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Title: A Secret of the Sea. (Vol. 2 of 3) - A Novel.
Author: Speight, T. W. (Thomas Wilkinson)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Secret of the Sea. (Vol. 2 of 3) - A Novel." ***

Internet Web Archive (University of Illinois


Transcriber's Notes (Volume 2):
 1. Page scan source: Web Archive
    (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)


A Novel.




(_All Rights Reserved_.)




It was nearly dusk on the eighth day after Peter Byrne and his
daughter had got settled in their new rooms, when Gerald Warburton
knocked at the door of Max Van Duren's house.

"Is my father at home?" asked Gerald of the middle-aged woman who
answered his summons.

"If you are Mr. Byrne's son, I was told to send you upstairs when you
called," answered the woman. "The first floor, please--door with the
brass handle."

It was at Byrne's request that Gerald agreed to pass as his son on the
occasion of any visits which he might have to make to Van Duren's
house. Gerald could see no reason for the assumption of such a
relationship, but in the belief that Byrne might have some special
motive in the matter, he acceded without difficulty.

Up the stairs he now went, and knocked at the door indicated by the
woman. "Come in," cried a voice, and in he went.

He paused for a moment or two just inside the room, and shut the door
slowly after him while his eyes took in the various features of the

The room in which Gerald found himself was of considerable size, and
was lighted by three tall, narrow windows, curtained with heavy
hangings of faded crimson velvet. The walls were painted a delicate
green, and the floor was of polished wood. There was a large
old-fashioned fire-place, and a heavy, overhanging marble
chimney-piece, across the front of which was carved a wild procession
of Baechic figures. A Turkey carpet covered the middle of the floor,
but the sides of the room were left bare. Chairs, tables, and bureau
were of dark oak, heavy, uncouth, uncompromising--and if not really
antique, were very good Wardour Street imitations of the genuine
article. On one side of the hearth, however, stood a capacious, modern
easy-chair, for the special delectation of Mr. Peter Byrne, while in
neighbourly proximity to it was the long-stemmed pipe with the china
bowl. On the opposite side of the hearth stood another article, that
seemed more out of keeping with the rest of the room, even, than the
easy-chair. It was a couch or lounge of the most modern fashion, and
upholstered with a gay flowery chintz. There could be no doubt as to
the person for whose behoof this gay piece of furniture was intended.
Stretched on the floor in front of it, and doing duty as a rug, was a
magnificent tiger-skin. On this stood an embroidered footstool. At the
back of the couch was a screen painted with Chinese figures and
landscapes. Near it hung a guitar.

Gerald advanced slowly into the room, and for a moment or two he
altogether failed to recognize the man who rose out of the easy-chair
to greet him. It was Byrne and yet it was not Byrne. "It must be his
father, or an older brother," said Gerald to himself. Even when the
man held out his hand and whispered: "Is there anybody outside the
door?" he was still in doubt.

"There is no one outside the door," said Gerald. "I came up the stairs

"That's all right, then, and I'm very glad to see you, Mr. Warburton,"
said Byrne's familiar voice, after which there could no longer be any
doubt. "Not a bad make up, eh?" he added, with a chuckle, as he noted
Gerald's puzzled look.

"I certainly did not know you at first," replied the latter. "In fact,
I took you for your own father."

"You could not pay me a higher compliment, sir," said Byrne, with a
gleeful rubbing of the hands. "It is part of the scheme I have in
view, that Van Duren should take me to be an old man, very feeble,
very infirm, and nearly, if not quite, on my last legs."

"You look at the very least twenty years older than when I last saw
you," remarked Gerald.

"And yet the transformation is a very simple matter," said Byrne. "It
would not do to tell everybody how it's done, but from you I can have
no secrets of that kind. In the first place, I had my own hair cropped
as closely as it was possible for scissors to do it. Then I had this
venerable wig made with its straggling silvery locks, and this black
velvet skull cap. Two-thirds of my teeth being artificial ones, I have
dispensed with that portion of them for the time being, and that of
itself is sufficient to entirely alter the character of the lower part
of my face. Then this dress--this gaberdine-like coat down to my
knees, my collar of an antique fashion, my white, unstarched
neckcloth, fastened with a little pearl brooch, this stoop of the
shoulders, my enfeebled walk, and the stick that I am obliged to use
to help me across the room: all simple matters, my dear sir, but, in
the aggregate, decidedly effective."

Mr. Byrne omitted to mention that, as a conscientious artist bent on
looking the character he meant to play, he had for the time being
abandoned the hare's foot and rouge-pot. Although his use of those,
articles had always been marked by the most extreme discretion, his
discarding of them entirely did not add to the youthfulness of his

"And then you must please bear in mind that I am afflicted with
deafness," added Byrne, with a smile, when Gerald had drawn a chair up
to the fire. "It is not a very extreme form of deafness, but still it
is necessary that I should be spoken to in a louder voice than
ordinary; and it is sufficiently bad," he added, with a chuckle, "to
prevent me, as I sit in my easy-chair by the fire, from overhearing
any little private conversation that you and another person--my
daughter, for instance--might choose to hold together as you sit by
the sofa there, only a few yards away."

"I certainly can't understand," said Gerald to himself, "how all this
scheming, and all these disguises, can in any way further the object
which Ambrose Murray has so profoundly at heart."

Gerald felt mystified, and he probably looked it. As if in response to
his unspoken thought, Byrne presently said: "All these things seem
very strange to you, I do not doubt, Mr. Warburton; but you will
believe me when I assure you that I have not for one moment lost sight
of the particular end for which my services are retained. As soon as I
begin to see my way a little more clearly--if I ever do--my plans and
purposes shall all be told to you and Mr. Murray. I have built up a
certain theory in my mind, and there seems only one way of
ascertaining whether that theory has any foundation in fact. If it
has, it may possibly lead us on to the clue we are in search of. If it
has not--but I will not anticipate failure, however probable it may
be. If I still possess the confidence of Mr. Murray and yourself, if
you are still willing to let me have my own way in this thing for a
little while longer, then I am perfectly satisfied."

"We have every confidence in you, Mr. Byrne," said Gerald, earnestly,
"and we are both satisfied that the case could not have been entrusted
into more capable hands than yours."

While Gerald was speaking, a door that led to an inner room was
opened, and Miriam Byrne came in.

Byrne rose, laid one hand on the region of his heart, and waved the
other gracefully.

"My daughter, Mr. Warburton--my only child," he said.

"I am glad that you have called to see us, Mr. Warburton," said
Miriam, frankly, in her rich, full voice. "My father has talked so
much about you that my curiosity was quite piqued to see for myself
what his rara avis was like."

"You will find that I am a bird of very homely plumage," replied
Gerald, with a smile. "Your father has been drawing on a too lively
imagination. I am afraid that his rara avis will prove to be nothing
more wonderful than our familiar friend--the goose."

"What a superb creature!" was Gerald's thought, as he sat down
opposite Miriam; and that was the right phrase to apply to her.

Miss Byrne was at this time close upon her twenty-second birthday. Her
beauty was of an altogether eastern type. Hardly anyone who met Miriam
in the street took her to be an English girl; while to those who knew
both her and her father, it was a constant source of wonder how "old
Peter" could come to have for his daughter a girl so totally unlike
him in every possible way. But Byrne's wife, who died when her
daughter was quite an infant, had been a beautiful woman, and Miriam
more than inherited her mother's good looks. People knowing the family
averred that she was an exact counterpart of her grandmother: a lovely
Roumanian Jewess, who had been brought over to England in the train of
an Austrian lady of rank, and having found a husband here, had never
gone back.

Eyes and hair of the black-set had Miriam Byrne. Large, liquid eyes,
shaded with long, black lashes, and arched with delicate, well-defined
brows; hair that fell in a thick, heavy mass to her very waist. Tints
of the damask rose glowed through the dusky clearness of her cheeks.
Her forehead was low and broad as that of some antique Venus. Her
mouth was ripe and full, and might have looked somewhat coarse, had
it not been relieved by her finely-cut nose with its delicate
nostrils. She had on, this evening, a long, trailing dress of violet
velvet, which harmonized admirably with her dusky loveliness--a rich,
heavy-looking dress by gaslight, but one which daylight would have
shown to be faded and frayed in many places. It had, in fact, at one
time been a stage-dress, and as such, had been worn by Miss Kesteven
of the Royal Westminster Theatre, when playing the heroine of one of
Sardou's clever dramas.

The necklace of pearls, with earrings to match, which Miriam wore this
evening, were also of stage parentage, but they looked so much like
the real thing, that no one, save an expert, could have told without
handling them that they were nothing better than clever shams. The one
ring, too, which she wore--a hoop of diamonds--on her somewhat large,
but well-shaped hand, was not more genuine than her pearl necklace. It
had been bought for a few shillings in the Burlington Arcade; but it
flashed famously in the gaslight; and as one cannot well take off a
lady's ring in order to examine it, answered its purpose just as well
as if it had cost a hundred guineas.

But we must not be too hard on Miriam. No doubt she was as fond of a
little finery as most of her sisters are at two-and-twenty, but, in
the present case, all these sham trinkets had been assumed by her at
her father's wish, and "for a certain purpose," as the old man said.
At the same time one need not imagine that the wearing of them,
although they were counterfeit, was in any way distasteful to Miriam.
As she herself would have been one of the first to say, go long as
other people accepted her jewellery as real, the end for which it was
worn was thoroughly gained.

"And how do you like your new home, Miss Byrne?" asked Gerald.

"I would much rather it had been at the West End than in the City,"
answered Miriam. "The rooms I like very much. They are large and
old-fashioned, and have seen better days. To live in such rooms makes
one feel as if one were somebody of importance--as if one had money in
the Bank of England. But the look-out is dreadful. At the back, into
that horrid churchyard; while in the front, there is nothing to be
seen but a high, blank wall. I am always glad when it is time to draw
the curtains and light the gas."

"You must get out for a little change and amusement now and then,"
said Gerald. "It will never do for you to get moped and melancholy
through shutting yourself up in this gloomy old house. A visit once a
week to a theatre, for instance, or----"

"Don't speak of it," interrupted Miriam. "I hope I shall not see the
inside of a theatre for a couple of years, at the very least."

"Perhaps the opera would suit you better," suggested Gerald,
altogether at a loss to know why the theatre should be so emphatically
tabooed. "If you are fond of the opera, I think I can manage to get a
couple of tickets for you now and then."

"Oh, that will be delightful!" exclaimed Miriam, clasping her hands
with Oriental fervour. "I have never been to the opera but twice in my
life, and I should dearly love to go again."

"Then you are fond of music?" asked Gerald.

"Passionately. I love it anywhere and everywhere; but I love it best
on the stage. That is the glorification of music. It is to honour
music as it ought to be honoured. When I listen to an opera, I seem to
be lifted quite out of my ordinary self. I feel as if I were so much
better and cleverer than I really am. And then I always have a longing
to rush on to the stage and join in the choruses, and make one more
figure in the splendid processions."

"I will send you tickets for Friday, if you will honour me by
accepting them," said Gerald.

"You are very kind, Mr. Warburton; and to such an offer I cannot find
in my heart to say No," answered Miriam, with a "Oh, how I wish I were
clever!" she cried next moment; "clever enough to be a great singer on
the stage, or to paint a great picture, or to write a book that
everybody talked about. Don't you think, Mr. Warburton, that it must
be a glorious thing to be clever?"

"Not being clever myself, I am hardly in a position to judge,"
answered Gerald, amused at the girl's earnestness. "But if we
commonplace people only knew it, I have no doubt that cleverness has
its disadvantages, like every other exceptional quality. Besides, it
would not do for us all to be clever; in that case, the world would
soon become intolerable. I think a moderate quantity of brains, and a
large amount of contentment, are the best stock-in-trade to get
through life with."

"Hear, hear!" cried Byrne, from his easy-chair. "My sentiments

Miriam pouted a little.

"Now you are making fun of me," she said.

"No, indeed," returned Gerald, earnestly.

"I don't know why the girl should always be raving about wanting to be
clever," said Byrne, addressing himself, to Gerald. "She has plenty of
good looks, and ought to be content. Five women out of six have
neither brains nor good looks--though they will never believe that
they haven't got the latter," added the old cynic, under his breath.

"Oh, yes, I know that I'm good-looking," said Miriam, naively, but not
without a touch of bitterness. "People have told me that ever since I
can remember anything. Besides, I can see it for myself in the glass,"
with an involuntary glance at the Venetian mirror hanging opposite.

"Then why are you always dissatisfied--always flying in the face of
Providence?" growled Byrne. "What are your good looks given you for,
but that some man with plenty of money may fall in love with you, and
make you his wife?"

"Why not send me to the slave-market at Constantinople?" said Miriam,
bitterly. "I dare say that I should fetch a tolerable price there."

Gerald thought it time to change the conversation.

"Do you come in contact at all with Van Duren?" he said to Byrne.

"We have seen more of him to-day than we saw yesterday, and more of
him yesterday than previously. He is gradually learning to overcome
the native bashfulness of his disposition," added Byrne, with a sneer.

"Then he has not shrouded himself altogether from view?" said Gerald.

"Not a bit of it. What he would have done had I been living here with
a wife instead of a daughter, I can't say. But the fact is, he seems
inclined to admire Miriam."

The old man sat staring at Gerald with a twinkle in his eye, as he
finished speaking.

Gerald was at a loss to know in what way it was expected that he
should greet such an item of news. So he merely fell back on a safe,
though unmeaning, "Oh, indeed!"

Miriam, gazing into the fire, either had not heard, or did not heed,
her father's words.

"For the sort of ursa major that he is," resumed Byrne, "he doesn't
conduct himself so much amiss. Has not been much used to ladies'
society, I should say. Does not talk much, but likes to look and

"Then you have had him in here!" said Gerald, with surprise.

"Yes, twice. There's the magnet"--pointing to Miriam. "It isn't me,
bless you, not me," added the old man, with a chuckle, as he proceeded
to poke the fire vigorously.

To say that Gerald was mystified is to say no more than the truth.
But it was evident that whatever Byrne might have to tell him with
regard to his plans and purposes, he was not inclined to tell yet, and
Gerald would not question him.

"Does Mr. Van Duren keep up a large establishment?" he said.

"No: a small one. Everything on a miserly scale. Every item of
expenditure cut down to the lowest possible point."

"Perhaps he is poor."

"Poor! my dear sir. Tcha! When did you ever know a money-lender to be

"But I did not know that Van Duren was a money-lender."

"That's what he is: neither more nor less."

"Then, in that case, he must be a man of capital?"

"Certainly, to some extent. But you never know how the webs of such
spiders as he interlace and cross each other. Perhaps he is only used
as a decoy to catch foolish flies for bigger and older spiders than
himself. But, in any case, you may be sure that he comes in for a good
share of the plunder."

"From what you have said, I presume that he is unmarried?"

"There are no signs of a wife under this roof," said Byrne. "Besides
himself, there is, in the office, first, his clerk, Pringle--a
drunken, disreputable old vagabond enough, from what I have seen of
him; and secondly, a youth of fifteen, to copy letters and run
errands, and so on. Then, downstairs, in a dungeon below the level of
the street, we have Bakewell and his wife, as custodians of the
premises and personal attendants on Van Duren--a harmless, ignorant
couple enough. These, with Miriam and myself, make up the sum total of
the establishment. Pringle and the boy, I may add, do not sleep on the

"Are you acquainted with Mr. Van Duren?" asked Miriam, suddenly
lifting her eyes from the fire.

"I have not that honour," said Gerald, drily.

"There is a great deal of power about him," said Miriam, "and I like
power in a man. He seems to me to be a man who would stand at nothing
in working out his own ends either for good or evil. For women--weak
women--such characters generally have a peculiar fascination."

"That's because you never have a will of your own for an hour
together," said Byrne. "Women always admire what they possess least of

"Papa always runs the ladies down," said Miriam, smilingly, to Gerald.
"But if only one-half that I have heard whispered be true, no one
could be fonder of their society than he was, so long as he was young
and good-looking."

"And now that he is neither----?" said Byrne.

"No one delights to run them down more than he. The old story, Mr.
Warburton. Olives have no longer any flavour for him, therefore only
fools eat olives."

Gerald rose and made his adieux. It was arranged that he should call
again on the following Tuesday or Wednesday.

"You won't forget the tickets for the opera, will you, Mr. Warburton?"
were Miriam's whispered words as they stood for a moment at the street
door, she having gone down stairs to let him out.

"Well, kitten, and what do you think of your new-found brother?" asked
Byrne, as soon as Miriam got back into the room.

"I like him. It would be impossible to help liking him," said Miriam.

"Your reasons--if you have any?"

"Ladies are not supposed to give reasons. I like him because I like
him. For one thing, he is not commonplace. There is an air of
cleverness about him. You would not feel a bit surprised if at any
moment he were to tell you that he was the author of the last
celebrated poem, or the painter of the last great picture, or that he
had been down the crater of Vesuvius, or had invented a new balloon
that would take you half-way to the moon. By the time you have been in
Mr. Warburton's society ten minutes, you say to yourself: 'Here's a
man who has brains.'"

"Rather different from James Baron, Esq., eh?"

"Now, papa!" said Miriam, in a hurt tone. Then she turned from him and
went to the window, and drew aside the curtain, and peered out into
the darkness. "I thought it was understood between us that on this
point there was no longer to be any contention. I thought you
thoroughly understood, papa, that nothing could alter my

"Oh, you have made me understand all that, plainly enough," said
Byrne. "But when I think how mad and foolish you are--how determined
you are to throw away your one great chance in life, I can't help----"

"Pray spare me, papa! Why cover ground that you and I have trodden so
often already?"

"To think," said Byrne, indignantly, "of my daughter demeaning herself
to marry a common, underpaid clerk!"

"Yes, a clerk whose father is a dean; and who was educated at college,

"And who was expelled from college for----"

"Papa, for shame! Is his one fault to stick to him through life?"

"Even his own people discard him."

"Let them do so. He will make his way in spite of them. He is a
gentleman bred and born."

"A gentleman, forsooth!"

"Yes--a gentleman who has bound himself to marry a ballet girl--for
that's what I am. Neither more nor less than a ballet girl!"

"Had it not been for my misfortunes----"

"We need not speak of them, papa. But was it a wise thing on your part
to expose me to all the temptations of a theatre?"

"I had every confidence in the strength of your principles."

"Had you known one tithe of the temptations to which I was exposed,
you might well have trembled for me. Why, the very last night I was at
the Royal Westminster there was a note left for me at the stage door
and a splendid bouquet, and inside the bouquet was this."

As Miriam spoke, she extracted from her watch-pocket a ring set with
five or six costly brilliants, and handed it to her father.

"You are not going to wear this!" he said, looking up at her with
sudden suspicion.

"You ought to know me better, papa, than to ask such a question."

"Do you know from whom it came?"

"It would not be difficult to find out, I dare say."

"Then why have you not sent the ring back?"

"Because I mean the sender of it to pay for his folly. You remember my
telling you how little Rose Montgomery broke her leg at the theatre
the other week, through falling down a trap. She is little more than a
child, and has not another friend than myself in all London. I am
going to ask James to sell the ring for me. I shall give Rose the
money. It will keep her when she comes out of the hospital till she is
strong enough to begin dancing again."

"James! James! How I hate to hear the name!" said Byrne, as he got up
and left the room.

"It is the name of the man I love--of the man whose wife I am going to
be," replied Miriam.

Then she sat down and began to cry.


Lady Dudgeon's morning-room in Harley Street. At her davenport near
the window, pen in hand, sat her ladyship, where, indeed, she was to
be found at eleven a.m. six mornings out of seven. On the ridge of her
high nose was perched the double gold-rimmed eye-glass which she had
taken to wearing of late in the privacy of the family circle, but the
existence of which, outside that circle, was kept a profound secret.

On a low chair close by, in a pretty morning-dress, sat Eleanor Lloyd.
London life and London hours were beginning to tell upon her already.
There was a look of weariness in her eyes, and her cheeks had lost a
little of that fresh, delicate bloom which she had brought with her
from the country, but which cannot exist long in the atmosphere of
Belgravian ballrooms.

At Lady Dudgeon's elbow stood Olive Deane, with her black dress, her
snowy collar and cuffs, her colourless face, her black, lustreless
hair, and her fathomless eyes--in every point precisely the same as at
the time when first we met her. Her ladyship had just been issuing
invitations for a grand ball to be given at Stammars, during the
ensuing Easter recess, to Sir Thomas's chief supporters at the recent

"There, thank goodness, that finishes the last batch of twenty!" said
her ladyship, as she put down her pen with an air of relief. "I don't
think that I have forgotten any one, or, for the matter of that,
invited any one that we could have afforded to ignore. There are
eighty of them altogether, leaving out of question the tribe of wives
and daughters--quite as many as we can reasonably accommodate." Then,
turning to Olive, she added, "Will you kindly see that the whole of
the invitations are sent off by this afternoon's post?"

"I will take care to post them myself. Has your ladyship any further

"None whatever at present, thank you."

Olive bowed, and left the room.

"On such an occasion as the present one Miss Deane is really
invaluable," said Lady Dudgeon to Eleanor.

"If you would only let me help you in these little matters, instead of
Miss Deane, you would please me more than I can tell YOU."

"My dear child, I could not think of such a thing," said her ladyship,
with dignity. "I did not bring you to London to make a drudge of you;
I brought you here that you might enjoy yourself."

"I should enjoy myself far better if I had a little more to do
sometimes. I might as well be a china figure under a glass shade in
the drawing-room, for any use I seem to be in the world."

"My dear, all pretty objects have their uses in the world, if it be
only to please the eye and educate the taste of others. Be satisfied
at present with trying to look as pretty as you can."

"That seems to me a very empty sort of life indeed."

"Ah, you young people never know what you would be at. You, for
instance, my dear, have youth, good looks, and money, and yet you
grumble! But about this ball. I mean it to be a great success. It will
make Sir Thomas even more popular in the borough than he is now, and
no one can stigmatize it as being either bribery or corruption. There
is some talk of a general election next autumn, so that we must keep
our supporters well in hand."

"You are quite a tactician," laughed Eleanor.

"In these days, my dear, it doesn't do to let one's wits grow rusty.
You will derive great amusement at the ball from a study of the
toilettes of some of the worthy tradespeople's wives and daughters who
will honour us with their company. The originality of idea displayed
by some of them is truly astounding. And the waistcoats of the
gentlemen are hardly less wonderful."

At this moment a footman brought a letter for her ladyship.

"What a charming surprise, my dear!" she said, as she glanced over it.
"Invitations for a private concert at Lady Camperdown's. Most
exclusive. That sweet Lady Camperdown! There will be a carpet-dance
afterwards. I must write off at once and order our dresses."

"But surely, Lady Dudgeon, one of the ten or fifteen dresses that I
have already would do for such an occasion."

"My dear Eleanor! Go to Lady Camperdown's concert in a dress that you
have ever worn before! Such a thing is not to be thought of. It would
not be doing your duty in that state of life to which it has pleased
Providence to call you." Here her ladyship looked at her watch. "My
dear, I expect Captain Dayrell here about twelve, and I should like
you to change your dress before he arrives. He told me last evening
that he wanted to see me to-day, so I asked him to call early, as I am
going shopping immediately after luncheon."

"But Captain Dayrell is coming to see you, Lady Dudgeon. There is no
occasion for him to see me."

"He is coming to see me, it is true: but I rather suspect it is about
a matter that intimately concerns you."

"Indeed! But I really cannot see in what way Captain Dayrell's visit
can concern me."

"It may concern you very nearly. I have every reason to believe that
Captain Dayrell is coming here this morning to ask my sanction to his
making you a formal offer of marriage."

"To make me an offer of marriage! You must be jesting."

"I was never more serious in my life. You could not fail to see with
what attention Captain Dayrell treated you at the ball the other
evening. And on the two or three previous occasions when he has met
you in society, there has been an empressement in his manner which has
led me to suspect that he was only waiting to see a little more of you
before making up his mind to ask you to become his wife."

"Only waiting to see a little more of me! I am overwhelmed by Captain
Dayrell's preference."

"Don't try to be sarcastic, Eleanor. Sarcasm in young people is little
less than odious."

Eleanor rose. There was a heightened colour in her cheeks, an added
brightness in her eyes. "Lady Dudgeon, should Captain Dayrell come
here this morning on such an errand as the one you have mentioned, you
can give him his congé as soon as you please. And I beg that you will
not send for me, as I shall certainly decline to see him."

"Tut tut, child! you don't know what you are talking about. A little
maidenly shyness is all very nice and proper, especially when the
offer is a first one. But prudery may be carried too far; and, in the
case of Captain Dayrell, a pretended rejection might perhaps frighten
him away altogether."

"A pretended rejection, Lady Dudgeon! I fail to understand you."

"It was very foolish on my part," said her ladyship, complacently,
without noticing the interruption, "to mention the subject to you at
all. I have only succeeded in startling you. I ought to have left
Captain Dayrell to plead his own cause with you. Gentlemen, on such
occasions, are generally very eloquent after they have made the first

"I am sorry that you should so persistently misunderstand me," said
Eleanor, not without a touch of impatience. "You compel me to speak
plainly, and in a way that is most repugnant to my feelings. Under no
circumstances could I agree to become the wife of Captain Dayrell. And
I trust there will be no necessity for his name ever to be mentioned
between us again."

Lady Dudgeon turned slowly on her chair, and surveyed Eleanor through
her eye-glass as though she could hardly believe the evidence of her

"You cannot marry Captain Dayrell, Eleanor Lloyd?" she said, with some
severity of tone. "May I ask what there is to prevent your marrying
him? I hope there is no prior engagement in the case, of which I have
been kept in ignorance."

"Were I engaged to anyone, your ladyship would certainly not be kept
in ignorance of the fact."

"Instead of engagement, I ought, perhaps, to have used the word

"Applied to me, one word would be just as incorrect as the other."

"Then may I ask what particular objection you can have to receive the
addresses of Captain Dayrell?"

"My particular objection is that I could never care sufficiently for
Captain Dayrell to become his wife."

"I certainly gave you credit for more common sense, Eleanor, than to
think that you would allow any foolish sentiment to stand in the way
of your proper settlement in life. My theory is this--and I daresay,
when you shall have lived as long in the world as I have, you will
agree that it is by no means a bad theory--that any girl who has been
correctly brought up, and whose affections have not been tampered
with, can school herself; without much difficulty, to look with
affectionate eyes on whatever suitor her relations or friends may
offer to her notice as eligible, in their estimation, to make her
happy: and a really good girl will always find half her own happiness
in the knowledge that she is making others happy at the same time."

"In a matter involving consequences so serious, I should prefer to
make my own choice."

"No doubt you would," said her ladyship drily. "But if young ladies
would only be guided by the choice of their best friends, rather than
by their own headstrong wills, we should hear far less about unhappy
marriages, and the evils they bring." To this Eleanor made no answer.
"Most people would agree with me, my dear, that you ought to consider
yourself a very lucky girl to have drawn such a prize as Captain
Dayrell. A man still young--he can't be more than three or four and
thirty--handsome, accomplished, of an excellent family--he is first
cousin to Lord Coniston--tolerably rich, and of such an easy,
good-natured disposition, that any woman of tact would soon learn to
twine him round her finger: what more could any reasonable being wish

"Does affection count for nothing in your estimate of marriage, Lady

"Oh, my dear, you may depend upon it that if there is no prior
attachment you would soon learn to like him. Captain Dayrell is
generally looked upon as a most fascinating man in society."

"Captain Dayrell may be all that you say he is," replied Eleanor, "but
for all that, he can never be anything more to me than he is at the
present moment."

"So be it. The likes and dislikes of young ladies are among the
unaccountable things of this world. But I cannot help saying that your
point-blank refusal even to see Captain Dayrell is a great
disappointment to me."

"Do not say that, dear Lady Dudgeon!" cried Eleanor, and with that she
took the elder lady's hand in hers, pressed it to her lips, and then
nestled down on the little footstool by her knees. "Believe me, I am
not ungrateful, not insensible to the kindness which prompted you to
take an obscure country girl by the hand, and treat her more as a
daughter of your own than anything else. But I cannot tell you how
sorry I am to find that you should so far have misunderstood me as to
think that you were doing me a kindness in endeavouring to secure for
me the attention of Captain Dayrell."

"It is certainly a great disappointment to me," said Lady Dudgeon,
with a sigh. "I had really set my heart on you and Captain Dayrell
making a match of it."

"But cannot you understand that I have no wish to get married, nor any
intention of changing my name for a long time to come--if ever?"

"Well, well, child; I only hope that what you say is right, and that
there is indeed no prior attachment. But be careful that you do not
fall into the hands of some swindling adventurer--of some romantic
rogue, with a handsome face and a wheedling tongue, who, while
persuading you that he loves you for yourself alone, cares, in
reality, for nothing but the money you will bring him. The world
abounds with such men. Be warned, or you may have to repent when
repentance will be of no avail."

"Ah, Lady Dudgeon if I were not an heiress, what a happy girl I should

"Child, you talk like a lunatic."

"It may be so, but this money weighs me down as though it
were a millstone about my neck. And how sadly wise in the
ways of the world I seem to have become in a few short months!
Friendship--service--affection--I feel, nowadays, as if these
treasures were offered me, not for myself, but simply because I am a
little rich. In the old, happy days at home, before ever I dreamed of
being an heiress, no such doubt ever crossed my mind. Friendship and
love--my father's love--were mine: as freely and fully mine as the
lilies that grew by the mill-pond brim, or the canary that woke me
every morning with its song. But indeed, dear Lady Dudgeon, I am in no
wise fitted for a life of fashionable pleasure. My tastes are too
homely. Life seems to me far too real, far too earnest, to be
frittered away in a perpetual round of balls and parties, of morning
calls and drives in the Park. When I think of the poverty and
wretchedness that I see on every side of me, every time I stir out of
doors, and then of all those useless thousands that are said to be
mine, I feel ashamed of myself, and think, with sorrow, how utterly I
am living for myself alone. Oh, Lady Dudgeon! if you wish to make me
happy, be my almoner; teach me how to employ, for the benefit of my
poorer sisters and their little ones, that wealth which came to me so
unexpectedly, and which I so little deserve. Teach me to do this, and
you will make me happy indeed!"

Lady Dudgeon took a sniff at her salts before she spoke. "My dear
Eleanor," she said at last, "if all people of wealth and social
standing held the same terrible notions that you do, we should have
chaos back again in a very little while. Your mind has been badly
trained, child, and we must endeavour to eradicate the noxious weeds
one by one. Meanwhile, you will be all the better for this little
outburst, and I am not in the least offended by what you have said.
And now as regards your costume for Lady Camperdown's concert. I think
the new shade of green would harmonise admirably with your style and
complexion. As for myself, I shall wear--" But at this juncture the
door opened, and in came Sir Thomas with a budget of news, so the
all-important subject of dress was put aside for the time being, to be
discussed with due solemnity at a more fitting opportunity.

On the Friday following this scene Sir Thomas and Lady Dudgeon,
accompanied by Miss Lloyd, went, by invitation, to spend a week at the
house of an old family friend at Richmond. On Saturday morning certain
important papers reached Gerald, who had been left in charge of
matters in Harley Street, which necessitated an immediate consultation
with Sir Thomas. Off by the next train hurried Gerald to Richmond,
where he found Sir Thomas, in company with his friend Mr. Cromer,
smoking a mild cheroot, in a garden-house that looked on to the river.
Liking Gerald's manner and appearance, Mr. Cromer would insist upon
his staying to dinner. Presently the ladies came sailing across the
lawn--Mrs. Cromer and Lady Dudgeon; Miss Cromer, and Miss Lloyd; and
then they all walked down to the edge of the river, where lay moored a
pretty little boat, named _Cora_, in honour of Miss Cromer. The
weather was warm and sunny for the time of year, and the river looked
quite gay, so numerous were the tiny craft which the bright day had
coaxed out after their long winter sleep.

"How delightful it would be to go on the river this afternoon!" said
Miss Cromer.

"I should like it above all things," replied Miss Lloyd.

"I wish Charley were here to take us for a row," alluding to her
brother. "How coquettish my boat looks this afternoon! How she seems
to woo us to take her out for a spin!"

Gerald lifted his hat. "I believe that I can handle a pair of oars as
awkwardly as most people," he said, with a smile. "If you will trust
yourselves to my care, I will promise to bring you back--either alive
or dead."

The young ladies vowed that it would be delicious. The elder ladies
disapproved faintly, on the ground that there would be a cold breeze
on the river, but were overruled. Mr. Cromer waddled back to the house
to get some shawls and wraps, and Gerald handed the young ladies into
the boat.

In the result, however, Miss Cromer had to be left behind. At the last
moment she was seized with her old complaint, palpitation of the
heart, and her mother would not let her go. Eleanor would have stayed
with her, but both Mr. and Mrs. Cromer insisted upon her going. It did
not require much persuasion to make Gerald take them at their word.
Eleanor had hardly ceased protesting that she would much rather stay
with Cora, when she found herself in the middle of the stream, and all
conversation with those on shore at an end.

"Now, Miss Lloyd, will you kindly take charge of the tiller ropes?"
said Gerald, decisively. "I presume you know how to use them?"

"I ought to know," said Eleanor. "I had a great deal of practice with
them when poor papa and I used to go out boating together."

It would not be high water for half an hour, and the tide was still
running up strongly. Gerald put the boat's head up stream, and pulled
gently along towards Twickenham. He blessed the happy fortune that,
for one delicious hour, had given him Eleanor all to himself. But now
that the opportunity was his, what should he talk to her about? He
felt that he ought to be at once witty and tender; that now, if ever,
he ought to rise above the commonplace level of everyday conversation.
He felt all this, and yet he felt, at the same time, that he had
nothing to say. If he might only have opened the floodgates of his
heart, then, indeed, there would have been no lack of words--no
necessity to hunt here and there in his brain for something to talk
about. It is true that he might have begun about the weather, or some
other equally simple topic; but, then, any nincompoop could have done
that, and to-day he wanted so particularly to shine in the eyes of his
goddess! But before long it became quite evident that he was not to
shine to-day. He must rest contentedly on the level of the
nincompoops, and trust to his good fortune that Miss Lloyd would not
find out that he was a bigger donkey than the rest of the gentlemen
who were in the habit of laying themselves out to fascinate her.

But Miss Lloyd herself seemed to have very little to say this
afternoon. It seemed pleasure enough just then to sit quietly in the
sweet sunshine and dip her ungloved hand now and again in the cool
ripples of the tide.

"Have you ever been as far up the Thames as this before?" asked Gerald
at last, in sheer desperation.

"I was never on the Thames in a small boat before to-day," answered

"There are some lovely nooks on it--so thoroughly English, you know:
altogether unlike anything of the kind that you can see anywhere

"I have been so little abroad lately that I am hardly competent to
judge what kind of scenery is thoroughly English, or what is not."

Another awkward silence. "What a goose he must think me! It seems so
stupid not to be able to talk except in answer to a question," said
Eleanor, to herself. "Why do I feel so different when I am with _him_
from what I do when I'm with anyone else? I never felt like this when
I was alone with Captain Dayrell. If Cora had come with us we should
have been lively enough." And yet, in her heart, how glad she was that
Cora had not come! "Whether this scenery is English or not, it is very
beautiful," said Eleanor, at last, with a desperate resolve to break
the spell that was weaving itself more strongly around them with every
moment. "One can see where spring's delicate brush has been at work
here and there among the trees, rubbing-in the first faint tints of
green. How lovely it is!"

"If this sunshine would only last, and the tide not tire of running
up," said Gerald, "I feel that I could go on like this for a week and
not feel weary."

"You are an Englishman, Mr. Pomeroy, and I am afraid that you would
soon begin to cry out for your dinner."

"Would not the gods feed us and have a care of us? To-day we are their
children. I feel that I have but to summon Hebe, and she would come
and wait upon us."

"For my part, Minerva is the only one of the divinities whom I should
care to summon."

"So much wisdom would surely overweight our little boat."

"But are we not rather short of ballast just at present?" asked
Eleanor, slily.

"Possibly so; but Minerva would certainly swamp us. I should greatly
prefer the company of a certain juvenile, called by Schiller _der
lächelnde Knabe_: he would make the proper ballast for such a voyage
as ours."

"Where I was at school in Germany they never would let us read
Schiller," said Eleanor, demurely. "How happy those swans look!" she
added, a moment afterwards, as if to change the subject.

"Yes," said Gerald, "they find their happiness as certain people
one sometimes meets with find theirs--in groping about amongst the
mud--seeking what they can devour."

"And yet how graceful they are!"

"They are graceful enough as long as they are in their proper
element. Out of it, they are as ungraceful as a scullion-maid in a
drawing-room. And yet, I daresay that if they can think at all, they
think that they look far more graceful during their perambulations
ashore than ever they do in the water. But, then, how many of us think
in the same way!"

"Why, you are quite a cynic, Mr. Pomeroy. But it is considered
fashionable nowadays for young men to be cynical, and one must be in
the fashion, you know."

Gerald laughed a little dismally. "I tasted the bitters of life at so
early an age that I suppose the flavour of them still clings to my

"Pardon me if I have hurt your feelings!" said Eleanor, earnestly. "I
certainly did not intend to do so. But see, the tide is on the turn,
and we must turn with it."

"Have we not time to go a little further? The afternoon is still

"Yes, you shall row me round yonder tiny island, that looks so pretty
from here, and then we must really go back."

When they had rounded the islet, said Eleanor: "I am sure you must be
tired, Mr. Pomeroy. Suppose you ship your oars and let the tide float
us gently down."

"I am not in the least tired; but, being a good boy, I like to do as I
am bidden."

Cunning Gerald knew that by floating down with the stream he should
have half an hour more of Eleanor's society than if he had used his
oars ever so gently.

"Going back is not nearly so nice as going up stream," he remarked.

"What makes you think so?"

"Because our voyage will so soon be at an end."

"But, when you have landed me, there will be no objection to your
having the boat out for as many hours as you like."

"And make a water hermit of myself. I scarcely think that I am
sufficiently fond of my own company to care for that. I like solitude,
but I must have some one to share it with me. The sweetest solitude is
that where two people, whose tastes and sympathies are in accord, shut
themselves out from the rest of the world (as you and I are shut out
on this silent highway) to find in the society of each other a truer
and more complete satisfaction than in aught else this earth can

"Is not that a rather selfish view to take of life and its duties?"
asked Eleanor.

"Is it not possible to live in the world and yet be not of it?" he
returned--"to do our daily tasks there, and yet have an inner
sanctuary to flee to, of which no one but ourselves shall possess the
key, and against whose walls the noise and turmoil of the world shall
dash themselves in vain?"

"You would have to be very particular in your choice of a companion to
share such a solitude with you, otherwise the demon of Ennui would
soon make a third in your company."

"Ennui can never intrude itself between two people whose tastes and
sympathies thoroughly agree. Four times out of six ennui means neither
more nor less than vacuity of brain."

Eleanor laughed. "Next time I am troubled with it I shall know how to
call it by its proper name.--I declare if there isn't dear Lady
Dudgeon looking out for us with a shawl over her head!"

Her ladyship received them very graciously; but then Mr. Pomeroy was a
special favourite with her. "I am glad you have had the good sense to
get back early," she said. "The river-damps are said to be very
dangerous after sunset."

Not the slightest suspicion of any possible danger to her protégée
ever entered her mind. Had anyone even hinted at such a thing, she
would have replied indignantly that Miss Lloyd, who had refused the
addresses of Captain Dayrell, was not at all likely to fall in love
with Sir Thomas Dudgeon's secretary. She judged Eleanor, in fact, by
what she herself had been at the same age. She had been brought up to
believe that for any young lady to throw herself away simply for love
was next door to a crime. As it was totally out of the question that
she herself could have ever fallen in love with any man who was
without wealth or position, or both, so would it have been utterly
inconceivable to her that her darling Miss Lloyd could ever sink to a
level which would render possible any such act of social degradation.


Tickets for the opera reached Miriam Byrne, in due course, on the
morning of the Friday following Gerald Warburton's first visit to the
house of Max Van Duren in Spur Alley. Saturday was Miriam's birthday.
Beyond an extra kiss from Mr. Byrne, and the expression of good wishes
usual on such an occasion, the day brought little or no difference to
either father or daughter. The weather was unpleasant, and neither of
them stirred out of doors. But when tea time came, the best china was
brought out of its retirement, and from some mysterious cupboard was
produced a Madeira cake, with a little jar of honey, and some potted

"Now, papa, dear, draw up to the table," cried Miriam, gaily, as soon
as everything had been arranged in order due.

"I've put an extra spoonful of green into the pot in order to please
you, and if you behave yourself nicely, you shall have an extra lump
of sugar in your cup, for you are as fond of sweet things as any

"That's why I'm so fond of you, dear," said Mr. Byrne, drily, as he
drew his chair up to the table.

Just then came a knock at the door. Miriam opened it, and there stood
Mr. Van Duren, with a pretty little rustic basket in his hands, full
of freshly-cut flowers.

"Good evening, Miss Byrne," he said, in a hesitating sort of way. "I
happened to hear Mrs. Bakewell remark this morning, that to-day was
your birthday. Such being the case, I have taken the liberty of
bringing you these few flowers, of which I beg your acceptance,
together with my very best wishes for your health and happiness."

"It is very kind of you, Mr. Van Duren--very kind indeed," replied
Miriam. "Many thanks for your flowers and good wishes. But pray come

He came a few steps into the room, and then Miriam took the basket and
smelled at the flowers.

"They are indeed lovely," she said. "Yours is the only present that I
have had to-day, and nothing else that you could have offered me would
have been half so acceptable."

The moment he heard the knock, Peter Byrne collapsed, as it were, and
became older by a score years in as many seconds. Deaf and senile, he
now tottered across the room, his walking-stick in one hand, the other
hand held to his ear.

"What is it? what is it?" he quavered. "Flowers, eh? Vastly
pretty--vastly pretty!"

"Mr. Van Duren has brought me these lovely flowers as a birthday
present, papa," said Miriam, speaking loudly in his ear.

"Very kind of him--very kind indeed," nodding his head at Miriam. "But
come in, Mr. Van Duren, come in, sir. Pussy and I were just about to
have a quiet cup of tea. Come and join us, sir--come and join us. I
like a quiet cup of tea; so does Pussy."

"I should be most happy, if I thought--"

"If you thought you were not intruding," said Miriam. "You are
not doing that, I assure you. See, I will give your flowers
the place of honour on my tea-table. But perhaps you are not a

"Oh, yes, I am. Only I never can bear to drink tea alone. I think it a
great promoter of sociability, and I only indulge in it when I have
some one to keep me company."

"Then come and keep me company for once," said Miriam, with a smile,
her magnificent eyes looking full into his face.

He shrank a little before that full-orbed gaze. For a moment or two
the colour left his lips. He smiled faintly, and rubbed his hands
together, as though he were cold.

"If I had the inclination to refuse--which, indeed, I have not," he
said, "it would be impossible for me to do so after such an
invitation. I can quite imagine that your life here is a little dull
at times," he added, as he drew a chair up to the table.

"It certainly cannot be called a very lively one," returned Miriam, as
she began to pour out the tea. "Poor dear papa is both very old and
very feeble, and then his deafness is a great drawback, and makes home
duller than it would otherwise be."

"But you have a brother, have you not?"

"Yes, one brother."

"In the city?"

"No, not in the city. He is secretary to a gentleman at the west end."

Peter Byrne, after sniffing once or twice at the flowers, toddled back
to his easy-chair by the fire, and spreading his handkerchief over his
knees, waited patiently for his tea. This Miriam now took to him;
placing it on a little low table in front of him.

"Good girl, good girl," he said. Then, turning suddenly on Van Duren,
he added, "When I was a young spark, I always liked to have a flower
in my button-hole. The girls used to beg them of me--bless their
pretty eyes! I daresay the young hussies nowadays do the very same

Max Van Duren, at this time, was fifty years old. He was not very
tall, but broad-set and strongly built. His coarse, short-cut, sandy
hair showed as yet few traces of age. His face was closely shaven, so
that whatever character there was in it could be clearly seen without
the disguise of beard or moustache. A massive jaw; a close-shut mouth,
with its straight line of thin lips; heavy, overhanging eyebrows, and
small, deep-set eyes of a cold, steel gray: such were the prominent
features of a face that was full of power, self-will, and obstinacy.
His ears were pierced, but the small gold rings he had worn in them
when a young man had been discarded years ago. Professional beggars
are generally pretty good students of facial character, and no member
of that fraternity had ever been known to solicit alms from Max Van

He had not been used to female society, and he felt himself altogether
out of his element as he sat at the tea-table and was waited upon by

Miss Byrne had not had her magnificent eyes given her for nothing.
Very early in life she had learned how to make use of them. After that
one full, unveiled look into Van Duren's eyes when she invited him to
take tea with her, she kept her own eyes carefully under subjection.
He could not keep his away from her, a fact of which Miriam was
perfectly conscious; but now that she had got him there, seated
opposite to her, she seemed to have become all at once shy, timid, and
all but speechless. Now and then he caught a momentary, half-startled
glance aimed at him from under the shadow of her long lashes, but that
was all. She seemed to turn her eyes anywhere, rather than look him
full in the face. He was quite at a loss what to say. What bond of
sympathies, tastes, or ideas, as he asked himself, could there be in
common between a man like him and that charming creature opposite?
There were a great many subjects that he knew a great deal about, but
he could not call to mind one that would be likely to have the
faintest possible interest for Miss Byrne. Still, it was requisite
that he should say something, or she would think him no better than a

He looked round the room: there were a number of books scattered
about. "Are you fond of reading, Miss Byrne?" he asked, suddenly: as
good an opening, under the circumstances, as he could possibly have

"Yes, very--when I can get the sort of book I like."

"May I ask what sort of book it is that you do like?"

"Oh, novels of course: a sort of literature for which, I daresay, you
care nothing."

"Well, I am certainly not a novel reader. But, were I a young lady, I
daresay I should be. You like love-stories, of course?"

"Yes; love-stories. Having had no experience in that line myself, it
is only natural that I should like to read about it in others."

"I thought that all young ladies nowadays could graduate and take
honours in the Art of Love long before they were twenty."

"A rule is proved by its exceptions. I am one of the exceptions."

"How nice it must be to be able to write love-stories that you know
will be read by some thousands of young ladies!"

"But if an author in every case writes only from his own experience,
what a fearful experience must his be!"

"I apprehend that in such a case a writer is like a clever violinist.
He may play to the public on one string as long as he likes, if only
his variations are sufficiently amusing not to weary them."

"Yes, I daresay there is really a very great sameness in such
matters," said Miriam, with well-feigned simplicity.

"And yet I suppose it hardly matters how poor a love-story may be; the
vivid imagination of your sex supplies all deficiencies, and clothes
it with whatever warmth and colour it may otherwise lack."

"I am not so sure on that point. But I am afraid you are getting
beyond my depth, Mr. Van Duren. For my own part, I have not much
imagination. I am very, very matter-of-fact."

"That ought to form a bond of sympathy between us, seeing that I am
one of the most matter-of-fact people in the City of London."

"I have been told that bonds of sympathy are very dangerous things.
Papa's Three-per-cent. bonds would be a much safer investment."

Van Duren laughed.

"How would it be, Miss Byrne, if I were to go through a course of
reading under your tuition?"

"Do you mean the reading of love-stories?"

"That, and nothing else, is what I mean.

"How would it be possible for me to act as your tutor in such a course
of reading when I don't know the alphabet of the language myself?"

"How would it be if we were to try to learn the alphabet together?"

"I am afraid that I am too old to learn a fresh language. Besides, if
you are as ignorant as you say you are, we should not know the proper
sounds to give to the different letters."

"Nature would be our schoolmistress. With her to teach us, we should
soon become apt scholars."

"Very well. We will have our first lesson on Monday. But before we
begin, you shall go and bowl your hoop a dozen times round the square
at the bottom of the street, and I will sit on a doorstep, with a doll
in my arms, and watch you."

All at once Peter Byrne, who for the last ten minutes had been gazing
intently into the fire, and neither stirring nor speaking, turned in
his chair, and said to Miriam--

"Go up to your room, Pussy, for a little while; I want to have a
little private talk with Mr. Van Duren."

Miriam rose.

"Shall I not see you again?" asked Van Duren.

"Yes," whispered Miriam.

Then she crossed to the basket of flowers, plucked a spray, placed it
in the bosom of her dress, smiled at Van Duren, and went.

Van Duren's face lost its brightness as soon as Miriam left the room.
He crossed to Byrne's chair, laid his coarse hand on the old man's
shoulder, and said, not without a touch of sternness--

"I am at your service, sir."

He was obliged to speak in a louder tone of voice than usual, and that
of itself annoyed him.

"Sit down, Mr. Van Duren--sit down close beside me. I have something
to say to you. But are you sure that we are quite alone?"

"We are quite alone, Mr. Byrne."


He said no more for a minute or two, but fumbled nervously with his
handkerchief, still keeping his eyes fixed intently on the fire. Then
he had a little fit of coughing. When that was over, and he had
recovered his breath, he laid his hand on Mr. Van Duren's wrist, and

"We can't expect to live for ever, Mr. Van Duren--eh?"

"I suppose not," said Mr. Van Duren, with a sneer; "and I for one
would certainly not care to do so."

"Are you one of those people who think that a man is likely to die any
the sooner for having made his will?"

"Certainly not. I am no believer in such foolish superstitions."

"When a man has anything to leave--when he has any dispositions to
make with regard to his property, it is best not to put off making
them till the last moment--eh?"

"It is very foolish to do so, Mr. Byrne. But it is what many people
do, for all that."

"Then you think that I should be doing a wise thing if I were to make
my will--eh?"

"Certainly--a very wise thing--if you have any property to dispose

"If I have any property to dispose of! Ech! ech! ech! If I have any
property to dispose of--he says!"

He laughed till another fit of coughing nearly choked him, and after
that was over he had to gather breath before he could speak again.

"Yes, Mr. Van Duren," he gasped out, "I have a little property to
leave behind me--just a little. And I want you, as a business man, to
recommend to me some good sound lawyer, to whom I could give the
requisite instructions for drawing up my last will and testament."

"Oh, if that's all, I can recommend to you my own lawyer, Mr. Billing,
who is a thorough business man, and would do you justice in every

"That's kind of you--very kind. There will be nothing complicated
about the affair, There's only two of 'em to leave it to--my boy and
my girl. I shall divide it equally between them."

Mr. Van Duren was beginning to feel interested. After all, it was
quite possible that this pottering, deaf old fellow might be far
better off than he--Van Duren--had any idea of.

"House property, or land, chiefly, I suppose?" he said, in a casual,
off-hand kind of way.

"Not a bit of it," said the old man. "I don't own a single house, nor
an acre of land. No, sir, my property is all in scrip and shares--in
good sound investments, every penny of it. And the beauty of it
is--ech! ech!--that not even my own boy has any idea what I'm
worth--what he and his sister will drop in for when the old man's
under the turf. I've always kept 'em both in the dark about my money
matters--and the best way too. They might want me out of the way, they
might wish me dead, if they knew everything. No, no! I've kept my own
counsel. I've speculated and speculated, and nobody but my broker and
myself has been a bit the wiser."

Mr. Van Duren began to feel quite an affectionate regard for his
lodger--leaving out of the question his lodger's daughter.

"Then Miss Byrne is an heiress without knowing it?" he said.

"Mum's the word," chuckled the old man, as he clutched Van Duren by
the sleeve. "I'm telling you what I've always kept a secret from them;
but there'll be thirty thousand between 'em when I go. Thirty
thousand--not a single penny less!"

Van Duren's colour came and went. Miriam, then, would have a fortune
of fifteen thousand pounds, respecting which, at present, she knew
nothing! Would not the wisest thing he could do be to propose to her
and win her consent to become his wife before she became aware of the
golden future in store for her? Afterwards it might be too late--she
might regard him with altogether different eyes when she knew that her
dowry would be fifteen thousand pounds.

"A noble legacy, my dear sir--a truly noble legacy!" said Van Duren,
warmly. "And were I in your place, I should not lose an unnecessary
hour in making my testamentary arrangements. You may depend on it that
your mind will feel more settled and easy when you have made
everything secure, and put your wishes beyond the possibility of

"Egad! I'll take your advice; and if you'll send that lawyer of yours
on Tuesday, I'll have the job got out of hand at once. I don't suppose
I shall live a day less for having made my will--eh?"

"Not you, my dear sir--not you. There are many pleasant days in store
for you yet. You are as tough as a bit of seasoned oak."

"Aye, aye. It's not always the youngest ones that are the strongest.
Why shouldn't I live to be a hundred?"

"What a noble girl is that daughter of yours, Mr. Byrne!"

"A good girl, sir--a very good girl, though it is I who say it."

"I have never met any one in my life whom I have learnt to admire so
much in so short a time."

"Ah! poor Pussy will feel it when her old father goes. It preys on my
mind sometimes when I think of it. What is to become of her, with her
money and her inexperience; and no one to look after her but a brother
almost as young and inexperienced as herself?"

"Miss Byrne's fate will probably be that of most other young
ladies--she will marry."

"I wish with all my heart that she would: that is, if she would marry
the sort of man I should like her to have. But to see her married to
some empty-headed, extravagant fop of a fellow, who would squander her
money and not make her happy--I could never rest quiet in my grave if
that were to happen."

What Van Duren's answer would have been is not upon record, for just
at this moment there came a knock at the door, and presently
Bakewell's head was intruded into the room.

"Beg pardon, sir," he said, carrying a finger to his forehead, "but
there's a gentleman downstairs as wants to see you immediately on
important business."

"Confound the gentleman, whoever he may be!" said Van Duren, with
hearty goodwill. "Tell him I'll be down presently." Then, turning to
Byrne, he added: "We business men can never really call an hour our
own. I must ask you to make my excuses to Miss Byrne: I am sorry that
I cannot say good-night to her in person."

"It will be your own fault if you don't see her again before long.
Come and take a quiet cup of tea with us as often as you like. We are
very quiet and very homely, but we shall always be glad to see you.
You won't forget the lawyer, will you?"

When Miriam came downstairs a quarter of an hour later, she found her
father sitting with his legs perched against the chimney-piece, and
smoking his china pipe. He had flung his wig and skull-cap aside, he
had relieved himself of his false hump, and he had taken his
artificial teeth out of the bureau in which he kept them, and had
fitted them carefully into his month.

"Miriam," he said, "before you are a week older Max Van Duren will
propose marriage to you. I will tell you to-morrow what you are to say
when he makes the offer. To-night I am tired. And now mix me a tumbler
of grog: the sort of tumbler that you know so well how to mix, dear."


A few days after the private interview between Mr. Van Duren and his
lodger, Mr. Billing, the lawyer, called on Mr. Byrne by appointment,
and took down that gentleman's instructions with respect to the
disposition of his property. Three days later, Mr. Billing called with
the all-important document, and found waiting to receive him in Mr.
Byrne's parlour, the testator himself, Mr. Van Duren, who had most
kindly consented to act as one of the executors, and a certain Mr.
Dexter, an old personal friend of Mr. Byrne, who was to act as
executor number two.

Then, at the testator's request, the will was read aloud by Mr.
Billing. By its provisions Mr. Byrne bequeathed, equally between his
son Gerald and his daughter Miriam, the whole of his property,
amounting in the aggregate to thirty thousand pounds, the same being
partly invested in government three per cents., and partly in the
shares of certain railways and other public companies. When the
reading was over, Mr. Byrne put his signature to the will in a hand
that was remarkably firm and clear for his age. The two executors then
appended their signatures. Mr. Billing took charge of the document,
and the ceremony was at an end. After that, a couple of bottles of old
port were produced, the testator's health was drunk, and there was a
little hand-shaking and the expression of many good wishes, and after
that the three gentlemen went away, and Mr. Byrne was left to solitude
and the company of his own thoughts.

His own thoughts, such as they might be, seemed of an eminently
satisfactory nature. Miriam was out--had been sent out purposely
during the process of will-signing. Thus it fell out that Mr. Byrne
now found himself temporarily deprived of the services of his
daughter. But that did not trouble him in the least. He liked to be
waited upon--as most men do--but he was not above looking after his
own comforts when there was no one else to do it for him. All through
life he had been in the habit of celebrating any pleasant little
event, or successful stroke of business, by taking something "on the
strength of it," as he termed it; and it was hardly likely that he
should pretermit such an excellent observance on the present occasion.
Accordingly, he no sooner found himself alone than he proceeded to
charge and light the inevitable pipe, and to mix for himself the
inevitable tumbler of grog. With his chair tilted back on its hind
legs, his feet on the table, his wig awry, his pipe in his mouth, and
his steaming glass before him, Mr. Byrne was quietly meditating over
the day's proceedings, when, without any preliminary knock, the door
that gave egress on to the landing was softly opened, and the head of
Pringle, Mr. Van Duren's clerk, was thrust into the room. His glassy
eyes fixed themselves on Byrne, but without any apparent sign of
intelligence lighting up their dull depths. For a few seconds the two
men stared at each other without speaking. Byrne was, in fact, too
much taken aback to utter a word. "Beg pardon. I thought the governor
was here," said Pringle at last. "See he isn't. Sorry to intrude."
With that he withdrew his head and shut the door as softly as he had
opened it.

"That drunken fool has seen enough to spoil everything!" cried Byrne,
as he started to his feet. "What an ass I must have been not to lock
the door! My only chance is that he may have had so much to drink as
to have forgotten all about what he saw by to-morrow morning."

Pringle, having shut the door of Mr. Byrne's room, stood still on the
mat, while he indulged in one of his noiseless, malicious laughs. "I
thought the old boy was after some private little game of his own," he
said; "and I thought I shouldn't be long before I spotted him. A
disguise--eh? And no more deaf, I'll swear, than I am! Haven't I
listened at the keyhole, and heard him and the girl talking quite
natural and easy like? And then Van Duren's sweet on the girl, but the
girl looks too wide awake to be sweet on him, without she thinks him
rich, and wants a husband. I can't make out just yet what it all
means, but, anyhow, I don't think it means much good to Van Duren, and
so long as it don't mean any good to him I sha'n't interfere. I'll
watch and say nothing, and if I only find that the pair of them are
weaving a net round Van Duren, won't I give them a helping hand! That
is," he added, as if suddenly correcting himself, "that is, provided
it don't interfere with my own little game."

He went slowly downstairs to the office on the ground-floor. The gas
was lighted, but there was no one in the room. "Van Duren and Billing
have gone out together. If Van thinks I'm going to wait for him, he's
mistaken. I'll just shut up shop, and go to tea. Now, what could Van
and the other one want in the old boy's room upstairs? That's a
puzzler. Is there some little game on that they are all mixed up in?
Or are Van and the other trying to best the old 'un? Or is the old 'un
trying to best Van and the other one?" Shaking his head, as though the
questions he had put to himself were beyond his powers of solution, he
took a ledger under each arm, and carried them slowly downstairs--all
Pringle's movements were slow--into the fireproof room in the
basement of the house, where Van Duren's books and papers were
habitually kept.

This fireproof room was on the same floor as the rooms inhabited by
Bakewell and his wife, who had charge of the whole premises, but was
separated from them by a brick passage of some length. Opposite the
foot of the stairs was a door that opened into this passage, in which
a tiny jet of gas was kept burning through the day. At the end of
the passage was a strong iron door, which opened into the fireproof
room. There was only one key to this door, and that was kept by Van
Duren himself. But it was part of Bakewell's duties to go up to his
master's bedroom every morning, obtain the key in question, open the
door--which was allowed to stand open all day--lock it again at ten
o'clock at night, and take back the key to his master's bedroom. When
Van Duren went out of town, which he did frequently, the key was given
in charge of Pringle. The key of the safe itself never left Van
Duren's possession for more than a few minutes at a time. A small,
square apartment with a brick roof, and fitted up with shelves and
book-racks, with sundry boxes in one corner, and in the other a large
patent safe: such was Mr. Van Duren's fireproof room. Like the passage
that led to it, it was entirely shut out from daylight, and the gas
was kept burning in it all day long.

When Pringle had deposited the ledgers in their proper places, he
turned the gas a little higher, and then stood for a few moments
listening intently. Not a sound broke the silence. "If one was buried
six feet deep in the earth, one couldn't be quieter than one is here,"
said Pringle, with a shudder. "It's just like a vault, particularly
when one knows that there's nothing but dead men's bones all round. No
fear of an interruption," he added. "Bakewell's out, and his wife
ain't over-fond of this part of the house."

His next proceeding was a very singular one. From an inner pocket of
his waistcoat he extracted a key, which key be proceeded to insert
into the lock of the patent safe in the corner. "Not quite the thing
yet," he muttered, as he tried the key. "Wants another touch of the
file here and there. Grainger's three thousand will fall due in about
a month's time. I must have everything ready by then. It's sure not to
be all in bills. There will be a few hundreds in gold. Then there will
be Van's private stock, and other things. Altogether, a pretty little

He withdrew the key from the lock and put it back into his secret
pocket. "If he had not treated me like a dog, if he had treated me as
one man ought to treat another, I should never have thought of this
thing. He thinks that he has me in his power, and that I dare not
turn; but he will find himself mistaken. I'm not quite a worm, though
he tramples on me as if I were. He will find that I can turn, and
sting too, when the proper time comes."

He went back upstairs, turned down the gas in the office, and taking
his hat and his faded gingham umbrella, he left the house.

Jonas Pringle was from fifty to fifty-five years old. He was bald,
except for a straggling fringe of hair round the back of his head, and
had weak, watery eyes, that gave him the appearance, to strangers, of
being habitually in tears. He always dressed in black, and always wore
an old-fashioned dress coat. But his black clothes were never
otherwise than very shabby and threadbare, and shiny with old age at
the elbows and knees. He wore a thick black silk neckcloth, above
which peered the frayed edge of a dirty collar. Among Pringle's
intimates at the Pig and Whistle (his favourite evening haunt) there
was a story current that he had not had a new hat for twenty years.

This evening he went mooning slowly along the streets, muttering under
his breath, as was his habit, and glancing up with a queer, sudden
stare into the face of every woman that passed him. Years before, he
had lost his daughter, an only child: lost her, that is, in the sense
of her being stolen from him by a villain. It was a fixed article of
Pringle's belief that he should one day find his daughter again, and
he had got into the habit, when walking along the streets, of looking
into the face of each woman that he met, ever hoping that among them
he might some time see again the face of his lost Jessie.

It was quite impossible for Pringle to get as far as his lodgings
without making one or two calls for refreshment by the way. There were
certain houses where his face was well known as that of a regular
frequenter, and where they knew, without his having to be at the
trouble of asking for it, the particular article (twopennyworth of
gin, neat) with which to supply him.

"He's been at it again," remarked Pringle, parenthetically, to the
landlord of one of the dirty little taverns which he favoured with his
patronage. "He was raving about all morning like a bear with a sore
head. Nothing pleased him, nothing one could do was right."

"Ay, ay. I shouldn't stand it if I was you," answered the publican.

"I sha'n't stand it much longer; you may take your oath of that," said
Pringle. "There'll be a day of reckoning before long: mark my words,
if there ain't."

About the very time that Jonas Pringle was giving utterance to this
mysterious threat, the man to whom he referred was sitting alone,
thinking deeply--thinking of Miriam Byrne, of her manifold charms of
fortune and person, and trying to screw up his courage to the point of
asking her to become his wife. He had fully made up his mind that he
would so ask her, but he wished with all his heart that the task were
well over. In all business transactions he was one of the most prompt
and decisive of men, and, it may be added, one of the hardest; but the
thought of having to tell this dark-eyed beauty of twenty that he
loved her and would fain marry her, fluttered his nerves strangely.
That it must be done, and done soon, he had quite made up his mind;
but none the less did the thought of having it to do trouble him. To
old Byrne he had thrown out one or two hints already, and had not been
repulsed. In fact, the old man seemed desirous of seeing his daughter
comfortably settled in life, and would perhaps be more likely to
encourage the addresses of a man like Van Duren, who knew the world
and the value of money, rather than those of some empty-headed
popinjay of Miriam's own age, who would, in all probability, first
spend her fortune and then neglect her. Ah! if he could only win her
for himself--win her and her fortune too--what a happy stroke of luck
that would be! He admired the girl for her beauty, admired her more
than any woman he had ever met before, and even if she had not been
worth a penny, he might in some moment of rashness have flung all
other considerations to the winds, and have asked her to marry him.
But knowing what he knew about her, would he not be an idiot to let
such a golden opportunity slip through his fingers without trying to
grasp it and claim it for his own? "If I can find a chance of doing
so, I'll propose to her to-morrow," he said to himself, emphatically,
as he rose from the table. "I cannot afford to lose another day."

At seven o'clock next evening Mr. Van Duren knocked at the door of his
lodgers' sitting-room. His summons was answered by Miriam in person.
He started with surprise as his eyes fell on her. He had never seen
her dressed as she was to-night. Anyone might have thought that she
knew he was going to call upon her, that she suspected what he had
made up his mind to say. Had she deliberately laid herself out to
fascinate him, to enthral his senses, to make him forget reason and
prudence, and all the cautious rules with which his life had
heretofore been hedged round, she could not, with all her thought,
have done more towards effecting that end than the caprice of a moment
was likely to do for her without thought at all. And it was but the
whim of a moment that had induced her to attire herself after the
fashion in which she presented herself to the eyes of Van Duren

She wore a long, trailing robe of amber silk, which fitted her very
loosely, and was fastened round her waist with a gay Persian scarf of
many colours. The sleeves of this dress were cut very short, and
Miriam's bare arms were decorated with bracelets of tiny, tinted
shells and small coins intermixed. A fringe of coins was bound round
her forehead, and fastened at the back with a gilt arrow. Her hair
fell to her waist in two long plaits, with which more coins and shells
were intermixed. As she walked across the room, and as she reclined on
the sofa, the tips of two Turkish slippers, embroidered with gold
thread and silks of various colours, could be seen peeping from under
the edge of her robe. In her ears hung two tiny bells, that looked
like gold, but were only gilt, which tinkled faintly when she moved
her head; round her throat was clasped a double string of large amber

"Good evening, Miss Byrne," said Van Duren, as soon as he had
recovered his presence of mind. "I have had a small consignment of
fruit from France, and I have ventured to hope that you would do me
the favour of accepting a box of it."

"You are kindness itself," said Miriam. "But don't stand there,
please." Then, when she had shut the door behind him, she added: "How
you have so quickly found out two of my pet weaknesses--flowers and
candied fruits--is more than I can understand." Then she took the box
from his hand. "Many, many thanks. Why, the casket itself is quite a
work of art!"

Van Duren crossed to where Mr. Byrne was sitting in his easy-chair by
the fire. He had neither spoken nor stirred from the moment of hearing
the knock at the door. Van Duren laid his hand on the old man's
shoulder. "How are you this evening, Mr. Byrne?" he said, speaking
close to the other one's ear.

"Oh, hearty, hearty: never better," answered Byrne, in a querulous
voice. "If it wasn't for this nasty cough, and this pain in my side,
and one or two other trifles, I should be as right as a trivet."

"We shall soon have the warm weather here now, and that will help you

"Of course it will. In another month's time I shall be out and about
again, as strong and active as the best of you."

"Poor papa never will allow that he is worse," said Miriam, in a low
voice. "He has certainly been weaker and feebler for the last day or
two, but he will persist in saying that he is quite the opposite."

"The old boy can't last long," thought Van Duren to himself: "another
reason why I ought not to delay."

Next minute, without exactly knowing how it happened, he found himself
sitting opposite Miriam, who had resumed he favourite position--a
half-sitting, half-reclining one--on the sofa, and was eating daintily
a sugared apricot. How round and white her arms looked, contrasted
against the deep amber of her robe, from under which the tiny Turkish
slippers peeped tantalizingly! She was certainly very lovely, but
about her loveliness to-night there was something wild and weird that
at once attracted to itself a certain element of savagery that lay
latent in the character of her admirer, but which the quiet, humdrum
life he had led of late years had all but buried out of sight. An
Englishman of the timid conventional type would either have been
repelled or frightened had he seen the lady of his love decked out
after Miriam's strange fashion, but it only served to draw Van Duren
more closely to her. It seemed to him that, could he but have had his
own way in the matter, he would never have let her dress otherwise
than as he saw her to-night. As he gazed at her, all the pulses of his
being seemed to throb with newer life. His eyes brightened, the lines
of his hard mouth softened, and for once, as Miriam avowed afterwards
to her father, the man looked almost handsome.

Miriam's guitar was resting against the sofa, within reach of her
hand. Said Van Duren--

"You were singing and playing the other evening, Miss Byrne, as I went
upstairs to my own room, but I have never had the pleasure of hearing
you when in your company."

"Then you ought to consider yourself very fortunate," replied Miriam,
"for I am really not worth listening to."

"Will you afford me an opportunity of judging for myself?"

"If you put it as a definite request, of course I cannot refuse you. I
have accepted your bribe beforehand," she added, with a smile,
pointing to the box of fruit.

"I should really like to hear you."

"Then you shall hear me. After that you will be satisfied. You will
never want to hear me again."

"That's as it may be," said Van Duren, as he drew his chair several
inches nearer the sofa.

"What shall I murder for you?" asked Miriam, as she took up the

The phrase was an ugly one, and was spoken without thought. Van Duren
started as if some one had smitten him suddenly from behind. He shot a
look full of suspicion and terror at Miriam; but her eyes were bent on
the guitar, one or two strings of which seemed to want screwing up.

"What shall I sing for you?" she said, amending her phraseology this

Van Duren recovered himself with an effort.

"The guitar has always been associated in my mind," he said, "with
love-songs and serenades, with moonlight and romance."

"Then here's a little serenade for you. I, who sing, am supposed to be
a cavalier. If your imagination will carry you so far, you can fancy
yourself to be the lady thus lovingly addressed."

She struck a chord or two on the guitar, and began as follows:--

   "What throbs through the song of the nightingale?
   What makes the red heart of the rose turn pale?
                   Love, burning love.
   What makes me grow drowsy 'neath midsummer skies?
   What makes me a slave to my lady's dark eyes?
                   Love, burning love."

One verse will be quite enough for the reader. Miriam's voice was a
rich, clear contralto, which she managed with considerable skill. Now
and again as she sang, she shot a glance out of her dangerous black
eyes at the rapt listener sitting opposite to her. Her father, in his
easy-chair by the fire, gave no further sign of existence than by the
troublesome cough which seized him every few minutes, and shook him
like a leaf.

As the last line thrilled from Miriam's lips, Van Duren sank down on
one knee before her, and tried to seize her hand. With a little
involuntary shudder, she drew it away from him. Then he grasped a fold
of her dress, and pressed it passionately to his lips.

"Miriam Miriam! do not repulse me, but listen to me!" he cried. "You,
who can give such passionate expression to the words of a mere
love-song, must have felt and known that I loved you from the first
moment that I saw you. I cannot ask or expect that you should give
me back such a love as I now offer you. But try to like me a
little--consent to be my wife--and I will do all that lies in the
power of mortal man to make you happy!"

"Oh, Mr. Van Duren, you do indeed surprise me!" was all Miriam said.
But she was not surprised in the least.

"I am richer than the world gives me credit for being," pursued Van
Duren. "I have led a quiet, saving life for years; but all that shall
be changed if you will only become mine. I can afford to let my wife
live as a lady ought to live; I can afford to----"

"Oh, Mr. Van Duren, you must not talk in that way."

"I am quite aware," he pleaded, "that there is a very wide difference
between your age and mine, but----"

"That would make no difference in my feelings towards any one for whom
I really cared."

"If you would only try to care a little for me!"

"It all seems so strange, Mr. Van Duren."

"What is it that seems so strange, dearest?"

"Why, that a man like you, who have seen so much of the world, who
must have seen and known so many ladies, both in England and abroad,
should really profess to care about a foolish, frivolous girl like

"You are neither foolish nor frivolous. Besides which, you are
different from any one whom I ever met before. More than all, you are
my fate."

"Your fate, Mr. Van Duren!"

"Yes, the one woman out of all the wide world whom, uncounted ages
ago, it was fated, or fore-ordained, that I should love."

"Now you are going further than I can follow you," said Miriam, with a
smile. "Perhaps, at the same time, it was fore-ordained that I should
reject your suit."

"You do not know how terribly in earnest I am, or you would not laugh
at me."

"Indeed, Mr. Van Duren, I am not laughing at you. But pray resume your

"Not till you have told me the best or the worst. Not till you have
given me some word of hope, or told me that I must never hope again."

"Mr. Van Duren," said Miriam, with more earnestness than she had yet
used, "your offer has come upon me so suddenly that I know not what to
say. I think you can hardly expect me to give you an answer to so
serious a question without giving me time to consider what that answer
must be. Not now, not to-night--can I answer you either one way or the
other. Two or three days at the least I must claim, to think over all
that you have said to me, and to discover, if it be possible for me to
do so, what my feelings are in a matter that concerns my future
welfare so closely."

"I can but bow to your decision," said Van Duren. "I hope I may accept
it as a good augury that you have not rejected my suit at once and
entirely; that you have deemed it worthy of being taken into

"Ah, Mr. Van Duren, I am afraid that you are not such a novice as you
would wish to make out: I am afraid that you understand more of our
sex and their ways than you would care to have known."

Then, as if to change the subject, she took up her guitar and began to
play. A little while later Van Duren took his leave.

"Very well managed, my dear," said Mr. Byrne, approvingly, wheeling
round his chair as soon as the door was closed upon their visitor;
"only neither of you seemed to think much about me in the matter."

"I suppose Mr. Van Duren thinks that if he can obtain my consent,
yours will follow as a matter of course."

"He is welcome to think what he likes, so long as you succeed in
getting out of him the particular information that I want. So far,
all has gone off well. In three days' time you will accept him
provisionally--accept him on trial, that is, for a month or six weeks,
before finally binding yourself to anything. In the course of that
month you ought to be able to worm out of him the all-important
secret, without which all that we have done up to the present time
will be of no avail whatever."

"I understand perfectly what you want, papa, but I cannot tell you how
utterly distasteful to me is the whole wretched business."

"Tut, tut, girl, you mustn't talk in that way! Think of the two
hundred pounds that will be yours--absolutely your own--if we

"I do think of it, papa. But even that can hardly reconcile me at
times to go through with what I have promised. You don't know the
feeling of repulsion, of absolute loathing, that came over me to-night
when that man tried to take my hand. Think what it is to be made love
to by a murderer; think of this, and pity me!"

"Of course I pity you, and feel for you," said the old man,
soothingly. "But our needs are great, and the money will be very
useful--you can't but admit that."

"Oh yes, I admit that. But I was never afraid of poverty."

"I am not afraid of it--but I certainly don't like it. But what do you
intend doing with your two hundred pounds, Miriam? Better let me
invest it for you."

"If I succeed in getting the two hundred pounds---which at present is
by no means certain--I shall----"

"Yes: what?"

"I shall furnish a couple of rooms--furnish them very nicely, mind
you--and marry James."

"You will!" gasped the old man.

"I shall, most certainly. It is the thought of that and nothing else
that strengthens me to go through with this dreadful business. No
meaner prize would tempt me."

She stooped and kissed her father lightly on the forehead, and then
went quickly out of the room, as if afraid that what she had said
might provoke a discussion that would have been unpleasant to both of


The Easter holidays were here, and Sir Thomas Dudgeon and family had
gone down to Stammars for a fortnight. The baronet was like a boy
released for awhile from the tyranny of school. He had always loved
the country; but never had it seemed so sweet and pleasant to him as
it did now, after he had been penned up for a couple of months in the
great wilderness of London. He spent hours with Cozzard every day, and
together the two men visited every nook and corner of the property,
and renewed acquaintance with every horse, dog, and cow on the estate.
Sir Thomas's speech on the Sugar Duties, being a maiden effort, had
been listened to with kindly attention by the House, and had been
commented on in favourable terms by one or two of the morning papers.
Amplified and embellished with tropes and similes not found; in the
original, it had been printed, in extenso, in the _Pembridge Gazette_,
and had formed the basis of a ponderous leader in the editor's best
style. Sir Thomas began to feel as if he were a power in the realm.
Really, as he sometimes whispered to himself, his wife's estimate of
his abilities might not be such an exaggerated one, after all. He had
been complimented so often about his speech, that, insensibly to
himself, he began to regard it as being altogether his own
composition, and to forget or ignore Pomeroy's share in the

The ball at Stammars came off in due course, and was very successful.
It added greatly to the popularity of Sir Thomas among his
constituents. Husbands and fathers in Pembridge were as amenable to
feminine influences as they are supposed to be elsewhere, and Lady
Dudgeon judged rightly that all the ladies would work for her after
she had hinted that a similar gathering would probably be held at
Stammars every year during Sir Thomas's parliamentary career.

Lady Dudgeon's correspondence had got greatly into arrear during her
two months in London. As soon as the ball was over she devoted a week
to letter-writing. She had many things to write about, and she did not
spare any of her numerous correspondents. She had much to say
respecting the fashions and foibles of society in town, the drier
details being plentifully garnished with gossip and anecdotes
respecting mutual friends, or such notabilities of the day as her
ladyship might have been brought into casual contact with in the
course of a ten minutes' crush on an aristocratic staircase. But the
ball and its eccentricities were not forgotten; and could certain of
the Pembridge ladies have seen how mercilessly their "dear Lady
Dudgeon" ridiculed them in her letters to her fine friends--their
manners, their conversation, and their toilettes--they would never
have forgiven her to the last day of their lives.

Captain Dayrell came down for the ball, and stayed the remainder of
the week at Stammars. Neither he nor Lady Dudgeon had given up the
campaign as hopeless. It was part of the Captain's creed that young
ladies, especially in matters matrimonial, did not know their own
minds for a week at a time. Because he had been refused in March, that
was no reason why he should not be accepted in April or May. He had
felt considerably annoyed when Lady Dudgeon had told him the result of
her conversation with Miss Lloyd. He hinted to her pretty plainly that
she had committed an egregious blunder in broaching the subject to
Eleanor at all, instead of leaving him to fight his own battle with
that somewhat obstinate young person. "A meddlesome old cat" was the
term he applied to her in his own thoughts. To do her justice,
however, her ladyship was laudably anxious to atone for her error;
therefore was Captain Dayrell invited down to Stammars, where he would
have the field entirely to himself: even Mr. Pomeroy would be out of
the way, Sir Thomas having given that gentleman a week's release from
his not very onerous duties.

"You will have to do your spiriting very gently, Captain Dayrell,"
said her ladyship. "Miss Lloyd's refusal was a very decisive one."

"So long as there is no prior attachment--and you assure me that there
is not--I will not permit myself to despair," said Dayrell. "I tell
your ladyship this in confidence. But if it could in any way be hinted
to Miss Lloyd that I have accepted her decision as final, and, while
deeply hurt by her rejection of me, have no intention of troubling her
further, I think my cause might be somewhat benefited thereby."

"Pardon me, but I hardly see the force of your suggestion."

"My dear Lady Dudgeon, it is one of the characteristics of your sex to
regard a rejected suitor with a certain amount of tendresse. They say
to themselves, 'Here is something that might be mine if I would only
hold out my hand to take it.' So long as it is there for the having,
they don't care to accept it; but when they have reason to think that
they are about to lose it, they will sometimes make a snatch at it
rather than let it go altogether--or, perhaps I ought to say, rather
than let it fall into the hands of another."

In this matter Captain Dayrell judged Eleanor by himself. He was twice
as anxious to win her, now that she had declined his attentions, as he
had been before. Not that he would ever have dreamed of asking Miss
Lloyd to become his wife had she been other than the heiress she was.
He knew too well what was due both to himself and to society.

The suggested hint was duly given to Eleanor. It made her intercourse
with Captain Dayrell, during his stay at Stammars, more easy and
pleasant than it might otherwise have been, but beyond that it had no
effect whatever. When the captain went back to town he was not quite
so sanguine of success as he had been a week previously; but being of
a persevering disposition, and having no belief in the immutability of
a woman's _No_, he was still very far from considering his case as

Olive Deane had three days' leave of absence from her duties at
Easter. She went by invitation to spend the time with her aunt and
cousin at Pembridge. She had seen neither of them during the two
months she had been at Lady Dudgeon's. Matthew Kelvin had once or
twice sent his chief clerk to transact business with the baronet, but
had never put in an appearance himself. Could it be that he dreaded
the possibility of meeting Miss Lloyd? was the question Olive
sometimes asked herself; but it was a question to which there was no
likelihood of her ever obtaining an answer.

Olive's heart fluttered strangely as she knocked at the familiar door.
Absence had in no wise weakened her love for her cousin. Watered with
her secret tears, its roots seemed only to grow stronger and to cling
more tightly round her heart. "Why should my life be made miserable
for the love of this man?" she sometimes asked herself. "He cares
nothing for me--he never will care anything for me." But in other
moods she would say: "He will learn to love me yet. Such a love as
mine must have a magnetism in it strong enough to draw to itself the
object of its desires."

But how was it possible that her cousin could grow to love her when
she was separated from him by weeks and months of absence? She must
devise some scheme that would bring her under the same roof with him
again; that was her only chance. Once let Miss Lloyd become engaged
either to Mr. Pomeroy or Captain Dayrell--once let Matthew Kelvin
realize the fact that, safe in the love of another man, Eleanor was
for ever beyond his reach, and she--Olive--would not stop another day
at Stammars. Some excuse she would find, some reason she would invent,
which would make her once more an inmate of her cousin's house. Now,
to-day, when she took her aunt's hand and kissed her, she peered
anxiously into her face to read whatever signs might be written there.
Was her health much worse than usual? Was there any prospect that
before long this poor ailing creature might need her services as
nurse? Surely--surely, she could not linger on in this way for ever!
She wished no harm to her aunt; but one cannot always help one's
thoughts. To-day, however, Mrs. Kelvin looked pretty much as she had
looked for the last three or four years--neither better nor worse.

She received her niece very kindly. Matthew was out on business, so
there was time for an hour's confidential talk before he came back.
One of Mrs. Kelvin's first questions had reference to Mr. Pomeroy; was
he comfortable, and did he suit Sir Thomas? Then she was interested in
hearing Olive's account of the gay doings in London, and genuinely
pleased to find that Lady Dudgeon and her niece agreed so well

After that the old lady began to talk about her son. There had been a
change in him of late, and it troubled her. He was not bodily ill, she
thought; but he seemed to have something on his mind. He was restless
and irritable, and seemed to crave for company and excitement more
than he had ever done before. When he was talking about one thing he
always seemed to be thinking about another.

"He has not read a line to me for I don't know how long," sighed the
old lady. "I can see that his heart is not in it, and so I don't care
to ask him."

Mr. Kelvin came in while they were still talking about him. His face
brightened the moment he saw Olive, and her heart whispered to her,
"He is glad to see me!" He shook hands with her, and patted her cheek
as he might have done that of a child.

"Your roses were always white ones, Nolly," he said, "and London smoke
has certainly done nothing to turn them into red ones."

Olive's anxious eyes were not long in verifying what Mrs. Kelvin had
said about her son. He certainly looked more worn and anxious than she
had ever seen him look before. He seemed to have grown five years
older in a few weeks.

"Will he tell me, I wonder, what has gone amiss with him?" whispered
Olive to herself. "Can his anxiety have anything to do with Eleanor
Lloyd? or is it common business cares that are troubling his mind?"

From whatever cause Mr. Kelvin's anxiety might spring, he made an
effort this evening to put it behind him, and partly succeeded in
so doing. He assumed a cheerfulness, if he felt it not, and his
mother was only too ready to believe that it was genuine. It struck
Olive, however, that she had never seen her cousin drink so much
brandy-and-water as he did this evening, and then he would finish up
with champagne, toasting Olive in one bumper and his mother in
another. After that he went out for a stroll and a whiff in the quiet
streets, and had not come back when the ladies retired for the night.

"Your coming, dear, seems to have done Matthew good," said Mrs. Kelvin
to Olive, as she kissed her at her bedroom door. "I have not seen him
so bright and cheerful for weeks as he has been to-night. But I dare
say my company is a little dull for him at times, and the house would
be all the brighter for him if you could be here always."

If she could be there always! How the words rang in Olive's ears when
shut up in the solitude of her own room! She could not go to bed till
she heard Matthew come in, so she put out the candle and drew up the
blind, and sat gazing out at the chilly stars till she heard her
cousin's footsteps on the stairs.

Mrs. Kelvin never came down to breakfast, a fact of which Olive was
aware. She judged that if her cousin had anything particular to say to
her, he would say it when his mother was out of the way; so she took
care to be down to breakfast betimes next morning.

Kelvin was moody and distrait. After a little commonplace
conversation, he lapsed into a silence that seemed deeper than common,
and one which Olive did not care to break.

"Do you see much of Miss Lloyd?" he said at last, with a suddenness
that was almost startling.

"I see her nearly every day--generally at luncheon," said Olive, quite
calmly. She had expected some such question.

"Is she well and happy?"

"Quite well, and, as far as one person may judge of another, quite

Silence again for a minute or two. When Kelvin next spoke, it was with
his eyes turned away from Olive.

"She is young, handsome, and presumably rich, consequently not short
of suitors--eh?"

"I see so little of Miss Lloyd, except at breakfast or luncheon, that
I am hardly in a position to answer your question. There is, however,
one gentleman who visits at the house, and who seems to be looked upon
with favourable eyes both by Lady Dudgeon and Miss Lloyd."

"Ah! And who may he be?"

"His name is Captain Dayrell. He is said to be cousin to Lord

"Good-looking, of course?"

"Not bad-looking, certainly." Silence again.

Olive Deane knew quite well that in speaking thus of Captain Dayrell
to her cousin she was not confining herself to the narrow limits of
the truth. She knew quite well--for she was not blind, like Lady
Dudgeon--that if the attentions of one man were more pleasant to Miss
Lloyd than those of another, that man was John Pomeroy. But instinct
warned her that it would not be wise on her part to mention Pomeroy's
name in any such relation. That Miss Lloyd should receive the
attentions of a man like Captain Dayrell would seem to her cousin no
more than natural under the circumstances; but that Miss Lloyd should
encourage the suit of a penniless adventurer like Jack Pomeroy would
have seemed an altogether different affair. Matthew Kelvin's pride
would have revolted at the thought of Pomeroy winning that which he
himself had failed to gain. He was just the man to have warned Sir
Thomas, and have got Pomeroy discharged, so that the affair might be
broken off; but in the case of Captain Dayrell no such mode of
procedure was possible. However distasteful such a state of affairs
might be to him, he could only submit to it with such grace as there
might be in him.

It was characteristic of Olive Deane's crooked method of reasoning,
that she fully believed that should her plot result in a marriage
between Eleanor and Pomeroy, her cousin would, in time to come, be far
better pleased than if no such scheme had been hatched by her busy
brain. Would not Matthew Kelvin's revenge be far sweeter to him if the
woman who had rejected him so contemptuously should marry an
adventurer like Pomeroy, who could have no other object than her
supposed wealth in trying to win her for his wife, than if she should
become the promised bride of Captain Dayrell, who, though he should be
told Miss Lloyd's real history at the last moment, might still be
chivalrous enough to make her his wife? In any case, thus it was that
Olive reasoned with herself, and for this reason it was that John
Pomeroy's name was never mentioned by her in connection with Miss

"That was a devilish scheme of revenge that you suggested to me one
morning in my office! I have had no peace of mind since I agreed to

"You talk as a woman might talk. I certainly gave you credit for more
strength of purpose," said Olive, with the slightest possible touch of
contempt in her voice.

"Strength of purpose has nothing to do with the point in question," he
said, harshly. "For the first time in my life, I have wilfully
tarnished my professional honour, and that is what annoys me so

"A few weeks more, and the necessity for concealment will be at an
end. Captain Dayrell will propose to Miss Lloyd--will win her consent
to become his wife. After that you can strike your blow as soon as you

Kelvin did not answer, but sat staring moodily into the fire. Olive
regarded him furtively for a little while, without speaking.

"I certainly thought that I should have seen you at Stammars on the
evening of the ball," she said, after a time.

"I had an invitation, but I did not choose to go. Too much of a
tag-rag-and-bob-tail affair for me."

"Your absence was commented upon both by Sir Thomas and Lady Dudgeon
at breakfast next morning."

"What does that matter to me?"

"Shall I tell you something else?"

"Just as you please."

"After Sir Thomas and Lady Dudgeon had left the room, I rose from the
table and went and sat down for a few minutes in one of the deep
window recesses. Miss Lloyd and Captain Dayrell rose too, and went
towards the fire-place. I suppose from what followed that Miss Lloyd
had forgotten that I was in the room. Said the Captain to her: 'Who is
this Mr. Kelvin, whose absence from the ball Sir Thomas seemed to
regret so much?'--'Oh, a mere nobody--a provincial attorney,' answered
Miss Lloyd."

"She said that, did she!" muttered Kelvin.

"'Oh, by-the-by,' continued the Captain, 'I want to consult a lawyer
on a point of business while I'm down here, and I daresay this fellow
of Sir Thomas's would do as well as anybody else.'--'Yes, I should
rather like you to see him, Frank,' said Miss Lloyd.--'Why him in
particular?' asked the Captain.--'Because this very man--this country
attorney--actually had the audacity, no very long time ago, to ask me
to become his wife!'--'Confound his impudence!' said the Captain, and
then they both laughed, and left the room."

A deep flush mounted to the face of Matthew Kelvin. He got up from the
table, and went and rested his two elbows on the chimney-piece, and
stood gazing into the fire without speaking. The lie just told by
Olive, but which he had accepted as truth, had evidently touched him
to the quick. Olive, playing with her tea-spoon, watched him narrowly.

"Do you think of telling Miss Lloyd before long that she is not Miss
Lloyd?" Olive ventured at last to remark.

"No, not yet--not yet!" answered Kelvin. "Now that I have kept the
secret so long, it shall not be told till the eve of her marriage with
this man. I leave it for you to let me know when the proper time has
come. Let her suffer--as she has made me suffer."

With that he left the room. Nor, during Olive's visit, was the subject
again alluded to between them.

All too soon, to Olive's thinking, did her visit come to an end.

"You must steal another holiday before long," said her aunt to her as
she was putting on her bonnet on the morning of her return to
Stammars. "Matthew has brightened up wonderfully while you have been
here, and I can't tell you how thankful I am for it." Matthew himself
kissed her as he handed her into the fly that was to take her back. He
had not kissed her since that never-to-be-forgotten day at Redcar, now
long years ago. How strangely her heart thrilled to the touch of his
lips! "Oh! that I could be with him altogether, never to leave him
more!" she murmured. She lay back in the fly and cried all the way to
Stammars; but already in that crooked brain of hers the embryo of a
strange, dark scheme was beginning to take shape and consistency,
although as yet she herself was hardly aware of its existence.

Gerald, too, had his holiday at Easter. Not that he wanted it, or even
asked for it. To know that he was under the same roof with Eleanor,
even though his chances of seeing her might have been few and far
between, would have been holiday enough for him. But Sir Thomas's
offer was made in such a way that he could not refuse to accept it. He
had no suspicion that the prime mover in the affair was Lady Dudgeon,
who thought that, by isolating Eleanor as much as possible, she was
materially increasing Captain Dayrell's chances of success.

The demon of Jealousy was tugging at Gerald's heart-strings as he left
Stammars for London, and all by reason of this same Captain Dayrell.
He knew perfectly well that that gentleman, and he alone, had been
specially invited to Stammars. He had met the captain once or twice at
luncheon, and had seen enough of him to know that he might prove a
most formidable rival. Before leaving Stammars he would fain have seen
Eleanor, would fain have given her some hint more pointed than any he
had yet given as to the state of his feelings, and have tried to win
from her some sort of promise in return. But, either through accident
or design, he found himself unable to see her even for five minutes;
and he was compelled to go away without one word of farewell, but with
the bitter knowledge--and bitter indeed it was to him--that his rival
was expected to reach Stammars that very day in time for dinner.

"What may not such a man accomplish in ten days!" muttered poor Gerald
to himself, as he was being borne Londonwards in the train. "On the
one hand, a good-looking, polished man of the world--a roué,
doubtless, but how is Eleanor to know that?--full of bright talk and
ready wit, and with an adaptability about him that makes him seem at
home anywhere; on the other hand, an ardent, impressionable girl, bred
in the country, lacking in knowledge of the world and its ways, with a
sort of high-flown sentiment about her which Dayrell would know at
once how to twist to his own advantage. In an encounter such as this,
which of the two is likely to come off victor?"

Of a truth, poor Gerald was very miserable. He did not know, as we
know, that he had himself supplied Eleanor with a suit of invisible
armour, welded by Love's deft fingers, which would have rendered her
proof against the assaults of a hundred Captain Dayrells. He blamed
himself in that he had not yet told her of his love--told her by word
of mouth--not dreaming that he had already told it in divers other
ways, with a silent eloquence which is often more persuasive and
powerful than any words.

Gerald spent three days in London with Miss Bellamy and Ambrose
Murray. Then he ran over to Paris with a view of seeking a little
distraction among his old acquaintances in that gay city. But nothing
could distract him for long at a time from his own jaundiced thoughts.
The image of Captain Dayrell was a nightmare to him during the hours
of darkness, and as a black shadow that never ceased to haunt his
footsteps by day. His light-hearted Parisian friends told him that he
was one of them no longer, that English fog had so permeated his
system, that there was no longer any esprit left in him: he was triste
and distrait; and, in a much shorter time than he had intended, he
returned to England.

Gerald's first question to the servant who opened the door to
him was--

"Is Captain Dayrell still here?"

"No, sir, he went back to town two days ago: and master and missis and
the young ladies are gone to a juvenile party, and won't be back till

"Miss Lloyd and Miss Deane, are they both at home?"

"Yes, sir. Miss Deane came back four days since. Miss Lloyd was to
have gone with her ladyship to the party, but had a headache."

After eating a little dinner hurriedly, Gerald went in search of
Eleanor. Unless her headache had compelled her to remain upstairs, he
thought that he should probably find her in the back drawing-room. And
there, in fact, he did find her. Her headache was better, and she had
been playing a capriccio by Schubert. When Gerald opened the door she
was still at the piano, sitting with downcast eyes and a finger
pressed to her lips--thinking. The noise of the opening door broke her
reverie. There was a start of surprise and a sudden blush when she saw
who it was that came into the room. She rose from her chair, advanced
a step or two, held out both her hands, and said--

"I am so glad you are come back again!"

As Gerald took her hands for a moment in his, he saw that there was a
tear trembling in each corner of her eyes, blue as the skies on an
April morn. He saw, too, or thought he saw, behind those tears, Love,
that, suddenly surprised, had not had time to hide himself. All her
being seemed suffused with an indescribable tenderness. The black
thoughts that had coiled themselves round Gerald's heart from the hour
of his leaving Stammars till the time of his return, his jealousy of
Dayrell, his doubts as to whether Eleanor really cared for him--all
vanished in this moment of supreme joy, like mists before the rising
sun. It was impossible that he should doubt any longer. An impulse
that was uncontrollable, that swept away the floodgates of thought and
reason, came over him. He was still holding her hands and gazing into
her eyes. He drew her to him--close to him. He wrapped his arms round
her, and pressed her to his bosom, her face upturned to his. He bent
his head, and touched with his lips the blossom of hers.

"Oh, my darling! if I could but tell you how much I love you!" he
murmured in her ear. "If I could but tell you how happy it makes me to
see you again!"

Her face was rosy red, but the moment he had kissed her, the violet of
her eyes seemed to darken, and a strange, fathomless look came into
them, such as he had never seen before. Then the tears fell, and for
one brief, happy moment--while the secondhand of a clock might have
marked six--she let her head rest where he had put it. Suddenly the
great hall bell clanged loudly. The family had come back. Eleanor
started, as the fawn starts from the covert when it hears the hunter's
horn. For a single instant her eyes met Gerald's. An instant later he
was in the room alone.

He stood for a little while like a man suddenly roused from sleep, who
hardly knows where he is, or what has befallen him. "Was it my darling
herself that rested in my arms, and whose lips I kissed just now?" he
said. "Or have I suddenly lost my wits and only imagined it all? No!
It must be true--it shall be true At last she is mine--mine for ever!"
Then, like one who feels himself to be still half asleep, he walked
out of the room and shut the door behind him.

Hardly had the door closed, when Olive Deane stepped from her
hiding-place behind the curtains of one of the windows, from which
spot she had been an unseen witness of the foregoing scene. Her pupils
were away, and she had nothing to do. She had gone into the back
drawing-room at dusk, before the lamps were lighted, and had sat
down on the cushioned seat, that ran round the inner side of the large
bow window. Presently a servant came in to light the lamps, but went
away again without perceiving Olive. Sitting there, behind the
partially-drawn curtains, she was, as it were, in a tiny room of her
own; and there she might probably have remained the whole evening
without being discovered, had she chosen to do so. In fact, when
Eleanor came in a little later, and sat down at the piano and began to
play, Olive neither spoke nor stirred, but sat watching her rival with
jealous, hungry eyes, and made no sign. Thus it fell out that she
became an uninvited witness of the scene between Eleanor and Gerald.

There was a look of triumph on Olive's pale face as she stepped out of
her hiding-place. In her black eyes there was an unwonted sparkle.
"Checkmate at last!" she said. "Before long, I shall be able to tell
Matthew that the hour of his vengeance has come. What will he say when
he knows that the accepted lover of dainty Miss Lloyd is no gentleman,
such as Captain Dayrell, but a beggarly adventurer, without money
enough to pay for the clothes he wears? Surely his revenge will be
twice as sweet as it would otherwise have been. As for her--one short
hour will strip her of name, wealth, position, and of the man to whom
she has given her hand--for Pomeroy is not the man I take him to be if
he does not cast her off the moment her real story is told him. Fine
feathers make fine birds, Miss Eleanor Lloyd. We shall see how you
will look when you are stripped of yours. Before three months are
over, you will be grateful to anyone who will obtain for you a
situation at forty pounds a year."


Mr. Byrne had been in the habit of writing a line to Ambrose Murray
every few days, in order to satisfy the latter as to how matters were
progressing at the house in Spur Alley. In one of his brief notes he
mentioned that Van Duren had left home on business for a couple of
days. Gerald Warburton happened to be at Miss Bellamy's when this note
came to hand, and Murray at once proposed that he and Gerald should
visit Byrne and his daughter in Spur Alley, while Van Duren was out of
town. Gerald assented, and at six o'clock that evening they found
themselves at Van Duren's door. Mrs. Bakewell, as she ushered them
upstairs, informed them that Miss Byrne had gone out about an hour
previously, but that the old gentleman would no doubt be very glad to
see them.

There was no answer to the woman's knock at Mr. Byrne's door. "Poor
old gentleman, he gets weaker and deafer every day," she said. "He's
not long for this world, I'm afraid." Then she opened the door, and
went into the room. Mr. Byrne was sitting, as he seemed ever to sit,
in his great easy-chair in front of the fire. Mrs. Bakewell touched
him on the shoulder, and shouted in his ear: "Two gentlemen to see
you, sir."

"Ech, ech! two gentlemen to see me? Tell 'em to come in: tell 'em to
come in. And shut that door as soon as you can. That draught's enough
to cut one in two." And with that he turned feebly round and
confronted his visitors. And then his cough began to trouble him, and
he could not find a word to say till Mrs. Bakewell had gone out and
shut the door behind her.

A moment later he was on his feet and grasping his visitors warmly by
the hand. "Welcome to Spur Alley, gentlemen!" he said. "You could not
have come at a more opportune time, except in one respect--that my
daughter is not here to receive you as well as I. But the kettle is on
the hob, and I've a bottle of prime Kinahan in the cupboard, together
with a few choice Henry Clays, that were sent me by a friend the other
day. An it please you, we will make ourselves as comfortable as
present circumstances will admit of."

After a little conversation of no particular moment, said Byrne: "I am
glad that you have come to see me, Mr. Murray. Had you not come here,
I should have made a point of calling upon you in the course of a few

"Have you anything of importance to communicate?"

"No, it is not exactly that; but I think the time has come for me to
tell you what I have done already, and what I hope to accomplish
before I am many days older; together with my reasons for going about
this matter in the way I have gone about it."

"I shall be very glad to hear anything you may have to say, Mr. Byrne;
but if you would rather defer your revelation for a little while
longer, pray do so. As I have told you already, I have every
confidence in your management of the affair, and shall continue to
have, whether you choose to-day to tell me anything or nothing."

"You are very kind, Mr. Murray, but I think that I shall feel more
comfortable if I tell you everything. I want either your approval or
your disapproval of what I am doing: I want to feel the ground firm
under my feet."

"In that case I have nothing more to say. You know what an intense
interest this matter has for me in all its bearings, great or small."

"Before beginning what I have to tell you," said Byrne, "it may be
just as well to lock the door. It was only the other day that Pringle,
Van Duren's clerk, opened the door suddenly and put his head into the
room. I felt sure at the time that he had either seen or suspected
something, and would tell his master. I suppose I was mistaken, but
for all that I don't care to run the same risk again."

Having locked the door, Mr. Byrne proceeded to light a cigar, and then
to brew himself a tumbler of grog with all the care and deliberation
to which so important a proceeding was entitled at his hands. Gerald
joined him over a cigar. Murray never smoked.

"When you first came to me, Mr. Warburton, and spoke to me about this
business," began Byrne after a few preliminary puffs, "I was more
surprised than I cared to let you see. And when you told me what it
was that you wanted me to do, I was still more surprised. And well I
might be, as you will hear presently. You came to me, Mr. Warburton,
in the first place, because you thought that there might be a faint
possibility of my being able to assist you to discover the whereabouts
of Max Jacoby. I was able to assist you in a way that you little
dreamt of. My brother, who is two years older than I am, was
originally a sergeant in the detective police. He retired some years
ago, and he now keeps a little country tavern in the neighbourhood of
Dorking. I told my brother what I wanted; he gave me a note to a
particular friend of his who is still in the force, and it was through
the kindness of this latter gentleman that I was enabled to inform you
that our friend Mr. Max lived here, under this very roof, in Spur
Alley. Having obtained that information for you, I naturally concluded
that my task was at an end; but when you told me what further you
wanted from me, that opened up an entirely fresh phase of the

Here Mr. Byrne paused to stir his grog and refresh himself with a
hearty drink.

"The point urged by both of you," resumed Byrne, "was your belief that
Max Jacoby was the murderer of Paul Stilling; and the question you put
before me was: By what means is it possible to bring his guilt home to
him? Gentlemen, what method of procedure I might have adopted under
different circumstances in order to find an answer to your question I
cannot, of course, say, but the one which I did adopt had its origin
in a very peculiar occurrence, which I will presently explain to you.
My plan was this: to take lodgings in this house--my daughter and I.
To make the acquaintance of Van Duren. To invite him to tea or supper,
in order that he might have an opportunity of associating with Miriam,
who, on her part, was to do her best to fascinate him--to make him
fall in love with her, and, if possible, to propose to her. Of this
scheme Miriam was the hinge. Everything depended upon her--upon her
good looks and powers of fascination. But knowing the sort of man I
had to deal with, I determined to smooth for him still further the
road I wanted him to travel. With this end in view, I led Van Duren on
to believe that I was rich, and I caused to be drawn up in due form a
fictitious will, in which I bequeathed fifteen thousand pounds to my
daughter, and of which I made Van Duren himself one of the executors.
The bait took, as I expected it would take. Van Duren, smitten already
by my daughter's good looks, was conquered entirely when he found that
she was also an heiress. A few evenings ago he fell on his knees
before her and implored her to marry him. Miriam, by my instructions,
accepted him conditionally: he is to be a month on probation, and if
at the end of that time she finds that she can like him sufficiently
well, she is to accept him as her future husband. But before the month
of probation shall have come to an end, the particular object which
has necessitated all this scheming and preparation will, I trust, have
been fully accomplished."

Mr. Byrne had allowed his cigar to go out while talking. He now
proceeded to relight it. This done, he again paid his respects to the

Both Ambrose Murray and Gerald were utterly puzzled. That Byrne should
have allowed, and, by his own confession, encouraged, Van Duren to
make love and propose to his daughter, was to them an altogether
incomprehensible proceeding. They awaited his further revelations with

"You have certainly succeeded in exciting our curiosity, Mr. Byrne,"
said Gerald, "and I hope you won't send us away till you have
thoroughly satisfied it."

"Never fear, sir. You shall have the whole history before you leave
the room. With your permission, we will retrace our steps a little. I
have already told you that I have a brother who was formerly a
sergeant in the detective force. He held this position at the same
time that I was confidential clerk to Mr. Frodsham. As both of you are
aware, I happened to be in court on the very day that you, Mr. Murray,
were tried for the murder of Paul Stilling. One of the chief witnesses
at the trial was our friend, Mr. Max Jacoby. After my return to
London, I called one evening to smoke a pipe with my brother, and in
the course of conversation the Tewkesbury murder case cropped up. I
told Dick, who likes to hear of such matters, all about the trial.
Jacoby's name was mentioned, and I remember remarking to my brother
that he had far more the look of a murderer than the man in the
dock--meaning you, sir. Well, gentlemen, some three or four months,
passed away, when, one day, I met my brother casually in the street.
Says he to me, 'Peter, when next you come up to my crib, I can show
you a bit of paper that may perhaps interest you a little--a bit of
paper with some writing on it, I mean.'--'Is the writing by anybody
that I know?' said I. 'It's a letter,' said he, 'and the signature to
it is "Max Jacoby"--the name of the fellow, isn't it, who was a
witness in the Tewkesbury murder case?' 'That's the name, sure
enough,' replied I. 'But how did a letter signed by him come into your
possession?' 'Oh, the fellow to whom it was addressed got into a
little difficulty. I had to search his rooms, and I found this letter
among a lot of other papers. I took a copy of it before handing over
the original, as I thought it might interest you.' Well, gentlemen, I
thought very little more of the matter, as, indeed, why should I?
Dick, however, did not forget, and the next time I called on him he
produced the letter. I read the letter, and looked upon the affair as
one of those curious coincidences which so frequently happen in real
life; but I speedily forgot all about it, and the chances are that I
should never have thought about it again had not your visit to me
brought all the old circumstances back to my mind. After that visit I
made it my first business to go down to Dorking and see my brother.
The question was, had he, after all these years, got the copy of Max
Jacoby's letter still by him? Fortunately for us, Dick is one of those
cautious souls who hardly ever destroy anything, and who have an
almost superstitious reverence for any scrap of paper with writing on
it. In short, gentlemen, the letter was still in existence. Dick gave
it up to me without difficulty, and it is in my writing-desk at the
present moment. Before reading the letter to you, I may just add that,
having regard to my brother's great experience, I have taken the
liberty of consulting him at each step of this affair. It is some
pleasure to me to be able to say that he takes the same view of the
contents of the letter that I take, and that he agrees with all that I
have done up to the present time."

"You were quite right in consulting your brother, Mr. Byrne," said
Murray. "It only proves still more clearly how thoroughly you have
identified yourself with the case."

Byrne crossed the room, unlocked his writing-desk, and came back with
the letter in his hand.

"The letter bears no date," said he, "but as it was found by my
brother in the lodgings of the man to whom it was addressed only some
three or four months after the murder--subsequent to which occurrence
it was, in my opinion, written--the exact date is a matter of very
minor consequence. The address given is simply, 'My old lodgings,'
and as it was found without an envelope, there is no clue to the
post-mark. But that, too, is a matter of little consequence. And now
you shall hear what the letter says."

Mr. Byrne threw the end of his cigar into the fire, cleared his
throat, and opening the yellow, time-worn paper, read as under:--

"My dear Legros,

"You will be surprised to hear from me so quickly after our last
farewell, and to see the place from which this letter is written. Yes,
I am back once more in the old spot--penniless--a beggar! I have met
with a most terrible misfortune. I have been shipwrecked, and
everything I had in the world has gone to the bottom. When I say
_everything_, you know what I mean. I mean that which cost me so
dear--that which I ran so terrible a risk for--that for which one
man's life, and another man's happiness, were sacrificed. But the
curse of blood rested on it, and it has gone. You remember that when
you parted from me on board ship, I had every prospect of a fair
voyage, but during the night the wind began to rise, and by daylight
next morning a terrific gale was blowing. We were still in sight of
land, and having sprung a leak, we put back towards a little harbour
with which our captain was acquainted. But before we could reach it,
the ship began to founder, and then it was every man for himself. We
saved our bare lives, and that was all. I tried all I could to bribe
the men to take my box with them in the boat, but it was of no avail.
'Life's sweeter than all the gold in the world,' they said. 'Your box
may go to the devil, and we'll send you after it if we have any of
your nonsense.' There was no use in my going abroad when I had lost
the only inducement which would have taken me there. So here I am once
more, the world all before me. I have just enough money left to buy me
to-morrow's dinner. After that----? But I need not say more. I trust
to you, my dear Legros, to send me a five-pound note by return. In
fact, I must have it. I know too much of you, and you know too much of
me, for either of us to decline these sweet little offices of
friendship for the other.


       "Max Jacoby."

The three men looked at each other in silence as Byrne slowly refolded
the letter.

"Your familiarity with the contents of this letter," said Gerald at
last, "has enabled you to arrive at certain conclusions in your own
mind such as we, to whom the letter comes as an utter surprise, can no
more than barely guess at. Do you mind telling us what those
conclusions are?"

"The conclusions I have come to are very few and very simple," said
Byrne; "simple, inasmuch as, to my mind, knowing what I know, they are
plainly discoverable through the thin veil of obscurity in which the
contents of the letter are purposely involved. My conclusions are
these: That this letter was written within a very short time after the
murder and subsequent trial. That the property whose loss Jacoby
bewails in such bitter terms was neither more nor less than the
proceeds of the murder, with which he was going abroad. That when the
ship went to the bottom, Jacoby's ill-gotten gains went with her, and
that Jacoby himself, having no longer the means of going abroad, came
back to London in a state of utter destitution, as is evidenced by his
begging the loan of a five-pound note from his quondam friend."

"Yes," said Gerald, after a few minutes of silent thought, "I quite
agree with you that the construction which you have put upon the
contents of this letter is a most feasible one, and I am inclined to
think that it is also the true one. But even granting that such be the
case, I confess I am still at a loss to understand in what way a
proposal of marriage from Jacoby to your daughter can forward by one
single step the special end we have in view--to bring home the crime
to the real murderer."

"That, too, is where I am puzzled," said Murray; "for, singular as
this letter is, and confirmatory as it is of the belief I have all
along maintained, that Jacoby is the guilty man, I altogether fail to
see in what way Mr. Byrne's late proceedings tend to fix the guilt
upon him."

Byrne, looking from one to the other, rubbed his hands and chuckled.
"I thought that part of the business would prove a stumbling-block,"
he said. "But if you will allow me, I can lift you over it very
easily. You will have observed that Jacoby's letter enters into no
particulars. It gives neither the name of the ship, the date of
sailing, nor the port he sailed from. We cannot advance a step beyond
the letter till we make ourselves masters of that information. It is
quite evident that there is only one source from which we can obtain
it, and that is from Jacoby himself. How are we to get out of him any
information respecting this, the great secret of his life? Were you or
I to question him, we should merely arouse his suspicions and shut his
lips for ever. Gentlemen, no one can worm the secret out of this man
but a woman--and only a woman that he loves. Gentlemen, Max Jacoby
loves my daughter, and has asked her to become his wife. On my
daughter, therefore, devolves the duty of making this man reveal what
he has probably never told yet to any living soul. And now you
understand the point at which we have arrived."

"Clearly," said Gerald; "and upon my word, I am doubtful whether the
same result could have been arrived at by means other than those which
you have seen fit to make use of."

Ambrose Murray did not speak, but he put out his arm, and grasped
Byrne by the hand in a fashion far more eloquent than words.

"If Mr. Byrne will allow me, I will proceed just one step further in
the matter," said Gerald. "Assuming for a moment that we have
succeeded in getting out of Jacoby all the information we want from
him; that we know when and from where he sailed, and the name of the
ship--what then? The only evidence on which it would be possible to
convict him will still be at the bottom of the sea."

Before Byrne could say a word in reply, there came a sudden knocking
at the door, and the voice of Bakewell was heard outside: "A letter
for Mr. Byrne."

Murray, his mind impressed with what had gone before, said solemnly:
"Yes, it will still be, what it must remain for ever--a Secret of the

Byrne held up a warning finger. In one minute he seemed to become
twenty years older. He hobbled feebly towards the door, coughing
meanwhile in a way that was pitiful to hear. "All right, Bakewell, I'm
coming--I'm coming," he cried, querulously. Then, as he opened the
door, Miriam's voice was heard carolling gaily as she ran quickly


Miss Lloyd pleaded a violent headache as an excuse for her
non-attendance at the breakfast-table the morning after the scene
between herself and Gerald in the back drawing-room. She felt as if
she could not face any one for a little while; but, more than all, the
possibility of meeting Gerald frightened her. To have gone in to
breakfast, and have found him there, would have set her heart
fluttering and have brought the tell-tale colour to her cheeks, and
would almost infallibly have betrayed her secret to every one. No; she
felt as if she could not meet any one just yet--that she did not want
to meet anyone. She asked for no greater happiness at present than to
sit alone by her dressing-room fire, and live over again in memory
last night's wondrous scene. She had only to shut her eyes, and every
word, and look, and tone, came back to her with the most realistic
force. What a change three short minutes had wrought in her life! She
seemed to have lived a hundred years since yesterday morning; or,
rather, the Eleanor Lloyd of yesterday was dead and buried--dead and
buried because the poor creature had not known what it was to love!

It was, indeed, like the beginning of a new life to her. "To think
that I have been loving him all along, and did not know it!" she said
to herself, with a little laugh. "I wonder how long it is since he
first found out that he loved me. I will make him tell me all about it
after awhile."

Then her cheeks flushed, and her heart beat faster at the thought of
all that such a sweet possibility implied.

"How glad I am that he is poor and I am rich," she said. "All that I
have shall be his. My money will lend wings to his ambition." Then
came the thought, "When shall I see him again, and what will he say
when I do see him?"

She felt that she dreaded and yet longed for the time to come when
they should meet again. It would be trying enough to have to meet him
in the company of others, but the thought of encountering him alone,
while sending a delicious thrill through her, made her quake with

On one point she was quite determined--she would shun a private
interview with him as long as possible. She was quite aware that such
an interview must take place sooner or later, but it should be
altogether of his seeking, not of hers. She knew her own weakness. She
knew that whenever Mr. Pomeroy should say to her, "Eleanor, I love
you, and I want you to become my wife," all power of resistance would
be taken from her, and that she should have no alternative but to
yield. At present she had not yielded, and she would try to keep out
of his way for a little while longer. When next he should encounter
her, the spear of his love would smite her, and she must needs become
his bondswoman for ever.

Lady Dudgeon sent some breakfast upstairs, and, by-and-by, she made
her appearance in person. She wanted to satisfy herself that there was
nothing seriously the matter with Miss Lloyd. It was but a simple
headache, Eleanor informed her.

"But you are slightly feverish, child," persisted her ladyship; "and
you look as if you had not had enough sleep."

Which statement was true enough. Some sensible young ladies there are
whose healthy slumbers not even the imprint of Love's first kiss upon
their lips has the slightest power to disturb; but not one of such
strong-minded maidens was our foolish Eleanor.

"I will look up again about eleven," said her ladyship, "and if you
are not better by that time I shall make you up a little mixture of my

Eleanor promised herself that she would be better by that time, as her
ladyship's mixtures--she prided herself on being able to physic all
her household without calling in the doctor--had the invariable
property of being excessively nauseous.

She hugged herself with a little shiver of delight when she was left
alone again to think her own thoughts. What a surprise it would be to
Lady Dudgeon--and, indeed, to everybody! Of course, she would be told
that Mr. Pomeroy had only made love to her because she was rich; but
in her own heart she knew so much better than that!

All at once it struck her that there were one or two notes she ought
to write this morning; so she went to her davenport, and took pen and
paper. But, somehow, her thoughts would go wool-gathering, and the
notes refused to get themselves written. Then she began to scribble on
the sheet before her. She wrote her own name several times over, and
then, without knowing it, she found that she had written "John
Pomeroy." Really, it looked very nice. Then the question put itself to
her--"How should I have to address him in case he were to ask me to
write to him?" Then she wrote, "Dear Mr. Pomeroy;" but that would be
too formal as between engaged people. Then she tried, "My dear John,"
and "My darling John"--decided improvements both. Then, with the tip
of the pen between her lips, and her head a little on one side, she
studied the general effect of what she had written. Not satisfied with
that, and being quite sure that she was all alone, she tried the
effect of speaking the magic words aloud--though, indeed, it was
little more than a timid whisper. Every syllable spoken thus was full
of hidden music. Then she took up the pen again, and, hardly conscious
of what she was doing, she wrote, "My own dear husband." But this was
too much. With a little cry, and a sudden blush, she crumpled up the
paper, ran across the room, and dropped it into the fire. Next moment
she thought she heard the sound of voices. She went to the door,
opened it softly, and listened.

It was as she had thought, Sir Thomas and Mr. Pomeroy were talking
together on the floor below. She could not make out what they were
talking about--she did not want to do that--all that she wanted was
just to hear the sound of Pomeroy's voice. How strangely it thrilled
her this morning to hear that voice again, which she could already
have singled out from ten thousand others, and to hear which was, for
her, to hear a sweeter music than could have been distilled from all
the other sounds in the universe!

The last time she had heard that voice was when it spoke to her. What
were the words? "If I could only tell you how much I love you!" It was
to her those words were spoken--to her, Eleanor Lloyd! But surely it
was not yesterday, but long, long years ago that she had heard them!
She felt already as if she had loved him all her life.

And then his lips had pressed hers, once--twice--thrice! That, indeed,
was something fresh--the revelation of a new life! And then his arms
had twined round her--strong, comforting--and had pressed her to his
bosom as if she were a little child. And in that one timid glance
which she had shot up into his eyes, had she not seen there depths of
tenderness and devotion that were to be hers--hers alone--through all
the days of her life yet to come? What a happy, happy girl she was
this morning!

She was quite startled to hear the clock strike eleven. How quickly
the morning had flown! Lady Dudgeon came up to see how she was, but
with her came Eleanor's particular friend, Miss Lorrimore, who
announced, in the impetuous way usual with her, that she had come to
fetch Eleanor away for a couple of days. Eleanor was by no means loth
to go. It was as if a door of escape had suddenly opened for her. In
half an hour she was ready, Lady Dudgeon's mild opposition being
overruled by the two girls without compunction.

Miss Lorrimore's ponies had been waiting all this time. As Eleanor was
being driven through the avenue, her quick eyes saw Sir Thomas and Mr.
Pomeroy walking together in one of the side paths a little distance

"I should like to stop and speak to Sir Thomas," said Miss Lorrimore.

"No, no; don't stop!" said Eleanor; "but drive on faster, if you love

The gentlemen raised their hats, Eleanor fluttered her handkerchief
for a moment, and that was the last that she and Gerald saw of each
other for some time to come.

In the first place, Eleanor's visit to Miss Lorrimore, instead of
being for two days only, extended over five. In the second place, when
she did get back to Stammars, she found that Gerald was away in London
on business for Sir Thomas. This was a little disappointment to her,
for by this time she was growing impatient to see him again. She did
not like to ask how soon he was expected back, and no one volunteered
to tell her.

How bitterly she blamed herself now for running away from him! What a
strange, flighty girl he must take her to be! Perhaps, as she had so
deliberately run away from him, he would not think her worthy of
further notice, and would regard all that had happened between them as
nothing more than a foolish dream. This thought was almost unbearable,
and now was Eleanor as wretched as she had been happy before. But to
be frequently wretched and miserable is part of the penalty incurred
by all who are so weak-minded as to fall in love. Such people are not
to be pitied.

Gerald, on his side, being smitten with the same disorder, was subject
to the same exaltations and depressions, had his hours of fever and
his hours of chill. At one time he felt sure that Eleanor loved him a
little in return. Had he not seen, or fancied that he saw, a world of
love and trust in her eyes during those few brief seconds when she had
let him press her to his heart? At another time he felt sure that his
roughness and impetuosity had frightened her: that she was staying
away from Stammars on purpose to avoid him; that he had offended her
past recovery. It was almost a relief to be sent up to London on
business by Sir Thomas, who, being about this time confined to his
room with a severe cold, was obliged to make use of Gerald in various
ways. Gerald hoped that by the time he got back from town Eleanor
would have returned to Stammars, in which case he had quite made up
his mind that he would lose no time in deciding his fate once for all.

In his more hopeful moments, it was very pleasant to him to think that
Eleanor had learned, or was learning, to love him for himself alone.
As a poor man he had wooed her, and as a poor man he should win her.
He often speculated as to what would be the effect upon her of the
news which he must of necessity tell her before he could make her his
wife. In the first place, he could not marry her under a false name.
He must necessarily tell her that her name was not Eleanor Lloyd, but
Eleanor Murray. Then would follow, as a matter of course, her father's
story, which would, in its turn, elicit the fact that, as Jacob Lloyd
had died without a will, Eleanor had no right to a single sixpence of
the property he had left behind him. Next would have to come the
telling of everything to Ambrose Murray. Last but not least, would
come the revelation to Eleanor that the man she was going to marry was
not John Pomeroy, but Gerald Warburton. One fact he would, if it were
possible to do so, keep from her till after their marriage--he would
not let her know that he was the heir to Jacob Lloyd's property--to
the wealth which she had all along believed to be hers. It was his
fancy that she should marry him in the belief that he was a poor man.
All the greater would be her after-surprise.

It so fell out that a couple of days after Eleanor's return from her
visit to Miss Lorrimore, and while Gerald was still absent from
Stammars, Mr. Pod Piper, whom it is hoped the reader has not quite
forgotten, was sent there with certain papers that required Sir
Thomas's signature. Having taken the papers into the library, Pod was
told to go and amuse himself for half an hour, by which time the
documents would be ready for him to take back to Mr. Kelvin.

Pod was one of those people who never find much difficulty in amusing
themselves. His first proceeding was to make his way to the kitchen
and ask whether they had got any cold sirloin and strong ale with
which to refresh a weary wayfarer. Pod was not unknown at Stammars,
and his needs were duly attended to. After that he strolled into the
garden, and ensconcing himself behind a large laurel, where he could
not be seen from any of the windows, he proceeded to light and smoke
the remaining half of a cigar which he happened to have by him. Cigars
being a luxury that he could not often indulge in, Pod generally
contrived to make one last him for two occasions.

When the cigar was smoked down to the last half-inch, Pod thought that
he would take a turn round the conservatory, and as he felt sure that
the crusty-looking old gardener had never seen him before, it struck
him that there would be no harm in trying to impress the old fellow
with the belief that he was being honoured by the presence of some
guest of distinction--"some young swell of the upper ten," as Pod put
it to himself. Accordingly, before opening the glass door of the
conservatory, Mr. Piper produced from his pocket a pair of rather
dingy lavender kid gloves, one of which he put on, leaving the other
to be carried in an easy, dégagé style, such as would seem natural to
a young fellow whose uncle was a marquis at the very least. The fact,
however, was, that the gloves were odd ones, and as they were both
intended for the right hand, Pod could not conveniently wear more than
one of them at a time.

Pod's next proceeding was to give his hat a careful polish with the
sleeve of his coat, and then to cock it a little more on one side of
his head than he usually wore it. Then one end of his white
handkerchief was allowed to hang negligently out of his pocket. Then,
from some mysterious receptacle Pod produced an eye-glass. Many weary
hours had he spent in his attempts to master the nice art of wearing
an eye-glass easily and without conscious effort. But as yet his
labours could hardly be said to be crowned with success, seeing that
the glass would persist in dropping from his eye at awkward moments,
when, by all the laws that regulate such matters, it ought to have
been most firmly fixed in its orbit.

As soon as Pod's little arrangements were completed, he opened the
door, and marched boldly into the conservatory. The old gardener
glared sulkily at him, as gardeners have a habit of doing when any one
invades what they look upon as their private domains. But Pod, caring
nothing for sulky looks, swaggered up and down the flowery aisles,
making believe, glass in eye, to read the different Latin labels, as
though he thoroughly understood them. Presently, he caught sight of a
little group of people crossing one of the garden-paths outside.
Looking more closely, he saw that one of them was Olive Deane; the
others, judging from their appearance, were her two pupils and some
friends of theirs.

The sight of Miss Deane seemed to surprise Mr. Piper into temporary
forgetfulness both of his eye-glass and the Latin labels. He sat down
in a brown study, and was still sitting, deep in thought, when,
hearing one of the doors clash, he looked up and saw Miss Lloyd coming
slowly towards him. "Why, here she is--her very self! And isn't she a
beauty!" he muttered. "No time like the present. I'll tell her now."
And with that his eye-glass and his lavender gloves were next moment
smuggled safely out of sight.

Although Pod had at once recognized Eleanor, it is doubtful whether
she would have recollected him had he not spoken to her.

"Beg pardon, but are you not Miss Lloyd?" he said, as she reached the
spot where he was standing.

"Yes, I am Miss Lloyd," she said, with a smile, for Pod, much to his
own shame and disgust, was blushing violently. "Have you anything to
say to me?"

"Yes, miss, something that I should have told you long ago if you had
not been away in London. You don't recollect me, but I shall never
forget you. My name is Podley Piper, and I'm in Mr. Kelvin's office at

Had Pod been an articled clerk, instead of being the office youth he
was, he could not have mentioned this fact with an air of greater

"It was you, miss, who were so kind to my mother last spring, when she
was ill. You sent her wine, and jelly, and coals, and you weren't
above going and seeing her yourself. She would never have come round
as soon as she did if it had not been for your kindness--and I thank
you for it with all my heart!"

"It is very little that you have to thank me for," replied Eleanor. "I
hope your mother has had no return of her old complaint?"

"She is well and hearty, thank you, miss, and she often says that if
all rich people were like you, the world would be a pleasanter place
to live in than it is."

"I am glad to have seen you, and to have news of your mother," said
Eleanor. "But I think you said you had something to tell me."

"Yes, miss, I have. Do you know my governor, Mr. Kelvin?"

"I have known Mr. Kelvin for several years. But why do you ask?"

"Then perhaps you know a friend of Mr. Kelvin--Mr. Pomeroy?"

"I certainly am acquainted with a gentleman of that name. But I did
not know that Mr. Pomeroy was a friend of Mr. Kelvin."

"Oh, yes, but he is. It was through Mr. Kelvin that he was made
secretary to Sir Thomas."

"Indeed!" said Eleanor, coldly. "But that is hardly the news you have
to tell me?" Despite herself, she began to tremble a little. What was
this strange-looking boy about to tell her?

"I'm coming to the news presently," said Pod. "May I ask whether Miss
Olive Deane is still at Stammars?"

"Miss Deane is still here."

"Of course you know that she is Mr. Kelvin's cousin?"

"I believe I have been told so."

"Well, Miss Lloyd, one day I happened to overhear a conversation in
Mr. Kelvin's office between Miss Deane and Mr. Pomeroy, in which your
name was rather frequently mentioned."

"My name mentioned in a conversation between Miss Deane and Mr.
Pomeroy! What could they have to say about me?"

She was trembling more than ever now, and to hide it was obliged to
sit down on the chair recently vacated by Pod.

"You know, miss," said Pod, with an air of self-justification, "I am
not in the habit of listening to conversations that it is not intended
I should hear, and it was only the mention of your name, and a certain
remark that was made about you, that made me do so in this case."

"But they could have nothing to say about me--nothing, that is, of any
consequence either to you or me."

"Well, I can only say this, that neither Miss Deane nor Mr. Pomeroy
mean any good to you, and I want to put you on your guard against

Eleanor could not speak for a moment or two. What terrible abyss was
this which seemed opening at her feet?

"But what do you mean by putting me on my guard against Miss Deane and
Mr. Pomeroy?"

"What I say is this: beware of both of them. Both of them are snakes
in the grass."

"You are a very strange young man, and cannot surely know what you are
saying," urged poor Eleanor. "I am quite sure that there must be a
great mistake somewhere."

"No mistake whatever, miss. If I leave my situation to-morrow, I'll
tell you. Mr. Pomeroy had been away from England for some time, and
when he first came to my master, about four months ago, he hadn't a
penny in the world."

"Possibly not," said Eleanor, coldly. "But poverty is no disgrace."

"He came to Mr. Kelvin, who had known him years before, and Kelvin
lent him fifty pounds."

"Friends should always help each other. But how came you to know all

"Through the conversation that I overheard between Miss Deane and Mr.

"Really," said Eleanor, as she rose, "I fail to see in what way these
details concern me. I must wish you good morning, Mr. Piper, and----"

"One moment, if you please," said Pod, earnestly. "You don't know why
Mr. Pomeroy was male secretary to Sir Thomas, do you?"

"That is a point about which I have never troubled myself to think: it
does not concern me."

"He was sent to Stammars that he might have a chance of marrying an


"And that heiress was to be you, miss."

"Me!" Eleanor sank down in the chair again.

"Miss Deane said you were worth twenty thousand pounds, and as Mr.
Pomeroy was so poor, why shouldn't he pretend to fall in love with you
and marry you?"

There was a dead pause. The plashing of a tiny fountain hidden
somewhere among the foliage was the only sound that broke the silence:
it was a sound that will dwell in Eleanor's memory as long as she

"Are you quite sure that you did not dream all this?" she said,
speaking very faintly.

"Every word I tell you is as true as gospel. I took down the
conversation in shorthand, and I've got my notes at home now. The
grand point was this: Mr. Pomeroy was to have the place of secretary
to Sir Thomas, so that he might be near you and have an opportunity of
making love to you. You are not offended with me, miss?"

"Offended! oh, no; but I am sure you have made some dreadful mistake."

"I thought it only right to put you on your guard against those
two--Miss Deane and Mr. Pomeroy. And there's my governor, too, he's as
thick in the plot as the others. It was he who found the other one the
money to buy clothes with to come here, so that he might look like a
gentleman. It's your money, miss, that's the temptation," concluded
Pod, philosophically. "Rich people never know who are their real

Eleanor did not answer. She no longer seemed to see him, or even to be
aware of his presence. There was a dumb, despairing, far-away look on
her white face that filled him with awe. He felt that he dare
not say another word. Leaving her there, sitting on the chair, one
hand tightly interlocked in the other, staring into vacancy with
wide-open eyes that seemed to see nothing, he stole away on tip-toe,
and presently, with a great sense of relief, found himself in the
fresh air outside.


The cold caught by Sir Thomas Dudgeon a few days after the ball at
Stammars culminated in an attack of low fever, which confined him to
the house for some weeks, and delayed the return of the family to
Harley Street at the date first fixed upon.

While the baronet was thus shut up within doors, a certain estate was
advertised for sale, of which he thought he should like to become the
purchaser. Being unable to attend to the matter in person, he put it
into the hands of Mr. Kelvin, who, in the course of the business,
found himself, much against his will, under the necessity of going to
Stammars, from which place he had kept himself carefully aloof for
several months.

The day before going there, Kelvin mentioned his intended visit to his
mother, mentioned it casually in conversation, and as a matter of no
consequence, for the old lady knew of no disinclination on his part to
go to Stammars, and had not the remotest suspicion that he had ever
been in love with Miss Lloyd.

As soon as Matthew had left the room, Mrs. Kelvin sat down and penned
a short note to Miss Deane, informing her that her cousin would be at
Stammars on the morrow, and asking her to see him and write back her
opinion as to how he seemed in health, whether better or worse than
when Olive saw him at Easter.

The note reached Olive by the evening post while she was correcting
her pupils' exercises. She read it through once and then put it
quietly into her pocket: but she went up to her room earlier than
usual, and it was long past midnight before she went to bed. She put
out her candle--she always used to say that she could think better in
the dark--and drew up her blinds, and paced her room for hours in the
dim starlight. This visit of her cousin to Stammars might mean so much
to her!

The main reason which, in the first instance, had induced her to come
to Stammars no longer existed. Her scheme for bringing Pomeroy and
Miss Lloyd together, that they might have an opportunity of falling in
love with each other, had succeeded almost beyond her expectations.
She had partly seen, and partly overheard, what had passed between
them that evening in the back drawing-room. Her belief, as regarded
Pomeroy, was that he was merely playing a part in order to win an
heiress for his wife; but that Eleanor was really in love with
Pomeroy, she felt equally sure. So sure, indeed, was she on this
point, that all fear of Matthew Kelvin ever inducing Miss Lloyd to
change her mind and look upon him with kindly eyes had vanished from
Olive's mind for ever. Let her cousin marry whomsoever he might, there
was one person in the world who would never become his wife, and that
person was Eleanor Lloyd--on that point there could be no possible
mistake. So far, she had cut her way clearly and boldly towards the
end she had had in view from the first. But much remained for her
still to do. In the first place, she must satisfy her cousin that all
chance of his ever winning Miss Lloyd was utterly at an end. This
there would not be much difficulty in effecting; but something much
harder would remain to be achieved before she could hope to benefit in
the least by all that had gone before. There was no hope of her ever
being able to win her cousin's affections, no hope that he would ever
ask her to become his wife, unless the opportunity were given her of
seeing him and being with him daily--unless, in fact, he and she were
living under the same roof. But how was such an end to be
accomplished? True it was that she might, on some easily-invented
pretext, throw up her position at Stammars, and go and live with her
aunt for a week or two while looking out for another situation. But
that was not what she wanted. Her next situation might take her a
couple of hundred miles away, and so separate her from her cousin for
years--for ever. It were better to remain at Stammars than run such a
risk as that. True it was that she had lived under her cousin's roof
for several weeks before coming to Stammars, without, to all
appearance, advancing one single step towards the end she had in view.
But she flattered herself that her failure at that time was altogether
due to the fact that her cousin had not as yet, whatever he might say
to the contrary, given up all expectation of one day inducing Miss
Lloyd to change her mind in his favour. In any case, his recent
disappointment sat too freshly upon him: his hurt was not yet healed,
the image of Miss Lloyd was still too constantly in his mind's eye,
for any real hope to exist that he might have his eyes and his
thoughts diverted elsewhere. But that time was now gone by. Mr. Kelvin
was no love-sick schoolboy, to go whimpering through the world
because he could not have the particular toy on which he had set his
mind. When once the first sharp pang was over, when once he knew for a
fact that the heart he had one day hoped to call his was irrevocably
given to another, pride would come to the aid of his natural strength
of character, and he would school himself to forget, would school
himself to obliterate from his memory all traces of so painful an

Then, if ever, would come Olive's chance; then, if ever, would come
the opportunity so intensely longed for. But, in order to avail
herself of that opportunity, in order to put it to all the uses of
which it was capable, it was imperatively necessary that she should be
there--on the spot. Thus, to-night, the problem which Olive Deane had
set herself to solve--the problem which kept her out of bed half the
night and awake the remaining half, was, "How, and by what means, is
it possible for me to make myself an inmate of my cousin's house, so
that he may have an opportunity of learning to love me?"

Just as the first ghostly glimmer of daylight was beginning to creep
across the sky, she sat up in bed, moved by a thought against which
she had been fighting faintly all night long, but which had conquered
her at last. "If only he were ill!" was the thought that at last
clothed itself with definite words in her mind. "If only he were ill!"
she said aloud, staring out with blank, sleepless eyes at the dawn.
"Aye--if! Then I could claim to nurse him; then I could obtain a place
by his side. He has no sister, his mother is old and infirm, and no
one else is so near to him as I am. And why should he not be ill?"

She went down to breakfast with dark-rimmed eyes and sallow cheeks,
and looking as if she had aged five years in a few short hours. Still
the same question kept repeating itself like a refrain in her mind,
"Why should he not be ill?" Over and over again, as though it were a
question asked by some other than herself, it seemed to be whispered
in her ear; and even when she was hearing her pupils their lessons, it
seemed to write itself in blood-red letters across the book in her

Matthew Kelvin reached Stammars about noon. Olive had asked one of the
servants to let her know when he arrived. Then she wrote a little note
and sent it to him in the library, where he was closeted with Sir
Thomas. "Come and have luncheon with me in my room as soon as your
business is over." Then she put on another dress, and laid out her
bonnet, mantle, and gloves, so that they would be ready at a moment's
notice. She had quite made up her mind that she should go back to
Pembridge with her cousin.

Half an hour later, Mr. Kelvin was ushered into her sitting-room,
where a comfortable little luncheon was already laid.

"I suppose you would have gone away without coming near me," said
Olive, as she held out her hand, "if I had not sent you that note?"

"No, indeed," said Kelvin, pleasantly. "Why should you think such
hard things of me? Rather a comfortable little place, this of yours,"
he added, as he looked round; "but I daresay you feel rather lonely
and mopy here at times."

"Very seldom. You know that I am not one who cares for much society,
and so long as I have plenty of books, I content myself tolerably

"When do you go back to Harley Street?"

"That all depends on the state of Sir Thomas's health. And that
reminds me that I have not yet asked after my aunt."

"Oh, my mother is pretty much as usual, I think. Of course, like all
of us, she does not grow younger. I believe she would be better if she
didn't fidget herself so unnecessarily about me."

"My aunt does not fidget herself without cause, Matthew. You don't
look at all well--hardly as well as when I saw you at Easter."

"There, there! you women are all alike," he said, a little
impatiently. "Never mind my looks, but give me something to eat. I
believe my drive through the crisp spring air has given me an
appetite, and that's more than I've had for ever so long a time. You
don't look over bright yourself, Olive," he added, as he sat down at
table. "A little bit worried, perhaps--eh?"

"No; I don't know that I have anything particular to worry me."

"How do you and the dowager get on together?"

"Oh, pretty well. She does not interfere a great deal with me, and I
keep out of her way as much as possible."

"That's sensible on both sides."

He certainly looked older and more careworn, as he sat there, than she
had ever seen him look before. It made her heart ache to look at him.
If she could but have comforted him! if she could but have laid his
head against her bosom, and have kissed back the pleasant light into
his eyes, and the sunny smile to his lips, as she remembered them in
the days before the shadow of Eleanor Lloyd had ever crossed his path!
But that might not be.

"Do you see much of Miss Lloyd nowadays?" asked Kelvin, presently,
in as indifferent a tone as he could assume.

"I generally see her at breakfast and luncheon when she is at home.
Not often besides."

"She is quite well, I suppose?"

"Quite well, so far as I know. Why should she not be?"

"Anything come of that affair between her and Captain--Captain, what
do you call him?"

"Captain Dayrell, you mean. No; I believe the affair is broken off
entirely. I have reason to believe that when it came to the point,
Miss Lloyd would have nothing more to do with him."

"Ah! what a little coquette she is! If a man like this Captain Dayrell
is not good enough for her, what on earth does she expect? I'll take a
glass of wine, if you please, Olive."

He had brightened up all in a moment. He looked quite a different
individual from the gloomy, careworn man who had entered the room only
ten minutes before. "In his heart he loves her still," said Olive to
herself, and her own heart overflowed with bitterness at the thought.
From that moment any scrap of compunction that might hitherto have
clung to her was flung to the winds.

She poured him out a glass of Burgundy with a hand that betrayed not
the slightest tremor before she spoke.

"Is it not possible, Matthew," she said, in that icy tone which she
knew so well how to assume when it suited her to do so, "is it not
possible that Miss Lloyd's refusal to entertain the proposition of
Captain Dayrell might arise from some other motive than mere

"What do you mean?" he asked, quickly and suspiciously. "When you ask
an ambiguous question like that, Miss Deane, you have generally got
the answer to it ready at your tongue's end."

"Thank you, Matthew," said Olive, quietly. "When Miss Lloyd turned her
back on Captain Dayrell, is it not possible that she might be
influenced in doing so by her liking for some one else?"

Mr. Kelvin's face grew a shade paler, and he did not answer at once.

"If you know so much, you can doubtless tell me the rest," he said, at
last. "Let us have no more beating about the bush. You can, if you
choose to do so, tell me the name of the person for whom you believe
Miss Lloyd to have a preference. Who is the man?" His last question
might have been a cry wrung from him by his own agony, so sharp and
bitter was its tone.

"What will you say if I tell you that it is your friend, Mr. Pomeroy?"

"Pomeroy! Eleanor Lloyd in love with Pomeroy!" he cried, as he started
to his feet. "No; I will never believe it. It is a lie!"

"A lie, Matthew? Thank you again. It is but a few evenings ago since I
saw--myself unseen--the head of Eleanor Lloyd laid on the shoulder of
John Pomeroy: since I saw the lips of John Pomeroy pressed without
reproof to those of Eleanor Lloyd. Such is my evidence. Set on it what
value you please."

He seized a knife suddenly, as though he would have liked to stab her
to the heart. But her eyes met his unflinchingly, as she stood
opposite to him, and presently he sank back into his chair, and let
his arm fall on to the table, and so sat with bowed head for a time,
without speaking.

"This is your doing and my mother's!" he said at last, speaking slowly
and bitterly. "It was through you that this vagabond had the
opportunity given him of doing what he has done!"

"How was either I or your mother to know that what has happened would
happen?" asked Olive. She felt that the time had not yet come when it
would be safe for her to tell her cousin that Pomeroy had been brought
to Stammars for the express purpose of falling in love with Miss

"To think of Eleanor Lloyd so far forgetting herself as to fall in
love with an adventurer like Pomeroy! It seems impossible."

"You seem to forget that Pomeroy passes here as a gentleman. A poor
one, it may be, but still a gentleman. And if you know anything at all
of Miss Lloyd, you must know this, that the fact of Mr. Pomeroy being
without a shilling in the world would not influence her estimate of
him in the slightest possible degree."

"We will soon strip his fine feathers off him," exclaimed Kelvin, "and
expose him for what he really is--an adventurer and a vagabond. I'll
go to Sir Thomas this very day, and tell him everything."

Olive had quite expected that her cousin would be angry when he heard
her news, and would threaten to expose everything to Sir Thomas; but
she had kept an arrow in store for such an occasion, which she now
proceeded to let fly.

"How inconsistent you are, cousin Matthew!" she exclaimed. "Why has
certain news been kept back from Eleanor Lloyd for so long a time?
That question you can answer as well as I can. Cannot you, therefore,
comprehend how much more complete will be your revenge on this woman
who rejected you with contempt and scorn, if, through your agency, she
is hoodwinked into marrying a penniless adventurer like Pomeroy,
rather than a gentleman and a man of honour like Captain Dayrell?
Cannot you, I say, comprehend all this?"

"The question did not strike me in that light," said Kelvin, in the
quick way habitual with him when any fresh idea was put before him.
"If I have wished once, I have wished a thousand times," he said,
"that I had never hidden from Eleanor that which it was my duty to
have told her the moment the knowledge came into my possession. But
such regrets are useless."

"They are worse than useless," said Olive, in her cold, measured
tones, as she looked fixedly at him. There was something either in her
words or her look that stung him.

"You think me weak," he said; "but how is it possible for you to
understand the thoughts and feelings of a man placed as I am."

"You will not go to Sir Thomas to-day, as you said you would," was all
she answered.

"No, I will not go to Sir Thomas. She rejected me and she has accepted
Pomeroy. Let her abide by her choice. Having kept the secret so long,
I will keep it a little while longer. Let her find out, when no remedy
can avail, that this man sought her for her money alone--that money
which belongs to another. Had she been the beggar's daughter of
Bethnal Green, I would have made her my wife."

He had spoken passionately, and he now got up and walked to the
window, and stood I gazing out of it, as if to hide his emotion.

He had half emptied his glass of Burgundy when he first sat down.
Olive now filled it up, while he stood thus with his back towards her,
and then, quickly and deftly, from a little phial which she extracted
from the bosom of her dress, she let fall into the wine three drops of
some thick, dark tincture. Very white, but very determined, was the
face that was turned next moment on Mr. Kelvin.

"You have scarcely tasted anything. Are you not going to finish your

"No," he said, as he turned from the window. "My appetite has gone. I
can't eat."

"You will, at least, drink this glass of wine. If you cannot eat, you
must drink."

She took up the glass of Burgundy as she spoke, and handed it to him
with a hand that was as steady as his own. He took it without a word,
and drank it slowly to the last drop. Then he gave her back the glass,
making a slight grimace as he did so.

"Either my palate is out of order," he said, "or else Sir Thomas's
wine merchant is a vendor of rubbish." Then he added, "I promised that
I would give Sir Thomas another look in before I went back, but I'll
go first and have a weed in the shrubbery. A quarter of an hour in the
fresh air will bring me down to my ordinary business level."

"I shall want to see you again before you go," said Olive. "I have a
tiny parcel for you to take to my aunt."

Her heart was fluttering so fast, that she was obliged to press one
hand over it in an effort to still its wild beating.

"All right. I'll look in again for a minute before starting," said Mr.
Kelvin, as he took up his hat.

He was just about to open the door, when Olive, whose eyes had been
anxiously following him, saw him stagger slightly, and lift his hand
to his head. She was by his side in a moment.

"What is it, Matthew? Are you not well?"

"It was nothing. Only a sudden giddiness. I shall be better when I get
into the fresh air."

Then he opened the door and went out.

Olive went to the window, from which place the side-door could be seen
by which her cousin would gain access to the grounds Even her lips
seemed to have lost their colour this afternoon. She stood there,
rubbing one thin white hand against the other, with a slow, restless
motion, as though that were the only outlet she could find for the
intense life burning within her.

"It begins to take effect already!" she whispered, as though she were
breathing her secret in some one's ear. "He shall take me back with
him to Pembridge this very day. When he gets over this foolish
passion, as he must do when Eleanor Lloyd is another man's wife, then
his heart will turn to me--the heart that once was mine, and that
shall be mine again! With me for his wife, all his old, ambitious
dreams would spring up again with renewed vigour. He should not live
and die a mere country lawyer, as, with Eleanor Lloyd for his wife, he
surely would do. Raby House is his already--so his mother told me. He
is far richer than the world believes him to be. In a little while he
will be in Parliament--and then! What wild, ambitious dreams are
these! But they are dreams that shall one day become realities, if a
woman's will can make them so. There he is in the Laurel Walk! He sits
down and presses his hand to his forehead. It wrings my heart to see
him suffer; but what can I do? How gladly would I suffer instead of
him, if thereby I could charm him to my side and make him my own for
ever! It is time to go and get ready for my journey."

Lady Dudgeon had just hunted up Sir Thomas in the library (he had
ventured downstairs for an hour this afternoon), in order to point out
to him a flagrant error of two shillings in the casting of the
butcher's monthly account, when there came a tap at the door, and next
moment Miss Deane entered.

"I hope, Lady Dudgeon, you will pardon my intrusion," she said, "but
my cousin, Mr. Kelvin, has been suddenly taken ill, and----"

"Kelvin ill!" burst out Sir Thomas. "What is the matter with him?
Where is he?"

"He is in the conservatory, Sir Thomas. A sudden
attack--giddiness--nausea. I have ordered the fly to be brought round
in which he drove over from Pembridge."

"It's nothing contagious, I hope," said her ladyship. "My two darling
pets--where are they?"

"Safe in the schoolroom. But your ladyship need fear nothing on the
score of contagion."

"I am sorry I can't go and look after him myself," said the baronet.
"Is he well enough to be sent home alone?"

"I was about to ask her ladyship to allow me to go home with him,"
said Olive, "although, in such a case, I could not promise to get back
before to-morrow morning."

"It is very thoughtful on your part, Miss Deane," said her ladyship.
"You must go with Mr. Kelvin, by all means."

"Your ladyship is very kind."

"Yes, go, by all means," said Sir Thomas. "A most invaluable, man,
Kelvin--so clear-headed, and all that--never seems in a muddle, you
know--never messes his fingers with the ink when he's writing."

Matthew Kelvin was indeed very ill--worse, perhaps, than Olive Deane
had thought he would be. But, on the other hand, had he not been very
ill, no valid necessity would have existed for Olive to accompany him
home. He was grateful to her for offering to go with him. It was much
nicer to have Olive by his side than one of the Stammars footmen. He
had no strength to talk; but they had hardly got out of the park, and
well on to the high road that led to Pembridge, when he took one of
Olive's cool hands in both his, and let his head droop on to her

"Are you in great pain, dear?" she whispered.

She had never called him _dear_ before.

"It is rather hard to bear," said he, squeezing her hand tightly.

Presently he became aware that she was crying.

"Don't cry, Olive," he said.

But she could not help it. It made her cry to see him suffer so much;
but none the more on that account did she waver for a single moment in
her determination to carry out the scheme on which her mind was so
firmly bent.


Max Van Duren was accepted on probation as a suitor for the hand of
Miss Byrne.

Everything now depended on Miriam's ability to carry out the programme
laid down for her by her father. The task thus set before her was
repugnant to her feelings in many ways, and yet there was a strange
sort of fascination in the thought that she alone had power enough
over this man to draw from him a secret that he would reveal to no
living soul else. But it was requisite that even she should go to work
very carefully in the matter. It was requisite that not the slightest
suspicion as to her motives should be aroused in Van Duren's naturally
suspicious mind. Time and patience were essentially necessary. To have
seemed anxious, or in a hurry, would have defeated everything.

Thus it fell out that, nearly every evening when he was in town, Max
Van Duren was admitted for an hour to the society of the woman to
whose love-spells he had fallen so easy a victim. It could have been
no greater surprise to any one than it was to himself to find such
toils woven so strongly about him--to find himself, at fifty years of
age, and with all his hard worldly experience, as weak as any school
boy before the foolish witchery of a pretty face.

Every day his infatuation, for it was nothing less, seemed to grow
stronger. While coquetting with him, and leading him on to believe
that she really did care a little for him in her heart, she was
careful to restrain all lover-like familiarities within the smallest
possible limits. She could not prevent his pressing her hand now and
then, and she even schooled herself into letting him once and again,
and as an immense favour, touch the tips of her fingers with his lips.
But that was all. Never once was his arm allowed to insinuate itself
round her waist. Never once would she sit alone in the room with him
for even five minutes. Her father, infirm and deaf as he was, or
appeared to be, was always there--a power to be appealed to should the
necessity for such an appeal ever arise.

Van Duren growled a little occasionally at being so persistently
forced to keep his distance; but Miriam was as obdurate as a flint.

"I don't believe you have a heart!" he said to her, rather savagely,
one night, after she had refused to let him kiss even the tips of her

"I thought you told me only ten minutes ago that I was the happy
possessor of yours," she said, demurely.

"Pshaw! You know well enough what I mean. In any case, you can't be
possessed of much feeling."

"I pricked my finger this morning, and it seemed to me that my
feelings were very acute indeed. But doubtless you know best."

"I wonder whether you have anything beyond the very vaguest idea of
what it is to love."

"Are you not doing your best to teach me? And do you not find me an
apt pupil?"

"On the contrary, you are uncommonly dull."

"My natural stupidity, doubtless. But then, you know, some people set
up for being teachers who have no right to the name."

"In the present case the teacher's lessons are treated with contempt."

"The teacher expects his pupil to read before she has properly learned
to spell; expects, too, to be paid for his services before he has
earned his first quarter's salary."

Miriam's tongue had a readiness about it that Van Duren could not
match, and in such encounters he was invariably worsted. He liked
Miriam all the better in that she was ready of speech and quick of
tongue. This bright, clever girl would be his own property before
long, and it could not but redound to his credit that his wife should
not only have the good looks which go so often without brains, but
that she should be keen-witted into the bargain--a woman whom he could
introduce to his friends with pride, and with the knowledge that they
would envy him his new-found treasure.

Presently Mr. Van Duren's birthday came round, and nothing would
satisfy him on this occasion but that he should drive Miriam and her
father down to Greenwich, and that they should all dine together at
the "Ship." As he wished, so it was agreed.

"It will be a good chance, Miriam dear, for getting out of him what we
want to know," said the old man to his daughter when they were alone.
"A good dinner, and a glass or two of champagne, will help to loosen
his tongue and to keep his suspicions fast asleep. There could not be
a better opportunity."

They drove to Greenwich in a close carriage, out of consideration for
the delicate state of Mr. Byrne's health. But the old man freshened up
wonderfully at the dinner-table, and proposed Mr. Van Duren's health
in an eulogistic but somewhat rambling speech, he being evidently of
opinion, once or twice, that quite a roomful of guests were listening
to him. Miriam at last was obliged to force him gently down into his
chair, and tempt him into silence with some grapes. When coffee was
brought in he looked vacantly around.

"I feel just a little bit sleepy," he said "and if none of the company
objects, I'll have forty winks in that pleasant-looking chair in the
corner. But mind, if there's going to be any harmony, I'm your man,
and 'Tom Bowling' 's the song that I'll sing."

Three minutes later he was snoring gently, with his bandana thrown
over his head, although as yet there were no flies to trouble him.

"Is it too cool to sit out on the balcony?" asked Van Duren.

"I am afraid it is," answered Miriam; "but not perhaps too cold to sit
by the open window." She did not want to get out of earshot of her

This evening she felt more nervous than she had ever felt before. It
was the consciousness of what she was expected to do that affected her
thus. She looked a little paler than ordinary, and, by consequence, a
little more refined; and as she sat there in her black silk dress,
with a little ruffle made of tulle and pink ribbon round her throat,
Van Duren vowed to himself that he had never seen her look more
thoroughly charming.

"I shall not feel satisfied unless you smoke," she said, as they sat
down near the open window. "I have heard you say that you always like
to smoke a couple of cigars after dinner."

"But that is a bachelor's vile habit, and one which I am going to
learn to give up."

"It will be time enough to give it up when you are no longer a
bachelor. Confess, now: did you not smuggle two or three cigars into
your pocket before you left home?"

Van Duren laughed. "You must be a witch," he said, as he pulled a
cigar-case out of his pocket.

"I am no witch," said Miriam. "I have only found out one of your
little weaknesses."

"I wish you could discover my virtues as readily."

"A man's virtues--when he has any--don't require much discovery; he is
generally quite ready to proclaim their existence himself. We women
know what your sex like. We maintain our empire over you not by
flattering you about your virtues, but by studying your weaknesses.
But now, smoke."

Miriam struck a fusee, and Van Duren bit the end off a cigar and
lighted it. A little table was between them, on which stood a bottle
of sparkling hock and two glasses. The evening was closing in, but
the sun had not yet set, and the broad bosom of the river lay
fair and clear before them, with its steamers, and lighters, and
pleasure-boats, and incoming or outgoing ships, passing to and fro
unceasingly--a never-ending panorama, abounding with life, colour, and

"I wonder whether you will always be as indulgent to me as you are
to-day," said Van Duren, as he exhaled a long curl of fragrant smoke.

"That would depend upon whether you were always as good as you have
been to-day."

"I want you, this afternoon," he said, "to tell me where you would
like us to spend our honeymoon."

"As we have not yet agreed that there is to be a honeymoon, the
question where we shall spend it seems to me slightly premature."

"Let us be like children for once, and make believe. Let us make
believe that you and I are going to be married in a month from now,
and that I have asked you where you would like to spend the

Miriam did not answer for a few moments, but sat with one finger
pressed to her lips, a pretty embodiment of perplexity. "Really, I
don't know," she said--"I don't know where I should like to go. So
long as I got away to some strange place, I don't think I should care
much where it was."

"How would Paris suit you?"

"Yes--yes!" cried Miriam, clapping her hands. "I should like to go to
Paris above all places in the world. To see the shops, and the
toilettes, and the gay crowds, and--and the hundreds of other
attractions: that would suit me exactly."

"Many ladies, at such times, prefer some quiet nook either in the
country or at the seaside."

"Yes, prefer to bury themselves alive, in fact. But that would not
suit me, however much I might like my husband. In such a case, I am
quite certain that by the end of the first week I should begin to
think him a great stupid, and I am equally sure that he would already
have discovered with what a shallow-pated individual he had mated
himself for life. The experiment would be far too dangerous a one for

"A very neatly-framed excuse for preferring Paris to Bognor or
Bowness," said Van Duren, with a smile.

"How cleverly you unravel my motives! But I think I told you before
that I was shallow. Be warned in time!"

"I have never heeded warnings all my life. I have always preferred
keeping my own headstrong course."

"In other words, you are obstinate."

"Some of my friends call me pig-headed--but that is sheer malice."

"How beautiful the river looks this afternoon!" said Miriam, a moment
or two later. "I never look on an outward-bound ship without feeling a
sort of vague longing to be on board her, sailing away into that
strange world of which I know so little."

"The chances are that before you had been on board a dozen
hours you would wish with all your heart that you were on shore
again--especially if there happened to be a capful of wind."

"Oh, I quite believe that. Being a woman, it only stands to reason
that I should be both ill and frightened. Men are never either one or
the other." Then, in a little while, she added: "Still, nonsense
apart, I believe that I should very much like to go a long voyage."

"Unless you chanced to have very pleasant companions, you would soon
grow weary of the everlasting monotony of sea and sky: sky and sea."

"I'm not quite so sure on that point. I cannot conceive that either
the sky or the sea is ever really monotonous. And yet you, who have
travelled so much, ought to know far better than I," she added, a
minute later, as if correcting herself. "You have travelled much in
the course of your life, Mr. Van Duren, have you not?"

"Not so much, perhaps, as you imagine. Still, I have seen something of
the world."

"And yet you never talk to me about your travels! You have never told
me a single one of your adventures."

"I am not aware that I have any adventures to tell you about," said
Van Duren, with an amused expression. "How can a man meet with
adventures in these days of railroads and steamboats?"

"Still, you must have encountered something, or seen something, that
would be worth telling about."

"Really, my life has been a most prosaic one."

"Have you never shot a lion or a tiger?"

"Certainly not."

"Perhaps you have hunted a wild boar?"

"I have never even seen such an animal."

"Have you ever quarrelled with a man, and then fought a duel with

"I have quarrelled with many men, but have never fought a duel."

"Have you ever been up in a balloon or down a coal-mine?"

"Neither one nor the other."

"Have you ever been pursued by Red Indians, or by wolves, or had a
fight with a bear?"

"I have never been so fortunate. I wish, for your sake, that I had."

"Have you ever been shipwrecked?" Van Duren gave a little start, but
did not immediately answer.

He slowly exhaled the smoke, in a long, thin curl, from between his
lips before he spoke. "Yes--I have been shipwrecked," he said, at

Miriam's merry laugh rang out, and she clapped her hands for glee.
"Every man knows some adventure worth telling," she said. "Yours is a
shipwreck. I knew that I should find out what it was at last.--And now
you will tell me all about it, won't you?" She looked at him with a
pretty air of entreaty, and moved her chair a little closer to his.

"There was really nothing about the affair that is worth telling," he
said. He was intent, just now, on choosing another cigar out of his
case, smelling at and nipping first one and then another. "It was a
very trifling piece of business, I assure you."

"Still, it was a shipwreck, and you were in it," urged Miriam. "Of
course, if you do not choose to tell me anything about it, I have
nothing further to say in the matter."

"You are a little too hasty," said Van Duren, deprecatingly. "If I
really thought it would interest you----" and then he stopped.

"I suppose I ought not to feel interested in such trifles--but I do,"
said Miriam, with a pout. "After all, it is not so many years since I
was a child, and I daresay I have not yet got rid of all my childish
tastes. I always did love to read and hear about shipwrecks."

"Then you shall hear about mine," said Van Duren, with more heartiness
of tone than he had yet used. He was flattered by her evident interest
in himself and his fortunes. There could be no possible harm in
telling her the story of the shipwreck: it was only that the telling
of it would rouse into morbid activity a snake's nest of terrible
recollections, that he would fain have let sleep for ever.

The cloud that had begun to lower over Miriam's face vanished in a
moment. "That is really very nice of you," she said. And then she
struck another fusee and held it while he lighted his cigar. Van Duren
did not speak till he had swallowed a couple of glasses of hock, one
immediately after the other.

"As I said before, this shipwreck-story of mine is hardly worth
telling. It is true that it seemed serious enough to me at the time,
but it is associated with no thrilling adventures or hair-breadth
escapes. Altogether, it was a very commonplace affair."

"Still, it was a shipwreck, and there never was a shipwreck yet that
wasn't worth hearing about. So now begin, please, and remember that
you must tell me all the details, and make a nice, long story of it."

Poor old Byrne, with his handkerchief thrown over his head, and his
hands crossed comfortably over his stomach, was still in the middle of
his forty winks, and happily oblivious of all terrestrial troubles.

"What I am about to tell you happened many years ago," said Van Duren.

"How many?--a dozen? I like people to be precise in their dates."

"Oh, more than a dozen. Nearly two dozen."

"Shall we put it down, then, that it was about twenty years ago?"

"Yes, that is near enough." There was a perceptible shade of annoyance
in his tone as he spoke.

"Now, if you are going to be petulant, I won't speak to you again all
the evening. If you knew more about young ladies, and their whims and
ways, you would feel flattered by the interest I am taking in your

"I do feel flattered by your interest," said Van Duren. "But I did not
know that you would care for such minute details."

"Little things always interest our sex--our lives are made up of petty
details. And now, if you will make a fresh start, I will try not to
interrupt you again."

"Well, then, about twenty years ago, more or less, I made up my mind
that I would leave England for ever and try my fortune in the New
World. A legacy had come to me from an unexpected quarter, and it
seemed to me that I could invest my money better in America than in
England, and that my chances of making a fortune were greater there
than here. I went down to Liverpool with the view of selecting a
ship in which to sail. Whilst staying at the hotel there, I fell in
with a countryman of my own, whom I had known some years previously,
and to whom I had once done some small service. He was now in the
shipping-trade, and when he found that I was going to America he
offered me a free passage in a vessel, of which he was part owner,
that was to sail in a few days for Halifax, Nova Scotia. The offer was
too good a one to be refused, and on a certain Saturday morning I
found myself, and all my belongings, on board the _Albatross_,
dropping gently down with the tide. We had hardly got beyond the mouth
of the Mersey, when it began to blow heavily, and by midnight we were
in the midst of a terrific gale. The _Albatross_ was laden with a
general cargo, and I was the only passenger on board. I shall never
forget the magnificent sight that met my gaze when I went on deck next
morning. Such a scene I never saw before, and I never want to behold
again. The wind was still very high, but the sun shone brightly, and
the atmosphere was so clear that the Welsh hills, although, in
reality, several miles away, appeared quite close at hand. Presently
the captain came up, looking very serious. 'I am sorry to tell you
that we sprang a leak in the night,' he said, 'and I am afraid we
shall have to put back to Liverpool, in order to have it stopped. An
hour later he came to me again. The water is gaining on us so fast,'
he said, 'that I shall have to make for Marhyddoc Bay, which is the
nearest place I know of. I am afraid she would founder before I could
get her back to Liverpool.' He then gave orders for the ship's head to
be put about, and we made at once for the Welsh coast."

"What a dreadful disappointment for you!" said Miriam. "How annoyed I
should have been, had I been in your place."

"My feelings were very bitter ones, I assure you," said Van Duren.
"But there was no room for anger: in fact, it was becoming a question
whether we should even succeed in saving our lives. Near to the coast
as we were, it was doubtful whether the ship would not go down before
we could reach it, and the sea was such that it would have been next
to impossible for any boat to have lived in it."

"How very dreadful!" exclaimed Miriam, with a shudder.

"Those were moments of intense anxiety for all of us. One of the boats
had been stove in during the night; the two remaining ones were got
ready for lowering at a moment's notice. The water in the hold kept
rising steadily, and at last the men refused to work at the pumps any
longer. We laboured slowly on towards the land, but with every minute
the ship seemed to become more unmanageable, and to be sinking deeper
in the trough of the sea. We had weathered the corner of a promontory,
and were within a quarter of a mile of shore, and in somewhat smoother
water, when the captain gave the order to lower the boats. The ship's
last moment was evidently at hand, and if we did not want to go down
with her, we must hurry into the boats as quickly as possible. 'With
close packing they will hold us,' said the captain; 'but it's a
precious good job that, we haven't far to go.'"

"I was not overburdened with personal luggage, but one article
I had that I was particularly desirous of saving. It was a small
silver-clamped box, and was full of the most valuable property. In
fact, I may tell you that inside that box were my whole worldly
possessions. I had brought it up from my cabin and placed it on deck
ready to be lowered into the boat. 'You can't take that thing with
you,' said the mate, sternly, 'and if you don't look sharp, you'll be
left behind yourself.' 'But I must take it,' I said; 'it holds
everything I have in the world.' 'Can't help that. I tell you, it
can't go. Boys, over with him.' And before I knew what had happened, I
found myself dropped over the ship's side into the boat, and the
remainder of the crew scrambling after me one by one. The captain and
the rest of the crew were in the other boat, and had already cast
themselves loose from the ship. 'Two hundred--five hundred pounds,' I
cried, 'to any one who will bring that box safely ashore!' 'Hold your
tongue, you fool!' cried the mate, 'or else we'll send you to fish for
your confounded box at the bottom of the sea;' and with that he pushed
away from the sinking ship. I said no more, but sat in dumb despair,
hardly caring whether I reached the shore or not. The boat was laden
to the water's edge, and I could hardly wonder at the mate's refusal
to take my box. 'There she goes!' cried one of the men a few moments
later. 'Farewell to the dear old _Albatross!_' cried a second. I
lifted up my eyes. Ship and box had disappeared for ever. A quarter of
an hour later I landed at Marhyddoc--a ruined man."

"Gracious me! what a dreadful misfortune!" cried Miriam. "So you did
not go to America, after all?"

"I did not. It seemed to me that as I had to begin the world afresh,
it would be better to do so among friends and acquaintances than among
strangers. I did begin it afresh, and the result has proved far more
satisfactory than I should have dared to hope."

"Your narrative has interested me very much, Mr. Van Duren," said
Miriam. "It will be something for me to think about when I am sitting
alone at my work. I shall think of you far oftener than I should have
done had you never told me the story of the _Albatross_."

"Then I am indeed repaid," said Van Duren, with fervour. "To live in
your thoughts is my highest ambition."

"How papa is sleeping," cried Miriam, suddenly. "He will be awake half
the night if I don't rouse him."

The waiter came in with lights, and Miriam shook her father by the

He awoke querulous and shivering with cold: so, after a hurried cup of
tea, they started at once for home, Van Duren sat for a great part of
the way with one of Miriam's hands pressed tightly in his. Miriam's
soul shrank within her at his touch, but she was obliged to submit.
She consoled herself with the thought that only for a very short time
longer would the necessity for submitting to his hateful attentions
exist. She had wormed out of him the great secret that he had hidden
so carefully for twenty long years. The next question was whether any
practical use could be made of the knowledge.

"Did you hear what passed this afternoon?" asked Miriam of her father
as soon as they were alone together in their own room.

"Every syllable of it, my dear, and very cleverly you managed it."

"And now that you have got all this information, what step do you
intend to take next?"

"The next step I intend to take is to advertise in the second column
of the _Times_."


Gerald was away from Stammars for several days, and it was during his
absence that Mr. Pod Piper's interview with Eleanor took place.
Gerald, metaphorically speaking, flew back on the wings of love. It
seemed months ago since he spoke those few memorable words to Eleanor,
and he was burning to see her again: burning to speak of the love that
filled his heart, firm in his determination, when once he should see
her again, not to leave her till he had won from her a promise to
become his wife.

He got back to Stammers on a certain day in time for luncheon, and
found Sir Thomas somewhat better in health. Lady Dudgeon and Miss
Lloyd were out visiting, and were not expected home much before
dinner-time. Gerald was in a restless and anxious mood, and could not
settle down to anything. To wait quietly indoors was intolerable. For
more than an hour he wandered aimlessly up and down the grounds, but
was at last driven by a shower to take shelter in the conservatory.
There he found Sanderson, the old gardener, plodding away as usual. He
was rather a favourite with the old fellow, simply because he never
took the liberty of plucking a flower without first asking Sanderson's
permission to do so.

"Eh, sir! but I heard some queer news about you t'other day," he said,
as he hobbled up to Gerald.

"News about me, Sanderson! I should very much like to know what it

"I'm no so certain that I ought to tell ye. And yet, seeing that
there's a leddy in the case, it's perhaps only right that you should

"A lady in the case! You must tell me now, or I shall die of

"I suppose I must tell ye, or else you'll no be satisfied," he said.
"But let us sit down while we talk. Sitting's as cheap as standing,
and I'm no so young as I have been, Mr. Pummery. It was that bit imp
of a lawyer laddie," resumed Sanderson, as soon as he and Gerald were
comfortably seated, "young Brazen-face, I call him, from Mr. Kelvin's.
He was here t'other day, here in this very spot, and Miss Lloyd
happened to come in quite accidental at the time. I'd been hard at
work all the morning, and was just resting a bit behind the bushes,
when all at once I heard young Brazen-face mention your name, and that
made me listen to hear more."

"And what had the young vagabond to say about me, Sanderson?"

"Why, he said that you were as poor as a church mouse, and that his
master lent you fifty pounds to buy your clothes with."

"There's nothing very bad in that."

"But he said the reason why you came to Stammers was that you might
fall in love with Miss Lloyd and marry her, because she was worth
twenty thousand pounds."

"The young scoundrel! And he told that to Miss Lloyd?"

"That's just what he did! And he said that Miss Deane knew all about
it, and that it was all a planned thing between you and her."

Gerald was dumbfounded. He could not find a word to say for a little
while. What must Eleanor think of him! It would not be a very
difficult matter to set himself right with her if he chose to do so,
but a climax was being forced upon him which he would gladly have
delayed for a little while longer.

"But what was Miss Lloyd's answer to all this?" he said at last.

"She didn't seem to say much; but she may have thought all the more,"
answered Sanderson.

"It was enough to make her think. I am really very much obliged to you
for telling me."

"I dare say you wouldn't care to have it talked about, Mr. Pummery?"

"Well, no, Sanderson, I think not. Even if this foolish accusation
were true, it would be as well, for Miss Lloyd's sake, not to let it
go any further. There's a sovereign for you to buy snuff with. A still
tongue, you know, is a sign of a wise head."

"How did that young scamp get to know all that he told Eleanor?" was
Gerald's first thought as he walked slowly back into the house. But
that was a question which it was impossible for him to answer. How
different was the spirit with which he entered the house from that
which had possessed him when he left it but one short hour before! The
summer sunshine of his love had suddenly been clouded over: the
landscape had darkened: a storm was at hand.

How fortunate it was, he said to himself, that he had not met Eleanor
before encountering Sanderson! He did not want to see her now; it was
requisite that he should decide upon some particular line of action
before meeting her again. He sat down in his easy-chair and shut his
eyes, and bent himself to the task of thinking--no very easy task just
now, so strangely was he fluttered by the news which had been told
him. Two or three different courses were open to him: which one of
them should he choose?

He sat without moving till the dinner-bell rang; then, all at once, he
made up his mind as to the line of action he would adopt. Having
excused himself on the plea of fatigue from going downstairs, he
lighted his lamp and seated himself at his writing-table. Then he took
pen and paper, and wrote as under:--


"From certain private information which has reached me, I have reason
to believe that a great proportion, if not the whole, of the property
which my uncle, the late Mr. Jacob Lloyd, of Bridgeley Wells, died
possessed of, should devolve on me as being his legal representative.
As I am given to understand that you had the management of my late
uncle's affairs, will you kindly inform me, at your earliest
convenience, whether it is within your knowledge that the facts of the
case are as stated by me, and if so, what steps it will be requisite
for me to take in order to prove the validity of my claim?

     "I am, sir, your obedient servant,

          "Gerald Warburton."

This letter, addressed to Matthew Kelvin, was sent under cover by
Gerald to a friend in London, from whose house it was professedly
written, with a request that it might be posted.

Four days later, through the hands of his London friend, Gerald
received the following answer:--


"In reply to your favour of the 25th inst., I regret to inform you
that the state of Mr. Kelvin's health at the present time is such as
to entirely preclude him from giving any attention to matters of
business. He hopes, however, to be sufficiently recovered in the
course of a few days to be able to reply fully to the questions
contained in your letter.

"I am, sir, respectfully yours,

     "John Bowood."

Gerald's letter to Kelvin had been marked "Private." All letters not
so marked were opened by Mr. Bray, the chief clerk. The private
letters were picked out and sent upstairs. Kelvin, at this time, was
so ill that Olive was deputed to open these letters, and read them
aloud to him, and pencil down his remarks respecting such of them as
required answering. Thus it fell out that Gerald's letter reached her
among a number of others one morning. She always opened the letters
and read them over herself before submitting them to her cousin, by
which means she could often give him the pith of a letter without
troubling him with unnecessary details.

Gerald's letter startled her not a little. It was requisite that she
should have time to think it over, and to consider in what way it
might or might not interfere with her own special plans; so she
slipped it quietly into her pocket, and said nothing to Kelvin that
morning about it.

Locked up in her own room she read the letter over and over again.
After all, it was, perhaps, quite as well that this Mr. Warburton had
discovered something as to the real facts of the case. Her cousin
Matthew was so thin-skinned that, although he had agreed to the
temporary concealment of certain facts, he evidently shrank from
inflicting on Eleanor Lloyd the blow which ought to follow such
concealment as a logical sequence. But should this Mr. Warburton come
forward, the blow struck would be just the same, but her cousin would
be spared its infliction. Eleanor Lloyd would still be deprived of
name, wealth, and position, while a final sting should reach her from
the hands of Olive herself, in the care she would take that, if not in
one way then in another, Miss Lloyd should be duly enlightened as to
the character and antecedents of the man to whom she had given her
heart and promised her hand. Still it might be as well to temporise a
little, to delay the climax for a week or two, if it were only that
the bond of love which bound Miss Lloyd to Pomeroy might grow stronger
with the lapse of time; for the more she learnt to love Pomeroy, the
deeper would be the wound that a knowledge of his treachery could not
fail to inflict.

When Olive had once adopted this line of argument, it was easy for her
to persuade herself that the wisest thing she could do would be to
keep her own counsel for a little while as to Mr. Warburton's letter.
In her cousin's present state of health such a communication would
only serve to worry him, and could answer no practical end. Meanwhile,
she would take upon herself to have the letter replied to, but in such
a way that it would be impossible for her cousin to be offended with
her when the time should come for him to be told all that she had
done. Not being a person who was in the habit of acting on rash
impulses, she kept the letter over-night, with the view of
ascertaining whether the resolve which she had come to to-day would
bear next morning's cold confirmation. Next morning changed nothing;
and as soon as breakfast was over she went downstairs to her cousin's
private office, and sent for Mr. Bowood, one of the clerks, and
dictated to him that letter which we have already seen in the hands of
Gerald. All that Olive wanted just now was a little delay, and this
she succeeded in securing.

But what was Gerald to do next? After what that meddlesome imp of a
Pod Piper had told Eleanor, it was quite evident to him that all
prospect of her listening favourably to his suit was at an end, unless
he could offer a frank and full explanation of the facts. He had
relied upon his letter to Kelvin bringing matters to a crisis without
any further impulse on his part, but that hope was now at an end,
unless he could afford to wait for Kelvin's recovery at some
indefinite future time. But he could not afford to wait. He had shut
himself up in his own rooms, on the plea of indisposition, while
awaiting the lawyer's answer, in order that he might run no risk of
meeting Miss Lloyd till he knew what that answer was. But this could
not go on any longer. A meeting with Eleanor was inevitable, but on
what terms could they meet, unless he were prepared with some sort of
an explanation beforehand?

His most straightforward course would certainly have been to explain
frankly to Eleanor who and what he was, and to tell her all his
reasons for seeking to win her affections under a fictitious name. But
he still shrank, with a repugnance which he seemed quite unable to
overcome, from being the first to tell her that strange story which
she must one day be told, but which, it seemed to him, his lips ought
to be the last in the world to reveal. That story would deprive her of
name, wealth, position--of everything, in fact, that her life had
taught her to hold most dear. Not even to set himself right in her
eyes, not even to free himself in her thoughts from a vile imputation,
could he consent that from his hands the blow should come. That the
blow must fall some day he knew quite well, but Kelvin was the man
from whom it ought to emanate; and now, after what had happened, no
matter how soon it came.

To this conclusion had he come before writing to Kelvin, but the
lawyer's answer left him exactly where he was before. Something he
must do himself, or else shun Eleanor altogether: but what must that
something be?

Was there no middle course open to him? he asked himself; was no
scheme of compromise possible by means of which, while setting himself
right with Eleanor, he might be spared the necessity of becoming the
mouthpiece of a revelation which, if told by him, might perchance
shatter his dearest hopes for ever?

After a restless and miserable night, which seemed as if it would
never come to an end, he fell into an hour's sound sleep, and when he
woke he seemed to see a glimpse of daylight through the midst of his
perplexities. Again he took pen in hand, and here is what he wrote on
that occasion:--

"Mr. Pomeroy presents his compliments to Miss Lloyd, and having
something of a special nature which he is desirous of communicating to
her, he would esteem it a great favour if Miss Lloyd would allow him
the privilege of a few minutes' private conversation at any time and
at any place that may be most convenient to her."

An hour later, he received the following line in answer:--

"Miss Lloyd will be in the library at three o'clock this afternoon."

Poor Eleanor! What a miserable time was that which she had passed
since that afternoon when Pod Piper spoke to her in the conservatory!
An hour before, she would have staked her existence on Pomeroy's truth
and sincerity; and now, proof had been given her that he was nothing
better than a common adventurer, who had sought to win her because she
was rich! Truth and sincerity seemed to have vanished from the world.
Nowhere could she feel sure that she had a friend who cared for her
for herself alone, who would be the same to her to-morrow as to-day,
if, by the touch of some wizard's wand, her money were suddenly turned
to dross. How she wished that her father had left his riches
elsewhere! How she wished that necessity had driven her to earn her
living by her fingers or her brain! Then, if friendship or love had
chanced to come to her, she would have known that they were genuine,
because she would have had nothing but their like to give in return.
The poorest shop-girl, who walked the streets on her sweetheart's arm,
was richer than she in all that makes life sweet and beautiful.

Sometimes Eleanor recalled certain words of warning which Lady Dudgeon
had on one occasion addressed to her. "Beware lest you fall into the
hands of some swindling adventurer," her ladyship had said, "of some
romantic rogue, with a handsome face and a wheedling tongue, who,
while persuading you that he loves you for yourself alone, cares, in
reality, for nothing but the money you will bring him."

Had not her ladyship's warning borne fruit already?

But ten minutes later she would reproach herself for thinking so
hardly of Pomeroy. No; notwithstanding all that she had heard, she
would not believe that he was an adventurer. There was a mistake
somewhere, she felt sure.

How much of the unhappiness of life is due to misunderstandings and
mistakes which a few frank words of explanation would often serve to
put right!

But supposing Mr. Pomeroy offered her no explanation? Supposing he
persisted in his suit, and went on making love to her on the
assumption that after what had passed between them he would not be
repulsed? Then, indeed, painful as such a course might be, she would
feel compelled to tell him all that young Piper had told her, leaving
him to deny it or explain it away as he might best be able.

There were some other words of Lady Dudgeon's which she could not
quite forget, and which seemed to have a more apposite force at the
present moment than when they were uttered. "If you become the wife of
Captain Dayrell, you will have the consolation of knowing that you
have not been sought for your money alone. Dayrell is rich enough to
marry a woman without a penny, if he chose to do so." She did not like
Captain Dayrell, and she would never become his wife, but for all that
Lady Dudgeon's words would keep ringing in her ears.

When she heard Sir Thomas mention one day at dinner that Mr. Pomeroy
was back again at Stammars, she felt strangely moved. However great
his offences might be, his image still dwelt in her heart, and there
was something delicious in the thought that he was once again under
the same roof with her. She longed and yet dreaded to see him; but as
day passed after day without giving him to her aching eyes, her
longing deepened into an intense anxiety. She heard from those around
her that he was not very well, and that beyond seeing Sir Thomas, on
business matters, for an hour every morning, he kept to his own rooms.
But if he were well enough to see Sir Thomas, he was surely well
enough to see her--to see the woman whose lips he had kissed, and into
whose ears he had whispered words that could never be forgotten! But
perhaps he held himself aloof on purpose that they might not meet.
Perhaps he was desirous of shunning her--wishful that she should
understand that what had passed between them had better be forgotten,
and that in time to come they must be as strangers, or, at the most,
as mere acquaintances, to each other. If he could forget, she could do
the same: her pride was quite a match for his. It was a time of bitter
perplexity and trouble.

When Eleanor walked into the library to meet Pomeroy, she had his note
hidden in the bosom of her dress. She looked very cold and very proud.
Her coldness and her pride notwithstanding, she had kissed his letter
and cried over it; but of that Gerald was to know nothing. He bowed
gravely to her as she entered the room, but he did not speak, and that
of itself was enough to send a chill to her heart. Then he placed a
chair for her, and she sat down, but during the interview that
followed, Gerald stood with his elbow resting on the chimney-piece.

"Miss Lloyd," he began, when Eleanor was seated, "I have taken the
liberty of asking you to meet me privately, being desirous of saying
something to you which I could not well communicate by letter, and
which, perhaps, I ought to have told you long before now." His tone
was very measured and grave. Was it possible, Eleanor asked herself,
that she could be listening to the same man who had pressed her to his
heart in a rapture of love only two short weeks ago?

"You asked me to meet you, Mr. Pomeroy," she said, "and I am here to
listen to whatever you may have to say to me."

Evidently he hardly knew how to begin what he wanted to say.

"I am here to-day, Miss Lloyd," he said at last, "to make a very
painful confession, and I must ask your forgiveness if, in the course
of it, I am compelled to speak more plainly than under other
circumstances I should venture to do. Some three months ago I entered
the service of Sir Thomas Dudgeon as his secretary. At that time I was
doing nothing, or next to nothing: I was a poor man; the situation was
thrown in my way, and I accepted it. But I accepted it, Miss Lloyd,
not for the sake of the salary or emoluments attached to the position,
but simply in order that by its means I might be brought near to you,
and have an opportunity of making your acquaintance. It had been
hinted to me that the only mode by which I could recoup my fortunes
was by marrying an heiress. I was told that you were an heiress, and
that there was just a faint possibility that I might succeed in
winning your hand."

"Your confession, sir, has at least the merit of frankness," said
Eleanor, with a quivering lip.

"Its frankness is the only merit it can lay claim to. I came to
Stammars, Miss Lloyd, and I made your acquaintance. From that moment I
was a changed man. Whatever mercenary motives, whatever ignoble ends,
may have held possession of me before, they all vanished, utterly and
for ever, in that first hour of our meeting. I felt and knew only that
I loved you. In that love--so different from anything I had ever felt
before--lay a subtle alchemy, that had the power of transfusing into
something finer and purer everything base that it touched. It has
refined and purified me: it has given to my hopes and inspirations a
different aim: it has taught me to look at life and its duties with
altogether different eyes."

He paused for a moment. Eleanor sat without speaking. What, indeed,
could she say? But she had never loved him better than at that moment.

"A fortnight ago," resumed Gerald, "carried away by the impulse of the
moment, and my own long-suppressed feelings, I said certain words to
you which I ought not to have said--at least, not till after I had
told you what I am telling you to-day, and not till I knew that I was
forgiven. I am here to-day, Miss Lloyd, to crave your pardon for
having given utterance to those words, and to ask you to look upon
them as if they had never been said."

"Why need he do that?" whispered Eleanor in her heart.

"After the confession which I have just made as to the motives which
first led me to become an inmate of this house, I dare hardly hope
ever to attain again to that position in your regards which I
flattered myself--wrongly enough, perhaps--was mine but a little while
ago. How greatly I regret having forfeited that position I should fail
to tell you in any words. But I may, perhaps, hope that my candour
will meet with sufficient recognition at your hands to induce you to
overlook all that has gone before, and to treat me in time to come,
not as an utter stranger, but as one who----"

He paused, at a loss for words.

"No, not as an utter stranger, Mr. Pomeroy," said Eleanor, gently.
"Your confession, as you term it, has been nearly as painful to me as
it must have been to you. I almost forget what the words were to which
you have made allusion: something foolish, I do not doubt. In any
case, we will both try to forget that they were ever uttered.

She held out her hand as she spoke. Gerald took it, and pressed it
respectfully to his lips. Then her eyes met his, while a faint smile,
that was more akin to tears than laughter, played round her mouth for
a moment: for a moment only--the next, he was gone.


Matthew Kelvin found himself considerably better the morning of the
day following that on which he had been taken ill at Stammars, but in
the course of the afternoon he had a sharp return of the previous
symptoms. Then it was that his mother insisted upon sending for Dr.
Druce, the family practitioner, and Olive seconded the plea. Up to
this time Kelvin had strenuously refused to let any one be called in,
but he now yielded reluctantly to his mother's wishes. He had never
been ill enough to need the services of a doctor since those far-off
juvenile days of measles and scarlatina, and he was loth to believe
that there was any necessity for such services now.

However, in the course of the day, Dr. Druce looked in. He felt his
patient's pulse, looked at his tongue, and asked the usual questions.
Then he took off his spectacles, pursed up his mouth, shook his head
at Kelvin as though he were an offending schoolboy, and delivered
himself oracularly. "Disordered state of stomach. Nothing serious. Put
you right in a day or two. Must diet yourself more carefully in
future. What really charming weather we are having."

Everybody agreed that Dr. Druce was seventy years old; many averred
that he was nearly eighty. The latter people it probably was who
asserted that the doctor was purblind, that his memory was half gone,
that it was hardly safe for him to practise, and that he ought to
retire and make room for a younger man. The doctor, however, still
considered himself to be in the prime of his powers, and as he had
attended Mrs. Kelvin herself for a long series of years, and was,
besides, an old personal friend of that lady, it was not likely that
she would think of calling in any other assistance to her son.

As soon as Dr. Druce's visit had relieved in some measure his mother's
anxiety, Kelvin began to express his desire that Olive should get back
to Stammers without delay. "I shall be all right in a day or two," he
said, "and my mother, or one or other of the servants, will see
meanwhile that I want for nothing."

"I shall wait till to-morrow, and see how you are then, before I think
of going back," said Olive. "You know that my aunt can do nothing in
the way of waiting upon you, and as for the servants, they are all
very well in their places, but they would be quite out of their
element in a sick-room."

"A sick-room, indeed! You talk as if I were going to be laid up for a
month," said Kelvin, impatiently.

"I talk simple common sense, Matthew," said Olive. "Besides, Lady
Dudgeon promised me a holiday a month ago, and I don't see why I
should not take it now. In fact, I may tell you that I have already
written to her ladyship telling her not to expect me back for three or
four days."

"Cool, I must say. Not but what you are welcome to stay here as long
as you like: cela va sans dire; and I am greatly obliged to you for
what you have done for me already. But as for spending your holiday in
waiting on me--that's pure nonsense. A week at the seaside, now, is
what you ought to have."

"Which to me would mean a week in a strange place among people whom I
never saw before and should never see again. I would sooner hear Sophy
and Carry their lessons from year's end to year's end than indulge in
such a holiday as that."

"I shall be better to-morrow, you mark my words if I'm not, and then
we'll have a little further talk about your holiday."

But he was by no means better next morning; rather worse, indeed, if
anything. It was nothing, Dr. Druce said. The medicine sent by him
had, perhaps, had the effect of increasing the sickness, but the
patient himself was no worse than on the preceding day. A little time
and a little patience were needed. It was not to be expected that an
evil which had been growing for months, perhaps even for year, could
be put right in a day or two.

Kelvin said nothing to Olive that day about going back to Stammars. He
was very ill indeed, and he could not help admitting to himself that
it was a great comfort to have Olive to wait upon him. His mother, at
the best of times, would not have been of much use in a sick-room,
seeing that it was a matter of difficulty for her to walk across the
floor, and the very fact of Matthew being so ill only tended to make
her worse than usual. As for a hired nurse, Kelvin shuddered at the
thought. But such a nurse as Olive made all the difference. "You might
have been born to this sort of thing, from the way you go, about it,"
he said to her.

"You forget that for many years my father kept a chemist's shop in a
poor neighbourhood," she replied, "and that I seem to have been
familiar with sickness and disease since I can remember anything."

"You are a clever girl, Olive, and I believe you could doctor me a
deuced sight better than old Druce. I remember when I was a lad
hearing your father say that you knew almost as much about his drugs
and messes as he did himself."

Olive's back was towards him as he spoke, and she did not answer for a
moment or two. "That is a long time ago," she said, in a low voice;
"and such knowledge as that is easily forgotten. Then, again, you
remember how poor papa always would exaggerate a little."

How deft and noiseless were all her movements in the sick man's room!
How soft, and white, and cool were her hands! Her dress never rustled,
her shoes never creaked, her voice itself was attuned to the place and
the occasion. She was never hurried; nothing seemed to put her out.
She would either read to her cousin, or talk to him, or sit for hours
by his side doing some noiseless stitching that would not have
disturbed the slumbers of a mouse. When he was more than ordinarily
restless she would bathe his head with eau-de-Cologne or aromatic
vinegar, or sometimes, leaving his door ajar, she would go into the
other room and play some of his favourite airs softly on the piano,
and so, little by little, charm him out of his restless mood and
soothe him off into a refreshing sleep.

It was on the evening of the second day that Mrs. Kelvin called Olive
on one side. "You will not leave me to-morrow, unless my dear boy is
better?" said the old lady, with tears in her eyes.

"I will not leave you to-morrow, or next week, or next month, unless
my cousin is better," said Olive. "You may take my word for that."

"Heaven bless you, dear!" said Mrs. Kelvin, fervently; and she made as
though she would kiss Olive, but the latter started back.

"I think Matthew is calling me," she said, and she hurried into the
other room.

One day passed after another, and still Dr. Druce's patient did not

"These cases are sometimes very obstinate, indeed," said the old
gentleman, pleasantly, as he peered into his snuff-box in search of a
last pinch. "And then they not unfrequently affect the liver. Now, I
don't know a more obstinate noun substantive in the whole of the
English language than your disordered liver. As for the increasing
weakness that you complain about--why, I don't care much about that,
because it tends to keep down any febrile symptoms. Of course, if you
can't eat you can't keep up your strength; but when you once take a
turn, you know, you'll have the appetite of a wolf--I may say, the
appetite of a wolf in winter."

"What a comfort it is, dear," said Mrs. Kelvin to Olive, "to think
that we are in the hands of such a nice clever man as Dr. Druce. He
has had so much experience that I believe he can tell at a glance what
is the matter with a patient. Experience, in the medical profession,
is everything."

Sir Thomas and Lady Dudgeon drove over to see Mr. Kelvin a couple of
days before their return to London. They were greatly concerned at his
illness. As regarded Miss Deane, permission was given her to stay with
her cousin as long as it might be necessary for her to do so. The
young ladies, her pupils, were gone to pay a long-deferred visit to an
aunt of theirs, and it was quite uncertain when they would return.

One of Olive's difficulties was thus smoothed away for her without any
trouble on her part.

A few hours after Sir Thomas's visit, Mr. Kelvin suddenly opened his
hollow eyes. "Olive, where is my mother?" he asked, abruptly.

"She was tired, and she has gone to lie down for half an hour."

"Then you and I can have a little talk together."

Olive guessed instinctively what was coming. "If what you were about
to say to me is not very important, I would leave it unsaid to-day, if
I were you," she answered. "You have done more talking already than is
good for you."

As if to verify her words, he was suddenly taken with a severe fit of
sickness which lasted several minutes and left him thoroughly

Laying his wasted fingers on Olive's arm, and drawing her towards him,
"What I was about to say was this," he whispered. "Since I have been
lying here, I have had time to think of many things. But the thing
that has weighed heaviest on my mind, the thing that I have regretted
most, is my treatment of Eleanor Lloyd. It was you, Olive, who
persuaded me to hide the truth from her, to let her live on in
ignorance of her real history; to--to--you understand what I mean."

"You know what my motives in the matter were, Matthew," said Olive, in
a low voice.

"Yes, I know quite well what they were, and very mean and despicable
they seem to me now. Mind, I am not going to reproach you. The fault
was mine in allowing myself to be persuaded by you. In any case, the
past is the past, and nothing can alter it; but, so sure as I now lie
here, the very first day that I can crawl downstairs, I will send for
Miss Lloyd, tell her everything, and ask her forgiveness for the wrong
I have done her!"

He said no more, but shut his eyes and seemed as if he were going to

Olive at this time had got Gerald Warburton's letter upstairs, and
had, in fact, already answered it in the way that we have seen. For a
moment she was tempted to show the letter to her cousin, but before
she could make up her mind to do so, Kelvin was asleep or seemed to
be. So telling herself that she did not care to disturb him, she let
the opportunity go by, and as Kelvin, when he awoke, did not again
recur to the subject, there seemed to be no reason why she should do
so. Not much longer could the climax be delayed, not much longer could
Eleanor Lloyd be kept in ignorance; of that Olive was quite aware; but
she would, if possible, delay the revelation for a little while; delay
it till Mr. Kelvin should have thoroughly recovered from his illness,
and having got rid of all his foolish sick-bed fancies, should be
prepared to carry out the scheme in all its features as originally
proposed by her and agreed to by him.

But when would Mr. Kelvin have recovered from his illness? That was a
question which, as yet, Olive was not prepared to answer. Sometimes it
seemed to her that her plot was slowly working itself round to the
fulfilment for which she so ardently longed; sometimes it seemed as if
no such fulfilment were possible to her. That her cousin liked to have
her by his side, liked to have her wait upon him, she saw clearly
enough, and she fancied that with each day she became more
indispensable to him. But was his heart touched by her devotion; was
he slowly but surely learning to love her? That was a problem which at
present she could in nowise solve. Time and patience might work
wonders for her, and with them as her allies she saw no reason, when
in her more sanguine moods, to despair of ultimate success. Having
gone so far, having ventured so much, it was not likely, as she said
to herself, that she should go back, that she should let herself be
overcome by any childish timidity or nonsensical scruples, when, for
aught she knew to the contrary, she might at that very moment be on
the brink of success. She never knew what a day, what an hour, might
bring forth. At some moment when least expected her cousin might put
forth his hand and say to her, "Olive, my heart has come round to you
again. I love you. Be my wife." If such a prize were not to be won
without risk, she was prepared to run that risk, whatever it might

There were times when Kelvin's mysterious malady caused him to suffer
acutely. At such moments Olive was always by his side, "a ministering
angel," as her cousin himself called her one day; soothing him with
the gentlest attentions, anticipating each want intuitively, making
herself, in fact, so indispensable to him that after a while he could
hardly bear to let her go out of his sight, and if, when he woke up,
she were not by his side, he would cry, fretfully, "Where's Olive? Why
isn't she here?" and toss and turn restlessly till he felt her soft
cold hand laid on his brow.

But even Olive's nerves of steel gave way sometimes. When, at
midnight, or later than that, she would steal out of her cousin's room
in the hope of getting an hour or two's sleep, sleep would not come to
her. All tired as she was, she would fling herself on her bed, and,
burying her face in her pillow, cry for an hour at a time as if her
heart would break. To see the man she loved so passionately suffer as
he suffered; to know that she had but to hold up her little finger, as
it were, for his sufferings to cease, but that if she were to let her
compassion so master her he would be lost to her for ever; to know
that her only chance of winning him was to win him through those
sufferings which she alone could soothe: to feel and know all this was
at times, especially in the midnight darkness of her own room, torture
unspeakable. But when, at cockcrow, the ebony gates of the realm of
shadows and midnight fancies were silently shut, and when another day
looked in at the windows with its clear cold eyes, the purpose of
Olive Deane faltered no longer: her strong will re-asserted itself,
and tears and compunction alike were for the time being thrust
mercilessly out of sight.

"Oh, doctor, doctor, when are you going to get me downstairs again?"
the sick man would sometimes wearily ask. "I am so terribly tired of
lying here."

To which the old gentleman, tapping his snuff-box, would blandly
reply: "That Mr. Liver is a deuce of a fellow to get right again
when once he's really put out. So obstinate, you know, and all
that. Wants a deal of coaxing. But we shall bring him to his senses
by-and-by--yes, yes, by-and-by, never fear."


Three days after Mr. Van Duren's little birthday dinner at Greenwich,
the following advertisement appeared in the second column of the

"_Albatross_.--Should this meet the eye of any person or persons who
happened to be on board the schooner _Albatross_ when she foundered
off Marhyddoc Bay on the 18th Oct., 18--, they may hear of something
to their advantage, by applying to Messrs. Reed and Reed, Solicitors,
Bedford Row, London."

This advertisement was repeated every other day for three weeks. At
the end of that time there came a response.

As it happened, Van Duren never saw the advertisement, and there was
no one to show it to him; no one who knew what a terrible fascination
such an announcement would have had for him. His newspaper reading was
generally confined to the money article, the City intelligence, and
the latest telegrams. For miscellaneous news and leading articles he
cared little Or nothing.

Now that everything had been got out of Max Van Duren that could be
got out of him, the motive that had induced Miriam Byrne to play the
part she had played existed no longer; and although it was needful
that appearances should still be kept up, there was no longer the same
strain upon her. While keeping Van Duren at arm's length, and
permitting no lover-like familiarities, on the ground that as yet he
was only accepted on probation, it would not have been wise, having an
eye to future eventualities, to repel him too rigidly, or to have run
the risk of frightening him away. He must be so kept in hand that a
little coaxing--a smile, a look, a whispered word--could always lure
him to her side. He would fain have been twice as loving, twice as
assiduous in his attentions, as Miriam would allow him to be. "Wait,"
she would say, "wait till I have made up my mind, and then----!" a
look would finish the sentence, a look which seemed to say, "You know
very well that I shall end by accepting you, and then I won't object
to your kissing me, or perhaps to kissing you in return." That, at
least, was Van Duren's interpretation of it.

During the time that the advertisement was appearing every other day,
Byrne seized the opportunity for obtaining a little rest and change.
He and Miriam went back for a week to their old lodgings in Battersea,
which they had not yet given up. Van Duren believed that they were
going to the seaside, but could not discover the particular place for
which they were bound. Miriam put the case to him playfully.

"No, I shall not tell you where we are going," she said, with a smile,
"because that would be merely offering you a premium to run down and
spend the end of week with us. I am going to leave you for seven long
days. You will not know where I am, and I shall not write to you. I am
going to test you--I am going to see whether you will like me as well
when I come back as you do now."

"You should try me for seven years instead of seven days," said Van
Duren, fervently.

"Suppose I take you at your word, and stay away for seven years," said
Miriam, with a mischievous sparkle in her eye.

"Like a knight of old, I should start in quest of you long before that
time was at an end; I should search for you till I found you in your
hidden bower, and then I should seize you, and carry you away with me,
whether you liked it or no."

"Yes, and while you were riding off with me as fast as you could go, I
should be slily searching for a joint in your armour, and when I had
found it, I should stab you to the heart with my silver bodkin. What a
romance it would be!"

"Especially for the poor fellow who was stabbed."

"He would live in song and story ever after, and that would be far
more fame than he would deserve."

At the end of a week Miriam and her father found themselves back in
Spur Alley, and three days later there came a response to the
advertisement. Messrs. Reed and Reed were called upon by two men who
professed to have been on board the _Albatross_ at the time she
foundered. One of these men was Paul Morrell, the mate of the
ill-fated schooner; the other one was Carl Momsen, an ordinary seaman.
An appointment was made for the following day, when Mr. Byrne came in
person to examine them. A private room was set apart for the
interview, and one of Messrs. Reed's shorthand clerks was there to
take notes. The men were examined separately, and out of each other's
hearing, but the evidence elicited from one was almost an exact
counterpart of the evidence elicited from the other. The evidence of
both of them may be summarized as follows:--

The _Albatross_ sailed from Liverpool for Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the
17th October, 18--. She was not in the habit of carrying passengers,
but on this particular occasion there was one passenger on board her
who was said to be a friend of the owner. He was a foreigner, but
spoke very good English. He had sandy-coloured hair, and wore small
gold rings in his ears. Neither of the men knew his name. The
_Albatross_ was caught in a gale off the mouth of the Mersey. Next
morning she sprung a leak, and a little while after the schooner's
head was put about for Marhyddoc Bay. Outside the bay the vessel
foundered, and the crew had barely time to take to the boats before
she went down. At the last moment the man with the earrings brought up
out of his cabin what looked like a small portmanteau, it being
covered with leather, but which he called a box. This box he wanted to
take with him in the boat, but as the men had orders to take off and
leave behind them all superfluous clothing, and as it was the merest
chance whether even then the boat would not be swamped, it was quite
evident that the box must be left behind. The man entreated and
stormed, and offered a reward of five hundred pounds to any one who
would take his box ashore. But life is sweeter than five hundred
pounds, and the box had to be left behind. The man raved like a maniac
about the loss, but an hour or two after reaching shore he
disappeared, and neither Morrell nor Momsen either saw or heard
anything of him from that day forward.

After the examination was over, Morrell, as being the more intelligent
of the two men, was asked whether he thought it possible that if he
were to see the passenger of the Albatross he could recognise him

After so long a time it seemed very doubtful to him whether he could
do so, he said, but he would be happy to try.

Accordingly, next day, while Van Duren was dining at his usual tavern,
Morrell was instructed to walk into the room and call for some dinner,
and see whether he could pick his man out of the assembled company.

About an hour later he rejoined Byrne in a private room of another
tavern close at hand.

"I picked him out in a moment, sir," said the ex-mate. "Yes, the very
moment I set eyes on him I knew him again. He's stouter and older
looking, of course, and he's close-shaved now, and wears no earrings;
but, for all that, he's the same man."

"I think you told me the other day," said Byrne, "that you had nothing
very particular to do just now?"

"Yes, sir, I did. I only got back from China a few weeks since, and,
as I am getting on in life, it's just a toss up with me whether I
shall go to sea again or settle down ashore for the rest of my days."

"Then you will have no objection to enter my service for a little

"None whatever, sir."

"On Wednesday morning next I shall want you to go down from Euston
Station to Marhyddoc, and there make certain inquiries for me."

"Nothing could please me better, sir. I've had plenty of travelling by
water: a little travelling by land will make a pleasant change."

"Then meet me here on Tuesday evening at seven, and I will give you
your instructions."

Before proceeding further, Byrne thought that he had better put
Ambrose Murray in possession of what he had done since their last
meeting, and seek his sanction to the steps he proposed taking next.
Byrne accordingly sought Murray out at his lodgings, and the two men
had a long consultation. Gerald, unfortunately, was at Stammars just
then, and could not be present.

"Everything now hinges upon the result of Morrell's inquiries at
Marhyddoc," said Byrne. "Should the report he will bring back with him
prove a favourable one, then we may consider ourselves fortunate
indeed--then we may take it that the best or worst will soon be known
to us. But should the result of his inquiries prove unfavourable to
our hopes, then all that we have done--all my toiling and scheming,
all the expense you have been put to--will have been next to useless.
Van Duren's guilt as the murderer of Paul Stilling may have been
morally proved to the satisfaction of you and me and one or two
others, but that would be of no avail whatever in proving your
innocence and in bringing home the crime to him. Unless we can wrest
from the sea the terrible secret which it has hidden so carefully all
these years, the guilt of Van Duren will remain unproved for ever.
Beyond the point now reached by us it is impossible to advance a
single step till we shall have made that secret our own."

"The sea has only been keeping its secret all these years that it
might yield it up when the time should be ripe for me to ask for it.
That time has now come. I ask for it, and I shall have it. Have no
fear, my good friend, no fear whatever. Guided by an unseen hand, we
have threaded a labyrinth from which at first there seemed no possible
outlet; and now that we have reached the gate, and are bidden to look
for the key, can you doubt that it is there for the searching--can you
doubt that we shall find it?"

"Cracked, to a certainty," muttered Byrne to himself, as he left the
house. "And no wonder either, poor fellow, when one remembers all that
he has had to go through."

Morrell went down to Wales in due course, and in due course he
returned. His report to Byrne was of such a nature that the latter
could not conceal his exultation. "We shall have him yet!" he
exclaimed, much to the ex-mate's astonishment. "He has escaped for
twenty long years, but the hangman's fingers shall unbutton his collar
before he is six months older."

Then he went and saw Murray again, and it was arranged that they two,
together with Gerald, if possible, should go down to Marhyddoc as soon
as certain necessary preparations which would have to be made in
London should be completed. Morrell, too, was to form one of the

When Byrne and Miriam got back to their rooms in Spur Alley, Van Duren
could not conceal his exultation at seeing them under his roof again.
His time of probation would soon be at an end now: Miriam would soon
have to make up her mind to the utterance of a definite "Yes," or
"No." Now that she had come back, she seemed more kind and gracious to
him than before, from which fact he did not fail to draw an augury
that was favourable to his own wishes.

Ambrose Murray had his little portmanteau packed ready for the journey
to Wales several days before the other preparations could possibly be
completed. Miss Bellamy had never seen him so elated before. He went
about the house singing to himself in an under-tone, or whistling
snatches of old tunes that had been popular when he was a boy. That
cloud of quiet melancholy, which would sometimes oppress him for days
together, without a break in its dulness, had all but vanished,
leaving but a shadow of its former self behind. Miss Bellamy had asked
him several times to go and have his portrait taken, but up to the
present he had always declined to do so. One fine day, however, after
the journey to Wales had been decided on, he astonished her by telling
her that if she would go and be photographed he would follow her

"First of all, Maria, you shall be photographed by yourself," he said,
"and then I'll be photographed by myself; and after that, what do you
say to our being photographed together, eh? Such old friends as you
and I are ought to be photographed together. But, above all things,
Maria, don't forget to be taken with your locket."

This latter remark was a sly hit at the large, old-fashioned locket
which Miss Bellamy wore round her neck on high days and holidays--at
such times, in fact, as she wore her silver grey dress and her company
cap, but at no other. Ambrose Murray could remember Miss Bellamy
wearing this locket when she was a girl of nineteen, and she wore it
still. He often joked her about it, and would offer to wager anything
that if she would only let him have a peep inside it he should find
there the portrait of a certain handsome cornet of dragoons, with
whom, according to his account, she had at one time a desperate
flirtation. But he never had seen inside the locket, and Miss Bellamy
was quite sure that he never would do so with her consent; for within
that old-fashioned piece of jewellery was shut up the cherished secret
of Miss Bellamy's life. Ambrose Murray's laughing assertion that in it
was hidden the portrait of a man was so far true, but the likeness was
not that of any young cornet of dragoons, but that of Ambrose Murray
himself--of Ambrose Murray at two-and-twenty, with brown hair, and
laughing eyes, and no care in the world beyond that of making up his
mind which one out of a bevy of pretty girls he was most in love with.
He fell in love, not with Miss Bellamy, but with her friend, and Miss
Bellamy's secret remained buried for ever in her own heart. With the
portrait were shut up two locks of hair: one lock was of a light
golden brown colour, the other was white.

"There is room for another portrait," said Miss Bellamy to herself,
with a sigh, when Ambrose Murray proposed going to the photographer's,
"and then it will be full." She had left orders in her will that the
locket should be buried with her. How her heart fluttered, how the
unwonted colour rushed to her face, when Ambrose proposed that they
should be photographed together! Years had no power to weaken or alter
her love, but she would have died rather than let Murray suspect for a
moment the existence of any such feeling on her part. He knew it not,
but it was a fact that, with the exception of a few trifling legacies,
all her little property was bequeathed to him, or, in event of his
prior demise, to Eleanor. In her secret heart she could not help
dreading a little the coming of that time when father and daughter
should learn to know and love each other. She must then, of necessity,
fall into the background; she must then, of necessity, sink into
little more than a mere cypher in the sum of Ambrose Murray's
existence. Had Eleanor been a daughter of her own she could hardly
have loved her better, and she told herself, times without number,
that to see the girl and her father happy in each other's love ought
to be sufficient reward for any one who thought of others more than
herself. And ought she not to study the happiness of these two, both
of whom were so dear to her, rather than her own selfish feelings?

However sharp the pang might be, whatever the cost to herself might
be, she would so study it--she would do her best to bring them

That time when Ambrose Murray was, as it were, living under the same
roof with her, was a very happy time for Miss Bellamy. Murray himself
did not seem to know, or perhaps it would be more correct to say that
he never thought how greatly he was indebted to her. Beyond a flying
visit now and then from Gerald, he had no society save that of Miss
Bellamy, and of the children of the two houses in which he and she had
apartments. He almost invariably took tea and supper with Miss
Bellamy, and spent his evenings with her, and made, besides, almost as
free a use of her sitting-room as of his own. He looked upon her, in
fact, as he would have looked upon a sister to whom he was much
attached, and that she regarded him in the light of a brother he was
fully convinced.

An agreement had long ago been come to between Gerald and Miss Bellamy
by which it was arranged that Ambrose Murray should be relieved from
all pecuniary cares and liabilities. No one ever presented him with a
bill for the rent of his apartments. The servant would ask him what he
would have for breakfast or dinner, and whatever he might order was
there for him ready to the minute, but no butcher or baker ever vexed
his soul with unpaid accounts. Now and then he would find a sovereign
in some odd place or other--in his razor-case, inside one of his
gloves, or in the folds of his Sunday cravat. He would pick up the
coin, look at it curiously for a moment or two, wondering how he could
possibly have been so absent-minded as to leave money there, and then
put it quietly into his pocket and think no more about it.

A brief telegram from Byrne reached Ambrose Murray one afternoon:--

"Preparations completed. Shall be ready to start from Euston Square at
nine o'clock on Saturday morning. Shall expect to find you on
platform, unless I hear from you in course of to-day."

He was so fluttered by the receipt of this telegram that he could not
eat any dinner. He at once sat down and wrote a note to Gerald,
enclosing the telegram, and begging of him, if he could possibly do
so, to join him in Wales early in the ensuing week. Then he said to
himself, "I must write to Mary before I go. I feel sure that she is
expecting a letter from me. But first the boat must be finished."

In a back room he had fixed up a lathe, and a small joiner's bench, at
which he occasionally amused himself. There were various kinds of
useless knick-knacks that he could manufacture with some degree of
skill, and the toys of half the children in the neighbourhood were
mended at his bench. As soon as he had sent off his letter to Gerald,
he shut himself up in his little workshop, and set to work busily to
finish a little toy boat, which was half done already. It was a very
small affair--a child's boat, in fact, cut out of a block of wood, and
not more than a couple of feet in length. He worked at it till late
that evening, and by noon next day it was finished to his
satisfaction. Then he slept for an hour, and then he sat down to write
his letter. This is what he wrote:--

"My Darling Mary,

"I had a very strange dream the other night. I dreamt that I had
written you a letter, and that when I had sealed it up I put it in a
little boat, and let the boat and the letter float down the river with
the tide. And in my dream I seemed to watch the boat till it got far
out to sea, beyond the sight of any land. Then all at once the clouds
gathered, till the black edges of one of them seemed to touch the sea,
and then from cloud and sea together there was formed a huge
waterspout, that presently drew to itself and sucked up my boat and
letter. And when they vanished, the waterspout vanished also, and
presently the clouds broke away, and in the heavens one splendid star
was shining, which seemed to me as a token that you had received my

"My darling, I have translated this dream as a message from you,
telling me what I ought to do. Very often of late your face has
appeared to me in my dreams; but when I have tried to speak to you, an
invisible finger seemed to be laid on my lips, and my heart could only
yearn dumbly towards you. But now you have shown me a way by means of
which a message may reach you--for from you alone that dream could
come. The boat is ready, and the midnight tide will take it down to
the sea, and then at dawn of day the waterspout will come and lift my
letter up into the clouds; but of what will follow after I know

"My darling, day by day the time of our separation grows shorter; soon
shall we see each other again, and all these long years of waiting and
trouble will seem but as a dim vision of the night, fading and
vanishing utterly in the bright dawn of an everlasting day. The
purpose that has held me and chained me to this life for so, long a
time is now near its fulfilment, and after that I feel and know that I
shall not be long before I join you. Soon the time will be here when I
can tell everything to our child--our child, Mary! whom I have never
seen since she lay an infant in your arms. Very precious will her love
be to me, but not so precious as yours. I shall stay with her a little
while, I shall tell her all about the mother whom she cannot remember,
and then I shall go to you.

"To-morrow night, darling, you will come to me in my sleep, will you
not? Then, when I see you, I shall take it as a token that you have
had my letter.

"Soon I will write to you again--when the sea shall have given up the
secret which it has hidden so carefully for twenty years. Till then,

     "Your husband,

            "Ambrose Murray."

This singular document Mr. Murray sealed up carefully, and then
addressed it, "To my Wife in Heaven." Then leaving a message for Miss
Bellamy, who happened to be out shopping, that he was going out for
the evening, he took a hansom to London Bridge and started by the next
train for Gravesend, taking the boat and letter with him. He had still
some hours to wait; but at midnight, having made a previous
arrangement with a boatman, he put off from the pier stairs, and was
pulled slowly out to the middle of the black and silent river. A few
stars could be seen overhead; now and then the moon shone down through
a rift in the clouds. The whole scene was weird and ghostly. The tide
was running down rapidly. A cold wind blew faintly across the river,
as though it were the last chill breath of the dying day. They halted
in mid-stream just as the clocks on shore began to strike twelve. Then
Murray took his toy-boat out of its brown paper covering, and having
firmly fixed his letter in it by means of a strip of wood intended for
that purpose, he leaned over the side and placed it gently on the
surface of the stream. On this point, at any rate, poor Murray was
still insane.

"What are you after, master?" cried the boatman, whose suspicions were
beginning to be aroused.

"I am sending a letter to my wife," answered Murray, as he lifted his
hat for a moment. "See how swiftly it starts on its journey. And now I
can see it no longer. But no harm will happen to it. How pleased my
darling will be when she reads it!"

The boatman said no more, but thinking that he had got a crazy person
to deal with, whose next act might be to jump into the river himself,
he made all possible haste back to shore.

It happened, singularly enough, that on the Wednesday previous to the
Saturday fixed on by Peter Byrne for the journey to Wales, Mr. Van
Duren entered his room and announced to him and Miriam that he had
been called suddenly from home on business of great importance. Byrne,
as yet, had given no hint of any intention on his part to go out of
town, and he now determined to say nothing about it till after Van
Duren's departure.

"How long do you expect to be away, Mr. Van Duren?" asked Miriam, as
she glanced at him out of her big black eyes.

"Four or five days, at the least, I am afraid," he said. "It is a
source of great annoyance to me to be called away at this time, but
unfortunately there is no way of avoiding it. You may depend upon my
getting back as quickly as possible," he added, significantly.

"The house will seem very lonely and dull without you."

"I am afraid you flatter me," he replied, slowly. Then he suddenly
drew his chair up to her side and took her hand in his. "Miriam," he
said, "do you know that the time you asked for in order that you might
be able to make up your mind is nearly at an end?"

"Yes, I suppose it is," said Miriam, in little more than a whisper.

"As soon as I return from the continent, I shall expect you to give me
an answer."

She did not speak.

"If I only knew what the answer would be!"

She smiled, and gave him another glance out of her black eyes.

The colour mounted to his forehead.

"You won't keep me in suspense much longer?" he said. "You will let me
know my fate, won't you, as soon as I come back?"

For the first time she bent her eyes on him fully and steadily. "Yes,
Mr. Van Duren," she said, "you shall know your fate when you get back
from the Continent."

Before she knew what he was about to do, he had seized her hand and
pressed it passionately to his lips. She shuddered from head to foot
as she withdrew it from his grasp. Bakewell knocked and entered. "Your
hansom is at the door, sir, and you have only just time to catch the

Van Duren arose and made his adieux. "Your father still seems very
weak and feeble," he said, in a low voice, to Miriam, as he stood for
a moment at the door. "I am afraid that the warm weather has not done
much to benefit him."

"Will anything in this world ever do much to benefit him," she
answered. Then there was a last shake of the hand, and then she
watched him go downstairs. As soon as she heard the front door clash
she ran to the window, and waved him a last adieu as he was driven
away. "Shall I ever see him again, I wonder?" she whispered to herself
"I hope not."

"Farewell, Max Jacoby, otherwise Van Duren!" cried Byrne, as he took
off his wig and flung it across the room. "When next we meet it will
be under very different circumstances."

Pringle, as was usual whenever his master was from home, was left in
special charge of the premises. At such times he slept in the house,
and was waited upon by Bakewell and his wife. As it was necessary to
give some sort of an intimation that they were going out of town,
Byrne, on the Friday morning, sent Miriam downstairs to see Pringle,
and tell him that they had suddenly made up their minds to take a
holiday at the seaside for a week or two. Pringle was most affable
and polite, and desired Miss Byrne to give his respects to her papa,
and say how sincerely he hoped that the sea air might prove of benefit
to him. At the same time, might he be permitted to ask for an address
to which he could send any post letters that might happen to come for
Mr. Byrne after his departure?

As Miriam had not mentioned the place to which they were going, this
seemed only a fair question. However, she had an answer ready. She
wrote down Miss Bellamy's address, to which place Pringle was
requested to send all letters.

That same evening, between eight and nine, Miriam and her father went
out for a little while to make a few final arrangements for their
journey in the morning. They had hardly been gone five minutes when
Pringle happened to find himself on the landing opposite the door of
their sitting-room. On turning the handle the door was found to be
unlocked and the gas only half turned down--signs that the inmates
might be expected back before very long.

Leaving the door wide open, Pringle glided into the room. He was dying
to know to what place Byrne and his daughter were going--in fact, he
did not believe they were going to the seaside at all--and he thought
that he might perhaps find a luggage label, or something else, in the
room, that would reveal to him what he wanted to know.

One or two boxes, ready packed, were there, and on the table lay
several loose labels, but, unfortunately for Pringle's purpose, they
were still blank. Gliding quietly about the room, he next tried the
different drawers and cupboards, hoping that in one or other of them
he might find a clue of some kind to what he was so anxious to know,
but all his searching proved of no avail. Suddenly he heard the street
door open, and he had hardly time to get out of the room and round the
corner of the next landing, before Miriam ran lightly up the stairs to
fetch something that she had forgotten.

Later on in the evening, when Byrne and Miriam had got back home,
Pringle sent Bakewell upstairs to ask at what time next morning they
would like to have a cab in readiness.

"How long will it take to drive to Euston Square?" asked Miriam.

"A good half-hour, miss. Three-quarters, if you happen to meet with a

"At that rate an hour would be ample time. Will you kindly arrange to
have a cab in readiness by nine o'clock?"

At five minutes past nine next morning, Mr. Byrne and his daughter,
together with sundry boxes of luggage, drove away from Spur Alley in a
four-wheeler for Euston Square. Three minutes later Pringle was
following on their heels in a hansom. He had timed himself to arrive
at the station within two minutes of those whom he was following. He
alighted, and began to reconnoitre cautiously. It would not do to be
seen by either father or daughter. Peeping round a corner of the
entrance doors into the large hall, he there saw Miriam standing by
the luggage, Byrne having in all probability gone to secure tickets.
Pringle beckoned to a porter. "I'm from Scotland Yard," he whispered.
"I want you to find out, without its being noticed, for what place
those boxes are directed by which yonder young lady is standing."

"All right, sir--that's easily done," said the porter.

Three minutes later he came back to Pringle. "The boxes are labelled
for Marhyddoc, in North Wales," he said. Pringle put down the name of
the place in his note-book, gave the man a shilling, and took the next
omnibus back to the City.

But he did not leave the station till he caught a glimpse of Byrne as
he stood at the refreshment counter waiting for his travelling flask
to be filled. But the Peter Byrne whom he now saw was a very different
person from the decrepit, deaf old invalid of Spur Alley, The long
white locks, the black velvet skull-cap, the hump on the left
shoulder, and the feeble walk, had all disappeared in the cab, as if
by magic, leaving behind them a brisk, pleasant-looking gentleman of
middle age, who was speaking with the young person that was waiting
upon him, and who seemed to have no difficulty whatever in hearing her

"I thought as much," said Pringle, with a knowing shake of the head.
"It's no more than I expected. I've known all along that the old boy
and his daughter were up to some private little game of their own.
Well, so long as it means no good to Van Duren and no harm to me, I'm
not the man to spoil their sport. But what will Van Duren say when he
gets back home and finds his birds flown? It don't matter: I hope to
have flown too by that time."



*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Secret of the Sea. (Vol. 2 of 3) - A Novel." ***

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