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Title: Miss Crespigny
Author: Burnett, Frances Hodgson
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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[Illustration:

  MRS. BURNETT’S
  Earlier Stories.

  MISS
  CRESPIGNY

  BY
  FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT.

  NEW YORK
  CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS]


      *      *      *      *      *      *

Authorized Editions.

_MRS. BURNETT’S_

EARLIER STORIES.

BY

FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT.


  LINDSAY’S LUCK,               Price, 30 cts.
  KATHLEEN,                     Price, 40 cts.
  PRETTY POLLY PEMBERTON,       Price, 40 cts.
  THEO,                         Price, 30 cts.
  MISS CRESPIGNY,               Price, 30 cts.

⁂ _For sale by all booksellers, or will be sent, post paid, upon
receipt of the price by the publishers_,

CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS,

  743 AND 745 BROADWAY, NEW YORK.

      *      *      *      *      *      *


MISS CRESPIGNY.

by

FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT,

Author of “Haworth’s,” “That Lass o’ Lowrie’s,” “Surly Tim
and Other Stories.”



New York:
Charles Scribner’S Sons,
743 & 745 Broadway.

Copyright
1879,
By Charles Scribner’S Sons.

New York: J. J. Little & Co., Printers,
10 to 20 Astor Place.



Author’s Note.


These love stories were written for and printed in “Peterson’s Ladies’
Magazine.” Owing to the fact that this magazine was not copyrighted, a
number of them have been issued in book-form without my consent, and
representing the sketches to be my latest work.

If these youthful stories are to be read in book form, it is my desire
that my friends should see the present edition, which I have revised
for the purpose, and which is brought out by my own publishers.

  FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT.


_October, 1878._



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.
                                              PAGE
  LISBETH                                        7

  CHAPTER II.
  ANOTHER GENTLEMAN OF THE SAME NAME            17

  CHAPTER III.
  PANSIES FOR THOUGHT                           27

  CHAPTER IV.
  A LUNCH PARTY                                 40

  CHAPTER V.
  GEORGIE ESMOND                                52

  CHAPTER VI.
  A SONG                                        61

  CHAPTER VII.
  A NEW EXPERIENCE                              70

  CHAPTER VIII.
  I WILL TELL YOU THE TRUTH FOR ONCE            80

  CHAPTER IX.
  WE MUST ALWAYS BE TRUE                        88

  CHAPTER X.
  PEN’YLLAN                                     96

  CHAPTER XI.
  A CONFESSION                                 104

  CHAPTER XII.
  A VISITOR                                    114

  CHAPTER XIII.
  A GHOST                                      123

  CHAPTER XIV.
  IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN VERY SWEET                132

  CHAPTER XV.
  WE WON’T GO YET                              141

  CHAPTER XVI.
  YES--TO LISBETH                              148

  CHAPTER XVII.
  GOOD-BY                                      158

  CHAPTER XVIII.
  YOU THINK I HAVE A SECRET                    171

  CHAPTER XIX.
  AND THAT WAS THE END OF IT                   181



MISS CRESPIGNY.



CHAPTER I.

LISBETH.


“Another party?” said Mrs. Despard.

“Oh yes!” said Lisbeth. “And, of course, a little music, and then a
little supper, and a little dancing, and all that sort of thing.” And
she frowned impatiently.

Mrs. Despard looked at her in some displeasure.

“You are in one of your humors, again, Lisbeth,” she said, sharply.

“Why shouldn’t I be?” answered Miss Crespigny, not a whit awed by her
patroness. “People’s humors are their privileges. I would not help mine
if I could. I like them because they are my own private property, and
no one else can claim them.”

“I should hardly think any one would want to claim yours,” said Mrs.
Despard, dryly, but at the same time regarding the girl with a sort of
curiosity.

Lisbeth Crespigny shrugged her shoulders--those expressive shoulders
of hers. A “peculiar girl,” even the mildest of people called her,
and as to her enemies, what did they not say of her? And her enemies
were not in the minority. But “peculiar” was not an unnatural term to
apply to her. She was “peculiar.” Seeing her kneeling close before the
fender this winter evening, one’s first thought would have been that
she stood apart from other girls. Her very type was her own, and no one
had ever been heard to say of any other woman, “she is like Lisbeth
Crespigny.” She was rather small of figure, she had magnificent hair;
her black brows and lashes were a wonder of beauty; her eyes were dark,
mysterious, supercilious. She often frightened people. She frightened
modest people with her nerve and coolness, bold people with her savage
sarcasms, quiet people with her moods. She had alarmed Mrs. Despard,
occasionally, when she had first come to live with her; but after
three years, Mrs. Despard, who was strong of nerve herself, had become
used to her caprices, though she had not got over being curious and
interested in spite of herself.

She was a widow, this Mrs. Despard. She had been an ambitious nobody
in her youth, and having had the luck to marry a reasonably rich man,
her ambition had increased with her good fortune. She was keen, like
Lisbeth, quick-witted and restless. She had no children, no cares, and
thus having no particular object in life, formed one for herself in
making herself pleasingly conspicuous in society.

It was her whim to be conspicuous; not in a vulgar way, however; she
was far too clever for that. She wished to have a little social court
of her own, and to reign supreme in it. It was not rich people she
wanted at her entertainments, nor powerful people; it was talented
people--people, shall it be said, who would admire her æsthetic
_soirées_, and talk about her a little afterward, and feel the
distinction of being invited to her house. And it was because Lisbeth
Crespigny was “peculiar” that she had picked her up.

During a summer visit to a quaint, picturesque, village on the Welsh
coast, she had made the acquaintance of the owners of a cottage, whose
picturesqueness had taken her fancy. Three elderly maiden ladies were
the Misses Tregarthyn, and Lisbeth was their niece, and the apple of
each gentle spinster’s eye. “Poor, dear Philip’s daughter,” and poor,
dear Philip, who had been their half-brother, and the idol of their
house, had gone abroad, and “seen the world,” and, after marrying a
French girl, who died young, had died himself, and left Lisbeth to
them as a legacy. And then they had transferred their adoration and
allegiance to Lisbeth, and Lisbeth, as her manner was, had accepted it
as her right, and taken it rather coolly. Mrs. Despard had found her,
at seventeen years old, a restless, lawless, ambitious young woman, a
young woman when any other girl would have been almost a child. She
found her shrewd, well-read, daring, and indifferent to audacity; tired
of the picturesque little village, secretly a trifle tired of being
idolized by the three spinsters, inwardly longing for the chance to try
her mettle in the great world. Then, too, she had another reason for
wanting to escape from the tame old life. In the dearth of excitement,
she had been guilty of the weakness of drifting into what she now
called an “absurd” flirtation, which had actually ended in an equally
absurd engagement, and of which she now, not absurdly, as she thought,
was tired.

“I scarcely know how it happened,” she said, with cool scorn, to Mrs.
Despard, when they knew each other well enough to be confidential.
“It was my fault, I suppose. If I had let him alone, he would have let
me alone. I think I am possessed of a sort of devil, sometimes, when I
have nothing to do. And he is such a boy,” with a shrug, “though he is
actually twenty-three. And then my aunts knew his mother when she was
a girl. And so when he came to Pen’yllan, he must come here and stay
with them, and they must encourage him to admire me. And I should like
to know what woman is going to stand that.” (“Woman, indeed!” thought
Mrs. Despard.) “And then, of course, he has some sense of his own, or
at least he has what will be sense some day. And he began to be rather
entertaining after a while; and we boated, and walked, and talked, and
read, and at last I was actually such a little fool as to let it end in
a sort of promise, for which I was sorry the minute it was half made.
If he had kept it to himself, it would not have been so bad; but, of
course, being such a boyish animal, he must confide in Aunt Millicent,
and Aunt Millicent must tell the others; and then they must all gush,
and cry, and kiss me, as if everything was settled, and I was to be
married in ten minutes, and bid them all an everlasting farewell in
fifteen. So I began to snub him that instant, and have snubbed him
ever since, in hopes he would get as tired of me as I am of him. But he
won’t. He does nothing but talk rubbish, and say he will bear it for
my sake. And the fact is, I am beginning to hate him; and it serves me
right.”

She had always interested Mrs. Despard, but she interested her more
than ever after this explanation. She positively fascinated her; and
the end of it all was, that when the lady left Pen’yllan, she carried
Lisbeth with her. The Misses Tregarthyn wept, and appealed, and only
gave in, under protest, at last, because Lisbeth was stronger than
the whole trio. She wanted to see the world, she said. Mrs. Despard
was fond of her. She had money enough to make her so far independent,
that she could return when the whim seized her; and she was tired of
Pen’yllan. So, why should she not go? She might only stay a month, or
a week, but, however that was, she had made up her mind to see life.
While the four fought their battle out, Mrs. Despard looked on and
smiled. She knew Lisbeth would win, and of course Lisbeth did. She
packed her trunk, and went her way. But the night before her departure
she had an interview with poor Hector Anstruthers, who came to the
garden to speak to her, his boyish face pale and haggard, his sea-blue
eyes wild and hollow with despair; and, like the selfish, heartless,
cool little wretch that she was, she put an end to his pleadings
peremptorily.

“No!” she said. “I would rather you would not write to me. I want to
be let alone; and it is because I want to be let alone that I am going
away from Pen’yllan. I never promised one of the things you are always
insisting that I promised. You may call me as many hard names as you
like, but you can’t deny that----”

“No!” burst forth the poor lad, in a frenzy. “You did not promise, but
you let me understand----”

“Understand!” echoed his young tyrant. “I tried hard enough to make you
understand that I wanted to be let alone. If you had been in your right
senses, you might have seen what I meant. You have driven me almost out
of my mind, and you must take the consequences.” And then she turned
away and left him, stunned and helpless, standing, watching her as she
trailed over the grass between the lines of rose-bushes, the moonlight
falling on her white dress and the little light-blue scarf she had
thrown over her long, loose, dusky hair.

Three years ago all this had happened, and she was with Mrs. Despard
still, though of course she had visited Pen’yllan occasionally. She had
not tired her patroness, if patroness she could be called. She was not
the sort of girl to tire people of their fancy for her. She was too
clever, too cool, too well-poised. She interested Mrs. Despard as much
to-day as she had done in the first week of their acquaintance. She was
just as much of a study for her, even in her most vexatious moods.

“Have you a headache?” asked Mrs. Despard, after a while.

“No,” answered Lisbeth.

“Have you had bad news from Pen’yllan?”

Lisbeth looked up, and answered Mrs. Despard, with a sharp curiousness.

“How did you know I had heard from Pen’yllan?” she demanded.

“Oh!” said Mrs. Despard, “I guessed so, from the fact that you seemed
to have no other reason for being out of humor; and lately that has
always been a sufficient one.”

“I cannot see why it should be,” said Lisbeth, tartly. “What can
Pen’yllan have to do with my humor?”

“But you have had a letter?” said Mrs. Despard.

“Yes; from Aunt Clarissa. There is no bad news in it, however. Indeed,
no news at all. How did I ever exist there?” her small face lowering.

“You would not like to go back?” suggested Mrs. Despard.

Lisbeth shrugged her shoulders.

“Would you like me to go back?” she questioned.

“I?” in some impatience. “You know, as well as I do, that I cannot do
without you. You would never miss me, Lisbeth, as I should miss you. It
is not your way to attach yourself to people.”

“How do you know?” interposed Lisbeth. “What can you know about me?
What can any one man or woman know of another? That is nonsense.”

“It is the truth, nevertheless,” was the reply. “Whom were you ever
fond of? Were you fond of the Misses Tregarthyn, who adored you? Were
you fond of that poor boy, who was so madly in love with you? Have you
been fond of any of the men who made simpletons of themselves, because
you had fine eyes, and a soft voice, and knew, better than any other
woman in the world, how to manage them? No; you know you have not.”

Lisbeth shrugged her shoulders again.

“Well, then, it is my way, I suppose,” she commented; “and my ways are
like my humors, as you call them. So, we may as well let them rest.”

There was a pause after this; then Lisbeth rose, and going to the
table, began to gather together the parcels she had left there when she
returned from her shopping expedition.

“You have not seen the dress?” she said.

“No.”

“It is a work of art. The pansies are as real as any that ever bloomed.
They might have been just gathered. How well that woman understands her
business!”



CHAPTER II.

ANOTHER GENTLEMAN OF THE SAME NAME.


She went up stairs, after this, to her own room, a comfortable,
luxurious little place, near Mrs. Despard’s own apartment. A clear,
bright fire burned in the grate, and her special sleepy-hollow chair
was drawn before it; and when she had laid aside her hat, and disposed
of her purchases, she came to this chair, and seated herself in it.
Then she drew the Pen’yllan letter from her pocket, and laid it on her
lap, and left it there, while she folded her hands, and leaned back,
looking at the fire dreamily, and thinking to herself.

The truth is, that letter, that gentle, sweet-tempered, old-fashioned
letter of Miss Clarissa’s, stung the girl, worldly and selfish as she
was. Three years ago she would not have cared much, but “seeing the
world”--ah! the world had taught her a lesson. She had seen a great
deal of this world, under Mrs. Despard’s guidance. She had ripened
marvelously; she had grown half a score of years older; she had learned
to be bitter and clear-sighted; and now a curious mental process was
going on with her.

“We shall never cease to feel your absence, my dear,” wrote Miss
Tregarthyn. “Indeed, we sometimes say to each other, that we feel it
more every day; but, at the same time, we cannot help seeing that our
life is not the life one so young and attractive ought to live. It was
not a congenial life for our poor dear old Philip, and how could it
seem congenial to his daughter? And if, by a little sacrifice, we can
make our dear Lisbeth happy, ought we not to be more than willing to
submit to it? We are so proud of you, my dear, and it delights us so to
hear that you are enjoying yourself, and being so much admired, that
when we receive your letters, we forget everything else. Do you think
you can spare us a week in the summer? If you can, you know how it will
rejoice us to see you, even for that short time,” etc., etc., through
half a dozen pages.

And this letter now lay on Lisbeth’s lap, as we have said, while she
pondered over the contents moodily.

“I do not see,” she said, at last, “I do not see what there is in me
for people to be so fond of.”

A loosened coil of her hair hung over her shoulder and bosom, and she
took this soft and thick black tress, and began to twist it round and
round her slender mite of a wrist with a sort of vindictive force.
“Where is the fascination in me?” she demanded, of the fire, one might
have thought. “It is not for my amiability, it is not for my ‘odd fine
eyes, and odd soft voice,’ as Mrs. Despard puts it, that those three
women love me, and lay themselves under my feet. If they were men,”
with scorn, “one could understand it. But women! Is it because they are
so much better than I am, that they cannot help loving something--even
me? Yes it is!” defiantly. “Yes it is!”

She was angry, and all her anger was against herself, or at least
against the fate which had made her what she was. Lisbeth knew herself
better than other people knew her. It was a fate, she told herself.
She had been born cold-blooded and immovable, and it was not to be
helped. But she never defended herself thus, when others accused her;
she would have scorned to do it. It was only against her own secret,
restless, inner accusations that she deigned to defend herself. It was
characteristic of her that she should brave the opinions of others,
and feel rebellious under her own. What Lisbeth Crespigny thought in
secret of Lisbeth Crespigny must have its weight.

At last she remembered the dress lying upon the bed--the dress Lecomte
had just sent home. She was passionately fond of dress, especially
fond of a certain striking, yet artistic style of setting, for her own
unusually effective face and figure. She turned now to this new dress,
as a refuge from herself.

“I may as well put it on now,” she said. “It is seven o’clock, and it
is as well to give one’s self plenty of time.”

So she got up, and began her toilet leisurely. She found it by no means
unpleasant to watch herself grow out of chrysalis form. She even found
a keen pleasure in standing in the brilliant light before the mirror,
working patiently at the soft, cloud-like masses of her hair, until she
had wound and twisted it into some novel, graceful fancifulness. And
yet even this scarcely arose from a vanity such as the vanity of other
women.

She went down to the drawing-room, when she was dressed. She knew she
was looking her best, without being told. The pale gray tissue, pale
as a gray sea-mist, the golden-hearted, purple pansies with which it
was lightly sown, and which were in her hair, and on her bosom, and in
her hands, suited her entirely. Her eyes, too, soft, dense, mysterious
under their sweeping, straight black lashes--well, Lisbeth Crespigny’s
eyes, and no other creature’s.

“A first glance would tell me who had designed that dress,” said Mrs.
Despard. “It is not Lecomte; it is your very self, in every touch and
tint.”

Lisbeth smiled, and looking down the length of the room, where she
stood reflected in a mirror at the end of it, unfurled her fan, a
gilded fan, thickly strewn with her purple pansies; but she made no
reply.

A glass door, in the drawing-room, opened into a conservatory all aglow
with light and bloom, and in this conservatory she was standing half an
hour later, when the first arrivals came. The door, a double one, was
wide open, and she, in the midst of the banks and tiers of flowers, was
bending over a vase of heliotrope, singing a low snatch of song.

    “The fairest rose blooms but a day,
    The fairest Spring must end with May,
    And you and I can only say,
                  Good-by, good-by, good-by!”

She just sang this much, and stopped. One of the two people who
had arrived was speaking to Mrs. Despard. She lifted her head, and
listened. She could not see the speaker’s face, because a tall,
tropical-leaved lily interposed itself. But the voice startled her
uncomfortably.

“Who is that man?” she said, to herself. “Who is that man?” And then,
without waiting another moment, she left the heliotrope, and made her
way to the glass door.

Mrs. Despard looked first, and saw her standing there.

“Ah, Lisbeth,” she said, and then turned, with a little smile, toward
the gentleman who stood nearest to her. “Here is an old friend,” she
added, as Lisbeth advanced. “You are indebted to Mr. Lyon for the
pleasure of seeing Mr. Anstruthers again.”

Lisbeth came forward, feeling as if she was on the verge of losing
her amiable temper. What was Hector Anstruthers doing here? What did
he want? Had he been insane enough to come with any absurd fancy
that--that he could--that--. But her irritated hesitance carried her
no farther than this. The young man met her halfway, with the greatest
self-possession imaginable.

“This is an unexpected pleasure,” he said, holding out his hand
frankly. “I was not aware, when Lyon brought me to his friend’s, that I
should find you here.”

All this, as complacently, be it observed, as if he had been addressing
any other woman in the world; as if that little affair of a few years
ago had been too mere a bagatelle to be remembered; as if his boyish
passion, and misery, and despair, had faded utterly out of his mind.

Mrs. Despard smiled again, and watched her young friend closely. But if
Lisbeth was startled and annoyed by the too apparent change, she was
too clever to betray herself. She was a sharp, secretive young person,
and had her emotions well under control. She held out her hand with a
smile of her own--a slow, well-bred, not too expressive affair, not an
effusive affair, by any means.

“Delighted, I am sure?” she said. “I have just been reading a letter
from Aunt Clarissa, and naturally it has prepared me to be doubly glad
to see one of her special favorites.”

After that the conversation became general, Anstruthers somehow
managing to take the lead. Lisbeth opened her eyes. Was this the boy
she had left in the moonlight at Pen’yllan? The young simpleton who
had been at her feet on the sands, spouting poetry, and adoring her,
and making himself her grateful slave? The impetuous, tiresome lad,
who had blushed, and raved, and sighed, and, in the end, had succeeded
in wearying her so completely? Three years had made a difference. Here
was a sublime young potentate, wondrously altered, and absolutely
wondrously well-looking. The mustache she had secretly sneered at in
its budding youth, was long, silken, brown; the slight, long figure
had developed into the fairest of proportions; the guileless freshness
of color had died away, and left an interesting, if rather significant
pallor. Having been a boy so long, he seemed to have become a man all
at once; and as he stood talking to Mrs. Despard, and occasionally
turning to Lisbeth, his serenity of manner did him credit. Was it
possible that he knew what to say? It appeared so. He did not blush;
his hands and feet evidently did not incommode him. He was talking
vivaciously, and with the air of a man of the world. He was making Mrs.
Despard laugh, and there was every now and then a touch of daring, yet
well-bred sarcasm in what he was saying. Bah! He was as much older as
she herself was. And yet, incongruous as the statement may appear, she
hardly liked him any the better.

“How long,” she asked, abruptly, of Bertie Lyon, “has Mr. Anstruthers
been in London?” Lyon, that radiant young dandy, was almost guilty of
staring at her amazedly.

“Beg pardon,” he said. “Did you say ‘how long!’”

“Yes.”

The young man managed to recover himself. Perhaps, after all, she was
as ignorant about Anstruthers as she seemed to be, and it was not one
of her confounded significant speeches. They were nice enough people,
of course, and Mrs. Despard was the sort of woman whose parties a
fellow always liked to be invited to; but then they were not exactly in
the set to which Anstruthers belonged, and of which he himself was a
shining member.

“Well, you see,” he said, “he has spent the greater part of his
life in London; but it was not until about three years ago that
he began to care much about society. He came into his money then,
when young Scarsbrook shot himself accidentally, in Scotland, and
he has lived pretty rapidly since,” with an innocent faith in Miss
Crespigny’s ability to comprehend even a modest bit of slang. “He is
a tremendously talented fellow, Anstruthers--paints, and writes, and
takes a turn at everything. He is the art-critic on the _Cynic_; and
people talk about what he does, all the more because he has no need to
do anything; and it makes him awfully popular.”

Lisbeth laughed; a rather savage little laugh.

“What is it that amuses you?” asked Lyon. “Not Anstruthers, I hope.”

“Oh, no!” answered the young lady. “Not this Anstruthers, but another
gentleman of the same name, whom I knew a long time ago.”

“A long time ago?” said the young man, gallantly, if not with wondrous
sapience. “If it is a long time ago, I should think you must have been
so young that your acquaintance would be hardly likely to make any
impression upon you, ludicrous or otherwise.” For he was one of the
victims, too, and consequently liked to make even a stupidly polite
speech.



CHAPTER III.

PANSIES FOR THOUGHT.


Lisbeth gave him a sweeping little curtsy, and looked at him sweetly,
with her immense, dense eyes.

“That was very nice, indeed, in you,” she said, with a gravely obliged
air. “Pray, take one of my pansies.” And selecting one from her
bouquet, she held it out to him, and Hector Anstruthers, chancing
to glance toward them at the moment, had the pleasure of seeing the
charming bit of by-play.

It was the misfortune of Miss Crespigny’s admirers that they were
rarely quite sure of her. She had an agreeable way of saying one thing,
and meaning another; of speaking with the greatest gravity, and at the
same time making her hearer feel extremely dubious and uncomfortable.
She was a brilliant young lady, a sarcastic young lady, and this was
her mode of dealing with young men and women who otherwise might have
remained too well satisfied with themselves. Bertie Lyon felt himself
somewhat at a loss before her, always. It was not easy to resist her,
when she chose to be irresistible; but he invariably grew hot and cold
over her “confounded significant speeches.” And this was one of them.
She was making a cut at him for his clumsy compliment, and yet he was
compelled to accept her pansy, and fasten it on his coat, as if he was
grateful.

Mr. Hector Anstruthers had been installed, by universal consent, that
evening, as a sort of young lion, whose gentlemanly roar was worth
hearing. Young ladies had heard of him from their brothers, and one or
two had seen those lovely little pictures of his last season. Matrons
had heard their husbands mention him as a remarkable young fellow, who
had unexpectedly come into a large property, and yet wrote articles for
the papers, and painted, when the mood seized him, for dear life. A
really extraordinary young man, and very popular among highly desirable
people. “Rather reckless,” they would say, “perhaps, and something of a
cynic, as these young swells are often apt to be; but, nevertheless, a
fine fellow--a fine fellow!” And Anstruthers had condescended to make
himself very agreeable to the young ladies to whom he was introduced;
had danced a little, had talked with great politeness to the elder
matrons, and, in short, had rendered himself extremely popular. Indeed,
he was so well employed, that, until the latter part of the evening,
Lisbeth saw very little of him. Then he appeared suddenly to remember
her existence, and dutifully made his way to her side, to ask for a
dance, which invitation being rather indifferently accepted, they
walked through a quadrille together.

“I hope,” he said, with punctilious politeness, “that the Misses
Tregarthyn are well.”

“I am sorry to say,” answered Lisbeth, staring at her _vis-à-vis_,
“that I don’t know.”

“Then I must have mistaken you. I understood you to say that you had
just received a letter from Miss Clarissa.”

“It was not a mistake,” returned Lisbeth. “I had just received one, but
unfortunately they don’t write about themselves. They write about me.”

“Which must necessarily render their letters interesting,” said
Anstruthers.

Lisbeth barely deigned a slight shrug of her shoulders.

“Necessarily,” she replied, “if one is so happily disposed as never to
become tired of one’s self.”

“It would be rank heresy to suppose,” said Anstruthers, “that any of
Miss Crespigny’s friends would allow it possible that any one could
become tired of Miss Crespigny--even Miss Crespigny herself.”

“This is the third figure, I believe,” was Lisbeth’s sole reply, and
the music striking up again, they went on with their dancing.

“He supposes,” said the young lady, scornfully, to herself, “that he
can play the grand seigneur with me as he does with other women. I dare
say he is congratulating himself on the prospect of making me feel
sorry some day--me! Are men always simpletons? It really seems so. And
it is the women whom we may blame for it. Bah! he was a great deal more
worthy of respect when he was nothing but a tiresome, amiable young
bore. I hate these simpletons who think they have seen the world, and
used up their experience.”

She was very hard upon him, as she was rather apt to be hard upon
every one but Lisbeth Crespigny. And it is not improbable that she
was all the more severe, because he reminded her unpleasantly of
things she would have been by no means unwilling to forget. Was she
so heartless as not to have a secret remembrance of the flush of his
first young passion, of his innocent belief in her girlish goodness,
of his generous eagerness to ignore all her selfish caprices, of his
tender readiness to bear all her cruelty--for she had been cruel, and
wantonly cruel, enough, God knows. Was she so utterly heartless as to
have no memory of his suffering and struggles with his boyish pain,
of his passionate, frantic appeal, when she had reached the climax of
her selfishness and indifference to the wrong she might do? Surely,
no woman could be so hard, and I will not say that she was, and that
she was not inwardly stung this night by the thought that, if he had
hardened and grown careless and unbelieving, the chances were that it
was she herself who had helped to bring about the change for the worse.

The two young men, Lyon and his friend, spending that night together,
had a little conversation on the subject of their entertainment, and it
came to pass in this wise.

Accompanying Anstruthers to his chambers, Lyon, though by no means a
sentimental individual, carried Miss Crespigny’s gold and purple pansy
in his button-hole, and finding it there when he changed his dress coat
for one of his friend’s dressing gowns, he took it out, and put it in a
small slender vase upon the table.

Anstruthers had flung himself into an easy-chair, with his chibouque,
and through the wreaths of smoke, ascending from the fragrant weed, he
saw what the young man was doing.

“Where did you get that?” he demanded, abruptly.

“It is one of those things Miss Crespigny wore,” was the modestly
triumphant reply. “You saw them on her dress, and in her hair, and on
her fan. This is a real one, though, out of her bouquet. I believe they
call them heart’s-ease.”

“Heart’s-ease be ----,” began Anstruthers, roughly, but he checked
himself in time. “She is the sort of a woman to wear heart’s-ease!”
he added, with a sardonic laugh. “She ought to wear heart’s-ease, and
violets, and lilies, and snowdrops, and wild roses in the bud,” with
a more bitter laugh for each flower he named. “Such fresh, innocent
things suit women of her stamp.”

“I say,” said Lyon, staring at his sneering face, amazedly, “what is
the matter? You talk as if you had a spite against her. What’s up?”

Anstruther’s sneer only seemed to deepen in its intensity.

“A spite!” he echoed. “What is the matter? Oh, nothing--nothing of any
consequence. Only I wish she had given her heart’s-ease to me, or I
wish you would give it to me, that I might show you what I advise you
to do with the pretty things such creatures give you. Toss it into the
fire, old fellow, and let it scorch, and blacken, and writhe, as if it
was a living thing in torment. Or fling it on the ground, and set your
heel upon it, and grind it out of sight.”

“I don’t see what good that would do,” said Lyon, coming to the
mantelpiece, and taking down his meerschaum. “You are a queer fellow,
Anstruthers. I did not think you knew the girl.”

“I know her?” with a fresh sneer. “I know her well enough.”

“By Jove!” exclaimed Lyon, suddenly, as if a thought had struck him.
“Then she did mean something.”

“She generally means something,” returned the other. “Such women
invariably do--they mean mischief.”

“She generally does when she laughs in that way,” Lyon proceeded,
incautiously. “She is generally laughing at a man, instead of with him,
as she pretends to be. And when she laughed, this evening, and looked
in that odd style at you, I thought there was something wrong.”

Anstruthers turned white, the dead white of suppressed passion.

“Laugh!” he said. “She laughed?”

“You see,” explained Lyon, “she had been asking about you; and when
I finished telling her what I knew, she looked at you under her
eyelashes, as you stood talking to Mrs. Despard, and then she laughed;
and when I asked her if she was laughing at you, she said, ‘Ah, no! Not
at you, but at another gentleman of the same name, whom she had known a
long time ago.’”

It was not the best thing for himself, that Hector Anstruthers could
have heard. He had outlived his boyish passion, but he had not lived
down the sting of it. Having had his first young faith broken, he had
given faith up, as a poor mockery. He had grown cynical and sneering.
Bah! Why should he cling to his old ideals of truth and purity? What
need that he should strive to be worthy of visions such as they had
proved themselves? What was truth after all? What was purity, in the
end? What had either done for him, when he had striven after and
believed in them?

The accidental death of his cousin had made him a rich man, and he had
given himself up to his own caprices. He had seen the world, and lived
a lifetime during the last few years. What had there been to hold him
back? Not love. He had done with that, he told himself. Not hope of any
quiet bliss to come. If he ever married, he should marry some woman who
knew what she was taking when she accepted what he had to offer.

And then he had gradually drifted into his artistic and literary
pursuits, and his success had roused his vanity. He would be something
more than the rest; and, incited by this noble motive, and his real
love for the work, he had made himself something more. He had had no
higher incentive than this vanity, and a fancy for popularity. It was
not unpleasant to be pointed out as a genius--a man who, having no need
to labor, had the whim to labor as hard when the mood seized, as the
poorest Bohemian among them, and who would be paid for his work, too.
“They will give me praise for nothing,” he would say, sardonically.
“They won’t give me money for nothing. As long as they will pay me, my
work means something. When it ceases to be worth a price, it is not
worth my time.”

The experience of this evening had been a bad thing altogether for
Anstruthers. It had roused in him much of sleeping evil. His meeting
with Lisbeth Crespigny had been, as he told her, wholly unexpected. And
because it had been unexpected, its effect had double force. He did not
want to see her. If he had been aware of her presence in the house he
was going to visit, he would have avoided it as he would have avoided
the plague. The truth was, that in these days she had, in his mind,
become the embodiment of all that was unnatural, and hard, and false.
And meeting her suddenly, face to face, every bitter memory of her
had come back to him with a fierce shock. When he had turned, as Mrs.
Despard spoke, and had seen her standing in the doorway, framed in, as
it were, with vines and flowers, and tropical plants, he had almost
felt that he could turn on his heel and walk out of the room without a
word of explanation. She would know well enough what it meant. Being
the man he was, his eye had taken in at a glance every artistic effect
about her; and she was artistic enough; for when Lisbeth Crespigny
was not artistic she was nothing. He saw that the promise of her own
undeveloped girlhood had fulfilled itself after its own rare, peculiar
fashion, doubly and trebly. He saw in her what other men seldom
saw at first sight, but always learned afterward, and his sense of
repulsion and anger against her was all the more intense. Having been
such a girl, what might she not be as such a woman? Having borne such
blossoms, what could the fruit be but hard and bitter at the core? Only
his ever-ruling vanity saved him from greeting her with some insane,
caustic speech. Vanity will serve both men and women a good turn, by
chance, sometimes, and his saved him from making a blatant idiot of
himself--barely saved him. And having got through this, it was not
soothing to hear that she had stood, in her sly way, and looked at him
under her eyelashes, and laughed. He knew how she would laugh. He had
heard her laugh at people in that quiet fashion, when she was fifteen,
and the sound had always hurt him, through its suggestion of some
ungirlish satire he could not grasp, and which was not worthy of so
perfect a being as he deemed her.

So, he could not help breaking out again in new fury, when Bertie Lyon
explained himself. It did not matter so much, breaking out before Lyon.
Men could keep each other’s secrets. He flung his pipe aside with a
rough word, and began to pace the room.

“There is more of devil than woman in her,” he said. “There always was.
I’d give a few years of my life,” clenching his hand, “to be sure that
she would find her match some day.”

“I should think you would be match enough for her,” remarked Lyon,
astutely. “But what has she done to make _you_ so savage? When were
_you_ in love with a woman?”

“Never!” bitterly. “I was in love with her, and she never belonged to
the race, not even at fifteen years old. I was in love with her, and
she has been the ruin of me.”

“I should scarcely have thought it,” answered Lyon. “You are a pretty
respectable wreck, for your age.”

The young man was not prone to heroics himself, and not seeing his
friend indulge in them often, he did not regard them with enthusiasm.

This complacency checked Anstruthers. What a frantic fool he was, to
let such a trifle upset his boasted cynicism? He flung out another
short laugh of defiant self-ridicule. He came back to his chair as
abruptly as he had left it.

“Bah!” he said. “So I am. You are a wise boy, Lyon, and I am glad you
stopped me. I thought I had lived down all this sort of nonsense,
but--but I have seen that girl wear pansies before. Heart’s-ease, by
Jove! And it gave me a twinge to think of it. Keep that one in the
glass over there; keep it as long as you choose, my boy. It will last
as long as your fancy for her does, I wager. Women of the Crespigny
stamp don’t wear well. Here, hand me that bottle--Or stay! I’ll ring
for my man, and we will have some brandy and soda, to cool our heated
fancies. We are too young to stay up so late; too young and innocent!
We ought to have gone to bed long ago, like good boys.”



CHAPTER IV.

A LUNCH PARTY.


The studio of that popular and fortunate young man, Mr. Hector
Anstruthers, was really a most gorgeous and artistic affair. It was
beautifully furnished and wondrously fitted up, and displayed, in all
its arrangements, the fact that its owner was a young man of refined
and luxurious tastes, and was lucky enough to possess the means to
gratify them to their utmost. People admired this studio, and talked
about it almost as much as they talked about Anstruthers himself.
Indeed, it had become a sort of fashion to visit it. The most exclusive
of mammas, ladies who were so secure in their social thrones, that
they were privileged to dictate to fashion, instead of being dictated
to by that fickle goddess--ladies who made much of Anstruthers, and
petted him, often stopped their carriages at his door on fine mornings,
and descended therefrom with their marriageable girls, went up to the
charming room, and loitered through half an hour, or even more, talking
to the young potentate, admiring his pictures, and picturesque odds
and ends, and rarities, and making themselves very agreeable. He was an
extravagant creature, and needed some one to control him, these ladies
told him; but really it was all very pretty, and exquisitely tasteful;
and, upon the whole, they could hardly blame him as much as it was
their duty to do. Anstruthers received these delicate attentions with
quite a grace.

He listened and smiled amiably, replying with friendly deprecation
of their reproaches. Was he not paid a thousand-fold by their kind
approval of his humble efforts? What more could he ask than that they
should grace the little place with their presence, and condescend to
admire his collection? Most men had their hobbies, and art was his--art
and the artistic--a harmless, if extravagant one. And then he would
beg his fair visitors and their escort to honor his small temple,
by partaking of the luncheon his man would bring in. And then the
little luncheon would appear, as if by magic--a marvelous collation,
as much a work of art as everything else; and this being set out upon
some carven wonder of a table, the ladies would deign to partake, and
would admire more than ever, until, in course of time, to visit Mr.
Hector Anstruthers, among his pictures, and carvings, and marbles,
and be invited to enjoy his dandified little feasts, became the most
fashionable thing the most exclusive of people could do. So it was
by no means extraordinary that, one sunny morning in April, my lord,
while chatting with his usual condescending amiability to one party of
visitors, should receive another. There were three in this last party,
an elderly beau, a young lady of uncertain age, and Mrs. Despard.
Anstruthers, who was standing by the side of a pretty girl with bright
eyes, started a little on the entrance of this lady, and the bright
eyes observed it.

“Who is that?” asked their owner. “She is a very _distingué_ sort of
person.” And then she smiled. It was quite certain that he could not be
enamored of such mature charms as these, _distingué_ though they might
be.

“That is Mrs. Despard, Miss Esmond,” answered Anstruthers. “Excuse
me, one moment.” And then he advanced to meet his guests, with the
cordiality of the most graceful of hosts.

This was indeed a pleasure, he said, blandly. He had been half afraid
that Mrs. Despard had forgotten her kind promise.

That lady shook hands with him in a most friendly manner. She rather
shared the universal tendency people had to admire the young man. Were
not all young men extravagant? And at least this one had money enough
to afford to be extravagant honestly, and attractions enough to render
even conceit a legitimate article.

“You must thank Mr. Estabrook and his sister for bringing me,” she
said. “They have been before and knew the way. We met them as they were
coming here, and they asked us to come with them. Lisbeth would not get
out of the carriage. She was either lazy or ill-humored. She was driven
round to the library, and is to call for us in half an hour.”

Her eyes twinkled a little as she told him this. As I have said before,
Lisbeth always interested her, and she was interested now in her mode
of managing this old love affair. It was so plain that it rasped her
to be brought in contact with him and that she would have preferred
very much to keep out of his way, that the fact of her being thrown in
his path against her will could not fail to have its spice, and afford
Mrs. Despard a little malicious amusement. In secret, she was obliged
to confess that, ill-natured as it seemed, she would not have been
very sorry to see Lisbeth at bay. Of Anstruthers’ sentiments she was
not quite sure, as yet, but she was very sure of Lisbeth’s. Lisbeth
knew that she had acted atrociously in the past, and hating herself in
private for her weak wickedness, hated Anstruthers too for his share in
it. It was not Lisbeth’s way to be either very just or very generous.
All her pangs of self-reproach were secret ones, of which she had
taught herself to be ashamed, and which she would have died rather than
confess. She let her caprices rule her wholly, and did her best to make
them rule other people. If she was angry, she made vicious speeches;
if she was pleased, she behaved like an angel, or an angelic creature
without a fault. She did not care enough for other people to mold her
moods to their taste. The person of most consequence to her was Lisbeth
Crespigny.

Mrs. Despard found her visit to her young friend’s studio very
entertaining. She saw things to admire, and things to be amused
at. She discovered that his own efforts were really worth looking
at, and that the fixtures he had collected were both valuable and
exquisite. He had bought no costly lots of ugliness, he had bought
beauty. As to the appurtenances of the room, a woman could not have
chosen them better--most women would not have chosen them so well.
Indeed, a touch of effeminate fancifulness in the general arrangement
of things made her smile more than once. He had arranged a sort of
miniature conservatory in a wide, deep bay-window, filled it with tiers
of flowers growing in fanciful vases, and hanging baskets full of
delicate, long vines, and bright bloom.

“What a dandy we are!” she said, smiling, when she drew aside the
sweeping lace curtain which cut this pretty corner off from the rest of
the apartment. “And what fine tastes we display!”

Anstruthers blushed a little. He had accompanied her on her tour of
exploration, and had been secretly flattered by her evident admiration
and surprise.

“Is that a compliment, or is it not?” he answered. “I like to hear that
I have fine taste, but I don’t like to be called a dandy.”

“Isn’t it a trifle dandified to know how to do all these things so
well?” she asked. “It is a man’s province to be clumsy and ignorant
about the small graces.”

“Isn’t it better than doing them ill?” he said. “Pray let me give you
two or three pale rosebuds and a few sweet violets.”

“If you bribe me with violets and rosebuds, I shall say it is better
that you should be æsthetic enough to care to cultivate them, than
that I should not have the pleasure of receiving them as a gift. It is
very pretty of you to do such things.”

There was no denying that they had become excellent friends. There were
not many people to whom his lordship would have offered his rosebuds
and violets, but for some reason or other he had taken a sudden fancy
to Mrs. Despard, and was anxious to show himself to advantage. He
was even ready to answer her questions, and once or twice they were
somewhat close ones, it must be confessed.

“Tell me something about that nice girl,” she said, glancing at Miss
Esmond, who was talking to the rest of the party. “What a pretty
creature she is, and how bright her eyes and her color are! There are
very few girls who look like that in these days.”

“Very few,” answered Anstruthers. “That nice girl is Miss Georgie
Esmond, and she is one of the few really nice girls who have the luck
to take public fancy by storm, as they ought to. She has not been ‘out’
long, and she is considered a belle and a beauty. And yet I assure
you, Mrs. Despard, that I have seen that girl playing with a troop of
little brothers and sisters, as if she was enjoying herself, helping a
snuffy old French governess to correct exercises, and bringing a light
for the old colonel’s pipe, as if she had never seen a ball-room in her
life.”

“Oh!” said Mrs. Despard, “then I suppose you have seen her in the bosom
of her family,” a trifle slyly.

“I know them very well,” replied the young man, with a grave air. “I
have known Georgie Esmond since she wore pinafores. My poor cousin,
who died, has played blindman’s buff with us at Scarsbrook Park, when
we were children, many a time. The fact is, I believe we are distant
relations.”

“I congratulate you on the distance of the relationship,” said Mrs.
Despard. “She is a fresh, bright, charming girl.”

“She is a good girl,” said Anstruthers. “Congratulate her on that, and
congratulate her father, and her mother, and her brothers and sisters,
and the snuffy old governess, whose life she tries to make less of a
burden to her.”

It was at this moment that the carriage in which Lisbeth had driven
away returned. It drove by the window, and drew up at the door,
and Mrs. Despard saw her young friend’s face alter its expression
when he caught sight of it, with its prancing bays and faultless
accompaniments, and Lisbeth Crespigny leaning back upon the
dove-colored cushions, with a book in her little dove-colored hand.
She saw Mrs. Despard among the flowers, but did not see her companion;
and being in an amiable humor, she gave her a smile and a nice little
gesture of greeting. Her eyes looked like midnight in the sunshine,
and with a marvel of a cream-colored rose in her hat, and in perfect
toilet, she was like a bit of a picture, dark, and delicate, and fine;
she struck Anstruthers in an instant, just as anything else artistic
would have struck him, and held his attention.

“I wonder if she would come up,” Mrs. Despard said. “I wish she would.
She ought to see this. It would suit her exactly.”

“Allow me to go down and ask her if she will do us the honor,” said
Anstruthers. “Colonel Esmond and his daughter have promised to take
luncheon, and I was in hopes that I could persuade your party to join
us. It will be brought on almost immediately.”

“That is as novel as the rest,” said Mrs. Despard, by no means
displeased. “However, if you can induce Lisbeth to come up, I am not
sure that I shall refuse.”

“I wonder what he will say to her,” was her mental comment, when he
left the room, and she looked out of her window with no small degree of
interest.

She saw him standing upon the pavement, by the carriage, a moment or so
later, his face slightly upturned, as he spoke to the girl, the spring
wind playing softly with his loose, fair hair, and the spring sunshine
brightening it; and something in his manner, she scarcely knew what,
brought back to her a sudden memory of the frank, boyish young fellow
he had been when Lisbeth first amused herself, with her cool contempt
for his youth and impetuousness, at Pen’yllan. And just as suddenly it
occurred to her, what a wide difference she found in him now. How ready
he was to say caustic things, to take worldly views, and indulge in
worldly sneers; and she recollected the stories she had drifted upon;
stories which proved him a life’s journey from the boy whose record had
been pure, whose heart had been fresh, whose greatest transgression
might have been easily forgiven; and remembering all this, she felt a
sharp anger against Lisbeth, an anger sharper than she had ever felt
toward her in the whole of her experience.

When Anstruthers appeared upon the pavement, and advanced toward the
carriage side, Lisbeth turned toward him with a feeling of no slight
displeasure. Since she had made an effort to keep out of his way, must
he follow her up?

“Is not Mrs. Despard coming?” she asked, somewhat abruptly.

“Mrs. Despard was so kind as to say, that if I could induce you to
leave the carriage and join our little party, she would not refuse to
take luncheon with us.” And then he stood and waited for her reply.

“I was not aware that she thought of staying,” said Lisbeth. “If I had
known----”

Then she checked herself. “If I refuse,” she said, in secret, “he will
think I am afraid of him.” And she regarded him keenly. But he was
quite immovable, and merely appeared politely interested.

“If you will be so good as to let me help you down,” he said, opening
the low door himself, and extending his hand courteously, “we shall be
delighted to have such an addition to our number,” he added.

“You are very kind,” answered Lisbeth, rising. He should not think his
presence could influence her one way or the other. She made up her mind
to face this position, since it was unavoidable, as if it had been
the most ordinary one in the world. She entered the room up stairs
as if she had expected to lunch there. Miss Esmond, who was always
good-naturedly ready to be enthusiastic, turned to look at her with a
smile of pleasure.

“What an unusual type!” she said, to her father. “Do look, papa! She
is actually exquisite!” And being introduced to her, her frank, bright
eyes became brighter than ever. She was one of those lovable, trusting
young creatures, who are ready to fall in love with pleasant people
or objects on the shortest notice; and she was captivated at once by
Lisbeth’s friendly air. Her age and Lisbeth’s were about the same, but
by nature and experience they were very wide apart, Miss Crespigny
being very much the older and more worldly-wise of the two. If it had
come to a matter of combat between them, Miss Georgie would have had no
chance whatever.



CHAPTER V.

GEORGIE ESMOND.


It suited Lisbeth to be charming this morning, and she was really
very agreeable indeed. She knew enough of art to appear to advantage
among pictures, and she had, withal, a certain demure and modest way
of admitting her ignorance, which was by no means unattractive. She
was bright, amiable, and, as it seemed, in the best of spirits. She
made friends with Miss Georgie, and delighted Colonel Esmond; she
propitiated Miss Estabrook, and rendered that inflammable elderly beau,
her brother, supremely happy by her friendly condescension; she treated
Anstruthers as if there had been no other event in their two lives but
this one morning and this one nice little party. She made the luncheon
even more entertaining than such small feasts usually were; in short,
she was Lisbeth Crespigny at her best, her spiciest, and in her most
engaging mood.

“Oh!” said that open-hearted Georgie, when she shook hands with her as
they parted--“Oh, I have enjoyed myself so much! I am so glad to have
met you. I hope we shall see each other again. Please ask me to call,
Mrs. Despard,” laughing prettily. “I should like it so much. I do so
hate to lose people whom I like.”

“Does that mean that you are so good as to like me a little?” said
Lisbeth, in her sweetest tone, wondering, at the same time, how on
earth the girl could have lived so long, and yet have retained that
innocent, believing air and impulsive way. “I hope it does.”

Georgie quite blushed with innocent fervor.

“Indeed it does,” she answered. “I should not say it, if it did not.
And I am sure that, if I see you more, I shall like you better and
better. It is so delightful to meet somebody one is sure one can be
fond of.”

It was an odd thing, but as Lisbeth looked at her for a moment, she
positively felt that she blushed faintly herself, blushed with a sense
of being a trifle ashamed of Lisbeth Crespigny. It would be dreadful to
have such a girl as this find her out; see her just as she was; read
her record just as the past had left it. She was half inclined to put
such a thing beyond the pale of possibility by drawing back.

“I want mamma to know you,” said Georgie. “Mamma is so fond of clever
people, that it makes me wish, often enough, that I was not such an
ordinary sort of girl.”

“We shall be delighted to see you, my dear,” said Mrs. Despard. “You
may be sure of that. Come as soon, and as often as possible.”

And so the matter was decided, and Lisbeth had not the power to draw
back, if she had determined to do so.

“You must have known Miss Crespigny quite a long time,” Georgie Esmond
said, cheerfully, to Anstruthers, before she went away with her father.
“Mrs. Despard said something about your having met her at that little
Welsh place, Pen’yllan wasn’t it? And you haven’t been at Pen’yllan to
stay for two or three years.”

“You ought not to have kept such a charming creature to yourself for
three years, my boy,” said the old colonel.

“I should think not, indeed,” chimed in Miss Georgie. “It was selfish,
and we are never selfish with him, are we, papa? We show him all our
nice people, don’t we?”

“But,” said Anstruthers, “I have not seen Miss Crespigny once during
the three years. After leaving Pen’yllan, we lost sight of each other,
somehow or other, and did not meet again until a short time ago, and
then it was quite by accident.”

“It was very careless of you to lose her then,” protested Miss Georgie.
“I would not have lost her for the world. Gentlemen are so cold in
their friendships. I don’t believe you ever really loved any of your
friends in your life, Mr. Hector.”

Anstruthers smiled a satirical smile.

“Ought I to have loved Miss Crespigny?” he demanded. “Ought I to begin
to love her now? If you think it is my duty, I will begin to do it at
once, Georgie.”

The girl shook her pretty head reproachfully.

“Oh!” she said, “that is always the way you talk, you grand young
gentlemen. It is the fashion to be sarcastic, and not to admire anybody
very much, or anything but yourselves,” saucily. “And you would sneer
at your best friends rather than not be in the fashion. I am sure I
don’t know what the world is coming to.”

“Who is sarcastic now, I should like to know?” said Anstruthers.
“I think it is Miss Georgie Esmond, who out-Herods Herod. Admire
ourselves, indeed! We only do what we are taught to do. What women
themselves teach us----”

“What!” exclaimed Georgie. “Do we teach you to admire yourselves, and
nothing else?”

“No,” was his answer. “You do not teach us that, but you do worse. Not
you, my kind, honest Georgie, but women who would have us believe they
are as honest and tender. They teach us that if we cling to our first
beliefs, we are fools, and deserve to be laughed at; they teach us to
sneer, and then scold us prettily for sneering; they leave us nothing
to believe in, and then make sad, poetic speeches about our want of
faith. There are men in the world for whom it would have been better if
they had never seen a woman.”

Georgie Esmond’s eyes opened wider and wider. She did not understand
such bitterness. She was a simple, healthful-minded girl, and had seen
very little of the world but its pleasant side.

“Why!” she said, “this is dreadful. And you say it as if you actually
meant it. I shall have to talk to mamma about you, Hector. Such cases
as yours are too much for me to deal with. What good is all your money,
and your genius, and your popularity, and--and good looks?” making a
charming, mischievous bow. “What pleasure can you derive from your
pretty rooms, and lovely pictures, and fine articles of _vertu_, if
you have such wicked thoughts as those? Somebody ought to take your
things from you, as we do Harry’s toys, when he is willful; and they
ought to be locked up in a cupboard, until you are in a frame of mind
to enjoy them.”

Anstruthers looked at her sweet, bright face with a kind of sad
admiration. Why had he not fallen in love with this girl, instead of
with the other? It was a hard fate which had led or driven him. What a
different man he might have been, if, three years ago, Georgie Esmond
had stood in Lisbeth Crespigny’s place!

“You don’t quite understand, Georgie,” he said, in a low, rather tender
tone. “You are too good and kind, my dear, to quite comprehend what
makes people hard, and bitter, and old before their time.”

And Colonel Esmond coming into the room to take her away, at this
moment, he gave her nice little hand the ghost of an affectionate
pressure, when she offered it to him in farewell.

And while Mr. Hector Anstruthers was railing, in this exalted strain,
at the falseness of womankind, the fair cause of his heresy was driving
home in a rather unpleasant frame of mind. It is never pleasant to
find that one has lost power, and it was a specially galling thing to
Lisbeth Crespigny to find herself at any time losing influence of any
kind. She did not find it agreeable to confront the fact that one of
her slaves had purchased his freedom, with his experience. Petty as
the emotion was, she had felt something akin to anger this morning,
when she had been compelled to acknowledge, as once or twice she had
been, that her whilom victim could address her calmly, meet her glance
with polite indifference, regard her, upon the whole, as he would have
regarded any far less accomplished woman.

“Less than four years ago,” she said to herself, with scorn, “if I had
trampled upon him, he would have kissed my feet. To-day, he only sees
in me an unpleasant young woman, whom he overrated, and accordingly
cherishes a grudge against. I have no doubt he looked at that pretty,
fresh, Esmond girl, as we sat together, and drew invidious comparisons
between us.”

Let us give her credit for one thing, however. She felt no anger
against the girl, who she fancied had taken her place. Somehow Georgie
Esmond, with her bright eyes, and her roses, and her ready good-nature,
had found a soft spot in Lisbeth’s rather hard heart. Miss Crespigny
could not have explained why it was, but she had taken a fancy to
Georgie Esmond. She liked her, and she wanted the feeling to be a
mutual one. She would have experienced something very like a pang, even
thus early in their acquaintance, if she had thought that the sweet,
honest young creature would ever see her with Hector Anstruthers’ eyes.

“Men are always disproportionately bitter,” she said, to herself. “It
is their way to make themselves heard when they are hurt. They seem to
have a kind of pride in their pain. Any ordinarily clever woman could
see that my lord of the studio had a grievance.”

“Lisbeth,” said Mrs. Despard, breaking in upon her reverie, “isn’t it
rather astonishing how that boy has improved?”

“He has improved,” said Lisbeth, “because he has ceased to be a boy. He
is a man in these days.”

“And a very personable and entertaining man, I must say,” returned
Mrs. Despard, nodding her head, in approval of him. “He is positively
handsome. And that luncheon was a very pretty, graceful affair, and
quite unique. I shall pay him a visit again one of these fine days.”

Being thus installed as one of Mrs. Despard’s favorites, it was not at
all singular that they should see a great deal of the young gentleman.
And they did see him pretty often. Gradually he forgot his objection
to meeting Lisbeth, and rather sneered in secret at the violence of
that first shock of repulsion. It was all over, now, he said, and why
should such a woman trouble him? Indeed, what greater proof of his
security could he give himself than the fact that he could meet her
almost daily, and still feel indifferent? It must be confessed that he
rather prided himself upon his indifference. He was drawn also into
greater familiarity with the household through Georgie Esmond. For,
in expressing her wish to make friends with Lisbeth, Georgie had been
sincere, as was her habit. A very short time after the luncheon her
first visit was made, and the first visit was the harbinger of many
others. “Mamma,” who was her daughter’s chief admiration, came with
her, and “mamma” was as much charmed, in her way, as Georgie had been
in hers. It was impossible for Lisbeth to help pleasing people when she
was in the right mood; and Mrs. Esmond and Georgie invariably put her
in the right mood. She could not help showing her best side to these
two sweet natures.



CHAPTER VI.

A SONG.


Thus a friendship arose which, in the course of time, became a very
close one. Colonel Esmond’s house was luxurious and pleasant, and
everybody’s heart opened to a favorite of Georgie’s. Accordingly,
Lisbeth’s niche in the family was soon found. It was rather agreeable
to go among people who admired and were ready to love her, so she went
pretty often. In fact, Georgie kept firm hold upon her. There appeared
always some reason why it was specially necessary that Lisbeth should
be with her. She had visitors, or she was alone and wanted company; she
had some new music and wanted Lisbeth’s help, or she had found some old
songs Lisbeth must try--Lisbeth, whose voice was so exquisite. Indeed,
it was Lisbeth, Lisbeth, Lisbeth, from week to week, until more than
one of Miss Esmond’s admirers wished that there had been no such person
as Miss Crespigny in the world. As Anstruthers had said, Miss Georgie
Esmond was quite a belle, in this the first year of her reign, and if
she had been so inclined, it was generally believed that she might have
achieved some very brilliant social triumphs, indeed. But I am afraid
that she had the bad taste not to aspire as she might have done.

“I don’t want to be uncharitable,” she had said, innocently, to her
friend. “And I don’t in the least believe the things people often
say about society--the things Hector says, for instance; but really,
Lisbeth, I have sometimes thought that the life behind all the glare
and glitter was just the least bit stupid and hollow. I know I should
get dreadfully tired of it, if I had nothing else to satisfy me; no
real home-life, and no true, single-hearted, close friends to love,
like you and mamma.”

It made Lisbeth wince, this pretty speech. Georgie Esmond often made
her wince.

And Mr. Hector Anstruthers discovered this fact before any great length
of time had passed, and the discovery awakened in him divers new
sensations.

He had looked on at the growing friendship with a secret sneer; but the
sneer was not at Georgie. Honestly, he liked the girl something the
better for her affectionate credulity; nothing could contaminate her,
not even Lisbeth Crespigny. But sometimes, just now and then, he found
it a trifle difficult to control himself, and resist the impulse to be
openly sarcastic.

He encountered this difficulty in special force one evening about a
month after the studio luncheon. The girls had spent the afternoon
together, and, dinner being over, Lisbeth was singing one of Georgie’s
favorite songs. It was a love song, too, for though Miss Georgie had
as yet had no practical experience in the matter of love, she had some
very pretty ideas of that tender passion, and was very fond of love
songs, and poems, and love stories, such as touched her heart, and
caused her to shed a few gentle tears. And this song was a very pretty
one, indeed. “All for love, and the world well lost,” was the burden
of its guileless refrain. All for love, love which is always true, and
always tender, and never deceives us. What is the world, it demanded,
what is life, what rest can we find if we have not love? The world is
our garden, and love is the queen of roses, its fairest bloom. Let us
gather what flowers we may, but, oh, let us gather the rose first,
and tend it most delicately. It will give its higher beauty to our
lives; it will make us more fit for heaven itself; it will shame our
selfishness, and help us to forget our sordid longings. All for love,
and the world well lost. And so on, through three or four verses, with
a very sweet accompaniment, which Georgie played with great taste.

And Lisbeth was singing, and, as she had a trick of doing, was quite
forgetting herself. And her exquisite, full-toned voice rose and fell
with a wondrous fervor, and her immense dark eyes glared, and her small
pale face glowed, and a little pathetic shadow seemed to rest upon her.
So well did she sing, indeed, that one might have fancied that she had
done nothing, all her life, but sing just such sweetly sentimental
songs, and believe every word of them implicitly; and when she had
finished, Georgie’s eyes were full of tears.

“Oh, Lisbeth!” she cried, looking up at her affectionately, “you make
everything sound so beautiful and--and true. I could never, never sing
in that way. It must be because you can feel beautiful, tender things
so deeply, so much more deeply than other people do.”

Lisbeth awoke from her dream suddenly. Hector Anstruthers, who had
been standing at the other side of the piano, looked at her with a
significance which would have roused her at any time. Their eyes met,
and both pair flashed; his with the very intensity of contempt; hers
with defiance.

“My dear Georgie,” he said, “I admire your enthusiasm, but scarcely
think you quite understand Miss Crespigny. She is one of those
fortunate people who cannot help doing things well. It is a habit she
has acquired. No sentiment would suffer in her hands, even a sentiment
quite opposite to the one she has just illustrated the force of so
artistically.”

Georgie looked a little amazed. She did not liked to be chilled when
all her gentle emotions were in full play; and, apart from this, did
not such a speech sound as if it suggested a doubt of the sincerity of
her beloved Lisbeth?

“People cannot teach themselves to be innocent and loving,” she said,
almost indignantly. “At least, they cannot be artistically loving and
innocent. You cannot make art of truth and faith, and you cannot be
generous and kind through nothing but habit. Your heart must be good
before you can be good yourself. At least, that is my belief, and I
would rather have my beliefs than your cynicisms; and so would Lisbeth,
I am sure, even if they are not so brilliant and popular. You are too
sarcastic, sir, and you have quite spoiled our pretty song.”

“I did not mean to spoil it,” he answered. “Forgive me, I beg,” with a
satirical bow, “and pray favor me with another, that I may learn to
believe. Perhaps I shall. I am inclined to think Miss Crespigny could
convince a man of anything.”

“You don’t deserve another,” said Georgie. “Does he, Lisbeth?”

“Hardly,” said Lisbeth, who was turning over some music, with an
indifferent face. But she sang again nevertheless, and quite as well
as she had done before, though it must be admitted that she influenced
Georgie to a choice of songs of a less Arcadian nature.

The following morning Anstruthers called to see Mrs. Despard, and found
that lady absent, and Miss Crespigny in the drawing-room. Consequently,
it fell to Miss Crespigny’s lot to entertain him during his brief
visit. He made it as brief as possible; but when he rose to take his
leave, to his surprise Lisbeth detained him.

“There is something I should like to say to you,” she began, after she
had risen with him.

He paused, hat in hand.

“It is about Georgie--Miss Esmond,” she added. “You were very kind to
speak to her of me as you did last night. It was very generous. I feel
that I ought to thank you for trying to make her despise me.” And her
eyes flashed with an expression not easy to face.

“I ask pardon,” he returned, loftily. “If I had understood that your
friendship was of such a nature----”

“If its object had been a man, instead of an innocent girl, you would
have understood easily enough, I have no doubt,” she interposed,
angrily.

He bowed, with the suspicion of a sneer upon his face.

“Perhaps,” he answered.

“Thank you,” said she. “However, since you need the matter explained,
I will explain it. I am fond of Georgie Esmond, and she is fond of me,
and I do not choose to lose her affection; so I must resort to the poor
expedient of asking you to deny yourself the gratification of treating
me contemptuously in her presence. Say what you please when we are
alone, as we are sometimes forced to be; but when we are with your
cousin, be good enough to remember that she is my friend, and trusts
me.”

It was so like the girl Lisbeth, this daring, summary course, this
confronting and settling the matter at once, without the least sign of
hesitation or reluctance, that he began to feel very uncomfortable.
Had he really behaved himself so badly, indeed? Was it possible that
he had allowed himself to appear such a rampant brute as her words
implied? He, who so prided himself upon his thoroughbred impassibility?

“I treat you contemptuously!” he exclaimed.

“It is not you I care for,” she answered him. “It is Georgie Esmond.”

He had no resource left but to accept his position, the very
humiliating position of a man whose apologies, if he offered any, would
be coolly set aside, whose humiliation was of no consequence, and who
was expected to receive punishment, like a culprit whose sensations
were not for a moment to be regarded.

He left the house feeling angry and helpless, and returning to his
chambers, wrote a stinging criticism of a new book. Poor Blanke, who
had written the book, received the benefit of the sentiments Miss
Crespigny had roused.

On her part, Lisbeth resorted to one of her “humors,” to use Mrs.
Despard’s expression. She was out of patience with herself. She had
lost her temper almost as soon as she had spoken her first words; and
she had been so sure of perfect self-control before she began. That was
her secret irritant. Why could she not have managed it better? It was
not usual with her to give way when she was sure of herself.

“Somebody has been here,” said Mrs. Despard, when she came in, and
found her sitting, alone with her sewing. “Some one you do not like, or
some one who has said something awkward or unpleasant to you.”

“Hector Anstruthers has been here,” was Lisbeth’s answer, but she
deigned no further explanation, and did not even lift her eyes as she
spoke.



CHAPTER VII.

A NEW EXPERIENCE.


The next time that Georgie found herself alone with Mr. Anstruthers,
she read him a very severe little lecture on the subject of his
shortcomings.

“I knew that you liked to be satirical, and make fine, cutting
speeches,” she said, with the prettiest indignation; “but I did not
think you would have gone so far as to be openly rude, and to Lisbeth,
of all people! Lisbeth, who is so good, and unselfish, and kind, and
who is my dearest friend.”

Hector Anstruthers looked at her sweet face almost mournfully. “Is
she good, and unselfish, and kind?” he said. But the question was not
a satire. He only asked it in a tender wonder at the girl’s innocent
faith.

“There is no one like her. No one so good, unless it is mamma herself,”
exclaimed Miss Georgie, with warmth.

“But Lisbeth’s is not a common surface goodness, and I suppose that is
the reason that you cannot see it. You, too, who are so far-sighted
and clever. I, for one, am glad I am not a genius, if to be a genius
one must be blind to everything but the failings of one’s friends. Ah,
Hector!” a sudden pity kindling in her gentle breast, as she met his
eyes, “Ah, Hector, people often envy you, and call you fortunate, but
there are times when I am sorry for you--sorry from my heart.”

“Georgie,” answered the young man, not quite able to control a tremor
in his voice, “there are more times than you dream of, when I am sorry
for myself.”

“Sorry for yourself?” said Georgie, softening at once. “Then you must
be more unhappy than I thought. To be sorry for one’s self, one must be
unhappy indeed. But why is it? Why should you be unhappy, after all?
Why should you be cynical and unbelieving, Hector? The world has been
very good to you, or, as I think we ought to say, God has been very
good to you. What have you not got, that you can want? What is there
that you lack? Not money, not health, not friends. Isn’t it a little
ungrateful to insist on being wretched, when you have so much?”

“Yes,” answered Anstruthers, gloomily. “It is very ungrateful, indeed.”

“Ungrateful? I should think it was,” returned Georgie, with her
favorite dubious shake of the head. “Ah, poor fellow! I am afraid it is
a little misfortune that you need, and I am very sorry to see it.”

It was no marvel that Georgie Esmond was popular. She was one of those
charming girls who invariably have a good effect upon people. She was
so good herself, so innocent, so honest, so trustful, that she actually
seemed to create a sweeter atmosphere wherever she went. The worst of
men, while listening to her gentle, bright speeches, felt that the
world was not so bad after all, and that there was still sweetness and
purity left, to render sin the more shameful by their white contrast.
“A fellow wants to forget his worst side, when he is with her,” said
one. “She makes a man feel that he would like to hide his shadinesses
even from himself.” Her effect upon Hector Anstruthers was a curious,
and rather a dangerous one. She made him ashamed of himself, too, and
she filled his heart with a tender longing and regret. Had it not
been for his experience with Lisbeth, he would have loved the girl
passionately. As it was, his affection for her would never be more
than a brotherly, though intensely admiring one. He was constantly
wishing that Fate had given Georgie to him; Georgie, who seemed to
him the purest and loveliest of young home goddesses; Georgie, who
would have made his life happy, and pure, and peaceful. If it had
only been Georgie instead of Lisbeth. But it had been Lisbeth, and
his altar-fires had burned out, and left to him nothing but a waste
of cold, gray ashes. And yet, knowing this, he could not quite give
Georgie up. The mere sight of her fresh, bright-eyed face was a help
to him, and the sound of her voice a balm. He grew fonder of her every
day, in his way. Her kindly, little girlish homilies touched and warmed
him. As Lisbeth had made him worse, so Georgie Esmond made him better.
But the danger! The danger was not for himself, it was for Georgie.

The day was slowly dawning when the girl’s innocent friendship and
admiration for him would become something else. When she began to pity
him, she began to tread on unsafe ground. She had lived through no
miserable experience; she had felt no desolating passion; her heart was
all untried, and his evident affection stirred it softly, even before
she understood her own feelings. She thought her budding love was pity,
and her tenderness sympathy. He had gone wrong, poor fellow, somehow,
and she was sorry for him.

“I am sure he does not mean the hard things he sometimes says,” she
said to Lisbeth. “I think that satirical way of speaking is more a bad
habit than anything else. Mamma thinks so, too, but,” with a little
guileless blush, “we are both so fond of him, that we cannot help being
sorry that he has fallen into it.”

“It is a sort of fashion in these days,” returned Lisbeth, and she
longed to add a scorching little sneer to the brief comment, but she
restrained it for Georgie’s sake.

Positively such a thing had become possible. She, who had never
restrained her impulses before, had gradually learned to control them
for this simple girl’s sake. On the one or two occasions, early in
their acquaintance, when she had let her evil spirit get the better
of her, the sudden pain and wonder in Georgie’s face had stung her so
quickly, that she had resolved to hide her iniquities, at least in her
presence. Sometimes she had even wished that she had been softer at
heart and less selfish. It was so unpleasant to see herself just as she
was, when she breathed that sweet atmosphere of which I have spoken.
Georgie Esmond caused her to lose patience with Lisbeth Crespigny, upon
more than one occasion.

“I am a hypocrite,” she said to herself. “If she knew me as I am,
what would she think of me? What would Mrs. Esmond say if she knew
how cavalierly her ‘dear Lisbeth’ had treated those three loving old
souls at Pen’yllan? I am gaining everything on false pretenses.” And
one night, as she sat combing her hair before her mirror, she added,
fiercely, “I am false and selfish all through; and I believe they are
teaching me to be ashamed of myself.”

The fact was, these two sweet women, this sweet mother and daughter,
were teaching her to be ashamed of herself. She quite writhed under her
conviction, for she felt herself convicted. Her self-love was wounded,
but the day came when that perfect, obstinate self-confidence, which
was her chief characteristic, was not a little shaken.

“I should like to be a better woman,” she would say, in a kind of
stubborn anger. “It has actually come to this, that I would be a better
woman, if I could, but I cannot. It is not in me. I was not born to be
a good woman.”

The more she saw of the Esmonds, the more she learned. The household
was such a pleasant one, and was so full of the grace of home and
kindly affection. How proud the good old colonel was of his pretty
daughter. How he enjoyed her triumphs, and approved of the taste of her
many admirers. How delighted he was to escort her to evening parties,
or to the grandest of balls, and to spend the night in watching her
dance, and smile, and hold her gay little court, entirely ignoring the
fact that his gout was apt to be troublesome, when he wore tight boots
instead of his huge slippers. It was quite enough for him that his
girl was enjoying herself, and that people were admiring her grace,
and freshness, and bloom. How fond the half-dozen small brothers and
sisters were of Georgie! and what a comfort and pleasure the girl was
to her mother! It was an education to Lisbeth Crespigny to see them all
together. It even seemed that in time she fell somewhat into Georgie’s
own way of caring for other people. How could she help caring for the
kind hearts that beat so warmly toward her. Then, through acquiring, as
it were, a habit of graciousness, she remembered things she had almost
forgotten. If she was not born to be a good woman, why not try and
smooth the fact over a little, was her cynical fancy. Why not give the
three good spinsters at Pen’yllan the benefit of her new experience?
It would be so little trouble to gladden their hearts. So, with an
impatient pity for herself and them, she took upon herself the task
of writing to them oftener, and at greater length; and frequently.
Before her letters were completed, she found herself touched somewhat,
and even prompted to be a trifle more affectionate than had been her
wont. A poor little effort to have made, but the dear, simple souls at
Pen’yllan greeted the change with tenderest joy, and Aunt Millicent,
and Aunt Clarissa, and Aunt Hetty, each shed tears of ecstasy in
secret--in secret, because, to have shed them openly, would have been
to admit to one another that they had each felt their dear Lisbeth’s
former letters to be cold, or at least not absolutely all that could be
desired.

“So like dear, dear Philip’s own child,” said Miss Clarissa, who was
generally the family voice. “You know how often I have remarked, sister
Henrietta, that our dear Lisbeth was like brother Philip in every
respect, even though at times she is, perhaps, a little more--a little
more reserved, as it were. Her nature, I am sure, is most affectionate.”

That fortunate and much-caressed young man, Mr. Hector Anstruthers, not
only met Miss Crespigny frequently, but heard much of her. Imperfect as
she may appear to us, who sit in judgment upon her, the name of her
admirers was Legion. Her intimacy with the Esmonds led her into very
gay and distinguished society, far more illustrious society than Mrs.
Despard’s patronage had been able to afford her. And having this, her
little peculiarities did the rest. Her immense, dusky eyes; her small,
pale, piquant face; her self-possession; her wit, and her numerous
capabilities, attracted people wondrously. Even battered old beaux,
who had outlived two or three generations of beauties, and who were
fastidious accordingly, found an indescribable charm in this caustic,
clever young person who was really not a beauty at all, if measured
according to the usual standard. She was too small, too pale, too odd;
but then where could one find such great, changeable, dark eyes, such
artistic taste, such masses of fine hair, such a voice?

“And, apart from that,” it was said of her, “there is something else.
Hear her talk, by Jove! See how she can manage a man, when she chooses
to take the trouble; see how little she cares for the fine speeches
that would influence other women. See her dance, hear her sing, and you
will begin to understand her. A fellow can never tire of her, for she
is everything she has the whim to be, and she is everything equally
well.”

“So she is, Heaven knows,” Hector Anstruthers muttered, bitterly,
looking across the room at her, as she stood talking to Colonel Esmond.
Old Denbigh’s laudatory speech fell upon his ears with a significance
of its own. She could be anything she chose so long as her whim lasted;
and there was the end of it. It all meant nothing. She was as false
when she played her pretty part for the benefit of the Esmonds, young
and old, as when she encouraged these dandies, and ensnared them. With
Georgie she took up the _rôle_ of _ingénue_, that was all. She was bad
through and through. He felt all this sincerely, this night, when he
heard the men praising her, and he was savage accordingly.



CHAPTER VIII.

I WILL TELL YOU THE TRUTH FOR ONCE.


But how was it, the very next night, when he dropped in to see Mrs.
Despard, and surprised the syren, reading a letter of Miss Clarissa’s,
and reading it in the strangest of moods, reading it with a pale face,
and heavy, wet lashes.

She did not pretend to hide the traces of her mental disturbance. She
did not condescend to take the trouble. She evidently resented his
appearance as untimely, but she greeted him with indifferent composure.

“Mrs. Despard will come down, as soon as she hears that you are here,”
she said, and then proceeded to fold the letter, and replace it in its
envelope; and thus he saw that it bore the Pen’yllan post-mark.

What did such a whim as this mean? he asked himself, impatiently,
taking in at a glance the new expression in her face, and the heaviness
of her gloomy eyes. This was not one of her tricks. There was no one
here to see her, and even if there had been, what end could she serve
by crying over a letter from Pen’yllan? What, on earth, had she been
crying for? He had never seen her shed a tear before in his life. He
had often thought that such a thing was impossible, she was so hard.
Could it be that she was not really so hard, after all, and that those
three innocent old women could reach her heart? But the next minute he
laughed at the absurdity of the idea, and Lisbeth, chancing to raise
her eyes, and coolly fixing them on his face at that moment, saw his
smile.

“What is the matter?” she asked.

A demon took possession of him at once. What if he should tell her, and
see how she would answer? They knew each other. Why should they keep
up this pretense of being nothing but ordinary acquaintances, with no
unpleasant little drama behind?

“I was thinking what an amusing blunder I had been on the verge of
making,” he said.

She did not answer, but still kept her eyes fixed upon him.

“I was trying to account for your sadness, on the same grounds that I
would account for sadness in another woman. I was almost inclined to
believe that something, in your letter, had touched your heart, as it
might have touched Georgie Esmond’s. But I checked myself in time.”

“You checked yourself in time,” she said, slowly. “That was a good
thing.”

There was a brief silence, during which he felt that, as usual, he had
gained nothing by his sarcasm; and then suddenly she held out her mite
of a hand, with Miss Clarissa’s letter in it, rather taking him aback.

“Would you like to read it?” she said. “Suppose you do. Aunt Clarissa
is an old friend of yours. She speaks of you as affectionately as ever.”

He could not comprehend the look she wore when she said this. It was
a queer, calculating look, and had a meaning of its own; but it was a
riddle he could not read.

“Take it,” she said, seeing that he hesitated. “I mean what I say. I
want you to read it all. It may do you good.”

So, feeling uncomfortable enough, he took it. And before he had read
two pages, it had affected him just as Lisbeth had intended that it
should. The worst of us must be touched by pure, unselfish goodness.
Miss Clarissa’s simple, affectionate outpourings to her dear Lisbeth
were somewhat pathetic in their way. She was so grateful for the
tenderness of their dear girl’s last letter, so sweet-tempered were
her ready excuses for its rather late arrival, her kind old heart was
plainly so wholly dedicated to the perfections of the dear girl in
question, that by the time Anstruthers had reached the conclusion of
the epistle he found himself indescribably softened in mind, though he
really could not have told why. He did not think that he had softened
toward Lisbeth herself, but it was true, nevertheless, that he had
softened toward her, in a secretly puzzled way.

Lisbeth had risen from her seat, and was standing before him, when
he handed back the letter, and she met his eyes just as she had done
before.

“They are very fond of me, you see,” she said. “They even believe that
I have a real affection for them. They think I am capable of it, just
as Georgie Esmond does. Poor Georgie! Poor Aunt Clarissa! Poor Aunt
Millicent! Poor everybody, indeed!” And she suddenly ended, and turned
away from him, toward the fire.

But in a minute more she spoke again.

“I wonder if I am capable of it,” she said. “I wonder if I am.”

He could only see her side face, but something in her tone roused him
to a vehement reply.

“God knows,” he said, “I do not. I do not understand you, and never
shall.”

She turned to him abruptly then, and let him see her whole face, pale,
with a strange, excited pallor, her eyes wide, and sparkling, and wet.

“That is true,” she said. “You do not understand. I do not understand
myself, but--Well, I have told you lies enough before, when it has
suited me. Now, I will tell you the truth, for once. Your blunder was
not such a blunder, after all. My heart has been touched, just as a
better woman’s might have been--almost as Georgie’s might have been.
And this letter touched it--this effusion of poor Aunt Clarissa’s; and
that was why I was crying when you came into the room--why I am crying
now.” And having made this unlooked-for confession, she walked out of
the room, just as Mrs. Despard came in.

On his next visit to his friends, the Esmonds, Mr. Anstruthers found
the pretty head of the lovely Miss Georgie full of a new project.
Had he not heard the news? She was going to Pen’yllan with Lisbeth,
and they were to stay with the Misses Tregarthyn. Miss Clarissa had
written the kindest letter, the dearest, most affectionate letter,
as affectionate as if she had known her all her life. Wasn’t it
delightful?

“So much nicer, you know, than going to some stupid, fashionable
place,” said Miss Georgie, with bright eyes, and the brightest of fresh
roses on her cheeks. “Not that I am so ungrateful as to abuse poor old
Brighton, and the rest; but this will be something new.”

“And new things are always better than old ones,” suggested Anstruthers.

“Some new things always are,” answered Georgie, with spirit. “New
virtues, for instance, are better than old follies. New resolutions to
be charitable, instead of old tendencies to be harsh. New----”

“I give it up!” interposed Hector. “And I will agree with you. I always
agree with you, Georgie,” in a softer tone.

The poor, pretty face bloomed into blush-rose color, and the sweet eyes
met his with innocent trouble.

“Not always,” said Georgie. “You don’t agree with me when I tell you
that you are not as good as you ought to be--as you might be, if you
would try.”

“Am I such a bad fellow, then?” drawing nearer to her. “Ah, Georgie!
etc., etc.----” until, in fact, he wandered off in spite of himself,
into that most dangerous ground, of which I have already spoken.

Actually, within the last few days, the idea had occurred to him, that,
perhaps--possibly, just possibly--he would not be going so far wrong,
if he let himself drift into a gentle passion for Georgie. Perhaps,
after all, he could give her a better love than he had ever given to
Lisbeth Crespigny. It would be a quieter love. Was not a man’s second
love always quieter than the first, and at the same time was it not
always more endurable and deep? But perhaps he could make it a love
worthy of her. Mind you, he was not shallow or coarse enough to think
that anything would do; any mock sentiment, any semblance of affection.
It was only that he longed to anchor himself somehow, and admired
and trusted this warm-souled young creature so earnestly, that he
instinctively turned toward her. She was far too good for him, he told
himself, and it was only her goodness that could help her to overlook
his many faults; but perhaps she would overlook them; and perhaps, in
time, out of the ashes of that wretched passion of his youth, might
arise a phœnix, fair enough to be worthy of her womanhood.

So he was something more tender, and so his new tenderness showed
itself in his handsome face, and in a certain regret that he was to
lose what Pen’yllan and the Misses Tregarthyn were to gain.

“Will you let me come to see you?” he asked, at last. “Will you----”

But there he stopped, remembering Lisbeth. How would she like such a
plan?

“Why should you not?” said Georgie, with a pleased blush. “I have heard
you say that the Misses Tregarthyn have asked you again and again.
And they seem so fond of you; and I am sure mamma and papa would be
quite glad if you would run down and look at us, and then run back and
tell them all the news. And as to Lisbeth, Lisbeth never objects to
anything. I think she likes you well enough when you are good. Come,
by all means.” And she seemed to regard his proposition as so natural
and pleasant, that he had no alternative but to profess to regard it as
such himself; and so it was agreed upon, that, in course of time, he
should follow them to Pen’yllan.



CHAPTER IX.

WE MUST ALWAYS BE TRUE.


Indeed, he drifted so far this evening, that there is no knowing how
sad a story this of mine might have been, if the fates had not been
kinder to pretty Georgie Esmond than they are to the generality of
people. Surely it must have been because she deserved something better
than the fortune of a disappointed woman, that chance interposed in her
behalf before she went to sleep that night.

She had enjoyed herself very much during Hector’s visit. She had sung
her sweetest songs, and had been in the brightest of good spirits.
Indeed, she had been very happy, and perhaps had felt her innocent,
warm heart stirred a little, once or twice, by the young man’s tender
speeches, though she was very far from being in the frame of mind to
analyze the reasons for her gentle pleasure.

When her visitor had taken his departure, she came to the colonel’s
arm-chair, and possibly feeling somewhat conscience-stricken, because
she had left “papa” to his own resources for so long a time, she
applied herself to the task of petting him in her most seductive manner.

“You are very quiet, papa,” she said, settling herself upon a
footstool, at his side. “I hope you are not going to have the gout
again, darling. Mamma, what shall we do with him, if he insists on
having the gout, when I am going to Pen’yllan? I shall have to stay at
home, and so will Lisbeth. He cannot possibly dispense with us, when he
has the gout.”

“But I am not going to have the gout,” protested the colonel, stoutly.
“I am quite well, my dear; but the fact is--the fact is, I was thinking
of a discovery I made this evening--a discovery about Anstruthers.”

“Hector?” exclaimed Georgie, half-unconsciously, and then turned her
bright eyes upon the shining fender.

“Yes,” proceeded Colonel Esmond. “Hector himself. I believe I have
found out what has changed him so--so deucedly, not to put too fine a
point upon it--during the last four or five years. You remember what a
frank, warm-hearted lad he was, at three-and-twenty, Jennie?” to Mrs.
Esmond.

“Papa,” interposed Georgie, “do you really think he has changed for the
worse? In his heart, I mean.”

“He has not changed for the better,” answered the colonel. “But his
heart is all right, my dear.”

“I am sure,” said Georgie, a little piteously. “I am sure he is good at
heart.”

“Of course he is,” said the colonel. “But he has altered very much, in
many respects. And Jennie, my dear, I have discovered that the trouble
was the one you hinted at, in the beginning. There was a woman in the
case. A woman who treated him shamefully.”

“She must have been very heartless,” said Georgie. “Poor Hector!”

The colonel warmed up.

“She was shamefully heartless, she was disgracefully, unnaturally
heartless! Such cold-blooded, selfish cruelty would have been unnatural
in a mature woman, and she was nothing more than a school-girl, a mere
child. I congratulate myself that I did not learn her name. The man
who told me the story had not heard it. If I knew it, and should ever
chance to meet her, by George!” with virtuous indignation, “I don’t see
how a man of honor could remain in the same room with such a woman.”

And then he poured out what he had heard of the story, and an
unpleasant enough sound it had, when related with all the additional
coloring confidential report had given it. It was bad enough to begin
with, but it was worse for having passed through the hands of the men
who had gathered it together, by scraps, and odds, and ends, and joined
it as they thought best.

“And the worst of it is,” ended Colonel Esmond, “that he has not lived
it down, as he fancies he has done. At least there are those who think
so. It is said the girl is here in town now, and though they are not
friends, Anstruthers cannot keep away from her altogether, and is
always most savage and reckless when he has seen her.”

“Poor fellow!” said Georgie, in a low, quiet voice. “Poor Hector!”

But she did not look up at any one, as she spoke. Indeed she had not
looked up, even once, during the time in which this unpleasant story
had been told.

Having heard it, she confronted it very sensibly. When, indeed,
was she not sweet and sensible? While she listened, a hundred past
incidents rushed back upon her. She remembered things she had heard
Hector say, and things she had seen him do; she remembered certain
restless moods of his, certain desperate whims and fancies, and she
began to comprehend what their meaning was. Her vague fancies of his
unhappiness found a firm foundation. He was wretched, and broken in
faith, because this cruel girl had robbed him of his honest belief in
love, and truth, and goodness. Ah, poor Hector! She did not say very
much while the colonel and Mrs. Esmond discussed the matter, but she
was thinking very deeply, and when she bade them good night, and went
up to her room, there was a sad sort of thoughtfulness in her face.

She did not begin to undress at once, but sat down by her toilet table,
and rested her fresh cheek on her hand.

“I wonder who it was?” she said, softly. “Who could it be? Whom did he
know when he was three-and-twenty?”

Surely some fate guided her eyes, just at that moment, guided them to
the small, half-opened note, lying at her elbow; a note so opened that
the signature alone presented itself to her glance. “Your affectionate
Lisbeth.”

She gave a little start, and then flushed up with a queer agitation.

“Lisbeth!” she said, “Lisbeth!” And then, with quite a self-reproach in
her tone, “Oh, no! Not Lisbeth. How could I say it? Not Lisbeth!” She
put out her hand and took up the note, protestingly. “I could not bear
to think it,” she said. “It might be any one else, but not Lisbeth.”
And yet the next minute a new thought forced itself upon her, a memory
of some words of Lisbeth’s own.

“We were nothing but a couple of children when we met at Pen’yllan,”
that young lady had said, a few days before, a trifle cavalierly. “He
was only three-and-twenty, and as for me, what was I but a child, a
school-girl, not much more than sixteen.”

“But,” protested Georgie, her eyes shining piteously, and the moisture
forcing itself into them, “but it might not have been she; and if it
was Lisbeth he loved, the story may have been exaggerated. Such stories
always are; and if any part of it is true, she was so young, and did
not know what she was doing. It was not half so wrong in Lisbeth as
it would have been in me, who have had mamma all my life to teach me
the difference between right and wrong. She had nobody but the Misses
Tregarthyn; and people who are good are not always wise.”

She was not very wise herself, poor, loving, little soul! At least she
was not worldly wise. She could not bear the thought of connecting that
cruel story with her most precious Lisbeth, in whom she had never yet
found a fault. And if it must be connected with her, what excuses might
there not be! Oh, she was so sure that it was an exaggerated story, and
that, if the truth were known, Lisbeth’s fault had only risen out of
Lisbeth’s youth and innocence. She was so disturbed about her friend,
that it was quite a long time before she remembered that she had a
quiet little pain of her own to contend with, only the ghost of a pain
as yet, but a ghost which, but for this timely check, might have been
very much harder to deal with than it was.

“I think,” she said, at last, blushing a little at the sound of her
own words, “I think that, perhaps, I was beginning to care for Hector
more than for any one else; and I am glad that papa told me this,
before--before it was too late. I think I should have been more sorry,
after a little time, than I am now; and I ought to be thankful. If I
did not mean to be sensible, instead of sentimental, perhaps I should
try to believe that what is said is not true, and that he has really
lived his trouble down; but I would rather be sensible, and believe
that he only means to think of me as his friend, as he has done all
his life. I must think that,” she thought, eagerly. “I must remember
it always, when he is with me. It would be best. And if it is Lisbeth
he has loved, and he loves her yet, I--I must try to help them to
forgive each other.” And here she bent her face, and as she touched
the note lightly with her lips, a bright drop, like a jewel, fell upon
the paper. “We must always be true to each other,” she whispered,
tremulously. “This would be a sad world if people were not true to each
other, and ready to make little sacrifices for the sake of those they
love.”

And thus it was that the innocent white rose of love, just turning to
the sun, folded its fresh petals, and became a bud again. It was better
as it was, much better that it should be a bud for a longer time, than
that it should bloom too early, and lose its too lavish beauty before
the perfect summer came.



CHAPTER X.

PEN’YLLAN.


Emulating the example of the Misses Tregarthyn, Pen’yllan had put on
its best dress to grace the occasion of the arrival of the visitors. As
they drove from the little railway station, Lisbeth was of the opinion
that she had never seen the sea so blue, and cool, and sparkling, the
sands so silver white, or the village so picturesque. The truth was,
the sight of it quite subdued her, and invested her with one of her
softest and most charitable moods.

“I did not know it was so pretty,” she said. “I believe we shall enjoy
ourselves, Georgie.”

Georgie was enraptured. Everything pleased her. The sea, the beach,
the sky, the quaint, white cottages, the bare-legged children, the old
Welsh women in their steeple hats and woollen petticoats. The up-hill
streets of the village were delightful; the little bandbox of a railway
station was incomparable. She had been rather pale and tired during
the journey, but as soon as she set her feet upon the platform at
Pen’yllan, her pallor and fatigue disappeared. The fresh breeze from
the sea tinged her cheeks, and made her eyes sparkle, and she was in
the best of good spirits.

“I never saw such a dear little place in my life,” she said,
delightedly. “Enjoy ourselves, Lisbeth? Why, as you know, I feel just
as I used to when we were all children, and went to the sea-side with
mamma and the nurses, and dug caves in the sand with wooden spades, and
built forts, and looked for shells. I am going to make friends with
those little urchins on the beach to-morrow, and ask them to play with
me.”

Behold the Tregarthyn household, arrayed in all its modest splendor,
when the carriage drove up to the garden gate. Behold the neatest
of young handmaidens, brisk and blue-eyed, and the smallest of
pages standing ready to assist with the boxes, and admire the young
ladies with an exceeding admiration. Behold, also, the three Misses
Tregarthyn, in the trimmest of “company” dresses, and in such a state
of affectionate tremor and excitement, that they kissed their dear
Lisbeth on the tip of the nose by one consent, instead of bestowing
their delighted caresses upon her lips.

“So very happy to see you, my love,” said Miss Clarissa, squeezing
Georgie’s hand, as she led the way into the parlor. “Our dear
Lisbeth’s friend, I hope you are not tired, and that you left your
mamma and papa quite well. Our dear Lisbeth is so tenderly attached to
your mamma and papa, that if such a thing were possible, we should be
quite jealous.”

“They are quite as much attached to her, I can assure you,” answered
Georgie, in her pretty, earnest way. “Indeed, we all are, Miss
Clarissa. Everybody is fond of Lisbeth.” And thereby rendered her
position as a favorite secure at once.

Indeed, she found her way to the heart of the spinster household in an
incredibly short space of time. Miss Millicent, and Miss Hetty, and
Miss Clarissa were charmed with her. Her pretty face and figure, her
girlish gayety, her readiness to admire and enjoy everything, were
attractions enough to enchant any spinster trio, even if she had not
possessed that still greater charm of being Lisbeth’s dearest friend.

The two girls shared Lisbeth’s old room together; a cool nest of a
place, with white draperies, and quaint ornaments, and all the child
Lisbeth’s treasures, of land and sea, still kept in their original
places.

“It looks exactly as it did when I went away with Mrs. Despard,” said
Lisbeth, glancing round, with a sigh, which meant she scarce knew
what. “I gathered that sea-weed when I was fourteen, and I was always
engaged in difficulties with the cooks, because I would bring in more
shells than I wanted, and leave piles of them in the kitchen. Aunt
Clarissa sent one woman away because we had a row, and she said I was
‘a imperent young minx, allus litterin’ the place with my rubbidge.’
How the dear old souls did spoil me. If I had brought a whale into the
drawing-room, they would have regretted, but never resented it. I had
my own way often enough when I ought to have had my ears boxed.”

“You must have been very happy in their loving you so,” said Georgie,
who had drawn a low wicker chair to the open window, and was enjoying
the moonlight and the sea.

“You would have been,” returned Lisbeth, drawing up chair number two.
“And you would have behaved yourself better than I did. I was an
ill-conditioned young person, even in those days.”

They were both silent for a while after this. There was a lovely view
from the window, and all was so still that neither cared to stir for
a few moments. Then the thoughtfulness on Georgie’s face attracted
Lisbeth’s attention.

“I should like to know,” she said, “what you are thinking about?”

The girl drew a positively ecstatic little sigh.

“I was thinking how sweet and quiet everything looked,” she said,
innocently; “and how much happier I am.”

“Happier?” exclaimed Lisbeth. “When were you unhappy, Georgie?”

The surprise in her tone brought Georgie to a recognition of what
her words had unconsciously implied. She found herself blushing, and
wondering at her own simplicity. She had not meant to say so much. She
could not comprehend why she should have said anything of that kind at
all.

“It is strange enough to hear that you can be made happier than you
always seem to be,” said Lisbeth. “You speak as if--” And then, her
quick eye taking in the girl’s trepidation, she stopped short. “You
never had a trouble, Georgie?” she added, in a voice very few of her
friends would have known; it was so soft.

“No,” said Georgie. “Oh, no, Lisbeth! Not a trouble, exactly; not a
trouble at all, indeed; only--” And suddenly she turned her bright,
appealing eyes to Lisbeth’s face. “I don’t know why I said it,” she
said. “It was nothing real, Lisbeth, or else I am sure you would have
known. But it--Well, I might have had a trouble, and I was saved from
it, and I am glad, and--thankful.” And, to Miss Crespigny’s surprise,
she bent forward, and kissed her softly on the cheek.

Lisbeth asked her no questions. She was not fond of asking questions,
and she was a young person of delicacy and tact, when she was in an
affectionate mood. She was too partial to Georgie to wish to force her
into telling her little secrets. But a certain thought flashed through
her mind, as she sat with her eyes resting on the sea.

“She is the sort of girl,” she said, sharply, to herself, “who would
be likely to have no trouble but a love trouble. Who has been making
love to her, or rather, who, among all her admirers, would be likely to
touch her heart?”

But this mental problem was by no means easy to solve. There were so
many men who admired Georgie Esmond, and such a large proportion of
them were men whom any girl might have loved.

It was one of Lisbeth’s chief wonders, that Georgie, who was so soft
of heart, and ready with affection, should have held her own so long
against so agreeable a multitude of adorers. Certainly, if she had
lived through any little romance, she had kept her secret well. She
did not look like a love-lorn young lady when she came down, the next
morning, fresh and rosy, and prepared to explore Pen’yllan in all its
fastnesses. It was exhilarating to see her; and the Misses Tregarthyn
were delighted beyond bounds. She made a pilgrimage through half the
up-and-down-hill little streets in the village, and, before dinner,
had managed to drag Lisbeth a mile along the shore, against a stiff
breeze, which blew their long, loose hair about, and tinted their
cheeks brilliantly. Lisbeth followed her with an amused wonder at her
enthusiasm, mingled with discontent at her own indifference. It was she
who ought to have been in raptures, and she was not in raptures at all.
Had she no natural feeling whatever? Any other woman would have felt a
sentimental tenderness for the place which had been her earliest home.

They had found a comfortable nook behind a cluster of sheltering rocks,
and were sitting on the sand, when Lisbeth arrived at this stage of
thought. The place was an old haunt of hers, and Hector Anstruthers
had often followed her there in their boy and girl days; and the sight
of the familiar stretch of sea and sand irritated her somehow. She
picked up a shell, and sent it skimming away toward the water, with an
impatient gesture.

“Georgie,” she said, “I should like to know what you see in Pen’yllan
to please you so.”

“Everything,” said Georgie. “And then, somehow, I seem to know it. I
think its chief attraction is, that you lived here so long.”

Lisbeth picked up another shell, and sent it skimming after the other.

“What a girl you are!” she said. “It is always your love and your
heart that are touched. You are all heart. You love people, and you
love everything that belongs to them: their homes, their belongings,
their relations. It is not so with me; it never was. You are like what
Hector Anstruthers was, when I first knew him. Bah!” with a shrug of
her shoulders. “How fond the foolish fellow was of Aunt Hetty, and Aunt
Millicent, and Aunt Clarissa.”

Her tongue had slipped, just as Georgie’s had done the night before.
For the moment she forgot herself entirely, and only remembered that
old sentimental affection of her boyish lover; that affection for her
spinster relatives, which, in the past, had impressed her as being half
troublesome and half absurd.



CHAPTER XI.

A CONFESSION.


Georgie turned to her, taking sudden courage.

“Lisbeth,” she said, “you never told me much about your acquaintance
with Hector Anstruthers. I wonder how it was. You knew him very well,
it seems.”

“I wish,” broke out Lisbeth, almost angrily, “that I had never known
him at all.”

The faithful heart, beating in the breast of the girl at her side,
leaped nervously.

“It was Lisbeth,” said she to herself. “It was Lisbeth.”

“I wish,” repeated Lisbeth, frowning at the sea, “that I had never seen
him.”

“Why?” was Georgie’s quiet question.

“Because--because it was a bad thing for us both,” in greater
impatience than ever.

Georgie looked up at her sadly.

“Why, again?” she ventured, in her soft voice. She could not help it.

But for a moment Lisbeth did not answer. She had risen, and stood
leaning against the rock, a queer look on her face, a queer darkening
in her eyes. At length she broke into a little, hard laugh, as if she
meant to defy herself to be emotional.

“How horror-stricken you would be, if I were to tell you why,” she said.

“Does that mean,” Georgie put it to her “that you were unkind to him?”

“It means,” was her strange reply--“it means that it was I who ruined
his life forever.”

She made the confession fairly, in spite of herself. And she was
emotional--vehement. She could not stand this innocent Georgie, and
her beliefs any longer. She had been slowly approaching this mood for
months, and now every inner and outer influence seemed to combine
against her natural stubborn secretiveness. Perhaps Pen’yllan, the sea,
the shore, the sky, helped her on to the end. At any rate, she must
tell the truth this once, and hear what this innocent Georgie would say
to it.

“I ruined his life for him,” she repeated. “I broke his faith. I
believe I am to blame for every evil change the last few years have
wrought in him. I, myself--Lisbeth. Do you hear, Georgie?”

The face under Georgie’s straw hat was rather pale, but it was not
horror-stricken.

“You were too young,” she faltered, “to understand.”

“Too young?” echoed Lisbeth. “I never was young in my life. I was born
old. I was born a woman, and I was born cold and hard. That was it. If
I had been like other girls, he would have touched my heart, after he
had touched my vanity, or he might even have touched my heart first.
You would have loved him with all your soul. Are you willing to hear
the whole history, Georgie?”

“Quite willing. Only,” and she raised her face with a bright, resolute,
affectionate look, “you cannot make me think harshly of you. So, don’t
try, Lisbeth.”

Lisbeth regarded her with an entirely new expression, which had,
nevertheless, a shade of her old wonder in it.

“I really do not believe I could,” she said. “You are very hard to
deal with; at least I find it hard to deal with you. You are a new
experience. If there was just a little flavor of insincerity or
uncharitableness in you, if you would be false to your beliefs now and
then, I should know what to do; but, as it is, you are perplexing.
Notwithstanding, here comes the story.”

She put her hands behind her, and bracing herself against the rock,
told it from beginning to end, in her coolest, most daring way, even
with a half-defiant air. If she had been telling some one else’s story,
she could not have been more caustic and unsparing, more determined
to soften no harsh outline, or smooth over anything. She set the girl
Lisbeth before her listener, just as Lisbeth Crespigny at seventeen
had been. Selfish, callous, shallow, and deep, at once: restless,
ungrateful, a half-ripe coquette, who, notwithstanding her crudeness,
was yet far too ripe for her age. She pictured the honest, boyish
young fellow, who had fallen victim to her immature fascinations,
simply because he was too guileless and romantic to see in any woman
anything but a goddess. She described his sincerity, his unselfish
willingness to bear her caprices, and see no wrong in them; his lavish
affection for every thing and every one who shared his love for her;
his readiness to believe, his tardiness to doubt and see her as she
really was; the open-hearted faith which had made the awakening so much
harder to bear, when it forced itself upon him at last. She left out
the recital of no petty wrong she had done him, and no small tyranny
or indignity she had made him feel. She told the whole story, in fact,
as she saw it now; not as she had seen it in that shallow, self-ruled
girlhood; and when she had touched upon everything, and ended with that
last scene in the garden, among Aunt Clarissa’s roses, she stopped.

And there was a silence.

Georgie’s eyelashes were wet, and so were her cheeks. A tear or so
stained her pink cravat. It was so sorrowful. Poor Hector again! And
then, of course, poor Lisbeth! By her own showing, Lisbeth deserved
no pity; but the warm young heart gave her pity enough, and to spare.
Something had been wrong somewhere. Indeed, it seemed as if everything
had been wrong, but--Poor Lisbeth! She was so fond of Lisbeth herself,
and mamma was so fond of her, and the Misses Tregarthyn. So many people
were fond of Lisbeth.

And then Lisbeth’s voice startled her. A new voice, tremulous and as if
her mood was a sore and restive one.

“You are crying, of course, Georgie? I knew you would.”

“I have been crying.”

Pause enough to allow of a struggle, and then--

“Well, since you are crying, I suppose I may cry, too. It is queer
enough that I should cry, but--” And to Georgie’s amazement and
trouble, Lisbeth put her hand up on the rough rock, and laid her face
against it.

“Lisbeth!” cried the girl.

“Wait a moment,” said Lisbeth. “I don’t know what has come over me. It
is a new thing for me. I--I----”

It was a new thing, indeed, and it did not last very long. When she
raised her head, and turned again, her eyelashes were wet, too, and she
was even pale.

“Ah, Lisbeth!” said Georgie, pitying her, “you are sorry.”

Lisbeth smiled, faintly.

“I never was sorry before for anything I had done; never, in my life,”
she answered. “I have had a theory that people should take care of
themselves, as I did. But now--Well, I suppose I am sorry--for Hector
Anstruthers; and perhaps a little for myself. No one will offer me
such an unreasoning love again. Very few women are offered such a love
once; but I always got more than my share of everything. It is my way.
I suppose I was born under a lucky star. Georgie, what do you think of
me now?”

Georgie got up, and kissed her, in a most earnest fashion.

“What?” cried Lisbeth, with a dubious smile. “You can’t be moral, and
improving, and sanctimonious, even now. Think what an eloquent lecture
you might read me! I have sometimes thought I was merely created to
point a moral, or adorn a tale! See how reckless I am, after all. You
ought to be down on me, Georgie. It is your duty, as a well-trained
young woman of the period.”

“Then,” said Georgie, “I can’t do my duty. You are so different from
other people. How can I pretend to understand what has made you do
things that other people are not tempted to do? And then you know how
fond I am of you, Lisbeth.”

“You are a good, pure little soul!” cried Lisbeth, her pale face
flushing excitedly. “And the world is a thousand times better for your
being in it. I am better myself, and Heaven knows I need something to
make me better. Here, let me take hold of your hand, and let us go
home.”

And as they turned homeward, on the beach, hand-in-hand, like a couple
of children, Georgie saw that there were tears in the inconsistent
creature’s eyes again.

They did not say much upon the subject after this. That wise young
woman, Miss Esmond, felt that it was a subject of far too delicate a
nature to be lightly touched upon. It had been Lisbeth’s secret so
long, that, even after this confidence, she could not help regarding
it as Lisbeth’s secret still. Perhaps she felt in private that there
were certain little confidences of her own, which she would scarcely
be willing even for Lisbeth to refer to, as if they were her own
property. For instance, that accidental confession, made in the
bedroom, on the first night they had spent in it together. How glad
she had been that Lisbeth had let it pass, as if she had not noticed
it very particularly. But though the subject was not discussed, is
it to be supposed that it was not brought to mind at all, but was
buried in oblivion? Certainly not. While that terse young woman, Miss
Esmond, said little, she thought much, and deeply. She had constantly
before her a problem, which she was very anxious to work out. Was
it not possible that these two interesting beings might be brought
to--might be induced to--well, not to put too fine a point upon it--to
think better of each other, and the unfortunate past, and the world
generally? Would it not be dreadful to think that so much poetic
material had been lost? That these two who might have been so happy,
should drift entirely apart, and leave their romance incomplete, as
the most unsatisfactory of novels? Probably, having sensibly, even if
with a little pang, given up that bud of a romance of her own, the
girl felt the need of some loving plot to occupy her mind; and if so,
it was quite natural and very charming, that she should turn to her
friend. Hector would make his appearance one of these fine days, and
then, perhaps, Pen’yllan, and its old familiar scenes, would soften
his heart, as she had an idea they had softened Lisbeth’s. Surely,
old memories would touch him tenderly, and make him more ready to
forgive his injuries. In fact, Miss Georgie painted for herself
some very pretty mental pictures, in which the figures of Lisbeth
and her ex-lover were always the prominent features. Lisbeth in the
trysting-place, the sea-breeze blowing her beautiful hair about, and
coloring her pale face; that queer mist of tears in her mysterious
eyes. Lisbeth, in one of her soft moods, making those strange,
restive, unexpected speeches, which were so fascinating, because so
unlookedfor, and Hector Anstruthers standing by, and listening. Such
interesting little scenes as these she imagined, and, having imagined
them, positively drew some consolation from their phantom existence.



CHAPTER XII.

A VISITOR.


In the meantime, however, she made herself very agreeable and
attractive to her hostesses, and enjoyed Pen’yllan very much, in a
girlish way. She explored the tiny village, and the rude shore. She
made friends with fishermen, and their wives, and sturdy children.
She won admiration on every side by her pretty interest in everything
appertaining to the Pen’yllanites. She took long walks on the sands,
and brought home shells, and sea-weed, and pebbles, with such honest
delight in any trifling rarity, as made Lisbeth look on and feel
restless, and the Misses Tregarthyn grow young again, unitedly.

“I wish, my dear,” said Miss Clarissa to Lisbeth, “that you enjoyed
yourself as much; but--but I am afraid you do not. I am afraid you find
Pen’yllan rather dull.”

“I never found Pen’yllan so pleasant in my life before, but you know
I am not like Georgie,” said Lisbeth. “Pen’yllan is all right, Aunt
Clarissa, and I enjoy myself here more than I should anywhere else.”

“I am glad to hear you say that, my love,” Miss Clarissa faltered.
“Sometimes, do you know, I have really fancied that you were not
quite--quite happy?”

Lisbeth got up from her chair, and came to the window, her
incomprehensible eyes reaching far out to sea.

“Happy!” she echoed, absently. “Is anybody happy? What a conundrum to
answer? As for me, I give it up.”

She gave up a good many things during these weeks at Pen’yllan. She was
wont to be fond of a certain cool class of metaphysics, but somehow
things of that order seemed to slip from her grasp. She was not so sure
of her self as she had been--not so obstinately complacent. Indeed,
she had never been so ill-satisfied and out of patience with Lisbeth
Crespigny in her life.

In the course of a week or so, Hector Anstruthers came, as he had
promised. One quiet afternoon, Miss Millicent, who was sitting at
the window, looked out into the garden, with a sudden expression of
surprise.

“Sister Clarissa!” she exclaimed, “Miss Esmond, there is a gentleman
coming up the walk; a young gentleman, and really a very handsome one.
Do either of you know him? Dear me, his face seems very familiar. It
can’t be----”

Georgie ran to the window, and the next minute was waving her kind
little hand to the individual in question, and smiling, and nodding her
head.

“You ought to know him, Miss Tregarthyn,” she said. “It is Mr. Hector
Anstruthers.”

“Oh!” broke forth Miss Clarissa, in some distress.

“And Lisbeth is here! I do hope, sister Millicent----”

“He saw Lisbeth very often when she was at home,” explained Georgie,
feeling very guilty, and extremely fearful of committing herself. “I
know Lisbeth did not like him very well at first, but he was one of
Mrs. Despard’s favorites, and--he is a sort of cousin of mine.”

It was a great relief to the Misses Tregarthyn, this piece of news.
They remembered various unpleasant little episodes of the past too
well, to have confronted serenely the re-responsibility of bringing
their dear Lisbeth face to face with this young man again. Indeed, Miss
Millicent had turned pale, and Miss Clarissa had lost her breath at
the mere thought of it. They had hardly recovered themselves, when the
visitor was handed into the room. But, of course, what Miss Esmond
said must be correct, and, under such circumstances, how delightful it
would be to welcome this genius and hero to Pen’yllan once more.

They had heard wondrous reports of his career from chance visitors,
even though the beloved Lisbeth had been so reticent. They had heard
of his good fortune, his good looks, his talent, his popularity, and,
remembering the fair-haired, blue-eyed young fellow, whom Lisbeth had
snubbed so persistently, they had wondered among themselves if all
they heard could possibly be true. But here was the admirable Crichton
to speak for himself, and so changed was his appearance, so imposing
his air, so amiable his condescension, that each gentle spinster owned
in secret that really, after all, it seemed probable that rumor, for
once, had not exaggerated. And it is not to be denied that Mr. Hector
Anstruthers was shown to an advantage upon this occasion. On his way
from the small bandbox of a station, he had been reminded of many a
little incident in that far-distant past, which had somehow or other
warmed his heart toward these good, simple souls. They had been true
and kind, at least. They had never failed him from first to last; they
had pitied and tried to comfort him when his fool’s paradise had been
so rudely broken into. He remembered how Miss Clarissa had stolen
down into the garden, that last, bitter night, and finding him lying
full length, face downward, upon the dewy grass, among the roses, had
bent over him, and put her timid hand upon his shoulder, and cried
silently, as she tried to find words with which she could console him,
and still be loyal to her faithful affection for that wretched girl. He
remembered, too, how fiercely he had answered her, like a passionate
young cub as he was; telling her to leave him alone, and let him fight
it out with himself and the devil, for he had had enough of women.
She had not been offended, good little Miss Clarissa, though she had
been dreadfully shocked and troubled. She had cried more than ever,
and patted his sleeve, and begged him to think of his dear mother, and
forgive--forgive; ending by sobbing into her dainty handkerchief.

So, when he entered the pretty parlor, and saw this kind friend
standing near Georgie, a trifle tremulous and agitated at the sudden
sight of him, everything but his memory of what a true, generous little
soul she was, slipped out of his mind, and he actually blushed with
pleasure.

“My dear Miss Clarissa!” he said; and, with a sudden frank boyishness,
such as Georgie had never seen him give way to before, he put one
strong young arm about her, and kissed her withered cheek twice.

“My dear boy!” said Miss Clarissa. A moment before she had been on the
verge of making him her best bow, and calling him “Mr. Anstruthers.”
“How pleasant it is to see you! How pleasant it is!”

The brightest of sweet smiles dimpled Miss Georgie’s mouth. How good,
and honest, and unaffected he was, after all! How kind at heart! How
she wished that Lisbeth could have seen him just then! Indeed, she
found it necessary to hold herself very bravely in check for a moment
or so, for fear she should be tempted to give way to any weak impulse
of feeling; he seemed so worthy to be admired and loved.

But Lisbeth was not in the house. No one knew where she was, exactly.
Lately she had indulged in the habit of taking even longer walks
than Georgie’s, and often lonely ones. Sometimes, in the morning, or
afternoon, they would miss her for an hour or so, and she would come
back rather fagged, and well blown about, and at such times it always
appeared that she had been for a walk.

“For the good of my health,” she once said to Georgie. “I find it
benefits me, physically and morally. Pen’yllan is a queer place, and is
productive of queer effects upon people.”

Among other things, Georgie discovered that she, too, sometimes talked
to the children who played upon the sands, and that she had her
favorites, to whom she had once or twice even condescended to tell
certain tales of fairies and mermaids. When Georgie mentioned this
discovery, she laughed and colored, as if half ashamed of herself, and
explained the matter in her usual style.

“The fact is,” she said, “I do it as a sort of penance. When I was a
girl, and lived here, the children were afraid of me, and it was no
wonder. I used to concoct horrible eerie tales about the devil-fish,
to frighten them, and I rather enjoyed my reputation as a sort of
hobgoblin creature, who had an uncanny knowledge of the terrors of
the sea. Some of them used to delight me by screaming, and running
away, when they caught sight of me; and now I have arrived at years of
discretion, I feel as if I ought to do something to retrieve myself
with this second generation. Poor little imps! Their lives are not too
easy.”

She was away, indulging in one of these walks, this afternoon.

“We could find her somewhere on the shore, I know,” said Georgie, in
answer to Miss Tregarthyn’s inquiry. “She is fond of the shore, and
always goes there for her strolls. If Hector is equal to a sea-breeze,
and a mile or so of sand, after his journey, he might even go in search
of her.”

And it having been proved satisfactorily that Hector was not only
equal to such exertion, but anxious to enjoy it; after an hour’s chat
with Miss Millicent, and Miss Clarissa, and Miss Hetty, Georgie ran up
stairs for her hat, and returning to the parlor, took charge of the
expedition.

It really seemed one of the peculiarities of Pen’yllan to be on its
good behavior at opportune times.

“It is bluer than ever, to-day,” said Georgie, nodding at her friend,
the sea, as they strolled toward it. “And the crests of the little
waves are whiter, and the sea-gulls are in a better temper than they
usually are, and more satisfied with their lot.”

She had never looked brighter or more attractive herself, and this was
her companion’s mental comment. The many resplendent young swains who
admired Miss Georgie Esmond, as she appeared in London ball-rooms,
would surely have become more hopelessly enamored than ever, had they
seen her with the Pen’yllan roses on her cheeks, and the sparkle of the
sun-lit sea in her eyes.

“Where is there another creature like her?” said Hector Anstruthers to
himself. “Where is there another creature as fresh, as good, as natural
and unspotted?”



CHAPTER XIII.

A GHOST.


He had thought of her very often of late, and indeed had been quite
eager to make his visit to Pen’yllan, for no other reason, he told
himself, than because he should see her there, and hear her sweet young
voice again. And now he had come, and she had welcomed him, and they
were walking over the sands, side by side. And yet--and yet--Was it
possible that he felt restless and dissatisfied with his own emotions?
Was it possible that the rapture he had tried to imagine, in London,
was not so rapturous here, in Pen’yllan? Could it be that, after all,
he was still only admiring her affectionately, in a brotherly way,
as he had always done--admiring and reverencing her, gently, as the
dearest, prettiest, truest girl he had ever known? Long ago, when, at
the time of that old folly, he remembered a certain tremulous bliss
he had experienced when he had been permitted to spend an hour with
the beloved object, he remembered the absolute pangs of joy with which
one glance from certain great, cruel, dark eyes had filled him; he
remembered how the sound of a girlish voice had possessed the power to
set every drop of blood in his veins beating. He was as calm as ever he
had been in his life, as he strolled on with Georgie Esmond; he could
meet her bright eyes without even the poor mockery of a tremor. He had
felt nothing but calm pleasure even when he grasped her soft hand in
greeting. Would it always be thus? Was it best that it should be so?
Perhaps! And yet, in the depths of his heart lay a strange yearning
for just one touch of the old delirium--just one pang of the old,
bitter-sweet pain.

“There!” exclaimed Georgie, ending his reverie for him. “There she is,
standing on the rocks. Don’t you see that dark-blue ribbon, fluttering?”

It was curious enough that his heart should give such a startled
bound, when his eyes fell upon the place to which Georgie directed his
attention. But, then again, perhaps, it was no wonder, considering
how familiar the scene before him was. Years ago he had been wont to
come to this very spot, and find a slight figure standing in that very
nook of rocks; a slight girl’s figure, clad in a close-fitting suit of
sailor-blue, a cloud of blown-about hair falling to the waist, and
dark-blue ribbons fluttering from a rough-and-ready little sailor-hat
of straw. And there was the very figure, and the very accompaniments;
the dress, the abundant tossed-about hair, the fluttering ribbon, the
sea, the sky, the shore. He was so silent, for a moment, that Georgie
spoke to him again, after a quick glance at his changed expression.

“Don’t you see that it is Lisbeth?” she said, laughing. “She is very
quiet, but she is alive, nevertheless. We shall reach her in a minute.
She is watching the gulls, I think. I thought we should find her here.
This is our favorite resting-place.”

Lisbeth was evidently either watching something, or in a very
thoughtful mood. She did not move, or even appear to be conscious
of any approaching presence, until Georgie called to her, “Lisbeth!
Lisbeth!” and then she looked round with a start.

“What!” she said. “Is it you two? How you startled me! You came like
ghosts! And Mr. Anstruthers,” glancing at Hector, “looks like one. He
is so pale!”

“I have seen a ghost,” was his reply.

“I am glad to hear it,” said Lisbeth, coolly. “Ghosts make a place
interesting.”

She is so like herself, so self-possessed, and wholly Lisbeth-like,
that she wakens him completely from the sort of stupor into which he
had for a moment fallen. She holds out her hand for him to shake, and
favors him with an unmoved, not too enthusiastic smile. She is polite
and reasonably hospitable in her greeting, but she does not seem to be
overwhelmed with the power of her emotions.

“Sit down,” she says, “and let us rest a while. We have plenty of time
to reach home before dinner; and if we hadn’t, it would not matter
much. My aunts are used to being kept waiting. They are too amiable to
be iron-hearted about rules.”

So they sit down, and then, despite the reality of her manner,
Anstruthers finds himself in a dream again. As Lisbeth talks, her
voice carries him back to the past. Unconsciously she has fallen into
an attitude which is as familiar as all the rest, her hands folded on
her knees, her face turned seaward. The scent of the sea is in the
air; the sound of its murmurs in his ears. The color on the usually
clear, pale cheek is the color he used to admire with such lover-like
extravagance--a pure pink tint, bright and rare. She seems to have gone
back to her seventeen years, and he has gone back with her.

When at last they rise to return, he is wandering in this dream still,
and he is very silent as they walk home. As they enter the garden gate,
they see Miss Clarissa standing at the window, watching for them, just
as she had used to do, to Lisbeth’s frequent irritation, in the olden
days. And Lisbeth, pausing at the gate, gathered a large red rose.

“The roses are in bloom,” she says, “just as they were when I went away
with Mrs. Despard. I could almost persuade myself that I had never been
away at all.”

That velvet-leaved red rose was placed carelessly in her hair, when she
came down stairs, after dressing for dinner, and its heavy fragrance
floated about her. She wore one of her prettiest dresses, looked her
best, and was in a good humor; and accordingly the Misses Tregarthyn
were restored to perfect peace of mind, and rendered happy. It was
plain, they thought, that Miss Esmond had been right, and there was no
need for fear. How the spinster trio enjoyed themselves that evening,
to be sure!

“You used to sing some very pretty songs for us, my love,” said Miss
Clarissa. “I wonder if you remember the one Hector was so fond of?
Something very sweet, about drinking to somebody with your eyes, and
he would not ask for wine. I really forget the rest.”

Lisbeth, who was turning over a pile of her old music, looked up at
Anstruthers with a civil, wicked smile.

“Did I sing, ‘Drink to me only’?” she said. “And was it a favorite
of yours? I wonder if it is here? How nice that Aunt Clarissa should
remind us of it!”

She drew out the yellow old sheet from under the rest of the music in a
minute more, her smile not without a touch of venomous amusement. How
she had loathed it a few years ago!

“I wonder if I could sing it,” she said; and, prompted by some daring
demon, she sat down at the piano, and sang it from beginning to end.
But, by the time she had struck the last chord, her mood changed. She
got up, with a little frown, and she did not look at Anstruthers at all.

“Bah!” she said. “What nonsense it is!” And she pushed the poor, old,
faded sheet impatiently aside.

Anstruthers moved a step forward, and laid his hand upon it.

“Will you give it to me?” he asked, with a suppressed force in his
manner, quite new.

“Why?” she demanded, indifferently.

“For a whim’s sake,” he answered. “There is no accounting for tastes.
Perhaps I may fancy that I should like to learn it.”

She raised her eyebrows, and gave her shoulders a puzzled little shrug.

“You are welcome to it,” she commented. “It is not an article of value.”

“Thanks,” rather sardonically; and he folded the sheet, and slipped it
into his pocket.

Their life at Pen’yllan was scarcely exciting; but notwithstanding
this, they found it by no means unenjoyable, even now, when the first
week or so had accustomed them to it. They took long stretches of
walks; they sunned themselves on the sands; they sailed, and rowed, and
read, and studied each other in secret. Georgie, who studied Lisbeth
and Anstruthers by turns, found that she made more progress with the
latter than the former. Lisbeth, never easy to read, was even more
incomprehensible than usual. She shared all their amusements, and was
prolific in plans to add to them, but her manner toward her ex-adorer
was merely reasonably civil and hospitable, and certainly did not
encourage comment. To her friend it was a manner simply inscrutable.

“Can she care at all?” wondered Georgie. “She does not look as if she
had ever been sorry in her life; and yet she cried that day.”

With Anstruthers it was different. He could not pursue the even tenor
of his way without feeling sometimes a sting. At first he controlled
himself pretty well, and held his own against circumstances, even
almost calmly. Then the stings came only at rare intervals, but
afterward he experienced them more frequently. He was not so callous,
after all, and he found it more difficult to conceal his restlessness
when some old memory rushed upon him with sudden force. Such memories
began to bring bitter, rebellious moods with them, and once or twice
such moods revealed themselves in bitter speeches. Sometimes he was
silent, and half gloomy, sometimes recklessly gay. But at all times he
held to Georgie as his safeguard. Whatever his mood might be, he drew
comfort from her presence. She gave him a sense of security. That kind
little hand of hers held him back from many an indiscretion. Surely,
the day was drawing near when he could open his heart to her, and
ask her to let the kind young hand be his safeguard forever. He was
sorely tempted many a day, but somehow it always ended in “Not yet!
Not quite yet!” But his tender admiration for her showed itself so
undisguisedly, in every action, that the Misses Tregarthyn looked on
delighted.

“I am sure that there is an understanding between them,” observed Miss
Millicent.

Miss Hetty shook her head in a comfortable, approving fashion.

“Ah, yes, indeed!” she said. “One can easily see that. What do you
think, my dear?” This was to Lisbeth, who was sitting reading.

Lisbeth shut her book suddenly, and getting up, came to the window.

“What is it you are saying?” she demanded, in the manner of one who had
just awakened from a sleep, or a drowsy reverie. “I don’t think I heard
you.”

“We were speaking,” said Miss Millicent, “of our young friends in the
garden. Sister Hetty thinks, with me, that Hector is very fond of Miss
Esmond.”



CHAPTER XIV.

IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN VERY SWEET.


Lisbeth looked out into the garden, where the two stood together,
Georgie blushing and smiling, as fresh and flower-like herself as any
of Miss Clarissa’s many blossoms, Hector talking to her eagerly, his
eyes full of pleasure in her beauty and youth.

“Fond of her?” she said, abstractedly. “Who is not fond of her?”

“But,” suggested Miss Hetty, “we mean fond of her in--in a different
way.”

She had laid her hand on Lisbeth’s shoulder, and, as she spoke, she
thought she felt a slight start; but the girl’s voice was steady enough
when she spoke the next minute.

“Oh!” she said, laughing a little, “you mean that he is in love with
her. I have no doubt you are right, though--though I had scarcely
thought of that. Men are always in love with somebody; and if he is in
love with Georgie, it does him great credit. I did not think he had the
good taste.”

But the fact was, that the idea was something like a new light dawning
upon her. Actually she had been so blind as not to think of this. And
it had been before her eyes day after day!

“You have been an idiot,” was her unceremonious mental comment upon her
own stupidity. “You have thought so much of yourself, that you have
seen nothing. It is Hector Anstruthers who has touched her heart. She
doubted either herself, or him, when she was ‘not so happy.’ And this
is the end of it--the end of it. Good!”

Perhaps she was relieved, and felt more comfortable, for she had never
been more amusing and full of spirit than she had appeared when she
joined the couple in the garden.

The twilight had been falling when she left the house; and when the
soft dusk came on, they still loitered in the garden. The air was warm
and balmy. Miss Clarissa’s flower beds breathed forth perfume; the
murmur of the waves upon the beach crept up to them; the moon rose in
the sky, solemn, watchful, and silver-clear.

“Who would care to go back to earth, and parlors?” said Georgie. “This
is Arcadia--silent, odorous, and sweet. Let us stay, Lisbeth.”

So they sauntered here and there until they were tired, and then they
found a resting-place, under a laburnum tree; and Anstruthers, flinging
himself upon the grass, lay at full length, his hands clasped under his
head, watching Lisbeth, in newly stirred bitterness and discontent.

Discontent? Ah! what discontent it was. What bitterness! To-night
it reached its climax. Was he a man, indeed, or had he gone back to
boyhood, and to that old folly upon which his youth had been wrecked?
Moonlight was very becoming to Lisbeth. It gave her colorless face the
white of a lily leaf, and her great eyes a new depth and shadow. She
looked her best, just now, as she had a habit of looking her best, at
all inopportune and dangerous times.

Georgie, leaning, in a luxury of quiet dreaming, against the trunk of
the laburnum, broke in upon his mental plaints, by speaking to her
friend.

“Sing, Lisbeth,” she said. “You look as if you were in a singing mood.”

Lisbeth smiled, a faint smile not unlike moonlight. She was in a
singing mood, but she was in a fantastic, half-melancholy mood, too.
Perhaps this was why she chose a rather melancholy song. She folded
her hands upon her knees, in that favorite fashion of hers, the fashion
Anstruthers remembered so well, and began;

    “All that I had to give I gave--
          Good-by!
    Yet Love lies silent in the grave,
    And that I lose, which most I crave,
          Good-by! Good-by! Good-by!

    “Nay! turn your burning eyes away!
          Good-by!
    It comes to this--this bitter day,
    That you and I can only say,
          Good-by! Good-by! Good-by!

    “The rest lies buried with the past!
          Good-by!
    The golden days, that sped so fast,
    The golden days, too bright to last;
          Good-by! Good-by! Good-by!

    “The fairest rose blooms but a day,
          Good-by!
    The fairest Spring must end with May,
    And you and I can only say,
          Good-by! Good-by! Good-by!”

“Ah, Lisbeth!” cried Georgie, when she stopped. “What a sad thing! I
never heard you sing it before.”

“No,” answered Lisbeth. “I don’t think anybody ever heard me sing it
before. It is an imitation of a little German song I have heard, or
read, somewhere. I can’t remember where, indeed. I can remember nothing
but that the refrain of ‘Good-by’ haunted me; and the words I have just
sung grew out of it.”

Anstruthers said nothing. He had watched her face, as she sung, and
had almost lost control over himself, as he was often on the verge of
doing lately. What a consummate actress the girl was! The mournful
little song had fallen from lips as sweetly and sadly as if both words
and music welled from a tender, tried, soft heart. An innocent girl
of sixteen might have sung just such a song, in just such a voice, if
she had lost her lover. Once he had been amazed by the fancy that the
large, mellow, dark eyes were full of tears.

He had been quiet enough before, but after the song was ended, he did
not utter a word, but lay silent upon the grass until their return to
the house.

Georgie rose first, and then Lisbeth and himself. But Georgie, going on
before them, left them a moment together, and as they crossed the lawn,
Lisbeth paused, and bending over a bed of lilies to gather a closed
white bud, sang, in a low tone, as if unconsciously, the last verse.

    “The fairest rose blooms but a day,
          Good-by!
    The fairest Spring must end with May,
    And you and I can only say,
          Good-by! Good-by! Good-by!”

When she stood upright, she found herself confronting a face so pale
and agitated, that she drew back a little.

“I wish to God,” he broke out, “I wish to God that you were a better
woman!”

She looked up at him for a second, with a smile, cold, and strange, and
bitter.

“I wish to God I was!” she said, and, without another word, turned from
him and walked away, flinging her closed lilies upon the dewy grass.

When, the next day, at noon, they strolled out upon the lawn, the
lilies were lying there, their waxen petals browning and withering in
the hot sun. Georgie stooped, and picked one up.

“What a pity!” she said. “They would have been so pretty to-day. I
wonder who gathered them.”

Lisbeth regarded the poor little brown bud with a queer smile.

“I gathered them,” she said. “It does seem a pity, too--almost cruel,
doesn’t it? But that is always the way with people. They gather their
buds first, and sympathize with them afterward.” Then she held out her
hand. “Give it to me,” she said; and when Georgie handed the wilted
thing to her, she took it, still half smiling in that queer way. “Yes,”
she commented. “It might have been very sweet to-day. It was useless
cruelty to kill it so early. It will never be a flower now. You see,
Georgie, my dear,” dryly, “how I pity my bud--afterward! Draw a moral
from me, and never gather your flowers too soon. They might be very
sweet to-morrow.”

She had not often talked in this light, satirical way of late, but
Georgie observed that she began to fall into the habit again after
this. She had odd moods, and was not quite so frank as her young
admirer liked to see her. And something else struck Georgie as
peculiar, too. She found herself left alone with Hector much oftener.
In their walks, and sails, and saunterings in the garden, Lisbeth’s
joining them became the exception, instead of the rule, as it had been
heretofore. It seemed always by chance that she failed to accompany
them, but it came to the same thing in the end.

Georgie pondered over the matter in private, with much anxiety. She
really began to feel as if something strange had happened. Had there
been a new quarrel? Hector was more fitful and moody than ever.
Sometimes he looked so miserable and pale, that she was a little
frightened. When he talked, he was bitter; and when he was silent, his
silence was tragical. But he was as fond of her as ever he had been.
Nay, he even seemed fonder of her, and more anxious to be near her, at
all times.

“I am not a very amusing companion, Georgie, my dear,” he would say,
“but you will bear with me, I know. You are my hope and safeguard,
Georgie. If you would not bear with me, who would?”

She often wondered at his way of speaking of her, as his safeguard.
Indeed, he not only called her his safeguard, but showed, by his
manner, that he flew to her as a sort of refuge. Once, when they had
been sitting together in silence; for some time, he suddenly seized her
hand, and kissed it passionately and desperately.

“Georgie,” he said, “if I were to come to you some day and ask you to
save me from a great danger, would you try to do as I asked you?”

She did not draw her hand away, but let it rest in his, as she answered
him, with a quiet, half-sad smile:

“I would not refuse to try to help any one in the world, who was in
danger--even a person I was not fond of,” she said. “And you know we
have been friends all our lives, Hector.”

“But if I were to ask a great gift of you,” he persisted, “a great
gift, of which I was not worthy, but which was the only thing that
could save me from ruin?”

“You must ask me first,” she said, and then, though it was done very
gently, she did take her hand away.



CHAPTER XV.

WE WON’T GO YET.


Having coolly laid her plans for leaving the two to enjoy themselves,
Lisbeth retired upon her laurels, with the intention of finding
amusements of her own. She had entertained herself before, easily
enough, why not again? Naturally, as they had fallen in love with each
other, they would not want her; even Georgie would not want her. And
it was quite natural that they should have fallen in love. They were
the sort of people to do it. And Georgie would make a charming wife,
and, if her husband proved a tyrant, would still go down upon her knees
and adore him, and thank Heaven for her prince’s affection, and his
perfections, to the end of her innocent days. As for herself, it was
no business of hers, when she had done her duty toward her friend. The
best thing she could do, would be to leave them alone, and she left
them alone, and gave them every opportunity to be lover-like, if they
had chosen.

But one day, Miss Clarissa, looking up from her sewing, started, quite
nervously, at the sudden impression made upon her of something new in
her dear Lisbeth’s appearance.

“My dear Lisbeth!” she exclaimed, “how pale and ill you look!”

“I am always pale,” said Lisbeth.

“But, my love,” protested Miss Clarissa, “you are pale, to-day, in a
different way. You must be suffering. Dear! dear! How careless in us
not to have remarked it before! I almost believe--nay, indeed, I am
sure--that you look thin, actually thin!”

“I am always thin,” said Lisbeth.

But Miss Clarissa was not to be consoled by any such coolness of
manner. When she looked again more closely, she was quite sure that she
was right, that her dear Lisbeth showed unmistakable signs of being
in a dreadful state of health. She fell into a positive condition of
tremor and remorse. She had been neglected; they had been heartlessly
careless, not to see before that she was not strong. It must be
attended to at once. And really, if Lisbeth had not been very decided,
it is not at all unlikely that she would have been put to bed, and
dosed, and wept over by all three spinsters at once.

“I hope it is not that Pen’yllan does not agree with you,” faltered
Miss Hetty. “We always thought the air very fresh and bracing, but you
certainly do not look like yourself, Lisbeth.”

And the truth was that she did not look like herself. Much as she might
protest against the assertion, she was thinner and paler than usual.

“I am not ill,” she said, “whether I look ill or not. I never was
better in my life. I have not slept very well of late; that is all.
And I must beg you to let me have my own way about it, Aunt Clarissa.
It is all nonsense. Don’t fuss over me, I implore you. You will spoil
Georgie’s love story for her, and make Mr. Anstruthers uncomfortable.
Men hate fuss of any kind. Leave me alone, when they are in the house,
and I will take all the medicine you choose to give me in private,
though it is all nonsense, I assure you.”

But was it nonsense? Alas! I must confess, though it is with extreme
reluctance, that the time came when the invincible was beaten, and felt
that she was. It was not nonsense.

One afternoon, after sitting at her bedroom window for an hour,
persuading herself that she was reading, while Georgie and Anstruthers
enjoyed a _tête-à-tête_ in the garden below, she suddenly closed her
book, and, rising from her chair, began to dress to go out.

She was down stairs, and out upon the beach, in five minutes; and, once
away from the house, she began to walk furiously. She looked neither
to right nor left, as she went. She was not in the humor to have her
attention distracted from her thoughts by any beauty of sea, or sky,
or shore. She saw the yellow sand before her, and that was all. She
reached the old trysting-place, among the rocks, before she stopped.
Once there, she gave herself time to breathe, and, standing still,
looked back at the ground over which she had come. There was a worn-out
expression in her face, such as the Misses Tregarthyn had never yet
seen, even when they thought her at her worst. And yet, in a minute
more, she smiled with actual grimness.

“I am being punished now,” she said, aloud. “I am being punished now
for everything I have ever done in my life. Now I begin to understand.”

There was humiliation enough in her soul then to have made her grovel
in the sand at her feet, if she had been prone to heroics or drama.
Yes, she was beginning to understand. It was her turn now. Oh, to have
come to this! To have learned this!

It was characteristic of her nature--an unfortunate nature at this
time, passing through a new experience, and battling fiercely against
it--that when, immediately afterward, the tears began to fill her
eyes, and roll down her cheeks, they were the bitter, bitter tears
of passionate mortification and anger. She could almost have killed
herself, for very self-contempt and shame.

“What reason is there in it?” she said. “None. What has brought me to
it? Nothing. Is he as worthy now as he was then? No! Isn’t it sheer
madness? Yes, it is.”

She spoke truly, too. There was no reason in it. It was madness. He
had done nothing to touch her heart, had made no effort to reach it.
And yet he had reached and touched it. It would not have been like her
to love a man because he was good, because he had made love to her;
indeed, because of anything. Her actions were generally without any
cause but her own peremptory fancies; and here, some strange, sudden
caprice of emotion had been too much for her. How she had suffered
since she discovered her weakness, no one but herself would ever know.
She had writhed under it, burned under it, loathed it, and yet been
conquered by it. Almost every blade of Pen’yllan grass reminded her of
some wrong she had done to the kindly, impetuous young fellow, who had
loved her in the past. Almost every grain of Pen’yllan sand taunted her
with some wanton selfishness, or cruelty, which must be remembered by
the man who could have nothing but dislike for her in the present.

“I should be grateful now,” she cried, bitterly. “Yes! Grateful for
a tithe of what I once had under foot. This is eating dirt with a
vengeance.”

She might well frighten Miss Clarissa with her pallor and wretched
looks. The intensity of her misery and humiliation was wearing her out,
and robbing her of sleep and appetite. She wanted to leave Pen’yllan,
but how could she suggest it? Georgie was so happy, she told herself,
with a vindictive pleasure in her pain, that it would be a pity to
disturb her.

She walked up and down the beach for half an hour before she returned
home; and when she went her way, she was so tired as to be fairly
exhausted. At the side door, by which she entered the house, she met
Georgie, who held an open letter in her hand.

“Whom from?” asked Lisbeth, for lack of something to say.

“Mamma,” was the girl’s answer. “She wonders when we are going home;
but I am enjoying Pen’yllan so much----”

She paused, and blushed. Just lately it had occurred to her that it
might be possible that Lisbeth misunderstood her relation to Hector,
and something in Lisbeth’s face made her stop and blush in this
opportune manner.

“The weather is so lovely,” she ended, “that I don’t think I want to go
yet.”

Lisbeth smiled, but her smile was an abstracted sort of affair.

“No,” she said. “We won’t go yet. Pen’yllan is doing both of us good;
and it is doing Mr. Anstruthers good, too. We won’t go yet. Tell Mrs.
Esmond so, Georgie.”

And then she carried her absent smile up stairs.



CHAPTER XVI.

YES--TO LISBETH.


Georgie stood still, and looked after her. She blushed more deeply than
ever. A queer distress and discomfort came upon her, and filled her
mind. She had only wondered, before, if it was possible that Lisbeth
did not know, did not wholly understand; but now the truth revealed
itself in an uncomfortable flash of recognition.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, under her breath. “She does not see. She thinks--I
am sure she thinks--” But she did not put the rest into words.

Pen’yllan, and the lovely weather, quite lost their charm for the
moment. As she walked slowly down the hall, toward the parlor, holding
her mother’s letter in her hand, she would almost have been glad to
run away. She remembered so many little peculiarities she had noticed
in Lisbeth’s manner, of late. She had managed to leave her alone
with Hector so often; she had taken so many of those long walks by
herself; she had not looked well; she had sometimes been abstracted
and restless. The girl’s heart quite fluttered at the thought which
all these things forced upon her. She was afraid to indulge in such
a fancy. That day, when her confession had been made upon the beach,
Lisbeth had confessed that she was sorry for her past cruelty. Could
it be that her remorse had developed into a stronger feeling? Could it
be that she was more than sorry now? That she was beginning to value
the love she had thrown away, even to long for it? As I have said, the
thought frightened Georgie a little. She had seen so much to admire in
Hector Anstruthers, that she had often wondered, innocently, how it
was possible that Lisbeth could have resisted his numerous charms and
perfections. How, indeed, could any woman whom he loved be so hard to
please as not to appreciate him? She, herself, had appreciated him,
she told herself, blushing, even though he had not loved her at all as
he had loved Lisbeth. And yet she felt now as if it would be almost
dreadful to think that Lisbeth, cool, self-controlled Lisbeth, had
given way, in spite of her coolness and self-control. And then, if
this was the true state of affairs, how much more dreadful it became
to feel that she was misunderstood; that Lisbeth saw in her a rival.
Something must be done, it was plain, but it was a difficult matter to
decide what the something should be. Ah! if it had only been a matter
she could have talked over with mamma, who knew everything, and could
always advise her. But it was Lisbeth’s secret--Lisbeth’s and Hector’s;
and so she must be loyal to her trust.

She was quite sad, in the midst of her labyrinth, all the afternoon;
so sad, that when Anstruthers came in from the village, to partake of
Miss Clarissa’s tea, he marked the change in her at once. But he was in
a gloomy mood himself; so it is not to be wondered at that the small
party around the table was not nearly so gay as usual. Lisbeth had a
headache. Her eyes were heavy, and she said but little, and disappeared
as soon as the meal was at an end.

Georgie would have followed her at once, but in the hall Hector stopped
her.

“Come into the garden, Georgie,” he said; “I have something to say to
you.”

“Very well,” said Georgie, “as soon as I have asked Lisbeth to come,
too.”

“But,” he returned, “I do not want Lisbeth. What I have to say I must
say to you, not Lisbeth.”

Georgie had been standing with one foot on the lowest stair, and her
hand on the balustrades, but a tone in his voice made her turn round,
and look up questioningly. He was pale and haggard. She saw in an
instant that he was not quite himself. A little pain shot through her
tender heart. How unhappy he looked!

“You are very pale, Hector,” she said, pityingly.

He tried to smile, but it was a constrained effort.

“I suppose I am nervous,” he answered. “Be good to me, Georgie, my
dear.” And he held out his hand to her. “Come,” he said, “Lisbeth does
not care for our society much. She always avoids us when she can.”

Georgie’s face fell. Had he seen it, too?

Then surely it must be true that Lisbeth did avoid them.

She was so full of her trouble about Lisbeth, that it scarcely occurred
to her mind that he had made a very simple request, in an unusual way.
She did not even ask herself what he could be going to say, that he
would not say before Lisbeth.

But she became more conscious of the strangeness of his mood every
moment. He hardly spoke half a dozen more words, until they reached
their usual seat, under the laburnum. There, when she sat down,
he flung himself upon the grass, at her side, in his favorite
unceremonious fashion; but for a minute or so, he did not even look at
her. She had never thought him boyish before, but just then the thought
entered her mind, that he was very boyish indeed, and she began to pity
and wonder at him more and more.

Suddenly he turned toward her and spoke.

“Georgie, my dear,” he said, his voice quite trembling, “I am going to
ask you for that great gift, of which I am so unworthy.”

What need that he should say another word? She knew quite well, then,
what he meant, and why it was that he had not wanted Lisbeth. And,
ready as she usually was with her blushes, she did not blush at all.
She even lost all her bright color at once, and confronted him with a
face quite pale and altered.

“You may go on, Hector,” she said; “I will listen.”

So he broke out hurriedly and desperately, and poured forth his appeal.

“I don’t know how I dare ask so much,” he said. “I don’t know how I
dare speak at all. You do not understand what my life has been. God
forbid that you should! But what is left of it is not worthy of you,
Georgie--the sweetest, purest woman that God ever made. And yet I think
it is because I honor you so much, that I dare to throw myself on your
mercy. I want to be a better man, my dear, and--and--will you help me?
You see what I am asking you for, Georgie?” And he bent his pale face
over her hand, kissing it as some sad penitent might kiss a saint’s.

A strange love-making, indeed! The girl gave a little sob. Yes,
actually, a little sob. But she let him hold her hand, just as she had
let him hold it, that day before. She had put her budding love aside,
and outlived it bravely; but there was a pang in this, nevertheless,
and she could not help but feel it. It would be over in a moment, but
it stung sharply, for the instant.

“Yes, Hector, I see,” she answered, almost directly. “You are asking me
if I will marry you.”

“Yes, my dear.” And he kissed her hand again.

Then there was a silence, for a little while; and he waited, wondering
and feeling, God knows what strange hope, or fear, at heart. At
length, however, another fair, small hand was laid softly on his,
causing him to glance up, questioningly.

“Is that the answer?” he ventured, with a new throb of the heart.

But she shook her head, smiling a sweet, half-sad smile.

“It is not _that_ answer,” she said, “but it is an answer in its way.
It means that I am going to speak to you, from my heart.”

“I think you always do that,” he said, unsteadily.

“Yes, always; but now, more than ever, I must be very true to you,
indeed, to-day, because--because you have made a mistake, Hector.”

“A mistake! Then it is not the first.”

But what a craven he felt at soul! How hard it was to meet her clear,
bright eyes!

“You have made a mistake,” she went on. “Oh, if I was not true to you,
and to myself as well, your whole life might be a mistake from this
hour, and everything might go wrong. You fancy that, because you can
admire and trust me, that you could learn to love me, too, in that
best way, as you do not now, when I was your wife. But you could not,
however hard you might try, and however hard I might try, too; you
could not. You could only teach yourself a poor imitation of that best
way, and you would be unsatisfied at heart, Hector; and so should I.
Husbands and wives ought to have that best kind of love, and nothing
else, because nothing else will fill its place--the place in their
hearts that God made to be filled by it. Because you are honest and
true to me,” with a warm grasp of the small hand, though warm tears
were in her eyes, “you do not say that you have that kind of love to
offer me, and I know you have not. I think that, perhaps, you could not
give it to me, even if--don’t be angry, Hector, because I could not
help seeing it--you had not given it, almost in spite of yourself, to
some one else----”

“To some one else!” he exclaimed.

“Yes,” she said, sorrowfully, “to Lisbeth.”

He drew his hands away, and covered his face with them, with something
like a groan of despair.

“I am answered,” he said. “Don’t say anything more, Georgie. That is
enough.”

“Don’t misunderstand me,” cried the girl. “You could not help it. How
could you? The old love never died out, really. And now, when you see
her so much better, and more beautiful, how could it be otherwise than
that it should spring into new life, and be stronger than ever? It is
Lisbeth you love, Hector, and she is worthy of your love--of anybody’s
love, if you would only understand her rightly. Is it pride that holds
you back from showing your heart to her, or is it because, even though
you love her, you have not forgiven her for your old misery? Tell me.”

“Do I love her,” he asked, “or hate her?”

“You love her,” answered Georgie.

“And yet,” he said, gloomily, “I have asked you to marry me, and you
have answered me, as gently as an angel might have done.”

“It was only that you made a mistake,” said the girl.

“A mistake!” he echoed. “Ay, it was a mistake! And, as I said, it is
not the first I have made. My life has been full of blunders.”

“Oh!” said Georgie, “how I wish I was wise enough to know how to set
them right. If you would only trust me and let me try.”

He gave her a mournful smile.

“I thought there was a way,” he said, “but you did not agree with me.”

“I knew better,” shaking her head, and coloring. “And perhaps I was too
proud and jealous. I am not so good as you think me. I am very fond
of you, but not fond enough to take your half-loaf. Let us forget it
altogether.”



CHAPTER XVII.

GOOD-BY.


Surely, so serious a question was never so dismissed in so short a
time. For these few busy moments, the matter was as completely disposed
of, as if they had spent hours in arguing it. He scarcely knew how it
was that he felt so sure that he need say no more; that the brave,
simple, pretty Georgie had set his poor, weak plans aside so easily,
and yet so tenderly. Much as he admired and reverenced her, there was
a depth in her girlish nature which he had never sounded. It was all
over for him with Georgie Esmond, though he need not fear that her
friendship would ever waver.

“If I was only wise enough to help you,” she repeated; “if you would
only trust me, and let me try.”

“If any one could help me, you could,” he said, “but there is no help
for me.”

He had never once admitted to himself that this miserable passion
could ever make him happy. It had never occurred to his mind that its
termination would be anything but a wretched and humiliating one. As
Georgie had suggested, he loved, but had not forgiven, and he told
himself that his love was degraded infatuation. What was there to tie
to in such a feeling? Did he trust the woman to whom he was in secret a
slave? No, he trusted her no more to-day than he had done before. But
she had a hold upon his heart-strings, nevertheless. The old witchery
was exercising its full power upon him. It had been so strong, at last,
that he had been maddened into making this coward’s effort to free
himself. If Georgie would stretch out her hand, she might save him a
fatal weakness, and so, even while he despised himself for his selfish
folly, he had resolved to throw himself upon Georgie’s mercy. And here
was the end of it! Georgie was wiser than himself, clearer of sight,
truer of soul, stronger, with a brave simplicity; and she had proved to
him what a shameful folly it was. Georgie would have none of him; and
yet how sweet she was, God bless her!

“I shall leave Pen’yllan, in the morning,” he said. “There is nothing
to keep me here now, since you do not want me. Say that you forgive me,
Georgie, and we will bid each other good-by, for the present.”

“You must not think that I have anything to forgive,” she answered;
“but I do not say that you will be wrong in going. I believe it will
be best. You do not quite understand yourself yet. Go away, and give
yourself time to find out, whether you can conquer your heart, or not.
The time will come when you will know.”

“And then?” somewhat bitterly.

“Something will happen, I think,” her simple faith in the kindness of
Fortune asserting itself. “I cannot believe that you will always be as
unhappy as you are now. One of you will be sure to do or say something
that will help the other.”

A sudden color leaped to his face. Her words held a suggestion of which
he had never once thought, and which set his pulses beating hard and
fast.

“What?” he exclaimed, his new feeling giving him no time to check
himself. “You do not think the time will ever come, when she--when she
might feel, too----”

“I think,” said the girl, in a grave, almost reverent voice, “I think
the time has come now.”

When they returned to the house, Lisbeth, seeing them from the parlor
window, made a mental comment.

“Judging from his face,” she observed, “I should say that he had asked
her to marry him, and had been accepted. Judging from hers, I should
say her answer had been ‘No.’ You are not easy to read, for once,
Georgie. What does it mean?”

Georgie came into the house, with a more composed look than her face
had worn for several days. She laid her garden hat upon the hall table
and walked straight into the parlor to her dear Lisbeth. She had a
very shrewd idea that her dear Lisbeth knew nothing of their guest’s
intended departure, and she wanted to be the first to break the news
to her. It would not matter if any little secrets were betrayed to
herself. So she went to the window, and laid her hand on Lisbeth’s
shoulder.

“Did Hector tell you that he was going?” she asked, as if his having
done so would have been the most natural thing in the world.

“That he was going?” repeated Lisbeth.

Georgie gazed considerately out into the garden.

“Yes. Back to London, you know--to-morrow. I suppose he thinks he has
been idle long enough.”

Lisbeth shrugged her shoulders.

“Rather sudden, isn’t it?” she commented. “I think you have been the
first to hear the news.”

“Gentlemen always do things suddenly,” remarked Georgie, astutely.

She had no need to have been so discreet. Lisbeth had been very cool
under the information. An indifferent observer might have easily
concluded that she cared very little about it; that her interest in
Hector Anstruthers’ going and coming was an extremely well-controlled
feeling. When he came into the room himself, a few minutes later, she
was quite composed enough to touch upon the subject with polite regrets.

“Aunt Clarissa will positively mourn,” she ended, with one of her
incomprehensible smiles. “She has been almost radiant during your
visit.” And there her share in the matter seemed to terminate. She
said nothing when the three old ladies, hearing the news, poured forth
affectionate plaints, from the first course at dinner until the last.
She listened composedly, without remark, though once or twice she
looked at Georgie with rather an interested air. It was her turn to
feel curious now, and she was curious enough. Georgie blushed when she
was looked at scrutinizingly, but her manner was decidedly not that of
a girl who had just accepted a lover.

“And,” said Lisbeth, examining her coolly, “she would not refuse
him. She must be fond of him; and if she is fond of him, she is too
sweet-natured and straightforward to coquet with him. And yet--well, it
is decidedly puzzling.”

She found the evening rather a bore, upon the whole. How was it that it
dragged so, in spite of her efforts? She thought it would never come
to an end. When, with long-suffering good-nature, Hector drew out the
chess-table, and challenged the delighted Miss Clarissa to a game, her
patience fairly gave way. She turned to the piano for refuge, and sang
song after song, until she could sing no more. Then, when Georgie took
her place, she made a furtive exit, and slipped out through the hall
and a side door into the garden. What made her turn her steps toward
Miss Clarissa’s rose-thicket? She did not know. But she went there.
There she had bidden her boy-lover good-by, and broken his heart; there
she had sung her little song to Georgie and Hector. On both occasions
it had been warm, and balmy, and moonlight; and now it was warm, and
balmy, and moonlight again. She stood and looked through the trees,
catching silvery glimpses of the sea. In a minute or so she moved her
hand in an impatient gesture.

“I am sick of it all,” she cried, breaking the silence. “I am sick of
the whole world, and of myself more than the rest. How I wish I was
like Aunt Clarissa.”

She began to wander about restlessly, pulling at the roses with no
particular object, but because she could not keep still. Buds and
blossoms, red, and cream, and white, were torn from their stems
ruthlessly, until her hands were full, and then she stopped again, half
wondering at herself.

“What am I thinking of?” she said. “What do I want them for? Poor
things!” remembering her parable bitterly. “They might have been very
sweet to-morrow.”

She held the cool, fresh things close up to her face, breathing in
their fragrance eagerly; and when she took them away, their blossoms
were bright here and there--perhaps with dew; certainly with dew, if it
was dew that wet her fevered cheeks, and softened her eyes so strangely.

Scarcely three minutes later she turned with a start, and then stood
listening. Some one had left the house, and was coming across the lawn
toward her. She waited a few seconds, to make sure that she was not
mistaken, and then she bent down over a bush, and began leisurely to
gather more roses, though she was overloaded already.

“Where is Georgie?” she asked, calmly, of the intruder, when he reached
her side.

“Georgie,” returned a rather constrained voice, “is talking to Miss
Hetty. Miss Clarissa sent me here to remind you that the dew is
falling, and that you are not strong enough to bear the night air.”

“Miss Clarissa is very good,” Lisbeth answered. “And so are you. But
dear Miss Clarissa has been threatening me with an untimely grave, as
the result of night air, ever since I was six months old; so, perhaps,
I am not so grateful as I ought to be. I love darkness rather than
light, upon the whole, and don’t find that it disagrees with me;
perhaps because my deeds are evil.”

“Perhaps,” dryly.

For fully two minutes, she gathered her flowers in silence, while
Anstruthers waited, and looked at her; but at last she stood upright,
and their eyes met.

“It is a beautiful night,” she remarked, sententiously.

“Yes.”

“We have had a great number of lovely nights, lately.”

“Yes.”

She busied herself with her roses for a little while, to the exclusion
of everything else, and then she gave it up.

“Well,” she said, “suppose we go into the house. I can do nothing with
them here. The fact is, I don’t know why I gathered them, unless it was
from an impulse of destructiveness. Let us go.”

“Stop a moment,” he said; nay, almost commanded her.

She paused, not seeming in the least disturbed, however. She would have
cut off her right hand, almost, before she would have exhibited an
emotion.

“I had a reason of my own for coming here,” he went on, “apart from
Miss Clarissa’s commands. I want to bid you good-by.”

“You must be going,” she commented, “very early in the morning.” And
yet her heart was beating like a trip-hammer.

“It is not that,” was his reply, “though I am going early. I had a
whim--you remember my whim about the song--a fancy that I should like
to say my good-by here, where I said a good-by once before.”

“It is easily said,” answered Lisbeth, and held out one of her hands.
“Good-by.”

He took it, with a pretense at a coolness as masterly as her own,
but he could not keep it up. He gave way to some swift, passionate,
inexplicable prompting, and in an instant had covered it with kisses,
had even fiercely kissed her slender wrist.

She snatched it from his grasp, breathless with anger, forgetting her
resolve to control herself.

“What do you mean?” she cried. “You are mad. How dare you?”

He drew back a step, confronting her defiantly.

“I do not know what I mean,” he answered, “unless, as you say, I am
mad. I think I am mad; so, being a madman, I will not ask you to pardon
me. It was a farewell. It is over now, however. Will you let me take
your roses, and carry them to the house?”

She vouchsafed him no answer, but turned away, and left him to follow,
if he chose. Her helplessness against him drove her fairly wild.
Nothing she could say, or do, would ever wipe out the memory of those
mad kisses. He either loved or despised her utterly; and remembering
his manner toward Georgie, she could only conclude that he despised
her, and had offered her a deadly insult. The blood shot into her
cheeks, like a rush of fire, and her eyes blazed ominously.

“My dear Lisbeth,” bleated good little Miss Clarissa, the moment she
saw her, “you have caught fresh cold, I am convinced. You are in a high
fever.”

Fever, indeed! She had never been in such a fever in her life; but it
was a fever of anger and humiliation.

“I think it probable,” she said, seriously, “that I am going to have
measles, or scarlatina, Aunt Clarissa. Which would you prefer?”

Georgie came up stairs, long after she had shut herself in her room, to
find her sitting by the open window, looking worn out and wretched.

“Lisbeth,” she ventured, “is it possible that you _are_ going to be
ill?”

Probably Georgie Esmond had never been so spoken to in her life, as she
was when her dear Lisbeth turned upon her at this simple remark.

“Georgie, my dear,” she said, “if you ask me such a question again, I
believe I shall turn you out of the room, and lock the door.”

Georgie regarded her for a moment in mute amazement; but after that she
managed to recover herself.

“I--I beg pardon, Lisbeth,” she faltered, and then discreetly turned
her attention to the performance of her nightly toilet, preparatory to
going to bed.

But in the morning, it was Lisbeth to whose share the meekness fell.
Her mood had changed altogether, and she was so astoundingly humble,
that Georgie was alarmed.

“You have more patience with me than I have with myself, Georgie,” she
said, “or I should know it was not worth my while to say a word to you.
Do have pity on me. I--well, I was out of sorts, or something. And I
have such a horrible temper.”

Really, her demon might have departed from her that night. She showed
no more temper; she became almost as amiable as a more commonplace
young woman. She made so few caustic speeches, that the Misses
Tregarthyn began to fear that her delicate health had affected her
usual flow of spirits; and accordingly mourned over her in secret, not
feeling it discreet to do so openly.

“She used to be so spirited,” sighed Miss Hetty, over her sewing, to
Georgie. “Don’t you observe an alteration in her, my love? Sister
Clarissa, and sister Millicent, and myself really do not know what to
think. It would be such a comfort to us, if she could only be persuaded
to see Dr. Puddifoot. He is such a dear man, and so extremely talented.”

“Because I have been trying to behave myself decently, they think I am
ill,” said Lisbeth, smiling a little mournfully. “Just think how I must
have treated them, Georgie. They are so used to my humors, that, if I
am not making myself actively unpleasant, they fancy it is because I
have not the strength to do it. If I were to snub Aunt Hetty, and snap
at Aunt Clarissa, I believe they would shed tears of joy.”



CHAPTER XVIII.

YOU THINK I HAVE A SECRET.


A week or so after Anstruthers’ departure Georgie decided that her
visit must come to an end. Mamma was not so very well, and poor papa
had a touch of his old enemy, the gout; and, really she had been away
from home a long time. Did not Lisbeth think that they had better
return to London, even though Pen’yllan was still as delightful as ever?

Then they had a surprise indeed.

Lisbeth, who had been listening, in a rather absent manner, aroused
herself to astonish them.

“I think,” she said, “that if you do not mind making the journey alone,
Georgie, I should like to stay in Pen’yllan this winter.”

“In Pen’yllan?” cried Georgie. “All winter, Lisbeth?”

“At Pen’yllan? Here? With us?” cried Miss Millicent, and Miss Hetty,
and Miss Clarissa, in chorus.

“Yes,” answered Lisbeth, in her most non-committal fashion. “At
Pen’yllan, Aunt Hetty. Here, Aunt Millicent. With you, Aunt Clarissa.”

The Misses Tregarthyn became quite pale. They glanced at each other,
and shook their heads, ominously. This portended something dreadful,
indeed.

“My love,” faltered Miss Clarissa.

“What?” interposed Lisbeth. “Won’t you let me stay? Are you tired of
me? I told you that you would be, you know, before I came.”

“Oh, my dear!” protested Miss Clarissa. “How can you? Tired of you?
Sister Hetty, sister Millicent! Tired of her?”

“We only thought, my love, that it would be so dull to one used to--to
the brilliant vortex of London society,” ended Miss Millicent, rather
grandly.

“But if I think that it will not,” said Lisbeth. “I am tired of the
‘brilliant vortex of London society.’”

She got up from her chair, and went and stood by Georgie, at the
window, looking out.

“Yes,” she said, almost as if speaking to herself, “I think I should
like to stay.”

The end of it was, that she did stay. She wrote to Mrs. Despard, that
very day, announcing her intention of remaining. Georgie, in packing
her trunks, actually shed a few silent tears among her ruffs and
ribbons. To her mind, this was a sad termination to her happy visit.
She knew that it must mean something serious, that there must be some
powerful motive at the bottom of such a resolution. If Lisbeth would
only not be so reserved. If it was only a little easier to understand
her.

“We shall miss you very much, Lisbeth,” she ventured, mournfully.

“Not more than I shall miss you,” answered Lisbeth, who at the time
stood near, watching her as she knelt before the box she was packing.

Georgie paused in her task, to look up doubtfully.

“Then why will you do it?” she said. “You--you must have a reason.”

“Yes,” said Lisbeth, “I have a reason.”

The girl’s eyes still appealed to her; so she went on, with a rather
melancholy smile:

“I have two reasons--perhaps more. Pen’yllan agrees with me, and I do
not want to go back to town yet. I am going to take a rest. I must need
one, or Aunt Clarissa would not find so much fault with my appearance.
I don’t want to ‘go off on my looks,’ before my time, and you know they
are always telling me I am pale and thin. Am I pale and thin, Georgie?”

“Yes,” confessed Georgie, “you are,” and she gave her a troubled look.

“Then,” returned Lisbeth, “there is all the more reason that I should
rusticate. Perhaps, by the spring, I shall be red and fat, like Miss
Rosamond Puddifoot,” with a little laugh. “And I shall have taken to
tracts, and soup-kitchens, and given up the world, and wear a yellow
bonnet, and call London a ‘vortex of sinful pleasure,’ as she does.
Why, my dear Georgie, what is the matter?”

The fact was, that a certain incongruity in her beloved Lisbeth’s
looks and tone, had so frightened Georgie, and touched her susceptible
heart, that the tears had rushed to her eyes, and she was filled with a
dolorous pity.

“You are not--you are not happy,” she cried all at once. “You are not,
or you would not speak in that queer, satirical way. I wish you would
be a little--a little more--kind, Lisbeth.”

Lisbeth’s look was a positively guilty one.

“Kind!” she exclaimed. “Kind, Georgie!”

Having gone so far, Georgie could not easily draw back, and was fain
to go on, though she became conscious that she had placed herself in a
very trying position.

“It is not kind to keep everything to yourself so closely,” she
said, tremulously. “As if we did not care for you, or could not
comprehend----”

She stopped, because Lisbeth frightened her again. She became so pale,
that it was impossible to say anything more. Her great, dark eyes
dilated, as if with a kind of horror, at something.

“You--you think I have a secret,” she interrupted her, with a
hollow-sounding laugh. “And you are determined to make a heroine out
of me, instead of allowing me to enjoy my ‘nerves’ in peace. You don’t
comprehend ‘nerves,’ that is clear. You are running at a red rag,
Georgie, my dear. It is astonishing how prone you good, tender-hearted
people are to run at red rags, and toss, and worry them.”

It was plain that she would never betray herself. She would hold at
arm’s-length even the creature who loved her best, and was most worthy
of her confidence. It was useless to try to win her to any revelation
of her feelings.

Georgie fell to at her packing again, with a very melancholy
consciousness of the fact, that she had done no good by losing control
over her innocent emotions, and might have done harm. It had pained
her inexpressibly to see that quick dread of self-betrayal, which had
announced itself in the sudden loss of color, and the odd expression in
her friend’s eyes.

“She does not love me as I love her,” was her pathetic, mental
conclusion. “If she did, she would not be so afraid of me.”

When Lisbeth bade her good-by, at the little railway station, the
girl’s heart quite failed her.

“What shall I say to mamma and papa?” she asked.

“Tell them that Pen’yllan agrees with me so well that I don’t like to
leave it for the present,” was Lisbeth’s answer. “And tell Mrs. Esmond
that I will write to her myself.”

“And--” in timid desperation--“and Hector, Lisbeth?”

“Hector?” rather sharply. “Why Hector? What has he to do with the
matter? But stay!” shrugging her shoulders. “I suppose it would be only
civil. Tell him--tell him--that Aunt Clarissa sends her love, and hopes
he will take care of his lungs.”

And yet, though this irreverent speech was her last, and she made it in
her most malicious manner, the delicate, dark face, and light, small
figure, had a strangely desolate look to Georgie, as, when the train
bore her away, she caught her last farewell glimpse of them on the
platform of the small station.

Lisbeth stood before her mirror, that night, slowly brushing up her
hair, and feeling the silence of the small chamber acutely.

“It would never have done,” she said to herself. “It would never have
done at all. This is the better way--better, by far.”

But it was hard enough to face, and it was fantastic enough to think
that she had really determined to face it. In a minute or so she
sat down, with her brush in her hand, and her hair loose upon her
shoulders, to confront the facts once more. She was going to spend
her winter at Pen’yllan. She had given up the flesh-pots of Egypt.
She was going to breakfast at eight, dine at two when there was no
company, take five o’clock tea, and spend the evening with the Misses
Tregarthyn. She would stroll in the garden, walk on the beach, and take
Miss Clarissa’s medicines meekly. At this point a new view of the case
presented itself to her, and she began to laugh. Mustard baths, and
Dr. Puddifoot’s prescriptions, in incongruous connection with her own
personal knowledge of things, appeared all at once so ludicrous, that
they got the better of her, and she laughed until she found herself
crying; and then, angry as she was at her own weakness, the tears
got the better of her, too, for a short time. If she had never been
emotional before, she was emotional enough in these days. She could
not pride herself upon her immovability now. She felt, constantly,
either passionate anger against herself, or passionate contempt, or a
passionate eagerness to retrieve her lost self-respect. What could she
do? How could she rescue herself? This would not do! This would not
do! She must make some new struggle! This sort of thing she was saying
feverishly from morning until night.

Secretly she had almost learned to detest Pen’yllan. Pen’yllan, she
told herself, had been the cause of all her follies; but it was safer
at present than London. If she stayed at Pen’yllan long enough, surely
she could wear herself out, or rather wear out her fancies. A less
resolute young woman would, in all likelihood, have trifled weakly with
her danger; but it was not so with Lisbeth. She had not trifled with it
from the first: she had held herself stubbornly aloof from any little
self-indulgence; and now she was harder upon herself than ever. She
would have died cheerfully, rather than have betrayed herself, and if
she could die, surely she could endure a dull winter.

Her moral condition was so far improved, however, that she did not
visit her small miseries upon her aunts, as she would have done
in the olden days. Her behavior was really creditable, under the
circumstances. She played chess with Miss Clarissa in the evening, or
read aloud, or sung for them, and began to take a whimsical pleasure in
their delight at her condescension. They were so easily delighted, that
she felt many a sting of shame at her former delinquencies. She had an
almost morbid longing “to be good,” like Georgie, and she practiced
this being “good” upon the three spinsters, with a persistence at which
she herself both laughed and cried when she was alone. Her first letter
to Georgie puzzled the girl indescribably, and yet touched her somehow.
She, who believed her beloved Lisbeth to be perfect among women, could
not quite understand the psychological crisis through which she was
passing, and yet could not fail to feel that something unusual was
happening.

“I take Aunt Clarissa’s medicine with a mild regularity which alarms
her,” the letter announced. “She thinks I must be going into a
consumption, and tearfully consults Dr. Puddifoot in private. The cook
is ordered to prepare particularly nourishing soups for dinner, and if
my appetite is not something startling, everybody turns pale. And yet
all this does not seem to me as good a joke as it would have done years
ago. I see another side to it. I wonder how it is that they can be so
fond of me. For my part, I am sure I could never have been fond of
Lisbeth Crespigny.”



CHAPTER XIX.

AND THAT WAS THE END OF IT.


The roses fell, one by one, in Miss Clarissa’s flower beds, and so
at last did the palest autumn-bloom; the leaves dropped from the
trees, and the winds from the sea began to blow across the sands,
in chilly gusts. But Lisbeth stayed bravely on. Rainy days dragged
by wearily enough, and cold ones made their appearance, but she did
not give up even when Mrs. Despard wondered, and Georgie implored in
weekly epistles. The winter routine of the Tregarthyn household was
not exciting, but it was a sort of safeguard. Better dullness than
something worse! Perhaps, in time, by spring, it might be different.
And yet she could not say that she found her state of mind improving.
And as to her body--well, Miss Clarissa might well sigh over her in
secret. If she had been pale and thin before, she had not gained flesh
and color. She persisted in her long walks in desperation, and came
home after them, looking haggard and hollow-eyed. She wandered about
the garden, in self-defense, and was no less tired. She followed Dr.
Puddifoot’s directions to the letter, and, to the Misses Tregarthyn’s
dismay, was not improved. In fact, as that great man, Dr. Puddifoot,
observed, “Something was radically wrong.”

It was an unequal, miserable-enough struggle, but it had its
termination; and, like all such terminations, it was an abrupt,
unexpected, almost fantastic one. Lisbeth had never thought of such an
end to her self-inflicted penance. No such possibility had presented
itself to her mind. It was not her way to romance, and she had confined
herself to realities.

Sitting at her bedroom window, one chill, uncomfortable December day,
she arrived at a fanciful caprice. It was as raw and miserable a day
as one would, or rather would not, wish to see. The wind blew over
the sea in gusts, the gulls flew languidly under the gray sky, a few
dead leaves swirled about in eddies in the road, and yet this caprice
took possession of Lisbeth, as she looked out, and appreciated the
perfection of desolateness. Since Georgie had left Pen’yllan, she had
never once been near the old trysting-place. Her walks had always been
in the opposite direction, and now it suddenly occurred to her, that
she would like to go and see how things would look in her present mood.
In five minutes from the time the fancy seized her, Miss Clarissa
caught a glimpse of something through the parlor window, which made her
utter an exclamation:

“Lisbeth!” she said. “Out again, and on such a day! Dear me! I do trust
she is well wrapped up.”

Lisbeth made her way against the damp, chill wind, with a touch of
positively savage pleasure in her own discomfort. The sands were
wet, and unpleasant to walk on; and she was not sorry. What did it
matter? She was in the frame of mind to experience a sort of malicious
enjoyment of outward miseries. The tryst looked melancholy enough when
she reached it. She made her way to the nook, behind the sheltering
rocks, and stood there, looking out to sea. She had not expected to
find the place wearing its summer aspect, but she was scarcely prepared
to face such desolateness. Everything was gray--gray tossing sea, gray
screaming gulls, gray lowering sky.

“It would have been better to have stayed at home,” she said.

Still she could not make up her mind to turn back at once, and lingered
a little, leaning against a rock, shivering, and feeling dreary; and
so it was that the man who was approaching first caught sight of her
figure.

Lisbeth did not see this man. She did not care to see either man or
woman, at present. The gulls suited her better than human beings, and
she believed herself to be utterly alone, until footsteps upon the
sand, quite near, made her turn with an impatient start.

The man--he was not a yard from her side--raised his hat and stood
still. The man was Hector Anstruthers.

For a moment neither uttered a word. Lisbeth thought her heart must
have stopped beating. She had turned cold as marble. When she could
control herself sufficiently to think at all, she thought of Georgie.

“What is the matter?” she exclaimed. “Is somebody ill? Georgie?”

“Georgie is quite well,” he answered.

Then he came close, and held out his hand, with a strange, melancholy
smile.

“I ask pardon for alarming you,” he said. “I ask pardon for coming
without an excuse; but I have no excuse. Won’t you shake hands with me,
Lisbeth?”

She got through the ceremony as quickly as possible, and then drew
back, folding her shawl about her. She was shivering with something,
besides cold. If she had only been safe at home. If nobody was in
danger, what on earth had he come for?

“I was a little startled,” she said. “Pen’yllan is not very attractive
to people, as a rule, in winter, and it seemed the most natural thing
that Georgie was ill, and had sent you to me.” Then, after a little
pause, and a sidelong glance at him, “You look as if you had been ill
yourself.”

He certainly did. He was thin, and haggard, and care-worn. His eyes
were dangerously bright, and he had a restless air. He was not so
sublime a dandy, either, as he had been; there was even a kind of
negligence about him.

“Aunt Clarissa must have been very much alarmed when she saw you,”
Lisbeth proceeded, trying to get up a creditable smile.

“I have not seen Miss Clarissa,” he answered. “I came here first.”

This was so ominous, that Lisbeth succumbed. She knew, when he said
this, that he did not intend to keep up appearances. But she made one
more poor effort.

“Then, perhaps, we had better go home,” she remarked.

“No,” he returned, quickly. “I have something to say.”

She felt herself losing strength. But what did it matter, let him say
what he would? Perhaps it was something about Georgie. She had a dreary
feeling that she was ready for anything.

“Go on!” she said.

“Oh!” he cried, in bitter, impatient resignation of her stoicism. “Arm
yourself against me; I know you will do that. Sneer at my folly; I am
prepared for that, too. But I shall speak. It is Fate. I am a fool, but
I must speak.”

“Was it to say this that you came here?” interposed Lisbeth.

“I came because I could not stay away. You are my Fate, I tell you,”
almost angrily. “You will not let me rest. When I kissed your hands,
that last night, I gave myself up to my madness. I had tried to
persuade myself that I had no love for you; but that cured me, and
showed me how I had deceived myself. I have never ceased to love you,
from the first; and you----”

His words died upon his lips. She looked as he had never seen her look
before. She leaned against the rock, as if she needed support. Suddenly
her eyes and lashes were wet, and she began to tremble slightly. He
checked himself, full of swift remorse. What a rough brute he was!

“Don’t!” he said. “I did not mean to frighten you.”

She lifted her eyes, piteously; her lips parted, as if she was going to
speak; but she did not speak. She was even weaker than she had thought.
She had never been so helpless and shaken before. She shrank from him,
and drooping her face upon the rock, burst into hysterical tears.

He did not pause to ask himself what it meant. He did not understand
women’s nerves. He only comprehended that she had given way, that
everything was changed, that she was unstrung and weeping. In a moment
he had her in his arms, exclaiming, passionately:

“Lisbeth! Lisbeth!” And then the little straw hat, with its blue
ribbon, slipping away from the small, pale face, that lay upon his
breast, he bent and covered it, this small, pale, tear-wet face, with
reckless kisses.

For the moment he did not care what came next, nor what doom he brought
upon himself, he was so mad with long pent-up love and misery. He found
the little hand under the shawl, too, and fell to kissing that, also,
and would not let it go.

“Don’t be cruel to me, Lisbeth!” he pleaded, when she tried to draw it
away; and she was forced to let it remain. “Don’t be cruel to me,” he
said, and still held this hand, when she released herself at last, and
stood up, miserable and shame-faced, yet far less miserable than she
had been.

“It--it is you who are cruel!” she faltered. “What am I to say to you!
You have left me nothing to say.”

She hung back, half afraid of his vehemence. He had begun with bitter
ravings, and in five minutes had ended by crushing her in his arms. It
was her punishment that she should be so humbled and brought down.

“Say nothing,” he cried. “Let me say all. I love you. It is Fate.”

She could not help seeing the fantastic side of this, and she smiled, a
little, daring smile, though she hung her head.

“Are you--proposing to me?” she ventured, hoping to retrieve herself.

He could not stand that, but she would not let him burst out again, and
leave her no chance to assert her privilege to struggle at retaining
the upper hand.

“You told me that you came in spite of yourself, because you could not
stay away. Was it true?” she asked.

“Yes.”

She could not help feeling a glow of triumph, and it shone in her eyes.

“I am glad of that,” she said. “I am glad. It saves me so much.”

“And I may stay?” he exclaimed, in his old, impetuous fashion.
“Lisbeth----”

Though he held her hand fast, she managed to stoop down, under pretense
of rescuing the blue-ribboned hat from the sand.

“You need not go,” she answered.

And that was the end of it.

The three Misses Tregarthyn looked at each in blank dismay, when these
two walked into the parlor, an hour after. But Hector grasped his
nettle with a matter-of-fact boldness, for which Lisbeth intensely
admired him in secret.

“I went out on the beach to find Miss Crespigny, and I found her,” he
announced. “Here she is, Miss Clarissa, Miss Millicent, Miss Hetty! She
has promised to marry me. Oblige us with your blessing.”

The trio fell upon their beloved Lisbeth, and embraced, as they had
done on the previous occasion; but this time she bore it better.

That night Lisbeth sat up until one o’clock, writing a long letter to
Georgie Esmond, and trying, in a strangely softened and penitent mood,
to be open and straightforward for once.

“I am going to marry Hector Anstruthers, and try to be better,” she
wrote. “You know what I mean, when I say ‘better.’ I mean that I want
to make Lisbeth Anstruthers a far different creature from Lisbeth
Crespigny. Do you think I ever can be a ‘good’ woman, Georgie--like
you and your mother? If I ever am one, it will be you two whom I must
thank.” And as she wrote this, she shed not unhappy tears over it.

“Perhaps,” she said, “Love will make me as tender as other women.”

And this Love did.



DR. EGGLESTON’S NEW STORY.

“One of the ablest of recent American novels, and indeed of all recent
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Author of “The Hoosier Schoolmaster,” “Circuit Rider,” Etc.


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  Price,      $1.50.


CRITICAL NOTICES.

    “‘Roxy’ may be accepted as the latest example of a purely American
    novel, and to say the least, one of the very best.”--_New York
    Tribune._

    “In this novel Mr. Eggleston’s powers appear at their best and
    amplest, and he has accomplished the by no means easy task of
    excelling himself.”--_Boston Journal._

    “There can be no doubt whatever that ‘Roxy’ is the best product of
    Dr. Eggleston’s activity in the field of fiction.”--_New York Eve.
    Post._

    “As a pure, but vigorous American romance, Mr. Eggleston’s new
    work is better even than his ‘Hoosier Schoolmaster’ and ‘Circuit
    Rider.’”--_Phila. Eve. Bulletin._

    “It strengthens the author’s position as a writer who has brought
    new life and a decided manliness into our native fiction.”--_Boston
    Courier._

    “‘Roxy,’ a story whose purport and power are much deeper than the
    author has before reached.”--_Springfield Republican._

    “The story is powerfully told, and if Mr. Eggleston had written
    nothing else, ‘Roxy’ would place him in a foremost position among
    American authors.”--_N. Y. Commercial Advertiser._

    “Its pictures of Western life are vivid, and throughout betray the
    hand of a master in literature and fiction.”--_Episcopal Register._

    “As a faithful picture of American life, it ranks far above any
    novel published in the United States during the past twenty
    years.”--_Brooklyn Times._

    “We advise our readers to buy and read ‘Roxy.’ They will find the
    plot deeply interesting, and will gather from it not only transient
    pleasure, but permanent good.”--_Louisville Post._

    “The story of ‘Roxy’ is Dr. Eggleston’s best work. It attains a
    higher merit than his other works in epic purpose as well as a
    dramatic form.”--_The Methodist._

    “Buy the book and read it, as it is well worth the time spent to do
    it.”--_Washington Chronicle._


‰ _The above book for sale by all booksellers, or will be sent, post or
express charges paid, upon receipt of the price by the publishers_,

  CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS,
  743 AND 745 BROADWAY, NEW YORK.



JUST PUBLISHED

_THE MOST POPULAR BOOK OF THE SEASON._

RUDDER GRANGE,

By FRANK R. STOCKTON.

_One Volume, Square 12mo, Cloth, $1.25._


=THE RUDDER GRANGE PAPERS=--which have been so keenly enjoyed by
the readers of SCRIBNER, that the doings of their hero and
heroine are already laughingly quoted in hundreds of households--are
now published in book form.

The adventures of Mr. Stockton’s young couple in solving the problem of
housekeeping on a small income, and the ingenuity of their devices, are
as irresistible as the capital quiet humor with which they are told.

Euphemia’s naivete and intense seriousness, and her absolutely
woman-like way of approaching every question, are so perfectly typical,
too, that she alone is enough to have made “Rudder Grange” famous.

All of the little household are hardly less excellent than this
inimitable character; Pomona, the servant who looks at life through the
medium of dime-novels, being almost as worthy of an enduring celebrity
as her mistress.


⁂ _The above book for sale by all booksellers, or will be sent,
prepaid, upon receipt of price, by_

  CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS, PUBLISHERS,
  743 AND 745 BROADWAY, NEW YORK.



A NEW BOOK

By the Author of “That Lass o’ Lowrie’s.”

SURLY TIM

AND OTHER STORIES.

BY MRS. FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT,

_Author of “That Lass o’ Lowrie’s.”_

One volume, small 12mo. Cloth extra, $1.25.


The volume includes eight of Mrs. Burnett’s shorter stories which have
appeared in the magazines during the last few years. It is needless to
say that these have been among the most popular tales that have lately
been written. _Surly Tim_ (told in Lancashire dialect), which gives the
title to the book, is perhaps better known than any short story yet
published in SCRIBNER’S.

The present collection, including _Esmeralda_, _Lodusky_, _Le Monsieur
de la Petite Dame_, etc., shows that the author can be successful in
other scenes than those, the treatment of which has gained her so much
critical praise and such wide popularity.


CRITICAL NOTICES.

    “They are powerful and pathetic stories, and will touch the
    sympathies of all readers.”--_The Commonwealth, Boston._

    “A good service has been rendered to all lovers of good fiction by
    the publication of these stories in this permanent form.”--_The
    Evening Mail._

    Mrs. Burnett has made for herself a reputation which places her in
    the front rank of female novelists.”--_The Baptist Weekly._

    “The authoress has taken her place as one of the best novelists of
    our time, and these stories are interesting as showing the steps
    up which she has ascended to her acknowledged eminence.”--_The
    Advance._

    “Each of these narratives have a distinct spirit, and can be
    profitably read by all classes of people. They are told not only
    with true art but with deep pathos.”--_Boston Post._

    “The stories collected in the present volume are uncommonly
    vigorous and truthful stories of human nature.”--_Chicago Tribune._

    “Each story is very readable, and the whole volume will be well
    received as it well deserves.”--_The Chi. Instructor, Phila._


⁂ _The above book for sale by all booksellers, or will be sent, post or
express charges paid, upon receipt of the price by the publishers_,

  CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS,
  743 AND 745 BROADWAY, NEW YORK.



“_The_ best original novel _that has appeared in this country for many
years_.”--PHIL. PRESS.

THAT LASS O’ LOWRIE’S

BY FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT.


PRESS NOTICES

    “The publication of a story like ‘That Lass o’ Lowrie’s’ is =a
    red-letter day= in the world of literature.”--_N. Y. Herald._

    “We know of =no more powerful work from a woman’s hand=
    in the English language, not even excepting the best of George
    Eliot’s.”--_Boston Transcript._

    “It =creates a sensation= among book readers.”--_Hartford
    Times._

    “The novel is one of the very best of recent fictions, and =the
    novelist is hereafter a person of rank= and consideration =in
    letters=.”--_Hartford Courant._

    “The author might have named her book ‘=Joan Lowrie, Lady=,’
    and it is =worthy a place= in the family library =beside
    Miss Muloch’s ‘John Halifax, Gentleman,’= and =George Eliot’s
    ‘Adam Bede.’=”--_Boston Watchman._

    “The story is one of mark, and let none of our readers who enjoy
    =the truest artistic work= overlook it.”--_Congregationalist._

    “Is written with great =dramatic power=.”--_N. Y. Observer._

    “Of absorbing interest, and is as =unique in its style= and
    its incidents =as it is= entertaining.”--_Worcester Spy._

    “It is a tale of English pit life, and =graphic, absorbing,
    irresistible=, from first page to last.”--_Boston Commonwealth._

    “It is a =healthy, vigorous story=, such as would find a warm
    welcome in any household.”--_Baltimore Bulletin._

    “Unlike most of the current works of fiction, this novel is a
    study. It cannot be sifted at a glance, nor fully understood at a
    single reading, =so fruitful and comprehensive is its word and
    character painting=.”--_Boston Post._


_Price, Paper Covers, 90 cents; or $1.50 Extra Cloth_

  CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS,
  743 AND 745 BROADWAY, NEW YORK.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

Obvious printer errors corrected silently.

Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation are as in the original.





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