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Title: Why Frau Fromann Raised her Prices and other stories
Author: Trollope, Anthony
Language: English
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                       WHY FRAU FROHMANN RAISED
                              HER PRICES
                          _AND OTHER STORIES_

                           WHY FRAU FROHMANN
                           RAISED HER PRICES
                           And other Stories

                           ANTHONY TROLLOPE


                         WM. ISBISTER, LIMITED
                           56, LUDGATE HILL

                              CITY ROAD.



CHAP.                                                               PAGE

   I. THE BRUNNENTHAL PEACOCK                                          1

  II. THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES                                       17

 III. THE QUESTION OF THE MITGIFT                                     29


   V. A ZWANSIGER IS A ZWANSIGER                                      51

  VI. HOFF THE BUTCHER                                                67

 VII. “AND GOLD BECOMES CHEAP”                                        79




  II. HOW BESSY PRYOR WOULDN’T MARRY THE PARSON                      111




  VI. HOW BESSY PRYOR WAS TO BE BANISHED                             144




   X. HOW BESSY PRYOR’S LOVER ARGUED HIS CASE                        174

  XI. HOW BESSY PRYOR RECEIVED HER LOVER                             182



   I. MRS. BROWN’S SUCCESS                                           201

  II. MRS. BROWN’S FAILURE                                           214

 III. MRS. BROWN ATTEMPTS TO ESCAPE                                  223

  IV. MRS. BROWN DOES ESCAPE                                         234

   V. MRS. BROWN AT THOMPSON HALL                                    249


   I. LUCY GRAHAM AND SOPHY WILSON                                   263

  II. ABRAHAM HALL                                                   275

 III. SOPHY WILSON GOES TO HASTINGS                                  286

  IV. MR. BROWN THE HAIRDRESSER                                      298

   V. ABRAHAM HALL MARRIED                                           310


   I. THE DOCTOR’S FAMILY                                            323

  II. MAJOR ROSSITER                                                 333

 III. LADY WANLESS                                                   342

  IV. THE BEETHAMITES                                                352

   V. THE INVITATION                                                 362

  VI. THE ARCHERY MEETING                                            371

 VII. AFTER THE PARTY                                                381

VIII. SIR WALTER UP IN LONDON                                        391

  IX. LADY DEEPBELL                                                  400

   X. THE BIRD THAT PECKED AT THE WINDOW                             409




If ever there was a Tory upon earth, the Frau Frohmann was a Tory; for I
hold that landed possessions, gentle blood, a gray-haired butler behind
one’s chair, and adherence to the Church of England, are not necessarily
the distinguishing marks of Toryism. The Frau Frohmann was a woman who
loved power, but who loved to use it for the benefit of those around
her,--or at any rate to think that she so used it. She believed in the
principles of despotism and paternal government,--but always on the
understanding that she was to be the despot. In her heart of hearts she
disliked education, thinking that it unfitted the minds of her humbler
brethren for the duties of their lives. She hated, indeed, all
changes,--changes in costume, changes in hours, changes in cookery, and
changes in furniture; but of all changes she perhaps hated changes in
prices the most. Gradually there had come over her a melancholy
conviction that the world cannot go on altogether unaltered. There was,
she felt, a fate in things,--a necessity which, in some dark way within
her own mind, she connected with the fall of Adam and the general
imperfection of humanity,--which demanded changes, but they were always
changes for the worse; and therefore, though to those around her she was
mostly silent on this matter, she was afflicted by a general idea that
the world was going on towards ruin. That all things throve with herself
was not sufficient for her comfort; for, being a good woman with a large
heart, she was anxious for the welfare not only of herself and of her
children, but for that of all who might come after her, at any rate in
her own locality. Thus, when she found that there was a tendency to dine
at one instead of twelve, to wear the same clothes on week days as on
Sundays, to desire easy chairs, and linen that should be bleached
absolutely white, thoughts as to the failing condition of the world
would get the better of her and make her melancholy.

These traits are perhaps the evidences of the weakness of Toryism;--but
then Frau Frohmann also had all its strength. She was thoroughly
pervaded by a determination that, in as far as in her lay, all that had
aught to do with herself should be “well-to-do” in the world. It was a
grand ambition in her mind that every creature connected with her
establishment, from the oldest and most time-honoured guest down to the
last stray cat that had taken refuge under her roof, should always have
enough to eat. Hunger, unsatisfied hunger, disagreeable hunger, on the
part of any dependent of hers, would have been a reproach to her. Her
own eating troubled her little or not at all, but the cooking of the
establishment generally was a great care to her mind. In bargaining she
was perhaps hard, but hard only in getting what she believed to be her
own right. Aristides was not more just. Of bonds, written bonds, her
neighbours knew not much; but her word for twenty miles round was as
good as any bond. And though she was perhaps a little apt to domineer in
her bargains,--to expect that she should fix the prices and to resent
opposition,--it was only to the strong that she was tyrannical. The poor
sick widow and the little orphan could generally deal with her at their
own rates; on which occasions she would endeavour to hide her dealings
from her own people, and would give injunctions to the favoured ones
that the details of the transaction should not be made public. And then,
though the Frau was, I regret to say, no better than a Papist, she was a
thoroughly religious woman, believing in real truth what she professed
to believe, and complying, as far as she knew how, with the ordinances
of her creed.

Therefore I say that if ever there was a Tory, the Frau Frohmann was

And now it will be well that the reader should see the residence of the
Frau, and learn something of her condition in life. In one of the
districts of the Tyrol, lying some miles south of Innsbruck, between
that town and Brixen, there is a valley called the Brunnenthal, a most
charming spot, in which all the delights of scenery may be found without
the necessity of climbing up heart-rending mountains, or sitting in oily
steamboats, or paying for greedy guides, or riding upon ill-conditioned
ponies. In this valley Frau Frohmann kept an hotel called the Peacock,
which, however, though it was known as an inn, and was called by that
name, could hardly be regarded as a house of common public
entertainment. Its purpose was to afford recreation and comfort to a
certain class of customers during the summer months,--persons well
enough to do in the world to escape from their town work and their town
residences for a short holiday, and desirous during that time of
enjoying picturesque scenery, good living, moderate comfort, and some
amount of society. Such institutions have now become so common that
there is hardly any one who has not visited or at any rate seen such a
place. They are to be found in every country in Europe, and are very
common in America. Our own Scotland is full of them. But when the
Peacock was first opened in Brunnenthal they were not so general.

Of the husband of the Frau there are not many records in the
neighbourhood. The widow has been a widow for the last twenty years at
least, and her children,--for she has a son and daughter,--have no vivid
memories of their father. The house and everything in it, and the
adjacent farm, and the right of cutting timber in the forests, and the
neighbouring quarry, are all the undoubted property of the Frau, who
has a reputation for great wealth. Though her son is perhaps nearly
thirty, and is very diligent in the affairs of the establishment, he has
no real authority. He is only, as it were, the out-of-doors right hand
of his mother, as his sister, who is perhaps five years younger, is an
in-doors right hand. But they are only hands. The brain, the
intelligence, the mind, the will by which the Brunnenthal Peacock is
conducted and managed, come all from the Frau Frohmann herself. To this
day she can hardly endure a suggestion either from Peter her son or from
her daughter Amalia, who is known among her friends as Malchen, but is
called “the fraulein” by the Brunnenthal world at large. A suggestion as
to the purchase of things new in their nature she will not stand at all,
though she is liberal enough in maintaining the appurtenances of the
house generally.

But the Peacock is more than a house. It is almost a village; and yet
every shed, cottage, or barn at or near the place forms a part of the
Frau’s establishment. The centre or main building is a large ordinary
house of three stories,--to the lower of which there is an ascent by
some half-dozen stone steps,--covered with red tiles, and with gable
ends crowded with innumerable windows. The ground-floor is devoted to
kitchens, offices, the Frau’s own uses, and the needs of the servants.
On the first-story are the two living rooms of the guests, the greater
and by far the more important being devoted to eating and drinking.
Here, at certain hours, are collected all the forces of the
establishment,--and especially at one o’clock, when, with many ringing
of bells and great struggles in the culinary department, the dinner is
served. For to the adoption of this hour has the Frau at last been
driven by the increasing infirmities of the world around her. The
scenery of the locality is lovely; the air is considered to be
peculiarly health-compelling; the gossipings during the untrammelled
idleness of the day are very grateful to those whose lives are generally
laborious; the love-makings are frequent, and no doubt sweet; skittles
and bowls and draughts and dominoes have their devotees; and the smoking
of many pipes fills up the vacant hours of the men.

But, at the Brunnenthal, dinner is the great glory of the day. It would
be vain for any æsthetical guest, who might conceive himself to be
superior to the allurements of the table, to make little of the Frau’s
dinner. Such a one had better seek other quarters for his summer’s
holiday. At the Brunnenthal Peacock it is necessary that you should
believe in the paramount importance of dinner. Not to come to it at the
appointed time would create, first marvel, in the Frau’s mind, then
pity,--as to the state of your health,--and at last hot anger should it
be found that such neglect arose from contempt. What muse will assist me
to describe these dinners in a few words? They were commenced of course
by soup,--real soup, not barley broth with a strong prevalence of the
barley. Then would follow the boiled meats, from which the soup was
supposed to have been made,--but such boiled meat, so good, that the
supposition must have contained a falsehood. With this there would be
always potatoes and pickled cabbages and various relishes. Then there
would be two other kinds of meat, generally with accompaniment of stewed
fruit; after that fish,--trout from the neighbouring stream, for the
preservation of which great tanks had been made. Vegetables with unknown
sauces would follow,--and then would come the roast, which consisted
always of poultry, and was accompanied of course by salad. But it was
after this that were made the efforts on which the Frau’s fame most
depended. The puddings, I think, were the subject of her greatest
struggles and most complete success. Two puddings daily were, by the
rules of the house, required to be eaten; not two puddings brought
together so that you might choose with careless haste either one or the
other; but two separate courses of puddings, with an interval between
for appreciation, for thought, and for digestion. Either one or both
can, no doubt, be declined. No absolute punishment,--such as notice to
leave the house,--follows such abstention. But the Frau is displeased,
and when dressed in her best on Sundays does not smile on those who
abstain. After the puddings there is dessert, and there are little cakes
to nibble if you will. They are nibbled very freely. But the heat of the
battle is over with the second pudding.

They have a great fame, these banquets; so that ladies and gentlemen
from Innsbruck have themselves driven out here to enjoy them. The
distance each way is from two to three hours, so that a pleasant
holiday is made by a visit to the Frau’s establishment. There is a
ramble up to the waterfall and a smoking of pipes among the rocks, and
pleasant opportunities for secret whispers among young people;--but the
Frau would not be well pleased if it were presumed that the great
inducement for the visit were not to be found in the dinner which she
provides. In this way, though the guests at the house may not exceed
perhaps thirty in number, it will sometimes be the case that nearly
twice as many are seated at the board. That the Frau has an eye to
profit cannot be doubted. Fond of money she is certainly;--fond of
prosperity generally. But, judging merely from what comes beneath his
eye, the observer will be led to suppose that her sole ambition on these
occasions is to see the food which she has provided devoured by her
guests. A weak stomach, a halting appetite, conscientious scruples as to
the over-enjoyment of victuals, restraint in reference to subsequent
excesses or subsequent eatings,--all these things are a scandal to her.
If you can’t, or won’t, or don’t eat your dinner when you get it, you
ought not to go to the Brunnenthal Peacock.

This banqueting-hall, or Speise-Saal, occupies a great part of the
first-floor; but here also is the drawing-room, or reading-room, as it
is called, having over the door “Lese-Saal” painted, so that its purpose
may not be doubted. But the reading-room is not much, and the guests
generally spend their time chiefly out of doors or in their bedrooms
when they are not banqueting. There are two other banquets, breakfast
and supper, which need not be specially described;--but of the latter it
may be said that it is a curtailed dinner, having limited courses of hot
meat, and only one pudding.

On this floor there is a bedroom or two, and a nest of others above; but
the accommodation is chiefly afforded in other buildings, of which the
one opposite is longer, though not so high, as the central house; and
there is another, a little down the road, near the mill, and another as
far up the stream, where the baths have been built,--an innovation to
which Frau Frohmann did not lend herself without much inward suffering.
And there are huge barns and many stables; for the Frau keeps a posting
establishment, and a diligence passes the door three times each way in
the course of the day and night, and the horses are changed at the
Peacock;--or it was so, at any rate, in the days of which I am speaking,
not very long ago. And there is the blacksmith’s forge, and the great
carpenter’s shed, in which not only are the carts and carriages mended,
but very much of the house furniture is made. And there is the mill, as
has been said before, in which the corn is ground, and three or four
cottages for married men, and a pretty little chapel, built by the Frau
herself, in which mass is performed by her favourite priest once a
month,--for the parish chapel is nearly three miles distant if you walk
by the mountain path, but is fully five if you have yourself carried
round by the coach road. It must, I think, be many years since the Frau
can have walked there, for she is a dame of portly dimensions.

Whether the buildings are in themselves picturesque I will not pretend
to say. I doubt whether there has been an attempt that way in regard to
any one except the chapel. But chance has so grouped them, and nature
has so surrounded them, that you can hardly find anywhere a prettier
spot. Behind the house, so as to leave only space for a little meadow
which is always as green as irrigation can make it, a hill rises, not
high enough to be called a mountain, which is pine-clad from the foot to
the summit. In front and around the ground is broken, but immediately
before the door there is a way up to a lateral valley, down which comes
a nameless stream which, just below the house, makes its way into the
Ivil, the little river which runs from the mountain to the inn, taking
its course through that meadow which lies between the hill and the
house. It is here, a quarter of a mile perhaps up this little stream, at
a spot which is hidden by many turnings from the road, that visitors
come upon the waterfall,--the waterfall which at Innsbruck is so often
made to be the excuse of these outings which are in truth performed in
quest of Frau Frohmann’s dinners. Below the Peacock, where the mill is
placed, the valley is closely confined, as the sombre pine-forests rise
abruptly on each side; and here, or very little lower, is that gloomy or
ghost-like pass through the rocks, which is called the Höllenthor; a
name which I will not translate. But it is a narrow ravine, very dark
in dark weather, and at night as black as pitch. Among the superstitious
people of the valley the spot is regarded with the awe which belonged to
it in past ages. To visitors of the present day it is simply picturesque
and sublime. Above the house the valley spreads itself, rising, however,
rapidly; and here modern engineering has carried the road in various
curves and turns round knolls of hills and spurs of mountains, till the
traveller as he ascends hardly knows which way he is going. From one or
two points among these curves the view down upon the Peacock with its
various appendages, with its dark-red roofs, and many windows glittering
in the sun, is so charming, that the tourist is almost led to think that
they must all have been placed as they are with a view to effect.

The Frau herself is what used to be called a personable woman. To say
that she is handsome would hardly convey a proper idea. Let the reader
suppose a woman of about fifty, very tall and of large dimensions. It
would be unjust to call her fat, because though very large she is still
symmetrical. When she is dressed in her full Tyrolese costume,--which is
always the case at a certain hour on Sunday, and on other stated and by
no means unfrequent days as to which I was never quite able to learn the
exact rule,--when she is so dressed her arms are bare down from her
shoulders, and such arms I never saw on any human being. Her back is
very broad and her bust expansive. But her head stands erect upon it as
the head of some old Juno, and in all her motions,--though I doubt
whether she could climb by the mountain path to her parish church,--she
displays a certain stately alertness which forbids one to call her fat.
Her smile,--when she really means to smile and to show thereby her
good-will and to be gracious,--is as sweet as Hebe’s. Then it is that
you see that in her prime she must in truth have been a lovely woman.
There is at these moments a kindness in her eyes and a playfulness about
her mouth which is apt to make you think that you can do what you like
with the Frau. Who has not at times been charmed by the frolic
playfulness of the tiger? Not that Frau Frohmann has aught of the tiger
in her nature but its power. But the power is all there, and not
unfrequently the signs of power. If she be thwarted, contradicted,
counselled by unauthorised counsellors,--above all if she be
censured,--then the signs of power are shown. Then the Frau does not
smile. At such times she is wont to speak her mind very plainly, and to
make those who hear her understand that, within the precincts and
purlieus of the Brunnenthal Peacock, she is an irresponsible despot.
There have been guests there rash enough to find some trifling faults
with the comforts provided for them,--whose beds perhaps have been too
hard, or their towels too limited, or perhaps their hours not agreeably
arranged for them. Few, however, have ever done so twice, and they who
have so sinned,--and have then been told that the next diligence would
take them quickly to Innsbruck if they were discontented,--have rarely
stuck to their complaints and gone. The comforts of the house, and the
prices charged, and the general charms of the place have generally
prevailed,--so that the complainants, sometimes with spoken apologies,
have in most cases sought permission to remain. In late years the Frau’s
certainty of victory has created a feeling that nothing is to be said
against the arrangements of the Peacock. A displeased guest can exercise
his displeasure best by taking himself away in silence.

The Frau of late years has had two counsellors; for though she is but
ill inclined to admit advice from those who have received no authority
to give it, she is not therefore so self-confident as to feel that she
can live and thrive without listening to the wisdom of others. And those
two counsellors may be regarded as representing--the first or elder her
conscience, and the second and younger her worldly prudence. And in the
matter of her conscience very much more is concerned than simple
honesty. It is not against cheating or extortion that her counsellor is
sharp to her; but rather in regard to those innovations which he and she
think to be prejudicial to the manner and life of Brunnenthal, of
Innsbruck, of the Tyrol, of the Austrian empire generally, and, indeed,
of the world at large. To be as her father had been before her,--for her
father, too, had kept the Peacock; to let life be cheap and simple, but
yet very plentiful as it had been in his days, this was the counsel
given by Father Conolin the old priest, who always spent two nights in
each month at the establishment, and was not unfrequently to be seen
there on other occasions. He had been opposed to many things which had
been effected,--that alteration of the hour of dinner, the erection of
the bathhouse, the changing of plates at each course, and especially
certain, notifications and advertisements by which foreigners may have
been induced to come to the Brunnenthal. The kaplan, or chaplain, as he
was called, was particularly averse to strangers, seeming to think that
the advantages of the place should be reserved, if not altogether for
the Tyrolese, at any rate for the Germans of Southern Germany, and was
probably of opinion that no real good could be obtained by harbouring
Lutherans. But, of late, English also had come, to whom, though he was
personally very courteous, he was much averse in his heart of hearts.
Such had ever been the tendency of his advice, and it had always been
received with willing, nay, with loving ears. But the fate of the kaplan
had been as is the fate of all such counsellors. Let the toryism of the
Tory be ever so strong, it is his destiny to carry out the purposes of
his opponents. So it had been, and was, with the Frau. Though she was
always in spirit antagonistic to the other counsellor, it was the other
counsellor who prevailed with her.

At Innsbruck for many years there had lived a lawyer, or rather a family
of lawyers, men always of good repute and moderate means, named
Schlessen; and in their hands had been reposed by the Frau that
confidence as to business matters which almost every one in business
must have in some lawyer. The first Schlessen whom the Frau had known
in her youth, and who was then a very old man, had been almost as
Conservative as the priest. Then had come his son, who had been less so,
but still lived and died without much either of the light of progress or
contamination of revolutionary ideas from the outer world. But about
three years before the date of our tale he also had passed away, and now
young Fritz Schlessen sat in the chair of his forefathers. It was the
opinion of Innsbruck generally that the young lawyer was certainly
equal, probably superior, in attainments and intellect to any of his
predecessors. He had learned his business both at Munich and Vienna, and
though he was only twenty-six when he was left to manage his clients
himself, most of them adhered to him. Among others so did our Frau, and
this she did knowing the nature of the man and of the counsel she might
expect to receive from him. For though she loved the priest, and loved
her old ways, and loved to be told that she could live and thrive on the
rules by which her father had lived and thriven before her,--still,
there was always present to her mind the fact that she was engaged in
trade, and that the first object of a tradesman must be to make money.
No shoemaker can set himself to work to make shoes having as his first
intention an ambition to make the feet of his customers comfortable.
That may come second, and to him, as a conscientious man, may be
essentially necessary. But he sets himself to work to make shoes in
order that he may earn a living. That law,--almost of nature we may
say,--had become so recognised by the Frau that she felt that it must
be followed, even in spite of the priest if need were, and that, in
order that it might be followed, it would be well that she should listen
to the advice of Herr Schlessen. She heard, therefore, all that her
kaplan would say to her with gracious smiles, and something of what her
lawyer would say to her, not always very graciously; but in the long-run
she would take her lawyer’s advice.

It will have to be told in a following chapter how it was that Fritz
Schlessen had a preponderating influence in the Brunnenthal, arising
from other causes than his professional soundness and general prudence.
It may, however, be as well to explain here that Peter Frohmann the son
sided always with the priest, and attached himself altogether to the
conservative interest. But he, though he was honest, diligent, and
dutiful to his mother, was lumpy, uncouth, and slow both of speech and
action. He understood the cutting of timber and the making of
hay,--something perhaps of the care of horses and of the nourishment of
pigs; but in money matters he was not efficient. Amalia, or Malchen, the
daughter, who was four or five years her brother’s junior, was much
brighter, and she was strong on the reforming side. British money was to
her thinking as good as Austrian, or even Tyrolese. To thrive even
better than her forefathers had thriven seemed to her to be desirable.
She therefore, though by her brightness and feminine ways she was very
dear to the priest, was generally opposed to him in the family
conclaves. It was chiefly in consequence of her persistency that the
table napkins at the Peacock were now changed twice a week.



Of late days, and up to the time of which we are speaking, the chief
contest between the Frau, with the kaplan and Peter on one side, and
Malchen with Fritz Schlessen on the other, was on that most important
question whether the whole rate of charges should not be raised at the
establishment. The prices had been raised, no doubt, within the last
twenty years, or the Frau could not have kept her house open;--but this
had been done indirectly. That the matter may not be complicated for our
readers, we will assume that all charges are made at the Peacock in
zwansigers and kreutzers, and that the zwansiger, containing twenty
kreutzers, is worth eightpence of English money. Now it must be
understood that the guests at the Peacock were entertained at the rate
of six zwansigers, or four shillings, a day, and that this included
everything necessary,--a bed, breakfast, dinner, a cup of coffee after
dinner, supper, as much fresh milk as anybody chose to drink when the
cows were milked, and the use of everything in and about the
establishment. Guests who required wine or beer, of course, were charged
for what they had. Those who were rich enough to be taken about in
carriages paid so much per job,--each separate jaunt having been
inserted in a tariff. No doubt there were other possible and probable
extras; but an ordinary guest might live for his six zwansigers a
day;--and the bulk of them did so live, with the addition of whatever
allowance of beer each might think appropriate. From time to time a
little had been added to the cost of luxuries. Wine had become dearer,
and perhaps the carriages. A bath was an addition to the bill, and
certain larger and more commodious rooms were supposed to be entitled to
an extra zwansiger per week;--but the main charge had always remained
fixed. In the time of the Frau’s father guests had been entertained at,
let us say, four shillings a head, and guests were so entertained now.
All the world,--at any rate all the Tyrolese world south of
Innsbruck,--knew that six zwansigers was the charge in the Brunnenthal.
It would be like adding a new difficulty to the path of life to make a
change. The Frau had always held her head high,--had never been ashamed
of looking her neighbour in the face, but when she was advised to rush
at once up to seven zwansigers and a half (or five shillings a day), she
felt that, should she do so, she would be overwhelmed with shame. Would
not her customers then have cause of complaint? Would not they have such
cause that they would in truth desert her? Did she not know that Herr
Weiss, the magistrate from Brixen, with his wife, and his wife’s sister,
and the children, who came yearly to the Peacock, could not afford to
bring his family at this increased rate of expenses? And the Fraulein
Tendel with her sister would never come from Innsbruck if such an
announcement was made to her. It was the pride of this woman’s heart to
give all that was necessary for good living, to those who would come and
submit themselves to her, for four shillings a day. Among the “extras”
she could endure some alteration. She did not like extras, and if people
would have luxuries they must be made to pay for them. But the Peacock
had always been kept open for six zwansigers, and though Fritz Schlessen
was very eloquent, she would not give way to him.

Fritz Schlessen simply told her that the good things which she provided
for her guests cost at present more than six zwansigers, and could not
therefore be sold by her at that price without a loss. She was rich,
Fritz remarked, shrugging his shoulders, and having amassed property
could if she pleased dispose of it gradually by entertaining her guests
at a loss to herself;--only let her know what she was doing. That might
be charity, might be generosity, might be friendliness; but it was not
trade. Everything else in the world had become dearer, and therefore
living at the Peacock should be dearer. As to the Weisses and the
Tendels, no doubt they might be shocked, and perhaps hindered from
coming. But their places would surely be filled by others. Was not the
house always full from the 1st of June till the end of September? Were
not strangers refused admittance week after week from want of
accommodation? If the new prices were found to be too high for the
Tyrolese and Bavarians, they would not offend the Germans from the
Rhine, or the Belgians, or the English. Was it not plain to every one
that people now came from greater distances than heretofore?

These were the arguments which Herr Schlessen used; and, though they
were very disagreeable, they were not easily answered. The Frau
repudiated altogether the idea of keeping open her house on other than
true trade principles. When the young lawyer talked to her about
generosity she waxed angry, and accused him of laughing at her. “Dearest
Frau Frohmann,” he said, “it is so necessary you should know the truth!
Of course you intend to make a profit;--but if you cannot do so at your
present prices, and yet will not raise them, at any rate understand what
it is that you are doing.” Now the last year had been a bad year, and
she knew that she had not increased her store. This all took place in
the month of April, when a proposition was being made as to the prices
for the coming season. The lawyer had suggested that a circular should
be issued, giving notice of an altered tariff.

Malchen was clearly in favour of the new idea. She could not see that
the Weisses and Tendels, and other neighbours, should be entertained at
a manifest loss; and, indeed, she had prepossessions in favour of
foreigners, especially of the English, which, when expressed, brought
down upon her head sundry hard words from her mother, who called her a
“pert hussey,” and implied that if Fritz Schlessen wanted to pull the
house down she, Malchen, would be willing that it should be done.
“Better do that, mother, than keep the roof on at a loss,” said Malchen;
who upon that was turned at once out of the little inner room in which
the conference was being held.

Peter, who was present on the occasion, was decidedly opposed to all
innovations, partly because his conservative nature so prompted him, and
partly because he did not regard Herr Schlessen with a friendship so
warm as that entertained by his sister. He was, perhaps, a little
jealous of the lawyer. And then he had an idea that as things were
prosperous to the eye, they would certainly come right at last. The
fortunes of the house had been made at the rate of six zwansigers a day,
and there was, he thought, no wisdom more clear than that of adhering to
a line of conduct which had proved itself to be advantageous.

The kaplan was clear against any change of prices; but then he burdened
his advice on the question with a suggestion which was peculiarly
disagreeable to the Frau. He acknowledged the truth of much that the
lawyer had said. It appeared to him that the good things provided could
not in truth be sold at the terms as they were now fixed. He was quite
alive to the fact that it behoved the Frau as a wise woman to make a
profit. Charity is one thing, and business is another. The Frau did her
charities like a Christian, generally using Father Conolin as her
almoner in such matters. But, as a keeper of a house of public
entertainment, it was necessary that she should live. The kaplan was as
wide awake to this as was the Frau herself, or the lawyer. But he
thought that the changes should not be in the direction indicated by
Schlessen. The condition of the Weisses and of the Tendels should be
considered. How would it be if one of the “meats” and one of the
puddings were discontinued, and if the cup of coffee after dinner were
made an extra? Would not that so reduce the expenditure as to leave a
profit? And in that case the Weisses and the Tendels need not
necessarily incur any increased charges.

When the kaplan had spoken the lawyer looked closely into the Frau’s
face. The proposition might no doubt for the present meet the
difficulty, but he knew that it would be disagreeable. There came a
cloud upon the old woman’s brow, and she frowned even upon the priest.

“They’d want to be helped twice out of the one pudding, and you’d gain
nothing,” said Peter.

“According to that,” said the lawyer, “if there were only one course the
dinner would cost the same. The fewer the dishes, the less the cost, no

“I don’t believe you know anything about it,” said the Frau.

“Perhaps not,” said the lawyer. “On those little details no doubt you
are the best judge. But I think I have shown that something should be

“You might try the coffee, Frau Frohmann,” said the priest.

“They would not take any. You’d only save the coffee,” said the lawyer.

“And the sugar,” said the priest.

“But then they’d never ask for brandy,” suggested Peter.

The Frau on that occasion said not a word further, but after a little
while got up from her chair and stood silent among them; which was known
to be a sign that the conference was dismissed.

All this had taken place immediately after dinner, which at this period
of the year was eaten at noon. It had simply been a family meal, at
which the Frau had sat with her two children and her two friends. The
kaplan on such occasions was always free. Nothing that he had in that
house ever cost him a kreutzer. But the attorney paid his way like any
one else. When called on for absolute work done,--not exactly for advice
given in conference,--he made his charges. It might be that a time was
coming in which no money would pass on either side, but that time had
not arrived as yet. As soon as the Frau was left alone, she reseated
herself in her accustomed arm-chair, and set herself to work in sober
and almost solemn sadness to think over it all. It was a most perplexing
question. There could be no doubt that all the wealth which she at
present owned had been made by a business carried on at the present
prices and after the existing fashion. Why should there be any change?
She was told that she must make her customers pay more because she
herself was made to pay more. But why should she pay more? She could
understand that in the general prosperity of the Brunnenthal those about
her should have somewhat higher wages. As she had prospered, why should
not they also prosper? The servants of the poor must, she thought, be
poorer than the servants of the rich. But why should poultry be dearer,
and meat? Some things she knew were cheaper, as tea and sugar and
coffee. She had bought three horses during the winter, and they
certainly had been costly. Her father had not given such prices, nor,
before this, had she. But that probably had been Peter’s fault, who had
too rashly acceded to the demands made upon him. And now she remembered
with regret that, on the 1st of January, she had acceded to a petition
from the carpenter for an addition of six zwansigers to his monthly
wages. He had made the request on the plea of a sixth child, adding
also, that journeymen carpenters both at Brixen and at Innsbruck were
getting what he asked. She had granted to the coming of the additional
baby that which she would probably have denied to the other argument;
but it had never occurred to her that she was really paying the
additional four shillings a month because carpenters were becoming
dearer throughout the world. Malchen’s clothes were certainly much more
costly than her own had been, when she was young; but then Malchen was a
foolish girl, fond of fashion from Munich, and just at this moment was
in love. It could hardly be right that those poor Tendel females, with
their small and fixed means, should be made to pay more for their
necessary summer excursions because Malchen would dress herself in
so-called French finery, instead of adhering, as she ought, to Tyrolese

The Frau on this occasion spent an hour in solitude, thinking over it
all. She had dismissed the conference, but that could not be regarded as
an end to the matter. Herr Schlessen had come out from Innsbruck with a
written document in his pocket, which he was proposing to have printed
and circulated, and which, if printed and circulated, would intimate to
the world at large that the Frau Frohmann had raised her prices. Therein
the new rates, seven zwansigers and a half a head, were inserted
unblushingly at full length, as though such a disruption of old laws was
the most natural thing in the world. There was a flippancy about it
which disgusted the old woman. Malchen seemed to regard an act which
would banish from the Peacock the old friends and well-known customers
of the house as though it were an easy trifle; and almost desirable with
that very object. The Frau’s heart warmed to the well-known faces as she
thought of this. Would she not have infinitely greater satisfaction in
cooking good dinners for her simple Tyrolese neighbours, than for rich
foreigners who, after all, were too often indifferent to what was done
for them? By those Tendel ladies her puddings were recognised as real
works of art. They thought of them, talked of them, ate them, and no
doubt dreamed of them. And Herr Weiss--how he enjoyed her dinners, and
how proud he always was as he encouraged his children around him to help
themselves to every dish in succession! And the Frau Weiss--with all
her cares and her narrow means--was she to be deprived of that cheap
month’s holiday which was so necessary for her, in order that the
Peacock and the charms of the Brunnenthal generally might be devoted to
Jews from Frankfort, or rich shopkeepers from Hamburg, or, worse still,
to proud and thankless Englishmen? At the end of the hour the Frau had
determined that she would not raise her prices.

But yet something must be done. Had she resolved, even silently
resolved, that she would carry on her business at a loss, she would have
felt that she was worthy of restraint as a lunatic. To keep a house of
public entertainment and to lose by it was, to her mind, a very sad
idea! To work and be out of pocket by working! To her who knew little or
nothing of modern speculation, such a catastrophe was most melancholy.
But to work with the intention of losing could be the condition only of
a lunatic. And Schlessen had made good his point as to the last season.
The money spent had been absolutely more than the money received.
Something must be done. And yet she would not raise her prices.

Then she considered the priest’s proposition. Peter, she knew, had shown
himself to be a fool. Though his feelings were good, he always was a
fool. The expenses of the house no doubt might be much diminished in the
manner suggested by Herr Conolin. Salt butter could be given instead of
fresh at breakfast. Cheaper coffee could be procured. The courses at
dinner might be reduced. The second pudding might be discontinued with
economical results. But had not her success in these things been the
pride of her life; and of what good would her life be to her if its
pride were crushed? The Weisses no doubt would come all the same, but
how would they whisper and talk of her among themselves when they found
these parsimonious changes! The Tendel ladies would not complain. It was
not likely that a breath of complaint would ever pass their humble lips;
but she herself, she, Frau Frohmann, who was perhaps somewhat unduly
proud of her character for wealth, would have to explain to them why it
was that that second pudding had been abolished. She would be forced to
declare that she could no longer afford to supply it, a declaration
which to her would have in it something of meanness, something of
degradation. No! she could not abandon the glory of her dinner. It was
as though you should ask a Royal Academician to cease to exhibit his
pictures, or an actor to consent to have his name withdrawn from the
bills. Thus at last she came to that further resolve. The kaplan’s
advice must be rejected, as must that of the lawyer.

But something must be done. For a moment there came upon her a sad idea
that she would leave the whole thing to others, and retire into
obscurity at Schwatz, the village from whence the Frohmanns had
originally come. There would be ample means for private comfort. But
then who would carry on the Peacock, who would look after the farm, and
the timber, and the posting, and the mill? Peter was certainly not
efficient for all that. And Malchen’s ambition lay elsewhere. There
was, too, a cowardice in this idea of running away which was very
displeasing to her.

Why need there be any raising of prices at all,--either in one direction
or in the other?--Had she herself never been persuaded into paying more
to others, then she would not have been driven to demand more from
others. And those higher payments on her part had, she thought, not been
obligatory on her. She had been soft and good-natured, and therefore it
was that she was now called upon to be exorbitant. There was something
abominable to her in this general greed of the world for more money. At
the moment she felt almost a hatred for poor Seppel the carpenter, and
regarded that new baby of his as an impertinent intrusion. She would
fall back upon the old wages, the old prices for everything. There would
be a difficulty with that Innsbruck butcher; but unless he would give
way she would try the man at Brixen. In that matter of fowls she would
not yield a kreutzer to the entreaties of her poor neighbours who
brought them to her for sale.

Then she walked forth from the house to a little arbour or summer-house
which was close to the chapel opposite, in which she found Schlessen
smoking his pipe with a cup of coffee before him, and Malchen by his
side. “I have made up my mind. Herr Schlessen,” she said. It was only
when she was very angry with him that she called him Herr Schlessen.

“And what shall I do?” asked the lawyer.

“Do nothing at all; but just destroy that bit of paper.” So saying, the
Frau walked back to the house, and Fritz Schlessen, looking round at
Malchen, did destroy that bit of paper.



About two months after the events described in the last chapter, Malchen
and Fritz Schlessen were sitting in the same little arbour, and he was
again smoking his pipe, and again drinking his coffee. And they were
again alone. When these two were seated together in the arbour, at this
early period of the season, they were usually left alone, as they were
known to be lovers by the guests who would then be assembled at the
Peacock. When the summer had grown into autumn, and the strangers from a
distance had come, and the place was crowded, then the ordinary
coffee-drinkers and smokers would crowd round the arbour, regardless of
the loves of Amalia and Fritz.

The whole family of the Weisses were now at the Peacock, and the two
Tendel ladies and three or four others, men with their wives and
daughters, from Botzen, Brunecken, and places around at no great
distance. It was now the end of June; but it is not till July that the
house becomes full, and it is in August that the real crowd is gathered
at Frau Frohmann’s board. It is then that folk from a distance cannot
find beds, and the whole culinary resources of the establishment are put
to their greatest stress. It was now Monday, and the lawyer had been
making a holiday, having come to the Brunnenthal on the previous
Saturday. On the Sunday there had been perhaps a dozen visitors from
Innsbruck who had been driven out after early mass for their dinner and
Sunday holiday. Everything had been done at the Peacock on the old
style. There had been no diminution either in the number or in the
excellence of the dishes, nor had there been any increase in the tariff.
It had been the first day of the season at which there had been a full
table, and the Frau had done her best. Everybody had known that the
sojourners in the house were to be entertained at the old rates; but it
had been hoped by the lawyer and the priest, and by Malchen,--even by
Peter himself--that a zwansiger would be added to the charge for dinner
demanded from the townspeople. But at the last moment word had gone
forth that there should be no increase. All the morning the old lady had
been very gloomy. She had heard mass in her own chapel, and had then
made herself very busy in the kitchen. She had spoken no word to any one
till, at the moment before dinner, she gave her instructions to Malchen,
who always made out the bills, and saw that the money was duly received.
There was to be no increase. Then, when the last pudding had been sent
in, she went, according to her custom, to her room and decorated herself
in her grand costume. When the guests had left the dining-room and were
clustering about in the passages and on the seats in front of the house,
waiting for their coffee, she had come forth, very fine, with her grand
cap on her head, with her gold and silver ornaments, with her arms bare,
and radiant with smiles. She shook Madame Weiss very graciously by the
hand and stooped down and kissed the youngest child. To one fraulein
after another she said a civil word. And when, as it happened, Seppel
the carpenter went by, dressed in his Sunday best, with a child in each
hand, she stopped him and asked kindly after the baby. She had made up
her mind that, at any rate for a time, she would not submit to the
humiliation of acknowledging that she was driven to the necessity of
asking increased prices.

That had taken place on the Sunday, and it was on the following day that
the two lovers were in the arbour together. Now it must be understood
that all the world knew that these lovers were lovers, and that all the
world presumed that they were to become husband and wife. There was not
and never had been the least secrecy about it. Malchen was four or five
and twenty, and he was perhaps thirty. They knew their own minds, and
were, neither of them, likely to be persuaded by others either to marry
or not to marry. The Frau had given her consent,--not with that ecstacy
of joy with which sons-in-law are sometimes welcomed,--but still
without reserve. The kaplan had given in his adhesion. The young lawyer
was not quite the man he liked,--entertained some of the new ideas about
religion, and was given to innovations; but he was respectable and
well-to-do. He was a lover against whom he, as a friend of the family,
could not lift up his voice. Peter did not like the man, and Peter, in
his way, was fond of his sister. But he had not objected. Had he done
so, it would not have mattered much. Malchen was stronger at the
Brunnenthal than Peter. Thus it may be said that things generally smiled
upon the lovers. But yet no one had ever heard that a day was fixed for
their marriage. Madame Weiss had once asked Malchen, and Malchen had
told her--not exactly to mind her own business; but that had been very
nearly the meaning of what she had said.

There was, indeed, a difficulty; and this was the difficulty. The Frau
had assented--in a gradual fashion, rather by not dissenting as the
thing had gone on, so that it had come to be understood that the thing
was to be. But she had never said a word as to the young lady’s
fortune--as to that “mitgift” which in such a case would certainly be
necessary. Such a woman as the Frau in giving her daughter would surely
have to give something with her. But the Frau was a woman who did not
like parting with her money; and was such a woman that even the lawyer
did not like asking the question. The fraulein had once inquired, but
the mother had merely raised her eyebrows and remained silent. Then the
lawyer had told the priest that in the performance of her moral duties
the Frau ought to settle something in her own mind. The priest had
assented, but had seemed to imply that in the performance of such a duty
an old lady ought not to be hurried. A year or two, he seemed to think,
would not be too much for consideration. And so the matter stood at the
present moment.

Perhaps it is that the Germans are a slow people. It may be that the
Tyrolese are especially so. Be that as it may, Herr Schlessen did not
seem to be driven into any agony of despair by these delays. He was
fondly attached to his Malchen; but as to offering to take her without
any mitgift,--quite empty-handed, just as she stood,--that was out of
the question. No young man who had anything, ever among his
acquaintances, did that kind of thing. Scales should be somewhat equally
balanced. He had a good income, and was entitled to some substantial
mitgift. He was quite ready to marry her to-morrow, if only this
important question could get itself settled.

Malchen was quite as well aware as was he that her mother should be
brought to do her duty in this matter; but, perhaps of the two, she was
a little the more impatient. If there should at last be a slip between
the cup and the lip, the effect to her would be so much more disastrous
than to him! He could very easily get another wife. Young women were as
plenty as blackberries. So the fraulein told herself. But she might
find it difficult to suit herself, if at last this affair were to be
broken off. She knew herself to be a fair, upstanding, good-looking
lass, with personal attractions sufficient to make such a young man as
Fritz Schlessen like her society; but she knew also that her good looks,
such as they were, would not be improved by fretting. It might be
possible that Fritz should change his mind some day, if he were kept
waiting till he saw her becoming day by day more commonplace under his
eyes. Malchen had good sense enough not to overrate her own charms, and
she knew the world well enough to be aware that she would be wise to
secure, if possible, a comfortable home while she was at her best. It
was not that she suspected Fritz; but she did not think that she would
be justified in supposing him to be more angelic than other young men
simply because he was her lover. Therefore, Malchen was impatient, and
for the last month or two had been making up her mind to be very “round”
with her mother on the subject.

At the present moment, however, the lovers, as they were sitting in the
arbour, were discussing rather the Frau’s affairs in regard to the
establishment than their own. Schlessen had, in truth, come to the
Brunnenthal on this present occasion to see what would be done, thinking
that if the thin edge of the wedge could have been got in,--if those
people from the town could have been made to pay an extra zwansiger each
for their Sunday dinner,--then, even yet, the old lady might be induced
to raise her prices in regard to the autumn and more fashionable
visitors. But she had been obstinate, and had gloried in her obstinacy,
dressing herself up in her grandest ornaments and smiling her best
smiles, as in triumph at her own victory.

“The fact is, you know, it won’t do,” said the lawyer to his love. “I
don’t know how I am to say any more, but anybody can see with half an
eye that she will simply go on losing money year after year. It is all
very fine for the Weisses and Tendels, and very fine for old
Trauss,”--old Trauss was a retired linen-draper from Vienna, who lived
at Innsbruck, and was accustomed to eat many dinners at the Peacock; a
man who could afford to pay a proper price, but who was well pleased to
get a good dinner at a cheap rate,--“and very well for old Trauss,”
continued the lawyer, becoming more energetic as he went on, “to regale
themselves at your mother’s expense;--but that’s what it comes to.
Everybody knows that everybody has raised the price of everything. Look
at the Golden Lion.” The Golden Lion was the grand hotel in the town.
“Do you think they haven’t raised their prices during the last twenty

“Why is it, Fritz?”

“Everything goes up together, of course. If you’ll look into old
accounts you’ll see that three hundred years ago you could buy a sheep
at Salzburg for two florins and a half. I saw, it somewhere in a book.
If a lawyer’s clerk then had eighty florins a year he was well off. That
would not surprise her. She can understand that there should be an
enormous change in three hundred years; but she can’t make out why there
should be a little change in thirty years.”

“But many things have got cheaper, Fritz.”

“Living altogether hasn’t got cheaper. Look at wages!”

“I don’t know why we should pay more. Everybody says that bread is lower
than it used to be.”

“What sort of bread do the people eat now? Look at that man.” The man
was Seppel, who was dragging a cart which he had just mended out of the
shed which was close by,--in which cart were seated his three eldest
children, so that he might help their mother as assistant nurse even
while he was at his work. “Don’t you think he gets more wheaten flour
into his house in a week than his grandfather did in a year? His
grandfather never saw white bread.”

“Why should he have it?”

“Because he likes it, and because he can get it. Do you think he’d have
stayed here if his wages had not been raised?”

“I don’t think Seppel ever would have moved out of the Brunnenthal,

“Then Seppel would have been more stupid than the cow, which knows very
well on which side of the field it can find the best grass. Everything
gets dearer;--and if one wants to live one has to swim with the stream.
You might as well try to fight with bows and arrows, or with the
old-fashioned flint rifles, as to live at the same rate as your
grandfather.” The young lawyer, as he said this, rapped his pipe on the
table to knock out the ashes, and threw himself back on his seat with a
full conviction that he had spoken words of wisdom.

“What will it all come to, Fritz?” This Malchen asked with real anxiety
in her voice. She was not slow to join two things together. It might
well be that her mother should be induced by her pride to carry on the
business for a while, so as to lose some of her money, but that she
should, at last, be induced to see the error of her ways before serious
damage had been done. Her financial position was too good to be brought
to ruin by small losses. But during the period of her discomfiture she
certainly would not be got to open her hand in that matter of the
mitgift. Malchen’s own little affair would never get itself settled till
this other question should have arranged itself satisfactorily. There
could be no mitgift from a failing business. And if the business were to
continue to fail for the next year or two, where would Malchen be then?
It was not, therefore, wonderful that she should be in earnest.

“Your mother is a very clever woman,” said the lover.

“It seems to me that she is very foolish about this,” said Malchen,
whose feeling of filial reverence was not at the moment very strong.

“She is a clever woman, and has done uncommonly well in the world. The
place is worth double as much as when she married your father. But it is
that very success which makes her obstinate. She thinks that she can
see her way. She fancies that she can compel people to work for her and
deal with her at the old prices. It will take her, perhaps, a couple of
years to find out that this is wrong. When she has lost three or four
thousand florins she’ll come round.”

Fritz, as he said this, seemed to be almost contented with this view of
the case,--as though it made no difference to him. But with the fraulein
the matter was so essentially personal that she could not allow it to
rest there. She had made up her mind to be round with her mother; but it
seemed to her to be necessary, also, that something should be said to
her lover. “Won’t all that be very bad for you, Fritz?”

“Her business with me will go on just the same.”

This was felt to be unkind and very unloverlike. But she could not
afford at the present moment to quarrel with him. “I mean about our
settling,” she said.

“It ought not to make a difference.”

“I don’t know about ought;--but won’t it? You don’t see her as I do,
but, of course, it puts her into a bad temper.”

“I suppose she means to give you some fixed sum. I don’t doubt but she
has it all arranged in her own mind.”

“Why doesn’t she name it, then?”

“Ah, my dear,--mein schatz,--there is nobody who likes too well to part
with his money.”

“But when is there to be an end of it?”

“You should find that out. You are her child, and she has only two. That
she should hang back is a matter of course. When one has the money of
his own one can do anything. It is all in her own hand. See what I bear.
When I tell her this or that she turns upon me as if I were nobody. Do
you think I should suffer it if she were only just a client? You must
persuade her, and be gentle with her; but if she would name the sum it
would be a comfort, of course.”

The fraulein herself did not in the least know what the sum ought to be;
but she thought she did know that it was a matter which should be
arranged between her lover and her parent. What she would have liked to
have told him was this,--that as there were only two children, and as
her mother was at any rate an honest woman, he might be sure that a
proper dowry would come at last. But she was well aware that he would
think that a mitgift should be a mitgift. The bride should come with it
in her hand, so that she might be a comfort to her husband’s household.
Schlessen would not be at all willing to wait patiently for the Frau’s
death, or even for some final settlement of her affairs when she might
make up her mind to leave the Peacock and betake herself to Schwatz.
“You would not like to ask her yourself?” she said.

He was silent for a while, and then he answered her by another question.
“Are you afraid of her?”

“Not afraid. But she would just tell me I was impertinent. I am not a
bit afraid, but it would do no good. It would be so reasonable for you
to do it.”

“There is just the difference, Malchen. I am afraid of her.”

“She could not bite you.”

“No;--but she might say something sharp, and then I might answer her
sharply. And then there might be a quarrel. If she were to tell me that
she did not want to see me any more in the Brunnenthal, where should we
be then? Mein schatz, if you will take my advice, you will just say a
word yourself, in your softest, sweetest way.” Then he got up and made
his way across to the stable, where was the horse which was to take him
back to Innsbruck. Malchen was not altogether well pleased with her
lover, but she perceived that on the present occasion she must,
perforce, follow his advice.



Two or three weeks went by in the Brunnenthal without any special
occurrence, and Malchen had not as yet spoken to her mother about her
fortune. The Frau had during this time been in more than ordinary good
humour with her own household. July had opened with lovely weather, and
the house had become full earlier than usual. The Frau liked to have the
house full, even though there might be no profit, and therefore she was
in a good humour. But she had been exceptionally busy, and was trying
experiments in her housekeeping, as to which she was still in hope that
they would carry her through all her difficulties. She had been both to
Brixen on one side of the mountain and to Innsbruck on the other, and
had changed her butcher. Her old friend Hoff, at the latter place, had
altogether declined to make any reduction in his prices. Of course they
had been raised within the last five or six years. Who did not know that
that had been the case with butchers’ meat all the world over? As it
was, he charged the Frau less than he charged the people at the Golden
Lion. So at least he swore; and when she told him that unless an
alteration was made she must take her custom elsewhere--he bade her go
elsewhere. Therefore she did make a contract with the butcher at Brixen
on lower terms, and seemed to think that she had got over her
difficulty. But Brixen was further than Innsbruck, and the carriage was
more costly. It was whispered also about the house that the meat was not
equally good. Nobody, however, had as yet dared to say a word on that
subject to the Frau. And she, though in the midst of her new efforts she
was good-humoured herself,--as is the case with many people while they
have faith in the efforts they are making,--had become the cause of much
unhappiness among others. Butter, eggs, poultry, honey, fruit, and
vegetables, she was in the habit of buying from her neighbours, and had
been so excellent a customer that she was as good as a market to the
valley in general. There had usually been some haggling; but that, I
think, by such vendors is considered a necessary and almost an agreeable
part of the operation. The produce had been bought and sold, and the
Frau had, upon the whole, been regarded as a kind of providence to the
Brunnenthal. But now there were sad tales told at many a cottage and
small farmstead around. The Frau had declared that she would give no
more than three zwansigers a pair for chickens, and had insisted on
having both butter and eggs at a lower price than she had paid last
year. And she had succeeded, after infinite clamours. She had been their
one market, their providence, and they had no other immediate customers
to whom to betake themselves. The eggs and the butter, the raspberries
and the currants, must be sold. She had been imperious and had
succeeded, for a while. But there were deep murmurs, and already a
feeling was growing up in favour of Innsbruck and a market cart. It was
very dreadful. How were they to pay their taxes, how were they to pay
anything, if they were to be crimped and curtailed in this way? One poor
woman had already walked to Innsbruck with three dozen eggs, and had got
nearly twice the money which the Frau had offered. The labour of the
walk had been very hard upon her, and the economy of the proceeding
generally may have been doubtful; but it had been proved that the thing
could be done.

Early in July there had come a letter, addressed to Peter, from an
English gentleman who, with his wife and daughter, had been at the
Brunnenthal on the preceding year. Mr. Cartwright had now written to
say, that the same party would be glad to come again early in August,
and had asked what were the present prices. Now the very question seemed
to imply a conviction on the gentleman’s mind that the prices would be
raised. Even Peter, when he took the letter to his mother, thought that
this would be a good opportunity for taking a step in advance. These
were English people, and entitled to no loving forbearance. The
Cartwrights need know nothing as to the demands made on the Weisses and
Tendels. Peter who had always been on his mother’s side, Peter who hated
changes, even he suggested that he might write back word that seven
zwansigers and a half was now the tariff. “Don’t you know I have settled
all that?” said the old woman, turning upon him fiercely. Then he wrote
to Mr. Cartwright to say that the charge would be six zwansigers a day,
as heretofore. It was certainly a throwing away of money. Mr. Cartwright
was a Briton, and would, therefore, almost have preferred to pay another
zwansiger or two. So at least Peter thought. And he, even an Englishman,
with his wife and daughter, was to be taken in and entertained at a
loss! At a loss!--unless, indeed, the Frau could be successful in her
new mode of keeping her house. Father Conolin in these days kept away.
The complaints made by the neighbours around reached his ears,--very sad
complaints,--and he hardly knew how to speak of them to the Frau. It was
becoming very serious with him. He had counselled her against any rise
in her own prices, but had certainly not intended that she should make
others lower. That had not been his plan; and now he did not know what
advice to give.

But the Frau, resolute in her attempt, and proud of her success as far
as it had gone, constantly adducing the conduct of these two rival
butchers as evidence of her own wisdom, kept her ground like a Trojan.
All the old courses were served, and the puddings and the fruit were at
first as copious as ever. If the meat was inferior in quality,--and it
could not be so without her knowledge, for she had not reigned so long
in the kitchen of the Peacock without having become a judge in such
matters,--she was willing to pass the fault over for a time. She tried
to think that there was not much difference. She almost tried to believe
that second-rate meat would do as well as first-rate. There should at
least be no lack of anything in the cookery. And so she toiled and
struggled, and was hopeful that she might have her own way and prove to
all her advisers that she knew how to manage the house better than any
of them.

There was great apparent good humour. Though she had frowned upon Peter
when he had shown a disposition to spoil those Egyptians the
Cartwrights, she had only done so in defence of her own resolute
purpose, and soon returned to her kind looks. She was, too, very civil
to Malchen, omitting for the time her usual gibes and jeers as to her
daughter’s taste for French finery and general rejection of Tyrolese
customs. And she said nothing of the prolonged absence of her two
counsellors, the priest and the lawyer. A great struggle was going on
within her own bosom, as to which she in these days said not a word to
anybody. One counsellor had told her to raise her prices; another had
advised her to lessen the luxuries supplied. As both the one proposition
and the other had gone against her spirit, she had looked about her to
find some third way out of her embarrassments. She had found it, and the
way was one which recommended itself to her own sense of abstract
justice. The old prices should prevail in the valley everywhere. She
would extort nothing from Mr. Cartwright, but then neither should her
neighbours extort anything from her. Seppel’s wife was ill, and she had
told him that in consequence of that misfortune the increased wages
should be continued for three months, but that after that she must
return to the old rate. In the softness of her heart she would have
preferred to say six months, but that in doing so she would have seemed
to herself to have departed from the necessary rigour of her new
doctrine. But when Seppel stood before her, scratching his head, a
picture of wretchedness and doubt, she was not comfortable in her mind.
Seppel had a dim idea of his own rights, and did not like to be told
that his extra zwansigers came to him from the Frau’s charity. To go
away from the Brunnenthal at the end of the summer, to go away at all,
would be terrible to him; but to work for less than fair wages, would
that not be more terrible? Of all which the Frau, as she looked at him,
understood much.

And she understood much also of the discontent and almost despair which
was filling the minds of the poor women all around her. All those poor
women were dear to her. It was in her nature to love those around her,
and especially those who were dependent on her. She knew the story of
every household,--what children each mother had reared and what she had
lost, when each had been brought to affliction by a husband’s illness or
a son’s misconduct. She had never been deaf to their troubles; and
though she might have been heard in violent discussions, now with one
and now with another, as to the selling value of this or that article,
she had always been held by them to be a just woman and a constant
friend. Now they were up in arms against her, to the extreme grief of
her heart.

Nevertheless it was necessary that she should support herself by an
outward appearance of tranquillity, so that the world around her might
know that she was not troubled by doubts as to her own conduct. She had
heard somewhere that no return can be made from evil to good courses
without temporary disruptions, and that all lovers of justice are
subject to unreasonable odium. Things had gone astray because there had
been unintentional lapses from justice. She herself had been the
delinquent when she had allowed herself to be talked into higher
payments than those which had been common in the valley in her young
days. She had not understood, when she made these lapses gradually, how
fatal would be their result. Now she understood, and was determined to
plant her foot firmly down on the old figures. All this evil had come
from a departure from the old ways. There must be sorrow and trouble,
and perhaps some ill blood, in this return. That going back to
simplicity is always so difficult! But it should be done. So she smiled,
and refused to give more than three zwansigers a pair for her chickens.

One old woman came to her with the express purpose of arguing it all
out. Suse Krapp was the wife of an old woodman who lived high up above
the Peacock, among the pines, in a spot which could only be reached by a
long and very steep ascent, and who being old, and having a daughter and
granddaughters whom she could send down with her eggs and wild fruit,
did not very often make her appearance in the valley. But she had known
the Frau well for many years, having been one of those to welcome her
when she had arrived there as a bride, and had always been treated with
exceptional courtesy. Suse Krapp was a woman who had brought up a large
family, and had known troubles; but she had always been able to speak
her own mind; and when she arrived at the house, empty-handed, with
nothing to sell, declaring at once her purpose of remonstrating with the
Frau, the Frau regarded her as a delegate from the commercial females of
the valley generally; and she took the coming in good part, asking Suse
into her own inner room.

After sundry inquiries on each side, respecting the children and the
guests, and the state of things in the world at large, the real question
was asked, “Ah, meine liebe Frau Frohmann,--my very dear Mrs. Frohmann,
as one might say here,--why are you dealing with us all in the
Brunnenthal after this hard fashion?”

“What do you call a hard fashion, Suse?”

“Only giving half price for everything that you buy. Why should anything
be cheaper this year than it was last? Ah, alas! does not everybody know
that everything is dearer?”

“Why should anything be dearer, Suse? The people who come here are not
charged more than they were twenty years ago.”

“Who can tell? How can an old woman say? It is all very bad. The world,
I suppose, is getting worse. But it is so. Look at the taxes.”

The taxes, whether imperial or municipal, was a matter on which Frau did
not want to speak. She felt that they were altogether beyond her reach.
No doubt there had been a very great increase in such demands during her
time, and it was an increase against which nobody could make any stand
at all. But, if that was all, there had been a rise in prices quite
sufficient to answer that. She was willing to pay three zwansigers a
pair for chickens, and yet she could remember when they were to be
bought for a zwansiger each.

“Yes, taxes,” she said; “they are an evil which we must all endure. It
is no good grumbling at them. But we have had the roads made for us.”

This was an unfortunate admission, for it immediately gave Suse Krapp an
easy way to her great argument. “Roads, yes! and they are all saying
that they must make use of them to send the things into market.
Josephine Bull took her eggs into the city and got two kreutzers apiece
for them.”

The Frau had already heard of that journey, and had also heard that poor
Josephine Bull had been very much fatigued by her labours. It had
afflicted her much, both that the poor woman should have been driven to
such a task, and that such an innovation should have been attempted. She
had never loved Innsbruck dearly, and now she was beginning to hate the
place. “What good did she get by that, Suse? None, I fear. She had
better have given her eggs away in the valley.”

“But they will have a cart.”

“Do you think a cart won’t cost money? There must be somebody to drive
the cart, I suppose.” On this point the Frau spoke feelingly, as she was
beginning to appreciate the inconvenience of sending twice a week all
the way to Brixen for her meat. There was a diligence, but though the
horses were kept in her own stables, she had not as yet been able to
come to terms with the proprietor.

“There is all that to think of certainly,” said Suse. “But----. Wouldn’t
you come back, meine liebe Frau, to the prices you were paying last
year? Do you not know that they would sooner sell to you than to any
other human being in all the world, and they must live by their little

But the Frau could not be persuaded. Indeed had she allowed herself to
be persuaded, all her purpose would have been brought to an end. Of
course there must be trouble, and her refusal of such a prayer as this
was a part of her trouble. She sent for a glass of kirsch-wasser to
mitigate the rigour of her denial, and as Suse drank the cordial she
endeavoured to explain her system. There could be no happiness, no real
prosperity in the valley, till they had returned to their old ways. “It
makes me unhappy,” said the Frau, shaking her head, “when I see the
girls making for themselves long petticoats.” Suse quite agreed with the
Frau as to the long petticoats; but, as she went, she declared that the
butter and eggs must be taken into Innsbruck, and another allusion to
the cart was the last word upon her tongue.

It was on the evening of that same day that Malchen, unaware that her
mother’s feelings had just then been peculiarly stirred up by an appeal
from the women of the valley, came at last to the determination of
asking that something might be settled as to the “mitgift.” “Mother,”
she said, “Fritz Schlessen thinks that something should be arranged.”

“Arranged as how?”

“I suppose he wants--to be married.”

“If he don’t, I suppose somebody else does,” said the mother smiling.

“Well, mother! Of course it is not pleasant to be as we are now. You
must feel that yourself. Fritz is a good young man, and there is nothing
about him that I have a right to complain of. But of course, like all
the rest of ’em, he expects some money when he takes a wife. Couldn’t
you tell him what you mean to give?”

“Not at present, Malchen.”

“And why not now? It has been going on two years.”

“Nina Cobard at Schwatz was ten years before her people would let it
come off. Just at present I am trying a great experiment, and I can say
nothing about money till the season is over.” With this answer Malchen
was obliged to be content, and was not slow in perceiving that it almost
contained a promise that the affairs should be settled when the season
was over.



In the beginning of August, the Weisses and the Tendels and Herr Trauss
had all left the Brunnenthal, and our friend Frau Frohmann was left with
a house full of guests who were less intimately known to her, but who
not the less demanded and received all her care. But, as those departed
whom she had taught herself to regard as neighbours and who were
therefore entitled to something warmer and more generous than mere
tavern hospitality, she began to feel the hardness of her case in
having to provide so sumptuously for all these strangers at a loss.
There was a party of Americans in the house who had absolutely made no
inquiry whatsoever as to prices till they had shown themselves at her
door. Peter had been very urgent with her to mulct the Americans, who
were likely, he thought, to despise the house merely because it was
cheap. But she would not give way. If the American gentleman should find
out the fact and turn upon her, and ask her why he was charged more than
others, how would she be able to answer him? She had never yet been so
placed as not to be able to answer any complaints, boldly and even
indignantly. It was hard upon her; but if the prices were to be raised
to any, they must be raised to all.

The whole valley now was in a hubbub. In the matter of butter there had
been so great a commotion that the Frau had absolutely gone back to the
making of her own, a system which had been abandoned at the Peacock a
few years since, with the express object of befriending the neighbours.
There had been a dairy with all its appurtenances; but it had come to
pass that the women around had got cows, and that the Frau had found
that without damage to herself she could buy their supplies. And in this
way her own dairy had gone out of use. She had kept her cows because
there had grown into use a great drinking of milk at the Peacock, and as
the establishment had gradually increased, the demand for cream,
custards, and such luxuries had of course increased also. Now, when,
remembering this, she conceived that she had a peculiar right to receive
submission as to the price of butter, and yet found more strong
rebellion here than on any other point, she at once took the bull by the
horns, and threw not only her energies, but herself bodily into the
dairy. It was repaired and whitewashed, and scoured and supplied with
all necessary furniture in so marvellously short a time, that the owners
of cows around could hardly believe their ears and their eyes. Of course
there was a spending of money, but there had never been any slackness as
to capital at the Peacock when good results might be expected from its
expenditure. So the dairy was set agoing.

But there was annoyance, even shame, and to the old woman’s feeling
almost disgrace, arising from this. As you cannot eat your cake and have
it, so neither can you make your butter and have your cream. The supply
of new milk to the milk-drinkers was at first curtailed, and then
altogether stopped. The guests were not entitled to the luxury by any
contract, and were simply told that as the butter was now made at home,
the milk was wanted for that purpose. And then there certainly was a
deterioration in the puddings. There had hitherto been a rich plenty
which was now wanting. No one complained; but the Frau herself felt the
falling off. The puddings now were such as might be seen at other
places,--at the Golden Lion for instance. Hitherto her puddings had been
unrivalled in the Tyrol.

Then there had suddenly appeared a huckster, a pedlar, an itinerant
dealer in the valley who absolutely went round to the old women’s houses
and bought the butter at the prices which she had refused to give. And
this was a man who had been in her own employment, had been brought to
the valley by herself, and had once driven her own horses! And it was
reported to her that this man was simply an agent for a certain
tradesman in Innsbruck. There was an ingratitude in all this which
nearly broke her heart. It seemed to her that those to whom in their
difficulties she had been most kind were now turning upon her in her
difficulty. And she thought that there was no longer left among the
people any faith, any feeling of decent economy, any principle.
Disregarding right or wrong, they would all go where they could get half
a zwansiger more! They knew what it was she was attempting to do; for
had she not explained it all to Suse Krapp? And yet they turned against

The poor Frau knew nothing of that great principle of selling in the
dearest market, however much the other lesson as to buying in the
cheapest had been brought home to her. When a fixed price had become
fixed, that, she thought, should not be altered. She was demanding no
more than she had been used to demand, though to do so would have been
so easy! But her neighbours, those to whom she had even been most
friendly, refused to assist her in her efforts to re-establish the old
and salutary simplicity. Of course when the butter was taken into
Innsbruck, the chickens and the eggs went with the butter. When she
learned how all this was she sent for Suse Krapp, and Suse Krapp again
came down to her.

“They mean then to quarrel with me utterly?” said the Frau with her
sternest frown.

“Meine liebe Frau Frohmann!” said the old woman, embracing the arm of
her ancient friend.

“But they do mean it?”

“What can we do, poor wretches? We must live.”

“You lived well enough before,” said the Frau, raising her fist in the
unpremeditated eloquence of her indignation. “Will it be better for you
now to deal with strangers who will rob you at every turn? Will Karl
Muntz, the blackguard that he is, advance money to any of you at your
need? Well; let it be so. I too can deal with strangers. But when once I
have made arrangements in the town, I will not come back to the people
of the valley. If we are to be severed, we will be severed. It goes
sadly against the grain with me, as I have a heart in my bosom.”

“You have, you have, my dearest Frau Frohmann.”

“As for the cranberries, we can do without them.” Now it had been the
case that Suse Krapp with her grandchildren had supplied the Peacock
with wild fruits in plentiful abundance, which wild fruits, stewed as
the Frau knew how to stew them, had been in great request among the
guests at the Brunnenthal. Great bowls of cranberries and bilberries had
always at this period of the year turned the Frau’s modest suppers into
luxurious banquets. But there must be an end to that now; not in any way
because the price paid for the fruit was grudged, but because the
quarrel, if quarrel there must be, should be internecine at all points.
She had loved them all; but, if they turned against her, not the less
because of her love would she punish them. Poor old Suse wiped her eyes
and took her departure, without any kirsch-wasser on this occasion.

It all went on from bad to worse. Seppel the carpenter gave her notice
that he would leave her service at the end of August. “Why at the end of
August?” she asked, remembering that she had promised to give him the
higher rate of wages up to a later date than that. Then Seppel
explained, that as he must do something for himself,--that is, find
another place,--the sooner he did that the better. Now Seppel the
carpenter was brother to that Anton who had most wickedly undertaken the
huckstering business, on the part of Karl Muntz the dealer in Innsbruck,
and it turned out that Seppel was to join him. There was an ingratitude
in this which almost drove the old woman frantic. If any one in the
valley was more bound to her by kindly ties than another, it was Seppel,
with his wife and six children. Wages! There had been no question of
wages when Babette, Seppel’s wife, had been ill; and Babette had always
been ill. And when he had chopped his own foot with his own axe, and had
gone into the hospital for six weeks, they had wanted nothing! That he
should leave her for a matter of six zwansigers a month, and not only
leave her, but become her active enemy, was dreadful to her. Nor was her
anger at all modified when he explained it all to her. As a man, and as
a carpenter who was bound to keep up his own respect among carpenters,
he could not allow himself to work for less than the ordinary wages. The
Frau had been very kind to him, and he and his wife and children were
all grateful. But she would not therefore wish him,--this was his
argument,--she would not on that account require him to work for less
than his due. Seppel put his hand on his heart, and declared that his
honour was concerned. As for his brother’s cart and his huckstery trade
and Karl Muntz, he was simply lending a hand to that till he could get a
settled place as carpenter. He was doing the Frau no harm. If he did not
look after the cart, somebody else would. He was very submissive and
most anxious to avoid her anger; but yet would not admit that he was
doing wrong. But she towered in her wrath, and would listen to no
reason. It was to her all wrong. It was innovation, a spirit of change
coming from the source of all evil, bringing with it unkindness, absence
of charity, ingratitude! It was flat mutiny, and rebellion against their
betters. For some weeks it seemed to the Frau that all the world was
going to pieces.

Her position was the more painful because at the time she was without
counsellors. The kaplan came indeed as usual, and was as attentive and
flattering to her as of yore; but he said nothing to her about her own
affairs unless he was asked; and she did not ask him, knowing that he
would not give her palatable counsel. The kaplan himself was not well
versed in political economy or questions of money generally; but he had
a vague idea that the price of a chicken ought to be higher now than it
was thirty years ago. Then why not also the price of living to the
guests at the Peacock? On that matter he argued with himself that the
higher prices for the chickens had prevailed for some time, and that it
was at any rate impossible to go back. And perhaps the lawyer had been
right in recommending the Frau to rush at once to seven zwansigers and a
half. His mind was vacillating and his ideas misty; but he did agree
with Suse Krapp when she declared that the poor people must live. He
could not, therefore, do the Frau any good by his advice.

As for Schlessen he had not been at the Brunnenthal for a month, and had
told Malchen in Innsbruck that unless he were specially wanted, he would
not go to the Peacock until something had been settled as to the
mitgift. “Of course she is going to lose a lot of money,” said
Schlessen. “Anybody can see that with half an eye. Everybody in the town
is talking about it. But when I tell her so, she is only angry with me.”

Malchen of course could give no advice. Every step which her mother took
seemed to her to be unwise. Of course the old women would do the best
they could with their eggs. The idea that any one out of gratitude
should sell cheaper to a friend than to an enemy was to her monstrous.
But when she found that her mother was determined to swim against the
stream, to wound herself by kicking against the pricks, to set at
defiance all the common laws of trade, and that in this way money was
to be lost, just at that very epoch of her own life in which it was so
necessary that money should be forthcoming for her own advantage,--then
she became moody, unhappy, and silent. What a pity it was that all this
power should be vested in her mother’s hands.

As for Peter, he had been altogether converted. When he found that a
cart had to be sent twice a week to Brixen, and that the very poultry
which had been carried from the valley to the town had to be brought
back from the town to the valley, then his spirit of conservatism
deserted him. He went so far as to advise his mother to give way. “I
don’t see that you do any good by ruining yourself,” he said.

But she turned at him very fiercely. “I suppose I may do as I like with
my own,” she replied.

Yes; she could do what she liked with her own. But now it was declared
by all those around her, by her neighbours in the valley, and by those
in Innsbruck who knew anything about her, that it was a sad thing and a
bad thing that an old woman should be left with the power of ruining all
those who belonged to her, and that there should be none to restrain
her! And yet for the last twenty-five years previous to this it had been
the general opinion in these parts that nobody had ever managed such a
house as well as the Frau Frohmann. As for being ruined,--Schlessen, who
was really acquainted with her affairs, knew better than that. She might
lose a large sum of money, but there was no fear of ruin. Schlessen was
inclined to think that all this trouble would end in the Frau retiring
to Schwatz, and that the settlement of the mitgift might thus be
accelerated. Perhaps he and the Frau herself were the only two persons
who really knew how well she had thriven. He was not afraid, and, being
naturally patient, was quite willing to let things take their course.

The worst of it to the Frau herself was that she knew so well what
people were saying of her. She had enjoyed for many years all that
delight which comes from success and domination. It had not been merely,
nor even chiefly, the feeling that money was being made. It is not that
which mainly produces the comfortable condition of mind which attends
success. It is the sense of respect which it engenders. The Frau had
held her head high, and felt herself inferior to none, because she had
enjoyed to the full this conviction. Things had gone pleasantly with
her. Nothing is so enfeebling as failure; but she, hitherto, had never
failed. Now a new sensation had fallen upon her, by which at certain
periods she was almost prostrated. The woman was so brave that at her
worst moments she would betake herself to solitude and shed her tears
where no one could see her. Then she would come out and so carry herself
that none should guess how she suffered. To no ears did she utter a word
of complaint, unless her indignation to Seppel, to Suse, and the others
might be called complaining. She asked for no sympathy. Even to the
kaplan she was silent, feeling that the kaplan, too, was against her. It
was natural that he should take part with the poor. She was now for the
first time in her life, driven, alas, to feel that the poor were against

The house was still full, but there had of late been a great falling off
in the midday visitors. It had, indeed, almost come to pass that that
custom had died away. She told herself, with bitter regret, that this
was the natural consequence of her deteriorated dinners. The Brixen meat
was not good. Sometimes she was absolutely without poultry. And in those
matters of puddings, cream, and custards, we know what a falling off
there had been. I doubt, however, whether her old friends had been
stopped by that cause. It may have been so with Herr Trauss, who in
going to Brunnenthal, or elsewhere, cared for little else but what he
might get to eat and drink. But with most of those concerned the feeling
had been that things were generally going wrong in the valley, and that
in existing circumstances the Peacock could not be pleasant. She at any
rate felt herself to be deserted, and this feeling greatly aggravated
her trouble.

“You are having beautiful weather,” Mr. Cartwright said to her one day
when in her full costume she came out among the coffee-drinkers in the
front of the house. Mr. Cartwright spoke German, and was on friendly
terms with the old lady. She was perhaps a little in awe of him as being
a rich man, an Englishman, and one with a white beard and a general
deportment of dignity.

“The weather is well enough, sir,” she said.

“I never saw the place all round look more lovely. I was up at
Sustermann’s saw-mills this morning, and I and my daughter agreed that
it is the most lovely spot we know.”

“The saw-mill is a pretty spot, sir, no doubt.”

“It seems to me that the house becomes fuller and fuller every year,
Frau Frohmann.”

“The house is full enough, sir; perhaps too full.” Then she hesitated as
though she would say something further. But the words were wanting to
her in which to explain her difficulties with sufficient clearness for
the foreigner, and she retreated, therefore, back into her own domains.
He, of course, had heard something of the Frau’s troubles, and had been
willing enough to say a word to her about things in general if the
occasion arose. But he had felt that the subject must be introduced by
herself. She was too great a potentate to have advice thrust upon her

A few days after this she asked Malchen whether Schlessen was ever
coming out to the Brunnenthal again. This was almost tantamount to an
order for his presence. “He will come directly, mother, if you want to
see him,” said Malchen. The Frau would do no more than grunt in answer
to this. It was too much to expect that she should say positively that
he must come. But Malchen understood her, and sent the necessary word to

On the following day Schlessen was at the Peacock, and took a walk up to
the waterfall with Malchen before he saw the Frau. “She won’t ruin
herself,” said Fritz. “It would take a great deal to ruin her. What she
is losing in the house she is making up in the forests and in the land.”

“Then it won’t matter if it does go on like this?”

“It does matter because it makes her so fierce and unhappy, and because
the more she is knocked about the more obstinate she will get. She has
only to say the word, and all would be right to-morrow.”

“What word?” asked Malchen.

“Just to acknowledge that everything has got to be twenty-five per cent.
dearer than it was twenty-five years ago.”

“But she does not like paying more, Fritz. That’s just the thing.”

“What does it matter what she pays?”

“I should think it mattered a great deal.”

“Not in the least. What does matter is whether she makes a profit out of
the money she spends. Florins and zwansigers are but names. What you can
manage to eat, and drink, and wear, and what sort of a house you can
live in, and whether you can get other people to do for you what you
don’t like to do yourself,--that is what you have got to look after.”

“But, Fritz;--money is money.”

“Just so; but it is no more than money. If she could find out suddenly
that what she has been thinking was a zwansiger was in truth only half a
zwansiger, then she would not mind paying two where she had hitherto
paid one, and would charge two where she now charges one,--as a matter
of course. That’s about the truth.”

“But a zwansiger is a zwansiger.”

“No;--not in her sense. A zwansiger now is not much more than half what
it used to be. If the change had come all at once she could have
understood it better.”

“But why is it changed?”

Here Schlessen scratched his head. He was not quite sure that he knew,
and felt himself unable to explain clearly what he himself only
conjectured dimly. “At any rate it is so. That’s what she has got to be
made to understand, or else she must give it up and go and live quietly
in private. It’ll come to that, that she won’t have a servant about the
place if she goes on like this. Her own grandfather and grandmother were
very good sort of people, but it is useless to try and live like them.
You might just as well go back further, and give up knives and forks and
cups and saucers.”

Such was the wisdom of Herr Schlessen; and when he had spoken it he was
ready to go back from the waterfall, near which they were seated, to the
house. But Malchen thought that there was another subject as to which he
ought to have something to say to her. “It is all very bad for
us;--isn’t it, Fritz?”

“It will come right in time, my darling.”

“Your darling! I don’t think you care for me a bit.” As she spoke she
moved herself a little further away from him. “If you did, you would
not take it all so easily.”

“What can I do, Malchen?” She did not quite know what he could do, but
she was sure that when her lover, after a month’s absence, got an
opportunity of sitting with her by a waterfall, he should not confine
his conversation to a discussion on the value of zwansigers.

“You never seem to think about anything except money now.”

“That is very unfair, Malchen. It was you asked me, and so I endeavoured
to explain it.”

“If you have said all that you’ve got to say, I suppose we may go back

“Of course, Malchen, I wish she’d settle what she means to do about you.
We have been engaged long enough.”

“Perhaps you’d like to break it off.”

“You never knew me break off anything yet.” That was true. She did know
him to be a man of a constant, if not of an enthusiastic temperament.
And now, as he helped her up from off the rock, and contrived to snatch
a kiss in the process, she was restored to her good humour.

“What’s the good of that?” she said, thumping him, but not with much
violence. “I did speak to mother a little while ago, and asked her what
she meant to do.”

“Was she angry?”

“No;--not angry; but she said that everything must remain as it is till
after the season. Oh, Fritz! I hope it won’t go on for another winter.
I suppose she has got the money.”

“Oh, yes; she has got it; but, as I’ve told you before, people who have
got money do not like to part with it.” Then they returned to the house;
and Malchen, thinking of it all, felt reassured as to her lover’s
constancy, but was more than ever certain that, though it might be for
five years, he would never marry her till the mitgift had been arranged.

Shortly afterwards he was summoned into the Frau’s private room, and
there had an interview with her alone. But it was very short; and, as he
afterwards explained to Malchen, she gave him no opportunity of
proffering any advice. She had asked him nothing about prices, and had
made no allusion whatever to her troubles with her neighbours. She said
not a word about the butcher, either at Innsbruck or at Brixen, although
they were both at this moment very much on her mind. Nor did she tell
him anything of the wickedness of Anton, nor of the ingratitude of
Seppel. She had simply wanted so many hundred florins,--for a purpose,
as she said,--and had asked him how she might get them with the least
inconvenience. Hitherto the money coming in, which had always gone into
her own hands, had sufficed for her expenditure, unless when some new
building was required. But now a considerable sum was necessary. She
simply communicated her desire, and said nothing of the purpose for
which it was wanted. The lawyer told her that she could have the money
very easily,--at a day’s notice, and without any peculiar damage to her
circumstances. With that the interview was over, and Schlessen was
allowed to return to his lady love,--or to the amusements of the Peacock

“What did she want of you?” asked Peter.

“Only a question about business.”

“I suppose it was about business. But what is she going to do?”

“You ought to know that, I should think. At any rate, she told me

“It is getting very bad here,” said Peter, with a peculiarly gloomy
countenance. “I don’t know where we are to get anything soon. We have
not milk enough, and half the time the visitors can’t have eggs if they
want them. And as for fowls, they have to be bought for double what we
used to give. I wonder the folk here put up with it without grumbling.”

“It’ll come right after this season.”

“Such a name as the place is getting!” said Peter. “And then I sometimes
think it will drive her distracted. I told her yesterday we must buy
more cows,--and, oh, she did look at me!”



The lawyer returned to town, and on the next day the money was sent out
to the Brunnenthal. Frau Frohmann had not winced when she demanded the
sum needed, nor had she shown by any contorted line in her countenance
that she was suffering when she asked for it; but, in truth, the thing
had not been done without great pain. Year by year she had always added
something to her store, either by investing money, or by increasing her
property in the valley, and it would generally be at this time of the
year that some deposit was made; but now the stream, which had always
run so easily and so prosperously in one direction, had begun to flow
backwards. It was to her as though she were shedding her blood. But, as
other heroes have shed their blood in causes that have been dear to
them, so would she shed hers in this. If it were necessary that these
veins of her heart should be opened, she would give them to the knife.
She had scowled when Peter had told her that more cows must be bought;
but before the week was over the cows were there. And she had given a
large order at Innsbruck for poultry to be sent out to her, almost
irrespective of price. All idea of profit was gone. It was pride now for
which she was fighting. She would not give way, at any rate till the end
of this season. Then--then--then! There had come upon her mind an idea
that some deluge was about to flow over her; but also an idea that even
among the roar of the waters she would hold her head high, and carry
herself with dignity.

But there had come to her now a very trouble of troubles, a crushing
blow, a misfortune which could not be got over, which could not even be
endured, without the knowledge of all those around her. It was not only
that she must suffer, but that her sufferings must be exposed to all the
valley,--to all Innsbruck. When Schlessen was closeted with her, at that
very moment, she had in her pocket a letter from that traitorous butcher
at Brixen, saying that after such and such a date he could not continue
to supply her with meat at the prices fixed. And this was the answer
which the man had sent to a remonstrance from her as to the quality of
the article! After submitting for weeks to inferior meat she had told
him that there must be some improvement, and he had replied by throwing
her over altogether!

What was she to do? Of all the blows which had come to her this was the
worst. She must have meat. She could, when driven to it by necessity,
make her own butter; but she could not kill her own beef and mutton. She
could send into the town for ducks and chickens, and feel that in doing
so she was carrying out her own project,--that, at any rate, she was
encountering no public disgrace. But now she must own herself beaten,
and must go back to Innsbruck.

And there came upon her dimly a conviction that she was bound, both by
prudence and justice, to go back to her old friend Hoff. She had clearly
been wrong in this matter of meat. Hoff had plainly told her that she
was wrong, explaining to her that he had to give much more for his
beasts and sheep than he did twenty years ago, to pay more wages to the
men who killed them and cut them up, and also to make a greater profit
himself, so as to satisfy the increased needs of his wife and daughters.
Hoff had been outspoken, and had never wavered for a moment. But he had
seemed to the Frau to be almost insolent; she would have said, too
independent. When she had threatened to take away her custom he had
shrugged his shoulders, and had simply remarked that he would endeavour
to live without it. The words had been spoken with, perhaps, something
of a jeer, and the Frau had left the shop in wrath. She had since
repented herself of this, because Hoff had been an old friend, and had
attended to all her wishes with friendly care. But there had been the
quarrel, and her custom had been transferred to that wretch at Brixen.
If it had been simply a matter of forgiving and forgetting she could
have made it up with Hoff, easily enough, an hour after her anger had
shown itself. But now she must own herself to have been beaten. She must
confess that she had been wrong. It was in that matter of meat, from
that fallacious undertaking made by the traitor at Brixen, that she, in
the first instance, had been led to think that she could triumph. Had
she not been convinced of the truth of her own theory by that success,
she would not have been led on to quarrel with all her neighbours, and
to attempt to reduce Seppel’s wages. But now, when this, her great
foundation, was taken away from her, she had no ground on which to
stand. She had the misery of failure all around her, and, added to that,
the growing feeling that, in some step of her argument, she must have
been wrong. One should be very sure of all the steps before one allows
oneself to be guided in important matters by one’s own theories!

But after some ten days’ time the supply of meat from Brixen would
cease, and something therefore must be done. The Brixen traitor demanded
now exactly the price which Hoff had heretofore charged. And then there
was the carriage! That was not to be thought of. She would not conceal
her failure from the world by submission so disgraceful as that. With
the Brixen man she certainly would deal no more. She took twenty-four
hours to think of it, and then she made up her mind that she would
herself go into the town and acknowledge her mistake to Hoff. As to the
actual difference of price, she did not now care very much about it.
When a deluge is coming, one does not fret oneself as to small details
of cost; but even when a deluge is coming one’s heart and pride, and
perhaps one’s courage, may remain unchanged.

On a certain morning it was known throughout the Peacock at an early
hour that the Frau was going into town that day. But breakfast was over
before any one was told when and how she was to go. Such journeyings,
which were not made very often, had always about them something of
ceremony. On such occasions her dress would be, not magnificent as when
she was arrayed for festive occasions at home, but yet very carefully
arranged and equally unlike her ordinary habiliments. When she was first
seen on this day,--after her early visit to the kitchen, which was not
a full-dress affair,--she was clad in what may be called the beginnings
or substratum of her travelling gear. She wore a very full,
rich-looking, dark-coloured merino gown, which came much lower to the
ground than her usual dress, and which covered her up high round the
throat. Whenever this was seen it was known as a certainty that the Frau
was going to travel. Then there was the question of the carriage and the
horses. It was generally Peter’s duty and high privilege to drive her in
to town; and as Peter seldom allowed himself a holiday, the occasion was
to him always a welcome one. It was her custom to let him know what was
to befall him at any rate the night before; but now not a word had been
said. After breakfast, however, a message went out that the carriage and
horses would be needed, and Peter prepared himself accordingly. “I don’t
think I need take you,” said the Frau.

“Why not me? There is no one else to drive them. The men are all
employed.” Then she remembered that when last she had dispensed with
Peter’s services Anton had driven her,--that Anton who was now carrying
the butter and eggs into market. She shook her head, and was silent for
a while in her misery. Then she asked whether the boy, Jacob, could not
take her. “He would not be safe with those horses down the mountains,”
said Peter. At last it was decided that Peter should go;--but she
yielded unwillingly, being very anxious that no one in the valley should
be informed that she was about to visit Hoff. Of course it would be
known at last. Everybody about the place would learn whence the meat
came. But she could not bear to think that those around her should talk
of her as having been beaten in the matter.

About ten they started, and on the whole road to Innsbruck hardly a word
was spoken between the mother and son. She was quite resolved that she
would not tell him whither she was going, and resolved also that she
would pay the visit alone. But, of course, his curiosity would be
excited. If he chose to follow her about and watch her, there could be
no help for that. Only he had better not speak to her on the subject, or
she would pour out upon him all the vials of her wrath! In the town
there was a little hostel called the Black Eagle, kept by a cousin of
her late husband, which on these journeys she always frequented: there
she and Peter ate their dinner. At table they sat, of course, close to
each other; but still not a word was spoken as to her business. He made
no inquiry, and when she rose from the table simply asked her whether
there was anything for him to do. “I am going--alone--to see a friend,”
she said. No doubt he was curious, probably suspecting that Hoff the
butcher might be the friend; but he asked no further question. She
declared that she would be ready to start on the return journey at four,
and then she went forth alone.

So great was her perturbation of spirit that she did not take the
directest way to the butcher’s house, which was not, indeed, above two
hundred yards from the Black Eagle, but walked round slowly by the
river, studying as she went the words with which she would announce her
purpose to the man,--studying, also, by what wiles and subtlety she
might get the man all to herself,--so that no other ears should hear her
disgrace. When she entered the shop Hoff himself was there, conspicuous
with the huge sharpening-steel which hung from his capacious girdle, as
though it were the sword of his knighthood. But with him there was a
crowd either of loungers or customers, in the midst of whom he stood,
tall above all the others, laughing and talking. To our poor Frau it was
terrible to be seen by so many eyes in that shop;--for had not her
quarrel with Hoff and her dealings at Brixen been so public that all
would know why she had come? “Ah, my friend, Frau Frohmann,” said the
butcher, coming up to her with hand extended, “this is good for sore
eyes. I am delighted to see thee in the old town.” This was all very
well, and she gave him her hand. As long as no public reference was made
to that last visit of hers, she would still hold up her head. But she
said nothing. She did not know how to speak as long as all those eyes
were looking at her.

The butcher understood it all, being a tender-hearted man, and
intelligent also. From the first moment of her entrance he knew that
there was something to be said intended only for his own ears. “Come in,
come in, Frau Frohmann,” he said; “we will sit down within, out of the
noise of the street and the smell of the carcases.” With that he led
the way into an inner room, and the Frau followed him. There were
congregated three or four of his children, but he sent them away,
bidding them join their mother in the kitchen. “And now, my friend,” he
said, again taking her hand, “I am glad to see thee. Thirty years of
good fellowship is not to be broken by a word.” By this time the Frau
was endeavouring to hide with her handkerchief the tears which were
running down her face. “I was thinking I would go out to the valley one
of these days, because my heart misgave me that there should be anything
like a quarrel between me and thee. I should have gone, but that, day
after day, there comes always something to be done. And now thou art
come thyself. What, shall the price of a side of beef stand betwixt thee
and me?”

Then she told her tale,--quite otherwise than as she had intended to
tell it. She had meant to be dignified and very short. She had meant to
confess that the Brixen arrangement had broken down, and that she would
resort to the old plan and the old prices. To the saying of this she had
looked forward with an agony of apprehension, fearing that the man would
be unable to abstain from some killing expression of triumph,--fearing
that, perhaps, he might decline her offer. For the butcher was a wealthy
man, who could afford himself the luxury of nursing his enmity. But his
manner with her had been so gracious that she was altogether unable to
be either dignified or reticent. Before half an hour was over she had
poured out to him, with many tears, all her troubles;--how she had
refused to raise her rate of charges, first out of consideration for her
poorer customers, and then because she did not like to demand from one
class more than from another. And she explained how she had endeavoured
to reduce her expenditure, and how she had failed. She told him of
Seppel and Anton, of Suse Krapp and Josephine Bull,--and, above all, of
that traitor at Brixen. With respect to the valley folk Hoff expressed
himself with magnanimity and kindness; but in regard to the rival
tradesman at Brixen his scorn was so great that he could not restrain
himself from expressing wonder that a woman of such experience should
have trusted to so poor a reed for support. In all other respects he
heard her with excellent patience, putting in a little word here and
there to encourage her, running his great steel all the while through
his fingers, as he sat opposite to her on a side of the table.

“Thou must pay them for their ducks and chickens as before,” he said.

“And you?”

“I will make all that straight. Do not trouble thyself about me. Thy
guests at the Peacock shall once again have a joint of meat fit for the
stomach of a Christian. But, my friend----!”

“My friend!” echoed the Frau, waiting to hear what further the butcher
would say to her.

“Let a man who has brought up five sons and five daughters, and who has
never owed a florin which he could not pay, tell thee something that
shall be useful. Swim with the stream.” She looked up into his face,
feeling rather than understanding the truth of what he was saying. “Swim
with the stream. It is the easiest and the most useful.”

“You think I should raise my prices.”

“Is not everybody doing so? The Tendel ladies are very good, but I
cannot sell them meat at a loss. That is not selling; it is giving. Swim
with the stream. When other things are dearer, let the Peacock be dearer

“But why are other things dearer?”

“Nay;--who shall say that? Young Schlessen is a clear-headed lad, and he
was right when he told thee of the price of sheep in the old days. But
why----? There I can say nothing. Nor is there reason why I should
trouble my head about it. There is a man who has brought me sheep from
the Achensee these thirty years,--he and his father before him. I have
to pay him now,--ay, more than a third above his first prices.”

“Do you give always what he asks?”

“Certainly not that, or there would be no end to his asking. But we can
generally come to terms without hard words. When I pay him more for
sheep, then I charge more for mutton; and if people will not pay it,
then they must go without. But I do sell my meat, and I live at any rate
as well now as I did when the prices were lower.” Then he repeated his
great advice, “Swim with the stream, my friend; swim with the stream.
If you turn your head the other way, the chances are you will go
backwards. At any rate you will make no progress.”

Exactly at four o’clock she started on her return with her son, who,
with admirable discretion, asked no question as to her employment during
the day. The journey back took much longer than that coming, as the road
was up hill all the way, so that she had ample time to think over the
advice which had been given her as she leaned back in the carriage. She
certainly was happier in her mind than she had been in the morning. She
had made no step towards success in her system,--had rather been made to
feel that no such step was possible. But, nevertheless, she had been
comforted. The immediate trouble as to the meat had been got over
without offence to her feelings. Of course she must pay the old
prices,--but she had come to understand that the world around her was,
in that matter, too strong for her. She knew now that she must give up
the business, or else raise her own terms at the end of the season. She
almost thought that she would retire to Schwatz and devote the remainder
of her days to tranquillity and religion. But her immediate anxiety had
reference to the next six weeks, so that when she should have gone to
Schwatz it might be said of her that the house had not lost its
reputation for good living up to the very last. At any rate, within a
very few days, she would again have the pleasure of seeing good meat
roasting in her oven.

Peter, as was his custom, had walked half the hill, and then, while the
horses were slowly advancing, climbed up to his seat on the box.
“Peter,” she said, calling to him from the open carriage behind. Then
Peter looked back. “Peter, the meat is to come from Hoff again after
next Thursday.”

He turned round quick on hearing the words. “That’s a good thing,

“It is a good thing. We were nearly poisoned by that scoundrel at

“Hoff is a good butcher,” said Peter.

“Hoff is a good man,” said the Frau. Then Peter pricked up, because he
knew that his mother was happy in her mind, and became eloquent about
the woods, and the quarry, and the farm.



“But if there is more money, sir, that ought to make us all more
comfortable.” This was said by the Frau to Mr. Cartwright a few days
after her return from Innsbruck, and was a reply to a statement made by
him. She had listened to advice from Hoff the butcher, and now she was
listening to advice from her guest. He had told her that these troubles
of hers had come from the fact that gold had become more plentiful in
the world than heretofore, or rather from that other fact that she had
refused to accommodate herself to this increased plenty of gold. Then
had come her very natural suggestion, “If there is more money that ought
to make us all more comfortable.”

“Not at all, Frau Frohmann.”

“Well, sir!” Then she paused, not wishing to express an unrestrained
praise of wealth, and so to appear too worldly-minded, but yet feeling
that he certainly was wrong according to the clearly expressed opinion
of the world.

“Not at all. Though you had your barn and your stores filled with gold,
you could not make your guests comfortable with that. They could not eat
it, nor drink it, nor sleep upon it, nor delight themselves with looking
at it as we do at the waterfall, or at the mill up yonder.”

“But I could buy all those things for them.”

“Ah, if you could buy them! That’s just the question. But if everybody
had gold so common, if all the barns were full of it, then people would
not care to take it for their meat and wine.”

“It never can be like that, surely.”

“There is no knowing; probably not. But it is a question of degree. When
you have your hay-crop here very plentiful, don’t you find that hay
becomes cheap?”

“That’s of course.”

“And gold becomes cheap. You just think it over, and you’ll find how it
is. When hay is plentiful, you can’t get so much for a load because it
becomes cheap. But you can feed more cows, and altogether you know that
such plenty is a blessing. So it is with gold. When it is plentiful, you
can’t get so much meat for it as you used to do; but, as you can get the
gold much easier, it will come to the same thing,--if you will swim with
the stream, as your friend in Innsbruck counselled you.”

Then the Frau again considered, and again found that she could not
accept this doctrine as bearing upon her own case. “I don’t think it can
be like that here, sir,” she said.

“Why not here as well as elsewhere?”

“Because we never see a bit of gold from one year’s end to the other.
Barns full of it! Why, it’s so precious that you English people, and the
French, and the Americans always change it for paper before you come
here. If you mean that it is because bank-notes are so common----”

Then Mr. Cartwright scratched his head, feeling that there would be a
difficulty in making the Frau understand the increased use of an article
which, common as it had become in the great marts of the world, had not
as yet made its way into her valley. “It is because bank-notes are less
common.” The Frau gazed at him steadfastly, trying to understand
something about it. “You still use bank-notes at Innsbruck?”

“Nothing else,” she said. “There is a little silver among the shops, but
you never see a bit of gold.”

“And at Munich?”

“At Munich they tell me the French pieces have become--well, not common,
but not so very scarce.”

“And at Dresden?”

“I do not know. Perhaps Dresden is the same.”

“And at Paris?”

“Ah, Paris! Do they have gold there?”

“When I was young it was all silver at Paris. Gold is now as plentiful
as blackberries. And at Berlin it is nearly the same. Just here in
Austria, you have not quite got through your difficulties.”

“I think we are doing very well in Austria;--at any rate, in the Tyrol.”

“Very well, Frau Frohmann; very well indeed. Pray do not suppose that I
mean anything to the contrary. But though you haven’t got into the way
of using gold money yourself, the world all around you has done so; and,
of course, if meat is dear at Munich because gold won’t buy so much
there as it used to do, meat will be dearer also at Innsbruck, even
though you continue to pay for it with bank-notes.”

“It is dearer, sir, no doubt,” said the Frau, shaking her head. She had
endeavoured to contest that point gallantly, but had been beaten by the
conduct of the two butchers. The higher prices of Hoff at Innsbruck had
become at any rate better than the lower prices of that deceitful enemy
at Brixen.

“It is dearer. For the world generally that may suffice. Your friend’s
doctrine is quite enough for the world at large. Swim with the stream.
In buying and selling,--what we call trade,--things arrange themselves
so subtly, that we are often driven to accept them without quite knowing
why they are so. Then we can only swim with the stream. But, in this
matter, if you want to find out the cause, if you cannot satisfy your
mind without knowing why it is that you must pay more for everything,
and must, therefore, charge more to other people, it is because the gold
which your notes represent has become more common in the world during
the last thirty years.”

She did want to know. She was not satisfied to swim with the stream as
Hoff had done, not caring to inquire, but simply feeling sure that as
things were so, so they must be. That such changes should take place had
gone much against the grain of her conservative nature. She, in her own
mind, had attributed these pestilently increased expenses to elongated
petticoats, French bonnets, swallow-tailed coats, and a taste for sour
wine. She had imagined that Josephine Bull might have been contented
with the old price for her eggs if she would also be contented with the
old raiment and the old food. Grounding her resolutions on that belief,
she had endeavoured not only to resist further changes, but even to go
back to the good old times. But she now was quite aware that in doing so
she had endeavoured to swim against the stream. Whether it ought to be
so or not, she was not as yet quite sure, but she was becoming sure that
such was the fact, and that the fact was too strong for her to combat.

She did not at all like swimming with the stream. There was something
conveyed by the idea which was repugnant to her sense of honour. Did it
not mean that she was to increase her prices because other people
increased theirs, whether it was wrong or right? She hated the doing of
anything because other people did it. Was not that base propensity to
imitation the cause of the long petticoats which all the girls were
wearing? Was it not thus that all those vile changes were effected which
she saw around her on every side? Had it not been her glory, her great
resolve, to stand as fast as possible on the old ways? And now in her
great attempt to do so, was she to be foiled thus easily?

It was clear to her that she must be foiled, if not in one way, then in
another. She must either raise her prices, or else retire to Schwatz.
She had been thoroughly beaten in her endeavour to make others carry on
their trade in accordance with her theories. On every side she had been
beaten. There was not a poor woman in the valley, not one of those who
had wont to be so submissive and gracious to her, who had not deserted
her. A proposed reduction of two kreutzers on a dozen of eggs had
changed the most constant of humble friends into the bitterest foes.
Seppel would have gone through fire and water for her. Anything that a
man’s strength or courage could do, he would have done. But a threat of
going back to the old wages had conquered even Seppel’s gratitude.
Concurrent testimony had convinced her that she must either yield--or
go. But, when she came to think of it in her solitude, she did not wish
to go. Schwatz! oh yes; it would be very well to have a quiet place
ready chosen for retirement when retirement should be necessary. But
what did retirement mean? Would it not be to her simply a beginning of
dying? A man, or a woman, should retire when no longer able to do the
work of the world. But who in all the world could keep the Brunnenthal
Peacock as well as she? Was she fatigued with her kitchen, or worn out
with the charge of her guests, or worried inwardly by the anxieties of
her position? Not in the least, not at all, but for this later
misfortune which had come upon her, a misfortune which she knew how to
remedy at once if only she could bring herself to apply the remedy. The
kaplan had indiscreetly suggested to her that as Malchen was about to
marry and be taken away into the town, it would be a good thing that
Peter should take a wife, so that there might be a future mistress of
the establishment in readiness. The idea caused her to arm herself
instantly with renewed self-assertion. So;--they were already preparing
for her departure to Schwatz! It was thus she communed with herself.
They had already made up their minds that she must succumb to these
difficulties and go! The idea had come simply from the kaplan without
consultation with any one, but to the Frau it seemed as though the whole
valley were already preparing for her departure. No, she would not go!
With her strength and her energy, why should she shut herself up as
ready for death? She would not go to Schwatz yet awhile.

But if not, then she must raise her prices. To waste her substance, to
expend the success of her life in entertaining folk gratis who, after
all, would believe that they were paying for their entertainment, would
be worse even than going to Schwatz. “I have been thinking over what you
were telling me,” she said to Mr. Cartwright about a week after their
last interview, on the day before his departure from the valley.

“I hope you do not find I was wrong, Frau Frohmann.”

“As for wrong and right, that is very difficult to get at in this wicked

“But one can acknowledge a necessity.”

“That is where it is, sir. One can see what is necessary; but if one
could only see that it were right also, one would be so much more

“There are things so hard to be seen, my friend, that let us do what we
will we cannot see clearly into the middle of them. Perhaps I could have
explained to you better all this about the depreciation of money, and
the nominal rise in the value of everything else, if I had understood it
better myself.”

“I am sure you understand all about it,--which a poor woman can’t ever

“But this at any rate ought to give you confidence, that that which you
purpose to do is being done by everybody around you. You were talking to
me about the Weisses. Herr Weiss, I hear, had his salary raised last

“Had he?” asked the Frau with energy and a little start. For this piece
of news had not reached her before.

“Somebody was saying so the other day. No doubt it was found that he
must be paid more because he had to pay more for everything he wanted.
Therefore he ought to expect to have to pay you more.”

This piece of information gave the Frau more comfort than anything she
had yet heard. That gold should be common, what people call a drug in
the market, did not come quite within the scope of her comprehension.
Gold to her was gold, and a zwansiger a zwansiger. But if Herr Weiss got
more for his services from the community, she ought to get more from him
for her services. That did seem plain to her. But then her triumph in
that direction was immediately diminished by a tender feeling as to
other customers. “But what of those poor Fraulein Tendels?” she said.

“Ah, yes,” said Mr. Cartwright. “There you come to fixed incomes.”

“To what?”

“To people with fixed incomes. They must suffer, Frau Frohmann. There is
an old saying that in making laws you cannot look after all the little
things. The people who work and earn their living are the multitude, and
to them these matters adjust themselves. The few who live upon what they
have saved or others have saved for them must go to the wall.” Neither
did the Frau understand this; but she at once made up her mind that,
however necessary it might be to raise her prices against the Weisses
and the rest of the world, she would never raise them against those two
poor desolate frauleins.

So Herr Weiss had had his salary raised, and had said nothing to her
about it, no doubt prudently wishing to conceal the matter! He had said
nothing to her about it, although he had talked to her about her own
affairs, and had applauded her courage and her old conservatism in that
she would not demand that extra zwansiger and a half! This hardened her
heart so much that she felt she would have a pleasure in sending a
circular to him as to the new tariff. He might come or let it alone, as
he pleased,--certainly he ought to have told her that his own salary had
been increased!

But there was more to do than sending out the new circular to her
customers. How was she to send a circular round the valley to the old
women and the others concerned? How was she to make Seppel, and Anton,
and Josephine Bull understand that they should be forgiven, and have
their old prices and their increased wages if they would come back to
their allegiance, and never say a word again as to the sad affairs of
the past summer? This circular must be of a nature very different from
that which would serve for her customers. Thinking over it, she came to
the opinion that Suse Krapp would be the best circular. A day or two
after the Cartwrights were gone, she sent for Suse.

Suse was by no means a bad diplomate. When gaining her point she had no
desire to triumph outwardly. When feeling herself a conqueror, she was
quite ready to flatter the conquered one. She had never been more
gracious, more submissive, or more ready to declare that in all matters
the Frau’s will was the law of the valley than now, when she was given
to understand that everything should be bought on the same terms as
heretofore, that the dairy should be discontinued during the next
season, and that the wild fruits of the woods and mountains should be
made welcome at the Peacock as had heretofore always been the case.

“To-morrow will be the happiest day that ever was in the valley,” said
Suse in her enthusiasm. “And as for Seppel, he was telling me only
yesterday that he would never be a happy man again till he could find
himself once more at work in the old shed behind the chapel.”

Then Suse was told that Seppel might come as soon as he pleased.

“He’ll be there the morning after next if I’m a living woman,” continued
Suse energetically; and then she said another word, “Oh, meine liebe
Frau Frohmann, it broke my heart when they told me you were going away.”

“Going away!” said the Frau, as though she had been stung. “Who said
that I was going away?”

“I did hear it.”

“Psha! it was that stupid priest.” She had never before been heard to
say a word against the kaplan; but now she could hardly restrain
herself. “Why should I go away?”

“No, indeed!”

“I am not thinking of going away. It would be a bad thing if I were to
be driven out of my house by a little trouble as to the price of eggs
and butter! No, Suse Krapp, I am not going away.”

“It will be the best word we have all of us heard this many a day, Frau
Frohmann. When it came to that, we were all as though we would have
broken our hearts.” Then she was sent away upon her mission, not, upon
this occasion, without a full glass of kirsch-wasser.

On the very day following Seppel was back. There was nothing said
between him and his mistress, but he waited about the front of the house
till he had an opportunity of putting his hand up to his cap and smiling
at her as she stood upon the doorstep. And then, before the week was
over, all the old women and all the young girls were crowding round the
place with little presents which, on this their first return to their
allegiance, they brought to the Frau as peace-offerings.

The season was nearly over when she signified to Malchen her desire that
Fritz Schlessen should come out to the valley. This she did with much
good humour, explaining frankly that Fritz would have to prepare the new
circulars, and that she must discuss with him the nature of the altered
propositions which were to be made to the public. Fritz of course came,
and was closeted with her for a full hour, during which he absolutely
prepared the document for the Innsbruck printer. It was a simple
announcement that for the future the charge made at the Brunnenthal
Peacock would be seven and a half zwansigers per head per day. It then
went on to declare that, as heretofore, the Frau Frohmann would
endeavour to give satisfaction to all those who would do her the honour
of visiting her establishment. And instructions were given to Schlessen
as to sending the circulars out to the public. “But whatever you do,”
said the Frau, “don’t send one to those Tendel ladies.”

And something else was settled at this conference. As soon as it was
over Fritz Schlessen was encountered by Malchen, who on such occasions
would never be far away. Though the spot on which they met was one which
might not have been altogether secure from intrusive eyes, he took her
fondly by the waist and whispered a word in her ear.

“And will that do?” asked Malchen anxiously; to which question his reply
was made by a kiss. In that whisper he had conveyed to her the amount
now fixed for the mitgift.



And so Frau Frohmann had raised her prices, and had acknowledged herself
to all the world to have been beaten in her enterprise. There are,
however, certain misfortunes which are infinitely worse in their
anticipation than in their reality; and this, which had been looked
forward to as a terrible humiliation, was soon found to be one of them.
No note of triumph was sounded; none at least reached her ear. Indeed,
it so fell out that those with whom she had quarrelled for awhile seemed
now to be more friendly with her than ever. Between her and Hoff things
were so sweet that no mention was ever made of money. The meat was sent
and the bills were paid with a reticence which almost implied that it
was not trade, but an amiable giving and taking of the good things of
the world. There had never been a word of explanation with Seppel; but
he was late and early about the carts and the furniture, and innumerable
little acts of kindnesses made their way up to the mother and her many
children. Suse and Josephine had never been so brisk, and the eggs had
never been so fresh or the vegetables so good. Except from the working
of her own mind, she received no wounds.

But the real commencement of the matter did not take place till the
following summer,--the commencement as regarded the public. The
circulars were sent out, but to such letters no answers are returned;
and up to the following June the Frau was ignorant what effect the
charge would have upon the coming of her customers. There were times at
which she thought that her house would be left desolate, that the extra
charge would turn away from her the hearts of her visitors, and that in
this way she would be compelled to retire to Schwatz.

“Suppose they don’t come at all,” she said to Peter one day.

“That would be very bad,” said Peter, who also had his fears in the same

“Fritz Schlessen thinks it won’t make any difference,” said the Frau.

“A zwansiger and a half a day does make a difference to most men,”
replied Peter uncomfortably.

This was uncomfortable; but when Schlessen came out he raised her

“Perhaps old Weiss won’t come,” he said, “but then there will be plenty
in his place. There are houses like the Peacock all over the country
now, in the Engadine, and the Bregenz, and the Salzkammergut; and it
seems to me the more they charge the fuller they are.”

“But they are for the grand folk.”

“For anybody that chooses. It has come to that, that the more money
people are charged the better they like it. Money has become so
plentiful with the rich, that they don’t know what to do with it.”

This was a repetition of Mr. Cartwright’s barn full of gold. There was
something in the assertion that money could be plentiful, in the idea
that gold could be a drug, which savoured to her of innovation, and was
therefore unpleasant. She still felt that the old times were good, and
that no other times could be so good as the old times. But if the people
would come and fill her house, and pay her the zwansiger and a half
extra without grumbling, there would be some consolation in it.

Early in June Malchen made a call at the house of the Frauleins Tendel.
Malchen at this time was known to all Innsbruck as the handsome Frau
Schlessen who had been brought home in the winter to her husband’s house
with so very comfortable a mitgift in her hand. That was now quite an
old story, and there were people in the town who said that the young
wife already knew quite as much about her husband’s business as she had
ever done about her mother’s. But at this moment she was obeying one of
her mother’s commands.

“Mother hopes you are both coming out to the Brunnenthal this year,”
said Malchen. The elder fraulein shook her head sadly. “Because----”
Then Malchen paused, and the younger of the two ladies shook her head.
“Because you always have been there.”

“Yes, we have.”

“Mother means this. The change in the price won’t have anything to do
with you if you will come.”

“We couldn’t think of that, Malchen.”

“Then mother will be very unhappy;--that’s all. The new circular was not
sent to you.”

“Of course we heard of it.”

“If you don’t come mother will take it very bad.” Then of course the
ladies said they would come, and so that little difficulty was overcome.

This took place in June. But at that time the young wife was staying out
in the valley with her mother, and had only gone into Innsbruck on a
visit. She was with her mother preparing for the guests; but perhaps,
as the Frau too often thought, preparing for guests who would never
arrive. From day to day, however, there came letters bespeaking rooms as
usual, and when the 21st of June came there was Herr Weiss with all his

She had taught herself to regard the coming of the Weisses as a kind of
touchstone by which she might judge of the success of what she had done.
If he remained away it would be because, in spite of the increase in his
salary, he could not encounter the higher cost of this recreation for
his wife and family. He was himself too fond of the good living of the
Peacock not to come if he could afford it. But if he could not pay so
much, then neither could others in his rank of life; and it would be sad
indeed to the Frau if her house were to be closed to her neighbour
Germans, even though she might succeed in filling it with foreigners
from a distance. But now the Weisses had come, not having given their
usual notice, but having sent a message for rooms only two days before
their arrival. And at once there was a little sparring match between
Herr Weiss and the Frau.

“I didn’t suppose that there would be much trouble as to finding rooms,”
said Herr Weiss.

“Why shouldn’t there be as much trouble as usual?” asked the Frau in
return. She had felt that there was some slight in this arrival of the
whole family without the usual preliminary inquiries,--as though there
would never again be competition for rooms at the Peacock.

“Well, my friend, I suppose that that little letter which was sent about
the country will make a difference.”

“That’s as people like to take it. It hasn’t made any difference with
you, it seems.”

“I had to think a good deal about it, Frau Frohmann; and I suppose we
shall have to make our stay shorter. I own I am a little surprised to
see the Tendel women here. A zwansiger and a half a day comes to a deal
of money at the end of a month, when there are two or three.”

“I am happy to think it won’t hurt you, Herr Weiss, as you have had your
salary raised.”

“That is neither here nor there, Frau Frohmann,” said the magistrate,
almost with a touch of anger. All the world knew, or ought to know, how
very insufficient was his stipend when compared with the invaluable
public services which he rendered. Such at least was the light in which
he looked at the question.

“At any rate,” said the Frau as he stalked away, “the house is like to
be as full as ever.”

“I am glad to hear it. I am glad to hear it.” These were his last words
on the occasion. But before the day was over he told his wife that he
thought the place was not as comfortable as usual, and that the Frau
with her high prices was more upsetting than ever.

His wife, who took delight in being called Madame Weiss at Brixen, and
who considered herself to be in some degree a lady of fashion, had
nevertheless been very much disturbed in her mind by the increased
prices, and had suggested that the place should be abandoned. A raising
of prices was in her eyes extortion;--though a small raising of salary
was simply justice, and, as she thought, inadequate justice. But the
living at the Peacock was good. Nobody could deny that. And when a
middle-aged man is taken away from the comforts of his home, how is he
to console himself in the midst of his idleness unless he has a good
dinner? Herr Weiss had therefore determined to endure the injury, and as
usual to pass his holiday in the Brunnenthal. But when Madame Weiss saw
those two frauleins from Innsbruck in the house, whose means she knew
down to the last kreutzer, and who certainly could not afford the
increased demand, she thought that there must be something not apparent
to view. Could it be possible that the Frau should be so unjust, so
dishonest, so extortious as to have different prices for different
neighbours! That an Englishman, or even a German from Berlin, should be
charged something extra, might not perhaps be unjust or extortious. But
among friends of the same district, to put a zwansiger and a half on to
one and not to another seemed to Madame Weiss to be a sin for which
there should be no pardon. “I am so glad to see you here,” she said to
the younger fraulein.

“That is so kind of you. But we always are here, you know.”

“Yes;--yes. But I feared that perhaps----. I know that with us we had to
think more than once about it before we could make up our minds to pay
the increased charges. The ‘Magistrat’ felt a little hurt about it.” To
this the fraulein at first answered nothing, thinking that perhaps she
ought not to make public the special benevolence shown by the Frau to
herself and her sister. “A zwansiger and a half each is a great deal of
money to add on,” said Madame Weiss.

“It is, indeed.”

“We might have got it cheaper elsewhere. And then I thought that perhaps
you might have done so too.”

“She has made no increase to us,” said the poor lady, who at last was
forced to tell the truth, as by not doing so she would have been guilty
of a direct falsehood in allowing it to be supposed that she and her
sister paid the increased price.

“Soh--oh--oh!” exclaimed Madame Weiss, clasping her hands together and
bobbing her head up and down. “Soh--oh--oh!” She had found it all out.

Then, shortly after that,--the next day,--there was an uncomfortable
perturbation of affairs at the Peacock, which was not indeed known to
all the guests, but which to those who heard it, or heard of it, seemed
for the time to be very terrible. Madame Weiss and the Frau had,--what
is commonly called,--a few words together.

“Frau Frohmann,” said Madame Weiss, “I was quite astonished to hear from
Agatha Tendel that you were only charging them the old prices.”

“Why shouldn’t I charge them just what I please,--or nothing at all, if
I pleased?” asked the Frau sharply.

“Of course you can. But I do think, among neighbours, there shouldn’t be
one price to one and one to another.”

“Would it do you any good, Frau Weiss, if I were to charge those ladies
more than they can pay? Does it do you any harm if they live here at a
cheap rate?”

“Surely there should be one price--among neighbours!”

“Herr Weiss got my circular, no doubt. He knew. I don’t suppose he wants
to live here at a rate less than it costs me to keep him. You and he can
do what you like about coming. And you and he can do what you like about
staying away. You knew my prices. I have not made any secret about the
change. But as for interference between me and my other customers, it is
what I won’t put up with. So now you know all about it.”

By the end of her speech the Frau had worked herself up into a grand
passion, and spoke aloud, so that all near her heard her. Then there was
a great commotion in the Peacock, and it was thought that the Weisses
would go away. But they remained for their allotted time.

This was the only disturbance which took place, and it passed off
altogether to the credit of the Frau. Something in a vague way came to
be understood about fixed incomes;--so that Peter and Malchen, with the
kaplan, even down to Seppel and Suse Krapp, were aware that the two
frauleins ought not to be made to pay as much as the prosperous
magistrate who had had his salary raised. And then it was quite
understood that the difference made in favour of those two poor ladies
was a kindness shown to them, and could not therefore be an injury to
any one else.

Later in the year, when the establishment was full and everything was
going on briskly, when the two puddings were at the very height of their
glory, and the wild fruits were brought up on the supper-table in huge
bowls, when the Brunnenthal was at its loveliest, and the Frau was
appearing on holidays in her gayest costume, the Cartwrights returned to
the valley. Of course they had ordered their rooms much beforehand; and
the Frau, trusting altogether to the wisdom of those counsels which she
did not even yet quite understand, had kept her very best apartments for
them. The greeting between them was most friendly,--the Frau
condescending to put on something of her holiday costume to add honour
to their arrival;--a thing which she had never been known to do before
on behalf of any guests. Of course there was not then time for
conversation; but a day or two had not passed before she made known to
Mr. Cartwright her later experience. “The people have come, sir, just
the same,” she said.

“So I perceive.”

“It don’t seem to make any difference to any of them.”

“I didn’t think it would. And I don’t suppose anybody has complained.”

“Well;--there was a little said by one lady, Mr. Cartwright. But that
was not because I charged her more, but because another old friend was
allowed to pay less.”

“She didn’t do you any harm, I dare say.”

“Harm;--oh dear no! She couldn’t do me any harm if she tried. But I
thought I’d tell you, sir, because you said it would be so. The people
don’t seem to think any more of seven zwansigers and a half than they do
of six! It’s very odd,--very odd, indeed. I suppose it’s all right,
sir?” This she asked, still thinking that there must be something wrong
in the world when so monstrous a condition of things seemed to prevail.

“They’d think a great deal of it if you charged them more than they
believed sufficient to give you a fair profit for your outlay and

“How can they know anything about it, Mr. Cartwright?”

“Ah,--indeed. How do they? But they do. You and I, Frau Frohmann, must
study these matters very closely before we can find out how they adjust
themselves. But we may be sure of this, that the world will never
complain of fair prices, will never long endure unfair prices, and will
give no thanks at all to those who sell their goods at a loss.”

The Frau curtseyed and retired,--quite satisfied that she had done the
right thing in raising her prices; but still feeling that she had many a
struggle to make before she could understand the matter.




How great is the difference between doing our duty and desiring to do
it; between doing our duty and a conscientious struggle to do it;
between duty really done and that satisfactory state of mind which comes
from a conviction that it has been performed. Mrs. Miles was a lady who
through her whole life had thought of little else than duty. Though she
was possessed of wealth and social position, though she had been a
beautiful woman, though all phases of self-indulgent life had been open
to her, she had always adhered to her own idea of duty. Many delights
had tempted her. She would fain have travelled, so as to see the
loveliness of the world; but she had always remained at home. She could
have enjoyed the society of intelligent sojourners in capitals; but she
had confined herself to that of her country neighbours. In early youth
she had felt herself to be influenced by a taste for dress; she had
consequently compelled herself to use raiment of extreme simplicity.
She would buy no pictures, no gems, no china, because when young she
found that she liked such things too well. She would not leave the
parish church to hear a good sermon elsewhere, because even a sermon
might be a snare. In the early days of her widowed life it became, she
thought, her duty to adopt one of two little motherless, fatherless
girls, who had been left altogether unprovided for in the world; and
having the choice between the two, she took the plain one, who had weak
eyes and a downcast, unhappy look, because it was her duty to deny
herself. It was not her fault that the child, who was so unattractive at
six, had become beautiful at sixteen, with sweet soft eyes, still
downcast occasionally, as though ashamed of their own loveliness; nor
was it her fault that Bessy Pryor had so ministered to her in her
advancing years as almost to force upon her the delights of
self-indulgence. Mrs. Miles had struggled manfully against these wiles,
and, in the performance of her duty, had fought with them, even to an
attempt to make herself generally disagreeable to the young child. The
child, however, had conquered, having wound herself into the old woman’s
heart of hearts. When Bessy at fifteen was like to die, Mrs. Miles for
awhile broke down altogether. She lingered by the bedside, caressed the
thin hands, stroked the soft locks, and prayed to the Lord to stay his
hand, and to alter his purpose. But when Bessy was strong again she
strove to return to her wonted duties. But Bessy, through it all, was
quite aware that she was loved.

Looking back at her own past life, and looking also at her days as they
were passing, Mrs. Miles thought that she did her duty as well as it is
given to frail man or frail woman to perform it. There had been lapses,
but still she was conscious of great strength. She did believe of
herself that should a great temptation come in her way she would stand
strong against it. A great temptation did come in her way, and it is the
purport of this little story to tell how far she stood and how far she

Something must be communicated to the reader of her condition in life,
and of Bessy’s; something, but not much. Mrs. Miles had been a Miss
Launay, and, by the death of four brothers almost in their infancy, had
become heiress to a large property in Somersetshire. At twenty-five she
was married to Mr. Miles, who had a property of his own in the next
county, and who at the time of their marriage represented that county in
Parliament. When she had been married a dozen years she was left a
widow, with two sons, the younger of whom was then about three years
old. Her own property, which was much the larger of the two, was
absolutely her own; but was intended for Philip, who was her younger
boy. Frank Miles, who was eight years older, inherited the other.
Circumstances took him much away from his mother’s wings. There were
troubles among trustees and executors; and the father’s heir, after he
came of age, saw but little of his mother. She did her duty, but what
she suffered in doing it may be imagined.

Philip was brought up by his mother, who, perhaps, had some consolation
in remembering that the younger boy, who was always good to her, would
become a man of higher standing in the world than his brother. He was
called Philip Launay, the family name having passed on through the
mother to the intended heir of the Launay property. He was thirteen when
Bessy Pryor was brought home to Launay Park, and, as a school-boy, had
been good to the poor little creature, who for the first year or two had
hardly dared to think her life her own amidst the strange huge spaces of
the great house. He had despised her, of course; but had not been
boyishly cruel to her, and had given her his old playthings. Everybody
at Launay had at first despised Bessy Pryor; though the mistress of the
house had been thoroughly good to her. There was no real link between
her and Launay. Mrs. Pryor had, as a humble friend, been under great
obligations to Mrs. Launay, and these obligations, as is their wont, had
produced deep love in the heart of the person conferring them. Then both
Mr. and Mrs. Pryor had died, and Mrs. Miles had declared that she would
take one of the children. She fully intended to bring the girl up
sternly and well, with hard belongings, such as might suit her
condition. But there had been lapses, occasioned by those unfortunate
female prettinesses, and by that equally unfortunate sickness. Bessy
never rebelled, and gave, therefore, no scope to an exhibition of
extreme duty; and she had a way of kissing her adopted mamma which Mrs.
Miles knew to be dangerous. She struggled not to be kissed, but
ineffectually. She preached to herself, in the solitude of her own room,
sharp sermons against the sweet softness of the girl’s caresses; but she
could not put a stop to them. “Yes; I will,” the girl would say, so
softly, but so persistently! Then there would be a great embrace, which
Mrs. Miles felt to be as dangerous as a diamond, as bad as a box at the

Bessy had been despised at first all around Launay. Unattractive
children are despised, especially when, as in this case, they are
nobodies. Bessy Pryor was quite nobody. And certainly there had never
been a child more powerless to assert herself. She was for a year or two
inferior to the parson’s children, and was not thought much of by the
farmers’ wives. The servants called her Miss Bessy, of course; but it
was not till after that illness that there existed among them any of
that reverence which is generally felt in the servants’ hall for the
young ladies of the house. It was then, too, that the parson’s daughters
found that Bessy was nice to walk with, and that the tenants began to
make much of her when she called. The old lady’s secret manifestations
in the sick bedroom had, perhaps, been seen. The respect paid to Mrs.
Miles in that and the next parish was of the most reverential kind. Had
she chosen that a dog should be treated as one of the Launays, the dog
would have received all the family honours. It must be acknowledged of
her that in the performance of her duty she had become a rural tyrant.
She gave away many petticoats; but they all had to be stitched according
to her idea of stitching a petticoat. She administered physic gratis to
the entire estate; but the estate had to take the doses as she chose to
have them mixed. It was because she had fallen something short of her
acknowledged duty in regard to Bessy Pryor that the parson’s daughters
were soon even proud of an intimacy with the girl, and that the old
butler, when she once went away for a week in the winter, was so careful
to wrap her feet up warm in the carriage.

In this way, during the two years subsequent to Bessy’s illness, there
had gradually come up an altered condition of life at Launay. It could
not have been said before that Bessy, though she had been Miss Bessy,
was as a daughter in the house. But now a daughter’s privileges were
accorded to her. When the old squiress was driven out about the county,
Bessy was expected, but was asked rather than ordered to accompany her.
She always went; but went because she decided on going, not because she
was told. And she had a horse to ride; and she was allowed to arrange
flowers for the drawing-room; and the gardener did what she told him.
What daughter could have more extensive privileges? But poor Mrs. Miles
had her misgivings, often asking herself what would come of it all.

When Bessy had been recovering from her illness, Philip, who was seven
years her senior, was making a grand tour about the world. He had
determined to see, not Paris, Vienna, and Rome, which used to make a
grand tour, but Japan, Patagonia, and the South Sea Islands. He had gone
in such a way as to ensure the consent of his mother. Two other
well-minded young men of fortune had accompanied him, and they had been
intent on botany, the social condition of natives, and the progress of
the world generally. There had been no harum-scarum rushing about
without an object. Philip had been away for more than two years, and had
seen all there was to be seen in Japan, Patagonia, and the South Sea
Islands. Between them, the young men had written a book, and the critics
had been unanimous in observing how improved in those days were the
aspirations of young men. On his return he came to Launay for a week or
two, and then went up to London. When, after four months, he returned to
his mother’s house, he was twenty-seven years of age; and Bessy was just
twenty. Mrs. Miles knew that there was cause for fear; but she had
already taken steps to prevent the danger which she had foreseen.



Of course there would be danger. Mrs. Miles had been aware of that from
the commencement of things. There had been to her a sort of pleasure in
feeling that she had undertaken a duty which might possibly lead to
circumstances which would be altogether heart-breaking. The duty of
mothering Bessy was so much more a duty because, even when the little
girl was blear-eyed and thin, there was present to her mind all the
horror of a love affair between her son and the little girl. The Mileses
had always been much, and the Launays very much in the west of England.
Bessy had not a single belonging that was anything. Then she had become
beautiful and attractive, and worse than that, so much of a person about
the house that Philip himself might be tempted to think that she was fit
to be his wife!

Among the duties prescribed to herself by Mrs. Miles was none stronger
than that of maintaining the family position of the Launays. She was one
of those who not only think that blue blood should remain blue, but that
blood not blue should be allowed no azure mixture. The proper severance
of classes was a religion to her. Bessy was a gentlewoman, so much had
been admitted, and therefore she had been brought into the drawing-room
instead of being relegated among the servants, and had thus grown up to
be, oh, so dangerous! She was a gentlewoman, and fit to be a gentleman’s
wife, but not fit to be the wife of the heir of the Launays. The reader
will understand, perhaps, that I, the writer of this little history,
think her to have been fit to become the wife of any man who might have
been happy enough to win her young heart, however blue his blood. But
Mrs. Miles had felt that precautions and remedies and arrangements were

Mrs. Miles had altogether approved of the journey to Japan. That had
been a preventive, and might probably afford time for an arrangement.
She had even used her influence to prolong the travelling till the
arrangements should be complete; but in this she had failed. She had
written to her son, saying that, as his sojourn in strange lands would
so certainly tend to the amelioration of the human races generally--for
she had heard of the philanthropic inquiries, of the book, and the
botany--she would by no means press upon him her own natural longings.
If another year was required, the necessary remittances should be made
with a liberal hand. But Philip, who had chosen to go because he liked
it, came back when he liked it, and there he was at Launay before a
certain portion of the arrangements had been completed, as to which Mrs.
Miles had been urgent during the last six months of his absence.

A good-looking young clergyman in the neighbourhood, with a living of
£400 a year, and a fortune of £6,000 of his own, had during the time
been proposed to Bessy by Mrs. Miles. Mr. Morrison, the Rev. Alexander
Morrison, was an excellent young man; but it may be doubted whether the
patronage by which he was put into the living of Budcombe at an early
age, over the head of many senior curates, had been exercised with sound
clerical motives. Mrs. Miles was herself the patroness, and, having for
the last six years felt the necessity of providing a husband for Bessy,
had looked about for a young man who should have good gifts and might
probably make her happy. A couple of thousand pounds added had at first
suggested itself to Mrs. Miles. Then love had ensnared her, and Bessy
had become dear to every one, and money was plenty. The thing should be
made so beautiful to all concerned that there should be no doubt of its
acceptance. The young parson didn’t doubt. Why should he? The living had
been a wonderful stroke of luck for him! The portion proposed would put
him at once among the easy-living gentlemen of the county; and then the
girl herself! Bessy had loomed upon him as feminine perfection from the
first moment he had seen her. It was to him as though the heavens were
raining their choicest blessings on his head.

Nor had Mrs. Miles any reason to find fault with Bessy. Had Bessy jumped
into the man’s arms directly he had been offered to her as a lover, Mrs.
Miles would herself have been shocked. She knew enough of Bessy to be
sure that there would be no such jumping. Bessy had at first been
startled, and, throwing herself into her old friend’s arms, had pleaded
her youth. Mrs. Miles had accepted the embrace, had acknowledged the
plea, and had expressed herself quite satisfied, simply saying that Mr.
Morrison would be allowed to come about the house, and use his own
efforts to make himself agreeable. The young parson had come about the
house, and had shown himself to be good-humoured and pleasant. Bessy
never said a word against him; did in truth try to persuade herself
that it would be nice to have him as a lover; but she failed. “I think
he is very good,” she said one day, when she was pressed by Mrs. Miles.

“And he is a gentleman.”

“Oh, yes,” said Bessy.

“And good-looking.”

“I don’t know that that matters.”

“No, my dear, no; only he is handsome. And then he is very fond of you.”
But Bessy would not commit herself, and certainly had never given any
encouragement to the gentleman himself.

This had taken place just before Philip’s return. At that time his stay
at Launay was to be short; and during his sojourn his hands were to be
very full. There would not be much danger during that fortnight, as
Bessy was not prone to put herself forward in any man’s way. She met him
as his little pet of former days, and treated him quite as though he
were a superior being. She ran about for him as he arranged his
botanical treasures, and took in all that he said about the races. Mrs.
Miles, as she watched them, still trusted that there might be no danger.
But she went on with her safeguards. “I hope you like Mr. Morrison,” she
said to her son.

“Very much indeed, mother; but why do you ask?”

“It is a secret; but I’ll tell you. I think he will become the husband
of our dear Bessy.”

“Marry Bessy!”

“Why not?” Then there was a pause. “You know how dearly I love Bessy. I
hope you will not think me wrong when I tell you that I propose to give
what will be for her a large fortune, considering all things.”

“You should treat her just as though she were a daughter and a sister,”
said Philip.

“Not quite that! But you will not begrudge her six thousand pounds?”

“It is not half enough.”

“Well, well. Six thousand pounds is a large sum of money to give away.
However, I am sure we shall not differ about Bessy. Don’t you think Mr.
Morrison would make her a good husband?” Philip looked very serious,
knitted his brows, and left the room, saying that he would think about

To make him think that the marriage was all but arranged would be a
great protection. There was a protection to his mother also in hearing
him speak of Bessy as being almost a sister. But there was still a
further protection. Down away in Cornwall there was another Launay
heiress coming up, some third or fourth cousin, and it had long since
been settled among certain elders that the Launay properties should be
combined. To this Philip had given no absolute assent; had even run away
to Japan just when it had been intended that he should go to Cornwall.
The Launay heiress had then only been seventeen, and it had been felt to
be almost as well that there should be delay, so that the time was not
passed by the young man in dangerous neighbourhoods. The South Sea
Islands and Patagonia had been safe. And now when the idea of combining
the properties was again mooted, he at first said nothing against it.
Surely such precautions as these would suffice, especially as Bessy’s
retiring nature would not allow her to fall in love with any man within
the short compass of a fortnight.

Not a word more was said between Mrs. Miles and her son as to the
prospects of Mr. Morrison; not a word more then. She was intelligent
enough to perceive that the match was not agreeable to him; but she
attributed this feeling on his part to an idea that Bessy ought to be
treated in all respects as though she were a daughter of the house of
Launay. The idea was absurd, but safe. The match, if it could be
managed, would of course go on, but should not be mentioned to him again
till it could be named as a thing absolutely arranged. But there was no
present danger. Mrs. Miles felt sure that there was no present danger.
Mrs. Miles had seen Bessy grow out of meagre thinness and early want of
ruddy health, into gradual proportions of perfect feminine loveliness;
but, having seen the gradual growth, she did not know how lovely the
girl was. A woman hardly ever does know how omnipotent may be the
attraction which some feminine natures, and some feminine forms, diffuse
unconsciously on the young men around them.

But Philip knew, or rather felt. As he walked about the park he declared
to himself that Alexander Morrison was an insufferably impudent clerical
prig; for which assertion there was, in truth, no ground whatsoever.
Then he accused his mother of a sordid love of money and property, and
swore to himself that he would never stir a step towards Cornwall. If
they chose to have that red-haired Launay girl up from the far west, he
would go away to London, or perhaps back to Japan. But what shocked him
most was that such a girl as Bessy, a girl whom he treated always just
like his own sister, should give herself to such a man as that young
parson at the very first asking! He struck the trees among which he was
walking with his stick as he thought of the meanness of feminine nature.
And then such a greasy, ugly brute! But Mr. Morrison was not at all
greasy, and would have been acknowledged by the world at large to be
much better looking than Philip Launay.

Then came the day of his departure. He was going up to London in March
to see his book through the press, make himself intimate at his club,
and introduce himself generally to the ways of that life which was to be
his hereafter. It had been understood that he was to pass the season in
London, and that then the combined-property question should come on in
earnest. Such was his mother’s understanding; but by this time, by the
day of his departure, he was quite determined that the combined-property
question should never receive any consideration at his hands.

Early on that day he met Bessy somewhere about the house. She was very
sweet to him on this occasion, partly because she loved him dearly,--as
her adopted brother; partly because he was going; partly because it was
her nature to be sweet! “There is one question. I want to ask you,” he
said suddenly, turning round upon her with a frown. He had not meant to
frown, but it was his nature to do so when his heart frowned within him.

“What is it, Philip?” She turned pale as she spoke, but looked him full
in the face.

“Are you engaged to that parson?” She went on looking at him, but did
not answer a word. “Are you going to marry him? I have a right to ask.”
Then she shook her head. “You certainly are not?” Now as he spoke his
voice was changed, and the frown had vanished. Again she shook her head.
Then he got hold of her hand, and she left her hand with him, not
thinking of him as other than a brother. “I am so glad. I detest that

“Oh, Philip; he is very good!”

“I do not care two-pence for his goodness. You are quite sure?” Now she
nodded her head. “It would have been most awful, and would have made me
miserable; miserable. Of course, my mother is the best woman in the
world; but why can’t she let people alone to find husbands and wives for
themselves?” There was a slight frown, and then with a visible effort he
completed his speech. “Bessy, you have grown to be the loveliest woman
that ever I looked upon.”

She withdrew her hand very suddenly. “Philip, you should not say such a
thing as that.”

“Why not, if I think it?”

“People should never say anything to anybody about themselves.”

“Shouldn’t they?”

“You know what I mean. It is not nice. It’s the sort of stuff which
people who ain’t ladies and gentlemen put into books.”

“I should have thought I might say anything.”

“So you may; and of course you are different. But there are things that
are so disagreeable!”

“And I am one of them?”

“No, Philip, you are the truest and best of brothers.”

“At any rate you won’t----” Then he paused.

“No, I won’t.”

“That’s a promise to your best and dearest brother?” She nodded her head
again, and he was satisfied.

He went away, and when he returned to Launay at the end of four months
he found that things were not going on pleasantly at the Park. Mr.
Morrison had been refused, with a positive assurance from the young lady
that she would never change her mind, and Mrs. Miles had become more
stern than ever in the performance of her duty to her family.



Matters became very unpleasant at the Park soon after Philip went away.
There had been something in his manner as he left, and a silence in
regard to him on Bessy’s part, which created, not at first surprise, but
uneasiness in the mind of Mrs. Miles. Bessy hardly mentioned his name,
and Mrs. Miles knew enough of the world to feel that such restraint must
have a cause. It would have been natural for a girl so circumstanced to
have been full of Philip and his botany. Feeling this she instigated the
parson to renewed attempts; but the parson had to tell her that there
was no chance for him. “What has she said?” asked Mrs. Miles.

“That it can never be.”

“But it shall be,” said Mrs. Miles, stirred on this occasion to an
assertion of the obstinacy which was in her nature. Then there was a
most unpleasant scene between the old lady and her dependent. “What is
it that you expect?” she asked.

“Expect, aunt!” Bessy had been instructed to call Mrs. Miles her aunt.

“What do you think is to be done for you?”

“Done for me! You have done everything. May I not stay with you?” Then
Mrs. Miles gave utterance to a very long lecture, in which many things
were explained to Bessy. Bessy’s position was said to be one very
peculiar in its nature. Were Mrs. Miles to die there would be no home
for her. She could not hope to find a home in Philip’s house as a real
sister might have done. Everybody loved her because she had been good
and gracious, but it was her duty to marry--especially her duty--so that
there might be no future difficulty. Mr. Morrison was exactly the man
that such, a girl as Bessy ought to want as a husband. Bessy through her
tears declared that she didn’t want any husband, and that she certainly
did not want Mr. Morrison.

“Has Philip said anything?” asked the imprudent old woman. Then Bessy
was silent. “What has Philip said to you?”

“I told him, when he asked, that I should never marry Mr. Morrison.”
Then it was--in that very moment--that Mrs. Miles in truth suspected the
blow that was to fall upon her; and in that same moment she resolved
that, let the pain be what it might to any or all of them, she would do
her duty by her family.

“Yes,” she said to herself, as she sat alone in the unadorned,
unattractive sanctity of her own bedroom, “I will do my duty at any rate
now.” With deep remorse she acknowledged to herself that she had been
remiss. For a moment her anger was very bitter. She had warmed a reptile
in her bosom. The very words came to her thoughts, though they were not
pronounced. But the words were at once rejected. The girl had been no
reptile. The girl had been true. The girl had been as sweet a girl as
had ever brightened the hearth of an old woman. She acknowledged so much
to herself even in this moment of her agony. But not the less would she
do her duty by the family of the Launays. Let the girl do what she
might, she must be sent away--got rid of--sacrificed in any way rather
than that Philip should be allowed to make himself a fool.

When for a couple of days she had turned it all in her mind she did not
believe that there was as yet any understanding between the girl and
Philip. But still she was sure that the danger existed. Not only had the
girl refused her destined husband--just such a man as such a girl as
Bessy ought to have loved--but she had communicated her purpose in that
respect to Philip. There had been more of confidence between them than
between her and the girl. How could they two have talked on such a
subject unless there had been between them something of stricter, closer
friendship even than that of brother and sister? There had been
something of a conspiracy between them against her--her who at Launay
was held to be omnipotent, against her who had in her hands all the
income, all the power, all the ownership--the mother of one of them, and
the protectress and only friend of the other! She would do her duty, let
Bessy be ever so sweet. The girl must be made to marry Mr. Morrison--or
must be made to go.

But whither should she go, and if that “whither” should be found, how
should Philip be prevented from following her? Mrs. Miles, in her agony,
conceived an idea that it would be easier to deal with the girl herself
than with Philip. A woman, if she thinks it to be a duty, will more
readily sacrifice herself in the performance of it than will a man. So
at least thought Mrs. Miles, judging from her own feelings; and Bessy
was very good, very affectionate, very grateful, had always been
obedient. If possible she should be driven into the arms of Mr.
Morrison. Should she stand firm against such efforts as could be made
in that direction, then an appeal should be made to herself. After all
that had been done for her, would she ruin the family of the Launays for
the mere whim of her own heart?

During the process of driving her into Mr. Morrison’s arms--a process
which from first to last was altogether hopeless--not a word had been
said about Philip. But Bessy understood the reticence. She had been
asked as to her promise to Philip, and never forgot that she had been
asked. Nor did she ever forget those words which at the moment so
displeased her--“You have grown to be the loveliest woman that I have
ever looked upon.” She remembered now that he had held her hand tightly
while he had spoken them, and that an effort had been necessary as she
withdrew it. She had been perfectly serious in decrying the personal
compliment; but still, still, there had been a flavour of love in the
words which now remained among her heartstrings. Of course he was not
her brother--not even her cousin. There was not a touch of blood between
them to warrant such a compliment as a joke. He, as a young man, had
told her that he thought her, as a young woman, to be lovely above all
others. She was quite sure of this--that no possible amount of driving
should drive her into the arms of Mr. Morrison.

The old woman became more and more stern. “Dear aunt,” Bessy said to her
one day, with an air of firmness which had evidently been assumed
purposely for the occasion, “indeed, indeed, I cannot love Mr.
Morrison.” Then Mrs. Miles had resolved that she must resort to the
other alternative. Bessy must go. She did believe that when everything
should be explained Bessy herself would raise no difficulty as to her
own going. Bessy had no more right to live at Launay than had any other
fatherless, motherless, penniless living creature. But how to explain
it? What reason should be given? And whither should the girl be sent?

Then there came delay, caused by another great trouble. On a sudden Mrs.
Miles was very ill. This began about the end of May, when Philip was
still up in London inhaling the incense which came up from the success
of his book. At first she was very eager that her son should not be
recalled to Launay. “Why should a young man be brought into the house
with a sick old woman?” Of course she was eager. What evils might not
happen if they two were brought together during her illness? At the end
of three weeks, however, she was worse--so much worse that the people
around her were afraid; and it became manifest to all of them that the
truth must be told to Philip in spite of her injunctions. Bessy’s
position became one of great difficulty, because words fell from Mrs.
Miles which explained to her almost with accuracy the condition of her
aunt’s mind. “You should not be here,” she said over and over again.
Now, it had been the case, as a matter of course, that Bessy, during the
old lady’s illness, had never left her bedside day or night. Of course
she had been the nurse, of course she had tended the invalid in
everything. It had been so much a matter of course that the poor lady
had been impotent to prevent it, in her ineffectual efforts to put an
end to Bessy’s influence. The servants, even the doctors, obeyed Bessy
in regard to the household matters. Mrs. Miles found herself quite
unable to repel Bessy from her bedside. And then, with her mind always
intent on the necessity of keeping the young people apart, and when it
was all but settled that Philip should be summoned, she said again and
again, “You should not be here, Bessy. You must not be here, Bessy.”

But whither should she go? No place was even suggested to her. And were
she herself to consult some other friend as to a place--the clergyman of
their own parish for instance, who out of that house was her most
intimate friend--she would have to tell the whole story, a story which
could not be told by her lips. Philip had never said a word to her,
except that one word: “You have grown to be the loveliest woman that
ever I looked upon.” The word was very frequent in her thoughts, but she
could tell no one of that!

If he did think her lovely, if he did love her, why should not things
run smoothly? She had found it to be quite out of the question that she
should be driven into the arms of Mr. Morrison, but she soon came to own
to herself that she might easily be enticed into those other arms. But
then perhaps he had meant nothing--so probably had meant nothing! But if
not, why should she be driven away from Launay? As her aunt became
worse and worse, and when Philip came down from London, and with Philip
a London physician, nothing was settled about poor Bessy, and nothing
was done. When Philip and Bessy stood together at the sick woman’s
bedside she was nearly insensible, wandering in her mind, but still with
that care heavy at her heart. “No, Philip; no, no, no,” she said. “What
is it, mother?” asked Philip. Then Bessy escaped from the room and
resolved that she would always be absent when Philip was by his mother’s

There was a week in which the case was almost hopeless; and then a week
during which the mistress of Launay crept slowly back to life. It could
not but be that they two should see much of each other during such
weeks. At every meal they sat together. Bessy was still constant at the
bedside of her aunt, but now and again she was alone with Philip. At
first she struggled to avoid him, but she struggled altogether in vain.
He would not be avoided. And then of course he spoke. “Bessy, I am sure
you know that I love you.”

“I am sure I hope you do,” she replied, purposely misinterpreting him.

Then he frowned at her. “I am sure, Bessy, you are above all

“What subterfuges? Why do you say that?”

“You are no sister of mine; no cousin even. You know what I mean when I
say that I love you. Will you be my wife?”

Oh! if she might only have knelt at his feet and hidden her face among
her hands, and have gladly answered him with a little “Yes,” extracted
from amidst her happy blushes! But, in every way, there was no time for
such joys. “Philip, think how ill your mother is,” she said.

“That cannot change it. I have to ask you whether you can love me. I am
bound to ask you whether you will love me.” She would not answer him
then; but during that second week in which Mrs. Miles was creeping back
to life she swore that she did love him, and would love him, and would
be true to him for ever and ever.



When these pretty oaths had been sworn, and while Mrs. Miles was too ill
to keep her eyes upon them or to separate them, of course the two lovers
were much together. For whispering words of love, for swearing oaths,
for sweet kisses and looking into each other’s eyes, a few minutes now
and again will give ample opportunities. The long hours of the day and
night were passed by Bessy with her aunt; but there were short moments,
heavenly moments, which sufficed to lift her off the earth into an
Elysium of joy. His love for her was so perfect, so assured! “In a
matter such as this,” he said in his fondly serious air, “my mother can
have no right to interfere with me.”

“But with me she may,” said Bessy, foreseeing in the midst of her
Paradise the storm which would surely come.

“Why should she wish to do so? Why should she not allow me to make
myself happy in the only way in which it is possible?” There was such an
ecstacy of bliss coming from such words as these, such a perfection of
the feeling of mutual love, that she could not but be exalted to the
heavens, although she knew that the storm would surely come. If her love
would make him happy, then, then, surely he should be happy. “Of course
she has given up her idea about that parson,” he said.

“I fear she has not, Philip.”

“It seems to me too monstrous that any human being should go to work and
settle whom two other human beings are to marry.”

“There was never a possibility of that.”

“She told me it was to be so.”

“It never could have been,” said Bessy with great emphasis. “Not even
for her, much as I love her--not even for her to whom I owe
everything--could I consent to marry a man I did not love. But----”

“But what?”

“I do not know how I shall answer her when she bids me give you up. Oh,
my love, how shall I answer her?”

Then he told her at considerable length what was the answer which he
thought should in such circumstances be made to his mother. Bessy was to
declare that nothing could alter her intentions, that her own happiness
and that of her lover depended on her firmness, and that they two did,
in fact, intend to have their own way in this matter sooner or later.
Bessy, as she heard the lesson, made no direct reply, but she knew too
well that it could be of no service to her. All that it would be
possible for her to say, when the resolute old woman should declare her
purpose, would be that come what might she must always love Philip
Launay; that she never, never, never could become the wife of any other
man. So much she thought she would say. But as to asserting her right to
her lover, that she was sure would be beyond her.

Everyone in the house except Mrs. Miles was aware that Philip and Bessy
were lovers, and from the dependents of the house the tidings spread
through the parish. There had been no special secrecy. A lover does not
usually pronounce his vows in public. Little half-lighted corners and
twilight hours are chosen, or banks beneath the trees supposed to be
safe from vulgar eyes, or lonely wanderings. Philip had followed the
usual way of the world in his love-making, but had sought his secret
moments with no special secrecy. Before the servants he would whisper to
Bessy with that look of thorough confidence in his eyes which servants
completely understand; and thus while the poor old woman was still in
her bed, while she was unaware both of the danger and of her own
immediate impotence, the secret--as far as it was a secret--became
known to all Launay. Mr. Morrison heard it over at Budcombe, and, with
his heart down in his boots, told himself that now certainly there could
be no chance for him. At Launay Mr. Gregory was the rector, and it was
with his daughters that Bessy had become intimate. Knowing much of the
mind of the first lady of the parish, he took upon himself to say a word
or two to Philip. “I am so glad to hear that your mother is much better
this morning.”

“Very much better.”

“It has been a most serious illness.”

“Terribly serious, Mr. Gregory.”

Then there was a pause, and sundry other faltering allusions were made
to the condition of things up at the house, from which Philip was aware
that words of counsel or perhaps reproach were coming. “I hope you will
excuse me, Philip, if I tell you something.”

“I think I shall excuse anything from you.”

“People are saying about the place that during your mother’s illness you
have engaged yourself to Bessy Pryor.”

“That’s very odd,” said Philip.

“Odd!” repeated the parson.

“Very odd indeed, because what the people about the place say is always
supposed to be untrue. But this report is true.”

“It is true?”

“Quite true, and I am proud to be in a position to assure you that I
have been accepted. I am really sorry for Mr. Morrison, you know.”

“But what will your mother say?”

“I do not think that she or anyone can say that Bessy is not fit to be
the wife of the finest gentleman in the land.” This he said with an air
of pride which showed plainly enough that he did not intend to be talked
out of his purpose.

“I should not have spoken, but that your dear mother is so ill,”
rejoined the parson.

“I understand that. I must fight my own battle and Bessy’s as best I
may. But you may be quite sure, Mr. Gregory, that I mean to fight it.”

Nor did Bessy deny the fact when her friend Mary Gregory interrogated
her. The question of Bessy’s marriage with Mr. Morrison had, somewhat
cruelly in regard to her and more cruelly still in regard to the
gentleman, become public property in the neighbourhood. Everybody had
known that Mrs. Miles intended to marry Bessy to the parson of Budcombe,
and everybody had thought that Bessy would, as a matter of course,
accept her destiny. Everybody now knew that Bessy had rebelled; and, as
Mrs. Miles’s autocratic disposition was well understood, everybody was
waiting to see what would come of it. The neighbourhood generally
thought that Bessy was unreasonable and ungrateful. Mr. Morrison was a
very nice man, and nothing could have been more appropriate. Now, when
the truth came out, everybody was very much interested indeed. That Mrs.
Miles should assent to a marriage between the heir and Bessy Pryor was
quite out of the question. She was too well known to leave a doubt on
the mind of anyone either in Launay or Budcombe on that matter. Men and
women drew their breath and looked at each other. It was just when the
parishes thought that she was going to die that the parishioners first
heard that Bessy would not marry Mr. Morrison because of the young
squire. And now, when it was known that Mrs. Miles was not going to die,
it was known that the young squire was absolutely engaged to Bessy
Pryor. “There’ll be a deal o’ vat in the voir,” said the old head
ploughman of Launay, talking over the matter with the wife of Mr.
Gregory’s gardener. There was going to be “a deal of fat in the fire.”

Mrs. Miles was not like other mothers. Everything in respect to present
income was in her hands. And Bessy was not like other girls. She had
absolutely no “locus standi” in the world, except what came to her from
the bounty of the old lady. By favour of the Lady of Launay she held her
head among the girls of that part of the country as high as any girl
there. She was only Bessy Pryor; but, from love and kindness, she was
the recognised daughter of the house of Launay. Everybody knew it all.
Everybody was aware that she had done much towards reaching her present
position by her own special sweetness. But should Mrs. Miles once frown,
Bessy would be nobody. “Oh, Bessy, how is this all to be?” asked Mary

“As God pleases,” said Bessy, very solemnly.

“What does Mrs. Miles say?”

“I don’t want anybody to ask me about it,” said Bessy. “Of course I love
him. What is the good of denying it? But I cannot talk about it.” Then
Mary Gregory looked as though some terrible secret had been revealed to
her--some secret of which the burden might probably be too much for her
to bear.

The first storm arose from an interview which took place between the
mother and son as soon as the mother found herself able to speak on a
subject which was near her heart. She sent for him and once again
besought him to take steps towards that combining of the properties
which was so essential to the Launay interests generally. Then he
declared his purpose very plainly. He did not intend to combine the
properties. He did not care for the red-haired Launay cousin. It was his
intention to marry--Bessy Pryor; yes--he had proposed to her and she had
accepted him. The poor sick mother was at first almost overwhelmed with
despair. “What can I do but tell you the truth when you ask me?” he

“Do!” she screamed. “What could you do? You could have remembered your
honour! You could have remembered your blood! You could have remembered
your duty!” Then she bade him leave her, and after an hour passed in
thought she sent for Bessy. “I have had my son with me,” she said,
sitting bolt upright in her bed, looking awful in her wanness, speaking
with low, studied, harsh voice, with her two hands before her on the
counterpane. “I have had my son with me and he has told me.” Bessy felt
that she was trembling. She was hardly able to support herself. She had
not a word to say. The sick old woman was terrible in her severity. “Is
it true?”

“Yes, it is true,” whispered Bessy.

“And this is to be my return?”

“Oh, my dearest, my darling, oh, my aunt, dear, dearest, dearest aunt!
Do not speak like that! Do not look at me like that! You know I love
you. Don’t you know I love you?” Then Bessy prostrated herself on the
bed, and getting hold of the old woman’s hand covered it with kisses.
Yes, her aunt did know that the girl loved her, and she knew that she
loved the girl perhaps better than any other human being in the world.
The eldest son had become estranged from her. Even Philip had not been
half so much to her as this girl. Bessy had wound herself round her very
heartstrings. It made her happy even to sit and look at Bessy. She had
denied herself all pretty things; but this prettiest of all things had
grown up beneath her eyes. She did not draw away her hand; but, while
her hand was being kissed, she made up her mind that she would do her

“Of what service will be your love,” she said, “if this is to be my
return?” Bessy could only lie and sob and hide her face. “Say that you
will give it up.” Not to say that, not to give him up, was the only
resolution at which Bessy had arrived. “If you will not say so, you must
leave me, and I shall send you word what you are to do. If you are my
enemy you shall not remain here.”

“Pray--pray do not call me an enemy.”

“You had better go.” The woman’s voice as she said this was dreadful in
its harshness. Then Bessy, slowly creeping down from the bed, slowly
slunk out of the room.



When the old woman was alone she at once went to work in her own mind
resolving what should be her course of proceeding. To yield in the
matter, and to confirm the happiness of the young people, never occurred
to her. Again and again she repeated to herself that she would do her
duty; and again and again she repeated to herself that in allowing
Philip and Bessy to come together she had neglected her duty. That her
duty required her to separate them, in spite of their love, in spite of
their engagement, though all the happiness of their lives might depend
upon it, she did not in the least doubt. Duty is duty. And it was her
duty to aggrandise the house of Launay, so that the old autocracy of the
land might, so far as in her lay, be preserved. That it would be a good
and pious thing to do,--to keep them apart, to force Philip to marry
the girl in Cornwall, to drive Bessy into Mr. Morrison’s arms, was to
her so certain that it required no further thought. She had never
indulged herself. Her life had been so led as to maintain the power of
her own order, and relieve the wants of those below her. She had done
nothing for her own pleasure. How should it occur to her that it would
be well for her to change the whole course of her life in order that she
might administer to the joys of a young man and a young woman?

It did not occur to her to do so. Lying thus all alone, white, sick, and
feeble, but very strong of heart, she made her resolutions. As Bessy
could not well be sent out of the house till a home should be provided
for her elsewhere, Philip should be made to go. As that was to be the
first step, she again sent for Philip that day. “No, mother; not while
you are so ill.” This he said in answer to her first command that he
should leave Launay at once. It had not occurred to him that the house
in which he had been born and bred, the house of his ancestors, the
house which he had always supposed was at some future day to be his own,
was not free to him. But, feeble as she was, she soon made him
understand her purpose. He must go,--because she ordered him, because
the house was hers and not his, because he was no longer welcome there
as a guest unless he would promise to abandon Bessy. “This is tyranny,
mother,” he said.

“I do not mean to argue the question,” said Mrs. Miles, leaning back
among the pillows, gaunt, with hollow cheeks, yellow with her long
sickness, seeming to be all eyes as she looked at him. “I tell you that
you must go.”


Then, at considerable length, she explained her intended arrangements.
He must go, and live upon the very modest income which she proposed. At
any rate he must go, and go at once. The house was hers, and she would
not have him there. She would have no one in the house who disputed her
will. She had been an over-indulgent mother to him, and this had been
the return made to her! She had condescended to explain to him her
intention in regard to Bessy, and he had immediately resolved to thwart
her. When she was dead and gone it might perhaps be in his power to ruin
the family if he chose. As to that she would take further thought. But
she, as long as she lived, would do her duty. “I suppose I may
understand,” she said, “that you will leave Launay early after breakfast

“Do you mean to turn me out of the house?”

“I do,” she said, looking full at him, all eyes, with her grey hair
coming dishevelled from under the large frill of her nightcap, with
cheeks gaunt and yellow. Her extended hands were very thin. She had been
very near death, and seemed, as he gazed at her, to be very near it now.
If he went it might be her fate never to see him again.

“I cannot leave you like this,” he said.

“Then obey me.”

“Why should we not be married, mother?”

“I will not argue. You know as well as I do. Will you obey me?”

“Not in this, mother. I could not do so without perjuring myself.”

“Then go you out of this house at once.” She was sitting now bolt
upright on her bed, supporting herself on her hands behind her. The
whole thing was so dreadful that he could not endure to prolong the
interview, and he left the room.

Then there came a message from the old housekeeper to Bessy, forbidding
her to leave her own room. It was thus that Bessy first understood that
her great sin was to be made public to all the household. Mrs. Knowl,
who was the head of the domestics, had been told, and now felt that a
sort of authority over Bessy had been confided to her. “No, Miss Bessy;
you are not to go into her room at all. She says that she will not see
you till you promise to be said by her.”

“But why, Mrs. Knowl?”

“Well, miss; I suppose it’s along of Mr. Philip. But you know that
better than me. Mr. Philip is to go to-morrow morning and never come
back any more.”

“Never come back to Launay?”

“Not while things is as they is, miss. But you are to stay here and not
go out at all. That’s what Madam says.” The servants about the place all
called Mrs. Miles Madam.

There was a potency about Mrs. Miles which enabled her to have her will
carried out, although she was lying ill in bed,--to have her will
carried out as far as the immediate severance of the lovers was
concerned. When the command had been brought by the mouth of a servant,
Bessy determined that she would not see Philip again before he went. She
understood that she was bound by her position, bound by gratitude, bound
by a sense of propriety, to so much obedience as that. No earthly
authority could be sufficient to make her abandon her troth. In that she
could not allow even her aunt to sway her,--her aunt though she were
sick and suffering, even though she were dying! Both her love and her
vow were sacred to her. But obedience at the moment she did owe, and she
kept her room. Philip came to the door, but she sat mute and would not
speak to him. Mrs. Knowl, when she brought her some food, asked her
whether she intended to obey the order. “Your aunt wants a promise from
you, Miss Bessy?”

“I am sure my aunt knows that I shall obey her,” said Bessy.

On the following morning Philip left the house. He sent a message to his
mother, asking whether she would see him; but she refused. “I think you
had better not disturb her, Mr. Philip,” said Mrs. Knowl. Then he went,
and as the waggonette took him away from the door, Bessy sat and
listened to the sound of the wheels on the gravel.

All that day and all the next passed on and she was not allowed to see
her aunt. Mrs. Knowl repeated that she could not take upon herself to
say that Madam was better. No doubt the worry of the last day or two
had been a great trouble to her. Mrs. Knowl grew much in self-importance
at the time, and felt that she was overtopping Miss Bessy in the affairs
of Launay.

It was no less true than singular that all the sympathies of the place
should be on the side of the old woman. Her illness probably had
something to do with it. And then she had been so autocratic, all Launay
and Budcombe had been so accustomed to bow down to her, that rebellion
on the part of anyone seemed to be shocking. And who was Bessy Pryor
that she should dare to think of marrying the heir? Who, even, was the
supposed heir that he should dare to think of marrying anyone in
opposition to the actual owner of the acres? Heir though he was called,
he was not necessarily the heir. She might do as she pleased with all
Launay and all Budcombe, and there were those who thought that if Philip
was still obstinate she would leave everything to her elder son. She did
not love her elder son. In these days she never saw him. He was a gay
man of the world, who had never been dutiful to her. But he might take
the name of Launay, and the family would be perpetuated as well that way
as the other. Philip was very foolish. And as for Bessy; Bessy was worse
than foolish. That was the verdict of the place generally.

I think Launay liked it. The troubles of our neighbours are generally
endurable, and any subject for conversation is a blessing. Launay liked
the excitement; but, nevertheless, felt itself to be compressed into
whispers and a solemn demeanour. The Gregory girls were solemn,
conscious of the iniquity of their friend, and deeply sensitive of the
danger to which poor Philip was exposed. When a rumour came to the
vicarage that a fly had been up at the great house, it was immediately
conceived that Mr. Jones, the lawyer from Taunton, had been sent for,
with a view to an alteration of the will. This suddenness, this anger,
this disruption of all things was dreadful! But when it was discovered
that the fly contained no one but the doctor there was disappointment.

On the third day there came a message from Mrs. Miles to the rector.
Would Mr. Gregory step up and see Mrs. Miles? Then it was thought at the
rectory that the dear old lady was again worse, and that she had sent
for her clergyman that she might receive the last comforts of religion.
But this again was wrong. “Mr. Gregory,” she said very suddenly, “I want
to consult you as to a future home for Bessy Pryor.”

“Must she go from this?”

“Yes; she must go from this. You have heard, perhaps, about her and my
son.” Mr. Gregory acknowledged that he had heard. “Of course she must
go. I cannot have Philip banished from the house which is to be his own.
In this matter he probably has been the most to blame.”

“They have both, perhaps, been foolish.”

“It is wickedness rather than folly. But he has been the wickeder. It
should have been a duty to him, a great duty, and he should have been
the stronger. But he is my son, and I cannot banish him.”

“Oh, no!”

“But they must not be brought together. I love Bessy Pryor dearly, Mr.
Gregory; oh, so dearly! Since she came to me, now so many years ago, she
has been like a gleam of sunlight in the house. She has always been
gentle with me. The very touch of her hand is sweet to me. But I must
not on that account sacrifice the honour of the family. I have a duty to
do; and I must do it, though I tear my heart in pieces. Where can I send


“Well, yes; permanently. If Philip were married, of course she might
come back. But I will still trust that she herself may be married first.
I do not mean to cast her off;--only she must go. Anything that may be
wanting in money shall be paid for her. She shall be provided for
comfortably. You know what I had hoped about Mr. Morrison. Perhaps he
may even yet be able to persuade her; but it must be away from here.
Where can I send her?”

This was a question not very easy to answer, and Mr. Gregory said that
he must take time to think of it. Mrs. Miles, when she asked the
question, was aware that Mr. Gregory had a maiden sister, living at
Avranches in Normandy, who was not in opulent circumstances.



When a man is asked by his friend if he knows of a horse to be sold he
does not like immediately to suggest a transfer of the animal which he
has in his own stable, though he may at the moment be in want of money
and anxious to sell his steed. So it was with Mr. Gregory. His sister
would be delighted to take as a boarder a young lady for whom liberal
payment would be made; but at the first moment he had hesitated to make
an offer by which his own sister would be benefited. On the next
morning, however, he wrote as follows:--

     “DEAR MRS. MILES,--My sister Amelia is living at Avranches, where
     she has a pleasant little house on the outskirts of the town, with
     a garden. An old friend was living with her, but she died last
     year, and my sister is now alone. If you think that Bessy would
     like to sojourn for awhile in Normandy, I will write to Amelia and
     make the proposition. Bessy will find my sister good-tempered and
     kind-hearted.--Faithfully yours, JOSHUA GREGORY.”

Mrs. Miles did not care much for the good temper and the kind heart. Had
she asked herself whether she wished Bessy to be happy she would no
doubt have answered herself in the affirmative. She would probably have
done so in regard to any human being or animal in the world. Of course,
she wanted them all to be happy. But happiness was to her thinking of
much less importance than duty; and at the present moment her duty and
Bessy’s duty and Philip’s duty were so momentous that no idea of
happiness ought to be considered in the matter at all. Had Mr. Gregory
written to say that his sister was a woman of severe morals, of stern
aspect, prone to repress all youthful ebullitions, and supposed to be
disagreeable because of her temper, all that would have been no
obstacle. In the present condition of things suffering would be better
than happiness; more in accord with the feelings and position of the
person concerned. It was quite intelligible to Mrs. Miles that Bessy
should really love Philip almost to the breaking of her heart, quite
intelligible that Philip should have set his mind upon the untoward
marriage with all the obstinacy of a proud man. When young men and young
women neglect their duty, hearts have to be broken. But it is not a soft
and silken operation, which can be made pleasant by good temper and
social kindness. It was necessary, for certain quite adequate reasons,
that Bessy should be put on the wheel, and be racked and tormented. To
talk to her of the good temper of the old woman who would have to turn
the wheel would be to lie to her. Mrs. Miles did not want her to think
that things could be made pleasant for her.

Soon after the receipt of Mr. Gregory’s letter she sent for Bessy, who
was then brought into the room under the guard, as it were, of Mrs.
Knowl. Mrs. Knowl accompanied her along the corridor, which was surely
unnecessary, as Bessy’s door had not been locked upon her. Her
imprisonment had only come from obedience. But Mrs. Knowl felt that a
great trust had been confided to her, and was anxious to omit none of
her duties. She opened the door so that the invalid on the bed could see
that this duty had been done, and then Bessy crept into the room. She
crept in, but very quickly, and in a moment had her arms round the old
woman’s back and her lips pressed to the old woman’s forehead. “Why may
not I come and be with you?” she said.

“Because you are disobedient.”

“No, no; I do all that you tell me. I have not stirred from my room,
though it was hard to think you were ill so near me, and that I could do
nothing. I did not try to say a word to him, or even to look at him; and
now that he has gone, why should I not be with you?”

“It cannot be.”

“But why not, aunt? Even though you would not speak to me I could be
with you. Who is there to read to you?”

“There is no one. Of course it is dreary. But there are worse things
than dreariness.”

“Why should not I come back, now that he has gone?” She still had her
arm round the old woman’s back, and had now succeeded in dragging
herself on to the bed and in crouching down by her aunt’s side. It was
her perseverance in this fashion that had so often forced Mrs. Miles out
of her own ordained method of life, and compelled her to leave for a
moment the strictness which was congenial to her. It was this that had
made her declare to Mr. Gregory, in the midst of her severity, that
Bessy had been like a gleam of sunshine in the house. Even now she knew
not how to escape from the softness of an embrace which was in truth so
grateful to her. It was a consciousness of this,--of the potency of
Bessy’s charm even over herself,--which had made her hasten to send her
away from her. Bessy would read to her all the day, would hold her hand
when she was half dozing, would assist in every movement with all the
patience and much more than the tenderness of a waiting-maid. There was
no voice so sweet, no hand so cool, no memory so mindful, no step so
soft as Bessy’s. And now Bessy was there, lying on her bed, caressing
her, more closely bound to her than had ever been any other being in the
world, and yet Bessy was an enemy from whom it was imperatively
necessary that she should be divided.

“Get down, Bessy,” she said; “go off from me.”

“No, no, no,” said Bessy, still clinging to her and kissing her.

“I have that to say to you which must be said calmly.”

“I am calm,--quite calm. I will do whatever you tell me; only pray,
pray, do not send me away from you.”

“You say that you will obey me.”

“I will; I have. I always have obeyed you.”

“Will you give up your love for Philip?”

“Could I give up my love for you, if anybody told me? How can I do it?
Love comes of itself. I did not try to love him. Oh, if you could know
how I tried not to love him! If somebody came and said I was not to love
you, would it be possible?”

“I am speaking of another love.”

“Yes; I know. One is a kind of love that is always welcome. The other
comes first as a shock, and one struggles to avoid it. But when it has
come, how can it be helped? I do love him, better than all the world.”
As she said this she raised herself upon the bed, so as to look round
upon her aunt’s face; but still she kept her arm upon the old woman’s
shoulder. “Is it not natural? How could I have helped it?”

“You must have known that it was wrong.”


“You did not know that it would displease me?”

“I knew that it was unfortunate,--not wrong. What did I do that was
wrong? When he asked me, could I tell him anything but the truth?”

“You should have told him nothing.” At this reply Bessy shook her head.
“It cannot be that you should think that in such a matter there should
be no restraint. Did you expect that I should give my consent to such a
marriage? I want to hear from yourself what you thought of my feelings.”

“I knew you would be angry.”


“I knew you must think me unfit to be Philip’s wife.”


“I knew that you wanted something else for him, and something else also
for me.”

“And did such knowledge go for nothing?”

“It made me feel that my love was unfortunate,--but not that it was
wrong. I could not help it. He had come to me, and I loved him. The
other man came, and I could not love him. Why should I be shut up for
this in my own room? Why should I be sent away from you, to be miserable
because I know that you want things done? He is not here. If he were
here and you bade me not to go near him, I would not go. Though he were
in the next room I would not see him. I would obey you altogether, but I
must love him. And as I love him I cannot love another. You would not
wish me to marry a man when my heart has been given to another.”

The old woman had not at all intended that there should be such
arguments as these. It had been her purpose simply to communicate her
plan, to tell Bessy that she would have to live probably for a few years
at Avranches, and then to send her back to her prison. But Bessy had
again got the best of her, and then had come caressing, talking, and
excuses. Bessy had been nearly an hour in her room before Mrs. Miles had
disclosed her purpose, and had hovered round her aunt, doing as had been
her wont when she was recognised as having all the powers of head nurse
in her hands. Then at last, in a manner very different from that which
had been planned, Mrs. Miles proposed the Normandy scheme. She had been,
involuntarily, so much softened that she condescended even to repeat
what Mr. Gregory had said as to the good temper and general kindness of
his maiden sister. “But why should I go?” asked Bessy, almost sobbing.

“I wonder that you should ask.”

“He is not here.”

“But he may come.”

“If he came ever so I would not see him if you bade me not. I think you
hardly understand me, aunt. I will obey you in everything. I am sure you
will not now ask me to marry Mr. Morrison.”

She could not say that Philip would be more likely to become amenable
and marry the Cornish heiress if Bessy were away at Avranches than if
she still remained shut up at Launay. But that was her feeling. Philip,
she knew, would be less obedient than Bessy. But then, too, Philip might
be less obstinate of purpose. “You cannot live here, Bessy, unless you
will say that you will never become the wife of my son.”



“I cannot say that.” There was a long pause before she found the courage
to pronounce these words, but she did pronounce them at last.

“Then you must go.”

“I may stay and nurse you till you are well. Let me do that. I will go
whenever you may bid me.”

“No. There shall be no terms between us. We must be friends, Bessy, or
we must be enemies. We cannot be friends as long as you hold yourself to
be engaged to Philip Launay. While that is so I will not take a cup of
water from your hands. No, no,” for the girl was again trying to embrace
her. “I will not have your love, nor shall you have mine.”

“My heart would break were I to say it.”

“Then let it break! Is my heart not broken? What is it though our hearts
do break,--what is it though we die,--if we do our duty? You owe this
for what I have done for you.”

“I owe you everything.”

“Then say that you will give him up.”

“I owe you everything, except this. I will not speak to him, I will not
write to him, I will not even look at him, but I will not give him up.
When one loves, one cannot give it up.” Then she was ordered to go back
to her room, and back to her room she went.



There was nothing for it but to go, after the interview described in the
last chapter. Mrs. Miles sent a message to the obstinate girl, informing
her that she need not any longer consider herself as a prisoner, but
that she had better prepare her clothes so as to be ready to start
within a week. The necessary correspondence had taken place between
Launay and Avranches, and within ten days from the time at which Mr.
Gregory had made the proposition,--in less than a fortnight from the
departure of her lover,--Bessy came down from her room all equipped, and
took her place in the same waggonette which so short a time before had
taken her lover away from her. During the week she had had liberty to go
where she pleased, except into her aunt’s room. But she had, in truth,
been almost as much a prisoner as before. She did for a few minutes each
day go out into the garden, but she would not go beyond the garden into
the park, nor did she accept an invitation from the Gregory girls to
spend an evening at the rectory. It would be so necessary, one of them
wrote, that everything should be told to her as to the disposition and
ways of life of Aunt Amelia! But Bessy would not see the Gregory girls.
She was being sent away from home because of the wickedness of her love,
and all Launay knew it. In such a condition of things she could not go
out to eat sally-lunn and pound-cake, and to be told of the delights of
a small Norman town. She would not even see the Gregory girls when they
came up to the house, but wrote an affectionate note to the elder of
them explaining that her misery was too great to allow her to see any

She was in truth very miserable. It was not only because of her love,
from which she had from the first been aware that misery must
come,--undoubted misery, if not misery that would last through her whole
life. But now there was added to this the sorrow of absolute banishment
from her aunt. Mrs. Miles would not see her again before she started.
Bessy was well aware of all that she owed to the mistress of Launay;
and, being intelligent in the reading of character, was aware also that
through many years she had succeeded in obtaining from the old woman
more than the intended performance of an undertaken duty. She had forced
the old woman to love her, and was aware that by means of that love the
old woman’s life had been brightened. She had not only received, but had
conferred kindness,--and it is by conferring kindness that love is
created. It was an agony to her that she should be compelled to leave
this dearest friend, who was still sick and infirm, without seeing her.
But Mrs. Miles was inexorable. These four words written on a scrap of
paper were brought to her on that morning:--“Pray, pray, see me!” She
was still inexorable. There had been long pencil-written notes between
them on the previous day. If Bessy would pledge herself to give up her
lover all might yet be changed. The old woman at Avranches should be
compensated for her disappointment. Bessy should be restored to all her
privileges at Launay. “You shall be my own, own child,” said Mrs. Miles.
She condescended even to promise that not a word more should be said
about Mr. Morrison. But Bessy also could be inexorable. “I cannot say
that I will give him up,” she wrote. Thus it came to pass that she had
to get into the waggonette without seeing her old friend. Mrs. Knowl
went with her, having received instructions to wait upon Miss Bessy all
the way to Avranches. Mrs. Knowl felt that she was sent as a guard
against the lover. Mrs. Miles had known Bessy too well to have fear of
that kind, and had sent Mrs. Knowl as general guardian against the wild
beasts which are supposed to be roaming about the world in quest of
unprotected young females.

In the distribution of her anger Mrs. Miles had for the moment been very
severe towards Philip as to pecuniary matters. He had chosen to be
rebellious, and therefore he was not only turned out of the house, but
told that he must live on an uncomfortably small income. But to Bessy
Mrs. Miles was liberal. She had astounded Miss Gregory by the nobility
of the terms she had proposed, and on the evening before the journey had
sent ten five-pound notes in a blank envelope to Bessy. Then in a
subsequent note she had said that a similar sum would be paid to her
every half-year. In none of these notes was there any expression of
endearment. To none of them was there even a signature. But they all
conveyed evidence of the amount of thought which Mrs. Miles was giving
to Bessy and her affairs.

Bessy’s journey was very comfortless. She had learned to hate Mrs.
Knowl, who assumed all the airs of a duenna. She would not leave Bessy
out of sight for a moment, as though Philip might have been hidden
behind every curtain or under every table. Once or twice the duenna
made a little attempt at persuasion herself: “It ain’t no good, miss,
and it had better be give up.” Then Bessy looked at her, and desired
that she might be left alone. This had been at the hotel at Dover. Then
again Mrs. Knowl spoke as the carriage was approaching Avranches: “If
you wish to come back, Miss Bessy, the way is open.” “Never mind my
wishes, Mrs. Knowl,” said Bessy. When, on her return to Launay, Mrs.
Knowl once attempted to intimate to her mistress that Miss Bessy was
very obstinate, she was silenced so sternly, so shortly, that the
housekeeper began to doubt whether she might not have made a mistake and
whether Bessy would not at last prevail. It was evident that Mrs. Miles
would not hear a word against Bessy.

On her arrival at Avranches Miss Gregory was very kind to her. She found
that she was received not at all as a naughty girl who had been sent
away from home in order that she might be subjected to severe treatment.
Miss Gregory fulfilled all the promises which her brother had made on
her behalf, and was thoroughly kind and good-tempered. For nearly a
month not a word was said about Philip or the love affairs. It seemed to
be understood that Bessy had come to Avranches quite at her own desire.
She was introduced to the genteel society with which that place abounds,
and was conscious that a much freer life was vouchsafed to her than she
had ever known before. At Launay she had of course been subject to Mrs.
Miles. Now she was subject to no one. Miss Gregory exercised no
authority over her,--was indeed rather subject to Bessy, as being
recipient of the money paid for Bessy’s board and lodging.

But by the end of the month there had grown up so much of friendship
between the elder and the younger lady, that something came to be said
about Philip. It was impossible that Bessy should be silent as to her
past life. By degrees she told all that Mrs. Miles had done for her; how
she herself had been a penniless orphan; how Mrs. Miles had taken her in
from simple charity; how love had grown up between them two,--the
warmest, truest love; and then how that other love had grown! The
telling of secrets begets the telling of secrets. Miss Gregory, though
she was now old, with the marks of little feeble crow’s-feet round her
gentle eyes, though she wore a false front and was much withered, had
also had her love affair. She took delight in pouring forth her little
tale; how she had loved an officer and had been beloved; how there had
been no money; how the officer’s parents had besought her to set the
officer free, so that he might marry money; how she had set the officer
free, and how, in consequence, the officer had married money and was now
a major-general, with a large family, a comfortable house, and the gout.
“And I have always thought it was right,” said the excellent spinster.
“What could I have done for him?”

“It couldn’t be right if he loved you best,” said Bessy.

“Why not, my dear? He has made an excellent husband. Perhaps he didn’t
love me best when he stood at the altar.”

“I think love should be more holy.”

“Mine has been very holy,--to me, myself. For a time I wept; but now I
think I am happier than if I had never seen him. It adds something to
one’s life to have been loved once.”

Bessy, who was of a stronger temperament, told herself that happiness
such as that would not suffice for her. She wanted not only to be happy
herself, but also to make him so. In the simplicity of her heart she
wondered whether Philip would be different from that easy-changing
major-general; but in the strength of her heart she was sure he would be
very different. She would certainly not release him at the request of
any parent;--but he should be free as air at the slightest hint of a
request from himself. She did not believe for a moment that such a
request would come; but, if it did,--if it did,--then there should be no
difficulty. Then would she submit to banishment,--at Avranches or
elsewhere as it might be decided for her,--till it might please the Lord
to release her from her troubles.

At the end of six weeks Miss Gregory knew the whole secret of Philip and
Bessy’s love, and knew also that Bessy was quite resolved to persevere.
There were many discussions about love, in which Bessy always clung to
the opinion that when it was once offered and taken, given and received,
it ought to be held as more sacred than any other bond. She owed much to
Mrs. Miles;--she acknowledged that;--but she thought that she owed more
to Philip. Miss Gregory would never quite agree with her;--was strong in
her own opinion that women are born to yield and suffer and live
mutilated lives, like herself; but not the less did they become fast
friends. At the end of six weeks it was determined between them that
Bessy should write to Mrs. Miles. Mrs. Miles had signified her wish not
to be written to, and had not herself written. Messages as to the
improving state of her health had come from the Gregory girls, but no
letter had as yet passed. Then Bessy wrote as follows, in direct
disobedience to her aunt’s orders:

     “Dearest Aunt,--I cannot help writing a line because I am so
     anxious about you. Mary Gregory says you have been up and out on
     the lawn in the sunshine, but it would make me so happy if I could
     see the words in your own dear handwriting. Do send me one little
     word. And though I know what you told me, still I think you will be
     glad to hear that your poor affectionate loving Bessy is well. I
     will not say that I am quite happy. I cannot be quite happy away
     from Launay and you. But Miss Gregory has been very, very kind to
     me, and there are nice people here. We live almost as quietly as at
     Launay, but sometimes we see the people. I am reading German and
     making lace, and I try not to be idle.

     “Good-bye, dear, dearest aunt. Try to think kindly of me. I pray
     for you every morning and night. If you will send me a little note
     from yourself it will fill me with joy.”--Your most affectionate
     and devoted niece,

                                                     BESSY PRYOR.”

This was brought up to Mrs. Miles when she was still in bed, for as yet
she had not returned to the early hours of her healthy life. When she
had read it she at first held it apart from her. Then she put it close
to her bosom, and wept bitterly as she thought how void of sunshine the
house had been since that gleam had been turned away from it.



The same post brought Bessy two letters from England about the middle of
August, both of which the reader shall see;--but first shall be given
that which Bessy read the last. It was from Mrs. Miles, and had been
sent when she was beginning to think that her aunt was still resolved
not to write to her. The letter was as follows, and was written on
square paper, which in these days is only used even by the old-fashioned
when the letter to be sent is supposed to be one of great importance.

     “My dear Bessy,--Though I had told you not to write to me, still I
     am glad to hear that you are well, and that your new home has been
     made as comfortable for you as circumstances will permit. Launay
     has not been comfortable since you went. I miss you very much. You
     have become so dear to me that my life is sad without you. My days
     have never been bright, but now they are less so than ever. I
     should scruple to admit so much as this to you, were it not that I
     intend it as a prelude to that which will follow.

     “We have been sent into this world, my child, that we may do our
     duties, independent of that fleeting feeling which we call
     happiness. In the smaller affairs of life I am sure you would never
     seek a pleasure at the cost of your conscience. If not in the
     smaller things, then certainly should you not do so in the greater.
     To deny yourself, to remember the welfare of others, when
     temptation is urging you to do wrong, then do that which you know
     to be right,--that is your duty as a Christian, and especially your
     duty as a woman. To sacrifice herself is the special heroism which
     a woman can achieve. Men who are called upon to work may gratify
     their passions and still be heroes. A woman can soar only by

     “You will understand why I tell you this. I and my son have been
     born into a special degree of life which I think it to be my duty
     and his to maintain. It is not that I or that he may enjoy any
     special delights that I hold fast to this opinion, but that I may
     do my part towards maintaining that order of things which has made
     my country more blessed than others. It would take me long to
     explain all this, but I know you will believe me when I say that
     an imperative sense of duty is my guide. You have not been born
     into that degree. That this does not affect my own personal feeling
     to you, you must know. You have had many signs how dear you are to
     me. At this moment my days are heavy to bear because I have not my
     Bessy with me,--my Bessy who has been so good to me, so loving,
     such an infinite blessing that to see the hem of her garments, to
     hear the sound of her foot, has made things bright around me. Now,
     there is nothing to see, nothing to hear, that is not unsightly and
     harsh of sound. Oh, Bessy, if you could come back to me!

     “But I have to do that duty of which I have spoken, and I shall do
     it. Though I were never to see you again I shall do it. I am used
     to suffering, and sometimes think it wrong even to wish that you
     were back with me. But I write to you thus that you may understand
     everything. If you will say that you will give him up, you shall
     return to me and be my own, own beloved child. I tell you that you
     are not of the same degree. I am bound to tell you so. But you
     shall be so near my heart that nothing shall separate us.

     “You two cannot marry while I am living. I do not think it possible
     that you should be longing to be made happy by my death. And you
     should remember that he cannot be the first to break away from this
     foolish engagement without dishonour. As he is the wealthy one, and
     the higher born, and as he is the man, he ought not to be the first
     to say the word. You may say it without falsehood and without
     disgrace. You may say it, and all the world will know that you have
     been actuated only by a sense of duty. It will be acknowledged that
     you have sacrificed yourself,--as it becomes a woman to do.

     “One word from you will be enough to assure me. Since you came to
     me you have never been false. One word, and you shall come back to
     me and to Launay, my friend and my treasure! If it be that there
     must be suffering, we will suffer together. If tears are necessary
     there shall be joint tears. Though I am old still I can understand.
     I will acknowledge the sacrifice. But, Bessy, my Bessy, dearest
     Bessy, the sacrifice must be made.

     “Of course he must live away from Launay for awhile. The fault will
     have been his, and what of inconvenience there may be he must
     undergo. He shall not come here till you yourself shall say that
     you can bear his presence without an added sorrow.

     “I know you will not let this letter be in vain. I know you will
     think it over deeply, and that you will not keep me too long
     waiting for an answer. I need hardly tell you that I am

                                     “Your most loving friend,

                                                     M. MILES.”

When Bessy was reading this, when the strong words with which her aunt
had pleaded her cause were harrowing her heart, she had clasped in her
hand this other letter from her lover. This too was written from

     “My own dearest Bessy,--It is absolutely only now that I have found
     out where you are, and have done so simply because the people at
     the rectory could not keep the secret. Can anything be more absurd
     than supposing that my mother can have her way by whisking you
     away, and shutting you up in Normandy? It is too foolish! She has
     sent for me, and I have come like a dutiful son. I have, indeed,
     been rejoiced to see her looking again so much like herself. But I
     have not extended my duty to obeying her in a matter in which my
     own future happiness is altogether bound up; and in which, perhaps,
     the happiness of another person may be slightly concerned. I have
     told her that I would venture to say nothing of the happiness of
     the other person. The other person might be indifferent, though I
     did not believe it was so; but I was quite sure of my own. I have
     assured her that I know what I want myself, and that I do not mean
     to abandon my hope of achieving it. I know that she is writing to
     you. She can of course say what she pleases.

     “The idea of separating two people who are as old as you and I, and
     who completely know our own minds,--you see that I do not really
     doubt as to yours,--is about as foolish as anything well can be. It
     is as though we were going back half a dozen centuries into the
     tyrannies of the middle ages. My object shall be to induce her to
     let you come home and be married properly from Launay. If she will
     not consent by the end of this month I shall go over to you, and we
     must contrive to be married at Avranches. When the thing has been
     once done all this rubbish will be swept away. I do not believe for
     a moment that my mother will punish us by any injustice as to

     “Write and tell me that you agree with me, and be sure that I shall
     remain, as I am, always altogether your own,

                                      “Truly and affectionately,

                                                     PHILIP MILES.”

When Bessy Pryor began to consider these two letters together, she felt
that the task was almost too much for her. Her lover’s letter had been
the first read. She had known his handwriting, and of course had read
his the first. And as she had read it everything seemed to be of rose
colour. Of course she had been filled with joy. Something had been done
by the warnings of Miss Gregory, something, but not much, to weaken her
strong faith in her lover. The major-general had been worldly and
untrue, and it had been possible that her Philip should be as had been
the major-general. There had been moments of doubt in which her heart
had fainted a little; but as she read her lover’s words she acknowledged
to herself how wrong she had been to faint at all. He declared it to be
“a matter in which his own future happiness was altogether bound up.”
And then there had been his playful allusion to her happiness, which was
not the less pleasant to her because he had pretended to think that the
“other person might be indifferent.” She pouted her lips at him, as
though he were present while she was reading, with a joyous affectation
of disdain. No, no; she could not consent to an immediate marriage at
Avranches. There must be some delay. But she would write to him and
explain all that. Then she read her aunt’s letter.

It moved her very much. She had read it all twice before there came upon
her a feeling of doubt, an acknowledgment to herself that she must
reconsider the matter. But even when she was only reading it, before she
had begun to consider, her former joy was repressed and almost quenched.
So much of it was too true, terribly true. Of course her duty should be
paramount. If she could persuade herself that duty required her to
abandon Philip, she must abandon him, let the suffering to herself or to
others be what it might. But then, what was it that duty required of
her? “To sacrifice herself is the special heroism which a woman can
achieve.” Yes, she believed that. But then, how about sacrificing
Philip, who, no doubt, was telling the truth when he said that his own
happiness was altogether bound up in his love?

She was moved too by all that which Mrs. Miles said as to the grandeur
of the Launay family. She had learned enough of the manners of Launay to
be quite alive to the aristocratic idiosyncrasies of the old woman. She,
Bessy Pryor, was nobody. It would have been well that Philip Launay
should have founded his happiness on some girl of higher birth. But he
had not done so. King Cophetua’s marriage had been recognised by the
world at large. Philip was no more than King Cophetua, nor was she less
than the beggar-girl. Like to like in marriages was no doubt
expedient,--but not indispensable. And though she was not Philip’s
equal, yet she was a lady. She would not disgrace him at his table, or
among his friends. She was sure that she could be a comfort to him in
his work.

But the parts of the old woman’s letter which moved her most were those
in which she gave full play to her own heart, and spoke, without
reserve, of her own love for her dearest Bessy. “My days are heavy to
bear because I have not my Bessy with me.” It was impossible to read
this and not to have some desire to yield. How good this lady had been
to her! Was it not through her that she had known Philip? But for Mrs.
Miles, what would her own life have been? She thought that had she been
sure of Philip’s happiness, could she have satisfied herself that he
would bear the blow, she would have done as she was asked. She would
have achieved her heroism, and shown the strength of her gratitude, and
would have taken her delight in administering to the comforts of her old
friend,--only that Philip had her promise. All that she could possibly
owe to all the world beside must be less, so infinitely less, than what
she owed to him.

She would have consulted Miss Gregory, but she knew so well what Miss
Gregory would have advised. Miss Gregory would only have mentioned the
major-general and her own experiences. Bessy determined, therefore, to
lie awake and think of it, and to take no other counsellor beyond her
own heart.



The letters were read very often, and that from Mrs. Miles I think the
oftener. Philip’s love was plainly expressed, and what more is expected
from a lover’s letter than a strong, manly expression of love? It was
quite satisfactory, declaring the one important fact that his happiness
was bound up in hers. But Mrs. Miles’ was the stronger letter, and by
far the more suggestive. She had so mingled hardness and softness, had
enveloped her stern lesson of feminine duty in so sweet a frame of
personal love, that it was hardly possible that such a girl as Bessy
Pryor should not be shaken by her arguments. There were moments during
the night in which she had almost resolved to yield. “A woman can soar
only by suffering.” She was not sure that she wanted to soar, but she
certainly did want to do her duty, even though suffering should come of
it. But there was one word in her aunt’s letter which militated against
the writer’s purpose rather than assisted it. “Since you first came to
me, you have never been false.” False! no; she hoped she had not been
false. Whatever might be the duty of a man or a woman, that duty should
be founded on truth. Was it not her special duty at this moment to be
true to Philip? I do not know that she was altogether logical. I do not
know but that in so supporting herself in her love there may have been a
bias of personal inclination. Bessy perhaps was a little prone to think
that her delight and her duty went together. But that flattering
assurance, that she had never yet been false, strengthened her
resolution to be true, now, to Philip.

She took the whole of the next day to think, abstaining during the whole
day from a word of confidential conversation with Miss Gregory. Then on
the following morning she wrote her letters. That to Philip would be
easily written. Words come readily when one has to give a hearty assent
to an eager and welcome proposition. But to deny, to make denial to one
loved and respected, to make denial of that which the loved one has a
right to ask, must be difficult. Bessy, like a brave girl, went to the
hard task first, and she rushed instantly at her subject, as a brave
horseman rides at his fence without craning.

     “Dearest Aunt,--I cannot do as you bid me. My word to him is so
     sacred to me that I do not dare to break it. I cannot say that I
     won’t be his when I feel that I have already given myself to him.

     “Dear, dearest aunt, my heart is very sad as I write this, because
     I feel that I am separating myself from you almost for ever. You
     know that I love you. You know that I am miserable because you have
     banished me from your side. All the sweet kind words of your love
     to me are like daggers to me, because I cannot show my gratitude by
     doing as you would have me. It seems so hard! I know it is probable
     that I may never see him again, and yet I am to be separated from
     you, and you will be my enemy. In all the world there are but two
     that I really love. Though I cannot and will not give him up, I
     desire to be back at Launay now only that I might be with you. My
     love for him would be contented with a simple permission that it
     should exist. My love for you cannot be satisfied unless I am
     allowed to be close to you once again. You say that a woman’s duty
     consists in suffering. I am striving to do my duty, but I know how
     great is my suffering in doing it. However angry you may be with
     your Bessy, you will not think that she can appear even to be
     ungrateful without a pang.

     “Though I will not give him up, you need not fear that I shall do
     anything. Should he come here I could not, I suppose, avoid seeing
     him, but I should ask him to go at once; and I should beg Miss
     Gregory to tell him that she could not make him welcome to her
     house. In all things I will do as though I were your
     daughter--though I know so well how far I am from any right to make
     use of so dear a name!

     “But dear, dear aunt, no daughter could love you better, nor strive
     more faithfully to be obedient.

     “I shall always be, even when you are most angry with me, your own,
     poor, loving, most affectionate


The other letter need perhaps be not given in its entirety. Even in such
a chronicle as this there seems to be something of treachery, something
of a want of that forbearance to which young ladies are entitled, in
making public the words of love which such a one may write to her lover.
Bessy’s letter was no doubt full of love, but it was full of prudence
also. She begged him not to come to Avranches. As to such a marriage as
that of which he had spoken, it was, she assured him, quite impossible.
She would never give him up, and so she had told Mrs. Miles. In that
respect her duty to him was above her duty to her aunt. But she was so
subject to her aunt that she would not in any other matter disobey her.
For his sake--for Philip’s sake--only for Philip’s sake, she grieved
that there should be more delay. Of course she was aware that it might
possibly be a trouble in life too many for him to bear. In that case he
might make himself free from it without a word of reproach from her. Of
that he alone must be the judge. But, for the present, she could be no
partner to any plans for the future. Her aunt had desired her to stay at
Avranches, and at Avranches she must remain. There were words of love,
no doubt; but the letter, taken altogether, was much sterner and less
demonstrative of affection than that written to her aunt.

There very soon came a rejoinder from Mrs. Miles, but it was so curt and
harsh as almost to crush Bessy by its laconic severity. “You are
separated from me, and I am your enemy.” That was all. Beneath that one
line the old woman had signed her name, M. Miles, in large, plain angry
letters. Bessy, who knew every turn of the woman’s mind, understood
exactly how it had been with her when she wrote those few words, and
when, with care, she had traced that indignant signature. “Then
everything shall be broken, and though there was but one gleam of
sunshine left to me, that gleam shall be extinguished. No one shall say
that I, as Lady of Launay, did not do my duty.” It was thus the Lady of
Launay had communed with herself when she penned that dreadful line.
Bessy understood it all, and could almost see the woman as she wrote it.

Then in her desolation she told everything to Miss Gregory--showed the
two former letters, showed that dreadful denunciation of lasting wrath,
and described exactly what had been her own letter, both to Mrs. Miles
and to her lover. Miss Gregory had but one recipe to offer in such a
malady; that, namely, which she had taken herself in a somewhat similar
sickness. The gentleman should be allowed to go forth into the world and
seek a fitter wife, whereas Bessy should content herself, for the
remainder of her life, with the pleasures of memory. Miss Gregory
thought that it was much even to have been once loved by the
major-general. When Bessy almost angrily declared that this would not
be enough for her, Miss Gregory very meekly suggested that possibly
affection might change in the lapse of years, and that some other
suitor--perhaps Mr. Morrison--might in course of time suffice. But at
the idea Bessy became indignant, and Miss Gregory was glad to confine
herself to the remedy pure and simple which she acknowledged to have
been good for herself.

Then there passed a month--a month without a line from Launay or from
Philip. That Mrs. Miles should not write again was to be expected. She
had declared her enmity, and there was an end of everything. During the
month there had come a cheque to Miss Gregory from some man of business,
and with the cheque there had been no intimation that the present
arrangement was to be brought to a close. It appeared therefore that
Mrs. Miles, in spite of her enmity, intended to provide for the mutinous
girl a continuation of the comforts which she now enjoyed. Certainly
nothing more than this could have been expected from her. But, in regard
to Philip, though Bessy had assured herself, and had assured Miss
Gregory also, that she did not at all desire a correspondence in the
present condition of affairs, still she felt so total a cessation of all
tidings to be hard to bear. Mary Gregory, when writing to her aunt, said
nothing of Philip--merely remarked that Bessy Pryor would be glad to
know that her aunt had nearly recovered her health, and was again able
to go out among the poor. Then Bessy began to think--not that Philip was
like the major-general, for to that idea she would not give way at
all--but that higher and nobler motives had induced him to yield to his
mother. If so she would never reproach him. If so she would forgive him
in her heart of hearts. If so she would accept her destiny and entreat
her old friend to allow her to return once more to Launay, and
thenceforth to endure the evil thing which fate would have done to her
in patient submission. If once the word should have come to her from
Philip, then would she freely declare that everything should be over,
then and for always, between her and her lover. After such suffering as
that, while she was undergoing agony so severe, surely her friend would
forgive her. That terrible word, “I am your enemy,” would surely then be

But if it were to be so, if this was to be the end of her love, Philip,
at least, would write. He would not leave her in doubt, after such a
decision on his own part. That thought ought to have sustained her; but
it was explained to her by Miss Gregory that the major-general had taken
three months before he had been inspirited to send the fatal letter, and
to declare his purpose of marrying money. There could be but little
doubt, according to Miss Gregory, that Philip was undergoing the same
process. It was, she thought, the natural end to such an affair. This
was the kind of thing which young ladies without dowry, but with hearts
to love, are doomed to suffer. There could be no doubt that Miss Gregory
regarded the termination of the affair with a certain amount of
sympathetic satisfaction. Could she have given Bessy all Launay, and
her lover, she would have done so. But sadness and disappointment were
congenial to her, and a heart broken, but still constant, was, to her
thinking, a pretty feminine acquisition. She was to herself the heroine
of her own romance, and she thought it good to be a heroine. But Bessy
was indignant; not that Philip should be false, but that he should not
dare to write and say so. “I think he ought to write,” was on her lips,
when the door was opened, and, lo, all of a sudden, Philip Miles was in
the room.



We must now go back to Launay. It will be remembered that Bessy received
both her letters on the same day--those namely from Mrs. Miles and from
Philip--and that they both came from Launay. Philip had been sent away
from the place when the fact of his declared love was first made known
to the old lady, as though into a banishment which was to be perpetual
till he should have repented of his sin. Such certainly had been his
mother’s intention. He was to be sent one way, and the girl another, and
everyone concerned was to be made to feel the terrible weight of her
displeasure, till repentance and retractation should come. He was to be
starved into obedience by a minimised allowance, and she by the
weariness of her life at Avranches. But the person most grievously
punished by these arrangements was herself. She had declared to herself
that she would endure anything, everything, in the performance of her
duty. But the desolation of her life was so extreme that it was very
hard to bear. She did not shrink and tell herself that it was
unendurable, but after awhile she persuaded herself that now that Bessy
was gone there could be no reason why Philip also should be exiled.
Would not her influence be more potent over Philip if he were at Launay?
She therefore sent for him, and he came. Thus it was that the two
letters were written from the same house.

Philip obeyed his mother’s behest in coming as he had obeyed it in
going; but he did not hesitate to show her that he felt himself to be
aggrieved. Launay of course belonged to her. She could leave it and all
the property to some hospital if she chose. He was well aware of that.
But he had been brought up as the heir, and he could not believe that
there should come such a ruin of heaven and earth as would be produced
by any change in his mother’s intentions as to the Launay property.
Touching his marriage, he felt that he had a right to marry whom he
pleased, as long as she was a lady, and that any dictation from his
mother in such a matter was a tyranny not to be endured. He had talked
it all over with the rector before he went. Of course it was possible
that his mother should commit such an injustice as that at which the
rector hinted. “There are,” said Philip, “no bounds to possibilities.”
It was, however, he thought, all but impossible; and whether probable or
improbable, no fear of such tyranny should drive him from his purpose.
He was a little magniloquent, perhaps, in what he said, but he was very

It was, therefore, with some feeling of an injury inflicted upon him
that he first greeted his mother on his return to the house. For a day
or two not a word passed about Bessy. “Of course, I am delighted to be
with you, and glad enough to have the shooting,” he said, in answer to
some word of hers. “I shouldn’t have gone, as you know, unless you had
driven me away.” This was hard on the old woman; but she bore it, and,
for some days, was simply affectionate and gentle to her son--more
gentle than was her wont. Then she wrote to Bessy, and told her son that
she was writing. “It is so impossible,” she said, “that I cannot
conceive that Bessy should not obey me when she comes to regard it at a

“I see no impossibility; but Bessy can, of course, do as she pleases,”
replied Philip, almost jauntily. Then he determined that he also would

There were no further disputes on the matter till Bessy’s answer came,
and then Mrs. Miles was very angry indeed. She had done her best so to
write her letter that Bessy should be conquered both by the weight of
her arguments and by the warmth of her love. If reason would not
prevail, surely gratitude would compel her to do as she was bidden. But
the very first words of Bessy’s letter contained a flat refusal. “I
cannot do as you bid me.” Who was this girl, that had been picked out of
a gutter, that she should persist in the right of becoming the mistress
of Launay? In a moment the old woman’s love was turned into a feeling of
condemnation, nearly akin to hatred. Then she sent off her short
rejoinder, declaring herself to be Bessy’s enemy.

On the following morning regret had come, and perhaps remorse. She was a
woman of strong passion, subject to impulses which were, at the time,
uncontrollable; but she was one who was always compelled by her
conscience to quick repentance, and sometimes to an agonising feeling of
wrong done by herself. To declare that Bessy was her enemy--Bessy, who
for so many years had prevented all her wishes, who had never been weary
of well-doing to her, who had been patient in all things, who had been
her gleam of sunshine, of whom she had sometimes said to herself in her
closet that the child was certainly nearer to perfection than any other
human being that she had known! True, it was not fit that the girl
should become mistress of Launay! A misfortune had happened which must
be cured--if even by the severance of persons so dear to each other as
she and her Bessy. But she knew that she had signed in declaring one so
good, and one so dear, to be her enemy.

But what should she do next? Days went on and she did nothing. She
simply suffered. There was no pretext on which she could frame an
affectionate letter to her child. She could not write and ask to be
forgiven for the harshness of her letter. She could not simply revoke
the sentence she had pronounced without any reference to Philip and his
love. In great misery, with a strong feeling of self-degradation because
she had allowed herself to be violent in her wrath, she went on,
repentant but still obstinate, till Philip himself forced the subject
upon her.

“Mother,” he said one day, “is it not time that things should be

“What things, Philip?”

“You know my intention.”

“What intention?”

“As to making Bessy my wife.”

“That can never be.”

“But it will be. It has to be. If as regards my own feelings I could
bring myself to yield to you, how could I do so with honour in regard to
her? But, for myself, nothing on earth would induce me to change my
mind. It is a matter on which a man has to judge for himself, and I have
not heard a word from you or from anyone to make me think that I have
judged wrongly.”

“Do birth and rank go for nothing?”

He paused a moment, and then he answered her very seriously, standing up
and looking down upon her as he did so. “For very much--with me. I do
not think that I could have brought myself to choose a wife, whatever
might have been a woman’s charms, except among ladies. I found this one
to be the chosen companion and dearest friend of the finest lady I
know.” At this the old woman, old as she was, first blushed, and then,
finding herself to be sobbing, turned her face away from him. “I came
across a girl of whose antecedents I could be quite sure, of whose
bringing up I knew all the particulars, as to whom I could be certain
that every hour of her life had been passed among the best possible
associations. I heard testimony as to her worth and her temper which I
could not but believe. As to her outward belongings, I had eyes of my
own to judge. Could I be wrong in asking such a one to be my wife? Can I
be regarded as unhappy in having succeeded with her? Could I be
acquitted of dishonour if I were to desert her? Shall I be held to be
contemptible if I am true to her?”

At every word he spoke he grew in her esteem. At this present crisis of
her life she did not wish to think specially well of him, though he was
her son, but she could not help herself. He became bigger before her
than he had ever been before, and more of a man. It was, she felt,
almost vain for a woman to lay her commands, either this way or that,
upon a man who could speak to her as Philip had spoken.

But not the less was the power in her hands. She could bid him go and
marry--and be a beggar. She could tell him that all Launay should go to
his brother, and she could instantly make a will to that effect. So
strong was the desire for masterdom upon her that she longed to do it.
In the very teeth of her honest wish to do what was right, there was
another wish--a longing to do what she knew to be wrong. There was a
struggle within, during which she strove to strengthen herself for evil.
But it was vain. She knew of herself that were she to swear to-day to
him that he was disinherited, were she to make a will before nightfall
carrying out her threat, the pangs of conscience would be so heavy
during the night that she would certainly change it all on the next
morning. Of what use is a sword in your hand if you have not the heart
to use it? Why seek to be turbulent with a pistol if your bosom be of
such a nature that your finger cannot be forced to pull the trigger?
Power was in her possession--but she could not use it. The power rather
was in her hands. She could not punish her boy, even though he had
deserved it. She had punished her girl, and from that moment she had
been crushed by torments, because of the thing that she had done. Others
besides Mrs. Miles have felt, with something of regret, that they have
lacked the hardness necessary for cruelty and the courage necessary for
its doing.

“How shall it be, mother?” asked Philip. As she knew not what to answer
she rose slowly from her chair, and leaving the room went to the
seclusion of her own chamber.

Days again passed before Philip renewed his question, and repeated it in
the same words: “How shall it be, mother?” Wistfully she looked up at
him, as though even yet something might be accorded by him to pity; as
though the son might even yet be induced to accede to his mother’s
prayers. It was not that she thought so. No. She had thought much, and
was aware that it could not be so. But as a dog will ask with its eyes
when it knows that asking is in vain, so did she ask. “One word from
you, mother, will make us all happy.”

“No; not all of us.”

“Will not my happiness make you happy?” Then he stooped over her and
kissed her forehead. “Could you be happy if you knew that I were

“I do not want to be happy. It should be enough that one does one’s

“And what is my duty? Can it be my duty to betray the girl I love in
order that I may increase an estate which is already large enough?”

“It is for the family.”

“What is a family but you, or I, or whoever for the moment may be its
representative? Say that it shall be as I would have it, and then I will
go to her and let her know that she may come back to your arms.”

Not then, or on the next day, or on the next, did she yield; though she
knew well during all these hours that it was her fate to yield. She had
indeed yielded. She had confessed to herself that it must be so, and as
she did so she felt once more the soft pressure of Bessy’s arms as they
would cling round her neck, and she could see once more the brightness
of Bessy’s eyes as the girl would hang over her bed early in the
morning. “I do not want to be happy,” she had said; but she did want,
sorely want, to see her girl. “You may go and tell her,” she said one
night as she was preparing to go to her chamber. Then she turned quickly
away, and was out of the room before he could answer her with a word.



Miss Gregory was certainly surprised when, on the entrance of the young
man, Bessy jumped from her chair and rushed into his arms. She knew that
Bessy had no brother, and her instinct rather than her experience told
her that the greeting which she saw was more than fraternal,--more than
cousinly. She did not doubt but that the young man was Philip Launay,
and knowing what she knew she was not disposed to make spoken
complaints. But when Bessy lifted her face to be kissed, Miss Gregory
became red and very uneasy. It is probable that she herself had never
progressed as far as this with the young man who afterwards became the

Bessy herself, had a minute been allowed to her for reflection, would
have been less affectionate. She knew nothing of the cause which had
brought Philip to Avranches. She only knew that her dear friend at
Launay had declared her to be an enemy, and that she had determined that
she could not, for years, become the wife of Philip Launay, without the
consent of her who had used that cruel word. And at the moment of
Philip’s entering the room her heart had been sore with reproaches
against him. “He ought at any rate to write.” The words had been on her
lips as the door had been opened, and the words had been spoken in the
soreness of heart coming from a fear that she was to be abandoned.

Then he was there. In the moment that sufficed for the glance of his eye
to meet hers she knew that she was not abandoned. With whatever tidings
he had come that was not to be the burden of his news. No man desirous
of being released from his vows ever looked like that. So up she jumped
and flew to him, not quite knowing what she intended, but filled with
delight when she found herself pressed to his bosom. Then she had to
remember herself, and to escape from his arms. “Philip,” she said, “this
is Miss Gregory. Miss Gregory, I do not think you ever met Mr. Launay.”

Then Miss Gregory had to endeavour to look as though nothing particular
had taken place,--which was a trial. But Bessy bore her part, if not
without a struggle, at least without showing it. “And now, Philip,” she
said, “how is my aunt?”

“A great deal stronger than when you left her.”

“Quite well?”

“Yes; for her, I think I may say quite well.”

“She goes out every day?”

“Every day,--after the old plan. The carriage toddles round to the door
at three, and then toddles about the parish at the rate of four miles an
hour, and toddles home exactly at five. The people at Launay, Miss
Gregory, don’t want clocks to tell them the hour in the afternoon.”

“I do love punctuality,” said Miss Gregory.

“I wish I were with her,” said Bessy.

“I have come to take you,” said Philip.

“Have you?” Then Bessy blushed,--for the first time. She blushed as a
hundred various thoughts rushed across her mind. If he had been sent to
take her back, sent by her aunt, instead of Mrs. Knowl, what a revulsion
of circumstances must there not have been at Launay! How could it all
have come to pass? Even to have been sent for at all, to be allowed to
go back even in disgrace, would have been an inexpressible joy. Had
Knowl come for her, with a grim look and an assurance that she was to be
brought back because a prison at Launay was thought to be more secure
than a prison at Avranches, the prospect of a return would have been
hailed with joy. But now,--to be taken back by Philip to Launay! There
was a whole heaven of delight in the thought of the very journey.

Miss Gregory endeavoured to look pleased, but in truth the prospect to
her was not so pleasant as to Bessy. She was to be left alone again. She
was to lose her pensioner. After so short a fruition of the double bliss
of society and pay, she was to be deserted without a thought. But to be
deserted without many thoughts had been her lot in life, and now she
bore her misfortune like a heroine. “You will be glad to go back to
your aunt, Bessy; will you not?”

“Glad!” The ecstacy was almost unkind, but poor Miss Gregory bore it,
and maintained that pretty smile of gratified serenity as though
everything were well with all of them.

But Bessy felt that she had as yet heard nothing of the real news, and
that the real news could not be told in the presence of Miss Gregory. It
had not even yet occurred to her that Mrs. Miles had actually given her
sanction to the marriage. “This is a very pretty place,” said Philip.

“What, Avranches?” said Miss Gregory, mindful of future possible
pensioners. “Oh, delightful. It is the prettiest place in Normandy, and
I think the most healthy town in all France.”

“It seemed nice as I came up from the hotel. Suppose we go out for a
walk, Bessy. We have to start back to-morrow.”

“To-morrow!” ejaculated Bessy. She would have been ready to go in half
an hour had he demanded it.

“If you can manage it. I promised my mother to be as quick as I could;
and, when I arranged to come, I had ever so many engagements.”

“If she must go to-morrow, she won’t have much time for walking,” said
Miss Gregory, with almost a touch of anger in her voice. But Bessy was
determined to have her walk. All her fate in life was to be disclosed to
her within the next few minutes. She was already exultant, but she was
beginning to think that there was a heaven, indeed, opening for her. So
she ran away for her hat and gloves, leaving her lover and Miss Gregory

“It is very sudden,” said the poor old lady with a gasp.

“My mother felt that, and bade me tell you that, of course, the full

“I was not thinking about that,” said Miss Gregory. “I did not mean to
allude to such a thing. Mrs. Miles has always been so kind to my
brother, and anything I could have done I should have been so happy,
without thinking of money. But----” Philip sat with the air of an
attentive listener, so that Miss Gregory could get no answer to her
question without absolutely asking it. “But there seems to be a change.”

“Yes, there is a change, Miss Gregory.”

“We were afraid that Mrs. Miles had been offended.”

“It is the old story, Miss Gregory. Young people and old people very
often will not think alike: but it is the young people who generally
have their way.”

She had not had her way. She remembered that at the moment. But then,
perhaps, the major-general had had his. When a period of life has come
too late for success, when all has been failure, the expanding triumphs
of the glorious young, grate upon the feelings even of those who are
generous and self-denying. Miss Gregory was generous by nature and
self-denying by practice, but Philip’s pæan and Bessy’s wondrous
prosperity were for a moment a little hard upon her. There had been a
comfort to her in the conviction that Philip was no better than the
major-general. “I suppose it is so,” she said. “That is, if one of them
has means.”


“But if they are both poor, I don’t see how their being young can enable
them to live upon nothing.” She intended to imply that Philip probably
would have been another major-general, but that he was heir to Launay.

Philip, who had never heard of the major-general, was a little puzzled;
nevertheless, he acceded to the proposition, not caring, however, to say
anything as to his own circumstances on so very short an acquaintance.

Then Bessy came down with her hat, and they started for their walk. “Now
tell me all about it,” she said, in a fever of expectation, as soon as
the front door was closed behind them.

“There is nothing more to tell,” said he.

“Nothing more?”

“Unless you want me to say that I love you.”

“Of course I do.”

“Well, then,--I love you. There!”

“Philip, you are not half nice to me.”

“Not after coming all the way from Launay to say that?”

“There must be so much to tell me? Why has my aunt sent for me?”

“Because she wants you.”

“And why has she sent you?”

“Because I want you too.”

“But does she want me?”

“Certainly she does.”

“For you?” If he could say this, then everything would have been said.
If he could say this truly, then everything would have been done
necessary for the perfection of her happiness. “Oh, Philip, do tell me.
It is so strange that she should send for me! Do you know what she said
to me in her last letter? It was not a letter. It was only a word. She
said that I was her enemy.”

“All that is changed.”

“She will be glad to have me again?”

“Very glad. I fancy that she has been miserable without you.”

“I shall be as glad to be with her again, Philip. You do not know how I
love her. Think of all she has done for me!”

“She has done something now that I hope will beat everything else.”

“What has she done?”

“She has consented that you and I shall be man and wife. Isn’t that more
than all the rest?”

“But has she? Oh, Philip, has she really done that?”

Then at last he told his whole story. Yes; his mother had yielded. From
the moment in which she had walked out of the room, having said that he
might “go and tell her,” she had never endeavoured to renew the fight.
When he had spoken to her, endeavouring to draw from her some warmth of
assent, she had generally been very silent. She had never brought
herself absolutely to wish him joy. She had not as yet so crucified her
own spirit in the matter as to be able to tell him that he had chosen
his wife well; but she had shown him in a hundred ways that her anger
was at an end, and that if any feeling was left opposed to his own
happiness, it was simply one of sorrow. And there were signs which made
him think that even that was not deep-seated. She would pat him,
stroking his hair, and leaning on his shoulder, administering to his
comforts with a nervous accuracy as to little things which was peculiar
to her. And then she gave him an infinity of directions as to the way in
which it would be proper that Bessy should travel, being anxious at
first to send over a maid for her behoof,--not Mrs. Knowl, but a younger
woman, who would have been at Bessy’s command. Philip, however, objected
to the maid. And when Mrs. Miles remarked that if it was Bessy’s fate to
become mistress of Launay, Bessy ought to have a maid to attend her,
Philip said that that would be very well a month or two hence, when
Bessy would have become,--not mistress of Launay, which was a place
which he trusted might not be vacant for many a long day,--but first
lieutenant to the mistress, by right of marriage. He refused altogether
to take the maid with him, as he explained to Bessy with much laughter.
And so they came to understand each other thoroughly, and Bessy knew
that the great trouble of her life, which had been as a mountain in her
way, had disappeared suddenly, as might some visionary mountain. And
then, when they thoroughly understood each other, they started back to
England and to Launay together.



Bessy understood the condition of the old woman much better than did her
son. “I am sad a little,” she said, on her way home, “because of her

“Sad, because she is to have you,--you yourself,--for her

“Yes, indeed, Philip; because I know that she has not wanted me. She
will be kind because I shall belong to you, and perhaps partly because
she loves me; but she will always regret that that young lady down in
Cornwall has not been allowed to add to the honour and greatness of the
family. The Launays are everything to her, and what can I do for the
Launays?” Of course he said many pretty things to her in answer to this,
but he could not eradicate from her mind the feeling that, in regard to
the old friend who had been so kind to her, she was returning evil for

But even Bessy did not quite understand the old woman. When she found
that she had yielded, there was disappointment in the old woman’s
heart. Who can have indulged in a certain longing for a lifetime, in a
special ambition, and seen that ambition and that longing crushed and
trampled on, without such a feeling? And she had brought this failure on
herself,--by her own weakness, as she told herself. Why had she given
way to Bessy and to Bessy’s blandishments? It was because she had not
been strong to do her duty that this ruin had fallen upon her hopes. The
power in her own hands had been sufficient. But for her Philip need
never have seen Bessy Pryor. Might not Bessy Pryor have been sent
somewhere out of the way when it became evident that she had charms of
her own with which to be dangerous? And even after the first evil had
been done her power had been sufficient. She need not have sent for
Philip back. She need have written no letter to Bessy. She might have
been calm and steady in her purpose, so that there should have been no
violent ebullition of anger,--so violent as to induce repentance, and
with repentance renewed softness and all the pangs of renewed

When Philip had left her on his mission to Normandy her heart was heavy
with regret, and heavy also with anger. But it was with herself that she
was angry. She had known her duty and she had not done it. She had known
her duty, and had neglected it,--because Bessy had been soft to her, and
dear, and pleasant. It was here that Bessy did not quite understand her
friend. Bessy reproached herself because she had made to her friend a
bad return to all the kindness she had received. The old woman would
not allow herself to entertain any such a thought. Once she had spoken
to herself of having warmed a serpent in her bosom; but instantly, with
infinite self-scorn, she had declared to herself that Bessy was no
serpent. For all that she had done for Bessy, Bessy had made ample
return, the only possible return that could be full enough. Bessy had
loved her. She too had loved Bessy, but that should have had no weight.
Though they two had been linked together by their very heartstrings, it
had been her duty to make a severance because their joint affection had
been dangerous. She had allowed her own heart to over-ride her own sense
of duty, and therefore she was angry,--not with Bessy, but with herself.

But the thing was done. To quarrel with Philip had been impossible to
her. One feeling coming upon another, her own repentance, her own
weakness, her acknowledgment of a certain man’s strength on the part of
her son, had brought her to such a condition that she had yielded. Then
it was natural that she should endeavour to make the best of it. But
even the doing of that was a trial to her. When she told herself that as
far as the woman went, the mere woman, Philip could not have found a
better wife had he searched the world all round, she found that she was
being tempted from her proper path even in that. What right could she
have to look for consolation there? For other reasons, which she still
felt to be adequate, she had resolved that something else should be
done. That something else had not been done, because she had failed in
her duty. And now she was trying to salve the sore by the very poison
which had created the wound. Bessy’s sweet temper, and Bessy’s soft
voice, and Bessy’s bright eye, and Bessy’s devotion to the delight of
others, were all so many temptations. Grovelling as she was in sackcloth
and ashes because she had yielded to them, how could she console herself
by a prospect of these future enjoyments either for herself or her son?

But there were various duties to which she could attend, grievously
afflicted as she was by her want of attention to that great duty. As
Fate had determined that Bessy Pryor was to become mistress of Launay,
it was proper that all Launay should know and recognise its future
mistress. Bessy certainly should not be punished by any want of
earnestness in this respect. No one should be punished but herself. The
new mistress should be made as welcome as though she had been the
red-haired girl from Cornwall. Knowl was a good deal put about because
Mrs. Miles, remembering a few hard words which Knowl had allowed herself
to use in the days of the imprisonment, became very stern. “It is
settled that Miss Pryor is to become Mrs. Philip Launay, and you will
obey her just as myself.” Mrs. Knowl, who had saved a little money,
began to consider whether it would not be as well to retire into private

When the day came on which the two travellers were to reach Launay Mrs.
Miles was very much disturbed in her mind. In what way should she
receive the girl? In her last communication,--her very last,--she had
called Bessy her enemy; and now Bessy was being brought home to be made
her daughter-in-law under her own roof. How sweet it would be to stand
at the door and welcome her in the hall, among all the smiling servants,
to make a tender fuss and hovering over her, as would be so natural with
a mother-in-law who loved an adopted daughter as tenderly as Mrs. Miles
loved Bessy! How pleasant to take her by the hand and lead her away into
some inner sanctum where warm kisses as between mother and child would
be given and taken; to hear her praises of Philip, and then to answer
again with other praises; to tell her with words half serious and half
drollery that she must now buckle on her armour and do her work, and
take upon herself the task of managing the household! There was quite
enough of softness in the old woman to make all this delightful. Her
imagination revelled in thinking of it even at the moment in which she
was telling herself that it was impossible. But it was impossible. Were
she to force such a change upon herself Bessy would not believe in the
sincerity of the change. She had told Bessy that she was her enemy!

At last the carriage which had gone to the station was here; not the
waggonette on this occasion, but the real carriage itself, the carriage
which was wont to toddle four miles an hour about the parish. “This is
an honour meant for the prodigal daughter,” said Philip, as he took his
seat. “If you had never been naughty, we should only have had the
waggonette, and we then should have been there in half the time.” Mrs.
Miles, when she heard the wheels on the gravel, was even yet uncertain
where she would place herself. She was fluttered, moving about from the
room into the hall and back, when the old butler spoke a careful word:
“Go into the library, madam, and Mr. Philip will bring her to you
there.” Then she obeyed the butler,--as she had probably never done in
her life before.

Bessy, as soon as her step was off the carriage, ran very quickly into
the house. “Where is my aunt?” she said. The butler was there showing
the way, and in a moment she had thrown her arms round the old woman.
Bessy had a way of making her kisses obligatory, from which Mrs. Miles
had never been able to escape. Then, when the old woman was seated,
Bessy was at once upon her knees before her. “Say that you love me,
aunt. Say that at once! Say that first of all!”

“You know I love you.”

“I know I love you. Oh, I am so glad to have you again. It was so hard
not to be with you when I thought that you were ill. I did not know how
sick it would make me to be away from you.” Neither then nor at any time
afterwards was there a word spoken on the one side or the other as to
that declaration of enmity.

There was nothing then said in way of explanation. There was nothing
perhaps necessary. It was clear to Bessy that she was received at Launay
as Philip’s future wife,--not only by Mrs. Miles herself, but by the
whole household,--and that all the honours of the place were to be
awarded to her without stint. For herself that would have sufficed. To
her any explanation of the circumstances which had led to a change so
violent was quite unnecessary. But it was not so with Mrs. Miles
herself. She could not but say some word in justification of
herself,--in excuse rather than justification. She had Bessy into her
bedroom that night, and said the word, holding between her two thin
hands the hand of the girl she addressed. “You have known, Bessy, that I
did not wish this.” Bessy muttered that she did know it. “And I think
you knew why.”

“How could I help it, aunt?”

Upon this the old woman patted the hand. “I suppose he could not help
it. And, if I had been a young man, I could not have helped it. I could
not help it as I was, though I am an old woman. I think I am as foolish
as he is.”

“Perhaps he is foolish, but you are not.”

“Well; I do not know. I have my misgivings about that, my dear. I had
objects which I thought were sacred and holy, to which I had been wedded
through many years. They have had to be thrust aside.”

“Then you will hate me!”

“No, my child; I will love you with all my heart. You will be my son’s
wife now, and, as such, you will be dear to me, almost as he is dear.
And you will still be my own Bessy, my gleam of sunlight, without whom
the house is so gloomy that it is like a prison to me. For myself, do
you think I could want any other young woman about the house than my own
dear Bessy;--that any other wife for Philip could come as near my heart
as you do?”

“But if I have stood in the way?”

“We will not think of it any more. You, at any rate, need not think of
it,” added the old woman, as she remembered all the circumstances. “You
shall be made welcome with all the honours and all the privileges due to
Philip’s wife; and if there be a regret, it shall never trouble your
path. It may be a comfort to you to hear me say that you, at least, in
all things have done your duty.” Then, at last, there were more tears,
more embracings, and, before either of them went to their rest, a
perfect ecstacy of love.

Little or nothing more is necessary for the telling of the story of the
Lady of Launay. Before the autumn had quite gone, and the last tint had
left the trees, Bessy Pryor became Bessy Launay, under the hand of Mr.
Gregory, in the Launay parish church. Everyone in the neighbourhood
around was there, except Mr. Morrison, who had taken this opportunity of
having a holiday and visiting Switzerland. But even he, when he
returned, soon became reconciled to the arrangement, and again became a
guest in the dining-room of the mansion. I hope I shall have no reader
who will not think that Philip Launay did well in not following the
example of the major-general.




Everyone remembers the severity of the Christmas of 187--. I will not
designate the year more closely, lest I should enable those who are too
curious to investigate the circumstances of this story, and inquire into
details which I do not intend to make known. That winter, however, was
especially severe, and the cold of the last ten days of December was
more felt, I think, in Paris than in any part of England. It may,
indeed, be doubted whether there is any town in any country in which
thoroughly bad weather is more afflicting than in the French capital.
Snow and hail seem to be colder there, and fires certainly are less
warm, than in London. And then there is a feeling among visitors to
Paris that Paris ought to be gay; that gaiety, prettiness, and
liveliness are its aims, as money, commerce, and general business are
the aims of London,--which with its outside sombre darkness does often
seem to want an excuse for its ugliness. But on this occasion, at this
Christmas of 187--, Paris was neither gay nor pretty nor lively. You
could not walk the streets without being ankle deep, not in snow, but in
snow that had just become slush; and there was falling throughout the
day and night of the 23rd of December a succession of damp half-frozen
abominations from the sky which made it almost impossible for men and
women to go about their business.

It was at ten o’clock on that evening that an English lady and gentleman
arrived at the Grand Hotel on the Boulevard des Italiens. As I have
reasons for concealing the names of this married couple I will call them
Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Now I wish it to be understood that in all the
general affairs of life this gentleman and this lady lived happily
together, with all the amenities which should bind a husband and a wife.
Mrs. Brown was one of a wealthy family, and Mr. Brown, when he married
her, had been relieved from the necessity of earning his bread.
Nevertheless she had at once yielded to him when he expressed a desire
to spend the winters of their life in the south of France; and he,
though he was by disposition somewhat idle, and but little prone to the
energetic occupations of life, would generally allow himself, at other
periods of the year, to be carried hither and thither by her, whose more
robust nature delighted in the excitement of travelling. But on this
occasion there had been a little difference between them.

Early in December an intimation had reached Mrs. Brown at Pau that on
the coming Christmas there was to be a great gathering of all the
Thompsons in the Thompson family hall at Stratford-le-Bow, and that she
who had been a Thompson was desired to join the party with her husband.
On this occasion her only sister was desirous of introducing to the
family generally a most excellent young man to whom she had recently
become engaged. The Thompsons,--the real name, however, is in fact
concealed,--were a numerous and a thriving people. There were uncles and
cousins and brothers who had all done well in the world, and who were
all likely to do better still. One had lately been returned to
Parliament for the Essex Flats, and was at the time of which I am
writing a conspicuous member of the gallant Conservative majority. It
was partly in triumph at this success that the great Christmas gathering
of the Thompsons was to be held, and an opinion had been expressed by
the legislator himself that should Mrs. Brown, with her husband, fail to
join the family on this happy occasion she and he would be regarded as
being but _fainéant_ Thompsons.

Since her marriage, which was an affair now nearly eight years old, Mrs.
Brown had never passed a Christmas in England. The desirability of doing
so had often been mooted by her. Her very soul craved the festivities of
holly and mince-pies. There had ever been meetings of the Thompsons at
Thompson Hall, though meetings not so significant, not so important to
the family, as this one which was now to be collected. More than once
had she expressed a wish to see old Christmas again in the old house
among the old faces. But her husband had always pleaded a certain
weakness about his throat and chest as a reason for remaining among the
delights of Pau. Year after year she had yielded, and now this loud
summons had come.

It was not without considerable trouble that she had induced Mr. Brown
to come as far as Paris. Most unwillingly had he left Pau; and then,
twice on his journey,--both at Bordeaux and Tours,--he had made an
attempt to return. From the first moment he had pleaded his throat, and
when at last he had consented to make the journey he had stipulated for
sleeping at those two towns and at Paris. Mrs. Brown, who, without the
slightest feeling of fatigue, could have made the journey from Pau to
Stratford without stopping, had assented to everything,--so that they
might be at Thompson Hall on Christmas Eve. When Mr. Brown uttered his
unavailing complaints at the two first towns at which they stayed, she
did not perhaps quite believe all that he said of his own condition. We
know how prone the strong are to suspect the weakness of the weak,--as
the weak are to be disgusted by the strength of the strong. There were
perhaps a few words between them on the journey, but the result had
hitherto been in favour of the lady. She had succeeded in bringing Mr.
Brown as far as Paris.

Had the occasion been less important, no doubt she would have yielded.
The weather had been bad even when they left Pau, but as they had made
their way northwards it had become worse and still worse. As they left
Tours Mr. Brown, in a hoarse whisper, had declared his conviction that
the journey would kill him. Mrs. Brown, however, had unfortunately
noticed half an hour before that he had scolded the waiter on the score
of an overcharged franc or two with a loud and clear voice. Had she
really believed that there was danger, or even suffering, she would have
yielded;--but no woman is satisfied in such a matter to be taken in by
false pretences. She observed that he ate a good dinner on his way to
Paris, and that he took a small glass of cognac with complete
relish,--which a man really suffering from bronchitis surely would not
do. So she persevered, and brought him into Paris, late in the evening,
in the midst of all that slush and snow. Then, as they sat down to
supper, she thought that he did speak hoarsely, and her loving feminine
heart began to misgive her.

But this now was at any rate clear to her,--that he could not be worse
off by going on to London than he would be should he remain in Paris. If
a man is to be ill he had better be ill in the bosom of his family than
at an hotel. What comfort could he have, what relief, in that huge
barrack? As for the cruelty of the weather, London could not be worse
than Paris, and then she thought she had heard that sea air is good for
a sore throat. In that bedroom which had been allotted to them au
quatrième, they could not even get a decent fire. It would in every way
be wrong now to forego the great Christmas gathering when nothing could
be gained by staying in Paris.

She had perceived that as her husband became really ill he became also
more tractable and less disputatious. Immediately after that little
glass of cognac he had declared that he would be---- if he would go
beyond Paris, and she began to fear that, after all, everything would
have been done in vain. But as they went down to supper between ten and
eleven he was more subdued, and merely remarked that this journey would,
he was sure, be the death of him. It was half-past eleven when they got
back to their bedroom, and then he seemed to speak with good sense,--and
also with much real apprehension. “If I can’t get something to relieve
me I know I shall never make my way on,” he said. It was intended that
they should leave the hotel at half-past five the next morning, so as to
arrive at Stratford, travelling by the tidal train, at half-past seven
on Christmas Eve. The early hour, the long journey, the infamous
weather, the prospect of that horrid gulf between Boulogne and
Folkestone, would have been as nothing to Mrs. Brown, had it not been
for that settled look of anguish which had now pervaded her husband’s
face. “If you don’t find something to relieve me I shall never live
through it,” he said again, sinking back into the questionable comfort
of a Parisian hotel arm-chair.

“But, my dear, what can I do?” she asked, almost in tears, standing
over him and caressing him. He was a thin, genteel-looking man, with a
fine long, soft brown beard, a little bald at the top of the head, but
certainly a genteel-looking man. She loved him dearly, and in her softer
moods was apt to spoil him with her caresses. “What can I do, my dearie?
You know I would do anything if I could. Get into bed, my pet, and be
warm, and then to-morrow morning you will be all right.” At this moment
he was preparing himself for his bed, and she was assisting him. Then
she tied a piece of flannel round his throat, and kissed him, and put
him in beneath the bed-clothes.

“I’ll tell you what you can do,” he said very hoarsely. His voice was so
bad now that she could hardly hear him. So she crept close to him, and
bent over him. She would do anything if he would only say what. Then he
told her what was his plan. Down in the salon he had seen a large jar of
mustard standing on a sideboard. As he left the room he had observed
that this had not been withdrawn with the other appurtenances of the
meal. If she could manage to find her way down there, taking with her a
handkerchief folded for the purpose, and if she could then appropriate a
part of the contents of that jar, and, returning with her prize, apply
it to his throat, he thought that he could get some relief, so that he
might be able to leave his bed the next morning at five. “But I am
afraid it will be very disagreeable for you to go down all alone at this
time of night,” he croaked out in a piteous whisper.

“Of course I’ll go,” said she. “I don’t mind going in the least. Nobody
will bite me,” and she at once began to fold a clean handkerchief. “I
won’t be two minutes, my darling, and if there is a grain of mustard in
the house I’ll have it on your chest immediately.” She was a woman not
easily cowed, and the journey down into the salon was nothing to her.
Before she went she tucked the clothes carefully up to his ears, and
then she started.

To run along the first corridor till she came to a flight of stairs was
easy enough, and easy enough to descend them. Then there was another
corridor, and another flight, and a third corridor, and a third flight,
and she began to think that she was wrong. She found herself in a part
of the hotel which she had not hitherto visited, and soon discovered by
looking through an open door or two that she had found her way among a
set of private sitting-rooms which she had not seen before. Then she
tried to make her way back, up the same stairs and through the same
passages, so that she might start again. She was beginning to think that
she had lost herself altogether, and that she would be able to find
neither the salon nor her bedroom, when she happily met the
night-porter. She was dressed in a loose white dressing-gown, with a
white net over her loose hair, and with white worsted slippers. I ought
perhaps to have described her personal appearance sooner. She was a
large woman, with a commanding bust, thought by some to be handsome,
after the manner of Juno. But with strangers there was a certain
severity of manner about her,--a fortification, as it were, of her
virtue against all possible attacks,--a declared determination to
maintain, at all points, the beautiful character of a British matron,
which, much as it had been appreciated at Thompson Hall, had met with
some ill-natured criticism among French men and women. At Pau she had
been called La Fière Anglaise. The name had reached her own ears and
those of her husband. He had been much annoyed, but she had taken it in
good part,--had, indeed, been somewhat proud of the title,--and had
endeavoured to live up to it. With her husband she could, on occasion,
be soft, but she was of opinion that with other men a British matron
should be stern. She was now greatly in want of assistance; but,
nevertheless, when she met the porter she remembered her character. “I
have lost my way wandering through these horrid passages,” she said, in
her severest tone. This was in answer to some question from him,--some
question to which her reply was given very slowly. Then when he asked
where Madame wished to go, she paused, again thinking what destination
she would announce. No doubt the man could take her back to her bedroom,
but if so, the mustard must be renounced, and with the mustard, as she
now feared, all hope of reaching Thompson Hall on Christmas Eve. But
she, though she was in many respects a brave woman, did not dare to tell
the man that she was prowling about the hotel in order that she might
make a midnight raid upon the mustard pot. She paused, therefore, for a
moment, that she might collect her thoughts, erecting her head as she
did so in her best Juno fashion, till the porter was lost in admiration.
Thus she gained time to fabricate a tale. She had, she said, dropped her
handkerchief under the supper-table; would he show her the way to the
salon, in order that she might pick it up? But the porter did more than
that, and accompanied her to the room in which she had supped.

Here, of course, there was a prolonged, and, it need hardly be said, a
vain search. The good-natured man insisted on emptying an enormous
receptacle of soiled table-napkins, and on turning them over one by one,
in order that the lady’s property might be found. The lady stood by
unhappy, but still patient, and, as the man was stooping to his work,
her eye was on the mustard pot. There it was, capable of containing
enough to blister the throats of a score of sufferers. She edged off a
little towards it while the man was busy, trying to persuade herself
that he would surely forgive her if she took the mustard, and told him
her whole story. But the descent from her Juno bearing would have been
so great! She must have owned, not only to the quest for mustard, but
also to a fib,--and she could not do it. The porter was at last of
opinion that Madame must have made a mistake, and Madame acknowledged
that she was afraid it was so.

With a longing, lingering eye, with an eye turned back, oh! so sadly, to
the great jar, she left the room, the porter leading the way. She
assured him that she could find it by herself, but he would not leave
her till he had put her on to the proper passage. The journey seemed to
be longer now even than before, but as she ascended the many stairs she
swore to herself that she would not even yet be baulked of her object.
Should her husband want comfort for his poor throat, and the comfort be
there within her reach, and he not have it? She counted every stair as
she went up, and marked every turn well. She was sure now that she would
know the way, and that she could return to the room without fault. She
would go back to the salon. Even though the man should encounter her
again, she would go boldly forward and seize the remedy which her poor
husband so grievously required.

“Ah, yes,” she said, when the porter told her that her room, No. 333,
was in the corridor which they had then reached, “I know it all now. I
am so much obliged. Do not come a step further.” He was anxious to
accompany her up to the very door, but she stood in the passage and
prevailed. He lingered awhile--naturally. Unluckily she had brought no
money with her, and could not give him the two-franc piece which he had
earned. Nor could she fetch it from her room, feeling that were she to
return to her husband without the mustard no second attempt would be
possible. The disappointed man turned on his heel at last, and made his
way down the stairs and along the passage. It seemed to her to be almost
an eternity while she listened to his still audible footsteps. She had
gone on, creeping noiselessly up to the very door of her room, and there
she stood, shading the candle in her hand, till she thought that the
man must have wandered away into some furthest corner of that endless
building. Then she turned once more and retraced her steps.

There was no difficulty now as to the way. She knew it, every stair. At
the head of each flight she stood and listened, but not a sound was to
be heard, and then she went on again. Her heart beat high with anxious
desire to achieve her object, and at the same time with fear. What might
have been explained so easily at first would now be as difficult of
explanation. At last she was in the great public vestibule, which she
was now visiting for the third time, and of which, at her last visit,
she had taken the bearings accurately. The door was there--closed,
indeed, but it opened easily to the hand. In the hall, and on the
stairs, and along the passages, there had been gas, but here there was
no light beyond that given by the little taper which she carried. When
accompanied by the porter she had not feared the darkness, but now there
was something in the obscurity which made her dread to walk the length
of the room up to the mustard jar. She paused, and listened, and
trembled. Then she thought of the glories of Thompson Hall, of the
genial warmth of a British Christmas, of that proud legislator who was
her first cousin, and with a rush she made good the distance, and laid
her hand upon the copious delf. She looked round, but there was no one
there; no sound was heard; not the distant creak of a shoe, not a rattle
from one of those thousand doors. As she paused with her fair hand upon
the top of the jar, while the other held the white cloth on which the
medicinal compound was to be placed, she looked like Lady Macbeth as she
listened at Duncan’s chamber door.

There was no doubt as to the sufficiency of the contents. The jar was
full nearly up to the lips. The mixture was, no doubt, very different
from that good wholesome English mustard which your cook makes fresh for
you, with a little water, in two minutes. It was impregnated with a sour
odour, and was, to English eyes, unwholesome of colour. But still it was
mustard. She seized the horn spoon, and without further delay spread an
ample sufficiency on the folded square of the handkerchief. Then she
commenced to hurry her return.

But still there was a difficulty, no thought of which had occurred to
her before. The candle occupied one hand, so that she had but the other
for the sustenance of her treasure. Had she brought a plate or saucer
from the salon, it would have been all well. As it was she was obliged
to keep her eye intent on her right hand, and to proceed very slowly on
her return journey. She was surprised to find what an aptitude the thing
had to slip from her grasp. But still she progressed slowly, and was
careful not to miss a turning. At last she was safe at her chamber door.
There it was, No. 333.



With her eye still fixed upon her burden, she glanced up at the number
of the door--333. She had been determined all through not to forget
that. Then she turned the latch and crept in. The chamber also was dark
after the gaslight on the stairs, but that was so much the better. She
herself had put out the two candles on the dressing-table before she had
left her husband. As she was closing the door behind her she paused, and
could hear that he was sleeping. She was well aware that she had been
long absent,--quite long enough for a man to fall into slumber who was
given that way. She must have been gone, she thought, fully an hour.
There had been no end to that turning over of napkins which she had so
well known to be altogether vain. She paused at the centre table of the
room, still looking at the mustard, which she now delicately dried from
off her hand. She had had no idea that it would have been so difficult
to carry so light and so small an affair. But there it was, and nothing
had been lost. She took some small instrument from the washing-stand,
and with the handle collected the flowing fragments into the centre.
Then the question occurred to her whether, as her husband was sleeping
so sweetly, it would be well to disturb him. She listened again, and
felt that the slight murmur of a snore with which her ears were regaled
was altogether free from any real malady in the throat. Then it occurred
to her, that after all, fatigue perhaps had only made him cross. She
bethought herself how, during the whole journey, she had failed to
believe in his illness. What meals he had eaten! How thoroughly he had
been able to enjoy his full complement of cigars! And then that glass of
brandy, against which she had raised her voice slightly in feminine
opposition. And now he was sleeping there like an infant, with full,
round, perfected, almost sonorous workings of the throat. Who does not
know that sound, almost of two rusty bits of iron scratching against
each other, which comes from a suffering windpipe? There was no
semblance of that here. Why disturb him when he was so thoroughly
enjoying that rest which, more certainly than anything else, would fit
him for the fatigue of the morrow’s journey?

I think that, after all her labour, she would have left the pungent
cataplasm on the table, and have crept gently into bed beside him, had
not a thought suddenly struck her of the great injury he had been doing
her if he were not really ill. To send her down there, in a strange
hotel, wandering among the passages, in the middle of the night, subject
to the contumely of anyone who might meet her, on a commission which, if
it were not sanctified by absolute necessity, would be so thoroughly
objectionable! At this moment she hardly did believe that he had ever
really been ill. Let him have the cataplasm; if not as a remedy, then
as a punishment. It could, at any rate, do him no harm. It was with an
idea of avenging rather than of justifying the past labours of the night
that she proceeded at once to quick action.

Leaving the candle on the table so that she might steady her right hand
with the left, she hurried stealthily to the bedside. Even though he was
behaving badly to her, she would not cause him discomfort by waking him
roughly. She would do a wife’s duty to him as a British matron should.
She would not only put the warm mixture on his neck, but would sit
carefully by him for twenty minutes, so that she might relieve him from
it when the proper period should have come for removing the counter
irritation from his throat. There would doubtless be some little
difficulty in this,--in collecting the mustard after it had served her
purpose. Had she been at home, surrounded by her own comforts, the
application would have been made with some delicate linen bag, through
which the pungency of the spice would have penetrated with strength
sufficient for the purpose. But the circumstance of the occasion had not
admitted this. She had, she felt, done wonders in achieving so much
success as this which she had obtained. If there should be anything
disagreeable in the operation he must submit to it. He had asked for
mustard for his throat, and mustard he should have.

As these thoughts passed quickly through her mind, leaning over him in
the dark, with her eye fixed on the mixture lest it should slip, she
gently raised his flowing beard with her left hand, and with her other
inverted rapidly, steadily but very softly fixed the handkerchief on his
throat. From the bottom of his chin to the spot at which the collar
bones meeting together form the orifice of the chest it covered the
whole noble expanse. There was barely time for a glance, but never had
she been more conscious of the grand proportions of that manly throat. A
sweet feeling of pity came upon her, causing her to determine to relieve
his sufferings in the shorter space of fifteen minutes. He had been
lying on his back, with his lips apart, and, as she held back his beard,
that and her hand nearly covered the features of his face. But he made
no violent effort to free himself from the encounter. He did not even
move an arm or a leg. He simply emitted a snore louder than any that had
come before. She was aware that it was not his wont to be so loud--that
there was generally something more delicate and perhaps more querulous
in his nocturnal voice, but then the present circumstances were
exceptional. She dropped the beard very softly--and there on the pillow
before her lay the face of a stranger. She had put the mustard plaster
on the wrong man.

Not Priam wakened in the dead of night, not Dido when first she learned
that Æneas had fled, not Othello when he learned that Desdemona had been
chaste, not Medea when she became conscious of her slaughtered children,
could have been more struck with horror than was this British matron as
she stood for a moment gazing with awe on that stranger’s bed. One
vain, half-completed, snatching grasp she made at the handkerchief, and
then drew back her hand. If she were to touch him would he not wake at
once, and find her standing there in his bedroom? And then how could she
explain it? By what words could she so quickly make him know the
circumstances of that strange occurrence that he should accept it all
before he had said a word that might offend her? For a moment she stood
all but paralyzed after that faint ineffectual movement of her arm. Then
he stirred his head uneasily on the pillow, opened wider his lips, and
twice in rapid succession snored louder than before. She started back a
couple of paces, and with her body placed between him and the candle,
with her face averted, but with her hand still resting on the foot of
the bed, she endeavoured to think what duty required of her.

She had injured the man. Though she had done it most unwittingly, there
could be no doubt but that she had injured him. If for a moment she
could be brave, the injury might in truth be little; but how disastrous
might be the consequences if she were now in her cowardice to leave him,
who could tell? Applied for fifteen to twenty minutes a mustard plaster
may be the salvation of a throat ill at ease, but if left there
throughout the night upon the neck of a strong man, ailing nothing, only
too prone in his strength to slumber soundly, how sad, how painful, for
aught she knew how dangerous might be the effects! And surely it was an
error which any man with a heart in his bosom would pardon! Judging from
what little she had seen of him she thought that he must have a heart
in his bosom. Was it not her duty to wake him, and then quietly to
extricate him from the embarrassment which she had brought upon him?

But in doing this what words should she use? How should she wake him?
How should she make him understand her goodness, her beneficence, her
sense of duty, before he should have jumped from the bed and rushed to
the bell, and have summoned all above and all below to the rescue? “Sir,
sir, do not move, do not stir, do not scream. I have put a mustard
plaster on your throat, thinking that you were my husband. As yet no
harm has been done. Let me take it off, and then hold your peace for
ever.” Where is the man of such native constancy and grace of spirit
that, at the first moment of waking with a shock, he could hear these
words from the mouth of an unknown woman by his bedside, and at once
obey them to the letter? Would he not surely jump from his bed, with
that horrid compound falling about him,--from which there could be no
complete relief unless he would keep his present attitude without a
motion? The picture which presented itself to her mind as to his
probable conduct was so terrible that she found herself unable to incur
the risk.

Then an idea presented itself to her mind. We all know how in a moment
quick thoughts will course through the subtle brain. She would find that
porter and send him to explain it all. There should be no concealment
now. She would tell the story and would bid him to find the necessary
aid. Alas! as she told herself that she would do so, she knew well that
she was only running from the danger which it was her duty to encounter.
Once again she put out her hand as though to return along the bed. Then
thrice he snorted louder than before, and moved up his knee uneasily
beneath the clothes as though the sharpness of the mustard were already
working upon his skin. She watched him for a moment longer, and then,
with the candle in her hand, she fled.

Poor human nature! Had he been an old man, even a middle-aged man, she
would not have left him to his unmerited sufferings. As it was, though
she completely recognised her duty, and knew what justice and goodness
demanded of her, she could not do it. But there was still left to her
that plan of sending the night-porter to him. It was not till she was
out of the room and had gently closed the door behind her, that she
began to bethink herself how she had made the mistake. With a glance of
her eye she looked up, and then saw the number on the door: 353.
Remarking to herself, with a Briton’s natural criticism on things
French, that those horrid foreigners do not know how to make their
figures, she scudded rather than ran along the corridor, and then down
some stairs and along another passage,--so that she might not be found
in the neighbourhood should the poor man in his agony rush rapidly from
his bed.

In the confusion of her first escape she hardly ventured to look for her
own passage,--nor did she in the least know how she had lost her way
when she came upstairs with the mustard in her hand. But at the present
moment her chief object was the night-porter. She went on descending
till she came again to that vestibule, and looking up at the clock saw
that it was now past one. It was not yet midnight when she left her
husband, but she was not at all astonished at the lapse of time. It
seemed to her as though she had passed a night among these miseries.
And, oh, what a night! But there was yet much to be done. She must find
that porter, and then return to her own suffering husband. Ah,--what now
should she say to him? If he should really be ill, how should she
assuage him? And yet how more than ever necessary was it that they
should leave that hotel early in the morning,--that they should leave
Paris by the very earliest and quickest train that would take them as
fugitives from their present dangers! The door of the salon was open,
but she had no courage to go in search of a second supply. She would
have lacked strength to carry it up the stairs. Where now, oh, where,
was that man? From the vestibule she made her way into the hall, but
everything seemed to be deserted. Through the glass she could see a
light in the court beyond, but she could not bring herself to endeavour
even to open the hall doors.

And now she was very cold,--chilled to her very bones. All this had been
done at Christmas, and during such severity of weather as had never
before been experienced by living Parisians. A feeling of great pity for
herself gradually came upon her. What wrong had she done that she
should be so grievously punished? Why should she be driven to wander
about in this way till her limbs were failing her? And then, so
absolutely important as it was that her strength should support her in
the morning! The man would not die even though he were left there
without aid, to rid himself of the cataplasm as best he might. Was it
absolutely necessary that she should disgrace herself?

But she could not even procure the means of disgracing herself, if that
telling her story to the night-porter would have been a disgrace. She
did not find him, and at last resolved to make her way back to her own
room without further quest. She began to think that she had done all
that she could do. No man was ever killed by a mustard plaster on his
throat. His discomfort at the worst would not be worse than hers had
been--or too probably than that of her poor husband. So she went back up
the stairs and along the passages, and made her way on this occasion to
the door of her room without any difficulty. The way was so well known
to her that she could not but wonder that she had failed before. But now
her hands had been empty, and her eyes had been at her full command. She
looked up, and there was the number, very manifest on this
occasion,--333. She opened the door most gently, thinking that her
husband might be sleeping as soundly as that other man had slept, and
she crept into the room.



But her husband was not sleeping. He was not even in bed, as she had
left him. She found him sitting there before the fire-place, on which
one half-burned log still retained a spark of what had once pretended to
be a fire. Nothing more wretched than his appearance could be imagined.
There was a single lighted candle on the table, on which he was leaning
with his two elbows, while his head rested between his hands. He had on
a dressing-gown over his night-shirt, but otherwise was not clothed. He
shivered audibly, or rather shook himself with the cold, and made the
table to chatter as she entered the room. Then he groaned, and let his
head fall from his hands on to the table. It occurred to her at the
moment as she recognised the tone of his querulous voice, and as she saw
the form of his neck, that she must have been deaf and blind when she
had mistaken that stalwart stranger for her husband. “Oh, my dear,” she
said, “why are you not in bed?” He answered nothing in words, but only
groaned again. “Why did you get up? I left you warm and comfortable.”

“Where have you been all night?” he half whispered, half croaked, with
an agonising effort.

“I have been looking for the mustard.”

“Have been looking all night and haven’t found it? Where have you

She refused to speak a word to him till she had got him into bed, and
then she told her story! But, alas, that which she told was not the true
story! As she was persuading him to go back to his rest, and while she
arranged the clothes again around him, she with difficulty made up her
mind as to what she would do and what she would say. Living or dying he
must be made to start for Thompson Hall at half-past five on the next
morning. It was no longer a question of the amenities of Christmas, no
longer a mere desire to satisfy the family ambition of her own people,
no longer an anxiety to see her new brother-in-law. She was conscious
that there was in that house one whom she had deeply injured, and from
whose vengeance, even from whose aspect, she must fly. How could she
endure to see that face which she was so well sure that she would
recognise, or to hear the slightest sound of that voice which would be
quite familiar to her ears, though it had never spoken a word in her
hearing? She must certainly fly on the wings of the earliest train which
would carry her towards the old house; but in order that she might do so
she must propitiate her husband.

So she told her story. She had gone forth, as he had bade her, in search
of the mustard, and then had suddenly lost her way. Up and down the
house she had wandered, perhaps nearly a dozen times. “Had she met no
one?” he asked in that raspy, husky whisper. “Surely there must have
been some one about the hotel! Nor was it possible that she could have
been roaming about all those hours.” “Only one hour, my dear,” she
said. Then there was a question about the duration of time, in which
both of them waxed angry, and as she became angry her husband waxed
stronger, and as he became violent beneath the clothes the comfortable
idea returned to her that he was not perhaps so ill as he would seem to
be. She found herself driven to tell him something about the porter,
having to account for that lapse of time by explaining how she had
driven the poor man to search for the handkerchief which she had never

“Why did you not tell him you wanted the mustard?”

“My dear!”

“Why not? There is nothing to be ashamed of in wanting mustard.”

“At one o’clock in the morning! I couldn’t do it. To tell you the truth,
he wasn’t very civil, and I thought that he was,--perhaps a little
tipsy. Now, my dear, do go to sleep.”

“Why didn’t you get the mustard?”

“There was none there,--nowhere at all about the room. I went down again
and searched everywhere. That’s what took me so long. They always lock
up those kind of things at these French hotels. They are too
close-fisted to leave anything out. When you first spoke of it I knew
that it would be gone when I got there. Now, my dear, do go to sleep,
because we positively must start in the morning.”

“That is impossible,” said he, jumping up in bed.

“We must go, my dear. I say that we must go. After all that has passed
I wouldn’t not be with Uncle John and my cousin Robert to-morrow evening
for more,--more,--more than I would venture to say.”

“Bother!” he exclaimed.

“It’s all very well for you to say that, Charles, but you don’t know. I
say that we must go to-morrow, and we will.”

“I do believe you want to kill me, Mary.”

“That is very cruel, Charles, and most false, and most unjust. As for
making you ill, nothing could be so bad for you as this wretched place,
where nobody can get warm either day or night. If anything will cure
your throat for you at once it will be the sea air. And only think how
much more comfortable they can make you at Thompson Hall than anywhere
in this country. I have so set my heart upon it, Charles, that I will do
it. If we are not there to-morrow night Uncle John won’t consider us as
belonging to the family.”

“I don’t believe a word of it.”

“Jane told me so in her letter. I wouldn’t let you know before because I
thought it so unjust. But that has been the reason why I’ve been so
earnest about it all through.”

It was a thousand pities that so good a woman should have been driven by
the sad stress of circumstances to tell so many fibs. One after another
she was compelled to invent them, that there might be a way open to her
of escaping the horrors of a prolonged sojourn in that hotel. At length,
after much grumbling, he became silent, and she trusted that he was
sleeping. He had not as yet said that he would start at the required
hour in the morning, but she was perfectly determined in her own mind
that he should be made to do so. As he lay there motionless, and as she
wandered about the room pretending to pack her things, she more than
once almost resolved that she would tell him everything. Surely then he
would be ready to make any effort. But there came upon her an idea that
he might perhaps fail to see all the circumstances, and that, so
failing, he would insist on remaining that he might tender some apology
to the injured gentleman. An apology might have been very well had she
not left him there in his misery--but what apology would be possible
now? She would have to see him and speak to him, and everyone in the
hotel would know every detail of the story. Everyone in France would
know that it was she who had gone to the strange man’s bedside, and put
the mustard plaster on the strange man’s throat in the dead of night!
She could not tell the story even to her husband, lest even her husband
should betray her.

Her own sufferings at the present moment were not light. In her
perturbation of mind she had foolishly resolved that she would not
herself go to bed. The tragedy of the night had seemed to her too deep
for personal comfort. And then how would it be were she to sleep, and
have no one to call her? It was imperative that she should have all her
powers ready for thoroughly arousing him. It occurred to her that the
servant of the hotel would certainly run her too short of time. She had
to work for herself and for him too, and therefore she would not sleep.
But she was very cold, and she put on first a shawl over her
dressing-gown and then a cloak. She could not consume all the remaining
hours of the night in packing one bag and one portmanteau, so that at
last she sat down on the narrow red cotton velvet sofa, and, looking at
her watch, perceived that as yet it was not much past two o’clock. How
was she to get through those other three long, tedious, chilly hours?

Then there came a voice from the bed--“Ain’t you coming?”

“I hoped you were asleep, my dear.”

“I haven’t been asleep at all. You’d better come, if you don’t mean to
make yourself as ill as I am.”

“You are not so very bad, are you, darling?”

“I don’t know what you call bad. I never felt my throat so choked in my
life before!” Still as she listened she thought that she remembered his
throat to have been more choked. If the husband of her bosom could play
with her feelings and deceive her on such an occasion as this,--then,
then,--then she thought that she would rather not have any husband of
her bosom at all. But she did creep into bed, and lay down beside him
without saying another word.

Of course she slept, but her sleep was not the sleep of the blest. At
every striking of the clock in the quadrangle she would start up in
alarm, fearing that she had let the time go by. Though the night was so
short it was very long to her. But he slept like an infant. She could
hear from his breathing that he was not quite so well as she could wish
him to be, but still he was resting in beautiful tranquillity. Not once
did he move when she started up, as she did so frequently. Orders had
been given and repeated over and over again that they should be called
at five. The man in the office had almost been angry as he assured Mrs.
Brown for the fourth time that Monsieur and Madame would most assuredly
be wakened at the appointed time. But still she would trust to no one,
and was up and about the room before the clock had struck half-past

In her heart of hearts she was very tender towards her husband. Now, in
order that he might feel a gleam of warmth while he was dressing
himself, she collected together the fragments of half-burned wood, and
endeavoured to make a little fire. Then she took out from her bag a
small pot, and a patent lamp, and some chocolate, and prepared for him a
warm drink, so that he might have it instantly as he was awakened. She
would do anything for him in the way of ministering to his
comfort,--only he must go! Yes, he certainly must go!

And then she wondered how that strange man was bearing himself at the
present moment. She would fain have ministered to him too had it been
possible; but ah!--it was so impossible! Probably before this he would
have been aroused from his troubled slumbers. But then--how aroused? At
what time in the night would the burning heat upon his chest have
awakened him to a sense of torture which must have been so altogether
incomprehensible to him? Her strong imagination showed to her a clear
picture of the scene,--clear, though it must have been done in the dark.
How he must have tossed and hurled himself under the clothes; how those
strong knees must have worked themselves up and down before the potent
god of sleep would allow him to return to perfect consciousness; how his
fingers, restrained by no reason, would have trampled over his feverish
throat, scattering everywhere that unhappy poultice! Then when he should
have sat up wide awake, but still in the dark--with her mind’s eye she
saw it all--feeling that some fire as from the infernal regions had
fallen upon him, but whence he would know not, how fiercely wild would
be the working of his spirit! Ah, now she knew, now she felt, now she
acknowledged how bound she had been to awaken him at the moment,
whatever might have been the personal inconvenience to herself! In such
a position what would he do--or rather what had he done? She could
follow much of it in her own thoughts;--how he would scramble madly from
his bed, and, with one hand still on his throat, would snatch hurriedly
at the matches with the other. How the light would come, and how then he
would rush to the mirror. Ah, what a sight he would behold! She could
see it all to the last widespread daub.

But she could not see, she could not tell herself, what in such a
position a man would do;--at any rate, not what that man would do. Her
husband, she thought, would tell his wife, and then the two of them,
between them, would--put up with it. There are misfortunes which, if
they be published, are simply aggravated by ridicule. But she remembered
the features of the stranger as she had seen them at that instant in
which she had dropped his beard, and she thought that there was a
ferocity in them, a certain tenacity of self-importance, which would not
permit their owner to endure such treatment in silence. Would he not
storm and rage, and ring the bell, and call all Paris to witness his

But the storming and the raging had not reached her yet, and now it
wanted but a quarter to five. In three-quarters of an hour they would be
in that demi-omnibus which they had ordered for themselves, and in half
an hour after that they would be flying towards Thompson Hall. Then she
allowed herself to think of the coming comforts,--of those comforts so
sweet, if only they would come! That very day now present to her was the
24th December, and on that very evening she would be sitting in
Christmas joy among all her uncles and cousins, holding her new
brother-in-law affectionately by the hand. Oh, what a change from
Pandemonium to Paradise;--from that wretched room, from that miserable
house in which there was such ample cause for fear, to all the domestic
Christmas bliss of the home of the Thompsons! She resolved that she
would not, at any rate, be deterred by any light opposition on the part
of her husband. “It wants just a quarter to five,” she said, putting
her hand steadily upon his shoulder, “and I’ll get a cup of chocolate
for you, so that you may get up comfortably.”

“I’ve been thinking about it,” he said, rubbing his eyes with the back
of his hands. “It will be so much better to go over by the mail train
to-night. We should be in time for Christmas just the same.”

“That will not do at all,” she answered, energetically. “Come, Charles,
after all the trouble do not disappoint me.”

“It is such a horrid grind.”

“Think what I have gone through,--what I have done for you! In twelve
hours we shall be there, among them all. You won’t be so little like a
man as not to go on now.” He threw himself back upon the bed, and tried
to readjust the clothes round his neck. “No, Charles, no,” she
continued; “not if I know it. Take your chocolate and get up. There is
not a moment to be lost.” With that she laid her hand upon his shoulder,
and made him clearly understand that he would not be allowed to take
further rest in that bed.

Grumbling, sulky, coughing continually, and declaring that life under
such circumstances was not worth having, he did at last get up and dress
himself. When once she knew that he was obeying her she became again
tender to him, and certainly took much more than her own share of the
trouble of the proceedings. Long before the time was up she was ready,
and the porter had been summoned to take the luggage downstairs. When
the man came she was rejoiced to see that it was not he whom she had
met among the passages during her nocturnal rambles. He shouldered the
box, and told them that they would find coffee and bread and butter in
the small salle-à-manger below.

“I told you that it would be so, when you would boil that stuff,” said
the ungrateful man, who had nevertheless swallowed the hot chocolate
when it was given to him.

They followed their luggage down into the hall; but as she went, at
every step, the lady looked around her. She dreaded the sight of that
porter of the night; she feared lest some potential authority of the
hotel should come to her and ask her some horrid question; but of all
her fears her greatest fear was that there should arise before her an
apparition of that face which she had seen recumbent on its pillow.

As they passed the door of the great salon, Mr. Brown looked in. “Why,
there it is still!” said he.

“What?” said she, trembling in every limb.

“The mustard-pot!”

“They have put it in there since,” she exclaimed energetically, in her
despair. “But never mind. The omnibus is here. Come away.” And she
absolutely took him by the arm.

But at that moment a door behind them opened, and Mrs. Brown heard
herself called by her name. And there was the night-porter,--with a
handkerchief in his hand. But the further doings of that morning must be
told in a further chapter.



It had been visible to Mrs. Brown from the first moment of her arrival
on the ground floor that “something was the matter,” if we may be
allowed to use such a phrase; and she felt all but convinced that this
something had reference to her. She fancied that the people of the hotel
were looking at her as she swallowed, or tried to swallow, her coffee.
When her husband was paying the bill there was something disagreeable in
the eye of the man who was taking the money. Her sufferings were very
great, and no one sympathised with her. Her husband was quite at his
ease, except that he was complaining of the cold. When she was anxious
to get him out into the carriage, he still stood there leisurely,
arranging shawl after shawl around his throat. “You can do that quite as
well in an omnibus,” she had just said to him very crossly, when there
appeared upon the scene through a side door that very night-porter whom
she dreaded, with a soiled pocket-handkerchief in his hand.

Even before the sound of her own name met her ears Mrs. Brown knew it
all. She understood the full horror of her position from that man’s
hostile face, and from the little article which he held in his hand. If
during the watches of the night she had had money in her pocket, if she
had made a friend of this greedy fellow by well-timed liberality, all
might have been so different! But she reflected that she had allowed him
to go unfee’d after all his trouble, and she knew that he was her enemy.
It was the handkerchief that she feared. She thought that she might have
brazened out anything but that. No one had seen her enter or leave that
strange man’s room. No one had seen her dip her hands in that jar. She
had, no doubt, been found wandering about the house while the slumberer
had been made to suffer so strangely, and there might have been
suspicion, and perhaps accusation. But she would have been ready with
frequent protestations to deny all charges made against her, and, though
no one might have believed her, no one could have convicted her. Here,
however, was evidence against which she would be unable to stand for a
moment. At the first glance she acknowledged the potency of that damning
morsel of linen.

During all the horrors of the night she had never given a thought to the
handkerchief, and yet she ought to have known that the evidence it would
bring against her was palpable and certain. Her name, “M. Brown,” was
plainly written on the corner. What a fool she had been not to have
thought of this! Had she but remembered the plain marking which she, as
a careful, well-conducted British matron, had put upon all her clothes,
she would at any hazard have recovered the article. Oh that she had
waked the man, or bribed the porter, or even told her husband! But now
she was, as it were, friendless, without support, without a word that
she could say in her own defence, convicted of having committed this
assault upon a strange man in his own bedroom, and then of having left
him! The thing must be explained by the truth; but how to explain such
truth, how to tell such story in a way to satisfy injured folk, and she
with only barely time sufficient to catch the train! Then it occurred to
her that they could have no legal right to stop her because the
pocket-handkerchief had been found in a strange gentleman’s bedroom.
“Yes, it is mine,” she said, turning to her husband, as the porter, with
a loud voice, asked if she were not Madame Brown. “Take it, Charles, and
come on.” Mr. Brown naturally stood still in astonishment. He did put
out his hand, but the porter would not allow the evidence to pass so
readily out of his custody.

“What does it all mean?” asked Mr. Brown.

“A gentleman has been--eh--eh--. Something has been done to a gentleman
in his bedroom,” said the clerk.

“Something done to a gentleman!” repeated Mr. Brown.

“Something very bad indeed,” said the porter. “Look here,” and he showed
the condition of the handkerchief.

“Charles, we shall lose the train,” said the affrighted wife.

“What the mischief does it all mean?” demanded the husband.

“Did Madame go into the gentleman’s room?” asked the clerk. Then there
was an awful silence, and all eyes were fixed upon the lady.

“What does it all mean?” demanded the husband. “Did you go into
anybody’s room?”

“I did,” said Mrs. Brown with much dignity, looking round upon her
enemies as a stag at bay will look upon the hounds which are attacking
him. “Give me the handkerchief.” But the night-porter quickly put it
behind his back. “Charles, we cannot allow ourselves to be delayed. You
shall write a letter to the keeper of the hotel, explaining it all.”
Then she essayed to swim out, through the front door, into the courtyard
in which the vehicle was waiting for them. But three or four men and
women interposed themselves, and even her husband did not seem quite
ready to continue his journey. “To-night is Christmas Eve,” said Mrs.
Brown, “and we shall not be at Thompson Hall! Think of my sister!”

“Why did you go into the man’s bedroom, my dear?” whispered Mr. Brown in

But the porter heard the whisper, and understood the language;--the
porter who had not been “tipped.” “Ye’es;--vy?” asked the porter.

“It was a mistake, Charles; there is not a moment to lose. I can explain
it all to you in the carriage.” Then the clerk suggested that Madame had
better postpone her journey a little. The gentleman upstairs had
certainly been very badly treated, and had demanded to know why so great
an outrage had been perpetrated. The clerk said that he did not wish to
send for the police--here Mrs. Brown gasped terribly and threw herself
on her husband’s shoulder,--but he did not think he could allow the
party to go till the gentleman upstairs had received some satisfaction.
It had now become clearly impossible that the journey could be made by
the early train. Even Mrs. Brown gave it up herself, and demanded of her
husband that she should be taken back to her own bedroom.

“But what is to be said to the gentleman?” asked the porter.

Of course it was impossible that Mrs. Brown should be made to tell her
story there in the presence of them all. The clerk, when he found he had
succeeded in preventing her from leaving the house, was satisfied with a
promise from Mr. Brown that he would inquire from his wife what were
these mysterious circumstances, and would then come down to the office
and give some explanation. If it were necessary, he would see the
strange gentleman,--whom he now ascertained to be a certain Mr. Jones
returning from the east of Europe. He learned also that this Mr. Jones
had been most anxious to travel by that very morning train which he and
his wife had intended to use,--that Mr. Jones had been most particular
in giving his orders accordingly, but that at the last moment he had
declared himself to be unable even to dress himself, because of the
injury which had been done him during the night. When Mr. Brown heard
this from the clerk just before he was allowed to take his wife
upstairs, while she was sitting on a sofa in a corner with her face
hidden, a look of awful gloom came over his own countenance. What could
it be that his wife had done to the man of so terrible a nature? “You
had better come up with me,” he said to her with marital severity, and
the poor cowed woman went with him tamely as might have done some
patient Grizel. Not a word was spoken till they were in the room and the
door was locked. “Now,” said he, “what does it all mean?”

It was not till nearly two hours had passed that Mr. Brown came down the
stairs very slowly,--turning it all over in his mind. He had now
gradually heard the absolute and exact truth, and had very gradually
learned to believe it. It was first necessary that he should understand
that his wife had told him many fibs during the night; but as she
constantly alleged to him when he complained of her conduct in this
respect, they had all been told on his behalf. Had she not struggled to
get the mustard for his comfort, and when she had secured the prize had
she not hurried to put it on,--as she had fondly thought,--his throat?
And though she had fibbed to him afterwards, had she not done so in
order that he might not be troubled? “You are not angry with me because
I was in that man’s room?” she asked, looking full into his eyes, but
not quite without a sob. He paused a moment and then declared, with
something of a true husband’s confidence in his tone, that he was not in
the least angry with her on that account. Then she kissed him, and bade
him remember that after all no one could really injure them. “What harm
has been done, Charles? The gentleman won’t die because he has had a
mustard plaster on his throat. The worst is about Uncle John and dear
Jane. They do think so much of Christmas Eve at Thompson Hall!”

Mr. Brown, when he again found himself in the clerk’s office, requested
that his card might be taken up to Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones had sent down
his own card, which was handed to Mr. Brown: “Mr. Barnaby Jones.” “And
how was it all, sir?” asked the clerk, in a whisper--a whisper which had
at the same time something of authoritative demand and something also of
submissive respect. The clerk of course was anxious to know the mystery.
It is hardly too much to say that everyone in that vast hotel was by
this time anxious to have the mystery unravelled. But Mr. Brown would
tell nothing to anyone. “It is merely a matter to be explained between
me and Mr. Jones,” he said. The card was taken upstairs, and after
awhile he was ushered into Mr. Jones’ room. It was, of course, that very
353 with which the reader is already acquainted. There was a fire
burning, and the remains of Mr. Jones’ breakfast were on the table. He
was sitting in his dressing-gown and slippers, with his shirt open in
the front, and a silk handkerchief very loosely covering his throat. Mr.
Brown, as he entered the room, of course looked with considerable
anxiety at the gentleman of whose condition he had heard so sad an
account; but he could only observe some considerable stiffness of
movement and demeanour as Mr. Jones turned his head round to greet him.

“This has been a very disagreeable accident, Mr. Jones,” said the
husband of the lady.

“Accident! I don’t know how it could have been an accident. It has been
a most--most--most--a most monstrous,--er,--er,--I must say,
interference with a gentleman’s privacy, and personal comfort.”

“Quite so, Mr. Jones, but,--on the part of the lady, who is my wife--”

“So I understand. I myself am about to become a married man, and I can
understand what your feelings must be. I wish to say as little as
possible to harrow them.” Here Mr. Brown bowed. “But,--there’s the fact.
She did do it.”

“She thought it was--me!”


“I give you my word as a gentleman, Mr. Jones. When she was putting that
mess upon you she thought it was me! She did, indeed.”

Mr. Jones looked at his new acquaintance and shook his head. He did not
think it possible that any woman would make such a mistake as that.

“I had a very bad sore throat,” continued Mr. Brown, “and indeed you may
perceive it still,”--in saying this, he perhaps aggravated a little the
sign of his distemper, “and I asked Mrs. Brown to go down and get
one,--just what she put on you.”

“I wish you’d had it,” said Mr. Jones, putting his hand up to his neck.

“I wish I had,--for your sake as well as mine,--and for hers, poor
woman. I don’t know when she will get over the shock.”

“I don’t know when I shall. And it has stopped me on my journey. I was
to have been to-night, this very night, this Christmas Eve, with the
young lady I am engaged to marry. Of course I couldn’t travel. The
extent of the injury done nobody can imagine at present.”

“It has been just as bad to me, sir. We were to have been with our
family this Christmas Eve. There were particular reasons,--most
particular. We were only hindered from going by hearing of your

“Why did she come into my room at all? I can’t understand that. A lady
always knows her own room at an hotel.”

“353--that’s yours; 333--that’s ours. Don’t you see how easy it was? She
had lost her way, and she was a little afraid lest the thing should fall

“I wish it had, with all my heart.”

“That’s how it was. Now I’m sure, Mr. Jones, you’ll take a lady’s
apology. It was a most unfortunate mistake,--most unfortunate; but what
more can be said?”

Mr. Jones gave himself up to reflection for a few moments before he
replied to this. He supposed that he was bound to believe the story as
far as it went. At any rate, he did not know how he could say that he
did not believe it. It seemed to him to be almost
incredible,--especially incredible in regard to that personal mistake,
for, except that they both had long beards and brown beards, Mr. Jones
thought that there was no point of resemblance between himself and Mr.
Brown. But still, even that, he felt, must be accepted. But then why had
he been left, deserted, to undergo all those torments? “She found out
her mistake at last, I suppose?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Why didn’t she wake a fellow and take it off again?”


“She can’t have cared very much for a man’s comfort when she went away
and left him like that.”

“Ah! there was the difficulty, Mr. Jones.”

“Difficulty! Who was it that had done it? To come to me, in my bedroom,
in the middle of the night, and put that thing on me, and then leave it
there and say nothing about it! It seems to me deuced like a practical

“No, Mr. Jones!”

“That’s the way I look at it,” said Mr. Jones, plucking up his courage.

“There isn’t a woman in all England, or in all France, less likely to do
such a thing than my wife. She’s as steady as a rock, Mr. Jones, and
would no more go into another gentleman’s bedroom in joke than---- Oh
dear no! You’re going to be a married man yourself.”

“Unless all this makes a difference,” said Mr. Jones, almost in tears.
“I had sworn that I would be with her this Christmas Eve.”

“Oh, Mr. Jones, I cannot believe that will interfere with your
happiness. How could you think that your wife, as is to be, would do
such a thing as that in joke?”

“She wouldn’t do it at all;--joke or anyway.”

“How can you tell what accident might happen to anyone?”

“She’d have wakened the man then afterwards. I’m sure she would. She
would never have left him to suffer in that way. Her heart is too soft.
Why didn’t she send you to wake me, and explain it all? That’s what my
Jane would have done; and I should have gone and wakened him. But the
whole thing is impossible,” he said, shaking his head as he remembered
that he and his Jane were not in a condition as yet to undergo any such
mutual trouble. At last Mr. Jones was brought to acknowledge that
nothing more could be done. The lady had sent her apology, and told her
story, and he must bear the trouble and inconvenience to which she had
subjected him. He still, however, had his own opinion about her conduct
generally, and could not be brought to give any sign of amity. He simply
bowed when Mr. Brown was hoping to induce him to shake hands, and sent
no word of pardon to the great offender.

The matter, however, was so far concluded that there was no further
question of police interference, nor any doubt but that the lady with
her husband was to be allowed to leave Paris by the night train. The
nature of the accident probably became known to all. Mr. Brown was
interrogated by many, and though he professed to declare that he would
answer no question, nevertheless he found it better to tell the clerk
something of the truth than to allow the matter to be shrouded in
mystery. It is to be feared that Mr. Jones, who did not once show
himself through the day, but who employed the hours in endeavouring to
assuage the injury done him, still lived in the convicsion that the lady
had played a practical joke on him. But the subject of such a joke never
talks about it, and Mr. Jones could not be induced to speak even by the
friendly adherence of the night-porter.

Mrs. Brown also clung to the seclusion of her own bedroom, never once
stirring from it till the time came in which she was to be taken down to
the omnibus. Upstairs she ate her meals, and upstairs she passed her
time in packing and unpacking, and in requesting that telegrams might be
sent repeatedly to Thompson Hall. In the course of the day two such
telegrams were sent, in the latter of which the Thompson family were
assured that the Browns would arrive, probably in time for breakfast on
Christmas Day, certainly in time for church. She asked more than once
tenderly after Mr. Jones’ welfare, but could obtain no information. “He
was very cross, and that’s all I know about it,” said Mr. Brown. Then
she made a remark as to the gentleman’s Christian name, which appeared
on the card as “Barnaby.” “My sister’s husband’s name will be Burnaby,”
she said. “And this man’s Christian name is Barnaby; that’s all the
difference,” said her husband, with ill-timed jocularity.

We all know how people under a cloud are apt to fail in asserting their
personal dignity. On the former day a separate vehicle had been ordered
by Mr. Brown to take himself and his wife to the station, but now, after
his misfortunes, he contented himself with such provision as the people
at the hotel might make for him. At the appointed hour he brought his
wife down, thickly veiled. There were many strangers as she passed
through the hall, ready to look at the lady who had done that wonderful
thing in the dead of night, but none could see a feature of her face as
she stepped across the hall, and was hurried into the omnibus. And there
were many eyes also on Mr. Jones, who followed very quickly, for he
also, in spite of his sufferings, was leaving Paris on the evening in
order that he might be with his English friends on Christmas Day. He, as
he went through the crowd, assumed an air of great dignity, to which,
perhaps, something was added by his endeavours, as he walked, to save
his poor throat from irritation. He, too, got into the same omnibus,
stumbling over the feet of his enemy in the dark. At the station they
got their tickets, one close after the other, and then were brought into
each other’s presence in the waiting-room. I think it must be
acknowledged that here Mr. Jones was conscious, not only of her
presence, but of her consciousness of his presence, and that he assumed
an attitude, as though he should have said, “Now do you think it
possible for me to believe that you mistook me for your husband?” She
was perfectly quiet, but sat through that quarter of an hour with her
face continually veiled. Mr. Brown made some little overture of
conversation to Mr. Jones, but Mr. Jones, though he did mutter some
reply, showed plainly enough that he had no desire for further
intercourse. Then came the accustomed stampede, the awful rush, the
internecine struggle in which seats had to be found. Seats, I fancy, are
regularly found, even by the most tardy, but it always appears that
every British father and every British husband is actuated at these
stormy moments by a conviction that unless he proves himself a very
Hercules he and his daughters and his wife will be left desolate in
Paris. Mr. Brown was quite Herculean, carrying two bags and a hat-box in
his own hands, besides the cloaks, the coats, the rugs, the sticks, and
the umbrellas. But when he had got himself and his wife well seated,
with their faces to the engine, with a corner seat for her,--there was
Mr. Jones immediately opposite to her. Mr. Jones, as soon as he
perceived the inconvenience of his position, made a scramble for another
place, but he was too late. In that contiguity the journey as far as
Calais had to be made. She, poor woman, never once took up her veil.
There he sat, without closing an eye, stiff as a ramrod, sometimes
showing by little uneasy gestures that the trouble at his neck was still
there, but never speaking a word, and hardly moving a limb.

Crossing from Calais to Dover the lady was, of course, separated from
her victim. The passage was very bad, and she more than once reminded
her husband how well it would have been with them now had they pursued
their journey as she had intended,--as though they had been detained in
Paris by his fault! Mr. Jones, as he laid himself down on his back, gave
himself up to wondering whether any man before him had ever been made
subject to such absolute injustice. Now and again he put his hand up to
his own beard, and began to doubt whether it could have been moved, as
it must have been moved, without waking him. What if chloroform had been
used? Many such suspicions crossed his mind during the misery of that

They were again together in the same railway carriage from Dover to
London. They had now got used to the close neighbourhood, and knew how
to endure each the presence of the other. But as yet Mr. Jones had never
seen the lady’s face. He longed to know what were the features of the
woman who had been so blind--if indeed that story were true. Or if it
were not true, of what like was the woman who would dare in the middle
of the night to play such a trick as that? But still she kept her veil
close over her face.

From Cannon Street the Browns took their departure in a cab for the
Liverpool Street Station, whence they would be conveyed by the Eastern
Counties Railway to Stratford. Now at any rate their troubles were over.
They would be in ample time, not only for Christmas Day church, but for
Christmas Day breakfast. “It will be just the same as getting in there
last night,” said Mr. Brown, as he walked across the platform to place
his wife in the carriage for Stratford. She entered it the first, and as
she did so there she saw Mr. Jones seated in the corner! Hitherto she
had borne his presence well, but now she could not restrain herself
from a little start and a little scream. He bowed his head very
slightly, as though acknowledging the compliment, and then down she
dropped her veil. When they arrived at Stratford, the journey being over
in a quarter of an hour, Jones was out of the carriage even before the

“There is Uncle John’s carriage,” said Mrs. Brown, thinking that now, at
any rate, she would be able to free herself from the presence of this
terrible stranger. No doubt he was a handsome man to look at, but on no
face so sternly hostile had she ever before fixed her eyes. She did not,
perhaps, reflect that the owner of no other face had ever been so deeply
injured by herself.



“Please, sir, we were to ask for Mr. Jones,” said the servant, putting
his head into the carriage after both Mr. and Mrs. Brown had seated

“Mr. Jones!” exclaimed the husband.

“Why ask for Mr. Jones?” demanded the wife. The servant was about to
tender some explanation when Mr. Jones stepped up and said that he was
Mr. Jones. “We are going to Thompson Hall,” said the lady with great

“So am I,” said Mr. Jones, with much dignity. It was, however, arranged
that he should sit with the coachman, as there was a rumble behind for
the other servant. The luggage was put into a cart, and away all went
for Thompson Hall.

“What do you think about it, Mary?” whispered Mr. Brown, after a pause.
He was evidently awe-struck by the horror of the occasion.

“I cannot make it out at all. What do you think?”

“I don’t know what to think. Jones going to Thompson Hall?”

“He’s a very good-looking young man,” said Mrs. Brown.

“Well;--that’s as people think. A stiff, stuck-up fellow, I should say.
Up to this moment he has never forgiven you for what you did to him.”

“Would you have forgiven his wife, Charles, if she’d done it to you?”

“He hasn’t got a wife,--yet.”

“How do you know?”

“He is coming home now to be married,” said Mr. Brown. “He expects to
meet the young lady this very Christmas Day. He told me so. That was one
of the reasons why he was so angry at being stopped by what you did last

“I suppose he knows Uncle John, or he wouldn’t be going to the Hall,”
said Mrs. Brown.

“I can’t make it out,” said Mr. Brown, shaking his head.

“He looks quite like a gentleman,” said Mrs. Brown, “though he has been
so stiff. Jones! Barnaby Jones! You’re sure it was Barnaby?”

“That was the name on the card.”

“Not Burnaby?” asked Mrs. Brown.

“It was Barnaby Jones on the card,--just the same as ‘Barnaby Rudge,’
and as for looking like a gentleman, I’m by no means quite so sure. A
gentleman takes an apology when it’s offered.”

“Perhaps, my dear, that depends on the condition of his throat. If you
had had a mustard plaster on all night, you might not have liked it. But
here we are at Thompson Hall at last.”

Thompson Hall was an old brick mansion, standing within a huge iron
gate, with a gravel sweep before it. It had stood there before Stratford
was a town, or even a suburb, and had then been known by the name of Bow
Place. But it had been in the hands of the present family for the last
thirty years, and was now known far and wide as Thompson Hall,--a
comfortable, roomy, old-fashioned place, perhaps a little dark and dull
to look at, but much more substantially built than most of our modern
villas. Mrs. Brown jumped with alacrity from the carriage, and with a
quick step entered the home of her forefathers. Her husband followed her
more leisurely, but he, too, felt that he was at home at Thompson Hall.
Then Mr. Jones walked in also;--but he looked as though he were not at
all at home. It was still very early, and no one of the family was as
yet down. In these circumstances it was almost necessary that something
should be said to Mr. Jones.

“Do you know Mr. Thompson?” asked Mr. Brown.

“I never had the pleasure of seeing him,--as yet,” answered Mr. Jones,
very stiffly.

“Oh,--I didn’t know;--because you said you were coming here.”

“And I have come here. Are you friends of Mr. Thompson?”

“Oh, dear, yes,” said Mrs. Brown. “I was a Thompson myself before I

“Oh,--indeed!” said Mr. Jones. “How very odd,--very odd, indeed.”

During this time the luggage was being brought into the house, and two
old family servants were offering them assistance. Would the new comers
like to go up to their bedrooms? Then the housekeeper, Mrs. Green,
intimated with a wink that Miss Jane would, she was sure, be down quite
immediately. The present moment, however, was still very unpleasant. The
lady probably had made her guess as to the mystery; but the two
gentlemen were still altogether in the dark. Mrs. Brown had no doubt
declared her parentage, but Mr. Jones, with such a multitude of strange
facts crowding on his mind, had been slow to understand her. Being
somewhat suspicious by nature, he was beginning to think whether
possibly the mustard had been put by this lady on his throat with some
reference to his connexion with Thompson Hall. Could it be that she, for
some reason of her own, had wished to prevent his coming, and had
contrived this untoward stratagem out of her brain? or had she wished to
make him ridiculous to the Thompson family,--to whom, as a family, he
was at present unknown? It was becoming more and more improbable to him
that the whole thing should have been an accident. When, after the first
horrid torments of that morning in which he had in his agony invoked the
assistance of the night-porter, he had begun to reflect on his
situation, he had determined that it would be better that nothing
further should be said about it. What would life be worth to him if he
were to be known wherever he went as the man who had been
mustard-plastered in the middle of the night by a strange lady? The
worst of a practical joke is that the remembrance of the absurd
condition sticks so long to the sufferer! At the hotel that
night-porter, who had possessed himself of the handkerchief and had read
the name, and had connected that name with the occupant of 333 whom he
had found wandering about the house with some strange purpose, had not
permitted the thing to sleep. The porter had pressed the matter home
against the Browns, and had produced the interview which has been
recorded. But during the whole of that day Mr. Jones had been resolving
that he would never again either think of the Browns or speak of them. A
great injury had been done to him,--a most outrageous injustice;--but it
was a thing which had to be endured. A horrid woman had come across him
like a nightmare. All he could do was to endeavour to forget the
terrible visitation. Such had been his resolve,--in making which he had
passed that long day in Paris. And now the Browns had stuck to him from
the moment of his leaving his room! he had been forced to travel with
them, but had travelled with them as a stranger. He had tried to comfort
himself with the reflection that at every fresh stage he would shake
them off. In one railway after another the vicinity had been bad,--but
still they were strangers. Now he found himself in the same house with
them,--where of course the story would be told. Had not the thing been
done on purpose that the story might be told there at Thompson Hall?

Mrs. Brown had acceded to the proposition of the housekeeper, and was
about to be taken to her room when there was heard a sound of footsteps
along the passage above and on the stairs, and a young lady came
bounding on to the scene. “You have all of you come a quarter of an hour
earlier than we thought possible,” said the young lady. “I did so mean
to be up to receive you!” With that she passed her sister on the
stairs,--for the young lady was Miss Jane Thompson, sister to our Mrs.
Brown,--and hurried down into the hall. Here Mr. Brown, who had ever
been on affectionate terms with his sister-in-law, put himself forward
to receive her embraces; but she, apparently not noticing him in her
ardour, rushed on and threw herself on to the breast of the other
gentleman. “This is my Charles,” she said. “Oh, Charles, I thought you
never would be here.”

Mr. Charles Burnaby Jones, for such was his name since he had inherited
the Jones property in Pembrokeshire, received into his arms the ardent
girl of his heart with all that love and devotion to which she was
entitled, but could not do so without some external shrinking from her
embrace. “Oh, Charles, what is it?” she said.

“Nothing, dearest--only--only--.” Then he looked piteously up into Mrs.
Brown’s face, as though imploring her not to tell the story.

“Perhaps, Jane, you had better introduce us,” said Mrs. Brown.

“Introduce you! I thought you had been travelling together, and staying
at the same hotel--and all that.”

“So we have; but people may be in the same hotel without knowing each
other. And we have travelled all the way home with Mr. Jones without in
the least knowing who he was.”

“How very odd! Do you mean you have never spoken?”

“Not a word,” said Mrs. Brown.

“I do so hope you’ll love each other,” said Jane.

“It shan’t be my fault if we don’t,” said Mrs. Brown.

“I’m sure it shan’t be mine,” said Mr. Brown, tendering his hand to the
other gentleman. The various feelings of the moment were too much for
Mr. Jones, and he could not respond quite as he should have done. But as
he was taken upstairs to his room he determined that he would make the
best of it.

The owner of the house was old Uncle John. He was a bachelor, and with
him lived various members of the family. There was the great Thompson of
them all, Cousin Robert, who was now member of Parliament for the Essex
Flats, and young John, as a certain enterprising Thompson of the age of
forty was usually called, and then there was old Aunt Bess, and among
other young branches there was Miss Jane Thompson, who was now engaged
to marry Mr. Charles Burnaby Jones. As it happened, no other member of
the family had as yet seen Mr. Burnaby Jones, and he, being by nature of
a retiring disposition, felt himself to be ill at ease when he came into
the breakfast parlour among all the Thompsons. He was known to be a
gentleman of good family and ample means, and all the Thompsons had
approved of the match, but during the first Christmas breakfast he did
not seem to accept his condition jovially. His own Jane sat beside him,
but then on the other side sat Mrs. Brown. She assumed an immediate
intimacy,--as women know how to do on such occasions,--being determined
from the very first to regard her sister’s husband as a brother; but he
still feared her. She was still to him the woman who had come to him in
the dead of night with that horrid mixture,--and had then left him.

“It was so odd that both of you should have been detained on the very
same day,” said Jane.

“Yes, it was odd,” said Mrs. Brown, with a smile looking round upon her

“It was abominably bad weather you know,” said Brown.

“But you were both so determined to come,” said the old gentleman. “When
we got the two telegrams at the same moment, we were sure that there
had been some agreement between you.”

“Not exactly an agreement,” said Mrs. Brown; whereupon Mr. Jones looked
as grim as death.

“I’m sure there is something more than we understand yet,” said the
Member of Parliament.

Then they all went to church, as a united family ought to do on
Christmas Day, and came home to a fine old English early dinner at three
o’clock,--a sirloin of beef a foot-and-a-half broad, a turkey as big as
an ostrich, a plum-pudding bigger than the turkey, and two or three
dozen mince-pies. “That’s a very large bit of beef,” said Mr. Jones, who
had not lived much in England latterly. “It won’t look so large,” said
the old gentleman, “when all our friends downstairs have had their say
to it.” “A plum-pudding on Christmas Day can’t be too big,” he said
again, “if the cook will but take time enough over it. I never knew a
bit go to waste yet.”

By this time there had been some explanation as to past events between
the two sisters. Mrs. Brown had indeed told Jane all about it, how ill
her husband had been, how she had been forced to go down and look for
the mustard, and then what she had done with the mustard. “I don’t think
they are a bit alike you know, Mary, if you mean that,” said Jane.

“Well, no; perhaps not quite alike. I only saw his beard, you know. No
doubt it was stupid, but I did it.”

“Why didn’t you take it off again?” asked the sister.

“Oh, Jane, if you’d only think of it! Could you?” Then of course all
that occurred was explained, how they had been stopped on their journey,
how Brown had made the best apology in his power, and how Jones had
travelled with them and had never spoken a word. The gentleman had only
taken his new name a week since, but of course had had his new card
printed immediately. “I’m sure I should have thought of it if they
hadn’t made a mistake with the first name. Charles said it was like
Barnaby Rudge.”

“Not at all like Barnaby Rudge,” said Jane; “Charles Burnaby Jones is a
very good name.”

“Very good indeed,--and I’m sure that after a little bit he won’t be at
all the worse for the accident.”

Before dinner the secret had been told no further, but still there had
crept about among the Thompsons, and, indeed, downstairs also, among the
retainers, a feeling that there was a secret. The old housekeeper was
sure that Miss Mary, as she still called Mrs. Brown, had something to
tell if she could only be induced to tell it, and that this something
had reference to Mr. Jones’ personal comfort. The head of the family,
who was a sharp old gentleman, felt this also, and the member of
Parliament, who had an idea that he specially should never be kept in
the dark, was almost angry. Mr. Jones, suffering from some kindred
feeling throughout the dinner, remained silent and unhappy. When two or
three toasts had been drunk,--the Queen’s health, the old gentleman’s
health, the young couple’s health, Brown’s health, and the general
health of all the Thompsons, then tongues were loosened and a question
was asked, “I know that there has been something doing in Paris between
these young people that we haven’t heard as yet,” said the uncle. Then
Mrs. Brown laughed, and Jane, laughing too, gave Mr. Jones to understand
that she at any rate knew all about it.

“If there is a mystery I hope it will be told at once,” said the member
of Parliament, angrily.

“Come, Brown, what is it?” asked another male cousin.

“Well, there was an accident. I’d rather Jones should tell,” said he.

Jones’ brow became blacker than thunder, but he did not say a word. “You
mustn’t be angry with Mary,” Jane whispered into her lover’s ear.

“Come, Mary, you never were slow at talking,” said the uncle.

“I do hate this kind of thing,” said the member of Parliament.

“I will tell it all,” said Mrs. Brown, very nearly in tears, or else
pretending to be very nearly in tears. “I know I was very wrong, and I
do beg his pardon, and if he won’t say that he forgives me I never shall
be happy again.” Then she clasped her hands, and turning round, looked
him piteously in the face.

“Oh yes; I do forgive you,” said Mr. Jones.

“My brother,” said she, throwing her arms round him and kissing him. He
recoiled from the embrace, but I think that he attempted to return the
kiss. “And now I will tell the whole story,” said Mrs. Brown. And she
told it, acknowledging her fault with true contrition, and swearing
that she would atone for it by life-long sisterly devotion.

“And you mustard-plastered the wrong man!” said the old gentleman,
almost rolling off his chair with delight.

“I did,” said Mrs. Brown, sobbing, “and I think that no woman ever
suffered as I suffered.”

“And Jones wouldn’t let you leave the hotel?”

“It was the handkerchief stopped us,” said Brown.

“If it had turned out to be anybody else,” said the member of
Parliament, “the results might have been most serious,--not to say

“That’s nonsense, Robert,” said Mrs. Brown, who was disposed to resent
the use of so severe a word, even from the legislator cousin.

“In a strange gentleman’s bedroom!” he continued. “It only shows that
what I have always said is quite true. You should never go to bed in a
strange house without locking your door.”

Nevertheless it was a very jovial meeting, and before the evening was
over Mr. Jones was happy, and had been brought to acknowledge that the
mustard-plaster would probably not do him any permanent injury.




Three shillings a day to cover all expenses of life, food, raiment,
shelter, a room in which to eat and sleep, and fire and light,--and
recreation if recreation there might be,--is not much; but when Lucy
Graham, the heroine of this tale, found herself alone in the world, she
was glad to think that she was able to earn so much by her work, and
that thus she possessed the means of independence if she chose to be
independent. Her story up to the date with which we are dealing shall be
very shortly told. She had lived for many years with a married brother,
who was a bookseller in Holborn,--in a small way of business, and
burdened with a large family, but still living in decent comfort. In
order, however, that she might earn her own bread she had gone into the
service of the Crown as a “Telegraph Girl” in the Telegraph Office.[A]
And there she had remained till the present time, and there she was
earning eighteen shillings a week by eight hours’ continual work daily.
Her life had been full of occupation, as in her spare hours she had been
her brother’s assistant in his shop, and had made herself familiar with
the details of his trade. But the brother had suddenly died, and it had
been quickly decided that the widow and the children should take
themselves off to some provincial refuge.

Then it was that Lucy Graham had to think of her independence and her
eighteen shillings a week on the one side, and of her desolation and
feminine necessities on the other. To run backwards and forwards from
High Holborn to St. Martin’s-le-Grand had been very well as long as she
could comfort herself with the companionship of her sister-in-law and
defend herself with her brother’s arm;--but how would it be with her if
she were called upon to live all alone in London? She was driven to
consider what else she could do to earn her bread. She might become a
nursemaid, or perhaps a nursery governess. Though she had been well and
in some respects carefully educated, she knew that she could not soar
above that. Of music she did not know a note. She could draw a little
and understood enough French,--not to read it, but to teach herself to
read it. With English literature she was better acquainted than is usual
with young women of her age and class; and, as her only personal
treasures, she had managed to save a few books which had become hers
through her brother’s kindness. To be a servant was distasteful to her,
not through any idea that service was disreputable, but from a dislike
to be subject at all hours to the will of others. To work and work hard
she was quite willing, so that there might be some hours of her life in
which she might not be called upon to obey.

When, therefore, it was suggested to her that she had better abandon the
Telegraph Office and seek the security of some household, her spirit
rebelled against the counsel. Why should she not be independent, and
respectable, and safe? But then the solitude! Solitude would certainly
be hard, but absolute solitude might not perhaps be necessary. She was
fond too of the idea of being a government servant, with a sure and
fixed salary,--bound of course to her work at certain hours, but so
bound only for certain hours. During a third of the day she was, as she
proudly told herself, a servant of the Crown. During the other
two-thirds she was lord,--or lady,--of herself.

But there was a quaintness, a mystery, even an awe, about her
independence which almost terrified her. During her labours she had
eight hundred female companions, all congregated together in one vast
room, but as soon as she left the Post Office she was to be all alone!
For a few months after her brother’s death she continued to live with
her sister-in-law, during which time this great question was being
discussed. But then the sister-in-law and the children disappeared, and
it was incumbent on Lucy to fix herself somewhere. She must begin life
after what seemed to her to be a most unfeminine fashion,--“just as
though she were a young man,”--for it was thus that she described to
herself her own position over and over again.

At this time Lucy Graham was twenty-six years old. She had hitherto
regarded herself as being stronger and more steadfast than are women
generally of that age. She had taught herself to despise feminine
weaknesses, and had learned to be almost her brother’s equal in managing
the affairs of his shop in his absence. She had declared to herself,
looking forward then to some future necessity which had become present
to her with terrible quickness, that she would not be feckless,
helpless, and insufficient for herself as are so many females. She had
girded herself up for a work-a-day life,--looking forward to a time when
she might leave the telegraphs and become a partner with her brother. A
sudden disruption had broken up all that.

She was twenty-six, well made, cheery, healthy, and to some eyes
singularly good-looking, though no one probably would have called her
either pretty or handsome. In the first place her complexion was--brown.
It was impossible to deny that her whole face was brown, as also was her
hair, and generally her dress. There was a pervading brownness about her
which left upon those who met her a lasting connection between Lucy
Graham and that serviceable, long-enduring colour. But there was nobody
so convinced that she was brown from head to foot as was she herself. A
good lasting colour she would call it,--one that did not require to be
washed every half-hour in order that it might be decent, but could bear
real washing when it was wanted; for it was a point of her inner creed,
of her very faith of faith, that she was not to depend upon feminine
good looks, or any of the adventitious charms of dress for her advance
in the world. “A good strong binding,” she would say of certain
dark-visaged books, “that will stand the gas, and not look disfigured
even though a blot of ink should come in its way.” And so it was that
she regarded her own personal binding.

But for all that she was to some observers very attractive. There was
not a mean feature in her face. Her forehead was spacious and well
formed. Her eyes, which were brown also, were very bright, and could
sparkle with anger or solicitude, or perhaps with love. Her nose was
well formed, and delicately shaped enough. Her mouth was large, but full
of expression, and seemed to declare without speech that she could be
eloquent. The form of her face was oval, and complete, not as though it
had been moulded by an inartistic thumb, a bit added on here and a bit
there. She was somewhat above the average height of women, and stood
upon her legs,--or walked upon them,--as though she understood that they
had been given to her for real use.

Two years before her brother’s death there had been a suitor for her
hand,--as to whose suit she had in truth doubted much. He also had been
a bookseller, a man in a larger way of business than her brother, some
fifteen years older than herself,--a widower, with a family. She knew
him to be a good man, with a comfortable house, an adequate income, and
a kind heart. Had she gone to him she would not have been required then
to live among the bookshelves or the telegraphs. She had doubted much
whether she would not go to him. She knew she could love the children.
She thought that she could buckle herself to that new work with a will.
But she feared,--she feared that she could not love him.

Perhaps there had come across her heart some idea of what might be the
joy of real, downright, hearty love. If so it was only an idea. No
personage had come across her path thus to disturb her. But the idea, or
the fear, had been so strong with her that she had never been able to
induce herself to become the wife of this man; and when he had come to
her after her brother’s death, in her worst desolation,--when the
prospect of service in some other nursery had been strongest before her
eyes,--she had still refused him. Perhaps there had been a pride in
this,--a feeling that as she had rejected him in her comparative
prosperity, she should not take him now when the renewal of his offer
might probably be the effect of generosity. But she did refuse him; and
the widowed bookseller had to look elsewhere for a second mother for his

Then there arose the question, how and where she should live? When it
came to the point of settling herself, that idea of starting in life
like a young man became very awful indeed. How was she to do it? Would
any respectable keeper of lodgings take her in upon that principle? And
if so, in what way should she plan out her life? Sixteen hours a day
were to be her own. What should she do with them? Was she or was she not
to contemplate the enjoyment of any social pleasures; and if so, how
were they to be found of such a nature as not to be discreditable? On
rare occasions she had gone to the play with her brother, and had then
enjoyed the treat thoroughly. Whether it had been _Hamlet_ at the
Lyceum, or _Lord Dundreary_ at the Haymarket, she had found herself
equally able to be happy. But there could not be for her now even such
rare occasions as these. She thought that she knew that a young woman
all alone could not go to the theatre with propriety, let her be ever so
brave. And then those three shillings a day, though sufficient for life,
would hardly be more than sufficient.

But how should she begin? At last chance assisted her. Another girl,
also employed in the Telegraph Office, with whom there had been some
family acquaintance over and beyond that formed in the office, happened
at this time to be thrown upon the world in some such fashion as
herself, and the two agreed to join their forces.

She was one Sophy Wilson by name,--and it was agreed between them that
they should club their means together and hire a room for their joint
use. Here would be a companionship,--and possibly, after awhile, sweet
friendship. Sophy was younger than herself, and might probably need,
perhaps be willing to accept, assistance. To be able to do something
that should be of use to somebody would, she felt, go far towards giving
her life that interest which it would otherwise lack.

When Lucy examined her friend, thinking of the closeness of their future
connection, she was startled by the girl’s prettiness and youth, and
thorough unlikeness to herself. Sophy had long, black, glossy curls,
large eyes, a pink complexion, and was very short. She seemed to have no
inclination for that strong, serviceable brown binding which was so
valuable in Lucy’s eyes; but rather to be wedded to bright colours and
soft materials. And it soon became evident to the elder young woman that
the younger looked upon her employment simply as a stepping-stone to a
husband. To get herself married as soon as possible was unblushingly
declared by Sophy Wilson to be the one object of her ambition,--and as
she supposed that of every other girl in the telegraph department. But
she seemed to be friendly and at first docile, to have been brought up
with aptitudes for decent life, and to be imbued with the necessity of
not spending more than her three shillings a day. And she was quick
enough at her work in the office,--quicker even than Lucy
herself,--which was taken by Lucy as evidence that her new friend was
clever, and would therefore probably be an agreeable companion.

They took together a bedroom in a very quiet street in Clerkenwell,--a
street which might be described as genteel because it contained no
shops; and here they began to keep house, as they called it. Now the
nature of their work was such that they were not called upon to be in
their office till noon, but that then they were required to remain there
till eight in the evening. At two a short space was allowed them for
dinner, which was furnished to them at a cheap rate in a room adjacent
to that in which they worked. Here for eightpence each they could get a
good meal, or if they preferred it they could bring their food with
them, and even have it cooked upon the premises. In the evening tea and
bread and butter were provided for them by the officials; and then at
eight or a few minutes after they left the building and walked home. The
keeping of house was restricted in fact to providing tea and bread and
butter for the morning meal, and perhaps when they could afford it for
the repetition of such comfort later in the evening. There was the
Sunday to be considered,--as to which day they made a contract with the
keeper of the lodging-house to sit at her table and partake of her
dishes. And so they were established.

From the first Lucy Graham made up her mind that it was her duty to be a
very friend of friends to this new companion. It was as though she had
consented to marry that widowed bookseller. She would then have
considered herself bound to devote herself to his welfare. It was not
that she could as yet say that she loved Sophy Wilson. Love with her
could not be so immediate as that. But the nature of the bond between
them was such, that each might possibly do so much either for the
happiness, or the unhappiness of the other! And then, though Sophy was
clever,--for as to this Lucy did not doubt,--still she was too evidently
in many things inferior to herself, and much in want of such assistance
as a stronger nature could give her. Lucy in acknowledging this put down
her own greater strength to the score of her years and the nature of the
life which she had been called upon to lead. She had early in her days
been required to help herself, to hold her own, and to be as it were a
woman of business. But the weakness of the other was very apparent to
her. That doctrine as to the necessity of a husband, which had been very
soon declared, had,--well,--almost disgusted Lucy. And then she found
cause to lament the peculiar arrangement which the requirements of the
office had made as to their hours. At first it had seemed to her to be
very pleasant that they should have their morning hours for needlework,
and perhaps for a little reading; but when she found that Sophy would
lie in bed till ten because early rising was not obligatory, then she
wished that they had been classed among those whose presence was
demanded at eight.

After awhile, there was a little difference between them as to what
might or what might not be done with propriety after their office hours
were over. It must be explained that in that huge room in which eight
hundred girls were at work together, there was also a sprinkling of boys
and young men. As no girls were employed there after eight there would
always be on duty in the afternoon an increasing number of the other
sex, some of whom remained there till late at night,--some indeed all
night. Now, whether by chance,--or as Lucy feared by management,--Sophy
Wilson had her usual seat next to a young lad with whom she soon
contracted a certain amount of intimacy. And from this intimacy arose a
proposition that they two should go with Mr. Murray,--he was at first
called Mister, but the formal appellation soon degenerated into a
familiar Alec,--to a Music Hall! Lucy Graham at once set her face
against the Music Hall.

“But why?” asked the other girl. “You don’t mean to say that decent
people don’t go to Music Halls?”

“I don’t mean to say anything of the kind, but then they go decently

“How decently? We should be decent.”

“With their brothers,” said Lucy;--“or something of that kind.”

“Brothers!” ejaculated the other girl with a tone of thorough contempt.
A visit to a Music Hall with her brother was not at all the sort of
pleasure to which Sophy was looking forward. She did her best to get
over objections which to her seemed to be fastidious and absurd,
observing, “that if people were to feel like that there would be no
coming together of people at all.” But when she found that Lucy could
not be instigated to go to the Music Hall, and that the idea of Alec
Murray and herself going to such a place unattended by others was
regarded as a proposition too monstrous to be discussed, Sophy for
awhile gave way. But she returned again and again to the subject,
thinking to prevail by asserting that Alec had a friend, a most
excellent young man, who would go with them,--and bring his sister. Alec
was almost sure that the sister would come. Lucy, however, would have
nothing to do with it. Lucy thought that there should be very great
intimacy indeed before anything of that kind should be permitted.

And so there was something of a quarrel. Sophy declared that such a life
as theirs was too hard for her, and that some kind of amusement was
necessary. Unless she were allowed some delight she must go mad, she
must die, she must throw herself off Waterloo Bridge. Lucy, remembering
her duty, remembering how imperative it was that she should endeavour to
do good to the one human being with whom she was closely concerned,
forgave her, and tried to comfort her;--forgave her even though at last
she refused to be guided by her monitress. For Sophy did go to the Music
Hall with Alec Murray,--reporting, but reporting falsely, that they were
accompanied by the friend and the friend’s sister. Lucy, poor Lucy, was
constrained by certain circumstances to disbelieve this false assertion.
She feared that Sophy had gone with Alec alone,--as was the fact. But
yet she forgave her friend. How are we to live together at all if we
cannot forgive each other’s offences?



As there was no immediate repetition of the offence the forgiveness soon
became complete, and Lucy found the interest of her life in her
endeavours to be good to this weak child whom chance had thrown in her
way. For Sophy Wilson was but a weak child. She was full of Alec Murray
for awhile, and induced Lucy to make the young man’s acquaintance. The
lad was earning twelve shillings a week, and if these two poor young
creatures chose to love each other and get themselves married, it would
be respectable, though it might be unfortunate. It would at any rate be
the way of the world, and was a natural combination with which she would
have no right to interfere. But she found that Alec was a mere boy, and
with no idea beyond the enjoyment of a bright scarf and a penny cigar,
with a girl by his side at a Music Hall. “I don’t think it can be worth
your while to go much out of your way for his sake,” said Lucy.

“Who is going out of her way? Not I. He’s as good as anybody else, I
suppose. And one must have somebody to talk to sometimes.” These last
words she uttered so plaintively, showing so plainly that she was unable
to endure the simple unchanging dulness of a life of labour, that Lucy’s
heart was thoroughly softened towards her. She had the great gift of
being not the less able to sympathize with the weakness of the weak
because of her own abnormal strength. And so it came to pass that she
worked for her friend,--stitching and mending when the girl ought to
have stitched and mended for herself,--reading to her, even though but
little of what was read might be understood,--yielding to her and
assisting her in all things, till at last it came to pass that in truth
she loved her. And such love and care were much wanted, for the elder
girl soon found that the younger was weak in health as well as weak in
spirit. There were days on which she could not,--or at any rate did not
go to her office. When six months had passed by Lucy had not once been
absent since she had begun her new life.

“Have you seen that man who has come to look at our house?” asked Sophy
one day as they were walking down to the office. Lucy had seen a strange
man, having met him on the stairs. “Isn’t he a fine fellow?”

“For anything that I know. Let us hope that he is very fine,” said Lucy

“He’s about as handsome a chap as I think I ever saw.”

“As for being a chap the man I saw must be near forty.”

“He is a little old I should say, but not near that. I don’t think he
can have a wife or he wouldn’t come here. He’s an engineer, and he has
the care of a steam-engine in the City Road,--that great printing place.
His name is Abraham Hall, and he’s earning three or four pounds a week.
A man like that ought to have a wife.”

“How did you learn all about him?”

“It’s all true. Sally heard it from Mrs. Green.” Mrs. Green was the
keeper of the lodging-house and Sally was the maid. “I couldn’t help
speaking to him yesterday because we were both at the door together. He
talked just like a gentleman although he was all smutty and greasy.”

“I am glad he talked like a gentleman.”

“I told him we lodged here and that we were telegraph girls, and that we
never got home till half-past eight. He would be just the beau for you
because he is such a big steady-looking fellow.”

“I don’t want a beau,” said Lucy angrily.

“Then I shall take him myself,” said Sophy as she entered the office.

Soon after that it came to pass that there did arise a slight
acquaintance between both the girls and Abraham Hall, partly from the
fact of their near neighbourhood, partly perhaps from some little tricks
on Sophy’s part. But the man seemed to be so steady, so solid, so little
given to lightnesses of flirtation or to dangerous delights, that Lucy
was inclined to welcome the accident. When she saw him on a Sunday
morning free from the soil of his work, she could perceive that he was
still a young man, probably not much over thirty;--but there was a look
about him as though he were well inured to the cares of the world, such
as is often produced by the possession of a wife and family,--not a look
of depression by any means, but seeming to betoken an appreciation of
the seriousness of life. From all this Lucy unconsciously accepted an
idea of security in the man, feeling that it might be pleasant to have
some strong one near her, from whom in case of need assistance might be
asked without fear. For this man was tall and broad and powerful, and
seemed to Lucy’s eyes to be a very pillar of strength when he would
stand still for a moment to greet her in the streets.

But poor Sophy, who had so graciously offered the man to her friend at
the beginning of their intercourse, seemed soon to change her mind and
to desire his attention for herself. He was certainly much more worthy
than Alec Murray. But to Lucy, to whom it was a rule of life as strong
as any in the commandments that a girl should not throw herself at a
man, but should be sought by him, it was a painful thing to see how many
of poor Sophy’s much-needed sixpences were now spent in little articles
of finery by which it was hoped that Mr. Hall’s eyes might be gratified,
and how those glossy ringlets were brushed and made to shine with
pomatum, and how the little collars were washed and re-washed and
starched and re-starched, in order that she might be smart for him.
Lucy, who was always neat, endeavoured to become browner and browner.
This she did by way of reproach and condemnation, not at all surmising
that Mr. Hall might possibly prefer a good solid wearing colour to
glittering blue and pink gewgaws.

At this time Sophy was always full of what Mr. Hall had last said to
her; and after awhile broached an idea that he was some gentleman in
disguise. “Why in disguise? Why not a gentleman not in disguise?” asked
Lucy, who had her own ideas, perhaps a little exaggerated, as to
Nature’s gentlemen. Then Sophy explained herself. A gentleman, a real
gentleman, in disguise would be very interesting;--one who had
quarrelled with his father, perhaps, because he would not endure
paternal tyranny, and had then determined to earn his own bread till he
might happily come into the family honours and property in a year or
two. Perhaps instead of being Abraham Hall he was in reality the Right
Honourable Russell Howard Cavendish; and if, during his temporary
abeyance, he should prove his thorough emancipation from the thraldom of
his aristocracy by falling in love with a telegraph girl, how fine it
would be! When Lucy expressed an opinion that Mr. Hall might be a very
fine fellow though he were fulfilling no more than the normal condition
of his life at the present moment, Sophy would not be contented,
declaring that her friend, with all her reading, knew nothing of poetry.
In this way they talked very frequently about Abraham Hall, till Lucy
would often feel that such talking was indecorous. Then she would be
silent for awhile herself, and rebuke the other girl for her constant
mention of the man’s name. Then again she would be brought back to the
subject;--for in all the little intercourse which took place between
them and the man, his conduct was so simple and yet so civil, that she
could not really feel him to be unworthy of a place in her thoughts.
But Sophy soon declared frankly to her friend that she was absolutely in
love with the man. “You wouldn’t have him, you know,” she said when Lucy
scolded her for the avowal.

“Have him! How can you bring yourself to talk in such a way about a man?
What does he want of either of us?”

“Men do marry you know,--sometimes,” said Sophy; “and I don’t know how a
young man is to get a wife unless some girl will show that she is fond
of him.”

“He should show first that he is fond of her.”

“That’s all very well for talkee-talkee,” said Sophy; “but it doesn’t do
for practice. Men are awfully shy. And then though they do marry
sometimes, they don’t want to get married particularly,--not as we do.
It comes like an accident. But how is a man to fall into a pit if
there’s no pit open?”

In answer to this Lucy used many arguments and much scolding. But to
very little effect. That the other girl should have thought so much
about it and be so ready with her arguments was horrid to her. “A pit
open!” ejaculated Lucy; “I would rather never speak to a man again than
regard myself in such a light.” Sophy said that all that might be very
well, but declared that it “would not wash.”

The elder girl was so much shocked by all this that there came upon her
gradually a feeling of doubt whether their joint life could be
continued. Sophy declared her purpose openly of entrapping Abraham Hall
into a marriage, and had absolutely induced him to take her to the
theatre. He had asked Lucy to join them; but she had sternly refused,
basing her refusal on her inability to bear the expense. When he offered
to give her the treat, she told him with simple gravity that nothing
would induce her to accept such a favour from any man who was not either
a very old friend or a near relation. When she said this he so looked at
her that she was sure that he approved of her resolve. He did not say a
word to press her;--but he took Sophy Wilson, and, as Lucy knew, paid
for Sophy’s ticket.

All this displeased Lucy so much that she began to think whether there
must not be a separation. She could not continue to live on terms of
affectionate friendship with a girl whose conduct she so strongly
disapproved. But then again, though she could not restrain the poor
light thing altogether, she did restrain her in some degree. She was
doing some good by her companionship. And then, if it really was in the
man’s mind to marry the girl, that certainly would be a good thing,--for
the girl. With such a husband she would be steady enough. She was quite
sure that the idea of preparing a pit for such a one as Abraham Hall
must be absurd. But Sophy was pretty and clever, and if married would at
any rate love her husband. Lucy thought she had heard that steady,
severe, thoughtful men were apt to attach themselves to women of the
butterfly order. She did not like the way in which Sophy was doing this;
but then, who was she that she should be a judge? If Abraham Hall liked
it, would not that be much more to the purpose? Therefore she resolved
that there should be no separation at present;--and, if possible, no

But soon it came to pass that there was another very solid reason
against separation. Sophy, who was often unwell, and would sometimes
stay away from the office for a day or two on the score of ill-health,
though by doing so she lost one of her three shillings on each such day,
gradually became worse. The superintendent at her department had
declared that in case of further absence a medical certificate must be
sent, and the doctor attached to the office had called upon her. He had
looked grave, had declared that she wanted considerable care, had then
gone so far as to recommend rest,--which meant absence from work,--for
at least a fortnight, and ordered her medicine. This of course meant the
loss of a third of her wages. In such circumstances and at such a time
it was not likely that Lucy should think of separation.

While Sophy was ill Abraham Hall often came to the door to inquire after
her health;--so often that Lucy almost thought that her friend had
succeeded. The man seemed to be sympathetic and anxious, and would
hardly have inquired with so much solicitude had he not really been
anxious as to poor Sophy’s health. Then, when Sophy was better, he would
come in to see her, and the girl would deck herself out with some little
ribbon and would have her collar always starched and ironed, ready for
his reception. It certainly did seem to Lucy that the man was becoming
fond of her foolish little friend.

During this period Lucy of course had to go to the office alone, leaving
Sophy to the care of the lodging-house keeper. And, in her solitude,
troubles were heavy on her. In the first place Sophy’s illness had
created certain necessarily increased expenses; and at the same time
their joint incomes had been diminished by one shilling a week out of
six. Lucy was in general matters allowed to be the dispenser of the
money; but on occasions the other girl would assert her rights,--which
always meant her right to some indulgence out of their joint incomes
which would be an indulgence to her and her alone. Even those bright
ribbons could not be had for nothing. Lucy wanted no bright ribbons.
When they were fairly prosperous she had not grudged some little
expenditure in this direction. She had told herself that young girls
like to be bright in the eyes of men, and that she had no right even to
endeavour to make her friend look at all these things with her eyes. She
even confessed to herself some deficiency on her own part, some want of
womanliness in that she did not aspire to be attractive,--still owning
to herself, vehemently declaring to herself, that to be attractive in
the eyes of a man whom she could love would of all delights be the most
delightful. Thinking of all this she had endeavoured not to be angry
with poor Sophy; but when she became pinched for shillings and sixpences
and to feel doubtful whether at the end of each fortnight there would
be money to pay Mrs. Green for lodgings and coal, then her heart became
sad within her, and she told herself that Sophy, though she was ill,
ought to be more careful.

And there was another trouble which for awhile was very grievous.
Telegraphy is an art not yet perfected among us and is still subject to
many changes. Now it was the case at this time that the pundits of the
office were in favour of a system of communicating messages by ear
instead of by eye. The little dots and pricks which even in Lucy’s time
had been changed more than once, had quickly become familiar to her. No
one could read and use her telegraphic literature more rapidly or
correctly than Lucy Graham. But now that this system of little tinkling
sounds was coming up,--a system which seemed to be very pleasant to
those females who were gifted with musical aptitudes,--she found herself
to be less quick, less expert, less useful than her neighbours. This was
very sad, for she had always been buoyed up by an unconscious conviction
of her own superior intelligence. And then, though there had been
neither promises nor threats, she had become aware,--at any rate had
thought that she was aware,--that those girls who could catch and use
the tinkling sounds would rise more quickly to higher pay than the less
gifted ones. She had struggled therefore to overcome the difficulty. She
had endeavoured to force her ears to do that which her ears were not
capable of accomplishing. She had failed, and to-day had owned to
herself that she must fail. But Sophy had been one of the first to
catch the tinkling sounds. Lucy came back to her room sad and down at
heart and full of troubles. She had a long task of needlework before
her, which had been put by for awhile through causes consequent on
Sophy’s illness. “Now she is better perhaps he will marry her and take
her away, and I shall be alone again,” she said to herself, as though
declaring that such a state of things would be a relief to her, and
almost a happiness.

“He has just been here,” said Sophy to her as soon as she entered the
room. Sophy was painfully, cruelly smart, clean and starched, and
shining about her locks,--so prepared that, as Lucy thought, she must
have evidently expected him.

“Well;--and what did he say?”

“He has not said much yet, but it was very good of him to come and see
me,--and he was looking so handsome. He is going out somewhere this
evening to some political meeting with two or three other men, and he
was got up quite like a gentleman. I do like to see him look like that.”

“I always think a working man looks best in his working clothes,” said
Lucy. “There’s some truth about him then. When he gets into a black coat
he is pretending to be something else, but everybody can see the

There was a severity, almost a savageness in this, which surprised Sophy
so much that at first she hardly knew how to answer it. “He is going to
speak at the meeting,” she said after a pause. “And of course he had to
make himself tidy. He told me all that he is going to say. Should you
not like to hear him speak?”

“No,” said Lucy very sharply, setting to work instantly upon her
labours, not giving herself a moment for preparation or a moment for
rest. Why should she like to hear a man speak who could condescend to
love so empty and so vain a thing as that? Then she became gradually
ashamed of her own feelings. “Yes,” she said; “I think I should like to
hear him speak;--only if I were not quite so tired. Mr. Hall is a man of
good sense, and well educated, and I think I should like to hear him

“I should like to hear him say one thing I know,” said Sophy. Then Lucy
in her rage tore asunder some fragment of a garment on which she was



Sophy went back to her work, and in a very few days was permanently
moved from the seat which she had hitherto occupied next to Alec Murray
and near to Lucy, to a distant part of the chamber in which the tinkling
instruments were used. And as a part of the arrangement consequent on
this she was called on to attend from ten till six instead of from noon
till eight. And her hour for dining was changed also. In this way a
great separation between the girls was made, for neither could they walk
to the office together, nor walk from it. To Lucy, though she was
sometimes inclined to be angry with her friend, this was very painful.
But Sophy triumphed in it greatly. “I think we are to have a step up to
21_s._ in the musical box,” she said laughing. For it was so that she
called the part of the room in which the little bells were always
ringing. “Won’t it be nice to have 3_s._ 6_d._ instead of 3_s._?” Lucy
said solemnly that any increase of income was always nice, and that when
such income was earned by superiority of acquirement it was a matter of
just pride. This she enunciated with something of a dogmatic air; having
schooled herself to give all due praise to Sophy, although it had to be
given at the expense of her own feelings. But when Sophy said in reply
that that was just what she had been thinking herself, and that as she
could do her work by ear she was of course worth more than those who
could not, then the other could only with difficulty repress the
soreness of her heart.

But to Sophy I think the new arrangements were most pleasant because it
enabled her to reach the street in which she lived just when Abraham
Hall was accustomed to return from his work. He would generally come
home,--to clean himself as she called it,--and would then again go out
for his employment or amusement for the evening; and now, by a proper
system of lying in wait, by creeping slow or walking quick, and by
watching well, she was generally able to have a word or two with him.
But he was so very bashful! He would always call her Miss Wilson; and
she of course was obliged to call him Mr. Hall. “How is Miss Graham?” he
asked one evening.

“She is very well. I think Lucy is always well. I never knew anybody so
strong as she is.”

“It is a great blessing. And how are you yourself?”

“I do get so tired at that nasty office. Though of course I like what I
am doing now better than the other. It was that rolling up the bands
that used to kill me. But I don’t think I shall ever really be strong
till I get away from the telegraphs. I suppose you have no young ladies
where you are?”

“There are I believe a lot of them in the building, stitching bindings;
but I never see them.”

“I don’t think you care much for young ladies, Mr. Hall.”

“Not much--now.”

“Why not now? What does that mean?”

“I dare say I never told you or Miss Graham before. But I had a wife of
my own for a time.”

“A wife! You!”

“Yes indeed. But she did not stay with me long. She left me before we
had been a year married.”

“Left you!”

“She died,” he said, correcting very quickly the false impression which
his words had been calculated to make.

“Dear me! Died before a year was out. How sad!”

“It was very sad.”

“And you had no,--no,--no baby, Mr. Hall?”

“I wish she had had none, because then she would have been still living.
Yes, I have a boy. Poor little mortal! It is two years old I think

“I should so like to see him. A little boy! Do bring him some day, Mr.
Hall.” Then the father explained that the child was in the country, down
in Hertfordshire; but nevertheless he promised that he would some day
bring him up to town and show him to his new friends.

Surely having once been married and having a child he must want another
wife! And yet how little apt he was to say or do any of those things by
saying and doing which men are supposed to express their desire in that
direction! He was very slow at making love;--so slow that Sophy hardly
found herself able to make use of her own little experiences with him.
Alec Murray, who, however, in the way of a husband was not worth
thinking of, had a great deal more to say for himself. She could put on
her ribbons for Mr. Hall, and wait for him in the street, and look up
into his face, and call him Mr. Hall;--but she could not tell him how
dearly she would love that little boy and what an excellent mother she
would be to him, unless he gave her some encouragement.

When Lucy heard that he had been a married man and that he had a child
she was gratified, though she knew not why. “Yes, I should like to see
him of course,” she said, speaking of the boy. “A child, if you have not
the responsibility of taking care of it, is always nice.”

“I should so like to take care of it.”

“I should not like to ask him to bring the boy up out of the country.”
She paused a moment, and then added, “He is just the man whom I should
have thought would have married, and just the man to be made very
serious by the grief of such a loss. I am coming to think it does a
person good to have to bear troubles.”

“You would not say that if you always felt as sick as I do after your
day’s work.”

About a week after that Sophy was so weak in the middle of the day that
she was obliged to leave the office and go home. “I know it will kill
me,” she said that evening, “if I go on with it. The place is so stuffy
and nasty, and then those terrible stairs. If I could get out of it and
settle down, then I should be quite well. I am not made for that kind of
work;--not like you are.”

“I think I was made for it certainly.”

“It is such a blessing to be strong,” said poor Sophy.

“Yes; it is a blessing. And I do bless God that he has made me so. It is
the one good thing that has been given to me, and it is better, I think,
than all the others.” As she said this she looked at Sophy and thought
that she was very pretty; but she thought also that prettiness had its
dangers and its temptations; and that good strong serviceable health
might perhaps be better for one who had to earn her bread.

But through all these thoughts there was a great struggle going on
within her. To be able to earn one’s bread without personal suffering is
very good. To be tempted by prettiness to ribbons, pomatum, and vanities
which one cannot afford is very bad. To do as Sophy was doing in regard
to this young man, setting her cap at him and resolving to make prey of
him as a fowler does of a bird, was, to her way of thinking, most
unseemly. But to be loved by such a man as Abraham Hall, to be chosen by
him as his companion, to be removed from the hard, outside, unwomanly
work of the world to the indoor occupations which a husband would
require from her; how much better a life according to her real tastes
would that be, than anything which she now saw before her! It was all
very well to be brown and strong while the exigencies of her position
were those which now surrounded her; but she could not keep herself from
dreaming of something which would have been much better than that.

A month or two passed away during which the child had on one occasion
been brought up to town on a Saturday evening, and had been petted and
washed and fed and generally cared for by the two girls during the
Sunday,--all which greatly increased their intimacy with the father. And
now, as Lucy quickly observed, Abraham Hall called Sophy by her
Christian name. When the word was first pronounced in Lucy’s presence
Sophy blushed and looked round at her friend. But she never said that
the change had been made at her own request. “I do so hate to be called
Miss Wilson,” she had said. “It seems among friends as though I were a
hundred years old.” Then he had called her Sophy. But she did not
dare,--not as yet,--to call him Abraham. All which the other girl
watched very closely, saying nothing.

But during these two months Sophy had been away from her office more
than half the time. Then the doctor said she had better leave town for
awhile. It was September, and it was desired that she should pass that
month at Hastings. Now it should be explained that in such emergencies
as this the department has provided a most kindly aid for young women.
Some five or six at a time are sent out for a month to Hastings or to
Brighton, and are employed in the telegraph offices in those towns.
Their railway fares are paid for them, and a small extra allowance is
made to them to enable them to live away from their homes. The privilege
is too generally sought to be always at the command of her who wants it;
nor is it accorded except on the doctor’s certificate. But in the
September Sophy Wilson was sent down to Hastings.

In spite, however, of the official benevolence which greatly lightened
the special burden which illness must always bring on those who have to
earn their bread, and which in Sophy Wilson’s case had done so much for
her, nevertheless the weight of the misfortune fell heavily on poor
Lucy. Some little struggle had to be made as to clothes before the girl
could be sent away from her home; and, though the sick one was enabled
to support herself at Hastings, the cost of the London lodgings which
should have been divided fell entirely upon Lucy. Then at the end of the
month there came worse tidings. The doctor at Hastings declared that the
girl was unfit to go back to her work,--was, indeed, altogether unfit
for such effort as eight hours’ continued attendance required from her.
She wanted at any rate some period of perfect rest, and therefore she
remained down at the seaside without the extra allowance which was so
much needed for her maintenance.

Then the struggle became very severe with Lucy,--so severe that she
began to doubt whether she could long endure it. Sophy had her two
shillings a day, the two-thirds of her wages, but she could not subsist
on that. Something had to be sent to her in addition, and this something
could only come from Lucy’s wages. So at least it was at first. In order
to avoid debt she gave up her more comfortable room and went upstairs
into a little garret. And she denied herself her accustomed dinner at
the office, contenting herself with bread and cheese,--or often simply
with bread,--which she could take in her pocket. And she washed her own
clothes and mended even her own boots, so that still she might send a
part of her earnings to the sick one.

“Is she better?” Abraham asked her one day.

“It is hard to know, Mr. Hall. She writes just as she feels at the
moment. I am afraid she fears to return to the office.”

“Perhaps it does not suit her.”

“I suppose not. She thinks some other kind of life would be better for
her. I dare say it would.”

“Could I do anything?” asked the man very slowly.

Could he do anything? well; yes. Lucy at least thought that he could do
a great deal. There was one thing which, if he would do it, would make
Sophy at any rate believe herself to be well. And this sickness was not
organic,--was not, as it appeared, due to any cause which could be
specified. It had not as yet been called by any name,--such as
consumption. General debility had been spoken of both by the office
doctor and by him at Hastings. Now Lucy certainly thought that a few
words from Mr. Hall would do more than all the doctors in the way of
effecting a cure. Sophy hated the telegraph office, and she lacked the
strength of mind necessary for doing that which was distasteful to her.
And that idea of a husband had taken such hold of her, that nothing else
seemed to her to give a prospect of contentment. “Why don’t you go down
and see her, Mr. Hall?” she said.

Then he was silent for awhile before he answered,--silent and very
thoughtful. And Lucy as the sound of her own words rested on her ears
felt she had done wrong in asking such a question. Why should he go
down, unless indeed he were in love with the girl and prepared to ask
her to be his wife? If he were to go down expressly to visit her at
Hastings unless he were so prepared, what false hopes he would raise;
what damage he would do instead of good! How indeed could he possibly go
down on such a mission without declaring to all the world that he
intended to make the girl his wife? But it was necessary that the
question should be answered. “I could do no good by that,” he said.

“No; perhaps not. Only I thought----”

“What did you think?” Now he asked a question and showed plainly by his
manner that he expected an answer.

“I don’t know,” said Lucy blushing. “I suppose I ought not to have
thought anything. But you seemed to be so fond of her.”

“Fond of her! Well; one does get fond of kind neighbours. I suppose you
would think me impertinent, Miss Lucy,”--he had never made even this
approach to familiarity before,--“if I were to say that I am fond of
both of you.”

“No indeed,” she replied, thinking that as a fondness declared by a
young man for two girls at one and the same moment could not be
interesting, so neither could it be impertinent.

“I don’t think I should do any good by going down. All that kind of
thing costs so much money.”

“Of course it does, and I was very wrong.”

“But I should like to do something, Miss Lucy.” And then he put his hand
into his trousers pocket, and Lucy knew that he was going to bring forth

She was very poor; but the idea of taking money from him was shocking to
her. According to her theory of life, even though Sophy had been engaged
to the man as his promised wife, she should not consent to accept
maintenance from him or pecuniary aid till she had been made, in very
truth, flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone. Presents an engaged
girl might take of course, but hardly even presents of simple utility. A
shawl might be given, so that it was a pretty thing and not a shawl
merely for warmth. An engaged girl should rather live on bread and water
up to her marriage, than take the means of living from the man she
loved, till she could take it by right of having become his wife. Such
were her feelings, and now she knew that this man was about to offer her
money. “We shall do very well,” she said, “Sophy and I together.”

“You are very hard pinched,” he replied. “You have given up your room.”

“Yes, I have done that. When I was alone I did not want so big a place.”

“I suppose I understand all about it,” he said somewhat roughly, or,
perhaps, gruffly would be the better word. “I think there is one thing
poor people ought never to do. They ought never to be ashamed of being
poor among themselves.”

Then she looked up into his face, and as she did so a tear formed itself
in each of her eyes. “Am I ashamed of anything before you?” she asked.

“You are afraid of telling the truth lest I should offer to help you. I
know you don’t have your dinner regular as you used.”

“Who has dared to tell you that, Mr. Hall? What is my dinner to

“Well. It is something to me. If we are to be friends of course I don’t
like seeing you go without your meals. You’ll be ill next yourself.”

“I am very strong.”

“It isn’t the way to keep so, to work without the victuals you’re used
to.” He was talking to her now in such a tone as to make her almost feel
that he was scolding her. “No good can come of that. You are sending
your money down to Hastings to her.”

“Of course we share everything.”

“You wouldn’t take anything from me for yourself I dare say. Anybody can
see how proud you are. But if I leave it for her I don’t think you have
a right to refuse it. Of course she wants it if you don’t.” With that he
brought out a sovereign and put it down on the table.

“Indeed I couldn’t, Mr. Hall,” she said.

“I may give it to her if I please.”

“You can send it her yourself,” said Lucy, not knowing how else to
answer him.

“No, I couldn’t. I don’t know her address.” Then without waiting for
another word he walked out of the room, leaving the sovereign on the
table. This occurred in a small back parlour on the ground floor, which
was in the occupation of the landlady, but was used sometimes by the
lodgers for such occasional meetings.

What was she to do with the sovereign? She would be very angry if any
man were to send her a sovereign; but it was not right that she should
measure Sophy’s feelings by her own. And then it might still be that the
man was sending the present to the girl whom he intended to make his
wife. But why--why--why, had he asked about her dinner? What were her
affairs to him? Would she not have gone without her dinner for ever
rather than have taken it at his hands? And yet, who was there in all
the world of whom she thought so well as of him? And so she took the
sovereign upstairs with her into her garret.



Lucy, when she got up to her own little room with the sovereign, sat for
awhile on the bed, crying. But she could not in the least explain to
herself why it was that she was shedding tears at this moment. It was
not because Sophy was ill, though that was cause to her of great grief;
nor because she herself was so hard put to it for money to meet her
wants. It may be doubted whether grief or pain ever does of itself
produce tears, which are rather the outcome of some emotional feeling.
She was not thinking much of Sophy as she cried, nor certainly were her
own wants present to her mind. The sovereign was between her fingers,
but she did not at first even turn her mind to that, or consider what
had best be done with it. But what right had he to make inquiry as to
her poverty? It was that, she told herself, which now provoked her to
anger so that she wept from sheer vexation. Why should he have searched
into her wants and spoken to her of her need of victuals? What had there
been between them to justify him in tearing away that veil of custom
which is always supposed to hide our private necessities from our
acquaintances till we ourselves feel called upon to declare them? He had
talked to her about her meals. He ought to know that she would starve
rather than accept one from him. Yes;--she was very angry with him, and
would henceforth keep herself aloof from him.

But still, as she sat, there were present to her eyes and ears the form
and words of an heroic man. He had seemed to scold her; but there are
female hearts which can be better reached and more surely touched by the
truth of anger than by the patent falseness of flattery. Had he paid her
compliments she would not now have been crying, nor would she have
complained to herself of his usage; but she certainly would not have sat
thinking of him, wondering what sort of woman had been that young wife
to whom he had first given himself, wondering whether it was possible
that Sophy should be good enough for him.

Then she got up, and looking down upon her own hand gazed at the
sovereign till she had made up her mind what she would do with it. She
at once sat down and wrote to Sophy. She had made up her mind. There
should be no diminution in the contribution made from her own wages. In
no way should any portion of that sovereign administer to her own
comfort. Though she might want her accustomed victuals ever so badly,
they should not come to her from his earnings. So she told Sophy in the
letter that Mr. Hall had expressed great anxiety for her welfare, and
had begged that she would accept a present from him. She was to get
anything with the sovereign that might best tend to her happiness. But
the shilling a day which Lucy contributed out of her own wages was sent
with the sovereign.

For an entire month she did not see Abraham Hall again so as to do more
than just speak to him on the stairs. She was almost inclined to think
that he was cold and unkind in not seeking her;--and yet she wilfully
kept out of his way. On each Sunday it would at any rate have been easy
for her to meet him; but with a stubborn purpose which she did not
herself understand she kept herself apart, and when she met him on the
stairs, which she would do occasionally when she returned from her work,
she would hardly stand till she had answered his inquiries after Sophy.
But at the end of the month one evening he came up and knocked at her
door. “I am sorry to intrude, Miss Lucy.”

“It is no intrusion, Mr. Hall. I wish I had a place to ask you to sit
down in.”

“I have come to bring another trifle for Miss Sophy.”

“Pray do not do it. I cannot send it her. She ought not to take it. I am
sure you know that she ought not to take it.”

“I know nothing of the kind. If I know anything, it is that the strong
should help the weak, and the healthy the sick. Why should she not take
it from me as well as from you?”

It was necessary that Lucy should think a little before she could answer
this;--but, when she had thought, her answer was ready. “We are both

“Is there anything which ought to confine kindness to this or the other
sex? If you were knocked down in the street would you let no one but a
woman pick you up?”

“It is not the same. I know you understand it, Mr. Hall. I am sure you

Then he also paused to think what he would say, for he was conscious
that he did “understand it.” For a young woman to accept money from a
man seemed to imply that some return of favours would be due. But,--he
said to himself,--that feeling came from what was dirty and not from
what was noble in the world. “You ought to lift yourself above all
that,” he said at last. “Yes; you ought. You are very good, but you
would be better if you would do so. You say that I understand, and I
think that you, too, understand.” This again was said in that voice
which seemed to scold, and again her eyes became full of tears. Then he
was softer on a sudden. “Good night, Miss Lucy. You will shake hands
with me;--will you not?” She put her hand in his, being perfectly
conscious at the moment that it was the first time that she had ever
done so. What a mighty hand it seemed to be as it held hers for a
moment! “I will put the sovereign on the table,” he said, again leaving
the room and giving her no option as to its acceptance.

But she made up her mind at once that she would not be the means of
sending his money to Sophy Wilson. She was sure that she would take
nothing from him for her own relief, and therefore sure that neither
ought Sophy to do so,--at any rate unless there had been more between
them than either of them had told to her. But Sophy must judge for
herself. She sent, therefore, the sovereign back to Hall with a little
note as follows:--

“DEAR MR. HALL,--Sophy’s address is at

  “Mrs. Pike’s,

    “19, Paradise Row,

      “Fairlight, near Hastings.

     “You can do as you like as to writing to her. I am obliged to send
     back the money which you have so _very generously_ left for her,
     because I do not think she ought to accept it. If she were quite in
     want it might be different, but we have still five shillings a day
     between us. If a young woman were starving perhaps it ought to be
     the same as though she were being run over in the street, but it is
     not like that. In my next letter I shall tell Sophy all about it.

“Yours truly,


The following evening, when she came home, he was standing at the house
door evidently waiting for her. She had never seen him loitering in that
way before, and she was sure that he was there in order that he might
speak to her.

“I thought I would let you know that I got the sovereign safely,” he
said. “I am so sorry that you should have returned it.”

“I am sure that I was right, Mr. Hall.”

“There are cases in which it is very hard to say what is right and what
is wrong. Some things seem right because people have been wrong so long.
To give and take among friends ought to be right.”

“We can only do what we think right,” she said, as she passed in through
the passage upstairs.

She felt sure from what had passed that he had not sent the money to
Sophy. But why not? Sophy had said that he was bashful. Was he so far
bashful that he did not dare himself to send the money to the girl he
loved, though he had no scruple as to giving it to her through another
person? And, as for bashfulness, it seemed to her that the man spoke out
his mind clearly enough. He could scold her, she thought, without any
difficulty, for it still seemed that his voice and manner were rough to
her. He was never rough to Sophy; but then she had heard so often that
love will alter a man amazingly!

Then she wrote her letter to Sophy, and explained as well as she could
the whole affair. She was quite sure that Sophy would regret the loss of
the money. Sophy, she knew, would have accepted it without scruple.
People, she said to herself, will be different. But she endeavoured to
make her friend understand that she, with her feelings, could not be the
medium of sending on presents of which she disapproved. “I have given
him your address,” she said, “and he can suit himself as to writing to
you.” In this letter she enclosed a money order for the contribution
made to Sophy’s comfort out of her own wages.

Sophy’s answer, which came in a day or two, surprised her very much. “As
to Mr. Hall’s money,” she began, “as things stand at present perhaps it
is as well that you didn’t take it.” As Lucy had expected that grievous
fault would be found with her, this was comfortable. But it was after
that, that the real news came. Sophy was a great deal better; that was
also good tidings;--but she did not want to leave Hastings just at
present. Indeed she thought that she did not want to leave it at all. A
very gentlemanlike young man, who was just going to be taken into
partnership in a hairdressing establishment, had proposed to her;--and
she had accepted him. Then there were two wishes expressed;--the first
was that Lucy would go on a little longer with her kind generosity, and
the second,--that Mr. Hall would not feel it very much.

As regarded the first wish, Lucy resolved that she would go on at least
for the present. Sophy was still on sick leave from the office, and,
even though she might be engaged to a hairdresser, was still to be
regarded as an invalid. But as to Mr. Hall, she thought that she could
do nothing. She could not even tell him,--at any rate till that marriage
at Hastings was quite a settled thing. But she thought that Mr. Hall’s
future happiness would not be lessened by the event. Though she had
taught herself to love Sophy, she had been unable not to think that her
friend was not a fitting wife for such a man. But in telling herself
that he would have an escape, she put it to herself as though the fault
lay chiefly in him. “He is so stern and so hard that he would have
crushed her, and she never would have understood his justness and
honesty.” In her letter of congratulation, which was very kind, she said
not a word of Abraham Hall, but she promised to go on with her own
contribution till things were a little more settled.

In the meantime she was very poor. Even brown dresses won’t wear for
ever, let them be ever so brown, and in the first flurry of sending
Sophy off to Hastings,--with that decent apparel which had perhaps been
the means of winning the hairdresser’s heart,--she had got somewhat into
debt with her landlady. This she was gradually paying off, even on her
reduced wages, but the effort pinched her closely. Day by day, in spite
of all her efforts with her needle, she became sensible of a
deterioration in her outward appearance which was painful to her at the
office, and which made her most careful to avoid any meeting with
Abraham Hall. Her boots were very bad, and she had now for some time
given up even the pretence of gloves as she went backwards and forwards
to the office. But perhaps it was her hat that was most vexatious. The
brown straw hat which had lasted her all the summer and autumn could
hardly be induced to keep its shape now when November was come.

One day, about three o’clock in the afternoon, Abraham Hall went to the
Post Office, and, having inquired among the messengers, made his way up
to the telegraph department at the top of the building. There he asked
for Miss Graham, and was told by the doorkeeper that the young ladies
were not allowed to receive visitors during office hours. He persisted,
however, explaining that he had no wish to go into the room, but that it
was a matter of importance, and that he was very anxious that Miss
Graham should be asked to come out to him. Now it is a rule that the
staff of the department who are engaged in sending and receiving
messages, the privacy of which may be of vital importance, should be
kept during the hours of work as free as possible from communication
with the public. It is not that either the girls or the young men would
be prone to tell the words which they had been the means of passing on
to their destination, but that it might be worth the while of some
sinner to offer great temptation, and that the power of offering it
should be lessened as much as possible. Therefore, when Abraham Hall
pressed his request the doorkeeper told him that it was quite

“Do you mean to say that if it were an affair of life and death she
could not be called out?” Abraham asked in that voice which had
sometimes seemed to Lucy to be so impressive. “She is not a prisoner!”

“I don’t know as to that,” replied the man; “you would have to see the
superintendent, I suppose.”

“Then let me see the superintendent.” And at last he did succeed in
seeing some one whom he so convinced of the importance of his message as
to bring Lucy to the door.

“Miss Graham,” he said, when they were at the top of the stairs, and so
far alone that no one else could hear him, “I want you to come out with
me for half an hour.”

“I don’t think I can. They won’t let me.”

“Yes they will. I have to say something which I must say now.”

“Will not the evening do, Mr. Hall?”

“No; I must go out of town by the mail train from Paddington, and it
will be too late. Get your hat and come with me for half an hour.”

Then she remembered her hat, and she snatched a glance at her poor
stained dress, and she looked up at him. He was not dressed in his
working clothes, and his face and hands were clean, and altogether there
was a look about him of well-to-do manly tidiness which added to her
feeling of shame.

“If you will go on to the house I will follow you,” she said.

“Are you ashamed to walk with me?”

“I am, because----”

He had not understood her at first, but now he understood it all. “Get
your hat,” he said, “and come with a friend who is really a friend. You
must come; you must, indeed.” Then she felt herself compelled to obey,
and went back and got her old hat and followed him down the stairs into
the street. “And so Miss Wilson is going to be married,” were the first
words he said in the street.

“Has she written to you?”

“Yes; she has told me all about it. I am so glad that she should be
settled to her liking, out of town. She says that she is nearly well
now. I hope that Mr. Brown is a good sort of man, and that he will be
kind to her.”

It could hardly be possible, Lucy thought, that he should have taken her
away from the office merely to talk to her of Sophy’s prospects. It was
evident that he was strong enough to conceal any chagrin which might
have been caused by Sophy’s apostacy. Could it, however, be the case
that he was going to leave London because his feelings had been too much
disturbed to allow of his remaining quiet? “And so you are going away?
Is it for long?” “Well, yes; I suppose it is for always.” Then there
came upon her a sense of increased desolation. Was he not her only
friend? And then, though she had refused all pecuniary assistance, there
had been present to her a feeling that there was near to her a strong
human being whom she could trust, and who in any last extremity could be
kind to her.

“For always! And you go to-night!” Then she thought that he had been
right to insist on seeing her. It would certainly have been a great blow
to her if he had gone without a word of farewell.

“There is a man wanted immediately to look after the engines at a great
establishment on the Wye, in the Forest of Dean. They have offered me
four pounds a week.”

“Four pounds a week!”

“But I must go at once. It has been talked about for some time, and now
it has come all in a clap. I have to be off without a day’s notice,
almost before I know where I am. As for leaving London, it is just what
I like. I love the country.”

“Oh, yes,” said Lucy, “that will be nice;--and about your little boy?”
Could it be that she was to be asked to do something for the child?

They were now at the door of their house.

“Here we are,” he said, “and perhaps I can say better inside what I have
got to say.” Then she followed him into the back sitting-room on the
ground floor.



“Yes;” he said;--“about my little boy. I could not say what I had to say
in the street, though I had thought to do so.” Then he paused, and she
sat herself down, feeling, she did not know why, as though she would
lack strength to hear him if she stood. It was then the case that some
particular service was to be demanded from her,--something that would
show his confidence in her. The very idea of this seemed at once to add
a grace to her life. She would have the child to love. There would be
something for her to do. And there must be letters between her and him.
It would certainly add a grace to her life. But how odd that he should
not take his child with him! He had paused a moment while she thought of
all this, and she was aware that he was looking at her. But she did not
dare to return his gaze, or even to glance up at his face. And then
gradually she felt that she was shivering and trembling. What was it
that ailed her,--just now when it would be so necessary that she should
speak out with some strength? She had eaten nothing since her breakfast
when he had come to her, and she was afraid that she would show herself
to be weak. “Will you be his mother?” he said.

What did it mean? How was she to answer him? She knew that his eyes were
on her, but hers were more than ever firmly fixed upon the floor. And
she was aware that she ought briskly to have acceded to his
request,--so as to have shown by her ready alacrity that she had
attributed no other meaning to the words than they had been intended to
convey,--that she had not for a moment been guilty of rash folly. But
though it was so imperative upon her to say a word, yet she could not
speak. Everything was swimming round her. She was not even sure that she
could sit upon her chair. “Lucy,” he said;--then she thought she would
have fallen;--“Lucy, will you be my wife?”

There was no doubt about the word. Her sense of hearing was at any rate
not deficient. And there came upon her at once a thorough conviction
that all her troubles had been changed for ever and a day into joys and
blessings. The word had been spoken from which he certainly would never
go back, and which of course,--of course,--must be a commandment to her.
But yet there was an unfitness about it which disturbed her, and she was
still powerless to speak. The remembrance of the meanness of her clothes
and poorness of her position came upon her,--so that it would be her
duty to tell him that she was not fit for him; and yet she could not

“If you will say that you want time to think about it, I shall be
contented,” he said. But she did not want a moment to think about it.
She could not have confessed to herself that she had learned to love
him,--oh, so much too dearly,--if it were not for this most unexpected,
most unthought of, almost impossible revelation. But she did not want a
moment to make herself sure that she did love him. Yet she could not
speak. “Will you say that you will think of it for a month?”

Then there came upon her an idea that he was not asking this because he
loved her, but in order that he might have a mother whom he could trust
for his child. Even that would have been flattering, but that would not
have sufficed. Then when she told herself what she was, or rather what
she thought herself to be, she felt sure that he could not really love
her. Why should such a man as he love such a woman? Then her mouth was
opened. “You cannot want me for myself,” she said.

“Not for yourself! Then why? I am not the man to seek any girl for her
fortune, and you have none.” Then again she was dumfounded. She could
not explain what she meant. She could not say,--because I am brown, and
because I am plain, and because I have become thin and worn from want,
and because my clothes are old and shabby. “I ask you,” he said,
“because with all my heart I love you.”

It was as though the heavens had been opened to her. That he should
speak a word that was not true was to her impossible. And, as it was so,
she would not coy her love to him for a moment. If only she could have
found words with which to speak to him! She could not even look up at
him, but she put out her hand so as to touch him. “Lucy,” he said,
“stand up and come to me.” Then she stood up and with one little step
crept close to his side. “Lucy, can you love me?” And as he asked the
question his arm was pressed round her waist, and as she put up her hand
to welcome rather than to restrain his embrace, she again felt the
strength, the support, and the warmth of his grasp. “Will you not say
that you love me?”

“I am such a poor thing,” she replied.

“A poor thing, are you? Well, yes; there are different ways of being
poor. I have been poor enough in my time, but I never thought myself a
poor thing. And you must not say it ever of yourself again.”


“My girl must not think herself a poor thing. May I not say, my girl?”
Then there was just a little murmur, a sound which would have been “yes”
but for the inability of her lips to open themselves. “And if my girl,
then my wife. And shall my wife be called a poor thing? No, Lucy. I have
seen it all. I don’t think I like poor things;--but I like you.”

“Do you?”

“I do. And now I must go back to the City Road and give up charge and
take my money. And I must leave this at seven--after a cup of tea. Shall
I see you again?”

“See me again! Oh, to-day, you mean. Indeed you shall. Not see you off?
My own, own, own man?”

“What will they say at the office?”

“I don’t care what they say. Let them say what they like. I have never
been absent a day yet without leave. What time shall I be here?” Then
he named an hour. “Of course I will have your last words. Perhaps you
will tell me something that I must do.”

“I must leave some money with you.”

“No; no; no; not yet. That shall come after.” This she said smiling up
at him, with a sparkle of a tear in each eye, but with such a smile!
Then he caught her in his arms and kissed her. “That may come at present
at any rate,” he said. To this, though it was repeated once and again,
there was no opposition. Then in his own masterful manner he put on his
hat and stalked out of the room without any more words.

She must return to the office that afternoon, of course, if only for the
sake of explaining her wish to absent herself the rest of the day. But
she could not go forth into the streets just yet. Though she had been
able to smile at him and to return his caress, and for a moment so to
stand by him that she might have something of the delight of his love,
still she was too much flurried, too weak from the excitement of the
last half-hour, to walk back to the Post Office without allowing herself
some minutes to recruit her strength and collect her thoughts. She went
at once up to her own room and cut for herself a bit of bread which she
began to eat,--just as one would trim one’s lamp carefully for some
night work, even though oppressed by heaviest sorrow, or put fuel on the
fire that would be needed. Then having fed herself, she leaned back in
her chair, throwing her handkerchief over her face, in order that she
might think of it.

Oh,--how much there was to fill her mind with many thoughts! Looking
back to what she had been even an hour ago, and then assuring herself
with infinite delight of the certain happiness of her present position,
she told herself that all the world had been altered to her within that
short space. As for loving him;--there was no doubt about that! Now she
could own to herself that she had long since loved him, even when she
thought that he might probably take that other girl as his wife. That
she should love him,--was it not a matter of course, he being what he
was? But that he should love her,--that, that was the marvel! But he
did. She need not doubt that. She could remember distinctly each word of
assurance that he had spoken to her. “I ask you, because with all my
heart I love you.” “May I not say my girl;--and, if my girl, then my
wife?” “I do not think that I like poor things; but I like you.” No. If
she were regarded by him as good enough to be his wife then she would
certainly never call herself a poor thing again.

In her troubles and her poverty,--especially in her solitude, she had
often thought of that other older man who had wanted to make her his
wife,--sometimes almost with regret. There would have been duties for
her and a home, and a mode of life more fitting to her feminine nature
than this solitary tedious existence. And there would have been
something for her to love, some human being on whom to spend her human
solicitude and sympathies. She had leagued herself with Sophy Wilson,
and she had been true to the bond; but it had had in it but little
satisfaction. The other life, she had sometimes thought, would have been
better. But she had never loved the man, and could not have loved him as
a husband should, she thought, be loved by his wife. She had done what
was right in refusing the good things which he had offered her,--and now
she was rewarded! Now had come to her the bliss of which she had
dreamed, that of belonging to a man to whom she felt that she was bound
by all the chords of her heart. Then she repeated his name to
herself,--Abraham Hall, and tried in a lowest whisper the sound of that
other name,--Lucy Hall. And she opened her arms wide as she sat upon the
chair as though in that way she could take his child to her bosom.

She had been sitting so nearly an hour when she started up suddenly and
again put on her old hat and hurried off towards her office. She felt
now that as regarded her clothes she did not care about herself. There
was a paradise prepared for her so dear and so near that the present was
made quite bright by merely being the short path to such a future. But
for his sake she cared. As belonging to him she would fain, had it been
possible, not have shown herself in a garb unfitting for his wife.
Everything about him had always been decent, fitting, and serviceable!
Well! It was his own doing. He had chosen her as she was. She would not
run in debt to make herself fit for his notice, because such debts would
have been debts to be paid by him. But if she could squeeze from her
food what should supply her with garments fit at any rate to stand with
him at the altar it should be done.

Then, as she hurried on to the office, she remembered what he had said
about money. No! She would not have his money till it was hers of right.
Then with what perfect satisfaction would she take from him whatever he
pleased to give her, and how hard would she work for him in order that
he might never feel that he had given her his good things for nothing!

It was five o’clock before she was at the office, and she had promised
to be back in the lodgings at six, to get for him his tea. It was quite
out of the question that she should work to-day. “The truth is, ma’am,”
she said to the female superintendent, “I have received and accepted an
offer of marriage this afternoon. He is going out of town to-night, and
I want to be with him before he goes.” This is a plea against which
official rigour cannot prevail. I remember once when a young man applied
to a saturnine pundit who ruled matters in a certain office for leave of
absence for a month to get married. “To get married!” said the saturnine
pundit. “Poor fellow! But you must have the leave.” The lady at the
telegraph office was no doubt less caustic, and dismissed our Lucy for
the day with congratulations rather than pity.

She was back at the lodging before her lover, and had borrowed the
little back parlour from Mrs. Green, and had spread the tea-things, and
herself made the toast in the kitchen before he came. “There’s something
I suppose more nor friendship betwixt you and Mr. Hall, and better,”
said the landlady smiling. “A great deal better, Mrs. Green,” Lucy had
replied, with her face intent upon the toast. “I thought it never could
have been that other young lady,” said Mrs. Green.

“And now, my dear, about money,” said Abraham as he rose to prepare
himself for the journey. Many things had been settled over that
meal,--how he was to get a house ready, and was then to say when she
should come to him, and how she should bring the boy with her, and how
he would have the banns called in the church, and how they would be
married as soon as possible after her arrival in the new country. “And
now, my dear, about money?”

She had to take it at last. “Yes,” she said, “it is right that I should
have things fit to come to you in. It is right that you shouldn’t be

“I’d marry you in a sack from the poor-house, if it were necessary,” he
said with vehemence.

“As it is not necessary, it shall not be so. I will get things;--but
they shall belong to you always; and I will not wear them till the day
that I also shall belong to you.”

She went with him that night to the station, and kissed him openly as
she parted from him on the platform. There was nothing in her love now
of which she was ashamed. How, after some necessary interval, she
followed him down into Gloucestershire, and how she became his wife
standing opposite to him in the bright raiment which his liberality had
supplied, and how she became as good a wife as ever blessed a man’s
household, need hardly here be told.

That Miss Wilson recovered her health and married the hairdresser may be
accepted by all anxious readers as an undoubted fact.




It used to be said in the village of Beetham that nothing ever went
wrong with Alice Dugdale,--the meaning of which, perhaps, lay in the
fact that she was determined that things should be made to go right.
Things as they came were received by her with a gracious welcome, and
“things,” whatever they were, seemed to be so well pleased with the
treatment afforded to them, that they too for most part made themselves
gracious in return.

Nevertheless she had had sorrows, as who has not? But she had kept her
tears for herself, and had shown her smiles for the comfort, of those
around her. In this little story it shall be told how in a certain
period of her life she had suffered much;--how she still smiled, and how
at last she got the better of her sorrow.

Her father was the country doctor in the populous and straggling parish
of Beetham. Beetham is one of those places so often found in the south
of England, half village, half town, for the existence of which there
seems to be no special reason. It had no mayor, no municipality, no
market, no pavements, and no gas. It was therefore no more than a
village;--but it had a doctor, and Alice’s father, Dr. Dugdale, was the
man. He had been established at Beetham for more than thirty years, and
knew every pulse and every tongue for ten miles round. I do not know
that he was very great as a doctor;--but he was a kind-hearted, liberal
man, and he enjoyed the confidence of the Beethamites, which is
everything. For thirty years he had worked hard and had brought up a
large family without want. He was still working hard, though turned
sixty, at the time of which we are speaking. He had even in his old age
many children dependent on him, and though he had fairly prospered, he
had not become a rich man.

He had been married twice, and Alice was the only child left at home by
his first wife. Two elder sisters were married, and an elder brother was
away in the world. Alice had been much younger than they, and had been
the only child living with him when he had brought to his house a second
mother for her. She was then fifteen. Eight or nine years had since
gone, and almost every year had brought an increase to the doctor’s
family. There were now seven little Dugdales in and about the nursery;
and what the seven would do when Alice should go away the folk of
Beetham always declared that they were quite at a loss even to guess.
For Mrs. Dugdale was one of those women who succumb to
difficulties,--who seem originally to have been made of soft material
and to have become warped, out of joint, tattered, and almost useless
under the wear of the world. But Alice had been constructed of
thoroughly seasoned timber, so that, let her be knocked about as she
might, she was never out of repair. Now the doctor, excellent as he was
at doctoring, was not very good at household matters,--so that the folk
at Beetham had reason to be at a loss when they bethought themselves as
to what would happen when Alice should “go away.”

Of course there is always that prospect of a girl’s “going away.” Girls
not unfrequently intend to go away. Sometimes they “go away” very
suddenly, without any previous intention. At any rate such a girl as
Alice cannot be regarded as a fixture in a house. Binding as may be her
duties at home, it is quite understood that should any adequate
provocation to “go away” be brought within her reach, she will go, let
the duties be what they may. Alice was a thoroughly good girl,--good to
her father, good to her little brothers and sisters, unutterably good to
that poor foolish stepmother;--but, no doubt she would “go away” if duly

When that vista of future discomfort in the doctor’s house first made
itself clearly apparent to the Beethamites, an idea that Alice might
perhaps go very soon had begun to prevail in the village. The eldest son
of the vicar, Parson Rossiter, had come back from India as Major
Rossiter, with an appointment, as some said, of £2,000 a year;--let us
put it down as £1,500;--and had renewed his acquaintance with his old
playfellow. Others, more than one or two, had endeavoured before this to
entice Alice to “go away,” but it was said that the dark-visaged
warrior, with his swarthy face and black beard, and bright
eyes,--probably, too, something in him nobler than those outward
bearings,--had whispered words which had prevailed. It was supposed that
Alice now had a fitting lover, and that therefore she would “go away.”

There was no doubt in the mind of any single inhabitant of Beetham as to
the quality of the lover. It was considered on all sides that he was
fitting,--so fitting that Alice would of course go when asked. John
Rossiter was such a man that every Beethamite looked upon him as a
hero,--so that Beetham was proud to have produced him. In small
communities a man will come up now and then as to whom it is surmised
that any young lady would of course accept him. This man, who was now
about ten years older than Alice, had everything to recommend him. He
was made up of all good gifts of beauty, conduct, dignity, good
heart,--and fifteen hundred a year at the very least. His official
duties required him to live in London, from which Beetham was seventy
miles distant; but those duties allowed him ample time for visiting the
parsonage. So very fitting he was to take any girl away upon whom he
might fix an eye of approbation, that there were others, higher than
Alice in the world’s standing, who were said to grudge the young lady
of the village so great a prize. For Alice Dugdale was a young lady of
the village and no more; whereas there were county families around, with
daughters, among whom the Rossiters had been in the habit of mixing. Now
that such a Rossiter had come to the fore, the parsonage family was held
to be almost equal to county people.

To whatever extent Alice’s love affairs had gone, she herself had been
very silent about them; nor had her lover as yet taken the final step of
being closeted for ten minutes with her father. Nevertheless everybody
had been convinced in Beetham that it would be so,--unless it might be
Mrs. Rossiter. Mrs. Rossiter was ambitious for her son, and in this
matter sympathised with the county people. The county people certainly
were of opinion that John Rossiter might do better, and did not
altogether see what there was in Alice Dugdale to make such a fuss
about. Of course she had a sweet countenance, rather brown, with good
eyes. She had not, they said, another feature in her face which could be
called handsome. Her nose was broad. Her mouth was large. They did not
like that perpetual dimpling of the cheek which, if natural, looked as
if it were practised. She was stout, almost stumpy, they thought. No
doubt she danced well, having a good ear and being active and healthy;
but with such a waist no girl could really be graceful. They
acknowledged her to be the best nursemaid that ever a mother had in her
family; but they thought it a pity that she should be taken away from
duties for which her presence was so much desired, at any rate by such
a one as John Rossiter. I, who knew Beetham well, and who though turned
the hill of middle life had still an eye for female charms, used to
declare to myself that Alice, though she was decidedly village and not
county, was far, far away the prettiest girl in that part of the world.

The old parson loved her, and so did Miss Rossiter,--Miss Janet
Rossiter,--who was four or five years older than her brother, and
therefore quite an old maid. But John was so great a man that neither of
them dared to say much to encourage him,--as neither did Mrs. Rossiter
to use her eloquence on the other side. It was felt by all of them that
any persuasion might have on John anything but the intended effect. When
a man at the age of thirty-three is Deputy Assistant Inspector General
of Cavalry, it is not easy to talk him this way or that in a matter of
love. And John Rossiter, though the best fellow in the world, was apt to
be taciturn on such a subject. Men frequently marry almost without
thinking about it at all. “Well; perhaps I might as well. At any rate I
cannot very well help it.” That too often is the frame of mind.
Rossiter’s discussion to himself was of a higher nature than that, but
perhaps not quite what it should have been. “This is a thing of such
moment that it requires to be pondered again and again. A man has to
think of himself, and of her, and of the children which have to come
after him;--of the total good or total bad which may come of such a
decision.” As in the one manner there is too much of negligence, so in
the other there may be too much of care. The “perhaps I might as
wells,”--so good is Providence,--are sometimes more successful than
those careful, long-pondering heroes. The old parson was very sweet to
Alice, believing that she would be his daughter-in-law, and so was Miss
Rossiter, thoroughly approving of such a sister. But Mrs. Rossiter was a
little cold;--all of which Alice could read plainly and digest, without
saying a word. If it was to be, she would welcome her happy lot with
heartfelt acknowledgment of the happiness provided for her; but if it
was not to be, no human being should know that she had sorrowed. There
should be nothing lack-a-daisical in her life or conduct. She had her
work to do, and she knew that as long as she did that, grief would not
overpower her.

In her own house it was taken for granted that she was to “go,” in a
manner that distressed her. “You’ll never be here to lengthen ’em,” said
her stepmother to her, almost whining, when there was a question as to
flounces in certain juvenile petticoats which might require to be longer
than they were first made before they should be finally abandoned.

“That I certainly shall if Tiny grows as she does now.”

“I suppose he’ll pop regularly when he next comes down,” said Mrs.

There was ever so much in this which annoyed Alice. In the first place,
the word “pop” was to her abominable. Then she was almost called upon to
deny that he would “pop,” when in her heart she thought it very
probable that he might. And the word, she knew, had become intelligible
to the eldest of her little sisters who was present. Moreover, she was
most unwilling to discuss the subject at all, and could hardly leave it
undiscussed when such direct questions were asked. “Mamma,” she said,
“don’t let us think about anything of the kind.” This did not at all
satisfy herself. She ought to have repudiated the lover altogether; and
yet she could not bring herself to tell the necessary lie.

“I suppose he will come--some day,” said Minnie, the child old enough to
understand the meaning of such coming.

    “For men may come and men may go,
      But I go on for ever,--for ever,”

said or sang Alice, with a pretence of drollery, as she turned herself
to her little sister. But even in her little song there was a purpose.
Let any man come or let any man go, she would go on, at any rate
apparently untroubled, in her walk of life.

“Of course he’ll take you away, and then what am I to do?” said Mrs.
Dugdale moaning. It is sad enough for a girl thus to have her lover
thrown in her face when she is by no means sure of her lover.

A day or two afterwards another word, much more painful, was said to her
up at the parsonage. Into the parsonage she went frequently to show that
there was nothing in her heart to prevent her visiting her old friends
as had been her wont.

“John will be down here next week,” said the parson, whom she met on
the gravel drive just at the hall door.

“How often he comes! What do they do at the Horse Guards, or wherever it
is that he goes to?”

“He’ll be more steady when he has taken a wife,” said the old man.

“In the meantime what becomes of the cavalry?”

“I dare say you’ll know all about that before long,” said the parson

“Now, my dear, how can you be so foolish as to fill the girl’s head with
nonsense of that kind?” said Mrs. Rossiter, who at that moment came out
from the front door. “And you’re doing John an injustice. You are making
people believe that he has said that which he has not said.”

Alice at the moment was very angry,--as angry as she well could be. It
was certain that Mrs. Rossiter did not know what her son had said or had
not said. But it was cruel that she who had put forward no claim, who
had never been forward in seeking her lover, should be thus almost
publicly rebuked. Quiet as she wished to be, it was necessary that she
should say one word in her own defence. “I don’t think Mr. Rossiter’s
little joke will do John any injustice or me any harm,” she said. “But,
as it may be taken seriously, I hope he will not repeat it.”

“He could not do better for himself. That’s my opinion,” said the old
man, turning back into the house. There had been words before on the
subject between him and his wife, and he was not well pleased with her
at this moment.

“My dear Alice, I am sure you know that I mean everything the best for
you,” said Mrs. Rossiter.

“If nobody would mean anything, but just let me alone, that would be
best. And as for nonsense, Mrs. Rossiter, don’t you know of me that I’m
not likely to be carried away by foolish ideas of that kind?”

“I do know that you are very good.”

“Then why should you talk at me as though I were very bad?” Mrs.
Rossiter felt that she had been reprimanded, and was less inclined than
ever to accept Alice as a daughter-in-law.

Alice, as she walked home, was low in spirits, and angry with herself
because it was so. People would be fools. Of course that was to be
expected. She had known all along that Mrs. Rossiter wanted a grander
wife for her son, whereas the parson was anxious to have her for his
daughter-in-law. Of course she loved the parson better than his wife.
But why was it that she felt at this moment that Mrs. Rossiter would

“Of course it will be so,” she said to herself. “I see it now. And I
suppose he is right. But then certainly he ought not to have come here.
But perhaps he comes because he wishes to--see Miss Wanless.” She went a
little out of her road home, not only to dry a tear, but to rid herself
of the effect of it, and then spent the remainder of the afternoon
swinging her brothers and sisters in the garden.



“Perhaps he is coming here to see Miss Wanless,” Alice had said to
herself. And in the course of that week she found that her surmise was
correct. John Rossiter stayed only one night at the parsonage, and then
went over to Brook Park where lived Sir Walter Wanless and all the
Wanlesses. The parson had not so declared when he told Alice that his
son was coming, but John himself said on his arrival that this was a
special visit made to Brook Park, and not to Beetham. It had been
promised for the last three months, though only fixed lately. He took
the trouble to come across to the doctor’s house with the express
purpose of explaining the fact. “I suppose you have always been intimate
with them,” said Mrs. Dugdale, who was sitting with Alice and a little
crowd of the children round them. There was a tone of sarcasm in the
words not at all hidden. “We all know that you are a great deal finer
than we mere village folk. We don’t know the Wanlesses, but of course
you do. You’ll find yourself much more at home at Brook Park than you
can in such a place as this.” All that, though not spoken, was contained
in the tone of the lady’s speech.

“We have always been neighbours,” said John Rossiter.

“Neighbours ten miles off!” said Mrs Dugdale.

“I dare say the Good Samaritan lived thirty miles off,” said Alice.

“I don’t think distance has much to do with it,” said the Major.

“I like my neighbours to be neighbourly. I like Beetham neighbours,”
said Mrs. Dugdale. There was a reproach in every word of it. Mrs.
Dugdale had heard of Miss Georgiana Wanless, and Major Rossiter knew
that she had done so. After her fashion the lady was accusing him for
deserting Alice.

Alice understood it also, and yet it behoved her to hold herself well up
and be cheerful. “I like Beetham people best myself,” she said, “but
then it is because I don’t know any other. I remember going to Brook
Park once, when there was a party of children, a hundred years ago, and
I thought it quite a paradise. There was a profusion of strawberries by
which my imagination has been troubled ever since. You’ll just be in
time for the strawberries, Major Rossiter.” He had always been John till
quite lately,--John with the memories of childhood; but now he had
become Major Rossiter.

She went out into the garden with him for a moment as he took his
leave,--not quite alone, as a little boy of two years old was clinging
to her hand. “If I had my way,” she said, “I’d have my neighbours
everywhere,--at any distance. I envy a man chiefly for that.”

“Those one loves best should be very near, I think.”

“Those one loves best of all? Oh yes, so that one may do something. It
wouldn’t do not to have you every day, would it, Bobby?” Then she
allowed the willing little urchin to struggle up into her arms and to
kiss her, all smeared as was his face with bread-and-butter.

“Your mother meant to say that I was running away from my old friends.”

“Of course she did. You see, you loom so very large to us here. You
are--such a swell, as Dick says, that we are a little sore when you pass
us by. Everybody likes to be bowed to by royalty. Don’t you know that?
Brook Park is, of course, the proper place for you; but you don’t expect
but what we are going to express our little disgusts and little prides
when we find ourselves left behind!” No words could have less declared
her own feelings on the matter than those she was uttering; but she
found herself compelled to laugh at him, lest, in the other direction,
something of tenderness might escape her, whereby he might be injured
worse than by her raillery. In nothing that she might say could there be
less of real reproach to him than in this.

“I hate that word ‘swell,’” he said.

“So do I.”

“Then why do you use it?”

“To show you how much better Brook Park is than Beetham. I am sure they
don’t talk about swells at Brook Park.”

“Why do you throw Brook Park in my teeth?”

“I feel an inclination to make myself disagreeable to-day. Are you never
like that?”

“I hope not.”

“And then I am bound to follow up what poor dear mamma began. But I
won’t throw Brook Park in your teeth. The ladies I know are very nice.
Sir Walter Wanless is a little grand;--isn’t he?”

“You know,” said he, “that I should be much happier here than there.”

“Because Sir Walter is so grand?”

“Because my friends here are dearer friends. But still it is right that
I should go. One cannot always be where one would be happiest.”

“I am happiest with Bobby,” said she; “and I can always have Bobby.”
Then she gave him her hand at the gate, and he went down to the

That night Mrs. Rossiter was closeted for awhile with her son before
they both went to bed. She was supposed, in Beetham, to be of a higher
order of intellect,--of a higher stamp generally,--than her husband or
daughter, and to be in that respect nearly on a par with her son. She
had not travelled as he had done, but she was of an ambitious mind and
had thoughts beyond Beetham. The poor dear parson cared for little
outside the bounds of his parish. “I am so glad you are going to stay
for awhile over at Brook Park,” she said.

“Only for three days.”

“In the intimacy of a house three days is a lifetime. Of course I do not
like to interfere.” When this was said the Major frowned, knowing well
that his mother was going to interfere. “But I cannot help thinking how
much a connection with the Wanlesses would do for you.”

“I don’t want anything from any connection.”

“That is all very well, John, for a man to say; but in truth we all
depend on connections one with another. You are beginning the world.”

“I don’t know about that, mother.”

“To my eyes you are. Of course, you look upwards.”

“I take all that as it comes.”

“No doubt; but still you must have it in your mind to rise. A man is
assisted very much by the kind of wife he marries. Much would be done
for a son-in-law of Sir Walter Wanless.”

“Nothing, I hope, ever for me on that score. To succeed by favour is

“But even to rise by merit, so much outside assistance is often
necessary! Though you will assuredly deserve all that you will ever get,
yet you may be more likely to get it as a son-in-law to Sir Walter
Wanless than if you were married to some obscure girl. Men who make the
most of themselves in the world do think of these things. I am the last
woman in the world to recommend my boy to look after money in marriage.”

“The Miss Wanlesses will have none.”

“And therefore I can speak the more freely. They will have very
little,--as coming from such a family. But he has great influence. He
has contested the county five times. And then--where is there a
handsomer girl than Georgiana Wanless?” The Major thought that he knew
one, but did not answer the question. “And she is all that such a girl
ought to be. Her manners are perfect,--and her conduct. A constant
performance of domestic duties is of course admirable. If it comes to
one to have to wash linen, she who washes her linen well is a good
woman. But among mean things high spirits are not to be found.”

“I am not so sure of that.”

“It must be so. How can the employment of every hour in the day on
menial work leave time for the mind to fill itself? Making children’s
frocks may be a duty, but it must also be an impediment.”

“You are speaking of Alice.”

“Of course I am speaking of Alice.”

“I would wager my head that she has read twice more in the last two
years than Georgiana Wanless. But, mother, I am not disposed to discuss
either the one young lady or the other. I am not going to Brook Park to
look for a wife; and if ever I take one, it will be simply because I
like her best, and not because I wish to use her as a rung of a ladder
by which to climb upwards into the world.” That all this and just this
would be said to her Mrs. Rossiter had been aware; but still she had
thought that a word in season might have its effect.

And it did have its effect. John Rossiter, as he was driven over to
Brook Park on the following morning, was unconsciously mindful of that
allusion to the washerwoman. He had seen that Alice’s cheek had been
smirched by the greasy crumbs from her little brother’s mouth, he had
seen that the tips of her fingers showed the mark of the needle; he had
seen fragments of thread about her dress, and the mud even from the
children’s boots on her skirts. He had seen this, and had been aware
that Georgiana Wanless was free from all such soil on her outward
raiment. He liked the perfect grace of unspotted feminine apparel, and
he had, too, thought of the hours in which Alice might probably be
employed amidst the multifarious needs of a nursery, and had argued to
himself much as his mother had argued. It was good and homely,--worthy
of a thousand praises; but was it exactly that which he wanted in a
wife? He had repudiated with scorn his mother’s cold, worldly doctrine;
but yet he had felt that it would be a pleasant thing to have it known
in London that his wife was the daughter of Sir Walter Wanless. It was
true that she was wonderfully handsome,--a complexion perfectly clear, a
nose cut as out of marble, a mouth delicate as of a goddess, with a
waist quite to match it. Her shoulders were white as alabaster. Her
dress was at all times perfect. Her fingers were without mark or stain.
There might perhaps be a want of expression; but faces so symmetrical
are seldom expressive. And then, to crown all this, he was justified in
believing that she was attached to himself. Almost as much had been said
to him by Lady Wanless herself,--a word which would amount to as much,
coupled as it was with an immediate invitation to Brook Park. Of this
he had given no hint to any human being; but he had been at Brook Park
once before, and some rumour of something between him and Miss Georgiana
Wanless had reached the people at Beetham,--had reached, as we have
seen, not only Mrs. Rossiter, but also Alice Dugdale.

There had been moments up in London when his mind had veered round
towards Miss Wanless. But there was one little trifle which opposed the
action of his mind, and that was his heart. He had begun to think that
it might be his duty to marry Georgiana;--but the more he thought so the
more clearly would the figure of Alice stand before him, so that no veil
could be thrown over it. When he tried to summon to his imagination the
statuesque beauty of the one girl, the bright eyes of the other would
look at him, and the words from her speaking mouth would be in his ears.
He had once kissed Alice, immediately on his return, in the presence of
her father, and the memory of the halcyon moment was always present to
him. When he thought most of Miss Wanless he did not think much of her
kisses. How grand she would be at his dining-table, how glorious in his
drawing-room! But with Alice how sweet would it be to sit by some brook
side and listen to the waters!

And now since he had been at Beetham, from the nature of things which
sometimes make events to come from exactly contrary causes, a new charm
had been added to Alice, simply by the little effort she had made to
annoy him. She had talked to him of “swells,” and had pretended to be
jealous of the Wanlesses, just because she had known that he would hate
to hear such a word from her lips, and that he would be vexed by
exhibition of such a feeling on her part! He was quite sure that she had
not committed these sins because they belonged to her as a matter of
course. Nothing could be more simple than her natural language or her
natural feelings. But she had chosen to show him that she was ready to
run into little faults which might offend him. The reverse of her ideas
came upon him. She had said, as it were,--“See how little anxious I must
be to dress myself in your mirror when I put myself in the same category
with my poor stepmother.” Then he said to himself that he could see her
as he was fain to see her, in her own mirror, and he loved her the
better because she had dared to run the risk of offending him.

As he was driven up to the house at Brook Park he knew that it was his
destiny to marry either the one girl or the other; and he was afraid of
himself,--that before he left the house he might be engaged to the one
he did not love. There was a moment in which he thought he would turn
round and go back. “Major Rossiter,” Lady Wanless had said, “you know
how glad we are to see you here. There is no young man of the day of
whom Sir Walter thinks so much.” Then he had thanked her. “But--may I
say a word in warning?”


“And I may trust to your honour?”

“I think so, Lady Wanless.”

“Do not be much with that sweet darling of mine,--unless indeed--” And
then she had stopped. Major Rossiter, though he was a major and had
served some years in India, blushed up to his eyebrows and was unable to
answer a word. But he knew that Georgiana Wanless had been offered to
him, and was entitled to believe that the young lady was prone to fall
in love with him. Lady Wanless, had she been asked for an excuse for
such conduct, would have said that the young men of the present day were
slow in managing their own affairs, unless a little help were given to

When the Major was almost immediately invited to return to Brook Park,
he could not but feel that, if he were so to make his choice, he would
be received there as a son-in-law. It may be that unless he intended so
to be received, he should not have gone. This he felt as he was driven
across the park, and was almost minded to return to Beetham.



Sir Walter Wanless was one of those great men who never do anything
great, but achieve their greatness partly by their tailors, partly by a
breadth of eyebrow and carriage of the body,--what we may call
deportment,--and partly by the outside gifts of fortune. Taking his
career altogether we must say that he had been unfortunate. He was a
baronet with a fine house and park,--and with an income hardly
sufficient for the place. He had contested the county four times on old
Whig principles, and had once been in Parliament for two years. There he
had never opened his mouth; but in his struggle to get there had greatly
embarrassed his finances. His tailor had been well chosen, and had
always turned him out as the best dressed old baronet in England. His
eyebrow was all his own, and certainly commanded respect from those with
whom eyebrows are efficacious. He never read; he eschewed farming, by
which he had lost money in early life; and had, so to say, no visible
occupation at all. But he was Sir Walter Wanless, and what with his
tailor and what with his eyebrow he did command a great deal of respect
in the country round Beetham. He had, too, certain good gifts for which
people were thankful as coming from so great a man. He paid his bills,
he went to church, he was well behaved, and still maintained certain
old-fashioned family charities, though money was not plentiful with him.

He had two sons and five daughters. The sons were in the army, and were
beyond his control. The daughters were all at home, and were altogether
under the control of their mother. Indeed everything at Brook Park was
under the control of Lady Wanless,--though no man alive gave himself
airs more autocratic than Sir Walter. It was on her shoulders that fell
the burden of the five daughters, and of maintaining with straitened
means the hospitality of Brook Park on their behoof. A hard-worked
woman was Lady Wanless, in doing her duty,--with imperfect lights no
doubt, but to the best of her abilities with such lights as she
possessed. She was somewhat fine in her dress, not for any comfort that
might accrue to herself, but from a feeling that an alliance with the
Wanlesses would not be valued by the proper sort of young men unless she
were grand herself. The girls were beautifully dressed; but oh, with
such care and economy and daily labour among them, herself, and the two
lady’s-maids upstairs! The father, what with his election and his
farming, and a period of costly living early in his life, had not done
well for the family. That she knew, and never rebuked him. But it was
for her to set matters right, which she could only do by getting
husbands for the daughters. That this might be achieved the Wanless
prestige must be maintained; and with crippled means it is so hard to
maintain a family prestige! A poor duke may do it, or perhaps an earl;
but a baronet is not high enough to give bad wines to his guests without
serious detriment to his unmarried daughters.

A beginning to what might be hoped to be a long line of successes had
already been made. The eldest girl, Sophia, was engaged. Lady Wanless
did not look very high, knowing that failure in such operations will
bring with it such unutterable misfortune. Sophia was engaged to the
eldest son of a neighbouring Squire,--whose property indeed was not
large, nor was the squire likely to die very soon; but there were the
means of present living and a future rental of £4,000 a year. Young Mr.
Cobble was now staying at the house, and had been duly accepted by Sir
Walter himself. The youngest girl, who was only nineteen, had fallen in
love with a young clergyman in the neighbourhood. That would not do at
all, and the young clergyman was not allowed within the Park. Georgiana
was the beauty; and for her, if for any, some great destiny might have
been hoped. But it was her turn, a matter of which Lady Wanless thought
a great deal, and the Major was too good to be allowed to escape.
Georgiana, in her cold, impassive way, seemed to like the Major, and
therefore Lady Wanless paired them off instantly with that decision
which was necessary amidst the labours of her life. She had no scruples
in what she did, feeling sure that her daughters would make honest, good
wives, and that the blood of the Wanlesses was a dowry in itself.

The Major had been told to come early, because a party was made to visit
certain ruins about eight miles off,--Castle Owless, as it was
called,--to which Lady Wanless was accustomed to take her guests,
because the family history declared that the Wanlesses had lived there
at some very remote period. It still belonged to Sir Walter, though
unfortunately the intervening lands had for the most part fallen into
other hands. Owless and Wanless were supposed to be the same, and thus
there was room for a good deal of family tattle.

“I am delighted to see you at Brook Park,” said Sir Walter as they met
at the luncheon table. “When I was at Christchurch your father was at
Wadham, and I remember him well.” Exactly the same words had been spoken
when the Major, on a former occasion, had been made welcome at the
house, and clearly implied a feeling that Christchurch, though much
superior, may condescend to know Wadham--under certain circumstances. Of
the Baronet nothing further was heard or seen till dinner.

Lady Wanless went in the open carriage with three daughters, Sophie
being one of them. As her affair was settled it was not necessary that
one of the two side-saddles should be allotted to her use. Young Cobble,
who had been asked to send two horses over from Cobble Hall so that
Rossiter might ride one, felt this very hard. But there was no appeal
from Lady Wanless. “You’ll have plenty enough of her all the evening,”
said the mother, patting him affectionately, “and it is so necessary
just at present that Georgiana and Edith should have horse exercise.” In
this way it was arranged that Georgiana should ride with the Major, and
Edith, the third daughter, with young Burmeston, the son of Cox and
Burmeston, brewers at the neighbouring town of Slowbridge. A country
brewer is not quite what Lady Wanless would have liked; but with
difficulties such as hers a rich young brewer might be worth having. All
this was hard upon Mr. Cobble, who would not have sent his horses over
had he known it.

Our Major saw at a glance that Georgiana rode well. He liked ladies to
ride, and doubted whether Alice had ever been on horseback in her life.
After all, how many advantages does a girl lose by having to pass her
days in a nursery! For a moment some such idea crossed his mind. Then he
asked Georgiana some question as to the scenery through which they were
passing. “Very fine, indeed,” said Georgiana. She looked square before
her, and sat with her back square to the horse’s tail. There was no
hanging in the saddle, no shifting about in uneasiness. She could rise
and fall easily, even gracefully, when the horse trotted. “You are fond
of riding I can see,” said the Major. “I do like riding,” answered
Georgiana. The tone in which she spoke of her present occupation was
much more lively than that in which she had expressed her approbation of

At the ruin they all got down, and Lady Wanless told them the entire
story of the Owlesses and the Wanlesses, and filled the brewer’s mind
with wonder as to the antiquity and dignity of the family. But the Major
was the fish just at this moment in hand. “The Rossiters are very old,
too,” she said smiling; “but perhaps that is a kind of thing you don’t
care for.”

“Very much indeed,” said he. Which was true,--for he was proud of
knowing that he had come from the Rossiters who had been over four
hundred years in Herefordshire. “A remembrance of old merit will always
be an incitement to new.”

“It is just that, Major Rossiter. It is strange how very nearly in the
same words Georgiana said the same thing to me yesterday.” Georgiana
happened to overhear this, but did not contradict her mother, though she
made a grimace to her sister which was seen by no one else. Then Lady
Wanless slipped aside to assist the brewer and Edith, leaving the Major
and her second daughter together. The two younger girls, of whom the
youngest was the wicked one with the penchant for the curate, were
wandering among the ruins by themselves.

“I wonder whether there ever were any people called Owless,” said
Rossiter, not quite knowing what subject of conversation to choose.

“Of course there were. Mamma always says so.”

“That settles the question;--does it not?”

“I don’t see why there shouldn’t be Owlesses. No; I won’t sit on the
wall, thank you, because I should stain my habit.”

“But you’ll be tired.”

“Not particularly tired. It is not so very far. I’d go back in the
carriage, only of course we can’t because of the habits. Oh, yes; I’m
very fond of dancing,--very fond indeed. We always have two balls every
year at Slowbridge. And there are some others about the county. I don’t
think you ever have balls at Beetham.”

“There is no one to give them.”

“Does Miss Dugdale ever dance?”

The Major had to think for a moment before he could answer the question.
Why should Miss Wanless ask as to Alice’s dancing? “I am sure she does.
Now I think of it I have heard her talk of dancing. You don’t know
Alice Dugdale?” Miss Wanless shook her head. “She is worth knowing.”

“I am quite sure she is. I have always heard that you thought so. She is
very good to all those children; isn’t she?”

“Very good indeed.”

“She would be almost pretty if she wasn’t so,--so, so dumpy I should
say.” Then they got on their horses again and rode back to Brook Park.
Let Georgiana be ever so tired she did not show it, but rode in under
the portico with perfect equestrian grace.

“I’m afraid you took too much out of her,” said Lady Wanless to the
Major that evening. Georgiana had gone to bed a little earlier than the

This was in some degree hard upon him, as he had not proposed the
ride,--and he excused himself. “It was you arranged it all, Lady

“Yes indeed,” said she, smiling. “I did arrange the little excursion,
but it was not I who kept her talking the whole day.” Now this again was
felt to be unfair, as nearly every word of conversation between the
young people has been given in this little chronicle.

On the following day the young people were again thrust together, and
before they parted for the night another little word was spoken by Lady
Wanless which indicated very clearly that there was some special bond of
friendship between the Major and her second daughter. “You are quite
right,” she had said in answer to some extracted compliment; “she does
ride very well. When I was up in town in May I thought I saw no one
with such a seat in the row. Miss Green, who taught the Duchess of
Ditchwater’s daughters, declared that she knew nothing like it.”

On the third morning he returned to Beetham early, as he intended to go
up to town the same afternoon. Then there was prepared for him a little
valedictory opportunity in which he could not but press the young lady’s
fingers for a moment. As he did so no one was looking at him, but then
he knew that it was so much the more dangerous because no one was
looking. Nothing could be more knowing than the conduct of the young
lady, who was not in any way too forward. If she admitted that slight
pressure, it was done with a retiring rather than obtrusive favour. It
was not by her own doing that she was alone with him for a moment. There
was no casting down or casting up of her eyes. And yet it seemed to him
as he left her and went out into the hall that there had been so much
between them that he was almost bound to propose to her. In the hall
there was the Baronet to bid him farewell,--an honour which he did to
his guests only when he was minded to treat them with great distinction.
“Lady Wanless and I are delighted to have had you here,” he said.
“Remember me to your father, and tell him that I remember him very well
when I was at Christchurch and he was at Wadham.” It was something to
have had one’s hand taken in so paternal a manner by a baronet with such
an eyebrow, and such a coat.

And yet when he returned to Beetham he was not in a good-humour with
himself. It seemed to him that he had been almost absorbed among the
Wanlesses without any action or will of his own. He tried to comfort
himself by declaring that Georgiana was, without doubt, a remarkably
handsome young woman, and that she was a perfect horsewoman,--as though
all that were a matter to him of any moment! Then he went across to the
doctor’s house to say a word of farewell to Alice.

“Have you had a pleasant visit?” she asked.

“Oh, yes; all very well.”

“That second Miss Wanless is quite beautiful; is she not?”

“She is handsome certainly.”

“I call her lovely,” said Alice. “You rode with her the other day over
to that old castle.”

Who could have told this of him already? “Yes; there was a party of us
went over.”

“When are you going there again?” Now something had been said of a
further visit, and Rossiter had almost promised that he would return. It
is impossible not to promise when undefined invitations are given. A man
cannot declare that he is engaged for ever and ever. But how was it that
Alice knew all that had been said and done? “I cannot say that I have
fixed any exact day,” he replied almost angrily.

“I’ve heard all about you, you know. That young Mr. Burmeston was at
Mrs. Tweed’s and told them what a favourite you are. If it be true I
will congratulate you, because I do really think that the young lady is
the most beautiful that I ever saw in my life.” This she said with a
smile and a good-humoured little shake of the head. If it was to be that
her heart must be broken he at least should not know it. And she still
hoped, she still thought, that by being very constant at her work she
might get over it.



IT was told all through Beetham before a week was over that Major
Rossiter was to marry the second Miss Wanless, and Beetham liked the
news. Beetham was proud that one of her sons should be introduced into
the great neighbouring family, and especially that he should be honoured
by the hand of the acknowledged beauty. Beetham, a month ago, had
declared that Alice Dugdale, a Beethamite herself from her
babyhood,--who had been born and bred at Beetham and had ever lived
there,--was to be honoured by the hand of the young hero. But it may be
doubted whether Beetham had been altogether satisfied with the
arrangement. We are apt to envy the good luck of those who have always
been familiar with us. Why should it have been Alice Dugdale any more
than one of the Tweed girls, or Miss Simkins, the daughter of the
attorney, who would certainly have a snug little fortune of her
own,--which unfortunately would not be the case with Alice Dugdale? It
had been felt that Alice was hardly good enough for their hero,--Alice
who had been seen about with all the Dugdale children, pushing them in
perambulators almost every day since the eldest was born! We prefer the
authority of a stranger to that of one chosen from among ourselves. As
the two Miss Tweeds, and Miss Simkins, with Alice and three or four
others, could not divide the hero among them, it was better then that
the hero should go from among them, and choose a fitting mate in a
higher realm. They all felt the greatness of the Wanlesses, and argued
with Mrs. Rossiter that the rising star of the village should obtain
such assistance in rising as would come to him from an almost noble

There had been certainly a decided opinion that Alice was to be the
happy woman. Mrs. Dugdale, the stepmother, had boasted of the promotion;
and old Mr. Rossiter had whispered his secret conviction into the ear of
every favoured parishioner. The doctor himself had allowed his patients
to ask questions about it. This had become so common that Alice herself
had been inwardly indignant,--would have been outwardly indignant but
that she could not allow herself to discuss the matter. That having been
so, Beetham ought to have been scandalised by the fickleness of her
hero. Beetham ought to have felt that her hero was most unheroic. But,
at any rate among the ladies, there was no shadow of such a feeling. Of
course such a man as the Major was bound to do the best for himself.
The giving away of his hand in marriage was a very serious thing, and
was not to be obligatory on a young hero because he had been carried
away by the fervour of old friendship to kiss a young lady immediately
on his return home. The history of the kiss was known all over Beetham,
and was declared by competent authorities to have amounted to nothing.
It was a last lingering touch of childhood’s happy embracings, and if
Alice was such a fool as to take it for more, she must pay the penalty
of her folly. “It was in her father’s presence,” said Mrs. Rossiter,
defending her son to Mrs. Tweed, and Mrs. Tweed had expressed her
opinion that the kiss ought to go for nothing. The Major was to be
acquitted,--and the fact of the acquittal made its way even to the
doctor’s nursery; so that Alice knew that the man might marry that girl
at Brook Park with clean hands. That, as she declared to herself, did
not increase her sorrow. If the man were minded to marry the girl he was
welcome for her. And she apologised for him to her own heart. What a man
generally wants, she said, is a beautiful wife; and of the beauty of
Miss Georgiana Wanless there could be no doubt. Only,--only--only, there
had been a dozen words which he should have left unspoken!

That which riveted the news on the minds of the Beethamites was the
stopping of the Brook Park carriage at the door of the parsonage one day
about a week after the Major’s visit. It was not altogether an
unprecedented occurrence. Had there been no precedent it could hardly
have been justified on the present occasion. Perhaps once in two years
Lady Wanless would call at the parsonage, and then there would be a
return visit during which a reference would always be made to Wadham and
Christchurch. The visit was now out of its order, only nine months
having elapsed,--of which irregularity Beetham took due notice. On this
occasion Miss Wanless and the third young lady accompanied their mother,
leaving Georgiana at home. What was whispered between the two old ladies
Beetham did not quite know,--but made its surmises. It was in this wise.
“We were so glad to have the Major over with us,” said her ladyship.

“It was so good of you,” said Mrs. Rossiter.

“He is a great favourite with Sir Walter.”

“That is so good of Sir Walter.”

“And we are quite pleased to have him among our young people.” That was
all, but it was quite sufficient to tell Mrs. Rossiter that John might
have Georgiana Wanless for the asking, and that Lady Wanless expected
him to ask. Then the parting was much more affectionate than it had ever
been before, and there was a squeezing of the hand and a nodding of the
head which meant a great deal.

Alice held her tongue, and did her work and attempted to be cheery
through it all. Again and again she asked herself,--what did it matter?
Even though she were unhappy, even though she felt a keen, palpable,
perpetual aching at her heart, what would it matter so long as she
could go about and do her business? Some people in this world had to be
unhappy;--perhaps most people. And this was a sorrow which, though it
might not wear off, would by wearing become dull enough to be bearable.
She distressed herself in that there was any sorrow. Providence had
given to her a certain condition of life to which many charms were
attached. She thoroughly loved the people about her,--her father, her
little brothers and sisters, even her overworn and somewhat idle
stepmother. She was a queen in the house, a queen among her busy toils;
and she liked being a queen, and liked being busy. No one ever scolded
her or crossed her or contradicted her. She had the essential
satisfaction of the consciousness of usefulness. Why should not that
suffice to her? She despised herself because there was a hole in her
heart,--because she felt herself to shrink all over when the name of
Georgiana Wanless was mentioned in her hearing. Yet she would mention
the name herself, and speak with something akin to admiration of the
Wanless family. And she would say how well it was that men should strive
to rise in the world, and how that the world progressed through such
individual efforts. But she would not mention the name of John Rossiter,
nor would she endure that it should be mentioned in her hearing with any
special reference to herself.

Mrs. Dugdale, though she was overworn and idle,--a warped and almost
useless piece of furniture, made, as was said before, of bad
timber,--yet saw more of this than anyone else, and was indignant. To
lose Alice, to have no one to let down those tucks and take up those
stitches, would be to her the loss of all her comforts. But, though she
was feckless, she was true-hearted, and she knew that Alice was being
wronged. It was Alice that had a right to the hero, and not that
stuck-up young woman at Brook Park. It was thus she spoke of the affair
to the doctor, and after awhile found herself unable to be silent on the
subject to Alice herself. “If what they say does take place I shall
think worse of John Rossiter than I ever did of any man I ever knew.”
This she said in the presence both of her husband and her step-daughter.

“John Rossiter will not be very much the worse for that,” said Alice
without relaxing a moment from her work. There was a sound of drolling
in her voice, as though she were quizzing her stepmother for her folly.

“It seems to me that men may do anything now,” continued Mrs. Dugdale.

“I suppose they are the same now as they always were,” said the doctor.
“If a man chose to be false he could always be false.”

“I call it unmanly,” said Mrs. Dugdale. “If I were a man I would beat

“What would you beat him for?” said Alice, getting up, and as she did so
throwing down on the table before her the little frock she was making.
“If you had the power of beating him, why would you beat him?”

“Because he is ill-using you.”

“How do you know that? Did I ever tell you so? Have you ever heard a
word that he has said to me, either direct from himself, or second-hand,
that justifies you in saying that he has ill-used me? You ill-use me
when you speak like that.”

“Alice, do not be so violent,” said the doctor.

“Father, I will speak of this once, and once for all;--and then pray,
pray, let there be no further mention of it. I have no right to complain
of anything in Major Rossiter. He has done me no wrong. Those who love
me should not mention his name in reference to me.”

“He is a villain,” said Mrs. Dugdale.

“He is no villain. He is a gentleman, as far as I know, from the crown
of his head to the sole of his foot. Does it ever occur to you how
little you make of me when you talk of him in this way? Dismiss it all
from your mind, father, and let things be as they were. Do you think
that I am pining for any man’s love? I say that Major Rossiter is a true
man and a gentleman;--but I would not give my Bobby’s little finger for
all his whole body.” Then there was silence, and afterwards the doctor
told his wife that the Major’s name had better not be mentioned again
among them. Alice on this occasion was, or appeared to be, very angry
with Mrs. Dugdale; but on that evening and the next morning there was an
accession of tenderness in her usually sweet manner to her stepmother.
The expression of her mother’s anger against the Major had been
wrong;--but the feeling of anger was not the less endearing.

Some time after that, one evening, the parson came upon Alice as she
was picking flowers in one of the Beetham lanes. She had all the
children with her, and was filling Minnie’s apron with roses from the
hedge. Old Mr. Rossiter stopped and talked to them, and after awhile
succeeded in getting Alice to walk on with him. “You haven’t heard from
John?” he said.

“Oh, no,” replied Alice, almost with a start. And then she added
quickly, “There is no one at our house likely to hear from him. He does
not write to anyone there.”

“I did not know whether any message might have reached you.”

“I think not.”

“He is to be here again before long,” said the parson.

“Oh, indeed.” She had but a moment to think of it all; but, after
thinking, she continued, “I suppose he will be going over to Brook

“I fear he will.”

“Fear;--why should you fear, Mr. Rossiter? If that is true, it is the
place where he ought to be.”

“But I doubt its truth, my dear.”

“Ah! I know nothing about that. If so he had better stay up in London, I

“I don’t think John can care much for Miss Wanless.”

“Why not? She is the most thoroughly beautiful young woman I ever saw.”

“I don’t think he does, because I believe his heart is elsewhere. Alice,
you have his heart.”


“I think so, Alice.”

“No, Mr. Rossiter. I have not. It is not so. I know nothing of Miss
Wanless, but I can speak of myself.”

“It seems to me that you are speaking of him now.”

“Then why does he go there?”

“That is just what I cannot answer. Why does he go there? Why do we do
the worst thing so often, when we see the better?”

“But we don’t leave undone the thing which we wish to do, Mr. Rossiter.”

“That is just what we do do,--under constraint. Alice, I hope, I hope
that you may become his wife.” She endeavoured to deny that it could
ever be so;--she strove to declare that she herself was much too
heart-free for that; but the words would not come to her lips, and she
could only sob while she struggled to retain her tears. “If he does come
to you give him a chance again, even though he may have been untrue to
you for a moment.”

Then she was left alone among the children. She could dry her tears and
suppress her sobs, because Minnie was old enough to know the meaning of
them if she saw them; but she could not for awhile go back into the
house. She left them in the passage and then went out again, and walked
up and down a little pathway that ran through the shrubs at the bottom
of the garden. “I believe his heart is elsewhere.” Could it be that it
was so? And if so, of what nature can be a man’s love, if when it be
given in one direction, he can go in another with his hand? She could
understand that there had not been much heart in it;--that he, being a
man and not a woman, could have made this turning point of his life an
affair of calculation, and had taken himself here or there without much
love at all; that as he would seek a commodious house, so would he also
a convenient wife. Resting on that suggestion to herself, she had dared
to declare to her father and mother that Major Rossiter was, not a
villain, but a perfect gentleman. But all that was not compatible with
his father’s story. “Alice, you have his heart,” the old man had said.
How had it come to pass that the old man had known it? And yet the
assurance was so sweet, so heavenly, so laden to her ears with divine
music, that at this moment she would not even ask herself to disbelieve
it. “If he does come to you, give him a chance again.” Why;--yes! Though
she never spoke a word of Miss Wanless without praise, though she had
tutored herself to swear that Miss Wanless was the very wife for him,
yet she knew herself too well not to know that she was better than Miss
Wanless. For his sake, she could with a clear conscience--give him a
chance again. The dear old parson! He had seen it all. He had known. He
had appreciated. If it should ever come to pass that she was to be his
daughter-in-law, he should have his reward. She would not tell herself
that she expected him to come again; but, if he did come, she would
give the parson his chance. Such was her idea at that moment. But she
was forced to change it before long.



WHEN Major Rossiter discussed his own conduct with himself as men are so
often compelled to do by their own conscience, in opposition to their
own wishes, he was not well pleased with himself. On his return home
from India he had found himself possessed of a liberal income, and had
begun to enjoy himself without thinking much about marrying. It is not
often that a man looks for a wife because he has made up his mind that
he wants the article. He roams about unshackled, till something, which
at the time seems to be altogether desirable, presents itself to him;
and then he meditates marriage. So it had been with our Major. Alice had
presented herself to him as something altogether desirable,--a something
which, when it was touched and looked at, seemed to be so full of
sweetnesses, that to him it was for the moment of all things the most
charming. He was not a forward man,--one of those who can see a girl for
the first time on a Monday, and propose to her on the Tuesday. When the
idea first suggested itself to him of making Alice his wife he became
reticent and undemonstrative. The kiss had in truth meant no more than
Mrs. Tweed had said. When he began to feel that he loved her, then he
hardly dared to dream of kissing her.

But though he felt that he loved her,--liked perhaps it would be fairer
to say in that early stage of his feelings,--better than any other
woman, yet when he came to think of marriage, the importance of it all
made him hesitate; and he was reminded, by little hints from others, and
by words plain enough from one person, that Alice Dugdale was after all
a common thing. There is a fitness in such matters,--so said Mrs.
Rossiter,--and a propriety in like being married to like. Had it been
his lot to be a village doctor, Alice would have suited him well.
Destiny, however, had carried him,--the Major,--higher up, and would
require him to live in London, among ornate people, with polished
habits, and peculiar manners of their own. Would not Alice be out of her
element in London? See the things among which she passed her life! Not a
morsel of soap or a pound of sugar was used in the house, but what she
gave it out. Her hours were passed in washing, teaching, and sewing for
the children. In her very walks she was always pushing a perambulator.
She was, no doubt, the doctor’s daughter; but, in fact, she was the
second Mrs. Dugdale’s nursemaid. Nothing could be more praiseworthy. But
there is a fitness in things; and he, the hero of Beetham, the Assistant
Deputy Inspector-General of the British Cavalry, might surely do better
than marry a praiseworthy nursery girl. It was thus that Mrs. Rossiter
argued with her son, and her arguments were not without avail.

Then Georgiana Wanless had been, as it were, thrown at his head. When
one is pelted with sugar-plums one can hardly resent the attack. He was
clever enough to feel that he was pelted, but at first he liked the
sweetmeats. A girl riding on horseback, with her back square to the
horse’s tail, with her reins well held, and a chimney-pot hat on her
head, is an object, unfortunately, more attractive to the eyes of
ordinary men, than a young woman pushing a perambulator with two babies.
Unfortunately, I say, because in either case the young woman should be
judged by her personal merits and not by externals. But the Major
declared to himself that the personal merits would be affected by the
externals. A girl who had pushed a perambulator for many years, would
hardly have a soul above perambulators. There would be wanting the
flavour of the aroma of romance, that something of poetic vagueness
without which a girl can hardly be altogether charming to the senses of
an appreciative lover. Then, a little later on, he asked himself whether
Georgiana Wanless was romantic and poetic,--whether there was much of
true aroma there.

But yet he thought that fate would require him to marry Georgiana
Wanless, whom he certainly did not love, and to leave Alice to her
perambulator,--Alice, whom he certainly did love. And as he thought of
this, he was ill at ease with himself. It might be well that he should
give up his Assistant Deputy Inspector-Generalship, go back to India,
and so get rid of his two troubles together. Fate, as he personified
fate to himself in this matter,--took the form of Lady Wanless. It made
him sad to think that he was but a weak creature in the hands of an old
woman, who wanted to use him for a certain purpose;--but he did not see
his way of escaping. When he began to console himself by reflecting that
he would have one of the handsomest women in London at his dinner-table
he knew that he would be unable to escape.

About the middle of July he received the following letter from Lady

     “DEAR MAJOR ROSSITER,--The girls have been at their father for the
     last ten days to have an archery meeting on the lawn, and have at
     last prevailed, though Sir Walter has all a father’s abhorrence to
     have the lawn knocked about. Now it is settled. ‘I’ll see about
     it,’ Sir Walter said at last, and when so much as that had been
     obtained, they all knew that the archery meeting was to be. Sir
     Walter likes his own way, and is not always to be persuaded. But
     when he has made the slightest show of concession, he never goes
     back from it. Then comes the question as to the day, which is now
     in course of discussion in full committee. In that matter Sir
     Walter is supposed to be excluded from any voice. ‘It cannot matter
     to him what day of the week or what day of the month,’ said
     Georgiana very irreverently. It will not, however, much matter to
     him so long as it is all over before St. Partridge comes round.

     “The girls one and all declared that you must be here,--as one of
     the guests in the house. Our rooms will be mostly full of young
     ladies, but there will be one at any rate for you. Now, what day
     will suit you,--or rather what day will suit the Cavalry generally?
     Everything must of course depend on the Cavalry. The girls say that
     the Cavalry is sure to go out of town after the tenth of August.
     But they would put it off for a week longer rather than not have
     the Inspector-General. Would Wednesday 14th suit the Cavalry? They
     are all reading every word of my letter as it is written, and bid
     me say that if Thursday or Friday in that week, or Wednesday or
     Thursday in the next, will do better, the accommodation of the
     Cavalry shall be consulted. It cannot be on a Monday or Saturday
     because there would be some Sunday encroachment. On Tuesday we
     cannot get the band from Slowbridge.

     “Now you know our great purpose and our little difficulties. One
     thing you cannot know,--how determined we are to accommodate
     ourselves to the Cavalry. _The meeting is not to take place without
     the Inspector-General._ So let us have an early answer from that
     august functionary. The girls think that the Inspector had better
     come down before the day, so as to make himself useful in

     “Pray believe me, with Sir Walter’s kind regards, yours most

                                                     “MARGARET WANLESS.”

The Major felt that the letter was very flattering, but that it was
false and written for a certain purpose. He could read between the lines
at every sentence of it. The festival was to be got up, not at the
instance of the girls but of Lady Wanless herself, as a final trap for
the catching of himself,--and perhaps for Mr. Burmeston. Those
irreverent words had never come from Georgiana, who was too placid to
have said them. He did not believe a word of the girls looking over the
writing of the letter. In all such matters Lady Wanless had more life,
more energy than her daughters. All that little fun about the Cavalry
came from Lady Wanless herself. The girls were too like their father for
such ebullitions. The little sparks of joke with which the names of the
girls were connected,--with which in his hearing the name of Georgiana
had been specially connected,--had, he was aware, their origin always
with Lady Wanless. Georgiana had said this funny thing and that,--but
Georgiana never spoke after that fashion in his hearing. The traps were
plain to his eyes, and yet he knew that he would sooner or later be
caught in the traps.

He took a day to think of it before he answered the letter, and
meditated a military tour to Berlin just about the time. If so, he must
be absent during the whole of August, so as to make his presence at the
toxopholite meeting an impossibility. And yet at last he wrote and said
that he would be there. There would be something mean in flight. After
all, he need not ask the girl to be his wife unless he chose to do so.
He wrote a very pretty note to Lady Wanless saying that he would be at
Brook Park on the 14th, as she had suggested.

Then he made a great resolution and swore an oath to himself,--that he
would not be caught on that occasion, and that after this meeting he
would go no more either to Brook Park or to Beetham for awhile. He would
not marry the girl to whom he was quite indifferent, nor her who from
her position was hardly qualified to be his wife. Then he went about his
duties with a quieted conscience, and wedded himself for once and for
always to the Cavalry.

Some tidings of the doings proposed by the Wanlesses had reached the
parson’s ears when he told Alice in the lane that his son was soon
coming down to Beetham again, and that he was again going to Brook Park.
Before July was over the tidings of the coming festivity had been spread
over all that side of the county. Such a thing had not been done for
many years,--not since Lady Wanless had been herself a young wife, with
two sisters for whom husbands had to be,--and were provided. There were
those who could still remember how well Lady Wanless had behaved on that
occasion. Since those days hospitality on a large scale had not been
rife at Brook Park--and the reason why it was so was well known. Sir
Walter was determined not to embarrass himself further, and would do
nothing that was expensive. It could not be but that there was great
cause for such a deviation as this. Then the ladies of the neighbourhood
put their heads together,--and some of the gentlemen,--and declared
that a double stroke of business was to be done in regard to Major
Rossiter and Mr. Burmeston. How great a relief that would be to the
mother’s anxiety if the three eldest girls could be married and got rid
of all on the same day!

Beetham, which was ten miles from Brook Park, had a station of its own,
whereas Slowbridge with its own station was only six miles from the
house. The Major would fain have reached his destination by Slowbridge,
so as to have avoided the chance of seeing Alice, were it not that his
father and mother would have felt themselves aggrieved by such
desertion. On this occasion his mother begged him to give them one
night. She had much that she wished to say to him, and then of course he
could have the parsonage horse and the parsonage phaeton to take him
over to Brook Park free of expense. He did go down to Beetham, did spend
an evening there, and did go on to the Park without having spoken to
Alice Dugdale.

“Everybody says you are to marry Georgiana Wanless,” said Mrs. Rossiter.

“If there were no other reason why I should not, the saying of everybody
would be sufficient against it.”

“That is unreasonable, John. The thing should be looked at itself,
whether it is good or bad. It may be the case that Lady Wanless talks
more than she ought to do. It may be the case that, as people say, she
is looking out for husbands for her daughters. I don’t know but that I
should do the same if I had five of them on my hands and very little
means for them. And if I did, how could I get a better husband for one
of them than--such a one as Major John Rossiter?” Then she kissed his

“I hate the kind of thing altogether,” said he. He pretended to be
stern, but yet he showed that he was flattered by his mother’s softness.

“It may well be, John, that such a match shall be desirable to them and
to you too. If so, why should there not be a fair bargain between the
two of you? You know that you admire the girl.” He would not deny this,
lest it should come to pass hereafter that she should become his wife.
“And everybody knows that as far as birth goes there is not a family in
the county stands higher. I am so proud of my boy that I wish to see him
mated with the best.”

He reached the parsonage that evening only just before dinner, and on
the next morning he did not go out of the house till the phaeton came
round to take him to Brook Park. “Are you not going up to see the old
doctor?” said the parson after breakfast.

“No;--I think not. He is never at home, and the ladies are always
surrounded by the children.”

“She will take it amiss,” said the father almost in a whisper.

“I will go as I come back,” said he, blushing as he spoke at his own
falsehood. For, if he held to his present purpose, he would return by
Slowbridge. If Fate intended that there should be nothing further
between him and Alice, it would certainly be much better that they
should not be brought together any more. He knew too what his father
meant, and was more unwilling to take counsel from his father even than
his mother. Yet he blushed because he knew that he was false.

“Do not seem to slight her,” said the old man. “She is too good for

Then he drove himself over to Brook Park, and, as he made his way by one
of the innumerable turnings out of Beetham, he saw at one of the corners
Alice, still with the children and still with the perambulator. He
merely lifted his hat as he passed, but did not stop to speak to her.



THE Assistant Deputy Inspector-General, when he reached Brook Park,
found that things were to be done on a great scale. The two
drawing-rooms were filled with flowers, and the big dining-room was laid
out for to-morrow’s lunch, in preparation for those who would prefer the
dining-room to the tent. Rossiter was first taken into the Baronet’s own
room, where Sir Walter kept his guns and administered justice. “This is
a terrible bore, Rossiter,” he said.

“It must disturb you a great deal, Sir Walter.”

“Oh, dear--dreadfully! What would my old friend, your father, think of
having to do this kind of thing? Though, when I was at Christchurch and
he at Wadham, we used to be gay enough. I’m not quite sure that I don’t
owe it to you.”

“To me, Sir Walter!”

“I rather think you put the girls up to it.” Then he laughed as though
it were a very good joke and told the Major where he would find the
ladies. He had been expressly desired by his wife to be genial to the
Major, and had been as genial as he knew how.

Rossiter, as he went out on to the lawn, saw Mr. Burmeston, the brewer,
walking with Edith, the third daughter. He could not but admire the
strategy of Lady Wanless when he acknowledged to himself how well she
managed all these things. The brewer would not have been allowed to walk
with Gertrude, the fourth daughter, nor even with Maria, the naughty
girl who liked the curate,--because it was Edith’s turn. Edith was
certainly the plainest of the family, and yet she had her turn. Lady
Wanless was by far too good a mother to have favourites among her own

He then found the mother, the eldest daughter, and Gertrude overseeing
the decoration of a tent, which had been put up as an addition to the
dining-room. He expected to find Mr. Cobble, to whom he had taken a
liking, a nice, pleasant, frank young country gentleman; but Mr. Cobble
was not wanted for any express purpose, and might have been in the way.
Mr. Cobble was landed and safe. Before long he found himself walking
round the garden with Lady Wanless herself. The other girls, though they
were to be his sisters, were never thrown into any special intimacy with
him. “She will be down before long now that she knows you are here,”
said Lady Wanless. “She was fatigued a little, and I thought it better
that she should lie down. She is so impressionable, you know.” “She” was
Georgiana. He knew that very well. But why should Georgiana be called
“She” to him, by her mother? Had “She” been in truth engaged to him it
would have been intelligible enough. But there had been nothing of the
kind. As “She” was thus dinned into his ears, he thought of the very
small amount of conversation which had ever taken place between himself
and the young lady.

Then there occurred to him an idea that he would tell Lady Wanless in so
many words that there was a mistake. The doing so would require some
courage, but he thought that he could summon up manliness for the
purpose,--if only he could find the words and occasion. But though “She”
were so frequently spoken of, still nothing was said which seemed to
give him the opportunity required. It is hard for a man to have to
reject a girl when she has been offered,--but harder to do so before the
offer has in truth been made. “I am afraid there is a little mistake in
your ideas as to me and your daughter.” It was thus that he would have
had to speak, and then to have endured the outpouring of her wrath, when
she would have declared that the ideas were only in his own arrogant
brain. He let it pass by and said nothing, and before long he was
playing lawn-tennis with Georgiana, who did not seem to have been in the
least fatigued.

“My dear, I will not have it,” said Lady Wanless about an hour
afterwards, coming up and disturbing the game. “Major Rossiter, you
ought to know better.” Whereupon she playfully took the racket out of
the Major’s hand. “Mamma is such an old bother,” said Georgiana as she
walked back to the house with her Major. The Major had on a previous
occasion perceived that the second Miss Wanless rode very well, and now
he saw that she was very stout at lawn-tennis; but he observed none of
that peculiarity of mental or physical development which her mother had
described as “impressionable.” Nevertheless she was a handsome girl, and
if to play at lawn-tennis would help to make a husband happy, so much at
any rate she could do.

This took place on the day before the meeting,--before the great day.
When the morning came the girls did not come down early to breakfast,
and our hero found himself left alone with Mr. Burmeston. “You have
known the family a long time,” said the Major as they were sauntering
about the gravel paths together, smoking their cigars.

“No, indeed,” said Mr. Burmeston. “They only took me up about three
months ago,--just before we went over to Owless. Very nice
people;--don’t you think so?”

“Very nice,” said the Major.

“They stand so high in the county, and all that sort of thing. Birth
does go a long way, you know.”

“So it ought,” said the Major.

“And though the Baronet does not do much in the world, he has been in
the House, you know. All those things help.” Then the Major understood
that Mr. Burmeston had looked the thing in the face, and had determined
that for certain considerations it was worth his while to lead one of
the Miss Wanlesses to the hymeneal altar. In this Mr. Burmeston was
behaving with more manliness than he,--who had almost made up his mind
half-a-dozen times, and had never been satisfied with the way he had
done it.

About twelve the visitors had begun to come, and Sophia with Mr. Cobble
were very soon trying their arrows together. Sophia had not been allowed
to have her lover on the previous day, but was now making up for it.
That was all very well, but Lady Wanless was a little angry with her
eldest daughter. Her success was insured for her. Her business was done.
Seeing how many sacrifices had been made to her during the last
twelvemonths, surely now she might have been active in aiding her
sisters, instead of merely amusing herself.

The Major was not good at archery. He was no doubt an excellent Deputy
Inspector-General of Cavalry; but if bows and arrows had still been the
weapons used in any part of the British army, he would not, without
further instruction, have been qualified to inspect that branch.
Georgiana Wanless, on the other hand, was a proficient. Such shooting as
she made was marvellous to look at. And she was a very image of Diana,
as with her beautiful figure and regular features, dressed up to the
work, she stood with her bow raised in her hand and let twang the
arrows. The circle immediately outside the bull’s-eye was the farthest
from the mark she ever touched. But good as she was and bad as was the
Major, nevertheless they were appointed always to shoot together. After
a world of failures the Major would shoot no more,--but not the less did
he go backwards and forwards with Georgiana when she changed from one
end to the other, and found himself absolutely appointed to that task.
It grew upon him during the whole day that this second Miss Wanless was
supposed to be his own,--almost as much as was the elder the property of
Mr. Cobble. Other young men would do no more than speak to her. And when
once, after the great lunch in the tent, Lady Wanless came and put her
hand affectionately upon his arm, and whispered some word into his ear
in the presence of all the assembled guests, he knew that the entire
county had recognised him as caught.

There was old Lady Deepbell there. How it was that towards the end of
the day’s delights Lady Deepbell got hold of him he never knew. Lady
Deepbell had not been introduced to him, and yet she got hold of him.
“Major Rossiter, you are the luckiest man of the day,” she said to him.

“Pretty well,” said he, affecting to laugh; “but why so?”

“She is the handsomest young woman out. There hasn’t been one in London
this season with such a figure.”

“You are altogether wrong in your surmise, Lady Deepbell.”

“No, no; I am right enough. I see it all. Of course the poor girl won’t
have any money; but then how nice it is when a gentleman like you is
able to dispense with that. Perhaps they do take after their father a
little, and he certainly is not bright; but upon my word, I think a girl
is all the better for that. What’s the good of having such a lot of

“Lady Deepbell, you are alluding to a young lady without the slightest
warrant,” said the Major.

“Warrant enough;--warrant enough,” said the old woman, toddling off.

Then young Cobble came to him, and talked to him as though he were a
brother of the house. Young Cobble was an honest fellow, and quite in
earnest in his matrimonial intentions. “We shall be delighted if you’ll
come to us on the first,” said Cobble. The first of course meant the
first of September. “We ain’t so badly off just for a week’s shooting.
Sophia is to be there, and we’ll get Georgiana too.”

The Major was fond of shooting, and would have been glad to accept the
offer; but it was out of the question that he should allow himself to be
taken in at Cobble Hall under a false pretext. And was it not incumbent
on him to make this young man understand that he had no pretensions
whatever to the hand of the second Miss Wanless? “You are very good,”
said he.

“We should be delighted,” said young Cobble.

“But I fear there is a mistake. I can’t say anything more about it now
because it doesn’t do to name people;--but there is a mistake. Only for
that I should have been delighted. Good-bye.” Then he took his
departure, leaving young Cobble in a state of mystified suspense.

The day lingered on to a great length. The archery and the lawn-tennis
were continued till late after the so-called lunch, and towards the
evening a few couples stood up to dance. It was evident to the Major
that Burmeston and Edith were thoroughly comfortable together. Gertrude
amused herself well, and even Maria was contented, though the curate as
a matter of course was not there. Sophia with her legitimate lover was
as happy as the day and evening were long. But there came a frown upon
Georgiana’s brow, and when at last the Major, as though forced by
destiny, asked her to dance, she refused. It had seemed to her a matter
of course that he should ask her, and at last he did;--but she refused.
The evening with him was very long, and just as he thought that he would
escape to bed, and was meditating how early he would be off on the
morrow, Lady Wanless took possession of him and carried him off alone
into one of the desolate chambers. “Is she very tired?” asked the
anxious mother.

“Is who tired?” The Major at that moment would have given twenty guineas
to have been in his lodgings near St. James’s Street.

“My poor girl,” said Lady Wanless, assuming a look of great solicitude.

It was vain for him to pretend not to know who was the “she” intended.
“Oh, ah, yes; Miss Wanless.”


“I think she is tired. She was shooting a great deal. Then there was a
quadrille;--but she didn’t dance. There has been a great deal to tire
young ladies.”

“You shouldn’t have let her do so much.”

How was he to get out of it? What was he to say? If a man is clearly
asked his intentions he can say that he has not got any. That used to be
the old fashion when a gentleman was supposed to be dilatory in
declaring his purpose. But it gave the oscillating lover so easy an
escape! It was like the sudden jerk of the hand of the unpractised
fisherman: if the fish does not succumb at once it goes away down the
stream and is no more heard of. But from this new process there is no
mode of immediate escape. “I couldn’t prevent her because she is nothing
to me.” That would have been the straightforward answer;--but one most
difficult to make. “I hope she will be none the worse to-morrow
morning,” said the Major.

“I hope not, indeed. Oh, Major Rossiter!” The mother’s position was
also difficult, as it is of no use to play with a fish too long without
making an attempt to stick the hook into his gills.

“Lady Wanless!”

“What am I to say to you? I am sure you know my feelings. You know how
sincere is Sir Walter’s regard.”

“I am very much flattered, Lady Wanless.”

“That means nothing.” This was true, but the Major did not mean to
intend anything. “Of all my flock she is the fairest.” That was true
also. The Major would have been delighted to accede to the assertion of
the young lady’s beauty, if this might have been the end of it. “I had

“Had thought what, Lady Wanless?”

“If I am deceived in you, Major Rossiter, I never will believe in a man
again. I have looked upon you as the very soul of honour.”

“I trust that I have done nothing to lessen your good opinion.”

“I do not know. I cannot say. Why do you answer me in this way about my
child?” Then she held her hands together and looked up into his face
imploringly. He owned to himself that she was a good actress. He was
almost inclined to submit and to declare his passion for Georgiana. For
the present that way out of the difficulty would have been so easy!

“You shall hear from me to-morrow morning,” he said, almost solemnly.

“Shall I?” she asked, grasping his hand. “Oh, my friend, let it be as I
desire. My whole life shall be devoted to making you happy,--you and
her.” Then he was allowed to escape.

Lady Wanless, before she went to bed, was closeted for awhile with the
eldest daughter. As Sophia was now almost as good as a married woman,
she was received into closer counsel than the others. “Burmeston will
do,” she said; “but, as for that Cavalry man, he means it no more than
the chair.” The pity was that Burmeston might have been secured without
the archery meeting, and that all the money, spent on behalf of the
Major, should have been thrown away.



WHEN the Major left Brook Park on the morning after the archery
amusements he was quite sure of this,--that under no circumstances
whatever would he be induced to ask Miss Georgiana Wanless to be his
wife. He had promised to write a letter,--and he would write one
instantly. He did not conceive it possible but that Lady Wanless should
understand what would be the purport of that letter, although as she
left him on the previous night she had pretended to hope otherwise. That
her hopes had not been very high we know from the words which she spoke
to Sophia in the privacy of her own room.

He had intended to return by Slowbridge, but when the morning came he
changed his mind and went to Beetham. His reason for doing so was hardly
plain, even to himself. He tried to make himself believe that the letter
had better be written from Beetham,--hot, as it were, from the immediate
neighbourhood,--than from London; but, as he thought of this, his mind
was crowded with ideas of Alice Dugdale. He would not propose to Alice.
At this moment, indeed, he was averse to matrimony, having been
altogether disgusted with female society at Brook Park; but he had to
acknowledge a sterling worth about Alice, and the existence of a genuine
friendship between her and himself, which made it painful to him to
leave the country without other recognition than that raising of his hat
when he saw her at the corner of the lane. He had behaved badly in this
Brook Park affair,--in having been tempted thither in opposition to
those better instincts which had made Alice so pleasant a companion to
him,--and was ashamed of himself. He did not think that he could go back
to his former ideas. He was aware that Alice must think ill of
him,--would not believe him to be now such as she had once thought him.
England and London were distasteful to him. He would go abroad on that
foreign service which he had proposed to himself. There was an opening
for him to do so if he liked, and he could return to his present duties
after a year or two. But he would see Alice again before he went.
Thinking of all this, he drove himself back to Beetham.

On that morning tidings of the successful festivities at Brook Park
reached the doctor’s house. Tidings of the coming festivities, then of
the preparations, and at last of the festal day itself, had reached
Alice, so that it seemed to her that all Beetham talked of nothing else.
Old Lady Deepbell had caught a cold, walking about on the lawn with
hardly anything on her old shoulders,--stupid old woman,--and had sent
for the doctor the first thing in the morning. “Positively settled,” she
had said to the doctor, “absolutely arranged, Dr. Dugdale. Lady Wanless
told me so herself, and I congratulated the gentleman.” She did not go
on to say that the gentleman had denied the accusation,--but then she
had not believed the denial. The doctor, coming home, had thought it his
duty to tell Alice, and Alice had received the news with a smile. “I
knew it would be so, father.”

“And you?” This he said, holding her hand and looking tenderly into her

“Me! It will not hurt me. Not that I mean to tell a lie to you, father,”
she added after a moment. “A woman isn’t hurt because she doesn’t get a
prize in the lottery. Had it ever come about, I dare say I should have
liked him well enough.”

“No more than that?”

“And why should it have come about?” she went on saying, avoiding her
father’s last question, determined not to lie if she could help it, but
determined, also, to show no wound. “I think my position in life very
happy, but it isn’t one from which he would choose a wife.”

“Why not, my dear?”

“A thousand reasons; I am always busy, and he would naturally like a
young lady who had nothing to do.” She understood the effect of the
perambulator and the constant needle and thread. “Besides, though he
might be all very well, he could never, I think, be as dear to me as the
bairns. I should feel that I lost more than I got by going.” This she
knew to be a lie, but it was so important that her father should believe
her to be contented with her home duties! And she was contented, though
very unhappy. When her father kissed her, she smiled into his face,--oh,
so sweetly, so pleasantly! And the old man thought that she could not
have loved very deeply. Then she took herself to her own room, and sat
awhile alone with a countenance much changed. The lines of sorrow about
her brow were terrible. There was not a tear; but her mouth was close
pressed, and her hand was working constantly by her side. She gazed at
nothing, but sat with her eyes wide open, staring straight before her.
Then she jumped up quickly, and striking her hand upon her heart, she
spoke aloud to herself. “I will cure it,” she said. “He is not worthy,
and it should therefore be easier. Though he were worthy, I would cure
it. Yes, Bobby, I am coming.” Then she went about her work.

That might have been about noon. It was after their early dinner with
the children that the Major came up to the doctor’s house. He had
reached the parsonage in time for a late breakfast, and had then written
his letter. After that he had sat idling about on the lawn,--not on the
best terms with his mother, to whom he had sworn that, under no
circumstances, would he make Georgiana Wanless his wife. “I would sooner
marry a girl from a troop of tight-rope dancers,” he had said in his
anger. Mrs. Rossiter knew that he intended to go up to the doctor’s
house, and therefore the immediate feeling between the mother and son
was not pleasant. My readers, if they please, shall see the letter to
Lady Wanless.

     “MY DEAR LADY WANLESS,--It is a great grief to me to say that there
     has been, I fear, a misconception between you and me on a certain
     matter. This is the more a trouble to me because you and Sir Walter
     have been so very kind to me. From a word or two which fell from
     you last night I was led to fear that you suspected feelings on my
     part which I have never entertained, and aspirations to which I
     have never pretended. No man can be more alive than I am to the
     honour which has been suggested, but I feel bound to say that I am
     not in a condition to accept it.

    “Pray believe me to be,

          “Dear Lady Wanless,

        “Yours always very faithfully,

                “JOHN ROSSITER.”

The letter, when it was written, was, to himself, very unsatisfactory.
It was full of ambiguous words and namby-pamby phraseology which
disgusted him. But he did not know how to alter it for the better. It is
hard to say an uncivil thing civilly without ambiguous namby-pamby
language. He could not bring it out in straightforward stout English:
“You want me to marry your daughter, but I won’t do anything of the
kind.” So the letter was sent. The conduct of which he was really
ashamed did not regard Miss Wanless, but Alice Dugdale.

At last, very slowly, he took himself up to the doctor’s house. He
hardly knew what it was that he meant to say when he found himself
there, but he was sure that he did not mean to make an offer. Even had
other things suited, there would have been something distasteful to him
in doing this so quickly after the affair of Miss Wanless. He was in no
frame now for making love; but yet it would be ungracious in him, he
thought, to leave Beetham without seeing his old friend. He found the
two ladies together, with the children still around them, sitting near a
window which opened down to the ground. Mrs. Dugdale had a novel in
hand, and, as usual, was leaning back in a rocking-chair. Alice had also
a book open on the table before her, but she was bending over a
sewing-machine. They had latterly divided the cares of the family
between them. Mrs. Dugdale had brought the children into the world, and
Alice had washed, clothed, and fed them when they were there. When the
Major entered the room, Alice’s mind was, of course, full of the
tidings she had heard from her father,--which tidings, however, had not
been communicated to Mrs. Dugdale.

Alice at first was very silent while Mrs. Dugdale asked as to the
festivities. “It has been the grandest thing anywhere about here for a
long time.”

“And, like other grand things, a great bore,” said the Major.

“I don’t suppose you found it so, Major Rossiter,” said the lady.

Then the conversation ran away into a description of what had been done
during the day. He wished to make it understood that there was no
permanent link binding him to Brook Park, but he hardly knew how to say
it without going beyond the lines of ordinary conversation. At last
there seemed to be an opening,--not exactly what he wished, but still an
opening. “Brook Park is not exactly the place,” said he, “at which I
should ever feel myself quite at home.” This was in answer to some
chance word which had fallen from Mrs. Dugdale.

“I am sorry for that,” said Alice. She would have given a guinea to
bring the word back after it had been spoken. But spoken words cannot be
brought back.

“Why sorry?” he asked, smiling.

“Because--Oh, because it is so likely that you may be there often.”

“I don’t know that at all.”

“You have become so intimate with them!” said Alice. “We are told in
Beetham that the party was got up all for your honour.”

So Sir Walter had told him, and so Maria, the naughty girl, had said
also--“Only for your beaux yeux, Major Rossiter, we shouldn’t have had
any party at all.” This had been said by Maria when she was laughing at
him about her sister Georgiana. “I don’t know how that may be,” said the
Major; “but all the same I shall never be at home at Brook Park.”

“Don’t you like the young ladies?” asked Mrs. Dugdale.

“Oh, yes; very much; and Lady Wanless; and Sir Walter. I like them all,
in a way. But yet I shall never find myself at home at Brook Park.”

Alice was very angry with him. He ought not to have gone there at all.
He must have known that he could not be there without paining her. She
thoroughly believed that he was engaged to marry the girl of whose
family he spoke in this way. He had thought,--so it seemed to her,--that
he might lessen the blow to her by making little of the great folk among
whom his future lot was to be cast. But what could be more mean? He was
not the John Rossiter to whom she had given her heart. There had been no
such man. She had been mistaken. “I am afraid you are one of those,” she
said, “who, wherever they find themselves, at once begin to wish for
something better.”

“That is meant to be severe.”

“My severity won’t go for much.”

“I am sure you have deserved it,” said Mrs. Dugdale, most indiscreetly.

“Is this intended for an attack?” he asked, looking from one to the

“Not at all,” said Alice, affecting to laugh. “I should have said
nothing if I thought mamma would take it up so seriously. I was only
sorry to hear you speak of your new friends so slightingly.”

After that the conversation between them was very difficult, and he soon
got up to go away. As he did so, he asked Alice to say a word to him out
in the garden, having already explained to them both that it might be
some time before he would be again down at Beetham. Alice rose slowly
from her sewing-machine, and, putting on her hat, led the way with a
composed and almost dignified step out through the window. Her heart was
beating within her, but she looked as though she were mistress of every
pulse. “Why did you say that to me?” he asked.

“Say what?”

“That I always wished for better things and better people than I found.”

“Because I think you ambitious,--and discontented. There is nothing
disgraceful in that, though it is not the character which I myself like
the best.”

“You meant to allude specially to the Wanlesses?”

“Because you have just come from there, and were speaking of them.”

“And to one of that family specially?”

“No, Major Rossiter. There you are wrong. I alluded to no one in
particular. They are nothing to me. I do not know them; but I hear that
they are kind and friendly people, with good manners and very handsome.
Of course I know, as we all know everything of each other in this little
place, that you have of late become very intimate with them. Then when I
hear you aver that you are already discontented with them, I cannot help
thinking that you are hard to please. I am sorry that mamma spoke of
deserving. I did not intend to say anything so seriously.”


“Well, Major Rossiter.”

“I wish I could make you understand me.”

“I do not know that that would do any good. We have been old friends,
and of course I hope that you may be happy. I must say good-bye now. I
cannot go beyond the gate, because I am wanted to take the children

“Good-bye then. I hope you will not think ill of me.”

“Why should I think ill of you? I think very well,--only that you are
ambitious.” As she said this, she laughed again, and then she left him.

He had been most anxious to tell her that he was not going to marry that
girl, but he had not known how to do it. He could not bring himself to
declare that he would not marry a girl when by such declaration he would
have been forced to assume that he might marry her if he pleased. So he
left Alice at the gate, and she went back to the house still convinced
that he was betrothed to Georgiana Wanless.



The Major, when he left the doctor’s house, was more thoroughly in love
with Alice than ever. There had been something in her gait as she led
the way out through the window, and again, as with determined purpose
she bade him speedily farewell at the gate, which forced him to
acknowledge that the dragging of perambulators and the making of
petticoats had not detracted from her feminine charm or from her
feminine dignity. She had been dressed in her ordinary morning
frock,--the very frock on which he had more than once seen the marks of
Bobby’s dirty heels; but she had pleased his eye better than Georgiana,
clad in all the glory of her toxopholite array. The toxopholite feather
had been very knowing, the tight leathern belt round her waist had been
bright in colour and pretty in design. The looped-up dress, fit for the
work in hand, had been gratifying. But with it all there had been the
show of a thing got up for ornament and not for use. She was like a box
of painted sugar-plums, very pretty to the eye, but of which no one
wants to extract any for the purpose of eating them. Alice was like a
housewife’s store, kept beautifully in order, but intended chiefly for
comfortable use. As he went up to London he began to doubt whether he
would go abroad. Were he to let a few months pass by would not Alice be
still there, and willing perhaps to receive him with more kindness when
she should have heard that his follies at Brook Park were at an end?

Three days after his return, when he was sitting in his offices thinking
perhaps more of Alice Dugdale than of the whole British Cavalry, a
soldier who was in waiting brought a card to him. Sir Walter Wanless had
come to call upon him. If he were disengaged Sir Walter would be glad to
see him. He was not at all anxious to see Sir Walter; but there was no
alternative, and Sir Walter was shown into the room.

In explaining the purport of Sir Walter’s visit we must go back for a
few minutes to Brook Park. When Sir Walter came down to breakfast on the
morning after the festivities he was surprised to hear that Major
Rossiter had taken his departure. There sat young Burmeston. He at any
rate was safe. And there sat young Cobble, who by Sophia’s aid had
managed to get himself accommodated for the night, and all the other
young people, including the five Wanless girls. The father, though not
observant, could see that Georgiana was very glum. Lady Wanless herself
affected a good-humour which hardly deceived him, and certainly did not
deceive anyone else. “He was obliged to be off this morning, because of
his duties,” said Lady Wanless. “He told me that it was to be so, but I
did not like to say anything about it yesterday.” Georgiana turned up
her nose, as much as to say that the going and coming of Major Rossiter
was not a matter of much importance to any one there, and, least of all,
to her. Except the father, there was not a person in the room who was
not aware that Lady Wanless had missed her fish.

But she herself was not quite sure even yet that she had failed
altogether. She was a woman who hated failure, and who seldom failed.
She was brave of heart too, and able to fight a losing battle to the
last. She was very angry with the Major, who she well knew was
endeavouring to escape from her toils. But he would not on that account
be the less useful as a son-in-law;--nor on that account was she the
more willing to allow him to escape. With five daughters without
fortunes it behoved her as a mother to be persistent. She would not give
it up, but must turn the matter well in her mind before she took further
steps. She feared that a simple invitation could hardly bring the Major
back to Brook Park. Then there came the letter from the Major which did
not make the matter easier.

“My dear,” she said to her husband, sitting down opposite to him in his
room, “that Major Rossiter isn’t behaving quite as he ought to do.”

“I’m not a bit surprised,” said the Baronet angrily. “I never knew
anybody from Wadham behave well.”

“He’s quite a gentleman, if you mean that,” said Lady Wanless; “and
he’s sure to do very well in the world; and poor Georgiana is really
fond of him,--which doesn’t surprise me in the least.”

“Has he said anything to make her fond of him? I suppose she has gone
and made a fool of herself,--like Maria.”

“Not at all. He has said a great deal to her;--much more than he ought
to have done, if he meant nothing. But the truth is, young men nowadays
never know their own minds unless there is somebody to keep them up to
the mark. You must go and see him.”

“I!” said the afflicted father.

“Of course, my dear. A few judicious words in such a case may do so
much. I would not ask Walter to go,”--Walter was the eldest son, who was
with his regiment,--“because it might lead to quarrelling. I would not
have anything of that kind, if only for the dear girl’s sake. But what
you would say would be known to nobody; and it might have the desired
effect. Of course you will be very quiet,--and very serious also. Nobody
could do it better than you will. There can be no doubt that he has
trifled with the dear girl’s affections. Why else has he been with her
whenever he has been here? It was so visible on Wednesday that everybody
was congratulating me. Old Lady Deepbell asked whether the day was
fixed. I treated him quite as though it were settled. Young men do so
often get these sudden starts of doubt. Then, sometimes, just a word
afterwards will put it all right.” In this way the Baronet was made to
understand that he must go and see the Major.

He postponed the unwelcome task till his wife at last drove him out of
the house. “My dear,” she said, “will you let your child die
broken-hearted for want of a word?” When it was put to him in that way
he found himself obliged to go, though, to tell the truth, he could not
find any sign of heart-breaking sorrow about his child. He was not
allowed to speak to Georgiana herself, his wife telling him that the
poor child would be unable to bear it.

Sir Walter, when he was shown into the Major’s room, felt himself to be
very ill able to conduct the business in hand, and to the Major himself
the moment was one of considerable trouble. He had thought it possible
that he might receive an answer to his letter, a reply that might be
indignant, or piteous, admonitory, or simply abusive, as the case might
be,--one which might too probably require a further correspondence; but
it had never occurred to him that Sir Walter would come in person. But
here he was,--in the room,--by no means with that pretended air of
geniality with which he had last received the Major down at Brook Park.
The greeting, however, between the gentlemen was courteous if not
cordial, and then Sir Walter began his task. “We were quite surprised
you should have left us so early that morning.”

“I had told Lady Wanless.”

“Yes; I know. Nevertheless we were surprised. Now, Major Rossiter, what
do you mean to do about,--about,--about this young lady?” The Major sat
silent. He could not pretend to be ignorant what young lady was intended
after the letter which he had himself written to Lady Wanless. “This,
you know, is a very painful kind of thing, Major Rossiter.”

“Very painful indeed, Sir Walter.”

“When I remembered that I had been at Christchurch and your excellent
father at Wadham both at the same time, I thought that I might trust you
in my house without the slightest fear.”

“I make bold to say, Sir Walter, that you were quite justified in that
expectation, whether it was founded on your having been at Christchurch
or on my position and character in the world.” He knew that the scene
would be easier to him if he could work himself up to a little
indignation on his own part.

“And yet I am told,--I am told----”

“What are you told, Sir Walter?”

“There can, I think, be no doubt that you have--in point of fact, paid
attention to my daughter.” Sir Walter was a gentleman, and felt that the
task imposed upon him grated against his better feelings.

“If you mean that I have taken steps to win her affections, you have
been wrongly informed.”

“That’s what I do mean. Were you not received just now at Brook Park
as,--as paying attention to her?”

“I hope not.”

“You hope not, Major Rossiter?”

“I hope no such mistake was made. It certainly was not made by me. I
felt myself much flattered by being received at your house. I wrote the
other day a line or two to Lady Wanless and thought I had explained all

Sir Walter opened his eyes when he heard, for the first time, of the
letter, but was sharp enough not to exhibit his ignorance at the moment.
“I don’t know about explaining,” he said. “There are some things which
can’t be so very well explained. My wife assures me that that poor girl
has been deceived,--cruelly deceived. Now I put it to you, Major
Rossiter, what ought you as a gentleman to do?”

“Really, Sir Walter, you are not entitled to ask me any such question.”

“Not on behalf of my own child?”

“I cannot go into the matter from that view of the case. I can only
declare that I have said nothing and done nothing for which I can blame
myself. I cannot understand how there should have been such a mistake;
but it did not, at any rate, arise with me.”

Then the Baronet sat dumb. He had been specially instructed not to give
up the interview till he had obtained some sign of weakness from the
enemy. If he could only induce the enemy to promise another visit to
Brook Park that would be much. If he could obtain some expression of
liking or admiration for the young lady that would be something. If he
could induce the Major to allude to delay as being necessary, farther
operations would be founded on that base. But nothing had been obtained.
“It’s the most,--the most,--the most astonishing thing I ever heard,” he
said at last.

“I do not know that I can say anything further.”

“I’ll tell you what,” said the Baronet. “Come down and see Lady Wanless.
The women understand these things much better than we do. Come down and
talk it over with Lady Wanless. She won’t propose anything that isn’t
proper.” In answer to this the Major shook his head. “You won’t?”

“It would do no good, Sir Walter. It would be painful to me, and must, I
should say, be distressing to the young lady.”

“Then you won’t do anything!”

“There is nothing to be done.”

“Upon my word, I never heard such a thing in all my life, Major
Rossiter. You come down to my house; and then,--then,--then you
won’t,--you won’t come again! To be sure he was at Wadham; but I did
think your father’s son would have behaved better.” Then he picked up
his hat from the floor and shuffled out of the room without another

Tidings that Sir Walter had been up to London and had called upon Major
Rossiter made their way into Beetham and reached the ears of the
Dugdales,--but not correct tidings as to the nature of the conversation.
“I wonder when it will be,” said Mrs. Dugdale to Alice. “As he has been
up to town I suppose it’ll be settled soon.”

“The sooner the better for all parties,” said Alice cheerily. “When a
man and a woman have agreed together, I can’t see why they shouldn’t at
once walk off to the church arm in arm.”

“The lawyers have so much to do.”

“Bother the lawyers! The parson ought to do all that is necessary, and
the sooner the better. Then there would not be such paraphernalia of
presents and gowns and eatings and drinkings, all of which is got up for
the good of the tradesmen. If I were to be married, I should like to
slip out round the corner, just as though I were going to get an extra
loaf of bread from Mrs. Bakewell.”

“That wouldn’t do for my lady at Brook Park.”

“I suppose not.”

“Nor yet for the Major.”

Then Alice shook her head and sighed, and took herself out to walk alone
for a few minutes among the lanes. How could it be that he should be so
different from that which she had taken him to be! It was now September,
and she could remember an early evening in May, when the leaves were
beginning to be full, and they were walking together with the spring air
fresh around them, just where she was now creeping alone with the more
perfect and less fresh beauty of the autumn around her. How different a
person he seemed to her to be now from that which he had seemed to be
then;--not different because he did not love her, but different because
he was not fit to be loved! “Alice,” he had then said, “you and I are
alike in this, that simple, serviceable things are dear to both of us.”
The words had meant so much to her that she had never forgotten them.
Was she simple and serviceable, so that she might be dear to him? She
had been sure then that he was simple, and that he was serviceable, so
that she could love him. It was thus that she had spoken of him to
herself, thinking herself to be sure of his character. And now, before
the summer was over, he was engaged to marry such a one as Georgiana
Wanless and to become the hero of a fashionable wedding!

But she took pride to herself as she walked alone that she had already
overcome the bitterness of the malady which, for a day or two, had been
so heavy that she had feared for herself that it would oppress her. For
a day or two after that farewell at the gate she had with a rigid
purpose tied herself to every duty,--even to the duty of looking
pleasant in her father’s eyes, of joining in the children’s games, of
sharing the gossip of her stepmother. But this she had done with an
agony that nearly crushed her. Now she had won her way through it, and
could see her path before her. She had not cured altogether that wound
in her heart; but she had assured herself that she could live on without
further interference from the wound.



Then by degrees it began to be rumoured about the country, and at last
through the lanes of Beetham itself, that the alliance between Major
Rossiter and Miss Georgiana Wanless was not quite a settled thing. Mr.
Burmeston had whispered in Slowbridge that there was a screw loose,
perhaps thinking that if another could escape, why not he also? Cobble,
who had no idea of escaping, declared his conviction that Major Rossiter
ought to be horsewhipped; but Lady Deepbell was the real town-crier who
carried the news far and wide. But all of them heard it before Alice,
and when others believed it Alice did not believe it,--or, indeed, care
to believe or not to believe.

Lady Deepbell filled a middle situation, half way between the
established superiority of Brook Park and the recognised humility of
Beetham. Her title went for something; but her husband had been only a
Civil Service Knight, who had deserved well of his country by a
meritorious longevity. She lived in a pretty little cottage half way
between Brook Park and Beetham, which was just large enough to enable
her to talk of her grounds. She loved Brook Park dearly, and all the
county people; but in her love for social intercourse generally she was
unable to eschew the more frequent gatherings of the village. She was
intimate not only with Mrs. Rossiter, but with the Tweeds and Dugdales
and Simkinses, and, while she could enjoy greatly the grandeur of the
Wanless aristocracy, so could she accommodate herself comfortably to the
cosy gossip of the Beethamites. It was she who first spread the report
in Beetham that Major Rossiter was,--as she called it,--“off.”

She first mentioned the matter to Mrs. Rossiter herself; but this she
did in a manner more subdued than usual. The “alliance” had been high,
and she was inclined to think that Mrs. Rossiter would be disappointed.
“We did think, Mrs. Rossiter, that these young people at Brook Park had
meant something the other day.”

Mrs. Rossiter did not stand in awe of Lady Deepbell, and was not pleased
at the allusion. “It would be much better if young people could be
allowed to arrange their own affairs without so much tattling about it,”
she said angrily.

“That’s all very well, but tongues will talk, you know, Mrs. Rossiter. I
am sorry for both their sakes, because I thought that it would do very

“Very well indeed, if the young people, as you call them, liked each

“But I suppose it’s over now, Mrs. Rossiter?”

“I really know nothing about it, Lady Deepbell.” Then the old woman,
quite satisfied after this that the “alliance” had fallen to the ground,
went on to the Tweeds.

“I never thought it would come to much,” said Mrs. Tweed.

“I don’t see why it shouldn’t,” said Matilda Tweed. “Georgiana Wanless
is good-looking in a certain way; but they none of them have a penny,
and Major Rossiter is quite a fashionable man.” The Tweeds were quite
outside the Wanless pale; and it was the feeling of this that made
Matilda love to talk about the second Miss Wanless by her Christian

“I suppose he will go back to Alice now,” said Clara, the younger Tweed

“I don’t see that at all,” said Mrs. Tweed.

“I never believed much in that story,” said Lady Deepbell.

“Nor I either,” said Matilda. “He used to walk about with her, but what
does that come to? The children were always with them. I never would
believe that he was going to make so little of himself.”

“But is it quite sure that all the affair at Brook Park will come to
nothing, after the party and everything?” asked Mrs. Tweed.

“Quite positive,” said Lady Deepbell authoritatively. “I am able to say
certainly that that is all over.” Then she toddled off and went to the

The rumour did not reach the doctor’s house on that day. The conviction
that Major Rossiter had behaved badly to Alice,--that Alice had been
utterly thrown over by the Wanless “alliance,” had been so strong, that
even Lady Deepbell had not dared to go and probe wilfully that wound.
The feeling in this respect had been so general that no one in Beetham
had been hard-hearted enough to speak to Alice either of the triumph of
Miss Wanless, or of the misconduct of the Major; and now Lady Deepbell
was afraid to carry her story thither.

It was the doctor himself who first brought the tidings to the house,
and did not do this till some days after Lady Deepbell had been in the
village. “You had better not say anything to Alice about it.” Such at
first had been the doctor’s injunction to his wife. “One way or the
other, it will only be a trouble to her.” Mrs. Dugdale, full of her
secret, anxious to be obedient, thinking that the gentleman relieved
from his second love, would be ready at once to be on again with his
first, was so fluttered and fussy that Alice knew that there was
something to be told. “You have got some great secret, mamma,” she said.

“What secret, Alice?”

“I know you have. Don’t wait for me to ask you to tell it. If it is to
come, let it come.”

“I’m not going to say anything.”

“Very well, mamma. Then nothing shall be said.”

“Alice, you are the most provoking young woman I ever had to deal with
in my life. If I had twenty secrets I would not tell you one of them.”

On the next morning Alice heard it all from her father. “I knew there
was something by mamma’s manner,” she said.

“I told her not to say anything.”

“So I suppose. But what does it matter to me, papa, whether Major
Rossiter does or does not marry Miss Wanless? If he has given her his
word, I am sure I hope that he will keep it.”

“I don’t suppose he ever did.”

“Even then it doesn’t matter. Papa, do not trouble yourself about him.”

“But you?”

“I have gone through the fire, and have come out without being much
scorched. Dear papa, I do so wish that you should understand it all. It
is so nice to have some one to whom everything can be told. I did like

“And he?”

“I have nothing to say about that;--not a word. Girls, I suppose, are
often foolish, and take things for more than they are intended to mean.
I have no accusation to make against him. But I did,--I did allow myself
to be weak. Then came this about Miss Wanless, and I was unhappy. I woke
from a dream, and the waking was painful. But I have got over it. I do
not think that you will ever know from your girl’s manner that anything
has been the matter with her.”

“My brave girl!”

“But don’t let mamma talk to me as though he could come back because the
other girl has not suited him. He is welcome to the other girl,--welcome
to do without her,--welcome to do with himself as it may best please
him; but he shall not trouble me again.” There was a stern strength in
her voice as she said this, which forced her father to look at her
almost with amazement. “Do not think that I am fierce, papa.”

“Fierce, my darling!”

“But that I am in earnest. Of course, if he comes to Beetham we shall
see him. But let him be like anybody else. Don’t let it be supposed that
because he flitted here once, and was made welcome, like a bird that
comes in at the window, and then flitted away again, that he can be
received in at the window just as before, should he fly this way any
more. That’s all, papa.” Then, as before, she went off by herself,--to
give herself renewed strength by her solitary thinkings. She had so
healed the flesh round that wound that there was no longer danger of
mortification. She must now take care that there should be no further
wound. The people around her would be sure to tell her of this breach
between her late lover and the Wanless young lady. The Tweeds and the
Simkinses, and old Lady Deepbell would be full of it. She must take care
so to answer them at the first word that they should not dare to talk to
her of Major Rossiter. She had cured herself so that she no longer
staggered under the effects of the blow. Having done that, she would not
allow herself to be subject to the little stings of the little creatures
around her. She had had enough of love,--of a man’s love, and would make
herself happy now with Bobby and the other bairns.

“He’ll be sure to come back,” said Mrs Dugdale to her husband.

“We shall do no good by talking about it,” said the doctor. “If you will
take my advice, you will not mention his name to her. I fear that he is
worthless and unworthy of mention.” That might be very well, thought
Mrs. Dugdale; but no one in the village doubted that he had at the very
least £1,500 a year, and that he was a handsome man, and such a one as
is not to be picked up under every hedge. The very men who go about the
world most like butterflies before marriage “steady down the best”
afterwards. These were her words as she discussed the matter with Mrs.
Tweed, and they both agreed that if the hero showed himself again at the
doctor’s house “bygones ought to be bygones.”

Lady Wanless, even after her husband’s return from London, declared to
herself that even yet the game had not been altogether played out. Sir
Walter, who had been her only possible direct messenger to the man
himself, had been, she was aware, as bad a messenger as could have been
selected. He could be neither authoritative nor persuasive. Therefore
when he told her, on coming home, that it was easy to perceive that
Major Rossiter’s father could not have been educated at Christchurch,
she did not feel very much disappointed. As her next step she determined
to call on Mrs. Rossiter. If that should fail she must beard the lion in
his den, and go herself to Major Rossiter at the Horse Guards. She did
not doubt but that she would at least be able to say more than Sir
Walter. Mrs. Rossiter, she was aware, was herself favourable to the

“My dear Mrs. Rossiter,” she said in her most confidential manner,
“there is a little something wrong among these young people, which I
think you and I can put right if we put our heads together.”

“If I know one of the young people,” said Mrs. Rossiter, “it will be
very hard to make him change his mind.”

“He has been very attentive to the young lady.”

“Of course I know nothing about it, Lady Wanless. I never saw them

“Dear Georgiana is so very quiet that she said nothing even to me, but I
really thought that he had proposed to her. She won’t say a word against
him, but I believe he did. Now, Mrs. Rossiter, what has been the meaning
of it?”

“How is a mother to answer for her son, Lady Wanless?”

“No;--of course not. I know that. Girls, of course, are different. But I
thought that perhaps you might know something about it, for I did
imagine you would like the connection.”

“So I should. Why not? Nobody thinks more of birth than I do, and
nothing in my opinion could have been nicer for John. But he does not
see with my eyes. If I were to talk to him for a week it would have no

“Is it that girl of the doctor’s, Mrs. Rossiter?”

“I think not. My idea is that when he has turned it all over in his mind
he has come to the conclusion that he will be better without a wife than
with one.”

“We might cure him of that, Mrs. Rossiter. If I could only have him down
there at Brook Park for another week, I am sure he would come to.” Mrs.
Rossiter, however, could not say that she thought it probable that her
son would be induced soon to pay another visit to Brook Park.

A week after this Lady Wanless absolutely did find her way into the
Major’s presence at the Horse Guards,--but without much success. The
last words at that interview only shall be given to the reader,--the
last words as they were spoken both by the lady and by the gentleman.
“Then I am to see my girl die of a broken heart?” said Lady Wanless,
with her handkerchief up to her eyes.

“I hope not, Lady Wanless; but in whatever way she might die, the fault
would not be mine.” There was a frown on the gentleman’s brow as he said
this which cowed even the lady.

As she went back to Slowbridge that afternoon, and then home to Brook
Park, she determined at last that the game must be looked upon as played
out. There was no longer any ground on which to stand and fight. Before
she went to bed that night she sent for Georgiana. “My darling child,”
she said, “that man is unworthy of you.”

“I always thought he was,” said Georgiana. And so there was an end to
that little episode in the family of the Wanlesses.



THE bird that had flown in at the window and had been made welcome, had
flown away ungratefully. Let him come again pecking as he might at the
window, no more crumbs of love should be thrown to him. Alice, with a
steady purpose, had resolved on that. With all her humble ways, her
continual darning of stockings, her cutting of bread and butter for the
children, her pushing of the perambulator in the lanes, there was a
pride about her, a knowledge of her own dignity as a woman, which could
have been stronger in the bosom of no woman of title, of wealth, or of
fashion. She claimed nothing. She had expected no admiration. She had
been contented to take the world as it came to her, without thinking
much of love or romance. When John Rossiter had first shown himself at
Beetham, after his return from India, and when he had welcomed her so
warmly,--too warmly,--as his old playfellow, no idea had occurred to her
that he would ever be more to her than her old playfellow. Her own heart
was too precious to herself to be given away idly to the first comer.
Then the bird had flown in at the window, and it had been that the
coming of the stranger had been very sweet to her. But, even for the
stranger, she would not change her ways,--unless, perchance, some day
she might appertain to the stranger. Then it would be her duty to fit
herself entirely to him. In the meantime, when he gave her little hints
that something of her domestic slavery might be discontinued, she would
not abate a jot from her duties. If he liked to come with her when she
pushed the children, let him come. If he cared to see her when she was
darning a stocking or cutting bread and butter, let him pay his visits.
If he thought those things derogatory, certainty let him stay away. So
the thing had grown till she had found herself surprised, and taken, as
it were, into a net,--caught in a pitfall of love. But she held her
peace, stuck manfully to the perambulator, and was a little colder in
her demeanour than heretofore. Whereupon Major Rossiter, as the reader
is aware, made two visits to Brook Park. The bird might peck at the
window, but he should never again be taken into the room.

But the bird, from the moment in which he had packed up his portmanteau
at Brook Park, had determined that he would be taken in at the window
again,--that he would at any rate return to the window, and peck at the
glass with constancy, soliciting that it might be opened. As he now
thought of the two girls, the womanliness of the one, as compared with
the worldliness of the other, conquered him completely. There had never
been a moment in which his heart had in truth inclined itself towards
the young athlete of Brook Park,--never a moment, hardly a moment, in
which his heart had been untrue to Alice. But glitter had for awhile
prevailed with him, and he had, just for a moment, allowed himself to be
discontented with the homely colour of unalloyed gold. He was thoroughly
ashamed of himself, knowing well that he had given pain. He had learned,
clearly enough, from what her father, mother, and others had said to
him, that there were those who expected him to marry Alice Dugdale, and
others who hoped that he would marry Georgiana Wanless. Now, at last, he
could declare that no other love than that which was warm within his
heart at present could ever have been possible to him. But he was aware
that he had much to do to recover his footing. Alice’s face and her
manner as she bade him good-bye at the gate were very clear before his

Two months passed by before he was again seen at Beetham. It had
happened that he was, in truth, required elsewhere, on duty, during the
period, and he took care to let it be known at Beetham that such was the
case. Information to this effect was in some shape sent to Alice.
Openly, she took no notice of it; but, inwardly, she said to herself
that they who troubled themselves by sending her such tidings, troubled
themselves in vain. “Men may come and men may go,” she sang to herself,
in a low voice. How little they knew her, to come to her with news as to
Major Rossiter’s coming and going!

Then one day he came. One morning early in December the absolute fact
was told at the dinner table. “The Major is at the parsonage,” said the
maid-servant. Mrs. Dugdale looked at Alice, who continued, however, to
distribute hashed mutton with an equanimity which betrayed no flaw.

After that not a word was said about him. The doctor had warned his wife
to be silent; and though she would fain have spoken, she restrained
herself. After dinner the usual work went on, and then the usual playing
in the garden. The weather was dry and mild for the time of year, so
that Alice was swinging two of the children when Major Rossiter came up
through the gate. Minnie, who had been a favourite, ran to him, and he
came slowly across the lawn to the tree on which the swing was hung. For
a moment Alice stopped her work that she might shake hands with him,
and then at once went back to her place. “If I were to stop a moment
before Bobby has had his turn,” she said, “he would feel the injustice.”

“No, I isn’t,” said Bobby. “Oo may go ’is time.”

“But I don’t want to go, Bobby, and Major Rossiter will find mamma in
the drawing-room;” and Alice for a moment thought of getting her hat and
going off from the place. Then she reflected that to run away would be
cowardly. She did not mean to run away always because the man came. Had
she not settled it with herself that the man should be nothing to her?
Then she went on swinging the children,--very deliberately, in order
that she might be sure of herself, that the man’s coming had not even
flurried her.

In ten minutes the Major was there again. It had been natural to suppose
that he should not be detained long in conversation by Mrs. Dugdale.
“May I swing one of them for a time?” he asked.

“Well, no; I think not. It is my allotted exercise, and I never give it
up.” But Minnie, who knew what a strong arm could do, was imperious, and
the Major got possession of the swing.

Then of a sudden he stopped. “Alice,” he said, “I want you to take a
turn with me up the road.”

“I am not going out at all to-day,” she said. Her voice was steady and
well preserved; but there was a slight rising of colour on her cheeks.

“But I wish it expressly. You must come to-day.”

She could consider only for a moment,--but for a moment she did think
the matter over. If the man chose to speak to her seriously, she must
listen to him,--once, and once only. So much he had a right to demand.
When a bird of that kind pecks in that manner some attention must be
paid to him. So she got her hat, and leading the way down the road,
opened the gate and turned up the lane away from the street of the
village. For some yards he did not speak. She, indeed, was the first to
do so. “I cannot stay out very long, Major Rossiter; so, if there is

“There is a something, Alice.” Of course she knew, but she was quite
resolved. Resolved! Had not every moment of her life since last she had
parted with him been given up to the strengthening this resolution? Not
a stitch had gone through the calico which had not been pulled the
tighter by the tightening of her purpose! And now he was there. Oh, how
more than earthly sweet it had been to have him there, when her
resolutions had been of another kind! But she had been punished for
that, and was strong against such future ills. “Alice, it had better
come out simply. I love you, and have ever loved you with all my heart.”
Then there was a frown and a little trampling of the ground beneath her
feet, but she said not a word. Oh, if it only could have come sooner,--a
few weeks sooner! “I know what you would say to me, but I would have you
listen to me, if possible, before you say it. I have given you cause to
be angry with me.”

“Oh no!” she cried, interrupting him.

“But I have never been untrue to you for a moment. You seemed to slight

“And if I did?”

“That may pass. If you should slight me now, I must bear it. Even though
you should deliberately tell me that you cannot love me, I must bear
that. But with such a load of love as I have at my heart, it must be
told to you. Day and night it covers me from head to foot. I can think
of nothing else. I dream that I have your hand in mine, but when I wake
I think it can never be so.”

There was an instinct with her at the moment to let her fingers glide
into his; but it was shown only by the gathering together of her two
hands, so that no rebellious fingers straying from her in that direction
might betray her. “If you have never loved me, never can love me, say
so, and I will go away.” She should have spoken now, upon the instant;
but she simply moved her foot upon the gravel and was silent. “That I
should be punished might be right. If it could be possible that the
punishment should extend to two, that could not be right.”

She did not want to punish him,--only to be brave herself. If to be
obdurate would in truth make him unhappy, then would it be right that
she should still be firm? It would be bad enough, after so many
self-assurances, to succumb at the first word; but for his sake,--for
his sake,--would it not be possible to bear even that? “If you never
have loved me, and never can love me, say so, and I will go.” Even to
herself, she had not pledged herself to lie. If he asked her to be his
wife in the plain way, she could say that she would not. Then the way
would be plain before her. But what reply was she to make in answer to
such a question as this? Could she say that she had not loved him,--or
did not love him? “Alice,” he said, putting his hand up to her arm.


“Alice, can you not forgive me?”

“I have forgiven.”

“And will you not love me?”

She turned her face upon him with a purpose to frown, but the fulness of
his eyes upon her was too much, and the frown gave way, and a tear came
into her eye, and her lips trembled; and then she acknowledged to
herself that her resolution had not been worth a straw to her.

It should be added that considerably before Alice’s wedding, both Sophia
and Georgiana Wanless were married,--Sophia, in due order, as of course,
to young Cobble, and Georgiana to Mr. Burmeston, the brewer. This, as
the reader will remember, was altogether unexpected; but it was a great
and guiding principle with Lady Wanless that the girls should not be
taken out of their turns.

                               THE END.



 [A] I presume my readers to be generally aware that the headquarters
 of the National Telegraph Department are held at the top of one of
 the great buildings belonging to the General Post Office, in St.

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