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Title: Oswald Cray - A Novel
Author: Wood, Mrs. Henry (Ellen)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Notes:
     1. Page scan source:
        https://books.google.com/books?id=GHApAQAAIAAJ
        (The University of California.)



OSWALD CRAY.


[Frontispiece: "One word of sympathy."]



OSWALD CRAY.


A Novel.

BY
MRS. HENRY WOOD,
AUTHOR OF
"EAST LYNNE," "THE CHANNINGS," ETC.


  _EIGHTH EDITION_.


LONDON: RICHARD BENTLEY & SON, NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty.

1882.

[_All Rights of Translation and Reproduction are Reserved_.]



LONDON:
PRINTED BY J. OGDEN AND CO.,
172, ST. JOHN STREET, E.C.



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER
         I. Dr. Davenal.
        II. Lady Oswald's Letters.
       III. Miss Bettina Davenal.
        IV. Oswald Cray.
         V. Retrospect.
        VI. Neal's Curiosity.
       VII. An Interruption.
      VIII. A Tacit Bargain.
        IX. Edward Davenal.
         X. A Treat for Neal.
        XI. Lady Oswald's Journey.
       XII. Waiting for News.
      XIII. Pain.
       XIV. A Whim Of Lady Oswald's.
        XV. Mark Cray's Mistake.
       XVI. Neal's Dismay.
      XVII. The Night Visitor to Dr. Davenal.
     XVIII. After the Visitor's Departure.
       XIX. Commotion.
        XX. Going Down to the Funeral.
       XXI. The Interview with the Doctor.
      XXII. The Will.
     XXIII. Neal's Visit.
      XXIV. Dr. Davenal's "Folly."
       XXV. Company for Mr. Oswald Cray.
      XXVI. More Instilled Doubt.
     XXVII. An Inclement Afternoon.
    XXVIII. The Last Meeting.
      XXIX. A Special Favour for Neal.
       XXX. The Doctor's Birthday.
      XXXI. Bad News for Hallingham.
     XXXII. Last Hours.
    XXXIII. Sorrow.
     XXXIV. Work for the Future.
      XXXV. Mark's New Plans.
     XXXVI. "Is Mark in his Senses?"
    XXXVII. Entering on a New Home.
   XXXVIII. Hope Deferred.
     XXXIX. An Unpleasant Visit.
        XL. A Flourishing Company.
       XLI. A Slight Check.
      XLII. In the Temple Gardens.
     XLIII. An Irruption on Mark Cray.
      XLIV. Was she never to be at Peace?
       XLV. Mrs. Benn's Wrongs.
      XLVI. An Unwelcome Visitor.
     XLVII. Commotion.
    XLVIII. Day-dreams Rudely Interrupted.
      XLIX. The Evening of the Blow.
         L. Hard Usage for Dick.
        LI. Weary Days.
       LII. Something "turned up" at Last.
      LIII. A New Home.
       LIV. A Bell Ringing out at Midnight.
        LV. A Desolate Night.
       LVI. No Hope.
      LVII. Dreadful Treachery.
     LVIII. The Gallant Captain home again.
       LIX. The Sergeant-Major's Wife.
        LX. Light.
       LXI. The Bargain Sealed.
      LXII. "Finance," this Time.
     LXIII. Six Months Later.



OSWALD CRAY.



CHAPTER I.
DR. DAVENAL.


It was market-day at Hallingham. A moderate-sized and once beautiful
town, cut up now by the ugly railroad which had chosen to take its way
right through it, and to build a large station on the very spot where
the Abbey Gardens used to flourish. Famous gardens once; and not so
long ago the evening recreation of the townspeople, who would
promenade there at sunset, whatever the time of year. Since the
gardens had been seized upon for the railway purposes, a bitter feud
of opinion had reigned in the place; the staid old inhabitants
mourning and resenting their town's desecration; the younger welcoming
the new rail, its station, and its bustle, with all their might and
main, as a grateful inbreak on their monotonous life. The trains from
London (distant some sixty or seventy miles) would go shrieking and
whistling through the town at any hour of the day or night: and, so
far, peace for Hallingham was over.

Possibly it was because the town was famous for little else, that
these Abbey Gardens were so regretted. Hallingham Abbey had been
renowned in the ages gone by; very little of its greatness was left to
it now. The crumbling hand of time had partially destroyed the fine
old building, an insignificant portion of it alone remaining: just
sufficient to impart a notion of its style of architecture and the
century of its erection: and this small portion had been patched and
propped, and altogether altered and modernised, by way of keeping it
together. It was little more than an ordinary dwelling-house now; and
at the present moment was unoccupied, ready to be let to any suitable
tenant who would take it. But, poor as it was in comparison with some
of the modern dwellings in its vicinity, it was still in a degree
bowed down to by Hallingham. There was something high-sounding in the
address, "The Abbey, Hallingham," and none but a gentleman born and
bred must venture to treat for it.

It stood alone: the extensive gardens in front of it; the space once
occupied by the chapel behind it. All traces of the chapel building
were gone now, but its mossy gravestones were imbedded in the ground
still, and the spot remained as sacred as a graveyard. The Latin
inscriptions on some of these stones could be yet made out: and
that on one attracted as much imaginative speculation as the famed
gravestone in the cloisters of Worcester Cathedral. A few Latin words
only were on it, signifying "buried in misery:" no name, no date.
Thoughtful natures would glance at that stone as they passed it, with
an inward breath of hope--perhaps of prayer--that the misery
experienced by its unhappy tenant in this world had been exchanged for
a life of immortality. This graveyard was not a thoroughfare, and few
cared to walk there who were absorbed in the bustle and pleasures of
life; but the aged, the invalid, the mourner might be seen there on
fine days, seated on its one solitary bench, and buried in solemn
reflections. A short space of time, more or less, as it might happen,
and they would be lying under gravestones in their turn: a short space
of time, my friends, and you and I shall be equally lying there.

The broad space of the public road running along the Abbey's front
divided it from the gardens, the gardens being the public property of
the town. On the opposite side of these gardens, furthest from the
Abbey, were the buildings of the new station and the lines upon lines
of rails.

It is well to say lines upon lines of rails! Hallingham said
it--said it with a groan. Not content with a simple line, or a double
line of rails, sufficient for ordinary traffic, the railway
authorities had made it into a "junction"--"Hallingham Junction!"--and
more lines branched off from it than you would care to count. This was
at the east end of the town; beyond it was the open country. Some of
the lines made a sort of semicircle, cut off a corner of the town, and
branched off into space. It's true it was a very shabby little corner
of the town that had thus been cut off, but Hallingham did not the
less resent the invasion.

Walking down to Hallingham along the broad road leading from the Abbey,
its busiest part was soon gained. Let us look at it today: Tuesday. It
is market-day at Hallingham, and the hot July sun streams full on the
people's heads, for there's no room for the raised umbrellas, and they
afford little continuous shade. It is the large, wide, open space in
front of the town-hall where we have halted, and here from time
immemorial the market people have sat to chaffer and change, barter
and sell. Country women expose their poultry and eggs, their butter and
cream cheese, and their other wares, all on this spot. No matter what
the weather--in the dog-days of summer, in the sharp snow, the pitiless
storm of winter--here they are every Tuesday under their sea of
umbrellas, which must be put down to allow space to the jostling crowd
when the market gets full. The town had been talking the last ten years
of erecting a covered market-house; but it was not begun yet.

Still on, down the principal street, leaving this market-place to the
left, and what was called the West-end of the town was gained. Proud
Hallingham had named it West-end in imitation of London. It was nothing
but a street; its name, New Street, proclaiming that it was of more
recent date than some of the other parts. It was really a fine street,
wide and open, with broad white pavements, and its houses were mostly
private ones, their uniformity of line being broken by a detached house
here and there. It was a long street, and five or six other by-streets
and turnings branched off from it at right angles.

Lying back from the street at the corner of one of these turnings was a
handsome white house, detached, with a fine pillared-portico entrance
in its centre and a plate on the door. It was fully as conspicuous to
the street as were the other houses which abutted on the pavement. A
level lawn was before it, divided from the street by low light iron
railings, its small light gate in the midst, opposite the
entrance-door. Narrow flower-beds, filled with gay and charming
flowers, skirted the lawn before the rails; on the sides, but not in
front, flourished evergreens close to the railings behind the
flower-beds, making a sort of screen. An inclosed garden lay at the
back of the house, and beyond the garden were the stables. On the
brass plate--you could read it from the street,--was inscribed "Dr.
Davenal."

He was the chief _surgeon_ of Hallingham. Why he had taken his
degree--a recent accession of dignity--people were puzzled to tell.
Had he cared for high-sounding titles they could have understood it;
but he did not care for them: had he been a slave to example, that
might have accounted for it, for this degree-taking, as you must be
aware, has come into fashion of late years: had he wished to court
notoriety, he might have thought that a means to bring it to him. But
Hallingham knew Dr. Davenal better. He was a simple-minded man; he
liked to be out of the fashion instead of in it; and whether he wrote
"doctor" or "surgeon" after his name, he could not be more deservedly
renowned in his locality than he already was. He was a skilful
surgeon, a careful and successful operator, and his advice in purely
medical cases was sought in preference to that of any physician in
Hallingham. A rumour arose, untraceable to any certain source, that
his son Edward, a dashing young captain of infantry, had urged the
step upon him with a view to enhance his own standing with his brother
officers. The son of Mr. Davenal, a country surgeon, might be thought
slightingly of: the son of Dr. Davenal need not be. Be that as it
might, the rumour gained some credence, but it died away again. One
patient only ventured to question Dr. Davenal as to its truth, and the
doctor laughed heartily in his patient's face, and said he expected
handsome Ned could hold his own without reference to whether his
father might be a royal physician or a parish apothecary.

Before we go on, I may tell you that you will like Dr. Davenal. He was
a good man. He had his faults, as we all have; but he was a good man.

On this same hot July afternoon, there came careering down the street,
in its usual quick fashion, a handsome open carriage drawn by a pair of
beautiful bays. Dr. Davenal did not see why, because he was a doctor,
his carriage should be a sober one, his horses tame and rusty. Truth
to say, he was given to spend rather than to save. I have told you he
had faults, and perhaps you will call that one. He sat in his
accustomed seat, low in the carriage, his servant Roger mounted far
above him. He rarely drove, himself; never when paying professional
visits: a surgeon needs to keep his hands steady. Roger was a
favourite servant: fourteen years he had been in his present service,
and was getting fat upon it. Dr. Davenal sometimes told him jokingly
that he should have to pension him off, for his weight was getting too
much for the bays. The same could not be said of Dr. Davenal; he was a
spare man of middle height, with a broad white forehead, dark eyes,
and a careworn expression.

The carriage was bowling quickly past the market-place--Dr. Davenal's
time was too precious to allow of his being driven slowly--when a
woman suddenly descried it. Quitting her sitting-place in the market,
she set off to run towards it, flinging up her hands in agitation, and
overturning her small board of wares with the haste she made. Poor
wares!--gooseberries and white and red currants displayed on cabbage
leaves to attract the eager eyes and watering lips of juvenile
passers-by; and common garden flowers tied up in nosegays--a halfpenny
a nosegay, a halfpenny a leaf. Roger saw the movement.

"Here's Dame Hundley flying on to us, sir."

Dr. Davenal, who was very much in the habit of falling into thought,
seeing and hearing nothing as he went along, raised his head, and
turning it in the direction of the market, met her anxious
countenance.

"Pull up, Roger," he said to his servant.

The countenance was a tearful one by the time it had reached the
doctor's side; and then the woman seemed to become aware that she had
done an unwarrantable thing in thus summarily arresting Dr.
Davenal--not that there was anything in his face or manner to remind
her of it.

"Oh, sir, I beg ten thousand pardons for making thus bold! Seeing your
carriage, I started off in the moment's impulse. I've been a-fearing
all the morning as I sat there, that maybe you might be out when I
called, after market was over. He is no better, sir: he is worser and
weaker."

"Ah!" remarked the doctor. "Couldn't he come in today?"

"I don't believe there'll ever be any more coming in again for him,"
was the woman's answer, as she strove to suppress her tears.
"'Mother,' says he to me this morning, when I tried to get him up,
'it's o' no use trying. I--I'"--She fairly broke down.

"Does the parish doctor see him regularly?"

"He comes, sir, about every third day. He caught his eye on that
bottle of physic that you wrote for and told me to get made up, and he
laid hold of it and asked where I got that, and I told him I had made
bold to take my poor boy in to Dr. Davenal. So then he was put up
about it, and said if we was going to be grand patients of Dr.
Davenal's we didn't want him. And I thought perhaps he mightn't come
again. But he did: he came in last night at dusk."

"Has your son taken the physic?"

"Yes, sir. I gave him the last dose afore I come away this morning.
But he's worse; he's a deal worse, sir: maybe it's these hot days
that's trying him."

Dr. Davenal could have told her that he never would be anything but
worse in this world; a little better, a little worse, according to the
phases of the disease, and then would come the ending.

"I shall, I expect, be driving out of Hallingham your way this
evening, Mrs. Hundley, and I'll call and see him. Should anything
prevent it this evening, you may look for me tomorrow. I'll be sure to
come."

The same good, considerate man that he had ever been, sparing no
trouble, no kindness, when life or health was at stake. "I'll be sure
to come!" and the woman knew that he would be sure to come. How few
medical men in his position would have condescended to say to this
poor woman, "I'll be sure to come!" to say it in the kind tone, with
the promise in his eyes as they looked straight into here, as well as
on his lips! He had fellow-practitioners in that town, their time not
half taken up as his was, who would have loftily waved off poor Dame
Hundley, a profitless patient in every sense, and sent her sorrow to
the winds.

Roger drove quickly on down the street between the rows of gay shops,
and Dr. Davenal sat thinking of that poor woman's sorrow. She was a
widow, and this was her only son. Did the anticipated loss of that son
strike on the chords of his own heart, and send them vibrating? _He_
had lost a son, and under unhappy auspices. Save that woman's son he
knew he could not: his death fiat had gone forth in the fell disease
which had attacked him: but he might possibly, by the exertion of his
skill, prolong the life by a trifle, and certainly lighten its
sufferings. Mrs. Hundley had toiled for this son, and brought him up
well, in her poor way, and had looked brightly forward to his helping
her on in her old age: as he would have done, for he was steady,
loving, and dutiful. But it was not to be: God was taking him: and the
mother in her alarm and grief scarcely saw why this should be. Not at
the time that affliction falls, in its first brunt, can we see or
believe in the love and wisdom that are always hidden within it.

Roger pulled up at the doctor's house, set his master down, and turned
his horses round into the side lane--for it could not be called a
street--to drive them to the stables. Dr. Davenal went through the
gate, and wound round the grass-plat to the house. As he was about to
open the door with his latch-key, it was drawn open for him by his
attentive indoor manservant.

You never saw so respectable a servant in all your life: a very model
of a servant in looks, voice, and manner. About forty years of age,
his tall, slim, active figure gave him the appearance of being a
younger man. His hair, brushed smooth and flat, was of a shiny black,
and his white necktie and orthodox black clothes were without a
spot. But--in spite of his excessive respectability as a man and a
servant--there was something in the sharp features of his white face,
in the furtive black eyes, that would lose their look of slyness when
flung boldly into yours, which had never been cordially liked by Dr.
Davenal.

"You saw me, Neal?"

"I was in your room, sir, speaking to Mr. Cray," was the man's answer:
and in his low, respectful tones, his superior accent, there was
really a sound of refinement pleasant to the ear. That refinement of
voice and manner that may be caught from associating with the
educated; not the refinement springing from the mind where it is
innate.

"Has anybody been here?"

"Lady Oswald, sir. She apologised for coming when it was not your day
for receiving town-patients, but she said she particularly wished to
see you. I think she scarcely believed me, sir, when I said you were
out."

Dr. Davenal took his gold repeater from his pocket, where it lay
loose, unattached to any chain, and glanced at it. A valuable watch:
the grateful present of a rich man years ago, who believed that he
owed his life, humanly speaking, to Richard Davenal's care and skill.

"Scarcely believed you! Why, she knows I am never home much before
three o'clock. It wants two minutes now. Mr. Cray, if he is here,
might have seen her."

"Mr. Cray has but just come, sir. I was showing him in when your
carriage drove to the door. Lady Oswald said she would call again
later, sir."

Two minutes more, when three o'clock should strike, and Dr. Davenal's
door would be beset by patients. By country patients today; on
Tuesdays he would be very busy with them, and the townspeople did
not intrude unnecessarily upon him on that day; all the rest of the
week-days were for them. They would come, these patients, and lay down
their fee of a guinea to the surgeon, as they laid it down for a
physician. Dr. Davenal would see them twice for that; sometimes
more--several times more; he was not a covetous man, and he
distinguished between those who could well afford to pay him, and
those who could not. When these last would timidly put down the
sovereign and shilling, rarely in paper, he would push it back to
them. "No, you paid me last time or so; you don't owe me anything
yet."

Of far and wide reputation, he had scarcely a minute in the day that
he could call his own, or that was not in some way or other devoted to
his profession. Chief visiting surgeon to the Hallingham Infirmary,
always taking the operations there in difficult cases, part of every
day had to be spent at it. Early in the morning he saw patients at
home, twice a week gratuitously; at a quarter to ten he went out, and
between that time and three o'clock paid his round of calls and
visited the Infirmary. At three he was at home to receive patients
again; at six he dined; and it very rarely happened that he had not
second visits to pay afterwards. Of course this usual routine of duty
was often varied; visits at a distance had to be paid, necessitating
post-horses to his close carriage, if no rail conducted to the place;
patients hovering between life and death must be seen oftener than
once or twice in the day, perhaps in the night; and sometimes a
terrible case of accident would be brought into the Infirmary,
demanding the utmost skill that the most perfect operator could give.
In those cases of accident it was Dr. Davenal who was sent for by the
house-surgeon; none other of the visiting surgeons were so sure as he:
and Dr. Davenal, though he had a whole dining-room full of patients
waiting their turn to go in to him, guinea in hand, abandoned them
all, and strode away to the Infirmary with his fleetest step.

The dining-room was on the left of the entrance-hall: it wan of large
proportions. Opposite to it, on the right, was a much smaller
apartment, called by way of distinction "Dr. Davenal's room." It was
in this last the doctor saw his patients, who would go into it from
the dining-room, one by one, each in his turn. The two rooms looked to
the front, on either side the door, and the window in each was very
large. They were not bay windows, but were divided into three
compartments, all of which might be opened separately. Dwarf Venetian
blinds were carried up to the first pane in both windows, for the
house was not sufficiently removed from the street to prevent curious
passers-by from gazing in. Behind the doctor's room was another room,
opening from it, the windows of which looked on the evergreens
skirting the very narrow path that ran between the side of the house
and the railings bordering the lane: a path so narrow that nobody was
supposed ever to go down it. This second room was Dr. Davenal's
bedchamber, used by him as such ever since the death of his wife. At
the back of this chamber was another apartment, partially partitioned
into two, one portion being used as a butler's pantry, the other as
Neal's sleeping-closet, which looked to the garden at the rear of the
house.

Neal had an uncommon partiality for that pantry, and would be in it
all hours of the day or night, though it was never meant that he
should sit in it. It was to all intents and purposes a pantry only,
and a very scantily lighted one. It had a high window of four
square panes, looking dead on the evergreens, very dense just there,
and on nothing else. There was a door by its side, opening on the
evergreens also; and one with a slim figure--as slim as Neal's, for
instance--could go out at that door if so disposed, and entwine
himself along the narrow path, braving the shrubs, past the windows of
Dr. Davenal's bedchamber, and emerge in front of the house. It was
not at all, however, in Neal's stipulated duties to do so. Quite the
contrary. When Neal entered Dr. Davenal's service, he was expressly
ordered to keep that pantry door always fastened. It was impressed
upon him by Miss Davenal that there was no necessity ever to unlock
it: his plate was there, she observed, and light-fingered beggars
frequented Hallingham, as they frequent most other places.

On the opposite side, behind the dining-room, was the prettiest
apartment in the house. It was called the garden-parlour, and
opened to the garden at the back by means of glass doors. The state
drawing-room was above, over the hall and dining-room, and the
kitchens were downstairs.

Davenal's room was scantily furnished. A shabby Kidderminster carpet,
a square table, some horsehair chairs, and a writing-desk. Nothing
else, except some books ranged round the walls, and a plaster bust or
two. On the table, which was covered with a green-baize cloth bordered
with yellow, lay some writing and blotting paper by the side of a
large inkstand, and the desk was underneath the table on the carpet.
It was the doctor's habit to keep the desk there; he could not have
told why. If he required to open it, which was very seldom--for he
never used it for writing on--he would lift it to the table and put it
back when he had done with it. Some of his patients sitting at the
table waiting for the doctor to come in, or enlarging on their
complaints as he sat before them, had surreptitiously used it as
a footstool, and the result was a considerably scratched surface of
the polished mahogany; but Dr. Davenal did not move it from its
abiding-place.

Tilting himself on a chair, in a fashion that threatened an overthrow
backwards, with his feet on the edge of this very desk, sat a young
man, carelessly humming a popular song. You heard Neal tell his master
he was there--Mr. Cray. His face was a sufficiently pleasing one, its
complexion fair, its eyes a light blue. It was not a remarkable face
in anyway; might have been a somewhat insipid one, but for these same
blue eyes that lighted it up, and a gay smile that was ever ready on
it. All that Mr. Cray appeared likely to be remarkable for as yet, was
a habit of pushing his hair back--rather light hair, of a shade
between brown and flaxen, and he pushed it off his forehead
inveterately, at all times and seasons. But what with the blue eyes,
the winning smile, and a very taking voice and manner, he was
beginning to win his way in Hallingham. Dr. Davenal was glad that it
should be so. He had taken this young man, Marcus Cray, by the hand,
had made him his partner, and he desired nothing better than that he
should win his way.

But to win a way in a town is one thing; to win hearts in it is
another; and Dr. Davenal was certainly not prepared to hear, as he was
about to do, that Mr. Cray had gained one particular heart, and had
come then to ask his, Dr. Davenal's, approbation to his having done
it.

Neal threw open the door of this room for his master, bowed him in
with the air of a groom of the chambers, and Mr. Cray started from his
tilting position to find his feet. As they stood together his height
was somewhat under the doctor's, and _his_ only reached the middle
height.

"Is it you, Mark?" said the doctor, quietly, rather surprised that he
should be there at that hour of the day; for Mr. Cray's routine of
duties did not lie at the house of Dr. Davenal. "Any bad report for
me?"

Mr. Cray had no bad report. He entered upon a different sort of
report, speaking rapidly, but not in the least agitatedly. He wanted
the doctor's consent to his marriage with Miss Caroline Davenal.
Perhaps it was the knowledge that they must so soon be interrupted by
three o'clock and the doctor's country patients, that prompted Mr.
Cray to enter upon the subject at that not over-seasonable hour.
There would be less time for the doctor's objections, he may have
deemed--not that Mr. Cray was one to anticipate objections to any
project he set his fancy on, or to pay much attention to them if they
came.

Dr. Davenal stood against the wall near the window, looking very grave
in his surprise and, it may be said, vexation. He had never dreamt of
this. Mr. Cray had certainly been intimate with his family; many an
evening when the doctor had been out professionally, Mr. Cray had
spent with them; but he had never given a thought to anything of this
sort arising from it. His connection with Mr. Cray was a professional
connection, and perhaps that fact had blinded his eyes and kept his
thoughts from glancing to the possibility that anything different
might supervene.

"You look grave, Dr. Davenal," said Mr. Cray, breaking the silence,
and retaining, in a remarkable degree, his self-possession.

"Yes," replied the doctor, "for Caroline's sake. Mark, I believe I had
cherished more ambitious dreams for her."

"Ambitious dreams!" repeated Mr. Cray. "She will at least occupy a
position as good as yours, sir."

"As good as mine!" echoed the doctor. "But when, Mark?--when?" he
added after a pause.

"In time."

"Ay--in time. There it is. How long must you wait for it?"

"We shall rub on until then, doctor. As others do."

"Mark, I do not think Caroline is one to rub on, as you call it, so
smoothly as some might, unless fortune is smooth about her. Remember
what your income is."

"It is two hundred a-year," said Mark, pushing his hair from his brow,
and speaking with as much equanimity as though he had said two
thousand. "But I thought perhaps you might be induced to increase
it--for her sake."

Dr. Davenal pulled open the green Venetian blind and threw the window
higher up, as if the air of the room were growing too hot for him. It
was the window--or rather the compartment of it--nearest to the lane,
and the doctor was fond of keeping it a little raised. Summer and
winter would the passers-by see that window raised behind the green
staves of the blind.

"Were I to double your income, Mark, and make it four hundred
a-year--a thing which you have no right to expect me to do at present,
or to ask me to do--it would still be an inadequate income for
Caroline Davenal," resumed the doctor, closing the blind again, and
setting his back against it. "I don't believe--it is my opinion, Mark,
and I only give it you as such--that she is one to make the best of a
small income, or to be happy on it."

Mr. Cray had caught up one of the doctor's pens, and stood opposite to
him picking the feather-end of it off bit by bit. His attitude was a
careless one, and his eyes were bent upon the pen, as if to pick those
pieces off and litter the carpet were of more consequence than looking
at Dr. Davenal. Mr. Cray was inclined to be easy over most things, to
take life coolly, and he was characteristically easy over this.

"Four hundred a-year is not so small an income," he observed.

"That depends," said Dr. Davenal. "Incomes are large or small in
comparison; in accordance with the requirements, the habits, the
notions if you will, of those who have to live upon them. Caroline has
enjoyed the advantages derivable from one amounting to three times
four."

"She may come into that fortune yet," said Mr. Cray.

The first gleam of real displeasure shone now in the eyes of the
doctor as he threw them searchingly on his partner. "Have you been
counting upon that?--Is it the inducement which has called forth this
proposal?"

"No," burst forth Mr. Cray, feeling vexed in his turn and speaking
impulsively, as he flung the dilapidated pen back in the inkstand and
drew nearer the doctor. "I declare that I never thought of the money
or the suit; it did not so much as cross my mind; and were Carine
never to have a penny-piece to the end of her life, it would make no
difference. It is her I want; not money."

Dr. Davenal drew in his lips. "Carine!" They must have become
tolerably intimate for him familiarly to call her that. "Pretty
Carine" was her fond name in the household.

"It was Caroline herself who spoke of the money," resumed Mark Cray.
"We were consulting together as to how far my two hundred a-year would
keep us, and she remembered the Chancery suit. 'Mark,' she said, 'that
fortune may come to me, and then we should have no care.' It was not I
who thought of it, Dr. Davenal. And I am sure I don't count upon it:
Caroline herself would be wise not to do so. Chancery suits generally
absorb the oyster and leave the shell for the claimants."

"You have spoken to Caroline, then?" questioned Dr. Davenal.

Mark pushed off his hair again. "O dear yes."

"May I ask when?"

"Well--I don't know," answered Mr. Cray, after considering the point.
"I have been--I have been"--

"What?" cried Dr. Davenal, surprised at the unusual hesitation, "Speak
out, Mark."

"I was going to say I have been making love to her ever so long,"
continued Mark, with a laugh. "In fact, sir, we have understood each
other for some time past; but as to the precise period that I actually
spoke out to her by words, I am not sure when it was."

The contrast between the two men was observable in the silence that
ensued. Dr. Davenal grave, absorbed, full of thought and care; Mr.
Cray self-satisfied, looking as if neither thought nor care had ever
come to him, or could come. He lightly watched the passers-by in the
street, over the Venetian blind of the middle window, nodding and
smiling to any acquaintances that happened to appear. Mr. Cray had
made up his mind to marry Miss Caroline Davenal, and it was entirely
out of his creed to suppose that any insurmountable objection could
supervene.

"Mark," said Dr. Davenal, interrupting the gentleman as he was
flourishing his hand to somebody, "you must be aware that
circumstances render it imperative upon me to be more than commonly
watchful over the interests of Caroline."

"Do you think so? But, Dr. Davenal, I would be sure to make her happy.
I would spend my life in it: none would make her as happy as I."

"How do you know that?" asked Dr. Davenal.

A smile hovered on the young surgeon's lips. "Because she cares for
me, sir; and for none other in the wide world."

"I had thought--I had thought that another cared for her," returned
Dr. Davenal, speaking impulsively. "At least, a doubt of it has
sometimes crossed me."

Mark Cray opened his eyes widely in his astonishment. "Who?" he asked.

But Dr. Davenal did not satisfy him: not that he had any particular
motive for observing reticence on the point. "It is of no consequence.
I must have been mistaken," was all he said.

"You will not forbid her to me, sir?" pleaded Mr. Cray.

A spasm of pain passed across the face of Dr. Davenal; the words had
called up bitter recollections.

"So long as I live I shall never forbid a marriage to any over whom I
hold control," he said, in a tone of subdued anguish; and Mark Cray
knew where the sting had pointed, and wished in his good-nature he had
not put the question. "I will urge all reflection, caution, prudence
in my power to urge; but I will not forbid. Least of all have I a
right to do so by Caroline."

The younger man's face lighted up. "Then you will give her to me, Dr.
Davenal?"

"I give you no promise," was the doctor's answer. "I must have leisure
to reflect on this; it has taken me entirely by surprise. And I must
speak to Caroline. There's plenty of time. To marry yet would indeed
be premature."

"Premature!" echoed Mr. Cray.

"Premature in the extreme. A man who does not know how to wait for
good things, Mark, does not deserve them."

A lady, with a slow walk and pale face, turned in at the front gate.
It was patient the first. Dr. Davenal made no observation; he scarcely
saw her, so deeply had he plunged into thought. Mr. Cray, who stood
closer to the window than a doctor expecting patients generally does
stand, smiled and bowed.

"It is Mrs. Scott," he observed, as the knocker sounded. "She looks
very ill today."

Attentive Neal was heard to come forth instantly from his pantry, open
the door, and show the lady into the dining-room. Then he made his
appearance in his master's room.

"Mrs. Scott, sir!"

Instead of the "Show her in," as Neal expected, Dr. Davenal merely
nodded. Mr. Cray made a movement to depart, glancing as he did so, at
the very grave face of his senior partner.

"I have vexed you, sir!"

"I feel vexed in this first moment, Mark; I can't deny it," was the
candid answer. "It is not altogether that Caroline might have been
expected to do better; it is not exclusively that I think her
peculiarly unfitted for a making-shift life, or that with regard to
her I feel my responsibility is weighty: but it is a mixture of all
three."

"You consider, perhaps, I have done wrong to ask for her!"

"I consider you have done wrong to ask for her so prematurely. In your
place, I think I should have waited a little while, until
circumstances had been more propitious."

"And perhaps have lost Caroline!"

"Nay," said the doctor; "a girl that cannot wait, and be true while
she waits, is not worth a brass button."

He quitted the room as he spoke. At the risk of keeping his patients
waiting, he must find and question Caroline. His mind was not at ease.

Mr. Cray went out at the hall-door. Before Neal, who was on the
alert, had shut it, a carriage drove up to the gate, and stopped
with a clatter. A well-appointed close carriage, its servants in
claret-coloured livery, and its claret-coloured panels bearing the
insignia of England's baronetage--the bloody hand.

The footman leaped down for his orders. Mr. Cray, stepping across the
lawn, in too much haste to wind round it by means of the gravel-path,
held out his hand with a smile to its only inmate--a little, grey,
nervous-looking woman, in an old-fashioned purple silk dress.

"How are you today, Lady Oswald?"

And Neal, with his quiet, cat-like steps, had followed in the wake of
Mr. Cray, unseen by that gentleman, and stood behind him in his
respectful attention: there might be some message to carry in to his
master--leaving three patients, who had entered the gate together, to
show themselves in alone.



CHAPTER II.
LADY OSWALD'S LETTER.


The room at the back, looking into the garden, on the opposite side of
the passage to Neal's pantry, was the most charming apartment in all
the house. Not for its grandeur; it was small and very simple indeed,
compared to the grand drawing-room upstairs: not for its orderly
neatness, for it was usually in a litter; a fascinating,
pleasant-looking litter; and perhaps that made its charm. It was
called the garden-parlour. The great drawing-room was kept sacred by
its presiding mistress, to whom you will soon have the honour of an
introduction: sacred, and uncomfortably tidy. Not so much as a
pocket-handkerchief must be laid for an instant on one of its handsome
tables, its luxurious satin sofas and ottomans; not a footstool must
be drawn from its appointed place, let tired legs be hanging down
with weariness; not a hand-screen must be removed from the
handsomely-furnished mantelpiece, were lovely cheeks being roasted to
crimson. Methodically proper, everything in its appointed spot, must
that room be kept: a book put down in the wrong place was treason; a
speck of dust all but warning to Jessy, the unhappy housemaid. The
dining-room was tidy, too; no extraneous things were allowed there, it
must be kept free for the reception of the patients: the "Times"
newspaper and the newest local journal lay daily on the large mahogany
table, and there the litter ended. Perhaps, therefore, it was no
wonder that that other room was not always in the order it might have
been.

A charming room, nevertheless, on a sunny day. Watercoloured drawings
and pencil sketches in plain frames lined the delicately-papered
walls, loose music was strewed near the piano and harp, books lay
anywhere, pretty little ornamental trifles met the eye, and fancy-work
might be seen in more places than one. The glass doors at the window,
large and high, stood open to the few wide steps that led to the green
lawn--a lawn particularly grateful on a sultry summer's day.

For that lawn lay in the shade; the sun in the afternoon shone full on
the front of the house, and the lawn was sheltered. The scent of the
roses, the syringa, the heliotrope, and other powerfully-perfumed
flowers, filled the air, and butterflies and bees flitted from blossom
to blossom. It was quite a contrast to the other side of the house,
with its busy street, its hot pavement, its jostling traversers, and
its garish sunshine. Here lay the cool shade on the mossy lawn--the
quiet and the repose of the tinted flowers.

Seated on the lawn, on a garden-bench, was a young lady reading. A
graceful girl of middle height, with large hazel eyes quite luminous
in their brightness, a well-formed gentle face, rather pale, and brown
hair that took almost a golden tinge when the sun shone through it.
There was no very great beauty to boast of in the face, but it was one
of those that the eye likes to rest upon--and love. A far more
beautiful face was that of another young girl, who was restlessly
moving amidst the side clusters of shrubs and flowers, plucking the
choicest. A face whose beauty could not be denied, with its dark
violet eyes, its nearly black hair, and the damask complexion all too
bright: these strangely brilliant complexions do not always go with
the soundest of constitutions. She was little, fairy-like, somewhat
pettish and wilful in her movements. A stranger would say they were
sisters, and be puzzled to tell which of the two was the elder, which
the younger. There was really no likeness between them, save in the
dress--that was precisely similar: a thin gauzy silken material, cool
but rich, and no doubt expensive, with a good deal of delicate
coloured trimming upon it, and open sleeves over white lace. Sisters
they were not--only cousins.

Suddenly there was a scream from the midst of the flowers, and the
young lady on the garden-bench raised her eyes to speak.

"What is it, Caroline?"

She came forth in her beauty, flinging down the flowers she had
gathered, and holding out the back of her hand. A deep scratch lay
right across it.

"Just look! I am always tearing myself with those wild-rose brambles!"

"Poor hand! Sit still, Carine; it is too hot for anything else today.
What do you want with the flowers, that you need trouble yourself to
get them?"

"I don't know what I want with them. Nothing. Picking them helped to
pass away the time."

"Why are you so restless this afternoon!"

"Am I restless? One can't be always as quiet as you--read, read, read
for ever."

An amused smile parted the reader's lips, bringing to view the pretty
teeth, so white and regular. "I will retort in nearly your own words,
Carine--am I quiet? I think not."

"Yes you are, except when the boys are at home. You are noisy enough
then. I shall go and eat some fruit."

"Lend me your pencil first, Caroline."

Miss Caroline Davenal put her hand into her pocket and could not find
her pencil. "I must have left it somewhere indoors," she said. "You'll
see it if you look."

"I must mark a passage here."

"What will Mr. Oswald Cray say to your marking his book?"

"Mr. Oswald Cray asked me to mark anything that struck me. It is a
delightful book."

Caroline Davenal went joyously down the garden, singing a snatch of a
song, as she put her handkerchief over her head to guard it from the
sun. The upper half of the long piece of ground was all pleasure and
flowers; the lower half all usefulness, vegetables and fruit-trees.
Her cousin, book in hand, went up the steps and in at the glass doors
to find a pencil. She was bending over the centre table, searching for
one, when Dr. Davanel entered the room.

"Is Caroline here?"

"She is in the garden, papa."

Dr. Davenal advanced to the window, and stood at it, ostensibly
looking for Caroline. He could not see her; the fruit-trees in the
distance had effectually hidden her, and the doctor appeared lost in
thought. Presently he spoke, without looking round.

"Sara, did you know that--that--in short, have you ever observed that
an attachment was arising between Mr. Cray and Caroline?"

Sara looked up, but did not at once reply. The question was one, put
from a father to a daughter, that brought up the blushes on her cheeks
in her maiden modesty.

"N--o," she replied, at length. But the no, in its hesitation, sounded
almost as much like yes.

"My dear, I did not ask you to deceive me," was the grave answer; "I
ask for the truth."

"O papa, you know--you _know_ I would not deceive you," she replied,
quite in distress. And Dr. Davenal, pained by the tone, drew her to
him and kissed her cheek. He knew how good, how loving, how dutiful,
was this daughter of his.

"The real truth is this, papa. Very recently, only since a day or two,
a faint suspicion has arisen in my mind that it might be so. Caroline
has not spoken, and I have had nothing to guide me to it, except the
fact that Mr. Cray is so much here. Indeed, I do not know whether it
is so or not."

"I believe I have been a little blind," observed Dr. Davenal speaking
quite as much to himself as to his daughter. "The fact is, Sara, I had
a notion in my head that some one else had taken a fancy to Caroline;
and I suppose I could see nothing beyond it. I speak of Mr. Oswald
Cray."

It was well that Dr. Davenal's eyes were fixed on the garden, or he
might have wondered at the startled change in his daughter's face. It
had turned of one glowing crimson. She moved again to the table, and
stood there with her back to the light.

"I suppose I was mistaken; that there was nothing in it, Sara?"

"Nothing, papa, I think; nothing whatever," came the low-toned answer.

"But Mr. Oswald Cray does come here a great deal when he is at
Hallingham?" pursued the doctor, as if willing to debate the question.

The crimson grew deeper. Dr. Davenal did not seem to observe that
there was no answer.

"How the idea came to arise, I do not understand. Heaven knows
I should be the last man in the world to scheme and plan out
marriages--for Caroline or for anybody else. Such matters are best
left to come about of themselves. But, Sara, I wish one thing--that it
had been Mr. Oswald Cray, instead of Mark."

"Do you, papa?" with the blushing face still turned from him.

"Ay, I do. I could have _trusted_ her to Oswald. _How_ could she
choose the other in preference to him?"

Sara lifted her face. Eager words were on her lips--to the effect that
perhaps Mr. Oswald Cray might not have chosen Caroline. But they died
away unspoken.

"I wish you would go and tell her I want her here, Sara."

Sara slipped by the doctor, passed over the cool lawn to the distant
sunny paths, and met her cousin.

"Papa wants you, Carine."

Caroline recoiled in her self-conscious timidity. "What about?" she
whispered. "Did he say what about?"

"I think," said Sara slowly, scarcely knowing whether she was doing
right to speak or not, "that it is something about Mr. Cray."

For a moment Caroline made no rejoinder. She walked on and had nearly
gained the lawn when she turned her head again. Sara had lingered
behind.

"Sara! Sara! Did he seem angry?" she whispered.

"Not exactly angry. Vexed, I thought."

Dr. Davenal stood at the glass doors still. He put out his hand as she
approached him.

"Did you want me, Uncle Richard?"

"Mr. Cray has been making an application to me concerning you.
Caroline, were you cognisant of it?"

"Now, Uncle Richard! If you are going to be cross, I--I shall be so
unhappy."

"When did you ever know me cross?" he gravely rejoined, and Caroline
Davenal burst into tears.

"Caroline, my dear, we must put away this childishness. You are but
affecting it, and this is a serious moment. I must talk to you very
earnestly. Come in, Sara. It is cooler indoors than out."

Sara, who in her delicacy of feeling would have remained outside, went
within the room and sat down to the table with her book. Caroline had
dried her passing tears, and was stealing a glance at Dr. Davenal.

"You _are_ angry, Uncle Richard."

"If I am, Caroline, it is for your sake; a loving anger. My chief
emotion, I believe, is surprise. I never gave a thought to this; not a
suspicion of it crossed me."

"I fancied you must have guessed it," was the murmured answer.

"Guessed that! No, child. But the blindness was my own, I believe.
When we ourselves place one view deliberately before us, it tends to
shut out others. I had got it into my head, Carine, that it was to
your score we were indebted for the frequent visits of Mr. Oswald
Cray."

Caroline lifted her face, and Dr. Davenal observed how genuine was the
surprise depicted on it. "Uncle Richard!"

"I see. I see now, child, that the idea was void of foundation. But,
Caroline," he gravely added, "I would rather it had been Oswald than
Mark. All the world must respect Oswald Cray."

"I should think it _was_ void of foundation!" indignantly returned
Caroline, resenting the disparagement cast on Mark. "Why, Uncle
Richard, Oswald Cray likes Sara a thousand times better than he likes
me! But not with that sort of liking," she hastened to add, lest a
construction should be put upon the words which most certainly she
never meant to put. "General liking, I mean. Oswald Cray's heart is
buried in his ambition, in his busy life; he gives little thought to
aught else. Uncle Richard, I would not many Oswald Cray if he were
worth his weight in gold. He would find fault with me all day long."

"Well, well; let us drop Oswald Cray, and return to the point,
Caroline. If"----

"Lady Oswald, sir."

The interruption came from Neal. They had not heard him open the door,
and the announcement was the first intimation of his presence. Of
course all private conversation was at an end, and the doctor half
groaned as he turned to Lady Oswald. She came in, her warm cashmere
scarf drawn round her, and her purple gown held up gracefully on the
right side, after the style of walking in the fashionable world in the
days when Lady Oswald was young.

Lady Oswald was one of those imaginary invalids who give more trouble
to their medical attendants than a whole score of patients with real
maladies. Fussy and fidgety, she exacted constant attendance from Dr.
Davenal. She paid him well; but she worried him nearly out of his
life. On his leisure days, when he could really afford the visit to
her, and the quarter-of-an-hour's chat spent in condoling with her
upon her array of ailments and in giving her the gossip of Hallingham,
he spared the time with a good grace; but in a season of pressure he
did chafe at having to pay this daily visit, when dying men were
waiting for him. He had been with her that morning between ten and
eleven: Neal had said she called while he was out; and now here she
was again! Once or twice latterly he had sent Mr. Cray in his stead,
and she had not seemed to object to it. But she had come for a
different object now.

"Only two minutes' conversation with you, doctor," she said, in a
voice naturally feeble. "You must spare it me, though it is Tuesday
afternoon, and I see your dining-room's getting full. Neal said you
were here, so I came in straight, not to be confounded with the
patients. Only look at this letter which was delivered to me this
morning, and see what it must have been to my nerves. Parkins has been
giving me red lavender ever since."

"But you know, Lady Oswald, that I object to your taking red
lavender."

"What am I to do when a shock like that comes to me? Do read it,
doctor."

Dr. Davenal, feeling that he had no time for letters or nerves just
then, was yet compelled in good manners to accede. He opened the note,
which was a very short one, and ran his eyes over the contents; once
and then again; the first time he did not quite master them.

It was written to Lady Oswald by her landlord, a gentleman of the name
of Low. It appeared that Mr. Low had some little time back received an
intimation from the railway company that they should require to take a
small portion of the grounds attached to the residence occupied by
Lady Oswald, for the purpose of erecting certain sheds necessary at
that bend of the line. This note was to inform her that he had given
his consent, and it ended with a polite hope and belief that neither
the sheds nor the process of their erection would prove any annoyance
to her.

Dr. Davenal folded the letter when read. Lady Oswald looked at him.
"What would you advise me to do?" she asked in a fretful tone.

"Indeed, Lady Oswald, I do not see what you can do," he thoughtfully
answered, "except submit to it."

"Submit to it! submit to their erecting railway sheds in my very
garden!" she ejaculated in astonishment.

"From the very first hour that I knew they were carrying that new line
of rail close to your grounds, I felt sure it would prove an annoyance
to you in some shape or other," observed Dr. Davenal, speaking more to
himself than to Lady Oswald. "It is a great pity, but we all have to
submit occasionally to these untoward things, Lady Oswald, as we go
through life."

"I shall not submit to this," she resolutely returned. "They have no
more right to erect sheds on my grounds, than they have to erect them
upon me. I shall forbid it."

"But the power to do so does not lie with you," objected Dr. Davenal.
"You are but a tenant on lease. In point of fact, I do not suppose
such power lies with any one, not even with Low himself. The railway
companies seem to do pretty much as they please in the kingdom. Mr.
Low will be sure to get well paid, and his consent, according to the
tenor of this note, is already given."

Lady Oswald pushed her grey hair nervously from her brow. "Dr.
Davenal, I don't _believe_ that the law has power so to annoy innocent
people and drive them from their homes. Do you know how long I have
lived in that house?"

"A great many years now. Ever since the death of Sir John."

"I have lived in it fourteen years, and I will not be driven forth at
their pleasure. I expected to die in it, and I will die in it. If they
attempt to touch my grounds, I shall have them warned off as
trespassers, and I will keep a couple of policemen on the watch day
and night."

Dr. Davenal did not then dispute the policy of the avowed plan with
her, or point out its futility. In her present mood he knew it would
be useless, even if he had the time, to attempt it.

"Because I am a widow woman they think that they can put upon me with
impunity," she resumed; "but they will find their mistake. I have
telegraphed for Mr. Oswald Cray, and expect him down by night-time."

"You have telegraphed for him?" cried Dr. Davenal.

"Of course I have. Who else is there to take my part, doctor, save him
or you? That letter was delivered just after you left me this morning,
and I seat to the telegraph at once. Oswald can fight them; and he has
influence: they will be clever to overreach _him_."

Dr. Davenal opened his mouth to speak, but suppressed the impulsive
words upon his tongue. To what end recall to Lady Oswald's attention
the fact that Mr. Oswald Cray, as one of the engineers to the line,
must necessarily be against her, if she had not the sense to remember
it? He said a few words to the effect that he _must_ go to his
patients, gave Lady Oswald a half promise to see her that night, and
left her to be entertained by his daughter.

"My dear, why need Miss Carine have run away from me the moment I came
in?"

Sara smiled. "Not from you, Lady Oswald; I think she wanted to run
from us all. And perhaps she thought your visit was only to papa."

"How is Miss Davenal?"

"Quite well. Will you see her? She is in the drawing-room."

Lady Oswald hesitated.

"My dear, of course I should be glad to see her; I wish to pay her
every respect; but--you know it is so great a trial to me--with my
little weak voice. However, I will go up, as I am here. _Is_ her
deafness better?"

"Not at all," was Sara's answer. "I don't suppose it ever will be
better. It gets worse, we think, as she grows old."

"Grows what?" cried Lady Oswald.

Sara had quick perceptions, and she felt that the word old, as applied
to her aunt, had offended Lady Oswald's ear. How changed do our ideas
of age become as our own years change! To Sara Davenal, with her
twenty years, her aunt, verging on fifty, was old; to Lady Oswald, who
would count seventy-one her next birthday Miss Davenal seemed but as a
youngish woman!

Lady Oswald stepped slowly up the wide staircase, one foot at a
time. Sara followed her, and threw open the door of the handsome
drawing-room. A large square room, beautiful as a show place; and to
keep it beautiful was the hobby of Miss Bettina Davenal.



CHAPTER III.
MISS BETTINA DAVENAL.


Miss Davenal sat in her usual seat near the window, her straight
figure bolt upright, her knitting needles plying fast their work, the
small inlaid table at her right hand holding the open pearl basket of
wool. How many stockings, socks, sleeves, and chest-protectors, were
knitted by Miss Davenal in the course of the year, the poor alone
could tell--for they were the recipients. Hallingham surmised that she
must spend half her income upon wool. There's no doubt she was a
charitable well-meaning woman at heart, but she did not always show it
in her manner.

A beautiful woman in her day must have been Bettina Davenal, with her
pure complexion and her classical features. But the grey eyes had a
cold hard look in them now; and the nose, across the high bridge of
which the delicate skin was drawn so tightly, was almost painfully
thin. The name Bettina had been bestowed on her at the request of a
godmother, a lady of Italian origin; not an ugly name, but somewhat
long for the everyday use of English tongues, and those familiar with
her occasionally shortened it into "Miss Bett," a liberty that was
resented by Miss Davenal. She laboured under that troublesome defect,
intense deafness, and also under the no less troublesome conviction
(not unfrequently accompanying it) that she was not deaf at all. Her
hair of a pale flaxen, soft and abundant still, was worn in smooth
braids, and was surmounted by a rich lace head-dress, very high.

She need not have added to her height; she was tall enough without it;
as was seen when she rose to receive Lady Oswald. A straight-down,
thin, upright figure, without crinolines or cordings, her grey damask
dress falling in wrapt folds around her as she held forth her mittened
hand.

"I hope I see you better, Lady Oswald."

The tone was unnaturally high: you may have noticed that it is so
sometimes in deaf people. Lady Oswald, with her weak nerves, would
have put her hands to her ears had she done as she liked.

"I am not well today. I am worse than usual. I have had a most
unpleasant shock, Miss Davenal; an upset."

"A what?" cried Miss Davenal, putting her hand to her ear.

"An upset."

"Bless my heart!" cried Miss Davenal; "did your carriage run away?"

"Tell her, Sara," groaned Lady Oswald. "I shall be hoarse for two days
if I call out like this."

"Lady Oswald has had some unpleasant news, aunt. She has received
notice that they are going to run the railway through her grounds."

Miss Davenal caught a word or so, and looked terrified. "Received
notice that they are going to run a railway through her! What do you
mean?"

"Not through her," said Sara, putting her lips close to the deaf ears.
"Through her grounds."

"But I'd not let them," cried Miss Davenal, hearing now. "I'd not let
them, Lady Oswald."

"I won't," screamed Lady Oswald at the top of her voice. "I have sent
for Mr. Oswald Cray."

Miss Davenal was dubious. "What good will that do? Is it to pelt upon
them? I hate those wicked railways."

"Is what to pelt upon them?"

"The clay. Didn't you say you had sent for some clay?"

"Oh dear! Sara, do make her understand."

Poor Sara had to do her best. "Not clay, Aunt Bettina; Mr. Oswald
Cray."

Aunt Bettina nodded her stately head. "I like Mr. Oswald Cray. He is a
favourite of mine, Lady Oswald."

"As he is of everybody's, Miss Davenal," returned Lady Oswald. "I'd
have remembered him in my will but for offending the Oswald family.
They are dreadfully prejudiced."

"Pinched!" echoed Miss Davenal. "Where's he pinched?"

"Prejudiced, Aunt Bettina. Lady Oswald says the Oswald family are
prejudiced."

"You need not roar out in that way, Sara; I can hear, I hope. I am not
so deaf as all that comes to. What's he prejudiced at?--the railway?
He ought not to be, he is one of its engineers."

"Not Mr. Oswald Cray, aunt. The Oswald family. They are prejudiced
against him."

"If you speak to me again in that manner, Sara I shall complain to
your papa. One would think you were calling out to somebody at the top
of the chimney. As if I and Lady Oswald did not know that the Oswald
family are prejudiced against Oswald Cray? We don't want you to tell
it us from a speaking-trumpet; we knew it before you were born. I
don't think he cares for their prejudices, Lady Oswald," Miss Davenal
added, turning to her.

"He would be very foolish if he did. _I_ don't. They are prejudiced,
you know, against me."

"I think the world must be coming to an end, with all these rails and
stations and sheds," fretfully spoke Miss Davenal.

"The news has made me ill," said Lady Oswald, who liked nothing half
so well as to speak of her own ailments. "I was getting better, as Dr.
Davenal can tell you, but this will throw me back for weeks. My maid
has been giving me red lavender ever since."

Miss Davenal looked at her with a puzzled stare.

"That is poison, is it not?"

"What is poison?"

"Red lead."

"I said red lavender," cried Lady Oswald. "It is very good for the
spirits: a few drops taken on a lump of sugar. Red lav-en-der."

Miss Davenal resolutely shook her head. "Nasty stuff!" she cried. "Red
lavender never did anybody good yet, Lady Oswald. Leave it off; leave
it off."

"I don't touch it once in a month in an ordinary way," screamed Lady
Oswald. "Only when anything beyond common arises to flurry me."

Miss Bettina stared at her. "What common is flooded? It is dry
weather."

Lady Oswald cast a helpless look at Sara. "Flurried, Aunt Bettina,"
said the young lady. "Lady Oswald said when she was flurried."

Miss Bettina was not in the least grateful for the assistance. She
pushed away her niece with her elbow. It was in fact next to high
treason for Sara to attempt to assist Miss Davenal's deafness. "I
should not allow things to flurry me, Lady Oswald. I never was
flurried in my life."

"Temperaments are constituted differently," returned Lady Oswald.

"Temper!" cried Miss Davenal, as angrily as politeness would allow
her, "what has temper to do with it? Who accuses me of temper?"

"Tem-per-a-ment," corrected Lady Oswald, cracking her voice. "Sara, I
_must_ go."

She rose quickly; she could not stand the interview any longer; but in
spite of the misapprehensions they took leave of each other cordially.
The same scene occurred every time they met: as it did whenever
conversation was attempted with Miss Davenal. It cannot be denied that
she heard better at times than at others, occasionally tolerably well;
and hence perhaps the source, or partially so, of her own belief that
her deafness was but of a slight nature. When alone with the familiar
family voices, and in quiet times, she could hear; but in moments of
surprise and excitement, in paying or receiving visits, the ears were
nearly hopeless.

Neal attended Lady Oswald to her carriage, waiting there at the gate
with its powdered coachman and footman, to the gratification of the
juvenile street Arabs of Hallingham; the same ever-assiduous, superior
servant, quite dignified in his respectability. Lady Oswald believed
him perfection--that there was not another such servant in the world.

"Your mistress grows more distressingly deaf than ever, Neal," she
remarked, as he put her dress straight in the carriage, her own
footman resigning the office to him with almost the same submission
that he might have resigned it to Mr. Cray, had the young surgeon been
at hand to assist her in, as he had been to assist her out.

"She does, my lady. It is a great affliction. Home," loftily added
Neal to the servants: and he bowed low as the carriage drove away.



CHAPTER IV.
OSWALD CRAY.


The house of Lady Oswald was an old-fashioned red brick mansion of
moderate size, two storeys in height only, and with gable-ends. It was
exceedingly comfortable inside, and was surrounded by rather extensive
grounds. At the opposite end of the town to the station, it might have
been thought that that vulgar innovation, the railroad, so especially
obnoxious to Lady Oswald, would at least have spared it offensive
contact; but that was not to be. There was no accounting for the
curves and tracks taken by those lines of the junction, and one of
them had gone off at a tangent to skirt the very boundary of her land.

Seated in the front drawing-room, the one chiefly used by Lady Oswald,
was a woman of some forty years, attired in a neat green-coloured
gown, and cap with white ribbons. This was Parkins, Lady Oswald's
maid, recently promoted to be somewhat of a companion, for Lady Oswald
began to dislike being much alone. A well-meaning faithful woman, with
weak eyes and weak will, and given to tears on very slight occasions.
Parkins had also been lately made housekeeper as well as companion,
and the weekly accounts connected with that department threatened to
be the bane of Parkins's life. Add them up she could not; make
them come right she could not: and she could get neither mercy
nor assistance from Lady Oswald, who had always been her own
account-keeper, and never found any trouble in it. Two tradesmen's
books were before Parkins now, and she was bending over them in
despair, during her lady's absence.

"I can't as much as read the figures," she groaned; "how, then, am I to
add 'em up? Last week there was an overcharge of ten shillings in this
very butcher's book, and my lady found it out, and hasn't done talking
to me for it yet. It _isn't_ my fault; all folks are not born with a
head for figures. And why can't tradespeople make their figures
plain?"

Had she not been so absorbed by the book and its complications she
might have seen the approach of a visitor. A tall and very gentlemanly
man of some eight-and-twenty years, with a countenance that would have
been remarkably frank and pleasing but for the expression of pride
pervading it: nay, that _was_ frank and pleasing in spite of the
pride. He could not help the pride; it was innate, born with him; he
did not make his own face, and the lines of pride were inherent in it.
The pale features were regular, the hair dark, the eyes dark blue, and
lying rather deep in the head, good and honest eyes they were,
searching and truthful: and when he smiled, as he was smiling now, it
made full amends for deficiencies, obliterating every trace of pride,
and imparting a singular charm to the face.

His approach had been discerned by one of the maid-servants, and she
had come to the hall-door and was holding it open. It was at her he
had smiled, for in manner he was exceedingly affable. Perhaps the very
consciousness of the pride that clung to him, and was his besetting
sin, rendered him resolute that in manner at least he should not
offend.

"How are you, Susan? Is Lady Oswald within?"

"No, sir, my lady's out," was the girl's reply, as she dropped a
curtsey. "Parkins is in the drawing-room, sir, I think: I daresay she
can tell whether my lady will be long."

He laid on the hall-table a small roll of paper or parchment that he
carried, threw off a dusty light overcoat, and took up the roll again.
Susan opened the drawing-room door.

"Mr. Oswald Cray."

Parkins gave a scream. Parkins was somewhat addicted to giving screams
when startled or surprised. Starting up from her chair and her
perplexing books, she stood staring at him, as if unable to take in
the fact of his presence. Parkins believed in marvels, and thought one
had been enacted then.

"Oh, sir! how _did_ you come? You must have travelled surely on the
telegraph wires?"

"Not I," answered Mr. Oswald Cray, smiling at her astonishment, but
not understanding its cause. "I left London by rail this morning,
Parkins."

"A telegraph message went up for you an hour or two ago, sir,"
continued Parkins. "My lady has had bad news, sir, and she sent for
you."

"I had no message. I must have left London previously. What bad news
has she had?"

"It's them railway people, sir," explained Parkins. "They have been
writing a letter to my lady--leastways the landlord has--saying that
they are going to take these grounds and build upon them. I haven't
seen her so upset for a long while, sir. When, she got a bit better
from the shock and had sent to the telegraph, she ordered the
carriage, and set off to tell Dr. Davenal."

"Do you expect her to be long?" he asked, thinking that if so, he
might go about some business he had to do, and come back again.

"I expect her every minute, sir; she has been gone a great deal longer
than I thought she'd be away."

He walked to the window, unrolled the parchment, and began to look at
it. It seemed a sort of map, drawn with ink. Parkins, who, whatever
might be the companionship she was admitted to by her mistress, knew
her place better than to remain in the presence of Mr. Oswald Cray,
gathered up her account-book and her pen and ink, and prepared to quit
the room.

"Shall I order you any refreshment, sir?" she stopped to ask.

"Not any, thank you."

She closed the door, leaving him deep in his parchment. Another
minute, and the carriage was seen bowling quickly up. He went out to
meet it: and Lady Oswald gave a scream as Parkins had done, and wanted
to know how he had got there.

"I came down on my own account, Lady Oswald," he said, as he gave her
his arm to lead her in. "My visit is a purposed one to you."

"I'm sure you are very good, Oswald! It is not often that you honour
me with a visit. When you are staying in the neighbourhood for days
and days, a simple call of ceremony is about all I get."

His lips parted with that peculiar smile which made his face at these
moments so attractive. "When I am in the neighbourhood, Lady Oswald,
business nearly overwhelms me. I have not much time to call my own."

Lady Oswald untied her bonnet, and threw herself into a chair: only
the drive to Dr. Davenal's and back had tired her. Parkins came into
the room to take her things, but she waved her hand sharply, impatient
at the interruption. "Presently, presently,"--and Parkins left them
alone again.

"Oswald, do you know what a cruel letter I have had this morning? They
want to bring that wretched railway through my grounds."

"Not the railway," he said, correcting her. "They are proposing to
build some sheds upon the boundaries of them."

"You know about it, then?"

"Yes; I came down to acquaint you, and I am sorry you should have
heard of it from any one else first. I could have spared you one-half
the alarm and annoyance it seems to have caused. Look here. This is
the plan."

He spread the paper out before her. He pointed out the very small
portion of the grounds, and in the remotest part of them, not in sight
of the house or the parts ever walked in by herself, that was proposed
to be taken: he assured her that the projected sheds were but small
sheds, for barrows, trucks, and such things to stand under; that they
would, in point of fact, be no annoyance to her, that she never need
see or hear them. All in vain. Lady Oswald had set her mind bitterly
against the innovation; she could neither be persuaded nor soothed,
and she felt vexed with Mr. Oswald Cray that he should attempt it.

"It is very well for you to praise it," she resentfully said. "Your
interest lies in the line, not in me. Perhaps they have bribed you to
say all this."

For a single moment his face grew dark, and its haughty pride shone
out quite repellently; the next he was smiling his sweet smile. None
knew better than Oswald Cray how rebelliously false the tongue is apt
to be in moments of irritation.

"Dear Lady Oswald, you know that it is foreign to my nature to cause
needless pain. When this news reached my ears a week ago, for the plan
did not originate with me, I bestirred myself to see whether it might
not be relinquished; whether, in short, the sheds could not be erected
on any other portion of the line. But I find that there is no other
portion available so close to the station."

"There's that piece of waste ground midway between this and the
station," she answered. "Why can they not take that?"

"Another station is to be made there. One for goods."

"Another station! Do they think to bring all the world to Hallingham?"

"They are bringing a great many lines of rails to it."

"But they need not disturb my possessions to make room for them!" she
quickly retorted. "Surely your interest might get this spared to me!"

In vain Mr. Oswald Cray strove to convince her that on this point he
had no influence whatever. Nay, he confessed to her, in his candid
truth, that as one of the engineers to the line, he could only
acquiesce in the expediency of that part being used for the sheds,
that there was no other spot so available.

"I drew this plan out myself," he said, "partly from our charts of the
line, partly from my personal recollection of your grounds. I wished
to demonstrate to you how very little a portion of them is, in fact,
required. Will you put on your bonnet again, Lady Oswald, and walk
with me to the spot? I will show you the exact measure they intend to
take."

"No, I won't," said Lady Oswald angrily. "And you ought not to turn
against me, Oswald. It is the principle of the thing I go upon; the
resistance that, in my opinion, should be universally made to these
intrusive railways, which are cutting up the country and ruining it.
If they wanted to take but one foot of my ground; if they only wanted
that dry ditch that skirts it, they should never have it by my
consent, and I will hold out against it to the last. Now you know."

She sat nervously unpinning her cashmere scarf, her hands trembling so
that she could scarcely hold the gold pins as she took them out.
Oswald Cray slowly rolled up the parchment. He had come down from town
at a very busy moment, when he could ill spare the time, with the sole
hope of soothing the news to her, of putting her in good humour with
what must inevitably be. He had received many little kindnesses from
her in his life, especially in his boyhood; and he was one to treasure
up the remembrance of kindness shown, and repay it if he could.

It may seem a very trifling thing, this project of erecting a few low,
trumpery sheds; as may Lady Oswald's inveterate objection to it. But
it is on trifles that the great events of life turn; and, but for this
project of the sheds, this not-to-be-conquered refusal, the greater
portion of this story need never have been written.



CHAPTER V.
RETROSPECT.


Of some note in the county, though poor for their rank, were the
Oswalds of Thorndyke. Thorndyke, their country seat, was situated
about five miles from Hallingham, and had been generally made the
constant residence of the reigning baronet. It was a fine old place;
the dyke surrounding it, or dike, as you may like to spell it--from
which the place no doubt had partially taken its name--was of
remarkable width. It was filled up in the time of Lady Oswald's
husband, the _third_ baronet of his name; and fine pleasure-grounds
might be seen now where unwholesome water had once stagnated. Possibly
that water had been the remote and unsuspected cause of the dying off
of so many of the house's children--as they had died in the old days.

The _second_ baronet, Sir Oswald Oswald, lost five children in
succession. Two daughters and a son alone lived to grow up: and
perhaps it had been as well for the peace of Sir Oswald and his wife
had those three likewise died in infancy; for pain they all brought
home in one shape or other. They were self-willed and disobedient;
preferring their own ways. The son wished to go into the army: his
father had the greatest possible aversion to it; but he persisted, and
went, in spite of remonstrance. The younger daughter, Frances, married
an old man for his rank: Sir Oswald objected to it; the man's
character was of startling notoriety; but Frances took her own will
and married him. A few short months only, and she was back again at
Thorndyke, driven to take refuge from her husband in her father's
home. The elder daughter, Mary, married Mr. Cray, a gentleman of no
account in comparison with the Oswalds of Thorndyke. To this the most
strenuous objection of all was made by Sir Oswald and his lady--in
their haughty pride they looked down with utter contempt upon Mr.
Cray. Miss Oswald disputed the grounds of their objection, urging that
Mr. Cray, though of no particular note, was at least of gentle blood
and breeding, and though his means might be small, _she_ deemed them
sufficient. It was of no use: she could make no impression on her
father and mother, she could not shake their refusal of consent, and
she married Mr. Cray without it. Public opinion on the matter was
divided. Some took Miss Oswald's part. She was of an age to judge for
herself, being, in fact, no longer very young; and there appeared no
good reason, save that he was not wealthy, for objecting to Mr. Cray.
But her family--father, mother, brother, sister--bitterly resented it,
and said she had disgraced them.

Mr. Cray had about eight hundred a-year, derivable from money in the
funds, and he lived in the Abbey at Hallingham. The Oswalds enjoyed
some three or four thousand a-year, landed property, and they lived at
Thorndyke, and were baronets, and very grand. Of course there was a
great difference; but some thought the difference might have been got
over by Sir Oswald. Some went so far as to say that Mr. Cray, with his
fine manly person and good conduct, was a better man than that
shrivelled old lord who was breaking the heart of his poor wife, the
younger daughter. Sir Oswald and Lady Oswald could not be brought
to see it; none of the Oswalds could see it; and, take them
altogether--brothers, cousins, uncles and nephews--there was a large
family of them.

Mary Oswald married Mr. Cray, and he brought her home to Hallingham
Abbey, and her friends never saw her after; that is, they never would
recognise her. Many a Tuesday, on which day the family from Thorndyke
would drive into Hallingham in their carriage and four--as was the
habit with some of the county people--did they pass her without
notice. They would be in the large close carriage, the old baronet
and my lady, and their daughter Frances--who had no home now but
theirs--opposite to them, and they would see Mrs. Cray at the Abbey
windows, alone or with her husband, as the case might be, for their
road took them past it, and all the greeting they gave her was a stony
stare. Time went on, and there appeared a baby at her side, a pretty
little fellow in long petticoats, held in his nurse's arms. That baby
was named Oswald Oswald, and was the Mr. Oswald Cray whom you have
seen: but the stare from the baronet's carriage was not less stony
than before.

A twelvemonth more, when Oswald could just begin to run about in his
pretty white frocks, and get his sturdy legs into grief, his hands
into mischief, another child was born, and died. Poor Mrs. Cray died
herself a few weeks afterwards. People said she had grown weak,
fretting after Thorndyke, after her father and mother, lamenting their
hardness, regretting her own disobedience; but people are prone to
talk, and often say things for which there's not a shadow of
foundation. She died without having seen her friends--unreconciled;
and when Mr. Cray wrote to Sir Oswald a very proper letter, not
familiar, but giving the details of her death, no answer was accorded
him. Mrs. Cray, as Mary Oswald, had possessed a small income
independent of her father, and this on her death passed to her little
son. It was just one hundred and six pounds per year, and she made it
her dying request that he should use the surname of Oswald in addition
to that of Cray--should be known henceforth as Master Oswald Cray.

And it was so; and when the boy first entered a noted public school
for gentlemen's sons, far away from Hallingham, and the boys saw him
sign his exercises and copies "O. Oswald Cray," they asked him what
the "O" was for. For his Christian name, he answered. Was not Oswald
his Christian name? they wanted to know. Yes, his Christian and his
surname both, he said--Oswald Oswald. It was his grandpapa's Christian
and surname, Sir Oswald Oswald. Oh! was _he_ his grandfather asked the
boys. Yes; but--Oswald added in his innate love of truth--he had never
been the better for him, Sir Oswald had never spoken to him in his
life; there was something unpleasant between him and his papa, he did
not know what. No; at that stage of the boy's age he was unconscious
what the breach was, or that his dead mother had made it.

Poor Oswald Cray had not had a very happy childhood's life; he
scarcely knew what was meant by the words, home-ties, home-love. _He_
had never enjoyed them. There was a second Mrs. Cray, and a second
family, and she did not like the boy Oswald, or care that he should be
at home. He was but four years old when he was despatched to a far-off
preparatory school, where he was to stay the holidays as well as the
half-years. Now and then, about once in two years or so, he would be
had home for a fortnight at Christmas, and Mr. Cray would make an
occasional journey to see him.

It was at ten years old that he was removed to the public school,
where the boys asked him the meaning of the "O." Before that time
came, grief had penetrated to the family of Sir Oswald Oswald. His
only son and heir had died in battle in India; his daughter Frances,
who had never gone back to the old lord, had died at Thorndyke; and
Sir Oswald and his wife were childless. Neither survived the year, and
when Oswald was eleven years old, and getting to hold his own in the
school, the title had devolved on the next brother, Sir John. Sir John
was sixty when he came into it, and had no children. He had offended
the Oswald family in the same way that Mary Oswald had offended them,
by marrying a lady whose family was not as good as his own.

That lady was the present widow, Lady Oswald, now lamenting over the
threatened innovation of the railway sheds. Sir John Oswald enjoyed
the title for four years only, and then it lapsed to a cousin, for Sir
John had no children. The cousin, Sir Philip, enjoyed it still, and
lived at Thorndyke, and his eldest son would succeed him. They were
proud also, those present Oswalds of Thorndyke, and never had spoken
to Oswald Cray in their lives. The prejudices of old Sir Oswald had
descended upon them, and Sir Philip and Lady Oswald would pass Oswald
Cray, if by chance they met him, with as stony a stare as had ever
greeted his poor mother.

Perhaps the only one of the whole Oswald family upon whom the
prejudices had not descended was the widow of Sir John. Upon the death
of her husband, when she had to leave Thorndyke, she took on lease the
house at Hallingham, and had never removed from it. Her jointure was
not a large one; but Sir John had bequeathed to her certain moneys
absolutely, and these were at her own disposal. These moneys were also
being added to yearly, for she did not spend all her income; so that
it was supposed Lady Oswald would leave a pretty little sum behind
her, by which somebody would benefit. There was no lack of
"somebodies" to look out for it, for Lady Oswald had two nephews with
large families, both of whom wanted help badly. One of these nephews,
the Reverend Mr. Stephenson, was a poor curate, struggling to bring up
his seven children upon one hundred a year. Lady Oswald sent him a
little help now and then; but she was not fond of giving away her
money.

The pride and prejudices of the family had not fallen upon her and she
noticed and welcomed Oswald Cray.  He was fifteen when she settled at
Hallingham, and she had him to spend his first holidays with her
afterwards. She had continued to notice him ever since, to invite him
occasionally, and she was in her way fond of him; but it was not in
the nature of Lady Oswald to feel much fondness for any one.

And yet, though not in her inmost heart cherishing the prejudices of
the Oswalds, she did in a degree adopt them. She could not be
independent and brave them off. Conscious that she was looked down
upon herself by the Oswalds, she could not feel sufficiently free to
take up her own standard of conduct, and fling those prejudices
utterly to the winds. Upon tolerably good terms with Thorndyke, paying
it occasional state visits, and receiving state visits from it in
return, she did not openly defy all Thorndyke's prejudices. Though she
acknowledged Oswald Cray as a relative, received him as an equal,
there it ended, and she never, by so much as a word or a nod,
recognised his father, Mr. Cray. She never had known him, and she did
not enter upon the acquaintance. But in this there was nothing
offensive, nothing that need have hurt the feelings of the Crays; Lady
Oswald and they were strangers, and she was not bound to make their
acquaintance, any more than she was that of other gentlepeople about
Hallingham, moving in a sphere somewhat inferior to herself.

Mr. Cray had continued to reside at Hallingham Abbey, and to live at
it in a style that his income did not justify. However the Oswalds may
have despised him, he did not despise himself; neither did Hallingham.
Mr. Cray of the Abbey was of note in the town; Mr. Cray was courted
and looked up to; Mr. Cray went to dinner-parties, and gave them; Mr.
Cray's wife was fashionable and extravagant, and so were Mr. Cray's
daughters; and altogether Mr. Cray was a great man, and spent
thousands where he ought to have spent hundreds.

He had four children, not counting Oswald--Marcus and three
daughters--and it cost something to bring them out in the world.
Marcus, changeable and vacillating by nature, fixed upon half a dozen
professions or occupations for himself, before he decided upon the one
he finally embraced--that of a doctor. Chance, more than anything
else, caused him to decide on this at last. Altogether what with home
extravagance and the cost of his children, Mr. Cray became an
embarrassed man; and when he died, about two years previous to the
opening of this story, a very slender support was left for his wife
and daughters. His will did not even mention Oswald. Two or three
hundred pounds were left to Marcus--the rest to Mrs. Cray for her
life, and to go to her daughters afterwards.

Oswald had not expected any. Where a home gives no affection, it is
not very likely to give money. When Oswald had come of age he found
that his own income, of which his father was trustee, had no only been
spent upon his education, but the principal had been very considerably
drawn upon as well--in fact, it would take years to redeem it. "I was
obliged to do it, Oswald," his father said. "I could not limit your
educational expenses, and there was the heavy premium to pay in
Parliament Street. I'd willingly have paid all cost myself; but it has
not been in my power."

Oswald was not ungenerous. He grasped his father's hand and warmly
thanked him, saying it was only right his own money should pay his
cost when there were so many at home to educate. Ah, it was not the
_money_ he regretted. Had every sixpence of it been spent--why, it was
spent--he was young and strong, with a good profession before him, and
brains and hands to work it, he could make his own way in the world,
and he should make it. No, it was not the money; but what Oswald had
been hurt at, was the manner in which they had estranged him from his
home; had kept him from the father's affection which he had yearned
for. He knew that the fault had been Mrs. Cray's; that his father held
him aloof only under her influence. He did not allow himself to blame
his father even in his own heart; but he could not help thinking that,
were he ever placed in a similar situation, he should openly love and
cherish his first-born son, in spite of all the second wives in the
world. Oswald had yet to learn by experience how utterly futile is
that boast which we are all apt to make--that we should act so
differently in other people's places. Never was there a truer aphorism
than the homely saying: "Nobody knows where the shoe pinches save
those who wear it."

Oswald Cray had been born proud: it might be detected in every tone of
his decisive voice, in every turn of his well-set head, in every
lineament of his haughty features. He could not help it. It is well to
repeat this assertion, because pride is sometimes looked upon as a
failing demanding heavy reproach. There it was, and he could not shake
it out of him any more than he could shake out his other qualities or
feelings. It was discerned in him when a little child; it was seen
conspicuously in his schooldays; it reigned paramount in his early
manhood. "The boy has the proud spirit of his grandfather Sir Oswald,"
quoth the gossips; and no doubt it was from that quarter that it had
come. Only in his later days, those years between twenty and thirty
when thought and experience were coming to him, did it grow less
observable, for he had the good sense to endeavour to keep it in due
subjection.

But it was not a bad sort of pride, after all. It was not the foolish
pride of the Oswalds generally, who deemed everybody beneath them; it
was rather that pride of innate rectitude which keeps its owner from
doing a mean, a wrong, or a disgraceful action. It was the pride of
self-esteem, of self-reliance; that feeling which says: "I must not do
so and so, for I should disgrace myself--those careless-living men
around me may do these things, but I am superior to it" Other young
men might plunge into the world's follies; pride, if no better motive,
kept Oswald Cray from them. He could not for very shame have borne a
tainted conscience; he could not have shown a clear outside to the
world, open and fearless, knowing that his heart was foul within.

He was not proud of his family descent from the Oswalds. Quite the
contrary. He found no cause to pride himself on either the Oswalds or
the Crays. So far as the Oswalds went, many a hundred times had he
wished they were no connections of his. All his life he had received
from them nothing but slights; and slights to a man of Oswald Cray's
temperament bring the deepest mortification. He knew now how they had
treated his mother; he felt to his very heart how they despised
himself. If he could have changed his dead grandfather into somebody
else, a little less foolish and a great deal less grand, he had been
better pleased.

But this very isolation from his mother's family had tended to
foster his own pride--the mortification which it induced had fostered
it--just as the isolation from his own home, from his father and the
second family, had contributed to render him self-reliant. It is not
your home darling, bred up in fond dependence, sheltered from the
world's storms as a hothouse flower, who becomes the self-reliant man,
but he who is sent out early to rough it, who has nobody to care for
him, or to love him, in all the wide earth.

Not a more self-reliant man lived than Oswald Cray. He was sure, under
God, of _himself_, of his good conduct; and I think it is about the
best surety that a man or woman can carry with them through life. In
moments of doubt, perplexity, difficulty, whatever might be its
nature, he turned to his own heart and took its counsel--and it never
failed him. It was with himself he deliberated; it was his own good
judgment, his right feeling, that he called to his aid. He had an
honest, upright nature, was strictly honourable; a proud man, if it is
the proper sort of pride, nearly always is so. His ambition was great,
but not extravagant; it did not soar him aloft in flights of fancy,
vain, generally speaking, as they are absurd. He was determined to
rise to the summit of his profession--that of a civil engineer--but he
entertained no foolish dreams beyond it. To attain to that, he would
use every diligence, every effort, consistent with uprightness and
honour; and dishonourable efforts Oswald Cray would have scorned to
use, would have shaken them from him as he shook a summer-day's dust
from his shoes.

He was connected with a firm of high repute in Parliament Street:
Bracknell and Street. Oswald Cray was a partner, but his name did not
appear as yet: and, as you may readily imagine, the lion's share of
the profits did not fall to him. In fact, he had entered it very much
as his half-brother had entered the house of Dr. Davenal--to obtain a
footing. For more substantial recompense he was content to wait.
Bracknell and Street were engineers to the Hallingham line, and to
Oswald Cray had been entrusted its working and management.

He had said to Lady Oswald, in answer to her reproach of his not
calling to see her more frequently, that his time when at Hallingham
was much occupied. True, so far: but the chief and real motive which
kept him from her house was a sort of sensitive feeling relating to
her money. It was not that he dreaded people's saying he was looking
after it: he would have scorned that kind of reproach: but he did
dread lest any degree of intimacy, any pushing of himself in her way,
should cause her to leave it to him. I am not sure that you will quite
understand this; understand him or his feeling. None but a man of the
nicest honour, who was entrenched, as it were, in his own pride, the
pride of rectitude, could have felt this delicacy. He did not want
Lady Oswald's money; he knew that he had no claim upon any of it, no
right to it, and he would not put himself in her way more than he
could help, even as a passing visitor. Gossiping Hallingham had said:
"My lady would be leaving her nest-egg to Mr. Oswald Cray." The gossip
had penetrated to Mr. Oswald Cray's ears, and his only notice of it
was a haughty gesture of contempt: but in all probability it tended to
increase his dislike to go to Lady Oswald's. During these business
visits at Hallingham, he sojourned at a respectable inn of the old
school, a little beyond the town and the Abbey Gardens, called the
"Apple Tree," and had recently become more intimate with the family of
Dr. Davenal.

Driven forth all his life from his father's home, allowed to enter it
but at rare intervals, and then as a formally-invited guest, it cannot
be supposed that Oswald Cray entertained any strong affection for his
half-brother and sisters. Such a state of things would have been
unnatural, quite in opposition to ordinary probabilities. It would be
wrong to say that they disliked each other; but there was certainly no
love: civil indifference may best express the feeling. Marcus, the
eldest child of the second Mrs. Cray, was from three to four years
younger than Oswald. It had been better that Mrs. Cray had fostered an
affection between these boys, but she did just the reverse. She
resented the contempt cast on her husband by the Oswalds of Thorndyke;
she resented, most unreasonably, the fact that the little money of the
first Mrs. Cray should have descended at once to Oswald; she even
resented the child's having taken the distinguishing name: he was
Oswald Cray, her son, plain Cray. How worse than foolish this was of
her, how wrong, perhaps the woman might yet learn: but altogether it
did excite her against Oswald; and she had kept him aloof from her own
children, and encouraged those children to be jealous of him. When the
boys became men, they met often, and were cordial enough with each
other; but there was no feeling of brotherhood, there never could be
any.

For a twelvemonth after Mr. Cray's death, Mrs. Cray remained at the
Abbey, and then she left it. It was too expensive a residence for her
now--its rent swallowing up half her income. She removed with her
daughters to a watering-place in Wales, where, as she fractiously
said, she hoped they should "get along." Marcus, who had qualified for
a surgeon, became assistant to Dr. Davenal, and that gentleman at
length gave him a small share in the profits. It was not a
regularly-constituted firm--"Davenal and Cray"--nothing of the sort.
Hallingham knew that he was admitted a partner so far as receiving a
share went; and they knew that that was all.

He was liked in Hallingham, this young doctor, and Dr. Davenal had
done it in kindness, to give him a standing. As the time went on, he
would have no doubt a larger and larger share--some time succeed to
the whole. He was considered a suitable partner for the doctor; the
Crays of the Abbey had always been looked up to in the town; and young
Cray's skill as a medical man was in the ascendant. Lady Oswald was
getting to like him very much; she evinced a desire to patronise him,
to push forward his interests; and Dr. Davenal was really in hope that
she would adopt him as her attendant for everyday calls instead of
himself. Mr. Cray could spare the time for these useless visits better
than Dr. Davenal. He, Mr. Cray, resided in lodgings in the town, and
was growing in its favour daily in a professional point of view: not
that he had displayed any unusual skill, but simply that Hallingham
gave him credit for possessing it, because they liked _him_.

There was a large family of the Davenals, as there was of the
Oswalds--speaking, in both cases, of the days gone by, and comprising
collateral branches. Years and years ago Surgeon Davenal's had been a
noted name in Hallingham; he had a large practice, and he had several
children. It is not necessary to speak of all the children. Richard
(the present Dr. Davenal) was the eldest son, and had succeeded to the
practice. The two other sons, Walter and John, had chosen to enter the
Church, and both, when ordained, had gone out to the West Indies; one
of them became chaplain to the Bishop of Barbadoes, the other obtained
a church in the island. Both had married there, and Caroline Davenal
was the only child of Walter, the elder of the two.

Sara was twelve years old when her cousin Caroline arrived in England,
an orphan; father and mother were both dead. A poor clergyman in the
West Indies, dying young, was not likely to have amassed money, and
the little child, Caroline, had literally nothing. Her father wrote an
appealing letter to his brother Richard, on his deathbed, and Richard
Davenal was not one to reject it.

"She shall be my child henceforth, and Sara's sister," said he, in the
warmth of his heart, when the letter and the child arrived at
Hallingham. And so she had been.

But it was by no means so certain that Caroline Davenal would not some
time be rich. A very large sum of money was pending in her mother's
family, who were West Indians. It had become the subject of dispute,
of litigation, and was at length thrown into that formidable court in
England--Chancery. Should it be decided in one way, Caroline would
derive no benefit; if in another, she would come in for several
thousand pounds. The probabilities were in her favour--but Chancery,
as you all know, is a capricious court, and does not hurry itself to
inconvenience.

Upon the death of Dr. Davenal's wife, his sister Bettina came to
reside with him, and to rule his children. He had but three--Richard,
Edward, and Sara. There had been others between Edward and Sara, but
they died young. Fine lads, those of Dr. Davenal, although they took
to plaguing stern Miss Bettina, and aggravatingly called her "Aunt
Bett." Fine young men, too, they grew up--well reared, liberally
educated. Richard embraced his father's profession; for Edward a
commission in the army was purchased, in accordance with his strong
wish, and he was now Captain Davenal.

And Richard Davenal, the eldest son, where was he? Ah! it was a
grievous story to look back upon. It had clouded the life of Dr.
Davenal, and would cloud it to the end. Richard was dead, and Dr.
Davenal blamed himself as the remote cause.

When Richard had completed his studies, and passed the College of
Surgeons, he returned to Hallingham, and joined his father in
practice, as it had been intended that he should. He grew greatly in
favour: he promised to be as clever as his father: and Hallingham
courted him. He was a man of attractive presence, of genial manners,
and he mixed a great deal of pleasure with his life of work. Dr.
Davenal spoke to him seriously and kindly. He said that too much
pleasure did not agree long with work, could not agree with it, and he
begged him to be more steady. Richard laughed, and said he would. A
short while, and startling news reached the ears of Dr. Davenal--that
Richard was thinking of marrying one who was undesirable. Richard, his
fine boy, of whom he was so fond and proud, marry _her!_ It was not
against the young lady herself that so much could be urged, but
against her connections. They were most objectionable. Dr. Davenal
pointed out to Richard that to wed this girl would be as a blight upon
his prospects, a blow to his reputation. Richard could not be brought
to see it. Though not equal to themselves in position, she was
respectable, he said; and her connections had nothing to do with
it--he did not marry them, he married her. The feud continued: not an
open feud, you understand, but an undercurrent of opposition, of
coolness. Richard would not give up his project, and Dr. Davenal
would not view it with anything but aversion. As to giving his
consent, that Dr. Davenal never would; and Richard, hitherto dutiful,
was not one to go the length of marrying in defiance.

It was at this time, or a little before it, that the dispute had
arisen in Barbadoes touching the money already spoken of. Particulars
of it were written to Dr. Davenal by his brother John, explaining also
how Caroline's interests were involved. He, the Reverend John Davenal,
said in the same letter that he was anxious to send his two little
boys to Europe for their education, and was waiting to find them a fit
escort; he did not care to trust them alone in the ship. As Dr.
Davenal read this letter, a sudden thought darted into his mind like a
flash of lightning. What if he sent out Richard? Richard could sift
the details about this fortune, could, if expedient, urge Caroline's
interests; he could bring back the two little boys, and--and--the
chief thought of all lay behind--it might break off the engagement
with the young girl here, Fanny Parrack! Quite a glow of satisfaction
came over Dr. Davenal's face at the thought.

He sought a conference with his son. He told him that he wished him to
take a voyage to Barbadoes; that Caroline's interests required
somebody to go out; that the two little boys had no friend to bring
them over. Richard hesitated. To most young men a visit to the West
Indies would be a welcome distraction; but Richard Davenal seemed
strangely to hold back from it--to shrink from its very mention. Did
some mysterious warning of what it would bring forth for him dart
unconsciously across his spirit? Or did he fear that it might in some
way lead to his losing the young lady upon whom he had set his heart?
It cannot be known. Certain it was, remembered, oh how remembered
afterwards, that an unaccountable repugnance on Richard's part did
evince itself, and it was only to the persistent urgent persuasion of
Dr. Davenal that he at length yielded. He yielded, as it were, under
protest, and he said he did, sacrificing his own strong wishes against
it to his father's.

He set sail, and he wrote on his arrival at Barbadoes, after a fine
passage; and the next letter they received, a fortnight afterwards,
was not from him, but from his uncle, the clergyman. Richard had died
of yellow fever.

It seemed to turn the current of Dr. Davenal's life. He blamed himself
as the cause: but for his scheming--and in that moment of exaggerated
feeling, of intense grief, he called it scheming--Richard, his best
beloved son, would be still by his side to bless him. He had never
been a scheming man, but an open and straightforward one; and never,
so long as he lived, would he scheme again. In his unhappiness, he
began to reproach himself for having needlessly opposed Richard's
marriage--to believe that he might have done worse than in marrying
Fanny Parrack. He sent for her, and he found her a pretty, modest,
gentle girl, and his repentance heaped itself upon him fourfold. He
informed her very kindly and considerately of the unhappy fact of
Richard's death, and he told her that should any memento be found left
for her amidst Richard's effects when they arrived--any letter, no
matter what--it should be given to her.

But that death had changed Dr. Davenal into an old man; in the two
years which had elapsed since, he had aged ten, both in looks and
constitution. No wonder that a spasm of pain came over his face when
Mr. Cray asked him whether he should forbid Caroline to him. You can
understand his answer now: "So long as I live I shall never 'forbid' a
marriage to any over whom I hold control:" and you can understand the
anguish of the tone in which it was spoken.

And that ends the chapter of retrospect.



CHAPTER VI.
NEAL'S CURIOSITY.


They sat around the dinner-table; Dr. Davenal, Miss Bettina, Sara, and
Caroline. It was an unusually silent table. Dr. Davenal could not
digest the demand of Mr. Cray for Caroline; Caroline was conscious and
timid; Sara scented something not altogether comfortable in the air,
and did not raise her eyes from her plate; and it was one of the
unusually deaf days of Miss Bettina.

Neal moved about noiselessly. Being a treasure of a servant, of course
he always did move noiselessly. Quite an artistic performance was
Neal's waiting; in his own person he did the waiting of three; and so
tranquilly assiduous was his mode of accomplishing it so perfect
indeed were Neal's ways in the household, that Miss Bettina rarely let
a day pass without sounding his praise.

Strange to say, the doctor did not like him. Why it was, or how it
was, he could not tell, but he had never taken heartily to Neal. So
strong was the feeling, that it may almost be said he hated Neal; and
yet the man fulfilled all his duties so well that there was no fault
to be found with him, no excuse invented for discharging him. The
doctor's last indoor man had not been anything like so efficient a
servant as Neal, was not half so fine a gentleman, had ten faults
where Neal did not appear to have one. But the doctor had liked _him_,
good rough honest old Giles, had kept him for many years, and only
parted with him when he got too old to work. Then Neal presented
himself. Neal had once lived with Lady Oswald; he had been groom of
the chambers at Thorndyke in Sir John's time, and Lady Oswald kept him
for a twelvemonth after Sir John's death, and nearly cried when she
parted with him; but Neal refused point-blank to go out with the
carriage, and Lady Oswald did not wish to keep on three men-servants.
Neal found a place in London, and they lost sight of him for some
years; but he made his appearance at Lady Oswald's again one
day--having come down by the new railroad to see what change it had
made in the old place, and to pay his respects to my lady. My lady was
gratified by the attention, and inquired what he was doing. He had
left his situation, he answered, and he had some thoughts of trying
for one in the country; my lady was aware, no doubt, how close and
smoky London was, and he found that it had told upon his health; if he
could hear of a quiet place in the country he believed he might be
induced to take it, however disadvantageous it might be to him in a
pecuniary point of view. Did my lady happen to know of one? My lady
did happen to know of one: Dr. Davenal's, who was then parting with
old Giles. She thought it would be the very place for Neal; Neal the
very man for the place; and in the propensity for managing other
people's business, which was as strong upon Lady Oswald as it is upon
many more of us, she ordered her carriage and drove to Dr. Davenal's,
and never left him until he had promised Neal the situation.

In good truth, Dr. Davenal deemed that Neal would suit him very well,
provided he could bring his notions down to the place; and that, as
Lady Oswald said, Neal intended to do. But to be groom of the chambers
to a nobleman who kept his score or so of servants (for that was
understood in the town to have been Neal's situation), and to be sole
indoor manservant to a doctor, keeping three maids only besides, and
the coachman in the stables, would be a wide gulf of difference. Neal,
however, accepted the place, and Dr. Davenal took him on the
recommendation of Lady Oswald, without referring to the nobleman in
town.

But even in the very preliminary interview when the engagement was
made, Dr. Davenal felt a dislike steal over him for the man. Instinct
would have prompted him to say, "You will not suit me;" reason
overpowered it, and whispered, "He will prove an excellent servant;"
and Dr. Davenal engaged him. That was just before Richard went out to
Barbadoes, and ever since then the doctor had been saying to himself
how full of prejudice was his dislike, considering the excellent
servant that Neal proved to be. But he could not overget the
prejudice.

Neal cleared the table when the dinner was over, and placed the
dessert upon it. Dr. Davenal did not care for dessert; deemed it waste
of time to sit at it; waste of eating to partake of it: but Miss
Bettina, who favoured most of the customs and fashions of her
girlhood, would as soon have thought of dispensing with her dinner.
Dr. Davenal generally withdrew with the cloth; sometimes, if not busy,
he stayed a few minutes to chat with his daughter and Caroline; but
calls on his time and services were made after dinner as well as
before it.

On this day he did not leave his place. He sat at the foot of the
large table, Miss Davenal opposite him at its head, the young ladies
between them, one on each side. Interrupted by Lady Oswald in the
afternoon, he had not yet spoken to Caroline; and that he was
preparing to do now.

He drew his chair near to her, and began in a low tone. Sara rose
soon, and quitted the room; Miss Davenal was deaf; they were, so to
say, alone.

"My dear, Mr. Cray is not the man I would have preferred to choose for
you. Are you aware how very small is the income he derives from his
partnership with me?"

Caroline caught up the glistening damask dessert napkin, and began
pulling out the threads of its fringe. "His prospects are very fair,
Uncle Richard."

"Fair enough, insomuch as that he may enjoy the whole of this practice
in time. But that time may be long in coming, Caroline; twenty years
hence, for all we know. I shall be but seventy then, and my father at
seventy was as good a man as I am now."

Her fingers pulled nervously at the fringe, and she did not raise her
eyes. "I hope you will live much longer than that, Uncle Richard."

"So long as I live, Caroline, and retain my health and strength, so
long shall I pursue my practice and take its largest share of profits.
Mr. Cray understood that perfectly when I admitted him to a small
share as a partner. I did it for his sake, to give him a standing. I
had no intention of taking a partner: I wished only for an assistant;
but out of regard to his prospects, to give him a footing, I say, I
let him have a trifling share, suffered it to be known in Hallingham
that he was made a partner of by Dr. Davenal. He has but two hundred
a-year from me."

"It does not cost much to live," said Caroline. "We need not keep many
servants."

Dr. Davenal paused, feeling that she was hopelessly inexperienced. "My
dear, what do you suppose it costs us to live as we do?--here, in this
house?"

"Ever so much," was Caroline's lucid answer.

"It costs me something like twelve hundred a-year, Caroline, and I
have no house-rent to pay."

She did not answer. Miss Davenal's sharp eyes caught sight of
Caroline's damaging fingers, and she called out to know what she was
doing with the dessert napkin. Caroline laid it on the table beside
her plate.

"I cannot afford to increase Mr. Cray's salary very much," continued
Dr. Davenal. "To reduce my own style of living I do not feel inclined,
and Edward draws largely upon me. Extravagant chaps are those young
officers!" added the doctor, falling into abstraction. "There's not
one of them, as I believe, Makes his pay suffice."

He paused. Caroline took up a biscuit and began crumbling it on her
plate.

"The very utmost that I could afford to give him would be four hundred
per annum," resumed Dr. Davenal "and I believe that I shall
inconvenience myself to do this. But that's not it. There"----

"Oh, Uncle Richard, it is ample. Four hundred a-year! We could not
spend it."

He shook his head at the impulsive interruption; at its unconscious
ignorance. "Caroline, I was going to say that the mere income is not
all the question. If you marry Mr. Cray, he can make no settlement
upon you; more than that, he has no home, no furniture. I think he has
been precipitate; inconsiderately so, few men would ask a young lady
to be their wife until they had a house to take her to; or money in
hand to procure one."

Caroline's eyes filled with tears. She had hard work to keep them from
dropping.

"Carine," he said caressingly, "is it quite _irrevocable_, this
attachment?"

The tears went down on the crumbled biscuit. She murmured some words
which the doctor but imperfectly caught; only just sufficiently so to
gather that it _was_ irrevocable--or that at any rate the young lady
thought so. He sighed.

"Listen to me, child. I should never attempt to oppose your
inclinations; I should not think of forbidding any marriage that you
had set your heart upon. If you have fixed on Mr. Cray, or he on
you--it comes to the same--I will not set my will against it. But one
thing I must urge upon you both--to wait."

"Do you dislike Mr. Cray, Uncle Richard?"

"Dislike him! no, child. Have I not made him my partner? I like him
personally very much. I don't know whether he has much stability,"
continued the doctor, in a musing tone, as though he were debating the
question with himself. "But let that pass. My objection to him for
you, Caroline, is chiefly on a pecuniary score."

"I am sure we shall have enough," she answered, in a lower tone.

"If I give my consent, Carry, I shall give it under protest; and make
a bargain with you at the same time."

Caroline lifted her eyes. His voice had turned to a jesting one.

"What protest?---what bargain?" she asked.

"That I give the consent in opposition to my better judgment. The
bargain is, that when you find you have married imprudently and cannot
make both ends meet, you don't turn round and blame me."

She bent her eyes with a smile and shook her head in answer, and began
twisting the chain that lay upon her fair neck, the bracelets on her
pretty arms. She wore the same rich dress that she had worn in the
afternoon, as did Sara; but the high bodies had been exchanged for low
ones, the custom for dinner at Dr. Davenal's.

"I will not withhold my consent. But," he added, his tone changing to
the utmost seriousness, "I shall recommend you both to wait. To wait
at least a year or two. You are very young, only twenty."

"I am twenty-one, Uncle Richard," she cried out. "It is Sara who is
only twenty."

He smiled at the eagerness. One year seems so much to the young.

"Twenty-one, then: since last week, I believe. And Mark is three or
four years older. You can well afford to wait. A year or two's time
may make a wonderful difference in the position of affairs. Your share
of that disputed property may have come to you, rendering a settlement
upon you feasible; and Mark, if he chooses to be saving, may have got
chairs and tables together. Perhaps I may increase his share at once
to help him do it."

"Would you be so kind as enlighten me as to the topic of your
conversation with Caroline, Dr. Davenal?"

The interruption come from Miss Bettina. Deaf as she was, it was
impossible for her not to perceive that some subject of unusual moment
was being discussed, and nothing annoyed her more than to fancy she
was purposely kept in the dark. For the last five minutes she had sat
ominously upright in her chair. Very upright she always did sit, at
all times and seasons; but in moments of displeasure this stiff
uprightness was unpleasantly perceptible. Dr. Davenal rose from his
seat and walked towards her, bending his face a little. He had a
dislike to talk to her on her very deaf days: it made him hoarse for
hours afterwards.

"Caroline wants to be married, Bettina?"

Miss Bettina did catch the right words this time, but she doubted it.
She had not yet learnt to look upon Caroline as aught but a child.
Could the world have gone round in accordance with the ideas of Miss
Bettina, nobody with any regard to propriety would have married in it
until the age of thirty was past. Her cold grey eyes and her mouth
gradually opened as she looked from her brother to her niece, from her
niece to her brother.

"Wants to be what, did you say?"

"To be married, Aunt Bett," cried out the doctor. "It's the fashion,
it seems, with the young folks nowadays! You were not in so great a
hurry when you were young?"

The doctor spoke in no covert spirit of joking--as a stranger might
have supposed, Miss Davenal being Miss Davenal still. Bettina Davenal
had had her romance in life. In her young days, when she was not much
older than Caroline, a poor curate had sought to make her his wife.
She was greatly attached to him, but he was very, very poor, and
prudence said, "Wait until better times shall come for him." Miss
Bettina's father and mother were alive then; the latter a great
invalid, and that also weighed with her, for in her duty and affection
she did not like to leave her home. Ay, cold and unsympathising as she
appeared to be now, Bettina Davenal had once been a warm, loving girl,
an affectionate daughter. And so, by her own fiat, she waited and
waited, and in her thirtieth year that poor curate, never promoted to
be a richer one, had died--had died of bad air, and hard work, and
poor nourishment. His duties were cast in the midst of one of our
worst metropolitan localities; and they were heavy, and his stipend
was small. From that time Bettina Davenal's disposition had changed;
she grew cold, formal, hard: repentance, it was suspected, was ever
upon her, that she had not risked the prudence and saved his life. Her
own fortune added to what he earned, would at least have kept him from
the ills of poverty.

"Who wants to marry her?" questioned Miss Davenal, when she could take
her condemning eyes away from Caroline.

"Mark Cray."

The words seemed to mollify Miss Davenal in a slight degree, and her
head relaxed a very little from its uprightness. "She might do worse,
Richard. He is a good man, and I dare say he is making money. Those
civil engineers get on well."

"I said _Mark_ Cray, Aunt Bett," repeated the doctor.

"Mark! _He_ won't do. He is only a boy. He has got neither house nor
money."

"Just what I say," said the doctor. "I tell her they must wait."

"Mad! to be sure they must be mad, both of them," complaisantly
acquiesced Miss Davenal.

"Wait, I said, Bettina," roared the doctor.

"You need not rave at me, Richard. I am not as deaf as a post. Who
says anything about 'fate?' Fate, indeed! don't talk of fate to me.
Where's your common-sense gone?"

"Wait, I said, Aunt Bett! Wa-a-a-it! I tell them they must wait."

"No," said Aunt Bett. "Better break it off."

"I don't think they will," returned the doctor.

Miss Bettina turned her eyes on Caroline. That young lady, left to
herself, had pretty nearly done for the damask napkin. She dreaded but
one person in the world, and that was stern Aunt Bettina. Miss Bettina
rose in her slow stately fashion, and turned Caroline's drooping face
towards her.

"What in the world has put it into your head to think of Mark Cray?"

"I didn't think of him before he thought of me," was poor Caroline's
excuse, which, as a matter of course, Miss Davenal did not catch.

"Has it ever occurred to you to reflect, Caroline, how very serious a
step is that of settlement in life?"

"We shall get along, Aunt Bettina."

"I'll not get along," exclaimed Miss Bettina, her face darkening. "I
attempt to say a little word to you for your good, for your own
interest, and you tell me 'to get along!' How dare you, Caroline
Davenal?"

"Oh, Aunt Bettina! I said we should get along."

"I don't know that you would get along if you married Mark Cray. I
don't like Mark Cray. I did not think"----

"Why don't you like him, aunt?"

"I don't know," replied Miss Bettina. "He is too light and careless. I
did not think it a wise step of your uncle's to take him into
partnership; but it was not my province to interfere. The Crays
brought it to nothing, you know. Lived like princes for a few years,
and when affairs came to be looked into on Mr. Cray's death, the money
was gone."

"That was not Mark's fault," returned Caroline, indignantly. "It ought
to be no reason for your disliking _him_, Aunt Bettina."

"It gives one prejudices, you see. He may be bringing it to the same
in his own case before his life's over."

"You might as well say the same of Oswald," resentfully spoke
Caroline.

"No; Oswald's different. He is worth a thousand of Mark. Don't think
of Mark, Caroline. You might do so much better: better in all ways."

"I don't care to do better," was the rebellious answer. And then,
half-frightened at it, repenting of its insolence, poor Caroline burst
into tears. She felt very indignant at the disparagement of Mark.
Fortunately for her, Miss Davenal mistook the words.

"We don't care that you should do better! Of course we care. What are
you thinking of, child? Your uncle studies your interests as much as
he would study Sara's."

"More!" impulsively interrupted the doctor, who was pacing the room,
his hands under his coat-tails. "I might feel less scrupulous in
opposing Sara's inclination."

"You hear, Caroline! The doctor opposes this inclination of yours!"

Caroline cast a look to him, a sort of helpless appeal: not only that
he would _not_ oppose it, but that he would set right Miss Davenal.

"I don't oppose it, Bettina: I don't go so far as that. I recommend
them to wait. In a year or two"----

A loud knock at the hall-door startled Dr. Davenal. Knocks there were
pretty frequent--loud ones too; but this was loud and long as a peal
of thunder. And it startled somebody besides the doctor.



CHAPTER VII.
AN INTERRUPTION.


That somebody was Neal. Neal's mind was by far too composed a
one to be ruffled by any sort of shock, and Neal's nerves were in
first-rate order. It happened, however, that Neal was rather
unpleasantly near to the front door at that moment, and the sudden
sound, so sharp and long, did make him start.

When Neal removed the dinner things, he placed his plate and glasses
in the pantry, and carried the tray with the other articles down to
the kitchen. In going upstairs again he was called to by Watton, the
upper woman-servant of the family, who was as old as Neal himself, and
had lived with them for some years. She was in the apartment opening
from the kitchen, a boarded room with a piece of square carpet in the
middle. It was called the housekeeper's room, and was used as a
sitting-room by the servants when their kitchen work was over for the
day. The servants' entrance to the house was on this lower floor;
steps ascending from it to the outer door in the back garden.

"Did you call me?" asked Neal, looking in.

Watton had her hands busy papering some jars of jam. She turned round
at the question, displaying a sallow face with quick dark eyes, and
pointed with her elbow to a note lying on the table before her.

"A note for Miss Sara, Neal. It came five minutes ago."

"Jessy might have brought it up," remarked Neal. "Letters should never
be delayed below."

"Jessy has stepped out," explained Watton. "And I want to get to an
end with this jam; Miss Bettina expected it was done and put away this
morning."

Neal carried the note upstairs to his pantry, and there examined it.
But beyond the fact that it was superscribed "Miss Sara Davenal," Neal
could gather no information to gratify his curiosity. The handwriting
was not familiar to him; the envelope displayed neither crest nor
coat-of-arms. He held it up, but not the most scrutinising eye could
detect anything through it; he gingerly tried the fastening of the
envelope, but it would not come apart without violence. As he was thus
engaged he heard the dining-room door open, and he peeped out of his
pantry.

It was Miss Sara. She was going upstairs to the drawing-room. Neal
heard her enter it; and after the lapse of a minute or two, he
followed her, bearing the note on a silver waiter. She had shut
herself in. Somehow that conference in the dining-room was making her
nervous.

"Who brought it, Neal?" she carelessly asked, taking the note from the
waiter.

"I am unable to say, miss. It came when I was waiting at dinner."

Neal retired, closed the drawing-room door, and descended to his
pantry. There he began making preparations for washing his dinner
glasses, rather noisy ones for Neal. He put some water into a wooden
bowl, rinsed the glasses in it, and turned them down to dry. Having
advanced thus far, it probably struck Neal that a trifling interlude
of recreation might be acceptable.

He stole cautiously along as far as the dining-room door, and there
came to a halt, bending down his head and ear. Neal could calculate
his chances as well as any living spy. He could not be disturbed
unawares by Miss Sara from the drawing-room or the servants from the
kitchen; and his sense of hearing was so acute, partly by nature,
partly by exercise, that no one could approach to open the dining-room
door from the inside without his getting ample warning. Neal had not
played his favourite part for long years to be discovered at last.

There he had remained, listening to anything in the dining-room there
might be to hear, until aroused by that strange knock--so loud, long,
and near, that it startled even him. A noiseless glide back to his
pantry, a slight clatter there with spoons and forks, and Neal came
forth to answer the summons, with a far fleeter foot than Neal in
general allowed his stately self to put forth, for the knocker had
begun again and was knocking perpetually.

"Is all the town dying!" muttered Neal.

He pulled open the door, and there burst in two fine lads, sending
their ringing shout of laughter through the house, and nearly
upsetting the man in their wild haste, as they sprang past him into
the dining-room, and on Dr. Davenal. Sara, alarmed at the unusual
noise, came running down.

"You rogues!" exclaimed the doctor. "What brings you here today?"

They were too excited to explain very lucidly. One day extra in a
schoolboy's holidays, especially at the commencement, will turn young
heads crazy. The usher who was to take charge of such of the boys
whose homes lay this way, had received news that morning of the
illness of a relative, and had to leave a day sooner: so they left
also.

"Nothing loth, I'll answer for it," cried Dr. Davenal; and the boys
laughed.

He placed them both before him, and looked first at one, then at the
other, regarding what alteration six months had made. There was a
general likeness between them, as regarded eyes, hair, and complexion,
but none in features. Richard, the eldest, generally called Dick, was
a good-tempered, saucy-looking boy, with a turned-up nose; Leopold had
more delicate features, and seemed less strong.

"You have both grown," said the doctor; "but Leo's thin. How do your
studies get on, Dick?"

"Oh--middling," acknowledged Dick, a remarkably candid lad. "Uncle
Richard, I'm the best cricketer in the whole school. There's not one
of the fellows can come up to me."

"The best what, Richard?" said Miss Bettina, bending her ear to the
lad.

"Cricketer, Aunt Bett," repeated Richard.

"Good boy! good boy!" said Miss Bettina approvingly. "Resolve to be
the best scholar always, and you _will_ be the best. You shall have a
pot of fresh jam for tea, Dick."

Dick smothered his laughter. "I am not a good scholar at all, Aunt
Bett. Leo is: but he's a muff at cricket."

"Not a good scholar!" repeated Miss Bettina, catching those words
correctly. "Did you not tell me you were the best scholar?"

"No. I said I was the best cricketer," responded Dick.

"Oh," said Miss Bettina, her face resuming its severity. "_That_ will
do you no good, Richard."

"Aren't you deafer than before, Aunt Bett?"

"Am I what?" asked Miss Bettina. "_Darker!_ I never was dark yet. Not
one of all the Davenal family had a skin as fair as mine. What put
that fancy into your head, Master Richard?"

"I said deafer, Aunt Bett," repeated Richard. "I am sure you are
just as deaf again as you were at Christmas! Uncle Richard, we had a
boat-race yesterday. I was second oar."

"I don't like those boat-races," hastily interrupted Caroline.

"Girls never do," said Mr. Richard, loftily. "As if they'd like to
blister their hands with the oars! Look at mine."

He extended his right hand, palm upwards, triumphant in blisters. Dr.
Davenal spoke.

"I don't like boat-racing for you boys, either, Dick."

"Oh, it was prime, Uncle Richard! One of the boats tipped over, and
the fellows got a ducking."

"That's just it," said Dr. Davenal. "Boats 'tip' over when you
inexperienced young gentlemen least expect it. It has led to loss of
life sometimes, Dick."

"Any muff can scramble out of the water, Uncle Richard. Some of us
fellows can swim like an otter."

"And some can't swim at all, I suppose. What did Dr. Keen say when he
heard of the boatful going over?"

Richard Davenal raised his honest, wide-open eyes to his uncle, some
surprise in their depths. "It didn't get to Keen's ears, Uncle
Richard! He knew nothing of the boat-race; we had it out of bounds. As
if Keen wouldn't have stopped it for us, if he had known. He thought
we were off to the cricket-field."

"Well, you must be a nice lot of boys!" cried Dr. Davenal, quaintly.
"Does he give a prize for honour? You'd get it, Dick, if he did."

Dick laughed. "It's the same at all schools, Uncle Richard. If we let
the masters into the secret of all our fun, mighty little of it should
we get."

"I think they ought to be let into the fun that consists in going on
the water. There's danger in that."

"Not a bit of it, Uncle Richard. It was the jolliest splash! The chief
trouble was getting the dry things to put on. They had been laid up in
the boxes ready to come home with us, and we had to put out no end of
stratagem to get at them."

"A jolly splash, was it! Were you one of the immersed ones, Dick?"

"Not I," returned Dick, throwing back his head. "As if we second-desk
fellows couldn't manage a boat better than that! Leo was."

"How many of you were drowned, Leo?"

Leo opened his eyes as wide as Dick had previously done. "_Drowned_,
Uncle Richard! Not one. We scrambled out as easy as fun. There's no
fear of our getting drowned."

"No fear at all, as it seems to me," returned the doctor. "But there's
danger of it, Leo."

Leo made no reply. Perhaps he scarcely defined the distinction of the
words. Dr. Davenal remained silent for a minute, lost in thought; then
he sat down, and held the two lads in front of him.

"Did either of you ever observe a white house, lying back on a hill,
just as you pass the next station to this--Hildon?"

"I know it," cried out Richard. "It is old Low's."

"Old Low's, if you choose to call him so, but he is not as old as I
am, Master Dick. Some people in that neighbourhood called him Squire
Low. He is Lady Oswald's landlord. A few years ago, boys, I was sent
for to his house; that very house upon the hill. Mr. Low's mother was
living with him then, and I found she was taken ill. I went for
several days in succession: sometimes I saw Mr. Low's sons, three nice
lads, but daring as you two are, and about your present age. One
afternoon,--listen, both of you,--I had no sooner got home from Mr.
Low's, than I was surprised to see one of his men riding up here at a
fierce rate. The railway was not opened then. I feared old Mrs. Low
might be worse, and I hastened out to the man myself. He had come
galloping all the way, and he asked me to gallop back as quickly"----

"Old Mrs. Low was dead!" cried quick Dick.

"No, sir, she was not dead. She was no worse than when I left her. Mr.
Low's three sons had done just what you tell me you did yesterday.
They went upon the river at Hildon in a rowing-boat, and the boat
upset--tipped over, as you call it; and the poor boys had not found it
so easy to scramble out as you, Leo, and your comrades did. One of
them was out, the man said; he thought that the other two were not. So
I mounted my own horse and hastened over."

"But what did they want with you, Uncle Richard? Were there no doctors
near?"

"Yes. When I got there a doctor was over the lad: but Mr. Low had
confidence in me, and in his distress he sent for me. It was the
youngest who was saved--James."

"What! James Low, who goes about in that hand-chair."

"The very same, Dick. From that hour he has never had the proper use
of his limbs. A species of rheumatic affection--we call it so for want
of a better name--is upon him perpetually. When the illness and fever
that supervened upon the accident were over, and which lasted some
weeks, we found his strength did not return to him, and he has
remained a confirmed invalid. And that was the result of one of those
tips over which you deem so harmless."

"Will he never get well?" asked Leo.

"Never, I fear."

"And the two other boys, Uncle Richard? Did they scramble out at
last?"

"No, Leo. They were drowned."

Leo remained silent; Dick also. Dr. Davenal resumed.

"Yes, they were drowned. I stood in the room where the coffins rested,
side by side, the day before the funeral, Mr. Low with me. He told how
generally obedient his poor boys were, save in that one particular,
the going upon the water. He had had some contentions with them upon
the point; he had a great dislike to the water for them--a dread of
their venturing on it, for the river at Hildon is dangerous, and the
boys were inexperienced. But they were daring-spirited boys who could
see no danger in it, and--listen, Dick!--did not believe there was
any. And they thought they'd just risk it for once, and they did so;
and this was the result. I shall never forget their father's sobs as
he told me this over the poor cold faces in the coffins."

The young Davenals had grown sober.

"My lads, I have told you this little incident--but I think you must
have heard somewhat of it before, for it is known to all Hallingham
just as well as it is to me--to prove to you that there _is_ danger
connected with the water, more particularly for inexperienced boys.
Where does the school get the boats?"

"We hire them," answered Dick. "There's a boat association in the
place; poor men who keep boats, and hire them out to anybody who'll
pay."

"They should be forbidden to hire them to schoolboys of your age. I
think I shall drop a hint to Dr. Keen." Dick Davenal grew frightened.
"For goodness sake don't do that, Uncle Richard! If the school knew it
got to Keen through you, they'd send me and Leo to Coventry."

"I'll take care you don't get sent to Coventry through me, Dick. But I
cannot let you run the liability of this danger."

"I don't think I'll go on the water again at school, Uncle Richard,"
said Leo, who had sat down, and was nursing his leg thoughtfully.

"I don't much think you will," said the doctor.

Leo continued to nurse his leg. Dick, who had little thought about
him, had thrown his arms around Sara's waist, and was whispering to
her. Both the lads loved Sara. When they had arrived little strangers
from the West Indies, new to the doctor's house and its inmates, new
to everything else, they had taken wonderfully to Sara, and she to
them. You do not need to be told that they were the lads whom poor
Richard Davenal was to have escorted over; and when they came they
brought his effects with them.



CHAPTER VIII.
A TACIT BARGAIN.

Meanwhile Mr. Oswald Cray had dined at his rustic inn, the "Apple
Tree," and was on his way to pay an evening visit at Dr. Davenal's. In
passing along New Street he encountered his half-brother, turning
hastily out of his lodgings.

"Were you coming in, Oswald?" asked Marcus, as they shook hands. "I
heard you were down."

"Not now," replied Oswald. "I am going on to Dr. Davenal's, and I go
up again by the night train. My visit here today was to Lady Oswald.
We are going to take a strip of her grounds for sheds, and she does
not like it."

"Not like it!" echoed Mark. "It's worse than that. You should have
seen the way she was in this afternoon. It won't hurt the grounds."

"Not at all. But she cannot be brought to see that it will not. In
point of fact, the sound of it is worse than the reality will be. It
does sound ill, I confess,--railway-sheds upon one's grounds! I was in
hopes of being the first to break the news to her: so much lies in the
telling of a thing; in the impression first imparted."

"She said this afternoon that it all lay with you. That you could
spare her grounds if you would."

"I wish it did lie with me: I would do my best to find another spot
and spare them. The company have fixed upon the site, Low has given
his concurrence, and there's no more to be said or done. I am very
sorry, but it has been no doing of mine. Will you go with me to the
doctor's, Mark?"

Marcus hesitated, and then said he had rather not call that evening.

"Why?" asked Oswald.

"Well--the fact is,--I don't see why I may not tell you,--I have been
asking the doctor this afternoon for Caroline. He did not give me a
positive answer, one way or the other; and I don't think it will look
well to press a visit upon them just now."

Oswald Cray's was not a demonstrative countenance: a self-controlled
man's rarely is: but certainly it exhibited marked surprise now, and
he gazed at his brother inquiringly.

"You are surely not thinking of marrying?"

"Yes, I am. Why should I not think of it?"

"But what have you to marry upon? What means?"

"Oh--I must get Dr. Davenal to increase my share. By a word he dropped
this afternoon when we were talking of it, I fancy he would do it:
would increase it to four hundred a-year. We might manage upon that."

Oswald Cray made no immediate reply. He, the self-reliant man, would
have felt both pain and shame at the very thought of marrying upon the
help of others.

"You are thinking it's not enough, Oswald?"

"It might be enough for prudent people. But I don't think it would be
found enough by you and Caroline Davenal. Mark, I fancy--I shall not
offend you?--fancy you are not of a prudent turn."

"I don't know that I am. But any man can be prudent when there's a
necessity that he should be."

"It has not always proved so."

"I see you think me a spendthrift," said Mark good-humouredly.

"Not exactly that. I think you could not live upon as small an income
as some can. Dr. Davenal gives you, I believe, two hundred a-year, and
you have been with him six months: my opinion is, Mark, that at the
twelvemonth's end you will find the two hundred has nothing like kept
you. You will be looking about for another hundred to pay debts."

"Are you so particularly saving yourself?" retorted Mark.

"That is not the question, Mark; I am not going to be married,"
answered Oswald, with a smile. "But I do save."

"If the doctor will give me four hundred a-year to begin with, there's
no need to wait."

"You have no furniture."

"That's easily ordered," said Mark.

"Very easily indeed," laughed Oswald. "But there'll be the paying for
it."

"It won't take so much. We shall not set up in a grand way. We can pay
by instalments."

"A bad beginning, Mark."

Mark rather winced. "Are you going to turn against me, Oswald? To
throw cold water on it?"

Oswald Cray looked very grave as he answered. Mark was not his own
brother, and he could not urge him too much; but a conviction seated
itself in his heart, perhaps not for the first time, that Mark had
inherited their father's imprudence.

"These considerations are for you, Mark; not for me. If I speak of
them to you, I do so only in your true interest. We have never been
brothers, therefore I do not presume to give a brother's counsel,--you
would deem I had no right to do it. Only be prudent, for your own sake
and Caroline's. Good evening, if you will go back."

Neal admitted Mr. Oswald Cray, and Neal's face lighted up with the
most apparent genuine pleasure at doing it. Neal was the quintessence
of courteous respect to his betters, but an additional respect would
show itself in his manner to Mr. Oswald Cray, from the fact possibly
that he had served in the Oswald family at Thorndyke, and Mr. Oswald
Cray was so near a connection of it.

Dr. Davenal was then in the garden-parlour with Sara. The noisy boys
were regaling themselves with good things in the dining-room, under
the presidentship of Miss Bettina. A few moments, and the doctor and
Mr. Oswald Cray were deep in the discussion of the proposition that
had so moved them; the doctor being the first to speak of it. Sara sat
near the window, doing some light work. A fair picture she looked, in
her evening dress; her cheeks somewhat flushed, her neck so fair and
white, the gold chain lying on it; her pretty arms partially hidden by
their white lace. Dr. Davenal stood in a musing attitude on the other
side of the window, and Mr. Oswald Cray sat between them, a little
back, his elbow on the centre table, his chin on his hand.

"Mark has just told me of it," he observed, in reply to Dr. Davenal.
"I met him as I walked here. I was very much surprised."

"Not more surprised than I," returned the doctor.

"At least, surprised that he should have spoken to you so soon."

"What do you think of it?" asked the doctor, abruptly.

"Nay, sir, it is for you to think," was the reply of Oswald Cray,
after a momentary pause.

"I know--in that sense. My opinion is, that it is exceedingly
premature."

"Well--yes, I confess it appears so to me. I told Mark so. There's one
thing, Dr. Davenal--some men get on all the better for marrying
early."

"True: and some all the better for waiting. I like those men who have
the courage and patience to wait, bearing steadily on to the right
moment and working for it. I married very early in life myself, but my
circumstances justified it. Where circumstances do not justify it, a
man should wait. I don't mean waiting on to an unreasonable time,
until the sear and yellow leaf's advancing; nothing of that: but
there's a medium in all things. I am sure you would not rush into an
imprudent marriage: you'd wait your time."

A smile parted Oswald Cray's lips. "I am obliged to wait, sir."

"That is, prudence obliges you?"

"Yes; that's it."

"And I make no doubt your income is a good deal larger than the
present one of Mark?"

"I believe it is."

Dr. Davenal stood in silence, twirling his watch chain. "Give me your
advice," he said, turning to Mr. Oswald Cray.

"Dr. Davenal, may I tell you that I would prefer not to give it? By
blood Mark is my half-brother; but you know the circumstances under
which we were reared--that we are, in actual fact, little more than
strangers; and I feel the greatest delicacy in interfering with him in
anyway. I will do him any good that I can: but I will not give advice
regarding him in so momentous a step as this?"

Dr. Davenal understood the feeling, it was a perfectly proper one. "Do
you think he has much stability?--enough to steer him safely through
life, clear of shoals and quicksands?"

Oswald Cray's opinion was that Mark possessed none. But he was not
sure: he had had so little to do with him. "Indeed, I cannot speak
with certainty," was his answer. "Mark is far more of a stranger to me
than he is to you. Stability sometimes comes with years only; with
time and experience."

"I cannot tell you how surprised I was," resumed the doctor, after a
pause. "Had Mark come and proposed to marry Bettina, I could not have
been more astonished. The fact is, I had somehow got upon the wrong
scent."

"The wrong scent?" exclaimed Mr. Oswald Cray, looking up.

"I don't mind telling you, considering how different, as it has turned
out, was the actual state of things," said Dr. Davenal, with a laugh.
"I fancied you were inclined to like Caroline?"

Mr. Oswald Cray's deep-set blue eyes were opened wider than usual in
his astonishment. "What caused you to fancy that?"

"Upon my word I don't know. Looking back, I think how foolish I must
have been. But you see, that idea tended to obscure my view as to
Mark."

Oswald Cray rose from his seat, and stood by Dr. Davenal, looking from
the window.

"Had it been so, would you have objected to me?" he asked; and in his
voice, jesting though it was, there rang a sound of deep meaning.

"No, I would not," replied Dr. Davenal. "I wish it had been so. Don't
talk of it; it will put me out of conceit of Mark."

Mr. Oswald Cray laughed, and stole a glance at Sara. Her cheeks were
crimson; her head was bent closer to her work than it need have been.

At that moment Dr. Davenal's carriage was heard coming up the side
lane, Roger's head and shoulders just visible over the garden wall.
Dr. Davenal gave the man a nod as he passed, as much as to say he
should be out immediately, and retreated into the room. It had broken
the thread of the discourse.

"You came down in answer to Lady Oswald's message?" he observed. "She
said she had sent for you."

"Not in answer to the message. I came away before it reached London:
at any rate before it reached me."

"Lady Oswald's in a fine way. I suppose nothing can be done?"

"Nothing at all. It is unfortunate that her grounds abut just on that
part of the line."

"She will never stop in the house."

"You see, the worst is, that she has just entered upon the third term
of her lease. She took it for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years. I
am not sure, however, that Mr. Low, under the circumstances, could
oppose her depart"--

"Uncle Richard, the carriage is come round to the door. How are you,
Mr. Oswald Cray?"

The interruption came from the boys. Both had rushed in without any
regard to noise; or rather to the avoidance of it. Mr. Oswald Cray
shook hands with them, and the doctor turned to shake hands with
_him_.

"I have to see a patient or two tonight. A poor countrywoman's son is
ill, and I promised her to go over this evening if possible. Perhaps
you'll be here when I return. Bettina and the girls will give you some
tea."

He hurried out; and the boys after him, clamorously enough. During
their holidays, Dr. Davenal could rarely get into his carriage without
those two dancing attendance round it, like a bodyguard of jumping
savages. Mr. Oswald Cray turned to Sara, who had risen also, and stood
before her.

"Just one moment, Sara, for a single question. Did _you_ fall into the
misapprehension that I was growing attached to your cousin?"

Her manner grew shrinkingly timid; her eyelashes were never raised
from her hot cheeks. It seemed that she would have spoken, for her
lips parted; but there came no sound from them.

"Nay, but you must answer me," he rejoined, some agitation
distinguishable in his tone. "Did you do me the injustice to suppose I
had any thought of Caroline?"

"No. O no."

He drew a deep breath, as if the words relieved him, took her hand in
his, and laid his other hand upon it, very seriously.

"It was well to ask: but I did not think you could so have mistaken
me. Sara! I am not an imprudent man, as I fear Mark is; I could not,
in justice to the woman whom I wish to make my wife, ask her to leave
her home of comfort until I can surround her with one somewhat
equivalent to it. I think--I hope--that another year may accomplish
this. Meanwhile--you will not misunderstand me, or the motives of my
silence?"

She lifted her eyes to his face to speak: they were swimming in tears:
lifted them in her earnestness.

"I shall never misunderstand you, Oswald."

And Mr. Oswald Cray, for the first time in his life, bent his lips on
hers to seal the tacit bargain.



CHAPTER IX.
EDWARD DAVENAL.


It was a charming evening in the month of October. The heat of summer
was over, the cool calm autumn reign ad in all its loveliness. Never
had the sun set more brilliantly than it was setting now; never did it
give token of a finer day for the morrow; and that morrow was to be
Caroline Davenal's wedding-day.

Persuasion and promises had proved stronger than Dr. Davenal and
prudence, and he had consented to the early marriage, it may be said
reluctantly. He had urged upon them the verb to wait: but neither of
them appeared inclined to conjugate it; Caroline especially, strange
as it may seem to have to say it, had turned a deaf ear. So the doctor
had yielded, and the plans and projects for the carrying the wedding
out were set on foot.

Dr. Davenal had behaved generously. He increased Mark Cray's share to
four hundred a-year, and he gave them a cheque for three hundred
pounds for furniture. "You must be content to have things at the
beginning in a plain way, if you must be in a hurry," he said to them;
"when you get on you can add costly furniture by degrees." Miss
Bettina would not give anything. Not a penny-piece. "No," she said to
Caroline; "you are flying in the face of wiser heads than yours, and I
will not encourage it. If you don't mind, you'll come to grief."

Caroline laughed at the "coming to grief." Perhaps not without cause.
Were they but commonly prudent there would be little fear of it. Four
hundred a-year to begin upon, and a great deal more in prospective,
was what many and many a couple beginning life might have envied. Even
Dr. Davenal began to think he had been over-cautious. It might have
been better to wait a year or two, but they would do well as it was,
if they chose. If they chose! it all lay in that. Perhaps what made
people think of imprudence in their case was, that both had been
reared to enjoy a much larger income.

Those prudential fears and scruples were over, however; they belonged
to the past; nobody retained them in the actual face of preparation.
When Mark Cray was looking out for a house, the Abbey, yet untenanted,
occurred to him. It had been his father's residence; it carried a
certain weight of position with it; and he thought it would be well
that it should be his. Dr. Davenal acquiesced: it was certainly rather
farther from his own residence than was convenient; and it was at the
opposite end of the town; but that fact might have its advantages as
well as its disadvantages: and Mark took the Abbey at a yearly rental.

How busy they had been, furnishing it and getting the wedding clothes
ready, they alone could tell! In this bustle, in the satisfaction of
buying the new furniture, and settling it in its appointed places, the
old prudent objections, I say, were lost sight of; completely
forgotten. Miss Bettina thawed so far as to go down two whole days to
the Abbey, and superintend; and she read Caroline lessons on domestic
management and economy from morning until night.

Oswald Cray had delicately placed a fifty-pound note in his brother's
hands. "Present-giving at these times seems to be the order of the
day, Mark," he carelessly said. "If you and Caroline will choose
something for yourselves, and save me the trouble, I shall be glad.
You know more about dressing-cases and work-boxes than I do."
Altogether, the Abbey,--what with the purchased furniture, and a few
pretty things that went down out of Dr. Davenal's house,--was quite
sufficiently well set up.

And now it was the evening preceding the wedding, and the house was in
a commotion of preparation. Servants were running hither and thither;
Miss Bettina, with her sharp voice and her deaf ears, was everywhere,
creating no end of mistakes; the breakfast-table was being laid out;
Sara was quietly helping Jessy to pack her cousin's travelling trunk;
and Caroline, useless as usual, was going into ecstasies over a
present which had just come in.

It was from Lady Oswald. A handsome tea and coffee-pot with their
stands, sugar-basin and cream-jug, all of solid silver. Caroline ran
round the house to get admirers to view it, and ran into the room of
Dr. Davenal.

Neal was coming out as she entered, a waiter in his hand, therefore it
was evident he had been bearing something to his master. Dr. Davenal
stood before the window looking at an unopened note.

"O uncle, do come and see! It is the best present I have had: a silver
tea-service. I did not expect anything like it from Lady Oswald."

"Presently, child. All in good time."

He laid down the note on the table, as he spoke, not having opened it.
Caroline thought his tone and countenance were alike sad.

"Has anything vexed you, Uncle Richard?"

"A little, Carine. When one waits for the sight of a dear face, and
the hours go by in expectation, hour after hour, from the opening of
the day to its close, the disappointment brings a chill."

Caroline wondered. She did not understand that longing waiting yet.
"Do you allude to Edward, Uncle Richard?"

Whom else should he allude to? Since Richard's death, Edward Davenal
had grown dearer than ever son did to father. Dr. Davenal could
willingly have laid down his life for him, and thought it no
sacrifice. Ah! if these sons and daughters could but realise this
precious love that is lavished on them in all its strange intensity!

"Aunt Bettina's vexed that he is not here. She says it will be putting
the dinner off."

"We are too impatient, Caroline. I daresay he could not get here
sooner. Here's Mark," added the doctor.

Dr. Davenal's carriage was drawing up to the gate. The doctor had
despatched Mark in it that afternoon to see a country patient: he
waited at home for his son. Roger looked to the house as Mr. Cray got
out, wondering whether the carriage was wanted again, or whether he
might drive it round to the coach-house. Dr. Davenal raised his hand
by way of signal, and was hastening out.

"_Won't_ you come and see my teapot and things, Uncle Richard?" cried
Caroline, piteously.

"When I come back, Carine. The teapot can wait."

"And there's that note on the table," she said, resenting the slight
on the teapot. "You have never opened it."

"That can wait too. I know what it is." The doctor walked quickly on,
and Caroline followed him to the front door. Mark was coming in.

"Is the London train in, Mark?--did you notice as you came by? There's
one due."

"I did not notice," replied Mark. "I don't much think it is in. I saw
no bustle."

Dr. Davenal stepped into the carriage. "Turn round, Roger. The railway
station."

The whistle was sounding as they drew near, and Roger whipped up his
steeds. The doctor stepped on to the platform as the train dashed
in. He elbowed his way amidst the crowd, trying to peer into every
first-class carriage.

"Edward!"

"My dear father!"

Captain Davenal leaped lightly out--an upright, slender man, with the
unmistakable look of the soldier; a dark, handsome face, and a free
and ready voice.

"I have been looking for you all day, Ned."

"Not up here, surely?"

Dr. Davenal laughed. "Not likely. I just happened to come up now; so
it's all right. You have some luggage, I suppose?"

"A portmanteau. My servant's here."

"Good evening, Dr. Davenal. Ah, captain! how are you?"

The salutation came from a passenger who had likewise stepped out of a
first-class compartment. They turned to behold Oswald Cray.

"Why! you don't mean to say that you have come by this train?" cried
Captain Davenal, in his quick manner.

"Yes I have. And you?"

"I have come by it, too. Where were our eyes, I wonder?"

"In our own compartment, I expect," said Oswald Cray. "I was at the
end of the train, and did not get out during the journey."

"Neither did I. The same errand brings us, I suppose--Caroline's
wedding? It's fine to be Mark Cray! You and I must wait for our
honours: we can't afford these grand doings yet."

Dr. Davenal looked at his son. "If you can't afford them now Ned, when
are you to afford them?"

Captain Davenal's answer was to shrug his shoulders. "There may come
in a great rich ship some day," he said, with his ready laugh. "Are
you going that way, Mr. Oswald Cray? We shall see you by and by."

All the pride and affection of the father shone out in Dr. Davenal's
face as he passed through the town, sitting by the side of his brave
son, who was in Roger's place, and drove. A hundred hats were taken
off; a hundred pleased faces greeted them. The doctor remained
passive, save for smiles; but Captain Davenal's gay face was turned
from side to side, in answer to the salutations, and he had something
else to do besides attending to his horses.

"Take care, Ned."

"All right, sir," was the young officer's careless answer. But he
escaped the wheel of a meeting carriage by only half an inch; and
Roger, seated behind, said to himself that the captain had not yet
grown out of his randomness.

He pulled the horses up with a jerk when they arrived, leaped out, and
turned to give his hand to his father. Neal had the door open, and
Edward Davenal passed him with a nod and a fleet foot, for he saw his
sister's face behind, bright with joyous tears. He kissed them away.

"Sara, you foolish child! Keep the tears until I go again."

"When will that be, Edward?"

"Tomorrow evening. Hush!" he whispered, checking her startled
exclamation. "Let me take my own time for telling papa. I know he will
be vexed."

"We thought you would stay a week at least."

"I wish I could! Leave is difficult to get at all just now, on account
of---- I'll tell you more later, Sara."

Miss Bettina Davenal was at hand, waiting for her greeting. In the old
days of his boyhood, she and he were undisguised enemies. The boy was
high-spirited and rude to her, ten times worse than poor Richard: he
had been the first to call her Aunt Bett, and to persist in it, in
spite of her angry displeasure. He called it her still.

"Well, Aunt Bett! You are looking younger than ever."

"Are you quite well, Nephew Edward?"

"In high feather, aunt. And mean to keep so until the wedding's over.
When is yours to be, Aunt Bett?"

"Tomorrow at eleven," was Aunt Bett's unconscious answer. "And right
glad I shall be when it has taken place."

The shout of laughter vexed Miss Davenal; she wondered what the
mistake was. But the captain turned away, for Caroline was stealing
towards them with conscious cheeks, and the new silver teapot in her
hand.

"It was unkind of you not to come before, Edward," she said. "Some of
my beautiful new dresses are packed up now, and you can't see them."

"I shan't die of the disappointment, Carry," was the ungallant
rejoinder of the captain. "What's that you are carrying? A trophy?"

"It's a teapot. It is part of Lady Oswald's present. Her's is the best
of all, and I have had so many. Come and look at them: they are laid
out in the garden-room."

"So many teapots?" inquired the captain.

"Nonsense, Edward! You know I meant presents."

He drew something covertly from his pocket, and clasped it on her
neck. It was a dazzling necklace. Caroline, loving ornaments
excessively, was wild with delight.

"O Edward! how kind you are! I never liked you as much as I do now."

"Candid!" cried the captain: and Dr. Davenal laughed outright as he
walked away to his consulting-room.

His son followed him. The doctor had taken up the note which he had
left on the table, and was about to open it when something strange in
its appearance struck upon his eye. He carried it to the window and
looked minutely at its fastening, at the claret-coloured crest stamped
in the envelope, that of the Oswald family.

"Edward," said he, "does it look to you as if this envelope had been
tampered with--opened, in fact?"

Captain Davenal examined the fastening. It was quite daylight still,
though less bright than before the sun went down. "There's not a doubt
of it, in my opinion," he said, handing the note back to his father.

"It's very strange," exclaimed the doctor. "Do you know, it has
occurred to me lately to think that two or three of my letters have
been opened."

"By their appearance?"

"By their appearance. But I could not be certain how or when it was
done. For aught I know, they might have been reopened by their writers
before forwarding them to me. I do feel, however, sure that this one
has been tampered with since it lay here. It came by the same
messenger that brought Caroline's present, and Neal brought it in to
me. I was deep in thought at the time, and I turned it about in my
fingers, looking at it, but not opening it. I knew what its contents
were--that they concerned a little matter Lady Oswald had to write to
me upon--and I did not open it, but went to the station, leaving it on
the table. Now I am fully certain that that appearance of reopening
was not on it then."

"Who can have opened it, then?" quickly cried Captain Davenal.

"Neal."

"Neal!"

"Neal--as I suspect."

"But I thought Neal was so faithful a man--so good a servant
altogether!"

"An excellent servant, though I have never liked him. And latterly I
have suspected the man's truth and honesty. I don't mean his honesty
in regard to goods and chattels, but in regard to his own nature. If
my letters have been opened, rely upon it, it is he who has done it."

"Have you spoken to him?"

"No. I shall speak now, though."

Dr. Davenal rang the bell, and Neal appeared. So calm, so quietly
unconcerned!--not in the least like a man who has just tampered with
his master's letters.

"Come forward, Neal. Shut the door for a minute. When I went out just
now I left this note on the table--the one you brought in to me from
Lady Oswald's servant I did not open it before I went out;--but it
looks to me as if it had been opened since, and closed up again."

Dr. Davenal spoke in a quiet tone. Neal, entirely unruffled, save by a
slight natural surprise, stepped close up to the table, and looked
first at Dr. Davenal and then at the note, which, however, the doctor
did not particularly show to him.

"I should think not, sir. There has been no one here to open it."

"That it has been opened I feel certain. Who has been in the room?"

"Not any one, sir," replied Neal. "It has not been entered, so far as
I know, since you left it."

There was nothing more to be said, and Dr. Davenal signed to him to
go. "I could not accuse him downright," he remarked to his son; "but
enough has been said to put him on his guard not to attempt such a
thing again."

"He does not look like a guilty man," cried Captain Davenal. "It is
next to impossible to suspect Neal of such a thing. He is too--too--I
was going to say too much of a gentlemen," broke off Captain Davenal,
laughing at his own words. "At any rate, too respectable. His manner
betrayed nothing of guilt--nothing of cognisance of the affair. I
watched him narrowly."

"True; it did not. He is an innocent man, Ned, or else a finished
hypocrite. Of course I may be wrong in my suspicions: honestly to
confess it, I have no cause to suspect Neal, beyond the powerful
feeling in my mind that he's not to be trusted--a feeling for which I
have never been able to account, although it has been upon me since
the first day I engaged him."

"We do take up prejudices without knowing why," remarked Captain
Davenal. "I suppose sometimes they are false ones.--Here's Neal coming
in again."

"I beg your pardon, sir, for having so positively assured you that no
one had been in your room," he said, addressing his master. "I
remember now that Mr. Cray entered it. I did not think of it, sir, at
the moment you questioned me."

"If he did, he'd not touch the letter," said Dr. Davenal.

"Certainly not, sir. But I thought it right to come and mention to you
that he had been in."

Neal withdrew, and Captain Davenal looked at his father. "The man
seems quite honest in the matter. I think this is an additional proof
of it. Had he opened the letter himself he would not have forgotten
that another person had been in the room."

Very soon Neal appeared again. This time it was to say that dinner was
served. Dr. Davenal nodded to him to close the door; he and his son
were deep in conversation.

Ten minutes elapsed before they came out. Miss Bettina fidgeted and
grumbled, but it did not bring them; and when they did come, the
doctor had a strange cloud upon his brow. Edward also, or else Sara
fancied it; but he grew merry as the dinner advanced, joking and
laughing with every one.

She took the opportunity of speaking to him after dinner. He went out
on the lawn at the back to smoke his cigar in the starlight, and Sara
stole after him. He threw his arm round her, and they paced the gravel
walk.

"Were you telling papa before dinner that you should have to leave
tomorrow?" she asked.

"I was telling him worse than that, my little sister."

"Worse?"

"You loving ones at home will think it so. You will, Sara. And my
father--it's a blow to my father."

Sara Davenal's heart was beating against her side; a thousand
improbabilities rushed into her brain. "Tell it me, Edward," she said,
very calmly. Sometimes, in moments of agitation, she could be calm,
almost unnaturally so, outwardly. It is frequently the case with those
who feel the deepest.

"The regiment's ordered abroad."

"O Edward!"

For a few minutes neither spoke again. Sara's greatest thought was for
her father. She seemed to have divined how cruelly Dr. Davenal felt
the separation from his sons; Richard dead, Edward in London with his
regiment. If he had to go abroad to remote countries, thousands of
miles away--why, almost as good that he had died. They should feel it
so.

"And that explains why I could not get a long leave," he resumed.
"There's so much of preparation to be made; and we officers have to
look to everything, for the men as well as for ourselves. We sail in a
week or two."

They paced on in silence. Captain Davenal suddenly looked down at her,
and detected tears.

"Don't grieve, child. I am but a worthless sort of brother, after
all--never with you. Perhaps I shall come back a better one."

"Edward, can't you sell out?"

"Sell out!" he exclaimed, in astonishment. "Sell out because we are
ordered on active service. You are a brave soldier's sister, Miss Sara
Davenal!"

"Some time ago, when there was a question of the regiment's going out,
you were to have exchanged into another, and remained at home, Edward.
It was just after Richard's death, I remember. Can you not do that
now?"

"No, I cannot. I can neither sell out nor exchange. It is impossible."

There was so much grave meaning in his tone that Sara looked up
involuntarily. He laughed at her earnest face.

"O Edward! _must_ you go!"

"There's no help for it. We go to Malta first. India--as we
suppose--afterwards."

"Papa may be dead before you return."

"No, no! I trust not."

"It will be as though he had no children!" she exclaimed, almost
passionately, in her love for her father, in her grief. "Richard dead;
you gone: he will have none left."

"He will have you, Sara."

"I! Who am I?"

"The best of us. You have given him no grief in all your life; I and
poor Dick have: plenty. It is best as it is, Sara."

She could scarcely speak for the sobs that were rising. She strove
bravely to beat them down, for Sara Davenal's was an undemonstrative
nature, and could not bear that its signs of emotion should be
betrayed outwardly. She loved her brother greatly; even the more, as
the doctor did, for the loss of Richard; and this going abroad for an
indefinite period, perhaps for ever, rang in her ears as the very
knell of hope. He might never return: he might go away, as Richard
had, only to die.

How long they continued to pace that walk underneath the privet-hedge,
which skirted and hid the narrow side path leading from the house to
the stables, Sara scarcely knew. Captain Davenal spoke little; he
seemed buried in thought: Sara could not speak at all; her heart was
full. Rarely had the night's brilliant stars looked down on a sadness
deeper felt than was that of Sara Davenal.

"You will come down again to take leave of us?" she asked, after a
while.

"Of course I shall."



CHAPTER X.
A TREAT FOR NEAL.


Nearly four-and-twenty hours subsequent to that, Dr. Davenal was
pacing the same walk side by side with Lady Oswald. The wedding was
over, the guests were gone, and the house, after the state breakfast,
had resumed its tranquillity. Of the guests, Lady Oswald had alone
remained, with the exception of Mr. Oswald Cray. It was one of those
elaborate breakfast-dinners which take hours to eat, and five o'clock
had struck ere the last carriage drove from the door.

Lady Oswald asked for some tea; Miss Davenal, as great a lover of tea
as herself, partook of it with her. Captain Davenal preferred a cigar,
and went into the garden to smoke it: Mr. Oswald Cray accompanied him,
but he never smoked. Both of them were to return to town by the seven
o'clock train.

By and by, the tea over, the rest came out on the lawn to join
them--Lady Oswald and Miss Davenal in their rich rustling silks, Sara
in her white bridesmaid's dress. The open air of the warm, lovely
evening was inexpressibly grateful after the feasting and fuss of the
day, and they lingered until twilight fell on the earth. Miss Davenal
went in then: but Lady Oswald wrapped her Indian cashmere shawl, worth
a hundred guineas Hallingham said, more closely round her, and
continued to talk to Dr. Davenal as they paced together the sidewalk.

Her chief theme was the one on which you have already heard her
descant--that unwelcome project of the railway sheds. It had dropped
through for a time. There had been a lull in the storm ever since it
was broached in the summer. Lady Oswald complacently believed her
remonstrance had found weight with the authorities of the line, to
whom she had addressed a long, if not a very temperate letter: but, in
point of fact, the commencement of the work had been delayed for some
convenience of their own. Only on this very morning a rumour had
reached Lady Oswald's ears that it was now to be set about
immediately.

"I am not satisfied with Oswald," she was saying to the doctor. "Did
you observe how he avoided the subject at the breakfast-table? When I
told him that he might exercise his influence with the company, and
prevent it if he pleased, he turned it off quietly."

"I think he did not care to defend himself publicly, or to enter upon
the matter," observed the doctor. "Rely upon it, he would prevent it
if he could; but his power does not extend so far."

"I know he _says_ it does not," was the observation of Lady Oswald.
"Do you think he is true?"

"True!" repeated Dr. Davenal, scarcely understanding in his surprise.
"Oswald Cray true! Yes, Lady Oswald. Never man lived yet more honestly
true than Oswald Cray."

He looked towards Oswald Cray as he spoke, pacing the broad middle
walk with his son and Sara; at the calm good face with its earnest
expression, every line, every feature speaking truth and honour; and
the doctor's judgment re-echoed his words.

"Yes, Lady Oswald, he is a _true_ man, whatever else he may be."

"I always deemed him so. But--to protest that he would help me if he
could; and now to let this dreadful threat arise again!"

"But he cannot prevent its arising," returned the doctor, wishing Lady
Oswald would exercise a little common-sense in the matter. "He is but
a servant of the company, and must carry out their wishes."

"I don't believe it," peevishly replied Lady Oswald. "He is the
engineer to the company; and it is well known that an engineer does as
he pleases, and lays his own plans."

"He is one of the engineers; the junior one, it may be said. I suppose
you will not forgive me, Lady Oswald, if I point out, that when your
interests and the line's are at issue, as in this matter, Oswald Cray,
of all others, is forced to obey the former."

"Was there ever so monstrously wicked a project formed?" asked Lady
Oswald, with some agitation.

"It is very unfortunate," was the more temperate reply. "I wish they
had fixed upon any grounds but yours."

"I wish they had! It will send me into my grave!"

Careless words! spoken, as such words mostly are spoken, unmeaningly.
If Lady Oswald could but have known how miserably they were destined
to be marked out! If Dr. Davenal had but foreseen how that marking out
would affect all his after-life--change, as it were, its current, and
that of one who was dear to him!

"And because that worry was not enough, I have had a second to annoy
me today," resumed Lady Oswald. "Jones gave warning to leave."

"Indeed!" returned Mr. Davenal, and the tone of his voice betrayed his
concern. He knew how minor vexations were made troubles of by Lady
Oswald; and the parting with Jones, her steady coachman of many years,
would be a trouble not much less great than this threatened building
of the sheds.

"Why is Jones leaving?" he inquired.

"Because he does not know when he's well off," was the retort, spoken
querulously. "The servants latterly have been all quarrelling
together, I find, and Jones says he won't remain. I asked Parkins what
she was good for not to stop their quarrelling, and she burst into
tears in my face, and said it was not her fault. You are best off,
doctor. Your servants are treasures. Look at Neal!"

"I don't know that Neal is much of a treasure," was the doctor's
answer. "I'd make him over to your ladyship with all the pleasure in
life. Do you feel the chill of the evening air?"

Lady Oswald looked up at the clear sky, at the evening star, just
visible, and said she did not feel the chill yet.

Dr. Davenal resumed.

"I have grown to dislike Neal, Lady Oswald. In strict correctness,
however, 'grown to dislike' is not the best term, for I have disliked
him ever since he has been with me. He"----

"Disliked Neal!" interrupted Lady Oswald, wondering whether she might
trust her ears. "You dislike Neal! Why?"

"I can scarcely tell you why. I don't think I know, myself. But I do
very much dislike him; and the dislike grows upon me."

"You never mentioned this. I thought you were so satisfied with Neal."

"I have not mentioned it. I have felt a sort of repugnance to mention
what would appear so unfounded a prejudice. Neal is an efficient
servant, and the dislike arose to me without cause, just as instincts
do. Latterly, however, I begin to doubt whether Neal is so desirable a
retainer as we have deemed him."

"In what way do you doubt him!"

Dr. Davenal smiled. "A doubt has arisen to me whether he is _true_--as
you have just said by Mr. Oswald Cray. I shall watch the man; and, now
that my suspicions are awakened, detection will be more easy. Should
he turn out to be what I fear--a deceitful fellow, worse than
worthless--he will be sent out of my house head foremost, at a
minute's warning, and get his true character. Lady Oswald, I think I
could pardon anything rather than deceit."

"How angrily you speak!" breathlessly exclaimed Lady Oswald. The words
recalled him to courtesy.

"I fear I did; and I ought to have remembered that he was a respected
servant once of Sir John's, that it was you who recommended him to me.
You will pardon my warmth, Lady Oswald. To any less close friend than
yourself I should not have mentioned this. The fact is, a most
unjustifiable trick was played me yesterday, and it is impossible for
me to suspect anybody but Neal. I shall watch him."

"What trick was it?" asked Lady Oswald.

Dr. Davenal hesitated before he spoke. "Perhaps it would be scarcely
fair to mention it, even to you, Lady Oswald. I am not certain:
there's just a loophole of possibility. If I find I am wrong, I will
honestly confess it to you; if the contrary, you and the world will
know what a worthless scamp we have nourished in Neal."

Very agreeable words indeed! especially to Neal himself, who had the
satisfaction of hearing them. Mr. Neal, with his soft tread, was
gingerly pacing the narrow path behind the privet-hedge, his steps
keeping level with theirs; he having strolled out to take the evening
air, and to hear all that he could hear.

They were interrupted by the approach of Captain Davenal and Mr.
Oswald Cray. It was getting towards the hour of their departure. Sara
came up with them. The doctor laid his hand on his daughter's
shoulder, and she walked by his side.

"Going? Nonsense!" said the doctor. "There's no hurry yet."

"When shall you be down again, Oswald?" asked my lady.

"I believe very shortly. I must be down---- about these alterations,"
he had been on the point of saying, but stopped himself in time. There
was no cause for bringing up the sore story oftener to her than was
necessary.

"Will you promise that they shall not build those horrible sheds?"

"If it lay with me, I would willingly promise it," was his reply, "I
wish you would believe me, dear Lady Oswald."

"Of course I have no claim upon you," she fretfully continued. "I
know that. It is not my fault if I am unable to leave my fortune to
you--what little I may have to leave. There are others who, in my
opinion, have a greater claim upon me."

He seemed not to understand her. He turned his glance full upon her.
"I beg your pardon. What did you say, Lady Oswald?"

"Oswald, I have never spoken distinctly to you about my money," she
resumed. "I like you very much, and should have been glad to leave
some to you; it is natural you should be looking out for it, but"----

Every line of his pale face was ablaze with pride as he interrupted
her; his voice, calm, low, terribly stern, was ten times more
impressive in its truth than one loud and angry could have been.
"Allow me to set you right, Lady Oswald. I have never in my life
looked for one shilling of money from you: I do not recognise, or
believe in, or see any claim I can by possibility have upon it: of the
whole world, the Oswalds are those upon whom I could least recognise
it--from whom I would the least accept it. I pray your ladyship to
understand me in the fullest sense of the words--_from whom I would
never accept it_."

Never had he looked so like the Oswalds as he looked then. The red
colour came into Sara's cheeks, and a faint sense of dread (did it
come as a prophetic warning?) stole into her heart--that that pride
might prove her deadliest enemy; perhaps his. Lady Oswald's mood
changed, and she laughed.

"You are independent, Oswald."

"I am self-dependent," was his answer. "A fair field and no favour are
all I ask. I believe I can make my way in the world far better than
money could make it for me. It is what I mean to try at--and do,
Heaven helping me."

"But you need not have glared at me in that way," she said, relapsing
into fretfulness. "I declare I thought it was old Sir Oswald of
Thorndyke come out of his grave. My nerves are not strong, and that
you know."

A better feeling came over him, and he held out his hand to Lady
Oswald, his atoning smile wonderfully frank and sweet. "Forgive me if
anything in my speech or manner has offended you, dear Lady Oswald.
But I believe you vexed me more than I have ever been vexed in my
life."

"Well, well; you shall be as independent as you please," said Lady
Oswald. "Let us change the subject. When do you intend to follow
Mark's example and marry?"

"Not until I can afford it better than----than Mark could, I was going
to say," he added, glancing at Dr. Davenal and laughing.

"You do mean to marry some time, Oswald?"

"I hope so."

The answer was spoken so fervently, that they looked at him in
surprise. Sara contrived to draw behind, and began plucking one of the
flowers, already closing to the night. He resumed carelessly, as if
conscious that his tones had been too earnest for general ears.

"Men do marry for the most part in this good old-fashioned land of
ours, and my turn may come some time. I think our time is nearly up,
Davenal."

The captain took out his watch. "In a minute or two. We can walk it in
ten minutes, if we put out our best speed."

As they went in, Oswald Cray looked round for Sara, and found she had
not followed them. He turned back to her.

"I must say goodbye to you. Sara! you are crying!"

"O no," she answered, brushing away the rebellious tears. "It's
nothing."

He took her hand and placed it within his arm, and they advanced
slowly to the house. "Will you tell me what the 'nothing' is?" he
asked in a low tone, which of itself was sufficient to invite
confidence.

"I cannot bear to part with Edward," she answered. "Nothing has been
said about it; but he brought down bad news. They are ordered to
Malta; and thence, he thinks, they shall go to India. Edward said he
should tell you as you went back tonight."

It was entire news to him, and he thought how greatly Dr. Davenal must
feel it. Few admired that fine young officer, Edward Davenal, more
than Oswald Cray. But he had no time to discuss it now, scarcely to
say a word of sympathy.

"Goodbye," he whispered, as they halted on the threshold and he turned
to press her hand in both of his, bending his face a little down.
"Goodbye. And remember."

"Remember what?" she asked.

"That you don't belong quite to yourself now."

He hastened in, leaving Sara standing there: standing there with the
significant words and their meaning beating pleasant changes on her
heart Captain Davenal came springing out.

"Hush, darling, be brave!" he said, as he took the kiss from his
sister's lips. "Leave all that until I come down for my real
farewell."

And Sara was brave, and dried her tears, and confided in the prospect
of that real farewell; little dreaming that it was destined never to
be spoken.



CHAPTER XI.
LADY OSWALD'S JOURNEY.


Mr. Marcus Cray's marriage had taken place on a Thursday, and the time
went on to the following Saturday week with little to mark it. Enough,
as events were unhappily to turn out, was to mark it then. They,
Marcus Cray and his wife, were expected home that evening: but it is
not with them that we have just at present to do.

On this Saturday morning, Oswald Cray had come down to Hallingham on
business connected with the line. In the course of the day he called
on Lady Oswald, and found her in a state not easy to describe. That
very morning certain men had been seen on her grounds, marking off the
small portion of its boundaries intended to be taken for the sheds.
Convinced that all her hopes of immunity had been but vain dreams, she
had become angry, hysterical, almost violent. Oswald Cray had never
seen her like this.

It was an illustration of the misery we may inflict upon ourselves,
the evil spirit that will arise from self-grievance. In point of fact,
these sheds, to be built on a remote and low portion of her land,
could not prove any real annoyance to Lady Oswald; she would not see
them from her window; she did not go, ever, near the spot. The
grievance lay in her imagination; she had made it a bugbear, and there
it was. In vain Oswald Cray pointed out to her that it had been the
same thing with regard to the rail itself. When she first heard it was
to skirt her grounds, she had been as alarmed as she was now; but when
the work was complete, the trains were actually running, then Lady
Oswald found (though she did not acknowledge it) how void of reason
her alarm had been; had the trains been fifty miles off she could not
have seen less of them. It would be so with regard to the sheds,
Oswald Cray told her; he told her that even a less portion of the
ground would be taken than was at first intended: he did not add that
he, by his persistent efforts in her cause, had obtained this little
concession, but he might have told her so with truth. He assured her
that the thing _could not_ prove an annoyance to her. All in vain. He
might just as well have talked to the winds. She would not listen.
Parkins sat 'n tears, administering specifics for the "nerves," and
entreating my lady to be tranquil. My lady replied by saying she
should never be tranquil again, and she actually abused Mr. Oswald
Cray.

"Nay," said Oswald, good-humouredly, "it is your landlord you should
blame, not me. He agreed to the thing instanter--the moment it was
proposed to him."

Lady Oswald's cheeks were burning as she turned to Oswald. "If he had
refused, instead of consented, what then? Could they have done it in
spite of him?"

"It would have been done eventually, I suppose. Not just yet: the
company would have had to bargain with him, perhaps to dispute the
matter with him legally: and all that takes time."

"Had he persistently contended against it, the company might have
grown weary; have ended by fixing upon some other spot for their
sheds," she breathlessly cried, the excitement on her face deepening.

Mr. Oswald Cray hesitated. "It is possible, certainly; but"--

"I will go to him," broke in Lady Oswald. "I will go to Low this very
hour."

She started from her seat, upsetting a bottle which Parkins held in
her hand, almost upsetting Parkins herself in her vehemence. Mr.
Oswald Cray gently restrained her.

"My dear Lady Oswald, you will do no good by going to Low now. It is
too late. The thing has gone too far."

"It has not gone too far, Oswald Cray. So long as the sheds are not
begun it cannot be too late. If Low did give his consent, he can
retract it. The land is freehold, and freehold land cannot be seized
upon lightly. Get my things, Parkins, and order the carriage." And
Parkins submissively retired to obey.

"Lady Oswald, believe me," said Oswald, impressively, "Mr. Low cannot
now retract his consent if he would. The agreement is signed; nay, I
believe the money is paid. Your going to him will do no possible good;
it can only be productive of further unpleasantness to yourself."

"Have you a motive in keeping me away from him?" asked Lady Oswald,
and his brow momentarily contracted at her blind pertinacity. "Do you
know that I have never once seen him upon this subject I--never once."

"No!" he said, really wondering at the omission.

"I would not go to see him; I was too angry; I contented myself with
writing to him, and telling him what I thought; and then, you know,
until this blessed morning, when Jones came into the house with the
news that the men were measuring the land, I never thought the thing
would be really done. I will go to him now, Oswald Cray, and all you
can say against it will not avail with me. If you had any courtesy you
would accompany me, and add your voice to mine against this
unjustifiable wrong."

Courtesy was an adjunct in which Oswald Cray was not naturally
deficient; in time, that day, he _was_. The business which brought him
down was pressing, must have his full attention, and be finished so as
to enable him to return to town that night. He had snatched these few
minutes, while the clerks at the company's offices were at dinner,
just to see Lady Oswald.

"It would give me great pleasure to escort you anywhere, Lady Oswald,
but today I really cannot absent myself from Hallingham. I have my
hands full. Besides," he added, a frank smile on his face, "have you
forgotten how impossible it would be for me to go against the
agreement made by the company with Mr. Low, by soliciting that
gentleman to attempt to retract it?"

"I see," said Lady Oswald, beating her foot pettishly on the carpet;
"better that I had called anybody to my aid than you. Are you
cherishing resentment against me, Oswald Cray?"

Oswald Cray opened his dark blue eyes in surprise.

"Resentment?--against you, Lady Oswald! Indeed I do not understand
you."

"I thought you might be remembering what I said at Dr. Davenal's the
evening of your brother's wedding. I mean about the money; which I
said I could _not_ leave you," she continued in a low tone. "You took
me up so sharply."

"I fear I did. I was vexed that you could so misapprehend my nature.
We need not recur to the subject, Lady Oswald. Let it pass."

"I must say a word first, Oswald. I believe, with all your fiery
pride, and your aptitude to take offence, that your nature is honest
and true; that you would save me from annoyance if you could."

"I would indeed," he interrupted earnestly. "Even from this threatened
annoyance I would doubly save you, if it were at all within my power."

"Well, I want to say just this. I have always liked you very well; you
have been, in fact, a favourite of mine; and many a time it has
occurred to me to wish that I could put you down in my will"----

Lady Oswald, I pray you"----

"Now do be quiet, and hear me. I consider it a duty to myself to tell
you this, and I always intended to tell you before my death. I fully
believe what you say; that you do not wish for my money, that you
would prefer to make your own way; I say I fully believe that, Oswald.
There are some men--honourable to fastidiousness, I call them--who are
utterly incapable of casting a thought or a wish to the money of
others: you are one, as I believe; and there's the additional bar in
your case with regard to my money, that it comes from the Oswalds. I
don't think you would accept money in whatever form it came to you,
from the Oswald family."

"I don't think I would," replied Oswald. And he spoke the truth of his
heart.

"Still, I judge it right to give you this little word of explanation,"
she proceeded. "I daresay, whenever my will comes to be read, that you
will feel surprised at its contents; may even deem that you had more
legal claim upon me than he who will chiefly inherit. I do not think
so. I have left my money to please myself: he to whom it is left has
the best claim upon me in my judgment. I am happy to know that he will
be rewarded: and he knows it."

Oswald felt a little puzzled: the words "and he knows it" somewhat
excited his curiosity. With her own family, who alone (in Oswald
Cray's opinion) could be said to have claims on Lady Oswald, she held
but little communication: and a conviction stole over him that she did
not allude to them. He was destined (as it proved) never to forget
those words; and the construction he put upon them was, that the
future inheritor of the money knew he was named as the inheritor. He
said nothing. It was not a subject he cared to pursue; he had neither
right nor inclination to inquire as to the disposal of what Lady
Oswald might leave behind her. Had he dreamt of the ill those words
would work, he might have asked further particulars.

"I thought I'd say this to you some time, Oswald. Had you been less
fiercely proud, and I more at liberty to dispose of what I have to
leave, I should regret not remembering you. As it is, perhaps all's
for the best."

That again struck upon him as strange: "I more at liberty to dispose
of what I have to leave." Was she not at full and entire liberty?--if
so, why was she not? The question set Oswald thinking.

But circumstances seemed inclined to prove themselves stronger than
Lady Oswald's will, in regard to this visit to her landlord. Her
coachman made his appearance with hindering news; one of the carriage
horses had fallen lame.

"Accept it as an omen that the visit would have brought forth no good
luck," said Oswald Cray, with a smile, while Jones stood, deprecating
his lady's anger.

A doubt flashed across her mind for a moment whether the excuse was
real, and the amazed Jones had to repeat it, and to assure his
mistress that he was going "right off" for the veterinary surgeon
then.

"It will not avail," said Lady Oswald. "I shall go by train. Perhaps
you can tell me, Oswald Cray, at what hours the trains leave for
Hildon!"

Oswald Cray said not another word of objection. To make use of the
railroad, to which her dislike had been so insuperable, proved that
she was indeed bent upon it. He bade her good-day and left, and
encountered Dr. Davenal's carriage in the avenue. The doctor was
arriving on his usual daily visit.

She was somewhat of a capricious woman, Lady Oswald. A few months
before, in the summer-time, Dr. Davenal had been hoping, it may almost
be said secretly plotting--but the plotting was very innocent--to get
Lady Oswald to favour Mark Cray sufficiently to allow of _his_ paying
these daily visits. Since then Lady Oswald had, of her own accord,
become excessively attached to Mark. That is, attached in one sense of
the word. It was not the genuine esteem founded on long intimacy, the
love, it may be almost said, that draws one friend to another; it was
that artificial liking which suddenly arises, and has its result in
praising and patronising; artificial because so shallow. In the new
feeling, Lady Oswald had not only sanctioned Mark's visits to her in
the place of Dr. Davenal, but she had recommended him to everybody she
knew as the cleverest young surgeon in Hallingham or out of it. It had
been Mark's luck speedily to cure some fancied or real ailment of Lady
Oswald's in a notably short space of time, and Lady Oswald, who set it
down to skill, really had taken up the notion that he had not his
equal. We all know how highly-coloured for the time are these sudden
estimations of a popular doctor's skill. None rejoiced more than Dr.
Davenal, and he resigned Lady Oswald to Mark with inward satisfaction,
and the best grace in the world. But during Mark's absence on his
wedding-tour the doctor had taken again the daily visits.

Roger pulled up in the gravel drive when he saw Mr. Oswald Cray; but
Oswald, who had out-stayed his time, could only shake hands with the
doctor and hasten onwards. Parkins met Dr. Davenal surreptitiously as
he entered: she had seen his approach, and she stole forwards on
tiptoe to meet him, her tears dropping. When Lady Oswald was in her
fretful moods, Parkins generally found refuge in tears.

"What's the matter now?" asked the doctor.

"The men have begun to measure the ground, and that stupid Jones came
running open-mouthed to the house with the news, and my lady heard
him," explained Parkins. "I'd not have told her: if people held their
tongues, the sheds might be built, and up, and she never know it. I
thought she'd have gone out of her mind, sir; and then Mr. Oswald Cray
came in, and he talked to her. I think she's calmer now; I heard her
talking quietly to Mr. Oswald Cray before he left. But she says she'll
go off by rail to Mr. Low's."

"Is she in the drawing-room?"

"Yes, sir. So well, to be sure, as she was this morning!" continued
Parkins, drying her tears. "I don't know when she has been in such
spirits, and all because Mr. Cray was coming home tonight with his
wife. The fancy she has taken for him is extraordinary: she has been
counting the days off since he was away, like a schoolgirl counts them
off before her holidays?"

Dr. Davenal entered. He did not attempt to reason Lady Oswald out of
the visit to Mr. Low. Quite the contrary. He told her the short trip
by rail would do her good: and he thought, which he did _not_ tell
her, that the interview with Mr. Low might set the affair at rest
sooner than anything else would, by convincing her that there could be
no appeal against the fiat, no delay in the carrying out of the work.

When Lady Oswald reached the station, it happened that Oswald Cray was
there. He was emerging from one of the private rooms with some plans
under his arm when he saw her. She looked scared at the bustle of the
station, and was leaning helplessly on her maid's arm, uncertain where
to go, what to do. Oswald hastened to her and took her on his arm.
Parkins slipped behind, quite thankful to see him: she was as little
used to the ways and confusion of a station as her mistress.

"Will you venture still, Lady Oswald, with all this turmoil?"

"Will you cease worrying me!" she answered, and the tone was a sharp
one, for she fancied he still wished to stop her, and resented the
intermeddling with her will.

_Did_ he wish to stop her? If any such feeling was upon him, it must
surely have been instinct: a prevision of what the ill-fated journey
would bring forth; of the influence it would indirectly bear on his
own future life.

He said no more. He led Lady Oswald at once to a first-class carriage,
placed her and Parkins in it, procured their return tickets, and then
leaned over the carriage-door and talked to Lady Oswald, ill as he
could spare the time. No man had kinder feelings at heart than Oswald
Cray, and it seemed to him scarcely courteous to leave her--for she
was in a tremor still--until the train should start.

He talked to her in a gay laughing tone of indifferent subjects, and
she grew more at ease. "Only think!" she suddenly exclaimed, "I may
return with Mr. Cray and his wife! Dr. Davenal told me today they were
expected early in the evening; and this is the way they must come. I
shall be so glad when he is home!"

Oswald shook his head at her with mock seriousness. "I'd not
acknowledge my faithlessness so openly, were I you, Lady Oswald. To
turn off Dr. Davenal for Mark, after so many years' adhesion to him!"

"You know nothing about it, Oswald. I have not turned off Dr. Davenal.
But you may depend upon one thing--that Mark is a rising man. He will
make a greater name than you in the world."

"Very likely. I hope he will make a name. For myself"----

The whistle sounded, and Oswald drew away from the door. Lady Oswald
put out her hand, and he shook it warmly. "Shall I see you on my
return!"

"Possibly, just a glimpse," he answered. "I'll look out for you when
the train comes in. Goodbye."

"But you'll wish me luck, Oswald--although you may be bound in honour
to the interests of the enemy and those wretched sheds."

"I wish it you heartily and sincerely; in all ways, Lady Oswald."

His tone was hearty as his words, his clasp sincere. Lady Oswald
withdrew her hand, and left him a pleasant, cordial smile as the train
puffed on.

"One can't help liking him, Parkins, with all his obstinate
contrariness," she cried. "I wish he had been the surgeon! Only think
what a name he would have made, had he possessed his brother's
talent!"

"So he would, my lady," dutifully acquiesced Parkins.

"What a good thing we are alone! Most likely he contrived it. I
declare I don't dislike this," continued Lady Oswald, ranging her eyes
round the well-stuffed compartment. "It is almost as private as my own
carriage."

"So it is, my lady," answered Parkins. And the train went smoothly on,
and in twenty minutes' time Lady Oswald was deposited safely at the
Hildon station.



CHAPTER XII.
WAITING FOR NEWS.


Mark Cray and his wife had not indicated the precise hour of their
return: "early in the evening, but not to dinner; have tea ready," had
been Mrs. Cray's words to her servants in the letter received by them
on Friday morning. Sara Davenal went to the Abbey about five o'clock
to wait for them.

Mark and Caroline were beginning as prudently as their best friends
could desire; two maid-servants only, engaged under the careful eye of
Miss Bettina, comprised their household. The large heavy door of the
Abbey opened to a large stone hall; on the left of this was a large
sitting-room, with cross-beams in its ceiling and deep-mullioned
windows, looking on to the branching lines of rails and the station in
the distance; not so pleasant a view as had been the gay Abbey
gardens. Indeed, with the doing away of those gardens, the pleasantest
part of the Abbey as a residence, had gone. It was a rambling sort of
place inside, with very little comfort. This room and the drawing-room
above were the only good-sized rooms in the house; four modern rooms
might have been put into that drawing-room, and what its carpeting
had cost was something to be talked of. The bedchambers were
pigeon-holes, the domestic offices dark closets paved with stone; in
short the Abbey was a grander place in sound than it was pleasant for
use. The Crays, who had lived in it so long, were party-giving people,
thinking more of show than comfort; the pigeon-holes were good enough
for them; the dark stone kitchens might be made the best of by the
servants; the great drawing-room, larger than anybody else's in
Hallingham, gladdened their hearts. It was certainly an imposing room
when filled with company and lights.

Sara Davenal waited and waited in the downstairs room. She had taken
off her things, and made herself at home. Her dress was of dark-blue
silk, the bands of her brown hair were smooth and silken, and
excitement had brought a colour to her cheeks. She had never before
been parted from Caroline since the latter arrived, years ago, from
the West Indies. The tea was on the table in readiness, with a cold
fowl and tongue, thoughtfully ordered to be provided by Miss Davenal.

Five o'clock; half-past five; six o'clock; half-past six; seven
o'clock; and still they had not come. Sara grew impatient--it is of no
use to deny it--and blamed them for want of punctuality. They had not
bargained for her feverish longing.

She stood at the window, looking still, as she had done since five
o'clock. It had grown into night since she stood there; would have
grown to dark, but for the brilliant moon that lighted the heavens. A
servant came in.

"Shall I bring lights, miss?"

"Not yet. I want to watch for the train."

The maid retired. Sara waited on--waited and waited, until she
felt sure that it must be half-past seven; but then she was counting
time by her own impatience, not by the clock. Her eyes began to grow
weary with the intense and incessant gaze at the station, and she
could see a good many people standing at its entrance in the
moonlight--stragglers, no doubt, waiting for the train, wondering,
like herself, that it was not in, and what had become of it.

As she thus stood, there was a loud ring at the dour-bell. Sara flew
into the hall in glee, thinking how stupid she must have been not to
observe them crossing the bridge round by the lines; flew into the
hall, and was met by her aunt.

Miss Davenal! when she had expected the bridegroom and bride! but Sara
had to make the best of it, and she did so in her pleasing, graceful
manner, drawing her aunt in by the hand to the dark room.

"They have not come yet, Aunt Bettina."

"Whatever's the meaning of this?" was the surprised question of Miss
Davenal. "All in the dark? and where are they?"

"They have not come yet," repeated Sara. "Bring the lights," she added
in a low voice to the servant.

"Not come! Where are they stopping?"

"The train is not in, Aunt Bettina."

"The what's not in?"

"The train."

"Why, what has come to it?"

Miss Bettina, all amazed, and scarcely believing the information, went
hastily to the window, and looked towards the station. At that moment
the other servant, Dorcas, came into the room. She was not a stranger
to the family, having once lived with Miss Davenal, before that lady
took up her abode with her brother. Dorcas was getting on to be
middle-aged,--a sensible-looking woman, with a turned-up nose and
reddish hair.

"Miss Sara," she whispered, "they are saying there's been an accident
to the train."

Sara Davenal's heart seemed to stand still and then bound on again as
if it would break its bounds.

"Who says it?" she gasped.

"I saw the folks standing about, and talking one to the other; so I
opened my kitchen winder, and asked what was amiss, and they said the
seven o'clock train was not in, that it had met with an accident. Miss
Sara"----

But Miss Sara had turned from her. Silently snatching her shawl and
bonnet from the sofa where she had laid them, she quitted the room,
the unconscious Miss Davenal standing yet at the window. Dorcas
followed her, and, by the lights that were now being carried in, she
saw how white she looked.

"Miss Sara, I was about to say that it may not be true," continued
Dorcas, as Sara hastily flung on her things. "_I_ don't think it is:
there'd be more uproar at the station if any news of that sort had
been brought in."

"I am going over to see; I cannot remain in this suspense. Not go by
myself?" she repeated, in reply to the woman's remonstrance;
"nonsense, Dorcas! Everybody knows me: I am Dr. Davenal's daughter.
You stay with my aunt Bettina, and be sure don't alarm her if you can
help it."

Pulling the door open with her own hand, she passed under the red
light of Mr. Cray's professional lamp, and hastened by the side-path
and the bridge round to the station. Her face was pale, her pulses
were beating. Sara Davenal had a quick imagination, and all the
horrors of accidents by rail that she had ever heard seemed to rise up
before her.

There was no impediment offered to her entering the station. Several
persons were standing about, but they did not appear to notice her,
and she passed through the room where the tickets were given, on to
the platform. There she found herself in the midst of a crowd. Not a
moving crowd but a waiting crowd, whose faces were mostly turned one
way--that by which the expected train ought to come. Sara saw a
talkative porter, and got near him, a man she knew.

"Has there been an accident?" she asked.

"Well, miss, there's nothing known for certain. It's odd where the
train can be; and if anything _has_ happened, it's odder still that
the telegraph haven't brought word of it. I remember once she was half
an hour late before."

"Who was?" asked Sara, bewildered.

"This here seven o'clock train. 'Twarn't nothing wrong with her then;
some of them bothering excursion-trains had blocked up the line. I'd
lay, miss, it's the same thing tonight. The doctor ain't gone down the
line, is he?"

"No, no. I am expecting my cousin and Mr. Cray."

"It'll be all right, miss. She won't be long. We shall hear her steam
directly."

Somewhat reassured, Sara turned, and was pushing her way through the
throng, wishing to get clear of it, when she found herself a sort of
prisoner. A gentleman had placed his arm before her, and looking up in
the moonlight she discerned the features of Oswald Cray. Her heart
gave a great bound of satisfaction, of _love_, and she almost caught
at his protecting hand.

It was a curious and exciting scene. The station raising its imposing
height to the night sky, so blue and beautiful; the crowd gathered
there, unnaturally still in the intensity of awed expectation; the
lights and bustle of the town not far away; the noiseless tread of the
porters, as they moved restlessly in their suspense;--all made a
painfully interesting picture in the bright moonlight.

Oswald Cray was waiting for the incoming train. It was the one he
intended to depart by. He drew Sara away from the throng, and gave her
his arm. Her heart was beating at the consciousness of his presence;
her whole frame had thrilled at the touch of his hand.

"Is there danger, do you fear?" she whispered.

"No, I trust not. I think not. Were anything wrong, the telegraph
would have brought the news. It must be some obstruction on the line."

Sara's fear faded away. She had confidence in _him_. If he, so
experienced, the line's own engineer, saw no cause for dread, why
should she? Perhaps she could not quite banish one little corner of
doubt in her heart; perhaps Mr. Oswald Cray might have some slight
corner of fear himself, which he did not deem it expedient to impart
to her.

"Did you get frightened, Sara?" he asked, as they walked slowly to and
fro in the moonlight.

"I was at the Abbey waiting for them, and Dorcas, one of their new
servants, came to me with the news that people in the street were
saying there had been an accident. I was very much frightened and came
away; ran away, I may say," she added, smiling, "without saying
anything to Aunt Bettina."

"Is she at the Abbey?"

"She has just come. She expected they had returned."

"I fear Lady Oswald is waiting for this train at Hildon," he remarked.
"She will not like the delay."

"Indeed! Lady Oswald at Hildon!"

He explained to her how it was: that Lady Oswald had gone to Mr.
Low's, and was not yet back. "Did you know that I called at your house
this afternoon?" he asked.

"No," she said, lifting her head. "Did you call?"

"It was about five o'clock. I have been very busy all day, but I
managed to get a minute. You were out, Neal said, and the doctor was
out; only Miss Davenal at home, so I did not go in."

"I had come down to the Abbey," said Sara. "I thought they might
arrive by an earlier train than this. Are you obliged to go back to
London tonight?"

"Quite obliged, if the train shall arrive to take me. What's that?"

Some stir was discernible in the throng. Oswald Cray held his breath,
listening for any sound that might indicate the approach of the train;
but in the distance he could hear nothing, and the stir, caused
perhaps only by the restlessness of waiting, died away. They paced on
again.

"Since I saw you, Sara, I have had an offer made me of going abroad."

"To stay long?" she quickly asked. "Where to?"

"To stay a long while, had I accepted it; perhaps for life. In a
pecuniary point of view the change would have been an advantageous
one: it would have given me a position at once. But the climate is
shocking; so I declined."

"Oh, I am glad?" she involuntarily said. "You should not run any of
those risks."

"I did not hesitate on my own score. At least, I am not sure that I
should have hesitated, but I really did not think of myself at all in
the matter. I did not get so far. I should not like to have gone out
alone, Sara: and I felt that I had no right to expose another to these
chances; one whom I should then be bound to protect and cherish, so
far as man's protection goes, from all ill."

He spoke in what may be called general words, in a general tone, but
it was impossible for Sara to misunderstand him. Every pulse within
her beat in answer, quietly as she continued to walk, calmly as her
eyes rested straight before her. She knew it was his intention not to
speak openly, until he could speak to some purpose: and she thought he
was right.

"So I resolved to continue where I am, and plod on diligently," he
continued. "Advancement, though more slow, will be sure. Do you think
I did right?"

"Quite right, quite right," she murmured. And, had they been speaking
without reserve to each other, she might have added, "Papa would not
like me to go abroad."

A silence ensued. They paced together in that quiet spot away from the
busy crowd, the silvery moonlight above, the pure passion of love's
first dream filling their hearts within. No need of words: the
conscious presence of each was all in all.

"Where can this train be?" exclaimed Oswald at length, breaking the
charm of the silence.

Almost as the words left his lips one of the porters came hurriedly
up, touching his hat as he spoke.

"There has been a mistake in the telegraph-room, sir. Leastways, some
bungle. The train _was_ telegraphed from Hildon."

A moment's startled pause on the part of Oswald Cray.

"It was told to me positively that the train had not left, Parker?"

"I know, sir; we all understood it so. But James Eales is come back
now, and he says we misunderstood him; that the train was telegraphed
at the proper time. There's an accident, sir, for certain; and it's
between this and Hildon."

"I think there must be a mistake," murmured Oswald Cray to Sara. "Stay
here quietly, away from the crowd."

Giving no further satisfaction to her fears--indeed he could not give
it--he walked hastily to the small room used as the telegraph office.
The news which the porter had brought to him was spreading elsewhere,
and the entrance to it was blocked up with an eager throng. He began
to work his way through.

"By your leave, by your leave, good people." And they drew aside so as
to give room for him to pass when they saw who it was. Mr. Oswald
Cray's right of authority, as being superior to that of any at the
station, was known and recognised.

The telegraph clerk was a young man named James Eales. It was his duty
to receive the messages, and in due course he ought to have received
the one from Hildon, signifying that the expected train (called in
familiar terms at Hallingham the seven o'clock train, although it came
in five minutes sooner) had duly quitted Hildon. This message was due
somewhere about twenty-three minutes to seven, and it came this
evening as usual quite punctually. No sooner had it been received than
James Eales, who wanted to absent himself for a short while on an
errand to the town, asked one of the men to take his place. Other
messages might be expected relating to the trains, not to speak of
private messages, always liable to come; and the man took the place
accordingly. As Eales was going out, the man, whose name was Williams,
called after him to know whether the train was signalled. Eales
thought he meant the down-train, whose signal was nearly due, and
replied, "No, not yet." But in point of fact Williams had alluded to
the up-train from Hildon, which _had_ been signalled. That man was an
accurate time-keeper; it wanted two or three minutes yet to the
signalling of the down-train, and he would not have been likely, from
this very accuracy, to inquire whether that message had come, it not
being due. Eales, who did not possess the like innate accuracy, and
was besides in a hurry to depart, confused the question, and took it
to allude to the down-train. It is through these mistakes, which are
caused half by carelessness, half by what may be almost called
unavoidable misapprehension, that accidents occur. It did not lead to
the accident in this case, but it has led to many a one. Williams
ought to have said, "Is the _up_-train signalled!" Saying what he did
say, "Is the train signalled?" Eales should have answered, "The
up-train is signalled; not the down."

Williams sat down to the desk or bureau, the telegraph indicator being
in front of him, above his head. Precisely to time the down telegraph
came, a confirmation it may almost be said of the mistake. Williams
noted it, and wondered what the up-train was about that its signal did
not likewise come. After seven o'clock came and passed, and the
up-train did not arrive, the station-master, who had been enjoying a
little recreative gossip on his own score, and not attending to his
duties quite as closely as he might have been, made his appearance in
the telegraph office.

"Where's James Eales?" he demanded.

Williams explained. He had stepped out on an errand, and he, Williams,
was taking his place. The station-master made no demur to this:
Williams was as capable as Eales, and often worked the telegraph.

"Has the up-train been signalled from Hildon?"

"No, sir."

"Not been signalled!" echoed the station-master, in an accent of
disbelief.

"It has not been signalled for certain," was the reply of Williams.
"Eales told me the signal had not come when he left, and I am sure it
has not come since."

"Where can it be?" exclaimed the station-master. "I suppose some of
those monster excursion-trains are blocking up the line somewhere."

A consolatory conclusion, quite doing away with uneasiness or fear.
The station-master promulgated the news that the train had not been
signalled from Hildon, together with his own suggestive idea of the
offending excursion-trains. He told Mr. Oswald Cray it had not been
signalled, and he told others: therefore the officials were perfectly
at their ease upon the point, whatever the assembled crowed might be.

It was just five-and-twenty minutes past seven when Eales returned. He
had stayed longer than he intended, and he dashed into his office head
foremost, catching a glimpse of the crowd on the platform, now quickly
increasing.

"What do they want, that lot?" he cried to Williams. "Is anything
wrong?"

"They are waiting for the up-train. It's preciously behind time
tonight, and I suppose some of them are alarmed--have got friends in
it, maybe."

"What up-train?" asked Eales.

"The seven o'clock up-train to London." Eales stood confounded. "Why,
is that not come up? An accident must have happened."

"Not obliged to," coolly returned Williams. "It's kept back by the
excursion-trains, most likely."

"There are no excursion-trains today between this and Hildon," quickly
observed Eales.

"It has not got so far yet. It has not passed Hildon."

"It has passed Hildon," replied Eales. "It passed at its proper time,
and was signalled up."

Williams turned and stared at Eales with all his might. "Who says it
has been signalled up?"

"Who says it! Why, I say it. I got the signal as usual."

"Then how came you to tell me you hadn't had it?" asked Williams.

"I never told you so."

"You did. You'll say black's white next. It was the only question I
asked you--whether the up-train had been signalled, and you replied it
had not been."

"You said the down-train: you never said the up."

"I meant the up. It's not likely I should ask whether the down-train
was signalled, when it wasn't near due! _You_ have done a pretty
thing!"

How long they might have continued to dispute, one seeking to lay the
blame upon the other, it is impossible to say. But at that moment the
station-master came in again, and the mistake was made known to him
and to others. The train _had_ left Hildon at its proper time, and
therefore the delay, whatever might be its cause, lay very near to
them--in the six miles of rail intervening between Hallingham and
Hildon; the train must be on some spot of it.

That an accident of some nature had taken place, the most sanguine
could now only believe, and a whole shower of verbal missives was
hurled upon the two men, Eales and Williams, who did nothing but
retort on each other. Each firmly regarded the other as being alone in
fault; an impartial judge would have said they were equally culpable.
Extricating himself from the confusion, Mr. Oswald Cray returned to
Sara. She looked at him with questioning eyes, her heart shrinking;
that hubbub in the station had reawakened her fears. He quietly placed
her hand within his arm, and began to pace as before.

"I find things do not look quite so well as we fancied"----

"There has been an accident!" she interrupted. "Do not hide it from me,
Oswald."

He lightly laid his other hand on hers, an assurance of his truth, "I
will hide nothing from you, my dearest," and the never-yet-used term
of endearment seemed to slip from him involuntarily, in the moment's
need that he should soothe her. "We have not heard that there is any
accident, for no tidings of any sort have come up; but the train, it
seems, did leave Hildon at its usual time, and something must
therefore have occurred to delay it."

A deep, sobbing sigh nearly broke from her, but she coughed it down.

"Do not meet trouble half-way," he said in a lighter tone. "It does
not follow that an accident, in the popular sense of the term, must
have occurred, because the train is not up. The engine may have broken
down and be unable to come on, but the passengers may be as safe and
well as we are. There's no doubt the engine is disabled, or it would
have come on for assistance."

"Assistance for the wounded?" she quickly rejoined.

"Assistance that may be wanted in anyway. The telegraph is at work to
stop all trains, and some of us are going down"----

It was the last collected word they were enabled to speak. The news
had spread in the town, and the affrighted people were coming up in
shoals. News, at the best, loses nothing in carrying, and the delay
was magnified into a dreadful accident, with half the train killed. In
the midst of it the guard of the missing train arrived, flying up the
line as if for his life, and carrying a lantern.

The engine had run off the line on to the bank, and turned over. A few
of the passengers were injured, but he thought not many; some of them
were coming on, the field way. It had occurred about midway between
the two stations, a little nearer to Hallingham than to the other. An
engine was wanted to bring on the train, and it might be as well if a
doctor or two went down.

This was the climax for the affrighted crowd, and those who had
relatives in the train seemed to well-nigh lose their senses. A scene
of inextricable confusion ensued. Some were restrained by force from
jumping on the line and setting off to the scene of accident; some
strove to get upon the carriage and engine about to start for it.
Order was restored with great difficulty, and the carriage and engine
rescued from the invaders, who then quitted the station, and set off
to run to the scene, through the same fields that, as the guard said,
passengers were advancing.

Two medical men, who had been hastily obtained, Mr. Oswald Cray, and
sundry officials of the line, took their seats in the carriage to be
conveyed to the spot. The engine had given its first puff, and was
snorting off, when a loud shout arrested it.

"Stop! stop! One single moment! Here's Dr. Davenal!"

His name, for those poor wounded ones, was a tower of strength--worth
all the rest of the surgical skill in Hallingham--and he was pulled
into the carriage, having caught a glimpse of the white face of his
daughter outside the throng. Sara, terrified and bewildered, wondering
what she should do next, was suddenly pounced upon by Miss Davenal.

"You naughty girl! What is it that you are doing here?"

"O Aunt Bettina, there has been an accident to the train! Caroline and
Mr. Cray are sure to be in it."

"Caroline and Mr. Cray are what?" cried out Miss Bettina.

"I fear they are in the train. There has been an accident between here
and Hildon. An engine has just gone down with assistance."

"I don't want to know about engines," returned Miss Davenal, who had
not understood one word in ten. "I ask what you do here alone?
Caroline and Mr. Cray can come home, I suppose, without your waiting
for them in this public manner. What would your papa say if he saw
you?"

"Papa has seen me," replied Sara. "Papa has just come up to the
station and is gone down with the engine."

"Gone down with what engine? What do you mean?"

Sara put her lips close to Miss Davenal's ear. "Papa's gone down the
line with some more gentlemen, to see about the wounded."

"Wounded!" shrieked Miss Bettina. "Has there been an accident? Who's
wounded? Caroline and Mr. Cray?"

"We don't know yet, aunt." And in the best way that she could, Sara
strove to make the case comprehensible to her aunt. Miss Davenal
understood at last, and was somewhat mollified.

"Sara, I am not very angry with you now. I might have stopped myself.
An accident to the train, and the doctors gone down! O those dreadful
railways!"

A little longer of suspense, and then the passengers began to arrive.
After the shock and fright, it had seemed safer to many of them to
walk the three miles of distance than to trust to the rail again and
another engine. The path fields were dry, and it was a pleasant walk
by moonlight. Miss Bettina, whose eyes were as quick as her hearing
was dull, was the first to recognise Mrs. Cray amidst them.

Caroline burst into tears as they laid hold of her, and Sara's heart
began to sink. But the tears were only the effect of the fright and
excitement she had gone through. She could give no clear account of
the accident or what it had brought forth. All she knew was that there
was great banging and bumping of the carriage she was in, but it was
not overturned. Two other carriages were; and the engine was lying on
its side with all its steam coming out of it. She scrambled up the
bank in her terror, as did most of the passengers, and came on with
them.

"And Mark?" asked Sara, scarcely daring to put the question.

"Mark! He stayed to look after the wounded," was her reply. "He said
he thought there was nobody seriously hurt. At any rate, there are no
lives lost."

Sara's heart breathed a word of thankfulness. "Did you see Lady
Oswald?" she asked. "She went to Hildon this afternoon, and Mr. Oswald
Cray thought she must be in this train, returning."

"I did not see her," replied Mrs. Cray. "Lady Oswald in the train! I
thought she never travelled by rail."

"She did this afternoon. One of her carriage-horses is ill. How
thankful!--how thankful we must all be that it is no worse!" concluded
Sara Davenal.

"Well, this is a fine ending to your wedding-jaunt!" exclaimed Miss
Bettina. "What about your luggage, Caroline? Is it safe?"

"As if we gave a thought to our luggage, Aunt Bettina! When people's
lives are at stake they can't think of their luggage."

"Nor care either, perhaps," sharply answered Miss Bettina, who,
for a wonder, had caught the words. "It may be lying soused in the
engine-water, for all you know!"

"I daresay it is," equably returned Caroline. "It was in the van next
the engine." But the full report had to come up yet; and the excited
crowd stopped on.



CHAPTER XIII.
PAIN.


Clear and distinct lay the lines of rail in the cold moonlight. It was
a straight bit of line there, without curve or bend, rise or incline;
and why the engine should have gone off the rails remained to be
proved. It was lying on its side, the steam escaping as from a
fizzing, hissing furnace; the luggage-van was overturned, and its
contents were scattered; and two carriages were overturned also: a
second-class, which had been next the van, a first-class which had
followed it.

But now, as good Providence willed it, in that second-class carriage
there had only been three passengers. The train was not a crowded one,
and people don't go close to the engine as a matter of taste. Of these
three passengers, two had thrown themselves flat on the floor of the
carriage between the seats, and escaped without injury; the other had
a broken arm and a bruised head, not of much moment. The first-class
carriage was more fully occupied, and several of the passengers,
though not fatally or even extensively, were seriously hurt; and of
the driver and stoker, the one had saved himself by leaping from his
engine, the other was flung to a distance, and lay there as he fell.

Mark Cray, as you have heard, remained to tend the wounded. The first
face he distinguished in the moonlight, lying amidst the débris of the
overturned first-class carriage, was that of Lady Oswald: and so
completely astonished was he to see it, that he thought either his
eyes or the moon must be playing him false. He and Caroline had been
in a carriage almost at the back of the train, consequently he had not
seen her at the Hildon station: and he had believed that Lady Oswald,
of all persons, would have been the last to attempt railway
travelling, so much was she averse to rails and trains in general.
Groaning and moaning by her side was Parkins; and Mr. Cray could doubt
no longer.

With assistance, the passengers were extricated and laid upon the
bank. Their injuries were unequal; some, after the first shock, could
walk and talk, some could do neither; while the first grumbled and
complained of their bruises and abrasions, the last lay still, except
for groaning. The only perfectly quiet one was Lady Oswald: she lay
with her pale face upturned to the moonlight, her eyes closed. It was
natural perhaps that Mark Cray should turn his first attention to her.
A gentleman, one of the passengers, asked if she was dead.

"No," said Mark; "she has only fainted. Parkins, suppose you get up
and try if you can walk. I'm sure you can't be hurt if you are able to
make that noise. That engine appears not to be over steady. Take care
it does not raise itself again and come puffing off this way."

Parkins, not detecting the _ruse_, started up with a shriek, and stood
rubbing herself all over. "I think I'm killed," she cried; "I don't
believe I have got a whole bone in me."

"I'll see by-and-by," said Mr. Cray. "Meanwhile come and help your
lady. I want her bonnet and cap untied."

Parkins limped to the spot stiffly with many groans, but wonderfully
well considering the belief she had just expressed. At the same moment
some one came up with water, procured from a pond in the field, and
the driver, who had just come to _his_ legs, brought a lamp. The lamp
was held to Lady Oswald's face, and some of the water poured into her
mouth. Between the two she opened her eyes.

"What's the matter?" she asked. "Where am I!"

"She's all right," whispered Mr. Cray, his warm tone proving that he
had not previously felt so assured of the fact. "Has anybody got a
drop of brandy?" he called out to the passengers, who yet stayed at
the scene.

"Goodness me! where am I?" cried Lady Oswald, with a faint shriek.
"Parkins, is that you? What has happened? Didn't we get into the
railway carriage?"

"But we are out of it now, my lady," cried Parkins, sobbing. "There
has been an awful upset, my lady, and I don't know anything more,
except that it's a mercy we are alive."

"An upset!" repeated Lady Oswald, who appeared to have no recollection
whatever of the circumstances. "Is anybody hurt? Are you hurt,
Parkins?"

"Every bone in me is broke, my lady, if I may judge by the feel of
'em. This comes of them sheds."

"Be quiet, Parkins," said Mr. Cray, who had succeeded in finding a
wicker-cased bottle containing some brandy-and-water. "Help me to
raise your lady a little."

Parkins contrived to give her help in spite of the damaged bones, but
the moment Lady Oswald was touched she shrieked out terribly.

"Let me alone! let me alone! Is that Mark Cray? How kind you are to
come to see after me, Mr. Cray? Did you come from Hallingham?"

"We were in the same train, Lady Oswald; I and Caroline. I am very
glad that it happened to be so."

"To be sure; I begin to remember: you were to return tonight. I--I
feel very faint."

Mark succeeded in getting her to drink some brandy-and-water, but she
positively refused to be touched, though she said she was in no pain.
He thought she was exhausted, the effect of the shock, and left her to
attend to other sufferers, who perhaps wanted his aid more than Lady
Oswald.

Then, after awhile, the carriage came up, bringing the help from
Hallingham. Mark Cray saw Dr. Davenal with the greatest pleasure, and
he took him at once towards Lady Oswald.

"Are many hurt?" inquired the doctor.

"Astonishingly few," was the reply; "and the hurts are of a very minor
character, I fancy. A broken arm is about the worst."

"And what of Lady Oswald?"

"I don't think she's hurt at all: she's suffering from the shock. A
little exhausted; but that's natural."

"To a woman of her age such a shock is no light thing, Mark. However,
we must do the best we can for everybody."

"There has been enough groaning--if that's anything to judge by," said
Mark; "groaning and complaining too."

"Glad to hear it," said the doctor. "When people can complain, the
damage is not very extensive."

"Parkins, for one, keeps protesting that every bone's broken. But she
ran out of the way pretty quickly when I told her the engine might
start up again."

The doctor smiled, and they came up to Lady Oswald. Oswald Cray had
found her out, and was sitting on the bank beside her. She spoke just
a word or two to him, but seemed, as Mr. Cray _had_ said, exhausted.
Oswald Cray rose to resign his place to Dr. Davenal, and he took his
brother aside.

"Is she much hurt, Mark?"

"O no," replied Mark. "It has shaken her, of course; but she has been
talking as fast as I can."

He spoke with singular confidence. In the first place. Mark Cray was
naturally inclined to look on the bright side of things, to feel
confident himself in the absence of any palpable grounds for doing so;
in the second, he did not think it at all mattered what information on
the point was given to Oswald.

Reassured upon the score of Lady Oswald, Oswald quitted Mark, and
went amidst the wounded. Proud man though he was accused of being,
though he _was_, never was there a tenderer heart, a softer hand, a
gentler voice for the sick and suffering, than his. All the patients
appeared to have been attended to in some degree; and they were in
good hands now. Oswald halted by the side of the poor stoker, a
swarthy honest-faced man, who was moaning out his pain.

"What, is it you, Bigg?" he said, recognising the man. "I did not know
you were back on this part of the line again."

"I on'y come on it yesterday, sir. It's just my luck."

"Where are you hurt?"

"I be scalded awful, sir. I never knew what pain was afore tonight.
All my lower limbs is"--

"Take care?" shouted Oswald to a stupid fellow who was running along
with a plank in his arms. "Can't you see there's a man lying here?
What are you about?"

"About my work," was the rough reply, spoken in an insolent tone. It
was one of the men just brought down, a workman from Hallingham
station, and Oswald knew him well.

"What is that, Wells?" he quietly asked.

Wells looked round now, surprised at being addressed by name. He
pretty nearly dropped his load in consternation when he recognised Mr.
Oswald Cray. Full as his hands were, he managed to jerk his hat from
his head.

"I beg your pardon, I'm sure, sir. I thought it was nothing but some
idler obstricting of me. One does get beset with idlers at these
times, asking one all sorts of questions. I shouldn't have answered
that way, sir, if I'd knowed it was you."

"Go on with your work; there's no time to talk. And don't blunder
along again without looking where you are going."

"One can't see well in the dark, sir."

"It's not dark; it is as light as it need be. Quite light enough for
you to see your way. Do you call that bright moon nothing?"

"He'd ha' been right over my legs, but for you, sir," murmured poor
Bigg, the great drops of pain standing out on his brow, black with his
occupation. "I don't know how I be to bear this agony. That cursed
engine"----

"Hush, Bigg," interrupted Mr. Oswald Cray.

Bigg groaned his contrition. "Heaven forgive me! I know it ain't a
right word for me tonight."

"Heaven will help you to bear the pain if you will only let it," said
Oswald. "There has been worse pain to bear than even yours, my poor
fellow; though I know how hard it is for you now to think so."

"It may be my death-blow, sir. And what's to become o' my wife and
little uns? Who'll work for 'em?"

"No, no, Bigg. I hope it is not so bad as that. I do not think it is."

"If one might count by pain, sir"----

"Bigg, I can give you a little comfort on that score," interrupted
Oswald Cray. "A friend of mine was very dreadfully burnt, through his
bed-clothes catching fire. Awfully burnt: I don't like, even at this
distance of time, to think of it. The next day I heard of it, and went
to see him. I am not a very good one to witness physical pain, and I
remember how I dreaded to witness his, and the spectacle I did not
doubt he presented. He _was_ a spectacle, poor fellow--but let that
pass. To my great astonishment he saluted me heartily as I went in.
'Holloa, old friend!' were his words, not only cheerfully but merrily
spoken. I found that he did not suffer pain: had not felt any from the
moment he was burnt. In my ignorance, I set that down as a most
favourable symptom, and felt sure he would get well shortly. When I
was leaving him, I met the doctor going in, and said how glad I was to
find his patient so well. 'Well!' he exclaimed, 'why, what do you
judge by!' And I said--by his feeling no pain. 'That's just it,' the
doctor observed: 'if he only felt pain there might be a chance for
him. I wish I could hear him roar out with it.' Now, Bigg," Mr. Oswald
Cray added, "I am no surgeon, but I infer that the same theory must
hold good in scalds as in burns: that your pain is as favourable a
symptom as his want of it was unfavourable. Do not _rebel_ at your
pain again, my poor fellow; rather bear it like a man. Were I scalded
or burnt, I think I should be _thankful_ for the pain."

"He was burnt worse, may be, nor me, that there gentleman," remarked
Bigg, who had listened with interest.

"Ten times worse," replied Oswald. "Yes, I may say ten times worse,"
he emphatically repeated. "Indeed, Bigg, I feel sure that yours is but
a very slight hurt, in comparison with what it might have been: and I
do not say this to you in the half-false light in which one speaks to
a child to soothe it, but as one truthful man would speak to another."

"God bless you, sir. My heart was a-failing of me sadly. Did he die,
that there gentleman?"

"He died at a week's end: but there had been no hope of him from the
first; and there were also certain attendant circumstances in his
case, apart from the injury, remarkably unfavourable. In a short
while, Bigg, you'll be on your legs again, as good man as ever. I'll
ask Dr. Davenal to come and have a look at you."

The name of the far-famed surgeon carried assurance in itself, and
Bigg's face lighted up with eagerness. "Is Dr. Davenal here, sir?"

"Yes. I'll go and look for him."

"At the moment that Oswald spoke, Dr. Davenal had left Lady Oswald and
encountered Mr. Cray. The latter, whose spirits were rather exalted
that night, the effect probably of finding the injuries around him so
slight, when he had looked out for all the terrible calamities that
flesh is heir to, not to speak of death, stopped to speak to him of
Lady Oswald. And he spoke lightly.

"Well? You don't find her hurt, doctor?"

"I'll tell you more about it tomorrow, Mark."

Dr. Davenal's tone was so very grave that Mark Cray stared. He
thought--Mark Cray almost thought that there was a shade of reproof in
it, meant for him.

"I am sure she has no serious hurt," he exclaimed.

"Well, Mark, I can say nothing positively yet. In the state she is,
and in this place, it is not easy to ascertain: but _I fear she has_."

"My goodness!" cried Mark, conscious that he was but the veriest tyro
beside that man of skill, of unerring practice, Richard Davenal, and
feeling very little at the moment. "What is the hurt, sir?" he asked
in a loud tone.

"Hold your tongue about it," said the doctor. "Time enough to proclaim
it abroad when the fact has been ascertained that there is one."

Oswald Cray came up, having distinguished the doctor in the moonlight.

"I wish you'd come and look at a poor fellow, Dr. Davenal, who wants a
word of cheering. A word of such from you, you know sends the spirits
up. You should have seen the man's face lighten when I said you were
here."

"Who is it?" asked the doctor, turning off with alacrity.

"Poor Bigg the fireman. You know him, I daresay. He is badly scalded
and bruised."

"Oh, his hurts are nothing," slightingly spoke Mark Cray. "He seems
one of those groaners who cry out at a touch of pain."

"Mark," said the doctor, stopping, "allow me to tender you a word of
advice--do not fall into that, by some, professed to be entertained
idea, that nobody can, or ought, to feel pain; or, if they feel it,
that they ought not to show it. It is unnatural, untruthful; and to my
mind, particularly unbecoming in a medical man. Pain to some natures
is all but an impossibility to bear; it is all that can be imagined of
agony; it is as if every moment of its endurance were that of death.
The nervous organisation is so sensitively delicate, that even a touch
of pain, as you express it, which most people would scarcely feel,
would certainly not cry out over, is to them the acutest suffering. As
a surgeon and anatomist you ought to know this."

"He's only a fireman," returned Mark. "Nobody expects those rough
fellows to be sensitive to pain."

"Let him be a fireman or a waterman, he will feel it as I describe, be
his frame thus sensitively organised," was the reply of Dr. Davenal,
spoken firmly, if not sternly. "What has a man's condition in life to
do with it? It won't change his physical nature. A duke, sleeping on a
bed of down, nurtured in refinement and luxury, may be so constituted
that pain will be a mere flea-bite to him; should he be destined to
endure the worst that's known to earth, he will, so to say, hardly
feel it: whereas this poor fireman, inured to hard usage, to labour
and privation, may be literally almost unable to bear it. For my own
part, when I have to witness this distressing sensibility to pain,
perhaps have to inflict it as a surgical necessity, I suffer half as
much as the patient does for I know what it is for him. Don't affect
to ridicule pain again, Mark."

Mark Cray looked vexed, annoyed. But every syllable that had fallen
from Dr. Davenal's lips had found its echo in the heart of Oswald
Cray. If there was one quality he admired beyond all else, it was
sincere open truthfulness: and to Oswald's mind there was an
affectation, a want of sincerity, in the mocking expressions, the
shallow opinions, so much in fashion in the present day. There had
been a hollow carelessness in Mark's tone when he ridiculed the notion
of the poor stoker's possessing a sensitiveness to pain, just as if
the man had no _right_ to possess it.

"Well, Bigg, and so you must get tossed in this upset!" began the
doctor cheerily. "Oh! you'll do well, by the look of your face; we
shall soon have you on the engine again. Let's get a sight of this
grand damage. Who has got a lantern?"

It was a bad scald; a shocking scald; there was no question of it; and
there was much injury by bruises; but Dr. Davenal spoke the simple
truth when he assured the man that the hurts were not dangerous.

"Keep up your heart, Bigg. In an hour's time you will be in the
Infirmary, properly attended to. You'll soon get over this."

"I dun know as I can live through the pain, sir," was the wailing
answer.

"Ay, it's bad. But when we have got the proper remedies on, you won't
feel it as you do now. Bigg, I once scalded my leg badly--at least
somebody did it for me--and I remember the pain to this day; so, my
poor fellow, I can tell what yours is."

"Mr. Cray said, sir, I oughtn't to feel no pain from a hurt like this,
he did. It sounded hard like, for the pain is awful."

"Mr. Cray knows you would be better if you tried not to feel the
pain--not to feel it so acutely. He is a doctor, you know, Bigg, and
sees worse hurts than yours every day of his life."

"I'd like to ask you, sir, when I shall be well--if you can tell me. I
have got a wife and children, sir; and she's sick just now, and can't
work for 'em."

"We'll get you up again in three weeks," said Dr. Davenal cheerily, as
he hastened away to another sufferer, groaning at a distance.

The term seemed long to the man: almost to startle him: he was
thinking of his helpless wife and children.

"Three weeks!" he repeated with a moan. "Three weeks, and nobody to
help 'em, and me laid down incapable!"

"Think how much worse it might be, Bigg!" said Mr. Oswald Cray,
wishing to get the man to look at his misfortune in a more cheerful
spirit. "Suppose Dr. Davenal had said three months?"

"Then, as good he'd said, sir, as I should never be up again."

"Do you think so? I don't. It is a long while to be confined by
illness, three months, and to you it seems, no doubt, very long
indeed; but it is not so much out of a man's life. I knew one who was
ill for three years, and got up again. That would be worse, Bigg."

"Ay, sir, it would be. I haven't got just my right thoughts tonight,
what with the pain that's racking me, and what with trouble about my
wife and little 'uns."

"Don't _trouble_ about them, Bigg," was the considerate answer. "They
shall be taken care of until you can work for them again. If the
company don't do it, I will."

A short while longer of confusion, of hasty clearance of the line, of
soothing medical aid,--such aid as could be given in that inconvenient
spot, where there was only the open bare ground for the sufferers to
lie on, the moonlit sky to cover them,--and the return to Hallingham
was organised. The injured were lifted into the carriages and placed
as well as circumstances permitted. Lady Oswald, who shrieked out much
when they raised her, was laid at full length on a pile of rugs
collected from the first-class compartments, and the engine started
with its load, and steamed gently onwards.

It appeared afterwards that the accident had been caused by the
snapping of some part of the machinery of the engine. It was a very
unusual occurrence, and could neither have been foreseen nor
prevented.

The expectant crowd had not dispersed when Hallingham was reached.
Nay, it had considerably increased. Even Miss Bettina Davenal retained
her post, and Sara and Caroline were with her.

The invalid train--it might surely be called one in a double
sense--came slowly into the station. The platform had been cleared;
none were allowed upon it to obstruct the removal of the sufferers
from the train to the conveyances that waited, in which they would be
transported to their homes, or to the infirmary, as the case might be.
But, if the platform was denied them, the excited watchers made up for
the discourtesy by blocking up the road and doors outside--a motley
group, picturesque enough in the fine moonlight night.

Dr. Davenal, Mr. Cray, and the other medical men were occupied in
superintending the removal of their patients, but Mr. Oswald Cray
found his way to Miss Davenal, and gave them the good news that the
injuries were comparatively slight. A train for London was on the
point of starting, and he was going by it. He contrived to obtain a
few words with Sara, and she went with him on to the platform.

"I wish I could have remained over tomorrow," he observed to her. "I
should like to see and hear how all these poor people get on."

"Are you sure you cannot remain?"

"I am sure that I ought not. You have heard me speak of Frank Allister
Sara?"

"Often. The young Scotchman who was with you at Bracknell and Street's
for so many years."

"We were articled together. He has become very ill lately; and--and
the firm has not behaved quite well to him. I have no voice in that
part of its economy, or it should never have been."

"What did they do?" inquired Sara.

"He has not got on as I have. Still he held a tolerably fair post in
the house; but his health failed, and he had to absent himself. Mr.
Street found out how ill he was, came to the conclusion that he'd be
of no use to us again, and wrote him his dismissal. I thought it very
hard; and he--he"----

"Yes!" said Sara, eagerly interested.

"He found it harder than he could bear. It put the finishing stroke to
his illness, and I don't think he will rally. He has no relatives
near, few friends; so I see him all I can, and I gave him a faithful
promise to spend tomorrow with him. Time's up, and the guard's
impatient, I see."

"Does the guard know you are going?"

"Yes. Don't you see him looking round for me? Fare you well, Sara. I
may be down again in a day or two." He had taken her hands for a
moment in both his as he stood before her.

"I trust you will get safe to town?" she whispered.

"Ay, indeed! This night has proved to us that safety lies not with
ourselves. God bless you, my dearest!"

He crossed the platform and stepped into the carriage, which the guard
was holding open. The next moment the train was steaming out of the
station, Sara Davenal looking after it with a lingering look, a heart
at rest, as that sweet word of endearment rang its echoes on her ear.



CHAPTER XIV.
A WHIM OF LADY OSWALD'S.


The medical body, as a whole, is differently estimated by the world.
Some look down upon it, others look up to it; and their own position
in the scale of society has no bearing or bias on the views of the
estimators. It may be that a nobleman will bow to the worth and value
of the physician, will regard him as a benefactor of mankind,
exercising that calling of all others most important to the welfare of
humanity; while a man very far down in the world's social ladder will
despise the doctor wherever he sees him.

It is possible that each has in a degree cause for this, so far as he
judges by his own experience. The one may have been brought in contact
with that perfect surgeon--and there are many such--whose peculiar
gifts for the calling were bestowed upon him by the Divine will; he
with the lion's heart and woman's hand, whose success, born of
patience, courage, judgment, experience, has become by God's blessing
an assured fact. Men who have brought all the grand discoveries of
earthly science to their aid and help in their study of the art; who
have watched Nature day by day, and mastered her intricacies; who
have, in fact, attained to that perfection in skill which induces the
involuntary remark to break from us--We shall never see his fellow!
Before such a man as this, as I look upon it, the world should bow. We
have no benefactor like unto him. The highest honours of the land
should be open to him; all that we can give of respect and admiration
should be his.

But there is a reverse side to the picture. There is the man who has
gone into the profession without aptitude for it, who has made it his,
although positively incapable of properly learning it and exercising
it. He may have acquired the right to use all the empty distinguishing
letters attaching to it, and tack them after his name on all
convenient occasions, inscribe them in staring characters on his very
door-posts--M.D., M.R.C.S.--as many more as there may be to get; but,
for all that, he is not capable of exercising the art. His whole
career is one terrible mistake. He kills more patients than he cures;
slaying them, drenching them to death, with that most pitiful and
fatal of all weapons--ignorance. It may not be his fault, in one
sense: he does his best: but he has embraced a calling for which
nature did not fit him. He goes on in his career, it is true, and his
poor patients suffer. More ignorant, of necessity, than he is--for in
all that relates to the healing art, we are, take us as a whole,
lamentably deficient--they can only blindly resign themselves to his
hands, and when they find that there's no restored health for them,
that they get worse rather than better, they blame the obstinacy of
the malady, not the treatment. Upon his own mind, meanwhile, there
rests an ever-perpetual sense of failure, irritating his temper,
rendering his treatment experimental and uncertain. Some cannot see
where the fault lies--have no conception that it is in their own
incapacity. And if a man does see it, what then? He must go on and do
his best; he must be a doctor always; it is his only means of living,
and he is too old to take to another trade. Rely upon it there are
more of these practitioners than the world suspects.

Such a man as the first was Dr. Davenal; such a man as the last was
Mark Cray. But that Mark was so Dr. Davenal suspected not. Grave cases
hitherto, during their short connection, had been treated by the
doctor, and for ordinary ailments Mark did well enough. He could write
a proper prescription when the liver was out of order, or bring a
child through the measles; he could treat old ladies with fanciful
ailments to the very acme of perfection. It is true Dr. Davenal had
been once or twice rather surprised by downright wrong treatment on
the part of Mark, but he had attributed it to inexperience.

When other doctors could not cure, people flew to Dr. Davenal; when
there was a critical operation to be performed, involving life or
death, Dr. Davenal was prayed to undertake it. His practice
consequently was of wide extent; it was not confined to Hallingham and
its vicinity, but extended occasionally to the confines of the county.
It was not, therefore, surprising that on the morning following the
accident Dr. Davenal found himself called out at an early hour to the
country on a case of dangerous emergency. And the illness was at
Thorndyke.

He responded at once to the call. Never a prompter man than Richard
Davenal. Roger had learnt by example to be prompt also, and was ready
with his carriage as soon as his master. The arrangements with regard
to saving time were well organised at Dr. Davenal's. The bell,
communicating from the house down the side-wall of the garden to the
man's rooms near the stables was made the means of conveying different
orders. If rung once, Roger was wanted indoors to receive his orders
by word of mouth; if rung twice--and on those occasions they were
always sharp, imperative peals--Roger knew that the carriage was
wanted at once, with all the speed that he could get it round.

The calm peaceful quiet of the Sabbath morn was lying on the streets
of Hallingham as the doctor was driven through them. The shops were
all shut; some of the private houses were not yet opened--servants are
apt to lie late on Sunday morning. As they passed the town-hall and
the market-place, so void of life then, the church clocks struck
eight, and the customary bells, giving token of the future services of
the day, broke forth in the clear air.

"Stop at the Abbey, Roger," said the doctor, as they neared it.

The woman, Dorcas, was just opening the parlour shutters. She came to
the door when she saw the carriage drawing up to it.

"I want to see your master, Dorcas. I suppose he's up."

"He is up and out, sir," was her reply. "He has been gone about five
minutes."

This answer caused the doctor to pause. It should be explained that
when the train of sufferers arrived at the station the previous night,
Lady Oswald had elected to be accompanied to her home by Mark Cray,
not by Dr. Davenal. Whether she was actuated by pure caprice; whether
by a better motive--the belief that she was not hurt so much as some
other of the sufferers, and that Dr. Davenal's skill would be more
needed by them; or whether the recent sudden liking she had taken for
Mr. Cray swayed her then, could not be told; never would be told. She
seemed to be a little revived at the end of the journey, and she chose
that Mark Cray should go home with her. Dr. Davenal had acquiesced,
but he whispered a parting word to Mark. "If there is an injury, I
suspect it will be found in the ribs, Mark. Look well to it. If you
want me, I'm going on to the Infirmary, and shall be at home
afterwards."

But, as it appeared, the doctor had not been wanted. At any rate, Mark
Cray had not sent for him. And he had stopped now to hear, if he
could, Mark's report.

An upper window opened, and Mrs. Cray, completely enveloped in a thick
shawl, so that nothing could be seen of her but the tip of her nose,
leaned out.

"Good-morning, Uncle Richard."

"Good-morning, my dear. I am glad to see you again. Can you come down
for a minute?"

"No, I have not begun to dress. Did you want Mark? He has gone to Lady
Oswald's."

"Ah, that's what I wish to ask about. Did you hear Mark say how she
was?--whether there was any hurt?"

"He said there was not. But, for one thing, she kept fainting, and
refused to be touched. At least, I think he said so, something of
that; I was very sleepy when he got home; it was one o'clock. I am
sure he said she was not hurt to speak of."

"That's all right then," said Dr. Davenal.

"You are out betimes, Uncle Richard," resumed Caroline. "Are you going
far?"

"To Thorndyke. Tell your husband he must see my patients this morning;
I shall not be back in time. Drive on, Roger."

"Very well," said Caroline. "Who's ill at Thorndyke?"

But Dr. Davenal's answer, if he gave one, was lost in the distance,
and never reached Caroline's ear.

It was a singular coincidence--as was said by gossips afterwards--that
one should be taken ill that day at Thorndyke and be in danger of
death. It was not, however, one of the Oswald family, but a visitor of
Sir Philip's, and it has nothing whatever to do with the story It need
not have been mentioned, save to explain what took Dr. Davenal from
Hallingham on that critical day.

Dr. Davenal found the patient alarmingly ill, in great need of medical
help, and he had to remain at Thorndyke some hours. It was between two
and three o'clock when he got back to Hallingham, and he ordered Roger
to drive at once to the Infirmary.

The doctor went in and saw his patients. The poor man, Bigg, easier
now than he had been the previous night, lay in a slumber: the rest
were going on well. One woman had gone. An inmate of the wards for
some weeks past, her case, a very painful one, had baffled all skill,
all remedy; and she had gone to that better place where sickness and
pain cannot enter. Dr. Davenal stood for some little time conversing
with the house-surgeon, and then departed on foot to his home: he had
dismissed his carriage when he entered the Infirmary.

As he was walking, he met an eager little fellow scuffling along, one
who always walked very fast, with his head pushed out, as if he were
in a desperate hurry. It was one of the Infirmary pupils, as they were
called; young men gathering skill and experience to become in time
surgeons themselves, who attended the Infirmary with their masters.
This one, Julius Wild, a youth of eighteen, was more particularly
attached to the service of Mr. Cray, went round the wards with him as
his dresser, and suchlike. No sooner did he see Dr. Davenal than his
pace increased to a run, and he came up breathless.

"Oh, if you please, sir, Mr. Cray has been looking for you
everywhere"----

"I have been to Thorndyke," interrupted the doctor.

"Yes, sir, but he thought you must have come back, and he sent me to
about twenty places to inquire. There's something wrong with Lady
Oswald, sir, and he wants to see you about it."

"What is it that's wrong?"

"Mr. Cray didn't explain to me, sir; but he said something about an
operation. She's hurt internally, sir, I think."

"Where is Mr. Cray? Do you know?"

"He is gone to your house, sir. Somebody told him, they saw your
carriage going along, and Mr. Cray thought you might be at home.
He"----

Dr. Davenal waited to hear no more. He made the best of his way
towards home, but before he reached it he met Mark Cray.

There in the street, particulars were explained by Mr. Cray to Dr.
Davenal, not altogether to the doctor's satisfaction. It appeared that
Mark--very carelessly, but he excused himself on the plea of Lady
Oswald's fractious refusal to be touched--had omitted to make a proper
examination of her state on the previous night. The delay, though not
fatal, was inexpedient, rendering the operation which must now be
performed one of more difficulty than if it had been done at once; and
Dr. Davenal spoke a few sharp words, the only sharp ones he had ever
in his life spoken to Mark Cray.

"I told you it was my opinion there was some internal injury. You
ought to have ascertained."

He turned his steps and proceeded at once and alone to the house of
Lady Oswald. She was in a grievous state of suffering; and that she
had not appeared so on the previous night could only be attributed to
partial insensibility. Dr. Davenal examined into her hurts with his
practised skill, his gentle fingers, and he imparted to her as
soothingly as possible the fact that an operation was indispensable.
"Not a very grave one," he said with a smile, intended to reassure.
"Nothing formidable, like the taking off of an arm or a leg."

But Lady Oswald refused her consent; as fractiously and positively as
she had the previous night refused to be touched. She would have no
operation performed on her, she said, putting her to torture; they
must cure her without it. Some time was lost in this unsatisfactory
manner, and Mark Cray arrived while the contention was going on. Dr.
Davenal was at length obliged to tell her a hard truth--that unless
she submitted to it, her life must fall a sacrifice.

Then there came another phase of the obstinacy. When people are lying
in the critical state that was Lady Oswald, hovering between life and
death, it is surely unseemly to indulge in whims, in moods of childish
caprice. If ever there is a time in the career of life that truth
should reign preeminent, it is then: and these wilful caprices are
born of a phase of feeling that surely cannot be called truth. Lady
Oswald consented to the operation, but only on the condition that Mark
Cray should perform it. What foolish caprice may have prompted this it
is impossible to say. Mark had been talking to her, very much as he
would talk to a child to induce it to have a tooth drawn or a cut
finger dressed: protesting that it "would not hurt her to speak of,"
that it "would be over, so to say, in no time." Dr. Davenal, more
honest, held his tongue upon those points: it would not be over in "no
time," and he knew that it would hurt her very much indeed. This it
may have been that caused the wretched whim to arise, that Mark Cray
should be the acting surgeon. And she held to it.

It was necessary that she should be allowed some repose after the
state of excitement to which she had put herself, and half-past five
was the hour named. Dr. Davenal and Mark appointed to be with her
then.

"Mark," asked the doctor, as they walked away together, "are you sure
of yourself?"

Dr. Davenal had had no experience hitherto of Mark Cray's skill as a
surgeon, except in common cases. All critical operations, both at the
Infirmary and in private practice, the doctor took himself. Mark
looked at the doctor in surprise as he heard the question.

"Sure! Why, of course I am. It's quite a simple thing, this."

"Simple enough where the hand is experienced and sure," remarked the
doctor. "Not so simple where it is not."

"Of course I have not had your experience, Dr. Davenal; but I have had
quite sufficient to ensure my accomplishing this, perhaps as skilfully
as you could."

Mark spoke in a resentful tone; he did not like the reflection that he
thought was cast upon him by the question. Dr. Davenal said no more.
He supposed Mark _was_ sure of his hand's skill.

"I shall give her chloroform," resumed Mark.

"No!" burst forth Dr. Davenal. He could not have interrupted more
impetuously had he been interposing to dash it from her lips. He
believed that Lady Oswald would be a very unfit subject for
chloroform; one of those few to whom it is not safe to administer it;
and he explained this to Mark Cray.

Mark turned restive. Strange to say, he, who had hitherto been content
to follow in the medical steps of Dr. Davenal, watching his treatment,
pursuing the same, more as a pupil takes lessons of a master than as a
man in practice for himself, seemed inclined to turn restive now. Did
Mark Cray, because he had married the doctor's niece, had become
connected with him by private ties, was now a more equal partner,
fully recognised--did he deem it well to exercise that right of
independence which we all love, for it is inherent in the hearts of
the best of us, and to stand up for his own ways and his own will?

"I like chloroform," he said. "I consider it one of the most blessed
inventions of the age."

"Undoubtedly; where it can be safely used."

"I have used it fifty times," rejoined Mark.

"I have used it fifty and fifty to that," said the doctor,
good-humouredly. "But, Mark, I never used it in my life upon a
doubtful subject, and I never will use it upon one."

"What do you call a doubtful subject?"

"What do I call a doubtful subject?" repeated the doctor. "You know as
well as I. How many patients has chloroform killed? Upon certain
natures"----

"Very few," interrupted Mark.

"Very few, as compared to the whole," acquiesced the doctor. "You may
administer chloroform with perfect safety to ninety-nine patients, and
you cannot to the hundredth. Upon certain natures, as I was about to
observe, its effects may be fatal. And where there is this doubt,
Mark, it should be acted upon."

"The cases are so rare."

"True. And the important thing for a medical man, in these cases, is
to discern where chloroform may be given with safety and where it may
not."

"It is impossible that he can do that with any certainty."

"Not at all," said Dr. Davenal. "I never knew my judgment fail. I
believe it is a gift, this ability to distinguish the subtle
difference in natures. Perhaps I may call it instinct, more than
judgment, for I think it could not deceive or lead me to an erroneous
decision."

"I am not sure that I understand you," said Mr. Cray. "My belief is,
that I possess nothing of the sort. I think you must be talking of a
species of second sight."

"Then, Mark," was the half-joking answer, "allow yourself to be guided
by my 'second sight.' To speak seriously," the doctor continued, in a
graver tone, "I know that there are many practitioners, clever men,
who do not possess this peculiar insight into nature. It is a great
gift for those who do. It can never be acquired by practice; it must
be inherent"----

"I suppose you think I don't possess it," interrupted Mark.

"I don't think you do. But for one of us who possesses it, numbers
don't; so it is no disparagement to you to say so. To return to the
question: Lady Oswald, in my opinion, would prove an unsafe subject
for chloroform."

"She will make so much of the pain."

"Better that she should make much of it--ay, and feel it--than that
any risk should be run. I cannot allow chloroform to be given to Lady
Oswald."

Mark Cray demurred: not outwardly, for he said not another word; but
inwardly. He was of that class of men who disbelieve what they cannot
see. Some of us will look into a man's face and read his character,
read him for what he is, as surely and unerringly as we read the pages
of a book; but others of us, who do not possess this gift, cannot
believe that it exists, laugh at and ridicule the very idea of it.
Just so was it with Mark Cray. That assertion of Dr. Davenal's, that
some faculty or instinct within him enabled him to discern where
chloroform might and might not be administered, was utterly scouted
by Mark Cray. That subtle instinct into nature, that unerring,
rapidly-formed judgment of a sick man's state, the mental grasping
instantaneously of the disease and its remedy, Mark Cray possessed
not. To the very end of his life he would never learn it. Dr. Davenal
said that out of numbers of medical men only one would possess it, and
he was right. How many do not possess it, and go on to their career's
end unconscious of their deficiency, they themselves will never know.
Mark could see no reason why Lady Oswald should not be eased of her
pain by the aid of chloroform; he did not for a moment believe the
doctor could; he regarded it as a crotchet, and a very foolish one.
But he suffered the question to rest, and supposed he must bow to the
decision of his senior partner.

"Shall I call for you, Mark?" asked the doctor, as they separated. "I
shall go up in the carriage."

"O no, thank you. I'd as soon walk. You intend to be present?"

"Or course I shall be," replied the doctor. "Lady Oswald is my
patient, in point of fact--not yours, Mark."

"Then I need not ask Berry. I thought of asking him to be present."

"You can do just as you please about that. If you like him to look on
at you, you can have him. Twenty-five minutes after five, remember,
punctual. You'll want the full daylight."

As they parted, a feeling was in Mark's heart that he would not have
liked to confess to the other, and that perhaps he neither cared to
encourage nor to dwell upon. He felt perfectly sure of his own
skill; he was not nervous; nobody less so; and yet there was a
half-reluctance in his mind to perform that operation in the presence
of Dr. Davenal, the skilled and accomplished operator. Surely the
reluctance could only spring from a latent doubt of whether he ought
to make so sure of himself! A _latent_ doubt; one not suffered to
appear down far in the depths of his heart it lay--so deep that
perhaps Mark thought it was not there at all, that it was only fancy.

He had a great deal rather have had Berry with him--_that_ he
acknowledged openly enough to himself. Surgeon Berry was a man of fair
average skill, superior to Mark in experience, and he and Mark were
great friends. Did Mark fear that the presence of the more finished
and perfect surgeon, with his critical eye, his practised judgment,
would render him nervous--as a candidate for the Civil Service
examinations will break down, simply because those searching eyes are
on him? No, Mark Cray feared nothing of the sort; and he could not
have told, had he been pressed, why he would have preferred the
absence of Dr. Davenal. He had looked on many a time at the doctor in
such cases: but that was a different thing.

His thoughts were interrupted by Julius Wild. The young man accosted
him to inquire if there were any orders--whether he should be wanted.

"Yes," said Mr. Cray. "Lady Oswald's case is fixed for this afternoon.
You be up there with the dressings and things."

"Very well, sir," replied the young man, feeling some surprise; for he
was not in the habit of attending privately with Dr. Davenal "Am I to
go to Dr. Davenal's for them?"

"No. You can get them from the Infirmary."

"The Infirmary!" thought Julius Wild to himself. "Can _he_ be going to
take the operation?"--for Mr. Cray's surgical apparatus was kept at
the Infirmary. He did not ask: his professional master seemed
unusually silent--not to say cross.

"What time?" he inquired of Mr. Cray.

"Be at Lady Oswald's a little before half-past----"

The blank above is put intentionally, for it cannot be told with
certainty what hour was really said by Mr. Cray. In the discussions
upon it that ensued afterwards, Julius Wild declared in the most
positive manner that it was _six_. "A little before half-past six."
Mr. Cray asserted, with equal pertinacity, that he had said five. "A
little before half-past five." Which of the two was right it was
impossible to ascertain. Mark Cray said he should not be likely to
make the mistake: the time, half-past five, had been just fixed
upon with Dr. Davenal, had been repeated by word of mouth, and he
had never thought of the hour six at all. There was plausible reason
in that, certainly. On the other hand, Julius Wild was known for a
clear-headed, steady, accurate young man, and he protested he could
stake his life upon his correctness in this instance. He said the
thought crossed his mind, when Mr. Cray named it, that half-past six
would be the dusk hour; and he rather wondered within himself that it
should have been chosen.

However it may have been, the misapprehension did occur between them.

When Dr. Davenal entered his own home, dinner had been over some time.
It was their custom to dine early on Sunday: and the general rule was,
by Dr. Davenal's wish, never to keep meals waiting for him. Neal
admitted him, and then came for orders. Should he bring up the dinner?

"Not the dinner," said Dr. Davenal; "just a bit of something upon a
plate. I am not hungry: I had a late breakfast at Thorndyke. Has
anybody been here for me?"

"No, sir. I think Mr. Cray took your patients. He has been here"----

"I know all about that," interrupted the doctor.

He passed Neal, and went on to the garden-parlour, a favourite room of
his daughter's. She was there alone, seated before the open glass
doors. How peaceful it all looked! The green lawn stretching out in
front, the bright hues of the autumn flowers, the calm purity of the
dark blue sky lying in the stillness of the Day of Rest. Sara Davenal
had that good Book upon her lap: but she was not then reading it. She
had closed it in deep thought. Her sweet face was turned upwards, her
eyes were filled with tears from the intensity of her gaze; it seemed
that she was looking for something in the autumn sky. The extreme
calm, the aspect of peace, struck forcibly on the senses of Dr.
Davenal, and he remembered it in the days to come. It was the last day
of peace for him; it was the last day of peace for Sara; henceforth
the world was to change for both of them. Ere the morrow's sun should
rise, a great care, a great trouble, would be tugging at their
heartstrings; a skeleton would be there to keep; a secret, that must
be hidden for very safety's sake, would have taken up its abode there.

Dr. Davenal was upon her so quickly that she could not conceal her
glistening eyes. She started up to welcome him, and laid down the
book. Owing to that most attentive habit of Neal's, of being on the
watch and opening the door before people could get to it, she had not
heard him come home.

"O papa, is it you? You have been away a long while."

"Sit down," he said, pressing her into her chair again. "What's the
grief, Sara?"

"No grief, papa. I was only thinking."

"What about? The accident last night?"

"O no, not that. I hear that everybody's going on quite well. I was
thinking--I was wondering--somehow I often get thinking on these
things on a Sunday, when I am sitting alone, and the sky seems so calm
and near," she broke off.

"Well, what were you thinking?"

"I was wondering whether they who are gone can look down and see
us--see me just as I sit here looking up--whether they can read my
thoughts. We seem so divided, papa; you and I and Edward left; mamma
and Richard, and the two little ones who were between me and Edward,
gone."

"Divided for a short while only, child."

"Yes, I know. The only one I can remember well is Richard. I am
beginning to lose almost all recollection of mamma. But Richard--papa,
at times I seem to see him before me now!"

Dr. Davenal turned to the window and stood with his back to Sara,
looking out. She repented having spoken of her brother; somehow the
words had slipped out in the fulness of her thoughts. Rising, she
stole her hand into Dr. Davenal's.

"I forgot, papa," she softly whispered.

"Forgot what, my child?" he asked. "Nay, it might be just as well if
we all spoke more of Richard, instead of shunning his name. Silence
will not bring him back to us."

"Ah no, it will not!"

"And when once griefs can be talked of, their sting becomes less
poignant. Did the post bring any letters this morning?" the doctor
added, after a pause.

"Not for you, papa. There was one--how could I forget to tell
you?--there was one for me from Edward."

"And what does he say?"

"He has not been able to get leave yet. At least, from the tenor of
his letter, I don't much think he has asked for it. He says there's a
great deal to do; that the preparations are going on very quickly; but
no orders have been received yet as to the day for embarking. As soon
as they are issued he will let us know."

"But he means to come down?"

"O yes. He will be sure to come, he says, though it should be to
arrive by one train and return by the next. He writes in great
spirits, and asks me--in a joke you know, papa--if I will pack up my
boxes and go out with him."

"He---- What is it, Neal! My dinner?"

"Yes, sir. It is served."



CHAPTER XV.
MARK CRAY'S MISTAKE.


Evening came, and Lady Oswald's house was prepared for what was going
to take place. Dr. Davenal arrived rather before the time appointed,
Mr. Cray five minutes after it. Mr. Cray was in a heat, and had
evidently come at much speed, conscious probably that the time had
expired. Lady Oswald was in her bedchamber when Mr. Cray came up, Dr.
Davenal in the ante-chamber.

"Where's Wild?" exclaimed Mr. Cray, throwing his eyes round the room.

"I have not seen him," replied the doctor.

"It is very inattentive of him not to be here. I told him the hour.
Have you seen her?" added Mr. Cray, in a whisper.

"Yes. She is all right. Are you ready?"

"No, I am not ready," replied Mr. Cray. "Wild is bringing up the
dressings."

"I have everything with me," said Dr. Davenal "I have brought all."

In the room with Lady Oswald was her maid Parkins. And the very moment
that Dr. Davenal set his eyes on Parkins's ashy pale face, he knew
that she would be better out of the room than in it. He said something
to the effect, but Lady Oswald evidently wished for her, and Parkins
avowed her intention of being as brave as need be.

Time was being wasted. Marcus Cray, in a fidgety sort of manner, went
down twice after his expected pupil. He opened the hall-door and stood
there looking out for him; and he did this twice over, for no sooner
did he get upstairs the first time than he went back again. Dr.
Davenal could not exactly make him out. Mr. Wild was not required in
anyway; and a half-doubt stole over Dr. Davenal whether Mark Cray
could be wilfully prolonging the minutes, as people will put off
things they do not care to enter upon, from nervousness, dislike, or
other causes. And though he threw the doubt from him as an absurd
improbability, he began to wish again to be the operator.

"Cray, I had better take this."

Mark fired up, and spoke out at the top of his voice. He would prefer
to take it himself, Dr. Davenal permitting him.

Spoke out so loud that he was heard by Lady Oswald. She interrupted
the discussion--if discussion it might be called--and settled it. "It
should be only done by Mr. Cray."

"Very well," said Dr. Davenal in a low tone to his partner. "Be it so.
But why do you wait, Mark?"

"I want that fellow to be here."

"He is not required. We shall have Lady Oswald get exhausted."

And Mark Cray, seeing the wisdom of the plea, made no further delay.

You will not wish to be present at this operation, or to have it
details transcribed. Hallingham did not know them for many a long day.
But one or two things must be mentioned.

At the very instant of its commencement, when Mark Cray was bending
over Lady Oswald, there came something falling forward to the ground
and brushed against him. It was brave Parkins, gone down in a
fainting-fit Lady Oswald became agitated; she shrieked out, and would
have risen had it been in her power. Dr. Davenal moved round, and bore
the senseless Parkins from the room.

He could not throw her down outside like a log. He had to call some of
the household and tell them what to do with her. Then she began to
start and kick in incipient convulsions: altogether it was three or
four minutes before Dr. Davenal got back to the room. It seemed to be
delay after delay, as if the operation was fated not to be begun that
day.

The operation however, was begun, he found. When he got back, Mark had
plunged into it. Dr. Davenal stepped up to him, and stood overlooking
him with his unerring eye; that eye which Mark had dreaded.

Was it in consequence of that, that Mark Cray lost--what shall we call
it?--his presence of mind?--his surgical skill? A suppressed sound,
half indignation, half dismay, escaped the lips of Dr. Davenal, and he
pushed Mark aside with an authoritative hand and took his place. What
could have taken Mark?--what ailed him? Lady Oswald was offering no
opposition, for she lay perfectly still.

So still, so voiceless, that in the midst of his work it struck
strangely on the senses of Dr. Davenal. He paused a moment to regard
her attentively, and then glanced at Mark, one single word only
escaping him.

"Chloroform?"

"Yes," said Mark. "I judged it best."

It was all that passed. Whatever Dr. Davenal may have felt, he could
express neither doubt nor remonstrance then. His whole attention had
to be concentrated on the work he was performing. Mark stood by and
watched, saying nothing.

At length it was over; admirably performed, as all operations were
performed, undertaken by Dr. Davenal. But Lady Oswald still lay
without sense or motion; and they could not arouse her.

"You must have given her a great deal," observed Dr. Davenal, who was
still occupied.

Which Mark Cray did not attempt to deny. "She required it. The fall of
that stupid woman excited her terribly. The first lot made no
impression on her: she did not seem to inhale it."

"But--good heavens? you could not have waited long enough to see. Mark
Cray, this is a mistake, and an awful one."

Mark made no reply. Mark was doing all in his power to undo his work
and arouse Lady Oswald. But he could not. Dr. Davenal touched his
shoulder, and spoke upon a different subject.

"You told me you were sure of yourself."

Mark scarcely knew what he answered. Something to the effect that he
always had been sure, until now: but his words were very indistinct.

"What incapacity came over you? What was its cause?"

It was impossible for Mark Cray to deny that incapacity had attacked
him; that Lady Oswald under his hands would have been in the greatest
danger. Its cause he could not account for: but that common
expression, "losing all presence of mind," would best describe it as
it really was, and as it had appeared to Dr. Davenal. The drops of
sweat stood out on his brow now as large as peas.

"The woman's fall startled me," he attempted to say. "At such a moment
it takes but little to unnerve a man."

"Then, if so, he is not fit for a surgeon," returned Dr. Davenal.
"Mark Cray," he continued, gravely and firmly, but not unkindly, "you
must never in my presence attempt a critical operation again.
Recollect that."

Meanwhile their whole attention was being given to Lady Oswald; their
best efforts exerted to arouse her from the effects of the chloroform.
All in vain, all useless; it had done its work too effectually.

By degrees the horror of the conviction that she could not be
aroused--never more would be aroused--came pressing upon them
deeper and deeper. Mark Cray wiped his hot face, and felt that he
would give all he was worth to recall that one act of his--the
surreptitiously conveying the chloroform to the house, which he
had himself so successfully accomplished, and regarded as a cause of
self-congratulation. Why had he not attended to the experienced
opinion of Dr. Davenal--that Lady Oswald was one of those upon whom
chloroform was not unlikely to be fatal? That it would be fatal in
this case, Mark felt as certain _now_ as if the breath had actually
passed for ever from her body. A horrible fear came over him, and he
once more lost all calmness, all self-possession.

"Dr. Davenal, for the love of God, do not betray me! Do not let it go
forth to the world as my wilful act--one you warned me against. It was
a dreadful mistake. I shall carry it about with me in my heart for
ever; but do not betray me to the world!"

He had seized the doctor's hands, and was pressing them nervously in
his. His troubled face gazed imploringly upwards; his wailing tone of
repentance struck sadly on the ear. Dr. Davenal did not immediately
speak, and Mark Cray resumed.

"For Caroline's sake," he entreated. "If this mistake becomes known in
all its unhappy details, my professional doom is sealed. Never again,
so long as I live, as you and I are together, will I attempt to act on
my opinion in opposition to yours. Be merciful to us, Dr. Davenal,
and, for her and my sake, conceal it from the condemning world!"

And Dr. Davenal yielded. Ever merciful, ever striving to act in
accordance with those great precepts of love and mercy which One came
down eighteen hundred years ago to teach, he yielded to the prayer of
the unhappy and agitated man before him. His own partner--Caroline's
husband; no, he could not, would not, bring upon him the obloquy of
the world.

"I will keep the secret, Mark Cray. Be easy. You have my promise."

The unhappy tidings were made known to the household--that their
mistress could not yet be aroused from the effect of the chloroform
which had been administered with a view of saving her pain; and they
came flocking in. She was not dead; but she was lying still and
motionless: and the means for recalling life went on. Mark Cray
continued his efforts when all hope was gone, trying every means,
probable and improbable, in his madness. Had a battery been at hand he
would have essayed galvanism.

Alas! they might as well have sought to arouse a stone statue. Never
more would there be any arousing for poor Lady Oswald in this world.
Death was claiming her: uncompromising, not-to-be-denied death!

Parkins, considerably recovered from her own attack, but in a shaky
and tearful state, had come into the room with the rest. Parkins
seemed inclined to rebel at the state of things; to question
everybody, to cast blame somewhere.

"Why should chloroform have been given to her!" she asked of Mr. Cray.

"It was given with a view to deaden the pain," was Mark's short
answer.

"But, sir, the operation was all but begun, if not begun, when I--when
I---fainted: and there had been no question then of giving her
chloroform."

"No, and it was your fainting that did three parts of the mischief,"
savagely returned Mr. Cray, who felt it the greatest relief to be able
to lay the blame upon somebody. "It put her into a most undesirable
state of agitation. I should think you must have heard her shriek, in
spite of your fainting-fit."

The words, the angry tone, completely did for Parkins, and she
subsided into tears again. A few minutes, and Dr. Davenal turned from
the ill-fated lady to her servants standing there.

"It is all over. She is gone."

And the doctor looked at his watch, and found that only one poor hour
had elapsed since he had entered the house to perform that operation
which had altogether terminated so fatally.



CHAPTER XVI.
NEAL'S DISMAY.


Dr. Davenal and Mr. Cray went forth together. Outside the hall-door
stood Julius Wild. It now wanted twenty minutes to seven. The
Infirmary pupil had arrived a quarter of an hour before, and had
waited patiently ever since to be let in. He had rung the bell in
vain. In the confusion and distress of the house, it had, perhaps, not
been heard, certainly had not been attended to. His rings had been but
gentle ones: Julius Wild knew better than to make a noise at a house
when illness was inside it: and he waited patiently enough, wondering
whether the servants were asleep, whether Lady Oswald was worse, and
believing the doctors had not yet come.

When they came forth, he was excessively surprised, marvelling greatly
at his non-admittance.

"I have been ringing this quarter of an hour," he said, by way of
explanation and apology. "I can't think what the servants can have
been about."

"What have _you_ been about?" thundered Mark Cray, giving way to
anger, although he had come straight from the presence of the dead.

Mr. Wild was astonished. "I say, sir, I have been waiting here. I have
been here this quarter of an hour, and could not get let in."

"And, pray, what kept you? Why were you not here to time?"

"I was here to time, sir," was the deprecating answer; and the young
man marvelled much what had so put out his good-tempered medical
master. "You told me to be here a little before half-past six, sir, and
I got here five minutes before it."

Then began that dispute which was never satisfactorily settled; each,
to this very day, believing himself to be in the right. Mr. Cray held
to it that he had told him half-past five; Julius Wild earnestly
protested that he had said half-past six. The wrangling continued for
some minutes, or rather the difference of opinion, for of course the
pupil did not presume to wrangle with his superior. A few sharp words
from Mark, peremptorily ordering him to hold his tongue, concluded it.
The young man walked close by the two doctors, just a little behind
them--for they had been walking down from Lady Oswald's all along, had
not stayed for one minute at the door. He had wondered at first
whether the operation had taken place, and why they should leave the
house just about the time fixed for it: now that he heard of this
misapprehension with regard to the hour, he supposed it was over, and
that Mr. Cray's vexation arose from the fact of his not having arrived
for it. But he was a young man of curiosity, fond of sociability in a
general way, and of asking questions, so he thought he would ask one
now, and make sure.

"Is the operation over, sir?"

"Yes," curtly answered Mark.

"Was it successful?"

"When did you ever know Dr. Davenal unsuccessful?" retorted Mr. Cray.
"_That_ was successful enough."

It never occurred to Julius Wild that the stress upon the word "that"
implied, or could imply, that though the operation had been
successful, something else was not. Perhaps it was half a subterfuge
in Mark Cray to have said it. The young man asked no more questions.
Finding himself so snubbed, he desisted, and walked behind in silence.
Neither of them told the unhappy truth to him. Dr. Davenal may have
been too pained, too shocked to speak; Mark Cray's conscience too
suggestive. Nay, Dr. Davenal may not have seen his way clear to speak
at all. If he was to conceal the culpability of Mark Cray, the less he
opened his mouth upon the point, even by a word, the better.

Suddenly Mark turned round. "You are not wanted, Mr. Wild. There's
nothing more tonight."

The young man took the hint at once, wished them good-evening, and
walked off to the Infirmary, there to leave certain articles that he
had been carrying. He observed that Dr. Davenal, usually so courteous,
never answered him, never gave him the good-evening in reply to his.

The two surgeons walked on in silence. The streets were nearly
deserted; and the sound of praise and prayer came upon their ears from
the lighted places of worship as they passed them. The evening was a
warm one, and the doors of the churches and chapels stood open. They
never spoke a word, one to the other. Mark Cray felt as he had
probably never felt in his life--ashamed, repentant, grieved, humble.
He was guilty of the blood of a fellow-creature. _He_ called it a
"mistake." A mistake in one sense it undoubtedly was, but a wicked and
a wilful one. Dr. Davenal felt it to be both: felt that the giving of
the chloroform stealthily, in direct opposition to his expressed
opinion, deserved a worse name; and, though he had promised not to
betray Mark, he could not just yet subdue his own feelings, and speak
to him in a friendly tone. Thus in silence they reached the doctor's
gate.

"Goodnight," said he, turning in at it.

"Goodnight," replied Mark, continuing his way. But--and he felt
it--there had been no invitation to him to enter, no pleasant look, no
shake of the hand.

Neal was at the door, airing himself and watching the scanty
passers-by in the dusky street, the rest of the household being at
church. Dr. Davenal went into his study, and lifted his hat from his
brow as if a heavy weight were there. He had no light, save what came
in from the street gas-lamp.

He leaned against the window in thought. Two hours before, Lady Oswald
had been, so to say, as full of life as he was, and now----dead.
Killed. There was no mincing the matter to himself; she had been
killed. Killed by Mark Cray.

Had he done right in undertaking to screen Mark Cray?--to keep his
culpability a secret?--to suffer the world to assume his innocence.
The reader may deem it a grave question: Dr. Davenal was asking it of
himself. Had Mark's been purely an error in judgment; had he
administered the chloroform, believing it to be the right and proper
thing to do, leaving the issue with God, it had been different. But
he had given it in direct opposition to an opinion of more value
than his own; in, as was much to be feared, a spirit of obstinate
defiance. It is true he had not intended to kill; he had probably been
over-confident of the result. How Dr. Davenal condemned him he alone
could tell; but--was it his, the doctor's place, to hold him forth to
the condemnation of the world? No; he, the merciful man, thought it
could not be. One strong point on the side of this mercy was--that the
proclaiming the facts could be productive of no good result; they
could not recall the mistaken act; they could not bring the
unfortunate lady back to life. It might be said that it should be made
known as a warning to others not to trust Mark Cray; but the very
occurrence itself with its tragical end, would, if the doctor knew
anything of human nature, be its own warning for Mark Cray's whole
lifetime. He did not think much of the surgical failure; at least he
was not dwelling on it. Probably the worst calamity had in a measure
eclipsed the other in his mind. Young surgeons had turned nervous
before now, as Dr. Davenal knew; and the fall of the maid Parkins
might certainly have startled him. It was not that that was troubling
him; he had arrested Mark's shaking hands, and replaced them with his
own sure ones, and carried the matter through successfully; it was the
other.

He thought it over and over, and could not bring himself to see that
he had done wrong in promising to hide the facts. If he went that hour
and stood in the market-place and shouted them forth to all hearers,
it could not bring back the forfeited life; it could not remedy the
past in the remotest degree. He thought of his dead brother,
Caroline's father; he remembered the words he had sent out to him to
soothe his dying bed--"The child shall be to me as a daughter." He
could not, on the very threshold of her wedded life, bring obloquy on
the husband of her choice, and blight his good name, his fair
prospects. And so _he resolved to keep the secret_--to guard the fatal
mistake from the knowledge of the world. Only their own two selves
were privy to it; therefore Mark was perfectly safe--save for him. The
administering the chloroform must be looked upon as an error in
judgment, of his own as well as of Mark's: and yet scarcely an error,
for perhaps nine surgeons out of ten would so have administered it to
a patient under similar circumstances, and have made no exception in
Lady Oswald. He, Dr. Davenal, must suffer this to be assumed, saying
himself as little as was possible upon the matter to any one: in a
case where the termination had been so unfortunate his reticence would
be excused.

He leaned his head upon his hand in the dark twilight, and pondered
over the circumstances: he could not keep his mind from dwelling upon
them almost morbidly. A strange fatality seemed to have attended
the affair altogether. There had beat the obstinate persistence of
Lady Oswald to see her landlord, in spite of common-sense and of Mr.
Oswald Cray's representation that it could not possibly serve her;
there had been the sudden falling lame of the carriage horse, for
which the coachman had been unable to account; and then there had
been the accident to the train. Parkins had had told him a confused
tale--confused through her own grief, poor woman--of their having gone
by mistake, she and her mistress, to the wrong side of the station at
Hildon to take the return train, and had thereby lost a train. They
went, naturally enough perhaps to inexperienced travellers, to the
side of the platform on which they had descended on going; and it was
not until a train came up to the other side, took in the passengers
waiting on that side of the platform, and went on to Hallingham, that
they discovered their mistake. But for that, they would have been at
Hallingham safe and sound when the accident happened to the late
train. Then there was the fact of Mark Cray's having been in the
train, of his having been the first to see Lady Oswald. When brought
afterwards to the home terminus, she had said, "Mr. Cray will go home
with me:" and later she had insisted on his taking the operation. He
himself had been called out to Thorndyke, had been kept there while
the long hours of the best part of the day had flitted away: had he
not been called out, why the operation would, beyond all question,
have been performed in the morning, probably by himself, for he should
have seen her early and detected its need. There was the absence of
the pupil, Julius Wild, through what appeared an unaccountable
mistake: had that pupil been present, to him would have fallen the
task of getting Parkins from the room, and the chloroform could not
have been administered. A curious chapter of accidents--or what are
called such--and Dr. Davenal lost himself in the chain of thought. "O
merciful Father, forgive him! forgive him this night's work!" he
murmured. "And mayst Thou have taken that poor woman to her rest!"

A great light and Neal's smooth voice broke upon Dr. Davenal. "Shall I
get you anything, sir? Tea, or"----

"I don't want anything, I don't want the gas lighted," interrupted Dr.
Davenal, starting from his chair. "Wait until you are called."

Neal, after a moment's stare, shot back again. It was not so much the
sharp words, more imperative than any commonly used by his master, but
the wailing tone of pain in which they were spoken, that struck Neal:
nay, it almost seemed as if his entrance had brought a sort of terror
to the doctor.

It was not terror. Neal was mistaken. But Dr. Davenal had been so
completely buried in thoughts, not altogether of this world, that the
abrupt interruption, with its commonplace excuse, had seemed to him
singularly inopportune, causing him to wave away abruptly the man and
his words.

He sat on in the dark again, and Neal took his place at the front
door, and stood there looking out. Not a soul was in the house save
himself and his master; and it may have seemed a more cheering way of
passing the evening, to Neal, than to be shut up indoors.

It grew darker. Neal strolled along by the skirting shrubs of the
garden, and took his stand at the front gate, ready to exchange
courtesies with the people who would soon be going home from church or
chapel. The moon did not give much light yet, but the night promised
to be as clear and bright as the previous one had been.

"Holloa!" cried Neal, as a man he knew came up quickly. "You are in a
hurry tonight."

"I have been out on business, Mr. Neal," replied the man, who was in
fact an assistant to a carpenter and undertaker. "Our work can't
always wait for the Sabbath to go by before it is seen to."

"Is anybody dead?" asked Neal.

"Lady Oswald. The message came down to us best part of an hour ago; so
I've been up there."

It has been observed that Neal was too well trained a gentleman both
in manners and nerves to express much surprise, but this answer caused
him the very greatest shock. He was so startled as to take refuge in
disbelief.

"_Lady Oswald_, did you say? But she's not dead!"

"But she is," replied the man. "I ought to know. I've just come from
her."

"Why, what has she died of? They said the railway accident had not
materially hurt her."

"She haven't died of the accident. She have died of
that--that--what-you-call-it--as is give to folks to take the pain out
of 'em."

Neal did not understand. "To take the pain out of them?" he repeated,
looking questioningly at the speaker.

"That stuff that have come into fashion of late years. The doctors
will give it you while you have a tooth took out, if you'll let 'em."

"Do you mean chloroform?"

"That's it. I never can remember the name. But I'd rather call it
poison, for my part--killing folks dead off without a warning."

"Who gave it to Lady Oswald?"

"Your master," replied the man, lowering his voice to a whisper as he
glanced at the windows of the house. "The servants was in the room
with me up there, and they told me about it. There was something to be
done to my lady--some bones to be set, I believe--and the doctors went
this afternoon, and they give her this stuff, and it killed her. I
wonder Parliament don't make a law again its use, for my part."

"I am sorry to hear this," exclaimed Neal. "My lady was very friendly
to me."

"Ay. The servants be cut up like anything. And enough to make 'em!
It's a shocking thing. The lady's maid says she can't think why they
should have give her the stuff, for Mr. Cray himself told her, when he
was there in the afternoon, that what they had to do wouldn't hurt my
lady no more than a flea-bite. Anyway, she's dead. But I can't stop
here, I must get along back with the measure. Goodnight, Mr. Neal."

"Goodnight," replied Neal.

He leaned on the gate, watching the man hurrying onwards with his
fleet steps, and thinking over what he had heard. Perhaps it is not
too much to say that Mr. Neal would have preferred to hear of the
death of any other person in Hallingham than of Lady Oswald's. Lady
Oswald had been a great friend to him, and it had been Neal's
intention to put her friendliness to the test in a very short period
of time. Neal was a subtle schemer, and he had been perfecting a plan
by which at one bold stroke Lady Oswald's mind should be disabused of
that suspicion against himself imparted to her by Dr. Davenal the day
of Miss Caroline's marriage, to which he had been an unsuspected
listener, and by which he should also be effectually served. Neal had
begun to feel that his tenure in his present situation was no longer
sure, and he intended by the help of Lady Oswald to secure to himself
a situation of a different nature.

Now this grand scheme was destroyed. As the rising waves dash away the
"houses" built by children on the sands at the sea-shore, so this
château en Espagne of Neal's was dashed down by the death of Lady
Oswald. If Neal's cold and selfish heart could like any one, it had
liked her. She had kept up friendly relations with Neal, as a former
retainer of Sir John and Thorndyke; had shown more consideration to
Neal than to her own servants--had treated him in fact as superior to
her servants. When Neal waited on her at her residence to pay his
respects, as he did occasionally, she would ring the bell on his
departure and say sharply, "Show Mr. Neal out"--as much as to remind
her household that he had not been a common servant at Thorndyke: he
was groom of the chambers. She had also been liberal in her presents
to Neal. Altogether, Neal in his discomfiture felt very much, as
though her ladyship's death was a grievance personally inflicted on
himself.

Jessy the housemaid was the first of the servants to return. The
moment she entered, Neal took his hat and went up to Lady Oswald's
with a view of learning particulars. The news had been so sudden, so
unexpected, that some faint feeling or hope almost seemed to be in the
man's mind that he should find it untrue.

He found it too true. He was allowed to see Lady Oswald, and he
listened to the details given by the servants, gathering them into his
mind to be turned over and examined afterwards. Parkins spoke with him
privately. She was very bitter against the chloroform: she said to him
that she should always look upon the administering it as an underhand
trick not to be understood. There was no question of chloroform when
she was in the room, and that was up to the very last moment; there
was no chloroform present that she saw, and the doctors must have got
it concealed in their pockets and produced it when her back was
turned. She didn't blame Mr. Cray; she was certain it was not Mr.
Cray; for he had told her privately in the afternoon that the
operation would be a mere nothing, a flea-bite--and she could only
wonder at Dr. Davenal's not having exercised more caution. One of the
servants downstairs had had some experience in chloroform, she added,
and her opinion was, that an over-quantity must have been given: that
Dr. Davenal had mistook the dose, and given too much. At any rate, if
ever there was a murdered woman, it was her mistress.

Parkins's eyes were alight when she said this, and Parkins's cheeks
aflame. Her grief for the loss of her mistress was merging into anger
at its cause. Like Neal, she was beginning to consider it as a
personal grievance inflicted on herself, and to resent it as such.
Self-interest sways the best of us more or less: and Parkins felt that
through this she had lost a better place than she should ever find
again. Neal asked her a few questions on his own score, and hurried
away with the information he had garnered.

He hastened home with the utmost speed that his legs would carry him.
He had a reason--at least he thought he might have one in future--for
not wishing it known at home that he had paid that visit to Lady
Oswald's. The late returners from church were but in the streets when
he went back, slowly pacing along in the lovely autumn night. He
whisked in just in time to admit the ladies.

"Is papa in, Neal?"

"Yes," answered Neal, haphazard, for he was of course not positive
upon the point. "I fancy he is in his room, Miss Sara."

Sara knocked at the consulting-room door and entered. As she went
forward, Neal contrived to obtain a passing view of the interior. It
was still in darkness, and Dr. Davenal was leaning his back against
the window-frame his arms folded, his head bowed, as one will stand
when under the weight of care.

"It looks just as though he had purposely killed her," was Neal's
comment to himself.

Not that Neal thought it _then_. No, no. But Neal was in a state of
terrible vexation and disappointment; in that precise mood when it is
a vast relief to vent one's trouble upon anybody.

"How sad you look, papa!" cried Sara, as she noted his depressed
attitude. "And you are all in the dark!"

Dr. Davenal aroused himself, put his hand on his daughter, and turned
round to face the street. At that moment the death-bell rang out.

Accustomed now to the darkness of the room--not that it was entirely
dark, for the doctor had thrown open the Venetian blind, and the
gas-lamp cast in its rays brightly--Sara could see how sad and clouded
was his face. The death-bell was striking out its quick sharp strokes.

"Do you know who the bell is tolling for, papa? I never heard it ring
out so late as this."

"I expect it is tolling for Lady Oswald."

"Papa! For Lady Oswald?" She quite shrieked as she said it in her
startled surprise.

"She is dead, child," he said, his subdued voice a contrast to hers.

"O papa! Was it the operation? Did she die under it?"

"Yes--in one sense. The operation was successfully accomplished,
but--chloroform was exhibited, and she never rallied from it."

Sara stood still, her heart beating. It seemed that a hundred regrets
were crowding upon her, a hundred questions. "O papa, why did you
administer chloroform?" she exclaimed, scarcely knowing what she said.

For a single moment the temptation came over Dr. Davenal to tell his
daughter the truth, and he had unclosed his lips to speak; but he
checked himself in time. Sara was trustworthy--he knew that; but it
was impossible to answer for chance or inadvertent words, even from
her; and for Mark's sake it might be better to leave her in equal
ignorance with the rest of the world.

"My dear," he said--and the words to her ear sounded strangely
solemn--"I have striven to do the best always for my patients, under
God. Had I been able to save Lady Oswald's life, I would have saved
it."

"O yes yes, papa, I know that. We all know it. Did she die quite
suddenly? Was she sensible of her state?"

"People who die under the influence of chloroform seldom know anything
after inhaling it. She did not. Sara, it is a painful subject; I would
rather not speak of it. I feel it greatly--greatly."

She quitted him and went upstairs to take off her things. When she
came down again Dr. Davenal was in the dining-room, and the tray, as
was usual when they dined early, was on the table with some slight
refreshment.

"Not anything for me," said the doctor to his sister. "I cannot eat
tonight."

He did not sit down: he was pacing the carpet with thoughtful,
measured tread. Neal stole a glance at him from under the corner of
his eyes.

"Shall I light the gas in your study, sir, tonight?"

"No. Yes, you may light one burner," the doctor added after a moment's
pause.

"What's the matter, Richard?" asked Miss Davenal. "You seem cut up.
Have you had a hard day's work today?"

"Pretty well," called out the doctor.

"Do you know who it is that's dead? Very queer that the passing-bell
should toll out at night!"

"You can tell your aunt, Sara," the doctor quietly said, as he stepped
to the door of the room, and vanished.

"Well, I'm sure!" angrily cried Miss Davenal. "My brother is polite
tonight. He might have answered me."

Sara pushed from her the piece of cake she had been trying to eat, and
went close to her aunt, speaking in her slowest and most distinct
tones.

"Don't you see that papa has had a great shock--a blow, Aunt Bettina?
Lady Oswald is dead."

Poor Miss Davenal, never very quick at comprehending, confused the
information together in the most helpless manner. "What do you say?
Lady Oswald has had a blow? Who's dead?"

"Aunt, aunt, you will understand me if you won't be impatient. Lady
Oswald is dead. And I say it is a great blow to papa. I can see that
it is."

Miss Davenal heard now, and looked perfectly scared. "Lady Oswald
dead! It cannot be, Sara."

"She had to undergo some operation in consequence of the accident, and
papa gave her chloroform, hoping of course to lighten the pain, and
she never rallied from it."

Miss Davenal seized Sara's hands in her dismay. Her senses were
sharpened and she had heard perfectly; her face had turned white.
Neal, who had come in, looked at her as he stood near the door, and
wondered whether she was going to faint.

"Sara, I don't like that chloroform. I have told the doctor so, often
and often. They should never try it upon me. Who gave it her?"

"Papa," replied Sara, never dreaming but she was correct in saying so.
"Aunt Bettina, he gave it her for the best."

"Best! of course he gave it for the best--nobody disputes that. But I
don't like it: I never did like it. Chloroform is come into fashion
now--an improvement on the old state of things, they call it, as they
call the railways--and I don't deny that it spares pain; but I do not
like it."

By and by Sara went to the consulting-room. The doctor was pacing it
uneasily.

"I have come to say goodnight, papa."

"You are going to bed early, is it ten o'clock?"

"Yes, I think it is past ten. Goodnight, dear papa. I hope you will be
better in the morning."

"I have felt nothing like it since the death of Richard. Goodnight, my
child."

It was not so much the death in itself that was affecting Dr. Davenal,
as the appalling reflection that it had been, in a manner, wilfully
caused. The knowledge weighed on his heart like a stone.



CHAPTER XVII.
THE NIGHT VISITOR TO DR. DAVENAL.


The bedchamber of Sara Davenal was over the doctor's study, on the
opposite side of the landing to the drawing-room. It was not a large
room, but longer than it was wide, and the bed was placed at the far
end of the room--the back. The chamber behind it was larger, and
occupied by Miss Davenal. The room opposite Miss Davenal's, and behind
the drawing-room, had been the bedchamber of Dr. Davenal in his
wife's lifetime; since her death it had been kept as a spare room for
chance visitors.

Sara did not begin to undress immediately upon entering the room. She
put out the light, and sat down at the open window to indulge in a
little quiet thought: it was rather a habit of hers to do so when the
night was fine and she came up early. She liked to sit there and think
of many things, to glance up at the clear sky in the bright moonlight.
With all her practical good sense--and she had her full portion of
it--she was of a somewhat dreamy, imaginative temperament; and since
Richard's death she had grown to think more of that other home to
which he was gone, the same to which we are all hastening, than it is
perhaps usual for girls of Sara's age to think of it. As she had said
to Dr. Davenal in the afternoon, she would wonder whether Richard and
her lost mother--whom she but imperfectly remembered--could look down
upon her: she was fond of fancying that they were looking down upon
her: and she would lose herself in a maze of visionary imaginings.

Not on this night, however, did her thoughts turn to Richard. They
were full of Lady Oswald and her unhappy death. That this fatal
chloroform had been administered for the best, in accordance with Dr.
Davenal's experienced judgment, Sara assumed as a matter of course;
she never so much as thought of casting a doubt to it: but she knew
enough of him to be sure that the fatal termination would cause him to
repent of having given it--to blame himself bitterly, and she felt for
him to the very depth of her heart. An uncomfortable sensation, as if
her father had been guilty of some deliberate wrong, was pervading
her, and she could not shake it off.

It should be observed that although Sara sat close to the open window,
she was not liable to be seen by the passers-by in the street, did any
cast their eyes that way. A small stand or ledge had been constructed
round the window (a bay window, as was the one answering to it on the
other side, the drawing-room), and this was filled with pots in
flower. Geraniums of many species, fuchsias, heliotropes, heaths, wild
thyme, the fine flowering cactus, and many others, raised their heads
proudly, and formed a screen behind which Sara was securely sheltered
from observation, and also from the rays of the gas-lamp at the gate,
which otherwise would have lighted her up. So that, although she could
see out perfectly well, sitting as she now was, she could not be seen.
If she chose to stand at the window and lean out, her head was above
the flowers; but at the same time they entirely prevented her from
seeing anything immediately below her window. The ground for a yard or
two beyond Dr. Davenal's study window was as completely hidden from
her as though it had been a hundred miles off; and it is necessary to
mention this. The bedroom above Sara's, occupied by Watton the upper
maid, had a flat window, and its view underneath was in like manner
obstructed by the extending bow and the plants in it of Sara's. These
flowers at Miss Sara Davenal's window were quite the admiration of the
pedestrian portion of Hallingham, and many a one would halt at the
front railings to take a passing gaze at them. They were really
beautiful, and Sara took a pride in them and liked to tend them.

She liked to inhale their sweet perfume, as she was doing now, sweeter
and stronger in the night air than in the garish day. Perhaps the
heliotrope was of all the most powerful scent: and somehow that
heliotrope had become associated in her mind with Mr. Oswald Cray. She
could not have told why or wherefore; she had never attempted to
analyse the cause: she only knew that when she approached that window,
and the perfume of the heliotrope was wafted to her senses, the image
of Oswald Cray was, in like manner, by some mysterious instinct,
wafted to her mind.

Perhaps it did not require any extraneous aid to bring him to her
memory. He was already too securely seated there. For the last
twelvemonth, since Oswald Cray had become intimate at their house, her
love for him had been gradually growing into being: that subtle
understanding, never to be explained or accounted for, which draws
together two human hearts, and only those two, the one for the other,
of all the whole world, life finding life, had arisen between them.
Oswald Cray had never spoken or hinted at his feelings until the time
when Dr. Davenal honestly avowed to him that he had fancied he cared
for Caroline: that had brought forth the one word--and it was little
more--to Sara. But she had known it just as surely as though he had
spoken out all along.

Save for that shrinking reticence which would fain hide the secret, as
the modest snowdrop hides its head, and which must always accompany
the feeling if it be genuine, there was nothing to be ashamed of in
this love. It is true that it had become entwined with every fibre
of her heart, was a part and parcel of her very being. It would
perhaps have been impossible--at least, it would have been very
improbable--for Sara Davenal, with her right feeling, her powers of
discernment, which she possessed in a high degree, and her sound good
sense, to fall in love with an unworthy man. She could not have met
with a more worthy one than Oswald Cray. He had his faults--ay, who
has not?--but they were faults of what may be called a high order; not
mean, drivelling, scandalising faults, that abound in the world. Each
was suited and suitable to the other, in taste, in position, in moral
goodness: and their love had been given for aye; beyond the power of
circumstances or time to change. They might never be more to each than
they were now. Untoward fate might separate them; the world's bitter
tongues, expediency, the poison of misunderstanding; any one of these
separating causes might part them; Sara's unbending principle,
Oswald's wrong-headed pride--it was impossible to foretell: but of one
thing both might rest assured, that unto their dying day that love
could never be wholly extinguished in either heart, so as to give
place to another.

Somehow the thoughts of Sara Davenal had wandered from the painful
subject of Lady Oswald to this brighter one: wandered unwittingly,
against her will. She would not have _chosen_ to dwell upon her love
that sad night, or on the one sweet word of Oswald when he last parted
from her: but there it was, sounding in her ears and her heart: and
she lost herself in one of the sweetest reveries that ever maiden
pictured of the future.

Suddenly she was aroused from it. Not by any thought of poor Lady
Oswald, or of her father's sorrow, or of the minutes that were
hurrying on, or that it was time she prepared for bed; but by the
sight of some one coming in at the front gate. It was nothing unusual
for that gate to be invaded at night, by messengers summoning Dr.
Davenal to some urgent bed of sickness. But this intruder had
something peculiar about him, or about his movements, which attracted
her eye.

He was a tall man, wearing a cap and a grey Scotch plaid scarf. The
cap, which had a peak to it, appeared to be tied down over his ears,
and the scarf was worn in a droll fashion, one at least that Sara had
never seen in Hallingham. It was put lengthways over the shoulders, as
a lady puts on a scarf; it came down to the waist behind, and was held
very much up to the neck in front. Sara naturally looked at the man,
looked keenly with a view of distinguishing his features. In her
sympathy with the sick, she thought to learn, by him, who was ill that
night and wanted her father. But she was unable to do this, and the
first thought that struck upon her as curious was, that a man should
be so completely wrapped up on that genial night. The next curious
thing that struck her was--the man's movements.

He had come up to the gate with very quick steps--as messengers from
the sick often did come--opened it, and gave a sort of dart or spring
to his right, which brought him under the shade of the laurels and hid
him from the moonlight. There he stopped, reconnoitring the house, so
far as could be seen, but really it required a quick eye to
distinguish him at all from the dark shrubs. That was not precisely
the way in which night applicants came to Dr. Davenal's house; and
Sara, very much astonished, rose quietly from her seat, to see the
better.

He came on at last, creeping close to the shrubs, stooping under their
shade, until he gained Dr. Davenal's window. With all Sara's
endeavours to look, she there lost sight of him, because he was
beneath, but she heard a gentle tapping at the window. Not the quick
imperative noise of one in haste, demanding instant attention, but a
covert, stealthy tapping, which seemed afraid of being heard. More and
more astonished, Sara leaned out further; but she could not lean far
enough to see.

The window was opened instantly; therefore it was to be supposed that
Dr. Davenal had not retired from the room; that his light had probably
guided the stranger to apply at the window, instead of at the door.
The first sound, after the opening of the window, was a warning
hush-sh-sh-sh! but whether it came from the applicant or from her
father she could not tell. A short colloquy followed, only a word or
two in the most covert tones, and then Dr. Davenal went to the front
door and admitted the visitor. Sara sat down overwhelmed with
amazement.

Somebody else was overwhelmed with amazement unfortunately--or perhaps
the better word for _him_ would be curiosity--and that was Mr. Neal.
Neal had been a witness to it all. When it struck half-past ten--and
this mysterious visit occurred some five minutes subsequent to that
time--Dr. Davenal had opened his study door, called to Neal, and told
him to put the gas out. Which was equivalent to telling him to go to
bed: the putting out of the gas being the last service usually
required of Neal. Neal came forward and did as he was bid--he put out
the hall-lamp and any other burners that might be alight, with the
exception of the one in the doctor's study. Dr. Davenal always took
that upon himself, and he put out the burner as he spoke to Neal, and
lighted his candle for bed, no gas being laid on in the bedrooms.
Neal then went downstairs and turned the gas off at the main; so the
house was safe.

But Neal, as a matter of taste was not fond of retiring early. And
when he came up again, and had shut himself into his pantry, instead
of passing into his sleeping-room he blew out his candle, opened the
door on the side, and, dexterously avoiding contact with the shrubs,
he stole to the front. There he stood, amidst the shrubs, near the
doctor's window, with a view possibly of giving himself a little fresh
air.

He glanced at the window; the half-shutters were not drawn up, a thing
the doctor did himself the very last thing, and he could see the wax
candle on the table through the Venetian blinds. The upper shutters of
the window were closed; Neal always closed those when he lighted the
gas; but his orders were to leave the lower ones open. It was a fancy
of the doctor's the being able to take a look out at the street until
the last, if he chose to do so. The upper shutters being closed did
not prevent the window being opened at will. It is as well to give
these details, for this was an eventful night in the existence of Dr.
Davenal: and of others besides.

Neal could see the candle, and he could see his master. Dr. Davenal
was seated at the table, his head leaning on his hand. Whether he was
reading, or whether he had merely bent his head in thought, Neal could
not discern, but he thought he had never in his life seen a
countenance so troubled.

There was nothing in all that, however, to afford particular
gratification to Neal's curiosity, and he drew cautiously away from
the window, and turned his attention on the street. It was necessary
to be cautious, for the least stir of the shrubs would have been heard
by Dr. Davenal on that still night; sitting as he did with the window
a little open, his custom until he retired. Neal stood watching the
passers-by. Stay; watching _for_ any passers-by; but he had not seen
one yet. Sunday evening hours were early at Hallingham, and people
were mostly indoors and abed. Now, in point of fact, Neal had no
particular motive in stealing out and standing there; he was not
expecting any one or anything; but he had a habit of peering about him
a great deal more than most people have, and Neal rarely went finally
to rest without coming out to take a general glance round, and see
anything there might be to see.

Little did Neal anticipate the reward his curiosity was to receive
this night. He was taking a last look previous to retreating, thinking
it rather slow work standing there with nothing to see, not even a
passing passenger on that quiet Sunday night, when the man who had so
surprised Sara Davenal darted in at the gate. Neal strained his eyes
in a vain attempt to discover who it was, and backed into safe
quarters.

He heard the covert tapping at the window; he heard the warning hush
when the doctor opened it, and he could not say for certain, any more
than Sara could, which of the two it was who had given that warning
hush; and then after a short whispering, the purport of which he was
entirely unable to make out, the doctor's tones were a little raised:

"I will open the door for you."

The stranger made his way to the front door. Neal, in the swift,
unerring, covert manner which practice had rendered facile, stole back
to his pantry with incredible speed, and was in time to peep out of
it, and to see the visitor admitted.

But he gained nothing by his movement. The hall was in the dark: Dr.
Davenal had not brought his candle out, and Neal could not see more
than the very faintest outline of their forms. They passed into the
room in silence, and Neal heard the door closed quietly and
cautiously; another minute and the bolt was slipped. He took off his
shoes and stole on tiptoe in his stockings to the door, and put his
ear to it.

No, not a word could he hear. That door was a sound door, a
close-fitting one: Neal had tried it before in his life, and obtained
no more result than he was obtaining now. He made his way back through
the pantry to the window again, and there Neal could have groaned in
impotent rage had he dared, for Dr. Davenal had shut it.

But he had not closed the shutters. Neal, if it was any good to him,
could still get a glimpse in through the upright staves of the green
dwarf blinds. It was but a glimpse, for they were turned all but close
together, the one stave nearly lying on the other, and it did not
afford him satisfaction, for he could see neither Dr. Davenal nor his
visitor, who were seated at the side of the room close together where
the angle of view obtainable by Neal would not reach them. A very
faint hum of voices penetrated his ear, and he was not sure whether
that was not fancy. Their conversation was being carried on in the
lowest tones.

Unsatisfactory as was this result as a whole, Neal waited with
patience. Such men as Neal are always patient The clock struck eleven,
and the clock struck half-past eleven, and Neal was still there.

Then there occurred a change. Dr. Davenal rose from his seat and began
pacing the room. His whole face was working with agitation. Neal
caught a sight of it occasionally as he paced, and was struck by the
troubled expression, nay, by the _dread_ that pervaded it. Neal had
long ago made up his mind as to the purport of the visit--that it was
in some way connected with the catastrophe of the evening, the death
of Lady Oswald.

Suddenly Neal was startled. His nose was uncommonly close to the
window, and the window was abruptly raised; raised without the
slightest warning some half-dozen inches. Neal believed his nose was
off.

When he came to himself, which he really did not for a few minutes,
some words in a wailing tone were issuing from the lips of Dr.
Davenal. "Silence must be purchased at any price; at any price. If it
takes the whole of my fortune, I must purchase silence." Neal pricked
up his ears.

Dr. Davenal was walking still; the visitor, whoever he might be, never
moved from his seat. It was only when the doctor came near the window
that Neal caught an occasional word. "Yes, Lady Oswald herself. She
wished it," were the next words he heard, and then there was another
temporary lull.

"I am aware of that. Murder? yes, the world would look upon it as
such. I felt certain that Lady Oswald was one to whom chloroform, if
administered, would prove fatal. Heaven help me! What have I done that
the trials of this day should fall upon my head?"

Dr. Davenal was standing at the window as he said this, had halted
there with his voice close to Neal's face, and Neal's hair stood on
end as he heard it. From that moment the man believed--fully believed
in his inmost heart--that his master had purposely destroyed Lady
Oswald. Perhaps the belief, judging from these disconnected and
certainly ominous words, was excusable.

For a short while Neal heard no more. His master had halted opposite
the stranger and was talking fast, but nothing came to Neal but a
confused sound. Then he advanced again.

"I tell you it shall be done. If it costs every penny piece that I
have saved, this horrible secret must be bought up--if money will buy
it. I shall never know another happy moment: I shall live as with a
sword of disgrace hanging over me, ever expecting it to fall."

Some murmured words came from the stranger, and Neal stretched his ear
to its utmost tension. Whether in doing so he made the least noise,
touched the window, rustled the shrubs, he could not tell, but Dr.
Davenal turned and shut the window down as swiftly and suddenly as he
had put it up.

So, hearing was cut off. But Neal could see still--just a glimpse. He
saw Dr. Davenal go out of the room with the candle and bring back a
plate of biscuits and a decanter of wine. He knew he must have gone to
the dining-room sideboard for them. A wish crossed Neal's mind to go
indoors, make the excuse that he had heard his master stirring, and
dash into the study on the pretence of inquiring if he could do
anything. But he did not dare. Neal would have given a whole year's
wages to get one good look at the visitor. Presently all sight was cut
off. Barely had Dr. Davenal put down the decanter and biscuits than he
turned to the window and pulled up the shutters.

It was a checkmate for Neal. He went in and stood just outside his
pantry, hesitating whether to go close to the room door or not. A good
thing he did not, for Dr. Davenal came out almost immediately, and
went upstairs to his daughter's room.

Neal heard him knock at it very softly; he heard him ask in a whisper
whether she was in bed yet. That she was not in bed the immediate
opening of the door proved.

Dr. Davenal went in and closed the door. Neal could hear the murmur of
his voice, as if he were explaining something to his daughter, and
then they came down together, treading softly, not to arouse the
house. Neal could see that she was fully dressed, in the same silk she
had worn in the day. They went in, and the door was closed, and the
bolt slipped as before.

Ten minutes, and Sara came out again alone. Neal could tell who it was
by the rustling of the silk, but there was no light. She returned
upstairs to her room, but not before Neal thought he had caught the
sound of a sob.

The next to come forth was the visitor, without a candle still. Dr.
Davenal opened the hall door and let him out. Neal, with his quick
movements, glided round to his post of observation in the front
garden, and was just in time to see him go through the gate, the cap
drawn over his face, and the grey woollen scarf muffled around him.



CHAPTER XVIII.
AFTER THE VISITOR'S DEPARTURE.


If ever the signs of misery, of despair, of terror, were depicted on a
human face, they were on Dr. Davenal's as he sat that night in his
study. He was as a man who has received some great shock; a shock that
strikes a species of paralysis alike to the heart and to the frame.
His arms hung down listlessly, his head was bent, his fixed eyes had a
wild anxious look, most foreign to the usually calm orbs of the
composed surgeon. An hour and a quarter had he thus sat since the
departure of that midnight visitor who had brought with him so much
apparent mystery, so much woe, and the house clock was striking one.
The sound did not arouse Dr. Davenal; he sat on with his face of
terrified despair.

The wax taper, unheeded, unlooked at, stood on a side-table where it
had been accidentally put. It had burnt nearly to the socket, and it
now began to spurt and gutter with a great light; the signs of its
end. That awoke Dr. Davenal from his reverie. The prospect of being
left in the dark was not a convenient one; and he tore a bit of paper
from a journal lying near and essayed to light the gas, completely
forgetting that it had been turned off at the main.

Finding his mistake, he stood a moment with his hand to his temples,
as if endeavouring to collect thought, and then opened the door of his
bedroom. Candles always stood there on the mantelpiece ready for
lighting, and he brought one forward and succeeded in catching a light
for it from the dying taper.

This had the effect of effectually arousing him. He looked at his
watch, and then held the candle to a book-shelf, whence he selected a
local railway guide, and sat down to the table to consult it.

"Nothing until the morning!" he exclaimed in a tone that might have
been one of vexation but for its deeper pain. "Stay, though! Yes,
there is. There's the train that passes here at 3.20 for Merton: and I
should find a train on from thence. Then I must go by it: there's no
time to be lost, once the morrow has dawned, if this unhappy business
is to be suppressed. Twenty minutes past three; and now it is one; I
can lie down for an hour and a half."

He went at once into his bedroom, took off his coat, and lay down on
the outside of the bed. There was no fear of his oversleeping himself;
sleep for a troubled mind in its first shock, troubled as was Dr.
Davenal's, is out of the question.

Rest also seemed to be. He could not lie. He tossed and turned on the
uneasy counterpane, and finally sprang off it with a wail of agony,
and took to pacing the room. Neal, who was regaling his ear at the
chamber door, could hear every footfall of the slippers, every groan
of the distressed heart. Never more, never more in this world, would
the heart of Richard Davenal lose its care.

Neal was not in the habit, with all his ferreting propensities, of
sitting up at night to pursue them; but this night was an exceptional
one. To say that Neal had been astonished, confounded at what had
taken place, at the knowledge he believed he had acquired, would be
saying little, in comparison with its effect upon his mind. He did not
love his master; he did not like him; it may not be going too far to
say that he hated him; for Neal's instinct had taught him that his
master partially saw through him, partially suspected him to be the
villain that he was; but to believe him capable of deliberately
destroying one of his patients, was in truth almost too great a
stretch for even Neal. Until that night, Neal could not have believed
him capable of any wrong act: he gave him credit, for he could not
help doing so, for his honour and his virtues, while he disliked him:
but he did in truth now believe that Dr. Davenal had wilfully killed
Lady Oswald. That is, that he had given her the chloroform
deliberately, knowing it would probably take her life.

The faintest possible doubt of this had been first caught from the
words of Parkins. Not real doubt, but a sort of angry feeling of the
extreme imprudence of the doctor in having given it: Neal no more
believed then that Dr. Davenal had done it, or was capable of doing
it, than he could have believed the most monstrous improbability in
the world. Still the _idea_ had been admitted: and when that strange
visitor was with his master afterwards, and Neal heard, with his own
ears, the suspicious words that fell, he could put upon them but one
interpretation--that, incredible as it seemed, his master _was_
guilty, and not unintentionally, of the death of Lady Oswald. Neal
hoped to arrive at the why and the wherefore, and he thought nothing
of sitting up the night to do it: if by that means he might gain any
satisfactory solution. Neal, it must be confessed, was utterly stunned
with the affair, with the belief; and could hot see or understand yet
with any clearness: like a man who is struck violently on the head,
and looks around him in stupid helpless maze, as if he had a dead wall
before him. A shock to the head and a shock to the mind will bear for
the passing moment the same apparent result.

Dr. Davenal paced his room, his two rooms in fact, for the door was
open between them, and he passed from one to the other in his restless
wanderings, his mental agony. Soon after two he began to wash and
dress himself; that is, he changed some of his clothes, and poured out
a wash-hand basin of cold water and splashed his face with it. He put
on a pair of boots; he searched for his gloves; he looked out an
overcoat; and then he stood for a few minutes and thought.

Lifting the writing-desk from underneath the table, where you may
remember it was kept, he unlocked it, and was for some little time
examining certain papers it contained. Some of these he put in his
pocket, and then he locked the desk and replaced it. Next he sat down
to write a note; just a line or two.

It was getting on past the half-hour then. He opened the door and went
forth from his room. Neal, who had heard him coming, peeped from his
pantry and saw him turn to the stairs, the candle in one hand, a note
held in the other. Neal cautiously stole forward a step or two, and
looked and listened.

He was downstairs again instantly; he had only gone to the first
floor, and had not opened any door, or Neal must have heard it: had
not, in fact, been long enough to open one. The note was gone from his
hand, and Neal wondered where he had left it.

He went into the study, and came out without the light, an overcoat
on, and his hat in his hand. The moonlight shone in now through the
fan-light over the front door, and Neal could see so much. He appeared
to be coming towards the pantry; Neal silently closed the door and
slipped the noiseless bolt. Neal took very good care to keep his own
locks and bolts well oiled.

Dr. Davenal essayed to open the pantry-door and found it fastened. He
shook it, knocked at it, not over gently. Neal, too great a
diplomatist to be taken at a loss, flung off his coat, waistcoat, and
slippers, threw back his braces, rumpled his hair, and opened the door
to his master with the air of a man just aroused from his bed.

"Why do you sleep with the door locked, Neal?"--and the question was
put in an imperative tone.

"I--it is but very rare that I do, sir. I must have shot the bolt last
night without thinking of it."

"I won't have it done. Nobody shall sleep in my house with a locked
door. It is a dangerous habit. Were a fire to take place, and the
sleeper a heavy one, he might not be aroused in time. Don't do it
again. Neal," he continued, changing his tone, "I am summoned out
farther away than usual. I don't care to disturb Miss Davenal--you can
tell them tomorrow morning. I shall not be home all day."

"Have you to go far, sir?" inquired Neal.

"Yes. I don't expect to be home all day, I tell you, and that's why I
bid you inform them. Nobody is to sit up for me tomorrow night; I may
be detained longer. Tell Miss Davenal so."

"Very well, sir," replied Neal. "Is the carriage ready for you?"

Neal put this cunningly. He felt sure his master was not going in the
carriage.

"I don't require the carriage. That's all, Neal; you can go to bed
again. I was obliged to disturb you."

Dr. Davenal turned, walked straight to the front door, and let himself
out at it, closing it securely after him. Neal waited a moment,
rearranged his attire a little, and then stepped also to the front
door and drew the heavy bolt across it. No danger now of his master's
coming in with his latch-key to pounce upon him.

Neal got a light, went into the study, and took a leisurely survey. He
was scarcely rewarded. There was nothing whatever about, more than on
other mornings: no signs remained of the stranger's visit, not a trace
that could betray any disturbance on the part of Dr. Davenal. The
sherry and biscuits were put up: Neal walked across to the dining-room
and found them in the sideboard, just as he had left them on the
previous night. The glass, used, stood on it. Neal solaced himself
with some of the sherry, and went back to the study.

The old cloth was undisturbed on the table, the blotting-book and
inkstand lying on it. Neal looked through the book, but received no
satisfaction. He examined the pens, and saw that in one the ink was
not yet dry. In the bedroom the clothes which his master had taken off
lay about; Mr. Neal _en passant_ visited the pockets and found them
empty; and the bed was pressed on the outside, but had not been slept
in. That curious visit in the night might have been a dream, for all
there was left to tell of it.

"But there's that note yet," thought Neal. "What did he take it
upstairs for, and where did he leave it?"

Stealing up the stairs in his stockinged feet, shading the light in
his hand, Neal came to the vestibule, and looked on the table. He
looked on the stand which held a beautiful statue in marble, he looked
up even at the frames of the pictures; he looked everywhere. But there
was no letter.

"I'm positive he did not stop long enough to open a door!" ejaculated
Neal, rather at a nonplus.

A bright thought struck him. He bent down, shading still the light
with his hand, and peered under Miss Sara Davenal's door. And then
came Neal's reward. He saw the corner of something white quite close
to him, not pushed entirely beyond the door. Dr. Davenal, not to
disturb his daughter, had pushed his letter to her in that way.

Neal took out his penknife, and, with its help, by dint of
perseverance and ingenuity, succeeded in drawing back the note, which
he stole downstairs with, and into his own chamber. A little more
ingenuity with the penknife, and the envelope, not yet fully dry,
came open. Neal had obtained an insight into some secrets in his life,
but never one so weighty as this, never one had touched on that ugly
word "murder" which was running through Neal's mind: and his usually
impassive face grew streaked with scarlet in excitement.


"My Dear Child,

"Business connected with this most unhappy secret obliges me to go out
for a day, perhaps two. I shall leave a message with Neal. Do not
appear to know anything when he delivers it: hear it as though you
were a stranger to everything. Don't talk of my absence to any one if
you can help it. People will conclude I have gone to see some patient
at a distance, as will your aunt: it is not necessary to undeceive
them.        R. D."


There was not so very much to be made out of that, and the scarlet
streaks faded again from Neal's disappointed face. "This most unhappy
secret," he repeated over twice, as if the words bore some euphonious
sound. Whatever it might be, the secret, it was evident that Miss Sara
Davenal had been made cognisant of it; and Neal rather rejoiced in the
pill it must be for her, for he liked his young mistress not one whit
better than he liked his master. He read the note again, refastened it
in the envelope, stole upstairs to push it under the door, and then
retired to his late bed.



CHAPTER XIX.
COMMOTION.


Meanwhile Dr. Davenal was walking along the streets of the town, lying
so calm, so still in the moonlight. Not with any hurried tread; rather
with a slow one. In his restlessness of mind, he had come out sooner
than he need have come; but bodily action is a relief to mental
anguish.

"Goodnight, doctor! or rather morning--for that's what it is."

The salutation came from one of the general practitioners of the town,
a hard-worked apothecary, whose business took him abroad a good deal
at night. He was hastening up a side street, near the town-hall, and
Dr. Davenal had not observed him.

"Ah, is it you, Smithson? A fine night, is it not?"

"All nights are pretty near the same to me," returned Mr. Smithson. "I
see too much of them. I wish folks would be so accommodating as to
choose the day to be ill in. I don't know who'd be one of us. It's not
often that we see you abroad at night, though, doctor?"

"Not often. We can't help it sometimes, you know. Goodnight."

They were bound different ways. The doctor had walked on his, when Mr.
Smithson came running back.

"Dr. Davenal, what _is_ the truth about Lady Oswald? I hear she's
dead."

"She is--unhappily."

"And the report going about is, that she died from the effects of
chloroform! Could not rally after inhaling it."

"Ah, it's a sad thing," replied the doctor; "a grievous thing. There's
the dark side in these new discoveries of our practice: sacrificing
the few while blessing the many. Goodnight, I say. I can't stop."

"It's true, then, that it was the chloroform?"

"Yes, it's true." Dr. Davenal increased his pace: he was in no mood
for questioning, and this in particular was painful to him. A short
while, and he stood before the Abbey, looking up at its windows. He
was sorry to disturb Mark, but he deemed it was necessary, and he rang
the night bell.

A new bell which Mark Cray had caused to be placed in the house since
he took it, and which rang himself up, not his household. Dr. Davenal
waited, but the ring was unanswered, and he rang again, with the like
result.

A third summons brought Mark to the window, which he threw up,
half-asleep still. "If that's the way you are going to let your night
applicants ring, Mark Cray, almost as good not put up the bell."

Mark Cray could scarcely believe his eyes when he saw who was the
speaker. "I was in a heavy sleep," he answered. "Did you ring more
than once?"

A heavy sleep! Truly Dr. Davenal marvelled at the words. He marvelled
that sleep could have visited Mark Cray that night, after his share in
its fatal work.

"What is the matter?" asked Mark. "Am I wanted?"

"It is I who want you," said the doctor. "I must say a word to you if
you'll come down. I am called out of town."

Mark attired himself sufficiently to descend, which he did in a state
of wonder. He had never received a night visit from Dr. Davenal; it
was quite out of the usual order of things, and he would about as soon
have expected to see a live kangaroo wait upon him. He opened the
front door, and they stepped into the large parlour.

"Who is ill?" inquired Mark. "Are you called out far?"

"I am going out on a little private business of my own. The train for
Merton will be through presently, and I shall take it. If"----

"Why did you not tell me last night?" interrupted Mark.

"Because I did not then know I should have to go. You must take my
patients for me. What I wished particularly to say to you was about
the inquest. They can't call it for tomorrow--that is, today--Monday;
but I think they are sure to hold it on Tuesday. If I am not back"----

"What inquest?" interrupted Mark, wonderingly.

"The inquest on Lady Oswald."

"My goodness! Do you think they'll get up an inquest over her?"

"Of course they will. What are you dreaming of? The remote cause of
her death was the accident to the train. I am not quite sure of being
back. I expect to be home on Tuesday morning early; but it is possible
I may be detained a little longer. If I am not back, Mark, you will be
the only witness--at least the only one who can speak to the facts of
the death. Let me advise you to say as little as possible. Volunteer
no information; answer their questions briefly; and don't get into a
long-winded narration, as you are apt to do, otherwise you may betray
yourself. You will not mistake me;" Dr. Davenal added. "I have always
been open, truthful, candid as the day; and if I so speak now it is in
your interest. I was thinking this over a great deal last evening
after I left you, and I see that it is essential for your good name in
your profession that the facts of the case should not be made known.
Do not suppose I advise you to a direct deviation from the truth;
nothing of the sort. 'Chloroform was exhibited with a view to lessen
her sufferings, and she never rallied from it,' is all you need say.
Similar cases are unhappily not unknown; I fear not very uncommon; and
the coroner will not be likely to exact minute particulars, or inquire
whether you gave it her, or whether I did. He will assume that we
acted in concert."

Mark Cray nodded. He was nervously and incessantly pushing back his
hair.

"I know how fond you are of talking," resumed Dr. Davenal, "therefore
I deemed it well to give you this caution. To tell you the truth, I
had rather not be at the inquest, and shall not be sorry if I can't
get back."

"Are you going away on purpose?" suddenly asked Mark, who was much
given to leap to conclusions.

"Certainly not. I am going on an important matter of my own. Look
here, Mark Cray: one good turn deserves another. It will be concluded
in the town that I am called to a patient at a long distance: as I
have been before, you know, and detained out two or three days. People
will be sure to think it now, and there's no necessity to undeceive
them. You will oblige me in this. I don't want the town to concern
itself with my private affairs: let people think I am with a patient.
They don't know to the contrary at home."

"I shan't say anything to the contrary," said Mark. "Let people think
what they will; they are a set of busybodies at the best."

Dr. Davenal departed. And Mr. Cray went back to his room, sleepy
still, but wondering in the midst of it what could have called away
the doctor suddenly to a distance. No letter could have arrived in the
middle of the night, Mark argued: and a suspicion crossed his mind
that he was, in spite of his denial, going away to avoid the inquest.

The doctor walked over to the station, there to await the train. He
had given this caution, as to Mark's testimony at the inquest,
entirely in his good feeling towards him, his solicitude for his
welfare. For himself, he did hope he should not be back for it.
Inconvenient questions might be asked, and he did not relish the idea
of standing up and avowing that he had so far helped on Lady Oswald's
death as to have joined in giving her the chloroform; he could not
avow it without testifying to a deliberate falsehood: yet he must do
it, or betray Mark Cray. But he had a matter of greater importance to
think of than the inquest: a matter that was weighing down his heart
with its dread. Of all the passengers that train contained, soon to be
whirling on its way to Merton, not one had the sickening care to
battle with that was distracting the flourishing and envied physician.

The first to enter the breakfast-room that morning at his residence
was his sister. The meal was always laid in the dining-room. Miss
Davenal wore her usual morning costume, a gown of that once
fashionable but nearly obsolete material called nankin--or nankeen, as
some spell it. It was not made up fashionably, but in the old scant
style, and it made Miss Davenal's tall spare form look taller and
sparer. She wore it for breakfast only, generally dressing for the day
as soon as the meal was over. Sara followed, in a flowing dress of
delicate sprigged muslin, and she took her seat at once at the
breakfast-table.

"Is your papa out of his room yet, do you know?"

"I have not seen him," replied Sara, a faint red tinging her pale face
at the half-evasive answer. Very pale she looked: ominously pale. Had
Miss Bettina been gifted with preternatural penetration, she might
have detected that some great dread was upon her.

But Miss Bettina was on that morning especially self-occupied. On the
previous Saturday Dr. Davenal had told her that certain country
friends were coming into Hallingham on that day, Monday, and he should
invite them to dinner; or else that he had invited them: in her
deafness she did not catch which. She had replied by asking him what
he would have for dinner, and he said they would settle all that on
Monday morning. Monday morning was now come; and Miss Bettina, a
punctilious housekeeper, choosing to have everything in order and to
treat visitors liberally, was on the fidget to make the arrangements,
and waited impatiently for Dr. Davenal Watton, a fidget also in the
domestic department, liking at any rate to get her orders in time, had
come in with Miss Davenal.

Miss Davenal rang the bell: an intimation to Neal that they were ready
for the coffee. She turned to the table, and the first thing that
struck her sharp eyes in its arrangements was, that only two breakfast
cups were on it.

"What is Neal thinking of this morning?" she exclaimed.

"I don't fancy my master is stirring yet," observed Watton. "I have
not heard him."

"Nonsense!" returned her mistress. "When did you ever know your master
not stirring at eight o'clock?"

"Not often, ma'am, it's true," was Watton's answer. "But it might
happen. I know he was disturbed in the night."

Sara glanced up with a half-frightened glance. She dropped her head
again, and began making scores on the cloth with her silver fork.

"It was the oddest thing," began Watton--and she was speaking in the
low clear tones which made every word distinct to Miss Davenal. "Last
night I was undressing with the blind up, without a candle, for the
moon was light as day, when I saw a man turn in at the gate, and I
said to myself, 'Here comes somebody bothering for master!' He made a
spring to the side, and crouched himself amid the laurels that skirt
the rails by the lane, and stopped there looking at the house. 'Very
strange!' I said to myself again; 'that's not the way sick folk's
messengers come in.' After a minute he walked on, brushing close to
the shrubs, afraid I suppose of being seen, and I heard him tap at the
window of the doctor's consulting-room. Ma'am, if ever I thought of a
robber in my life, I thought of one then, and if it hadn't been for my
presence of mind, I should have rose the house with my screams"----

"Be silent, Watton!" sharply interrupted Miss Davenal. "Look there!
You are frightening her to death."

She had extended her finger, pointing at Sara. Sara, her face more
like death than life, in its ghastly whiteness, was gazing at Watton,
her eyes strained, her lips apart, as one under the influence of some
great terror. Was she afraid of what might be coming? It looked so.

"There's nothing to be alarmed at, Miss Sara"----

"Don't tell it; don't tell it," gasped Sara, putting up her hands. "It
does frighten me."

"But indeed there is nothing to be frightened at, as you'll hear, Miss
Sara," persisted the woman. "It's a fact that I was a little
frightened myself; one does hear of housebreakers getting into houses
in so strange a manner; and I went out of my room and leaned over the
banisters and listened. It was all right, for I heard the doctor open
the hall door and take the man into his consulting-room, and shut
himself in with him. How long the man stopped, and who he was, I can't
tell; he did not go away while I was awake--but, ma'am, that's how I
know my master was disturbed in the night."

"Watton!"--and as Sara spoke her cheeks became crimson, her voice
imperative,--"do you deem it lies in your service here to watch the
movements of your master, and to comment upon them afterwards?"

The moment the words had left her lips she felt how unwise they were;
but she had so spoken in her perplexity, her soreness of heart. Watton
turned her eyes on her young mistress in sheer amazement.

"Watch my master's movements! Why, Miss Sara, you can't think I'd do
such a thing. I watched to--if I may so express it--protect my master;
to protect the house, lest harm should be meant it. Decent folk don't
come in at night as that man came in."

Neal had entered, and was disposing his eatables on the table. Miss
Davenal drew his attention to the shortness of the cups.

"It is quite right; ma'am. The doctor went out in the middle of the
night; at least about two in the morning; and he charged me to tell
you he should not be at home all day; perhaps not all night. Nobody is
to sit up for him."

"Where's he gone?" asked Miss Bettina.

Neal could not tell. His master had said he was going to a distance.
But Miss Bettina could not make it out at all, and she asked question
upon question. How had he gone?--the carriage was not out. Walked away
on foot, and said he was going to a distance, and might not be home
for a day and a night? It was the most mysterious, extraordinary
proceeding she ever heard of. "Did you see or hear anything of a
strange man coming in in the night?" she asked of Neal.

"No, ma'am," replied Neal, with his usual impassability. "I see my
master's bed has not been slept in; and he has taken an overcoat with
him."

Sara lifted her burning face. It was as one stricken with fever.

"Let it rest; let it rest, Aunt Bettina! Wait until papa is home, and
ask particulars of _him_. If patients require him at a distance, it is
his duty to go to them."

The last words were spoken defiantly; not at her aunt, but at the
servants. She felt on the very verge of desperation. What disastrous
consequences might not this proclamation of the night's work bring
forth!

"Let it rest!" retorted Miss Bettina. "Yes, that is what you young and
careless ones would like to do. Look at my position! The responsible
mistress of this house, and left at an uncertainty whether people are
coming to dinner or whether they are not. Your papa must have gone
clean out of his wits to go off and not leave word."

"You can fix upon a dinner as well as papa can, Aunt Bettina."

"Fix upon a dinner! It's not that. It is the not knowing whether
there's to be a dinner fixed upon; whether people are invited, or not,
to eat it."

When Miss Davenal was put out about domestic arrangements, it took a
great deal to put her in again. Neal and Watton were questioned and
cross-questioned as to the events of the night, and breakfast was got
over in a commotion. Sara shivered with a nameless fear, and wondered
whether that dreadful secret might not become known.

A secret which bore for Sara Davenal all the more terror from the fact
that she was but imperfectly acquainted with its nature. Dr. Davenal
had seen fit for certain reasons to call her down to his room, and she
had there seen the ominous visitor: but the particulars had been kept
from her. That there existed a secret, and a terrible one, which might
burst at any hour over their heads, bringing with it disgrace as well
as misery, she had been obliged to learn; but its precise nature she
was not told; was not allowed, it may be said, to guess at. Dr.
Davenal so far spared her. He spared her from the best of motives,
forgetting that suspense is, of all human pain, the worst to bear.

With the exception of what that little note told her, which she saw
lying inside her door when she rose in the morning, she knew nothing
of the motives of her father's journey; where he had gone, or why he
had gone. She only knew it was imperative that that night's visit to
the house should remain a secret, uncommented upon, unglanced at. And
now the servants knew of it--had seen the stranger come in--might talk
about it indoors and out! No wonder that Sara Davenal shivered!--that
she grew sick at heart!



CHAPTER XX.
GOING DOWN TO THE FUNERAL.


The commotion in the town rose that morning to its height: it equalled
the commotion at Miss Davenal's breakfast-table. But not from the same
exciting cause. The one was led to by the curious absence of Dr.
Davenal; the other had its source in the death of Lady Oswald.

She had lived so long amongst them--had been, so to say, the head of
the social and visiting community of Hallingham! A great lady once,
the Lady Oswald of Thorndyke. Had she died in the common course of
nature, after weeks or months of illness, it would still have created
a stir; but to have died from the inhaling of chloroform consequent
upon the railway accident, did cause very great and unwonted
excitement. People were shocked at her death: they mourned for the
somewhat eccentric old lady who had been seen driven through their
streets in her close carriage for years; but they never cast so much
as a shadow of reproach towards the doctors who might be said to be,
however unwittingly, the authors of it. They railed at the chloroform,
calling it uncertain, dangerous stuff; but not the slightest
reflection was thrown on the judgment which had caused her to inhale
it.

Mark Cray was beset with questions and remarks, especially from his
medical brethren in the town. In Dr. Davenal's absence, people flew to
him for particulars. He remembered the doctor's caution, and said as
little as possible. It was an unpleasant subject to speak of, he
observed to them--they could understand that. But the curious
questioners only understood it partially, and rather wondered why Mr.
Cray should be so chary of his information.

The inquest took place on the Tuesday, as Dr. Davenal had surmised it
would. It was held quite as a matter of course--not with a view to
elicit the cause of death; that was already known--simply because the
law rendered an inquest obligatory.

The doctor was not back for it, and Mr. Cray was the principal
witness. The operation had been most satisfactorily performed by Dr.
Davenal, he testified, but Lady Oswald did not rally from the effects
of the chloroform. They had tried every means to arouse her without
result. The coroner presumed the chloroform had been administered with
all due caution: he felt persuaded it would be by so experienced a
surgeon as Dr. Davenal. Certainly, was the answer of Mark Cray. It was
given her with the best of motives: to spare her acute suffering: and
no one could more bitterly regret the result than they did. It was
impossible to foresee, he continued, that this great blessing--yes, he
must still call it so--to suffering humanity, which had spared anguish
to thousands, perhaps he might say had spared lives, would have an
opposite effect upon Lady Oswald, and bring death to her instead of
relief. He had never for one moment in his own judgment doubted the
expediency of giving it to her: were the thing to come over again (the
result being hidden from him) he should do the same.

Not a word that Mark Cray said but had its weight, and was
appreciated. The death was regarded as a pure misfortune, a sort of
accident that could not be prevented by poor human foresight, and for
which blame was attachable to no one. And the verdict was in
accordance with this.

The only one on whom the facts were yet destined to make an unpleasant
and not satisfactory impression was Mr. Oswald Cray The first
intimation of Lady Oswald's death reached him through the "Times"
newspaper. As junior in the firm, he lived in the house in Parliament
Street, the senior partners preferring residences out of town. The
chief part of the house was devoted to their business purposes, and
Mr. Oswald Cray had but two or three rooms for his private use. On the
Thursday morning, the "Times" was brought to him as usual while he was
at breakfast. It was folded with the supplement outside, the deaths
uppermost; and on putting it aside to open the more important parts
his eye caught the word Oswald.

He looked further: and nothing could exceed his surprise. He gazed at
the announcement with a feeling of disbelief, almost as though he was
in a dream: "At her residence in Hallingham, Susan Hannah Lady Oswald,
aged seventy-one, widow of Sir John Oswald Thorndyke."

The date of her death, probably by an oversight, had not been put in,
and Oswald Cray was left to conjecture it. Certainly he did not
suppose it had occurred so far back as on the previous Sunday, the day
after he left Hallingham.

What had killed her? The accident? He had been given to understand
that night that she was not materially injured: he now supposed she
must have been. Why had nobody written to acquaint him? He would have
been glad to see her for a final farewell; would have thought nothing
of his time and trouble in going down for it. Mark might have written:
he could not remember having corresponded with Mark in all his life,
half-brothers though they were; but still Mark might have gone out of
his way to drop him a line now. Parkins might have written; in fact he
considered it was Parkins' duty to have written, and he should tell
her so: and Dr. Davenal might have written. Of the three mentioned,
Oswald Cray would soonest have expected the doctor to write, and the
omission struck him as being somewhat singular.

The post brought news. Amidst the mass of letters that came for the
firm was one to himself, He saw the Hallingham postmark, and opened
it at once.

A look of blank disappointment, mingled with surprise, settled on his
face as he read. It was not from Dr. Davenal, from Mark Cray, or from
Parkins; it gave him no details, any more than if he had been the
greatest stranger to Lady Oswald. It was a formal intimation from the
undertaker that her late ladyship's funeral would take place on Friday
at eleven o'clock, and requesting his attendance at it, if convenient.

"Her funeral tomorrow!" ejaculated Oswald. "Then she must have died
almost immediately. Perhaps the very night I came up. Why couldn't
somebody write?"

He arranged business matters so as to go down that afternoon, and
arrived at Hallingham between six and seven o'clock. Giving his
portmanteau to a porter, he went on to his usual place of sojourn, the
"Apple Tree." It was near to the terminus, a little beyond the town,
one of the quiet country inns now nearly obsolete. An old-fashioned,
plain, roomy house, whose swinging sign-board stood out before its
door, and whose productive garden of vegetables and fruit stretched
out behind it. No fashionable person would look at it twice. Oswald
Cray had been recommended to it long ago as his place of sojourn in
Hallingham, where his stay seldom lasted more than two days: and he
had found himself so comfortable, so quiet, so entirely at home, that
he would not have exchanged it for the grandest hotel in Hallingham,
had the said hotel graciously intimated that it would receive him for
nothing.

The host, whose name was John Hamos, came forward to receive him; a
respectable, worthy man, with a portly person and red face, who might
be seen occasionally in a white apron washing up glasses, and who
waited on his guests himself. He and Oswald were the best of friends.

"Good-evening, sir. My wife said you'd be down tonight or in the
morning. We were sure you'd attend the burying. A sad thing, sir, is
it not?"

"It is a very sad thing, John," returned Oswald; "I seem as if I could
not believe it. It was only this morning that I received the tidings.
What did she die of? The accident to the train?"

"No, sir, she didn't die of that. Leastways, that was not the
immediate cause of death, though of course it must be said to have led
to it. She died from the effects of chloroform."

"Died from--what did you say?" asked Oswald, staring at the man.

"From chloroform, sir."

"From chloroform!" he repeated, "I don't understand."

And he looked as if he did not. As if it were impossible to take in
the words or their sense. John Hamos continued.

"It seems, sir, that on the Sunday it was discovered that her ladyship
had sustained some internal injury--to the ribs, I believe, or
near-abouts--and she had to submit to an operation. Chloroform was
given her while it was performed, and she never rallied from it."

"Who gave her the chloroform?"

"Dr. Davenal"

"Dr. Davenal!" echoed Mr. Oswald Cray, and his accent of astonishment
was so great, so unmistakable, that the landlord looked at him in
surprise. "Why, he--he----"

"What, sir?"

Oswald had brought his words to a sudden stand-still. His face was one
picture of doubt, of bewilderment.

"It could not have been Dr. Davenal."

"Yes it was, sir," repeated John Hamos. "Who else would be likely to
undertake the operation but him? He and Mr. Cray were together, but it
was the doctor who performed it. As of course it would be."

"But he did not give the chloroform?"

"Why, yes he did, sir. He gave it for the best. As was said afterwards
at the inquest, they could not possibly foresee that what saved pain
and was a blessing to thousands, would prove fatal to her ladyship."

"Who said that at the inquest? Dr. Davenal?"

"Mr. Cray, sir. The doctor wasn't present at the inquest; he was away
from the town. He went away in the night, somebody said, just after
the death: was fetched out to some patient at a distance, and didn't
get back here till--Wednesday morning, I think it was."

"And she never rallied from the chloroform?"

"Never at all, sir. She died under it."

Oswald Cray said no more. He went up to the bedroom that he always
used, there to wash off some of the travelling dust. But instead of
proceeding at once to do so, he stood in thought with folded arms and
bent brow, John Hamos's information respecting the chloroform
troubling his brain.

Why should it trouble him? Could not he believe, as others did, that
it was given in all due hope and confidence, according to the best
judgment of the surgeons? No, he could not believe it, so far as
regarded the chief surgeon, Dr. Davenal: and the reason was this.

On the night of the accident, when Dr. Davenal jumped into the
carriage that was about to proceed to the scene, he jumped into a seat
by the side of Oswald Cray. They entered into conversation, and the
topic of it was, not unnaturally, accidents in general. It led to the
subject of chloroform, and Dr. Davenal expressed his opinion upon that
new-fashioned aid to science just as freely as he afterwards expressed
it to Mark Cray.

How strange are the incidents, the small events that shape the course
of human destiny. But for that accidental conversation--and may it not
be called accidental?--half the trouble that is about to be related
never would have taken place. And the cruel shadow, that was waiting
to spread its wings over the days of more than one wayfarer on the
path of life, would have found no spot to darken with its evil.

Dr. Davenal spoke his opinion freely to Oswald Cray with regard to
chloroform. He did not deny its great boon, sparing pain to many whose
sufferings would otherwise be almost intolerable; but he said that
there were some few to whom he would as soon give poison as
chloroform, for the one would be just as fatal as the other. And he
instanced Lady Oswald.

The unfortunate fact of Lady Oswald being in the disabled train to
which they were hastening, possibly one of its wounded, no doubt
suggested her name to Dr. Davenal as his example. There were other
people whom he attended--a slight few--to whom he deemed chloroform
would be as pernicious as to Lady Oswald: but she was in question, as
it were, that night, and he cited her. There must have been some
fatality in it.

"She is one, if I am any judge, who could not bear it; who would be
almost certain not to survive its effects," were the words he used to
Oswald. "I would as soon give Lady Oswald a dose of poison as suffer
her to come near chloroform."

The words, spoken to Oswald only, not to the other inmates of the
carriage who were busy talking on their own score, had not made any
particular impression upon him at the time, but they returned to his
memory now with awakened force. He asked himself what it could mean.
Dr. Davenal had distinctly told him, or equivalent to it, that the
inhaling of chloroform would be as poison to Lady Oswald; he was now
assured by John Hamos that, not four-and-twenty hours subsequent to
that conversation, he, Dr. Davenal, had himself administered
chloroform to her. And the result was death. Death--as Dr. Davenal had
expressed his firm conviction it would be.

Mr. Oswald Cray could only come to the conclusion that there must be
some mistake in the statement of the facts to him. It was impossible
to arrive at any other conclusion. That there was no mistake on his
own part, as to the opinion expressed to him by the doctor, he knew;
he recalled the very words in which it was spoken; spoken deliberately
and elaborately; not a mere allusion or sentence. About that there was
no doubt; but he felt that a mistake must lie somewhere. The
chloroform could not have been given by Dr. Davenal; perhaps he had
not even been present at the operation.

He quitted the "Apple Tree," and bent his steps to Lady Oswald's.
Parkins came to him in a burst of grief. Parkins was--it has been said
so before--genuinely grieved at her lady's death, and it showed itself
chiefly by breaking into a shower of tears with every fresh person she
saw. One of the first questions put to her by Mr. Oswald Cray was as
to her not having written to inform him of the death. He wished to
know why she had not.

"I don't know why, sir," she sobbed, "except that I have been
bewildered ever since it happened. I have been as one out of my mind,
sir, with the shock and the grief. I'm sure I beg your pardon for the
neglect, but it never so much as struck me till yesterday, when the
undertaker was here about the funeral. He asked who was to be invited
to it, and then it came into my mind that you ought to have been wrote
to, but I said perhaps Mr. Cray had done it."

"Well, sit down while you talk, Parkins," he said in a kind tone. "I
can understand that you have been very much shocked by it. Are any of
Lady Oswald's relatives here?"

"There's that nephew of hers, sir, the parson; the poor gentleman that
she'd send a little money to sometimes. He heard of it accidental, he
says, and came off at once with his brother. They got here this
morning. Very nice people, both of them, sir, but they seem poor. They
think no doubt that my lady's money is left to them, as I daresay it
is. She----"

"I wish to ask you a question or two about the death, Parkins," he
interrupted in a pointed manner. None could check undue topics with
more dignity than he. "When was it discovered that Lady Oswald was
seriously injured?"

"Not until the Sunday, sir. When Mr. Cray came home with her here on
the return from Hildon, he wanted to examine into her state, but she
was very obstinate, and persisted in saying she'd not be touched that
night; that she wasn't hurt. I fancy Dr. Davenal thought it was wrong
of Mr. Cray not to have insisted upon it--but Mr. Cray himself did not
think there was any grave injury: he told me so then. The next morning
I thought they'd both be here, Dr. Davenal and Mr. Cray; but Mr. Cray
came alone, the doctor it appeared had been sent for to Thorndyke----"

"To Thorndyke?" involuntarily interrupted Oswald.

"Yes, sir, somebody was ill there. However, he, the doctor, was back
and up here in the afternoon. He had seen Mr. Cray, and he came to
examine into her state for himself: for it had been discovered then
that she was worse injured than they thought. At first my lady said
she'd not submit to the operation, which Mr. Cray had already told her
must take place; but Dr. Davenal talked to her, and she consented, and
they fixed half-past five in the afternoon. Have you heard how she
died, sir?" broke off Parkins abruptly.

"I have heard since I got here this evening that she died from the
effects of chloroform."

"And so she did, sir. And it's a thing that I shall never understand
to my dying day."

Parkins spoke the last words with a vehemence that superseded the
sobs. Mr. Oswald Cray thought he did not understand it either; but he
did not say so.

"In what way don t you understand it?" he asked quietly.

"How it was they came to give her the chloroform. I am quite certain,
sir, that up to the very moment that the operation was ready to be
begun, there was no thought of chloroform. It was not as much as
mentioned, and if any chloroform had been in the room amidst the
preparations, I must have seen it."

"Were you present during the operation?"

"I was to have been present, sir; but at the last moment I fainted
dead off, and had to be taken from the room. We knew no more, any of
us, till it was all over. Then we were called to by the gentlemen, and
told what was the matter: that my lady was sinking under the influence
of the chloroform they had administered, and could not be rallied from
it. And, a few minutes after, she died."

Oswald Cray remained for some moments silent. "Was it Dr. Davenal who
administered it?" he resumed.

"No doubt it was, sir; they were together. It was Dr. Davenal who
performed the operation. My lady said nobody should do it but Mr.
Cray, and it was settled that it should be done by him; but I suppose
they thought at last it would be better to entrust it to the doctor.
Anyway, it was he who performed it."

"What did Dr. Davenal--did Dr. Davenal say anything about the
chloroform afterwards, or why they had used it?"

"He didn't say much, sir. He said what had been done was done for the
best: but he seemed dreadfully cut up. And so did Mr. Cray. The
strangest thing to me is, why they used chloroform, when I saw no
signs of their attempting to use it."

"But they must have had it with them?"

"Well, of course they must, sir. It was not produced, though, while I
was there. They said my lady grew agitated--it was Mr. Cray said
that--that my falling down helped to agitate her; but it will take a
great deal to make me believe there was any _need_ for them to use
chloroform. It has cost a good lady her life; I know that. She had her
little tempers and her fidgety ways, poor dear lady, but she was one
of the best of mistresses. It's just as if they had done it to kill
her."

Did the words grate on the ear of Oswald Cray?--as though they bore
all too significant a meaning. Not yet; not quite yet. This testimony
of the maid's had confirmed beyond doubt that Dr. Davenal had been the
chief and acting surgeon: how then reconcile that fact with the
opinion expressed to him not many hours before the death? He could not
tell; he could not think; he could not account for it by any reasoning
of any sort, subtle or simple. He was as one in a mazy dream, seeing
nothing distinctly.

When he quitted the house, he turned again and bent his steps to the
Abbey. Possibly he deemed Mark could solve his difficulties. Mark was
not in, however, when he got there, only Caroline.

Mrs. Cray was in the large drawing-room. She and the tea-table, at
which she sat waiting for Mark, looked quite lost in its space. The
thought struck Oswald as he entered. It had been the home of his early
childhood, the scene of occasional visits since that period, but
Oswald always thought that room larger and larger every time he
entered it. It was at its window that he, a baby in arms, had been
held by the side of his mother, when the grand people from Thorndyke
in their carriage and four, _her_ father and mother, would drive past
and cast up their faces of stone. He had been too young to know
anything then, but afterwards, when he could begin to understand,
these stories of the passing by of Sir Oswald Oswald were impressed
upon him by his nurse. They remained amidst his most vivid
recollections. But that he knew it was impossible to have been so--for
his mother had died when he was too young, and there was no more
standing there after her death to watch for Sir Oswald--he could have
affirmed now that he remembered those times in all their full detail:
the steady pace of the fine horses, the bedizened carriage--in those
days it was the fashion to have carriages bedizened--the servants in
their claret liveries, the impassive faces of Sir Oswald and his lady.
The fact was, it had all been described so often and minutely to the
young child Oswald, that it remained on his memory as a thing seen,
not heard.

Mrs. Cray, gay in attire, wearied in countenance, was quite alone. She
wore a low evening dress of blue silk, with lace and fringes and
trimmings; and blue ribbons in her hair. Rather more dress than is
necessary for a quiet evening at home; but she was young and pretty
and a bride, and--very fond of finery in any shape. Her weary face
lighted up with smiles as she saw Oswald and rose to greet him: very,
very pretty did she look then.

"I am so glad to see you! I had grown tired, waiting for Mark. He went
out the moment he had swallowed his dinner--before he had swallowed
it, I think--and he is not in yet. Shall I tell you a secret, Oswald?"

"Yes, if you please."

"I am quite disappointed. I shan't at all like being a doctor's wife."

Her dark blue eyes were dancing with smiles as she spoke. Oswald
smiled too--at the joke.

"It is true, Mr. Oswald Cray. I don't speak against my own dear Mark:
I'd not part with _him_: but I do wish he was not a doctor. You don't
know how little I see of him. He is in just at meals, and not always
to them."

Oswald smiled still. "You had lived in a doctor's house, Mrs. Cray,
and knew the routine of it."

"My uncle's house was not like this. Who can compare the great Dr.
Davenal at the top of the tree, waiting at home for his patients to
come to him, to poor Mark Cray at the bottom, just beginning to climb
it? It's not the same thing, Mr. Oswald Cray. Mark has to be out, here
and there and everywhere. At the Infirmary, dancing attendance on
interminable rows of beds one hour; in some obscure corner of the town
another, setting somebody's leg, or watching a case of fever. Mark
says it won't go on quite as bad as it has begun. This has been an
unusually busy week with him, owing to the doctor's absence. He left
home on Sunday night, and was not back until Wednesday. A great
portion of Sunday also the doctor passed at Thorndyke."

"His patient must have been very ill to keep him away from Sunday
until Wednesday," remarked Oswald.

"To tell you the truth," said Caroline, dropping her voice in a manner
that sounded rather mysterious, "we don't think he was with a patient.
We can't quite make out why he went or where he went. He came here in
the middle of the night and rang up Mark. It was the night subsequent
to Lady Oswald's death--oh, Oswald! was not her death a shocking
thing?"

"Very," was the answer, gravely spoken.

"When Mark came home that Sunday evening and told me Lady Oswald was
dead, I cannot describe to you how I felt. At first I could not
believe it; and then I went--I went into hysterics. It was very
foolish of course, for hysterics do no good, but I could not help it.
You have come down to attend the funeral tomorrow, I suppose?"

"Yes."

"Well--I was telling you about my uncle. He came here in the middle of
the night and rang up Mark, who went down to him. When Mark came
upstairs again, he said Dr. Davenal was going away on some private
errand which he had made a sort of secret of to Mark. I fancy Mark was
only half-awake and did not hear him clearly; all he understood was,
that the doctor was going somewhere by train unexpectedly; and Mark
was to let it be assumed in the town that he was visiting a patient at
a distance. Mark declared that he believed the doctor was only
absenting himself to avoid attending the coroner's inquest."

"Why should Mark think that?--Why should Dr. Davenal wish to avoid
attending it?" reiterated Oswald, strangely interested, he scarcely
knew why.

"I cannot tell you. I fancy the admission slipped from Mark
inadvertently, for he would not say a syllable more. The next day,
Monday, I saw Sara. I asked her point-blank where my uncle had gone,
remarking that there seemed to be some little mystery connected with
it, and she turned as white as the grave and whispered to me not to
talk so, to hold my tongue for the love of Heaven. You'll take some
tea, won't you; Oswald? I shall be so glad of an excuse for making
it."

Oswald, almost mechanically, said he would take some, and she rang the
bell for the urn. He began to think all this strange and more strange;
to ask himself: what it tended to. Dr. Davenal had gone away to avoid
the inquest?--and his daughter when spoken to upon the subject had
turned as white as the grave? What did it mean?

"Do you know the particulars of Lady Oswald's death?" he inquired as
he stirred his tea.

"Yes. Don't you! She died from chloroform. They deemed it necessary to
give it her, and she never rallied from it."

"Who gave it to her? Which of them?"

"Which of them?" repeated Caroline, lifting her eyes, thinking no
doubt the question a superfluous one. "They were both present; they
would act in concert one with the other. If you mean to cast blame on
them, Oswald, I should say you must cast it conjointly. But they acted
for the best."

"I do not cast blame on them," he answered. "I don't understand the
affair sufficiently yet to cast blame anywhere. It is a riddle to me."

"What is a riddle?"

"How Dr.--how they came to use chloroform at all."

"Why, it is in almost universal use now!" exclaimed Mrs. Cray,
surprised at the remark. "There is no riddle in that."

Oswald did not press it. In his opinion there _was_ a riddle; one he
began to think would not be easy of solution. He finished his tea in
silence. By and by Mrs. Cray resumed.

"Mark seems not to like to talk of it. I asked him a great many
questions, as was natural, but he put me off, saying I should be
falling into hysterics again. I told him that was nonsense, now the
shock was over; but he would not talk of it, seemed quite to wince
when I pressed it. It was not a pleasant subject for him, he said. And
of course it is not: and still less so for my uncle, whose authority
sways Mark. However good their intentions were, it did kill her."

"Will Mark be long, do you suppose?" inquired Oswald, breaking another
long pause.

"As if I could tell, Oswald! I have been expecting him every minute
this hour past. When I grumble at Mark for staying out so, he tells me
I must blame his patients. Nay, but you are not going yet?" she added,
as he rose. "Mark is sure to be in soon."

"I cannot well stay longer now," he answered. "I shall see Mark in the
morning. I suppose he attends the funeral?"

"Of course he will. They will both attend it. I wish you would not
hurry away!"

He repeated his apology, and Caroline rang the bell. In point of fact
he wanted to call on Dr. Davenal.

Scarcely had the servant closed the door on Mr. Oswald Cray than he
met his brother. Mark was coming along at a quick pace.

"Oswald, is it you? Have you been to the Abbey?"

"I have been taking tea with your wife, and waiting for you. She is
nearly out of patience. Mark!" he continued, passing his arm within
his brother's and leading him a few steps away while he talked, "what
a shocking thing this is about Lady Oswald!"

"Ay, it is that. So unexpected. Won't you come in?"

"Not again tonight. I want to know, Mark, how it was that chloroform
was given to her!"

"If we had not deemed it for the best, we should not have given it,"
was Mark's answer.

"But--surely Dr. Davenal did not deem it would be for the best?"

Mark turned and looked at him: a quick, sharp glance. "What do you
know about it?" he asked.

"I? I know nothing about it: I want to know," replied Oswald, thinking
the remark strange. "I wish you would give me the full particulars,
Mark. I cannot understand--I have a reason for not being able to
understand--why chloroform should have been given to Lady Oswald----"

"We use chloroform very much now," interrupted Mark.

"Why it should have been given to _Lady Oswald_," went on Oswald, with
pointed emphasis.

"It was given to her as it is given to others--to deaden pain."

"Who performed the operation?"

"The doctor."

There was a pause. When Oswald Cray broke it his voice was low, his
manner hesitating. "Mark, will you pardon me if I ask you a peculiar
question?--Do you believe from your very heart that when Dr. Davenal
administered that chloroform to Lady Oswald he _did_ think it would be
for the best?"

Hesitating as Oswald's manner had been. Mark's was worse. He grew on a
sudden flushed and embarrassed.

"Won't you answer me, Mark?"

"I--yes--of course we thought it would be for the best."

"I asked, did _he_ think it?"

Mark plunged into an untruth. Somewhat afraid of Oswald at the best of
times, conscious that he was of a far higher standard in moral and
intellectual excellence than himself, he desired to stand well with
him, to enjoy his good opinion; and perhaps there was not a single man
in Hallingham to whom Mark would not have preferred his unhappy
mistake in all its wilfulness to become known than to his brother.
They were also playing at cross-purposes: Oswald was seeking to learn
how far Dr. Davenal had been to blame. Mark believed it was his own
share of blame that was sought to be arrived at.

"Yes, he thought it. Dr. Davenal would not use chloroform, or anything
else, unless he believed it would be beneficial," rapidly went on
Mark. "I never knew a man more successful in his treatment in a
general way than he." But for all the apparent readiness of the words,
they bore a certain evasion to Oswald's ears.

"Tell me the truth, Mark; tell it me frankly," he rejoined. "Is there
not some--some secret--I don't know what else to call it--connected
with this business? Something _wrong_ about it!"

For a moment Mark Cray had to deliberate. He was driven at bay by the
straightforward questions of his brother. And his brother saw the
hesitation.

"Oswald, it is of no use to press me upon this matter. You will
readily conceive how sore a one it is to myself and to Dr. Davenal.
Had it been some poor rubbishing patient who had died through it, that
poor stoker at the Infirmary for instance, it would not have been of
so much account: but"----

"Be silent, Mark!" burst from Oswald with a flash of anger. "I will
not listen to such doctrine. The lives of the poor are every whit as
valuable as are the lives of the rich. You did not learn that from Dr.
Davenal."

"What I meant was, that there'd not be half the public fuss," said
Mark, looking little, and doing his best to explain away the
impression given by his words. "I'm sure there _has_ been enough fuss
in the town since her death was known, but I have not heard of one
single person in it casting blame on us. Why should you seek to cast
it? Errors in judgment are committed now and then in medical practice,
just as they are in everything else and there's no help for it; they
happen to the very best of us. If we could see the end of a thing at
the beginning it would be different: but we can't. Could its effects
on Lady Oswald have been anticipated, we'd have seen chloroform in the
sea before it should have been given her. It was done for the best."

"You think, then, that Dr. Davenal believed the giving it her would be
for the best?" persisted Oswald, after listening patiently to the
excited answer.

Again came the perceptible hesitation in the manner of Mark; again the
flush of embarrassment rose to his cheek. Oswald noted it.

"I am quite sure that all the doctor ever did for Lady Oswald he did
for the best," and Mark Cray plucked up courage and spirit as he said
it: "that night as well as other nights which had gone before it I
cannot think what you are driving at, Oswald."

Oswald Cray determined to "drive" no more. He believed it would be
useless, so far as Mark was concerned. He could not quite make him
out: but he believed it would be useless. That there was something
concealed, something not quite open, he saw; Mark's manner alone would
have told him that: and he came rapidly to the conclusion that Mark
had been cognisant also of his partner's opinion of chloroform as
connected with Lady Oswald, and could not tell why he had tried it
upon her, but did suppose, in spite of the face of affairs, that he
had done it for the best. All Mark's embarrassment, his evasion, his
crusty unwillingness to speak frankly, Oswald set down to an anxiety
to screen Dr. Davenal from the reproach of imprudence. One more remark
he did make. It arose to his mind as he was about to depart, and he
spoke it on the spur of the thought.

"I understand you fancy that Dr. Davenal absented himself from
Hallingham to avoid attending the coroner's inquest."

"Where on earth did you hear that?" shouted Mark, with a stare of
surprise.

"Your wife mentioned it to me just now."

Mark Cray waxed wroth. "What idiots women are! The very best of them!
I shan't be able to think my own thoughts next. Caroline knows I did
not wish that repeated: it slipped from me without reflection."

"It is quite safe with me, Mark. She looks upon me, I suppose, as one
of yourselves. But why should Dr. Davenal have wished not to attend
the inquest?"

"Oh, for nothing, only he thought they'd be putting all sorts of
questions," carelessly replied Mark. "It was a disagreeable thing
altogether, and one of us was quite enough to attend. But, mind you,
Oswald, I don't really suppose he went for that: I make no doubt he
had business out."

"Well, goodnight, Mark."

"Goodnight. I wish you had come in."

Mark Cray stepped on to his house, and let himself in with his
latch-key, thinking how much better the world would go on if women had
not been endowed with tongues, and wondering excessively what possessed
Oswald to be taking up the death of Lady Oswald and putting these
mysterious questions upon it.



CHAPTER XXI.
THE INTERVIEW WITH THE DOCTOR.


Dr. Davenal was alone in his study, pacing the carpet with heavy
steps and a face that seemed to have all the care of the world marked
on it, when Mr. Oswald Cray was shown in. Oswald could not avoid being
struck with that expression of care; he had never seen the like upon
the countenance of Dr. Davenal.

Turning his head, he looked at Oswald for the space of a minute as if
not recognising him. He was too deeply buried in his own thoughts
immediately to awake from them to everyday life.

"Good-evening, Dr. Davenal."

He took Oswald's outstretched hand, and was himself again. Oswald sat
down and the doctor too. But after a few words, he rose, apparently in
restlessness, and began to pace the room as before.

"Are you in any grief, doctor?"

"Well--yes I am," was the reply. "Or perhaps I should rather say in
vexation, for that is chiefly it. We have had a line from Edward by
the day post, and he expresses a doubt whether he shall be able to get
down to say farewell. These young soldiers grow careless of home ties,
Mr. Oswald Cray."

"Not soldiers in particular, do they, sir? It is a reproach that can
be cast upon many others who live in the world."

"And get enslaved by it. True."

"I did not mean altogether that, Dr. Davenal. When does your son
sail?"

"On Sunday morning, he says. He does not positively say he is not
coming down, only gives a hint that he fears he cannot. What did I do
with the letter?" continued the doctor, looking round. "I brought it
in with me after dinner. Oh, there it is," he added, seeing it on a
side table, and giving it to Oswald. "You can read what he says. Sara
won't mind. It is written for us all as well as for her, I expect
Edward was never a voluminous correspondent; his letters are generally
_pro bono publico_."

Oswald saw it was addressed to Miss Sara Davenal, and began to read
it. It was dated the previous evening.


"My Darling Sister,--"
We are in all the bustle and hurry of the start. Orders have come at
last, and we embark from Southampton on Sunday morning. I _hope_ I
shall get down to you to say goodbye. I am not unmindful of my promise
to do so, and will do all I can to keep it; poor Dick used to tell me
that I knew how to break promises better than I knew how to make them,
but it shall not be my fault if you have to east that on me as a last
reproach. To absent one's-self, even for an hour, is a difficult task
now, but I will manage it, if possible. We have been worked off our
heads and legs for the last few days.

"Love to all. I suppose Carry is fairly installed at the Abbey; wish
her all good luck for me.--Ever yours, in much haste,

"E. F. Davenal."


"You see," said the doctor, halting and pointing to the letter, "he
emphasises the word 'hope.' 'I _hope_ I shall get down.' That very
fact is sufficient to tell me that he knows he shall not get down, and
these lines have been sent as a sort of preparation for the final
disappointment. And he is going out for years! But I won't blame him;
perhaps it is an impossibility to him to get away. He should have
remained longer when he came down for the wedding--have made it his
farewell visit. I said so then."

Dr. Davenal began his walk to and fro again,--a very slow, thoughtful
walk. Oswald folded the letter and laid it on the table.

"I have ever loved my children--I was going to say passionately, Mr.
Oswald Cray. I believe few parents can love as I have loved. I have
made--I have made sacrifices for them which the world little reeks of,
and anything like ingratitude touches me to the heart's core. But in
the midst of it I am the first to find excuses for them, and I say
that Edward may not be at all to blame in this."

"I think it very likely that he is quite unable to get away, however
much he may wish it," observed Oswald.

"I think so too. I say I don't blame him. Only one feels these
things."

There ensued a silence. A feeling of dislike had come over Oswald (and
he could not trace it to any particular cause) to enter upon the
subject of Lady Oswald. But he was not one to give way to these
fanciful phases of feeling which appear to arise without rhyme or
reason, and he was about to speak when the doctor forestalled him.

"Lady Oswald's death has brought you down, I presume?"

"Yes. I was in ignorance of it until this morning, when a formal
invitation to attend the funeral reached me from the undertaker. I had
just read the announcement of the death in the 'Times.' How shocked I
was, I cannot well express to you."

"It has shocked us all."

"Of course its reaching me in that abrupt manner, in the public column
of deaths, did not tend to lessen the shock. I rather wonder you did
not drop me a line yourself, Dr. Davenal."

"I was away afterwards. Called out to a distance, I did not get back
for a day or two. Did Mark not write?"

"Nobody wrote. Neither Mark nor Parkins; nor anybody else. As to Mark,
he is careless as the wind; and Parkins excuses herself on the plea of
having been so bewildered. I can readily believe her. Dr. Davenal, she
died, as I am given to understand, from the effects of chloroform!"

"We thought, on the night of the accident, you know, that she was not
seriously injured," said Dr. Davenal. "At least, Mark thought it: I
had my doubts: but I left him to see to her at her own desire.
Unfortunately I was called out early on Sunday morning. I was wanted
at Thorndyke: and when I got back the injury had been ascertained, and
an operation found necessary. It was under that operation she died."

"But the operation was performed successfully?"

"Quite so."

"And what she died of was the inhaling of the chloroform?"

"It was."

"But--I cannot understand why chloroform should have been given to
her?" deliberately proceeded Oswald.

"It _was_ given to her," was all the reply he obtained.

"But--pardon me for recalling it to you, Dr. Davenal--do you remember
the very decided opinion you expressed to me, when we were going down
to the scene of accident, against giving chloroform to Lady Oswald? We
were speaking of its opposite effects upon different natures, and you
cited Lady Oswald as one to whom, in your opinion, it might prove
dangerous. You stated that, so far as you believed, it would be
neither better nor worse to her than poison."

Oswald waited for a reply, but the doctor made none. He was pacing the
small room with his measured tread, his hands in his pockets, his eyes
bent on the carpet.

"Have you any objection to explain to me this apparent contradiction?
It is impossible to believe that one, whose opinion of chloroform in
relation to her was so fatal, would in a few hours cause her to inhale
it."

Dr. Davenal stopped in his walk and confronted Oswald.

"Have you seen Mark since you came down?"

"Yes."

"And what does he say?"

"Well, I don't fancy he understands it much better than I do. He
reiterates that it was given her for the best. In his opinion it may
have been. But it surely could not have been in yours, Dr. Davenal."

Dr. Davenal turned from Oswald to his pacing again. A strong
temptation was upon him to tell Oswald the truth. O that he had! that
he had!

There were few people in the world whom he esteemed as he esteemed
Oswald Cray. There was no one else in the world to whom he had
expressed this opinion of the unfitness of Lady Oswald as a subject
for chloroform, and the wish to explain, to exonerate himself, arose
forcibly within him. The next moment he asked himself why Mark Cray
himself had not spoken. As he had not, it seemed to Dr. Davenal that
it would be a breach of friendship, of _partnership_, for him to
speak. Oswald was connected, too, with Lady Oswald, and might take up
the matter warmly. No, he felt in his ever-considerate heart that he
could not betray Mark, could not set one brother against the other.
And he put the temptation from him.

Oswald watched him as he walked, wondering at the silence. A silence
which the doctor evidently did not feel inclined to break.

"Do you remember expressing this opinion to me, Dr. Davenal?"

"Yes, I believe I did so express it."

"And yet you acted in diametrical opposition to it immediately
afterwards, and caused Lady Oswald to inhale chloroform? Will you
forgive me for again asking how it could have been?"

"The very best of us are led into error sometimes," replied Dr.
Davenal.

"Why, that is one of the remarks Mark has just made to me in
connection with this case! I cannot recognise it as applying to it.
You spoke so firmly, so positively, that I should have believed there
was no room for error to creep in. I feel that there is something to
be explained, Dr. Davenal."

Dr. Davenal wheeled round in his walk and confronted Oswald.

"There are circumstances connected with this case, Mr. Oswald Cray,
which I cannot explain to the world; which I cannot explain even to
you; although I would rather tell them to you than to any one. Let it
suffice to know that _I could not save Lady Oswald_. It was not in my
power."

"But you could have saved--you could have helped giving her the
chloroform?" returned Oswald, wonderingly.

A slight pause. "Will you oblige me by asking no further questions on
the subject--by allowing it to drop, to me and to others? Believe me,
I have no selfish motive in pressing this. No one living can regret
more than I the fatal result to Lady Oswald; perhaps nobody regrets it
so keenly. Could I have saved her, no care, no skill, no labour,
should have been spared. But I could not. I can only ask you to be
satisfied with this meagre assurance, Mr. Oswald Cray  and to believe
me when I state that I have private reasons for declining to pursue
the topic."

"And--pardon me--one more question: To what am I to attribute her
death in my own mind? Or rather this giving of the chloroform?"

"You must look upon it as an error in judgment. It was such."

It was impossible for Oswald Cray, as a gentleman, to press further
the matter. Dr. Davenal was an old man compared with him; one of high
reputation, skill, position. He could not understand it, but he could
only bow to the request--nay, to the demand--and let the subject sink
into silence. An awkward pause ensued. The doctor had not resumed his
promenade, but stood under the gas-lamp, twirling a quill pen in his
fingers which he had taken up.

"How are the other sufferers from the accident getting on?" inquired
Oswald, when the silence was beginning to be heard.

"Oh, quite well. Poor Bigg the fireman is nearly the only one of them
left in the Infirmary, and he will soon be out of it. The rest came
off mostly with a few cuts and bruises. There's a summons for me, I
suppose."

The doctor alluded to a knock at the hall-door. Neal came in.

"Mr. Wheatley, sir. He wishes to know if you can spare him ten
minutes."

"Yes," replied the doctor, and Oswald rose.

"Will you walk upstairs and see them?"

"Not tonight, thank you."

"I won't press you," said the doctor. "Sara is cut up about this news
from Edward, terribly disappointed; and Aunt Bett is as cross as two
sticks. She is fond of Edward, with all her ungraciousness to him, and
she looks upon this hint of not coming down as a slight to herself. In
manner she was always ungracious to the boys, from some idea I believe
that it tended to keep them in order. But she loved them at heart.
Goodnight."

Dr. Davenal clasped his hand with a warm pressure, warmer than usual;
Oswald could not but feel it, and he went out perfectly mystified.

Neal stepped on to open the front gate. Neal was always remarkably
courteous and deferent to Mr. Oswald Cray. Oswald, who had only seen
the best side of Neal, and never suspected there was a reverse one,
looked upon him as a man to be respected, a faithful old retainer of
the Oswald family. Lady Oswald had sung his praises times out of
number in Oswald's ear, and she once told Oswald to try for Neal
should he ever require a servant about his person, for he would find
Neal a man of fidelity, worth his weight in gold. Oswald believed her.
He believed Neal to be faithful and true; one whom doubt could not
touch.

"This death of your late mistress is a very sad thing, Neal."

"O sir! I can't express to you how I have felt it. I'm sure I can say
that my lady was a true friend to me, the only one I had left."

"No, no, Neal. Not the only one. You may count a friend in me--if only
in respect to the regard you were, I know, held in by Lady Oswald."

"Thank you, sir, greatly;" and honest Neal's eyes swam in tears as he
turned them to Mr. Oswald Cray under the light of his master's
professional gas-lamp. "Sir," he added, swaying forward the gate and
dropping his voice as he approached nearer to Oswald, "how came that
poison, that chloroform, to be given to her?"

"I cannot tell; I cannot understand," replied Oswald, speaking upon
impulse, not upon reflection.

"Sir, if I might dare to say a word"--and Neal glanced round with
caution on all sides as he spoke--"I'd ask whether it was given in
fairness?"

"What do you mean, Neal?"

"There's not a person in the world I'd venture to whisper such a thing
to, sir, except yourself; but I doubt whether it _was_ given in
fairness. I have a reason for doubting it, sir; a particular reason.
It makes me sick, sir, to think that there was some unfair play
brought to work, and that it took her life."

"Unfair play on the part of whom?" asked Oswald.

"I am not sure that I dare say, sir, even to you. And it might be
looked upon as--as--fancy on my part. One thing is certain, sir, that
but for that chloroform being given to her, she'd be alive now."

"Dr. Davenal and Mr. Cray gave the chloroform, Neal," observed Mr.
Oswald Cray, in a somewhat distant tone--for it was not to Neal he
would admit any doubt, scarcely condescend to hear any, of the
judgment of the surgeons. "They know better about such things than we
do."

"Yes, sir," answered Neal, as drily as he dared. "Mr. Cray, I am sure,
did _his_ best, but he has not had the judgment and experience of my
master. Anyway, it seems it was the chloroform that killed her."

"As it has killed others before her--when administered in all
deliberate judgment by surgeons of as high repute and practice as Dr.
Davenal. The issues of life and death are not even in a doctor's
hands, Neal. Goodnight."

"Goodnight to you, sir."

Oswald Cray walked slowly towards his temporary home, the "Apple
Tree," half bewildered with the conjectural views opened out to him,
and not the least with that last hint of Neal's. He could not get over
that giving of the chloroform by Dr. Davenal in the very teeth of his
expressed opinion against it. He had supposed, when he first heard of
the cause of death, that this contradiction would be explained away:
but, instead of that it was more unexplainable than before. There was
Mark's confused manner, his covert attempts to avoid inquiry; there
was Dr. Davenal's positive denial to satisfy it; there was the man
Neal's curious hint. Oswald Cray felt as one in a maze, trying to get
at something which eluded his grasp.

How the imagination runs riot, how utterly unamenable it is to the
rules and regulations of sober control, we most of us know.

Oswald found his mind balancing the question, "Did Richard Davenal
give that chloroform in his calm deliberate senses, believing that it
might take her life? If so, where was the motive?" Men don't do such
things in these days without a motive; the greatest criminal must have
_that_. Oswald Cray could see none. There was no motive, or shadow of
motive, for Dr. Davenal's wishing for the death of Lady Oswald. Quite
the contrary; it was his interest--if so worldly a plea may be brought
into proximity with these solemn thoughts--to keep her in life. Of all
his patients, she perhaps was the most profitable, paying him a good
sum yearly. Then--with the want of motive, those dark doubts, born of
his imagination, fell to the ground, and he had the good sense to see
that they did.

They fell to the ground. And Oswald Cray, as he awoke with a start,
and shook himself clear of them, pinched his arms to see whether he
was awake. Surely only in his sleep could doubts such as those have
arisen of Dr. Davenal!



CHAPTER XXII.
THE WILL.


Sara Davenal in her sick restlessness was early in the
breakfast-room. The disappointment touching her brother was weighing
down her heart. Since the arrival of the unsatisfactory note the
previous evening, she had felt a conviction similar to Dr. Davenal's,
that Edward would not come. Neither had spoken of it to the other;
great griefs cannot be talked of; and to Sara this was a grief
inexpressible. It seemed that she would give half her remaining years
of life for only one five minutes' interview with him.

If he came at all he would come today, Friday; and she got up, hoping
against hope; saying to herself aloud, in contradiction to the fear
lying upon her heart, and which she _would not_ glance at, "He will be
sure to come; he will never embark on that long voyage without first
coming. He will remember Richard's fate." For the time being, the
eager anxiety to see him almost seemed to deaden that other trouble
which lay within her--the trouble that had taken possession of her on
the Sunday night, never again to quit its tenement.

"Is the post in?" asked Dr. Davenal, as he entered the breakfast-room.

"No, it is not made," sharply replied Miss Davenal from her presiding
place at the table. "Neal has but this minute brought in the urn. I am
making it quickly as I can."

"I asked whether the post was in, Bettina. Because, if Edward is not
coming, I should think there'd be a letter from him."

Sara looked up eagerly. "Don't you hope he will come, papa? Don't you
think he will?"

"Well, Sara, after his letter of last night, my hopes upon the point
are not very strong."

"O papa! I want to see him! I must see him before he sails."

"Hush, child!" She had spoken in a distressed tone, and her small
white hands were trembling. "Agitating yourself will not bring him."

By and by the letters came in: two. Neal handed one to his master, the
other to Sara. Both bore the same handwriting--Captain Davenal's.
Sara, in her bitter disappointment, let hers lie by her plate
untouched, but the doctor opened his.

Miss Bettina looked up. "Is he coming, Richard?"

"No. He says he can't come. That it is an impossibility."

"What else does he say?"

Dr. Davenal folded his letter and put it in his pocket, to read at his
leisure. "Ask Sara what he says," was his answer, "All the gossip is
in hers."

"And this is what he calls affection!" exclaimed Miss Bettina. "To
leave his native land, his home, without a farewell! That's gratitude!
Richard Davenal, were I you, he should carry out my displeasure with
him."

"I don't know," said the doctor, his voice sadly subdued. "Send out
displeasure with one whom we may never see again! No, Bettina. And it
may be as he says--that he is unable to come."

He was looking straight before him as he spoke it, in a far-off,
dreamy gaze. His thoughts had flown to one who had gone out under a
sort of displeasure, gone out but for a short time--and had never come
home again.

The hour for the funeral approached, and the doctor in his black
attire stepped into his close carriage to be conveyed to the residence
of Lady Oswald. He found all the mourners assembled, for he was late,
with the exception of Mark Cray. Sir Philip Oswald and his eldest son;
Oswald Cray; the Reverend Mr. Stephenson and his brother Mr. Joseph
Stephenson. All were there, now the doctor had come, except Mark. The
funeral was to be at the church at eleven.

The time went on. The hearse and mourning coaches stood before the
door, the horses restless. It was close upon eleven.

"For whom do we wait?" inquired Sir Philip Oswald.

"For Mr. Cray, Sir Philip," answered the undertaker, who was gliding
about, handing gloves and fixing hatbands.

"Mr. Cray?" repeated Sir Philip, as though he did not understand who
Mr. Cray was.

"Lady Oswald's late medical attendant, Sir Philip, in conjunction with
Dr. Davenal."

"Oh--ah--yes," said Sir Philip. He was very friendly with Dr. Davenal,
exceedingly so; and condescended not to ignore Mr. Cray as the
doctor's partner. It was the first time that Oswald had ever been in a
room with Sir Philip. Sir Philip had bowed to him coldly enough upon
his entrance, but the son, Henry Oswald, went up to him and held out
his hand in a cordial manner. Oswald, haughtily self-possessed, stood
before Sir Philip with his impassive face, looking more of a gentleman
than the baronet did.

The clock struck eleven. "I suppose Mr. Cray _is_ coming?" remarked
Sir Philip.

He looked at Dr. Davenal. The doctor supposed he was coming as a
matter of course: he believed he was coming. He had not seen Mr. Cray
that morning.

It was suggested by the undertaker that they should proceed. Mr. Cray,
he observed, would possibly join them at the church; he might have
been kept back unexpectedly.

So the funeral started. All that remained of poor Lady Oswald was
carried out of her house, never more to return to it. Not a week ago
yet, on that past Saturday morning, she had gone forth in health and
strength, and now--there! What a lessen it told of the uncertainty of
life!

The funeral made its way through lines of curious gazers to the
church. Mark Cray was not there, and the service was performed without
him. At its conclusion the gentlemen returned to the house.

A lawyer from a neighbouring town, Lady Oswald's legal adviser, was
there with the will, and they were invited to enter and hear the will
read.

"It cannot concern me," remarked Sir Philip. Nevertheless he went in.

"And I am sure it cannot concern me," added Oswald.

The clergyman, Mr. Stephenson, looked up with a crimson hectic
on his cheek. It was next to impossible to mistake his eager
glance--betraying the hope within him, sure and steadfast, that it did
concern him. In point of fact he and that gentleman by his side, his
brother, had the chief right to any money she might have left. It may
be said the sole right. How they needed it their threadbare clothes
and sunken cheeks betrayed. Gentlemen born, they had to keep up an
appearance before the world; at least, they strove to keep it. But
they were weary with the struggle. The brother was of no particular
profession. He had been reared for the church and could never get to
college, and he contrived to make a living--that is, he contrived not
to starve--by writing articles for any paper or periodical that could
be persuaded into taking them. Each was of good repute in the world,
bearing up manfully and doing the best he could do with his lot,
sanguinely hoping, humbly trusting, that time would better it. They
each had a large family, and indulged the vain and wild hope of
bringing up their sons as gentlemen, as they themselves had been
brought up. Not as gentlemen in the matter of abstaining from labour;
that would have been foolish; but they hoped to bring them up educated
men, capable of doing their duty in any walk of life they might be
called to. How they had looked forward to the prospect of some time
possessing this money of Lady Oswald's, their hearts alone knew. If
ever the excuse for cherishing such a wish could be pleaded, it surely
might be by them.

"I suppose these people, the Stephensons, will chiefly inherit what
she has left," whispered the baronet's son confidentially to Oswald
Cray. "Perhaps you know? You have seen a good deal of Lady Oswald, I
believe."

"I don't at all know how her affairs are left," was the reply of
Oswald Cray.

"I should think they will inherit," continued Mr. Oswald. "Shouldn't
you?"

"I should think--yes--I---should think they will. Being her only
relatives, they have undoubtedly the greatest right to do so."

Why did Oswald Cray hesitate in his answer?--he so generally decisive
of speech. Because in the very moment that the acquiescence was
leaving his lips there flashed over his mind the words spoken to him
by Lady Oswald the previous Saturday. He had not understood those
words at the time, did not understand them now: but if he could
interpret them at all, they certainly did not point to her nephews,
the brothers Stephenson. He remembered them well: at least, their
substance. "When my will comes to be read, you may feel surprised at
its contents. You may deem that you had more legal claim upon me than
he who will inherit: I do not think so. He to whom my money is left
has most claim in my judgment: I am happy to know that he will be
rewarded, and he knows it."

Not a week ago! not a week ago that she had said it. How little did
Oswald foresee that he should so soon be called upon to hear that will
read!

But still the words did not seem to point to either of her nephews,
with whom she had not lived on any terms of friendship, and Oswald
began to feel a little curious as to the inheritor.

They were waiting for the lawyer, who had not yet come into the room.
He might be getting the will. His name was Wedderburn, a stout man
with a pimpled face. Sir Philip Oswald had a pimpled face too; but he
was not stout; he was as thin and as tall as a lath.

Dr. Davenal took out his watch. He found it later than he thought, and
turned to Sir Philip.

"I cannot remain longer," he said. "I have a consultation at half-past
twelve, and must not miss it. I am not wanted here: there's nothing
for me to stay for: so I'll wish you good-morning."

"For that matter, I don't see that any of us are wanted," responded
Sir Philip. "I'm sure I am not. Good-morning, doctor."

Nodding his salutation to the room generally, the doctor went out.
Soon afterwards Mr. Wedderburn made his appearance, the will in his
hand, which he prepared to read. Clearing his voice, he threw his eyes
round the room, as if to see that his audience were ready. The absence
of one appeared then to strike him, and he pushed his spectacles to
the top of his brow and gazed again.

"Where's Dr. Davenal?"

"He is gone," replied Sir Philip Oswald.

"Gone!" repeated the lawyer, in consternation. "Why--he--Dr. Davenal
should have stopped, of all people."

"He said he had a consultation. What does it signify?"

"Well, Sir Philip, he--at any rate, I suppose there's no help for it
now. It must be read without him."

Not one present but looked at the lawyer with surprise, not one but
thought him a strangely punctilious man to suppose Dr. Davenal's
presence, as Lady Oswald's medical man and attendant at her funeral,
was in any degree essential to the reading of Lady Oswald's will. They
soon learned the cause.

First of all, the will bequeathed a few legacies. Very small ones.
Twenty pounds to each of her servants; forty pounds and all her
clothes to Parkins; fifty pounds each to her nephews John and Joseph
Stephenson, with the furniture of her house to be divided between them
"amicably;" a beautiful diamond ring and a little plate to Oswald
Oswald Cray; the rest of the plate, by far the most valuable portion,
to Sir Philip Oswald of Thorndyke; and another diamond ring to Dr.
Richard Davenal. So far, so good: but now came the disposal of the
bulk of her money. It was bequeathed, the whole of it, to Dr. Davenal,
"my faithful friend and medical attendant for so many years."

The will was remarkably short, taking but a few minutes in the
reading; and at its conclusion Mr. Wedderburn laid it open on the
table that anybody might look at it who chose.

It would be difficult to say which of the countenances around him
exhibited the greatest surprise. The lawyer's voice died away in a
deep silence. It was broken by the clergyman, the Reverend John
Stephenson.

"It is not just! It is not just!"

The wailing tone, not of passion or anger but of meek despair, struck
upon them all, and told how bitter was the disappointment. Every heart
in the room echoed the cry, the lawyer's probably excepted. Lawyers,
as a whole, don't think much of justice. This one took out his
snuffbox and inhaled a pinch with equanimity.

"I am ready to answer questions, should any gentleman wish to put
them. It was Lady Oswald's desire that I should. When this will was
made she said to me, 'Some of them will be for making a fuss,
Wedderburn; you can explain my motives if they care to hear them.'
Those motives lay in this; her ladyship knew her health and comfort to
have been so materially benefited of late years by the skill and
kindness of Dr. Davenal, that she considered it her duty in gratitude
to reward him."

"Nevertheless it is not just," murmured the poor clergyman again. "Dr.
Davenal does not want the money as we want it."

Oswald Cray awoke as from a dream. He took a step forward and
addressed the lawyer. "Did Dr. Davenal know that the money was left to
him?"

"I am unable to say, sir. Lady Oswald may have told him, or she may
not. He did not know it from me."

Oswald Cray said no more. He leaned against the window, half-hidden by
the curtain, and plunged into thought.

"Well, I must say I am surprised," remarked Sir Philip. "Not but that
Lady Oswald had a perfect right to do as she pleased with her money,
and she might have signalled out a less worthy man as inheritor. How
much is the amount, Mr. Wedderburn? Do you know?"

"Somewhere between six and seven thousand pounds, I believe, Sir
Philip. It would have been considerably more, but that her ladyship, a
few years ago, was persuaded by an evil counsellor to sell out a large
sum from the funds and invest elsewhere, for the sake of better
interest."

"And she lost it?"

"Every shilling," replied the lawyer, with satisfaction: for it was
done without his concurrence. "She would have had double the money to
leave behind her but for that."

"Ah!" Sir Philip spoke the monosyllable shortly, and dropped the
point. Not so very long ago _he_ had been seduced to invest money in
some grand and very plausible scheme--one of those to be heard of
daily, promising a fortune in twelve months at the most--and he had
burnt his fingers. The topic, consequently, was not palatable to his
ears.

"Ask him how long this will has been made, John," whispered the
literary man to his brother. Of a retiring timid nature himself, he
rarely spoke but when he was obliged, and he shrank from putting the
question. The clergyman obeyed, and the lawyer pointed to the date of
the will.

"Only in April last. Lady Oswald was fond of making wills. Some people
are so. I have made her, I should think, half-a-dozen, if I have made
one."

"And the bulk of the money was always left to Dr. Davenal?"

"O dear no. It never was left to him until this last was made."

"Was I--were we--was it ever left to us?" asked the poor clergyman,
tremblingly.

"Yes it was," replied Mr. Wedderburn. "I don't see why I should not
avow it. It can't make any difference, one way or the other. In the
first will she ever made after Sir John's death it was left to you.
And in the last will preceding this, it was again left to you. Once it
was left"--the lawyer looked towards the window--"to Mr. Oswald Cray."

Oswald gave his shoulders a haughty shrug. "I should never have
accepted the legacy," he said in a distinct, deliberate tone. "I had
no claim whatever to Lady Oswald's money, and should not have taken
it."

Henry Oswald laughed; a pleasant, cordial laugh, as he turned to
Oswald. "You don't know, Mr. Oswald Cray. We are all so ready to be
chivalrous in theory: but when it comes to practice--the best of us
are apt to fall off."

"True," quietly remarked Oswald: but he did not pursue the theme.

There was nothing more to be said or done then. Of what profit to
remain talking of the wills that had been, while the present one was
before them and must be put in force? Sir Philip made the first move;
he went out, taking a formal leave; Henry Oswald with a more cordial
one. Oswald Cray was the next to leave. He shook hands with the
brothers, and spoke a few kind words of sympathy for their
disappointment.

"It is the disappointment of a life," replied the clergyman in a low
tone. "Our struggle has been continued long; and we had--there's no
denying it--looked forward to this. It is a hard trial when relatives
find themselves passed over for strangers."

"It is, it is;" said Oswald Cray. "I could wish Lady Oswald had been
more mindful of legitimate claims."

As he was going out, Parkins waylaid him in her new mourning. "There
will be a dinner ready at five o'clock, sir. Would you be pleased to
stay for it?"

"Not today," replied Oswald.



CHAPTER XXIII.
NEAL'S VISIT.


Causing the sweeping crape to be taken from his hat, for he preferred
to depart on foot, Oswald Cray proceeded through the town to the house
of his brother. Just as he reached the door Mark rode up on horseback
and leaped off with a hasty spring, throwing his bridle to the man who
waited.

"Of course I am too late!" he exclaimed.

"Of course you are, by pretty near two hours. How did it happen,
Mark?"

"Well--I-can hardly tell how it happened," was the answer of Mark. "I
had a patient to see in the country--more than one, in fact--and I
thought I could do it all first and be back in time. But I suppose I
must have stayed later than I purposed, for before I was ready to
return I found it was half-past eleven, and the funeral no doubt over.
And then I did not hurry myself."

They were walking across the hall to the dining-room as he said this.
Caroline was seated at the table, her workbox before her, doing some
embroidery. She flung the work down, rose, and confronted her husband.

"Mark, why did you do this? You went into the country to avoid the
funeral!"

"I--I did what?" exclaimed Mark. "Nonsense, Carrie! Why should I wish
to avoid the funeral? I have attended plenty of funerals in my time."

Oswald turned quickly and looked at Mark. It was not the accusation of
Mrs. Cray that had aroused his attention--_that_ went for nothing; but
something peculiar in Mark's tone as he answered it. To Oswald's ears
it spoke of evasion. He could not see his face. It was bent, and he
was slapping his dusty boots with his riding-whip.

"But why DID you go into the country?" pursued Caroline. "It was
half-past ten when you were here, and I warned you then it was getting
time to dress. When I saw your horse brought to the door and you
gallop off on him, I could not believe my eyes."

"Well, I mistook the time, that's the fact. I am very sorry for it,
but it can't be helped now. Of course I should like to have attended
and paid her my last respects, poor lady. Not but that I daresay there
were enough without me. I was not missed."

"But you were missed," said Oswald, "and waited for too. It threw us
pretty nearly half-an-hour behindhand. I should not like to keep a
funeral waiting myself, Mark."

"Who was there?" asked Mark.

"The two relatives of Lady Oswald, Sir Philip and his son, Dr. Davenal
and myself."

"Davenal was there, then. But of course he would be. Then he served to
do duty for me and himself. And so Sir Philip came?"

"I should be surprised had he not come."

"Should you? He is a cranky sort of gentleman: an Oswald all over. You
are another of them, Oswald. I wonder if you'll get cranky in your old
age."

"Don't listen to him, Oswald," interposed Mrs. Cray. "He seems
'cranky' himself this morning."

Mark laughed good-humouredly, and tossed a late China rose to Caroline
which he had brought home in his button-hole. "Did you hear the will
read, Oswald?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Short and sweet!" cried Mark, alluding to the monosyllable, which it
must be confessed was given in a curt, displeased tone, as if its
speaker were himself displeased. "I think it is you who are cranky,
Oswald."

Oswald smiled. "A thought was causing me vexation, Mark."

"Vexation at me?"

"Oh, no."

"Well, and who comes in for the money? The Stephensons?"

"No. The Stephensons come in for a very poor portion. It is left to
Dr. Davenal."

"To Dr. Davenal!" echoed Mark in his astonishment. "No!"

"The bulk of the money is bequeathed to him. All of it, in fact, with
the exception of a few trifling legacies. The Stephensons have fifty
pounds each and the furniture."

Caroline had dropped her embroidery again and was gazing at Oswald,
apparently unable to take in the news. "Are you telling us this for a
joke?" she asked.

"The money is left to Dr. Davenal, Mrs. Cray," repeated Oswald, and
certainly there was no sound of joking in his tone. "It surprised us
all."

"What a lucky man!" exclaimed Mark. "I wonder if he had any prevision
of this yesterday? We were speaking of money, he and I. It was about
that field behind the doctor's stables, the one he has so long wanted
to buy. The owner's dead, and it is for sale at last. I observed to
the doctor that I supposed he'd secure it at once, but he said he
should not buy it at all; he had had a heavy loss, and could not
afford it----"

"It is not true, Mark!" interrupted his wife.

"It is true, Caroline. But don't you go and repeat it again. He said,
moreover, he had great need himself of a thousand or two, and did not
know where to turn to for it. Mind you, I believe he was betrayed, as
it were, out of the avowal, I had been saying so much about the field:
for he brought himself suddenly up as though recollection had come to
him, and said, 'Don't talk of this, Mark!'"

And Mark's long tongue _had_ talked of it! Oswald Cray listened to its
every word.

"If he could but have foreseen then that this money had dropped to
him! And yet--I should think he must have known it from Lady Oswald;
or partially known it. How much is it, Oswald?"

"Six or seven thousand pounds. It would have been a great deal more
but for certain losses. Wedderburn said she was persuaded to embark
money in some speculation; and it failed."

"How stupid of her!" exclaimed free Mark. "I wonder, now whether the
doctor did know of this! If he did he'd keep his own counsel. Did he
appear surprised, Oswald?"

"He was not there. He left before the will was read, saying he had to
attend a consultation."

"Well, so he had," said Mark; "I happen to know that much. It was for
half-past twelve."

So far, then, Dr. Davenal had spoken truth. A doubt had been crossing
Oswald's mind, amidst many other curious doubts, whether Dr. Davenal
had made the excuse to get away, and so avoid hearing the will read,
and himself named chief legatee.

He remained some time with Mark and his wife. They asked him to stay
for dinner, but he declined. He had ordered a chop to be ready at the
"Apple Tree," and was going back to London early in the evening--by
that seven o'clock train you have before heard of.

"Had you any particular motive for absenting yourself from Lady
Oswald's funeral!" he asked of Mark, as the latter accompanied him to
the street-door on his departure.

"Not I," answered Mark, with the most apparent readiness. "It was very
bungling of me to mistake the time. Not that I like attending funerals
as a matter of taste: I don't know who does. Good-afternoon, Oswald.
You must give us a longer visit when you are down next."

He stood at the Abbey door, watching his brother wind round the
branching rails, for Oswald was taking the station on his way to his
inn. Very cleverly, in Mark's own opinion, had he parried the
questions of his purposed absence. His absence _was_ purposed. With
that chloroform on his conscience he did not care to attend the
funeral of Lady Oswald.

And the afternoon went on.

It was growing dusk, was turned half-past six, and Oswald Cray was
beginning to think it time to make ready for his departure. He had not
stirred from the chair where he ate his dinner, though the meal was
over long ago; had not called for lights; had, in fact, waved John
Hamos away when he would have appeared with them. His whole range of
thought was absorbed by one topic--his doubts of Dr. Davenal.

Yes, it is of no use to deny it; it had come to that with Oswald
Cray--doubts. Doubts he scarcely knew of what, or to what extent; he
scarcely knew where these doubts or his own thoughts were carrying
him. On the previous night he had for a few moments given the reins to
imagination; had allowed himself to suppose, for argument's sake only,
that Dr. Davenal had given that chloroform knowing or fancying it
might prove fatal, and he had gone so far as to ask what, then, could
be his motive. There was no motive; Oswald glanced on each side of him
to every point, and could discover no motive whatever, or appearance
of motive. Therefore he had thrust the doubts from him, as wanting
foundation.

But had the revelations of this day supplied the link that was wanting
Had they not supplied it? _The death of Lady Oswald brought a fortune
to Dr. Davenal_.

Almost hating himself for pursuing these thoughts, or rather for the
obligation to pursue them, for they would haunt him, and he could not
help himself, Oswald Cray sat on in the fading light. Ha said to
himself, how absurd, nay how wicked it was of him, and yet he could
not shake them off. The more he strove to do so, the more he brought
reason to his aid, telling him that Dr. Davenal was a good and
honourable and upright man, as he had always believed, the less would
reason hold the mastery. Imagination was all too present in its most
vivid colouring, and it was chaining him to its will.

What were the simple facts? asked reason. Dr. Davenal had caused Lady
Oswald to inhale chloroform, having only some hours previously avowed
to Oswald his belief that she was a most unfit subject for it, was one
of those few to whom the drug proves fatal. It did prove fatal. There
had next been some equivocation on the part of Mark, when questioned
about it, and there had been the positive refusal of Dr. Davenal to
afford any explanation. Next, there had been the discovery of the
day--that Dr. Davenal was the inheritor. Well, it might all be
explained away, reason said; it was certainly not enough to attribute
to Dr. Davenal the worst social crime contained in the decalogue. But
the more Oswald Cray dwelt on this view, or tried to dwell upon it,
the more persistently rose up imagination, torturing and twisting
facts, and bending them as it pleased.

There had been that hint of Neal's too! Oswald Cray honestly believed
that Neal was one of those servants incapable of speaking ill for
ill's sake; and he could not help wondering what he meant. Neal was
not an ignorant man, likely to be deceived, to take up fancies: he was
of superior intelligence, quite an educated man for his class of life.
If----

Oswald's thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of his landlord. "I
don't want lights, John; I told you I did not. I shall be going
directly."

"It is not lights, sir. Mr. Neal, Dr. Davenal's servant, is asking to
see you."

"Neal! Let him come in."

Neal came forward into the dusky room. He was the bearer of a note
from his master. Oswald had a light brought in then, and opened it. It
was written in pencil.


"My Dear Mr. Oswald Cray,--

"I very much wish to see you if you can spare me an hour. I thought
perhaps you would have dropped in this lonely day and taken a knife
and fork with us. Will you come down this evening?--Ever sincerely
yours, Richard Davenal."


"Neal, will you tell Dr. Davenal--he is expecting me, I find?"

"I think so, sir. He said to me before dinner that he thought you
might be coming in. When he found you did not, and they were sitting
down to table, he wrote this in pencil, and bade me call one of the
maids to wait, while I brought it up to you."

"Tell the doctor that I am quite unable to come down. I have to return
to London by the seven o'clock train."

"Very well, sir."

Neal was leaving the room, but Mr. Oswald Cray stopped him. He had
taken a sudden resolution, and he spoke on the spur of the moment,
without reflection. The perplexity of his mind may be his excuse.

"Neal, have you any objection to tell me what you meant last night by
hinting that Lady Oswald had not come fairly by her death?"

Neal paused. He was a man of caution; he liked to calculate his words
and his ways before entering on them. Neal would certainly speak if he
dared. He was in a very bitter mood, for the day's doings had not
pleased him. The news had reached him that her ladyship's money had
been all left to Dr. Davenal; that he, Neal, was not so much as named
in the will. And Neal had looked forward as confidently as had the
Reverend Mr. Stephenson to the hope of some little remembrance being
left to him. In his terrible anger, it seemed to him that the one
enemy to prevent it had been the great inheritor, Dr. Davenal.

"Sir, if I speak, would you give me your promise first, to hold what I
say sacred to yourself; to let it go no further? I know, sir, it is
not the place of a servant to ask this confidence of a gentleman, but
I should be afraid to speak without it."

"I will give it you," said Mr. Oswald Cray. "You may rely upon me."

And Neal knew that if there was one man more than another on the face
of the earth who would never forfeit his word, upon whom implicit
trust might be placed, it was Oswald Cray. Neal set himself to his
task. First of all opening the door to make sure they were entirely
alone, he dropped his voice to a safe whisper, and described what he
had seen and heard on the Sunday night. It was certainly a startling
narration, and as Oswald Cray listened to it in that darkened
room,--for the one candle, now placed on a side-table behind, only
served to throw out the shadows,--listened to the hushed tones, the
unexplainable words, a curious feeling of dread began to creep over
him. Neal, you may be very sure, did not disclose anything that could
bear against himself; he contrived to come out well in it. He was
standing outside for a moment before going to bed, hoping the air
would remove the sad headache which had suddenly seized him upon
hearing of the death of his late lady, when he saw the man come in in
the extraordinary manner he had just described. Believing him to be
nothing less than a housebreaker (and Watton, who had seen the man
from her room upstairs, had come to the same conclusion), or an evil
character of some sort, getting in plausibly on false pretences to
work harm to Dr. Davenal, he had gone to the window to look in out of
anxiety for his master's safety, and there had heard what he had
stated, for the window was thrown open. He could not see the visitor,
who was seated in the shade: he only heard sufficient to tell him that
the business he had come on was Lady Oswald's death; and he heard Dr.
Davenal acknowledge that it was murder, and that it must be hushed up
at any price, even if it cost him his fortune. He, Neal, described the
utterly prostrate condition of his master that night; both before and
after the interview with the visitor, he was like one who has some
dreadful secret upon the mind, some heavy guilt; Neal had thought so
before ever the man, whoever he might have been, entered the house.

Will it be forgiven to Oswald Cray if in that brief confused moment he
believed the worst--believed all that Neal said to him? His mind was
in a chaos of perplexity, almost, it may be said, of terror. Nothing
was clear. He could not analyse, he could not reason: Neal's words,
and the doings of the night which the man was describing, seemed to
dance before his mind in confused forms, ever changing, as do the bits
of coloured glass in a kaleidoscope. Neal continued to speak, but he
did not hear him distinctly now; the words reached his senses
certainly, but more as if he were in a mazy dream. He heard the man
reiterate that, wherever it was his master had gone to that night,
remaining away until the Wednesday it was connected with the death of
Lady Oswald; he heard him say that, whatever the mystery and the
guilt, Miss Sara Davenal had been made the confidant of it by her
father, he, Neal, supposed front some imperative motive which he did
not pretend to understand. Oswald heard like one in a dream, the words
partially glancing off his mind even as they were spoken, only to be
recalled afterwards with redoubled force.

In the midst of it he suddenly looked at his watch, suspecting--as he
found--that he had barely time to catch the train.

And he went out in a sort of blind confusion, his brain echoing the
words of Dr. Davenal, only too accurately remembered and repeated by
Neal. "Murder? Yes, the world would look upon it as such. I felt
certain that Lady Oswald was one to whom chloroform, if administered,
would prove fatal."



CHAPTER XXIV.
DR. DAVENAL'S "FOLLY."


It was startling news to go forth to Hallingham--one of the nine days'
wonders read of in social history. Lady Oswald had bequeathed her
fortune to her physician, Dr. Davenal! Such things had been known
before in the world's experiences, but Hallingham made as much of the
fact as if that were the first time it had ever been enacted.

Upon none did the news fall with more complete astonishment than upon
the doctor himself. Lady Oswald had more than once in the past few
months mysteriously hinted to him that he would be rewarded some time
for his care and attention to her; and it must be supposed that she
had these hints in her mind when she said to Mr. Oswald Cray that "he"
(the named inheritor of her money) knew that he would be rewarded.
Upon Dr. Davenal the hints had never made any impression. Of a nature
the very reverse of covetous, simple-minded, single-hearted, it never
so much as crossed his imagination that she would be leaving her money
to _him_. He would have been the first to repudiate it; to point out
to her the injustice of the act.

It is surely not necessary to premise that you, my intelligent and
enlightened readers, cannot have fallen into the mistake made by Neal,
or drawn that respected domestic's very absurd, though perhaps to a
fanciful and prejudiced mind not unnatural deduction, that the
night-visit to Dr. Davenal had reference to Lady Oswald's death. Being
in the secret of who really did administer that fatal dose of
chloroform to Lady Oswald, you will not connect it with Dr. Davenal's
trouble. A heavy secret, involving disgrace, much misery, perhaps
ruin, had indeed fallen that night on Dr. Davenal, but it was entirely
unconnected with the death of Lady Oswald. The words which Neal had
heard--and he heard them correctly--would have borne to his mind
a very different interpretation had he been enabled to hear the
_whole_--what had preceded them and what followed them. But he did
not.

Yes, this unhappy secret, this great misfortune, had nothing to do
with Lady Oswald. Far from Dr. Davenal's having caused her to inhale
an extra dose of chloroform as an experiment, on the strength that it
might prove fatal, and so enable him to drop at once into that very
desirable legacy named in her will, and which supposition, I am sure
you will agree with me in thinking, belongs rather to the world of
idealic wonders than of real life, the doctor had not the faintest
suspicion that he should inherit a shilling. When the news was
conveyed to him he could not believe it to be true,--did not believe
it for some little time.

It was Mr. Wedderburn who carried it to him. When the lawyer's
business was over at Lady Oswald's, he proceeded to Dr. Davenal's, and
found him just come home from the consultation, to attend which he had
hurried away before the reading of the will. Mr. Wedderburn told him
the news.

"Left to me?" exclaimed the doctor. "Her money left to me! Nonsense!"

"It is indeed," affirmed Mr. Wedderburn. "After the legacies are paid
you take everything--you are residuary legatee."

"You are joking," said the doctor. "What have I to do with the money?
I have no right to it."

With some difficulty Dr. Davenal was convinced that he, and he alone,
was named the inheritor. It did not give him pleasure. Quite the
contrary; he saw in it only a good deal of trouble and law business,
which he much disliked at all times to engage in.

Richard Davenal was one of those thoroughly conscientious men--and
there are a few such in the world--who could not be content to enjoy
money to which another has more right. It was a creed of his--it is
not altogether an obsolete one--that money so enjoyed could not bring
pleasure in the spending, or good in the end. Lady Oswald had
legitimate relations, who had looked for the money, who needed the
money, needed it with a far deeper need than Dr. Davenal, and who
possessed a claim to it, so far as relationship could give it them.
Even as the conviction slowly arose to him that the news was true that
he had been made the inheritor, so there arose another conviction, or
rather a resolution, with it,--that he would never accept the money,
that it should go over to its legitimate owners, no matter what
trouble it involved. A resolution from which he never swerved.

Never. Not even in the moment when a tempter's voice arose within him,
whispering how well this legacy would serve to replace that great sum,
the savings of years, which he had been obliged to part with only that
very week. Partly to satisfy a debt of which until then he had known
nothing, had he parted with it; partly as hush-money, to keep down
that terrible secret whispered to him on the Sunday night. The thought
certainly did arise--that it almost seemed as if this money had been
sent to him to replace it; but he did not allow it to obtain weight.
It would have been simply impossible for Dr. Davenal to act against
his conscience.

"I shall refuse the legacy," he remarked to Mr. Wedderburn. "I have no
right to it."

"What did you say?" asked the lawyer, believing he did not properly
catch the words.

"I shall not accept this money. It is none of mine. It ought to be
none of mine. It must go to Lady Oswald's relatives."

"But it is yours, Dr. Davenal. It is bequeathed to you in the will."

"I don't care for the will. I should not care for ten wills, if I had
no right to the money they bequeathed me. I have no right to this, and
I will not touch a farthing of it."

Mr. Wedderburn's surprise could only expend itself in one long stare.
In all his lawyerly experience he had never come across an
announcement so savouring of chivalry. The legatees he had had the
pleasure of doing business with were only too eager to grasp their
good fortune, and if any little inconvenient pricks of conscience were
so ill-mannered as to arise, they were speedily despatched back again
by the very legal thought--If I do take it I but obey the will.

"There never was such a thing heard of as the refusing of a fortune
legally bequeathed," cried the lawyer.

"I daresay there has been, many a time. If not, this will be a
precedent."

"You'll be so laughed at," persisted Mr. Wedderburn. "You'll be set
down--I'm afraid people will be for setting you down as a lunatic."

"Let them," said the doctor. "They shan't confine me as one without my
own certificate. Mr. Wedderburn," he continued in a graver tone, "I am
serious in this refusal. I feel that I have no right whatever to this
money of Lady Oswald's. She has paid me liberally for my services----"

"If you only knew how many thousands inherit money daily who have no
right to it," interrupted Mr. Wedderburn.

"Doubtless they do. I was going to observe that it is not so much my
having no right to it, that would cause me to decline, as the fact
that others exist who have a right. I----"

"But the will gives you a right," interposed the lawyer, unable to get
over his surprise.

"A legal right, I am aware it does. But not a just one. No, I will not
accept this legacy."

"What will you do about it, then?"

The doctor was silent for a minute. "I should wish the money to be
appropriated just as though there had been no Dr. Davenal in
existence. You say this will was made but about six months ago. It
must have superseded another will, I presume?"

"It may be said that it superseded several," was the reply. "Lady
Oswald was constantly making wills. She had made some half-dozen
before this last one."

"And each one disposing of her property differently?" quickly asked
the doctor.

"Yea, or nearly so. Twice she bequeathed it to her nephews, the
Stephensons. Once it was left to Mr. Oswald Cray; once to charities;
once to Sir Philip Oswald. She has been exceedingly capricious."

"All the more reason why I should not take it now," warmly cried Dr.
Davenal. "She must have left it to me in a moment of caprice; and had
she lived a few months longer this will would have been revoked as the
rest have been. Mr. Wedderburn, were I capable of acting upon it, of
taking the money, I should lose all self-respect for ever. I could
not, as a responsible being, responsible to One who sees and judges
all I do, be guilty of so crying an injustice."

Mr. Wedderburn suppressed a shrug of the shoulders. He could only look
at these affairs with a lawyer's eye and a lawyer's reasoning. Dr.
Davenal resumed--

"What was the tenor of the will which this last one supersede? Do you
recollect?"

"Perfectly. We hold the draft of it still. It was as nearly as
possible a counterpart of the present one, excepting as relates to
your share in this and that of the brothers Stephenson. In that last
will they took your place. The furniture was bequeathed to them, as in
this, and also the bulk of the property."

"My name not being mentioned in it?"

"Yes, it was. The diamond ring bequeathed to you now was bequeathed
then. Nothing more to you."

"Then that's all right. Now, Mr. Wedderburn, listen to me. That
diamond ring I will accept with pleasure, as a reminiscence of my poor
friend and patient; but I will accept nothing else. Will you be so
kind as to destroy this last will, and let the other be acted upon? I
am scaring you, I see. If that cannot legally be done, I must let the
money come to me, but only in transit for the rightful owners, the
Reverend Mr. Stephenson and his brother, and I'll make them a present
of it. You will manage this for me. Being at home in law details, you
know of course what may and what may not be done. All I beg of you is
to effect this, carrying it out in the simplest manner, and in the
quickest possible time."

Mr. Wedderburn drew a long face. He had no more cause to wish the
money to go to Dr. Davenal than to the clergyman and his brother, but
it was altogether so unusual a mode of proceeding, would be so very
unprofessional a transaction, that he regarded it as an innovation
hardly to be tolerated, a sort of scandal on all recognised notions in
the legal world, of which Mr. Wedderburn himself was little better
than a machine.

"I cannot undertake it without your giving me instructions in writing,
Dr. Davenal," he said glumpily. "I'd not stir a peg in it without."

"You shall have them in full."

"Well, sir, you know best, but the time may come when your children
will not thank you for this. It is folly, Dr. Davenal, and nothing
less."

"I hope my children will never question any act of mine. I am doing
this for the best."

Nevertheless, as Dr. Davenal spoke, there was some pain in his tone.
The lawyer detected it, and thought he was coming round. He would not
speak immediately, but let the feeling work its way.

"It is a large sum to relinquish," the lawyer presently said; "to
throw out of one's hand as if it were so much worthless sand."

"What is the sum?--what has she left?" asked Dr. Davenal, the remark
reminding him that he was as yet in ignorance.

"I expect, when all the legacies and other expenses are paid, there
will be little over six thousand pounds. There ought to have been
double. Lady Oswald lost a large sum a few years ago, quite as much as
that. She put it into some prosperous-looking bubble, and it burst.
Women should never dabble in business. They are safe to get their
fingers burnt."

"Men have burnt theirs sometimes," was the answer of Dr. Davenal,
spoken significantly. "Six thousand pounds! I should have thought her
worth much more. Well, Mr. Wedderburn, you will carry out my
instructions."

"Of course, if you order me. Will you be so kind as to write those
instructions to me at your convenience, posting them from this town to
my house. I am going back home at once."

"Won't you see Mr. Stephenson and his brother first, and impart to
them the fact that I shall not take the money?"

"No," said the lawyer, "I want to go home by the next train. I wish,
Dr. Davenal, you would allow me to give you just one word of advice."

"You can give it me," said Dr. Davenal. "I don't promise to take it."

"It might be the better for you if you would," was the reply. "My
advice is, say nothing to the Stephensons, or to any one else, today.
This is a very strange resolution that you have expressed, and I beg
you to sleep upon it. A night's rest may serve to change your mind."

The lawyer departed. It was close upon the hour for Dr. Davenal to
receive his indoor patients, and he could not go out then. He went to
look for his daughter, and found her in the garden parlour with her
aunt. It was not often that Miss Bettina troubled that room--she had
been wont to tell Sara and Caroline that its litter set her teeth on
edge.

They began to talk to him of the funeral. It was natural they should
do so. In a country place these somewhat unusual occurrences of
everyday life are made much of. Miss Bettina was curious.

"Were the people from Thorndyke there?" she asked.

"Sir Philip and his eldest son."

"And Oswald Cray?"

"Of course. He came down on purpose."

"My goodness! And so they met! How did they behave, Richard?"

"Just as the rest of us behaved. Did you suppose they'd start a
quarrel?"

"I was sure of it. I knew they would never meet without starting one.
Nothing less could come of Oswald Cray's proud spirit and the manner
they have treated him."

"At sea as usual, Bettina. Do you think they'd quarrel _there?_--on
that solemn occasion? Oswald Cray and Sir Philip are proud enough,
both of them; but they are _gentlemen_--you forget that, Bettina. I
think Oswald Cray is about the least likely man to quarrel that I
know, whether with Sir Philip or with anybody else. Your proud man
washes his hands of people whom he despises; but he does not quarrel
with them."

How singularly true were the words in regard to Oswald Cray! It was as
though Dr. Davenal had worn in that moment the gift of prevision;
"Your proud man washes his hands of people whom he despises."

"And how is her money left?" continued Miss Bettina. "To the
Stephensons?"

"No, she has not made a just will. It is left to----to a stranger. A
stranger in blood."

"Indeed! To whom? I hope _you_ have been remembered with some little
token Richard?"

"To be sure I have been. You know those two splendid diamond rings of
hers: I have one, Oswald Cray the other. And that's all he has got, by
the way, except a silver coffee-pot, or so. Sara, come with me into
the garden, I wish to have a little chat with you."

"You have not told me who the stranger is," shrieked out Miss Bettina.

"I'll tell you by-and-by," called back the doctor.

"I did not think it likely she would leave anything to Oswald Cray,
papa," Sara remarked, as they paced the garden path.

"I think I should, had I been in her place. A matter of five hundred
pounds, or so, would have helped him on wonderfully. However, there
was no obligation, and it is a question whether Oswald would have
accepted it."

"You said it was not a just will, papa?"

"I could have gone further than that, Sara, and stigmatised it as a
very unjust one. Those poor Stephensons, who have been expecting this
money--who had a right to expect it--are cut off with a paltry fifty
pounds each and the furniture."

"O papa! And are they not very poor?"

"So poor, that I believe honestly they have not always bread to eat;
that is, what people, born as they were, designate as bread; proper
food. They carry the signs of it in their countenances."

"And for Lady Oswald to have left her money away from them! To whom
has she left it?"

"To one who has no right to it, who never expected it."

"I suppose you mean Sir Philip?"

"No, it is not left to him. But now, give me your opinion, Sara. Let
us for argument's sake put ourselves in the position of this fortunate
legatee. Suppose--suppose, my dear it were left to _you_: this money
to which you have no claim, no right--to which others have a claim,
how should you feel?"

"I should feel uncomfortable," replied Sara. "I should feel that I was
enriched at the expense of the Stephensons; I am sure that I should
feel almost as though I had committed a fraud. Papa," she added more
eagerly, the idea occurring to her, "I should like to give the money
back to them."

"That is the very argument I have been using myself. Wedderburn, Lady
Oswald's lawyer, has been here, talking of the matter, and I told
him that were I the man to whom it was left, I should give it back,
every shilling of it, to the channel where it ought at once to have
gone--the brothers Stephenson. Wedderburn did not agree with me: he
brought forward the argument that the man's children might reproach
him afterwards. What do you think?"

"I think, papa, that were I the man you speak of, I should act upon my
own judgment, and give it back without reference to the opinion of my
children."

"That is precisely what he has resolved to do. Sara, the money is left
to me."

Sara Davenal, taken completely by surprise, halted in her walk and
looked at the Doctor, not knowing how to believe him.

"It is true, Sara. I find I am the favoured legatee of Lady Oswald:
knowing at the same time that I have no more right to be so than have
those espalier rose-trees at your side. I have resolved to refuse the
money; to repudiate the will altogether, so far as my share in it
goes; and to suffer a previous will to be acted upon, which gives the
money to the Stephensons. I trust my children will not hereafter turn
round and reproach me."

"O papa!"

She spoke the words now almost reproachfully, in reproach that he
could ever think it.

"Yes, I shall do it, Sara. And yet," he added, his voice insensibly
sinking to a whisper, "I have heavy need for money just now, and the
help these thousands would be to me no one but myself knows."

Sara was silent. A shiver passed over her face at the allusion. She
did not dare reply to it. The subject was too painful; and, besides,
she was kept partially in the dark.

"But I cannot tamper with my conscience," resumed Dr. Davenal. "Were I
to take this money, it would only lie like a weight upon it for my
whole future life. I believe--and, Sara, I wish you to believe it and
treasure it as an assured truth--that money appropriated by ourselves,
which in point of right, of justice, belongs to others, _never_ comes
home to us with a blessing. However safely the law may give it us and
the world deem our claim to it legitimate, if we deprive others of it,
whose it is by every moral and--may I say it?--divine right, that
money will not bless us or our children. Sara, I speak this from the
experience of an observant life."

"I am sure you are right, papa," she murmured. "Do not keep this
money."

"I shall not. But, Sara,"--and Dr. Davenal stopped in his walk,
and his voice grew solemn in its tone as he laid his hand upon
her--"things have changed with me. I cannot now foresee the future. I
thought I was laying up a competency for my children; not a great one,
it is true, but one that would have kept them above the extreme frowns
of the world. This I have had to fling away--my hard-earned savings.
It may be that I shall now have to leave you, my cherished daughter,
to the world's mercy; perhaps--I know not--compelled to work for your
living in it. Should this come to pass, you will not cast back a
reflection on your dead father, and reproach him for a rejection of
these thousands."

The tears were streaming down her cheeks. Her pleading hand, her
loving look, was his first answer. "You could not keep the money,
papa. It would not be right in God's sight. Do not hesitate."

"I have not hesitated, Sara. My mind has been made up from the first.
But I preferred to speak to you."

Neal came forward to summon Dr. Davenal. His patients were waiting for
him. Sara turned to rejoin her aunt.

"You can tell her about this legacy to me, Sara; it will be the talk
of the town before the day's out. And explain to her why I decline
it."

The afternoon drew to its close. Dr. Davenal, engaged with a
succession of patients, scarcely noticed its elapse. A wish was
running through his mind to see Mr. Oswald Cray, and he hoped he would
be calling. When dinner-time came and he had not come, that note,
previously mentioned, was pencilled, and Neal despatched with it.

The man brought the message back in due course "Mr. Oswald Cray was
unable to call upon the doctor, as he was departing for London." Dr.
Davenal was disappointed; he had wished to explain to Oswald Cray his
intentions respecting the money; he considered it due to him, Oswald,
to do so.

How is it that there are times when an idea, without any apparent
cause to lead to it, any reason to justify it, takes sudden possession
of the mind? Even as Neal spoke, such an idea seated itself in Dr.
Davenal's. He fancied that Oswald Cray was in some way not pleased at
the disposition of Lady Oswald's property, as regarded Dr. Davenal;
was in a degree, more or less, resenting it. It only made the doctor
doubly desirous of seeing him.

But there was no chance of it at present, Oswald Cray having left
Hallingham. Dr. Davenal put on his hat and went out to take a walk as
far as Lady Oswald's.

He found the Rev. Mr. Stephenson alone. His brother had departed. The
clergyman received him somewhat awkwardly. He had been brooding over
his disappointment all by himself; had been thinking what a crying
wrong it was that the money should be left to the flourishing and
wealthy physician, Dr. Davenal, who put as many guineas into his
pocket daily as would keep him and his family in their humble way for
months. He was casting his anxious thoughts to the future, wondering
how his children were to be educated, foreseeing nothing but
embarrassment and struggle to the very end of his life; and I am not
sure that his heart at that moment towards that one man was not full
of envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. Ministers of the
gospel are but human, swayed at times by evil passions, just as we
are.

But, being in this frame of mind, it a little confused the reverend
gentleman to see the object of his envy standing before him. Dr.
Davenal drew forward a seat.

"I daresay, Mr. Stephenson, if the truth were known, you were at this
very moment bestowing upon me plenty of hard names."

It was so exceedingly like what Mr. Stephenson had been doing, that
all the reply he could make was a confused stammer. Dr. Davenal, who,
for the interview, appeared to have put away from the surface his
hidden care, resumed in a frank, free tone--

"I have no right to the money, have I? It ought to have gone to you
and your brother?"

"Well, sir--perhaps you had been led to expect it by Lady Oswald," was
the clergyman's answer. Of a timid and refined nature, he could not,
to Dr. Davenal's face, express his sense of the wrong. With Dr.
Davenal before him, cordial and open, he began to think the wrong
less. That is, that it was not so much the doctor's fault as he had
been angrily deeming.

"No, she never led me to expect anything of the sort; and you cannot
be more surprised than I am at its being left to me," said the doctor.
"When Mr. Wedderburn came to me with the news, I could not believe
him. However, it appears to be the fact."

"Yes," meekly rejoined the clergyman; "it is."

"And I have now come to inform you, that I shall not take the money,
Mr. Stephenson. Not a stiver of it. The will, so far as it concerns
me, may be regarded as a dead letter, for all practical use. I have
desired Mr. Wedderburn to transfer the money to you and your brother;
and if this may not legally be, if I must, despite myself, accept the
money, I only take it to restore it to you. You will not be too proud
to accept it from me?"

Was he listening to fact?--or was he in a dream? The words, to the
minister's ear, did not savour of reality. His pale face grew moist
with emotion, his trembling hands entwined their thin fingers
together. He did not dare to ask, Was it real? lest the answer should
dissolve the spell, and prove it but illusion.

"I could not accept of this great sum to the prejudice of others who
have a right to it," resumed Dr. Davenal. "I should fear its proving
something like ill-gotten gains, that bring evil with them, instead of
good. The money shall be yours and your brother's, Mr. Stephenson,
just as surely as though it had been left to you by Lady Oswald. The
diamond ring I shall keep and value, but not a shilling of the money.
I thought I would come up and tell you this."

The tears were welling into that poor gentleman's eyes, as he rose and
clasped the hand of Dr. Davenal. "If you could see what I have
suffered; if you could only imagine the struggle life has been to me,
you would know what I feel at this moment. Heaven send its blessings
on your generosity!"

The doctor quitted him. He had found a heavy heart, he left a glad
one. He quitted him and went forth into the stillness of the autumn
night.

He glanced towards the bright stars as he walked along, thinking of
the future. And a prayer went up from his heart to the throne of
heaven--that, if it was God's will, his children might not feel
hereafter the sacrifice he had made--that God would bless them and be
merciful to them when he should be gone. The last few days had been
sufficient to teach Dr. Davenal, had he never known it before, in how
great need the apparently safest amongst us stand of this ever-loving
mercy.



CHAPTER XXV.
COMPANY FOR MR. OSWALD CRAY.


For some days subsequent to the interview with Neal, and that valuable
servant's startling communication, Mr. Oswald Cray remained in what
may be called a sea of confusion. The unhappy circumstances attendant
on Lady Oswald's death never left his mind, the strange suspicions
first arising naturally, as they did arise, and then augmented by
Neal's disclosure, seemed to be ever waging hot war within him, for
they were entirely antagonistic to sober reason, to his life-long
experience of Dr. Davenal.

It cannot be denied that Oswald Cray, calm of temperament though he
was, sound of judgment, did fall into the snare that the web of events
had woven around him; and, in the midnight watches, when things wear
to our senses a weird, ghost-like hue, the disagreeable word murder
suggested itself to him oftener than he would have cared to confess in
broad matter-of-fact daylight. But as the days went on his senses came
to him. Reason reasserted her empire, and he flung the dark doubt
from him, as unworthy of himself and the present enlightened age. It
was impossible to connect such a crime with Dr. Davenal.

But still, though he shook off the worst view, he could not shake off
the circumstances and their suspicion. Perhaps it was next to
impossible, knowing what he did know of the doctor's sentiments as to
chloroform, hearing, as he had heard, Neal's account of the words
spoken at the midnight interview, that he should shake them off. They
turned and twisted themselves about in his mind in spite of his will;
he would have given much to get rid of them, but he could not. Now
taking one phase, now another, now looking dark, now light, there they
were, like so many phantoms, ever springing up from different corners
of his mind, and putting legitimate thoughts out of it. Up and in bed,
at work or at rest, were those conflicting arguments ever dancing
attendance on him, until, from sheer perplexity, his brain would seem
to lose its subtle powers, and grow dull from very weariness. But the
worst aspect of the affair gradually lost its impression, and reason
drove away the high colours of imagination.

The conclusion to which he at length came, and in which he finally
settled down, was that Dr. Davenal had been in a partial degree
guilty. He _could not_ think that he had given that chloroform to Lady
Oswald with the deliberate view of taking her life, as some of our
worst criminals have taken lives: but he did believe there was some
hidden culpability attached to it. Could it have been given in
forgetfulness?--or by way of experiment?--or carelessly? Oswald Cray
asked himself those questions ten times in a day. No, no, reason
answered; Dr. Davenal was not a man to forget, or to experimentalise,
or to do things carelessly. And then, with the answer, rose the one
dark, awful doubt again, tormenting him not less with its shadows than
with its preposterous absurdity.

What clung to his mind more than all the rest was, that he could see
no solution, or chance of solution, to the question of why chloroform
was administered, why even it was taken to the house. Had Dr. Davenal
frankly answered him when questioned, "I thought, in spite of my
conversation with you, that chloroform might be ventured upon with
safety, that it would ease her sufferings, and was absolutely
necessary to calm her state of excitement," why he could have had no
more to say, however lamenting the fatal effects. But Dr. Davenal had
answered nothing of the kind. On the contrary, he had been mysterious
over it, and at length flatly refused to satisfy him at all. So far as
Oswald Cray could see, there was no other solution, then or ever, that
could be arrived at, save that the chloroform had been administered
wilfully and deliberately. If so, then with what view had Dr.
Davenal----

At this point Oswald Cray always pulled his thoughts up, or strove to
do so, and plunged desperately into another phase of the affair as if
he would run away from dangerous ground. Once he caught himself
wondering whether, if the doctor had been deliberately guilty, it lay
in his duty--his, Oswald Cray's--to bring him to account for it. No
living being save himself, so far as he trusted, had been cognisant of
Dr. Davenal's strong opinion of chloroform as applied to Lady Oswald.
Ought he, then, not only in the obligation which lies upon all honest
men to bring crime to light, but as a connection of Lady Oswald's,
ought he to be the Nemesis, and denounce----

With a quicker beating of the heart, with a burning flush upon his
brow, Oswald Cray started from the train of thought. Into what strange
gulf was it carrying him? Ah, not though it had been his fate to see
the crime committed, and to know that it was a crime, would _he_ be
the one to bring it home to Richard Davenal! The man whom he had so
respected; the father of her who possessed his best love, and who
would possess it, in spite of his efforts to withdraw it, for all
time? No; not against _him_ could his hand be raised in judgment.

_In spite of his efforts to withdraw his love?_ Had it come to that
with Oswald Cray? Indeed it had. He could not fathom the affair, it
remained to him utterly incomprehensible, but that Dr. Davenal was in
some way or other compromised by it, terribly compromised, seemed as
plain as the sun at noonday. And Mr. Oswald Cray, in his haughty
spirit, his besetting pride, decided that he could no longer be on
terms of friendship with him, and that Sara Davenal must be no wife of
his.

What it cost him to come to this resolution of casting her adrift,
none save Heaven knew. The struggle remained on his memory for years
afterwards as the sorest pain life had ever brought him. It was the
bitter turning-point which too many of us have to arrive at, and pass;
the dividing link which dashes away the sunny meads, the flowery paths
of life's young romance, and sends us stumbling and shivering down the
stony road of reality. None knew, none ever would know, what that
struggle was to Oswald Cray.

Not a struggle as to the course he should pursue--the breaking off
intimacy with her: never for a single moment did he hesitate in that.
The struggle lay with his feelings, with his own heart, where she was
entwined with its every fibre, part and parcel of its very self. He
strove to put her out thence, and she would not be put out. There she
remained, and he was conscious that there she would remain for many a
dreary year to come.

But for his overweening pride, how different things might have been!
He was too just a man to include Sara in the doctor's--dare he say
it?--crime. Although Neal had said that Miss Sara Davenal had been
made cognisant of it, Oswald did not visit upon her one iota of blame.
She was no more responsible for the doctor's acts than he was, neither
could she help them. No, he did not cast a shadow of reproach upon
her; she had done nothing to forfeit his love; but she was her
father's daughter, and therefore no fit wife for him. One whose pride
was less in the ascendant than Mr. Oswald Cray's, whose self-esteem
was less sensitively fastidious, might have acted upon this
consciousness of her immunity from blame, and set himself to see
whether there was not a way out of the dilemma rather than have given
her up, off-hand, at the very first onset. He might have gone in his
candour to Dr. Davenal and said, "I love your daughter; I had wished
to make her my wife; tell me confidentially, is there a reason why I,
an honourable man, should not?" Not so Mr. Oswald Cray and his haughty
pride. Without a single moment of hesitation he shook himself free
from all future contact with the daughter of Dr. Davenal, just as he
was trying to shake her from his heart. Never more, never more, might
he look forward to the life of happiness he had been wont to picture.

It was a cruel struggle, cruel to him; and the red flush of shame
mantled on his brow as he thought of the binding words he had spoken
to her, and the dishonour that must accrue to him in breaking them.
There was not a man on the face of the earth whose sense of honour was
more keen than Oswald Cray's, who was less capable of wilfully doing
aught to tarnish it; and yet that tarnishing was thrust upon him.
Anyway, it seemed that a great stain must fall upon it. To take one to
be his wife whose father was a suspected man would be a blot indeed;
and to slip through the words he had spoken, never more to take notice
of her or them, was scarcely less so. He felt it keenly; he, the man
of unblemished conduct, and, it may be said, of unblemished heart.

But still he did not for a moment hesitate. Great as the pain was to
himself, little as she, in her innocence, deserved that the slight
should be inflicted on her, he never wavered in that which he knew
must be. The only question that arose to him was, how it should be
best done. Should he speak to her?--or should he gradually drop all
intimacy and let the fact become known to her in that way? Which would
be the kinder course? That the separation would be productive of the
utmost pain to her as to him, that she loved him with all the fervour
of a first and pure attachment, he knew; and he felt for her to his
very heart's core. He hated himself for having to inflict this pain,
and he heartily wished, as things had turned out, that he had never
yielded to the pleasure of becoming intimate at Dr. Davenal's. Well,
which should be his course? Oswald Cray sat over his fire one cold
evening after business was over, and deliberated upon it. Some weeks
had gone on then. He leaned his elbow on the arm of his chair, and
bent his cheek on his hand, and gazed abstractedly on the blaze. He
shrank from the very idea of speaking to her. No formal engagement
existed between them: it had been implied more than spoken; and he
would be scarcely justified in say to her, "I cannot marry you now,"
considering that he had never in so many words asked her to marry him
at all. She might regard it as a gratuitous insult.

But, putting that aside, he did not see his way clear to speak to her.
What reason could he give for his withdrawal He could not set it down
to his own caprice; and he could not--no, he _could not_--put forth to
her the plea of her father's misdoing. He began to think it might be
better to maintain silence, and so let the past and its words die
away. If----

He was aroused from his train of thought by the entrance of a woman--a
woman in a black bonnet, and sleeves turned up to the elbow, with a
rather crusty expression of face. This was Mrs. Benn the housekeeper,
cleaner, cook of the house. It did not lie in Mrs. Benn's province to
wait on Mr. Oswald Cray, or she would probably have attired herself
more in accordance with her duty. It lay in her husband's, and he had
been sent out this evening by Mr. Oswald Cray on business connected
with the firm. On cleaning days--and they occurred twice in the
week--Mrs. Benn was wont to descend in, the morning in the black
bonnet, and keep it on until she went to bed. It was not worn as
bonnets are worn usually; the crown behind and the brim before; but
was perched right on the top of her head, brim downwards and Mrs. Benn
was under a firm persuasion that this kept her hair and her cap free
from the dust she was wont to raise in sweeping. She was about forty,
but looked, fifty, and her face had got a patch of black-lead upon it,
and a nail had torn a rent in her check apron.

"Wouldn't you like the things taken away, sir?" she asked in a tone as
crusty as her look. "I'm waiting to wash 'em up."

This recalled Oswald Cray's notice to the fact that the remains of his
dinner were yet upon the table. He believed he had rung for them to be
taken away when he turned to the fire; and there he had sat with his
back to them since, never noticing that nobody had come to do it. It
was now a little past seven, and Mrs. Benn had grown angry and
indignant at the waiting.

"I declare I thought they had gone away," he said. "I suppose the bell
did not ring. I am sure I touched it."

"No bell have rung at all," returned Mrs. Benn resentfully. "I stood
down there with my hands afore me till the clock had gone seven, and
then I thought I'd come up and see what was keeping 'em. You haven't
ate much this evening, sir," she added, looking at the dish of steak
and the potatoes. "I don't think you have eat much lately. Don't you
feel well?"

"Well! I am very well," he replied carelessly, rising from his chair
and stretching himself. "Is Benn not back yet?"

"No, he is not back," she returned, her tone becoming rather an
explosive one, boding no good for the absent Mr. Benn. "He don't seem
to hurry himself, _he_ don't, though he knows if he didn't get back I
should have to come up here: and very fit I be on my cleaning days to
appear before a gentleman."

"Is it necessary to clean in a bonnet?" asked Oswald quietly.

"It's necessary to clean in something, sir, to protect one's head from
the fluff and stuff that collects. One would wonder where it comes
from, all in a week. I used to tie a apron over my cap, but it was
always coming off, or else blowing its corners into the way of one's
eyes."

Oswald laughed. He remembered the apron era, and the guy Mrs. Benn
looked. For twelve years had she and her husband been the servants of
that house. Formerly Mr. Bracknell, an old bachelor, had lived in it,
and Benn and his wife waited on him, as they now did on Mr. Oswald
Cray.

"Would you like tea this evening, sir?" she inquired. For sometimes
Oswald took tea and sometimes he did not.

"Yes; if you bring it up directly. I am going out."

She went away with her tray of things. Down the first flight of
stairs, past the offices, and down again to the kitchen. The ground
floor of this house in Parliament Street was occupied by the offices
of the firm, and partially so the floors above. Oswald Cray had two or
three rooms for his own use; his sitting-room, not a very large one,
being on the first floor.

His train of thought had been broken by the woman, and he did not
recall it. He stepped into an adjoining apartment, lighted a shaded
lamp, sat down, and began examining a drawing of some complicated
plans. Pencil in hand, he was deep in the various mysteries pertaining
to engineering, when he heard Mrs. Benn and the tea-tray. He finished
marking off certain lines and strokes on a blank sheet of paper--which
he did after a queer fashion, his eyes fixed on the drawing, and his
fingers only appearing to guide the pencil--before he went in.

He had not hurried himself, and the tea must be getting cold. Mrs.
Benn was in the habit of making it downstairs, so that he had no
trouble. It was by no means a handsome tea equipage--party belonging,
in fact, to Mrs. Benn herself. The black teapot had a chipped spout,
and the black milk-jug had a fray on its handle, and the china tea-cup
was cracked across. Oswald's china tea-service had been handsome
once--or rather Mr. Bracknell's, for it was to that gentleman the
things in the house belonged; but Mrs. Benn had what she herself
called a "heavy hand at breakage," and two or three cups and saucers
were all that remained. Oswald determined to buy himself a decent
tea-set, but somehow he never thought of it, and the elegant equipage
came up still.

He poured himself out a cup, stirred it, and then went for the sheet
of paper on which he had been making the strokes and scrawls. Mrs.
Benn knew her master well. He had said he was going out, but he was
just as likely to remain over these strokes all the evening as to go
out; perhaps, even, in forgetfulness keep her tea-things up until ten
o'clock, or until she went for them. Oswald Cray was one whose heart
was in his profession, and work was more pleasant to him than
idleness.

He was busy still over this paper, neglecting his tea, when Mrs. Benn
came in again. He thought she had come very soon for her tea-tray
tonight. But she had not come for that.

"Here's company now, sir! A young lady wants to see you."

"A young lady!" repeated Oswald. "To see me?"

"Well, I suppose she's a young lady--from what one can see of her
through her black veil; but she come to my kitchen bell only, when the
knocker was a-staring her right in the face," returned Mrs. Benn. "She
asked for you, sir. I said, was it any message I could take up, but
she says she wants to speak to you herself."

"You can show her up."

Mrs. Benn accomplished this process in a summary manner. Going down
the stairs to the hall, where she had left the applicant, she briefly
said to her, "You can go up. First door you come to that's open"--and
then left the lady to find her way. Had her husband, Benn, been at
home, he would have asked her what she meant by introducing a visitor
in that fashion to Mr. Oswald Cray; and he would probably have got for
answer a sharp order to mind his own business. In point of fact, Mrs.
Benn, on those two dark interludes of her weekly existence, cleaning
days, had neither time nor temper to waste on superfluous ceremony.

Oswald Cray had bent over his paper again, attaching little importance
to the advent of the visitor; he supposed it might be some messenger
from one or other of the clerks. The footfall on the stairs was soft
and light; Oswald's back was to the door, and his lines and marks were
absorbing his attention.

"Mr. Oswald Cray?"

It was a sweet and pleasant and sensible voice, with a Scotch accent
very perceptible to English ears. It was the voice of a lady, and
Oswald Cray started up hastily, pencil in hand.

A short, slight, very young-looking woman, with a fair face and blue
eyes, stood before him. Strictly speaking, there was no beauty
whatever in the face, but it was so fair, so frank, so honest, with
its steady good sense and its calm blue eyes, that Oswald Cray warmed
to it at once. She was dressed plainly in black, and she threw back
her crape veil to speak--as most sensible women like to do. To
Oswald's eyes, seeing her by that light, she looked about one or two
and twenty, as she had to Mrs. Benn: her light complexion, her small
features, and her slight figure were all of that type that remain
young a long while. In his surprise he did not for the moment speak,
and she repeated the words, not as a question this time--

"You are Mr. Oswald Cray."

"That is my name," he answered, recovering his equanimity. "May I----"

"I come to you from my brother, Frank Allister," she interrupted. "I
am Jane Allister."

She pronounced the name "Jean" as she had in fact been christened, but
it generally gets corrupted into Jane by English ears and English
tongues. Oswald so interpreted it. His whole face lighted up with a
smile of welcome; it may be said of recognition. He had heard so much
of this good sister from his friend Frank Allister.

"I am so glad you have come to him!" he warmly exclaimed, taking her
hand. "Frank has almost pined for you: but he did not expect you yet.
I seem to know you quite well: he has talked to me of you so much."

"Thank you; I'll take it," she said, in answer to the chair he
offered. "And I will take off my fur," she added, unwinding a boa from
her neck, and untying her bonnet-strings. "Your room feels very warm
to one coming in from the keen air outside."

There was something in her frank manners that struck most pleasingly
on the mind of Oswald. She sat there as confidingly in his room as
though he had been her brother: a good, modest, single-minded woman,
whom even a bad man could not do otherwise than respect.

"Yes, I came before Frank expected me;" she said. "I did not think I
could have come so soon; but my friends kindly released me. You know
my situation--why I could not come to him before."

"I know that you are"--Oswald hesitated for a moment, and then went
bravely on. Before that clear eye of plain good sense there was no
need to mince the matter, and pretend ignorance.

"I know that you are companion-attendant to a lady. And that you could
not leave her."

"I have been companion and maid to her all in one," said Miss
Allister. "When I and Frank had to go out into the world and do the
best we could for ourselves, I was obliged to look out for what I was
most fitted for. Our dead mother's brother offered to help Frank, and
he paid the premium with him to this house, and assisted him
otherwise, and I was very glad it should be so----"

"You mean Mr. Brown?" interrupted Oswald.

"Yes. He lived in London. My mother was English born and reared. He
was a good friend to us so long as he lived. It was necessary that I
should go out; and a situation offered in a lady's family, Mrs.
Graham. She wanted some one who would be her companion, sit with her,
read to her, some one well reared, of whom she might make an equal,
but who would at the same time act as maid; and I took it. But perhaps
you have heard all this from Frank?"

"No, not these past details. Though he has talked of you very much. He
has told me"--Oswald broke into a frank smile as he said it--"that his
sister Jane was worth her weight in gold."

"I should be sorry to think that most sisters are not worth as much as
I am," she gravely answered. "I have but done my duty, so far as I
could do it, and the worst of us ought to do no less. When Frank found
I acted as maid to Mrs. Graham he was very much put out, and wanted me
to give up the situation and seek a different one. But I laughed at
him for a proud boy, and I have stayed on until now. What am I the
worse for it? I dressed her, and served her, and when of late years
she got ill and helpless, I nursed and fed her. I had become so useful
to her--I must say, so indispensable--that when news reached me of
Frank's illness, I could not quit her to come to him. I tried to see
which way my duty lay; to leave her for my sick brother, or to leave
my brother to strangers, and stay with my dying and helpless friend
and mistress, Every week we expected would be her last; she has been
slowly dying for these three months; and I felt that it would be wrong
to abandon her. That, you see, is why I could not come to Frank."

"Is she dead?" asked Oswald.

"O yes. This mourning that I am wearing is for her. And as soon as it
was possible after the funeral I came away. We had a long and bad
passage, two days, and I did not reach Frank until three o'clock this
afternoon."

"You should have come by land," observed Oswald.

"Nay, but that would have cost more," she simply answered. "And I
know that Frank was better, so as to be in no vital hurry for my
presence. I have come to you, sir, this evening, to ask your opinion
of his state. Will you be so kind as to give it me?"

"First of all will you permit me to invite you to take a cup of tea?"
replied Oswald, turning round to look at the tray, which was on the
opposite side of the table, next the door.

"No, I thank you," she replied, "I gave Frank his tea before I came
out, and took some with him. But will you let me pour out a cup for
you? I saw that I interrupted you."

Before Oswald could decline, she had taken her gloves off, and was
round at the tray, putting it in order. That a bachelor had been doing
the honours of the ceremony was only too apparent. The teapot was
stuck on the side of the tray, spout forwards; the milk-jug was not on
the tray at all, but ever so far away on the table. Jane Allister had
put all this to rights in a twinkling, and was pouring the slop of
cold tea out of his tea-cup into the basin.

"Not for me," said Oswald, feeling as if he had known her for years.
"You are very kind, but I have taken all I wish."

"Nay, not kind at all," she said, looking at him with some surprise.
"I'd have been glad to do it for you."

Oswald had risen, and she came back from the tea-tray, and stood by
him on the hearth-rug. Her bonnet still untied, her gloves off, her
face and attitude full of repose, she looked like one in her own home.

"You'll tell me freely what you think of Frank?"

There was not the slightest shade of doubt in her voice; she evidently
expected that he would tell it her; tell it her freely, as she asked
for it. She stood with her fair face raised, her candid blue eyes
thrown full up to his.

Oswald drew her chair forward for her, and took his own, pausing
before he spoke. In good truth, he scarcely now knew what was his
opinion of Frank Allister. It was one of those cases where the patient
seems at death's door, and then, to the surprise of all, the disease
takes a sudden turn, and appears to be almost gone. In the previous
month, October, Oswald Cray had believed that a few days must see the
end of Frank Allister; this, the close of November, he was apparently
getting well all one way.

"I do not quite know how to answer you," Oswald began. "Five or six
weeks ago Frank was so ill that I did not think there remained the
least chance for him, but he has changed in a wonderful manner. But
for the deceitfulness that is so characteristic of the disease, I
should believe him to be getting well. Remembering that, I can only
look upon it as a false improvement."

Jane Allister paused. "I suppose there is no doubt that his symptoms
are those of consumption?"

"None."

"And consumption, if it does come on, is rarely if ever cured. Do you
think it is?"

"Very rarely, I fear."

"But again, I have known patients who have displayed every symptom of
consumption, have suffered much, and who have eventually got strong
and hearty, and continued so."

"That is true," he assented. "There have been such instances. I wish I
could satisfy you better, but indeed I do not know what to think. Mr.
Bracknell asked me a day or two ago how Allister was getting on, and I
answered as I answer you--that I really could not tell him."

"When I reached my brother's today and saw how well he appeared to be,
so different from what I had expected to find him, I could not help
expressing my surprise," said Miss Allister. "Frank gaily told me that
his illness and its supposed danger had been all a mistake, and he had
taken a new lease of life. I did not know what to think, what to
believe; and I determined to come here and ask your opinion. I could
not, you know, ask you before him."

"And I cannot give you a decisive one," repeated Oswald. "I can only
hope that this improvement may go on to a complete restoration: and I
should think it, but for the treacherous nature of the disease. Frank
does certainly appear wonderfully strong and well. Even the doctor
cannot say that it will not end in recovery."

"Frank wrote me word that you had caused him to see one of the great
London physicians, and that the opinion was unfavourable. But that was
when he was at the worst. You have been truly kind to him, Mr. Oswald
Cray, and when I came here tonight I felt that I was coming to a
friend."

"I should like to be your friend always," returned Oswald, in an
unusual impulse. "I seem to have been so a long while, Frank has
talked to me so much of you."

"Do you come to see him daily?"

"Not daily; but as often as I can. It is some distance from here."

"It is a long way. But I got misdirected.

"You surely did not walk?" exclaimed Oswald.

"To be sure I walked. How else should I come?"

"There are conveyances--cabs and omnibuses."

"But they cost money," she answered, with that frank, open plainness,
which, in her, seemed so great a charm. "I am not come away to England
devoid of means, but they will find plenty of outlets in necessary
things, without being spent in superfluities. Anyway, they must be
made to last both for me and Frank, until I can leave him and go out
again. I'd not speak of these things to you, Mr. Oswald Cray, but that
you must know all the particulars of our position."

She had risen as she spoke, and was now tying her bonnet-strings.
Oswald picked up a glove which she dropped.

"And now I'll wish you goodnight," she continued, putting her hand
frankly into his. "And I'd like to thank you with all my heart for
what you have done for Frank; for the good friend you have been to
him. You have brought to him help and comfort when there was nobody
else in the world to bring it. I shall always thank you in my heart,
Mr. Oswald Cray."

Oswald laughed the words off, and attended her downstairs, catching up
his hat as he went through the hall. Mrs. Benn and her black bonnet
came up the kitchen stairs.

"Goodnight," repeated Jane Allister.

"I am going with you," said Oswald.

She resisted the suggestion at first, saying she could find her way
back quite well; but Oswald quietly carried his point.

He closed the door behind him, and offered his arm. She took it at
once, thanking him in a staid old-fashioned manner. Mrs. Benn drew the
door open and looked after them.

"Arm-in-arm!" ejaculated that lady. "And he bending of his head down
to her to talk! Who on earth can she be?--coming after him to his
house--and stopping up there in the parlour--and keeping up of the
tea-things! It looks uncommon like as if he had took on a sweetheart.
Only----So it's you at last, is it, Joe Benn! And what do you mean by
stopping out like this?"

The concluding sentences were addressed to a respectable-looking man
who approached the door. It was Joseph Benn, her husband, and the
faithful servant of the firm.

"I couldn't make more haste," he quietly answered.

"Not make more haste! Don't tell me. Mr. Oswald Cray expected you were
home an hour ago."

"Mr. Oswald Cray will be quite satisfied that I have not wasted my
time when I tell him where I've been. Is he upstairs?"

"No, he is not," she sharply answered. "Satisfied, indeed! Yes, he
looked satisfied when he saw me going up to wait upon him in this
guise, and to show in his company? And me waiting a good mortal hour
for his dinner-things, which he forgot was up which couldn't have
happened if you'd been at your post to wait at table. You go and stop
out again at his dinner-time, Joe Benn."

Joe Benn made no rejoinder; experience had taught him that it was best
not. He passed her, and she shut the door with a bang.



CHAPTER XXVI.
MORE INSTILLED DOUBT.


The air was keen and frosty, and the flags of the streets were white
and clean--not a common feature in November--as they walked forth.
Oswald could but admire this straightforward Scotch girl, with her
open speech and her plain good sense. She was so young in appearance
that he could only think of her as a girl, though she had herself
reminded him that she was older than Frank. This, as he knew, must
bring her to a year or two past thirty: and in steadiness of manner
and solid independence she was two-and-forty.

Reared in her Highland home, in every comfort for the earlier years of
her life, she had since had to buffet with the world. Her mother, a
widow since Frank was two years old, had enjoyed a good income, but it
died with her. The uncle in London took Frank, who was then a youth;
and Jane had to seek a situation. It was not easy to find. For a
governess she was not qualified, so many of what are called
accomplishments are essential nowadays, and Jane Allister had not
learnt them. She had received a good education, but a strictly plain
one.

Waiting and waiting! No situation offered itself; and when she heard
of Mrs. Graham's she was well-nigh wearied out with the worst of all
weariness--that of long-continued disappointment, of hope deferred.
But for that weariness she might not have accepted a place where she
was to be personal attendant as well as companion. She took it,
determined to do her duty in it, to make the very best of it; and when
her brother Frank wrote to her in a commotion from his distant home in
London, where he was then with Bracknell and Street, she began by
making the very best of it to him, gaily and lightly. Frank had the
letter yet, in which she had jokingly called him--as she had just
related to Mr. Oswald Cray--a proud boy, and recommended him to "bring
down" his notions. Frank Allister had never been reconciled to it yet.
Jane had grown to like it; and she had remained there all these years,
conscientiously doing her duty.

"Have you lost a friend lately?" she inquired, in allusion to the
crape band on Oswald's hat.

"Yes," he briefly answered, wincing at the question, could Jane
Allister have seen it. All that past time of Lady Oswald's death, and
the events attending it, caused an inward shiver whenever they were
brought to his mind.

"It is a grievous thing to lose relatives when they are dear to us,"
remarked Jane. "There is an expression in your countenance at times
that tells me you have some source of sorrow."

Whatever the expression she had noticed on his countenance, she would
have seen a very marked one now, had they been, as before, face to
face near a table-lamp. The old haughty pride came into it, and his
brow flushed blood-red. Oswald Cray was one of the very last to
tolerate that his secret feelings should be observed or commented
upon. As she spoke it seemed to him as if the pain at his heart was
read, his hopeless love for Sara Davenal laid bare.

"You are drawing a wrong inference, Miss Allister," he coldly said.
"The friend I lost was neither near nor very dear to me. She was an
old lady; a connection of my mother's family--Lady Oswald."

Jane marked the changed tone. She concluded the loss _was_ one of pain
to him, though he did not choose to say so, and she gathered her
deductions that he was a man of great reticence of feeling. That he
was a brave man and a good man, one in every way worthy of trust, of
esteem, she knew from Frank long ago.

"Why, Neal! Is it you?"

Mr. Oswald Cray came to an abrupt halt in his surprise. Turning out of
the door of a house that they were passing, so quickly as nearly to
brush against him, was Dr. Davenal's manservant. Neal did not appear
in the least taken to. He touched his hat and stood still with just
the same equanimity that he would have done had he been waiting there
for the passing of Mr. Oswald Cray.

"What has brought you to London, Neal? You have surely not left Dr.
Davenal?"

"O no, sir, I have not left. A brother of mine, sir, has returned to
England after an absence from it of many years, and a little property
of ours, that couldn't be touched while he was away, is now being
divided. I spoke to Dr. Davenal, and he gave me leave to come."

"Have you been up long?"

"Only three days, sir."

"Are they all well at Hallingham?"

"Quite well, sir. Mr. Cray hurt his arm as he was getting out of the
doctor's carriage, and it was bound up for a week. But it is better."

"How did he manage that?"

"I don't think he knew, sir. His foot slipped as he was stepping out,
and he swung round in some way, keeping hold of the carriage with his
hand bent behind. It was rather a bad sprain."

"Miss Davenal is quite well?"

"Yes, sir. Miss Sara has had a cold lately, and is looking ill. The
captain went abroad, sir, without coming to Hallingham, and they all
felt it much."

Oswald bade the man goodnight, and walked on. He did not care, in his
fastidious sensitiveness, to hear the looks of Sara Davenal commented
on. If she did look ill, was it for his, Oswald's, sake!--or was she
haunted with that unhappy secret which Neal had once so darkly hinted
at?

Neal stood within the shade of the house looking after Mr. Oswald
Cray, or rather after the young lady leaning on his arm. Neal was very
curious as to this young lady, for young she looked in Neal's
eyes. While apparently his whole attention was absorbed by his
conversation with Mr. Oswald Cray, he had been studying the face
turned to him; a fair and sensible face, as Mr. Neal could read,
though less good-looking than Miss Sara Davenal's. What with Neal's
legitimate observation and his illegitimate ferreting habits, he had
contrived to arrive at a very ingenious conjecture of the tacit
relations which had existed between Mr. Oswald Cray and Dr. Davenal's
daughter; and Neal had of late been entertaining a rather shrew guess
that Mr. Oswald Cray intended those relations to cease. He judged by
the fact that the gentleman had never once, since Lady Oswald's
funeral, been inside the doctor's doors. A formal call and a left
card during one of his visits to Hallingham, had comprised all the
notice taken. Tolerably safe appearances these, from which Neal drew
his conclusions; and it perhaps may be pardoned one of Neal's
conclusion-drawing mind, that he asked himself whether this young
lady had superseded Miss Sara.

"It looks uncommonly like it," he repeated to himself, as his gaze
followed them in the distance. "I should like to be certain, and to
know who she is. She looks like a lady--and _he'd_ not take up with
anybody that was not one. Suppose I just see where they go? I have
nothing particular on my hands this evening."

Gingerly treading the streets, as one who knows he is bent upon some
surreptitious expedition is apt to tread them, Neal stepped along,
keeping Mr. Oswald Cray and his companion sufficiently in view not to
lose them. After a sufficiently long walk, they entered a house on the
confines of Chelsea, bordering upon Brompton; the middle one of a row
of moderate-sized houses, with small gardens before the doors. Neal
saw Mr. Oswald Cray knock; and a young servant-maid admitted them.

But this left Neal as wise as before. He could see the house, could
read the name of the Terrace, "Bangalore Terrace," in large black
letters at either end; but this did not tell the name of the lady,
or who she was; and Bangalore Terrace, though sufficiently
respectable-looking, was certainly not the class of terrace to which
it might be expected Mr. Oswald Cray would go for a wife.

Neal might have remained in his ignorance until now but for a
fortunate accident. He was taking a last look at the house ere he
turned away, at the light which shone behind the blinds of the
first-floor windows, when the same servant who had opened the door
came running out, her bonnet just perched on her head, its strings
flying, and a jug and latch-key in her hand. As she passed Neal, the
unsecured bonnet flew off, and Neal gallantly picked it up.

"I'm sure I'm much obliged to you, sir," she said, civilly. "Nasty
tilting things these new-fangled bonnets be! One doesn't know whether
to fix 'em atop of the back hair or under it."

"Can you tell me where a Miss-- Miss---- It is very unfortunate,"
broke off Neal in a tone of vexation. "I am in search of a young lady
on a little matter of business, and I have forgotten her number. I
think she lives at number five, but I am not sure."

"Number five's our house," said the girl, falling readily into the
trap. "There ain't no young lady living there. There's three young
ladies at number six, sir; perhaps its one o' them."

"No young lady living at number five!" repeated Neal

"No, there isn't. There's only my missis, and me, and two sons, and
the gentleman what's ill on the first-floor. But perhaps you mean the
sick gentleman's sister?" she added, the thought striking her. "She
came to our house today, after a long journey all the way from
Scotland, and she's going to stop with him."

Neal hardly thought this could apply. The young lady did not look as
though she had just come off a long journey. "I don't know," said he.
"What is her name!"

"Her name's the same as her brother's--Allister. If you'd been here
two minutes sooner, sir, you might have seen her, for she's just come
in with Mr. Oswald Cray. He's a gentleman who comes to see Mr.
Allister."

"Allister!" The name was conclusive without the other testimony. Neal
had once heard Mr. Oswald Cray describe his friend Allister's symptoms
to Dr. Davenal. This fair girl with the pleasant face was Miss
Allister, then!

"Ah, it's not the same," said he cautiously. "I must come down by
daylight and look out. Goodnight, young woman; I am sorry to have
detained you," he said as he walked away.

"Miss Allister!" repeated Neal to himself. "And so the brother's not
dead yet I remember Mr. Oswald Cray saying he could not live a week,
and that's three months ago."

Frank Allister was sitting between the fire and the table, reading by
the light of the lamp, when they entered. He was slight and short,
with a fair skin like his sister's, and a long thin neck. The room was
very small, as the drawing-rooms (as they are called) in these
unpretending suburban houses mostly are. What with the smallness of
the room and the heavy closeness of the Brompton air, Jane Allister
had felt stifled ever since she arrived that day. Frank, without
rising from his seat, turned round and held his thin white fingers
towards Oswald Cray, who grasped them.

"Jane, where have you been? I fancied you went out for but a few
minutes' walk."

"I thought I would go as far as Mr. Oswald Cray's, Frank, and thank
him for his attention to you," was her answer. "He has been so kind as
to walk back with me."

"But how did you find your way?" cried Frank, wonderingly.

"I inquired. But I suppose I was stupid at understanding, for I went
out of my way. What a busy place London is! I should get bewildered if
I lived in it long."

Oswald Cray laughed. "It would be just the contrary, Miss Allister.
The longer you lived in it the less bewildered you would be."

"Ah, yes," she answered; "use reconciles us to most things."

She had laid her bonnet and black shawl on a chair, and was going
noiselessly from one part of the room to another, putting in order
things that Frank had disturbed since her departure. He had wanted a
particular book, and to get it had displaced two whole shelves of the
cheffonier. The coal-box stood in the middle of the room, and a fancy
china inkstand, the centre ornament of the cheffonier, lay on a chair.
But the room, in its present general neatness and order, looked
different from anything Oswald had ever seen it. Sometimes there had
not been, as the saying runs, a place to sit upon. Frank ill, perhaps
careless, had paid little heed to how his room went, and his landlady
and his landlady's young maid had not much bestirred themselves in the
matter. When Jane arrived she had taken in all the discomfort at the
first glance, and did not sit down until it was remedied. Frank's
bedchamber was at the back, opening from it, and there was a small
room--a closet, in fact--at the bend of the stairs, which was to be
Jane's.

Oswald followed her with his eyes, as she moved about in her simple
usefulness. Perhaps he wished that he had such a sister to make his
home a prettier place than it was made by Mrs. Benn. She was very
small in figure, and the folds of her soft black dress scarcely added
to its fulness. Her light hair was carried rather low on the cheeks,
and twisted into a coil on her neck behind. Without her outdoor things
she looked, if anything, younger than she did in them.

"And so you went to Mr. Oswald Cray's, inquiring your way!" cried
Frank. "I say, young lady, that's not the fashion of doing things in
London."

"May be not," answered Jane. "I daresay I and London shall not agree
in our notions of fashion. Have you taken your milk, Frank!"

"I should think so. It was smoked again."

"Smoked!" cried Jane, turning round and looking at him.

"It generally is smoked," continued Frank. "I think their saucepans
downstairs must be constructed on the plan of letting the smoke in."

Jane said no more. She inwardly resolved that neither Frank's milk nor
anything else that he took should be smoked in future.

"Why don't you sit down, Oswald. Are you afraid of Jane?"

"Not very much," Oswald answered, looking round at her with a smile.
"The fact is, Frank, I have some work to do at home tonight, and must
get back."

"Plans to go over?"

"That and other things."

"I shall soon be well enough to come out again and go to work,"
resumed Frank Allister; and his confident tone proved how firm was his
belief in his own words. "Will Bracknell and Street take me on again?"

"I think you will soon be out if you go on improving at this rate,"
answered Oswald, ignoring the last portion of Frank's words. "You look
better this evening than you have looked yet."

"Oh, I am all right. But of course I look better, now Jane's here.
Nearly the first thing she did was to part and brush my hair, and make
me put on a clean collar. Only fancy her coming upon me today without
warning! When the girl came up to say there was a lady at the door in
a cab for Mr. Allister, I thought of anybody rather than Jane."

Oswald Cray wished them goodnight, and walked leisurely home. He
really had some work to do, but he could have remained longer with
them, only that he thought they might prefer to be alone on this the
first evening of the sister's arrival. They had been apart for so many
years.

Oswald let himself in with his latch-key. It must be supposed that
Mrs. Benn heard him; for she came running up the kitchen stairs, and
held put something to him under the light of the hall lamp. It
appeared to be a piece of narrow black ribbon, about a third of a yard
in length.

"When I had got the tea-tray down in the kitchen, sir, I found this
a-hanging to it. I suppose the young lady that was with you upstairs
left it here."

There was little doubt that Jane had left it. A wrist-ribbon probably,
inadvertently untied in pulling off her glove. Oswald looked at the
woman--at her crusty face, where the pert curiosity induced by the
visit was not yet subdued. A curiosity he judged it well to satisfy.

"Did you know who that lady was, Mrs. Benn?"

"No, sir."

"It was poor Mr. Allister's sister. She has come all the way from
Scotland to nurse him." The crustiness disappeared; the face lighted
up with a better feeling. Mr. Allister had been a favourite of Mrs.
Benn's, and if she could be sorry for anybody's illness, she was sorry
for his.

"Mr. Allister's sister! If I had but known it, sir! What a
pleasant-speaking young lady she is." Following his wife up the
kitchen stairs, had come Benn. He waited until this colloquy was over,
and then began to speak on his own account.

"A gentleman is waiting for you in your sitting-room, sir."

"Who is it?" asked Oswald.

"I think he's a stranger, sir. I don't remember to have seen him
before."

Oswald proceeded upstairs. Standing at the side of the room, facing
the door as he opened it, his gloves on and his hat in his hand, was
Neal. And so much like a gentleman did he really look that Mr. Joseph
Benn's mistake was a perfectly natural one.

"I have taken the liberty of intruding upon you, sir, and of asking to
wait until you returned, to inquire whether I can convey anything for
you to Hallingham. You had hardly left me, sir, in the street, when I
remembered how very remiss it was in me not to ask you. Unless I have
a letter from the doctor tomorrow morning, according me a day or two's
more grace, which I have written for, I shall leave tomorrow evening.
If I can do anything there for you, sir, or be of use to you in
anyway, you may command me."

"Thank you, Neal; there's nothing I want done. I expect to go down
myself next week. Come to the fire and warm yourself this cold night.
Sit down."

Neal came forward nearer the fire; but he did not avail himself of the
invitation to sit. Oswald inquired if he would like some refreshment,
but he declined.

"Have they heard from Captain Davenal yet, do you know?" Oswald asked.

"I think not, sir. I believe they were expecting letters from Malta
when I left."

"I wish he could have gone down for a short while. I am sure the
doctor felt it."

"There's no doubt he did, sir, very much," returned Neal, with warm
sympathy in his low, respectful tone. "I grieve to say, sir, that the
doctor appears to be very much changed. He is more like one suffering
from some inward painful illness than anything else."

"Of body or of mind?" involuntarily asked Oswald, speaking on the
moment's impulse. And however he may have regretted the question, he
could not recall it.

"I should say of mind, sir. Since the night of--of Lady Oswald's
death, he has been a changed man."

Mr. Oswald Cray made no answer whatever to the allusion; he evidently
declined to enter upon that unsatisfactory topic. Neal resumed.

"There are going to be changes in our house, sir; it is to be
conducted with more regard to economy. Watton is to leave, and I am
not sure but I am also. Miss Davenal does not wish any changes to be
made, but the doctor says it is necessary."

"On the score of economy?"

"Yes, sir, on the score of economy. I heard him talking of it to Miss
Sara; he said if the present rate of expense was to go on, together
with the heavy sum that must now go from him yearly as hush-money, he
should not keep his head above water. Miss Davenal, who does not
understand why any retrenchment should be made, opposes it entirely."

Every fibre in Oswald Cray's heart resented the words--he could not
bear that such should be spoken out boldly to him, no matter what
their truth might be. Neal's innocent eyes noticed the sudden flush
upon his face.

"I think you must be mistaken, Neal. Hush-money! Dr. Davenal would
scarcely use the term to his daughter."

"Not that precise term, perhaps, sir, but certainly something
equivalent to it. There is a rumour in the town, sir, that he intends
to resign to the relatives the legacy left to him by my lady, or part
of it."

"Indeed?"

"People have talked a great deal, I fancy, sir, and it has reached the
doctor's ears. Perhaps, sir, if I may venture to say it to you, he may
be _afraid_ to keep it. The injustice of the bequest might lead to
some investigation which--which would be inconvenient to Dr. Davenal."

"Neal, I'd rather not enter upon these topics," said Oswald, in a
clear, resolute tone. "Things which appear dubious to us may be
explainable by Dr. Davenal. At any rate, it is neither your business
nor mine."

And by those firm words Neal knew that Mr. Oswald Cray had, so to say,
washed his hands of the affair, and did not mean to take it up in
anyway. Neal's hopes had tended to the contrary, and it was a little
checkmate.

"I thought I would presume to ask you, sir, whether you might not be
soon requiring a personal attendant," he resumed, sliding easily out
of his disappointment, and giving no token of it, "Should I be leaving
the doctor, it would afford me greater pleasure to serve you, sir,
than any one else, now my late lady's gone."

Oswald laughed--he could not help it. "A valet for me, Neal! No, that
would never do under present circumstances. You will be at no fault
for a good place, rely upon it, should you leave Dr. Davenal. The good
places will be only too glad to contend for you."

Neal did not dispute the assertion. What his precise motive might have
been for wishing to serve Mr. Oswald Cray, when he could no doubt
dispose of himself so much more advantageously, was best known to
himself. He made his adieu in his usual quiet and respectful fashion,
and took his departure, leaving Oswald Cray to the reminiscences of
the interview. Oswald sat over the fire as oblivious of the work he
had to do as he had been of the dinner-things earlier in the evening.
Will it be believed that the hint dropped by Neal--that Dr. Davenal
might be giving up the money because he dared not risk the danger of
any investigation--was grating  unpleasantly on the brain of Oswald?
To do Neal justice so far, he himself fully believed that such was the
motive of Dr. Davenal, and he had spoken for once with an earnest
truthfulness that is never without its weight.

It was unfortunate that this aspect of the affair should have been the
first given to Oswald Cray. Had he simply heard that Dr. Davenal was
declining the bequest in his generous consideration for the
Stephensons, it might perhaps have shaken his doubts of that other
dark story, since the only motive the doctor could possibly have had
throughout (as Oswald's mind had argued), was the acquirement of the
money. But if he was declining the money through fear, it only served
to make these doubts the greater. It was most unfortunate, I say, that
this aspect of the affair should have been imparted to him; for we all
know how little, how very little, will serve to strengthen suspicions
once aroused.

He sat on with his unhappy thoughts far into the night, the image of
Sara Davenal ever before him. Never had his love for her been more
ardently tender, never had the cruelty of their obligatory separation
been so keenly present to his soul.



CHAPTER XXVII.
AN INCLEMENT AFTERNOON.


December came in with a drizzling rain, which lasted a day or two. A
cold, bleak, windy rain, rendering outdoor life miserable. As Sara
Davenal sat at her chamber window, looking into the street, the
shivering and uncomfortable appearance presented by the few passers-by
might have excited her compassion.

But it did not. Truth to say, Sara Davenal had too much need of
compassion herself just now to waste it upon street passengers. The
greatest blight that can possibly fall upon the inward life of a woman
had fallen upon hers. Oswald Cray was faithless. She knew not how, she
knew not why; she only judged by his conduct that it must be so. He
had been two or three times to Hallingham, and had shunned her; had
shunned them altogether. There could be no better proof. One of the
visits he had remained three days; therefore he had not want of time
to plead as his excuse. He had called at the door, inquired for Miss
Davenal, and upon Neal's answering that Miss Davenal was out, he had
handed in cards. For Sara he had not asked at all, and he had not been
near the house since.

Sara could do nothing. She could only accept this change in him and
bear it in silence. Had she been asked to pin her faith on the truth
and honour of any living man, she would have pinned it on Oswald
Cray's. Not because she loved him, not because it was to her his
allegiance was certainly due, but because she believed him to be, of
all others, the very soul of chivalrous integrity. But that he had
changed to her there could not be a shadow of doubt: his conduct
proved it. He had silently broken off all relations with her, and
given no token of what his motive could be.

That some cause, just or unjust, had led to it, she yet did him the
justice to believe; he was the last man so to act from caprice, or
from a totally unworthy motive. And she knew he had loved her. In vain
she asked herself what this cause could be; but there were moments
when a doubt of whether the terrible secret, which had been imparted
that past night to Dr. Davenal, could have become known to Oswald
Cray. If so--why, then, in his high honour, his sensitive pride, he
had perhaps decided that she was no fit wife for him. And Sara could
not say that he had so decided unjustifiably. Whatever the cause, they
were separated.

They were separated. And the sunshine of her life was over. Oh, the
bitter anguish that it cost! There is no pain, no anguish, that this
world and its many troubles can bring, like unto it--the finding one
false, upon whom love, in all the freshness of its first feeling, has
been lavished. The bright green of life's verdure is gone; the rich
blue has faded from the wintry sky.

Sara said nothing, but the doctor spoke openly of the strange conduct
of Mr. Oswald Cray.

"I know nothing that can have offended him," he observed; "unless he
has chosen to take umbrage at the money's having been left to me."

"Nonsense," said Miss Davenal; "it's not that. Mr. Oswald Cray did not
want the money for himself; would not, it is said, have accepted it.
It is not that."

And "It is not that," echoed Sarah Davenal's heart.

"What else is it, then?" said the doctor. "Nobody in this house
has done anything to offend him. _You_ have not, I suppose,
Sara,"--suddenly turning upon her, as a faint doubt flashed into his
mind, never before admitted to it.

The question brought to her she knew not what of emotion. She answered
it with an outward appearance of calmness, save for the burning red
that dyed her face.

"Nothing, papa. The last time I spoke to Mr. Oswald Cray was the night
of the accident. We parted quite good friends--as we always had
parted."

And the sweet words whispered by Oswald rose up before her as she
spoke. What a contrast! that time and this!

"Just so," replied the doctor. "There has been nothing whatever to
cause this coolness on his part, except the business of the money.
Well, as I give it back to the family, perhaps my gentleman will come
round. Rely upon it, that pride of his has been touched in some manner
or other?"

But the weeks had gone on, and December was in, and the gentleman had
not "come round" yet. Sara Davenal sat at her bedroom window, all her
shivering misery only too palpably present to her, as she watched the
cold rain falling on the wet streets, in the gloomy twilight of the
afternoon.

She saw Roger bring the carriage round. She saw her father go out from
the house and step into it. It was the open carriage, but the head was
up, and Roger and his master were sheltered from the rain. It was not
the usual hour of Dr. Davenal's going out, but the bad day had kept
patients from calling on him, and a message had just been delivered
saying that a lady whom he attended, Mrs. Scott, was worse.

Sara heard the house clock strike four, and the lamps were already
lighted in the streets. Night was coming on earlier than usual. The
gleaming of the pools of water in the rays of the gas lamps did not
tend to add to the cheerfulness of the scene; and Sara, with a shiver
that she could not suppress, quitted her room and went downstairs.

The blaze and warmth of the dining-room, as seen through the open
door, was a welcome sight. She went in, and knelt down before the fire
on the hearth-rug, and laid her aching head for shelter against the
side of the marble mantlepiece, and stayed there until disturbed by
the entrance of Miss Davenal.

"Neal's come home," announced Miss Davenal.

"Is he?" apathetically answered Sara.

"I saw him go by with his portmanteau. What are you down there for,
Sara, roasting your face? Have you no regard for your complexion?"

"I am not roasting it, aunt. My face is quite in the shade."

"But you are roasting it. What's the use of telling me that? Had I
allowed the fire to burn my face at your age, do you suppose I should
have retained any delicacy of akin? Get up from the fire."

Sara rose wearily. She sat down in a chair opposite to the one her
aunt had taken, and let her hands fall listlessly in her lap.

"Have any patients been here this afternoon?"

"I think not, Aunt Bettina. I suppose it was too wet for them to come
out."

"Have you been drawing?"

"Not this gloomy day. I like a good light for it."

"It strikes me you have become very idle lately, Miss Sara Davenal! Do
you think that time was bestowed upon us to be wasted?"

A faint blush rose to Sara's cheek. In these, the early days of her
bitter sorrow, she feared she had been idle. What with the shock
brought upon her by that ominous secret, and the cruel pain caused by
the falsity of Oswald Cray, her tribulation had been well-nigh greater
than she could bear.

"Ring the bell," said Miss Davenal.

Sara rose from her chair and rang it. It was answered by Jessy.

"Tell Neal I shall be glad to see him."

Neal appeared in answer to the summons. His London journey had been
prolonged by the permission of the doctor, and he had but now
returned. In he came, just the same as usual, his white necktie
spotless, his black clothes without a crease.

"So you are back, Neal?" said Miss Davenal. "I am very glad to see you.
And pray have you arranged all your business satisfactorily?--secured
your share of the money?"

"Entirely so, thank you, ma'am," replied Neal, advancing nearer to his
mistress that he might be heard. "I am pleased to find all well at
home, ma'am."

"You have been away longer than you intended to be, Neal."

"Yes, ma'am. I wrote to my master stating why it was necessary that I
should, if possible, prolong my stay, and he kindly permitted it. I
saw Mr. Oswald Cray, ma'am, while I was in London," Neal added as a
gratuitous piece of information.

"You did what?" asked Miss Davenal, while Sara turned and stood with
her back to them, looking at the fire.

"I saw Mr. Oswald Cray, ma'am."

"Oh, indeed. And where did you see him?"

"I met him one night in London, ma'am. He was walking with a young
lady."

"Saw him walking at night with a young lady?" repeated Miss Bettina,
in rather a snappish tone; for as a general rule she did not approve
of young ladies and gentlemen walking together, especially at night.

"She seemed a very nice young lady, ma'am, young and pretty,"
continued Neal, who was getting a little exasperated at the face at
Miss Sara Davenal being hidden from his view. "I believe it was Miss
Allister, the sister of a gentleman with whom Mr. Oswald Cray is very
intimate."

"Well, I am glad you are back, Neal," concluded Miss Davenal. "Things
have gone all at sixes and sevens without you."

Neal retired. And Sara, in her still attitude before the fire,
repeated the words over and over again to her beating heart. A lady
young and pretty! walking with him in the evening hours--the sister of
the friend with whom he was so intimate! She laid her hand upon her
bosom, if that might still the tumult within, in all the sickness of
incipient jealousy. Until that moment Sara Davenal had never known how
she had clung to hope in her heart of hearts. While saying to herself,
He is lost to me for ever, this undercurrent of hope had been ever
ready to breathe a whisper that the cloud might some time be cleared
up, that he might return. Now the scales were rudely torn from her
eyes, and reason suggested that his slighting treatment of her might
proceed from a different cause than any she had ever glanced at.

"What was it Neal said, Sara? That the pretty lady walking with Oswald
Cray was somebody's sister?"

Sara turned in her pain to answer her aunt. "Mr. Allister's sister, he
said."

"Who's Mr. Allister?"

"A sick gentleman who used to be at Bracknell and Street's. I remember
that night of the railway accident Mr. Oswald Cray was obliged to
return to town because he had promised to spend--to spend the Sunday
with him."

An idea darting into her brain had caused her to hesitate. Had Oswald
Cray's anxiety to return to town been prompted by the wish to be with
the sister as well as the brother? Sara felt her brow turn moist and
cold.

"Young and pretty!" repeated Miss Davenal. "Who knows but they may be
engaged? Ah! it's Caroline who should have had Oswald Cray."

Meanwhile Dr. Davenal had been driven to the house of Mrs. Scott. It
was not very far from his own home, about two streets only. Time had
been, and not so far back, when Dr. Davenal would not have thought of
ordering his carriage for so short a distance, would have braved the
inclemencies of the weather, the drifting rain, the cutting wind, and
walked it. But the doctor had been growing ill both in body and mind;
since the night of that fatal revelation, whatever it may have been,
he seemed to have become in feelings like an old man, needing all the
care and help of one. As he had looked from his window that afternoon,
a sort of shudder at the outdoor weather came over him; a feeling as
if he could not and ought not to venture out in it. And he told Roger
to bring round the carriage.

He stepped out of the carriage and entered Mrs. Scott's, leaving Roger
snugly ensconced under the shelter of the head and the horses steaming
in the rain. But when the doctor reached his patient's bed, he found
her so considerably and alarmingly worse that he could not yet think
of leaving her. She was a great and real sufferer; not as poor Lady
Oswald had been, an imaginary one; and in the last week or two her
symptoms had assumed a dangerous character. The doctor thought of
Roger and his horses, and went down.

"I shall not be ready to come home this hour, Roger. Better go back
and put the horses up. You can come for me at five." So Roger, nothing
loth, turned his horses round and went home. And Dr. Davenal, with
another shudder, and a very perceptible one, hastened indoors from the
beating rain.

"What's the matter with me this afternoon?" he asked, half angry that
any such sort of sensation should come over him.

Is the body at times more sensitive to outward influences than it is
at others, rendering it susceptible to take any ill that may be
abroad? Is it more liable to cold, to fever, to other ailments? Or can
it be that the mind has so great an influence over the body that the
very fact of dreading these ills predisposes us to take them? If ever
Dr. Davenal sensibly shrank from an encounter with the outdoor
weather, it was on that afternoon. He could not remember so to have
shrunk from it in all his life.

Mrs. Scott's room was hot. The fire was large, every breath of air
excluded, and two large gas-burners flamed away, adding to the heat.
As Dr. Davenal sat there he became first at ease in the genial warmth,
then hot, and subsequently as moist as though he were breathing the
atmosphere of a baker's oven. He had had many a battle with this same
Mrs. Scott over the heated rooms she loved to indulge in, but he had
not conquered yet.

It was not much above half-past four when the doctor was beckoned out
of the room. He was wanted downstairs. There stood Julius Wild, and
Mr. Julius Wild was in as white a heat with running as Dr. Davenal was
with that pernicious atmosphere above.

"I have been about everywhere, sir, trying to find you," he began out
of breath. "At last I bethought myself of asking your coachman at the
stables if he knew, and he said you were at Mrs. Scott's. You are
wanted in the accident-ward, sir, as quick as you can get there."

"What has come in?" inquired Dr. Davenal.

"A young man fell on his head from the very top of that scaffolding in
High Street, sir. It is a dreadful case, and the house-surgeon does
not think he can be saved, even with the operation. The top of the
head is crushed in. Mr. Berry and Dr. Ford and some more are there,
but they wish for you." Dr. Davenal did not delay a moment. In a case
of real necessity he threw aside all thought of precaution for
himself. If human skill could save the life of this poor young man, he
knew that his could, and he knew that perhaps his was the only hand in
Hallingham which could successfully carry through the critical and
delicate operation he suspected must be performed.

He had no greatcoat with him, and he started off at once with Julius
Wild, heated as he was. The rain beat against him in a torrent, for it
poured now; the wind whirled itself in eddies about his person. No
umbrella could live in it; one which the doctor had borrowed from the
hall of Mrs. Scott was turned inside out ere he had taken many steps.

"A rough night, sir," remarked the young embryo surgeon, as he kept by
his side.

"It is that," said Dr. Davenal.

Away they splashed through the muddy pools in the streets. It was
quite dark now, with the unusually gloomy evening, and the gas lamps
only served to mislead their eyesight in the haste they had to make.
There could be no waiting to pick the way. The Infirmary was at a
considerable distance from Mrs. Scott's, and ere they reached it the
cold had struck to one of them. The one was not Julius Wild.

When they came in view of the Infirmary, Julius Wild ran forward to
give notice that the doctor was approaching. Two or three of the
medical men were in the great hall looking out for him; Mark Cray was
one of them. The news of the accident had travelled in the town, and
the surgeons attached to the Infirmary were collecting there.

"We began to despair of you," cried Dr. Ford, "and there's no time to
be lost. I was just recommending Mr. Cray to be the one to officiate."
Dr. Davenal turned his eye with an eagle glance on Mark Cray ere the
words had well left Dr. Ford's lips. The look, the warning conveyed in
it, was involuntary. Had Mark actually acceded to the recommendation,
the look could scarcely have been sterner. Mark coloured under it, and
his thoughts went back to Lady Oswald. Never, in Dr. Davenal's
presence, must he attempt to try his skill again.



CHAPTER XXVIII.
THE LAST MEETING.


The night's work told on Dr. Davenal. The soaking rain, the chilling
wind, had struck inward the perspiration which Mrs. Scott's heated
room had induced. On the next day he was visibly ill. Sara noticed it,
and begged him not to go out.

"Not go out, child? I must go out."

"But you are not in a state for it. I am sure you are very ill."

"I caught cold last night; that's what it is. It will go off in a day
or two."

"Yes if you will lie by and nurse yourself. Not if you go out to make
it worse."

"I have never lain by in all my life, Sara. A doctor has no time for
it. What would become of my patients?"

He went out to his carriage, then waiting for him. The close carriage.
Bright as the day was--for the weather had changed--it was the close
carriage that had been ordered round by the doctor.

"Is master ill, I wonder?" thought Roger, when he found it was only to
pay the daily round of near visits.

As the doctor went out at the gate it happened that Oswald Cray was
passing. And Mr. Oswald Cray quite started when he saw Dr. Davenal,
the change in him was so great.

It was impossible for either of them to pass the other, had they so
wished it, without being guilty of absolute rudeness, and they stopped
simultaneously.

"You are ill, Dr. Davenal?" exclaimed Oswald, speaking impulsively.

"Middling. I have got a cold hanging about me. We have had some bad
weather here."

It cannot be denied that Dr. Davenal's tone and manner betrayed a
coldness never yet offered to Oswald Cray. Generous man though he was
by nature, as little prone to take offence as most people, he did
think that Oswald Cray's slighting conduct had been unjustifiable, and
he could not help showing his sense of it.

They stood a moment in silence, Oswald marking the ravages illness or
something else had made on the doctor's face and form. His figure was
drooping now, his face was careworn; but the sickness looked to be of
mind more than of body. Unfortunately those miserable suspicions
instilled into Oswald Cray's brain arose now with redoubled force, and
a question suggested itself--could anything save remorse change a man
as he had changed, in the short space of time?

"You are a stranger now, Mr. Oswald Cray. What has kept you from us?"

"The last time I called you were all out," he answered, somewhat
evasively.

"And you could not call again! As you please, of course," continued
the doctor, as Oswald's feet, took a somewhat repellant turn, and the
Oswald pride became rather too conspicuous. "I had wished to say a
word or two to you with regard to the will made by Lady Oswald; but
perhaps you do not care to hear it."

"Anything that you, or I, or any one else can say, will not alter the
will, Dr. Davenal. And it does not in the least concern me."

"But I think you are resenting it in your heart, for all that."

Ah, what cross-purposes they were at! Oswald had not resented that;
and all his fiery pride rose up to boiling heat at being accused of
it. He had deemed that to make Dr. Davenal the inheritor was unjust to
the nephews of Lady Oswald, and he had felt for them; but he had not
_resented_ it, even at heart. He spoke the literal truth when he said
it was a matter that did not concern him. If the heavy cloud of
misapprehension between them could but have cleared itself away!

"Will you be kind enough to understand me once for all, Dr. Davenal?"
he haughtily said. "Lady Oswald's money, either before her death or
after it, never was, nor could be, any concern of mine. I do not claim
a right to give so much as an opinion upon her acts in regard to it;
in fact I have no such right. Had she chosen to fling the money into
the sea, to benefit nobody, she might have done so, for any wish of
mine upon the point. I felt a passing sorrow for the Stephensons when
I saw their disappointment, but I did not permit myself to judge so
far as to say that Lady Oswald had done wrong. It was no affair of
mine," he emphatically added, "and I did not make it one."

In spite of his impressive denial, Dr. Davenal did not believe him.
Whence, else, the haughty resentment that shone forth from every line
of his features? Whence, else, his studied absence from the house, his
altogether slighting conduct? Dr. Davenal made one more effort at
concession, at subduing his unfounded prejudices.

"I can assure you I resented the will--if I may so say it. I resented
it for the Stephensons' sake, and felt myself a pitiful usurper.
Nothing would have induced me to accept that money, Mr. Oswald Cray;
and steps are being taken to refund it, every shilling, to the
Stephensons."

"Ah," remarked Oswald, "I heard something of that. Had it been willed
to me I should have done the same."

He held himself rigidly erect as he said it. There was no unbending of
the hard brow, there was no faint smile to break the haughty curve of
the lip. That poisonous hint dropped by Neal--that the money was about
to be restored through _fear_--was uncomfortably present to Oswald
then. Dr. Davenal saw that the resentment, whatever its cause, was
immovable, and he stepped into his carriage without shaking hands.

"Good-morning to you, Mr. Oswald Cray."

And then the reaction set in in Oswald Cray's mind, and he began to
blush for his discourtesy. The careworn face, the feeble form, haunted
him throughout the day, and he began to ask himself, what if all his
premises were wrong--if appearances and Neal's tale had been
deceitful--if he had done the doctor grievous ill in his heart I It
was but the reaction, I say, the repentance arising from his own
haughty discourtesy, which he felt had been more offensively palpable
than it need have been;  but it clung to him for hours, haunting him
in all the business that he had to transact.

It was somewhat strange that just when this new feeling was upon him
he should encounter Sara Davenal. They met in a lonely place--the
once-famed graveyard at the back of the Abbey.

His business for the day over, Oswald Cray was going to pay a visit to
Mark and his wife. He was nearer the back of the Abbey than the front,
and, ignoring ceremony, intended to enter by the small grated door, a
relic of the old Abbey, which divided the graveyard from one of the
long Abbey passages. In passing the tombstone already mentioned,
Oswald turned his eyes down upon it: in the bright moonlight---for
never had the moon been brighter--he could almost trace the letters:
the next moment a noise in front attracted his attention--the closing
of the grated door. There stood Sara Davenal. She had stayed with Mrs.
Cray later than she intended, and was hastening home to dinner: in
leaving the Abbey by this back entrance a few minutes of the road were
saved.

They met face to face. Sara's heart stood still, and her countenance
changed from white to red with emotion. And Oswald?--all the love that
he had been endeavouring to suppress returned in its deepest force.

Ah, it is of no use! Try as we may, we cannot evade the laws of
nature; we cannot bend them to our own will. In spite of the previous
resolutions of weeks to forget her, Oswald Cray stood there knowing
that he loved her above everything on earth.

"How are you, Sara?"

He put out his hand to her in all calm self-possession; he spoke the
salutation with quiet equanimity; but as Sara looked in his face she
knew that his agitation was not in reality less than hers. She said a
few confused words in explanation of her being there at that hour, and
alone. On calling that afternoon she had found Caroline not well, and
had stayed with her to the last moment, as Mark was in the country.

Then for a whole minute there was a silence. Perhaps neither could
speak. Sara put an end to it by turning towards the gate.

"You will let me see you home, as you are alone?"

"No, thank you," she answered. "There is nothing to hurt me. It is as
light as day."

He did not press it. He seemed half-paralysed with indecision. Sara
wished him good night, and he responded to it, and once more shook
hands, all mechanically.

But as she was going through the gate, she turned to speak, a question
having occurred to her. One moment longer, and he had arrested her
progress.

"There are two or three books at our house belonging to you," she
said. "What is to be done with them? Shall they be sent to the Apple
Tree?"

He caught her hands; he drew her from the gate into the bright
moonlight. He could not let her go without a word of explanation; the
cruelty of visiting upon her her father's sin was very present to him
then.

"Are we to part thus for ever, Sara?"

Surely that question was cruel! It was not she who had instituted the
parting; it was himself. She did not so much as know its cause.

"May we not meet once in a way, as friends?" he continued. "I dare not
ask for more now."

That he loved her still was all too evident. And Sara took courage to
gasp forth a question. In these moments of agitation the cold
conventionalities of the world are sometimes set aside.

"What has been the matter? How have we offended you?"

"_You_ have not offended me," he answered, his agitation almost
irrepressible. "I love you more than I ever did; this one moment of
meeting has proved it to me. I could lay down my life for you, Sara; I
could sacrifice all, save honour, for you. And you? You have not
changed?--you love me still?"

"Yes," she gasped, unable to deny the truth, too miserable to care to
suppress it.

"And yet we must part! we must go forth on our separate paths,
striving to forget. But when our lives shall end, Sara, we shall
neither of us have loved another as we love now."

Her very heart seemed to shiver; the fiat was all too plainly
expressed. But she stood there quietly, waiting for more, her hand in
his.

"I would have forfeited half my future life, I would have given all
its benefits to be able to call you mine. The blow upon me has been
very bitter."

"What blow?" she murmured.

"I cannot tell it you," he cried, after a struggle. "Not to you can I
speak of it."

"But you must," she rejoined, the words breaking from her in her
agony. "You have said too much, or too little."

"I have--Heaven help me! Can you not guess what it is that has caused
this?"

"N--o," she faltered. But even as the word left her lips there rose up
before her the secret of that dreadful night--with the suspicion that
Oswald had in some unaccountable manner become cognisant of it.

"I loved you as I believe man never yet loved, Sara; I looked
forward to years of happiness with you; I expected you to be my wife.
And--and--I cannot go on!" he broke off. "I cannot speak of this to
you."

The tears were rolling down her pale face. "You must not leave me in
suspense, Oswald. It may be better for us both that you should speak
out freely."

Yes, it might be better for them both; at any rate he felt that no
choice was left to him now. He drew nearer to her and lowered his
voice to a whisper.

"Is there no--Heaven pardon me for speaking the word to you,
Sara!--disgraceful secret attaching now to--to your family? One which
would render it impossible for a man of honour to----"

He would not say more; he had said enough; and he felt the words to
his heart's core. Whatever pain they may have brought to her, they
inflicted tenfold more upon him. With a low cry, she flung her hands
before her face.

"Is it so, Sara?"

"It is. How did you hear of it?"

"The whisper came to me. Some people might--might--call it murder."

"No, no!" she broke forth in her pain. "It surely was not so bad as
that. They kept the details from me, Oswald; but it could not have
been so bad as that."

The words fell on his heart like an ice-bolt. Unconsciously to himself
he had been hoping that she might disprove the tale. For that purpose
he had whispered to her of the worst: but it seemed that she could not
deny it. It was quite enough, and he quitted the subject abruptly.

"God bless you, my darling, for ever and for ever," he said, taking
her hands in his. "I do not respect or love you less; but I cannot--I
cannot--you know what I would say. It is a cruel fate upon me, as upon
you; and for the present, for both our sakes, it may be better that
our paths in life should lie apart. After awhile we may meet again, as
friends, and continue to be such throughout life."

The tears had dried on her face, as it was lifted in the moonlight,
its expression one living agony. But there was no resentment in it; on
the contrary, she fully justified him. Her hands lingered in his with
a farewell pressure, and she strove to re-echo the blessing he had
given.

They parted, each going a different way. Oswald Cray, in no mood for
the Abbey now, struck off towards the "Apple Tree;" Sara, drawing her
veil over her face, went on to her home.

And so the dream was over. The dream which she had long been
unconsciously cherishing of what a meeting between them might bring
about, was over; and Sara Davenal had been rudely awakened to stern
reality.



CHAPTER XXIX.
A SPECIAL FAVOUR FOR NEAL.


The whole night subsequent to the meeting in the Abbey graveyard with
Oswald Cray, did Sara lie awake, striving to battle with her pain. It
was very sore to bear. She knew now the cause of his absenting
himself; and she knew that they were lost to each other for ever. It
is the worst pain that a woman can be called upon to endure; no
subsequent tribulation in life can equal its keen anguish.

Ten times in the night she prayed for help--for strength to support,
and live, through her mind's trouble. She did not pray that it might
be taken from her; that was hopeless; she knew that weeks and months
must elapse before even the first brunt would lose its force; that
years must roll on before tranquillity could come.

She did not blame Oswald Cray. She believed that that unhappy secret,
of the precise nature of which she was yet in ignorance, had become
known to him: how, she could not conjecture. Perhaps he knew it in all
its terrible details--and that these were terrible, she doubted less
now than ever. Were they not--ay, she fully believed it?--shortening
her father's life? What had been that awful word spoken by Oswald
Cray?--though she could not believe it to be so bad as that. But she
knew that it was something to bring disgrace and danger in its train;
and she fully justified Oswald Cray in the step he had taken. Still
she thought that he should have come to her in the first onset and
plainly said, "Such and such a thing has come to my knowledge, and
therefore we must part." He had not done this; he had left her for
weeks to the slow torture of suspense--and yet that very suspense was
more tolerable than the certainty now arrived at. Oh, the dull dead
pain that lay on her heart!--never for a long, long while to be lifted
from it.

She strove to reason calmly with herself; she essayed to mark out what
her future course should be. She knew that there was nothing at
present but to bear her burden and hide it from the world's eye; but
she would do her duty all the same, Heaven helping her, in all the
relations of life; she would strive nobly to take her full part in
life's battle, whatever the inward struggle.

There is no doubt that in that night of tribulation she looked at the
future in its very darkest aspect. It was well perhaps, that it should
be so, for the horizon might clear a little as she went on. That Mr.
Oswald Cray would in time marry, she had no right to doubt--a word or
two of his had almost seemed to hint at it: man forgets more easily
than woman.

Towards morning she dropped into a heavy sleep, and had slept longer
than usual. This caused her to be late in dressing, and brought upon
her the reproof of punctual Miss Bettina. She looked at herself in the
glass ere she went down; at her pale face, her heavy eyelids; hoping,
trusting they would escape observation. What a happy thing it is that
others cannot read our faces as we read them! Miss Bettina was at the
head of the breakfast-table. She was suffering from a cold; but, ill
or well, she was sure to be at her post and Dr. Davenal stood at the
fire, his elbow on the mantelpiece, his forehead leaning on his hand.

Sara went up to him, and he seemed to rouse himself from a reverie as
he kissed her. She noticed how ill he looked.

"Papa, I am sure you are worse!"

"I don't feel very well, child."

"If you would but stay at home for a day or two and nurse yourself!"

"Ah! I have not time. There's a great deal of sickness about, and my
patients must not be neglected."

"Mark Cray can attend to them."

"To the light cases he could. Not the serious ones; I wouldn't trust
them to him."

"Not trust them to him?" echoed Sara.

The surprised tone of the question aroused Dr. Davenal; he had spoken
out too heedlessly his real thoughts. "People dangerously ill have
naturally more confidence in me than in a young man," he said, by way
of doing away with the impression his avowal might make.

They took their places at the breakfast-table, neither of then able to
eat; the doctor from sickness of body, for he was really ill, Sara
from sickness of mind.

"Aunt Bettina, I tell papa he ought not to go out today."

"Not going out today?" repeated Miss Bettina. "Why not? What's he
going to do, then?"

"I say he ought not to go out. He is not well enough."

Miss Bettina heard this time. She raised her eyes and gazed at the
doctor. It was impossible not to see that he did look ill.

"What's the matter with you, Richard?"

"It is only my cold," said the doctor. "It has settled here," touching
his chest.

"That's just where mine is settling," grimly returned Aunt Bettina.

"Papa's eating nothing," said Sara.

"As if I could eat, with the skin off my throat and chest!" retorted
Miss Bettina, mistaking the words, as usual. "It seems that nobody's
eating this morning; you are not: we might as well not have had the
breakfast laid. Toast was made to be eaten, Miss Sara Davenal, not to
be wastefully crumbled into bits on the plate. I suppose _you_ have
not got a cold?"

Sara began to pick up the crumbs and the pieces, and to swallow them
as she best could. Anything to escape particular observation.

"I wonder how Mrs. Cray is this morning?" she presently observed,
having ransacked her brains for a subject to speak upon. Miss Bettina
heard all awry.

"Oswald Cray! Why should you wonder how he is? Is he ill?"

"I said Mrs. Cray, aunt;" and she would have given much to hide the
sharp bright blush that the other name brought to her face. "I told
you last evening Caroline was not well. I think you always mistake
what I say."

"No, I don't mistake. But you have got into a habit of speaking most
indistinctly. My belief is, you did say Oswald Cray. He is in town,"
fiercely added Miss Bettina, as if the fact strengthened her
proposition.

"Yes, he is in town," assented Sara, for her aunt was staring so very
fixedly at her that she felt herself obliged to say something. "At
least he was in town yesterday."

"Where did you see him, Sara?" asked the doctor.

"I met him as I was leaving the Abbey last evening, papa," she
replied, not daring to look up as she said it.

"I met him yesterday also," observed Dr. Davenal. "He was passing the
gate here just its I was about to step into the carriage. He is a
puzzle to me."

Miss Bettina bent her ear. "What's a puzzle to you, doctor?"

"Oswald Cray is. I had the very highest opinion of that man. I could
have answered for his being the soul of honour, one entirely above the
petty prejudices of the world in ordinary. But he has lost caste in my
eyes: has gone down nearly cent per cent."

"It's his pride that's in fault," cried Miss Bettina. "He's the
proudest man living, old Sir Philip of Thorndyke excepted."

"What has his pride to do with it?" returned the doctor. "I should say
rather his selfishness. He has chosen to take umbrage at Lady Oswald's
having left her money to me; and very foolish it was of her, poor
thing, to do it! But why he should visit his displeasure----"

"He has not taken umbrage at that, papa," interrupted Sara.

"Yes, he has," said Dr. Davenal. "I spoke to him yesterday of the
will, and he declined in the most abrupt manner to hear anything of
the matter. His tone in its haughty coldness was half-insulting. Why
he should have taken it up so cavalierly, I cannot conceive."

Sara remained silent. She did not again dare to dissent, lest Dr.
Davenal should question her more closely. Better let it rest at that;
far better let it be thought that Mr. Oswald Cray had taken umbrage at
the disposal of the property, than that the real truth should be
known.

"I suppose Oswald Cray felt hurt at not being left executor to the
will," sagely remarked Miss Bettina. "As to the money, I never will
believe that he, with his independent spirit, wanted that."

"He wants his independent spirit shaken out of him, if it is to show
itself in this offensive manner," was the doctor's severe remark.
"What did he say to you, Sara?"

"Say----?" she stammered, the remembrance of what had really been said
between them occurring startlingly to her.

Dr. Davenal noted the hesitating words, he noted the crimsoned cheeks;
and a doubt which had once before risen up within him, rose again now.
But he let it pass in silence.

"Does he intend to come here again, Sara?" asked Miss Bettina.

"I don't know, aunt," was poor Sara's answer. "I suppose he will come
again some time."

And in good truth she did suppose he would come again "some time,"
when the pain of their separation should have worn away.

Sara quitted her seat as she spoke, throwing down a fork with the
movement, and hastened to the window.

"What's the matter?" exclaimed Miss Bettina.

"It is the postman, aunt."

"The postman!" echoed Miss Bettina, sharply, wondering what possessed
her niece that morning. "If it is the postman, you need not fly from
the breakfast-table in that way, upsetting the things. Do you call
that manners?"

"O papa," cried Sara, turning round, unmindful of the reproof in her
flush of excitement, "I do think here are letters from Edward! Some
foreign mail must be in, for the man has an unusual number of letters
in his hand, and some of them look like foreign ones."

She turned from the window, and stood gazing at the room door. But no
letters appeared. The postman went out again with his quick step, and
Sara, feeling grievously disappointed, returned slowly to her seat.

"Is he gone?" presently asked the doctor.

"O yes, papa. He is half-way down the street by this time. He came, I
suppose, for one of the servants."

"He didn't ring."

"No. He seemed to go straight to your consulting-room window. Perhaps
Neal is there, putting the room to rights."

But Dr. Davenal did not rest so easily satisfied. He opened the door
and called down the passage in an imperative voice.

"Neal! Are there no letters?"

Neal came gliding into the room from his pantry, two letters in his
hand.

"Why did you not bring them in at once?" somewhat sternly asked the
doctor as he took them, certain past suspicions regarding Neal and
such missives arising forcibly to his mind.

"I was looking for my waiter, sir: I have mislaid it somewhere.
Oh, I left it here, I see."

The silver waiter was on a side-table; not at all where it ought to
be; as if it had been put down heedlessly and forgotten. Neal caught
it up and retired. It might have been as he said--that the delay was
caused by looking for it, and by that only; and Dr. Davenal, more
inclined to be charitable than suspicious, thought no more of the
matter.

In the keen disappointment which had come over him, he nearly lost
sight of other things. Neither of the two letters was from his son;
and he had so fully expected to hear from him by the present mail.

Sara's heart was beating. "Are they not from Edward, papa?"

The doctor shook his head as he laid the letters down. "They are both
from Dick, I expect His holiday letters." The two letters were
respectively addressed to Miss Davenal, and Miss Sara Davenal. The
address to Miss Davenal bore evident marks of care in the writing; it
was a clear, regular hand, though easily recognisable as a
schoolboy's. The address to Sara was a scrawl scarcely legible. Upon
opening the letter, hers, Sara found it beautifully written. Until she
came to its close she had no suspicion but that it was really written
to herself; she supposed it to be a sort of general holiday letter.


"My dear and respected Aunt and Relatives--
As the joyful epoch of Christmas approaches, marking the close of
another half-year, we feel how valuable is that time which the best of
us are only inclined to regard too lightly. Yet I hope it will be
found that I have not wholly wasted the share of it bestowed on me,
but have used it to the best of my power and abilities. When you
witness the progress made in each branch of my various studies, to
which I have earnestly and assiduously devoted my days and hours, I
trust that you will find cause to deem I have been no thoughtless
pupil, but have done my best to merit your favour and the approbation
of my masters. In Greek especially--which Dr. Keen saw fit to promote
me to at Midsummer--I flatter myself you will be satisfied with my
advancement: it is a delightful study.

"Deeply sensible of the inestimable value of the talents entrusted to
me, anxious that not one of them should lie fallow through fault of
mine, it has been my constant and earnest endeavour to improve them,
so that they may be turned to profitable use in the after-business of
life. By industry, by perseverance, and by unflagging attention I have
striven to progress, and I may say that it is with regret I part with
my beloved studies, even for a temporary period.

"I am desired to present Dr. Keen's compliments to you and my uncle,
and to convey to you the intelligence that our winter recess will
commence on the 16th of this month, on which day I and Leopold shall
hope to return to Hallingham, and to meet you in good health. Leopold
regrets sensibly that he will not be able this year to write you his
vacation letter: it is a great disappointment to him. He has had a
fester on the thumb of his right hand; it is getting better, but still
painful. He begs to offer his affectionate duty to yourself, my uncle,
Sara, and Mrs. Cray. And trusting you will accept the same from me,

          "I am, my dear Aunt,

     "Your most sincere and respectful Nephew,

                        "Richard John Davenal.

"Miss Davenal."


A smile stole across Sara's features at the wording of the letter, so
unlike Dick, and she turned over the envelope.

"Yes, 'Miss Sara Davenal!' Dick has made a mistake in the address. It
is written to you, Aunt Bettina?"

But Miss Bettina's eyes were glued to her own letter, which she hell
open before her. Her lips had drawn themselves in ominously.

"Is it the holiday letter, Sara?" asked the doctor.

"Yes, papa: Richard's. But it is not written to me."

Dr. Davenal took up the letter. Its writing, almost as beautiful as
copper-plate, was as easily read as a book: Master Richard must have
taken the greatest pains with it. Miss Davenal's was not so easily
read, for it seemed to have been dashed off with a skewer. She threw
it on the table in considerable temper when she came to its end, and
laid her hand solemnly upon it.

"Dr. Davenal, if you do not return this letter instantly to Dr. Keen,
I shall. It is a disgrace to have come out of any respectable school."

"Who is it from?" questioned the doctor in surprise.

"Who is it from?--from that wicked nephew of yours--Dick. And _you_ to
encourage him!" she added, directing her severe glance at Sara. "It is
meant, I suppose, for you." In point of fact, Master Dick Davenal had
misdirected his letters, sending his holiday letter to Sara, and one
intended exclusively for Sara's eyes to his aunt. Dr. Davenal, in some
curiosity, drew towards him the offending letter.


"Dear Old Girl,

"We come home the end of next week hurray! old Keen was for keeping us
till the week after and shouldn't we have turned rusty but its all
fixed now, the 16th is the joyful day and on the 15th we mean to have
a bonfire out of bounds and shouldnt we like to burn up all our books
in it you cant think how sick we are of them. Jopper says hed give all
Ime sure I would, I hate learning and that's the truth and I havent
tried to get on a bit for I know its of no use trying, Greak's horrid,
and our greak master is an awful stick and keeps us to it till we feel
fit to bufett him its the most hateful bothering languidge you can
imagine and I shall never master a line of it and if it werent for
cribs I should get a caneing everyday, latin was bad enougff, but
greak caps it. We all got into a row which I'll tell you about when I
come home and we had our Wensday and saturday holidays stoped for
three weeks, it was all threw the writing master a shokking sneek who
comes four days a week and found out something and took and told Keen
but we have served him out, we have had some good games this half
taking things together and if we could berry our books and never do
another lesson Keens house wouldnt be so bad, Leo and some more of us
were trying to wrench open farmer Clupps stable to get at his poney
when he ran a rusty nale into his thumb, old clupp was off to a cattle
fair by rail and we knew hed be none the wiser if we exercised the
poney up and down the common, and a jolly time of it I can tell you we
had only we couldnt find the sadle, well leos thum got bad and he
hasnt been abel to write for ever so long and hes uncomon glad of it
now for it saves him his holiday letter, had to write mine five times
over before it did and I nearly flung it in the fire before Keens
face, I never was so sick of anything in my life, its going to aunt
Bett this time Keen said it went to uncle Richard at midsummer, good
buy till next week darling Sara love to Carry and mind you get a jolly
lot of mince pies ready for us.

"Dick Davenal.

"p. s. hows old Betts deafness, its so cold we hope all the ponds will
be froze to ice tomorrow."


Dr. Davenal burst into a fit of laughter. The contrast between the
genuine letter of the boy and the formal one dictated by the master
was so rich. Miss Davenal's brow wore its heaviest frown: the letter
was bad enough altogether, but the insult to herself, the "old Bett,"
could not be forgiven.

"I'll have this letter sent back, Dr. Davenal."

"Tush, Bettina! Send it back, indeed! We were schoolboys and
schoolgirls ourselves once. Why, what's this?--here's the postman
coming in again! He must have omitted to leave all the letters." It
was even so. The postman by inadvertence had carried away a letter
addressed to the house, and had now come back with it.

But that mistake was a great piece of good luck for Neal; and in truth
its occurring on this morning was a singular coincidence. You will
agree with me in saying that it was quite a different sort of luck
from any deserved by Neal. Poor Dick Davenal's "sneek" of a
writing-master could not stand for honours beside the real sneak,
Neal.

Neal had not been at Dr. Davenal's window when the postman came in the
first time, as Sara had surmised; Neal was standing in his favourite
corner outside, amid the shrubs, having a mind to give himself an
airing. It was to this corner the postman had gone, and he delivered
three letters into his hands. Neal carried them to his pantry and
proceeded to examine the outside with his usual curiosity. Two of them
were those he subsequently carried into the breakfast-room; on the
third he saw the foreign postmark, and recognised the handwriting of
Captain Davenal. And, as Neal turned this about in his hand, he became
aware of a curious fact--that it was open. The envelope was not
fastened down. The captain's seal was upon it in wax, but it did not
serve to fasten it. Whether that young officer, who was given to
carelessness, had sealed it in this insecure manner, or whether it had
come open in the transit, was of no consequence: it was certainly not
closed now.

The temptation proved too strong for Mr. Neal. It happened that he had
a motive, a particular motive, apart from his ordinary curiosity, for
wishing to see the contents of this letter. He had chanced to overhear
a few words spoken between the doctor and his daughter some days
previously--words which Neal could, as he expressed himself, make
neither top nor tail of; but they referred to Captain Davenal, and
created the strongest possible wish in Neal's mind to take a peep at
the first letter that should arrive from the gallant officer. Neal had
not seen his way to do this at all clear; but it appeared now that
fortune had graciously dropped the means into his hands. And the
temptation was too strong to be resisted.

Hastily reasoning within himself (the best of us are too prone to
reason on our own side of the question, ignoring the other) that in
all probability the breakfast-room had not seen or heard the postman,
as the man had kept on _his_ side the garden, and had not rung the
door-bell, Neal risked it, and carefully drew the letter from the
envelope.

A small thin note, addressed to Miss Sara Davenal, dropped out of it.
Neal was too busy to pick it up; his eyes were feasting on the opening
words of Captain Davenal's letter to his father.

"Neal, are there no letters?"

The interrupting voice was the doctor's: and Neal, in an awful
fluster, popped the open letter and the thin one under a dish-cover.
There was no help for it; he might not delay; he dared not take the
letter in open. So he carried in the other two in his hand, having
looked in vain for his customary waiter.

It passed off well enough. Neal returned to the pantry, and finished
the perusal of the captain's letter. Then he refolded it, placed the
note, which he had _not_ opened, inside as before, and amended the
fastening with a modicum of sealing-wax, dropped artistically
underneath the old seal.

He was at his wit's end how to convey the letter to the doctor, so
that no suspicion might rest upon himself. Suppress it he dare not,
for the postman could have testified to its delivery when inquiries
were made. He was coming to the conclusion that the best way would be
to put it amidst the shrubs, as if he or the postman had dropped it,
and let somebody find it and convey it to Dr. Davenal, when the
postman's knock at the hall door aroused him.

"I don't know how I came to overlook this," said the man, handing in a
letter. "It had got slipped among the others somehow, and I didn't
find it till I was ever so far down the street." If ever Neal believed
in the descent of special favours from the clouds, he believed in it
then. The letter brought back by the postman was directed to Watton.
Neal carried it to his panty, deposited the other upon his silver
waiter, and took it to the breakfast-room.

"How's this?" cried the doctor.

"The letter-man carried it away with him, sir, by some mistake, he
says," answered Neal with a steady tongue and unflinching eye.

"Stupid fellow!" cried the doctor. But he spoke in a good-natured
tone. None, save he, knew how welcome a sight was the handwriting of
his son.

And when Neal carried down the breakfast-things he coolly told Watton
there was a letter for her lying in his pantry, which had come by the
morning post.

"You might have brought it down," was Watton's answer.

"So I might," civilly remarked Neal. "I laid it there and forgot it."



CHAPTER XXX.
THE DOCTOR'S BIRTHDAY.


The dead of the winter passed. That is, Christmas was turned, and
January had come in, and was drawing to a close.

Dr. Davenal's state of health was beginning to attract attention. It
cannot be said that absolute fears were excited, but people said to
each other and to him that he ought to take more care. Especial care
of himself he certainly did not take, and he seemed to take cold upon
cold. It must not be thought that Dr. Davenal was recklessly
neglectful, supinely careless. It was not that at all. But he was one
of the many who seemed to have an assured trust in their own
constitution; almost believing their state of good health immutable.
Other folks are liable to ailments, but _they_ have no fear of
themselves. This is sometimes notably the case with those who have
never experienced illness, who have passed an active life with neither
an ache nor a pain.

As had Dr. Davenal. Of a naturally good constitution, temperate in his
habits, taking a good deal of exercise one way or another, his mind
always occupied, he did not know what it was to have a day's illness.
The great blow which had fallen upon him in the death of his son told
upon his mind more than upon his body. If it had bent his shoulders
and left lines of care upon his face, it had not made him ill. It was
reserved for the later calamity to do that--that terrible secret whose
particulars none save the doctor knew. _That_ had nearly prostrated
him--it had re-acted on the body; and when the cold fastened on him
the day he had to hasten from Mrs. Scott's hot room to the Infirmary,
it laid hold of him for ever.

He could not shake it off. Miss Davenal told him somewhat crossly that
he kept catching cold upon cold; but the doctor himself knew that it
was that first cold hanging about him. He apprehended no real danger:
he did not pay much attention to it. Had he possessed a mind at rest,
he might have thought more of the body's ailments, but with that great
burden of despair--and, in truth, it was little else--weighing him
down, what in comparison was any sickness of body? As to lying by, he
never so much as gave it a thought. So long as he could go about, he
would go about. He thought of others before himself; he was one who
strove hard to do his duty in the sight of God; and he would have
deemed it little else than a sin selfishly to stop indoors to nurse
himself, when there might be fellow-creatures dying for the want of
his aid. It was very easy to say other doctors might attend for him;
we all know how valuable in illness is the presence of the physician
we _trust_; and none in Hallingham was trusted as was Dr. Davenal.

And so, with his aching mind and his aching body, he went about
his work. It is just possible that a fortnight or so's rest might
have saved him but he did not take it. He went about his work as
usual--nay, with more than his wonted activity, for it was a season of
much sickness at Hallingham, as it was that winter in many other
places. He bore on, never flagging; but he grew weaker day by day, and
everybody remarked how poorly the doctor was looking. No fears for his
state were aroused indoors. Sara attributed all she saw amiss in him
to the burden of that great secret, of which she had had only partial
cognisance; and Miss Davenal felt cross with him.

For Bettina Davenal suspected neither illness of body nor illness of
mind. How should she connect the latter with the prosperous physician?
She knew that he had been grieved at the going abroad of his son
Edward, a grief in which she by no means joined, deeming that a little
roughing it out in the world would be found of wholesome benefit to
the indulged son and brave captain; and she rather despised the doctor
for regretting him. He was silent, and thin, and worn; he had no
appetite; his spirits seemed gone; she saw all this, but never
supposed it was caused by anything but the departure of his son.

His not eating was made the worst grievance of by Miss Bettina. Once
before, in an unusual season of sickness, the doctor had--not,
perhaps, lost his appetite, but allowed himself no time for his meals.
Miss Bettina believed that this was a similar case; that his patients
were absorbing his appetite and his energies; and she gave him a good
sound lecturing, as she might have given to Dick. Get what she would
for the table, plain food or dainties, it seemed all one to the
doctor: he would taste, perhaps, to please her, but he could not eat.

"I can't help it," he said to her one day. "I suppose I am worse than
you think."

For the truth, or rather a suspicion of it, had at length dawned on
Dr. Davenal--that he was more seriously ill than he had allowed
himself to imagine. Unfavourable symptoms connected with his chest and
lungs had forced themselves upon his notice on that very morning, and
he asked himself what they meant, and what they boded. Had he
neglected himself too long?

It was the 24th of January, a notable day in the doctor's household,
for it was his birthday, and was always kept amongst themselves. Dick
and Leo made the day a plea for the extension of their holidays. The
school generally reopened about a week earlier, but of course, as
they told their uncle, they could not go back with his birthday so
near: they must stay to wish him many happy returns of it. Miss
Davenal saw no reason in the plea, and was severe when the doctor
allowed it--as he always did; _she_ would never keep boys at home a
single hour after the school opened. But with Uncle Richard to back
them, Dick and Leo did not care for Aunt Bettina.

Yes, it was on this morning that Dr. Davenal awoke to the serious
state of his own health. If what he suspected was true, he feared he
should not be long in this world.

He said nothing. He went out as usual in his close carriage, which he
had latterly used, and forgot not a single call. But he said to
himself that perhaps in a few days, when he should have brought
through, if Heaven willed, one or two patients who were lying in
extreme danger, he might make arrangements for stopping at home and
nursing himself.

On this same day the doctor again saw Oswald Cray. He had occasion to
give some directions to Mark, missed seeing him at the Infirmary, and
told Roger to drive to the Abbey. Upon entering, he found not Mark but
Oswald. Oswald, it appeared, had just called, and was waiting for Mrs.
Cray to come down. Mark was out.

Dr. Davenal cherished no resentment. He deemed that Oswald Cray had
behaved to him badly, but he had never been of a retaliating spirit,
and least of all was he inclined to it now.

The doctor pressed Oswald Cray's hand cordially as he shook it. The
thought flashed over him that he would make one more effort towards a
reconciliation. A few moments given to commonplace salutations, and
then he spoke.

"This is my birthday, Mr. Oswald Cray. Mark and Caroline are coming to
dine with us: will you join them?"

"You are very kind. But I must go up to London by the seven train."

Not a word of "wishing" he could come, or regret that he could not.
The doctor noticed that; he noticed also that his tone was more polite
than warm. But he did not yet give him up.

"It may be the last birthday I shall see. We shall be glad to welcome
you."

"I hope you will see many yet; but I am obliged to return to town.
Thank you all the same."

Coldly courteous still! Dr. Davenal, who would not wait, as Mark was
out, again offered his hand in parting.

"Some estrangement has come between us which I do not understand, Mr.
Oswald Cray. Remember what I say, should this be the last time we
speak together, that it is you who have to answer for it, not I."

"One word, Dr. Davenal," for the doctor was turning away to regain his
carriage. "Believe at least this much, that none can regret the
estrangement more than I regret it."

"Is it explainable?"

"Not by me," replied Oswald, somewhat of his old hauteur coming upon
him. He honestly believed in his heart that Dr. Davenal, in saying
these few words, was but acting a part.

"Fare you well," said the doctor as he went out.

"Farewell," repeated Oswald. And they were the last words ever spoken
between them.

It was a social family dinner that evening at Dr. Davenal's, and for
some of its partakers a right merry one. Mark Cray and his wife were
merry as heart could wish, the two boys boisterously so, Miss Davenal
gracious. Sara was quiet, the doctor was ill, and a gentleman whom the
doctor had invited after Oswald Cray declined, was grieving over the
alteration so conspicuously visible in Dr. Davenal.

This was the Rev. John Stephenson. He was at Hallingham on business,
had called that afternoon on Dr. Davenal, and the doctor had pressed
him to stay dinner.

When the cloth was removed, and Mr. Stephenson had said grace, and
Dick and Leo were up to their eyes in nuts and oranges, Mark Cray
stood in his place and made a natty little speech. Mark was fond of
making speeches they were a great deal more to his taste than surgical
operations. His present effort lasted five minutes, and wound up with
wishing the doctor many happy returns of the day.

"Hurrah!" shouted Dick. "Uncle Richard, I hope you'll have a hundred
birthdays yet!"

"And plenty of good things for you to eat as they come round, eh,
Dick?" rejoined the doctor with a smile.

"Oh, of course," cried Dick, his eyes sparkling. "It always does come
in the Christmas holidays, you know."

The doctor slightly rose from his chair, leaning with both hands on
the table. His manner was subdued, his voice inexpressibly gentle and
loving.

"My dear friends, I thank you for your kindness; I thank you from my
very heart. I am not well, and you must accept these few words in
answer to Mark's more elaborate speech. It may be the last time I
shall be here to receive your good wishes or to thank you for
them. May God bless you!"--and he raised his hands slowly and
solemnly--"May God bless and love you all when I shall be gone!"

The words took them utterly by surprise. Sara bent her head, and
pressed her hands upon her bosom as if to press down the sudden sobs
that seemed as if they would choke her; Dick and Leo stared; Miss
Bettina complacently nodded her acknowledgments, she knew not why, for
she had failed to hear; and Caroline looked up in wonder. Mark Cray
was the first to speak.

"Do you feel ill, sir?"

"Not particularly; not much more so than I have felt lately. I don't
think I am very well, Mark."

"You are overworked, sir. You must take some rest"

"Rest may be nearer for me than we think, Mark."

"O papa, don't!" wailed Sara. "Don't speak so, unless you would break
my heart!"

Her emotion had become uncontrollable, and the anguish had spoken out.
Never until that moment had the prospect of losing her father been
brought palpably before Sara, and it was more than she well knew how
to bear. In spite of her natural reticence of feeling, of the presence
of a stranger, she quite shook with her hysterical sobs.

Miss Davenal was frightened, and somewhat indignant: she bent her head
forward. "What on earth's the matter with Sara?"

"Hush, Aunt Bettina," called out Mrs. Cray. "Don't scold her. Uncle
Richard has been talking gloomily. He says he is ill."

"Ill! of course he is ill," retorted Miss Bettina, who had contrived
to hear. "He won't eat. He is out and about with his patients from
morning till night, and then comes in too tired to eat anything. He
has not swallowed a couple of ounces of meat all the last week. What
can he expect but to be ill? But there's no cause for Sara to burst
into a violent fit of crying over it. Will you be so kind as to excuse
it, sir?" she added, in her stately courtesy, to the clergyman who was
sitting at her right hand.

He bowed. A man who has known long-continued adversity can feel for
sorrow, and his heart was aching for the grief of the child, and for
the serious change he saw in the father, his benefactor. Mark turned
to Miss Davenal.

"It is just what I say, Miss Bettina, that the doctor is overworked.
He wants a week or two's rest."

"And what are you good for if you can't contrive that he should have
it?" was her answer. "I think you might see his patients for him."

"So I could," answered Mark. "Only he won't let me."

Sara's emotion was subsiding: she sat very still now, her head a
little bent, as if ashamed of having betrayed it; the tears dried upon
her cheeks, but an uncontrollable sob broke from her now and then. Dr.
Davenal had taken her hand under the table, for she sat next to him,
and was holding it in his.

"You foolish child!" he fondly whispered.

"Papa, if--if anything were to happen to you--if you were to go and
leave me here alone, I should die," was the answer, uttered
passionately.

"Hush, hush! My darling, you and I are alike in the hands of a loving
God."

She laid her fingers again upon her bosom. How violently it was
beating, how difficult it was to still its throbs of pain, she alone
knew.

"I met that gentleman this afternoon, the connection of Lady Oswald's
whom I saw for the first time the day of the funeral," spoke up the
clergyman, breaking the silence which had fallen upon the room. "Mr.
Oswald Cray."

"I met him, too," said the doctor. "It was at your house, Mark. I
asked him to come here today, but he declined."

"He is gone back to town, I think," said Mark.

"He said he was going."

"Did you ask him to dine here, Uncle Richard?" cried Leo.

"I did, my boy."

"And wouldn't he!" rejoined Mark.

"No, he wouldn't. And, mind, I think he _wouldn't_; although Ac
declined upon the plea of having to get back to town."

"My! what a stupid duff he was!" exclaimed Richard. "Did he know there
was going to be a turkey and plum-pudding?"

"I didn't tell him that, Dick. My impression is, that he never means
to enter our house again," the doctor added in a low tone to his
daughter.

"But why?" exclaimed Caroline, who sat on the other side the doctor,
and caught the words. "There must be something extraordinary at the
bottom of all this."

"Never mind going into it now, Carine," whispered the doctor. "His
grievance is connected with Lady Oswald's will, but we need not say so
before Mr. Stephenson."

Sara looked up hastily, impulsive words rising to her lips; but she
recollected herself, and bent her head again in silence. Not even to
her father dared she to say that his conclusion was a mistaken one.

"Uncle Richard, now that I look at you, it does appear to me that you
are changed for the worse," remarked Mrs. Cray. "You must nurse
yourself, as Mark says. Hallingham would not understand your being
ill, you know."

"True," laughed the doctor.

Caroline Cray, seeing her uncle daily, or nearly so, had not perceived
the great change which had been gradually going on in him. But to Mr.
Stephenson, who had not met him since the time of Lady Oswald's death,
it was all too palpable; as it had been that day to Oswald Cray.

"We must not forget the captain today, doctor," spoke up Mark. "Have
you heard from him again?"

"O yes."

"How does he like his Maltese quarters?"

"I am not sure that he has said. It is not of much consequence whether
he liked them or not. The regiment was ordered on to India."

"To India!"

"Yes." It was impossible not to note the sad tone in which the
monosyllable was spoken. Dr. Davenal had begun to know that he and his
son should never again meet on earth: the son whom he so loved!

Somehow, what with one thing and another, that birthday evening was a
sadder one than they had been accustomed to spend. Mark Cray, as he
walked home with his wife afterwards, remarked that it was "slow." But
nobody dreamt of anything like fear for the doctor, save his daughter
and the Reverend Mr. Stephenson.

"I can never be sufficiently grateful to you, sir," murmured the
clergyman, as he was leaving. "Neither can my brother. You have done
for us what I believe no other man living would have done. May Heaven
reward you, and restore you to health and strength!"

"I did but my duty," answered the doctor. "The money belonged to you,
not to me. I am only glad there were no vexatious legal obstacles
brought up to obstruct the transfer. I shall always be glad to see
you, remember, when you come to Hallingham."

Mr. Stephenson thanked him. But as he went out, the impression was
strong upon his mind that the doctor himself would not long be in
Hallingham.

And Sara? What must it have been for her! Her mind was one chaos of
tumultuous emotion. She seemed to have accepted the fear as a
certainty, to have been obliged to accept it. Oh, what would save
him?--could not the whole faculty restore _his_ precious life? She
passed another night of anguish, like unto the one she had passed
nearly two months before, after parting with Oswald Cray in the Abbey
graveyard--like it, but more apprehensively painful; and she wondered
how she got through it.

With the morning, things did not wear so intensely gloomy an aspect.
The broad daylight, the avocations and bustle of daily life, are an
antidote to gloom, and the worst prospect loses some of its darkness
then. Sara tried to reason with herself that he could not have become
so ill on a sudden as to be past recovery, she tried to say that it
was foolish even to think it.

But her mind could not be at rest, her state of suspense was
intolerable, and before entering the breakfast-room she knocked at her
father's study-door, and entered. Dr. Davenal was closing the Bible.

"What is it, my dear?"

"O papa"--and the words came forth with a burst of pent-up
anguish--"I cannot live in this suspense. What did you mean last
night? What is it that is the matter with you?"

"I scarcely know, Sara. Only that I feel ill."

"But--you--cannot--be going to die?"

"Hush, my child! You must not agitate yourself in this way. Die? Well,
no, I hope not," he added, quite in a joking manner. "I feel ten per
cent better this morning than I did yesterday."

"Do you!" she eagerly cried. "But--what you said last night?----"

"Last night I felt gloomy--oppressed. Serious thoughts do intrude
themselves sometimes on one's birthday. And I was really ill
yesterday. I feel quite a different man today."

Her fears were growing wonderfully calmer. "You are sure, papa?"

"Sure of what? That I am better?--I am sure I feel so. I shall be all
right, child, I hope."

"Won't you have advice, papa?" she imploringly said.

"Advice? That's a compliment to myself, young lady. Hallingham would
tell you that there's no advice better than Dr. Davenal's own."

"But, papa--I mean different advice. I thought of the clever London
doctors. You must have them down to see you."

"Some of the clever London doctors would be glad of the countryman
Richard Davenal's advice. Seriously speaking, my dear, though I say it
in all modesty, I don't believe there's a man in Europe more skilful
than myself."

"But they might suggest remedies that you would not think of. O papa!
if there's a necessity, do summon them."

"Be assured of one thing, Sara, and set your mind at rest. Should the
necessity arise, I will not fail to seek any one or anything that I
think may help me. My life has not of late been a happy one, but I am
not quite tired of it; I wish I may live long, not only for your sake,
but for--for other interests. There's a double necessity for it now."

"And you will not go out today, papa?"

"Today I must. I have not made arrangements to the contrary. But I do
mean to give myself a rest, perhaps beginning with tomorrow. I feel a
great deal better today--quite another man."

How the words lightened her heart! Dr. Davenal really did feel much
better, and the saddened spirit, the almost ominous feeling, which had
clung to him the night before, had vanished. But he spoke more lightly
of his illness than he would have done had he not seen how it was
affecting her.

Dick came drumming at the door, and then pushed it open with a bang.

"Breakfast's waiting, Uncle Richard. And Aunt Bett---- Why! are you
there?" broke off the young gentleman as his eyes fell upon Sara. "I'm
afraid you'll catch it. Aunt Bett thinks you are not down, and it's
ten minutes past eight."

"Are you ready for school, Dick?" asked his uncle. "Elated at the
prospect of returning?"

Dick pulled a long face. The two boys were going back that day. A sore
trial to Dick, who it must be confessed, had been born with an innate
antipathy to books.

"You'll have us home at Easter, Uncle Richard?" he pleaded in a
piteous tone.

"Not if I know it, Dick. Holidays twice a-year were thought quite
enough in my schooldays, and I see no reason for their not being
thought enough now."

"Half the boys go home at Easter--and stop a fortnight: bemoaned Dick.

"Very likely. If half the boys have friends who prefer play to work
for them, I'm only glad the other half set a better example. Dicky,
boy, you'll enjoy your Midsummer holidays all the more keenly for
having none at Easter."

The doctor caught hold of the boy and wound his arm affectionately
round him as they proceeded across the hall to the breakfast-room.
Miss Davenal greeted Sara with one of her severest aspects, but before
she could begin her lecture, Mark Cray had burst in upon them.

"Have you heard the news?" he exclaimed, in a state of excitement
never yet witnessed in easy Mark Cray. "Doctor, have you had letters
yet?"

"What news? What letters?" asked the doctor.

"Caroline has got her money."

"Caroline got her money?" repeated Dr. Davenal, understanding no
better than the rest did.

"The Chancery case is decided," explained Mark. "Judgment was given
yesterday, and it is in their favour. She'll get the money directly
now."

"How do you know this, Mark?"

"It is in the evening papers--reported in full. I call for my letters
sometimes if I am passing the post-office, and I did so this morning
and got this paper. White, the lawyer, sent it, I expect, and we shall
no doubt hear by this evening's post."

"Well, Mark, I am very glad. Justice lay on Caroline's side; therefore
it is right that she should have it. You must settle it upon her as
soon as you touch the money."

"Oh, of course," said Mark.



CHAPTER XXXI.
BAD NEWS FOR HALLINGHAM.


"I say, Neal, what sort of a place is St. Paul's Churchyard?"

The questioner was Watton. She sat in the servants' room near the
window, against which the rain was pattering, some household sewing in
her hand. Neal, who had entered to get a glass he wanted was rather
taken with surprise, but he was not one to show it in his manner.

"Did you never see it?" he asked.

"I saw it in a picture once. I couldn't see it elseways; I've never
been to London?"

"It is a large space of land with houses round it and the cathedral in
the middle," explained Neal, who seemed always ready to oblige his
fellow-servants, especially Watton. "It's a thoroughfare, you know;
the road from Ludgate Hill to Cheapside winds round on each side the
cathedral, between it and the houses."

"Is it very noisy?"

"Pretty well for that. But the London people don't seem to care for
noise. I expect they are so used to it that they don't hear it."

"The houses round St. Paul's are warehouses, aren't they?"

"Warehouses and shops. The shops are mostly on one side and the
warehouses on the other."

"Do you know a place called Cannon Street?"

"I should think I do! It leads down from St. Paul's to King William
Street. Why do you ask?"

"Well," said Watton slowly, as if she mere deliberating something in
her mind, "I am not sure but I am going to live there."

"To live in St. Paul's Churchyard?" repeated Neal.

"I have had a place offered me there, and it seems to me to be a very
eligible one," said Watton. "It's to go as housekeeper in a house of
business; some large wholesale place, by what I can understand. I
should have two or three servants under me, and twenty-five pounds
a-year. It seems good, doesn't it?"

"Capital," assented Neal. "Is it in St. Paul's Churchyard?"

"It's either in St. Paul's Churchyard or Cannon Street. She isn't
quite sure which, she says. Anyway, it's close to St. Paul's."

"Who's 'she'?" questioned Neal.

"My sister. Her husband is in this establishment, a traveller, or
something of that. He has got on well: he was only day assistant in a
shop when she married him, fifteen years ago, and now he gets two or
three hundred a year. When Miss Bettina told me I should have to
leave, I wrote to my sister and asked her to look out for me, and she
has sent me word of this."

"But can she get the place for you?" inquired Neal, who was prompt at
weighing probabilities and improbabilities in his mind.

"It is in this way. The present housekeeper has been there a good
while, and is much respected by the masters, and they have asked her
to look out for somebody to take her place. My sister's intimate with
her, and has spoken to her about me."

"Why is she going to leave, herself?" questioned Neal, liking to come
to the bottom of everything.

Watton laughed. "She is going to begin life on her own score: she's
about to be married. I think it's rather venturesome those middle-aged
persons marrying: I wouldn't, I know."

"Wait until you are asked," returned Neal, not over gallantly.

"I have been asked more than once in my life," said Watton. "But I
didn't see my way clear. It's all a venture. A good many risk it, and
a few don't. I'd rather be one of the few. My goodness! how it rains!"

"When do you leave here?"

"When I get a comfortable place. Miss Bettina said I was not to hurry.
It isn't as if I were leaving for any fault, or to make room for
another. _She_ doesn't like my leaving at all, you know."

Neal nodded. "I heard her grumbling to the doctor, like anything,
about it. She talks loud, and one can't shut one's ears at will."

"She need not grumble to the doctor. It is not his fault. He spoke to
me himself, saying how sorry he was to part with me, but he could not
help it. 'He had had a severe loss of money,' he said, which rendered
it necessary that he should alter the rate of his expenditure. I
wonder," added Watton, musingly, "how he came to lose it?"

Neal coughed. "Perhaps some bank broke."

"Perhaps it did," answered Watton. "They are ticklish things, those
banks. I say, Neal, there's the doctor's bell."

Neal heard the bell for himself, and quitted the room to answer it.
Watton got up, put down her work, shook a few threads from her gown,
opened a drawer and took out a letter.

She was going upstairs to Miss Bettina to show her the letter she had
received, and to ask her advice upon the situation mentioned in it.
She felt very much inclined to try for it; only she felt a shrinking
doubt of London. Many persons do who have lived to middle age in the
country.

Neal entered the room in answer to the ring. The doctor had been out
that morning, but returned earlier than usual, for it was not much
past twelve. It was the day subsequent to the departure for school of
Dick and Leo.

"What a poor fire you have got here, Neal!" said the doctor. "Bring a
few sticks and pile the coal on. I feel chilly."

"I hope you have not taken a fresh cold, sir," respectfully observed
Neal, as he stirred up the fire preparatory to getting the sticks.

Whether Neal was right or not as to the fresh cold, certain it was,
that before night unfavourable symptoms began to manifest themselves
in Dr. Davenal. And they increased rapidly.

A few hours and the news went forth to the town--Dr. Davenal was in
danger. The consternation it excited cannot well be described--and if
described would scarcely be believed. Numbers upon numbers in that
town looked upon Dr. Davenal in the light of a public benefactor: they
honestly believed that his death would be one of the greatest
calamities that could befall them; they believed that, if he went,
nobody else could bring _them_ through danger, should it come upon
them.

They hastened to the door with their anxious inquiries; they saw the
medical men of Hallingham pouring in. What was the matter with him?
they eagerly asked. How was he seized?

It was inflammation of the chest, or lungs, or both, they were told.
It was in fact an increase of the cold which had been so long hanging
upon him, and _which he had neglected_. Oh, only a cold! they repeated
carelessly as they listened--what a mercy that it was nothing worse!
And they went away reassured.

A day or two, and there came down a physician from London in answer to
a telegraphic dispatch. A day or two more and an ominous whisper went
forth to the town--that hope was over. The saddened inhabitants paced
to and fro, collected in groups about the door, and glanced up at the
doctor's windows, fearing if perchance the blind should have been
drawn since they last looked. They watched the medical men glide in
and out; they saw a lawyer go in with a bustling step, and came to the
conclusion that he went to make the will. Altogether Hallingham was in
a fever of excitement.

But there occurred a change; contrary to even the most sanguine
expectation a change seemed to take place for the better. Dr. Davenal
rallied. The most painful symptoms left him, and some of those around
him said he was getting well.

One evening at dusk Neal was observed to come out of the house with a
quick movement and hasten up the street. As usual he was instantly
surrounded, waylaid by anxious inquirers.

Yes, it was perfectly true, Neal answered, his master was so much
better as to surprise all who saw him. The change took place early
that morning, and he had been mending ever since. He was well enough
to sit up: was sitting up then.

Then there was a hope that he'd recover? the questioners rejoined,
scarcely daring to speak the joyful words.

O yes, there seemed every hope of it now. Mr. Cray, who had just gone
out, remarked to him, Neal, that he looked upon his master as cured.
But Neal couldn't stop to talk more with them then, he said; he was
hastening to the chemist's for a draught which the doctor himself had
sent him for.

Neal got the draught, imparted the news of the doctor's wonderful
improvement to the crowd collecting at the chemist's, for no end of
gossipers pressed into the shop when they saw Neal there--retraced the
streets with his soft tread, and arrived at home. Entering the
consulting-room, where the fire in the grate was getting low, he
passed on to his master's bedchamber. Quite a bright chamber for an
invalid's. The fire was blazing in the grate, and a handsome lamp,
shining through the ornamental pink shade that covered its globe,
stood on the small round table. The bed was at the far end of the room
in a corner, and Dr. Davenal sat in an easy chair near the fire. He
was dressed, all but his coat; in place of that he wore a warm quilted
dressing-gown of soft rich silk; one of those rarely handsome
dressing-gowns that seem made to be looked at, not to be worn.

He did not appear very ill. Wan and worn certainly, but not so ill as
might have been expected. His breath and voice were the worst: both
were painfully weak. The table had been drawn close to him, and he was
writing at it. A tolerably long letter it looked like, covering three
sides of large note-paper. Perhaps if the truth had been declared, he
had got up purposely to write this letter.

Sara sat on the other side the fireplace, ready to wait upon him. How
she had borne the agony of the last few days and been _calm_, she did
not know, she never would know: it was one of the sharp lessons learnt
from life's necessities. "You may be with him," the physician in
London bad said to her, "provided you can maintain composure in his
presence. The witnessing of a child's grief is sometimes the worst
agony that the dying have to bear. I cannot sanction your being in the
room unless you can promise to be calm."

"I will promise it," replied Sara in a low tone; but that one
expression "the dying" had turned her whole heart to sickness.

Yes, it was one of the lessons that must be learnt in the stern school
of life--the maintaining a composed exterior when the heart is
breaking. That she was given to reticence of feeling by nature, was of
service to Sara Davenal then. But surely the trials that had latterly
fallen upon her were very bitter; the battle just now was sharp and
keen.

She sat there in her soft dress of violet merino, so quiet and
unobtrusive in the sick-room, with its little white lace collar and
the narrow lace cuffs turned up on the bands of the sleeves at the
wrist. The first day of his illness she had on a silk dress rustling
against the chairs and tables, and she had the good sense to go and
change it. The chair she sat in was an elbow one, and her hot cheek
rested on her fingers as she strove to drive back the inward question
that _would_ intrude itself, whether this improvement was for good, or
only a fallacious one. She sat perfectly still, her eyes following the
motion of his feeble fingers, and it was thus that Neal interrupted
them.

"The draught, sir," he said, laying it on the table.

"Set a wine-glass by it," said the doctor. "That will do."

So slowly and feebly! The voice seemed to come from deep down in
his chest, and not to be the doctor's voice at all; Neal put the
wine-glass as desired, and quitted the room; and the doctor wrote on.

Only for a minute or two: the letter was drawing to a close. Dr.
Davenal pressed it with the blotting-paper, read it to himself slowly,
and then folded it and put it in an envelope. In all this, his fingers
seemed scarcely able to perform their office. He fastened it down, and
wrote on the outside his son's name. Then he looked at Sara, touching
the letter with his finger.

"My dear, when the next mail goes out, should you have occasion to
write of me, let this be enclosed."

"To write of you, papa?" she repeated in a faltering tone. But she
need not have asked the question--its meaning had only too surely
penetrated to her.

"Should the worst have happened."

"Oh, but--papa--you are getting better!"

She checked the wailing tone; she remembered how necessary, as she had
been warned, was calmness in that room; she remembered her promise to
maintain it. She pressed her hands upon her bosom and remained still.

"I will take that draught now, Sara, if you will pour it out."

She rose from her seat, undid the paper, poured the contents of the
small bottle into the glass, and handed it to him. The doctor drank
it, and gave her back the glass with a smile.

"Not one of those clever fellows thought of ordering me this; yet it's
the best thing for anybody suffering as I am. Ah! they have got
something to learn yet. I don't know how they'll get on without me?"

"Papa, you may get well yet!" she interrupted; anti she _could not_
prevent the anguished sound with which the words were spoken.

He turned and looked at her; he seemed to have fallen into a momentary
reverie. But he made no direct answer.

"Can you draw the table away, Sara? I don't want it so close now.
Gently; take care of the lamp."

"Where shall I put this, papa?" she asked, referring to the letter.

"In my desk in the next room. You'll know where to find it in case of
need. My keys are here, on the mantelpiece."

She stopped to ask one question which seemed to be wrung from her in
her pain. "Is it to go all the same if you get better, papa?"

"No. Not if I get better."

Passing into the other room, which was lighted only by the fire, she
drew the desk from underneath the table, knelt down, unlocked it, and
put in the letter. It was addressed: "For my son, Edward Davenal."
Sara was locking the desk again, when some one entered the room and
came round the table to where she knelt.

"My goodness! are you saying your prayers?"

Wrapped in silks and ermine, her lovely face peeping out from a
charming pink bonnet, was Mrs. Cray. The doctor had expressed a wish
to Mark Cray that afternoon that Caroline would come to him, and Mark
had delivered the message when he got home.

"Mark says Uncle Richard wants to see me," she explained, "so I
thought I'd run down at once. I can't stop; Berry and another friend
or two are going to dine with us. I am so delighted to hear of the
improvement in Uncle Richard! Mark says the danger is quite over."

"If I could but be sure it was!" was Sara's answer.

"There you are, with your doubts and fears! Never was anybody like
you, Sara. Don't I tell you Mark says it is? Yes, I'll take my cloak
off for the few minutes that I stop."

She threw off her bonnet, and let the cloak slip from her shoulders,
displaying her evening attire, for she had dressed before she came
out: a silk, so light as to look almost white, that stood on end with
richness and rustled as she walked; the dazzling necklace, given by
Captain Davenal, on her white neck; a dewdropped pink rose in her
gleaming hair.

Utterly unaccordant looked she with the chamber of the dying, as she
stepped into the other room. Dr. Davenal's eyes were fixed on her for
a moment in simple wonder, as if he saw a vision. Then he recognised
her, and held out his hand, a glad look pervading his countenance.

"Well, Uncle Richard! I am so rejoiced that you are getting better.
You'll come and dance at our housewarming yet."

"Are you going to hold one?" asked the doctor, as he held her hand in
his, and gazed up at her beauty.

"Mark and I are thinking of it. We can do everything, you know, now
that that money's coming to me."

"Ah," said the doctor, "it's about that money I want to talk to you.
Sit down, Caroline. How smart you are, my dear!"

"Nay, I think it's you who are smart uncle," she returned with a gay
laugh. "So it has come into use at last!"

Caroline touched the dressing-gown as she spoke. There had always been
a joke about this dressing-gown. A patient of the doctor's, as
fanciful as Lady Oswald and nearly as old, had made it with her own
hands and sent it to him. It had remained unused. For one thing, the
doctor was too plain in his habits and too busy a man to require a
dressing-gown at all; for another he had looked upon the garment as
extravagantly fine.

"Yes," said he, in answer to Caroline's remark, "I have found it
useful today. It is very warm and comfortable. Caroline, I have been
talking again to Mark about the money."

"Well, uncle?"

"I don't know that it is well. Mark does not appear inclined to make
me any promise that it shall be settled upon you when it comes. I
urged it upon him very strongly this afternoon, and he answered me in
his light careless manner, 'Of course. O yes doctor, I'll remember;'
but he did not give a specific promise; whether by accident or design,
I cannot say. So I told him to send you down to me."

"Yes, uncle," she said, thinking more of the weakness of the voice to
which she was listening, than of the import of the words.

"This money must be settled upon you, Caroline, the instant that you
touch it. It is essential that a married woman should, if possible,
have some settlement. If I recover, I shall take care that this is so
settled, but----"

"_If_ you recover!" she interrupted. "Why, Uncle Richard, you are
getting well as fast as you can. Mark says so. You are sitting up!"

"True; I am sitting up; and I could not have sat up two or three days
ago. Still, I am not sure about the getting well."

"But Mark says so; he says you are," reiterated Caroline.

"And Mark's opinion, as a medical man, must be infallible, you think?"
rejoined the doctor, with a momentary look in his face that Caroline
did not understand. "At any rate, my dear, it is well to remember all
contingencies. 'Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst,' was one
of your grandpapa Davenal's favourite maxims. You must have the money
settled upon you----"

"But, Uncle Richard, are you quite sure that it would be for the
best?" she interposed. "If the money is settled in that way, it would
be all tied up, and do us no good after all."

"You would enjoy the interest."

"That's not over much," said Caroline slightingly. "I and Mark have
been planning a hundred things that we might do with the money.
Refurnish the Abbey splendidly for one."

"You and Mark are a couple of simpletons," retorted the doctor,
regaining momentarily his energy of voice. But the effort was too
much, and he lay panting for several minutes afterwards. Caroline sat
gazing at him, her finger unconsciously raised to her neck, playing
with the gleaming toy there. Which should she trust to, these signs of
illness, or Mark's opinion?

"Caroline, I insist that the money be settled upon you. Were you and
Mark to waste it in nonsense, it would be nothing less than a fraud
upon your West Indian relatives from whom it is derived. You may tell
Mark so from me. That money, Carine, secured to you, would at least
keep the wolf from coming quite in, should he ever approach your
door."

Caroline sat aghast, wondering whether the doctor had lost his senses.
"The wolf at the door for us, Uncle Richard. As if that could ever
be."

"Ah, Carine, I have lived to know that there is no permanent certainty
in the brightest lot," he answered with a sigh. "My dear, more
experience has been forced upon me in the past year or two than I had
learned in the whole course of my previous life. Understand me once
for all, this money must be secured to you."

"Very well, Uncle Richard," she answered with ready acquiescence. "It
shall be so, as you seem so much to wish it. I'll tell Mark all you
say."

A few minutes longer, and Caroline rose. Dr. Davenal was surprised
that she should be going again so very soon, and looked inquiringly at
her. "Can't you stay a little longer, Caroline?"

"I wish I could; but I shall hardly get back to dinner, and we expect
some friends today. Goodnight, Uncle Richard."

He drew her face down to his, murmuring his farewell. Little did
Caroline Cray think it would be his last.

Sara went out with her cousin, and saw her depart with the servant who
had waited for her. When she returned to the chamber, the doctor was
in deep thought.

"I think you must bring the table near to me again, Sara," he said.
"There's another word or two I should like to write."

"Yes, papa. Do you want Edward's letter?"

"No, no; it's not to him. There. Dip the pen in the ink for me."

It was a tacit confession of weakness that she did not like to hear;
and she saw that even in the short space of time that had elapsed
since he wrote before his strength had visibly declined. He was
scarcely able to guide the pen.

"That will do," when he had traced a few lines. "Sara, should you have
occasion to send this, enclose it in a note from yourself, explaining
my state when I penned it; that I was almost past writing. Will you
remember?"

"Yes, papa," she answered, her heart beating painfully at the words.

"Fold it for me."

Honourable in all her thoughts and actions, Sara folded the note with
the writing turned from her. It is just possible some children might
have been sufficiently actuated by curiosity to glance at least at the
name at the commencement of the note. Not so Sara Davenal. She placed
it in an envelope and fastened it down.

"I think I can direct it, Sara. Just the name."

She gave him the pen, and he traced the name in uneven, doubtful
letters. Sara noted it with surprise, and perhaps her pulses
quickened. "O. Oswald Cray, Esquire."

"Put it in my desk with Edward's, my dear. If you have occasion to
send the one, you will the other." As she unlocked the desk again her
tears were raining down fast. In all that her father was saying and
doing there seemed to be a foreshadowing in his own mind of his
approaching death. She quitted the room for a few minutes that her
emotion might spend itself, and in the interval Miss Davenal entered.
The soft rustling of Miss Bettina's sweeping silks aroused the doctor,
who had fallen into a dose. She went up and took his hand.

"Richard, how are you tonight?"

"I hardly know. Middling."

"Sara is fancying you are not so well."

"Is she?"

 "But she always was given to fancies, you know. Is it right that you
should sit up so long the first time of leaving your bed?"

"Yes, I like the change. I was tired of bed. Sit down, Bettina. There
are one or two things I want to say to you."

"Are you finding yourself worse?"

"Bettina, I have not been better."

"The doctors have thought you so," she said, after a pause.

"Ay, but I know more of my own state than they can tell me. When the
suffering and its signs passed, they leaped to the conclusion that the
disease had left me. In a measure, so it has, but they should have
remembered in how many of such cases the apparent improvement is all
deceit, the forerunner of the end."

Bettina Davenal fully understood the words and what they implied. But
she was not a demonstrative woman, and the rubbing together of her
white and somewhat bony hands was the sole sign of the inward aching
heart.

"And I am thankful for the improvement," added the doctor. "It is not
all who are permitted this freedom from pain in their dying hours."

"O Richard! is there _no_ hope?"

"I fear not," he gravely answered. "I am accustomed to impress upon my
patients the great truth that while there is life there is hope, and I
should be worse than a heathen to ignore it in my own case. But, all I
can say is, I cannot trust to it."

She had laid one of her hands upon the folds of the dressing-gown, and
the doctor could feel the twitching of the fingers. He had asked her
to sit down, but she preferred to stand. Close to him, with her head
bent, she could hear his low words without much misapprehension, so
deliberately were they spoken between the panting breath.

"Bettina, I don't go to my grave as I thought I should have gone,
providing for my children. I have been obliged to sacrifice all I had
put by. It was not a great deal, it's true, for I am but what's called
a middle-aged man, and my expenses have been high. Could I have
foreseen my early death, I should have lived at half the rate. And
this sacrifice will not die with me. The house--I daresay I shall
shock you, Bettina--is mortgaged; not, however, to its full value. I
have directed in my will that it shall be sold; and the residue, after
the mortgage is paid--can you hear me?" he broke off to ask.

"Every word."

"The residue and the proceeds of the furniture, and those two small
cottages of mine, and other effects which will be likewise sold, will
make a fair sum. There's money owing to me in the town, too.
Altogether I expect there will not be much less than three thousand
pounds----"

"Richard!" shrieked out Miss Bettina, in her emotion. "_Three_
thousand! I thought you were worth ten at least."

"No, it was not so much as that altogether. I had four or five
thousand put by. Never mind: I say I have had to sacrifice it. I feel
how imprudent I have been, now that it is too late."

"To what have you had to sacrifice it?"

The doctor paused before he replied. "A sudden claim came upon me of
which I knew nothing: a claim for thousands. No, Bettina, I know what
you wish to say--believe me, I _could not_ resist it: to pay it was
obligatory. The worst is, I could not pay it all: and the sum which
the property will realise will have to be applied to liquidate it."

"But you can tell me what the claim was for?"

"No, I cannot. It is not altogether my secret, Bettina, and you must
not inquire into it. I need not have mentioned it at all to you, but
for speaking of Sara. My poor children must suffer. Edward has his
day, and he will have to make it suffice: Sara has nothing. Bettina,
you will give her a home?"

"There's no necessity for you to ask it," was Bettina Davenal's
answer. But she spoke crossly; for the want of confidence in not
intrusting to her the nature of this secret was hurting her feelings
bitterly. "Should anything happen to you, Sara will naturally find a
home with me--if she can put up with its plainness. I shall make her
as welcome, and consider it as obligatory on me to do so, as though
she were my own child."

The doctor lay back for a moment in his chair, panting. His fingers
clasped themselves over hers in token of thanks.

"Richard, surely you might place more confidence in me! If you have
been called upon to pay this money in consequence of--of any bygone
trouble or debt contracted in your youth--and I conclude it must be
something of that sort--do you suppose I cannot be true and keep your
counsel? I know what follies the young plunge into!"

"Follies? Crimes, rather!" And the words broke from Dr. Davenal with a
groan which told of the deepest mental anguish. It pained even the
dull ear that was bent to it.

"Bettina, I say that you must not ask me. If it concerned myself alone
you should know as much as I do, but I could not tell you without
betraying another; and--and there might be danger. Let it rest. Better
for you that it should do so, for it would disturb your peace as it
has disturbed mine."

"It's a dreadful sum," said Miss Bettina.

"It is that. And my poor children must be left beggars. I have
enjoined Mark Cray to pay three hundred pounds yearly to Sara for five
years, out of the proceeds of the practice. He can well afford to do
it: and if you will give her a home, this had better be invested for
her, Bettina."

"Of course. But what's three hundred for five years? You might make
better terms with Mark Cray than that."

"Mark has promised faithfully to do it. I have been talking with him
this afternoon about that and other things. I asked him what sum he
would feel inclined to pay to Sara out of the business, and for what
term. He said he thought he could give three hundred a-year, and would
continue it for five years."

"Considering all things, it is not a very generous offer," persisted
Miss Bettina. "Had your life been spared, Mark could not have expected
to step into the whole of the practice these twenty years."

"It is very fair, I think, Bettina. Mark must acquire experience,
remember, must work his way up to the public confidence, before people
trust him as they have trusted me. He will not have his rooms filled
daily with patients at a guinea a head. This has come upon me
suddenly, or all things might have been managed differently. I think
it would be a good plan for Mark to leave the Abbey for this house; I
have told him so; but he will be the best judge of that." Miss Bettina
quitted her stooping posture by the doctor and sat down, revolving all
that had been said. She sat slowly rubbing her hands the one over the
other, as was her habit when anything troubled her.

"I cannot realise it," she said, in a half whisper, "Richard, I
_cannot_ realise it. Surely you are not going from us!"

"I am but going to those who have preceded me, Bettina," he answered.
"My wife, and Richard, and others, who have gone on before, are
waiting for me, and I in my turn shall wait for you. This fretting
life is over. How poor!--_how poor!_"--he added more emphatically, as
he clasped his hands--"do even its best interests now seem beside
eternity!"



CHAPTER XXXII.
LAST HOURS.


The lamp was placed on a chest of drawers behind the chair of Dr.
Davenal. It was getting on for ten o'clock. Quite time, as had been
suggested to him, that he should be in bed; but he appeared unwilling
to move. He felt easy, he said: and therefore he stayed on.

The flickering light of the fire, now burning with a dull red
heat, now bursting up into a blaze, threw its rays upon the
chamber--destined, ere that night should close, to be a chamber of
death, although they, the watchers, as yet suspected it not. The light
fell upon the simple bed at the far corner, destitute of hangings--for
the doctor was a foe to curtains--upon the dwarf cabinet beside it,
whose lower shelves enclosed a few choice books, upon the drawers,
upon the dressing-table at the farther window, and upon the open space
at this end where the fire was. The light fell on the doctor as he lay
back in the gaudy dressing-gown, on the chair-pillow, one hand hanging
down listlessly, the other fondly resting on the soft brown hair of
his daughter.

She sat on a footstool by his side, nestled close to him. Her head
bowed down, for she had much ado to conceal and subdue her emotion,
her hands clasped and laid upon his knee. The dread fear that he was
dying rested on her heart; had come to it, as it seemed, by intuition.
Not a word yet of this ominous dread had been spoken between them;
each seemed to shrink from the task. But Sara strove to gather courage
and strength, so that in his presence she might at least not give way.

The doctor stretched out his disengaged hand and pointed to a china
cup that stood on the table. Sara rose and brought it to him, and he
took a few spoonfuls of the refreshment it contained.

"Is not the fire getting low, my dear?" he asked, with a slight
shiver.

She rose and stirred it, brought forward the coal-box and put on fresh
coal, and then took the hearth-brush and swept the bars and the
hearth, making things comfortable.

"Do you feel cold, papa?"

"I think so," he answered, with another shiver.

"I am sure you would be better in bed. Shall I call Neal?"

"Not yet. Come and sit down again." She took her place, nestling to
him as before, and he fondly stroked her head with his feeble hand. It
seemed to her that the hand grew feebler with every change, every
fresh movement.

"I have a few things to say to you, my dear, and I had better say them
now. I should not like to go to sleep with them unspoken."

Did he mean the sleep of death? Sara trembled inwardly: she hoped that
she should retain sufficient strength, no matter at what cost to her
feelings, not to tremble outwardly.

"It was necessary that I should make a fresh will," he began after a
pause. "In the old will----"

"O papa! surely you are not going from me!"

Utterly unnerved, the words had broken from her in her misery. Dr.
Davenal resumed in a tender, reasoning accent.

"I must have you brave, darling; just for a short while. Won't you try
and be so? You see I have only you to speak to, Edward being away. My
strength may not last very long."

She understood him: that his strength might not hold out if she
hindered him by giving way to emotion. The precious time! not much of
it might be left to them. With a mighty effort of will, with an
anguished sigh to Heaven for help, Sara Davenal outwardly grew still
and calm.

"Tell me all you have to tell, papa. I will try and be to you what
Edward would have been."

"In the old will, made subsequent to the death of Richard, the chief
part of what I had to leave was divided equally between you and
Edward. Caroline--but it matters not to speak of her. In this new
will, made now since this illness, all I die possessed of is
bequeathed to you."

"To me!" she echoed, the injustice of the thing striking on her mind
in the first blush of the words.

"Do you think, after what has happened, that Edward could have any
right to it?"

She was silent. The doctor lay still for a few moments to gather
breath. His voice was so weak that she could barely catch some of the
words.

"When Edward brought that ill upon us, which has gone well-nigh to
kill me--which I believe in a measure has killed me, in so far as that
it rendered my state of mind and body such that I have been unable
to fight against what might otherwise have proved but a slight
disorder--when he brought it upon us, I say, I had only one way open
to me--to sacrifice my property and save him. All fathers might not
have done it, though most would: but I believe few fathers love their
children as I have loved mine. But to save him, I had not only to
sacrifice my property, but also in a measure to sacrifice you."

"Papa," she said, lifting her head, "I wish I might ask you
something."

"Well--do so."

"If you would but trust me more entirely. When Edward came that night
and you called me down, I learnt he was in some dangerous trouble; but
I learnt no further. Since then nothing but fears have haunted me."

"And have they not haunted me?" echoed the doctor in a strange tone of
pain. "The night stands out in my memory like a frightful dream. Think
what it was. When I was lingering in that front room there, full of
the trouble brought to me by the death of Lady Oswald, not yet cold,
there came a tapping at the window, and I looked out and saw Edward.
Edward, my son!--disguised, as may almost be said, for he did not care
to be recognised in Hallingham; and in truth recognition might have
been dangerous. 'Let me in quietly, father,' he said, 'I am in
danger.' Sara, were I to live to be an old man, could not forget the
effect those words had upon me. I was unnerved that evening: the
recent death of Lady Oswald and--and--its unhappy circumstances were
as vividly before me as though it was being enacted then, and I was
unnerved to a degree not usual. He wore a cap on his head, and a plaid
scarf very much up about his neck, in fact just as any gentleman might
travel, but I had not been accustomed to see Edward so dressed. His
voice, too, was hushed to a warning tone. 'Let me in quietly, father.
I am in danger.' In the first confused moment I declare I thought of
some threatened danger in the street--that some wild animal was
running loose: strange ideas do occur to one in these sudden moments.
I let him in, and he began hurriedly to tell me that he did not want
his visit to be known, for he was absent from quarters without leave;
nay, in defiance of leave, which had been denied to him as
inconvenient to be granted in the hurried period of the regiment's
departure. But he was compelled to see me, he continued, and--then--he
told me all."

"Told you what, papa?" she whispered, when the doctor's moan of
reminiscence had died away.

"Of the awful position into which his folly had plunged him. Of the
crime that he had committed, and which, if not hushed up, _bought_ up,
one may say, would in a few days find him out. Sara, Sara! men have
been hung for that same crime in days not so long gone by."

He, the unhappy father, stopped to wipe from his face the dews that
had gathered there. It was an awful tale for a father to tell; it was
more awful for him to have heard it. Sara shivered: she did not dare
to interrupt by a single word.

"My gallant son, of whom I had been so proud! Youth's follies had been
his in plenty; vanity, extravagance, expenditure, bringing debt in
their train, which I had satisfied, more than once, over and above the
handsome allowance I made him: But crime, never. Sara, when that night
was over, I felt that I would rather die than live it over again, with
its sudden lifting of the curtain to pain and shame."

"Papa, if----"

"Hush, child! Let me finish this part while I can speak. He confessed
all in its fullest extent. The ice once broken he told the whole.
Indeed, he had no choice but to tell it, for it was only by knowing it
entirely that I could help him. Had he concealed the half of it he
might as well have concealed all: and he might have stood at his
country's bar to answer for his crime." Sara gave a great cry.
Terrible as her vague doubts had been, pointing sometimes to the very
darkest sin that is comprised in the decalogue, the one which Oswald
Cray had even dared to whisper in her ear, it was so much worse to
hear those doubts confirmed.

"At his country's bar?"

"Child, yes. Don't I tell you what the punishment would have been for
it not many years ago? What could I do but save him? Had it been
necessary to part with every stick and stone I possessed in the
world, I must have parted with them--anything, everything, so as to
save him. I told him what I would do; that I would start before
morning light--for speed was necessary--and get to London and stop the
danger. On his part he had to go back by the train that passes through
here at midnight, and so be at quarters by the morrow, that his
absence might not be known. Before he went he begged to see you. I
think that he then--Sara, I think it now, and have for some little
time--that he then had made up his mind not to come down again: or
else he fancied that he should not be able to come. However that may
have been, he begged to see you; and I, seeing I must confess no
reason for it, called you down. And the rest you know."

"I don't know one thing," she whispered. "Papa, I don't know what it
was--the crime."

"And better that you should not," he answered with a vehemence
surprising in his weak state. "I would not have adverted to it at all,
but for what I have to explain to you. Listen, Sara, for there are
directions that I must give you now."

Pausing, he held his hand up for an instant as if to bespeak her
attention, and then resumed.

"I shall startle you if I say that the money I was called upon to find
was no less than eight thousand pounds. Ah! you may well lift your
head, child! And this imprudent, sinful man was your brother and my
son, and Heaven only knows how dearly I love him still! Five thousand
of it I paid at once, and the rest I arranged to pay later, at
different periods. This very Christmas, I have paid another five
hundred, leaving two thousand five hundred yet to pay. I have directed
that whatever I die possessed of shall be sold, and the money paid
over to you, my daughter, Sara Davenal: The terms of the will may
excite curiosity; people will marvel why I did not appoint trustees;
and you, my darling, must be content to let them marvel. The residue,
after my debts are paid, will be, as I judge, about three thousand
pounds. And of this, Sara, two thousand five hundred must be given to
these people, who hold Edward's safety in their hands."

Again she was startled. "Do they hold it still?"

"They do. They hold his--I may almost say life--in their hands. Once
they are paid, the danger will have passed. You will make no
unnecessary delay?"

"No," she said with a shudder. "The very hour the money is in my hands
it shall be paid to them."

"In my desk, in the private compartment, you will find a sealed paper
addressed to yourself. It contains full directions how you must
accomplish this, and who the parties are. I thought it well to write
this down for you, that there might be no mistake or forgetfulness.
Inside this paper you will find a letter addressed to these people,
and that I wish you to post with your own hands--with your own
hands--within four-and-twenty hours after my death. Do you clearly
understand?"

"Yes, she clearly understood, she answered; answered from the depths
of her quivering heart.

"And I think that is all, so far as that unhappy business is
concerned. Oh, my child, my child! if I could but have left you better
off!"

"Papa, don't grieve for that!" she said in the midst of her choking
sobs. "I shall do very well."

"You will have your home with your aunt. And Mark Cray is to pay you a
certain sum for five years, which must be invested for you. Bettina
will take care of you: but she is not of a cheering temper. If I could
but have left you in a happier home!"

Looking forward, she felt that all homes would be pretty much alike to
her with her load of grief and care. Surely the sorrows of life had
fallen upon her early!

"I began to think, just about the time of Caroline's marriage, or a
little before it, that Oswald Cray was growing to like you very much,"
resumed Dr. Davenal. "But it may have been only my own fancy. I was
mistaken with regard to him once before; perhaps also was again?"

She sat silent, her head down, the fingers of her hands nervously
entwining themselves one within the other.

"You don't answer me, Sara. It may be the last time I shall ask you
anything."

"It is all over, papa," she said, lifting her streaming eyes. "Then
there was! What has ended it?"

Ought she to tell him? _Could_ she tell him? Would it be right or wise
to do so--to increase the sense of _ill_, wrought by her unhappy
brother, already lying with so bitter a weight, in spite of his love,
on Dr. Davenal's spirit! No, she thought she ought not. Her sense of
right as well as her reticence of feeling shrunk from the task.

"Child, have you no answer for me?"

"Something--unpleasant--arose between us," she said, in a faltering
whisper. "And so we parted. It was neither his fault nor mine; it--it
was the fault of circumstances."

"Ah!" said the doctor, "a foolish quarrel. But I had thought both of
you superior to it. Should the cloud ever pass away, and he wish to
make you his wife, remember that you have my full and free
approbation--that my blessing would go with it. In spite of his pride
and his caprice, I like Oswald Cray."

"It never will pass away," she interrupted, almost with vehemence. "It
is a thing impossible. We have bidden adieu to all that for ever."

"Well, you know best. I only say, if it should be. Is it this that has
kept him from the house?"

"Yes. O papa, when you were blaming him for taking foolish and unjust
offence against Lady Oswald's will, I wish you could have known what a
mistake it was."

"And, Sara, I have urged on Caroline, as you heard me, that that money
should be secured to herself," he continued, passing to a different
subject. "I have spoken to your aunt; I have written of it to Oswald
Cray--for that is the purport of my note to him. My dear, do you
reiterate the same to them by word of mouth; and say that I urged it
again with my dying breath. I don't know why the necessity for this
should cling to my mind so strongly," he continued in a dreamy tone.
"Unless it is because I dreamt a night or two ago that Mark had run
through all his means, and Caroline was lying in some strange place,
ill, and in grievous poverty. It was a vivid dream; and is as present
to me now as it was when I dreamt it."

Sara pressed her hands upon her face. The effort to sustain her
calmness was getting beyond her strength.

"Say that I urged it again with my dying breath! And give my love to
the two little boys, Sara. Tell them that Uncle Richard would have
sent for them to take a last farewell, had death not come upon him so
suddenly. But there's no time; and tell them we shall meet again in
that far-off land, when their toils and mine shall be alike over.
Charge them to be ever working on for it."

She could not contain herself longer. Her very heart was breaking. And
she turned with choking sobs, and hid her face upon his breast.

"Don't, my darling! Don't grieve hopelessly. It is God's will to take
me, and therefore we should not sorrow as those without hope. I have
tried of late to live very near Him, to resign myself to Him in all
things. My life had become one long weary trouble, Sara--perhaps he is
taking me from it in love."

"O papa! But I shall be left!"

"Ah, child, but you are young; life for you is only in its morning,
and though clouds have gathered overhead, they may clear away again,
leaving only brightness behind them. Think what it has been for me! To
wake from troubled sleep in a night of pain to the dread that ere the
day closed the name of my only remaining son might be in the mouths of
men--a felon! Child, no wonder that I am dying."

Sara could not speak. She lifted her arm and let it fall across him.
Dr. Davenal laid his hand lovingly on the bowed head.

"Yes, I am resigned to die. I would have lived on longer if I could;
but that is denied me, and God has reconciled me to the decree. When
you shall come to be as old as I am, Sara, you will have learnt how
full of mercy are the darkest troubles, if we will but open our eyes
to look for it."

Sara Davenal, in her keen distress, could not see where the mercy lay
for her. To lose her father seemed to be the very consummation of all
earthly misery. How many more of us have so felt when stern death was
taking one we loved better than life!

"I am so glad I gave that money of Lady Oswald's back to the rightful
owners!" he resumed, after a pause. "It has brought its comfort to me
now. I am glad, too, that I have lived to see them in possession of
it; that no vexatious delays were made to intervene. Had it not been
settled before I died, there's no knowing what might have arisen.
Sara, remember that our past acts find us out on our dying bed.
Whether they have been good or evil, they come home to us then."

His voice had grown so faint that it was more by guessing than by
hearing that she understood the words. Presently she looked up and saw
that his eyes were closed; but his lips were in motion, and she
thought he was praying. She began to wish he would get into bed, but
when she attempted to move, his hand tightened around her.

"No: stay where you are. God bless you! God bless you always, my
child!"

She remained on as before, her cheek resting on the dressing-gown.
Presently Miss Bettina came in.

"It is the most wrong thing for you to sit up like this, Richard!" she
was beginning, when she caught sight of his closed eyes. "Is he
asleep, Sara? How could you let him go to sleep in his chair at this
hour He ought--What's the matter?"

Miss Bettina--calm, cold, impassive Miss Bettina--broke off with a
shriek as she spoke the last words. She went closer to him and touched
his forehead.

Sara rose; and a bewildering look of hopeless terror took possession
of her own face as she saw that white one lying there. Richard Davenal
had passed to his rest.



CHAPTER XXXIII.
SORROW.


To describe the sorrow, the consternation that fell on all Hallingham
in the loss of Dr. Davenal, would be a fruitless task. People could
not believe that he was really dead. It had been asserted that the
danger was past, and he was getting better rapidly. They looked at
each other in a bewildered sort of way, and asked what he had died of?
Of a neglected cold, was the answer of those who knew best, or
supposed they knew--the medical body of Hallingham. And indeed there
was little doubt that they were correct: the immediate malady which
had deprived the town of that valuable life was a very simple thing--a
cold, neglected at the onset.

Sara Davenal was stunned: stunned with the weight of the calamity,
with the grief it brought. And yet it probably fell upon her with less
startling intensity than it would have done had she been in the full
suntide of prosperity. She had been recently living in nothing but
sorrow. The grief and terror brought to her by that night's unhappy
secret (which you now know was connected with her brother), had been
succeeded by the withdrawal of the friendship--to call it by a light
name--of Oswald Cray. She had believed that the world could bring no
other calamity that could add to her misery: she had not thought of
that most grievous one--a father's death.

In all pain there must be a reaction: the very violence of the first
grief induces it; and it came sooner to Sara Davenal than it does to
most sufferers. Or, it may be, that the grave, the _real_ nature of
the grief brought its own effects. Had it been simple mourning alone,
the natural sorrow for the loss of a good and loving father, she might
have gone on weeping for months: but there was behind it that heritage
of terror on her brother's account, there was the consciousness that
with her the heavy secret was left, and the completion of its
purchase. The blinding tears ceased, the lively grief settled down
into one long, inward, dull agony; and ere many days went over, she
had become, in manner, almost unnaturally cold and calm. "How well his
daughter bears it," the town said, when it had an opportunity of
seeing her. In her subdued manner, her still face, her low measured
tones which never trembled, they read only serene resignation. Ah! how
few of us think to remember in everyday life that it is the silent
grief that does its work within.

She was obliged so soon to set about her responsibilities. Dr.
Davenal's request to her had been to post a certain letter that she
would find in his desk within four-and-twenty hours of his decease: to
post it herself. On the afternoon of the day following the death, she
carried the desk to her own room and examined it. There was the letter
to Edward, there was the letter to Oswald Cray; both were lying where
she had placed them; and there was the packet addressed to herself.
The letter it enclosed was directed "Mr. Alfred King, care of Messrs.
Jones and Green, Essex Street, Strand, London." The directions to
herself were very clear. As soon as the money was realised she was to
write and appoint an interview with Mr. Alfred King, and pay over to
him the two thousand five hundred pounds upon his delivering up to her
certain papers, copies of which were enclosed. This interview might
take place at Hallingham if Mr. Alfred King would journey to it: if he
declined, she would be under the necessity of going to London and
meeting him at Messrs. Jones and Green's. But on no account was she to
pay the money by deputy or by letter, because it was essential that
she should examine the papers that would be delivered to her, and see
that they tallied with the copies written down. Mr. Alfred King would
then have to sign a receipt, which the doctor had written and sealed
up, and which, he added, she had better not unseal until the moment
came for signing it. The receipt and one or two of the papers she was
afterwards to re-seal and keep until the return of Edward Davenal. If
Edward died abroad, then they were to be burnt.

Sara re-locked the desk; and still she could not form any very
definite idea of what Edward's crime had been. The letter to Mr.
Alfred King and the letter to Oswald Cray she kept out, for they must
be posted ere the day should close. She went out herself at dusk and
posted them; whatever duty lay before her, she felt that she must go
about it, shrinking from none. Girl though she was in years, she was
beginning to feel old in sorrow: no teacher is like unto it. There are
woes that bring more experience to the heart in the first night of
their falling than will half a lifetime of smooth years.

It was through the letter sent to him that Oswald Cray first learnt
the death of Dr. Davenal. He was seated at his breakfast-table in
Parliament Street, eyes and thoughts buried in the "Times," when Benn
came in with the letters, a whole stack of them, and laid them down by
his side. There Oswald let them lie: and it was only in gathering them
up later to take down and open in his business-room, that his eye fell
on one in particular, rather a large envelope, with a black border and
a black seal. He knew the writing well, and a flush of emotion rose to
his face as he opened it. Two notes were enclosed.


     "My Dear Mr. Oswald Cray,

"I do not knot, whether I shall be the first to tell you of the death
of my dear father. He died last night, about ten o'clock. An hour or
two previously he penned the enclosed note to you; and he bade me add
a few lines when I forwarded it, to explain that when he attempted it
he was almost past writing. But that he made this an especial request,
I would not have troubled you with anything from myself: indeed I am
scarcely capable of writing coherently today, for my grief is very,
great.

     "Believe me very sincerely yours,

                         "Sara Davenal."


The first rapid gathering-in of the general sense over, he leaned his
elbow on the table and read the words deliberately. It was just the
note that her good sense would prompt her to write, under the altered
relations between them. He felt that it was--but he had not witnessed
her hesitation and the doubt whether she should not rather address him
formally than as a friend. If those dandy clerks in the rooms below,
if those grave gentlemen with whom he would be brought in contact
during the day, had but seen him press those two words, "Sara
Davenal," to his lips! He, the reserved, self-possessed man of
business, he of the cold, proud spirit! he kissed the name as
fervently as any schoolboy kisses that in his first love-letter.

And then he recollected himself; and as his wits, which had certainly
gone wool-gathering, came back to him, another flush dyed his face far
deeper than the last had dyed it; a flush of shame that he should have
been betrayed into the folly. Besides, that was not the way to help
him to forget her; as it was imperative on him that he should forget.

He took up the note of the doctor. And he could scarcely believe that
that weak, scrawling writing was traced by the once bold, clear hand
of Dr. Davenal. It ran as follows:--


     "My Dear Friend,--I call you so in spite of the coolness that has
come between us. I would that all should be friends with me in my
dying hour.

"The expected money, as you probably know, is at last to come to
Caroline. I shall not be spared to urge its settlement upon herself,
but do you urge it. As soon as it shall be paid over, let Mark secure
it to Caroline absolutely, so that she and her children may have
something to fall back upon in case of need. They are both young, both
thoughtless, and, if left to themselves in the matter, will be almost
sure to waste the money, so that it would do no real good to either.
If Mark--I cannot write more: sight is failing.

"Fare you well, My Friend,

"R. D."


And he was dead! For a few moments, Oswald forgot all his doubts and
fears of the man, and leaped back in memory to the time when he had
respected him more than anybody in the world. _Had_ he died with that
weight of guilt upon him? How weighty was it? how far did it extend?
It seemed strange that he should so soon have followed Lady Oswald.
Had remorse hastened his death? But, in spite of these thoughts, which
Oswald called not up willingly, he did feel a deep sense of regret, of
sorrow for Dr. Davenal, and wished that his life might have been
spared to him.

It was incumbent on him to answer the other note, and he sat down to
his writing-table and drew a sheet of paper towards him, and began:

"My Dear----"

There he stopped. How should he address her? My dear Miss Davenal?--or
My dear Sara? The one seemed too formal, considering how long he had
called her Sara, considering that the present moment of deep sorrow
should make all her friends especially tender to her. But yet--My dear
Sara--better perhaps that he should not. So he finally began:


"My Dear Miss Davenal,

"I do indeed heartily sympathise with you in your great affliction. I
wish for your sake and his that the doctor's life had been spared. You
do not give me any particulars--and I could not at such a moment
expect them--but I fear his death must have been sudden. Will you allow
me to exercise the privilege of a friend, in begging you to endeavour
to bear up as bravely as it is possible for you to do, in these first
keen moments of grief. When next at Hallingham I will, with your
permission, call on you and Miss Davenal, and express to you in person
my heartfelt sympathy. Meanwhile believe me now and always your truly
sincere friend,

     "O. OSWALD CRAY.

"Miss Sara Davenal."


"Of course Mark must settle it upon her!" he said to himself as he
glanced again at the contents of the doctor's note to him. "It is not
to be supposed he would do otherwise. However, I'll mention it when I
go next to Hallingham."

And, gathering the papers together, he locked them in his private
desk, and went down to enter on his day's work, carrying the rest of
the letters in his hand.

On the day subsequent to the interment of Dr. Davenal, Sara told her
aunt she should go and see the two little boys. It had been her wish
that they should be sent for to attend the funeral, but Miss Davenal
objected: they were over young, she considered. Sara was too really
miserable to care about it: of what little moment do trifles seem when
the mind is ill at ease!

Miss Davenal again objected to her visit. In fact, had lookers-on been
gifted with prevision, they might have seen that the opinions and
course of herself and niece would be henceforth somewhat antagonistic
to each other. She objected to Sara's proposed visit, recommending her
to defer it for a week or two.

"But, aunt, I want to see them," urged Sara. "I know how grieved they
have been: though Dick is random and light-headed, he has a most
tender heart. And papa gave me a dying message to deliver to them."

"I say that it is too soon to go," repeated Miss Davenal. "A pretty
thing for you to be seen gadding about out of doors the very day after
your poor papa is taken from the house."

"O aunt! Gadding! I----" for a moment she struggled with her tears:
the thought of the terrible weight of sorrow she must carry out with
her wherever she went presented such a contrast to the word. At home
or out, she was ever living in her breaking heart: and it appeared of
little consequence what the world might say. She believed it was her
duty to see the boys as soon as possible, and she had fully resolved
that her duty, in all ways, should be performed to the uttermost,
Heaven helping her.

"I must go, aunt," she said; "I think I am doing right."

She walked in her deep mourning, with her crape veil over her face, to
the station. One of the porters got her ticket for her and saw her
into the carriage. Whether by the good-feeling of the man or not, she
did not know, but no one else was put into the same compartment. She
felt quite grateful to the man, as the train steamed on, and, she lay
back on the well-padded seat.

The train was express, and she reached the station where she was to
descend in less than an hour and a half. Dr. Keen's house was very
near. To gain its front entrance she had to pass the large playground.
The boys were out for their midday play, and Dick Davenal's roving
eye caught sight of her. He climbed over the railings, in spite of
rules, and burst into tears as he laid hold of her. Sara had pictured
the two boys in apple-pie order in their new mourning, quiet and
subdued; but here they were in their ordinary clothes, dirty and
dusty, and Dick had a woeful rent in one knee.

"O Sara! is it all true? Is he really dead and buried? Couldn't he
cure himself?"

She subdued her own emotion--it was only in accordance with the line
she had laid down for herself. She kissed the boy in the face of the
sea of eyes peering through the rails, and held him near as they
advanced to the house. Leo, less daring than Dick, had gone round by
the gate, and Sara drew him on her other side as he came running up.

She sat down in the room to which she was shown, holding the sobbing
boys to her. As she had said to her aunt, Dick had a tender heart, and
his sobs were loud and passionate. Leo cried with him. She waited to
let their emotion have vent, holding their hands, bending now and
again her face against theirs.

"_Couldn't_ he be cured, Sara?"

"No, dears, he could not be cured. It was God's will to take him."

"Why didn't you have us home? Why didn't you let us say goodbye to
him?"

"There was no time. We thought he was getting better, and it was only
quite at the very last we knew he was dying. He did not forget you and
Leo, Dick. He bade me tell you--they were his own words--that Uncle
Richard would have sent for you to take a last farewell, but that
death came upon him too suddenly. He bade me tell you that you will
meet him in that far-off land where your toils and his will be alike
over; and--listen, children!--he charged you to be ever working on for
it."

Their sobs came forth again. Leo was the first to speak. "Have you
written to Barbadoes to tell papa?"

"Aunt Bettina has. See, dears, here are two silver pencil-cases; they
were both your Uncle Richard's. The one has his crest on it; the other
his initials, R D. I thought you would like to have some little
remembrance of him, and I brought them. Which will you choose, Dick?
You are the eldest." Dick took the pencils in his hand and decided on
the largest, the one that bore the initials. The stone was a beautiful
one, a sapphire.

"Is it real, Sara?"

"O yes. This is the best for you, as the initials would not stand for
Leo. The other stone is real, too, Leo; opal. Try and not lose them."

"I'll never lose mine," avowed Dick. Leo only shook his head in
answer, as he put the momento in his pocket.

The gifts had created a diversion, and the tears began to dry upon
their faces; schoolboys' tears are not very deep. Sara spoke of their
mourning, inquiring why it was not on.

"We wore it yesterday," said Dick. "And we had holiday, we two, and
stopped in Mrs. Keen's parlour instead of going into school. But the
housekeeper told us to put our other clothes on this morning; she said
if we wore our black suit every day, it would be done for in a week."

Not unlikely--by the specimen of the present suit Mr. Dick wore. Sara
pointed to the rent in the knee.

"I know," said Dick, looking carelessly down at it. "I did it only
just before I saw you, wrestling with a fellow. He says he's stronger
than I am, but he isn't, so we were trying which was best man. All in
good part, you know. I say, Sara, shall we come home for the holidays
now, as we used to?"

"My dears, I don't know yet much about the future. It will be Aunt
Bettina's home now. I think she will be sure to have you as usual."

"Why won't it be your home?" cried Dick, quickly.

"I shall live with Aunt Bettina. It will not be the same home for
either of us--not the same house, I mean. I think--I don't know yet,
but I think it likely Mr. Cray and Caroline will come to it. Perhaps
Aunt Bettina will go to one of her own houses."

"Why can't you and Aunt Bettina stop in that?"

"It is too large for us. And the things are going to be sold?"

"The things going to be sold!" repeated Dick, lifting his eyes and
voice in amazement "Papa has so directed in his will. You know--at
least I dare say you have heard--that Aunt Bettina has a great deal of
very nice furniture which has been lying by in a warehouse ever since
she came to live with us. I can't tell you yet how things will be
settled."

"I say, Sara, how slow and quiet you speak! And how pale you are!"

Sara swallowed down a lump in her throat. "Papa was all I had left to
me, Dick. Leo, my dear, you are quiet and pale, too!"

"I say, Sara--never mind Leo, he's all right--have you got a great
fortune left you? The boys here were saying you'd have such a lot: you
and the captain between you."

"The boys were mistaken, Dick. Papa has not died rich. He died
something else, Dick--a good man. That is better than dying rich."

"If he wasn't rich, why did he give back that money that Lady Oswald
left him?"

"O Dick! Do you know that the remembrance of having given back that
money was one of his consolations in dying. Dick, dear, he hoped you
would work on always for that better world. But the acquiring money
wrongfully, or the keeping it unjustly, would not, I think, help you
on your road to it."

They were interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Keen, a kind, motherly
woman. She insisted on Sara's taking off her bonnet and partaking of
some refreshment. Sara yielded: choosing bread-and-butter and a cup of
coffee. And Mrs. Keen and Dick and Leo afterwards walked with her back
to the station.



CHAPTER XXXIV.
WORK FOR THE FUTURE.


The clocks were striking four when Sara Davenal was walking through
the streets of Hallingham on her return. She stepped along rapidly,
her crape veil over her face, and was molested by none with greetings
or condolences: but she stopped of her own accord on meeting the poor
market-woman, Mrs. Hundley. The woman, her face broken by sorrow,
flung up her hands before Sara could speak.

"To think that he should have been the first to go!--before my poor
boy, whose life, as may be said, he had been keeping in him! The one
a-dying for months past, the other a hale gentleman as seemed to have
health in him for a lifetime. Oh, miss! what will the sick do without
him?"

"How is your son?" was all Sara's answer.

"He has come nearly to his last, miss. Another week'll see the end.
When the news come out to us that the good Dr. Davenal was gone, we
couldn't believe it: and my boy, he says, 'Mother, it can't be; it
can't never be.' And he set on and sobbed like a child."

In spite of her efforts the tears overflowed Sara's eyes. To have it
thus brought palpably before her was more than she could bear with
equanimity. "Papa is better off," was all she murmured.

"Ay, he's better off: if ever a man had done his best in this world,
miss, it was him. But who'll be found to take his place?"

With the full sense of the last question echoing on her ear, Sara
continued her way. At the top of the lane contiguous to their
residence was Roger, standing in disconsolate idleness. With the death
of his master Roger's occupation was gone.

Sara spoke a kind word to him in passing, and met Mr. Wheatley coming
out at the gate, her father's close friend of many years. A surgeon
once, but retired from the profession now. He it was who was named the
sole executor to the doctor's will.

The will, which was causing surprise to the curious in Hallingham, had
been made in the doctor's recent illness. It directed that all
property he died possessed of should be sold, and the money realised
be paid at once to his daughter. Everything was left to her. In the
previous will, destroyed to make room for this, Edward Davenal's name
had been associated with Mr. Wheatley's: in this Mr. Wheatley was left
sole executor; in fact, Edward's name was not so much as mentioned in
it.

"Have you been calling on my aunt, Mr. Wheatley?"

"No, my visit was to you," he answered, as he turned indoors with her.

"I have been to see Dick and Leo," she explained. "My aunt thought I
ought not to go out so soon; that people might remark upon it. But I
am glad I went, poor boys!"

"People remark upon it!" echoed Mr. Wheatley. "I should like to hear
them. What is there to remark upon in that? Miss Sara, I have gone
through life just doing the thing I pleased according to my own
notions of right, without reference to what other folks might think,
and I have found it answer. You do the same, and never fear."

She led the way into the dining-room and closed the door. She
understood he wished to speak with her. The fire was burning itself
out to an empty room, Miss Davenal being upstairs. Ah, how changed the
house was only in the short week or two! It would never more be alive
with the tread of patients coming to consult Dr. Davenal; never more
be cheered with his voice echoing through the corridors. The
dwelling's occupation, like Roger's, had gone.

Mr. Wheatley sat down in the chair that had once been the doctor's,
and Sara untied her bonnet-strings, and took a seat near him. The
fresh newspapers, not unfolded, lay on the table as of yore: the
whilom readers of them, the waiting sick, had ceased their visits for
ever.

"Now, Miss Sara, I'm left sole executor to this will, as you heard
read out yesterday," he began. "It states--I daresay you noted
it--that things were to be disposed of with all convenient dispatch.
Did you observe that clause?"

"Yes."

"Very good. Besides that, in the last interview I held with my
poor friend--it was the afternoon of the day he died, as you may
remember--he enjoined the same thing upon me; no delay. There was a
necessity, he said, for your being put in possession of the money as
soon as possible." Sara had no ready answer at hand. She believed
there might be that necessity, but did not like to acknowledge it. She
took off her bonnet, and laid it beside her on the table, as if at a
loss for something to do.

"Now I don't want to inquire into reasons and motives," went on Mr.
Wheatley. "I'd rather not inquire into them or hear them; what your
father did not see fit to tell me, I'd prefer that nobody else should
tell me. I am sure of one thing: that he kept it from me either cut of
necessity or to spare me pain. That things had not gone very straight
with him, he told me; and that, coupled with the curious will, leaving
everything to you without the protection of trustees or else, does of
course force me to see that there's something behind the scenes. But
while I admit so much, I repeat that I do not speculate upon what it
may be, even in my own mind; nor do I wish to do so. One question I
must ask you--were you in your father's confidence?"

"Yes. At least, if not quite entirely, sufficiently so to carry out
all his directions and wishes. But, indeed, I may say I was in his
confidence," she added with less hesitation. "He talked to me a great
deal the night of his death."

"And you will be at no loss what to do with the money that shall be
realised."

"None."

"That's all straight, then, and I know how to set to work. My dear, it
was necessary that I should just say so far, for it would not have
been well for us to work at cross-purposes, and I am sure you do not
misunderstand me. There's something behind which is no more your
secret than it is mine; it was the doctor's; and we need not further
allude to it. I'll carry out his will, and you'll carry out his wishes
afterwards: he hinted to me that the money would have an ulterior
destination. Any suggestion you may have to make to me, you will now
do with more ease than if you had supposed I was under the impression
that the money was only going to you. Don't you think it was better
that I should speak?"

"Indeed it was, and I thank you."

"Well, now to business. As I understand it, there's a necessity,
perhaps an imperative one--in fact, the doctor told me so, for
immediate action. The first consideration then is, when shall you be
prepared to leave the house? Measures will be taken to put it up for
sale, and there's not the least doubt of its finding a ready
purchaser, for it's one of the best houses in Hallingham, and in its
best part. That will be easy. The next thing will be the sale of the
effects. Of course the sooner you leave the house, the sooner they can
be sold." It quite wrung her heart to hear him speak of all this in
the dry tone of a man of business. She did what she could to bring her
mind to bear it equably, heedless of the pain.

"It depends upon my aunt, Mr. Wheatley. So far as I am concerned I
could be out in a few days; but she will have her home to fix upon. I
had better speak to her. Papa said, when he was dying, that he thought
Mark Cray ought to leave the Abbey and come here."

"Mark Cray! Well, he has the most right to do so: he was your father's
partner. I never thought of him. Of course he will; _he'll_ not let it
slip through his fingers. The mere taking this house would be a
certain practice for any one. Mark Cray has his practice ready cut and
dried to his hand, but he'll not let the house go by him."

"Mr. Cray has just furnished the Abbey."

"But perhaps he--however, it will be well that somebody should see
him, and ascertain what his wishes may be. It is a pity but he had
money: he might purchase the house. By the way, there's that Chancery
money come or coming to his wife."

Sara shook her head. "That money is to be settled upon her. It was one
of papa's last injunctions."

"Well; and how can that be better done than by buying freehold
property, such as this? It will be the very thing for them, I should
say. Let them buy this house and settle it upon her; it will be a
capital investment. As to the furniture, if they don't care to buy
that, it must be sold. Suppose you ask Miss Davenal when she shall be
ready to vacate it; and meanwhile I'll see Mr. Cray."

He was a man of prompt action, this old friend of Dr. Davenal's, and
he rose as he spoke, shook hands with Sara, and bustled out so hastily
that even attentive Neal did not catch him up in time to close the
hall-door behind him. Sara supposed he was going then and there to
Mark Cray's.

She took her bonnet in her hand and went slowly up the stairs. It was
not a pleasant task, this question that she had to put to her aunt,
and she was glad of the little delay of even turning first into her
own room to take her things off after her journey. Since the reading
of the will yesterday Miss Davenal had been in one of her most
chilling moods. She had asked an explanation of Sara what was the
meaning of all this, what Dr. Davenal's secret was, and where the
money had gone to. Sara could only evasively put her off; one of the
charges enjoined on his daughter by the doctor had been--not to place
Edward in the power of his aunt.

It was not that Dr. Davenal feared the loyalty and good faith of his
sister; but he knew how bitterly she would judge Edward, and he was
willing to spare blame even to his guilty son. It is possible, also,
that he deemed the secret safest left to Sara alone. Whatever his
motive, he had said to her: "I charge you, keep it from your aunt
Bettina;" and Sara had accepted the charge, and meant to act upon it.
But Dr. Davenal might never have left it, had he foreseen the
unpleasantness it entailed on Sara.

Very curious, very cross, very deaf was Bettina Davenal, as she sat in
the drawing-room at her usual occupation, knitting. Her clinging
mourning robes made her figure appear thinner and taller; and that, as
you are aware, need not have been. She had seen from the window Sara
come in, and she now thought she heard her footfall on the stairs; and
her neck was thrown more upright than ever, and her lips were
ominously compressed. It was this general displeasure which had
chiefly caused the objection she made to Sara's visiting the boys.
Sara had gone, defying her; at least, she looked upon it in that
light. Was she about to defy her in all things?

She just looked up when Sara entered the room, and then dropped her
eyelids again, never speaking. Sara stood near the window, her bead
shaded by the half-drawn blind.

"Well, I have been, aunt."

"Been?" grunted Miss Bettina. "Not anywhere. Where do you suppose I
have been? I know propriety better than to be seen streaming abroad
today."

Sara drew a chair to the little table on which lay her aunt's pearl
basket of wool, and sat down close to her. Her pale refined face was
ominously severe, and Sara's heart seemed to faint at her task. Not at
this one particular task before her, but at the heavy task altogether
that her life had become. It was not by fainting, however, that she
would get through it, neither was it the line of action she had carved
out for herself.

"I observed that I had been to see the boys, Aunt Bettina. They both
send their love to you."

"I daresay they do. Especially that impudent Dick."

"Mrs. Keen also desired to be remembered," continued Sara.

"You can send back my thanks for the honour," ironically spoke Miss
Davenal. "The last time she was at Hallingham she passed our house
without calling."

"She spoke of it today, Aunt Bettina. She nodded to you at the window,
she said, and pointed towards the station: she wished you to
understand that she was pressed for time."

Aunt Bettina made no answer. She was knitting vehemently. Apparently
Sara was not getting on very well.

"Mr. Wheatley has been here, aunt."

"You need not tell it me. He has been dodging in and out like a dog in
a fair. Anybody but he might have respected the quiet of the house on
the very day after its poor master had been taken from it. He came in
and went out again, and then came in again--with you. As he _had_
come, he might have been polite enough to ask for me. Neal said he
wanted you. Early times, I think, to begin showing people you are the
house's mistress!"

It was not a promising commencement. Sara could only apply herself to
her task in all deprecating meekness.

"Aunt Bettina, he came to speak about the future. I daresay he thought
you would not like to be intruded upon today, for he wished me to talk
things over with you. He was asking when we--you--when we should be
ready to vacate the house."

"To do what?" she repeated shrilly. But she heard very well, Sara was
close to her and speaking in low clear tones.

"When we shall be ready to leave the house?"

"Had he not better turn us out of it today?" was the retort of the
angry lady. "How dare he show this indecent haste?"

"Oh, aunt! You know it is only in accordance with papa's will that he
has to do it. You heard it read. You read it to yourself afterwards."

"Yes, I did read it to myself afterwards: I could not believe that my
brother Richard would have made such a will, and I chose to satisfy
myself by reading it. Everything to be sold, indeed; as if we were so
many bankrupts? Hold your tongue, Sara! Do you think I don't grieve
for the loss of the best brother that ever stepped! But there are
matters a-gate that I don't understand."

"There's a necessity for the things being sold, Aunt Bettina."

"He told me so before he died: _you_ need not repeat it to me. Where's
the money to be paid to?"

"And therefore Mr. Wheatley is desirous that there should be no
unnecessary delay," Sara continued, a faint colour tinging her cheek
at the consciousness of evading her aunt's question. "He does not ask
us to go out at once, Aunt Bettina: he only wishes to know when we
shall be ready to go out."

"Then tell him from me that _I_ will be no hindrance," retorted
Miss Bettina, her temper rising. "Tomorrow--the next day--the day
after--any day he pleases, now, or in a month to come. I can get a
lodging at an hour's notice."

"Aunt, _why_ are you so angry with me?"

The burst came from her in her pain and vexation. She could not help
feeling how unjust it was to cast this anger upon her; how little she
had done to deserve it Miss Bettina knitted on more fiercely,
declining an answer.

"It is not my fault, aunt. If you knew--if you knew what I have to
bear!"

"It _is_ your fault, Sara Davenal. What I complain of is your fault.
You are keeping this secret from me. I don't complain that they are
going to sell the chairs and tables: Richard has willed it so, and
there's no help for it: but I don't like to be kept in the dark as to
the reason, or where the money is to go. Why don't you tell it me?"

It was a painful position for Sara. She had always been dutiful and
submissive to her aunt: far more so than her brothers or Caroline had
been.

"Aunt Bettina, I cannot tell you. I wish I could."

"Do you mean to imply that you do not know it."

"No, I don't mean that. I do know it. At least, I know it partially.
Papa did not tell me quite all."

Miss Bettina's usually placid chest was heaving with indignation. "And
why could he not tell me, instead of you! I think I am more fit to be
the depositary of a disgraceful secret than you are, a child! And I
expect it is a disgraceful one."

Ah, _how_ disgraceful Sara knew only too well. She sat in silence, not
daring to acknowledge it, not knowing what to answer.

"Once for all--will you confide it to me?"

Sara believed, as it had come to this, that it would be better if she
could confide it to her; but the injunction of Dr. Davenal was a bar;
and that she felt it her duty religiously to obey. In her deep love
for her father she would not cast the onus of refusal upon him,
preferring to let it rest on herself.

"Believe me, aunt, I _cannot_ tell you. I am very sorry; I wish I did
not know it myself. It--it was papa's secret, and I must not tell it."

In the twitching of her hands Miss Bettina contrived to throw down the
ball of wool. Sara picked it up, glad of the little interlude.

"Aunt Bettina, we could not have stayed on in this large house."

"Did I say we could?" asked Miss Bettina. "Not now, when all your
money's gone in ducks and drakes."

"Papa--papa could not _help_ the money going," she returned, her heart
swelling in the eager wish to defend him. "He could not help it, Aunt
Bettina."

"I am not saying that he could. I am not casting reproach on him. It
is not to be supposed, had he been able to help it, that he would have
let it go. How touchy you are!"

A silence, and then Sara began. She mentioned what Mr. Wheatley had
said, that the house might be a good investment for the money of
Caroline; and Miss Bettina, not at all a bad woman of business, was
struck with the suggestion. She sat revolving it in silence,
apparently only intent on her knitting. She supposed it could be so
settled on Mark's wife, but she did not understand much of what the
law might be. The thought struck her that this ought to be seen about
at once.

"Mr. Wheatley thinks it would be so much better if these things could
be taken too by whoever succeeds to the house," proceeded Sara. "So as
to avoid a public auction."

Now that was one of the sore points troubling Miss Davenal--the
prospect of selling the things by public auction. She had a most
inveterate hatred to any such step, looking upon all sales of
furniture, no matter what the cause of sale, as a humiliation. Hence
the motive which had induced her to warehouse her handsome furniture
instead of selling it, when, years ago, she gave up housekeeping to
take up her abode at Dr. Davenal's.

"Others knew that, before Mr. Wheatley," she said ungraciously. "A
public auction in this house! I would not stop in the town to see it.
Has old Wheatley spoken to Mark!"

"It struck me he was going to Mark's when he left here," replied Sara.
"I am not sure."

Miss Davenal grunted as she went on with her knitting. She herself
always liked to be "sure:" so far as her deafness allowed her. Turning
to glance at the timepiece, she crossed the room and opened the door.
There stood Neal.

Neal at his eaves-dropping, of course. And the black robes of his
mistress were so soft, her footfall so noiseless on the rich carpet,
that Neal's ear for once failed him. But he was not one to allow
himself to be caught. He had the coal-box in his hand, and was
apparently stooping to pick up a bit of coal that had fallen on the
ground. Miss Davenal would as soon have suspected herself capable of
listening at doors, as that estimable servant Neal.

"Let the dinner be on the table to the moment, Neal," were her orders.
"And I shall want you to attend me abroad afterwards."

"Are you going out, Aunt Bettina?" Sara ventured to inquire.

"Yes, I am," was the sharp answer. "But not until the shades of night
shall be upon the streets."

Sara understood the covert reproach. Her aunt's manners towards her
had settled into a cold, chilling reserve. Sara wondered if they would
ever thaw again.

Miss Davenal made her dinner deliberately: she never hurried over
anything: and went out afterwards on foot, attended by Neal. Sara
judged that she was going to the Abbey, but she did not dare to ask.
She, Sara, went to the drawing-room, from old custom; shivering as she
stepped up the wide staircase: not from cold, but from the loneliness
that seemed to pervade the house. She had not got over that sense of
strange nameless dread which the presence of the dead imparts and
leaves behind it. The drawing-room was lighted as usual: no alteration
had been made in the habits of the house; but as Sara glanced round
its space, a nervous superstition began to creep over her. Perhaps the
bravest of us have at times experienced such. A moment after, Watton
appeared showing in a visitor: Mr. Oswald Cray.

Every pulse of her body stood still, and then bounded onwards; every
thrill of her heart went out to him in a joyous greeting. In this
dreadful sorrow and sadness he had but been growing all the dearer.

He was still in deep mourning for Lady Oswald. He looked taller,
finer, more noble than of yore, or she fancied it, as he bent a little
to her and took her hand, and kept it. He saw the quiver of the slight
frame; he saw the red rose that dyed the pale cheeks with blushes, and
Mr. Oswald Cray knew that he was not forgotten by her, any more than
she was by him. But he knew also that both of them had only one thing
to do--to bury these feelings now, to condemn them to oblivion for the
future. The daughter of Dr. Davenal dead could be no more a wife for
him, Oswald Cray, than the daughter of Dr. Davenal living, and most
certainly he was the last man to be betrayed into forgetting that
uncompromising fact.

The rose-blush faded away, and he saw how weak and worn was her cheek;
young, fragile, almost childish she looked in her evening dress of
black, the jet chain on her white shoulders. Insensibly his voice
assumed a tenderness rarely used to her, as he apologised for calling
at that hour: but he was only passing through the town and would leave
it again that night. "I see how it is;" he cried, "you are suffering
more than is good for you."

But for the very greatest effort, the tears she had believed to have
put under permanent control would have dropped then. A moment's pause
for calmness, and she remembered that her hand was lying in his,
withdrew it, and sat down quietly in a chair, pointing to one for him.
But the forced calmness brought a sickness to her heart, a pallor to
her aching brow.

"How shall I tell you of my sympathy in your deep sorrow? I cannot
express it; but you will believe me when I say that I feel it almost
as you can do. It is indeed a trying time for you; a grief which has
come to you all too early."

"Yes," she gently answered, swallowing the lump that kept rising in
her throat. "I have a good deal to bear."

"There is only one comfort to be felt at these times--and that the
mourner can but rarely feel," he said, drawing his chair near to her.
"It lies in the knowledge, the recollection, that Time, the great
healer, will bind up the sorest wounds."

"It can never bind up mine," she said, speaking in the moment's
impulse. "But you are very kind; you are very kind to try to cheer
me."

"I wish I could cheer you, I wish I could remove every sorrow under
which you suffer! No one living would be a truer friend to you than I
should like to be. How is Miss Davenal?" he continued, possibly
fancying he might be saying too much, or at least that a construction
he never intended might appear to belong to his words. "Watton said
she was out. I suppose, in point of fact, she will not see me tonight.
I know what war I wage with etiquette in being here so soon, and at
this hour, and Miss Davenal is a close observer of it. Will you
forgive me?"

"Indeed I am glad to see you," said Sara, simply. "I am doubly glad,
for I feel almost ashamed to confess I was getting too nervous to be
alone. My aunt is out; she went to the Abbey as soon as dinner was
over. I am glad to see you thus early," she added, "because I have a
word to say to you from--from papa."

"Yes," said Oswald, lifting his head with slight eagerness, an unusual
thing for him to do.

"In the letter he wrote to you, and which I sent--the letter you
received," she continued, looking at him and pausing.

"Yes?"

"He spoke of Mrs. Cray's money in it, as he told me. He wished you to
interest yourself and see that it was settled upon her. When he wrote
that letter he was almost past exertion, and had to conclude it
abruptly, not having said so much as he wished to say. Therefore he
enjoined me to urge it upon you from him. He thought--I believe he
thought that Mark Cray was inclined to be careless, and that the money
might be wasted unless some one interfered. That was all."

"I shall speak to Mark. Most certainly I will urge the settlement of
the money on his wife, should there be occasion for it; but I imagine
Mark will naturally so settle it without any urging. It is quite
incumbent on him to do so, both as a matter of prudence and that it is
his wife's money, not his."

"I don't think Mark has much notion of prudence," she rejoined.

"I don't think he has, in a general way. But the most careless would
surely act in accordance with its dictates in a case like this. I am
going to tie Abbey presently."

"I fancy that papa thought--or wished--that you would be one of the
trustees, should trustees be required."

"I should have no objection," said Oswald, after a pause. "But--to go
to another subject, if you can bear me to touch upon it--was not Dr.
Davenal's death sudden at the last?"

"Quite at the last it was. He had some days of dangerous illness, and
he rallied from it, as we all supposed. It was thought he was out of
danger, and he sat up: he sat up for several hours--and died."

She spoke the words quietly, almost as she might have told of the
death of one not related to her, her hands clasped on her lap, her
face a little bent, her eyelids drooping. But Oswald Cray saw that it
was the calmness that proceeds from that stern schooling of the heart
which can only be enforced by those heavy-laden with hopeless pain.

"He died sitting up?"

"Yes. It was getting late, but he would not return to bed. He had been
talking to me about many things; I was on a low seat, my head leaning
against him. He died with his arm round me."

"What a trial! What a shock it must have been!"

"I had no idea he was dead. He ceased talking, and I remained quiet,
not to disturb him. My aunt Bettina came in, and saw what had
happened."

He scarcely knew what to say in answer. All comments at such a time
are so grievously inadequate. He murmured some words of pity for the
fate of Dr. Davenal, of compassion for her.

"It is Hallingham that deserves, perhaps, most of real pity," she
resumed, speaking in this matter-of-fact way that she might succeed in
retaining her composure. "I do not know who will replace my father: no
one, I fear, for a long while. If you knew how he is mourned----"

She stopped, perhaps at a loss for words.

"Did he suffer much?" asked Mr. Oswald Cray.

"He suffered here"--touching her chest--"but the pain ceased the last
day or two, and the breathing got better. He had a great deal of pain
of mind--as--perhaps--you--know. He was quite resigned to die: he said
God was taking him to a better home."

Still at cross-purposes. Sara's hesitating avowal pointed to a
different cause of mental pain from that assumed by Oswald Cray.

"Yes," he at length said, abstractedly, for neither spoke for a few
minutes, "it is a loss to Hallingham. This will be sad news to write
to your brother."

"It is already written. The mail has been gone a day or two. O yes! it
will be grievous news for Edward."

The last two words were spoken in a tone of intense pain. She checked
it, and began talking of her aunt, of Caroline, of anything; almost as
if she doubted herself. She told him she had been out that day to see
the two little boys. At length he rose to leave.

"Will you not stay and take some tea? I do not suppose my aunt will be
long."

He declined. He seemed to have grown more cold and formal. Until he
took her hand in leaving, and then the tender tone of voice, the
pleasant look of the eye shone out again.

"May Heaven be with you, Miss Davenal!--and render your future days
happier than they can be just now. Fare you well! I hope to hear good
news of you from time to time."

Which was of course equivalent to saying that he should not be a
visitor. She had not expected that he would be. He turned back ere he
gained the door.

"If I can be of service to you at any time or in anyway, I hope you
will not hesitate to command me. Nothing would give me so much
gratification as the being of use to you, should need arise."

It was very polite, it was very kind, and at the same time very
formal. Perhaps the strangest part throughout the interview to Sara's
ears was that when he had called her "Miss Davenal," for it presented
so great a contrast to the past: the past which was at an end for
ever.

He went out, shown through the hall by Jessy, and leaving his card on
the standing waiter for Miss Davenal. All _en règle_. And Sara in the
large drawing-room, so dreary now, remained on in her pain, alone.



CHAPTER XXXV.
MARK'S NEW PLANS.


In the dining-room at the Abbey, in her black robes, sat Mrs. Cray at
the head of her table, her elbow resting on it, and a pouting
expression on her pretty face. Mark was at the foot, gobbling down his
dinner with what haste he could. He had been detained so long beyond
the dinner hour that Mrs. Cray in despair had eaten hers; and when
Mark at length entered he found a cold face and a cold cutlet. Mrs.
Cray was beginning to tire of the irregularity.

"I can't help it, Carine," he said, looking at her in a pause of his
eating. "My work has been nearly doubled, you know, since the doctor
died."

"But it's very tiresome, Mark!"

"It is. I am nearly sick of it."

"It is not _doubled_, your work."

"Well, no; one speaks at random. Some of the doctor's older patients
have left me: they think, I suppose, I am not sufficiently
experienced. But I have a great deal to do just now; more, in fact,
than I can attend to properly."

Mark resumed his gobbling, and his wife watched him, her lips a little
relaxing. Caroline Cray was one of those who must have all things go
smoothly; she could not bear to be put out, even is trifles.

"Mr. Wheatley has been here, Mark," she presently said.

"What did he want?"

"Well, he wanted to see you. Something about the selling of my uncle's
house."

"He is losing no time," observed Mark, acrimony in his tone. "I wonder
he didn't begin about it yesterday when we were there, hearing the
will read. But what have I do with it?"

"He wants us to take the house--to buy it, I think."

"I daresay he does," retorted Mark, after a pause of surprise.
"Where's the money to come from?"

"There's that money of mine. He said it would be a good investment."

"Did he! I wonder what business it is of his! Carine, my dear, you and
I are quite capable of managing our own affairs, without being
dictated to."

"Of course we are!" answered Carine, rather firing at the absent Mr.
Wheatley, as this new view was presented to her.

Mark said no more just then. He finished his dinner, and had the
things taken away. Then, instead of sitting down to his wine, his
usual custom, he stood up on the hearth-rug, as though he were
cold--or restless. Mark Cray had been reared to extravagance in a
petted home, and looked for his wine daily, as surely as any old
alderman looks for it. Oswald Cray, reared without a home, and to
schoolboy fare, adhered still, in a general way, to the water to which
he had been trained. Oswald's plan was the most profitable, so far as
the pocket was concerned, and the health too.

"I say, Carine, I want to go to London for a day."

"To London?" echoed Carine, turning her chair to the fire, and facing
Mark.

"There's the grandest opening: there's the grandest opening for a
fortune to be made there. And--Carine--I think I shall quit
Hallingham." Mrs. Cray's violet eyes extended themselves in the
extreme of wonder. She sat staring at him.

"Caroline, I _hate_ the profession, and how I came ever to be such a
fool as to go into it I cannot understand," said Mark, throwing
himself on a chair as he plunged into confidence. "So long as the
doctor lived I could not well say anything about it; I did not see my
way clear to do so. But things have altered now, and I think I shall
give up the medical life."

"But--good gracious, Mark!--I can't understand," exclaimed Caroline,
in her bewilderment. "If you give up your profession, you give up our
means of living. We can't starve."

"Starve!" laughed Mark. "Can't you trust me better than that? Look
here, Caroline; let us come to figures. I don't suppose I should clear
at first above eight hundred a-year, or so, by the practice----"

"O, Mark!"

"Well, say a thousand for argument's sake. Let us assume that I net it
clear. It's a nice income, no doubt, but I shall make three times
that, if I go into the thing in London."

Caroline, half doubting, half eager, all bewildered, sat waiting to
hear more.

"There's a splendid opportunity offered me if I give up the medical
profession and embark altogether in a new line of life. I--you have
heard me speak of my old chum Barker, have you not?" he broke off to
ask.

"Barker?" she repeated. "Yes, I think I remember the name. He got into
some dreadful trouble, did he not, and was sent to prison?"

"Sent to prison! how you speak of things! All that's over and done
with. His friends were wretched screws, doing him out of money that
ought to have come to him, and the consequence was that Barker got
into the Queen's Bench. Half the gentlemen of England have been there
some time in their lives," added Mark, loftily, as if he were just
then deeming the thing an honour. "Well, Caroline, that was over long
ago, and Barker has now the most magnificent prospect before him that
one can well imagine; he will be making his thousands and thousands
a-year."

"How is he going to make it?" asked Caroline.

"And he has offered me a share in it," continued Mark, too eager to
attend to irreverent questions. "He is one who knows how to stand by
an old friend. _Thousands_ a-year, it will be."

"But, Mark, I ask you how he is going to make it?"

"It is connected with mines and pumping, and all that sort of thing,"
lucidly explained Mark.

"Mines and pumping!"

"Caroline, dear, you cannot be expected to understand these things.
_Enormous_ fortunes are being made at them," continued Mark, in a
rapture. "Some of the mines yield fifty thousand pounds profit the
first year of working. I declare when I first heard of Barker's
prospects I was fit to eat my fingers off, feeling that I was tied
down to be a paltry pitiful country surgeon. Folks go ahead nowadays,
Caroline. And, as Barker has generously come forward with the offer
that I should join him, I think I ought to accept it in justice to
you. My share the first year would be about three thousand, he
computes."

"But, Mark, do you mean to say that Mr. Barker has offered you three
thousand a-year for nothing? I don't comprehend it at all."

"Not for nothing. I should give my services, and I should have to
advance a certain sum at the onset. Talk about an investment for your
money, Caroline, what investment would be equal to this?"

The words startled her for the moment. "I promised poor Uncle Richard
that the money should be settled upon me, Mark. He said he urged it as
much for your sake as mine."

"Of course," said Mark, with acquiescent suavity. "Where there's
nothing better to do with money it always ought to be so settled. But
only look at this opening! Were your uncle Richard in life, he would
be the first to advise the investment of the money in it. Such chances
don't happen every day. Caroline, I can't and I won't humdrum on here,
buried alive and worked to death, when I may take my place in the
London world, a wealthy man, looked up to by society. In your
interest, I will not."

"Are the mines in London?" asked Caroline.

"Good gracious, no! But the office is, where all the money
transactions are carried on."

"And it is quite a sure thing, Mark?"

"It's as sure as the Bank of England. It wants a little capital to set
it going, that's all. And that capital can be supplied by your money,
Caroline, if you will agree to it. Hundreds of people would jump at
the chance."

An utter tyro in business matters, in the ways of a needy world,
imbued with unbounded faith in her husband, Caroline Cray took all in
with eager and credulous ears. Little more than a child, she could be
as easily persuaded as one, and she became as anxious to realise the
good luck as Mark.

"Yes, I should think it is what my uncle would advise were he alive,"
she said. "And where should we live, Mark?"

"We'd live at the West End, Carine; somewhere about Hyde Park. You
should have your open and close carriages, and your saddle-horses and
servants--everything as it ought to be. No end of good things may be
enjoyed with three thousand a-year."

"Would it stop at three thousand, Mark?" she questioned, with
sparkling eyes.

"I don't expect it would stop at twenty," coolly asserted Mark. "How
far it would really go on to, I'm afraid to guess. In saying three
thousand, I have taken quite the minimum of the first year's profits."

"O Mark! don't let it escape you. Write tonight and secure it. How do
you know but Barker may be giving it to somebody else?"

She was growing more eager than he. In her inexperience, she knew
nothing of those miserable calamities--failure, deceit, fruition
deferred. Not that her husband was purposely deceiving her; he fully
believed in the good luck he spoke of. Mark Cray's was one of those
sanguine roving natures which see an immediate fortune in every new
scheme brought to them--if it be only wild enough.

"How long have you known of this, Mark!"

"Oh, a month or two. But, as you see, I would not stir in it. I should
like to run up to town for a day to meet Barker; and, on my return,
we'd set about the arrangements for leaving. There will be no more
lonely dinners for you, Carine, once we are away from here. I shall
not have to be beating about, all hours and weathers, from one
patient's door to another, or dancing attendance on that precious
Infirmary, knowing that you are sitting at home waiting for me, and
the meal getting cold."

"O Mark, how delightful it will be! And perhaps you would never have
risen into note, as my uncle did."

"No, I never should. Dr. Davenal's heart was in his profession,
mine--"

Mark Cray stopped abruptly. The avowal upon his lips had been, "mine
recoils from it."

It was even so. He did literally recoil from his chosen profession.
Unstable in all his ways, Mark had become heartily sick of the routine
of a surgeon's life. And since the affair of Lady Oswald a conviction
had been gradually taking possession of him that he was entirely
unfitted for it; nay, that he was incompetent To betray his
incompetency, would be to lose caste for ever in the medical world of
Hallingham.

Mark Cray rose from his chair again, and stood on the rug as before,
pushing back his hair from his brow incessantly in the restlessness
that was upon him. He was always restless when he thought of that past
night; or of the certainty that he might at any time be called upon to
perform again what he had failed in then. It was not altogether his
skill he doubted, for Mark Cray was a vain and self-sufficient man;
but he felt that the very-present consciousness of having broken down
before would induce a nervousness that might cause him to break down
again. Had it been practicable, Mark Cray would have taken flight from
Hallingham and the medical world that very hour, and hid himself away
from it for ever.

"It has become _hateful_ to me, Carine!"

The words burst from him in the fulness of his thoughts. Both had been
silent for some minutes, and they sounded quite startling in their
vehemence. Mrs. Cray looked up at him.

"What do you mean, Mark? What has? The getting your meals so
irregularly?"

"Yes;" said Mark, evasively. He did not choose to say that it was his
profession which had become hateful to him, lest Mrs. Cray might
inquire too closely why.

And, besides all this, had Mark been ever so successful in his
practice, the vista opened to him of unlimited wealth (and he really
so regarded it) might have turned a steadier head than his. His friend
Barker had been Mark's "chum" (you are indebted to Mark for the
epithet) at Guy's Hospital, and the intimacy had lasted longer than
such formed intimacies generally do last. Mr. Barker was of the same
stamp as Mark--hence, perhaps, the duration of the friendship; he had
practised as a surgeon for a year or two, and then found it "too
slow," and had tried his hand at something else. He had been trying
his hand at something else and something else ever since, and somehow
the things had dropped through one after the other with various
degrees of failure, one degree of which had been to land Mr. Barker
within the friendly walls of a debtor's prison. But he had come on his
legs again; such men generally do; and he was now in high feather as
the promoter of a grand mining company. It was this he had invited
Mark to embark in; he wrote him the most glowing accounts of the
fabulous sums of money to be realised at it; he believed in them
himself; he was, I have said, exactly the same sort of man as Mark.

One little drawback had recently presented itself to Barker: a want of
ready money. Mark, in his eagerness, offered the sum coming to his
wife from the Chancery suit; they were expecting it to be paid over
daily; and Mr. Barker was in raptures, and painted his pictures of the
future in colours gorgeous as those of a Claude Lorraine. Caroline
might have felt a little startled had she known Mark had already
promised the money without so much as consulting her. But Mark had
chosen to take his own time to consult her, and Mark was doing it now.
Perhaps he had felt it might be more decent to let poor Dr. Davenal be
put under the ground before he spoke of applying the money in a way so
diametrically opposed to his last wishes.

He drew a letter from his pocket, one received that morning, and read
out its glowing promises. Mr. Barker was evidently fervent in his
belief of the future. Caroline listened as in a joyous dream. The
imaginary scene then dancing before her eyes of their future greatness
rivalled any of the scenes of fairyland.

"You see," said Mark, "Barker----who's that?"

The entrance of a visitor into the hall had caused the interruption.
Caroline bent her ear to listen.

"It is Aunt Bettina!" she exclaimed. "I am sure it is her voice, Mark.
Whatever brings her here tonight?"

Mark crunched the letter into his pocket again. "Mind, Caroline, not a
word of this to her!" he exclaimed, laying his hand on his wife as she
was rising. "It is not quite ready to be talked of yet." Miss Davenal
entered at once upon the subject which had brought her--their quitting
the Abbey for the other house. Mark understood she had come, as it
were, officially; to fix time and place and means; and he had no
resource but to tell her that he did not intend to enter upon it; did
not intend to embark Caroline's money in any such purpose; did not, in
fact, intend to remain in Hallingham.

There ensued a battle: it was nothing else. What with Miss Davenal's
indignation and what with Miss Davenal's deafness, the wordy war that
supervened could be called little else. Caroline sat pretty quiet at
first, taking her husband's side now and then.

"You tell me you are going to leave Hallingham, and you won't tell me
where you are going, or what you are going to do, Mark Cray!"
reiterated Miss Davenal.

"I'll tell you more about it when I know more myself."

"But you can tell me what it is; you can tell me where it is. Is it at
one of the London hospitals?"

"It is in London," was Mark's answer, allowing the hospital to be
assumed.

"Then Mark Cray you are very wicked. And you"--turning to
Caroline--"are foolish to uphold him in it. How can you think of
giving up such a practice as this?"

"I am tired of Hallingham," avowed Mark with blunt truth, for he was
getting vexed.

"You are--what?" cried Miss Davenal, not catching the words.

"Sick and tired of Hallingham. And I don't care who knows it."

Miss Davenal looked at him with some curiosity. "Is he gone out of his
senses, Caroline?"

"I am tired of Hallingham, too, aunt," said Caroline, audaciously. "I
want to live in London."

"And the long and the short of it is, that we mean to live in London,
Miss Bettina," avowed Mark. "There. I don't care that my talents
should be buried in a poking country place any longer."

She looked from one to the other of them; she could not take it in.
Sharp anger was rendering her ears somewhat more open than usual.

"Buried!--a poking country place! And what of the twelve or fifteen
hundred a-year practice that you would lightly throw away, Mark Cray?"

"Oh, I shall do better than that in London. I have got a post offered
me worth double that."

She paused a few moments. "And what; are you to give for it?"

"Never mind that," said Mark.

"Yes, never mind that," rejoined Miss Bettina in a tone of bitter
sarcasm. "When it comes to details, you can take refuge in 'never
mind.' Do you suppose such posts are given away for nothing, Mark
Cray? Who has been befooling you?"

"But it will not be given for nothing," cried Caroline, betrayed to
the injudicious avowal by the partizanship of her husband. "The money
that is coining to me will be devoted to it."

This was the climax. Miss Bettina Davenal was very wroth; wroth
however, more in sorrow than in anger. In vain she strove to sift the
affair to the bottom; Mark baffled her questions, baffled her
indignant curiosity, and--it must be confessed--his wife helped him.

She--Miss Bettina--turned away in the midst of the storm. She took up
her black gloves, the only article of attire that she had removed, and
drew them on her trembling hands. In the shaking of the hands alone
did Bettina Davenal ever betray emotion: those firm, white, rather
bony hands, usually so still and self-possessed.

"Marcus Cray, as surely as that you are standing now before me, you
will rue this work if you carry it out. When that day shall come, I
beg you--I beg _you_, Caroline--to remember that I warned you of it."

She passed out without another word, and stalked down the lighted
street, uncomfortably upright, Neal behind her with his ginger tread.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

IS MARK IN HIS SENSES?


Midway between the Abbey and her own home--it was in the corner just
before coining to the market-place--Miss Davenal encountered Mr.
Oswald Cray.

"Is Mark in his senses?" was her abrupt greeting to him, as he lifted
his hat.

"What is the matter with him?--What is he doing?" asked Oswald, all in
wonder.

Miss Davenal paused. Either she did not hear the question or she took
time to recover herself to reply to it. Her face was very pale, her
cold grey eyes glittered like steel in the lamplight.

"My poor brother has died young, and left this valuable practice in
Mark's hands. There are not many like unto it. The house is ready to
be offered to him: altogether, the career spreading out before him is
a fine one. And he is talking of throwing it up. He is going to fling
it from him as a child flings a pebble away into the sea. He says he
shall quit Hallingham."

"Quit Hallingham!" repeated Oswald Cray, the last words of what she
said alone making their full impression on him in his bewildered
surprise. "Mark says he shall quit Hallingham?"

"He has some wild-goose scheme in his head of setting up in practice
in London," said Miss Davenal, speaking in accordance with the notion
she had erroneously assumed. "It is something he is about to purchase.
He is going to purchase it with that money of Caroline's. But he has
as surely lost his senses as that we are here."

"I cannot understand it," said Oswald. "No man in his senses would
abandon such a practice as this."

"Just so. But I tell you he is not in his senses: he cannot be. I do
not understand it any more than you. Perhaps you will see him?"

"I will. I am going there now. I have been calling at your house, Miss
Davenal. Now that I have met you, will you let me express my deep
sympathy in your sorrow for the loss you have sustained."

"Thank you, sir. It has been the greatest blow I could have
experienced, and if I have not shown it much outwardly--for it is not
in my nature to show such--it has done its work on my heart There are
few men who could not have been spared in Hallingham, whether to the
town or to his family, better than Dr. Davenal."

"It is frequently the case," said Oswald, half abstractedly, "that
those whom we think we could the least spare, are taken. Fare you
well, Miss Davenal." Oswald Cray strode on to the Abbey, the strange
news puzzling him much. He did not take Mark at a disadvantage, as
Miss Davenal had done. When he entered, Mark was all cool and easy,
having had time to collect his wits and resolve on his course of
action. That course was, not to open his lips about the scheme on hand
to any other living mortal until it was ripe and ready to be acted
upon. Miss Davenal's communication to Oswald rendered this somewhat
difficult, but Mark did not stand on an evasion or two.

He was exceedingly surprised to see Oswald, not knowing that he was at
Hallingham, and Caroline gave a little scream when he came in, in her
pretty and somewhat affected manner. Oswald explained that he had not
come from London, but from another part of the country, and had
alighted at Hallingham for two or three hours only as he passed
through it. He then entered upon the strange news just communicated to
him.

But Mark had his answer to it ready at hand. He talked in a mocking
tone about "busybodies," he ridiculed Miss Davenal's deafness, saying
that she generally heard things "double:" altogether, he contrived to
blind Oswald, to convince him that the whole thing was a fable; or,
rather, a mistake, partly arising from Miss Davenal's infirmity,
partly from a desire on his own part to "chaff" her for her
interference. How Mark Cray reconciled this to his sense of honour,
let him answer.

And Oswald, perfectly truthful himself, never doubted his
half-brother. But he did not wholly quit the topic. He spoke of the
few words written to him by Dr. Davenal when he was dying, and their
purport--that he, Oswald, should urge the settlement of Mrs. Cray's
own money upon her. Though of course, Oswald added, there was no
necessity for him to do so: Mark would naturally see for himself that
it was the only thing to be done with it.

Of course he saw it, testily answered Mark, who was growing cross.

"I cannot think how Miss Davenal could have misunderstood you as she
did," proceeded Oswald. "She actually said that this money of Mrs.
Cray's was to be applied to the purchase of the new thing in London in
which you were proposing to embark."

"Did she!" returned Mark, in a tone that one impudent schoolboy
retorts upon another. "I do wonder, Oswald, that you should listen to
the rubbish picked up by a deaf woman!"

"The wonder is, how she could pick it up," returned Oswald. "But I am
heartily glad it is not so. Miss Davenal assumed that you must be out
of your senses, Mark," he added, a smile crossing his lips: "I fear I
must have arrived at the same conclusion had you really been
entertaining the notion of quitting Hallingham and throwing up such a
practice as this."

"I wish to goodness people would mind their own business!" exclaimed
Mark, who was losing his good manners in his vexation. The
communication to his wife of his new scheme had been so smoothly
accomplished, that the sudden interruption of Miss Davenal and now of
Oswald Cray seemed all too like a checkmate; and Mark felt as a stag
driven to bay. "I am old enough to regulate my own affairs without
Miss Davenal," he continued, "and I want none of her interference."

Oswald did not speak.

"And, what's more, I won't stand it," resumed Mark; "either from her
or from any one. There! And, Oswald, I hope you will excuse my saying
it  although you are my elder brother and may deem you have a right to
dictate to me."

"The right to advise _as a friend_ only, Mark," was the reply,
somewhat pointedly spoken. "Never to dictate."

Mark growled.

"With Dr. Davenal's valuable practice before you, Mark, it may appear
to you quite a superfluous precaution to secure the money to your wife
and children," persisted Oswald. "But the chances and changes of life
are so great, overwhelming families when least expected, that it
behoves us all to guard those we love against them, as far as we have
the power."

"Do you suppose I should not do the best for my wife that I can do?"
asked Mark. "She knows I would. Be at ease, Oswald," he added in an
easy tone, of which Oswald detected not the banter, "when Caroline's
money shall be paid over, I'll send you notice of it. Talking of
money, don't you think the doctor made a strange will?"

"I have not heard anything about his will," replied Oswald. "He has
died very well off, I suppose?"

"We don't think that he has died well off," interposed Caroline. "I
and Mark can't quite make it out, and they do not treat us with much
confidence in the matter. Whatever there is, is left to Sara."

"To Sara?"

"Every stick and stone," returned Caroline, her cheeks assuming that
lovely colour that excitement was apt to bring to them, and which, to
a practised eye, might have suggested a suspicion of something not
sound in the constitution. "All the property he died possessed of is
to be sold, even to the household furniture; and the money realised
from it goes to Sara."

"And the son--Captain Davenal?"

"There's nothing left to him; not a penny-piece. His name is not so
much as mentioned in the will."

Oswald looked as though he could not believe it. He had thought that,
of all men, Dr. Davenal would have been incapable of making an unjust
will.

"Look here, Oswald," interrupted Mark, speaking in that half-whispered
tone that is so suggestive of mystery, "there's something under all
this that we can't fathom. Caroline overheard some words dropped by
Miss Davenal to the effect that Sara was left dependent upon her,
quite entirely dependent----"

"But how can that be?" interrupted Oswald. "Have you not just said
that the whole property is willed to her?"

"True: but Miss Davenal did say it. It is all queer together,"
concluded Mark. "Why should he have willed it all to Sara, excluding
Edward?--And why should Miss Davenal assert, as she did, that Sara
would be penniless, and must have a home with herself? I am sure I and
Caroline don't want their confidence," continued Mark, in a tone of
resentment that was sufficient to betray he did want it. "But I say
it's a queer will altogether. Nothing left to Edward, when it's well
known the doctor loved him as the apple of his eye! Every sixpence
that can be realised by the sales is to go to Sara; to be paid into
her hands absolutely, without the security of trustees, or guardian,
or anything. But as to his having died the wealthy man that he was
thought to be, it is quite a mistake. So far as we can make out, there
was no money laid by at all."

Oswald did not care to pursue the theme. The disposal of Dr. Davenal's
property was nothing to him; and if he could not help a suspicion
crossing his mind as to how the laid-by gains of years had been spent,
it was certainly not his intention to enlighten his brother Marcus.
Neal had hinted at hush-money months ago, and the hint was haunting
Oswald now.

"Was it not a sudden death at the last?" exclaimed Caroline.

"Very," said Oswald, "It must have been a sad shock for you all. I am
sure your cousin feels it much."

"Sara? Well, I don't know. I don't think she feels it more than I do.
She seems as still and calm as a statue. She never shed a tear
yesterday when the will was being read: and I am sure she listened to
it. _I_ never heard a word for my sobs."

But for the melancholy subject, Oswald would have smiled at Caroline's
faith in her own depth of grief. She had yet to learn the signs of
real sorrow.

"She is not demonstrative, I think," he observed, alluding to Sara.

"She never was," returned Caroline: "and therefore I argue that there
can be no real feeling. I have gone into hysterics ten times since the
death, only thinking of it, as Mark knows; and I question if anybody
has so much as seen Sara cry. I said to her yesterday, 'How collected
you are! how you seem to think of everything for the future!' 'Yes,'
she answered in a dreamy sort of way, 'I have got work to do; I have
got work to do.' I don't know why it should be," continued Mrs. Cray,
after a pause, "but in the last few mouths Sara seems to have altered
so much; to have turned grave before her time. It is as though all her
youth had gone out of her."

Oswald rose: he believed his mission had been accomplished--that there
was no doubt of Mark's investing his wife's money for her benefit, in
accordance with the doctor's wishes. They pressed him to remain and
take some tea, but he declined: he was returning to town that night.
His last words to his half-brother proved how completely he was
astray.

"Mark, it would be only kind of you to set Miss Davenal right. I am
sure the misapprehension was causing her serious pain."

"I'll attend to her," rejoined Mark, with a careless laugh, as he went
with him to the hall-door. "Goodnight, Oswald. A safe journey to you!"

Mark returned to his wife. He had not quite liked to use that
deliberate deceit to Oswald Cray in her presence. But Mark was
ingenious in sophistries, in that kind of logic which tends to "make
the worse appear the better reason," and Caroline put full faith in
him as she listened to his half-apology, half-explanation.

"It would never have done to enlighten _him_," observed Mark. "What I
have said, I said for your sake, Carine. Oswald is one who would
rather let a man plod on for years on bread and cheese, than see
him make a dash and raise himself at once to independence. He's a
slow-going coach himself, and thinks everybody else ought to be!"

And, propping his back against the side of the mantelpiece, Mark Cray
enlarged upon all the grandeur and glory of the prospect opening to
him, painting its future scenes in colours so brilliant that his wife
lost herself in a trance of admiration, and wished it could all be
realised with the morning light.



PART THE SECOND.



CHAPTER XXXVII.
ENTERING ON A NEW HOME.


For once London was bright. A glorious spring day late in March had
gladdened the spirits of the metropolitan world, dreary with the fogs
and rains of the passing winter, and as the street passengers looked
up at the clear blue sky, the shining sun, they said to each other
that the day was a foretaste of summer.

The sun drew to its setting, and its red rays fell on the terminus of
the Great Western Railway at Paddington; on all the bustle and
confusion of a train just in. Amidst the various vehicles driving out
of the station with their freight, was a cab, containing two ladies
dressed in deep mourning, one of whom, the elder, had not recovered
from the pushing about to which she had been subjected in the
confusion of arrival, and was protesting that she should not recover
it, and that there ought to be arrangements made to protect lady
travellers from such. On the box beside the driver was a--was he a
gentleman, or was he a servant? If the latter, he was certainly a most
superior one in looks, but the idle people standing about and casting
their eyes up to the passing cabs were taking him no doubt for the
former. The luggage piled up on the top of the cab and on the front
seat of the inside, seemed to say that these travellers had come from
a distance.

In point of fact they had come from Hallingham, for they were no other
than Miss Davenal and her niece, and the gentleman on the box was
Neal. Miss Davenal kept up her chorus of complaint. It had begun with
the discomforts attendant on the arrival of a large train at the
terminus, and it would be continued, there was little doubt, for ever
and a day; for though Miss Bettina had come to London by her own free
decision, she had come sorely against her will.

"Jostling! pushing! hustling! roaring! It is a _shame_ that ladies
should be subjected to such. Why don't they manage things better?"

"But, Aunt Bettina, you need not have been in the bustle. If you had
but seated yourself in the cab, as Neal suggested, and allowed him to
see after the luggage--"

"Hold your tongue, Sara. What was one pair of eyes to look after all
the luggage we have got? I chose to see to it as well as Neal; and I
say that the way you get pushed about is shameful. My firm belief is,
we have lost at least ten of the smaller packages."

"No, no, aunt, they are all here; I counted them as they were brought
to the cab."

"Yes, that's about all you are good for!--counting the cabs! I'd spend
my moments to a little more purpose. Good heavens! we shall be run
down! If this is London. I wish I had never heard of it."

The cab threaded its way amidst the crowded streets and its inmates'
terrors--for Sara was little less timid than her aunt--until it drew
up before a small house in Pimlico; small as compared with their house
at home. Miss Davenal looked up at it and gave a groan; and Neal
opened the cab door.

"Is _this_ the place, Neal? It is dreadfully small."

"I think you will find it convenient, ma'am. It is better inside than
out."

Better inside than out! It was new and fresh and pleasant-looking; but
to poor Miss Davenal it appeared, as she had said, dreadfully small.
Sara seemed less disagreeably impressed. She had not anticipated great
things; and it was of very little consequence to her where she lived
now. In reality, it was rather a nice house, of moderate size; but
Miss Davenal was estimating it by comparison--as we all estimate
things.

She turned herself about in the small passage in dismay. A door on the
left led into the parlour, the room they would use for dining; about
four such could have been put into the dining-room at Hallingham. The
staircase would scarcely admit of two abreast; and in front of it, at
the top, was the drawing-room, a light, cheerful apartment, with one
large window. The furniture in these rooms was Miss Davenal's, and it
crowded them inconveniently.

Dorcas, she who had lived at the Abbey with Mrs. Cray, stood there
with a smiling face to receive them; and the landlady, a humble sort
of person, in a green stuff gown, who had the pleasure of residing in
the back kitchen and sleeping in some obscure attic, came forward
also. The greater portion of the house had been taken unfurnished for
Miss Davenal.

"About the bedrooms Dorcas?" inquired Miss Davenal, in a
half-frightened tone. "Which is mine?"

"Which you please to choose, ma'am," was Dorcas's answer. "The two
best chambers are the one behind the drawing-room, and the one over
the drawing-room."

The room over the drawing-room was the largest and best, but Miss
Davenal did not like so many stairs, and resigned it to Sara. She,
Miss Davenal, turned herself about in the small back room as she had
done in the passage; her own spacious chamber at home was all too
present to her, and she wondered whether she should ever become
reconciled to this.

Had any one told her a few short months before--nay, a few short
weeks--that she should ever take up her abode in London, she had
rejected the very idea as absurd, almost an impossibility. Yet here
she was! come to it of her own decision, of her own accord, but in one
sense terribly against her will.

Marcus Cray had carried out his plans. To the intense astonishment of
Hallingham he had rejected the valuable practice which had become his
by the death of Dr. Davenal, and his mode of relinquishing it had been
a most foolish one. Whether he feared the remonstrances of his
brother, the reproaches of Miss Davenal, or the interference of other
friends of his wife, certain it is that Mark, in disposing of the
practice, had gone unwisely to work. A practice such as Dr. Davenal's,
if placed properly in the market, would have brought forth a host of
men eager to be the purchasers and to offer a fair and just sum for
it. But of this Mark Cray allowed no chance. He privately negotiated
with a friend of his, a Mr. Berry, and sold him the goodwill for
little more than an old song.

In vain Miss Davenal said cutting things to Mark; in vain Oswald Cray,
when the real truth reached him, came hastening down from London, in
doubt whether Mark had not really gone mad. They could not undo the
contract. It was signed and sealed, and Mr. Berry had paid over the
purchase-money.

Then Mark spoke out upon the subject of his London prospects; he
enlarged upon their brilliancy until Miss Davenal herself was for the
moment dazzled. She urged on Mark the justice of his resigning to Dr.
Davenal's daughter part of this purchase-money; Mark evaded it. His
agreement with Dr. Davenal, he said, was to pay to his daughter three
hundred pounds per annum for five years; and provided he did pay it,
it could be of no consequence whether he made it by doctoring or by
other means: he should fulfil his bargain, and that was enough.

Mark had had it all his own way. The money expected by his wife had
been paid over to him, and he kept it. It was a great deal less than
was expected, for Chancery had secured its own slice out of the pie;
but it was rather more than four thousand pounds. Mark was deaf to all
suggestions, all entreaties; he completely ignored the last wishes of
Dr. Davenal; turned round on Oswald, and flatly told him it was no
business of his; and carried the money to London in his pocket, when
he and Caroline quitted Hallingham.

They quitted it in haste and hurry, long before things were ripe and
ready for them in London, Mark remarking to his wife that the sooner
they were out of that hornet's nest the better--by which term he
probably distinguished Miss Davenal and a few others who had
considered themselves privileged to interfere, so far as remonstrance
went. Caroline more than seconded all his wishes, all he did; Mark had
imbued her with his own rose-coloured views of the future, and she was
eager to enter on its brightness.

The next to look out for a home was Miss Bettina Davenal. Affairs of
the sales and else had not been carried out so quickly and readily as
Mr. Wheatley in his inexperience had anticipated, and there had been
no immediate hurry for the house to be vacated. A surgeon in the town
was in treaty for it, and the furniture would have to be sold by
auction. Sara wondered that her aunt did not fix upon a residence, and
she feared all would be scuffle and bustle when they came to leave.

But Miss Davenal had been fixing upon one in her own mind; at least,
upon the locality for one--and that was London. Never, willingly, did
Bettina Davenal forego a duty, however unpalatable it might be, and
she did believe it to be her duty to follow the fortunes of Caroline,
and not abandon her entirely to the mercy of her imprudent,
thoughtless husband. To quit Hallingham, the home of her whole life,
would be a cruel trial; but she thought she ought to do so. And she
bestowed a few bitter words upon the absent Mark for inducing the
necessity.

Miss Bettina set about her plans. If there was one quality she was
distinguishable for, above all others, it was obstinacy. Obstinate she
was at all times, but in the cause of right or duty she could be
unflinchingly so. Watton, their former upper-maid, was established in
her new situation as housekeeper in the house of business in St.
Paul's Churchyard, and Miss Davenal wrote to her and requested her to
look out for a house or for a portion of one, and let her know about
it. Mr. and Mrs. Cray had taken a house in Grosvenor Place, facing the
Green Park, and Miss Davenal wished to be as near to them as her
pocket would allow.

Watton attended to her commission. She thought that part of a handsome
house would be more suitable to Miss Davenal's former position than
the whole of an inferior one, and she did her best. Miss Davenal found
it, as you have just seen, anything but handsome; but she had little
notion of the prices asked in London, and she had limited Watton as to
the house-rent she was to offer. Neal was sent up to London with the
furniture, which had been warehoused for so many years; and when he
returned to Hallingham Dorcas took his place in London. Discharged by
Mrs. Cray, who had not chosen to take country servants with her, she
had been re-engaged by Miss Davenal, whose modest household was
henceforth to comprise only Dorcas and Neal. Miss Davenal would not
part with Neal if she could help it; but she had been surprised at the
man's ready agreement to stay in so reduced an establishment.

And so, before things were quite in readiness for them, Miss Davenal
and Sara had come up. The furniture in the house at Hallingham was
being prepared for public sale, and they hastened away, not to witness
the desecration. How coldly and chilly this new home struck upon both,
now that they had really entered upon it, they alone could tell.
Neither slept through that first night, and they arose in the morning
alike unrefreshed.

Breakfast over, Sara stood at the window. In their immediate situation
all the houses were private ones, but from a proximate corner she
could see the bustle of the highroad and the omnibuses passing up and
down. The day was bright, as the previous one had been, giving to
London its best aspect, and all the world was astir.

"And now for Mark Cray and Caroline," said Miss Bettina.

It had been Miss Davenal's pleasure that Mark Cray and his wife should
be kept in ignorance of this emigration of hers to London. Neal,
during his brief sojourn there, and Dorcas afterwards, had been
enjoined to keep strictly clear of the vicinity of their house. Having
no motive to disobey, they had complied with the orders; and Mr. and
Mrs. Cray were yet in total ignorance that their relatives were so
near.

She put on her things and went out, Neal, as usual in attendance. Neal
was well acquainted with the geography of the place, and piloted his
mistress to the house in a few minutes' time: a handsome house, with
stone steps and pillars before the door. Miss Davenal gazed at it with
drawn-in lips.

"It cannot be this, Neal."

"Yes, ma'am, it is. Shall I ring?"

Miss Davenal pushed forward and rang herself, an imperative peal. What
right had they, she was mentally asking, to venture on so expensive a
house as this must be? A footman flung open the door.

"Does Mr. Cray live here?"

"Yes," said the footman with a lofty air: as of course it was
incumbent as him to put on to anybody so dead to good manners as to
call at that early hour. "What might your business be?"

None could put down insolence more effectually than Bettina Davenal.
She gave the man a look, and swept past him.

"Show me to your mistress, man."

And somehow the man was subdued to do as he was bid, and to ask quite
humbly, "What name, ma'am?"

"Miss Davenal."

He opened the door of a room on the right, and Miss Davenal, never
more haughty, never more stately, stepped into it. She saw it was of
good proportions, she saw it was elegantly furnished; and Caroline, in
a flutter of black ribbons on her pretty morning toilette, was sitting
toying with a late breakfast.

She started up with a scream. Believing that the lady before her was
safe at Hallingham, perhaps the scream was excusable.

"Aunt! Is it really you? Whatever brings you in London?"

Miss Bettina neglected the question to survey the room again. She had
surveyed the hall as she came in; she caught a glimpse of another room
at the back: all fitted up fit for a duke and duchess.

"Where's Mark Cray?" she cried.

"Mark has been gone out ages ago, aunt. He is deep in business now.
The operations have begun."

"Who took this house?" grimly asked Miss Bettina.

"I and Mark."

"And what did the furniture cost?"

"Oh, I don't know. I don't think Mark has had the bills in yet. Why,
aunt?"

"_Why!_" returned the indignant lady, in a blaze of anger. "You and
your husband are one of two things, Caroline; swindlers or idiots. If
you think that strong language, I cannot help it."

"Aunt Bettina!" echoed the startled girl, "what are you saying?"

"The truth," solemnly replied Miss Bettina.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.
HOPE DEFERRED.


Some weeks went on. The beautiful summer weather had come, and the
June sun was upon the streets.

Sara Davenal stood at her chamber window looking out on the dusty
road. Not in reality seeing it; for the trouble and perplexity at her
heart had not lessened, and she had fallen into that habit of gazing
outwards in deep thought, noticing nothing. The same habit had
characterised Dr. Davenal; but at his daughter's age _he_ had never
known any weight of care. For years and years his path had been a
smooth one--little else than sunshine. She gazed outwards on the dusty
road, on the white pavement, glistening again with its heat, but saw
nothing. A looker-on would have said she was an idle girl, standing
there to take note of her neighbours' and the street's doings: of the
tradespeople calling at the opposite houses, of the servant girls
flirting with them as they gave their orders: of the water-cart
splashing past the corner along the public highway, but neglecting
this quiet nook: of everything, in short, there was to see and be
seen. How mistaken that looker-on was he could never know. Poor Sara
Davenal might have been the sole living object on a broad desert
plain, for all she saw of the moving panorama around her.

"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick!" When that proverb of the wise
king of Israel comes practically home to our hearts in all its stern
reality, we have learnt one of the many bitter lessons of life.
Perhaps few have realised it more intensely than Sara Davenal had
latterly been obliged to realise it. From March to April, from April
to May, from May to June, week by week, and morning by morning, she
had been waiting for something that never came.

A very short while to wait for anything some of you may be thinking;
not much more than two months at the most, for it is only the
beginning of the blooming summer month, and they had come to London
late in March. But--I believe I said the same a chapter or two ago--a
space of time is long or short according as we estimate it. Two
months' space may pass lightly over us as a fleeting summer's day; or
it may drag its slow length along, every minute of it marking its
flight upon our sick and weary hearts, with enough of agony crowded
into it to make it seem a lifetime.

Sara and Miss Bettina had come up in March, and the things at
Hallingham were to be sold within a few days of their departure; and
in a few days after that Sara had expected the money would be paid
over to her. In her inexperience, she did not sufficiently allow for
delays: yet had she been ever so experienced she would not have
supposed the delay would extend itself to this. It is not of much
moment to inquire into the precise cause of this delay: it is
sufficient to know that it did occur; and it gave as yet no signs that
it would be speedily ended.

Sara had expected the money early in April. It did not come. "It will
be up next week," she said to herself. But the next week came and did
not bring it, and she wrote to Mr. Wheatley. He hoped to realise in a
day or two was his somewhat incautious answer; but in truth he
himself, not being a man of business, anticipated no vexatious delay.
It was an unfortunate answer for Sara, for from that date she began to
look for the money daily; and you have not yet to learn what
impatience this daily waiting and expecting works in the human heart.
When one morning's post passed over and did not bring it or news of
it, Sara counted on it for the morrow. And the morrows came and went,
on and on; and Sara wrote and wrote, until she grew sick with the
procrastination and the disappointment. She had waited for this money
so anxiously that it had become with her a feverish longing; something
like that strange disease, _mal du pays_, as it is called, which
attacks the poor Swiss, exiled from their native land. Not for the
sake of the money itself was she so troubled--you know that; but from
the fear of what the evil delay might bring. In reply to the letter
she had forwarded to Mr. Alfred King, on the death of Dr. Davenal,
that unknown gentleman, whoever he might be, had replied in a short
note and a very illegible handwriting (abounding in flourishes), that
he was sorry to hear of the doctor's death, but counted on the
fulfilment of the obligations without vexatious delay. This was
addressed to Min Sara Davenal, and reached her safely at Hallingham.

Poor Sara, in her inexperience, in her dread of what this man might
have in his power touching her brother, feared he might deem two or
three weeks only a "vexatious delay:" and when the two or three weeks
went on, and two or three weeks to those, and two or three weeks
again, then it was that the dread within her grew into a living agony.
Who Mr. Alfred King might be she knew not. On that night when she had
been called down to Dr. Davenal's study and found her brother there,
she had gathered from some words dropped by the doctor, in his very
imperfect explanation to her, that some one else had been almost
equally culpable with her brother: but who this other was, whether
gentleman or swindler, whether male or female, she had no means of
knowing. She did not suppose it to be Mr. Alfred King: she rather
surmised that whoever it was must have gone away, as Edward had. Now
and then she would wonder whether this Mr. Alfred King could be
connected with the police: but that was hardly likely. Altogether, her
ideas of Mr. Alfred King were extremely vague; still she could not
help dreading the man, and never thought of him without a shiver.

She did not know what to do: whether to remain passive, or to write
and explain that the money was coming, and apologise for the temporary
delay. She felt an aversion to write, and she could not tell whether
it might do harm or good. And so she did nothing; and the time had
gone on, as you have heard, to June.

Sara stood at the window gazing into space, when her attention was
awakened to outward things by seeing the postman turn into the street
with a fleet step. Could it be the _morning_ postman? Yes, it must be,
for the second delivery did not take place until eleven, and it was
now half-past nine. Something had rendered him later than usual.

She threw up the window listlessly. So many, many mornings had she
watched for the post to bring this news from Hallingham, and been
disappointed, that a reaction had come, and she now _looked_ only for
disappointment. You will understand this. The postman was dodging from
one side of the road to the other with that unnecessary waste of time
and walking (as it seems to the uninitiated) which must help to make
postmen's legs so weary. He was at the opposite house now, superseding
the butcher boy in the good graces of the maid-servant, with whom he
stayed a rather unnecessary while to talk; and now he came striding
over. Sara leaned her head further out and saw him make for their
gate.

And her pulses suddenly quickened. Even from that height she could
discern--or fancied she could discern--that the letter was from Mr.
Wheatley. That gentleman always used large blue envelopes, and it was
certainly one such that the man had singled out from his bundle of
letters. Had it come at last? Had the joyful news of the money come?

She closed the window and ran swiftly down the stairs and met Neal
turning from the door with the letter. That official was probably not
at all obliged to her for demanding the letter from him so summarily.
But he had no resource but to give it up.

It was from Mr. Wheatley, and Sara carried it to her room, a bright
flush of hope on her cheeks, an eager trembling on her happy fingers.
Mr. Wheatley did not like letter-writing, and she knew quite well that
he would not have written uselessly. Opening the envelope she found it
a blank; a blank entirely: nothing even written inside it: it had but
enclosed a letter for herself which had apparently been sent to
Hallingham. O the bitter, bitter disappointment! there was not a line,
there was not a word from Mr. Wheatley.

A conviction arose that she had seen the other handwriting before.
Whose was it?--it seemed to be made up of flourishes. Mr. Alfred
King's! Her heart stood still in its fear, and seemed as if it would
never go on again:--

          "Essex Street, June 1st.

"Madam,

"I am sorry to have to give you notice that unless the money owing to
me, and which I have been vainly expecting these several weeks, is
immediately paid, I shall be under the necessity of taking public
steps in the matter; and they might not prove agreeable to Captain
Davenal.

     "I am, Madam,

          "Your obedient servant,

                "Alfred King.

"Miss Sara Davenal."


So the first faint realisation of the haunting shadow of the past
weeks had come! Sara sat with the letter in her hand. She asked
herself what was to be done?--and she wished now, in a fit of vain
repentance, that she had written long ago to Mr. Alfred King, as it
had been in her mind to do.

She must write now. She must write a note of regret and apology,
telling him the exact truth--that the sale of the different effects at
Hallingham and the realisation of the proceeds had taken more time
than was anticipated, but that she expected the money daily--and beg
of him to wait. In her feverish impatience it seemed as if every
moment that elapsed until this explanation should be delivered to Mr.
Alfred King was fraught with danger, and she hastened to the room
below, the drawing-room.

Her desk was there. It was generally kept in her own chamber, but she
had had it down the previous evening. Neal was quitting the room as
she entered: he had been putting it in order for the day. Miss Davenal
was in the parlour below, where she generally remained an hour or two
after breakfast.

The letter--Mr. Alfred King's letter--was spread open before Sara, and
she sat pen in hand deliberating how she should answer it, when her
aunt's voice startled her. It sounded on the stairs. Was she coming
up? Sara hastily placed the open letter in the desk, closed and locked
it, and opened the drawing-room door. But in her flurry she left the
key in the desk.

Miss Davenal was standing on the mat at the foot of the stairs "Can't
you hear me call?" she asked.

"I did hear, aunt. What is it?"

"Then you ought to have heard!" was the retort of Miss Davenal, at
cross-purposes as usual. "_You_ are not turning deaf, I suppose?"

"What is it, aunt?" repeated Sara, going half-way down the stairs.

Instead of answering, Miss Davenal turned and went into the
breakfast-room again. Sara could only follow her. Her aunt's manners
had never relaxed to her from the sternness assumed at the time of Dr.
Davenal's death: cold and severe she had remained ever since; but she
looked unusually cold and severe now.

"Shut the door," said Miss Davenal.

Sara hesitated for a moment, more in mind than action, and then she
obeyed. She had left her desk, and wanted to get back to it.

"Hold this," said Miss Davenal.

She had taken her seat in her own chair, and was cutting out some
articles of linen clothing that looked as long as the room. Her income
was a very moderate one now, and she did a good deal of sewing instead
of putting it out. Sara took the stuff in her hand, and held it while
her aunt cut: an interminable proceeding to an impatient helpmate, for
Miss Davenal cut only about an inch at a time, and then drew a short
thread and cut again.

"Won't it tear?" asked Sara.

"It _will_ wear. Did you ever know me buy linen that wouldn't wear? I
have too good an eye for linen to buy what won't wear."

"I asked, aunt, if it would not tear."

"Tear!" repeated Miss Davenal, offended at the word--at the ignorance
it betrayed. "No, it will not tear; and I should think there's hardly
a parish school child in the kingdom but would know that, without
asking."

Sara, rebuked, held her part in silence. Presently Miss Davenal lifted
her eyes and looked her full in the face.

"Who was that letter from this morning?"

"It was a private letter, aunt."

"A what?" snapped Miss Davenal.

Sara let fall the work, and stood fearlessly before Miss Davenal. The
most gentle spirit can be aroused at times. "The letter was from a
gentleman, aunt. It was a private letter to myself. Surely I am not so
much of a child that I may not be trusted to receive one?"

"A pri-vate let-ter!--A gentleman!" was the amazed reiteration of Miss
Bettina. "_What_ do you say?"

Sara stood quite still for a moment, while the faint flush that was
called up died away on her cheeks, and then she bent close to her
aunt's ear, her low voice unmistakably clear and distinct.

"Aunt Bettina, you knew there was some unhappy business that papa was
obliged to meet--and bear--just before he died. The letter I have
received this morning bears reference to it. It is from a Mr. King,
but I don't know him. I should be thankful if you would not force me
to these explanations: they are very painful."

Miss Bettina picked up the work and drew at a thread until it broke.
"Who is Mr. King?" she asked.

"I do not indeed know. I never saw him in my life. He had to write to
me just a word about the business, and I must answer him. In telling
you this much, Aunt Bettina, I have told all I can tell. Pray, for
papa's sake, do not ask me further."

"Well, this is a pretty state of things for the enlightened nineteenth
century!" grunted Miss Bettina. "We have read of conspiracies and
Rye-House plots, and all the rest of it: _this_ seems a plot, I think!
Have you nothing more to say?"

"No, aunt," was the low, firm answer.

"Then you may go," said Miss Bettina, twitching the work out of Sara's
hand. "I can do this myself."

And Sara knew that no amount of entreaty would induce her aunt to
admit of help in her cutting after that. She went upstairs, and met
Neal coming out of the drawing-room.

"I thought you had finished the room, Neal," she said, a sudden fear
stealing over her as she remembered that her desk was left with the
key in it.

"So I had, Miss. I came up now for this vase. My mistress said it was
to be washed."

He went downstairs carrying it: a valuable vase of Sèvres porcelain,
never intrusted to the hands of anybody but Neal. It had belonged to
poor Richard--was presented to him just before he went out on his
unfortunate voyage. Sara walked to her desk; it stood on the centre
table. What with vases and other ornaments, and superfluous articles
of furniture, the room was somewhat inconveniently full. It was a
good-sized room, too; nearly square, the window facing you as you
entered it, and the fireplace on the right. Opposite the fireplace
was a beautiful inlaid cabinet with a plate-glass back: it had never
cost less than forty pounds: but Miss Bettina had not spared money
when she bought her furniture years ago. Look at the girandoles on the
walls!--at the costly carpet, soft as velvet! Opposite the window
stood Sara's piano, a fine instrument, the gift of her loving father
on her eighteenth birthday. Altogether the room was an elegant one,
but Miss Bettina could not have reconciled herself to any other. The
parlour below was a nice room also, with its handsome sideboard and
its glittering mirrors: but it was smaller than the drawing-room.

Sara stood for a moment before her desk: it _looked_ exactly as she
left it. She turned the key and raised the lid, and saw that had
anybody else done the same Mr. Alfred King's letter was lying face
upwards, and might have been read without the slightest trouble in an
instant of time. Had Neal seen the letter? Would he be likely to do
such a thing as raise her desk surreptitiously? Many a servant would
be in a room with an unlocked desk times and again, and never attempt
to peer inside it. Was it probable that Neal had any propensity for
prying into affairs that did not concern him? It all lay in that.

Vexed with herself for having allowed the chance to any one, Sara
carried her desk to her chamber, and sat down and wrote her note
there. But she could not get the thought quite so readily out of
her head: it was most inexpedient that Neal, or any one else, should
see that letter of Mr. Alfred King's. There occurred to her mind
something her brother Edward had once told her--about a doubt of Dr.
Davenal's--as to whether Neal had not opened a note of Lady Oswald's.
Suddenly she thought of the doctor's desk. If that had been opened In
an impulse of fear he put the key into the lock.

It would not turn. Something was the matter with the lock. Had it been
tampered with? Sara's face grew hot.

Turning and twisting and pulling, but all gently, she worked the key
about in the lock. No, it would not open it. In the previous summer's
holidays a certain cupboard in Watton's room downstairs declined to be
opened in just the same way, and when inquiries came to be made,
Master Dick Davenal boldly avowed that, wanting some jam one day, he
had opened it with another cupboard key, and so had spoiled the lock.
Had this lock been put out of order in the same way? The proper key to
it was always about herself.

A locksmith had to be brought in to the desk. He speedily opened it
and put the lock to rights. "It was only a ward bent," he said. Sara
inquired whether he thought it had been done through a strange key
being put into the lock, but she did not get much satisfaction. "Like
enough it might," he said, but "sometimes them wards got out of order
with their own key."

"It seems quite a common lock," remarked Sara, as she paid him.

"Laws, yes! A'most any key might open that."

"What was the matter with the desk?" questioned Miss Bettina, who met
the man in the passage as he was going away.

"I don't know, aunt. It would not open: such a thing has never
happened to it before. Do you remember last midsummer holidays Dick
spoiled Watton's cupboard through undoing it with a false key? The man
says it may have been the same case here." And Neal, who was standing
immediately opposite his young mistress, and met her eye as she spoke
heard the words with unruffled composure; not so much as a shade of
change disturbing the equanimity of his impassive countenance.



CHAPTER XXXIX.
AN UNPLEASANT VISIT.


"Set me down at Essex Street."

The request, proffered in a sweet and timid yoke, was made by a young
lady who had just taken her place in an omnibus. The conductor's
gracious response was to shut the door with a desperate bang, and call
out "hi" to the driver, as a signal that he might go on.

The young lady was too pretty not to be stared at; but the crape veil,
pertaining to her handsome mourning, was not raised from before her
face, as she took her seat with that quiet self-possession which
rarely forsakes the gentlewoman.

You will be at no loss to guess that it was Sara Davenal. The
expedition she was bound upon was one that nothing save obligation
could have forced upon her--a visit to Mr. Alfred King. Her note to
that gentleman had brought forth another letter from him. It was to
the effect that he could not wait longer for the money without the
utmost inconvenience, but he would do himself the honour of calling
upon her at eleven o'clock the following morning, to discuss the
matter in person. A most unsatisfactory, dismaying communication to
Sara. To receive him in her Aunt Bettina's house was out of all
question; for that estimable lady would undoubtedly have insisted upon
making a third at the interview. To have the secret brought home to
her very hearth would be too fortunate an opportunity to miss
acquainting herself with its nature and details, even though she had
to draw the information from Mr. Alfred King. Sara saw what must be
done, however she might dislike it; and she wrote a hasty note to the
gentleman, saying that it would not be convenient to receive him in
her own house, but she would instead wait upon him in Essex Street.
Hence her unwonted omnibus journey.

The omnibus dashed along on its road. It was full, and therefore there
was no loitering. Leaving Pimlico behind it, it passed Charing Cross
and gained the Strand. There it stopped for somebody to get out, and
Sara looked up at an exclamation made by the passenger seated
immediately opposite to her next the door, a lady apparently but
little older than herself: a quiet, steady, self-possessed girl with a
pleasing face and fair hair.

The passing of a gentleman on the payment, close up to which the
omnibus was drawn, had apparently caused the exclamation to escape
her. His eyes in the same moment caught the fair face bent towards him
from the door, and he approached. A bright smile greeted him, and he
took her hand and kept it as they spoke together.

"You, Jane!" he exclaimed, and the voice, subdued though it was, bore
a laughing sound. "It is about the last place I should have expected
to see you in. I thought you and omnibuses were decided foes."

"But I am going a long way this morning; too far to walk," she
answered. "We have had a letter from----"

She bent her face lower, and the words became indistinct. The
gentleman resumed.

"And you are going to inquire about it? Well, Jane, don't be in a
hurry. I'll tell you why another time. Inquire particulars if you
like, but fix nothing. The fact is, I have something else in view."

"Of course we'd not fix anything without consulting you," she answered
in her pleasant Scotch accent. "When will you be coming?"

"Tonight most likely. Goodbye, Jane. Take care of yourself."

He released her hand which he had been holding all the while, the
conductor gave the door a bang, and the omnibus dashed on. Sara had
turned white as death. A variety of emotions that she would not have
cared to analyse were at conflict within her--for the voice was the
voice of Oswald Cray.

And he had gone away, not seeing her. For _that_ she was on some
accounts thankful. He might have been as much surprised to see her in
an omnibus--perhaps more so--as he was the young lady opposite; and
least of all to Oswald Cray could Sara have explained the errand on
which she was bent. She stole a glance at the girl's interesting face:
a good and sensible face one that might well win the regard even of
Oswald Cray; and that baneful plant, jealousy, which perhaps had taken
root in her heart before, suddenly shot forth its sharp tendrils into
every corner. What right had she, Sara Davenal, to indulge any such
passion?--had she not parted from Oswald Cray for ever?

"Did you not ask to be put down at Essex Street?"

The question aroused her from her pain. It came from the same young
lady opposite, and Sara looked up with a start.

"Yes;" she answered.

"Then we must have passed it, for this that we are going through is
Temple Bar, and I know Essex Street is before we come to that. This
young lady told you to set her down at Essex Street," she added to the
conductor. And the man stopped the omnibus without offering the
slightest apology.

"Thank you," said Sara to her courteously. And she walked away with
the pleasant voice ringing in her ear: and the conviction within her
that it must be Jane Allister.

She walked slowly down Essex Street, looking out for the offices of
Messrs. Jones and Green, and soon found them. It was a large and
dusty-looking house, on the right-hand side of the street, and was
apparently let out to different occupants, as there were various names
on the door. The top one was "Mr. Carberry:" it was simply written in
black letters on the door-post; the second was on a great brass plate,
nearly as large as the post itself, "Jones and Green:" and there was
another brass plate, which had on it "Messrs. Knollys, Solicitors to
the Great Chwddyn Mining Company."

Sara stood still as the last words caught her eye, arrested by
surprise. It was not the unpronounceable name that drew her attention;
but the fact that this Great Chwddyn scheme was the very one in which
Mark Cray had embarked; the El Dorado of his friend Barker; the source
of Mark's present flourishing prosperity and of his future greatness.

She felt sure it was the same name, though nobody ever wrote it twice
alike; and whether this, or any other, might be the correct way of
spelling it, the Messrs. Knollys themselves could not have told. Mark
Cray and Barker, finding the word rather difficult to the tongue, had
got into the habit of calling it the "Great Wheal Bang Company," as
being readier than the other: "Wheal Bang" being some technical term
connected with the mine; though whether applicable to any particular
stratum of its ore, or to the works, or to the mine generally, or to
anything else, Sara had never yet clearly understood. "The Great Wheal
Bang Mining Company" was the familiar term in Mark's mouth, and in
that of others interested in the mine: so prone we are to catch up
phrases: and "The Great Wheal Bang" was certainly better for English
tongues than the Great Chwddyn, with its variety of spelling in
uninitiated hands. For once that Sara had heard the difficult name she
had heard the easier one a hundred times; nevertheless, now that her
eyes fell upon it, she knew it to be that, and no other.

The fact in itself was not of moment to her, but thought is quick; and
the thought that darted across Sara's mind was, that if Messrs.
Knollys were the solicitors to this rich and important company, there
might possibly be a chance of Mark Cray's or of his friend Barker's
calling in at these offices at any moment, in which case they might
see her. And that would not be at all convenient.

But there was no help for it. She could but go in; and the chance only
added another drop to the cup of pain. Most painful was it to Sara,
from more causes than one, to come thus publicly to these places of
business: and to come as may be almost said, in secret; not daring to
speak of her real errand.

With her crape veil drawn more closely over her face she stepped into
the passage. A door on the left bore the words "Messrs. Knollys;" and
Sara was looking around her when a young man with a paper in his hand
came hastily out of it.

"Did you want Knollys's office?" he asked, in a civil tone, noting her
look of indecision.

"I want Messrs. Jones and Green's."

"Upstairs, first floor." Sara thanked him, and passed through the
inner entrance, which stood open, and ascended the stairs. In great
white letters on the door facing her at the top, she read, "Office:
Jones and Green." She knocked at the door, and a middle-aged man in a
seedy suit of black opened it.

"I wish to see Mr. Alfred King," she said. "Is he here?"

"Mr. Alfred King?" repeated the man. "He is not here now, and I don't
know----Stay, I'll inquire."

Leaving her standing there, he retreated, and she heard a remote
colloquy carried on in an undertone. Then he came back again.

"Mr. King won't be here until twelve o'clock."

"I had an appointment with him at eleven," said Sara, wondering
whether there could be any mistake.

"Perhaps so," said the man. "But he dropped us a line this morning to
say he could not get here until twelve. I daresay if you come then you
can see him."

He shut the door, and Sara went downstairs again. What should she do
with herself this long hour--for it was not quite eleven yet. Suddenly
she bethought herself that she would go to see Watton. St. Paul's
Churchyard, as Watton had told then--for she had paid Miss Davenal and
Sara two or three visits since their arrival in London--was in a line
with Temple Bar.

Sara walked quickly through the crowded streets. Once she stopped to
look in at an attractive shop, but somebody came jostling against her,
she thought purposely, and she did not stop again. She easily found
the house of business where Watton now was, and its private door.
Watton came forward all in surprise, and took her into a plain
comfortable sitting-room, which was her own, she said. Sara inquired
if she liked the situation any better: for at first Watton had not
liked it.

"Well, yes, miss; I think I do," was the woman's answer. "Use and time
soften most things. There's a great deal of responsibility on me, and
enough work also. What I can't get reconciled to is the dust and the
noise. As to the dust and dirt, I'd never have believed in it without
seeing it. Being in mourning for my late master I have not worn white
caps yet, and don't believe I ever can wear them: I'm sure I might put
on three a-week and not be clean. Sometimes I wash my hands four times
in a morning."

"Then think what it is for my aunt Bettina, with her delicate hands
and her delicate lace," returned Sara. "I suppose the dirt is not
quite so bad with us as it is here; but it seems as if nothing could
be worse, and my aunt makes it a perpetual grievance. Shall you remain
here, Watton?"

"I have made up my mind to try it for a twelvemonth, Miss Sara," was
the answer. "It's too good a situation to be given up lightly; and it
shall have a fair trial. I miss my country life; I miss the green
fields and the gossiping neighbours at Hallingham: oftentimes I wake
from a dream, thinking I'm there, and then I am fit to cry with the
disappointment. I fear the pleasant old times have gone away from me
for ever."

"They go away from us all, Watton," was the murmured answer, "never to
return again."

"You will send the two young gentlemen to see me, Miss Sara," said
Watton, as she was showing her out. "Perhaps they'd honour me by
drinking tea here in the course of their holidays. My evenings are
my own. Master Dick should eat as much jam as he'd like. I'd get in
half-a-dozen pots assorted."

Sara could not forbear a smile: Dick would have gone to the other end
of the kingdom for half-a-dozen pots of assorted jam: but it changed
to gravity as she turned to Watton.

"Watton, do you know I have been so great a coward as not to ask my
aunt decisively whether she intends to have them up for the holidays.
I very much fear she does not; and therefore I shrink from asking,
lest the fear should be made a certainty."

"Poor boys!" ejaculated Watton. "Well, of course it's all very
different from what it was. Ah, Miss Sara! there are too many will
find cause to miss the good Dr. Davenal!"

With the rebellious sorrow, called up by the words, rising in her
heart, Sara walked along the hot and bustling streets again. It was a
little past twelve when she reached Essex Street, and in going up the
stair she happened to turn her head, and saw, stepping quickly in at
the outer door, Oswald Cray. She hoped he had not seen her; she
thought he had not; and she hastened on, her pulses beating. What
strange coincidence could have brought him there?

Mr. Alfred King had arrived. Sara was shown through a busy room into a
smaller one, long and narrow, apparently partitioned off from a third
room, which she did not see. The room contained a couple of chairs, a
table-desk, and a slender, dandy sort of gentleman; nothing more. He
was leaning against the table, doing something to his nails with a
penknife, an eye-glass in his eye, and a black moustache with rings
at its ends curling on his lip.

"Mr. Alfred King?" she said interrogatively, for there had been no
introduction.

Mr. Alfred King bowed. He removed his hat, which he had been wearing,
shut up the penknife with a flourish of his thin white hands,
courteously stepped forward, and was altogether the gentleman again.

"Miss Sara Davenal, I presume?"

How Sara entered on her task she never knew. Its nature made her feel
sadly confused and diffident, as if all self-possession had gone out
of her. Whatever her brother's crime might have been, she assumed that
the gentleman before her had cognisance of it; and it rendered her
miserably conscious in that first moment. Very much embarrassed, and
aware that she was so, she apologised for the delay in the payment of
the money, stated that she expected it daily, and begged of Mr. King
to be kind enough to wait a little longer. Just what she had stated in
her letter: in fact she had nothing else to urge.

"I am exceedingly sorry to put you to the inconvenience of coming
here, Miss Davenal," he said, in a courteous but drawling tone. "It is
reversing the appropriate order of things. I should have been better
pleased to wait upon you."

"But I could not make it convenient to receive you," replied Sara.
"The truth is," she added in her candour, "that my aunt, Miss Davenal,
with whom I live, was not made cognisant of this business; and it was
my father's, Dr. Davenal's, wish that she should not be."

"Ah--I see," observed Mr. Alfred King, in the same drawling tone that
spoke so unpleasantly of affectation, of something not _true_ in his
nature. "Still I feel horribly annoyed at causing you the trouble of
coming here, Miss Davenal."

"Will you be so kind as to tell me the object of the interview?" she
said. "For what purpose did you wish to see me?"

"Ah, yes, to be sure. The fact is, Miss Davenal, some positive
understanding must be come to as to the precise time when the money
will be paid. You cannot imagine the inconvenience to which the delay
has put me: and, but for the respect I once bore Captain Davenal, I
would not have remained so passive as I have done."

There was a pointed stress on the word "once" that recalled the blush
into Sara's cheeks, the dread to her heart. She murmured a hope that
the money would be realised and paid to him ere the lapse of many
days.

"You see, Miss Davenal, had the money no ulterior destination it would
not be of so much consequence," he resumed. "Were it due to myself
only I would wait with the greatest pleasure, no matter at what
inconvenience; but that is not the case, it is these other parties who
will not be pacified. Do you comprehend me, Miss Davenal?"

"Yes, I think so," said Sara, faintly, beginning to fear the affair
was more complicated than she had thought. "Who are the parties?"

Mr. Alfred King ran his white hand and its showy ring right through
his black hair. "Well--I would tell you if I could, Miss Davenal: in
anything that concerns myself only, you may command me as you please:
but the fact is, I am not at liberty to mention the names of those
parties even to you."

There was a pause, and Sara's manner for the moment grew haughtily
distant She liked his words less and less. But she recollected
herself: she subdued her proud spirit. Was not Edward in his power?

"These parties have been angry at the delay," he resumed, breaking the
silence that had ensued. "They have badgered the life nearly out of me
over it: excuse the term, Miss Davenal, it but expresses the fact. I
assure you I have had a most difficult task to keep them from
proceeding to extremities. And, in short, they won't be put off
longer."

"From extremities?" she repeated, the one ominous word alone catching
her ear.

Mr. Alfred King looked at her, not speaking. His gaze seemed to ask
her how much she knew. She did not respond to it.

"Were this unfortunate matter made public, nothing could save Captain
Davenal," he resumed, in a low tone. "He is now in India, in apparent
safety, but--in short, it would only be a question of time, two or
three months or so. Men are brought from the ends of the world now to
answer for--for crime."

Subdued as was his voice Sara looked around in terror. That partition,
if nothing more than a partition, was probably a shallow one, allowing
sound to pass beyond it.

"Be at ease," he said, detecting her fear, "we are quite alone."

"Do you know Captain Davenal?" she asked.

"Very well indeed. He and I were at one time sworn friends, constantly
together. Until this unhappy affair arose to part us."

Perhaps she would have liked to ask the particulars that she did not
know. But her whole heart revolted from it; it would have seemed like
_acknowledging_ Edward's crime.

"You see his being in India is only a temporary safeguard, and these
parties who hold his safety in their hands might bring him home if
they chose. It is only in compliance with my urgent entreaties that
they have kept passive so long. But the delay is extending itself
beyond all reason, and they--in short, Miss Davenal, they will not
wait longer."

"But what can I do?" she urged in her helplessness. "I admit that the
delay is vexatious--Heaven knows _I_ have felt it so," she added, with
a burst of feeling that would not be suppressed--"but the money _is
there_; it will very shortly be forthcoming, and then it will be
paid."

"Yes, I have pointed out all this to them;" he said, flicking a speck
of dirt off his coat. "I--I suppose there is no foreign delay or
obstruction, beyond the delay caused by realising the different
monies?"

His sudden penetrating glance at her, the hidden earnestness of his
tone, told Sara that this was a question of importance to him. It was
nearly the only point throughout the interview which had not borne to
her ear and eye a vague and indefinite idea of something untruthful:
untruthful in himself, his voice, and his words. Possibly he had
sought the personal interview with the sole view of ascertaining this
solitary fact. An impression that it was so passed rapidly through her
mind.

"Let me thoroughly understand you;" she said, following her own
thoughts rather than his words. "Tell me without reserve exactly what
it is you wish to know, and I will answer you to the best of my power.
There is no other cause for the delay, except that the monies have not
been realised so quickly as they ought to have been; no other cause
whatever. Were you thinking that there was?"

"I?" and again the false drawling tone grated harshly on her ear. "Not
I, I assure you, Miss Davenal. Those parties of whom I spoke hinted to
me that with all this delay it looked as if there were no intention to
pay the money. Of course, I knew that it was nothing of the sort; that
the money _must_ be paid."

"The very day that the money reaches me it will be paid to you,
according to the instructions of my father, Dr. Davenal," she said,
impressively. "I beg you to believe this; and to convey the assurance
of it to them."

"I will do so. How much longer do you suppose the delay will extend?
Can you fix any definite date for the payment?"

"I wish I could. But you see it does not rest with me. A very, very
short period now will, I believe, see it settled."

Mr. Alfred King mused. "I will inform them of what you say, Miss
Davenal, and I do trust the period may be a short one. If protracted,
I cannot answer for it that they would remain passive."

"They must be cruel men to wish to harm Captain Davenal!"

"No," he answered. "Had they been cruel men they would not have
consented _not_ to harm him. It is not that, Miss Davenal; it is the
money itself that is wanted; and the delay vexes them."

She was feeling desperate, and she ventured on a bold step. "In their
own interest, then, they must be cautious not to harm him. Were they
to do so they would lose the money."

"Why?"

"Because I would never pay it."

Mr. Alfred King glanced at her in surprise. All her timid hesitation
of manner was gone, the expression of her face had changed to resolute
bravery. "I do not pretend to entire acquaintance with the details of
this unhappy business, but I understand so much, Mr. King--that this
money _purchases_ my brother's safety," she continued. "If that be
imperilled, the bargain would be forfeited, and the money retained.
The payment or non-payment of this money rests solely with me; and I
should not keep faith with the other parties if they did not keep
theirs with my dead father."

"There will be no question of their not keeping faith, provided they
get their rights, Miss Davenal."

"And their rights--if you mean the money--they shall have; I trust
speedily. I shall be only too glad to get the matter over."

"I'm sure I shall be," returned Mr. Kino in a tone that was certainly
a hearty one. "It will be well for all parties; _very_ well for
Captain Davenal."

Sara turned to the door. Mr. Alfred King took up his hat for the
purpose of attending her outside.

"I am glad that you have allowed me this interview, Miss Davenal. It
will be so much more satisfactory to these gentlemen now that I have
seen you. Dr. Davenal's death, occurring as it did, was most
unfortunate. By the way, did he not leave some papers behind him?"

"There are papers in my possession relating to this affair," she
answered. "I know what to do with them when the proper time shall
come."

"Ah, yes, of course; doubtless," came the untrue words in their untrue
tone. "Then I may rely on the very speedy receipt of this money, Miss
Davenal?"

"You may rely upon having it immediately that it is paid to me. That
is all, I presume, sir?"

Mr. Alfred King could not say that it was not all. He gallantly
offered his arm to pilot her through the busy office of Messrs. Jones
and Green; but Miss Sara Davenal, with a gesture far more expressive
of haughty pride than of gratitude, declined the honour. The interview
was leaving a disagreeable impression on her mind, apart from its
natural unpleasantness; and perhaps it was unreasonable of her, but
she had taken an unconquerable dislike to Mr. Alfred King.

The stairs seemed more busy than the lawyer's room. Men, some of them
rather rough-looking ones, were passing up and down. Mr. Alfred King
drawled an anathema on the tenant of the second floor, Mr. Carberry.
Mr. Carberry had only recently taken the rooms, and he appeared to
have no ostensible occupation, save the receiving of a great many
visitors and an occasional telegram. The visitors were supposed
to be mostly in the sporting line; and during the holding of distant
races the passages and door would be besieged by an eager and noisy
crowd:--as was the case on this day.

"Three times have we had them scattered by the police," exclaimed Mr.
Alfred King, unmistakably in earnest now. "And that pest Carberry--or
whatever the fellow's name may be--can't be got rid of for nearly a
twelvemonth to come! Knollys's have threatened to indict the landlord
for a nuisance; Jones and Green have given conditional warning to
quit; and it's all of no use. The landlord went to Carberry with tears
in his eyes, and told him he'd be the ruin of his house, that he'd
forgive every farthing of rent, already owing, if he'd go; but
Carberry coolly said he had taken it for a twelvemonth, and he should
stop his twelvemonth. Miss Davenal, you cannot! Allow me!"

For Sara had come face to face with this crowd at the street-door, and
commenced a struggle with them, they not being polite enough to give
way in the least. Mr. Alfred King seized her arm forcibly with a view
of helping her, when she was as forcibly separated from him by an
authoritative hand, and found herself on the arm of Mr. Oswald Cray,
his face ablaze with haughty anger, as he turned it on Mr. Alfred
King.

"Thank you, sir," he said, all the pride of the Oswalds concentrating
itself in him then. "This lady is under my charge."

And Mr. Alfred King, with a somewhat subdued manner, as if he had
received a check that he did not care to resist, made as polite a bow
to Sara as the crowd allowed him, and disappeared from view.

Clear of the assemblage, Sara would have withdrawn her arm, but Oswald
Cray held it too tightly. A moment, and he turned his face upon her,
ablaze still.

"What do you do with that man? He is not a fit acquaintance for you."

At first she could not answer. Not so much from the suddenness of the
whole thing and the emotion it had brought to her, as because she did
not know what explanation to give.

"In going into Knollys's office just now I thought I saw you making
your way up the stairs," he resumed. "I said to myself that it could
not be; but I was unable to get the impression from my mind, and I
waited. One of Knollys's clerks said that the young lady gone up had
inquired for Alfred King. What can have taken you to him?"

He was growing somewhat less vehement. It had been a moment to
convince him that the love which he had safely deemed he was subduing
remained with him still in all its force. To rescue her from the
undesirable companionship of Mr. Alfred King, from contact with the
unhallowed crowd of gambling men, he would have parted with his life.

"I was compelled to go," she murmured "I could not help myself."

"Compelled to go up those stairs? Compelled to pay that man a visit?"

"Yes, I was. It was as distasteful to me as it could be, but I had no
resource. I went there on business which no one but myself could
transact. Thank you for your protection, Mr. Oswald. Cray."

She withdrew her arm now, and there was no opposition to it. Reason
was resuming her seat in Oswald's mind, and he felt angry with himself
for his excess of demonstration. All things considered, it had been
scarcely wise.

"It is not at all a place for a young lady to go to," he resumed, as
he walked by her side, and his manner became cold even to restraint.
"The Knollys' are sufficiently respectable, but as much cannot be said
for the tenants of the upper part of the house. You must not go to it
again."

Once again she knew she should have to go to it, but she fervently
hoped that would close the matter. She wished she could tell him the
nature of the business that took her there. Parted though they were,
she did care to stand well in the estimation of Oswald Cray; she
esteemed him still beyond any one on earth.

"I never saw Mr. Alfred King until this morning; he is no acquaintance
of mine, or ever likely to be. But he tells me he was once an intimate
friend of my brother Edward's."

Oswald Cray's haughty lip took an additional curl. "He may have been
looked upon as a respectable man once; but he lost himself. He is not
a desirable acquaintance for you."

"I could not help myself," she answered, her cheeks glowing. "It was
necessary that I should see him, and the interview could not be
delegated to another."

He made no reply: only continued by her side. Not until her house was
nearly reached did he leave her. Then he stopped and held out his
hand; but he had scarcely spoken a word to her all the way.

"Thank you for your kindness," said Sara. "But I am very sorry you
should have troubled yourself to come with me. It must have broken
your day greatly."

"Never mind; I shall catch it up," he answered, looking at his watch..
"I do not like to see you in these London streets alone. I cannot
forget that Dr. Davenal was once my dear friend, and that you are his
daughter."



CHAPTER XL.
A FLOURISHING COMPANY.


The Great Wheal Bang Mining Company had its offices in a commodious
and irreproachable quarter of the city. If I give the familiar name
Wheal Bang, instead of the difficult one Chwddyn, which can only be
spelt from copy, letter by letter, and perhaps wrongly then, it is to
save myself and my readers trouble. Not being Welsh, they might find a
difficulty in arriving at the accurate pronunciation, just as I do at
the spelling. The promoter of the Great Wheal Bang Mining Company, Mr.
Barker, occupied sumptuous apartments in Piccadilly; and his copartner
in the scheme, as Mark Cray was to all intents and purposes now,
flourished in his mansion in Grosvenor Place.

The offices were undeniable in their appointments. Situation, width of
staircase, size of rooms, decorations, furniture, attendants; all were
of the first water. People who play with the money of others do not in
general go to work sparingly; and speculative public schemes
necessarily entail a large outlay. These schemes, springing up now and
again in London, to the beguilement of the unwary--one in about every
ten of which may succeed in the end--have been so well described by
abler pens than mine, that I might hesitate even to touch upon them,
were it not that the story cannot conveniently get on without my doing
so, and that I have a true tale to tell. How many hearts have been
made to ache from the misery entailed by these uncertain ventures,
ushered in with so much pomp and flourish, so full a promise of
prosperity; and how many heads unable to bear the weight of the final
ruin, have been laid low in the grave, God alone will ever know. They
have ruined thousands in body; they have ruined some in soul; and the
public is not yet tired of them, and perhaps will not be to the end of
time.

If you never had the chance of going to bed at night a poor man, and
waking up in the morning with a larger fortune than could be counted,
you might have it now. You had only to enter largely into the Great
Wheal Bang Company, become the successful possessor of a number of its
shares, and the thing was accomplished. For the world was running
after it, and some of the applicants were successful in their request
for allotments, and some were unsuccessful; and these last went away
with a face as long as the Wheal Bang's own prospectus, growling out a
prophecy of all manner of ill-fortune for it. Their grapes were sour.
The shares were up in the market to a fabulous premium, and a man
might take half a dozen into Capel Court, and come out of it with his
pockets stuffed full of gold.

Mark Cray's money had effected wonders, or rather his wife's; for hers
it was. A great many of these magnificent projects are nipped ignobly
in the bud through want of a little ready money to set them fairly
going. But for Mrs. Cray's thousands, Mr. Barker's mine of gold might
never have been heard of by the world, and Mr. Barker's name had not
attained to its enviable preeminence. These thousands did it all. They
got up the company, they set the mine a-working, they paid for the
costly offices, they dazzled the eyes of the public, they gave earnest
of present wealth, they seemed to assure future success. Certainly, if
any mine had ever a fair prospect of realising a golden fruition, it
appeared to be the Great Wheal Bang. The working of it had begun most
promisingly, and every success was fairly looked for. In calling it a
gold mine just now, you of course understood that I was speaking
metaphorically; for gold mines are not yet common among us, even in
Wales. This very valuable mine (as it could but turn out to be) was not
rich in gold, but in lead; and, as we all know, the one is speedily
converted into the other. The previous autumn, in consequence of some
trifling difficulty in London, Mr. Barker found it convenient to enter
on a temporary sojourn at a distance; and he penetrated to a remote
district of South Wales. While there, with the good luck which that
gentleman believed he was born to and should some time realise, a vein
of lead was discovered of a most promising nature. He contrived to
secure a large interest in it, and undertook to get up a company for
the working of it.

How he would lave accomplished this, or whether he ever would have
accomplished it, is doubtful, had he not found a coadjutor in Mark
Cray, and an aid in Mark's money. Mark resigned the control of the
money to him, and Mr. Barker did not spare it. No earthly adjunct was
wanting to ensure the success of the scheme, provided the mine only
realised its present promises.

Has anybody who may happen to read this ever assisted in getting a
newly-discovered mine into working order? If so, he may remember the
money it cost. How it ran out of the hands like water that is poured
through a broad-necked funnel, disappearing nobody knew where, and
leaving little trace behind! How the pounds went, and the hundreds
went, and the thousands went--if he was fortunate enough to possess
thousands to go--he may not recollect without wincing, to this hour.
Mark Cray's thousands went. But ere they had come quite to an end, the
Great Wheal Bang Company was in full operation in London, the
shareholders had answered to their calls, and the money was flowing
in.

No lack of money to be feared then. And the operations at the mine
were conducted on a much grander scale than heretofore, and the
returns were certain to be without parallel, and Mr. Barker was in a
glow of triumph, and Mark Cray in a state of ecstatic delight, and the
lucky shareholders leaped up sixteen scales in the ladder of society.
How many set up carriages on the strength of their future riches it is
beyond my power to tell. The money flowed down to the mine, and the
works went on beautifully, and the specimens of ore that came up to
town were said to be more valuable than any ore ever was before. As to
Mr. Barker and Mark, their expenses were not deemed worthy of a
thought: with all that money going out weekly for the mine, personal
expenditure was but as a drop of water in the ocean, and of course it
was unnecessary to think of limiting it. Mrs. Cray, with her vanity
and her love of display, was in the seventh heaven; while Mark looked
back to his prosy life at Hallingham and wondered how he had endured
it. He wondered how any of the doctors left there endured it, and
pitied them from his heart. The thousand a-year or so he once thought
to enter upon as successor to Dr. Davenal was recollected with
contempt now.

This much must be said for the Great Wheal Bang Company--that its
projectors were at least honest in their belief of its genuineness. In
that they differed from some other companies we have heard of, which
have turned out to be nothing but a swindle--if you will excuse the
word--from the earliest commencement, the very first dawning dream of
their projectors. Mr. Barker was of that strangely sanguine nature
which sees a fortune in the wildest scheme, and plunges head and heart
and creed into the most improbable speculation: Mark, an utter tyro in
mines and all that concerns them, including companies, saw only with
Barker's eyes. When Mr. Barker assured the entranced shareholders that
one hundred pounds put into the Great Wheal Bang would multiply
tenfold and tenfold, he spoke only the sanguine belief of his heart.
When Mark Cray declared to his brother Oswald that a thousand pounds
embarked in it by him would make him a rich man for life, he asserted
the honest truth according to his conviction. No wonder the two
gentlemen-promoters were eloquent.

Mark had made several visits to the scene of the mines, and he came
back each time with (if possible) renewed assurance of the brilliant
future; with increased ardour. Had the Chancellor of the Exchequer
obligingly made Mark an impromptu present of a hundred thousand
pounds, Mark would have flung it broadcast into the mine, did the mine
thirst for it. He did not understand these things in the least; and
the perpetual bustle going on, the number of the miners, even the very
money paid in wages and suchlike expenses, were to Mark only an
earnest of the rich returns that were to come hereafter. Mark would go
back to London in a glowing state, and send his friends the
shareholders into a fever, longing to realise the prosperity that
seemed so close at hand. The weekly reports overshadowed other weekly
reports with envy, and created a _furore_ in the speculating world.
Some of the shareholders who understood mines, or thought they did,
better than Mark, went down to the Principality, and examined into the
state of things for themselves; they found them quite satisfactory,
and came away as charmed as Mark. In point of fact, prospects did look
well; the lead was of an unusually good quality, and there seemed no
reason whatever to anticipate anything but success. Caroline had
accompanied her husband once to the mines; but the stay there (putting
prospects aside) did not please her: it was "rough," she told Mark,
and it was very dull at the little inn; and she was glad to come away
from it all ere the second day was over.

Perhaps the only person within the circle of Mark Cray's acquaintance
not bitten by the Wheal Bang fever was Miss Davenal. Even Oswald Cray
was to succumb at last. He would not become a shareholder; he was too
cautious a man to enter upon possible future liabilities, the extent
of which no human being could foretell: but he did feel inclined to
put a thousand pounds into Mark's hands, and tell him to do the best
with it. It may almost be said that Oswald was worried into doing
this. Mark would not let him rest. At the onset of the affair, when
the glorious prospects of the Wheal Bang were first astonishing the
world, Mark had urged Oswald to become one of them; a director or at
least a shareholder; but Oswald had turned a deaf ear. He felt greatly
vexed at Mark's imprudence at abandoning Hallingham and his
profession, leaving a certainty for an uncertainty: he felt more than
vexed at the manner in which Mrs. Cray's money was disposed of, so
entirely opposed to the dying injunction of Dr. Davenal, so opposed
(Oswald deemed) to all wisdom and prudence; and he set his face
resolutely against the Wheal Bang. But Oswald was but mortal. As the
weeks and months went on, and the mines became to all appearance
valuable, the company flourishing, and Mark, in conjunction with
others, dinned for ever into his ear the fortune he might make at it,
Oswald began to waver. He had a thousand pounds laid by, and he felt
half inclined to risk it; Mark over-persuaded him; and his visit to
the Messrs. Knollys's office the day he encountered Sara Davenal was
for the purpose of making certain inquiries of those gentlemen
relating to the Wheal Bang.

Not so with Miss Bettina Davenal She set her face resolutely against
the Great Wheal Bang from the first, and nothing turned her. She had
never forgiven Mark and his wife for quitting Hallingham, and her
reproaches to them could not cease. The apparent prosperity of the
Great Wheal Bang changed not her opinion in the least. Mark asked her
once whether she would take shares in it, and produced a Wheal Bang
prospectus to point to its merits. She angrily replied that she would
as soon throw her money into the Thames, that it would not be a surer
way of getting rid of it, and rang the bell for Mark and his
prospectus to be shown out of her house.

Mark Cray sat in the board room at the city offices of the Great Wheal
Bang. A noble room, the cloth on its long table of the freshest green
and the finest texture. Mark leaned his elbow upon this cloth as he
talked and laughed with some of the friends of the Great Wheal Bang,
who were getting rich so easily. It was not a board day; but visitors
were numerous at all times.

"I had a line from him this morning," said Mark, continuing
the conversation. "Spirits? I should think he does write in
spirits!--what are you talking of? They are getting up quantities of
ore now. It will soon be ready for the market."

"And its quality does not deteriorate?" asked Mark's immediate
listener, a middle-aged gentleman with wise-looking spectacles on his
nose.

"Deteriorate!" repeated Mark. "But you shall see the letter." He began
to turn over the pipers on the table, and the diamond ring on his
little finger, a hundred-guinea investment of his, began to show out
the colours of a prism in its glittering brilliancy.

"It is of no consequence," returned the gentleman, when Mark could not
readily find it. "I can take your word. When does Barker come up
again?"

"Today or tomorrow; I am not sure which. I should like you to have
seen his letter, though it is but a line or two. The only motive for
our fresh call upon the shareholders is to hasten the operations, and
so speed the returns. With more capital afloat we can increase the
workers at the mine, and bring the ore out more quickly."

"It was to have been in the market by this."

"One cannot calculate to a day. It won't be long now; and its
richness, when it does come, will astonish the world. Do just as you
like: take the shares or leave them. This gentleman would not have had
them to dispose of but that he has urgent need of the money. He is
over in Austria now, and has written to me: he is an old friend of
mine."

"I'd not hesitate a moment to take them were it my own money; I wish I
had more to embark in it. But this is money belonging to my wards; and
their relatives are so anxious that I should choose a safe investment,
one in which there can be no risk."

Mark Cray rose from his seat. The word "risk" offended his pride, and
he could only wonder that any one could be idiot enough to use it in
connection with the Great Wheal Bang Mine. But Mark had no need to
solicit now the taking of shares: half London was ready to snap them
up: and he was too great a man to permit his time to be wasted
unnecessarily.

"Consider over it, if you please, until tomorrow morning, Mr. Gilham,"
he said, as he moved away. "You can see the secretary if you come in
before ten. After that the shares will not be disposable."

There's no safer way to make a buyer eager, than for a seller to be
indifferent; and Mr. Gilham and his spectacles went hastening after
Mark, ready to close the bargain. But Mark was already the centre of
an eager group, not to be got at again lightly. The next time Mr.
Gilham caught sight of him, he was descending the wide staircase,
surrounded as before by a crowd of attendant worshippers, who were
unwilling to part with the great man and his widely-extending
influence.

But great men must dine as well as small, and Mr. Cray was hastening
home to that necessary meal. He extricated himself from his friends,
and stepped into his cab that waited at the door: a favourite vehicle
of Mark's, built under his own superintendence, in which he generally
went to and fro morning and evening, driving his blood horse himself.
Glancing at his watch as he dashed along Cheapside, he found it was
considerably later than he had thought, and urged the horse to a
quicker pace.

For Mr. and Mrs. Cray were expecting friends to dinner that evening.
Dr. Ford of Hallingham and his two daughters were making a short stay
in town, and had been invited by Mark and his wife--neither of them
loth to show off their new grandeur, and to send it to be talked about
in Hallingham.

Suddenly Mark threw the horse nearly on his haunches by the violence
with which he pulled him up. Oswald Cray was on the pavement. He
advanced to Mark at the latter's sign.

"Hare you decided about the thousand pounds, Oswald?"

"Partially. I went down to Knollys's this morning, and they recommend
the thing strongly. But I have worked hard for my money, Mark, and
don't care to lose it."

"Lose it!" scornfully returned Mark. "The Great Wheal Bang won't be a
losing concern. Look here, Oswald! I have but one motive in pressing
the matter upon you: this mine of wealth has come flowing into my
hands, and I do consider it a great pity that you, my only brother,
should not reap some benefit from it. Others, strangers, are making
their thousands and thousands--or will make them; and it's nothing but
wilful blindness for you to let it slip through your fingers. It's
obstinate folly, Oswald. Give me the thousand pounds, and I'll soon
make you ten thousand."

"The fact is, Mark, I cannot feel so positively sure of its turning
out well as you do."

"Oswald, I tell you _that it will_. I and Barker have means of knowing
facts connected with the mine that I don't speak of, even to you. As I
assured you the other day, so I repeat it; your money cannot be lost.
It is a perfectly sure and safe investment; I will answer for it with
my life. Will you come home and dine with us?"

"I have dined."

"Dined!" echoed Mark, rather scornfully, for he was learning to
despise any but the most fashionable hours--as many another newly-made
great man has learnt before him. "Come round in the evening, then, and
see old Ford of Hallingham. Barker will be there, I expect, and we can
talk this over further."

Mark Cray touched his horse, and the cab and its freight bounded off.
Mark did not draw rein again until Grosvenor Place was reached.



CHAPTER XLI.
A SLIGHT CHECK.


The house was blazing with light, every window bright with it. Mrs.
Cray loved pomp and vanity in all their forms, and she generally
caused her rooms to be lighted with the first glimmer of twilight.
Mark Cray stepped into his handsome hall and was received by a couple
of footmen. Flinging his hat to one, his gloves to another, he bounded
upstairs to his dressing-room, conscious that he was keeping the
dinner and his guests waiting.

Did Mark Cray ever cast a sigh of regret to the simple life at
Hallingham, when he and his wife used to sit down to mutton cutlets
and a pudding, and think the fare good enough? Did _she_ regret it at
any odd moment? Not yet. Dress and dinners, with expense of other
sorts, bring a fascination with them all too enthralling to the
senses. How they pall upon the wearied spirit in time, how they deaden
the heart and debase the intellect, let those answer who have become
their slaves; but Mark Cray and his wife had not reached that period
of weariness yet. You may be very sure, knowing what you do know of
the world and the generality of people who populate it, that Mr. and
Mrs. Cray wanted not for what is called society. The great projector
of the great Wheal Bang Company, holding in his own hands the power to
make others rich, was not likely to lack adulation in his private
capacity any more than in his public one, and he and his wife drank
their fill of it. Mark's mind was shallow, and his head tolerably
empty, but he was sufficiently attractive in manners to win his way in
society, even without the adjunct just mentioned. Mark was looked upon
as of good connections also; for it had somehow got reported that he
was a nephew of the proud Baronet of Thorndyke. Perhaps it may be
forgiven to poor empty-headed Mark that he held his tongue from
contradicting it, and suffered the world to think he was of the family
of that great man. As to Caroline, people were in love with her beauty
and her youth; and the costly extravagances of the house in Grosvenor
Place bore their own charm. Altogether, more guests crowded the doors
of Mr. and Mrs. Cray than the doors could always hold. Many satellites
of the great world, of a position far above the real one of Mark Cray
and his wife, flocked to pay them court; and neither of them was wise
enough to see how unsuitable are extremes, or to discern that the
acquaintance would never have been condescended to but that Mark was
the Great Wheal Bang's powerful chieftain. Therefore it was nothing
unusual for Mark Cray to receive dinner guests at his board; on the
contrary, it would have been a marked circumstance now, had he and his
wife dined alone.

Mark washed his hands and hurried on his coat, and in a few minutes
was at his dinner-table, his guests on either side of him. One guest
at it Mark could only regard with astonishment, and that was Miss
Davenal. Not that Miss Davenal was not fitted to grace a dinner-table;
no lady more so at her age in the three kingdoms; but she had so
resolutely abstained from honouring Mark's house with her presence
that he had never expected to see her in it again. Caroline said she
should invite her and Sara to meet their old friends the Fords, and
Mark had laughed when he heard it. "She'll never come," he said; "you
might as well invite the lioness from the Zoological Gardens."
However, here she was: she had chosen to come. She sat on Mark's left
hand, her delicate features quite beautiful in their refinement; Miss
Ford was on his right, a shrinking little woman of forty years; Miss
Mary Ford and Sara Davenal were lower down; and the physician, a
short, red-faced, shrivelled man, who talked incessantly and wore
nankeen pantaloons, was next to Caroline. "Put a knife and fork for
Mr. Barker," Mark had said to his servants: but Mr. Barker had not
made his appearance yet. Those were all the guests.

There is something false about Caroline today. Look at her dress! It
is white watered silk, gleaming with richness, as the dewdrops are
gleaming in the white crape flowers in her hair; and it, the white
silk, is elaborately trimmed with black ruchings and ribbons. That
black, put on by her maid, taking the girl a whole afternoon to do it,
has been added with a motive. Caroline, in her evening dress, has long
put off the mourning for her good uncle, her more than father, dead
though he has been but four months yet; but she is today a little
ashamed of her haste, and she has assumed these black ribbons before
these Hallingham friends and her aunt Bettina, to make believe that
she still wears it. Her violet eyes are intensely bright, and her
cheeks glow with their sweetest and softest carmine. Sara wears a
black crape robe, a little edging of white net only on its low body
and sleeves, and she wears no ornament, except the jet beads on her
neck and arms. The two Miss Fords are in copper-coloured silks made
high: when they saw Mrs. Cray's white silk, fit for the court of our
gracious Queen, they felt uncomfortable, and attempted a sort of
apology that they had brought no evening dress with them to town.

And the dinner is in accordance with Caroline's attire. Soup, and
fish, and _entrées_, and roasts, and jellies, and sweets, and
fal-lals; and more sorts of wine than the Miss Fords, simple and
plain, could remember afterwards to count; and flowers, and plate,
and servants in abundance: and grandeur enough altogether for the
dining-room of England's Premier.

It was this state, this show, this expense, that so offended the good
sense (very good always, though sometimes over severe) of Miss Bettina
Davenal, and kept her aloof from Mr. and Mrs. Cray's house. If Mark
really was making the vast amount of money (but it would have taken a
wiser tongue than Mark's to convince her that that usually assumed
fact was not a fallacy), then they ought to be putting it by, she
argued: if they were not making it, if all this was but specious
wealth, soon to pass away and leave only ashes and ruin behind it,
then Mark and Caroline were fit only for a lunatic asylum. In any
point of view, the luxurious appointments of the dinner she saw before
her were entirely out of place for middle-class life: and Miss Bettina
felt an irrepressible prevision that their folly would come home to
them.

But she knew better than to mar the meeting with any unpleasant
reproaches or forebodings then, and she was as cordial and chatty as
her deafness allowed. It was a real pleasure to meet Hallingham
friends, and Miss Bettina enjoyed herself more than she had ever done
since the doctor's death.

The entertainment came to an end, and Caroline marshalled her guests
to the glittering drawing-room: glittering with its mirrors, its
chandeliers, and the many lights from its gilded girandoles. Dr. Ford
and Mark followed shortly, and found them drinking coffee. Caroline
and Sara were stealing a minute's private chat together: they had
lived apart of late.

"How _did_ you get my aunt to come?" Caroline was asking. "We thought
she never intended to honour us here."

"She came of her own accord. I did not say a word to press it. I have
been so vexed this afternoon, Caroline," resumed Sara, turning to a
different subject. "My aunt has told me finally that she will not have
Dick and Leo up for their holidays."

Caroline shrugged her pretty shoulders; very much as if Dick and Leo
and their holidays were perfectly indifferent to her. "I don't think I
should, in Aunt Bettina's place. Boys are dreadfully troublesome
animals; and now that--that poor Uncle Richard is not here to keep
them in order--" another shrug finished the sentence.

"Oh, but that is one reason why I so wish them to come," said Sara,
her voice somewhat tremulous. "I don't expect that they can be had
always; that would be unreasonable; but to stay at school just this
first time after poor papa's death!--it will seem so hard to them.
Caroline, could _you_ not have them up?"

"_I!_" returned Caroline, amazed at the proposition.

"You have a large house and plenty of servants. It would be an act of
real kindness."

"Good gracious, Sara! I'd not have them: I'd not be worried with
those two boys for six weeks if you paid me in gold and diamonds.
They--who's this?"

The door had opened, and one of the servants was waiting to make an
announcement:

"Mr. Oswald Cray."

Caroline ran to meet him. He looked rather surprised at her attire,
and began apologising in a laughing sort of way for his own
morning-coat. He had expected to meet only Barker and Dr. Ford. A
greeting to the Hallingham people, and he went up and held out his
hand to Miss Davenal.

"You are a great stranger, Mr. Oswald Cray. I did not suppose that the
formal call you made upon me when I settled in town three months ago
was to be your only one."

"I am a sadly busy man," was his answer. "Offending I fear some of my
best friends through not visiting them. But I can scarcely dare to
call my time my own."

"Out of town, do you say? Well, that is an excuse of course Sara,
here's Mr. Oswald Cray: you used to know him in Hallingham."

The blushes tingled on her cheek as Mr. Oswald Cray touched her hand.
Tingled at the thought that it was not the first time they had met
that day.

"What have you been doing with yourself, Oswald, since I saw you
before dinner!" called out Mark, who was pointing out the beauty of
the paintings on his walls to the Miss Fords.

"I have been to Pimlico since then."

"To Pimlico! Oh, I know: to that friend of yours; It strikes me you go
there pretty often."

"As often as I can spare time for," returned Oswald.

Mark laughed. Had he possessed that refined regard for the feelings of
others, never wanting in the true gentleman, he had not so spoken. "I
know. But you need not be so close over it, Oswald. That Miss Allister
is a nice girl, is she not?"

"Very," was the emphatic reply.

"One to be esteemed. Eh?"

"As few can be esteemed by me." Oswald spoke in his coldest, most
uncompromising tone: his haughty face turned almost defiantly on Mark.
He was the last man to brook this sort of speech, and in that moment
he despised Mark. Sara had a book in her hand, and she never raised
her drooping eyelids from it. What was it to her now whom he esteemed?
But she _heard:_ all too plainly.

There was a pause of silence; rather an unpleasant one. It was broken
by Miss Mary Ford.

"I must not forget to ask after your old servant Watton, Miss Davenal.
Does she like her place? I suppose you see her occasionally."

"Thank you, I don't like it at all," returned Miss Davenal, hearing
wrongly, as usual. "What was Mark asking you, Mr. Oswald Cray?"

"Watton is quite well; I saw her this morning," interposed Sara, who
perhaps did not care that Mark's choice of subject should again be
brought forward. Mrs. Cray caught up the words.

"Saw Watton this morning, Sara! Where did you see her?"

And the very moment the unlucky admission had left Sara's lips she
knew how thoughtless it was to have made it, and what an undesirable
discussion it might involve.

"Where did you see Watton?" repeated Mrs. Cray.

"I had a little business that way, and called upon her," replied Sara.
She was obliged to speak: there was no help for it; and all the room
seemed to be listening to her answer, which she had not time to weigh.

"Business down that way!" echoed Caroline. "Why, it is in the City!
What business could you have there?"

"Not much: nothing of moment to you, Caroline;" and Sara, in her
dismay and fear, turned and began talking rapidly to old Dr. Ford.

"Aunt Bettina," called out Mrs. Cray, in a slow distinct voice, "what
business took Sara to the City this morning? I thought only gentlemen
went there."

Aunt Bettina heard, and lifted her hand in momentary petulance, as if
the subject angered her.

"You must not ask me. Sara has her own secrets and goes her own ways
since your uncle's death. I am not allowed to know them."

Sara looked up to reply, perhaps to defend herself; but she remembered
what was at stake, and forced herself to silence. Better that the
blame should lie upon her! She had caught a momentary glimpse of Mr.
Oswald Cray: he was leaning against a table in the distance, his eyes
fixed upon her, reading every change in her countenance; his own face
stern and impassive.

What more would have been said or asked was interrupted by the
entrance of another guest. A middle-sized man of thirty, with radish
hair and whiskers, a free manner and voluble tongue. Mark started
forward with a shout of welcome, and introduced him to the strangers.
It was Mr. Barker.

"I have brought up the grandest news, Cray," he exclaimed, in a state
of excitement. "There's another lode found."

"No!" echoed Mark, his eyes sparkling. "Another lode?"

"Dutton came upon it yesterday afternoon after I wrote those few lines
to you. By Jove, gentlemen"--throwing his looks round the room--"I am
afraid to calculate what will be the riches of this mine! Mark, old
fellow, I hope our success won't drive us into Bedlam--as the case has
been with some millionaires."

Miss Bettina, who had contrived to hear, cleared her throat. "It's a
great deal more likely to drive you into the union, sir."

It was an unexpected a check to Mr. Barker's enthusiasm that he could
only stare in amazement at Miss Bettina. He had not met her before.
"Never mind her," said Mark, in an undertone, "its only old Bett. And
she's as deaf as a post."

But Mr. Barker did mind. "Why, ma'am," said he, going close to her,
"what do you mean?"

"I can't forget a good old proverb that I learnt in my young days,
sir," was her answer: "one that I have seen exemplified times
upon times in my course through life. 'He that would be rich in
twelve months is generally a beggar in six.' I know what good
newly-discovered mines are apt to bring, sir, however promising they
may look." Mr. Barker fairly turned his back upon her; he believed she
must be little better than a lunatic; and gave his attention to Mark
and the more sensible portion of the company.

"The people are up in arms down about there," he said. "Lots of them
who wrote for shares in the new allotment have not succeeded in
getting any, and I thought they'd have torn me to pieces. _I_ can't
help it. It's a dear impossibility that the whole world can go in for
being rich. If luck falls on one, it doesn't fall on another."

Dr. Ford, to whom Mr. Barker had seemed to appeal, nodded his head. "I
hear great things of this mine, sir," said he.

"Great things!" repeated Mr. Barker, as if the words were not
sufficiently expressive. "It is the very grandest thing that England
has seen for many a day. The golden wealth of the Spanish Main is poor
compared to it."

"I'm sure I hope it will answer."

"You--hope--it--will--answer!" echoed Mr. Barker, his red face going
rather purple. "Why, sir, it _has_ answered. It _is_ answering. I
could take my interest in it into the money market tomorrow, and sell
it for half a million of money. Answer!"

Oswald Cray came nearer. "When shall you begin to realise?" he
inquired.

"In about six weeks from this."

"Six weeks! Really to realise?"

"We might get some loads off before, if we chose, but we don't care to
begin until the sales can go on uninterruptedly. The lead is coming up
beautifully; vast quantities of it. You never saw such lead. It bangs
all other in the locality into fits."

Mr. Barker in his joyous excitement was scarcely choice in his
mode of speech. He was not particularly so at any time. He rubbed
his hands--which looked as red as if they had been dining for ore--one
against another.

"A fellow came up to the place--Lord What's-his-name's agent--and
began handling the specimens. 'What sort of ore d'ye call this?' he
asked. 'The best that ever was dug,' some of our men answered him.
'And so it is,' said he: 'we can't get such as this out of our pit.'
No more they can: not an owner of 'em in all Wales."

"But you will not be selling freely in six weeks?" returned Oswald.
"It is impossible."

"Impossible, is it?" retorted Mr. Barker. "It would be in most cases,
I grant you; it's not in ours. You go and look at the thousands of men
on the works. The Great Chwddyn mine doesn't deal in impossibilities."

"Would you be so good as tell me what you call that word, sir?" asked
the physician, putting his hand to his ear. "We can't get at the
pronunciation of it at Hallingham."

"And we can't here," returned easy Mr. Barker. "One calls it one thing
and one another. As to trying to speak it like the natives, nobody
can. _We_ call it the Great Wheal Bang up here. Not that it's at all
appropriate or correct to do so, but one can't be breaking one's teeth
over the other. You see--Halloa! what's this? For me?"

One of Mark's servants had entered with a telegraphic dispatch. It was
addressed to Mr. Barker.

"Your man has brought it round from Piccadilly, sir. He thought it
might be of moment."

"Let's see. Where's it from?--Wales? Ay. Another lode discovered, I'll
be bound!"

Mr. Barker carried the paper across the room, and opened it under the
lights of a girandole. He stared at it more than read it; stared at
the words as if unable to understand them: and a curious expression of
puzzled bewilderment, half wonder, half dismay, struggled to his face.
Mark Cray had come to his side, all eagerness; and Oswald was watching
them from the distance.

"_Is_ it another lode, Barker?"

"Hush! There has been a slight irruption of water," whispered Barker,
thrusting the paper into his pocket. "Good heavens! that would floor
us at once."

Mark Cray's mouth dropped. He stared as helplessly at Mr. Barker as
the latter had stared at the dispatch. The sight of his face awoke Mr.
Barker's caution.

"For goodness' sake, Cray, don't look like that! They'll see you, and
suspect something. _This_ must be kept dark, if possible. I daresay
it's nothing. I'll go back again tonight."

He turned away with a beaming face to the company, laughing merrily,
talking gaily. They might have well deemed that two fresh lodes had
been discovered instead of one. Mark, not quite so quick in recovering
his equanimity, stayed where he was before the girandole, looking in
it in an absent sort of manner, and pushing his hair back
mechanically. Perhaps this was the first time that even the
_possibility_ of failure had come close to Mark, face to face.

Barker was the first of the guests to retire, and Mark left the room
with him. As the latter was returning to it he met his brother, who
was also departing.

"Not going yet, Oswald? What a one you are!--Afraid of being in the
streets late, it's my belief. I say! when am I to have the thousand
pounds?"

"My mind is not quite made up yet," was the answer, a rather
unexpected one to Mark's ears. "Mark, did Barker get any bad news
tonight?"

"Bad news!" repeated Mark, as if quite at a loss to know what could be
meant.

"By that dispatch from Wales?"

"Not at all," returned Mr. Mark, volubly. "He had forgotten to leave
some instructions behind him, so they telegraphed. What put your head
upon bad news?"

"Barker's countenance as he read the dispatch; and yours also when you
joined him. You both looked as though some great calamity had
occurred."

Mark laughed blithely. "Oswald, old fellow, you were always inclined
to be fanciful. The mine is a glorious mine, and you'll be a blind
booby if you don't secure some benefit in it. I'll answer for the
safety of the investment with--with--my life," concluded Mark,
speaking rather strongly in his loss for a simile. "Can't you rely
upon me?"

O Mark Cray! His protestations of the "safety" were excusable before,
when he believed what he said: but they were not now. Since that
ominous message arrived his very heart had been quaking within him. In
the few confidential words he had just exchanged with Barker on going
out the latter had said: "We must get all the money we can, for we
shall want it. Water, no matter how slight the irruption, plays the
very deuce with the costs of a mine." And Mark Cray, to avert, or help
to avert, or to conceal the calamity, was quite ready to sacrifice his
own good faith and the money of his brother.



CHAPTER XLII.
IN THE TEMPLE GARDENS.


You have heard and read of those false promises that keep faith to
the eye and break it to the spirit, bringing a flood-tide of anguish
in their train. As such may be described the realisation of the
long-deferred hope--the money--so anxiously expected by Sara Davenal.
It came in due course, after a little more waiting; that is, the order
to receive it was sent to her: but it did not bring pleasure with it.
For the sales had not realised so much as was anticipated. Do they
ever realise as much? Dr. Davenal had expected there would be about
three thousand pounds: five hundred over and above the sum owing. But
the money fell short by two hundred pounds even of this sum: and there
was not enough to pay Mr. Alfred King.

O it was a great burthen to be thrown upon this girl in her early
years, in her solitary loneliness! When the news came, and the small
sum of money stared her in the face in figures all black and white,
she looked around her in despondency. She felt that she had no friend,
save God.

Feeling half-hopeless, Sara sat down and considered what was to be
done. Two thousand three hundred pounds certainly were not two
thousand five hundred, and she had little expectation that Mr. Alfred
King would be satisfied with it. An ordinary creditor, whose debt was
a legitimate one, would of course not remit two hundred pounds: but
this debt was different, for she had every reason to believe it was no
legitimate debt, but money paid to purchase silence. Then a voice
whispered her they would be all the less likely to remit it; they
would hold out for it to to the last farthing. _Whose_ silence she
could not tell. But for the mysterious hint of Mr. Alfred King that
others were interested in this business she might have thought it was
his alone. The disagreeable impression left upon her mind by that
interview had not in the least worn away: she greatly disliked Mr.
Alfred King; she very greatly disliked the thought of visiting him
again.

"Mark must help me," she said. "He is rolling in wealth, and two
hundred pounds will not be much to him. It will be my own money. His
covenant with my dear papa was to pay me three hundred pounds yearly
for five years, and he has not begun the payment yet." Quite true Mr.
Mark Cray had not yet handed over a shilling of the covenant money.
Miss Davenal had pressed for some of it at the time of Mark's quitting
Hallingham, but Mark had declined. She had brought it under his notice
since, and Mark had made excuses still. He was not bound to pay it
until the expiry of the year subsequent to Dr. Davenal's death, he
said, and it would be most convenient to him to pay it then. Too proud
to press the matter further for her niece, Miss Davenal contented
herself with a dignified silence: but she did wonder whether it was
that Mark would not or could not pay it. If he could not, why then how
hollow, how false was all the show and luxury they had entered on in
Grosvenor Place! The real truth of the matter was, Mark's expenses of
one kind or another were so great that he had no ready money to spare;
on the contrary, he was often at positive fault for some. And Mark was
not a willing paymaster at the best of times: these careless
spendthrift men frequently are not.

Yet the Great Wheal Bang was flourishing: how flourishing its elated
shareholders could tell you; and Oswald Cray, relying on the
assurances of his brother, had embarked his thousand in it. That
alarming dispatch, with its still more alarming news, had turned out
to be more smoke than fire; and when Mr. Barker reached the mine,
whither he had hurried with all speed, he found the danger over. There
had been an irruption of water, but a very slight one; it did not
transpire beyond the locality: and Barker and Mark kept the secret
well from the shareholders.

Sara went to Mark. She told him, speaking very gravely, that she had
urgent need of two hundred pounds to complete some arrangements of
necessity left in her charge by her father. Mark's answer was that he
could not help her then; that it was not in his power. Perhaps he
could not. They had not yet begun to realise, for that untoward
accident, slight as it was, had served to retard the works, and there
was no lead yet in the market. A short while, Mark said, and she might
come to him for two thousand, and welcome, if it would be of any
service to her. Large promises! But Mark had always dealt in such.

Sara had nowhere else to turn to for money in the wide world. Her aunt
she knew could not help her; Miss Davenal's income was of a certain
extent only, and their living absorbed it. So she wrote to Mr. Alfred
King, and he appointed a day to meet her in Essex Street.

Once more, once more, she had to go forth to the unpleasant interview.
All was unpleasant connected with it; the object, the journey, the
very house, and Mr. Alfred King himself: but she was obeying the
command of her dead father, she was seeking to save the reputation,
perhaps the life, of her living brother; and Sara Davenal was not one
to shrink on her own account from responsibilities such as these.

But surely the spirit of mischief was in it all? It seemed like an
evil fate upon her--at least, so she thought in her vexation. For on
this day, as on the other, she encountered Mr. Oswald Cray.

Not at the offices, but at the gate of the Temple garden. It occurred
in this way. As before, she found she had to wait a considerable time
before she could see Alfred King, and she wandered into the quiet
courts of the Temple, and came to the larger garden.

The gate-keeper would not admit her to it at first; she had not the
_entrée_, he said; but she told him her case: that she was a stranger,
and had to wait an hour and a half to keep an appointment at a
solicitor's in Essex Street. Her sweet face and her plaintive
tone--for the voice catches the mind's sorrow--won him over, and,
though he grumbled a little, he let her enter. It was peaceful there;
shut in from the world's turmoil: the grass was green, and the paths
were smooth; and Sara sat on the bench alone, and watched the river
steamers as they passed and repassed on the Thames.

It was in leaving the gardens that she encountered Mr. Oswald Cray. He
had business that day with a barrister in chambers, and was passing
the gate as she was leaving it. Sara shrank within the gate again, in
the hope that he might not accost her.

It was a vain hope. Surprised to see her there, so far from home and
alone, he inquired the reason in the moment's impulse. The crimson
blush, called into her face at the meeting, faded to paleness as she
answered: "An appointment." She could not say she was there for
pleasure.

And, besides, that utter weariness of spirit, when we no longer
struggle against fate, had grown to be hers. It seemed of little
moment whether he knew her errand that day or not: a faintness of
heart, not unlike despair, was weakening her energies.

"An appointment?" he repeated. "Not at the place where I saw you
before? Not with Mr. Alfred King?"

"Yes, that is where I am going," she replied, feeling she could not
battle against the questions. "I was to have seen Mr. Allred King at
twelve; but I was late, and so I have to wait for him."

"But it is not expedient that you should go there," said Oswald.

"I must go there," she answered, all too energetically in her
desperation. "Were the interview to lead to--to my death, and I knew
that it would, I should go."

The words, so unlike _her_ calm good sense; the tone so full of
hopeless sorrow, told Oswald how full of grief must be the heart they
came from. They had strolled, unconsciously perhaps, down the broad
walk of the garden, and were now passing a bench. "Will you sit down
for a minute," he asked, "while I say a few words to you?"

"Yes: if I have time. My appointment is for two o'clock, and I wish to
be there rather before than after it."

He took out his watch and showed it to her. There was plenty of time
to spare.

"Have you to keep these appointments often?"

"I never kept but the one you know of. I hope--I am not sure--but I
hope that the one today will be all I shall have to keep. It is a
singular chance--that you should meet me on both days!"

"I don't think anything in the world happens by chance," gravely
observed Oswald. "Do you recollect the interview I had with you at
your house, just after your father's death?" he resumed, after a
pause.

Sara turned her face to him in her surprise. "O yes."

"And do you remember," he continued, his voice assuming its sincerest
and tenderest tone, "what I said at that interview?--That nothing
would give me so much pleasure as to be your _friend_, should you
require one. Sara--forgive me if I go back for a moment to our old
familiar forms of speech--let me prove myself one now!"

"In what manner?" she asked, after some moments of hesitation.

"If I am able to understand anything of this business you need one.
You seem to stand alone in it; no one to counsel you, no one to help."

"It is true," she said, "I have to stand in it alone. I must stand in
it alone."

"Suffer _me_ to be, so far, your friend."

She faintly shook her head. "You could not be."

"It is true that--that--the period has not arrived, perhaps for either
of us, when we had contemplated such a friendship might begin. But we
must waive that: necessity alters cases. Sara, let me serve you! I ask
it in the name of Dr. Davenal. Surely you can have no objection?"

Her eyes were swimming in tears as she looked straight before her on
the gravel path. "In anything but this I should only be too thankful.
Sometimes I feel that I am left without a friend in the wide world."

"Why not in this?"

"Because it is a matter that I may not confide to any one. It
is"--she lowered her voice--"a secret."

"I will be true as steel. No matter what dishonour may be in it, it
shall be held sacred within my breast; never betrayed, never spoken
of. I judge that it is not a pleasant secret; therefore I use the word
dishonour. It is more fitting that I should be engaged in this matter
than you."

For a single moment the temptation came over her to tell him what it
was: just as the temptation to tell him the secret connected with Lady
Oswald's death had once momentarily assailed Dr. Davenal. But it
passed away almost with the thought. She could not speak of her
brother's fault; she _could not_. Neither might she delegate to
another the last directions left to her by her father. Safely grasped
in her hand she held those sealed papers left by Dr. Davenal; how
could she transfer them even to Oswald Cray?

"I wish I could tell it you!" she said in a tone of pain. "But I
cannot; it is not possible. You will have guessed that this is not my
own secret. It is a charge that was left to me by my dear father when
he was dying: and I am obliged to fulfil it. He had no one to leave it
to but me."

"Your brother being away. I can understand so much. Suffer me to stand
to you, in this, in your brother's place. I am sure Captain Davenal
would wish it."

The faint colour of dread came into her cheeks as she thought how far
he would be from wishing this discussed with Mr. Oswald Cray. "I can't
tell it," she murmured.

Oswald turned his gaze upon her, his dark blue eyes never more
earnest, more eager.

"Will you let me urge this according to the dictates of common-sense?
Is it fit that you, being what you are, a lady--young, refined,
inexperienced--should be dancing attendance at Jones and Green's
offices; men who do not bear too good a reputation in the legal world,
to meet principally Mr. Alfred King, a man who bears a worse?"

The crimson shone in her cheeks. Put in this way it was anything but
pleasant to the refinement of which he spoke. "I know, I know," she
said impulsively. "I felt terribly the going there the day you saw me;
I feel it again now. But indeed I cannot help myself. It was a solemn
charge left me by my father, and in going through with it I am but
doing my duty. God is over me," she simply added. "I have had a great
deal to try me, a great deal to bear! but I am striving to do right
under Him."

Her lip quivered as she spoke, and she paused from emotion. It was too
much for the stoic philosophy of Oswald Cray. All the old feelings
pent up so long, buried only, not subdued, resumed their sway with
uncontrollable force, like a torrent let loose down a mountain's side.
He caught her hands in his; he bent his face near to hers, its whole
expression one of the deepest love; his persuasive voice, trembling
with agitation, was sunk to the softest whisper.

"Sara, my dearest, I still love you better than anything on earth.
Heaven knows how I have striven to forget you since that cloud fell
upon us. It has been of no use. Bereft of you, life is but one long
dreary path, growing more cruelly monotonous day by day."

Her heart beat wildly, and for one brief interval a hope, sweeter than
any earthly dream, stole into it like a golden ray of sunshine. Only
for an instant: she knew that it was but so much deceit, for him as
for her.

"Are there no means by which we may forget that cloud and return to
the past?" he resumed; his voice hoarse with its emotion, and so low
in tone that she could scarcely hear it. "Better to sacrifice a little
prejudice than to pass a whole life in dissatisfied pain. Let the
dishonour--pardon me for thus alluding to it--rest with the dead:
perhaps it has been wrong from the first to make it our sorrow."

She looked at him, not quite understanding. He saw the doubt.

"Be my wife, Sara. I can then take these troubles upon me as my legal
right. On my sacred word of honour, I will never cast a reproach to
the past, so much as in thought. No! I will not let your hands go
until you tell me by word of mouth what I _know_--that your heart is
mine still; that we _cannot_ be faithless one to the other."

She felt faint with the moment's pain. The dewdrops of emotion were
gathering on her face, and he would not loose her hands that she might
wipe them away.

"If we never were true to each other, let us be so now," he went on.
"It is too solemn a moment for equivocation: it is no time for us to
pretend ignorance of our mutual love."

It was indeed no time for equivocation or for doubt. Sara rose
superior to it. A reticence that might have been observed at another
time was forgotten now in her emotion and pain.

"I have not been faithless: perhaps I never shall be. But we can never
be more to each other than we are now. The dishonour clings to me, and
always will cling."

"Sara! don't I say that I will forget it?"

"No; I would never bring the possibility of--of--of--I think you do
not understand," she broke off, lifting her white face to his. "It was
not only dishonour."

"What else?"

"Crime." A change passed over his countenance as he raised his head,
which had been bent to catch the word. Soon it brightened again. Never
perhaps had his besetting sin been so quiescent: but pride, even such
pride as Oswald Cray's, is a less strong passion than love.

"It was not _your_ crime, Sara. And it has passed away."

"It has not passed."

"Not passed!"

"Not yet. There's danger still."

Oswald bit his lip. "Danger of what?"

"Of--of--exposure," she faintly said. "Do not force me to say more.
Only believe one thing--that I can never be your wife. Do you think if
there were no insuperable barrier that _I_ should have made one?" she
added, her face flushing a hot crimson. "Forgive me: I scarcely know
what I say: but you wished that we should speak without reserve."

"Sara, let me fully understand. Do you imply that there exists any
good and substantial reason _still_, call it insuperable barrier if
you will, why you ought not to become my wife? Wait a moment. Before
you give an answer remember that to my heart it is fraught with either
life or death."

"I do not imply it; I fully state it. Oh, don't visit it upon me!" she
exclaimed, as his face seemed to be assuming its old haughtiness. "It
is not my fault. I did not work the disgrace."

"No," he answered, soothingly, "it is not your fault. Forgive me," he
softly whispered. "The blow to me is heavy."

"It may pass for you. It will pass. You will form new friendships, new
ties, and forget the old. Better that it should be so."

"But never a new love! Never one who will be to me what the other has
been."

She rose from her seat. Oswald drew her down on it again.

"As I hinted just now, Sara, the time when we may mix freely as
friends has not yet come; it would not do for either of us. But I must
make a last appeal to you--suffer me to be your friend in this one
strait. Is it not _possible_ that I can act for you?"

"It is not possible. There are certain reasons why neither you nor
anybody else can do this; and, putting these aside, there is the
weighty one that it was the charge bequeathed to me, and to me alone,
by my dying father. Thank you for all," she whispered, as she suddenly
rose and held out her hand, her soft dark eyes speaking their thanks
to his.

He rose also. He did not release her hand, but placed it within his
arm to lead her up the solitary path. If those grave, middle-aged
counsel, deep in their briefs behind the dusty windows opposite, had
glanced out at the interview, it probably reminded them of their own
sweet spring-time.

Sara withdrew her hand at the garden-gate, but he walked by her side
through the courts to Essex Street. She halted there to say adieu.

"I suppose I must not ask to accompany you?"

She shook her head. "I must be alone."

"Fare you well then," he said. "May all good angels guard you!"

Mr. Alfred King was waiting for her. He was evidently not pleased at
two hundred pounds of the sum being missing; but he turned it off upon
the "other parties." They would not accept it, he said, unless paid in
full; and he hinted at consequences to Captain Davenal. He would not
sign the receipt; told Sara it was useless to unseal it; but he did
write a receipt for the present cheque paid. Altogether, it was a less
satisfactory interview than even the former one had been, and Sara
quitted him with a sinking heart. She had not the remotest idea where
to get the money; and a despairing foreboding was upon her that Edward
must yet pay the sacrifice of his crime.

"How long will they wait?" she asked herself, as she went shivering
up Essex Street. "Suppose they send me word that they will not
wait?--that Edward--oh, if I had but the means to--"

"Well? Is the thing happily over? You said this might be the last
interview." It was Oswald Cray. He had waited for her. Her mind was
preoccupied with its fears, almost bewildered, and she scarcely knew
what she answered.

"No! it is not happily over. It is all unhappy, and I am frightened.
The money I took them was--was--" She broke off with a start.
Recollection had come to her.

"Was what?" he asked.

"I think I forgot myself;" she murmured, as a burning flush dyed her
face. "My mind is full of trouble. Pray, pardon me, Mr. Oswald Cray."



CHAPTER XLIII.
AN IRRUPTION ON MARK CRAY.


If anything could exceed the prosperity of the Great Wheal Bang Mine
itself, it was the prosperity of those immediately connected with it.
There was only one little drawback--ready money ran short. It had been
short a long while, and the inconvenience was great in consequence;
but the prolonged inconvenience was now approaching to such a height
that even that sanguine spirit, Barker, even Mark Cray in his
confiding carelessness, felt that something must be done to remedy it.

Of course the cause of this will be readily divined--that the Great
Wheal Bang's ore was not yet in the market. The heat of summer had
passed, September was in with its soft air and its cool breezes, and
still that valuable ore had not begun to "realise." It was obstinate
ore, and it persisted in giving the greatest possible trouble before
it would come out of its mother earth, where it had been imbedded for
ages and ages. Those who understood the matter best, and the process
of working these mines, tedious at all times, did not consider that
any time was being lost; and it is more than probable that the
impatience of Barker and Mark Cray alone caused the delay to appear
unduly long.

The money swallowed up by that mine was enormous, and Mark Cray got
half-dismayed at odd moments. The shareholders were growing tired of
the calls upon their pockets; yet they were on the whole confiding
shareholders, believing implicitly in the mine and its final results.
As a natural sequence, the mine's wants being so great, its mouth so
greedy a one, Mark Cray and his friend could have the less money to
play with on their own score: still they managed to secure a little
for absolute personal wants, and tradespeople of all denominations
were eager to supply anything and everything to the great men of the
Great Wheal Bang. How entire was the confidence placed in the mine by
these two masters of it may be seen from the fact of their depriving
themselves of money to pour it into the ever-open chasm. They might so
easily have diverted a little channel into their own pockets! True, it
might not have been quite the honest thing to do, but in these matters
few men are scrupulous. Mark had surreptitiously sent a few shares
into the market and realised the proceeds; but he had done it with
reluctance: he did not care to part with his shares; neither was it
well that the Great Wheal Bang's shares should be afloat.

Standing at the window of their drawing-room on this balmy September
afternoon were Mark Cray and his wife. The fashionable world were of
course not in London, but Mr. and Mrs. Cray formed an exception--there
is no rule without one, you know. Mark felt that he could not be
absent from those attractive offices in the City, even for a day. It
was well that one of them should be seen there, and Barker was
everlastingly running down into Wales. "Never mind, Carine," he said
to his wife. "We'll take it out next year: we'll have a three-months'
autumn trip in Germany. The money will be rolling in upon us then, and
I need not stick here to keep the shareholders in good humour, as I
have to do now." Carine obediently acquiesced; and she did it with
cheerfulness: she had not been sufficiently long in her new and
luxurious home to care about leaving it.

But she solaced herself with all the gaiety that was obtainable within
reach. Drives out of town by day, and the theatre at night, or some
other amusement accessible in September. On this day they had been to
a wedding at the house of some new friends at Richmond; and they had
but now returned. If you look out you may see the fine carriage with
its four grey horses just turning from the door, for Caroline,
capricious Caroline, wayward and whimsical as a child, had stepped out
of it undecided whether to go out again and drive in the Park before
dinner. So she kept the carriage waiting until she was pleased to
decide not to go.

"I am a little tired, Mark, and they'd be ever so long taking out
those post-horses and putting in our own," she said to her husband.
"We could never go in the Park with four horses and postboys wearing
white favours. Empty as the drive is, we should have a crowd round
us."

"Taking you for the bride; and a very pretty one!" returned Mark,
gallantly.

Caroline laughed; a little all-conscious laugh of vanity. She laid her
beautiful bonnet of real lace and marabouts--and for which the
milliner would assuredly charge £10--on a side-table, and threw off
her costly white lace mantle. The folds of her silk dress, its colour
the delicate bloom of the spring lilac, rustled as she went back to
the window.

"Only think, Mark, we have been married nearly a year! It will be a
year next month." Mark stood with his face close to the window. He was
looking at the trees in the Green Park, their leaves playing in the
golden light of the setting sun. Caroline flirted a few drops on her
handkerchief from the miniature essence-bottle dangling from her
wrist, and raised it to her carmine cheeks. The day's excitement had
brought to them that rich bloom so suspiciously beautiful.

"I declare there's Barker!" exclaimed Mark. "I thought he'd be in."

Mr. Barker was dashing up the street in a cab, as fast as the horse's
legs would go. He had been at the offices all day, doing duty for
Mark. He saw them at the window, and gave them a nod as he leaped out.
Mark looked at his watch and found it wanted yet some time to dinner.
They sat down now, all three together, leaving the window to take care
of itself. There was always so much to say when Barker was there. He
talked so fast and so untiringly; present doings and future prospects
were so good; and Caroline was as much at home in it as they were.
They had had a splendid day in the City, Barker said volubly, except
for grumbling. A hundred, or so, groaning old disappointed fellows had
been in, who wanted to embark in the Wheal Bang and make their
fortunes, but there were no shares to be had for love or money, and
they were fit to bite their fingers off. Altogether, nothing could be
more smooth, more delightful than affairs, and Barker had received
news from the mines that morning promising loads upon loads of ore in
a month or so's time.

Mark rubbed his hands. "I say, Barker, what do you say to a quiet
little dinner at Blackwall tomorrow?" cried he. "I and Carine are
thinking of driving down. Will you come?"

"Don't mind if I do," returned Barker. "What, time?"

"Well, not very late. The evenings are not so light as they were.
Suppose we say"----

Before the hour had left Mark's lips he was stopped by a commotion. A
sound as of much talking and bumping of boxes in the hall below: of
boxes that appeared to be coming into the house. Caroline went to the
window and saw a cab drawn up to the door, a last trunk being taken
off it, and three band-boxes in a row on the pavement.

"Why, who can it be?" she exclaimed.

The question was soon set at rest. A lady in fashionable half-mourning
entered the room and clasped Mark round the neck. Three young ladies
entered after her and clasped Mark also, all three at once, two by the
arms, one by the coat-tails. Mr. Barker's red whiskers stood out in
wonder at the sight, and Caroline's violet eyes opened to their utmost
width.

"We thought we'd take you by surprise, darling," the elder lady was
saying. "The girls declared it would be delightful. I couldn't afford
any change for them this year, Mark, out of my poor means, and we
determined to pay you a visit for a few days. And so we have come, and
I hope you can take us in."

"Yes, but don't smother me, all of you at once," was poor Mark's
answer. "I am glad to see you mother; and I am sure my wife--Caroline,
you remember my mother and my sisters."

It was certainly an imposing number to take a house by storm, and
there was vexation in Mark's eye as he looked deprecatingly at his
wife. But Caroline rose superior to the emergency. She came forward
prettily and gracefully, and welcomed them all with a cordial smile.
Mrs. Cray the elder could not take her eyes from her face: she thought
she had never seen one grown so lovely. She withdrew them at length
and turned them on Mr. Barker.

But that gentleman scarcely needed an introduction. He was of that
free and easy nature that makes itself at home without one; and in an
incredibly short time, before indeed the strangers had taken their
bonnets off, he was chattering to them as familiarly as though he had
known them for years. They were rather pleasing girls, these sisters
of Mark--Fanny, Margaret, and Nina: very accomplished, very useless,
and bearing about them the tone of good society.

Leaving Mark to welcome them, we must turn for an instant to the house
of Miss Davenal. Sara was at rest, for she had paid Mr. Alfred King.
In her desperate need--it surely might be called such!---she wrote the
facts of the case to Mr. Wheatley. Not telling him the details, not
saying a word that might not have been disclosed to the whole body of
police themselves, but simply stating to him that she had very urgent
need of this two hundred pounds for her father's sake. The result was,
that Mr. Wheatley sent her the money. But he was not a rich man, and
he candidly told her he could not have done it but for the certainty
there existed of its speedy return to him. Sara lost not a moment in
seeking another and a final interview with Mr. Alfred King. The papers
were given up to her, the receipt signed, all was done as specified by
Dr. Davenal, and the affair and the danger to Edward were alike at an
end. The horrible nightmare on Sara Davenal's days was lifted; the
fear which had been making her old before her time was over. Her
countenance lost its look of wearing pain, and she seemed like a child
again in her freedom from care.

Yes, the dreadful nightmare was over, and Sara was at rest. In her
immunity from pain, in her renewed happiness, it almost seemed as if
the world might still have charms for her. You can look at her as she
stands in the drawing-room by Miss Davenal's side. It is the same
evening as the one spoken of above, when Mrs. Cray and her daughters
made that irruption upon Mark. Sara is in evening dress--a black
gauze, with a little white net quilling on the low body and sleeves.
Her white cloak lies on the sofa, and she is drawing on some new
lavender gloves. But look at her face! at her cheek's rich colour! at
the sweet smile on the lips, at the bright eye! Is it the anticipated
evening's enjoyment that is calling these forth? No, no; the pleasant
signs spring from a heart at rest: a heart that had long been aching,
worn, _terrified_ with a secret care.

It was very rare indeed that Miss Davenal went out, but she had
accepted an invitation for dinner that evening. She had a few friends
in London, not new ones (of new ones she had made none); but old
acquaintances of her earlier days. The friend she was going to this
evening, Lady Reid, had been her schoolfellow at Hallingham; they had
grown up together, and Bettina Davenal was her bridesmaid when she
married young Lieutenant Reid, who had then his fortune to make. He
made it out in India, and he came home a colonel and a K.C.B.; came
home only to die, as is the case with too many who have spent their
best days in the Indian empire. His widow lived at Brompton, and Miss
Davenal and she liked nothing better than to spend an hour together
and talk of the days when they were so young and hopeful. How
different, how different to them was the world now! Could it be the
same world? Many of you, my readers, have asked the very question.

Neal had gone to the livery stables to order round a carriage, for
Miss Bettina had a horror of cabs, and had not put her foot inside one
since the evening of her arrival in London. She stood in her rich
black silk and her cap of that fine white lace called point
d'Angleterre, glancing from the window and talking with Sara. They had
had news from Bombay that afternoon from Edward. Great news! and
perhaps Sara's cheeks owed some of their unusual colour to this.

Captain Davenal was married. He had fallen in love with a pretty girl
in India, or she had fallen in love with him, and they were married.
She was an only child, he wrote them word, and an heiress; her name
Rose Reid, now Rose Davenal. Miss Davenal felt nearly sure it must be
a niece of her old friend to whom she was that evening engaged. Lady
Reid's late husband had a brother in the civil service at Bombay,
reported to be a rich man, and it was probable this was his daughter.

"It is just like Edward," she said tartly to Sara, as she watched for
the carriage. "To think that he should marry after a month or two's
acquaintance! He can't have known her much longer."

"But he says she is so pretty, aunt; so lovable!" was Sara's pleading
answer. "And--if she is an heiress, I am very glad for Edward's sake."

"Ah," grimly returned Miss Bettina, having as usual heard all awry,
"that's it, no doubt, the money's sake. I don't forget a good old
proverb: 'Marry in haste and repent at leisure!' Here comes the
carriage."

They went down to it. Neal, all perfection as usual, assisted them in
and took his place by the side of the driver. They were nearly at
their journey's end when, in passing a row of houses, Sara, who
happened to be looking out, saw Oswald Cray at one of the windows: and
by his side a fair face half-hidden by the crimson curtain; the face
of Jane Allister.

A mist gathered over her eyes and her heart. She looked out still,
mechanically; she saw the name written up as they left the houses
behind them, "Bangalore Terrace;" she answered her aunt's remarks as
before; but the change within her was as if sunshine had given place
to night.

Why, could she still be cherishing those past hopes? No; never for an
instant. She knew that all was over between her and Oswald Cray; that
he was entirely lost to her. But she could not put away from her the
old feelings and the old love; she could not see him thus in familiar
companionship with another without bitter pangs and wild emotion.
Perhaps Jane Allister was to be his wife!

Neal left them at Lady Reid's, his orders being to return with the
carriage a quarter before eleven. When he reached home it was dusk;
and Dorcas, attired in her bonnet and shawl, came to him in the
passage, and said she was going out to do a little shopping.

Neal watched her fairly off and then went indoors. He closed the
shutters of the dining parlour, went up to the drawing-room, where he
set the candle on the table, and closed those shutters also. He took a
leisurely survey of the room, apparently searching for something, and
reading, _en passant_, a note or two left upon the mantelpiece, and
then he took his seat before Sara's desk.

That little episode, the spoiled lock of the doctor's desk, had taught
him caution; he would not make the same mistake with this. Neal was an
adept at his work: and, by the ingenious use of a penknife and a piece
of wire, the desk was opened. It may be a question how long Neal had
waited for this opportunity. Such a one had not occurred for months:
his ladies out, and Dorcas out; and the house wrapped in the silence
of night, and not likely to be invaded.

And now a word to my readers. Should there be any among you who may
feel inclined to cavil at this description of Neal's treachery,
deeming it improbable, let me tell you that it is but the simple
truth--a recital of an episode in real life. The reading of the
letters, the opening of the desks, the ferreting propensities, the
treachery altogether, were practised by a retainer in a certain
family, and the mischief wrought was incalculable. It separated those
in spirit who had never been separated before; it gave rise to all
sorts of misconception and ill-feeling; it caused animosity to
prevail between relatives for years: and the worst was--the worst, the
worst!--that some of those relatives were never reconciled again in
this world, for before the truth came to light death had been busy. As
Coleridge says,

     "Whispering tongues can poison truth."


What Neal's motive was I cannot tell you. What the motive of that
other one was, was as little to be traced. There was nothing to be
gained by it, so far as could be seen. It may have been that the
prying propensities were innate in both natures; the love of working
mischief inherent in their hearts. Certainly it was the ruling passion
of their lives. The most extraordinary inventions, the strangest
stories, were related by the one: you will find, before you have done
with the other, that they were not abjured by him.

The first letter Neal came to in the desk--at least, the first he
opened--happened to be one from Mr. Wheatley. By that he learned that
two hundred pounds had been lent to Sara in the summer for the
"completion of the payment she spoke of." Coupled with his
previously-acquired knowledge, Neal came to the conclusion that the
trouble as regarded Captain Davenal was over, and the money paid. The
precise nature of the trouble Neal had never succeeded in arriving at,
but he did know that money had to be paid in secret on his account.
The next letter he came upon was the one received from the Captain
that day: and if Neal had hoped to find groans and trouble and
difficulty in it, he was most completely disappointed. It was one of
the sunniest letters ever read; it spoke of his girl-wife and his own
happiness: not a breath was there in it of care in any shape. Neal was
nonplussed: and the letters did not afford him pleasure.

"The thing all settled!--the money paid!" he repeated to himself,
revolving the various items of news. "No wonder _she_ has looked
sprightly lately. Why, for months after the doctor's death she seemed
fit to hang herself! I thought some change had come to her. And he is
married, is he!--and has picked up an heiress! I don't like that. Some
folks do have the luck of it in this world. It's a great shame! And
she has no right to be happy, for I know she hates me. I know she
suspects me, that's more. I'll try--I'll _try_ and deal out a little
small coin in exchange. There's always that other thing, thank
goodness; the break with Mr. Oswald Cray. I wonder if she saw him this
evening at that window? I did; and I saw the young lady too. I hope
it's going to be a match, if only to serve out this one?"

With this charitable wish Mr. Neal resumed his research of the desk.
But nothing more of particular moment turned up, and he soon made it
fast again in his own artistic manner, which defied detection.

And when Dorcas came in she found Neal, his supper eaten stretched
comfortably before the kitchen fire, taking a dose.



CHAPTER XLIV.
WAS SHE NEVER TO BE AT PEACE?


News of an unpleasant nature was on its way to Miss Davenal and Sara;
but they sat at breakfast unconscious of its nearness, waited upon by
Neal the immaculate, in all confiding security, and entirely
unsuspicious of that gentleman's desk researches of the previous
evening. A letter came in; it was directed to Miss Davenal in the
handwriting of Dr. Keen.

"What's a-gate now?" exclaimed Miss Davenal, as she opened it. For it
was not very usual for the doctor to write in the middle of a quarter.


"Dear Madam,--

"I grieve much to have to inform you that an accident has happened to
your nephew Leopold. It being a half-holiday yesterday afternoon
(granted, according to annual custom, on the auspicious occasion of
Mrs. Keen's birthday), the young gentlemen had leave accorded them to
go into the fields and gather blackberries. Engaged in this (hitherto
deemed harmless) recreation, Leopold unfortunately met with a fall. In
stretching up to reach a high branch, he lost his balance, and fell
from the top of a bank. I fear he may have been pushed, but the boys
appear not to be quite clear upon the point. At any rate, he fell in
some way with his arm doubled under him, and on examination it proved
to be broken.

"Deeply sorry as I am to be obliged to impart to you this sad news, I
can yet qualify it in some degree by stating that it is a simple
fracture. It was at once set, and the surgeon assures me it will do as
well as possible. Mrs. Keen bids me say that she does not think Master
Leopold has appeared very strong of late; I have remarked myself that
he looks delicate. Master Davenal, I am happy to say, is quite well,
and gives us every satisfaction in his studies, in which he takes
great pleasure.

"With very kind remembrances from Mrs. Keen to yourself and Miss Sara
Davenal, and best compliments from myself,--I remain, dear Madam,
faithfully yours,    John Keen.

"Miss Davenal."


Miss Bettina gave the letter to her niece in an excess of vexation "If
that mischievous Dick was not at the bottom of it, I shall wonder!"
she exclaimed. "He pushed him off in his roughness. He _is_ rough."

Sara gathered in the words of the letter in silence, with strained
eyes and a beating heart.

"I'd have every blackberry-tree in the land rooted up, if I had my
will," proceeded Miss Bettina. "Boys are as venturesome as monkeys
when their mouths are in question. They don't care for their clothes
or how they get torn; they don't care for their shirtfronts or how
they get stained; they fight, and quarrel, and climb, and scratch
their hands and faces with the thorns, and all for greediness--that
they may fill themselves with those rubbishing berries. And now they
have caused this mischief! The boy's arm may be weak for life. Yes, if
I had the power, I'd destroy every blackberry-tree that grows. I
should think D. Keen will interdict 'blackberrying' for the future."

"I wonder how it happened?" said Sara, musingly.

"So do I," said Miss Bettina, in a tart tone. "One would think the
bank was as high as a house. They'd climb up a house, boys would, if
they thought they should find blackberries growing upon its roof. Ah,
never shall I forget--it has this moment recurred to my mind--Leo's
father coming home in a sorry plight when he was a boy. He went
blackberrying. He went without anybody's knowledge, too, and was
absent for hours, and we grew alarmed at home, as was natural, for he
was but a little fellow of eight. I remember my dear mother feared he
had fallen into some pond, but we children thought Johnny had gone
after the wild-beast caravan, which had been in the town exhibiting
two bears and an elephant. He arrived at home at dusk; and I'm sure he
looked more fit to belong to a caravan than to a gentleman's house.
His knees were out of his trousers, and his brown-holland blouse was
in flounces, and his shirt-frill had three hanging rents in it, and
his hair and face and hands were crimson with the stains, causing my
mother to cry out with fear at the first sight of him. To crown all,
he had filled his new straw hat with the blackberries, and the juice
was dropping through the crown! John does not forget that exploit, I
know, to this day. Your grandpapa gave him a sound whipping and sent
him to bed supperless; not so much for the plight he had put himself
into as for roaming out alone and frightening my dear mother. Johnny
was ill for three days afterwards with stomach-ache, from the quantity
he had devoured. _He_ remembers blackberrying, I know; and I should
think Mr. Leo will, after this."

"I hope his arm will soon be well!"

"Dr. Keen might have mentioned what surgeon was attending to it! if
Mark Cray had remained at Hallingham," continued Miss Bettina, very
sharply--for it was impossible for her to speak of that exit of Mark's
without sharpness--"he might have gone over by rail, and seen that it
was being properly----What do you say, Neal?"

Miss Bettina's interruption was caused by the entrance of Neal. Mrs.
Cray's maid had come round, and was waiting to speak to Miss Sara.

"Let her come in," said Miss Bettina.

The tone was as sharp a one as that just given to the absent Mark.
Caroline's maid, a remarkably fashionable damsel, did not reign in the
favour of Miss Bettina. She came in in obedience to orders; a pink
gauze bonnet on the back of her head, and a pair of dirty and very
tight straw-coloured gloves strained on her hands. Miss Bettina's
countenance lost none of its severity as she surveyed her.

"What do you want, Long?"

"If you please, mem, my message is to Miss Sara Davenal," returned
Long, pertly, for she did not like Miss Bettina any more than Miss
Bettina liked her.

"Tell it, then. Miss Sara Davenal's there, you see." Long fairly
turned her back on Miss Bettina as she delivered the message she was
charged with. She explained that Mr. Cray's mother and sisters had
arrived unexpectedly the previous night, and the object of her coming
round now was, to ask if Miss Sara Davenal would go out with Mrs. Cray
senior that morning.

"Arrived last night unexpectedly!" exclaimed Miss Bettina, who had
been bending her ear. "How many of them?"

"Four," replied Long. "Mrs. Cray and three Miss Crays."

"It's well the house is large! _I_ should not like to be taken by
storm in that way."

"I suppose I can go, aunt?"

"I suppose you can't refuse. What's it for? Where is she going?"

"Where is Mrs. Cray going, do you know, Long?" asked Sara.

"I believe she's only going shopping, miss," answered the girl, who
was always civil to Sara. "I heard her say she must get a bonnet, and
other things, before she could appear in London. My mistress has
promised to take the young ladies out, and she said perhaps you'd be
so good as accompany Mrs. Cray senior, as she does not know London."

"I don't think I know it much better than she does," observed Sara,
smiling. "But you can tell Mrs. Cray that I shall be happy to
accompany her, and to render her any service that I can. Oh, and,
Long, will you tell your mistress that we have received sad news from
Dr. Keen," she resumed, as the maid was turning away. "Poor little
Leopold has broken his arm."

"And that he did it scrambling after blackberries," indignantly added
Miss Bettina.

The maid departed, saying that Mrs. Cray senior would be round in the
course of the morning. Sara went up to the drawing-room, and opened
her letter-case, which she used sometimes instead of her desk. Her
first thought was to write a few words to poor Leo. But ere she began
she leaned her aching brow upon her hand; the vision she had seen at
the window of Bangalore Terrace, as they drove to Lady Reid's the
previous evening, had left its sting upon her brain.

A slight tap at the door, and Neal came in. He could not but note the
weary expression of her face as she looked up at him. He advanced to
the table, some papers in his hand, and spoke in a low voice as if
what he said was for her ear alone.

"The postman brought another letter, Miss Sara. It was enclosed in
this envelope addressed to me by Master Richard. Perhaps you would
like to see what he says." Neal was really honest in this. Possibly he
saw no opportunity to be otherwise. Sara, in some curiosity, took the
papers from Neal's hands. The whole lot was characteristic of Dick.
The envelope was addressed "Mr. Neal, at Miss Davenal's. Private," the
proper address of their residence being added. On opening it when
delivered to him by the postman, Neal had found it to contain a sealed
letter for Miss Sara Davenal and a scrap of paper evidently torn from
a copy-book for himself. On the latter he read the following lines,
and these he now showed to his young mistress.

"Dear Neal, give the note to my couzin Sara when nobodys buy and be
sure dont let aunt bett see it or therell be a row, R. D."

"Oh, thank you, Neal," she said heartily. But as the man left the room
and she broke the seal, a half-dread came over her of what it would
contain.


"Dear Sara,--

"The most horrid catastrofy has hapened, leo's gone and broke his arm,
and I want to tell you how it was done I must tell somebody or I shall
burst, leo's a brave littel chap and kept his mouth shut when old Keen
and the docter were asking questions and let him think it was through
the blackberys, we had half holliday it was Mrs. Keens berthday and we
went after the blackberys, this was yesterday afternoon, and about 6
of us, me and Jones and tom Keen and Halliday and leo and Thomson, if
you want to know which of us it was, where separated from the rest and
got into one of farmer clupp's feilds and what should we see but his
poney trying to nible at the short grass, we set up a shout, which
Halliday stoppt for fear of being heard, and caught him, and then
there was a shindy as to which 3 of us should have first ride, for we
were afraid thered not be time for the other three if the school came
up, and the under master dogskin (thats our name for him hes a sneek)
was with them, so to end the dispute we all 6 got on the poney and a
stunning gallopp we had only it was rather close to sit, well leo was
the hindmost and as he hadnt much beside the tail to sit on he fell
off but he must be a great duff for he had held on all round the feild
once, he says it was Jones moved and made him fall and tom Keen says
hes sure it was, for Jones who has got the longest legs kept jogging
them to make the poney go and he was next to leo and leo held on by
him, I was first and guided the poney and in taking the sweep round at
the turning leo shot off behind, his arm was doubled under him and a
soft duffer of an arm it must be for it took and broke, we didnt know
he was gone at first, Jones called out, young Davenal's off, but we
thought nothing and galloped all round the feild again, he was lying
there when we got back, and his face was white and we called to him
and he never answered so we stopt the poney and went to him, Jones
tried to pull him up and leo screamed, and halliday calls out Im blest
if I dont think hes hurt, leo began saying he hoped he wasnt kill'd,
you know what a regular little muff he is, we picked him up at last
and when we saw his arm hang down we were frightened above a bit, well
we didnt know what was to be done, we carried him into the next feild
where the poney wasnt, for fear of anybody suspecting and just as we
had laid him by the bank the rest of the fellows came down the lane
and saw us and tom keen called out that davenal junior was hurt, with
that they came up and Marsh (thats dogskin) looks up at the high bank
above leo and sees the blackberys growing atop of it and sings out to
leo, I know how this was done, you where on the top of that bank
trying to get blackberys beyond your reach and you fell off it, well
if you'll believe me sara we never told the story to say yes, only
Jones said says he I'm sure I dont know sir how ever he managed to
fall, and Marsh he thought he did fall off the bank and went off to
take the news to Keen, and us 6 all thought what a jolly chance it was
that we had happened to lay him down by the bank, and none of them
ever saw the poney, leo was carried home and Mrs. Keen she came out
with a face as white as his, tom how did it happen, says she laying
hold of tom, and we got affraid again, for toms uncomon fond of his
mother, but he didnt split, and then Keen came and the surjon came and
Keen he says to leo how _did_ you fall did any body push you off the
bank, no sir says leo, and the surjon he asked how t was done, and leo
shook like anything, and began to cry, afraid he should have to tell a
story at last which he cant bare, he was shut up in a room then with
the doctor and Keen and one or two more and we heard him cry out when
they were setting his arm, but you know what a baby he is poor little
chap and I wish with all my hart it had been me instead of him, the
worst is I should have lost my share of the supper and a jolly good
one they give us on her berthday every year, cakes and tarts and
pidjon pies and lots of things and we have to dress for it and a heap
of duffing girls come to it in white frocks but we dont mind em much,
and dear sara thats the whole facts of how it came about and I
couldn't write it truer if I were telling it to poor Uncle Richard
himself, leos all jolly this morning and he is in bed and has got no
lessons to do and he says I am to tell you that he'll never get on a
poney with 6 again and Mrs. Keens very kind to him, and Miss Keen
(shes the big one you know) is going to read him some storys, he says
I am to tell you it doesn't hurt much and oh sara there's only one
thing we are sorry for, that Uncle Richard isnt alive to cure him
because hed have him home to Hallingham to do it and perhaps me as
well and I should get a holliday from these horrid books, I shall send
this to neal for fear of aunt bett, and mind you hide it, and dont let
a sight of it reach her, we are aufully afraid of that about the poney
getting to old keens ears for thered be the dickens to pay, yours
affectionately

"DICK.

"p s leo sends his love and he hopes you wont be angry with him for
breaking his arm and I am writing this after school at twelve instead
of playing, Good buy."


Sara smiled, in spite of herself, as she folded up the letter. But she
thought it rather a wonder there had not been a few broken legs among
the "6," instead of one broken arm.

She got ready for Mrs. Cray, and went down to the dining-room. Miss
Bettina was gone out then. She took up a book, but had not been
looking at it many minutes when she saw Neal coming up the street
talking to a young person whose condition in life it was rather
difficult to guess. In these days of _dress_ it is difficult. She had
a pretty face, Sara could see that, though a veil covered it; her gown
was one of those called a "washing silk"--and very much "washed out"
it seemed to be; and a smart shawl, just flung on the shoulders,
trailed on the ground behind. But for this trailing shawl and a sort
of general untidiness, there would have been something superior about
the girl. In the face she looked like a lady, and Sara had seen many a
lady worse dressed.

Sara, behind the blind, could see them, but they could not see her.
Neal stood a moment at the door, and then looked down over the
railings of the area.

"Are the ladies out?" he asked.

"Yes," came back for answer in Dorcas's voice. The woman evidently did
not know that Miss Sara had not accompanied her mistress.

"You can come in then," Sara distinctly heard Neal say to the lady--if
lady she was. And he opened the door with his latch-key.

They stood talking in the passage for some little time in an
undertone, and then Neal took her into the back room. It opened to the
dining-room with folding-doors; but the doors were always kept closed:
and indeed the back room was chiefly used as Neal's pantry. Sara, who
at first had been doubtful whether it might not be a visitor to
herself, came to the conclusion that it was only a visitor to Neal,
and she resumed her reading.

But the voices grew rather louder; and the words "Captain Davenal"
caused her to look up with a start. No wonder she should start at that
name, remembering the past. A sudden fear same over her that something
or other connected with that past was again threatening her brother.

She could not hear more, for the voices dropped again to their covert
tone. Another minute, and Neal was conducting the stranger to the
front door.

"We shall hear more by the next mail; but there's not the slightest
doubt he's married," Sara heard him say as he passed the room. "The
lady is an heiress: a Miss Reid."

"Well," cried the other voice, "I'll have satisfaction. I'll have it
somehow. I don't care what punishment it brings him to, I'll have it."

The visitor went away. Neal closed the street-door upon her and turned
to behold his young mistress at that of the dining-room, a scared look
in her eyes, a white shade upon her face.

"Neal! what has that young "--Sara hesitated between the words
_person_ and _lady_, but chose the former--"person to do with Captain
Davenal?"

She had spoken without reflection in her impulse; in her renewed fear,
which she had deemed buried with the past. Neal for once in his life
was confounded. He did not speak immediately; he was probably striving
to recall what had been said, inconvenient for her to hear.

"Tell me at once, Neal; I insist on your speaking," she reiterated,
attributing his hesitation to unwillingness to speak. "Indeed it is
better that I should know it. What was she saying about my brother?"

That alarm of some nature had been aroused within her, that she was
painfully anxious, and that the alarm and anxiety were connected with
Captain Davenal, Neal could not fail to read. But his speech was
certainly less ready than usual, for he still kept silence.

"I heard you tell her that Captain Davenal was married; that further
news would be in by the next mail," pursued Sara, growing more
inwardly perturbed with every moment. "What was it to her? Who is she?
For what purpose did she come here? Neal, _can't_ you answer me?" and
her voice grew quite shrill with its alarm and pain.

"Miss Sara--if I hesitated to answer, it is that I do not like to
speak," he said at length. "I tell the young woman she must be
mistaken in what she says--that it _can't_ be. But she won't hear me."

"What is it that she says? Have you seen her before today?"

"She has been here once or twice before. But for understanding that
you and my mistress were out I should not have allowed her to come in
this time. I am very sorry that it should have happened, miss."

"But what _is_ it?" returned Sara, nearly wild with suspense. "What
has she come for?"

"She has come to ask questions about Captain Davenal."

"But _what_ about him? What is he to her?"

Neal coughed. He took out his handsome silk handkerchief--he always
used very handsome ones--and wiped his mouth. Sara trembled. His
manner was unpleasantly mysterious, and it seemed that she was on the
verge of hearing something terrible.

"Does she know my brother?"

"She says she does. Miss Sara, I would have given a great deal to
prevent this happening today. It will only worry you, and I daresay I
could still have put her off and kept her quiet."

"Neal, tell me the worst," she cried, her voice and heart alike
growing faint. "I must hear it now."

"Well, Miss Sara, she says she is the wife of Captain Davenal."

"She--says--she--is--the--wife--of--Captain Davenal!"

The words were echoed slowly in very astonishment, a pause between
each. Vague as her fears had been they had not touched on this.

"It is what she says, Miss Sara. I told her it must be one of two
things--either that she was deceiving me in saying it, or that she was
herself deceived. But she insists upon it that she is his true and
lawful wife; that she was married to him nearly twelve months before
he went abroad. She says my late master, Dr. Davenal, knew of it."

Sara stared at Neal in a sort of helpless manner. Never for a moment
did it occur to her to question the truth; her mind accepted it--a
terrible calamity; worse, it seemed in this moment, than all that had
gone before.

"She came here this morning in consequence of hearing of the Captain's
marriage to Miss Reid. I acknowledged that news had come home to that
effect. It would have been quite useless, you see, Miss Sara, to deny
what's known publicly."

"Neal! Neal! you will not mention this?" came the feverish wish, the
first uttered in her bewilderment. "You will guard it faithfully?
We--I--some one must see what can be done."

"You may entirely depend on me, Miss Sara," replied Neal, speaking
more impressively than was his wont--Neal the impassive. "Of course,
miss, the chief thing will be to guard against exposure."

Sara turned into the dining-room, mind and body alike sinking. A sick,
faint fear came over her that _this_ must be the secret connected with
her brother which had been disclosed that long past night to Dr.
Davenal. Another moment, and she did not see how that could be. There
would have been no _crime_ in it: Captain Davenal was not married
then. Her brain was in a chaos of perplexity, her mind agitated with
doubt. If this young woman--lady--whatever she might be--was Edward's
wife, how could he have married Rose Reid? Was it the money tempted
him? Calm, self-controlled though she was usually, a groan of despair
broke from her lips.

Neal in the back room thought she called him, and came round to the
dining-room door. She looked up as he stood there and stared at him,
just as though she had forgotten who he was.

"Did you call, Miss Sara?"

"I--I--I did not call. Neal--do you know--what the name is?--I
mean--what it _was?_"

"Yes, miss, I know so much as that. Catherine Wentworth."

He retired, leaving Sara alone. Almost a rebellious thought was
stealing over her--was she _never_ to be at rest? Not at much rest
just then certainly; for Mrs. Cray had driven to the door and was
asking for her.

Sara tied her bonnet mechanically and went out. Mrs. Cray was seated
in a fly. She would not alight then, she said: she had a great deal to
do. Sara stepped in. Mrs. Cray was an imperious-looking woman, fair
and pale, with a handsome face. Sara thought her over-dressed and very
fidgety. They were not much acquainted when at Hallingham.

"I have nothing to wear," she said to Sara. "I want a host of things.
A bonnet first. Mrs. Mark Cray has given me the address of a superior
dressmaker. She is a little selfish, is she not?"

"Who is?" cried Sara, in answer to the sentence, which came out rather
abruptly after the rest.

"Mrs. Mark Cray. To confess to you my opinion, I think she might have
lent me the carriage this morning, instead of sending me out in a
hired fly, and keeping the carriage for herself and the girls. It
seems to be the way of the world nowadays--the young before the old.
She is Mark's wife, and I am only his mother."

Whether Sara would have found a suitable answer is uncertain.
Something outside completely took away all thoughts of it. They were
at that moment passing the War Office; and, coming from it with an
angry and determined look upon her pretty face, was the person whom
she had just heard called Catherine Wentworth. Sara shrunk back in the
cab's corner, dismay on her countenance, dismay in her heart. Had she
_already_ denounced Captain Davenal at headquarters?

From milliners to linen-drapers, from linen-drapers to dressmakers,
one place after another continually, until Sara was tired to death,
the day wore away. The afternoon was getting on when the last
commission was done, and Mrs. Cray, who had put on the new bonnet just
bought, had leisure to think of the horse and driver.

"Poor things, they must want some repose," she remarked, as she came
out of the Pantheon. "Well, there's only one place more. Will you tell
the man, my dear?" she added as she got in. "Parliament Street. You
know the number, I suppose."

"What number?" inquired Sara. "Where to in Parliament Street?"

"To Mr. Oswald Cray's. Bracknell and Street, I think, is the name of
the firm."

"_There!_" returned Sara in her discomposure. "I can't go there."

"Not go there! My dear, I must go there. Mr. Oswald Cray is my
step-son. I shall call in for a minute to let him know I am in
London."

Opposition would be worse than acquiescence. Besides, what could be
her plea? Sara, all her pulses fluttering, spoke the address to the
driver, and took her place in silence opposite Mrs. Cray.



CHAPTER XLV.
MRS. BENN'S WRONGS.


"Then, Benn, I'll not have it done! You can't go."

"But I tell you I have got my orders. I am sent."

"And who gave you the orders, pray, Joe Benn? Who sent you?"

"Mr. Oswald Cray. And the best thing for _you_ to do is to hold your
tongue and take off that there guy of a bonnet, and hide your bare
arms, and put on a apron that's clean, and otherwise make yourself
decent, for you _have got_ to do it. And when folks have got to do a
thing, they may as well make up their minds to do it in the best way
and readiest way they can."

Mr. Benn, in thus breathlessly telling his wife she had "got to do
it," did not allude to the little items of personal embellishment he
mentioned, but to something else which Mrs. Benn abhorred above all
things--that of waiting on gentlemen. It happened now and then that a
luncheon or other meal would be ordered at the offices in Parliament
Street for some stranger or friend stopping in London, which meal Mrs.
Benn had to prepare, and her husband to wait at. On this day Mr.
Street had ordered mutton-chops to be ready for two o'clock, and the
tray laid for three persons; and this it was that was discomposing
Mrs. Benn. In the first place, it was one of those oft-recurring
periodical battles of her life--a cleaning-day; in the next place, her
husband had just given her the startling information that she would
have to wait at the meal as well as to cook it. "And a fine object you
be, to do it!" he had wound up with in a mutter to himself.

Certainly Mrs. Benn did not appear to particular advantage today,
looking at her in an artistic point of view. You have had the pleasure
of seeing her once before in the high costume donned for the occasion
of those days specially marked in her calendar. I don't think there's
much change. Her bonnet, black once, rusty brown now, is on, brim
downwards, crown up, strings tied in a knot at the back; her apron is
a piece of wrappering off a bale of goods, embellished with sundry
holes and fastened round her with an iron skewer; and her gown, turned
up under it, is pinned into a heap behind. She stands over the Dutch
oven, her arms bare and black, and a fork in her hand; and ever and
anon as she stoops to turn or touch the chops in the Dutch oven, the
gathered gown sways itself up at the back, not unlike a sail. Mr. Benn
is in his shirtsleeves, having taken off his coat to brush it,
preparatory to going out.

"It's sure to be the case! I've marked it times and times again!"
burst forth Mrs. Benn, trying to fling off a live coal which bad
intruded itself into the Dutch oven. "If ever there's lunch or
any bothering extra of that sort wanted, it's safe to be on my
cleaning-day! Mr. Street have got no more consideration nor a stalking
gander; and Mr. Oswald Cray have got as little. They _might_ remember
my cleaning-days, and spare a body on 'em."

"And a fine speech that is," said Mr. Benn, in a reprimanding tone.
"You'd better not let it come anigh their ears. We are here, you and
me, to do what work's required of us, at any hour, whether it's
cooking or whether it's waiting, and your ord'nary work must give way
when it's wanted to give it. They'd soon get other servants in our
places."

"He comes to the top o' the stairs just as the clock was going one,"
observed Mrs. Benn, paying no more attention to the words of her
husband than if she had been deaf. "'Are you there?' he calls out, and
I looked up and see it was Mr. Street. 'Yes, sir,' says I, 'I be;' and
I was in a cloud of dust at the moment fit to smother you, a doing
out of that there wood and bottle cupboard. 'Oh,' says he 'some
mutton-chops for two o'clock, and lay the tray for three. And do 'em
well,' says he, 'and a dish of mashed potaters.' A nice thing that was
for me to hear!--and to have to go out the figure I be, after chops,
and to be hindered in my cleaning a good two hours! Ain't that enough,
Joe Benn, without having to turn to and wait?"

"I can't help it," said Joe, civilly, as he put on his coat. "If I am
ordered work out of doors I must go about it, just as you must the
work in. Mr. Oswald Cray has sent me down to Limehouse, and I must be
back before the office closes. Don't I tell you I can't even stop for
my dinner?"

He went away without more words. He probably would have had a few sent
after him, but for an unlucky catastrophe that occurred at the moment.
The saucepan of potatoes fell on its side, and enveloped Mrs. Benn and
the Dutch oven in a mass of steam. It took all that lady's best
attention to remedy it; and when she looked up Mr. Benn was gone.

Very reluctantly indeed did she set about making herself presentable;
but, as Benn had said, there was no help for it. She washed her face
and hands, and turned down the gown, and drew down its sleeves, and
put on a white apron, and replaced the choice bonnet with a clean cap,
grumbling bitterly all the time. And at the appointed hour she took up
the luncheon-tray.

Three gentlemen partook of the meal--Mr. Street, Oswald Cray and a
well-known contractor, who had only that day arrived in London from
Spain, and was going into the country to his works by a four o'clock
train. They were discussing business while they ate.

A certain projected line of rail in Spain was being organised.
Bracknell and Street were the engineers, and it was proposed that Mr.
Oswald Cray should go out as superintendent. The details of the affair
do not concern us; but it must be mentioned that the sojourn in Spain
would be likely, from certain attendant circumstances, to prove of
great advantage to Mr. Oswald Cray in a pecuniary point of view.

After the departure of the guest Mr. Street and Oswald remained
together a few minutes talking. "You'll not think of declining it, of
course, Cray?" remarked the latter. "I only wish I could go!"

"I don't see how you will manage without me here," remarked Oswald.

"We must manage in the best way we can. Bracknell must be with us more
than he has been lately. Of course we could send somebody else to do
the Spain business were it impossible that you could leave; but it is
not impossible, and I speak in your interest when I say it is a chance
you ought not to miss."

"True. I shall like to go, if home affairs can spare me. I suppose it
will involve a stay there of two years?"

"Nearer three," remarked Mr. Street. "Then we will consider your going
as settled; and things must be at once prepared at home contingent
upon it."

"Yes," acquiesced Oswald. "Wait a moment," he added, as Mr. Street was
turning away to descend. "I want to speak to you about Allister. I
wish you would take him on again."

Mr. Street pursed his lips up. He had a round face and small light
eyes, in which sat a hard look. Whether it was the hard look or not, I
can't tell, or whether it was that the look was only the index of the
nature--as it generally is--certain it was that Mr. Street was not
liked in the house. Oswald knew the sign of the contracted lips.

"What is your objection?" he pursued. "Allister's quite well
apparently, and----"

"Apparently! there it is," interrupted Mr. Street. "It's a great
hindrance to business, these sickly clerks--well one day, ill the
next; especially in such a house as ours. We have no time for it."

"Allister seems well. At one time I thought his lungs were fatally
diseased, but I begin to believe I was entirely mistaken. It is nearly
twelve months since the worst symptoms left him, and he seems now as
strong as I am."

"Pooh!" said Mr. Street. "A warm climate, if he could get to it, might
set him up; but in this place of change and fogs and damp, rely upon
it he'll not keep well long."

Oswald was silent. So far as the warm climate went, he agreed with Mr.
Street. Had Frank Allister the opportunity of going to one it might
set him up for a long life.

"How has he lived?" asked Mr. Street. "He has no money."

"He has done work at home lately. We have furnished him with some to
do; plans and estimates, and such like. He has had tracings also from
another house or two."

"Is that sister of his with him still?"

"Yes. She is a faithful ally. She has taken a daily situation as
companion to a blind lady. It all helps to bring grist to the mill.
Allister is very anxious to come back, Mr. Street. I really see no
reason why he should not. I am sure of one thing--that he is as
capable of doing his work here now as any clerk we employ."

"_Now_. Will you guarantee that he shall continue capable of doing
it?"

"I wish I could guarantee it."

"Of course. If wishes were horses--you know the old adage. Were I to
take him on now, perhaps in winter he would get ill, and have to leave
again. We can't afford those interruptions."

"I trust indeed he would not. He passed well through last winter;
improving in it every day."

"Last winter was a mild one, except for a little extreme cold we had
in November. Next winter may be a severe one. I tell you, Cray,
there's only one safeguard for Allister; and that's a warmer climate.
At any rate, a more settled one. Such is my opinion."

Oswald would not give in. "Considering that Allister is now in health
and strength----"

"Strength for him," put in Mr. Street.

"Well, strength for him if you like to put it so. But I am sure you
would be surprised to see how strong he does appear to be. Considering
this, and that he believes himself to be permanently and radically
cured, it will sound very hard to him if I tell him that we cannot
take him back again."

"If your wish is to have him back--that is, if you make a personal
matter of it--have him," said Mr. Street. "I see you want it."

"Yes, I do," said Oswald. "I wish him back, both as a matter of
personal liking and that his services are efficient. This departure of
mine for Spain will involve the taking on of at least one mon clerk.
Let it be Allister."

"Have it as you like, then," said Mr. Street. "Let Allister come back
at once. Tell him to come on Monday."

So it was settled. They went down talking together, and encountered
Mrs. Benn on the lower passage with a hearth-broom in her hand.

"May I take the tray away, gentlemen?"

Oswald nodded, and the woman went upstairs, her face and her temper as
crusty as they could be.

"I wonder the world's let go on!" she ejaculated, as she flung the
broom on a chair and began to put the things together on the tray. "I
wonder how _they'd_ like to have a day's cleaning to do, and to be
called off for three mortal hours in the midst of it? It's four
o'clock if it's a minute, and I was stopped in my work at one; and if
that's not three hours, I'd like to know what is. I've set to nothing
since; how can I, dressed up to please them? and I'm sure----my! what
cormorants!"

The subjoined sentence, given utterance to by Mrs. Benn in her
surprise, had reference to the mutton-chop dish, on which her eyes had
just rested. She stood a moment gazing at it, her hands uplifted.

"If they haven't gone and ate 'em all! Nine thick chops, and only the
tails of two of 'em left! Well, I'd not own to such famine if I was
gentlefolks. I sent 'em up for show--for I don't forget the trimming I
got for skimping the number last time chops was ordered--never
supposing they'd eat 'em. I meant two of them chops to come up again
for Mr. Oswald Cray's dinner; they'd have done for him, warmed up.
And now they're demolished!--and I must dance out again to that
butcher's--and Benn a-wanting something with _his_ tea, as he's sure
to do, going out without his dinner!--and me with; all the lower part
of the house to do yet!--and got my things to change again. It's a
wonder the world _do_ go on!"

She carried the tray down; but what with glasses and other things, she
could not carry all at once, and had to make two journeys of it. It
did not add to her geniality of mood. Arrived in the kitchen the
second time, she took the things off the tray, folded the cloth
carefully--for in such matters she was very particular--and laid it in
the dresser-drawer. Then putting the other things in a stack to be
washed by and by, she began to make preparations for resuming the
interrupted work. As a preliminary to this, she slowly turned her gown
up over the white apron, and looked round for the broom. After casting
her eyes in all directions, and casting them in vain, recollection
returned to her.

"Drat the broom! If I haven't gone and left it upstairs. I wish their
luncheons and their bother was far enough!"

She turned down her gown again, possibly lest she might encounter
either of her masters on the way, and proceeded up the kitchen stairs.
The broom lay on the chair where she had flung it, in Oswald's
sitting-room. As she took it up she espied some crumbs under the
table, and stooped down to brush them carefully into her hand,
grumbling all the while.

"It's just like 'em! dropping their crumbs down like so many children!
The trouble I'd used to have with that when old Bracknell was here!
He'd shake his table-napkin on the carpet, he would; and Benn, he'd
come away and never----"

"Is this the room? Is he here?"

To be interrupted by those words in a female voice close to her elbow
brought Mrs. Benn to her legs at once. A lady in a gay white bonnet
and violet-tipped feathers, with other attire on the same grand
corresponding scale, stood confronting her. Mrs. Benn could only stare
in the first moment from consternation. And the lady stared too, first
at the room, then at Mrs. Benn, waiting for her question to be
answered.

"Is who here?" cried Mrs. Benn.

"Mr. Oswald Cray. We were ushered up here by a young man whom we saw
in the passage. He said this was Mr. Oswald Cray's room, and he would
send him to us. Is he well?"

Mrs. Benn naturally looked round for some one to whom the "we" could
apply, and saw a young lady at the door. A sweet-looking young lady
whose manner was timid and hesitating, as if she did not like to
advance further into the room. You need not be told that it was Sara
Davenal. She had wished to remain in the fly while Mrs. Cray came up;
but Mrs. Cray had insisted on being accompanied by her indoors, and
Sara was obliged to yield, for she was unable to give any good reason
against it. How could she hint at the relations which had once existed
between her and Mr. Oswald Cray?--at the love that lingered still?

"He's as well as a body can be; leastways if his luncheon's anything
to go by, which he have just eat," replied Mrs. Benn in answer to the
question of the lady, whom she had not taken a fancy to, as she was
permitting her tone to show. "Did you want him?"

"I have come to see him," was the answer. "He is my step-son, and we
have not met for a good while."

Mrs. Benn's manner turned to a sudden thaw. In her crusty way she was
fond of her master, Mr. Oswald Cray; and she thought she might as well
be civil to the lady before her as his step-mother.

"Take a seat, ladies," she said, dusting two chairs with her white
apron, and disposing herself to be cordial and confidential. Fate
seemed to be against Mrs. Benn's cleaning that day, and we most of us
resign ourselves to what can't be helped. This appearance of Mr.
Oswald Cray's step-mother Mrs. Benn regarded as an era in that
gentleman's life, for she could not remember that during his whole
residence there any living relative had come to inquire after him,
with the exception of his brother.

"His step-mother," cried she approvingly, as she stood behind a chair
and rested her arms on the back of it, one hand grasping the brush.
"And might your name be the same as his, ma'am--Mrs. Oswald Cray!"
"I am Mrs. Cray," replied the lady, with emphasis on the one word, and
an impulse to resent the familiarity. But she felt inclined to
encourage the woman in her sociability, feeling a curiosity as to the
everyday movements and doings of Mr. Oswald Cray.

Sara sat a little apart, near the centre table. Her cheek rested on
her fingers, and her eyes were mechanically fixed on a small chart or
plan, which lay at the end of the table opposite to where the
luncheon-tray had been. Quite mechanically her thoughts were buried in
the unhappy occurrence of that morning: the advent of the stranger at
her house and the startling communication of Neal. The gossip of Mrs.
Cray and the woman fell on her ear like the humming of gnats in
summer; heard, but not heeded. Oswald did not appear; and Mrs. Cray,
always restless, as Sara had that morning found out, started from her
seat and said she should go to the rooms below in search of him.

Mrs. Benn had this peculiarity--and yet, I don't know that it can be
called a peculiarity, since so far as my experience teaches me, it is
characteristic of women in general--that however pressing might be her
occupations, if once called off them and launched into the full tide
of gossip, the urgent duties would give way, and the gossip be
willingly pursued until night should fall and stop it. Mrs. Benn,
deprived of her chief listener, the elder lady, turned her attention
on the younger.

"Would you believe it, miss," she said, dropping her voice to a
confidential tone, "his mother's coming here this afternoon bears out
some words I said to my husband only a day or two ago, just as one's
dreams gets bore out sometimes. I says to Benn, 'Mr. Oswald Cray's
relations'll be up, now there's going to be the change.'"

"What change?" asked Sara.

"His marriage, miss."

Ah, she was all too awake to the present now. Her lips parted; her
brow turned cold. "His marriage?"

"It can't be nothing else but his marriage," repeated Mrs. Benn. "Benn
was waiting on him at dinner, and he told him there was perhaps going
to be a change, that he wouldn't have him to wait on long, for he
might be leaving. Joe Benn he comes down and repeats to me, all
wondering, like the gaby he is, what his master meant by it. Why, his
wedding of course, says I; it don't take a conjuror to tell that.
Well, she's a nice young lady."

Sara had her hand raised to her face, apparently pushing back her
braided hair. "Who is she?" came breathing from her lips; and she
could hardly have helped asking it had it been to save her life.

"Well, it's Miss Allister, if it's anybody," returned Mrs. Benn, in
apparent contradiction of what she had just asserted. "They are as
thick as two peas, and I know he goes there a'most every evening."

Sara had heard enough. In her confusion of mind she had scarcely noted
a change taking place in the room. With the last words Mrs. Benn and
her brush glided away, and Oswald Cray had come in. Some one had told
him that a lady was waiting for him in his room, but he was busy at
his desk at the moment and waited to finish what he was about. Nothing
could well exceed his surprise when he saw seated there Miss Sara
Davenal.

Sara rose. She saw by his manner that he was ignorant of his
stepmother's visit, and she felt a little embarrassed as she explained.
"She had only come with Mrs. Cray; Mrs. Cray had just gone down in
search of him."

Oswald supposed she alluded to his brother's wife, and made no
answering comment. As he stood with Sara's hand in his in greeting, he
noted how pale she was; for the startling communication of Mrs. Benn
had scared the blood from her face. It was somewhat singular that this
was the first time they had been alone together since that memorable
day of meeting in the Temple gardens: they had met once or twice
casually at Mark's in a full room, but not otherwise.

"Have you been well?" he asked. "You are not looking very strong."

"Oh, quite well, thank you."

Oswald hastened to ask a question that had long been on his mind. One
that had troubled him perhaps more than he cared to acknowledge to
himself: but he had not felt justified in seeking a special occasion
to put it.

"Now that I have the opportunity, will you forgive me if I ask whether
that unpleasant matter is settled that caused your visits to Essex
Street? I still think you would have done wisely to confide it to me."

"It is quite settled," answered Sara, her tone full of satisfaction.
"Settled and done with." Ah, poor thing, she forgot momentarily, as
she spoke, the fresh grievance opened that morning, which was perhaps
connected with it.

"I am glad of it," he heartily said. "I should not like to have gone
away for an indefinite period knowing that you were in any dilemma,
and no one perhaps to see you out of it. Friendship may still exist
between us tacitly, if not yet actively," he continued in a low
earnest tone. "Nothing else is left to us."

She thought he alluded to his marriage. She stood something like a
statue, feeling cruelly wronged, but loving him beyond everything in
life. Not wronged by him: it was fate that wronged her: he would have
loved her still, had he dared, and she felt that he honoured her in
all tenderness. She felt--and the hot crimson came dyeing her face at
the thought--that he loved her better than that other one.

The rebellious tears welled up to her eyes, and she turned her face
away. "Are you going to be absent long?" she asked, trying to speak
indifferently.

"I think so. How long I cannot tell yet. I am going to Spain."

There was a pause of silence. Sara, with an air of unconcern, began
putting straight the crape folds on her dress skirt. Oswald turned to
the door.

"Where can Caroline be?" he exclaimed. "Did you say she had gone down
in search of me?"

"Not Caroline. It is not Caroline. It is Mrs. Cray, Mark's mother. I
came out with her to show her the way to different places, but I did
not know she was going to bring me here."

"Mark's mother!" But ere Oswald could say more, Mrs. Cray appeared.
She had found her way into Mr. Street's room downstairs, thinking it
might be Oswald's, and had remained making acquaintance with that
gentleman. Oswald Cray the rising engineer, and Oswald Cray the
interloping little son in her husband's house, were essentially two
people in the worldly mind of Mrs. Cray.



CHAPTER XLVI.
AN UNWELCOME VISITOR.


Mark Cray and his wife were attiring themselves by gas-light for some
scene of evening gaiety. The past fortnight--for that period had
elapsed since the arrival of Mrs. Cray in London--had brought nothing
else but gaiety. Shopping in the morning, drives in the afternoon,
whitebait dinners at Blackwell or Greenwich, dinners at Richmond,
theatres in the evening, receptions at home, parties out; noise,
bustle, whirl, and _cost_. Caroline loved the life; were it taken from
her, she said randomly to Mrs. Cray one day, she could not survive,
she should die of _ennui_; and the Miss Crays had never been so happy
in their lives, or their mother either.

Their visit had come to an end now, and they had left for home that
morning. Unwillingly, it is true, but Mrs. Cray had deemed it wise not
to wear out their welcome. They were a large party; and she privately
contemplated a longer visit in the spring, during the glories of the
London season. Mark had treated them right regally, and had contrived
to screw out from some impossible pocket a twenty-pound note, which he
put into his mother's hands for the journey. "I shall be able to allow
you and the girls something worth having next year, when the ore's in
the market regularly," he said to her. Altogether, Mrs. Cray was well
satisfied with her impromptu visit.

"I say, Carine," cried Mark, coming forth from his dressing-room,
"what's gone with my diamond studs?"

"Where's the use of asking me?" was Carine's answer, who was turning
herself slowly round before the large glass, to contemplate the effect
of a new dress which her maid had just finished fixing upon her. "You
must make haste, Mark, or we shall be late. The dinner's at seven,
mind; and I know it does not want above a quarter."

"We shall get there in five minutes," carelessly answered Mark. "I
can't find my diamond studs."

"I think they are in your dressing-case, sir," spoke up the maid. "I
saw them there a day or two ago." Mark went back, and found he had
overlooked them. He finished dressing himself, all but the coat, and
came into his wife's room again.

"Carry, isn't it old what's-his-name's affair tonight in Kensington
Gardens? We promised to go, didn't we?"

"Of course we did, Mark. I intend to go, too. He says it will be a
charming party in spite of the world being out of town. We shall get
away from the dinner by ten o'clock, I daresay. Shall I do?"

She was turning herself round before the glass, as before. Between two
glasses, in fact, one in front, one behind. Her dress was some
beautiful fabric, white and mauve; and her violet eyes and her glowing
cheeks spoke all too plainly of her besetting vanity. Certainly, if
vanity is ever pardonable, it was in Caroline Cray as she stood there,
so radiant in her youth and beauty.

"Oh, you'll do," returned Mark, with scant gallantry; but his white
necktie had been refractory, and he was resettling it again. At that
moment he heard a knock at his dressing-room door.

"Who's there? Come in," he called out, stepping into his own room.

One of the men-servants entered and presented a card to him. Mark,
whose hands were busy with his necktie, bent his head to read it as it
lay on the silver waiter. "Mr. Brackenbury."

"Mr. Brackenbury!" repeated Mark to himself. "Who on earth's Mr.
Brackenbury? I can't see anybody now," he said to the servant. "Tell
him so. I am just going out."

"I told the gentleman you were on the point of going out with my
mistress, sir, that the carriage was waiting at the door; but he
insisted on coming in, and said you would be sure to see him."

"Who is it?" cried Caroline, stepping forward.

"Some Mr. Brackenbury. Don't know him from Adam. Go down, George, and
say that I can _not_ see him, or any one else, this evening."

"The idea of strangers intruding at this hour!" exclaimed Caroline.
"Mark, I daresay it's somebody come to worry you to get them shares in
the mine."

Mark made no reply. He was in enough "worry" just then over his
necktie. "Bother the thing!" he cried, and pulled it off entirely with
a jerk.

The servant came back again. He bore another card, a few lines added
to it in pencil.

"I must and will see you. Denial is useless."

Mark Cray read the words twice over and decided to go down. They
almost seemed to imply a threat, and he did not understand threats.
Mr. Brackenbury had arrived in a Hansom cab, the horse reeking with
the speed it had made; but Mark did not know that yet.

"I won't be a minute, Caroline. The fellow insists on seeing me. I'll
just see what he wants."

Tying on a black necktie temporarily--the one he had taken off
earlier--and putting on his morning coat as he descended the stairs,
Mark entered the room where the visitor was waiting. And then Mark
recognised Mr. Brackenbury as a gentleman who had recently purchased a
few shares in the mine. Amidst the many, many shareholders, it was not
surprising that Mark had forgotten the name of one of them. In point
of fact these few shares had been Mark's own. Being excessively
pressed for ready money he had ordered his broker to sell them out.

"Oh, Mr. Brackenbury!" said Mark, shaking hands with him in a cordial
manner. "Do you know, your name had completely escaped my memory. I
have not a moment to spare for you tonight. I am going out with my
wife to dinner."

"Mr. Cray," said the visitor, a middle wed, solemn-looking man, "you
must return me my two hundred pounds. I have come for it."

"Return you your two hundred pounds!" echoed Mark. "My good sir, I
don't understand you. What two hundred pounds?"

"The two hundred pounds I paid for those shares. They were transferred
from your name to mine; therefore I know they were your own."

"They were my own," said Mark. "What of that?"

"Well, I must have the money returned to me, and you can receive back
the shares. I have brought them in my pocket. I am of a determined
spirit, sir, and I will have it returned." Mark flew into a rage. He
was a great man now, and great men do not take such words with
impunity. "You can have your money back tomorrow," he said, with
haughty contempt. "Take the shares to my broker--if you don't possess
one of your own--and he will repurchase them of you."

"Ah," said Mr. Brackenbury. "But I want the money from you tonight. I
want it now."

"Then you can't have it," returned Mark.

Mr. Brackenbury advanced--both of them were standing--and laid his
finger on Mark's arm. "Mr. Cray, I have not come to you as an enemy; I
don't wish to be one, and there's no occasion for unpleasantness
between us. I want my money back, and I must have it--_I must have
it_, understand, and tonight. After that, I will hold my tongue as
long as it will serve you."

Was the man talking Greek? was he out of his mind? What did it mean?
Mark's indignation began to lose itself in puzzled curiosity.

"I have had a private telegram tonight from the mine," resumed Mr.
Brackenbury, dropping his voice to a cautious whisper. "Something is
amiss with it. I jumped into a Hansom----"

"Something amiss with it!" interrupted Mark, cutting short the
explanation, and his tone insensibly changing to one of dread; for
that past summer's night which had brought the telegram to Mr. Barker
recurred vividly to his mind. "Is it water?" he breathed.

Mr. Brackenbury nodded. "An irruption of water. I fear--you'll see, of
course--but I fear the mine and its prosperity are at an end. Now, Mr.
Cray, you repay me my money and I'll hold my tongue. If this does not
get about--and it shall not through me--you'll have time to negotiate
some of your shares in the market tomorrow morning, and put something
in your pocket before the disaster gets wind. I only want to secure
myself. Trifling as the sum of two hundred pounds may seem to you, its
loss to me would be utter ruin."

Mark felt bewildered. "And if I do not give you the two hundred pounds
tonight, what then!"

"Then I go out with the dawn of morning and publish the failure of the
mine to the City. I'll publish it tonight. But you'll not drive me to
that, Mr. Cray. I don't want to harm you; I have said it; but my money
I must have. It would not be pleasant for me to proclaim that there
has already been one irruption of water into the mine, which you and
Barker kept secret. I happen to know so much; and that the shares were
sold to me _after_ it, as I daresay shares have been sold to others.
Perhaps the public might look on that as a sort of fraud. _I_ do; for
I consider a mine never is safe, once the water has been in it."

Mark paused. "It is strange that news of this should have come to you
tonight and not to me."

"Not at all," said Mr. Brackenbury. "I am having the mine watched. It
is only lately that I heard about that first irruption of water: I did
not like it; and as I happen to have a friend down there I got him to
be on the look-out."

"Is it any one connected with the mine?" asked Mark, sharply.

"Yes, it is; no one else could do it. But that's of no consequence. I
had a telegram from him tonight----"

"Will you let me see it!" interrupted Mark.

"I did not bring it with me. It told me that the water was flowing
into the mine; _flowing_, mind; and it added these words. 'Not known
here yet.' I infer, therefore, that the men had left the mine for the
night, that the mischief will not be generally known there until the
morning, and consequently cannot be known here. You will have time to
save something."

Mark felt as if water were flowing over him. He stood there under the
gas-burner--the servant had only lighted one--a picture of perplexity,
his face blank, his hand running restlessly through his hair, after
his old restless manner, the diamond studs in his shirt sparkling and
gleaming. All this sounded as though some treason, some treachery,
were at work. If this man could get news up, he and Barker ought to
have got it.

A knock at the door. It opened about an inch, and Caroline's voice was
heard.

"Mark, we _must_ go. We are keeping the dinner waiting." And Mark was
turning towards her, when Mr. Brackenbury silently caught him by the
arm, and spoke in a whisper.

"No! Not until you have given me my money."

"Allow me to say a word to my wife," said Mark, haughtily. "I will
return to you in an instant."

Caroline stood there with questioning eyes and a rebellious face. Mark
shut the door while he spoke to her.

"You must go on alone, my dear. I can't come yet. I'll join you later
in the evening."

"Mark! What's that for?"

"Hush! This gentleman has come up on business from the City, and I
must attend to him," whispered Mark. "I'll get rid of him as soon as I
can."

He was hurrying her out to the carriage as he spoke, and he placed her
in it, she yielding to his strong will in her bewilderment. Once
seated in it then she spoke.

"But, Mark, why should he come on business _now?_ What is the
business?"

"Oh, it has to do with the Great Wheal Bang," said Mark, carelessly.
"It's all right; only I can't get away just at the minute. I won't be
long. They are not to wait dinner, mind."

The carriage drove away, and Mark returned indoors. His unwelcome
visitor stood in the same place, apparently not having stirred hand or
foot.

"How am I to know whether this news you have brought it true?" was
Mark's first question. And Mr. Brackenbury looked at him for a minute
before replying to it.

"I don't altogether take you, Mr. Cray. You cannot think I should
knowingly bring you a false report; my character is too well respected
in the City for you to fear that; and you may rely upon it, unhappily,
that there's no mistake in the tidings forwarded to me."

"Well--allowing that it shall prove to be true--why can't you take
your shares into the market and realise tomorrow morning, as well as
coming to me for the money tonight?"

"Because I am not sure that I could realise!" was the frank response.
"I don't suppose the intelligence will be public by that time; I don't
think it will; but I cannot answer for it that it won't. You must give
me the money, Mr. Cray."

Mark took an instant's gloomy counsel with himself. Might he dare to
defy this man, and refuse his demands He feared not. Mark was no more
scrupulous than are some other shareholders we have read of; and the
chance of realising something in the morning, to pit against the utter
ruin that seemed to be impending was not to be forfeited rashly. But
how was he to pay the money? He had not two hundred shillings in the
house, let alone two hundred pounds.

"I can't give it you tonight," said Mark; "I have not got it to give."

"I must and will have it," was the resolute answer. "I daresay you can
go out and get it somewhere: fifty people would be glad to lend you
money. I shall stay here until I have it. And if you deem me scant of
courtesy tonight, Mr. Cray, you may set it down to the sore feeling in
my mind at the circumstances under which the shares were sold to me.
I'd never have touched them had I suspected water had been already in
the mine."

"That's talking nonsense," said Mark, in his irritation. "The mine was
as sound and as safe after the water had been in it as it was before.
It was nothing more than a threatening; nothing to hurt."

"A threatening--just so. Well, it is of no use to waste time
squabbling over terms now. That will do no good."

Mr. Brackenbury was right. It certainly would do no good. Mark went
out, leaving him there, for he refused to stir; and, not seeing a cab,
ran full speed to Mr. Barker's lodgings in Piccadilly. A Hansom could
not have gone quicker. It was not that he hoped Mr. Barker would
supply the two hundred pounds; that gentleman was as short of ready
cash as himself; but Mark was burning with impatience to impart the
disastrous news, and to hear whether Barker had had intelligence of
it.

Disappointment. When Mark, panting, breathless, excited, seized the
bell of Mr. Barker's house and rang a peal that frightened the street,
he was told that Mr. Barker was not within. He had gone out in the
afternoon: the servant did not know where.

"Has any telegram come up from Wales tonight?" gasped Mark.

"Telegram, sir? No, sir; nothing at all has come tonight, neither
letter nor anything."

"I'll be back in a short while," said Mark. "If Mr. Barker returns,
tell him to wait in for me. It is of the very utmost importance that I
should see him."

He turned away, jumped into a cab that was passing, and ordered it to
drive to Parliament Street. The two hundred pounds he _must_ get
somehow, and he knew nobody he could apply to at the pinch, save
Oswald.

Mark was not the only visitor to Oswald Cray that night. He had been
sitting alone, after his dinner, very deep in deliberation, when Benn
came up showing in a gentleman. It proved to be Henry Oswald.

They had not met since the funeral of Lady Oswald twelve months
before, and at the first moment Oswald scarcely knew him. Henry Oswald
was a cordial-mannered man. He had not inherited the cold heart and
the haughty bearing so characteristic of the Oswalds of Thorndyke, and
he grasped Oswald's hand warmly.

"I have been out of England nearly ever since we met, Oswald--I am
sure you will let me call you so, we are near relatives--or I should
have sought to improve the acquaintance begun at that short meeting. I
want you to be friendly with me. I know how wrong has been the
estrangement, and what cause you have to hate us; but surely you and I
can afford to do away with the prejudice that has kept you from
Thorndyke, and Thorndyke from you."

Oswald saw how genuine were the words, how earnest the wish imparted
in them; and from that moment his "prejudice" went out of him, as far
as Henry Oswald was concerned, and his eye lighted up with an earnest
of the future friendship. He had liked Henry Oswald at that first
meeting; he liked him still.

They sat together, talking of the days gone by, when they two were
unconscious children. Of Oswald's mother; of the conduct of her family
towards her; of the insensate folly--it was his son called it so--that
still estranged Sir Philip from Oswald Cray. They talked freely and
fully as though they had been intimate for years--far more
confidentially than Oswald had ever talked to his half-brother.

"I shall be _proud_ of your friendship, Oswald," cried the young man,
warmly; "if that's not an ominous word for one of us. But I fancy you
inherit the family failing far more than I. You will be one of the
world's great men yet, making yourself a name that the best might
envy."

Oswald laughed. "If the world envies those who work hard, then it may
envy me."

"I can tell you what, Oswald, if work's not envied in these days, it
is honoured. In the old days of darkness--I'm sure I can call them so,
in comparison with these--it was such as I who were envied. The man
born with a silver spoon in his mouth, who need do nothing his whole
life long but sit down in idleness and enjoy his title and fortune,
and be clothed in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every
day--he got the honour then. _Now_ the man of industry and talent is
bowed down to, he who labours onwards and upwards to use and improve
the good gifts bestowed upon him by God. It may be wrong to say it,
but I do say it in all sincerity, that I, Henry Oswald, born to my
baronetcy, envy you, Oswald Cray, born to work."

From one subject they went to another. In talking of the Cray family,
they spoke of Mark, and from Mark the transition to the Great Wheal
Bang Company was easy. Henry Oswald had heard and read of its promise,
and he now asked Oswald's opinion of its stability. He had a few
hundreds to spare for he had not been an extravagant man, and felt
inclined to embark them in the Great Wheal Bang. Oswald advised his
doing so. He himself had embarked all his saved cash in it, a thousand
pounds, and he thought he had done well.

"Then I'll see about it tomorrow," decided Henry Oswald; "and get it
completed before I go down to Thorndyke."

He departed soon, for he was engaged out that evening, and Oswald
resumed the train of thought which his entrance had interrupted. The
_deliberation_ it may be said. He was pondering a grave question:
Should he not despatch Frank Allister to Spain in place of himself?
Allister was equally capable; and two or three years' residence in
that climate might renovate him for life. It would be a great
sacrifice for him, Oswald; a sacrifice, in some degree, of name and
fame, and of pecuniary benefit; but he was a conscientious man, very
different from the generality of business men, who seek their own
elevation, no matter who is left behind. Oswald as a child had learnt
the good wholesome doctrine of doing to others as we would be done by:
and he _carried it out practically in life_, content to leave the
issue with God. How many of us can say as much?

A few minutes' earnest thought and he raised his head with a clear
countenance. The decision was made.

"Allister shall go," he said, half-aloud. "Should he get ill again in
this wretched climate next winter, and die, I should have it on my
conscience for ever. It will be a sacrifice for me: but how can I put
my advancement against his life? I ought not, and I will not."

The words had scarcely left his lips when Mark came in. Not Mark as we
saw him just now, troubled, eager, panting; but Mark all coolness and
smiles. A little hurried, perhaps, but that was nothing.

He had come to ask Oswald a favour. Would he accommodate him with a
cheque for two hundred pounds until the banks opened in the morning? A
gentleman, to whom was owing that sum on account of the Great Wheal
Bang bad urgent need of it that very night, and had come bothering
him, Mark, for it. If Oswald would accommodate him, he, Mark, should
feel very much obliged, and would return it in the morning with many
thanks.

"I have not got as much of my own," said Oswald.

"But you can give me a cheque of the firm's, can't you?" returned
Mark, playing carelessly with his diamond studs.

Oswald did not much like this suggestion, and hesitated. Mark spoke
again.

"It will be rendering me the greatest possible service, Oswald. The
fellow has to leave town, or something, by one of the night trains.
You shall have it back the first thing in the morning."

"You are sure that I shall, Mark?"

"Sure!" echoed Mark, opening his small grey eyes very wide in
surprise. "Of course I am sure. Do you think I should forget to bring
it you? Let me have it at once, there's a good brother. Carine will
think I am never coming; we have to go to two parties tonight."

Oswald wrote the cheque and gave it him. It was a cheque of the firm:
"Bracknell, Street, and Oswald Cray:" for Oswald's name appeared now.

And Mr. Mark carried it off with him. "There's a good brother,"
indeed! I wonder how he slept that night!



CHAPTER XLVII.
COMMOTION.


With the wing of the dawn--that is, with the wing of the dawn for
business in London--Mark Cray was at the offices in the City. Barker
was there before him, and started forward to meet him as he entered.
Mark had not succeeded in seeing Barker the previous night.

"Cray, it's all up. I'm afraid it's all up."

"Have you heard from Wales?"

"I got a telegram this morning. There's an irruption of water, in
earnest this time. It's flowing in like so many pumps. Look here."

Mark's hands shook as he laid hold of the telegram. "I wasn't in bed
till three o'clock," said he, as if he would give an excuse for the
signs of agitation. But though he tried to account for his shaking
hands, he could not for his scared face.

Yes Mr. Barker was no doubt right: it was "all up" with the Great
Wheal Bang. Mark and he stood alone over the table in the board-room:
in consultation as to what they could do, and what they might do.

Might they dare--allowing that the public still reposed in happy
security--to take some shares into the market, and secure themselves
something out of the wreck? Barker was all for doing it; at any rate
for _trying_ it--"whether it would work," he said. Mark hung back in
indecision: he thought there might be after-consequences. He told
Barker the episode of Mr. Brackenbury's visit, and of his satisfying
that gentleman with the cheque of Bracknell, Street, and Oswald Cray,
which cheque was no doubt cashed by that time.

"Mean old idiot!" apostrophised Mr. Barker. "That's always the way
with those petty people. They'll make more fuss over their paltry
hundred pounds or two than others do over thousands. I'd not have paid
him, Mark."

"I couldn't help it," said Mark. "You should have seen the work he
made. Besides, if I had not, he'd have proclaimed the thing from one
end of London to another."

"Well, about these shares," said Barker. "We must make as much as ever
we can. Will you go, or shall I?"

"Perhaps it's known already," returned Mark, dubiously.

"Perhaps it isn't. Brackenbury gave you his word that he'd keep quiet,
and who else is likely to know it? Letters _can't_ get here till the
afternoon post, and nobody at the mine would make it their business to
telegraph up."

Mark stood in restless indecision. When annoyed, he was fidgety to a
degree; could not be still. Perhaps he had inherited his mother's
temperament He pushed back his hair incessantly; he fingered nervously
the diamond studs in his shirt. Mark was not in the habit of wearing
those studs by day, or the curiously fine embroidery they were
adorning. Whether, in his confusion of faculties, he had put in the
studs that morning, or had absently retired to rest in his shirt the
previous night, studs and all, must be left to conjecture.

"Look here, Barker," said he. "If news had not come to _us_ of the
disaster, to you and to me, I'd willingly have taken every share we
possess into the market, and got the money for them down, if I could.
But the news _has_ come: and I don't think it would do."

"Who's to know it has come?" asked Barker.

"Well, things do often come out, you know; they nearly always do;
especially if they are not wanted to. Perhaps the telegraph office
could be brought up to prove it, or something of that."

"Well?" said Barker.

"Well," repeated Mark. "It mightn't do."

"Oh, bother, Cray! We must do it. We must stand out through thick and
thin afterwards that the message never reached us. I could; and you
are safe, for you have not had one at all. Look at our position. We
_must_ realise. Of course we can't attempt to negotiate many shares;
that would betray us; but a few we might, and must. We must, for our
own sakes we can't stand naked, without a penny to fall back upon."

Mark still hesitated. "I'd have done it with all the pleasure in life
but for this telegram," he reiterated. "For one thing, Oswald would
never forgive me; my name's the same as his, you know; and I shall
have to face him over this two hundred pounds: that will be bad
enough. And there's my mother. And my wife, Barker; you forget her."

"I don't forget her. I am thinking of her," was Mr. Barker's answer.
"It's for her sake, as much as ours, that you ought to secure a little
ready money. You'll want it. I know that much, for I have been down in
luck before."

Mark looked irresolute and pitiably gloomy. "I don't see my way
clear," he resumed, after a pause. "Let's put the thing into plain
black and white. I go out, and sell some shares, and get the money
paid down for them, and pocket it. An hour afterwards the news spreads
that the mine's destroyed, and the shares are consequently worthless.
Well, Barker, my belief is that they could proceed against me
criminally for disposing of those shares----"

"Not if you did not know the mine was wrong when you took them into
the market."

"Nonsense," returned Mark, irritably, "they'd be sure to know it. I
tell you it would be safe to come out by hook or by crook. They'd call
it felony, or swindling, or some such ugly name. Do you suppose I'm
going to put my head into that noose? I was born a gentleman."

"And do you suppose I wish either of us to do it?" retorted Barker. "I
shouldn't be such a fool. I never go into a thing unless I know I can
fight my way out of it. I shall take a few shares into the market, and
feel my way. I shall sell them for money, if I can; and you shall
share it, Mark. I suppose you won't object to that."

No, certainly, Mark would have no objection to that.

"I did not hear of the disaster until later, you know," said Barker,
winking. "News of it came up to us by the afternoon post. If they do
find out about the telegram, why, I never opened it. Nobody saw me
open it," added Barker, with satisfaction. "I have had so many up from
the mine at my lodgings that the servants sign and put them in my
sitting-room as a matter of course. This one was put there this
morning, and I found it when I came down, but nobody was in the room.
Oh, it will be all right. And I say, Mark, if----"

Mr. Barker's smooth projects were stopped. Absorbed in their
conversation, he and Mark had alike failed to notice a gradually
gathering hum in the street outside. A very gentle, almost
imperceptible hum at first, but increasing to a commotion now. With
one bound they reached the window.

A concourse of people, their numbers being augmented every moment, had
assembled beneath. They were waiting for the opening of the offices of
the Great Wheal Bang at ten o'clock. And the hour was almost on the
point of striking.

"It's all up," shouted Barker in Mark's ear. "The news is abroad, and
they have heard of it. Look at their faces!"

The faces were worth looking at, though not as a pleasant sight.
Anger, rage, disappointment, above all _impatience_, were depicted
there. The impatience of a wolf waiting to spring upon its prey. One
of the faces unluckily turned its gaze upwards and caught sight of
Barker's. Barker saw it; he had not been quick enough in drawing away
from the window.

"They'll not be kept out now, doors or no doors," said he quietly to
Mark.

Mr. Barker was right. Ere the words had died away upon his lips a
sound as if the walls of the house were being beaten in ensued. The
bells commenced a perpetual peal the knocker knocked incessantly, the
doors were pushed and kicked and thumped. In the midst of it rose the
sound of human voices in a roar: disjointed words distinguishable
amidst the tumult. "Let us in! Come out to us!"

Mr. Barker advanced to the stairs, and leaned over the balustrades.
"Williams," he called out to an attendant official below, "you can
open the doors. The gentlemen may come up."

It was curious to note the difference in the two men. Barker was as
cool as a cucumber; self-possessed as ever he had been in his life;
ready to make the best of everything, and quite equal to the
emergency. Mark Cray, on the contrary, seemed to have parted alike
with his wits and his nerves. Not more completely did he lose his
presence of mind in that long past evening which had been so fatal to
Lady Oswald. His hands shook as with terror; his faff was white as
death.

"Will they pull us to pieces, Barker?"

"Pooh!" said Barker, with a laugh at the evident tremor. "What has
taken you, Mark? Let them rave on a bit without answering, and they'll
calm down. Put _that_ in your pocket," he continued. "It will be a
trifle to fall back upon."

He had touched the diamond ring that glittered on Mark Cray's finger.
Mark obeyed like a child. He took it from his hand and thrust it into
his waistcoat pocket; next he buttoned his coat, some vague feeling
perhaps prompting him to hide the studs; but he did it all
mechanically, as one not conscious of his actions. Terror was holding
its sway over him.

"Why should they be excited against us? Heaven knows we have not
intentionally wronged them."

"That's just the question I shall ask them myself when they are cool
enough to listen to it," rejoined Barker with a gay air. "Now then
comes the tug of war."

In they came, thick and threefold, dashing up the stairs and pouring
into the room like so many bees. And then it was found that Mark's
apprehensions had been somewhat premature. For these shareholders had
come flowing to the offices not so much to abuse the projectors of the
company as to inquire the true particulars of the disaster. The news
had gone forth in a whisper--and to this hour neither Mark nor Barker
knows how, or through whom, it had oozed out--but that whisper was
vague and uncertain. Naturally those interested flew to the offices
for better information. Was the damage of great extent? and would the
mine and the company stand it?

Barker was of course all suavity. He treated the matter more as a joke
than anything else, making light of it altogether. An irruption of
water? well, perhaps a little drop had got in, but they must wait for
the afternoon's post. It would be all right.

He looked round for Mark, hoping that gentleman's face would not
arouse suspicion; but he could not see him. Mark, as Barker learnt
afterwards, had contrived to escape from the room as the throng
entered, and got into the street unnoticed, and leaped into a cab.
Mark was beside himself that morning.

The unfortunate news spread from one end of London to the other. It
was carried to Oswald Cray; but the day was advancing then. "The Great
Wheal Bang Company had exploded, and there was a run upon the office."
Oswald was startled; and betook himself at once to the premises, as
the rest had done. On his way he called in upon Henry Oswald, and
spoke a word of caution.

"It may be a false rumour," said he; "I hope it is. But don't do
anything in the shares until you know."

A false rumour! When Oswald reached the offices he found it all too
true a one. The secretary to the company, without meaning to do
ill--indeed he had let it out in his lamentation--had unwittingly
disclosed the fact of the previous irruption of water in the summer:
and the excited crowd were going wild with anger. Many of them had
bought their shares at a period subsequent to that.

Oswald heard this, and went to Mr. Barker in the board-room. That
gentleman, rather heated certainly, but with unchanged suavity of
demeanour, was still doing his best to reassure everybody. Oswald drew
him aside.

"What a dreadful thing this is! What is the real truth of it?"

"Hush!" interrupted Mr. Barker. "No need to tell the worst to them. You
are one of us. I'm afraid it is all up with the mine; but we will keep
it from them as long as we can. Anyway, it's no fault of ours."

"What is it that they are saying about an irruption of water having
occurred in the summer?"

"Well, so it did," answered Mr. Barker, whose past few hours'
temporising with the crowd caused him perhaps to throw off reserve to
Mr. Oswald Cray as a welcome relief. "But it wasn't much, that; and we
succeeded in keeping it dark."

"Did Mark know of it?"

"Mark know of it!" rejoined Barker; "of course he knew of it. What
should hinder him? Why, the telegram bringing the news was given me at
Mark's house; and, by the way, you were present, I remember. It was
the evening that old doctor in the yellow trousers was there, with his
two frights of daughters."

The scene rose as in a mirror before Oswald's memory. Dr. Ford and his
daughters, Miss Davenal and Sara, Caroline Cray in her silks and her
beauty. He remembered the telegram, he remembered that it appeared to
disturb both Barker and Mark; and he remembered Mark's denial to him
that anything was amiss with the mine.

"I do recollect it," he said aloud. "It struck me--perhaps it was
rather singular it should do so--that something was wrong. Mark
declared to me that it was not so."

The words seemed to tickle Barker uncommonly.

"Ah," said he, laughing, "Mark told me of it, and how he turned you
off the scent. You'd not have put your thousand into it, perhaps, had
you known of the water."

"Perhaps not," quietly replied Oswald. "And my thousand was wanted, I
suppose."

"Law! you don't know the money that's been wanted," was the response.
"And that irruption of water, slight as it was, made the demand for it
worse. The mine has sucked it in like a sponge."

Oswald made no answering remark. "I suppose this irruption is worse
than that?" he presently observed.

"Indeed I fear this is another thing altogether--ruin. But we ion%
know anything certain until the post comes in this afternoon. We have
had no letter yet."

"How did the news of it come to you?"

"By telegram. But the first news came to Mark; in an odd manner, too.
A curmudgeon of a shareholder, old Brackenbury, went up yesterday
evening to Mark just as he was going out to dinner with his wife, and
insisted upon his paltry money, only two hundred pounds, being
returned to him. He was inclined to be nasty; and if Mark had not
satisfied him he'd have gone over London proclaiming that the mine was
overflowing with water. The odd thing is, who could have telegraphed
the news to him. We must have a traitor in the camp. Mark told me--oh,
ah," broke off Mr. Barker, interrupting himself as a recollection
flashed upon him--"I think he got the two hundred from you."

"And Mark knew the mine was then ruined!" returned Oswald, drawing in
his lips, but not losing his calm equanimity.

"Brackenbury _said_ it was. He didn't know it otherwise.
Brackenbury--Halloa! what's that?"

It was a shout in the street. A shout composed of roars, and hisses,
and groans. Drawing up to the door of the offices was the handsome
carriage of Mark Cray; and the crowd had turned their indignation upon
it.

One look, one glimpse of the white and terror-stricken faces of its
inmates, and Oswald Cray bounded down the stairs. They were the faces
of Mrs. Cray and Sara Davenal.

What could have brought them there?



CHAPTER XLVIII.
DAY-DREAMS RUDELY INTERRUPTED.


Before a costly breakfast service of Sèvres porcelain, with its
adjuncts of glittering silver, on the morning subsequent to the visit
of Mr. Brackenbury, had sat Caroline Cray, in a charming morning robe
of white muslin and blue ribbons, with what she would have called a
_coiffure_, all blue ribbons and white lace, on her silky hair. A
stranger, taking a bird's-eye view of the scene, of the elegant room,
the expensive accessories, the recherché attire of its mistress, would
have concluded that there was no lack of means, that the income
supporting all this must at least be to the extent of some thousands
a-year.

In truth Mark Cray and his wife were a practical illustration of that
homely but expressive saying which must be so familiar to you all;
_they had begun at the wrong end of the ladder_. When fortune has
come; when it is actually realised, in the hands, then the top of the
ladder, comprising its Sèvres porcelain and other costs in accordance,
may be safe and consistent; but if we _begin_ there without first
climbing to it, too many of us have an inconvenient fashion of
slipping down again. The furniture surrounding Caroline Cray was of
the most beautiful design, the most costly nature; the lace on that
morning-robe, on that pretty "coiffure," would make a hole in a £20
bank-note, the silver ornaments on the table were fit for the first
palace in the land, and Mr. and Mrs. Cray had got these things about
them--and a great deal more besides which I have not time to tell you
of--anticipatory of the fortune that was _to be_ theirs; not that
already _was_. And now their footing on that high ladder was beginning
to tremble: just as that of the milkmaid did when she sent the milk
out of her milk-pails, and so destroyed her dreams.

Caroline sat at her late breakfast, toying with a fashionable
newspaper--that is, one giving notice of the doings of the fashionable
world--sipping her coffee, flirting with some delicate bits of
buttered roll, casting frequent glances at the mirror opposite to her,
in whose polished plate was reflected that pretty face, which in her
pardonable vanity she believed had not its compeer. All unconscious
was she of that turbulent scene then being enacted in the City; of the
fact that her husband was at that moment finding his way to her in a
cab, into which he had jumped to hide himself in abject fear and
dismay. Caroline had slept sound and late after her night's gaiety,
and awoke in the morning to find her husband had gone out.

The French clock behind her struck eleven, and she finished her
breakfast quickly, and began thinking over her plans for the day. Some
excursion into the country had been spoken of for the afternoon, and
now Mark was gone she was at an uncertainty. Mrs. Cray tapped her
pretty foot in petulance on the carpet, and felt exceedingly angry
with the tiresome stranger who had disturbed her husband when he was
dressing on the previous evening, and kept him from going out with her
to dinner.

"How long did that gentleman stop here last night, George!" she
suddenly asked of the servant who was removing the breakfast things.
"Mr.-- what was the name? Brackenbury, I think."

"He stopped a good while, ma'am. I think it was between nine and ten
when he left."

"What a shame! Keeping Mr. Cray all that while. I wonder he stayed
with him! _I_ wouldn't. I'd make people come to me in business hours, if
I were Mark."

She sat on, after the departure of the breakfast things, leaning back
in an easy chair and turning carelessly the leaves of a new novel,
those that would open, for she did not exert herself to cut them. A
very listless mood was she in that morning, tired and out of sorts. By
and by her maid came in to ask about some alteration that was to be
made in a dress, and Caroline told her to bring the dress to her.

That a little aroused her. It was a beautiful evening dress of
flowered silk, and she stood over the table where the maid laid it
consulting with her about some change in the colour of the trimmings.
Becoming absorbed in this, she scarcely noticed that some one had come
into the hall and opened the door of the room. Some expression in the
maid's countenance as she looked up caught her attention, and she
turned quickly round.

Mark was there, glancing into the room. Mark with a white aspect and a
scared dreamy look on his face. Before Caroline had time to question,
in fact almost before she looked, he was gone and had closed the door
again. So quiet had been the movement, so transient the vision, that
Caroline spoke in her surprise.

"Was not that your master?"

"Yes, ma'am. Something was the matter, I think. He looked ill."

"I will go and see. Mind, Long, I'll decide upon pink. It is the
prettiest colour."

"Very well, ma'am. As you please, of course. I only think pink won't
go so well with the dress as violet."

"I tell you, Long, that violet _will not_ light up. You know it won't,
without my having to reiterate it over to you. No colour lights up so
bad as violet. Pink: and let the ruchings be very full and handsome."

Speaking the last words in a peremptory tone, she went in search of
Mark. He was standing upright in the dining-room, in the midst of its
floor, looking more like a man lost than a man in his composed senses.

"Mark, what's the matter?"

He turned to his wife,--he had been undecided whether to tell her or
not. It was a question he debated with himself on his way down: that
is, it had been floating through his mind in a sort of undercurrent.
To concentrate his thoughts deliberately upon one point sufficiently
to debate it was that day beyond the power of Mark Cray.

Mark's true disposition was showing itself now. Vacillating and
unstable by nature, utterly deficient in that moral courage which
meets an evil when it comes, and looks it steadily in the face to see
how it may be best dealt with, the blow of the morning had taken away
what little sense Mark possessed. He was as a frightened child; a ship
without a rudder; he was utterly unable to distinguish what his proper
course ought to be: he did not know where to go or what to do; his
chief thought was, to get away from the torrent that had broken loose.
He must hide himself from the storm, but he could not face it.

When he jumped into the cab, and the driver had said, "Where to, sir?"
he gave his home in Grosvenor Place in answer, simply because he could
not think of another direction to give in that bewildering moment: so
the cab drove on. But Mark did not want to go to Grosvenor Place. He
had nothing to get from there: he had no business there, and a feeling
came over him that he had rather not meet his wife just then. He
wanted to hide himself and his bewildered mind and his scared face in
some nook of remote shelter, far from the haunts of men, where that
remorseless crowd, just escaped from, would not pounce upon him. Mark
had not given himself time to ascertain that their disposition was
pacificatory: he was wondering rather whether they had yet pulled the
offices down. Neither Mark Cray nor Caroline was fitted to encounter
the storms of life. So long as the sailing was smooth it was well; but
when the waves arose, rough and turbulent, the one proved physically,
the other morally, unable to breast them.

Mark stopped the cab as it was turning into Grosvenor Place; some
vague feeling prompting him that it might be safer to steal quietly
into his home than to dash up to it in a cab. The tidings had perhaps
travelled far and wide, and people might be already there, as well as
at the offices. Mark was half determined to make the best of his way
at once to the scene of the Great Wheal Bang itself, the mine; and see
with his own eyes whether things were so bad that they could not be
mended. At least he should be away from his furious enemies in London.
One more under the influence of reason than Mark Cray might have
thought it well to ascertain whether those enemies were so furious,
before running from them. When a man of no moral courage loses his
presence of mind, he merits pity perhaps rather than condemnation.

"Mark, what's the matter?"

With her actual presence before him, with the pointed question on her
lips, Mark Cray's indecision went completely out. He could no more
have told her the truth at that moment, that the golden prospects so
implicitly believed in had turned to ruin, and the offices yonder were
being besieged by noisy shareholders, than he could have told it to
the besiegers themselves.

"The matter?" repeated Mark, at a loss for any other answer.

"You look as if something were the matter, Mark. And what have you
come back for?"

"Oh, I left some papers at home," answered Mark, speaking as
carelessly as he could. "There's nothing the matter with me. The
fellow drove fast, that's all. I gave him an extra sixpence."

Perhaps Caroline did not deem this communication particularly relevant
to the subject. "What made you go away so early, Mark?" she asked.
"You never settled anything about Hendon today."

"Well, I don't think I can go," said Mark. "I'll--I'll see later.
Hark!"

Mark's "hark" was spoken in echo to a thundering knock at the door. A
knock and a ring enough to shake the house down. He looked round at
the walls for a moment as if he wanted to make a dash into them; he
stepped towards the window, hesitated, and drew away again; finally he
opened the door to escape, but too late, for voices were already in
the hall. Caroline looked at her husband in wondering dismay.

"Mark, what has come to you?"

"Hush!" whispered Mark, the perspiration welling up to his forehead,
as he bent his head to catch the sound from those voices. "Hark!
hush!"

"Is Mr. Cray at home?"

"No, sir. He went to the City early this morning." How Mark Cray
blessed his servant for the unconscious mistake, he alone could tell.
The man had not seen his master come in, and had no idea he was in the
house.

"Gone to the City, is he? Are you sure?"

"Quite sure, sir."

A pause. Mark's heart was beating.

"What time will he be home?"

"I don't know, sir."

Another pause. "I suppose Mr. Barker's not here?"

"Mr. Barker? O dear no, sir."

And that was followed by the closing of the hall-door. Mark Cray gave
a great gasp of relief, and went upstairs to his own room.

He did not stay there above a minute. Caroline--she remembered it
afterwards--heard a drawer or two opened and shut. She had been
following him, but was momentarily detained by a question from her
maid, who was coming out of the breakfast-room with the dress upon her
arm. Caroline stopped while she answered it, and in going up the
stairs she met Mark coming down.

"Who was that at the door, Mark? Did you think it was any one in
particular?"

"I don't know who it was."

"You seemed alarmed. Or annoyed."

"Well," returned Mark, speaking rather fast, "and it is annoying to
have business fellows corning after me to my house. Why can't they go
to the offices?"

"To be sure," said Caroline, reassured. "I'd not see a soul here, if I
were you."

He had been walking on towards the hall-door while he spoke. But ere
he had well reached it, he turned, and drew his wife into one of the
rooms.

"Look here, Caroline: I'm not sure but I shall have to go down to the
mines tonight. If so, it is just possible I may not be able to come
here first. So you won't be alarmed if you don't see me home."

"What a hurry you must be in!" exclaimed Caroline. "Not come home
first!"

"But if I do go, mind, it will be on a little private matter that I
don't want known," he continued, taking no notice of the remark. "So,
if anybody should ask where I am, just answer that you can't tell, but
that I shall be back in a day or two. Do you understand, Carine?"

"Quite well. But, Mark, you will come home first, won't you?"

"I only tell you this in case I don't come," he answered evasively. "I
have a good deal to do today. Goodbye, Carine."

"But about Hendon?" she interrupted.

"Hendon? Oh, I am quite sure I shan't have time for Hendon today. If
you don't like to go without me, we must put it off for a day or two."
He stooped to kiss her. Opening the hall-door, he stood on the steps,
looking right and left; carelessly, as it seemed; in reality,
cautiously. Very timorous was Mark Cray in that hour; he did not like
that people should have hunted him to his very home. Then he turned to
the Victoria Station, perhaps as the nearest point of refuge. He would
make his way to Wales, to the mine, as straightly and speedily as he
could, consistent with precaution.

Mark had been gone the best part of an hour, and it was hard upon
midday. His wife was just deliberating whether to go shopping in the
afternoon, or make calls, or pay a visit to the empty park, or take a
drive out of town; which way, in short, would be the least tedious of
killing the precious time that God had given her, when she was aroused
by a formidable summons at the door, and a noise as of many steps and
voices besieging the hall.

What next took place Caroline never clearly remembered. Confused
recollections remained to her afterwards of angry demands for Mr.
Cray, of indignant denials to the servant's assertion that his master
was in the City; the hubbub was great, the voices were threatening.
Caroline's first surprise was superseded by indignation; and that in
its turn gave place to alarm.

You all know what it is to pour oil upon a spark of fire previously
ready to burst forth into a flame. When the Great Wheal Bang's
shareholders had flocked to the Great Wheal Bang's offices that
morning they were on the balance, as may be said, between war and
peace; somewhat uncertain in their own minds whether to treat Mark
Cray and Mr. Barker as unfortunate fellow-sufferers with themselves,
or to expend upon them their wrongs and their wrath. That mistake
of the Great Wheal Bang's secretary--as alluded to in the last
chapter--turned the scale. In his dismay and confusion he
inadvertently referred to the former irruption of water, and the
unlucky disclosure maddened the throng. They forthwith looked upon
themselves as dreadfully injured people; in fact they jumped to the
conclusion that the Great Wheal Bang itself was little better than a
swindle; so apt are we all to rush into extremes. Barker did what he
could to stem the torrent; but the crowd vociferously demanded to see
Mark Cray. It was he they had known mostly in the affair, for Barker
was usually at the mine. And, not finding Mark answer to their
demands, some of them tore off on the spur of the moment in Hansom
cabs to his residence.

Caroline stood the very image of dismay. She did not show herself; she
was too much alarmed; she peeped from the half-closed dining-room door
and listened, just as Mark had done a short while before. Confused
words of "water" and "mine" and "swindle" and "ruin" saluted her ears;
and the demands for Mr. Cray became more threateningly imperative.
Some movement of the door occurred; she staggered against it; and it
was observed from the hall. Perhaps it was only natural to the
belligerents to conclude that Mark Cray was there. They pressed
forward to the room; but upon seeing that the lady was its only
occupant, the young and lovely lady in her gala morning dress and the
roses chased from her cheeks by fear, they drew back and clustered
outside it.

"What is it you want!" gasped Caroline from her trembling lips.

One of the foremost answered her. He was a gentleman, and he raised
his hat, and made his tone as courteous as his sense of injury
allowed. They were very sorry to disturb her, but they must see Mr.
Cray. They had come to see him and they would see him.

"I assure you that he is not here," said Caroline, her earnest voice
carrying truth with it. "He has been gone some time."

"He was at the offices this morning, madam, and disappeared. We were
told he had no doubt come home."

"It is true," she answered. "He went to the offices very early, and
came home again about eleven o'clock for something he had forgotten,
papers I think he said. He did not stay two minutes; he got them and
went back again. What is it that is the matter?"

"Back to the offices?" they asked, disregarding the question.

"Yes, back to the offices. He said he must make haste, for he had a
great deal to do today. I am sure you will find him there." She had no
suspicion that she was asserting what was not true. Whether they
believed it or not--though most of them did believe it--they had no
resource but to act upon it. Filing out again, they jumped into the
cabs, and rattled back at the rate of nine-and-twenty miles an hour.

Leaving Mrs. Cray in a grievous state of perplexity and of distress:
for they had spoken of "ruin" as connected with the mine. She was one
of those who cannot bear suspense: she had no patience; no endurance,
not even for an hour. In a tumult of hurry and emotion, she had her
carriage brought round, called for Sara Davenal, to whom, however, she
did not tell what had taken place, and drove on to the City almost as
fast as those cabs had driven, to get an explanation of Mark.

The cabs had arrived previously, and their occupants found they had
been deceived. No Mark Cray was at the offices, or had been there
since his first departure from them. They burst bounds, in tongue at
any rate, and talked of warrants and prosecutions and various
inconvenient things. Other shareholders joined in the general fury,
and it may perhaps be excused to them that when the carriage of Mark
Cray suddenly appeared in the general melée, they turned their rage
upon it.

That is, they pressed round it and saluted it with reproaches not at
all soft or complimentary. Possibly in the moment's blind anger they
did not see that Mark himself was not its occupant. They were, on the
whole, men who knew how to behave themselves, and would have desisted,
perhaps apologised, when they had had time and calmness to see that
only ladies were there: but that time was not allowed them.

One came, with his tall strong form, his pale, resolute, haughty face,
and pushed them right and left, as he laid his hand on the carriage
door.

"Are you _men?_" he asked. "Don't you see that you are terrifying
these ladies? Stand back. I had thought----"

"Oh, Oswald, save us! save us!" came the interrupting cry, as Caroline
Cray caught his hand. "What is it all? what has happened?"

He got her out of the carriage and into some adjacent offices, whose
friendly doors were opened to them. Sara followed, unmolested, and
Oswald went back to rescue, if might be, the carriage. But the
gentlemen had been a little recalled to common-sense by the incident:
and the carriage was no longer in danger. Smashing Mark Cray's
carriage would not make good their losses, or bring forth him who was
missing. Oswald returned to Mrs. Cray.

"It is all right again now," he said. "The carriage is waiting for you
a little further off. Shall I take you to it?"

"But I want to go into the offices, Oswald," she feverishly rejoined.
"I want to see Mark. I must see him."

"Mark is not at the offices. Neither would it be well that you should
go there just now."

"Not at the offices! where is he then?"

"I don't know where he is. I should like to find him."

He spoke in a cold, proud, bitter tone, and it struck dismay to the
heart of Mrs. Cray. Indeed Oswald's frame of mind was one of the most
intense bitterness. He had been plausibly defrauded out of his money:
his pride, his sensitive honour, his innate justice, had been wounded
to the core. All this disgrace Mark Cray had been earning for himself;
Mark, his half-brother!

"But I must see Mark," she reiterated in a helpless manner. "Don't you
know where I can go to find him, Oswald?"

"I do not indeed."

"I want to know what has happened. I heard them speak of ruin; of
water in the mine. Can _you_ tell me?"

"News has come up that an irruption of water has taken place. I find
it is not the first: but the other, they say, was not serious."

"And this is?"

"I fear so."

"But what right have those men to be so angry, so excited against
Mark? He did not let the water in." Oswald made no answer. If Mark had
treated those shareholders with the duplicity that he had treated him,
they had certainly a very good right to be angry and excited.

Mrs. Cray turned towards the door in her restlessness to take a
reconnoitring glimpse of the state of affairs outside. Mark might have
come up! might be in the midst of the mob! Sara, who had waited for
the opportunity, drew near to Oswald Cray, and spoke in a whisper.

"Is it ruin?"

"Irretrievable--as I believe," he answered, his voice unconsciously
assuming a strange tenderness as he looked at her pale, sad face.
"Ruin for Mark Cray, perhaps for many others." And the words fell like
a shock of ice on her heart. What would become of the engagement that
she had made to repay the two hundred pounds to Mr. Wheatley from the
money owing her by Mark?



CHAPTER XLIX.
THE EVENING OF THE BLOW.


It was the peculiarity of Miss Bettina Davenal to be more especially
deaf when suddenly surprised or annoyed. Possibly it is the same with
other deaf people. Sara Davenal stood before her in her drawing-room
striving to make her comprehend the state of affairs relative to the
Great Wheal Bang; and not at first successfully. Miss Bettina had not
understood why Mrs. Cray had driven round in hurried agitation that
morning and carried off Sara by storm: Caroline would not explain why,
and Sara could not. Sara had returned home now, willing to afford
every explanation; indeed believing it to be her duty so to do; but
Miss Bettina, offended at the morning's slight, was keeping her heart
closed; and when _that_ was shut, the ears would not open.

"_What_ d'you say? You went up to the offices? I should like to know
what took you and Caroline to the offices? Young ladies don't require
to go to such places."

"She went to try to see Mark, aunt."

"Ugh!" growled Miss Bettina. "Mark told her, indeed! If Mark Cray told
her to go down the mine amidst the lead, she'd do it. Doesn't he see
enough of her at home?"

"She went to try to see Mark, Aunt Bettina," repeated Sara, more
slowly. "I--I am afraid they are ruined."

"Serve them right," returned Miss Bettina, catching the last word, but
attaching no importance to it.

"Some disastrous news has been received from Wales, from the mine.
Caroline says a Mr. Brackenbury called in Grosvenor Place last
night----"

"Mr. who?"

"Mr. Brackenbury. She did not know then why he called, but Mr. Oswald
Cray has now told her that he brought the first news of it to Mark. It
had come up to him by telegram."

Miss Bettina Davenal bent her ear. "He came up by telegram! What do
you mean by that? Have they got a new invention that brings up people,
pray? Why are you not more careful how you speak, Miss Sara Davenal?"

"I said the news came up by telegram, aunt. It came to Mr.
Brackenbury; and that's why he called on Mark last night. At least so
Mr. Oswald Cray told Caroline. Caroline had been surprised or annoyed
at his visit; she did not understand it; and she mentioned it to Mr.
Oswald Cray."

Miss Bettina lifted her hands helplessly. "What's any Mr. Brackenbury
to me?--or Oswald Cray either? I want to know why Caroline took you to
those offices today?"

"I am trying to tell you, aunt," said poor Sara. "Mark went up to the
offices early this morning before Caroline was awake; he came home
again about eleven, saying he had forgotten something, but Caroline
thought his manner absent and strange. He left again, and soon after
the house was invaded by quite a crowd of men, gentlemen, demanding to
see him----"

"Had they got an organ with them?"

Miss Bettina's interruption took Sara rather aback. "An organ, aunt? I
don't know what you mean."

"Not know what I mean!" was the wrathful answer. "Crowds don't collect
round houses unless there's a cause; organs or monkeys, or some such
nonsense. What did they collect there for?"

Sara bent her head lower and strove to speak with even more
distinctness. "It was a crowd of gentlemen, aunt; gentlemen from the
City; though perhaps I ought not to have said a crowd, but it was what
Caroline called it to me. They came down in Hansom cabs, she said, and
they were fierce in their demands to see Mark, and they'd hardly go
away again, and they said the mine was ruined. Caroline was alarmed,
and she went up herself to try to see Mark, but she did not like to go
alone, and came round for me."

The words were as a hopeless jumble in Miss Bettina's ear; their sense
nowhere. "I wish you'd be clear," she said, tartly. "If you want to
tell me a thing, tell it in a straightforward manner. Why do you mix
up crowds and organs with it?"

"Dear aunt, I never said a word about an organ.
The--mine--is--ruined," she added, almost out of heart with her task.

"What's ruined?" shrieked Miss Bettina.

"The mine. The Great Wheal Bang." Miss Bettina heard this time. She
had lived in expectation of the news ever since the Great Wheal Bang
first jumped into existence. Nevertheless it scared her; and an
expression of dismay sat on her refined features as she turned them on
Sara with a questioning gaze.

"I believe the water has got in. They say it is utter ruin. And Mark
Cray can't be found."

"What has Mark Cray found?"

"_He_ can't be found, aunt. He was not at the offices when we got
there, and the shareholders--as I suppose the people were--attacked
the carriage: some of them have sunk a great deal of money in the
mine. There was no real danger, of course; but Mr. Oswald Cray got us
out of it."

Miss Bettina stared hopelessly. "Oswald Cray got you out of the mine!
What _are_ you talking of?"

"Out of the carriage, aunt; not out of the mine. That's in Wales."

"Do you suppose I thought it was in London?" retorted offended Miss
Bettina. "You'll be obligingly informing me where London is next.
Where _is_ Mark Cray?"

"No one seems to know. His wife does not; except that he said to her
he might have to go down to Wales this evening, and she was not to
mention it. She is in great uncertainty and distress."

"What's she in?"

"Uncertainty, distress," repeated Sara. "She is as frightened as a
child. I fear she will not be a good one to bear misfortune. I went
home with her and remained some time; it was that made me so late.
When I came away she was growing very angry with Mark: she says he
ought to have told her of it this morning."

"And so he ought," said Miss Bettina. "Ah! I never cordially approved
that match for Caroline, and the doctor knew it. She'll see what he's
made of now. You say you came in contact with the shareholders: what
did they say?"

Sara hesitated. "They were saying very disagreeable things, Aunt
Bettina."

"That's not telling me what they said."

"They talked of deceit and--and swindling. They seem dreadfully bitter
against Mark Cray."

"Dreadfully what against him?"

"Bitter."

"Oh," said Miss Bettina. "Mark Cray's a fool in more ways than one;
but they should blame themselves, not him. Mark told them the mine was
of gold, I daresay; but it was their fault if they believed it. A man
might come to me and say, If you will give me a ten-pound note I'll
bring it you back tomorrow doubled, and if I fell into the trap I
ought not to turn my anger on him. Mark Cray _believed_ in the mine:
those schemers are so sanguine."

Sara bent her head until her lips almost touched her aunt's ear, and
lowered her voice to a cautious tone: but somehow it was terribly
distinct to Miss Bettina.

"Aunt, I fear it is not quite so straightforward as you think. There
was an irruption of water in the summer--a slight one, I fancy--and
Mark and Mr. Barker concealed it. It is this which makes the
shareholders so angry, and, they say--they say they can prosecute him
for it."

"Who said this?" asked Miss Bettina, after a pause.

"I can hardly tell who. We heard a great deal of talking altogether.
One gentleman came up to Mr. Oswald Cray as he was taking us to the
carriage again, and asked him if he was not Mark's brother. Oswald
replied that he was Mark's half-brother; and then the gentleman said
harsh things, and Oswald could not stop him, and could not get us by."

Miss Bettina poured forth question upon question. Incensed as she had
been against Mark Cray and his wife for the past months, much as she
had blamed their folly, sharp as were her prophecies of the final
results, perhaps this was worse than she had bargained for. She had
looked for ruin, but not for criminal disgrace.

"And Mark can't be found, you say?" she asked, her tone a shrill one.

"No."

She sat down to the dinner-table, for the day had gone on to evening,
despatching Neal for a fly while she ate a bit, and then she went out,
taking Sara. "Grosvenor Place," she said to Neal And that observant
domestic knew by the compressed lips, the clasped hands, the rigid
head, how inwardly flurried was his mistress.

They found Caroline in a state of emotion, bordering upon hysteria.
Fear, anger, perplexity, and despair, succeeding each other so rapidly
that her mood may have been said to savour of the whole at once. Poor
Caroline Cray knew nothing of either endurance or reticence; her anger
against Mark was great at the present moment, and she gave way to it
loudly.

"Where is he?" was the first pointed question of Miss Davenal.

"I don't know where he is. He might have trusted me. It's not his
fault if the water has come into the mine, and he had no cause to go
away; but if he had gone, he might have taken me. Barker has been down
here in a dreadful passion, and says Mark was not a good fellow to
steal a march on him and leave him alone all day to fight the battle
with the shareholders. A hundred people, about, have been here after
Mark, and it's a shame that I should be left to hear all the remarks."

"Is Oswald Cray with you?" asked Miss Bettina.

"Oh, my goodness, I don't suppose he'll come here again," returned poor
Caroline, half beside herself. "I thought him cold and queer in his
manner today. Barker says he is vexed at losing his thousand pounds;
and that Mark got two hundred more from him last night after he knew
the mine had gone. Oswald said nothing to me, but of course he is
incensed at it."

Miss Davenal had been listening with her hand to her ear, and she
heard pretty well. "Do you know the particulars of the calamity?" she
asked. "Is the mine irretrievably ruined!"

"I don't know anything, except that I'm fit to go mad," she answered,
beginning to sob like a petulant child.

In that one first moment of the blow Miss Davenal was generous enough
to spare reproaches for all the folly of the past, though she had
plenty at her tongue's end. She had not sat down since she entered;
she had stood rigid and upright; and when she went out to the fly she
ordered it to Mr. Oswald Cray's.

"Tell the man to drive quickly," said Miss Bettina to Neal. "What do
you say, Sara? Let you stop with Caroline? Caroline wants neither you
nor me; I can see that. There'll be trouble over this."

Mrs. Cray had not chosen an inapt word when she said Oswald must be
incensed against Mark. It was precisely Oswald's present state of
feeling. He saw that the thousand pounds had been nothing but a
stopgap; not drawn from him for his own good and benefit, as Mark so
largely boasted, but for Mark's own necessities. And as to the two
hundred pounds of the previous night, the money of the firm--Oswald
did boil over at the thought of that. Oh, why could not Mark have been
upright and open! why could he not have gone to Oswald with the truth
upon his lip, and said, Let me have this two hundred pounds in my dire
necessity, and I will repay you when I can! Oswald was not the brother
to refuse him.

Oswald had had a battle with himself. When he returned home after that
scene in the city, feeling that his money, the twelve hundred pounds,
was irretrievably lost, he sat down and thought. Should he cancel the
offer made to Frank Allister to go out to Spain, and take the
appointment himself, as at first intended? Was he justified in
foregoing it, under this unexpected loss? The same considerations
swayed him now as previously; his own interest versus Frank's health,
perhaps life; but how weighty a balance was now thrown into his own
scale!

If ever Oswald had need of a better guidance than his own, he had need
now. And he was conscious of it. He had many failings, as we all have;
and his pride often stood in his way; but he had one great and good
gift--a conscience that was ever prompting him on the upward way.

"No, I will not hesitate," he said to himself. "The necessity for
Allister's going remains the same, and he shall go. I must overget
this other loss as I best can, though it may be years first, but I'll
not set my own interest against Allister's life."

And so Frank Allister and his sister received no countermand, and they
proceeded to Mr. Oswald Cray's that evening, to talk over
arrangements, as it had been decided they should; and they never knew
the sacrifice that had been made for them, or had the least suspicion
that Mr. Oswald Cray had yielded up the appointment.

When Miss Davenal and Sara arrived, Mrs. Benn received them. That
errant husband of hers and valued servant of the firm, was out again.
This was _not_ Mrs. Benn's cleaning-day; but any little extra duty,
though it was but the receiving a visitor at unusual hours, put her
out excessively; and it was not usual for a levee of ladies to attend
the house in an evening. She appeared at the door with the ordinary
crusty face and a candle in her hand.

"Is Mr. Oswald Cray at home?" was Neal's demand.

"Yes, he is," returned Mrs. Benn, speaking as if the question injured
her very much indeed.

Neal stepped back to the fly, and opened the door for the ladies to
alight. Mrs. Benn stared at the proceedings with all her eyes.

"Well, if this don't bang everything!" she ejaculated, partly to
herself, partly to the street. "If he was agoing to have a party
tonight, he might have told me, I think. And that there Benn to go
out, and never light the hall-lamp first! It cracks my arms to do it:
a nasty, high, awk'ard thing! Will he be for ordering tea for 'em, I
wonder I when there ain't nothing but a hot loaf in the house, and one
pat o' but--"

"Show me to Mr. Oswald Cray's private rooms," came the interrupting
voice of Miss Davenal, as she entered.

"This way," returned sulky Mrs. Benn; "there's one of them there
already."

The "one of 'em" must have applied to the assumed evening party, for
in the sitting-room sat Jane Allister. Her bonnet was off, her shawl
was unpinned; her fair face was serene and contented, as though she
were in her own home. Miss Davenal bowed stiffly in her surprise, and
the rebellious jealousy rose up in Sara's heart.

"Is Mr. Oswald Cray not here?" asked Miss Davenal, halting on the
threshold.

Jane Allister came forward with her good and candid face, and Miss
Davenal's reserved tone relaxed. "Mr. Oswald Cray is downstairs with
my brother and another gentleman. They are settling some business
together; I don't think they will be long."

Miss Davenal did not hear, but Sara repeated the words to her. They
sat down; and Miss Allister, finding the elder lady was deaf, took her
seat by Sara.

"I came here tonight to settle particulars about our Spanish journey,"
explained Jane Allister, as if in apology for being found there. "I am
going to live in Spain."

Sara heard it as one in a dream. Oswald Cray was going to Spain for a
lengthened residence: he had told her so when she was in that room a
fortnight ago. If Jane Allister was going with him, why then, it must
be that they were going to be married immediately.

Her face flushed, her brow grew moist. In a sort of desperation, in
her eager wish to know the worst at once, she turned to Jane Allister.

"Are you going with Mr. Oswald Cray?"

"I am going with my brother."

"With--your--brother! And _not_ with Mr. Oswald Cray?"

"No, surely not. How could I go with Mr. Oswald Cray? It would not be
proper," she simply added.

"I--I thought--I meant as his wife," said poor Sara, all confused in
her heart sickness. "I beg your pardon."

"As his wife!--Mr. Oswald Cray's! Nay, but that is an unlikely thing
to fancy. I am not suitable to Mr. Oswald Cray. Do you know him?

"O yes."

"Then you might have been sure he'd not cast his thoughts to a plain
body like me. Why should he? I am not his equal in position. He has
been a brother to Frank, and I reverence him beyond any one I know as
a good and true friend. That's all."

Why did her heart give a great bound of hope at the words, when she
knew--when she _knew_ that he was lost to her? Oswald Cray came
bounding up the stairs, but a mist had gathered before Sara's eyes,
and she saw nothing clearly.

"Frank is waiting for you, Jane. He will not come upstairs again."

"Does he know about everything?"

"Everything, I think. We have discussed it all, and he will tell you.
But he is coming again in the morning."

Oswald had spoken as he shook hands with Miss Davenal. Another moment
and they were alone together: the young Scotch lady had left the room.

"Mr. Oswald Cray, you must tell me all you know of this unhappy
business, from beginning to end," said Miss Davenal. "I have come to
you for the information, and I beg you to conceal nothing. Is Mark
Cray in danger?"

Oswald scarcely knew in what sense to take the word. He hesitated as
he looked at Miss Davenal.

"How has it all come about? Let me hear the whole of it; the best and
the worst. His wife professes to know nothing, and it was of no use my
asking her. The water has got into the mine."

"It is said to be overflowing it; but particulars are not ascertained
yet," replied Oswald, as he proceeded to speak of what he knew.

It was not much, for he was nearly as much in the dark as they were.
Miss Davenal listened with compressed lips.

At the conclusion of the interview, Oswald took Miss Davenal out to
the fly upon his arm, placed her in it, and turned to Sara.

"The last time I saw you I had a journey in my head," he said in a low
tone; "I told you I was going to Spain."

"Yes."

"I am not going now. I have given up the idea. We shall send out a
gentleman instead; my friend, Frank Allister. Goodnight; goodnight,
Miss Davenal."

Severely upright in the carriage sat Miss Davenal, her countenance one
picture of condemnation for the absent Mark. Only once did she open
her lips to Sara opposite to her, and that was as the carriage turned
out of the glare and gas of the more populous streets to the quiet one
which contained their home.

"What would your brother Edward say to this, were he at home?"

What would he say to something else? As the carriage drew up to the
door, a female figure was slowly pacing before it, as if in waiting.
And Sara shrank into the remotest corner of the carriage with a shiver
of dread, for she recognised her for the stranger. Catherine
Wentworth.



CHAPTER L.
HARD USAGE FOR DICK.


Do you remember the severe weather of the Christmas of 1860? How for
once we had an old-fashioned Christmas day, when the icicles hung
bright and frozen from the trees and the ponds were alive with
skaters, after the manner of the Christmases we read of, of the days
gone by. It was indeed a bitter winter, that at the close of 1860, and
an unusual number of the poor and friendless, the sick and ailing,
passed from its biting sharpness to a better world.

In the mind of one it almost seemed as though he had held some
mysterious prevision of it; and that was Oswald Cray. When
deliberating, the previous autumn, whether he should go to Spain
himself, times and again had the thought recurred to him--what if we
have a sharp winter?--how will Allister weather it? And now that the
sharp winter, more terribly sharp than even Oswald dreamt of, had
indeed come, he was thankful to have sacrificed his own self-interest.
In that more southern climate Allister would no feel the cold of this;
and it almost seemed as if the thought alone brought to Oswald his
reward.

"Isn't it stunning, Aunt Bett?"

You will probably recognise the words as likely to emanate from
nobody's lips but Mr. Dick Davenal's. Mr. Dick had arrived for the
holidays; rather against the inclination as well as the judgment of
Miss Bettina, but she did not see her way in courtesy to exclude him.
Leopold had been in town with her since October, she and Sara nursing
him; so it would have been unkind to keep Dick at school alone for the
holidays. Miss Bettina said London was a bad place for Dick; he would
be getting into all sorts of mischief: perhaps get run over, perhaps
get lost; it was uncertain what: but Sara, in her love for the boy,
promised to keep him in order and out of harm. A rash undertaking.

What of the Great Wheal Bang? The Great Wheal Bang was gone for ever
It had passed out ignobly, never probably to be heard of as a mine
again, except in name at certain law courts, to which some of its
angry shareholders persisted in bringing it. Mr. Barker was abroad,
and did not come home to face the storm; it appeared there was no law
to force him home, the matters of the Wheal Bang just escaped that;
and he carried on a free-and-easy correspondence with some of the
exasperated shareholders, who told him to his face in their answers
that he deserved hanging.

And Mark Cray? Mark Cray was nowhere. The defunct company did their
best to find him, but, try as they would, they could not discover his
hiding-place. They assumed he was out of the country, most probably
with Barker, and perhaps their home search was, through that very
assumption, less minute than it might have been. A run from danger is
always more formidable than a faced one; and if Mark Cray had only
faced those shareholders he would no doubt have found their bite less
hurtful than their bark. That they were loud and threatening and
angry, was true; but Mark would have done well to meet the worst, and
get it over. The luxurious house in Grosvenor Place had been long ago
abandoned by Mark and his wife; and so temporarily had it been lived
in, so fleeting had been the enjoyment of the carriages, the servants,
the society, and all the rest of the accessories, that altogether that
time seemed only like a dream.

"Isn't it stunning, Aunt Bett?"

Dick was standing at the dining-room window, his sparkling eyes
devouring the ice in the streets, the tempting slides in the gutters.
A young gentleman who was coming to the house with a small tray of
meat upon his back had just gone down one beautifully, and Dick longed
to be behind him. Leo stepped to the window to look, and thought he
should like it too; but Leo was not in strong health, as Dick was.

"Isn't it what?" asked Aunt Bett, looking up quickly. "Raining?"

"Stunning," roared Dick.

"I wish you would learn to speak like a gentleman, Richard, and not
use those expressions. If they do for school, they don't do for home."

"I have been oiling my skates this morning," continued Dick. "They are
rather short, but they'll do."

"Oiling what?"

"My skates."

"What cakes?"

"Sk--a--tes, Aunt Bett. Everything will bear today."

"Nothing bears in London," said Miss Bettina. "You must not try it,
Richard. A great many boys are drowned every winter in the
Serpentine."

"What muffs they must be!" returned Dick; "Aunt Bett, the ponds would
bear you if you'd put on a pair of skates and try. They'd bear me a
hundred times over."

"Would they?" said Miss Bettina. She turned to Sara, who was busy at
the table and pointed with her finger to indicate Dick.

"I will not have him to go into this danger. Do you hear, Sara? _You_
undertook to keep him out of harm, if he came to us; so see to it.
Perhaps the best plan will be to lock up his skates. I don't want to
have him brought home drowned."

Dick was resentful. He might have broken into open rebellion but for
fear of being sent back to enjoy his holidays at school. He sat in a
sullen sort of mood, on the edge of a chair, his hands in his pockets
clicking their contents about, and his boots beating time restlessly
on the carpet.

"How it's all altered!" he exclaimed.

"How is what altered?" inquired Sara. They were alone then. Miss
Bettina had gone from the room to give Leopold his eleven o'clock dose
of strengthening medicine.

"Since Uncle Richard's time. Why, he bought me those very skates last
winter, when that frost came in November. That is, he sent word to
school that I might have them. And then we had no more ice at all! and
Uncle Richard kept wishing through the holidays there might be some
for us! _He'd_ have let us skate."

Sara was silent. Things had indeed altered since then.

"It's an awful shame of Aunt Bett! The ice stunning thick, and a
fellow can't enjoy it! Drowned! She might get drowned herself perhaps,
but _I_ shouldn't. Uncle Richard would have let us skate in
Hallingham!" added Dick, excessively resentful. "He wanted us to
skate."

"But I think it was a little different, Richard dear. Those ponds at
Hallingham were not deep; and people do get drowned in the Serpentine.
And there's nobody to go with you." Dick tossed his head. "Perhaps you
think I want somebody! You had better send a nursemaid. Fine holidays
these are!"

A few minutes more of sitting still and Dick could stand it no longer.
He darted into the passage and snatched his cap. Sara, quick as he,
caught him with the street-door in his hand.

"Dick, it must not be. You know I have answered for you to Aunt
Bettina."

"All right, Sara. I'm not going near the Serpentine, or any other deep
water."

"You promise?"

"Yes; on my honour. There! Why, I have not got my skates. I'm going up
and down the street-slides; that's all. You can't expect me to sit
twirling my thumbs all day in Aunt Bett's parlour, as Leo does."

She had no fear then. If Dick once gave his honour, or if put upon his
honour, he could but be a loyal knight. Left to himself, no promise
extracted from him, he would have decamped right off to the
Serpentine, or to anything else mischievous and dangerous; but not
now.

But Dick "took it out"--the words were his own--in street-slides. All
the most attractive _ruisseaux_ within a few miles of home Mr. Dick
exercised his legs upon. It required a terrible amount of resolution
to keep his promise not to "go near" the forbidden water; and how long
Dick stood in envy, his nose frozen to the park railings as he watched
the streams of people pouring towards the ice, he never knew. He was
not in a good humour; the slides were very ignoble pastime indeed,
only fit for street-boys; and he thought if there was one gentleman
more ill-used than another that day in all Her Majesty's dominions,
that one was himself.

Mr. Dick stopped out his own time. He knew that he would be expected
home about one o'clock to have something to eat; but as nothing had
been expressly said to him, he took rather a savage pleasure in
letting them expect, punishing his hunger. He saw a man selling hot
potatoes; and he bought three and ate them, skins and all. Dick was
not in the least troubled with proud notions: Leo would have looked
askance at the tempting edible, and passed on the other side; Dick
danced round the man's machine while he feasted, in the face and eyes
of the passers-by. If Miss Davenal had but seen him!

Altogether, what with the slides, the hot potatoes, and the temper,
Mr. Richard Davenal remained out long after dark. When he began to
think it might be as well to return home, and to feel as if fifteen
wolves were inside him fighting for their dinner, he was in some
obscure and remote region of Chelsea, where the population was more
crowded than aristocratic, and the ice abundant. Happening to cast
his eyes to a clock in a baker's shop he saw that it wanted but
twenty-five minutes to six.

"My?" ejaculated Dick in his dismay. Miss Davenal's dinner-hour had
been altered from six to five while the boys were with her, and Dick
had certainly meant to be home to time. He had not thought it was so
late as this. Dick's hair stood on end, and the wolves fought
desperately.

"Suppose old Bett should say I shan't have any dinner?"

The shop next door to the baker's was a cook's shop--as they are
called: and perhaps Dick's dreadful doubt caused him irresistibly to
linger for a fond moment at the window and gaze at the attractions
inside. Under Dick's very nose was a steaming mound of beef just out
of the pot, some parsnips round it; other joints were there in plenty;
peas-pudding, plum-pudding, sausages, and a whole host of things
irresistible to a boy in Dick's famishing condition. He mechanically
put his hand into his pocket, lest a stray sixpence might by some
miracle be there. In vain. Dick Davenal was one who could not keep
money for an hour, and his having sufficient to buy the potatoes was a
fact notable.

Hurried as he was, he could not tear himself from the tempting shop.
The shopman, in a white apron, a great carving-knife and fork in his
hand, was cutting thin slices from a cold round of beef and placing
them in the scale on a piece of white paper. The balance went down,
and he rolled the paper round the meat and handed it to the customer
waiting for it, a young woman--or rather lady, for she looked like
one--who wore a black veil over her face. She gave him sixpence and
some halfpence in return, but the man did not seem to like the
sixpence; he held it close to the gas and then showed it to her, and
she put her veil aside and bent her face nearer while she looked at
it.

If ever Dick Davenal believed he was in a dream he believed so then.
He rubbed his eyes; he rubbed his frozen nose; he stared through the
intervening steam; and he pinched himself to see whether he was awake.
For that face was the face of his cousin, Mrs. Cray.

Dick could not believe his senses. The shopman apparently decided that
the sixpence was a good one, and put it in his till, and the lady had
left the shop before Dick recovered his bewilderment. He had believed
Mr. and Mrs. Cray were abroad. From a shrewd boy like Dick it had been
impossible to guard the secret that something was wrong; besides, he
had heard of the failure of the Great Wheal Bang, and that its
promoters were away, abroad or somewhere.

But that was surely Caroline gone out of the shop with a paper of meat
in her hand! Dick's spirit went down to zero. However _he_ might
condescend to the purchase of hot potatoes, and such like stray
escapades, he did not like to see Caroline buy cooked meat and carry
it away with her. Dick knew that something or other must be all wrong,
and he suddenly felt as timid as Leo.

She crossed the road and went down a by-street, where the lights were
scanty and the houses poor. Dick followed her. He saw how tightly her
veil was drawn over her face; and she walked with her head down: it
might be to keep out the cold, or it might be to avoid observation.

She turned into a house on the left-hand side whose door stood open; a
shabby-looking house, but sufficiently large. Dick, hardly certain in
his own mind yet, deliberated whether he should follow her and show
himself: and when he at length went to the door nobody was in sight.
He took courage and knocked; and a woman came out of the parlour on
the right.

"Is Mrs. Cray here?" asked Dick.

"Mrs. who?"

"Mrs. Cray. She's just gone in."

"There's nobody here of that name. Who's Mrs. Cray? You have mistook
the house, young man." Dick had his wits about him, as the saying
runs, and they were sufficiently alert to prevent his insisting on the
point of its being Mrs. Cray. "I'm sure I saw some lady come in," said
he.

"Mrs. Mark came in a minute ago, for I met her in the passage. First
floor if you want her."

"Can I go up?" asked Dick.

"That's as you please," returned the woman, who was crusty enough to
be first cousin to Mrs. Benn. "The other lodgers in the house is
nothing to me, who goes up to 'em or who doesn't."

She retreated inside the parlour and banged the door. Dick stumbled
upstairs in the dark, the words "first floor" having guided him. Some
light came in from a window on the landing, and he distinctly heard
Caroline's voice in the front room. Dick-fashion, he burst in without
knocking.

Caroline gave a short scream. She was untying her bonnet, and the
paper of meat, slowly unfolding itself, lay on the table. It was a
plain sitting-room carpeted with drugget, a large sofa covered with
dark blue stuff seeming to take up one side of it. A white cloth was
spread on part of the table, with some tea-cups and saucers, a loaf of
bread, and a piece of butter.

"Caroline, I was sure it was you!" The first moment of surprise over,
Caroline threw herself on a chair and burst into tears. Dick sat down
opposite to her and stared round the room, staring off his
bewilderment. Poor Dick was not possessed of any superfluous
sentiment, and the sobs and emotion only made him feel awkward. The
sight of a home face was too much for Mrs. Cray.

"Is Mark here?"

Dick asked presently.

"No." Dick glanced round again, but he could see no door except the
one he had entered at.

"I'm sure I heard you talking to somebody, Caroline. It made me know
which was the room."

"I was talking to myself. The words I said were, 'I hope Mark will not
be long,' and I suppose I spoke them aloud."

A few final sobs, and the emotion passed. Dick was timid, almost
nervous, and he never remembered to have been so in his life. A
thought crossed the boy's mind of what his uncle Richard would say,
could he see this curious state of things.

"Do you live here, Caroline!"

"Yes. We went away in the country for a little time at first; but it
was so out of the way of hearing anything, so dull, so wretched, that
we came back again. Mark thought it would be better to come pretty
near to the old neighbourhood; that there was less chance of our being
looked for there than elsewhere."

"You don't have all the house."

"All the house!" echoed Caroline. "We only have this room and the use
of the kitchen, which I hardly ever go down to. That sofa is a bed,"
she added, pointing to it. "Mark draws it out at night."

Dick felt more at sea than ever. "Has Mark got no money?"

Caroline shook her head. "There's a little left; not much. We did not
save a thing from Grosvenor Place. People came in and took possession
while Mark was away, and I got frightened and left it. Afterwards,
when my clothes were asked for, they sent me a boxful of the poorest I
had, and said those were all. I don't know whether it was that they
kept the best, or that the maid-servants helped themselves to them.
Dick!" she passionately added, "I'd rather die than have to bear all
this."

"Do you have to go out and buy the meat?" questioned Dick, unable to
get the practical part he had seen out a his head.

"There's a boy that waits on the lodgers, the landlady's son, and he
goes on errands sometimes. Mark thought we should be safer in a house
like this, where there are different lodgers, and one does not
interfere with the concerns of the others; that we should be less
likely to attract notice. In truth we were afraid to venture on a
better place where persons might recognise us."

"Afraid of what?" questioned Dick.

"I'm sure I hardly know," she answered. "Of his being arrested, I
suppose."

"I say, does Sara know you are here?"

Caroline shook her head. "I have written her a note twice, saying we
are safe; but Mark would not let me give the address. Aunt Bettina has
shaken us off, there's no doubt; she'll never forgive Mark."

"Forgive him for what!"

"Oh, altogether," returned Caroline with a gesture of impatience.
"There was the leaving Hallingham, and Sara's money, and other
things."

"Where is Mark?" continued Dick.

"He won't be long. He strolls out a little after dark, but he does not
care to venture abroad by daylight. And so, you are up for the
holidays, I suppose?"

Dick nodded. "Aunt Bett wouldn't have us at midsummer. But Leo broke
his arm, and he wasn't strong, and she sent for him; and then she said
I might come up for Christmas, and we could both go back to school
together. I say, wasn't it unkind of her not to have us in the summer?
She said her house was small. Summer holidays are jollier than winter
ones, especially when they don't let you go on the ice."

Did a remembrance cross Caroline of somebody else who would not have
them in the summer?--whose house was not small? Probably not. Caroline
had room only for her own griefs. Since the falling of the blow she
had existed in a state of bewilderment. The change was so great, the
order of things so completely altered, that at times she believed she
must be in a prolonged dream, and should shortly wake up to reality.
As one who has suddenly put ashore in a foreign country, where the
land, the customs, the people, and the tongue, are all strange to him,
and he can only accept them passively, yielding himself perforce to
the necessity of circumstances, so it was with Caroline Cray. Believe
me, I am telling you no untrue story.

"How you cough?" exclaimed Dick, as she was interrupted by a heavy fit
of coughing, not for the first time.

"I caught a bad cold. It was very bad for a day or two, and I lay in
bed. O Dick! I wonder if I shall ever have a bedroom again!"

"Couldn't you have a bedroom as well as this room?" sensibly answered
Dick.

"There was only this room to let when we came here, and we thought it
would do. It's tolerably good-looking you see, and we are more to
ourselves. Every week, too, we are hoping to leave it."

"Where to go to?"

"I don't know. Mark says something will be sure to turn up."

"I say, do they know about this in Barbadoes?"

"Not from us. I daresay Aunt Bettina has taken care to tell them. Is
she as deaf as ever, Dick?"

"She's deafer. And she's getting a regular old woman. What do you
think? she'd not let me go out skating this morning, for fear----"

A gentleman entered, and cut Dick's revelations short. The boy looked
at him in puzzled bewilderment, for he thought he knew him, and yet
did not. It was a full minute before Dick recognised him for Mark
Cray.

Formerly Mark had whiskers and no moustache; now he had a moustache
and no whiskers, and his beard was growing, and his face looked
longer. He had on blue spectacles too. Altogether, Dick was hardly
certain yet.

Mark did not seem glad to see him. In manner he rather appeared to
resent the accident which had discovered them to Dick, than to feel
pleasure at it. Caroline put the slices of beef upon a dish, made the
tea, and asked Dick to partake.

But Dick declined. And nobody, perhaps, would have given careless Dick
credit for the true motive, or for the real self-denial that it was to
a hungry boy. He had somehow drawn a conclusion that Mr. and Mrs. Cray
had not too much meat for themselves, and he would not lessen it.

"I can't stay now," he said rising, "I shall have Aunt Bett at me as
it is. Goodnight, Mr. Cray; goodnight, Caroline."

Mr. Cray followed him down the stairs. "You must be very cautious not
to say that you found us here," he said. "Can we depend upon you?"

"As if you couldn't!" returned Dick. "I know! A fellow of ours at
school has got a big brother, and he has to be in hiding nine months
at least out of every year. I'll tell nobody but Sara." He vaulted
off, or perhaps Mark Cray's injunction might have been extended to
Sara in particular. When he reached home, Miss Bettina, who had
believed nothing less but that he was drowned, and had sent Neal to a
circuit of police-stations, met him in the corridor, followed by Sara
and Leo.

"You ungrateful boy! Where have you been?"

"Don't, Aunt Bettina! No need to seize hold of me in that way. I have
only been sliding. I haven't been to the water."

"You shall go back to school tomorrow," said Miss Bettina, as she
turned into the dining-room.

Dick caught his cousin by the arm. "You be off after Aunt Bett, Leo; I
want to speak to Sara. I say," he continued in a whisper, as Leo
obeyed him, "I have seen Caroline and Mark Cray!"

"Nonsense, Dick! Why did you stay out so and frighten us?"

"I have. I should have been in earlier but for that. Frightened? How
stupid you must all be! As if I couldn't take care of myself. I saw
Carine in a beef and pudding shop, buying cold meat, and I watched
where she went to, and I've been there for half an hour, and I saw
Mark. He has shaved off his whiskers, and wears blue----"

"Hush!" breathed Sara, as Dorcas came up the stairs. "You must tell me
later."



CHAPTER LI.
WEARY DAYS.


The cold, bitter, biting winter passed away, and when the lovely
spring came round again little trace was left of its effects, save in
the remembrance of those in whose homes sickness, or privation, or
death, had been busy.

_Two_ of those visitations had been rife in the poor house of Caroline
Cray: sickness and privation. Perhaps you noticed Caroline's reply to
Dick's question of whether Mark had no money: there was a little left,
she said, not much. Left from what? Dick did not ask.

If ever an unfortunate company had come to grief more completely than
other unfortunate companies, it was surely that noted one, the Great
Wheal Bang. Sympathising friends--Barker's and Mark's--were wont to
assure those gentlemen that they had "managed wretchedly:" and if we
may dare to assume that the reproach was levelled at the fact of
having secured nothing for themselves, it was a right one. On the day
that Mark Cray went up to the offices for the last time he had but a
trifling sum of money about him: Caroline had even less in her own
purse; and that was all. Barker's word of precaution had secured the
diamond ring and studs, and these were converted into money, Mark and
Barker equally dividing the spoil. Barker, with his share, took a
little tour abroad while the cloud blew over; Mark, as you have seen,
went into hiding, and lived upon his part as long as it held out.

Yes, it was an unhappy fact, very debasing indeed after all the glory
of Grosvenor Place, lowering as you may feel it to be to this history,
Mr. Mark Cray hid himself by day, and slipped out to take the air at
dusk in a moustache and blue spectacles. Mark Cray could but be a
coward in the hour of trial; he ran from the danger instead of
facing it. Had Mark but looked the angry shareholders and the trouble
in the face, he need not have been so very fearful; but to look a
difficulty in the face was not in the nature of Mark Cray. He scarcely
understood what he was afraid of; he did not know what they could do
to him--whether imprison him, or make him a bankrupt, or what; and
Mark would rather have jumped into the sea than ascertain. He was
exactly like a child who runs away screaming from a dark closet, and
dare not look to see whether cause for terror is there. Some of us, my
friends, have been sadly frightened at shadows.

When this state of affairs was to end, and what was to get Mark out of
his difficulty, he did not at present see. As long as the money lasted
he was not unduly anxious. He had great faith in something "turning
up," he had unlimited faith in Barker; and Barker's letters were
pretty frequent, and in the highest degree cheering. Barker happened
to have a cousin, about the nineteenth remove, settled at Honfleur, in
Normandie, and Barker had steered for the same port, and seemed to be
living at ease there. Towards the close of the winter he wrote word to
Mark that he had something good in contemplation, connected with
Paris, and if it came to anything Mark should share in it.

But when Mark's money was gone things changed. He grew restless and
gloomy. He could not starve, he could not go to the workhouse: he must
do something. Miss Bettina Davenal would not help them: she said she
could not--perhaps with justice. Leopold Davenal had been an expense
to her, and was still; he went back to school after the Christmas
holidays with Dick, but he was not strong yet, and sundry expensive
extras were provided for him out of her pocket. That was not much: but
a heavier expense had fallen upon her: for she had repaid Mr. Wheatley
the two hundred pounds borrowed by Sara. Sara had disclosed to her
aunt the fact of borrowing it, and in her pride Miss Bettina had made
a sacrifice and repaid the sum. She had none left to bestow on Mark;
there was clearly no help to be had from her.

And Caroline? You can take a look at her as she sat in the sun, which
was shining into the room this bright day in early April. Perhaps you
remember a remark Dr. Davenal once made--that Caroline was not one, as
he believed, to bear well the adversities of life. Dr. Davenal was
quite right: neither physically nor mentally did they agree with poor
Caroline.

I don't know whether anybody gets ill at once under a great shock.
Caroline had not. When it fell upon her she was too stunned, too
entirely surprised, to be anything but bewildered. It may be
questioned if a change so sudden--from seemingly assured prosperity to
hiding and disgrace and poverty--has ever fallen. You may feel
inclined to question it in this instance; nevertheless, I repeat that
I am telling you the simple truth. The reaction had come now, and
Caroline Cray gave way sadly. Her cough, that Dick remarked upon, had
got well; but she would lie back in her chair all day, and it seemed
next to impossible to get her out of it.

But if the body was at rest the mind was only the more active.
Caroline's hours, in point of fact, were pretty equally divided
between outward complaining and inward lamentation. Such lamentation
is nearly always rebellious, and so was hers. The blow had been so
complete; the change was so very great! All that pomp and vanity, all
the luxuries, the carelessness, the pleasure attendant on that one
past sunshiny wave in life's current, to have given place to this!
Perhaps the worst mortification, looking back, was that the play now
seemed to have been so _unreal_; as if they had had no right to
indulge in it, were such fools to have embarked in it, worse than
fools to have believed in it. Mortified, fretful, miserable, Caroline
Cray seemed to live but in repining and repentance. Mark was different
He neither repined nor repented; he was always restless, always
expecting something to turn up; and he would stalk up and down the
room, giving tongue to all sorts of wild visions of what he would do
were he but clear of the world and the Great Wheal Bang.

As he was doing now. While Caroline sat listless and inert in her
chair, Mark was indulging a dream of the future, sanguine as a child.
He had lately taken to consult the newspapers, and one tempting
advertisement in particular had attracted him. Mark Cray was getting
that experience which comes inevitably in a life of vicissitude; he
had yet to learn how many of these advertisements are but traps for
the unwary, how next to impossible to be the one successful applicant,
if they are genuine. But ever and anon Mark's dream was brought
unpleasantly to a break, as the recollection intruded itself that he
was not a free man.

"You see, Carine, if I were but clear of that resentful company, there
are a hundred good things to be picked up. I'm sure there's a dozen at
least in the paper every day. That's a splendid thing, I know, that
one advertisement of this morning; any fellow securing that----"

"Where's the use of talking of it?" interrupted Carine. "It all comes
to nothing. You know you are not clear of the company."

She spoke in a fretful, peevish tone. Just at first, Mark's sanguine
visions of rising again more gloriously than ever, like a phoenix from
its ashes, had somewhat infected her, but she was learning what they
were worth: as she had just said, "it all came to nothing." Utterly
weary was her spirit. Hope deferred making the heart sick; but hope
destroyed--and it had come to that with Caroline Cray--maketh it die.

Physical privation tells terribly on the mind as well as the body, and
it was telling upon her. They were next door to starving. What made it
worse for Caroline was, that hers was a constitution _requiring_ the
best of nourishment. The Davenals were a healthy family, but there had
been a taint in her mother's blood. These physical privations would
alone have made Caroline fretful: and she could not help it.

"I shall be clear of it soon," said Mark.

"But how?"

Even sanguine Mark could not detail the precise means by which the
emancipation was to be accomplished. "Oh, somehow," said he, in his
careless way. "The company must wind itself up."

"Why can't you apply to Oswald?"

He shook his head very decisively. "I can't face _him_. And if I did,
he'd not assist me. He has lost too much, and is sure to bear malice."

"Are we to go on like this for ever?"

"I hope we shan't go on so for a month. I wish you'd not talk so,
Caroline."

"How am I to talk? You have been saying the same all along?"

"Well it's of no good your looking on the dark side of things. You are
always doing it now." Caroline was silent for a few moments, when she
suddenly lifted up her hands, and her voice broke into a passionate
wail.

"Oh, if that money had been but settled on me, as Uncle Richard
wished! This must be a judgment upon us for defying his last
commands."

"Rubbish!" said Mark.

"Are we to go out in the street and beg?" she plaintively asked.

"Are you going to be a child? One must get a rub or two through life;
Caroline. Barker has been down upon his beam-ends five or six times,
just as much as we are, but it has always come right again."

She relapsed into a fit of weeping; half her hours, abed and up, were
so spent. Mark had ceased either to soothe or reproach; he had tried
both, but ineffectually; and now was fain to let her weep simply
because he was helpless to prevent it. Mark Cray could not be unkind;
he was not that; but he was hardly the right sort of husband for
adversity. Shallow-minded, shallow-hearted, possessed of no depth of
feeling, there seemed something wanting in him now. He did his best to
cheer his wife; but the result was not satisfactory.

The fits of weeping would sometimes go on to hysterics; sometimes
stopped just short of it. As this one stopped. Caroline suddenly
roused herself and looked round wearily at the mantelpiece, as if
there were a timepiece there, perhaps in momentary forgetfulness.
Grosvenor Place had been rich in such; elegant bijoux, worth no end of
money.

"I wish Sara would come!"

"Sara?" repeated Mark, halting in his monotonous promenade.

"I wrote to her to come."

She spoke the words half defiantly. Sara, in consequence of the
discovery of Mr. Dick Davenal, had come to see them once; but she was
not encouraged to repeat the visit. Mark especially was against it.
"If we have them coming here, we may get dropped upon," he had said to
his wife; "it would never do." But poor Caroline, wearied out with the
wretched loneliness that seemed to continue month after month, and to
have no end, had at length written to her cousin.

"Why did you not tell me, Caroline?"

"You might have forbidden me."

"It's just what I should have done. We don't want her here. What good
will she do?"

"What good will anything in the world do? I wish I was out of it!"

Mark Cray began to ask himself the question whether the expected visit
could be stopped now. He had an intense dislike to meet Sara Davenal;
we all shrink from meeting those whom we have injured directly or
indirectly. But the question was set at rest by Sara's entrance, and
Mark, after a short greeting, disappeared.

All Caroline did for the first quarter of an hour was to sob
hysterically. Sara, in slighter mourning now, unfastened the white
crape strings of her straw bonnet, and sat over her in dismay, her
sweet face full of compassion for the change she saw.

"I want to know how it is all to end," were the first distinct words
Caroline uttered. "Am I to stop here till I die?"

A question difficult for Sara to answer. "Is Mark doing nothing?" she
asked.

"He is doing nothing. He can't do anything while that business of the
Wheal Bang hangs over him. If that were settled, there are fifty
things he might get into. And if it can't be settled, we may both of
us as well die at once as be famished to death. For that's what it
would come to. Those poor creatures that shut themselves up with the
fumes of charcoal are not so much to blame, after all."

"Caroline!"

"Well, I mean it," returned Caroline, a sullen tone beginning to
mingle with her sobs. "It is all very well for you to exclaim
'Caroline!' as if I were mad; but you don't know what sorrow is.
Nobody does until poverty comes."

Sara thought that there were worse sorrows to be borne in the world
than poverty. And she was right; bad as poverty, to those unaccustomed
to it, undoubtedly is. "What can I do for you?" she gently asked.

"Here we are, buried alive, and nobody comes near us! Sara, if you
only knew how I yearn for a home face!--how I lie and cry for it!"

"Mark--and you also--said I must not come, lest it might lead to
discovery."

"Neither must you, I suppose. At least, not often. But sometimes I
think it would be well if discovery happened. There'd be an end to
this uncertainty at any rate. What is Mark to do if the thing can't
get settled?"

She asked the question in strange earnestness, and Sara was struck
with the yearning beauty of the lifted face, of the wasting form. The
violet eyes were larger than of yore, the cheeks were of a delicate
crimson, and the hands were long and white and thin.

"But can it not get settled?" returned Sara.

"We have nothing to eat, you know. That is, there's bread, and
suchlike; but I can't eat it. Mark will dine on bread and cheese, or
a thick slice of bread and butter; and he really does not seem to
mind; but I can't. O Sara! if I could but have a good dinner!"

Sara caught up her breath. What comfort could she give?

"Sometimes, when I am sick with hunger I lie and imagine the dinners
we used to sit down to in Grosvenor Place. I _imagine_ it, you know;
that they are before me now, and I am eating them. Turkey and bread
sauce, or salmon and lobster sauce--it's nearly always substantial
things I think of, I suppose because of my hunger--and I quite seem to
taste them, to eat through a whole plateful Sara, it is true."

Sara Davenal had heard the doctor speak of some kinds of hunger as a
disease, and could only suppose this must be one. "I wish--I wish I
could help you," she murmured.

"You can't, I know. You have it not in your power, and Aunt Bettina
won't; she's implacable. I did not send for you to ask it. But, Sara,
there's Oswald Cray. If you would ask him perhaps he might do
something for Mark."

The words startled her. "Ask Oswald Cray!"

"I think if he would listen to any one, it is you. I don't forget
how fond he used to be of you in the days gone by. Indeed, I got to
think--but I was wrong, I suppose, so let it pass. O Sara, you'll ask
him for my sake! Don't abandon us quite. I think he might help Mark
out of this difficulty. Perhaps he might see the company, and get them
to be friendly with Mark; or perhaps he'd pay a few of Mark's pressing
debts. It might not take much money?"

"But why cannot Mark ask him?"

"He won't. Mark would rather it came to the charcoal--not that
anything of that sort would ever be in _his_ line--than apply to
Oswald. There was some trouble between them about the money Oswald put
into the mine, and Mark has kept away from him since. That is just why
I have sent for you. Mark will not apply to Oswald; no, not if it were
to save him from prison; and I don't feel well enough to go, and my
bonnet's shabby. O Sara, when a recollection comes over me--and it is
always coming--of the nice clothes I had, and how foolishly they were
abandoned, I feel fit to go mad. Anyway, unless a change takes place,
I shan't want clothes long. Sara, surely you will do for us so
trifling a thing as this!"

To pursue the interview would be waste of time. When Sara Davenal
quitted her cousin it was with a given promise to see Oswald Cray.
Very much indeed did she shrink from it; as much as she had shrunk
from those interviews with Mr. Alfred King: but she saw no other means
to help them; and in truth she did not anticipate much would come of
this.

Money seemed to be wanted everywhere. Miss Bettina complained sadly of
shortness; the repaid money to Mr. Wheatley had crippled her: and
Captain Davenal's letters to Sara dwelt on his embarrassments. They
told her privately how "hard up" he was, and in his random meaningless
way said he should have to run away to Australia and dig for gold,
unless some dropped shortly from the clouds. Captain Davenal's wife,
as it turned out, was only an heiress in prospective; but he appeared
excessively fond of her, anxious to supply her with every luxury: and
we all know that a married captain's pay, without other means, does
not accord with luxuries in India.

_His wife!_ Over and over again Sara asked herself how it was possible
Edward could have married her, how he could speak of her in the fond
manner that he did, if there really existed that impediment. All the
trouble and the care seemed to fall upon herself individually--upon
her own hidden heart. So long as there existed a grain of doubt, she
could not speak of this to Edward; and, besides, the letter might fall
into the hands of his young wife.

Personally, Sara had not been annoyed by Catherine Wentworth.
Occasionally through the winter and spring she had seen this young
woman hovering outside waiting for Neal; twice she had come boldly to
the house, knocked, and asked for him. Miss Bettina's keen eyes had
seen her once. "Is it one of your nieces, Neal?" she graciously asked;
"pray, invite her in." "Oh no, ma'am, she is no relative of mine,"
returned Neal, with pointed emphasis. Sara's breath had quickened at
the colloquy, but it ended there. She was surprised at this immunity
from personal annoyance, and wondered how long it would be hers.

It was a coincidence rather remarkable that Oswald Cray should be at
the door when Sara returned home from the visit to Caroline. About
once in three months he made a call of politeness on Miss Davenal.
Sara met him turning away: Miss Davenal was out, and he had left his
card. He would have passed her after shaking hands--his visit was not
to her--but Sara detained him, her cheeks in a glow at having to do
it.

"It is very strange," she exclaimed. "I was but now thinking how I
could best get to see you. Do you mind coming in with me for five
minutes?"

He returned with her, perhaps all too willingly. A great many of us
are tempted to stray from the strict line of duty marked out in our
own minds. Sara led the way to the drawing-room, and told him where
she had been, and what Caroline said. The declining sun--for the
afternoon was drawing towards its close--fell on Oswald as he sat
listening to her. It was the same noble face that she had so loved to
look upon--calm, still, _good_; but somehow all its youth seemed to
have passed away. The eyes had a look of habitual sadness; some silver
threads mingled with the dark chestnut hair. She simply repeated Mrs.
Cray's words, almost as a child repeats a lesson; throwing no
persuasive tone, no pleading of her own into it, for she felt that she
had no right to do so.

"Did Mark Cray wish you to ask me this?" he inquired, as she ceased
the tale.

"Not Mark; only Caroline. By what she said, I fancy Mark Cray
feels--feels ashamed to ask you anything."

"And he well may," answered Oswald, the old look of pride unpleasingly
crossing his face. "I could have borne almost anything from Mark
better than deliberate deceit. I cannot, no I cannot forgive it."

Neither spoke for a few moments. Sara had untied her bonnet-strings,
and sat with her face a little bent, the eyes raised straight to him
in their simple trust. He had one glove off; it was a black one; and
he was gently swaying it as his elbow rested on the arm of the chair.

"I cannot quite understand what it is that Mrs. Cray would ask me. She
cannot seriously expect that I should pay Mark's debts. His personal
debts alone would take, I imagine, a far deeper purse than mine. I am
but making my way upwards, and Mark has taken care to put me back to
an extent I shall not readily recover. Pay Marcus Cray's debts! It is
not within my power, any more than it would be within my will."

Sara was silent, save for a glance. It said how foolish she herself
had thought the demand.

"I very much fear that Mark Cray is one of those men who want others
to 'pay their debts' throughout life," he resumed. "There are such.
Were he free tomorrow he would be embarrassed again in a year. To
assist such men is no charity."

"Do you think anything can be done to clear him of the company?"

"Not while he keeps aloof. Mark himself must know it to be impossible,
or ought to know it. The only chance for these affairs to be wound up
is for him and Barker to come forward."

"Yes, I thought so," she answered. "But--Caroline tells me--they are
near upon starving!"

"More shame to Mark!" exclaimed Oswald. "I cannot _describe_ to you
how this affair has pained me. Mark is my father's son, and his
disgrace seems to be reflected upon me. His hiding himself is the
worst part of it all. While he does so he is only prolonging the
trouble and the ill. Believe me, it would not be a kindness to help
Mark. Let him come forward as a man and a gentleman ought; that would
be the best help to him."

Sara felt that he was right; but she felt also that Mark would _not_
come forward; and what was to be the ending?

"They are living in only one room; it is at--."

"Don't tell it me?" impulsively interrupted Oswald, something like
anger in his tone. "I would not for the world be made cognisant of
Marcus Cray's hiding-place. People have come to me for it times and
again; and I am thankful to assure them in all truth that I know it
not."

He rose, as if wishing to put an end to the subject, and held out his
hand to Sara.

"At least you will forgive me for presuming to trouble you so far,"
she murmured. "I could not help it: Caroline besought me very
piteously."

His dark blue eyes, so earnestly bent on her, gave sufficient answer,
even without the pressure of the hand, the tender tone of the low
words.

"You should not speak of it in that light. If you knew how great a
pleasure it is to me for you to ask me anything! I had almost said it
is the only one left to me in my matter-of-fact working life. You and
I have none too much of such: it seems to me that we both have to
suffer for the wrong-doing of others."



CHAPTER LII.
SOMETHING "TURNED UP" AT LAST.


You might have taken a picture of the group in Mark Cray's room today,
if only by way of contrast to that of yesterday. The living figures
were the same: Mark, his wife, and Sara Davenal; but the contrast lay
in the expression, in the tone of feeling. Yesterday it had been
nothing but gloom, depression, almost despair; today it was all hope
and hilarity. The cloud had gone from the faces of Mark and his wife,
to give place to almost triumphal gaiety. On Sara's there was a look
of pleasure, mingled with perplexity, as if she would rejoice with
them, but as yet scarcely understood what there was to rejoice at.

Poor Mark Cray! The very slightest straw of expectancy was sufficient
to send his sanguine spirit into the clouds. All this change had been
wrought by a letter from Barker, which the eleven o'clock post had
brought. Barker, who was another of Mark's stamp, had suddenly
discovered, or thought he had discovered, that an English doctor was
wanted in Honfleur. He wrote over to Mark, strongly recommending him
to come and establish himself, and to lose no time, lest the opening
should be snapped up. "There's a goodish many English here," said the
letter, "and not the ghost of an English doctor. If an English fellow
gets ill he must die, unless he chooses to call in a French surgeon,
and the chances are _he'll_ bleed him to death. If you'll believe me,
they bled a young English lady this week for measles! She seemed ill,
and her friends called in a Monsieur Somebody, with a name as
unpronounceable as that mine of ours, and he looked at her, and asked
a few questions, said he thought she was sickening for some disorder
or other, and therefore he'd bleed her. Well, he did bleed her, and
ordered her some drink, called _tissan_, or some such name--I always
shirked my French at school--which it's my belief is made of nothing
but sugar and water. Bleeding for measles! The English say to me:
'What a boon it would be if we had a countryman established here as
doctor!' So Mark, old fellow, I've thought of you; and my advice to
you is, come and try it until something better turns up. I'm off to
Paris shortly, but I'll stop here and welcome you first, if you decide
to come. I know you hate your profession, and so do I, or I might try
the opening myself; but if you don't mind taking it up as a temporary
thing, I think you may manage to find enough practice to get along
with. Living's cheap over here, and the scenery's lovely, though the
town isn't much. Havre is only twenty minutes' distance by steamer;
it's over the water--the _manche_, as they call it; and Harfleur lies
by its side, nearer to us still. We have got an English church, you
can tell Mrs. Cray, if she's particular upon the point; we had a
splendid sermon last Sunday, preached by a stranger. Altogether, it
seems to me to be worth your thinking of _under present
circumstances_, and when the horizon has cleared a little, you can
leave the place as readily as you come to it."

And this was the golden bait that had laid tempting hold on Mark.
Perhaps to a man "under his present circumstances," as Mr. Barker put
it, it did look favourable. Estimating things by comparison, it looked
more than well. That one present room he was in, the dinnerless days,
the blue spectacles, and all the rest of the little disagreeables you
have heard hints of, were things to be flown from with the fleetest
wings, if they could be exchanged for the position of a flourishing
doctor in Honfleur. Mark was on his exalted ropes again, and his wife
seemed to have thrown off her sorrow and her ailments.

The first consideration was money. This desirable place could not be
reached without some. Even sanguine Mark allowed that. Just a little,
to allow of their getting there, and a pound or so to pay for
lodgings, and carry them on until his patients came in. He and his
wife were deep in the difficulties of the matter when Sara interrupted
them. She had come to tell Caroline of her ill-success with Oswald
Cray.

But Caroline was in no mood to listen to aught that savoured of
non-success, and Sara's news was overwhelmed with the other. Barker's
letter was read to her, and Mark enlarged upon it in his sanguine
strain.

"I knew something would turn up," said he. "Barker's a right good
fellow not to keep it himself. Those continental towns are charming,
if you can put up with the sameness: of course they get a little
_same_ after a time. Not all of them, though. We stopped three months
in Boulogne once, before my father's death, and were sorry to come
away from it. Only think how this will set Carine up, after all the
late bother."

"I fear Honfleur is a small place to support a medical man," observed
Sara, who could look at the proposal more dispassionately than the
other two.

"It's a lovely place," fired Mark. "Barker says so. It's renowned in
history. If the places he mentions are not of note, I'd like to know
what are. History tells us that! Why, it was from Harfleur that the
children of one