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Title: A Strange World, Volume 1 (of 3) - A Novel
Author: Braddon, M. E. (Mary Elizabeth)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            A STRANGE WORLD
                                A Novel

                           BY THE AUTHOR OF
                        'LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET'
                            ETC. ETC. ETC.

                           IN THREE VOLUMES

                                VOL. I.

                                LONDON
                         JOHN MAXWELL AND CO.
                      4, SHOE LANE, FLEET STREET
                                 1875.
                       [_All rights reserved._]



CONTENTS TO VOL. I.


  CHAP.                                                         PAGE

      I. POOR PLAYERS                                              1

     II. BEHIND THE SCENES                                        32

    III. EVEILLONS LE PLAISIR, SON AURORE EST LA NUIT             49

     IV. 'LOVE'S A MIGHTY LORD'                                   64

      V. 'IL NE FAUT PAS POUSSER AU BOUT LES MALHEUREUX'          80

     VI. 'THERE IS NO LIFE ON EARTH BUT BEING IN LOVE'            93

    VII. 'LET THE WORLD SLIP; WE SHALL NE'ER BE YOUNGER'         105

   VIII. 'HAVE THE HIGH GODS ANYTHING LEFT TO GIVE?'             123

     IX. 'OTHER SINS ONLY SPEAK; MURDER SHRIEKS OUT'             140

      X. 'NOTHING COMES AMISS, SO MONEY COME WITHAL'             155

     XI. 'WHAT, THEN, YOU KNEW NOT THIS RED WORK INDEED?'        179

    XII. 'BRAVE SPIRITS ARE A BALSAM TO THEMSELVES'              186

   XIII. 'MY LOVE, MY LOVE, AND NO LOVE FOR ME'                  201

    XIV. 'TRUTH IS TRUTH, TO THE END OF TIME'                    217

     XV. 'THEY SHALL PASS, AND THEIR PLACES BE TAKEN'            233

    XVI. 'THERE IS A HISTORY IN ALL MEN'S LIVES'                 244

   XVII. 'DEATH COULD NOT SEVER MY SOUL AND YOU'                 253

  XVIII. 'WHAT GREAT ONES DO, THE LESS WILL PRATTLE OF'          271



A STRANGE WORLD



CHAPTER I.

POOR PLAYERS.


A fair slope of land in buttercup-time, just when May, the capricious,
melts into tender June—a slope of fertile pasture within two miles
of the city of Eborsham, whose cathedral towers rise tall in the blue
dim distance—a wealth of hedgerow flowers on every side, and all the
air full of their faint sweet perfume, mixed with the odorous breath
of the fast perishing hawthorn. Two figures are seated in a corner
of the meadow, beneath the umbrage of an ancient thorn not Arcadian
or pastoral figures by any means;—not Phillis the milkmaid, with
sun-browned brow and carnation cheeks, not Corydon fluting sweetly on
his tuneful pipe as he reclines at her feet;—but two figures which
carry the unmistakable stamp of city life in every feature and every
garment. One is a tall, slender girl of seventeen, with a pale, tired
face, and a look of having outgrown her strength, shot up too swiftly
from childhood to girlhood, like a fast-growing weed. The other is a
man who may be any age from forty to sixty, a man with sparse grey hair
crowning a high forehead, bluish-grey eyes, under thick dark brows,
a red nose, a mouth that looks as if it had been made for eating and
drinking rather than oratory, a heavy jaw, and a figure inclining to
corpulence.

The girl's eyes are large and clear, and changeful, of that dark
blue-grey which often looks like black. The delicate young face
possesses no other strong claim to be admired, and would be a scarcely
noticeable countenance, perhaps, save for those grey eyes.

The raiment of both man and girl is of the shabbiest. His threadbare
coat has become luminous with much friction, a kind of phosphorescent
brightness pervades the sleeves, like the oleaginous scum that pollutes
the surface of a city river; the tall hat which lies beside him in the
deep grass has a look of having been soaped. His boots have obviously
been soled and heeled, and have arrived at that debatable period in
boot-life when they must either be soled again or hie them straight
to the dust-hole. The girl's gown is faded and too short for her long
legs, her mantle a flimsy silken thing of an almost forgotten fashion,
her hat a fabric of tawdry net and ribbon patched together by her own
unskilled hands.

She sits with her lap full of bluebells and hawthorn, looking absently
at the landscape, with those solemn towers rising out of the valley.

'How grand they are, father!'

The father is agreeably occupied in filling a cutty pipe, embrowned by
much smoking, which he handles fondly, as if it were a sentient thing.

'What's grand?'

'The cathedral towers. I could look at them for hours together—with
that wide blue sky above them, and the streets and houses clustering
at their feet. There's a bird's nest in one of them, oh! so high up,
squeezed behind a horrid grinning face. Do you know, father, I've stood
and looked at it sometimes till I've strained my eyes with looking?
And I've wished I was a bird in that nest, and to live up there in the
cool shadow of the stone; no care, no trouble, no work, and all that
blue sky above me for ever and ever.'

'The sky isn't always blue, stupid,' answered the father,
contemptuously. 'Your bird's nest would be a nice place in stormy
weather. You talk like a fool, Justina, with your towers, and nests,
and blue skies; and you're getting a young woman now, and ought to have
some sense. As for cathedral towns, for my part I've never believed
in 'em. Never saw good business for a fortnight on end in a cathedral
town. It's all very well for a race week, or you may pull up with a
military bespeak, if there's a garrison. But in a general way, as far
as the profession goes, your cathedral town is a dead failure.'

'I wasn't thinking of the theatre, father,' said the girl, with a
contemptuous shrug of her thin shoulders. 'I hate the theatre, and
everything belonging to it.'

'There's a nice young woman, to quarrel with your bread and butter!'

'Bread and ashes, I think, father,' she said, looking downward at the
flowers, with a moody face. 'It tastes bitter enough for that.'

'Did ever any one hear of such discontent?' ejaculated the father,
lifting his eyes towards the heavens, as if invoking Jove himself as a
witness of his child's depravity. 'To go and run down the Pro.! Hasn't
the Pro. nourished you and brought you up, and maintained you since you
were no higher than that?'

He spread his dingy hand a foot or so above the buttercups to
illustrate his remark.

The Pro. of which he spoke with so fond an air was the calling of
an actor, and this elderly gentleman, in threadbare raiment, was
Mr. Matthew Elgood, a performer of that particular line of dramatic
business known in his own circle as 'the first heavies,' or, in less
technical phrase, Mr. Elgood was the heavy man—the King in Hamlet,
Iago, Friar Lawrence, the Robber Chief of melodrama—the relentless
father of the ponderous top-booted and pig-tailed comedy. And Justina
Elgood, his seventeen year old daughter, commonly called Judy? Was she
Juliet or Desdemona, Ophelia or Imogen? No. Miss Elgood had not yet
soared above the humblest drudgery. Her line was general utility, in
which she worked with the unrequited patience of an East-end shirtmaker.

'Hasn't the Pro. supported you from the cradle?' growled Mr. Elgood
between short, thoughtful puffs at his pipe.

'Had I ever a cradle, father?' the girl demanded, wonderingly. 'If you
were always moving about then as you are now, a cradle must have been a
great inconvenience.'

'I've a sort of recollection of seeing you in one, for all that,'
replied Mr. Elgood, shutting his eyes with a meditating air, as if
he were casting his gaze back into the past,—'a clumsy edifice of
straw, bulky and awkward of shape. It might have held properties pretty
well—but I don't remember travelling with it. I dare say your mother
borrowed the thing of her landlady. In the days of your infancy we were
at Slowberry in Somersetshire, and the Slowberry people are uncommonly
friendly. I make no doubt your mother borrowed it.'

'I dare say, father. We're great people for borrowing!'

'Why not?' asked Mr. Elgood, lightly; 'give and take, you know, Judy:
that's a Christian sentiment.'

'Yes, father, but we always take.'

'Man is the slave of circumstances, my dear. "Give to him that asketh
thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away." That's the
gospel, Justina. If I have been rather in the position of the borrower
than the lender, that has been my misfortune, and not my fault. Had I
been the possessor of ten thousand per annum, I would have been the last
of men to refuse to take a box-ticket for a fellow-creature's benefit.'

The girl gave a faint sigh, and began to arrange the bluebells and
hawthorn into a nosegay somewhat listlessly, as if even her natural joy
in these things were clouded by a settled gloom within her mind.

'You're in the first piece, aren't you, Judy?' inquired Matthew Elgood,
after indulging himself with a snatch of slumber, his elbow deep in the
buttercups, and his head rested on his hand.

'Yes, father,' with a sigh, 'the countess, you know.'

'The countess in "The Stranger," a most profitable part. Don't put on
that hat and feather you wore last time we played the piece. It made
the gallery laugh. I wonder whether you'll ever be fit for the juvenile
lead, Judy?' he went on meditatively. 'Do you know, sometimes I am
afraid you never will; you're so gawky and so listless. The gawkiness
would be nothing—you'll get over that when you've done growing, I dare
say—but your heart is not in your profession, Justina. There's the rub.'

'My heart in it,' echoed the girl, with a dreary laugh. 'Why, I hate
it, father; you must know that. Hasn't it kept me ignorant and shabby,
and looked down upon all the days of my life, since I was two years
old, and went on as the child in "Pizarro?" Hasn't it kept me hanging
about the wings till midnight, from year's end to year's end, when
other children were snug in bed with a mother to look after them?
Haven't I been told often enough that I've no talents, and no good
looks to help me, and that I must be a drudge all my life?'

'No good looks! Well, I'm not so sure about that,' said the father,
thoughtfully. 'Talent, I admit, you are deficient of, Judy; but your
looks even now are by no means despicable, and will improve with
time. You have a fine pair of eyes, and a complexion that lights up
uncommonly well. I have seen leading ladies earning their three to four
guineas a week with less personal advantages.'

'I wish I could earn a good salary, father, for your sake; but I should
never be fond of acting. I've seen too much of the theatre. If I'd been
a young lady, now, shut up in a drawing-room all my life, and brought
to the theatre for the first time to see "Romeo and Juliet," I could
fancy myself wanting to play Juliet; but I've seen too much of the
ladder Juliet stands on in the balcony scene, and the dirty-looking
man that holds it steady for her, and the way she quarrels with Mrs.
Wappers the nurse, between the acts. I've read the play often, father,
since you've told me to study Juliet, and I've tried to fancy her a
real living woman in Verona, under a cloudless sky, as blue as these
flowers—but I can't—I can only think of Miss Villeroy, in her
whitey-brown satin, and Mrs. Wappers, in her old green and yellow
brocade,—and the battered old garden scene—and the palace flats we
use so often—and the scene-shifters in their dirty shirt-sleeves. All
the poetry has been taken out of it for me, father.'

'That's because yours is a commonplace mind, child,' answered Mr.
Elgood, with a superior air. 'Look at me, now! If I feel as dull as
ditchwater when I go on the stage, the first hearty round of applause
kindles the poetic fire, and the second fans it into a blaze. The
divine _afflatus_, Judy; that's what you want, the _afflatus_!'

'I suppose you mean applause, father. I know I don't get much of that.'

'No, Justina, I mean the breath of the gods—the sacred wind which
breathes from the nostrils of genius, which gives life and shape to
the imaginings of the dramatic poet, which inspires a Kean,—and,
occasionally, an Elgood. I suppose you didn't hear of their encoring my
exit in Iago on Tuesday night?'

'Yes, father, I heard of it.'

'Come, Judy, we must be going,' said Mr. Elgood, raising himself from
his luxurious repose among the buttercups, after looking at a battered
silver watch; 'it's past four, and we've a good two miles to walk
before we get our teas.'

'Oh, how I wish we could stay here just as long as we like—and then go
quietly home in the starlight to some cottage among those trees over
there.'

'Cottages among trees are proverbially damp, and the kind of existence
you talk of—mooning about a meadow and going home to a cottage—would
be intolerably dull for a man with any pretension to intellect.'

'Oh, father, we might have books and music, and flowers, and birds,
and animals, and a few friends, perhaps, who would like us and respect
us—if we were not on the stage. I don't think we need be dull.'

'The varied pages of this busy world comprise the only book I care to
study, Justina. As for birds, flowers, and animals, I consider them
alike messy and unprofitable. I never knew a man who had a pet dog
come to much good. It's a sign of a weak mind.'

They were both standing by this time looking across the verdant,
undulating landscape to the valley where nestled the city of Eborsham.
The roofs and pinnacles did not seem far off, but there was that
intervening sea of meadow land about the navigation whereof these
wanderers began to feel somewhat uncertain.

'Do you know your way home, Judy?'

The girl looked across the meadows doubtfully.

'I'm not quite sure, father, but I fancy we came across that field over
there, where there's such a lot of sorrel.'

'Fancy be hanged!' exclaimed Mr. Elgood, impatiently, 'I've got to be
on the stage at half-past seven o'clock, and you lead me astray in this
confounded solitary place, to suit your childish whims, and don't know
how to get me back. It would be a nice thing if I were to lose a week's
salary through your tomfoolery.'

'No fear of that, father. We shall find our way back somehow, depend
upon it. Why, we can't go very far astray when we can see the
cathedral towers.'

'Yes, and we might wander about in sight of them from now till midnight
without getting any nearer to 'em. You ought to have known better,
Justina.'

Justina hung her head, abashed by this stern reproof.

'I dare say somebody will come by presently, father, and we can ask——'

'Do you dare say? Then I don't dare say anything of the sort. Here
we've been sitting in this blessed meadow full two hours without seeing
a mortal, except a solitary ploughboy, who went across with a can of
something half an hour ago—beer, most likely—I know the sight of it
made me abominably thirsty—and according to the doctrine of averages
there's no chance of another human being for the next hour. Never you
ask me to come for a walk with you again, Justina, after being trapped
in this manner.'

'Look, father! there's some one,' cried Justina.

'Some two,' said Mr. Elgood. 'Swells, by the cut of their jibs. Down
for the races, I dare say.'

Eborsham was a city which had its two brief seasons of glory every
year. The 'Eborsham Spring,' and the 'Eborsham Summer,' were meetings
famous in the sporting world; but the spring to the summer was as Omega
to Alpha in the sidereal heavens—or, taking a more earthly standard
of magnitude, while beds for the accommodation of visitors were freely
offered at half a crown during the spring meeting, the poorest pallet
on hire in Eborsham was worth half a guinea in the summer.

The strangers approached at a leisurely pace. Two men in the
spring-time of their youth, clothed in grey. One tall, strong of limb,
broad of chest, somewhat slovenly of attire; loose cravat, grey felt
hat, stout, sportsmanlike boots, fishing-rod under his arm. The other
shorter, slighter, smaller, dressed with a certain girlish prettiness
and neatness that smacked of Eton.

Both were smoking as they came slowly strolling along the field path
on the other side of the irregular hawthorn hedge. The younger and
smaller held a paper cigarette between his girlish lips. The other
smoked a black-muzzled clay, which would not have been out of keeping
with the costume and bearing of an Irish navvy.

They came to a gap in the hedge, which brought them close to the
strollers.

'Gentlemen, can you enlighten me as to the nearest way to Eborsham?'
asked Mr. Elgood, with a grandiose air, which the prolonged exercise of
his avocation had made second nature.

The elder of the strangers stared at him blankly, with that unseeing
gaze of the deep thinker, and went on pulling at his blackened pipe.
The younger smiled kindly, and made haste to answer, with a shy
eagerness—just a little stammer in his speech at first—which was not
unpleasing.

'I really am at a loss to direct you,' he said. 'We are strangers here
ourselves—only came to Eborsham last night.'

'For the races, I opine?' interrupted Mr. Elgood.

'Not exactly for the races,' replied the young man, doubtfully.

'You came for the races, Jim,' said the taller stranger, looking down
at his companion as from an altitude of wisdom and experience. 'I came
to see that you were not fleeced. There are no rogues like the rogues
that haunt a racecourse.'

This with a dark glance at the actor.

'He looks the image of a tout,' thought the tall stranger. His fancies
had been up aloft in his own particular cloudland when the wayfarers
accosted him, and he was slowly coming down to the level of work-a-day
life. Only this instant had he become conscious of the girl's presence.

Justina stood in the shadow of her father's bulky figure, making
herself as narrow as she possibly could. Her detractors in the
theatre found fault with that narrowness of Justina's. She had
been disadvantageously likened to gas-pipes, May-poles, and other
unsubstantial objects, and was considered a mere profile of a girl, an
outline sketch, only worth half the salary that might have been given
to a plumper damsel.

'Good heavens, Elgood!' the manager had exclaimed once, when Justina
played a page, 'when will your daughter begin to have legs?'

The tall stranger's slow gaze had now descended upon Justina. To that
bashful maiden, conscious of her gawkiness, the darkly bright eyes
seemed awful as the front of Jove himself. She shrank behind her
father, dazzled as if by a sunburst. There was such power in Maurice
Clissold's face.

'We came here, anyhow, following the windings of yonder trout-stream,'
said Clissold, with a backward glance at the valley. 'I haven't the
faintest notion how we are to get back, except by turning our noses to
the cathedral, and then following them religiously. We can hardly fail
to get there, sooner or later, if we are true to our noses.'

Justina began to laugh, as if it had been a green-room jokelet, and
then checked herself, blushing vehemently. She felt it was taking a
liberty to be amused by this tall stranger.

'Perhaps time is no object to you, sir?' said Mr. Elgood.

'Not the slightest. I don't think time ever has been any object to me,
except when I was gated at Oxford,' replied Clissold.

'To me, sir, it is vital. If I do not reach yon city before the clock
strikes seven, the prospects of a struggling commonwealth are blighted.'

'Father,' remonstrated the girl, plucking his sleeve, 'what do these
gentlemen know about commonwealths?'

'I have studied the subject but superficially in the pages of our
friend Cicero,' said Clissold, lightly. 'Modern scholars call him
Kikero, but your elder erudition might hardly accept the Kappa.'

'The commonwealth to which I allude, sir, is a company of actors now
performing on their own hook at the Theatre Royal, Eborsham. If I am
not on the stage before eight o'clock to-night our chances in that
town are gone. The provincial public, having paid its shillings and
sixpences, will not brook disappointment. You will hardly credit
the fact, perhaps, sir, but there are seven places taken in the
dress-circle, paid in advance, sir, further secured by a donation to
the boxkeeper, for this evening's performance. Conceive the feelings of
those seven dress circles, sir, if Matthew Elgood is conspicuous by his
absence!'

'That must not be, sir,' returned Maurice Clissold, gravely.
'Pedestrian wanderings have somewhat developed my organ of locality;
and if you like to trust yourself to my guidance I will do my best to
navigate you in the desired direction. Is that young lady also required
by the British public?'

'Yes,' responded Elgood, indifferently, 'she's in the first piece. But
we might send a ballet-girl on for her part—if,' as an afterthought,
'we had any ballet.'

'The numerical strength of your commonwealth is limited, I infer from
your remark,' observed Clissold, as the stroller stepped through the
gap in the hedge, and joined those other strollers in the lane.

'Well, sir,—"lead on, I follow thee"—when a manager puts it to his
company roundly that he must either make it a commonwealth or shut up
shop altogether, the little people are generally the first to fall
away.'

'The little people!'

'Yes, sir, second walking gentleman, ditto lady, second chambermaid,
general utility; second old man, proverbially duffing, and ballet. The
little people lack that confidence in their own genius which sustains a
man under the fluctuations of a commonwealth. They want the _afflatus_,
and when the ghost walks not——'

'The ghost?'

'In vulgar English—when there is no treasury, no reliable weekly
stipend, the little people collapse. The second walking lady and
chambermaid go home to their mothers; the second old man opens a
sweetstuff shop. They fade and evanish from a profession they did
nothing to adorn.'

'What is a commonwealth?' asked the younger gentleman, interested by
this glimpse of a strange world.

'In a theatrical sense,' added Clissold.

'A theatrical commonwealth is a body without a head. There is no
responsible lessee. The weekly funds are divided into so many shares,
each share representing half a sovereign. The actor whose nominal
salary is two pound ten takes five shares. The actor whose ordinary pay
is fifteen shillings claims but a share and a half, and has his claim
allowed. I have known the shares to rise to fourteen and ninepence
halfpenny; I have seen them dwindle to one and sevenpence.'

'Thanks for the explanation. Does prosperity attend you in Eborsham?'

'Sir, our receipts heretofore have been but middling. Our anchor of
hope is the Spring Meeting, which begins, as you are doubtless aware,
to-morrow.'

'Do you remain here long?' asked Mr. Penwyn, the younger pedestrian.

'A fortnight at most. Our next engagement is Duffield, thence we
proceed to Humberston, then Slingerford, after which we separate to
seek "fresh woods and pastures new."'

Mr. Penwyn looked at the vagabond wonderingly. The man spoke so lightly
of his fortuitous life. James Penwyn, of Penwyn Manor, Cornwall, had
been brought up like the Danish princess who discovered the presence
of the pea under seven feather beds and seven mattresses. He had
never been inconvenienced in his life; and this encounter with a
fellow-creature, who anatomically resembled himself, and yet belonged
to a world so wide apart from his world, at once interested and amused
him. He pitied the stroller with a serio-comic pity, as he might have
compassionated an octopus in an uncomfortable position.

Perhaps there was never in this world a better natured youth than
this James Penwyn. He had not the knack of sending his thoughts far
afield, never lost himself in a tangle of speculative fancies, like his
dark-eyed, wide-browed friend and master, Maurice Clissold, but within
its somewhat narrow limit his mind was clear as a crystal streamlet.
His first thought in every relation of life was to do a kindness. He
was a man whom sponges of every order, and college scouts, and cabmen,
and tavern waiters adore; and for whom the wise and prudent apprehend a
youth of waste and riot, and an afterlife of ruin.

'I'll tell you what,' said he with a friendly air. 'We'll come to the
theatre to-night and see you act—and the young lady,' with a critical
glance at Justina, who walked close beside her father, and did her best
to extinguish herself in the shadow of Mr. Elgood's bulky form. It was
as much as James Penwyn could do to get a glimpse of the girl's face,
which had a pale, tired look just now. 'Humph!' thought James, 'fine
eyes; but not particularly pretty,—rather a washed-out look.'

'Sir,' said Mr. Elgood, 'you will confer at once honour and substantial
benefit upon us poor players. And if you like to take a peep at life
behind the scenes, my position in the theatre warrants my admitting you
to that exoteric region.'

'I should like it of all things, and we can sup together afterwards.
They've a decent cook at the inn where my friend and I are staying,
though it's only a roadside tavern. You know it, perhaps—the
"Waterfowl," half a mile out of the town. It's my friend's fancy that
we should stop there.'

'It's your friend's necessity that he should avoid costly hotels,' said
Maurice, lightly.

They had crossed a couple of meadows, where young lambs scuttled off at
the sight of them, bleating vehemently, and now came to a green lane,
a long grassy gully between tall hedges, where the earliest of the
dog-roses were budding, creamy white, amidst tender green leaves. Mr.
Penwyn took advantage of the change to slip behind Mr. Elgood and place
himself beside Justina. Maurice looked after him darkly. A too general
worship of the fair sex was one of James Penwyn's foibles.

No, decidedly she was not pretty, thought James, after a closer
inspection of the pale young face, with its somewhat pensive mouth and
greyish-blue eyes. She blushed a little as he looked at her, and the
delicate rose tint became the oval cheek. All the lines of her face
were too sharp, for want of that filling out and rounding of angles
which is the ripening of beauty. She was like a pale greenish-hued
peach on a wall in early June, to which July and August will bring
roundness, velvety texture, and richest bloom.

'I hope you are not very tired,' said James, gently.

'Not very,' answered Justina, with an involuntary sigh. 'We had a long
rehearsal this morning.'

'Yes, there always must be long rehearsals while there are stupid
people in a theatre,' interjected Mr. Elgood, with a sharpness which
made the remark sound personal.

'We are getting up a burlesque for the race nights, gentlemen,'
continued the actor,—'"Faust and Marguerite"—the last popular thing
in London, and my daughter knows as much about burlesque business as an
eating-house waiter knows of a holiday.'

'Are you fond of acting?' asked James, confidentially, ignoring Mr.
Elgood's remarks.

'I hate it,' answered Justina, less shyly than she had spoken before.
There was something friendly in the young man's voice and manner which
invited confidence; and then he was so pleasant to look at, with his
small clearly-cut features, light auburn moustache, crisp auburn hair
cut close to the well-shaped head, garments of rough grey tweed,
which looked more distinguished than any clothes Justina had ever
seen before; thick cable chain and pendent locket—a large, dull gold
locket, with a Gothic monogram in black enamel—tawny gloves upon the
small hands,—altogether a very different person from the tall man
in the shabby shooting coat, leather gaiters, and bulky boots, who
walked on the other side of Mr. Elgood. Justina was young enough to be
impressed by externals.

'Hate it?' exclaimed Mr. Penwyn; 'I thought actresses always adored
the stage, and looked forward to acquiring the fame of an O'Neil or a
Faucit.'

'Do they?' said Justina; 'those I know are like horses in a mill, and
go the same round year after year. When I think that I may have to lead
that kind of life till I die of old age, I almost feel that I should
like to drown myself, if it wasn't wicked; but then I haven't any
talent. I suppose it would all seem different if I were clever.'

'Aren't you clever?' asked James, smiling at her simplicity. Although
not pretty she was far from unpleasing. He was amused—interested even.
But then he was always ready to interest himself in any tolerably
attractive young woman.

Maurice Clissold fell away from the actor, and walked beside his
friend, overlooking James and Justina from his superior height. There
was plenty of space in the wide green lane for four to walk abreast.

'No,' said Justina, confidentially, not wishing her father to hear
ungrateful murmurs against the art he respected, 'I believe I'm very
stupid. If there is a point to be made I generally miss it—speak too
fast, or too slow, or drop my voice at the end of a speech, or raise it
too soon. Even in François I didn't get a round the other night. You
know François?'

'Haven't the honour of his acquaintance.'

'The page in "Richelieu." He has a grand speech. One is bound to get a
tremendous round of applause; but somehow I missed it. Father said he
should like to have boxed my ears.'

'He didn't do it, I hope.'

'No, but it was almost as bad. He said it before everybody in the
green-room.'

'I understand—like a fellow saying something unpleasant of one at
one's club.'

They came to the end of the green lane at last. It opened upon a level
sweep of land, across which they saw the city, all its roofs and walls
steeped in the westering sunlight. The ground was marshy, and between
low rush-grown banks gently flowed the Ebor, a narrow river that wound
its sinuous course around the outskirts of Eborsham, without entering
the city.

'I have not led you astray, you see, sir,' said Maurice; 'behold the
cathedral. Yonder path by the water's edge will bring us to the lower
end of the town.'

'We have to thank you for extrication from a difficulty, sir,' replied
Mr. Elgood, with dignity. 'You have brought us a shorter way than that
which my daughter and I traversed when we came out this afternoon.'

They followed the river path—a towpath along which slow, clumsy horses
were wont to drag the lingering chain of a heavily-laden barge. The
dark green rushes shivered in the west wind—the slow river was gently
rippled—the city had a look of unspeakable stillness—like a city in a
picture.

Half way along the towpath they encountered some stragglers—a man
laden with oaken mats, who walked wide of his companions on the marshy
ground outside the path—a boy running here and there at random,
chasing the small yellow butterflies, and shouting at them in the
ardour of the chase—an elderly woman of the gipsy race, carrying a
string of light fancy baskets across her shoulder.

'That's the worst of a race meeting,' said James Penwyn, with reference
to these nomads. 'It brings together such a lot of rabble.'

One of the rabble stopped and blocked his pathway. It was the elderly
gipsy woman.

'Let me tell you your fortune, my pretty gentleman,' she said, pouncing
on Mr. Penwyn, as if she had discovered his superior wealth at a
glance. 'Cross the poor gipsy's hand with a bit of silver—half a crown
won't hurt you—my pretty gentleman. You've riches in your face—you've
never known what it is to want a sovereign, and never will. The world
was made for such as you.'

'Avaunt, harridan!' cried the tragedian, 'and suffer us to proceed.'

'What, you'd like to spoil my market, would you?' cried the sibyl,
vindictively. 'No one was ever a penny the richer for your generosity,
and no one will be a penny the worse off when you're dead and gone,
except yourself. Let me tell your fortune, pretty gentleman,' she
went on, laying a persuasive hand on James Penwyn's grey sleeve, and
keeping up with the pedestrians as they strove to pass her. 'There's
plenty of pleasant things the old gipsy woman can tell you. You're a
gentleman that likes a dark blue eye, and there's an eye that looks
kindly upon you now, and though there's crosses for true lovers, all
will come out happy in the end, if you'll listen to the old gipsy.'

James laughed, and flung the prophetess a florin.

'Show me your hand, kind gentleman,' she urged, after a string of
thanks and benedictions, 'your left hand. Yes, there's the mount of
Venus, and not an ugly line across it, and you've a long thumb, my
pretty gentleman, long between the first joint and the second—that
means strength of will, for the thumb is Jupiter, and rules the house
of life. Don't take your hand away, pretty gentleman. Let's see the
line——'

'What's the matter, mother?' asked James, as the woman stopped in the
middle of a sentence, still holding his hand and staring at the palm
steadfastly with a scared look.

'What's that?' she asked, pointing to a short indented line across the
palm.

'Why, what keen eyes you have, old lady! That's the mark of a hole I
dug in my palm two years ago, cutting a tough bit of cavendish. My
scout told me I was bound to have lockjaw, but I didn't realize his
expectations. I suppose lockjaw doesn't run in our family.'

'Right across the line of life,' muttered the gipsy, still examining
the seam left by the knife upon the pinkish, womanish palm.

'Does that mean anything bad—that I am to die young, for instance?'

'The scar of a knife can't overrule the planets,' replied the sibyl,
sententiously.



CHAPTER II.

BEHIND THE SCENES.


James Penwyn and Maurice Clissold went to the Eborsham Theatre as
soon as they had eaten their dinner and smoked a single cigar apiece,
lounging by the open window in the gloaming, talking over their
afternoon's adventure.

'What a fellow you are, Jim!' cried Maurice, with a half-contemptuous,
half-compassionate air, as for the foolishness of a child. 'To hear you
go on about that scarecrow of a girl, one would suppose you had never
seen a pretty woman in your life.'

'I never saw prettier eyes,' said James, 'and she has a manner that
a fellow might easily fall in love with—so simple, so childish, so
confiding.'

'Which means that she gazed with undisguised admiration upon the
magnificent Squire Penwyn, of Penwyn Manor. A woman need only flatter
you, Jim, for you to think her a Venus.'

'That poor little thing didn't flatter me. She's a great deal too
innocent.'

'No, she only admired you innocently; opening those big blue eyes of
hers to their widest in a gaze of rapture. Was it the locket, or the
studs, or the moustache, I wonder, that struck her most?'

'Don't be a fool, Clissold. If we are to go to the theatre, we'd better
not waste any more time. I want to see what kind of an actor our friend
is.'

'Student of humanity,' jeered Maurice, 'even a provincial player is not
beneath your notice. Cuvier was profound upon spiders. Penwyn has a
mind of a wider range.'

'What is his name, by-the-bye?' mused James, thinking of Mr. Elgood.
'We don't even know his name, and we've asked him to supper. That's
rather awkward, isn't it?'

'Be sure he will come. No doubt he has already speculated on the
possibility of borrowing five pounds from you.'

Mr. Penwyn rang the bell and gave his orders with that easy air of a
man unaccustomed to count the cost. The best supper the 'Waterfowl'
could provide, at half-past eleven.

They walked along the lonely country road into Eborsham. The 'Waterfowl
Inn' was upon one of the quietest, most obscure roads leading
outside the city; not the great coach road to London, bordered for
a mile beyond the town by snug villas, and band-boxical detached
cottages—orderly homes of retired traders—but a by-road leading to
a village or two, of no consequence save to the few humble folks who
lived in them.

This road followed the wind of the river which traversed the lower end
of Eborsham, and it was for its vicinity to the river, and a something
picturesque in its aspect, that the two friends had chosen the
'Waterfowl' as their resting place. There was a small garden behind the
inn which sloped to the edge of the stream, and a rustic summerhouse
where the young men smoked their pipes after dinner.

Between the 'Waterfowl' and Eborsham the landscape was low and flat; on
one side a narrow strip of marshy ground between road and river, with a
scrubby brush here and there marking the boundary, on the other a tall
neglected hedgerow at the top of a steep bank, divided from the road by
a wide weedy ditch.

The two friends entered Eborsham through a Gothic archway called
Lowgate. The old town had been a strongly fortified city, famous for
its walls, and there were several of these stone gateways. The theatre
stood in the angle of a small square, almost overshadowed by the mighty
towers of the cathedral, as if the stage had gone to the church for
sanctuary and protection from the intolerance of bigots.

Here Mr. Penwyn and Mr. Clissold placed themselves among the select few
of the dress-circle, a cool and airy range of seats, whose sparsely
scattered occupants listened with rapt attention to the gloomy prosings
of 'The Stranger.' James Penwyn was not ravished by that Germanic
drama. Even Mrs. Haller bored him. She dropped her h's, and expressed
the emotions of grief and remorse by spasmodic chokings and catchings
of her breath. But Mr. Penwyn lighted up a little when the Countess
appeared, for the Countess had the large melancholy blue eyes of the
girl he had met in the meadow.

Miss Elgood did not look her best on the stage. Tall, slim, and
willow-waisted, sharp of elbow and angular of shoulder, dressed in
cheap finery, soiled satin, tarnished silver lace, murky marabouts,
badly painted with two dabs of rouge that were painfully visible upon
the pure pale of her young cheeks. Artistically, Justina was a failure,
and feeling herself a failure suffered from an inability to dispose of
her arms, and a lurking conviction that the audience regarded her with
loathing.

Mr. Clissold exchanged his front seat for a place on the hindmost bench
before 'The Stranger' was halfway through his troubles, and here,
secure in the shade, slept comfortably. James Penwyn endured two acts
and a half, and then, remembering Mr. Elgood's offer to show him life
behind the scenes, slipped quietly out of the dress-circle, and asked
the boxkeeper how he was to get to the side scenes.

That official, sweetened by a liberal donation, unlocked a little door
behind the proscenium box, a door sacred to the manager, and let Mr.
Penwyn through into the mystic world of behind the scenes. He would
hardly have done such a thing under a responsible lessee, but in a
commonwealth morals become relaxed.

The mystic world looked dark and dusty, and smelt of gas and dirt, to
the unaccustomed senses of Mr. Penwyn.

The voices on the stage sounded loud and harsh now that they were so
near his ear. There was hardly room for him to move between the side
scenes and the wall—indeed, it was only by screwing himself against
this whitewashed wall that he made his way in the direction which a
scene-shifter had indicated as the way to the green-room.

Mr. Penwyn's experience of life had never before led him behind the
scenes. He had a vague idea that a green-room was a dazzling saloon,
lighted by crystal chandeliers, lined with mirrors, furnished with
divans of ruby velvet, an idealized copy of a club-house smoking-room.
He found himself in a small dingy chamber, carpetless, curtainless,
uncleanly, provided with narrow baize-covered benches and embellished
with one cloudy looking-glass, on either side whereof flared an
unscreened gas jet.

Here over the narrow wooden mantelshelf hung castes of pieces in
preparation, 'Jack Sheppard,' 'Delicate Ground,' 'Courier of Lyons,'
'Box and Cox,' a wide range of dramatic art, and calls for next day's
rehearsal. Here, in divers attitudes of weariness, lounged various
members of the dramatic commonwealth; among them Mr. Elgood, in the
frogged coat, crimson worsted pantaloons and Hessian boots of the
Baron; and Justina, seated disconsolately, with her limp satin trailing
over the narrow bench beside her, studying her part in the piece for
to-morrow night.

'My dear sir,' exclaimed Matthew Elgood, shaking hands with enthusiasm,
'this is kind! Dempson,'—this to a gentleman in mufti, small, sallow,
close-cropped, and smelling of stale tobacco—'this is my pioneer of
to-day. Mr. Dempson, Mr.?—stay, we did not exchange cards.'

'Penwyn,' said James, smiling.

Mr. Elgood stared at the speaker curiously, as if he hardly believed
his own ears, as if this name of Penwyn had some strange significance
for him.

'Penwyn,' he repeated, 'that's a Cornish name isn't it?'

'By Tre, Pol, and Pen you may know the Cornish men. There is nothing
more Cornish; I was born and brought up near London, but my race
belongs to the Cornish soil. We were indigenous at Penwyn, I believe,
the founders and earliest inhabitants of the settlement. Do you know
Cornwall?'

'Not intimately. Merely as a traveller.'

'Were you ever at Penwyn?'

'I don't think so, I have no recollection.'

'Well, it's a place you might easily forget, not a promising locality
for the exercise of your art. But you seemed struck by my name just
now, as if you had heard it before.'

'I think I must have heard it somewhere, but I can't recall the
occasion. Let that pass.' And with a majestic wave of the hand Mr.
Elgood performed the ceremony of introduction.

'Mr. Dempson, Mr. Penwyn. Mr. Penwyn, Mr. Dempson. Mr. Dempson is our
sometime manager, now a brother professional. He has resigned the round
and top of sovereignty, and the carking cares of Saturday's treasury.'

Mr. Dempson assented to this statement with a plaintive sigh.

'A harassing profession, the drama, Mr. Penwyn,' he said. 'The
many-headed is a monster of huge ingratitudes.'

James bowed assent.

'The provincial stage is in its decline, sir. Time was when this very
theatre could be kept open for ten consecutive months in every year,
to the profit of the manager, and when the good old comedies and the
Shaksperian drama were acted week after week to an intelligent and
approving audience. Now-a-days a man must rack his brains in order to
cater for a frivolous and insatiable public, which has been taught
to consider a house on fire, or a railway smash, the end and aim of
dramatic composition. I speak from bitter experience. My grandfather
was manager of the Eborsham circuit, and retired with a competency. My
father inherited the competency, and lost it in the Eborsham circuit.
I have been cradled in the profession, and have failed as manager,
with credit to my head and heart, as my friends have been good enough
to observe, some three or four times, and now hang on to dramatic art,
"quite out of fashion, like a rusty nail in monumental armour." That's
what I call the decline of the drama, Mr. Penwyn.'

James assented, and was not sorry that Mr. Dempson, having 'vented his
woe,' went off to dress for the afterpiece.

'What a melancholy person!' said James.

'An excellent low comedian,' replied Mr. Elgood. 'You'll hear the
people screaming at him in the "Spitalfields Weaver" by and by. His
business with the tea and bread and butter is the finest thing I ever
saw, not second to Wright's. Indeed,' added Mr. Elgood, as an after
thought, 'I believe it is Wright's business.'

'Then it can hardly claim the merit of originality.'

'Genius, Mr. Penwyn, finds its material where it can.'

'Baron,' screamed a small boy, putting his head in at the door.

'My scene!' exclaimed Mr. Elgood, and vanished.

James seated himself on the narrow bench beside Justina.

'I have been in the boxes to see you act,' he said, in that gentle
winning voice which had made him a favourite among women. To Justina it
sounded fresh as a voice from another world. No one in her world spoke
like that, in tones so deferential, with accents so pure.

'I am very sorry for it,' said Justina.

'Sorry! but why?'

'Because you must hate me. The audience always do hate me. I feel it in
their looks—feel it freezing me directly I go on the stage. "Oh, there
_she_ is again!" they say to themselves. "Can't they manage to get
through the piece without sending _her_ on?"

'What a curious notion! I thought actresses were conceited people.'

'Yes, when they are favourites.'

'I don't know about the rest of the audience, Miss Elgood,' said
James, almost tenderly, 'but I know I did not hate you,—my feelings
leaned too much the other way.'

Justina blushed through those two dabs of rouge—compliments were so
new to her, and a compliment from this elegant stranger was worth
all the loud praises of the vulgar herd. She hardly envied Miss
Villeroy—the leading lady—whose chokings and sobbings in Mrs.
Haller had been applauded to the echo, while the poor countess in her
draggle-tailed sky-blue satin had walked on and off unnoticed.

'So this is the way you enjoy the legitimate drama, Mr. Penwyn,' said
a sonorous voice—the full rich baritone of Maurice Clissold—and,
looking up, James and Justina beheld that gentleman watching them from
the doorway.

'I left _you_ asleep,' replied James, abashed by his friend's advent.

'Yes, sneaked off, and left me to grope my way to this abominable den as
best I could. I beg your pardon, Miss Elgood, but it really is a den.'

'You can't hate it worse than I do,' said Justina, 'or so badly—I have
to sit here every night.'

'Poor child! It's a strange life—and a hard one. Seen from the outside
there seems a not unpleasant Bohemian flavour about it—but when one
comes behind the scenes the Bohemian flavour appears to be mainly dirt.
I've inhaled enough dust and escaped gas within the last ten minutes to
last me comfortably for my lifetime. And you breathe this atmosphere
for four or five hours every night! Poor child!'

James sighed. His benevolent heart longed to rescue the girl from
such a life—a girl with pensive violet eyes, fringed by darkest
lashes—soft brown hair, so luxuriant that it made a crown of plaits
upon the well-shaped head,—altogether a girl whom benevolence would
fain benefit.

'Come, Jim,' said Clissold, who had a knack of reading his friend's
thoughts, 'you've seen enough of behind the scenes.'

'No, I haven't,' answered James, sturdily, as the countess ran off to
act her part in the close of the play. He was wont to be plastic as
wax in the hands of his guide, philosopher, and friend, but to-night
there glowed a spark of rebellion in his soul. 'I am going to stop to
see Mr. Elgood, and to ask him to bring his daughter to supper.'

'Bring his daughter! To visit two young men at a roadside inn?'

'_Honi soit_—,' said James. 'Can a girl be safer anywhere than with
her father?'

'Look here, Penwyn,' said Clissold, earnestly, 'I've made it the
business of my life for the last two years to keep you in the straight
path. I won't have you kicking over the traces for any blue-eyed chit
in the universe. Remember what I promised your poor mother, Jim.'

'That you'd act the part of an elder brother—supply the balance of
good sense wanting to my shallow brains. That's all very well, Maurice.
I always respected my poor mother's ideas even when they took the shape
of prejudices. But a man must enjoy his life.'

'Yes, but he is bound to enjoy life with the least possible injury to
other people.'

'Whom am I going to injure?' demanded Mr. Penwyn, with an impatient
shrug, as he moved towards the wings.

'You are putting foolish ideas into that poor child's head.'

'What nonsense! Simply because I am civil to her. I mean to ask her to
supper, whether you like it or not.'

'I hope her father will have the sense to refuse.'

'If you come to that, I'll invite the whole company!' cried the spoiled
child of fortune.

The curtain came down at this moment, and Mr. Elgood returned to the
green-room, unbuckling his sword-belt as he came along.

'I waited to remind you of your promise to sup with us to-night, Mr.
Elgood,' said James.

'My dear sir, it is not an engagement to be forgotten. I shall be there.'

'Will half-past eleven be too early?'

'No; "The Stranger" has played quick to-night, and the afterpiece is
short. I shall be there.'

'Miss Elgood will accompany you, I hope?'

'Thanks, no. The proprieties would be outraged by her appearance at a
bachelor's table. The only lady present.'

'We could easily remedy that, if any other lady of the company would
honour us.'

'Upon my word you are very kind; and I know the child would consider it
a treat. If you put the question in such a friendly manner I feel sure
that Mr. and Mrs. Dempson would be delighted to join us.'

'Pray bring them. Is Mrs. Dempson also dramatic?'

'You have seen her to-night in one of her greatest parts—Mrs. Haller.'

'I thought the lady was a Miss Villeroy.'

'Her professional name, merely. Joe Dempson and Miss Villeroy have been
united in the sacred bonds of matrimony for some years.'

'I shall be charmed to make the lady's acquaintance. You know your way
to the "Waterfowl?"

'It is familiar to me as the path of my infancy.'

'And you'll be sure to bring Miss Elgood?'

'Judy shall come without fail.'

'Judy?'

'The pet name chosen by affection. She was christened Justina. Pardon
me if I leave you hastily, I play in the next piece.'

Mr. Elgood hurried away. James Penwyn glanced at his friend with the
glance of triumph.

'Out of leading-strings, you see, Maurice,' he said.

Maurice Clissold shrugged his shoulders and turned away with a sigh.
James, more touched by silence than reproof, put his arm through his
friend's with a gay laugh, and they went out of the green-room and out
of the theatre together, arm-in-arm, like brothers who loved each other.



CHAPTER III.

'ÉVEILLONS LE PLAISIR, SON AURORE EST LA NUIT.'


The supper at the 'Waterfowl' was a success. Every one, except perhaps
Clissold, was in the humour to be pleased with everything, and even
Clissold could not find it in his heart to make himself vehemently
disagreeable amidst mirth so harmless, gaiety so childishly simple.
To an actor, supper after the play is just the one crowning delight
of life—that glimpse of paradise upon earth which we all get in
some shape or other. A supper at a comfortable hostelry like the
'Waterfowl,' where the landlord knew how to do things in good style
for a customer who could pay the piper, was certainly not to be
despised. In this northern district there was a liberal plenty, a
bounteous wealth of provision hardly known elsewhere. Tea at Eborsham
meant dinner and breakfast rolled into one. Supper at Eborsham meant
aldermanic barn-door fowls, and a mighty home-cured ham, weighing
five-and-twenty pounds, or so—lobsters nestling among crisp green
lettuces—pigeon pie—cheese-cakes—tarts—and, lest these lighter
trifles should fail to satisfy appetite, a lordly cold sirloin by way
of _corps de reserve_, to come in at a critical juncture, like Blucher
at Waterloo.

Mr. Dempson made himself the life of the party. The small melancholy
man who had bewailed the decline of the drama, vanished altogether at
sight of that plenteously-furnished table, and in his place appeared a
jester of the first water. So James Penwyn thought at any rate, as he
laughed—with youth's gay silver-clear laughter—at the low comedian's
jokes. Even Miss Villeroy was sprightly, though she had a worn look
about the eyes, as if she had aged herself prematurely with the woes
of Mrs. Haller, and other heroines of tragedy. Justina sat next to
James Penwyn, and was supremely happy, though only an hour ago she had
shed tears of girlish shame at the idea of coming to a supper party in
her threadbare brown merino gown—last winter's gown—which she was
obliged to wear in the warm glad spring for want of fitter raiment.
No one thought of her shabby gown, however, when the pale young face
brightened and flushed with unwonted pleasure, and the large thoughtful
eyes took a new light, and darkened to a deeper grey.

James Penwyn did his uttermost to make her happy and at ease, and
succeeded only too well. There is no impression so swift and so vivid
as that which the first admirer makes upon a girl of seventeen. The
tender words, the subdued tones, the smiles, the praises, have such a
freshness. The adulation of a Cæsar in after years would hardly seem so
sweet as these first flatteries of commonplace youth to the girl on the
threshold of womanhood.

Mr. Elgood saw what was going on, but was by no means alarmed by
the aspect of affairs. He felt himself quite able to take care of
Justina, even if Mr. Penwyn had been a hardened libertine instead of
a kind-hearted youth fresh from the university. He had no desire to
stifle admiration which might mean very little, but which would most
likely result in liberal patronage for his own benefit, and a trifling
present or two for Justina, a ring, or a bracelet, or a box of gloves.

'I don't want to stand in Justina's light,' mused Mr. Elgood, as he
leaned back in his chair and sipped his last glass of champagne, when
the pleasures of the table had given way to an agreeable sense of
repletion.

'What did that gipsy woman mean by the line of life, and the planets?'
asked Justina. She had lost all sense of shyness by this time, and she
and James were talking to each other in lowered voices, as much alone
as if the rest of the party had been pictures on the wall. Maurice
marked them as he sat a little way apart from the others, smoking his
black-muzzled pipe.

'Pshaw, only the professional jargon. What does she know of the
planets?'

'But she stared at your hand in such a curious way, and looked so awful
that she frightened me. Do tell me what she meant.'

James laughed, and laid his left hand in Justina's, palm upwards.
'Look there,' he said; 'you see that line, a curved channel that goes
from below the first finger to the base of the thumb—that is to say,
it should go to the base of the thumb, but in my hand it doesn't.
See where the line disappears, midway, just by that seam left by my
pocket-knife. You can see no line beyond that scar, _ergo_ the line
never travelled further than that point.'

Justina closely scrutinized the strong unwrinkled palm.

'What does that mean?' she asked; 'I don't understand even now.'

'It means a short life and a merry one.'

The rare bloom faded from Justina's cheek.

'You don't believe in that?' she said, anxiously.

'No more than I believe in gipsies, or spirit-rappers, or the cave of
Trophonius,' answered James, gaily. 'What a silly child you are to look
so scared!'

Justina gave a little sigh, and then tried to smile. Even this first
dawn of a girlish fancy, airy as a butterfly's passion for a rose,
brought new anxieties along with it. The gipsy's cant was an evil omen
that disturbed her like a shapeless fear. Women resemble those mediæval
roysterers of whom the old chronicler wrote. They take their pleasure
sadly.

The moon was at the full. There she sailed, a silver targe, above the
distant hill-tops. James looked up at her, looked into that profound
world above, which draws the fancies of youth with irresistible power.
The room opened on the garden by two long windows, and the one nearest
to Mr. Penwyn's end of the table stood open.

'Let us get away from the smoke,' he said, vexed to see Clissold's
eye upon him, fixed and gloomy. The room was tolerably full of
tobacco-smoke by this time, and Mr. Elgood was urging Mr. Dempson to
favour the company with his famous song, 'The Ship's Carpen_teer_.'

'Come into the garden, Maud,' said James, gaily, flinging a look of
defiance at his monitor.

Justina blushed, hesitated, and obeyed him. They went out into the
moonlit night together, and strolled side by side across the rustic
garden, a slope of grass on which the most ancient of apple-trees, and
pear-trees, big enough to have been mistaken for small elms, cast their
crooked shadows. It was more orchard than garden, a homely, useful
place altogether. Potherbs grew among the rose-bushes on the border
by the boundary hedge, and on one side of the inn there was a patch of
ground that grew cabbages and broad-beans; but all the rest was grass
and apple-trees.

At the end of that grassy slope ran the river, silver-shining under
the moon. Eborsham, seen across the level landscape, looked a
glorified city in that calm and mellow light. The boy and girl walked
silently down to the river's brim and looked at the distant hills
and woods, scattered cottages with lowly thatched roofs and antique
chimney-stacks, here and there the white walls of a mansion silvered
by the moon, and, dominating all in sublime and gloomy grandeur, the
mighty towers of the cathedral, God's temple, rising, like fortalice
and sanctuary, above all human habitations, as of old the Acropolis.

Justina gazed and was silent. It was one of those rare moments of
exaltation which poets tell us are worth a lifetime of sluggish
feeling. The girl felt as if she had never lived till now.

'Pretty, isn't it?' remarked James, very much in the tone of Brummel,
who after watching a splendid sunset was pleased to observe, 'How well
he does it!'

'It is too beautiful,' said Justina.

'Why too beautiful?'

'I don't know. It hurts me somehow, like actual pain!'

'You are like Byron's Lara,—

                            "But a night like this,
      A night of beauty, mocked such breast as his."

I hope it is not a case of bad conscience with you, as it was with him?'

'No, it is not my conscience. The worst I have ever done has been to
grumble at the profession; and though father says it is wicked, the
thought of my wickedness has never troubled me. But to me there's
something awful in the beauty of night and stillness, a solemnity that
chills me. I feel as if there were some trouble hanging over me, some
great sorrow. Don't you?'

'Not the least in the world. I think moonlight awfully jolly. Would you
much mind my lighting a cigar? You'll hardly feel the effects of the
smoke out here.'

'I never feel it anywhere,' answered Justina, frankly. 'Father hardly
ever leaves off smoking.'

There was a weeping willow at the edge of the garden, a willow whose
lower branches dipped into the river, and just beside the willow a
bench where these two seated themselves, in the full glory of the
moon. A much better place than the dusky summerhouse, which might
peradventure be a harbour for frogs, snails, or spiders. They sat
by the river's brim, and talked—talked as easily as if they had a
thousand ideas in common, these two, who had never met until to-day,
and whose lives lay so far apart.

They had youth and hope in common, and that bond was enough to unite
them.

James asked Justina a good many questions about stage life, and was
surprised to find the illusions of his boyhood vanish before stern
truth.

'I thought it was such a jolly life, and the easiest in the world,' he
said. 'I've often fancied I should like to be an actor. I think I could
do it pretty well. I can imitate Buckstone, and Charles Mathews.'

'Pray don't think of it,' exclaimed Justina. 'You'd be tired to death
in a year.'

'I dare say I should. I'm not much of a fellow for sticking to
anything. I got "ploughed" a year ago at Oxford, and now I've been
trying to read with Clissold walking through England and Wales, and
putting up at all the quietest places we can find. Clissold is a
first-rate coach, and it won't be his fault if I don't get my degree
next time. How do you like him?'

'I don't know. I haven't thought about him, answered the girl, simply.
This younger and fairer stranger had made her oblivious of Maurice
Clissold, with his tall, strong frame, dark, penetrating eyes, and
broad brow. Too manly a man altogether to be admired by a girl of
seventeen.

'He is as good a fellow as ever breathed; a little bitter, perhaps; but
most wholesome things are bitter,' said James. 'He has his crotchets.
One is that I am to be a model master of Penwyn by and by, go into
Parliament, marry an heiress, set up as a fine old English gentleman,
in fact. Rather a wearisome _métier_, I should think. The worst of it
is, he keeps it continually before my mind's eye, is always reminding
me of how much I owe to Penwyn Manor and my race, and won't let me
get much enjoyment out of youth's brief holiday. He's a good fellow,
but I might love him better if I didn't respect him so much. He was a
great favourite of my poor mother's. A romantic story, by the way. She
was engaged to Maurice's father some years before she married mine. He
was a captain in the East India Company's service, and fell fighting
the niggers at Goojerat. Years afterwards, when my father was dead and
gone, Clissold and I met at Eton. My mother burst into tears when she
heard my schoolfellow's name, and asked me to bring him to see her. Of
course I obeyed, and from that time to the day of her death my mother
had a second son in Maurice. I think she loved him as well as she loved
me.'

'And you were never jealous?'

'No, I was too fond of both of them for that. And then my dear mother
was all love, all tenderness. I could afford to share her affection
with my adopted brother. And now tell me something about your own life.'

'There is so little to tell,' answered the girl, drearily. 'Ever since
I can remember we have lived the same kind of life—sometimes in one
town, sometimes in another. When father could afford the money he used
to send me to a day school, so I've been a little educated somehow,
only I dare say I'm very ignorant, because my education used to stop
sometimes, and by the time it began again I had forgotten a good deal.'

'Poor child,' murmured James, compassionately. 'Is your mother still
living?'

'She died seven years ago. She had had so much trouble, it wore her out
at last.' And Justina paid her dead mother the tribute of a hidden tear.

'I say, Jim, do you know that it is half-past two o'clock, and that Mr.
Elgood is waiting for his daughter?' asked the voice of common sense in
the tones of Maurice Clissold.

The two children started up from the bench by the willow, scared by
the sudden question. There stood Mr. Clissold, tall and straight, and
severe-looking.

'I heard the cathedral clock a few minutes ago, and I am quite aware
of the time. If Mr. Elgood wants his daughter he can come for her
himself,' replied James.

Mr. Penwyn was resolved to make a stand against his mentor, and he felt
that now was the time for action.

Mr. Elgood and Mr. Dempson came strolling out into the garden, cigars
in their mouths. Penwyn's choicest brand had been largely sacrificed at
the altar of hospitality.

'Judy, have you forgotten the time?' asked the heavy father, with
accents that had a _legato_ sound—one syllable gliding gently
into another,—a tone that was all sweetness and affection, though
indistinct.

'Yes, father,' answered the girl, innocently. 'It's so beautiful out
here.'

'Beautiful,' echoed the father, thickly. '"Look how the floor of
heaven is thick inlaid with—what's its names—of bright gold." Come,
Jessica—Judy—put on your bonnet and shawl. Mrs. Dempson has been fast
asleep for the last half-hour. "But look! The morn, in russet mantle
clad, walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill," which reminds me
that we have nearly a mile to walk before we get home.'

'I'll go with you,' said James. 'I want to arrange about to-morrow. We
must make up a jolly party for the races. I'll get a roomy carriage
that will hold all of us.'

'I haven't seen a race in anything like comfort for the last fifteen
years,' responded Mr. Elgood.

'We'll make a day of it. Clissold and I will come to the theatre in the
evening.'

'Make your own engagements if you please, James, and allow me to make
mine,' said Mr. Clissold. 'I shall not go to the races to-morrow—or
if I do, it will be by myself, and on foot; and I shall not go to the
theatre in the evening.'

'Please yourself,' answered James, offended.

They were all ready by this time. Mrs. Dempson had been awakened, and
shaken out of the delusion that she had fallen asleep on the sofa in
her own lodgings, and somewhat harshly reminded that she had a mile or
so to walk before she could obtain complete repose. Mr. Dempson had
finished his cigar, and accepted another as solace during the homeward
walk. Justina had put on her shabby little bonnet and mantle. Every one
was ready.

The players took their leave of Maurice Clissold, who was but coldly
civil. James Penwyn went out with them, and gave his arm to Justina, as
if it were the most natural thing in the world. These two walked on in
front, the other three straggling after them—walked arm in arm along
the lonely footpath. The low murmur of the river sounded near—the
stream showed silvery now and again between a break in the screen of
alders.

They talked as they had talked in the garden—about each other—their
thoughts—and fancies—hopes—dreams—imaginings.

Oh youth! oh glamour! Strange world in which for the first bright years
we live as in a dream! Sweet dawn of life, when nothing in this world
seems so real as the hopes that are never to know fruition!



CHAPTER IV.

'LOVE'S A MIGHTY LORD.'


Sir Nugent Bellingham was one of those men who are born and reared
amidst pecuniary difficulties, and whose existence is spent upon the
verge of ruin. Yet it seems a tolerably comfortable kind of life
notwithstanding, and men of Sir Nugent's type hardly realize the
meaning of the word deprivation. Sir Nugent had never known what it
was to be out of debt. The Bellingham estate was mortgaged up to the
hilt when he inherited it. Indeed, to be thus encumbered was the normal
condition of all Bellingham property.

Of course Sir Nugent had from time to time possessed money. He hardly
could have drifted on so long without some amount of specie, even in
such an easy-going world as that patrician sphere in which he revolved.
He had inherited a modest fortune from his mother, with which he had
paid his creditors something handsome on account all round, and made
them his bondslaves for all time to come, since they cherished the
hope of something more in the future. Sir Nugent had received legacies
from an aunt and uncle or two, and these afforded further sops for his
Cerberus, and enabled the baronet's dainty little household to sail
gaily down the stream of time for some years.

When the amelioration of manners brought bankruptcy within the reach of
any gentleman, Sir Nugent Bellingham availed himself of the new code,
and became insolvent in an easy, gentleman-like fashion. And what with
one little help and another, the _bijou_ house in May Fair, where Sir
Nugent lived with his two motherless girls, was always kept up in the
same good style. The same dinners—small and _soigné_—the same lively
receptions after the little dinners. The best music, the newest books,
the choicest hothouse flowers, were always to be found at No. 12,
Cavendish Bow, May Fair. There were only a dozen houses in Cavendish
Bow, and Sir Nugent Bellingham's was at the corner, squeezed into an
angle made by the lofty wall of Lord Loamshire's garden—one of those
dismal, awe-inspiring London gardens, grey and dull and blossomless,
which look like a burial-ground without any graves. Seen from the
street, No. 12 looked a mere doll's house, but the larger rooms were
behind, abutting upon Lord Loamshire's garden. It was an irregular
old house, full of corners, but, furnished after the peculiar tastes
of Miss Bellingham, was one of the most charming houses in London.
No upholsterer had been allowed to work his will—Madge Bellingham
had chosen every item. The chairs and tables, and sofas and cabinets,
were the cheapest that could be had, for they were all of unstained
light woods, made after designs from Miss Bellingham's own pencil. The
cabinets were mere frames for glass doors, behind which appeared the
Bellingham collection of bric-a-brac, upon numerous shelves covered
with dark-green silk. Madge's own clever hands had covered the deal
shelves; and the bronzes, the Venetian glass, the Sèvres, Copenhagen,
Berlin, Vienna, and Dresden porcelains looked all the better for so
simple a setting.

There were no draperies but chintz, the cheapest that could be bought,
but always fresh. The looking-glasses had no frame save a natural
garland of ivy. The floors were beeswaxed only, a Persian carpet here
and there offering accommodation for the luxurious. The one costly
object in the two drawing-rooms, after that bric-a-brac upon which
the Bellingham race had squandered a small fortune, was the piano, a
Broadwood grand, in a case made by a modern workman out of veritable
Louis Seize marqueterie. The old ormolu mountings, goat's head,
festoons, and masques, had been religiously preserved, and the piano
was a triumph of art. It occupied the centre of the back drawing-room,
the largest room in the house, and when Madge Bellingham sat before it,
girl and piano made a cabinet picture of the highest school.

'People know we are out at elbows,' Madge said to her father when they
began housekeeping in Cavendish Row. 'If we have expensive furniture
every one will be sure we haven't paid for it; but if you let me carry
out my ideas, the bills will be so light that you can pay them at once.'

'I can give the fellows something on account, at any rate,' replied Sir
Nugent.

Lady Bellingham's death, which occurred soon after the birth of Viola,
the second daughter, had left Sir Nugent free to lead the life of
a bachelor, for the most part in other people's houses, while his
girls were in his sister's nursery or at school. When they grew to
womanhood—and a very lovely womanhood, for good looks were hereditary
in the Bellingham family—Sir Nugent found it incumbent upon him to
provide them with a home; so he took the house in Cavendish Bow, and
brought home the Bellingham bric-a-bric, which had been left him by
the aforesaid aunts and uncles, and lodged at the Pantechnicon pending
his settlement in life. He began housekeeping at five-and-forty years
of age, and gave his little dinners at home henceforward, instead of
at one or other of his clubs, and cherished high hopes of seeing his
daughters splendidly established by and by.

'I think you have seen enough of what it is to be tormented by a set of
harpies to teach you the value of money, Madge,' said Sir Nugent one
morning, pointing to a small heap of letters which he had just now
opened and dismissed with a glance. The harpies in question were his
creditors, who expressed an unwarrantable eagerness for something more
'on account.'

'With your knowledge of life you are not likely to marry a pauper,'
pursued Sir Nugent, dipping into a Strasburg pie.

'No, papa, not with my knowledge of life,' answered Madge, with ever so
slight and upward curl of the firm lip. Miss Bellingham fondly loved
her father, but it is possible that respect may have been somewhat
lessened by her experience of that financial scramble in which his life
was spent.

Two or three evenings before the night which made James Penwyn
acquainted with life behind the scenes of a small provincial theatre,
Sir Nugent Bellingham gave one of his snug little dinners—a dinner of
eight—the guests of choicest brands, like the wines. Lady Cheshunt,
one of the most exalted matrons in the great world, kept the Miss
Bellinghams in countenance. Madge was her pet _protegée_ whose praises
she was never tired of sounding among the chosen ones of the earth.
Mr. Albert Noyce, a distinguished wit and _littérateur_, supplied the
salt of the banquet. He was a small, mild-looking man, with a pretty,
unoffending wife, and dined out perpetually during the London season.
Mr. Shinebar, the famous barrister, made a fourth. Lord George Bulrose,
a West of England man, a _gourmet_, and, in so far as after-dinner
talk went, a mighty hunter, was the fifth; and Sir Nugent and his two
daughters completed the circle.

After dinner there was to be an evening party, and before the small
hours of the morning a great many famous people would have dropped in
at the corner house in Cavendish Row.


The ladies had retired, leaving Sir Nugent and his chosen friends to
talk about law, and horses, and the last new burlesque actress, as they
drew closer in to the dainty round table, where the glass sparkled and
the deep-hued blossoms brightened under the cluster of wax lights in
the central chandelier.

Viola and Lady Cheshunt went upstairs arm-in-arm, the girl nestling
affectionately against the substantial shoulder of the portly matron.
Mrs. Noyce tripped lightly after these two, and Madge followed, alone,
with a grave brow, and that lofty air which so well became Sir Nugent
Bellingham's elder daughter.

Barely were sisters less alike than these two. Viola was a blonde,
complexion alabaster, hair the colour of raw silk—plenteous flaxen
hair, which the girl wound into a crown of pale gold upon the top of
her small head; eyes of turquoise blue; figure a thought too slim, but
the perfection of grace in every movement and attitude; foot and hand
absolutely faultless: altogether a girl to be put under a glass case.

'I should admire the younger Miss Bellingham more if she were a little
less like Sèvres china,' one of the magnates of society had observed.

Madge was a brunette—hair almost black, and with a natural
ripple—complexion a rich olive, eyes darkest hazel—features the true
Bellingham type, clearly cut as a profile on an old Roman medal—figure
tall and commanding, a woman born to rule, one would say, judging by
externals—a woman with the stuff in her to make a general, Sir Nugent
was wont to boast. But although she was of a loftier mould than the
generality of women, there was no hardness about Madge Bellingham. In
love or in anger she was alike strong. For hate she was too noble.

The rooms were deliciously cool, the light somewhat subdued, the
windows open to the warm spring night. There were flowers enough in the
small front drawing-room to make it an indoor garden.

The dowager seated herself upon the most comfortable sofa in this room,
a capacious, square-backed sofa, in a dusky corner, fenced off and
sheltered by a well-filled _jardinière_.

'Come here, Madge,' she cried, with good-natured imperiousness, 'I want
to talk to you.—Viola, child, go and amuse yourself with Mrs. Noyce.
Show her your photograph album, or _parlez chiffons_. I want Madge all
to myself.'

Madge obeyed without a word, and squeezed herself into the corner of
the sofa, which Lady Cheshunt and Lady Cheshunt's dress almost filled.

'How big you are growing, child! there's hardly room enough for you!'
remarked the matron. 'And now tell me the truth, Madge; what is the
matter with you to-night?'

'I don't think there is anything the matter more than usual, Lady
Cheshunt.'

'I know better than that. You were dull and _distrait_ all dinner-time.
True, there was no one to talk to but two married men, and that
old twaddler, Bulrose; but a young lady should be always equally
agreeable—that is one of the fundamental principles of good breeding.'

'If I seemed a little out of spirits you can hardly wonder. Papa's
sadly involved state is enough to make me uneasy.'

'My dear, your papa has been involved ever since my first season—when
my waist was only eighteen inches, and Madame Devy made my gowns. He is
no worse off now than he was then, and he will go on being hopelessly
involved till the end of the chapter. I don't see why you should be
unhappy about it. He will be able to give you and Viola a tolerable
home till you marry and make better homes for yourselves, which it is
actually incumbent upon you to do.'

This was said with a touch of severity. Madge sighed, and the slender
foot in the satin shoe tapped the ground with a nervous, impatient
movement.

'Madge, I hope there is no truth in what I hear about you and Mr.
Penwyn.'

A deep tell-tale glow burned in Miss Bellingham's cheek. She fanned
herself vehemently.

'I cannot imagine what you have heard, Lady Cheshunt.'

'I have heard your name coupled with Mr. Penwyn's—the poor Mr. Penwyn.'

'I only know one Mr. Penwyn.'

'So much the worse for you, my dear. You know the wrong one. There is
a cousin of that young man's who has a fine estate in Cornwall—the
Penwyn estate. You must have heard of that.'

'Yes, I have heard Mr. Penwyn speak of his cousin's property.'

'Of course. Poor penniless young man; very natural that he should talk
of it. Don't suppose that I have no feeling for him. He is next heir
to the property, but no doubt the other young man, James Penwyn's son,
will marry and have a herd of children. I knew James Penwyn, this young
man's father, years ago. There were three brothers—George, the eldest,
who was in the army, and was killed in a skirmish with some wild
Indians in Canada—very sad story; James, who was in the church, and
had a living somewhere near London; and Balfour, in the law, I believe,
whose son you know.'

'Yes,' sighed Madge.

She had heard the family history from Churchill Penwyn, but the dowager
liked to hear herself talk, and did not like to be interrupted.

'Now, if by any chance the present James Penwyn, who is little more
than a lad, were to die unmarried, Churchill Penwyn could come into the
property under his grandfather's will, which left the estate to the
eldest surviving son and his children after him. George died unmarried.
James left an only son. Churchill is therefore heir presumptive. But
it's a very remote contingency, my love, and it would be madness for
you to give it a thought—with your chances.'

Madge shrugged her shoulders despondently.

'I don't think my chances are particularly brilliant, Lady Cheshunt.'

'Nonsense, Madge! Everybody talks of the beautiful Bellinghams. And you
refused a splendid offer only the other day—that Mr. Cardingham, the
great manufacturer.'

'Who had only seen me four times when he had the impudence to ask me to
marry him! He was old and ugly, too.'

'When the end is a good establishment one must not look at the means
too closely. Poor dear Cheshunt was many years my senior, and no
beauty, even in his wig. You must take a more serious view of things,
my dear Madge. It will not do for you and your sister to hang fire. The
handsomer girls are, the more vital it is for them to go off quickly. A
plain little unobtrusive thing may creep through half a dozen seasons
and surprise everybody by making a good match at last. But a beauty
who doesn't marry soon is apt to get talked about. Malicious people
put it down to too much flirtation. And then, my love, consider your
milliner's bills; what will they be at the end of a few seasons?'

'Not very much, Lady Cheshunt. I cut out all my own dresses and Viola's
too, and our maid runs them together. Viola and I help sometimes, when
we can steal an hour from society. I couldn't bear to wear anything
that wasn't paid for.'

'Upon my word you are an exemplary girl, Madge,' exclaimed Lady
Cheshunt, astounded by such Roman virtue. 'What a wife you will make!'

'Yes, I think I might make a tolerable wife, for a poor man.'

'Don't speak of such a thing. You were born for wealth and power. You
are bound to make a great marriage—if not for your own sake, for
Viola's. See what a poor helpless child she is—sadly wanting in moral
stamina. If you had a good establishment she would have a haven of
refuge. But if you were to marry badly what will become of her? She
would never be able to manage your papa.'

Madge sighed again, and this time deeply. Love for her sister was Madge
Bellingham's weakest point. She positively adored the fair fragile
girl who had been given into her childish arms eighteen years ago, on
that bitter day which made her an orphan. There was only four years'
difference between the ages of the sisters, yet Madge's affection was
always maternal in its protecting thoughtfulness. To marry well would
be to secure a home for Viola. Sir Nugent was but a feeble staff to
lean upon.

'I have no objection to marrying well whenever a fair opportunity
arises, Lady Cheshunt,' she said, firmly; 'but I will never marry a man
whom I cannot respect and like.'

'Of course not, my poor pet,' murmured the widow, soothingly; 'but,
fortunately, there are so many men in the world one can like and
respect. It is that foolish sentimental feeling called love which will
only fit one person. In the meantime, Madge, take my advice, and don't
let people talk about you and Mr. Penwyn.'

'I don't know why they should talk about us.'

'Yes, you do, Madge—in your heart of hearts. You know that you have
sat together in corners, and that you have a knack of blushing when
he comes into the room. It won't do, Madge, it won't do. That young
fellow has nothing except what he can earn himself. I know his mother
had a struggle to bring him up, and if he hadn't been an only son could
hardly have brought him up at all. He was a Blue-coat boy, I believe,
or something equally dreadful. It is not to be thought of, Madge.'

'I do not think of it, Lady Cheshunt,' replied Miss Bellingham,
resolutely, 'and I wish you would not worry yourself and me about
imaginary dangers.'

'Your visitors are beginning to come; go and receive them, and leave me
in my corner. Mr. Penwyn is to be here, I've no doubt.'

'I don't know. He knows that Saturday is our night.'

'Mr. Churchill Penwyn!' announced a footman at the door of the larger
room.

'I thought so,' said Lady Cheshunt, 'and the first to arrive, too. That
looks suspicious.'



CHAPTER V.

'IL NE FAUT PAS POUSSER AU BOUT LES MALHEUREUX.'


Churchill Penwyn was one of those men who are sure to obtain a certain
amount of notice in whatsoever circle they appear—a man upon whom the
stamp of good blood, or good breeding, had been set in a distinct and
palpable manner—a man who had no need for self-assertion.

It would have been difficult for any one to state in what the
distinction lay. He was not particularly good-looking. Intellect,
rather than regularity of feature, was the leading characteristic of
his countenance. Already, though he was still on the sunward side of
his thirtieth birthday, the dark brown hair grew thinly upon the broad
high brow, showing signs of premature baldness. His features were
sharply cut, but by no means faultless, the mouth somewhat sunken, the
lips thin. His light grey eyes had a keen, cold lustre; only those
who saw Churchill Penwyn in some rare moment of softer feeling knew
that those severe orbs could be beautiful. Mr. Penwyn was a barrister,
still in the uphill stage of his career. He got an occasional brief,
went on circuit assiduously, and did a little in the literature of
politics—a hard, dry kind of literature, but fairly remunerative—when
he got it to do. He had contributed hard-headed statistical papers to
the _Edinburgh_ and the _Westminster_, and knew a good deal about the
condition of the operative classes. He had lectured in some of the
northern manufacturing towns, and knew the black country by heart.
People talked of him as a young man who was sure to make his mark by
and by; but by and by might be a long way off. He would be fifty years
of age, perhaps, before he had worked his way to the front.

Churchill Penwyn went a great deal into society, when it is considered
how hard and how honestly he worked; but the houses in which he was
to be found were always houses affected by the best people. He never
wasted himself among second-rate circles. He was an excellent art
critic; knew enough about music to talk of it cleverly, though he had
hardly the faculty of distinguishing one tune from another; waltzed
like a Viennese; rode like a centaur; spoke three Continental languages
perfectly. It was his theory that no man should presume to enter
society who could not do everything that society could require him to
do. Society was worth very little in itself, according to Churchill
Penwyn, but a man owed it to himself to be admired and respected by
society.

'I see a good many men who go into the world to stare about them
through eye-glasses,' said Churchill. 'If I couldn't do anything more
than that I should spend my evenings in my own den.'

Churchill Penwyn went into the gay world with a definite aim—some of
the people he met must needs be useful to him sooner or later.

_Ohne Hast, ohne Rast_—without haste, without rest—was his motto. He
had it engraved on his signet ring, instead of the Penwyn crest. He was
never in a hurry. While striving for success he had the air of a man
who had already succeeded. He occupied a third floor in the Temple, and
lived like an anchorite, but his tailor and bootmaker were among the
best in London, and he was a member of the Travellers' and the Garrick.
He was to be seen sometimes lunching at his club, and occasionally
entertained a friend at luncheon, but he rarely dined there, and was
never seen to drink anything more costly than a pint of La Rose, or
Medoc. No man had ever mastered the art of economy more thoroughly than
Churchill Penwyn, and yet he had never laid himself open to the charge
of meanness.

Miss Bellingham received him with a bright look of welcome, despite
the dowager's warning, and their hands met, with a gentle pressure on
Churchill's part. Viola was discreetly occupied in showing Mrs. Noyce
a new photograph, and only gave the visitor a bow and a smile. So he
had a fair excuse for seating himself next Madge, on the divan by the
fireplace, where there was just room for those two.

'I did not think you would come to-night,' said Madge, opening and
shutting her large black fan, with a slightly nervous movement.

'Why not?'

'I saw your name in the paper, at Halifax, or somewhere, hundreds of
miles away.'

'I was at Halifax the day before yesterday, but I would not miss my
Saturday evening here. You see I have come a quarter of an hour in
advance of your people, so that I might have you to myself for a few
minutes.'

'It is so good of you,' faltered Madge, 'and you know I am always glad.'

'I should be wretched if I did not know it.'

This was going further than Mr. Penwyn's usual limits. The man was the
very soul of prudence. No sweet words, no tender promises, had ever
passed between these two, and yet they knew themselves beloved. Madge
knew it to her sorrow, for she was fain to admit the wisdom of the
dowager's warning. It would never do for her to marry Churchill Penwyn.

Happily for her, up to this time Churchill had never asked her to be
his wife.

'He is too wise,' she said to herself, with the faintest touch of
bitterness. 'Too much a man of the world.'

But that this man of the world loved her she was very sure.

For just ten minutes they sat side by side, talking of indifferent
things, but only as people talk who are not quite indifferent to each
other. And then more visitors were announced. Sir Nugent and his
friends came upstairs; the rooms began to fill. Musical people arrived.
A German with long rough hair, bony wrists, and an eye-glass, seated
himself at the piano, and began a performance of so strictly classical
a character that he had the enjoyment of it all to himself, for nobody
else listened. Minor chords chased one another backwards and forwards
about the middle of the piano as if they were hunting for the melody
and couldn't find it. Little runs and arpeggio passages went under
and over each other, and wriggled in and out and up and down in a
distracted way, still searching for the subject, and finally gave up
the quest in utter despair, appropriately expressed by vague grumblings
in the bass, which slowly faded into silence. Whereupon every one
became enthusiastic in their admiration.

After this a young lady in pink sang an airy little _chanson_, with
elaborate variations—using her bright soprano voice as freely as if
she had been Philomel, trilling her vespers in the dusky woods of June.
And then Madge Bellingham sat down to the piano, and played as few
young ladies play—as if her glad young soul were in the music.

It was only an Hungarian march that she played. There were no musical
fireworks—no difficulties conquered; none of those passages which
make the listeners exclaim, 'Poor girl! how she must have practised!'
It was but a national melody—simple and spirit-stirring—played as if
the soul of a patriot were guiding those supple fingers. The graceful
figure was bent a little over the key-board—the dark eyes followed
the swift flight of the hands over the keys. She seemed to caress the
notes as she struck them—to play with the melody. Pride, love, hope,
rage, every passion expressed itself by turns as she followed that wild
strange music through the mazes of its variations, never losing the
subject. It sounded like the war-cry of a free people. Even Churchill
Penwyn, who in a general way cared so little for music, listened
entranced to this. He could hardly have recalled the air half an hour
later, but for the moment he was enchanted. He stood a little way from
the instrument, watching the player, watching the beautiful head, with
its dark rippling hair wound into a Greek knot at the back, the perfect
throat, with its classic necklet of old Wedgwood medallions set in
plainest gold; the drooping lashes, as the downcast eyes followed the
flying touch. To hear Madge play was delightful, but to see her was
still better. And this man's love had all the strength of a passion
repressed. He had held himself in check so long, and every time he saw
her he found her more and more adorable.

The evening wore on. People came in and out. Madge played the hostess
divinely, always supported by Lady Cheshunt, who sat in the smaller
drawing-room as in a temple, and had all the best people brought to
her. Some came to Cavendish Row on their way somewhere else, and were
careful to let their acquaintance know that they were 'due' at some
very grand entertainment, and made rather a favour of coming to Sir
Nugent. The last of the guests went about half an hour after midnight,
and among the last Churchill Penwyn.

'May I bring you that book after church to-morrow?' he asked. The book
was a comedy of Augier's lately produced at the Français, which he had
been telling her about.

Madge looked embarrassed. She had a particular wish to avoid a
_tête-à-tête_ with Mr. Penwyn, and Sunday was an awkward day. Sir
Nugent would be at Hurlingham, most likely, and Viola was such a
foolish little thing, almost as bad as nobody.

'If you like' she answered. 'But why take the trouble to call on
purpose? You might bring it next Saturday, if you come to us.'

'I shall bring it you to-morrow,' he said, as they shook hands.

That tiresome Viola was in a hopeless state of headache and prostration
next morning, so Madge had to go to church alone. Coming out of the
pretty little Anglican temple she found herself face to face with
Churchill Penwyn. He had evidently been lying in wait for her.

'I was so afraid I might not find you at home,' he said, half
apologetically, 'so I thought I might as well walk this way. I knew
this was your church. I've brought you the play we were talking about.'

'You're very kind, but I hope you don't think I read French comedies on
Sundays?'

'Of course not; only Sunday is my leisure day, and I thought you would
not shut your door upon me even on Sunday.'

The church was only five minutes' walk from Cavendish Row. When Sir
Nugent's door was opened Mr. Penwyn followed Miss Bellingham into the
house as a matter of course. She had no help for it but to go quietly
upstairs to her fate. She almost knew what was coming. There had been
something in his manner last night that told her it was very near.

'Prudence, courage,' she whispered to herself, and then, 'Viola!' The
last word was a kind of charm.

The rooms looked bright and gay in the noontide sunlight, tempered by
Spanish blinds. The flowers, the feminine prettiness scattered about,
struck Churchill's eye, they gave such a look of home.

'If I could afford to give her as good a home as this!' he thought.

He shut the door carefully behind him, and glanced round the room to
make sure they were alone, and went close to Madge as she stood by one
of the small tables, fidgeting with the clasp of her prayer-book.

'I think you know why I came to-day,' he said.

'You have told me about three times,—to bring me "_La Quarantaine_."'

'I have come to tell you a secret I have kept more than a year. Have
you never guessed it, Madge? Have I been clever enough to hide the
truth altogether? I love you, dearest. I, penniless Churchill Penwyn,
dare to adore one of the belles of the season. I, who cannot for years
to come offer you a house in May Fair. I, who at most can venture to
begin married life in a Bloomsbury lodging, supported by the fruits of
my pen. It sounds like madness, doesn't it?'

'It is madness,' she answered, looking full at him with her truthful
eyes.

The answer surprised and humiliated him. He fancied she loved
him—would be ready to face poverty for his sake. She was so young, and
would hardly have acquired the wisdom of her world yet awhile.

'I beg your pardon,' he said, a curious change coming over his face,
a sudden coldness that made those definite features look as if they
had been cut out of stone. 'I have been deceiving myself all along, it
seems. I did not think I was quite indifferent to you.'

The eyelids drooped over the dark eyes for a moment, and were then
lifted suddenly, and the eyes met Churchill's. That one look told all.
She loved him.

'I have been learning to know the world while other girls are allowed
to dream,' she said. 'I know what the burden of debt means. Poverty
brings debt as a natural sequence. If you were a woodcutter and we
could live in a hovel and pay our way, there would be nothing appalling
in marriage. But our world will not let us live like that. We must play
at being fine ladies and gentlemen while our hearts are breaking, and
our creditors being ruined. Ever so long ago I made up my mind that
I must marry a rich man. If I have ever seemed otherwise to you than
a woman of the world, bent upon worldly success, I humbly beg you to
forgive me.'

'Madge,' cried Churchill, passionately, 'I will forgive anything if
you will only be frank. Were my luck to turn speedily, through some
unlooked-for professional success, for instance, would you have me
then?'

'If I stood alone in the world, if I had not my sister to consider,
I would marry you to-morrow. Yes, though you were a beggar,' she
answered, grandly.

He clasped her to his breast and kissed those proud lips. The first
lover's kiss that had ever rested there.

'I will be rich for your sake, distinguished for your sake,' he said
impetuously, 'if wealth and fame are within the reach of man's effort.'



CHAPTER VI.

'THERE IS NO LIFE ON EARTH BUT BEING IN LOVE.'


The first faint streak of day parted the eastern clouds when James
Penwyn got back to the 'Waterfowl,' but late as it was, and though a
long day's various fatigues might have invited him to repose, Maurice
Clissold had waited up for his friend. He was walking up and down the
inn parlour, where empty bottles and glasses, cigar ashes, and a broken
clay pipe or two bestrewed the table, and gave a rakish look to the
room. The windows stood wide open to the pale cold dawn, and the air
was chill.

'Not gone to bed yet, Maurice?' exclaimed James, surprised, and perhaps
somewhat embarrassed by this unexpected encounter.

'I was in no humour for sleep. I never can sleep when I have anything
on my mind. I waited up to ask you a question, Jim.'

Something like defiance sparkled in Mr. Penwyn's eyes as he planted
himself upon the arm of the substantial old sofa, and lighted a final
cigar.

'Don't restrain your eloquence,' he said, 'I should hardly have
considered four o'clock in the morning a time for conversation, but if
you think so, I'm at your service.'

'I want to know, in plain words, what you mean by this, James?'

'By what?'

'Your conduct to that girl.'

'I shouldn't think anything so simple needed explanation. I meet a
strolling player and his daughter. The strolling player is something of
a character; the daughter—well, not pretty, perhaps, though she has
lovely eyes, but interesting. I offer them the small attention of a
supper, and, seeing that my friend the player is a trifle the worse for
the champagne consumed, humanity urges me to escort the young lady to
her own door, lest her father should lead her into one of the ditches
which beset the way. I believe that is the sum-total of my offences.'

'It sounds simple enough, Jim,' answered the other, gravely, but not
unkindly, 'and I dare say no harm will come of it if you let things
stop exactly where they are. But I watched you and that poor child
to-night—she is little more than a child, at best—and I saw that you
were doing your utmost, unconsciously, perhaps, to turn her silly head.
I saw you together in the moonlight afterwards.'

'If there was anything sentimental, you must blame the moon, not me,'
said James, lightly.

'And now you talk of spending to-morrow with these people, and taking
them to the races.'

'And I mean to do it. There's a freshness about them that amuses me.
I've been getting rather tired of nature and Greek—though, of course,
we've had an uncommonly jolly time of it together, dear old boy,—and
I find a relief in a glimpse of real life. When you turn mentor, you
make yourself intensely disagreeable. Do you suppose that I harbour one
wicked intention about this girl?'

'No, James, I don't suppose you do. If I thought you were a deliberate
sinner I should leave you to go your own road, and only try to save
the girl. But I know what misery has been wrought in this world by
gentlemanly trifling, and what still deeper wretchedness has been
brought about by unequal marriages.'

'Do you suppose I think of marrying Mr. Elgood's daughter, because
I say a few civil words to her?' cried James, forgetting how much
earnestness there had been in those civil words only an hour ago.

'If you have no such thought you have no right to cultivate an
acquaintance that can only end in unhappiness to her, if not to
yourself.'

James answered with a sneer, to which Clissold replied somewhat warmly,
and there were angry words between the two young men before they parted
in the corridor outside their bedrooms. The people of the house,
already thinking about morning, heard the raised voices and angry
tones—heard and remembered.

It was ten o'clock when James Penwyn went down to breakfast next
morning. The sun was shining in at the open windows—all traces
of last night's revelry were removed—the room was in the nicest
order—the table spread for breakfast, with spotless linen and shining
tea service, but only set for one. James plucked impatiently at the
bellrope. It irked him not to see his friend's face on the other side
of the board. He had come downstairs prepared to make peace on the
easiest terms; ready even to own himself to blame.

'Has Mr. Clissold breakfasted?' he asked the girl who answered his
summons.

'No, sir. He wouldn't stop for breakfast; he went out soon after seven
this morning, with his fishing-rod. And he left a note, please, sir.'

There it was among the shells and shepherdesses on the mantelpiece. A
little pencil scrawl twisted into a cocked hat:—

  'DEAR JIM,

    'Since it seems that my counsel irritates and annoys you, I take
    myself off for a day's fly fishing. You must please yourself about
    the races. Only remember, that it is easy for a man to drift upon
    quicksands from which he can hardly extricate himself without the
    loss of honour or of happiness. The sum-total of a man's life
    depends very much upon what he does with the first years of his
    manhood. I shall be back before night.

  'Yours always,
  'M. C.'

James Penwyn read and re-read the brief epistle, musing over it
frowningly. It was rather tiresome to have a friend who took such a
serious view of trifles. Towards what quicksand was he drifting? Was
it a dishonourable thing to admire beautiful eyes, to wish to do some
kindness to a friendless girl, _en passant_? As to the races, he could
not dream of disappointing the people he had invited. Was he to treat
them cavalierly because they were poor? He rang the bell again and
ordered the largest landau or barouche which the 'Waterfowl' could
obtain for him, with a pair of good horses.

'And get me up a picnic basket,' he said, 'and plenty of champagne.'

At two and twenty, with the revenues of Penwyn Manor at his command, a
man would hardly do things shabbily.

He had arranged everything with his guests. The Dempsons and the
Elgoods lodged in the same house, an ancient dwelling not far from the
archway at the lower end of the city. Mr. Penwyn was to call for them
in a carriage at twelve o'clock, and they were to drive straight to the
racecourse.

James breakfasted slowly, and with little appetite. He missed the
companion whose talk had been wont to enliven all their meals. He
thought it unkind of Maurice to leave him—was at once angry with
his friend, and with himself for his contemptuous speeches of last
night. He left his breakfast unfinished at last, and went out into the
garden, and down by the narrow river, which had a different look by
day. It was beautiful still—the winding stream with its sedgy banks,
and far-off background of low hills, and the grave old city in the
middle distance—but it lacked the magic of night—the mystic charms of
moonbeam and shadow.

The scene—even without the moonlight—put him painfully in mind of
last night, when Justina and he had sat side by side on the bench by
yonder willow.

'Why shouldn't I marry her if I love her?' he said to himself; 'I am
my own master. Who will ask Squire Penwyn for his wife's pedigree? It
isn't as if she were vulgar or ignorant. She speaks like a lady, and
she seems to know as much as most of the girls I have met.'

He strolled up and down by the river, smoking and musing until the
carriage was ready. It was a capacious vehicle, of the good old Baker
Street Repository build, a vehicle which looked as if it had been a
family travelling carriage about the period of the Bourbon Restoration,
and had done the tour of Europe, and been battered and bruised a good
deal between the Alps and the Danube. There was a vast amount of
leather in its composition, and more iron than sticklers for absolute
elegance would desire, whereby it jingled considerably in its progress.
But it was roomy, and, for a racecourse, that was the main point.

James drove to the dingy old street where the players lodged, an
old-fashioned street, with queer old houses, more picturesque than
clean. The players' lodgings were above a small shop in the chandlery
line, and as there was no private door, James had to enter the realms
of Dutch cheese, kippered herrings, and dip candles—pendent from the
low ceiling like stalactites—in quest of his new acquaintance.

The ladies were ready, but Mr. Elgood was still in his shirt-sleeves,
and his countenance had a warm and shiny look, as if but that moment
washed. Justina came running down the stairs and into the shop,
where James welcomed her warmly. She was quite a transformed and
glorified Justina—decked in borrowed raiment, which Mrs. Dempson had
good-naturedly supplied for the occasion. 'There is no knowing what may
come of to-day's outing,' the leading lady had remarked significantly.
'Mr. Penwyn is young and foolish, and seems actually taken with
Justina—and it would be such a blessing if she could marry well, poor
child, seeing that she has not a spark of talent for the profession.'

Justina wore a clean muslin dress, which hardly reached her ankles, a
black silk jacket, and a blue crape bonnet, not too fresh, but quite
respectable—a bonnet which had been pinned up in paper and carefully
kept since last summer.

'I shall trim it up with a feather or two and wear it for light comedy
by and by,' said Mrs. Dempson, as she pulled the bonnet into shape upon
Justina's head.

The girl looked so happy that she was almost beautiful. There was a
soft bloom upon her cheek, a tender depth in the dark blue eyes, a
joyous, smiling look that charmed James Penwyn, who liked people to be
happy and enjoy themselves when he was in a humour for festivity.

'How good of you to be ready!' cried James, taking her out to the
carriage, 'and how bright, and fresh, and gay you look!' Justina
blushed, conscious of her borrowed bonnet. 'I've got a nice old
rattletrap to take us to the racecourse.'

'Oh, beautiful!' exclaimed Justina, gazing at the patriarchal tub with
respectful admiration.

'Are the others ready?'

'Father's just putting on his coat, and the Dempsons are coming
downstairs.'

The Dempsons appeared as she spoke. Mrs. Dempson superb in black moire
antique and the pinkest of pink bonnets, and a white lace shawl, which
had been washed a good many times, and had rather too much darning
in proportion to the pattern, but, as Mrs. Dempson remarked, 'always
looked graceful.' It was her bridal veil as Pauline Deschappelles. She
wore it as Juliet—and as Desdemona before the senate.

'Now, then,' cried James, as Mr. Elgood appeared, still struggling with
his coat. The carriage was packed without further delay. Mrs. Dempson and
Justina in the seat of honour, Mr. Penwyn and Mr. Dempson opposite them,
Mr. Elgood on the box. He had declared his preference for that seat.

Off they went, oh! so gaily, Justina thought, the landlady gazing at them
from her shop door, and quite a cluster of small children cheering their
departure. 'As if it had been a wedding,' Mrs. Dempson said archly.

Away they went through the quaint old city which wore its holiday look
to-day. Crowds were pouring in from the station; coffee-houses and
eating-houses had set forth a Rabelaisian abundance in their shining
windows; taverns were decorated with flags and greenery; flies, driven
by excited coachmen with ribbons on their whips, shot up and down the
streets. All was life and brightness; and Justina, who had rarely
ridden in a carriage, felt that just in this one brief hour she could
understand how duchesses and such people must feel.



CHAPTER VII.

'LET THE WORLD SLIP; WE SHALL NE'ER BE

YOUNGER.'


They left the town behind them and rattled along the wide high road for
half a mile or so, before they turned off to the race-ground. Perhaps
the Eborsham course is one of the prettiest in England. An oval basin
of richest greensward set among low wooded hills. A waterpool shining
here and there in the valley, where the placid kine browse in pensive
solitude, save during the race week, when the placid kine are wisely
withdrawn from the dangerous neighbourhood of tramps and gipsies, and
the wild excitement of the turf.

The grand stand—a permanent building of white freestone—looked very
grand to Justina's eyes, as the family ark blundered and jingled into
a place exactly opposite: one of the best places on that privileged
piece of ground, for which James paid three shining sovereigns.
Temporary stands of woodwork bordered the course, crowded with warm
humanity. Justina wondered where so many people came from, and how
it was so few of them came to the theatre, and sighed to think that
the drama has never taken a grip upon the public mind as a thoroughly
national amusement. See how the people congregated to-day, tier
above tier on yonder fragile stages, pressed together with scarce
breathing-room; and yet there would be room to spare in the little
theatre to-night, Justina feared, despite immense attractions and an
unparalleled combination of talent, as advertised in the playbills.

But after this one sigh for the neglected drama, Justina abandoned
herself to the delight of the hour, and was supremely content. James
told her all about the horses; how that one had done great things at
Newmarket, how the other was winner of the Chester Cup. He showed her
the colours, explained everything, and the race assumed a new interest.
Mr. Dempson left the carriage to stretch his legs a bit, he said, and
see who was on the course; but in reality because he was of a roving
disposition and soon tired of repose. Mr. Elgood devoted himself
exclusively to Mrs. Dempson, 'Villeroy,' as he called her, being more
accustomed to her professional _alias_ than the name she rendered
illustrious in domestic life. So James and Justina were left to
themselves, and behaved very much as if they had been plighted lovers
ever so long, quite unconsciously upon Justina's part, for she knew
little of real lovers and their ways.

Presently there was a sudden stir, a dispersement of pedestrians
from the racecourse, as a policeman or two galloped up and down, and
the clerk of the course, in his scarlet coat and buckskins, cantered
briskly over the grass; then a dog driven past with hootings and
ignominy, then more ringing of bells, the preliminary canter, and then
the race.

A few minutes of breathless attention, a thundering rush past all the
carriages and the eager a-tiptoe spectators, and white jacket with red
spots had pulled off the first stakes.

'Did you see it?' asked James, turning to the girl's bright face,
glowing with excitement.

'Oh! it was beautiful. I don't wonder at people coming to races now. I
feel as if I had never been quite alive before. Just that one moment
when the horses were tearing past. It was wonderful.'

'A very fair race,' said James, with a patronizing air, 'but there were
some wretched screws among them. You'll see a better set by and by, for
the cup. Iphianassa, the Oak's winner, is first favourite. The bookmen
call her Free-and-Easy, for short. And now we'll have a bottle of cham.'

'Not a bad move,' said Mr. Elgood, approvingly. 'That kind of thing
makes a fellow dryish.'

He made himself very useful in helping to open the baskets; there
were two hampers, one for wine and the other for comestibles, the
'Waterfowl' having done things handsomely. Mr. Elgood took one of the
golden-necked bottles out of the rush case, found the glasses, the
nippers, and opened the bottle as neatly as a waiter. He had the lion's
share of the wine for his trouble.

James and Justina had only one glass between them. They could very
easily have had two, but they liked this mutual goblet, and sipped the
bright wine gaily, Justina taking about as much as Titania might have
consumed from a chalice made of a harebell.

The champagne bottle was hardly open when a gipsy appeared at the
carriage door, as if attracted by the popping of the cork, an elderly
gipsy, with an orange silk handkerchief tied across her black hair,
amongst which a few silver threads were visible. She was the identical
gipsy woman who had stopped James Penwyn and his companions, yesterday
afternoon, by the river.

'Give the poor old gipsy woman a little drop of wine, kind gentleman,'
she asked, insinuatingly.

Justina drew back shuddering, drew nearer her companion, till her slight
form pressed against his shoulder, and he could feel that she trembled.

'Why, what's the matter, you timid bird?' he whispered tenderly,
drawing his arm round her by an instinctive movement. They were
standing up in the carriage as they had stood to see the race, Mrs.
Dempson with her face towards the box, whence Mr. Elgood was pointing
out features of interest on the course.

'It's the same woman,' exclaimed Justina, in a half-whisper.

'What woman, my pet?'

It had come to this already, and Justina at this particular moment was
too absorbed to remonstrate.

'The woman who told you about the mark on your hand.'

'Is it really? I didn't notice,' answered James, smiling at her
concern. The gipsy had gone to the next carriage, whose occupants were
in the act of discussing a bottle of sherry and a packet of appetising
sandwiches. Thin and daintily trimmed sandwiches, made to provoke
rather than appease appetite.

'Upon my word I didn't notice,' repeated James. 'All gipsies are alike
to my eye, the same tawny skins, the same shiny black hair. But why
should you be frightened at her, pretty one? She prophesied no evil
about me.'

'No, but she looked at you so curiously; and then a line across the
line of life—that must mean something dreadful.'

'My dearest, do you think any reasonable being believes in lines of
life or any such bosh? Gipsies must have some kind of jargon, or they
would get no dupes. But I think you and I are too wise to believe in
their nonsense. We'll give the harridan a tumbler of fiz, and I'll
warrant she'll prophesy smooth things. Hi! mistress, this way.'

The gipsy, having paid unfruitful homage to the carriage of sandwich
consumers, came quickly at James Penwyn's bidding.

'Let me drink your health, pretty gentleman, she pleaded, 'and the
health of the young lady that loves you best, and I know of one that
loves you well, and a beautiful young lady, and is well beloved by you.
You've courted a many, young gentleman, in your time, the old gipsy
knows, for you've a wicked eye and a wanton 'art, but the most fickle
must fix at last, and may you never rove no more, for you've fixed upon
one as can be constant to you. Thank you, sir, and here's health and
happiness to you and the young lady, and a short courtship and a long
fambly; and give the poor gipsy a mossel of somethink to eat, like a
dear young lady,' appealing to the blushing Justina, 'for fear the wine
should turn acid upon my inside.'

The picnic basket had to be opened in order to meet this judicious
demand, and this being done, the Sibyl was gratified with a handsome
wedge of veal pie. This partly despatched and partly pocketed, she made
the familiar request for a piece of silver to cross the young lady's
palm, which charm being performed she could tell things that would
please her. James complied, and Justina surrendered her hand, most
unwillingly, to the gipsy's brown claw.

The Sibyl told the usual story—happy wooing, prosperous wedded
life—all things were to go smoothly for the blue-eyed lady and the
blue-eyed gentleman.

'But beware of a dark man,' said the witch, who felt it necessary to
introduce some shadow in her picture, 'beware of a dark-complexioned
man. I won't say as he's spades; better call him clubs, perhaps. Be
on your guard against a club man, my sweet young lady and gentleman,
for he bears a jealous heart towards you both, and he stands to do you
harm, if he has the power.'

'That will do,' said James, 'we've had enough for our money, thank you,
old lady; you can move on to the next carriage.'

'Don't be offended with the poor gipsy, your honour. She's truth-spoken
and plain-spoken, and she sees deeper into things than some folks would
give her credit for.'

And thus, after an affectionate farewell, the prophetess pursued her
way. Other prophetesses followed in her wake, all begging for food and
wine, and James lavished more champagne in this direction than Mr.
Elgood approved, but even his good nature wore out at last, and he grew
tired of these copper-skinned mendicants, some with babies in arms, for
whom they begged a little drop of champagne or the claw of a lobster.

The races went on. The great race was at hand. 'Now, then, Justina, we
must have something on,' said James. 'You don't mind me calling you
Justina, do you?'

'I don't mind,' the girl answered simply, 'if father doesn't.'

'Well, you see, I can't ask him now, but I will by and by. We can let
the question stand over, and I may call you Justina meanwhile, mayn't
I, Justina?' he asked softly.

'If you like,' she answered almost in a whisper. They stood so near
together that there was no need for either of them to speak loud, even
amidst the noise of the racecourse.

'Look here, now, Justina. I'll bet you a dozen gloves, even money, that
Free-and-Easy doesn't win. That's giving you a great advantage, for
they are laying three to two on the favourite.'

'I don't think I can bet,' said Justina, embarrassed. 'If I were to
lose I could not pay you.'

'Ladies never pay debts. Come, if Iphianassa wins you shall have a
dozen pairs of the prettiest gloves I can buy, straw-coloured, pink,
pearl-grey—which is your favourite colour?'

'I like any kind of gloves,' answered the girl, remembering two
wretched pairs which had been to the cleaner's so often that their
insides were all over numbers, like a multiplication table.

Now came the start, breathlessness, attention strained almost to agony,
a hoarse clamour yonder in and about the ring, one big man, wearing a
white hat with a black hat-band, offering frantically to bet ten to
one against anything, bar one; then a shout as of universal victory,
for Free-and-Easy has shot suddenly to the front, after having been
tenderly nursed during the first half-mile or so; and now she comes
along gallantly, with a great lead, and her backers tremble, and now
cold dews break out upon the foreheads of those eager backers, for
another horse, almost an unknown animal, creeps up to Iphianassa,
gallops shoulder to shoulder with the Oaks winner, passes her, and wins
by a neck, while a suppressed groan from the many losers mingles with
the hurrahs of that miserable outside public which never stakes more
than half a sovereign, and is ready to cheer any horse. Only among the
bookmen is there real rejoicing, for they have been betting against the
favourite.

'You've lost your gloves, Justina. Never mind, we'll have another
venture on the next race. It's a selling stake; and we can go and
see the auction afterwards—such fun. And now for the basket.—Make
yourself useful, Elgood.—Mrs. Dempson, you must be famishing.'

Mrs. Dempson, upon being pressed, owned to feeling a little faint. A
lady of Mrs. Dempson's calibre never confesses to being hungry; with
her want of food only produces a genteel faintness.

The basket was emptied—lobster, chicken, pie, set out upon a
tablecloth, laid on the front seat of the carriage. Then the scrambling
meal began—the ladies seated with plates in their laps, the gentlemen
standing. Again James and Justina shared the same glass of champagne,
while Mr. Elgood obligingly held on by the bottle, and filled his own
glass by instalments, so that it was never empty, and never full. Mr.
Dempson was moderate, but jovial; Mrs. Dempson protested vehemently
every time her glass was replenished, but contrived to drink the wine,
out of politeness.

James was the gayest of Amphitryons. He kept on declaring that he had
never enjoyed himself so much—never had such a jolly day.

'I am sorry your friend is not with us,' remarked Mr. Elgood, with his
mouth full of lobster. 'He has lost a treat.'

'His loss is our gain,' observed Mr. Dempson. 'There'd have been less
champagne for the rest of us if he'd been here.'

'My friend is an ass,' said James, carelessly. His errant fancy, so
easily caught, was quite enchained by this time. He had been growing
fonder of Justina all day, and, with the growth of his boyish passion,
his anger against Maurice increased. He had almost made up his mind
to do the very thing which Clissold had stigmatised as madness. He
had almost made up his mind to marry the actor's daughter. He was in
love with her, and how else should his love end? He came of too good a
stock, had too good a heart, to contemplate a dishonourable ending. It
only remained for him to discover if he really loved her—if this fancy
that had but dawned upon him yesterday were indeed the beginning of his
fate, or that considerable part of a man's destiny which is involved
in his marriage. He had been very little in the society of women since
his mother's death. His brief, harmless flirtations had been chiefly
with damsels of the barmaid class; and, after these meretricious
charmers, Justina, with her wild-rose tinted cheeks and innocent blue
eyes, seemed youth and purity personified.

Justina looked shyly up at her admirer, happier than words could have
told. Little had she ever tasted of pleasure's maddening cup before
to-day. The flavour of the wine was not stranger to her lips than the
flavour of joy to her soul. For her, girlhood had meant hard work and
deprivation. Since she had been young enough to play hop-scotch on
the door-step with a neighbour's children, and think it happiness,
she had hardly known what it was to be glad. To-day life brimmed over
with enchantment—a carriage, a picnic, races, all the glad, gay world
smiling at her. She looked at James with a grateful smile when he asked
her if she was enjoying herself.

'How can I help enjoying myself?' she said. 'I never had such a day in
my life. It will all be over to-night, and to-morrow the world will
look just as it does when one awakens from a wonderful dream. I have
had dreams just like to-day,' she added, simply.

'Might we not lengthen the dream, find some enjoyment for to-morrow?'
asked James. 'We might even come to the races again, if you like.'

'We couldn't come. There will be a long rehearsal to-morrow. We play
the new burlesque to-morrow night. And I thought you were going away
to-morrow. Your friend said so.'

'My friend would have been wiser had he spoken for himself, and not for
me. I shall stay till the races are over; longer perhaps. How long do
you stay?'

'Till next Saturday week, unless the business should get too bad.'

'Then I think I shall stay till next Saturday week. I can read a Greek
play at Eborsham as well as anywhere else, and I don't see why I should
be hurried from place to place to please Clissold,' added the young
man, rebelliously.

There had been no hurrying from place to place hitherto. They had
done a good deal of Wales, and the English lakes, by easy stages,
stopping at quiet inns, and reading hard in the intervals of their
pedestrianism, and James had been completely happy with the bosom
friend of his youth. It was only since yesterday that the bosom friend
had been transformed into a tyrant. Clissold had warned and reproved
before to-day; he had spoken with the voice of wisdom when James
seemed going a little too far in some village flirtation; and James
had listened meekly enough. But this time James Penwyn's soul rejected
counsel. He was angry with his friend for not thinking it the most
natural thing in the world that he, Squire Penwyn, of Penwyn, should
fall head over ears in love with a country actor's daughter.

'I may come behind the scenes to-night, mayn't I, Justina?' asked James
by and by, when the last race was over, and he and Justina had seen
the winner disposed of to the highest bidder, and the patriarchal tub
was rolling swiftly, oh, too swiftly, back to the town; back to common
life, and the old dull world.

'You must ask father, or Mr. Dempson,' Justina answered meekly.
'Sometimes they make a fuss about any one coming into the green-room,
but I don't suppose they would about you. It would be very ungrateful
if they did.'

James asked the question of Mr. Elgood, and was answered heartily. He
was to consider the Eborsham green-room an adjunct to his hotel, and
the Eborsham Theatre as open to him as his club, without question of
payment at the doors.

'Your name shall be left with the money-taker, the heavy father said,
somewhat thickly.

Mr. Dempson laughed.

'Our friend is a trifle screwed,' he said, 'but I dare say he'll get
through Sir Oliver pretty well.'

The play was the 'School for Scandal,' a genteel entertainment in
honour of the patrons of the races.

The roomy travelling carriage was blundering through one of the
narrower streets near the cathedral, when James Penwyn stood up
suddenly and looked behind him.

'What's the matter?' asked Mr. Dempson.

'Nothing. I thought I saw a fellow I know that's all. He's just gone
into that public-house—the quiet-looking little place at the corner.
I fancied I saw him on the course, but I don't see how it could be the
man,' added James, dubiously. 'What should bring him down here? It
isn't in his line?'



CHAPTER VIII.

HAVE THE HIGH GODS ANYTHING LEFT TO GIVE?


Mr. Penwyn set down his guests at the chandler's door, and drove home
to the 'Waterfowl' in solitary state, the chariot in which he sat
seeming a great deal too big for one medium-sized young man.

His ample meal on the course made dinner an impossibility, so he
ordered a cup of coffee to be taken to him in the garden, and went out
to smoke a cigar, on his favourite bench by the willow. The 'Waterfowl'
was too far off the beaten tracks for any of the race people to come
there, so James had the garden all to himself, even this evening.

The sun was setting beyond the bend of the river, just where the
shining water seemed to lose itself in a rushy basin. The ruddy
light shone on the windows of the town till they looked like fiery
eyes gleaming through the grey evening mist; while, above the level
landscape and the low, irregular town, rose the dusky bulk of the
cathedral, dwarfing the distant hills, and standing darkly out against
that changeful sky.

James Penwyn was in a meditative mood, and contemplated the landscape
dreamily as he smoked an excellent cigar with Epicurean slowness,
letting pleasure last as long as it would. Not that his soul was
interpenetrated by the subtle beauties of the scene. He only thought
that it was rather jolly, that solemn stillness after the riot of the
racecourse—that lonely landscape after the movement of the crowd.

Only last night had Justina and he stood side by side in the
moonlight—only last night had their hands met for the first time, and
yet she seemed a part of his life, indispensable to his happiness.

'Is it love?' he asked himself, 'first love? I didn't think it was in
me to be such a spoon.'

He was at the age when that idea of 'spooniness' is to the last
degree humiliating. He had prided himself upon his manliness—thought
that he had exhausted the well-spring of sentiment in those passing
flirtations, the transitory loves of an undergraduate. He had talked
big about marrying by and by for money and position—to add new lustre
to the house of Penwyn—to carry some heiress's arms on his shield,
upon an escutcheon of pretence.

Was it really love?—love for a foolish girl of seventeen, with
sky-blue eyes, and a look of adoration when she raised them, ever so
fearfully, to his face? Justina had a pensiveness that charmed him more
than other women's gaiety, and till now sprightliness had been his
highest quality in woman—a girl who would light his cigar for him, and
take three or four puffs, daintily, before she handed him the weed—a
girl who was quick at retort, and could 'chaff' him. This girl essayed
not repartee—this girl was fresh, and simple as Wordsworth's ideal
woman. And he loved her. For the first time in his glad young life his
heart throbbed with the love that is so near akin to pain.

'I'll marry her,' he said to himself. 'She shall be mistress of Penwyn
Manor.'

The sun went down and left the landscape gloomy. James Penwyn rose
from the bench with a faint shiver.

'These early summer evenings are chilly,' he thought, as he walked back
to the house. He felt lonely somehow, in spite of his fair new hope.
It was so strange to him not to have Clissold at his side—to reprove,
or warn. But, at worst, the voice was a friendly one. The silence of
this garden; the dusky gloom on yonder river; the solemn gloom of the
cathedral, chilled him.

The great clock boomed eight, and reminded him that the play had begun
half an hour. It would be a relief to find himself in the lighted
playhouse among those rollicking actors.

He went down to the theatre, and made his way straight to the
green-room. There was a good house—a great house, Mr. Elgood told
James—and the commonwealth's shares were already above par. Everybody
was in high spirits, and most people's breath was slightly flavoured
with beer.

'We have been turning away money at the gallery door,' said Mr.
Dempson, who was dressed for Moses, 'I should think to the tune of
seventeen shillings. This is the right sort of thing, sir. It reminds
me of my poor old governor's time; when the drama was respected in the
land, and all the gentry within a twenty-mile radius used to come to
his benefit.'

Justina was the Maria of the piece, dressed in an ancient white
satin—or rather an ancient satin which had once been white, but which,
by long service and frequent cleaning, had mellowed to a pleasing
canary colour. She had some airy puffings of muslin about her, and wore
a black sash in memory of her departed parents, and her plenteous brown
hair fell over her neck and shoulders in innocent ringlets.

Justina had never looked prettier than she looked to-night. She even
had a round of applause when she made her curtsey to Sir Peter. The
actors told her that she was growing a deuced fine girl, after all, and
that one of these days she would learn how to act. Was it the new joy
in her soul that embellished and exalted her?

James thought her lovely, as he stood at the wing and talked to her.
Miss Villeroy, who was esteemed a beauty by her friends, seemed, to
this uninitiated youth, a painted sepulchre; for she had whitened her
complexion to match her powdered wig, and accentuated her eyebrows
and eyelids with Indian ink, and picked out her lips with a rose pink
saucer, and encarnadined her cheek-bones; by which artistic efforts she
had attained that kind of beauty to which distance lends enchantment,
but which, seen too near, is apt to repel. Miss Villeroy had the house
with her, however. She had the audience altogether with her as Lady
Teazle, and, being a virtuous matron, cared not to court James Penwyn's
admiration. Indeed, she was very glad to see that the foolish young
man was taken with poor Judy, Mrs. Dempson told her husband; for poor
dear Judy wasn't everybody's money, and about the worst actress the
footlights ever shone upon.

Mr. Elgood being in high spirits, and feeling himself flush of
money—his share in to-night's receipts could hardly be less than
fifteen shillings—was moved to an act of hospitality.

'I'll tell you what I'll do, Mr. Penwyn,' he said, 'the treating shan't
be all on your side, though you're a rich young swell and we are poor
beggars of actors. Come home with us to-night, after the last piece,
and I'll give you a lobster. Judy knows how to make a salad, and if you
can drink bitter you shall have enough to swim in.'

Mr. Penwyn expressed his ability to drink bitter beer, which he
infinitely preferred to champagne. But what would he not have drunk for
the pleasure of being in Justina's society?

'It's a poor place to ask you to come to,' said Mr. Elgood. 'Dempson
and I go shares in the sitting-room, and we don't keep it altogether as
tidy as we might, the womenkind say, but I'll take care the lobster's a
good one, for I'll go out and pick it myself. I don't play in the last
piece, luckily.'

The afterpiece was 'A Roland for an Oliver,' in which Justina enacted a
walking lady who had very little to do. So there was plenty of time for
James to talk to her as she stood at the wing, where they were quite
alone, and had nobody to overhear them except a passing scene-shifter
now and then.

This seemed to James Penwyn the happiest night he had ever spent in
his life, though he was inhaling dust and escaped gas all the time.
It seemed a night that flew by on golden wings. He thought he must
have been dreaming when the curtain fell, and the lights went out, and
people told him it was midnight.

He waited amidst darkness and chaos while Justina ran away to change
her stage dress for the garments of common life. She was not long
absent, and they went out together, arm-in-arm. It was only a little
way from the theatre to the actor's lodgings, so James persuaded her to
walk round by the cathedral, just to see how it looked in the moonlight.

'Your father said half-past twelve for supper, you know,' he pleaded,
'and it's only just the quarter.'

The big bell chimed at the instant, in confirmation of this statement,
and Justina, who could not for her life have said no, assented
hesitatingly.

The cathedral had a colossal grandeur seen from so near, every finial
and waterspout clearly defined in the moonlight. Justina looked up at
it with reverent eyes.

'Isn't it grand!' she whispered. 'One could fancy that God inhabits it.
If I were an ignorant creature from some savage land, and nobody told
me it was a church, I think I should know that it was God's house.'

'Should you?' said James, lightly. 'I think I should as soon take it
for a corn exchange or a wild beast show.'

'Oh!'

'You see I have no instinctive sense of the fitness of things. You
would just suit Clissold. He has all those queer fancies. I've seen him
stand and talk to himself like a lunatic sometimes, among the lakes and
mountains; what you call the artistic faculty, I suppose.'

They walked round the cathedral-square arm-in-arm, Justina charmed to
silence by the solemn splendour of the scene. All was quiet at this
end of the city. Up at the subscription rooms there might be riot and
confusion; but here, in this ancient square, among these old gabled
houses, almost coeval with the cathedral, silence reigned supreme.

'Justina,' James began presently, 'you told me yesterday that you
didn't care about being an actress.'

'I told you that I hated it,' answered the girl, candidly. 'I suppose I
should like it better if I were a favourite, like Villeroy.'

I prefer your acting to Miss Villeroy's ever so much. You do it rather
too quietly, perhaps, but that's better than yelling as she does.'

'I'm glad you like me best,' said Justina, softly. 'But then you're not
the British public. Yes, I hate theatres. I should like to live in a
little cottage, deep, deep, deep down in the country, where there were
woods and fields, and a shining blue river. I could keep chickens, and
live upon the money I got by the new-laid eggs.'

'Don't you think it would be better to have a nice large house, with
gardens and orchards, and a park, in a wild, hilly country beside the
Atlantic Ocean?'

'What should I do with a big house, and how should I earn money to pay
for it?' she asked, laughing.

'Suppose some one else were to find the money, some one who has plenty,
and only wants the girl he loves to share it with him? Justina, you and
I met yesterday for the first time, but you are the only girl I ever
loved, and I love you with all my heart. It may seem sudden, but it's
as true as that I live and speak to you to-night.'

'Sudden!' echoed Justina. 'It seems like a dream; but you mustn't speak
of it any more. I won't believe a word you say. I won't listen to a
word. It can't be true. Let's go home immediately. Hark! there's the
half-hour. Take me home, please, Mr. Penwyn.'

'Not till you have answered me one question.'

'No, no!'

'Yes, Justina. I must be answered. I have made up my mind, and I want
to know yours. Do you think you care for me, just a little?'

'I won't answer. It is all more foolish than a dream.'

'It is the sweetest dream that ever was dreamed by me. Obstinate lips!
Cannot I make them speak? No? Then the eyes shall tell me what I want
to know. Look up, Justina. Just one little look—and then we'll go
home.'

'The heavy lids were lifted, slowly, shyly, and the young lover looked
into the depths of those dark eyes. A girl's first, purest love, that
love which is so near religion, shone there like a star.

James Penwyn needed no other answer.

'You shall never act again unless you like, darling,' he said. 'I'll
speak to your father to-night, and we'll be married as soon as the
business can be done. When you leave Eborsham it shall be as mistress
of Penwyn Manor. There is not a soul belonging to me who has the
faintest right to question what I do. And it is my duty to marry young.
The Penwyn race has been sorely dwindling of late. If I were to die
unmarried, my estate would go to my cousin, a fellow I don't care two
straws about.'

Perhaps this was said more to himself than to Justina. She understood
nothing about estates and heirships, she to whom property was an
unknown quantity. She only knew that life seemed changed to a delicious
dream. The hard, work-a-day world, which had not been too kind to her,
had melted away, and left her in paradise. Her hand trembled beneath the
touch of her lover as he clasped it close upon his arm.

They walked slowly through the silent shadowy street, so narrow that
the moonlight hardly reached it, and went in by the shop door, which
had been left ajar, in a friendly way, for their reception.

'What a time you've been, Judy!' cried Mr. Elgood, standing before
the table, stirring a bowl of green stuff, with various cruets at his
elbow. 'I've had to make the salad myself.—Sit down and make yourself
at home, Penwyn.—Dempson, draw the cork of that bitter. The right
thing now-a-days is to pour it into a jug. When I was a young man we
couldn't have too much froth.'

Mrs. Dempson had smartened her usual toilet with a bow or two, and a
black lace veil, which she wore gracefully festooned about her head,
to conceal the curl-papers in which she had indued her tresses for
to-morrow's evening's performance. She would be too tired to curl her
hair by the time they got rid of this foolish young man.

The supper was even gayer than the luncheon on the racecourse. There
was a large dish of cold corned beef, ready sliced, from the cook's
shop; a cucumber, a couple of lobsters, and a bowl of salad, crisp and
oily, upon which Mr. Elgood prided himself.

'There are not many things that this child can do,' he remarked, 'but
he flatters himself he can dress a salad.'

The ale, being infinitely better of its kind than the champagne
provided by the 'Waterfowl,' proved more exhilarating. James Penwyn's
spirits rose to their highest point. He invited everybody to Penwyn
Manor; promised Miss Villeroy a season's hunting; Mr. Dempson any
amount of sport. They would all go down to Cornwall together, and
have a jolly time of it. Not a word did he say about his intended
marriage—even though elated by beer, he felt a restraining delicacy
which kept him silent on this one subject.

Justina was the quietest of the party. She sat by her father's side,
looking her prettiest, with eyes that joy had glorified, and a delicate
bloom upon her cheeks. She neither ate nor drank, but listened to her
lover's careless rattle, and felt more and more that life was like a
dream. How handsome he was; how good; how brave; how brilliant! Her
simplicity accepted the young man's undergraduate jocosity for wit of
the purest water. She laughed her gay young laugh at his jokes.

'If you could laugh like that on the stage, Judy, you'd make as good a
comedy actress as Mrs. Jordan,' said her father.

'As if any one could laugh naturally to a cue,' cried Justina.

They sat late, almost as late as they had sat on the previous night,
and when James rose at last to take his leave—urged thereto by the
unquiet slumbers of Villeroy, who had fallen asleep in an uncomfortable
position on the rickety old sofa, and whose snores were too loud to be
agreeable—Mr. Elgood had arrived at that condition of mind in which
life wears its rosiest hue. He was anxious to see his guest home, but
this favour James declined.

'Its an—comm'ly bad ro',' urged the heavy father. 'Y'd berrer let
me see y' 'ome—cut thro' ro'; 'which James interpreted to mean 'a
cut-throat road.' 'Don' like y' t' go 'lone.'

Justina watched her father with a troubled look. It was hard that he
should show himself thus degraded just now, when, but for this, life
would be all sweetness. James smiled at her reassuringly, undisturbed
by the thought that such a man might be an undesirable father-in-law.

He pushed his entertainer back into his seat.

'Talk about seeing me home,' he said, laughing, 'why, it isn't half an
hour's walk. Good night, Mr. Dempson. I'm afraid I've kept your wife up
too late, after her exertions in Lady Teazle.—Will you open the door
for me, Justina?'

Justina went down the narrow crooked staircase with him—one of those
staircases of the good old times, better suited to a belfry tower
than a dwelling-house. They went into the dark little shop together,
and just at the door, amidst odours of Irish butter and Dutch cheese,
Scotch herrings and Spanish onions, James took his betrothed in his
arms and kissed her, fondly, proudly, as if he had won a princess for
his helpmeet.

'Remember, darling, you are to be my wife. If I had a hundred relations
to bully me they wouldn't make me change my mind. But I've no one to
call me to account, and you are the girl of my choice. I haven't been
able to speak to your father to-night, but I'll talk to him to-morrow
morning, and settle everything. Good night, and God bless you, my own
dear love!'

One more kiss, and he was gone. She stood on the door-step watching
him as he walked up the narrow street. The moon was gone, and only a
few stars shone dimly between the drifting clouds. The night-wind came
coldly up from the water side yonder and made her shiver. A man crossed
the street and walked briskly past her, going in the same direction
as James Penwyn. She noticed, absently enough, that he wore a heavy
overcoat and muffler, for defence against that chill night air, no
doubt, but more clothing than people generally wear in the early days
of June.



CHAPTER IX.

'OTHER SINS ONLY SPEAK; MURDER SHRIEKS

OUT.'


Very radiant were Justina's dreams during the brief hours that remained
to her for slumber after that Bohemian supper party—dreams of her
sweet new life, in which all things were bright and strange. She was
with her lover in a garden—the dream-garden which those sleepers know
who have seen but little of earthly gardens—a garden where there were
marble terraces and statues, and fountains, and a placid lake lying
in a valley of bloom; a vision made up of faint memories of pictures
she had seen, or poems she had read. They were together and happy in
the noonday sunshine. And then the dream changed. They were together
in the moonlight again—not outside the cathedral, but in the long
solemn nave. She could see the distant altar gleaming faintly in
the silver light, while a solemn strain of music, like the muffled
chanting of a choir, rolled along the echoing arches overhead. Then
the silvery light faded, the music changed to a harsh dirge-like cry,
and she woke to hear the raindrops pattering against her little dormer
window—Justina's room was the worst of the three bedchambers, and in
the garret story,—and a shrill-voiced hawker bawling watercresses
along the street.

She had the feeling of having overslept herself, and not being provided
with a watch had no power to ascertain the fact, but was fain to dress
as quickly as she could, trusting to the cathedral clock to inform her
of the hour. To be late for rehearsal involved a good deal of snubbing
from the higher powers, even in a commonwealth. The stage manager
retained his authority, and knew how to make himself disagreeable.

Life seemed all reality again this morning as Justina plaited her hair
before the shabby little mirror, and looked out at the dull grey sky,
the wet sloppy streets, the general aspect of poverty and damp which
pervaded the prospect. She had need to ask herself if yesterday and the
night before had not been all dreaming. She the chosen bride of a rich
young squire—she the mistress of Penwyn Manor! It was surely too fond
a fancy. She, whose shabby weather-stained under garments—the green
stuff gown of two winters ago converted into a petticoat last year, and
worn threadbare—the corset which a nursemaid might have despised—lay
yonder on the dilapidated rush-bottomed chair, like the dull reality of
Cinderella's rags, after the fairy ball dress had melted into air.

She hurried on her clothes, more ashamed of their shabbiness than
she had ever felt yet, and ran down to the sitting-room, which smelt
of stale lobster and tobacco, the windows not having been opened on
account of the rain. Breakfast was laid. A sloppy cup and saucer,
the dorsal bone of a haddock on a greasy plate indicated that some
one had breakfasted. The cathedral clock chimed eleven. Justina's
rehearsal only began at half-past. She had time to take her breakfast
comfortably, if she liked.

Her first act was to open the window, and let in the air, and the
rain—anything was better than stale lobster. Then she looked into the
teapot, and wondered who had breakfasted, and if her father were up.
Then she poured out a cup of tea, and sipped it slowly, wondering if
James Penwyn would come to the theatre while she was rehearsing. He
had asked her the hour of the rehearsal. She thought she would see him
there, most likely; and the dream would begin again.

A jug of wild flowers stood on the table by the window—the flowers she
had gathered two days ago; before she had seen _him_.

They were a little faded—wild flowers droop so early—but in no wise
dead; and yet a passion had been born and attained its majority since
those field flowers were plucked.

Could she believe in it? could she trust in it? Her heart sank at the
thought that her lover was trifling with her—that there was nothing
but foolishness in this first love dream.

Her father had not yet left his room. Justina saw his one presentable
pair of boots waiting for him outside his door, as she went by on her
way downstairs.

She found Mr. and Mrs. Dempson at rehearsal, both with a faded and
washed-out appearance, as if the excitement of the previous day had
taken all the colour out of them.

The rehearsal went forward in a straggling way. That good house of last
night seemed to have demoralized the commonwealth, or perhaps the scene
of dissipation going on out of doors, the races and holiday-makers,
and bustle of the town, may have had a disturbing influence. The stage
manager lost his temper, and said business was business, and he didn't
want the burlesque to be a 'munge'—a word borrowed from some unknown
tongue, which evidently made an impression upon the actors.

Justina had been in the theatre for a little more than an hour, when
Mr. Elgood burst suddenly into the green-room, pale as a sheet of
letter-paper, and wearing his hat anyhow.

'Has anybody heard of it?' he asked, looking round at the assembly.
Mrs. Dempson was sitting in a corner covering a satin shoe. Justina
stood by the window studying her part in the burlesque. Mr. Dempson,
with three or four kindred spirits, was smoking on some stone steps
just outside the green-room. Everybody looked round at this sudden
appeal, wondering at the actor's scared expression of countenance.

'Why, what's up, mate?' asked Mr. Dempson. 'Is the cathedral on fire?
Bear up under the affliction; I dare say it's insured.'

'Nobody has heard, then?'

'Heard what?'

'Of the murder.'

'What murder? Who's murdered?' cried every one at once, except Justina.
Her thoughts were slower than the rest, perhaps. She stood looking at
her father, fixed as marble.

'That poor young fellow, that good-hearted young fellow who stood treat
yesterday. Did you ever know such a blackguard thing, Demps? Shot from
behind a hedge, on the road between Lowgate and the "Waterfowl." Only
found this morning between five and six, by some labourers going to
their work. Dead and cold; shot through the heart. He's lying at the
"Lowgate Arms," just inside the archway, and there's to be a coroner's
inquest at two o'clock this afternoon.'

'Great Heaven, how awful!' cried Dempson. 'What was the motive?
Robbery, I suppose.'

'So it was thought at first, for his pockets were empty, turned inside
out. But the police searched the ditch for the weapon, which they
didn't find, but found his watch and purse and pocket-book, half an
hour ago, buried in the mud, as if they had been rammed down with a
stick. So there must have been revenge at the bottom of the business,
unless it was that the fellows who did it—I dare say there was more
than one—took the alarm, and hid the plunder, with the intention of
fishing it up again on the quiet afterwards.'

'It looks more like that,' said Mr. Dempson. 'The haymakers are
beginning to be about—a bad lot. Any scoundrel can use a scythe. Don't
cry, old woman;' this to his wife, who was sobbing hysterically over
the satin shoe. 'He was a nice young fellow, and we're all very sorry
for him; but crying won't bring him back.'

'Such a happy day as we had with him!' sobbed the leading lady.
'I never enjoyed myself so much, and to think that he should be
m—m—murdered. It's too dreadful.'

Nobody noticed Justina, till the thin straight figure suddenly swayed,
like a slender sapling in a high wind, when Matthew Elgood darted
forward and caught her in his arms, just as she was falling. Her face
lay on his shoulder white and set.

'I'm blessed if she hasn't fainted!' cried her father. 'Poor Judy! I
forgot that he was rather sweet upon her.'

'You didn't ought to have blurted it out like that,' exclaimed Mrs.
Dempson, more sympathetic than grammatical. 'Run and get a glass of
water, Dempson. Don't you fuss with her,' to the father. 'I'll bring
her to, and take her home, and get her to lie down a bit. She shan't go
on with the rehearsal, whatever Pyecroft says.' Pyecroft was the stage
manager. 'She'll be all right at night.'

Justina, after having water splashed over her poor pale face, recovered
consciousness, stared with a blank awful look at her father and the
rest, and then went home to her lodgings meekly, leaning on Mrs.
Dempson's arm. A bleak awakening from her dream.

Yes, it was all true. The gay, light-hearted lad, the prosperous lord
of Penwyn Manor, had been taken away from the fair fresh world, from
the life which for his unsated spirit meant happiness. Slain by a
secret assassin's hand he lay in the darkened club-room of the 'Lowgate
Arms,' awaiting the inquest.

The Eborsham police were hard at work, but not alone. The case was felt
to be an important one. A gentleman of property was not to be murdered
with impunity. Had the victim been some agricultural labourer, slain in
a drunken fray, some turnpike-man murdered for plunder, the Eborsham
constabulary would have felt itself able to cope with the difficulties
of the case. But this was a darker business, a crime which was likely
to be heard of throughout the length and breadth of the land, and the
Eborsham constable felt that the eyes of Europe were upon him. He knew
that his own men were slow and blundering, and, doubtful of their power
to get at the bottom of the mystery, telegraphed to Spinnersbury for a
couple of skilled detectives, who came swift as an express train could
carry them.

'Business is business!' said the Eborsham constable. 'Whatever reward
may be offered by and by—there's a hundred already, by our own
magistrates—we work together, as between man and man, and share it
honourably.'

'That's understood,' replied the gentlemen from Spinnersbury, the chief
centre of that northern district. And affairs being thus established on
an agreeable footing, the skilled detectives went to work.

The watch and purse had been found by the local police before the
arrival of these Spinnersbury men. The purse was empty, so it still
remained an open question whether plunder had not been the motive. The
man who took the money might have been afraid to take the watch, as a
compromising bit of property likely to bring him into trouble. Higlett,
one of the Spinnersbury men, went straight to the 'Waterfowl,' to hunt
up the surroundings of the dead man. Smelt, his companion, remained in
Eborsham, where he made a round of the low-class public-houses, with
a view of discovering what doubtful characters had been hanging about
the town during the last day or two. A race meeting is an occasion when
doubtful characters are apt to be abundant; yet it seemed a curious
thing that Mr. Penwyn, whom nobody supposed to be a winner of money,
should have been waylaid on his return from the town—rather than one
of those numerous gentlemen who had gone home from the Rooms that night
with full pockets and wine-bemused heads.

Mr. Higlett found the 'Waterfowl' people as communicative as he could
desire. They had done nothing but talk about the murder all the morning
with a ghoulish gusto, and could talk of nothing else. From them Mr.
Higlett heard a good deal that set his sapient mind working in what he
considered a happy direction.

'Smelt may do all he can in the town,' he thought, 'I'm not sorry I
came here.'

The landlady, who was dolefully loquacious, took Mr. Higlett aside,
having ascertained that he was a detective officer from Spinnersbury,
and informed him that there were circumstances about the case she
didn't like—not that she wished to throw out anything against anybody,
and it would weigh heavy on her mind if she suspected them that were
innocent, still, thought was free, and she had her thoughts.

Pressed home by the detective, she went a little further, and said she
didn't like the look of things about Mr. Clissold.

'Who is Mr. Clissold?' asked Higlett.

'Mr. Penwyn's friend. They came here together three days ago, and
seemed as comfortable as possible together, like brothers, and they
went out fishing together the day before yesterday, and then in the
evening they brought home some of the play-actors to supper, the best
of everything; and going up to bed they had high words. Me and my good
man heard them, for the loud talking wakened us, and it was all along
of some girl. And they were both very much excited, and Mr. Penwyn
banged his door that violent as to shake the house, being an old house,
as you may see.'

'A girl!' said Mr. Higlett, 'that sometimes means mischief. But there's
not much in a few high words between two young gentlemen after supper,
even if it's about a girl. They were all right and friendly again next
morning, I suppose?'

'I dare say they would have been,' replied the hostess, 'only Mr.
Clissold went out early next morning with his fishing-rod, leaving a
bit of a note for Mr. Penwyn, and didn't come back till twelve o'clock
to-day.'

'Curious,' said Mr. Higlett.

'That's what struck me. Mr. Penwyn expected him back yesterday evening,
and left word to say where he'd gone, if his friend came in. Of course,
Mr. Clissold was awfully shocked when he came in to-day and heard of
the murder. I don't think I ever saw a man turn so white. But it did
strike me as strange that he should be out all night, just that very
night.'

'Did he tell you where he had been?'

'No. He went out of the house again directly with the police. He was
going to telegraph to Mr. Penwyn's lawyer, and some of his relations,
I think.'

'Ready to make himself useful,' muttered Mr. Higlett. 'I should like to
have a look round these gentlemen's rooms.'

Being duly armed with authority, this privilege was allowed Mr.
Higlett. He examined bedchambers and sitting-room, looked at the
few and simple belongings of the travellers, who were naturally not
encumbered with much luggage. Finding little to employ him here, Mr.
Higlett took a snack of lunch in the public parlour, heard the gossip
of the loungers at the bar through the half-open door, meditated,
smoked a pipe, and went out into the high road.

He met Smelt, who seemed dispirited.

'Nothing turned up?' asked Higlett.

'Less than half nothing. How's yourself?'

'Well, I think I'm on the right lay. But it's rather dark at present.'

They went back to the inn together, conferring in half-whispers. A
quarter of an hour later, Maurice Clissold returned from his mission.
He looked pale and wearied, and hardly saw the two men whom he passed
in the porch. He had scarcely entered the house when these two men came
close up to him, one on each side.

'I arrest you on suspicion of being concerned in the murder of James
Penwyn,' said Higlett.

'And bear in mind that anything you say now will be used against you by
and by,' remarked Smelt.



CHAPTER X.

'NOTHING COMES AMISS, SO MONEY COMES WITHAL.'


The inquest was held at two o'clock, and adjourned. Few facts were
elicited beyond those which had been in everybody's mouth that morning,
when Matthew Elgood heard of the murder at the bar of that tavern where
he took his noontide dram—the three penn'orth of gin and bitters which
revivified him after last night's orgies.

James Penwyn had been shot through the heart by a hidden assassin. It
seemed tolerably clear that the murderer had taken aim from behind the
ragged bushes which divided the low-lying land by the river from the
road just at this point. There were footprints on the marshy turf—not
the prints of a clodhopper's bulky boots. The line of footsteps
indicated that the murderer had entered the field by a gate a hundred
yards nearer the city, and had afterwards gone across the grass to
the towpath. Here, on harder ground, the footsteps ceased altogether.
They were the impressions of a gentleman's sole—or so thought the
detectives, who were anxious to find a correspondence between these
footprints and the boots of Maurice Clissold. Here, however, they were
somewhat at fault. Maurice's stout shooting boot made a wider and
longer print on the sward.

'He may have worn a smaller boot last night,' said Smelt. 'But they say
up at the inn that he has only two pairs, one off, one on, both the same
make. I looked at those he's wearing, and they are just as big as these.'

This was a slight check to the chain, which had run out pretty freely
till now. True that there seemed little or no motive for the crime; but
the one fact of the quarrel was something to go upon; and the curious
absence of Maurice Clissold on that particular night was a circumstance
that would have to be accounted for.

Who could tell how serious that quarrel might have been?—perhaps the
last outbreak of a long-smouldering flame; perhaps a dispute involving
deepest interests. Further evidence would come out by degrees. At any
rate, they had got their man.

Maurice was present at the inquest, very calm and quiet. He made no
statement whatever, by the advice of the local solicitor, Mr. Brent,
whose aid he had not rejected. He would have been more agitated,
perhaps, by the fact of his friend's untimely death, but for this
monstrous accusation. That made him iron.

The inquest was adjourned, the facts being so few, and Mr. Clissold
was taken to Eborsham Castle, a mediæval fortress, which our modern
civilization had converted into the county jail.

Here he was comfortable enough, so far as surroundings went; for he was
a young man of adventurous mind, and tastes so simple that a hard bed
and a carpetless room were no afflictions to him.

Mr. Brent, the solicitor, visited him in his confinement, and discussed
the facts of the case.

'It's hard upon you, both ways,' said the lawyer; 'hard to lose your
friend, and still harder to find yourself exposed to this monstrous
suspicion.'

'I don't care two straws for the suspicion,' answered Maurice, 'but I
do care very much for the loss of my friend. He was one of the best
fellows that ever lived—so bright, so brimming over with freshness and
vitality. If I had not seen him lying in that tavern, stark and cold, I
couldn't bring myself to believe in his death. It's hard to believe in
it, even with the memory of that poor murdered clay fresh in my mind.
Poor James! I loved him like a younger brother!'

'You have no knowledge of any circumstances in his life that can help
us to find the murderer?' asked Mr. Brent.

'I know of nothing. He had picked up some people I didn't care about
his being intimate with, strolling players, who are acting at the
theatre in this place. But my worst fear was that he might be trapped
into some promise of marriage. I can hardly fancy these people
concerned in a crime.'

'No. They are for the most part harmless vagabonds,' replied the
lawyer. 'Do you know where Mr. Penwyn spent last night?'

'With these people, no doubt—a man called Elgood, and his daughter.
The man ought to be called as a witness, I should think.'

'Unquestionably. We'll have him before the coroner next Saturday, and
we'll keep an eye upon him meanwhile.'

The inquest had been adjourned for three days, to give time for new
facts to be elicited.

'Your friend had no enemies, you say?'

'Not one,' answered Clissold. 'He was one of those men who never make
an enemy. He hadn't the strength of mind to refuse a favour to the
veriest blackguard. It was my knowledge of his character that made me
anxious about this Elgood's acquaintance. I saw that he was fascinated
by the girl, and feared he might be lured into some false position.
That was the sole cause of our dispute the other night.'

'Why did you leave him?'

'Because I saw that my interference irritated him, and was likely to
arouse a lurking obstinacy which I knew to be in his nature. He was
such a spoiled child of fortune that I fancied if I left him alone to
take his own way his passion would cool. Opposition fired him.'

'There is only one awkward circumstance in the whole case—as regards
yourself, I mean.'

'What is that?' asked Clissold.

'Your objection to state where you spent last night.'

'I should be sorry if I were driven to so poor a defence as an _alibi_.'

'I don't think there's any fear of that. The evidence against you
amounts to so little. But why not simplify matters by accounting for
your time up to your return to-day? You only came back to Eborsham by
the twelve o'clock train from Spinnersbury, you say?'

'I came by that train.'

'Do you think any of the porters or ticket collectors would remember
seeing you?'

'Not likely. The train was crowded with people coming to the races.
It was as much as I could do to get a seat. I had to scramble into a
third-class compartment as the train began to move.'

'But why not refer to some one at Spinnersbury, to prove your absence
from Eborsham last night?'

'When my neck is in danger I may do that. In the meantime you may as
well let the matter drop. I have my own reasons for not saying where I
was last night, unless I am very hard pushed.'

Mr. Brent was obliged to be satisfied. The case against his client was
of the weakest as yet; but it was curious that this young man should
so resolutely refuse to give a straightforward account of himself. Mr.
Brent had felt positive of his client's innocence up to this point; but
this refusal disturbed him. He went home with an uncomfortable feeling
that there was something wrong somewhere.

Messrs. Higlett and Smelt were not idle during the interval. Higlett
lodged at the 'Waterfowl,' and heard all the gossip of the house, where
the one absorbing topic was the murder of James Penwyn.

Among other details the Spinnersbury detective heard Mrs. Marport, the
landlady, speak of a certain letter which the morning's post brought
Mr. Clissold the day he went away. It came by the first delivery, which
was before eight o'clock. Jane, the housemaid, took it up to Mr.
Clissold's room with his boots and shaving water.

'I never set eyes upon such a letter,' said Mrs. Marport. 'It seemed
to have been all round the world for sport, as the saying is. It had
been to some address in London, and to Wales, and to Cumberland, and
was all over post-marks. I suppose it must have been something rather
particular to have been sent after him so.'

'A bill, I dare say—or a lawyer's letter, perhaps.'

'Oh no, it wasn't. It was a lady's handwriting. I took particular
notice of that.'

'Any cress or mornagarm,' asked Higlett.

'No, there was nothing on the envelope; but the paper was as thick as
parchment. Whoever wrote that letter was quite the lady.'

'Ah,' said Higlett, 'Mr. Clissold's sweetheart, very likely.'

'That's what I've been thinking, and that it was that letter, perhaps,
that took him off so suddenly, and that he really may have been far
away from Eborsham on the night of the murder.'

'If he was, he'll be able to prove it,' replied Mr. Higlett, who was
not inclined to entertain the idea of Mr. Clissold's innocence. To earn
his share of the reward he must find the murderer, and it mattered very
little to Higlett where he found him.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the afternoon of the day succeeding the inquest, two persons of
some importance to the case arrived at Eborsham. They came by the
same train, and had travelled together from London. One was Churchill
Penwyn, the inheritor of the Penwyn estate. The other was Mr.
Pergament, the family solicitor, chief partner in the firm of Pergament
and Pergament, New Square, Lincoln's Inn.

Churchill Penwyn and the solicitor met at King's Cross station, five
minutes before the starting of the ten o'clock express for Eborsham.
They were very well acquainted with each other; Churchill's meagre
portion, inherited under the will of old Mrs. Penwyn, his grandmother,
who had been an heiress in a small way, having passed through Mr.
Pergament's hands. Nicholas Penwyn's will, which disposed of Penwyn
Manor for two generations, had been drawn up by Mr. Pergament's
father, and all business connected with the Penwyn estate had been
transacted in Mr. Pergament's office for the last hundred years.
Pergaments had been born and died during the century, but the office
was the same as in the time of Penruddock Penwyn, who, inheriting a
farm of a hundred and fifty acres or so, had made a fortune in the
East Indies, and extended the estate by various important additions
to its present dimensions. For before the days of Penruddock the
race of Penwyn had declined in splendour, though it was always known
and acknowledged that the Penwyns were one of the oldest families in
Cornwall.

Of course Mr. Pergament, knowing Nicholas Penwyn's will by heart,
was perfectly aware of the alteration which this awful event of the
murder made in Churchill's circumstances. Churchill had been a cadet
of the house heretofore, though his cousin James's senior by nearly
ten years—a person of no importance whatever. Mr. Pergament had
treated him with a free and easy friendliness—was always ready to do
him a good turn—sent him a brief now and then, and so on. To-day Mr.
Pergament was deferential. The old friendliness was toned down to a
subdued respect. It seemed as if Mr. Pergament's eye, respectfully
raised to Churchill's broad pale brow, in imagination beheld above it
the round and top of sovereignty, the lordship of Penwyn Manor.

'Very distressing event,' murmured the lawyer, as they seated
themselves opposite each other in the first-class carriage. This was a
comfortable train to travel by, not arriving at Eborsham till three.
The race traffic had been cleared off by a special, at an earlier hour.

'Very,' returned Churchill, gravely. 'Of course I cannot be expected
to be acutely grieved by an event which raises me from a working man's
career to affluence, especially as I knew so little of my cousin;
but I was profoundly shocked at the circumstances of his death. A
commonplace, vulgar murder for gain, I apprehend, committed by some
rustic ruffian. I doubt if that class of man thinks much more of murder
than of sparrow-shooting.'

'I hope they'll get him, whoever he is,' said the lawyer.

'If the acuteness of the police can be stimulated by the hope of
reward, that motive shall not be wanting; returned Churchill. 'I shall
offer a couple of hundred pounds for the conviction of the murderer.'

'Very proper,' murmured Mr. Pergament, approvingly. 'No, you had
seen very little of poor James, I apprehend,' he went on, in a
conversational tone.

'I doubt if he and I met half a dozen times. I saw him once at Eton,
soon after my father's death, when I was spending a day or two at a
shooting-box near Bracknell, and walked over to have a look at the
college. He was a little curly-headed chap, playing cricket, and
I remember tipping him, ill as I could afford the half-sovereign.
One can't see a schoolboy without tipping him. I daresay the young
rascal ran off and spent my hard-earned shillings on strawberry ices
and pound-cake as soon as my back was turned. I saw him a few years
afterwards in his mother's house, somewhere near Baker Street. She
asked me to a dinner party, and as she made rather a point of it, I
went. A slowish business—as women's dinners generally are—all the
delicacies that were just going out of season, and some elderly ladies
to adorn the board. I asked James to breakfast at my club—put him up
for the Garrick—and I think that's about the last time I ever saw him.'

'Poor lad,' sighed the family solicitor. 'Such a promising young
fellow. But I doubt if he would have kept the property together. There
was very little of his grandfather, old Squire Penwyn, about him. A
wonderful man that, vigorous in body and mind to the last year of his
life. I spent a week at Penwyn about seventeen years ago, just before
your poor uncle was killed by those abominable red-skins in Canada. I
can see the Squire before me now, a hale old country gentleman, always
dressed in a Lincoln-green coat, with basket buttons, Bedford cords,
and vinegar tops—hunted three times a week every season, after he
was seventy years of age—the Assheton Smith stamp of man. The rising
generation will never ripen into that kind of thing, Mr. Penwyn. The
stuff isn't in 'em.'

'I never saw much of my grandfather,' said Churchill, in his grave
quiet voice, which expressed so little emotion, save when deepest
passion warmed his spirit to eloquence. 'My father's marriage offended
him, as I dare say you heard at the time.'

Mr. Pergament nodded assent.

'Prejudice, prejudice,' he murmured, blandly. 'Elderly gentlemen who
live on their estates are prone to that sort of thing.'

'He did my mother the honour to call her a shopkeeper's daughter—her
father was a brewer at Exeter, in a very fair way of business—upon
which my father, who had some self-respect, and a great deal of respect
for his wife, told the Squire that he should take care not to intrude
the shopkeeper's daughter upon his notice. "If I hadn't made my will,"
said my grandfather, "it might be the worse for you. But I have made
my will, as you all know. I made it six years ago, and I don't mean to
budge from it. When I do a thing it's done. When I say a thing it's
said. I never undo or unsay. The estate will be kept together, for the
next half-century I think, come what may."'

'Just like him,' said Mr. Pergament, chuckling. 'The man to the life.
How well you hit him off.'

'I've heard my father repeat that speech a good many times,' answered
Churchill.

'Then you never saw the old Squire?'

'Once only. I was a day boy at Westminster, and one afternoon when
I was playing ball in the quadrangle, a curious-looking elderly
gentleman, with a drab overcoat, and a broad-brimmed white hat,
breeches and topboots, a bunch of seals at his fob, and a gold-headed
hunting-crop in his hand, came into the court and looked about him. He
looked like a figure out of a sporting print. Yet he looked a gentleman
all the same. "Can anybody tell me where to find a boy called Penwyn?"
he inquired. I ran forward. "What, you're Churchill Penwyn, are you,
youngster?" he asked, with his hands upon my shoulders, looking at me
straight from under his bushy grey eyebrows. "Yes, you're a genuine
Penwyn, none of the brewer here. It's a pity your father was a younger
son. You wouldn't have made a bad Squire. I dare say you've heard of
your grandfather?" "Yes, sir, very often," I said; "are you he?" "I
am; I'm up in London for a week, and I took it into my head I should
like to have a look at you. It isn't likely the estate will ever come
to you, but if, by any chance, it should come your way, I hope you'll
think of the old Squire sometimes, when he lies under the sod, and try
and keep things together, in my way." He tipped me a five-pound note,
shook hands, and walked out of the quad., and that's the only time I
ever saw Nicholas Penwyn.'

'Curious,' said Mr. Pergament.

'By the way, talking of estates, what is Penwyn worth? My inheritance
seemed so remote a contingency that I have never taken the trouble to
ask the question.'

'The estate is a fine one,' replied the lawyer, joining the tips of his
fat fingers, and speaking with unction, as of a favourite and familiar
subject, 'but land in Cornwall, as you are doubtless aware, is not the
most remunerative investment. The farm lands of Penwyn produce on an
average a bare three per cent. on their value, that is to say, about
three pounds an acre. There are eleven hundred acres of farm land, and
thus we have three thousand three hundred pounds. But,' continued the
lawyer, swelling with importance, 'the more remunerative portion of
the estate consists of mines, which after lying idle for more than a
quarter of a century, were reopened at the latter end of the Squire's
life, and are now being worked by a company who pay a royalty upon
their profits, which royalty in the aggregate amounts to something
between two and four thousand a year, and is likely to increase, as
they have lately opened a new tin mine, and come upon a promising lode.'

'My grandfather risked nothing in the working of these mines, I
suppose?'

'No,' exclaimed the lawyer, with tremendous emphasis. 'Squire Penwyn
was much too wise for that. He let other people take the risks, and
only stood in for the profits.'

They talked about the estate for some little time after this, and
then Churchill threw himself back into his corner, opened a newspaper
and appeared to read—appeared only, for his eyes were fixed upon
one particular bit of the column before him in that steady gaze which
betokens deepest thought. In sooth he had enough to think of. The
revolution which James Penwyn's death had wrought in his fate was a
change to set most men thinking. From a struggling man just beginning
to make a little way in an arduous profession, he found himself all at
once worth something like seven thousand a year, master of an estate
which would bring with it the respect of his fellow-men, position and
power—the means of climbing higher than any Penwyn had yet risen on
the ladder of life.

'I shall not bury myself alive in a stupid old manor-house,' he
thought, 'like my grandfather. And yet it will be rather a pleasant
thing playing at being a country squire.'

Most of all he thought of her who was to share his fortunes—the new
bright life they could lead together—of her beauty, which had an
imperial grandeur that needed a splendid setting—of her power to
charm, which would be an influence to help his aggrandizement. He
fancied himself member for Penwyn, making his mark in the House, as
he had already begun to make it at the Bar. Literature and statecraft
should combine to help him on. He saw himself far away, in the fair
prosperous future, leader of his party. He thought that when he first
crossed the threshold of the Senate House as a member, he should say
to himself, almost involuntarily, 'Some day I shall enter this door as
Prime Minister.'

He was not a man whose desires were bounded by the idea of a handsome
house and gardens, a good stable, wine-cellar, and cook. He asked
Fortune for something more than these. If not for his own sake, for
his betrothed, he would wish to be something more than a prosperous
country gentleman. Madge would expect him to be famous. Madge would be
disappointed if he failed to make his mark in the world. He fell to
calculating how long it would have been in the common course of things,
plodding on at literature and his profession, before he could have won
a position to justify his marrying Madge Bellingham. Far away to the
extreme point in perspective stretched the distance.

He gave a short bitter sigh of very weariness. 'It would have been
ten or fifteen years before I could have given her as good a home as
her father's,' he said to himself. 'Why fatigue one's brain by such
profitless speculations? She would never have been my wife. She is a
girl who must have made a great marriage. She might be true as steel,
but everybody else would have been against me. Her father and her
sister would have worried her almost to death, and some morning while I
was marching bravely on towards the distant goal I should have received
a letter, tear-blotted, remorseful, telling me that she had yielded
to the persuasions of her father, and had consented to marry the
millionaire stockbroker, or the wealthy lordling, as the case might be.'

'Who is this Mr. Clissold?' Churchill asked by and by, throwing aside
his unread paper, and emerging from that brown study in which he had
been absorbed for the last hour or so.

'A college friend of poor James's, his senior by some few years. They
had been reading together in the north. You must have met Clissold in
Axminster Square, I should think, when you dined with your aunt. He
and James were inseparable.'

'I have some recollection of a tall, dark-browed youth, who seemed one
of the family.'

'That was young Clissold, no doubt.'

'Civil of him to telegraph to me,' said Churchill, and there the
subject dropped. The two gentlemen yawned a little. Churchill looked
out of the window, and relapsed into thoughtfulness, and so the time
went on, and the journey came to an end.

Churchill and the lawyer drove straight to the police station, to
inquire if the murderer had been found. There they heard what had
befallen Maurice Clissold.

'Absurd!' exclaimed the solicitor. 'No possible motive.'

The official in charge shook his head sagely.

'There appears to have been a quarrel,' he said, in his slow ponderous
way, between the two young gents, the night previous. High words was
over'eard at the hinn, and on the night of the murder Mr. Cliss'll was
absent, which he is unwilling to account for his time.'

Mr. Pergament looked at Churchill, as much as to say, 'This is serious.'

'Young men do not murder each other on account of a few high words,'
said Mr. Penwyn. 'I dare say Mr. Clissold will give a satisfactory
account of himself when the proper time comes. No one in their right
senses could suspect a gentleman of such a crime—a common robbery,
with violence, on the high road. In the race week, too, when a place is
always running over with ruffians of every kind.'

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said the superintendent, 'but that's the
curious part of the case. The footsteps of the murderer have been
traced. Mr. Penwyn was shot at from behind a hedge, you see, and the
print of the sole looks like the print of a gentleman's boot—narrow,
and a small heel; nothing of the clodhopper about it. The ground's a
bit of marshy clay just there, and the impression was uncommonly clear.'

Churchill Penwyn looked at the man thoughtfully for a moment, with
that penetrating glance of his which was wont to survey an adverse
witness in order to see what might be made of him—the glance of a man
familiar with the study of his fellow-men.

'There are vagabonds enough in the world who wear decently made boots,'
he said, 'especially your racing vagabonds.'

He made all necessary inquiries about the inquest, and then adjourned
to one of the chief hotels, crowded with racing men, though not to
suffocation, as at the Summer Meeting.

'You'll watch the case in the interests of the family, of course,' he
said to Mr. Pergament. 'I should like you to do what you can for this
Mr. Clissold, too. There can be no ground for his arrest.'

'I should suppose not—he and James were such friends.'

'And then the empty purse shows that the murder was done for gain. My
cousin may have won money, or have been supposed to have won, on the
racecourse, and may have been watched and followed by some prowling
ruffian—tout, or tramp, or gipsy.'

'It's odd that Mr. Clissold refused to account for his time last night.'

'Yes, that is curious; but I feel pretty sure the explanation will come
when he's pressed.'

And then the gentlemen dined together comfortably.

A little later on, Mr. Pergament got up to go out.

'There are the last melancholy details to be arranged,' he said; 'have
you any wish on that point, as his nearest relation?'

'Only that his own wishes should be respected.'

'His father and mother are buried at Kensal Green. I dare say he would
rather be there than at Penwyn.'

'One would suppose so.'

'Then I'll go and see about the removal, and so on,' said Mr.
Pergament, taking up his hat. 'By the way—perhaps, before it is too
late, you would like to see your cousin?'

Churchill gave a little start, almost a shudder.

'No,' he said, 'I never went in for that kind of thing.'



CHAPTER XI.

'WHAT, THEN, YOU KNEW NOT THIS RED WORK INDEED?'


Justina lived through the day and acted at night pretty much as she had
been accustomed to act; but she saw her audience dimly through a heavy,
blinding cloud, and the glare of the footlights seemed to her hideous
as the fires of Pandemonium. People spoke to her in the dressing-room
where she dragged on her shabby finery, and dabbed a little rouge on
her pale, wan face, and she answered them somehow, mechanically. She
had lived that kind of life among the same people so long that the mere
business of existence went on without any effort of her own. She felt
like a clock that had been wound and must go its appointed time. She
sat in a corner of the green-room, looking straight before her, and
thought how her bright new world had melted away; and no one took any
particular notice of her.

Mrs. Dempson had been kind and compassionate, and, after Justina's
fainting fit, had dabbed her forehead with vinegar and water, and sat
with her arm round the girl's waist, consoling her and reasoning with
her, reminding her that they had only known poor Mr. Penwyn a day and
a half, and that it was against nature to lament him as if he had been
a near relation or an old friend. Who, in sober middle age, when the
sordid cares of every-day life are paramount; who, when youth's morning
is past, can comprehend the young heart's passionate mystery—the love
which, like some bright tropical flower, buds and blooms in a single
day—the love which is more than half fancy—the love of a lover of no
common clay, but the fair incarnation of girlhood's poetic dream—love
wherein the senses have no more part than the phosphor lights of a rank
marsh in the clear splendour of the stars?

Justina kept the secret of her brief dream. She thought Mrs. Dempson,
and even her father, would have laughed her to scorn had she told them
that the generous young stranger had asked her to be his wife. She held
her peace, and shut herself in her garret chamber, and flung her weary
head face downward on the flock pillow, and thought of her murdered
lover—thought of the bright, handsome face fixed in death's marble
stillness, and cursed the wretch who had slain him.

Mr. Elgood and his daughter were both subpœnaed for the adjourned
inquest. The actor, who rather rejoiced in the opportunity of
exhibiting his powers in a new arena, and seeing his name in the
papers, appeared in grand form on the morning of the examination. He
had brushed his coat, sported a clean white waistcoat and a smart
blue necktie, wore a pair of somewhat ancient buff leather gloves,
and carried the cane which he was wont to flourish as the exasperated
father of old-fashioned comedy.

Justina entered the room pale as a sheet, and sat by her father's side,
with her large dark eyes fixed on the coroner, as if from his lips
could issue the secret of her lover's doom. She had the most imperfect
idea of the nature of an inquest, and the coroner's power.

The jury were seated round the coroner at the upper end of the room.
Mr. Pergament, the solicitor, stood at the end of the table ready to
put any questions he might desire to have answered by the witnesses.

On the right of the coroner, a little way from the jury, sat Maurice
Clissold, with a constable at his side. Nearly opposite him, and next
to the lawyer, stood the new master of Penwyn Manor, ready to prompt a
question if he saw his solicitor at fault. Churchill and Mr. Pergament
had gone into the case thoroughly together, with the Spinnersbury
detectives and the local constabulary, and had their facts pretty well
in hand.

The jury answered to their names, and the inquiry began, Mr. Pergament
interrogating, the coroner taking notes of the evidence. Mr. Elgood was
one of the first witnesses sworn.

'I believe you were in the company of the deceased on the night, or
rather morning, of the murder?' said the coroner.

'Yes, he supped at my lodging on that night.'

'Alone with you?'

'No. Mr. Dempson and his wife, and my daughter were of the party.'

'At what hour did Mr. Penwyn leave you?'

The actor's countenance assumed a look of perplexity.

'It was half-past twelve before we sat down to supper,' he said, 'but I
can't exactly say how long we sat afterwards. We smoked a few cigars,
and, to be candid, were somewhat convivial. I haven't any clear idea as
to the time; my daughter may know.'

'Why your daughter, and not you?'

'She let him out through the shop when he went away. Our apartments are
respectable but humble, over a chandler's.'

'And your daughter was more temperate than you, and may have some idea
as to the time? We'll ask her the question presently. Do you know if
Mr. Penwyn had any considerable sum of money about him at the time he
left you?'

'I don't know. He had entertained us handsomely at the "Waterfowl"
on the previous night, and he stood a carriage and any quantity of
champagne to the races that day, but I did not see him pay away any
money except for the standing-place for his carnage.'

'Did you see him receive any money on the racecourse?'

'No.'

'Was he with you all day?'

'From twelve o'clock till half-past six in the evening.'

'And in that time you had no knowledge of his winning or receiving any
sum of money?'

'No.'

'Do you know of his being associated with disreputable people of any
kind—betting men, for instance?'

'I know next to nothing of his associations. There was an old gipsy
woman who pretended to tell his fortune by the river side the day
before the races, when he and the rest of us happened to be walking
together. He gave her money then, and he gave her money on the race
day, when she was hanging about the carriage, begging for drink.'

Churchill Penwyn, who had been looking at the ground, in a listening
attitude hitherto, raised his eyes at this juncture, half in
interrogation, half in surprise.

'Is that all you know about the deceased?' continued Mr. Pergament.

'About all. I had only enjoyed his acquaintance six-and-thirty hours at
the time of the murder.'

'You can sit down,' said Mr. Pergament.

'Justina Elgood,' cried the summoning officer, and Justina stood up in
the crowded room, pale to the lips, but unfaltering.

Again Churchill Penwyn raised those thoughtful eyes of his, and looked
at the girl's pallid face.

'Not a common type of girl,' he said to himself.



CHAPTER XII.

'BRAVE SPIRITS ARE A BALSAM TO THEMSELVES.'


Maurice Clissold also looked at the girl as she stood up at the end
of the table in the little bit of clear space left for the witnesses.
A shaft of sunshine slanted from the skylight. The room was built out
from the house, and lighted from the top, an apartment usually devoted
to Masonic meetings and public dinners. In that clear radiance the
girl's face was wondrously spiritualized. Easy to fancy that some being
not quite of this common earth stood there, and that from those pale
lips the awful truth would speak as if by the voice of revelation.

So Maurice Clissold thought as he looked at her. Never till this moment
had she appeared to him beautiful; and now it was no common beauty
which he beheld in her, but a strange and spiritual charm impossible of
definition.

'You were the last person who saw Mr. Penwyn alive, except his
murderer?' said Mr. Pergament, interrogatively, after the usual formula
had been gone through.

'I opened the shop door for him when he went out, after supper.'

'At what o'clock?'

'Half-past two.'

'Was he perfectly sober at that time?'

'Oh yes,' with an indignant look.

'Was he going back to the "Waterfowl" alone?'

'Quite alone.'

'Did he say anything particular to you just at last?—anything that it
might be important for us to know?'

A faint colour flushed the pale face at the question.

'Nothing.'

'Is that all you can tell us?'

'There is only one thing more,' the girl answered, calmly. 'I stood at
the door a few minutes to watch Mr. Penwyn walking up the street, and
just as he turned the corner a man passed on the opposite side of the
way in the same direction.'

'Towards Lowgate?'

'Yes.'

'What kind of a man?'

'He was rather tall, and wore an overcoat, and a thick scarf around his
neck, as if it had been winter.'

'Did you see his face?'

'No.'

'Or notice anything else about him—anything besides the overcoat and
the muffler?'

'Nothing.'

'You say he was tall. Was he as tall as that gentleman, do you
suppose?—Stand up for a moment, if you please, Mr. Clissold.'

Clissold stood up. He was above the average height of tall men, well
over six feet.

'No, he was not so tall as that.'

'Are you sure of that? A man would look taller in this room than in the
street. Do you allow for that difference?' inquired Mr. Pergament.

'I do not believe that the man I saw that night was so tall as Mr.
Clissold, nor so broad across the shoulders.'

'That will do.'

The chief constable next gave evidence as to the finding of the body,
the watch buried in the ditch, the empty purse. Then came the landlady
of the 'Waterfowl,' with an account of the high words between the
two gentlemen, and Mr. Clissold's abrupt departure on the following
morning. The Spinnersbury detectives followed, and described Mr.
Clissold's arrest, the tracing of footsteps behind the hedge and down
to the towpath, and how they had compared Mr. Clissold's boot with the
footprints without being able to arrive at any positive conclusion.

'It might very easily be the print of the same foot in a different
boot,' said Higlett. 'It isn't so much the difference between the size
of the feet as the shape and cut of the boot. The man must have been
tall, the length of his stride shows that.'

There was no further evidence. The coroner addressed the jury.

After a few minutes' consultation they returned their verdict,—'That
the deceased had been murdered by some person or persons unknown.'

Thus Maurice Clissold found himself a free man again, but with the
uncomfortable feeling of having been, for a few days, supposed the
murderer of his bosom friend. It seemed to him that a stigma would
attach to his name henceforward. He would be spoken of as the man who
had been suspected, and who was in all probability guilty, but who had
been let slip because the chain of evidence was not quite strong enough
to hang him.

'I suppose if I had been tried in Scotland the verdict would have been
"Non Proven,"' he thought.

One only means of self-justification remained open to him, viz., to
find the real murderer. He fancied that Higlett and Smelt looked at him
with unfriendly eyes. They were aggravated by the loss of the reward.
They would turn their attention in a new direction, no doubt, but
considerable time had been lost while they were on a wrong scent.

Maurice Clissold could not quite make up his mind about those Bohemians
of the Eborsham Theatre; whether this vagabond heavy father might not
know something more than he cared to reveal about James Penwyn's fate.
He had given his evidence with a sufficiently straightforward air,
and the girl was above doubt. Truth was stamped on the pale sorrowful
face,—truth, and a silent grief. Could that grief have its root in
some fatal secret? Did she know her father guilty of this crime, and
shield him with heroic falsehoods, only less sublime than truth?

She stood by her father's side, a little way apart from the crowd, as
she had stood throughout the inquiry, intently watchful.

While Maurice lingered, debating whether he should follow up the
strolling players, Churchill Penwyn came straight across the room
towards him, before the undispersed assembly.

'I congratulate you on your release, Mr. Clissold,' he said, offering
his hand with a friendly air, 'and permit me to assure you that I,
for one, have been fully assured of your innocence throughout this
melancholy business.'

'I thank you for doing me justice, Mr. Penwyn. I was very fond of your
cousin. I liked him as well as if he had been my brother, and if the
question had been put to me whether harm should come to him or me, I
believe I should have chosen the evil lot for myself. His mother was a
second mother to me, God bless her. She asked me to take care of him
a few hours before her death, and I felt from that time as if I were
responsible for his future. He was little more than a boy when his poor
mother died. He was little more than a boy the last time I saw him
alive, the night we had our first quarrel.'

'What was the quarrel about?'

Mr. Clissold shrugged his shoulders, and glanced round the room, which
was clearing by degrees, but not yet empty.

'It's too long a story to enter upon here,' he said.

'Come and dine with me at the "Castle," at eight o'clock, and tell me
all about it,' said Churchill.

'You're very good. No. I can't manage that. I have something to do.'

'What is that?'

'To begin a business that may take a long time to finish.'

'May I ask the nature of that business?'

'I want to find James Penwyn's murderer.'

Churchill shrugged his shoulders and smiled—a half compassionate smile.

'My dear sir,' he said, 'do you think that the murderer is ever found
in such a case as this—given a delay of three days and nights—ample
time for him to ship himself for any port in the known world? A low,
clodhopping assassin, no doubt, in no way distinguishable from other
clodhoppers. Find him! did you say? I can conceive no endeavour more
hopeless. It is the fashion to rail at our police because they find it
a little difficult to put their hands upon every delinquent who may be
wanted, but it is hardly the simplest business in the world, to pick
the right man out of ten or fifteen millions.'

Maurice Clissold heard him with a troubled look and short impatient sigh.

'I dare say you are right,' he said, 'but I shall do my best to unravel
the mystery, even if I am doomed to fail.'

He asked some questions about his friend's funeral. It was to be at
three o'clock on the following day, and Churchill was going back to
London by an early train in order to attend as chief mourner.

'I shall be there,' said Maurice Clissold, and they parted with a
friendly hand-shake.

Clissold was touched by Mr. Penwyn's friendliness. That stigma of _non
proven_ had not affected Churchill's opinion at any rate.

He followed Matthew Elgood and his daughter into the street, and joined
them as they walked slowly homeward, the girl's face half hidden by her
veil.

'I want to have a talk with you, Mr. Elgood, if you've no objection,'
said Maurice. 'Unless you consider me tainted by the suspicion that
has hung over me for the last three days, and object to hold any
intercourse with me.'

'No, sir, I suspect no man,' answered the actor, with dignity.
'Although you were pleased to object to your lamented friend's
inclination for my society I bear no malice, and I do you the justice
to believe you had no part in his untimely end.'

'I thank you, Mr. Elgood, for your confidence. Since I have been in
that abominable gaol I feel as if there were some odour of felony
hanging about me. With regard to the objections of which you speak, I
can assure you that they were founded upon no personal dislike, but
upon prudential reasons, which I need not enlarge upon.'

'Enough, Mr. Clissold, it boots not now! If you will follow to our
humble abode, and share the meal our modest means provide, I will
enlighten you upon this theme, so far as my scant knowledge serve
withal,' said the actor, unconsciously lapsing into blank verse.

Maurice accepted the invitation. He had a curious desire to see more of
that girl, whose pale face had assumed a kind of sublimity just now in
the crowded court. Could she really have cared for his murdered friend?
She, who had but known him two days? Or was there some dark secret
which moved her thus deeply? The man seemed frank and open enough. Hard
to believe that villainy lurked beneath the Bohemian's rough kindliness.

They went straight to the lodging in the narrow street leading down
to the river. Here all seemed comfortable enough. The evening meal,
half tea, half dinner, was ready laid when Mr. Elgood and his visitor
went in, and Mr. and Mrs. Dempson were waiting with some impatience for
their refreshment. They looked somewhat surprised at the appearance
of Clissold, and Mrs. Dempson returned his greeting with a certain
stiffness. 'It isn't the pleasantest thing in the world to sit down to
table with a suspected murderer,' she remarked afterwards, to which
Justina replied, with a sudden flash of anger, 'Do you suppose I would
sit in the same room with him if I thought him guilty?'

The low comedian took things more easily than his wife.

'Well, Mat,' he said, 'I thought you were never coming. I've been down
at the "Arms," and heard the inquest. Glad to see you at liberty again,
Mr. Clissold. A most preposterous business, your arrest. I heard all
the evidence. I think those Spinnersbury detectives ought to get it
hot. I dare say the press will slang 'em pretty tolerably. Well done,
Judy!' he went on, with a friendly slap on Justina's shoulder, 'you
spoke up like a good one. If you spoke as well as that on the stage,
you'd soon be fit for the juvenile lead!'

Justina spoke no word, but took her place quietly at the table, where
Mrs. Dempson was pouring out the tea, while Mr. Elgood dispensed a
juicy rump-steak.

'I went to the butcher's for it myself,' he said. 'There's nothing like
personal influence in these things. They wouldn't dare give me a slice
off some superannuated cow. They know when they've got to deal with a
judge. "That's beef," said the butcher, as he slapped his knife across
the loin, and beef it is. Do you like it with the gravy in it, Mr.
Clissold?'

There was a dish of steaming potatoes, and a bowl of lettuces, which
greenstuff Mrs. Dempson champed as industriously as if she had been a
blood relation of Nebuchadnezzar's.

Never had Maurice Clissold seen any one so silent or so self-sustained
as this pale, thin, shadowy-looking girl, whom her friends called
Judy. She interested him strangely, and he did sorry justice to Mr.
Elgood's ideal steak, while watching her. She herself hardly ate
anything; but the others were too deeply absorbed in their own meal to
be concerned about her. She sat by her father, and drank a little tea,
sat motionless for the most part, with her dark thoughtful eyes looking
far away, looking into some world that was not for the rest.

So soon as the pangs of hunger were appeased, and the pleasures of the
table in some measure exhausted, Mr. Elgood became loquacious again.
He gave a detailed description of that last day on the racecourse—the
supper—all that James Penwyn had said or done within his knowledge.
And then came a discussion as to who could have done the deed.

'He was in the theatre all the evening, you say,' said Maurice. 'Is
it possible that any of the scene-shifters, or workmen of any kind,
may have observed him—seen him open a well-filled purse, perhaps—and
followed him after he left this house? It was one of his foolish habits
to carry too much money about him—from twenty to fifty pounds, for
instance. He used to say it was a bore to sit down and write a cheque
for every trifle he wanted. And of course, in our travels, ready money
was a necessity. Could it have been one of your people, do you think?'

'No, sir,' replied Mr. Elgood. 'The stage has contributed nothing to
the records of crime. From the highest genius who has ever adorned
the drama to the lowest functionary employed in the working of its
machinery, there has been no such thing as a felon.'

'I am glad to hear you say so, Mr. Elgood; yet it is clear to me
that this crime must have been committed by some one who watched and
followed my poor friend—some one who knew enough of him to know that
he had money about him.'

'I grant you, sir,' replied the actor.

It was now time for these Thespians to repair to the theatre, all but
Justina, who, for a wonder, was not in the first piece. Maurice took
notice of this fact, and after walking to the theatre with Mr. Elgood,
went back to that gentleman's lodgings to have a few words alone with
his daughter.

He passed through the shop unchallenged, visitors for the lodgers
being accustomed to pass in and out in a free and easy manner. He went
quietly upstairs. The sitting-room door stood ajar. He pushed it open,
and went in.



CHAPTER XIII.

'MY LOVE, MY LOVE, AND NO LOVE FOR ME.'


Justina was leaning before an old easy chair, her face buried in the
faded chintz cushion, sobbing vehemently—curiously changed from
the silent, impassible being Maurice had taken leave of ten minutes
earlier. The sight of her sorrow touched him. Whatever it meant, this
was real grief at any rate.

'Forgive me for this intrusion, Miss Elgood,' he said, gently,
remaining near the door lest he should startle her by his abrupt
approach. 'I am very anxious to talk to you alone, and ventured to
return.'

She started up, hastily wiping away her tears.

'I am sorry to see you in such deep grief,' he said. 'You must have a
tender heart to feel my poor friend's sad fate so acutely.'

The pallid face crimsoned, as if this had been a reproof.

'I have no right to be so sorry, I dare say,' faltered Justina, 'but he
was very kind to me—kinder than any one ever was before,—and it is
hard that he should be taken away so cruelly, just when life seemed to
be all new and different because of his goodness.'

'Poor child. You must have a grateful nature.'

'I am grateful to _him_.'

'I can understand that just at first you may feel his death as if it
were a personal loss, but that cannot last long. You had known him
so short a time. Granted that he admired you, and paid you pretty
compliments and attentions which may be new to one so young. If he had
lived to bid you good-bye to-morrow, and pass on his way, you would
hardly have remembered him a week.'

'I should have remembered him all my life,' said Justina, firmly.

'He had made a deep impression upon your mind or your fancy, then, in
those two days.'

'He loved me,' the girl answered, with a little burst of passion, 'and
I gave him back love for love with all my heart, with all my strength,
as they tell us we ought to love God. Why do you come here to torment
me about him? You cannot bring him back to life. God will not. I would
spend all my life upon my knees if he could be raised up again, like
Lazarus! I meant never to have spoken of this. I have kept it even from
my father. He told me that he loved me, and that I was to be his wife,
and that all our lives to come were to be spent together. Think what it
is to have been so happy and to have lost all.'

'Poor child,' repeated Clissold, laying his hand gently, as priest
or father might have laid it, on the soft brown hair, thrust back in
a tangled mass from the hot brow. 'Poor children, children both. It
would have been a foolish marriage at best, my dear girl, if he had
lived, and kept in the same mind. Unequal marriages bring remorse
and misery for the most part. James Penwyn was not a hard-working
wayfarer like me, who may choose my wife at any turn on the world's
high road. He was the owner of a good old estate, and the happiness
of his future depended on his making a suitable marriage. His wife
must have been somebody before she was his wife. She must have had her
own race to refer to, something to boast of on her own side, so that
when their children grew up they should be able to give a satisfactory
account of their maternal uncles and aunts. I dare, say you think me
worldly-minded, poor child; but I am only worldly-wise. If it were a
question of personal merit you might have made the best of wives.'

The girl heard this long speech with an absent air, her tearful eyes
fixed on vacancy, her restless hands clasped tightly, as if she would
fain have restrained her grief by that muscular grip.

'I don't know whether it was wise or foolish,' she said, 'but I know we
loved each other.'

'I loved him too, Justina,' said Maurice, using her Christian name
involuntarily—she was not the kind of person to be called Miss
Elgood—'as well as one man can love another. I take his death quietly
enough, you see, but I would give ten years of my life to find his
murderer.'

'I would give all my life,' said Justina, with a look that made him
think she would verily have done it.

'You know nothing more than you told at the inquest this
afternoon?—nothing that could throw any light upon his death?'

'Nothing. You ought to know much more about it than I.'

'How so?'

'You know all that went before that time—his circumstances—his
associates. I have lain awake thinking of this thing from night till
morning, until I believe that every idea that could be thought about it
has come into my head. There must have been some motive for his murder.'

'The motive seems obvious enough,—highway robbery.'

'Yet his watch was found in the ditch.'

'His murderer may naturally have feared to take anything likely to lead
to detection. His money was taken.'

'Yes. It may have been for that. Yet it seems strange that he should
have been chosen out of so many—that he should have been the only
victim—murdered for the sake of a few pounds.'

'Unhappily, sordid as the motive is, that is a common kind of murder,'
replied Maurice.

'But might not some one have a stronger motive than that?'

'I can imagine none. James never in his life made an enemy.'

'Are you quite sure of that?'

'As sure as I can be of anything about a young man whom I knew as well
as if he had been my brother,' replied Maurice, wondering at the girl's
calm clear tone. At this moment she seemed older than her years—his
equal, or more than his equal in shrewdness and judgment.

'Is there any one who would be a gainer by his death?' she asked.

'Naturally. The next heir to the Penwyn estate is a very considerable
gainer. For him James Penwyn's death means the difference between a
hard-working life like mine and a splendid future.'

'Could he have anything to do with the crime?'

'He! Churchill Penwyn? Well, no; it would be about as hard to suspect
him as it was to suspect me. Churchill Penwyn is a gentleman, and, I
conclude, a man of honour. His conduct towards me to-day showed him a
man of kind feeling.'

'No. I suppose gentlemen do not commit such crimes,' mused Justina. 'And
we shall never know who killed him. That seems hardest of all. That
bright young life taken, and the wretch who took it left to go free.'

Tears filled her eyes as she turned away from Clissold, ashamed of her
grief; tears which should have been shed in secret, but which she could
not keep back when she thought of her young lover's doom.

Clissold tried to soothe her, assured her of his friendship—his help
should she ever need it.

'I shall always be interested in you,' he said. 'I shall think of you
as my poor lad's first and last love. He had had his foolish, boyish
flirtations before; but I have reason to know that he never asked any
other woman to be his wife; and he was too staunch and true to make
such an offer unless he meant it.'

Justina gave him a grateful look. It was the first time he had seen her
face light up with anything like pleasure that day.

'You do believe that he loved me, then?' she exclaimed, eagerly.
'It was not all my own foolish dream. He was not'—the next words
came slowly, as if it hurt her to speak them—'amusing himself at my
expense.'

'I have no doubt of his truth. I never knew him tell a lie. I do not
say that his fancy would have lasted—it may have been too ardent, too
sudden, to stand wear and tear. But be assured for the moment he was
true—would have wrecked his life, perhaps, to keep true to the love of
a day.'

This time the girl looked at him angrily.

'Why do you tell me he must have changed if God had spared him?' she
added. 'Why do you find it so hard to imagine that he might have gone
on loving me? Am I so degraded a creature in your eyes?'

'I am quite ready to believe that you are a very noble girl,' answered
Maurice, 'worthy a better lover than my poor friend. But you are Miss
Elgood, of the Theatre Royal, Eborsham, and he was Squire Penwyn, of
Penwyn. Time would not have changed those two facts, and might have
altered his way of looking at them.'

'Don't tell me that he would have changed,' she cried, passionately.
'Let me think that I have lost all—love, happiness, home, wealth,
all that any woman ever hoped to win. It cannot add to my grief for
him. It would not take away from my love for him even to know that he
was fickle, and would have grown tired of me. Those two days were the
only happy days of my life. They will dwell in my mind for ever, a
changeless memory. I shall never see the sunshine without thinking how
it shone once upon us two on Eborsham racecourse. I shall never see the
moonlight without remembering how we two sat side by side watching the
willow branches dipping into the river.'

'A childish love,' thought Maurice; 'a young heart's first fancy; a
fabric that would wear out in six months or so.'

'Happy days will come again,' he said, gently. 'You will go on acting,
and succeed in your profession. You are just the kind of girl to whom
genius will come in a flash—like inspiration. You will succeed and
be famous by and by, and look back with a sad, pitying smile at James
Penwyn's love, and say to yourself with a half-regretful sigh, 'That
was youth!' You will be loved some day by a man who will prove to you
that true love is not the growth of a few summer hours.'

'I should like to be famous some day,' the girl answered, proudly,
'just to show you that I might have been worthy of your friend's love.'

'I fear I have offended you by my plain speaking, Miss Elgood,'
returned Maurice, 'but if ever you need a friend, and will honour me
with your confidence, you shall not find me unworthy of your trust. I
have not a very important position in the world; but I am a gentleman
by birth and education, and not wanting in some of those commonplace
qualities which help a man on the road of life; such as patience
and perseverance, industry and strength of purpose. I have chosen
literature as my profession; for that calling gives me the privilege I
should be least inclined to forego, liberty. My income is happily just
large enough to make me independent of earning, so that I can afford to
write as the birds sing—without cutting my coat according to any other
man's cloth. If ever you and your father are in London, Miss Elgood,
and inclined to test my sincerity, you may find me at this address.'

He gave Justina his card—

      MR. MAURICE CLISSOLD,
                    Hogarth Place,
                            Bloomsbury.

'Not a fashionable locality, by any means,' he said, 'but central, and
near the British Museum where I generally spend my mornings when I am
in London.'

Justina took the card listlessly enough, not as if she had any
intention of taxing Mr. Clissold's friendship in the future. He saw how
far her thoughts were from him, and from all common things. She rose
with a startled look as the cathedral clock chimed the three-quarters
after seven.

'I shall be late for the piece,' she exclaimed with alarm; 'I forget
everything.'

'It is my fault for detaining you,' said Maurice, concerned to see her
look of distress. 'Let me walk to the theatre with you.'

'But I've some things to carry,' she answered, hurriedly rolling up
some finery which had bestrewed a side table—veil, shoes, ribbons,
feathers, a dilapidated fan.

'I am not afraid of carrying a parcel.'

They went out together, Justina breathless, and hurried to the stage
door.

Maurice penetrated some dark passages, and stumbled up some break-neck
stairs, in his anxiety to learn if his companion were really late. The
band was grinding away at an overture. The second piece had not begun.

'Is it all right?' asked Maurice, just as the light figure that had
sped on before him was disappearing behind a dusky door.

'Yes,' cried Justina, 'I don't go on till the second scene. I shall
have just time to dress.'

So Mr. Clissold groped his way to the outer air, relieved in mind.

It was a still summer evening, and this part of the city had a quiet,
forgotten air, as of a spot from which busy life had drifted away. The
theatre did not create any circle of animation and bustle in these
degenerate days, and seen from the outside might have been mistaken for
a chapel. There were a few small boys hanging about near the stage door
as Mr. Clissold emerged, and these, he perceived, looked at him with
interest and spoke to one another about him. He was evidently known,
even to these street boys, as the man who had been suspected of his
friend's murder.

He walked round to the quiet little square in front of the theatre,
lighted his pipe, and took a turn up and down the empty pavement,
meditating what he should do with himself for the rest of the evening.

Last night he had slept placidly enough in the mediæval jail, worn out
with saddest thoughts. To-night there was nothing for him to do but go
back to the 'Waterfowl,' where the rooms would seem haunted—put his
few belongings together, and get ready for going back to London. His
holiday was over, and how sad the end!

He had been very fond of James Penwyn. Only now, when they two were
parted for ever, did he know how strong that attachment had been.

The bright young face, the fresh, gay voice, all gone!

'I am not quick at making friendships,' thought Maurice. 'I feel as if
his death had left me alone in the world.'

His life had been unusually lonely, save for this one strong
friendship. He had lost his father in childhood, and his mother a few
years later. Happily Captain Clissold, although a younger son, had
inherited a small estate in Devonshire, from his mother. This gave his
orphan son four hundred a year—an income which permitted his education
at Eton and Oxford, and which made him thoroughly independent as a
young man, to whom the idea of matrimony and its obligations seemed far
off.

His uncle, Sir Henry Clissold, was a gentleman of some standing in the
political world, a county member, a man who was chairman of innumerable
committees, and never had a leisure moment. This gentleman's ideas of
the fitness of things were outraged by his nephew's refusal to adopt
any profession.

'I could have pushed you forward in almost any career you had chosen,'
he said, indignantly. 'I have friends I can command in all the
professions; or if you had cared to go to India, you might have been a
judge in the Sudder before you were five-and-thirty.'

'Thanks, my dear uncle, I shouldn't care about being broiled alive,
or having to learn from twenty to thirty dialects before I could
understand plaintiff or defendant,' Maurice replied, coolly. 'Give me
my crust of bread and liberty.'

'Fortunate for you that you have your crust of bread,' growled Sir
Henry, 'but at the rate you are going you will never provide yourself
with a slice of cheese.'

To-night, perhaps for the first time, Maurice Clissold felt that life
was a mistake. His friend and comrade had been more necessary to him
than he could have believed, for he had never quite accepted James as
his equal in intellect. He had had his own world of thought, which the
careless lad never entered. But now that the boy was gone he felt that
shadowy world darkened by his loss.

'Would to Heaven I could stand face to face with his murderer!' he said
to himself; 'one of us two should go down, never to rise again!'



CHAPTER XIV.

'TRUTH IS TRUTH, TO THE END OF TIME.'


Mr. Pergament went back to London by a train which left Eborsham at
half-past five in the afternoon, half an hour after the termination
of the inquest. Churchill went to the station with his solicitor, saw
him into the railway carriage, and only left the platform when the
train had carried Mr. Pergament away on his road to London. It was an
understood thing that Pergament and Pergament were to keep the Penwyn
estate in their hands, and that Churchill's interests were henceforward
to be their interests. To Pergament and Pergament, indeed, it was as if
James Penwyn had never existed, so completely did they transfer their
allegiance to his successor.

Churchill walked slowly away from the station, seemingly somewhat at
a loss how to dispose of his time. He might have gone back to London
with Mr. Pergament, certainly, for he had no further business in the
city of Eborsham. But for some sufficient reason of his own he had
chosen to remain, although he was not a little anxious to see Madge
Bellingham, whom he had not met since the change in his fortunes. He
had written to her before he left London, to announce that fact—but
briefly—feeling that any expression of pleasure in the altered
circumstances of his life would show badly in black and white. He had
expressed himself properly grieved at his cousin's sad death, but had
affected no exaggerated affliction. Those clear dark eyes of Madge's
seemed to be looking through him as he wrote.

'I wonder if it is possible to keep a secret from her?' he thought.
'She has a look that pierces my soul—such utter truthfulness.'

He had ordered his dinner for eight, and it was not yet six, so he had
ample leisure for loitering. He went back to Lowgate and out through
the bar to the dull, quiet road where James met his death. Churchill
Penwyn wanted to see the spot where the murder had been committed.

He had heard it described so often that it was easy enough for him
to find it. A few ragged bushes of elder and blackberry divided the
low marshy ground from the road just at this point. From behind these
bushes the murderer had taken his aim,—at least that was the theory
of the police. Between the road and the river the herbage was sour and
scant, and the cattle that browsed thereon had a solitary and dejected
look, as if they knew they were shut out from the good things of this
life. They seemed to be the odds and ends of the animal creation, and
to have come there accidentally. A misanthropical donkey, a lean cow
or two, some gaunt, ragged-looking horses, a bony pig, scattered wide
apart over the narrow tract of sward along the low bank of the river.

Mr. Penwyn contemplated the spot thoughtfully for a little while, as
if he would fain have made out something which the police had failed
to discover, and then strolled across the grass to the river-bank. The
gloomy solitude of the scene seemed to please him, for he walked on
for some distance, meditative and even moody. Fortune brings its own
responsibilities; and a man who finds himself suddenly exalted from
poverty to wealth is not always gay.

He was strolling quietly along the bank, his eyes bent upon the
river, with that dreaming gaze which sees not the thing it seems to
contemplate, when he was startled from his reverie by the sound of
voices near at hand, and looking away from the water perceived that
he had stumbled on a gipsy encampment. There were the low arched
tents—mere kennels under canvas, where the dusky tribe burrowed at
night or in foul weather—the wood fire—the ever-simmering pot—the
litter of ashes, and dirty straw, and bones, and a broken bottle
or two—the sinister-browed vagabond lying on his stomach like the
serpent, smoking his grimy pipe, and scowling at any chance passer
by—the half-naked children playing among the rubbish, the women
sitting on the ground plaiting rushes into a door-mat. All these
Churchill's eye took in at a glance—something more, too, perhaps, for
he looked at one of the women curiously for a moment, and slackened his
leisurely pace.

She put down her mat, rose, and walked beside him.

'Let me tell your fortune, pretty gentleman,' she began, with the
same professional sing-song in which she had addressed James Penwyn a
few days before. It was the same woman who stopped the late Squire of
Penwyn lower down the river bank.

'I don't want my fortune told, thank you. I know what it is pretty
well,' replied Churchill, in his calm, cold voice.

'Don't say that, pretty gentleman. No one can look into the urn of
fate.'

'And yet you and your tribe pretend to do it,' said Churchill.

'We study the stars more than others do, and learn to read 'em, my
noble gentleman. I've read something in the stars about you since the
night your cousin was murdered.'

'And pray what do the stars say of me?' inquired Churchill, with a
scornful laugh.

'They say that you're a kind-hearted gentleman at bottom, and will
befriend a poor gipsy.'

'I'm afraid they're out in their reckoning, for once in a way.
Perhaps it was Mercury you got the information from. He's a notorious
trickster. And now, pray, my good woman,' turning to see that they
were beyond ken of the rest, 'what did you mean by sending me a letter
to say you could tell me something about my cousin's death? If you
really have any information to give, your wisest course is to carry
it directly to the police; and if your information should lead to the
discovery of the murderer, you may earn a reward that will provide for
you for the rest of your life.'

His eyes were on the woman's face as he spoke, with that intent look
with which he was accustomed to read the human countenance.

'I've thought of that,' answered the gipsy, 'and I was very near going
and telling all I knew to the police the morning after the murder, but
I changed my mind about it when I heard you were here; I thought it
might be better for me to see you first.'

'I can't quite fathom your motive. However as I am willing to give
two hundred pounds reward for such information as may lead to the
apprehension and conviction of the murderer, you may have come to the
right person in coming to me; only, I tell you frankly, that, deeply as
I am interested in the punishment of my cousin's assassin, I had rather
not be troubled about details. I won't even ask the nature of your
information. Take my advice, my good soul, and carry it to the police.
They are the people to profit by it; they are the people to act upon it.'

'Yes, and cheat me of the reward after all choke me off with a
five-pound note, perhaps. I know too much of the police to be
over-inclined to trust 'em.'

'Is your information conclusive?' asked Churchill; 'certain to lead to
the conviction of the murderer?'

'I won't say so much as that, but I know it's worth hearing, and worth
paying for.'

'You may as well tell me all about it, if you don't like to tell the
police.'

'What, without being paid for my secret? No, my pretty gentleman, I'm
not such a fool as that.'

'Come,' said Churchill, with a laugh, 'what does your knowledge amount
to? Nothing, I dare say, that every one else in Eborsham doesn't
share. You know that my cousin has been murdered, and that I am anxious
to find the murderer.'

'I know more than that, my noble gentleman.'

'What then?'

'I know who did it.'

Churchill turned his quick glance upon her again, searching,
incredulous, derisive.

'Come,' he said, 'you don't expect to make me believe that you know the
criminal, and let him slip, and lost your chance of the reward? You are
not that kind of woman.'

'I don't say that I've let him slip, or lost my chance of profiting by
what I know. Suppose the criminal was some one I'm interested in—some
one I shouldn't like to see come to harm?'

'In that case you shouldn't come to me about it. You don't imagine that
I am going to condone my cousin's murder? But I believe your story is
all a fable.'

'It's as true as the planets. We have been encamped here for the last
week, and on the night of the murder we'd all been at the races. Folks
are always kind to gipsies upon a racecourse, and there was plenty to
eat and drink for all of us—perhaps a little too much drink,—and
when the races were over I fell asleep in one of the booths, among
some straw in a corner where no one took any notice of me. My son
Reuben—him, as you saw yonder just now—was in the town, up to very
little good, I dare say, and left me to take care of myself; and when
I woke it was late at night, and the place was all dark and quiet. I
didn't know how late it was till I came through the town and found all
the lights out, and the streets empty, and heard the cathedral clock
strike two. I walked slow, and the clock had struck the half-hour
before I got through the Bar. I was dead tired standing and walking
about the racecourse all day, and as I came along this road I saw
some one walking a little way ahead of me. He walked on, and I walked
after him, keeping on the other side of the way, and in the shadow of
the hedge about a hundred yards behind him, and all at once I heard a
shot fired, and saw him drop down. There was no one to give the alarm
to, and no good in giving it if he was dead. I kept on in the shadow
till I came nearly opposite where he lay, and then I slipped down
into the ditch. There was no water in it, nothing but mud and slime
and duckweed, and such like; and I squatted there in the shadow and
watched.'

'Like some toad in its hole,' said Churchill. 'Common humanity would
have urged you to try to help the fallen man.'

'He was past help, kind gentleman. He dropped without a groan, never so
much as moaned as he lay there. And it was wiser for me to watch the
murderer so as to be able to bear witness against him, when the right
time came, than to scare him away by skreeking out like a raven.'

'Well, woman, you watched and saw—what?'

'I saw a man stooping over the murdered gentleman; a tall man in a
loose overcoat, with a scarf muffled round his neck. He put his hand
in the other one's bosom, to feel if his heart had left off beating, I
suppose, and drew it out again bloody. I could see that, even in the
dim light betwixt night and morning, for I've something of a cat's eye,
your honour, and am pretty well used to seeing in the dark. Candles
ain't over plentiful with our people. He held up his hand dripping with
blood, and pulled a white handkerchief out of his pocket with the other
hand to wipe the blood off.'

Churchill turned and looked her in the face, for the first time since
she had begun her narrative.

'Come,' he said, 'you're overdoing the details. Your story would sound
more like truth if it were less elaborate.'

'I can't help the sound of it, sir. There's not a word I'm saying that
I wouldn't swear by, to-morrow, in a court of justice.'

'You've kept your evidence back too long, I'm afraid. You ought to have
given this information at the inquest. A jury would hardly believe your
story now.'

'What, not if I had proof of what I say?'

'What proof, woman?'

'The handkerchief with which the murderer wiped those blood-stains off
his hands!'

'Pshaw!' exclaimed Churchill, contemptuously. 'There are a hundred ways
in which you might come possessed of a man's handkerchief. Your tribe
lives by such petty plunder. Do you suppose that you, a gipsy and a
vagabond, would ever persuade a British jury to believe your evidence,
against a gentleman?'

'What!' cried the woman eagerly, 'then you know it was a gentleman who
murdered your cousin?' 'Didn't you say so just this minute?'

'Not I, my noble gentleman. I told you he was tall, and wore an
overcoat. That's all I told you about him.'

'Well, what next?'

'He wiped the blood off his hand, then put the handkerchief back in
his pocket, as he thought; but I suppose he wasn't quite used to the
work he was doing, for in his confusion he missed the pocket and let
the handkerchief fall into the road. I didn't give him time to find out
his mistake, for while he was stooping over the dead man, emptying his
pockets, I crept across the road, got hold of the handkerchief, and
slipped back to my hiding-place in the ditch again. I'm light of foot,
you see, your honour, though an old woman.'

'What next?'

'He opened the dead man's purse, emptied it, and put the contents in
his own waistcoat pocket. Then he crammed watch and purse down into the
ditch—the same ditch where I was hiding, but a little way off,—took
a stick which he had broken off the hedge, and thrust it down into the
mud under the weeds, making sure, I suppose, that no one could ever
find it there. When he had done this, he pulled himself together, as
you may say, and hurried off as fast as he could go, panting like a
hunted deer, across the swampy ground and towards the river, where they
found his footsteps afterwards. I think it would have been cleverer of
him if he'd left his victim's pockets alone, and let those that found
the body rob it, as they'd have been pretty sure to do. Yet it was
artful of him to clean the pockets out, so as to make it seem a common
case of highway robbery with violence.'

'What did you do with the handkerchief?'

'Took it home with me, to that tent yonder, that's what we call home,
and lighted an end of candle, and smoothed out the handkerchief to
see if there was any mark upon it. Gentlemen are so particular about
their things, you see, and don't like to get 'em changed at the wash.
Yes, there the mark was, sure enough. The name in full—Christian
and surname. It was as much as I could do to read 'em, for the
blood-stains.'

'What was the name?'

'That's my secret. Every secret has its price, and I've put a price on
mine. If I was sure of getting the reward, and not having the police
turn against me, I might be more ready to tell what I know.'

'You're a curious woman,' said Churchill, after a longish pause. 'But I
suppose you've some plan of your own?'

'Yes, your honour, I have my views.'

'As to this story of yours, even supported by the evidence of this
handkerchief which you pretend to have found, I doubt very much if it
would have the smallest weight with a jury. I do not, therefore, press
you to bring forward your information; though as my cousin's next of
kin, it is of course my duty to do my best to bring his assassin to
justice.'

'That's just what I thought, your honour.'

'Precisely. And you did quite right in bringing the subject before me.
It will be necessary for me to know when and where I can find you in
future, so that when the right time comes you may be at hand to make
your statement.'

'We are but wanderers on the face of the earth kind gentleman,' whined
the gipsy. 'It isn't very easy to find us when you want us.'

'That's what I've been thinking,' returned Churchill, musingly. 'If
you had some settled home, now? You're getting old, and must be tired
of roving, I fancy. Sleeping upon straw, under canvas, in a climate in
which east winds are the rule rather than the exception. That sort of
thing must be rather trying at your time of life, I should imagine.'

'Trying? I'm racked with the rheumatics every winter, your honour. My
bones are not so much bones as gnawing wolves—they torment me so.
Sometimes I feel as if I could chop off my limbs willingly, to be quit
of the pain in 'em. A settled home—a warm bed—a fireside—that would
be heaven to me.'

'Well, I'll think about it, and see what can be done for you. In the
meantime I'll give you a trifle to ward off the rheumatism.'

He opened his purse, and gave the woman a bank note, part of an advance
made him by Mr. Pergament that morning. The gipsy uttered her usual
torrent of blessings—the gratitude wherewith she was wont to salute
her benefactors.

'Have you ever been in Cornwall?' asked Churchill.

'Lord love your honour! there isn't a nook or a corner in all England
where I haven't been!'

'Good. If you happen to be in Cornwall any time during the next three
months, you may look me up at Penwyn Manor.'

'Bless you, my generous gentleman, it won't be very long before you see
me.'

'Whenever you please,' returned Churchill, with that air of well-bred
indifference which he wore as a badge of his class. 'Good afternoon.'

He turned to go back to the city, leaving the woman standing alone by
the river brink, looking after him; lost in thought, or lost in wonder.



CHAPTER XV.

'THEY SHALL PASS, AND THEIR PLACES BE TAKEN?'


The letter which told Miss Bellingham that her lover was master of
Penwyn seemed to her almost like the end of a fairy tale. Lady Cheshunt
had dropped in to afternoon tea only a quarter of an hour before the
letter arrived, and Madge was busy with the old Battersea cups and
saucers, and the quaint little Wedgwood teapot, when the accomplished
serving man, who never abated one iota of his professional solemnity
because his wages were doubtful, presented Churchill's letter on an
antique salver.

'Put it on the table, please,' said Madge, busy with the tea-service,
and painfully conscious that the dowager's eye was upon her. She had
recognised Churchill's hand at a glance, and thought how daring, nay,
even impudent it was of him to write to her. It was mean of him to
take such advantage of her weakness that Sunday morning, she thought.
True, that in one fatal moment she had let him discover the secret she
was most anxious to hide; but she had given him no right over her. She
had made him no promise. Her love had been admitted hypothetically. 'If
we lived in a different world. If I had myself only to consider,' she
had said to him; which meant that she would have nothing to do with him
under existing circumstances.

She glanced at Viola, that fragile Sèvres china beauty, with her air of
being unfitted for the vulgar uses of life.

'Poor child! For her sake I ought to marry Mr. Balecroft, that pompous
Manchester merchant; or that vapid young fop, Sir Henry Featherstone,'
she thought, with a sigh.

'Read your letter, my dear love,' said Lady Cheshunt, leaning over the
tray to put an extra lump of sugar into her cup, and scrutinizing the
address of that epistle which had brought the warm crimson blood to
Madge Bellingham's cheeks and brow. The good-natured dowager permitted
herself this breach of good breeding, in the warmth of her affection
for Madge. The handwriting was masculine, evidently. That was all Lady
Cheshunt could discover.

Miss Bellingham broke the seal, trying to look composed and
indifferent, but after hurriedly reading Churchill's brief letter, gave
a little cry of horror.

'Good heavens! it is too dreadful!' she exclaimed.

'What is too dreadful, child?'

'You remember what we were talking about last Saturday night, when you
took so much trouble to warn me against allowing myself to—to entangle
myself—I think that's what you called it—with Mr. Penwyn.'

'With the poor Mr. Penwyn. I remember, perfectly; and that letter is
from him—the man has had the audacity to propose to you? You may well
say it is too dreadful.'

'His cousin has been murdered, Lady Cheshunt—his cousin, Mr. James
Penwyn.'

'And your man comes into the Penwyn estate,' cried the energetic
dowager. 'My dearest Madge, I congratulate you! Poor young Penwyn! A
boy at school, or a lad at the University, I believe. Nobody seems to
know much about him.'

'He has been murdered. Shot from behind a hedge by some midnight
assassin. Isn't that dreadful?' said Madge, too much shocked by the
tidings in her lover's letter to consider the difference this event
might make in her own fortunes. She could not be glad all at once,
though that one man whom her heart had chosen for its master was raised
from poverty to opulence. For a little while at least, she could only
think of the victim.

'Very dreadful!' echoed Lady Cheshunt. 'The police ought to prevent
such things. One pays highway rates, and sewer rates, and so forth,
till one is positively ruined, and yet one can be murdered on the very
high road one pays for, with impunity. There must be something wrong in
the legislature. I hope things will be better when our party comes in.
Look at that child Viola, she's as white as a sheet of paper—just as
if she were going to faint. You shouldn't blurt out your murders in
that abrupt way, Madge.'

Viola gave a little hysterical sob, and promised not to faint this
time. She was but a fragile piece of human porcelain, given to swooning
at the slightest provocation. She went round to Madge, and knelt down
by her, and kissed her fondly, knowing enough of her sister's feelings
to comprehend that this fatal event was likely to benefit Madge.

'Odd that I did not see anything of this business in the papers,'
exclaimed Lady Cheshunt. 'But then I only read the _Post_, and that
does not make a feature of murders.'

'Papa is at Newmarket,' said Viola, 'and Madge and I never look at the
papers, or hear any news while he is away.'

Madge sat silent, looking at Churchill's letter till every word seemed
to burn itself into her brain. The firm, straight hand, the letters
long and narrow, and a little pointed—something like that wonderful
writing of Joseph Addison's—how well she knew it!

'And yet he _must_ have been agitated,' thought Madge. 'Even his quiet
force of character could not stand against such a shock as this. After
what he said to me, too, last Sunday—to think that wealth and position
should have come to him so suddenly. There seems something awful in it.'

Lady Cheshunt had quite recovered her habitual gaiety by this time, and
dismissed James Penwyn's death as a subject that was done with for the
moment, merely expressing her intention of reading the details of the
event in the newspapers at her leisure.

'And so, my dear Madge, Mr. Penwyn wrote to you immediately,' she said.
'Doesn't that look _rather_ as if there were some kind of understanding
between you?'

'There was no understanding between us, Lady Cheshunt, except that I
could never be Mr. Penwyn's wife while he was a poor man. He understood
that perfectly. I told him in the plainest, hardest words, like a woman
of the world as I am.'

'You needn't say that so contemptuously, Madge. I'm a woman of the
world, and I own it without a blush. What's the use of living in the
world if you don't acquire worldly wisdom? It's like living ever so
long in a foreign country without learning the language, and implies
egregious stupidity. And so you told Churchill Penwyn that you couldn't
marry him on account of his poverty! and you pledged yourself to wait
ten or twenty years for him, I suppose, and refuse every decent offer
for his sake?'

'No, Lady Cheshunt, I promised nothing.'

'Well, my dear, Providence has been very good to you: for, no doubt,
if Mr. Penwyn had remained poor you'd have made a fool of yourself
sooner or later for his sake, and gone to live in Bloomsbury, where
even I couldn't have visited you, on account of my servants. One might
get over that sort of thing one's self, but coachmen are so particular
where they wait.'

Her ladyship rattled on for another quarter of an hour, promised Madge
to come and stay at Penwyn Manor with her by and by, congratulated
Viola on her sister's good fortune, hoped that her dear Madge would
make a point of spending the season in London when she became Mrs.
Penwyn; while Madge sat unresponsive, hardly listening to this flow
of commonplace, but thinking how awful fortune was when it came thus
suddenly, and had death for its herald. She felt relieved when Lady
Cheshunt gathered up her silken train for the last time, and went
rustling downstairs to the elegant Victoria which appeared far too
fairy-like a vehicle to contain that bulky matron.

'Thank Heaven she's gone!' cried Madge. 'How she does talk!'

'Yes, dear, but she is always kind,' pleaded Viola, 'and so fond of
you.'

Madge put her arms round the girl and kissed her passionately. That
sisterly love of hers was almost the strongest feeling in her breast,
and all Madge's affections were strong. She had no milk-and-water love.

'Dearest!' she said softly, 'how happy we can be now! I hope it isn't
wicked to be happy when fortune comes to us in such a dreadful manner.'

'You do care a little for Mr. Penwyn, then, dear?' said Viola, without
entering upon this somewhat obscure question.

'I love him with all my heart and soul.'

'Oh, Madge, and you never told me!'

'Why tell you something that might make you unhappy? I should never
have dreamt of marrying Churchill but for this turn in Fortune's
wheel. I wanted to make what is called a good marriage, for your sake,
darling, more than for my own. I wanted to win a happy home for you, so
that when your time came to marry you might not be pressed or harassed
by worldly people as I have been, and might follow the dictates of your
own heart.'

'Oh, Madge, you are quite too good,' cried Viola, with enthusiasm.

'And we may be very happy, mayn't we, my pet?' continued the elder,
'living together at a picturesque old place in Cornwall, with the great
waves of the Atlantic rolling up to the edge of our grounds—and in
London sometimes, if Churchill likes—and knowing no more of debt and
difficulty, or cutting and contriving so as to look like ladies upon
the income of ladies' maids. Life will begin afresh for us, Viola.'

'Poor papa!' sighed Viola, 'you'll be kind to him, won't you, Madge?'

'My dearest, you know that I love him. Papa will be very glad, depend
upon it, and he will like to go back to his old bachelor ways, I dare
say, now that he will not be burthened with two marriageable daughters.'

'When will you be married, Madge?'

'Oh, not for ever so long, dear; not for a twelvemonth, I should think.
Churchill will be in mourning for his cousin, and it wouldn't look well
for him to marry soon after such a dreadful event.'

'I suppose not. Are you to see him soon?'

'Very soon, love. Here is his postscript. 'Madge read the last lines of
her lover's letter: '"I shall come back to town directly the inquest is
over, and all arrangements made, and my first visit shall be to you."'

'Of course. And you really, really love him, Madge?' asked Viola,
anxiously.

'Really, really. But why ask that question, Viola, after what I told
you just now?'

'Only because you've taken me by surprise, dear; and—don't be angry
with me, Madge—because Churchill Penwyn has never been a favourite of
mine. But of course now I shall begin to like him immensely. You're so
much better a judge of character than I am, you see, Madge, and if you
think him good and true——'

'I have never thought of his goodness or his truth,' said Madge, with
rather a gloomy look. 'I only know that I love him.'



CHAPTER XVI.

'THERE IS A HISTORY IN ALL MEN'S LIVES.'


Upon his return to London, Churchill lost very little time before
presenting himself in Cavendish Row. He did not go there on the day
of his cousin's funeral. That gloomy ceremonial had unfitted him for
social pleasures, above all for commune with so bright a spirit as
Madge Bellingham. He felt as if to go to her straight from that place
of tombs would be to carry the atmosphere of the grave into her home.
The funeral seemed to affect him more than such a solemnity might have
been supposed to affect a man of his philosophical temper. But then
these quiet, reserved men—men who hold themselves in check, as it
were—are sometimes men of deepest feeling. So Mr. Pergament thought
as he stood opposite the new master of Penwyn in the vault at Kensal
Green, and observed his pallid face, and the settled gloom of his brow.

Churchill drove straight back to the Temple with Mr. Pergament
for his companion, that gentleman being anxious to return to New
Square for his afternoon letters, before going down to his luxurious
villa at Beckenham, where he lived sumptuously, or—as his enemies
averred—battened, ghoul-like, on the rotten carcasses of the defunct
chancery suits which he had lost. From Kensal Green to Fleet Street
seemed an interminable pilgrimage in that gloomy vehicle. Mr. Pergament
and his client had exhausted their conversational powers on the way
to the cemetery, and now on the return home had but little to say for
themselves. It was a blazing summer afternoon—an August day which
had slipped unawares into June through an error in the calendar.
The mourning coach was like a locomotive oven; the shabby suburban
thoroughfares seemed baking under the pitiless sky. Never had the
Harrow Road looked dustier; never had the Edgware Road looked untidier
or more out at elbows than to-day.

'How I detest the ragged fringe of shabby suburbs that hangs round
London!' said Mr. Penwyn. It was the first remark he had made after
half an hour's thoughtful silence.

His only reply from the solicitor was a gentle snore, a snore which
sounded full of placid enjoyment. Perhaps there is nothing more
dreamily delightful than a stolen doze on a sultry afternoon, lulled by
the movement of wheels.

'How the fellow sleeps!' muttered Mr. Penwyn, almost savagely. 'I wish
I had the knack of sleeping like that.'

It is the curse of these hyper-active intellects to be strangers to
rest.

The carriage drew up at one of the Temple gates at last, and Mr.
Pergament woke with a start, jerked into the waking world again by that
sudden pull-up.

'Bless my soul!' exclaimed the lawyer. 'I was asleep!'

'Didn't you know it?' asked Churchill, rather fretfully.

'Not the least idea. Weather very oppressive. Here we are at your
place. Dear me! By the way, when do you think of going down to Penwyn?'

'The day after to-morrow. I should like you to go with me and put me in
formal possession. And you may as well take the title-deeds down with
you. I like to have those things in my own possession. The leases you
can of course retain.'

Mr. Pergament, hardly quite awake as yet, was somewhat taken aback by
this request. The title-deeds of the Penwyn estate had been in the
offices of Pergament and Pergament for half a century. This new lord
of the manor promised to be sharper even than the old squire, Nicholas
Penwyn, who among some ribald tenants of the estate had been known as
Old Nick.

'If you wish it, of course—yes—assuredly,' said Mr. Pergament; and on
this, with a curt good day from Churchill, they parted.

'How property changes a man!' thought the solicitor, as the coach
carried him to New Square. 'That young man looks as if he had the cares
of a nation on his shoulders already. Odd notion his, wanting to keep
the title-deeds in his own custody However, I suppose he won't take
his business out of our hands,—and if he should, we can do without it.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Churchill went up to his chambers, on a third floor. They had a sombre
and chilly look in their spotless propriety, even on this warm summer
afternoon. The rooms were on the shady side of the way, and saw not the
sun after nine o'clock in the morning.

Very neatly kept and furnished were those bachelor apartments, the
sitting-room, at once office and living-room, the goods and chattels in
it perhaps worth five-and-twenty pounds. An ancient and faded Turkey
carpet, carefully darned by the deft fingers of a jobbing upholstress,
whom Churchill sometimes employed to keep things in order; faded green
cloth curtains; an old oak knee-hole desk, solid, substantial, shabby,
with all the papers upon it neatly sorted—the inkstand stainless, and
well supplied; a horsehair-covered arm-chair, high backed, square,
brass-nailed, of a remote era, but comfortable withal; armless chairs
of the same period, with an unknown crest emblazoned on their mahogany
backs; a battered old bookcase, filled with law books, only one shelf
reserved for that lighter literature which soothes the weariness of the
student; every object as bright as labour and furniture polish could
make it, everything in its place; a room in which no ancient spinster,
skilled in the government of her one domestic, could have discovered
ground for a complaint.

Churchill looked round the room with a thoughtful smile—not altogether
joyous—as he seated himself in his arm-chair, and opened a neat
cigar-box on the table at his side.

'How plain the stamp of poverty shows upon everything!' he said to
himself, 'the furniture the mere refuse of an auction-room, furbished
and polished into decency; the faded curtains, where there is hardly
any colour visible except the neutral tints of decay; the darned
carpet—premeditated poverty, as Sheridan calls it—the mark of the
beast shows itself on all. And yet I have known some not all unhappy
hours in this room—patient nights of study—the fire of ambition—the
sunlight of hope—hours in which I deemed that fame and fortune were
waiting for me down the long vista of industrious years—hours when
I felt myself strong in patience and resolve! I shall think of these
rooms sometimes in my new life—dream of them perhaps—fancy myself
back again.'

He sat musing for a long time—so lost in thought that he forgot to
light the cigar which he had taken from his case just now. He woke
from that long reverie with a sigh, gave his shoulders an impatient
shrug, as if he would have shaken off ideas that troubled him, and took
a volume at random from a neat little bookstand on his table—where
about half a dozen favourite volumes stood ranged, all of the cynical
school—Rabelais, Sterne, Goethe's 'Faust,' a volume of Voltaire,—not
books that make a man better—if one excepts Goethe, whose master-work
is the Gospel of a great teacher. Under that outer husk of bitterness
how much sweetness! With that cynicism, what depth of tenderness!

Churchill's hand lighted unawares upon 'Faust.' He opened the volume
at the opening of that mightiest drama, and read on—read until
the wearied student stood before him, tempting destiny with his
discontent—read until the book dropped from his hand, and he sat,
fixed as a statue, staring at the ground, in a gloomy reverie.

'After all, discontent is your true tempter—the fiend whose whisper
for ever assails man's ear. Who could be wiser than Faust? and yet how
easy a dupe! Well, I have my Margaret, at least; and neither man nor
any evil spirit that walks the earth in shape impalpable to man shall
ever come between us two.'

Churchill lighted his cigar, and left his quiet room, which seemed
to him just now to be unpleasantly occupied by that uncanny poodle
which the German doctor brought home with him. He went to the Temple
Gardens, and walked up and down by the cool river, over which the mists
of evening were gently creeping, like a veil of faintest grey. It was
before the days of the embankment, and the Templars still possessed
their peaceful walk on the brink of the river.

Here Churchill walked till late, thinking,—always thinking,—property
has so many cares; and then, when other people were meditating supper,
went out into Fleet Street to a restaurant that was just about closing,
and ordered his tardy dinner. Even when it came he seemed to have but
a sorry appetite, and only took his pint of claret with relish. He
was looking forward eagerly to the morrow, when he should see Madge
Bellingham, and verily begin his new life. Hitherto he had known only
the disagreeables of his position—the inquest—the funeral. To-morrow
he was to taste the sweets of prosperity.



CHAPTER XVII.

'DEATH COULD NOT SEVER MY SOUL AND YOU.'


Churchill Penwyn lost little of that morrow to which he had looked
forward so eagerly. He was in Cavendish Row at eleven o'clock, in the
pretty drawing-room, among brightly bound books and music, and flowers,
surrounded by colour, life, and sunshine, and with Madge Bellingham in
his arms.

For the first few moments neither of them could speak, they stood
silent, the girl's dark head upon her lover's breast, her cheek pale
with deepest feeling, his strong arms encircling her.

'My own dear love!' he murmured, after a kiss that brought the warm
blood back to that pale cheek. 'My very own at last! Who would have
thought when we parted that I should come back to you so soon, with
altered fortunes?'

'So strangely soon,' said Madge. 'Oh, Churchill, there is something
awful in it.'

'Destiny is always awful, dearest. She is that goddess who ever was,
and ever will be, and whose veil no man's hand has ever lifted. We are
blind worshippers in her temple, and must take the lots she deals from
her inscrutable hand. We are among her favoured children, dearest, for
she has given us happiness.'

'I refused to be your wife, Churchill, because you were poor. Can you
quite forgive that? Must I not seem to you selfish and mercenary,
almost contemptible, if I accept you now?'

'My beloved, you are truth itself. Be as nobly frank to-day as you were
that day I promised to win fame and fortune for your sake. Fortune has
come without labour of mine. It shall go hard with me if fame does not
follow in the future. Only tell me once more that you love me, that you
rejoice in my good fortune, and will share it, and—bless it?'

He made a little pause before the last two words, as if some passing
thought had troubled him.

'You know that I love you, Churchill,' she answered, shyly. 'I could
not keep that secret from you the other day, though I would have given
so much to hide the truth.'

'And you will be my wife, darling, the fair young mistress of Penwyn?'

'By and by, Churchill. It seems almost wrong to talk of our marriage
yet awhile. That poor young fellow, your cousin, he may have been
asking some happy girl to share his fortune and his home—to be
mistress of Penwyn—only a little while ago.'

'Very sad,' said Churchill, 'but the natural law. You remember what the
father of poets has said—"The race of man is like the leaves on the
trees."'

'Yes, Churchill, but the leaves fall in their season. This poor young
fellow has been snatched away in the blossom of his youth—and by a
murderer's hand.'

'I have heard a good deal of that sort of talk since his death,'
remarked Mr. Penwyn, with a cloudy look. 'I thought you would have a
warmer greeting for me than lamentations about my cousin. But for his
death I should not have the right to hold you in my arms, to claim you
for my wife. You rejected me on account of my property; yet you bewail
the event that has made me rich.'

Miss Bellingham withdrew herself from her lover's arms with an offended
look.

'I would rather have waited for you ten years than that fortune should
have come to you under such painful circumstances,' she said.

'Yes, you think so, I dare say. But I know what a woman's waiting
generally comes to—above all when she is one of the most beautiful
women in London. Madge, don't sting me with cold words, or cold looks.
You do not know how I have yearned for this hour.'

She had seated herself by one of the little tables, and was idly
turning the leaves of an ivory-bound volume. Churchill knelt down
beside her, and took the white ringed hand away from the book, and
covered it with kisses—and put his arm round her as she sat—leaning
his head against her shoulder, as if he had found rest there, after
long weariness.

'Have some compassion upon me, darling,' he pleaded. 'Pity nerves that
have been strained, a mind that has been overtaxed. Do not think that
I have not felt this business. I have felt it God alone knows how
intensely. But I come here for happiness. Time enough for troublous
thoughts when you and I are apart. Here I would remember nothing—know
nothing but the joy of being with you, to touch your hand, to hear your
voice, to look into those deep, dark eyes.'

There was nothing but love in the eyes that met his gaze now—love
unquestioning and unmeasured.

'Dearest, I will never speak of your cousin again if it pains you,'
Madge said, earnestly. 'I ought to have been more considerate.'

She pushed back a loose lock from the broad forehead where the hair
grew thinly, with a gentle caressing hand; timidly, for it was the
first time she had touched her lover's brow, and there was something of
a wife's tenderness in the action.

'Churchill,' she exclaimed, 'your forehead burns as if you were in a
fever. You are not ill, I hope?'

'No, dear, not ill. But I have been over-anxious, over-excited,
perhaps. I am calm now, happy now, Madge. When shall I speak to your
father? I want to feel myself your acknowledged lover.'

'You can speak to papa whenever you like, Churchill. He came home last
night from Newmarket. I know he will be glad to see you either here or
at his club.'

'And our marriage, Madge, how soon shall that be?'

'Oh, Churchill, you cannot wish it to be soon, after——'

'But I do wish it to be soon; as soon as it may be with decency. I
am not going to pretend exaggerated grief for the death of a kinsman
of whom I hardly knew anything. I am not going to sit in sackcloth
and ashes because I have inherited an estate I never expected to own,
in order that the world may look on approvingly, and say, "What
fine feelings! what tenderness of heart!" Society offers a premium
for hypocrisy. No, Madge, I will wear crape on my hat for just three
months, and wait just three months for the crowning happiness of my
life; and then we will be married, as quietly as you please, and slip
away by some untrodden track to a Paradise of our own, some one fair
scene among the many lovely spots of earth which has not yet come into
fashion for honeymoons.'

'You do not ask my terms—but dictate your own,' said Madge, smiling.

'Dear love, are we not one in heart and hope from this hour? and must
we not have the same wishes, the same thoughts?'

'You have no trousseau to think about, Churchill.'

'No, a man hardly considers matrimony an occasion for laying in an
unlimited stock of clothes, though I may indulge in a new suit or two
in honour of my promotion. Seriously, dearest, do not trouble yourself
to provide a mountain of millinery. Mrs. Penwyn shall have an open
account with as many milliners and silk-mercers as she pleases.'

'You may be sure that I shall not have too expensive a trousseau, and
that I shall not run into debt,' said Madge, blushing.

And so it was settled between them that they were to be married before
the end of September, in time to begin their new life in some romantic
corner of Italy, and to establish themselves at Penwyn before Christmas
and the hunting season. Churchill had boasted friends innumerable as
a penniless barrister, and this circle was hardly likely to become
contracted by the change in his fortunes. Everybody would want to visit
him during that first winter at Penwyn.

The lovers sat together for hours, talking of their future, opening
their hearts to each other, as they had never dared to do before that
day. They sat, hand clasped in hand, on that very sofa which Lady
Cheshunt's portly form had occupied when she read Madge her lecture.

Viola was out riding with some good-natured friends who had a large
stable, and gave the Miss Bellinghams a mount as often as they chose
to accept that favour. It was much too early for callers. Sir Nugent
never came upstairs in the morning. So Madge and her lover had the
cool, shadowy rooms to themselves, and sat amidst the perfume of
flowers, talking of their happy life to come. All the small-talk of
days gone by, those many conversations at evening parties, flower
shows, picture galleries, seemed as nothing compared with these hours
of earnest talk; heart to heart, soul to soul; on one side, at least,
without a thought of reserve.

Time flew on his swiftest wing for these two. Madge started up with a
little cry of surprise when Viola dashed into the room, looking like a
lovely piece of waxwork in a riding habit and chimney-pot hat.

'Oh, Madge, we have had such a round; Ealing, Willesden, Hendon, and
home by Finchley.—I beg your pardon, Mr. Penwyn, I didn't see you till
this moment. This room is so dark after the blazing sunshine. Aren't
you coming down to luncheon? The bell rang half an hour ago, and poor
Rickson looks the picture of gloom. I dare say he wants to clear the
table and compose himself for his afternoon siesta.'

Madge blushed, conscious of having been too deep in bliss for life's
common sounds to penetrate her Paradise—in a region where luncheon
bells are not.

'You'll stay to luncheon, Churchill, won't you?' she said—and Viola
knew it was all settled.

Miss Bellingham would not have called a gentleman by his Christian name
unless she had been engaged to be married to him.

Viola got hold of her sister's hand as they went downstairs, and
squeezed it tremendously.

'I shall sit down to luncheon in my habit,' she said, 'if you don't
mind, for I'm absolutely famishing.'

That luncheon was the pleasantest meal Churchill Penwyn had eaten for
a long time. Not an aldermanic banquet by any means, for Sir Nugent
seldom lunched at home, and the young ladies fared but simply in his
absence. There was a cold chicken left from yesterday's dinner, minus
the liver-wing, a tongue, also cut, a salad, a jar of apricot jam, some
dainty little loaves from a German bakery, and a small glass dish of
Roquefort cheese. The wines were Medoc and sherry.

The three sat a long time over this simple feast, still talking of
their future;—the future which Viola was to share with the married
people.

'Have you ever seen Penwyn Manor?' she asked, after having declared her
acceptance of the destiny that had been arranged for her.

'Never,' answered Churchill. 'It was always a sore subject with my
father. His father had not treated him well, you see; he married when
he was little more than a boy, and was supposed to have married badly,
though my mother was as good a woman as ever bore the name of Penwyn.
My grandfather chose to take offence at the marriage, and my father
resented the slight put upon his wife so deeply that he never crossed
the threshold of Penwyn Manor House again. Thus it happened that I was
brought up with very little knowledge of my kindred, or the birthplace
of my ancestors. I have often thought of going down to Cornwall to have
a look at the old place, without letting anybody know who I was; but I
have been too busy to put the idea into execution.'

'How different you will feel going there as master!' said Viola.

'Yes, it will be a more agreeable sensation, no doubt.'

It was between three and four o'clock when Churchill left that snug
little dining-room to go down to Sir Nugent's club in St. James's
Street, in the hope of seeing that gentleman and making all things
straight without delay.

'Come back to afternoon tea, if you can,' said Viola, who appeared
particularly friendly to her future brother-in-law.

'If possible, my dear Viola—I may call you Viola, I suppose, now?'

'Of course. Are we not brother and sister henceforward?'

'Well, dear, have you been trying to like him?' asked Madge, when her
lover had departed.

'Yes, and I found it quite easy, you darling Madge! He seemed to me
much nicer to-day. Perhaps it was because I could see how he worships
you. I never saw two people so intensely devoted. Prosperity suits him
wonderfully; though that cloudy look which I have often noticed in him
still comes over his face by fits and starts.'

'He feels his cousin's awful death very deeply.'

'Does he? That's very good of him when he profits so largely by the
calamity. Well, dearest, I mean to like him very much; to be as fond of
him as if he really were my brother.'

'And he will be all that a brother could be to you, dear.'

'I don't quite know that I should care about that,' returned Viola,
doubtfully; 'brothers are sometimes nuisances. A brother-in-law would
be more likely to be on his good behaviour, for fear of offending his
wife.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Churchill succeeded in lighting upon Sir Nugent at his club. He was
yawning behind an evening paper in the reading-room when Mr. Penwyn
found him. His greeting was just a shade more cordial than it had
always been, but only a shade, for it was Sir Nugent's rule to be civil
to everybody. 'One never knows when a man may get a step,' he said;
and, in a world largely composed of younger sons and heirs presumptive,
this was a golden rule.

Sir Nugent expressed himself profoundly sympathetic upon the subject
of James Penwyn's death. He was perfectly aware of Churchill's business
with him that afternoon, but affected the most Arcadian innocence.

Happily Churchill came speedily to the point.

'Sir Nugent,' he began, gravely, 'while I was a struggling man I felt
it would be at once presumption and folly to aspire to your daughter's
hand; but to be her husband has been my secret hope ever since I first
knew her. My cousin's death has made a total change in my fortune.'

'Of course, my dear fellow. It has transformed you from a briefless
barrister into a prosperous country gentleman. Pardon me if I remark
that I might look higher for my eldest daughter than that. Madge is
a woman in a thousand. If it had been her sister, now—a good little
thing, and uncommonly pretty—but I have no lofty aspirations for her.'

'Unhappily for your ambitious dreams, Sir Nugent, Madge is the lady of
my choice, and we love each other. I do not think you ought to object
to my present position—the Penwyn estate is worth seven thousand a
year.'

'Not bad,' said the baronet, blandly, 'for a commoner. But Madge could
win a coronet if she chose; and I confess that I have looked forward to
seeing her take her place in the peerage. However, if she really likes
you, and has made up her mind about it, any objections of mine would be
useless, no doubt; and as far as personal feeling goes there is no one
I should like better for a son-in-law than yourself.'

The two gentlemen shook hands upon this, and Sir Nugent felt that he
had not let his handsome daughter go too cheap, and had paved the way
for a liberal settlement. He asked his future son-in-law to dinner,
and Churchill, who would not have foregone that promised afternoon tea
for worlds, chartered the swiftest hansom he could find, drove back to
Cavendish Row, spent an hour with the two girls and a little bevy of
feminine droppers-in, then drove to the Temple to dress, and reappeared
at Sir Nugent's street door just as the neighbouring clocks chimed the
first stroke of eight.

'Bless the young man, how he do come backwards and forwards since
he's come into his estates!' said the butler, who had read all about
James Penwyn's death in the papers. 'I always suspected that he had a
sneaking kindness for our eldest young lady, and now it's clear they're
going to keep company. If he's coming in and out like this every day, I
hope he'll have consideration enough to make it worth my while to open
the door for him.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'I hope you are not angry with me, papa,' said Madge, by and by, after
her lover had bid them good night and departed, and when father and
daughter were alone together.

'Angry with you? no, my love, but just a trifle disappointed. This
seems to me quite a poor match for a girl with your advantages.'

'Oh, papa, Churchill has seven thousand a year: and think of our
income.'

'My love, that is not the question in point. What I have to think of
is the match you might have made, had it not been for this unlucky
infatuation. There is Mr. Balecroft, with his palace in Belgravia, a
picture gallery worth a quarter of a million, and a superb place at
Windermere——'

'A man who drops his h's, papa—complains of being 'ot!'

'Or Sir Henry Featherstone, one of the oldest families in Yorkshire,
with twelve thousand a year.'

'And not an idea which he has not learnt from his trainer or his
jockey! Oh, papa, don't forget Tennyson's noble line,—

      "Cursed be the gold that gilds the straightened forehead of the
                fool!"'

'All very well for poets to write that sort of stuff, but a man in
my position doesn't like to see his daughter throw away her chances.
However, I suppose I mustn't complain. Penwyn Manor is a nice enough
place, I dare say.

'You must come to stay with me, papa, every year.'

'My love, that kind of place would be the death of me, except for a
week in October. I suppose there are plenty of pheasants?'

'I dare say, papa. If not, we'll order some.'

'Well, it might have been worse,' sighed Sir Nugent.

'You'll let Viola live with me when I am married, papa, won't you?'
pleaded Madge, coaxingly, as if she were asking a tremendous favour.

'My dear child, with all my heart,' replied her father, with amiable
promptitude. 'Where could she be so well off? In that case I shall
give up housekeeping as soon as you are married. This house has always
been a plague to me, taxes, repairs, no end of worry. I used to pay a
hundred and fifty pounds a year for my rooms in Jermyn Street, and the
business was settled. Bless you, my darling. You have always been a
comfort to your poor old father.'

And thus blandly, with an air of self-sacrifice, did Sir Nugent
Bellingham wash his hands of his two daughters.



CHAPTER XVIII.

'WHAT GREAT ONES DO, THE LESS WILL PRATTLE OF.'


A year had gone by since James Penwyn met his death by the lonely river
at Eborsham, and again Maurice Clissold spent his summer holiday in a
walking tour. This time he was quite alone. Pleasant and social though
he was, he did not make friendships lightly or quickly. In the year
that was gone he had found no friend to replace James Penwyn. He had
plenty of agreeable acquaintances, knew plenty of men who were glad
to dine with him or to give him a dinner. He was famous already, in a
small way, at the literary club where he spent many of his evenings
when he was in London, and men liked to hear him talk, and prophesied
fair things for his future as a man of letters, all the more surely
because he was not called upon to write for bread, but could follow
the impulse that moved him, and wait, were it ever so long, for the
moment of inspiration; never forced to spur the jaded steed, or work
the too willing horse to death.

Not one among the comrades he liked well enough for a jovial evening,
or a cosy dinner, had crept into his heart like the lad he had sworn to
cherish in the ears of a dying woman five years ago. So when the roses
were in bloom, and London began to look warm and dusty, and the parks
had faded a little from their vernal green, Maurice Clissold set forth
alone upon a voyage of adventure, with a pocket Shakespeare and a quire
or so of paper in his battered, old leathern knapsack, and just so much
clothing and linen as might serve him for his travels.

Needless to say that he avoided that northern city of Eborsham, where
such sudden grief had come upon him, and all that route which he had
trodden only a year ago with the light-hearted, hopeful lad who now
slept his sweetest sleep in one of the vaults at Kensal Green, beside
the mother he had loved and mourned.

Instead of northward, to the land of lakes and mountains, Maurice went
due west. Many a time had he and James Penwyn talked of the days they
were to spend together down at the old place in Cornwall, and behold!
that visit to Penwyn Manor, deferred in order that James should see the
Lake country, was destined never to be paid. Never were those two to
walk together by the Atlantic, never to scale Tintagel's rugged height,
or ramble among the rocks of Bude.

Maurice had a curious fancy for seeing the old home from which death
had ousted James Penwyn. He might have gone as a visitor to the Manor
House had he pleased, for Churchill had been extremely civil to him
when they last met at the funeral, and had promised him a hearty
welcome to Penwyn whenever he liked to come there; but Mr. Clissold
infinitely preferred to go as an unknown pedestrian—knapsack on
shoulder—having first taken the trouble to ascertain that Churchill
Penwyn and his beautiful young wife were in London, where they had,
for this season, a furnished house in Upper Brook Street. He saw
their names in the list of guests at a fashionable reception, and
knew that the coast would be clear, and that he could roam about the
neighbourhood of his dead friend's ancestral home without let or
hindrance. He went straight to Plymouth by an express train, crossed
the Tamar, and pursued his journey on foot, at a leisurely pace,
lingering at all the prettiest spots—now spending a day or two at some
rustic wayside inn—sketching a little, reading a little, writing a
little, thinking and dreaming a great deal.

It was an idle fancy that had brought him here, and he gave a free
rein to all other idle fancies that seized him by the way. It was a
morbid fancy, perhaps, for it must needs be but a melancholy pleasure,
at best, to visit the domain which his friend had never enjoyed, to
remember so many boyish schemes unfulfilled, so many bright hopes
snapped short off by the shears of Atropos.

The long blue line of sea, and the wide moorland were steeped in
the golden light of a midsummer afternoon when Maurice drew near
Penwyn Manor. The scene was far more lonely than he had imagined it.
Measureless ocean stretched before him, melting into the hazy summer
sky—sea and heaven so near of a colour that it was hard to tell where
the water ended and the sky began—measureless hills around him—and,
except the white sheep yonder, making fleecy dots upon the side of the
topmost hill, no sign of life. He had left the village of Penwyn behind
him by a good two miles, but had not yet come in sight of the Manor
House, though he had religiously followed the track pointed out to him
by the hostess of the little inn—a mere cottage—where he left his
knapsack, and where he had been respectfully informed that he could not
have a bed.

'At the worst I can sleep on the lee side of one of these hills,' he
said to himself. 'It can hardly be very cold, even at night, in this
western climate.'

He walked a little further on, upon a narrow footpath high above the
sea level. On his right hand there were wide corn-fields, with here and
there an open tract of turnip or mangold; on his left only the wild
moorland pastures, undulating like a sea of verdure. The ground had
dipped a little while ago, and as it rose again, with a gentle ascent,
Maurice Clissold saw the chimney-stacks of the Manor House between him
and the sea.

It was a substantial-looking house, built of greyish stone, a long
low building, with grounds that stretched to the edge of the cliff,
sheltered by a belt of fir and evergreen oak. The blue sea showed
in little patches of gleaming colour through the dark foliage, and
the spicy odour of the pines perfumed the warm, still air. In its
utter loneliness the house had a gloomy look, despite the grandeur
of its situation, on this bold height above the sea. The grounds
were extensive, but to Maurice Clissold they seemed somewhat barren;
orderly, beyond doubt, and well timbered, but lacking the smiling
fertility, the richness of ornament, which a student of Horace and
Pliny desired in his ideal garden.

But Mr. Clissold did not make acquaintance with the inside of the
shrubbery or gardens without some little difficulty. His footpath led
him ultimately into a villanous high road, just in front of the gates
of Penwyn, so the landlady of the village inn had not sent him astray.
There was a lodge beside the gate, a square stone cottage, covered
with myrtle, honeysuckle, and roses, from which emerged an elderly
female, swarthy of aspect, her strongly marked countenance framed in a
frill cap, which gave an almost grotesque look to that tawny visage.

'Can I see the house and grounds, ma'am?' asked Maurice, approaching
this somewhat grim-looking personage with infinite civility.

He had a vague idea that he must have seen that face before, or
imagined it in a dream, so curiously did it remind him of some past
occasion in his life—what, he knew not.

'The house is never shown to strangers,' answered the woman.

'I know Mr. Penwyn, and will leave my card for him.'

'You'd better apply to the housekeeper. As to the grounds, my
granddaughter will take you round, if you like.—Elspeth,' called the
woman, and a black-eyed girl of twelve appeared at the cottage door,
like a sprite at a witch's summons.

'Take this gentleman round the gardens,' said the old woman, and
vanished, before Maurice could quite make up his mind as to whether
he had seen a face like that in actual flesh and blood or only on a
painter's canvas.

The girl, who had an impish look, he thought, with her loose black
locks, scarlet petticoat, and scanty scarlet shawl pinned tightly
across her bony shoulders, led the way through a wild-looking
shrubbery, where huge blocks of granite lay among the ferns, which
grew with rank luxuriance between the straight pine-stems. A sandy
path wound in and out among trees and shrubs, till Maurice and his
guide emerged upon a spacious lawn at the back of the house, whose
many windows blinked at them, shining in the western sun. There were
no flower-beds on the lawn, but there was a small square garden, in
the Dutch style, on one side of the house, and a bowling-green on
the other. A terraced walk stretched in front of the windows, raised
three or four feet above the level of the lawn, and guarded by a stone
balustrade somewhat defaced by time. A fine old sun-dial marked the
centre of the Dutch garden, where the geometrical flower-beds were
neatly kept, and where Maurice found a couple of gardeners, elderly
men both, at work, weeding and watering in a comfortable, leisurely
manner.

'What a paradise for the aged!' thought Maurice; 'the woman at the
lodge was old, the gardeners are old, everything about the place is
old, except this impish girl, who looks the oldest of all, with her
evil black eyes and vinegar voice.'

Mr. Clissold had not come so far without entering into conversation
with the damsel. He had asked her a good many questions about the
place, and the people to whom it belonged. But her answers were of the
briefest, and she affected the profoundest ignorance about everything
and everybody.

'You've not been here very long, I suppose, my girl,' he said at last,
with some slight sense of irritation, 'or you'd know a little more
about the place.'

'I haven't been here much above six months.'

'Oh! But your grandmother has lived here all her life, I dare say?'

'No, she hasn't. Grandmother came when I did.'

'And where did you both come from?'

'Foreign parts,' answered the girl.

'Indeed! you both speak very good English for people who come from
abroad.'

'I didn't say we were foreigners, did I?' asked the girl, pertly. 'If
you want to ask any more questions about the place or the people, you'd
better ask 'em of the housekeeper, Mrs. Darvis; and if you want to see
the house you must ask lief of her; and this is the door you'd better
ring at, if you want to see her.'

They were at one end of the terrace, and opposite a half-glass door
which opened into a small and darksome lobby, where the effigies
of a couple of ill-used ancestors frowned from the dusky walls, as
if indignant at being placed in so obscure a corner. Maurice rang
the bell, and after repeating that operation more than once, and
waiting with consummate patience for the result, he was rewarded
by the appearance of an elderly female, homely, fresh-coloured,
comfortable-looking, affording altogether an agreeable contrast to
the tawny visage of the lodge-keeper, whose countenance had given the
traveller an unpleasant feeling about Penwyn Manor.

Mr. Clissold stated his business, and after spelling over his card and
deliberating a little, Mrs. Darvis consented to admit him, and to show
him the house.

'We used to show it to strangers pretty freely till the new Squire came
into possession,' she said, 'but he's rather particular. However, if
you're a friend of his——'

'I know him very well; and poor James Penwyn was my most intimate
friend.'

'Poor Mr. James! I never saw him but once, when he came down to see the
place soon after the old Squire's death. Such a frank, open-hearted
young gentleman, and so free-spoken. It was a terrible blow to all of
us down here when we read about the murder. Not but what the present
Mr. Penwyn is a liberal master and a kind landlord, and a good friend
to the poor. There couldn't be a better gentleman for Penwyn.'

'I am glad to hear you give him so good a character,' said Maurice.

The girl Elspeth had followed him into the house, uninvited, and
stood in the background, open-eyed, with her thin lips drawn tightly
together, listening intently.

'As for Mrs. Penwyn,' said the housekeeper, 'why, she's a lady in a
thousand! She might be a queen, there's something so grand about her.
Yet she's so affable that she couldn't pass one of the little children
at the poor school without saying a kind word; and so thoughtful for
the poor that they've no need to tell her their wants, she provides for
them beforehand.'

'A model Lady Bountiful,' exclaimed Maurice.

'You may run home to your grandmother, Elspeth,' said Mrs. Darvis.

'I was to show the gentleman the grounds,' answered the damsel, 'he
hasn't half seen 'em yet.'

In her devotion to the service she had undertaken, the girl followed at
their heels through the house, absorbing every word that was said by
Mrs. Darvis or the stranger.

The house was old, and somewhat gloomy, belonging to the Tudor
school of architecture. The heavy stonework of the window-frames,
the lozenge-shaped mullions, the massive cross-bars, were eminently
adapted to exclude light. Even what light the windows did admit was
in many places tempered by stained glass emblazoned with the arms and
mottoes of the Penwyn family, in all its ramifications, showing how
it had become entangled with other families, and bore the arms of
heiresses on its shield, until that original badge, which Sir Thomas
Penwyn, the crusader, had first carried atop of his helmet, was almost
lost among the various devices in a barry of eight.

The rooms were spacious, but far from lofty, the chimney-pieces
of carved oak and elaborate workmanship, the paneling between
mantel-board and ceiling richly embellished, and over all the principal
chimney-pieces appeared the Penwyn arms and motto, '_J'attends_.'

There was much old tapestry, considerably the worse for wear, for the
house had been sorely neglected during that dreary interval between the
revolution and the days of George the Third, when the Penwyn family
had fallen into comparative poverty, and the fine old mansion had been
little better than a farmhouse. Indeed, brawny agricultural labourers
had eaten their bacon and beans and potato pasty in the banqueting
hall, now the state dining-room, handsomely furnished with plain and
massive oaken furniture by the old Squire, Churchill's grandfather.

This room was one of the largest in the house, and looked towards the
sea. Drawing-room, music-room, library, and boudoir were on the garden
side, with windows opening on the terrace. The drawing-room and boudoir
had been refurnished by Churchill, since his marriage.

'The old Squire kept very little company, and hardly ever went inside
any of those rooms,' said Mrs. Darvis. 'In summer he used to sit in
the yew-tree bower, on the bowling-green, after dinner; and in winter
he used to smoke his pipe in the steward's room, mostly, and talk to
his bailiff. The dining-room was the only large room he ever used, so
when Mr. Churchill Penwyn came he found the drawing-room very bare
of furniture, and what there was was too shabby for his taste, so he
had that and the boudoir furnished, after the old style, by a London
upholsterer, and put a grand piano and a harmonium in the music-room;
and the drawing-room tapestry is all new, made by the Goblins, Mrs.
Penwyn told me, which, I suppose, was only her fanciful way of putting
it.'

The dame opened the door as she spoke, and admitted Maurice into this
sacred apartment, where the chairs and sofas were shrouded with holland.

The tapestry was an exquisite specimen of that patient art. Its subject
was the story of Arion. The friendly dolphin, and the blue summer sea,
the Greek sailors, Periander's white-walled palace, lived upon the
work. Triangular cabinets of carved ebony adorned the corners of the
room, and were richly furnished with the Bellingham bric-a-brac, the
only dower Sir Nugent had been able to give his daughter. The chairs
and sofas, from which Mrs. Darvis lifted a corner of the holland
covering for the visitor's gratification, were of the same dark wood,
upholstered with richest olive-green damask, of mediæval diaper
pattern. Window-curtains of the same sombre hue harmonized admirably
with the brighter colours of the tapestry. The floor was darkest
oak, only covered in the centre with a Persian carpet. The boudoir,
which opened out of the drawing-room, was furnished in exactly the
same style, only here the tapestried walls told the story of Hero and
Leander.

'I believe it was all Mrs. Penwyn's taste,' said the housekeeper,
when Maurice had admired everything. '"Her rooms upstairs are a
picture—nothing of character with the house," the head upholsterer
said. "There's so few ladies have got any notion of character," he
says. "They'll furnish an old manor-house with flimsy white and gold
of the Lewis Quince style, only fit for a drawing-room in the Shamps
Eliza; and if you ask them why, they'll say because it's fashionable,
and they like it. Mrs. Penwyn is an artist," says the upholsterer's
foreman.'

Maurice did not hurry his inspection, finding the housekeeper
communicative, and the place full of interest. He heard a great deal
about the old Squire, Nicholas Penwyn, who had reigned for forty years,
and for whom his dependants had evidently felt a curious mixture of
fear, respect, and affection.

'He was a just man,' said Mrs. Darvis, 'but stern; and it was but
rarely he forgave any one that once offended him. It took a good deal
to offend him, you know, sir; but when he did take offence, the wound
rankled deep. I've heard our old doctor say the Squire had bad flesh
for healing. He never got on very well with his eldest son, Mr. George,
though he was the handsomest of the three brothers, and the best of
them too, to my mind.'

'What made them disagree?' asked Maurice. They had made the round
of the house by this time, and the traveller had seated himself
comfortably on a broad window-seat in the entrance hall, a window
through which the setting sun shone bright and warm. Mrs. Darvis sat
on a carved oak bench by the fireplace, resting after her unwonted
exertions. Elspeth stood at a respectful distance, her arms folded
demurely in her little red shawl, listening to the housekeeper's
discourse.

'Well, you see, sir,' returned Mrs. Darvis, in her slow, methodical
way, 'the old Squire would have liked Mr. George to stop at home, and
take an interest in the estate, for he was always adding something to
the property, and his heart and mind were wrapped up in it, as you may
say. Folks might call him a miser, but it was not money he cared for;
it was land, and to add to the importance of the family, and to bring
the estate back to what it had been when this house was built. Now Mr.
George didn't care about staying at home. It was a lazy, sleepy kind
of life, he said, and he had set his heart upon going into the army.
The Squire gave way at last, and bought Mr. George a commission, but it
was in a foot regiment, and that went rather against the grain with the
young gentleman, for he wanted to go into the cavalry. So they didn't
part quite so cordial like as they might have done when Mr. George
joined his regiment and went out to India.'

'You were here at the time, I suppose?'

'Lord love you, sir, I was almost born here. My mother was housekeeper
before me. She was the widow of a tradesman in Truro, very respectably
connected. Mrs. Penwyn, the Squire's lady, took me for her own maid
when I was only sixteen years of age, and I nursed her all through her
last illness twelve years afterwards, and when my poor mother died I
succeeded her as housekeeper, and I look forward to dying in the same
room where she died, and where I've slept for the last twenty years,
when my own time comes, please God.'

'So the Squire and his eldest son parted bad friends?'

'Not exactly bad friends, sir; but there was a coolness between
them; anybody could see that. Mr. George—or the Captain, as we used
generally to call him after he went into the army—hadn't been gone
a twelvemonth before there was a quarrel between the Squire and his
second son, Mr. Balfour, on account of the young gentleman marrying
beneath him, according to his father's ideas. The lady was a brewer's
daughter, and the Squire said Mr. Balfour was the first Penwyn who had
ever degraded himself by marrying trade. Mr. Balfour was not much above
twenty at the time, but he took a high hand about the matter, and never
came to Penwyn Manor after his marriage.'

'How was it that the eldest son never married?' asked Maurice.

'Ah, sir, "thereby hangs a tale," as the saying is. Mr. George
came home from India after he'd been away above ten years, and had
distinguished himself by his good conduct and his courage, people
told me who had read his name in the papers during the war. He looked
handsomer than ever, I thought, when he came home, though he was
browned by the sun; and he was just as kind and pleasant in his manner
as he had been when he was only a lad. Well, sir, the Squire seemed
delighted to have him back again, and made a great deal of him. They
were always together about the place, and the Squire would lean on his
son's arm sometimes, when he had walked a long way and was a trifle
tired. It was the first time any one had ever seen him accept anybody's
support. They used to sit over their wine together of an evening,
talking and laughing, and as happy as father and son could be together.
All of us—we were all old servants—felt pleased to see it; for we were
all fond of Mr. George, and looked to him as our master in days to come.'

'And pray how long did this pleasant state of things endure?'

'Two or three months, sir; and then all at once we saw a cloud. Mr.
George began to go out shooting early in the morning—it was the autumn
season just then—and seldom came home till dark; and the Squire seemed
silent and grumpy of an evening. None of us could guess what it all
meant, for we had heard no high words between the two gentlemen, till
all at once, by some roundabout way, which I can't call to mind now,
the mystery came out. There was an elderly gentleman living at Morgrave
Park, a fine old place on the other side of Penwyn village, with an
only daughter, an heiress, and very much thought of. Mr. Morgrave and
his daughter had been over to luncheon two or three times since Mr.
George came home, and he and the Squire had dined at Morgrave Park more
than once; and I suppose Miss Morgrave and our Mr. George had met at
other places, for they seemed quite friendly and intimate. She was a
fine-looking young lady, but rather masculine in her ways—very fond
of dogs and horses, and such like, and riding to hounds all the season
through. But whatever she did was right, according to people's notions,
on account of her being an heiress.'

'And George Penwyn had fallen in love with this dashing young lady?'

'Not a bit of it, sir. It came to our knowledge, somehow, that the
Squire wanted Mr. George to marry her, and had some reason to believe
that the young lady would say "yes," if he asked her. But Mr. George
didn't like her. She wasn't his style, he said; at which the Squire
was desperately angry. "Join Penwyn and Morgrave, and you'll have the
finest estate in the county," he said, "an estate fit for a nobleman. A
finer property than the Penwyns owned in the days of James the First."
Mr. George wouldn't listen. "I see what it is," the Squire cried, in
a rage, "you want to disgrace me by some low marriage, to marry a
shopkeeper's daughter, like your brother Balfour. But, by heavens! if
you do, I'll alter my will, and leave the estate away from my race!
It didn't matter so much in Balfour's case, neither he nor his are
ever likely to be masters here, but I won't stand rebellion from you!
I won't have a pack of kennel-born mongrels rioting here when I'm
mouldering in my grave!"'

'What a sweet old gentleman!'

'Mr. George swore that he had no thought of making a low marriage, no
thought of marrying at all yet awhile. He was happy enough as he was,
he said, but he wouldn't marry a woman he didn't like, even to please
his father. So they went on pretty quietly together for a little while
after this, the Squire grumpy, but not saying much. And then Mr. George
went up to London, and from there he went to join his regiment in
Ireland, where they were stationed after they came from India, and he
was about at different places for two or three years, during which time
Miss Morgrave got married to a nobleman, much to the Squire's vexation.
But I'm afraid I'm tiring you, sir, with such a long story.'

'Not at all. I like to hear it.'

'Well, Mr. George came back one summer. He was home on leave for a
little while before he went on foreign service, and he and the Squire
were pretty friendly again. It was a very hot summer, and Mr. George
used to spend most of his time out of doors, fishing or idling away
the days somehow. The Squire had a bad attack of gout that year, and
was kept pretty close in his room. You couldn't expect a young man to
sit indoors all day, of course, but I've often wondered what Master
George could find to amuse him among these solitary hills of ours, or
down among the rocks by the sea. He stayed all through the summer,
however, and seemed happy enough, and at the beginning of the winter
he went away to join his regiment, which was ordered off to Canada. I
was thankful to remember afterwards that he and the Squire parted good
friends.'

'Why?' asked Maurice.

'Because they were never to meet again. Mr. George was killed in a
fight with the savages six months after he went away. I remember the
letter coming that brought the news one fine summer evening. The Squire
was standing in this hall, just by that window, when Miles, the old
butler, gave him the letter. He just read the beginning of it, and
fell down as if he had been struck dead. It was his first stroke of
apoplexy, and he was never quite the same afterwards, though he was a
wonderful old gentleman to the last.'


END OF VOL. I.


J. AND W. RIDER, PRINTERS, LONDON.



Transcriber's Note


  Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations
  in hyphenation have been standardized but all other spelling and
  punctuation remains unchanged.

  Contents to Volume I: Page number for Chapter XIII corrected.





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