Not now in disguise, or veiled. He saw its
limbs, its horrible face and eyes, and its aspect was so appalling
that a smothered shriek of agony broke from his parched lips. Whither
should he fly? How could he escape these terrors? Ah! the door! He
moved towards it, but shrank back immediately at the sound of steps
and muffled voices. The window! but _that_ was blocked up by a
crawling monster, whose thousand limbs were winding and curling
towards him, warning him to approach at his peril. He dared not move a
step in that direction. In what direction, then, could he find a
refuge? In none. He was hemmed in, surrounded by these fearful
enemies; the room was filled with them, and they were waiting for him
outside. In mad desperation he seized a chair and hurled it at the
approaching shapes; with a terrible strength he raised the heavier
furniture, and strove to crush them. In vain. There was no escape for
him. Closer and closer they approached; their hot breath, their
glaring eyes were eating into his soul, were setting his heart on
fire. And at that moment Mr. Chester, who had stopped on his way, to
obtain a lighted candle, opened the door and appeared on the
threshold.

The candle which Mr. Chester held above his head as he opened the door
threw a lurid glow around his fearful form. In a paroxysm of blind
delirium the furious wretch threw himself upon his arch enemy. The
candle fell to the ground and was extinguished. But the madman needed
no light to guide him. He would kill this monster who came to destroy
him; he would squeeze the breath out of him; he would tear him limb
from limb. He raised Mr. Chester in his arms as though he were a reed,
and dashed him on to the bed. He knelt upon him, and struck at him
with wild force, and pressed his hands upon his throat, with murderous
intent. Mr. Chester was as a child in his grasp--powerless to defend
himself, powerless to escape, only able, at intervals, to scream for
help.

The sounds of this terrible struggle aroused the whole house, and
every person leaped from bed, the most courageous among them running
to ascertain the cause of the disturbance. Mrs. Chester was the first
to reach the room. She had no candle, but she saw enough to convince
her that her husband's life was in danger. She threw herself upon the
delirious man, and added her affrighted shrieks to the confusion. The
lodgers came hurrying up, and their candles cast a light upon the
scene.

Then Mrs. Chester saw clearly before her--saw the distorted face of
the man who was striving to strangle her husband--saw in his hand a
tin whistle, with which, deeming it to be a dagger, he was stabbing at
the form writhing in his grasp.

"O God!" she shrieked. "It is Ned--my boy Ned! Ned--Ned! for the love
of God, come off! Are you blind or mad? It is your father you are
killing!"

Her words fell upon heedless ears. So strung to a dangerous tension
was his tortured imagination, that the entreating voices, the lights,
the hands about him striving to frustrate his deadly purpose, were
unheard, unseen, unfelt.

The men grappled with him, but their united efforts were unavailing;
their blows had no more effect upon him than falling rain. Thus the
terrible struggle continued.

"Ned--Ned!" cried Mrs. Chester again, forcing her face between him and
the object of his fury, so that, haply, he might recognise her, "for
gracious God's sake, take your hands away! Your mother is speaking to
you."

The lines in his forehead deepened--the mole on his temple became
suffused with blood--the cruel, frenzied expression on his face grew
darker and stronger. He dashed her aside with a curse, and, had it not
been that one of the bystanders pulled her out of reach of his arm, he
would have left his mark upon her.

But as her son turned from her, the struggle came to an end, without
being brought to this happier pass by the force of either words or
blows. Simply by the appearance of a little child. In this wise:

The conversation that had taken place between husband and wife in Mrs.
Chester's bedroom had awakened Sally and her baby-treasure. Sally did
not move when her father went out of the room, but when, alarmed by
his cries for help, her mother followed him, Sally got out of bed, and
lifted her baby treasure to the ground. Hand in hand, they crept to
the top of the house.

They reached the room in which the struggle was taking place--and
reached it just in time. Another minute, and it might have been
fatally too late.

The grown-up persons were too intently engrossed in the action of the
terrible scene to observe the entrance of the children, and thus it
was that they made their way to the bedside. At this precise moment it
was that Ned, the lovely lad, flung his mother from him with brutal
force, and that his eyes met those of Sally's baby-treasure, who was
gazing upon him with a look of curious terror.

Her white dress, her beautiful face, her blue eyes staring fixedly at
him, her golden hair hanging around her pretty head, produced a
powerful and singular effect upon him.

The horrible shapes by which he had been pursued faded from his sight,
and something sweeter took their place. The dark blood deserted his
face, and the furious fire died out of his soul, leaving him once more
pale, haggard and degraded, and weak as trickling water.

With shaking limbs he fell upon his knees before the baby-child, and
placed his trembling hands upon her shoulders.

'The men and women in the room were spell-bound, not daring to
interpose between him and the child, lest they should awake the savage
spirit within him.

Brief as was this interval, Mr. Chester had been raised from the bed,
and carried from the room. His wife was too intent upon the movements
of her son to follow him.

For a very few moments did the lovely lad remain in his kneeling
position, embracing the child. Utterly exhausted, by drink, by want of
rest, by the terrific excitement of this and previous sleepless
nights, his eyes closed, and with wild shudders he sank fainting to
the ground.

In response to Mrs. Chester's entreaties, the lodgers assisted her to
place him on the bed, and this being done she asked them to go down
for her clothes, and to bring her word how her husband is.

"And take the children away," she said with a wan smile. "I shall stop
with my boy and nurse him. I am not frightened of him. He will not
hurt me. See, the poor lad has no more strength than a baby."

As they left the room with the children, the mother bent over her
degraded son, with love and pity in her heart, and her scalding tears
fell on his white lips and on the lucky mole on his temple which was
to bring sudden wealth and honour to its possessor.



CHAPTER VIII.


Early the next morning, while Mrs. Chester, weary and sad-hearted, was
watching by the bedside of her son, the tongues of the neighbours were
wagging over extravagant accounts of the occurrences of the night. The
early breakfasts were eaten with more than ordinary relish, and a
pleasant animation pervaded the neighbourhood. The pictures that were
drawn by the gossips of the return of the prodigal son, and of the
scenes that took place in the house of the Chesters, culminating with
the frightful struggle, were not drawn in black and white. Colour was
freely and liberally laid on, and the most praiseworthy attention was
paid to detail during the circulation of the various editions. Thus,
Mrs. Smith, who had it from Mrs. Jones, who had it from Mrs.
Weatherall, who had it from Mrs. Chizlet, who had it from Mrs.
Johnson, who had it from Mrs. Ball, who had it from Mrs. Pascoe, who
had it from Mrs. Midge, "who lives in the house, my dear!" happening
to meet Mrs. Phillips, was most careful and precise in her description
of Ned Chester prowling about the house for nights and nights, of his
adventures during the last four years, of the interview between him
and his father, of the father wishing to turn the son out of the
house, of the son refusing to go, of the mother interposing, and
begging on her knees that her husband would not be so cruel to their
only boy, of his flinging her brutally aside, of the commencement of
the struggle and its duration, of the setting fire to the house, and
the mercy it was that the lodgers weren't all burnt in their beds, and
of a hundred other details the truth of which it was next to
impossible to doubt.

On the second day, an entrancing addition was made to these pictures.
It was discovered that there was a child in the house, a mere
baby--"one of the most beautiful little creatures you ever set eyes
on, Mrs. Phillips!"--a child whom none of the neighbours had ever
before seen. Now, whose child was it? Clearly, the child of the
prodigal son. The likeness was so wonderful that there could be no
doubt of it. This at once cleared up a mysterious thread in the
terrible struggle between father and son. For it now came to be said
that when Ned Chester's hand, with a glittering knife in it, was
raised to strike the deadly blow, the child, with its lovely face and
golden hair, had with bold innocence seized her father's hand, and
taken the knife from him. Aroused by the child's beauty to a proper
sense of the dreadful deed he was about to commit, Ned Chester burst
into tears, fell upon his knees, and clasped his baby to his breast.
This was a good domestic touch, and was enthusiastically received.

But where was the mother of the interesting child who had so
providentially arrested the uplifted hand of her father, and saved him
from the commission of a dreadful crime? An answer to this question
was easily found. Ned Chester had married, and had come home with his
child. He had married a lady "with money." First she was a governess;
then the daughter of a sea-captain; then the daughter of a retired
sugar-baker, who had amassed an independence; lastly, she was a
nobleman's daughter, who had fallen in love and had eloped with
handsome Ned. Where, then, was the mother? Dead? Oh, no. The noble
father, after hunting for his daughter for three years, at length
discovered her, and tore her from her husband's arms--this being
distinctly legal according to the Rosemary Lane understanding of the
law as it affected the families of the aristocracy. But Ned Chester,
determined not to be parted from his little girl, had fled with her to
the home of his childhood, which he reached after many perilous
escapes from the pursuing father-in-law. The romance attached to this
imaginative and highly-coloured version rendered it very alluring, and
it was implicitly believed in. Thus the story grew, and passed from
mouth to mouth.

While the gossips were busy with her and hers, Mrs. Chester had her
hands and heart full. Her husband, bruised in body and spirit, lay ill
in hospital, her son, beset by dangerous fancies, lay ill at home. In
these larger responsibilities, the small circumstance of the
non-appearance of the new tenant who had brought a strange child into
her domestic circle scarcely found place in her mind.

The lovely lad, Ned Chester, was in the sorest of straights. What kind
of life he had led during the years he had been absent from home might
readily be guessed from his present condition. It not being safe to
leave him alone, Mrs. Chester was at her wits' end how to manage, but
she found an unexpected and useful ally in the strange child who had
found a place in her poor household. She made the discovery on the
second day of her son's illness, when, with eyes dilated with terror,
he was describing, with wonderful minuteness, two horrible creatures
created by his delirium, which were standing at the foot of his bed.
Mrs. Chester listened to him with a sinking heart.

"There! there!" he cried, rising in his bed, and clutching his
mother's hand with such violence that she moaned with pain. "Do you
not see them? They are coming closer and closer! Give me a knife! Give
me a knife!"

With shuddering shrieks he hid his face in the bedclothes, and during
this interval Sally and her baby-treasure entered the room.

"Go out, child! go out!" exclaimed Mrs. Chester, fearful lest, should
her son see the children, he should do them some violence in his
paroxysm. But Sally's cravings were too strong for obedience. The
breadwinner of the family being no longer able to work, the supplies
ran short, and Sally's need for food for herself and her precious
charge was most pressing. She had come to ask for bread.

Ned Chester raised his wild and haggard face from the pillow, and his
eyes fell upon the form of the strange child. The effect produced upon
him by her appearance during the fateful struggle with his father was
repeated. The terrible look departed from his eyes, the delirious
fancies faded from his imagination.

"They are gone--they are gone!" he sighed, and sinking back upon his
bed again, he gazed with a kind of worship upon the child, and
gradually passed into a more peaceful mood.

Dr. Lyon, an able, sensible, poor doctor, to whom the tide which leads
to fortune had never yet come, regarded her husband's condition as the
more serious of the two.

"Your son will get over it," he said to Mrs. Chester; "with him it is
only a matter of time and nursing. He is playing havoc with his
constitution, but he is young as yet. It is different with your
husband, who is no longer a young man. He has been a heavy drinker all
his life. He has received a shock," continued Dr. Lyon, "which may
lead to a serious result."

These words brought to Mrs. Chester's mind forebodings of fresh
trouble; visions of a coroner's inquest flitted before her, and of her
son arraigned for the murder of his father. She trembled from fear,
but wisely held her tongue; meanwhile it devolved upon Sally to
provide for the material wants of her treasure-baby. She proved equal
to the occasion, and played the part of Little Mother in a manner at
once affectionate and ingenious. Children in Sally Chester's station
of life learn quickly some very strange lessons being from necessity
precocious. Of course she knew her way to the pawnbroker's. She had
noted the superior texture of her baby-treasure's garments, and one by
one they were "put in pawn," and were replaced by such of Sally's
belongings as the Little Mother could conveniently spare. Thus the
little stranger was gradually transformed, until she became in outward
appearance as to the manner born in the locality in which her
childhood was to be passed, and in this way Sally obtained food, and
supported herself and her charge during the illness of her lovely lad
of a brother.

Every movement made, and every word spoken, by the strange child were,
of course, of the deepest interest to Sally, and were magnified by
Sally's admiring sense. The child could babble but a few words, and of
these "mama" was the principal. That she was conscious of a marked and
inexplicable change in her condition of life was clearly evident, but,
except for a certain wonderingly-mournful manner in which she gazed
around her, fixing her eyes always on one object for full two or three
minutes before removing them to another, and for a habit she had, for
the first few weeks of her sojourn in Rosemary Lane, of sobbing
quietly to herself, there was nothing especially noticeable in her but
her beauty--which was so remarkable as to draw upon her the
affectionate attention of every person who saw her.

By this time Ned Chester had recovered from his delirium, and once
more took his place among the residents of Rosemary Lane, evincing,
for the present, no inclination to play truant again.

He took a strange pleasure in the society of the child, and exhibited
so marked a partiality for her that the impression among the
neighbours that he was her father gained strength. But upon being
questioned on the matter, he denied it distinctly. "She's no child of
mine," he said roughly, and called his mother to prove it. Then the
true story became known--to the displeasure of the Rosemary Lane folk,
who, by a singular process of reasoning, considered themselves injured
because the romance was stripped from the history. Baby's beauty alone
prevented her from being looked upon with disfavour.

As the days went by, Mrs. Chester found it a harder and harder task to
live, and but for the kindness of the neighbours to Sally and the
baby, the children would have often gone to bed with empty stomachs.
Looking about for a friend in her distress, Mrs. Chester consulted Dr.
Lyon, with a vague hope that he might be able to assist her. He
listened patiently and kindly to Mrs. Chester's story.

"Let us look the matter straight in the face," he said, when she had
concluded; "you have no resources--no money, I mean."

"None," she sighed.

"Your husband is in the hospital, and there is no saying how long it
will be before he comes out. I should say that if even he does come
out, which is doubtful, he will be no longer able to work."

There was no cruel delicacy about Dr. Lyon; he knew the class he
ministered for, and he invariably spoke plainly and to the point, and
always with kindness.

Mrs. Chester nodded a mournful assent.

"Your furniture has been seized for rent, and you have no home--to
speak of."

Mrs. Chester nodded again.

"And," he continued, "it is clearly a necessity that you must live.
Listen to this letter."

He read to her a letter from a country union, forty miles from London,
which wanted a matron; residence and rations free; wages 18_l_. per
annum.

"I think I have sufficient influence to obtain the situation for you,"
said Dr. Lyon. "You are a kind woman, and I can recommend you."

Hope lighted up Mrs. Chester's face--for one moment only.

"It's forty miles away," she murmured, and added, "and there's Sally!"

"Upon that," said Dr. Lyon, "I cannot advise you. Go home, and sleep
upon it, and give me your answer the day after to-morrow."

She thanked him' and walked slowly out of his consulting-room, which
was about as large as a pill box; but returned within five minutes to
ask him now much a week eighteen pounds a year would give her.

"Seven shillings," he replied.

Mrs. Chester went home filled with sorrowful contemplation of this sad
crisis in her life. To part from Sally would be like tearing a string
from her heart; but if it was for the child's good!--Yet even if she
could calmly contemplate the separation, where could she place the
child? There was the practical difficulty, in the solution of which
she played no direct part.

So entirely occupied had Sally been with her duties as Little Mother,
that since her first introduction to the reader she had not fainted
dead away, as her wont and seemingly her pleasure were. But while the
conversation between the mother and Dr. Lyon was proceeding, Sally
once more indulged, and swooned off suddenly and unexpectedly. There
were only herself and her baby-charge present, and they were sitting
on the floor in the one room to which Mrs. Chester was now reduced. It
was evening, and dusk, and the baby-child, naturally supposing that
Sally had gone to sleep, crawled close to the insensible form of her
friend and protector, and placing her face upon Sally's breast, fell
asleep also. In this position Mrs. Chester found them when she arrived
home.

Sally did not stir when her mother raised and shook her. Then the
mother, rushing to a despairing conclusion, wrung her hands, and
moaned that her child had died of starvation. What extravagance of
emotion she might have exhibited in her grief it is hard to say; but a
slight movement from the child assured her that she was mistaken in
her impression. She ran hurriedly back to Dr. Lyon, and begged him to
come and see Sally immediately.

"It is only one of the old attacks," he said to the grief-stricken
mother, as they stood together by the poor bed on which the children
were lying, "but brought about now by a different cause. See, she is
sensible now. Sally, what is the matter with you?"

"I am hungry," moaned Sally, "and so is baby. We've only had a slice
of bread between us to-day."

Dr. Lyon looked at the mother's white face, and bit his lips hard.

"Do not leave the children," he said. "I will send in some medicine
in five minutes."

The medicine duly arrived in the shape of a four-pound loaf of bread,
a small pat of butter, a two-ounce packet of tea, and a little sugar.
On the loaf of bread was stuck an apothecary's label, with the written
inscription, "To be taken at once with a cup of hot tea." The mother
burst into tears, and set about preparing the medicine for the
children. But Dr. Lyon had forgotten that to make hot tea a fire was
necessary. Mrs. Chester had no coals. There was nothing of value in
the room, and there was no time to lose. She stood by the cold empty
grate, considering for a moment. Her eyes fell upon her wedding ring.
It was all of the world's goods she had remaining. A melancholy freak
it was that induced her to creep to Sally's side and say:

"Sally, I'm going to make you some nice tea, and good Dr. Lyon has
sent you some nice bread-and-butter."

"Oh," replied Sally, in a whisper, "I'm so glad--so glad! Make haste,
mother, make haste! You don't know how hungry we are."

"I must run out and get some coals, dear child," said the mother.
"You'll lay still, wont you?"

"Yes, mother."

"Kiss this, my dear," said the mother, with a sob, placing the
wedding-ring to Sally's lips.

Sally, without any understanding of her mother's meaning, kissed the
ring, and then kissed her mother, whose tears bathed her neck.

"Don't cry, mother," said Sally; "it ain't your fault."

"Heaven knows it ain't, my sweet," replied the mother; and with a
heart made lighter by Sally's embrace, ran out, and soon returned with
wood and coals.

That night Sally, lying awake, but supposed to be asleep, overheard a
full account of her mother's troubles, as they were related to the
brother who had brought this trouble upon them. Mrs. Chester did not
reproach her boy, being indeed utterly blind to his faults; and she
confided to him only because she yearned for sympathy and counsel. He
was ready enough with both--with heartless sympathy and empty
counsel--devouring a great part of the loaf of bread as he bestowed
them after the fashion of his nature, and greedily drinking the tea
which his mother poured out for him with ready hand and loving heart.

"And you think I had better accept the situation, Ned, if I can get
it?"

"I don't see what else is to be done. _I've_ got nothing."

"I know that, I know that," interrupted the mother tenderly. "Or you
would never see us want."

"Of course I wouldn't," replied the lovely lad, in a whining tone;
"but luck's against me--it's been against me all my life!"

"It'll turn one day, Ned, you see if it won't," said the mother,
gazing, from force of habit, with infatuation, at the mole on his
temple; "and then when you're a rich man you'll take care of your poor
mother, whose heart is almost broken at the thought of parting from
her children, won't you, Ned?"

The piteous words and the more piteous tone in which they were uttered
elicited from the vagabond son nothing but a sulky promise--as
intangible as the air into which it was breathed--that when he was a
rich man, he wouldn't forget the mother that bore him.

"It _must_ be done, then," sighed Mrs. Chester; "there's no help for
it. But where am I to put Sally? Who's to look after her? Eighteen
pounds a year is seven shillings a week. I could give half of that,
three-and-sixpence a week, for her keep. It might be managed that
way."

"Half of eighteen pound," grumbled Ned, "is nine pound. If I had nine
pound, I could make my fortune."

"Whatever I can spare, you shall have, Ned. But Sally comes first.
She's not old enough to look after herself, and she's a girl,
remember."

Which had no other effect upon Ned than to make him wish _he_ was a
girl, for girls always had the best of everything, and he couldn't be
worse off than he was--an unconsciously-uttered truism, of which he
did not see the point. They stopped up talking for an hour longer, and
by midnight the room was quiet and dark. Mrs. Chester did not sleep;
she lay awake all the night, thinking of the sad change in her
fortunes which was about to take place.



CHAPTER IX.


Sally, walking about the streets the next morning, with her baby in
her arms, was aware that a critical change in her prospects was
impending, which threatened to separate her and the child who was now
part of her life; and as far as such a mite as she can be said to
determine, she resolved that such a separation should never take
place. She would run away into the wide, wide world.

She set off at as good a pace as her little legs could achieve, but
the child she carried was no light weight for one of her tender years,
and before she had extricated herself from the labyrinth of courts,
alleys, and narrow streets which intersected Rosemary Lane, she was
exhausted. Leaning against the wall, she looked up to the sky with a
sad and weary face. She had never forgotten the beautiful dream she
had dreamt on the night of her brother's return, and it now recurred
to her, bringing with it a dim hope that something wondrous might
happen to aid her in her difficulty. If she had been acquainted with
the history of Jack and his Beanstalk, she would have audibly wished
for a tree--up which she could climb into a kinder land than Rosemary
Lane. But although no miracle brought light to Sally's troubled soul,
something happened which seemed to her very wonderful.

She had halted immediately before a cobbler's stall, and the face she
saw as she looked down to earth was that of Seth Dumbrick the
cobbler--no other, indeed, than the cobbler who in Sally's dream had
appeared to her in the clouds, mending boots and shoes for the angels.
Here was the realisation of Sally's dim hope. Fancies of grand
processions and magic trees and angels in the clouds thronged her
mind, revolving around two central figures--the sweet figure of her
beautiful child, and the strange one of this queer-looking cobbler
whose chin had not met razor's edge for a week.

Seth Dumbrick, observing Sally's agitation, and also attracted by the
children, paused in his work, and spoke to Sally. She did not hear the
words, but the voice of the man was kind, and that was sufficient to
give colour to her hope.

"O Mr. Dumbrick," she exclaimed, pressing her hands to her breast, and
gazing upon the cobbler with eyes open to their fullest extent. "It
was you I dreamt of--it was you!"

"Ah, Sally," was Seth Dumbrick's calm comment, "it was me you dreamt
of, eh? What sort of a dream?"

"Oh," cried Sally, "so good--so beautiful!"

"Tell me the dream," said Seth.

Sally gave him a practical reply. "I am _so_ tired, and _so_ hungry!
And so's my baby."

Seth's eyes wandered to the baby, who was staring at him solemnly.

"Yours?" he gravely asked of Sally.

"Mine," as gravely answered Sally, with an emphatic nod.

A smile passed over the cobbler's lips. His stall was curiously built
in front of a flight of steps leading down to a cellar, in which he
lived, and as he sat at work on his platform his face was almost on a
level with the pavement. Now, as Sally made reference to her tired and
hungry condition, she peered into this cellar. It was dark and safe.
If she and her baby could hide there, no one in the world would be
able to separate them.

"May I come in?" she begged.

"Come along," said Seth.

There was room on the platform for the children, and Sally, with her
baby, joyfully squeezed in, and nestled in the corner, where they
could see and be seen by the cobbler, but were almost quite hidden
from the passers-by in the street. Seth Dumbrick then, reaching out
his hand, opened a little cupboard on his right, and taking from it a
loaf of bread, cut two thick slices, over which he spread a careful
layer of dripping from a yellow basin. Sprinkling these liberally with
salt, he gave them to the children, and proceeded with his work while
they ate.

Every movement he made was watched with admiration by Sally, and the
disclosure of the cupboard containing food was to her something almost
magical.

Seth Dumbrick was a character in the neighbourhood. Not a person in
Rosemary Lane was on visiting terms with him, and the children, as
they passed and repassed, were in the habit of casting longing looks
into the dark shadows of the cellar which had never yet received a
guest, and which was popularly supposed to contain rare and precious
deposits. The circumstance of his having been seen at various times
carrying bottles and jars with living creatures in them imparted an
additional interest to his habitation. He was never seen in a
public-house or a place of worship.

Everything in this man's face was on a grand scale: there was not a
mean feature in it. His lips were full and powerful, his nose was
large and of a good shape, his great grey eyes had in them a light and
depth which were not easily fathomed, and but for his forehead, which
hung over his eyebrows like a precipice, he would have been a
well-looking man. But this forehead was of so monstrous a bulk that it
engrossed the attention of the observer, and except to those with keen
and penetrating insight, destroyed all harmony of feature in the face
of the man. His flesh was not over clean; his hands were as hard as
horn; he had a week's bristles on his chin, and an old red nightcap on
his head.

Before the children had finished their slices of bread-and-dripping,
Seth, bending forward, took Sally's boots from her feet, and examined
them. They were in sad need of repair, and without a word, Seth began
to patch and hammer away at them. Sally's eyes glistened with grateful
pleasure.

"And now about that dream of yours, Sally," said Seth Dumbrick, as
Sally, after partaking of the last mouthful of bread, wiped her lips
with her hand. "Did I have a gold-laced hat and silk stockings on?"

"Oh, no," replied Sally, screwing up her lips, "only you was setting
on a stool, mending shoes--as you're doing now."

"Well, that's not much of a dream, Sally. You could dream that dream
over again this minute, with your eyes wide open."

"No, I couldn't--no, I couldn't!" protested Sally, with a vigorous
shake of her head. "You don't know!"

"Well, go on; I was sitting here mending shoes----"

"No, no," interrupted Sally, "you wasn't sitting here."

"Where, then."

"There!" said Sally, pointing with her finger upwards to the sky.

"There!" echoed Seth, with a startled look, following the line of
Sally's finger.

"And angels was flying all about you, and it was their shoes you was
mending."

And then Sally related the whole of her dream as circumstantially as
it was in her power to do. The narration occupied some time, and at
its conclusion Sally's face was red with excitement, and an expression
of interest was in Seth Dumbrick's features.

"And I was putting a pair of shining slippers on the feet of this
little thing," he said, taking the baby in his arms. "I didn't know
you had a little sister, Sal."

"I ain't got none; she ain't my sister--she's my baby."

Seth Dumbrick, holding himself aloof from his neighbours, and not
being given to idle chatterings, knew none of the particulars of the
child's introduction to Rosemary Lane, and he now learnt them for the
first time from Sally's lips.

"Poor little castaway!" he said.

"She wasn't dressed like this when she first come," said Sally.

"No! How then?"

"She had nice things, better than I ever seed."

"What's become of 'em?"

"Pawnbroker's," tersely replied Sally.

"Ah! and you've no idea who or where the pretty little creature's
mother is?"

"She never had a mother."

"That's not according to nature, Sally. A mother she must have had."

"No; she had a ma, not a mother. I knew she wasn't like us the first
moment I ever see her. That was the night brother Ned come home, and
me and baby went to bed together. Then I dreamed that dream of you and
the angels. Wasn't it a beautiful dream?"

"It was a rare fine dream, Sally, a rare fine dream! Angels! and Seth
Dumbrick a-working for 'em! that's the finest part of it. Seth
Dumbrick sitting in the sky, with angels begging of him to mend their
shoes! And I'll do it too--when I get there. I'll set up as a cobbler
in the clouds, and make my fortune. Ha, ha, ha! Sally, go on dreaming
like that, and something'll come of it."

"What'll come of it?" asked literal Sally.

Seth Dumbrick rubbed his chin with his horny hand. The bristles were
so strong, and his hand was so hard, that the action produced a
rasping sound, such as the rubbing of sand-paper produces.

"There was a woman once, Now her name was Southcott--Joanna Southcott
it was. Now she was a poor woman, too, as you'll be."

Sally nodded. She had never bestowed the slightest thought upon the
matter, but if she had made it the subject of the most serious
contemplation she could have had no other expectation than that of a
certainty she would be a poor woman all her life.

"Joanna had dreams, and prophesied. _She_ dreamt of angels and the
devil, and had a fight with the devil."

"Did she run away from him, and did he run after her," inquired Sally,
almost breathless with excitement, for in her mind at that moment the
devil stood for the new tenant who, in her own dream, had tried to
destroy her treasure-baby.

"That's not told," answered Seth Dumbrick.

"But she beat him!" suggested Sally, with her little hands tightly
clasped.

"She beat him bad, did Joanna. My mother--she was a Devonshire woman,
like Joanna--believed in her, and so did a heap of others. And now I
come to think of it," said Seth, with a musing glance at the pretty
child lying on his leather apron, "there's something strange in Joanna
Southcott's name coming into my head in this way. For, you see, Sal,
when Joanna was an old woman, she gave out that she was going to be
brought to bed with a Prince of Peace; but she never was, more's the
pity, for that's the very Prince the world wants badly, and never yet
has been able to get. She used to go into trances, used Joanna, and
prophesy."

"Tell me," said Sally.

"About 'em? Well, there were so many! She was always at it."

"What's trances?" asked Sally, with feverish excitement, "and what's
prophecy?"

"Well, Joanna'd be sitting as you're sitting now, when all at once
she'd go off--fall back or forward, insensible. That would be a
trance. Then she'd dream something. Then she'd come to, and tell what
she dreamt. That'd be a prophecy."

"_I_ do that!" cried Sally, in a fever of excitement. "_I_ fall back
and faint dead away--dead away! For a long time. And I don't know
nothing that goes on all the time. Oh, my! But I ain't begun to
prophesy yet, that I knows on. Tell me, what _is_ prophecy?"

"Something that comes true, or is likely to come true. Now, here and
there your dream's a good deal like some of Joanna's dreams. She was a
prophetess; my mother had some of her writings. Fine writings,
promising fine things. You look out, Sally. You keep on dreaming and
fainting dead away, and some day perhaps _you'll_ prophesy."

Sally nodded. Her eyes were full of fire, her little lips were parted
in wonder, and in her childish mind strange and yearning hopes and
cunning designs were beginning to stir.

"That dream of yours," proceeded Seth Dumbrick, in all earnestness,
"might signify something. There's a mighty deal in it to an
understanding mind. If you were older than you are, Sally, I'd asked
you to commence and prophesy."

Sally answered by another nod. Indeed, fascinated by the earnestness
of the speaker, no less than by the mystery which seemed hidden in his
words, Sally's head oscillated up and down with regular motion,
following with ready acquiescence the current of Seth Dumbrick's
utterances.

"Other people have had dreams," said Seth Dumbrick, "that signify
something, and led to something. There was Maria Marten. You know
about her."

Sally, who had seen the tragedy of _Maria Marten, or the Murder at the
Red Barn_ enacted at a penny show, replied eagerly:

"I've seed her! and I've seed the pickaxe--and the grave--and the
blood!"

"That all came of a dream. A mole-catcher her father was, and she was
a fine young woman. The girl went away from home one fine day, dressed
up in man's clothes. She had a sweetheart, and she was going to meet
him to be married. But instead of taking her to church her sweetheart
took her to the Red Barn, and shot her. Now it was a year afterwards
that Maria appeared to her mother in a dream----"

"Yes, yes!" cried Sally. "Dressed in a white bedgownd. She was at the
show."

"--and said that she'd been murdered, and buried in the Red Barn.
Well, her mother told her dream, and the peopled laughed at her. But
the ghost came to her a second time the next night, and a third time
the next, and then the mother wouldn't be denied. They went to the Red
Barn, and there they found Maria, done up in a sack, and buried under
the floor. Every word of it is true. Now," said Seth, graciously and
condescendingly, as though he were about to present Sally with a large
piece of plum-cake, "I'll tell you something that I wouldn't tell to
everybody. I saw that man hung."

Sally gazed at him with eyes dilated to their fullest extent. Seth
Dumbrick, gratified at this exhibition of interest, moistened his
thumb.

"I was there, and saw him hung. Corder his name was, and it's--ah,
it's twenty odd year ago. I was a young man then, and I went to all
the executions."

"Why?" inquired Sally, without any special reason for asking; adding
as an afterthought, "Was they nice?"

Seth Dumbrick rasped his bristly chin again with his horny hands.

"Can't exactly say why," he honestly answered. "They wasn't
particularly nice. I've seen seven men in a string. I can see 'em now,
all of a row."

Staring into space upon this gloomy imagining, Seth Dumbrick paused a
sufficient time to see the black cap; drawn over the faces of the
doomed men, and the ropes adjusted. Which being done, and the men
disposed of, he resumed the former topic.

"Then there were other dreams. Here's one. Two men work in a brewery.
One kills the other, and heaves the body into the fire under the
boiling vat, where it's burned into smoke and ashes. No one knows
what's been done, and the story runs that the murdered man is drowned.
The murderer goes to another town, and lives there. Now, then. A
matter of seven years afterwards the murderer comes back again, and
gets work in the same brewery. The first night of his return he goes
to bed, and begins to speak in his sleep. Another man's abed in the
same room with him, and that man is awake. 'Yes,' says the murderer in
his sleep, it's just seven year ago since I did it.' The other man in
a kind of careless way, says, 'What did you do seven year ago?' Upon
that, the murderer gets out of bed, and crawls about the room. Then
stops still all of a sudden. Then stands straight up. Then draws an
imaginary knife. Then stabs an imaginary man. Stabs him once, twice,
three times. Then stops and listens. Then creeps back to bed. All this
the workman that's awake sees, because the moon is shining into the
room, and it's all so plain that he can't hardly mistake what it
means; but to make sure, he says, 'What was his name?' and the
murderer mentions the name of the man who was supposed to be drowned
seven years ago. 'Did you kill him?' he asks. 'I did,' says the
murderer. 'What did you do with the body?' he asks again. 'I put it,'
says the murderer in his sleep, 'into the fire under the vat.' That
was enough. The next day he was taken in custody, and was so worked
upon that he confessed, and was hung."

Seth Dumbrick related this story so dramatically that Sally thought it
as good as a play, quite as good as the _Murder at the Red Barn_,
which she had seen at the penny show.

"Did you see _him_ hung?" she inquired.

"No; it was done in a foreign country, and I missed him. You see,
Sally, dreams are significant things sometimes. I don't know what the
world would do without 'em. There's the Bible--what would the Bible be
without dreams, and visions? Did you ever hear of Pharaoh?"

"No; was he a relation of Joanna's?"

"Pharaoh was a king, one of those you see in the British Museum done
up in bundles. He was a Bible man, and had dreams. Then there was
Daniel, and all the other prophets--they were always having dreams. I
tell you what, Sally. If it wasn't for dreams, there would never have
been any prophets. There are your shoes--when you're a grown-up woman,
you can pay me for mending 'em."

Sally murmured her thanks, and leant forward to put them on. Seth
Dumbrick was also bending forward, and in the act, the precipice of
his forehead loomed ominously over Sally, as though it were about to
fall upon her. Now, whether it was from some fantastic fear of the
occurrence of such a catastrophe, or from her own weak condition, or
from the excitement of her mind produced by the strange stories
narrated by Seth Dumbrick, Sally, as the cobbler leant over her, gave
a sigh, and sank to the ground, with her shoes in her hand.

Somewhat perplexed by the novelty of the situation, Seth Dumbrick
raised Sally without exactly knowing what to do with her. The child's
eyes were closed, and she made no movement or response to his
inquiries as to what was the matter with her. Every moment added to
the embarrassment of the situation, and reflecting grimly upon what
the neighbours might think if they happened to discover Sally's dark,
passive face lying against his knee, Seth Dumbrick decided that the
best and most humane plan would be to carry her down to his cellar,
and there wait for her recovery. He carried her down, not without
tenderness, and then returned for the baby, whom he placed on the
ground by Sally's side.

During the short time that Sally was left to herself it might not have
been quite a matter of the imagination to fancy that she raised her
eyelids cautiously and cunningly, and looked timidly about her. But
the cellar was in darkness, and when Seth Dumbrick returned with the
baby, Sally lay with closed eyes, and with apparently as little life
in her as a stone.

The cellar, as has been said, was in darkness, and only to one
accustomed to the gloom could the objects it contained be seen. But
Seth had lived in the place for years, and from long custom his sight
had accustomed itself to the shadows by which he loved--for he was by
no means an unhappy man--to be surrounded. As Sally lay before him, he
could see her face distinctly.

"I'd best bathe her head with water," he muttered; "it'll liven her
up."

Taking a cup, he dipped it into what looked like a large glass tank,
and withdrew it full of water. As he raised it from the surface, a
stickleback leapt from the cup, and fell, with a little plash, into
the tank. Seth, peering into the cup, inserted his fingers, and lifted
out two water-beetles, which he deposited in the tank. Then he knelt
by Sally, and laved her face.

Seth Dumbrick was a bachelor, fifty years of age, with no ties of
kindred, and desiring none as it seemed, but not entirely without
companionship. He was the possessor of an aquarium, constructed by
himself, having in its centre a device in rocks, and with weeds,
lilies, and what water-plants were in season, floating on the surface
through the whole of the year. In the aquarium was a strange
collection of fish and reptiles, comprising gold and silver fish,
sticklebacks, silver pike, water worms and beetles, and as many
varieties as Seth could gather and purchase of the fantastic
Salamander. Of a certain species of this family of Salamandridæ, with
large lustrous yellow spots and stripes which Seth claimed to come
from Japan, and which he called his water-leopards, Seth was
particularly proud. The rocks in the centre of the aquarium came sheer
out of the water to suit the habit of those of his creatures
amphibiously inclined, and it was from this aquarium he drew the water
to restore Sally to consciousness.

But Sally's attack was one of the most obstinate nature, and she
showed no signs of recovery. The more Seth bathed her face and head
the more insensible she appeared to become, and Seth, not being
accustomed to such "tantrums," as he called them, was doubtful, after
a great exercise of patience, whether he was adopting the proper means
for the recovery of the patient. And in a little while he was sensible
of a creeping fear that Sally had taken her departure from this world
of trouble to one where trouble was not known. "But that can't be," he
murmured, as he placed his ear to her bosom, "for her heart's
beating."

It _was_ beating, and very violently for a child in Sally's weak
condition. Seth doubted whether it was natural that the hearts of
persons who were in the habit of falling into trances should beat so
loudly as Sally's heart was beating now, and while he was considering
the knotty point in silent perplexity, Sally's eyelids were cautiously
raised, and she strove to pierce the darkness which surrounded her.
She saw nothing, not even the eyes of Seth Dumbrick, which were fixed
upon hers, in close observance.

"Sally!" called Seth, relieved at this sudden recovery.

Sally's eyelids were immediately closed, and from Sally's lips came no
reply. Seth waited and watched for two or three minutes, but Sally was
still unconscious. Then Seth, with somewhat of a demonstrative noise,
walked towards the steps which led to daylight and the world, and
instantly walked back to Sally's side on tiptoe, so softly and
noiselessly that the most timid mouse might have been deceived. Sally
again opened her eyes, and this time she slightly raised herself from
the ground.

"Sally!" again called Seth.

Sally hastily resumed her recumbent position, and was dumb. An
expression of comic amusement stole into Seth's face. He went to the
aquarium, and dipping in his cup, carefully fished up a water-beetle
with a score of slender legs.

"Poor Sally! Poor little thing!" murmured Seth, as he gently placed
the water-beetle on Sally's face, over which it instantly began to
crawl.

Sally screamed loudly, and jumped up. Seth gave a dry laugh, and
replaced the water-beetle in the aquarium.

"Oh, oh!" cried Sally. "Where am I?"

"Don't be frightened, Sally," replied Seth. "You're in my cellar."

"It's so dark!" moaned Sally.

"It won't be after you've been here often," said Seth, in a sly tone.
"What's been the matter with you, Sal?"

Sally's answer was prompt. "I've been in a trance."

"And you've had a vision," suggested Seth.

"Oh, yes, yes," cried Sally. "How did you know?"

Seth chuckled. "And you're going to prophesy," he said.

"Yes, yes!"

"Fire away, then," said Seth, shaking with laughter. But his laughter
was noiseless, and Sally did not hear it.



CHAPTER X.

Sally hesitated before she made her first move. Playing at trances was
a new game to her, and she was in the dark in more ways than one. But
the crisis was an imminent one, and she was vaguely conscious that
none but bold measures would help her safely through it. Yet she
approached her subject warily, unaware that Seth's accustomed eyes
could plainly discern the working of every muscle in her face.

"I went off all of a sudden, didn't I?" was her first inquiry.

"You did, Sally," replied Seth, "without saying with your leave or by
your leave."

"And you tried to bring me to."

"And couldn't."

"Right you are, Sally."

"Then you carried me down here."

"How do you know that?" asked Seth, so abruptly as to shake her
nerves.

"You must have done," she said in feverish haste. "How could I be
here, else? People don't walk in trances, do they? Joanna didn't walk
when she was in a trance, did she?"

"Well, no," answered Seth, the corners of his eyelids wrinkling up
with amusement. "I never heard that she did."

A sigh of relief escaped Sally's bosom at this confirmatory evidence,
and was followed by a chuckle from Seth.

"It stands to reason, Sal, that if Joanna had walked, you'd have done
the same."

"In course I should," said Sally innocently. "Did I go off like
Joanna?"

"I should say there wasn't a pin to choose between you." A cunning
smile played about Sally's lips. "You put somethink on my face."

"Water, Sal, to bring you to."

"But somethink else," said Sally, with a slight shudder, "somethink
that crept and frightened me."

"You see, Sally, you were so bad, and wanted such a deal of bringing
to, that I had to take the water from my aquarium----"

"What's that?"

"You'll know by-and-bye. There's fish in it, and all sorts of things,
and when I dipped the cup in, out came a water-beetle. There isn't a
bit of harm in the little creatures, but they _do_ creep! Now for the
vision, Sally."

Sally puckered her eyebrows, and tightly interlaced her little
fingers.

"It was dark and it was light," she slowly commenced. "Not both at
once. That could hardly be--though we don't quite know what happens in
trances."

"No, we don't, do we? It wasn't light and dark together. First it was
dark, and then it was light. I couldn't see a wision in the dark,
could I?"

"I should say not, Sal; but I never was in a trance, you know. I'm not
one o' the prophesying sort."

"So it _must_ ha' been light when it come. There was all sorts o'
things flying about--birds, and angels, and spirits. It was splendid.
Then all of a sudden a king comes to me done up in a bundle."

"Pharaoh," suggested Seth, in the midst of a quiet fit of laughter.

"Yes, Pharer, it was," said Sally, eagerly adopting the suggestion.

"Because that's the only old king you ever heard of."

"Yes. Well, Pharer come----"

"Stop a minute, Sal. What was he like?"

"Didn't you never see him?"

"I never set eyes on the old gentleman."

A deeper puckering of Sally's eyebrows, and a tighter interlacing of
her little fingers.

"He was done up in a bundle, you know, and I didn't see much of him."

"Was he like the doll outside old Adam's rag and bone shop?"

"A little bit."

"Only he didn't have a black face,"

"No," said Sally, following the cues with heaving bosom.

"But his face _was_ painted."

"In course it was."

"In stripes. Red, and yellow, and green."

"Yes, he looked so rum! And he had a big gold crown on his head."

"Ah," said Seth, in a tone of sly satisfaction, "now I can say I've
seen Pharaoh if anybody asks me. Go on, Sal."

"Well, he come, and said----"

"Ho! ho! Sally! he spoke to you, did he?"

"Yes, he said a lot."

"Now," mused Seth, hugging himself in great enjoyment, "how did he
speak?"

"With his tongue," replied Sally, with precocious sharpness.

"Yes, yes, with his tongue, of course. But in what language? It
couldn't be Hebrew, because he hated the Jews, and wouldn't have
lowered himself to it. Besides if he had, you wouldn't have understood
him."

"Not in a trance?" asked Sally in a cunning tone.

"I should say," replied Seth very gravely, "not even in a trance."

"Why, then, he spoke what I'm speaking to you, and what you're
speaking to me--jist the same. 'Git up, Sally,' he says, 'and come
along o' me; I'm going to show you somethink.' I got up and went along
of him."

"The people must have stared, Sal, to see you and Pharaoh walking
together."

"We didn't mind that. We walks straight to the horspital, and there's
father laying in bed. 'Shall I ever git better?' says father to
Pharer. 'No,' says Pharer, 'you'll never git better. Do you hear, Sal?
Father'll never git better.' Then we goes out of the horspital, me
and Pharer, and walks miles and miles into the country, and we come to
a big, big place with stone walls. 'Mother's in there, Sal,' says
Pharer; and I peeps through and sees poor mother working and working."

"Was it a prison, then, that mother was in?"

"No, it was a workus. 'If you was to go to her,' says Pharer, she'd be
turned away. She's got eighteen pound a year.' Is that a lot?" asked
Sally, suddenly breaking off.

"It's a lot taken in a lump," replied Seth, upon whose face a more
thoughtful expression was gathering, "and a year's a lot, too, Sally."

"Is three-and-sixpence a week a lot for a gal's keep?" asked Sally,
pursuing her inquiries.

"What sort of a girl? One who would make herself handy?"

"Oh, yes; and do anythink, never mind what. Clean and scrub, and git
up early and light the fire and go of errands----" Thus Sally
breathlessly ran on.

"But this girl's so small--not strong enough to do all that."

"She'd git bigger, and stronger, and older, every day. And you don't
know, oh, you don't know what she wouldn't do, if you wanted her to!
And she'd be as good as gold."

"Then this girl's liable to fainting dead away, without notice----"

"She wouldn't do it!" cried Sally, beating her hands together and
creeping closer to Seth; "she wouldn't do it, if you didn't want her
to!"

"--And of falling into trances--"

"She'd never do so agin, this gal wouldn't, if you didn't want her
to!"

"Three-and-sixpence wouldn't go far, Sal, but it's something. What
next did Pharaoh say?"

"'She's got eighteen pound a year,' says Pharer, 'and she's been
obliged to go away from you 'cause she's so poor, and couldn't git
nothink to eat; but she's giving somebody three-and-sixpence a week
for your keep.'"

"Ah, ah, Sally, now we're coming to it."

"After that, Pharer looks at baby----"

"Saying anything about _her_ keep, Sal?"

"Oh, no; there's no need to. _I_ keep _her_, you know; _I_ take care
of _her_. I nurse her, and wash her, and dress her, and put her to
bed, and she's no trouble to nobody."

"Not even to you, Sal, I suppose."

"Not to me--oh, no, not to me, 'cause I love her, and she's the
beautifullest baby there ever was! Pharer looks at her, and says,
'When baby grows up, she'll be a lady, and 'll have fine clothes,
and 'll give everybody money who's been good to her.' That's sure
to come true, that is."

"Pharaoh says?"

"No, _I_ say. It's sure to come true. You mind, now! Whoever's good to
baby'll be done good to."

"A good Christian sentiment, Sal. And then?"

"Then," said Sally abruptly, "Pharer goes away."

"Walks away?"

"No, flies away, and is swallowed up like. That's all of it."

And with her heart beating as fast as if she were in a high state of
fever, Sally, whose hand was resting on Seth's knee, waited in the
deepest anxiety to learn her fate. Seth put his hand down, and it
touched Sally's face. He gave a start as he touched her cheek, which
was wet with her tears, fast and silently flowing.

"Sally," he said, "you've got a brother."

"I'll tell you somethink," rejoined Sally quietly and solemnly; "but
you mustn't tell him, or he'd beat me."

"I won't tell him, my child."

"I don't think," sobbed Sally, "as he's any good."

"Why?"

"It was him as made father ill, and him as made mother poor. And last
night, when I was abed, pretending to be asleep, I sor him eating up
all the bread and drinking up all the tea. And when he went away,
mother cried and cried."

Many moments passed in silence. Then Seth rose, and lit a candle,
Sally following his movements with undisguised anxiety.

"Look about you, Sal."

Sally gazed with longing, admiring eyes at the treasures of the
cellar, which was a veritable Aladdin's cave in her sight. It was with
difficulty she removed her eyes from the aquarium, which was something
so entirely outside her experience as to make it a marvel indeed.

"Here's my bed, Sally; and here's my cupboard; and here's my
frying-pan and saucepan and kettle, all clean and tidy." As he seemed
to expect an answer, Sally nodded. "Now here," he continued, lifting a
blanket which, hung on a line, divided off a portion of the cellar,
"is a place where two children might sleep, supposing such an out and
out-of-the-way circumstance should ever occur to Seth Dumbrick as
taking two ready-made, mischievous girls----"

"Oh, no," interrupted Sally positively, "not mischievous. Good."

"You're not fit to judge. Supposing, I say, such an extraordinary and
ridiculous circumstance were to occur to Seth Dumbrick as his taking
two girls, one of 'em a baby----"

"Such a beauty!" again interrupted the irrepressible Sally. "Kiss him,
baby."

She put baby's face to his, and, utterly confounded and unable to
resist, Seth Dumbrick kissed a pair of lips for the first time for
Heaven knows how many years.

"If I believed in the Bible," he muttered, "which I don't, it'd be
almost like kissing that. Sally, will you stop here, quiet, while I go
out a bit?"

"Yes," replied Sally joyfully.

"You won't move, you won't touch a thing?"

"No, I won't--I won't!"

"And you won't mind sitting in the dark?"

"N--no," said Sally, with a little shiver.

"One soon gets used to it."

"_I_ would," said Sally, becoming suddenly brave.

"I can't afford to burn candles all day long. You won't touch the
aquarium, or put your fingers in the water?"

"No--no; I'll never!"

"Because _my_ fish bite, Sally."

"I won't move from here, Mr. Dumbrick," protested Sally, grouping
mentally for some strong affirmation. "I hope I may never move at all
if I do!"

"Very well; I sha'n't be gone long."

Seth Dumbrick went straight towards Mrs. Chester's lodgings. He met
that good woman on his way, inquiring anxiously of her neighbours
whether they had seen anything of her child.

"She's at my place," said Seth, "with her baby, and has been there
ever so long."

"You've lifted a weight off my heart," said Mrs. Chester.

"I was afraid Sally was run over. I'll give it her when she comes
home!"

"Home!" echoed Seth.

"Yes, home," repeated Mrs. Chester.

"For how long," asked Seth, "will it be a home for her?"

Mrs. Chester turned very white, and looked at Seth Dumbrick for an
explanation.

"Mrs. Chester," he said with a curious hesitation, "what sort of a man
do you consider me to be?"

"I don't know any harm of you, Mr. Dumbrick."

"That's neither one thing nor the other. It don't matter, though. I'd
like to hear the rights of the story about Sally's baby, if you've no
objection."

Mrs. Chester related what she knew, and Seth Dumbrick listened
thoughtfully and attentively.

"And you've never since set eyes on the man who brought the child to
your house?"

"Never before or since, Mr. Dumbrick."

"There's a mystery in it," mused Seth, "and I'm partial to mystery.
Here we are at your place. May I come up?"

Without waiting for permission, he pushed his way upstairs, and
entered Mrs. Chester's room. In the first glance he saw the state of
poverty to which she was reduced. Unceremoniously he went to the
cupboard and opened it; there was no food on the shelves. Then he
turned to Mrs. Chester, and fixed his great grey eyes on her so
piercingly that she began to grow frightened.

"You're a married woman. Where's your wedding-ring?"

She placed her left hand quickly behind her.

"I don't mean any harm. Where is it?"

"In pawn?"

"That's always the last thing to go, Mrs. Chester."

Weak and sick, she sank, panting, into a chair.

"Your husband's in the hospital?"

"Yes," she sighed.

"And you're going to take a situation in a workhouse?"

"Who told you?" cried Mrs. Chester, her tears beginning to flow.

"Some distance from here it is, and you'll get eighteen pound a year.
And you don't mind giving three-and-sixpence a week to anyone who'll
take care of Sally."

"I don't know where you found out all this," sobbed Mrs. Chester,
"but it's true. I've been trying all the morning to get a place for
Sally--she's a handy little thing, Mr. Dumbrick--but can't find one.
Everybody's full enough of trouble as it is, without wishing for more.
I don't blame 'em, I'm sure, but I feel that desperate that I'm fit to
make away with myself. Do you think I'd part with my child if I could
possibly help it?"

"I never had one," replied Seth gravely, "so I'm no judge. Mrs.
Chester, I'm a lonely man, and have lived a lonely life. You know me
and what I am. I'm never out of work, and I never intend to be, if I
can help it. I don't set myself up as a good man, but I dare say I'd
pass in a crowd. Do you see what I'm driving at?"

"Not exactly, Mr. Dumbrick."

"I've felt sometimes lately, when I've been alone in my cellar, as if
I'd like some one to talk to, some creature like myself about me to
look at. I'd as soon set fire to my place as take a woman in it, and a
boy'd plague the life out of me. But a little girl, or a little girl
and a baby, I wouldn't so much mind. She could make herself handy, and
might grow into my ways. Now do you see what I'm driving at?"

"You mean that you'd take Sally, and keep her, if I paid you
three-and-sixpence a week."

"Partly right and partly wrong. I mean that I've no objections to take
Sally and the little creature as seems to be cast upon the world
without a friend, and give 'em both their meals and a bed. So far
you're right. But you're not as to the three-and-sixpence a week."

"Would you want more, Mr. Dumbrick?" asked Mrs. Chester imploringly.

"I've been reckoning up as I came along how much a year
three-and-sixpence a week is, and I make it out to be more than nine
pound. That's a big hole in eighteen pound. You wouldn't be able to
save a shilling out of it."

"I don't want to; I only want to live. God help us! Poor people _must_
live as well as rich."

"They've as much right to, certainly, but that's not to the point.
This is. I'm not willing to take three-and-sixpence a week. I'll take
half-a-crown."

"God bless you, Mr. Dumbrick! How shall I ever thank you?"

Seth made a wry face at the blessing.

"But I've got a bargain of another kind to make. There's Sally's baby.
She comes too, of course, and we don't reckon her. She's thrown in, as
a body might say--a kind of make-weight. Now Sally is your child, and
I reckon you are fond of her."

Mrs. Chester sighed an eloquent assent.

"One of these fine days," continued Seth, "you might make your fortune
sudden." (Mrs. Chester thought of her lovely lad and his lucky mole,
and listened with greater interest.) "You might pick up a purse of
money, or an old pauper might die, and when you ripped up her clothes
you might find 'em stuffed with bank-notes. In that case you'd come to
me and take Sally away."

"It ain't likely any of them things'll happen, Mr. Dumbrick."

"I've heard of stranger things. Now I go on again. I should by that
time have got used to Sally, perhaps, and shouldn't like to part with
her. That wouldn't matter to you. You'd take her. But there's the
other. _She's_ not your child, and you've no claim on her."

"No more than you have."

"Very well, then. Now I make this bargain with you, Mrs. Chester. If
ever anything should happen as'd make you want to take Sally away,
you wouldn't take the baby away as well. She'd be mine, and you'd have
no right to her. You understand?"

"Perfectly, and I'm quite agreeable. A mother's got enough to do with
her own children, without being saddled with strange ones. Though this
little one is a beautiful child, Mr. Dumbrick, and my heart warmed to
her so that if I could afford it I'd be glad to keep her. God help
those who've deserted her so cruelly!"

"Then it's a bargain, and I'll go and send Sally to you. You'd best
keep the children with you till you go away. Then you can bring 'em to
me, and make 'em over."

"You'll be kind to Sally, Mr. Dumbrick."

Seth rasped his chin with his horny hand. "As kind as it's in my
nature to be; I can't promise more than that."

"And you won't mind her fainting away now and then; she'll get over it
as she grows, I hope."

"I've had a sample, and I don't mind it much. To tell you the truth,"
he added grimly, "it amuses me."

Mrs. Chester looked doubtful; Sally's fainting dead away had not been
an amusement to her, and she was fearful that Seth was disposed to
make light of her child's misfortune; but the quaint smile which came
to Seth's lips after his remark had so much of kindness in it that she
was reassured.

"I can trust you, I think, Mr. Dumbrick."

"If I wasn't sure you could, I wouldn't have come to you," was his
reply, and then he paused for a moment or two. "Mrs. Chester, I can
spare you two shillings if you're in need of it."

This was sufficient evidence, and Mrs. Chester gratefully pressed his
hand. Seth placed two shillings on the table, and walked off quickly.

That night everything was settled; Dr. Lyon advised Mrs. Chester not
to delay, and she agreed to go to her situation on the following day.
He spoke well of Seth Dumbrick also.

"He has a rough outside," said the sensible doctor, "but it covers a
kernel of goodness, if I don't mistake. The strawberry, you know, Mrs.
Chester, grows underneath the nettle."

"Yes, sir," replied Mrs. Chester, seeing but vaguely the application.

Mrs. Chester had no heart to bid farewell to her neighbours. She left
Rosemary Lane almost by stealth, going first to Seth Dumbrick with the
two children.

"You'd like to see my place, perhaps," said Seth, and led the way to
his cellar.

Mrs. Chester was dismayed somewhat by the gloomy look of the
apartment.

"It is very dark, Mr. Dumbrick."

"Not when one's accustomed to it," was the reply; "besides there's a
bit o' light behind the cloud."

He went to the back, and opened a door which disclosed a flight of
steps, leading up to a yard in the rear of the house. The sun happened
to be shining brightly, and the light struggling in gave the cellar a
more habitable appearance.

"I've sometimes thought of having a window let in," said Seth;
"perhaps I'll do it after a bit. And there's nothing to be said
against it at night."

In fact there _was_ an undiscovered window in the back wall, hidden by
shutters. Seth seemed to wish not to make the bargain an attractive
one in Mrs. Chester's eyes. She knelt before Sally, and kissed her and
cried over her. "You're sorry I'm going to leave you, my pet--say
you're sorry."

Sally required no prompting. She loved her mother, but her practical
little wits had gauged the situation, and she had done the best she
could in the circumstances. Seth, with delicate forethought, left the
mother and the children alone, and mounted to his stall, where he
continued his work of soling and heeling and patching. Presently, Mrs.
Chester stood by his side. He walked with her down the street.

"Don't take on," he said; "I'll look after Sally, and you can always
write to me here, if you've anything to say. I'm settled in Rosemary
Lane for life. Goodbye; I wish you better days."

He left her in the company of her lovely lad, Ned, the cause of all
her trouble. She was to take coach to the country, and her son
accompanied her to the yard it started from, grumbling all the way at
his hard lot; for now his mother was leaving him, he had no loving
nature to impose upon.

"If ever you're in trouble, my dear boy," sobbed Mrs. Chester, "don't
keep it from me."

"I won't," he replied, with much sincerity.

"And if ever you grow rich, Ned----"

The contemplation of this happy certainty in the future lightened her
heart, and with kisses and tears she bade farewell to him and to the
neighbourhood endeared to her in many ways, notwithstanding the hard
fortune she had experienced there.

In the meantime Seth Dumbrick retraced his way to his stall, somewhat
unsettled in his mind as to the wisdom of the step he had taken. In
his cellar he found Sally very industriously washing up some dirty
plates; comfortably propped on a chair was the treasure-baby. Seth
glanced suspiciously round to note if anything which should not have
been disturbed was out of its place; Sally's eyes followed his with
sly satisfaction. She had finished washing the crockery, and was now
ostentatiously wiping her bare arms, like a little old woman of sixty.

"I keep my eyes wide open," said Sally, "as wide as wide can be, and
the things come out of the darkness to meet me. Jist look; I can walk
all about, without touching a thing."

Sally brought this to proof by winding her way quickly about the dark
room, round the table, in and out of the chairs, round the aquarium,
and all with such precision and anxious desire to please as could not
fail to elicit approval.

"You're a cunning little sinner," said Seth, "and I don't doubt that
we shall get along pretty well together."



CHAPTER XI.


"Sally," said Seth Dumbrick, a fortnight afterwards; "I'm beginning to
be bothered in my mind."

It was night. Seth was playing "patience" with a very old and very
greasy pack of cards. Sally was doing her best to mend her baby's
clothes; she was as yet but an indifferent workgirl with the needle.
It was not an unpleasant sight to see her taking her stitches, with
knitted brow, and pursed-up lips, as though the fate of an empire was
in the balance every time she dug her needle in and drew it out again.
She had commenced the battle of life very early, but she had put on
her armour with great cheerfulness and contentment, and was perhaps at
the present moment the happiest little girl in Rosemary Lane. Her baby
was asleep on the ground, comfortably covered over.

"I'm beginning to be bothered in my mind," said Seth.

Sally, ready for the bestowal of sympathy, looked up from her work.

"About what?" she asked.

"Many things. That trance of yours, to begin with. It didn't go far
enough. Now, I ask you, as a prophetess--do you consider it an
out-and-out prophecy?"

The grave air he assumed would have deceived a much riper intellect
than Sally's. She prepared to discuss the matter seriously.

"It all come true, Mr. Dumbrick."

"No doubt of that--here you are in proof of it, and there's your
father in the hospital, and there's your mother managing the workhouse
in the country. It was good enough as far as it went, but it has come
to an end already, and there's no more to look forward to. That's what
I call not satisfactory."

"No, Mr. Dumbrick?"

"No, Sally Chester. The spirits that came to Joanna when she went off
that way beat Pharaoh hollow. He couldn't hold a candle to 'em."

Much distressed by this depreciatory criticism, Sally said:

"It was Pharer's first go, Mr. Dumbrick. Perhaps he wasn't quite up to
the business."

For the life of him Seth could not repress a laugh.

"There's something in that, Sally. Practice makes perfect, sure. Now,
you couldn't sole and heel a pair o' boots the first time of asking;
but you'd manage it in a year or two, with plenty of teaching. But
about those spirits of Joanna's; they told all sorts o' things about
the future, and they were always at it. And Joanna lived to be an old
woman, and to the last day of her life she kept trancing away. Now,
you've only had one trance, Sally."

"Yes, Mr. Dumbrick," assented Sally, with a troubled mind, "only one."

"And it doesn't seem likely that you'll have another."

"Yes, it does--yes, it does. I've felt it coming on more than once."

"How _does_ it feel, Sally?" inquired Seth, with an open chuckle.

"A kind o' creepy like, and everything going round."

"That sounds well."

"What is it you want to know, Mr. Dumbrick?"

"Well, there's baby, Sally. She won't be a baby all her life. She'll
grow up to be a woman--so will you."

Sally nodded, and listened with all her soul in her ears.

"She has no name except Baby, and it stands to reason that that won't
do all along. We must find something else to call her by; it won't be
fair to her otherwise, and she wouldn't thank us for it when she grows
up. It'd never do to have her grow up ungrateful, and to fly at us for
not giving her what everybody else has got."

"Oh! no--never, never! But she'll love us always--you'll see if she
won't."

"Don't you set your mind too much on it. Perhaps our baby'll see
somebody by-and-by that she'll love better than you or me, and then we
shall go to the wall. We're like fiddles, Sally, and Nature's the
fiddler, and plays on us."

Open-eyed, and mentally as well as physically wide awake, Sally
listened without exactly understanding, but dimly conscious that
something very fine was being propounded to her.

"There are not many strings in us, Sally, but, Lord! the number o'
tunes that Nature plays on us! And we go through life dancing to 'em,
or hobbling to 'em, as the case may be. As this little picture'll do,
according to the kind of music that comes to her. As for what takes
place when Nature's played her last tune on us, that's beyond you and
me, Sally."

"Yes, Mr. Dumbrick," assented Sally, feeling it incumbent upon her to
say something, but groping now in such dark depths that she saw no way
out of them.

Seth's next utterances, however, brought a little light to her.

"In all that, there are certain things--not many--that we may fairly
take credit for. You've got a big heart in a little body. I'd wager my
cobbler's stall that I'm going to sit on in the clouds when your dream
comes true--I'd wager that to a brass thimble that if you had only one
bit o' bread, and you was hungry as you could be, you'd give it to
baby, if she cried for it."

Two or three bright tears glistened in Sally's eyes, which Seth
accepted as confirmation.

"Take credit for that, Sally."

"Thank you, Mr. Dumbrick," said Sally gratefully, satisfied with this
reward of good words for good intentions.

"I'm going to take credit, too, Sally. I'm going to teach you and baby
to read and write."

"O! Mr. Dumbrick!"

"That's as much as a real father could do. Reading's a grand thing,
Sally. We've much to be thankful for. Be thankful, Sally."

"I am, Mr. Dumbrick, I am, oh, so much!"

"I don't like that mister, Sally."

"No?" questioned Sally, for ever on the alert to discover her
guardian's likes or dislikes.

"It's too much like company manners. Now that we're comfortably
settled we ought to be more sociable. Call me Dad, or Daddy, or Daddy
Dumbrick. Your tongue'll soon get used to it."

"Yes, Mr.--Dad-dy Dumbrick."

Sally's tongue tripped so comically over the new terms that she
laughed, and Seth grimly joined in the merriment.

"We soon get used to things, Sally. Once on a time we usedn't to live
in houses."

"In what, then, Daddy Dumbrick?"

"In tents and forests and fields and that like."

"As the gipsies do," cried Sally. "I've seed 'em. Mother took me to a
fair once."

"Now we live in garrets and cellars, and sweet-smelling habitations."

Sally looked dubious. Many of the houses round about Rosemary Lane
were far from sweet-smelling, and she could not realise the advantage
of the present over the past of which Seth was evidently boasting. To
live in a tent in forest or field was a dream of Elysium to her, with
flowers growing around her home and green grass waving. Too good for
earth.

"Once on a time," continued Seth, "we couldn't read; now we can. Once
on a time we weren't civilised; now we are. We've much more to be
thankful for than we know of. This is the age of enlightenment, Sally,
and the best thing I can do is to give you your first lesson."

Sally hastily put aside her work, and kneeling by baby's side stooped
and kissed her. Seth, who had risen in search of a book, looked down
upon the children.

"Don't you forget, Sally, what I said about you're going off in a
trance. No, no, Sally!" he cried, putting his hand to his side to
restrain his merriment; "not now. Don't you go fainting dead away now;
we've got something else to do."

"I wasn't going to, Daddy," said Sally timorously, and with something
like a blush on her thin, sallow face.

"Bravo, Sally; there's some lessons you know without being able to
read--to tell the truth when it's necessary, and to tell the other
thing when it's necessary. You little sinner, you! You've the gumption
of twenty grown-up women in that little carcase of yours. Here's a
book with large print. It belonged to my mother."

He brought forward a great heavy quarto with old broken clasps, and
opened it.

"I shall read out loud the first few words and then you shall learn
the letters one by one. Keep your eyes and your mind open and come
closer."

So saying, Seth, taking the forefinger of Sally's right hand as a
marker, read slowly the words, "In the beginning God created the
heaven and the earth."



CHAPTER XII.


Seth Dumbrick never raised his eyes from his work the next morning
when Sally Chester, who had been standing silently by his side for
full five minutes, suddenly said:

"Pharer come agin last night, Daddy."

"I thought he would, Sally."

"'Baby must have a name given to her,' says Pharer, and it's got to be
done proper.' 'What name?' says I. 'I don't know,' says Pharer----"

"Not much of a spirit," murmured Seth; "not by any means what I should
call a tiptop spirit."

"'There's only one man,' says Pharer," continued Sally, somewhat
discomposed, "'as can give baby a proper name, and that man's Daddy
Dumbrick.'"

"Oh, oh!" exclaimed Seth. "He knows my new title already."

"Spirits know everythink," observed Sally oracularly. "Then Pharer
takes me downstairs. And it's night, and there's more than one candle
alight; and the fish in the quarian is swimming about, wide awake,
salamanders and all; and there's a party."

Seth gave a long, soft whistle. "That's a mistake, Sally. There
couldn't be a party."

"There was," said Sally positively.

"Men and women?"

"No; boys and gals."

"Ah, ah! That's bad enough, but it's better than t'other."

"There was Jane Preedy, and Betsy Newbiggin, and Ann Taylor, and Jimmy
Platt, and a lot more, all dressed out; and there was baby dressed out
splendider than all of 'em put together, and there was me, and you."

"What was I doing?"

"You was giving baby a name. 'And mind,' says Pharer, baby's a little
lady, and she's got to have a grand name, better than mine, or your'n,
or anybody else's.'"

"When was this party given, Sally?"

"The party was given next Monday," replied Sally in utter defiance of
all natural rules and laws, "next Monday as ever was."

"It must be done, I suppose," said Seth, with a sigh of comical
resignation, "or Pharaoh'll never come to you again."

"Never," declared Sally.

"Then there's no help for it. You can ask all the little ragamuffins
in the neighbourhood to the christening."

"O, Daddy, you are good--you are good!" and out of the depth of her
gratitude Sally put her arms round Seth's neck, and kissed him
half-a-dozen times without meeting with any opposition.

In good truth Seth was enjoying this new state of things, and would
not have liked, now that he had tasted the sweets of companionship, to
be compelled to relapse into his old ways. There was nothing to regret
in his past life; he had never loved, and therefore had no melancholy
remembrance to make the present bitter. He had contracted neither
violent friendships nor violent enmities. He had never been
wronged--which frequently leads a generous nature to misanthropy; he
had never wronged--which often leads to meanness many a nature capable
of higher development. Thus, having escaped rocks upon which other men
are wrecked, or soured, or embittered for life, he found himself a
middle-aged man, the tenderest chords of whose nature had never till
now been touched.

Sally's kisses thrilled him tenderly. He did not return them, nor did
he exhibit any feeling, but every pulse of his being responded to this
mark of affection.

"Daddy," said Sally.

"Yes, Sal."

"You're sure?"

"About next Monday? Oh, yes. We'll have the christening."

"I want to tell you somethink."

"Out with it."

"I've got two shillings."

"Saved up in my frock. Feel 'em."

Seth felt them.

"Mother give 'em to me before she went away. I may spend 'em, mayn't
I?"

"For the christening?"

"For baby."

"Well, no; I should say not. Here's two shillings more; spend _them_,
and keep yours."

"But I want to--I want to! It's my money, and I want to spend it on
baby."

"You're an obstinate little sinner," said Seth, after some
consideration, "but it appears to me that you've generally a reason
for what you do. So do it. You can take my money as well, and spend it
all if you like."

"We'll have a regular feast," said Sally gleefully.

Issuing forth the next morning, Sally commenced operations. The first
acquaintance she met was Betsy Newbiggin. Betsy was pursuing her usual
avocation of selling liquorice-water, at the rate of two teaspoonfuls
for one pin. This industrious trader was a genius in her way, and
displayed unusual qualifications for driving a good bargain. The bosom
of her frock was half full of pins, and she trotted about with her
breastplate as proud as an Indian of his trophy of scalps.

Not often did Betsy Newbiggin meet with her match in the way of trade,
but she met with it this morning, in Sally. Our little sallow-faced
mother had the natural cravings of a daughter of Eve for sweet things,
and she cast a longing glance at Betsy's bottle of liquorice-water.
Betsy observing the glance, scented a customer, and she carelessly
shook the bottle two or three times, and removing the paper cork
applied it to her tongue with an air of great enjoyment.

"Is it nice, Betsy?" inquired Sally anxiously.

"I should rather think it was," replied Betsy, placing the bottle
close to Sally's nose; "smell it. How many pins have yer got?"

Sally passed her hand over the bosom of her frock, and found never a
pin.

"Trust us," pleaded Sally.

Betsy laughed scornfully, and made a feint of moving away to more
profitable pastures.

"Stop a bit, Betsy," cried Sally, "I want to tell you somethink. I
live at Mr. Dumbrick's, you know--me and my baby. And, oh! it's such a
place! There never was nothink like it. It's full of the most
beautifullest things as ever was, and there's a large glass river with
all sorts of fish a swimming about--wouldn't you like to see it?"

"I'd like to," said Betsy.

"It's better than a show, and Mr. Dumbrick he tells such
stories--wouldn't you like to hear 'em?"

"I'd like to," repeated Betsy.

"Well, now," said Sally in unconscious imitation of Seth Dumbrick's
manner of speaking, "I don't know. Perhaps I'll let you--perhaps I
won't. Will you trust us two pins'orth?"

"Yes, I will, I will," exclaimed Betsy eagerly, and measured out four
teaspoonfuls of the precious beverage, and gave full measure, mainly
in consequence of Sally's watchful eyes being upon her. Long parleying
took place thereafter between the cunning and wily Sally and the
shrewd but in this instance over-reached Betsy, for before they
parted, Sally had emptied every drop of liquorice-water in the bottle,
and had besides wheedled Betsy out of twelve pins, to be returned at
some remote and convenient period. But Betsy had her reward, in
perspective, for she received the first invitation to the feast on
Monday evening, in Seth's cellar, and she departed in a glow of
triumph to boast of the invitation to her acquaintance. There is no
person in the world, however insignificant or humble, who does not
build for himself a dunghill upon which he delights to crow, to the
exaltment of himself and the depreciation of his neighbours.

By noon all Sally's invitations were issued by word of mouth; and the
news spreading with amazing rapidity, the excitement among the
juvenile population of Rosemary Lane became most intense. Those who
were invited walked about with pride and superiority in their bearing,
and those who were not were proportionately humbled and vexed. The
circumstance that Seth Dumbrick, the hermit, the crab, had consented
to receive in his cave a certain number of children, and to give them
a feast, was really an event in the neighbourhood, and even some of
the grown-up people said they would like to go to the party.

The eventful evening arrived, and Seth, sitting in his stall, received
his guests, and passed them down to Sally. The first to arrive was
Betsy Newbiggin; then followed Ann Taylor, Jimmy Platt, Jane Preedy,
Young Stumpy, and others, making in all a round dozen.

The cellar presented a splendid appearance. Everything was polished
up, the hearth was whitened, the stove was blackened. There was not a
speck on the glass of the aquarium; but this latter attraction was
covered with a blanket. Seth, who, during the day, had refused to come
into the dwelling-room, knowing that Sally was busy, and wished to
give him a surprise, gazed around with satisfaction. His eyes meeting
Sally's, which were watching him anxiously, he patted her approvingly
on the shoulder, which caused her to colour with pleasure. When Seth
made his appearance among his guests, they were all demurely seated on
two benches which Sally had found in the back yard, and cleaned for
the occasion. They were a very respectable party indeed, and behaved
themselves quite genteelly. They were in holiday attire too, for, duly
impressed with the importance of the event, they had taken pains to
personally adorn themselves with any little oddment they could lay
their hands on. True, that in some instances the will had to be taken
for the deed; as in the case of Young Stumpy, the rents in whose
garments would not admit of the entire concealment of his shirt, which
peeped out in unwarrantable places, and who was much distressed by his
companions slyly pulling at it, and further exposing him; and in the
case of Jane Preedy, one of whose feet was buried in a very large old
shoe, and the other squeezed into a boot too small to admit of lacing
up. But for the matter of that, Sally Chester, if brought before a
jury, would have been found guilty of rents, tatters, and
incongruities in her attire; so busy had she been that--without
inquiring as to whether she had the means--she had no time to make
herself smart. On the table were displayed threepennyworth of oranges
cut into very small pieces, threepennyworth of whitey-brown seedcakes,
threepennyworth of the delectable cake known as the jumble, and
threepennyworth of expressionless men and women and blatant cocks and
hens fashioned out of the native gingerbread of the neighbourhood.
Upon this splendid feast the eyes of the company were eagerly fixed,
wandering occasionally away to the dark corners of the cellar and to
the blanket which concealed the fish in the aquarium.

"Where's baby, Sally?" asked Seth.

"Not yet, please," said Sally imploringly. "May we commence, Daddy?"

"Yes."

The entertainment was opened by the drawing up of the curtain, or
rather by the withdrawal of the blanket from the aquarium, and the
sudden and brilliant display of fish swimming about caused a chorus of
Oh's! of all shapes and sizes to issue from the throats of the
delighted guests. Entering at once into the humour of the affair, Seth
Dumbrick constituted himself showman, and proceeded to point out the
different fish to the audience, who thronged around the lecturer, and
listened open-mouthed to the wonderful things he told them. He took
advantage, it must be confessed, of the limited knowledge of his
hearers, and imposed upon them as the veriest mountebank would have
done. Marvellous were the qualities of the water-beetles; dreadful
were the stories he told of the voracious silver pike, saying how
fortunate it was that there was not room for them to grow in the
aquarium, or there was no telling what would occur; the gold and
silver fish were real gold and silver--"Do you think I'd keep sham
ones?" he asked, receiving vociferous vindication of his genuineness
in the answers: "In course not, Mr. Dumbrick;" "Not you, Mr.
Dumbrick;"--and as for the salamanders, which they gazed upon with a
kind of horrible fascination, he explained how that fire wouldn't burn
them, and expressed his opinion--with downward pointing finger--that
they come from the place where wicked boys and girls went to, unless
they saw the error of their ways, and repented in good time. So
impressed with gloomy forebodings were the guests--all of whom,
according to the oft-repeated testimony of their nearest relations,
were as bad as bad could be--at this peroration to Seth Dumbrick's
discourse, that it was found necessary to revive their sinking
spirits. This was successfully accomplished by a circulation of the
oranges and cakes, after discussing a portion of which they became the
most defiant of young sinners, and figuratively snapped their fingers
at fate. Then the principal feature of the evening was heralded by
Sally, who, retiring into the recess which had been partitioned off
for her sleeping apartment, returned in triumph with baby.

Holding Sally by the hand, she walked in like a little queen.

Of Sally's four shillings, one had been spent on the pleasures of the
table; the remaining three had been expended on the child's dress.
Heaven only knows what had influenced Sally in her whim, but from the
moment she had obtained Seth Dumbrick's permission to hold the feast,
she had run about from shop to shop, and street to street, hunting up
cheap little bits of finery with which to deck her treasure for the
important occasion. Small remnants of silk, bits of ribbon, faded
artificial flowers, whatever her eye lighted on in rag and second-hand
clothes' shops in the way of colour, Sally had purchased, cheapening
and bargaining for them with the zeal and tact of a grown-up woman.
The result was a great heap of odds and ends, which Sally had washed,
and ironed, and pieced, and patched, with so much industry and
ingenuity that her treasure-baby looked like a May-day Queen or an
oddly-assorted rainbow. There was no harmony of design in the
fashioning or arrangement of the dress, but the general effect was so
pretty and unexpected, and the child's face, flushed with pleasure and
excitement, was so beautiful, that her appearance in the cellar was
like the revelation of a bright cloud, and Seth Dumbrick held his
breath for a moment or two in wonder and admiration. The guests
clapped their hands in unrestrained delight, and the child, standing
in the midst of her admiring audience, received their applause with
perfect grace--as though she was used to this sort of thing, and it
was naturally her due. There was a rosy glow in her fair cheeks, her
flaxen hair hung upon her shoulders like golden silk, her blue eyes
sparkled with beauty. Sally stood by her side, like a little sallow
gipsy. Seth drew the two children aside, and lifted them on his knees.

"Sally," he said, "you're a little wonder."

"No, no," protested Sally; "she is. I ain't nobody. That's the way I
saw her in my dream. You've got to give her a name, you know."

"It's a puzzle, Sally. There's no name I'm acquainted with that would
match her."

"But you've got to do it."

"Didn't Pharer say anything about it?"

Sally considered.

"Pharer's a king. She's good enough to be a queen."

"We've got one Queen, Sal, and those that have seen her say she's
pretty, too. There's princesses and duchesses----"

"A duchess, a duchess!" cried Sally, clapping her hands. "If she can't
be a queen, make her a duchess!"

"So be it, Sally. We'll call her a duchess. The Duchess of Rosemary
Lane."

Sally slid off his knees, and brought a cup of water. "You must
sprinkle her, you know. That's the way. Now no one can't call her
nothink else."

"Ladies and gentlemen," said Seth, addressing the company with mock
dignity, "allow me to present to you the Duchess of Rosemary Lane."



CHAPTER XIII.


Thus, after having unconsciously passed through peril and danger, the
heroine of this story may be said to have found a place in the world.
Lowly indeed was her home--as low as a grave; but as from the grave,
where the lifeless clay rots and moulders, the spirit rises to purer
space, so doubtless will the Duchess of Rosemary Lane find means to
rise in her mortal state, to a higher rung in the ladder of life than
the humble cellar of Seth Dumbrick. At present she is helpless,
dependent on strangers for food and shelter--thrown into the arms of
charity, and saved from early suffering by the cunning and devotion of
a child but two or three years older than herself.

From the evening of Seth's party his fame increased, and that of the
Duchess of Rosemary Lane was firmly established. The gossips were
firmly convinced that a thrilling mystery was connected with the
child's birth, and the title of Duchess was willingly admitted. It
conferred distinction upon the neighbourhood, and, apart from that
consideration, it was pretty and fantastic, and took the fancy of the
humble folk. Her position as the aristocratic head of Rosemary Lane
being, therefore, indisputably recognised, the Duchess at once assumed
her proper position in society.

She held her court in the narrow byways and thoroughfares of the
district, and no monarch ever had a more devoted and admiring
following. All the children in and about Rosemary Lane walked in her
train, and wherever she sat and made her throne, in mud-gutter or on
windowsill, she was surrounded by flatterers, aping their betters in a
short-sighted, wrong-headed fashion; for from this little queen of the
humble streets, nothing was to be gained but smiles and thanks. Which
renders apparent the fact that, although, as has been demonstrated,
these children were to some extent worldly, they were not yet
sufficiently wise to know that the heart is a good-enough mint in its
way, but that its coinage is scarcely available for material uses.

It was by her beauty, and the pride which her worshipper, Sally
Chester, took in her, that her position was chiefly maintained. Sally
was scarcely ever seen with a clean face; the Duchess of Rosemary Lane
was scarcely ever seen with a dirty one. Sally was never without rents
in her clothes and holes in her stockings; the Duchess was invariably
a picture of neatness. Sally's hair hung always in wild disorder about
her thin, sallow face; the Duchess's was always carefully combed and
smoothed. "A duchess!" exclaimed many a woman; "upon my word, she
looks like one!" It was the fashion with many of the youngsters to
bite their nails; she never did. Her little plump fingers were
generally white and clean, and her nails were seldom, if ever, in
mourning. And Seth Dumbrick took care of her feet. It became his whim
to make for his new charge the prettiest boots and shoes, which were
at once the envy and admiration of her playmates. She received all the
court paid to her, all the flatteries of her worshippers, all the
adoration which Sally poured upon her, with queenly composure. There
are natures with a wondrous capacity for bestowing love, and whose
sweetest pleasure it is to lavish affection on an endeared object.
Such a nature Sally possessed, and it had found its idol.

But had not the Duchess of Rosemary Lane been distinguished and made
conspicuous by circumstances not dependent upon herself, she would
have claimed attention from certain qualities peculiarly her own. In
conjunction with her beauty, she had, when she was puzzled or pleased,
quaint tricks of expression indescribably winning, and when no actual
passion or emotion lighted up her features and they were in repose,
she looked so sweet and pure that all hearts were instinctively
attracted towards her.

Seth Dumbrick, when he adopted the girls, had done so with a full
intention to perform his duty by them. There was more than one
difficulty, however, for which he was utterly unprepared, and the
first of these presented itself in the person of Mrs. Chester's
"lovely lad," Ned.

Upon his mother's departure to her new sphere of duties, this
estimable young gentleman found himself without a home; whereupon he
began, after the usual custom of such natures, to repine bitterly at
fate because of his unfortunate lot. But fate is an insensible
antagonist, and, repine at it as you will, you cannot make it feel.
Ned Chester cast about for some more vulnerable foe, and by a curious
process of reasoning, he selected Seth Dumbrick. His sister Sally and
the Duchess of Rosemary Lane played important parts in the belief, and
it led him to the opinion that, in adopting them, Seth Dumbrick had
inflicted a distinct injury upon him. With this injury rankling in his
mind, he, some three months after his mother's departure, presented
himself at Seth Dumbrick's stall. Seth Dumbrick was not the first to
speak. He saw that Ned Chester was not sober, and he had no desire to
quarrel with him.

"Well, you Dumbrick!" exclaimed Ned.

Seth Dumbrick merely smiled; the most irritating answer he could have
made.

"You Dumbrick, do you hear?" demanded Ned.

"Oh, yes, I hear," quietly replied Seth. "What do you want?"

"My sister."

"Sally!" called Seth Dumbrick. "Here's your brother wants to see you."

Sally came up from the cellar, accompanied by the Duchess. They stood
by Seth's side, who proceeded with his work in silence. Ned Chester
gave Sally a wrathful look, and made as though he would clutch her.
Seth, an attentive observer of every look and movement, interposed his
arm.

"What's that for?" cried Ned Chester, fancying that he saw his
opportunity.

Seth Dumbrick looked at his bare arm contemplatively, as though that
was the subject upon which Ned Chester desired information. His shirt
sleeves were tucked up to his shoulders, and his muscles made no mean
display.

"What's that for?" he echoed, holding out his arm, and straightening
it, so that his clenched fist almost touched the young man's face.

Ned Chester started back with an exclamation of alarm; he was not a
brave man.

"Are you going to hit me?" he cried.

"No," said Seth Dumbrick; "there's no call to hit you, I take it. I
thought you asked what my arm was for. Well, it's for work. Yours is
for play, I suppose. But as my arm _has_ come into the conversation,
let me tell you that it's an arm that can take its own part, though
it's many a year ago since it struck anything more sensible than
leather."

The hint was too plain to be mistaken. Ned Chester turned to Sally.

"Sally," he whined, "haven't you got something to say to your poor
brother?"

Sally considered for a moment, and made up her mind once and for all,
if the tone in which she spoke could be taken as an indication.

"No," she said, "I ain't got nothink to say, and I don t want to have
nothink to do with you."

"By which," added Seth Dumbrick, as a strong endorsement, "_I_ should
understand, if I was in your place, that my room would be better than
my company."

"You little viper!" exclaimed Ned Chester wrathfully, addressing his
sister, and would have continued but that Seth interrupted him with:

"Stop, stop; this young lady's under my protection. If she doesn't
want to say anything to you, you shan't make her. Go down, Sally, if
you don't care to stop."

Sally, glad to escape, was about to obey, when the Duchess, who had
not moved from Sally's side during the conversation, plucked Seth
Dumbrick's shirt-sleeve. Seth peered inquisitively at her.

"Don't hurt him," lisped the child.

A gleam of satisfaction came into Ned Chester's eyes.

"No, no, Duchess," said Seth good-humouredly, "I'll not hurt him.
Nobody wants to do anything to him one way or the another. Go down
with Sally."

But before the Duchess obeyed, she held out her hand to Ned.

"Goodbye," she said.

Ned seized her hand and kissed it.

"Goodbye," he said, with a triumphant glance at Seth; "there's one at
all events with a heart in her bosom."

The whining tone in which he spoke was so distasteful to Seth Dumbrick
that he averted his eyes from the lovely lad, and presently, when he
looked up, he saw that he was alone. At the same time he observed that
a pair of boots which he had newly mended was missing. For a moment he
thought of pursuing the thief, but he relinquished his intention, and
continued his work, with a frown on his face.

"Sally," he said, that night, when the shutters were up, "that brother
of yours is a bad lot."

Sally nodded an emphatic assent.

"You're not over-fond of him."

"I've got nothink to be fond on him for," was Sally's rejoinder. "But
mother she jist worships him, she does."

"It would make her sorry to hear that he'd got into any trouble--eh,
Sally?"

"It'd jist worrit the life out of her--and I'd be sorry, too."

"Seen Pharaoh lately?"

"No, Daddy," replied Sally nervously.

"Pharaoh never said anything to you about your brother, did he?"

"No, Daddy Dumbrick, never."

"Ah!" proceeded Seth, getting down the Bible from which he was
teaching Sally to read. "If Pharaoh was to come to you in a trance,
and was to tell you that Ned Chester was going away, and was never
coming back again, it'd be as welcome to me as the best week's work
I've ever done in my life."

But Sally was too shrewd to risk her reputation upon a chance so
remote, and with reference to this subject she did not introduce
Pharaoh into the conversation for many weeks. During this interval,
the Duchess behaved herself in a manner which occasioned her guardian
and Sally much anxiety. Sally, running home one day, after having been
out with the Duchess for two or three hours, rushed down the cellar,
and up again, in terror and distress.

"Oh, oh!" she cried beating her hands together. "The Duchess! The
Duchess!"

"What about her?" cried Seth, starting up in alarm.

"She's lost--she's lost! she's been kidnapped by the gipsies! I can't
find her nowhere."

Seth ran at once into the streets, and Sally ran after him, with the
tears running down her dirty face; but although they hunted high and
low, and inquired at the police-station for a lost child, they could
discover no trace of the Duchess. In a very despondent state of mind,
Seth retraced his steps to his stall, Sally walking heart-broken by
his side.

"It's as bad," he murmured ruefully, "as being a father in reality.
Sally, if the Duchess is lost, and we can't find her, we'll emigrate."

This offered no consolation to Sally, whose tears flowed more freely
at the melancholy tone in which Seth spoke.

"I'll spend every penny I've got--it ain't much, Sal--to find her,"
said Seth.

"Perhaps," whispered Sally, with her heart palpitating wildly.
"Perhaps she's drownded."

The suggestion made Seth shiver, and he and Sally proceeded home in
silence.

"I'll work no more to-day," he said when he reached the stall; "I'll
not sleep to-night without finding her, if she is to be found. Here,
take these things downstairs."

But as with feverish haste he gathered together his tools, he heard
Sally, who by that time had entered the cellar, scream loudly and
violently.

"Save my soul!" he exclaimed, as he scrambled down the stairs; "that's
to say, if I've got a soul to be saved,--what's the matter now?"

He was not long in doubt. Sitting very contentedly on the ground, with
two half-eaten apples and some very sticky sweetstuff in her lap, was
the cause of all their anxiety, and Sally was crying and laughing over
her. The Duchess's face and mouth was smeared with sweet particles,
and she bore the surfeited appearance of having much indulged. She
laughed at Seth as he entered, and would have clapped her hands but
that they held portions of the banquet of which she had been so freely
partaking. Seth heaved a great sigh of relief. When love, after a life
which has been barren of it, comes for the first time to a man as old
as Seth--whether it be love for a child or for a woman--it is strong
and abiding. Seth's heart, which was as heavy as lead, grew as light
as the proverbial feather, and a glad smile came to his lips.

"You little runaway! you little truant!" he said, lifting the Duchess
to his lap, and kissing her sticky lips; "where have you been hiding
yourself?"

It would have been hard to tell which of the three was the most
delighted--he, or Sally, or the Duchess of Rosemary Lane. They all
laughed and crowed together. Presently Seth comported himself more
gravely.

"Come, my beauty," he said in a serious tone, "where have you been
hiding?"

The Duchess became as grave and serious as her interrogator.

"I mustn't tell," she answered.

"Ah, but you must," persisted Seth; "we want to know, so that the next
time it happens we may be able to find you."

"No, no," laughingly crowed the child; "I mustn't tell--I mustn't
tell."

And that was all they could extract from her, with all their
questioning and coaxing. Where had she been to? She mustn't tell. Who
had given her the fruit and sweets? She mustn't tell. The only
satisfaction they obtained from her was upon their asking if she had
been told not to tell, and she answered, with a sly laugh, Yes. With
this they were fain to rest content.

But when she was abed and asleep, Seth and Sally interchanged a grave
confidence, to the effect that the Duchess must be carefully looked
after. Sally needed no prompting. She had fully made up her mind to
watch her precious charge with increased care and vigilance. Sharp as
she was, however, the Duchess outwitted her. Within a week she was
missing again. But Sally was more fortunate in her inquiries on this
occasion. Meeting Betsy Newbiggin, she purchased from that industrious
trader, for five pins and a farthing, the information that the
Duchess of Rosemary Lane and Sally's brother were seen walking along
hand-in-hand a quarter of an hour ago, in the direction of Ned
Chester's lodging. Sally knew where her brother lived, and she ran
swiftly to the place. The room occupied by her brother was at the top
of the house; and when Sally reached the landing, she found the door
closed upon her. Peeping through the keyhole, she saw the Duchess
sitting on the bed, and Ned Chester sitting by her feeding her with
sweetstuff. Sally was too frightened to go in; she knew the
disposition of her brother, and she was fearful of driving him to the
extreme measure of running away altogether with the Duchess--for that
dreaded contingency was in her mind. What passed between the child and
the man consisted chiefly of repetitions of the lovely lad's
misfortunes, of his hard fate, and of the cruel way in which people
oppressed him. He said, also, that he hated Seth Dumbrick; he hated
Sally; he hated everything. When Sally heard his expressions of
unmeaning hatred towards herself and her protector, she listened in an
agony of agitation for some vindication from the Duchess: none reached
her ears; but upon placing her eye to the keyhole, it brought a sense
of satisfaction to her to observe that a mournful expression was
clouding the child's bright face.

"But never mind them," said Ned Chester; "you love me, don't you?"

"Yes, yes," replied the Duchess; "I love you."

"And I love you. Kiss me, Duchess. There won't be many prettier faces
than yours when you grow up, and I'll love you more then than I do
now. And you will love me more, won't you?"

"Yes, if you give me apples and sweetstuff. I love _them_."

"You shall have everything you ask for, Duchess; mind
that--everything. I'm not rich now, but I shall be then; and you shall
have carriages and horses----"

"Yes, yes," cried the Duchess, clapping her hands; "I'll love
you--I'll love you!"

"And when you are old enough, you will be my little wife?"

"Yes, yes, I will."

"So we'll kiss on it, and it's a bargain."

After the embrace, a movement on the part of her brother, which
indicated that he was about to leave the room, caused Sally to beat a
rapid retreat downstairs, where, in the street, she waited for the
Duchess to come out. The child came, holding Ned Chester by the hand,
and Sally followed them unobserved until her brother left the Duchess
with some playmates. Sally did not acquaint Seth Dumbrick with her
discovery; but she, within an hour, introduced the subject in a manner
familiar to them both.

"I want to tell you. Daddy Dumbrick, Pharer come again."

"I thought he would, Sal. Pharaoh's rising as a spirit. Get straight
to what he said."

"He said, said Pharer, 'the Duchess has been playing truant.'"

"Wide-awake old king! Go on, Sal."

"But 'taint her fault, said Pharer; she's been seducted away."

"She's been what?"

"Seducted away. Now, said Pharer, you'll miss her agin soon."

"When?"

"Pharer didn't say. You'll miss her agin soon, he said. There's
somebody as is fond on her, and as hates you and Daddy Dumbrick, and
everybody but the Duchess. So look out."

"We will. That wasn't all, Sal."

"No. Said Pharer, the next time you miss her, tell Daddy Dumbrick to
go to No. 8, Lemon Street, to the top of the house on the third floor,
and there he'll find her."

Seth stared at Sally. "That's all?"

"That's all."

"Did Pharaoh say who lives there?"

"No."

"And," said Seth, placing his hand kindly on Sally's head, "you don't
want to tell."

"No; for if anythink happened to him through me, mother would never
speak to me agin."

"All right, Sal. I can guess what you don't want to tell. The next
time you can't find the Duchess, you come to me; I'll soon settle
matters."

The opportunity occurred very soon, and was brought about probably by
Sally, who relaxed her watch so that Seth could make the discovery for
himself. Taking Sally with him, Seth proceeded to the house, and found
Ned Chester entertaining the child, to whom he had taken so strange a
liking. He was charming the Duchess's soul with his tin whistle; and
Seth, pausing on the stairs, listened in wonder to the melodious
sounds produced by the drunken vagrant. He was ignorant of Ned
Chester's accomplishments in the musical way, and was only made
acquainted with Ned's possession of so rare a talent by Sally
exclaiming:

"There he is!"

"That's never your brother, Sal," observed Seth.

"Yes, it is; that's how he gets his living. Don't he play
beautifully?"

Seth, without replying, entered the room, and opened the battle at
once.

"Take her home," he said, passing the Duchess to Sally; "your brother
and I are going to talk a bit. Don't be afraid, Sal; we sha'n't
fight--at least I sha'n't, and I don't think he's got pluck enough.
Now," he continued, when the children were gone, "let's make short
work of this. What do you mean by tricking my child away day after day
in this fashion?"

"Your child!" sneered Ned. "She's as much mine as yours; I love her as
much."

"I'll not question that. If you love her for her good, it's a bit of
light in you that I'm not sorry to see. But the child's mine, so far
as the poor little castaway who's been thrown on the world in the way
she's been can be said to be anybody's. And I mean to keep her, and
put a stop to any nonsense on your part. Understand that."

".I'm not good enough for the little beauty, I shouldn't wonder to
hear you say. Perhaps you can prove that you're better company than
me."

"I can. In the first place, you are a drunken sot, which I am not. In
the second place, you are a thief, which I am not."

"And in no place at all," cried Ned Chester, both fearful and furious,
"you are a liar, which I am not."

"I can prove what I say, and will, to the magistrates, if you want me
to. When you came to my stall a little while ago you stole a pair of
boots."

"That's well trumped up. To be true, you must have found it out at the
time. It's not a good move of yours."

"I did find it out at the time; and I went two days afterwards to the
pawnbroker's where you pledged them, and made certain. The
pawnbroker'll swear to you; I'll swear to the boots. It's a Botany Bay
job, as clear as sunlight. You're fiddling with your fingers in your
waistcoat pocket. You've got the ticket there. What do you say to that
now, for a move?"

"Why," stammered Ned, growing very white about the lips, "can't a man
buy a pawn-ticket, and--and----"

"It will be best for me to do the talking, Ned Chester. I shall get
along better than you. The reason that I didn't come straight after
you at the time was that I thought of the mother who loves you. That's
why I spared you then; for your mother's sake, not for your own. I
suspect it's out of spite against me that you are trying to trick the
little Duchess from me and Sally----"

"No," interrupted Ned Chester, the colour coming into his face again;
"it's chiefly out of love for her. Look here," he cried, bursting into
tears, "I can't tell you what it is that makes me so fond of her, but
I'm a different man when she's with me than when she's not. I've spent
my last penny on her this very day, and I don't know what to do for a
drink. She's got a face like an angel, and--and----"

But his voice trailed off here, and he paused, as much amazed himself
at his involuntary outburst as was Seth Dumbrick, who had listened to
it without interruption.

"You're not the only man," said Seth, after a pause, "who's got that
sort of feeling towards the child. Now, mind. I'm speaking to you calm
and reasonable, first for your mother's sake, next for Sally's; I'm
old enough to be your father, and it's for their sakes, not for your
own, that I tell you you're on the wrong track. You go on drinking for
another two or three years as you've been doing the last two or three,
and, if I'm any judge of appearances, you'll wake up one fine morning
and find yourself in a madhouse--which wouldn't matter a bit so long
as your mother didn't know, for you're nothing as you are but a lump
o' mischief. Well, I love that child in a way that makes me surprised
at myself, and I mean to stand by her through life, and I don't mean
to see her wronged. Feeling like that towards her, it isn't likely
that I'm going to let you step in between us, and poison her against
me and Sally. You've opened your mind to me, and I've opened mine to
you. I'll open it farther. You trick my child away again, and I'll
have you sent across the water for stealing the boots from my stall.
If I don't, may I be struck down dead where I stand! There--that's the
first strong oath I've taken since I was a young man, when I used to
swear a bit."

Stupefied by fear, and entirely dominated by the strong will of Seth
Dumbrick, Ned Chester waited in impotent rage for what was to follow.

"Now for my proposition. You've got a lucky mole on your forehead----"

Ned Chester with a bewildered air raised his hand to the hitherto
luckless possession.

"--And that mole's going to lead you to fortune, your mother's told
me. What if I show you the way?" He took a piece of a newspaper from
his pocket. "Here's an account of gold, in great lumps, being found in
Australia. If you were there, with your mole, you'd be the luckiest
man in the mines."

Ned Chester jumped up in excitement.

"Of course I should. If I was there! But how to get there! A poor
beggar like me!" He pulled out the lining of his empty pockets with a
distracted air.

"There are ships going away from the docks every week for the mines.
Go and get shipped as a sailor. If not as a sailor, as something else.
There's the gold waiting for you to pick it up. If a matter of three
pound'll get you off, I've got that much saved, and you shall have it.
I'll give it to get rid of you, and for the sake of your mother and
Sally----"

"And the Duchess," added Ned, somewhat maliciously.

"And the Duchess; you're right; so that you shan't worry the life out
of us. I don't intend to say another word but this. When you come to
me and say you're going, I'll give you the three pound the day the
ship sails out of the Docks. And if you are not gone in less than a
fortnight--well, just you imagine that I'm taking that oath over
again--I'll have the handcuffs put on you and make an end of you."

Before the fortnight had passed, Seth Dumbrick, bidding Sally keep at
home with the Duchess, and not stir out till he returned, went away in
the early morning, and did not make his appearance till the evening.
He was in high spirits. With the Duchess on his lap, he said in a
cheerful voice to Sally:

"Sally, if you had a trance to-night, and Pharaoh came to you and said
that your brother had gone over the water and was never coming back,
it would be the truest thing he ever said since the time he was done
up in a bundle, and became a spirit. It's true, Sal. The Duchess is
all ours now."



CHAPTER XIV.


It was to Seth Dumbrick a pleasure, as well as a matter of
conscientious duty, to play the part of schoolmaster to the children
with faithfulness and regularity. Scarcely an evening passed but
instruction was given to Sally, who, quick in this as in other things,
proved herself the aptest of scholars. Before she had been two years
in her new home Sally could read tolerably well, and could write,
after a fashion; and it was about this time that the education of the
Duchess of Rosemary Lane was commenced. Commencing with Sally at the
very beginning of things--the Creation--Seth travelled with her
through Genesis, and so confounded her with the unpronounceable names
of the generations of men, that she timidly entered a protest against
them, saying they hurt her mouth; which, being taken in good part by
her schoolmaster, induced him of an evening to open the Bible at
random, and impart instruction from any chapter he chanced to light
upon. But the Biblical knowledge they thus gained was not allowed to
sink into their minds in its undefiled state. Seth adulterated it with
his comments and opinions, as other dogmatists would have done with
such an opportunity before them. Treating the stories as though they
were stories in an ordinary book, he robbed the Bible of its spiritual
halo. This was wise; that was pretty; nothing was inspired. Seth's
nature was tender and compassionate in a human way, but his religious
principles would have shocked the orthodox church-goer. Sally, aware
that he derived pleasure in hearing himself speak, was the more
attentive listener of the two, and frequently simulated an interest
which she did not feel; often, indeed, while he dilated upon ancient
prophets and Jewish kings, her thoughts were running upon patched
frocks and pinafores, and holes in stockings, and the thousand-and-one
other domestic worries with which her young life was constantly
filled.

She would have been content to have gone on in this way all the years
of her life; not so the Duchess. Her nature was one which yearned for
excitement; and she was happier in the streets than in the home Seth
Dumbrick had given her. As she grew, her beauty ripened, and, with
every penny which Sally could beg or borrow or earn spent upon her
personal adornment, she moved among the usually sad streets and their
residents like a bright flower; and as she grew and bloomed, those
among whom she spent her days became prouder and prouder of her. Even
the grown-up people petted and flattered her, and spread her fame into
other streets and other neighbourhoods which could not boast of a
Duchess. She was no trouble to her guardian, except that she developed
the propensity of wandering away, and absenting herself for hours, to
the distress and misery of Sally, who was never happy when her idol
was out of her sight. It never occurred to Seth that there was a
dangerous want in the child's life, the want of womanly companionship
and womanly counsel and tenderness. The child had Sally, and Sally in
Seth's eyes was worth a thousand women; and besides, the lonely life
he himself had led precluded the possibility of such a thought causing
him disturbance.

So things went on until the Duchess of Rosemary Lane was seven years
of age, when an event occurred which brought sorrow into Seth
Dumbrick's household. The child suddenly sickened and fell ill.

It was Sally's custom to rise early, immediately after Seth himself
had risen and had left the cellar, dressing herself quietly, so as not
to disturb her darling, who was generally asleep. Sally, after gently
and tenderly kissing the Duchess's pretty face, busied herself with
putting the place in order, lighting the fire and preparing the
breakfast. Then she would wake the Duchess, assist her to dress, and,
breakfast being over, would proceed cheerfully with her household
duties. Going to the child's bedside on this morning, Sally found her
languid and weak, and disinclined to rise. Sally ran in alarm to her
guardian.

"I think the Duchess is ill," she said, with quivering lips.

Seth immediately accompanied her to the child's bedside.

"Aren't you well, Duchess?" he inquired.

The Duchess opened her eyes, looked vacantly at him, and turned on her
side.

"Best let her keep abed," said Seth, placing his hand on the
Duchess's forehead, which was hot and dry; "she's caught cold maybe;
she'll be all right to-morrow."

Among the Duchess's acquaintances in Rosemary Lane was a cousin of
Betsy Newbiggin, the vendor of liquorice-water. He was a lad of about
the same age as the Duchess, and between the two a friendship warmer
than ordinary had sprung up. A week before the indisposition of the
Duchess, Betsy Newbiggin, hailing her, informed her that Cousin Bob
was "took bad," and could not get out of bed; and the following day
Betsy Newbiggin said that Cousin Bob was "took worse, and would the
Duchess go and see him?" Apart from the circumstance that the Duchess
was fond of Bob, the opportunity of going to see somebody who was ill
abed was too alluring to be neglected, and the Duchess and Betsy went
to Bob's house, and were admitted to the sick chamber.

"Hush!" said the mother to the Duchess. "Don't make a noise. He's been
a-talking of you all night."

"In his sleep?" inquired the Duchess, not displeased at this mark of
attention on Bob's part.

"Half-asleep and half-awake I think he's been," replied Bob's mother.
"I can't make it out. If he ain't better to-morrow I'll have to call
Dr. Lyon in."

"Shall I go for him now?" asked Betsy Newbiggin, whose sympathies were
not entirely confined to her trade in liquorice-water.

"No," said Bob's mother, "I must speak to father first. If Dr. Lyon
comes he'll have to be paid."

The Duchess looked about the room. Bob was in bed, seemingly asleep.
By the side of the bed was a hen canary in a cage so hung that when
Bob opened his eyes (supposing he did not turn round) they would light
upon the bird. The Duchess, standing by the bed, leant over Bob; and
Bob, waking at that moment, said, as though he had just been indulging
in a long conversation on an interesting subject and this was the
outcome of it:

"Mother, if I die, give the Duchess my bird."

These words produced a shock. Betsy Newbiggin began to tremble, and
the Duchess's heart beat more quickly.

"What nonsense is the boy chattering about!" exclaimed Bob's mother,
patting the pillow and smoothing the bedclothes, and striving in this
way to hide the agitation produced by the boy's request.

Bob appeared not to hear his mother's remark, and proceeded:

"You'll take care of the bird, Duchess, and think of Bob sometimes?"

"Oh, yes, Bob," said the Duchess.

"Then I don't mind. I'll think of you sometimes too, Duchess."

The Duchess pondered and presently asked, "How will you do that, Bob?"

"Do what, Duchess?"

"Think of me when you're dead."

"I'll be able to. Mother told me so. I shall be up there."

"Oh," said the Duchess, following the direction of Bob's eyes,
unconscious of his meaning.

"There now, get along with you," said Bob's mother to the two girls,
"or the boy'll never have done with his nonsense."

"You'll come and see me to-morrow, Duchess?" said Bob, as the girls
were leaving the room.

"Yes," promised the Duchess, with a backward glance at the bird, which
was now an object of more than ordinary interest to her.

For four days the Duchess paid a visit to Bob, upon whom Dr. Lyon was
then attending. The doctor met her on the fifth day, and forbade her
to come again, saying something about fever, which the Duchess did not
understand. Two days after that she herself was taken ill. Sally did
not leave her; the Duchess lay quiet until the afternoon, when she
suddenly asked Sally how Bob was.

"Oh, my!" cried Sally, clasping her hands. "Bob's got the fever. You
ain't been to see him, have you?"

But the Duchess had already forgotten her inquiry, and seemed to fall
asleep before Sally's reply could reach her understanding. Seth
Dumbrick came down every half-hour to look at his child, and grew so
uneasy about her that he went for Dr. Lyon. This was in the evening,
and Sally peered anxiously into the doctor's face as he felt the
Duchess's pulse.

"I was afraid of it," said the doctor to Seth, "when I saw her at the
boy's house. She's caught the fever. This is not the best place for a
child to fight through an illness. We might manage to get her into the
hospital."

"No, oh, no!" cried Sally; "don't let her be took there!"

"We can take care of her here," said Seth. "I shouldn't like to lose
sight of the child."

"Very well. And are you going to nurse her, Sally?"

"Yes, sir; oh, yes, sir," said Sally, whose face had suddenly assumed
a pinched expression. "I'll stop up with her day and night. I won't
take my clothes off till she's better."

Dr. Lyon gave her a kind look and a kiss, and, promising to send in
some medicine, took his departure. Then commenced an anxious time. The
fever assumed a dangerous form, and for days the Duchess's life was in
danger. Never till now had Seth Dumbrick realised how deeply he loved
this child of his adoption. He wandered in and out of the cellar a
hundred times a day, meek but fretful, with gentleness, but not with
resignation. He and Sally had changed places; she was the strong,
reliant soul in their humble home, and the old man looked to the child
for support and consolation.

"If our angel dies, Sally," he said, "I shall never know happiness
again."

Sally averted her face from him to check the weakness that threatened
to overcome her. She knew full well that she needed all her strength
for the work she was performing; the instinct of devoted love--which
needs no teaching to bring it into flower--had instilled wisdom into
the child's heart.

"Some kinds of knowledge come to a man late in life," he continued
softly; "since you and our darling have been with me I've learnt
something that I was ignorant of. I'd read of it, not quite in an
unbelieving way, but with the sort of doubt upon me that a story writ
to amuse a child might bring. Since then I've known what happiness
is."

"Did you never know before?" asked Sally wistfully.

"Never before, my child," he answered, huskily.

"Daddy," said Sally solemnly, "you mustn't make me cry. I ain't got
time for it. There's the beef-tea to git ready, and the arrerroot----"

"You must compel that child to take rest," said Dr. Lyon to Seth later
in the day, "or she'll break down. Human nature's limited, as a
certain friend of mine used to say."

"I tried to persuade her," said Seth, "last night to go to bed, but
she wouldn't; she cried and said it'd be easier for her to die than to
sleep."

"She must be made to sleep," said the doctor. "If you come round to my
place Ill give you something that will conquer her. She's a pearl, and
must not be allowed to kill herself."

In accordance with the doctor's instructions Seth at midnight desired
Sally to lie down on his bed; but Sally stoutly refused. Finding that
his arguments were not strong enough to convince her that rest was
necessary, he produced a paper written by Dr. Lyon to the effect that
unless Sally Chester slept for four hours that night he would not come
to see the Duchess again.

"So you see," said Seth, "you will hurt the Duchess by being
obstinate."

"But you can tell Dr. Lyon that I've been asleep," persisted Sally.

"When you haven't?" interrupted Seth, with a touch of his old humour.
"O, Sally, Sally! would you teach me to tell lies at my time of life?
Come now, my dear, be good and reasonable. I'll watch by our treasure
till you wake up; I know you wouldn't trust her with anybody else."

"No, that I wouldn't; and if she asks for me you'll call me at once?"

"Yes, you may trust me, Sally."

With that Sally yielded, and, with small persuasion, drank the draught
prepared for her.

"I'll go in five minutes," she said, sitting on a stool by the
bedside, and gazed lovingly on the sleeping Duchess.

"All right," said Seth, who was sitting on a chair close to her; "rest
your head on my knee, dear child."

With a grateful sigh, Sally obeyed, and clasped Seth's hand, which was
lying with light touch on her neck.

Thus, with tired eyes watching the Duchess's face, she remained for
two or three minutes, when the narcotic she had taken overpowered her,
and she sank to sleep. Seth raised her softly in his arms, and placed
her in his bed, covering her up warm, and kissing her before he
resumed his seat at the Duchess's bedside. The child had been
peculiarly restless all the evening, but was now in a calmer state.
For an hour Seth kept his watch faithfully, and without moving from
his seat; but some anxiety with reference to Sally caused him to step
softly to her side.

Sally was in a deep sleep; her fingers were tightly interlaced, and
her face wore an anxious expression, but she was at rest. The
strangeness of the situation the silence which at such a time so
powerfully asserts itself, and the eloquent lesson of love and
devotion he saw before him had their due effect upon Seth Dumbrick's
mind, and he held his hand before his half-closed eyelids with the air
of a man to whom new and strange aspects of life had unexpectedly
presented themselves. He was not long thus occupied; he was startled
from his musing by a word uttered with singular clearness--a sacred
word never before heard in that dim dwelling-place. "Mamma! mamma!"
cried the Duchess; and hurrying to her, Seth saw her sitting up in
bed, with her white arms stretched forth, and the loving word hanging
on her lips. It was like a cry to heaven from a heart whose tenderest
pulse had only now found a voice. There was yearning, there was a
plaintive reproach in the cry. The Duchess's cheeks were red and hot,
her lips were made eloquent by her plaintive appeal to an invisible
presence, and her eyes were wide open, seeing nothing that was
actually before her. Seth, with great timidity, but with infinite
tenderness, placed his arm about the neck of the Duchess, and drew her
face to his breast. She submitted unresistingly, and closing her eyes,
relapsed into slumber. Seth, then with wrinkled forehead, rasped his
chin with his hard hand, and marvelled by what mysterious means the
Duchess's thoughts had been driven back to her infant days, when a
mother's love undoubtedly encompassed her. There was no difficulty in
arriving at the conclusion that the mother's love was pure and good;
the tone in which the child had uttered the cry proclaimed it. "What
dream or fancy," mused Seth, "could have brought to the memory of the
child a mother of whom she had such brief experience?" And then his
mind reverted to the mystery which surrounded the Duchess's
introduction to Rosemary Lane, gaining no light, however, from what
had just occurred. "If," he continued, "there are such things as
spirits, perhaps the Duchess saw her mother's when she called to her."
For although he had settled his convictions with respect to the Bible,
he had by no means made up his mind generally on spiritual matters.
The night passed without further interruption, and in the early
morning Seth very quietly performed Sally's duties of lighting the
fire and preparing the breakfast. Sally still slept soundly, and Seth
would not disturb her. It was nine o'clock before she opened her eyes,
and then she jumped up briskly, bright and fresh, and ready to resume
her labour of love.

"The Duchess has been very good, Sally," said Seth; "and how do you
feel?"

"I can go on now," replied Sally, whose first steps were directed to
the bedside of her idol. "I can go on now without sleep till she gits
quite better."

Upon going up to his stall, Seth saw Betsy Newbiggin and a number of
other children standing in the road.

"Please, Mr. Dumbrick," said Betsy, "I mustn't come any nearer to you
'cause mother said I'd ketch the fever and if I did she'd wollop me.
We wants to know how the Duchess is."

"Very ill, Betsy," said Seth gravely.

"She ain't a-goin' to die, Mr. Dumbrick?" asked Betsy apprehensively.

"I hope not," said Seth softly, with a slight shiver. "You don't want
her to die do you?"

"How can you go and arks us such a thing?" exclaimed Betsy
indignantly. "We want her to git up and come and play. We're too fond
on her to wish anything like that. Ain't we?"

All the little heads--most of them uncombed, and nearly all with dirty
faces--were nodded solemnly and emphatically in response.

"And please," said Betsy, "here's a orange as Jimmy Platt arksed me to
give the Duchess. Jimmy's gone out with his father and a barrer; and
here's a gingerbread-man as this little gal bought with a ha'-penny as
she sold a bit of lead for, and here's a bottle of liquorish-water
as'll cure the Duchess if you'll give her two teaspoonfuls every
quarter of an hour. It's sure to. I made it myself; and it's as strong
as strong can be."

Betsy laid these love-offerings in a row on the kerbstone, and Seth
contemplated them and her with grim tenderness.

"And here," continued Betsy, producing from under her frock a birdcage
with a canary in it, "here's poor Bob's bird, and it's got to be give
to the Duchess, and she's got to take great care on it. Them's Bob's
words. She's got to take great care on it."

Betsy would have proceeded, for she was glib of tongue, but Seth
incautiously moved a step towards her, and she and her companions
scampered off in great haste, with the fear of fever in their hearts.

"Well, well," muttered Seth, who at any other time would have derived
much amusement from the interview and its termination, "human nature's
not such a bad thing after all."

Bob's bird was hung by the Duchess's bed, but when during the day the
child, in a lucid interval, said tearfully as she looked at it, "Bob's
dead, then; I must think of him," Seth, who did not know of the lad's
death, regarded the bird as a bird of ill omen. But it puzzled him to
discover how, by merely gazing at the bird, the Duchess knew of Bob's
death. "She saw her mother last night," he muttered; "are there really
spirits? and can she see things?"

With unwearying patience and devotion Sally performed her task of
nursing the child whose life was dearer to her than her own, and the
most ineffable delight she had ever experienced was on the day that
Dr. Lyon told her that the Duchess was out of danger. All her sadness
vanished on the instant, and she stepped about humming softly to
herself, to many different airs, "She'll soon git well; she'll soon
git well!" That was also the happiest day in Seth's life; and out of
pure gratefulness of heart, he took a walk in the fields, and gazed on
the evidences of Nature with feelings of reverence and thankfulness.

When he returned home, a surprise awaited him. There was Sally's
mother, who, having learnt by letter of the Duchess's illness, had
obtained a short holiday for the sole purpose of coming to Rosemary
Lane to kiss Sally, and help her nurse the child for a few hours.
Sally's face was wreathed with smiles, and her step was lighter and
her manner more cheerful than they had ever been before. Harmony and
affection sweetened the air, and made the common room as bright as a
palace.

"I have been growing very old lately," said Seth to Mrs. Chester, as
he stopped and kissed the Duchess, who languidly returned the caress,
"but from this day I intend to grow young again. We've had a hard
time, but the lesson, when it ends as this one's happily doing, is a
good un, I think, and makes people better instead of worse."

He spoke with tender gaiety, and was for the moment an entirely
different Seth Dumbrick from the Seth Dumbrick whom Mrs. Chester knew
in former years. But he relapsed into his older self very shortly
afterwards, and now that the danger was over, the old manner
reasserted itself.

Mrs. Chester was compelled to return to her duties early in the
morning, and Seth accompanied her to the coach. She had not forgotten
her old neighbours, and had found time on the previous evening to run
round and shake hands and exchange friendly greetings with this one
and that one, especially with Dr. Lyon, who had proved himself her
true friend when most she needed one. On their way to the yard from
which the coach was to start, Seth related to her the incident of the
Duchess calling out to her mother in the dead of night, and the
impression it made upon him.

"One would have thought," said Seth, "coming to you as young as she
did, that she could have no remembrance of such things."

"What!" exclaimed Mrs. Chester; "no remembrance of the mother who
nursed and suckled her! When children forget that, it's time that the
world should come to an end."

"I judge from myself," said Seth. "If I'd have lost my mother, and
been taken from her when I was two years old, I should have had no
knowledge or remembrance of her."

"Knowledge and remembrance aren't close relations," observed Mrs.
Chester with a wise shake of her head. "I can remember some things of
which I've no knowledge. I can remember an orange I had given me when
I was a little one and was dying as they supposed. I can see myself
eating that orange, but I don't know how it came into my hands, or who
give it to me, and nothing else about it except that I was eating it."
Mrs. Chester looked with an air of triumph at Seth, as though she had,
unexpectedly to herself--as was the case--established a difficult
proposition somewhat neatly. "But that's not the way with everybody,
perhaps. You and the Duchess---- I do believe she grows prettier than
ever! I thought she was the most lovely babe I'd ever set eyes on, and
I don't mind telling you now that I felt bad when I saw how beautiful
she was, and how different my dear Sally looked. But Sally's
improving, Mr. Dumbrick."

"That she is, Mrs. Chester. I shouldn't wonder if she grows up quite
pretty. She only wants filling out, but she's that active she doesn't
give time for the flesh to settle on her bones. I'll tell you when she
looked so beautiful in my eyes that I felt she couldn't be improved
upon. It was when I used to come down into the cellar softly without
her knowing, and saw her with her arms round the Duchess's neck,
feeding her, maybe, or singing to her--she's got a nice voice, has
Sally. I don't want ever to see a face prettier-or better than Sally's
face looked then."

This was very sweet in Mrs. Chester's ears, and she said as she
pressed his hand:

"I'm a fortunate woman, with all my troubles."

"We are all of us fortunate," said Seth philosophically, "in spite of
worry and vexation, if we'd only look on it in the right light. But
for all that, the world's wrong."

"In what way, Mr. Dumbrick?"

"We haven't time to talk of it," replied Seth, skilfully evading the
knotty points involved in his assertion; "it'd take me a week. You
were saying a little while ago about me and the Duchess, when you
broke off, or rather you were going to say something about the Duchess
remembering and me not remembering."

"Only that we're not all alike. You're a man as has seen trouble----"

"Not a great deal," interrupted Seth. "I've a notion that those that
have ties of affection enjoy more and suffer more than those that
haven't. Now, I've been a selfish creature all my life, and it's only
lately that I may say I've had ties that have made me care for much
outside myself. Put it another way. Say that I'm a hedgehog, and the
Duchess is an angel. Here's the coach. Goodbye, and good luck to you."

"You've heard nothing of my poor boy Ned, I suppose?"

"Nothing."

"No more have I," said Mrs. Chester' with a sigh. "My poor boy! My
poor boy!" And the mother's heart went out across the seas to the
reprobate. As she was stepping into the coach she said, "When the
Duchess gets better it'd be a fine thing if you could take her into
the country for a day, and perhaps Sally could go along with her.
You've no idea what good a mouthful of free air can do, especially to
children who get but little of it."

"Seth Dumbrick," said Seth to himself, as he walked home, "you're
coming to something. You go on like this, and in time you won't know
yourself. To think that you, who never had a sweetheart, should be
taken in as you're being taken in by a parcel of women and children
who are no more bone of your bone or flesh of your flesh than that
donkey is. Stop a bit though. Some wiseacres have set it down in black
and white that men and donkeys are shoots off one tree. Perhaps that
accounts for it."

Now that the Duchess was in a fair way of recovery, and could do
nothing to amuse herself, she drew upon Seth's resources for the
agreeable passing away of the idle hours, and he, with his Bible on
his knee, would relate to her in a familiar way such stories as he
thought would best please her. Deeming Solomon a tempting theme, he
related the history of that wise king with a curious mingling of fact
and fancy and shrewd observation. The story of Solomon's life and
deeds seemed to possess a peculiar fascination for the Duchess, and
she bound Seth to it for three consecutive nights.

"That was a grand place King Solomon built," said the Duchess. "Where
is it?"

"Nowhere; it was destroyed, and I'm told the Jews go into mourning
every year because of its destruction."

"Does that do any good?" said the Duchess.

"Not a bit."

"What came of all the gold?"

"Don't know; dare say the Jews got a lot of it on the sly."

"It was all gold, wasn't it? It says so there."

"Yes," said Seth, reading from parts, "'So Solomon overlaid the house
within with pure gold;' then again--'The whole house he overlaid with
gold until he had finished all the house; and the whole altar that was
by the oracle he overlaid with gold.' Why, the candlesticks, and the
spoons, and the snuffers to snuff the candles, and the very hinges of
the doors--everything was gold. And besides, there was such heaps of
precious stones that they hardly knew where to stick 'em."

"There couldn't have been any poor people there," said Sally.

"I'm not so sure, Sal. In the middle of it all there's talk of famine,
and pestilence, and blasting. It's pretty much of a muddle, it seems
to me."

"I want to know," said the Duchess later in the night. "In that
temple, wasn't there a garden?"

"I don't find mention of any. I should say not, or if there was, it
wasn't worth mentioning."

"No flowers?"

"Not that I know of."

"Wasn't there no birds?" asked Sally.

"Yes, gold ones, and there's flowers of gold and cherubims of gold.
All gold and silver and precious stones."

"Was Solomon a good man?" asked Sally.

"He's said to be the wisest king that ever was known. He had a
thousand wives."

"Oh, my!" cried Sally, and would have continued the theme, but that
Seth deemed it prudent to change the subject.



CHAPTER XV.


Mrs. Chester's recommendation to Seth Dumbrick to give the Duchess and
Sally a day in the country was weighing heavily upon his mind. That it
would do the Duchess good there could not be a shadow of doubt, and it
was certain that she required a change of some sort; for although she
was now better and moving about, her steps were languid, and there
were no signs of a return to her old elasticity of spirits. Day after
day Seth watched in vain for symptoms of vigour in the Duchess, and
the more he watched, the more he was troubled.

"She's well," he said to the doctor, "but she doesn't get strong."

"She wants iron," said the doctor; and he gave her iron, but it did
not improve her. Then the doctor said that the child wanted fresh air.

"Can I get it in bottles?" asked Seth, with melancholy humour.

The doctor smiled and walked away.

Seth Dumbrick was afraid to mention the matter to the Duchess, for he
knew that she would leap for joy at the prospect, and that the hope
deferred would make her worse both in body and spirits. The truth was,
he was too poor for the luxury. The Duchess's illness had exhausted
every penny of his savings. He confided in Sally, who entered at once
upon the consideration of the difficulty, but her suggestions were not
of a practical character.

"If we had some o' them cherubims o' gold," she mused, "or some o'
them gold flowers out of the Temple----"

"They might lead us," added Seth, "to the real flowers we want to see
growing."

Sally was ready with another suggestion, in the shape of a
subscription among the Duchess's playmates.

"They're so fond on her that they'll do anythink for her. They'll all
give. Betsy Newbiggin, and Jane Preedy----" but she was stopped by the
look of suppressed merriment on Seth's face.

"Pins and spoonfuls of liquorice-water won't take us into the country,
Sally. No, we must think of something else. Perhaps I shall have a bit
of good luck"--adding, under his breath--"if I do, and there's money
in it, it'll be the first bit of good luck that has ever fell to Seth
Dumbrick's lot."

There seemed no way out of the difficulty, and the Duchess remained in
the same languid state. But the bit of good luck that Seth had not the
slightest expectation of meeting with did occur, and in a strange way.

The duties of the postman in Rosemary Lane were light, and there were
persons in the neighbourhood who had never arrived at the dignity of
receiving a letter. Certainly no child had ever received one. General
astonishment was therefore created when it became known that the
postman, stopping to deliver a communication at the Royal George, the
celebrated gin-palace of the locality, had produced a letter,
addressed to "The Duchess of Rosemary Lane," and, with an air which
proclaimed that he looked upon the matter as a joke, had asked the
proprietor of the gin-palace if he knew any person answering to that
description. Regarding the matter in a more serious light when he was
informed that there really was such a person in existence, the postman
proceeded to Seth Dumbrick's stall, and delivered the letter in the
presence of a dozen or so curiousmongers, who had became aware of the
circumstance, and considered it sufficiently interesting to warrant an
inquiry. The postman, with a stern sense of duty, did not part with
the letter too easily. It was a Government affair, he said, and he
might be called over the coals for it. Indeed, under any
circumstances, he declared his intention of making a special
memorandum with reference to it, for his own satisfaction and that of
the head of his department. The idea of a duchess in Rosemary Lane was
something almost too astounding for credibility.

"Nevertheless it is a fact," said Seth Dumbrick, looking at the letter
with much inward astonishment; not knowing what the letter might
contain, he deemed it prudent to conceal any exhibition of this
feeling. "She lives with me."

"If you're her father, I suppose you call yourself a duke."

"I'm her guardian, and I call myself a cobbler."

The postman was aware that such a conversation was outside the scope
of his duties, but he was fond of gossip and banter.

"I'd like to see this Duchess."

"Duchess!" called Seth, down the stairs.

Up came the Duchess, accompanied by Sally.

"What's your name?" asked the postman.

"The Duchess of Rosemary Lane," replied the Duchess.

"And upon my word," remarked the postman, "she looks like a little
lady." He could not help admiring her; he had a little girl of his own
at home.

"She is one," said Sally, promptly.

The postman having departed, Seth, with the letter on his leather
apron, fell into a brown study. It had suddenly occurred to him that
it might contain unwelcome intelligence; perhaps it came from some
person who claimed the child. In that case, would it not be better for
him to destroy it without reading it? Sally, aware from the expression
on Seth's face--a book in which she was by this time deeply read--that
he was revolving an important consideration with reference to the
letter, was in a fever of excitement. So, in a less degree, were the
neighbours surrounding the stall.

"Open it, Mr. Dumbrick," said Mrs. Preedy, who was always one in a
Rosemary Lane crowd. There are in every neighbourhood two or three
women ordained to fulfil this special mission. "Open it, and let's
know what's inside."

Seth, recalled to himself by this polite request, looked up with
shrewd twinkles, and replied:

"Sorry to disappoint you, Mrs. Preedy, but this is a private matter
between the Duchess and the Queen, and to let _you_ into the secret'd
be more than my head's worth. Let's go downstairs, Duchess, and see
what her Majesty has to say to you."

"He's the selfishest man," said Mrs. Preedy, "is that Mr. Dumbrick, as
ever I clapped eyes on--keeping things to hisself in that way! It's a
good job he ain't married; he'd torment the soul out of a poor woman."

Meanwhile, this selfishest of men was sitting in his cellar, with the
Duchess on his knee.

"Duchess," he said, in a tone which denoted that he wished to engage
her serious attention, "this is a most unexpected and mysterious
occurrence. Since I've been in Rosemary Lane, I've received altogether
three letters--about one every ten years--and here you are at your age
beginning to bother the Post Office. You're commencing early,
Duchess."

The Duchess nodded languidly. The letter, not being something nice to
eat, was of no interest to her.

"The question is," continued Seth, who seemed to have lost for the
time his decision of character, "what is in this letter, and who sent
it? It's a good handwriting, and there can't be any mistake about its
being for you."

"Open it, Daddy," said Sally.

"There's no hurry, Sally. Don't let us meet trouble halfway. Duchess,
do you love Daddy Dumbrick?"

"Oh, yes," sighed the Duchess, closing her eyes, and leaning back in
Seth's arms.

"You don't want to leave him?"

"No," murmured the Duchess.

"Because you see, Sally, the world'd seem a different place to me, not
half so good as it was, if anything was to occur as'd take the Duchess
away from us."

"No one shall," cried Sally, beginning to share Seth's fears, "no one
can!"

"I don't know that," said Seth, with an apprehensive observance of the
letter; "they sha'n't if I can help it. If I had plenty of money,
which I haven't, you, me, and the Duchess'd steal away one night from
Rosemary Lane, and'd go and live in the country, where nobody'd know
us, and where we could see green fields and flowers, and breathe the
fresh air from morning to night. For that's what our precious wants.
Green fields and fresh air'd soon pull her round, and we'd live there
happily all our lives."

"Like gipsies, Daddy."

"Yes, Sal, like gipsies."

"That _would_ be nice," said Sally; adding wistfully, "but it can't
be, Daddy, can it?"

"No, it can't be, unless a shower of gold was to come down through the
ceiling--and that's not likely. Let's see what's in the letter."

Had he suspected it to contain gunpowder he could not have broken the
seal more timidly. It was a letter without an envelope, folded in the
old-fashioned way, and when it was opened, a thin paper enclosure
fluttered to the ground. In his anxiety Seth did not notice what had
escaped, and he turned the letter this way and that, without meeting
with any writing but the address. Singular as it was, he experienced a
feeling of relief at this dispersal of his fears.

"Here's something dropped, Daddy," said Sally, in a tone made almost
gay by the change of expression in Seth's countenance.

Seth took the enclosure from Sally's hands. It was a Bank of England
note for ten pounds.

"Why, it's money!" he exclaimed.

"Money!" cried Sally.

"Yes, Sally, money." He glanced up at the ceiling with an air of
comical wonder. "We're in Tom Tiddler's ground, Sally."

"No, no," cried Sally, clapping her hands in glee, "it didn't drop
from there. It dropped out of the letter."

"That's more wonderful, then, than all the rest put together. Out of
the letter! There's not a letter in the letter, Sal--not one, from A
to Z." He laughed aloud, and Sally laughed in sympathy. "I don't care
where this comes from, nor why it has come. What I know is, it's the
brightest bit of good luck that ever happened to a man. This piece of
paper's a looking-glass, my child. Look at it--what do you see in it?"

Literal Sally, looking at the bank-note, as Seth held it open before
her, began at the beginning.

"There's a picture of a lady with a wand in her hand----"

"Britannia ruling the waves. Is that all you can see in it?"

"No; there's--what funny letters, Daddy! I never saw any like 'em
before. There's B-a-n-k, Bank----"

Seth took up the word, and read the note from beginning to end, and
then repeated his question, "Is that a l you can see in it?"

"That's all, Daddy."

"Sally, I'm cleverer than you. I take the note, and put it before me
like this---- Stop a minute." The Duchess had fallen asleep in his
arms, and he placed her gently on the bed. "Now we can get along. I
look at the note like this, and I see--yes, I see a coach, with you
and me and the Duchess sitting on the top of it."

"O Daddy!"

"Here we go, driving into the country. Such a ride, Sally! I see green
fields and flowers and fresh air for our darling in it----"

It was with difficulty that Sally kept herself still to hear the rest.

"I see two weeks of green fields and fresh air for our darling in it.
And I'm not quite sure that I don't see the sea. Do I see the waves
creeping up, Sally?"

"I don't know--oh, _do_ you see 'em, Daddy, do you?"

"It's got a little bit cloudy about here"--tracing an imaginary line
with his finger--"but it'll clear up soon. And, Sally, I see something
still better in it. I see roses for our Duchess's cheeks in it,
sparkles for her eyes, lightness for her foot. Kiss the note, Sally. I
never thought I should come to worship Mammon, but I do worship him
now, with all my heart."

"Daddy," said Sally, struck with a sudden fear, "is it a good un?"

The alarming suggestion caused Seth to run out of the place, as though
he were running for his life, and this display of excitement on his
part was so novel that the neighbours who were still waiting in the
street for news concerning the letter came, first to the usual
conclusion that the house was on fire, and next to the more appetising
one that Seth Dumbrick had suddenly gone mad. He was a long time
absent, for it was no easy matter to get a ten-pound note changed in
Rosemary Lane. There were hundreds who had never seen such a thing,
and to whom a sight of it would have been an eighth wonder of the
world. At the end of an hour Seth returned in a calmer mood, with a
fistful of gold, which he let fall, piece by piece, on the table,
before Sally's wondering eyes. She, who never experienced a pleasure,
new or old, without desiring that her idol should share it, caught up
the Duchess, crying: "Look, Duchess, look!" The Duchess stretched
forth her hand with eager delight, and the children sat close to the
table, playing gleefully with the bright pieces, Seth standing at
their back, looking at them and at the gold, with one hand resting on
the Duchess's shoulder, and the other rasping his chin. His
declaration that he did not care where the money came from was not
ingenious. If he had wished, he could not have banished so singular an
adventure from his mind, and the more he thought of it the more it
puzzled him. He had no friend who was likely or able to commit an
action so quixotic; neither had Sally. Turning his attention to the
letter again, he held it up to the light and peered closely at it, in
the endeavour to discover a clue. Then it came into his mind that
there was a kind of colourless ink with which persons wishing to
communicate secretly could write, and which heat alone would render
visible, and he placed the paper to the fire without arriving at any
satisfactory result. He could not detect even the scratch of a pen. It
was the most unsolvable of riddles. "I am afraid I must give it up,"
he said to himself, but he could not give it up. With the subject
still in his mind, he ascended to his stall to finish some work he had
in hand before he started on the contemplated holiday. During his
work, a hundred ingenious theories started up, all to be dismissed but
one, which took strong possession of him. "Some rich person," he
thought, "perhaps a lady who once had a pretty child, that she was
ashamed to call her own, has seen the Duchess by chance, and has
fallen in love with her beautiful face, because it reminds her of old
days. Then she finds out the Duchess's name; then she discovers that
the Duchess has been ill; and then she sends a present of money in
this mysterious way." The sentiment attaching to this fanciful
speculation rendered it peculiarly attractive to Seth. "We'll put it
down to that," he mused; "stranger things have happened in the world."
So he put it down to "that," and produced some pleasant mental
pictures out of the fancy.

When the midday meal was over, he said, "Duchess, this money's for
you. It's been sent because you've got a pretty face, and pretty
hands, and bright eyes. And it's going to take us into the country,
where the flowers are all a-growing and a-blowing, and where you'll
get strong and lively again."

"Then it _will_ come true," cried Sally, "what you saw in the
ten-pound note!"

"It will come true, Sally, if we're alive to-morrow." An ecstatic
silence followed, broken by Sally.

"Then you know who sent the money, Daddy!"

"It was sent by a lady--as handsome a lady as ever you clapped eyes
on, Sally."

"And you've seen her?"

"Well--hum!--yes, I've seen her." And here Seth rubbed his forehead,
denoting that he meant he had seen her in his mind's eye--a salve to
his conscience.

"Where does she live?" asked Sally, whom it was difficult to stop,
when she commenced to make inquiries on an interesting theme.

"She lives in--hum!--in Fairyland."

"Oh, where's that?"

"Don't ask any more questions. You'll see a bit of it to-morrow."



CHAPTER XVI.


The following day a sensation was created in Rosemary Lane by the
circumstance of Seth Dumbrick's stall being closed, and by a written
notice pasted outside, to the effect that he might be expected to
return in the course of two or three weeks.

"From the day as Seth Dumbrick give that party to the children,"
said Mrs. Preedy, holding forth in front of the cellar to a knot of
eager listeners, "down in that cellar"--with finger ominously
pointing--"from that day I begun to suspect him, and to feel sure as
there was something wrong I says to him on that very day, Strange
things is often done down in cellars,' says I; and then I told him
that I wouldn't let my Jane go to his party unless I were invited, no,
not if he filled my apron with diamings. 'Perhaps,' says I, with mind
full of misbegivings, 'perhaps you've got ghosts and skiletons down in
your cellar, Mr. Dumbrick;' and as true as I'm a living woman, he says
to me upon that, 'My cellar _is_ full of ghosts, Mrs. Preedy,' says
he; 'my cellar _is_ full of ghosts,' he says."

This narrative imparted a more intense interest to the position of
affairs, and imagination ran riot on the contents of the cellar,
which became gradually filled with the bones and limbs of murdered
persons--Seth Dumbrick's victims, who had been artfully decoyed down
the steps and made away with.

"And it shows the wickedness of mankind," said one woman, especially
disposed to the horrible, "to think of the way he's kept it secret all
this time."

Other imaginative phases relating to Sally and the Duchess, who were
pictured as being either murdered or chained to the wall and left to
starve, soon became popular; and ears were pressed to the shutters to
catch the groans of the children.

"I can hear something!" cried Mrs. Preedy; which instantly caused the
knot of women to declare that, for humanity's sake, the cellar should
be broken into and the children rescued. Whether they would have
proceeded to this extremity is not certain, and perhaps it was
fortunate that the form of Dr. Lyon was at that moment seen
approaching them.

"O doctor! O doctor!" cried Mrs. Preedy; and stood before him,
pressing her sides, and gasping for breath in her agitation.

"What's the matter, Mrs. Preedy?" asked the doctor. "Spasms?"

"No, sir; oh! no, sir," she replied, still palpitating. "The children!
the children!"

"What children?"

"Our beautiful Duchess, sir, and Sally, that we're all so fond on!"

"Well?"

"Down there, sir! Murdered! I heard a groan jest as you come up."

"Which proves," said the doctor, realising the position of affairs,
"that they can't be murdered. Mrs. Preedy, do you read your Bible?"

"I hope so, sir, I'm sure," answered Mrs. Preedy in a tone of virtuous
injury.

"I hope so too. Do you forget what it says? 'Do unto others as you
would others should do unto you.' Seth Dumbrick has gone into the
country with the children, for the sake of the Duchess, who needs
fresh air to bring her back to health. And here's the key of his
place, which he left with me early this morning. Let me give you a
piece of advice, Mrs. Preedy."

"I shall be very grateful, sir, I'm sure," murmured Mrs. Preedy,
trembling, not knowing what trouble she might have brought upon
herself.

"Go home, then," said the doctor in a grave tone, "and for the future
attend more to your own affairs and less to other people's. In plainer
words, mind your own business."

"Well, I'm sure!" gasped Mrs. Preedy, as Dr. Lyon stalked away. But
she obtained no sympathy from her neighbours, who were only too ready
to lay the blame on some one, and who, with justice--for she was the
most zealous scandalmonger in Rosemary Lane--laid it upon Mrs.
Preedy's shoulders. So that for once the right scapegoat suffered.
Mrs. Preedy went home in an oppressed state of mind, a sadder if not a
wiser woman; and the neighbours generally, to show how guiltless they
were, became enthusiastic in their praises of Seth Dumbrick; though it
must be confessed they bore him in their hearts a little grudge for
having disappointed them of a grand and awful sensation.

In the meantime, unconscious of the excitement he had created, Seth
Dumbrick, with the Duchess and Sally by his side, was sitting on the
top of an empty wagon returning to the country, with the driver of
which he had bargained for the ride.

It was a fine day, and the delight of the children was unbounded. The
fresh air, the clear atmosphere, the dreamy clouds, the beautiful
fields, were revelations to them. Occasionally they passed an estate,
stone-walled from vulgar eyes, over which, being seated at such an
elevation, they could see into the carefully-tended gardens and
orchards; and more frequently they passed the prettiest of gardens
belonging to humbler folk, the colour and beauty of which were as
lovely and charming as Nature could produce, to gladden heart and eye.
The driver of the wagon was in no hurry; he had some sixty miles to
go, and he worked for no hard taskmaster; he was an old man, and
merciful to his cattle, having a love for them, as could easily be
seen--all of which circumstances were as precious as gold to the
holiday-seekers, for it gave them leisure to see and enjoy. The wagon
was a new wagon, of which Seth made joyous capital, saying it had been
built especially for them to ride in on this brightest of all bright
days. Overhearing the remark, the driver said that that was a likely
thing, too, for things happened pretty much as they were ordained to
happen--leastways, that was his experience; and said it as though he
had high authority for the doctrine. The bells on the harness supplied
the music, varying most delightfully according to the pace; for, to
please the children, the old driver occasionally smartened the horses
into a trot, which they appeared to enjoy as much as they enjoyed the
leisurely amble with which they traversed the greater part of the
road. He was a kindly old fellow, with a face like a ribstone pippin,
and with hands as hard and brown as knotted oak--hands which could be
soft and gentle, also, and were, when he pinched the cheek of the
Duchess. She, always susceptible to fondling and caressing, looked
into the old man's face and smiled, so winsomely as to make him
pensive.

"Yours?" he inquired of Seth Dumbrick.

"No," replied Seth, in a low tone, so that the children should not
hear; "not exactly. I've adopted her. An orphan."

"Ah!" said the driver; "then _she's_ yours;" glancing at Sally.

"No, I've no children of my own."

"Never been married?"

"No. _You're_ a family man, I can see."

"Thirteen of 'em;" adding, in response to the look of astonishment on
Seth's face, "Not too many, not one too many."

"Are they all at home?" asked Seth.

"No; they're here and there;" with a wave of his hands cloudwards,
sufficiently comprehensive to denote that his brood were scattered
over the face of the earth. "We're a travelling family, you see. I've
been a wagoner ever since I was a lad. My youngsters took after me,
and travelled further--two to America, one to China, one to Australia;
and another"--this with a wistful look into the clouds, yearningly
eager to fix the spot--"God knows where. But," he added, with a
brighter air, "they're all doing well, most of 'em. I've no occasion
to work, but I couldn't live without a whip. I'd like to die with one
in my hand. Then, I love the English roads. You're fond of 'em, too, I
can see."

"They are very beautiful," said Seth, "to us especially, who see but
little of 'em. I haven't been out of London for fifteen years. And
this little girl"--with a kindly pressure of Sally's arm--"has never
in her life seen the country till now."

Sally's eyes sparkled a rapturous confirmation. This holiday was,
indeed, a revelation to her soul; she saw beauty of which she had
hitherto had no knowledge or comprehension; and as she sat on the
wagon, with one arm fondly caressing the Duchess, whose head was lying
on her bosom, she wished that she and those she loved could go jogging
along in this way for ever and ever.



CHAPTER XVII.


It was nearly noon when the driver said:

"I'm about as peckish as a man--especially a wagoner--can afford to
be. Come up, Daisy! Do your best, Cornflower!"

Thus urged, Daisy and Cornflower, regarding the smack of the whip in
the air as the merriest of jokes, broke into their smartest trot, and
did their best, smelling hay and water in the near distance. The bells
jingled gaily, and Sally and the Duchess looked eagerly ahead. So
smart was the pace that within a few moments they saw a house of
accommodation for man and beast, at the door of which a number of men
and women were gathered to welcome them. The driver was evidently well
known, and a favourite, and when he pulled up, willing hands assisted
him to take the harness from the horses.

"An hour's spell here," he said to Seth Dumbrick, as he lifted the
children to the ground, tossing them in the air, after the manner of a
man accustomed to children. "If you're going to eat, you'd best take
the little girls to the back of the house, and enjoy it regular
country fashion. To think," he added, pinching Sally's happy face, "of
never seeing the country till now!"

With a jug of beer and some cold meat and bread, Seth and his girls
made their way to the garden at the back of the inn, where, sitting in
a natural bower, upon seats built round the trunk of an apple-tree,
they enjoyed the most delicious meal of their lives.

"We're getting our roses again," said Seth Dumbrick, gazing with
unalloyed pleasure on the beautiful face of the Duchess. "Now, what
we've got to do is to wish that the minutes won't fly away."

But fly away they did, and in less than no time the old wagoner
summoned them to the road.

"Unless," he said jocosely, "you want to be left behind."

"I'd like to be," sighed Sally.

In front of the inn, where the horses stood ready for their work, the
landlady met them, with flowers and kisses and kind words for the
children; and when they were lifted into the wagon, they found
that a quantity of sweet hay had been thrown in by the thoughtful
wagoner--kind marks of attention which met with grateful and
full-hearted acknowledgments. On they went again, gazing wistfully at
the inn and the pleasant people standing about it, until they were out
of sight. On they went, in a state of dreamy happiness, through the
new world of peace and beauty, into which surely trouble could never
enter. Every turn of the road disclosed fresh wonders, and a mighty
interest was attached to the smallest incidents;--every queerly-shaped
tree, every garden, every cottage, every mansion, that came into view;
cows drinking from a distant pool; a mother with her baby in her arms,
standing at a window framed in ivy; old men and women hobbling about
the grounds of a charitable institution; two truant school-boys racing
and shouting with wild delight, with no thought of the terrors to come
when their fault was discovered; a man asleep under a hedge, and a
woman sitting patiently by his side; a lady beautifully dressed, who
paused to look at the children; a group of gipsies; a groom riding
towards London at full speed;--one and all formed enduring and
interesting pictures, and added to the pleasures of the ride.

"Where do we stop?" asked Seth Dumbrick of the wagoner.

"At The World's End," replied the wagoner; "we'll make it at five
o'clock, I reckon."

He was a shrewd calculator. As a church clock chimed five, he pointed
with his whip to an old-fashioned inn, lying off from the roadside
some hundred yards away, saying that was The World's End, and that
they would put up there for the night, and start again early in the
morning. As he spoke, they were nearing a pair of massive iron gates,
through the open work of which could be seen a curved carriage-drive,
lined with great elms. Straight and tall and stately, they presented
the appearance of a giant regiment drawn up in lines to do honour to
those who passed between.

"That's a grand place," observed Seth.

"It's the finest estate for many a mile round," said the wagoner.

"It has got a name."

"Oh, yes. Springfield it's called."

Seth Dumbrick listened. The estate was so built round with walls and
trees that the carriage-drive was the only part open to the gaze of
the passer-by. A faint sound of laughter--the laughter of the
young--floated to his ears.

"It isn't so solemn as it looks," said Seth.

"There's a lot of company at Springfield," rejoined the wagoner.
"They're spending a fine time, I reckon."

"The master must be a rich man. Is he a lord?"

"He'll be one some day they say. He's a great lawyer."

In another moment the horses stopped at The World's End, and showed by
a merry jingle of their bells that they knew the day's work was done.
It was still broad daylight, and Seth set so much store upon the
children being as much as they could in the open air, that, after
arranging for the night's accommodation at The World's End, he and
Sally and the Duchess started for a walk through the country lanes.
There was sufficient beauty within the immediate vicinity of The
World's End to engage their attention and admiration, and Seth,
fearful of over-fatiguing the Duchess, so directed his steps as to
keep Springfield always in view--whereby he was sure that he was never
very far from the inn in which they were to pass the night. It thus
happened that they frequently skirted the immediate boundaries of the
estate--here formed by a close-knit hedge through which a hare could
not have made its way, here by a natural creek, with stalwart trees on
the Springfield side, here by a stone wall, in lieu of a more natural
defence against encroachment. It was a quiet and peaceful evening, and
after a couple of hours of almost restful sauntering, so little of
labour was there in their mode of going about, they came suddenly upon
a narrow lane, bounded by a broken hedge. The prospect was so pretty,
and the glimpse of green trees forming an archway some twenty yards
distant was so inviting, that Seth, without a thought of trespass,
lifted the Duchess and Sally over the hedge, and followed them. A
gipsy woman, sitting within the shadow of the arch of trees, would
probably have called for no special attention, had not the
Duchess--upon whom the flashing eyes, the dark sunburnt face,
stern and sombre in its aspect, the shining black hair but slightly
covered with the usual red handkerchief, and the generally bold air
which pervaded the woman, produced an effect little less than
terrifying--clasped Seth's hand in fear, and strove to pull him back.

"Don't be frightened, Duchess," said Seth, soothing; "it's only a
gipsy."

None but the closest observer, and one, too, on the watch for signs,
could have detected the slightest variation of expression on the
woman's face. To all appearance, she was entirely unconscious of the
presence of the holiday party; but her quick ears had caught very
distinctly every word uttered by Seth, and her quick sense, sharpened
from her birth to certain ends conducive to the earning of sixpences
in an unlawful way, had already placed a construction upon them which
might lead to profit. Without raising her eyes, she noted the
composition of the party, and waited for the course of events to bring
her into action. Seth's soothing tone quieted the Duchess's fears, and
his words excited Sally to a most wonderful degree. She had never seen
a real gipsy; she had heard of them and of their occult powers of
divination, and now one was before her, endowed with the mysterious
and awful power of prophecy and of seeing into the future. The
opportunity was too precious to be lost. She clasped her hands, and
with a beseeching look at Seth, cried:

"O Daddy! ask her to tell the Duchess's fortune."

"Nonsense, Sally," said Seth. "She can no more tell fortunes than you
or I can. Why, one of your trances is a hundred times better than
anything she can tell us. Besides, what is to be is to be."

He spoke in a low tone, and the gipsy lost not a word of his speech.

Sally was not given to dispute with her guardian. She loved and
respected him too well, believing that he knew better than anybody
else in the world what was good for everybody; but she had to struggle
with herself for strength to bear the disappointment. The next few
steps brought them to the side of the gipsy, who rose and confronted
them.

"Let me tell your fortune, pretty lady."

Sally's heart beat quickly as the gipsy took her hand and held it with
light, firm grasp.

"We have no time for fortune-telling," said Seth, adding gently, "and
no money."

"Sixpence won't harm you, kind gentleman," said the gipsy, sitting on
a hillock, so that her face and Sally's were on a level. "You haven't
come all the way from London to spoil the pleasure of these little
ladies for sixpence."

"Oh, oh!" cried Sally, palpitating. "She knows we come from London!"

"The gipsy woman knows everything, and sees everything, pretty lady."

The circumstance of being called pretty lady in so winsome a voice was
honey to Sally's soul.

Seeing no way but one out of the difficulty, Seth gave the woman a
sixpenny-piece, which she, suspicious of the tricks of Londoners of a
common grade, placed between her teeth to test. Sally meanwhile,
having an arm disengaged, clasped the Duchess's waist, and drew her
close to her side. The gipsy cast a rapid glance upon the two
children, noting the tenderness expressed in the action, and then fell
to examining Sally's hand.

"You see the usual things in it, of course," said Seth, with but small
respect in his tone for the woman's art. "What usual things?" asked
the gipsy.

"Sickness, sorrow, sweethearts, riches."

"I see no riches; here is trouble."

"Not in the present," said Seth, somewhat repentant of his rashness in
angering the woman, as he saw Sally turn pale.

"No, not in the present. Trouble in the past, trouble in the future."

"Easy to predict. Trouble comes to all of us."

"Look here, master. Are you reading the signs or me?"

"You; and you read them in the usual way."

"Is it reading them in the usual way to tell you that you are not this
little lady's father?"

"Our faces teach you that."

"Is it reading them in the usual way to tell you that this little
lady's trouble in the future will come from love?"

"A dark or fair man?" asked Seth, still bantering, for the purpose of
inspiring Sally with courage.

"From no man, dark or fair. From love of a woman."

"Of a woman!" exclaimed Seth, biting his lip.

"Ay, of a woman, when this little lady herself is a woman." A curtsey
from the gipsy caused Seth to turn his head, and he saw that other
persons had joined the party: a gentleman of middle age and a lady
richly dressed.

"Come," said the gentleman, with a careless attempt to draw the lady
from the group.

"No," protested the lady, "no, Mr. Temple; I must positively stop. I
dote on fortune-telling; I've had mine told a hundred times."

"It's a bright fortune, my lady," said the gipsy, still retaining
Sally's hand, "as bright as this summer's day."

"It is evening now," observed the gentleman addressed as Mr. Temple.
"Better not stop. The grey shadows are coming."

"There are no grey shadows for my lady," quickly answered the gipsy.

"Rose-coloured shall all your days be," said the gentleman, with an
amused glance at his companion, "if----" and paused.

"Yes--if----" prompted the lady.

"If," continued the gentleman, "you cross the poor gipsy's hand with
silver. Isn't that so?" addressing the gipsy.

The woman smiled deferentially, and held out her hand to receive the
silver which the lady took from her purse.

"And it's enough to provoke even a gentleman's curiosity," said the
lady, "to hear that trouble is to come to this sweet girl through the
love of a woman instead of that of a man."

"All troubles through love come from love of a woman," observed the
gentleman oracularly.

"Does _your_ experience teach you that?" inquired the lady, peering
laughingly into his eyes.

"What my experience teaches me," he replied, with a shadow gathering
on his face, "I reserve."

"After a lawyer's fashion," said the lady, again taking up his words.
"You are self-convicted, Mr. Temple."

"In what way?"

"If you saw your face in a glass, you would receive your answer."

"Psha!" he exclaimed, directing his attention to the gipsy. "You have
told this little girl that a woman will bring her trouble. Beyond your
skill to say what woman."

"A woman younger than herself; more beautiful than herself; that she
loves, and loves dearly. Show yourself, my beauty."

With no unkindly hand, knowing that it would not be tolerated, she
raised the Duchess's chin with her fingers, so that the lady and
gentleman could see her face. At the same moment Seth Dumbrick plucked
the Duchess from the gipsy, and pressed her to his side, with a steady
eye upon the gentleman.

"What a lovely child!" cried the lady, stooping, and placing her hand
on the Duchess's shoulder. "Look, Mr. Temple. Did you ever in your
life see so beautiful a face?"

He paused before he replied, and then the words came slowly from his
lips.

"Once I saw a face as beautiful."

"When? Where?" eagerly asked the lady.

"In a dream."

"A dream!" exclaimed the gipsy, tracing a line on Sally's hand. "There
are dreams mixed up with this little lady's fortune."

"Oh, yes, yes!" cried Sally. "I have 'em! I have 'em!"

The gipsy turned to Seth.

"Do I read the signs in the usual way?"

"You have hit enough nails on the head," said Seth, "and you have
earned your money. It is time for us to go."

"Not yet, oh, not yet," interposed the lady. "We want this lovely
child's fortune told." She drew the Duchess from Seth; the child,
fascinated by her pretty face and soft silk dress, went willingly
enough, and Sally and Seth looked on with jealous, uneasy eyes. "You
need not be frightened, my good man. I shall not harm your daughter."

"Bless your ladyship's heart," said the gipsy, "he's not her father."

"How does she know?" inquired the lady. "Is it true?"

For a moment a falsehood rested on Seth's lips, but he refused to
utter it. "She's not my child," he said. "I have adopted her."

"Mr. Temple," said the lady excitedly, "does the law permit children
to be bought and sold? I should like to buy this child."

Seth looked frowningly at the lady, but all her attention being
bestowed on the Duchess, she did not observe this evidence of his
displeasure. The frown, however, was met by another and a sterner from
the gentleman, who thus stood forward as the lady's champion. Seth did
not lower his eyes, and the assumption of superiority in the
gentleman's demeanour brought an expression of contempt and defiance
into his own. It was not likely, after the fixed gaze with which they
regarded each other, that either would forget the other's face. Seth
observed more than the face of the man who confronted him. Every
detail of dress, bearing, and manner photographed itself upon his
mind, and an instinctive dislike for the fine gentleman took
possession of him.

"Did you hear what I said?" cried the lady, addressing the gentleman,
and smoothing the silky hair of the Duchess. "I should like to buy
this child? What has the law to say to the bargain?"

"I am afraid that the law would not support you," said the gentleman.

"I am sure that nature would not," said Seth sternly. "Why, my good
man, you have confessed that you are not the child's father."

"Confessed, did I? Well, if you will have it so. But between me and
this child there is a bond of love--a strong point. And even if the
law did support you, I have nine other strong points in my favour--all
expressed in one small word."

"Will it be troubling you too much," asked the gentleman, with
irritating insolence, "to ask you to name that word?"

"Not at all. As a lawyer--as I understand from this lady's remarks you
are--you will appreciate its worth. Possession."

The discordant chord between these men had been struck very
effectually.

"You are acquainted with the law," observed the gentleman, implying
what it was impossible to misunderstand--to wit, that Seth Dumbrick
was acquainted with the law in a way not creditable to himself.

"I know nothing of it from experience."

"Yet you know something of the machinery."

"From observation and general reading."

"Indeed! You set up for a scholar!"

"I do not."

"Would possession hold good," inquired the lady, with careless
condescension, "against a rightful owner?"

"It has," replied Seth, not unwilling to use the arrow placed in his
hands, "in many instances--thanks to the law."

The lady looked at the gentleman for information.

"Such things have been," he said, "but not where flesh and blood are
concerned."

"And here it _is_ concerned," she exclaimed, with vivacity.

"Nonsense. What whim of yours shall I have to fight against next?"

"Of course, when I say I would like to buy the child, I am aware I am
talking nonsense; but perhaps it is not in your legal mind to make
allowances. I am singularly curious to learn what I can of the pretty
creature's history--if she has one."

"The commonest of us has a history worth reading--but not, I doubt,
until the actor begins to play a conscious part in the drama of life."

"Now you are speaking in a way I like. Let me, then, have my way, and
ask the gipsy to tell the child's fortune."

"Come," he said to the gipsy, "earn your money. We have already
lingered too long."

Seth Dumbrick, who had been listening with impatience to this
dialogue, stepped between the gipsy and the Duchess.

"We have had enough fooling," he said sternly. "Let the woman earn her
money in some other way than this."

He would have retired with the children at once, had not the gentleman
stepped quickly before him, barring his progress.

"You are disposed to be insolent," he said, with a slight quivering of
the lips. "Do you not know how to pay respect to a lady?"

"I know what is due to myself," replied Seth quietly. "I simply wish
not to be molested."

"You are a stranger about here?"

"I am here by chance; I have no knowledge of the place."

"Nor of me?"

"Nor of you--and," he added, his temper mastering his judgment, "I
wish to have none. You are a gentleman, and I----"

"Am not."

"You have answered for me. I see no reason to repine at the difference
in our positions."

Seth did not intend his meaning to be mistaken, and his tone added
force to his words. The gentleman's manner was so overbearing, that
the commoner man's independent spirit was roused.

"I am the master of this place. This is a private road; you have
committed a trespass."

"Then the sooner I repair an error unintentionally committed, the
better for myself. If I had known this road was private I should not
have entered it."

"The notice-board is large, and the words plain. You have been good
enough to inform me that you can read."

He pointed to a board at the beginning of the road which had escaped
Seth's notice, on which was painted in bold letters, "Trespassers will
be prosecuted." Seth bit his lip as he saw the trap into which he had
fallen.

"The hedge which protects the road," continued the gentleman, "has
been newly broken."

"Not by me," said Seth, somewhat uneasy for the children's sake.

"It is not to be expected that you would admit it. But for your
insolence towards the lady and myself, I should be disposed to
overlook the trespass; as it is I am in doubt. Where do you come
from?"

"From London."

"A London tramp--a vagrant."

"No tramp or vagrant," said Seth indignantly; "an honest man bringing
his children into the country in search of health."

"I understand they are not your children."

"They are mine by adoption."

"Are their parents living?"

"This child's mother--don't be frightened, Sally--lives in the
country, and is unable to offer her a home. So I take care of her."

"A modern Quixote," said the gentleman, with a sneer. "And this
child"--once more he looked at the Duchess, whose eyes were raised to
his--"and this child----" The imploring gaze of the Duchess appeared
to disconcert him, and the sentence remained unfinished.

A singular silence followed, during which they all looked at the
gentleman, whose self-possession had suddenly deserted him. Aroused to
the fact that general attention was fixed upon him, he broke the
silence, with curious pauses between his words.

"I was asking whether these children are sisters?"

"They are not," replied Seth.

"In any way related?"

"Not to my knowledge."

"Are her parents living?"

For the second time during the interview a falsehood rested on Seth's
lips, and for the second time he refused to utter it.

"I do not know," he replied.

"What is it you say?"

"I do not know whether her parents are living."

"A born lady," muttered the gipsy, seeing her chance; "a born
lady--fit to be a Duchess--_is_ one, or I can't read the stars."

Seth turned a startled look upon the gipsy, saying, "You are a clever
witch, wherever you have got your information." Then to the gentleman,
"Have you anything more to ask me?"

"Nothing," was the reply, with a contradiction almost in the same
breath: "In what part of London did you say you live?" as though the
question had been already asked and answered.

"In the east."

"And you rest to-night?"

"At The World's End, hard by here."

"Very well; I shall call upon you to-morrow early. You can go."

But early the next morning, before ordinary folks were stirring, Seth
and the children were again on the road. The wagon started at six
o'clock, and Seth experienced a feeling of relief when he caught the
last glimpse of Springfield.

"No more ladies and gentlemen for us," he said almost gaily, with the
air of a man who has escaped a great danger; "we have had enough of
them."

"I like ladies and gentlemen," said the Duchess--a remark which drove
Seth into a moody fit for at least an hour.



CHAPTER XVIII.


The second day's journey was as delightful as the first. The weather
continued fine, and Seth Dumbrick, recovering his spirits, did his
best to entertain the children, to whom the ride itself would have
been a sufficiently satisfying enjoyment. During the day Seth confided
his plans to the good-natured wagoner, and his desire to obtain cheap
lodgings for a few days for himself and the children at some modest
cottage in the country.

"Would near the seaside suit you?" asked the wagoner.

"Capitally," replied Seth; "but your place lies inland."

"I have time to go a little out of my way, and will take you to a
cottage near the sea belonging to a friend of mine, who'll be able to
lodge you reasonable."

"Nothing could be better," said Seth, thankfully.

"It's obliging her and you, and won't trouble me much. Come up, Daisy!
Now then, Cornflower! Four mile more for you, and plenty of time to do
it in."

If Daisy and Cornflower understood that an additional task was imposed
upon them they did not take it sadly, but shook their bells briskly
and trotted out of their regular track with a willing spirit.

"Round this bend," said the wagoner, "and a fine stretch of the sea'll
be before us."

It appeared almost incredible, for the trees and hedges in the path
they were riding along were so thick and the path itself so winding as
to obscure the view.

"The children have never seen the sea," said Seth.

"You don't say so! Well, I wouldn't be a Londoner, bound to live there
all my days, for the best fifty houses you could offer me. And never
seen a ship sailing, I'll be bound!"

"Never."

"It will be something for them to remember, then. Now, shut your eyes,
my little lasses, and don't open them till I say 'Presto!'"

Sally and the Duchess shut their eyes tight, their hearts throbbing
with eager expectation.

"Up then, Daisy! Up, Cornflower! Round the bend we go. Presto!"

The Duchess and Sally opened their eyes and uttered exclamations of
delight. The glorious sea lay before them, with large ships in the
distance and fishing boats in the foreground. In one part the sun,
playing on the water, transformed it into an island of flashing
jewels. It was a veritable wonderland to the children--a dream of
beauty never to be forgotten.

"Do I see the waves creeping up, Sally?" asked Seth, gaily.

Sally raised her face to his and kissed him.

"It's all through that money that was sent to the Duchess, Daddy."

"All through that, Sally."

"Then I love money, Daddy," said Sally; "and I'd like to be a lady, so
that the Duchess and me might live always by the sea. How far does it
stretch? More than we can see?"

"Thousands, and thousands, and thousands of miles more. Away into
other countries, where it's night at the present moment while it's
daylight here."

"I don't understand it," said Sally, with a sigh of ecstasy, "and I
don't want to. Oh, we're going away from it!"

"We're going to the cottage I spoke of my little woman," said the
wagoner; "it's not three hundred yards off--just down this lane."

Down the lane they drove, and drew up at a small house with a garden
before and behind. The front of the cottage was covered with ivy, and
the windows in their framework of glossy leaves looked wonderfully
pretty.

"This is nice, too," said Sally, disposed to enjoy everything.

"There's beauty everywhere, Sally," said Seth, with a touch of his old
philosophy, "if we'll only look out for it."

"This comes without looking out for it," replied Sally; "and that's
why I like it. Ain't it better than anything ever was, Duchess?"

The Duchess nodded an assent, and in another moment the whole party
were in the little parlour, and Seth and the wagoner were talking to
the mistress of the house. The bargain was soon struck, the terms
asked for board and lodging being much less than Seth had ventured to
hope they would be. They were to have the two rooms on the first floor
for sleeping apartments, one looking over the front the other over the
back of the house.

"Daddy must have this," said Sally, as they stood in the front room;
"it's the best."

"That's the reason why you and the Duchess shall sleep in it. I came
into the country for your sakes, children, not for my own."

Everything in the place was sweet and fresh; and the garden at the
back of the house contained apple and pear trees and currant-bushes,
as well as flowers.

"My good man," said the mistress, "will be glad to have two such
pretty children in the house for a little while. We've none of our
own. It'll brighten us up a bit."

The woman was sad-looking and spoke in a sad tone; and Sally wondered
how it was possible that one who lived in the fairy-house, with
flowers and fruit trees and the sea within a stone's throw of them,
should need brightening up. She was sure if such a paradise were hers,
that there would never be a dull hour in it. While the woman was
attending to the children upstairs, assisting them to wash after their
long day's ride, and showing them all the wonders of the fairy house,
Seth and the wagoner had a conversation in the room below. It was a
friendly one, resulting from the wagoner's refusal to accept payment
for the ride.

"It'll be a pleasure to me," said the wagoner, "not to take the money.
I don't want it, having enough and to spare, as I've already told you.
I don't mean to say I do it for your sake----"

"Not likely," said Seth, good-humouredly.

"--But for the sake of the pretty little one you call the Duchess. And
that's puzzled me. I'd take it as a favour if you'd tell me, why
Duchess?"

"Well, it was a fancy of Sally's," said Seth, "who worships the
Duchess----"

"It's plain enough that she thinks a mighty deal more of her than she
does of herself."

"That she does. Well, the Duchess came to me in a strange way that'll
take too long to explain here. The child was left in our neighbourhood
in a most mysterious manner--brought in mysteriously, deserted
mysteriously. She and Sally were thrown together, and Sally adopted
her, if one helpless mite can be said to adopt another helpless mite.
Sally's mother fell into misfortune, and the children happened to drop
in my way. Sally had a name--the other one didn't--and one night we
had a curious little party of children in my cellar----"

"In your cellar?"

"I live in a cellar in Rosemary Lane--and Sally, quite seriously, put
the fancy in my head of calling the child the Duchess of our quarter.
All the neighbours take to it kindly, and everyone that knows her
loves her. Look there. Who could help being attracted to her?"

The wagoner looked up at the window of the children's room, and saw
the Duchess standing within a framework of dark-green ivy leaves. The
light was shining full upon her beautiful face, and touched, also, the
darker face of Sally, who stood at the back of the Duchess, looking
over her shoulder.

"It's a picture one don't often see," said the wagoner, with a
thoughtful air; "but if I had my choice of the two girls for a
daughter, I reckon I'd choose the dark-skinned one."

It did not displease Seth to hear this, for Sally and the Duchess
really occupied an equal place in his heart. If the beauty of the
Duchess awoke the tenderness of his nature, the devotion,
unselfishness, and many rare qualities displayed by Sally were no less
powerful in their effect upon his sympathies. Bearing in mind the
scene that had occurred at Springfield on the preceding evening, he
asked the wagoner, if any inquiries were made of him, not to divulge
where he and the children were rusticating.

"I've brought them into the country," he said, "as much for peace and
quietness as for fresh air."

There was to the wagoner's mind something suspicious both in the words
and the nervous manner in which Seth made the request. He showed in
his countenance the impression he received, and Seth, wishing to stand
well with him, gave an account of the incident which had so disturbed
him.

"When I heard the lady say she would like to buy my child," he said,
in conclusion, "it seemed to me that she had so much faith in the
power of money, and so little in the power of love, that I could not
keep my temper. I spoke hotly, and with reason, I think."

"It would have roused my blood," responded the wagoner; "you never saw
any of the gentlefolk before?"

"Never, and I never wish to see them again. I said as much to the
master of Springfield, if I'm not mistaken."

"From what I've heard of him, he's not a man either to forget or
forgive."

"You'll promise me, then, for the sake of the children, not to set any
one on our track?"

He spoke anxiously, his fears exaggerating a danger which, in all
likelihood was wholly imaginary.

"Yes," replied the wagoner, "there's no harm in promising. They've no
right to worry you, as far as I can see, and they sha'n't get me to
put them in the way of it. How long are you going to stop here?"

"We can live here so cheaply," said Seth, with a lightened heart,
"that my purse will hold out for two or three weeks; we'll stay that
time, I dare say."

"I'll be going up to London about then, mayhap," said the wagoner; "if
so, I'll be glad to give the little lasses a lift; and mayhap I may be
passing this way in a few days with the wagon. A ride through the
lanes will do them no harm."

Seth expressed his thanks to the kind-hearted old fellow, and they
shook hands and parted, the wagoner smiling goodbye to the children,
who stood at the window watching him until he was out of sight.

Then commenced a happy time. The children were in a new world, and the
little cottage, with its bit of garden back and front, was a very
heaven to them. Everything was so new and bright, the air was so
sweet, the trees and flowers so beautiful, that Sally could scarcely
believe it was all real. On the first night, when they were abed,
listening to the strange sound of the waves beating on the shore,
Sally whispered to the Duchess:

"Isn't it lovely, Duchess?"

"Yes, oh, yes," sighed the Duchess; and this precise form of words was
used at least a dozen times, each time with the belief that it
embodied an observation of an especially original nature. Once Sally,
creeping out of bed, drew aside the snowy white curtains from the
window and looked out.

"Oh, come, Duchess, come!" she cried, and the Duchess scrambled after
her. It was full moon, and the glorious light shining on the trees and
hedges was a vision of beauty to them.

"That's a different moon from the one we've got in Rosemary Lane,"
said Sally; "I wish we could take it back with us."

"Are we going back?" asked the Duchess regretfully.

Sally did not reply. The prospect was too distressing. But she was
happily so constituted as to be grateful for present joys and
pleasures, and she dismissed Rosemary Lane from her thoughts. Her one
fear was that she would wake up.

"Do you like the noise the sea makes?" she inquires of her idol, when
they were in bed again.

"It's beautiful," said the Duchess. "Are the ships there?"

Sally never hesitated to impart information on subjects of which she
was ignorant.

"They're there," she said, "but they don't move till daylight comes."

"I'm sleepy," said the Duchess, with a yawn.

"I'm frightened to go to sleep," said Sally, battling with fatigue; "I
want to be like this always. I hope it ain't a dream--oh, I hope it
ain't a dream!"

Before she had finished, the Duchess was asleep.

"I'll pinch myself hard," thought Sally, "as hard as I can, and if
there's a black-and-blue mark on my arm to-morrow morning, I shall know
it's real."

Sally did pinch herself--so hard that she could not help crying out
with the pain, but she obtained her reward on the following morning,
when she saw the black-and-blue marks. The joy of the day, however,
was so great that as she sat on the pebbly beach, watching the waves
creep up and the ships and fishing-boats floating away into
wonderland, she found it hard to convince herself that she was not
dreaming. At the end of the week she said to Seth:

"Daddy, every night I go to bed, I am frightened that I shall wake up
and find myself in Rosemary Lane."

Thereupon he read her and the Duchess a lecture on contentment and
gratitude, not so much needed by Sally as by the Duchess.

"I know you're right," said Sally; "it will always be a pleasure to
think of, but I shall be awful sorry too, that it didn't last for
ever. It can't, Daddy, can it?"

"No, my dear, it can't."

"I wish I was rich," sighed Sally.

"Supposing you had lived a hundred years ago," suggested Seth, with
grave humour; and paused.

"Well, Daddy. Supposing I did?"

"It would be all the same to you whether you had a hundred boxes full
of gold or whether you had twopence-halfpenny."

Sally was shrewd enough to understand this without having to ask for
an explanation.

"What do you say to it all?" asked Sally of the Duchess.

"I don't care for a hundred years ago," said the Duchess; "I don't
know what it means. I care for Now." And she echoed Sally's words, "I
wish I was rich."

This set Seth pondering, and in his endeavour to extract honey out of
unpromising material and to improve the occasion, it is to be feared
that he soared above the understanding of his children. In this way:

"Did I ever tell you, Sally"--he always appealed to Sally at such
times, although he addressed both her and the Duchess--"of a man I
once knew called Billy Spike?"

"No, Daddy."

"He was a friend of mine a good many years ago. Older than me by
thirty years was Billy Spike--and he was always Billy, never William,
to the day of his death. Nearly everybody who knew him thought he was
crazy."

"Why?"

"Because of one thing he was never tired of saying, 'What I don't get
is profit.' That's what sweetened the world for Billy Spike. 'What I
don't get is profit,' was always on his lips."

"Was _he_ a rich man, Daddy?"

"I doubt if Billy Spike ever had twenty shillings in his pocket at one
time. I doubt if ever he had a new suit of clothes to his back. I
doubt if he ever had quite as much to eat as he could have taken in.
He was as poor as a church-mouse."

"Why is a church-mouse poor?" asked practical Sally.

"It's no use my trying to explain that, Sally. It's a saying, and a
true one I dare say. But about Billy Spike. He was the poorest and the
happiest man in the world, and all the philosophy of life was
contained in his saying, 'What I don't get is profit.' 'Billy,' I said
to him, 'what do you mean by it?' He looked at me with his eyes
twinkling. 'Seth Dumbrick,' said he, 'you're a man of sense. Look at
me. Here I am.' And he stood up straight before me, showing large
holes in his coat, under his arms, and being generally a picture of
rags. 'If,' said I, 'all the profit you make comes from what you've
got, and not from what you haven't got, your returns must be small.'
'I've got a pair of arms, Seth Dumbrick,' said Billy. 'Thank you for
nothing,' said I. 'You call that nothing!' cried Billy. 'Wait a bit.
My limbs are all sound, my eyesight's good. I never had a headache or
a toothache in my life, and I sleep like a top. Now, tell me who's
that crossing the road?' It was a sailor we knew who hopped through
life on a wooden leg. Me and Billy and the wooden-legged sailor went
and had a glass together, and Billy drew the sailor out to tell us all
about the miseries of having only one leg--what shootings he had in
the one that was chopped off--yes, he said that, Sally, though it does
sound funny--and how he couldn't walk where he wanted to walk, and
couldn't do what he wanted to do, all through having a wooden leg. It
was plain enough that his wooden leg made him real unhappy and
miserable. When he was gone Billy Spike said to me, with a wink, 'What
I don't get is profit: I don't get wooden legs.' Just then we saw a
woman that we knew; her face was twice its proper size, and she had a
bandage round it. 'What's the matter, mother?' asked Billy Spike. 'I'm
almost dead with the pain, Billy,' she said. 'I've been and had two of
my teeth out at the hospital and the doctor's almost broke my jaw.
It's enough to drive a poor woman mad.' 'The toothache is,' said
Billy. 'Yes, the toothache,' said she; 'I've had it on and off for the
last twenty years, and I'm pretty well crazed with it.' Billy Spike
winked at me again. 'What I don't get is profit. I don't get
toothaches.' Then we came across a blind man, and Billy drew _him_
out, and a pretty bad case it was. 'I'd sooner be dead than alive,'
said he. He couldn't see the wink that Billy gave. What I don't get is
profit,' said Billy. 'I don't get blind.' And so Billy would have gone
on all the day, I don't doubt, if I hadn't already caught his
meaning."

In which respect Seth had the advantage of those to whom he was
relating, as a possibly useful lesson, this story of Billy Spike's
philosophy. Sally's face denoted that she did not see the application,
and the Duchess said again, "I wish I was rich." So Seth resolved to
throw aside philosophy as not suitable for the occasion, and to devote
himself entirely to pleasure. It was none the less sweet because it
was taken in a modest humble way, and because it cost but little
money. Country walks, rides in carts and wagons, generally given for
nothing--for the beauty of the Duchess soon attracted admirers even in
this out-of-the-way spot--frolics in hayfields, rambles by the
seaside, fully occupied their hours, and did not afford opportunity
for a moment's weariness. And one day a travelling photographer passed
their road and offered to "take" the Duchess for a song, as the saying
is. Being an artist he saw the value of Seth's suggestion that she
should be taken standing in a framework of ivy leaves, and the
prettiest of pictures was produced. The photographer, falling in love
with his work, and seeing future profit in it, took negatives of the
Duchess in various attitudes, she falling into them so naturally as to
excite his wonder and admiration. In truth it was a task which pleased
and delighted her. Seth, shrewd as he always was, and careful of his
pocket as he was compelled to be, made a good bargain with the artist,
and for a very small sum obtained copies of all their portraits: the
Duchess in three different positions, Sally in one, Sally and the
Duchess together, and lastly, himself with the children on either side
of him. The day following this excitement another pleasure came. The
old wagoner who had driven them from London arrived early in the
morning with Daisy and Cornflower, and after giving them the most
beautiful ride in their holiday, took them to his own cottage where he
had lived from boyhood. There his old wife awaited them, and feasted
the party to their hearts' content, and a peaceful ride back in the
peaceful night was the fitting ending to the happy day. So the time
passed on until one morning Seth said to Sally.

"Home to-morrow, Sally."

She sighed with grateful regret.

"Our little girl is better than ever she was," he continued, with a
fond look at the Duchess, "and we'll endeavour to keep her so. Such
roses as these"--caressing the Duchess's cheek--"will be something for
the Rosemary Lane folk to stare at. They've never seen such bright
ones before. We've had a happy time, haven't we?"

"Yes, yes," they both replied, nestling to him.

"Let us be thankful, then----"

"For what we haven't had?" asked Sally, with a sly look.

"No," he said with a laugh, "for what we have enjoyed;" adding in a
graver tone, "I never thought the world was so good as it is."

On the second evening from this they returned to Rosemary Lane, and
were received with smiles and hearty welcome by all.



CHAPTER XIX.


Sally, brimming over with delightful memories of the happy days passed
in the cottage by the sea, was not slow to communicate her experiences
to her young friends and playmates in Rosemary Lane. The wonderful
stories she had to tell, and the wonderful way in which she related
them, caused the children's eyes to dilate and their breasts to throb.
Sally was an artist, and, in a more effective manner than would have
been adopted by a more polished narrator, she painted her pictures in
exactly those colours which made them alluring to an audience not
over-gifted with learning and intelligence. In all these pictures, the
Duchess was the central figure. She was the princess for whom the
flowers bloomed and the sea whispered musically. The happy rides, the
pleasant meals, the delicious idling, the soft murmurs of woodland
life, were all for the Duchess, and, but for her, would not have been.
Sally's tongue was never idle when there was an opportunity to glorify
her idol, and the devoted child had never been so rich in opportunity
as at the present time. Among other stories related by her, was, of
course, the story of the Duchess's portrait being taken surrounded by
flowers, which Sally declared was "out and out the most beautiful
thing as ever was seen;" and public curiosity being excited, Seth
Dumbrick was besieged by applicants eager to see the pictures. These
visits were the means of his ingratiating himself into the more
favourable opinion of his neighbours, who said to one another that
Seth Dumbrick was becoming quite an agreeable man. Even to Mrs. Preedy
he was gracious, and for fully three weeks that inveterate gossip had
not a word to say to his disparagement.

So, being once more settled down quietly in his stall, with sufficient
work for the hours, Seth hammered and patched away from morning till
night, and but for certain fears connected with the Duchess, would
have been a perfectly happy man. One of these fears related to the
fortune-telling incident; he was unreasonably apprehensive that by
some means or other the Duchess would be tracked and spirited away by
the gentleman with whom he had had high words at Springfield; he did
not stop to reason upon the motive which would lead to such an act.
His other fear related to the bank-note, so strangely forwarded to the
Duchess, which had paid for their holiday. If he had known where to
seek for a clue to the discovery of the sender of the money, it is
doubtful whether he would have availed himself of it; his earnest wish
was that the matter should rest where it was, and that he and the
Duchess and Sally should be allowed to live their quiet, uneventful
life unmolested. If he saw the postman coming along the street, he
watched his progress nervously, dreading that another letter for the
Duchess might arrive, and when the man passed without look or word,
the cheerful hammering upon the leather, or the more vigorous plying
of the awl, denoted how greatly he was relieved.

Weeks and months passing in this way brought repose to his mind, and
he sometimes smiled at himself for the uneasy fancies, born of love
and fear, which had so tormented him. His love for the Duchess
increased with time; she was for ever in his thoughts; over his bed,
in a frame and protected by a glass, hung her picture, which was to
him as beautiful as the most beautiful Madonna in the eyes of a devout
woman; there was not speck or flaw on her, materially or spiritually;
she was the queen of his life and household. Would the Duchess like
this? Would the Duchess like that? What can we do for her? How can we
serve her?--everything was done by Seth and Sally that could
contribute to the easy and pleasant passing of her days. Their old
clothes were darned and patched, and darned and patched again and
again, so that the Duchess might have pretty things to wear. They were
continually buying flowers and bits of ribbons for her, and casting
about for ways and means to bring new pleasures into her days. In this
twelve months passed, and the summer came round again. Sitting at
their midday meal, Sally remarked that this time last year they were
going into the country. Seth referred to a small memorandum book, the
recipient of a singular medley of notes and observations.

"To-morrow morning's exactly a year," he said, "since we started."

Sally sighed, and Seth saw with pain a look of regret in the Duchess's
eyes. It was not a calm regret; there was nothing of resignation in
it. It expressed a struggle to be free from the thraldom of poverty, a
rebellious repining at the hardship of Fate. As Seth was considering
whether any ingenious twisting of Billy Spike's philosophy would
afford consolation, a double knock at the stall above was heard. He
mounted the steps, and confronted the postman.

"A letter for the Duchess of Rosemary Lane."

Seth received it with a sinking heart, and putting it hastily into his
pocket, descended to the living-room.

"Who was it, Daddy?" asked Sally.

"Mrs. Simpson sent for the child's boot," replied Seth, with a guilty
palpitation; "it ain't done yet."

He finished his dinner in silence, listening to reminiscences of last
year's delightful holiday, called up by Sally and the Duchess. He did
not take the letter from his pocket until late in the night, when he
was alone. He gazed at it for a few moments, believing it contained a
realization of his fears, and that it might be the means of parting
him and the Duchess. If he had not been a just man, he would have
destroyed the letter, but he was restrained by the reflection that it
might be of importance to the future of the child he loved. With
reluctant fingers he unfastened the envelope, and found in it a
bank-note for five pounds. As with the letter received last year, it
did not contain a single word that would furnish a clue. He had
carefully preserved the first envelope, and comparing the writing on
the two, he judged it to be from one hand.

"Who is it that sends the money?" he mused. "A man or a woman? That's
the first point. There's a difference in handwriting, I've heard. I
must find a way to make sure of that. I suppose the note's as good as
the one sent last year."

Before the afternoon of the following day, he had thought over a lame
little scheme, which he put into execution without delay. He walked to
the shop of a tradesman, of whom he was in the habit of buying tools
and leather, and having made some small purchases, he offered the note
in payment. It was taken, and change given, without remark. "Is your
wife at home?" then asked Seth.

"Yes," replied the tradesman.

"I'd like to see her," said Seth; "I want to ask her about something
that a woman knows better than a man."

The tradesman called his wife, and Seth had a quiet talk with her. He
commenced in a roundabout way.

"It's about a friend of mine," he said, "an unmarried man like myself,
but more likely to marry, being younger. He's received a letter
without a signature, and he's mighty anxious to find out whether it
comes from a man or a woman. It's a delicate matter you see."

The tradesman's wife did not see, but she waited patiently for further
light.

"The fact is," continued Seth, "there's a girl he knows and has a
fancy for, that another man knows and has a fancy for."

"It's a love letter, then," interrupted the tradesman's wife, with a
smile.

"Yes," said Seth, gladly accepting the suggestion, "and he naturally
wishes to know who wrote it."

"Yes."

"Now the first thing to discover is whether it's a man's or a woman's
writing."

"How can I help you to discover that?"

"If you will be good enough to write just a couple of words--say,
Rosemary Lane--on a bit of paper, it might assist us."

The woman wrote down the words, and wrote them without a curve; every
letter had in it as many angles as it could conveniently accommodate.
After this, Seth asked the woman if her daughters would write the same
words on separate pieces of paper, and then he obtained a specimen of
writing from the tradesman himself. He paid visits to many places that
afternoon, with the same purpose in view, and by the evening he had in
his pocket between twenty and thirty different specimens of
calligraphy. When the children were asleep he continued his
examination, and discovered that, without an exception, all the women
wrote in angles and all the men in curves. Comparing the writing with
that on the envelopes, he came to the conclusion that the addresses
were written and the money sent by a woman.

He derived an odd kind of satisfaction from this result There was less
danger to be feared from a woman than from a man, and, without
difficulty, Seth invented a dozen different sets of circumstances to
fit the case, in all of which the woman who was in this way kind to
the Duchess was never to make herself known. The money clearly
belonged to the Duchess, and the conscientious man decided that it
must be spent on the Duchess, and on the Duchess alone. The child had
had her ears pierced, and wore in them a pair of rough glass earrings
bought by Sally for a few pence on the anniversary of her idol's
birthday.

No one knew how old the Duchess exactly was, or on what day she was
born; but a birthday was such a happy occasion for love-gifts, and the
Duchess so fit a person to give them to, that a natal day was fixed
for her. Of course a suitable one. "March winds and April showers
bring forth May flowers." Sally knew the rhyme, and settled that the
Duchess was born when the flowers were born, on the 1st of May. On the
Duchess's last birthday Sally had presented the glass earrings, and
the pleasure derived from the giving and the receiving was as great as
if the bits of glass had been diamonds. The Duchess never tired of
admiring herself in the little tin-framed mirror fixed by the side of
the bed, and shook her head to make the crystals sparkle, and played
at hide and peep with them, hiding them in her hair and shaking them
free again. A fair meed of admiration was also passed upon them by her
playmates, and the Duchess thought them the loveliest things in the
world until one unhappy day she heard an ill-natured woman call them
"bits of trumpery glass." From that moment they became less precious
in the Duchess's eyes, and a secret longing crept into her mind for
something more valuable to show off her pretty ears. About this time
Mrs. Preedy, having occasion to go westward, invited the Duchess to
accompany her, to see the carriages and fine folks in the Park.
Without asking for permission from her guardian, the Duchess accepted
the invitation joyfully, and as she walked along by the side of Mrs.
Preedy, her quick eye took in everything of note that passed her; but
most of all did she notice the gold ornaments worn by the ladies, and
yearned for them in her heart of hearts.

"Such heaps of rich people, Duchess," observed Mrs. Preedy. "It's like
a show."

"There's nothing in the world like being rich," observed the Duchess.

"No, that there's not," replied the woman heartily. "Why," presently
continued the Duchess, "are some people rich and other people poor?"

"Oh, _I_ don't know," said Mrs. Preedy peevishly; "it's all in the way
we're born. Ladies and gentlemen ain't born in Rosemary Lane."

"I wasn't born in Rosemary Lane," mused the Duchess, in a tone which
was in itself an assertion of superiority over her companion.

"Do you know where you _was_ born?" asked Mrs. Preedy.

"No," was the reply, "but not in Rosemary Lane."

"What do you remember before you came to Rosemary Lane?" continued
Mrs. Preedy, growing interested in the conversation.

"I don't remember coming to Rosemary Lane," said the Duchess; "I had a
mamma once."

"Where?"

"I don't know; in a garden, I think."

"Like anybody you see?"

"Like her," said the Duchess, pointing to a lady who was stepping from
a carriage. In the lady's face dwelt an expression of much sadness and
sweetness, which seemed to be the natural outcome of a sad and sweet
nature. The Duchess's observance of the lady drew her attention to the
child, and she stopped and spoke, and asked Mrs. Preedy if the pretty
creature was her daughter.

"No, indeed, ma'am," said Mrs. Preedy, with a curtsey; "she has no
mother, poor dear, and she was just saying that you were like her
mamma."

"Her mamma!" exclaimed the lady, with a look of surprise; "where do
you come from, then?"

"From Rosemary Lane, if you please," said the obsequious Mrs. Preedy,
who was always deferential to those above her.

"And where may that be?"

"In the east, if you please," with another curtsey.

The lady, with languid humour, suggested "Jerusalem?" and then asked
the Duchess if she would like a cake. They were standing in front of a
confectioner's shop, and the child, with as much self-possession (as
Mrs. Preedy afterwards remarked when she related the adventure) as if
she had been a born lady, withdrew her hand from Mrs. Preedy, and held
it out to the lady, who smilingly led her into the shop, and feasted
her and Mrs. Preedy to their heart's content. They had cakes and
jellies, and strawberries and cream, and the lady chatted with the
Duchess, and praised her beauty, in the most gracious and affable
manner. Altogether, it was a very pleasant time, and formed quite an
event in Mrs. Preedy's life, who for months and months gave most vivid
descriptions of the entertainment, never forgetting to add that when
they went into the Park later in the day they met the lady driving in
her carriage there, and that she nodded and smiled in recognition of
them.

Seth Dumbrick also went westwards in search of a present for the
Duchess, to be paid for out of the money which was hers, and staring
in the shop-windows, was greatly bewildered by the attractive articles
there displayed. Silk sashes and neckerchiefs, natty kid boots and
fascinating hats, distracted him with their claims. Had he been a
well-to-do man, there is no knowing what extravagance he might have
committed. At length he stationed himself before a jeweller's window,
and gazed upon the beautiful articles exhibited in it, now deciding
upon this, now upon that; and, in the end, upon a pair of gold
earrings, tastefully designed to represent shells. He had no idea of
the value of such articles, and it was with something of trepidation
he entered the shop, where his appearance was viewed with suspicion by
the salesman, who saw no fitness between the unshaven chin and grimy
fingers of the workman and the graceful devices in gold and silver
displayed for sale. A bargain, however, was soon concluded, and Seth
became possessor of the earrings on payment of half the money he held
in trust for the Duchess. Then he went to a milliner's shop, where he
seemed even more out of place than in the jeweller's, and for twenty
shillings bought one of the prettiest hats in all the stock. Enjoying
in anticipation the delight of the Duchess, he walked home very
contentedly, and artfully turned the conversation upon last year's
holiday, saying in a melancholy tone:

"No holiday this year, Duchess."

Sally shook her head mournfully.

"Can't afford it, eh, Sally? Now, what's the next best thing to the
holiday we can't afford? What do you say to a present--something
pretty for--who do you think?"

"For the Duchess!" cried Sally.

The Duchess looked up eagerly.

"Yes, for the Duchess. These, for instance."

He carefully untied the little packet wrapt in silver tissue-paper,
carefully opened the leather case, and pointed triumphantly to the
earrings nestling softly in their blue-velvet couches. Sally clapped
her hands, and jumped up; the Duchess gazed on the pretty ornaments
with parted lips and eyes aglow with admiration.

"For me!" she exclaimed, almost under her breath. "For me!"

"For you, Duchess," said Seth. "What do you think of 'em?"

She threw her arms round his neck, and kissed him, with perhaps more
affection than she had ever shown towards him, and then turned hastily
to the earrings, in fear lest they might have vanished from the table.
The glittering ornaments fitted her nature most thoroughly and
completely. They seemed to say, "We are yours. You are ours. We belong
to each other. You have no business to wear bits of trumpery glass. We
are what you have a right to possess." There was absolute harmony
between her and the pretty things, and she experienced a new and
singularly entrancing pleasure in merely gazing upon them.

"Is one kiss all you will give me for them?" asked Seth.

"No, no," she replied; "I will give you a thousand thousand."

She smothered him with kisses, murmuring: "I love you for them, I love
you for them."

"They are real gold," said Seth, more than satisfied with his bargain.
"What will Rosemary Lane say to that?"

With trembling fingers the Duchess lifted the earrings from the case.
Had they been imbued with feeling she could not have felt more tender
towards them.

"May I put them in?"

"Surely, my dear; I bought them for you to wear."

The Duchess hastily unhooked Sally's birthday gift from her ears, and
threw it on the table, replacing it with the more valuable and
therefore more precious offering. A pang shot through Sally's breast
as she witnessed the action. The bits of trumpery glass, albeit they
cost but a few pence, had not been easily obtained by her; they were
the result of many weeks' saving of farthings and halfpence, and to
pay for them she had put down with a strong spirit a number of small
cravings. Not that the saving and scraping was not in itself a delight
to her; to deny herself in order that the Duchess might be gratified
was one of her sweetest pleasures. The common glass earrings were her
love-gift, and she had dreamt of them long before and after they were
presented; and to see them now so carelessly thrust aside brought the
tears to her eyes. She brushed them instantly away. The Duchess, with
a piece of broken looking-glass in her hand, was walking up and down
the cellar, gazing at the reflection of the new earrings, with eyes so
sparkling that they outshone the glittering baubles. As she turned
this way and that, now bending forward, now leaning back, in
enchanting attitudes, holding the glass so that the ornaments were
always in view, a thousand graces and charms were depicted in her of
which for the time she was unconscious. Sally, despite her sorrow at
the despisal of her love-gift, could not help admiring the beautiful
picture, and when the Duchess came close to her, she drew her idol to
her breast, and kissed her passionately.

"Don't!" said the Duchess, with a little struggle to be free; "you
hurt me, Sally!"

Sally's arms relaxed, and she turned aside with quivering lips; for a
moment, everything swam before her eyes, and she felt quite faint.

"And that's not all," said Seth; "I have something else for our
Duchess."

"Oh, what is it, what is it?" cried the Duchess, springing to his
side.

"See," he said, holding up the hat, "what will Rosemary Lane say to
this? Sally, fit it on, and let us see how our princess looks in it."

Sally kept her sobs back with a vicious pinch of her own arm which
almost made her scream, and placed the hat on the Duchess's head, to
the best advantage be sure. There was no meanness in Sally's soul. She
could suffer and be strong. Nothing would satisfy the Duchess that
afternoon but to dress herself in her best clothes, and go out and
show herself. It was done; and in her blue-merino dress, her boots
made for her in the most dainty fashion by Seth's loving hands, her
hat and her gold earrings, she walked about Rosemary Lane, with Sally
by her side, the envy and admiration of all beholders. In the eyes of
the Rosemary Lane folk Sally was a most complete foil to the beautiful
Duchess. Her hands were dirty, and her clothes had many a hole in
them; but there was a soft light in her eyes, and an expression of
deep, almost suffering devotion in her face, which might have
attracted the attention of close observers--and not entirely to
Sally's disadvantage. The Duchess had an afternoon of rare enjoyment;
even those who envied her paid court to her, and her train included
all the young radicals in Rosemary Lane who had hitherto held aloof
from her, but who now, fairly conquered by the splendour of her
personal adornment, fell down and worshipped. It was the story of the
golden calf over again--the old story which to-day is being enacted
with so much fervour by beggar and millionaire, from Whitechapel to
Belgravia. Late at night, when the Duchess was asleep with her gold
earrings in her ears, and her new hat hanging by the side of her bed,
so that she might see it the moment she awoke in the morning, Sally,
with tears in her eyes, wrapt the bits of trumpery glass in paper, and
placed them carefully away. "She'll be hunting about for 'em soon,"
thought Sally, "and then I'll give 'em to her." But the Duchess never
sought, never asked for the common love-gift; it was worthless in her
eyes, being worthless in itself; she had gold earrings now, and
perhaps by-and-by--who could tell?--she would have earrings with
sparkling stones in them, worth a handful of money. For in the
Duchess's soul was growing a most intense hankering after fine things.
She would wander by herself away from Sally and Seth and Rosemary Lane
into the thoroughfares frequented by ladies and gentlemen, and watch
them and their dress and ways with an eager, strange, and restless
spirit. She saw children beautifully dressed riding in carriages; and,
yearning to be like them, would shed rebellious tears at the fate
which bound her to Rosemary Lane. It is not to be supposed that she
considered this matter as clearly as it is here briefly expressed; she
was not yet old enough to give it clear expression; but she felt it;
the seed of discontent was implanted within her, and grew for lack of
material and intellectual light. Intellectual light Seth Dumbrick
certainly did give the Duchess, but it was light of a kind which dazed
and confused her mental vision. The experiences of the man who mingles
freely with men, who shares their pleasures and sorrows, and even
their follies and foibles, are of infinitely higher value than those
of a solitary liver. Such an existence narrows the sympathies, and it
narrowed Seth's. The exercise of all the better feelings of his nature
was confined to the small circle which included only Sally and the
Duchess, and what of good he saw outside that boundary was evoked by
his love for these children of his adoption. Surrounded by these
influences the Duchess grew in years. Seth bestowed upon her the
fullest measure of affection, and he let her go her way. He placed no
restraint upon her; he demanded no sacrifice from her. He never
attended a place of worship, nor did she; he had his hard-and-fast
opinions upon religious matters, which, viewed in the light (or
darkness) of dogmatic belief, constituted him a materialist--an
accusation which, with a proper understanding of the term, he would
have indignantly denied. Thus, from month to month, and year to year,
Rosemary Lane passed through a routine of daily tasks and duties, so
dull as to weigh sorely and heavily upon the soul of the Duchess.
Colour was necessary to her existence, and she sought for it and
obtained it in other places. Stronger and stronger grew her passion
for wandering from the narrow to the wider spaces, where the life was
more in harmony with her desires, and so frequently and for so long a
time was she now absent that, on one occasion when she was missing
from morning till night, Seth took her to task for her truant
propensities.

"Do you want me to keep always in Rosemary Lane?" she inquired, with
her lovely blue eyes fixed full upon him.

"It would be best," was his reply.

"It doesn't matter to you," she said, "whether I stop at home or not;
there is nothing for me to do, and I sometimes feel that--that----"

Her eyes wandered round the cellar in dull discontent, and with
something of self-reproach, also, for the feeling which she strove but
could not find words to express.

"Well, my dear?" said Seth, patiently waiting for an explanation.

"Only this, guardian," she rejoined, "that I must go away when I like,
and that you mustn't stop me. If you do"--with a little laugh which
might mean anything or nothing--"I might run away altogether."

"Then there are other places," said Seth, after a short pause; he
found it necessary very often when conversing with the Duchess to
consider his words before he uttered them; "and other people that you
love better than us."

"Other places, not other people. I don't know any other people."

"You don't love Rosemary Lane, my dear," he said wistfully.

"What is there to love in it?" she replied, evading the question. "I
might love it less if I were not free to go from it when the fit
seizes me----"

"But you go always alone, my dear," he said, with a sigh, "and I am
afraid you might get into mischief."

"What mischief?" she asked, with innocent wonder in her face. "No one
would hurt me. Everybody is kind to me. But as you seem to care for
it, I'll take Sally with me now and then. So here's a kiss, guardian,
and we'll say no more about it."

Time ripened, but did not beautify Sally. Her figure was awkward and
ungainly, and her limbs had not the roundness or the grace of those of
the Duchess. Her face was at once too young and too old for her age;
you saw in it both the innocence and simplicity of the child and the
wary look of the woman of the world who knows that snares abound. Her
skin was as brown as a berry, and her form appeared lank and thin,
although she and the Duchess were of the same height. Undressing one
night, they stood, with bare shoulders, side by side, looking into the
glass. The contrast was very striking, and both saw and felt it, the
Duchess with a joyous palpitation because of her beauty, and Sally
with no repining because of her lack of it. The contrast was striking
even in the quality and fashion of their linen, Sally's being coarse,
and brown as the skin it covered, and the Duchess's being white and
fine, with delicate edgings about it.

"I don't believe," said Sally, with tender admiration, her brown arm
embracing the Duchess's white shoulder, "that there's another girl in
the world with such a skin, and such eyes, and altogether as pretty as
you are, Duchess."

"Do you really mean it, Sally?" asked the Duchess, as though the
observation were made for the first instead of the thousandth time.

"You know I do."

"I think you do," said the Duchess, showing her teeth of pearl. "But
if I were to say the same of myself, you'd say I was the vainest
instead of the prettiest girl that breathes."

"A girl can't help knowing she's pretty," said Sally philosophically;
she had imbibed much of the spirit and some of the peculiarities of
Seth's utterances, "if she is pretty; and can't help being glad of it.
As you are, of course, Duchess."

"Yes, I _am_ glad, Sally; I can't tell you how glad. I should be a
miserable girl if I were like----"

She paused suddenly, with a guilty blush, being about to say, "if I
were like you, Sally."

Sally smiled. "I don't doubt I should be glad if I had a skin as
white, and eyes as blue, and lips as red as yours; but for all that, I
don't seem to be sorry because I am ugly. For I _am_ very ugly!"

She gazed at the reflection of herself in the glass with eyes that
were almost merry, and despite her self-depreciation there was
something very attractive in her appearance. The grace of youth was
hers, and the kindliness and unselfishness of her nature imparted a
charm to her face which mere beauty of feature could not supply.

"You are not so very ugly," observed the Duchess.

"No?" questioned Sally.

"No. You are as good-looking as most of the girls in Rosemary Lane----"

"Leaving you out," interrupted Sally quickly.

"Yes," said the Duchess complacently, "leaving me out. Your
teeth are not white, but they are regular, and I like your mouth,
Sally"--kissing it--"though it is a little bit too large. Your hair
isn't as silky as mine----"

"Oh, no, Duchess, how could it be?"

"But it is longer and stronger; and as for your eyes, you have no idea
how they sparkle. They are full of fire."

"If a fairy was to come to me to-night," said Sally, delighted at the
Duchess's praises, "and give me wishes, I don't think I would have
myself changed."

"I know what I would wish for."

"What?"

"Silk dresses and furs and kid gloves and gold watches and chains and
bracelets; carriages and footmen and white dogs; flowers and fans and
lace pocket-handkerchiefs and----"

"Oh, my!" exclaimed Sally. "We shouldn't have room for them all.
Goodnight. I'm so sleepy."

The Duchess dreamt that all the things she wished for were hers, and
that she was a fine lady, driving in her carriage through Rosemary
Lane, with all the neighbours cheering and bowing to her.

In this way, and with this kind of teaching, the Duchess grew from
child to woman. And here for a time we drop the curtain. The silent
years, fraught with smiles and tears, roll on; for some the buds are
blossoming; for some the leaves are falling; the young look forward to
the sunny land they shall never reach; the old look back with sighs
upon days made happy by regret. And midst the triumph and the anguish,
the hope and fear, the joy and sorrow, Time, with passionless finger,
marks the record, and pushes us gently on towards the grave.



Part the Second.
THE WOMAN.



CHAPTER XX.


Certain pictures here present themselves in the shape of a medallion.

In the centre is the portrait of a beautiful girl-woman, as tall to
many a man with an eye for beauty as Rosalind was to Orlando; with
limbs perfectly moulded; with white and shapely hands; with flaxen
wavy hair and blue eyes tempered by a shade of silver grey; with teeth
that are almost transparent in their pearliness, and in whose fair
face youth's roses  are blooming. This is the Duchess of Rosemary
Lane, in the springtime of her life.

Around the portrait of this girl-woman are certain others, associated
with her by sympathetic links, not all of which are in active play or
in harmony with her being.

The picture of one in whose cheeks, although she is but little over
twenty years of age, no roses are blooming. Her cheeks are sallow, and
wanting in flesh, her limbs are thin and ungraceful, her long black
hair has not a wave in it, her hands are large and coarse from too
much work. But her eyes are beautiful, and have in them the almost
pathetic light which is frequently seen in the eyes of a faithful dog.
This is Sally, grown to womanhood.

The picture of a working man, with large features, overhanging
forehead, and great grey eyes, all out of harmony with one another.
His hands are hard and horny, his chin is unshaven, and his hair is
almost white. This is Seth Dumbrick, going down the hill of life.

The picture of a woman, working in an attic in a poor neighbourhood,
within a mile of Rosemary Lane. Her fingers are long and supple,
streaks of silver are in her hair, and she has "quite a genteel
figure," according to the dictum of her neighbours, who are led to
that opinion by the circumstance of the woman being thin and graceful.
She is cunning with the needle, as the saying is, but not so cunning
as to be able by its aid to butter her bread at every meal; therefore,
very often she eats it dry. She is not contented; she is not resigned;
but she does not openly repine. She is merely passive. The fire and
enthusiasm of life are not dead within her soul, but by the exercise
of a hidden force, she keeps all traces of it from the eye of man; she
has dreams, but no human being shares them with her, or knows of them.
She speaks in a calm even tone, and her voice is low and sweet, but if
it expresses feeling or passion, the expression springs from a quality
belonging to itself, and not from the revealed emotions of the
speaker. She works hard from morning till night in a dull, listless
fashion, performing her task conscientiously, and receiving at the end
of the week, without thanks or murmurs, the pitiful payment for so
many thousands of yards of stitches from the hands of a man who lives
in a great house in Lancaster Gate and keeps a score of servants, and
a dozen horses in his town stables. This man is a contractor, and he
fattens on misery. He will undertake to clothe twenty thousand men in
a month, and patient, weak-eyed women who can scarcely get shoes to
their feet are working for him, upon starvation wages, through the
weary watches of the night. From their poverty and misery comes the
wherewithal to pay for his wine and his horses and his fine linen. He
was not born to riches; in his earlier years he experienced severe
hardships, and frequently had to live on a crust. Those times are
gone, never to return, and, strange to say, he has, in his present
high state, no feeling of compassion for his once comrades who are
suffering as he suffered, and who cannot escape from their bondage.
Then he was glad to eat his bread and meat, when he could get it, with
the help of a pocket-knife and his fingers; now he can dine off gold
plate if he chooses. There is a well-known saying that there is a tide
in the affairs of man, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
It is a popular fallacy. Such a tide, with such a golden prize in its
flood, comes to not one man in a thousand, but it came to the
contractor for whom this woman works, and he took it at its flood. He
worked his way from small contracts to large, from large to larger.
Having been ground down himself when he was a young man, his sole aim
in the execution of his contracts was to grind others down, so that
his margin of profit would be broader. It was the truest political
economy. Buy in the cheapest market. And if you can by any means in
your power,--by any system of grinding-down, by any exercise of
terrorism over helpless people who, being unable without your aid to
obtain half a loaf in payment for their labour, snatch at the quarter
of a loaf you hold out to them (being from necessity compelled to keep
some life in their bodies)--if you can by any of these means cheapen
still further the cheapest market, do so. Success will attend you, and
the world, worshipping success, will look on and approve. An article
is only worth what it will fetch in the market, and labour is worth no
more than it receives. Such, for instance, as the labour of this
needlewoman, who works for sixteen hours out of the twenty-four, and
cannot get butter for her bread. Meantime, while she, the type of a
class, labours and starves, the contractor, out of her weary stitches,
shall die worth a plum, and a costly tombstone shall record his
virtues. He pays regularly, to be sure, but you must not defraud him
of a stitch. He gives the women constant employment, for in addition
to being a Government contractor, he is a large exporter of ready-made
clothing. She has worked for him for twelve years. Presenting herself
one morning in answer to an advertisement for needlewomen, in company
with a hundred other females who had labour to sell and no bread to
eat, he happened to pass through the office when her turn came to be
called. Although she had been one of the earliest arrivals among the
crowd of anxious applicants, she was the last of them all. Not having
the strength to push her way to the front, she had been hustled to the
rear, and bore the unfair treatment without a murmur. It was the way
of the world. The weakest to the wall.

"Name?" said the clerk.

"Mrs. Lenoir."

The contractor paused at the desk by the side of his clerk, and
looked at the applicant in a careless way, perhaps attracted to her
because her voice was softer than he was accustomed to hear from his
workpeople.

"French?" inquired the clerk.

"Yes, it is a French name."

"Yourself, I mean," said the clerk testily. "Are you French?"

"I am an English lady."

"Eh?" cried the contractor, in a harsh tone.

"I beg your pardon. I am an English woman."

"O," said the contractor, somewhat mollified.

"Married?" pursued the clerk, glancing at Mrs. Lenoir's left hand.

"My husband--" pausing, and gazing around uneasily.

"Your husband--" prompted the clerk.

"Is dead."

"Children?"

A quivering of the lips, which grew suddenly white. This, however, was
not apparent to the clerk, for Mrs. Lenoir wore a veil, and did not
raise it.

"Children?" repeated the clerk.

"I have none."

"References?"

She paused before she replied, and then slowly said:

"I was not aware that references were necessary."

To the clerk's surprise the contractor took up the burden
of the inquiry.

"We are very particular," he said, with a frown, "about the character
of the persons we employ, and references, therefore, _are_ necessary."

"I did not know," said Mrs. Lenoir, in so low a tone that the words
scarcely reached their ears; and turned to depart.

"Stop a moment," said the contractor; "what did you come here for?"

"For work," with a motion of the hands, deprecating the question as
unnecessary.

"You want it?"

"Else I should not be here."

It by no means displeased the contractor that this woman, suing to him
for work, should unconsciously have adopted in her last reply an air
of haughtiness.

"You want work badly, I infer?"

"I want it badly."

"You have applied elsewhere?"

"I have."

"Unsuccessfully?"

"Unsuccessfully."

"From what cause?"

"I do not know."

"You have no other means of support?"

"None."

"If you are unsuccessful in this application, what will you do?"

Mrs. Lenoir did not reply to this question. Had the contractor known
what was in the woman's mind, he would have been startled out of his
propriety. She had been in London for nearly six months, and although
she had been indefatigable in her endeavours, had not succeeded in
obtaining a day's work. All her resources were exhausted, and she saw
nothing but starvation before her. She was wearied and sick with
trying, and she pined for rest or work. She must obtain either the one
or the other. A vague fear oppressed her that if she were unsuccessful
in this application she would be compelled, when the night came, to
walk to the river, and gaze upon the restful waters. Then the end
would come; she felt that she had not strength to resist it.

The contractor resumed his questioning; it was a kind of angling he
seemed to enjoy.

"Have you no friends?"

"No."

"Relatives?"

"No."

"Money?"

"No."

"You are alone in the world?"

"I am alone in the world."

"Then if I employ you, I should be your only friend?"

"I suppose so."

"As a rule," proceeded the contractor, "we do not employ ladies in
this establishment, which gives employment to----how many persons do I
give employment to, Mr. Williams?" addressing the clerk.

"There are eleven hundred and seventy-two names upon the books, sir."

The hard taskmaster nodded his head with exceeding satisfaction.

"I provide bread for eleven hundred and seventy-two persons, and by
to-morrow this number will be increased by two hundred. I have given
employment to over two thousand persons at one time, I believe, Mr.
Williams?"

"You have, sir."

"And shall do so again, I have no doubt, before long. To repeat, I do
not employ ladies in this establishment. Common girls and women are
good enough for me--and bad enough. For there is absolutely no
gratitude to be found among the poorer classes, absolutely no
gratitude; not a particle."

This was said with so distinct an assertion of never having belonged
to the working classes, and of their small capacity for good and their
large capacity for evil, that it would have been remarkable were it
not common. There is no greater autocrat than the democrat when he
rises to power. There is no stronger despiser of the poor than the
poor man when he rises to wealth.

"I shall be grateful if you will give me employment," said Mrs.
Lenoir.

"You agree with me in what I say?"

"Certainly, sir."

It was a sure truth that her mind was a blank as to the value of his
words, and that she said she agreed with him from a kind of instinct
that by doing so her interest would be better served.

"And you are a lady," he said pompously.

"I ask your pardon," she said, faltering, "the word slipped from me."

"What you may have been has nothing to do with what you are. You are
not a lady now, you know."

"I know, sir."

"Lenoir is not an English name, and that is why Mr. Williams asked if
you were French. I keep a strict record of the antecedents of all
persons I employ, so far as I am able to obtain them. It is my
system, and that is the reason," he said, graciously explaining,
"of so many questions being asked. I have a gift in my power to
bestow--employment--and only the deserving should receive it. I have
been deceived frequently, but it is not the fault of the system that
the poorer classes are given to falsehood. The record has proved
valuable, in instances--valuable to the police, who, through my books,
which are always open to them, have traced persons who were wanted for
crimes, and who have imposed upon me by obtaining employment at this
establishment. The last remarkable case was that of a woman who was
wanted for child-murder. Correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Williams."

"You are stating the exact facts, sir."

"I went to the trial. The wretched woman, who was sentenced to death,
had nothing to say in her defence, absolutely nothing, except that she
had been betrayed and deserted, and that she had committed the act in
a fit of distraction. Betrayed and deserted!" he exclaimed harshly,
adding still another stone to the many he had flung during the days of
his prosperity at all classes of unfortunates. "My judgment teaches me
that it is the woman who betrays the man, not the man who betrays the
woman. This woman was traced through her handwriting in my books, for
all who work for me are expected to sign their names. You have been
well educated, doubtless."

Mrs. Lenoir gave a silent assent, and the contractor waved his hand
with a motion, which expressed, "I will not reproach you because you
have been well educated, and have come down in the world." As he waved
his hand, he was struck by the circumstance that while he was airing
his views to Mrs. Lenoir, she had kept her veil down, and he said
stiffly.

"It is usual for persons applying for employment to come unveiled."

Mrs. Lenoir raised her veil, and disclosed a face inexpressibly sad,
and which in years gone by had been surpassingly beautiful. Deathly
pale as she was--but this may have been produced by a recent
emotion--traces of rare beauty still remained, and signs of refinement
and delicacy were clearly depicted upon the face revealed to the two
men in the dingy office. Even Mr. Williams, who had worked at a desk
for forty years, and was not given to sentiment, was ready to admit
that this was an interesting experience.

"Without husband, children, friends or money," said the contractor,
betraying in his slightly altered tone some newly-born feeling of
deference for the applicant. "I will give you employment. Mr.
Williams, I will take the responsibility of this case upon myself.
Mrs. Lenoir can sign the book."

He watched the tremulous signing of the name, Louise Lenoir, and noted
the whiteness of the hand that wrote it, with undisguised curiosity,
and then Mrs. Lenoir, receiving her order for so many yards of
material, took her departure. From that day it became in some way an
understanding that whatever changes were made from time to time in the
number of workpeople on the establishment, Mrs. Lenoir's services were
always to be retained. For twelve years had she been employed by the
firm, and had been found faithful and attentive to her duties, the
performance of which provided her with the barest subsistence. The
contractor, during those years, never omitted to address a few words
to her if he happened to see her in Mr. Williams's dingy office. Once
she was sick, and unable to work, and this coming to his ears, he sent
her provisions and a small sum of money. What sympathetic chord in his
nature Mrs. Lenoir had touched was a mystery which he did not, perhaps
could not, reveal. It may have pleased him that she, a lady, as he was
satisfied in his mind she was, should be dependent upon him for
subsistence. He made use of her occasionally at his dinner-parties at
Lancaster Gate--for this once common man entertained the magnates of
the land--when some phase of social politics was being discussed,
referring to the circumstance that among his workpeople was a lady who
earned probably twelve shillings a week, and whose beauty and
education would in her earlier days have fitted her for a duke's
establishment.

She sits now in her poorly furnished attic, stitching steadily through
the hours. It is not contractor's work upon which her fingers are
busy. She is finishing a girl's dress, and appears to take more than
ordinary interest in her work. It is twelve o'clock at night before
the last stitches are put in. She sets aside her needle and thread and
spreading the dress upon her bed, gazes upon it in silence for many
minutes, standing with her thin white fingers interlaced before her.
Once or twice she pats it softly as though it contained a living form,
and once she kneels by the bed, and buries her face in the soft folds
of the dress, kissing it, and shedding quiet tears upon it. Presently
she rises with a sigh, and folding the dress over her arm, steps
softly downstairs. The house is still and quiet, not a soul but
herself is stirring. She pauses at a door on the second landing, and
listens, hearing no sound.

"May I come in?" she whispers.

There is no reply, and she turns the handle of the door.

"Oh, who is there?" cries a frightened voice in the dark.

"It is only I, Lizzie," replies Mrs. Lenoir; "I have finished your
dress."

The female leaps from the bed with an exclamation of delight, and
quickly lights a candle. Then it is seen that the room is but slightly
better furnished than that of Mrs. Lenoir, and that its female
occupant is young and fair.

"I left my door unlocked," says the girl, "because you said the dress
would be finished some time to-night. I thought you would bring it in.
How good of you, Mrs. Lenoir!"

A graceful figure has Lizzie, and bright and full of joy are the eyes
which gaze upon the dress. It is a silver-grey barege, soft and
pretty, with ribbons and bits of lace and everything else about it
that art and fancy can devise to render it attractive. Early to-morrow
morning Lizzie starts for an excursion into the country--an excursion
lasting from morning to night--and as Some One who is constantly in
Lizzie's thoughts is to be there, she has a very particular desire to
appear to the best advantage.

"How good of you, Mrs. Lenoir," she repeats; "may I try it on?"

"Yes, Lizzie, if you are not too sleepy."

Lizzie laughs blithely. Too sleepy for such a task! The idea! At her
age, and with such love in her heart for Some One who is at this very
moment thinking of her!

Mrs. Lenoir assists her with the dress, and pulls it out here, and
smoothes it there, while Lizzie, with innocent vanity, surveys herself
in the glass. The delighted girl throws her arm round Mrs. Lenoir's
neck, and kisses her rapturously.

"No one in the world can make a dress like you, Mrs. Lenoir!"

A singular contrast are these two females, who by their ages might be
mother and daughter; but there is really no kinship between them. The
girl so glowing, so full of happiness  the woman so sombre, so fraught
with sadness. The girl, all sparkle and animation; the woman with not
a smile upon her face.

"It fits you perfectly, Lizzie."

"It's the loveliest, loveliest dress that ever was seen! How can I
thank you?"

If passion found a place in Mrs. Lenoir's breast, it found none in her
face.

"I want no thanks, Lizzie; it was a pleasure to me to make the dress
for you. Let me sit by your bedside a little--in the dark. Take off
the dress; I am glad you like it--there, that will do. Now jump into
bed. You have to get up early in the morning."

She arranges the dress over the back of a chair, and blowing out the
light, sits by the bed in darkness.

"I don't think I shall sleep any more to-night, Mrs. Lenoir."

"Yes, you will, Lizzie. Sleep comes to the young and happy."

"You speak so sadly--but it is your way."

"Yes, Lizzie, it is my way."

"You don't sleep well yourself, Mrs. Lenoir."

"Not always."

"It must be dreadful not to be able to sleep. One has such happy
dreams. Do not you?"

"I dream but seldom, Lizzie; and when I do, I wake up with the prayer
that I had died in my sleep. When I was as young as you, I used to
have happy dreams, but they never came true."

"I wish I could do something to make you feel less sorrowful," says
Lizzie, overflowing with pity and gratitude.

"You can do nothing, Lizzie. When you are married----"

"O, Mrs. Lenoir!"

"As I hope you will be soon, I will make you a prettier dress than
this."

"It's not possible--nothing _could_ be prettier."

"Charles--your lover, Lizzie--is not much older than you."

"Oh, yes, he is; ever so much! I am nearly nineteen; he is
twenty-three."

"He truly loves you, Lizzie?"

"Truly, truly. I think no one ever loved as much. Am I not a fortunate
girl! When I am working--you don't mind my rattling on?"

"Say what is in your heart, Lizzie."

"When I am at work, I whisper to myself, 'Charlie! Charlie!' and I
talk to him just as though he was next to me. And Charlie tells me he
does the same by me--so that we're always together. The moon is
shining through the window, Mrs. Lenoir. Is it a watery moon? Go and
see if it is sure to be fine to morrow."

Mrs. Lenoir goes to the window and draws the curtain aside. A shudder
passes over her as she sees how bright and clear and beautiful the
night is.

"Is it a fine night, Mrs. Lenoir?"

"Clear and bright, Lizzie. There is no sign of rain. To-morrow will be
a lovely day."

"I am so happy!"

Mrs. Lenoir resumes her seat by the bedside.

"Do not take any notice of me, Lizzie. I will sit here quite quietly,
and when you are asleep, I will go to my room."

So long a silence follows--or it seems so long to the happy girl--that
she falls into a doze, to be but partially aroused by Mrs. Lenoir's
voice, calling very softly:

"Lizzie!"

"Yes, Charlie!" Thus betraying herself.

"It is not Charlie; it is I, Mrs. Lenoir."

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Mrs. Lenoir. What a foolish girl you must
think me--and how ungrateful!"

"Not at all, Lizzie; it is I who am inconsiderate in keeping you
awake. I will say goodnight."

"No, no," cries Lizzie, understanding instinctively the woman's need
for sympathy, "don't go, or I shall think you are angry. You were
going to speak to me."

The girl raises her arm, and draws Mrs. Lenoir's head to her pillow.
"Remember, I have no mother." She presses her lips to Mrs. Lenoir's
face, which is wet with tears. "Mrs. Lenoir, you have been crying."

"It is nothing, Lizzie; I often cry when I am alone."

"But you are not alone now; I am with you, and I love you."

"It is kind of you to say so; you are in the mood to love, and to
believe all things fair and good."

"And do not you believe so, Mrs. Lenoir?"

"Once I did. There was a time----" What reminiscence was in the
speaker's mind remained there unexpressed. "Lizzie, you lost your
mother when you were a child."

"Yes."

"How old were you when she died?"

"Not quite five years."

"And you remember her?"

"Yes."

"With love?"

"Oh, yes."

"If," says Mrs. Lenoir, with almost painful hesitation, "she had died,
or you had lost her earlier, do you think you would have forgotten
her?"

"Oh, no, Mrs. Lenoir; I should have always remembered her, have always
loved her."

"She was kind to you Lizzie."

"She loved me more than all the world."

"You mean," says Mrs. Lenoir, with fierce eagerness, "she loved as a
mother loves, as a woman loves--as only a woman loves!"

"Mrs. Lenoir," asks Lizzie slowly, "do not men love as faithfully as
women?"

"Ask your own heart. You love Charlie and he loves you. Which do you
suppose is the stronger love, the most constant, the most likely to
endure?"

"I do not know," replies Lizzie, her sadder tone denoting that Mrs.
Lenoir's sadness is contagious. "I do not want to think that Charlie's
love is not as strong as mine, and yet--and yet--I do not believe he
can love me as much as I love him."

"It need not distress you, Lizzie, to think so; it is in the nature of
things. It is impossible for a man to love with the whole soul as a
woman loves--often, alas! unhappily for her."

"And often, too, happily for her," remonstrates Lizzie, with sudden
and tender cheerfulness. "A moment ago I felt inclined to regret the
thought you put into my mind--that a woman's love is naturally
stronger than a man's; but when I think of it, as I am thinking now, I
would not have it altered if I could. It is far better for us that it
should be so. If I loved Charlie less, I should be less happy; and it
makes me glad to think that I can give him more love than he can give
me."

"God forbid," says Mrs. Lenoir, "that I should endeavour to shake your
faith in Charlie. I was speaking out of the experience of a woman with
whose sad history I am acquainted. I am tired, Lizzie. Good night. A
happy day to-morrow!"

But Lizzie's fond arms cling to Mrs. Lenoir's neck; she is loth to let
her go without obtaining from her a mark of affection which has been
withheld.

"Mrs. Lenoir, I have kissed you twenty times."

"Well, Lizzie."

"And will kiss you twenty times more--there, and there, there! O, Mrs.
Lenoir, will you not give me one kiss?--you have not kissed me once."

Mrs. Lenoir gently extricates herself from Lizzie's affectionate
embrace.

"I made a vow years ago, Lizzie, never to press my lips to human face
until I met with one that my eyes may never behold. Good night."



CHAPTER XXI.


Still another picture. This one on the sea, to give variety to the
group.

A fresh breeze is blowing, the white sails are full, and a noble
vessel--the _Blue Jacket_, a famous clipper--is ploughing her way
through the snow-crested waves. Holding on to the bulwarks, a lad,
scarcely eighteen years of age, is gazing now into the billowy depths
into which they are descending, now to the curling heights up and over
which the ship is sailing. A rapture of delight dwells in his great
spiritual eyes, and a flush rises to his pale and pensive face, as he
gazes on the wonders of the deep. His heart is pulsing with worship of
the beautiful, and with his inner sight he sees what is hidden from
many. The breeze brings to him musical and thrilling whispers; the
laughing, joyous waters teem with images of spiritual loveliness.

By his side, gazing also into the water's depths, and holding on to a
rope with a stronger and more careless grip, stands a man whose years
exceed two score. A handsome, strongly-built man, with a mole on his
right temple which adds to rather than detracts from his beauty. That
he is of a commoner order than the lad by whose side he stands is
clearly apparent; yet he is one in whom the majority of women would
instinctively take a deeper interest because of his riper development
and the larger power expressed in him. His features are wanting in the
refinement and delicacy which characterise his young companion, but
they have boldness and fulness which, allied with good proportion,
possess a special and individual attraction of their own.

The young gentleman's name is Arthur Temple; the name of his valet is
Ned Chester; and the ship is ploughing her way to England's shores.

What the lad sees in the restless, laughing waters is created by his
poetical nature. What the man sees is the issue of an actual
experience in the past. In the lad's dreams there is no thread of
connection: images of beauty appear and disappear; slowly form
themselves, and fade as slowly away; and are not repeated. In the
man's, one face is always present, and always visible to his fancy;
the face of a beautiful child, whose eyes rival heaven's brightest
blue, whose cheeks are blooming with roses, whose head is covered with
clusters of golden curls.

A word of retrospect is necessary.

The lad is the only child, by his wife, Lady Temple, of Mr. Temple, a
name famous in the superior Law Courts of England, a gentleman of
wealth, distinction, and high position in the land. From his birth,
Arthur Temple has been the object of the most anxious and devoted care
of his parents--the devotion mainly springing from the mother's
breast, the anxiety from the father's. Not that the father was wanting
in love. On the contrary. As much love as it was in his nature to
bestow, he bestowed upon his son. But it was not like the mother's
love, purely unselfish; it was alloyed with personal ambition, and was
consequently of a coarser grain. From a delicate babe, Arthur Temple
grew into a delicate boy--so delicate that his life often hung upon a
thread, as ordinary people express it, and he was not sent to a public
school for his education. The best private tutors were obtained for
him, and the lad showed an eager desire to acquire what they were
engaged to teach. But his mental vigour ran ahead of his physical
power, and the physicians ordered that his studies should be
discontinued. "His brain is too wakeful," they said, "his nerves too
sensitive. The difficulty will be not to make him study, but to keep
him from it." So it turned out. Free from the trammels of enforced
study, and left to follow his own inclination, the lad flew to the
books most congenial to his nature, and learnt from them what he most
desired to learn. The intellectual power apparent in the lad delighted
his father as much as his lack of physical strength distressed him.
Mr. Temple's ambition was various. Wealth he loved for the sake of the
luxury and ease it conferred; power he coveted, and coveted the more
as he rose, for its own sake, and because it placed him above his
fellows, and gave him control over them; but beyond all, his chief
ambition was to found a family, which should be famous in the land. To
the accomplishment of this end two things were necessary: the first,
that he himself should become famous, and should amass much wealth;
the second, that his son--his only child--should marry, and have
children. In the first, he was successful. It is not necessary to
inquire by what means--whether by superior talent, by tact, by
industry, or by force of patronage--he rose to power, and passed men
in the race who at least were equal with himself. The fact is
sufficient; he rose above them, and it was acknowledged that the
highest prize in his profession might one day be his.

This is an envious world. As worshippers of the successful and
powerful are everywhere to be found, so are detractors, and men who by
innuendoes throw dirt at those who occupy the best seats. But whatever
might be said to his detraction by the envious few, he was quoted in
public as a man of rare virtues and integrity. The public prints never
neglected an opportunity to point a moral by means of his example.
They never tired of quoting his stainless life, his probity, his
righteous conduct as an administrator of justice, and holding him
forth as a practical illustration of the highest qualities of human
nature. It cannot be denied that he, by his conduct, contributed to
this result. There was manifest in him a distinct assertion to the
possession of spotless honour and blamelessness; so pure a man was he
that he had no pity for human failings; that "earthly power doth then
show likest God's when mercy seasons justice," found no assenting
response within his breast. Woe to the fallen wretches who appeared
before him for judgment; he gave them their deservings, with no
compassionate regard of the tangled, dirt-stained roads they had been
compelled to travel. His stern manner said, "Look upon me. Have I
fallen? Why, then, have you?" And in his addresses to criminals when
passing sentence, he frequently embodied this in words--whereupon the
world would rejoice that the law had such an interpreter, justice such
a champion. All other things, therefore, being smooth before him, the
full accomplishment of his dearest ambition hung upon the health of
his only child, and he experienced the keenest anxiety in the
circumstance that as the lad grew in years, he failed in strength. At
the age of sixteen, Arthur Temple was a pale, dreamy stripling, full
of fine fancies, and sensitive to a fault. The physicians spoke
gravely of his condition.

"There is but one chance of his attaining manhood," they said; "a
complete change must be effected in his life. He must travel. Not on
the Continent, or in cities where money can purchase the indulgences
of existence. A long sea-voyage in a sailing vessel, to the other end
of the world. A sojourn there of twelve or eighteen months. Then home
again, with blood thickened, and bones well set."

"But if he should die!" exclaimed the anxious mother, distracted at
the thought of parting with her darling.

"He may," replied the physicians; "but there, at all events, he has a
chance of living. Keep him at home, and you condemn him to certain
death."

After this there was, of course, nothing to be said, and preparations
were made for the lad's temporary exile. Arthur received the news with
joy. It was the realisation of a cherished dream. He felt like a
knight-errant going out in search of romantic adventures. The glad
anticipation made his step lighter, his manner cheerier.

"He is better already," said the physicians.

The difficulty was to find a companion for him. His father's
professional duties would not permit of his leaving England; his
mother's health was too delicate. The need was supplied by the younger
member of a family of rank and distinction, who, with his family, was
going out to settle in the new land across the seas. Into their care
Arthur Temple was given. Before he left England, his father conversed
privately and seriously with the lad, and in some part made a
disclosure of his views of the future. Arthur listened with respect
and attention; he had a sincere regard for his father, although
between their natures existed an undefinable barrier which prevented
the perfect merging of their sympathies.

"You are my one only hope," said Mr. Temple to his son; "but for you,
all the honours I have gained would be valueless in my eyes. Get
strong, for your mother's sake and mine, and come home to take your
proper position in society--a position which I have made for you,
and which you will worthily sustain. You have yet to choose your
career--it will be politics, I hope; it opens out the widest field to
a young man of wealth and talent. Before I die, I may see my boy in
office."

Arthur shook his head. He had his dreams of the path in which he would
choose to walk; the pen should be the weapon by means of which he
would carve his way to fame. He expressed his hope, with a boy's
timidity and bashfulness, to his father, who was too wise to fan the
fire by a show of opposition.'

"All that is in the future," he said; "your first care is to get
strong."

This conference between father and son was one of solemnity to the
lad; he was going on a long voyage, and he and his father might never
meet again; there was a thought in his mind to which he was impelled
to give utterance.

"Be sure of one thing, sir," he said, gazing steadily with his
truthful eyes into his father's face, "whatever occurs, in whatever
groove my life may run, I shall never do anything to disgrace the name
of Temple."

"My dear lad!" murmured his father.

"Whatever career I adopt," said the lad, with a heightened colour, "I
solemnly promise always and for ever to set right and justice before
me, and to be guided by their light."

His right hand was slightly raised as he spoke, and he looked upwards,
as though he were registering a vow. The words were the outcome of his
truthful nature, and were a fit utterance at such a time and under
such circumstances.

"If I believed," continued the lad, "that it were possible I should
ever commit an act which would reflect shame upon the name we bear, I
should pray to die to-night. I should not be happy if I went away
without giving you this assurance. Believe me, sir, I will be worthy
of the trust you repose in me."

Mr. Temple received this assurance with averted head. He was
accustomed to boyish outbursts from his son, but this last bore with
it, in its more earnest tones, a deeper signification than usual.

"You afford me great pleasure, Arthur," he said slowly; "I am sure I
shall not be disappointed in you. Yet you must not forget that, in the
practical issues of life, sentiment must occasionally be set aside."

The lad pondered for a few moments, saying then:

"I do not quite understand you, sir."

Mr. Temple briefly explained his meaning.

"Merely, my son, that the circumstances of life frequently call for
the exercise of wisdom, and that we must look carefully to the results
of our actions."

Arthur Temple was always ready for an argument.

"I do not know how I should act if wisdom and sentiment clashed. I
have heard you say I am given to sentiment."

"Yes, Arthur; but you are young."

"I hope never to alter, sir. What I intended fully to say was this:
that if a matter were before me in which wisdom and sentiment clashed,
I do not know how I should act. But I do know how I should act in a
matter where wisdom and justice pulled different ways. I may not
always be wise; I should despise myself if I suspected that I should
not always be just. Had I to choose between a wise and a just man, I
know whose hand I should take. Why, sir, it enters into my love for
you"--his arm here stole around his father's shoulder--"that I know
you to be a just man, incapable of a base or mean action! I will
follow in your footsteps; the example you have set me shall not be
thrown away."

The conversation was then continued in another strain, and shortly
afterwards Arthur Temple bade his parents farewell, and started for
the New World. From the moment the lad placed his foot upon the vessel
which conveyed him from his native land, it seemed as though he were
animated by a new life. The lassitude and languor which had weighed
upon him were blown away by the fresh breezes that swept across the
seas; his pulses beat more briskly, his blood flowed through his veins
with fuller force. The pale, sickly lad whose feeble health had but
yesterday caused his parents so much anxiety, became drunk with animal
spirits, and was the life and soul of the ship. He had his quiet
hours, when he would sit in happy silent communion with the spirit of
beauty which touched every natural effect in air and sea with heavenly
colour, which whispered to him in the silence of the night, when the
stars shone peacefully on the waters, and in the storm, when fierce
winds lashed the seas to fury. There was exhibited in him that
combination of forces which is the special attribute of some
highly-strung sensitive natures: a wild riot of animal spirits which
compelled him to become the noisiest and foremost in every noisy crew,
and a calm, spiritual repose which demanded perfect peacefulness of
body and soul. In the New World, he passed a happy time. His name and
his father's position and reputation in the home-land were sufficient
to ensure him a welcome in every circle, and the rare qualities he
displayed endeared him to all with whom he came into association.
Wherever he travelled he heard his father spoken of with honour and
respect, as a just man and a just judge; and this oft-repeated
experience caused him intense pleasure. He grew prouder than ever of
his father's good name, and stronger than ever in his resolve to
emulate him. It was during this temporary absence from home that he
met and engaged Ned Chester for his valet.

Ned's career in the Australias had been one of adventure, and it had
made him a jack of all trades and master of none. He had been by turns
a stone-breaker, an auctioneer, a splitter of wood, a storekeeper, a
shepherd, many times a gold-digger, a newspaper runner, and Heaven
knows what besides. Had he been ordinarily industrious, he would most
certainly have verified his mother's prediction that he would one day
achieve sudden fortune--saying nothing of honour; but his love of
indolence was incurable. His slips 'twixt cup and lip were numerous.
Having in a tipsy fit purchased a piece of land for a song at a
government land sale, he found himself, by reason of his
disinclination for work, compelled to dispose of it, and he sold it--a
day too soon. Twenty-four hours after it passed from his hands, rich
deposits of gold were discovered in its vicinity, and the allotment
was worth thousands of pounds. He sunk a shaft on a gold-lead, and
having obtained fifty ounces of gold, "went on the spree" till every
shilling was spent. When he returned to his shaft he found it in
possession of a party of miners, each of whom was making ten ounces a
day out of it. He had by the mining laws forfeited all claim to it by
his desertion. This run of misfortune, as he termed it, followed him
all through his career, and he failed to see that he was in any way
accountable for it. Truth compels the further admission that he made
the acquaintance of the interior of some colonial prisons, and that in
the entire record of his experiences there was little that redounded
to his credit. Strange, however, to state that in the midst of the
lawlessness that prevails in all new communities, tempting to excess
those whose passions are difficult to control, Ned Chester's besetting
sin of intemperance which threatened to cut short his life in the Old
Country lessened instead of gained in strength. And almost as strange
is the fact that, with some indefinite idea that he would one day be
called upon to play a gentleman's part in life, he endeavoured to fit
himself, by reading and in manners, for this shadowy framework; with
so much success as to cause him occasionally to be sneered at by his
equals as a "stuck-up swell," a species of abuse which afforded him
infinite satisfaction. Undoubtedly, the tenderness with which he held
in remembrance the beautiful child-Duchess of Rosemary Lane was the
leading incentive to this partial reformation. Her face and pretty
figure were constantly before him, and constituted the tenderest
episode in his past life--the only tender one indeed, for any love he
may have felt for his devoted mother was so alloyed with rank
selfishness as to be utterly valueless. As the years rolled on,
thoughts travelled apace, and with them he saw the child-Duchess
growing to womanhood--to beautiful womanhood. Then began to creep upon
him a thirst to see her, and to be with her--a thirst which increased
in intensity the more he dwelt upon his wish. The circumstance that
kept them apart was to his sense monstrous. She was his--by what
right, or if by any, mattered not; she was his, and he was hers; they
belonged to each other. But by this time fortune seemed to have
entirely deserted him, and he had settled into a from-hand-to-mouth
vagabond condition of life which was destructive of every chance of
crossing the seas with a shilling in his pocket. At this point of his
career chance brought him into communication with Arthur Temple. He
had taken service, under an assumed name, as a shepherd, an occupation
which gave full scope to his indolent habits, and he was lying on the
hills on a summer day, while through an adjacent forest of iron and
silver bark trees, Arthur Temple was cantering, in high spirits. The
subtle invisible links which draw lives into fatal connection with one
another are too strange and mysterious for human comprehension.
Between these two men, unconscious of each other's existence,
stretched the link which was to bind them in one mesh thousands of
miles across the seas, wherefrom other links were stretching to draw
them homewards. Ned Chester, lying on the hill, in gloomy abstraction
hitched from his pocket a common tin whistle, and began to play his
sorrows through the keys. This one accomplishment had never deserted
him; the cheap and common instrument became in his hands a divine
medium for sweetest melody. The music reached the ears of Arthur
Temple as he rode through the silent woods, and he reined in his
horse, and listened. He was alone, making his way to the home station
of the rich squatter who employed Ned Chester, and the music stirred
his poetic mind. He wove from it romantic fancies; it peopled the
woods with beautiful images; it made the stillness eloquent. He rode
on to meet it, prepared for any surprise, in the shape of delicate
nymph or sprite, and came upon a shabbily-dressed man, with a
fortnight's beard on him, playing with dirty coarse fingers upon the
keys of a common tin whistle. Ned Chester ceased, and gazed at the
newcomer. He saw that he was a gentleman, and he ground his teeth with
envy; but he gave no expression to the sentiment. Arthur Temple opened
the ball.

"It _is_ you who were playing?"

"Yes."

"On that?" eyeing the tin whistle with intense interest.

"Yes; on this."

"Will you play again for me?"

"I don't mind."

Ned placed the whistle to his lips, and played a simple Scotch air,
improvising on the theme with rare skill; his organ of love of
approbation was very large.

"Beautiful!" said Arthur Temple. "You have been taught in a good
school."

In the slight laugh with which Ned Chester met this assertion was
conveyed a suddenly-born reproach against society for having
overlooked such superlative talent as he possessed.

"I was taught in no school." Adding proudly, "What I know, I picked up
myself."

Arthur Temple corrected himself, "In the school of nature."

"May be."

"What are you?"

"A shepherd--at present."

"You have not been always a shepherd."

"Oh, no;" with an assumption of having seen considerably better times
and of moving in a much better position.

"What makes you a shepherd, then?"

"A man must live."

"I beg your pardon," said Arthur, with a sensitive flush. "Are you in
Mr. Fitzherbert's employment?"

Mr. Fitzherbert was the name of the squatter for whose home station he
was bound, with letters of introduction.

"Yes," replied Ned Chester.

"I have come on a visit to him. Can you direct me to his place?"

"Over the hill yonder you will see a wagon track. It will take you
straight to the house."

"Thank you." Arthur, about to depart, suddenly bethought himself. The
musician was poor--was a shepherd from necessity. He took his purse
from his pocket; a bank-note fluttered in his fingers. He held it
towards Ned. Under ordinary circumstances Ned would have had no
hesitation in accepting the gratuity, but as his eyes met the earnest
eyes of Arthur Temple, a happy inspiration inspired him to refuse it;
it was unaccountable, but it happened so. Ned turned his head from the
temptation.

"I beg your pardon," said Arthur Temple, his face flushing again; "I
had no intention of hurting your feelings. Good day."

"Good day."

Arthur Temple rode slowly off, with many a backward glance at the
recumbent form of the musical shepherd--glances of which Ned Chester
was perfectly cognisant, but of which he took no apparent notice.
Before he was out of earshot, Arthur heard the tin whistle at work
once more.

"A genius," thought he, "and a gentleman by instinct. I am sorry I
offered him money."

The impression made upon him by the incident was powerful and durable,
and he inwardly resolved to see the man again. This resolve being
carried out, Ned Chester was not slow in turning to his own advantage
the interest exhibited in him by Arthur Temple. His superior cunning
enabled him very soon to obtain the particulars of the personal
history of the young gentleman who he determined should become his
patron. His patron Arthur Temple certainly did become; he engaged the
vagabond man of the world as his valet at a liberal salary, and
congratulated himself upon securing as his companion a person whose
discovery and undoubted genius formed one of the most romantic
episodes of his travels. It was fortunate for Ned that during his
association with Arthur Temple in the colonies he met with no friend
or acquaintance who might have exposed him to his young master.
Nothing in his conduct betrayed him; he behaved in the most exemplary
manner, and grew day by day in the goodwill of Arthur. He took pride
in his personal appearance, and seizing with avidity the advantages
such a connection opened out to him, dressed carefully and well, drank
little, and was, to all outward appearance, a most respectable
character. He became saving in his habits, also, and at the end of the
nine months, which brought the visit of Arthur Temple to the colonies
to an end, he was in possession of a sum of money larger than his
salary; Ned had not fought with the world for nothing, and his
experience was a key which fitted many locks. Arthur Temple was
recalled home somewhat earlier than he anticipated.


"If you are well," his father wrote, "and if your health is
sufficiently established to come home, do so at once, my dear lad.
Your mother and myself long for your society. I never cease to think
of you, and I want the world to see and appreciate you as I do, though
it can never love you as you are loved by your father,

    "Frederick Temple."


Arthur made immediate preparations for his departure; his nature was
grateful and loving, and his duty also was here concerned. The news of
the home journey troubled Ned Chester; according to the terms of his
engagement, connection between him and Arthur ceased when the latter
quitted Australia. Ned had saved sufficient money to pay for his
passage home, but he would arrive there comparatively penniless, and
in no position to obtain a livelihood. His efforts, therefore, were
now directed to obtaining a permanent appointment with Arthur; and to
his surprise, after much man[oe]uvring, he found that he could have
succeeded much more easily by a straight than by a crooked method.

"Certainly," said Arthur; "I shall be glad not to part with you; but I
thought you would have no wish to leave Australia."

"It has been my endeavour," said Ned, "for years past, but I have not
had the means; and it has been my misfortune until now never to have
met with a friend."

"My father," said Arthur, "will scarcely be prepared for my bringing
home a valet, but he will not object to anything I do. Have you any
family in England?"

"No, sir."

He endeavoured to impart a plaintive tone to this negative, to show
how utterly hapless a being he was; but he failed; the joy of
returning to England and of meeting the Duchess lighted up his
features.

"But there is some one at home," said Arthur, with a smile, "whom you
will be pleased to see."

Then Ned, with guarded enthusiasm, poured out his soul into the
sympathetic ears of Arthur Temple, and spoke, but not by name, of the
Duchess of Rosemary Lane, as one whom he had loved for years, and to
see whom would complete the happiness of his life. He extolled her
beauty, too, with sufficient fervour to carry conviction with it. He
knew that these utterances made his position more secure, and imparted
to his service a sentiment which was far from disagreeable to Arthur
Temple.

This retrospect brings us to the ship, the _Blue Jacket_, sailing for
England, with Arthur and Ned aboard. Arthur enjoys every hour of the
voyage. All is fair before him. With youth, with good health, with a
pure mind stirred by noble desires, with a father awaiting him holding
a high and honourable position in the land, the book of the lad's
life, the first pages only of which are opened, is filled with glowing
pictures, and he looks forward with calm delight to his arrival home.
Ned is less calm. The ship never goes fast enough, the days are longer
than they ought to be; he burns with impatience to present himself to
the idol of his dreams. Hour by hour the links that bind these men, so
strangely brought into association, to other lives in the old land are
drawn closer and closer. At length the good ship arrives in port.
Arthur is pressed to his father's breast.

"Thank God!" says the father, "that you are home and in good health."

And he holds Arthur's hand with such warmth as he might have felt in
his young days for the woman he loved.

Ned Chester looks around, draws a free full breath, and murmurs:

"At last!"



CHAPTER XXII.


Mr. Temple celebrated the return of his son by a great dinner, at
which a number of distinguished persons were present; later in the
evening his mother held a reception. The evening before the party
Arthur was sitting with his parents looking over the list of guests,
and he could not help being struck with their quality. Nearly every
man invited was a man of mark in the land--politicians, lawyers, a few
whose chief merit was their wealth, and some few also of the foremost
workers in the ranks of art and literature. Arthur was pleased at the
opportunity of becoming personally acquainted with these shining
lights.

"You will regard this as your first introduction into society," said
Mr. Temple to his son. "I shall be glad to see you form friendships,
which will bring you both pleasure and profit."

It was unfortunate that, despite his affection for his son, Mr. Temple
could never avoid introducing into their conversations chance words
and phrases which grated upon the sensitive mind of the younger man.
The word "profit" was one of these. Arthur, however, made no comment
upon this, and the rebellious expression which overcast his features
for an instant was not observed by his father.

"You have much to speak of," continued Mr. Temple, "that will be new
and interesting to many of our friends, and I need not say that as my
son you will be heartily welcomed."

"That, of course, sir," said Arthur; "it will not be, I am afraid, for
my own deservings."

"That cannot come, Arthur, until you are personally known, and then I
trust it will be for your sake as well as for mine that friends will
attach themselves to you. But indeed I have no doubt that such will be
the case."

"You are more confident than I am, sir," said Arthur seriously. "I
have my fears as to whether I shall feel at home in this new and
polished atmosphere, after my experiences of the last two years."

"You have no need to fear, Arthur; I am satisfied with you. I think I
shall not make you vain when I tell you that your manners are fitted
for any circle."

Arthur's mother gazed fondly upon him as he replied, "It is an
inheritance, sir, as are honour and truth, which I owe equally to
you."

"I must confess that it was not with entire confidence I saw you
depart for your travels, but you have returned improved, if anything.
Contact with the world has already improved you, and has opened your
mind to the value of the requirements of society."

"Whether it be so," said Arthur, with seriousness, "has yet to be
proved. In the New World, with its rougher manners, I have seen much
to admire--more, indeed, than in these more civilised surroundings. It
is not whether they are fitted for me--it is whether I am fitted for
them."

"There is plenty of romance to be found in these more sober scenes; it
will come to you, Arthur, as it has come to others."

"In what shape, sir? And have you met with yours?"

Mr. Temple coloured slightly, and devoted himself more closely to his
paper, which he was perusing in the intervals of the conversation.
Mrs. Temple sighed and looked away. Arthur had inadvertently touched a
chord which vibrated keenly in the breasts of his parents. He did not
know, and had never heard, that his father had married for money and
position, had married without love, but it was no less a fact. A fact
of which his mother was not aware until after marriage. It was not a
sudden discovery on her part; it was a gradual awakening, made more
bitter by the womanly suspicion of another face, fairer perhaps than
hers, and better loved in the past. In this she invested Mr. Temple
with qualities which he did not possess, and fashioned a hero--not
hers, but another woman's--out of very common clay. There had never
been any bickerings between her and her husband; she had not
distressed him with any outburst of jealously; and he gave her no
cause for complaint that the world would have recognised and
sympathised with. He was an exemplary husband, faithful and attentive,
and was held up as a model by other wives. Mrs. Temple, before her
marriage, had had her romance in her love for her husband; a romance
carefully fed by him at that time, for he played the lover skillfully.
But shortly after they became man and wife her dreams faded slowly and
surely away. She saw that he had no heart for her, and it was most
natural in her to be positive that, with his attractive person and the
soft blandishments of speech of which she had had experience when he
wooed her, he had bestowed his heart elsewhere. She kept her secret
well, and he was ignorant of it. Had she led him to suspect that she
believed herself to be betrayed, it would have caused him much
amazement. In the early years of her married life she was not
regardless of his movements, but she made no discovery to confirm her
jealousy. She was in the habit of watching his expressions when he
opened his letters, and of listening with agonised attention to the
murmurings in his sleep; but she learnt nothing. Had there been
anything to discover she would not have discovered it; she was no
match for him in subtlety. Slowly she accepted her fate, with no
outward repining, and they lived that calm passionless life which to
some souls is worse than death, and which with some highly nervous
organisations occasionally leads to violent terminations and tragic
results.

"You were saying, Arthur," said Mr. Temple, with a direct evasion of
Arthur's light question, "that you saw much to admire in the rough
manners of the men among whom you travelled."

"Very much, sir. The proper assertion of a proper independence, for
instance. The kingliness of manhood has no such exemplification in
this city of unrest as it has in the free air of the New World, where
men and women are not unhealthfully crowded together in small spaces.
I see here, among the lower classes of society, no such free step, no
such blithe spirits, as I have been accustomed to see among men in the
same position at the other end of the world."

"There are grades even there, Arthur."

"Surely, sir; and human beings, wherever they cluster, must be
dependent upon each other; but there, all grades express in their tone
and bearing their obligation to each other, as equally from those
above to those below, as from those below to those above. It is
mutual, and there is no shame in it. Now, such dependence as I see
here is ingrained in either real or assumed humiliation. Where it is
real, it is pitiable and unnatural; where it is assumed, it is
detestable. Either way it is bad and degrading."

"Admitting all this--which I do not--to what do you attribute this
worse condition of affairs?"

"If you will pardon me," replied Arthur with modesty, "I have not
gone as far as that. I have my thoughts, but I must see more before I
should consider myself justified in accusing. I merely record what
present themselves as clear pictures to my mind."

"When you see more, and are able from positive experience and
observation to form just conclusions, you will admit that we must
accept the world as we find it, and that the only wise course is to
make use of it to our advantage."

"To turn its foibles to our advantage, sir?"

"Most certainly."

"Its shipwrecks and calamities--you know what I mean, sir--to turn
even those to our advantage?"

"It is always a difficult thing to argue with an enthusiast,
especially with an enthusiast whom one loves as I love you."

"I know you love me, sir," interrupted Arthur, warmly, "but I do not
like the idea you have expressed. I think you would scarcely uphold it
in its fulness."

"It is not difficult for a skilful disputant to turn his adversary's
words against himself, and so to colour them as to make them bear a
stronger and therefore different interpretation. Logic is an excellent
weapon, Arthur, but it may be much abused."

"Admitted, sir. But it seems to me that it would be more noble and
honourable to turn the experience we gained of the world to the
world's advantage instead of to our own."

"The two aims may go together; but it is an absolute necessity that we
should never lose sight of ourselves."

"And of our own aggrandisement?" interrupted Arthur.

"Yes, if you put it that way, though there are pleasanter ways of
expressing it."

"More polished ways, sir?"

"Yes."

"But not more truthful."

"Probably not," said Mr. Temple, with no show of irritation, though he
was secretly annoyed. "Remember that self-preservation is Nature's
first law."

"Which does not mean," said Arthur, flying off at a tangent, as is the
way with most impulsive natures, "that we should be continually
stabbing our comrades in the race, or grudging to others honours
worthily won--such as yours, sir--or withholding from others a true
meed of admiration because our own merits--which, of course in our own
estimation, are very great--have not been so generally recognised."

"These are common phrases, Arthur. Let me warn you to beware of
platitudes. No platitudinarian ever rose in the world, or made for
himself more than a mediocre reputation."

"That is flying away from the argument, sir," said Arthur vivaciously.

"Very well, then. I understand you to express that you should deem
yourself as fortunate if you were unsuccessful in an ambition as if
you had accomplished it."

"Not quite that, sir, but in some small way I can imagine
circumstances in which I should deem defeat a victory."

"Do not imagine, Arthur--or, at all events, imagine as little as you
can. Action is what the world calls for, is what the world demands of
its leaders. And if you can act in such a way as not to oppose an
established order of things, success is all the more sure."

"There is much to admire in souls which, animated by high desires,
suffer from opposing an established order of things, and are
consequently not prosperous."

"You have hit a nail, Arthur," said Mr. Temple, with emphasis;
"'_consequently_ not prosperous.'"

"Exactly so, sir; you take my meaning. I see in these unprosperous men
much more to admire than in successful time-servers. And remember,
sir," said Arthur, who frequently showed much pertinaciousness in
argument, "that the very carrying out in its integrity of the axiom
that preservation is Nature's first law would rob history of its most
noble and heroic examples. I hope you do not mind my expressing myself
thus plainly and, as I perceive, antagonistically to your views."

"Not at all. It is better that you should speak plainly to me what is
in your mind than that you should needlessly betray yourself to
strangers, who would not understand you." (Arthur was about to say
here that he should not be deterred from expressing himself clearly in
any society, but his father anticipated the declaration, and gave him
no opportunity of expressing it.) "It does one good to be able to
relieve himself in confidence of the vapours that oppress him. The air
becomes clearer afterwards. Notwithstanding our seeming difference, I
trust that our sympathies are in common----"

"I trust so, sir."

"We speak and judge from different standpoints; I from a long and
varied experience of human nature, you from the threshold of life.
When you are my age, you will think exactly as I do, and will be
perhaps endeavouring, as I am endeavouring now, to check in your own
children the enthusiasm which blinds one with excess of light, and
which almost invariably leads to false and unpractical conclusions."

Arthur pondered over these words in silence, as he sat and glanced at
a newspaper, as his father was doing. The calm judicial air which Mr.
Temple assumed in these arguments enabled him generally to obtain an
apparent victory, but it was seldom that either of the disputants was
satisfied with the result. Purposely cultivating the intimacy between
himself and Arthur, so that he might counteract the enthusiasm which
he feared might step in the worldly way of his son, Mr. Temple was
conscious that he effected but little good, and he could not but
acknowledge to himself with inward trepidation that Arthur never
failed to advocate the nobler side. This acknowledgment brought to his
soul a sense of deep reproach--reproach which had he not loved his
son, and based all his hopes upon him, might have caused an
estrangement between them. For it was Arthur's words which awoke, not
exactly his conscience, but his intellectual judgment, which compelled
him to admit within the recesses of his own heart that he always
played the meaner and the baser part in their arguments. Sometimes he
asked himself if the lad was sincere; he subjected his own life as a
young man to a critical analysis, to discover whether he had been led
away in his estimate of men and things as he feared Arthur was being
led away. It was characteristic of the man that at this period of his
life--whatever he may have done in his more youthful days--he did not
juggle with himself. In his solitary musings and communings with his
inner nature he admitted the truth--but the glowing and delicate
promptings never passed his lips, never found utterance. So now, on
looking back, he saw at a single mental glance the wide barrier which
divided his passions and his enthusiasms from those of his son. This
barrier may be expressed in one word: selfishness. It was this
sentiment that had ruled his life, that had made him blind to the
consequences he might inflict upon others by his acts. Whether it were
a voluntary or involuntary guiding, by this sentiment had he been led
step by step up the ladder, casting no look at the despair which lay
behind him. It was otherwise with Arthur; his father recognised that
his son's promptings were generous and noble, and that there was no
atom of selfishness in his judgment of this and that. And when he came
to this point a smile played about his lips, and a world of meaning
found expression in his unuttered thought: "Arthur has not yet begun
to live."

The lad thought also; he did not pause to ask himself whether his
convictions were right or wrong--to those he was fixed by an unerring
instinct. But he tried, with little success, to bring his views into
harmony with his father's worldly wisdom. The only consolation he
derived was in the reflection that there was more than one fair road
to a goal. As to throwing a doubt upon his father's rectitude and
honour, no shadow of such a thought crossed his mind. He felt, as his
father did, that there was a barrier between them, and he mentally
resolved to endeavour to break it down. He glanced at his father's
immovable face and tightly-closed lips, and saw that he was occupied
by musings that distressed him. "It is I," thought Arthur, "who have
given him pain. He is disappointed in me. Surely it is only because we
cannot arrive at an understanding." How to commence to break down this
barrier? The first means were in his hands--a newspaper, the epitome
of life in all its large and small aspects, from the deposing of an
emperor to the celebration of a new style in bonnets, from the
horrible massacre of thousands of human beings in the East of Europe
to the mild kicking of his wife by a costermonger in the East of
London.

He commenced in a trembling voice--for the lad was the soul of
ingenuousness, and could not play a part, however small, without
betraying himself--by an introductory comment on a political question
of the day. Mr. Temple instantly aroused himself, and replied, without
observing Arthur's agitation. Gaining confidence, Arthur proceeded,
and an animated conversation ensued. Their views were again
antagonistic, but there was nothing personally painful in their
dissent. With the skill of long experience Mr. Temple drew Arthur out
upon the theme, and the lad became eloquent, as earnestness generally
is--but this eloquence, combined with this earnestness, was of a
standard so high, and the language and periods in which Arthur
illustrated his points were at once so powerful and polished, that Mr.
Temple thrilled with exultation, and he thought, "All is well." His
face cleared, his manner was almost joyous, and when the subject was
exhausted he said:

"Arthur, you have afforded me great delight. I cannot express my pride
and pleasure. You are an orator."

Arthur blushed and stammered; the praise unnerved him, and brought him
back to sober earth.

"Yes," continued Mr. Temple, "you are an orator, and you will fall
into your proper groove in life---- Nay, do not interrupt me; you will
verify my prediction. When a great, a noble gift is given to a man,
and he knows that it is his, and when opportunity is given to him as
it will be given to you, it is impossible for him to neglect it. God
has given you the gift of eloquence, and you will fail in your duty if
you do not properly use it. You are far in advance of me; I am
accounted a good speaker, but I confess to you that I never lose
myself in my words; if I did, I should become incoherent. I know
beforehand what I am about to say; your words are unstudied, and are
conveyed with a fire which cannot but stir your listeners to
enthusiasm. That your political views differ from mine hurts me but
little." Arthur raised his face to his father's in quick, affectionate
response. "I am a Conservative; if your views do not undergo change,
you will become a Liberal; and in this you will but march with the
times. The fields are equally honourable. You will become a champion,
a leader of your party. My dear boy, my fondest hopes will be realised
in you."

From politics they passed to other themes, drawn from the columns of
the newspaper, and then silence reigned for a little while. Mrs.
Temple had left the room, and Arthur was now engaged in a column which
appeared to interest him more than politics, foreign complications or
the state of the money market, all of which matters had formed subject
of conversation.

Presently he spoke.

"It is a great pleasure to me to be able to speak openly to you, sir,
and to feel that, though you do not always agree with me, I can say
exactly what is in my mind."

"Unhappily, Arthur, this kind of confidence is too rarely cultivated.
It needs no cultivation in us. It already exists."

As he spoke his arm stole about Arthur's shoulder, and fondly rested
there.

"You have so directed my thoughts to myself and the career before me
that as I read I find myself almost unconsciously examining the
relative impressions produced upon me by current events."

"An intellectual sign, Arthur."

"Pray, sir, do not flatter me too much," said Arthur, seriously; "it
produces in me a sensation which is not entirely agreeable."

"You must make allowance, Arthur, for a father's pride in his son."

"Forgive me for my remark; I forgot myself for a moment. I doubt
whether I deserve the love you bestow upon me."

"You more than deserve it, my dear boy, by returning it."

"Which I do sir, heartily, sincerely. Well then, I was about to say
that I find myself much more affected by the domestic and social
incidents in the newspapers than by the larger historical records. For
instance, neither the political crisis nor the war produces within me
so strong an impression as the sad history comprised in this short
paragraph."

Mr. Temple turned his head towards the paper, and glanced at the
paragraph pointed out by Arthur, making no attempt to read it.

"Concerning any public person, Arthur?"

"No, sir. Concerning one whose name might never have been known but
for her misfortunes."

"_Her_ misfortunes! A woman, then?"

"A poor girl, found drowned in the river."

"Murdered?"

"She met her death by her own hands. On the river bank she had
placed her child, a mere infant three or four months old. The poor
girl--scarcely my age, and well-looking, the account says--must have
drowned herself in the night when it was dark. First she stripped
herself of her warm underclothing, and wrapped her baby in it to
protect it from the cold, hoping, no doubt, that it would fall into
humane hands soon after she walked to her doom. But the night passed,
and the child was not discovered. By a strange fatality, within a few
hours after the girl-mother was drowned, the waves washed her body on
to the river's bank near to the form of her child, and when the sun
shone, its light fell upon the dead mother and her living child lying
side by side. There was nothing about her to prove her identity; even
the initials on her clothes had been carefully removed. But a paper
was found, on which was written, evidently by one of fair education:
'By my sinful act I remove myself and my shame from the eyes of a
cruel world. I die in despair, unconsoled by the belief that
retribution will fall upon the head of him who betrayed and deserted
me.' On the head of him who betrayed her! Is it possible that such a
man, after reading this record of his guilt--as perhaps he may be
doing at this very moment--can enjoy a moment's happiness? Is it
possible that he can sleep? Though by this dead girl's generosity his
secret is safe, retribution will fall upon him--as surely as there is
a heaven above us! If I discovered that ever in my life I had clasped
the hand of such a man, I should be tempted to cut mine from its wrist
to rid myself of the shameful contamination of his touch! What is the
matter, sir? You are ill!"

"A sudden faintness, Arthur--nothing more. I have been working hard
lately, and I need rest. Goodnight."

As Mr. Temple rose to leave the room, he turned from Arthur's anxious
gaze a face that was like the face of a ghost.



CHAPTER XXIII.


In more than one respect Mrs. Lenoir was an object of interest to her
neighbours, and in some sense a mystery, which they solved after a
fashion not uncommon among poor people. That she was a woman of
superior breeding to themselves, and that she did not associate freely
with them, would certainly, but for one consideration, have stirred
their resentment against her. Mrs. Lenoir did not, to adopt their own
vernacular, give herself airs. "At all events," said they, "there's
nothing stuck up about her." Moving among them, with her silent ways,
she exhibited no consciousness of superiority, as other women in a
similar position might have done; instead of holding her head above
them, she walked the streets with a demeanour so uniformly sad and
humble, that the feeling she evoked was one more of pity than of
resentment. There is in some humilities a pride which hurts by
contact. Had this been apparent in Mrs. Lenoir, her neighbours'
tongues would have wagged remorselessly in her disfavour; but the
contrary was the case. There was expressed in her bearing a mute
appeal to them to be merciful to her; instead of placing herself above
them, she seemed to place herself below them, and she conveyed the
impression of living through the sad days weighed down by a grief too
deep for utterance, and either too sacred or too terrible for human
communion. When circumstances brought her into communication with her
neighbours, her gentleness won respect and consideration; and what was
known of her life outside the boundary of the lonely room she
occupied, and which no person was allowed to enter, touched their
hearts in her favour. Thus, as far as her means allowed her--and
indeed, although they were not aware of it, far beyond her means--she
was kind to the sick and to those who were poorer than herself, and
she frequently went hungry to bed because of the sacrifices she made
for them. Such small help as she could give was invariably proffered
unobtrusively, almost secretly; but it became known, and it did her no
harm in the estimation of her neighbours.

But what excited the greatest curiosity and the most frequent comment
was the strange fancy which possessed her of seeking out young girls
who were sweethearting, and voluntarily rendering them just that kind
of service which they were likely most to value--ministering to their
innocent vanities in a manner which they regarded as noble and
generous. Mrs. Lenoir was a cunning needlewoman, and in the cutting
out of a dress had no equal in the neighbourhood. She possessed, also,
the art rare among Englishwomen, of knowing precisely the style,
colours, and material which would best become the girl she desired to
serve. To many such Mrs. Lenoir would introduce herself, and offer her
services as dressmaker, stipulating beforehand that she should be
allowed to work for love, and not for money. The exercise of this
singular fancy made her almost a public character; and many a girl who
was indebted to her, and whose wooing was brought to a happy
conclusion, endeavoured gratefully to requite her services by pressing
an intimacy upon her. Mrs. Lenoir steadily repelled every advance made
in this direction. She gave them most willingly the work of her hands,
but she would not admit them to her heart, nor would she confide her
sorrows to them. She received their confidences, and sympathised with
and advised them; but she gave no confidence in return.

Had they been cognisant of the life that was hidden from them, they
might have declared her to be mad. This silent, reserved, and
strangely-kind woman was subject to emotions and passions which no
human eye witnessed, which no human breast shared. In the solitude of
her poorly-furnished attic, she would stand motionless for hours,
looking out upon the darkness of the night. At these times, not a
sound, not a movement escaped her; she was as one in a trance,
incapable of motion. And not unlikely, as is recorded of those who lie
in that death-like sleep, there was in her mind a chaos of thought,
terrible and overwhelming. It was always in the night that these moods
took possession of her. It was a peculiar phase of her condition that
darkness had no terrors for her. When dark shadows only were visible,
she was outwardly calm and peaceful; but moonlight stirred her to
startling extravagances. She trembled, she shuddered, her white lips
moved convulsively, she sank upon her knees, and strove, with
wildly-waving hands, to beat away the light. But she was dominated by
a resistless force which compelled her to face the light, and draw
from it memories which agonised her. The brighter and more beautiful
was the night, the keener was her pain, and she had no power to fly
from it. If she awoke from sleep, and saw the moon shining through the
window, she would hide her eyes in the bedclothes, with tears and sobs
that came from a broken heart, and the next moment her feeble hands
would pluck the clothes aside, so that she might gaze upon the
peaceful light which stabbed her like a knife. She was ruled by other
influences, scarcely less powerful. Moonlight shining on still waters;
certain flowers; falling snow--all these terribly disturbed her, and
aroused in full force the memories which tortured her. Had her
neighbours witnessed her paroxysms on on these occasions, they would
have had the fairest reason for declaring that Mrs. Lenoir was mad.

She lived entirely out of the world; read no newspapers; played a part
in no scandals; and the throbs of great ambitions which shook thrones
and nations never reached the heart, never touched the soul of this
lonely woman, who might have been supposed to be waiting for death to
put an end to her sorrows.

A few weeks after she had made Lizzie's dress, Mrs. Lenoir was sitting
as usual alone in her room. She was not at work; with her hand
supporting her face, she was gazing with tearful eyes upon three
pictures, which she had taken from a desk which stood open on the
table. This desk was in itself a remarkable possession for a woman in
her position in life. It was inlaid with many kinds of curious woods,
and slender devices in silver; it was old, and had seen service, but
it had been carefully used. The three pictures represented sketches of
a beautiful face, the first of a child a year old, the second the
child grown to girlhood, the third the girl grown to womanhood. The
pictures were painted in water-colours, and the third had been but
recently sketched. Over the mantelshelf hung a copy of this last
picture, which--as was the case with all of them--though the hand of
the amateur was apparent, evidenced a loving care in its execution.
Long and with yearning eyes did Mrs. Lenoir gaze upon the beautiful
face; had it been warm and living by her side, a more intense and
worshipping love could not have been expressed by the lonely woman.
The striking of eight o'clock from an adjacent church roused her; with
a sigh that was like a sob, she placed the pictures in her desk, and
setting it aside, resumed the needlework which she had allowed to fall
into her lap.

Winter had come somewhat suddenly upon the city, and snow had fallen
earlier than usual. One candle supplied the room with light, and a
very small fire with warmth. For an hour Mrs. Lenoir worked with the
monotony of a machine, and then she was disturbed by a knock at the
door. She turned her head, but did not speak. The knock was repeated,
and a voice from without called to her.

"Are you at home, Mrs. Lenoir?"

"Yes, Lizzie."

"Let me in."

"I will come to you."

Mrs. Lenoir went to the door, which was locked, and, turning the key,
stepped into the passage.

"Well, Lizzie?"

"But you must let me in, Mrs. Lenoir. I want to tell you something,
and I can't speak in the dark."

"Lizzie, you must bear with my strange moods. You know I never receive
visitors."

"To call me a visitor! And I've run to tell you the very first! Mrs.
Lenoir, I have no mother."

Lizzie's pleading conquered. She glided by Mrs. Lenoir, and entered
the room. Mrs. Lenoir slowly followed. Lizzie's face was bright, her
manner joyous. "Guess what has happened, Mrs. Lenoir!"

Mrs. Lenoir cast a glance at Lizzie's happy face.

"You will soon be married, Lizzie."

"Yes," said Lizzie, with sparkling eyes, "it was all settled this
evening. And do you know, Mrs. Lenoir, that though I've been thinking
of it and thinking of it ever since me and Charlie have known each
other, it seems as if something wonderful has happened which I never
could have hoped would come true. But it _is_ true, Mrs. Lenoir. In
three weeks from this very day. It's like a dream."

Mrs. Lenoir had resumed her work while Lizzie was speaking, and now
steadily pursued it as the girl continued to prattle of her hopes and
dreams.

"You will make my dress, Mrs. Lenoir?"

"Yes, Lizzie."

"And you'll let Charlie pay for the making?"

"You must find another dressmaker, then. What I do for you I do
for----"

"Love!"

"If you like to call it so, Lizzie. At all events I will not take
money for it."

"You are too good to me, Mrs. Lenoir. I can't help myself; you _must_
make my dress, because no one else could do it a hundredth part as
well, and because, for Charlie's sake, I want to look as nice as
possible. And that's what I mean to do all my life. I'll make myself
always look as nice as I can, so that Charlie shall never get tired of
me. But one thing you _must_ promise me, Mrs. Lenoir."

"What is that, Lizzie?"

"You'll come to the wedding."

Mrs. Lenoir shook her head.

"I go nowhere, as you know, Lizzie. You must not expect me."

"But I have set my heart upon it, and Charlie has too! I am always
talking to him of you, and he sent me up now especially to bring you,
or to ask if he may come and see you. 'Perhaps she'll take a bit of a
walk with us,' said Charlie. It has left off snowing----"

Mrs. Lenoir shuddered.

"Has it been snowing?"

"Oh, for a couple of hours! The ground looks beautiful; but everything
is beautiful now." Lizzie looked towards the window. "Ah, you didn't
see the snow because the blind was down. Do come, Mrs. Lenoir."

"No, Lizzie, you must not try to persuade me; it is useless."

"But you are so much alone--you never go anywhere! And this is the
first time you have allowed me to come into your room. You are
unhappy, I know, and you don't deserve to be. Let me love you, Mrs.
Lenoir."

"Lizzie, I must live as I have always lived. It is my fate."

"Has it been so all your life? When you were my age, were you the same
as you are now? Ah, no; I can read faces, and yours has answered me. I
wish I could comfort you."

"It is not in your power. Life for me contains only one possible
comfort, only one possible joy; but so remote, so unlikely ever to
come, that I fear I shall die without meeting it. Leave me now; I have
a great deal of work to get through to-night."

Lizzie, perceiving that further persuasion would be useless, turned to
leave the room. As she did so, her eyes fell upon the picture of the
girl-woman hanging over the mantelshelf. With a cry of delight she
stepped close to it.

"How beautiful! Is it your portrait, Mrs. Lenoir, when you were a
girl? Ah, yes, it is like you."

"It is not my portrait, Lizzie."

"Whose then? Do you know her? But of course you do. What lovely eyes
and hair! It is a face I could never forget if I had once seen it. Who
is she?"

The expression of hopeless love in Mrs. Lenoir's eyes as she gazed
upon the picture was pitiful to see.

"It is a portrait painted from a heart's memory, Lizzie."

"Painted by you?"

"Yes."

"How beautifully it is done! I always knew you were a lady. And I've
been told you can speak languages. I was a little girl when I heard
the story of a poor foreigner dying in this street, who gave you, in a
foreign language, his dying message to his friends abroad. That is
true, is it not, Mrs. Lenoir?"

"It is quite true. It would have been better for me had I been poor
and ignorant, and had I not been what you suppose me to have been--a
lady. Lizzie, if you love me, leave me!"

"Mrs. Lenoir, is there no hope of happiness for you?"

"Have I not already told you? I have a hope, a wild, unreasoning hope,
springing from the bitterest sorrow that ever fell to woman's lot.
Apart from that, my only desire is to live and die in peace. And now,
Lizzie, goodnight."

Constrained to leave, Lizzie took her departure, saddened by the
sadness of this woman of sorrow; but the impress of another's grief
soon fades from the heart in which happiness reigns, and, within a few
minutes, the girl, in the company of her lover, was again rapt in the
contemplation of her own bright dreams.

The moment Lizzie quitted the room, Mrs. Lenoir turned the key in the
door, so that no other person should enter. The interview had affected
her powerfully, and the endeavour she made to resume her work was
futile; her fingers refused to fulfil their office. Rising from her
seat, she paced the room with uneven steps, with her hands tightly
clasped before her. To and fro, to and fro she walked, casting her
eyes fearsomely towards the window every time she turned to face it.
The curtains were thick, and the night was hidden from her, but she
seemed to see it through the dark folds; it possessed a terrible
fascination for her, against which she vainly struggled. It had been
snowing, Lizzie had said. She had not known it; was it snowing still?
She would not, she dared not look; she clasped her fingers so tightly
that the blood deserted them; she was fearful that if she relaxed her
grasp, they would tear the curtains aside, and reveal what she dreaded
to see. For on this night, when she had been gazing on the face which
was present to her through her dreaming and waking hours, when her
heart had been cruelly stirred by the words which had passed between
Lizzie and herself, the thought of the white and pitiless snow was
more than ever terrifying to her. It brought back to her with terrible
force memories the creation of which had been productive of fatal
results to the peace and happiness of her life. They never recurred to
her without bringing with them visions of snow falling, or of lying
still as death on hill and plain. The familiar faces in these scenes
were few--a man she had loved; a man who loved her; a child--and at
this point, all actual knowledge stopped. What followed was blurred
and indistinct. She had ridden or had walked through the snow for
months, as it seemed; there was no day--it was always night; the white
plains were alive with light; the moon shone in the heavens; the white
sprays flew from the horse's hoofs; through narrow lanes and trackless
fields she rode and rode until a break occurred in the oppressive
monotony. They are in a cottage, she and the man who loved her, and a
sudden faintness comes upon her. Is it a creation of her fancy that
she hears a woman's soft voice singing to her child, or is the sound
really in the cottage? Another thing. Is she looking upon a baby lying
in a cradle, and does she press her lips upon the sleeping infant's
face? Fact and fancy are so strangely commingled--the glare of the
white snow has so dazed her--the air is so thick with shadowy forms
and faces--that she cannot separate the real from the ideal. But it is
true that she is on the road again, and that the horse is plodding
along, throwing the white sprays from his hoofs as before, until
another change comes upon the scene. She and the man are toiling
wearily through the snow, which she now looks upon as her enemy,
toiling wearily, wearily onward, until they reach the gate of a
church, when she feels her senses deserting her. Earth and sky are
merging into one another, and all things are fading from her
sight--all things but the quaint old church with its hooded porch,
which bends compassionately towards her, and offers her a peaceful
sanctuary. This church and the tombstones around it, the very form and
shape of which she sees clearly in the midst of her agony, she has
ever clearly remembered. Even in the death-like trance that falls upon
her, she sees the outline of the church and its approaches. Friendly
hands assist her into the sanctuary of rest. How long does she lie in
peace? How many hours, or days, or weeks pass by, before she sees
strange faces bending over her, before she hears strange voices about
her? What has occurred between the agony of the time that has gone,
and the ineffable rapture that fills her veins as she presses a baby
to her breast? What follows after this? She cannot tell. During the
sad and lonely years that have brought silver streaks into her hair,
she has striven hundreds of times to recall the sequence of events
that culminated with the loss of her treasure. But she strives in
vain. Time and her own weakness have destroyed the record. Long
intervals of illness, during which the snow is always falling and the
moonlight always gleaming; glimpses of heaven in the bright-blue
laughing eyes of a lovely babe--her own child, who lies upon her
breast, pure and beautiful as an angel; then, a terrible darkness; and
loneliness for evermore.

For evermore? Is this truly to be her fate? Can Heaven be so cruel as
to allow her to die without gazing again upon the face of her child?
For a blind faith possesses her that her darling still lives. Against
all reason--in the face of all circumstance. Can she not believe that,
during an illness which almost proved fatal, her child was taken from
her, and died before she recovered? When this was told her, in a
careless way, as though it were a matter so ordinary as to be scarcely
worthy of comment, and when to this were added sharp and bitter words
to the effect that she ought to fall upon her knees, and thank God
that her child was not living to share her shame and disgrace, she
looked with a pitiful smile into the face of her informant, and,
rising without a word, went her way into the world. Into the lonely
world, which henceforth contained no hand that she could clasp in love
or friendship.

Her shame! Yes, truly hers. It held an abiding place in her heart. It
caused her to shrink from the gaze of man, and from the words, more
surely bitter, which she saw trembling on the lips of those who would
address her. Eyes flashed contempt upon her; tongues reviled her;
fingers were pointed at her in scorn and abhorrence. What was there
before her but to fly from these stings and nettles, and hide herself
from the sight of all who chanced to know her? She accepted her lot.
Heart-broken she wandered into the great depths of the city, and lived
her life of silence.

As now she paced the attic, the walls of which had witnessed her long
agony, her thoughts, as at such periods they always did, travelled to
the fatal time which had wrecked her peace and almost destroyed her
reason. She had hitherto suffered without repining, but her spirit
began to rebel against the injustice of the fate which had stripped
her life of joy. Until now there had been nothing of sullenness in her
resignation; she had accepted her hard lot with passive unreasoning
submission; and had flung back no stones, even in thought, in return
for those that were cast at her. But she seemed on this night to have
reached the supreme point of resignation, and some sense of the
heartless wrong which had been inflicted upon her stole into her soul.
But this new feeling did not debar her from the contemplation of the
night outside her room. It was snowing, Lizzie had said. She could not
resist the fascination of the words; they drew her to the window; they
compelled her to pluck the curtain aside. The snow was falling.

With feverish haste, scarce knowing what she was doing, she fastened
her bonnet, flung her shawl over her shoulders, and walked into the
streets. There were but few persons stirring in her neighbourhood; the
public-houses, of course, were full, and the street-vendors were
stamping their feet upon the pavement, more from habit, being in the
presence of snow, than from necessity, for the weather was a long way
from freezing-point; but Mrs. Lenoir paid no heed to the signs about
her. Her thoughts were her companions, to divert her attention from
which would need something more powerful than ordinary sights and
sounds. She did not appear to be conscious of the road she was taking,
nor to care whither she directed her steps. Now and then, a passer-by
paused to gaze after the excited woman, who speeded onwards as though
an enemy were on her track. So fast did she walk that she was soon out
of the narrow labyrinths, and treading the wider thoroughfares, past
the Royal Exchange and Mansion House, through Cheapside and St. Paul's
Churchyard, into the busier life of Fleet Street--to avoid which, or
from some unseen motive, she turned mechanically to the left, and came
on to the Embankment, by the side of the river. Then, for the first
time, she paused, but not for long. The moon was shining, and a long
rippling line of light stretched to the edge of the water, at some
distance from the spot on which she stood, where it lapped with a
dismal sound the stone steps of a landing-place. The waves washed the
rippling light on to the dark slimy stones, and, to her fevered fancy,
the light crept up the stones to the level surface of the pavement,
along which it slowly unwound itself, like a coil, until it touched
her feet. With a shudder, she stepped into this imaginary line of
light, not hurriedly now, but softly on and on, down the steps, until
her shoes were in the water. A man rose like a black shadow from a
tomb, and, with an oath, clutched her arm. She wrenched it from him
with an affrighted cry and fled--so swiftly, that though he who had
saved her hurried after her, he could not reach her side. She ran
along the Embankment till she came to Westminster Bridge, when she
turned her back upon the river, and mingled with the people that were
going towards the Strand.

She had walked at least five miles, but she felt no fatigue. There are
occasions when the weakest bodies are capable of strains that would
break down the strongest organisations, and this frail woman was
upheld by mental forces which supplied her with power to bear. In the
Strand she found her progress impeded. It was eleven o'clock, and the
theatres were pouring out their animated crowds. In one of these
crowds she became ingulfed, and formed a passive unit in the excited
throng, being hustled this way and that, and pushed mercilessly about
by those who were struggling to disentangle themselves. This rough
treatment produced no effect upon her; she submitted in patience, and
in time reached the edge of the crowd. When she arrived at a certain
point, where the people had room to move more freely, two persons, a
man and a woman, passed her, and the voice of the woman fell upon her
ears.

An exclamation of bewildered amazement hung upon Mrs. Lenoir's lips.
It was her own voice she had heard, and she had not spoken. Not the
sad voice which those who knew her were accustomed to hear, but the
glad blithe voice which was hers in her youth, and which she had been
told was sweet as music.

She paused and listened; but only the accustomed Babel of sound
reached her now. She had distinguished but one word--"Love," and she
knew she had not uttered it. Although her nerves were quivering under
the influence of the mystery, she had no choice but to pursue her way,
and she continued walking in the direction of Temple Bar.

Gradually the human throng lessened in numbers. It was spreading
itself towards the home lights through all the windings of the city;
and when Mrs. Lenoir had passed the arch of the time-honoured
obstruction she had room enough and to spare. Now and then she was
overlapped by persons whose gait was more hurried than her own; more
frequently she passed others who were walking at a more reasonable
pace. Approaching a couple who, arm-in-arm, were stepping onwards as
though it were noon instead of near midnight, she heard again the
voice that had startled her.

Her first impulse was to run forward and look upon the face of the
speaker; but she restrained herself, or rather was restrained by the
conflicting passions which agitated her breast; and without removing
her eyes from the forms of the two persons before her, she followed
them with feeble uncertain steps. For the woman's strength was going
from her; she was wearied and exhausted, and she had to struggle now
with nature. It was fortunate for her that the man and the woman she
was following were walking slowly, or she must inevitably have lost
them. And even as it was, she dragged her weary feet after them, as
one in a dream might have done.

The woman was young; joyous health and spirits proclaimed themselves
in the light springy step; and the musical laugh that rang frequently
in the air was like the sound of silver bells. That she was beautiful
could not be doubted: it was the theme of their conversation at the
present moment.

"And you think me very beautiful?"

"You are more than beautiful. You are the most lovely girl in the
world. But if I continue to tell you the same story, I shall make you
the vainest as well as the loveliest."

"Oh, no; I like to hear you. Go on."

"Then there's another danger. Though you know I love you----"

"Yes."

"And though you have told me you love me----"

"Yes."

"You do, you little witch?"

"Oh, yes."

"Well, there's the danger of losing you."

"In what way? How?"

"Some one else might see you, and fall in love with you."

"Suppose some one else couldn't help it? This with a delicious silvery
laugh.

"By heavens, you're enough to drive a saint out of his senses!"

"Me?"

"Well, your cool way of saying things."

"But go on about the danger of losing me."

"And _you_ might fall in love with some one else."

"I don't think so," said the girl, with the air of one who was
considering a problem which did not affect her. "I couldn't fall in
love with any man that wasn't a gentleman. And you are one?"

"I hope so."

"That is why I like you. You are a gentleman, you are good-looking and
rich; while I----"

"You!" It was scarcely an interruption, for the girl paused, as in
curious contemplation of what might follow.

"You! You are fit to be a queen."

"I _am_ a duchess, remember," said the girl, with an arch smile, which
became graver with the words--"I wonder why they called me so?"

"Because they saw you were above them, and better than they."

"Why should they have seen that? What made them see it? I could hardly
speak at the time, and I don't even remember it."

"Nor anything about yourself before you were brought to Rosemary
Lane?" inquired the man anxiously.

"No; nothing that does not seem like a dream."

"One can remember dreams."

"I can't remember mine. But sometimes I have a curious impression upon
me."

"May I hear it?"

"Why not? It is upon me now. It is this: that when I dreamt--before I
remember anything, you know----"

"Yes."

"That it was always snowing, as it is now."

What subtle vapour affected the fair and beautiful girl--surely
subject to no distempered fancies, glowing as she was with health, and
with pulses beating joyously--that she should suddenly pause and gaze
upon the snow with a troubled air? What subtle vapour affected the wan
and exhausted woman behind her that at the same moment she also should
pause and hold her thin, transparent hand to her eyes, to shut out the
white glare of the snow that troubled her soul? There was a curious
resemblance in their attitudes as they thus stood in silence--the girl
in the light, the woman in the shade.

A gust of wind, if it did not dispel the vapour, stirred the actors in
this scene into motion, and the girl and her lover--for there could be
no doubt of the relation they bore to each other--resumed their walk,
Mrs. Lenoir still following them with steps that grew more feeble
every moment.

Of the conversation between the lovers not a word had reached her. Now
and again she heard the sound of the girl's voice when it was raised
higher than usual, but the words that accompanied it were lost upon
her. She had formed a distinct purpose during the journey, if in her
weak condition of mind and body any purpose she wished to carry out
can be called distinct. She would keep them in sight until the man had
taken his departure, and the girl was alone. Then she would accost the
girl, and look into her face. That was the end of her thought; the
hopes and fears which enthralled and supported her were too wild and
whirring for clear interpretation. And yet it appeared as though she
herself feared to be seen; for once or twice when the man or the girl
looked back, Mrs. Lenoir shrank tremblingly and in pitiable haste into
the obscurity of the deeper shadows of the night.

They were now in the east of London, near Rosemary Lane, and the girl
paused and stopped her companion, with the remark:

"You must not come any further."

This was so far fortunate for Mrs. Lenoir, inasmuch as otherwise she
would have lost sight of those she had followed. Nature had conquered,
and a faintness like the faintness of death was stealing upon her.

The man and the girl were long in bidding each other goodnight. It
was said half-a-dozen times, and still he lingered, loth to leave her.

"Remember," he said, as he stood with his arm around her, "you have
promised not to mention my name to your people."

"Yes, I have promised. But why won't you come and see them? I should
like you to."

"It can't be done, my little bird. You are sensible enough to
understand why a gentleman in my position can't run the danger of
forming intimacies with common persons."

"But I am a common person," said the girl, archly challenging a
contradiction.

"You are a lady, and if you are not, I'll make you one. When you are
away from them, I want you to be well away. You wouldn't like to be
dragged down again."

"No--you are right, I dare say. Poor Sally!"

"Not a word to her, mind. I'll have to bribe you, I see. What do you
say to this?"

He took from his pocket a gold bracelet, shining with bright stones,
and held it up to the light. The girl uttered a cry of pleasure, but
as she clasped the trinket she looked round in affright. Her glad
exclamation was followed by a moan from Mrs. Lenoir, who staggered
forward a few steps and sank, insensible to the ground.

"It's only a drunken woman," said the man. "Good night, my bird."

The girl eluded his embrace and ran to the fainting woman, and knelt
beside her.

"She is not drunk," said the girl; "she looks worn out and tired. See
how white she is. Poor creature! Perhaps she is starving."

Mrs. Lenoir, opening her eyes, saw as in a vision, the face of the
beautiful girl bending over her, and a smile of ineffable sweetness
played about her lips. But the words she strove to utter were
breathed, unspoken, into the air, and she relapsed into insensibility.

"Leave her to me," said the man; "I will take care of her. You musn't
get into trouble: it's past the time you were expected home."

He raised the woman in his arms as he spoke.

"You don't know her?" he said.

"No; I never saw her before," replied the girl "You must promise _me_
now: you'll not leave her in the streets; you'll see her safely home."

"I'll do more; if she's in want, I'll assist her. Now, go; I don't
want to be seen by your--what do you call him?--Mr. Dumbrick, or by
your friend Sally. Good night. She is recovering already. Run
away--and don't forget; to-morrow night, at the same place."

He threw his disengaged arm round the girl and kissed her. The next
moment he and Mrs. Lenoir were alone.



CHAPTER XXIV.


Seth Dumbrick, sitting in the old cellar in which it seemed likely he
would end his days, was the subject of Sally's anxious observance, as
she sat opposite to him, busy with her needle. Sally, in addition to
the performance of her household duties, played no unimportant part in
providing for the domestic necessities of the establishment, and the
seven or eight shillings a week she contrived by hard labour to earn
was an important item to Seth, whose trade had fallen off considerably
during the past few years.

Sally was a full-grown woman now, looking older than her years; but
her nature was unchanged, and her devotion to the Duchess was as
perfect as on the day when the girl was brought, almost an infant, to
her mother's house. That was a happy time in her remembrance of it,
far different from the present, which was full of trouble.

Seth Dumbrick's thoughts, to judge from his manner, were harassing and
perplexing, and the cloud in his face was reflected on Sally's, as now
and again she raised her eyes from her work to observe him. She knew
the groove in which his thoughts were running; it was a familiar one
to both of them, and they could not see a clear way through it. Any
time during the last five or six years it would have been a safe
venture to guess, when they were sitting together, as they were
sitting now, that their thoughts were fixed upon the theme which now
occupied their minds.

Silence had reigned in the cellar for fully half-an-hour, and even
then it was not broken until Seth, rising from his seat, stood for a
few moments before the fire, with his hands clasped at the back of his
neck.

"There is but one way out of it, Sally," said Seth.

Sally instantly gave him her whole attention, and by a sharp glance
indicated that all her wits were at his service.

"There is but one way out of it," he repeated, "and there's danger in
that way. But it's a matter of duty, and it's got to be done.
Supposing there was no duty in it, and no love, it's the only course,
as it seems to me, left open to us."

He spoke slowly and with deliberation, as though, after long inward
communing, he had settled upon a plan, and was determined to carry it
out.

"It's now--ah, how many years ago is it, Sally, since you came into my
cellar and fell into a trance?"

"I can't count 'em, Daddy. It seems a lifetime."

"Sixteen years it is. You were a little brown berry, then, with not an
ounce of flesh on your bones, sharp as a needle, and with a mind ten
times as old as your body." He bent over and kissed her, and tears
glistened in her eyes. "And our Duchess was as like a bright angel in
a dream as man's imagination can compass. I was a strong man then, a
strong lonely man, with nothing much to look forward to, and with
nothing outside my grisly self to love. Sixteen years ago it was. It
seems a lifetime to you, you say, Sally. And it was only yesterday
that I was a boy!"

He brushed the sentiment away with a light wave of his hand.

"As we grow older, Sally, things that were far apart come nearer; that
is, when we get to a certain age--my age. Then the young days, that
appeared so far away, begin to creep towards us, nearer and nearer,
until the man of seventy and the boy of ten are very close together.
With some old men, I don't doubt, it might be said that they die in
their cradles. Is that beyond you, Sally?"

"A little, Daddy. I can't understand it; but you're right, of course,"

"Not to wander too far away," continued Seth, with a faint laugh, "it
is sixteen years since you and the Duchess came to me, and that I
undertook a responsibility. Keep a tight hold of that word, Sally; I'm
coming back to it presently. You haven't much more flesh on your bones
now than you had then, but you're grown pretty considerable, and
you're a woman. Sally, if I had a son, I shouldn't mind your marrying
him."

"Thank you, Daddy."

"But you can't marry a shadow; it wouldn't be satisfactory. Well,
you're a woman grown up. I'm a man, growing down; my hair's nearly
white, and that's the last colour, my girl. It seems to me that I'm
pretty well as strong as I was; but I know that's a delusion. Nature
has set lines, and the man that snaps his fingers at 'em, or
disregards 'em, is a fool. And I'm not one, eh, Sally?"

He laughed faintly again; but there was a notable lack of heartiness
in the small flashes of humour which occasionally lighted up his
speech. It would have been more in accordance with his serious mood
had they not been introduced; but habit is a master, not a servant.

"So much for you and me, Sally. There's another of more consequence
than both of us--our Duchess. When I first set my eyes on her, I
thought I'd never in all my life seen so beautiful a picture. We had
plenty of happy days then; and we must never forget how much we owe
her. We should have been a dull couple, you and me, without her. She
was like light in our dark little room, and when I had troublesome
thoughts about me, the sight of her was like the sun breaking through
dark clouds. Do you remember, Sally, when she was ill, and you watched
over her day and night?"

"You too, Daddy."

"I could do nothing; I had the bread to earn. Dr. Lyon said your
nursing, not his medicine, pulled her through; and he was right. Do
you remember our holiday in the country--the rides in the wagon, and
the rambles by the sea-shore? What pleasure and happiness we enjoyed,
Sally, was all through her. I can hardly think of her as anything but
a child; but, as I've said, Nature has set her lines; and our Duchess
is a woman--the brightest and most beautiful the world contains; and
whether that beauty and brightness is going to be a curse or a
blessing to her, time alone can tell."

"Not a curse, Daddy!" cried Sally, dropping her face in her hands.
"No, no; not a curse!"

"God knows," said Seth, with his hand resting lightly on Sally's
shoulder. "If you or me could do anything to make it a blessing we'd
do it, if it brought upon us the hardest sacrifice that ever fell upon
human beings. I say that of myself, and I know it of you. But I'm a
man, with a wider experience than yours, and I can see further.
Feeling is one thing, fact is another. To put feeling aside when we
talk of our Duchess is out of the question; but let us see how far
fact goes, and what it will lead us to." He looked down upon his
garments with a curious smile; they were old and patched and patched
again. Sally, with apprehension in her glance, followed his observance
of himself. Then, with an expression of pity and reverence, he turned
to Sally, and touched her frock, which was worn and faded. "Your only
frock, Sally," he said.

"What of that?" she exclaimed, with a rebellious ring in her voice.
"It's good enough for me."

"We've got to see this through," he returned, taking her hand in his,
and patting it so gently that her head drooped before him. "You
wouldn't fetch much at Rag Fair, my girl. All that belongs to you, on
and off, would fetch, perhaps--three farthings. Now let us look at
something else."

"Daddy, Daddy!" she cried, as she walked to the dark end of the
cellar; "what are you going to do?"

He replied by dragging forward a trunk, which he placed between Sally
and himself. It was locked, and he could not raise the lid. Taking
from his pocket a large bunch of keys, he tried them until he found
one that fitted the lock.

"I borrowed these keys of the locksmith round the corner," said Seth,
as he opened the trunk; "I told him what sort of a trunk it was, and
he said I'd be sure to find a key in this lot to fit it."

The trunk was filled with clothes. Before laying his hand upon them,
Seth, with a steady look at Sally, said:

"I doubt, Sally, whether there's anybody in the world you know better
than you know me."

"There _is_ no one, Daddy."

"It has been a pleasure to me to believe that you love me."

"There's only one I love better than you, Daddy.'

"Our Duchess."

"Yes."

"But in addition to love, you have some other feeling with respect to
me. Shall I try to put it in words?"

"If you please, Daddy."

"From what you know of me, you know I would not be guilty of a mean or
dirty action. You know that I would sooner have my hands cut off than
give anyone the power to say, 'Seth Dumbrick, you are a scoundrel and
a sneak.'"

"I am certain of it, Daddy."

"Well, then. Don't you think anything like that of me because of what
I'm doing now. Sally, I'm doing my duty. I'm doing what will perhaps
save our Duchess from what both you and me are frightened to speak of
to each other. If this man that she's keeping company with--this
gentleman, as she's spoken of at odd times, when I've tried to coax
her to confide in me--this gentleman that meets her secretly, and is
ashamed or afraid to show his face to me that stands in the light of a
father to the girl he's following--if this gentleman _is_ a gentleman
(though his conduct don't say that much for him), and means fairly and
honourably by our girl, then all's well. But I've got to satisfy
myself of that. I should deserve the hardest things that could be said
of me if I let our child walk blindly into a pit--if I, by holding
back, assisted to make her beauty a curse instead of a blessing to
her. Do you understand me?"

"I think I do."

"If," said Seth, with a tender animation in his voice, "this gentleman
wants to marry her, and sets it down as a hard and fast consideration,
that she should tear herself away from those who love her, and who
have cared for her all these years--if he says to her, 'I am a
gentleman, and when we are married you will be a lady; and as such you
must never speak another word to the low people you've lived and
associated with from a child;' if he says this to our Duchess, and we
happen to know it, and that it's for her good it should be so, neither
you nor me would step in her way. However sorry we should be, and
lonely without her, we should say, 'Goodbye, Duchess, and God bless
you! We'll never trouble you or your husband with a sight of our faces
again.' Would that be in your mind as well as in mine, my girl?"

"Yes," replied Sally, with a sob.

"But we've got to make sure of that--and there's only one way to come
to it, as our girl keeps her tongue still, and her thoughts shut from
us. When I accepted the charge of her, I accepted a responsibility,
and I'm not going to run away from it like a coward, because the
proper carrying of it out will bring a sorrow to my heart that will
remain there to my dying day. Do you think now I may look over what's
in this trunk?"

"I am certain you'll do what's right, Daddy."

He gave her another tender glance, and proceeded to examine the trunk.
It was filled with a girl's finery, of a better quality than that
which belonged to a person in the Duchess's position of life. Lace
collars and cuffs, feathers for hats, gloves, and underclothing of a
fine texture. Sally's face grew paler as the articles were carefully
lifted from the trunk by Seth, and placed upon the table.

"There are things here you've never seen before, Sally?"

Sally nodded, with lips compressed.

Seth took from the trunk a long soft package, containing a piece of
bright blue silk, sufficient for a dress.

"Did she ever show you this?" asked Seth.

"No," said Sally, with trembling fingers on the silk. "How beautiful
she will look in it!"

In a corner of the trunk was a small box made of cedar wood. Opening
it, Seth took out various articles of jewelry, and gazed at them with
sad eyes.

"These should be the belongings of a lady, Sally. Our girl is being
prepared for the change. Is it to be one of joy or sorrow?"

At the bottom of the cedar-wood box was a small packet of letters
addressed to the Duchess. Seth hesitated. The receipt of these letters
had been hidden from him. They were addressed to the Duchess at a
post-office a mile distant from Rosemary Lane. He debated within
himself whether he had a right to read them. "If I were her father,"
he thought, "the right would be clearly mine. As it is, the right is
mine. I am her guardian and protector."

He read them in silence; they were love letters, expressing the most
passionate adoration for the Duchess, and filled with vows and
promises enough to distract the mind of any girl in her position.
Apart from the expressions of love they contained, there were other
disturbing elements--such as the circumstance of the letters being
written on paper bearing a crest with Latin words around it. Sally
followed Seth's movements with wistful eagerness, but he did not
enlighten her as to the contents of the letters. He returned them and
the trinkets to the scented box, and replaced in the trunk with
studied care all the articles he had taken from it. Then he locked and
carried the trunk to the corner of the cellar again.

"It may be," he said, after a short contemplative pause, "that our
Duchess has really attracted the love of a gentleman. Such things have
occurred, produced by faces and figures less beautiful than those of
our Duchess."

"Then the change will be one of joy!" cried Sally, with a brighter
look.

"You know what that means, Sally. It means separation from us. You
have a good memory, my girl?"

"Oh, yes."

"Carry your mind back to the holiday we had in the country. Do you
think you can recall all that occurred in those few happy days?"

"Shall I try?"

"Yes--just run them over."

"Our packing up the night before; getting up early in the morning and
meeting the wagon; trotting out of the dull streets into the beautiful
country--I can hear the jingle of the bells on the horses' necks--the
gardens, the lanes, the lovely flowers, and the waving corn; the names
of the horses, Daisy and Cornflower--is that right, Daddy?"

"Go on, Sally. You have a capital memory."

"Our stopping at the public-house, and having dinner in the garden;
our getting into the wagon again, with a lot of fresh hay to sit on;
our trotting on and on till we came to another public-house, called
The World's End--I thought it a strange name, and that we were really
getting to the end of the world----"

"One moment, Sally. Before we came to The World's End, we saw a great
park with splendid iron gates at the entrance. I asked what place it
was----"

"And the wagoner said it was called Springfield."

"That's right, Sally; go on. What a memory you've got."

"Getting down at The World's End, and of its being quite early. Then
you took us for a walk, and on the way we met a gipsy woman----"

Sally paused. She remembered perfectly well that the gipsy had
predicted that a great trouble would fall upon her through her love
for a woman younger than herself, more beautiful than herself, that
she loved, and loved dearly; and that then the gipsy had said to the
Duchess, "Show yourself, my beauty." Sally did not wish--for the
reason that it might be of disadvantage to the Duchess--to recall
these details to Seth, who might have forgotten them; as indeed he
had, his mind being fixed on a particular point which Sally's memory
had not yet reached; but not the less startling to her was the
conviction that the gipsy's words were coming true. _Coming_ true! Had
they not been already verified by the altered relations between
herself and the Duchess? It smote her keenly to reflect that for a
long, long time past the Duchess had hidden from her knowledge the
secret of a love which might tear them asunder for ever. But Sally was
not prone to selfish musings; her generous nature was always ready to
find excuses for the girl-friend to whom she had been sister and
mother; and although her heart was aching sorely, and yearning for
confidence and sympathy, she laid no blame on the cause of her sorrow.
What more could she desire than that the Duchess should become a lady,
and enjoy the life she sighed for? "I dare say," thought Sally, "that
she will let me see her now and again, when no one is near to make her
ashamed of me." To her own future Sally gave no thought; love of
another kind had not yet stirred her soul with its enthralling
influence.

"And while we were talking to the gipsy," said Seth, "a lady and
gentleman came up to us."

"Yes, yes; I remember."

"Do you remember what kind of a gentleman?"

"I didn't like him, Daddy."

"Nor I. Now as to his name."

Sally pondered, but could not call it to mind.

"If I mention it, you will know, perhaps. Was it Temple?"

"Yes, oh, yes; I remember now."

"Sally, would you like to know who has written all those letters to
our girl, and who is her gentleman lover?"

"Of course I should, Daddy."

"His name is Arthur Temple."

"Not the Mr. Temple we met in the country!" exclaimed Sally, clasping
her hands in a kind of despair. "He must be an old man by this time."

Seth could not help smiling sympathetically. This dismay at the
thought of an old lover for their Duchess was very intelligible to
him.

"No, it cannot certainly be that Mr. Temple. But it would be a strange
thing if Arthur Temple should turn out to be his son. However, that
has to be discovered. Sally, I have made up my mind what to do; and
you may depend that it will be for the good of the Duchess."

"You mustn't interfere with her, Daddy. She won't put up with it."

"She will not know what I am about; what I do shall be done secretly.
It is my duty not to allow this to go on any further without an
understanding of some sort. To arrive at this I must set a watch upon
her."

"Oh, Daddy if she should see you!"

"She shall not see me; I will take care of that. Sally, another thing
has to be done; we're to enter into a compact. Not a word of all this
to the Duchess."

"I'll be as mum as a mouse."

"And if things turn out right for the Duchess, we must twist our minds
into thinking that they have turned out right for us. It will be dull
here without her, but if the love of an old man can make it brighter
for you, Sally----"

A little choking in his voice compelled him to pause, and turn his
head. The contemplation of this change in his life, now that he was an
old man and worse off in a worldly way than he ever remembered himself
to be, brought deep sadness upon him. All the dreams he had indulged
in of a bright future for the Duchess, some warmth from which would
shine upon herself, had faded quite away. But warmth and light came to
him from another quarter. A thin arm stole around his neck, and a
dark, loving face was pressed close to his. He drew the grateful woman
on his knee, and the few minutes of silence which ensued were not the
unhappiest that had been passed in the dingy old cellar.

"And now, Sally," he said, kissing her, "what we've got to do is our
duty--straight, my girl, as we can do it--and to hope for the best."



CHAPTER XXV.


The evening following this conversation, Seth Dumbrick, going out
while the Duchess was still at home, watched for her at the corner of
a convenient street, and when she appeared, followed her so as not to
be observed. It was a fine dry evening, and the Duchess walked swiftly
towards the west of London. At the Mansion House she entered an
omnibus, and Seth climbed to the top. She alighted at Charing Cross,
and tripped over to Trafalgar Square, where she was immediately
greeted by a man whose face Seth, being compelled to keep at a safe
distance, could not distinguish. There was no difficulty in following
the pair; and it needed only ordinary caution to prevent being
detected. The Duchess and her companion walked onwards through the
Haymarket to Regent Street, pausing frequently at shop-windows, and
once they entered a café, Seth waiting for them in the street.
Resuming their walk they strolled to Oxford Street, and then turned
back towards the Strand. It was half-past seven by the time they
reached that wonderful thoroughfare, down which they strolled, until
they came to the door of the Strand Theatre. This they entered, and
were lost to Seth's sight. Noticing which way they turned, he
followed, and asked the price of admission. A gentleman in a white
tie, who was standing by the small window where the money was taken,
loftily informed Seth that the pit and gallery were round the corner.

"But," said Seth, "I want to go where the lady and gentleman who have
just passed through have gone."

"To the stalls?" inquired the gentleman in the white tie, in a tone of
surprise.

"Yes, to the stalls," replied Seth.

"Can't admit you," was the rejoinder.

"Why?"

"Not dressed."

Seth glanced at his common clothes, and with a slight shrug and a
little ironical smile, pardonable under the circumstances, took the
indicated direction to the pit and gallery. He paid for admission to
the pit, and, soon after he entered, succeeded in discovering where
the Duchess was seated. She was in the stalls with her companion, and
their backs were towards him. When Seth entered the pit, he found it
very full, and he could only obtain standing room; necessarily,
therefore, his discovery of the Duchess was made with some difficulty,
and from where he stood it was impossible for him to observe her
closely. Indeed, from the surging of the audience, and the goings to
and fro, she was often not visible to him. He had no heart for the
performance, which caused a running fire of laughter and merriment in
all parts of the theatre, and before its termination he left the
place, afraid lest in the last crush he should miss the Duchess. He
lingered patiently in the Strand, near the box entrance of the
theatre, until the people came out, and was successful in catching
sight of the Duchess and her companion, whose evening dress was
covered by a light overcoat. When they had disengaged themselves from
the throng, they paused, and from the opposite side of the street Seth
noted that a discussion was taking place between them, the man
persuading, the Duchess refusing. At length the Duchess cut short the
disputed point by running away from her companion with a light laugh.
He hastened immediately after her, and arm-in-arm they wended their
way to Rosemary Lane, followed warily by Seth. There they parted,
after more than one kiss, which caused Seth to knit his brows
ominously. When he was alone, the man took from his pocket a cigar
case, which, notwithstanding the distance that separated them, Seth
observed was made of silver. Lighting a cigar, the Duchess's lover
strolled leisurely along until he came to a cab-rank, whence he hailed
a cab. This was what Seth feared. Quickly hailing another, he gave the
driver instructions to follow, without laying himself open to
observation, promising extra payment if this were done. His cab pulled
up in one of the most fashionable quarters of the west of London. As
he was paying the fare, he asked the driver the name of the street,
and saw his girl's lover walk on a few yards, and pause at a great
house, which he presently entered. Then Seth walked up the steps, and
noted the number.

His labours for that night were almost at an end; there was still a
small matter to be attended to. He waited until he heard the
policeman's measured footfall, and falling in by his side in a natural
manner, struck up a conversation. He did not find it difficult, being
in some respects a shrewd actor in the busy world, to ingratiate
himself into the good graces of the official It was a cold night, and
he proposed a friendly glass, The policeman, who knew an honest man
when he came across one, and who was generally luckier than Diogenes,
affably entertained the proposition. Over the friendly glass the
conversation was continued, and sufficiently mellowed, the policeman
took possession of his beat again, accompanied by Seth. They passed
the house which the Duchess's lover had entered. Seth had artfully
directed the conversation into the desired channel, and as they passed
the house, he asked:

"Who lives there? A great man, I should say."

"You'd say right," replied the policeman. "That's Mr. Temple's house."

"Hasn't he an estate in the country, called Springfield? I was in that
quarter some time since, and I heard it belonged to the great Mr.
Temple."

"I've heard as much myself. Yes, Springfield's the name of his country
seat, now you mention it. I wish I was as well off as him."

"I wish so, too," said Seth  Dumbrick, as he walked away.
"Goodnight."



CHAPTER XXVI.


It happened that, during the week in which these occurrences took
place, Mr. Temple was absent from London. On the night of his return
he was more than usually elated. Everything was prospering with him.
Arthur's ingenuous manner found favour wherever he appeared, and his
introduction into society promised the most favourable results. In
addition to this cause for satisfaction, Mr. Temple had reason to
believe that his public services were likely, nay, almost certain, to
be rewarded with a title, which his son would bear after him.

"There is practically no limit to our fortunes, my boy," he said to
Arthur; "the current will carry us on."

To which Arthur replied:

"I trust I shall not disappoint you, sir."

"I am satisfied as to that," said Mr. Temple. "My chief desire now is
that you should choose a definite career. I do not wish to press you,
but the sooner you enter public life the wider will be your experience
and the greater your chances. Our name shall be a famous one in the
country."

On his return to his town house, Mr. Temple, after a few minutes'
conversation with his wife, proceeded to the library. He had been
expected home the previous evening, and his correspondence for two
days lay upon his writing-table. He looked over the letters hurriedly,
and paused at one which seemed to give him uneasiness. It was brief
and to the point.

"The writer of these lines, Seth Dumbrick by name, wishes for a
personal interview with Mr. Temple, on a matter of vital importance to
himself and the gentleman he addresses. He will call on Mr. Temple at
eight o'clock this evening, and hopes not to be denied."

Mr. Temple glanced at the clock. It was a quarter-past eight. He
struck a bell, and a servant entered.

"Is any person waiting to see me?"

"Yes, sir; he is in the hall."

"Giving any name?"

"Dumbrick, sir."

"Did he come yesterday?"

"Yes, sir, and was informed you would not return till to-night."

"What sort of a person?"

"A common person, sir--a very common person."

"Show him in."

The next moment Seth Dumbrick entered, hat in hand, and stood near the
door. From his seat at the table, Mr. Temple desired him to come near.
Seth Dumbrick obeyed, and the men faced each other.

"You are the writer of this note," said Mr. Temple haughtily.

"I am, sir."

"Explain it, and briefly. Stay--have I not seen your face somewhere?"

Seth Dumbrick made no immediate reply. He had no desire to recall to
Mr. Temple's memory the circumstances of the unpleasant interview that
had taken place between them many years ago. He himself had recognised
Mr. Temple the moment he entered the room, his cause for remembrance
being the stronger of the two. Mr. Temple had an unerring memory for
faces, but his meeting with Seth Dumbrick lay so far in the past, and
his life was so varied and full of colour, that he could not for the
moment connect the face with the circumstance.

"Answer me," he said peremptorily. "Have I not seen you before?"

"You have, sir."

"Where?"

"Years ago--at Springfield--when I, with two children, was taking a
holiday in the country."

"Ah, I remember perfectly. Our meeting was not a pleasant one."

"It was not my fault that it was not so."

"I remember also that you gave me the address of an inn at which you
were stopping, and that I informed you I should call there. I _did_
call, and you had gone. You ran away, I presume."

"I followed my course, being a free man, and not bound to wait for
strangers."

"It is a matter of no importance. Two children! Yes; I should know
them again, I think. One, a child, with a very beautiful face. Is she
living?"

"She is, sir; as a woman, though she is scarcely yet out of her
girlhood, she is more beautiful than she was as a child. I am here on
her behalf."

"On her behalf!" exclaimed Mr. Temple, taking the note from the table.
"You use the words 'vital importance.'"

"They are correctly used, as you will perhaps admit when you hear me."

"I will hear you. Of vital importance to yourself and to me?"

"That is so, sir."

Mr. Temple considered for a moment. His career had been one which
necessitated rapid conclusions.

"Write your name, trade, and address on this paper."

Seth Dumbrick did as he was desired. His manner was closely watched by
Mr. Temple, who expected to detect a reluctance to give the
information. But Seth Dumbrick wrote unhesitatingly, and with
decision.

"This is your true name and address?"

"I have no other. I am here to speak the truth."

"Say what you have to say."

"I must trespass upon your patience, but I will be as brief as it is
possible for me to be. It is very many years ago--I cannot recall how
many; the age of the child, if it can be ascertained, will verify
that--that a little girl was strangely and mysteriously brought into
my neighbourhood by a man whom I never saw, and who remained in
Rosemary Lane for probably not longer than a couple of hours. This
stranger took a room in the house of acquaintances of mine----"

"Write on the paper, beneath your own name, the name of these
acquaintances."

Seth Dumbrick wrote the name of Chester, which Mr. Temple did not
glance at. He was more engaged in observing the manner in which the
man before him submitted to the tests he demanded. Seth continued:

"The stranger took a room that was to let in the house, and paid, I
believe, two weeks' rent in advance. The night that he took the room
he disappeared from the neighbourhood, and was never more seen in it."

"Leaving the child?"

"Leaving the child. Not long after the occurrence the persons who
occupied the house fell into misfortune, and the woman into whose care
the child had been strangely thrown was compelled by circumstances to
give up her house, and take a situation in the country."

"All this bears upon your errand to me?"

"Every word of it. The woman had a little girl of her own, a few years
older than the foundling, who contracted an absorbing love for the
deserted stranger. It is not necessary to relate how I, upon the
breaking up of the woman's home, took upon myself the care of her
child and the child whom the villain--that is the correct word, in my
opinion--deserted. These children have lived with me ever since, and
under my care have grown to womanhood."

The talent Seth Dumbrick exhibited for condensation and clearness had
its effect upon Mr. Temple, who knew how to appreciate the rare
faculty.

The child you have referred to for her beauty is the child who was
deserted. Nothing is known of her parentage or belongings. She has
grown up amongst us, and is loved by all. To me, a childless man, she
is as my own daughter, and I could not feel more deeply for her were
she of my own blood. But it was a matter of remark from the first, and
has continued so, that, from all appearance, she is superior in
certain ways to those whom a strange fate has condemned her to herd
with. You see, sir, that I do not rate myself and those of my order
too highly. I have given her what education it was in my power to
bestow. She is in all respects a lady, and as beautiful a girl as this
city contains. As is natural, so bright a being has attracted the
attention of those in my station of life--I do not say in hers--who
desire matrimony. But she has consistently declined to entertain their
proposals, and has, so to speak, set her head above them--as she has
done from the first, in every possible way. Whether this comes from
her parents, who, for the credit of human nature, I hope are dead, it
is beyond me to say. There are mysteries which we weak mortals are
powerless to probe. I come now, sir, to that part of my story which
most nearly touches the object of my visit to you.

"Before you proceed, favour me with the name of this child."

"I must ask you to receive it in all seriousness, sir. I am afraid
that I am principally to blame for it, but it sprung out of a
whimsical fancy, and in one of those moments of extravagance for which
we are scarcely accountable. The child had no name; the villain who
brought her into the neighbourhood, and deserted her, left none behind
him; and in such a moment as I have spoken of, the name--if it can be
called so--of the Duchess of Rosemary Lane was given her. It was
undoubtedly wrong, but it has clung to her, and she bears no other."

"Go on now to the immediate purport of your note to me."

"As I have said, she has attracted the attention of many suitors in my
station of life, but she has turned a deaf ear to all. She has
attracted other attention--the attention of a gentleman moving
presumably, nay certainly, in a higher position in society than that
she occupies. Have you no suspicion of the point I am coming to?"

"None."

"The person I speak of," proceeded Seth, with a heavy sigh, "meets my
child regularly, and has given her such gifts as only a gentleman
could afford to give."

"An old story," interrupted Mr. Temple.

"Continue to hear me patiently, sir. I have but little more to say.
This gentleman writes constantly to her, but not to the home in which
she has lived from childhood. I am here to ask you whether it is
possible that such an intimacy will result in a manner honourable to
the girl whom I, an old and childless man, love with all the
earnestness and devotion of which I am capable--for whose happiness I
would lay down my life as surely as every word I have spoken to you is
the honest and straightforward truth."

"And it is to this point you must come at once," said Mr. Temple,
whose tone would have been arrogant but for the effect which the
genuine pathos of his visitor produced upon him against his will.
"What interest can I have in the name of this gentleman, who, seeing a
pretty girl who is flattered by his attentions, follows her, and falls
into the trap she lays for him----"

But if his speech had not trailed off here, it would have been
arrested by Seth's indignant protest.

"Stop!" he cried, in a ringing voice. "Hear first the name of the man
who is wooing my child, and who from your own sentiments--for nature
transmits good and evil qualities from father to son--is seeking to
entrap an innocent girl!"

At this moment these two men--the one so high in the world, the other
so low--changed positions. It was Mr. Temple who cowered, and Seth
Dumbrick who raised his head to the light.

"Speak the name then," said Mr. Temple.

"Your son--Arthur Temple!"

A cold smile served at once to hide Mr. Temple's agitation and to
outwardly denote the value he wished Seth Dumbrick to believe he
placed upon his statement.

"And you," he said, with contemptuous emphasis, "have connived at this
intimacy, and have come to me to place a price upon----"

Again he was interrupted indignantly by Seth.

"You mistake. I have never, so that I could recognise it, seen the
face of your son; I have had no conversation with my child upon the
subject, and she does not know of my visit to you. She has not
confided in me."

"How then do you happen to be aware of the particulars you have
narrated so fluently? How have you gained the knowledge of the letters
and the gifts?"

"Having only the good of my child at heart, and being better versed in
the villainies----"

"Be careful of your words."

"If your son has no honourable intention towards my girl, the word is
in its proper place. Being better versed in the ways of the world than
she, a young and inexperienced child, can possibly be, I exercised my
rightful authority, and searched her trunk, to discover what she was
concealing from me. I found the tokens there. The letters are written
on paper stamped with a crest, surrounded by Latin words which I do
not understand."

Mr. Temple, in silence, handed Seth a sheet of notepaper.

"The crest and words," said Seth, putting on his spectacles to examine
them, "are the same as these."

"Is that all you have to say?"

"All--with the exception that three nights ago I witnessed the meeting
between your son and my child."

"How did you discover where he lives?"

"I followed him to this house, and learnt that it was yours."

"You would have made a good detective, my man."

"What I have done," said Seth simply, "has been prompted and guided by
love."

Mr. Temple, shading his face with his hand, was silent a little. He
could not doubt the truth of Seth's statement, and his desire was to
save his san from awkward consequences which might result from his
imprudence. He raised his eyes, and said, in a hard tone:

"Your price?"

Seth Dumbrick stared at Mr. Temple, and his frame shook with
agitation.

"Your price," repeated Mr. Temple, "for those letters?"

"Are you asking me," said Seth, resting his hand heavily on the table
to obtain some control over his words, "to put a price upon my child's
honour?"

"I will have no insolent construction placed upon my question. You
have heard it. Answer it."

"It should have blistered your tongue," said Seth, with bitter
emphasis, "to utter it. Is that answer sufficient?"

"Quite," replied Mr. Temple, striking the bell with a fierceness he
would have shown had it been human and his enemy. A servant entered.

"Turn this person from the house," he said sternly.

The servant stood before Seth Dumbrick, who knew that there was no
appeal. But before he took his departure, he said sternly:

"If Divine justice be not a delusion, you will live to repent this
night. Into your home may come the desolation you would assist in
bringing into mine."

He had time to say no more' for at a peremptory gesture from Mr.
Temple, the servant forced him from the room.

Mr. Temple instantly touched the bell again, and another servant
entered.

"Is Richards in?"

"Yes, sir."

"Send him to me immediately."

Almost on the instant, Richards made his appearance. A man of the same
age as his master, tall and spare, with a manner so habitually
watchful that, although he seldom looked a person in the face, not a
movement or expression escaped his notice.

"A man is now being shown out of the house," said Mr. Temple
hurriedly, "whom you will follow to his home. Lose not a moment.
Ascertain every particular relating to himself, his life, and his
domestic history. You understand?"

Richards nodded. He was a man not given to the wasting of speech.

"This is a secret and confidential service," said Mr. Temple. "Breathe
not a word concerning it to a soul but myself--understand, not to a
soul but myself--not even to my son. Hasten now, or you may miss him."



CHAPTER XXVII.


Richards, a secret silent man, had been in Mr. Temple's service for a
great number of years. Long before Mr. Temple had achieved
distinction, he had observed in this man certain qualities which he
deemed might be useful to him; and he took Richards into his service.
He found the man invaluable, and had entrusted to him many delicate
commissions, all of which had been carried out to his satisfaction.
The men were necessary to each other. As the possessor of secrets the
revelation of which, in former years, might have proved awkward, the
master was bound to his servant by a strong, albeit somewhat dangerous
tie. Richards made use of his power without showing his hand, by
asking from time to time for additions to his salary, which were
freely accorded. Richards had saved money, and the service was an easy
and, to a great extent, an independent one.

He had a knack of keeping his opinions to himself, and of devoting
himself, all appearance, entirely to the business entrusted to
him--which he invariably contrived should add to the weight of his
purse. Mr. Temple had a high opinion of Richards; so high that he had
said to his son,

"Arthur, if at any time you want any business of a delicate nature
transacted, which you would rather not appear in yourself, employ
Richards."

Arthur thought the suggestion strange, as he could not conceive what
delicate business he should require attended to, which he should be
ashamed to appear in; but a very short time was sufficient to convince
him that his father was wiser than he. Certain circumstances occurred
which caused him, a fortnight since, to call in the help of Richards;
and it thus happened that, at one and the same time, Richards was
employed on confidential commissions for the father and the son. A
singular, but not unusual phase in these commissions was the absolute
silence imposed upon Richards.

"Not a word of this to my father," Arthur Temple said.

The stipulation was not needed. Richards was the soul of secrecy.

On the same day Richards presented two written reports--one to the
father, the other to the son. The report presented to Mr. Temple ran
thus:


"In accordance with instructions, I have to report--

"The name of the man is Seth Dumbrick. He is a cobbler, and lives in
Rosemary Lane.

"Rosemary Lane is in one of the poorest quarters of London. All the
people who live there are poor.

"Seth Dumbrick is a single man, and has never been married--either
directly or indirectly.

"He has two persons living with him--both young women, whom he has
brought up from childhood. They are not his children. One is Sally
Chester. Her parents, when she was a child, lived in Rosemary Lane;
they fell into misfortune; the father died in the hospital; the mother
took service in the country. They had another child, a son. His name
is Edward, or, as he was familiarly called, Ned. This son was a thief;
he went, or was sent away, to Australia. Upon the precise manner of
his going my information is not clear.

"The other person living with Seth Dumbrick goes by the title of the
Duchess of Rosemary Lane; she has no Christian or surname. Nothing is
known of her parentage.

"Sally Chester is a plain person. The Duchess of Rosemary Lane is a
beautiful woman.

"It is whispered about in the neighbourhood that the Duchess of
Rosemary Lane will one day marry a gentleman, and that she will become
a fine lady. She herself has this anticipation; I had it from her own
lips.

"Seth Dumbrick is very poor, and Sally Chester takes in work to help
to support them. The Duchess of Rosemary Lane does not work.

"I have nothing further to report at present."


The report presented to Arthur Temple ran thus:


"To a certain point my report is now complete, and I present it, being
prepared to prosecute the inquiry, and carry it on from day to day, if
I am instructed so to do.

"So that there may be no mistake about my understanding of the
instructions given to me, I recapitulate them.

"On the 17th of last month you sent for me, and informed me that you
were being robbed. You had missed at various times articles of
jewelry, the particulars and description of which I wrote down from
your dictation, for the purpose of identification. The principal of
the articles were a diamond breastpin, a ring with sunk diamonds and
emeralds, a silver cigar-case. I inquired if you were being robbed of
anything but articles of jewelry. You replied, not to your knowledge.
I inquired if you were careful in looking over your banking account.
You replied that you were not in the habit of doing so. I requested
that you should look into the matter before I commenced to prosecute
my investigations.

"On the following day, the 18th, you sent for me, and informed me that
you had looked into your banking account, and that you had been robbed
of money by means of forged cheques. It was what I expected.

"I went with you to the bank, and made certain inquiries and took
possession of the forged cheques which had been cashed, and of five
genuine cheques which had also been cashed, and which I required for
my own purposes. In accordance with my wish the bank was not made
acquainted with these forgeries. I inquired whether you had a
suspicion of any person. You replied that you had no suspicion.

"On the following day, the 19th, I requested that you should send by
your valet, James Kingsford, a letter addressed to the manager of the
bank, stating that for the next two months you did not intend to draw
any one cheque for a larger sum than £20. I desired that this letter
should, as though by accident, be given unsealed into the hands of
your valet, James Kingsford. This was done, and the result justified
my anticipation. From the 19th to the 26th, two forged cheques were
presented, each for a sum under £20. They were paid. The total amount
of the forged cheques reached £674.

"On the 26th, I desired you to send another letter, imperfectly
fastened, to the bank manager, by your valet, stating that, pending
certain arrangements you had in contemplation, you did not intend to
draw any further cheques upon your account without due notice being
given. From that day no forged cheques were presented for payment.

"During the whole of the time I was proceeding with my secret
investigation, and have continued it until this date, with this
result.

"A person of the name of Ned, or Edward Chester, has lately returned
from Australia, where he resided for ten or twelve years. Of his
career there I have no information; the time employed by me in this
investigation not having been long enough to obtain it. He is an
Englishman, born in London, and living during his boyhood, and
afterwards at intervals, in Rosemary Lane a common street, in a common
locality, in the east of London. Since his return he has not made
himself known to any of his former associates, with the exception of
one, whom I will presently mention, and who can scarcely be called an
associate.

"Ned Chester, before he left for Australia, was a thief, but at the
same time a person whose manners were superior to those of his
associates. He took a strange fancy, as a young man, to a child, a
little girl, living in Rosemary Lane, of whose parentage nothing was
known. When he left for Australia, this little girl was probably not
more than five or six years of age, but I do not pledge myself to a
year or two. While he was in Australia he sent her money, which the
man who has brought her up received and spent. Returning home, after
an absence of ten or twelve years, he renewed his acquaintance with
her. She is now a very beautiful young woman.

"It was his intention to introduce himself in his proper name, having
an idea that she must have been thinking of him during his absence as
much as he had been thinking of her; but he amused himself at first by
conversing with her as a stranger. He soon discovered that the young
woman had no recollection of him, and that she had never bestowed a
thought upon him; he discovered, also, that she was dissatisfied with
her position in life, and that she had a fancy in her head that,
because her parents were not known, she must certainly be a lady. He
told her he was a gentleman, and when she asked for his name, he gave
the name of Arthur Temple. He pledged her to secrecy upon this point,
on the grounds that he did not wish to have anything to do with her
friends and neighbours, and that family reasons required that their
intimacy should for a time be kept from the knowledge of his father.
He represented that, upon his father's death, who, he said, was an old
man, he would come into possession of a large fortune.

"Under the name of Arthur Temple, he meets the young woman regularly.
He has given her presents, and has frequently written to her upon
paper bearing your father's crest.

"The name by which the young woman is known is The Duchess of Rosemary
Lane.

"The man who is passing himself upon her as Arthur Temple is your
valet, James Kingsford. You will thus perceive that Ned Chester, James
Kingsford, and the fictitious Arthur Temple, are one and the same
person.

"It is this person, also, who has uttered the forged cheques, and who
has stolen the missing jewelry.

"This report is longer than I desired, but to place you in possession
of all the particulars, I have found it impossible to abbreviate it."


The receipt of this communication caused Arthur Temple great
excitement. It appeared to him that it was the real commencement of
his life's experience. The loss of the money, and the discovery of the
man who had robbed him, did not so much affect him as that portion of
the narrative which related to the beautiful girl whom Ned Chester was
deceiving. His imagination was stirred, and his chivalrous heart
prompted him to defend and save her. He went at once in search of
Richards, with the man's statement in his hand, and plunged
immediately into the subject.

"I have no reason to doubt the truth of your report, Richards."

"You need have none, sir."

"It _is_ true?"

"Every word of it."

"How have you obtained so much information in as short a time?"

"My method--if you will excuse my saying so much--is my own."

"Undoubtedly. Perhaps you have had some conversation with the rogue
who robbed me."

"I have; he is not aware of the position I hold with respect to your
father and yourself."

"The means in this case," said Arthur Temple, in a tone of slight
dissatisfaction, "possibly justified the end."

"You must judge of that for yourself, sir. I have no doubt in my
mind."

"You have seen the person who has brought up this girl?"

"I have; and have had some talk with him. His name is Seth Dumbrick;
he lives in Rosemary Lane."

"That accounts, then, for the whimsical title of the girl."

"Possibly, sir."

"You have seen her?"

"I have."

"And, she is, as you say, pretty?"

"I have not used the word pretty. She is beautiful."

"Richards," said Arthur Temple, with excitement, "the girl must be
saved!"

Richards did not reply. He was a practical man, and was not given to
sentimental action on the spur of the moment.

"It is my duty," continued Arthur, "to save her. Will you assist me?"

Richards hesitated. The reports he had written to Mr. Temple and
Arthur were straightforward and to the point. In so far, he had done
his duty. But there was a matter he had not touched upon in those
reports--a discovery he had made which had astonished and perplexed
him.

That he himself was culpable in the matter did not affect him;
sufficient that he was not punishable; and if it came to the value of
one man's word against another's, he knew full well that, in this
instance, he held the winning card. He was an old man, and he was
tired of servitude. He had saved sufficient money to pass the
remainder of his days in comfort; and perhaps, for the peculiar
service he was enabled to render Arthur Temple--a service the nature
of which held no place in Arthur's mind--the young man would
generously remember him. Then, again, it was an act of justice which
chance had placed in his hands the power to perform; such an act,
brought about by himself, might condone for many a piece of dirty work
in the past. It is not necessary to pause and inquire by what process
of reasoning these thoughts, leading to a definite and startling
course of action, formed themselves in his mind. They came at a time
when most men in shackles, having the power to free themselves, would
gladly have availed themselves of the power. There were reasons which,
in the conclusion he was arriving at, undoubtedly played an important
part. One of these was that it was possible, if he did not make
himself the principal instrument of rendering atonement for a great
wrong, the discovery might be made in a manner disadvantageous to
himself. Another reason, although he was scarcely conscious of it, was
that he had been deeply touched by the beauty of the Duchess, and it
is not unlikely that, if Arthur Temple had not stepped forward, he
would have taken upon himself the task of rescuing her from the
clutches of an unscrupulous villain.

While he was engaged in these reflections, Arthur Temple paced the
room excitedly.

"She must be saved, Richards. There is a mystery here which it has
fallen to my lot to clear up. Your story being true, this man has
imposed upon me as well as robbed me. He told me, before I engaged him
to accompany me to England, that there was a woman at home whom he had
loved for years, and to see whom would complete the happiness of his
life. The trickster! As for the money, let it go. But his villainy to
an innocent girl shall not escape punishment. Once again, will you
assist me, or must I work alone?"

Richards adopted the chivalrous course; partly for the reasons already
given, and partly because of the excitement it would afford.

"I will assist you, sir," he said.



CHAPTER XXIX.


Ned Chester fulfilled the promise he gave to the Duchess that he would
see Mrs. Lenoir safely to her home. When the exhausted woman recovered
from her fainting condition and was sufficiently strong to lean on his
arm and walk slowly along, he said to her:

"You may thank your stars I was near you when you fell. I am going to
help you home. Where do you live?"

The strange voice and the rough manner of the man--for Ned was not
always on his holiday behaviour, and the worse side of his nature
invariably exhibited itself when there was nothing to be
gained--caused Mrs. Lenoir to shrink from him; but, deprived of his
support, she almost fell to the ground again.

"Don't be a fool!" cried Ned; "you are not strong enough to stand
alone. Where do you live?"

"Who are you?"

"I am a gentleman," he replied, in a boastful tone.

His manner gave the lie to his assertion, and Mrs. Lenoir, with her
fine instinct, knew that the man was a braggart. "Yes, yes--but your
name?"

"Never mind my name--it won't enlighten you. Now, are you coming?"

"No," said Mrs. Lenoir; "leave me."

"What will you do if I take you at your word?" he asked brutally.

"I will wait here--I will creep on till I find _her_--till I see again
the face I saw a little while ago, bending over me. Heaven will give
me strength--Heaven will give me strength!"

"In which case," thought Ned, "I shall get myself into hot water with
the Duchess. That will never do."

He adopted a more conciliatory tone.

"You foolish creature! You've been dreaming, and you'll bring trouble
on yourself."

"Dreaming!" murmured Mrs. Lenoir, pressing her hands to her head. "For
mercy's sake, do not tell me so! Nay, but it is not true. Let me
think--let me think. No--it was not a dream. I followed her and her
companion for miles through the snow, till my strength was gone. But
it has come again," she said, with hysterical sobs, which she
struggled with and checked; "it has come again, and I can go on. As I
lay on the ground I saw her face--the face I have dreamt of for many
weary years--bending over me!"

"It was my face you saw," said Ned, beginning to think that the woman
was mad.

"No, no," said Mrs. Lenoir, with a wan smile, "it was the face of a
lovely girl."

Ned's vanity and triumph in his conquest trapped him.

"She _has_ a lovely face, has she not?"

"It was no dream, then," cried Mrs. Lenoir eagerly.

"No; it was no dream. Now, let me help you home. I promised her I
would do so."

"You did!" sobbed Mrs. Lenoir; "she thought of me--and pitied me! Oh,
my heart!"

"You'll be going off again, if you don't mind. I tell you I promised
her, and I must keep my promise."

"Why must you keep your promise?"

Ned's boastful spirit was entirely beyond his control.

"Isn't the reason plain? We love each other. Is that sufficient? If
you will let me help you home, I promise that you shall see her again,
if you would like to."

"It is what I have lived for. You promise me--solemnly!"

"On the honour of a gentleman," said Ned, laying his hand on his
heart. "Will that content you?"

"It must--it shall. You are right--I cannot walk without assistance.
This is my way, I think. And you love her--and she loves you! I shall
see her again! When? It must be soon! It _must_ be soon!"

"It shall be--in a day or two. We are getting along nicely now. Ah,
there's a cab--that's lucky."

He called the cab, and put Mrs. Lenoir in it.

"What street do you live in?"

She told him, and he mounted the box. In less than a quarter of an
hour the cab stopped at her home. Desiring the driver to wait for him,
Ned opened the street-door with the latch key she gave him.

"Shall I help you to your room?" he asked.

"No; stay here in the passage. I will get a light; I want to see your
face."

She crept slowly upstairs. The passage was narrow, and, cold as the
night was, Ned, a strong and sturdy man, took off his light overcoat
and held it on his arm. Presently Mrs. Lenoir returned, with a lighted
candle in her hand.

She raised the candle, and, shading her eyes with her hand, looked
steadily at him. As she gazed into his face, a troubled expression
stole into her own. It was not the face of a man to whom she would
have cared to entrust the happiness of anyone dear to her.

"Well," he exclaimed, nettled at her intent observance of him, "you
will know me again."

"I shall know you again," she said, as he turned from her. "You can
have no objection now to tell me your name."

"Temple--Arthur Temple."

"Great God!"

He did not hear the words, nor did he see the candlestick drop from
her hand, leaving her in darkness. He slammed the street-door behind
him, and, resuming his seat on the cab, drove westwards.

A few minutes afterwards, a lodger coming home to the house in which
Mrs. Lenoir resided, found her lying senseless in the passage. He was
an old man, and had not strength to raise her. Knowing that she was
more intimate with Lizzie than with any other person in the house, he
knocked at the girl's door, and, waking her, told her of Mrs. Lenoir's
condition. Lizzie hurriedly threw on her clothes, and hastened to the
suffering woman. Assisted by the man, she carried her to her room, and
Mrs. Lenoir was soon in bed, attended by the most willing and cheerful
of nurses. The care Lizzie bestowed on her was not bestowed in vain,
and when Mrs. Lenoir opened her eyes, she saw a bright fire burning in
the room, and the girl standing by her bedside, with a cup of hot tea
in her hands. Mrs. Lenoir drank the tea eagerly, and took the bread
and butter which Lizzie's gentle persuasion induced her to eat. Lizzie
asked no questions; she was learning how to manage the strange woman,
whose secret sorrow had made so deep an impression upon her tender
heart.

"You are feeling better, Mrs. Lenoir?"

"Much better and stronger, thank you, Lizzie. You are very kind to me,
my dear."

"If you will let me, I will sleep with you."

Mrs. Lenoir offered no resistance to the proposal, and presently the
girl and the woman were lying side by side.

"Don't mind waking me, Mrs. Lenoir, if you want me."

"No, my dear. Lizzie, you will not betray the confidence I am going to
place in you. It will relieve me to speak it."

"Oh, I can keep a secret, Mrs. Lenoir."

"I believe," said Mrs. Lenoir very slowly, "that I have this night
seen the face of my daughter."

"Then, you have a daughter!" cried Lizzie in a tone of delight.

"A daughter, my dear, whom I have not seen since she was a little
child--and who they told me was dead. But I have seen her--I have seen
her, if there is truth in nature! After all these years I have seen
her--when she most needs a mother's care and counsel. I am praying now
for the hours to pass quickly that I may fold her to my heart."

"Is she coming to you to-morrow, Mrs. Lenoir?"

"There is my misery. She knows nothing of me, and I am in ignorance
where she lives. But I am promised--I am promised! God will help
me--He will surely help me, after my long years of anguish!"

She said not another word, and Lizzie was soon asleep; but Mrs. Lenoir
lay awake through the greater part of the night, with a prayer in her
heart as fervent as any ever whispered to Heaven from the depths of
tribulation. Towards morning, nature asserted her claim, and slumber
fell upon her troubled soul.

It was almost noon when she awoke; and Lizzie was bustling about the
room.

"I am going to stop with you till you're better," said the girl;
"perhaps I can help you. I'll take care not to be in the way if I'm
not wanted."

Mrs. Lenoir accepted the service, feeling the need of it at this
crisis. She was up and dressed, and breakfast was over, when Lizzie's
quick ears took her out of the room. She returned immediately.

"A gentleman is asking for a woman he saw home last night to this
house. It must be you by his description."

"Let him come in, Lizzie."

Lizzie looked at Ned Chester with admiration. In her eyes he was every
inch a gentleman, with his fine clothes, and gold chain, and diamond
ring on his ungloved hand.

"This is Mrs. Lenoir," she said.

"Mrs. Lenoir!" he repeated. "Ah, well, I didn't know the name. Are you
better?"

He had commenced speaking in a free and familiar tone, such as a man
adopts who is addressing one for whom he has no great feeling of
respect, but before he had uttered even these few words his tone
altered. Mrs. Lenoir had taken unusual pains with her dress, and she
presented so different an appearance from that which he expected--she
looked so gentle and lady-like--that he was compelled into a more
deferential and respectful manner.

"I am glad you are come," said Mrs. Lenoir; "I was afraid you might
forget your promise, or that it had been given lightly."

"What promise?" he asked.

"That I should see her again--the young lady who was with you last
night."

"Oh, the Duchess!" he exclaimed involuntarily, and the next moment
biting his lips at the betrayal.

"The Duchess!" echoed Mrs. Lenoir, in amazement.

"A pet name," he said quickly. "You shall see her again, as I
promised. But I have come on a different matter. I lost a silver
cigar-case last night. Have you got it?"

Mrs. Lenoir rose, and gazed at him in perplexity and fear.

"I will swear I had it about me as I assisted you home. When you left
me in the passage I took off my overcoat, and it dropped out of my
pocket perhaps. I don't mean anything worse than that. Did you find
it?"

"I don't understand you; I have not seen it. Lizzie, did you see
anything in the passage when you came down to me last night?"

"No," replied Lizzie, who had listened to the conversation with
intense curiosity.

Ned Chester considered in silence, uncertain for a moment how to act.
The cigar-case, which had been a gift to his master, Arthur Temple,
bore on it an inscription which might betray him, and he thought it
not unlikely that Mrs. Lenoir intended to retain it, so that she might
compel the fulfilment of his promise. There were obvious reasons why
he could not run the risk of making the theft public, for he
entertained no doubt that Mrs. Lenoir had robbed him. Since the
previous night he had had reason to suspect that his position was
growing perilous. His young master's manner had suddenly changed
towards him, and he had almost determined not to return to Mr.
Temple's house. With this partially-formed resolve in view, he had
seen the Duchess a short time before his visit to Mrs. Lenoir, and
proposed flight to her. He had taken good care of himself with respect
to money, and he had about him between five and six hundred pounds.
His scheme was to go to Paris with the Duchess, and thence to America,
where he would be safe, and where he believed his peculiar talents
might prove of service to him. At all events, with ready money at his
command, a few months of enjoyment were before him, and that prospect
was sufficiently alluring. But he had found the Duchess strangely
reluctant to agree to the flight, and he had to use all the
blandishments at his command to prevail upon her. At length she had
yielded, on one condition. She would not accompany him alone, nor
would she go without the society of one of her own sex. An instinct of
affection for Sally had stolen into the Duchess's breast on her
lover's sudden and startling proposition, and she suggested that Sally
should accompany her in her flight. To this he gave a vehement
refusal, and the Duchess fell back on another expedient. In his
boastful moments he had told her that he had confided to some of his
lady relations the secret of his attachment to a poor girl, and that,
charmed with "the romance of the thing," they had promised to assist
in reconciling him with his father, should any discovery take place.
The Duchess, to his annoyance, remembered this, as she remembered
every word he had spoken with reference to himself and his fine
friends; and she stipulated that, as he objected to Sally, one of
these ladies should accompany her. Seeing no way to the accomplishment
of this end, he had argued with her and endeavoured to talk away her
resolution. But the more he argued, the more obstinate the Duchess had
become, and he was compelled to promise that her whim should be
complied with.

"And mind," she said to him before they parted, "your lady friend and
I must go away from London by ourselves. You can meet us in the
country if you like, but when you come we must be together."

With this understanding they had parted an hour before his visit to
Mrs. Lenoir.

As he stood considering these matters in the presence of Mrs. Lenoir,
who, uneasy at the turn the conversation had taken, was waiting
anxiously for him to speak, a happy idea, as he believed it to be,
flashed across his mind. Why should he not come to an understanding
with this woman, whose appearance was so lady-like and whose manners
were so gentle, and palm her off upon the Duchess as one of his lady
friends who had consented to accompany her in her flight? It was not
at all likely that the Duchess, supposing Mrs. Lenoir were well and
fashionably dressed, would recognise in her the woman whose face she
had seen but once, and that but for a moment or two, and in a dim,
uncertain light. Once away from England, and free from the fears of
detection which were beginning to oppress him, he would experience no
difficulty in getting rid of the encumbrance, and pursuing his journey
to America with the Duchess alone. His eyes brightened as he looked
into Mrs. Lenoir's troubled face, and said, with just a glance at
Lizzie:

"I should like to have a few words with you in private."

"Leave us, Lizzie," said Mrs. Lenoir.

With a little toss of her head, indicative of a grudge against the
stranger for depriving her of the means of gratifying her curiosity,
Lizzie left the room.

"Mrs. Lenoir," said Ned, casting about in his mind for the proper
words to use, and quite unconscious that he was the object of a deeper
scrutiny than he had bestowed upon the woman before him; "Mrs.
Lenoir--by the bye, that _is_ your name?"

"Have you reason to doubt it?" enquired Mrs. Lenoir, with quickened
breath.

"No; I only asked out of idle curiosity," adding, with familiar
assurance, "Mrs. Lenoir, you are a poor woman."

Mrs. Lenoir made a motion with her hand, which denoted that the
appearance of her room afforded a sufficient answer to the question.
Her eyes never left his face, as though they were seeking to see the
workings of his mind.

"You need give yourself no uneasiness," proceeded Ned, "about the
cigar-case."

"I know nothing whatever of it."

"I am not implying that you do."

"Of course you are not--as a gentleman speaking to a lady."

"By Jove! that is the way to put it," cried Ned, gratified at this
apparent recognition of his quality. "As a gentleman speaking to a
lady! It is reasonable that I should wish to find it--not for its
value; that is not of the slightest consequence, but because it was a
gift, from my--my----"

"From your----"

"From my father. One wishes to keep such presents as those."

"Naturally."

"You don't speak like a common woman--you don't look like one--and you
are just the woman I want."

"Has what you are saying anything to do with the young lady I saw last
night?"

"You have hit it again. It has to do with her. Shall I go on?"

Mrs. Lenoir was keeping a stern control over her feelings. She saw
that the man was acting a part; she saw that he was no gentleman, and
that it behoved her to be careful if she wished to serve the girl who,
without any reason but that born of an almost despairing hope, she
believed to be her child.

"Yes; go on."

"I am going to give you my confidence," he said grandiloquently.

"I am waiting to receive it."

"Well, you know, we are in love with each other."

"You told me so last night."

"But our positions are different. I am a gentleman, and she is----"

"A lady."

"In one way, a lady; but you see she has been brought up in a common
way, and among common people that it wouldn't do for me to mix with.
My family will be mad enough with me as it is, but I dare say I can
smooth them over after a bit, if I can show them that the girl has
entirely thrown off her old companions and friends."

"What is it you propose to do, then?"

"To run away with her."

Mrs. Lenoir pressed her hand to her heart to still its wild beating;
to her comprehension, quickened as it was by love, the villainy of
this man was clearly unfolding itself; his tone, his words, his
manner, were all betraying him.

"Gentlemen have run away with poor girls before to-day," he said, with
an airy contemplation of the ring on his finger.

"Oh, yes."

"But the little witch refuses to elope unless I provide her with a
lady-companion." A grateful light was in Mrs. Lenoir's eyes, and a
feeling of devout thankfulness in her heart. "Well, now, if you'll
agree to one thing, you shall be that lady-companion."

"I will agree to anything."

"You're a sensible woman. It isn't much to do. You must let the girl
understand that you're a relation of mine--an aunt, say. She has set
her foolish little mind upon it, and it won't do any harm to humour
her. Do you agree?"

"Yes; when shall I see her?"

"The sooner the thing's done the better. I hate shilly-shallying. I'll
send you a message this afternoon, perhaps."

"Had you not better write or come to me?"

"I mayn't be able to come; I'll write. My plan is this: that you and
the young lady shall meet at a railway station, and take a train to
the place I fix upon; I will follow by an after train, and pick you up
in the country."

"That is a good plan," said Mrs. Lenoir, with secret joy at the
opportunity he was affording her of rescuing the girl from the snare
he had laid for her. "I will prepare myself."

"Make yourself presentable; dress like a lady, that's it. Here's some
money--buy what you think you'll want--a fashionable dress and a spicy
bonnet--it will help you to play your part; you've got good taste, I
see." He placed two five-pound notes on the table. "Now I'm off."

"You will not mind my asking you a question," said Mrs. Lenoir, with
lips that quivered, in spite of herself.

"Ask away."

"Has the young lady no mother?"

The words were uttered very slowly. It seemed to her that her life
hung upon his answer.

"Oh, make your mind easy about that! She has no mother--never had
one," with a coarse laugh. "She might be a princess for all that's
known about her. But that's no business of yours."

"No. You will be sure to write to me?"

"Do you think," said Ned, with a significant look at the bank-notes,
"that I'd be such a fool with my money if I didn't mean what I've
said? Not likely! Take care and act the character well--tell her any
stories you like about swell ladies and fine people--she likes to hear
'em. Goodbye, aunty."

With a familiar nod and swagger he passed out of the room.

Almost before Mrs. Lenoir had time to recover her composure, she was
rejoined by Lizzie, whose appearance betokened a state of great
excitement.

"Oh, Mrs. Lenoir," she cried, "Charlie knows him--Charlie knows him!"

"Knows whom?"

"The gentleman who has just gone out. Charlie ran round in his dinner
hour to see me, and we were talking together in the passage when the
gentleman passed. Charlie knew him directly, although it's years since
he saw him, and although Charlie was only a boy at the time. His
name's Chester--Ned Chester."

"Lizzie, you are lifting a great weight from my heart. He gave me
another name. Are you sure Charlie is right?"

"Am I sure?" repeated Lizzie, with a saucy toss of her head. "Charlie
is never wrong."

"Is Charlie downstairs?"

"No, he has gone back to work."

"Lizzie, will you help me if it is in your power?"

"Ah, that I will--gladly!"

"I have a presentiment that a great crisis in my life is approaching.
I must not stir out of the house; I am waiting for a letter." She took
her purse from her pocket, and counted the money in it; there were
altogether but a very few shillings. "I want money, Lizzie," she said,
casting her eyes rapidly around, and collecting all the small articles
in the room upon which money could be raised. She retained but one
article of value--a miniature of herself, set in a slender framework
of gold. "Run and see what you can get upon these things, Lizzie; the
desk was a valuable one in years gone by. I want every shilling I can
raise."

"I can lend you a little, Mrs. Lenoir."

".God reward you, my dear! I Will take it. You shall be repaid, if I
live."

"I know that. Why, Mrs. Lenoir!" she had caught sight of the
bank-notes on the table.

"It is traitor's money, Lizzie, left by the man who was here a few
minutes since. A curse, instead of a blessing might fall upon me if I
used one penny of it."

At five o'clock in the afternoon, Mrs. Lenoir received the following
note:


"Meet the young lady at Ludgate Hill Station at half-past six o'clock.
You will find her waiting for you in the ladies' room. I have decided
upon Sevenoaks as a good starting-place. I will see you there
to-night.

"A.T."



CHAPTER XXVII


A fortunate chance revealed to Seth Dumbrick the knowledge of the
Duchess's flight many hours before she intended him to become
acquainted with it. Both he and Sally had observed a strange and
unaccountable excitement in the Duchess's manner, and had spoken of it
in confidence to each other. She had been absent twice during the day,
and when on the second occasion she returned, her restlessness was so
marked that it communicated itself to her friends. It was not without
fear, nor without some sense of the ingratitude of the act, that the
Duchess prepared secretly for flight, and more than once her courage
almost failed her; but she fortified herself with the reflection that
she could return at the last moment if she wished, and that she had
time before her to retract.

She had no real love for Ned Chester. She liked him, and had been led
away by his attentions and flatteries, by the handsome presents he had
given her, and by the belief that he was rich and a gentleman. All the
sentiment that the future contained for her was that she would be able
to live like a lady. In all other respects the page was blank, and her
history would be written from experiences to come.

Early in the afternoon there was a heavy fall of snow, which, from
appearance, bid fair to continue through the night. In the midst of
the storm, the Duchess stole away from Rosemary Lane.

Within half a mile from home she entered a cab, as she believed
unobserved. But Sally, who was at that moment returning from the
establishment which supplied her with needlework, saw the Duchess's
face, as the cab drove swiftly off. The truth flashed upon her
instantly; the Duchess had gone away from them for ever. Wringing her
hands in despair, she ran after the cab, but it was soon out of sight,
and seeing the hopelessness of pursuit she retraced her steps, and ran
swiftly to Rosemary Lane to acquaint Seth Dumbrick with the
circumstance.

Mention has frequently been made of Mrs. Preedy. To this woman the
Duchess had entrusted a letter accompanied with a bribe, and the
instruction that it was not to be delivered to Seth until the
following morning. In the course of the few anxious minutes which Seth
(after hearing what Sally had to tell him) devoted to the endeavour to
discover a clue in Rosemary Lane, he came across Mrs. Preedy. It
needed no great shrewdness on his part to suspect, from the woman's
important manner, that she had something to impart, and with a small
exercise of cunning he extracted the letter from her.

The mere receipt of it filled him with alarm. He hurried to his
cellar, with Sally at his heels.

"I wouldn't open it before the neighbours," he said to Sally, "for the
Duchess's sake. They're only too ready to talk, and take away a girl's
character."

With this he opened the letter. The words were few:

"I have gone away, and perhaps shall never come back. I will try and
pay you and Sally for all your kindness to me. Don't blame me; I
cannot help what I am doing. When you see me again, I shall be a lady.
Goodbye."

They looked at each other with white faces.

"It has come," said Seth, in a pathetic voice, "What we dreaded has
come. Our child has deserted us. God send that she is not being
deceived; but I fear--I fear!" He paced the cellar for some moments in
anxious thought, and Sally, with all her soul in her eyes, followed
his movements. Presently he straightened himself with the air of a man
who has a serious task before him. "I am going straight to my duty,"
he said. "Kiss me, my dear. Whatever a man can do, I intend to do,
without fear of consequences."

"Let me go with you, Daddy," implored Sally.

"Come along, then; it will be as well, perhaps."

No further words passed between them, and as quickly as it could be
accomplished, the shutters were put up to Seth's stall, and he and
Sally were riding to Mr. Temple's house. On his arrival there Seth
demanded to see Mr. Temple.

The servant conveyed the message to Mr. Temple, coupling it with the
information that the visitor was the person who had lately been turned
from the house by Mr. Temple's orders. Mr. Temple ordered the servant
again to expel him; but the man returned, saying that Seth Dumbrick
declared he must have an interview, and promised that he would not
detain Mr. Temple. The secret of this lay in the servant having been
bribed by Seth.

"The person is not alone, sir," said the servant; "he has a woman with
him."

"Let him come in," said Mr. Temple; "and you yourself will remain
within call."

"Now," said Mr. Temple haughtily, the moment Seth and Sally entered,
"without a word of preamble, the reason of this intrusion. You are,
perhaps, aware that I could have you locked up for forcing your way
into my house."

"In that case," said Seth firmly, "I should be compelled, in the
magistrate's court to make certain matters public. The press is open
to a man's wrongs."

"Clap-trap," exclaimed Mr. Temple. "Come at once to your business with
me."

Seth handed to Mr. Temple the note left by the Duchess with Mrs.
Preedy. Mr. Temple read it in silence, and returned it with the words,

"How does this affect me?"

"My child has fled," said Seth.

"How does _that_ affect me?"

"Your son is with her."

"Twill satisfy you," said Mr. Temple, with a frown, "that you are
labouring under a gross error." He touched the bell; the servant
answered it. "Go to Mr. Arthur Temple, and tell him I desire to see
him."

"He is not in the house, sir."

"Has he been long absent?"

"Not long, sir," replied the man who, through a fellow-servant, was
enabled to give the information. "He left in great haste for the
railway station to catch a train, I heard."

"For what place?"

"For Sevenoaks, sir."

Mr. Temple was aware that Seth's lynx eyes were upon him, and that it
would give the common man an advantage if he exhibited surprise.

"Send Richards to me."

"Richards left the house with your son, sir."

Throughout his life Mr. Temple had proved himself equal to
emergencies.

"You have nothing further to say to me, I presume," he said,
addressing himself to Seth.

"Nothing that your own sense of honour and justice does not dictate,"
was the reply.

"It dictates nothing that you can have a claim to hear. There is the
door."

Seth had his reasons now for not wishing to prolong the interview.

"I will not trouble you any longer, sir. I know what kind of justice I
might expect from you in such a matter as this. From this moment it is
for me to act, not to talk. I have but this to say before I leave. If
my child comes to grief through your son--if he inflicts a wrong upon
her--I will devote my life to exposing both him and you."

He quitted the room upon this, and, giving instructions to the
cab-driver, bade Sally jump in.

"Where are you going now, Daddy?" asked Sally.

"To Sevenoaks. We may yet be in time."


The same train which conveyed him and Sally to Sevenoaks, conveyed
Mr. Temple also. The men did not see each other. Mr. Temple rode
first-class, Seth and Sally third.

The snowstorm showed no sign of abatement; steadily and heavily the
white flakes fell.

The links which fate weaves around human lives were drawing closer and
closer around the lives of the actors in this story; every yard that
was traversed by the train, conveying Seth and Mr. Temple,
strengthened the threads which for years had been so far distant from
one another, that nothing but the strangest circumstance could have
prevented them from eventually breaking. As Seth gazed from the window
upon the falling snow, he prayed that he might be in time to save the
child of his love, or to assure himself that she was on the right
track. To Mr. Temple the heavy snowfall brought the memory of a night
long buried in the past, when he had stood hidden near a quaint old
church, while strangers' hands were saving from death the woman he had
betrayed. And an uneasy feeling crept into his mind at the thought
that the church was within a mile of the place towards which he was
wending his way.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


The thoughts which occupied the mind of Mrs. Lenoir and the Duchess
when they met at the railway-station were of too disturbing a nature
to allow of conversation. Only a few words were exchanged. Mrs.
Lenoir, who was the first to arrive, accosted the Duchess immediately
she entered the waiting-room.

"You are the young lady I am to accompany to Sevenoaks?"

The uttermost power of her will could not prevent her voice from
trembling.

The Duchess glanced at the speaker, but her agitation prevented her
from closely observing Mrs. Lenoir. She saw, however, that Mrs.
Lenoir's dress and manner were those of a lady.

"Mr. Temple told me I should meet a lady here," said the Duchess.

"I saw him to-day," returned Mrs. Lenoir, "and it was arranged that I
should come to you."

The gentle voice acted soothingly upon the Duchess.

"I have the tickets; the train starts at a quarter to seven. What a
dreadful night it is! We must be quick, or we shall miss the train."

"We have ample time," said Mrs. Lenoir, looking at the clock; "it is
not half-past six. You look faint and weary, my dear; have you had
tea?"

"No."

"Come into the refreshment-room, and, drink a cup. It will do you
good."

Every nerve in Mrs. Lenoir's body quivered as the girl placed her hand
in hers; they went together to the refreshment-room, where they drank
their tea, and then, hurrying to the train, they entered a first-class
carriage. The journey was made in silence; the carriage was full, and
such converse as they could hold could not take place in the presence
of strangers. The Duchess leant back upon the soft cushions and closed
her eyes, and Mrs. Lenoir watched her with silent love. She saw in the
Duchess's face so startling a likeness to her own when she herself was
a girl, that words were scarcely needed to prove to her that her child
was sitting by her side. But that she knew that all her physical and
mental strength was required to compass the end she had in view, she
could not have restrained her feelings.

In due time they arrived at Sevenoaks, and Mrs. Lenoir inquired
whether they were to wait at the station.

"Oh, no," said the Duchess, handing a paper to Mrs. Lenoir. "Mr.
Temple has written what we are to do."

Mrs. Lenoir read the instructions, to the effect that when they
reached Sevenoaks they were to take a fly and drive to an hotel, the
"Empire," where, in accordance with a telegram he had sent to the
proprietor, they would find rooms prepared for them.

"Stay here a moment, my dear," said Mrs. Lenoir.

She went to a porter, and asked him whether the "Empire" was a
respectable hotel.

"It's one of the best in Sevenoaks," was the reply. "Shall I get you a
fly?"

"If you please."

She quickly decided that the best course to pursue was to go at once
to the hotel, where she could unravel the plot to the Duchess; events
would determine what was to follow. Before she rejoined the Duchess
she walked to a young man and woman, who were standing on the platform
a little apart from the throng, and spoke to them. This couple had
travelled third-class from London by the same train; Mrs. Lenoir had
seen them at Ludgate Hill Station, but it had been understood between
them that they should not appear to know each other.

"You have proved yourselves good friends to me," she said to them
hurriedly; "we are going to an hotel called the 'Empire.' Follow us at
once, and be ready to come to me if I want you there."

They signified by a gesture that they understood and would obey her,
and then Mrs. Lenoir and the Duchess walked to the fly, and drove to
the "Empire."

They found the rooms ready, and the landlady herself led them up the
stairs. A bright fire was burning, and everything presented a cheerful
appearance. The Duchess took off her gloves, and Mrs. Lenoir assisted
her to remove her hat and cloak, and removed her own hat and veil.
Then, for the first time on that night, the girl saw Mrs. Lenoir's
face in full, clear light. She started back, with an exclamation of
alarm.

"I have seen you before!"

"Yes, my dear--but do not avoid me; I implore you to listen to me! It
is not I who am deceiving you--indeed, indeed, it is not! I am here
for your good."

"I do not understand," said the Duchess, looking vaguely around. "Mr.
Temple said that a lady-relative would meet me at the station. Are you
not a relative of his?"

"I am not in any way related to the man who has been paying his
addresses to you----"

"Of the gentleman, you mean," interrupted the Duchess, with a pride
that was made pitiable by the doubt and suspicion that was mingled
with it.

"As you will, my child. I will speak of him presently. There is
something nearer to my heart, which will break if you do not listen to
what I have to say."

"I cannot listen," said the Duchess, "until you prove in some way that
you are not deceiving me."

"Thank God, I have the proof with me. On the night you saw me lying
senseless in the snow, this gentleman you call Mr. Temple was with
you."

"Yes, and when I left you he promised to help you home."

"He kept his promise, and learned where I live. I had never seen him
before, nor had he ever seen me; we were utter strangers to each
other. Yet to-day, this very morning, he came to me, and proposed that
I should enter into a plot to betray you! He proposed that I should
present myself to you as his aunt, as a lady who was favourable to his
elopement with you, and that in this capacity I should accompany you
here. For your good I consented--to save you I am here. Say that you
believe me."

"Part of what you say must be true; but you said you have the proof
with you--what proof, and what are you going to prove?"

"That this man is no gentleman--that he is a villain--and that his
name is not Temple. On my knees--on my knees!--I thank God that it is
in my power to save you from the fatal precipice upon which you are
standing! Trust me--believe in me; I am a woman like yourself, and my
life has been a life of bitter, bitter sorrow!"

She was on her knees before the Duchess, clasping the girl's hands,
and gazing imploringly into her face. Her strange passion, the
earnestness of her words, her suffering gentle face, were not without
their effect upon the frightened girl; but some kind of stubbornness
to believe that her hopes of becoming a lady were on the point of
being overturned rendered her deaf to the appeal in any other way than
it affected herself. The threatened discovery was so overwhelming as
to leave no room for pity or sympathy for the woman kneeling before
her.

"Where is your proof?" asked the Duchess.

Mrs. Lenoir started to her feet, and ringing the bell, gave a
whispered instruction to the maid who answered it. In a few moments
Lizzie and Charlie entered the room. They were the persons who came
third-class from London, by the same train which conveyed Mrs. Lenoir
and the Duchess to Sevenoaks; with some vague idea that she might need
Charlie's testimony, Mrs. Lenoir had begged Lizzie to ask him to come.

"Lizzie," said Mrs. Lenoir, "will you tell this young lady what you
know of me?"

"I know nothing but good, Mrs. Lenoir," replied Lizzie, taking her
hand, and kissing it; "there isn't a man or woman in our neighbourhood
who hasn't a kind word for you."

"My dear," said Mrs. Lenoir, addressing the Duchess, "this is a girl
who lives in the same house as I do, and who has known me for years.
What is the matter with you, Lizzie?" For the girl was gazing at the
Duchess with a look of wild admiration and interest.

"I beg your pardon," said Lizzie, "but is the young lady your daughter
that you spoke to me of last night----"

Lizzie was stopped in her speech by a sob from Mrs. Lenoir, who hid
her face in her hands, and turned from them, hearing as she turned, a
whisper from the Duchess:

"What does she mean? Your daughter! Oh, my God! Let me look at you
again."

But Mrs. Lenoir kept her face hidden from the girl, and said, with
broken sobs:

"Let me have my way a little, my dear. I will speak more plainly
presently, when we are alone. Give me your hand----"

She held the pretty fingers which the Duchess gave her, with a
clinging loving pressure which caused the girl's heart to thrill with
hope and fear.

"Hear what Lizzie has to say first. Lizzie, you were in my room this
morning when a gentleman called to see me?"

"Yes, Mrs. Lenoir."

"You heard him inquiring for me?"

"Yes."

"Did he give any name?"

"After he left, I heard that he called himself Mr. Temple."

While these words were spoken, Mrs. Lenoir, finding herself unable to
stand, sank into a chair, and the Duchess, sinking to her knees, hid
her face in her lap, holding Mrs. Lenoir's hand.

"Describe the man, Lizzie," said Mrs. Lenoir.

Lizzie did so in a graphic manner; the portrait she presented was
truthful and unmistakable. Every word that was being uttered was
carrying conviction to the Duchess's soul.

"When he left the house," said Mrs. Lenoir, "Charlie and you--Charlie
and Lizzie are engaged, my dear, and will soon be married,"--this to
the Duchess--"Charlie and you were in the passage, and he passed you."

"Yes."

"Charlie, you saw his face?"

"I did, ma'am."

"And recognised it?"

"As sure as anything's sure, though a good many years have gone by
since I saw it last."

"Was his name Temple?"

"Not by a long way."

"Tell me his name again, Charlie."

"Ned Chester his name was, and is," added Charlie positively.

At the mention of the name a shudder passed through the Duchess's
frame.

"What character did he bear when you knew him?"

"A precious bad one; not to put too fine a point upon it, he was a
thief."

"That will do, Charlie. Good night; good night, Lizzie."

"Good night, Mrs. Lenoir, God bless you."

"Thank you, my dears."

In another moment Mrs. Lenoir and the Duchess were again alone.

The questions had been asked by Mrs. Lenoir with the distinct purpose
of convincing the Duchess that she was acting in good faith and for
the girl's good. She felt that she was on her trial, as it were, and
out of the teachings of her own sad experience she gathered wisdom to
act in such a way as to win confidence. On the Duchess the effect
produced was convincing, so far as the man whose attention she had
accepted was concerned; but a dual process of thought was working in
her mind--one associated with the lover who would have betrayed her,
the other associated with the woman who had stepped between her and
her peril.

"My dear," said Mrs. Lenoir, after an interval of silence, during
which the Duchess had not raised her head, and Mrs. Lenoir was
strengthening herself for the coming trial, "will you give me what
information you can concerning yourself which will help to guide us
both in this sad hour?"

A pressure of her fingers answered her in the affirmative.

"Keep your eyes from me till I bid you rise," continued Mrs. Lenoir,
with heaving bosom. "Where do you live?"

"In Rosemary Lane."

"Have you lived all your life there?"

"Since I was a very little child."

"You were not born there?"

"Oh, no; I do not know where I was born----" Mrs. Lenoir's eyes
wandered to the window which shut out the night. She could not see it,
but she felt that the snow was falling; "and," said the Duchess in a
faltering voice, "I cannot remember seeing the face of my mother."

"Tell me all you know, my dear; conceal nothing from me."

In broken tones the girl told every particular of her history, from
her introduction into Rosemary Lane, as the incident had been related
to her by Seth Dumbrick, to the present and first great trial in life.

"Look up, my dear."

The Duchess raised her eyes, almost blinded with tears. Mrs. Lenoir
tenderly wiped them away, and placed in the girl's hand the miniature
portrait of herself, painted in her younger and happier days.

"It is like me," murmured the girl.

"It is my picture when I was your age." She sank to her knees by the
side of the Duchess. "At this time and in this place my story is too
long to tell. You shall learn all by-and-by, when we are safe. I had a
child--a daughter, born on such a night as this, in sorrow and
tribulation. My memory is too treacherous, and the long and severe
illness I passed through was too terrible in its effects upon me, to
enable me to recall the circumstances of that period of my life. But I
had my child, and she drew life from my breast, and brought gleams of
happiness to my troubled soul. I have no recollection how long a time
passed, till a deep darkness fell upon me; but when I recovered, and
my reason was restored to me, I was told that my child was dead. I had
no power to prove that it was false; I was weak, friendless,
penniless, and I wandered into the world solitary and alone. But
throughout all my weary and sorrowful life, a voice--God's
voice--never ceased whispering to me that my child was alive, and that
I should one day meet her, and clasp her to my heart! In this hope
alone I have lived; but for this hope I should have died long years
ago. Heaven has fulfilled its promise, and has brought you to my arms.
I look into your face, and I see the face of my child; I listen to
your voice, and I hear the voice of my child! God would not deceive
me! In time to come, when you have heard my story, we will, if you
decide that it shall be so, seek for worldly proof. I think I see the
way to it, and if it is possible it shall be found."

She rose from her knees, and standing apart from the wondering weeping
girl, said, in a low voice, between her sobs:

"In my youth I was wronged. I was innocent, as God is my judge! My
fault was, that I trusted and believed; that I, a young girl
inexperienced in the world's hard ways, listened to the vows of a man,
whom I loved with all my soul's strength; whom I believed in as I
believe in Eternal justice! That was my sin. I have been bitterly
punished; no kiss of love, no word of affection that I could receive
as truly my right, has been bestowed upon me since I was robbed of my
child. I have been in darkness for years; I am in darkness now,
waiting for the light to shine upon my soul!"

It came. Tender arms stole about her neck, loving lips were pressed to
hers. In an agony of joy she clasped the girl to her bosom, and wept
over her. For only a few moments did she allow herself the bliss of
this reunion. She looked, affrighted, to a clock on the mantelpiece.

"At what time did that man say he would be here to meet us?" she asked
in a hurried whisper.

"At eleven o'clock," was the whispered reply.

"It wants but five minutes to the hour. We must go, child; we must fly
from this place. No breath of suspicion must attach itself to my
child's good name. Come--quickly, quickly!"

The Duchess allowed Mrs. Lenoir to put on her hat and cloak, and
before the hour struck they were in the street, hastening through the
snow.

Whither? She knew not. But fate was directing her steps.



CHAPTER XXIX.


They did not escape unobserved, and within a short time of their
departure from the hotel, were being tracked by friend and foe. The
ostler attached to the hotel saw the woman stealing away, and noted
the direction they took; and when Ned Chester drove to the "Empire"
and heard with dismay of the flight, the ostler turned an honest penny
by directing him on their road. He turned more than one honest penny
on this--to him--fortunate night. Richards, who had made himself fully
acquainted with Ned's movements, arrived at the hotel, in company with
Arthur Temple, a few minutes after the runaway thief left it, and had
no difficulty in obtaining the information he required.

"Two birds with one stone, sir," he said to Arthur; "we shall catch
the thief and save the girl."

"We may be too late if we go afoot," said Arthur; "every moment is
precious. Now, my man," to the ostler, "your fastest horse and your
lightest trap. A guinea for yourself if they are ready without delay;
another guinea if we overtake the persons we are after."

"I'll earn them both, sir," cried the ostler, running to the stable
door. "You go into the hotel and speak to the missis."

No sooner said than done. Before the horse was harnessed, the landlady
had been satisfied.

"My name is Temple," said Arthur to her in a heat, after the first
words of explanation. "Here is my card, and here is some money as a
guarantee. It is a matter of life and death, and the safety of an
innocent girl hangs upon the moments."

His excitement communicated itself to the landlady, who was won by his
good looks and his enthusiasm, and she herself ran out to expedite the
matter. They were soon on the road, but not soon enough to prevent Ned
Chester from having more than a fair start of them.

Richards, who held the reins, needed no such incentive to put on the
best speed as his young master's impatience unremittingly provided. As
rapidly as possible the horse ploughed its way through the heavy snow.
Their course lay beyond the railway station, and as they passed it the
few passengers by a train which had just arrived were emerging from
the door. To Arthur Temple's surprise Richards, whose lynx eyes were
watching every object, suddenly pulled up in the middle of the road.

"Hold the reins a moment, sir," he said jumping from the conveyance;
"here's somebody may be useful."

He had caught sight of two faces he recognised, those of Sally and
Seth Dumbrick.

"Have you come here after the Duchess?" he asked, arresting his steps.

"Yes. Oh! yes," answered Sally, in amazement. Richards pulled her
towards the conveyance, and Seth followed close at her heels.

"Jump in," said Richards, who by this time was fully enjoying the
adventure. "I'll take you to her. Don't stop to ask questions; there's
no time to answer them."

Seth hesitated, but a glance at Arthur's truthful, ingenuous face
dispelled his doubts, and he mounted the conveyance with Sally, and
entered into earnest conversation with the young man.

Mrs. Lenoir, when she stole with the Duchess through the streets of
Sevenoaks, had but one object in view--to escape from the town into
the country, where she believed they would be safe from pursuit.
Blindly she led the way until she came to the country. Fortunately at
about this time the snow ceased to fall, and the exciting events of
the night rendered her and the Duchess oblivious to the difficulties
which attended their steps. So unnerved was the Duchess by what had
occurred that she was bereft of all power over her will, and she
allowed herself unresistingly, and without question, to be led by Mrs.
Lenoir to a place of safety and refuge. They encouraged each other by
tender words and caresses, and Mrs. Lenoir looked anxiously before her
for a cottage or farmhouse, where they could obtain shelter and a bed.
But no such haven was in sight until they were at some distance from
the town, when the devoted woman saw a building which she hoped might
prove what she was in search of. As they approached closer to the
building she was undeceived; before her stood a quaint old church,
with a hooded porch, and a graveyard by its side. A sudden faintness
came upon her as she recognised the familiar outlines of the sacred
refuge in which her child was born; but before the full force of this
recognition had time to make itself felt, her thoughts were wrested
from contemplation of the strange coincidence by sounds of pursuing
shouts.

Her mother's fears, her mother's love, interpreted the sounds aright,
and she knew that they proceeded from the man from whom they were
endeavouring to escape. Seizing the Duchess's arm, she flew towards
the porch, and reaching it at the moment Ned Chester overtook them,
thrust the girl into the deeper shadows, and stood before her child
with flashing eyes with her arms spread out as a shield.

"So!" cried Ned Chester, panting and furious; "a pretty trick you have
played me! Serve me right for trusting to such a woman!"

He strove to push her aside, so that he might have speech with the
Duchess, and Mrs. Lenoir struck him in the face. He laughed at the
feeble blow--not lightly, but mockingly. The savage nature of the man
was roused. He raised his hand to return the blow, when the Duchess
stepped forward and confronted him. His arm dropped to his side.

"What is the meaning of this?" he asked, endeavouring to convey some
tenderness in his tone. "What has this creature been telling you? She
has been poisoning your mind against me, if I'm a judge of things.
Come, be reasonable; take my arm, and let us return to the hotel."

But his power over the girl was gone; the brutality of his manner was
a confirmation of the story she had heard of his treachery towards
her.

"Mr. Chester," she said--and paused, frightened at the change which
came over him at the utterance of his name. His face grew white, and
an ugly twitching played about his lips.

"What have you heard?" he demanded hoarsely.

She mustered sufficient strength to reply faintly.

"The truth."

His savage nature mastered him. With a cruel sweep of his arm, he
dashed Mrs. Lenoir to the ground, and clasped the Duchess in a fierce
embrace. Her shrieks pierced the air.

"Help! Help!"

Her appeal was answered, almost on the instant. An iron grasp upon his
neck compelled him to relinquish his hold of the terrified girl. Seth
Dumbrick held him as in a vice and he had no power to free himself.
The warning voice of Richards was needed to put a limit to the strong
man's just resentment:

"Don't hurt him any more than is necessary, Mr. Seth Dumbrick. There's
a rod in pickle for him worse than anything you can do to him."

"Lie there, you dog!" exclaimed Seth, forcing Ned Chester to the
ground, and placing his foot upon his breast. "Stir an inch, and I
will kill you!"

While this episode in the drama was being enacted, another of a
different kind was working itself out. When the Duchess was released
by Ned Chester, Arthur Temple threw his arm around her, to prevent her
from falling.

"Do not be frightened," he said, in a soothing tone, "you are safe
now. I am glad we are in time. My name is Arthur Temple."

They gazed at each other in rapt admiration. To Arthur, the beauty of
the Duchess was a revelation. In the struggle with Ned Chester, her
hat had fallen from her head, and her hair lay upon her shoulders in
heavy golden folds. Her lovely eyes, suffused with tears, were raised
to his face in gratitude. For a moment she was blind to everything but
the appearance of this hero, who, as it seemed to her fevered fancy,
had descended from Heaven to rescue her. But a cry of compassion from
Sally brought her back to earth, and, turning, she saw her faithful
nurse and companion kneeling in the snow, with Mrs. Lenoir's head in
her lap. She flew to her side, and tremblingly assisted Sally in her
endeavour to restore the insensible woman to life. But the blow which
Ned Chester had dealt Mrs. Lenoir was a fierce one; she lay as one
dead, and when, after some time, she showed signs of life, she feebly
waved her hands, in the effort to beat away a shadowed horror, and
moaned:

"Will he never come? Will he never come?"

She was living the past over again. Her mind had gone back to the time
when, assisted by John, the gardener of Springfield, she had travelled
in agony through the heavy snow, to implore the man who had betrayed
and deserted her to take pity on her hapless state, and to render her
some kind of human justice, if not for her sake, for the sake of his
child, then unborn. And the thought which oppressed her and filled her
with dread at that awful epoch of her life, now found expression on
her lips:

"Will he never come? Oh, my God! will he never come?"

"Do you think," whispered Arthur Temple to Seth Dumbrick, who had
given Ned Chester into Richards' charge, "that we might raise her into
the trap, and drive her slowly to the town?"

The tender arms about her desisted from their effort as she moaned:

"If you raise me in your arms, I shall die! If you attempt to carry me
into the town, I shall die!"

The very words she had spoken to John on that night of agony. And then
again:

"Will he never come? If he saw me, he would take pity on me! Send him
to me, kind Heaven!"

Another actor appeared upon the scene,--Mr. Temple, who, accompanied
by the ostler, had found his way to the spot.

"Arthur!" he cried.

The young man rose at once to his feet, and went to his father.

Mr. Temple, in the brief glance he threw around him, saw faces he
recognised; saw Richards guarding Ned Chester, saw Seth Dumbrick and
Sally, saw, without observing her face, Mrs. Lenoir lying with her
head on the Duchess's bosom. He did not look at them a second time.
His only thought was of Arthur, the pride and hope of his life, the
one being he loved on earth.

"What has brought you here, sir?" asked Arthur. "Anxiety for you,"
replied Mr. Temple. "Why do I see you in this company? How much is
true of the story that man told me?"--pointing to Seth Dumbrick. "If
you have got yourself into any trouble----"

The look of pained surprise in Arthur's face prevented the completion
of the sentence. The father and son had moved a few paces from the
group, and the words they exchanged were heard only by themselves.

"If I have got myself into any trouble!" echoed Arthur, struggling
with the belief his father's words carried to his mind. "What trouble
do you refer to?"

"We must not play with words, Arthur. My meaning is plain. If that
man's story is true, and you have entangled yourself with a
woman--such things commonly happen----"

"For both our sakes," said Arthur, drawing himself up, "say not
another word. I came here to save an innocent girl from a villain's
snare. When you find me guilty of any such wickedness as your words
imply, renounce me as your son--as I would renounce a son of mine if
unhappily he should prove himself capable of an act so base and cruel!
The name of Temple is not to be sullied by such dishonour!"

Mr. Temple shuddered involuntarily, remembering that it was on this
very spot he, a mature and worldly-wise man, had been guilty of an act
immeasurably more base and dishonourable than that in the mind of his
generous-hearted son.

"Come, sir," said Arthur, taking his father's hand, and leading him to
the group, "do justice to others as well as to myself. This is the
young lady whom, happily, we have saved. Confess that you have never
looked upon a fairer face, nor one more innocent."

Mr. Temple's breath came and went quickly as the Duchess raised her
tear-stained face to his. At this moment, Mrs. Lenoir, with a deep
sigh, opened her eyes and saw Mr. Temple bending over her. With a
shriek that struck terror to the hearts of those who surrounded her,
she struggled from the arms of the Duchess, and embraced the knees of
Mr. Temple.

"You have come, then--you have come! Heaven has heard my prayers! I
knew you would not desert me! Oh, God! my joy will kill me!"

And looking down upon the kneeling woman, clasping his knees in a
delirium of false happiness, Mr. Temple, with a face that rivalled in
whiteness the snow-covered plains around him, gazed into the face of
Nelly Marston!

A suspicion of the possible truth struggled to the mind of the
Duchess.

"Mother!" she said, in a voice of much tenderness, raising the
prostrate woman from her knees, and supporting her, "why should you
kneel to him?"

The tender voice, the tender embrace, the sudden flashing upon her
senses of the forms standing about her, recalled Mrs. Lenoir from her
dream, and she clung to her daughter with a fierce and passionate
clinging.

"My child! my child! They shall not take you from me! Say that you
will not desert me--promise me, my child! I will work for you--I will
be your servant--anything----"

"Hush, mother!" said the girl. "Be comforted. I will never leave you.
No power can part us."

With a supreme effort of will, Mr. Temple tore himself from the
contemplation of the shameful discovery, and the likely consequences
of the exposure.

"Come, Arthur," he said, holding out his trembling hand to his son;
"this is no place for us."

His voice was weak and wandering, and he seemed to have suddenly grown
ten years older.

Arthur did not stir from the side of Mrs. Lenoir.

"Come, I say!" cried Mr. Temple petulantly; "have you no consideration
for me? It can all be explained; we will talk over the matter when we
are alone."

"We must talk of it now," said Arthur solemnly, "with God's light
shining upon us, and before His House of Prayer."

A high purpose shone in the young man's face, and his manner was sad
and earnest. He took Mrs. Lenoir's hand with infinite tenderness and
respect:

"Will you answer, with truth, what I shall ask you?"

"As truthfully as I would speak in presence of my Maker!" replied Mrs.
Lenoir, with downcast head.

"This gentleman is my father. What is he to you?"

"He is the father of my dear child, torn from me by a cruel fraud, and
now, thank God, Oh, thank God! restored to me by a miracle. He should
have been my husband. When he prevailed upon me to fly with him--I
loved him, and was true to him in thought and deed, as God is my
Judge!--he promised solemnly to marry me."

"And then----"

"I can say no more," murmured Mrs. Lenoir with sobs that shook the
souls of all who heard; "he deserted me, and left me to shame and
poverty. O, my child!" she cried, turning her streaming eyes to the
Duchess, "tell me that you forgive me!"

"It is not you who need forgiveness, mother," sobbed the Duchess,
falling into her mother's arms.

A terrible silence ensued, broken by the querulous voice of Mr.
Temple:

"This woman's story is false. Arthur, will you take her word against
mine? Remember what I have done for you--think of the love I bear you!
Do nothing rash, I implore you! Say, if you like, that she has not
lied. I will be kind to her, and will see that her life is passed in
comfort. Will that content you?" He paused between every sentence for
his son to speak, but no sound passed Arthur's lips. From the depths
of his soul, whose leading principles were honour and justice, the
young man was seeking for the right path. Exasperated by his silence,
Mr. Temple continued, and in a rash moment said: "What can she adduce
but her bare word? What evidence that the girl is my child?"

A voice from the rear of the group supplied the proof he asked for. It
was Richards who spoke.

"I can give the evidence. The girl is your child."

Mr. Temple turned upon him with a look of fear, and the eyes of all
were directed to Richards' face.

The scene had produced so profound an effect upon the man that,
holding the last link required to complete the chain, he was impressed
with a superstitious dread that a judgment would fall upon him if he
held back at this supreme moment.

"The child is yours. Before you instructed me to ascertain the
particulars concerning Seth Dumbrick's life, I had made the discovery.
It was I who took the child to Rosemary Lane, and left her there."

"You traitor!" cried Mr. Temple, almost frenzied; "you have deceived
and betrayed me!"

"You told me," said Richards, in a dogged voice, "that you wished the
child placed in such a position in life that she should never be able
to suspect who was her father, and I did the best I could. You
employed me to do your dirty work, and I did it, and was paid for it.
And when, to try you, I told you that your child had died, you
expressed in your manner so little pity, that, having learned to know
you, I thought it as well not to undeceive you."

The last link was supplied, and the chain was complete. This
disclosure effected a startling change in Mr. Temple's demeanour. He
drew himself up haughtily. "Arthur, I command you to come with me."

"I cannot obey you, sir," said Arthur sadly and firmly. "You have
broken the tie which bound us. I will never enter your house again;
nor will I share your dishonour. Justice shows me the road where duty
lies, and I will follow it."

He held out his hand to the Duchess; she accepted it, and clasped it
in love and wonder; and passing his disengaged arm around Mrs.
Lenoir's waist, he turned his back upon his father, and took the road
which justice pointed out to him.


*    *    *    *    *    *


But a short distance from the country place in which Seth Dumbrick and
the children of his adoption spent their holiday, is a pretty and
comfortable residence standing in its own grounds. Here lives Nelly
Marston and her daughter, no longer bearing the name of the Duchess of
Rosemary Lane, but the more simple and natural one of Kate. Happily
the faults of our young heroine are not uneradicable, and under the
loving ministration of her devoted mother she is gradually developing
a sweetness and simplicity of nature which will bear good fruit in the
future. The long-suffering mother is happy beyond her wildest hopes,
and night and morning she bends her knees in gratitude, and offers up
prayers of thankfulness for the life of love she is enjoying. That she
is enabled to live this life in ease and comfort is due to Arthur
Temple, who, having some private fortune of his own through a legacy
left to him in childhood, is able in this way to make some
compensation to the trusting woman whom his father betrayed. He comes
to the happy home at intervals, and calls Kate his sister, and pays to
Kates' mother a respect in which something of reverence finds a place.
To this home, also, every fortnight, come Seth Dumbrick and Sally,
from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning, and at rarer intervals
Nelly Marston and her daughter pay visits to Rosemary Lane, and pass
happy hours in Seth's cellar.

So much for the present. What lies in the future?

It may be that Arthur Temple and his father may become reconciled, but
the old ties are broken, and in the son's future the father shall play
no part. The father's head is no longer erect and proud: his sin has
found him out, and his dearest hopes are crushed. It is just.

It may be that our heroine may meet with a man who will woo her
honourably, and that when she has children of her own, the better
lessons which her mother is imparting will prove to be indeed the best
blessing which could fall to her lot.

But it cannot be that Nelly Marston's happiness shall be greater than
it is at present. It is full and perfect, and the past is atoned for.
Despite the verdict which too censorious people might pass upon her,
Nelly Marston's home is a home of innocence and virtue.



THE END.





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