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Title: St. Martin's Eve - 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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   (Princeton University)



ST. MARTIN'S EVE

A NOVEL


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



_NINETIETH THOUSAND_



London
MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
1901

_All rights reserved_



CONTENTS.
CHAPTER

           I. THE LITTLE HEIR.
          II. FAITHFUL TO THE DEAD.
         III. THE UNEXPLAINED REASON.
          IV. A NEW MISTRESS AT ALNWICK.
           V. ON ST. MARTIN'S EVE.
          VI. THE ALNWICK SUPERSTITION.
         VII. A SHADOW OF THE FUTURE.
        VIII. WASTING AWAY.
          IX. CHANGES AT ALNWICK.
           X. MISS ROSE DARLING.
          XI. GEORGINA BEAUCLERC'S LOVE.
         XII. THE FAIR AT ALNWICK.
        XIII. ONLY AS BROTHER AND SISTER.
         XIV. ST. MARTIN'S EVE.
          XV. CONFLICTING STATEMENTS.
         XVI. INVESTIGATION.
        XVII. HONOUR'S RAVINGS.
       XVIII. ADELINE DE CASTELLA.
         XIX. TAKING A PORTRAIT.
          XX. LOVE'S FIRST DREAM.
         XXI. A FADING CHILD.
        XXII. ALL ABOUT A STUPID FRENCH MARIGOLD.
       XXIII. JEALOUSY.
        XXIV. FOILED!
         XXV. A CRISIS IN A LIFE.
        XXVI. THE SICK CHAMBER.
       XXVII. THE LITTLE CHILD GONE.
      XXVIII. MRS. BRAYFORD'S BELIEF.
        XXIX. LOUISE'S WHISPERED WORDS.
         XXX. THE RECEPTION OF THE DEAD.
        XXXI. UNAVAILING REPENTANCE.
       XXXII. SOME MONTHS ONWARDS.
      XXXIII. A TELEGRAM.
       XXXIV. WALKING OUT TO DINNER.
        XXXV. ON THE TERRACE.
       XXXVI. LOCKED IN.
      XXXVII. A MEETING IN PARIS.



CHAPTER I.
THE LITTLE HEIR.


The dull sombre light of a November afternoon was rapidly giving place
to twilight. The day had been wet and cold; and the sodden leaves that
strewed the park of one of England's fair domains did not contribute
to the cheerfulness of the scene. The mansion belonging to it stood on
a gentle eminence, well open to view, and looking boldly down on its
lands: a long but not high house of red brick, with many windows; a
cheerful house, rising behind a wide and gently sloping lawn, which on
this ungenial day gave out as wretched an appearance as did all else
of outward nature.

But if the weather was rendering the demesne desolate, it seemed not
to affect the house itself. Lights were gleaming from many of its
numerous windows, were passing from room to room, from passage to
passage; and fires added their red glow to the general brightness. A
spectator might have said that some unusual excitement or gaiety was
going on there. Excitement in that house there indeed was, but of
gaiety none; for grim Death was about to pay it a visit: not to call
any waiting for him in weary old age, but to snatch away the young and
lovely.

Had you entered the hall, so bright with light, what would have struck
you most was the hushed, unusual silence. Nearly all the servants of
the establishment were gathered there; but so still were they, so
motionless in their repose, that it had something unnatural about it.
They stood in small groups, for the most part only half showing
themselves, and gazing towards a closed dining-room, sorrow and
consternation imprinted on their faces. Two physicians, almost as
hushed in manner just now as the servants themselves, were partaking
of refreshment within it. The butler himself waited on them; and as he
came out and crossed the hall with noiseless tread, he repeated an
ominous opinion he had heard hinted at. One of the women-servants, her
tears streaming, started up the broad, carpeted staircase with
impulsive but soft footfalls, and a younger girl, looking frightened
to death, followed her. They stole along the corridor to the right,
and halted at a door there. Why, or for what purpose, they could not
have told, since they might not presume to enter the chamber; for
their lady was lying there at the point of doom.

A handsome, spacious bed-chamber, opening into a dressing-room, but
the door was almost closed between them now. Over the dressing-room
fire was a tall, upright, middle-aged woman, more intelligent and
respectable-looking than are some of her class. She wore a clean print
gown, and a close white cap shaded a cheerful countenance. The fire
shone full on her brown eyes, and on the tears that glistened in them.
Strange sight! for the continuous scenes of sickness, sometimes of
death, in which these hired nurses' lives are passed, tend to render
them callous to outward emotion.

Pacing the carpet slowly and sadly, his eyes cast down in thought, was
a little man of ruddy complexion, sharp, thin features, and hair going
grey with years. It was Mr. Pym, the family medical attendant. His
hands were clasped behind him, as he walked, and his gaze, worn and
anxious, was never lifted from the ground.

"This will make the second case we have lost this year," suddenly
observed the woman, whose name was Dade, in whispered tones. "What can
make it so unlucky a year?"

The surgeon gave no answer. Perhaps he did not like the "we" in her
remark. But he knew that his duty was always performed to the very
utmost of his skill and power; that it had been so in the two cases to
which she alluded; and his conscience, so far, was at peace before
God.

"There are no further means that can be tried?" resumed the nurse,
using the words as an assertion, more than a question, and she glanced
towards the partially-open door connecting the two apartments.

"None," was the conclusive reply. "She is sinking rapidly."

A long pause. The nurse stood motionless, the surgeon pursued his slow
and noiseless tread. Suddenly he stopped and turned his head, speaking
in quick tones.

"Where's the baby, Mrs. Dade?"

"He's in the cradle, sir, by her side. She looked as if she wanted him
left there."

And then the doctor remembered, and paced on as before. He had spoken
in momentary forgetfulness.

The silence within the sick chamber was as great and more painful: the
moments of bustle and anxiety had passed away. The fire in the grate
had burnt down to embers; a pale light was emitted from the shaded
lamp; the air was redolent, almost to faintness, of perfume. Essences
had been sprinkled about in profusion, as if they would make pleasant
the way to death! The heavy blue velvet curtains were drawn back from
the bed; and, lying there, was a form young and fair, with a pale,
exhausted face. Everything in the chamber spoke of wealth, comfort,
luxury: but not all the wealth and luxury of the whole world combined,
had they been brought together, could have arrested the fast-fleeting
spirit already on its wing. On the far side of the bed stood a pretty
cradle, ornamented with blue silk and lace: the little child so
quietly and unconsciously sleeping in it, had seen the light but
yesterday.

Leaning over the bed was a young man bowed down with grief, of
attractive features and gentlemanly bearing. Not long had they been
man and wife; but a year at most; and now it was hard to part; doubly
hard with this new tie which had been born to them. Yet they both knew
it must be so, and he had thrown his arm lightly across her, and laid
his cheek, wet with tears, against hers, vainly wishing, perhaps half
hoping, that his heart's bitter prayers might avail to renew her life.
The silence between them had been long and agonizing: each heart was
aching with painful thoughts; yet it seemed in that last hour as if
they could not give them utterance. May Heaven shed its balm on all
such partings!

He raised his face and pushed his hair from his brow as he looked at
her, for she had moved restlessly, as if in sudden pain. It was not
pain of body: of that she was free in this, the passing: but pain of
mind. An anxious care, one of the many she must leave on earth, was
pressing upon that lady's brain.

"When the months and the years go by," she murmured, breaking the
silence, and clasping her hands in feeble supplication to him, "and
you think of another wife, oh choose, one that will be a _mother_ to
my child. Be not allured by beauty, be not tempted by wealth, be not
ensnared by specious deceit; but take one who will be to him the
loving mother that I would have been. Some one whom you know well and
can trust. Not a stranger, not a----"

"I shall never marry again," he interrupted in impassioned tones, when
his first surprise allowed him to speak. "You, my first and only love,
shall be the sole wife ever taken to my bosom. Never shall another
woman usurp your place. And here I swear----"

"Hush! hush!" she panted, laying her hand upon his lips to stay the
incautious words. "It were cruel of me to exact such a promise from
you: and it would be useless for you to make it, for you would never
keep it, save with self-upbraiding. The remembrance of this scene will
pass away; the remembrance of me will pass; and then you will ask
yourself why should your life be condemned to solitude. No, no. To
remain faithful to the dead is not in man's nature."

He thought in his own heart, honestly thought it then, that her
opinion was a mistaken one, and he marvelled that she should so speak.
He felt as sure as he could feel of anything in this world, that he
should prove a living refutation of it. Dying though she was,
partially oblivious already to earth and earth's interests, she yet
saw clearer into human nature than he.

"Yet oh, forget me not wholly!" she whispered. "Let there be brief
moments when the remembrance of me shall return to you; when you will
dwell upon me as having been the one you once best loved on earth!"

Another deep silence from words, for he could not answer: his sobs
were choking him; the pulses of his anguished heart were beating
wildly. _She_ spoke not from exhaustion; and several minutes passed
on.

"What will you have, him named?" he asked abruptly, pointing towards
the cradle.

"Call him Benjamin," she replied, after a minute's thought, and she
spoke now with difficulty. "He cost Rachel her life, as this child has
cost mine. And oh, may he be to you the solace that Benjamin was to
old Jacob; and may you love and cherish this child as he did his!"

Her voice gradually failed her, a spasm smote her features, and she
lay more heavily on the pillow. Her husband raised her: he clasped her
fluttering heart to his; he wildly kissed her pallid face. But that
face was losing its look of consciousness, and no tenderness could
arrest the departing spirit. In a paroxysm of alarm: as if, now that
the moment had come, it took him by surprise, a thing that had not
been looked for: he cried out to the medical man in the adjoining
chamber.

Mr. Pym came in, followed by the nurse. He gave one glance at the bed,
and then whispered the woman to summon the physicians. He knew their
presence would be utterly useless, but at such times man deems it well
to fulfil these outward forms.

They hastened up the stairs. They remained but a few minutes in the
room, and then left it; soon left the house. The better part of that
lovely lady had quitted it before they did.

And it was only the previous day that the joy-bells had rung out in
the adjacent village on account of the birth! Only this same morning
that the local newspaper, wet from the press, had given forth the
festal news to the world!

"On the 10th inst., at Alnwick Hall, the wife of George Carleton St.
John, Esquire, of a son and heir."

And the journal went its way, as journals do go their way, into many a
neighbouring home, whose inmates made their comments on the one piece
of news that was of more interest to them than all the rest, and
congratulated each other on the birth of Alnwick's heir, little
conscious of the tragedy that was supervening upon it.

Amongst the houses to which the journal penetrated was one on the
other side the village of Alnwick. A small, unpretending dwelling,
this house, standing a little away from the highroad, but a pretty
place withal, hidden amidst its surrounding shrubs and trees. It was
called "The Cottage." Its mistress had named it so with a sort of
affectation of humility, for it was superior to a cottage, even to an
elegant one.

Lying back in a lounging chair, in one of the pretty sitting-rooms,
where she had just thrown herself, not from illness but from fatigue,
was the owner of the house, when the newspaper was taken in. A woman
of nearly fifty years, but looking a great deal younger, with her
still bright blue eyes and her auburn hair. She was a widow; a widow
for the second time. Barely twenty years of age when her first
husband, Mr. Norris, died, she had soon espoused another, Colonel
Darling. In ten years after that she was a widow again, and had
remained so. She chose to retain the name of Norris, without any right
to it, and her cards were printed "Mrs. Norris Darling," so that
people, especially strangers, hardly knew by which to address her, and
sometimes called her Norris and sometimes Darling. The fact is, Mrs.
Darling was a little given to pretension, as ladies will be, when
conscious of a want of dignity in themselves or their surroundings.
She had been packing things all the morning; she, her maid, and two of
her daughters; for they were summoned from home unexpectedly; and she
was falling into a doze when the footman entered.

"What is it?" she asked in peevish accents; and the man looked up in
surprise at hearing it from his usually easy-tempered mistress.

"It is only the newspaper, ma'am."

"Put it down, Tomkins," she answered, too idle to take it. "I think I
was asleep. I am very tired."

The man laid it on the table and quitted the room, meeting a
staid-looking, rather old-fashioned young lady who was entering it,
for whom he made way. It was Miss Darling, and she looked thirty years
of age if she looked a day. But she was only five-and-twenty.

"Well, Mary Anne, is it all done?"

"It is all done, mamma. Prance is waiting for Tomkins to cord the
boxes."

Mrs. Darling closed her eyes again, and her daughter took up the
unopened newspaper, when another young lady, very much resembling the
first, and looking quite as old, came in. She gave a slight shiver as
she passed the window, and began to stir the fire.

"What a miserable day it is! I wish we could put off our journey."

"Where's the use of wishing that, Margaret?" said Miss Darling. "But
it _is_ miserable. Has Charlotte found the cover of her desk?"

"I don't know. I don't suppose Charlotte has looked for it. I heard
her tell Prance that none of her things must be forgotten."

"True. When did Charlotte ever trouble herself to look for anything?"
was Mary Anne Darling's response; but she spoke it more in soliloquy
than as a reply.

Margaret Darling--she was one year younger than her sister--drew her
chair in front of the fire, and put her feet upon the fender.

"Is that the newspaper? Is there any news, Mary Anne?"

"Yes, there's news," was the quiet answer: but Miss Darling's manner
was always quiet. "A baby is born at the Hall."

"What?" exclaimed Mrs. Darling, starting up as she caught the words,
and all her lethargy was gone. "Is the baby born, Mary Anne?"

For answer, Miss Darling read out the words: "On the 10th inst., at
Alnwick Hall, the wife of George Carleton St. John, Esquire, of a son
and heir."

"I am glad it's a boy!" exclaimed Mrs. Darling. "How proud they will
be of it! On the 10th--that was yesterday. Then rely upon it those
bells Charlotte said she heard ringing, were for this. And now, how
can I manage it? I must contrive to see Mrs. St. John before we go
away."

"But why, mamma?"

"Why?" repeated Mrs. Darling, turning rather sharply on her daughter
Mary Anne, who had asked the question. "Because I should like to do
so; because it's neighbourly to go to her, poor young mother; because
it may be months before we are back here, and I have the opportunity
of seeing her again; and because I'm curious to hear all the
interesting particulars. That's why, Mary Anne: and I shall go."

Mrs. Darling allowed no interference with her will--at least from
_these_ daughters, and Mary Anne was dutifully silent. "I was only
thinking, mamma, what an unpleasant day it would be for you to walk
over," she presently said. "And I don't see how you will have time for
it."

"Plenty of time; and for the unpleasantness I don't care; you never
yet knew me to stop indoors for weather. Pretty Mrs. St. John! Let me
read the announcement for myself."

She took the paper in her hand, and was gazing at the words with a
pleased smile, when the door again opened, and some one else
entered the room. A tall, elegant girl of apparently only three or
four-and-twenty, an imperious, regal, haughty girl, whose raven-black
hair was braided over pale, regular features, and whose rich
silk attire glistened and rustled as she walked. Who would have
believed that she was older by some three or four years than the
Miss Darlings?--who would have believed that they were even
half-sisters?--she, with her stately beauty, her costly attire, and
they with their homely faces, old-fashioned look, and plain green
merino gowns. Mrs. Darling had two daughters who absorbed all the
money that she could spare for dress; the eldest, Charlotte Norris,
and the youngest, whom you will meet by and by; no wonder that these two
middle ones, Mary Anne and Margaret, with their meek spirits and quiet
tastes, were obliged to dress in plain merinos.

"Charlotte, here's news in the paper," Mary Anne was beginning, but
Mrs. Darling drowned the words: and Mary Anne saw with some momentary
surprise, that her mother had crushed the paper in her hand, as if not
caring that it should be seen.

"Charlotte, my darling, _would_ you mind telling Prance that I shall
want my black silk cloak taken out of the hair-trunk again? Go to her
now, dear, before she has it corded."

Miss Norris, who had still the door-handle in her hand, quitted the
room again. Mrs. Darling turned to her daughters.

"Say nothing to Charlotte of this announcement. I will tell her of it
myself. It is my pleasure to do so."

"I beg your pardon, mamma," said Mary Anne. "Of course you know best."

Mrs. Darling did know best. At any rate, the two daughters before her
were taught to think so. Mary Anne and Margaret Darling had been
reared to implicit obedience in one respect--never to question the
line of conduct pursued by Mrs. Darling to their half-sister; never to
comment on it in the slightest degree. Mrs. Darling folded the
newspaper as small as she could, crammed it into her pocket, and
followed Charlotte upstairs.

Later in the day she set out to walk to Alnwick Hall. It was growing
dark, and she had not intended to be so late as this, but one thing or
another had detained her. The Hall was nearly three miles distant from
her own home, through the village of Alnwick; but the road was by no
means lonely in any part of it. She walked quickly, not stopping to
speak to any one she met, and had left the village behind her some
time, and was nearing the Hall, when the death-bell of Alnwick church
rang out suddenly, but not very distinctly, on the heavy air. It was
quite dark then.

"Poor old Mother Tipperton must be gone!" Mrs. Darling exclaimed to
herself, standing for a moment to listen. "Pym told me she could not
last long. Well, it was time: I suppose she was eighty."

Not another thought, except of old Mother Tipperton, entered her mind;
not the faintest suspicion that the bell was tolling for one younger
and fairer. She went on, over the broad winding way through the
beautiful park, and gained the door of Alnwick Hall.

It might have struck her--but it did not--that besides the man who
opened the door to her, other servants came peeping into the hall, as
if in curiosity as to the visitor. She stepped over the threshold out
of the gloomy night.

"How is your mistress, Haines? Going on all right?" she asked, rubbing
her shoes on the mat.

"Oh, ma'am, she's dead!"

Mrs. Darling certainly heard the words, but they appeared not to
penetrate her senses. She stared at the speaker.

"She is just dead, ma'am; not an hour ago. Two physicians were had to
her, besides Mr. Pym, but nothing could be done."

Down sat Mrs. Darling on the hall bench. Perhaps only once before, in
her whole life, had she been so seized with consternation.

"_Dead!_ Good Heavens! I came to sit half-an-hour with her before
leaving Alnwick, for I may not be back for months. What an awful
thing! Poor Caroline Carleton!"

Drawing her cloak around her, Mrs. Darling crossed the hall towards
the housekeeper's room, unconsciously calling the deceased by her
maiden name, the one she had longest known her by. "I should like to
see the nurse," she said, "if she can spare a moment to come to me."

The housekeeper, a stout, very respectable woman, who had come to the
hall a year ago with its now dead mistress, was at the table writing a
note as well as she could for her tears, when Mrs. Darling entered.
Laying down her pen, she told all she knew of the calamity, in reply
to the low and eager questions. But Mrs. Darling grew impatient.

"A fine beautiful baby, you say--never mind the baby, Mrs. Tritton.
What can have caused the death?"

The stout old lady shook her head. "She died from exhaustion, they
say, ma'am. But she had a fall a few days ago, and I believe that had
something to do with it. I can't bear to _think_ of it just yet. Alive
and well and merry but a day or two since; and now dead! It seems like
a dream."

Her sobs deepened. The ready tears filled Mrs. Darling's eyes. She
wiped them away, and inquired what would be done about bringing up the
child. Mrs. Darling was a practical woman, and had never allowed
feeling to interfere with business.

"That's the first great care," was the reply of the housekeeper. "Mr.
Pym does not know of any one just now that could come in. I suppose it
will have to be brought up by hand: and the master, I believe, wishes
that it should be. As Mr. Pym says, the boy's so big and strong, that
he'd bring himself up almost, if you put him outside the street-door.
And it's true."

"Does Mr. St. John take it much to heart?"

"Ay, that he does," was the emphatic reply. "He is shut up in his own
room where he keeps his business papers and things. But, ma'am"--and
the tone was suddenly subdued--"a body going by, and pausing a moment,
may hear his sobs. If any young husband ever loved a wife, Mr.
Carleton St. John loved his. Poor child! she's gone early to join her
parents!"

Mrs. Darling, who had her full share of curiosity--and what woman has
not, in a case like this?--stole upstairs to see the baby; to see the
baby's poor young mother; to talk for a minute or two with the nurse,
Mrs. Dade, who could not come to her. And then she stole down again;
for time was getting on. The housekeeper asked her to take some
refreshment, but she declined, explaining that a summons to her sick
mother, who was very old, was taking her and her daughters away from
home. They were starting that evening by the seven-o'clock night
train.

"And they are at the station already, I am sure," she said; "and I
must run all the way to it. Sad news this is, to cheer me on my
journey!"

Sad indeed. And the public thought so as well as Mrs. Darling. The
same week the newspapers put forth another announcement.

"On the 11th inst., at Alnwick Hall, in her twenty-third year,
Caroline, the beloved wife of George Carleton St. John."



CHAPTER II.
FAITHFUL TO THE DEAD.


"To remain faithful to the dead is not in man's nature."

Such were the words spoken by Mrs. Carleton St. John in dying; and a
greater truth was never recorded by Solomon.

The seasons had gone on; spring had succeeded to winter; summer to
spring; autumn was succeeding to summer. Nothing like a twelvemonth
had passed since the death, and yet rumour was whispering that George
Carleton St. John had begun to think of a second wife.

The baby had thrived from its birth. Mr. St. John appeared to have an
invincible repugnance to any woman's supplying the place of its
mother; and so they fed the child upon the next best food that was
proper for it, and it had done well. The housekeeper strongly
recommended Mr. St. John a niece of her own to take care of it, and
the young woman arrived from a distance; a comely, fair-complexioned,
nice-looking young woman, named Honoria Tritton; and she entered upon
her charge. All things went smoothly; and Mr. St. John's first grief
yielded to time and change: as all griefs must so yield, under God's
mercy.

Friends had come to visit Mr. St. John during the summer. Relatives,
they were, indeed, but distant ones. Gay people they proved to be; and
they stayed on, and gradually the Hall held its festal gatherings
again, and its master began to go out amongst the county families.
Whether it might be to escape the sorrow left on him by his great
loss, or to make things pleasanter for these visitors, certain it was
that George St. John no longer eschewed gaiety, whether in his own
house or abroad. Mrs. Tritton's opinion was, that he had invited his
relatives to stay with him, because he found his life now at the Hall
so monotonously dull. If so, their advent had had the desired effect,
and had taken him out of himself and his trouble.

It is surprising, when once an effort of this sort is made, and we
awaken from a prolonged grief, how _easily_ that grief is laid aside.
Unconsciously it seems to slip away from us, and is forgotten, From
that eleventh day of November down to June, Mr. St. John had done
nothing but indulge his sorrow. It had grown calmer, of course, by
degrees; but he had not in the least striven to lift from himself its
bitterness. No very long term, some may say, this seven months; but
let me tell you that it is long when given wholly to tears and
solitude. A reaction must succeed to all violent emotion, even to that
caused by the death of one dearly beloved; and it came to George St.
John; came with the sojourn of his visitors. A fortnight's association
with them, and he was not the same man. As host, he had to exert
himself, and with the exertion came the pleasure in it. Ere June was
ended, he had forgotten three-parts of his sorrow. It seemed, as he
might have described it himself, to have slipped away from his heart,
leaving healing and semi-forgetfulness in its place. He would have
told you that he regretted his wife as much as ever; but he did not do
so; for other interests were reasserting their sway within him. Sorrow
had nearly spent itself, and was dying out. Do not blame him: man
cannot act against his nature; least of all when in the heyday of
youth.

He could not offer a churlish reception to his visitors, who had
journeyed far to sojourn with him. They were of the world, and
expected to be entertained. Mr. St. John invited people to the Hall to
meet them; and went out with them in return. In July the county
families began to seek their homes after the whirl of the London
season, bringing their guests with them, and gay parties were the rule
of the hour. Archery, boating, lawn dances, dinners; never a day but
something more agreeable to the rest succeeded to the other. Mr.
Carleton was pressed to attend all, and did attend a great many. Can
you wonder at it? Of great prospective wealth, heir-presumptive to a
baronetcy, and withal an attractive man--the world knew how to
estimate him. But the prize was not as great as it had been, since no
other woman who might succeed in gaining him, or whom he might choose
himself irrespective of any seeking on her own part, could reasonably
hope to give birth to the heir that should succeed. That heir was
already in the world--the little child whose advent had cost a
precious life.

It could not be said that Mr. St. John had very much right, especially
now, to the name of Carleton. His name had been simply George St.
John, until he married the rich heiress, Caroline Carleton: and with
her property he had to assume her name, for her dead father had so
enjoined it in his will. But for that expectant baronetage, he might
have added the new name _after_ his own. As it was, he did not do so.
The new name was rather a convenience: there were several branches of
the St. John family, one of them far higher in the world's social
scale than George St. John of Alnwick, or even his uncle the baronet;
and people fell into the habit of calling him Mr. Carleton, as a
distinction. The little child had also been christened Carleton.

And so George Carleton St. John, yielding to the soothing hand of
time, forgot in a degree her who had lain on his bosom and made the
brief sunshine of his existence. He went out in the world again, and
held gatherings of his own, and was altogether reinstated in social
life.

On a lovely day in September, Alnwick Hall was filled with guests.
Chiefest of all the fêtes by which that autumn and the neighbourhood
had been distinguished, was this last one held at the Hall. Mr. St.
John had spared neither pains nor money to render it attractive: and
he certainly succeeded. Brilliant groups were in the park, in the
temporary marquee on the lawn, and in the house itself; a sort of
_fête-champêtre_. Was it out of place, all that glittering gaiety,
with the closing scene of only ten months before?--the young life so
suddenly sacrificed? Perhaps so: but the idea did not once occur to
George St. John. It was not likely to do so now, when _another_ was
casting her spells upon his heart. I have told you that rumour had
already whispered of a second mistress at Alnwick.

In a pleasant room, opening on one side to the conservatory, its front
windows looking to the park, several ladies were assembled. They were
of various ages, of various degrees of beauty. One stood conspicuous
amidst the rest. Not for her beauty, though that was great; not for
her dress, though that was all that can be imagined of costly
elegance; but for a certain haughty, imperious air, and a most
peculiar expression that would now and again gleam from her eyes. An
expression that many had observed and that none could fathom; a sort
of wild expression of absolute _will_. It was not often noticed; but
it was apparent just now. You have seen that tall, finely-formed girl
before, her well-set head, her swan-like neck; you have seen the pale
features, regular as any ever carved in sculpture, the thin lips so
firmly closed, the luxuriant raven hair. Quiet to a degree in bearing
and manner, in spite of her haughty air there was an indisputable
attraction about her. Could the rumour be true--that the greatest
match of the county was about to be laid at Charlotte Morris's feet?
If so, what a triumph for her mother; what a triumph for herself, so
proud and portionless.

Mrs. Norris (she was Mrs. Darling, you know) stood by her side. Very
pretty still, but not half as grand a woman as her daughter. Charlotte
looked well today; never better; in her pretty white gossamer bonnet
and sweeping white bernouse, you could not have thought her to be much
past twenty. And the ladies around looked on her with envious eyes,
and repeated over to themselves, what a triumph for Mrs. Norris
Darling!

Perhaps so; but that lady was as yet unconscious of it. She had no
more idea that that particular triumph was in store for her, or that
Charlotte had, even in rumour, been given to Mr. St. John of Alnwick,
than had Alnwick's little heir, who was crowing before her eyes at
that moment. This was the first time Mrs. Darling had been to the Hall
since that melancholy evening visit in the past November. Only the
previous day had she returned to her cottage home.

In the centre of the ladies stood a young woman, holding the baby.
That he was a fine baby none could dispute. He was not indeed what
could be called a pretty child, but a rather unusual look of
intelligence for one so young distinguished his features and his clear
grey eyes, rendering his face excessively pleasing. And had he
possessed all the beauty that since the creation of man has been said
or sung, those fair women, displacing one another around him, could
not have bestowed more praise upon him--for he was the heir of
Alnwick, and Alnwick's possessor was there to hear it.

George St. John's cheeks were flushed with pleasure, and his eyes
shone as he listened to the flattery; for he fondly loved his child.
The little boy wore a broad black sash on his white frock, black
ribbons tied up his sleeves, and his pretty round fat arms were
stretched out to any one who would notice him.

"Yes, he is a fine little fellow," observed Mr. St. John, more
gratified as the praises increased. "He will walk soon."

"Pray is that his nurse?" inquired Mrs. Norris Darling, scanning the
maid through her eye-glass. "What is your name, young woman?"

"My name is Honoria, madam," replied the girl, looking pleased and
curtseying, "but they call me Honour. Honoria Tritton."

"And what is the name of this dear child?" asked Miss Norris, drawing
nearer. "I have always heard him called Baby."

"Well, his name gets abbreviated for the same reason that we shorten
Honour's," laughed Mr. St. John. "He was christened Benjamin, but is
universally known amongst us as Benja."

Mrs. Norris Darling (let us give her both names once in a way!)
continued to examine the nurse by the help of the glass. She needed a
glass just as much as you or I, reader; and had she not been
surrounded by that fashionable crowd, would as soon have thought of
looking at Honour through the ring of her parasol. But pretentiousness
is given to many little ways pertaining to pretentiousness, and
that is one of them. Mrs. Norris Darling possessed an idea that an
eye-glass added immensely in some way to her dignity. She turned her
glass on Honour from top to toe, in the same cool manner that other
glasses are turned; and she saw a sensible-looking young woman, with a
clear, fair skin, a good forehead, and truthful light blue eyes.

"Honoria Tritton?" she repeated. "You must be a relative of Mr.
Carleton St. John's housekeeper! Have you had sole charge of the
baby?"

"Oh yes, madam, the sole charge."

"It is a great responsibility," remarked Mrs. Norris Darling, dropping
the glass, and speaking, not to Honour, but to the ladies around.

Mr. St. John had taken his child from the nurse's arms, and was fondly
caressing it. His very actions, his movements, betrayed the depth of
his affection, and a sharp feeling of jealousy shot through the heart
of the beautiful Miss Norris as she watched him. "Will he ever love
another child as he loves this one?" was the thought that arose
unbidden to her mind. No, never, Miss Norris; you need not ask or wish
it: man does not love another as he loves his first-born.

But her beautiful features were smooth as polished crystal as she drew
near to Mr. St. John. He glanced at her with a welcoming smile.

"Do let me nurse him!" she said in low tones. "I adore children; and
this one seems made to be loved."

Mr. St. John resigned the boy to her. She carried him away into the
conservatory, to a remote bench out of sight, sat down, and amused him
with her gold neck-chain. The little fellow sat confidingly on her
knee; one hand enclosing her fore-finger, the other grasping the
glittering coil. Mr. St. John followed her.

"Look at him!" she said, her quiet face changed to rapture as she
glanced at Mr. St. John. "Look at his nimble little fingers and bright
eyes! How happy he is!"

"Happy in all things save one," whispered Mr. St. John, leaning over
the child, but gazing at herself. "He has no mother to love and guide
him."

Those unfathomable eyes of hers were cast down, so that the eyelids
concealed them, and a crimson flush mantled to her usually pale
cheeks.

"He wants a mother," proceeded Mr. St. John; "he _must_ have a mother.
Not now will I urge it, when so many are near; but, Charlotte, you
know whom I would entreat to be that mother and my beloved wife."

A strange whirl of agitation shook her, impeding instant utterance.
Mr. St. John saw the signs, and laid his hand upon her with a smile..

"Ought you to talk to me of a _beloved_ wife?" she asked, in an
impassioned tone, as she glanced momentarily up at him. "She who lies
buried in her grave was yours."

"I did not love her as I shall love you," he hastened to avow--and in
the moment's fervour it may be that he thought he spoke truth. "Had I
known _you_ better then, I might never have chosen her."

"Yet see how you love her child!"

"And I will passionately love any that may be born to you, Charlotte,"
he whispered. But the very remark, had Mr. St. John been cool enough
or wise enough to analyze it, might have told him that her heart, even
now, before she was anything to him, was shaken by jealousy of the
child. He was neither cool nor wise just then.

He bent his head lower and lower; he murmured vows of everlasting
tenderness; he suffered his face to rest against hers, as it had once
rested against that of his dying wife. She resisted not. But when a
host of intruders came flocking in, she raised her haughty head, and
swept on with a scornful step, as she resigned the infant into the
arms of its nurse.

George St. John had loved his wife with the fresh, rapturous feelings
that he could never know again; and he loved her memory. Yet, here he
was, ere ten short months had elapsed, willing to swear to another
that she was the first who had awakened true passion in his heart! But
Caroline Carleton had faded from his sight, and Charlotte Norris stood
before him in all her beauty. It is the way of man; ay, and often of
woman. _To remain faithful to the dead is not in man's nature_.

The fête was over, and they were driving home--Mrs. Darling and her
daughter. To judge by the manner of the two ladies, one might have
thought it was the mother who had received so momentous a proposal;
not the daughter. Charlotte sat quiet and calm, leaning back in her
corner of the chariot; Mrs. Darling was flushed, restless, evidently
disturbed. Mr. St. John had said to her a word of enlightenment in
parting, and it startled her out of her equanimity.

"Charlotte," she began--and not until they were drawing near the end
of their homeward road, and the village of Alnwick was left behind
them, did she speak--"Charlotte, I hope I misunderstood Mr. St. John?"

Charlotte lifted her eyes. "I do not know to what you allude, mamma.
In what do you hope you misunderstood Mr. St. John?"

"He hinted to me that he should call tomorrow to speak to me about
you. Charlotte, it will be of no use: I cannot let you marry Mr.
Carleton."

"Please not to call him by that name," was the quiet rejoinder.

"Mr. St. John, then--what does it matter? I should not like you to
marry him. Has he really asked you to be his wife?"

"Yes."

"It must have been very sudden!"

"Not so. I think we have understood each other for some little time
past."

"Then he has been in the habit of coming to the cottage?"

"Oh yes."

Mrs. Darling, who had raised herself in some commotion as she asked
the last question, sank back again, and a look of mortification, of
mental trouble, settled on her face. The carriage was approaching
their door ere she spoke again, her tones betraying an agitation that
was ill suppressed.

"I cannot spare you, Charlotte! Charlotte, my darling, I cannot spare
you! How often have I hoped, and urged, and prayed that you would
never leave me--that you would be the one to stay and cheer my old
age!"

Charlotte shook her head with a smile. Had her mother been less
agitated, less evidently in earnest, she might have enlarged on the
unreasonableness of such a wish. As it was, she only answered
playfully, that her mother need not think of old age these twenty
years.

"Are you marrying him for his money--his position?" resumed Mrs.
Darling.

"I am tired, mamma; I wish you wouldn't question me. Really I can't
exactly particularize why I am marrying him."

"_You_ a second wife! Have you reflected, Charlotte, that Caroline
Carleton was his first choice; that there's already an heir to Alnwick
who will inherit all; that George St. John has hardly a shilling
beyond his entailed estates----"

"Don't mamma!" was Charlotte's interruption, and her brow had
contracted as if in pain. "It is quite useless your saying this. I
should marry George St. John, though I knew that I must beg my bread
afterwards from door to door."

A moan, as of one in sorrow too great for utterance, broke from the
lips of Mrs. Darling, and she sank back in the carriage and clasped
her hands in pain.



CHAPTER III.
THE UNEXPLAINED REASON.


Not a word was spoken by either mother or daughter as they entered
their home. The little French clock in the drawing-room pointed to
eleven--for the festivities at the Hall had been prolonged into
evening--and Charlotte, perhaps afraid of further contention, said
good night, and went up at once to her chamber. Mrs. Darling threw off
her cloak and bonnet and began to pace the room. It was rather a habit
of hers when disturbed or vexed.

Never had she been so disturbed as now. Her ordinary crosses had been
but light ones, which she scolded or talked away; _this_ seemed to be
too deep, too real, for any talking.

It might be unreasonable; every one who knew of it said it was so;
but Mrs. Darling had lived in the ardent hope that her eldest
daughter--more fondly cherished by her than all the rest--would never
leave her, never marry. She had planned and schemed against it. Some
two or three years ago, a suspicion arose in her mind that Charlotte
was falling in love with George St. John, and she checked it by
carrying off Charlotte, and keeping her away until the danger was
over. He had married Caroline Carleton before they came back again. No
one living had suspected this manoeuvre on the mother's part, or that
Charlotte had been in danger of loving the master of Alnwick--if she
had not loved him--except Margaret Darling. Surely it must have been
unreasonable. Mr. St. John was a free man then in every sense of the
word, and Charlotte's son, had she married him and borne one, would
have been the heir!

That Mrs. Darling's love for Charlotte had always been inordinate,
those about them knew. But, as a woman of the world, she might have
foreseen how utterly powerless would be a mother's love to keep her
daughter always by her side. Charlotte once said to her in a joking
way, that she had better put her into a convent, and make a nun of
her: and indeed that would have been about the only way of preventing
it. And now, in spite of her precaution, Charlotte was about to marry;
to be a second wife. That fact alone brought some gall to Mrs.
Darling.

She had deemed Charlotte so secure. She had never dreamt of the
treason that was afloat. Their visit to her old mother in Berkshire
had been prolonged until June, and all that time Charlotte had been
safe under her own eye. In June, old Mrs. Darling (it was the same
name, for Mrs. Darling's second husband had been a distant cousin)
grew so convalescent that they had no scruple in quitting her; and
Mrs. Darling had despatched Charlotte to Alnwick under convoy of Mary
Anne, who was so much older than her years, and might be thoroughly
trusted. Margaret remained behind with her grandmother, and Mrs.
Darling went to France to see her youngest daughter Rose, who was at
school there. She only intended to be absent a fortnight; by the end
of that time she meant to be at Alnwick; but ere it was concluded, she
was summoned back in haste to her old mother, who had had a relapse.
So that it was September before Mrs. Darling really returned to
Alnwick. She arrived just in time to attend the fête at Mr. St.
John's, and she went to it without any more prevision of what was to
happen than a child unborn.

It was the first time that Charlotte had been away from her, and she
was blaming herself bitterly. Perhaps self-reproach was never sharper
than Mrs. Darling's as she paced the drawing-room this night. It
seemed to her, now, that she might have foreseen something of the
sort; that she should have kept her attractive daughter under her
own eye. But she thought she had taken every precaution. She had
charged Mary Anne not to admit gentlemen as visitors during her
absence--unless, she had added, they were of a certain standing as to
age, and married. Some few she had especially interdicted by name.
Above all others would she have interdicted Mr. St. John of Alnwick,
had she supposed that this would be the result; and she mentally
heaped the most bitter reproaches on Mary Anne, and felt that she
should like to shake her.

She turned to the bell with a sudden impulse, and rang it; indeed,
Mrs. Darling was always an impulsive woman. All the servants had gone
upstairs on Mrs. Darling's entrance, except the lady's-maid; hours
were early in the quiet household. Mary Prance came in: a slender
woman of five-and-thirty, with dark eyes and brown marks on her thin
face; she wore a neat grey alpaca gown and small white linen
wristbands and collar. A woman devoted to her mistress's interests,
but disliked by the servants, who went so far as to call her a
"deceitful cat." But Mary Prance was a clever woman, and not deceitful
on the whole. She gratefully liked Mrs. Darling, who was always kind
to her, and she loved the eldest daughter; but she cared for no one
else in the wide world. She had entered the service as housemaid, a
young girl, but her mistress had called her "Prance" from the first.
Mrs. Darling--you remember the hint I gave you--could not call her
servants by their simple Christian names. She turned sharply as the
door opened.

"Where's Miss Darling?"

"Miss Darling has been in bed some time, ma'am. She went at eight
o'clock. Her sore-throat was painful, though a trifle easier."

"Prance, who has visited here during my absence?" interrupted Mrs.
Darling, impatiently drowning the words. "What gentlemen?"

The lady's-maid considered for a moment, recalling the visitors. "Dr.
Graves, ma'am; he has come the oftenest, I think. And Mr. Pym, and old
Sir William----"

"Not those old people, Prance; I don't care to hear about them," said
Mrs. Darling, peevishly. "I mean young men---single men."

"Not any, I think," answered Prance, after a pause. "Miss Darling was
denied to them."

"Mr. St. John of Alnwick has come?"

"Oh yes, Mr. St. John has come. He has come often."

With the answer, Mrs. Darling quitted the room for the chamber of her
unconsciously offending daughter. The poor girl woke up, hot and
startled at the unexpected entrance; at the sharp questions that so
rudely assailed her ear. Not for some few moments did she understand
sufficiently to answer.

Mr. Carleton St. John? Yes, he had been there rather frequently in the
past few weeks. Had Charlotte had opportunities of seeing him alone?
Yes, very likely she had; it might be so.

"Did you know," resumed Mrs. Darling, suppressing the storm of
reproaches so ready to break from her lips, "that any attachment was
arising between her and Mr. St. John?"

"No, mamma, I never knew it," replied Mary Anne, fully awake now. "I
did not think of such a thing. _Has_ it arisen?"

"Yes, it has arisen, you unhappy, careless creature, and I fear that
she's going to marry him," retorted Mrs. Darling. "You are a hundred
years older than Charlotte in staid experience. I entrusted her to
your charge here as I might a younger sister, and you have suffered
her to meet George St. John, and this is the result! I shall never
forgive you, Mary Anne. Did I not warn you that I would have no single
men calling here during my absence?"

"But--but--Mr. St. John is not a single man," returned the unfortunate
Mary Anne, too bewildered to collect her senses. "I'm sure I did not
think of him as anything but a widower steeped in grief. It seems only
the other day that his wife died. I did not think of him at all as a
marrying man."

Neither, in point of fact, had Mrs. Darling, or she might have
expressly interdicted his visits by name, as she had those of others.

Mary Anne Darling was collecting her wits. She sat up in bed, thinking
possibly that might help her. "Mamma, you _cannot_ really expect to
keep Charlotte unmarried! Remember her beauty. If it were me or
Margaret, you might----"

"You or Margaret!" screamed Mrs. Darling, excessively incensed at
something or other in the words. "I wish you were both going to be
married tomorrow! or tonight, for the matter of that."

"I was going to ask you, mamma," pursued Mary Anne, meek still in
spite of the covert sneer, "what objection you can possibly have to
her marrying Mr. St. John?"

"That's my business and not yours," said Mrs. Darling, tartly.

Mary Anne had never heard her mother altogether so cross, never seen
her so vexed, and the girl wondered excessively. Hitherto, she had
supposed the objection which existed to Charlotte's marrying, and
which she had not failed to detect, arose from an exalted idea on her
mother's part that no one likely to present himself was worthy of Miss
Norris in a worldly point of view. But surely this could not apply to
Mr. St. John of Alnwick! She spoke again, pursuing her train of
thought.

"He will be Sir George St. John sometime, mamma; he will be more
wealthy than he is now. It is really a better match than even
Charlotte could have hoped for."

"I would give every shilling I possess in the world, rather than
Charlotte should marry him!" spoke Mrs. Darling, in low, determined
tones. "I would sacrifice half the years I have yet to live to keep
her with me always! I shall never forgive you, Mary Anne. When you
found that George St. John was taking to come here, you ought to have
sent me word."

"Mamma, listen. I have told you that I never thought of such a thing
as that Mr. Carleton St. John came, or could come, with any such idea;
he, who has only just lost his wife. But if I had thought of it, if I
had known it, what would have been my will against Charlotte's? It
might have pleased her that he should be admitted; and you know you
have taught us to give way to her in all things."

"Then you might have written to me. I repeat to you, Mary Anne, that
I shall never forgive you."

"It must be, that he was previously married--that Charlotte's children
will not inherit," cried Mary Anne, speaking aloud in her wonder, as
she strove to find reasonable grounds for the objection to Mr. St.
John. "But----"

"Hold your tongue," interrupted Mrs. Darling. "You have done mischief
enough, without seeking for reasons that may not be disclosed."

More and more surprised grew Mary Anne. The last words were not spoken
in reproach or anger, but in a tone of deep, bitter pain. They bore a
sound of wailing, of lamentation; and she could only stare after her
mother in silence, as Mrs. Darling quitted the room not less abruptly
than she had entered it.

Mary Anne Darling lay down again, and curled the clothes round her
with a pettish movement, feeling excessively aggrieved. But that was
nothing new. She and Margaret had suffered all their lives through
Charlotte, and had never rebelled. Miss Norris had been first and
foremost; had received all the love, all the consideration, all the
care; the house had only seemed to go on in reference to the
well-being and convenience of its eldest daughter.

Brought up to this from their earliest years, Mary Anne and Margaret
Darling had accepted it as one of life's obligations. But the young
lady was feeling now that she was being unjustly censured. If there
did exist any objection to Mr. Carleton St. John, Charlotte should be
blamed for falling in love with him, or else be made to relinquish
him. But Miss Darling did not believe in any objection: she thought
her mother only wished to keep Charlotte to herself in her jealous
affection--that she could not bear to part with her.

"I never knew anything so unreasonable," grumbled the young lady,
giving the pillow a fierce poke upwards. "Charlotte was sure to marry
sometime, and but for her mother's great watchfulness, she'd have been
married before this. I _cannot_ understand mamma. What though
Charlotte _is_ the apple of her eye, ought she to wish to prevent her
fulfilling woman's proper destiny? The love of most mothers causes
them to wish their daughters to marry; some to go the length of
scheming for it: in this case it is schemed against. It is very
selfish, very inconsistent; and yet mamma is not a selfish woman! I
can't understand her."

Mrs. Darling's opposition was not yet over. She sat the next day in
her own room, thinking what an ill-used woman she was, calling up
every little remembered cross of her past life; as many of us are
prone to do in moments of annoyance, when things wear a gloomy aspect.
She had married--a girl not out of her teens--Mr. Norris, of Norris
Court, a gentleman whose standing in the county was almost as good as
that of the St. Johns of Alnwick. But ere she had well realized her
position as the wife of a wealthy man, the mistress of a place so
charming as Norris Court; almost ere her baby was born, Mr. Norris
died, and the whole thing seemed to pass from her as a dream. Had the
child proved a boy she had been well off, and Norris Court still been
hers as a residence; proving a girl, it lapsed from her to the next
male heir in the entail. She turned out of it with her baby, the
little Charlotte, and a small income of a few hundreds a year. These
hundreds, at her own death, would be Charlotte's. The pretty house she
had since called her home was in point of fact Charlotte's, not hers.
It had come to Charlotte on her father's death, but she had it to
reside in for her life. Norris Court was two miles distant from
Alnwick; and Mrs. Norris in her young widowhood had quarrelled with
its new possessors. The breach had never been healed, so that
Charlotte was a stranger to her forefathers' home. Except for this
cottage and the few hundreds a year, all in expectation, Charlotte
Norris had nothing. How Mrs. Norris had bewailed these past untoward
circumstances, her own heart alone knew.

Her own subsequent marriage with Colonel Darling had not greatly
improved her circumstances in the long-run. At the Colonel's death,
the chief portion of what he had passed to their son. A little was
settled on the daughters, and Mrs. Darling had a certain benefit for
life. But altogether her income was not a large one, especially
considering her many wants, and that she was not one who could make a
sovereign go as far as most people; and Mrs. Darling was in the habit
of thinking that fate might have been kinder to her. In the lost
glories of Norris Court, present benefits, real though they were, were
overlooked. But for these comparisons, bred of discontent, some of us
would get on better in the world than we do.

She sat in her own room, glancing back at these past grievances,
dwelling on others that were more recent. It was the day following the
fête. The interview with Mr. Carleton St. John was over, and Charlotte
was his promised wife. Mrs. Darling had done what she could to oppose
it--to the secret surprise of Mr. St. John; but her opposition was
untenable, and had broken down. "If you have any tangible objection to
me, name it, and let me combat it as I best may," said Mr. St. John.
But apparently Mrs. Darling could bring forward none, save the
foolishly fond one that she could not part with Charlotte; and the
engagement took place. As Mrs. Darling sat now, alone, her mind was
still busy with a hundred wild schemes for its frustration.

But she saw clearly that they would all be worse than useless; that
unless there was some special interposition of Providence, Charlotte
would go to Alnwick. What was the secret of her opposition? Ah, my
reader, you must turn over many pages ere you arrive at that. She had
one very great and good reason for dreading the marriage of her
daughter with George St. John of Alnwick.

Charlotte happened to come into the room as she sat there. Mrs.
Darling held out her hand; and Charlotte--who might have looked
radiant with happiness but that she and her countenance were of an
undemonstrative nature in general--came and sat on a stool at her
feet, her dress, bright mauve muslin, floating around, her delicate
hands raised from their open lace sleeves to her mother's knee.

"I must say a few words to you, Charlotte. Promise to hear me
patiently and calmly."

"Of course I will, mamma."

"There's no of course in the matter, I fear. Times have been,
Charlotte, when----"

"Oh mamma, never mind all that. I'm going to be good. Tell me what it
is."

"Do you remember, some three years ago--yes, it must be quite three
years now, for we did not leave London that year until August--that we
saw a good deal of George St. John? We had met him in London that
season; we met him on our return here; and he fell into the habit of
calling on us often."

"I remember," replied Charlotte.

"The beginning of October we left home for Paris; a sudden resolution
on my part, you girls thought; which was true. Charlotte, I must tell
you now why I went. I was taking you from danger; I was carrying you
away from George St. John."

A momentary glance upwards of Charlotte's eyes. Did Mrs. Darling read
anger in them? That something made her quail, there was no doubt, and
she laid firm hold of both those slender wrists resting on her knee.

"For your sake, Charlotte; it was for your sake. I feared you were
growing to love him."

"And if I were?" retorted Charlotte.

There was a long pause. Mrs. Darling appeared to be weighing some
question with herself: she looked anxious, troubled, undecided: but
she still held the hands with a firm grasp.

"Charlotte, I want you to trust me. There is a reason, why you should
not become the wife of Mr. Carleton of Alnwick; but I cannot tell you
what it is. I cannot so much as hint at its nature. I want you to
trust me that this cause does exist; and to act upon it."

"To act upon it?"

"By declining to become Mrs. Carleton St. John."

"No," said Charlotte, very quietly. "What is the cause?"

"My darling, I have said that I cannot tell you: and that is why I ask
you to trust me as confidently as you did when a little child. The
thought came over me just now, while Mr. Carleton was here, to speak
openly to him. The next moment I felt faint and sick with dread at the
bare thought. I may not tell Mr. Carleton; I will not tell you----"

"I do wish you wouldn't call him by that name!" Charlotte interrupted.

"My dear, it is that I have fallen into the habit of it," murmured
Mrs. Darling.

"It's like a scene in a play," exclaimed Charlotte. "I may not marry
George St. John for some reason, and I may not know what the reason
is! He is not going to turn out my brother, or cousin, I suppose?
Rather romantic, that, for these matter-of-fact days!"

"Oh, Charlotte, be serious! Do not indulge in nonsense now. You know
that you are Charlotte Norris, and that he is George St. John; and
that you never were related yet. It is not that: I wish it were
nothing else."

"What is it?"

"I cannot tell you, Charlotte. I cannot; I cannot."

"Have you heard anything against him, that you are concealing?"

Mrs. Darling lifted her hand to her face, partially hiding it. She did
not answer the question.

"Charlotte, you know how I love you. Well, I would almost rather see
you die, than married to George St. John. No mother ever schemed to
get her daughter a husband, as I schemed three years ago to keep you
from one, when my suspicions were aroused that you were in danger of
loving George St. John."

"The danger had ripened," said Charlotte, in low tones. "I did love
him."

"My poor girl! And _his_ love, though I did not know it then, was
given to Caroline Carleton----"

"Don't say it!" interrupted Charlotte: and for the second time during
their interview Mrs. Darling quailed, the tone was so wild, so full of
pain. "I do not wish to be spoken to of his first wife," she added
calmly, after a pause.

"You will not, surely, be his second, Charlotte! Charlotte, my
Charlotte! You will not break my heart!"

"You will break mine, if you forbid me to marry Mr. St. John," was the
whispered answer. "But indeed, mamma, I think we are talking
nonsense," broke off Charlotte. "I am no longer a child. I am nearly
nine-and-twenty; and that's rather too old to be told I may not marry,
when there's no real cause why I should not do so."

"No real cause! What have I been saying, Charlotte?"

"I think there is none. I think what you are saying must be a
chimera."

Mrs. Darling let fall the hands she held; she had only hoped against
hope. Charlotte rose and bent over her mother to kiss her, whispering
a few decisive words. Cruel words to her mother's heart.

"It is of no use trying to separate us, mamma. You did enough mischief
in separating us before--but until this hour, I knew not that you
acted intentionally. But for that, I might have been his first wife,
chosen before all."

Charlotte Norris was wrong, so far: Mr. St. John's love had never
before been given to her: it never would be given to her as it had
been to Caroline Carleton. The first fresh green of the heart's spring
had had its day, and was gone for ever.

A few more days; another attempt or two, futile as this one; a short,
sharp battle with her secret wishes, and Mrs. Darling gave up
opposition, and grew apparently reconciled to what she could not
prevent. And in midwinter, just after the new year came in, the
newspapers had another piece of news to relate, concerning Mr. St.
John.

"On the 2nd of January, at the church of St. Mary, Alnwick, by the
Reverend Dr. Graves, George Carleton St. John, Esquire, of Alnwick
Hall, to Charlotte Augusta, only child of the late Herbert Norris,
Esquire, of Norris Court."



CHAPTER IV.
A NEW MISTRESS AT ALNWICK.


The mourning habiliments hitherto prevailing at Alnwick Hall were put
aside during the wedding-tour of its master, and the servants appeared
in gayer colours. Master Benja's grey merino frock was exchanged for a
scarlet, and the black sash and sleeve-knots were replaced by white
ones. Benja was a sturdy little fellow of fourteen months now,
sufficiently forward in walking to get about the room and bring
himself into all manner of mischief.

A second marriage, a new mistress suddenly brought to an established
home, rarely gives pleasure to its inmates. This applies in an
especial degree to its women-servants. Whatever the cause may be, or
whence the feeling in the jealous human heart takes its rise, it is an
indisputable fact, that the second marriage of a master is rarely
liked, and the new bride is regarded with anything but love. The case
was such at the Hall. Tritton, the housekeeper, had lived in the
family of Miss Carleton before she was Mrs. St. John; had come with
her to the Hall when she married; and it was only natural, perhaps
that she should look upon her successor somewhat in the light of a
usurper. Honour shared the feeling. Ardently attached to her young
charge, having been _trusted_ with him, possessing almost full control
over him, the prospect of a new mother for the boy and a mistress for
herself could not be palatable. But both Tritton and Honour were
conscientious, good women; and there is no doubt this feeling would
have soon worn itself out, but for circumstances that occurred to
increase it.

Mrs. Darling was not wise. Her intentions no doubt were good, but her
judgment was not so. From the day following that of the ceremony, when
Mr. and Mrs. St. John were fairly away, Mrs. Darling haunted the Hall.
Anxious for the comfort of Charlotte as she had never been for
anything in her life, she fell into the mistake of interfering with
Charlotte's future home before she entered upon it. She went about the
house, peering here, peeping there; she had changes wrought in the
rooms, in the furniture; she found fault with the arrangements made by
the servants, who had done their best, and superseded them at will.
She changed the position of beds, she examined linen, she turned Benja
and Honour from their day-nursery into another; she ordered this to be
done, she countermanded that. This might have been tolerated in Mrs.
Darling; indeed it must have been; but what the servants could not and
would not tolerate, was a second edition of it in Prance. Prance
generally accompanied her mistress to the Hall; one or two nights was
left to sleep there; Mrs. Darling's worrying orders were often
transmitted through Prance; and Prance, as unwise as her mistress,
assumed a supercilious superiority (which indeed was partly her
natural manner) excessively distasteful to Mr. St. John's rather
indulged but most respectable household.

It was a sad mistake. It was perhaps the first link in a heavy chain,
whose fetters would have to be worn for ever. Mrs. Darling ought to
have waited until her daughter came home, she could then have
suggested these alterations privately to her if she deemed them so
essential, and suffered Charlotte's own authority to carry them out.
How Mrs. Darling, a shrewd, sensible, easy woman in general, fell into
the error, must remain a marvel. It caused the servants to look upon
her as a meddling, underbred woman, who was interfering most
unjustifiably in what did not concern her. She was really nothing of
the sort; it all arose from her surpassing anxiety for Charlotte's
comfort.

This, I say, must have been borne from Mrs. Darling; but when that
unfortunate Prance came in, all the resentment was turned upon her.
Prance ordered after her mistress. Worse still, she did not order as
from her mistress, but as from herself; and her cold, you-must-obey-me
tones, exasperated, the maids at the Hall almost to rebellion. Putting
present ill-feeling apart, the result was unfortunate: for it created
a prejudice against their new mistress, which Mrs. St. John would have
to live down. Altogether, what with the advent of the new wife, the
perpetual visitation of Mrs. Darling, and the hatred to Prance,
Alnwick Hall was kept in a state of internal commotion.

In the midst of this, the day came round for the return of Mr. St.
John and his bride. In the afternoon, Master Benja, in apple-pie
order, the short scarlet frock and the white ribbons--for they were
expected to arrive every hour--was toddling about the nursery, drawing
a horse. Honour, in a new cap with white satin trimming, sat watching
him, and talking to one of the housemaids, Edy, who had looked in for
a gossip.

It may be as well that you should notice how these nurseries were
situated. They were at the _side_ of the house facing the east. Mr.
St. John's bedroom was at the end, looking on to the park, and forming
as it were an angle on that side the house. You saw the room once;
some one was dying in it. His room opened to two others, one on either
side of it. The one looking to the front was his own dressing-room;
the other looking to the side, had been called the dressing-room of
the late Mrs. St. John; and all three rooms opened to the gallery. It
was this last room that had been Benja's nursery, and out of which
Mrs. Darling had turned him. The next room to this, which opened to no
other room, was the new day-nursery. Honour and Benja are in it now.
And beyond it, the last room on this side the house, was the one in
which Honour and Benja slept. The next to this, the first one looking
to the north at the back of the house, was Mrs. Tritton's--but it is
unnecessary to mention that. The passage in which the doors of these
nurseries were situated was narrow, not like the wide front corridor
or gallery. Immediately opposite the door of Benja's bed-chamber was
the back staircase used by the servants. Honour, with her charge, was
the only one who assumed the privilege of passing up and down the
front stairs. It was as well to mention this: you will see why, later.
Honour bitterly resented being turned from the nursery. It was
unreasonable that she should do so (though perhaps not unnatural), as
the room would be required for the new Mrs. St. John.

She was gossiping with the housemaid in the manner that servants like
to gossip, when a voice in the next room startled them both. It was
the voice of Prance; and the servants had not known she was in the
house.

"There's that woman here again!" exclaimed Edy, in a whisper.

Honour had her finger to her lip in an attitude of listening. She
wondered to whom Prance was talking. Tones that could not be mistaken
for any but Mrs. Darling's, answered her. In point of fact, Mrs.
Darling had come over to receive her daughter, bringing Prance to
carry a few last trifling belongings of Charlotte's.

"Of course!" ejaculated Honour. "I knew _they'd_ be here."

Honour was good in the main; sincere, thoroughly trustworthy; but she
was not exempt from the prejudice to which her class is especially
prone. You cannot help these things. It was her custom, whenever she
found Mrs. Darling and her maid appeared upstairs, to catch up Benja
and dart down to the housekeeper's room, with a vague feeling, arising
from resentment, of carrying Benja out of their reach. She took him up
now, horse and all, and was making her way to the backstairs when
Mrs. Darling suddenly looked out of a chamber and called to her.

There could be no pretending not to hear. She had been seen, and
therefore was obliged to arrest her steps. It had not come to open
rebellion against Mrs. Darling.

"I want you, Honour. Step here a minute."

"Carry the baby down, Edy," whispered Honour, giving her the child.
"Tell Mrs. Tritton that they are up here, if she does not know it,"
she added, as a parting fling.

When Edy reached the housekeeper's room, she found it empty, except
for the presence of a woman in black, who sat there with her things
on, and who laid siege to the baby as if she had a right to him. It
was the nurse, Mrs. Dade, who came occasionally to see the child, as
she had opportunity. Edy, only a few months in the service, did not
recognize her. Edy willingly resigned the charge, and made her way to
the hall as fast as her feet could carry her: for a bustle in it
warned her that their new mistress had arrived, and all her woman's
curiosity was aroused.

She was crossing the hall on Mr. St. John's arm, a smile of greeting
on her pale face as she glanced to the right and left. Mr. St. John
laughed and talked, and mentioned two or three of the principal
servants by name to his wife. Edy stood in a nook behind the rest, and
peeped out; and just then Mrs. Darling, having become aware of the
arrival, came down the stairs with loud words of welcome.

The bustle over, Mrs. Tritton went back to her own room, shutting the
door upon Edy. Nurse Dade had the boy on her knee, talking to him; and
Honour, a privileged visitor, came in. Honour's tongue could be rather
a sharp one on occasion; but the unexpected sight of the nurse
arrested it for the moment.

"I should not have come up today, had I known," Nurse Dade was saying
to the housekeeper. "It must be a busy day with you."

"Middling for that: not very. You heard of the marriage, I suppose?"

"I saw it in the newspapers. I had not heard of it till then. I have
been away for six months, you see, and news came to me slowly. How
well this little fellow gets on, Honour! You have done your part by
him, that's certain."

Honour gave a sort of ungracious assent to the remark.

"What do you think she wanted with me?" asked she, turning to the
housekeeper, alluding to Mrs. Darling. "You know that pretty sketch
that master drew of Benja in the straw hat, one day in the garden, and
hung it up in his bedroom? Well, she called me in to say she thought
it had better be taken down and put elsewhere. I told her I must
decline to meddle with my master's things, and especially with that,
though it was done only on the leaf of a copy-book; and I wouldn't
touch it. She first looked at me and then at the sketch; but just then
there was a bustle in the hall; she ran down and I came away."

"And it's left hanging?"

"It's left hanging. Ah!"--and Honour drew a long breath--"Nurse Dade,
we have changes here."

"There's changes everywhere, I think," responded the nurse. "But I
must say I was surprised when I read it in the papers. So soon! and to
recollect what his grief was _then!_ But law! it's the way of the
world."

Honour took Benja, carried him to the far end of the room, and began
amusing him with his horse. They made a considerable amount of noise,
almost drowning the voices of the two women by the fire.

"Do you happen to know her?" the housekeeper had asked, and the nurse
knew by intuition that she spoke of the bride.

"I've known her ever since she was a baby. My mother was nursing at
Norris Court, and I went there for a day and a night, and they let me
hold the baby on my lap, to say I had had it. I was quite a young
woman then; a growing girl, as one may say."

"I don't know anything of her, hardly," said the housekeeper. "I've
not chosen to ask questions of the servants, and I and Honour, as you
are aware, are strangers in the neighbourhood. Her father was a
colonel, was he not?"

"A colonel! No; it was Mrs. Norris's second husband that was a
colonel--Colonel Darling. Miss Norris's father was Mr. Norris of
Norris Court. Very grand, rich people they were: but as there was no
boy, it nearly all went from the widow when Mr. Norris died. She
married Colonel Darling when the first year was out."

"She must have been very young," remarked the housekeeper. "She does
not look old now."

"Very young. I remember the first time I saw her in her widow's cap. I
began wondering how _I_ should look in a widow's cap, for she did not
look much older than I was. She was very pretty. People said what a
pity it was Mr. Norris should have died so soon and left her."

"What did Mr. Norris die of?"

"I can't tell you. I have never known. There was some mystery about
it. My mother always said she did not know: and I don't think she did,
she was so curious over it. He was ill about a week or ten days, but
nobody was let go near him, except Mr. Pym and the valet, and a
man-nurse they had. Some of the servants thought it was some
infectious disorder: but nobody knew."

"And he died?"

"He died. The little baby, Miss Charlotte, as she was named
afterwards, was born whilst he lay ill. My mother said Mr. Pym took
her in to show her to her father; which was very wrong if it was
fever; and when Mr. Pym came out his face was white, as if he had gone
through some painful scene."

The housekeeper, who was by no means one to deal in mysteries, stared
at the nurse. She had hushed her voice to that tone we are apt to use
when speaking of things that must not be openly discussed. She sat
gazing at the fire, as if recalling the past, the black strings of her
bonnet hanging down.

"How do you mean, Mrs. Dade?"

"Mean?"

"You speak as if you were scared."

"Do I? I suppose I caught the tone from mother: she used to speak so
when she talked of it. It was her way, when there was any sort of
mystery in her places. Whether she came to the bottom of it herself,
or whether she didn't, she always used a tone in speaking of it that
partly scared you and partly sent you rampant to know more."

"But what mystery could there be in regard to Mr. Norris?"

"That's just what I am unable to tell you. There _was_ a mystery:
everybody knew that; but I don't believe anybody fathomed it. Whether
it lay in his illness, or in his death, or in neither, mother never
knew. Sometimes she thought it was connected with his wife. They had
been a loving couple until one night, when some dispute occurred
between them, and there ensued an awful quarrel: one of those dreadful
disturbances that terrify a household. Mrs. Norris, a gentle, loving,
merry young girl, as she had seemed until then, dashed her hand
through a cheval glass in her passion, and cut it terribly. It all
took place in their own room. Mr. Pym was fetched; and altogether
there was a fine hullabaloo."

"Were you there?"

"I was not there; nor mother either. It was not for some days
afterwards that she was sent for to Mrs. Norris: but the servants told
her of it. Mr. Norris had been ill ever since; and three days later he
was dead. The butler said--and he no doubt had it from the valet, for
they were great friends--that it was that night's quarrel that killed
his master."

"How could the quarrel kill him?" cried the wondering housekeeper.

Nurse Dade shook her head. "I don't know. All sorts of things were
said--as things in such cases often are, and perhaps not a word of
truth in any of 'em. At any rate, Mr. Norris died, and nobody knew for
certain how he died or what was the matter with him, or what could
have given rise to the dreadful quarrel that led to it. There were but
two persons who could have told the truth--Mrs. Norris and Mr. Pym."

"Mr. Pym must have been a young man then," observed the housekeeper,
after a pause.

"About thirty, I suppose. He must be sixty now."

"Mr. Pym's not sixty!"

"He is hard upon it. Nobody would take him for it, though, he is so
active. Mrs. Norris had to leave the Court when she got well, for the
new people to come to it; she went straight to the house she's in now,
which of right belongs to Miss Charlotte--I should say Mrs. St. John."

"I hope she's amiable?" observed the housekeeper.

"She is when she likes, I believe. I don't know much of her myself.
She has a temper, they say--but then she has been so much indulged."

"She is very handsome. But she's not in the least like Mrs. Darling."

"She is very much like her father. Mrs. Darling's fair, Mr. Norris
was----"

A clear, sonorous voice, calling "Benja," interrupted the words.
Honour heard it, for it penetrated even above the shouts of the boy
and the creaking of the steed. It was a call she was accustomed to.
Often and often, in passing through the hall, going out or coming in,
had Mr. St. John thus summoned his child.

"Not the horse," said Honour to the boy, as she picked him up. "Papa's
calling. Benja shall come back to the horse by-and-by."

Mr. St. John was in the hall, waiting. He took the child from Honour,
kissed him lovingly many times, and then carried him into the
drawing-room. Honour followed. She had not been told to go down, and
there was an irrepressible curiosity in her mind to see Mrs. St. John.

She was seated alone, near the window, with a work-box before her and
some embroidery in her hand, looking as much at home as though she had
always lived there. Her raven hair was partially turned from her
forehead, showing off the finely-cut but very thin features. Turning
her head quickly at the opening of the door, she saw her husband
enter.

"I have brought you Benja, Charlotte. He must make acquaintance with
his mamma."

She rose with a smile, her dark-blue silk dress gleaming brightly from
its ample folds, met them midway in the room, and took Benja. The boy,
rather astonished perhaps at the summary proceeding, stared at her
from his wide-open great grey eyes.

"You will love mamma, Benja?" she said, kissing him tenderly; and she
placed him on her knee and held up to him her shining gold chain, as
she had done some two or three months before. "Mamma means to love
Benja."

But Benja was impervious to bribes today, and would have nothing to
say to the gold chain. Suddenly, in the midst of his prolonged stare,
he burst into tears, with a great deal of unnecessary noise.

"I am strange to him," said Mrs. St. John. "He will know me better in
a day or two. See! what have I here for Benja!"

She took up a sweet biscuit from a plate that happened to be on the
table. What with the biscuit, and her persuasive words, her kisses,
Benja suffered himself to be coaxed, hushed his sobs, and kissed his
new mamma.

"Friends from this minute," she said triumphantly, glancing up at her
husband, who had stood by, smiling. "I will try and be a good mother
to him, George."

"I shall like her better than I thought," decided Honour from the
door, who could find no fault, even in her prejudice, with her new
mistress. "I shall like her much if she will only love the child."

And thus the future lady of Alnwick had entered on her home.



CHAPTER V.
On St. Martin's Eve.


"At Alnwick Hall, on St. Martin's Eve, the wife of George Carleton St.
John, Esquire, of a son."

This was the next announcement in the local papers; some ten months,
or a trifle more, having elapsed since the last one. And I hope you
will have patience with these notices, and not find fault with their
frequency: they are not yet over.

"On St. Martin's Eve!" Was Mr. Carleton St. John a Roman Catholic,
that he should chronicle the birth of his children by the saints'
days? No. And it was not by Mr. St. John's wish that it had been so
worded, but by Mrs. Darling's.

It was no doubt a somewhat singular coincidence that this second child
should have been born on the same day as Benja, the 10th of November.
Mrs. Darling, who was temporarily sojourning at Alnwick Hall, and was
naturally a little inclined to be superstitious, regarded it as a most
ominous event. What, she thought, if the advent of this child should
be succeeded by the dreadful tragedy that had so fatally characterized
the last? And it would perhaps hardly be believed, but that some of
you may have had opportunities of witnessing these foolish fancies,
that she dreaded the announcement being made in the newspapers in the
same words as the last.

"I cannot bear it," she said to Mr. St. John, "I could not look at it
without a shudder. Put anything else you like, but don't put 'On the
10th of November!'"

Mr. St. John laughed outright; he could not help it. "Charlotte is as
well as she can be," he rejoined.

"I know; but a change might take place at any moment. Pray do not
laugh at me, Mr. St. John. Call it folly; superstition; what you will;
only don't word this announcement as you worded the last."

"But how am I to word it?" he asked. "If the child was born on the
tenth, I can't put it the ninth or the eleventh. I won't send any
notice at all, if you like; I don't care about it."

"Not send any notice of Charlotte's child!" she echoed in displeasure.
"That would be a slight indeed."

"As you please. But you see the little fellow has chosen to come on
the tenth, and we can't send him back again to await a more convenient
day."

"Put 'On St. Martin's Eve,'" said Mrs. Darling, after a pause of
somewhat blank consideration.

"St. Martin's Eve!"

"Yes; why not? It _is_ St. Martin's Eve, you know."

"Indeed I don't know," returned Mr. St. John, very much amused. "I'm
not sure that I knew we had a St. Martin at all in the calendar."

"That comes of your having lived so little out of England. The English
pay no attention to the saints' days. I have been abroad a good deal
with my children, and know them all. St. Martin's is a great day in
some parts of France. Please let it be so worded, Mr. St. John."

He took a pen and wrote it as she desired, laughing much. "I should
like to see Dr. Graves's eyes when he reads this," quoth he, as he put
it into the envelope.

"A rubbishing old Low Churchman!" slightingly spoke Mrs. Darling.
"He's nobody."

So the notice was sent off; and in due time returned to the house in
the newspapers. Mrs. Darling carried one upstairs proudly to her
daughter. "See, Charlotte! How well it looks!"

Mrs. St. John took the paper in her delicate hand and read it in
silence; read it twice. "How came George to put it in like that--'St.
Martin's Eve?'"

"Because I requested it. You are quite well now, darling, as may be
said: but I would not have the announcement made to the world in the
same words as the last."

"It never could have been so made, mamma."

"Yes it could. Were not the two children born on the same day of the
year?"

"Oh, that," coldly returned Mrs. St. John, as if the fact were not
worth a thought. "The other had an addition which this must lack. It
ran in this way: 'the wife of George Carleton St. John, of a son _and
heir_.'"

Mrs. Darling made no rejoinder. But she cast a keen, stealthy glance
at Charlotte from time to time, as she busied herself with some trifle
at a distance.

Things had gone on very smoothly at the Hall during the past few
months. Mrs. St. John had been at least kind to Benja, sufficiently
loving in manner; and Honour liked her new mistress tolerably well.
The girl's feeling towards her may best be described as a negative
one; neither like nor dislike. She did not dislike her as she had
formerly believed she should do; and she did not very much like her.

Perhaps if there had been a characteristic more prominent than another
in the disposition of Charlotte Morris, it was jealousy. Mrs. Darling
had been obliged to see this--and to see it exercised, too--during the
course of her daughter's past life; and one of her objections to the
master of Alnwick Hall, as a husband for Charlotte, was the fact that
he had been once married and his heir was already born. That Charlotte
would be desperately jealous of the little Benja, should she bear a
son of her own, jealous perhaps to hatred, Mrs. Darling felt sure of:
she devoutly hoped there would be no children; and an uncomfortable
feeling had been upon her from the hour she learnt of the anticipated
arrival. So long as Charlotte was without a son, there could be no
very formidable jealousy of Benja. But there might be afterwards.

Certainly, there existed a wide difference between the future of the
two-year-old boy, sturdily stamping about the gravel-path underneath,
the great St. Bernard's dog, "Brave," harnessed with tape before him;
and that of the young infant lying in the cradle by the fireside. Many
a mother, far more gentle and self-forgetting than was Charlotte St.
John, might have felt a pang in contemplating the contrast. Benja had
a title in prospective; he would be rich amidst the rich. George (by
that name the infant was already registered) might count his future
income by a few hundreds. The greater portion of the Alnwick estate
(not a very large one) was strictly entailed; and the large fortune
brought to Mr. St. John by his first wife, was now Benja's. Mr. St.
John would probably have wished to do as well by one child as by the
other, but he could not help himself; he could not alter the existing
state of things. The settlement he had been enabled to make on Miss
Norris was very, very small; but he intended to redeem this by putting
by yearly some of his large income for her and her children. Still the
contrast was great, and Mrs. Darling knew that Charlotte was dwelling
upon it with bitterness, when she laid that emphasis just now on the
"son _and heir_."

That Mrs. St. John would inordinately love this child of hers, there
was no doubt about--far more so than might be well for herself or for
him. Mrs. Darling saw it as she lay there--lay looking with eager,
watchful eyes at the little face in the cradle; and Mrs. Darling
decided within herself--it may have been from experience--that such
love does not bring peace in its wake. "I wish it had been a girl!"
thought Mrs. Darling.

Charlotte Norris had all her life been subject to taking likes and
dislikes--occasionally violent ones; and she took a strong dislike to
the nurse that was now in attendance upon her, barely suffering her in
the room, and insisting on Prance's seeing to the baby instead, for
Prance was at the Hall with her mistress. The result was, that when,
at the end of a fortnight, Mrs. Darling quitted the Hall, Prance was
transferred to Mrs. St. John's service, and remained as nurse to the
infant.

Some months went on, and spring came round. Mr. Carleton St. John, who
was in parliament, had to be in London; but his wife remained at
Alnwick with her baby, who seemed delicate. Not to have brought to
herself all the good in the world, would she have stirred without him.
The frail little infant of a few days had become to her the greatest
treasure earth ever gave; her love for him was of that wild,
impassioned, all-absorbing nature, known, it is hoped, but to few, for
it never visits a well-regulated heart.

And in proportion to her love for her own child, grew her jealousy of
Benja--nay, not jealousy only, but dislike. Mrs. Darling had foreseen
correctly: the jealousy and the dislike had come--the hatred would
only too surely follow. Charlotte strove against this feeling. She
knew how wrong it was, how disloyal to her husband, how cruel to
Benja; and she fought against it well. She would take Benja on her
knee and fondle him; and the child grew to love her, to run into her
at all moments when he could triumphantly escape from Honour, and she
would take him and pretend to hide him, and tell Honour to go into the
woods and see if the little wild boy had flown thither. It is true
that once or twice, upon some very slight provocation, she had fallen
into a storm of passion that literally rendered Honour motionless with
alarm, seizing the child somewhat after the manner of a tiger, and
beating him furiously. Honour and Benja were alike frightened; even
Prance looked on aghast.

Matters were not improved by the conduct of the two nurses. If dislike
and dissatisfaction had reigned between them when Prance was only an
occasional visitor at the house, how much more did it reign now! They
did not break frequently into a quarrel, but a perpetual system of
what the other servants called "nagging" was kept up between them.
Fierce and fiery was the disposition with which each regarded
the other; a war of resentment, of antipathy--call it what you
will--smouldering ever in their hearts.

It did not want fuel. Honour naturally wished Benja to be regarded as
first and foremost in right of his seniority and position as the heir.
Prance held up the infant as the chief; and it need not be said that
she was tacitly, if not openly, supported by Mrs. St. John. It was
doubly unfortunate. The squabbles of the nurses need not have done
harm, but their rivalry in regard to the children enhanced the feeling
in their mistress. To do Mrs. Darling justice, she absolutely
discouraged any difference being made, even in thought, between the
children, if such came under her notice in her temporary visits at the
Hall; and once, when she heard a sneer given by Prance to Honour and
Benja, she had called the woman to her privately, and taken her
sharply to task.

Well, the time went on to Easter. On the Thursday in Passion-week Mr.
St. John was expected home; and his wife, who loved him much,
anticipated his return in a sort of impassioned eagerness, not the
less strong because it was controlled under her usual cold and calm
demeanour. The pony-carriage went to the station in the afternoon to
meet the train; and Alnwick's mistress took her place at an open
window that overlooked the approach, long and long before the carriage
could return.

It was a warm, brilliant day; one of those lovely days that sometimes
come in spring, presenting so great a contrast with the past winter,
and raising many a heart to Heaven. As she sat there, Benja darted in.
The door was not firmly closed, and the child pushed it open
triumphantly and flew to Mrs. St. John, black as any little tinker:
hands, face, dress, a sight to be seen. She wore a charming gown of
apple-green figured silk, and a coquettish little lace head-dress,
fastened with large gold pins.

"Benja, what have you been doing to yourself?"

Benja laid his little black hands on her gown, and told her a tale not
very easy to be understood--his grey eyes laughing, his pretty teeth
glistening. Brave had run somewhere, and Benja had run after him, and
the two--or perhaps only Benja--had fallen down by the cocks and hens,
where it was dirty. And they had _stayed_ down apparently, and rolled
about together.

"Then Benja's a naughty boy to get himself into such a state," she
cried, having quickly interposed her handkerchief between the silk and
the dirty hands. "Where's Honour?"

Benja broke into a merry laugh. He had contrived to double upon Honour
and evade her, while she was looking for him.

The child kept his place at her knee, and chattered on in his
imperfect language. Mrs. St. John did not give herself further trouble
to understand it; she fell into a reverie, her fingers unconsciously
rambling amidst the child's fair curls.

"Oh! so you are here, sir!" exclaimed Honour, looking in. "My
goodness! I've been all over the house after you."

"Me wid mamma," chattered Benja.

"And a fine pickle you are in, to be with your mamma, naughty child!"

"You should not let him get into this state, Honour."

"It's not my fault, ma'am; he ran away from me after the dog."

"Take him into the nursery," concluded Mrs. St. John, turning her eyes
again to the window and the winding road.

Honour carried him away, talking lovingly to him--that he was a sad
little boy to make himself so dirty, and dirty little boys never went
to heaven, unless they got clean again. And Mrs. Carleton St. John sat
on, dreamily watching.

The first thing that aroused her from it was the sound of voices
outside. She looked out and saw Honour and Benja. Master Benja was now
dressed in a handsome green velvet tunic, and looked as if he had just
come out of a bandbox. Honour had her things on for walking.

"Where are you going?" inquired Mrs. St. John.

"Me going to see papa," responded Benja, before Honour could speak,
his eyes bright, and his cheeks glowing.

"I am taking him to meet the carriage, ma'am."

"But----" Mrs. St. John was beginning, and then suddenly stopped; and
Honour was half scared at the blank look and the momentary flash of
anger that succeeded each other on her face. "Why should you take him
there?" she resumed. "He will see his papa soon enough at home."

"Why should I not take him, ma'am?" rejoined Honour, quite
respectfully, but in a bold spirit.

And Mrs. Carleton St. John could not say why; she had no plea for
refusal at hand. Honour waited a minute, but no words came.

"It's as well to walk that way as any other, ma'am," she said, taking
Benja's hand. "His papa might be disappointed, else. When he used to
return home last year, and did not meet Master Benja in the avenue,
he'd cry out for him before he got well inside the doors."

"Oh, very well," said Mrs. St. John. "Keep in this upper part, within
view."

They turned away slowly, Honour secretly rebelling at the mandate; and
the mistress of Alnwick looked after them. She had been lost in a
reverie, anticipating the moment of her husband's entrance, when,
after her first welcome to him was over, she should summon her child
and place it lovingly in his arms. It seemed that another child was to
be first in those arms; and she had not bargained for it. One wild,
unhealthy longing was ever haunting, half-unconsciously, the mind of
Mrs. St. John--that her husband should love _her_ child better than
that other one.

She ran upstairs to Prance. She bade Prance hasten to attire the baby,
and take him out to meet his papa. The child was asleep. Prance
glanced at it as if she would have said so; but her mistress's tone
was imperative, evidently admitting neither contradiction nor delay.

"Oh, so _you've_ come!" was Honour's salutation, not very graciously
expressed, when she found herself joined by Prance. "What's the matter
with him?"

The question applied to the crying baby, fractious at being awakened
out of its sleep. Prance, who rarely condescended to quarrel in words,
went on with her quiet step and supercilious manner, her head in the
air.

"I've as much right here as you," she said: "and Master George as the
other. Mind your own business, and don't talk to me."

Presently the carriage came in view, Mr. St. John driving. He pulled
up when he found himself near the children, gave the reins to the
groom, and leapt out. Little Benja danced about his papa in an ecstasy
of joy, and Mr. St. John clasped him in his arms.

Two minutes at the least elapsed before he remembered Prance, who had
stood perfectly still, she and her charge. He turned to the baby to
caress it, but his voice and face were strange, and of course it set
up a loud cry, the more loud that it had not recovered its temper. Mr.
St. John left it and walked across the grass with Benja, his whole
attention absorbed by his first-born. The boy was sometimes caught up
in his arms for a fresh embrace, sometimes flitting along by his side
on the grass, hand in hand, the steel buttons on the child's green
velvet tunic flashing in the sun. He had taken off his cap, throwing
it to Honour, and his pretty curls blew away from his brow with every
movement, displaying that winning expression of feeling and
intelligence of which his features had given promise in his infancy.

Mr. St. John waved his hat to his wife at the open window. She had
seen it all; the loving meeting with the one child, the neglect of the
other. Passion, anger, jealousy, waged war within her. She could no
more have controlled them than she could control the wind that was
making free with her husband's hair. All she saw, all she felt, was
that he had betrayed his ardent love for Benja, his indifference to
_her_ child. In that one moment she was as a mad woman.

What exactly occurred upon his entrance, George St. John could not
afterwards remember; he was too much scared, too terrified, it may be
said, to receive or retain any correct impression. A strange, wild
look on his wife's face, telling, as it seemed to him, of madness; a
wail of reproaches, such as had never been addressed to him from
woman's lips; Benja struck to the ground with a violent blow, and his
cheek bleeding from it, passed before his eyes as in a troubled
vision. It appeared to last but a moment; but a moment: the next, she
had sunk on a sofa; pale, trembling, hysterical.

George St. John collected his scattered senses, and picked up the
child. He wiped his poor little outraged face with a handkerchief,
laid it on his bosom for an instant to soothe him to composure, and
carried him into the hall to Honour. The girl cried out when she saw
the cheek, and looked up at her master with inquiring eyes. But his
were averted.

"An accident," he quietly said. "Wash it with a little warm water."

He returned to the room, closing the door on himself and his wife. He
did not reproach her by so much as a word: he did not speak to her: he
went to the window and stood there in silence, looking out, his back
turned to her, and his forehead pressed against one of the panes.

She began to utter reproaches now, sobbing violently; fond reproaches,
that all his affection was lavished upon Benja, leaving none for her
child. He replied coldly, without turning round, that his affection
was as lively for one child as for the other; he was not conscious of
any difference, and hoped he never should be: but an infant of five
months old who cried at his approach, could not yet be made the
companion to him that Benja was.

"Oh, George, forgive me!" she sobbed, coming close to him, and laying
her hand on him caressingly. "I love--I love you; and I could not bear
it. He _is_ our child, you know; yours and mine; and it seemed as if
he was nothing to you beside Benja. Won't you forgive me?"

He could not resist the pleading words; he could not throw back the
soft hand that was stealing itself into his. "I forgive it; if you
think forgiveness lies with me, Charlotte," he answered, turning round
at last, but speaking sadly and quietly.

"You have not kissed me," she whispered, the tears chasing each other
down her cheeks.

He bent to kiss her at once: just in the same cold, quiet manner in
which he had spoken; as if his mind were withdrawn from the present.
She felt it bitterly; she blamed her "quick feelings" aloud; and when
her tears were dried, she ran up to the nursery in a sudden impulse,
seized Benja, and sat down with him upon Honour's rocking-chair.

There she fondled him to her; she pushed his hair from his brow; she
laid his hot cheek, clear again under the influence of the warm water,
against her own.

"Benja love mamma still?" she murmured softly in his ear. "Mamma did
not mean to hurt him."

And the noble little fellow broke into a loving smile in her face, by
way of answer, and kissed her many times with his rosy lips.

"Be very gentle with his poor cheek, Honour," she said, as she put him
down and left the room. "It is only a little bruised, I see."

"Then it _was_ an accident, as master said," decided the wondering
Honour. "I declare if I did not think at the time she had done it
herself!"

Mr. Carleton St. John had not stirred from his place at the window. He
stood there still, looking out, but seeing nothing. The entrance of
his wife into the room did not arouse him.

"I have been to make my peace with him, George," she said, almost as
inaudibly as she had spoken above. "Dear little Benja!--We are better
friends than ever, and he has been giving me a hundred kisses of
forgiveness. Oh, George, my husband, I am so sorry! Indeed, indeed, I
will strive to subdue my fits of passion. I will not strike him
again."

But George Carleton St. John stood as one who understands not. He did
not hear: his thoughts were in the past. The injunction--nay, the
prayer--of his dying wife was present to him; the very look on her
sweet face as she spoke it; the faint tones of her loving voice, soon
to be silent for ever.

"When the months and the years go by, and you think of another wife,
oh, choose one that will be a _mother_ to my child. Be not allured by
beauty, be not tempted by wealth, be not ensnared by specious deceit;
but take one who will be to him the loving mother that I would have
been."

Bitterly, bitterly, the prayer came back to him. How had he fulfilled
it? He glanced round at the wife he had chosen, and could have groaned
aloud in the anguish of his remorseful heart.



CHAPTER VI.
THE ALNWICK SUPERSTITION.


The time went on at Alnwick Hall just as it goes on everywhere, and
the two boys grew with it. It was autumn weather. Benja was a sturdy
gentleman of nearly four, strong and independent; George, a delicate
little fellow of nearly two, with fair curls and a bright rose-tint in
his cheeks.

Mr. Carleton St. John spent more time in London than was absolutely
demanded by his parliamentary duties, frequently remaining there when
the House was not sitting; and during his sojournings at the Hall, it
seemed that he never wanted an excuse for being away from home.
Shooting, fishing, coursing, hunting, riding about the land with his
steward, superintending improvements; presiding on the small
magisterial bench of Alnwick; going over to the county-town for
more important meetings; staying a day or two with bachelor
neighbours--with one plea or another, the master of Alnwick Hall was
nearly always out. What his wife thought of these frequent absences
cannot be told. A dark cloud often sat upon her brow, but things went
on smoothly between them, so far as the servants knew. It was
whispered that George St. John had not found in Charlotte Norris the
angel he had anticipated: how many men _have_ secured angels in
marrying for beauty?

It was autumn weather, I say--September; and Mr. St. John was at home.
He had thought of taking a walking-tour in Belgium during the month of
October; but an illness that attacked Mrs. St. John caused him to be
summoned to Alnwick.

A serious if not dangerous illness, and brought on by some unseemly
and violent fit of temper. Mr. St. John was growing accustomed to
hearing of these violent fits of temper now. Four or five he had heard
of during their married life, but the one described in the last
chapter was all he had himself witnessed. Some temporary hurt to her
child, through the carelessness of a servant, had this time caused it;
and the immediate result to herself was disastrous. Mr. St. John found
Mrs. Darling at the Hall, and Mr. Pym was in frequent attendance; but
she was already beginning to improve.

Mr. St. John sat on a bench on the grassy slope before the windows,
idly revelling in the calm beauty of the September day. The trees were
glowing with the warm tints of autumn; and the blue sky, flecked here
and there with delicate white clouds, seemed to rise to a wondrous and
beautiful height. The two children, attended by their nurses, were
gambolling in the park with the favourite dog, Brave: their shouts and
Brave's deep bark reaching the ears of Mr. St. John.

He was plunged in thought, as he sat--rather lazy thought. The
children before him, the sick wife upstairs, and the not very
comfortable state of affairs altogether, furnishing its chief themes.
It had carried him back to his second marriage. Caught by the beauty
of Charlotte Norris, he had rushed into the union headlong, giving
himself no time for proper deliberation; no time, in fact, to become
well acquainted with her. "Marry in haste, and repent at leisure," he
murmured to himself; and just then he became aware of the proximity of
Mrs. Darling. She was coming across the park, having walked to her own
house that morning, and back again. She was a great walker, enjoying
it thoroughly: and she came up with a merry smile on her bright and
still pretty face, as she nodded to her son-in-law.

"How idle you look, Mr. Carleton!" she exclaimed, as he made room for
her beside him. She generally called him by that name.

"I have felt idle lately, I think. Did you find all well at home?"

"Quite well. Mary Anne has the mumps; but she is subject to them. I
told her to lie in bed and rub hartshorn on her face. Is Charlotte
up?"

"I don't know. I have been sitting here these two hours."

"Mr. Pym said she might get up today for a short time, provided she
lay on the sofa. How those little ones are enjoying themselves."

She pointed to the park. Mr. St. John was also looking at the
children, to all appearance. His right elbow rested on the arm of the
bench; his hand supported his chin, and his eyes gazed out straight
before him. In reality he neither saw nor heard; he was buried just
then in the inward life of thought.

"What causes these illnesses of Charlotte?" he suddenly asked, without
altering his position. "This is the second time."

If ever there was a startled look on a woman's face, it was on Mrs.
Darling's then. "She is delicate, I think," was the answer given,
after a pause.

"I think not; not naturally so," dissented Mr. St. John, with
emphasis. "I hear of fits of temper, Mrs. Darling, so violent as to
suggest the idea of madness for the time being," he resumed. "That was
the source of this illness, I understand. The result was only a
natural consequence."

"Who told you that?" eagerly asked Mrs. Darling. "Mr. Pym?"

"No; Mr. Pym has never spoken a word to me on the subject in his life.
I mentioned it to him on the occasion of the other illness, ten months
ago; but he would not understand me--turned it off in an unmistakably
decisive manner."

Mrs. Darling bit her lips. That she was in some great and annoying
perplexity, none could doubt who saw her countenance; but she kept it
turned from Mr. Carleton.

"I have witnessed one of these scenes of violence myself," he resumed.
"I declare that I never was so alarmed in my life. I thought Charlotte
had suddenly become mad."

Mrs. Darling's lips grew white. But the revelation--that he had
witnessed this--did not come upon her by surprise: for Prance had told
her of it at the time.

"If I mention this to you now, Mrs. Darling, it is not done in the
light of a complaint. I married your daughter, and I must abide----"
he paused here, as if he would have altered or softened the phrase,
but went on with it immediately--"by the bargain. She is my wife; the
mistress of my house; and I have no wish that it should be otherwise:
but my object in speaking to you is, to inquire whether you can
suggest any means by which these violent attacks of temper can be
prevented."

Still there was no answer. Mrs. Darling looked cold, white,
frightened; and she turned her head further away than before.

"You have had a life's experience with her; you must know a great deal
more of this failing than I," resumed Mr. St. John. "Has she been
subject to it all her life?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Darling, speaking at last. "But not often. I speak
the truth in all sincerity, when I say that until she married I cannot
remember that she had been so put out more than three or four times.
It is an unhappy failing; I acknowledge it to be so; but it is over in
a minute, Mr. Carleton."

"But think of what it is for the minute! She might--she might kill
some one in one of them. I am sure she had no control whatever over
herself the day I saw her."

Mrs. Darling looked distressed, and spoke in pleading tones of excuse.
"She is always so sorry for it afterwards, Mr. Carleton; she is
repentant as a child. You are very sweet-tempered yourself, and
perhaps cannot make allowance for those who are otherwise," she added,
turning to him with a smile. "If you only knew how many thousands of
violent tempers there are in the world! Charlotte's is only one
amongst the number."

"That is not the question," he hastily replied. "I have said I am not
complaining of the fact, and I am vexed at having to speak to you at
all; I only wish to know whether they can be in any way prevented."

"I don't know of any. It is very stupid of Charlotte; very. One might
have thought her last illness would be a warning to her; and now this
one again! She will never have another child to live, if this is to go
on."

"It is not only the injury she does herself; there's the fear of her
doing injury to others. She might, I say, strike a fatal blow; she is
mad in these----"

"No, no; not that," interrupted Mrs. Darling. "Pray do not say so, Mr.
St. John. She is not mad."

"I am sorry to pain you. I mean, of course, that while the paroxysm is
upon her, she is no more capable of self-control than a woman
absolutely mad would be. If there were any means, any line of conduct
we could adopt, likely to act as a preventive, it should be tried. I
thought it possible you might have learnt how to check it in the past
years."

"I never knew yet that there was any effectual remedy for violent
temper. A clergyman will tell you it may be controlled by prayer; a
surgeon, by the help of drugs; but I suppose neither is certain always
to answer. I had a servant once, a very good and valuable servant too,
who would fly into the most frightful passion once or twice a year,
and break all the crockery."

Mrs. Darling spoke with a laugh, as if she would make light of the
whole. It jarred on the feelings of Mr. St. John, and he knit his
brow.

"Then there's nothing at all that you know of to be suggested, Mrs.
Darling?"

"I really do not. But I think they will wear out of themselves: as
Charlotte grows older, she must grow wiser. I will take an opportunity
of speaking to her. And she is so sweet-tempered in a general way, Mr.
Carleton, though a little haughty, perhaps, that these few lapses may
surely be pardoned."

Mr. St. John made no answering remark. He rose and stretched himself,
and was moving away. Mrs. Darling detained him with a question.

"How did you learn that this illness was so brought on? Did Honour
tell you?"

"No! I was not aware that Honour knew of it."

"Neither am I aware that she does. I mentioned Honour, because I
should suppose her to be more of a confidential servant to you than
are the rest, and might acquaint you with what takes place here in
your absence."

Mr. St. John brought his clear truthful eyes to bear steadfastly on
those looking at him. He was open, honourable, unsuspicious as the
day; but he could not help wondering whether the words concealed any
double meaning.

"I have no confidential servant, Mrs. Darling. If I had, I should not
allow him, or her, to repeat tales to me of the home of which my wife
is mistress. When Honour speaks to me, it is of Benja; and all the
world might hear, patience permitting, for I believe she takes him to
be a cherub without wings. The one to tell me of it was Charlotte."

"_Charlotte!_"

The echo fell upon empty air. Mr. St. John had turned off in the
direction of the children.

"Is it this that has been worrying you in London?" asked Mrs. Darling,
following him.

"Worrying me in London? Nothing has been worrying me in London."

"Has it not? You were looking so ill when you got down here: thin, and
worn, and changed. I said nothing, for fear of alarming Charlotte."

"I have not felt well for some little time. But it is really my health
that is in fault, Mrs. Darling; not worry."

"You were worn out with the long session: those late hours do fag a
man. This country air will restore you."

"I hope so," he replied in a dreamy tone, and his eyes had a far-off
dreamy look in them. "It would not be well just yet for yon little
fellow to be the master of Alnwick."

Mrs. Darling thought nothing of the remark: perhaps George St. John
thought as little. It was an indisputable fact that he was looking
thin, ill, not so strong as he used to look: but many men, wearied
with the late hours, the wear and tear of a London season, look so
every autumn, and grow robust again by spring.

The fact was, he began to suspect that his health was failing. And
when a man, neither a coddler nor a hypochondriac, suspects this, rely
upon it, it is time he looked into the cause. Mr. St. John was
careless of himself, as men mostly are; a year ago he would have
laughed outright at the idea of going to a doctor. But the feeling of
intense weariness, of almost utter want of strength, which had come
upon him in London, coupled with a rapid wasting away, and all without
any cause, had forced him to wonder what was the matter. He had made
an engagement for a walking-tour, and then doubted whether his
strength would be equal to it. That somewhat aroused him; not to
alarm, more to a curiosity as to what could be wrong; and close upon
that, came the summons to Alnwick.

For a day or two after his return, he felt refreshed, stronger, better
in all ways. But the momentary renovation faded again, and by the time
he had been a week at Alnwick he felt weaker than he had felt at all.
The day previous to this conversation with Mrs. Darling, he spoke to
Mr. Pym, telling that gentleman that he thought he wanted tonics.

"Tonics!" repeated Mr. Pym. "What's the matter with you?"

"Nothing that I know of. There it is. I haven't an ailment in the
world, and yet I feel so weak and get so thin. It seems a sort of
wasting away."

A recollection, sharp as a needle, and causing a great deal more pain,
darted into Mr. Pym's mind as he looked at him. Other of the St. Johns
of Alnwick had wasted away without apparent cause; wasted to death.

"We'll soon set you right again," said he, a shade more quickness in
his speech than usual. "You shall have some tonics."

The tonics came; and Mr. St. John took them. He tried other means;
cold bathing, driving out, living almost in the open air; but he did
not grow stronger.

"Didn't my father waste away like this?" he suddenly said to Mr. Pym,
one day.

"Oh, pooh, no!" quite angrily replied the surgeon. "Your father had a
peck of troubles upon him--and I'm sure you can't remember anything
about him, for you were only five years old when he died."

George St. John laughed. "You need not fear frightening me, Pym. I
think he did waste away; but that's no reason, you know, why I should
do so."

He said nothing to his wife of this feeling of indisposition, or that
he was consulting Mr. Pym. This was from no particular wish of
suppressing it; more, that he really did not think it sufficiently
important to speak about. But it came to her knowledge incidentally.

She grew strong again, and was sitting on the slopes one afternoon
with her embroidery, quiet, gentle, smiling, as if not a cloud of
anger had ever distorted her fair features, when she saw Mr. Pym
approach and enter the house. It suddenly occurred to her that she had
so seen him once or twice lately, and had wondered, in a passing way,
what he wanted. Certainly his visits were not to her now.

"What can it be that he comes for?" she said aloud, pausing in her
work, and gazing at the door through which Mr. Pym had disappeared.

If the question was not addressed to air, it must have been meant for
Benja, that young gentleman being the only person within sight and
hearing. He was sitting astride on the arm of the bench at Mrs. St.
John's elbow, absorbed in a new picture-book that Honour had bought
him, and teasing Mrs. St. John's patience out with his demands that
she should admire its marvels.

"Mr. Pym comes for papa," said quick Benja.

"For papa!" she repeated. "Nonsense, Benja! Papa's not ill. He's
looking very thin, but I am sure he's not ill."

"Mr. Pym comes for him, and he sends him physic," persisted Benja.
"For I was in the room yesterday, mamma, and heard them talking."

Mrs. St. John thought this rather singular. Presently she saw Mr. Pym
and her husband come out and go strolling down the avenue together.
The latter soon turned back.

"Benja, go and tell papa that I want him."

Mr. St. John caught up Benja when the boy met him, kissed him, fondly
put him down again, and the two came on together; Benja leaping and
holding his papa's hand. Mrs. St. John was watching with compressed
lips. Even still she could not bear to see the love of her husband for
Benja. It was very foolish of her, very wrong, and she knew herself
that it was so: but, strive against it as she would, as she _did_, the
feeling kept its mastery over her.

"George, what is the matter with you?" she asked, as her husband sat
down beside her, and Benja ran off with his pictures. "Why does Mr.
Pym come?"

"I think he comes partly because he likes the walk," was the answer,
given with a smile. "I asked him for some tonics during the time he
was attending you, and he constituted me a patient directly. It's the
way with doctors."

"Don't you feel well?"

"I don't feel strong. It's nothing, I suppose. You need not look
alarmed, Charlotte."

Mrs. St. John was looking more surprised than alarmed She wondered her
husband had concealed it, she said, half reproachfully.

"My dear, there was no concealment in the case. I felt languid, and
spoke to Pym: that was all. It was not worth mentioning."

"You have no complaint, George?"

"None whatever, that I know of."

"And are in no pain?"

"None."

"Then it can't be anything serious," she said, reassured.

"Of course it can't. Unless any one chooses to look at it ominously. I
accuse Pym of doing so, and he retorts by wanting to know if I think
him superstitious. There's an old belief abroad, you must know,
Charlotte, that the St. Johns of Alnwick never live to see their
thirty-third birthday."

She looked up at him. He was speaking half jestingly, half seriously;
with a smile, but not a gay one, on his lips.

"But that's not true, George?"

"As true as most of such sayings are, invented by old women over their
tea-cups. It need not alarm either of us, Charlotte."

"But I mean, it is not true that such a belief is abroad?"

"Oh, _that's_ true enough. Ask Pym. A great many of us have died just
about that age; there's no denying it; and I presume that this has
given rise to the popular fancy."

"What have they died, of?"

"Some of one thing, some of another. A large proportion of the whole
have fallen in battle. My great-grandfather died early, leaving seven
little sons. Three of them were taken in childhood; the other four
lived to see thirty, but not one, of them saw thirty-three. I imagine
that the premature death of so large a number of sons must have
chiefly given rise to the superstition. Any way, there's no denying
the fact that the St. Johns of Alnwick have not been long-lived."

"And the St. Johns of Castle Wafer?"

"It does not apply to them. Why, Isaac St. John is now all but fifty.
It is owing to this mortality that Alnwick has been so often held by a
minor. The Hall came to me when I was five years old."

"But George"--and she spoke hesitatingly and wistfully--"you _don't_
think there's anything in it?"

"Of course I don't. Should I be telling you this gossip if I did?"

She thought not, either. She glanced at his fresh complexion, so
bright and clear; at the rose-red on his cheeks, speaking, apparently,
of health; and her mind grew easy, and she laughed with him.

"George! you are now thirty-three!"

"No. I shall be thirty-three next May, if I live until then."

"If you live till then," she echoed. "Does that imply a doubt of it in
your own mind?"

"Not at all. I dare say I am in no more danger of dying than
others--than Mr. Pym--than old Dr. Graves--than any man you like
to think of. In one sense we are all in danger of it, danger
continually; and, Charlotte, when any circumstance brings this fact to
our minds--for we forget it too much--I think it should serve to make
us very regardful of each other, more cautious to avoid inflicting
pain on those we love."

His words and tone conveyed a pointed meaning. She raised her eyes
inquiringly.

"Subdue those fits of temper for my sake, Charlotte," he whispered,
letting his hand fall on hers. "You don't know how they pain me. I
might recall to you their unseemliness, I might urge the sad example
they give the children; but I would rather ask it by your love for me.
A little effort of will; a little patient self-control, and you would
subdue them."

"I will, George, I will," she answered, with earnest, willing
acquiescence. And there was a look that told of resolution in her
strange and dreamy eyes, as they seemed to gaze before her into a
far-off vision of the future.

And all in a moment a thought rose up within her--a conviction, if
you will--that this fancy, belief, superstition--call it what you
please--of the premature deaths of the masters of Alnwick, must have
been the secret and still unexplained cause of her mother's opposition
to the match.



CHAPTER VII.
A SHADOW OF THE FUTURE.


October came in, and was passing. George St. John sat at his desk,
reading over a letter he had just penned, preparatory to folding it.
It may facilitate matters if we read it also.


"My Dear Mr. St. John,

"'It behoves all sane men to make a will.' Do you recognize the
sentence? It was from your own lips I heard it spoken, years ago, when
I was a little chap in tunics, and somehow it has never left my
memory. Then, you will say, why have you, George St. John, lived to
your present age and never made one? And in truth I can only plead
carelessness as the excuse. I am about to remedy the omission. Not
that there would be much trouble with my affairs were I to die without
leaving a will, as Benja takes nearly all I possess; and there's my
wife's marriage-settlement--you know how poor it is--to claim the
remainder. On that score, therefore, the obligation is not a very
onerous one; and perhaps that fact may have induced the carelessness I
admit. But there is another phase of the question that has latterly
forced itself on my attention--the necessity for providing proper
guardians for my children in the event of my death.

"Will you, Isaac St. John, good and true man that you are, be this
guardian? I say, 'this guardian;' for though another will be
associated with you for form's sake, I shall wish you to be the acting
one. The other of whom I have thought is General Carleton, my late
wife's uncle; and the General, being a bilious old Indian, will not
like to have any active trouble thrust upon him. I hope, however, the
charge would not entail trouble upon you, any more than upon him; as
my present wife will be constituted the children's personal guardian.
Let me have an answer from you at your convenience, but do not refuse
my request.

"Give my kind regards to Mrs. St. John. Is Fred with you? What about
Lady Anne?

"Believe me,

"Ever your sincere friend and cousin,

"George Carleton St. John."


The letter was folded, sealed, and addressed to Isaac St. John,
Esquire, of Castle Wafer. George St. John laid it aside with others
for the post, and then turned to a mass of papers, which he began to
sort and look into. Indeed, he seemed latterly to have taken quite a
mania for arranging his affairs and putting them in order: and his
steward said privately to a friend, that Mr. St. John was growing as
methodical as he had formerly been careless.

Whilst he was thus engaged, his wife came in, Georgy in her arms, whom
she was making believe to scold. The two-year-old boy, indulged,
wilful, rather passionate, did just as he liked, and he had now chosen
to pull his mamma's hair down. He was a loving, charming little
fellow; and whatever there was of wilfulness in his conduct, was the
fault of his mother's great indulgence.

"Look at this dreadful little boy, papa!" she exclaimed, standing
before her husband, her luxuriant hair, dark and shining as a gipsy's,
flowing on to her light muslin dress. "See what he has done to poor
mamma. Don't you think we must sell him to the old cobbler at
Alnwick?"

Mr. St. John looked up from his crowded desk, speaking half crossly.
The interruption annoyed him.

"How can you let him pull you about so, Charlotte? George, you want a
whipping."

She sat down, clasping the boy to her heart in an access of love.
"Whipping for Georgy!" she fondly murmured in the child's ear. "No,
no: Georgy pull mamma's hair down if he likes." But Honour could have
told a tale to prove that she was not always so tolerant. Benja had
once pulled her hair down in play--it was just after she came to the
Hall--and she left the marks of her fingers on his face for it. It is
true she seemed sorry afterwards, and soothed him when he cried: but
she did it.

Letting George sit on her knee, she did up her hair as well as she
could. George laughed and chattered, and tried to pull it down again;
altogether there was a great noise. Mr. St. John spoke.

"I wish you'd take him away, Charlotte: I am very busy."

"Busy! But I came to talk to you, George," she answered.

"What about?"

"Something that I want to do--something that I have been thinking of.
Here, Georgy, amuse yourself with these, and be quiet," she said,
taking up a small plate containing a bunch of grapes, which happened
to be on the table, and giving it to the restless, romping child. "Eat
them whilst I talk to papa."

"Won't another time do, Charlotte?"

"I shall not keep you a minute. Next week November will come in. And
the 10th will be--do you remember what the 10th will be?"

"Benja's birthday," said Mr. St. John, speaking without thought, his
attention wholly given to the papers before him.

You should have seen the change in her face--it wore an evil look just
then.

"And George's also!"

The tone jarred on Mr. St. John's ear, and he raised his eyes quickly.

"George's also, of course. What of it, Charlotte?"

The angry emotion had raised a storm within her, and her breath was
laboured. But she strove for self-control, and pressed her hand to her
heart to still it.

"You can think of Benja, you cannot think of Georgy! It is ever so."

"Nay, you are mistaken," said Mr. St. John, warmly. "I think as much
of one as I do of the other: _I love_ one as much as I do the other.
If I answered you shortly, it is because I am busy."

Mrs. St. John was silent for a few moments, apparently playing with
the child's pretty curls. When she spoke, all temper appeared to have
been subdued, and she was cordial again.

"I want to keep their birthday, George."

"With all my heart."

"But to keep it grandly, I mean: something that will be remembered. We
will have an outdoor _fête_----"

"An outdoor _fête!_" was the surprised and involuntary interruption.

"Yes; why not? Similar to the one you gave three years ago. Ah,
George! don't you remember it, and what you asked me then? We have
never had one since."

"But that was in September; this will be November--too late for that
sort of thing."

"Not too late if this fine weather lasts. It-is lovely yet."

"The chances are that it will not last."

"It may. At any rate, George, if it does not, we must entertain the
crowd indoors instead of out. But I have set my heart on keeping this
day."

"Very well: I have not the least objection."

"And now, George, shall we invite----"

"If you will kindly leave me alone for half-an-hour, Charlotte, I
shall have done what I am about, and will talk it over with you as
much as you please," he interrupted. "I expect the steward in every
minute, and am not ready for him."

"We'll go then, Georgy, and leave papa alone. Make haste."

The "make haste" applied to eating the grapes, which Master Georgy was
already accomplishing with tolerable speed. Mrs. St. John, her arm
round him, held the plate on his little knees; the other hand was
still wandering amidst his hair. A charming picture! The child's
generally bright complexion looked very bright today; the fair skin
white as snow, the cheeks a lovely rose colour. It might have been
taken for paint; and the thought seemed to strike Mrs. St. John.

"If he could only sell that," she said to her husband, as she pointed
to the bloom; "how many women there are who would give a fortune for
it!"

"I would rather see him like Benja, though," was the prompt and
prosaic answer. "That rose-red has been found a fatal sign before now
in the St. Johns of Alnwick."

"You have it yourself," said Mrs. St. John.

"Something like it, I believe."

"Then, how can you say it is fatal? You--you--don't mean anything,
surely, George?"

George St. John laughed out merrily; a reassuring laugh.

"Not as to him, at least, Charlotte, He is a healthy little fellow--as
I hope and believe."

Georgy made an end of the grapes, and, by way of _finale_, tossed the
plate up. Mrs. St. John caught it, so there was no damage done.
Putting him down, he ran up to his papa, eager to see whether there
was anything else on the table, either to eat or to play with. His
mamma took his hand, and was rewarded with a cry and a stamp.

"You have been writing to Isaac St. John?" she exclaimed, her eyes
falling on the letter that lay there. "Do you correspond with him?"

"Not often."

"Why have you been writing to him now?"

"Only to ask him a question."

"Oh!" she concluded, taking Georgy up by force, who resisted with all
his might. "I thought you might have been writing to invite him here,
and he would be such a trouble."

"He wouldn't come, if I did."

"Is he so very unsightly, George?"

"No: not unsightly at all."

"And the other one--Frederick? Is he so very beautiful?"

George St. John burst into another laugh.

"Beautiful! What a term to apply to a man! But I suppose he is what
you women would call so. He _is_ good-looking: better-looking, I
think, than any one I ever saw. There, that's enough, Charlotte. Put
off anything else you have to ask me until by-and-by."

This _fête_, as projected by Alnwick's mistress, was carried out. It
need not have been mentioned at all, but for a misfortune that befel
Benja while it was being held. The weather, though growing gradually
colder, still retained its fineness; and when the day rose, the 10th
of November, it proved to be bright and pleasant.

Crowds flocked to Alnwick. As it had been on the 10th of November,
during Mr. St. John's widowhood, the _fête_ or _fêtes_, so it was
now--a gathering to be remembered in the county. The invitations had
gone out far and wide; visitors were staying in the house, as many as
it would hold; day-guests came from all parts, near and distant. It
was one of those marked days that never fade from the memory.

But the guests, as it drew towards the close of the afternoon, might
have searched for their host in vain, had they happened to want him.
Mr. St. John was then in his own sitting-room (the one where you last
saw him), leaning back in an easy-chair, and looking tired to death. A
little thing fatigued him now: for there could be no mistake that the
weakness he complained of was growing upon him. He lay back in the
chair in that perfectly still attitude indicative of great weariness;
listlessly conscious of the noise outside, the music, the laughter,
the gay and joyous sounds; and amidst them might be caught distinctly
the shouts and cries of the two boys, Benja and George, who were
busiest of the busy that festal day.

Presently George St. John stretched out his hand, and took a letter
from his desk--the answer from Isaac St. John. It had arrived only
that morning, and Mr. St. John, engaged with his guests at breakfast,
had only glanced at its contents. He opened it now again.


"_Castle Wafer, November 9th_.

"My Dear George,

"You will think I have taken a great deal of time in replying to you,
but I wished to give the question mature consideration, and could only
snatch brief moments between my sufferings, which are just now very
great.

"I accept the charge. Partly because you were always a favourite of
mine (as I believe you know), and I don't like to refuse you; partly
because I assume that I shall never (speaking in accordance with
probability and human foresight) be called upon to exercise my office:
for I hope and trust you have no reason to expect this. I had fully
made up my mind never to accept another guardianship: not that I had
reason to suppose one was likely to be offered me: the bringing up
Frederick has been a great responsibility for one situated as I am.

"However, as you say in this case there would be no personal
guardianship required, I dare say I could manage the money matters,
and therefore consent to accept it. Hoping at the same time, and
assuming, that I shall never be called upon to fulfil it.

"Why don't you come and see me? I am very lonely: Frederick is only
here by fits and starts, once in a summer's day, and gone again; and
Mrs. St. John writes me word that she is prevented coming down this
autumn. You can go about at will, and why not come? So much can
scarcely be said of me. I should like to make the acquaintance of your
wife and of my future charges, who, I hope, never will be my charges.
You ask about Anne: nothing is decided; and Frederick holds back
mysteriously.

"Ever truly yours, dear George,

"Isaac St. John."


George St. John folded the letter again, and sat with it on his knee.
He was beginning to think--with that unmistakable conviction that
amounts to a prevision--that his cousin _would_ be called upon to
accept the charge. Perhaps at no very distant period. Pym was getting
cross and snappish: a sure and certain sign to one who knew him as
well as George St. John did, that he thought him ill: had he been
improving, the surgeon would have been gay as a lark. But it needed
not Pym or any one else to confirm the fact of his increasing illness:
the signs were within himself.

He was glad that Mr. St. John had accepted the charge: though he had
felt almost sure that he would do so, for Isaac St. John lived only to
do good to others. A man, as personal joint guardian to his children,
could not be proposed; if they were left, as it was only right they
should be left, under the guardianship of his wife. There had been
moments in this last month or two when, remembering those violent fits
of passion, a doubt of her perfect fitness for the office would
intrude itself upon him; but he felt that he could not ignore her
claims; there was not sufficient pretext for separating the mother
from the child.

As he sat, revolving these and many thoughts in his mind, he became
conscious that the sounds outside had changed their character. The gay
laughter was turning into a murmur of alarm, the joyous voices to
hushed cries. He held his breath to listen, and in that moment a wild
burst of terror rent the air. With one bound, as it almost seemed, Mr.
St. John was out and amongst them.

The crowd was gathering round the lake, and his heart flew to his
children. But he caught sight of his wife standing against a tree,
holding George to her side against the folds of her beautiful dress.
That she was agitated with some great emotion, there could be no
doubt: her breath was laboured, her face white as death.

"What is the matter? What has happened?" cried Mr. St. John, halting
for a moment his fleet footsteps.

"They say--that--Benja's--drowned," she answered, hesitating between
every word.

He did not wait to hear the conclusion: he bounded on to the brink of
the lake, throwing off his coat as he ran, ready to plunge in after
his beloved child. But one had been before him: and the first object
Mr. Carleton saw as the crowd parted for him, was the dog Brave,
swimming to shore with Benja.

"Good dog! Brave! Brave! Come on, then, Brave! Good old dog! Save your
playfellow! Save the heir of Alnwick!"

All safe. Only on the bank did the good dog loose the clothes from
between his firm teeth, and release Benja. Mr. St. John, more emotion
on his face than had been seen there since the death of that child's
mother, caught the boy with one hand and caressed Brave with the
other.

His wife had not stirred. She stood there, calm, still, as one
stunned. Was she frightened? those who had leisure to glance at her
asked it. Had her love for her stepson, her dread at losing him,
transformed her into a statue?

It was not that she was so much frightened; it was not that she loved
Benja. Perhaps she was as yet unconscious of what feelings the moment
had served to arouse; partially unconscious that the thought which had
blanched her face with emotion and wildly stirred the pulses of her
beating heart, was one fraught with danger: if Benja were drowned, her
child would be the heir.

Voices were calling out that the boy was dead, and Mrs. St. John
lifted her face, a sort of haggard, yearning look upon it. But Mr.
Carleton, the boy pressed in his warm arms, knew that he was only
insensible. He was hastening to the house, Honour, half frightened to
death, at his side, and eager sympathizers following in his wake, when
he bethought him of his wife.

"Honour, just run and tell your mistress that he'll be all right soon.
She's there; under the elm-trees."

"Is he dead?" she asked ere Honour could speak, as the girl went up.

"Oh no, madam, he's not dead, thank Heaven! My master has sent me to
tell you that he is all right."

Mrs. St. John did not appear to understand. It seemed to Honour--and
the girl was a quick observer--as if her mistress had been so fully
persuaded he was dead that her senses were at first sealed to the
contrary impression, and could not admit it.

"Not dead?" she repeated, mechanically.

"He is not dead," said Honour. "He is in no danger of dying now."

For one single moment--for one moment only--a wild sort of glare, of
angry disappointment, shot from the eyes of Mrs. St. John. Honour drew
back scared, shocked: it had betrayed to the attendant more than she
ought to know.

But do not set down Charlotte St. John as a wicked woman. She was not
wicked yet. The feeling--whatever its precise nature--had arisen
unbidden: she could not help it; and when she became conscious of it,
she shuddered at it just as much as Honour could have done. But she
did not detect its danger.

The party dispersed. And Mrs. St. John, in a soft muslin wrapper, was
watching by the cradle of Benja, who was in a sweet sleep now. She had
kissed him and cried over him when they first met; and George St.
John's heart throbbed with pleasure at these tokens of her affection
for the child. Benja had slipped into the lake himself, and for two or
three minutes was not observed; otherwise there had been no danger.

The danger, however, was over now, and Mr. Pym had gone home, loudly
promising Benja a hatful of physic as a punishment for his
carelessness. Mrs. St. John and the household went to rest at
midnight, leaving Honour sitting up with the boy. There was not the
least necessity for her sitting up, but she would not hear of his not
being watched till morning. The child, in fact, was her idol.

Presently Mr. St. John came in, and Honour started and rose. She had
been half asleep in her chair, and she had thought her master had gone
to bed.

He lay with his little face, unusually flushed, on the pillow, his
silken hair rather wild, and one arm outside the clothes; a charming
picture, as most children are when asleep. Mr. St. John bent over the
boy on the other side the crib, apparently listening to his breathing;
but Honour thought her master was praying, for his eyes were closed,
and she saw his lips moving.

"We should not have liked to lose him, Honour," he observed with a
smile, when he looked up.

"To lose him! Oh, sir! I would rather have died myself."

"It might have been a care less for me to leave, though!" he resumed
in an abstracted tone. "His mother gone, and I gone: the world may be
a cold one for Benja."

"But you are not--you are not fearing for yourself, sir!" exclaimed
Honour, quite forgetting, in the shock the words gave her, that it was
no business of hers to answer the thoughts of her master.

"I don't know, Honour. I have fancied of late that I may not be here
very long."

"Heaven grant you may be mistaken, sir!" was the impulsive aspiration
of the girl: "for this child's sake!"

Her master looked at her, struck by the tone of terror, as much as by
the words. "Why for his sake? Should anything happen to me, Honour,
you must all take the greater care of him. Your mistress; you; all of
you."

An impulse came over Honour to speak out somewhat of her thoughts; one
of those strange impulses that bear the will with them as a torrent
not to be controlled.

"Sir, for the love of mercy--and may God forgive me for saying it, and
may you forgive me!--if you fear that you will be taken from us,
_don't_ leave this child in the power of Mrs. St. John!"

"Honour!"

"I know; I know, sir; I am forgetting myself; I am saying what I have
no right to say; but the child is dearer to me than any living thing,
and I hope you'll overlook my presumption for his sake. Leave him in
the power of anybody else in the world, but don't leave him to Mrs.
St. John."

"Mrs. St. John is fond of him."

"No, sir, she is the contrary. She tries to like him, but she can't.
And if you were gone, there'd no longer be a motive--as I believe--for
her seeming to do so. I think--I think"--and Honour lowered her voice
beseechingly--"that she might become cruel to him in time."

Bold words. George St. John did not check them, as perhaps he ought to
have done; rather, he seemed to take them to him and ponder over their
meaning.

"To any one else in the world, sir!" she resumed, the tears forcing
themselves down her cheeks in her earnestness. "To any of your own
family--to Mrs. Darling--to whom you will; but do not, do not leave
him in the power of his stepmother!"

What instinct caused Honour Tritton thus to speak? And what made Mr.
St. John quit the room without a word of reproof, as if he silently
bowed to it?



CHAPTER VIII.
WASTING AWAY.


But though Honour's words certainly aroused Mr. St. John to a sense of
precaution, they did not cause him to act upon it. A doubt lay almost
in his mind as to whether his wife did, or could, like Benja: it was
based upon her unmistakably jealous disposition, and on the blow she
had once given Benja when she was as a mad woman: but with her daily
conduct before him, her love displayed as much for Benja as for her
own child, he could only believe that the boy was safe in her care.
Certainly the words of Honour recalled those unpleasant doubts
forcibly before him; but he suffered the impression to wear away
again. We all know how time, even if you count it only by days or
hours, softens the aspect of things; and before November was out, the
master of Alnwick had made his will, leaving both the children under
the personal guardianship of his wife.

And the winter went on, and George St. John grew weaker and weaker.
Not very perceptibly so to the eyes about him; the decline was too
gentle for that. In February, instead of going up to London when
Parliament met, he resigned his seat, and then people grew sensible of
the change in him, and wondered what was wrong with Mr. Carleton St.
John. Mr. Pym came up constantly, and was more and more testy at every
visit. He sent drugs; he brought other doctors with him; he met a
great physician from the metropolis; but the more he did, the worse
seemed to be the effect upon his patient.

"You'd better give me up for a bad job, Pym, and leave off worrying
yourself," Mr. St. John said to him one day as they were strolling
down the park together--for Mr. St. John liked to go out with the
doctor when he had paid his visits. "I do you no credit."

"It's because you _won't_ do it," gruffly retorted the surgeon. "I
order you to a warm climate, and you won't go."

"No; I won't. I am best here. Send me away to those hot places, and I
should only die the sooner. Pym, dear old fellow"--and Mr. St. John
put his hand into the surgeon's--"you are feeling this for me more
than I feel it for myself. I have settled my business affairs; I have
settled--I humbly hope--other affairs of greater moment; and I can
wait my summons tranquilly."

"Have you made your will?" asked Mr. Pym, after a pause, which seemed
to be chiefly occupied in clearing his throat.

"No end of weeks ago. The chief thing I had to settle was the
guardianship of the children. Of Benja, I may say. George would have
naturally fallen to his mother without a will."

"And you have left him--Benja----?"

"To my wife, just as I have the other. Mr. St. John, of Castle Wafer,
and General Carleton, are the trustees. I thought of my wife's
half-brother, Captain Darling, as one of them; but his regiment will
probably be ordered abroad, and he may be away for years."

They walked on a few steps further in silence, to the spot that Mr.
St. John called his turning-place, for it was there he generally
quitted the surgeon. As they were shaking hands, Mr. Pym retained his
patient's fingers in his, and spoke.

"Will you forgive an old man for his advice? He is double your age,
and has had twenty times the experience. For acquiring good practical
lessons of life, commend me to a doctor."

"I'll take it," said Mr. St. John, "in anything except quitting
Alnwick."

"Don't leave Benja under your wife's charge."

"Why not?" came the question, after a pause of surprise.

"I have my reasons. For one thing, she is not very strong, and the
charge of the two children, with you gone, might be found a heavy
task."

"I think that's nonsense, Pym," quietly replied Mr. St. John. "She has
plenty of servants, and at a proper age Benja will go to school.
George also. You must have some other reason."

"True. But I am not sure that you would like me to mention it."

"Mention what you will, Pym. Say anything."

"Has it occurred to you that it is within the range of possibility
your wife may marry again?"

"My widow may. Yes."

"Then, should this prove the case, and she formed new ties about her,
Benja might find himself neglected. George is her own child, secure in
her love, whatever betide; Benja is different. Have you provided in
any way for the contingency I have mentioned?"

"No. I have left my wife personal and resident guardian at Alnwick
until Benja shall be twenty-one. At that period she must leave it, or
only remain there as Benja's guest. It is right, I believe, that it
should be so. And I have a precedent in my father's will."

"But his widow was your own mother."

Mr. St. John made no immediate reply. The distinction had probably not
occurred to him.

"Take my advice, George St. John," said the surgeon impressively; "do
not leave Benja under the charge of your wife. I would rather not
discuss with you the why and the wherefore; but rely upon it some
other plan will be better both for the boy and for Mrs. St. John."

He went away as he spoke, and George St. John turned slowly back to
the Hall. The conversation recalled to his mind with vivid force the
almost-forgotten words of Honour; and an uncomfortable feeling of
indecision crept into it.

Still he did not see any feasible way of altering the arrangements he
had made. When he died, Alnwick Hall would be Benja's, and must be the
boy's chief home during his minority; he could not turn his wife out
of it, and he could not place any one else in it as Benja's personal
guardian. He had no means of providing a suitable residence for his
widow if she left the Hall: in fact, it was only as the heir's
guardian that he could at all adequately provide for her. Neither, it
must be confessed, did Mr. St. John himself see any great necessity
for separating them: but he was a man amenable to counsel, open to
advice, and the opinion of two friends (surely both may be called so!)
so attached to him as Mr. Pym and Honour, bore weight with him. It had
not been George St. John had he ignored it.

"May God help me to do right!" he murmured, as he entered the house.

He dwelt much upon it during the remainder of the day; he lay awake
part of the night: and only when he came to a decision did he get to
sleep. Early the next morning he rang for his servant; and at eight
o'clock the pony-carriage conveyed him to the railway station at
Alnwick to take the train. As the market people looked at him, passing
them betimes in the fresh February morning, at the bright colour in
his face, the wavy brown hair stirred by the gentle breeze, they said
to themselves, how well Mr. Carleton St. John was looking, though
thin.

He was going over to Castle Wafer. An hour and a-quarter's journey
brought him to a certain town; there he waited twenty minutes, and
took another train. Rather more than another hour and a-quarter of
very quick travelling, for this last was an express, conveyed him to
Lexington, and thence he took a fly to Castle Wafer.

It was one of the most charming houses ever seen, nestling in lovely
grounds, amidst rising trees of many species. A modern house, built by
its present owner, Isaac St. John, who possessed a rare taste for the
beautiful, and had made it exquisite. That house was his hobby in
life; his care was his half-brother, Frederick St. John. The estate of
Castle Wafer was the entailed inheritance of these St. Johns; and
Frederick was heir presumptive: the positive heir, said the world; for
it was beyond the range of probability that its present owner would
ever marry.

They were second-cousins to the St. Johns of Alnwick, and were next in
succession. Of great wealth themselves, far more so than was George
St. John, and of more note in the world, they were yet below him in
succession to what might be called the original family property. That
was not Alnwick. An old baronet of eighty-one, Sir Thomas St. John,
held it; he was childless, and therefore it would come at his death to
George St. John, and to George St. John's sons after him. Had he,
George St. John, also been childless, the whole, including the title,
including Alnwick, would lapse to Isaac St. John.

George St. John had nearly a two-mile drive. He noted the familiar
points on the road and in the fine landscape, as they stood out in the
clear but not very bright February day. The sprinkling of cottages
near Castle Wafer; the solitary public-house, called the Barley Mow,
with its swinging sign-board; and the old-fashioned red-brick house,
Lexington Rectory, which the wiseacres of other days had built nearly
two miles from its church and Lexington proper. It stood close to the
grounds of Castle Wafer; was the only house of any social standing
very near to it; and as George St. John glanced at its windows as he
passed, he remembered that its present possessor had received his
title to orders from a church in the neighbourhood of Alnwick, of
which his father was patron; but he had been a very, very little boy
at the time. The house looked empty now; its windows were nearly all
closed: and he supposed its incumbent, Dr. Beauclerc, Rector of
Lexington and Dean of Westerbury, was away at his deanery.

"Mr. St. John is at home?" he asked, as the woman came out to throw
back the lodge gates.

"Oh yes, sir." And indeed George St. John had little need to ask, for
Mr. St. John rarely, very rarely, was away from Castle Wafer.

A few minutes' turning and winding, and then the front of the house
burst upon George St. John's view, and he was close upon it. The sun
broke out at the moment, and he thought he had never before seen any
place so beautiful; he always did think so, whenever he thus came upon
Castle Wafer. The glistening white front, long rather than high, with
its elaboration of ornament; the green terraces, covered with their
parterres of flowers, already in bloom, and stretching beyond to the
less open grounds; the low French windows, open to the breeze--never
did any dwelling impart so cheerful, so attractive a look as did
Castle Wafer. To a stranger, having no idea of the sort of house he
was going to see, perhaps surprise would be the first feeling; for the
place was as unlike a castle as any place could be. Isaac St. John
said laughingly sometimes that he ought to change its appellation.
There might have been a castle on the lands in the old feudal ages,
but no trace remained of it: and the house, which had been pulled down
to give place to this fairy edifice, had looked like a companion to
the Rectory--red, gaunt, and gloomy.

As the hall-door was thrown open, and the bright colours fell on its
mosaic pavement from the stained-glass windows, gladdening the eye of
George St. John, a tall, portly man, rather solemn and very
respectable, not to say gentlemanly, was crossing it, and turned his
head to see who the visitor might be. Mr. St. John at once stepped
past the footman and greeted him. It was Mr. Brumm, Castle Wafer's
chief and most respected servant; the many years' personal attendant,
and in some respects a confidential one, of its master. George St.
John held out his hand, as affable men will do by these valued
servants, after years of absence.

"How are you, Brumm? I see I have taken you by surprise."

"You have indeed, sir," said Mr. Brumm, in the slow manner natural to
him. "Not more so, I am sure, sir, than you will take my master. It
was only this morning that he was mentioning your name."

"How is he now?"

"Better, sir, than he has been. But he has suffered much of late."

Mr. Brumm was leading the way into an inner hall, one light and
beautiful as the first, with the same soft colours thrown from its
several windows. Opening a door here, he looked in and spoke.

"A visitor, sir--Mr. Carleton St. John."

By a bright fire in this light and charming room--and if you object to
the reiteration of the term, I can only plead in excuse that
everything was light and charming at Castle Wafer--with its few fine
paintings, its glittering mirrors, its luxuriant chairs and sofas, its
scattered books, and its fine harmonium, sat a deformed gentleman. Not
any hideous phase of deformity that repels the eye, but simply with a
hump upon his back: a small hump, the result of an accident in
infancy. He had a pale, wan face, with the sharp chin usually
accompanying these cases; a face that insensibly attracted you by its
look of suffering, and the thoughtful earnestness of its bright,
clear, well-opened hazel eyes. Of nearly middle height, that hump was
the only unsightly point about him; but he was a man of suffering; and
he lived chiefly alone, he and his pain. His hair was dark, silken,
rather scanty; but not a thread of silver could be seen in it, though
he was close on his fiftieth year.

Laying down the book he was reading, Isaac St. John rose at the
mention of the name; and stepped forward in the quiet, undemonstrative
way characteristic of him, a glad smile lighting up his face.

"George! how pleased I am to see you! So you have thought of me at
last?"

"I was half ashamed to come, Mr. St. John, remembering that it is five
years since I came before. But I have met Mrs. St. John repeatedly in
London, and sometimes Frederick; so that I have, as it were, seen you
at second-hand. I have not been well, too."

Suitable, perhaps, to the difference in their ages, it might be
observed that while the elder man called the younger "George," he
himself was addressed as "Mr. St. John." But Mr. St. John had been
almost grown up when George was a baby, and could remember having
nursed him.

"You do not look well, George," he said, scanning the almost
transparent face before him. "And--are you taller? You look so."

"That's because I'm thinner. See!"--opening his coat--"I'm nothing but
a skeleton."

"What is wrong?"

"I can't tell you. I grow thinner and thinner and weaker and weaker,
and that's about all I know. I may pick up as spring comes on, and get
right again; but--it may be the other way."

Isaac St. John did not answer. An unpleasant reminiscence of how this
young man's father had wasted away eight-and-twenty years ago kept him
silent.

"What will you take, George? Have you come to stay with me?"

"I have come to stay with you two hours: I must be home again by
nightfall if I can. And I won't take anything until my business with
you is over; for I confess it is my own selfish affairs that have
brought me here. Let me speak to you first."

"As you will. I am ready."

"Ever ready, ever willing to help us all!" returned George St. John,
warm gratitude in his tone. "It is about the guardianship that I wish
to speak. I thank you for accepting it."

Isaac smiled. "I did not see that I could do otherwise for you."

"Say for my children. Well, listen to me. I have left my wife personal
guardian to my children. She will reside at the Hall until Benja is of
age, and they with her, subject of course to their school and college
intervals. This is absolute with regard to the younger, but in regard
to the elder I wish it to be dependent upon your discretion."

"Upon my discretion?"

George St. John had his hands upon his knees, leaning forward in his
great earnestness; he did not appear to notice the interruption.

"I wish you (when I shall be gone, and the boys have only their
mother) to take means of ascertaining from time to time that Benja is
_happy_ under his stepmother's care, and that she is doing her part
by him in kindness. Should you find occasion to doubt this, or to
think from any other cause that he would be better elsewhere, remove
him from her, and place him with any one you may consider suitable. I
dare not say take him yourself: children are noisy, and your health is
imperfect; but place him where you can be sure that he will be well
done by. Will you undertake this, Mr. St. John?"

"Why do you ask this?" was the reply of Isaac St. John. "Is it a new
thought--a sudden thought?"

"It is a new thought, imparted to me chiefly through a conversation I
had yesterday with Pym, our surgeon and old friend. He does not think
it well that Benja should be left under the absolute control of Mrs.
St. John, as he is not her own child. He said, for one thing, that she
might marry again, and Benja would be as it were isolated amidst new
ties; but when I pressed him for other reasons--for I am sure he had
others--he would not give them; preferred not to discuss it, he said.
He was--I could see that--for having the boy entirely away from her,
but that is not to be thought of. I reflected a good deal on what he
said, and have come to the conclusion that it may be as well there
should be some clause inserted in the will that shall take absolute
power from her, and hence I come to you."

"Your wife is kind to the boy?" asked Mr. St. John. "Pardon me the
question, George."

"Very much so. When George was born, she showed some jealousy of the
oldest boy, but all that has passed away. Benja was nearly drowned
last November, and she was quite hysterical afterwards, crying and
sobbing over him like a child. The nurse, a most faithful woman,
thinks, I know, with Pym, but that's nothing."

"You wish me, in the event of the children being left fatherless, to
ascertain whether the elder is well done by at the Hall, and is happy
there. If not, I am to remove him? This is what you ask, as I
understand it?"

"Precisely so. Should you, in your judgment, deem that Benja would be
better elsewhere, take him away. I shall endow you with full power."

"But how am I to ascertain that?"

"In any way you please. Use any means that may suggest themselves. Go
over and see for yourself, or send some suitable substitute, or
question Honour----"

"Who is Honour?"

"Benja's nurse. She took to him when my poor Caroline died. My present
wife does not seem strong; at least she has had one or two serious
illnesses lately; and Pym says the care of the two boys is more than I
ought to put upon her. Perhaps it would be."

"Why not at once leave Benja under another guardianship?"

"I should not like to do so. The world would regard it as a slight, a
tacit want of confidence in my wife: and besides, in that case I
should be divided as to whether to leave the Hall as a present
residence to her or to Benja. I--mark me, Mr. St. John--I place full
reliance upon my wife; I believe she will do her duty by Benja, and
make him happy; and in that case there is no harm done. I am only
providing for a contingency."

"I see. Well, I accept the charge, George, though it might be well
that you should entrust it to a more active man."

"No, no; you and you only."

They continued talking together for the brief space George St. John
had allotted for his stay. Little more was said on the one subject,
for George quitted it somewhat abruptly, and they had other topics in
common; family matters, news on either side, as is the case when
relatives meet after a prolonged separation. At the appointed time he
was driven back to Lexington in Mr. St. John's carriage, took the
return train, and reached Alnwick about six in the evening.

His wife had sent the close carriage for him, fearing the night air.
George St. John directed the coachman to drive round by Mr. Drake, the
lawyer's; and when that gentleman came out to him he asked him to step
up to the Hall on the morrow, on a little matter of business relative
to an alteration in his recently-made will.

But Mr. St. John of Castle Wafer, pondering on these matters after his
relative's departure, remained puzzled, and could by no means arrive
at a satisfactory conclusion as to whether there was danger that Mrs.
Carleton St. John might be cruel to Benja, after the fashion of the
vindictive uncle of the "Babes in the Wood," or whether it was feared
that she would kill him with kindness.



CHAPTER IX.
CHANGES AT ALNWICK.


On a charming summer day in that favourite room whose windows
overlooked the broad lands of Alnwick, sat Mrs. Carleton St. John in
widow's weeds. Opposite to her, in mourning also, her travelling shawl
unpinned and slipping from her slim, falling shoulders, her bonnet
dusty, was Mrs. Darling, not five minutes arrived.

Changes had come to Alnwick, as these signs betrayed. Its master, so
much loved and respected during life, was no more. In the month of May
the deceitful, as poets have it, the crisis came for George Carleton
St. John, and the Hall passed to another owner--the little boy too
young to be conscious of his full loss, and whose chief idea connected
with it was the black attire with which officious attendants hastened
to invest him.

Death at the last was sudden, and Mrs. St. John was alone when it
came. Her mother, Mrs. Darling, had gone abroad, and beyond a very
brief note, just telling her of the event, Mrs. Darling received no
direct news from her. She wrote letter after letter, for it was not
convenient to return home immediately; but all the replies--when she
received any--came from Prance. And Prance, who was in a degree in the
confidence of Mrs. Darling, ventured to intimate that her mistress was
"sulking," and much annoyed by the will.

The last item of intelligence stirred all the curiosity possessed by
Mrs. Darling. It also troubled her. She was aware that George St. John
had little actual property to bequeath to his wife--and George St.
John's own private opinion had been that Mrs. Darling's opposition to
his marriage with her daughter arose from that sole fact--but there
were ways and means of remedying this; and now Mrs. Darling supposed
they had not been taken. As soon as she was able, after June came in,
she made arrangements for returning to England, and hastened down to
Alnwick Hall.

But for the escutcheon on the outer walls, and the badge of widowhood
worn by her daughter, Mrs. Darling might have thought things were as
they had been--that no change had occurred. The windows were open, the
sun was shining, the park was green and flourishing: even Charlotte
was not changed. And Mrs. Darling scanned her with a critical eye.

"My dear, you are looking better than I hoped for."

"I am pretty well, mamma. I wish Prance would come in with Georgy!"
she continued fretfully. "I want you to see him, he is so grown!"

"Dear little fellow! I was so sorry that I could not come over at the
time, Charlotte, but----"

"It did not matter," interrupted Mrs. St. John, speaking quickly.
"Indeed I think I was best alone. You know, mamma"--turning her deep
eyes full upon her mother--"I was always given to being independent.
How is Rose?"

"Oh, dear!" returned Mrs. Darling, with a groan, as if recalled to
some very annoying subject. "Don't talk of Rose."

A half smile crossed the young widow's lips. "Has she been doing
anything very dreadful?"

"No: but she is so rebellious."

"Rebellious!"

"At being kept at school. Mary Anne and Margaret fully expected she
would break bounds and conceal herself on board the boat. We had
sighted Folkestone before they felt any sort of assurance that she was
not there."

"Did Mary Anne and Margaret come over with you?"

"Yes; I left them in London. Frank is expected."

"I think Frank might come down to see me!" said Mrs. St. John,
haughtily.

"My dear, I am sure he will. But he cannot always get leave when he
would."

There was a pause. Charlotte, cool, haughty, reserved, as she had ever
been, even to her mother, turned to the window again, looking out for
her little son. Mrs. Darling was burning to ask various particulars of
things she wanted to know, but did not just now see her opportunity.
She rose from her chair.

"I think I will go, Charlotte, and take off my travelling things. I am
as dusty as I can be."

"Do so, mamma. Your old room. Prance will not be long."

Prance was entering the house even then: she had brought Georgy in the
back way. There was a boisterous meeting; Mrs. St. John coming out to
join in it. Georgy chattered, and shook his fair curls from his pink
cheeks, and was altogether lovely. Mrs. Darling did not wonder at the
faint cry of pain--that intense love, whose expression amounts to
pain--with which his mother caught him to her heart.

"Where is Benja?" asked Mrs. Darling of Prance.

Oh, Master St. John would be coming in sometime, Prance supposed.
Honour had begun with her insolence, as usual, so they parted company.
And Mrs. Darling, as if she would ignore the words, made her way
hastily towards the staircase, Prance following in attendance.

Mrs. Darling scarcely gave the woman time to close the chamber-door
before she began to question her eagerly. Remember that Prance was, so
far as Mrs. Darling was concerned, a confidential servant, and she
imparted all she knew. Mrs. St. John was to remain at the Hall as
Master St. John's guardian, with four thousand a-year.

"I heard the will read," said Prance. "Old Drake the lawyer came to us
after they returned from the funeral, and said we were wanted in the
large drawing-room. Mrs. St. John was there in her new mourning and
her widow's cap; and she looked very cross and haughty as we filed in.
The gentlemen who had gone to the funeral were there, and Dr. Graves,
and Mr. Pym. I had the little one, and Honour came in with Master St.
John----"

"Why do you call him Master St. John?--he was always called Master
Benja," interrupted Mrs. Darling.

"He has been called so since that same time, ma'am," was the woman's
answer. "A gruff old gentleman who was one of the mourners, upright
and stiff as a backboard and yellow as gold--it was General Carleton,
I believe--heard one of us call the boy Master Benja, and he spoke up
very severely, saying he was not Master Benja, but Master St. John,
and must be nothing else to us until he should be Sir Benjamin. The
servants were quite taken to, and have called him Master St. John ever
since."

"Well, go on."

"We found we had been called in to hear the will read. I did not
understand it altogether; but I am quite certain that Mrs. St. John is
to reside at the Hall and to be paid four thousand a-year as the
heir's guardian. There was something I was unable to catch, through
Master Georgy's being troublesome at the moment, about the four
thousand being reduced to two if Master St. John went away. And, on
the other hand, it is to be increased by two, whenever he comes into
the title and the other estates. Which will make six thousand a-year."

"Then what did you mean, Prance, by sending me word that your mistress
was annoyed at the terms of the will? Four thousand a-year now, and
six in prospective! She cannot find fault with that. It is
munificent."

"You may depend upon it, ma'am, that she is so," was the unhesitating
reply of Prance. "She is very much annoyed at it, and she has shown it
in her manner. It is some clause in the will that vexes her. That
precious Honour----"

"Stay, Prance," interrupted Mrs. Darling. "How often have I warned you
not to encourage this ill-feeling against Honour!"

"It's Honour's fault," promptly answered Prance.

"It is the fault of both of you," returned Mrs. Darling; "of the one
as much as the other. It is a strange thing you cannot be at peace
together! You will arouse jealousy between the two children next!"

"It never comes to open quarrelling between us," rejoined Prance. "But
she's uncommonly aggravating."

"Be quiet, Prance! I desire once for all that there may be more
pleasantness between you. It is a scandal that the two upper maids of
the Hall should be ever at variance, and it's a thoroughly bad example
for the children; and it's--you _know_ it's not well for your
mistress. Mrs. St. John requires peace, not----"

Prance uttered an exclamation: it caused Mrs. Darling, who was looking
into a bandbox at the time, to turn sharply. Mrs. St. John was
standing there, behind the bed-curtains--to the startled lady's
intense dismay. How much had she heard?

"Charlotte, my dear, I did not know you were there. I was just giving
Prance a lecture upon this ill-feeling that seems always to be going
on between her and Honour. Have you come to stay with me, child,
whilst I unpack?" added Mrs. Darling, seeing that her daughter was
seating herself comfortably in an easy-chair. "Then, Prance, I think
you may go now."

But while she so spoke, Mrs. Darling was tormenting herself, as much
as one of her easy disposition can do so, as to whether she _had_
caught a word of her conversation with Prance--that part of it
relating to money. There had been some noise in the room from the
opening of drawers and moving of boxes, which must have prevented
their hearing her come in. "I'll speak of it," thought Mrs. Darling.
"It's better to take the bull by the horns and make the best of it,
when one does get into these dilemmas."

She stole a glance at her daughter, while busily intent to all
appearance in straightening the trimmings of a bonnet she had just
taken out of a bandbox. Mrs. St. John looked cold and stern. _Had_ she
heard anything?

"Charlotte, my dear, I am so very anxious about you: as to how things
are left, and all that. I dropped a remark to poor Prance, but she
seems to think it is all right; that you are left well-off and remain
here. These simple servants can't know much, of course. I am glad your
husband made a just and proper will."

"He made an infamous will," cried the young widow, her cheeks flaming.

The words completely took Mrs. Darling aback, and she forgot to
enlarge on the opinion she had just expressed of poor, simple Prance's
imperfect knowledge. "An infamous will, Charlotte!" she exclaimed,
"when you have the Hall and four thousand a-year."

"It _is_ infamous. I am left dependent upon the heir."

"The heir! Do you mean Benja?"

"There's no other heir but he. Why did George leave me dependent upon
him?"

"I don't quite understand you, my dear. In what way are you dependent
upon Benja?"

"The four thousand a-year is paid to me as his guardian only,--as his
guardian and Georgy's. I only remain at the Hall as Benja's guardian.
It's all on sufferance."

"But, my dear, your husband had it not in his power to leave you
comfortably off in any other manner. All the settlement he could make
on you at your marriage--I really don't think it will amount to more
than six hundred a-year--he did make. This, of course, is yours in
addition; and it will be your child's after you."

"Think of the contrast," was the rejoinder; and Mrs. St. John's bosom
heaved ominously, as if the wrong were almost too great to bear. "The
one with his thousands upon thousands, his title, his state,
everything that's high and mighty; the other, with his few poor
hundreds and his obscurity."

"But, my dear Charlotte, there was no help for this. Benja was born to
it, and Mr. Carleton could no more alter it than you could."

"It is not the less unjust."

"Unjust is not the right word. The law of entail may not be an
equitable law, but Englishmen live under it, and must obey it. You
should not blame your husband for this."

"I do not blame him for it."

"You blame his will, which is the same thing."

Mrs. St. John was leaning back, the broad lappets of her cap thrown
from her face; her elbows rested on the arms of the chair, and she
pressed the tips of her fingers nervously together. The slight storm
had passed outwardly, and all her habitual coldness of manner had
returned to her.

"Why did he add that codicil to it?"

"Was there a codicil? What was it? But I don't know what the will
itself was, Charlotte."

"He had left the children under my exclusive guardianship. They were
to reside at the Hall here with me, subject to their absences for
education, and he willed that a sum of four thousand a-year should be
paid to me."

"Well?" said Mrs. Darling, for she had stopped.

"That was in the will. But the codicil altered this, and Benja's
residence with me is subject to the pleasure of Mr. Isaac St. John. He
has it in his power to remove Benja from me if he sees fitting; and if
Benja is so removed, two thousand of the four are to be withdrawn, and
my allowance reduced thereby one half. Why did George do this? Why did
he do it secretly, and never say a word to me about it?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said Mrs. Darling, who was revolving the news
in her mind. "Benja to be removed from you at the pleasure of Isaac
St. John? But is he not a helpless invalid?"

"Physically he may be next door to it, but he is all powerful as to
Benja. This codicil was dated the day subsequent to a visit George
paid Castle Wafer at the close of winter, a long time after the will
was made. Isaac St. John must have put him up to it that day. I will
pay him out, if I live."

"Well, I can't tell why he should have done it," cried Mrs. Darling,
who felt altogether puzzled. "_He_ does not want the two thousand
a-year; he is rich and an invalid. Did you question him of his
motives, Charlotte? I should have done so."

"Question whom?--Isaac St. John? I have never seen him."

"Did he not come to the funeral?"

"No; he was too ill, they said. His brother came--handsome Fred.
Mamma, I _hate_ Isaac St. John."

"Hush, my dear. It is more than likely that he will never interfere
with you. I have always heard him spoken of as one of the most just
and honourable men breathing."

"I don't like it to have been done. I don't like the world to know
that George could put so great a slight upon me. It is known
everywhere. The servants know it. He desired that they should be
present while the will was read. Did you ever hear of such a thing?"

"Your husband desired it?"

"He did; at least, Mr. Drake says so. When they were about to read the
will, and I had come down into the drawing-room before them all, Mr.
Drake said to me, 'I am going to call in the servants, with your
permission; Mr. Carleton St. John desired me to do so.' I objected,
but it was of no use; Mr. Drake appeared not to hear me; and I could
not make a fuss at a moment like that. But now, mamma, don't you see
the drift of all this?"

"N--o," said Mrs. Darling, gathering no idea of Charlotte's meaning.

"I do," said Charlotte, the keen look sometimes seen in them gleaming
from her unfathomable eyes. "That will was read out to the servants on
purpose that they might know they have it in their power to carry
tales to Isaac St. John. I hate him! I hate him! But for him, I am
sure my husband would have entrusted me absolutely with Benja. Who is
so fitting to bring him up as I?"

"And I think you will bring him up, Charlotte. I don't understand all
this that you are telling me; but I feel little doubt Isaac St. John
will be all that is courteous and kind. Whilst you do your part by
Benja, there can be no plea for removing him. You _will_ do it?"

"I shall do it, certainly;" and Mrs. St. John fully meant what she
said; "I shall make no distinction between the boys. If Benja needs
correcting, I shall correct _him_. If Georgy needs correcting, I shall
correct him. The thing's easy enough, and simple enough; and there was
not the least need for interfering with me. What I dislike most, is
George's having kept it from me."

"I dare say he did not think to mention it to you," said Mrs. Darling,
soothingly; and it was notable that she was in the habit of smoothing
things to her daughter always, as though she were afraid of her. "And
you are quite right, my dear, not to make any difference between the
children; your husband did not."

"Not outwardly, or in a general way. In his heart, though, he loved
the one and not the other; and I love the other and not the one. Oh,
Georgy! Georgy! if you were only the heir!"

"That's an unprofitable thought, Charlotte. Don't indulge it. Benja
was the first-born."

"How can I help indulging it? Georgy is _my_ first-born, and it seems
as a wrong done him--done to us both."

"My dear, where's the use of this? You married George Carleton St.
John with your eyes open, in defiance of me. It is too late to repent
now."

"I don't repent. I would marry him again tomorrow, though he had two
heirs instead of one. But I can't help--I can't help----"

"What can't you help?"

"Never mind. The position is unalterable, and it is useless to dwell
upon it. Mamma, I shall never speak of this again. If you want any
other particulars of the will, you can get them from old Drake. Tell
me now all about Rose and her rebellion. I have often thought I should
like her to live here when she leaves school."

_Why_, Mrs. Darling could not have told; but she felt the greatest
relief when Charlotte thus quitted the subject. It was next to
impossible that any child could have been born with a disposition so
jealous as had Charlotte Norris; and Mrs. Darling had been pleased,
but for curtailing her income, that Benja should be removed from her.
She had no fear that Charlotte would be unkind to him; systematically
unkind she believed Charlotte would not be to any one; but, so long as
the boy was with her, he must and would keep alive the jealousy she
felt on Georgy's account. Two thousand a-year, however, in Mrs.
Darlings estimation, was--two thousand a-year.

Willingly she turned to the topic named by Charlotte--her youngest,
her troublesome, but most lovable daughter. And it is quite time, my
reader, that you made her acquaintance also. To do which it will be
necessary to cross the water.



CHAPTER X.
MISS ROSE DARLING.


You all know that crowded seaport town on the other side the
water--Belport-on-the-Sea; and are therefore aware that its
educational establishments, good, bad, and indifferent, are numerous.
But I must ask you not to confound the one you are about to enter,
Madame de Nino's, with any of those others, no matter what their
merits may be. The small, select, and most costly establishment of
Madame de Nino was of the very highest standing; it was intended
solely for the reception of gentlemen's daughters--was really confined
to them; and no pupil could be admitted to it without an undeniable
introduction. It was perhaps the only French school to which anxious
parents could confide a daughter free from doubt on the score of her
associations: whatever her fellow-pupils might be in mind and manners,
they were sure to be of gentle birth.

On that very same day that took Mrs. Darling down to Alnwick Hall on
the visit to her widowed daughter, Madame de Nino's pupils were
gathered in the large schoolroom. Class was over for the day, and the
girls were tired enough. They hated Fridays. There was no dancing, no
drawing, no walking; nothing but hard unbroken learning, writing, and
practising.

Look at this class of elder girls, their ages varying from sixteen to
twenty, sitting on a bench at the first-class table. Those in the
middle sit very back, their spines crooked into a bow, those beyond
them on either side sit rather forward, and the two end girls are
turned, each sideways, an elbow on the desk; So that they form a
semicircle. They are gossiping away in English, which is against the
rules; but the teachers are also fatigued with the long and hot day,
and do not pay attention. The studying for prizes had begun, and
during that period the work was greatly augmented, both of pupils and
teachers.

Look well at the three middle girls. We shall have little to do with
the others, but a great deal with them. And they are noticeable
besides, for two of them are beautiful, but so unlike in their beauty.
The one is a very Hebe, with laughing blue eyes, brilliant complexion,
and a shower of golden curls; and she is Mrs. Darling's youngest
daughter, Rose. The other is Adeline de Castella, a name and face fit
for a romance in history. She is graceful, charming, with dark-brown
eyes and hair, and more exquisite features than were ever carved in
marble. The third is Mary Carr, quiet and ladylike, whose good sense
served to keep the wildness of Miss Rose Darling somewhat in check.
For Rose was one of the wildest girls that had ever kept alive Madame
de Nino's staid and most respectable school; wild, wilful, clever,
careless; and vain as a peacock.

Had Rose been of a more sedate disposition, less given to random ways,
Mrs. Darling might not have kept her at school so long, for Rose was
eighteen. She was dreadfully rebellious over it, and perhaps the
judiciousness of the measure, as a restriction, may be questioned.
Mrs. Darling, by way of soothing the pill, allowed Rose to visit much;
and when the girls came to this age Madame de Nino acquiesced in the
parents' wishes, but Rose went out more than any previous pupil had
ever been known to do. She had many friends sojourning in the town,
and was courted on her own account, being excessively liked by every
one.

Always in scrapes of one sort or another, or getting out of them, was
she: and she had her own way in the school, and _would_ have it.

One of Miss Rose Darling's propensities was to be continually falling
in love. Almost every time she went out, she would favour the envious
girls, on her return, with a description of some fresh cavalier who
had laid siege to her heart; for half her pleasure in the thing lay in
these boasts to her companions. The last idea of the kind had
prevailed longer than usual. A gentleman, whom she had only seen at
church or in their walks, was the new gallant. Rose did not know his
name, but he was very handsome, and she raved of him. The school
called him her _fiancé_; not in the least to Rose's displeasure.
On this evening, as you look at them, Rose is in a state of
semi-explosion, because one of the other girls, Miss Caroline Davis,
who had been fetched out that evening by her friends, was now telling
Rose that she had seen this gentleman as she was being conducted back
to Madame de Nino's.

"That comes of my being kept at school. Mamma ought to be punished.
You be quiet, Mary Carr! I shall talk against my mother if I like.
Where did you see him, Carry Davis?"

"In the Grand' Rue. He was strolling up it. My aunt bowed to him."

"I know he was watching for me! These horrid Friday evenings! I wish
the school could take scarlet fever, or something of that sort, and
then perhaps Madame might send us out every day! Your aunt must know
him. Davis, if she bowed: didn't you ask his name?"

"No, I forgot to ask it."

"What an idiot you are! If I don't learn it in a day or two I shall go
mad. He----"

"Hush!" whispered Caroline Davis. "See how those French are listening!
They'll go and tell Mademoiselle that we are speaking English. There's
a new pupil come in tonight," she added aloud, in the best French she
could call up.

"Not a pupil," dissented Adeline de Castella. "She used to be a pupil,
but is coming now on a sort of visit to Madame, during her mother's
absence in England. They have been travelling lately in Italy."

"Who is she?" asked Rose. "What's her name?"

"Eleanor Seymour. Her mother is the Honourable Mrs. Seymour; she was
the daughter of Lord Loftus," continued Adeline, who spoke English
perfectly, and understood our grades of rank as well as we do.
"Eleanor Seymour is one of the nicest girls I know; but I suppose she
will not be Eleanor Seymour very long, for she is engaged to Mr.
Marlborough."

"Who's Mr. Marlborough?" asked Rose again.

"I don't know him," said Adeline. "He is very rich, I believe; he is
staying at Belport."

"Le souper, mesdemoiselles," called out Mademoiselle Henriette, the
head-teacher.

As Adeline de Castella said, Eleanor's mother was the Honourable Mrs.
Seymour and the daughter of Lord Loftus. Being this, Mrs. Seymour held
her head higher, and was allowed to do it, than any one else in the
Anglo-French watering-place, and prided herself on her "blood." It
sometimes happens that where this "blood" predominates, other
requisites are in scarcity; and it was so with Mrs. Seymour. She was
so poor that she hardly knew how to live: her aristocratic relatives
helped her out, and they had paid Eleanor's heavy school bills, and so
she got along somehow. Her husband, Captain Seymour, dead this many a
year ago, had been of even higher connections than herself; also poor.
Lord Loftus had never forgiven his daughter for marrying the
portionless young officer; and to be even with her, erased her name
from his will. She was a tall, faded lady now, with a hooked nose and
supercilious grey eyes.

When Eleanor left school--as accomplished a young lady as ever Madame
de Nino's far-famed establishment turned out--she went on a visit to
her aristocratic relatives on both sides, and then travelled to Italy
and other places with her mother. This spring they had returned,
having been away two years, and settled down in the old place. The
tattlers said (and if you want tattle in perfection, go to any of
these idle continental watering-places) that Eleanor would never get
the opportunity of changing away the name of Seymour: men of rank
would not be very likely to seek one situated as she was, and Mrs.
Seymour would never allow Eleanor to marry any other. The battle was
soon to come.

There came into Belport one day, on his road to Paris, a good-looking
young fellow named George Marlborough. Mrs. Seymour was introduced to
him at the house of a friend, and though she bowed (figuratively) to
his personal attractions, she turned up her haughty nose afterwards
when alone with Eleanor, and spoke of him contemptuously. One of the
rich commoners of England, indeed! she slightingly said; she hated
commoners, especially these rich ones, for they were apt to forget the
broad gulf that lay between them and the aristocracy. The old
Marlborough, Mr. George's father, had begun life as a clerk or a
servant--she could not tell which, neither did it matter--and had
plodded on, until he was the proprietor of an extensive trade, and of
great wealth. Iron works, or coal works; or it might be cotton works;
something down in the North, she believed; and this George, the eldest
son, had been brought up to be an iron man too--if it was iron. She
desired Eleanor to be very distant with him, if they met again: he had
seemed inclined to talk to her.

Now poor Eleanor Seymour found this difficult to obey. Mr. George
Marlborough remained in the town instead of going on to Paris, and was
continually meeting Eleanor. She, poor girl, had not inherited her
mother's exclusive notions; labour as Mrs. Seymour would, she had
never been able to beat them into her; and Eleanor grew to like
these meetings just as much as Mr. Marlborough did. It was the old
tale--they fell in love with each other.

Mrs. Seymour, when the news was broken to her, lifted her haughty
eyelids on George Marlborough, and expressed a belief that the world
was coming to an end. It might not have been disclosed to her quite so
soon, but that she was about to depart for England on a lengthened
visit to an elder sister, from whom she cherished expectations, during
which absence Eleanor was to be the guest of Madame de Nino. Mr.
Marlborough, who had never once been admitted within Mrs. Seymour's
house, took the opportunity of asking for an interview one evening
that he had walked from the pier in attendance on them, by Eleanor's
side. With a slight gesture of surprise, a movement of her drooping
eyelids, the lady led the way to the drawing-room, and Eleanor escaped
upstairs.

She sat in her own room, listening. About ten minutes elapsed--it
seemed to Eleanor as many hours--and then the drawing-room bell was
rung. Not loud and fast, as though her mother were in anger, but
quietly. The next moment she heard Mr. Marlborough's step, as he was
shown out of the house. Was he rejected? Eleanor thought so.

The bell rang sharply now, and a summons came for Eleanor. She
trembled from head to foot as she went down.

"Eleanor!" began her mother, in her sternest tone, "you knew of this
application to me?"

Eleanor could not deny it. She burst into frightened, agitated tears.

"The disgrace of having encouraged the addresses of an iron man! It is
iron: he made no scruple of avowing it. Indeed, you may well cry! Look
at his people--all iron too: do you think they are fit to mate with
ours? His father was nothing but a working man, and has made himself
what he is by actual labour, and the son didn't blush when he said it
to me! Besides--I hope I may be forgiven for plotting and planning for
you--but I have always hoped that you would become the wife of John
Seymour."

"_His_ wife," sobbed Eleanor. "Oh, mamma, John Seymour's nobody."

"Nobody!" echoed the indignant lady. "Lord John Seymour nobody!"

"But I don't like him, mother."

"Ugh!" growled Mrs. Seymour. "Listen. I have not accepted the
proposals of this Mr. Marlborough; but I have not rejected them. I
must say he seems liberal enough and rich enough; proposing I don't
know what in the way of settlements: but these low-born people are
often lavish. So now, if you have made up your mind to abandon your
rank and your order, and every good that makes life valuable, and to
enter a family who don't possess as much as a crest, you must do so.
Mr. Marlborough obligingly assured me your happiness was centred in
him."

Ah, what mattered the contempt of the tone, while that sweet feeling
of joy diffused itself through Eleanor's heart?

"No reply now," continued Mrs. Seymour, sternly. "The decision lies
with you; but I will not have you speak in haste. Take the night to
reflect on the advantages you enjoy in your unblemished descent;
reflect well before you take any step to sully it. Tomorrow you can
announce your answer."

You need not ask what Eleanor's answer was. And so, when she entered
on her visit at Madame de Nino's, she was an engaged girl; and the
engagement was already known to the world.

Miss Seymour requested that she might be treated entirely as a pupil.
She asked even to join the classes, laughingly saying to Madame de
Nino that it would rub up what she had forgotten. She took her place
in the schoolroom accordingly. Rose Darling saw a pale girl, with dark
hair and a sweet countenance; and Rose criticized her mercilessly, as
she did every one. Another of the schoolgirls, named Emma Mowbray, a
surly, envious girl, whom no one liked, made ill-natured remarks on
Eleanor. Miss Seymour certainly presented a contrast to some of them,
with her beautifully arranged hair, her flowing muslin dress, and her
delicate hands. Schoolgirls, as a whole, are careless of their
appearance _in_ school; and, as a rule, they have red hands. Madame de
Nino's pupils were no exception. Rose was vain, and therefore always
well-dressed; Adeline de Castella was always well-dressed; but Emma
Mowbray and others were not. Emma's hands, too, were red and coarse,
and more so than even those of the careless schoolgirls. Adeline's
were naturally beautiful; and Rose took so much care of hers, wearing
gloves in bed in winter, with some mysterious pomade inside.

Rose made little acquaintance with Eleanor that day. She, Rose, went
out to tea in the afternoon, and came back very cross: for she had not
once set eyes on her _fiancé_. The story was told to Eleanor Seymour;
who sympathized with her of course, having a lover of her own.

The next day was Sunday. The French girls were conducted at ten
o'clock to mass; the English would leave the house as usual for church
a quarter before eleven. Rose was dressed and waiting long before; her
impatience on Sunday mornings was great. Rose was in mourning, and a
source of secret chagrin that fact was, for she liked gay clothes
better than sombre ones.

"And so would you be worrying if you had some one waiting for you at
the church as I have," retorted Rose, in answer to a remark on her
restless impatience, which had been proffered to Miss Seymour by Emma
Mowbray.

"Waiting for you?" returned Eleanor, looking at Rose, but not
understanding.

"She means her lover, Miss Seymour," said Emma Mowbray.

"Yes, I do; and I don't care if I avow it," cried Rose, her face
glowing. "I know he loves me. He never takes his eyes off me in
church, and every glance speaks of love."

"He looks up at the other schools as much as he looks at ours," said
Emma Mowbray, who could rarely speak without a sneer. "Besides, he
only returns the glances you give him: love or no love, he would be a
sorry gallant not to do that."

"Last Thursday," cried Rose, unmindful of the reproof, "he smiled and
took off his hat to me as the school passed him in the street."

"But little Annette Duval said she saw you nod to him first!" said
Charlotte Singleton, the archdeacon's daughter.

"Annette Duval's a miserable little story-teller. I'll box her ears
when she comes in from mass. The fact is, Miss Seymour," added Rose,
turning to the stranger who had come amidst them, "the girls here are
all jealous of me, and Emma Mowbray doubly jealous. He is one of the
divinest fellows that ever walked upon the earth. You should see his
eyes and his auburn hair."

"With a tinge of red in it," put in Emma Mowbray.

"Well; you must point him out to me," said Eleanor, and then hastened
to change the conversation, for she had an instinctive dread of any
sort of quarrelling, and disliked ill-nature. Emma Mowbray had not
favourably impressed her: Rose had, in spite of her vanity and her
random avowals. "You are in mourning, Miss Darling?"

"Yes, for my eldest sister's husband, Mr. Carleton St. John. But I
have a new white bonnet, you see, though he has not been dead many
weeks: and I don't care whether mamma finds it out or not. I told the
milliner she need not specify in the bill whether the bonnet was white
or black. Oh dear! where is Mademoiselle Clarisse?"

Mademoiselle Clarisse, the teacher who took them to church (and who
took also a book hidden under her own arm to read surreptitiously
during the sermon, not a word of which discourse could her French ears
understand) came at last. As the school took its seats in the gallery
of the church, the few who were in Rose's secret looked down with
interest, for the gentleman in question was then coming up the middle
aisle, accompanied by a lady and a little girl.

"There he is!" whispered Rose to Eleanor, next to whom she sat, and
her voice was as one glow of exultation, and her cheeks flushed
crimson. "Going into the pew below. There: he is handing in the little
girl. Do you see?"

"Yes," replied Eleanor. "What of him?"

"It is he. He whom the girls tease me about, my _fiancé_, as they call
him, I trust my future husband. That he loves me, I am positive."

Eleanor answered nothing. Her face was as red as Rose's just then; but
Rose was too much occupied with something else to notice it. The
gentleman--who was really a handsome young man--was looking up at the
gallery, and a bright smile of recognition, meant for one of them,
shone on his face. Rose naturally took it to herself.

"Did you see that? _did_ you see that?" she whispered right and left.
"Emma Mowbray, who took first notice now?"

The service began. At its conclusion Rose pushed unceremoniously out
of the pew, and the rest followed her, in spite of precedent, for the
schools waited until last; and in spite of Mademoiselle Clarisse. But,
on the previous Sunday, Rose had been too late to see him: he had left
the church. On this, as the event proved, she was too early, for he
had not come out; and Mademoiselle Clarisse, who was in a terrible
humour with them for their rudeness, marched them home at a quick
pace.

"If ever truth and faith were in man, I know they are in him!" raved
Rose, when they got home, and were in the dressing-room. "He'll make
the best husband in the world."

"You have not got him yet," cried Emma Mowbray.

"Bah! Did you see the look and smile he gave me? Did _you_ see it,
Miss Seymour?--and I don't suppose you are prejudiced against me as
these others are. There was true love in that smile, if ever I saw
love. That ugly Mademoiselle Clarisse, to have dragged us on so! I
wish she had been taken with apoplexy on the steps! He---- Where's
Miss Seymour gone to?" broke off Rose, for Eleanor had quitted the
dressing-room without taking off her things.

"I heard her say she was invited to dine at Mrs. Marlborough's,"
answered Mary Carr.

"I say! there's the dinner-bell. Make haste, all of you! I wonder they
don't ring it before we get home!"

That afternoon Madame de Nino conducted the girls to church herself. A
truly good Catholic, as she was, she was no bigot, and now and then
sat in the English church. The young ladies did not thank her. They
were obliged to be on church-behaviour then: there could be no
inattention with her; no staring about, however divine might be the
male part of the congregation; no rushing out early or stopping late,
according to their own pleasure. Rose's lover was not there, and Rose
fidgeted on her seat; but just as the service began, the lady and
little girl they had noticed in the morning came up the aisle, and he
followed by the side of Eleanor Seymour. The girls did not dare to
bend forward to look at Rose, Madame being there. The tip of her
pretty nose, all that could be seen of her, was very pale.

"The forward creature! the deceitful good-for-nothing!" broke from
Rose Darling's lips when they got home. "You girls have called me
bold, but look at that brazen Eleanor Seymour! She never saw him until
this morning: I pointed him out to her in church for the first time;
and she must go and make acquaintance with him in this barefaced
manner! As sure as she lives, I'll expose her to Madame de Nino! A
girl like that would contaminate the school! If our friends knew we
were exposed to her companionship, they'd remove----"

Rose's passionate words were cut short by the entrance of Madame
herself, who came in to give some instructions to the teachers, for
she was going out for the evening. Rose, too angry to weigh her words
or their possible consequences, went up to Madame, and said something
in a fast, confused tone. Madame de Nino, a portly, dark-eyed, kind
woman, concluded her directions, and then turned to Rose, who was a
favoured pupil.

"What do you say, Mademoiselle Rose? Did I see the gentleman who was
at church with Miss Seymour? Yes; a very prepossessing young man. I
spoke with him today when they came for her."

A moment's puzzled wonder, and then a frightful thought took hold of
Rose.

"Do you know him, Madame?" she gasped. "Who is he?"

"Young Mr. Marlborough. Mademoiselle Eleanor is betrothed to him."

Madame left the room. And the girls sat breathless with astonishment,
scarcely daring to steal a glance at Rose Darling's white and stony
features.

The weeks went on to the sultry days of August, and most of the girls
were studying away might and main for the prizes. A day-pupil had
temporarily entered the school, Anna Marlborough, the youngest of the
Marlborough family, and the only one who had come abroad with her
mother. It was not Madame de Nino's habit to admit day-pupils, but she
had made an exception in favour of this child, who was to be in the
town but a few weeks.

Will it be credited that Rose Darling was still pursuing her
preposterous flirtation with George Marlborough, in the face of the
discovery that he was engaged to Eleanor Seymour? But there was
something to be urged in her favour, though you are no doubt surprised
to hear me say it. Had a jury been trying Rose, they might have
returned a verdict, "Guilty, with extenuating circumstances." Rose
seemed bewitched. There is no doubt that a real, an ardent passion for
George Marlborough had arisen in her heart, filling its every crevice;
and she regarded Eleanor (she could not help it) with a fierce,
jealous rivalry. But the girl, with all her random folly, was no fool;
and but for certain events that arose, might have remained as
quiescent as she could, until her ill-starred love died out.

It did not, and could not, contribute to any good resolutions she
might have had strength and sense to form, to find herself on intimate
terms with Mr. Marlborough, a frequent visitor to his house. _That_
mistake was, in the first instance, Eleanor Seymour's. Eleanor had
been commissioned by Mrs. Marlborough to invite three or four of the
young ladies to accompany her there to dinner; something was said in
the school about her not _daring_ to ask Rose; and Eleanor invited
Rose forthwith. Rose went. It had been more prudent had she stayed at
home: but Rose was not one of the prudent sort: and the temptation was
irresistible. Mrs. Marlborough was charmed with her, and so was
George. Whether the gentleman detected Rose's feelings for himself,
and was flattered, or whether he had no objection to a flirtation with
a pretty girl, although engaged to another, certain it was he paid
Rose considerable attention, and laughed and joked with her much.

_Joked_ with her. It was all done on his part in the spirit of joking,
as Eleanor Seymour might have seen; but joking sometimes leads to
something more. Messages from one to the other, begun in folly, often
passed; and Anna Marlborough, a giddy girl of twelve, was the
go-between. Just upon this, Rose's brother, Captain Darling, came to
Belport; he soon struck up a friendship with Mr. Marlborough, and here
was another link in Rose's chain. She would meet the two young men in
the street, and leave the ranks, in defiance of rules, ostensibly to
shake hands with Frank, really to talk nonsense with Mr. Marlborough.
Even Eleanor Seymour, when out with the school, would conform to its
rules and only bow and smile as he passed. Not so Rose. The girls
would have gone the length of the street, two sometimes, before she
caught them up, panting and flushed and looking radiant, and boasting
of what George had said to her. It was of no use the teachers
remonstrating and forbidding; do it she would, and do it she did.

This was what may be called the open, harmless stage of the affair.
But it was to go on to another.

There was a large party given one night at a Scotch laird's, Sir Sandy
Maxwell, and Miss Seymour and Rose were invited. You may be aware,
perhaps, that it is the custom in French schools, generally speaking,
for the pupils to visit or not, according to the directions left by
the parents. This had been accorded to Rose by Mrs. Darling; and
Eleanor Seymour was not as a schoolgirl--therefore Madame de Nino,
though openly expressing her disapprobation of these large parties
while young ladies were pursuing their studies, did not refuse. Emma
Mowbray offered a bet to the school that Mr. Marlborough would dance
more dances with Rose than with Eleanor; and so eager were the girls
to hear the result, that those in the large _dortoir_ kept awake until
they came home. It had struck one o'clock, and Madame was up in arms;
she had only given them to half-past eleven, and they had kept the
coach waiting all that time, while Madame's own maid, old Félicité,
was inside it. After all, there was nothing to hear, for Mr.
Marlborough had not made his appearance at the party.

Class was not over the next morning until very late; it always was
late just before giving the prizes. It was the third Thursday in
August, the _sorti_ day, and three of the girls were going with
Eleanor to dine at Mrs. Marlborough's: Rose, Mary Carr, and Adeline de
Castella. The invitations were left to Miss Seymour, and she always
fixed on Rose, in a sort of bravado, but she never once chose Emma
Mowbray; and this gave that young lady considerable offence, as was
known to the school. They were to partake of the usual dinner at
school by way of luncheon, the Marlboroughs not dining until six.
While the cloth was being laid, the girls dispersed about, some in the
courtyard, some in the garden, all in the shade, for it was very
sultry. There was certainly something more than common the matter with
Rose: she appeared half-crazy with joy.

"It is because she's going out," remarked Mary Carr to Eleanor.

"Is it, though!" put in Emma Mowbray; "that's only a little item in
the cause. She has just had a love-letter from Mr. Marlborough."

Eleanor Seymour's cheek changed.

"Don't talk absurdities," said Mary Carr to the Mowbray girl.

"Absurdities!" she retorted, moving away. "If I can, I'll convince
you."

A minute or two, and she came back with a letter in her hand--an open
letter, addressed in George Marlborough's hand to Rose--and handed it
to Mary Carr.

"Am I to read it?" asked the latter.

"If you choose. It is _pro bono publico_, Rose says." And Miss Carr
read the letter aloud.


"My Dearest,

"You must have been surprised not to see me at Sir Sandy's. I was
dressing to come, when a message arrived for me from the Hôtel du
Nord; poor Priestley had met with a sad accident to his hand from the
bursting of a gun. I have been sitting up with him until now, four
o'clock a.m., but I write this to you before I sleep, for you have a
right now to my every thought, to know every movement. You dine here
today, my fair _fiancée_ also; but I wish you were coming alone.

"Ever yours only,

"George Marlborough."


Was there any mistake in the letter? Mary Carr had often heard of
such. _Could_ it have been written to Rose? Alas, yes! it was all too
plain. The writing was George Marlborough's; the address, "Miss Rose
Darling, En Ville," was his; and the seal, "G.M.," was his also. Mary
rose, and stood before Eleanor, shielding her from observation, as she
beckoned to Anna Marlborough: while Emma Mowbray looked defiant, and
asked whether they would believe her next time.

The child was dancing about the courtyard. She was young, and the
school made her a sort of plaything: she came dancing up to Miss Carr.

"Now, Anna, I have something to ask you; and if you equivocate by
so much as a word, I will acquaint Madame de Nino that there's a
letter-carrier in the school; you would be expelled that same hour.
Did you bring a note here from your brother this morning?"

"Yes, I did," stammered Anna. "Don't tell of me, please."

"I'll not tell, if you speak the truth. To whom did you bring it?"

"To Miss Darling."

"Did he send it to _her?_ What did he say when he gave it to you?"

"He told me to give it into her own hands when nobody was by, and to
give his love with it," answered Anna. "Oh, pray don't tell of me,
Miss Carr! It's nothing much more than usual; he often sends his love
by me to Miss Darling."

"Was _this_ the letter you brought?" holding out the one she still
retained in her hand.

"Yes, it was that. I'll never do it again," continued Anna, growing
frightened, and bursting into tears.

Which caused Miss Mowbray to rate her for a "little fool;" and Anna
ran away, glad to be released. Close upon that, up dashed Rose in
agitation, having discovered the loss of her note. The note had not
been declared by Rose to be _pro bono public_, and Emma Mowbray had
dishonourably abstracted it from her apron pocket. Rose got possession
of it again, but she was in a great passion with Emma Mowbray: in
fact, with them all.

And poor Eleanor Seymour! She was white as marble when Mary turned to
her. Sitting there, on the old wooden bench, so outwardly calm and
still, she had heard the whole. Clasping Mary Carr's hands with a
painful pressure, she burst into an uncontrollable fit of weeping, and
glided in at the porch-door to gain the staircase. "Make any excuse
for me at the dinner-table, Mary," she whispered.

_Need_ you be told that that letter was really written to Eleanor? The
words "fair _fiancée_" in it alone related to Rose, and Mr.
Marlborough had penned them in laughing allusion to the joke in the
school. The plot was Emma Mowbray's, a little bit of revenge on
Eleanor and Rose, both of whom she envied and disliked. She had made
Anna her tool. The child, at her prompting, wrote a letter to Rose,
and got her brother to direct and seal it; and Emma Mowbray opened the
two envelopes cleverly by means of passing a penknife under the seals,
and substituted the one note for the other. Thus Eleanor's letter was
conveyed to Rose; the other Emma Mowbray burnt; and she promised a
whole _charrette_ full of good things to Anna to keep her counsel.
Being a mischief-loving little damsel, Miss Anna did so; though she
was nearly frightened out of it by Miss Carr.

This may sound very shallow, very weak, but I assure you the
circumstances took place just as they are described. Had George
Marlborough only put Eleanor's _name_ in the note, the trick could not
have been played. But he did not do so. And neither Rose nor Eleanor
suspected for a moment that there was anything about the note not
genuine; or that it had not been written to Rose.

They went to dinner at Mrs. Marlborough's--Eleanor with her beating
heart of resentment and her outraged love, Rose radiant with happiness
and beauty. The evening did not mend matters, but rather added very
much to the broil. May the word be forgiven?--I was thinking of the
French one. Eleanor, cold, haughty, contemptuous, was almost insulting
to Mr. Marlborough; and Rose, it is to be feared, let him see, that
evening, where her best love was given. He took more than one
opportunity of asking Eleanor how he had offended her, but he could
get no answer. If she had only given him a clue to it, how much
trouble and misery would have been saved! but the very _asking_ on his
part seemed to Eleanor only adding insult to injury. You see they were
all at cross-purposes, and just for the want of a little word of
explanation.

From that hour there was no peace, no mutual understanding between
Eleanor and Mr. Marlborough. He repeatedly sought an explanation of
the sudden change in her behaviour, sometimes by letter, sometimes in
words. She never would give an answer to either. She returned his
letters in blank envelopes, or tore them to pieces before the
messenger's eyes; she refused to see him if he called; she haughtily
held aloof from him when they met. Mrs. Marlborough saw that something
was wrong, but as neither of them made her their confidant, she did
not interfere, and she supposed it to be only a lovers' quarrel. She
had not known Eleanor long, having come to Belport only the week
before that Sunday Rose first saw her at church. Rose alone seemed in
a state of happiness, of ecstatic delight; and Anna now carried no end
of notes and messages to and fro, and kept it secret from the school.
Rose had committed one great folly--she had written to Mr. Marlborough
after the receipt of that first letter. But then, it must be always
remembered that no suspicion had yet crossed her mind that it was not
_written to her_ and meant for her. Rose fully believed--let it be her
excuse--that Mr. Marlborough had transferred his affections from
Eleanor to herself: the school believed it. Whether she really hoped
she should succeed in supplanting Eleanor in the offer of marriage, in
becoming afterwards his wife, cannot be told. The girls thought she
did, and they were sharp observers. At any rate, Rose now deemed the
field as legitimately open to her, as it was to Eleanor.

The day for awarding the prizes was a great day. The girls were
attired in white, with blue sashes and blue neck-ribbons; and the
hairdresser arrived very early in the morning to get done in time. A
large company arrived by invitation; and just before the hour for
going in, some of the girls saw Rose in the garden talking to a
gentleman. Madéleine de Gassicourt, usually so short-sighted, espied
her out.

"It must be her brodare wid her," cried Madeleine, who was not in the
secret. "She will derange her hair before we do go in."

Emma Mowbray peered through the trees. It was no "brodare," but Mr.
Marlborough. He was bending down to Rose; she appeared to be crying,
and he held her hand in his as he talked to her earnestly. Emma
Mowbray glanced round at Eleanor, who was at the window, and saw it
all. She was very pale and still, her lips compressed.

But Rose's stolen interview could have lasted only a few fleeting
minutes. The hands of the clock were then pointing towards two, and as
the hour struck she was amongst them, and they were being marshalled
for the entrance to the prize-room. It was a pleasing sight when they
went in, making their reverences to the assembled visitors. Two pretty
young English girls walked first--sisters; and certainly the two
prettiest of the elders walked last; Rose Darling and Adeline de
Castella; both beautiful, but so unlike in their beauty. Adeline
gained nine prizes; Rose only two. But Rose had been studying for
another sort of prize.

The holidays succeeded--dull and quiet. Of the elder girls, Adeline,
Rose, and Mary Carr alone remained, and there was, of course, Miss
Seymour. Mrs. Marlborough was leaving the town; George was not.
Eleanor, who seemed to be visibly declining, would not go out
anywhere, so she did not meet him; but Rose, always out, met him
constantly.

One afternoon, when Eleanor was growing paler day by day, a bit of
folded paper was brought to her in the schoolroom. She opened it, and
saw a few words in pencil--

"I am now waiting in the salon. You have been denied to me as usual;
yet, Eleanor, let me entreat you to grant me, for this once, an
interview. I leave by the boat for London tonight, but if I can see
you now, my voyage may not be necessary. By the love we once bore each
other, I beseech you, Eleanor, come.--G. M."

Eleanor read it, tore the paper deliberately in two, and handed the
pieces to Clotilde. "Give that to the gentleman," she haughtily said.
"There is no other answer."

Rose followed the maid from the room. "Clotilde," she whispered, "who
is in the salon?"

"The handsome monsieur that was going to marry himself, as people
said, with Mademoiselle Seymour," was the servant's rejoinder.

"Give me the answer," said Rose, taking the torn pieces from her hand.
"I want to send a message to Madame, his mother, and will deliver
this. I say, Clotilde, don't tell Madame that he's here."

The unsuspicious servant went about her business; and Miss Rose
tripped to the salon, and stayed as long as she dared.

That same evening Eleanor Seymour was giving Mary Carr a description
of Rome; they were seated in a corner of the small class-room; and
Adeline de Castella corrected her when she was wrong, for _she_ knew
Rome well. Mademoiselle Josephine (Mam'selle Fifine, the school called
her in general), the only teacher remaining, was at her table in front
of the window, writing letters. When it grew too dark to see, she
closed her desk, turned round, and suddenly, as if surprised not to
see her with the others, asked where Rose was.

The young ladies did not know. Rose had been upstairs in the bedroom
since the afternoon. She came down for collation, and went up again
directly.

Mam'selle Fifine began to scold; she was the crossest of all the
teachers, except Mam'selle Clarisse. It was not likely Miss Rose was
stopping upstairs in the dark; she must have got a light, which, as
Mesdemoiselles knew well, was contrary to rules. And she told Miss
Carr to go and desire her to come down.

Mary Carr rose with a yawn; they had been sitting there long, and she
felt cramped. "Who will go with me?" she asked.

Both the young ladies responded, and all three stumbled up the dark
staircase together. They found no light in the bedrooms, and could see
nothing of Rose. Thinking it possible she might have fallen asleep on
one of the beds, Adeline ran down and got a candle from one of the
servants.

There was no Rose; but on her bed lay a sealed note, addressed to Miss
Carr;--


"Dear Mary,

"I know you have been against me for some time. Miss Seymour and I
were rivals--equals on a fair ground; you would have helped _her_ on,
though it left me to a broken heart. I believe it has been a
neck-and-neck race between us, but I have won. I hope mamma will
reconcile herself to the step I am taking; I always longed to make a
runaway marriage, it is so romantic; and if Frank flies out about it,
I shan't care, for I shan't hear him. When next you see me I shall be

"Rose Marlborough."


"Look to Miss Seymour!" broke from the quivering lips of Adeline de
Castella. And it was timely spoken, for Eleanor was fainting. Scarcely
had she revived, when Mam'selle Fifine came up, angry at the delay.

The note they did not dare to show; but were obliged to confess to the
absence of Rose, saying, _tout bonnement_, as Adeline called it, that
they could not find her.

Rose not to be found! Madame de Nino was dining out, and Mam'selle
Fifine was terrified out of her sober senses. In the midst of the
hubbub that ensued, Julie, the head fille-de-chambre, put her head in
at the door, and said, "The Honourable Mrs. Seymour."

At a time of less commotion they would have burst out laughing. Julie
had been nurse in a nobleman's family in England; she had there become
familiar with British titles, and was as fond of using them as she was
of using her English. One day Ethel Daw's mother came to see her; a
very fine lady, all flounces, and feathers, and gold chains. It was
Julie's luck to show her to the salon; and she came to the schoolroom
afterwards, flung open the door, and called out, "Mrs. Daw, Esquire."
Julie did not hear the last of that. The girls called her ever after
Squire Daw.

"The Honourable Mrs. Seymour."

With a sharp cry Eleanor started up, and flew into her mother's arms,
sobbing convulsively.

"Oh, mamma, take me home! take me home!"

Mrs. Seymour was thunderstruck, not only at Eleanor's cry of pain, but
at the change in her appearance. She had just returned from London.
Mary Carr disclosed a little of the truth. She thought it best; and,
indeed, was unable to evade the keen questioning of Mrs. Seymour. But
Rose's note, with the information it contained, was buried in silence
still. Mrs. Seymour took her daughter home at once; and there Eleanor
told the whole--that Rose had really gone away with Mr. Marlborough.
Mrs. Seymour folded her aristocratic hands, and distinctly desired
that no further allusion to it should ever pass her daughter's lips,
as it would not her own. It was a retribution on them, she said, for
having trusted an "iron man."

Meanwhile, Adeline de Castella and Mary Carr kept their own counsel
through sheer obligation: as they had not declared all they knew at
once, they dared not declare it now. And Madame de Nino verily
believed Rose had been spirited away to the skies.

It was three days afterwards. Mrs. Seymour sat in her drawing-room,
the green Venetian shutters partially closed, and the blinds down, for
Eleanor lay on the sofa quite prostrated. Mrs. Seymour was in a state
of as much indignation as was consistent with her high birth and her
proclaimed assertion that they were "well rid of him;" for, in spite
of the "iron" drawback, she had grown to hug to her heart the prospect
of this most desirable establishment for Eleanor.

Suddenly the door opened, and the iron man himself walked in. Eleanor
struggled up from the sofa, and Mrs. Seymour rose in hauteur, all the
blood of the Loftuses flashing from her light grey eyes. Then ensued a
contest; each side struggling for the mastership; Mrs. Seymour
refusing to hold commune with him, and Mr. Marlborough insisting upon
being heard.

He had gone to England three days ago in search of her, he said; he
then found she had left for France, and he had followed her. His
object was to request that she would lay her commands on Eleanor to
afford him an explanation. Eleanor had been his promised wife; and
without offence on his part, without any known cause, her behaviour
had suddenly changed to him. In vain he had sought an explanation of
her; she would afford him none; and his only resource was to appeal to
Mrs. Seymour. If Eleanor refused to fulfil her engagement with him, he
could not insist upon it; but he must insist upon knowing the reason
for the change: to that he had a right.

"You had better leave the room quietly, sir," said Mrs. Seymour in
frigid tones. "It will not be pleasant to you if I call my servants."

"I will not leave it without an explanation," he replied. "Mrs.
Seymour, you cannot refuse it; if Eleanor will not give it me in
courtesy, I repeat that I must demand it as a right. Eleanor's conduct
at the time seemed to imply that there was some cause of complaint
against me. What was it? I declare to you solemnly that I was
unconscious of it; that I was innocent of offence against her."

His words and manner were painfully earnest and truthful, and Mrs.
Seymour hesitated.

"Has there been any mistake, Eleanor?" she hesitated, appealing to her
daughter.

"Oh, let me know what it is," he implored, before Eleanor could speak.
"Whatever it may be--mistake--cause--reality--let me know it."

"Well, sir," cried Mrs. Seymour, making a sudden resolution, "I will
first ask you what you have done with that unfortunate young lady,
whom you took away from her sheltering roof and her duties, three days
ago?"

"I took no young lady away," replied Mr. Marlborough.

"What have you done with Miss Darling?"

"Not anything."

"You did not induce her to elope with you? You did not take her to
London?"

"Indeed, no. I saw Miss Darling on the port the evening I went away,
and left her there. She was with her brother. But this is no
explanation, Mrs. Seymour. Eleanor," he added, walking up, and
standing before her, "I once again appeal to you. What was the cause
of your first and sudden coldness?"

"Speak out, Eleanor," said her mother. "I know almost as little as Mr.
Marlborough, but I now think the matter should be cleared up, that we
may come at the truth. There must be a strange mystery somewhere."

Eleanor pressed her thin hands upon her side in agitation. She could
only speak in a whisper, in uneven sentences: and she told of the
love-letter written to Rose the day following the dance at Sir Sandy
Maxwell's.

"It was written to you, Eleanor," said Mr. Marlborough.

"I read that note," she answered, gasping for breath. "It was written
to Rose."

"It was written to you, Eleanor. I have never written a loving note,
as that was, to Rose Darling in my life; on my sacred word of honour."

"You have written several notes to Rose!"

"True; since; but never loving ones: they might all have been posted
up on the schoolroom walls, and even Madame de Nino herself could not
have found fault with them. If this note was given to Rose, Anna must
have changed the envelopes. I remember directing one for her to Miss
Darling that morning. Eleanor," he gravely said, "I fear you have been
running your head against a chimera."

"Rose loves you," she whispered, her heart and voice alike softening.

"No; nonsense!"--but for all his denial there was a glow of
consciousness on Mr. Marlborough's countenance. "Eleanor, I honestly
believe that you have been listening to the folly talked by those
schoolgirls, and taken it for gospel. Rose Darling is very pretty, and
likes to be admired; and if I have been thrown a good deal with her,
who threw me? You, Eleanor, by your coldness and avoidance of me. I
don't deny that I have talked lightly and gaily with Rose, never
seriously; I don't deny that----" I have kissed her, he was going to
add in his candour, but thought it might be as well to leave that out
before Mrs. Seymour. "But my love and my allegiance have never swerved
from _you_, Eleanor."

She burst into happy tears. Mrs. Seymour cut them short sternly.

"Eleanor, this note that you talk of, left by Miss Darling on her bed
the other night, must have been meant as a hoax upon you and the two
credulous young ladies, your companions. I did think it a most strange
thing that a young lady of position should be guilty of anything so
vulgar as an elopement. Not but that it was excessively bad to make it
the subject even of a jest."

"I suppose it must have been," sobbed Eleanor. "And it seemed so
earnest!"

Mr. Marlborough could have disclosed _how_ earnest, had he chosen. In
that interview in the salon with Rose, when he told her he was going
away, he learnt how much she loved him. In the anguish of parting,
Rose dropped words that sufficiently enlightened him--if he had not
been enlightened before. He passed it all off as a jest; he said
something to the effect that he had better take her with him to
Gretna, all in jest, in simple folly: and he spoke in this light
manner for Rose's sake: he would not suffer her to think she had
betrayed her secret. What, then, was his astonishment when, in coming
out of the permit office at night on the port, preparatory to stepping
on board the boat, to see Rose! _She had taken his words seriously_.
What he would have done to save the boat in his dilemma--for he must
inevitably have lost it while he escorted Rose back to Madame de
Nino's--he did not know; but at that moment who should come up but
Captain Darling. He gave the young lady into her brother's charge,
with a half-word of explanation; and he never supposed but that Rose
had been safely lodged at school within the hour. But Mr. Marlborough
was a man who could keep his counsel on these particulars, even to
Eleanor, and he did keep it.

"Let this be a warning to your wedded life, Eleanor," observed Mrs.
Seymour. "Never have any concealments from your husband. Had you
frankly spoken to Mr. Marlborough of that first misdirected letter,
which seems to have been the primary cause of all the mischief, the
affair would have been cleared up at once."

"It's enough to make a man swear he will never use another envelope,"
exclaimed Mr. Marlborough, with his old happy smile of love. "But you
need not have doubted me, Eleanor."

Meanwhile, where _was_ Rose? Madame de Nino, in the eleventh stage of
desperation and perplexity, sent ten times a day to Captain Darling's
lodgings; but he had disappeared also. Mam'selle Fifine, who of course
came in for the blame, alternately sobbed and scolded aloud; and
Adeline and Mary Carr felt sick with the weight of the secret they
were keeping. This state of things, stormy within doors as the weather
was without, lasted for three days, and then Rose returned, escorted
by her brother.

But what a shocking plight she was in! Drenched with rain and
sea-water; clothes soaked and clinging round her; quite prostrated
with three days' sea-sickness; lying half-dead all that time in a
rolling fishing-smack, the wind blowing great guns and she nearly dead
with fright; nothing to eat and drink on board but salt herrings and
sour beer, even supposing she could have eaten at all!--no wonder Rose
forgot her good manners and told her brother he was a brute for taking
her. Rose had happened to put on her best things, too: a white chip
bonnet and pearl-grey damask dress. You should have seen them when she
came in!

So it was quite a mistake. Miss Carr and Adeline found, a trick, no
doubt, played them purposely by Rose, and there had been no elopement
at all, or thought of one: nothing but a three-days' cruise round the
coast with her brother, in the fishing-smack of some honest, rough,
hard-working sailors! Captain Darling made a thousand apologies to
Madame de Nino when he brought her home--the object that Rose
presented upon his handing her out of the coach!--and laid it all to
the fault of that treacherous wind; which had kept them at sea three
days, when he had only contemplated treating her to a little excursion
of an hour for the good of her health.

Madame was appeased at length. But Mam'selle Fifine is sore upon the
point to this day. As she justly observed, there must have been
something out of the common amiss with that particular fishing-boat.
Granted the rough wind; but other boats made the port fast enough, so
why not that one? Rose could or would give no explanation, and was as
sullen as a bear for a whole month.

And ere that month had well run its course, news came down from Paris
of the marriage of George Marlborough and Miss Seymour.



CHAPTER XI.
GEORGINA BEAUCLERC'S LOVE.


We must go to Castle Wafer. Isaac St. John has his writing-table drawn
to the open window this mellow September day, and sits at it. But he
is not writing now. He leans back in his padded chair, and the lines
of thought--of care--lie on his otherwise serene face. Care for Isaac
St. John the recluse? Verily, yes; even for him. If we could live
lives of utter isolation from our species, we might escape it;
otherwise, never.

Looking at him now, his back buried in the soft chair, his face, so
pleasant to the eye, turned rather upwards, and his thin white hands
resting listlessly, one on the elbow of the chair, one down on his
knee, a stranger would have failed to detect anything amiss with the
person of Isaac St. John, or that it was not like other men's. For the
first forty years of Isaac St. John's existence, his days had been as
one long, ever-present mortification; that disfiguring hump and his
sensitiveness doing battle together. Why it should be so, I know not,
but it is an indisputable fact, that where any defect of person
exists, any deformity--two of the qualities pertaining to our nature
exist in the mind in a supereminent degree, sensitiveness and vanity,
perhaps for the good of the soul, certainly to the marring of its
peace. It has been so since the world began; it will be so to its
ending. Isaac St. John was no exception. There never can be an
exception; for this seems to be a law of nature. Remember the
club-foot of Byron, and what it did for him. This shrinking
sensitiveness, far more than his health, had converted Mr. St. John
into a hermit. It was terrible to him to go forth unto the gaze of his
fellow-men, for--he carried his deformity with him. Now that he was
advancing in years, growing onwards to be an old man, the feeling was
wearing off; the keen edge of the razor which had cut all ways was
becoming somewhat blunt: but it must ever remain with him in a greater
or lesser degree.

He was not thinking of it now. It was when he was in the presence of
others, or when making up his mind to go into their presence, that the
defect was so painfully present to him. As he sat there, his brow knit
with its lines, two things were troubling him: the one was a real,
tangible care, the other was only a perplexity.

His own mother had lived to bring him up; and how she had cherished
and loved her unfortunate son, the only heir to the broad lands of the
St. Johns, that son's heart ached even now to think of. At the time
she died, he wished he could die also; his happiest thoughts now were
spent in her remembrance; his most comforting moments those when he
lost himself in the anticipation of the meeting that awaited them
hereafter. He was a grown-up man, getting old it almost seemed to his
lonely heart, when the little half-brother was born, the only issue of
his father's second marriage. How Isaac St. John took to this little
baby, loved it, fondled it, played with it, he might have been half
ashamed to tell in words. The boy had been his; as his own; since the
death of their father, he had been his sole care; and now that boy,
grown to manhood, was going the way of the world and bringing trouble
into his home. No very great and irremediable trouble yet: but enough
to pain and worry the sensitive heart that so loved him.

As if to compensate for the malformation of the one brother, the other
was gifted with almost surpassing beauty. The good looks of Frederick
St. John had become a proverb in the gay world. But these favoured
sons of men are beset by temptations in an unusual degree, and perhaps
they may not be much the better for the beauty in the long-run. Had
Frederick St. John been less high-principled by nature; or been less
carefully and _prayerfully_ trained by his brother Isaac, things might
have been a great deal worse with him than they were. He had not
parted with honour, but he _had_ parted with money; a handsome
patrimony which he had succeeded to when he became of age, was
mortgaged thick and threefold, and Mr. Frederick was deep in debt and
embarrassment.

Mr. St. John glanced towards some letters lying on his table. The
letters had brought the trouble to him. It would seem as if
Frederick's affairs had in some way come to a sudden crisis, for these
letters, three of them, had all arrived in the course of the past
week. They were ugly letters from ugly creditors asking him to pay
them; and until their reception Mr. St. John had not possessed any
knowledge of the state of affairs. He had believed Frederick to be in
the habit of getting rid of a great deal more money than he had need
to do; but he had not glanced at debt, or embarrassment. It had so
completely upset him--a little thing did that in his delicate
health--that for a day and a night he was incapable of action; he
could only nurse his pain. Then he sent answers to the parties, saying
that the matters should be examined into; and he wrote to Frederick,
who was in London, to come to him without delay. He was waiting for
him; the senses of his ears were opened now, listening for his
footsteps: he was growing anxious and weary, for Frederick might have
responded to the call on the past day.

That was the trouble. The other care mentioned, the perplexity,
regarded his little cousin at Alnwick. He had promised George Carleton
St. John (as you may remember) to take means of ascertaining whether
Benja was well done by, happy, and cared for by his stepmother; but
now that it came to action, Isaac St. John did not quite see how he
was to set about it. Something he must do; for the promise lay on his
conscience: and he was, of all men, the most conscientious. Mr.
Carleton St. John had died in May; it was now September; and Isaac
knew little or nothing of the affairs at Alnwick. He had corresponded
a little with Mrs. Carleton St. John in the intervals of his own
illness--for he had been seriously ill twice this summer; at the time
of the death, and for some time after it, and again in July--and he
had addressed two letters to Benja, simple letters fit for a child,
and desired that that young gentleman would answer him by deputy.
Somebody had scrawled these answers, probably the nurse, or guided
Benja's fingers to do it. "He was very well, and Brave was very well,
and he thanked his gardian, Mr. Saint John, for writeing to him, and
he hopped he was very well, and he sent his love." This did not tell
Mr. St. John much: and the involuntary thought crossed him that had
Benja been her own child Mrs. St. John might herself have helped him
with the answers.

He had therefore been making up his mind to go over to Alnwick, much
as he disliked to show himself amidst strangers. But for this news
concerning Frederick which had so troubled him, and the expected
arrival of his brother, he would have been already away; but now he
had put it off for a day or two. This was Tuesday; and he thought, if
all went well, and Frederick came today, he should go on Thursday. It
was not the loss of the money that brought care to Isaac St. John; his
coffers were deep; but the great fear that this young man, dear to him
as ever son could be to father, might be falling into evil.

He was aroused from thought by the entrance of his attendant, Mr.
Brumm. The master of Castle Wafer looked up wistfully: he had thought
it might be another entering.

"Will you have luncheon brought in here today, sir, or take it with
Mrs. St. John and Lady Anne?"

"Oh, I don't know"--and the sweet voice bore its sound of weariness.
"I will take it with them today, I think, Brumm: they say I neglect
them. Is it one o'clock?"

"Hard upon it, sir."

Mr. St. John rose. Ah, how changed from the delicate-faced man whose
defects of form had been hidden! The hump was all too conspicuous now.

Passing out of the room, he crossed the inner hall, so beautiful with
its soft rose-coloured hues, its tesselated pavement, and opened a
door on the other side, where luncheon was laid. Two ladies entered
almost at the same moment. The one was a tall, fine, still elegant
woman, not much older than Mr. St. John himself, though she stood to
him in the relation of stepmother; the other was an orphan daughter of
the highest branch of the St. John family, the Lady Anne: a
nice-looking girl of two or three and twenty, with dark-brown eyes and
a pointed chin. Castle Wafer belonged exclusively to Isaac St. John;
but his stepmother frequently resided at it. The utmost good-feeling
and courtesy existed between them; and Frederick, her only son, and
his half-brother, was the link that drew them together. Mrs. St. John
never stayed there in the character of visitor: Isaac would not allow
it: but as its undisputed mistress. At these times, however, he lived
a good deal in his own rooms. She had been there about a month now,
and had brought with her this young cousin, Lady Anne. It had been a
cherished project in the St. John family, that Lady Anne St. John
should become the wife of Frederick. All wished it. The relatives on
both sides wished it: they were several degrees removed from each
other in relationship, she was an heiress, he would inherit
Castle Wafer: altogether it was very suitable. But the parties
themselves--were they anxious for the tie? Ah, less was known about
that.

Mrs. St. John gave an exclamation of pleasure, for the sight of her
stepson amidst them was somewhat rare. He shook hands with her, and
then Anne St. John came merrily up to be kissed. She was very fond of
Isaac, and he of her. Nearly the only friend he had had in life, as
these men of rare minds count friendship, had been the earl, Anne's
father.

"Mrs. St. John," he said, as they were at table, Brumm alone being in
the room in attendance on his master, for sometimes the merest trifle
of exertion, even the lifting of a plate, the filling of a glass, was
a trouble to Isaac, "will you believe that I am contemplating a
journey?"

"A journey! You, Isaac!" exclaimed Lady Anne. "Is it a drive round the
farm in your low carriage?"

"It is a longer journey than that. It will take me five or six hours'
hard posting, with good roads and four good horses."

"Oh, Isaac! How can you continue to travel post when you can take the
railway?"

"I do not like the railway," said Isaac, quietly.

"Well, I hope you will find relays. I thought all the old posting
horses were dead and buried."

"I have not found any difficulty yet, Anne, Brumm sends on to secure
them."

"But where are you going, Isaac?" asked Mrs. St. John.

"To Alnwick. I think I ought to go," continued Isaac, speaking in his
grave, earnest, thoughtful manner. "Poor George left his boy partly in
my charge, as you know; but what with ill-health, and my propensity to
shut myself up, which gets harder to break through every year, I have
allowed too long a time to elapse without seeing him. It has begun to
lie upon my conscience: and whenever a thing does that, I can't rest
until I take steps to remedy it."

"The little boy is in his own home with his mother," observed Mrs. St.
John. "He is sure to be all right."

"I do not fear that he is not. I should be very much surprised to find
that he is not. But that probable fact does not remove from me the
responsibility of ascertaining it. I think I shall go on Thursday, and
return on Friday."

"How dull we shall be without you," said Lady Anne.

Mr. St. John smiled, and raised his soft dark eyes to hers. The
fingers of one thin hand had been wandering amidst the crumbs of his
bread, putting them into circles or squares: a habit of his when he
talked at table, though perhaps an unconscious one. He did not eat
much, and had generally finished long before others.

"I hope, Anne, you and Mrs. St. John will have some one here by
Thursday, who will be a more effectual remedy for dulness than I could
be at my best. Mrs. St. John, I am expecting Frederick."

"Oh!" The mother's heart leaped within her; the bright flush of
expectancy rose to her cheek; a fair and soft cheek still, for all her
fifty years. "When?"

"I hope he will be here today. I think he may even have come by this
morning's train. I wish to see him on a little matter of business, and
have written to him to come down. Are you glad, Anne?"

"I am more glad than I can tell you," was the warm, eager answer. "I
wish he could be here always."

Ah, Isaac St. John, why that inward glow of satisfaction at the words?
Are you so little skilled in the signs of _love_ as not to read them
more correctly? Don't you know that if there were any love, of the
sort you have been hoping, in that fair girl's heart, she would go by
the rules of contrary, and protest that it was a matter of perfect
indifference to her whether Mr. Frederick came or not? There is no
blush on her cheek; there is no faltering in her tone: why should you
deceive yourself?

The surmise was correct: Frederick St. John had come down by the
morning's express train. You may see him as he walks out of the
station at Lexington: it is that tall, slender, aristocratic man, with
dark hair, pale refined features, and eyes of the deepest blue. The
people at the station touch their hats to him and smile a greeting,
and he smiles and nods at them in return, kindly, genially, as if he
really thanked them for their welcome. There was neither heartlessness
nor hypocrisy in Frederick St. John: he was a true gentleman at heart.

"Would you like a fly, sir? I don't see any carriage come down for
you."

"No, thank you, Williams. I prefer walking such a day as this. Is Mr.
St. John well, do you happen to know?"

"As well as usual, I think, sir," was the man's reply, who drove his
own fly. "He walked through the fields to church on Sunday. The ladies
came in the basket-carriage."

"What a fine harvest you have had!"

"Beautiful, sir. Couldn't be better. My little stock of corn never was
finer."

"By the way, Williams. I had a portmanteau somewhere in the train: the
guard put it out, I suppose. You can bring it up if you like."

"Thank you, sir."

Frederick St. John walked on. Striking into a path on the left, he
continued his way through the fields, and came in due course to the
back of the Rectory. From thence the way was through the cultivated
grounds, the lovely gardens of Castle Wafer: the whole way being not
much more than a mile and a half. By the highway it was a good deal
longer.

Seated under a projecting rock, a sketch-book and pencils lying beside
her, was one of the fairest girls ever seen. She was reading. Going
out to sketch, that mellow day, she had yielded to idleness (as she
often did), and was passing the time in reading, instead of working.
She was the Dean of Westerbury's niece, Sarah Beauclerc: and the dean
was wont to tell her that she should not take a book with her when she
went out to sketch. It might come to the same thing, so far as working
went, she would answer in her independence: if she did not read, she
might only sit and dream. But the dean was not at the Rectory just
now: only his wife, daughter, and niece. This young lady's home had
been with them since the death of her mother, the Lady Sarah
Beauclerc: her father was in India.

The soft bloom mantled in Sarah Beauclerc's cheeks when she saw who
had turned the corner and was upon her. His appearance took her by
surprise: neither she nor any one else had known that he was coming.
She put down her book and was about to rise: but he laid his hand upon
her and sat down on the bench beside her. He kept her hand in his; he
saw the blushes on her cheeks; and that her eyes fell beneath the gaze
of his own.

But the liking between them was not destined to go on to love: though
indeed on her part, and perhaps also on his, the feeling had been very
like love once. In her behaviour to him she had been a finished
coquette: _he_ set it down to caprice, to a want of real affection for
him; in reality it grew out of her love. She believed that, come what
would, he was to marry Lady Anne St. John; she believed that he
accepted the destiny, though he might not be unwilling to amuse
himself before he entered on it: and, one moment she had been gentle,
tender, yielding, in obedience to her secret love; the next she would
be cold, repelling, the very essence of scorn. This had partially
worked his cure: but in a meeting like the present, coming suddenly
upon her in all her beauty, the old feelings would rise again in his
heart. Ah! how different might things have been in this life for one
other woman, had Sarah Beauclerc only known the real state of affairs
between him and Lady Anne!

But she still retained enough of the past feeling to be
confused--confused in manner as in mind. She put questions as to his
unexpected appearance, not hearing one syllable of the answers; and
Frederick St. John detected the secret joy, and his voice grew more
low and tender as he bent over her, and a smile, than which earth
could possess nothing sweeter, sat on his lips. Perhaps even now, had
he remained at Castle Wafer--but of what use speculating upon what
might have been?

"I think you are glad to see me, Sarah."

One flash of answering avowal, and then the lovely consciousness on
the face faded, the light of love died out of it; it grew hard,
satirical, half angry. That she should so have betrayed herself! She
raised her head, and looked out straight before her from the depths of
her cold light-blue eyes.

"We are glad to see any one in this lonely desert, where the only
gentleman of degree is Mr. St. John. Not but that I would rather see
him than many others. Did you leave London this morning?"

Frederick St. John dropped the hand and rose.

"I shall never understand you, Sarah. Yes, I left it this morning.
Where's Georgina? She will be glad to welcome me, if you are not."

"There's one will be glad to welcome you at Castle Wafer," she
rejoined, laughing now, but the laugh sounded cold and cheerless.
"Lady Anne has been wishing for you for some time."

"Yes, I think she has. I must go on now. I shall see you again, no
doubt, by-and-by."

He hastened on his way, utterly unconscious that a pair of eyes, more
lovely than those he had been gazing on, behind the grove of trees,
had been unintentional witnesses to the interview. Georgina Beauclerc
had been strolling about when she saw his approach through the trees.
She was the dean's daughter--a lithe, active girl of middle height
with a pleasing, piquant, rather saucy face, these wide-open grey-blue
eyes, light-brown hair, and a healthy blood mantling under the
sunburnt skin of the dimpled cheeks--a daring, wild, independent young
lady, but one all truth and ingenuousness; and that is saying a very
great deal in these days of most detestable artificially. Georgina had
no end of faults, but Dr. Beauclerc knew her heart, and he would not
have exchanged his daughter for any girl in the world.

She, Georgina Beauclerc, had looked on from between the trees, all her
veins throbbing, her pulses beating. A stronger, a purer, a more
enduring love never made glad the heart of woman, than this one that
filled Georgina Beauclerc's for Frederick St. John. To hear his step
was rapture; to touch his hand was as a ray of that unforgiven fire
"filched for us from heaven;" to see him thus unexpectedly was as if
the whole earth had become suddenly flooded with a brilliant,
rose-coloured light. But, even as she watched that other meeting with
her cousin, the sharp pain--often enough felt there before--seized her
heart, the loving light faded from her face, and her lips paled with
anguish. Of keen, discerning faculties, _she_ had seen all along that
it was not from Lady Anne danger was to be feared, but from Sarah
herself. A faint, low cry, as of a bird in pain, escaped her as she
watched the meeting, and drank in its signs.

Did anything in the world ever run so crookedly as _this_ course of
love? Every one--uncles, aunts, guardians--wanted Frederick St. John
to wed Lady Anne. Frederick did not want to marry her at all; did not
intend to marry her; and she, on her part, hoped to marry some one
else. But that was a secret not yet to be breathed to the world;
Frederick alone shared it; and if things came to a crisis he intended
to take on himself the whole onus of declining the match, and so spare
Anne. They understood each other perfectly; and that is more than can
be said for any other two actors in our story. Nothing so very crooked
there, you will say; but look a little further. Georgina loved
Frederick St. John with her whole heart; and he never gave a thought
to her. He must have known of her love; there had been things to
reveal it to him--trifles in the past; but he passed her by, and felt
all too inclined to give his love to her cousin. She, Sarah, could
have made him her heart's resting-place, ah! how willingly! but her
head was filled ever with Lady Anne, and she met his incipient love
with scorn. It was curing him, as I have told you; but if the whole
truth could have been laid bare, the lives of some of them would have
been widely different.

Georgina was obliged to come forth from her hiding-place, for his path
lay through the shrubbery, and he must have seen her. Her colour went
and came fitfully as she held out her hand; her bosom heaved beneath
the thin summer dress, a flowing robe of muslin, adorned with blue
ribbons. Her large straw hat was hanging from her arm; and she began
to talk freely and wildly--anything to cover her agitation. Their
intercourse was familiar as that of brother and sister, for they had
been intimate from childhood.

"Well, Georgie! In the wars as usual, I see, amidst the brambles."

He pointed to her robe, and she caught it up; a long bramble was
trailing to it.

"It is your fault, sir. Hearing a strange voice, I came through the
thorns to see who might be the intruder. What a strange, flighty way
you have got into! Coming down by fits and starts, when no one expects
you! We heard you were off to Finland, or some other of those
agreeable spots. You'll frighten Castle Wafer into fits."

"Wrong, young lady. Castle Wafer sent for me."

"That's one of your stories," politely returned Georgina. "I was at
Castle Wafer after breakfast this morning, and Mrs. St. John was
regretting that you did not come down this autumn; some one else also,
I think, though she did not say it."

He looked down at her as she spoke. There were times when he thought
she divined the truth as regarded himself and Lady Anne St. John.

"_I_ wonder," she continued, "that you have kept away so long."

"How is the dean?"

"He is not here--only mamma. Tell me; what has brought you down?"

"I have told you. I was sent for."

"By----"

"Isaac. You are as curious as ever, Georgina. But now, can you tell me
_why_ I am sent for; for that is a puzzle to me. I fear----"

He stopped suddenly. Miss Beauclerc raised her eyes to his face. There
was a shade of uneasiness in his tones, as if he were ill at ease.

"I know nothing about it," she answered, earnestly. "I did not even
know you were sent for. I would tell you if I did know."

He nodded an acknowledgment, courteously enough, but very
abstractedly, as if he thought little of Georgina or of anything she
could tell him, and walked on alone, never once looking back. She
leaned her forehead against a tree, and gazed after him; her wild love
shining forth from her yearning blue eyes; her whole heart longing to
call after him ere he should be quite beyond view, and the day's
sunshine have gone out in darkness: "Oh, stay with me, my love! stay
with me!"

He went on to the house, straight into the presence of Isaac, who was
then in his own room, and learnt why he had been summoned. That his
embarrassments would, of necessity, become known to his brother some
time, he had entertained no shadow of doubt; but he was one of those
high-bred, honourable men who look upon debt as little less than
crime; and now that the moment had come, it brought him terrible
mortification.

"I have no excuse to offer," he said. "But do not think worse of me
than you can help. Not one shilling of it has gone in dishonour."

That he spoke the truth Isaac knew, and his heart went out to him--him
whom he had ever loved as a son.

"I will set you straight, only be more cautious in future," he said,
never speaking, in his generosity, one word of reproach. "And,
Frederick, this had better be kept from your mother. It would pain
her, and perhaps alarm Anne. Don't you think it is time you married?
There's nothing to wait for. I'm sure---- I fancy at least--that Anne
is ready."

And Frederick St. John, bound by a promise to Lady Anne, did not speak
out openly, as he might have done, but evaded the question.


On the following Thursday, in the long, low room at the Rectory, its
windows opening to the lawn, sat Sarah Beauclerc, practising a piece
of difficult music. She and her cousin were contrasts. The one, cold,
calm, calculating, did things by rule; the other did all by impulse,
and could not be cold if she tried. Sarah was the least in the world
artificial; Georgina was too natural.

Mrs. Beauclerc, thin and discontented-looking as of yore, the red tip
of her nose growing redder year by year, sat at the French window of
the room, talking to Georgina. Georgina, in a clear pink muslin dress,
with open lace sleeves on her pretty wrists, stood just outside the
window. She was partly listening to her mother,--as much as she ever
did listen to Mrs. Beauclerc's grumblings,--partly humming to herself
the piece that Sarah was playing, as her eyes wandered wistfully, far
far out in the distance, seeking one who did not come.

"What are you looking at?" Mrs. Beauclerc suddenly asked in sharp
tones. "You never pay attention to me, Georgina."

"I thought--I thought--" and though the answer was given with
hesitation, she spoke the straightforward truth--"I thought I saw
Frederick St. John. Some one was there, but he has turned away again,
whoever it was. What do you want to say, mamma?"

"Mrs. St. John and Anne partly promised to come in and dine with us,
_sans cérémonie_, this evening. I want you to go and ask them whether
they are really coming."

She stepped gaily over the threshold into the room, all her inertness
gone. The short secluded walk through the private grounds would be
charming enough on that warm autumn day; but had it been one of stones
and brambles, Georgina had deemed it Eden, with the prospect of _his_
presence at the end of it. She halted for a moment to ask a question;
to ask it indifferently, as if it were of no moment to her, and she
tossed her handkerchief carelessly about as she spoke it.

"Is Frederick to come with them?"

"Dear me, Georgina! _Is_ he to come! He can come if he likes."

Absorbed in her music, Sarah Beauclerc had heard nothing of this.
Georgina came in again with her bonnet on. "Sarah, I am going up to
Castle Wafer. Will you come?"

The light of assent shone all too eagerly for a moment in Sarah's
eyes; but she recollected her resolution--to _forget_--and declined.

"Not this morning."

"Very well," said Georgina. "Don't say I didn't ask you. You said so
once before, if you remember, Sarah, and a great passion you were in."

Sarah Beauclerc's lip curled. "I don't think I was ever in a passion
in my life. It is only the uncontrolled, the ill-regulated, who so
forget themselves."

"I would rather go into a good hearty passion and get it over, than be
cold as an icicle. What a passion I once put Fred St. John into!"
added Georgina, half losing herself in the remembrance. "_He_ can be
passionate, if you like!"

"I don't believe it."

"_Dis_-believe it, then," equably returned Georgina. "I have seen him
in more rages than one. It's not a thing to forget, I can tell you. He
is sweet-tempered in ordinary life; ay, very; but on rare occasions he
can be roused. Ask Mrs. St. John; ask Anne."

She stepped out from the window, nodding to Mrs. Beauclerc, who was
now at a distance bending over her favourite flowerbed, and pursued
her walk.

Suddenly a butterfly crossed her path; she was then getting near to
Castle Wafer. It was one of those beautiful insects, its wings purple
and gold; and Georgina, no better than a butterfly herself and
variable as one, began to give chase to it. In turning suddenly the
corner of a hedge of variegated evergreens, she came upon a stranger.

Springing back as one startled, her heart beat a shade quicker. Not
that there was anything particularly to startle her, except that he
was unknown, and that he stood in a stealthy attitude. He wore a
rather remarkable hat, inasmuch as its crown was higher than those of
ordinary hats and went tapering off in sugar-loaf fashion; his clothes
were shabby-genteel. Altogether he put Georgina in mind of the
portrait of Mephistopheles, as represented on the cover of one of her
pieces of music.

He had been bending forward, peering through the trees at Castle
Wafer; the position he held commanded full view of the front of the
house. But he appeared equally startled with Miss Beauclerc, at being
interrupted, glided away, and was lost to view.

"What a strange-looking man!" exclaimed Georgina. "And what was he
doing there? Perhaps wanting to take a photograph of Castle Wafer!
_That_ tall hat must have been the one I saw from our house."

She emerged from the sheltered path, crossed the lawn, stepped over
the terrace, and into the drawing-room. The families were too intimate
to stand on any sort of ceremony with each other, and as frequently
entered each other's houses in this manner as by the more formal
doorway. The room was empty, but almost immediately Frederick St. John
came into it.

His eye fell upon her for a moment only, and she caught the
half-wistful, half-eager glance that went roaming round in search of
another.

"Are you alone?" he asked, as he shook hands with her.

"Sarah is not with me," was the petulant answer. It was utterly
impossible to Georgina Beauclerc not to betray her moods: and none but
herself knew how cruel was the pain ever rankling in her heart. "But I
did not come to pay a visit to you," she went on pointedly. "Where's
Mr. St. John?"

"He has gone out, and will not be back until tomorrow."

She had only asked the question in that listless fashion that requires
no answer. The answer, however, aroused her surprise. Isaac St. John
gone out until tomorrow!

"He left this morning for Alnwick," said Frederick. "He has gone to
see his little ward, Benja St. John. A long journey, for he is
posting. Did you want him, Georgina?"

"No; I came to see Mrs. St. John. Mamma supposes she and Anne remember
their engagement to come in this afternoon and remain to dinner. Will
you come also?"

"Is it a dinner-party?

"A dinner-party here! Don't expect that. You may find nothing but
mutton," she added, with a laugh. "It's ourselves only. Will you
come?"

"I think not, Georgie. Perhaps, though: I'll see between now and
dinner-time."

He stepped out without further word or look. Ah, it needed not his
coldness of manner to convince Georgina Beauclerc how utterly
indifferent she was to him! Lady Anne came in, and she began laughing
and talking as though there were not such a thing as misplaced love in
the world. In a few minutes Georgina left again, bearing Mrs. St.
John's message of acceptance of the invitation. As she was walking
leisurely along she caught sight of Frederick in the distance. He was
standing still, apparently examining something in his hand. Georgina's
quick thought wondered whether it was the beautiful butterfly of
purple and gold. Suddenly, in this same moment, as she looked, she saw
the strange man go rather swiftly up to him and touch him on the
shoulder.

She saw Frederick St. John wheel round; she saw him fling the man's
arm off with a haughty gesture. And after a few minutes' parleying,
during which the man showed him a paper--minutes of hesitation as it
seemed, for Mr. St. John looked about him as a man uncertain of his
course--they finally walked away together. Georgina went home
wondering.

Mrs. St. John and Lady Anne came in about four o'clock, bringing their
work with them. Lady Anne was making a collection of ferns, and she
began doing something to a dried leaf with water and a sponge. Mrs.
St. John and Mrs. Beauclerc were each knitting a soft woollen
counterpane of divers colours, and began comparing progress.

"Where's Frederick?" asked Mrs. Beauclerc. "Is he not coming?"

"I don't know where he is," cried Mrs. St. John, in quick tones and
looking up, as though the question recalled something to her
recollection. "We have seen nothing of him since the morning, and just
now I received a pencilled note from him, saying he might not be in
until tonight, or perhaps not at all, if he found his business
detained him very late."

"Has he gone to Lexington?"

"We don't know where he has gone. But it is very strange he should go
out for any length of time, without mentioning it to me. The note was
not dated, and the servants said a strange boy brought it. So very
thoughtless of Frederick, to go out in this flighty manner! Anne was
dreaming of him this afternoon."

"Dreaming of him!" repeated Mrs. Beauclerc.

Lady Anne laughed. "Mrs. St. John insisted at the time that I was
dreaming," she said. "We drove out in the pony-carriage after
luncheon, and on passing the Barley Mow, I could have declared that I
saw Frederick at one of the upper windows. But when we drew closer he
had turned into a strange man in a tall hat. I suppose I must have
been thinking of him, and so fancied it: or else the sun, which was
full in my face, caused the mistake. Georgina, what is the matter?"

It was time to ask. Georgina Beauclerc was standing as one transfixed.
She was as clever a girl at putting two and two together as could well
be found; and the whole mystery seemed to suddenly clear itself. Very
rapidly she drew her conclusions: Frederick St. John had been arrested
for debt, and the man was keeping him prisoner at the Barley Mow!

A mist gathered before her sight: her heart sank within her. Georgina
had long known that he was in some temporary embarrassment; it came to
her knowledge through an incautious word of his own; and she had
cherished the knowledge as a secret link between them. But she had not
suspected _this_, and it came upon her with a crushing fear.

She burst into laughter, for the question of Lady Anne recalled her to
herself, making some evasive excuse. She would have died rather than
betray him.

"I know," she said. "He has gone over to Lexington to avoid dining
with so many women. You could not expect him to stay for us, Mrs. St.
John."

"Very true, my dear; the same thought had occurred to me," was the
satisfied answer. "But I don't see why he should hint at not coming
home to sleep."

"There may be a thousand things to detain him," said Georgina,
throwing back her pretty head, as if to cool the fever crimsoning her
cheeks. "And who knows but he may have gone on to Sir John Ingram's? I
made him so mad one day last year, teasing him about that gawky Jane
Ingram! Mamma nearly boxed my ears for it."

Watching her opportunity, Georgina stole away, snatched her hat and a
garden mantle from the peg in the hall, and went out. Where was she
going, this wild girl? Need you ask? In her impulsive, free, careless
fashion, she was hastening to the Barley Mow, to see Frederick St.
John.

It sounds very bad, no doubt to the reader's ears. The name of the
"Barley Mow" itself would be enough to alarm modest people, without
the gentleman. But in this quiet little spot, the Barley Mow was as
sedate and respectable a house to enter as any private one; and
Georgina had many a time gone into it with Dr. Beauclerc to sit ten
minutes with one of its daughters, who had been an invalid for years.

She went flying onwards, and gained the door in a few minutes. The
landlord, a respectable, simple old yeoman, in a yellow waistcoat and
top-boots, who was a farmer as well as an innkeeper, met her at the
entrance.

"Mary ain't quite so well, miss," he began, more hastily than he was
in the habit of speaking. "She's lying down. I'm afeared I can't ask
you to go up this afternoon."

"I have not come to see her," returned Georgina, ignoring ceremony.
"Is Mr. Frederick St. John here?"

The man seemed taken back. He might not admit it; he could not
conscientiously deny it; and he only stared by way of answer.

"I know he is here," said Georgina, "You need not hesitate."

"Well, miss, he is here, and that's the truth. But I mightn't say it."

"I want to see him," she continued, walking into the family parlour,
then vacant. "Ask him to come to me."

It appeared that he could not come without his attendant in the
curious hat, for when Mr. St. John, who came down immediately, entered
the room, that gentleman's hat and head appeared over his shoulder.
Very haughtily Mr. St. John waved him off, and closed the door to shut
him out.

"Georgina, what brings you here?"

"How did it happen?" she asked eagerly. "Are you really arrested?"

"Really and truly," he said, speaking in a tone of hauteur that
perhaps veiled a feeling of bitter mortification. "The marvel does not
lie in that, but in how you came to know of it."

"I guessed it," said Georgina.

"_Guessed_ it!"

She quietly told him the whole from the beginning: her meeting with
the man in the morning, the news Mrs. St. John brought about the note,
the fancied view of Lady Anne.

"The truth seemed to come over me in a moment," she concluded. "I knew
you were arrested; I was sure it was nothing else. And I ran all the
way here to ask if I can do anything for you. I saw by the note that
you dare not tell Mrs. St. John."

"Dare is not quite the word, Georgina. If I can spare her I will do
so, for I know it would grieve her cruelly. The affair would not have
been the trouble of a quarter-of-an-hour, but for Isaac's being away.
Things always do happen by contraries."

"You think he would--he would--what could he have done?" she asked,
her anxious face and its earnest eyes turned up to him.

"He would have paid the claim and set me free. As it is, nothing can
be done until he comes home tomorrow."

"How much is the claim?"

Frederick St. John drew in his lips. "It is amidst the hundreds. Nay,
how scared you look! It was a clever trick, their sending the fellow
down here after me."

"Who is he?" asked Georgina, lowering her voice, with an instinctive
conviction that the individual in question was rather near the outside
of the door.

"He's nobody," was the reply. "But, nevertheless, he is master of me
just now, by virtue of the law. He considers himself a model of
consideration and benevolence, and will expect me to acknowledge it
substantially: otherwise he would have taken me off pretty quickly."

"Where to?"

"To--it is an ugly word, Georgina--prison."

"Oh! But you will stop that, won't you?"

"Isaac will. The annoying part of the business is, that he should be
away just this day of all days. It is rather singular, too,
considering that he is at home from year's end to year's end. There's
no help for it, however, and here I must stop until he does return,
hiding myself like a mouse, lest I should be seen, and the news
carried to my mother."

"Can't I help you?--can't I do anything for you?"

"Thank you always, Georgina. You are a good little girl, after all.
No, nothing."

She pouted her pretty lips.

"Except keep the secret. And go home again as soon as possible. What
would your mamma say if she knew you had come?" he asked.

"Scold me for a week. Will Mr. St. John be home early tomorrow?"

"I wish I knew. Any time, I suppose, from midday up to night. We must
set some one to watch for him. He is posting, and therefore goes and
comes the upper road, not passing here. I dare not send a note to
Castle Wafer to await his arrival, for my mother, seeing my
handwriting, would inevitably open it; neither can I entrust the
matter to any of the servants to inform their master: they might make
a mystery of it, and so bring it in that way to the ears of my mother.
Besides, to tell the truth, I don't care that the servants should know
of it. Brumm alone would be safe, and he is with his master."

"Entrust it to me," said Georgina, eagerly. "Let me manage it for you.
I will take care to tell Mr. St. John the moment of his arrival. If I
can't see him, I'll tell Brumm."

Mr. St. John paused a minute. The proposal certainly solved a
difficulty.

"But I don't like you to do this, Georgina," he said, following out
his thoughts.

"I _will_ do it," she answered, the colour mantling to her cheeks.
"You can't prevent me now."

He smiled at her eagerness; he saw how pleasant it was to her to serve
him. She laid her hand on the door to depart.

"Be it so, Georgina. I shall call you henceforth my friend in need."

She opened the door quickly. On the opposite side of the narrow
passage, his back propped against the wall, a cautious sentinel, stood
the man. Mr. St. John saw him, closed his lips on what he was about to
say, and motioned her into the room again.

"You will not speak of this misfortune, Georgina, at your own house?
Is it known there?" he continued, a sudden fear betraying itself in
his voice. "Does Sarah know of it?"

"And if she did," retorted Georgina, the old pain seizing upon her
heart again, "she does not know of it from me."

Throwing back the door, she went straight out of the house, running
all the way home lest she should be missed, her brain busy with the
one thought.

"Sarah, Sarah! It is all he cares for in life!"



CHAPTER XII.
THE FAIR AT ALNWICK.


In the long, straggling street, which chiefly comprised the village of
Alnwick, there was a break in the houses on the left-hand side. This
was filled up by the common, or waste land; it belonged to the lord of
the manor, and no one might build upon it. It was a wide, untidy piece
of ground, branching off into far-away corners and dells, which did
very well for harbouring trampers and gipsies. Once a year, for three
days in September, this common was delivered over to all the bustle
and confusion of a fair. Shows and booths, containing (if you could
believe them) the wonders of the world, living and dead; caravans;
drinking-tents; stalls for fruit, gingerbread, and penny trumpets; and
here shoals of pleasure-seekers reigned in triumph during those three
days. Sober shopkeepers, driven half wild with opposition drums and
horns, talked a great deal about "getting the nuisance done away
with;" but the populace generally believed that no man living could
put the threat into execution, except the lord of the manor: and _he_
could only do it by refusing the use of the ground. However that may
have been, the ground had not been refused yet, and the populace was
triumphant.

It was a bright September day, and the fair was in full glory; as far
as was consistent with the comparative quiet and respectability of the
first day. Things on that day were ordered with a due regard to
decorum: the music was kept within bounds, the bawling showmen were
subdued and persuasive, the ladies' dresses and dancing were gentility
itself. For on this first day the better families around would send
their children to the fair (some had been known to go to it
themselves), and ladies'-maids and butlers congregated there in great
force. The second and third days were given over to what these
domestics called the riff-raff.

The fair was in its full radiance on this fine September day. Drums
were beating, fifes were playing, pantaloons were shouting, ladies
were dancing, and rival showmen in scarlet and gold tunics were
shouting out their seductive attractions, when two respectable-looking
maid-servants, each in charge of a little boy, might have been
observed in the street, about to enter the enchanted regions. The
children were attired in black velvet, trimmed with crape, and their
straw hats had black ribbon round them. The younger, a lovely child
with a bright complexion and a mass of fair curls, looked nearly three
years old; the other was nearly five; not a pretty child, but his
countenance one of noble intelligence. An insignificant little fellow
enough in years and stature, this elder one; no one to look at: and
yet a great many people touched their hats to him, child though he
was, and that very fair was being held upon his own land; for he was
lord of the manor, and inheritor of Alnwick.

Benja and George had been wild to set off to it. Indeed, for a week
beforehand, from the raising of the first plank for the booths, it
could hardly be said that either servants or children for miles round
were in their sedate senses. Prance, however, was an exception. Prance
seemed to have no affinity with fairs; and she had drawn in her thin
lips in withering contempt at Honour's open longing for it. There was
no more cordiality between the two servants than there used to be, and
a sharp quarrel would occur now and again, in which Honour, as far as
words went, had the best of it. Honour was free-spoken; there was no
denying it. This fair had caused a desperate quarrel that same
morning. Honour said everything she could to enhance its glories to
the children; Prance contradicted every word, and protested it was not
a fit place to take them to.

Mrs. Carleton St. John favoured Honour in the matter, told Prance she
would not deprive the children of the shows for anything, and finally
ordered her to be quiet. George took his nurse's part, and said Honour
was a "nasty beast." Benja retaliated that Prance was, and George
struck him. Mrs. Carleton St. John for once reproved George, and
kissed and soothed Benja. It was a curious thing, not noticed at the
time, but recalled by Honour in the future, that this little
graciousness on the part of her mistress, this displayed affection for
Benja, should have occurred on the day afterwards characterized by the
unexpected visit of Mr. Isaac St. John. "As if it had been on
purpose!" Honour was wont to repeat to herself with a groan. However,
all this partisanship for herself and Benja only put her into a good
humour at the time; she could not see the future; and when they
started, after an early dinner, Honour was in a state of great
delight, satisfied with everything and every one.

Excepting, perhaps, with Prance. Prance showed no signs whatever of
her discomfiture, but followed to the fair with George, impassive and
silent as ever. As they were entering the bustle, and the little legs
already began to dance to the drums, and the charmed eyes caught the
first glimpse of the spangles and all the other enchantments, a dusty
travelling carriage-and-four came bowling down the street, and stopped
at the Bell Inn, which was situated opposite to the common. Such
travelling equipages had become sufficiently rare to be almost a
curiosity in the county, and both the maids turned to stare, utterly
unsuspicious that it contained one who, as guardian, had all power
over the heir of Alnwick.

The first show they entered (on the principle of keeping the best to
the last) was a very sober sort of affair, and purporting to be "An
Emporium of Foreign Curiosities." The admission was threepence, the
trumpet was loud, and the showman was magnificent both in person and
persuasion.

"I shall go into this," said Honour. "I should think _you_ needn't be
afraid of what you'd see inside," she added to Prance in tones, it
must be confessed, of aggravation. "There's no dancing here."

Prance's only answer was to draw down the corners of her thin lips and
walk off with George to a leviathan booth whose company were executing
a complicated quadrille before it. Honour paid her threepence,
disputed with the money-taker about admitting Benja for
three-halfpence, that functionary protesting that there was no
half-price for gentlemen's children, and went into the show.

Like many other shows, its interior did not realize the outward
promise. There was a crocodile in stone, and a few more dead wonders,
which Honour turned up her nose at, saying something about demanding
back her money: but Benja's attention had become riveted by the pretty
model of a church rising from the midst of green moss. It was white,
and its coloured windows were ingeniously shown up by means of a light
placed within it. It really was a pretty and conspicuous article in
the dark booth, and Benja could not be moved from it. How little did
Honour think that that sight was to exercise so terrible an influence
on the unconscious child!

"Come along," she said, rather impatiently. "I could make you as good
a one any day, Benja."

"How could you make it?" promptly asked Benja.

"With white paper and thin strips of wood for the frame. Master Benja,
then! we shall have Prance going home and telling your mamma that we
lost her on purpose. She's as deceitful as yonder crocodile."

"Couldn't you buy it for me, Honour?" returned Benja, not stirring a
peg.

"Of course I couldn't," answered Honour. "What a little simpleton you
must be, to ask it! The things here are not for sale; the folks get
their living by showing them. And a fine set of worthless rubbish it
is! Once for all, are you coming, Master St. John?"

"Will you promise to make me one?" persisted Benja.

"Yes, I will. There!"

"When?"

"As soon as I can get the things together. Now come."

Benja reluctantly moved away; but his head and eyes were turned for
the last glance, up to the moment when Honour pulled him through the
low green-baize opening.

Meanwhile Mrs. Carleton St. John was sitting alone. She was of
remarkably quiet habits by inclination, a great stay-at-home, rarely
seeking society or amusement abroad; and the still recent death of her
husband tended to keep the Hall pretty free from idle visitors. One
sole passion seemed to absorb her whole life, to the exclusion of
every other; it filled every crevice of her heart, it regulated her
movements, it buried even her natural grief for her husband--and this
was love for her child. The word love most inadequately expresses the
feeling: it was a passion, threatening to consume every healthy
impulse. She was quite aware of it: indeed, her conscience did not
allow her to be otherwise.

One thought was ever present to her; it may be said that it had never
left her mind since the day her husband died: that Benja was chief of
Alnwick Hall, with all its wealth and dignity; that she, Charlotte St.
John, so arrogant by nature, was there only on sufferance, a home
accorded to her as his personal guardian; and that George was as
nobody. They were as a sharp thorn, these reflections, ever piercing
her. They ate into her ill-regulated heart and rankled there. And they
went on to another thought, an unwholesome thought, which would have
been a wicked thought but that it was not there of her own will: a
thought that carried danger in its train. In the first waking of early
morning, in the fevered dreams of midnight solitude, in the glare and
bustle of noonday, it was ever thrusting itself forward--if Benja were
to die, her child would be the inheritor.

Was she aware of its danger? No. And yet she was fond of tracing it
back to its original source--the accident to Benja. When the boy was
taken out of the water, drowned as was supposed, and a some one
called out, the wild beating of Mrs. St. John's bosom--_not with
sorrow_--called into life the thought that had certainly never existed
there before, or else had lain dormant.

Her increasing dislike of Benja should have acted as a warning to her.
It was generated by the false view she took of the existing state of
things: that Benja was a sort of ogre, whose sole mission on earth was
to stand in the light of her child and deprive him of what might have
been his birthright. She strove against this dislike--it might be
better to call it hatred, for it had grown into that--and she had to
exercise a constant check upon herself in her behaviour towards him.
None but she knew what it cost her to treat Benja with a semblance of
love, or to make no very apparent difference between the children. She
did strive against it--let us do her justice!--not from any suspicion
of danger, but from her own sense of equity. That very morning, in
taking Benja's part and kissing him, she had acted from an impulse of
good principle, an endeavour to do right. But no sooner were the
children out of her sight, than the old bad feelings got the better of
her, and she sat indulging all sorts of foolish dreams and visions of
what she would do were Alnwick George's instead of Benja's. Will you
believe that she had fallen into the habit of repeating their
Christian names to herself, with the prospective title before them?
"Sir Benjamin St. John," "Sir George St. John;" and she thought the
one (you need not ask which of the two) sounded a thousand times more
charming than the other.

Though very conscious of all this, she yet detected no danger in it.
The night of her husband's death, she made a resolve to do her duty by
her little stepson; and when the codicil to the will was read, giving
Mr. St. John of Castle Wafer the power to remove him from her, she
resented it bitterly as a mark of want of confidence in her shown by
her husband. No woman could have been more willing in intention to do
right by a stepson than Charlotte St. John. If only her strength of
will did not fail her, she might succeed. One result of the desire to
carry out her resolve, was retaining Honour in her service. She very
much disliked the girl, for her strong attachment to Benja in
contradistinction to George, and her always taking his part against
that rather capricious younger gentleman; but she would not discharge
her. To this desire to do her duty, rather than because her husband in
dying had expressed a wish that Honour should be retained about Benja,
the girl owed the fact that she was still in her place. Honour alone
of the servants, save and except perhaps Prance, had detected all
along the second Mrs. St. John's dislike to her little charge. She was
aware, as surely as though she had seen it recorded, that her mistress
regarded George as he who ought to be the heir, Benja as a usurper;
and it aroused within her a feeling of indignation, which sometimes
peeped out in her manner. Not sufficiently so for Mrs. St. John openly
to find fault with; and she only thought the girl quick in temper. And
now I think I have said as much as I can say about the state of mind
of Mrs. Carleton St. John. She deliberately intended to do right: but
passion and prejudice are strong; unusually strong were they in her;
and her mind was undisciplined and ill-regulated.

As she sat there today, the approach of a vehicle in the avenue
attracted her attention. She soon saw that it was a fly from the Bell
Inn, and all her motherly fears were at once up in arms, lest any
accident had happened to Georgy, and he was being brought home, or she
fetched to him. But it seemed to contain only one gentleman; and he a
stranger; a delicate-looking man, who sat low in the fly.

Not for a long time had she been so surprised as when the card was
brought to her, and she found that her visitor was Mr. St. John of
Castle Wafer. Had he come to remove Benja? The thought awoke a
momentary affection for the child in her heart, and called up a
resentful flush to her cheeks. But resentment faded away as Isaac came
in, and held out his hand to her in his open courtesy. She saw she had
nothing underhand to fear from him.

What was perhaps more agreeable to her, as it is to all vain
women--and Charlotte St. John was one of them--was the look of honest
admiration that shone out of Isaac's face and manner. She presented a
picture deeply interesting--in her young widowhood, in her beauty, in
her manner so quiet and subdued. She burst into tears as they talked
of her husband, of Benja; and she told Mr. St. John that if he removed
Benja from her it would break her heart.

It was only a figure of speech. And it is very probable that the fact
of two thousand a-year of her income being in peril, may have swayed
her to earnestness more than any other feeling. Mr. St. John took it
all for loving earnestness, and assured her he thought no cause would
ever be likely to arise for his removing Benja. In point of fact,
Isaac St. John was most warmly impressed in her favour; it was almost
as if she had fascinated him.

"Will you answer me a question?" asked Mrs. St. John. "I cannot get it
solved by any one else. Why did my husband leave this power in your
hands? Did he doubt me?"

"I do not know why he left it," was the answer of Mr. St. John:
"unless he thought that you might be too kind to the boy--might
indulge him to his detriment. I remember, too, his saying that you
were not very strong, and the charge of the two children might be a
tax upon you."

She did not answer. She began to speak of more general things, and
Isaac St. John sat talking with her for some time. She expressed her
regret that Benja should happen to be at the fair, and laughed when
Mr. St. John spoke of the noise that had assailed his ears from the
drums. She pressed him to take up his quarters at the Hall until the
morrow, but this he declined; he was only an invalid at best, he said.
He had engaged rooms at the Bell for himself and his servant, and he
invited Benja to come and breakfast with him on the following morning.
Mrs. St. John readily assented to the invitation.

"You will allow his nurse to attend him," he said to her, as he rose
to leave. "I should like to see and converse with the attendant of my
little ward, and offer her a gratuity as an earnest of my favour."

As readily as the other request was this acceded to, and Mr. St. John
departed, taking final leave of his cousin's widow--for he intended to
leave Alnwick soon after breakfast the following morning.

The fly had conveyed him almost through the park on his return to the
Bell, when he saw two women-servants, in charge of two children.
Rightly guessing who they were, he stopped the fly, opened the door,
and talked to them from his seat.

A noble boy, his ward, with an open, intelligent countenance; a pretty
little toy-boy the other, with his bright face, his fair curls, and
his indulged petulance peeping out even then. The children were at
home with him at once, showing him the fairings they carried--one a
child's kaleidoscope, the other a drum. Benja told him some
unintelligible story of a "church" Honour was going to make for him;
Georgy sounded the rataplan on his drum. He inquired of Honour whether
she was the nurse mentioned to him by her late master, who had been
with the child from his birth. Upon her saying she was, he told her
she was to be at the Bell with Master St. John the next morning at
nine o'clock; he handed a sovereign to Prance; he won the boys' hearts
by a promise of a whole cargo of fairings to be sent up that evening;
and then he drove on. Not one of them had noticed his hump; but they
thought what a little low gentleman he was in stature.

Benja had taken home a fairing for his mamma--a blue-and-white
smelling-bottle, flat as a half-crown, with a narrow neck in which was
a little cork as stopper. It had cost threepence, and he kissed her as
he gave it to her. George's fairing to his mamma had been a Banbury
cake, but he had unfortunately eaten it on his way home. Whether the
contrast touched her, or that with Mr. St. John in the vicinity she
did not choose to be otherwise than loving, certain it was that she
kissed Benja heartily in return, praised his present as she put it
into her waistband, and told Georgy he was a selfish little fellow.
How gratified Honour was, and how, in manner, she crowed over Prance,
Prance would not condescend to observe. Mrs. St. John was all
graciousness, bade Honour make Master Benja very nice indeed for the
following morning, and said the pony-carriage should take them down.

The appointment was kept. Benja was treated to jam and other good
things as he sat at breakfast with Mr. St. John--Brumm and Honour
waiting on them. Afterwards, when the cloth was removed, Mr. Brumm had
orders to take Master St. John to the fair and show him the elephant,
or anything else Mr. Brumm might deem expedient; and Honour was
requested to take a seat while Mr. St. John talked to her.

He really saw no means of ascertaining whether Benja was well done by
at the Hall, excepting this--the putting a direct question to the
nurse. After what he had seen of the Hall's mistress the previous day,
he would as soon suspect himself of being ill treated, as any child
over whom she had control. Still it was as well to make sure upon the
point.

Honour answered his questions as straightforwardly as she could. But,
it should be remarked, that in her present mood of graciousness
towards her mistress (or it should perhaps rather be said of that
lady's graciousness to her), she spoke more favourably of Mrs. St.
John than she would have done at almost any previous time. She was not
indulgent to Master Benja; but on the other hand she was not generally
unkind to him, was the substance of her answer.

This rather surprised Mr. St. John. "I should have thought her in
danger of being too kind," he said.

Honour shook her head. "Mrs. St. John is too kind by a great deal to
her own child, sir; she indulges him dreadfully; but there's no fear
that she will ever do that by Master Benja."

"I suppose you do not mean to say that Mrs. St. John is unkind to
him?" returned Mr. St. John, rather at a loss how to frame his words
with a due regard to what was due to the dignity of that lady, when
speaking of her to her servant.

"Well, no, sir, I can't say that she is unkind. She treats the two
very much alike, only that she is always kissing and clasping the
little one, and has him so much more with her. She boxed Master
Benja's ears the other day and made him cry. For no fault, either,
that I could find out."

Mr. St. John smiled. "A little wholesome correction is good for boys,
you know."

"I'm not saying that it isn't, sir. Altogether, things have gone on
much more comfortably since my master's death than I used to fancy
they would. There's not much to complain of."

"On the whole, then, you cannot see cause for any interference on my
part? You see no reason why Master St. John should not remain at the
Hall under his stepmother's charge?"

"No, sir; I cannot say that I do. And of course I am always with him,
and can take care of him there as well as I could anywhere else. I
shall never let harm come nigh him from any one."

It was conclusive, and Mr. St. John intimated that the conference was
over.

"You see, I speak to you as the confidential attendant of the child,"
he said. "You were named to me by your late master as one in whom
every confidence might be placed. Do me the favour to regard what I
have said as between ourselves, in the interest of this little orphan.
And always remember, that in case of any emergency arising, where
any--any counsel, or advice, or interference on my part should be
desirable, a letter will find me at Castle Wafer. I shall come over
from time to time--not often, for my health does not permit it; and I
shall hope to have a letter frequently from the little boy."

He pressed a very handsome present into her hand as he concluded,
saying it was in recompense of her trouble and attention to the child.
Honour's eyes filled with tears as she took it; it needed not money to
enhance her jealous love for Benja.

And the boy came back with Mr. Brumm in a state of ecstatic delight,
for he had seen the elephant and everything else. He was despatched to
the Hall with Honour, bearing compliments to its mistress, and a cargo
of good things for himself and Georgy. And Mr. St. John set off on his
homeward journey to Castle Wafer.



CHAPTER XIII.
ONLY AS BROTHER AND SISTER.


The September afternoon was passing into the twilight of evening ere
the master of Castle Wafer drew near his home. Miss Georgina Beauclerc
was almost at her wits' end. Determined to carry out her promise of
informing him of the mishap that had befallen his brother, she yet saw
no means of doing it without its coming to the observance of Mrs. St.
John, but by speaking to him in the moment that intervened between his
stepping from his carriage and entering the house. For this purpose
had she been hovering about almost ever since midday, keeping out of
range of the windows, and ready to walk quietly forward as any
ordinary visitor, as soon as the carriage came in sight. But the
carriage did not come; and Georgina, conscious that the Rectory
dinner-hour was approaching, knew not really what to do.

Just as she was ready to take some desperate step, had she only known
what, she heard the sound of wheels, and the dusty carriage with its
four horses drew quickly up. Georgina was not less quick. But ere she
had well gained the entrance, ere the carriage door was opened, who
should come out of the house, but Mrs. St. John, her hands raised, her
voice lifted in consternation.

It was a very unusual proceeding, and Georgina halted: she would not
approach Isaac then. Devoutly wishing Mrs. St. John over in Asia,
Georgina listened, and caught sufficient of what passed to hear that
Castle Wafer was in alarm about Frederick. He had not been seen or
heard of since the preceding day. It turned out afterwards that he had
written a second note to Mrs. St. John, which the messenger, sent with
it, had never delivered. Georgina could not approach; and while she
looked, Mr. St. John and his stepmother disappeared within doors
together.

Excitement was rendering Georgina ill. Have you realized what _an
arrest_ such as this must be to a young lady, shielded from the ways
of the world? a threatened prison for one all too dear? As she stood
there, crouching behind the dwarf shrubs on the lawn, not very
conspicuous in the evening light, Mr. Brumm came to the carriage,
opened the door to take something from the seat, and she darted up to
him.

"Brumm," she said, emotion lending a catching sound to her voice, "I
want to see Mr. St. John. I must see him, and without delay. If I go
round by the other door and get into his sitting-room, will you
contrive to send him to me? I dare say he is in the drawing-room with
Mrs. St. John."

For a minute or two Brumm only stared. He looked upon the dean's
daughter, if the truth must be told, as a rather flighty damsel; and
he did not believe she could want anything with Mr. St. John. That is
to say, nothing of importance.

"My master is excessively fatigued, Miss Beauclerc," he said at
length. "I fear he will not be able to see any one tonight."

"Don't be an idiot, Brumm," peremptorily retorted the young lady. "I
tell you I _must_ see him: the matter is almost one of life or death.
You get him to me in some way; but take care you do it without
arousing suspicion in Mrs. St. John."

She stole round the house as she spoke, on her way to Mr. St. John's
own sitting-room--the pleasant room you have sometimes seen him in.
Brumm, in doubt still, yet seeing no remedy but to obey, collected the
things from the carriage, handed them to a footman, and then went to
the drawing-room.

His master was not seated, but standing. By this Brumm knew that he
did not intend to remain in the room. Mrs. St. John was telling him of
what she called Fred's mysterious conduct, and showed him the note
received on the previous day. She spoke complainingly, and avowed her
belief that her roving son had taken French leave to go back to
London.

At any rate, there was nothing Mr. St. John could do in the matter;
and in point of fact his fatigue was such he could not in any case
have done much. Excessive bodily fatigue takes from the power of the
mind; and he did not seem to attach much importance to what Mrs. St.
John was saying. He went out of the room, carrying the note with him;
and there he was arrested by Brumm.

"Will you be so kind, sir, as step into your sitting-room for an
instant?"

"I am going upstairs, Brumm. I have not felt so tired for years."

"But--I beg your pardon, sir," resumed Brumm, speaking in the
covert tone he had before used, and which a little surprised his
master--"you--you are wanted there. If you will step this way, sir, I
will explain."

Mr. St. John quitted the proximity of the drawing-room, which was
evidently what Brumm wished. "Miss Beauclerc was waiting to speak to
him," he whispered as he crossed the hall. "She said she wanted a word
with him in private."

"Miss Beauclerc!" Wondering very much, not perhaps at her wishing to
speak to him, there was nothing extraordinary in that, but at the air
of secrecy that Brumm seemed to invest the affair with, Mr. St. John
went to his sitting-room. Georgina was pacing it somewhat like a caged
bird, hardly able to suppress her impatience.

"I have been waiting outside for you since twelve o'clock!" she
exclaimed, ignoring all ceremonious greeting. "I thought you would
never come!"

"Do you want me?" asked Mr. St. John.

"Do I want you! I never wanted any one so much in my life. Has Mrs.
St. John been telling you that Frederick has disappeared?"

"Yes. She thinks he has gone to London."

"What nonsense!" ejaculated Georgina, pushing back her bonnet from her
flaming cheeks. "As if he would go off to London in that manner! I
have come to tell you about him, Mr. St. John. He had no one to trust,
and so he trusted me. He could not send a letter to await you, lest
Mrs. St. John should open it. He is at the Barley Mow all this time; a
prisoner."

"A what!" exclaimed Mr. St. John.

"He was arrested yesterday morning. I saw it done, but I did not
understand it then. It's a horrible man in a great high hat, and he
has got him at the Barley Mow, until you release him."

Isaac St. John sank into a seat, in his pain--his consternation.
Living always completely out of the world, never having been brought
into contact with its rubs and crosses, a thing of this nature was
calculated to shock him in scarcely a less degree than it had shocked
the young girl before him, who stood there looking at him with her
large grey-blue eyes.

"Arrested!" he murmured. "Frederick!"

"You will go and release him, won't you?" said Georgina, anxiously.
"It is a great deal of money; he told me it was some hundreds; but you
will pay it for him?"

"Yes, I will pay it," replied Mr. St. John, speaking as one lost in
thought. "How came he to tell _you_ about it, Georgina?"

"Oh, I went and saw him there. I guessed what had happened; there's no
time to tell you how; and I went. I promised to keep his counsel. He
is in a fever lest Mrs. St. John should get to know it."

"And you will keep it, my dear!" cried Mr. St. John, seizing her hand
and speaking in imploring accents. "It is a cruel disgrace for a St.
John."

"Trust me; trust me ever," was the girl's earnest answer, as she said
a word of farewell and stole away.

Little more than an hour later, Frederick St. John was sitting in that
same room with his brother--a free man. He was disclosing to him the
_whole_ of his embarrassments; which he had not done previously. Not
disclosing them altogether willingly, but of necessity; for Mr. St.
John's questionings were searching. The more Frederick told, the more
amazed grew Isaac St. John; it may be said the more utterly astounded
and angry. He had never himself been exposed to the temptations that
beset a young man of position on entering the world, and he judged
them in by no means a tolerant spirit.

"Frederick, I could not have believed that any human being, gifted
with reasoning faculties, had been guilty of such extravagance!"

"The money seems to have melted. _I_ had no idea it was diminishing so
fast."

"It has been recklessness, not simple extravagance."

Frederick St. John was seated at the table opposite his brother, one
elbow leaning on it, the hand of the other playing with the seal
attached to his watch-chain. The attitude, the voice, the bearing
altogether, seemed to display a carelessness; and it vexed Mr. St.
John.

"How has the money gone? Is it of any use my asking?"

"It would be of no use if I could tell you," was the reply. "I
declare, on my honour, that I do not know. As I say, the money seems
to have melted. I was extravagant; I acknowledge that; I spent it
thoughtlessly, heedlessly; and when once the downward path in
money-spending is entered upon, a man finds himself going along with a
run, and can't pull up."

"Can't?" reproachingly echoed Mr. St. John.

"Well, Isaac, it is more difficult than you could imagine. I have
found it so. And the worst is, you glide on so easily that you don't
see its danger; otherwise one might sit down halfway and count the
cost. I wish you would not look so grieved."

"It is not the wilful waste of money that is grieving me," returned
Isaac; "it is the--the thought that _you_ should have suffered
yourself to fall into these evil ways."

Frederick St. John raised his earnest dark-blue eyes to his brother.
"Believe me, Isaac, a man can get out of money without running into
absolute evil. I can with truth say that it has been my case. A very
great portion of mine has gone in what you and my mother have been
wont to call my hobby: buying pictures and running about after them.
Wherever there was a gallery of paintings to be seen, I went after it,
though it might be at the opposite end of Europe. I bought largely,
thoughtlessly; never considering how I was to pay. I assisted a great
many struggling artists, both English and foreign, and set them on
their legs. I always travelled--and you know how very much I have
travelled--as if I were a wealthy man; and that is costly. But of
evil, in your acceptation of the word, those vices that constitute it,
I have not been guilty. Of extravagance, even, I have not been so
guilty as you may think."

Mr. St. John lifted his eyebrows. "Not guilty of extravagance?"

"Isaac, I said not so guilty as you may deem me; not so guilty as
appears on the surface. I fell into that dangerous practice of drawing
bills. When I bought pictures and could not pay for them, I would give
a bill for the amount. When the bill was due, if I could not meet it,
I borrowed money upon another, and so patched up the deficiency in
that way. It is that that has ruined me. If I owed a hundred pounds I
had to pay two for it, sometimes three. Let a man once enter upon this
system, and he won't be long above water."

"Did you never think of the ending?"

"Yes, often. But I could not pull up. There it is! Fairly enter on the
downhill path, and there's no getting back again. I can redeem myself
in time, Isaac. If I choose to give up all sources of expense, and
live upon a shilling a day, as the saying runs, things will right
themselves."

"How long do you think you would be doing it?"

"Four or five years, I suppose."

"Just so. The best years of your life. I should not like to see it,
Frederick."

"It might do me good."

"It would scarcely be a position for the heir of Castle Wafer."

"Isaac, believe me, I have never presumed upon that idea; have never
acted upon it. There have not been wanting insidious advisers urging
me to forestall my possible right to its revenues, but I never
listened to them. Though I squandered my own property, I have not
trenched on yours."

"Quite right," said Mr. St. John. "If anything in the world could make
me wish to deprive you of that heirship, it would be the finding that
you had presumed upon it for unjustifiable purposes. Though you are as
much the heir-apparent to Castle Wafer, Frederick, as though you were
my son, instead of younger brother, and I have assured you of this
before, it is well that the world should remember that the doubt
exists."

"I wish to remember it also, Isaac. It would be simple folly on my
part not to do so. So long as you live, your intentions may change."

"Well now, listen to me. This matter has shocked me very greatly, but
I see that it might have been worse; and if it has purchased for you
that experience without which I conclude you worldly young men cannot
settle down, I shall not think the cost too dear. You must begin again
upon a fresh footing. A totally different one. I will help you upon
two conditions."

"What are they?"

"The first is, that you give me your word of honour never to put your
name to another bill."

"I will give it with all my heart. It is only these embarrassments
that have caused me to draw bills, and I had already made a firm
resolution never to touch another, if once clear. I hate bills."

"Very well then, so far. The other condition is, that you marry."

For a minute Frederick St. John was silent. The avowal seemed to cause
him no surprise. He did not look up, only paused in thought. It may be
that he had anticipated it.

"I fear I must demur to that, Isaac."

"Hear me farther. It has always been my intention to resign to you
Castle Wafer on your marriage. If I have made the abode beautiful,
Frederick, I have only done it for you. I shall go to that little
place of mine in the North, and when I come to Castle Wafer, it will
be as your guest. Do not interrupt me. No right to deprive me of it?
Nonsense! I dare say I should be here six months in the year. Let me
go on. Your own property I will free at once from its encumbrances;
and I should make over a liberal income to you besides; one fitting
for the occupant of Castle Wafer. The settlements on your wife also
shall be liberal. Is there anything more that you would desire?"

"I do not desire half this," was the warm reply. "You have ever been
too generous to me, Isaac. But"--and Frederick St. John laughed
gaily--"before I can say that I will marry, it is necessary to fix
upon a wife."

"That, I hope, has been done long ago, Frederick."

"Not by me," he answered, speaking very quietly. "It has not of course
escaped my observation that you and my mother have had your wishes
turned towards Anne: but--I--I--have not encouraged this."

"It has been the universal wish of the St. John family that you and
Anne should marry."

"I dare say it has. But the fact is, Isaac, I and Anne do not care for
each other. As well perhaps avow it, now it has come to a point
Hitherto I have only evaded the question."

"Could you wish for a better wife than Anne?"

"I could not find a better in real worth. But we marry for love, not
for worth: at least, worth goes for little when there is no love. My
inclinations do not lie towards Anne."

Mr. St. John's face looked deathly pale as he leaned forward. The
fatigue of the day was making itself acutely felt: and at these times
crosses tell upon the heart.

"Do you know that her father wished it?" he said in low tones. "He
mentioned it to me more than once when he was dying--how glad he
should be if he thought you would marry Anne. You were but a boy then;
but you were a favourite with the earl."

"Fathers' wishes go for little in such matters," was the unwelcome
reply.

"Let me ask you a question, Frederick. Have you formed any other
attachment?"

"No. At least"--and he laughed again--"I am not sure but I had a fancy
of the sort once. I believe it has passed."

"Is there anything between you and Georgina Beauclerc?" asked Isaac.
"Any love?"

"Not on--" my side, had all but escaped him in his impulsiveness. But
he was in time to alter the phrase. "Not anything."

"Then it is not she who is keeping you from Anne?"

"Neither she nor any one else. I decline Anne of my own free will. But
indeed, Isaac, one great and essential objection is, that I do not
care to marry at present."

"Why don't you?"

"I am unable to give you any particular reason, except that I don't.
And I really do not know who would have me."

"Anne would have you."

A peculiar smile hovered for a moment on his lips. It was followed by
words that bitterly offended Mr. St. John.

"I shall not ask her."

Bit by bit the dissension grew. One word led to another, and a
grievous quarrel ensued. It was the first that had ever taken place
between the brothers. Hasty words were spoken on both sides: things
that leave a sting upon the mind: and when, an hour later, Frederick
dashed out of the room, it was because he could not control his
passion within it.

Lady Anne was the first he encountered. The sounds had penetrated
outside, and she was in a paroxysm of alarm and uneasiness. "Oh,
Frederick, what has been the matter? Is it anything about me?"

Even then he was generous. Putting the cause upon himself, rather than
on her, and disclosing what at a calmer moment he would not have done.
"I was arrested, Anne, ad Isaac and I have been quarrelling over it.
Where's my mother?"

"Waiting dinner all this time. We thought you were never coming. They
are coming in for the evening from the Rectory, and will be here
before we have dined."

He was turning away in search of his mother, when Lady Anne caught him
by the arm, speaking in a whisper:

"Nothing came out about Captain Saville?"

"Not a word. Be easy. Have I not told you you might trust me?"

Seeking the presence of his mother, he startled her by saying he was
at once going up to London, by a night train. In vain Mrs. St. John
strove to combat his resolution, to ascertain particulars of the
stormy interview just passed. Even as she was pressing for it, he
kissed her, and was gone; asking Brumm to see that his things were
sent after him.

Swinging away from the door in his independence, he commenced his walk
to the station at Lexington, with a step firm and fleet, as became an
angry man. For a very short way his road lay through the covered walk,
and here, as he was going along in his haste, he encountered Mrs.
Beauclerc, her niece and daughter.

"Were you coming to escort us?" asked Georgina, her words ready as
usual.

"I am hastening to Lexington," he said. "I am going back to London by
the first train that passes."

"What for?"

He made no reply. He turned to Mrs. Beauclerc, asking if he could do
anything for her in town.

"Nothing, thank you," she answered, "unless you should see the dean.
He was to be in London about this time, I believe. _I_ can do nothing
with her; she's placing herself beyond my control. Would you believe
that she was out some hours today, never coming in until dark, and
she will not tell me what was keeping her or who she was with!"

Frederick St. John hardly heard the complaint. He turned to Sarah, who
had walked on, as if impatient at the encounter.

"Will you not say God speed to me? I may not be here again for a long,
long time."

She did not put out her hand. She simply wished him good evening. Just
this same freezing conduct had she observed to him in the one or two
interviews that had taken place since his arrival. Who knows but it
was the turning-point in their destiny? But for this repellent manner,
made unnecessarily so, and which had told so disagreeably on him, he
might in this contest with his brother have said: "Not Anne my wife;
change her for another, and I will not say you nay." That it would
have been listened to by Isaac St. John, there was little doubt.

"I never saw mamma in such a passion," whispered the giddy girl to him
when the others went on. "I had kept dinner waiting, you see, and
nothing exasperates her like that. Then she wanted to know where I had
been: 'Out with the gipsies,' I answered. I couldn't tell the truth,
you know. She was so mad!"

"And where had you been?"

"Where had I been! That's good! In this very grove; here; watching for
the carriage of Mr. St. John. I came into it at half-past twelve, and
never got out of it until between six and seven!"

"You are a good and true girl, Georgina, though you are random," he
said, taking her hand and speaking in a softer tone than she generally
heard from him. "How shall I repay you for what you have done for me?"

"Oh, it's not much," she said, her large grey eyes raised to his,
discernible in the clear night. He might have thought he saw a
moisture in them, but for her light tone, her careless laugh. "It's
not much, I say. Tell me why you are going to London?"

"Because I have had a dispute with Isaac. Fare you well, Georgina;
take care of yourself, child. Thank you ever for what you have done
for me."

The eyes had tears in them now, unmistakably; and her hand rested in
his with a lingering pressure. Mr. St. John stooped in his
heedlessness and left a kiss upon her lips.

"There's no harm in it that I know of, Georgina. We have ever been as
brother and sister."

Her cheeks crimsoned, her pulses beating, her whole frame thrilling
with a rapture hitherto unknown, she stood motionless as he
disappeared round the turning of the walk. But ere she had realized
the emotion to her own soul, it gave place to sober fact, untinged
with sentiment. The delusive mist cleared away from her eyes, and she
saw things as they _were_, not as they might have been.

"As brother and sister!" she murmured in her pain. "Only as brother
and sister!"



CHAPTER XIV.
ST. MARTIN'S EVE.


It was the 10th of November, St. Martin's Eve, the birthday of the
young chief of Alnwick, and of his little brother George; the first
birthday, as you will remember, since the death of Mr. Carleton St.
John, and of the boy's inheritance. Benja was five, George three, that
day.

The day was one of ovation for Benja. With early morning a serenade of
music had been heard underneath the windows, proceeding from some of
the tenantry; the servants came in with their respectful
congratulations; and sundry visitors drove up after breakfast to pay
the same. A present had arrived for Benja in the morning from General
Carleton--a handsome gold watch, which must have cost twenty or thirty
guineas. The General had never married, and knew far less about
children than he did about Hottentots, so no doubt thought a gold
watch was a suitable present for a young gentleman of five. Benja was
highly pleased with the costly toy, and of course wished to
appropriate it forthwith; so Honour attached some black watered-ribbon
to it, which she put round his neck, and let him display the watch and
key from his belt. It was a key and seal in one; Master Benja's crest
and initials were engraved on it, and it was attached to the watch by
a short gold chain.

Matters were not progressing favourably between Prance and Honour. And
if you think, my readers, that the squabbles of two maid-servants are,
or ought to be, too insignificant to be thus frequently alluded to, I
can only say that the fact bears so much upon the tragic event soon to
be related, that the allusion could not be avoided. About a fortnight
before this, Honour had had a day's holiday to go and see some
relatives; she had wished to take Benja with her, but Mrs. St. John
would not allow it, and he was left under the charge of Prance. In the
course of the afternoon, Mrs. St. John drove over to Alnwick Cottage,
taking George. They remained there to dinner, and during this absence
of hers Prance and Benja came to an issue. When Honour returned to the
Hall--and she reached it before Mrs. St. John did--she found that
Benja had not only been whipped with more severity than was seemly,
but that he had been locked up alone in an isolated room, where his
cries could not be heard. She found him exhausted with weeping, marks
raised on his back--altogether in a sad state. Whether, as Prance
affirmed, Master Benja had been unbearably insolent to her; whether,
as Honour said and believed, she must maliciously have taken the
opportunity to pay off old scores of dislike to him, was not
satisfactorily settled. Probably the real fact might lie between the
two. But you may judge what sort of an explosion came from Honour.
Prance shut herself up in her chamber, and would vouchsafe no answer
to it; the servants took part with Honour, for Prance had never yet
found favour with them. Mrs. St. John returned home in the midst of
the commotion. Honour carried Benja and the complaint to her; but she
seemed to treat it with indifference, and did not reprove Prance, as
far as the household could learn. Honour had been in a state of
indignation from that day to this, and her animosity to Prance was
bitter. "She'd kill the boy if she could," was a remark of hers that
went openly through the house.

Mrs. St. John sat in her drawing-room, waiting for the boys.
She had promised to dine with them that day at two, and cut the
birthday-pudding, foregoing her usual late dinner. Being a rather
strict disciplinarian as to the children taking their meals regularly,
she preferred to change her own hour for once, not theirs. The boys
were being attired, and she sat waiting for them, her outward
demeanour calm as usual, her mind a very chaos of rebellious tumult.

The marks of honour shown to Benja that day had not been extended to
George. They were paid to the boy as _the heir_, not simply as Benja
St. John. People had kissed Georgy, and wished him many happy returns,
but there it ended. There had been no court paid to him, no music, no
set congratulations; _they_ had been rendered to the chief of Alnwick.
And Mrs. St. John was resenting this; ah, how bitterly! It was the
first time the wide contrast between the position of the boys had been
brought palpably before her, and but for the very greatest control,
she had burst into a frenzy.

"I can't bear it; I can't bear it," she exclaimed to herself,
clasping her hands in pain. "Why should my boy be displaced for that
other--despised--passed over as nothing! My darling! my life! my all!
If he had only been born first; if he had only been born first!"

She unclasped her hands, and bent her head down on them, striving to
subdue her emotion; striving, indeed, to put away the unhealthy train
of thought. None knew better than herself how utterly futile it was to
indulge it, how much happier it would be for her if she could drive it
away to some far-off Lethe, whence it would never rise again. There is
not the least doubt that this poor young woman, who had been born into
the world with unwholesome passions, and had not had them checked in
childhood, was really trying to do a good part by her stepson; and
she believed she was doing it. She relied entirely on her own
strength: she had not learnt yet where to look for any other. The
daily struggle was getting rather formidable. It was directed to two
points: on the one hand, she strove partially to hide her most
passionate love for her own child; on the other, she tried to overcome
her jealous dislike of Benja. But there were times, as today, when
this jealousy raged within her, seeming to scorch her breast to
madness.

The children came in, radiant with good humour and happiness: Benja
with his face of intelligence, Georgy with his shower of fair curls
and pretty ways. Mrs. St. John lifted her pale face and kissed them
both: she _was_ striving, in her own feeble way, against her evil
spirit. They wore new black velvet birthday-dresses, with narrow
crimped cambric frills round the neck, and on the left sleeve of each
dress was a knot of crape, badge of their mourning. From Benja's belt
was conspicuously displayed the new watch; and Benja did not tire of
rattling the chain. Even that little trifle, the present of the watch,
was made a subject of resentment by Mrs. St. John. Benja had two
watches now. In the last days of his father's illness he had taken his
watch off and given it to Benja. "When he shall be twelve years old,
Charlotte, let him take it into use," he said to his wife. Yes; Benja
had two watches; Georgy none.

Georgy began, in his noisy fashion, to climb on his mother's knee, and
Mrs. St. John threw back the white crape lappets of her cap as she
clasped the boy to her. Georgy, however, did not favour clasping as a
rule, and he struggled out of it now.

"What's that?" cried he, snatching at a note that lay on the table at
his mother's elbow.

"That's a note from grandmamma, Georgy; she cannot come to us today."

"Oh, I am so sorry," cried Benja, who was exceedingly fond of Mrs.
Darling, always kind and good-humoured to the children. "Why can't she
come, mamma?"

"She's not well," answered Mrs. St. John, languidly, but in a tone
that seemed to indicate she did not care much about the matter, one
way or the other. Mrs. Darling had been invited to spend the birthday
with them; but in the note just received from her by Mrs. St. John,
she intimated that she was very unwell indeed. A rare excuse for Mrs.
Darling to put forward, who was always in the possession of rude
health.

"Mamma, me want a watch."

"You shall have one, my son."

"When?" continued Georgy. "As soon as I can get out to buy you one."

"One that goes, like Benja's?" demanded Master Georgy.

"It shall be the best gold watch that I can buy for money," answered
Mrs. St. John, allowing the passionate emotion that the subject called
up to become momentarily apparent.

An opportune interruption intervened: the butler came in and announced
dinner. Mrs. St. John, feeling a relief, she could not tell from what,
went quickly to the dining-room, Georgy held in her hand, Benja
following.

It was a sumptuous repast. The housekeeper had put forth her strength
to do honour to the birthdays; but, had you asked her _why_ she had so
exerted herself, she might have said it was the heir she had thought
of, more than the little one. Inviting as the entertainment was,
however, there was one of the three who did little justice to it, and
that was Mrs. St. John. She could not eat: but, as if the fire of her
restless spirit had imparted itself to her body, she drank frequently,
as one parched with thirst. Sherry and champagne were the wines used
with dinner. She was kind and attentive to the boys, helping both to
whatever dishes they chose, and to as much as they chose. Prance, who
was in attendance upon Master George, seeing that his birthday-dress
did not come to grief, forgot her good manners by telling him that he
"ate enough for a little pig:" of which Mrs. St. John took no manner
of notice, but continued to heap his plate according to his fancy.
Honour was not present, Master Benja being considered old enough now
to be waited on by the men-servants.

Dinner came to an end, the servants and Prance withdrew, and the
children were left to take dessert with their mamma. Mrs. St. John was
drinking port wine then and cracking walnuts, of which fruit she was
very fond. By-and-by, when the boys grew tired of sitting, they slid
off their chairs, and began to look out for some amusement. Had Mrs.
St. John been wise, she would have rung the nursery-bell then, and
sent them to the nursery, where they might play at leisure; but she
was absorbed with her walnuts and port wine, and did nothing of the
sort. After capering about for a short time, George went up to Benja.

"Let me have the watch on now," he began.

"No," said Benja, "you'll break it."

"Me shan't break it," lisped Georgy.

"I'm afraid," returned Benja, rather undecidedly. "Honour said you
would."

"Mamma, Benja won't let me have his watch!"

"Don't ask him, my darling," said Mrs. St. John, her mother's heart
more resentful at the refusal than Georgy's was, for the conversation
had penetrated to her senses. "I will buy you a better one than that."

"But me want that now," retorted resolutely Master George, who had a
will of his own. "Me won't break it, Benja."

Benja possessed one of the kindest hearts beating. He looked at his
watch, thinking he should not like it to be broken, and then he looked
at Georgy, who stood turning up his pretty face, eagerly protesting he
would take care of it. In another moment, Benja had hung the watch
round the younger one's neck.

Gratification enough for the time. Georgy paraded up and down the
room, the watch hanging before him on his velvet tunic, as if the
walls were alive with eyes, and he was challenging their admiration.
Presently he stood still, took off the watch, and began to open it.

"Don't do that," interposed Benja, who had been watching all the time.
"You'll spoil it. Give it back to me."

"No," said Master George, very positively.

"Give it back to me, I tell you, Georgy."

"Give him back his watch, Georgy, my dearest," interrupted Mrs. St.
John. "Let him keep it to himself if he is so selfish."

Benja, child though he was, felt a sense of injustice. But the
reproach told, and he made no further remonstrance. There was ever a
certain timidity in his heart when in the presence of Mrs. St. John.
So George thought he could go as far as he pleased with impunity, and
his next movement was to take firm hold of the short gold chain and
swing the watch round and round after the manner of a rattle.

"Oh, mamma, mamma!" cried Benja, in an agony, running up to Mrs. St.
John and laying his hands upon her knee, to attract her attention, "do
not let him spoil my watch. See what he is doing with it!"

Mrs. St. John's usual self-control deserted her. That self-control, I
mean, which enabled her to treat Benja and George with equal justice.
Whether the morning's doings, the ovations to Benja, were really
exciting her more than she could bear, or whether--but let that pass
for the present. However it might be, she tacitly refused to
interfere, and pushed Benja from her with a gesture of dislike. The
boy, finding he could get no redress where it ought to have been
afforded, ran back to Georgy and seized him just as he was flying to
his mother for protection. The naughty, spoiled child, finding he
might no longer retain possession of the watch, dashed it into a far
corner, and they heard its glass crash on the floor, beyond the turkey
carpet.

Benja was by nature a sweet-tempered child: he had also been kept
under by Mrs. St. John; but this was more than he could bear. He burst
into a loud fit of weeping, and struck out at Georgy with all his
might and main. Georgy roared, screamed, kicked, and tried to bite.

As a tigress flies to protect its young, up rose Mrs. St. John, her
voice loud, her eyes wearing that strangely wild look at times
observable there. A passion, mad and fierce as that you once saw her
in, in the presence of her husband, overpowered her now. As she had
hurled Benja to the ground that ever-to-be-remembered day, so she
would have hurled him this; but the boy was older and stronger now,
and he struggled against it. Better that he had yielded! It might in a
degree have appeased the mad woman who was upon him: and his strength
was as nothing compared with hers. His little head was struck against
the table, his costly new birthday-dress was torn. He screamed with
pain, Georgy screamed with terror, and Honour, who happened to be near
the door at the time, came rushing in.

"Good Heavens!" she exclaimed, "what is it? What has he done?"

"Me took his watch," sobbed little Georgy, in a fit of remorseful
generosity. "Me not want mamma to hit him like that."

"How can you for shame treat him in such a manner, ma'am?" cried
Honour, indignantly, as her own passion rose; and she spoke to her
mistress as she had never dared to speak before. "Poor orphan child I
Nobody to protect him! How can you reconcile it to the memory of my
dead master?"

Mrs. Carleton St. John stood glaring at the girl, her hand pointed
imperiously, her voice low now with command. It was as if some
soothing oil had been thrown on the wounds of passion.

"Tomorrow morning you quit my service, Honour Tritton? I never
tolerate insolence, and I find that you have been here too long. Take
that boy out of my sight."

Somehow in the fray, they had all hemmed themselves into a corner, and
the broken glass was cracking under Mrs. St. John's feet. Honour
picked up the watch with a jerk which bespoke the temper she was in,
clasped the sobbing boy tenderly in her arms, and went upstairs with
him, meeting Prance at the dining-room door, as she was gliding in.

"It's a burning shame!" broke forth Honour, sitting down by the
nursery fire and dashing the coals about with the poker, while she
held Benja to her with the other hand--"it's a burning shame that he
should be so treated! If she does turn me away, I'll go every step of
the way to Castle Wafer and tell all I know to your guardian, Benja.
If I don't do it, may Heaven never prosper me!"

Poor little ill-treated child! He lay there in her lap, smarting with
the pain, his trembling heart beating.

"Let the worst come to the worst, my precious lamb, it can only be for
a few years," began Honour again. "I know it said in my master's will
that you were to be sent early to Eton."

"What's Eton?" sobbed Benja.

"Something very good," rejoined Honour, who had no definite ideas on
the subject herself. "And when you are of age, my darling, all Alnwick
will be yours, and she and Master Georgy must turn out of it."

"Where will they go?" asked Benja.

"I don't know where, and it don't matter where," continued the woman
in her injudicious partisanship. "You will be master at Alnwick, and
nobody can live here then unless you choose to let them."

"Who is master now?" questioned Benja.

"You are, my pretty boy, and have been ever since your papa died; only
she lives, in it and gives orders because you are not old enough.
Master's wits must have gone a wool-gathering," added the exasperated
Honour in soliloquy, "when he left her with any power over the child
at all."

Honour was right in the main.

Benja remained on her lap, his sobs gradually subsiding. He lay
thinking of many things, such as occur to children, his ideas running
from one topic to another. Presently he spoke.

"Honour, when is my church to be finished?"

"Suppose I finish it this afternoon," cried Honour, starting up.
"There's scarcely anything left of it to do, and if I am turned away
it may never get done at all."

Opening a closet-door, she took from it what seemed to be the model of
a very pretty country church, with its spire, begun in pursuance of
her promise to Benja after the visit to the "Emporium of Foreign
Curiosities." Like many another thing entered upon in haste, this
coveted treasure had not yet been completed. The fact was, Honour
found more trouble over it than she had anticipated, and Benja, in the
protracted waiting, forgot his eagerness, All that was left to be done
now was the pasting on of the coloured windows. They were cut out of
thin rose paper; the walls of the structure being of thicker paper and
white, and the framework of thin wood.

Honour collected her materials, and soon accomplished her task, though
she had not been sparing of her windows. Benja forgot his troubles in
watching her. She had taken off his velvet dress, with many a
lamentation over the rent, and put on him a brown-holland tunic,
handsomely trimmed with black silk braid. Over that she tied a white
pinafore, lest he should make too free acquaintance with the paste.

At dusk all was completed, and this famous church lighted up by means
of the bit of candle inside. Benja clapped his hands with delight. It
was a novel, ingenious, picturesque sight, especially to a child. The
fire had burned low and there was no other light in the room, so that
the church was shown off to perfection, and was a really striking and
conspicuous object. Suddenly the flame inside began to whiffle.

"It's the draught from that door," observed Honour. "Shut it, Benja;
shut it gently."

She spoke of the door which opened into Mrs. St. John's dressing-room.
It is possible that you may remember there was formerly no door there;
but Mrs. St. John had caused one to be made at the birth of George,
that she might pass into the nursery at will, without going into the
corridor. Now that George was beyond babyhood, this door was generally
kept bolted, the bolt being on Mrs. St. John's side, not any on that
of the nursery; but it was sometimes, as now, left open.

Honour turned her head to the door as she spoke, and saw the little
boy place his hands upon the panel to push it to, after the manner of
children, and it closed gently. Benja came to the table again to feast
his eyes. The flame was steady now.

"There ought to be moss all round here," observed Honour, pointing to
the board on which the church rested. "But it's too late to put it on
tonight: and, for the matter of that, I have no moss. If I stop, we
will ask the gardener to get some."

Benja did not care for the moss. To his admiring eyes nothing could
improve its present aspect. He gazed at it on the drawers, he danced
before it on the table, he carried it to and fro in the room, obeying
Honour's injunctions to keep it upright and steady. In this manner
some time passed, and they allowed the fire to go out.

"Bother take the fire!" ejaculated Honour. "And I have neither wood
nor matches up here."

She had her hand upon the bell, when it suddenly occurred to her that
she would go down for the things herself. No one living liked a gossip
better than she, and the scene in the dining-room was burning her
tongue. Placing the church on the table, and strictly charging Benja
not to touch it while she was away, Honour went out by the ordinary
door, and descended the backstairs. To this door, and I would have
you note the difference, the fastening was inside. It was not a bolt,
but a common button, placed high up beyond reach of the children.

Never had Honour relished a gossip more than the one she now entered
on with the servants. Every little detail of the dining-room affray,
so far as she had been a witness to it, was related by her to the
servants, who did not spare their comments or their sympathy. Honour
was quite unable to tear herself away, until by the striking of the
clock she found she must have been there nearly half-an-hour. Hardly
believing her ears, she caught up a bundle of faggots and a box of
matches, popped them into her apron, together with a pair of snuffers
and an extinguisher, and ran up the stairs. Turning the handle of the
door to enter hastily, she was surprised to find that she could not
open it.

"Master Benja, why have you fastened the door?" she called out. "Come
and undo it."

There was no reply.

"He must have got upon a chair and turned the button," soliloquized
Honour. But at that moment she became conscious of a smell of burning,
as of wool. Letting the things she carried fall with a crash, she flew
along the passage and turned into her mistress's dressing-room, that
she might obtain entrance that way. That door was also fastened, but
on the outer side. It was no unusual occurrence--in fact, it was
usually kept bolted, as was just now observed, and Honour at the
moment thought nothing of it. Slipping back the bolt, she went in.

Oh! what did Honour see! Where was the young heir of Alnwick? A dark
mass smouldering on the floor at the far end of the room, the carpet
smouldering, no trace whatever remaining of the pretty and dangerous
toy she had made, no trace of _him_, save that shapeless heap from
which the spirit had flown!

With awful cries, with wild shrieks of terrified alarm, Honour flew
through the dressing-room, and down the grand staircase, her cries
arousing the household, arousing Mrs. St. John.



CHAPTER XV.
CONFLICTING STATEMENTS.


How the night subsequently went on, few at the Hall could tell. For
some time it was one scene of horror and confusion. One of the grooms,
unbidden, saddled a horse and went galloping for Mr. Pym; and in an
almost incredibly short space of time, the surgeon was there. But what
could he do? That one precious little spirit had gone, never to be
recalled by leech of this world. Another, however, wanted the
attentions of Mr. Pym,--and that was little George. The child,
aroused by the cries of Honour from a sleep he had fallen into in the
dining-room, had escaped upstairs into the nursery. A rush of terror
overtook him, baby though he was, at what he saw there, and at being
told it was Benja, and he fell into a succession of fits of sickness
and shivering.

It must be assumed--it was so assumed in the house--that this burning
was the result of accident; the result, it may also be said, of Honour
Tritton's carelessness. She had gone down secure in the belief that
the boy would obey her mandate and not touch the church. Oh, how could
she have been so foolish! To look at a new toy and not touch it, to
gaze at its attractions from a distance and not examine them, is
philosophy beyond a child. Perhaps the little boy--for he was an
obedient boy naturally--tried for some minutes to exercise his
patience; but no doubt could be entertained that he at length took the
church in his hands again. In how short a time the accident occurred,
and how it occurred, was as yet unknown--it may be said, it was hidden
in mystery.

The position of those in the house during this time appeared to be as
follows. The servants were all downstairs, with the exception of
Prance; and Honour, as you have heard, was with them. Mrs. St. John
and George were shut up in the dining-room, the latter asleep, the
former, as she said, nearly if not quite asleep also. Where Prance was
at the time did not as yet appear, neither had any question been
raised in regard to it.

But in the midst of the dreadful horror which had taken possession of
the unhappy Honour, two points thrust themselves prominently forward
in her brain. The one was, How did the child get fastened in the room?
the other was, that she had seen Prance hiding in a recess of the
passage as she ran along it. This was not so much a remembrance as a
conviction; and it seemed to Honour as if she had not noticed, or had
very superficially noticed, Prance's being there at the time, but the
fact had flashed into her mind afterwards. On the opposite side of the
passage, about midway between the nursery-door and the dressing-room
door, the recess was situated--a small arched recess. Poor Mr.
Carleton St. John in his lifetime had wondered laughingly whether the
architect had put it there for ornament or for use.

The first person Mr. Pym sought on his arrival, after he had taken a
hopeless look at that sight in the nursery, where the floor was now
half-inundated by the water employed to put the fire out, was Mrs. St.
John. She was in the dining-room, and he found her almost unnaturally
calm and collected; some people are so in these moments of calamity.
The only sign of emotion was her death-like pallor. She gave him the
account of what had occurred, so far, she observed, as she knew it;
candidly confessing to the fracas that had taken place in the room
after dinner. Benja had set upon George unmercifully, and in return
she had corrected Benja: boxed his ears, and, she really believed, had
shaken him. It was very rare indeed that she was so hasty with either
of the children; and she would give the whole world not to have
touched him, now that he was gone. After Honour took him away to the
nursery, she had remained in the dining-room, not quitting it until
disturbed by the shrieks of Honour. Prance came in once or twice to
ask if she should take George, but she did not let him go. The boy
went to sleep in his papa's large chair, and she sat down by him and
took his legs upon her lap. She was nearly asleep herself when the
cries began, and she had felt startled almost to death. The whole
fault, she feared, lay with Honour. The woman had confessed the facts
in the first moment of terror: she had left Benja alone with some
dangerous paper toy lighted up with a candle, while she went
downstairs and stayed gossiping with the servants. The poor little
fellow must have set himself on fire.

"But did no one hear his cries?" asked Mr. Pym, who had not previously
interrupted the narrative.

Mrs. St. John supposed not. All she knew was, that they had not
penetrated to the dining-room. The surgeon listened. He knew the walls
on that side the house were massive, and if the child was shut up in
the nursery--as it appeared he had been--it was hardly likely that he
would be heard, unless any one had happened to be upstairs. The
dining-room was in the other wing of the house, its doors were double;
and the kitchens were beyond the dining-room.

"The odd thing to me is, that he did not run out of the room," cried
Mr. Pym. "A strong lad of five years old would hardly stop in a room
to be burnt, for the want of escaping out of it. The first thing most
of us attempt in a similar calamity is to run from the room: often a
fatal step. But he does not seem to have attempted it."

Mrs. St. John shook her head. She did not know any of the details:
they must of course be left to supposition. Honour deserved hanging
for having left the child alone with a lighted toy.

It was at this juncture that Mr. Pym's attention was called to George.
The child was very sick; had been sick at intervals since the fright.
After attending to him; Mr. Pym went in search of Honour. He found her
alone, in a lamentable state of distress, in the bedroom that had been
hers and the unhappy child's.

And now it must be mentioned that Honour had been arriving at a sudden
and very dreadful doubt. As the mists cleared away from her brain and
she was able to reflect more calmly upon the probabilities of the
accident, she began to think whether it had not been wilfully caused.
And the doubt was assuming the aspect of certainty in her mind, when
Mr. Pym came in.

For some minutes she could not speak; she could only cry and sob, and
cover her face with her apron in very shame and remorse. Mr. Pym did
not reproach her in her distress: he rather set himself, when she had
gathered calmness, to learn what he could of the particulars. Honour
freely confessed all. She told of the affair in the dining-room,
giving a different colouring to it from that her mistress had done,
and causing Mr. Pym's grey eyebrows to scowl themselves into ugliness.
She told how she had afterwards finished the church for him,
describing what it was, and where the idea had been taken from. She
said she had left it with him lighted, had gone down for wood, and
stayed talking the best part of half-an-hour. Not a thing did she
conceal; not a point that could tell against herself did she gloss
over.

"He was always an obedient boy," she wailed, "and I did not think he
would touch it when I bade him not. And I never thought I had been
down so long, till I heard the clock strike!"

"It is strange you did not hear his cries!"

"The kitchens are too far off."

"And it is very strange that the boy did not run out of the room:
unless smoke overpowered him from the first. I cannot make out why he
did not. It is a bad plan in general, but in this instance it might
have saved his life by bringing help to him."

Honour made no immediate remark. She had been sitting in a low chair,
swaying her body backwards and forwards in her distress. Suddenly she
looked up at the surgeon and spoke in a low tone.

"I want to know who fastened the doors."

"What do you mean?" asked Mr. Pym, after a pause of surprise.

"I don't think he was burnt by accident, sir," she continued, glancing
at the walls as if afraid of being overheard, and speaking in the
faintest possible whisper. "I think it was done on purpose."

"Good Heavens, woman!" exclaimed the astonished surgeon, really
wondering whether the trouble was turning her brain.

"There are things connected with it that I can't understand," she
continued. "They did not strike me particularly at the moment, but
they do now that I can think of them. He _couldn't_ get out of the
room; he was fastened in."

That she was not suffering from mental aberration at present, was
apparent enough to the surgeon; the girl was as sane as he was. Honour
thought he was never going to leave off staring at her.

"When I left him upstairs, I left both doors open; that is,
unfastened," she went on. "When I got back again, both were fastened;
the one on the inside, the other on the out. _I want to know who did
it_."

It might have been a fancy of Honour's, but she thought the doctor
changed countenance. "Are you sure of this?" he asked.

"As sure as I am that I am living and my darling child is dead."

Mr. Pym's eyebrows contracted themselves yet more. "Just describe to
me consecutively what occurred, will you?" he said. "How did you know
that the doors were fastened?"

"Because I couldn't get in," said Honour, thinking it rather a simple
question. "When I got back with my little bundle of faggots, I found
the door was buttoned inside. I thought the child had got upon the
chair and done it; but, short as the moment was that I had for
thought, it struck me as being strange, for I had never known him to
do such a thing before. As I called to him to unfasten it, I fancied
there was a smell of burning, and I ran round through my mistress's
dressing-room and turned the handle of the door to open it, and found
that door was also fastened, bolted on the outside. The smell was very
strong then, and in my frenzy I forgot the strangeness of the
circumstance, for the door is in general kept bolted----"

"Then why should you be surprised at finding it bolted then?"
interrupted Mr. Pym.

"Because it was not bolted when I went down," returned Honour. "It was
open while I was finishing the church, and I told the child to shut
it, as the draught caused the flame inside the paper walls to whiffle
about. He pushed the door to with his dear little hands, and I watched
him. That's how I know it was unfastened then, sir."

"In your flurry afterwards, when you attempted to enter, you perhaps
only fancied it was fastened," suggested Mr. Pym.

"No, sir. When I tried to open it and could not, I found the bolt was
pushed into the grove to its full extent. The end came beyond the
grove, and I pushed it back with my fingers."

Mr. Pym rose impulsively, as if he would look at the door for himself;
but halted suddenly and sat down again.

"That could not have been done without hands," proceeded Honour. "And
why was it done?"

The surgeon made no attempt to answer the question. He seemed very
greatly put out, as if the revelation had alarmed or unnerved him,
scarcely noticing Honour.

"Mrs. St. John says she heard nothing," he presently observed to
himself, as one in abstraction. "Honour," he continued in
straightforward tones to the girl, "I think you must be mistaken.
There appears to have been no one upstairs who would have bolted it.
Mrs. St. John tells me she did not quit the dining-room: the servants
say they never came up at all during the afternoon."

"One of them was up," rejoined Honour in the same low voice, and the
same roving gaze round the walls, "and that was Prance. I saw her
myself; I can't be mistaken. Does _she_ say she was not upstairs,
sir?"

"She has said nothing to me one way or the other," replied Mr. Pym. "I
heard it said generally that the servants had not been upstairs."

"Prance was; and if she says she was not, she tells a lie. She was
hidden in the recess outside, opposite the doors."

"Hidden in the recess. When?"

"After I dropped the things from my apron, and was running round to
the dressing-room, I saw Prance standing inside the recess; she was
squeezing herself against the wall, sir, as if afraid I should see
her."

"Did you speak to her?"

"No, sir; and you may feel surprised at what I am going to say, but
it's the truth. I was so flurried at the time, what with finding the
first door fastened and with the smell of burning, that I did not seem
then to be conscious of seeing her. I suppose my eyes took in the
impression without conveying it to my mind. But afterwards it all came
into my mind, and I remembered it, and how she was standing. It was
just as if she had fastened the doors, and then put herself there to
listen to the child's dying cries."

"Hush," authoritatively reproved Mr. Pym. "You are not yourself, girl,
or you would not say it."

"I don't think I am," candidly acknowledged Honour, bursting into
tears. "My brain feels as if it were on the turn to madness. Prance
has been cross and hard and cruel to the child always, and I'm
naturally excited against her."

"But she would not shut the doors upon him if he were burning,"
retorted the surgeon, some anger in his tone. "You should be careful
what you say."

"I wish I could be put out of my misery!" sobbed Honour. "I wish
they'd hang me for my carelessness in leaving him alone with a lighted
toy! I did do that; and I hope I shall be punished for it. I shall
never know another happy moment. Thus far the fault is mine. But I did
not fasten the doors upon him, so that he could not escape for his
life: and I am perfectly certain that in any fright, or calamity, or
danger, the child's first impulse would have been to fly down the
backstairs to me."

She threw her apron over her head, sobbing and crying, and swaying her
body backwards and forwards on the chair as before, in the intensity
of her emotion. The surgeon sat still a few moments, endeavouring to
recall his scattered senses, and then rose and touched her shoulder to
command attention. She let fall her apron.

"This thing that you affirm must be investigated, look you, Honour.
For--for--for the sake of all, it must be sifted to the bottom. No one
in their right minds," he emphatically added, "would shut the doors
upon a burning child; and that appears to be the theory you have
adopted, so far as I can gather it. Have you stated these facts to
your mistress?"

"I have not seen her since," answered Honour. "Except at the first
moment, when I ran down in my terror."

"And she came out of the dining-room then?"

"She did, sir. The little child--he is the heir now--ran out after
her."

"Honour," said the surgeon, gravely and earnestly, "I do not fancy the
bent of your thought just now is a wholesome one. You had better put
it from you. I want you to come with me and tell your mistress about
the doors being fastened."

He went out of the room, Honour following. In the passage outside,
suspiciously near to the door, was Prance. She made a feint of being
in a hurry, and was whisking down the backstairs.

"Here, Prance, I want you," said the surgeon. "I was about to ask you
to come to me."

The woman turned at once, quite readily, as it appeared, and quite
unruffled. She stood calm, cool, quiet, before Mr. Pym, in her neat
black gown and silk apron, the black ribbon strings of her close cap
tied underneath her chin. Not a shade of change was observable on her
impassive face, not the faintest hue of emotion lighted her pale,
sharp features.

"This is a very dreadful thing, Prance," he began.

"It is, indeed, sir," she answered in her measured tones, which, if
they had not any demonstrative feeling in them, had certainly no
irreverence.

"How did the doors get fastened on the unfortunate boy?"

Prance paused for about the hundredth part of a minute. "I was not
aware they were fastened, sir." And the answer appeared to be really
genuine.

"Honour says they were. Upon returning from the kitchen, and
attempting to enter by this door"--pointing to the one still closed on
the miserable scene--"she found she could not enter. The inside button
had been turned during her absence below. Did you go into the nursery
yourself and fasten it? No one else, I believe, is in the habit of
frequenting the nursery but you and Honour."

"I did not go, sir. I did not go into the nursery at all during the
afternoon. Master George was downstairs with his mamma, and I had
nothing to take me into it. If the button was turned in the manner
described, I should think Master Benja must have got upon a chair and
done it himself."

Still the same impassive face; and still, it must be acknowledged, the
same air of truth.

"That may be," remarked Mr. Pym. "The same thought had occurred
to me. But there's another point not so easily got over. Honour says
that the other door was also fastened, the one leading into the
dressing-room--was bolted on the outside."

"I'm sure I don't know, sir," replied Prance; and this time there was
a shade of uncertainty, of hesitation, in her voice; not, however,
very perceptible to ordinary ears. "That door generally is kept
bolted," she added more freely, raising her eyes to the doctor's. "My
mistress took to keep it so, because Master George was always running
in while she was dressing."

"But----"

"Be quiet, Honour," said Mr. Pym, cutting short the interruption. "You
are in the habit of attending on your mistress, I believe, Prance, and
therefore are sometimes in her dressing-room," he continued. "Do you
remember whether that door was open today?"

"No, sir, I don't," said Prance, after a minute's consideration. "I
dressed my mistress this morning for the early dinner, and put the
room straight afterwards, but I do not remember whether the door was
open or shut. I should think it was shut."

"It was wide open this afternoon," burst forth Honour, unable to keep
quiet any longer, and believing Prance could remember if she chose.
"The poor dear child shut it with his own hands while I was finishing
his church."

"Is it possible?" responded Prance, her perfect coolness of demeanour,
her propriety of tone, presenting a contrast to the excitement of the
miserable Honour. "I cannot remember how it was when I was dressing my
mistress, and I had nothing to do in the room after that."

"And did not go into it?" pursued the surgeon.

"And did not go into it?" repeated Prance.

"Then you know nothing at all as to how the doors could have got
fastened?" proceeded Mr. Pym.

"No, sir, I do not. I could take an oath, if need be, that I did not
know the doors were bolted until you spoke to me now," added the
woman, the least possible sound of emotion, arising as it seemed from
earnestness, at length perceptible in her tones. "I assure you, sir, I
had no idea of it until this moment. I--I should scarcely think it
could have been so."

There was an ominous glare in Honour's eye at the expressed doubt. Mr.
Pym did not want a passage-at-arms between the two then, and raised
his hand to command silence.

"Did you hear the child's cries, Prance?" he asked. "It is incredible
to suppose that he did not cry; and yet no one seems to have heard
him."

"You mean when he was on fire, sir?"

"Of course I mean when he was on fire."

"I never heard them, sir. A child could not burn to death without
making cries, and desperate cries, but I did not hear them," she
continued, more in soliloquy than to the surgeon. "It is an
unfortunate thing that no one was within earshot."

Honour looked keenly at her from her swollen eyes. Mr. Pym spoke
carelessly.

"By the way, you were in the recess, Prance, just about the time. Did
you neither see nor hear anything then?"

"In the recess, sir?" rejoined Prance, turning her impassive face full
on Mr. Pym in apparently the utmost astonishment. But not her eyes. "I
was in no recess, sir."

"Yes you were. In that recess; there," pointing to it. "Honour passed
you when you were in it."

"It is quite a mistake, sir. What should I do in the recess? If Honour
says she saw me there, her sight must have deceived her."

"How do you account for your time at the period of the occurrence?"
inquired Mr. Pym. "What part of the house were you in?"

"I suppose I must have been in the dining-room, sir," she answered
readily. "I was in there until just before the alarm was given, and
then I had come up to my bedroom."

"Let's see. That is the room on the other side Mrs. St. John's
bedroom?"

"Yes, sir; formerly my master's dressing-room. After his death, Mrs.
St. John placed me and Master George in it. She felt lonely with no
one sleeping near her."

"And that's where you were when you heard the alarm?"

"I was in there with the door shut when I heard Honour come screaming
along the passage, running towards the grand staircase. I had not been
in my room above a couple of minutes at the most. I had come straight
up from the dining-room."

"And you did not go into the recess?"

"Certainly not, sir. What object could I have in doing so? I'd rather
keep out of the place."

Mr. Pym looked at Honour. His expression said plainly that he thought
she must have been mistaken.

"What had you done with yourself all the afternoon?" he demanded of
Prance.

"I was about in one place or another," she answered. "Part of the time
I was in the onion-room. I went there for a handful of a particular
herb I wanted, and stayed to pick the leaves from the stalks. And I
was twice in the dining-parlour with my mistress, and stayed there
pretty long each time."

"Talking to her?"

"No, sir, scarcely a word passed. My mistress rarely does talk much,
to me or to any of us, and she seemed a good deal put out with the
scene there was after dinner with Master Benja. Master George was put
out, too, in his little way, and I stayed in the room soothing him. My
mistress gave me a glass of wine then, and bade me drink the
children's health. I went in later a second time, and stayed longer
than the first, but I was waiting for Master George to awake that I
might bring him up to the nursery, for it was getting the children's
tea-time."

"But you did not bring him?"

"No, sir, he did not awake, and I got tired of waiting. I came
straight upstairs, and went into my room, and I had not been there two
minutes when Honour's cries broke out. I had not had time to strike a
match and light any candle, and when I ran out of the room to see what
was the matter, I had the match-box in my hand."

This seemed to be as comprehensive an account as Prance could give;
and Mr. Pym himself saw no reason to doubt her. Honour did She had
done nothing but doubt the woman ever since she came to the house.
Honour believed her to be two-faced, thoroughly sly and artful; "a
very cat in deceit." But in a calmer moment even Honour might not have
brought herself to think that she would deliberately set fire to an
innocent child, or close the doors on him that he might burn to death.

Again Mr. Pym went into the presence of Mrs. St. John, the two
servants with him. She looked more ghastly than before, and she was
sitting with Georgy on her lap, the child sick and trembling still.
Mr. Pym mentioned to her what Honour said about the doors being
fastened, asking if she could remember whether the one leading from
her dressing-room was open in the morning She answered at once--and
she spoke with the calmest and coldest self-possession, which seemed
as a very contrast to her ghastly face--that she could not say with
any certainty whether the dressing-room door was open that day or not.
She remembered quite well that she had unbolted it that same morning
while she was getting up, upon hearing the children's voices in the
nursery. She had gone in to kiss them and wish them happiness on their
birthday. Whether she had rebolted the door afterwards or not, she
could not say. She generally rebolted it when she had been that way
into the nursery, but it was possible she had not done so this
morning. "I wish you would not ask these questions," she concluded,
momentarily raising her eyes to Mr. Pym, for she had spoken with her
face bent down, almost hidden.

"But I must ask them," said the surgeon.

"It frightens George so," she added. "See how he is shivering."

And in truth the child was shivering; shivering and trembling as one
in an ague. Almost as his mother spoke, he raised himself with a cry,
and was violently sick: and all Mr. Pym's attention had to be given to
him.



CHAPTER XVI.
INVESTIGATION.


The inquest was held the day following the death. A somewhat hurried
arrangement; but in these small local places the convenience of the
coroner has to be studied. It happened that the county coroner was
coming to Alnwick that day to hold an inquest on a poor old man who
had been accidentally killed; and the Alnwick parish officials,
represented chiefly by the beadle, decided that the second inquest
should take place as soon as the first was over.

It did so. The first was held at the workhouse, and was over and done
with in half-an-hour; the second was held at a public-house nearer the
Hall: the Carleton Arms. The same jury sworn for the other inquest,
attended for this one; and the witnesses were hurriedly collected
without any formal process of summons-serving.

It was universally believed that the ill-fated little child had taken
the lighted church, in defiance of the nurse's injunction and had then
fastened the door to prevent her surprising him in his disobedience.
Honour's conviction alone protested against this; in silence, not
openly; she was weary of arguing against the stream. That he had taken
the church in his hands, she feared was too probable, but not that he
had fastened the door to conceal his disobedience. A more open,
honourable nature than his, child never possessed: he was always the
first to tell candidly of a fault; and she thought he would rather
have thrown wide the door that Honour might see him at his
disobedience, than close it against her. This, however, was not the
popular view of the case: _that_ was, that the child had taken the
dangerous toy in his hand, had slipped the button, not to be caught,
and then by some means set himself on fire; the remote distance at
which all the inmates of the Hall happened to be, just then,
preventing them from hearing his cries.

The fastening of the dressing-room door, which was spoken of by
Honour, who was the principal witness, gave rise to some discussion.
Nothing could be clearer or more positive than her sworn testimony
that the dressing-room door was not fastened when she went downstairs,
and that it was fastened when she came up--bolted on the outer side.
The puzzle was, who had fastened it? No person whatever had been in
the rooms, so far as could be learned. Witnesses were examined on this
point, but nothing was elicited that could throw any light on the
affair. It was Honour's word against facts--facts so far as they
seemed to be known. The housemaid, whose duty it was to attend to Mrs.
St. John's rooms, proved that she had not been into them since the
morning. From the time of putting them to rights after breakfast, she
was not in the habit of again entering them until about seven o'clock
in the evening, after Mrs. St. John had dressed for dinner; neither
did she on this unfortunate day. The other servants said they had not
been upstairs at all: some wine had been given to them, and they were
making themselves comfortable below. Honour was with them, talking,
but not Prance. Prance was not downstairs, so far as the servants
knew, after she left the housekeeper's room at the conclusion of
dinner. Prance herself was called as a witness, and accounted for her
time. Had gone into the dining-room whilst her mistress was at dessert
with Master George, she said, Honour having then taken Master St. John
upstairs. Had stayed there some little time. Her mistress had given
her a glass of wine. She (witness) said that she had already taken a
glass downstairs, but her mistress answered that she could no doubt
take another. She did so, drinking to the two young gentlemen's
health. After that, went upstairs to her room; stayed there some time,
doing a bit of work for herself, and putting up Master George's
morning things, which she had not had time to see to after dressing
him to dine with his mamma. Yes, she said in answer to a question from
the coroner, this room was very near the dressing-room; Mrs. St.
John's bedroom only dividing them; but could swear most positively
that she did not go into the dressing-room. She entered no room
whatever except this, her own.

A juryman interrupted with a question. Where was deceased at this
time?

With Honour in the nursery, the witness answered. It was then that the
paper toy, spoken to, was being finished and lighted up--as the Hall
had learnt subsequently. Afterwards, witness continued, pursuing her
evidence, she had gone downstairs into the onion-room, as it was
called, a place where herbs were kept; had stayed there some time,
getting an herb she wanted, and plucking its leaves from the stalks.
Then--

Another juryman interrupted, a worthy grocer and oilman, with whom the
Hall dealt. What might witness have wanted with the herb?

The witness replied, with exemplary patience and the impressive manner
that always characterized her, that she occasionally took a decoction
of this herb medicinally. The cook was in the habit of preparing it
for her, but when it was left entirely to that functionary, as much
stalk as leaf was put in, and the decoction suffered in consequence;
therefore she liked to pluck it herself.

Very good, the juryman answered She could go on with her evidence.

After preparing the proper quantity of herb, had taken it to the
scullery and laid it on what was called the cook's shelf. Did not see
any of the servants except the under-housemaid, who was lighting up
the lower passages, but heard their voices in conversation. Could not
tell whether the under-housemaid saw her; thought not. Went then into
the dining-room, to ask if she should not take Master George, as it
was getting the hour for the nursery tea. Did not take Master George.
He was asleep in the large chair. Waited some time, hoping he would
wake; but he did not. At last got tired of waiting, and left the
dining-room, Master George still asleep, with his feet on his mamma's
lap. Went straight upstairs then, and was about to get a light in her
own room, when she heard alarming cries from Honour. Could only see
the outline of her form as she flew along the corridor to the grand
staircase. The upper part of the house had not been lighted up, only
the lower, and a very faint reflection came upstairs. The cries were
alarming, full of terror. Witness was frightened, and it was not a
little thing that frightened her. Ran down after Honour, and saw Mrs.
St. John come out of the dining-room, frightened also at the cries.
For the next few minutes could not give a precise account of what
happened. The chief thing she remembered was running back with others
to the nursery. Poor little Master George also went. He stole up
unnoticed in the confusion, and saw what was left of his brother
burning, or, rather, smouldering. That was all she knew.

Mrs. St. John was not called as a witness. Having been shut up--as was
understood--the whole of the time in the dining-room with little
George, her evidence could not be of importance, and the jury had
respect to her feelings and did not call her. It was announced to the
jury that she freely acknowledged having gone from her dressing-room
into the nursery in the morning, and that it was very possible she had
omitted to fasten the door afterwards. That, however, was of no
consequence: the door had been left open as Honour had proved: by whom
did not matter.

All the evidence was taken, and a discussion ensued in regard to the
point not cleared up, the fastening of this door. Half the jury,
including Mr. Pym, inclined to the view that it had not been bolted at
all, only shut; but that Honour's state of haste and agitation had
prevented her getting the door open at the first moment, and caused
her to fancy that it was fastened. The other half of the jury
including the coroner, thought that when the unfortunate little child
had pushed-to the door in obedience to Honour, the bolt had shot into
the groove with the movement: and this appeared the more reasonable
solution. In vain Honour protested that neither was correct: that the
door _was_ bolted, and that it _could not_ have bolted itself when the
child closed it; he shut it very gently, and she must have heard the
movement had there been any. She might as well have talked to the
wind: and to her excessive surprise Mr. Pym approached her with a
stern whisper and a warning look.

"I wouldn't say any more about this, Honour."

Will it be believed that Mrs. Darling only heard of this calamity when
the jury were sitting? Living some distance on the other side of
Alnwick, news did not at all times penetrate quickly to her house. At
any rate, _this_ had not done so: reversing for once the popular
saying that ill news travels fast. Mrs. St. John had omitted to send
to her--perhaps it was excusable in the dreadful confusion--and it was
a positive fact that the inquest was being held before the tidings
were carried to Mrs. Darling.

She might not have heard it even then, but that she happened to send a
servant into the village to execute a commission, and the maid brought
back the news. As is usual in such cases, she ran open-mouthed with it
to her mistress. Mrs. Darling, who had been feeling very poorly ever
since the previous day, and was saying to herself that if no better on
the following one she should send for Mr. Pym, was lying on the sofa,
when the door abruptly opened, and the servant burst in with the news,
her very haste rendering her incoherent. Mrs. Darling started from the
sofa in terror, only half comprehending.

"_What_ do you say has happened, Cole?"

"One of the little boys is killed," spoke up the servant eagerly. "Oh,
ma'am, it's true! He was killed last night, and they are already
holding the inquest on him. It was the heir, Master Benja."

Almost as one turned to stone, stood Mrs. Darling. If ever woman
looked in awful fear, it was she. She could not speak at first: she
only gazed at the maid-servant, her lips apart, her eyes wild.

"Killed! Master Benja!" she gasped.

"He was burnt to death," cried the woman, with sobs of emotion. "I
don't know the rights of it, though the place is full of nothing else;
some said one thing and some another. Any way, the fault was Honour's.
She left him alone with a lighted candle, and he set himself on fire.
There is a tale that somebody fastened the doors upon him to let him
burn; but you know, ma'am, it can't be true. Not a bit of business is
doing at Alnwick, and most of the shops have a shutter or two up. The
inquest is on now, at the Carleton Arms."

With a prolonged shudder, Mrs. Darling seemed to come to herself. "How
is it that I was not sent for?" she asked: and though the servant took
the question to herself, and answered that she did not know, it was
evident that it was not put to her.

All her indisposition forgotten, her bodily pain no longer felt in the
greater mental pain, Mrs. Darling put on her cloak and bonnet and went
out. The maid remonstrated that she was not fit to walk; wished her to
at least wait until a fly could be sent for: she was as one who heard
not. Striking into the field-path, by which means she avoided the
gossiping village--and she was in no mood for it then, Mrs. Darling
emerged from the fields almost close to Alnwick Hall, just below the
Carleton Arms. Had there been any way to avoid passing the inn, Mrs.
Darling had surely chosen it: but there was none. As she came within
view of it, and saw the idlers congregated around it in small groups,
a sick feeling of dread took possession of her, and she shuddered as
she had done in her own drawing-room. Dread of what? Perhaps Mrs.
Darling could not precisely have defined what: but she did think it
would be a mercy had the earth opened and let her through to the
opposite side of the globe, away from all trouble and care.

Not a word did she speak to any one, not a question ask. She drew her
veil over her face, pulled her cloak more closely around her, and was
hastening on, looking neither to the right nor to the left, when she
nearly ran against Mr. Pym the surgeon, who had just strolled outside
from the heat and bustle of the crowded inquest-room.

"Is it you, Mrs. Darling?"

"What _is_ all this?" was the rejoinder of Mrs. Darling, throwing back
her veil for a moment, and then seeming to recollect herself, and
putting it down again. "Is Benja really dead?"

"Really dead!" echoed Mr. Pym. "He has been dead since yesterday
evening. Had you not heard of it?"

"I never heard a word until half-an-hour ago. What was it? How was it
done?"

"Honour left him alone in the nursery with some paper toy that had a
candle in it. When she got back he was burnt to death."

Mr. Pym was speaking strangely, in a cold, hard sort of manner; and,
instead of looking at Mrs. Darling, his eyes were directed straight
over her head.

"Then it was an accident," said Mrs. Darling, after a pause.

"That will no doubt be the verdict of the jury."

The two stood in silence. Mr. Pym with his far-away gaze, Mrs. Darling
stealing surreptitious glances at him through her veil. Presently she
spoke, scarcely above a whisper.

"What tale is it that people have got hold of, about the child being
locked in the room?"

"Ah," said Mr. Pym, "that's Honour's tale. She says that when she left
the boy, to go downstairs, the nursery doors were unbolted; that when
she returned, both were fastened. _Her_ theory is, implied if not
avowed, that the doors had been deliberately closed upon the burning
child."

Mrs. Darling turned her face away. She was as little given as any one
to betraying signs of emotion, but the eyes, for all they were not
looking at her, saw that the face was turning livid.

"It can't be true," she whispered.

"As I tell Honour. Are you going to the Hall? Most of its inmates are
here, at the inquest."

"Charlotte is not here!" exclaimed Mrs. Darling, turning to him in
what looked like alarm.

"No. The jury dispense with her evidence."

"Is--is--little Benja here?"

Mr. Pym shook his head. "The coroner and jury went up to look at the
remains, and adjourned here. It is a dreadful thing; _very_ dreadful."

At the emphasized word, a sound, that was as much like a groan as
anything, escaped Mrs. Darling's lips. The surgeon turned towards the
inn door, she continued her way. Striking into the avenue amongst the
fine old park trees, she threw back her veil where no eye was on her,
gasping as it seemed for air in the twilight of the coming night.

A servant answered her summons, and she walked straight through the
hall to a small sitting-room, where the man said he believed his
mistress was. She went in gently, not to disturb her: but Mrs. St.
John was standing still in the midst of the room in an attitude of
breathless expectation; of what looked like terrified expectation; and
unless the darkness of the evening deceived her, Mrs. Darling had
never seen her face so intensely pale, or with that haggard look upon
it.

"Charlotte!"

"Is it you, mamma? I thought you were ill."

"I was ill; ill for me, who never ail anything. But
this--this---- What's that?"

Mrs. Darling sprang aside. A heap of something covered over on the
sofa had startled her. Surely her nerves were unstrung tonight!

"It's Georgy," answered Mrs. St. John. "He has been ill since
yesterday. Hush! don't wake him."

She took off her cloak and untied her bonnet, and sat down by the fire
near her daughter. Mrs. St. John did not speak.

"Charlotte, I have been dreadfully shocked. You should not have
allowed me to hear of this by accident. How did it happen?"

"You must ask Honour that."

"Was no one with him? Could no one hear his cries?"

"It seems not."

"Will you not give me the details, Charlotte?"

"I only know them from hearsay."

"But you--were--in the house at the time?"

"I was in the dining-room."

Mrs. St. John was evidently not inclined to be communicative. She sat
looking at the fire, and Mrs. Darling stole surreptitious glances at
her face, as she had recently done at Mr. Pym's; not that the face was
very discernible in the increasing gloom of the November evening.

"Do give me the particulars, Charlotte!"

"I can't, I tell you, mamma. I only know them myself from hearsay. I
was shut up in the dining-room with Georgy, and knew nothing until
startled by Honour's cries."

"You were shut up in the dining-room!"

"Just as you found me shut up in this room now. Georgy was asleep, and
I had his feet on my lap. I wish you wouldn't ask me about it. It is
not a pleasant thing to talk of. I am sorry now for having beaten
him."

"You beat him?--Benja?"

"He was naughty after dinner. He had a new watch, and would not lend
it to Georgy, and they got quarrelling. He beat Georgy, and I beat
_him_. I am sorry for it now."

"But it was not then that he was burnt!" exclaimed Mrs. Darling,
scarcely understanding.

"No. Honour took him away, and I stayed in the dining room with
Georgy."

"Did the accident happen immediately?"

"Not for a long while. Two hours, perhaps, I don't know how long
exactly. I had been to sleep. It was daylight when he went away, and
it was dark when we heard the screams."

"And you, my poor child, had never moved from the dining-room!"

"Don't I say so, mamma!" came the answer, a shade of peevishness at
being questioned in the otherwise impassive tone. "I had kept Georgy
with me."

Mrs. Darling drew a long sigh: it seemed like a relief from some
nightmare. "How came Honour to leave him with a lighted candle?" she
exclaimed in anger.

"Mamma, I _wish_ you would not ask me these things! I don't care to
talk of them."

For some minutes there was silence, but Mrs. Darling was an impulsive
woman, and it was almost impossible for her to think of any fresh
point without breaking out with a question. She did so now; suddenly,
abruptly.

"Is it true that the doors were fastened?"

"Who told you they were?" exclaimed Mrs. St. John.

"Mr. Pym. I saw him as I came up here."

"Mr. Pym told you the doors were fastened?" repeated Mrs. St. John,
fixing her strange eyes upon her mother.

"Yes. At least---- What he said was, that Honour asserts they were
fastened."

"Ay, _that's_ true. But no one believes her. Mr. Pym does not believe
her; he told her she must be careful what she said. Prance thinks
Honour was so flurried at the time, that her recollection is not
clear."

Again there was a pause. Mrs. St. John sat as before, gazing at
the fire, her haggard face--yes, it certainly was unnaturally
haggard--bent on her hand. Mrs. Darling seemed buried in perplexity,
and her fingers unconsciously smoothed down her bonnet-strings. Georgy
stirred in his sleep, and they both looked at the sofa; but he did not
awake, and both were silent for a moment.

"Is the inquest over, do you know?" asked Mrs. St. John.

"It was not when I came past. Charlotte, have you written to Castle
Wafer?"

"I have not written to any one. Surely there's time enough!"

"My dear, I did not mean to anger you. I---- What's this? They must be
coming back from the inquest!"

The noise of many steps outside had called forth the interruption.
Mrs. St. John rose from her seat and stood in the middle of the room,
facing the door; waiting defiantly, as it seemed, to confront any who
might enter. It was just the same position, the same look that had
surprised Mrs. Darling when she arrived. The butler came in.

"The verdict is 'Accidental Death,'" he said. "Appended to which was a
severe censure on Honour Tritton for leaving the child alone with so
dangerous a toy. And ma'am," he emphatically added to his mistress,
"she deserves it: and she seems to think so."

The mistress of Alnwick sat down again. Mrs. Darling caught up her
cloak and went out of the room, her curiosity on the rack for the sad
details withheld by her daughter.

Honour did seem to think she deserved the censure, as the butler had
observed. Fully, fully had her repentant heart echoed the condemnation
of the jury. A never-dying remorse had taken up its abode within her.
Mrs. Darling came upon her on the staircase. The girl's face looked
flushed, her eyes glistening; and there was a wildness in their
expression that spoke of incipient fever, had any been at leisure to
note the signs, or been capable of understanding them.

"Oh Honour! what an awful thing this is!" breathed Mrs. Darling.

"It's more than awful," answered Honour. "I suppose I shall get over
it sometime, if I live: I don't know. Perhaps God will be pleased to
take me."

She spoke almost with the unnatural calmness of her mistress. That
alone would have told of something mentally wrong, or becoming so.

"Honour--indeed I don't wish to reproach you, for I'm sure your pain
must be too great to need it; but I must speak--_how_ could you leave
the child alone with that lighted candle?"

"Will you see him?--what's left of him?" was the rejoinder. And
without waiting for reply, Honour went into the nursery. Something was
resting there on trestles with a sheet thrown over it. Whether it was
a coffin, whether it was not, Mrs. Darling did not stay to inquire.
She arrested Honour's hand.

"No," she said. "I don't know that I could bear the sight."

Honour dropped the corner of the sheet again. "Well," she said, "he is
there; my darling treasure that was dearer to me than anything in
life. They were beating him black and blue in the dining-room, and I
brought him out, and I finished the paper toy to soothe and comfort
his poor little sobbing heart, and I did leave him alone with it, the
candle lighted inside it. If I ever forget my folly, or cease to mourn
for it in repentance, I hope God will forget me. But, I am not the
sole author of his death; Mrs. Darling, I am _not_. Those who came and
fastened the doors upon him, and so let him burn, are more guilty of
it than me."

"Hush, Honour! You were mistaken. The doors could not have been so
fastened."

Honour laid her hand upon the sheet again, touching what was beneath
it.

"Mrs. Darling, don't _you_ be deceived. Some do not believe what I
say, and some are wishing to hush the matter up. I swear that it was
as I assert: I swear it by _this_, all that's left of him. They say
Benja must have buttoned the one door himself; let it go so: I don't
think he did, but let it go so: but he could not have bolted the other
on the outside. They are hushing the matter up; and I must do the
same: I am only one against many."

"Who is hushing it up?" asked Mrs. Darling, from between her white
lips.

"Mr. Pym, for one. I say nothing about others, I am only one amongst
them. From this time I shall drop the matter, and speak of it no more:
but I should like you to remember what I say, and to believe me. It is
the truth. Heaven knows it is. The doors were fastened upon him, and
he was left there--in a living tomb--to burn to death. When the facts
come to light, as they will sometime, if there's justice in the world,
we shall learn the truth. At present I don't pretend to understand
it."

Mrs. Darling felt frightened at the girl's words, at her resolute
manner (her impassiveness had now changed to passion), at her hectic
cheeks and wild eyes--all the symptoms of threatening fever or
insanity. She quitted the room, retaining a last glimpse of Honour's
throwing herself beside the trestles in a burst of anguish, and sought
Prance. Scarcely able to speak from an agitation which she vainly
endeavoured to suppress, Mrs. Darling commanded Prance to furnish her
with the particulars, to the minutest detail.

Prance obeyed without the slightest hesitation, her account differing
in no wise from the one she had just given to the coroner and jury.
Mrs. Darling questioned her as to the alleged fastening of the doors:
Prance maintained that the one door, at any rate, had been fastened in
Honour's fancy only. It was possible, nay probable, that the poor
little boy had himself fastened the one; but as to the other, nothing
but Honour's haste (as she, Prance, believed) had prevented her
opening it. "The fact is," concluded Prance, "Honour was half
paralyzed with fear at the time, through smelling the burning; and she
has been as one mad ever since."

"And your mistress was shut up, I hear, in the dining-room all the
time with little George."

"Oh yes," said Prance, "and the servants were shut up downstairs.
Nobody could have gone near the room. If that door was fastened, why,
the bolt must have slipped as well as the latch when the child closed
it," added Prance. "The coroner and jury thought so."

Mrs. Darling sighed in very perplexity. She could not get over
Honour's positive and solemn assertion; but it seemed equally
impossible to believe any one had been near the door to bolt it. This
last suggestion, that the bolt had slipped, was a welcome one, and
Mrs. Darling would have given half her remaining lifetime to have been
able fully to believe in it.

There went forth another announcement in the local papers, Mrs.
Darling wording it.

"Died, on St. Martin's Eve, at Alnwick Hall, on his fifth birthday,
Benjamin Carleton St. John, eldest son and heir of the late George
Carleton St. John, Esquire."



CHAPTER XVII.
HONOUR'S RAVINGS.


It needed not many days for Honour Tritton to be in a fever,
accompanied by delirium, the symptoms of which had been plainly
showing themselves. Mr. Pym pronounced it a malady of the brain,
brought on by grief, horror, and remorse. It would prolong her stay at
the Hall, for she could not be removed; otherwise Mrs. St. John had
given her notice to quit it as soon as the funeral was over. Mrs. St.
John had taken a shuddering dislike to her. The word is used
advisedly. Once or twice, when she met Honour in the corridors, she
was seized with a fit of shuddering that affected her whole frame.
Freely she avowed that she could not bear the sight of the girl; but
for her, she said, Benja would be still living. But when the girl was
taken ill they could not turn her out; and Honour lay in bed, in the
room that had been hers and Benja's. The pretty rosewood cot, shorn
for ever of its occupant, was yet in the corner. At first she was not
dangerously ill; hot and feverish, and a little excited at times; but
not in danger. It was the day before the funeral that she took to her
bed.

Mrs. St. John seemed more affected by the death than was apparent to
ordinary observers. Not a shade of emotion had been seen on her
impassive face; not a tear, so far as any one could trace, had been
shed. But that she was grievously affected by it, those about her saw
plainly. A species of nervousness--if the word may be applied to one
so outwardly calm--seemed to have taken possession of her. She was
ever brooding on the dreadful event; she was afraid to go about the
house alone after dark; not all the cordage of a seventy-gun ship
would have dragged her into the dressing-room, for it was next to the
nursery where Benja was lying. She chiefly sat nursing George, who was
ill still--remaining for an hour or two intensely calm and quiet, then
starting up and pacing the room violently, as if unable to bear her
own reflections--her grief for Benja. "My dear, be still, be calm,"
Mrs. Darling remonstrated one afternoon as she paced the room with
wild steps. "All the sorrow in the world cannot bring him back: in a
little time, if you can only realize it, you will gather comfort from
the fact that he is better off." "Mamma, I would _hang_ Honour Tritton
if I could!" was the only answer.

What Mrs. St. John would have done without her mother at this time, it
was impossible to tell; though perhaps, had necessity imposed it on
her, she might have been aroused to exert herself. Mrs. Darling,
forgetting her own ailments, and she was feeling really ill, took
everything upon herself, and _had_ to do it. It was she who wrote
letters to apprise friends of the calamity; it was she who made
arrangements for the funeral: Charlotte would take neither act nor
part in it. Mrs. Darling did what she could to amuse her daughter, and
divert her mind from the fatal night. She talked to her of family
interests, she read letters to her from her daughter Margaret, who was
in Berkshire; she enlarged upon the letters from her son Frank. There
had been some trouble or escapade, or something unpleasant with Rose,
during his visit to Belport in the autumn, she said, but she could not
get to the bottom of it, and perhaps never should: she expected it all
arose from Rose's rebellion at being kept at school. These, and
similar topics, did Mrs. Darling pursue; but her daughter was as one
who heard not. It might, in fact, be questioned whether she did hear;
and if she answered it was only mechanically.

The day of the funeral arrived, and friends and relatives came from
far and near to follow to his last resting-place the ill-fated little
heir of Alnwick. As it had been in the days when George St. John died,
so it was again. Mr. St. John of Castle Wafer was too ill to attend,
but Frederick St. John came down from London in his place. Captain
Darling also came. Neither of them stayed beyond the day, and they
agreed to travel back to town together. Indeed, none of the guests
were asked to remain: the Hall was not in a mood for welcoming
visitors just now.

Mrs. Darling took the opportunity of asking her son what the hinted
escapade of Rose's might have been; but he only laughed it off, and
did not explain. _He_ had corrected her for it, he said, and he didn't
think she would attempt a second.

So the child was laid in the vault with his father and his poor young
mother, whose life he had cost; and the train of mourners and
attendants returned to the Hall, and then dispersed, none of them,
Captain Darling excepted, having seen Alnwick's mistress. Something
had been said about little Georgy--now the heir--going to the funeral;
but it was decided that he was too young. And besides, he was not
well.

There was estrangement still between Isaac St. John and his brother;
but the aspect of affairs had changed, and Isaac, on his part, would
have been all too willing to be reconciled. Lady Anne St. John was on
the point of marriage with Captain Saville, who had unexpectedly come
into a large inheritance. Anne confessed all to Isaac. How there had
been a secret understanding between her and Captain Saville, and
Frederick was keeping league with them, and to screen Anne, taking on
himself the blame of refusing to marry her. Isaac St. John would then
have been reconciled to his brother. He did not make any decisive move
towards it, but he allowed his wishes to become known to Frederick
through Mrs. St. John. Mr. Frederick, however, had a spice of
obstinacy in his composition, and chose to hold on his own way. He had
recently come into some money through an aunt, and this he was
applying to liquidating his own debts, living meanwhile quietly in
London, and spending all his time at his favourite art--painting.

The day of the funeral came to an end. Everything had passed off
quietly, without undue bustle and agitation, which might perhaps have
been expected under the circumstances of the case. Little George had
burst into wailing sobs when the mourning carriages came back to the
Hall, saying he wanted Benja. They told him Benja was gone to heaven
to be happy for ever, and to play upon a golden harp. But the child
still cried bitterly. Captain Darling carried him out on the slopes,
and in due time brought him back soothed; having entered upon some
magnificent promises touching a live pony, when the young gentleman
should have grown as tall as Benja was.

On the following morning Mrs. St. John was to leave the Hall for a
time. It was her own proposition, but Mrs. Darling seconded it. At
first she was only going to the cottage, her mother's residence; later
she would take Georgy to some watering-place, and return to the Hall
for Christmas.

You cannot keep gossiping tongues still. Since the inquest, a great
deal of discussion had taken place as to the disputed question of the
dressing-room door. In the Hall, and out of it for miles, it formed
the theme of conversation, and speculation was rife as to the real
truth. Once establish the fact of the door's having been _previously_
bolted, and there was an end to all mystery. Honour's unwavering
assertion that it was bolted when she arrived, made weight gradually
and silently; the almost as indisputable fact that no one had been
near to bolt it received full credence; and the solution gradually
arrived at was, that when the little boy had closed the door, the bolt
had slipped. It appeared to be the only feasible explanation. The more
it was talked of and dwelt upon, the more certain did it appear, and
by the day of the funeral it was received as an undoubted fact. Mr.
Pym so received it; Mrs. Darling spoke of it as a discovery, not a
supposition. Even Honour, weak, ill, and miserable, was brought to
acknowledge that such might have been the case.

"What a mercy that it's cleared up!" cried Mrs. Darling to her
daughter. "It was so very unpleasant to have any mystery connected
with it: the event was unhappy enough in itself, without that. We can
so far dismiss the unpleasantness from our minds now, Charlotte."

Mrs. Darling intended to return to the cottage with her daughter. She
was busy in her room after breakfast on the morning of departure,
putting together the few things which had been sent over for her use
from home, when one of the housemaids happened to mention that Honour
was worse, and "saying queer things."

"What queer things?" asked Mrs. Darling, in the midst of folding a
crape collar.

"Oh, ma'am, about the accident; about the bolting of the door, that
there has been so much talk over----"

"The door bolted itself when Honour caused it to be closed; it has
been conclusively decided so," sharply interrupted Mrs. Darling.

"I know it has, ma'am," replied the maid. "But Honour is off her head,
and does not know what she is saying. She has been raving about her
mistress, fancying she's at the bedside, and asking her whether _she_
did not bolt the doors on Master Benja when he was burning, or whether
she set him on fire? It's dreadful to hear her, poor thing."

If ever a sudden change was seen in a woman, you might have seen it
then in Mrs. Darling. Her ruddy, good-humoured countenance assumed the
hue it had worn when shunning Mr. Pym's look that night before the
Carleton Arms--though for the matter of that, he had equally shunned
hers.

"I'll go to her," she said, presently. "Poor creature, she must be
quite mad! I'll go and see what can be done for her. Perhaps a
strait-waistcoat will be necessary."

Accordingly Mrs. Darling made her way along the corridor. Crouching
against the nursery-door, as she turned the corner, was what at first
looked like a huge black balloon. It proved to be the petticoats of
her daughter, who appeared to be listening to something in the
nursery.

"Charlotte!"

Mrs. St. John lifted her scared face: a white face, not so much of
terror as of some great anguish, with wild eyes gazing from it. Softly
rising, she spoke in a whisper.

"I can hear his cries--_his_. I heard them last night, all night
long."

Mrs. Darling's heart leaped, as the saying runs, into her mouth. Was
_she_ going mad--was every one going mad?

"Listen! There it is again!"

"Charlotte, my dear child, you cannot be well this morning. These
troubles have unhinged you. When you----"

Mrs. Darling suddenly stopped, and began to feel a little "unhinged"
herself. There certainly was a sound within the room; a repetition of
faint whining or moaning.

"I knew they could never take him out of it!" whispered Mrs. St. John.
"Hark! But his cries were louder then."

Mrs. Darling looked at her. Could she be succumbing to superstitious
fears? Mrs. Darling hardly thought it possible, being herself so very
practical a woman, in contradistinction to an imaginative one. She no
more believed in ghosts than she did in the spirits recently become
fashionable: and she opened the nursery-door very gingerly and peeped
in.

It was the dog Brave. Poor Brave must have found his way into the room
on the previous day, on the removal of the coffin, and had been shut
in ever since. Not barking, not making any noise to attract attention,
simply sitting there under the trestles, whining and crying. There had
been some trouble with Brave since the death: he would find his way
into the corridor, and there howl and moan.

"See, Charlotte!" said Mrs. Darling, in reassuring tones. "Poor dumb
creature!"

Deeming it well that her daughter _should_ see, as the most effectual
antidote to any such fears as those alluded to above, she gently took
her arm to pull her forward. Charlotte drew back in sudden fear.

"I _can't_ look!" she gasped. "You dare not force me! Is he walking
about with the lighted church?"

"Oh, Charlotte, do, do just glance in! You are not yourself, I
see"--and poor Mrs. Darling looked as terrified as her, as _she_ was
looking at the door. "It is only poor Brave; he must have been shut in
here."

She threw the door open, went in, and drove out the dog. Mrs. St. John
stood against the wall as it passed her, carefully avoiding all sight
of the chamber. Her mood changed to anger when she saw Brave.

"I gave orders that he should not be allowed to enter the
house--that he should be kept chained up in the stables--sent
away--sold--anything. How dare they disobey me!"

Mrs. Darling put her daughter's arm within her own and led her to her
own chamber. "I will see that the dog does not annoy you again,
Charlotte. Lie on the sofa and keep yourself quiet: we shall be ready
to go in half-an-hour."

Closing the door on Charlotte, she proceeded to Honour's chamber at
the end of the passage. The girl was in bed, lying in all the
restlessness of delirium. Her head was turning from side to side, her
face was flushed, her speech rambled. Mrs. Darling involuntarily asked
herself whether the whinings of the dog through the night in the
adjoining chamber, which must have penetrated to Honour's ears, had
contributed to this increase of the malady.

No less than three maid-servants were posted round the bed, staring,
listening, whispering. The sound of Mrs. Darling's entrance seemed to
attract the attention of the patient, who looked momentarily towards
her; but the ominously-bright eyes evidently saw nothing: they turned
to the opposite wall, gazing, as it were, beyond it. The words that
escaped from her lips--not consecutively as they are about to be
written, but by fits and snatches--startled Mrs. Darling as few things
had ever startled her in all her life before. They were equivalent to
accusing her mistress of the _murder_ of her stepson.

"He was the heir, you see, sir," she said, addressing some imaginary
personage; "he was keeping her own flesh and blood out of the
inheritance. I saw all along that it was more than she could bear.
Don't you remember the scene that day when you came home from London,
and we took the two children to meet you in the park? You took up
Benja and carried him in, but the little one cried and we left him.
Don't you remember it, sir?--she struck Benja to the ground and
bruised him. _You_ said it was an accident, but I knew better. Oh,
sir, why did you leave him under her charge? Wasn't it as well to make
your will one way as the other?"

She was evidently in the past, and he whom she was addressing in
imagination, was her dead master.

"It was so easy to accomplish!" went on Honour, her head turning
faster than ever, but her eyes fixed as before. "It was only the
running up the stairs from the dining-room, where she was shut in, and
setting fire to him, and bolting the doors on his screams, and running
back again. Oh, why did you leave him to her? Didn't you remember that
he was keeping out Georgy? She says she never left the dining-room,
but don't you believe her. She _did_, and I can speak to it."

Mrs. Darling, who had been slowly gathering her presence of mind, and
could not do it all at once, turned her ashy countenance on the gaping
servants. Perhaps she hardly knew what to say, or how to treat the
ravings.

"It is a very bad case of brain fever," she said, striving to speak
with unconcern. "Her mind is quite gone, poor thing,"--as indeed it
was. "I had a governess once who suffered under an attack of the same.
She persisted that I had killed my youngest daughter, Miss Rose
Darling, and all the time the child was alive and well at her elbow.
The two cases seem precisely similar. Go down, will you? I think the
room ought to be kept quiet: and send one of the men instantly to
hasten Mr. Pym."

They filed out of the room in obedience, and Mrs. Darling sat down to
remain, thinking, poor woman, that her lines were hard just now. She
sat there until the doctor entered.

"Ah, ha," said he, "so the brain's touched in earnest. I thought it
would be so."

"She is quite deranged, Mr. Pym; she has been saying the strangest
things."

"What things?"

Mrs. Darling turned the question off "All sorts of nonsense," she
said, coughing. "Mr. Pym, I think I shall stop here and nurse her
myself. She is too ill to be left to servants."

"And let Mrs. St. John go alone?"

"I think I must. Prance will be with her, and she will have her child.
Perhaps in a few hours Honour may be better."

Mr. Pym had drawn nearer to the bed. Honour was wandering again; was
repeating again the same "nonsense," as Mrs. Darling had called it.
Alas! she must go on repeating it until some turn to the malady came.
The excited brain had its task to perform, and could only go over it,
over it, over it, until better moments should dawn. The surgeon
listened and heard as much as Mrs. Darling had heard.

"Yes," said he, "it may be as well that you should nurse her. Servants
are such gossips."

"Three of them were in, listening, just now. Mr. Pym, how is it that
these false notions take possession of an invalid's brain?" asked Mrs.
Darling.

Mr. Pym paused before he replied. "How is it that dreams take
possession of it?" he returned. "The girl has had an awful shock, and
the brain is suffering. The imagination is apt to be erratic at these
times, indulging in absurd and fantastic fancies."

"Very absurd and fantastic in this case!" pronounced Mrs. Darling.
"Well, I shall stay with her. It must be either myself or Prance."

"Prance won't do," said the surgeon. "She and Honour hate each other
like poison."

The plan was carried out. Mrs. St. John, her child, and Prance
departed for the cottage; Mrs. Darling remained at the Hall in
attendance on Honour; and Mr. Pym did hardly anything but dodge in
and out of it all day, walking to and from Alnwick at the pace of a
steam-engine. Honour was dangerously ill.

In the dusk of evening, when the house was quiet, and Mrs. Darling sat
by the bedside, her brain almost as busy as the one she was there to
guard, the thought arose to her that she would put at rest (as far as
it could be put to rest) a question that troubled her. In closing the
nursery-door quietly--as it had been represented the unfortunate child
did close it--would the bolt slip into its groove? Was it possible
that it could do so? Mrs. Darling had pondered the doubt that day more
than she would have cared to tell. Rising from her chair, she was
about to cross the room when some one came in.

"Who's that?" sharply called out Mrs. Darling, somewhat startled.

It was only one of the under-maids, bringing in some beef-tea in a
cup. "How quietly you must have come up!" exclaimed Mrs. Darling.

"I have list shoes on, ma'am," replied the girl.

She put down the cup and advanced on tiptoe to take a glance at
Honour. The fever still continued, the brain was still at work; but
just now the head was quiet.

"She seems a trifle better!" cried the girl.

"I fear not in mind," answered Mrs. Darling. "Her last fancy seems to
be that _she_ set fire to the child, and then ran away and left him."

"Poor creature! Well, so in a manner she did, ma'am, for it was
through her want of caution that it happened."

The girl gazed a few minutes and went down. Mrs. Darling--by
the way, was that last assertion of hers a true one or a flight of
fancy?--listened to the receding footsteps. She thought she heard them
come back again, those or others, but silence supervened, and she
concluded she was mistaken.

Now or never! She did want to try that door, and the opportunity
seemed favourable: for she would not for the whole world, no, nor for
ten worlds, suffer it to be known that any doubt could enter her mind,
or any one's mind, upon the point. Quitting Honour's room, she stepped
to the nursery-door, and there--paused.

What feeling came over Mrs. Darling at the moment she could never
afterwards tell. Had she been of a superstitious nature it might have
been accounted for; but she was not. Some feeling or impulse, however,
did cause her to walk away from the door without entering, and go on
to the dressing-room, intending to see if she could try the experiment
from that side. As she quitted it she could have declared she heard a
chair move within, only that she knew she must be mistaken.

She went with soft tread across the dressing-room carpet in the
twilight of the evening. The door stood half open; to her surprise;
for since the fatal night it had been kept rigidly shut. She was about
to pull it to, when it was closed from the other side, pretty smartly.
In her consternation she opened it at once, and--stood face to face
with Surgeon Pym. He had been trying the experiment on his own score.

Their eyes met; and it was curious to note the difference in the
demeanour of the two as they stood gazing at each other. Mrs. Darling,
agitated, nervous, almost terrified; the surgeon, collected, keen,
perfectly self-possessed. She tried to frame an excuse.

"I was going to look into the nursery, to see whether the servants
have set it to rights today. I fancy they have not."

"And I," said the surgeon, "was seeing whether the bolt would slip if
a person merely shut the door. I find it won't."


Honour Tritton's ravings, the effect of a diseased brain, ceased with
her recovery; and there remained with her no recollection whatever of
having uttered them, for Mr. Pym tested her on the point. With her
restoration to reason, Mrs. Darling was less confined, and she divided
her time between the Hall and the Cottage, but did not yet finally
quit the former. Mrs. Darling resolved to speak to her, and the
opportunity came. One evening when she was alone in the drawing-room,
Honour knocked at the door and came in. The girl looked the wreck of
her former self; thin, pale, shadowy, her black gown seemed much too
large for her, and the dark circles under her eyes were excessively
conspicuous on her naturally light skin.

"Could I speak to you for a few minutes, ma'am?" she asked.

"Yes," said Mrs. Darling, a feeling of nervousness arising within her
at the request. "You had better sit down, Honour; you are weak still."

Honour obeyed. She had come to speak of her own departure; to thank
Mrs. Darling for her care of her, and to say that the sooner she was
away now, the better. She thought of going on the following day, or
the day after, if Mrs. Darling would allow it.

Mrs. Darling heaved a sigh of relief, perhaps she could hardly tell
why or wherefore. "I did not think you were strong enough to go
anywhere yet. But as you please. Are you aware, Honour, what cruel
things you said of your mistress?" she resumed, in low tones.

Honour looked up in genuine surprise. "_I_ said cruel things, ma'am!
What did I say?"

"I hardly like to tell you what you said," replied Mrs. Darling. "You
accused her over and over again of having set fire to the child and
left him to burn to death. Were you to say such words in your right
senses, you might be in danger of transportation for speaking them."

Honour burst into tears. She had no recollection whatever of her
fault, and humbly begged pardon for it.

"Of course we do not look upon you as responsible for what you said,"
continued Mrs. Darling; "the ravings of a diseased mind go for
nothing. But they are not the less unpleasant to hear, and your
mistress feels enough grief from this matter without its being
unnecessarily added to. You, of all persons, should be careful not to
add to her sorrow. It was only this very day, when we were speaking of
Benja, that she fervently exclaimed, if her whole fortune could bring
him back to life, it should be given. There are moments"--Mrs. Darling
dropped her voice as though she were speaking to herself, rather than
to Honour--"when I have fancied she would sacrifice even George's
life, could that bring his brother back again. Believe me, she regrets
him as much as you can do."

Subdued, weak, humble, Honour could only give vent to excuses and
penitent tears. She had never really suspected her mistress, she said,
and, indeed, she had never suspected any one of her own good will; it
was her wicked thoughts that would rise up in spite of her. Not her
mistress, however; if she had indulged these thoughts, it was of
Prance. It was desperately wicked, she knew, but the boy's death
seemed to take her reason from her. She hoped Prance would not come to
hear of it; and for herself, she would never, never harbour such
fancies again.

So Honour left Alnwick Hall. She had to go first of all to Castle
Wafer, Mr. St. John having sent for her. The fact was, the occurrence
had made a most startling and unhappy impression on the master of
Castle Wafer. The account he had received of it was a very partial
one, and he naturally wished for correct details. When the summons
came, Honour had flung up her hands in a sort of terror. How should
she dare to meet Mr. Isaac St. John, and proclaim to him personally
her wicked carelessness? Mrs. Darling also had seemed much put out:
but there was no help for it, and she cautioned Honour.

"Take care," she gravely said, "that not a hint of those wicked and
foolish suspicions is dropped to Mr. St. John."

In anything but an enviable frame of mind, did Honour enter on the
interview with Mr. St. John at Castle Wafer. He sat on the sofa in his
own sitting-room, his back propped up with soft pillows, and Honour,
whom he invited to a seat, sat in her new mourning, and wept before
him. The first timidity over, she confessed the whole; made, as it
were, a clean breast of it, and told how her own thoughtlessness, in
leaving the child alone with the lighted toy, had been the cause of
the calamity. Mr. St. John was painfully interested in the little
coincidence she mentioned--that the first idea of the toy, the lighted
church, had been gathered at the fair that was being held the very day
he came to Alnwick. It was at this point that Honour burst into tears,
which she was quite unable to control.

However Mr. St. John might have been disposed to condemn the
carelessness, he could only feel compassion for the sufferer. She
should never know another truly happy moment, she sobbed, should never
cease to reproach herself as long as life should last. She gave
herself the whole blame; she said not a word of the old doubts; and
when Mr. St. John questioned her as to the fastening of the doors, she
declared that she could not tell herself how they had become fastened,
but mentioned the conclusion come to by the household and the coroner.
_They_ decided that the little boy had himself fastened the one; and
for the other, some thought it had never been fastened at all; only
she, Honour, had fancied it in her flurry; others thought it must have
bolted itself when the little boy shut it, and she could only suppose
that it did so bolt. She spoke of the great sorrow of her mistress, as
testified to by Mrs. Darling, and told how she had left the Hall
because she could not yet bear the sight of it: and not a whisper did
she breathe of the unseemly scene which had occurred on that memorable
afternoon. In short, it seemed that Honour was striving to make amends
for the harsh and unjustifiable words she had used of her mistress in
her delirium.

Mr. St. John inquired whether she was going back to the Hall. "Never,
never!" she answered; she should take service as far away from it as
possible, where folks would not point at her as having caused the
death of an innocent child. Not as a nurse--who would be likely to
trust her in that capacity now?--but as a house or laundry maid. A
moment's deliberation with himself, and then Mr. St. John offered her
a service in his own household. One of the housemaids was about to
leave to be married; if Honour would like the situation the
housekeeper should engage her.

Again burst forth the tears. Not suppressed sobs this time, but soft
tears of gratitude. For there was a tone of compassion in Mr. St.
John's voice that found its way to the heart of the unhappy woman;
_none_ had addressed such to her since that miserable day, the Eve of
St. Martin; and she could have been his slave in all reverence for
life. Thankfully did she accept the offered situation; and it was
decided with the housekeeper afterwards that she should enter upon it
in a month's time, when both health and spirits might be somewhat
renewed.

Before the first week of that month had elapsed, Mr. St. John made an
effort, and went over to Alnwick. In his courteous sympathy he deemed
that a visit was due to Mrs. Carleton St. John; the more especially
that he had not been able to make it at the time, or to attend the
funeral. There were also certain little matters of business to be
mentioned to her, now that George was the heir, to whom he was also
guardian; but without any of the additional power vested in him, as it
had been in regard to Benja.

He went this time by rail. Brumm said so much of the additional length
of the journey by road in his master's present weak state, that Mr.
St. John yielded for once, and a compartment was engaged, where he
would be alone, with Brumm to attend upon him. On arriving at Alnwick,
they found Mrs. Carleton St. John was still at her mother's cottage;
and to the cottage Isaac went.

Had he arrived only a day later, he would not have seen her whom he
came to see. Mrs. Carleton St. John was on the wing. She was starting
for Scarborough that very evening, as Mrs. Darling sharply expressed
it, as if the travelling by night did not meet her approbation; but
she had allowed Charlotte to have her own way as a child, she
whispered to Mr. St. John, and Charlotte chose to have it still.

What struck Mr. St. John more than anything else in this visit, was
the exceeding _stillness_ that seemed to pervade Mrs. Carleton St.
John. She sat in utter quietness, her hands clasped on her knee, her
black dress falling around her slender form in soft folds, the white
crape lappets of her cap thrown behind. The expression of her bent
face was still, almost to apathy; her manner and voice were subdued.
So young and pretty did she look in her grief, that Mr. St. John's
heart went out to her in compassion. He saw a slight shiver pass
through her frame when she first spoke of Benja: she _grieved_ for
him, she murmured; and she told the tale of how she had struck him
that fatal afternoon--oh, if she could only recall that! it weighed so
heavily upon her. Oh, if she could--if she could--and Mr. St. John
saw the fervour with which the wish was aspirated, the drawn lines
about the pretty but haggard mouth, the hands lifted for once and
clasped to pain--if she could only recall him back to life!

She wanted change, she said; she was going to Scarborough. George did
not seem to grow strong again, and she thought it might do him good;
he was fractious and ailing, and perpetually crying for Benja. Mamma
was angry at her travelling by night, but no one but herself knew how
long and tedious her nights were; she seemed to be always seeing
Benja. When she went to sleep she dreamt he was alive again, and to
awake up from that to the reality was more cruel than all.

Isaac St. John, as he sat and listened to the plaintive voice, pitied
her beyond everything. There had not been wanting people, even within
his small sphere of daily life, to comment on the gratification it
must be to Mrs. Carleton St. John (apart from the loss of the child
and its peculiar horror) to see her own son the inheritor. Isaac St.
John resentfully wished they could see her and hear her now. He
acquiesced in the expediency of change, both for herself and the
child, and warmly urged her to exchange Scarborough for Castle Wafer.
His stepmother, Mrs. St. John, was there, and they would make her so
much more comfortable than she could be at any watering-place. But he
urged in vain. She thanked him for his kindness, saying she would
prefer to go to Scarborough now, but would keep his invitation for a
future opportunity.

To the business matters she declined to listen. If it was at all
necessary that he should discuss them, let it be with her mamma; or
perhaps with Mr. Drake the lawyer. Mr. Drake knew all about
everything, she supposed; and he would attend on Mr. St. John if
requested.

So, after a two hours' sojourn at the cottage, Isaac St. John quitted
it, and the following day he returned to Castle Wafer. He had not
mentioned that Honour was about to enter on service at Castle Wafer.
Upon Honour's name occurring in conversation in connection with the
accident on St. Martin's Eve, Mrs. Carleton St. John had shown
symptoms of excitement: she wished Honour had died, she said, before
she had wrought such ill: and Isaac, perhaps feeling rather ashamed to
confess that his household was going to shelter her, let the subject
drop.

Mrs. St. John and the child started for Scarborough, Prance and three
or four other servants in attendance upon her. Not Mrs. Darling. The
younger lady had civilly but firmly declined her mother's
companionship. She would rather be alone, she said, and Mrs. Darling
yielded--as she had done all through Charlotte's life.

But it appeared that Scarborough did not please her. She had been in
it little more than a week, when Mrs. Darling heard that she had gone
to some place in Westmoreland. From thence, after another short
sojourn, she made her way to Dover. It was getting close to Christmas
then, and Mrs. Darling, feeling an uneasiness she could not well
define, hastened to her, under the pretext of accompanying her home.
She found Charlotte anything but benefited by her travellings, if
looks might be trusted, for she was more thin, more wan, more haggard
than before; and George was ill still.

Whether George St. John had eaten too much at that memorable birthday
dinner, or whether the shock and horror of seeing Benja, as he had
seen him, was telling upon his system, certain it was the child had
declined from that night. Mr. Pym had treated him for indigestion, and
he seemed a little better for a few days, but the improvement did not
continue. Never again was he the merry boy he had been: fractious,
irritable, and mourning incessantly for Benja; his spirits failed, his
appetite would not return. _He_ had not derived benefit from the
change of scene any more than his mother, and that, Mrs. Darling on
her arrival saw.

"What can be the matter with him?" was the first question Mrs. St.
John addressed to her mother, and the anxiety visible in the wild eyes
alarmed Mrs. Darling.

"Charlotte, calm yourself, my dear; indeed there is no cause for
uneasiness. I think you have moved him about too much; children want
repose at times as well as we do. The quiet of the Hall and Mr. Pym's
care will soon bring him round. We will go back at once."

"I am not going back to the Hall," said Charlotte.

"Not going back!" repeated Mrs. Darling.

"Not at present."

"My dear Charlotte, you must go back. How is the Hall to get on at
Christmas without you?"

"Must?" significantly returned Charlotte. "I am my own mistress;
accountable to none."

"Of course, my love; of course. But, Charlotte"--and Mrs. Darling
seemed unduly anxious--"it is right that you should spend Christmas
there. Georgy is the heir now."

"He is the possessor," said Charlotte, calmly. "He is the possessor of
Alnwick, he will be the inheritor of more; he will be Sir George
Carleton St. John--as his father would have been had he but lived."

"Yes," said Mrs. Darling, stealing a side glance at her daughter, who
was resting her cheek upon her slender fingers, her gaze fixed
upwards.

"But, mamma, I wish now it were Benja; I wish Georgy was as he used to
be. I think a complete change of scene may do him good," she added
after a pause, "and I shall take him abroad: immediately: for perhaps
a year."

Mrs. Darling stood aghast. "But, what's to become of the Hall? what's
to be done with it?"

"Anything," was the indifferent reply. "It is mine to do what I choose
with--that is, it's Georgy's--and who is to question me? Live in it
yourself, if you like; let it; leave servants in it; I don't care.
Georgy is my only care now, mamma, and I shall take him abroad to get
him strong."

Yes, Alnwick Hall and its broad acres were George's now, but they did
not seem to have brought pleasure in their train. Was it that the
almost invariable law of nature was obtaining in this case, and the
apples, _coveted_, proved bitter ashes in possession? Charlotte St.
John looked back to the days and nights of warfare with existing
things, to the rebellion of her own spirit at her child's secondary
position, to the vain, ardent longing that he should be the heir and
supplant Benja. Well, she had her wish. But where was the pleasure she
had looked forward to as in a vision, where the triumph? It had not
come; it seemed to have vanished utterly and outwardly, even as had
poor Benja. What was, what could be, the cause for this?

She crossed over at once to the Continent, hoping there to find relief
for the new ailments of Georgy as for her own worn spirits; and Mrs.
Darling went back to her cottage in dudgeon, and then took wing to her
mother's to spend Christmas. And servants alone reigned at Alnwick
Hall.



CHAPTER XVIII.
ADELINE DE CASTELLA.


Christmas came for other lands, just as surely as it did for England;
and the young ladies of Madame de Nino's finishing establishment at
Belport were gathered round the schoolroom stove on that festal
morning. Rose Darling taking the best place as usual; and also, as
usual, swaying all minds to her own imperious will. Rose was in a vile
humour; believing herself to be the worst-used mortal in the world.
She had fully reckoned on going home for Christmas--or at least into
Berkshire; and Mrs. Darling's excuses about the uncertainty of her own
movements only angered her the more.

"Don't bother here about your privileges and advantages!" she
wrathfully exclaimed, elbowing the girls away from her, and tossing
back her shower of golden curls. "What do the French know about
keeping Christmas? France is a hundred years behind England in
civilization, just as the French girls are behind us."

"Well done, Rose!" cried Adeline de Castella.

"Adeline excepted, of course," went on Rose, addressing no one in
particular. "Why, the French don't know as much as the use of the
mistletoe!--and our friends send us here to be trained and educated!
No Christmas! no holidays--except a month in autumn, which you are not
expected to take! It is a pernicious country; an unnatural state of
things; and the British government ought to interfere and forbid the
schools to receive English girls."

"But don't the French keep Christmas?" asked a new girl, and a very
stupid one, Grace Lucas.

"Bah!" ejaculated Rose. "As if they kept anything except the Jour de
l'An!"

"The what?" timidly asked Grace Lucas.

"Qu'elle est bête!" cried Rose in her careless manner.

"Have some consideration, Rose," spoke Adeline in French.

"Why, she has heard it fifty times!" retorted Rose in English.

"Every one is not so apt as you."

"Apt at what?" asked Rose fiercely, a glowing colour rising to her
face. Since the episode connected with Mr. Marlborough, Rose's
conscience was prone to conjure up hidden sarcasm in every sentence
addressed to her.

"I meant at picking up French," laughed Adeline. "What else should I
mean?"

"Oh, thank you," chafed Rose. "I understand."

"Don't be cross, Rose. Have I not elected to spend my Christmas here,
with you all? You show me no gratitude."

"_You_ can afford to laugh--and to make a merit of stopping here,"
retorted Rose. "When in seven days from this you leave for good!"

"If Rose could only change places with you!" interrupted Mary Carr.

"Speak for yourself, if you please, Mary Carr," was Rose's fiery
answer: "who wants to change places with her? But, Adeline, I do envy
you the balls and gaiety between now and Carême."

The Castella family must not be classed with the ordinary run of
people frequenting Belport. Monsieur de Castella--in his own family
chiefly called Signor de Castella--was descended from a noble Spanish
family on the paternal side; his mother had been a proud and well-born
Italian. His usual place of residence was Paris. But some years
previous to this present time, symptoms of delicacy became apparent in
Adeline; the medical men strongly recommended the seaside, and she was
brought to Belport. It appeared to agree with her so well, so
establish her health and strength, that Monsieur de Castella took on
lease one of the handsomest and largest houses in the town. Sometimes
he had to make long absences in Paris, in Spain, and in Italy; Madame
de Castella always accompanied him, and Adeline would then be left at
Madame de Nino's. This winter would probably be their last in Belport;
the summer was to be spent at the French château of Madame de
Castella's mother, an English lady by birth; and after that they
intended to resume their residence in Paris. They were very wealthy,
highly connected and considered, and Adeline was their only child.
There had been an elder girl, Maria, but she died: and this made
Adeline all the more precious to them. As you read on, you will know
her better--and love her.

She was now about to be introduced to the world. New Year's Day was
her birthday, when she would be eighteen; and I dare say you are aware
that it is about the greatest fête the French keep, always excepting
All Saints' Day. Madame de Castella had issued cards for an assembly
in the evening, and Adeline was to be introduced. The schoolgirls
called it Adeline's inauguration ball.

Amidst other hidden secrets, sedulously guarded from the teachers,
Madame de Nino's pupils were in possession of a pack of what they
called fortune-telling cards. They were not playing cards, but thin,
small, transparent squares, made from the leaf of the sensitive-plant.
On each square was a carefully painted flower, purporting to be an
emblem. Rose, happy love; cross-of-Jerusalem, sorrow; snowdrop,
purity; bachelor's-button, vanity; hyacinth, death; and so on. Three
or four of these squares were placed on the palm of the hand, the
flowers downwards, so that one square could not be distinguished from
another. They would in most cases curl slightly and leap from the
hand; but should any one adhere to it, it was deemed a proof of
affinity with the owner, a foreshadowing of her fate to come. For
instance: if it were the cross-of-Jerusalem that remained, the holder
was pronounced to be destined to sorrow; if the bachelor's-button, the
girl's life was to be passed in vanity. It was at the best but a silly
pastime, meet only for those silly girls; but there are of those
schoolgirls who, to this hour, would confess to a superstitious belief
in them, unexplainable alike to themselves and to any known law of
reason. Else why, they would ask, should one particular leaf have
clung always to Adeline de Castella, and been so singularly
exemplified in her destiny? That it did cling to her is a fact:
otherwise, I should never have thought of noticing any pastime so
puerile.

The first time these cards were tried, the girls were in their room,
supposed to be in bed. Mam'selle Fifine had gone down with the light,
and Rose had lighted one of her large wax tapers, which she kept
locked up from prying eyes. Adeline had both her hands stretched out,
three squares on each. Five of the squares rolled off quickly, more
quickly than usual; the sixth slightly fluttered, and then settled
down, quiet and passive on her palm. Janet Duff took it up at length,
but dropped it again as one startled.

"Oh! it is bad!" she said, in a whisper.

Mary Carr turned the square. It was a French marigold.

"'French marigold: unhappy love; its end possible death,'" read Janet
Duff from the explanations. "It is about the worst in the pack."

Some of the girls shivered--that dortoir was always cold. Adeline
laughed merrily. "It is only nonsense," she said: and she spoke as she
thought.

And the singular part was, that Adeline de Castella had tried those
cards since, a dozen times at least; and this ill-omened French
marigold had always clung to her whenever it was of those placed on
her hand. The hyacinth had been dreaded so much from the first, that
Janet Duff took it out of the pack. And the French marigold, so far as
was seen, never rested on any other hand than Adeline de Castella's.

"It is certainly singular," mused Adeline, when she tried her fate at
the cards for the last time before leaving school, and the French
marigold clung to her as usual.

New Year's Day came in: and with its evening a clash of many
carriages, impatient horses, and quarrelsome coachmen filled the
streets, for the gay world of Belport was flocking to the house of
Signor de Castella.

It was a brilliant scene, those reception-rooms, brilliant with their
blaze of light and their exotics. Adeline de Castella stood by her
mother. The guests had known and thought of her but as a plainly
attired, simple schoolgirl, and were not prepared to recognize her as
she stood before them in her costly attire and wondrous beauty. Her
robes of white lace, flowing and elegant, sparkled with emeralds;
single chains of emeralds encircled her neck, her arms, and confined
in their place the waves of her silken hair; lustrous emeralds,
heirlooms of the ancient family of de Castella. Her features, pure and
regular as if chiselled from marble, were glowing with the crimson
flush of excitement, rendering more conspicuous her excessive
loveliness.

"Oh, Adeline," whispered Mary Carr, when she could steal a few words
with her, "how beautiful you are!"

"What! have you turned flatterer too!"

"Flattery---to _you!_ How mistaken they were tonight, when they
supposed Rose would outshine all! If they could only see you now!"

Miss Carr brought her words and her breath to a standstill, for,
coming in at the door were Mr. and Mrs. Marlborough.

"Yes," said Adeline, answering her exclamation of astonishment; "mamma
met them today, just as they arrived from Paris, and made them
promise to look in tonight. They are on their road to England. Lord
John Seymour is with them."

"What will Rose say?" ejaculated Mary Carr.

Mr. and Mrs. Marlborough, Adeline, and others were standing together
when Rose came up. Rose was not aware in whose presence she was, till
she stood face to face with George Marlborough. A random remark she
had been about to make to Adeline died upon her lips, and her face
turned white. Eleanor was crimson; and there might have been an
awkward pause, but for the readiness of Mr. Marlborough.

"How do you do, Miss Darling?" he said, with a pleasant smile. "Nearly
frozen up with this winter cold? It has been very severe in Paris."

Rose recalled her scattered senses, and began to talk with him at
random: but she barely exchanged courtesies with Eleanor.

"Ellen," whispered Mr. Marlborough to his wife, later in the evening,
"may I dance a quadrille with her?"

"How silly!--to ask me that! I think it is the best thing you can do."
But there was a shy, conscious blush on Mrs. Marlborough's cheek, as
she answered. Her husband saw it, and went off laughing, and the next
minute Rose was dancing with him.

"Which of my presents do you admire most?" asked Adeline of Mary Carr,
directing her attention to an extensive display of articles ranged
together in the card-room: all offerings to her that day from friends
and relatives, according to French custom on New Year's Day.

"What a lovely little clock in miniature!" exclaimed Rose looking over
Mary's shoulder.

"It is a real clock," said Adeline, "it plays the chimes at the hours,
and those are real diamonds. My grandmamma always said she should give
me something worth keeping on my eighteenth birthday, and she sent me
this. I am so sorry she was not well enough to come to us for
tonight! Stay, I will touch the spring."

As Adeline raised her right hand hastily, anxious that Rose and Mary
Carr should hear the melodious chimes of this ingenious ornament, the
chains of her emerald bracelet caught in the button of a gentleman's
coat, who made one of the group pressing round her. With a slight jerk
she disentangled the chain, but it brought away with it a flower he
had held in his hand. _It was a French marigold!_

The brilliant hue deepened upon Adeline's cheek as she looked at the
flower. She turned and held it out to the owner.

He was a stranger, a young and most distinguished-looking man,
possessing in no common degree that air of true nobility which can
neither be concealed nor assumed. His countenance was one of rare
beauty, and his eyes were bent with a pleasant earnest expression of
admiration upon Adeline. _You_ have met him before, reader, but
Adeline had not.

She addressed an apology to him, as she restored the flower, speaking
intuitively in English: it required not an introduction to know that
that tall, high-bred man was no Frenchman. He was answering a few
words of gallantry, as he received it--that the fair hand it had been
in invested the flower with an extrinsic interest--when M. de Castella
came into the circle, an aged man by his side.

"Adeline," he said to his daughter, "have you forgotten your old
friend, the Baron de la Chasse?"

With an exclamation of pleasure, Adeline held out her hand. She had
been so much with the English, that she had fully acquired their habit
of hand-shaking. The old baron did not seem to understand her, but he
took her hand and placed it within his arm. They moved away, and there
was a general breaking up of the group.

"Lottie Singleton," began Rose, "do you know who that handsome man
is?"

"Handsome!" returned Miss Singleton. "Everybody's handsome with you. I
call him old and ugly."

"I don't mean the French baron. That distinguished-looking Englishman
with the marigold."

"He! I know nothing of him. He came in with the Maxwells. I saw Sir
Sandy introduce him to Madame de Castella."

"Where could he have found that French marigold at this season of the
year?" wondered Rose.

"Oh, Miss Maxwell has all sorts of odd flowers in that box of hers,
four feet square, which she calls her conservatory," returned the
archdeacon's daughter. "He must have found it there."

"Lord John," cried Rose, summarily arresting Lord John Seymour, who
was passing, and whom she had never seen but once in her life, and
that months before, "who is that handsome man I saw you talking with
just now?"

"It is my cousin's husband, Miss Darling," lisped Lord John, who had
an impediment in his speech. "Young Marlborough."

"I don't speak of _him_," cried Rose, impatiently, an association
dyeing her cheeks. "A tall, pale man, features very refined."

"You must mean St. John."

"Who?" repeated Rose.

"Frederick St. John. Brother to St. John of Castle Wafer."

Rose Darling drew a deep breath in her utter astonishment. "And so
that's Frederick St. John! I have heard of him and his beauty."

"He is handsome," assented Lord John, "and he's more pleasing than
handsome. Fred St. John's one of the best fellows going. We were
together at Christchurch."

"Is he staying at Belport?"

"Only passing through, he tells me. He has been dining at the
Maxwells' and they brought him here this evening."

"I wish you'd introduce him to me."

("Well done, Rose," thought Mary Carr, who was near.)

"With pleasure," replied Lord John: and he offered his arm to Rose.

"No," said Rose, in her changeable, capricious, but most attractive
manner, withdrawing her own as soon as she had taken it, "I think I'll
go up to him myself. We are relatives, you know."

"Indeed!" said Lord John.

"Connections, at any rate," concluded Rose.

She chose a moment when Mr. St. John was alone, and approached him.
Beginning the self-introduction by holding out her hand. Mr. St. John
looked surprised.

"You don't know me," said Rose. "Lord John Seymour offered to
introduce you to me, but I said it was not needed between relatives. I
have heard a great deal of Frederick St. John: we are cousins in a
degree, you know. I am Rose Darling."

The name did not recall any association to Mr. St. John. He stood
smiling on the bright girl before him, with her sunny blue eyes and
her mass of golden hair.

"You forget, I see, and I must be more explanatory. My half-sister,
Charlotte Norris, married Mr. Carleton St. John. Mamma saw you
recently at Alnwick Hall. My brother Frank was there."

His answer was to take both Rose's hands into his, as an apology for
his stupidity, and assure her that he was proud and pleased to find
such a cousin. Rose remained talking to him.

"What a dreadful thing it was, that little boy's death!" she
exclaimed. "I had heard of him often; little Benja St. John! And to be
burnt to death!--oh, it was terrible! Who was in fault?"

"The nurse. She left him alone with a paper toy that had a lighted
candle within it, and by some means he set himself on fire. It was at
his funeral that I met Captain Darling."

"So much about the accident, mamma has told me in her letters; but
particulars she has given none," said Rose. "It is too shocking a
thing to write about, she says. Poor little fellow! I wish he had been
saved. What do you think of Charlotte?"

"Of Mrs. Carleton St. John? I never saw her. She did not appear the
day of the funeral. The child's sad death has had a great effect upon
her, I hear; both on her health and spirits. She has left the Hall for
a time, and is travelling."

"_I_ know that," returned Rose with emphasis, in which there was a
world of resentment. "Charlotte has been whirling about from place to
place like a troubled spirit. It has kept mamma in a most unsettled
state, and prevented her having me over for Christmas. I was so mad
when I found I was not to go home! Such a shame, you know, keeping me
at school! I shall be nineteen next birthday. We have had to give way
to Charlotte all our lives."

Mr. St. John smiled on the pretty, pouting, rebellious face. "I fear
your sister has been grievously shocked by the death," he said.
"Change of scene may be absolutely requisite for her."

"Well then, all I can say is, that it is most unusual, for it is not
in Charlotte's nature to be much affected by any earthly thing. She is
apathetic to a degree. Of course, she could not help being shocked and
grieved at the death; but I _don't_ understand its making this lasting
impression on her and affecting her health, as mamma says it does. And
now that her son is the heir--you are thinking me hard and cruel to
say such things, Mr. St. John," broke off Rose, "but you don't know
Charlotte as I do. I am certain that the succession of her own child,
George, has been to her a long day-dream, not the less cherished from
its apparent impossibility."

"I think you don't regard your sister with any great degree of
affection, Miss Darling," Mr. St. John ventured to say, smiling on her
still.

"I don't, and that's the truth," candidly avowed Rose. "If you only
knew how mamma has made us bend to Charlotte and her imperious will
all our lives, you wouldn't wonder at me. I was the only one who
rebelled; I _would not_; and to tell you a secret, I believe that's
why mamma sent me to school."

The strains of music warned Mr. St. John that he must listen to no
more; and, as Rose was herself led away, she saw him dancing with
Adeline. He was with her a great deal during the rest of the evening.

"The play has begun, Adeline," whispered Rose when she and Mary Carr
were leaving.

"What play?"

"You are already taken with this new stranger: I can see it in your
countenance: and he with you. What think you of the episode of the
French marigold? Rely upon it, that man, Frederick St. John, will
exercise some powerful influence over your future life."

"Oh Rose, Rose!" remonstrated Adeline, her lips parting with
merriment, "we are not all so susceptible to 'influence' as you."

"We must all fall under it once in our lives," rejoined Rose,
unheeding the reproof. "Don't forget my counsel to you here after,
Adeline. Beware of this stranger: the French marigold is an emblem of
unhappy love."

Adeline de Castella laughed: a slighting, careless, triumphant laugh
of disbelief: laughed aloud in her pride and power, as she quitted
Rose Darling's side, on her way to play her brilliant part in the
crowd around her. It was spring-time with her then.

There was a singular fascination attaching to her, this child of many
lands. It is no fable to call her such. England, France, Spain, Italy;
it was singular that she should be, through her grandparents, a
descendant of all. But her nature was essentially English. Her rare
beauty of form and feature is seldom found united with brilliancy of
complexion, as it was in her, save in the patrician daughters of our
own land: and the retiring, modest sweetness of her manners, their
graceful self-possession, were English to the core. A stranger could
have taken her to belong to no other country, and her perfect
knowledge of the language, the absence of all foreign accent, would
contribute to the delusion. She had been familiar with it from her
infancy: Madame de Castella, speaking it herself as a native, took
care of that. She had placed English nurses about her children; and
subsequently an English governess, a lady of good birth and breeding
but fallen fortunes, had taken charge of them until Maria de
Castella's death. It was from this lady that Adeline especially learnt
to appreciate and love the English character; insensibly to herself,
her own was formed after the model. In short, Adeline de Castella, in
spite of her name and her mixed birth, was an English girl.

A month or two rolled away. Adeline de Castella paid an occasional
visit to her old schoolfellows at Madame de Nino's; but her time was
taken up with a continuous scene of gaiety and visiting. Balls,
theatres, _soirées_--never was she in bed before two or three o'clock
in the morning, and sometimes it was later than that. Madame de
Castella, still a young woman in every sense of the word, lived but
for the world. The schoolgirls noticed that Adeline wore a pale,
wearied look, and one afternoon that she came in, she coughed
frightfully.

"That's like a consumptive cough!" exclaimed Rose, with her usual want
of consideration.

"I have coughed a great deal lately," observed Adeline; "and coming in
from the cold air to the atmosphere of your stifling stove, has
brought it on now."

No one, however, thought anything serious of the cough, or the
weariness. But that time was to come.

It was Ash-Wednesday: and Mary Carr was invited to spend the day at
Signor de Castella's. Madame de Castella had given a fancy-dress ball
the previous Monday night, _Lundi gras_. Rose and Mary had been
invited to it, but Madame de Nino refused the invitation for them,
point-blank, which nearly drove Rose wild with exasperation. After
church, one of the servants attended Miss Carr to Madame de
Castella's--for I suppose you know that in France a young unmarried
lady never goes out alone.

The house seemed to be in some extraordinary commotion. Servants ran
hither and thither with a look of consternation on their faces, and
Madame de Castella, when Mary reached her presence, was walking about
in her dressing-gown, sobbing hysterically, her breakfast cold and
untouched at her side, and her maid, Susanne, standing by her.

"What is the matter?" cried Mary, in terror.

"Oh, it is dreadful!" ejaculated Susanne, by way of answer. "Unhappy
Mademoiselle Adeline!"

"She is dying!" sobbed Madame de Castella. "My darling child! my only
child! She is dying, and I am the cause. Heaven forgive me!"

"Oh, Susanne!" exclaimed Miss Carr, turning to the maid, "what is it
all?"

Susanne and Madame explained between them, both weeping, the latter
violently.

They were engaged, on the previous night, _Mardi gras_, to "assist" at
the crowning ball of the Carnival; but when it became time to dress,
Adeline felt so ill and weary that she gave up the task in despair.
Madame de Castella urged her to exert herself and shake the illness
off, but the Signor interfered, and said Adeline had better go to bed.
And to bed she went, at nine o'clock. Madame departed at ten for the
ball, but came home before twelve, anxious about Adeline. She went
into the latter's bedroom, and found her coughing violently, with
every appearance of serious illness upon her. Adeline could say
nothing, except that she had coughed like that for many nights.
Terror-stricken, the unhappy lady alarmed the household, and the
medical attendant was sent for. He came at once, aroused out of his
slumbers.

He thought consumption had set its seal upon Adeline. The seeds of it
were, no doubt, inherent in her constitution, though hitherto
unsuspected, and the gay scenes she had indulged in, that winter, had
brought them forth: the exposures to the night air, to heat and cold,
the thin dresses, the fatigue, and the broken rest. He did not say she
would not be restored to health; but he wished for a consultation.

So, when the early hours gave place to day, the faculty were called
together, both French and English. They said just what the family
doctor had said, and no more.

"I suppose I may not ask to see Adeline," said Mary Carr, when she had
learnt these particulars.

"Not for the world," interposed the lady's-maid. "Perfect quiet is
ordered. Mademoiselle has now a blister on her chest, and a sick-nurse
is with her."

But, just then, Louise, Adeline's maid, came into the room, with her
young lady's love to Miss Carr, and an inquiry why she was so long
going up to see her.

"There!" sobbed Madame de Castella, "they have told her you are here.
Just go to her for five minutes. I rely upon you not to stay longer."

Mary Carr followed Louise into Adeline's room, and went on tiptoe to
her bedside. The tears came into her eyes when she saw her lying
there, so pale and wan.

"So their fears have infected you, Mary!" was her salutation, as she
looked up from the pillow, and smiled. "Is it not a ridiculous piece
of business altogether? As if no one ever had a cough before! Do you
know we had half-a-dozen doctors here today?"

"Susanne said there had been a consultation."

"Yes, I could scarcely help laughing. I told them all it was very
ridiculous: that beyond the cough, which is nothing, and a little
fatigue from the pain in my side, I was no more ill than they were.
Dr. Dorré said it was his opinion also, and that I should outlive them
all yet."

"I hope and trust you will, Adeline! Is that the nurse?"

"A sick-nurse they have sent in. She is English, and accustomed to the
disease. Her name's Brayford. You know consumption is common enough in
your island."

Mary Carr thought then--thinks still--that it was a grievous error,
their suffering Adeline to know the nature of the disease they
dreaded. It was Madame de Castella who betrayed it, in her grief and
excitement.

"There is so much more fuss being made than is necessary," resumed
Adeline. "They have put a blister on my chest, and I am to lie in bed,
and live upon slops. I dislike slops."

"Is your appetite good?" asked Mary.

"I have not any appetite," was Adeline's reply. "But in illness we
fancy many things, and Louise would have brought me up anything I
asked for. There's no chance of it, with this nurse here. She seems
tiresomely particular, and determined to obey orders to the letter. I
asked her, just before you came in, for some wine-and-water, I almost
payed for it, I was so painfully thirsty. I could have coveted that
three-sous beer some of the English girls at school are so fond of."

"Did she let you have it?"

"No. She told me she would not give me a drop of wine if I paid
her for it in gold. I cried about it, I was so disappointed and
thirsty. What with the flurry and excitement there has been all the
morning, and,--papa and mamma's anxiety, my spirits were low, and I
actually cried. But she would not give it me. She brought me some
toast-and-water, and said she was going to make me something nice,
better than wine. There she is, coddling at it over the fire--very
nice I dare say it _is!_"

Mrs. Brayford came forward, and whispered Miss Carr to take her leave.
Talking was bad for Mademoiselle de Castella.

"Farewell, dearest Adeline! I shall soon come to see you again. I know
I shall find you better."

She was halfway across the room when Adeline called to her. The
nurse, who was again leaning over her saucepan, looked up, a
remonstrance in her eye if not on her tongue, but Miss Carr returned.

"Mary," she whispered, "go in to mamma, assure her, _convince_ her,
that I am not so ill as she fears: that it is her love for me which
has magnified the danger."

"Oh, it's nothing," cried Rose Darling, slightingly, when Miss Carr
carried the tale of Adeline's illness back to school. "She will soon
be well."

"Or die," said Mary Carr.

"Die! You are as absurd as the French doctors, Mary. As if people died
of a little night visiting! I wish they would let _me_ run the risk!"

"If you had seen the house today, and Madame de Castella----"

"I am glad I did not," interrupted Rose; "such scenes are not to my
taste. And nothing at all to judge by. The French are always in
extremes--ecstasies or despair. So much the better for them. They feel
the less."

"That is a harsh remark, if intended to apply to Madame de Castella,"
observed Miss Carr. "More intense grief I never care to witness."

"No doubt. As intense as it is in her nature to feel; and shown as the
French always do show it, in ravings and hysterics. But I can tell you
one thing, Mary Carr, that the only grief to be feared, that which
eats into the heart, and tells upon it, is borne in silence!"

What a remark from Rose Darling!


Adeline de Castella grew gradually better; apparently quite well. But
the cold winds and frosts of winter continued that year very late,
even to the end of April, and for all that period she was kept a close
prisoner to the house. The medical men recommended that she should
spend the following winter in a warmer climate. It was therefore
decided that the summer should be passed at the Château de Beaufoy, as
had been previously agreed upon, and, with the autumn, they would go
south.

A new rumour reached the schoolgirls--that Adeline was about to be
married. It was brought to them by Madéleine de Gassicourt, and her
friends were intimate with the Castellas.

That was a singular year, so far as weather went. Frost and snow,
drizzling rain, bleak and biting winds, alternated with each other to
the beginning of May: there had been no spring; but, with that month,
May, there came in summer. It was hotter than it often is in July. And
this hot weather lasted for several months.

It was the second day of this premature summer, and the usual Thursday
holiday at Madame de Nino's. The girls were in the inner court,
Rose in a furious state of indignation, and ready to quarrel with
every one, because she had not been fetched out, when the roll of
carriage-wheels was heard, and they peeped through a slit in the great
wooden door so as to get a glimpse of the gate of the outer courtyard.

Springing down the steps of the carriage, came Adeline de Castella,
followed by her mother. A shout of delight arose, excited fingers
pushed back the great lock, and a group burst into the outer
courtyard. Adeline ran towards them, as delighted as they were. Madame
de Castella, with an amused laugh and a pleasant word, passed on to
the apartments of Madame de Nino, and Mademoiselle Henriette ordered
forth Julie, and had the door double-locked.

Adeline looked infinitely beautiful: for though the face had little
more colour in it than there is in Parian marble, the features
retained all their exquisite contour, the flowing hair its silky
waves, the dark-brown, lustrous eyes their sweet and sad expression.
In the midst of Adeline de Castella's brilliant loveliness, there was,
and always had been, a peculiar expression of sadness pervading her
countenance. It never failed to strike on the notice of the beholder,
investing such a face as hers with a singular interest, but it was
more than usually observable since her illness. Was it that the
unearthly part of her, the spirit, conscious of and mourning for what
was in store for her, cast its shadow upon her features? The girls
crowded round silently to look at Adeline's teeth, for one day, during
the time she lay ill, Charlotte Singleton had said that the
transparent teeth of Adeline de Castella were an indication of a
consumptive tendency, and the girls could not agree amongst themselves
whether they were so very transparent.

"So I have come to see you at last," began Adeline, as she sat down
with her two friends, Rose and Mary, on the bench outside the
schoolroom windows. "What hot weather has come in all at once!"

"Adeline, how long your illness has been! We heard you were going to
Nice."

"Not until autumn. And I don't know whether it will be Nice."

"There's Julie!" cried Rose, springing up. "Julie, who's fetched?"

"Pas vous, mademoiselle," answered the servant, laughing at Rose's
anxiety.

"Ah bah! Adeline, we have heard something else. Ah! you know what I
mean. Is it true?"

"I believe it is," she answered, a faint blush upon her face, and a
careless smile.

"Is he handsome?" continued Rose. Of course the first thought that
would arise to _her_.

"I have never seen him."

"Oh, Adeline!" uttered Mary Carr, involuntarily, whilst Rose stared
with unqualified amazement.

"Not yet. He comes from Paris this week to pay us a visit."

"Who is he?"

"The Baron de la Chasse. Do you recollect seeing, on my ball night, an
old gentleman who remained most of the evening by the side of papa?"

"Yes. Well?" answered Rose, impatiently.

"It seems he made overtures then to papa for my hand, though I did not
know it, and----"

"It is a sin, an unholy thing, to sacrifice you to an old man!"
interrupted Mary Carr, starting up in her sharp disappointment. "Why,
his sands of life must be well-nigh run out!"

"A moment, Mary," rejoined Adeline, calmly laying her hand upon Miss
Carr's arm: "who is hasty now? That old man's sands are run out. He
died soon after he had played his part in that festal night, which he
had come down from Paris purposely to join in. He and papa were old
and very dear friends; closer friends it would not be possible to
conceive, though there was a difference of twenty years in their ages.
His nephew inherits his fortune and title, and it is for him they
destine me."

"How old is he?" inquired Rose.

"I have not asked," said Adeline. "Mamma says he is good-looking. It
appears that this scheme of uniting the families has been a project of
years, though they never told me. Had my sister lived, the honour was
to have fallen to her."

"I hope you will be happy," observed Miss Carr.

"Thank you, Mary. But you speak with hesitation."

"Not as to the _wish_. The hope might be more assured if you already
knew, and loved, him who is to be your husband. It is a great hazard
to promise to marry one whom we have never seen."

"It is the way these things are managed in France," said Adeline.

"And the cause that such doubtful felicity condescends to alight on a
French _mènage_," broke forth Rose, who had been temporarily silent.
"The wives make it out in their intrigues, though. It is a dangerous
game, Adeline. Take care."

"I hope you do not consider it necessary to warn _me_ against such
danger," exclaimed Adeline, the crimson flying to her cheeks.

"No; for you have not a particle of the French nature about you,"
fearlessly returned Rose. "To you, strong in right principle, in
refinement of feeling, it can bring only suffering--a yearning after
what must never be."

"Englishwomen do not always marry where they love," mused Adeline.

"Seldom or never," answered Rose. "With them the passion is generally
over. They go more into society, have opportunities of mixing freely,
as girls, with the other sex, which you have not, and so the years
pass, and by the time their marriage comes, the heart is at rest; its
life has left it."

"Then their marriage, even by your own showing, seems to be much on a
par with what mine will be."

"Their marriage is, Adeline, but their love is over, _yours has to
come_. There lies the difficulty: and the danger."

"Where did you get all these wise ideas from?" inquired Adeline, much
amused.

"I'm not an idiot," was Rose's answer. "And I am apt to speak freely
when I feel disappointed. I thought you would be sure to marry an
Englishman. You have often said so, and you admire the English so much
more than you do the French. You remember that handsome Englishman, of
French-marigold memory? I set it down in my mind that your destiny and
his were to be linked together."

"You have set many things down in your mind, Rose, that never had
place out of it," retorted Adeline, with a merry laugh. "I have not
seen him since that night, and probably never shall see him again."

"Mademoiselle Rose Darling," exclaimed Clotilde, putting her head out
at the schoolroom window.

"Oh the joy!" cried Rose, as she flew away. "I know it's the
Singletons."

The Baron de la Chasse arrived from Paris, and was betrothed to
Adeline de Castella. A small circle of friends were invited to meet
him on the evening of the betrothment, and Adeline did not forget a
promise she had made to invite Rose and Mary Carr.

A man of thirty years, of middle height, and compact, well-made
figure; pleasing features, regular in their contour; auburn hair,
curly and luxuriant by nature, but sheared off to bristles; yellow
whiskers, likewise sheared, and a great fierce yellow moustache with
curled corners. Somehow Rose, when Adeline said he was good-looking,
had pictured to herself a tall, handsome man: she caught sight of the
cropped hair and the moustache, and went through the introduction with
her handkerchief to her mouth, splitting with laughter. Yet there was
no mistaking the baron for anything but a gentleman and a high-bred
man.

"Mary!" whispered Rose, when she found the opportunity, "what a
sacrifice for Adeline!"

"How do you mean? Domestic happiness does not lie in looks. And if it
did, the baron's are not so bad."

"But look at his sheared hair, and those frightful moustaches! Why
does he not cut the ends off, and dye them brown?"

"Perhaps he is afraid of their turning green--if he has read 'Ten
Thousand a Year.'"

"Oh, Adeline! Adeline! I wonder if she is really betrothed to him?"

"That's a superfluous wonder of yours, Rose," said Mary Carr. "The
white wreath is on her head, and the betrothal ring on her finger."

"If a shaven goat--and that's what _he_ is--put the ring upon mine, I
should look out for some one else to take it off again," retorted
Rose. "Dear Adeline!" she continued, as the latter advanced, "let me
see your ring."

Adeline drew off her glove and her ring together.

"You should not have taken it from your finger," remarked Mary Carr.
"We hold a superstition in Holland--some do--that a betrothal ring,
once removed from the finger, will never be exchanged for a nuptial
one."

"Sheer nonsense, like most other superstitions," said Adeline; and her
perfect indifference of manner proved that no love had entered into
_her_ betrothal--as, indeed, how should it?

"What had you both to do?"

"Only sign some writings, and then he placed the ring on my finger.
Nothing more."

"Except a sealing kiss," said Rose, saucily.

The colour stole over Adeline's face. Even her fair open brow, as it
met the chaplet of white roses, became flushed.

"Who but you, Rose, would dream of these vulgar familiarities?" she
remonstrated. "Amongst the French, they would be looked upon as the
very essence of bad taste."

"_Taste!_" ejaculated Rose, contemptuously. "If you loved, you would
know better. Wait until you do, Adeline, and then remember my
words--and yours. It does not require much time for love to grow, if
it will grow at all," she continued, in that half-abstracted manner
which was now frequent with her--as if she were communing with
herself, rather than talking to another.

"Probably not," remarked Adeline, with indifference. "But even you,
Rose, susceptible as you are known to be, will scarcely admit that a
few hours are sufficient to call it forth."

"Nor a twelvemonth either, situated as you and he are," replied Rose,
vehemently. "The very fact of being expected and required to love in
any given quarter, must act as a sure preventive."

M. de la Chasse drew up, and entered into conversation with them. He
appeared a sensible, agreeable man, at home in all the polite and
literary topics of the day. In his manner towards Adeline, though
never losing the ceremonious politeness of a Frenchman, there was a
degree of gallantry (I don't know any better word: the French would
say _empressement_) not unpleasing to witness, and, Rose thought, he
had a large share of vanity. But where you would see one of his nation
superior to him, you might see ninety-nine inferior.

"It may be a happy marriage after all, Rose," observed Miss Carr, when
they were once more alone.

"Possibly. If she can only induce him to let his hair grow, and to
part with those yellow tails."

"Be serious if you can," reproved Mary Carr. "He seems to be in a fair
way to love Adeline."

"He admires Adeline," dissented Rose; "is proud of her, and no doubt
excessively gratified that so charming a girl should fall to his lot
without any trouble on his part. But if you come to speak of love, it
sets one wondering how much of _that_ enters into the composition of a
French husband."

No shadow, or doubt of the future, appeared that night to sit upon the
spirit of Adeline de Castella. There was a radiant look in her
countenance, rarely seen; hiding, for the moment, that touching
expression of sorrow and sadness, so natural to it. As the betrothed
of a few hours, in a few months to be a wife, she was the worshipped
idol of those around her, and this called forth what latent vanity
there was in her heart, and she was happy. She could only think it a
great thing to be an engaged girl. All do. Why should Adeline de
Castella be an exception?

How little did she know, or think, or suspect, the true nature of the
contract she had that day made in her blindness!--what it involved,
what it was to bring forth for her!

The Château de Beaufoy, formerly belonging to the Chevalier de
Beaufoy, was now the property and residence of his widow. She was of
English birth, as you have heard. Of her two children, the younger was
the wife of Signor de Castella; the other, Agnes de Beaufoy, a maiden
lady, had never left her. The property was situated near to Odesque, a
small town some leagues from Belport on the Paris line of railroad.

The Castellas departed for the château on their promised summer's
visit. Mary Carr accompanied them at the pressing invitation of
Adeline. But Madame de Nino would only grant her leave for a week.

Adeline de Castella had represented the château in glowing colours;
which caused Mary Carr to be surprised, not to say disappointed, when
she saw it. A long, straight, staring, whitish-grey building, all
windows and chimneys, with a primly-laid-out garden stretched before
it, flat and formal. Precise flower-beds, square, oval, round; round,
square, oval; and long paths, straight and narrow; just as it is the
pride of French château-gardens to be. The principal entrance to the
house was gained by a high, broad flight of steps, on either side of
which was a gigantic lion, grinning its fierce teeth at all visitors.
And these lions, which were not alive, but carved out of stone, and
the steps, were the only relief given to the bare, naked aspect of the
edifice. Before the house were two fountains, the carriage approach
running between them. Each was surrounded by eight smaller lions, with
another giant of the same species spouting up water from its mouth.

Very ugly and devoid of taste it all looked to Mary Carr. But on the
western side of the château improvements were visible. A stone
terrace, or colonnade, wide, and supported by pillars, with a flight
of steps at each end and in the middle, rose before its windows, and
lovely pleasure-grounds extended out to the far distance. A verdant,
undulating lawn; fragrant shrubs; retired walks, where the trees met
overhead; sheltered banks, grateful to recline upon in the noonday
sun; a winding shrubbery; a transparent lake: all of their kind
charming. For all this, Beaufoy was indebted to the taste of its
English mistress.

In the neighbourhood, within easy drives, were located other châteaux,
forming a pleasant little society. The nearest house was only
half-a-mile distant, and the reader is requested to take especial
notice of it, since he will sometimes go there. It was not a château,
not half large enough for one, and Beaufoy, with its English ideas,
had christened it "The Lodge."

It was a compact little abode, belonging to the Count d'Estival, an
intimate friend of the Beaufoy family. This M. d'Estival was gifted by
nature with an extraordinary love for painting and the fine arts. He
had built a room to the lodge expressly for the reception of pictures,
had travelled much, and was continually adding to his collection.
Whilst other people spent their money in society and display, he spent
his (and he had plenty of it) in paintings. Mary Carr was a connection
of his: her eldest brother, an English clergyman, now dead, had
married his niece, Emma d'Estival. You have heard of these Carrs
before, in a previous work: of their birth and residence in Holland;
of the singular romance attending the early history of their father
and mother; of the remarkable action at law in Westerbury, by which
their rights were established. You will not hear more of them in this
history, for I don't suppose you like _réchauffés_ more than I do.



CHAPTER XIX.
TAKING A PORTRAIT.


Madame De Beaufoy, née Maria Goldingham, was a genial old lady, stout
and somewhat helpless. Her daughter Agnes, with her grey hair and her
fifty years, looked nearly double the age of Madame de Castella--she
was some ten years older. They were not in the least alike, these
sisters: the elder was plain, large-featured, eyes and complexion
alike pale; Madame de Castella was a slight, small, delicate-featured
woman, with rich brown eyes, and a bright rose-colour on her cheeks.
To Mary Carr's surprise--for Adeline had never mentioned it--she saw
that Miss de Beaufoy was lame. It was the result of an accident in
infancy.

On the morning following their arrival at Beaufoy, Adeline asked her
grandmother if she knew whether M. d'Estival was at the Lodge, and was
answered in the negative. He had come down from Paris with visitors,
it was said; but had gone away again almost immediately, the old lady
thought to Holland.

"So much the better," remarked Adeline, "we can go as often as we like
to his picture-gallery. You are fond of paintings, Mary; you will have
a great treat, and you have a sort of right there. Suppose we go now?"

"Now?" said Madame de Castella. "It is so hot!"

"It will be hotter later in the day," said Adeline. "Do come with us,
mamma."

Somewhat unwillingly, Madame de Castella called for her scarf and
bonnet to accompany them, casting many dubious glances at the
cloudless sky and blazing sun. They took their way through the
shrubbery; it was the longest road, but the most shady. And whilst
they are walking, let us take a look at this said painting-room.

It bore an indescribable appearance, partaking partly of the
character and confusion of an artist's studio, partly of a gorgeous
picture-gallery. The apartment was very long in proportion to its
width, and was lighted by high windows, furnished with those green
blinds, or shades, which enable artists to procure the particular
light they may require. The room opened by means of glass doors upon a
lovely pleasure-ground, but there were shutters and tapestry to draw
before these doors at will, so that no light need enter by them.
Opposite, at the other end of the room, a smaller door connected it
with the house.

That same morning, about seven o'clock, there stood in this apartment
a young man arranging French chalks, crayons, painting-brushes, and
colours, which lay about in disorder, just as they had been last used.
A tall, pointed easel stood a few feet from the wall, near it a stand
with its colour-box and palettes. There were classical vases scattered
about; plaster-casts from the best models; statues and busts of
porphyry, and carving from the marbles of Lydia and Pentelicus. The
sculptured head of a warrior, a group of gladiators; a Niobe, in its
weeping sorrow, and the Apollo Belvedere, bas-reliefs, copied from the
statue of the Discobolon, and other studies from the antique. There
was beauty in all its aspects, but no deformity, no detached limbs or
misshapen forms: as if the collector cared not to excite unpleasing
thoughts. On the walls hung copies from, and _chefs-d'oeuvre_ of, the
masters of many lands: Michael Angelo, Salvator Rosa, Rembrandt;
groups by Raphael; beautiful angels of Guido; Carlo Dolce, Titian, all
were represented there, with Leonardo da Vinci, the highly-gifted and
unhappy. Of the Spanish school there were few specimens, Velasquez,
Murillo, and one after Zurbarban; and less of the French, Nicholas
Poussin, Le Brun, and Watteau; but there were several of the Flemish
and Dutch masters, copies and originals, Van Dyck, Ruysdael, William
Van de Welde, and the brothers Abraham and Isaac Ostade.

The gentleman finished his preparations, arranged his palettes, rolled
the stand nearer, and sat down before his easel. But, ere he began his
task, he glanced up at the window nearest him, and, rising, stood upon
a chair, and pulled the green shade lower down to regulate the light.
Then he began to work, now whistling a scrap of a popular melody, now
humming a few bars, and then bursting out, in a voice of the deepest
melody, with a full verse. He was copying a portrait by Velasquez, and
had made considerable progress towards its completion. It was a lovely
female head, supposed to be a representation of Mary Magdalen. But not
even the head on which he was working; not all the portraits and
sculptured busts around; not Girodet's "Endymion" by his side,
betrayed more winning beauty than did the artist's own face and form.

The rare intellect of his open brow, the sweet smile on his delicate
lips, the earnest glance from his deep-blue eyes, _these_ could not be
imitated by painter's brush or Parian marble. Yet, though his head was
cast in the most shapely mould, not to be hidden by the waves of the
dark, luxuriant hair, and the pale features, regular to a fault, were
of almost womanish beauty, it was not all this, but the _expression_
which so won upon a beholder. Lord John Seymour was right when he said
the countenance was more prepossessing than handsome--for you have
been prepared no doubt to hear that the painter was Frederick St.
John--because in the singular fascination of the expression was
forgotten the beauty of the features.

Mr. St. John worked assiduously for some hours, until it was hard upon
midday. He then rose, stretched himself, walked across the room, drew
aside the tapestry and shutters, and opened the glass doors.

This part of the room seemed to be consecrated to indolent enjoyment;
all vestiges of work were towards the other end. An ottoman or two,
some easy-chairs, and a sofa were here, on which the tired artist
might repose, and admire the scene without--or the many scenes within.
How beautiful was the repose of that outside prospect!--It was but a
small plot of ground, yet that, of itself, seemed fit for Eden. A
green level lawn, from which arose the spray of a fountain, with its
jets of crystal and its mossy banks; clustering flowers of the
sweetest scent on the lawn's edge; high, artificial hills of rock
beyond, over which dripped a cascade, its murmurs soothing the ear;
all very lovely. The whole, not an acre in extent, was surrounded by
towering trees, through whose dancing leaves the sun could penetrate
but in fitful gleams; fragrant linden-trees, which served to shut the
spot out from the world.

Mr. St. John threw himself upon an ottoman and looked out. He had a
book in his hand, but did not open it. He was too hungry to read, for
he had only taken a cup of coffee and a crust of bread that morning at
half-past six, and he fell into an idle reverie.

"Shall I be able to keep my resolution and bear on with this
monotony?" he said, half aloud, as he watched unconsciously the
flickering sunlight upon the lawn. "A few months of this inexpensive
life, and I shall see my way out of embarrassment more clearly than I
do now, I will _not_ be indebted to Isaac for my deliverance--no, I
won't; and if there were only some break in the life here--some
relief--if d'Estival himself were only back----"

The door at the opposite end of the room opened, and a portly,
pleasant-looking woman, who might be the mistress of the house in her
plain morning costume, or its respectable housekeeper, looked in, and
told Mr. St. John his breakfast was served.

"Thank you, Madame Baret," he said, not in the least sorry to hear it.
And as he followed her from the room, in all the alacrity of hunger,
he did not observe that his pocket-handkerchief fell to the ground.

It was about this time that the party from Beaufoy reached the Lodge,
Madame de Castella grumbling dreadfully. She had borne the heat pretty
patiently through the shaded shrubbery, but in the open ground, and in
that brazen cornfield, which had not so much as a hedge, or a green
blade of grass on which to rest the dazzled eye, it had been intensely
felt. A shocking state her complexion would be in! She could feel
incipient blisters on it already.

"Dear mamma, it is not so bad as that," laughed Adeline, "it is only a
little red. Let us go in by the gate at once to the painting-room!
Madame Baret will keep us talking for an hour, especially when she
gets to know who Mary is."

"I am too hot to look at paintings," querulously returned Madame de
Castella. "You may go to the painting-room, but I shall seek Madame
Baret, and get a draught of milk. I never was so hot in my life."

She went on to the house as she spoke. Adeline and Mary passed
through the little gate of the secluded garden, and sat down in the
painting-room.

Oh, how delightful it was there! how delightful! They had come in from
the broad glare, the sultry midday heat, to that shady place; the
eye, fatigued with the dazzling light, had found a rest, the fields
looked burnt up and brown, but here the grass was fresh and green; the
cool, sparkling waters of the fountain were playing, and those lovely
flower-beds emitted the sweetest perfume. It was grateful as is the
calm, silvery moonlight after a day of blazing heat. Never had Mary
Carr seen a place that so forcibly spoke to her mind of rest and
peace.

Adeline was the first to rise from her seat: something in another part
of the room attracted her attention.

"Mary! look at this! a painting on the easel! and in progress!
Grandmamma said M. d'Estival was away!"

Miss Carr turned her head, and in that glance, the first she had
really bestowed on the apartment, thought its contents the most
heterogeneous mass she had ever beheld. Adeline continued to look at
the easel.

"There are touches here of a master's hand. It must be M. d'Estival.
He paints beautifully. Many of these copies are by him. Or can it be
an artist he has here?"

"Adeline, you have dropped your handkerchief," said Miss Carr, rising,
and picking up one from the floor. She turned to its four corners. In
the first three there was no name; in the last, not "A. L. de C.," as
she expected, but, worked in hair, and surmounted by a crest,
"Frederick St. John."

A presentiment of the truth flashed across her brain. A confused
remembrance of a young man of noble presence, a French marigold, and
Rose Darling's superstitious fears that he would exercise some
blighting influence over _her_ future life. She called to Adeline with
breathless interest, and the latter came to her immediately, aroused
by the tone.

"See this, Adeline!" pointing to the name. "It is neither yours nor
mine."

Adeline read it quite indifferently.

"_Don't_ you remember--on your ball-night--he with the French
marigold?"

"Frederick St. John," said Adeline, carelessly, taking the
handkerchief in her hand. "Yes, it is the same name. Probably the same
person."

How calmly she spoke; how indifferently! An utter stranger, a name she
had never heard, could not have excited in her less interest. There
was no shadow on her spirit of what was to come.

At that moment the inner door opened, and Mr. St. John entered. Mary
Carr started with surprise, for she had not observed that any door was
there. Mr. St. John also stood, momentarily transfixed, wondering, no
doubt, who they were, and how they got there, like the flies in amber.
He at once apologized for having so unceremoniously entered the room,
not being aware that it was occupied.

"The apology is due from us, Mr. St. John," interrupted Adeline. "You
do not recollect me?" she continued, seeing his surprised look at the
mention of his name.

Was it likely? He had seen her but once, months before, in her
brilliant ball-dress; now she was in morning attire, her face shaded
by a bonnet.

"It seems my fate to be in unlawful possession of your property,"
continued Adeline, holding out the handkerchief. "The first time we
met, I deprived you of a flower, and now----"

"My dear Mademoiselle de Castella!" he interrupted, his features
lighting up with pleasure as he took both her hands. "Pray pardon me.
Do not think I had forgotten you. But indeed you were almost the last
person I could have expected to meet here." True. That there was such
a place as Beaufoy in the neighbourhood he knew, but not that the
Castellas were in any way connected with it.

"Are you staying here?" asked Adeline.

"Yes." And he explained how it happened that he was so. He had met the
Count d'Estival (whom he had known previously) in Paris this spring,
and had accepted an invitation to accompany him home. Soon after their
arrival the count had received a summons to Holland on family
business, and he had made St. John promise to await his return.

"This young lady is a connection of M. d'Estival's," said Adeline.
"You have heard of the Carrs of Holland--of Rotterdam?"

Mr. St. John smiled. "The Carrs of Holland are renowned people in my
county. Westerbury boasts of its famous trial still."

"And you know, then, that the Reverend Robert Carr married Emma
d'Estival," continued Adeline. "This is Mary Carr, his only sister."

A saddened light came into Frederick St John's eyes as he took her
hands in greeting. The reminiscences brought all too palpably to his
mind one who had been very dear to him--the dead college boy.

Madame de Castella entered the room, and they all seemed at home with
each other at once. Mr. St. John went round the walls with them,
pointing out the beauties and merits of the paintings, though the
Castellas had seen them before.

"I perceive you are an artist," observed Madame de Castella, looking
at the painting on the easel.

"I have only the talents of an amateur, greatly as I love the art,
much as I have practised it. If I ever wish myself other than what I
am, it is that I could be one of our great painters. How little is
known in England of Velasquez' portraits!" he exclaimed, looking
lovingly on the original he was copying.

"Or in France either," returned Madame de Castella "Believe me, Mr.
St. John, no one can appreciate the Spanish school of painting until
they obtain a knowledge of the collections in Spain."

"You are quite right," he answered.

"Have you been in Spain?"

"I believe I have been everywhere, so far as Europe goes, where there
is a gallery of paintings to be seen."

"And do you like the Spanish school?"

"Pretty well."

"Only that? I am sorry to hear you say so."

"Spanish painting has a character peculiar to itself," resumed Mr. St.
John. "At least, I have always thought so. The artists were not free:
they were compelled to bend to those laws that restricted their
pencils to delineations of religious subjects. Had they been at
liberty to exercise their genius unfettered, they would have left more
valuable mementos behind them. Imagination is the very life and soul
of painting; curb that, and you can expect but little."

"I suppose you are right," said Madame de Castella.

Madame Baret came in, and joined the party. She was related to the
Count d'Estival. Some years before, her husband, who was then a small
proprietor, risked his money in a speculation, and was ruined. M.
d'Estival stepped in, and offered them an asylum with him. They
accepted it, upon condition that they should be permitted to be
useful. Madame became the active mistress and manager of the house,
her husband the superintendent of the land and farm. But though they
did make themselves useful, both indoors and out, somewhat after the
manner of upper servants, they were gentlepeople still, and received
due consideration and respect.

"Who is that painting by?" inquired Madame de Castella, stopping
before a group of portraits.

"It is a copy of one of Van Dyck's," said Mr. St. John. "There hangs
the original. But it is admirably executed."

"It is, indeed," replied Madame de Castella. "To my unpractised eye,
it looks equal to the original."

"Almost," assented Mr. St. John. "Except in the transparency of the
skin, and there Van Dyck cannot be rivalled."

"Whose is that gorgeous landscape?"

"An original of Claude Lorraine's."

"To be sure. I might have told it by the colouring. And that next, Mr.
St. John?"

"One of Correggio's."

"I don't much admire it."

"It is cold, but faultless," was Mr. St. John's reply, "as Correggio's
productions generally are."

"Do you paint portraits from life, Mr. St. John?"

"I have done so; and would again, if I found a subject to my taste."

"What better study, for a fine old head, than your good hostess,
here?" rejoined Madame de Castella, lowering her voice.

St. John laughed; a pleasant laugh. To Mary Carr's ear it seemed to
imply that he did not care to paint old women. "Will you permit me to
try my hand at yours?" he said to Madame de Castella.

"No, indeed, thank you," she answered. "Mine has already been taken
three times, and I don't like the fatigue of sitting."

The silvery chimes of the antique clock on its pedestal told three
before they took their departure. Not half the time appeared to have
elapsed: could it be the charm of St. John's conversation that caused
it to fly so rapidly, or the merits of the pictures? He escorted them
across the fields to the gate of their own shrubbery: and Madame de
Castella invited him to visit them in the evening.

At dinner, the conversation fell upon Mr. St. John. Madame de Castella
expressed herself delighted that so agreeable a man should be located
near them, and laughed at her sister, Mademoiselle Agnes, for not
having found him out before. He was a thorough gentleman, a high-bred
man of the world, she said, and his society would help them to pass
away the time pleasantly during M. de Castella's absence in Paris.
Before they had done talking of him, St. John entered.

He was in slight mourning, his evening attire very plain and quiet,
but he bore about him always a nameless elegance. Mary Carr looked at
him with admiration--as did probably the rest; but for them she could
not answer. There was a peculiar charm in his manner she had never
seen in any other man's. Describe in what it lay, she could not, but
it attracted to him all with whom he came in contact. His conversation
was eloquent and animated, but his bearing calm and still. Before he
left, he promised M. de Castella to dine with them the next evening.

In the morning, M. de Castella, Adeline, and Mary Carr, walked over to
the lodge, where they stayed some hours. M. de Castella, unlike his
wife, could never tire of looking at the paintings. The time seemed to
fly. It is scarcely to be described how very much they had become at
home with Mr. St. John--they were as familiar and dear friends.

Something was said in jest about his taking Adeline's likeness; but
these jests grow into earnest now and then. Mary Carr could hardly
tell how it came to be decided, but decided it was when he came up to
dinner in the evening. Signor and Madame de Castella were delighted at
the idea of possessing a portrait of her, and the old lady was so
eager, she wanted it to be begun off-hand. Adeline, too, was nothing
loth: it was gratifying to her innocent and pardonable vanity.

On the Friday morning--unlucky day!--Adeline sat to Mr. St. John for
the first time. Her father and Miss Carr were with her. Afterwards he
again went to dine at the château: the evening seemed dull now that
did not bring them Mr. St. John. Truly the acquaintance was short
enough to say this. On the following morning early, M. de Castella
departed for Paris, and after breakfast Adeline and Mary Carr
proceeded to the lodge with Madame de Castella. The sitting was long,
and Madame de Castella could not conceal her weariness. To many, the
opportunity of examining the paintings would have been pleasure
sufficient, but not to her. In point of fact, she had no taste for the
fine arts, and after Tuesday's cursory renewed view of them, the task
proved irksome. She complained much, too, of the walk in the morning
heat. The truth was--and it is as well to confess it--that during
these periodical visits to the Château de Beaufoy, Madame de Castella
lived in a chronic state of ennui. Young and good-looking still, fond
of the world, the dulness of Beaufoy was a very penance to her. She
went through it willingly as a duty: she loved her mother; but she
could not help the weariness affecting her spirits.

The sitting this first morning was long and weary: but for talking
with Mr. St. John, she never could have sat through it. Their
conversation turned upon Rome--a frequent theme. Mary Carr thought
that were she to remain long with them she should become as well
acquainted with the Eternal City as though she had visited it. St.
John seemed wonderfully attached to it; as were the Castellas. He had
a portfolio of drawings of it, from his own pencil: some of them
highly-finished coloured specimens; others bare sketches, to be filled
up from memory; the lines of genius apparent in all. The portefeuille
was often referred to: even Madame de Castella had been content to
look over it for a full hour. It was a motley collection. A sketch of
the lovely Alban hills; the ruins of an aqueduct; a temple of Pæstum;
the beauties of Tivoli; the ruins of the Cæsars' palaces; St. Peter's
in its magnificence; a view from the Appian Way; a drawing of the
Porta San Giovanni; an imaginative sketch of a gorgeous palace of Rome
in its zenith; a drawing of one of its modern villas; a temple of
Jupiter; Sallust's garden; and the tomb, still so perfect, of Cecilia
Metella. There were fanciful moonlight views of the now almost
uninhabited hills, Palatino, Celio, and Aventino. There was one
masterly, gloomy painting of a grove of pines and cypress trees,
overlooking a heap of ruins. Lying side by side with it, was one of a
life-like garden, with its marble fountains, its colonnades, its
glimpses of tinted flowers, its blooming orange and lemon trees, its
cascades and pillars, its wreathing vines, its polished statues, and
its baths of Alexandrian marble; and, over all, the bright blue of an
Italian sky, and the glowing beams of an Italian sun.

"May I ask a favour of you?" said Madame de Castella, addressing
Madame Baret when they were going away.

"As many as you like," returned the smiling dame, ever good-humoured.

"I cannot possibly endure these hot walks every day until the sittings
are over. When I do not come myself, will you kindly bear my daughter
company while she is here, and take charge of her? Louise can attend
her in walking hither."

"With the greatest pleasure," returned Madame Baret. "I will take
every care of her. But there is nothing here that can harm
Mademoiselle."

"_I_ will take care of her," interrupted St. John, in low, earnest
tones to Madame de Castella. "No harm shall come near her. I will
guard her from all: more anxiously than if she were my own sister."

Adeline partly caught the words, and blushed at their earnestness. It
was impossible to doubt the young man's honourable feeling, or his
wish to save her from all harm, real or imaginary. What _his_ exact
meaning was, Mary Carr did not know, but some of the others, it would
appear, were thinking of outward, visible danger. Madame Baret had
been cautioning Adeline never to come through the field where the
savage bull was let loose, though it did cut off a portion of the
road; and Madame de Castella besought her not to sit with the two
doors open, and always to keep her bonnet on for a few minutes after
she came in, that she might become cool before removing it. Adeline
laughed, and promised obedience to all.

Louise, the lady's-maid, commenced her attendance on the Monday. She
did not appear to relish the walk more than did her mistress, and
displayed an enormous crimson parapluie, which she held between her
face and the sun. At the door of the painting-room, she handed the
young ladies over to the charge of Mr. St. John, and then left them.
Madame de Castella never understood but that Louise remained with her
young mistress in the painting-room: does not understand the contrary
to this day. She certainly intended her to do so, notwithstanding her
request to Madame Baret. But Louise was a most inveterate gossip,
and to sit silent and restrained before her superiors in the
painting-room, gaping at its beauties, which she could not comprehend,
when she might be exercising her tongue with Madame Baret's housemaid
and bonne, Juliette, in her sewing-chamber, or with Madame Baret's
stout maid-of-all-work in the kitchen, was philosophy beyond
Mademoiselle Louise. Neither did Madame Baret always sit with Adeline.
Her various occupations, as active mistress of the house, and
especially of those two idle servants, frequently called her away. Nor
did she give a thought to there being any necessity for her doing so.
What harm, as she had observed, could come near Adeline?

"How long have you been here, Mr. St. John?" inquired Mary Carr, as,
the sitting over--sooner than it need have been--they strolled into
the garden.

"Nearly a month. Perhaps I may stay here until winter."

"In this dull place! Why?"

He laughed as he avowed the truth. That he had been
extravagant--imprudent--and had outrun his income. In the world he
should only get deeper into the mire, but there he was spending next
to nothing. A little patience: it would all come right in time.

"What shrub do you call this, Adeline?" inquired Mary Carr, by way of
changing the conversation, and vexed at her inquisitiveness.

"Candleberry myrtle, in English," replied Adeline. "We were staying at
Rambouillet some years ago, and brought some suckers from the forest.
It grows there in great abundance. Mamma gave some to M. d'Estival,
and he planted them here."

Suddenly, Mr. St. John made a motion of silence, and, bending
stealthily towards Adeline, half closed his hand, and swept it quickly
over the side of her throat. A wasp had settled on her neck.

"There it goes," he said, dashing it into the water of the fountain.
"You know," he continued, half playfully, half tenderly, gazing into
her face, and interrupting her efforts at thanks, "that I have
undertaken to shield you from harm. It shall be my earnest care to do
so, now and ever."

A shade crossed Adeline's countenance. Did she _already_ regret her
marriage contract? or was she in danger of forgetting it altogether?
There was nothing to remind her of it: even the engagement-ring was no
longer on her finger. It was too large for her, and quite a source of
trouble to keep on, so she had put it into her jewel-box: where it
lay, uncared for.

"Mr. St. John! the wasp has stung your hand!"

"Yes, he revenged himself by leaving his sting there. It is nothing.
And, indeed, will serve as an excuse to Madame de Castella for my
idleness today."

"You know I leave tomorrow," said Mary, turning to him. "Will you
send me up a bouquet of these beautiful flowers to take to Rose
Darling?"

"You shall be obeyed, fair lady. How large will you have it? The size
of Louise's parapluie?"

With the next morning came the bouquet, Mr. St. John himself being the
bearer. His visit had a twofold purport, he observed: to bid adieu to
Miss Carr, and to walk with Adeline down to the Lodge. He had been
thinking it might be better, he said to Madame de Castella, that he
should escort Adeline to and fro, until the return of M. de Castella.
Mary Carr glanced at his countenance as he spoke: she saw that his
words were honest; that there was no hidden meaning; that the
protection of Adeline was then the sole motive which actuated him.

Ten o'clock struck as they were talking, and, with the last stroke,
came round the carriage to convey Miss Carr to Odesque, where she was
to take the train.

"May I whisper a caution to you?" said Mary, pressing her lips to
Adeline's, in parting.

"A caution! Fifty, if you like."

"Do not fall in love with Frederick St. John."

"Mary!"

"From the position in which you stand--engaged to another--it might
lead to endless misery."

"There is no danger of it," returned Adeline, breathlessly. "If there
were, do you suppose papa and mamma would suffer me to be with him?
How could any such idea enter your head, Mary Carr? You are taking a
leaf from Rose's book."

Papa and mamma! Truth was in her accent, but how little she
understood.

"I am willing to believe that there is no danger," was Miss Carr's
reply. "_I hope you will be able so to speak when we next meet_. Do
not feel angry with me, Adeline. I have but your interest at heart."

Mr. St. John conducted Miss Carr to the carriage, and, in shaking
hands, he jestingly begged her to give his love to Rose: they had
talked much of her. As he stood there on the stone steps, bareheaded,
until Mary should drive away, her last look lingered on him; and again
that uneasy doubt shot through her mind--how impossible that Adeline
should live in continual companionship with such a man, and not learn
to love him!

Miss Carr was received by Madame de Nino with a scolding and a threat
of punishment. She had exceeded her time of absence by a day. But Mary
laid the blame upon Madame de Castella, and handed in a note of
apology from that lady. Madame was only half soothed; but she
graciously remitted the punishment.

Mary drew Rose Darling aside. "Won't you admire these lovely flowers?
They were sent for you."

Rose was sulky. She had been in a furious state of envy during Mary's
visit, because she was not invited herself.

"Of all the human race, Rose, playing out their course upon this
variable world of ours, who do you suppose is located just now within
a stone's throw of the Château de Beaufoy?"

"I dare say it's nobody I know," said Rose, cross still.

"You know and admire him. A young and handsome man. He gathered these
flowers for you--see how rare they are!--and he sent them with his
love."

She looked up sharply; and her mind reverted to one who, perhaps, was
seldom absent from it. But another moment sufficed to show how idle
was the thought; and the current of ideas led her to another.

"Not Lord John Seymour?"

"No; what should bring him there? Frederick St. John."

"He! You are joking, Mary Carr."

"I am not. He is staying quite close to them. We saw a great deal of
him. And--Rose!--he is taking Adeline's portrait!"

"Allez toujours," exclaimed Rose, using a familiar French expression.
"I told you once before, Mary Carr, that that man, my pseudo-cousin,
would exercise some extraordinary influence over Adeline de Castella's
future life; and I now tell it you again."



CHAPTER XX.
LOVE'S FIRST DREAM.


Hours, days, weeks, rolled on, after the departure of Miss Carr from
the Château de Beaufoy, and no outward change had taken place in its
occupants. But in the inward heart of one, how much!

The portrait progressed towards its completion, though not rapidly. It
was a good likeness of Adeline, and admirably executed. St. John had
exactly caught that sad expression which sometimes sat on her
features, forming their chief interest: earth's sorrow mingling with
the heavenly beauty of an angel. Had the portrait been preserved,
people might have said afterwards they could read her history there.

St. John was also teaching Adeline drawing: or, rather, trying to
improve her in it. One day Madame de Castella desired her to produce
her school-drawings--and she had done none since she left.
Accordingly, some chalk-heads and a few landscapes came forth. There
was not much taste displayed in the heads, St. John observed; more in
the landscapes, in two of them especially--a glimpse of the Nile and
some lotus lilies, its fountains surrounded by their date-trees; and a
charming scene in her own fair land. That there was great room for
improvement, every one could but acknowledge, and Mr. St. John offered
to give her some lessons. All of them--Madame de Castella, Aunt Agnes,
and the old grandmother--were pleased at his offer. How could they be
so blind? How could they be so thoughtless? St. John had acquired an
extraordinary influence over them all. Madame de Castella was much
attached to him; she seemed to feel a sort of pride in him, as a fond
mother will feel in the perfections of an only son. He frequently
dined with them; all his evenings were spent there as a matter of
course. He had become necessary to their everyday life. When he was
away, nothing went right; when he was present, it was sunshine to all.
And yet they forgot that there was another who might be equally awake
to the charms his presence brought; the only one to whom it could
bring real danger. Perhaps the thought of danger to Adeline's heart
never entered the head of Madame de Castella: perhaps, if it ever did
momentarily cross her, she deemed that Adeline, from her engagement,
was safe.

Many an hour, when Madame de Castella innocently deemed that Adeline
was sitting mumchance in the painting-room, Louise embroidering her
own caps, at which she was a famous hand, by her side, and Mr. St.
John working hard at the portrait, without a thought beside it, would
two out of those three be idling their morning underneath the
lime-trees, St. John reading to her, chiefly books of poetry, its
theme often love. Then he would lay down the book, and talk to her, in
that tender, persuasive voice so soothing to the ear but dangerous to
the heart. Thus they would sit on for hours, her hand sometimes
clasped in his, he the reader, she the listener, devouring together
this sweet and subtle poetry, which has in it so much of fascination.
Oh, the hazardous life for the heart's peace!--when both were in the
heyday of youth, singularly attractive, and one, at least, had never
loved. And yet it was neither stopped nor interfered with, nor was its
danger suspected.

One day they were standing at the open doors of the painting-room. Mr.
St. John was speaking of Castle Wafer. He had before described its
attractions, natural and imparted, to Adeline, had made sketches for
her of some of its points, from memory. He was saying that when Castle
Wafer was his own--and it would be some time--he should build a room
similar to the one they were now in, for himself and his work, and lay
out a plot of ground as the plot before them was laid out: it would
serve as a momento of this period of their early acquaintance. "And in
that room, Adeline," he continued, "we will spend a great portion of
our time."

"We!" exclaimed Adeline.

The interruption awoke him to reality; for he had been as one buried
in a dream, and was unconscious at the moment that he spoke aloud.
Laughing as he made his apology, he bent his head towards her; but
even then his voice took a dangerously sweet and persuasive tone.

He had spoken inadvertently. But, the truth was, he had latterly
been so accustomed, in his inmost self, to associate Adeline
with hereafter--his future plans, his future home, his future
happiness--that he had unguardedly given utterance to his presumptuous
thoughts: he would not so offend again.

She glanced timidly at him, earnest tears in her eyes, glowing blushes
on her cheeks. In her heart she would have wished to tell him how far
he had been from giving her offence.

Another time he was walking home with Adeline, Louise and her great
crimson parapluie streaming, as usual, a good way behind them, when,
in jumping from a stile, Adeline twisted her foot. The pain for the
moment was intense: Mr. St. John saw it, by her countenance; and he
stole his arms round her and sheltered her head on his arm. All these
signs must mean--something.

That time had come for Adeline which must come for us all--the
blissful period of love's first dream. She did not at first understand
the magic of the charm that was stealing over her, making all, within
and without, a paradise. She had assured Miss Carr that there was no
danger of her loving Mr. St. John, yet even then, though she suspected
it not, the golden links of the net were fastening on her heart. And
when she awoke to the real nature of these sweet sensations, it was
too late to fly the danger--the power and the will to do so were alike
over.

How many varied degrees of the passion called love there are, can
never be ascertained, for one human being cannot experience the
feelings of another. The love--so called--felt by the generality of
mortals, everyday, practical men and women, is so essentially
different from that which takes root in a highly passionate,
imaginative temperament, refined and intellectual, that the two have
no affinity one with the other. This last passion is known but to few,
and apart from themselves, can be imagined by none. The world could
not understand this love, it is of a different nature from anything
they can know; they would laugh at, while they disbelieved in it. It
has been asserted that this highly-wrought passion, the ecstatic bliss
of which, while it lasts, no earthly language could express, never
ends happily. I believe that it never does. The dream comes to an end,
and the heart's life with it. Perhaps nearly a whole existence has yet
to be dragged through, but all enjoyment in the world and the world's
things is gone, and nothing can ever again awaken a pulse in the
veins, a thrill in the worn and beaten heart. The smile may sit upon
the lip, the jest may issue from it; gay beaming glances may dart from
the eye, and their hollowness is not suspected, nor the desolation
that has long settled within. You who read this, may meet it in a
spirit of dispute and ridicule: then it is because you cannot
understand it. And be thankful that it is so--that to you the power,
so fatally to love, has been spared.

It was a passion of this latter and rare description which had taken
root in the bosom of Adeline de Castella. She could not have loved as
the world loves, for she was one of those who live but in the inward
life. There was a mine of sentiment and poetry within her, and it
wanted but a touch like this to awaken it. Now, she lived in the
present; before, she had lived in the future; hereafter, she would
live in the past. She rose in the morning, and there was no wish
beyond the day, the seeing Mr. St. John; she retired to rest at night,
only to dream of him, and to awake to the bliss of another day. Nature
had never looked to her as it looked now: the grass had been green,
but not of this green; the fragrance of the flowers had been
fragrance, but they had not borne their present sweetness; the song of
the birds, hitherto unmeaning, seemed now a carol of joyous praise to
their Creator; there was music in the winds and in the fluttering
breeze; there was rapture in the whole bright earth. Adeline was
living in a dream, not of this world but of Paradise; it could be
called nothing else; she was walking on the wings of the morning,
treading on the yielding flowers. It was well for her that it was not
destined to last; it is well for us all: or we should never ask, or
wish, for the heaven that is to come.

And what of Mr. St. John? Did he love her? Beyond all doubt he loved
her, and would have made her his wife, and cherished her as such: but
whether in the idolatry of a first and impassioned attachment, or
whether in but the passing preference which some men will feel ten
times for as many women, can hardly be known. It was not given to the
world to penetrate Mr. St. John's secret feelings; but events shall be
faithfully related as they occurred.

And meanwhile, as if Fate determined fully to have her fling, news
came from M. d'Estival, begging Mr. St. John to remain on at the
Lodge. That gentleman was detained in Holland by the lingering illness
of his brother; but he was happy, knowing that his cherished pictures
were under the care of his friend.

And Mr. St. John did stay on, nothing loth, making the sunshine of the
château and the _life_ of Adeline.

Existence was somewhat monotonous in itself at Beaufoy, as you may
readily conceive, if you have had the honour of sojourning in any of
these half-isolated French country houses: but there arrived an
invitation one day at Beaufoy, for dinner at a neighbouring dwelling.
Madame de Beaufoy had given up dinner-parties, but the others went.
Adeline would have liked to decline, but she dared not.

She entered the carriage on the appointed evening, and sat in it
listless and absorbed. Mr. St. John was not going, and the hours not
spent with him were to her now as dead and lost. Madame de Castella
noticed her abstraction, and inquired if she were ill.

"I have only a headache," replied Adeline, who was too English not to
have acquired the common excuse.

"Maria!" exclaimed Mademoiselle de Beaufoy, suddenly addressing her
sister, "I declare, there's Mr. St. John! Where can he have been
walking to in this heat?"

Adeline turned and saw him, a thrill of rapture rushing through her
veins. They returned his greeting, and drove on.

Where can he be walking to t _She_ surmised--that it was but to obtain
a glimpse of her as their carriage passed. She was no longer pensive:
a heightened colour shone in her cheek, a brilliancy in her eye: her
spirits rose to exultation, and she went the rest of the way as one on
fairy wings.

They sank again ere the evening was half over, the long, tame,
spiritless evening. To others it might seem gay; but not to her: her
heart was far away, and she only cared that it should end and the
morrow be nearer. No singing, after his voice, brought music to her
ear; the dancing was no longer the dancing of other days.

The next day was the birthday of Mademoiselle de Beaufoy; a fête
always kept with much ceremony. A dinner was to be given in the
evening, and M. de Castella was expected to arrive for it from Paris.
In the course of the day a note was handed to Adeline, its handwriting
bringing a wild flush of pleasure to her cheeks. It was from Mr. St.
John, stating that he was called to Odesque to meet a friend, who
would be passing through it on his way to Paris, and he did not know
whether he could return for dinner. It was only a short note, worded
as a brother might write to a sister; yet she hung enraptured over its
few lines, and held it to her heart; she almost cried aloud in her
excess of ecstasy; and stealthily, her cheeks a rosy red, and her face
turned to the darkest corner of the room, she pressed to her lips its
concluding words--"Frederick St. John." The first letter from one we
love!--what an epoch it is in life! It stands alone in memory; the ONE
letter of existence; bearing no analogy to the stern real ones of
later years.

The return of Signor de Castella, after an absence, had once been a
joyous event to Adeline. Now, she looked forward to it with
indifference. It was not that she loved her father less; but other
feelings had grown tame in comparison with this new passion that
absorbed her. The day wore on, however, and the Signor did not come.

The guests arrived, all save one, and dinner would be announced
immediately. Adeline was waiting and hoping for Mr. St. John: but she
waited in vain. How inexpressibly lovely she looked in her evening
dress, with the rose-flush of excitement on her cheeks, some of those
guests remember to this day. A strange, sick feeling of expectancy had
taken possession of her; she scarcely knew what was passing. Questions
were addressed to her, which she answered at random, scarcely hearing
their purport. Was _another_ evening to pass without seeing him?

A sudden opening of the door. The servant threw it wide upon its
portals. Adeline caught one glimpse beyond it, and heard the man's
words:

"Monsieur de Saint John." For those French servants always put in the
"de" when speaking of _him_.

She turned, in her agitation, to one who sat next to her, and spoke
rapid sentences to cover it. She did not look, but she felt he had
advanced to Madame de Beaufoy, now to Madame de Castella, and now he
was speaking a few whispered words of congratulation to Agnes. She
hoped he would not come to her just then; her tremor was already too
great for concealment. Oh, the rapture, the unspeakable rapture that
thrilled through her whole soul at his presence! That a human being,
one like ourselves, should bring such!

They were pairing off to the dining-room. St. John was talking with
one of the lady guests, and Adeline saw him turn sharply round, as if
he would have advanced to her. But a wealthy neighbouring proprietor,
rejoicing in the long-sounding title of Monsieur le Comte Le Coq de
Monty, took the white tips of Adeline's gloved fingers within his own.

But he sat next her. Whether by accident, or successful manoeuvring,
or original design, he sat next her. More than once, in the course of
the elaborate dinner, their hands--_their_ hands!--met, under cover of
the table-linen, and then the whole world around was to her as
nothing.

Frederick St. John shone to advantage in society. Handsome without
affectation, gay without levity, accomplished without display, he yet
possessed, amidst all his solid conversational powers, that apt
gallantry which wins its way, that readiness at light phrases which
takes captive the ear. He had the great advantage also of speaking
French almost as a native: only by a slight accent once in a way,
could a Frenchman detect the foreigner. If he held those guests
spell-bound that evening, in what sort of spell do you suppose he must
have held Adeline! It was a man of subtle wisdom who first recorded
that phrase of truth--Man's heart is lost through the eye, but woman's
through the ear.

Mr. St. John remained after the guests had departed. When he said
farewell, Madame de Castella, in talking, stepped out with him to the
colonnade, and descended the steps. Her sister and Adeline followed.
It was a lovely night. The transition from the hot rooms, with their
many lights, to the cool pure atmosphere without was inexpressibly
grateful, and they walked with him to the shrubbery and part of the
way down it. Madame de Castella suddenly recollected Adeline. Her
voice, as she spoke, had a tone of alarm in it.

"This change to cool air may not be well for you, Adeline. You have
nothing on. Let us run back: who will be indoors first? Good night,
Mr. St. John."

She turned with Agnes de Beaufoy, and the windings of the shrubbery
soon hid them from view Adeline would have followed, but a beloved arm
had encircled her and held her back, Frederick St. John drew her
towards him, and snatched the first sweet tremulous kiss of love.
Maidenly reserve caused her to draw away from him, otherwise she could
have wished that kiss to last for ever. "Oh, Frederick! if mamma----"
was the only agitated rejoinder that came from her lips, and she sped
away, her hand lingering, to the last, in his.

"Why, Adeline!" exclaimed her aunt, as she came up, "lame as I am, I
can beat you at running."

She went up to her chamber. She stood at the window, looking out on
the lovely scene, yet scarcely heeding it; her hands pressed upon her
bosom to keep down its agitation and its excess of happiness. She
glanced up at the starry heavens, and wondered if the bliss, promised
there, could exceed this of earth. She seemed to be realizing some
ecstatic fairy-dream of her childhood. How long she stood there, she
knew not. Silently she paced her chamber, unable to rest. She recalled
his whispered words; she recalled those fleeting moments which had
been an era in her life: and when she at last sank into a wearied
slumber, it was only to live the reality over again; to dream that
that light touch of Mr. St. John's on her lips was present, not past.

The next morning Madame de Beaufoy was ill: she had an indigestion; a
very favourite malady with the French. Madame de Castella was anxious,
somewhat uneasy; for no letter had arrived from her husband to account
for his non-appearance. She hoped it might come by the evening post.
They had many visitors that day, and Adeline thought it would never
end.

After dinner Madame de Beaufoy was well enough to sit up and play at
cards in her dressing-room, her two daughters bearing her company.
Adeline was downstairs alone, privately expecting Mr. St. John; now,
standing before a mirror, hastily passing a finger over the braids of
her luxuriant hair: now glancing, with conscious vanity, at the rich
crimson which expectancy called to her cheeks; now, stealing to the
colonnade, and looking and listening.

Suddenly the room-door opened, and Adeline stepped in from the
colonnade, her heart beating wildly. But it was only her mother: who
began to rummage amongst the silks and worsteds of an ivory basket.
"Only her mother!" How full of ingratitude is the heart to those who
have cherished us from infancy, when this all-potent passion for a
stranger takes root in it!

"Adeline, your aunt has mislaid her green floss-silk. Will you look in
my work-box?"

Adeline unlocked the box, found the silk, and handed it to her mother.
Again the door opened, and this time her pulse did not quicken in
vain. It was Mr. St. John.

"I am glad to see Madame de Beaufoy is better," he observed as he came
in. "She nodded to me from her dressing-room."

"Oh yes, thank you. Ah, here's news at last!" exclaimed Madame de
Castella, as the old Spanish servant, Silva, entered with a letter.
And with a "pardon" to Mr. St. John, she broke the seal. She was very
French sometimes.

"M. de Castella has been detained," she explained, skimming the
contents: "he will not be here for a week. The truth is, Mr. St. John,
he always finds Beaufoy painfully triste, and makes excuses for
remaining away from it. Adeline, here is a message for you."

Adeline glanced up half frightened. These instincts are rarely wrong.

"Your papa desires his love to you, and---- You are quite a family
friend now, Mr. St. John," broke off Madame de Castella, "so I do not
hesitate to speak before you. I dare say the subject is as well known
to you as it is to ourselves: you are like a son of the house, a
brother to Adeline."

Mr. St. John bowed.

"This is what your papa says, Adeline," continued Madame, translating
as she read: "'Make my love to my dear Adeline; tell her not to be
vexed at my additional week's delay, for I shall bring De la Chasse
with me when I come.' You are no doubt aware, I say, Mr. St. John, of
the position the baron holds in our family in regard to Adeline."

Another bow from Mr. St. John.

"And now I must ask you to excuse me for a few minutes, while I take
this silk to my mother," pursued Madame. "When not well she is a
little exacting. I will be down almost immediately. Adeline, do your
best to entertain Mr. St. John."

He closed the door after Madame de Castella, and returned to Adeline.
She was leaning against the window-frame, endeavouring to look all
unconscious and at ease, but evidently hardly able to support herself.
Her face had turned pale; a sort of startled despair had settled on
it. The evil moment, which throughout all this golden time she had
never dared to look in the face, was at hand now.

Mr. St. John wound his arm round her, and became himself her support.
He called her by the most endearing names, he pressed the sweetest
kisses on her lips: he besought her not to give way to despondency: he
assured her there was no cause for it, for that never, never should
she be any other's wife than his.

He had been silent hitherto, so far as open avowal went; but that was
over now. He spoke cheeringly of his plans and prospects; of winning
the consent of Signor de Castella to their union. He pictured their
future home in the land of his birth---the land which she had always
loved. And Adeline, as she listened to his soothing words, never a
shade of doubt clouding them, grew reassured and calm. She almost
felt, as she stood there by his side and looked into his honest
earnest eyes, that no power on earth could avail to separate them, if
he willed that it should not.

When Madame de Castella returned to the room, delightfully
unconscious, words which no time could obliterate, at least in one
heart, had been spoken. They had betrothed themselves, each to the
other, until death should divide them. A less formal betrothal, it is
true; but oh, how much more genuine than that other in which Adeline
de Castella had borne a part.



CHAPTER XXI.
A FADING CHILD.


There arrived one morning a missive at the house of Madame de Nino,
addressed to that renowned preceptress herself. It was from Madame
de Castella, and contained a pressing invitation for two of her
pupils--you will be at no loss to divine which--to spend some weeks at
Beaufoy.

Madame called the two young ladies up after morning class, told them
of the invitation, and handed to each a little sealed note from
Adeline, which had been enclosed in the letter. This much certainly
must be said for Madame de Nino's establishment: bad as the soup and
bouilli were, she never opened the girls' letters.

"Of course you cannot go," observed Madame. "It would be unreasonable
to suppose it."

"Oh, Madame!" exclaimed Rose.

"You would lose all chance of the prizes, my children," cried Madame.
"And this is your last term at school, remember."

"But we are too old, Madame, to care for school prizes."

"Well," said Madame, "of course the decision as to Mademoiselle Rose
does not lie with me. Madame Darling being at present in the town, I
yield my authority to hers. If _she_ chooses to allow such an absence
at the most busy portion of the year, of course it must be so; but I
can only say that it will be more unreasonable than anything I have
met with in all my experience. In that case, Mademoiselle Mary----"

"In that case, pray, pray dear Madame, suffer me to accompany her,"
interrupted Mary Carr, in her pleading, soft, quiet tone. "My friends
would like me to do so, I know. Beaufoy is close to M. d'Estival's."

"I think you are both in league against me," returned Madame. "You
English demoiselles never do care properly for the prizes."

And she went away, saying no more then. Mary Carr wrote a little note
to her brother Robert's widow, in England, once Emma d'Estival, asking
her to intercede for her with Madame de Nino.

Mrs. Darling, as you have gathered from Madame's words, was at
Belport. She had come to it only within a day or two, with her two
daughters, Margaret and Mary Anne. Not to see Miss Rose; that was not
the object of her visit; but hoping to meet her eldest daughter
Charlotte.

All these past months, since she first quitted her native shores, had
Mrs. Carleton St. John been travelling about the Continent. Travelling
_about_; the word is put advisedly. Now hither, now thither; today in
one place, tomorrow in another; ever restless, ever on the wing.
France, Germany, Savoy, Switzerland: and now back on the coast of
France again and intending to try Flanders and Belgium. It seemed that
some power impelled her forward, forced change upon her; for no sooner
had she settled down in one spot, saying she should remain in it, than
she would suddenly start away for another. Her attendants wondered
whether she were quite sane: but she appeared more as one labouring
under the torture of a troubled spirit. It seemed like remorse.
Remorse for what? Ah, none could tell. That first foolish supposition
of Honour's was surely not a correct one--that the young heir, who
stood in her own son's light, had owed his death to her hands!
Nonsense! It was not likely. But, if so, why, how fearful a
retribution had overtaken her! She must know now that she had perilled
her soul for worse than nought; for the halls of Alnwick and their
rich lands were passing rapidly away from her into the hands of
strangers; passing away with her child's life.

It was a singularly strange thing--and people talk of it yet--but
George St. John never recovered that memorable birthday night. The
puzzle was--_what_ had harmed him? Had he taken too much?--a fit of
over-eating, of indigestion if you will, is soon cured in a child. Had
he suffered a shock from fright?--_that_ was not likely to bring on
the bodily ailment, the weakness, under which he now laboured. His
mother had asked, asked with feverish lips and eager eyes, what could
be the matter with him. No one could answer her then; he would soon
get well, they supposed. She knew--it must be that she knew--all too
surely now. George St. John was in a decline--the same disease that
had killed his father.

In writing to her mother in England, with whom she communicated from
time to time, Mrs. St. John had mentioned that she intended to take
Belport on her way into Flanders from Normandy, where she now was. She
should endeavour to get an experienced English sick-nurse in that
Anglo-French town, to travel with them and attend on George, and she
should of course see Rose. Mrs. Darling read the letter, and
determined she should also see some one else--herself. Charlotte had
been dexterously evading her all these months--as it seemed to the
anxious heart of Mrs. Darling. All her overtures to join her had been
declined; all her plans to reach some place where her daughter spoke
of staying were frustrated, because before she could start for it,
news came, generally from Prance (who was a private correspondent),
that Mrs. Carleton St. John was on the wing again and had left it. But
in the very hour that she read of this projected journey to Belport,
Mrs. Darling packed up her things in haste, and started. Mrs. St. John
had not arrived when she got there; and Mrs. Darling allowed Rose to
think the visit was paid for her especial benefit. This was from no
wish to deceive; Mrs. Darling was of too open a nature for that; but
she had an invincible dislike to speak of the affairs of Charlotte.

Rose did not exhibit any particular gratitude. She was in a state of
chronic resentment at being kept so long at school; and she was shy at
first with her mother, not knowing how much Frank might have
communicated to her of the previous autumn's trip in the fishing-boat.
As to those two staid ladies, her sisters, Rose made no secret of the
contempt in which she held them. Rose was in perpetual hot water with
both: they were severe upon what they were pleased to term her
wildness; and Rose quietly shrugged her shoulders, French fashion, in
return, and called them "old maids" in their hearing.

Rose carried Madame de Castella's invitation to her mother, and at
once received her sanction for the visit. Mrs. Darling, unless
interest led her the other way, was a most indulgent mother--just such
a one as Rose herself would make in time. She mentioned that Frederick
St. John of Castle Wafer was located close to the château, with some
of Mary Carr's friends.

"Is he rich?" asked Rose.

"Rich!" echoed Mrs. Darling. "Frederick St. John! He is rich in debts,
Rose. Frederick St. John came into a great deal of money when he was
twenty-one, but it is all gone; mortgaged, or something. Frank told me
about it. He went the pace, I conclude, as other young men do, and
there's no doubt that he gave away a great deal: he is large-hearted.
But what had helped to ruin him is his love for what he calls 'high
art,' his passion for pictures. He is half mad upon the point, I
should say: and what with buying up pictures of the old masters, and
lavishing money upon the painters of modern ones, and dancing all over
the world after galleries that nobody in their senses would ride a
mile to see, Frederick St. John and his means parted company. It is
impossible to help liking him, though, with all his imprudence. I knew
he was out of England--to the reputed sorrow of Sarah Beauclerc."

Rose pricked up her ears. "Sarah Beauclerc! One of those Gorgon girls
in Eaton Place?"

"No, no; quite the other branch of the family. The daughter of General
and Lady Sarah Beauclerc. Since Lady Sarah's death she has resided
with the Dean of Westerbury."

"I think I saw her once," mused Rose, speaking slowly. "One of the
loveliest girls living."

"Frederick St. John seemed to think so, I believe. But your sister
Margaret can tell you more about it than I can: she used to meet them
last year in town. Captain Budd said there was nothing in it; it was
only a case of flirtation; but Frank thought he was jealous; and
wanted to make up to Miss Beauclerc himself. By the way, Rose, he has
come into his title and is no longer Captain Budd. He is still in the
regiment, though: it was said that his uncle, old Lord Raynor, wished
it."

"Mamma," interrupted Rose, "if anything should happen to little George
St. John, if he should die--would not Frederick St. John be the heir
to Alnwick Hall? And his brother of Castle Wafer its possessor?"

Mrs. Darling started; she glanced over her shoulder, as though fearing
the walls had ears. "Hush, Rose! Better not think of such things. Were
you so to speak before Charlotte, I don't know what the consequences
might be. No one must breathe a hint that the child's life is in
danger--that there's so much as a chance of his dying."

"If he be as ill as you give me to understand--and I suppose you have
your information from Prance," added Rose, in a spirit of hardihood,
for that subject also was interdicted--"Charlotte can't avoid seeing
his state herself. She possesses just as much keen sense as you do,
mamma, I can tell you that."

"It is not a question of _sense_. Love blinds fond eyes to the very
worst, Rose."

Rose threw back her golden curls. "Why does Charlotte go about in this
manner? One would think she had St. Vitus's dance. George might stand
a better chance of recovery if she would let him be at rest."

"Rose, you are not to reflect on Charlotte, or on anything she chooses
to do," sharply reproved Mrs. Darling. "If she considers constant
change necessary for the child, she is right in giving it him. I hope
we shall find him better than we anticipate."

Rose shrugged her shoulders---the retort for the reproof. "I'm sure
_I_ hope we shall find him well, poor little fellow. My firm belief
is, that Charlotte worries herself with straws--she's afraid for her
own sake of losing Alnwick."

And Mrs. Darling replied by a deprecating gesture. Rose always would
have the last word, and always did have it.

But ah! how false were these hopes. Charlotte St. John arrived at
Belport; and from the first moment that Mrs. Darling threw her eyes
upon the child, she saw that his days were numbered. There was no
particular disease; neither had there been any in the case of his
father; he was simply wasting gradually away; almost imperceptibly so
to those who were about him.

"Oh, Charlotte! how thin and worn he looks. He is like a shadow."

Mrs. Darling's incautious greeting broke from her in the first
startled moment. He _was_ like a shadow; like nothing else. His face
was wan and thin, his cheeks and his blue eyes were unnaturally
bright, his little hands were transparent, and his fair and pretty
curls looked damp and dead.

"It is because he is tired," said Charlotte. "He will be all right
tomorrow."

Was she really deceived as to the truth, or did she but wilfully
deceive herself? Mrs. Darling thought it was the former; she had not
yet admitted to herself the possibility--not yet _seen_ it--of the
boy's death. _She_ was changed, if you will; changed even more than
George; her beautiful cheeks were haggard and crimson, her eyes had a
wasting fire in them. She was quite well, she said; and so far as
bodily health went, there might be no reason to doubt the assertion.
Her disease lay in the mind.

The meeting took place at the Hôtel du Nord, for Mrs. St. John
declined to accept of her mother's hospitality, even could space have
been found in that lady's apartments for their accommodation. Rose had
accompanied her mother to the hotel: Mrs. Darling was ever indulgent
to Rose over the other two sisters.

"Do you know who I am?" cried Rose, lifting the little boy upon her
knee; and so fragile did he seem, that a tremor ran through her, lest
he should fall to pieces. "I have never, never seen you, George; do
you know my name?"

George looked up at the smiling face; he raised his poor little weak
hand, and pushed away the blue ribbons of her pretty bonnet from her
chin; he touched the golden hair.

"No, I don't know you," he said.

"Of course not," returned Rose, in resentment. "Charlotte--your mamma
would not talk to you about me, I suppose? I am your Aunt Rose,
Georgy; your mamma's sister."

"Will you come along with us when we go away?" he asked, much taken
with his new aunt. "I wish you would."

"I wish I could," said Rose; "though I don't know whether I should get
on with--with every one. But I can't; I am at school; is not that a
shame, Georgy? And I am going out on a visit in a day or two."

A pause ensued. Georgy was silent, and breathing, oh, so quickly; Mrs.
Darling stood as one not at ease; Charlotte, apathetical as ever, save
for the restless fire in the eyes, was looking down into the street
between the crimson curtains of the somewhat high salon. Presently
George spoke, looking at Rose.

"I want to go back to Alnwick. I want Benja."

"Oh, child!" exclaimed Rose, in a sort of awe. "Benja is not there."

"He's gone to heaven," continued George; "but I _might_ see him, you
know. Mamma sees him sometimes. She saw him the other night when she
cried out: she squeezed hold of me so that she hurt me."

Rose cast an involuntary glance at her impassive sister. Believe she
saw a ghost!--she, Charlotte, the mocker! No, no; it could not have
come to that.

"I should have all Benja's playthings; I should ride his pony," went
on Georgy. "I should see Brave, Aunt Rose. I want to go home to
Alnwick."

"And the best place for you, my little darling," answered Rose.
"Charlotte, do you hear? This child says he would like to go back
home. I'm sure I should think it is only the worry of his being
hurried about so from place to place that makes him thin. He is
nothing but a bag of bones."

"I have come to think that Alnwick is not healthy," observed
Charlotte, with her usual equanimity. "All the St. Johns die there."

"Don't you intend to go back to it?" asked Rose, breathlessly.

"Not at present; when George shall have grown strong again."

"Alnwick, his native air, might be the very place where he would grow
strong," cried Rose, persistently. "Wouldn't I go to it if it were
mine. Healthy or not healthy, I'd reign there, with the county at my
feet."

She laughed merrily; Mrs. Darling seemed uneasy. Indeed, there is
little doubt that the appearance of both Charlotte and the child had
seriously disturbed her. She moved past the crimson sofa to the side
of her daughter, who was still looking listlessly into the street
below.

"Do you think it well, Charlotte, to abandon Alnwick Hall so entirely
to servants? I don't."

"You may go and live in it yourself, mamma, if you choose. I'm
sure I don't care who lives there. The servants keep it in order, I
suppose--in readiness for my return? It is all my own now; that is,
it's Georgy's; and I am responsible to no one."

She spoke quietly, indifferently, smoothing back the braids of her
most luxuriant hair. But for the strange fire in her eyes, the
consuming hectic of her cheek, it might have been affirmed that she
took no interest in any earthly thing.

"I am glad to see you have left off your widow's caps, Charlotte,"
resumed her mother. "They always look sad upon a young woman."

"There was no help for leaving them off; we could not get any abroad.
Prance contrived to manage them in some way as long as I wore them,
but they were never tidy. Where's Honour?" she suddenly exclaimed,
turning her eyes, ablaze with sudden angry fire, on Mrs. Darling.

Mrs. Darling positively recoiled. And some feeling, which she did not
stay to account for, and perhaps could not have accounted for,
prompted her to withhold the fact that Honour had been taken in at
Castle Wafer.

"She procured some other situation, I believe, Charlotte, after
quitting the Hall. I have never heard from her."

"A situation! Where? Not at Alnwick?"

"Oh dear no; not at Alnwick; in a different county; not very far, I
think, from her native place."

"Mamma, if ever you see her, ask her whether the boy's spirit comes
and haunts her in the night? It may; for she murdered him. She ought
to suffer on the scaffold for her work. I wish she could; I might be
more at rest."

"Oh, Charlotte! Charlotte!" soothingly spoke Mrs. Darling from the
depths of her fearful heart,--fearful she knew not of what.

"Come and look here!" interrupted Rose in a whisper.

They both turned. The little lad had fallen into a light doze on her
lap, his wan hand clasping Rose's blue ribbons, and the upright line
on his pale forehead seeming to denote that he had gone to sleep in
pain.

"Charlotte," said Rose, earnestly, "I'm not used to children, and
don't pretend to understand them as you must do; but my belief is,
that this child wants rest--repose from travelling. It cannot be good
for him to be hurried about incessantly. It is wearing him out."

"You do _not_ understand them," returned Mrs. St. John. "It is for him
that I move about. He grows so languid whenever we settle down. What
should you know about children, Rose? Are you a nurse, or a doctor?
You are not a mother. A chacun son métier."

"Comme vous voulez," returned Rose, with her pretty shrug. "Charlotte,
I am going to visit where I shall see something of a sort of cousin of
yours--Mr. St. John."

"Mr. St. John of Castle Wafer?" quickly asked Mrs. St. John, with more
interest than she had yet displayed.

"The heir to Castle Wafer, Frederick."

"Oh--he," slightingly returned Mrs. St. John, and she relapsed into
apathy.

"How long shall you remain at Belport, Charlotte?" asked Rose,
speaking softly, not to awaken the child.

"I don't know yet; I shall see how the place suits George. Do you
happen to know of a good sick-nurse here, Rose--English? I hear they
abound."

"I know of one," said Rose, rather eagerly. "And she is excellent in
these cases of--of----" Rose caught back the ominous word she had so
nearly uttered--consumption; substituting one for it, however, that
proved little better--"of wasting away. It is her _spécialité_."

"Who says he is wasting away? Who says it?"

"Nay," said Rose, "I only thought it, seeing him so thin. I dare say
it's natural to children to be thin. She is a most excellent nurse,
Charlotte; a Mrs. Brayford. I saw her several times in the spring,
when she was nursing Adeline de Castella."

"What was her complaint?"

"They feared she was going into a decline. Mrs. Brayford nursed her
into perfect health, and she is as strong and well now as I am. I
should think she would be the very nurse to suit you, and she is a
pleasant sort of woman."

"Where can I find her?"

"Well, I don't know," said Rose. "It can readily be ascertained,
though. The concierge at Signor de Castella's is sure to know her
address. Of course, she may not be at liberty just now, Charlotte;
neither may she be inclined to take a place that involves travelling."

"Is she one of those monthly nurses?" asked Mrs. St. John. "I don't
like them."

"No; I believe not. I will get you her address, Charlotte, and you can
send to her or not, as you please. How this child starts!"

"He would lie more comfortably on a bed," interposed Mrs. Darling,
lifting him gently from Rose's knee. "I'll take him to Prance."

It was what she had been longing to do--to get to Prance. For ten
minutes' conversation with the serving-woman, Mrs. Darling would have
given an earldom. The servant met her at the chamber-door, and the
child was laid on his bed without awaking.

"Prance, he is surely dying," breathed Mrs. Darling, as they stood
over him.

Prance glanced round, making sure there were no other listeners. "He
is as surely dying, ma'am, as that his father died before him; and of
the same complaint--wasting away. A month or two longer, and then--the
end."

"Your mistress does not seem to see it. _Does_ she see it, do you
think?"

"I think not. I think she really believes that he will get well."

"Why does she go about from place to place in this restless manner?"

The woman stooped to brush a fly from George's forehead, and she
answered with her head and eyes bent down.

"She says it is for the benefit of the child: that he gets more
languid and fretful when we stay quietly in a place than when we are
moving about. But in her anxiety, she a little overdoes it: there's a
medium in all things. In some of the towns she has not liked the
doctors, and then she has gone away immediately."

"I wish she would come back to Alnwick," lamented Mrs. Darling. "Pym
knows the constitution of the St. Johns. No one could treat the child
so well as he."

"I wish she would!" heartily acquiesced Prance. "I wish you could
persuade her----"

Prance stopped, and hastily busied herself straightening George's
petticoats. Mrs. St. John had entered the room.

But there was no persuading her to Alnwick--or to put a stop to this
incessant travelling. Only a few days and she had quitted Belport
again, taking her retinue with her, amidst whom was the nurse, Mrs.
Brayford.

How strangely do the links in that chain we call fate, fit themselves
one into the other, unconsciously to ourselves.



CHAPTER XXII.
ALL ABOUT A STUPID FRENCH MARIGOLD.


The invitation sent to the young ladies by Madame de Castella had been
given at the pressing instigation of Adeline. The nervous, anxious
tones of the little notes enclosed from herself, praying them to
accept it, at once proved the fact to Mary Carr.

The return of Signor de Castella to Beaufoy, and consequently the
visit of the Baron de la Chasse, had been subjected to another
postponement of a week; but then the time was positively fixed, and
Adeline knew it would be kept. Her suspense and fears were becoming
intolerable. How avoid being often in the society of the baron, when
he would be the only visitor in the house? It was this grave question
that suggested to her the thought of asking for the presence of her
schoolfellows. Madame de Castella fell all innocently into the snare,
and acquiesced at once. Adeline had ever been an indulged child.

It was almost impossible for Adeline to conceal her terror as the days
drew on. She knew her father's haughty, unbending character, his keen
sense of honour. He would have been the last to force her into an
unpalatable union, and had Adeline expressed the slightest repugnance
to M. de la Chasse when it was first proposed, the affair would have
been at an end. But she had cheerfully consented to it; the deeds of
betrothal were signed on both sides, and M. de Castella's word and
honour had been pledged. Never, Adeline feared, would he allow that
betrothal, that word to be broken; never would he consent to entertain
proposals for her from another.

Now that her eyes were opened, she saw how fearfully blind and
hazardous had been the act by which she consented to become the wife
of the Baron de la Chasse, a personal stranger. There are thousands
who consent in the same unconscious haste, and know not what they do,
until it is too late. It is gratifying to a young girl's vanity to
receive an offer of marriage; to anticipate an establishment of her
own; to leave her companions behind. Marriage is to her a sealed book,
and she is eager to penetrate its mysteries. If a voice from a
judicious friend, or a still small voice in her own conscience, should
whisper a warning to wait, to make sure she is on the right path ere
she enter its enclosures irrevocably, both are thrust aside unheeded.
So the wedding-day comes surely on; and soon the once eager careless
girl awakes to her position, and beholds herself as she really
is--sacrificed. She is the wife of one whom she cannot love; worse
still, perhaps not respect, now that she knows him intimately: there
is no sympathy between them; not a feeling, not a taste, it may be, in
common. But the sacrifice was of her choosing, and she must abide by
it. Deliberately, of her own free will, she tied herself to him, for
better for worse, for richer for poorer, until death shall them part.
She has linked herself to him by a chain which divides her from the
rest of the world; every thought of her heart belongs, of right, to
him; she is his companion and no other's, and must obey his behests;
at uprising and down-sitting, at the daily meals and in the midnight
chamber she is his, his own, for evermore.

A strong impression, call it a presentiment if you will, had taken
hold of Adeline, that the very first word of disclosure to her father,
though it were but a hint of it, would be the signal for her
separation from Mr. St. John. She spoke of this to him, and she wrung
a promise from him that he would be for the present silent; that at
least during this few days' visit of the Baron's he should continue to
appear as he did now--an acquaintance only. Rose would be there, and
St. John's intimacy with the family, his frequent presence at Beaufoy,
might be accounted for by his relationship to her, No relationship
whatever in point of fact, as the reader knows; but Adeline chose to
construe it into one. Mr. St. John at first hesitated to comply with
her wish. It is true that he would have preferred, for reasons of his
own--his debts and his estrangement from his brother--not to speak to
Signor de Castella just yet; but he was given to be ultra honourable,
and to maintain silence in such a case, though it were but for a week
or two, jarred against his nature. Only to her imploring petition, to
her tears, did he at length yield, and then conditionally. He must be
guided, he said, by the behaviour of de la Chasse. "Should he attempt
to offer you the smallest endearment, should he begin to whisper
tender speeches in your ear, I should throw prudence to the winds, and
step between you."

"Oh, Frederick!" she answered, her cheek a burning red, her face bent
in its maidenly confusion; "endearment--tender speeches--they are not
known in France, in our class of society. Of such there is no fear.
The Baron will be as politely ceremonious to me as though we were ever
to remain strangers."

And Adeline was right.

Late in the afternoon of as hot and brilliant a day as the July sun
ever shone upon, the carriage, containing the young-lady guests, which
had been sent to Odesque to meet them, drew up at the château, in the
very jaws of the lions. Mary Carr looked out. There, on the broad
steps, in the exact spot where she had last seen him, looking as
though not an hour had passed over his head since, stood Mr. St. John.

He assisted them to alight, and Adeline ran out to receive them, so
charmingly lovely in her white morning dress and pink ribbons. Madame
de Castella also appeared, and after a cordial welcome, ordered the
coachman to speed back with haste to Odesque, or he would not be in
time for the arrival of the Paris train.

"I expect my husband and M. de la Chasse," she explained, addressing
her visitors. Mary Carr looked involuntarily at Adeline. She met the
gaze, and a burning crimson rushed over her face and neck.

Before six the party had re-assembled, including Mr. St. John. They
were in the yellow drawing-room, a very fine apartment, kept chiefly
for show and ceremony, and one that nobody ever felt at home in. The
windows overlooked the approach to the château; every one was gazing
for the first appearance of the momentarily expected travellers,
Adeline growing more pale, more agitated with every minute; so pale,
so agitated, that she could not escape notice.

"See, see!" exclaimed old Madame de Beaufoy, hobbling to the window.
"Is not that the carriage?--far off, there;--at the turn by the
windmill."

It was the carriage: the aged eyes were the quickest, after all: and
it came speedily on. Two dusty-looking figures were in it, for they
sat with it open. Madame de Castella and her sister hastened to the
hall to receive the travellers, and the old lady thrust her head out
at one of the windows. Adeline had risen in terrible agitation, and
was leaning on the back of a chair. Her very lips were white. Mr. St.
John advanced and bent over her.

"My dearest love," he whispered, "you are ill, and I dare not protect
you as I could wish. Be under no apprehension of any unwelcome scene
with him: sooner than suffer it I will declare all."

He took up a flacon of eau de Cologne, and saturated her handkerchief.
Mary Carr was looking on. She could not hear his words; but she marked
his low, earnest voice, his looks, his actions, she saw how it was
from that hour. "There will be tribulation in the house, ere this
shall be over!" was her mental exclamation. But she little anticipated
the deep tribulation that was indeed to come.

The Baron did not make his appearance until he had been to his
dressing-room. He looked very presentable when he came in, though his
hair was shorter than ever, and the curled corners of his yellow
moustache were longer. His greeting of Adeline was in this fashion:
advancing quickly towards her until he came within three paces, he
there made a dead standstill, and placing his feet in the first
position, as dancing-masters say, slowly bowed his head nearly down to
the ground, and in ceremonious words, "hoped he had the honour of
finding mademoiselle in perfect health." That was all: he did not
presume even to touch her hand: any such familiarity would, in good
French society, be deemed the perfection of bad taste. Rose just
smothered a scream of delight when she saw the bow, and gave Mr. St.
John such a pinch on the arm, that the place was blue for days
afterwards. But what a bow St. John received the Baron with when they
were introduced--distant, haughty, and self-conscious, conscious of
his own superiority. Certainly, in outward appearance, there was a
wide contrast, and Mr. St. John, on this particular evening, seemed
quite aware of his own personal gifts. De la Chasse was superbly
dressed: a blue satin vest, curiously-fine linen of lace and
embroidery, with various other magnificent et ceteras. St. John was in
slight mourning attire, black clothes, a plain white waistcoat, and
not a bit of finery about him; but he looked, as Rose Darling said,
fit for a prince.

Dinner was announced. The Baron de la Chasse advanced to the aged
mistress of the house, St. John to Madame de Castella, and Signor de
Castella to Rose. Miss de Beaufoy, Adeline, and Mary Carr, went in
together. It was a formal dinner, and Adeline was sick at heart.

It happened, in the course of the following morning, that the three
young ladies and the Baron were alone in the western drawing-room--the
one, you may remember, opening to the colonnade. The conversation
flagged. De la Chasse, though a sensible man, did not shine in that
flowing, ready style of converse so natural to Frederick St. John; and
Adeline seemed utterly spiritless. Mary Carr went upstairs to her
chamber, but before she had been there five minutes, Rose came dancing
in.

"Where have you left Adeline?" inquired Miss Carr.

"Where you did--with the Baron. I thought I might be _de trop_, and so
came away. It is not pleasant to reflect that you may be spoiling a
scene, all tenderness and sweetmeats, as Charlotte Singleton calls it.
I say, though, Mary, did you see St. John whispering last night to her
at the piano, whilst he was pretending to be engaged turning over for
me? It's satisfactory to have two strings to one's bow."

Before another word could be said, in rushed Adeline, in high
excitement. "Mary! Rose!--Rose! dear Mary! never you leave me alone
with that man again! Promise it!--promise it to me!"

"What is it? What has he done?" they asked, in excessive astonishment.

"He has done nothing. But I dare not be alone with him, lest he should
talk of the future. He has been inquiring after the engagement-ring.
Hush! do not ask me any questions now," concluded Adeline. "I wish to
Heaven, Rose, you could induce the Baron to fall in love with you!"

"Much obliged for the transfer," said Rose, with a laugh. "Perhaps
you'll get him first to dye those appendages to his face: yellow is
not a favourite colour of mine."

De la Chasse intended to remain but a week. He purposed leaving on
Tuesday morning. His visit was passing quietly enough; there had been
no outbreak between him and St. John, only excessive coolness. Had de
la Chasse been an Englishman, an explanation could scarcely have been
avoided; for an Englishman would inevitably, by speech, manner, or
action, have shown that he was the young lady's lover: but in France
these things are managed differently.

Madame de Beaufoy issued invitations for Monday evening to as many
neighbours as were within driving-distance. A soirée dansante, the
cards said, when they went out.

On the Monday afternoon, when the three young ladies were in the
western drawing-room together, the Baron entered, and addressing
Adeline, formally requested her to grant him the honour of a few
minutes' conversation.

A strange rising in the throat; a dread, that caused her frame to
quiver; a terrified, imploring, but unavailing look at Rose and Mary;
and the door closed on them, and Adeline and her acknowledged lover
were left alone.

She need not have feared. The Baron did not say a word to her that he
might not have said to her mother. But he produced from his pocket the
engagement-ring, which had been taken to Paris to be made smaller--it
was a plain circlet of gold--and requested she would grant him the
honour of allowing him to replace it on her finger.

Without a word of remonstrance--for what could she say?--and sick at
heart, Adeline held out her hand; and the Baron ventured ceremoniously
to touch it, while he slipped on the ring: in the very act and deed of
doing which, the door opened, and into the room strode Mr. St. John,
twirling in his hand a French marigold.

He saw them standing together, Adeline's hand stretched out, and
meeting both of his; and he looked black as night. It has been said,
in this book or another, that Frederick St. John was of quick
temperament: on rare occasions he gave way to violent explosions of
passion. It is probable that an outburst would have come then; but the
Baron, with a polite bow to Adeline, quitted the room. And Mr. St.
John, though certain as man could well be that he had no cause for
jealousy, gave way to the irritation of his hasty spirit.

"So, Mademoiselle de Castella," he broke forth, "you have been
enjoying a stolen interview with your lover! I must beg your pardon
for having unintentionally interrupted it."

She turned deprecatingly to him; she did not speak, or defend herself
from the charge; but the look of anguish on her countenance was so
keen, the glance at himself so full of pure, truthful love, that the
gentleman's better nature revolted at the temper he had shown, and he
caught her to his heart.

"But they were cruel words," she sobbed; "and just now I have enough
to bear."

"Let this be my peace-offering, my darling," he said, placing in her
hand the French marigold.

St. John had long ago heard the tale of the French marigold, and Miss
Rose Darling's sombre forebodings touching himself. He had been
assiduously cultivating the flower in the garden at the Lodge, and
this, that he now gave to Adeline, was the first which had appeared.

"This ring, Adeline," he said, drawing it from her finger. "He placed
it there, I suppose?"

"You saw him doing so," she answered.

He slipped it into his waistcoat pocket, and then drew out his watch.

"Give me back the ring, Frederick."

"No, Adeline. It shall never encircle your finger again."

"But what am I to say if its absence is noticed? He said mamma had
given him permission to replace it. She will be sure to ask where it
is."

"Say anything. That it fell off--or wear a glove until evening. I will
then tell you what to do. I cannot stay longer now."

When Mary Carr was dressed for the evening ball, she went into
Adeline's room. Louise was putting the finishing strokes to her young
lady's toilette, and very satisfactory they were, when Madame de
Castella entered, holding in her hand a small circular case.

"Look here, Adeline," she said, opening it and displaying a costly
bracelet, one of beauty and finish so rare, that all eyes were riveted
on it. Exquisitely wrought, fine gold links, in the different
crossings of which were inserted brilliants of the purest water, with
pendant chains flashing with brilliants and gold.

"Oh, mamma!" was the enraptured exclamation. "What a lovely bracelet!"

"It is indeed, Adeline. It is yours."

"Ciel!" ejaculated Louise, lifting her hands.

"Mamma, how can I thank you!" she exclaimed, taking the jewels.

"You need not thank me at all, Adeline. It is the Baron's present.
Make your acknowledgments to him."

Had the bracelet been a serpent, Adeline could not have dropped it
quicker, and, but for Mary Carr, it would have fallen to the ground.
Madame de Castella thought it was an accident.

"Don't be careless, child. Put it on. You must wear it tonight."

"Oh no, no, mamma!" she returned, her cheek flushing. "Not tonight."

"What nonsense!" exclaimed her mother; "you are as shy as a young
child. When the Baron presented it to me for you, he said, 'Un petit
cadeau pour ce soir.' Clasp it on, Louise."

"Mamma," she implored, a great deal more energetically than Madame de
Castella thought the case could demand, "do not oblige me to appear in
this bracelet tonight."

"Adeline, I _insist_ on its being worn. Persons who know you less well
than we do, would suspect that affectation, more than delicacy,
induced your refusal to wear a gift from one who will soon be your
husband."

"Not my husband yet," faltered Adeline. "Not until next year."

"Indeed he will, Adeline," said Madame de Castella. "Before we go to
the South."

Her colour came and went painfully. She sat down, gasping out rather
than speaking, the words that issued from her white lips.

"We go to the South in two months!"

"Dear child," laughed Madame de Castella, "don't look so scared.
There's no reason for it: a wedding is quite an everyday affair, I can
assure you. This week I write to order your trousseau."

Louise fastened the bracelet on Adeline's arm, and she went down to
the reception-rooms as one in a dream. If the younger guests, as they
gazed on her excessive beauty, could but have read the bitter despair
at her heart, the strife and struggle within, they would have envied
her less. A single string of pearls was entwined with her hair, and
she wore a pearl necklace; no other ornament, save this conspicuous
bracelet of de la Chasse's. But in the bosom of her low white dress,
almost hidden by its trimmings of lace, was enshrined St. John's
French marigold.

The guests had nearly all arrived, and Adeline had done her best
towards greeting them, when in passing in the direction of the
colonnade, the Baron came up to her, She was longing for a breath of
the evening air--as if that would cool the brow's inward fever!

"Permit me to exchange this flower with the one you have there,
mademoiselle," he said, holding out a white camellia of rare beauty.
And, with a light, respectful touch, he removed the French marigold
from the folds of the lace.

Did de la Chasse suspect who had been the donor of that cherished
French marigold? Did he remember seeing it in St. John's hand that
same afternoon? It is impossible to tell; but he seemed more urgent
over this trifling matter than a Frenchman in general allows himself
to be.

"Sir, you forget yourself!" exclaimed Adeline, angry to excitement.
"Return me my flower."

"It is unsuitable, mademoiselle," he rejoined, retaining his hold of
the French marigold. "A vulgar, ordinary garden-flower is not in
accordance with your dress tonight--or with you."

"You presume upon your position," retorted Adeline, pushing aside the
white camellia, and struggling to keep down her anger and her tears.
"Do not insult me, sir, but give me back my own flower."

"What is all this?" demanded M. de Castella, coming up. "Adeline, you
are excited."

"I have incurred your daughter's displeasure, it would seem, sir,"
explained the Baron, showing symptoms of excitement in his turn.
"Mademoiselle appeared in the rooms wearing this flower--a worthless,
common garden-flower!--and because I wished to present her with one
more suitable, she seems to imply that I only do it by way of insult.
I don't understand, ma foi!"

"Nor I," returned M. de Castella. "Take the camellia, Adeline," he
added, sternly and coldly. "Caprice and coquetry are beneath _you_."

The Baron put the camellia in her now unresisting hand, and amused
himself with pulling to pieces the petals of the other flower. Adeline
burst into a violent paroxysm of tears, and hurried on to the
colonnade.

And all about a stupid French marigold!

"Let her go and have a cry to herself," said M. de Castella, walking
off with the Baron; "it will bring her to reason. The coquetry of
women passes belief. They are all alike. It appears I was mistaken
when I deemed my daughter an exception."

Adeline, in her tears and excitement, rushed across the lawn. It was
certainly a senseless thing to cry about, but, just then, a straw
would have ruffled her equanimity. She had been compelled to wear the
hated bracelet: she had been told that she would very speedily be made
the wife of de la Chasse; she had stood by him, recognized by the
crowd of guests as his future wife; and, blended with all this, was a
keen sensation of disappointment at the non-appearance of Mr. St.
John. She stood with her forehead pressed against the bark of a tree,
sobbing aloud in her anguish where none could hear her. Presently, her
ear caught the sound of footsteps, and she prepared to dart further
away: but they were some that she knew and loved too well. He was
coming through the shrubbery at a rapid pace, and she stood out and
confronted him.

"Why, Adeline!" he exclaimed, in astonishment. And, then, the
momentary restraint on her feelings removed, she fell forward in his
arms, and sobbed aloud with redoubled violence.

"Oh, Adeline, what ails you? What has happened? Be calm, be calm, my
only love! I am by your side now: what grief is there that I cannot
soothe away?"

He became quite alarmed at her paroxysm of grief, and, half leading,
half carrying her to the nearest bench, seated her there and laid her
head upon his arm, and held her gently to him, and spoke not a word
until she was calmer.

By degrees she told him all. The gift of the bracelet, her mother's
threats of the coming marriage--_threats_ they sounded to Adeline--and
the dispute with the Baron. Upon this last point she was rather
obscure. "I had a simple flower in my dress, and he wanted me to
replace it with a rare one, a camellia." She did not say it was the
one he had given her; she would rather have led him to think that it
was not: never, until she should be indeed his, could she tell him how
passionately and entirely she loved. But he divined all; he required
no telling. And yet, knowing this; knowing, as he did, how her very
life was bound up in his; how could he, only a few weeks later, doubt,
or profess to doubt, of this enduring love?

"Adeline," he said, as he paced the narrow path restlessly in the
moonlight, she still sitting on the bench, "I have done very wrong:
wrong by you and your friends, wrong by myself, wrong by de la Chasse.
I see it now. I ought to have declared all before he came to Beaufoy.
I will see M. de Castella tomorrow morning."

She shivered, as if struck by a cold wind. "Remember your promise."

"It must be done," he answered. "I yielded too readily to your
wishes, perhaps to my own motives for desiring delay. But for you to
be looked upon as his future wife--condemned to accept and wear his
presents--this shall not be. It is placing us all three in a false
position; you must see that it is. Neither did I know that the
marriage was being hastened on."

"He goes away tomorrow morning, and all immediate danger will be
over," she urged. "Do not yet speak words that might--nay, that
_would_--lead to our separation! Let us have another week or two for
consideration; and of--of happiness."

"I cannot imagine why you entertain these gloomy anticipations," he
rejoined; "why think that my speaking to your father will be the
signal for warfare. Believe me, Adeline, the St. Johns of Castle Wafer
are not accustomed to find their overtures for an alliance despised;
they have mated with the noblest in their own land."

"Oh, it is not that; it is not that! Frederick, you know it is
not.--Hark!" she suddenly broke off, starting from her seat as if to
fly. "There are footsteps approaching from the house. If it should be
papa!--or de la Chasse!"

"And what if it be?" he answered, drawing her hand within his arm and
raising himself to his full height, in the haughty spirit that was
upon him, to stand and confront the intruders. "I will explain all
now: and show that you are doing neither wrong nor harm in being here
with me, for that you are my affianced wife."

But the footsteps, whosesoever they might be, passed off in a
different direction: and they strolled on, talking, to the borders of
the miniature lake. It was nearly as light as day, very warm, very
beautiful. White fleecy clouds floated around the moon; the air,
redolent with the odour of flowers, was one balmy breath of perfume;
and Adeline forgot her trouble in the peaceful scene.

"What made you so late?" she asked. "I had fancied you would come
early."

"I have been to Odesque."

"To Odesque!"

He was drawing a small paper from his waistcoat pocket. Adeline saw
that it contained a ring of plain gold. Motioning to her to take her
glove off--and she obeyed mechanically--he proceeded to place it on
her finger; speaking solemn words:

"With this ring I will thee wed: with my body I thee worship; with all
my worldly goods I will thee endow, until death us do part: and thus
do I plight unto thee my troth."

She knew the slightly altered words were in the English Protestant
marriage-service, for she had heard Rose, and some of the other
schoolgirls as foolish as Rose was, repeat them in their thoughtless
pastime. There was a solemnity in Mr. St. John's voice and manner
which imparted an awe to her feelings, never before experienced. The
tears of deep emotion rose to her eyes and her frame trembled: she
could not have been more strongly moved, had she in very truth been
plighting her troth to him before the holy altar.

"Take you care of it, Adeline. Let none remove it from your finger as
I removed the other. It shall be your wedding-ring."

"It is not the same ring?" she whispered, unable quite to recover
herself. "His."

"_His!_ Look here, Adeline."

He took another ring from his pocket as he spoke. It was cut in two
parts; and he threw them into the water.

"There goes his ring, Adeline. May his pretensions go with it!"

"It is for this you have been to Odesque?"

"It is."

They turned to the house, walking quickly now, neither caring for
Adeline's absence to be so prolonged as to attract notice. Long as it
may have seemed to take in the telling, she had yet been away from the
house but a few minutes. Adeline could not quite forget her fears.

"If mamma could only be kept from ordering the trousseau!" she
suddenly exclaimed, more in answer to her own thoughts than to him.

"Where's the necessity of preventing her?"

She looked up wonderingly, and caught his smile full of meaning, all
apparent in the moonlight.

"The things ordered and intended for Madame de la Chasse--will they
not serve equally well for Mrs. Frederick St. John?"

"Oh--but"--and her downcast face felt glowing with heat "nothing will
be wanted at all yet for--any one."

"Indeed! _I_ think they will be wanted very soon. Do you suppose," he
added; laughing, "I should be permitted to carry you away with me to
the South without an outfit?"

"I am not going to the South now," she quickly said.

"Yes, Adeline. I hope you and I shall winter there."

"I am quite well now."

"I know you are: and that it will be almost a superfluous precaution.
Nevertheless, it is well to be on the safe side. My darling!" and he
bent over her, "you would not be dismayed at the prospect of passing a
whole winter alone with me?"

Dismayed! To the uttermost parts of the earth with him, and for a
whole lifetime Father, mother, country, home--what were they all, in
comparison with him?

As they gained the open lawn, a dark figure swept across their path.
Adeline shrank at being seen alone with Mr. St. John. It was Father
Marc, the officiating priest of the little neighbouring chapel, and
the family confessor, a worthy and very zealous man. He turned and
looked at Adeline, but merely said, "Bon soir, mon enfant," and took
off his hat to Mr. St. John. Mr. St. John raised his in return, saying
nothing, and Adeline bent low, as one in contrition.

"Bon soir, mon père."

She glided onwards to a side door, that she might gain her chamber and
see what could be done towards removing the traces of emotion from her
face. Whilst Mr. St. John strode round to the front entrance, and rang
such a peal upon the tinkling old bell that half-a-dozen servants came
flying to the door.

And as Adeline stood by his side that night in the brilliant
ball-room, and watched the admiration so many were ready, unsought, to
accord him, and marked the cordial regard in which both her father and
mother held him, and remembered his lineage and connections, the
fortune and position that must eventually be his, she almost reasoned
that overtures for her from such a man could never be declined.

But the Baron saw that she had thrown away the white camellia. "Petite
coquette!" he exclaimed to himself, in tolerant excuse: not in anger.
It never entered into the French brains of the Baron de la Chasse to
imagine that the young lady, being under an engagement to marry him,
could have the slightest wish to marry any one else.



CHAPTER XXIII.
JEALOUSY.


The grey walls of the Château de Beaufoy basked idly in the evening
sun. In the western drawing-room, M. and Madame de Castella, the old
lady, and Agnes de Beaufoy were playing whist. Its large window was
thrown open to the terrace or colonnade, where had gathered the
younger members of the party, the green-striped awning being let down
between some of the outer pillars. Mary Carr and Adeline were seated,
unravelling a heap of silks, which had got into a mess in the ivory
work-basket; Rose Darling flitted about amongst the exotics, her fine
hair shining like threads of gold when, ever and anon, it came in
contact with the sunlight, as she flirted--it was very like it--with
Mr. St. John. But Rose began to turn cross, for he teased her.

"Did you write to England for the song today?" she asked. "Ah, don't
answer: I see you forgot it. Most of the writing you are guilty of
goes to one person, I expect. No wonder you forget other matters."

"Indeed! To whom?"

"I won't betray you now," glancing at Adeline. "I will be
compassionate."

"Pray don't trouble yourself about compassion for me, ma belle,"
returned Mr. St. John, in a provokingly slighting manner. "It will be
thrown away."

"Compassion for _you_, Mr. St. John! Don't flatter yourself. I was
thinking of another."

Adeline looked up: a sharp, perplexed glance.

"You are mysterious, Rose," said he, laughing.

"Yes. But I could speak out if I would"

"I dare you," answered Mr. St. John. "Speak away."

"You know there is one in England, who monopolizes all your
letters--not to speak of your dreams."

"Rose!" exclaimed Mary Carr, a dim shadow of Rose's meaning darting
uneasily across her. "How can you talk this nonsense to Mr. St. John?"

"He asked for it. But he knows it is true. Look at his conscious face
now!" she saucily continued.

"The only lady in England honoured with my correspondence," said he,
in a more serious tone than he had hitherto spoken, "is Mrs. St.
John."

"That's almost true," cried the provoking girl--"almost. She is not
Mrs. St. John yet, only _to be_."

A strange wild spasm caught Adeline de Castella's heart. Would Rose
have continued, had she known it? Did St. John suspect it?

"I spoke of my mother, Rose," he said. "She is the only lady who
claims, or receives, letters from me."

"Honour bright?" asked Rose.

"Honour bright," repeated Mr. St. John: "the honour of her only son."

"Oh, faithless that you are then!" burst forth Rose. "Will you deny
that there is one in England to whom your letters are due, if not
sent; one whose shadow you were for many, many months--if not
years--one, beautiful as a painters dream?"

"Bah, Rose!" he said, his lips curling with a proud, defiant smile,
"you are lapsing into ecstasies."

"Shall I tell her name--the name of his own true lady-love?" asked
Rose, turning round, a world of triumph on her bright, laughing brow.
"Mary Carr knows it already."

"You are out of your senses!" exclaimed Mary Carr, all too eagerly.
"Don't impose your fabulous tales on us."

"Shall I tell it?" repeated Rose, maintaining her ground and her
equanimity.

"Tell it," said Mr. St. John, carelessly. Did he think she knew so
much!

"Tell it," repeated Adeline, but it was the motion of the syllables,
rather than the words, that came from between her white and parted
lips.

"Sarah Beauclerc."

A transient surprise crossed Mr. St. John's countenance, and was gone
again. _Adeline saw it_: and from that wild, bitter moment, a pang of
anguish took root within her, which was never to be erased during
life.

"You are under a slight misapprehension, Rose," said Mr. St. John,
with indifference.

"Am I? The world was under another, perhaps, when it asserted that the
honour of Mr. St. John's hand would fall to Sarah Beauclerc."

"That it certainly was--if it ever did assert it. And I might believe
it possible, were the world peopled with Rose Darlings."

"Look here," exclaimed Rose, snatching his pocket-handkerchief from a
gilt cage, where he had thrown it to protect the beautiful bird from
the rays of the setting sun. "Look at this, 'Frederick St. John,'
worked in hair!"

It happened to be the handkerchief they had picked up that first
morning in the painting-room. Rose talked on, in the recklessness of
her spirits; and Adeline sat, drinking-in her words.

"_She_ did this for him, I have not the least doubt. Look how
elaborately it is worked, even to the finishings of the crest. It is
her hair, Sarah Beauclerc's."

A random assertion. Rose neither knew nor cared whether she was right.
In her present humour she would have stood to anything. It is
possible: not likely, but barely possible: that she had stumbled on a
bit of fact. Mr. St. John remained supremely indifferent, denying
nothing. She talked on in her access of gaiety.

"This is his favourite handkerchief: I have noticed that. The others
are marked with ink. I dare say she _gave_ the handkerchief, as well
as marked it. Let it alone, Mr. St. John: I shall show it round, if I
like. A rather significant present from so lovely a girl! But it's
known she was _folle_ after him. He reciprocated the compliment then:
he was always at the dean's. I don't know how it may be now," she
added, after a pause, and there was a significant meaning in her tone
as she looked to Adeline. Then, with a saucy glance at Mr. St. John,
she sang out, in her clear, rich voice, to a tune of her own,


     "It is well to be off with the old love,
      Before you are on with the new."


Adeline rose, and passed quietly into the drawing-room, her step
self-possessed, her bearing calm: the still exterior covers the
deepest suffering. But Mr. St. John suspected nothing.

"Rose," he said, quoting a French axiom, "vous aimez bien à rire, mais
rien n'est beau que le vrai."

"Ah," she answered, with another, "ce n'est pas être bien aise que de
rire." Perhaps the deepest truth she had uttered that evening.

With outward calmness _there_, but oh! the whirlwind of despairing
agony which shook Adeline's frame as she sank down by the bedside in
her own chamber! That in one short minute, desolation so complete
should have swept over her heart, and she be able to endure it and
live! I tell you no false story: I am writing of one of those
sensitive hearts which must thus suffer and be shaken. To have given
up her whole love to one, in a passion little short of idolatry; to
have forgotten early ties and kindred in the spell of this strong
devotion--and now to be told there was _another_ to claim his vows,
another to whom they had first been offered!

The dream in which she had been living for months was over--or, at
least, it had been robbed of its golden colouring. The serpent DOUBT
had found its entrance into her heart: the fiend JEALOUSY had taken
possession of it, never to be wholly eradicated.

Frederick St. John was certainly one of earth's favoured people, with
his manly beauty and his master intellect. It seemed to her that the
world might worship him without a blush. He had made her life the
Elysium that poets tell of; and now she found that he loved, or had
loved, another. Like an avalanche falling down the Alps and crushing
the hapless traveller, so had these tidings fallen upon her heart, and
_shattered_ it.

Adeline de Castella smoothed her brow at last, and returned
downstairs. She had taken no account of the time; but, by the advanced
twilight, it would seem she had been away an hour, and Rose inquired
whether she had been buried.

Following Adeline on to the colonnade, where the whole party were now
seated, came the old Spanish servant, Silva, bearing a letter for Mr.
St. John. The ominous words, "très pressée," written on it, had caused
Madame Baret to despatch it with haste to the château.

"Does any one wait?" he inquired.

"Si, Señor."

"It is well," he said, and retreated inside the room.

"You have received bad news!" exclaimed Madame de Castella, when he
reappeared.

"I have," he said, with controlled emotion. "I must depart instantly
for England." And it was well the shades of evening were gathering, or
they would inevitably have seen the death-like pallor on Adeline's
stricken face.

Mr. St. John handed them the letter to read. A dangerous accident had
happened to his mother. The horses of her carriage took fright, and
she opened the door and jumped out. The physicians feared concussion
of the brain.

"Are you going?" exclaimed M. de Castella, as St. John held out his
hand.

"Yes. I feel every moment wasted that does not speed me on my
journey."

And in another instant he was gone. Without a word more of adieu to
Adeline than he gave to the rest. There was no opportunity for it.

"I don't know that I would have angered him, had I foreseen this,"
cried Rose, candidly, as she lingered on the terrace with Adeline.

"_Did_ you anger him?"

"I think I did. A little bit. He should not have dared me to it."

Adeline looked over the balustrades as she listened, seeing nothing. A
painful question was upon her lips; but her poor sensitive heart--how
unfit it was for the wear and tear of life!--beat so violently that
she had to wait before she put it.

"What you said was not _true_, Rose?"

"What did I say?" rejoined Rose, whose thoughts had veered to fifty
other things in her light carelessness.

"That he loved--what was the name?--Sarah Beauclerc."

The pretty assumption of forgetfulness! "What was the name?" As if the
name, every distinct letter of it, had not engraved itself on her
brain in letters of fire, when it was first spoken! Rose answered
impulsively.

"It was quite true, Adeline. He knows that it is true. I as certainly
believed that he loved her, as that we are standing here. People say
she would have been his wife before this, but for the dispute, or
estrangement, or whatever it is, between him and his brother. He can't
marry until his debts are cleared: and he is living quietly to clear
them. You should hear what Margaret says about it; she told me a great
deal the very day before I came here."

Her crushed heart fluttered against her side. "She is nice-looking,
you say?"

"Nice-looking! she's beautiful! One of the loveliest girls in society.
A fair, proud face, just as proud as his own. Georgina Beauclerc is
very pretty; but she's nothing beside her."

She could have cried aloud in her anguish as she listened to these
praises of her rival: and how she schooled her voice to maintain its
calm indifference, she knew not.

"Who is Georgina Beauclerc?"

"Her cousin. She's the daughter of the Dean of Westerbury: Fred St.
John's native place, you know. Sarah is the daughter of the dean's
brother, General Beauclerc. Her mother's dead, the Lady Sarah; and
since then she has lived with the dean. In point of family it would be
a suitable match; and I dare say in point of fortune."

"And in point of love?"

There was a peculiar sound in the hesitation, a tremor which struck on
Rose's ear. She turned her face full on Adeline's.

"I believe with all my heart, from what I've heard, that there _was_
love between them," answered Rose. "Perhaps _is_. Adeline, I don't say
this in ill-nature, but because it may be good for you to know it. I
am careless and random in general, but I _can_ be serious; and I am
speaking seriously now. He is a gay-mannered man, you know, a general
admirer; those attractive men usually are so; but I have little doubt
that his love was given to Sarah Beauclerc."

Rose went into the room with the last sentence. She had really spoken
from a good motive. Believing that Adeline was getting to like
Frederick St. John more than was good for her, consistently with her
engagement to the French baron, a word in season might act as a
warning. Little did Rose suspect how far things had gone between them.

An hour passed. All save Adeline were gathered in the lighted room.
Some were playing chess, some écarté, some were telling Father Marc,
who had dropped in, of the young Englishman's sudden departure for
England and its cause. Rose was at the piano, singing English songs in
a subdued voice. Never was there a sweeter voice than hers: and old
Madame de Beaufoy could have listened always to the bygone songs of
her native land.

Adeline had not stirred from the terrace; she was leaning still on its
balustrades, gazing forth apparently into the night. But that Madame
de Castella did not observe her absence, she had been called in long
ago, out of the night air.


     "Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
      It is a green-eyed monster, which doth make
      The food it feeds on."


That reader of the human heart never put forth a greater truth, a more
needed warning. How vainly! We can smile now, we can wonder at the
"trifles" that once mocked us; but we did not smile at the time. It is
asserted that where there is love, impassioned love, there must be
jealousy; and who shall venture to dispute it? Love is most exacting.
Its idol must not listen to a tender word, or bestow a look of
admiration on another. The faintest shadow of a suspicion will invoke
the presence of jealousy; what then when facts and details are put
forth, as they had been by Rose? It had aroused the most refined
torments of the distressing passion; and let none doubt that they were
playing their part cruelly on Adeline's heart. Not that she believed
quite all: the hint that he might be intending to marry Sarah
Beauclerc but touched her ear and fell away again. She knew enough of
his honourable nature to be certain that he would never have spoken of
marriage to herself, had he been under the slightest obligation of it
to another. But that he loved the girl with deep intensity, or had
loved her, Adeline never doubted. And so she stood on: bitterly giving
way to this strange anguish which had fallen on her; wondering how
long he would stay in England, and how often during his stay there he
would see her beautiful rival. The very fact of his having gone
without a loving word of adieu seemed a knell of unlucky omen.

But what is that movement which her eye has caught at a distance? Who
or what is it, advancing with a hasty step from the dark trees? Ah!
the wild rising of her pulse has told her, before the outlines of his
form become distinct, as he emerges into that plot of pale light! It
was _he_--he whom she thought to have looked upon at present for the
last time; and the ecstatic feeling which rushed over her spirit was
such as almost momentarily to obliterate the cruel doubts that
oppressed her. He had changed his dress, and was habited in travelling
costume. His tread over the lawn was noiseless, and little less so as
he ran up the steps to the colonnade.

"How fortunate that you are here, Adeline!" he whispered. "I could not
go without endeavouring to obtain a word with you, though I doubted
being able to accomplish it."

Adeline, painfully agitated, trembling to excess, both in her heart
and frame, murmured some confused words about the time he was losing.

"I am not losing one precious moment," he explained. "My own
preparations were soon made: not to those necessary to convey me to
Odesque. As it always happens in these emergencies, the spring
chaise--and there's nothing else to take me--had been lent out to
Farmer Pichon. Baret is gone for it, and will come on with it here,
which is all in the way. We shall catch the first train. Why do you
tremble so, my love?" he added, as the fit of ague, which seemed to
possess her, shook even his arm. "Are you cold?"

Cold! But most men would have had but the same idea.

"Now, Adeline, for one moment's grave consultation. Shall I write, and
lay my proposals before M. de Castella, or shall they wait until I
return?"

"Oh, wait to do so!" she implored. "In mercy, wait!"

"I would prefer it myself," said Mr. St. John, "for I feel I ought to
be present to support you through all that may then occur. But,
Adeline, should I be detained long, there will be no alternative: the
preparations for your wedding will soon be actively begun, and render
my speaking an act of imperative necessity."

She laid her head upon his arm, moaning.

"Cheer up," he whispered: "I am only putting the worst view of the
case. I trust that a few days may bring me back to you. Write to me
daily, Adeline: everything that occurs: I shall then be able to judge
how long I may be absent with safety. I was thinking, Adeline, as I
came along, that it might be better if my letters to you are sent
under cover to Rose or Mary. You are aware that I do not mention this
for myself--I should be proud to address you without disguise--but
for your own peace. Were I to write openly, it might force
explanations on you before my return."

Ever anxious for her! Her heart bounded with gratitude. "Under cover
to Mary Carr," she said.

"We must part now," he whispered, as a faint rumbling broke upon their
ears from the distance, "you hear my signal. It is fast approaching."

"You will come back as soon as you are at liberty?" she sighed.

"Ay, the very instant. Need you question it, Adeline?"

He strained her to his heart, and the painful tears coursed down her
cheeks. "God bless you, and take care of you, and keep you in peace
until I return; my dear, my dear, my only love!" And when he had
passed away, Adeline asked herself if that last lingering farewell
kiss, which he had pressed upon her lips--she asked herself, with
burning blushes, if she were sure it had not been returned.

And during the brief moments of this sudden interview, she had lost
sight of the torment about Sarah Beauclerc.

The second evening after Mr. St. John's departure, before they had
risen from the dinner-table, Silva brought in the letters. Two from
England amongst them, bearing on their seals, as Rose Darling
expressed it, the arms and quarterings of all the St. Johns. The one
was addressed to Madame de Castella; the other was handed to Miss
Carr.

Mary looked at it with unqualified surprise. The fact was, Adeline,
not expecting they could hear from Mr. St. John till the following
day, had put off the few words of explanation she meant to speak,
feeling shy at the task.

"Why should Mr. St. John write to me?" exclaimed Mary Carr. But
Adeline, who was sitting next her, pressed her hand convulsively,
under cover of the tablecloth, to prevent her opening it. Miss Carr
began dimly to understand, and laid the letter down by the side of her
dessert-plate.

"Why don't you open it, Mary?" repeated Rose, impatiently.

"No," said Miss Carr, in a half-joking manner, "there may be secrets
in it that I don't care to read before people." And Rose, whose
curiosity was excited, could have boxed her ears.

"Mr. St. John writes that his mother is better," said Madame de
Castella; "the injuries prove less serious than they were at first
supposed. By the next post, he hopes to send us word that she is out
of danger."

"This letter, Adeline," exclaimed Mary Carr, when they were alone--"I
fancy it may not be meant for me."

"You can open it," replied Adeline, timidly. "Perhaps--I think--there
may be one for me inside it."

Mary Carr opened the letter. It contained a few polite words from Mr.
St. John, requesting her to convey the enclosed one to Adeline at a
convenient opportunity.

"You see how it is?" faltered Adeline to her.

"I have seen it long, Adeline."

Adeline carried the letter to her chamber to read, bolting the door
that she might be free from interruption. It was a long letter,
written far more sensibly than are love-epistles in general, for it
was impossible to Mr. St. John to write otherwise; but there was a
vein of impassioned tenderness running through it, implied rather than
expressed, which surely ought to have satisfied even Adeline. But the
bitter doubts imparted by Rose that fatal night cast their shadow over
all. Not a moment of peace or happiness had she known since. Her
visions by day, her dreams by night, were crowded by images of
Frederick St. John, faithless to her, happy with another. Nor did
Sarah Beauclerc want a "shape to the mind." The day after St. John's
departure, they were looking over the last year's "Book of Beauty,"
when Rose suddenly exclaimed, as she came to one, "This is very like
Sarah Beauclerc!"

"It was great nonsense, Rose, that tale you were telling us!" cried
Adeline, with a desperate struggle to speak calmly.

"It was sober sense, and sober truth," retorted Rose.

"Not it," said Mary Carr. "It was but a flirtation, Rose."

"Very likely," assented Rose, volatile as usual. "Being an attractive
man, Mr. Frederick St. John no doubt goes in for the game, roaming
from flower to flower, a very butterfly, kissing all, and settling
upon none." And she brought her careless speech to a conclusion with
the first lines of an old song, once in great vogue at Madame de
Nino's:--


     "The butterfly was a gentleman
       Of no very good repute;
      And he roved in the sunshine all day long,
       In his scarlet and purple suit.
      And he left his lady wife at home
       In her own secluded bower,
      Whilst he, like a bachelor, flirted about,
       With a kiss for every flower.".


Adeline gazed at the portrait. It was that of a fair girlish face,
wearing a peculiarly sweet look of youth and innocence, blended with
pride. No impartial observer could have pronounced it so lovely as her
own, but the jealous film just now before her eyes caused her to take
an exaggerated view of its charms, and to see in it something more
than loveliness. It may have been little, if at all, like the young
lady to whom Rose compared it; but no matter: to Adeline it was Sarah
Beauclerc and no other, and from that moment the image fixed itself
indelibly in her mind as that of her envied rival. And yet she
believed in Mr. St. John; she knew he was seeking to win _herself_ for
his wife! Truly they are unfathomable, the ways and fears of jealousy.

At length, in her intolerable misery and suspense, she took courage,
in one of her letters to him, to hint at his former intimacy with
Sarah Beauclerc. What he answered was never disclosed by Adeline; but
that it must have been satisfactory, dispelling even _her_ strong
jealousy, may be judged from the significant fact that her face grew
radiant again.

Meanwhile Mr. St. John lingered at his mother's bedside in London. All
danger was over; and in point of fact the accident had not been so
severe as was at first feared. Lady Anne Saville was with her. Isaac
St. John was ill at Castle Wafer. It was Frederick's intention to pay
his brother a visit ere he returned to France, and get his sanction to
the proposals he intended to carry back to M. de. Castella. But this
visit was frustrated.

One afternoon the inmates of Beaufoy were startled by the unexpected
arrival of the Baron de la Chasse. Wishing to consult M. de Castella
on a little matter of business, he explained, he had done himself the
honour and pleasure to come personally, instead of writing. All
expressed themselves delighted to see him, except one; and _she_ was
nearly beside herself with consternation. Terrified and dismayed
Adeline indeed was; and she wrote to Mr. St. John before she slept.

An evening or two later, the whole party were assembled in the
billiard-room; soon about to separate for the night. A night of
intense heat, but there was a strong breeze, and it blew in through
the open windows, fluttering the lights and causing the wax to drop.
It was nearly eleven o'clock: the last game was being finished--but
the Baron was a remarkably slow, deliberate player--when, without the
slightest preparation, the door opened, and Mr. St. John walked in.
Adeline started from her seat, scarcely suppressing an involuntary
cry; she had not thought he would be back so soon. It seemed that her
letter had surprised him in the act of setting out for Castle Wafer.
He turned his steps to the Continent instead.

He looked very well; very handsome. It seemed to strike them all,
after this short absence, though he had no advantages from dress,
being in his travelling attire. How could Adeline be blamed for loving
him? A hundred inquiries were made after Mrs. St. John. She was quite
out of danger, he answered, and progressing towards recovery.

"Will you allow me the honour of half-an-hour's interview with you
tomorrow morning, sir?" he said, addressing M. de Castella, in a tone
which the whole room might hear.

"Certainly," returned M. de Castella. But he looked up, as if
surprised. "Name your hour."

"Ten o'clock," concluded Mr. St. John. And he took his leave.

The interview the following morning in Signor de Castella's cabinet
lasted an hour. An hour!--and Adeline in suspense all that time. She
could not remain for an instant in one place--now upstairs, now down.
She was crossing the hall, for about the hundredth time, when the
cabinet door opened, and Mr. St. John came out. He seized her hand and
took her into the yellow drawing-room. She trembled violently from
head to foot, just as she had trembled the night of his departure for
England. It was the first moment of their being alone together, and he
embraced her tenderly, and held her to his heart.

"You have bad news for me!" she said, at length. "We are to be
separated!"

"We will not be separated, Adeline. Strange! strange!" he continued,
as he paced the room, "that people can be so infatuated as to fancy an
engagement of form must necessarily imply an engagement of hearts! M.
de Castella does not understand--he cannot understand that your
happiness is at stake. In short, he laughed at that."

"Is he very angry?"

"No; but vexed. I have not time now to relate to you all that passed,
liable as we are to interruption. I told him that the passion which
had arisen between us was not of will--that I had not purposely placed
myself in your path to gain your love--that we had been thrown
together by circumstances, and thus it had arisen. I pointed out that
no blame could by any possibility attach to you, though it might be
due to me; for I did not deny that when I saw an attachment was
growing up between us, I might have flown before it was irrevocably
planted, and did not."

"Did you part in anger?" she asked.

"On the contrary. M. de Castella is anxious to treat the affair as a
jest, and hinted that it might be dropped as such. I do believe he
considers it one, for he asked me to dinner."

"Frederick! You will surely come?"

"I shall come, Adeline, for your sake."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, with a shiver, "how will it end?"

"My dearest," he said earnestly, "you must be calm. Fear nothing, now
I am by you. Rely upon it, you shall be my wife."

"Mr. St. John," cried Rose, as they went into the west drawing-room,
"you have brought some music for me, a writing-case for Mary Carr, but
what have you brought for Adeline?"

"Myself," he quietly answered.

"There's many a true word spoken in jest," said Rose, with a laugh.
"You don't think you have been taking _me_ in all this time, Mr. St.
John, with your letters to Mary Carr, and her envelopes back again?
Bah! pas si bête."

She went, waltzing, on to the colonnade.

Mr. St. John turned to Miss Carr, and thanked her for the very thing
Rose had named. "I presume you know," he said, "that our
correspondence was perfectly justified, though I did not wish it
declared until my return--that we are affianced to each other?"

"I have feared it some time, Mr. St. John."

"_Feared it?_"

"Yes. Adeline is promised to another: and the French look upon such
engagements as sacred."

"In a general way. But there are cases of exception. We have your good
wishes, I hope?"

"Indeed you have. For I fear it may be a matter of life or death to
Adeline--according as it may be decided. She is a sensitive plant."

"And shall be cherished as one."

It was a most uncomfortable dinner that day. Mr. St. John was present,
looking quiet and resolute; de la Chasse furious. During the afternoon
some inkling of the pretensions of Mr. St. John had oozed out, and de
la Chasse aspersed him in his absence before them all. After dinner,
Signor de Castella led the way to the billiard-room, hoping, probably,
that the knocking about of balls might dissipate the constraint. But
it came to an open rupture. Some difference of opinion arose about the
game. St. John was haughty and unbending: de la Chasse gave way to his
anger, and so far forgot himself as personally to attack, by words,
Mr. St. John. "A spendthrift, who had run through his own fortune, to
come hunting after Adeline's----"

"Vous êtes menteur!" shouted Mr. St. John, forgetting his manners, and
turning short upon the Baron. But what further he might have said was
stopped by Adeline, who, terrified out of self-control, darted across
the room, and, touching St. John's arm, whispered him to be calm for
her sake. De la Chasse advanced and offered his hand to remove
Adeline, but St. John held her by him in haughty defiance.

"Mademoiselle, you are degrading yourself!" said M. de la Chasse.
"Come from his side."

There was no answer from St. John, save a quiet smile of power, and
his retaining hold of Adeline. The Baron looked at M. de Castella, but
the scene had really passed so quickly that the latter had found no
breath to interfere. "Is it fit that my promised wife should thus be
subjected to insult in my presence, sir?" he asked.

"Adeline," interposed M. de Castella, sternly, "return to your
mother."

"She is _my_ promised wife," said Mr. St. John to the Baron, "and I
have a right to retain her here--the right of affection. A right that
_you_ will never have."

De la Chasse was foaming--presenting a very contrast to the cool
equanimity of Mr. St. John. "I will not bandy words with him: I will
not. Signor de Castella, when your salon shall be freed from that man,
I will re-enter it."

Wheeling round upon his heel, he went out, banging the door after him.
For a moment there was silence: St. John, his hold still on Adeline,
remained at the far end of the room; Signor de Castella, half
paralyzed with the scandal, was near the billiard-table; the rest were
in a group by the crimson ottoman, Agnes de Beaufoy crossing herself
perpetually, Madame de Castella the very image of dismay.

"Mademoiselle," spoke the Signor to his daughter, who was sobbing
aloud in her terror and agitation, "do you dare to disobey me? I told
you to go to your mother."

"_She_ does not disobey you, sir, and never would do so willingly,"
returned Mr. St. John. "The fault was mine."

He released his hold on Adeline as he spoke, took her hand with almost
ceremonious politeness, and conducted her across the room to the side
of her mother.

"These scenes must be put a stop to, Mr. St. John," cried the Signor.
"You received my answer this morning on the subject."

"Only to re-enter upon it, sir. The particulars which I spared then, I
will relate now."

"I do not wish to hear them," said Signor de Castella, speaking
irritably.

"Sir," calmly interposed Mr. St. John, "I demand it as a right. The
Baron has been freely remarking upon me and my conduct today, I
understand, in the hearing of all now present, and I must be permitted
to justify myself."

"You must allow for the feeling of irritation on the Baron's part. You
are neither devoid of cool judgment nor sound sense, Mr. St. John."

"That is just what I have allowed for," replied Mr. St. John, frankly.
"He feels, no doubt, that he is an injured man; and so I have been
willing to show him consideration. Any other man, speaking of me as de
la Chasse has done, would have--have--been treated differently."

"Let this unpleasant matter be dropped, Mr. St. John," was the
resolute answer.

"Sir, I beg you to listen to my explanation; I ask it you in courtesy:
it shall be given without disguise. When I came of age, I obtained
possession of a handsome fortune. It is all dissipated. I was not free
from the faults of youth, common to my inexperience and rank, and I
was as extravagant as my worst enemy could wish. But I solemnly assert
that I never have been guilty of a bad thought, of a dishonourable
action. There is not a man or woman living, who can bring a word of
reproach against me, save that of excessive imprudence in regard to my
money--and a good part of that went to help those who wanted it worse
than I do. Well, about a twelvemonth ago, I was cleared out, and had
liabilities to the amount of a few thousands besides----"

"Pray do not enter upon these details, Mr. St. John," interrupted
Signor de Castella.

"Sir, I must go on--with your permission. My brother, Mr. Isaac St.
John, sent for me to Castle Wafer. He pointed out to me the errors of
my career: bade me reflect upon the heedless course I was pursuing. I
_had_ been reflecting on it, had become quite as awake to its ills as
he could be, and I had firmly resolved that it should end: but to a
man deep in debt, good resolutions are sometimes difficult to carry
out. My brother offered to set me free; making it a condition that I
should marry. He proposed in that case to give up to me Castle
Wafer--it has always been his intention to do so when I married--and a
very liberal settlement he offered to make on my wife, whom they had
already fixed upon----"

"Was it Sarah Beauclerc?" interrupted Rose, who never lost her
equanimity in her life.

"It was my cousin Anne," resumed Mr. St. John, with scarcely a glance
at Rose. "But the marriage suited neither her nor me, She was engaged,
unknown to her friends, to Captain Saville, and I was keeping her
secret. I took upon myself all the brunt of the refusal--for Captain
Saville's position, at that period, did not justify his aspiring
openly to Lady Anne St. John--and informed my brother I could not
marry Anne. High words rose between us; we parted in anger, and I
returned to London. Just then my mother's sister died, leaving me some
money. It was not very much; but it was sufficient to pay my debts,
and to this purpose it is being applied, as it is realized. By next
November every shilling I owe will be discharged. I should have
preferred not appearing again before my brother until I was a free
man, but circumstances have ordered it otherwise. I was about setting
out for Castle Wafer the day information reached me that de la Chasse
had again made his appearance here, and I came off at once, without
the credentials I should otherwise have brought with me. But you
cannot doubt me, M. de Castella?"

"Doubt what?"

"My ability--my power--to offer a suitable position to your daughter."

"Sir, the question cannot arise. Though I should very much doubt it.
My daughter is not Lady Anne St. John."

"I should have added that Lady Anne is married; a change having
occurred in Captain Saville's prospects; and she has cleared up the
past to Isaac. My brother is most anxious to be reconciled to me. And
I can take upon myself to say that all the favourable projects and
settlements he proposed for Lady Anne, will be renewed for Adeline."

"Then you would take upon yourself to say too much, Mr. St. John: you
cannot answer for another. But to what end pursue this unprofitable
conversation? My daughter is promised to the Baron de la Chasse, and
no other man will she marry."

"Sir," cried Mr. St. John, speaking with agitation, "will you answer
me one question? If I were in a position to offer Adeline ample
settlements; to take her to Castle Wafer as her present home--and you
know it must eventually descend to me--would you consider me a
suitable _parti_ for her?"

"It is a question that never can arise."

"I pray you answer it me--in courtesy," pleaded Mr. St. John. "Would
you deem me eligible in a worldly point of view?"

"Certainly. It is an alliance that a higher family than mine might
aspire to."

"Then, sir, I return this night to England. And will not again
present myself to you, until I come armed with these credentials."

"Absurd! absurd!" ejaculated Signor de Castella, whilst Adeline
uttered a smothered cry of fear. "I have allowed this conversation to
go on, out of respect to you, Mr. St. John, but I beg to tell you,
once for all, that Adeline never can be yours."

"I will not urge the subject further at present," said Mr. St. John,
as he held out his hand to bid adieu to Madame de Castella. "We will
resume it on my return from England."

"You surely do not mean to persist in this insane journey?" abruptly
spoke M. de Castella.

"Signor de Castella," said Mr. St. John, his pale face and his
deliberate manner alike expressive of resolute firmness, "I will not
resign your daughter. If I could forget my own feelings, I must
remember hers. To marry her to de la Chasse would be to abandon her to
the grave. She is not strong; you know it; not fitted to battle with
misery. Adeline," he added, turning to her, for she was sobbing
hysterically, "why this distress? I have repeatedly assured you, when
your fears of these explanations were great, that I would never resign
you to de la Chasse, or to any other. Hear me repeat that assertion in
the presence of your parents--by the help of Heaven, my love, you
shall be my wife."

"Meanwhile," said M. de Castella, sarcastically, "as you are yet, at
least, under my authority, Adeline, permit me to suggest that you
retire from this room."

She rose obediently, and went towards the door, sobbing.

"A moment," cried Mr. St. John, deprecatingly, "if it is from my
presence you would send her. I am going myself. Adieu to all."

He opened the door, and stood with it in his hand, glancing
hesitatingly at Adeline. Her feelings were wrought to a high pitch of
excitement, control forsook her, and darting forward she clung to the
arm of Mr. St. John, sobbing out hysterically.

"You will return--you will not desert me--you will not leave me to
_him?_"

He laid his hand tenderly on her shoulder, just as though they had
been alone. "It is only compulsion that takes me from you, Adeline,"
he answered. "Be assured I will not let the grass grow under my feet.
When three days shall have passed, look every minute for my return:
and then, my darling, we shall part no more."

Lower yet he bent his head, and kissed her fervently. Then resigned
her, turned, and was gone. He was a bold man.

Adeline flung her hands over her crimsoned face. To describe the
astonished consternation of the spectators, would be a difficult task:
a kiss upon a young lady's lips in France is worse than the seven
cardinal sins. Madame de Castella escorted Adeline at once to her
chamber, and Miss de Beaufoy's grey hair stood on end.

"Bah!" said the dear old lady. "He is a good and honourable man,
Ferdinand," turning to her son-in-law--"and he means no harm. It is
nothing, in English manners. I've had a kiss myself in my young days,
and was none the worse for it."



CHAPTER XXIV.
FOILED.


A most uncomfortable night; a still more uncomfortable morning.
Adeline lay in bed with headache; and the Baron departed for Paris at
midday. He believed, with Signor de Castella--though it may be
questioned if the latter did believe it, except in speech--that Mr.
St. John had taken himself to England for good. He did not cast blame
on Adeline: his rage was vented on St. John. As to any affection
Adeline might be suspected of entertaining for Mr. St. John, the Baron
neither thought of it nor would have understood it.

The banns of the marriage were put up at the Mairie, and would shortly
be published in the newspapers, according to the custom of the
country,--"Alphonse Jean Hippolite, Baron de la Chasse, and Adeline
Luisa de Castella." The wedding plan was already sketched out: and
there is no doubt that this trouble regarding Mr. St. John was
hastening matters on. The religious ceremony was to take place at the
neighbouring chapel, the civil one at the Mairie at Odesque. A banquet
would be given at Beaufoy in the evening, and on the following morning
the bride and bridegroom would leave the château for Paris. In the
course of a few days, Signor and Madame de Castella would join them
there, and all four would proceed to the South together.

Rose was gratuitously free in her remarks on the programme. "I'd have
seen them further, Adeline, with their French ideas, before they
should have made such arrangements for me!"

Three days passed, and no Mr. St. John. Adeline was in a sad state of
excitement. Good Father Marc, who had loved her since she was a little
child, and had her interest warmly at heart, looked at her with deep
concern whenever they met. On the evening of this third day he spoke.

"My child, I am grieved to see you unhappy. This young Englishman was
attractive, and it is natural, perhaps, that you should regret him:
but his departure renders your course of duty all the more easy."

The priest thought he had gone for good, then! Adeline was silent: but
she could have thrown herself on the good priest's breast and wept out
her sorrow.

"It is well that he should thus have terminated it, my poor child.
Nothing but fruitless dissatisfaction could have attended his
remaining. Never, under any circumstances, could you have allowed
yourself to espouse one of the heretical faith. Best as it is, my
child! May the care of all the saints be given to you!"

When the fourth morning arose and did not bring St. John, Adeline's
state grew distressing. To what compare her restless anxiety? You are
all familiar with the old tale of Bluebeard. "Sister Anne, Sister
Anne, do you see anybody coming?"

"Alas, my sister, I see only the dust from a flock of sheep."

"Sister Anne, Sister Anne, can you see anybody coming?"

Thus it was with Adeline. When her eyes ached with looking out, and
she retired momentarily to ease them, it would be, "Rose, Rose, do you
see him coming?"

"No, I don't see a soul."

And then, "Mary! go to the window. Can you see him coming?"

And the day passed like the others, and he never came. It was, indeed,
an anxious time with her. Left to herself, the marriage would
inevitably take place, for, unsupported by St. John, she should not
dare to oppose her father. But, on the fifth morning--ah, what
relief!--he returned. Adeline, dear girl, look at him: what do you
read? A self-possessed step of triumph, a conscious smile on his fine
features, a glance of assured satisfaction in his truthful eye. He
comes, indeed, as St. John of Castle Wafer.

Miss de Beaufoy, Adeline, and Mary were alone: the rest had gone over
to the farm. He took Adeline's hands in his: he saw how she had been
suffering. "But it is over, over," he whispered to her; "I shall never
leave you more."

"It was unwise of you to come back, Mr. St. John," said Aunt Agnes, as
she shook hands with him.

"It was wise of me to go," he cried, a happy flush of triumph on his
brow. "Ah, dear Miss Beaufoy, you will soon pay us a visit at Castle
Wafer. Where is Monsieur de la Chasse?"

"He has left for Paris."

"I am sorry for it. He styled me an adventurer--a hunter after
Adeline's fortune. Had he remained until today, he might have eaten
his words."

"What is there to hope?" Adeline could not help whispering.

"Hope all, hope everything, my love," was his reply. "_I_ tell you to
do so."

St. John, like an ambassador, had brought his credentials with him.
All that he had so confidently asserted to M. de Castella was
realized. His brother had received him with open arms, joying over the
reconciliation. Solicitors were at once employed to liquidate
Frederick's remaining debts, and to set free his property. Castle
Wafer would be resigned to him on his marriage, and a brilliant
income. He had represented Adeline in glowing colours to his brother,
not enlarging on her beauty, which he said would speak for itself, but
on her numerous endearing qualities of mind and heart. And Isaac, as
he listened, became reconciled to the frustration of the marriage with
Lady Anne St. John, and wrote to Adeline that he was prepared to love
and welcome her as a daughter. His offered settlements for her were
the same as those proposed for Lady Anne, and undeniable.

Never had Signor de Castella been so thoroughly put out. We are apt to
believe what we wish, and he had been suffering himself to assume that
Mr. St. John would really not return. Matters seemed to be becoming
serious. With a bad grace he received the letter presented to him from
Mr. Isaac St. John. It contained formal proposals for Adeline, with an
explanatory detail of what has been stated above, submitting the whole
to Signor de Castella's approval. The letter also preferred a request,
which Frederick was to urge in person, that the Signor and his family
would at once visit Castle Wafer and become acquainted with the home
to which he consigned his child. The marriage could then take place as
soon as was convenient, either in England or France, as might be
agreed upon; after which, Frederick would take her to a warmer clime
for the winter months.

Annoyed as M. de Castella was, he could not but be flattered at the
honour done him, for he well knew that Isaac St. John of Castle Wafer
might aspire, for his brother, to a higher alliance than this would
be. But he showed his vexation.

"You have acted improperly, Mr. St. John, both towards me and towards
your brother. Pray, did you tell him that Adeline was all but the wife
of another?"

"I told him everything," said Mr. St. John, firmly; "and he agreed
with me, that for Adeline's own sake, if not for mine, she must be
rescued from the unhappiness which threatens her."

"You are bold, sir," cried M. de Castella, a flush of anger rising to
his brow.

"I am," returned Mr. St. John, "bold and determined. You must pardon
the avowal. It would ill become me to be otherwise, when so much is at
stake."

M. de Castella wheeled back his easy-chair as he sat, the only
diversion from the uncomfortable straight-backed seats which graced
his cabinet. "Listen to me," he said; "I hope finally. Your journey to
Castle Wafer, as I warned you it would be, has been worse than
profitless: our conversation is the same. No human entreaty or
menace--could such be offered me--would alter my determination one
iota. Adeline will marry de la Chasse."

"I have abstained from urging my own feelings," said Mr. St. John,
warmly, "but you must be aware that my happiness is at stake. My whole
future, so to speak, is bound up in Adeline."

"You do well not to urge them; it would make no difference. I am
sorry; but it would not. This must end, Mr. St. John. I have already
expressed my acknowledgments to you for the honour done me in your
wish for an alliance; I shall express them presently to your brother.
And I have no objection to confess, that, under other circumstances, I
might have been tempted to entertain it, in spite of the difference in
our faith. But the barriers between you and Adeline are insuperable."

"Oh, M. de Castella, pray reflect. I have been bred with as nice a
sense of honour as you: I venture to say it: and I trust I shall never
be guilty of aught to tarnish that honour. But I should deem it an
unrighteous thing to sacrifice to it a fellow-creature's happiness,
and she an only child."

"Oh, tush! Sacrifice!--happiness! These chimeras of the imagination
are not recognized by us. Adeline may rebel in spirit--may repine for
a week or two, but when once she is married to the Baron, she will
settle down contentedly enough."

"You are killing her," exclaimed St. John, in some excitement. "You
may not see it, but what I tell you is true. The painful suspense and
agitation she has been exposed to lately, if continued, would kill
her."

"Then if such be your opinion, Mr. St. John," returned the Signor,
sarcastically, "you should put an end to it by withdrawing yourself."

"I will not withdraw; I will not give up Adeline. I am more worthy of
her than he is."

"You have been highly reprehensible throughout the affair. You knew
that Adeline was promised to another, and it was your duty to fly the
place, or at least absent yourself from her, when you found an
attachment was arising."

"I don't know that I was awake to it in time. But if I had been, most
likely I should not have flown. Had I been needy, as that man called
me, or one whose rank were inferior to hers, then my duty would have
been plain; but the heir to Castle Wafer has no need to fly like a
craven."

"Not on that score--not on that score. Had Adeline been but a peasant
and engaged to another, you should have respected that engagement, and
left her free."

"I did not set myself out to gain her love. I assure you, Signor, that
the passion which grew up between us was unsought on either side. It
was the result of companionship, of similar tastes and sympathies; and
it was firmly seated, I am convinced, in both our hearts, before I
ever uttered a word, or gave way to an action that could be construed
into a wooing one. And you will forgive me for reminding you, that had
Adeline regarded de la Chasse with the feelings essential to render a
marriage with him happy, she must have remained indifferent to me."

"Our conference is at an end," observed M. de Castella, rising: "I beg
to state that I can never suffer it to be renewed. Finally: I feel
obliged, flattered, by the honour you would have done Adeline, but I
have no alternative but to decline it."

"You have an alternative, Signor de Castella."

"_I have none_. I have none, on my honour. Will you be the bearer of
my despatch to Castle Wafer?"

"No. I shall remain where I am for the present."

"I cannot pretend to control your movements, Mr. St. John, but it will
be well that you absent yourself until after my daughter's marriage.
Where you to come in contact with the Baron, much unpleasantness might
ensue."

"He is not here. Therefore at present that question cannot arise."

"I have no wish that our friendship should terminate: I may add that I
do not wish it even to be interrupted, if you will but be reasonable.
You must be aware"--and for a moment the Signor relapsed into a tone
of warm cordiality--"that we have all liked you very much, Mr. St.
John, and have enjoyed your society in an unusual degree. Indeed it is
this very feeling for you which has thrown difficulties in the way:
but for that, the house would have been closed to you on your first
rejection. You may stay where you are, and welcome; you may come still
and see us, and welcome; provided you will exercise common sense, and
allow matters to take their proper course."

Mr. St. John made no reply whatever. He said good morning, and left
the cabinet, nearly running against Father Marc, who was waiting to
enter it.

After that there ensued what might be called a lull in the storm. St.
John came occasionally to Beaufoy, sometimes met Adeline, by chance as
it seemed, out of doors; but nothing more was heard of his
pretensions. Meanwhile active preparations for the wedding went on:
and the two young lady visitors prolonged their stay, having obtained
leave from home and from Madame de Nino to do so.

And now we have to approach a phase of the history upon which it is
not pleasant to touch. Mr. St. John made one final effort to shake the
resolve of Signor de Castella; or, rather, attempted to make it, but
was met by a peremptory command never to introduce the subject again.
After that, it appeared to him that there was only one alternative,
and he cautiously ventured to break it to Adeline--that of flying with
him. It was received with terror and reproach--as was only natural;
she felt indeed inexpressibly shocked, not only at the proposition
itself, but that he should make it. But Mr. St. John persevered. He
attempted reason first: if she did not take this step, how would she
avoid the marriage with de la Chasse? He brought forth arguments of
the most persuasive eloquence: and reasoning eloquence is convincing,
when it comes from beloved lips.

Let us give St. John his due. He truly thought, in all honour, that he
was acting for the best, for Adeline's welfare. It could scarcely be
called an elopement that he was urging, since he took measures for it
to be countenanced and assisted by his family. He told them the whole
case, the entire truth; he implored them, for Adeline's sake, to save
her. To follow the progress of the matter day by day, step by step,
would be useless: it is sufficient to say that he at length wrung a
tardy and most reluctant consent from Adeline.

It wanted but three days to that fixed for the grand wedding, when she
stood with him in the shrubbery in the twilight of the hot evening.
There was indeed little time to lose, if she was to be saved. He put
into her hand a letter addressed to her by his mother.


"My Dear Mademoiselle De Castella,

"Frederick writes me word that you demurred to the arguments of my
last letter, as being used only out of courtesy to you. You judge
perfectly right in believing that I look upon elopements with a severe
eye; every gentlewoman does so, if she be conscientious. But your case
appears to be a most peculiar one. Your whole future happiness,
perhaps life, is at stake; and I really do think Frederick is right in
saying that it is a duty before Heaven to save you from this obnoxious
marriage that is being forced upon you. It is a cruel thing to
sacrifice you merely to the pledging of a word--and that is so, if I
understand the matter rightly. Signor de Castella has stated (in his
letter to my stepson, Mr. Isaac St. John) that were it not for this
unlucky previous contract to which he is plighted, he should be proud
of the alliance with Frederick; that to him personally he has no sort
of objection. To tell you the truth, it appeared to me, from the
wording of this letter (which my stepson sent up for my perusal) that
your father would be glad of a pretext for breaking the contract, but
that it seemed to him a simple impossibility that any such pretext
could be found. It is this fact--though it may be better to call it
opinion--which was my chief inducement to countenance the step now
contemplated by Frederick. And if it must take place (and, as I say, I
see no other way of escape for you), it is better that it should be
done with my sanction; which will absolve you afterwards in the
judgment of the world.

"I am not sufficiently recovered to travel to the coast, as Frederick
wished, but Lady Anne Saville has offered to supply my place. She
leaves with her husband for Folkestone the day after tomorrow, and
will receive you there from Frederick's hands. She will conduct you at
once to London, to my house, where you will remain my guest until the
marriage, which of course must take place at once; after which, you
will leave for Castle Wafer, and pass there a brief sojourn before you
start for the South. The settlements are here, waiting for your
signature and Frederick's: Mr. Isaac St. John has already affixed his,
and he will be in London before you arrive.

"I am impatient to receive and welcome you. Believe me, my dear child,
that I will always endeavour to be to you an affectionate mother.

"Selina St. John."


"You will be in readiness tomorrow night," he whispered, as she
closed the letter.

"When are we to be married?" she asked, after a pause. She might well
bend her sweet face downwards as she asked it.

"Adeline, you see what my mother says. I have written to procure a
special licence, so that the Protestant ceremony shall be performed on
our arrival, securing us from separation. Should the forms of your own
religion require any delay, which I do not anticipate, you will remain
with my mother until they can be completed. My home in town is at
Mivart's."

"You--you will be kind to me?" she faltered, bursting into tears. "I
am leaving a happy home, my mother, my father, the friends of my
childhood, I am leaving all for you; you will be ever kind to me?"

"Adeline," he interrupted, "how can you ask the question? I am about
to make you my dear wife; I will cherish you as you never yet were
cherished. Your parents have loved you dearly, but not with such a
love as mine. Heaven helping me, your life shall be one dream of
happiness. No mother ever watched over her first-born, as I will watch
over and cherish you."

Save for the wild beating of her heart, as his hand lay against it, he
might have thought her cold, so still did she stand. It was the
impassioned repose of all-perfect love, too deep, too pure for
utterance.

"You are leaving this home for one more beautiful," he continued: "you
will forgive me for saying so when you see Castle Wafer. A home where
you will reign its idol. I speak not now of myself. Its retainers are
tried and faithful: they have been ours from generation to generation.
They served my father, they have served my brother, they will serve
me; and you, their mistress, will be revered and worshipped. It will
be a happy home. We may sojourn occasionally in foreign lands; mingle
in the gaieties of the world; but we shall return to it with a zest
that in time will render us loth to quit it. There we will bring up
our children, training them to goodness; there we will learn to live,
so that we may become worthy to inherit a better world: the mode of
worship may be different, but the faith and end are the same--one
hope, one heaven, one God. Oh, Adeline, put away all fear for the
future, all doubt of me, if indeed you could have such! I would bid
another trust to my honour, I conjure you to confide in my love."

As they turned to the house, after a few hasty moments given to the
arrangement of their plans, a sudden cough, sounding very near,
startled them. St. John stepped aside a few paces, and saw, seated on
a bench, Father Marc. Could he have been there long? If so, he must
have heard more than was expedient, for he understood English. St.
John bit his lip with vexation.

"Are you there, father?"

"I have this instant sat down, my son. I am no longer young, and my
legs pain me when I walk far. My course this evening has been a long
one."

"He may have come up only now," was the mental conclusion of Mr. St.
John.

"Is that Mademoiselle with you?" resumed the priest--for Adeline, in
her vexation, did not come prominently forward. "Should the child be
abroad in the night-air?"

"No. I am going to take her indoors. But it is not night yet."

Not yet: it was twilight still: but a dampness was already arising,
the effect of the day's heat. The weather was very sultry, even for
the close of August, the days being one blaze of sunshine. Adeline
hastened in: she had been away not much more than five minutes, but
she dreaded being missed.

The plan for getting away was this. On the following night Adeline was
to retire to her chamber early, under plea of headache, or some other
slight indisposition; and, after dismissing Louise, to habit herself
as she deemed suitable for her journey. She was then to steal
downstairs and out of the house, before it was locked up for the
night, and join Mr. St. John in the garden, who would be awaiting her.
The same nondescript vehicle, which was a sort of long gig with a
white calico head to it, that had served Mr. St. John on a previous
occasion, and was both light and fleet, would be in readiness to
convey them to Odesque. There they would take the night-train from
Amiens to Boulogne and go at once on board the Folkestone steamer, Mr.
St. John having taken care to ascertain that the tide served at a
suitable hour for them, the steamer starting early in the morning.
Once at Folkestone, he resigned her into the charge of Captain and
Lady Anne Saville. By these means they hoped to get a whole night's
start before the absence of Adeline was discovered at Beaufoy. The
scheme appeared feasible enough in theory. But--in practice? that
remained to be proved.

The eventful day arose; and what a day it was for Adeline! Not only
was Adeline de Castella a bad one to carry on any sort of deception,
but she looked upon the act she was about to commit, the quitting
clandestinely her father's home, as a very heinous crime indeed. It
was not her love for Mr. St. John that took her: swayed by that alone,
she had not dared to do it: it was her intense horror of becoming the
wife of Alphonse de la Chasse. Could she only have changed natures for
that one day with Miss Rose Darling!

But the day was got through somehow, even by Adeline, and evening drew
on. After dinner they were sitting in the favourite room, the western
drawing-room, when Mr. St. John came in. Some of them looked up in
surprise: his visits latterly had been rare. He was unusually silent
and thoughtful, and little was said by any one. Signor de Castella was
playing chess with Agnes, and did not speak to him after the first
greeting. Old Madame de Beaufoy was playing écarté with Mary Carr.

An ominous spirit of dulness seemed to sit upon them all. The room
seemed so intensely still. Rose, who hated dulness as she hated
poison, started up and opened the piano, hoping perhaps to dispel it,
and began to look amidst the pile of music. She chose an old song; an
out-of-date bygone song that she had not sung for months, perhaps
years. _How_ came she to hunt it up? It was a strange coincidence;
little less than a fatality. The song was "Kathleen Mavourneen." Had
any one asked Rose to sing it, she would have cast back a sarcasm on
the "perverted taste," on "English ideas," "vandalism," and commenced
instead some new Italian or German thing, and screamed it through in
defiance. On this night she began the song of her own accord; and I
say it was a fatality.


     "To think that from Erin and thee I must part--
      It may be for years, and it may be for ever----"


Thus far had Rose sung, when deep sobs startled her. They came from
Adeline. She had been leaning back in her grandmamma's fauteuil, pale
and quiet, but full of inward agitation. The song seemed singularly
applicable to her, and she had listened to its words as they went on
with an oppressed heart. Singularly applicable! She was leaving her
country, her home, and her dear parents, it might be for years, or it
might be for ever. In these moments of sadness, a straw will unhinge
the outward composure. Adeline's sobs burst forth with violence, and
it was entirely beyond her power to control them. The whole room
looked up in amazement, and Rose brought her song to a sudden
standstill.

Mr. St. John, who was near the piano, strode forward impulsively
towards Adeline; but arrested his steps half way, and strode as
impulsively back again. Anxious inquiries were pressed upon Adeline,
and her mother laid down her embroidery and went to her. Adeline
seemed to recover herself by magic, so far as outward calmness went.
She excused herself in few words: it was a fit of low spirits; she had
not felt well all day, and Rose's song had affected her; the feeling
had passed now. Mr. St. John whispered to Rose to begin another song,
and she did so. He then wished the party good night, and left.
By-and-by, Adeline, pleading fatigue, said she would go to bed.

"Do so, dear child," acquiesced her mother; "you don't seem very
well."

"Good night, dear, dear mamma," she said, clinging round her mother's
neck, while the rebellious tears again streamed from her eyes. She
would have given half the anticipated happiness of her future life for
her mother to have blessed her, but she did not dare to ask it. She
approached her father last, hesitatingly; kissed him--a most unusual
thing, for he was not a man to encourage these familiarities, even
from his daughter--and left the room struggling convulsively to
suppress her sobs.

After sitting in her chamber a few minutes, to recover serenity, she
rang for Louise. Up came that demoiselle, in open surprise that her
young lady should have retired so early. Adeline said she had a
headache, let her take off her dress, and then dismissed her.

Adeline bolted the door and began to look around her. Shock the first:
her wardrobe was locked and the key gone. The dress and bonnet she
meant to wear were in it; so she had to ring again.

"I want the key of the wardrobe," she said, when Louise entered. "It
is locked."

Louise felt in her pocket, brought forth the key, and threw the doors
back on their hinges. "What should she give to mademoiselle?"

This was difficult to answer. At any other time Adeline would
have ordered her to leave the wardrobe open, and go. But her
self-consciousness and dread of discovery caused her to hesitate then.

"I want--a--pocket-handkerchief," stammered Adeline.

Sharply the doors were flung to again, locked, and the key returned to
Louise's pocket. "Parbleu, mademoiselle," was her exclamation, turning
to a chest of drawers, "as if your handkerchiefs were kept in the
wardrobe!"

Adeline knew they were not as well as Louise, but just then she had
not her wits about her. She was growing desperate.

"One would think we had a thief in the house, by the way you keep
places locked," she exclaimed. "Leave the wardrobe open, Louise."

"Indeed, and we have something as bad as a thief," answered Louise,
grumblingly. "If Susanne wants anything for madame, and thinks she can
find it here, she makes no scruple of coming and turning about
mademoiselle's things. Only three days ago it took me an hour to put
them straight after her."

"Well, leave the wardrobe open for tonight," said Adeline: "you can
lock it again tomorrow, if you will" And Mademoiselle Louise swung
the doors back again, and quitted the room.

Adeline proceeded to dress herself. She put on a dark silk dress, a
light thin cashmere shawl, and a straw bonnet trimmed with white
ribbons. She also threw over her shoulders a costly silk travelling
cloak, lined and trimmed with ermine. It had been a present to her
from Madame de Beaufoy against her journey to the South. She was soon
ready, but it was scarcely time to depart. She was pale as death; so
pale that the reflection of her own face in the glass startled her.
Her head swam round, her limbs trembled, and she felt sick at heart.
She began to doubt if she should have strength to go. She sat down and
waited.

The minutes passed rapidly: it would soon be time, if she went at all.
She felt in her pocket: all was there. Her purse, containing a few
Napoleons; her handkerchief; a small phial of Cologne water; and a
little case containing _his_ gifts and letters.

She arose and placed her hands upon the lock of the door; but, too ill
and agitated to proceed, turned round, drank a glass of water, and sat
down again. The longer she stopped, the worse she grew; and, making a
desperate effort, she extinguished the light, opened the door, and
glided to the top of the stairs.

All seemed quiet. She could hear the murmur of the servants' voices in
their distant apartments, nothing else, and she stole noiselessly down
the staircase, and across the lighted hall. As she was opening the
front door, some one came out of the western drawing-room, and
Adeline, with a quick, nervous effort, passed through, before whoever
it was should be in sight, pulling the door gently after her.

Oh, misery! oh, horror! Planted at the foot of the steps, right in
front of her, as if he had stopped on the spot and fallen into a
reverie, was the priest, Father Marc. He glided up the steps, and
seized her arm; and Adeline cried out, with a shrill, startled cry.

It was heard by Mademoiselle de Beaufoy, who was crossing the hall,
and she came running out. It was heard by Mr. St. John from his
hiding-place, behind one of the lions of the fountain, and he hastened
forward.

"Oh, Adeline, mistaken child, what is this?" exclaimed her aunt. "You
would leave your home clandestinely! you, Adeline de Castella!"

"Aunt! aunt! have mercy on me! I--I do believe I am dying! I would
rather die than go through what I have gone through lately!"

"And better for you," was the stern reply. "Death is preferable to
dishonour."

She was interrupted by the appearance of Mr. St. John. Adeline broke
from her aunt and the priest, and fell forward in his arms, with a
smothered cry: "Oh, Frederick! Frederick! protect me in this dreadful
hour!"

Agnes de Beaufoy flew into the drawing-room, crying out that Mr. St.
John was running away with Adeline, and they all went flocking out.
St. John's first effort was an attempt to soothe Adeline: his second
to bear her into the house. The priest, a kind-hearted man, went away
in the direction of his chapel.

For some time all was astonishment and confusion. Every one seemed to
be talking at once, reproaching Mr. St. John. She still clung to him,
as if to part with him would be to part with life; and he protected
her valiantly. The first distinguishable words were from Signor de
Castella.

"So this is the recompense we receive from you! basely to betray her!
to lead her to dishonour!"

St. John was paler than they ever remembered to have seen him, but his
voice and bearing were perfectly calm. "I was leading her away to
happiness," he answered; "ere many hours had elapsed she would have
been my honoured wife. Had my mother been well, she would have
received her at Folkestone, but she is unable yet to quit her room,
and Lady Anne Saville, than whom one of higher character and
consideration does not exist, is there awaiting her, accompanied by
her husband. My brother vacates Castle Wafer for her reception; the
settlements, as they were proposed to you, are drawn up, awaiting our
signatures; and until the marriage could have taken place--had there
been but an hour's delay--Adeline would have remained under my
mother's roof and protection, conducted to it by Lady Anne. There are
the vouchers for what I assert," he added, throwing some letters on
the table, "_I_ lead her to dishonour! Had you, Signor de Castella,
evinced the consideration for her happiness, that I have for her
honour, there would not now be this dispute."

"And you, shameless girl, thus to disgrace your name!"

"Reproach her not," interrupted Mr. St. John. "I will not suffer a
harsh word to her in my presence. For this step I alone am to blame.
Adeline was resolute in refusing to listen or accede to it, and she
never would have done so but for the countenance afforded to her in it
by my family. Signor de Castella, this is no moment for delicacy: I
therefore tell you openly she shall be my wife. Our plans of tonight
are frustrated, and should we not be able to carry out any other for
her escape, Adeline must renounce at the altar the husband you would
thrust upon her."

"You are insolent, sir," said M. de Castella.

"Not insolent," he replied, "but determined."

There is no time to pursue the discussion. It was long and stormy.
Madame de Castella cried all the time, but old Madame de Beaufoy was a
little inclined to favour St. John. Not that she approved of the
attempted escapade, but he was so wondrous a favourite of hers, that
she could not remain in anger with him long, and she kept rapping her
stick on the floor at many things he said, to indicate approval,
something after the manner of a certain house of ours, when it cries
out "Hear, hear!" Adeline stood by Mr. St. John, shaking with
convulsive sobs, her white veil covering her face, the costly cloak
falling from her shoulders and sweeping the ground. Her father
suddenly turned to her.

"Adeline de Castella, are you determined to marry this man?"

"Speak out, Adeline," said Mr. St. John, for no answer came from her.

"I--cannot--marry de la Chasse," she faltered.

"And you are determined to marry him--this Protestant Englishman?"

"If I may," she whispered, her sobs growing violent.

"Tomorrow morning I will discuss with you this subject," proceeded M.
de Castella, still addressing his daughter. "At the conclusion of our
interview, you shall be free to choose between--between the husband I
marked out for you, and him who now stands by your side."

"On your honour?" exclaimed Mr. St. John, surprised by the remark.

"My word, sir, is valuable as yours," was the haughty reply. "When my
daughter shall have heard what I have to say, she shall then be free
to follow her own will. I will not further influence her."

"You will permit me to receive her decision from her own lips?"

"I tell you I will not further control her. She shall be as free to
act as I am. And now, Mr. St. John, good night to you."

"Would to Heaven I might remain and watch over you this night!" he
whispered, as he reluctantly released Adeline. "You need all soothing
consolation, and there are none to offer it. Yet be comforted, my dear
love, for if M. de Castella shall keep his word, it is our last
parting."

"He is a noble fellow, with all his faults," mentally ejaculated Agnes
de Beaufoy, as she watched Mr. St. John's receding form. And "all his
faults," what were they? That he would have interfered in another's
marriage contract, and stolen away the bride, to make her his own.

"I did not think Adeline had it in her!" exclaimed Rose, in a glow of
delight, partly to the company, chiefly to herself. Rose had stood in
a rapture of admiration the whole time. Adeline and Mary could not
cast old scores at her, now.



CHAPTER XXV.
A CRISIS IN A LIFE.


The dreaded interview with M. de Castella was all but over, and
Adeline leaned against the straight-backed chair in the cabinet, more
dead than alive, so completely had her father's words bereft her of
hope and energy.

When Mr. St. John first opened the affair, Signor de Castella had felt
considerably annoyed, and would not glance at the possibility of
breaking the contract with de la Chasse. But the Signor, cold as he
was in manner, was not, at heart, indifferent to Adeline's happiness.
And when he found how entirely she was bound up in Mr. St. John, and
the latter brought forth his munificent proposals and departed for
England to get them triumphantly confirmed, then he began in secret to
waver. But now stepped in another.

You, who read this, are of course aware that in many Roman Catholic
families, especially foreign ones, the confessor exercises much
influence over temporal matters as well as spiritual. And though the
confessor to the Castellas, Father Marc, had not hitherto seen cause,
or perhaps had opportunity, to put himself forward in such affairs, he
felt himself bound to do so now. But you must not jump to a mistaken
conclusion, or fancy he was one of those overbearing priests sometimes
represented in works of fiction. That there are meddlers in all
positions of life--in the Romish Church as well as in our Reformed
one--every one knows. But Father Marc was not one of these. He was a
good and conscientious man, and though an over-rigid Romanist, it was
only in zeal for the Faith of his country, the religion to which he
had been born and reared. No other Faith, according to his tenets, to
his firm belief, would lead a soul to Heaven: and he deemed that he
was acting for the best, nay, for the immortal interest of Adeline. Do
not blame him! He loved the child, whom he had watched grow up from
infancy. He honestly believed that to suffer Adeline to marry an
Englishman and a heretic and make her home in Protestant England,
would be to consign her to perdition. He therefore placed his veto
upon it, a veto that might not be gainsaid, and forbid the contract to
be interrupted with de la Chasse. If he interfered, with what may
appear to us desperate measures, he believed the cause to be desperate
which justified them; and he acted in accordance with the dictates of
his own conscience; with what he deemed his duty to Adeline, to his
religion, and to God.

She knew it all now: the secret of her father's obstinacy, and why she
must give up Mr. St. John and marry de la Chasse. She knew that if her
father consented to her heretical marriage, or if she of herself
persisted in contracting it, the Curse of the Church was to alight
upon her, and upon her father's house. _The Curse of the Church!_
Adeline had been reared in all the belief and doctrines of the Romish
faith, and she could no more have dared to act in defiance of that
awful curse, than she would have dared to raise her hand against her
own life. She leaned her head back on the uncomfortable chair, and
moaned aloud in her overwhelming anguish. It might be cruel of Father
Marc to have whispered of such a thing, but he had done it in his
zealous love. Desperate diseases require desperate remedies.

"The alternative of a convent," she gasped, "cannot that be given me?"

"No," replied M. de Castella, who was painfully frigid throughout the
interview, perhaps as a guard to his own feelings. "You must marry.
Your mother and I cannot consent to lose you from our sight, as, in
the will of Providence, we lost Maria. You must choose between this
Englishman and him to whom you are betrothed. If you marry the
Englishman, you--and I, Adeline--will be put beyond the pale of
Heaven. Marry him who expects, ere three days, to be your husband, and
you will lead a tranquil life here, with sure hope of a Hereafter."

"Does my mother know of this?" she asked.

"No. She will know it soon enough if your decision be against us."

"Oh papa, papa!" she burst forth, in momentary abandonment to the
feelings that seemed to be killing her, "can I not live on with you
and mamma always, unmarried?"

"You cannot, Adeline. The only child that is left to us must fulfil
woman's appointed destiny on earth. And not shrink from it," he
sternly added.

There was little more to be said, nothing more to be understood. She
comprehended it all, and the situation she was placed in. She knew
that, for her, all of peace and joy on earth was over. A mirror of the
future flashed before her mind's eye: she saw herself battling with
its waves, and it was one broad sea of never-ending agony. Her heart
fluttered violently, as it had never before fluttered: there was a
strange sensation within her, as of some mighty weight, some torment
rushing to her brain. She tottered as she rose from the chair, and
laid hold of the table to steady herself. "There--there is nothing
more?" she whispered.

"Nothing, Adeline. Save to give your reply to Mr. St. John."

She was passing to the door when a word arrested her. She leaned
against one of the secretaires as her father spoke.

"I do not ask what your decision will be, Adeline. I have laid the
case before you, as it exists, without circumlocution and without
disguise. I said last night I would not bias your choice by a word of
mine, and I will not."

The words sounded in her ear very like a mockery, and wild thoughts
came across her, as she stood, of falling at her father's feet, and
beseeching him to have mercy. But she remembered that mercy, for her,
did not rest with him.

Signor de Castella became alarmed at her ghastly look. He went forward
and took her hands, speaking with more emotion than he had ever
betrayed.

"Adeline, may our holy Mother support you through this! I have but
your welfare at heart, and were your temporal interests alone in
question, I would not oppose your inclinations. Child, I would give
the half of my fortune, now, to ensure your happiness here. But--when
it comes to pass that the interests of Eternity are at stake, no
choice, as it seems to me, is left us. The Church has you in its
keeping, and must be obeyed: I, at least, have no alternative: act,
you, as you please. I have said that I would not coerce you; I do not.
If your decision be against us, you shall depart for England today
under the protection of your Aunt Agnes, who will remain and see you
married. Hush! do not tell your decision to me; indeed, I am trying to
keep my promise of leaving it entirely to you. Make your choice, and
then give it to Mr. St. John."

He had released her as he was speaking. She was laying her hand upon
the door, when her father spoke again. She turned towards him.

"There is one thing, Adeline. Whatever be your decision you must not
impart the nature of the impediment to Mr. St. John."

"Not tell him the cause!" she gasped--and the very words spoke all too
plainly of what the decision would be--"not tell him!"

"Holy saints, no!" he rejoined, his voice rising between surprise,
anger, and emotion. "I had scarcely thought it necessary to caution
you. Not a word must be breathed. Our Church permits not her modes of
dealing to be revealed to--to heretics."

He had made a pause at the last word, as if unwilling to speak it.
With all his coldness and his bigotry, he was an essentially courteous
man at heart. Adeline clasped her hands in piteous beseeching, but he
interrupted the prayer hovering upon her lips.

"_It must not be, Adeline_: Mr. St. John is not one of us. Surely you
are not growing disaffected!" he continued, in a sharp tone. "It has
occurred to me at times that I may have done wrong in allowing you to
be so much here in your grandmother's home. When she married she
quitted her Protestant faith and embraced ours, but I doubt whether
she has ever been zealous in it at heart."

The tears shone in her eyes at the accusation, but she was too
miserable, too agitated to let them fall.

"Only a hint to him, papa!" she implored. "Permit it to me in mercy.
Only a hint!"

"Not a hint; not a word," he sternly rejoined. "I forbid it. The
Church forbids it. Promise this."

"I promise," she faintly said, yielding to the compulsion.

"Kiss the crucifix."

He took down the small, beautiful image of our Saviour, in carved
ivory, that was wont to hang over the mantelpiece, and held it to her
lips. She did as she was told, and so sealed the secret.

There was nothing more. Adeline, a very ghost of despair, quitted the
cabinet. Outside she encountered Rose.

"What a long time you have been in there!" was the young lady's eager
exclamation. "Your wedding-dress is come, with lots more things,
nearly a fourgon full, Louise says. They are gone upstairs to
inspect them, and I have been waiting for you, all impatience. No
reason why we should not admire them, you know, though matters are
cross. But--Adeline!"

Adeline lifted her eyes at the sudden exclamation.

"How ill you look!"

"Is Mr. St. John in the drawing-room?" was the only rejoinder.

"He has been there this half-hour. I left him there, 'all alone in his
glory,' for I could stay away from the view no longer. I shall go
upstairs without you, if you are not coming."

"I will follow you presently," she murmured.

"Adeline, let me into a secret. I won't tell. Will the dress be worn
for the purpose it was intended--de la Chasse's wedding?"

"Yes," she feebly answered, passing on to the west drawing-room.

Rose arrested her impatient steps, and gazed after her.

"Whatever is the matter? How strangely ill she looks! And she says the
marriage is to come off with de la Chasse! I wonder whether that's
gospel: or nothing but a blind? When the wedding-morning comes, we may
find Jock o' Hazeldean enacted in real life. It would be glorious
fun!"

Mr. St. John was pacing the room when Adeline went in. He met her with
a sunny smile, and would have held her to him. But Adeline de Castella
was possessed of extreme rectitude of feeling: and she now knew that
in two days' time she should be the wife of the Baron de la Chasse.
Alas! in spite of the fears that sometimes assailed her, she had, from
the beginning, too surely counted on becoming the wife of Mr. St.
John. She evaded him, and walked forward, panting for breath.

He was alarmed as he gazed upon her. He saw the agitation she was in;
the fearful aspect of her features, which still wore the ghastly hue
they had assumed in the cabinet. He took one of her hands within his,
but even that she withdrew.

"In the name of Heaven, Adeline, what is this?"

She essayed to answer him, and could not. The palpitation in her
throat impeded her utterance. The oppression on her breath increased.

"Adeline! have you no pity for my suspense?"

"I--I--am trying to tell you," she gasped out, with a jerk between
most of her words. "I am going--to--marry _him_--de la Chasse."

He looked at her for some moments without speaking. "You have been
ill, Adeline," he said at length. "I saw last night the state you were
in, and would have given much to remain by you."

"I am not wandering," she answered, detecting the bent of his
thoughts. "I am telling you truth. I must marry him."

"Adeline--if you are indeed in full possession of your senses--explain
what you would say. I do not understand."

"It is easy enough to be understood," she replied, leaning against the
side of the large window for support. "On Saturday, their fixed
wedding-day, I shall marry him."

"Oh, this is shameful! this is dreadful!" he exclaimed. "How can they
have tampered with you like this?"

"They have not tampered with me, Frederick. I decide of my own will."

"It is disgraceful! disgraceful!" he uttered. "Where is Signor de
Castella? I will tell him what I think of his conduct. _He_ talk of
honour!"

She placed her hand upon his arm to detain him, for he was turning
from the room. "He can tell you nothing," she said. "He does not yet
know my decision. Do not blame him."

"He said last night that you should be free to choose," impatiently
returned Mr. St. John.

"And I am free. He--laid"--(she hardly knew how to frame her words and
yet respect her oath)--"he laid the case fully before me, and left me
to decide for myself. Had I chosen you, he said my Aunt Agnes should
accompany us today to England, and see me married. But--I--dared
not--I"--(she burst into a flood of most distressing tears)--"I must
marry de la Chasse."

"Explain, explain." He was getting hot and angry.

"I have nothing to explain. Only that my father left it to me, and
that I must marry him: and that my heart will break."

When he perfectly understood her, understood that there was no hope,
the burst of reproach that came from him was terrible. Yet might it
not be excused? He had parted from her on the previous night in the
full expectation that she would be his wife: now could he think
otherwise after all that had occurred, and the concluding promise of
M. de Castella? Yet now, without preface, without reason, she told him
that she renounced him for his rival. A reason, unhappily, she dared
not give.

Oh, once more, in spite of her resistance, Mr. St. John held her to
his heart. He spoke to her words of the sweetest and most persuasive
eloquence; he besought her to fly with him, to become his beloved
wife. And she was obliged to wrest herself from him, and assure him
that his prayers were wasted; that she was compelled to be more
obdurate than even her father had been.

It was a fault, you know, of Mr. St. John's to be hasty and
passionate, when moved to it by any great cause; but perhaps a storm
of passion so violent as that he gave way to now, had never yet shaken
him. His reproaches were keen: entirely unreasonable: but an angry man
does not weigh his words.

"False and fickle that you are, you have never loved me! I see it all
now. You have but led me on, to increase at the last moment the
triumph of de la Chasse. It may have been a planned thing between you!
Your true vows have been given to him, your false ones to me."

Adeline placed her hands on his, as if imploring mercy, and would have
knelt before him; but he held her up, not tenderly.

"If I thought you did not know your words are untrue, it would kill
me," she faltered. "Had we been married, as, until this day, I thought
and prayed we should be, you would have known how entirely I love you;
how the love will endure unto death. I can tell you this, now, because
we are about to separate, and it is the last time we must ever be
together in this world. Oh, Frederick! mercy! mercy!--do not profess
to think I have loved another."

"You are about to marry him."

"I shall marry him, _hating_ him; I shall marry him, loving _you_; do
you not think I have enough of misery?"

"As I am a living man," spoke Mr. St. John, "I cannot understand this!
You say your father told you to choose between us?"

"I feel as if I should die," she murmured; "I have felt so, at times,
for several weeks past. There is something hanging over me, I think,"
she continued, passing her hand across her forehead, abstractedly.

"Adeline," he impatiently repeated, "are you deceiving me? _Did_ your
father give you free liberty to choose between us?"

"Yes; he gave it me--after placing the whole case before me," she was
obliged to answer.

"And you tell me that you have deliberately chosen de la Chasse? You
give me no explanation; but cast me off like this?"

"I dare not give it. That is"--striving to soften the words that
were wrung from her--"I have no explanation to give. Oh, Frederick,
_dearest_ Frederick--let me call you so in your presence, for the
first and last and only time--do not reproach me? Indeed, I must marry
him."

"Of your own free deliberation, you will, on Saturday next, walk to
the altar and become his wife?" he reiterated. "Do you mean to tell me
that?"

She made a gesture in the affirmative, her sobs rising hysterically.
What with her confused state of feeling, and the anxiety she was under
to preserve inviolate the obligation so solemnly undertaken, she was
perhaps even less explanatory than she might have been. But who, in
these moments of agitation, can act precisely as he ought?

"Fie upon you! fie upon you!" he cried, contemptuously. "_You_ boast
of loving! you may well do so, when you had two lovers to practise
upon. I understand it all, now; your objection to my speaking, until
the last moment, to M. de Castella; you would keep us both in your
train, forsooth, incense to your vanity! You have but fooled me by
pretending to listen to my love; you have led me on, and played with
me, a slave to be sacrificed on _his_ shrine! I give you up to him
joyfully. I am well quit of you.

"Mercy! mercy!" she implored, shrinking down, and clasping her hands
together.

"Fool that I was to be so deceived! Light and fickle that you are, you
are not worthy to be enshrined in an honourable man's heart. I will
thrust your image from mine, until not a trace, not a recollection of
it, is left. I thank God it will be no impossible task. The spell that
bound me to you is broken. Deceitful, worthless girl, thus to have
betrayed your false heartedness at the last: but better for me to have
discovered it before marriage than after. I thank you for this, basely
treated as I have been."

She made an effort to interrupt him, a weak, broken-hearted effort;
but his fierce torrent of speech overpowered it.

"I go now; and, in leaving this place, shall leave its memories
behind. _I will never willingly think of you again in life_.
Contemptuously as you have cast off me, so will I endeavour in my
heart to cast off you, and all remembrance of you. I wish you
good-bye, for ever. And I hope, for de la Chasse's sake, your conduct
to him, as a wife, may be different from what it has been to me."

There was a strange, overwhelming agony, both of body and mind, at
work within her, such as she had never experienced or dreamt of; a
chaos of confused ideas, the most painful of which was the conviction
that he was leaving her for ever in contempt and scorn. A wild
desire to detain him; to convince him that at least she was not the
false-hearted being he had painted her; to hear some kinder words from
his lips, and _those_ recalled, crowded to her brain, mixing itself up
with the confusion and despair already there.

With his mocking farewell he had hastened from the room by way of the
colonnade; it was the nearest way to the path leading to his home, and
he was in no mood to stand upon ceremony. Adeline went after him, but
his strides were quick, and she did not gain upon his steps. She
called aloud to him, in her flood-tide of despair.

He turned and saw her, flying down the steps after him. One repellent,
haughty gesture alone escaped him, and he quickened his pace onwards.
She saw the movement of contempt; but she still pressed on, and got
halfway across the lawn. There she sank upon the grass, at first in a
kneeling posture, her arms outstretched towards him, as if they could
bring him back, and a sharp, wailing cry of anguish escaping from her
lips.

Why did he not look round? There was just time for it, ere he was
hidden in the dark shrubbery: he would have seen enough to drive away
his storm of anger. But waxing stronger in his wrath, he strode on,
without deigning to cast another glance behind.

They were in the chamber over the western drawing-room, examining the
things just arrived from Paris. Rose happened to be at the window, and
saw Adeline fall. Uttering an exclamation, which caused Mary Carr also
to look, she turned from it, and ran down to her. Mary followed, but
her pace was slow, for she suspected nothing amiss, and thought
Adeline had but stooped to look at something on the grass. When Mary
reached the colonnade, Rose was up with Adeline, and seemed to be
raising her head.

What was it? Miss Carr strained her eyes in a sort of bewildered
wonder. Of their two dresses, the one was white, the other a delicate
lilac muslin, and strange spots appeared on each of them, spots of a
fresh bright crimson colour, that glowed in the sun. Were they spots
of--_blood?_ And--was Adeline's mouth stained with it? Mary turned
sick as the truth flashed upon her. Adeline must have broken a
blood-vessel.

Terrified, confused, for once Mary Carr lost her habitual presence of
mind. She not only rang the bell violently, but she shrieked aloud,
crying still as she hastened to the lawn. The servants came running
out, and then the family.

Rose was kneeling on the grass, pale with terror, supporting
Adeline's head on her bosom. Rose's hair, the ends of her long golden
ringlets, were touched with the crimson, her hands marked with it; and
Adeline---- Madame de Castella fell down in a fainting-fit.

Yes, she had broken a blood-vessel. The anguish, the emotion, too
great to bear had suddenly snapped asunder one of those little tenures
of life. Ah! the truth flashed upon more than one of those standing
around her in their consternation--those frail lungs had but been
patched up for a short time; not healed.

They bore her round, gently as might be, from the lawn into the yellow
drawing-room, avoiding the steps of the colonnade, not daring to carry
her up to the bed-chambers, and laid her on the costly, though
somewhat old-fashioned and large sofa. What a sight she looked! the
white face, the closed eyes, telling scarcely of life, and the red
stains contrasting with the amber-velvet pillows. A groom went riding
off to Odesque at full gallop--that is, as much of a gallop as French
by-roads will allow--to bring back the Odesque doctor, the nearest
medical man. He was also charged to send a telegraphic message to
Belport for the French gentleman who had attended her in the spring;
and _he_ was requested to bring with him an English physician.

How prone are we to cheat ourselves! that is, to try to cheat
ourselves. Signor de Castella, the first shock past, affected to talk
cheerfully--cheerfully for him--of its being only a little vessel that
had given way on the chest, not the lungs. Adeline lay on the sofa,
passive. She was quite conscious, fully awake to all that was passing
around her; as might be seen by the occasional opening of the eyes.
Madame de Castella, really ill, as these impressionable natures are
apt to be, was in her room, falling from one fainting-fit into
another. Madame de Beaufoy sat with her; and the Signor, a most
devoted husband, made repeated pilgrimages to the chamber. The poor
old lady had taken one look at Adeline, and been led away by her maid,
wringing her hands in shuddering dismay. So that in point of fact the
yellow drawing-room was left very much to the two sympathizing, but
terrified young ladies, the upper women-servants, and Aunt Agnes. As
she lay there, poor child, the angry indignation cast upon her ever
since the previous night calmed down. Better perhaps that they had let
her go to her runaway wedding. It would not have much mattered either
way: a loving bride, or a disappointed, unhappy girl, life for her
could not last very long. How far the sense of shame, so ripe in her
mind for the last few hours, had contributed its quota to the attack,
will never be known. The most indignant of them all had been Agnes de
Beaufoy; and _she_ could not quite recover it yet.

Adeline turned her head as Rose was passing near her. "Am I dying?"
she asked.

"Oh, Adeline, you must not speak!" was Rose's startled rejoinder. "The
doctor will be here soon. Dying! of course you are not."

"Where's papa?"

"_Pray_ don't attempt to speak! He was here a minute or two ago: he
will be here again."

"Rose," came the soft whisper, in spite of the injunction, "I think I
am dying. I should like to see Frederick St. John. Only for a minute,
tell him."

Rose, consulting no one, penned a hasty note to Mr. St. John, her
tears dropping all the time: _she_ also thought death was at hand. It
was written in her own rather wild fashion, but was clear and
peremptory. Louise was called out of the yellow drawing-room and
despatched with it. And the time passed slowly on.

The most perfect quiet, both of mind and body, was essential for
Adeline; yet there she lay, evidently anxious, inwardly restless, her
eyes seeking the door, expecting the appearance of Mr. St. John. But
he did not come; neither did Louise. Had Rose done well to pen that
note? Adeline was exhausted and silent, but not the less excited.

In came Louise at last, looking, as usual, fiery hot, her black eyes
round and sparkling. Her proper course would have been to call Rose
from the room; but she stalked direct into the presence of Adeline,
bringing her news. It happened that none of the elders were in the
room at the moment: Signor de Castella had again gone to his wife's
chamber; and Miss de Beaufoy was outside the large entrance-door,
looking in her impatience for signs of the doctor from Odesque. Louise
had made haste to Madame Baret's and back, as desired, and came in at
once, without waiting even to remove her gloves, the only addition
(except the parapluie rouge) necessary to render her home-costume a
walking one. What would an English lady's-maid say to that? In her
hand she bore a packet, or very thick letter, for Adeline, directed
and sealed by Mr. St. John. Adeline followed it with her eyes, as Rose
took it from Louise.

"Shall I open it?" whispered Rose, bending gently over her.

Adeline looked assent, and Rose broke the seal, holding it immediately
before her face. It was a blank sheet of paper, without word or
comment, enclosing the letters she had written to him. They fell in a
heap upon her, as she lay. Rose, at home in such matters, understood
it as soon as Adeline, and turned with a frown to Louise.

"Did Mr. St. John give you this?"

"Ah, no, mademoiselle. Mr. St. John is gone."

"Gone!"

"Gone away to England. Gone for good."

Rose gathered the letters into the sheet of paper, as if in
abstraction, amusing herself by endeavouring to put together the large
seal she had broken. Truth was, she did not know what to say or do.
Adeline's eyes were closed, but she _heard_--by the heaving bosom and
crimsoned cheeks, contrasting with their previous ghastly paleness.
Louise, like a simpleton, continued in an undertone to Rose, and there
was no one by to check her gossip.

"He had not been gone three minutes when I got there---- Oh, by the
way, mademoiselle, here's the note you gave me for him. Madame Baret
was changing her cap to bring up the thick letter, for Mr. St. John
had said it was to be taken special care of, and given into
Mademoiselle Adeline's own hands, so she thought she would bring it
herself. She's in a fine way at his going, is mother Baret, for she
says she never saw any one that she liked so much."

"But what took him off in this sudden manner?" demanded Rose,
forgetful of Adeline in her own eager curiosity.

"Madame Baret says she'd give her two ears to know," responded Louise.
"She thought something must have happened up here--a dispute, or some
unpleasant matter of that sort. But I told her, No. Something had
occurred here unfortunately, sure enough, but it could have had
nothing to do with Mr. St. John, because he had left the château
previously. She then thought he might have received ill news from
England; though no letters came for him in the morning. But whatever
it might be, he was in an awful passion. He has spoilt the picture."

"Which picture?" quickly asked Rose.

Before recording the answer, it may be well to explain that Adeline's
portrait had been finished long ago, and taken to the château. But on
the return of M. de Castella from Paris, he had suggested some
alteration in the background and in the drapery, so it was sent back
to the Lodge. Events had then crowded so fast, one upon another,
coupled with Mr. St. John's two visits to England, that the change was
not at once effected. During the last few days, however, St. John had
been at work, and completed it. Only the previous evening, when he was
secretly expecting to leave with Adeline, he had given orders that it
should be conveyed the next day to Beaufoy.

"Which picture?" was the impatient demand of Rose.

"Mademoiselle's likeness that he had been taking himself," answered
Louise. "He went into the painting-room after he got home just now,
and began flinging his things together. Madame Baret heard sounds and
went to look who was there; but she only peeped in at the door, for
she had not changed her night-cap, and there she saw him. There was
some blue paint on a palette at hand, and he dabbed a wet brush in it
and smeared it right across the face. My faith! the way he must have
been in, to destroy his own work. And such a beautiful face as he had
made it!"

A pause. Rose, in her astonishment, could only stare. She knew
nothing, be it remembered, of the breach between him and Adeline. No
one did know of it.

"I knew he could be furiously passionate on occasions," was her first
remark. "I told him so one day."

"It was a shame, Madame Baret said in telling me, to vent his anger
upon _that_," resumed Louise. "So senseless: and quite like an insult
to Mademoiselle Adeline--just as if she had offended him. Of course I
agreed with the Mère Baret that it _was_ a shame, a wicked shame: and
then, if you'll believe me, mademoiselle, she flew out at me for
saying it, and vowed that nobody should speak a word against Mr. St.
John in her hearing. He was of a perfectly golden temper, she went on,
he always behaved like a prince to everybody, and she was sure
something out of common must have occurred to shake him, for he seemed
to be quite beside himself--to know no more what he was doing than a
child."

Rose glanced at Adeline, whom, perhaps, she suddenly remembered. The
crimson had faded on the wan cheeks; the quivering eyes were closed.
What effort might it be costing her, let us wonder, to lie there and
make no sign?

"I am sure _I_ don't want to speak against him," continued Louise, in
an injured tone, meant as a reproach for the absent mistress of the
Lodge. "I only chimed in with the Dame Baret for politeness' sake--and
what had taken her, to be so capricious, I can't think: one mood one
minute, another the next. Mr. St. John was a thorough gentleman,
always behaving like one to us servants: and you know, besides,
Mademoiselle Rose, he spoke French like a true angel."

"Comme un vrai ange," were the maid's words. It may be as well to give
them. Rose nodded.

"Which is what can't be said of most Englishmen," added Louise.

"But what has he gone away for so suddenly?" questioned Rose.

"Nobody knows, mademoiselle. As he was going in, he met Victor--that
lazy fellow Père Baret keeps about the place; _I_ wouldn't--and
ordered a horse to be got ready for him and brought round. Then he
went into the painting-room, where Madame peeped in and saw him, but
didn't show herself on account of her cap. He was in there ever so
long, and then he went up to his chamber. By the time he came out his
anger was over, and he was never more calm or pleasant than when he
called to Dame Baret and gave her the packet for Mademoiselle Adeline,
asking her to oblige him by bringing it up herself. Then he told her
he was going to leave. She says you might have knocked her down with a
whiff of old Baret's pipe. And I don't wonder at it; what with the
unexpected news, and what with the consciousness of her cap, which she
hadn't had time to change. It's not once in six months that Madame
Baret's coiffure is amiss, but they have the sweeps today."

"Let her cap and the sweeps alone," cried Rose, impatiently. "I wish
you'd go on properly, Louise."

"Well, mademoiselle, when Dame Baret had recovered the shock a little,
she asked him whether he was going away for long, and when he should
be back. He told her he should never come back; never; but would write
and explain to M. d'Estival. He thanked her for all her attention, and
said she and M. Baret should hear from him. With that he rode off;
giving orders that his clothes and other things should be packed and
sent after him, and leaving a mint of money for all who had waited on
him."

"And where is he gone?" questioned Rose. "To England?"

"Mother Baret supposes so, mademoiselle. It's where his things are to
be sent, at any rate. He is riding to Odesque now, so he must be going
to take the train either for Paris or the coast."

It is impossible to say how much more Louise would have found to
relate, and Rose to listen to, but the clattering hoofs of a horse
were heard outside, and Louise hastened to the window, hoping it might
be the surgeon from Odesque. Hazardous, perhaps, it had been for
Adeline to listen to this: and yet well. As he _had_ gone, it was
better that she should know it; and be, so far, at rest.

The surgeon from Odesque it proved to be. Ah! how strangely do things
fall out in this world! When the two horsemen had met in the road some
half-hour before, each of them spurring his steed to its fleetest
pace, and had exchanged a passing salutation of courtesy, how little
was Mr. St. John conscious that the surgeon was speeding to her whom
he had quitted in anger, against whom he was even then boiling over
with resentment; speeding to her in her sore need, as she lay a-dying!

Not dying quite immediately; not that day, perhaps not for some short
weeks; but still dying. Such was the fiat of the surgeon, as whispered
to Miss de Beaufoy; from whom it spread to the awestruck household.
Some of them refused to receive it: M. de Castella for one; Rose for
another. Well, the doctor answered, it was his fatal opinion; but no
one would be more thankful than he to find it a mistaken one; and he
was truly glad that other medical men were telegraphed for; he felt
his responsibility.

He assisted to carry Adeline upstairs to her chamber. Very gently was
she borne to it: and Rose carried the packet up after her, and put it
away safely in the sight of Adeline. Of course the chief thing was to
keep her perfectly quiet, mentally and bodily, the doctor said. If
further hemorrhage could be prevented and the wound healed, she
might--might go on. He spoke the words in a hesitating manner, as if
himself doubting it: and Rose, who had stolen into the conference,
which was taking place downstairs, said afterwards she should have
liked to gag him.

Late in the evening, arrived the two doctors from Belport, le Docteur
Dorré and an English physician. They were more reticent than the
surgeon of Odesque had been, not saying that Adeline was in any sort
of danger; not thinking it, so far as could be seen. The Englishman
was old, the Frenchman comparatively young. Adeline was considerably
better then, to all appearance: perhaps they did not really detect
cause for alarm. She lay quite tranquil, smiled at them, and talked a
little; neither did she look very ill, except that she was pale; and
all traces of the sudden malady had been removed. Indeed the wild
commotion of the morning had given place to a very different state of
things. All was tranquil; and Madame de Castella was about again, and
cheerful.

After the doctors had seen Adeline, they retired to a room alone,
emerging from it after a few minutes' consultation. The chief thing,
as the other one had said, was to keep her still and quiet; no
talking, no excitement. One person alone must be in the room with
her at a time; and that, as they strongly recommended, should be a
sick-nurse. Madame de Castella assented eagerly, hanging, as it were,
upon the very words that issued from their lips. Dr. Dorré spoke of
the Englishwoman who had attended her in the spring: she had struck
him as being one of the best and most efficient nurses he had ever in
his life seen.

"I'll inquire after her the first thing tomorrow morning," said the
young doctor; "I think I know her address: and I'll send her over."

They were to be over themselves also on the morrow, to meet the doctor
from Odesque; for _their_ visits could not be frequent. Belport was
too far off to allow of their coming daily.

"See after Nurse Brayford!" exclaimed Rose, when this item of
intelligence reached her ears after the doctors had departed. "It will
be of no use, dear Madame de Castella. She went away with my sister,
Mrs. Carleton St. John. They are travelling somewhere in Germany. Did
I not tell you Charlotte had taken her?"

"But has she kept her all this time? The nurse may have returned."

"She _may_," replied Rose, speaking slowly in her deliberation. "I
don't think she has, though. The last time I heard from London, from
mamma, she said she feared dear Charlotte was being tried sadly, for
that she never could get a letter from her now. Charlotte was always
first and foremost with mamma, the rest of us nothing. It's more than
she was with me, though," added Rose, lifting her nose in the air as
she shook back her golden ringlets. "A domineering thing!"

"If the little child has got better, the nurse may have been
dismissed," observed Madame de Castella, who now remembered to have
heard the circumstances under which Nurse Brayford had been taken.

"But I fear he has not got better," answered Rose. "I fear he is
getting worse. Mary Anne said so when she wrote to me. About the nurse
we shall see: I hope, for Adeline's sake, she is back again."

It should have been mentioned that Signor de Castella had sent an
express to the Baron de la Chasse, to arrest his journey to Beaufoy.
But he came, nevertheless: much concerned, of course. He saw Adeline
for a few minutes in the presence of her mother and aunt. It was on
the very day they were to have been married. He was excessively
shocked at her death-like appearance--to which there's not the least
doubt the sight of himself contributed--but endeavoured to express
many a kind hope of her speedy recovery, hinting that he was an
interested party in it.

"She is very ill!" he exclaimed to Rose, when they met downstairs,
before his departure.

"Very," lamented Rose. "And to think those beautiful wedding things,
that were to have been worn today, are shut up out of sight in
drawers and boxes!"

"Where's that presuming Anglais?" asked the Frenchman.

"Oh, he's gone back to his own country," replied Rose, carelessly.
"Ages ago, it seem now. I don't think you and he need have quarrelled
over her, Monsieur le Baron."

He detected her meaning--that Adeline would not live to belong to
either--and he bent his head in sorrow, and stroked his silky yellow
moustache, and began to speak in a feeling, thoughtful manner of her
illness; of the mischief of the spring which had broken out again,
when they had all deemed it cured. _He_ had no idea, and never could
have any, that this had been brought on by the misery and emotion that
were too great to bear.

Meanwhile Mrs. Brayford had been sought for in vain. She was still
absent from Belport, in attendance on the little heir of Alnwick. A
French nurse came to Beaufoy to occupy her place. A tall, thin,
dark-eyed, quick woman, dressed in black; kind enough, and very
capable; but with a gossiping tongue that rivalled at least that of
Louise.



CHAPTER XXVI.
THE SICK CHAMBER.


"Draw aside the curtain, Rose," said Adeline de Castella, feebly. "The
sun has passed."

You can take a look at her as she lies. Some few weeks have passed
since the sad occurence just related, but there is no visible
improvement in her appearance. Her face is wan, thinner than it was
then, and dark circles have formed round her eyes. There had been no
recurrence of the alarming symptoms from the lungs: indeed, the hurt
seemed to have healed itself immediately; but a great deal of fever
had supervened, and this had left her in a sad state of weakness. The
doctors seemed a little puzzled at this condition of fever and its
continuance; some of those around her were not, but knew it for the
result of her unhappy state of mind. That consumption had set its seal
upon her, there was no longer any doubt, but it was thought probable
the disease might linger in its progress.

Rose and Mary were with her still. Adeline could not bear to hear of
their leaving. "They must spare you to me until the end," she said,
alluding to their friends, and the young ladies seemed quite willing
to accept the position. They were her chief companions; the French
nurse remained, but her office was partly a sinecure, and just now she
was occupied with Madame de Beaufoy, who was confined to her bed with
illness. Signor de Castella was in Paris on business--he always seemed
to have business on hand, but no one could ever quite find out what it
was. Agnes de Beaufoy sat much with her mother. Madame de Castella was
almost as ill as Adeline; grieving, fretting, repining continually.
She paid frequent visits to Adeline's room, but seldom stayed in it
long, for she was apt to suffer her feelings to get ahead, and to
become hysterical. A frequent visitor to it was Father Marc; the most
cheerful, chatty, pleasant of all. He brought her no end of
entertaining anecdotes of the neighbourhood, and sometimes succeeded
in winning a smile from her lips. He never entered with her upon
religious topics, so far as the two young ladies saw or heard; never
appeared to anticipate that the end of life's race was entered upon.
Rose had put aside much of her giddy vanity, and they all loved her.
She was in bitter repentance for her unnecessary and exaggerated
revelations touching Sarah Beauclerc;--_there_, in her knowledge of
that, lay the keenest sting of Adeline's misery. Adeline remained
silent as to her inward life, silent as the grave; but something had
been gathered of it. She had more than once fallen into a sort of
delirium--I don't know any better name for it; partly sleep, partly a
talking and waking dream, and some painful thoughts had been spoken in
it. It always occurred at the dusk of evening, and Adeline herself
seemed unconscious of it when she woke up to reality. You may meet
with such a case yourselves; when you do, suspect the patient's state
of alarming bodily weakness.

Adeline's former chamber had been changed for one with a southern
aspect. The bed was in a recess, as is customary in the country, or
rather in a smaller room, for there were windows and two doors in it.
A large cheerful chamber, or sitting-room, the chief, the windows
lofty, the fireplace handsome, the little Turkey-carpet mats,
scattered on the polished floor, of bright colours. Adeline's sofa
just now faced the windows; it was light, and could be turned easily
any way on its firm castors; Madame de Castella leaned back in an
easy-chair, nearly as pale and worn as Adeline; Mary Carr was working;
Rose listlessly turned over the leaves of one of the pretty books
lying on the large round table.

"Draw aside the curtain, Rose," Adeline said. "The sun has passed."

Rose drew it aside. An hour or so before, the weak, watery sun had
come forth from behind the lowering grey clouds and sent his beams
straight into Adeline's eyes, so they had shut him out. Diminished in
force though the rays were, they were yet too bright for the invalid's
sight. Surely, when you come to think of it, there was a singular
affinity between the weather and Adeline's health and happiness. Cold,
wet, boisterous, and gloomy had it been in the spring, during the time
of her long illness, up to the period, within a few days, of her
arrival at Beaufoy and commencing intimacy with Frederick St. John;
warm, brilliant and beautiful it was all through the months of that
intimacy; but with its abrupt termination, the very day subsequent to
the miserable one of his departure and of Adeline's dangerous
accident, it had abruptly changed, and become cold, wet, dreary again.
Weeks, as you have heard, had elapsed since, and the weather still
wore the same gloomy aspect, in which there seemed no prospect of
amendment on this side winter. A feeling of awe, almost of
superstition, would creep over Mary Carr, as she sat by Adeline's
bedside in the dim evenings, listening to the moaning, sighing wind,
as it swept round the unprotected château and shook off the leaves
from the nearly bare trees on the western side. It sounded so like a
dirge for the dying girl who was passing from them! The watchers would
look up with a shiver, and say how dreary it was, this gloomy weather,
and wish it would change, forgetting that the sweetest summer's day,
the brightest skies, cannot bring joy to a house where joy exists not,
or renew the peace of a heart from which hope has flown. Very fanciful
all this, no doubt, you will say; what has the weather to do with
events in this busy world of ours? Nothing, of course. Still, it had
been a curious year; winter, summer, and now winter again; but neither
spring nor autumn.

As Rose drew aside the curtain, humming a scrap of a song at the same
time, for she was always gay, and nothing could take it out of her,
Adeline left the sofa where she had been lying, and sat down near the
fire in any easy-chair of white dimity.

"Mamma," she said, catching sight of Madame de Castella's lifeless,
sickly aspect, "why do you not go out? It is not raining today, and
the fresh air would do you good."

"Oh, Adeline," sighed the unhappy mother, "nothing will do me good
while I see you as you are."

"Now, Madame de Castella!" remonstrated Rose. "You persist in taking a
wrong view of things! Adeline is getting better and stronger every
day."

True, in a degree. But would it last? Perhaps Rose herself, in her
inmost heart, knew that it would not. Madame de Castella rose
abruptly, and quitted the room; and Rose gave a shrug to her pretty
shoulders. There were times, as she privately confided to Mary Carr,
when she could have shaken Madame for her line of conduct. She vented
her anger just now on the pillow behind Adeline's back, knocking it
unmercifully, under the plea of smoothing it to comfort.

"I'm putting it straight for you, Adeline."

"No matter, dear Rose. It will do very well Thank you all the same."

"I wish you'd taste this jelly; it's delicious."

"But I don't care for it; I don't care to eat," was the apathetic
reply.

"Shall I read to you?" asked Rose.

"As you will, dear Rose; it seems all one to me. But thank you very
much."

Thus had she been all along; thus she continued. Quiet, passive,
grateful for their cares, but showing no interest in any earthly
thing. No tidings whatever had been heard of Mr. St. John since he
left; what quarter of the known world he might be in, whether or not
he was aware of Adeline's state, they could not conjecture. It was
assumed that he was in London; Adeline, for one, never thought of
doubting it. All this while, and not a single remembrance from him!

Rose went to the table, turned over the books collected there, and
took up a volume of Tennyson.

"Not that," said Adeline, quickly glancing up with a faint colour.
"Something else."

No, not that. _He_ had given her the book, and been accustomed to read
it to her. How could she bear to hear it read by another?

Rose tried again: Béranger. "That won't do," she said. "A pretty laugh
you would have at my French accent!"

"Your accent is not a bad one, Rose."

"It may pass in conversation. But to read poetry aloud in any language
but one's own, is---- What's this?" continued Rose, interrupting
herself as she opened another volume; which she as quickly dropped
again. It was Bulwer's "Pilgrims of the Rhine."

"That will do as well as another," said Adeline.

"No," shortly answered Rose, avoiding the book with a gesture that was
half a shrug and half a shudder. Adeline stretched out her hand and
drew her near, speaking in a low murmuring tone.

"You fear to remind me of myself, Rose, in telling of Gertrude.
Indeed, there is no analogy to be traced between the cases," she
added, with a bitter smile, "save in the nature of the disease; and
that we must both die. One might envy _her_ fate."

"I don't like the book," persisted Rose.

"I do," said Adeline. "One tale in it I could never be tired of. I
forget its title, but it begins, 'The angels strung their harps in
Heaven, and the----'"

"I know," interrupted Rose, rapidly turning over the pages. "Here it
is. 'The Soul in Purgatory; or, Love stronger than Death.' It is a
tale of woman's enduring love."

"_And its reward_," sighed Adeline. "Read it. It is very short."

Rose began her reading. It was quite impossible to tell whether
Adeline listened or not: she sat silent, in her chair, her hand over
her face; and, when it was over, she remained in the same position,
making no comment, till the nurse came in to give the medicine.

"I'm not wanted in there just now," said she, with that freedom of
manner which is so characteristic of the dependents in a French
family, but which is never offensive, or even borders on disrespect;
"so I'll sit here a bit."

"You can wheel the sofa nearer to the fire, nurse," said Adeline.

It was done, and Adeline lay down upon it. Rose began another tale,
and read till dusk.

"Shall I stir the fire into a blaze, Adeline, and finish it now; or
wait until candle-light?"

There came no answer. Mary Carr stole forward and bent over Adeline.
She had fallen asleep. Stay: not sleep; but into one of those
restless, dreamy stupors akin to it. The thought had more than once
crossed them--did that Odesque doctor, who chiefly saw to the
medicine, put laudanum in it, and were these feverish wanderings the
result? The uncertain light of the wood fire played fitfully upon
Adeline's face, revealing its extreme beauty of feature and its
deathly paleness. Rose closed her book; and Mary left Adeline's sofa,
and stood looking through the window on the dreary night. The nurse,
who had dropped into a doze herself, soothed by the monotonous and
incomprehensible tones of the foreign tongue, rose and went downstairs
for some wood.

Mary Carr had laid her finger with a warning gesture on Rose Darling's
arm, for sounds were heard from Adeline. Turning from the darkened
window where they had been holding a whispered colloquy, they held
their breath to listen. Very distinct were the words in the silence of
the room:

"Don't say it! don't say it!" murmured Adeline. "I tell you there is
no hope. He has been gone too long: one--two--three--four--do you
think I have not counted the weeks?--Why does he not come?--Why does
he not write?--What's this? My letters? thrust back upon me with scorn
and insult!--What is he whispering to Sarah Beauclerc? Oh, mercy!
mercy!"

The nurse re-entered the room, her arms laden with wood. By some
mishap she let a log fall to the floor, and the noise aroused Adeline.
Rose ran to the sofa, her eyes full of tears.

"Oh, Adeline," she sighed, leaning over her, "you should not take it
so heavily to heart. If things were at an end between you and Mr. St.
John, there was something noble rather than the contrary in his
returning you your letters. Indeed, we have always seen him honourable
in all he does. Another might have kept them--have boasted of
them--have shown them to the world. I only wish," broke off Rose,
going from Adeline's affairs to her own, in the most unceremonious
way, "that I could get back all the love-letters I have written! What
a heap there'd be of them!"

"What do you mean?" demanded Adeline, sitting up on the sofa in her
alarm. "Have I been saying anything in my sleep?"

"Not much--only a few words," said Mary Carr, stepping forward and
speaking in a calm, soothing tone, a very contrast to Rose's excited
one. "But we can see how it is about Mr. St. John, Adeline. He left in
ill-feeling, and the inward grief is killing you by inches. If your
mind were at rest, time might restore you to health; but, as it is,
you are giving yourself no chance of life."

"There is no chance for me," she answered; "you know it. If I were
happy as I once was, as I once thought I should be; if I were even
married to Mr. St. John, there would be no chance of prolonged life
for me; none."

Mary Carr did know it; but she strove to soothe her still.

"I might have expected all that has happened to me," smiled Adeline,
trying to turn the subject to a jest, the first approach to voluntary
smile or jest they had marked on her lips. "Do you remember your
words, Rose, on that notable first of January, my ball-night--that
some ill-fate was inevitably in store for me?"

"Rubbish!" said Rose. "I was an idiot, and a double idiot: and I don't
remember it."

But Rose did remember it, all too vividly. She remembered how Adeline
had laughed in ridicule, had spurned her words, then; in her
summer-tide of pride and beauty. It was winter with her now!

There could be no further erroneous opinions on the point. Physically,
she was dying of consumption, as a matter of course, and as the
doctors said: but was she not just as much dying of a broken heart?
The cruel pain was ever torturing her: though her lungs had been
strong and healthy, it might have worked its work.

I hardly know how to continue this portion of the history, and feel a
great temptation to make a leap at once to its close. Who cares to
read of the daily life of a sick-chamber? There is so little variation
in it: there was so little in hers. Adeline better or worse; the
visits of the doctors, and their opinions; a change in her medicine,
pills for mixture, or mixture for pills; and there you have about the
whole history. Which medicine, by the way, was ordered by the English
physician. A French one never gives any. He would not prescribe one
dose, where the English would choke you with five hundred. It is true.
Pills, powders, mixture; mixture, powders, pills: five hundred at the
very least, where a Frenchman would give none. Warm baths and fasting
in abundance they order, but no medicine. They are uncommonly free
with the lancet, however; with leeches; with anything else that draws
blood. The first year Eleanor Seymour (if you have not forgotten her)
was at school at Madame de Nino's, an illness broke out amidst the
pupils, and the school medical attendant was sent for. It was this
very Dr. Dorré, now attending Adeline de Castella. Five or six of the
younger girls seemed heavy and feverish, and there were signs of an
eruption on the skin. Monsieur le docteur thought it would turn out to
be measles or scarlatina, he could not yet pronounce which; and he
ordered them to bed and to take a few quarts of eau sucrée: he then
sent for the rest of the pupils one by one, and bled them all
round.[1] "A simple measure of precaution," he said to Madame.

-------------------------------

[1] A fact, in all its details.

-------------------------------

If this history of the sick-chamber is to be continued, we must borrow
some extracts from the diary of Mary Carr. A good thing she kept one:
otherwise there would have been little record of this earlier period
in the closing scenes of life.

Meanwhile it may be as well to mention that a sort of wild wish--in
its fervour it could be called little else--had taken hold of Adeline:
she wanted to return to Belport. Every one at first opposed it. The
cold would be greater in the seaport town than it was at Beaufoy; and
the journey might do her harm. There appeared to be only one
consideration in its favour; but that was a strong one: they would be
on the spot with the doctors. She seemed to get better and stronger.
Signor de Castella came home and was astonished at the improvement.
Perhaps it was what he had not looked for.


Extract From The Diary Of Mary Carr.


_Nov. 3rd_.--What can make her so anxious to return to Belport? She is
growing feverish about it, and the Signor and Madame see that she is.
Rose has been offering to bet me a pair of gloves that it will end in
our going. I hope it will. This house seems to be dedicated to
illness. Madame de Beaufoy does not improve, and one of the servants
has taken gastric fever.

Belport, Belport! It is the one wish of her existence; the theme of
her daily prayer. Has she an idea that she may there be in the way of
hearing of _him_, perhaps of seeing him? Or is it that she would bid
adieu to this place, hoping to bid adieu at the same time to its
remembrances?

She is so much better! She comes downstairs now, dressed as she used
to be, except the hair. It is braided under a pretty little lace cap:
the French are such people for keeping the head warm! Often on her
shoulders she wears a light cashmere shawl: the one she put on the
night when she attempted to go away with Mr. St. John. "I wonder if
she thinks of it?" I said yesterday to Rose. "What a donkey you are!"
was the complimentary reply: "as if she did not think of that
miserable night and its mishaps continually!"

We now know that Mr. St. John is in London. In looking over the
_Times_--which comes regularly to Madame de Beaufoy--I saw his name
amidst a host of others, as having attended a public meeting:
Frederick St. John, Esq., of Castle Wafer. I put the paper into
Adeline's hand, pointing to the list, and then quitted the room. On my
return to it the journal was lying on the table, and her face was
buried amidst the cushions of the armchair.

Is this improvement to turn out a deceitful one? It might not, but for
the ever-restless, agitated mind. A calm without, a torrent within!
The weakness is no longer apparent; the cough is nearly gone. But she
is inert and indifferent as ever; buried within herself. This
apparently languid apathy, this total indifference to life and its
daily concerns, is set down by her friends to bodily weakness; and so
they let it remain unchecked and unaroused, and she indulges,
unmolested, in all the bitter feelings of a breaking heart.

6_th_.--These last few fine days have afforded the pretext for
complying with Adeline's wish, and here we are, once more, at Belport,
she wonderfully improved. Still better, still better! for how long?
Rose has resumed her wild gaiety of spirits, and says she will sing a
_Te Deum_ for having left the dreary old château and its ghosts behind
us.

A bed has been placed on the first-floor for Adeline, in the back
drawing-room. This is better; for she can now reach the front
drawing-room, where we sit, without being exposed to the cold air of
the staircase. And should she be confined to her room at the last, as
may be expected, it will be more convenient for the servants; and
indeed in all respects.

7_th_.--Madame de Nino called today, bringing two of the elder girls.
Adeline asked them innumerable questions about the school, and seemed
really awakened to interest. Many other friends have also called;
compared with the gloomy solitude of the château, each day since our
arrival has been like a levee. The doctors apparently see no
impropriety in this, for they don't forbid it. _I_ think Adeline is
better for it: she has not the leisure to brood so entirely over the
past. She is still silent on the subject of her misery, never hinting
at it. Mr. St. John's name is not mentioned by any one, and the scenes
and events of the last six months might be a dream, for all the
allusion ever made to them. Never was she so beautiful as she is now;
delicate and fragile of course, but that is a great charm in woman's
loveliness. Her features are more than ever conspicuous for their
exquisite contour, her soft brown eyes are of a sweeter sadness, her
cheeks glow with a transparent rose colour. Visitors look at her with
astonishment, almost question the fact of her late dangerous illness,
and say she is getting well. But there is no exertion: listless and
inanimate she sits, or lies, her trembling, fevered hands holding one
or other of the English journals--looking in them for a name that she
never finds.

Yesterday Rose was reading to her in a volume of Shelley, when a
letter from England was brought in, its superscription in the
handwriting of Mrs. Darling. Adeline looked up, eager and flushed,
signing to Rose to open it. Madame de Castella has stared in her
ladylike way at this betrayed emotion whenever letters come for Rose.
_We_ understand it: and Rose always reads them to her. The Darlings
are in London, know people that Mr. St. John knows, and Adeline thinks
there may be a chance that his name will be mentioned in these
letters. "The letter will keep," said Rose, glancing cursorily into
it; and she laid it down and resumed her book.


     "I love, but I believe in love no more,
      I feel desire, but hope not. Oh, from Sleep
      Most vainly must my weary brain implore
      Its long-lost flattery now: I wake to weep,
      And sit, the long day, gnawing through the core
      Of my bitter heart----"


I looked up at her, involuntarily, it was so applicable; Rose also
made a momentary stop, and her glance wandered in the same direction.
Adeline's eyes met ours. It was one of those awkward moments that will
happen to all; and the flush on Adeline's cheek deepened to crimson.
It was very applicable:


                            "I wake to weep,
      And sit, the long day, gnawing through the core
      Of my bitter heart."


Alas! alas!

Rose's letter contained ill news of the Darling family. Her quick
sight saw what it was, and she hastened to put the letter up, not
caring to speak of it at once to Adeline. Really she is growing more
cautious than she used to be! That poor little child, the heir, in
whose life was bound up so much of worldly prosperity, is dead: he
died more than a week ago. Rose is in a state of what she is pleased
to call "dumps." Firstly, for the child's own sake: she never saw him
but once, this summer at Belport, but took a real liking for the
little fellow; secondly, because Rose has orders to put herself into
mourning. If Rose hates one thing in this world more than another, it
is a black bonnet.

Adeline was standing by the fire today when the English physician
came in. He was struck with the improvement in her looks. "You are
cheating us all," he said. "We shall have a wedding yet."

"Or a funeral, doctor," quietly answered Adeline.

"I speak as I think," he seriously said. "I do believe that now there
is great hope of your recovery. If we could but get you to the South!"

"Adeline," I exclaimed, as the physician went out, and she and I were
alone, "you heard what he said. Those words were worth a king's
ransom."

"They were not worth a serfs," was her reply. "I appreciate his
motives. He imagines that the grave must of necessity be a bitter and
terrible prospect, and is willing to cheer me with hopes, whether they
prove true or false: as all doctors do; it is in their trade. But he
knows perfectly well that I must die."

"How calmly you speak! One would think you _coveted_ the approach of
death!"

"Well--I don't know that I regret it."

"Has life no longer a charm for you? Oh, that you had never met
Frederick St. John!"

"Don't say so! He came to me in mercy."

A burst of tears succeeded to the words, startling me nearly out of my
senses.

"There! that's your fault," she cried, with a wretched attempt at
gaiety. "In talking of regret, you made me think of my dear papa and
mamma. Their grief will be dreadful."

"Oh, Adeline, _don't_ try to turn it off in this way," I stammered,
not knowing what to say, and horribly vexed with myself. "What do you
mean--that he came to you in mercy with this wretchedness upon you,
the crushed spirit, the breaking heart? I see what you go through day
by day, night by night. Is there any cessation to the pain? Is it not
as one never-ending anguish?"

Adeline was strangely excited; her eyes glistening, her cheeks a
burning crimson, and her white, fragile, feverish hands fastening upon
mine.

"It is all you say," she whispered. "And now he is with another!"

"I can understand the misery _that_ thought brings."

"No, you can't. If my heart were laid bare before you, and you saw the
wretchedness there as it really is, it would appear to you all as the
mania of one insane; and to him as to the rest."

"And yet you say this has come to you in mercy!"

"It has--it has. I see it all now. How else should I have been
reconciled to die? The germs of consumption must have been in me from
the first," she concluded, after a pause. "You schoolgirls used to
tell me I inherited all the English characteristics; and consumption,
I suppose, made one of them."

9_th_.--Miss de Beauroy is here for a day or two, and we had a quiet
little soirée yesterday evening. Aunt Agnes, in the plentitude of her
delight at the improvement visible in Adeline, limped down, poor lady,
in a splendid canary-coloured silk gown, all standing on end with
richness. Who should come in unexpectedly after tea, but Monsieur le
Comte le Coq de Monty! (I do love, after the fashion of the good Vicar
of Wakefield, to give that whole name--_I_, not Miss Carr). Business
with the Sous-Préfet brought him to Belport. He inquired very _mal à
propos_, whether we had recently seen or heard of Mr. St. John; and
while we were opening our mouths, deliberating what to say, Rose,
always apt and ready, took upon herself evasively to answer that he
was in England, at Castle Wafer. Adeline's face was turned away, but
the rest of the family looked glum enough. De Monty, very
unconsciously, but not the less out of time and tune, entered into a
flowery oration in praise of Mr. St. John, saying he was the most
attractive man he ever came in contact with; which, considering St.
John is an Englishman, and de Monty French, was very great praise
indeed.

She looked so lovely this morning, as she sat in the great chair, that
I could not forbear an exclamation. But it is all the same to her,
admiration and indifference; nothing arouses her from that dreamy
apathy.

"Ours is a handsome family," she answered. "See how good-looking papa
is! I have inherited his features."

Not the slightest sign of gratified vanity as she spoke. All _that_
had passed away with Frederick St. John.

That Signor de Castella was excessively handsome, I did not deny; but
she was much more so.

"The complexion makes a difference," said Adeline, in answer. "Papa is
pale; sallow you may term it, and in complexion I am like mamma. She
owes hers, no doubt, to her English origin. You never saw a
Frenchwoman with that marvellous complexion, at once brilliant and
delicate."

I marvelled at her wondrous indifference. "You were formerly
sufficiently conscious of your beauty, Adeline; you seem strangely
callous to it now."

"I have outlived many feelings that were once strong within me. Vanity
now for _me!_"

"Outlived? It is a remarkable term for one of your age."

"It is appropriate," she rejoined, quickly. "In the last few months I
have aged years."

"Can this be?"

"You have read of hair turning grey in a single night," she whispered;
"it was thus with my feelings. _They_ became grey. I was in a dream so
blissful that the earth to me was as one universal paradise; and I
awoke to reality. That awaking added the age of a whole life to my
heart."

"I cannot understand this," I said. And I really can't.

"I hope you never will. Self-experience alone could enlighten you,
nothing else; not all the books and arguments in the world."

"You allude to the time when Mr. St. John went away in anger."

"Not so," she murmured, scarcely above her breath. "When I learnt that
he loved another."

"I think it is fallacy, that idea of yours, Adeline," I said,
determined to dispute it for her own sake. "How could he have cared
for Sarah Beauclerc and for you at the same time? He could not love
you both."

"No, he could not," she said, a vivid, painful flush rising to her
cheeks. "But he knew her first, and he is with her now. Can you draw
no deduction?"

"We don't know where he is," I said. "Was your sister good-looking,
Adeline?"

"Maria was beautiful," she replied. "We were much alike, resembling
papa in feature, and mamma in figure and complexion."

"And she also died of consumption. What an insidious disease it is!
How it seems to cling to particular families!"

"What is running in your head now, Mary? Maria died of scarlet fever.
She was delicate as a child, and I believe they feared she might
become consumptive. I don't know what grounds they had to judge by:
perhaps little other than her fragile loveliness."

"If consumption is fond of attacking great beauties, perhaps Rose will
go off in one."

"Rose!" answered Adeline--and there was a smile on her lip--"if Rose
goes off in anything, it will be in a coach-and-four with white
favours."

And so the days pass on; Adeline, I fear, not really better. To look
at her, she is well--well, and very lovely; but so she was before. If
they could but get her to the South! But with this winter weather it
is impossible: the doctors say she would die on the road. If they had
but taken advantage, while they might have done it, of the glorious
summer weather! If!--if!--if! These "ifs" follow too many of us
through life; as they may henceforth follow the Signor and Madame de
Castella.



CHAPTER XXVII.
THE LITTLE CHILD GONE.


You have not failed to notice the one item of news in Miss Carr's
diary--the death of a little heir--or to recognize it for the young
heir of Alnwick.

Since quitting Belport, Mrs. Carleton St. John had pursued the same
course of restless motion until within two or three weeks of the final
close. Whether she would have arrested her wandering steps then of her
own accord, must be a question, but the sick-nurse, Mrs. Brayford,
interfered. "You are taking away every chance for his life, madam,"
she said, one day. "If you persist in dragging the child about, I must
leave you, for I cannot stay to see it. It will surely prove fatal to
him before his time."

A sharp cry escaped from Mrs. St. John as she listened. The words
seemed to tear the flimsy make-believe veil from her eyes: the end was
very near: and who knows how long she had felt the conviction? They
had halted this time at Ypres, a city of Belgium, or West Flanders,
famous for its manufactures of cloths and serges. Handsome apartments
were hastily procured, and George was moved into them. Not very ill
yet did the child appear; only so terribly worn and weak. Mrs. St.
John's anguish, who shall tell of it? She loved this child, as you
have seen, with a fierce, jealous love. He was the only being in the
world who had filled every crevice of her proud and impassioned heart.
It was for his sake she had hated Benja; it was by Benja's death--and
she alone knew whether she had in any shape contributed to that
death, or whether she was wholly innocent--that he had benefited.
That some dread was upon her, apart from the child's state, was
evident--clinging to her like a nightmare.

The disease took a suddenly decisive form the second day after their
settling down at Ypres, telling of danger, speaking palpably of the
end. He could not have been moved from Ypres now, had it been ever so
much wished for. Mrs. St. John called in, one after another, the chief
doctors of the town; she summoned over at a great expense two
physicians from London; she sent an imperative mandate to Mr. Pym; and
not one of them saw the slightest chance of saving the boy's life. She
watched his fair face grow paler; his feverish limbs waste and become
weaker. She never shed a tear. For days together she would be almost
unnaturally calm; but once or twice a burst of anguish had broken from
her, fearful in itself, painful to witness. One of these paroxysms was
yielded to in the presence of the child. Yielded to? Poor thing!
perhaps she could not help it! George was frightened almost to death.
She flung herself about the large old foreign room as one insane,
tearing her hair, and calling upon the child to live--to live.

"Mamma, don't, don't!" panted the little lad, in his terror. "Don't be
so sorry for me! I am going to heaven, to be with Benja."

At his first cry she had stopped and fallen on her knees beside him.
Up again now; up again at the words, and darting about as if possessed
by a demon, her hands to her temples.

"Oh, mamma, don't frighten me," shrieked the child. "I shall be glad
to go to Benja."

Cease, Georgy, cease! for every innocent word that you utter seems but
renewed torture to your poor mother. Look at her, as she sinks down
there on the floor, and groans aloud in her sharp agony.

It was on the day of this outbreak, an hour or two after it, that Mr.
Pym arrived. The good man, utterly innocent of French, and not
accustomed to foreign travel--or indeed to much travelling of any
sort, for he was quite a fixture at Alnwick--had contrived to reach
Ypres some two days later than he should have done; having been taken
off, perplexity alone knew whither. In the first place, he had called
the town "Wypers"--which was not the surest way of getting to Ypres.
However, here he was at last, a little ruffled certainly, and confused
in mind, but on the whole thankful that he was found, and not lost for
good.

George was lying on some pillows when the surgeon entered; a very wan,
white, feeble George indeed--a skeleton of a George. But he held out
his little transparent hand, with a glad smile of welcome at the
home-face.

"I've not forgotten you!" he panted, his poor breath very short and
laboured now. "Mamma said you were coming; she thought you'd come
yesterday."

"Ay, so did I. But I--lost my way, Georgy."

Mr. Pym drew a chair close to the boy, and sat looking at him. Perhaps
he was thinking that in all his practice he had rarely seen a child's
frame so completely worn. But a few days of life were left in it;
perhaps not that. The blue eyes, large and lustrous, were cast up at
the surgeon's face; the hot fragile hand lay passively in the strong
firm palm.

"Did you see Benja's pony?"

"Benja's pony!" mechanically repeated the doctor, whose thoughts were
far away from ponies. "I think it is still in the stable at Alnwick."

"I was to ride it when I went home. Prance said so. Grandmamma said
so. I wanted to go home to ride it; and to see Brave; but I'm not
going now."

"Not just yet," said the surgeon. "You are not strong enough, are you,
Georgy? How is mamma?"

"I'll tell Mrs. St. John that you are here, sir!" interposed a
respectable-looking woman, rising from a chair at the other end of the
large room.

It startled Mr. Pym. He had not observed that any one was present. She
went out and closed the door.

"Who was that, George?"

"It's Mrs. Brayford!"

"Oh, ay; Nurse Brayford. I heard of her from Mrs. Darling."

"Mamma won't let her be called nurse. She said I did not want a nurse.
We call her Brayford. Have you seen Benja?" continued the lad,
speaking better, now that the excitement arising from the doctor's
entrance had subsided; but with the last words his voice insensibly
dropped to a low tone.

"Seen Benja!" echoed Mr. Pym, in his surprise. "Do you mean Benja's
tomb? It is a very nice one: on rather too large a scale, though, for
my taste, considering his age."

"No," said George; "I mean Benja."

"Why, child, how could I see Benja? He is gone away from our eyes; he
is safe in heaven."

"Mamma sees him."

"Oh no, she does not," said Mr. Pym, after a slight pause.

"But she does," persisted Georgy. "She sees him in the night, and she
lays hold of me and hides her face. She sees the lighted church; it
blazes up sometimes."

There was a curious look of speculation in Mr. Pym's eyes as he gazed
at the unconscious speaker. "Mamma dreams," he said; "as we all do. Do
you remember my old horse Bob, Georgy? Well, he died this summer, poor
fellow, of old age. I dream of him some nights, Georgy; I think he's
carrying me along the road at a sharp trot."

Georgy's imaginative young mind, quickened by bodily weakness, took
hold of the words with interest. "Do you see his saddle and bridle,
Mr. Pym?"

"His saddle, and bridle, and stirrups, and all; and his old mane and
tail. They had grown so grey, Georgy. He was a faithful, hard-working
servant to me: I shall never have his like again."

"Have you got another horse? Is his name Bob?"

"I have another, and his name's Jack. He's not a second Bob, Georgy.
When he has to stand before people's doors in my gig, he gets
impatient and begins to dance. One day when I was on him, he tried to
throw me, and we had a fight for the mastery: another day, when I
wanted him to turn down Bell-yard, he wished to walk into the
brush-shop, and we had another fight."

Georgy laughed, with all the little strength left in him. "I wouldn't
keep him. Benja's pony never did all that."

"Well, you see, Georgy, I am trying to train him into better ways;
that's why I keep him. But he's a naughty Jack."

"Why shouldn't you have Benja's pony? I'm sure mamma would give it
you: she says she doesn't care what becomes of anything left at
Alnwick. It was for me; but I'm not going back now; I'm going to
heaven."

"Ah, my little generous lad, Benja's pony would not carry me; I'm
heavier than you and Benja. And what about the French tongue, Georgy?
Are you picking it up?"

"It's not French they talk here," said Georgy; "it's Flemish. We have
two Flemish servants, and you should hear them jabbering."

Mr. Pym stroked back the child's flaxen hair: to his touch it felt
damp and dead. In mind, in speech, he seemed to have advanced quite
three years, though it was not yet a twelvemonth since he quitted
Alnwick.

The door opened, and Mrs. St. John came into the room. Not the
anguished excited woman who had gone into that insane paroxysm an hour
or two before; but a cold high-bred gentlewoman, whose calm exterior
and apparently impassive feelings were entirely under self-control.
Her dark hair, luxuriant as ever, was elaborately dressed, and her
black silk gown was of rich material and the most fashionable make.

"I have been expecting you these two days," she said as she advanced.
"I thought this morning you must have given up all intention of
coming, and I looked for a letter instead."

"Ah," said Mr. Pym, holding out his hand to her, "I got lost, as I
have been telling Georgy. Never was abroad before in my life: never
got puzzled by any language but once, and that was in Wales."

She heard nothing in the sentence except the one word, "Georgy."

"How do you think he is looking, Mr. Pym?"

"Well--there might be more flesh upon his bones," was all the surgeon
answered, his tone bordering upon jocularity rather than dismay.
Doubtless he knew what he was about.

"I thought, if any one could do him good, it was you," said Mrs. St.
John. "The doctors here say they cannot; the physicians I had over
from London said they could not, and went back again: and then I sent
for you."

"Ah, yes," answered Mr. Pym, in an unmeaning tone. "I'm glad to see my
little friend again. Georgy and I always got on well together, except
on the score of physic. Do you remember those powders, Georgy, that
you and I used to have a battle over?"

"Don't I!" answered Georgy. "But you won--you made me take them."

The surgeon laughed.

"Can you give him some powders now?" asked Mrs. St. John; and there
was nothing of eagerness in her voice and manner, only in her
glittering eyes.

"I'm not sure that it is exactly powders he requires now," was the
answer, spoken in evasion. "We'll see."

Mrs. St. John walked to the distant window and stood there. For a
moment her face was pressed against its cold glass, as one whose brow
is in pain; the next, she stood up--tall, haughty, commanding; not a
symptom of care upon her handsome face, not a shade of sorrow in her
resolute eye. It is very probable that this enforced self-control,
persisted in as long as Mr. Pym was at Ypres, cost her more than even
he dreamt of.

Turning her head, she beckoned to the surgeon. Mr. Pym, waiting only
to cover George with the silken coverlet, for the boy had settled down
on his pillow exhausted, and seemed inclined to sleep, approached her.
The house on this side faced the green fields; there was no noise, no
bustle; all that was on the other side. A quaint old Flemish tower and
clock, from which the hands were gone, stared them in the face at a
field's distance: the Flemish cook had tried to make Prance understand
that it was about to be taken down, when that fastidious lady's-maid
protested against its ugliness.

"I have sent for you for two purposes, Mr. Pym," began Mrs. St. John,
taking a seat, and motioning the surgeon to another, both of them
beyond the reach of George's ears. "The medical men I have called in
to him, say, or intimate, that he cannot live; they left one by one,
all saying it. The two who attend him regularly were here this
morning. I saw them go out whispering, and I know _they_ were saying
it. I have sent for you to confirm or dispute this: you know what is
the constitution of the St. Johns, and are acquainted with his. Must
George die?"

Not a sign of emotion was there about her. _Could_ this be the same
woman whose excitement for months had been a world's wonder, whose
anguish, when uncontrolled, had been a terror to her servants? She sat
with an impassive face, her tones measured, her voice cold and calm.
One very small sign of restlessness there was, and it lay in her
fingers. A thin cambric handkerchief was between them, and she was
stealthily pulling at one of its corners: when the interview was over,
the fine texture of threads had given way, leaving a broad hole there.

Mr. Pym knew that the child must die: it had required but one moment's
glance to see that the angel of death was already on the wing, but to
say this to Mrs. St. John might be neither kind nor expedient. He was
beginning some evasive reply, when she stopped him peremptorily.

"I sent for you to know the truth, and you must tell it me. Must
George die?"

That she was in no mood to be trifled with, the surgeon saw. To
attempt it might not be wise. Besides, the signs on George's face were
such this day, that she must see what the truth was as clearly as he
saw it.

"I think him very ill, Mrs. St. John. He is in danger."

"That is not a decisive answer yet. _Can't_ you give me one?--you have
come far enough to do it. Will he die?"

"I fear he will."

"He has gone too far to recover? He will shortly----"

A momentary pause, but she recovered instantly. "A few hours will see
the end?"

"I do not say that. A few days will no doubt see it."

Mrs. St. John looked across at the handless clock, as if asking why it
did not go on. The surgeon glanced at her face, and was thankful for
its composure. She resumed:

"Then the other motive with which I sent for you need scarcely be
entered upon. It was, that you, who have watched him from his birth,
might perhaps suggest some cure that the others could not."

"Some mode of treatment, I dare say you mean, Mrs. St. John. No, I
fear nothing would have been effectual. I could not save his father;
there is no probability that I could have saved him."

"Why is it that the St. Johns of Alnwick die in this way?" she
returned, her voice taking a passionate tone.

"Nay," returned Mr. Pym, soothingly, "none may question the will of
God. It is not given to us always to discern causes: we see here
through a glass darkly. Of one thing we may ever rest assured, Mrs.
St. John--that at the Great Final clearance we shall see how merciful
God has been, how all happened for the best."

"Is he dying of the same wasting disease that his father died of?" she
resumed after a pause. "Or of--of--of what he took the evening of the
birthday dinner?"

"What did he take the evening of the birthday dinner?" returned Mr.
Pym, asking the question in surprise. "He took nothing then, that I
know of."

"He took a fright--if nothing else. _I_ have never understood what it
was that ailed him."

"Pooh! A momentary childish fright, and a fit of indigestion," said
the surgeon, lightly. "They are not things to injure a boy
permanently."

"He has never been well since," she said, in low tones. "Never for an
hour."

"The disease must have been stealing upon him then, I suppose, and the
little derangement to the system that night brought out its first
symptoms," observed Mr. Pym. "Who knows but he might have caught it
from his father during the latter's illness?"

"You think, then, that nothing could have saved him?"

"I think it could not. Where there is a strong tendency to hereditary
disease, it is sure to show itself."

"And--I have not taken him about too much? It has not injured him?"

"I hope not," cheerfully replied Mr. Pym. Where was the use of his
saying it had, whatever his opinion might be?

She had her finger right up through the hole in the handkerchief now,
and was looking at it--at the finger, not the hole. Mr. Pym watched
every turn of her features, seeming to keep his eyes quite the other
way.

"What right had George St. John to marry?" she suddenly cried. "If
people know themselves liable to any disease that cuts off life, they
should keep single; and so let the curse die out."

"Ay, if people would! Some have married who had a less right to do so
than George St. John."

The remark seemed to have escaped him unwittingly. Mrs. St. John
turned her eyes upon him, and he hastened to resume:

"No blame could attach to your husband for marrying, Mrs. St. John.
When he did so, he was, to all appearance, a hale, healthy man."

"He might have suspected that the waste would come upon him. It had
killed the St. Johns of Alnwick who had gone before him."

"It had killed one or two of them. But how was George St. John to know
that it would attack him? He might have inherited his mother's
constitution: hers was a sound one."

"And why--and why--could not Georgy inherit mine?"

The pauses were evidently made to recall calmness, to subdue the
rebellious breath, which was shortening. A very peculiar expression
momentarily crossed the surgeon's face.

"All is for the best, Mrs. St. John. _Rely upon it_."

A little feeble voice was calling out for mamma, and Mr. Pym hastily
quitted his seat at the sound. Any one might have said he was glad of
the interruption. The child's sweet blue eyes were raised as the
surgeon bent over him, and his wan lips parted with a smile.

"Best as it is; oh, thank God, best as it is!" he murmured to himself,
as he gently drew the once pretty curls from the white and wasted
brow, and suffered his hand to rest there. "A short time, and
then--one of God's angels. _Here_, had he lived--better not think of
it. All's for the best."

The surgeon remained twenty-four hours at Ypres, and then took his
departure. Not once, during all that time, was Mrs. St. John off her
guard, or did she lose her self-possession.

The hour came for the child to die, and he was laid in his little
grave in Belgium. For a day or two, Mrs. St. John was almost
unnaturally calm, but the second night, at midnight, her cries of
despair aroused the house, and a violent scene came on. Prance shut
herself up in the room with her, and silence at length supervened. So
far as Mrs. Brayford could make out--but that was not very much,
through Prance's jealous care--the unhappy lady laboured under some
perpetual terror--fancying she saw a vision of Benja coming towards
her with a lighted church. These paroxysms occurred almost nightly:
and Mrs. St. John grew into a terribly nervous state from the very
dread of them. She sometimes drank a quantity of brandy, to the dismay
of Prance: not, poor thing, from love of it, but as an opiate.

What would be her career now? It would seem that the old restlessness,
the hurrying about from place to place, would form a feature in it. No
sooner were the child's remains removed from her sight, than the
eagerness for change came on. It had been thought by all around her
that George would have been taken to Alnwick, to be interred with his
forefathers, but it had not pleased Mrs. St. John to give orders to
that effect. Indeed, she gave no orders at all; and but for Prance,
the tidings had not been conveyed even to Mrs. Darling. The blow
fallen, all else in the world seemed a blank to the bereaved mother.
Apart from the child's personal loss, his death took from her state
and station; and she was not one to disregard those benefits. That the
boy had been more precious to her than heaven, was unhappily too true;
and all else had died with him. If she had indeed any sin upon her
conscience connected with that fatal night, what terrible retribution
must now have been hers. Were Benja living she would still be in the
enjoyment of wealth, pride, power; would still be reigning at the once
much-coveted Hall of Alnwick, its sole mistress. With the death of the
children, all had gone from her. No human care or skill could have
saved the life of her own son; but Benja?--Heaven did not call _him_.

It seemed that the ill-fated boy's image was rarely absent from her.
Not the burning figure, flying about and screaming (as there could be
no reasonable doubt he did fly about and scream), but the happy child,
marching to and fro in the room, all pleased with his pretty toy, the
lighted church. After George's death, when grief was telling upon her
system and calling forth all of nervousness inherent in it, she hardly
dared to be alone in the dark, lest the sight should appear to her;
she dreaded the waking up at night, and Prance's bed was removed into
her room. A little time to renew her strength of body, and these
nervous fancies would subside; but meanwhile there was one great
comprehensive dread upon her--the anniversary of the fatal day, the
10th of November,--St. Martin's Eve. It was close at hand,--the
intervening hours were slipping past with giant strides; and she asked
herself how she should support its remembrances. "Oh, that he had
lived! that he were at my side now! that I could give to him the love
I did not give him in life!" she murmured, alluding to poor Benja.

From Ypres she hastened away to Lille, and there spent a day or two;
but she thought she would go back to England. That renowned saint's
vigil was dawning now, for this was the ninth. Should she spend the
tenth in travelling?--or remain where she was, at rest, until the
eleventh? _At rest!_--while this state of mind was upon her? It were
mockery to call it so. Rather let her whirl over the earth night and
day, as the fierce raven whirled over the waters on being set loose
from the Ark; but not again let her hope for rest!

The tenth day came in, and she was to all appearance calm. But a fit
of restlessness came upon her in the course of the morning, and she
gave orders to depart at once for a certain town on the coast--a town
belonging to France now, but whose population still cling to their
Flemish tongue. A steamer was about to leave the port of this town for
London that night, and the sudden idea had taken her that she would go
by it--to the intense indignation of Prance, who had never in all her
life heard of civilized beings crossing the Channel except by the
short passage.

They quitted Lille, and arrived at the town about four in the
afternoon, putting up at the large hotel. Mrs. Brayford was still in
her train: her services had been useful during the recent excited
state of Mrs. St. John; but she was not to attend her to England, and
here they would part company.

"Will Madame dine in her salon, or at the table-d'hôte?" inquired the
head-waiter of the man-servant, in sufficiently plain English.

"At the table-d'hôte, no doubt," was the man's reply, speaking in
accordance with his own opinion. "Madame has lost her two children,
and is in low spirits, not caring to be much alone. Today is the
anniversary of the eldest's death."

"Tiens!" returned the waiter. "Today is the eve of St. Martin. All
the children in the town will be gay tonight."

"Yes, it's the eve of St. Martin," assented the servant, paying no
attention to the other remark, and not in the least understanding it.

The domestic proved correct in his surmises. At five o'clock, when
the bell rang for table-d'hôte, Mrs. Carleton St. John entered the
dining-room. Very few were present; all gentlemen, except herself, and
mostly pensionnaires; the hotels on the coast are empty at that
season. The dinner was excellent, but it did not last long; and the
gentlemen, one by one, folded their large serviettes, and quitted the
room.

She was seated facing the mantelpiece, its clock in front of her. The
hands were approaching six--the very hour when, twelve months before,
while she sat in her dining-room at Alnwick, Benja was on fire with
none near to rescue him. Nervousness tells in various ways upon the
human frame, and it seemed to Mrs. St. John that the striking of the
hour would be her own knell. Every symptom of one of those frightful
paroxysms was stealing over her, and she dreaded it with an awful
dread. As long as the rest of the dinner-guests were present,
endurance was possible, though her brain had throbbed, her hands had
trembled. But they were gone, those gentlemen. They had gazed on her
beauty as she sat before them, and wondered that one so young could be
so wan and careworn. A choking sensation oppressed her; her throat
seemed to swell with it; and that sure minute-hand grew nearer and
nearer. Invalids have strange fancies; and this poor woman was an
invalid both in body and mind.

The agitation increased. She glanced round the large space of the
darkened room--for the waiter, as was his custom, had put out the
side-lamps now that dinner was over--almost believing that she should
see Benja. The hands were all-but pointing to the hour; the silence
was growing horrible, and she suddenly addressed an observation to the
waiter at the sideboard behind her; anything to break it. There was no
answer. Mrs. Carleton St. John turned sharply round, and became aware
that the man had gone out; that she was alone in that dreary room.
Alone! The nervous climax had come; and with a cry of horror, she flew
out at the door, and up the broad lighted staircase.

What is it that comes over us in these moments of superstitious fear?
Surely we have all experienced this sensation: ay, even we who pride
ourselves upon our clear consciences--the dread of looking behind us.
Yet look we must, and do. The unhappy lady had only taken a few steps
up the stairs, when she turned her head in the impulse of desperation,
and there--_there_--at the foot of the stairs, as if he had but
stepped in through the open doors of the courtyard, stood the
indistinct form of a boy, bearing a lighted church; the very facsimile
of the one that other boy had borne on his birthday night, while a
dull, wild, unearthly sound, apparently proceeding from him, smote
upon her ear.

She knew not how she got up the stairs, how she burst into her chamber
in the long corridor. Prance ought to have been there; but Prance was
not: there was only the wood-fire in the grate; the two wax lights on
the mantelpiece.

And at the same moment she became conscious of hearing a strange
noise; the wildest sounds that ever struck on the ear of man. They
seemed to come from the street; the very air resounded with them;
louder and louder they grew; loud enough to make a deaf man hear, to
strike the most equable mind with a vague sense of momentary terror.
The same basilisk impulse that had caused her to glance round on the
staircase, drew her now to the window. She dashed it open and leaned
out--perhaps for company in her desperate loneliness, poor thing!
But--what was it she beheld?

In all parts of the street, in every corner of it, distant, near,
nearer, pouring into it from all directions, as if they were making
for the hotel, as if they were making for _her_, flocking into it in
crowds,--from the Place Jean Bart, from the Rue de l'Eglise, from
the Rue Nationale, from the Rue David-d'Angers, from the Place
Napoleon,--came shoals upon shoals of lighted churches, toys, similar
to the one she had just seen below, to the one carried by that
unfortunate child a year ago, at Alnwick. Of all sizes, of all forms,
of various degrees of clearness and light, a few were red and a few
were green, came on these conspicuous things: paper models of
cottages, of houses, of towers, of lanterns, of castles, and many
models of churches; on, on they pressed; accompanied by the horrible
din of these hollow and unearthly sounds. With an awful cry, that was
lost in the depths of the room--what could be heard amidst that
discordant babel?--Mrs. St. John turned to fly, and fell to the floor
in convulsions. She had only _imagined_ that she saw Benja in those
previous nervous dreams of hers: now it seemed that the dream had
passed into reality, and these were a thousand Benjas, in flesh and
blood, come to mock at her.

And where was Prance? Her mistress had said to her on going down to
dinner, "Wait for me in my room;" but Prance for once neglected to
observe the mandate. For one thing, she had not supposed dinner would
be over so soon. Prance was only in the next chamber: perfectly
absorbed, both she and Mrs. Brayford, in this strange sight, which was
all real; not supernatural, as perhaps poor Mrs. St. John had been
thinking. They stood at the window both of them, their necks stretched
out as far as they could stretch, gazing with amazed eyes at all this
light and din. Nothing of the supernatural did it bear for them: they
saw the scene as it was, but wondered at its cause and meaning. It was
a wonderfully novel and pretty sight, though the two women kept
petulantly stopping their ears and laughing at the din. The lighted
toys, lanterns, churches, or whatever you please to call them, were
chiefly composed of paper, the frames of splinters of wood; a few were
of glass. They were borne aloft on long sticks or poles, chiefly by
children; but it seemed as if the whole population had turned out to
escort them; as indeed it had. The Flemish maids, in their white caps,
carried these toys as well as the children, all in a state of broad
delight, except when one of the lanterns took fire and was
extinguished for evermore. It was a calm night: it generally is so,
the inhabitants of that town will tell you, on St. Martin's Eve. The
uproar proceeded from _horns_; cows' horns, clay horns, brass horns, any
horns; one of which every lad under twenty held to his lips, blowing
with all his might. Prance, who rarely exhibited curiosity about any
earthly thing, was curious as to this, and sought for an explanation
amidst the servants of the hotel. The following was the substance of
it--

When the saint, Martin, was on earth in the flesh, sojourning in this
French-Flemish town, his ass was lost one dark night on the
neighbouring downs. The holy man was in despair, and called upon the
inhabitants to aid him in his search. The whole population responded
with a will, and turned out with horns and lanterns, a dense fog
prevailing at the time. Tradition says their efforts were successful,
and the lost beast was restored to its owner. Hence commenced this
annual custom, and most religiously has it been observed ever since.
On St. Martin's Eve and St. Martin's Night, the 10th and 11th of
November, as soon as darkness comes on, the principal streets of the
town are perambulated by crowds carrying their horns and lanterns. It
is looked upon almost as a religious fête, and is sanctioned by the
authorities. Police keep the streets clear; carriages, carts, and
horses are not allowed to pass during the two or three hours that it
prevails; and, in short, every consideration gives way to the horns
and lanterns on St. Martin's Eve and Night.

It was a strange coincidence that had taken thither Mrs. St. John; one
of those inexplicable things that we cannot explain, only wonder at.
The women, their number augmented by two of the Flemish maid-servants,
remained at the window, enduring the din, admiring some particularly
tasty church or castle; laughing at others that took fire, to the
intense irritation of their bearers. In the midst of this, Prance
suddenly bethought herself of her mistress, and hastened into the
adjoining room.

A sharp cry from Prance summoned Nurse Brayford. Their lady was lying
on the floor, to all appearance insensible.



CHAPTER XXVIII.
MRS. BRAYFORD'S BELIEF.


The deceitful improvement in the state of Adeline de Castella still
continued. Herself alone (and perhaps the medical faculty) saw it for
what it was--a temporary flickering up of the life-flame before going
out. Now and then she would drop a word which betrayed her own
convictions, and they did not like to hear it.

Rose had put on her mourning, as slight as was consistent with any
sort of decency; but she heard few particulars of the last days of the
little heir, except that he died at Ypres, and was buried there.
"Ypres! of all the places in the world!" ejaculated Rose, in
astonishment. Mrs. St. John had gone to England, but not to Alnwick.
Alnwick had passed into the hands of the other branch--the St. Johns
of Castle Wafer.

"What a miserable succession of misfortunes!" mused Rose, one day,
upon reading a letter from her mother. "All Charlotte's grandeur gone
from her! First her husband, then the little stepson, next her own
boy, and now Alnwick."

"Has she nothing left?" asked Adeline. "No fortune?"

"Just a pittance, I suppose," rejoined Rose. "About as adequate a sum
to keep up the state suited to the widow of George St. John of
Alnwick, as five pounds a year would be to find me in bonnets. There
was something said about George St. John's not being able to make a
settlement at the time of the marriage. Most of his money had come to
him through his first wife, and his large fortune in prospective has
not yet fallen in."

"Will it fall to your sister?"

"Not now. It passes on to Isaac St. John. How rich he'll be, that
man!"

Adeline was looking so well. She sat at the table, writing a note to
one of the girls at Madame de Nino's. Her dress was of purple silk;
its open lace cuffs, of delicate texture, shading her wrists; its
white collar, of the same, falling back from her ivory throat. And the
face was so lovely still! with its delicate bloom, and its rich dark
eyes. Madame de Castella came in.

"Adeline, that English nurse is downstairs--the one who nursed you in
the spring," she said. "Would you like to see her?"

"What, Nurse Brayford!" exclaimed Rose, starting up. "_I_ should like
to see her. I shall hear about little Georgy St. John."

"Stay a minute, Rose," said Madame de Castella, laying her hand upon
the impulsive girl. "Adeline, this person is very skilful; her
judicious treatment did you a great deal of good in the spring. I feel
inclined to ask her to come here now for a week."

Adeline looked up from her writing, the faint colour in her cheeks
becoming a shade brighter.

"Surely, mamma, you do not think I require two nurses! It has seemed
to me of late that the one already here is superfluous."

"My dear child! don't suppose I wish her to come here as a nurse. Only
for a few days, my child! it would be the greatest satisfaction to me.
I'll say a word of explanation to the _garde_," added Madame, "or we
shall make her jealous. These nurses can be very disagreeable in a
house, if put out."

She rang the bell as she spoke, and Rose made her escape, finding Mrs.
Brayford in one of the downstairs rooms. Rose, a very Eve of
curiosity, liking to know every one's business, whether it concerned
her or not, as her mother did before her, poured out question upon
question. Mrs. Brayford, not having the slightest objection to answer,
told all she knew. Rose was rather indignant upon one point: why had
they left the poor little fellow at Ypres? Why was he not taken to
Alnwick? The nurse could not tell: Prance had been surprised too. She
supposed Mrs. St. John was too much absorbed by grief to think of it.

"Does Charlotte--does Mrs. St. John feel it _very_ much?" asked Rose.

"Oh, miss! my firm belief is, that"--the woman stopped, glanced over
her shoulder to see that they were alone, and lowered her voice to a
whisper--"the sorrow has turned her brain."

"Nonsense!" uttered Rose, after a pause. "You don't mean it!"

"It's the truth, Miss Darling, I'm afraid. She was always having
visions of--did you know, miss, that the eldest little boy died
through an accident, a paper church taking fire that his nursemaid had
left him alone with?"

"Of course I know it," replied Rose. "That nursemaid ought to have
been transported for life!"

"Well, miss, poor Mrs. St. John used to fancy that she saw the boy
with his lighted church. I heard of this first from little George; but
after his death she was worse, and I witnessed one of these attacks
myself. She seemed to have an awful dread of the vision. If her
brain's not affected, my name's not Nancy Brayford."

"I never heard of such a thing," cried Rose. "Fancies she
sees---- Oh, it can't be."

"It _is_, miss. I've not time to tell you now, excepting just the
heads, but we had such a curious thing happen. At the last place we
stopped at, where Mrs. St. John went to take the steamer direct for
London, there was a street show at night, consisting of these very
churches and lanterns, all lighted up and carried about on poles. It's
their way of keeping St. Martin's Eve; and I don't say it wasn't
pretty enough, but of all the noises ever heard, which was caused by
about a thousand horns, all being blowed together, that was the worst.
We found Mrs. St. John on the floor in her room in a sort of fit; and
when she came to, she said the wildest things--about having, or not
having, we couldn't make it out, set fire herself to the child. She
was as mad that night, Miss Darling, as anybody ever was. The sight of
the lighted things had put the finishing touch to her brain."

Rose hardly knew whether to recoil in fear, or to laugh in derision.
The tale sounded very strange to her ear.

"Prance was frightened, for once," went on the woman, "and it's not a
little that can frighten _her_--as perhaps you know, miss. She
telegraphed to Mrs. Darling, and we got Mrs. St. John on board the
London boat--which was starting at three in the morning. She was calm
then, from exhaustion, and seemingly sensible. Prance brought her up
one or two of the lanterns and a horn to show her that they were real
things and quite harmless."

"She is very well, now," said Rose. "I had a letter from mamma this
morning; and she says how glad she is that Charlotte is recovering her
spirits."

"Ah, well, miss, I'm rejoiced to hear it," was the answer, its tone
one of unmistakable disbelief. "I hope she'll keep so. But that she
was mad in the brain then, I could take my affidavit upon. Bless you,
miss, I've seen a great deal of it: the notions that some sick people
take up passes belief. I've known 'em fancy themselves murderers and
many other things that's bad,--delicate ladies, too, who had never
done a wrong thing in their lives."

"My sister was always so very calm."

"And so she was throughout, except at odd moments; quite unnaturally
calm. She--but I'll tell you more about it another opportunity, Miss
Darling," broke off the woman, as Madame de Castella entered the room.
"It's no disparagement to the poor young lady--and she is young: sick
folks are not accountable for the freaks their minds take."

Rose returned a slighting answer, as if the words had made little
impression on her. But as the hours went on, she somehow could not get
rid of their remembrance; they seemed to grow deeper and deeper. What
a horrible thing if the woman were right! if the grief and trouble
should have turned Charlotte's brain!


Extract From Miss Carr's Diary.


Dec. 10_th_.--Oh this deceitful disease! all the dreadful weakness has
returned. Adeline cannot go downstairs now. She just comes from her
chamber into the front room, and lies on the sofa the best part of the
day. Madame de Castella, who fully believed in the amendment, giving
way more than any one of us to the false hopes it excited, is nearly
beside herself with grief and despair. She is perpetually reproaching
herself for allowing Nurse Brayford to leave. The woman stayed here
for a few days, but Adeline was so well it seemed a farce to keep her,
and now she has taken another place and cannot return. I am glad she's
gone, for my part. She could not do Adeline the slightest good, and
she and the _garde_ kept up an incessant chatter in strange French.
Brayford's French was something curious to listen to: 'Le feu est
sorti,' she said one day, and sent Rose into a screaming fit. Signor
de Castella we rarely see, except at dinner; now and then at the
second déjeûner; but he is mostly shut up in his cabinet. Is it that
the sight of his fading child is more than he can bear? Cold and
reserved as he has always been, there's no doubt that he loves Adeline
with the deepest love.

15_th_.--Five days, and Adeline not out of her bedroom! The cough has
come back again, and the doctors say she must have taken cold. I don't
see how she could; but Dr. Dorré's as cross as can be over it.

A fancy has taken her these last few days to hear Rose sing English
songs. On the first evening, Rose was in the front room, the
intervening door being open, singing in a sweet, low voice to amuse
herself; but Adeline listened and asked for more. More songs, only
they must be English.

"I think I have come to the end of my stock," answered Rose; "that is,
all I can remember. Stay!--what was that long song so much in request
this year at school? Do you remember the words, Mary Carr?"

"How am I to know what song you mean?" I asked.

"Some of us set it to music,--a low, soft chant. Last spring it was,
after Adeline had left. You must remember it. It was strummed over for
everlasting weeks by the whole set of us. It begins thus," added Rose,
striking a few chords.

I recollected then. They were lines we saw in a book belonging to that
Emma Mowbray, an old, torn magazine, which had neither covers nor
title-page. Some of the girls took a violent fancy to them, and
somebody--Janet Duff, was it?--set them to music.

"I have it," cried Rose, striking boldly into the song. Nearly with
the first words Adeline rose into a sitting posture, her eyes strained
in the direction of Rose though she could not see her, and eagerly
listening.

     "When woman's eye grows dim,
       And her cheek paleth;
      When fades the beautiful,
       Then man's love faileth.
      He sits not beside her chair,
       Clasps not her fingers,
      Entwines not the damp hair
       That o'er her brow lingers.

     "He comes but a moment in,
       Though her eye lightens,
      Though the hectic flush
       Feverishly heightens.
      He stays but a moment near,
       While that flush fadeth;
      Though disappointment's tear
       Her dim eye shadeth.

     "He goes from her chamber, straight
       Into life's jostle:
      He meets, at the very gate,
       Business and bustle.
      He thinks not of her, within,
       Silently sighing;
      He forgets, in that noisy din,
       That she is dying."


"There is another verse," I called out, for Rose had ceased.

"I know, there is," she said, "but I cannot recollect it. Only its
purport!"

"Try, try," exclaimed Adeline; "sing it all."

Rose looked round, astonished at the anxious tone, as was I. What was
the matter with her?--she who never took interest in anything.

"Mary Carr," said Rose, "do you recollect the last verse?"

"Not a word of it."

Rose struck the notes of the chant upon the piano, murmuring some
words to herself, and stopping now and then. Presently she burst out,
something after the manner of an improvisatrice--


     "And when the last scene's o'er,
       And cold, cold her cheek,
      His mind's then all despair,
       And his heart like to break.
      But, a few months on,--
       His constancy to prove--
      He forgets her who is gone,
       And seeks another love."


"They are not exactly the original words," said Rose, "but they will
do."

"They will do, they will do," murmured Adeline, falling back on the
sofa. "Sing it all again, Rose."

And every evening since has this song been sung two or three times to
please her. What is it she sees in it?

23_rd_.--I fear the day of life is about to close for Adeline. All the
ominous symptoms of the disease have returned: pain oppresses her
continually, and now she experiences a difficulty in breathing. Ah,
Mr. St. John, if you were to come now and comfort her with all your
love, as of yore, you could not restore her to health, or prolong her
life by one single day. How strange it is we never hear of him! Is he
in London?--is he at Castle Wafer?--is he abroad?--where is he?

26_th_.--It is astonishing that Madame de Castella continues to cheat
herself as to Adeline's state--or, rather, _make believe_ to cheat
herself, as the children do at their play. She was determined there
should be only one dinner-table yesterday, Christmas Day; so it was
laid in the drawing-room, and Adeline went in, the nurse and Louise
making a show of dressing her up for it. But all the dress, and the
dinner, and the ceremony, could not conceal the truth--that she was
dying. Madame de Castella was in most wretched spirits; her silent
tears fell, in spite of her efforts, with every morsel she put into
her mouth. The Signor was gloomy and reserved; latterly he had never
been otherwise. Had it not been for Rose, there would have been no
attempt at conversation; but Rose, with all her faults, is a downright
treasure in a house, always gay and cheerful. We gathered round the
fire after dinner, Rose cracking filberts for us all.

"Do you remember our Christmas dinner last year?" she said to Adeline.

"At Madame de Nino's? Quite well."

"And our sly draw at night at Janet Duff's cards, and the French
marigold falling, as usual, to you?"

Adeline answered by a faint gesture, it may have been of assent, it
may have been of denial, and Rose bit her repentant tongue. She had
spoken without reflection: does she ever speak with it?

29_th_.--A dark, murky day has this been, but one of event for
Adeline. The lights were brought in early in the afternoon, for Rose
was reading to her, and it grew too dusk to see. It was the second
volume of a new English novel, and Rose was so deeply interested in
it, that when Susanne came in with a letter for her, she told her to
"put it down anywhere," and read on.

"Not so," said Adeline, looking eagerly up; "open your letter first.
Who is it from?"

"From Mary Anne, of course: Margaret never writes to me, and mamma but
seldom," replied Rose, breaking the seal. And, not to lose time, she
read it out at once. Mrs. Darling and her family are spending
Christmas with old Mrs. Darling, in Berkshire.


"My Dear Rose,

"We arrived here on Christmas Eve, but I have found no time to write
to you until now. Grandmamma is breaking fast; it is apparent to us
all: she has aged much in the past twelve months. She was disappointed
you did not make one of us, and particularly hopes you have grown
steady, and are endeavouring to acquire the reserve of manner
essential to a gentlewoman." ("Or an old maid," ejaculated Rose, in a
parenthesis.) "Charlotte is here: she has recovered her spirits
wonderfully, and is as handsome as ever. Frank joined us on
Christmas morning: he has only got leave for a fortnight. He reports
Ireland--the part he is now quartered in--as being in a shocking
state. For my part, I never listen to anything he may have to say
about such a set of savages. Frank lays down the law beautifully--says
he only wishes they would make him Viceroy for a spell: he'd do this,
and he'd do that. I don't doubt he does wish it.

"In your last letter you ask about Frederick St. John----" Rose looked
off, and hesitated; but Adeline's flushed, eager gaze, the parted
lips, the breathless interest, told her there was nothing for it but
to continue. "We met him lately at one of the Dowager Revel's
assemblies--very crowded it was, considering the season. It was
whispered last year that he was ruined, obliged to leave the country,
and I don't know what. People ought to be punished for inventing such
falsehoods. Instead of being ruined, he enjoys a splendid income, and
has not a single debt in the world. It is reported that his brother
has made over to him Castle Wafer, which I should think to be only a
report: it may be true, though, now he has come into Alnwick. He is
again the shadow of Sarah Beauclerc; at least he was her shadow this
evening at Lady Revel's, and I should think it will inevitably be a
match. I wish we knew him; but did not dare ask for an introduction,
he looks so haughty, and mamma was not there. Grandmamma sends her
love, and----"

I went forward and raised Adeline on her pillows. The emotion that she
would have concealed was struggling with her will for mastery. Once
more the burning red spot we thought gone for ever shone on her hollow
cheeks, and her hands were fighting with the air, and the breath had
stopped.

"Oh, Adeline!" cried Rose, pushing me aside without ceremony,
"forgive, forgive me! Indeed I did not know what there was in the
letter until I had entered upon the words: I did not know his name was
mentioned. What is to be done, Mary? this excitement is enough to kill
her. La garde, la garde!" called out Rose in terror; "que faut-il
faire. Mademoiselle se trouve malade!"

The nurse, who was in the next room, glided up with a rapid step; but,
in regaining her breath, Adeline's self-possession returned to her.
"It is nothing," she panted; "only a spasm." And down she sank on her
pillow, whispering for them to remove the lights.

"Into the next room--for a little while--they hurt my eyes."

The nurse went out with the tapers, one in each hand, and I knelt down
by the sofa.

"What of your deductions now, Mary?" she whispered, after a while,
referring to a former conversation. "He is with his early love, and I
am here, dying."

"Adeline," I said, "have you no wish to see him again? Did I do wrong
in asking it?"

She turned her face to the wall and did not answer.

"I know that you parted in anger, but it all seems to me a great
mystery. Whatever cause he may have had for estranging himself, I did
not think Mr. St. John was one to forsake you in this heartless way,
with the grave so near."

"He forsook me in health," she said, and her voice now had assumed
that hollow tone it would never lose in this world; "you might admit
there was an excuse for him if you knew all. But--all this time--never
to make inquiry after me--never to seek to know if I am dead, or
living, or married to another! Whilst to hear of him, to see him, I
would forfeit what life is left to me."

_New Year's Day_.--And a fearful commotion the house has been in, by
way of welcome. This morning Adeline was taken alarmingly worse; we
thought she was dying, and doctors, priests, friends and servants,
jostled each other in the sick chamber. The doctors gained possession,
expelled us all in a body, and enforced quiet. She will not die yet,
they say, if she is allowed tranquillity--not for some days, perhaps
weeks, but will rally again. I think they are right, for she is much
better this evening. Adeline is nineteen today. This time last year!
this time last year! it was the scene and hour of her brilliant
ball-night. How things have changed since then!

Yesterday Adeline showed her hands to young Docteur H----. It has
struck her as being very singular that their nails should have turned
white. It strikes me so too. He seemed to intimate that it was a very
uncommon occurrence, but said he had seen it happen from intense
anxiety of mind. "Which," he added, "cannot be your case, my dear
Mademoiselle de Castella." Adeline hastily drew her hands under the
blue silk sofa cover, and spoke of something else.

_Jan_. 5_th_.--"Could you not wheel the chair into the other room--to
the window?" Adeline asked suddenly today. "I should like to look out
on the world once more."

Louise glanced round at me, and I at the nurse, not knowing what to
do. But the nurse made no objection, and she and Louise wheeled the
large chair, with as little motion as possible, to one of the
drawing-room windows, and then raised her up, and supported her while
she stood.

It was no cheering prospect that she gazed upon. A slow, small rain
was falling; the snow, fast melting on the housetops, was running down
in streams of water, and patches of snow lay in the streets, but they
were fast turning into mud and slop. Through an open space a glimpse
of the distant country was obtained, and there the snow lay bleak,
white, and dreary. What few people were passing in the street hurried
along under large cotton umbrellas, some as red and round as Louise's,
the women with their heads tied up in blue and yellow kerchiefs.
"Dreary, dreary!" she murmured as she gazed; "dreary and void of hope,
as my later life has been!"

Old Madame G----'s cook came out of their house with an earthen pan,
and placed it underneath the spout to catch the water.

"Is that Madame G---- herself?" cried Adeline, watching the movement.
"Where can her two servants be?"

"It's nobody but old Nannette, with white bows in her cap," said
Louise, laughing. "Mademoiselle's eyes are deceiving her."

"Is not that M. de Fraconville?" resumed Adeline, pointing to a
gentleman who had just come in view, round the opposite corner.

"Something must have taken your eyesight today, Adeline," exclaimed
Rose, who was at the other window; "it's a head and half too tall for
M. de Fraconville."

"You say right," meekly sighed Adeline; "my sight is dim, and looking
on the white snow has rendered it more so. Take me back again."

It will be her last look at outdoor life.

They wheeled her into the other room, and settled her comfortably on
her chair, near the fire, her head on the pillows and her feet on a
footstool. Rose followed, and took up a light work to read to her.

"Not that," said Adeline, motioning away the volume in Rose's hands;
"it is time I had done with such. There is ANOTHER Book there, Rose."

In coming in from church last Sunday, I laid my Bible and Prayer-book
down in Adeline's room, and forgot them. It was towards these she
pointed. Rose took up the Bible.

"Where shall I read?" she asked, sitting down. Adeline could not tell
her. The one was almost as ignorant as the other. The Bible, to
Adeline, has been a sealed book, and Rose never opens it but as a
matter of form. Rose turned over its leaves in indecision. "So many
chapters!" she whispered to me, pleadingly, "Tell me which to fix
upon."

"Take the Prayer-book," interrupted Adeline, "and read me your Service
for the Burial of the Dead."

Rose found the place at once, for she knew it was close to the
Marriage Service, and began:

"'I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that
believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever
liveth and believeth in me shall never die.'"

There she stopped, for the tears were falling, and she could not see
the page; and, just then, Miss de Beaufoy came into the room, and saw
what Rose was reading. For the first time, in our hearing, she
interfered, beseeching Adeline to remember she was a Roman Catholic,
and recommending that a priest should be sent for.

"Dear Aunt Agnes," exclaimed Adeline, impressively, "when you shall be
as near to death as I am, you will see the fallacy of these earthly
differences,--how worse than useless they must appear in the sight of
our universal Father, of our loving Saviour. There is but one heaven,
and I believe it is of little moment which form of worship we pursue,
so that we pray and strive earnestly in it to arrive there. I shall be
none the worse for listening to the prayers from this English book:
they are all truth and beauty, and they soothe me. The priests will
come later."

A bold avowal for a Roman Catholic, and Agnes de Beaufoy crossed
herself as she left the room. Rose read the Burial Service to the end.

And so, existence hanging as it were upon a thread, the days still
struggle on.


There will be no more extracts from this young lady's diary. And
indeed but little more of anything; this portion of the history, like
Adeline's life, draws near its close.



CHAPTER XXIX.
LOUISE'S WHISPERED WORDS.


You could see at a first glance that it was only a temporary
bed-chamber--a drawing-room converted into one, to serve some special
occasion. Its carpet was of unusual richness; its chairs and sofa,
handsomely carved, were covered with embossed purple velvet; its
window-curtains, of white flowered muslin, were surmounted by purple
velvet and glittering yellow cornices; and fine paintings adorned the
walls. The bed alone seemed out of place. It was of plain mahogany, a
French bed, without curtains, and was placed in the corner which made
the angle between the two doors, one of which opened on the corridor,
the other on the adjoining room, a large, magnificent drawing-room,
furnished _en suite_ with the one in which the bed was.

On a couch, drawn before the fire, she lay, her sweet face white and
wasted. The sick-nurse sat near the sofa, and the lady's-maid, Louise,
was busy with the pillows of the bed. Adeline was about to be moved
into it, but as they were disrobing her, she suddenly fell back,
apparently without life or motion.

"She has fainted," screamed Louise.

"She is taken for death," whispered the nurse.

Louise flew into a fit of anger and tears, abusing the nurse for her
hard-hearted ideas. But the nurse was right.

"You had better summon the family, Mademoiselle Louise," persisted the
nurse; "they must have done dinner; and let the doctors be sent
to,--though they can do nothing for her, poor young lady."

"She has not fainted," whispered Louise. "She is conscious."

"No, no, it is no fainting-fit," was the brief answer. "I have seen
more of these things than you have. She will rally a little, I dare
say."

No one went to bed that night at Signor de Castella's: it was a
general scene of weeping, suspense, and agitation. Adeline was
tranquil, except for her laboured breathing.

Early in the morning, she asked to see her father. He remained with
her about twenty minutes, shut up with her alone. What passed at the
interview none can tell. Did she beg forgiveness for the rebellion she
had unintentionally been guilty of in loving one whom, perhaps, she
ought not to have loved? Or did _he_ implore pardon of her, for having
been instrumental in condemning her to misery? None will ever know.
When Signor de Castella left the chamber, he passed along the corridor
on his way to his cabinet with his usual measured, stately step; but
there were traces of emotion on his face--they saw it as he strode by
the drawing-room door. Mary Carr opened the door between the two
rooms, and went in, knowing that Adeline was alone, and she gathered
a little of the interview. Adeline was sobbing wildly. She had
heard the last words of impassioned tenderness from her much-loved
father--always deeply loved by her; tenderness that he would never
have given vent to in the presence of a third person, or under any
circumstances of less excitement: but when these outwardly-cold
natures are aroused, whether for anger or for tenderness, their
emotion is as that of the rushing whirlwind. Adeline had clung round
him with the feeble remnant of her strength, whispering how very dear
he had always been to her, dearer far than he had ever suspected: and
the Signor had given his consent (now that it was too late) to the
true facts of the separation being disclosed to Frederick St. John.

The day grew later. The nurse, for the twentieth time, was arranging
the uneasy pillows, when Susanne went in to tell her to go to dinner,
taking herself the nurse's place, as she in general did, during her
absence. Madame de Castella, quite exhausted with grief, had just gone
away for a little repose. Adeline, though comparatively free from
pain, was restless to an extreme degree, as many persons are, in
dying. When not dozing, and that was rare, she was never still for two
minutes together, and the pillows and bedclothes were continually
misplaced. Scarcely had the nurse left the room, when Miss Carr had to
lean over her to put them straight.

"Who is that?" inquired Adeline, in her hollow voice, her face being
turned to the wall. She detected, probably, the difference of touch,
for in this the sick are very quick.

"It is I--Mary. Nurse has gone down to her dinner."

She took Miss Carr's hand, and held it for some time in silence. "I
have been wanting--all day--to speak to you--Mary--but I--have
waited." She could say now but few words consecutively.

"What is it you would say, dearest Adeline?"

"Who is in the room?"

"Susanne. No one else."

"Tell her to go. I want you alone."

"She does not understand our language."

"Alone, alone," repeated Adeline. "Susanne."

The lady's-maid heard the call, and went to the bedside.

"Help me to turn round, Susanne. I have not strength."

With some difficulty they turned her, for they were not so clever at
it as the nurse. Adeline then lay looking at them, as she panted for
breath. Susanne wiped the cold dew from her pale forehead, and some
tears from her own face.

"Leave us alone, Susanne. I have something to say to Mademoiselle
Carr."

"Stay in the next room, within call, Susanne," whispered Miss Carr to
the servant. It may seem strange, but dearly as Mary Carr loved
Adeline, she experienced an indescribable awe at being left alone with
her. She did not stay to analyze the sensation, but it must have had
its rise in that nameless terror which, in the mind of the young,
attaches itself to the presence of the dead and dying.

"I am about to entrust you with a commission to _him_, Mary," she
panted. "You will faithfully execute it?"

"Faithfully and truly."

And, stretching out her white and wasted hand, she held out the key of
her writing-desk. "There is a secret spring in the desk, on the right,
as you put in your hand," she continued; "press it."

With some awkwardness, Mary Carr did as she was desired, and several
love-tokens were disclosed to view. Two or three trinkets of value, a
few dried flowers, and some letters, the edges much worn.

"Throw the flowers in the fire," murmured Adeline, "and put all the
rest in a parcel, and seal it up."

"How the notes are worn, Adeline!" exclaimed Mary. "One would think
them twenty years old."

"Yes," she said, "until I took to my bed I carried them _here_,"
touching her bosom. "They are his letters."

Miss Carr speedily made up the packet, and was about to seal it.

"Not that seal," said Adeline. "Take my own; the small one, that has
my initials on it. Mary, do you think I could direct it?"

"_You_ direct it!" exclaimed Miss Carr, in surprise. "I don't see
how."

"If you could raise me up--and hold me--it would not take more than a
minute. I wish to write the address myself."

"Let me call Susanne."

"No, no, I will have no one else here. Put the letter before me on a
book, and try and raise me."

It was accomplished after some trouble, Mary Carr was nervous, and
feared, besides, that the raising her up might do some injury: but she
knew not how to resist Adeline's beseeching looks. She supported her
up in bed, and held her, whilst she wrote his name, "Frederick St.
John." No "Mr.," no "Esquire;" and written in a straggling hand, all
shakes and angles, bearing not any resemblance to what Adeline's had
been. Mary laid her down again, and Adeline, in a few words, explained
the secret of their being parted, and charged her to enlighten him.

"Tell him I have returned all except the ring, and that will be buried
with me. That it has never been off my finger since he placed it
there."

"What ring?" exclaimed Mary Carr, surprised, even at such a moment,
into curiosity. "The ring you wear is de la Chasse's engagement-ring,"
she continued, looking down at the plain circlet of gold, that was
only kept on Adeline's emaciated finger by the smaller guard worn to
protect it.

She shook her head feebly. "_He_ will know."

"What else, Adeline?"

"Tell him my heart will be faithful to him in death, as it ever was in
life. Nothing more."

"Why did you not write to him--" asked Mary Carr, "a last letter?"

"He might not have cared to receive it. There is _another_ now."

The close of the afternoon came on. The nurse was sitting in her chair
on one side the fireplace; Louise silently seesawed herself backwards
and forwards upon another; Mary Carr was standing, in a listless
attitude, before the fire, her elbow lodging on the mantelpiece; and
Rose Darling sat on a low stool, half asleep, her head resting against
Adeline's bed. They were all fatigued. In the next room were heard
murmurings of conversation: M. de Castella talking with one of the
medical men. Adeline, just then, was quiet, and appeared to be dozing.

"I say, la garde," began Louise, in a low whisper, "is it true that
mademoiselle asked old H---- this morning how many hours she should
live?"

The nurse nodded.

"Chère enfant!" apostrophized Louise, through her tears. "And what did
he say?"

"What should he say?" retorted the nurse. "He does not know any more
than we do."

"What do _you_ think?"

The nurse shook her head, rose from her seat, and bent over the bed to
look at Adeline, who was lying with her face turned away.

"She sleeps, I think, nurse," observed Rose, whom the movement had
disturbed; and her own eyes closed again as she spoke.

"I suppose she does, mademoiselle. I can't see her face; but, if she
were not asleep, she wouldn't remain so quiet."

"I heard a word dropped today," cried Louise, in a mysterious voice,
as the nurse resumed her chair.

"What word?"

But there Louise stopped, pursed up her mouth, and dried her eyes,
which, for the last fortnight or so, had been generally overflowing.

"I don't know," resumed Louise. "It mayn't be true, and I am sure, if
it should turn out not to be, _I_ shouldn't choose to say anything
about it. So I had better hold my tongue."

Now the most effectual way to induce Louise _not_ to hold her tongue,
was to exhibit no curiosity as to anything she might appear disposed
to communicate. The garde knew this, and for that reason, probably,
sat silent. After awhile, Louise began again.

"But it can do no harm to mention it amongst ourselves. It was Susanne
told me, and of course she must have gathered it from madame. She
said--you are sure she's asleep?" broke off Louise, looking round at
the bed.

"She's asleep, fast enough," repeated the nurse; "she is too quiet to
be awake." And Louise resumed, in the hushed, peculiar tone she had
been using; it sounded awfully mysterious, taken in conjunction with
her subject, through the space of that dying room.

"Susanne thinks that mademoiselle will be exhibited."

"_What?_" ejaculated the nurse, in a startled tone.

"Qu'elle sera exposée après sa mort." (I prefer to give this sentence
in the language in which the conversation was carried on.)

"What in the world do you mean?" demanded Rose, waking up from her
semi-sleep.

"That Mademoiselle Adeline will hold a reception after death,
mademoiselle."

"Louise, what _do_ you mean?" persisted Rose, opening her eyes to
their utmost width.

But Mary Carr had taken in, and understood, the full meaning of the
words; she was more generally acquainted with French manners and
customs than Rose: and as her eye caught the reflection of her own
face in the large pier-glass, she saw that it had turned of a ghastly
whiteness.

"You don't follow this fashion in your country, mademoiselle, so I
have learnt," whispered the nurse, addressing Rose. "Neither is it
kept up here as it used to be. We scarcely ever meet with a case now.
But I have heard my mother say--she was a sage-femme, mademoiselle, as
well as a garde-malade--that when she was a girl there was scarcely a
young gentlewoman of good family, who died unmarried, but what held
her reception after death. And in my time, also, I have seen many
splendid exhibitions."

"Oh, nurse, nurse," shivered Mary Carr, "_don't_ talk so."

"What's the matter, mademoiselle?" asked the woman, kindly gazing at
Miss Carr's scared face. "You look ill."

"I feel sick," was Mary Carr's faint answer. "I cannot help it. I
think what you are talking of is _horrible_."

"Do explain what it is you are talking of," interrupted Rose,
impatiently. "La garde! what is it all?"

"I will tell you one instance, mademoiselle," said the woman, "and
that will explain the rest. My aunt was housekeeper in Madame Marsac's
family. Madame was a widow with three children, and lived in a grand
old château near to our village. The eldest, Mademoiselle Marsac, was
married to an officer in the army, and had gone away with him, the
Saints know where, but a long way off, for it was in the time of
Napoleon, and we were at war with half Europe then. Young Marsac, the
only son, was a captain in the same regiment; he was also away with
it; and Mademoiselle Emma was the only one left at home, and madame
her mother doted on her. A fine, blooming young lady she was, with a
colour like a rose: you might have taken a lease of her life. But,
poor thing, she fell suddenly ill. Some said she had taken cold,
others thought she had eaten something that did her harm, but an
inward inflammation came on, and she was dead in a week. Madame was
nearly crazed, and my aunt said it was pitiful to hear her shrieks the
night after the death, and her prayers to the good Virgin to be taken
with her child. But madame's sister came to the château with the early
light, and she forthwith gave orders that poor Mademoiselle Emma
should be exhibited."

"Do go on, nurse," pleaded Rose, whose cheek was getting as white as
Mary Carr's, the woman having stopped, in thought.

"I was but a little child then, mademoiselle, as you may suppose, for
it was in 1812; but my aunt suddenly sent for me up to the château, to
assist. They did not keep many servants; my aunt had only one under
her, besides the old gardener, for Madame Marsac was not rich; so I
was put to do what I could. My faith! I shall never forget it: it was
the first thing of the sort I had seen. They dressed the corpse up in
rich white robes, as if for her bridal, with flowers and jewels, and
white gloves, and white satin shoes. And then she was placed upright
at the end of the grand salon, and all the neighbouring people for
miles round, all the rich, and as many of the poor as could get
admission, came to visit her. My aunt slipped me into the room, and I
was there for, I should think, five minutes. It had the strangest
effect! That dressed-up dead thing, at one end, and the live people,
all dressed up in their best too, and mostly looking white and
awestruck, coming in at the other. There was a long table going down
the room, and they walked once round it, looking at her as they
passed, and going out in silence. I don't think it was the thing,
mademoiselle, for that aunt of mine to send a timid young child of
five or so, as I was then, to see such a sight; but she was always
indulgent to me, and thought it would be a treat. I could scarcely
keep down my terror whilst I stayed in the room, and I am sure I must
have looked as white and shocking as Mam'selle Mary looks just now. I
did not dare to go about in the dark for long afterwards, and I could
not overcome the feeling for years. Though I have seen many such a
sight since, none have stayed upon my memory as that first did. I did
not seem to see much, at the time, either: I never looked, but once,
to--to that part of the room where the bridal robes were."

"But why dress them in _bridal_ robes?" questioned Rose, breathlessly.

"As a symbol that they are going to be the bride of Heaven. At least,
that is the interpretation I have always put upon it, mademoiselle,"
answered the woman.

"The first one _I_ ever saw," interposed Louise, jealous that the
nurse should have all the talking, "was a young priest who died at
Guines. Stay--I don't think he was quite a priest, but would have been
one if he had lived. His name was Theodore Borne. He died of an
accident to his hand, and they made him hold a reception after death.
I have never seen but two beside him. One was the sister of the Count
Plessit, a lady about forty, but she had never been married; and the
other was a young girl in this very town, the daughter of a couple who
kept a general-furnishing shop, hired out, and sold furniture, and
that; and a mint of money they had made. Wasn't she dressed out, that
girl! She was an only child, poor thing, and they spared no money on
her reception. Her veil was real Brussels; and her dress was half
covered with Brussels lace, and little sprigs of orange-blossoms, and
bows of white satin ribbon. Their shop faced the market-place, and
they stuck her up at the window, looking down on to the Place.[2] It
was market-day, and the Place was full of people; crowds of them, for
the news spread, and everybody came. It was a wet day, too. Many
children were frightened at the sight. Susanne had not met with the
custom till she came to these parts: she says they never heard of it
where she comes from, just beyond Paris; at least, _she_ never did.
That Théodore Borne----"


------------------------
2. A fact.
------------------------


At this moment, Adeline stirred. Louise's tongue stopped as still as
if it had been shot through, and the nurse made a quiet rush to the
side of the bed. She was awake, and wanted her mouth moistened.

As the nurse was putting down the tea and the teaspoon, Dr. Dorré, who
had been talking in the other room, came in to look at Adeline before
he quitted the house. She was quite sensible, and said she felt easy.
In the bustle of his leaving, the nurse going out to attend him to the
staircase, Adeline put out her hand and touched Mary Carr, who was now
standing by the bed. Her voice was very faint, and Mary had to lean
close to hear.

"I--was not asleep--when Louise said--_that_. I heard it. Mary! do not
let it be done."

Miss Carr felt much distressed. She knew not what to say.

"I--I am sure nothing will be done that you do not wish, Adeline," she
stammered. "I think it must have been a misapprehension on the part of
Louise. Shall I speak to Madame de Castella?"

"Not now. When I am dead--you will see if they are making
preparations--speak to mamma then."

"Do not let this distress you, Adeline," proceeded Mary, wishing
Louise had been at the bottom of the sea before she had introduced so
unfitting a subject in Adeline's hearing. "Rely upon it, every wish of
yours will be sacredly respected."

"It does not distress me," was the feeble reply. "But I would rather
be left in peace after death."

Madame de Castella came down, but soon went away to her chamber again,
for her hysterical grief disturbed Adeline; Agnes de Beaufoy remained
with her sister, endeavouring, by persuasions and remonstrances, to
keep her there. Old Madame de Beaufoy was expected; and, a little
before five, M. de Castella went to the railway station to receive
her. Rose and Mary were in the drawing-room then, drinking some tea,
when the old servant, Silva, came in with a letter on a salver.

"Pour qui!" demanded Mary.

"Pour Mademoiselle Rose Darling," responded the old man.

Rose, who was sitting before the fire, her feet on the fender, took
the letter, without turning her head to look at it, and threw it on
the table.

"That worrying Mary Anne! There's no end to her letters: and they are
nothing but prosy lectures of admonition. If they think I am going to
answer all she chooses to write, they'll find their mistake. If mamma
made it a condition for a double allowance for me, I wouldn't do it."

"It is not your sister's handwriting," observed Mary Carr.

"No?" And Rose condescended languidly to turn her eyes towards the
epistle. "Why, I do believe it is from Frank!" she exclaimed,
snatching it out of Mary's hand. "What can he have to write about?
Perhaps grandmamma's dead, and has left us all a fortune! But it's a
red seal."

And, breaking the red seal, she skimmed hastily over it.

"Good Heavens! how singular! Mary! Mary!"

Miss Carr looked at her in wonder. Her countenance, which had been
pale all day with anxiety and the previous night's watching, was now
glowing with colour and excitement.

"He is coming to Belport. How passing strange! Mary, can it be some
unknown sympathy that attracts him hither at this hour?"

"Your brother!"

"He! Do you think his coming here could put me out like this? What a
stupid you are, Mary Carr! Do listen:--


"My Dear Rose,

"'Our dear and venerable grandmother, whom may all good angels
preserve--though her long life does keep us an unreasonable time out
of our own--entrusted me with a mission concerning you upon my coming
to London two days ago. She had made, or purchased, or in some way
prepared for you, a splendid article, but whether it is intended to
represent a purse or a bag, I am unable to say, being, in my
uninitiated opinion, too large for the one, and too small for the
other. A magnificent affair it is, redolent of silver beads and
gleaming silks, and it was _lined_ with her usual Christmas present to
you. Being in a generous mood myself, I slipped in another lining,
knowing your partiality for feathers and laces, and any other sort of
trumpery that costs money. This _cadeau_, duly prepared for
transportation, and directed for you to the care of Madame de Nino, I
brought to town, and was to have handed over to a quondam schoolfellow
of yours, Miss Singleton, who was returning to Belport. Now you have
frequently honoured me by saying I have a head that can retain
nothing, and in this instance certainly the bag and the commission
slipped clean out of it. In packing my carpet-bag this morning,
preparatory to starting for Ireland, for which delectable spot of the
globe I am bound, what should I come upon but this unlucky parcel.
What was to be done? I called a hansom, and galloped to Miss
Singleton's address, invoking blessings on my forgetfulness all the
way. No result. Miss Singleton and the archdeacon had started for
Belport. I was walking down Brook Street, on my return, wondering what
I should do with the money, and who, amongst my fair friends in
Ireland, would come in for the bag, when I nearly ran over Fred St.
John, or he over me, coming out of Mivart's.'

"'Why, where have you been buried?' said I.

"'At Castle Wafer, for nearly the last month. And I am off tomorrow
for Paris. Any commands?'

"'I should just think I had, if your route lies through Belport.' And
forthwith I delivered to him the unlucky parcel and its history.

"So the long and short of it is, Rose, that you may expect to receive
your bag safe and sound. Not so sure, though, as to the day, for St.
John is proverbially uncertain in his movements.

"I hope your friend Mademoiselle de Castella's health is improving. I
would beg my remembrance to her, but have no doubt I have long since
gone out of hers. She has my best wishes for her recovery.

"Your affectionate brother, dear Rose,

"F. Darling."


"What news for Adeline! Get out of the way, Mary Carr."

"Rose," said Miss Carr, in a tone of remonstrance, "it will not do to
tell her."

"Not tell her!" exclaimed Rose.

"She is resigned and quiet now. Let her die in peace. News of him will
only excite and disturb her."

"Don't talk to me! Let me go!" for Mary had laid hold of her dress to
detain her.

"Rose, you are doing very wrong. She is almost in the last agony.
Earthly hopes and interests have flitted away."

"You don't understand these things," rejoined Rose, with a curl upon
her lip--"how should you? Has she not for months been yearning to see
him--has not the pain of his cold neglect, his silence, his absence,
hastened her to the grave--and, now that he is coming, you would keep
it from her? Why, I tell you, Mary Carr, it will soothe her heart in
dying."

She broke away impetuously, and went into the bed-chamber. Adeline
unclosed her eyes at her approach. What Rose said, as she leaned over
her and whispered, Mary Carr could not hear; but even in that last
hour, it brought the red hectic to her faded cheek. How wildly and
eagerly she looked up!

"But it is too late," she sighed, in a troubled whisper--"it is too
late; I shall be gone. If he had but come a day earlier!"

She closed her eyes again, and remained silent. The next words she
uttered, some time afterwards, were to Miss Carr.

"Mary--you--that which Louise was saying today----"

"Yes. I understand."

"If mamma wishes it--do not prevent it. I--I--should like him to see
me--the wreck I am. And then he could come--you would bring him."

Rose assented eagerly, before Mary Carr could speak.

"And otherwise--if he had not been here--I have been reflecting--that
it would answer no end to oppose my mother--what can it matter to me,
then? If I--had a child--and she died--it is possible I might wish the
same. Don't interfere. But--you will bring _him?_"

"Dearest Adeline, YES," cried Rose, "if he is to be found. I promise
it to you solemnly."

"And now--dear friends of my girlhood, Rose! Mary!" she breathed,
holding out her hands, "I have but to say farewell. All things are
growing dim around me. You know not how grateful I have been for your
care of me. You will think of me sometimes in after-life."

The pause that ensued was only broken by Rose's sobs. Mary Carr's
aching grief was silent.

"Remember--you especially, Rose--that life--will not last for
ever--but--there is one beyond it; _that_ will. Endeavour to inherit
it. Will you not kiss me for the last time?"

They leaned over her, one by one, their aching hearts beating against
the counterpane, the tears raining from their eyes.

"You--will--come--to me--in heaven?"

Barely had the words left her lips--and they were the last that either
of them heard her utter--when Louise, with a solemn face, full of
mighty importance, threw the corridor door wide open, and whispered
something which only the nurse caught. She jumped up, thrust her chair
behind her, and dropped down upon her knees where she stood.

"What in the world has taken her?" ejaculated Rose.

"Don't you understand?" was Mary's hurried answer, drawing Rose after
her, and escaping to the drawing-room.

They saw it through the open door. The line of priests, in their white
robes, coming up the stairs; the silver crucifix borne before them;
the "Bon Dieu" sacredly covered from observation. Louise sank on her
knees in the passage, as the nurse had done in the room, and they
swept past her with solemn step, towards Adeline's chamber, looking
neither to the right nor left. They had come to bestow absolution,
according to the rights of the Roman Catholic faith--to administer to
her the Sacrament of the dying.



CHAPTER XXX.
THE RECEPTION OF THE DEAD.


It was a sad day to describe--that next one. Adeline had died a little
before midnight, fully conscious to the last, and quite peaceful; all
her relatives, and they only, surrounding her bed.

Not only a sad day to describe, but a strange one; and I hardly know
how to do it. You may look upon its chief incident as a disagreeable
fiction; but it was sober fact, truthful reality. Perhaps you have
never met with the like in your experience? I will transcribe it for
you as exactly and faithfully as I can. The anecdotes of the same
nature mentioned in the last chapter, were all facts too.

Louise was right: the corpse of Adeline de Castella was to hold a
reception.

It was rumoured in the house that Signor de Castella was averse to the
exhibition, but yielded the concession to his broken-hearted wife. Old
Madame de Beaufoy made no secret of being against it; every English
idea within her revolted from it. But Madame de Castella carried her
point. There was perhaps a negative soothing to her wild grief in the
reflection that before her beautiful and idolized child should be
hidden away for all time, the world would once more look upon her,
arrayed in all the pomp and splendour of life.

Early in the morning--the printers had been set to work betimes--the
black-bordered death-circulars went forth to Belport.


"Monsieur et Madame de Castella; Madame de Beaufoy; Mademoiselle de
Beaufoy:

"Ont l'honneur de vous faire part de la perte douloureuse qu'ils
viennent de faire en la personne de Mademoiselle Adeline Luisa de
Castella, leur fille, petite fille, et nièce; décédée à Belport le 8
Janvier, à l'age de 19 ans.

"Priez pour elle."


The invitations to the reception--or it may be more correct to say the
intimations that it was to be held, for no invitations went out--were
conveyed privately to the houses of friends by one or other of the
Castella servants; by word of mouth, not officially. And I can tell
you that it caused a commotion in the town, not forgotten yet.

It was about midday when Silva came to a little boudoir on the
ground-floor, tenanted by Rose and Mary only, for the family kept
their chambers. He said one of Madame de Nino's maid-servants was
asking to see Miss Darling.

"She can come in, Silva," said Rose, getting up from her low chair by
the fire, and passing her hand across her heavy eyes.

The woman came in--Julie. She handed a packet to Rose, which the
latter divined at once must be the one her brother had written about.
"It was left at the school for you this morning, mademoiselle."

"Who left it?" asked Rose.

"A tall handsome Englishman, for I happened to answer the gate
myself," responded Julie. "He inquired for you, mademoiselle, and when
I said you were not with us now, but visiting in the town, he handed
in his card. You'll see it if you turn the parcel, Mademoiselle Rose:
I slipped it inside the string for safety, coming along."

Rose scarcely needed to look at the card. She knew it was Frederick
St. John's.

"Did he say where he was staying?--at what hotel?"

"He said nothing else, mademoiselle, but just left the parcel and
card, with his compliments. Madame charged me to ask you,
mesdemoiselles, at what hour it would be best for her to come to see
the poor young lady?" continued Julie, dropping her voice.

"It begins at two, Julie. Any time between that hour and five."

"I wish I might come and see her too!" cried Julie. "I think us
servants who served her so long at Madame de Nino's, might be allowed
it."

"I dare say you might," said Rose. "Of course, you might. Tell Madame
I say so."

"Julie," interposed Mary Carr, "I shall see her, of course; it would
be looked upon as a slight in the house if I did not; but I can tell
you I would rather walk ten miles away from it."

"But think of the beautiful sight it will be, Mademoiselle Carr!"
remonstrated Julie. "We hear she is to wear her real wedding-dress--to
be adorned with flowers and jewels. Ah, poor, poor thing!" broke off
the girl, giving way to her ready tears. "But a few months ago, well
and happy, and going to be married; and now, dead."

"Mary," said Rose, when they were alone, "I shall go out and find him,
now I know he is in the town. Will you come?"

Mary Carr hesitated. "Would it be a proper thing, Rose, for us to go
about to hotels, inquiring after gentlemen? I don't much like it."

"We have to do many things in this life that we 'don't like,'" was
Rose's sarcastic answer. "Do you fear the hotels would eat you?"

"It is _not_ the thing."

"Not for you, I dare say, so you can stay away: I'm sorry I asked. I
promised that poor girl I would bring him to see her, were there any
possibility of doing it; and I _will_."

"Then I shall go with you."

"Oh," retorted Rose.

The preparations for the great event were all but completed. _The
preparations!_ I feel nearly as ill, now that I am writing it, as I
felt then; and some years have gone by. The large salon, next to the
room in which she died, was laid out for the visitors, part of the
furniture removed, and a barrier placed down the middle--a space being
left clear at either end. It was a very long, large room, and so far
suitable. She--Adeline--was placed against the wall at the far end,
upright, standing, facing the company who were to come in, as if
waiting to receive them and give them welcome. I cannot tell you how
they fixed and supported her: I never asked then; I would as little
ask now; I knew none of the details; the broad facts were enough.

As Mary Carr went creeping upstairs to put on her bonnet, she heard
voices in the death-chamber, and looked in. They were dressing
Adeline. The French nurse was standing before the upright corpse,
supporting it on her shoulder, her own face turned aside from it; and
the hairdresser stood behind, dressing the hair. Louise seemed to be
helping to hold the dead weight; Susanne handed hair-pins to the man.
If ever there was a revolting task on earth, that seemed one; and Mary
Carr turned sick as she hastily closed the door again, and leaned
against the wall to recover, if that might be, from her faintness.

"What hotel do you mean to try?" she inquired, when she went out with
Rose into the broad daylight, a welcome relief from the darkened house
and what was being transacted in it.

"I shall try them all in succession, until I find him," returned Rose.
"I think he must use the Hôtel des Bains. I know Frank does."

Rose bent her steps towards that renowned hostelry, and turned boldly
into the yard. A man came forward with a cloth on his arm, waiter
fashion.

"Monsieur de Saint John," she began, "est-il descendu ici?"

The man stammered something in wretched French, "comprenais pas," and
Rose found he was a very native Englishman.

Mr. St. John was staying there, but was going on to Paris in the
evening. He was out just then.

"Out!" cried Rose, not expecting this check to her impatience.
"Where's he gone?"

Of course the waiter could not say where. Rose intimated that her
business was of importance; that she must see him. The group stood
looking at each other in indecision.

"If you would like to go to his room and wait, ladies, I have the
key," suggested the man. "It is only on the first floor."

"What is to be done, Mary Carr?" cried Rose, tapping her foot in
pettish annoyance.

"Don't ask me. It is your expedition, not mine."

What Rose would have done, is uncertain. She was looking at the man in
hesitation, perhaps thinking of the room and the key, when who should
turn into the yard with a light quick step but Mr. St. John himself.

Not changed--not a whit changed. The same high bearing, the same
distinguished form and face, the same frank manners, possessing for
all so irresistible a fascination.

Rose, in a somewhat confused, anything but an explanatory,
greeting--for she would not tell him the truth of what she wanted,
lest he should decline it--said she had come to request him to
accompany her for a short time. He answered that he was at her
service, and in another moment the three were walking down the street
together.

"Of all the sticklers for etiquette, I think Mary Carr's the worst,"
began Rose. "I wonder she does not apply for a post as maid-of-honour
at court. The man asked us to go and wait in your rooms, and I should
have gone had you not come in. She looked fit to faint at the bare
idea."

Mr. St. John laughed; his old low musical laugh.

"Where would have been the harm?" went on Rose. "We are cousins, you
know."

"Of course we are," said Mr. St. John. "I thought you both expected to
have been in England before this?"

"We shall be there shortly now. At least, I shall. Mary, I believe, is
going first to Holland. And you? You are going to Paris, we hear."

"Yes, but not to stay. My old roving love of travel has come upon me,
and I think I shall gratify it. A friend of mine leaves Paris next
week for a prolonged exploration of the Holy Land, and I feel inclined
to accompany him."

"It does not look as though he were on the point of marrying Sarah
Beauclerc," thought Rose to herself. For a wonder, she did not put the
question.

But not a word of inquiry from him after Adeline! And yet, only a few
months before, they had been on the nearest and dearest terms, but a
few hours removed from the closest tie that can exist in this
world--that of man and wife. Oh, the changes that take place in this
transitory world of ours. _She_ was dead, sleeping well after life's
fitful fever; and he was walking there in all the pomp and pride of
existence, haughtily indifferent, never unbending so far as to ask
whether she was married to another, whether she was living or dead.

And so they reached the residence of Signor de Castella, and entered
the courtyard, St. John unconscious where he was going. He had never
gone to the house but once, and then it was at night, and in Sir Sandy
Maxwell's carriage. The hall-door was placed wide open. Silva stood on
one side of it, bareheaded, another servant opposite to him, and as
the various visitors passed between them, they bowed to each group in
silence. It was the manner of receiving them. Mr. St. John, talking
with Rose, advanced close to the door; but when he caught sight of
Silva, he drew back. The old man looked at him with a pleasant look:
St. John had always been a favourite with the Castella servants. Mary
Carr left them then, and ran upstairs.

"Why have you brought me here?" he demanded of Rose. "This is Signor
de Castella's!"

"I have not brought you without a motive, Mr. St. John. Pray come in
with me."

"You must excuse me," he said, very coldly.

"I cannot," answered Rose. "Do you think I should go dancing after you
to the hotels, shocking Mary Carr and the waiters out of their notions
of propriety, without an urgent motive? Pray come along: we are
obstructing the entrance."

Mr. St. John indeed saw that a group of several ladies were gathered
close behind him, waiting to go in. He stepped inside the hall--he had
no other alternative--and so allowed them to pass. They moved
noiselessly towards the broad staircase; but he drew aside with Rose.

"Rose, this is beyond a joke," he said. "Why did you bring me here? I
will wish you good morning."

"Indeed," she murmured, clasping her agitated hands on his arm, in her
fear lest, after all, he should escape her, "this is no joke. Do you
suppose Mary Carr would lend herself to one? and she came with me.
Pray come upstairs with me, Mr. St. John."

"You forget," he began, in answer more to her evident excitement than
to her words, "that--putting aside any objection I may experience--my
presence here may not be acceptable to the family."

"You will not see the family. They are not visible today."

"Who are all these people going up the stairs?" he said, looking on in
amazement, as more groups were silently bowed in by Silva. "It seems
like a reception."

"It is one," said Rose: "nevertheless the family do not hold it. There
comes Madame de Nino! She is directing those strict eyes of hers
towards us, and I shall catch a sharp lecture for standing whispering
with you. Do come, Mr. St. John."

"I cannot understand this, Rose. These visitors, flocking to the
house, while, you say, the family are not visible! Why do they come,
then? Why do you wish me to go up?"

"There's--there's--a show upstairs today," stammered Rose "That is
why they come. And I want you to see it."

"A flower-show?" said Mr. St. John, somewhat mockingly.

"A faded one," murmured Rose, as she took his hand, and drew him
towards the staircase.

His manner was hesitating, his step reluctant; and but for the young
lady's pertinacity, which he could not resist without downright
rudeness, he had certainly retreated. Involuntarily, he could not tell
why or wherefore, the remembrance of a past scene came rushing to his
mind; when he, Frederick St. John, had in like manner forced a
resisting spirit up the stairs and into the room of a college-boy who
was dying.

At the head of the stairs they met Mary Carr, who held out a small
sealed packet.

"A commission was intrusted to me yesterday, Mr. St. John," she
said, "that I would deliver this into your own hands. I have also a
message----"

"Which you can give him presently," interrupted Rose.

He glanced at the packet; he glanced at the seal, "A.L. de C.;" he
looked at the other side, at the strange, sprawling address.

"Not a very elegant superscription," he observed, carelessly, as he
slipped the parcel into the breast-pocket of his coat. "I don't
recognize the handwriting."

"Yet you were once familiar with it, Mr. St. John."

"Oh, never!" answered he. "Not, certainly, to my recollection."

They were now at the door of the drawing-room. Rose, feeling a sick
terror at the thought of what she was going to behold, laid her hand
momentarily on Mr. St. John, as if doubting her own capability to
support herself.

"Are you ill?" he inquired, looking at her pale face.

"A slight faintness," she murmured. "It will go off."

It was in front of them, at the other end of the room as they entered.
_It!_ But they could not see it distinctly for a moment together, so
many persons were pushing on before them. Mr. St. John, who was taller
than most persons present, obtained a more distinct view than Rose.

"Who is that--standing yonder--receiving the company?" he asked
hastily. "It looks like no; it cannot be. _Is_ it Adeline?"

"Yes, it is Adeline de Castella," replied Rose, under her breath, her
teeth chattering. "She is holding her reception."

Adeline _de Castella_. Did the name strike oddly upon Mr. St. John?
But if it did, how then came he not to ask why it was not Adeline de
la Chasse?

"You have deceived me, Miss Darling," he said in severe tones; "you
assured me the family were not here. What means all this?"

"They are not here," whispered Rose, whose face and lips were now as
white as those of the dead.

"Not here! There stands Adeline."

"Yes, true; Adeline," she murmured. "But she will not speak to you.
You--you will pass and look at her: as we look at a picture. You can't
go back now, if you would: see the throng. Trust me for once," she
added, as she seized his arm: "Adeline will not speak to you--she will
not, as I live and breathe."

Partly from the extreme difficulty of retreating, for they were in the
line of advance, not in that formed for returning according to the
arrangements of the room, partly in compliance with Rose Darling's
agitated earnestness, and partly yielding to his own curiosity, which
was becoming intensely excited, Mr. St. John continued his way, ever
and anon catching a glimpse of the rigid form opposite, before which
all were filing.

"It cannot be Adeline!" he exclaimed, involuntarily. "And yet it is
like her! Who is it? _What_ is it? How strange she looks!"

"She has been ill, you see," shivered Rose, "and is much attenuated.
But it is Adeline."

They were nearly up with her. Rose, in her faintness, not having yet
dared to look at the sight, clung to the arm of Mr. St. John. He was
gazing on her--Adeline; and his face, never very rosy, had turned of a
yet paler hue than common.

Oh, the rich and flowing robes in which they had decked her! white
satin, covered with costly lace; white ribbons, white flowers,
everything about her white; the festive attire of a bride adorning the
upright dead, and that dead worn and wasted! A narrow band of white
satin was passed tightly under the chin, to keep the jaw from falling,
but it was partly hidden by the hair and the wreath of flowers, and
the veil that floated behind her. Never, in health, had those
beautiful ringlets been seen on Adeline as they were set forth now, to
shade those hollow cheeks: but all the richness of her dress and the
flowing hair, all the flowers and the costly lace, could not conceal
the ghastliness of the features, or soften the fixed stare of the
glazed eyes. Yet, in the contour of the face, there was something
still inexpressibly beautiful. To a stranger entering the room,
unsuspecting the truth, as Mr. St. John, she looked like one fearfully
ill, fearfully strange: and how was Mr. St. John, who had never heard
of the custom, to divine the truth? Did the idea occur to him that
Adeline was standing in the very spot where he had first met her, a
year before, when the French marigold in his button-hole was
accidentally caught by her? Did the strange gloomy silence
strike ominously upon him; putting him in mind of a funeral or a
lying-in-state, rather than a gay reception?

He went close up, and halted in front of her: Rose by him, shaking
from head to foot. Forgetting, probably, what Rose had said, that she
would not speak to him, or else obeying the impulse of the moment, he
mechanically held out his hand to Adeline: but there was no answering
impulse on her part.

He stood rooted to the spot, his eyes running rapidly over her. They
glanced down on the flounces of the rich lace dress, they wandered up
to her face--it was the first close, full view he had obtained of it.
He saw the set, rigid features, the unmistakable stare of the glassy
eye; and, with a rushing sensation of sickening awe and terror, the
terrible truth burst upon his brain.

That it was not Adeline de Castella, but her CORPSE which stood there.

He was a strong-minded man--a man little given to betray his feelings,
or to suffer them to escape beyond his own control: yet he staggered
now against the wall by her side, in what seemed a fainting-fit. Rose,
alarmed for the consequences of what she had done, burst into tears,
knelt down, and began to rub his hands.

"Open the windows--give some air here," called out little Monsieur
Durante, who had come all the way from Ostrohove to see the sight.
"Here's a gentleman in an attack."

"Nothing of the sort," returned an Englishman, who made one of the
company; "he has nearly fainted, that's all. There's no cause for
alarm, young lady. I suppose he came in, not knowing what he was going
to see, and the shock overpowered him. It _is_ an odd fashion, this.
See: he revives already."

Consciousness came to Mr. St. John. He rose slowly, shook himself out
of a shuddering-fit, and with a last wild yearning glance at the dead,
fell into the line of the retreaters. But it was Miss Carr who now
detained him: Adeline's message had yet to be given.

"The address on the packet was in _her_ handwriting, Mr. St. John,"
she whispered; "she wrote it yesterday, only a few hours before she
died She charged me to say that everything is there, except the ring,
which has never been off her finger since you placed it there, and
will be buried with her; and to tell you that she had been ever
faithful to you; as in life, so unto death."

Mr. St. John listened, and nodded in reply, with the abstracted air of
one who answers what he does not hear, touching unconsciously the
breast-pocket of his coat, where lay the packet.

"There was something else," continued she, "but I dare not venture to
breathe that here. Later, perhaps?"

Again he nodded with the same look of abstraction, never speaking; and
began to follow in the wake of the crowd, who had taken their fill of
gazing, and were making their way from the room.

"He is a fine young man, though," exclaimed M. Durante, looking after
St. John with eyes of admiration. "But he is very pale: he has
scarcely recovered himself."

"To think that he should have dropped at seeing a corpse, just as one
might drop a stone, a fine strong man like him!" responded a
neighbouring chemist, who had stepped in to have a look at the
reception. "Qu'ils sont drôles, ces Anglais-là!"



CHAPTER XXXI.
UNAVAILING REPENTANCE.


Rose Darling struggled out of the room with Mr. St. John: not caring
to remain in it, possibly, without his sheltering presence. They went
downstairs with the crowd--all silent and well-behaved, but still a
crowd--and then Rose drew him into the small snug room that had been
her abiding place and Mary's for the day.

Mr. St. John sat down, and leaned his head upon his hand. In a shock
like this, he could not make believe not to feel it, or to gloss it
over; indeed he was an independent man at all times, utterly refusing
to give in to the false artificialities of society. Rose slipped away,
and brought him a glass of wine; but he shook his head, declining to
take it. Mary Carr had not come with them; it turned out afterwards
that she thought he had left the house.

"When did she die?" was the first question he presently asked.

"Last night; a few minutes before twelve."

"Just as I was stepping on board the steamer at Folkestone," he
murmured to himself. "Why is she--_there_, Rose?--dressed--in that
form? Are they mad?"

"It is a custom they have in France, as it seems; but I had never
before heard of it," answered Rose. "Hark at the people passing up
still!"

A shiver of remembrance took him, but it was conquered immediately.
Rose untied the black string of her straw bonnet, and put it on the
table.

"I suppose we are both in mourning for the same person," she remarked,
in allusion to the narrow band of crape on his hat: "little George St.
John."

"Yes," he shortly answered. "What did she die of?"

"Of consumption: at least, that is what the doctors would tell you. I
won't say anything about a broken heart." Mr. St. John made no reply.
Rose resumed: "From the moment that blood-vessel burst, there has
been, I suppose, no real hope, no possibility of cure. But she rallied
so greatly, and seemed so well, that I, for one, believed in it." He
looked at Rose; the words seemed to arouse his curiosity. "When did
she burst a blood-vessel?"

"It was at Beaufoy. It was--why, yes, it was the very day you were
last there, Mr. St. John, almost in your sight. You remember the
morning you quitted the house, and never came back again?--did you
notice Adeline running down the steps of the colonnade after you,
imploring you to stop?--did you notice that she sank down on the
grass, as if from fatigue?"

"I think I did," he answered, in allusion to the last question. "I
know she followed me down the steps."

"It was then the blood-vessel broke; through emotion, no doubt. Had
you but looked back once again, you might have seen what was amiss. I
never shall forget the sight. Just at first I had thought her foot
slipped and threw her down, next I thought she was kneeling for a
joke: but when I reached her, I saw what it was. One minute longer,
and you would have seen the whole house gathered round her on the
lawn. She was got indoors, and the doctors were sent for. What a house
it was! She thought she was dying; and I believe the chiefest wish of
her heart then was to see you."

"Why did you not send for me?"

"We did send. I wrote to you, and Louise took the note at once to the
Lodge. But you had already gone--turning Madame Baret's brains upside
down with the shock."

"You might have sent it after me to England."

"Of course I might--if I had only known you were gone to England. How
was I to know it? I might be wishing to get a note to some one in the
moon, but not see my way clear to writing the address. It was weeks,
and weeks, and weeks, Mr. St. John, before we ever heard a syllable of
you, whether you were in England or in any other part of the known
world, or whether you were at the bottom of the sea."

"And she never married de la Chasse?"

The words seemed spoken as a remark, not as a question. Rose, who
seemed to have a touch of one of her ironical moods coming on,
answered it:

"Would you have had her marry him when death had set in? After the
doctors had met that day, it was known throughout the house that
nothing could save her. At least, they said so. The old malady of the
spring had but been lying dormant; it was in her still; and the
terrible trouble she went through had brought it forth again. Under
the very happiest circumstances, had she married you, even--and I
suppose that might have been _her_ idea of happiness," added Rose,
satirically--"she could not have lived long. De la Chasse saw her for
a few minutes on the day they were to have been married, and expressed
himself very much concerned, and all that, as a matter of course; I
don't suppose he broke his heart over it."

"And she has been ill ever since?"

"Ever since. The disease has fluctuated, as you may imagine; some
weeks she would be at death's door, some weeks comparatively well; but
it has all the while been progressing on gradually to the ending.
Frederick St. John"--and Rose stepped up to him in her excitement--"I
don't believe you were ever absent for one minute from her mind; by
day and by night it was filled with that miserable love for you; and
the yearning wish, destined not to be gratified, was ever upon
her--that you would come and see her before she died."

"_Why_ did you not let me know it?--why could you not have written to
me?" he asked, in a sharp tone of pain.

"For one thing, I tell you, I did not know where to write. For
another, Adeline would not have let me. She had an idea that you did
not care to come to her--that you perhaps would not, if summoned. And
I"--Rose paused a moment, and angrily compressed her repentant
lips--"I could wish my tongue had been bitten out for a share I took
in the past. There's not the least doubt that one ingredient in
Adeline's cup of bitterness was worse than all the rest--the thought
of Sarah Beauclerc."

He uttered an exclamation.

"And of your love for her. And I say I wish Sarah Beauclerc had been
smothered, and I with her, if you like, before I had ever breathed her
name to Adeline. But for that, but for deeming that she was your true
love, and would some time be your wife, Adeline would have sent to the
far ends of the earth after you for a parting interview."

He sat, leaning his head upon his fingers, looking into the fire.

"What a miserable business it seems altogether! Nothing but
cross-purposes, the one with the other. Sarah Beauclerc!"

"Are you still engaged--perhaps at a moment like this I may be
pardoned for asking it--to Sarah Beauclerc?"

"I never was engaged to Sarah Beauclerc. I had once a sort of passing
fancy for her; I don't know that it was more. I have had no thought of
her, or of any one else, since I parted from Adeline."

"In a letter I had from London, not very long ago," resumed Rose,
slowly, "your name was coupled with Miss Sarah Beauclerc's. It said
you were her shadow."

"Who said it?"

"Never mind. It was a lady."

"Your correspondent laboured under a mistake, Rose; you may tell her
so, for her satisfaction. Sarah Beauclerc will very soon be a wife,
but not mine."

"Who is she going to marry?"

"Lord Raynor."

Rose exhausted her surprise in ejaculations. She had thought Sarah
Beauclerc would be Frederick St. John's chosen wife; had felt utterly
certain of it in her own mind. He sat in silence, never heeding her.
Remembrances of the past were crowding upon him. That he had been very
near loving Sarah Beauclerc, was indisputable: and but for the meeting
with Adeline, this might have come to fruition: there was no knowing
now. At Lady Revel's--the evening spoken of to Rose by Miss Mary Anne
Darling--he had learnt that she, Sarah, was going to be married to the
Viscount Raynor, a man who, as Captain Budd, had been attached to her
for years. She herself told him of this. In her calm, cold, cutting
manner, she spoke of _his_ contemplated marriage to Mademoiselle de
Castella: was any covert reproof intended in this? any secret
intimation that _that_ justified her own engagement? However that
might be, all chance of their being one in this world, had any such
chance ever existed, was at an end; and Frederick St. John had no
regret left in regard to it. All his regrets were for another.

"If Adeline had but known it!" murmured Rose, genuine tears of
vexation filling her eyes. "Did you not know she was dying, Mr. St.
John?"

"No. I knew nothing about her."

"Have you been in England ever since you quitted us that day?"

"I went straight to London from Beaufoy, saw my brother Isaac,
explained matters to him, and then accompanied him to Castle Wafer.
Subsequently I went to Scotland, deer-stalking; running over once to
London from thence, to see my mother. Before Christmas, I was again
for a week in London, and then I escorted my mother to Castle Wafer.
Now you know what my movements have been, Rose. I heard nothing of
Adeline."

"Perhaps you kept yourself out of the way of hearing of her?"

"I did."

"That was your temper!"

"Just so. Our faults generally bring their own punishment."

"We heard you were in an awful passion at Madame Baret's," remarked
Rose, who plunged into things irrelevant without mercy.

"I thought I had cause to be. I thought so then. I do not know the
reason now why she rejected me."

"Mary Carr will tell you that. Ill-fated Adeline! She would have given
her poor life to have been allowed to whisper it to you then, to
justify herself in your eyes. The fact is," added Rose, after a pause,
"the Church interfered to prevent the marriage, and Adeline was sworn
to silence on the crucifix. _I_ did not know it until today. She
thought of you until the last, Mr. St. John, and in her dying moments
got permission from her father for the truth to be disclosed to you.
Mary was charged with it."

Mr. St. John's eyes blazed up with an angry light. "Then I know that
was the work of Father Marc!"

"I dare say it was. He was very fond of Adeline, and no doubt thought
her marriage with a heretic would be perdition here and hereafter. I
don't see that you can blame him: you would have done the same in his
place, had you been true to your creed. Father Marc's one of the best
gossipers living. We saw a great deal of him in Adeline's sick-room,
after you left. I fell in love with the charming old père."

Would she ever be serious! The question might have crossed Mr. St.
John at a less bitter moment.

"And I think his gossip did Adeline good," continued Rose. "It was a
sort of break to her misery. How could you have doubted her--have
doubted for a single moment, whatever your passionate rage might have
been, that her whole love was yours?"

How indeed? But perhaps in his inmost heart he never had doubted it.
He sat there now, bearing the bitter weight of remembrance as he best
might, his eyes looking back into the past, his delicate lips drawn in
to pain.

"They have no portrait of her," went on Rose, not in her
mercilessness, but in her giddy, gossiping lightness. "And the one you
took of her, you defaced."

"Don't, Rose!"

The words came from him with a wail. His remorse wanted no feeding; it
was already as great as he well knew how to bear. Rose was not quite
without feeling, and the words and their tone checked her. She sat
thinking how unkind she had been, and began flirting the strings of
her bonnet about, as it lay near her on the table.

But it was not in her nature to remain silent long. Something, perhaps
the black ribbon, took her thoughts to another subject: and in truth
she did not like to say more of Adeline.

"Does it not seem like a fatality? All three of them to have died, one
after the other!"

Mr. St. John came slowly out of his pain, and looked at her for an
explanation. "Three of whom?"

"Oh, I was thinking of Alnwick. Mr. Carleton St. John first and then
his two boys. I suppose you have inherited?"

"My brother has. Yes, it is a very sad thing. Quite a fatality, as you
say."

"What fortune has Charlotte now? Much?"

"I really do not know. I fear not much."

"She reckoned so surely--I know she did--upon being Lady St. John!"

"That seems to be a chief portion of life's business, I think," he
remarked: "the reckoning upon things that never come to pass."

"I suppose you have not seen her since?"

"Mrs. Carleton St. John? Yes, I have. I heard she was staying with
Mrs. Darling in town, the week I spent there before Christmas, and I
called."

"How was she looking? How did she seem?" asked Rose, rather eagerly.

"She seemed quite well, and she looked well. Very thin: but in good
health and spirits."

"There was no--excitement in her manner, was there?"

"On the contrary. She struck me as being one of the calmest,
quietest-mannered women I ever saw."

"Did you think her pretty?"

"No. I thought her handsome."

"What did mamma say to you about me?--and Margaret and Mary Anne? No
good, I know. They are always abusing me."

"I did not see them. Mrs. Carleton St. John said they had all gone out
to call on some old friend."

"You had no loss. Mamma you know; I don't say anything against her,
though it was a shame of her to keep me at school so long; but Mary
Anne and Margaret are the primmest old creatures you can picture. Why,
they are going on for thirty! I sent them over a cap apiece the other
day, in return for a little interference of theirs. Lottie Singleton
took the parcel. Didn't it make them wild!"

A faint smile parted his lips.

"Where is Charlotte going to live?" resumed Rose. "Have you heard?"

"I have heard nothing. I believe my brother wrote to beg of her to go
back to Alnwick, and remain there as long as she chose. But she
declined."

"I know one thing--that I hope she'll not live with us," cried Rose,
tossing back her golden curls. "Charlotte always was so domineering,
and now--especially---- You are _sure_ you observed no undue
excitement of manner?" she broke off, after a pause.

"Why do you ask it? To me she appeared to be almost unnaturally calm."

"I think I'll tell you why," said thoughtless Rose. And forthwith she
disclosed to Mr. St. John all she had heard from Nurse Brayford. It
was lamentably imprudent of her, without doubt; but she meant no harm.
And the notion she herself had gathered from the story was, that the
trouble had temporarily touched Charlotte's brain, just as a passing
fever will touch it. That was all the real thought of her heart; but
her expressions were exaggerated as usual, meaning less than they
implied. It had the effect of fully arousing Frederick St. John from
his own care: and Rose was surprised to see him make so much of it.

"That Charlotte--that your sister at the time of the child's death was
_mad!_" he repeated. "Surely not, Rose!"

"It was nothing less. How else could she fancy she saw all sorts of
visions of the child? Not her child; I don't mean him: the little
heir, Benja. He was always walking before her with the lighted toy,
the church; the one that caused his death, you know. She had awful
fits of this terror, frightening Georgy nearly to death."

Mr. St. John made no reply. His eyes were fixed on Rose, and he was
revolving what she said.

"It was Mrs. Brayford told me this; the nurse who was with Adeline in
the spring. You heard that she had gone from Belport with Mrs.
Carleton St. John to watch George. But I don't think the woman told me
quite all," added Rose, casting her thoughts back: "she seemed to
reserve something. At least, so it struck me."

"It must have been a sort of brain fever," remarked Mr. St. John.

"It must have been downright madness," returned Rose. "They hold a
curious custom, it seems, in one of the towns of France: on St.
Martin's Eve every one turns out at night with horns and lighted paper
lanterns, which they parade about the streets for a couple of hours.
It happened that Charlotte was there this very night: she had gone to
the town to take the steamer for London. The lanterns were of various
forms and devices, many of them being churches; and Charlotte was in
her room when the show began, and saw it all. She had a sort of fit
from terror," continued Rose in a whisper. "She was quite mad when she
came to, fancying it was a thousand Benjas coming after her to torment
her. Prance had always locked Brayford out of the room before, when
these attacks came on; but she couldn't do it that night, for
Charlotte had to be held; she was raving."

"It is very strange," said Mr. St. John.

"That is why I asked you whether you saw anything unusual in her
manner,--any excitement. Of course I can't write and ask; I can't hint
at it. They _say_ Charlotte is well, but if she were not I know they
would never tell me, and I like to be at the top and bottom of
everything. I'm mamma's true daughter for that."

"Rose, I wish you had not told me this."

"Why?" exclaimed Rose, opening her eyes very wide.

He seemed to have spoken involuntarily. The retort and its surprised
tone woke him from his dream, and all his senses were in full play
again.

"It is not pleasant to hear of women suffering. I can't bear it. Your
sister must have gone through a great deal."

"Oh, poor thing, yes she must. I'll not call her hard names again. And
I do hope and trust the brain trouble has really left her." /

"She seemed quite well. I saw no trace whatever of the mind's being
affected. It must have been a sort of temporary fever. Rose, were I
you, I think I would never talk of this."

"I don't. I only said it to you. I assure you I wouldn't say a word of
it to mamma to be made Empress tomorrow. She'd box my ears for me, as
she used to do when I was a little girl."

Mr. St. John rose to leave. "There's nothing more you have to say,
Rose?"

She knew as well as he that he alluded to Adeline. "There was nothing
more, just then," she answered. "Mary Carr would, no doubt, see him
later."

He shook hands with Rose and was leaving the room, when Miss Carr came
in. She uttered an exclamation of surprise.

"I thought you had gone," she said. "Will you come with me and see old
Madame de Beaufoy? I was in her room just now, and told her you had
been here; she thought I ought to have taken you up to her; and she
cried when she said how great a favourite you had been in those happy
days, now gone by for ever."

With some hesitation--for he did not care to see the family again,
especially on that day--Mr. St. John suffered himself to be conducted
to her room. The show people were still silently jostling each other
on the staircase, passing up and down it.

Madame de Beaufoy was in her chamber: it is the custom you know to
receive visitors in the bed-chambers in France: a handsomely furnished
room, the counterpane a blue satin, richly quilted, and the large
square pillows, lying on it, of the finest cambric edged with choice
Mechlin lace. As she held Mr. St. John's hand in greeting and drew him
to the fire, the tears coursed freely down the fine old face.

"Ah, my friend, my friend!" she said, speaking in English, "if they
had but suffered her to marry you, she might not be lying low this
day. A hundred times I have said to Maria, that she should not have
been severed from Frederick St. John. But Maria, poor thing, had no
hand in it; she is not a dévote; it was the Church that did it. And we
must suppose all's for the best, though it sacrificed her."

No tears shone in his eyes, his grief was too deep for that. It could
be read in every line of his face, of his rigid features.

"I wish to Heaven things had been allowed to take a different course,"
he answered in low tones. "But they tell me that no care, no amount of
happiness could have saved her."

"Tush!" returned the old lady. "The greatest mistake they made was in
not taking her to a warmer climate while they had the opportunity. Had
that been done, and had you been allowed to marry her, she might have
enjoyed years of life. I don't say she could have lived to be old:
they insist upon it that she could not: but she would have had some
enjoyment of this world, poor child, and not have been cut off from
it, as she is now."

The thought crossed him--and it came in spite of his regrets, and he
could not help it--that all things might still be for the best. Had
she lived to bear him children--and to entail upon them her fragility
of constitution----

"You did love her, Mr. St. John."

"With my whole heart and soul."

"Ay, ay; and she was bound up in you, I don't see why you should have
been parted--and we all liked you. For my part," continued the
tolerant old lady--"but you know it doesn't do to avow such sentiments
to the world--I think one religion is as good as another, provided
people do their duty in it. She had as sure a chance of going to
heaven as your wife, as she had if she had married that de la Chasse,
whom I never liked."

"Indeed I trust so."

"I became a Roman Catholic to please my husband and his family, but I
was just as near to heaven when I was a Protestant. And I say that
Adeline need not have been sacrificed. You have been in to see her, I
hear."

"Yes. Not knowing what I was going to see."

"Was ever such a barbarous custom heard of! But Maria would listen to
no sort of reason: and Agnes upheld her. I wonder the Signor allowed
it. They will not get me in. I shall see the dear lost one in her
coffin tonight; but I will not see her the actor in all that
mummery."

The old lady was interrupted by the entrance of Madame de Castella.
She did not know St. John was there; and her first surprised movement
was that of retreat. But a different feeling came over her, and she
stepped forward sobbing, holding out both her hands.

A few broken sentences of mutual sorrow, and then the scene became
disagreeably painful to Mr. St. John. Madame de Castella's sobs were
loud and hysterical, her mother's tears rained down quietly. He took
his leave almost in silence.

"Would you like to attend the funeral?" asked the old lady. "It takes
place tomorrow."

"Tomorrow!" he echoed: the haste striking upon his English ideas as
unseemly.

"Tomorrow at eleven."

"Perhaps Mr. St. John would not like it?" interposed Madame de
Castella between her sobs. "The Baron de la Chasse is coming for it."

"And what if he is!" cried her mother. "Surely their animosities must
have ended now. Be here a quarter before eleven, my friend, if it
would be any satisfaction to you to see the last of her."

Ah yes, all animosities had ended then, and St. John did not fail to
be there. It was one of the grandest funerals ever seen in Belport.
Amidst the long line of priests was Father Marc: and he recognized St.
John and saluted him courteously and cordially, as if entirely
oblivious of the past, and of the share he had taken in it. Signor de
Castella walked bareheaded after the coffin; de la Chasse and another
near friend were next. St. John was lost amid the crowd of followers,
and his companion was Monsieur le Comte le Coq de Monty.

"So happy to have the honour of meeting you again, though it is upon
this melancholy occasion!" cried the Comte, who was very fond of
talking and had hastened to fasten himself on Mr. St. John. "What a
sad thing that consumption is! And de la Chasse is here! How he must
feel her loss! the engaging, beautiful demoiselle that she was!"

The procession moved on. To the church first, and then to the grave.
But amidst all its pomp and show, amidst the tall candles, the
glittering crucifixes, the banners of silver and black, amidst the
array of priests and their imposing vestments; through the low murmurs
of their soothing chant, lost in the echoes of the streets; even
beyond that one dark mass, the chief feature of the pageant, borne by
eight men with measured tread, through his regrets for what was in
it--his buried love--there came something else, totally foreign to all
this, and uncalled for by will, floating through the mind of Mr. St.
John.

The curious tale whispered to him by Rose Darling the previous day,
touching the fancies of Mrs. Carleton St. John, was connecting itself,
in a haunting fashion, with certain words he had heard dropped by
Honour at Castle Wafer.



CHAPTER XXXII.
SOME MONTHS ONWARDS.


It was August weather. The glowing sunlight of the day had faded, and
the drawing-rooms were lighted at Castle Wafer. A small group of
guests had gathered there; it may almost be said a family group; had
been spending there some five or six weeks. Changes have taken place
since you met them last. Its master has come into the inheritance so
coveted by Mrs. Carleton St. John for her own child: and he is also in
stronger health than he has been for years. Look at him as he sits in
the remotest corner of the room, his table covered with books and
bearing a small shaded reading-lamp. But he is not reading now; he is
listening with a fond smile to a charming girl in white evening
attire, as she sits close to him and talks in a low voice. Her great
eyes, of a blue grey, are raised to his face, and the gold chain
glistens on her fair white shoulders as she bends towards him, and she
seems to be petitioning some favour; for he keeps shaking his head in
the negative, as if to tantalize her; but the kindly look in his eyes,
and the sweet smile on his face are very conspicuous. You have met her
before: it is Miss Beauclerc, the daughter of the Dean of Westerbury.

Unpleasantly conspicuous, that smile and that tender look, to one of
the distant group. The glittering chandelier--and only one chandelier
has been lighted tonight, as is usual on these quiet evenings--is
reflected as in a thousand prisms by the wax-lights, and the glitter
shines full on the face of this one lady, who sits back in the satin
chair unnoticed, her dark eyes disagreeably fierce and eager. Is she a
young girl? She really looks like one, in her black silk dress with
its low simple body and short sleeves, edged only with a narrow
ruching of white crape; looks almost as young as Miss Beauclerc. But
she is not young; she has passed her thirtieth year, and more than
that; and you have met her before, for she is the widow of George
Carleton St. John of Alnwick. They call her here at Castle Wafer Mrs.
Carleton, in a general way, as her additional name would interfere
with Mrs. St. John's. We had better do the same. Sometimes they call
her Charlotte; and she likes that best, for she hates the name of
Carleton, simply because it was the name of her late husband's first
wife.

Right underneath the chandelier, both of them at some sort of work,
sit Mrs. St. John and Mrs. Darling. Mrs. St. John has recovered the
accident of a year ago; it left a languor upon her which she is rather
too fond of indulging. Isaac St. John is glad that visitors should be
staying at Castle Wafer, for they divert his stepmother, whom he
greatly esteems and respects, from her own fancied ailments. That
accident would seem to have aged her ten years, and you would take her
to be nearly sixty. Lastly, talking and laughing at the open glass
doors, now halting inside, now stepping forth on the terrace in the
balmy summer's night, are Rose Darling and Frederick St John.
Frederick has been but a few days arrived, after an absence of many
months, chiefly spent in the Holy Land; the rest have been for six
weeks at Castle Wafer.

Six weeks, and they went for only one! Isaac pressed the visit upon
Mrs. Carleton, whose position he much pitied, and politely invited
Mrs. Darling to accompany her with any of the Miss Darlings she might
like to bring. Mrs. Darling accepted the invitation and brought Rose.
The other two were staying with old Mrs. Darling in Berkshire, who was
flourishing and seemed likely to live to be a hundred. It almost
seemed to Isaac St. John, in his refined sensitiveness, that he had
committed a wrong on Charlotte St. John, by succeeding to the property
that would have been her husband's and then her son's, had they lived.
Could he have done it with any sort of delicacy, he had made over to
her a handsome yearly income. Indeed, he had hinted at this to Mrs.
Darling, but that lady said she felt sure it could not be done with
Charlotte's proud spirit. Isaac hoped still: and meanwhile he pressed
Charlotte to stay with them at Castle Wafer, not to run away, as her
mother talked of doing. Mrs. Darling had been talking of it this month
past; and her departure was now really fixed for the morrow. She was
going with Rose to Paris; but Charlotte had accepted the invitation to
remain.

Her fate really deserved sympathy. Bereft of her husband, of her
cherished son, bereft not only of the fortune but also of the position
she had thought to secure in marrying the master of Alnwick, she had
perforce retired into a very humble individual again, who could not
keep up much of an establishment of her own. In health she was
perfectly well: all that dark time seemed to have passed away as a
dream: she was better-looking than ever, and the inward fever that
used to consume her and render her a very shadow, did not waste her
now. Mrs. Darling had spoken to her seriously of what her future plans
should be: that lady herself would probably have desired nothing
better than to keep her favourite daughter with her always: but her
other daughters rose rather rebelliously against it, and some
unpleasantness had been the result.

Rose spoke out freely, as was her custom. If Charlotte did remain with
them, she should not stand any domineering; and Mary Anne and Margaret
Darling intimated that they should not leave grandmamma until home was
free for them. Charlotte had brought this ill-will upon herself by the
very line of conduct Rose spoke openly about--domineering. Mrs.
Darling was a little perplexed: but she was an easy-tempered woman,
and was content to let trifles take their chance. There was no
immediate hurry: Charlotte's visit at Castle Wafer was to be extended,
against the wish of Mrs. Darling, and might be continued for an
indefinite time. Who knew but that Charlotte might captivate its
bachelor master? _And who knew but Charlotte herself was entertaining
the same possibility?_ Mrs. Darling feared so; and, in all cases where
Charlotte was concerned, she was a keen observer. What, though Isaac
St. John had a hump upon his back, he was, apart from that, a lovable
man--a man that even an attractive woman might covet for her own.

Mrs. Darling's employment this evening was some intricate working of
gold beads on canvas. And every time she looked off to take up a bead
upon the long needle, she seized the opportunity to glance at
Charlotte. How entirely still she was!--leaning back in the armchair;
her delicate hands lying motionless on her lap. But for the eyes,
directed to one part of the room, and the angry glare beginning now to
shine in them, Mrs. Darling had deemed her entirely at rest. She, Mrs.
Darling, moved her chair, apparently to get some better light for the
beads, and the change of position enabled her to look towards the spot
herself.

Miss Beauclerc, her fair face bending forward in its eagerness, her
wide open, fine grey eyes raised to his, had laid her two hands on
Isaac St. John's; and he had playfully made prisoner of them and was
keeping them fast. In the stillness of the room their voices were
distinctly heard.

"You _will_ promise it to me, then!"

Isaac laughed and shook his head. "You don't know how incorrigible the
man has been, Georgie."

"All the more reason for your forgiving him."

"If the dean were here, I'm not sure that he would say so. He has had
the greatest trouble with him, Georgina."

"That's just why I'm asking you," cried the girl prettily and saucily.
"Papa might refuse me; you must not. You know you _can't_."

"What will you give if I say yes?"

"I'll give you----" she dropped her voice and laughed. Isaac bent and
kissed her crimson cheek. Kissed it as a father might kiss a child;
but she drew back shyly, and blushed to her fingers' ends, half
glancing towards the window.

Something like a faint sound of anger came from Charlotte. It was
smothered beneath a sudden cough. No ears heard it save those of the
anxious mother; no eyes, save hers, saw the involuntary clenching of
the impassive hands. She--Mrs. Darling--sat upright in her chair and
turned her eyes in the direction where her daughter's were fixed.

"Did you obtain that information today, Sir Isaac?"

Sir Isaac was again laughing--oh, how much better in health was he now
than of yore!--and did not hear the question.

"Are you speaking to me, Mrs. Darling?"

"That information you said you would obtain for me about the
conjunction of the trains. Did you do so?"

"Brumm did. I thought he had given you the paper. He has all
particulars set down, I know, in black and white. Perhaps he gave it
to Miss Rose?"

"Who is taking my name in vain?" cried Rose, looking in, her bright
face aglow with mirth.

Mr. St. John had been standing for the last few minutes inside the
room, Rose on the threshold. As he talked to her, his eyes had
unconsciously rested on the face of Mrs. Carleton; and the strange
expression in hers, their look of fierce anger, had struck him with
amazement; even the movement of the hands, telling of suppressed pain,
was not wholly hidden from him. With a rush and a whirl there came
back to his mind certain facts connected with Mrs. Carleton St. John,
which had almost faded out of his remembrance. But what could be the
cause of her antipathy to Miss Beauclerc? And there _was_ antipathy in
those eyes, if he ever read eyes in this world.

It was over directly,--quick as a flash of lightning,--and the
relative situations of the parties changed. Georgina Beauclerc came to
the table with a light step, as gay and careless as Rose; Sir Isaac
followed more slowly, and sat down by Mrs. Carleton.

"You look pleased, my dear," observed Mrs. St. John, glancing up at
Georgina.

"I have been teasing Sir Isaac, and I have gained my wish. But--you
didn't see"--and she bent her lips with a smile--"I had to give him a
kiss for the concession."

"Rather a hazardous favour to grant in a general way," observed Mrs.
Darling, whose ears the whispered words had reached. "Some gentlemen,
in the bachelor position of Sir Isaac, might deem the gift
significant."

She put down her beads and her canvas, and looked full at Georgina,
expecting a protest against such motives. But in this she was
mistaken. Georgina only threw back her pretty head with a laugh; and
in it--at least to Mrs. Darling's ears--there was a sound of triumph.

"What was your petition to him, my dear?" asked Mrs. St. John.

"Ah, that's a secret; it's something between himself and me;" and Miss
Georgina Beauclerc went dancing towards the window, as if desiring a
breath of the fresh night air.

The scene was almost more lovely than by day, with that moon, brighter
than you often see it in August, shining on the landscape, and
bringing out its light and its shade. Mrs. Carleton, every vestige of
dissatisfaction removed, talked to Sir Isaac St. John. The tones of
her voice were low and tender; the pale, passive countenance was
singularly attractive. Sir Isaac had grown to like her very much
indeed; and she knew it. But, what perhaps she did not know,
liking with him had hitherto been confined to respect, esteem,
friendship,--as the case might be. _Never_ had the probability of its
going further occurred to any one. He had always expressed a
determination to live and die unmarried, and it was accepted as a
matter of certainty.

Mr. St. John leaned against the wall, partly shaded by the blue satin
window-curtains. He was watching her keenly. All that old gossip which
had reached him, creating a strange suspicion in his mind, was rising
up, bit by bit. _She_ mad! Surely not! In that low, modulated voice;
in that composed, self-controlled countenance; in those dark eyes,
lighted now with a pleasant smile, there was no madness to be traced,
past, present, or to come,--not a symptom of it. What had Rose meant
by taking up the idea seriously?--by speaking of it to him? Nay, _his_
was the fault for having listened to her. Rose! vain, giddy, careless
as of old. Mr. St. John had wondered two or three times this past week
what she was coming to.

As he looked, an idea flashed over him. He had noticed this last week,
since his residence with them, little odds and ends in Mrs. Carleton's
conduct. How she strove incessantly to make herself agreeable to Sir
Isaac; how she walked out with him, drove out with him, sat with him
oftentimes in his morning-room, how _suave_ she was to Mr. Brumm; how,
in short, she seemed to have one object in life--and that, to devote
herself to Sir Isaac. It was very kind of her--very considerate, had
been Frederick's only thought until now, and he felt grateful to her,
though rather wondering; he felt grateful to any one who appreciated
his brother; but now the truth seemed to have opened his eyes, and
removed the scales that were before them. She was hoping to become
Lady St. John.

Every feeling of Frederick St. John rose up in arms against it. Not
against his brother marrying. If it would be for his comfort and
happiness, Frederick would have been glad to see him marry on the
morrow. But to marry _her_--with that possibility of taint in her
blood? Any one in the wide world, rather than Charlotte Carleton. The
room suddenly felt too hot for him, and he turned from it impetuously,
his hand lifted to his brow.

"Who's this? Don't run over me, Mr. St. John."

He _had_ nearly run over her; she was so still; gathered there against
the wall, just beyond the window.

"I beg your pardon, Georgina; I was deep in thought."

"Is it not a lovely night?"

"Yes, I suppose so. How long"--he dropped his voice--"is Mrs.
Carleton going to remain here? Do you know?"

"Not I. How should I? Mrs. Darling and Rose leave tomorrow."

There was a pause. He held out his arm to Georgina, and began slowly
to pace the terrace with her. She looked very fair, very lovely in the
moonlight.

"How came Mrs. Carleton to prolong her stay beyond that of her mother
and sister?"

"As if I knew! Sir Isaac pressed it, I think I heard him say to her
one day that as Mrs. St. John intended to spend the winter at Castle
Wafer, she could not do better than promise him to remain also. Don't
you like her?"

"Not very much, I think."

"I did like her. I cannot tell you how much I pitied her. It seems so
hard a fate to lose her husband and her two children, and now to have
lost Alnwick. But she won't let me like her; she is so very distant
with me; repellant might be the better word; and so I think she is
making me _dis_like her. I like Rose."

He laughed. "No one can help liking Rose; with all her faults she is
open as the day. Do you know, Georgina, I used at times to think Rose
very much like you."

"In face?"

"No. And yet there may be a certain resemblance even there: both of
you are fair, and both--pretty. You need not fling away from me as if
it were treason to say so. But I meant in manner. You were once as
wild as Rose is now."

"You saw a great deal of her this time last year, did you not, when
she was staying with Adeline de Castella?"

"Yes," he laconically answered.

Georgina Beauclerc turned to the terrace railings, and leaned over
them, looking far away. He stood by her side in silence.

"Do you think I am wild in manner now?" she presently asked.

"No; you have greatly changed."

"Those old, old days in Westerbury--and I know I _was_ wild in
them--have faded away as a dream. It seems so long ago!--and yet,
marked by the calendar, it is only a short time. One may live years in
a few months, Mr. St. John."

With the privileged freedom of his boyhood he turned her face towards
him, and saw what he had suspected. The blue eyes were filled with
tears.

"What is it, child?"

"Nothing. Past days are often sad to look back to."

"Do you know that you _have_ changed--wonderfully changed?"

"From my wildness? Yes, I think I have been tamed."

"And what has tamed you?"

"Oh,"--there was a slight pause--"nothing but my own good sense."

"And now please tell me why you call me Mr. St. John. You have been
doing it all the week."

The tears vanished, and a slight smile parted the pretty lips.

"You are Mr. St. John now."

"Not to you, I should have thought."

"I remember the lecture you once gave me for calling you Fred."

"No doubt. I gave you little else than lectures then; some of them in
earnest, some in fun. The lecture you speak of was of the latter
description."

"I know how vexed you used to pet with me. You must have hated me very
much."

"Wrong, young lady. Had I cared for you less, I should not have
lectured you. We don't get vexed with those we dislike. I should
lecture you still, if I saw cause to do it."

Georgina laughed. They were again pacing the terrace, for he had
placed her arm in his.

"I always believed in you, Georgina, though you did require so much
keeping in order. You were as wild a young damsel as I ever wish to
see. It is well your mood has changed."

"I dare say you mean to say my manners."

"Call it what you will. I like you best as you are. What's that,
shooting up like a bonfire?"

They paused and watched the appearance he spoke of: a flaming light in
a distant field.

"I know," cried Georgina. "Old Phipps is burning that dead tree of
his. Sir Isaac told him this morning not to let it lie there across
the path."

"Were you there with Isaac this morning? So far off as that!"

"He and I and Mrs. Carleton had walked there. He is a famous walker
now."

"A little bird whispered a tale to me about you, Georgina, as I came
through London," he said, resuming their walk. "Shall I tell it?"

"Tell it if you like. What is it?"

"That you might, at no very distant time, be mistress of Hawkhurst.
His lordship----"

"What a wicked untruth," she burst forth, as impulsively as ever she
had spoken in former days. "Who told it you? It was Sarah, I'm sure;
and she knows I refused him."

"I'm sure he is a well-meaning young man; easy, good-tempered, and
very fond of you."

"He is as stupid as an owl," returned Georgina, in her anger. "Oh--I
see: you are only laughing at me."

"Tell me why you would not have him. We used to tell each other mutual
secrets in bygone days. Do you remember that real secret--that
accident--when you nearly set the deanery on fire, by placing the lamp
too close to the window-curtains, and I burnt my hands in putting the
fire out, and then took down the curtains afterwards, to remove all
traces of fire from them? I suppose the dean does not know the truth
to this day."

"Mamma does not; and that is a great deal more to the purpose. She
still believes the curtains were mysteriously stolen. They were
fortunately very beautiful."

"Fortunately! But you have not told me why you dismissed Hawkhurst and
his coronet."

"I wouldn't have him if he had ten coronets. I wouldn't have any one."

"Do you intend never to marry, Miss Georgina?"

"Never, never. Papa and mamma have no one but me, and I shall not
leave them."

Her blushes were conspicuous even in the moonlight. But she raised her
head, as if in defiance of the emotion, and looked straight out before
her.

"So you did see Sarah as you came through London! She has made a good
marriage, has she not?"

"Very good, in all senses of the word. She has rank, wealth; and her
husband, for a Viscount, is really a superior man."

"For a Viscount! What next? Is Sarah as beautiful as ever?"

"Well--no. She was both thin and pale. She'll get up her looks again
by-and-by, I dare say."

"I'm sure she's happy, and that's the chief thing. They are to come to
us at Westerbury next winter. Talking of Westerbury," continued
Georgina, "Rose Darling had a letter from Westerbury this morning."

"Indeed! I was not aware that Rose was acquainted with Westerbury, or
any one in it. Here she comes."

She had been standing outside the window, and came forward as he
spoke. She had caught the sound of her own name, and wanted to
know--as she had just before, in the drawing-room--why they were
taking it in vain.

"Miss Beauclerc says you heard from Westerbury this morning."

"Well, so I did," cried Rose. "The letter was from Mary Carr. She is
staying with some friends there: what's their name?--Mr. and Mrs.
Travice Arkell."

"Ah, yes," said Mr. St. John. "I heard from Travice not long ago."

"Did he mention Lucy?" asked Georgina.

"He said Lucy had sent her love to me, and that that was all he could
get out of her, for she was rapturously absorbed in her new toy, the
baby."

"Mary Carr says you are to be its godfather," remarked Rose.

"Oh, are you?" cried Georgina. "Which is it--a boy or a girl?"

Mr. St. John considered, and then laughed. "I declare I don't know,"
he said; "it's one of the two. Travice told me, I think, but I forget.
Knowing who the godmother is to be, I forgot all about the baby."

"And who is it to be--Mrs. Dundyke?"

"Not at all. It is a lady of a great deal more importance--in size, at
any rate. Miss Fauntleroy."

Georgina laughed. Rose was a little puzzled: the bygone histories were
strange to her. And she was feeling cross besides. Where Rose took a
fancy--and she had taken one long ago to Frederick St. John--she did
not like to see attentions given to any one but her own sweet self.
She tossed her head, throwing back her blue ribbons and golden curls.

"Is your sister going to make a long stay with us, Rose?" he quietly
asked.

"My opinion is, that she'll make it just as long as you choose to ask
her: for ever and a day if Sir Isaac should please. Take care of her,
Frederick St. John! I never saw Charlotte put forth her attractions as
she is doing now."

She spoke at random--in her wild carelessness: she had never given a
suspicion to the truth--that her sister was purposely trying to
attract Isaac St. John. Cold, proud, arrogant; to do so, would be
against Charlotte's nature, as Rose had always believed.

Mrs. Darling and Rose took their departure from Castle Wafer, leaving
Charlotte and Georgina Beauclerc its only guests. It was lovely
weather, and the weeks went on. The mornings were chiefly spent out of
doors. Isaac St. John, so much stronger than he used to be, had never
gone about his grounds as he was going now. His companions were always
Charlotte Carleton and Georgina; Frederick often strolling by their
side. In the afternoon one or other of them would be driven, out by
Sir Isaac in his low pony-carriage, and the other would be with Mrs.
St. John, sitting at home with her or going out in the close carriage,
as the case might be. As to Frederick, he was apparently leading a
very idle life. In point of fact, he was secretly busy as ever was a
London detective, watching Mrs. Carleton. He had been watching her
closely ever since the departure of Mrs. Darling and Rose, now three
weeks ago, and he persuaded himself that he did detect signs of
incipient madness.

One thing he detected in which there could be no mistake--her hatred
of Georgina Beauclerc. Not by any ordinary signs was this displayed,
by rudeness, by slight, or anything of that sort. On the contrary, she
was studiously polite to Georgina, even cordial at times. But every
now and then, when Georgina crossed her, there would blaze forth a
wild, revengeful fire in the eye, there would be an involuntary
contraction of the long thin fingers, as though they were tightening
on somebody's throat. It would all pass in a moment and was
imperceptible to general observation: but Frederick was _watching_.

He also observed that whenever she was put out in this way, it was
always with reference to Isaac. One day in particular, it almost came
to open warfare.

Sir Isaac had ordered round his pony-carriage in the morning, having
to go farther than he could walk. Frederick and Mrs. Carleton were in
the morning-room, and it was somehow arranged, in haste, that Mrs.
Carleton should accompany him. Frederick had not been particularly
attentive at the moment: he was writing letters: but he thought it was
Mrs. Carleton herself who offered to go, not Isaac who asked her. Be
that as it might, she put on her things, and came back to the room. At
almost the same moment, Georgina flew in, a mantle and bonnet in her
hand.

"Are you going out?" asked Mrs. Carleton, drawing her shawl more
closely around her slender and stately form.

"I am going with Sir Isaac," replied Georgina: and Mrs. Carleton made
an almost imperceptible pause before she spoke again.

"_I_ am going with Sir Isaac."

"That I'm sure you are not," cried Georgina, in her spoilt, girlish
way. "Sir Isaac is going to Hatherton, and knows why I must go there
with him: why he must take me in preference to any one else. Don't
you, Sir Isaac?" she added, entwining her arm within his.

"You petted child!" he fondly said. "Who told you I was going to
Hatherton?"

"Brumm. I asked him what the pony-carriage had come round for this
morning. You will take me?" she continued, her voice and manner
irresistible in their sweetness.

"I suppose I must," he answered. "If Mrs. Carleton will allow me--will
excuse the trouble she has had in putting on her things. There! put on
your bonnet, my wilful, troublesome child; you would charm a bird from
its nest."

That any feeling of _rivalry_ could be entertained by either, never
once crossed the brain of Sir Isaac St. John. He had watched Georgina
Beauclerc grow up from a baby, and he looked upon her still as a
child: he gave way to her moods as we give way to those of a child who
is very dear to us. He loved her fondly; he would have liked her for
his daughter: and since the project of marrying Frederick to Lady Anne
St. John had failed, he had cherished a secret and silent wish down
deep in his heart, that Lady Anne might be supplanted by the dean's
daughter. But he was cautious not to breathe a hint of this, not to
further it by so much as lifting a finger. If it came to pass, well
and good, but he would never again plot and plan, and be made
miserable by failure, as he had been in the case of Lady Anne. That
Mrs. Carleton could be seriously annoyed at his disappointing her for
Georgina, did not occur to him: it never would have occurred to him
that she could look on the young lady as anything but a lovable and
loving child.

They went out to the pony-carriage, Georgina on his arm and prattling
in her pretty way. Sir Isaac placed her in, solicitous for her
comfort, and took his seat beside her. Her bright face and its
sparkling grey eyes were beaming with triumph, and she turned back
with a saucy farewell.

"Don't expect us home until you see us."

Let us give Georgina Beauclerc her due. She never suspected, any more
than did Sir Isaac, that Mrs. Carleton could by any possibility regard
her as a rival. Had she been told that Mrs. Carleton was laying siege
to the master of Castle Wafer, Georgina had retired to a respectful
distance and looked on. From her light-hearted youth, they appeared
very old to her. Mrs. Carleton was a widow, who had lost all she cared
for in life; Sir Isaac was a second father to her, looking older, in
his hump, than her own, and she was at liberty to be free and familiar
with him as a daughter.

Mrs. Carleton stood at the window as they drove off. She was wholly
mistaking matters, as we all do when ill-nature or prejudice is upon
us. The triumphant look in the girl's face and eyes, really shining
forth in her warm-hearted joyousness, and unsuspicious of offence to
any, was regarded by Charlotte Carleton as a displayed triumph over
_her_; the saucy farewell, which was more saucy in tone than in words,
and which was meant for no one in particular, but for Frederick if any
one, was taken by the unhappy lady to herself. That strange evil look
arose in her eyes as she gazed after the carriage, and a shiver passed
through her frame.

Frederick St. John was half frightened. If ever a woman looked mad,
she looked so in that moment. Her long fingers quivered, her lips were
drawn, her face was white as death. He rose silently.

"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Carleton: you are dropping your shawl."

In truth the shawl, which had become unfastened, was falling from her
shoulders, and he made it an excuse for interfering, speaking in
quiet, soothing tones, to be near her and prepared, should there be
any act of violence. She turned and glared at him. No other word will
express the blaze that was in her eyes at the moment. One whole minute
did she so stand before she recollected herself, or seemed to know
what she was looking at or where she was. Then she gathered up the
shawl on her arm, and sat down quietly.

"Thank you," she said; "this silk shawl is given to slipping off."

In a moment she had obtained perfect mastery of herself: her pale face
was calm again, nay, impassive; her eyes had lost their frightful
expression, and were ordinary eyes once more. Frederick asked whether
he should drive her out; there was Mrs. St. John's basket-carriage: if
she would like a little fresh air, he was at her service.

At first she said no; but recalled the negative and thought she would
trouble him. It was so quiet indoors this morning without Sir Isaac,
and that gay, foolish girl, Georgina. Yes; if not interrupting those
apparently important letters, she would accept his offer.

So the basket-carriage--rather a rickety affair, for Mrs. St. John
never used it now, and it was given over to neglect--was ordered
round. Mrs. Carleton put on her shawl again, and they started. And
there he was, driving this, as he verily believed, half-mad woman, who
was calm as an angel now; conversing with him sensibly and placidly, a
pleasant smile in her dark eyes.

But this morning's doings were an exception. In a general way it was
Mrs. Carleton who was the companion of Isaac St. John. She walked with
him in the morning; Georgina and Frederick generally falling into the
background; she drove out with him in the afternoon; she sat by his
side, speaking in soft whispers, at night. That she was either really
in love with Isaac St. John, or striving to make him in love with her,
there could no longer be any doubt on the mind of Frederick. He
wondered whether it was apparent to others; but he could not tell.

Over and over again he asked himself the question--were these signs of
madness, or not? People were rather in the habit of turning white with
passion; he himself, to wit, on occasion; and jealousy and dislike of
a pretty girl were nothing new. All that was as nothing: but he could
not forget that awful look in the eyes, that movement of the hands,
that peculiar shiver of the frame; and he believed that she, Charlotte
Carleton, was either mad or in danger of becoming so. You see, the
doubt had been already implanted in him by Rose Darling; but for that,
he might never have so much as glanced at the possibility; and he very
seriously pondered the question, whether this fear arose solely from
that whispered communication, and had no place in reality.

It is possible the affair altogether might not have continued to
trouble him, but for a word dropped by his mother. Mrs. Carleton sat
by Sir Isaac that evening in the drawing-room, her low words breathed
in the softest whisper. She was trying to learn, so ladylike and
candid all the while, what business he and Georgina had had at
Hatherton. Isaac made no very particular reply: and indeed there was
none to make. A man lived at Hatherton who had been a protégé of the
dean's, but he fell into evil habits, ill-treated his poor sick wife,
and finally was discarded. It was for this man Georgina had been
begging grace of Isaac--that Sir Isaac would take him on, and give him
a trial; and it was to see the wife that Georgina went to Hatherton.
No great news to tell; and Sir Isaac did not perceive that Mrs.
Carleton was _anxious_ to hear it. Presently Sir Isaac rose, went out,
and sat down on the terrace; it was a sultry night, and every breath
of air was grateful. Mrs. Carleton also went out and sat by him.

"Frederick," whispered Mrs. St. John, in the impulse of the moment,
"should you be very much disappointed were Isaac to give Castle Wafer
a mistress?"

So his mother had noticed it! "Not if the mistress were suitable."

"He might give it a worse, Frederick; I like her."

Frederick St. John drew in his breath. A worse! Surely, never a worse,
if his fears were correct, than she; not though Isaac searched the
whole world through. Mrs. St. John looked up at her son.

"You are silent, Frederick. Should you not like her?"

"I think not."

"It is only a suggestion that crossed me; it does seem next door to an
impossibility that Isaac should marry, after all. Don't let it make
you uncomfortable."

"Nay, mother mine, you mistake me," he said. "None would more heartily
welcome the thought of a wife for Isaac, should such be his own
desire; but I--I think I should not like the wife to be Mrs.
Carleton."

He spoke calmly, but a flush passed over his brow at the thought, a
chill to his heart. He quitted his mother and strolled outside.

Georgina was with Isaac then. She had edged herself between him and
the arm of the bench, and was taking up his attention, to the
exclusion of Mrs. Carleton. If the girl had only known the sin she was
committing in that lady's sight! Luring him away in her pretty
wilfulness to walk with her on the lower walks under the bright stars;
and he went without so much as a word of apology or regret to Mrs.
Carleton: and the sound of their voices as they paced together, came
up with a joyous ring on the still night air. Frederick St. John
watched _her_ attentively under cover of the darkness; he saw the
distorted countenance, the fearful eyes, and he decided that she was
mad, and was meditating some revenge on Miss Beauclerc.

It troubled him greatly. At one moment he recalled all the queer and
horrible tales he had heard of people killing or injuring others in
their madness, previously unsuspected; the next, he asked himself
whether he were awake or dreaming, that he should call up ideas so
unlikely and fantastical. By-and-by, when they were all indoors again,
Mrs. Carleton sat down to the piano, and sang some low, sweet music,
charming their ears, winning their hearts. Had all the doctors
connected with Bethlehem Hospital come forward then to declare her
mad, people would have laughed at them for their pains; and Mr. St.
John amidst the rest.

Have you ever observed with what a different aspect we see things in
the morning from what we saw them at night? In the broad light
of the bustling day, if we by chance glance back at our evening
fancies--seeming true enough then--it is with a shrug of compassion at
their folly. All the time Mr. St. John was dressing, the sun shining
gaily into his chamber, he was feeling rather ashamed of himself. How
_could_ he have allowed those horrible thoughts to obtain a moment's
ascendency the previous night? Was he not doing Mrs. Carleton an
unpardonable injury? He had positively no grounds whatever to go upon,
except that past communication made by Rose, which might have had no
truth in it. "I've a great mind to go away!" quoth Mr. St. John, "and
pick up some common sense before I come back again."

As he went along the corridor, Mrs. Carleton was coming out of her own
room, pale, quiet, handsome, her head raised a little haughtily as
usual. She held out her hand to Mr. St. John with a smile; and he, in
his new fit of repentance, placed it within his arm, and led her
downstairs.

"I have had a letter from Rose," she said. "Would you like to see it?
She speaks of Paris as of an elysium."

She sat down to preside at the breakfast-table. Mrs. St. John rarely
quitted her room until midday. The windows opened to the terrace, and
he went out, the letter in his hand. Georgina was leaning on some
railings, and did not turn to greet him. He asked her what she was
looking at.

"I'm not looking: I am thinking. I was trying to recollect whether I
really had an adventure in the night, or whether it was only a dream."

The words, without perhaps sufficient cause, seemed to sharpen every
faculty he possessed. Crushing Rose's letter in his hand, as a thing
of no moment, he asked Georgina to explain what she meant.

"Something awoke me in the middle of the night," she said; "and I saw,
or thought I saw, a face bending over my bed, close to mine. I called
out, 'Who is it? What do you want?' but there was no answer, only the
curtain seemed to stir, and then the door closed very quietly, as if
whoever it was had left the room. I don't think I was yet quite awake,
but I ran to the door, opened it, and looked out. I saw--at least I
fancied I saw--that quiet maid of Mrs. Carleton's, Prance; she was
standing in the corridor in a white petticoat or night dress, and I
could have declared that I heard her speaking in an angry whisper. But
the next moment I could see no trace of any one; and when my eyes grew
accustomed to the grey light, I saw that all the chamber doors were
shut."

He paused an instant before replying. "Are you sure it was Prance in
the corridor? Did you see her distinctly?"

"I saw only the white things she was wrapped in; the outline of her
figure. It was by that outline I took it to be Prance, and because she
was standing at Mrs. Carleton's door, which was then open, or seemed
to be."

"Could it have been Mrs. Carleton herself, standing there?"

"No. It was nothing like tall enough. If it was anybody, it was
Prance; that is, if anything of the sort did take place, and it was
not a dream; and she was speaking angrily to some one inside Mrs.
Carleton's room."

"Do you, yourself, think it was a dream, Georgina?"

"I should have felt quite certain that it was not a dream, that it was
all reality, only that Prance positively denies it. She says she never
was out of the room at all last night after Mrs. Carleton came up to
bed. She says, she thinks I must, have had a nightmare."

"Where does Prance sleep? Somewhere at the back, I suppose."

"She sleeps in Mrs. Carleton's room. Did you not know it? There was a
little bed put into the room for her the day they came. Mrs. Carleton
does not like sleeping in a room alone."

"When did you speak to Prance about it?"

"Just now I saw her in the corridor. I asked whether anything was the
matter last night, but she did not seem to know what I meant, and I
explained. She quite laughed at me, saying I must have been suffering
from nightmare."

"And denying that she was in the corridor?"

"Entirely. She says it's not possible any one could have been there,
for she slept very badly last night, and must have heard the slightest
movement outside, had there been any, her bed being close to the door.
What do you think?" concluded Georgina.

Mr. St. John did not say what he thought: he chose rather to treat it
lightly. "It might have been a sort of nightmare."

"But I never had nightmare before in my life. I seemed to see the
outline of a head and face over me, though indistinctly."

"Did you think the face was Prance's?"

"It seemed to belong to somebody taller than Prance. I dare say it
_was_ a dream, after all. Don't laugh at me."

"A dream, no doubt," he said. "But Georgina, I would not mention this
if I were you. I'll not laugh at it, but others might: and Mrs.
Carleton would not like the idea of her door being open, or supposed
to have been open in the middle of the night. If Prance has to sleep
in her room, I suppose she must be of a timid nature, and she might be
getting thieves and robbers into her head should she hear of this."

"I did not intend to say anything to her. But Prance most likely
will."

"Prance can do as she chooses. There is another thing--I would advise
you to lock your chamber door just at present."

She looked up at him with surprise. "Lock my chamber-door! What for?"

"Well," he answered, after a brief hesitation, "you could not then
fancy that any one came in."

"I could not sleep with my door locked. If a fire took place in the
house, I might be burnt up before any one could arouse me."

"Georgina, trust me," he said, impressively, and he laid his hand upon
her shoulder, "_I_ will take care of you in case of fire, and if your
door is locked, burst it open. Turn the key of your door just now, to
oblige me."

"Tell me what you suspect--that you should thus caution me."

"I--think it--just possible--that some one may walk in their sleep.
Perhaps one of the maids."

"Oh! I should not like that," exclaimed Georgina, unsuspiciously. "I
should be far more frightened if some one asleep came into my room in
the night, than if they were awake."

"Just so: therefore you will lock your door. Promise me."

"I promise, Frederick."

He turned from her, and crossed the terrace to enter the
breakfast-room, she looking after him, a whole world of love shining
unconsciously from her wistful eyes. No, it was of no use: she had
striven against her love; but it was all in vain. Passionately as she
had loved Frederick St. John in the old days, before he had given
signs of liking any one--unless it had been her cousin Sarah,--before
he ever saw Adeline de Castella, so passionately she loved him still.



CHAPTER XXXIII.
A TELEGRAM.


Georgina Beauclerc's revelation was a complete overthrow to Mr. St.
John's more tolerant feelings of the morning. He fully believed it. He
believed that the face leaning over the girl's bed must have been Mrs.
Carleton's, that she had glided away when Georgina awoke; and that
Prance, who must have suddenly discovered her absence from the room,
had then come in search of her. Why did Prance sleep in her chamber?
That seemed rather an odd thing to Mr. St. John. And--assuming that it
was Mrs. Carleton--what motive could have taken her to Georgina's
room?--have caused her to hang over her when asleep? Had she done it
in restlessness?--become weary, and so have risen and prowled about
the corridor and the rooms to while away the hours? Mr. St. John
strove to think so: perhaps, rather, to deceive his own heart into
thinking so. As to her having any intention of injuring Georgina, his
mind shrank from entertaining the idea. He could not bear even to
glance at it: apart from the horror of the thing, it partook too much
of the sensational and romantic.

And how, indeed, could he think it? Look at her now. Sitting there so
calm, so gentle, by Georgina's side, handing the cup of tea to Isaac
she had just poured out, speaking with a sunny smile.

"I won't transgress this time, Sir Isaac, and give you too much sugar.
Indeed, I forgot before. I must have thought I was sweetening for Mr.
St. John."

"Ay, no doubt," replied Sir Isaac. "He can take any amount of sugar.
Do you remember when you were a little fellow, Fred, I would half melt
the lumps in my tea, and you would eat them for me?"

Frederick laughed. "I remember you indulged me in many things a great
deal more than I deserved."

"I have had a letter from Alnwick this morning," observed Sir Isaac,
turning to Mrs. Carleton. "Drake remonstrates against the Hall being
left empty any longer. He says if I would only go to it for a week, it
would be an earnest that it will sometime be occupied again. What
should you all say to a week's visit there--provided Mrs. St. John
shall think herself well enough to undertake the journey?"

No one replied. Mrs. Carleton gave one startled glance upwards, and
then busied herself with her tea-making.

"The alterations in the conservatory are finished," continued Isaac:
"a very nice thing they have made of it, Drake says. You remember that
awkward-looking corner by the stove, Mrs. Carleton? That also has been
remedied."

Mrs. Carleton looked up now, her face quietly impassive. "Sir Isaac, I
would rather not hear anything about Alnwick. I try to put my past
happiness from me as much as possible, and do not care to be reminded
of it."

"I beg your pardon," cried Sir Isaac, in warm, considerate tones; "I
ought to have remembered. Then you would not like to go there?"

"No. Not yet."

Of course that ended it, Sir Isaac intimated, and the conversation
dropped. He was ever solicitous for the comfort of Mrs. Carleton, in
small things as in great. This may have arisen solely from his
sympathy with her position, from the feeling that he was in possession
of the revenues she had once expected would be hers: but that she
attributed it to a warmer sentiment, there could be little doubt.

"Will you go out with me in the pony-carriage this morning?" asked Sir
Isaac. "I have not felt so strong the last day or two, and think,
perhaps, I have been walking too much."

"I will go with you, dear St. Isaac," was Mrs. Carleton's honeyed
answer; and Frederick St. John did not like to see the gratified look
that illumined his brother's face as he thanked her.

They went out. Georgina disappeared within the apartments of Mrs. St.
John, to write a long-delayed letter to her mother; and Frederick
buried himself and his thoughts in the shadiest nook of his
painting-room--for he had one at Castle Wafer. He had intended to go
out shooting that morning, after breakfast, in his lazy fashion, for
September was passing; but he felt in no mood for it now. A horrible
dread had taken possession of him--that, not interfered with, his
brother would be led on to marry her.

Not interfered with! Who was to interfere? In moments of difficulty we
always think, "If the case were different, I could meet it." _He_ was
thinking so. "If I were not Isaac's heir, then I might speak out
fearlessly. As it is--it would appear as though I interfered from
interested motives; and I cannot do it."

Perhaps he was right. He might have seen his way more clearly, had
there been tangible proof to bring forward concerning Mrs. Carleton's
state of mind; but there was none. To say, "I fear she is not quite
sane, or that she may hereafter become insane," would naturally be met
by the question, "What grounds have you for thinking so?"--and he had
really no good grounds to advance. And yet he felt that Isaac ought to
be warned, lest he should compromise himself.

Grumbling at the untowardness of things, tired to death with worry,
flinging a palette here, a painting there, striding the room with slow
and uneven steps, Mr. St. John contrived somehow to live through the
morning. Suddenly, when he was stretching himself, and rather wishing
for wings that he might fly to the uttermost parts of the earth, it
occurred to him that he would speak to Honour. The girl had once
dropped some inadvertent words in his hearing, and she might be able
to tell him more. It seemed that he would give half his own undoubted
inheritance to set the question at rest.

He rang the bell, and told the servant who answered it to send Honour
to him. He had not seen the girl, as far as he remembered, since his
present sojourn at home. The fact was, Honour's duties had been
changed, and lay downstairs now, instead of above. She had given up
the place of housemaid, which she found did not suit her, to become
assistant to the housekeeper, and was learning cooking and
confectionery. Not once in six months now would her duties take her up
the grand staircase, or bring her in contact with the guests.

"Where have you been hiding yourself?" asked Mr. St. John, when she
appeared in obedience to his orders. "I never see you by any chance."

Honour explained now. She looked just the same as ever, and she still
wore mourning for her beloved Benja.

"Honour, I want to ask you a question. And you must answer it, for it
is essential that you should do so. But you may rely upon my
discretion, and no trouble shall accrue to you from it. You once spoke
a word or two which led me to infer that your late mistress, Mrs.
Carleton St. John, was not altogether of sound mind. Did you mean what
you said?"

Honour paused. Not from fear of speaking, but in doubt what to say.
Mr. St. John, attributing it to the former motive, again assured her
that she might trust him.

"It is not that, sir; it is that I don't well know how to answer you.
I remember what I said--you were asking me about that dreadful night,
saying that from the manner in which he had been burnt to death it
looked as though somebody had done it for the purpose; and I answered,
in the moment's haste, that nobody could have done that, unless it was
Mrs. St. John in her madness."

"But did you mean anything, Honour? That is the point to be considered
now."

"I did, and I didn't, sir. I had seen my mistress two or three times
in a most awful passion; a passion, sir, that you would hardly believe
possible in a lady, and I meant that if she had done it, it must have
been in one of those mad fits of passion. But I did not really mean
that she had done it," resumed Honour, "and I could have bitten my
tongue out afterwards for answering so carelessly; it was the very
thing Mrs. Darling warned me against. There was no reason for
supposing the calamity to have been anything but pure accident."

"What had Mrs. Darling warned you against?"

"It occurred in this way, sir. After it was all over and the poor lamb
buried, I had brain fever; and they tell me I made all sorts of wild
accusations in it, amidst others that my mistress had set fire to
Benja and bolted the door upon him. After I got well, Mrs. Darling
told me of this. Nothing could be kinder than what she said, but she
warned me never to breathe such words again. I should not have had
such a thought, even in my delirium, but for the bolted doors; I
couldn't get over that at the time; but I came to the same conclusion
at last as other people--that poor Benja must have fastened the one to
keep me out, and that the other was not bolted at all. It's likely
enough, for I never was in such a flurry before, smelling the burning
so strong."

"And in your delirium you accused your mistress of having caused the
mischief?"

"So they tell me, sir. How I came to fancy such wicked thoughts is the
wonder. It's true that she was always jealous of Benja after her own
child was born, always hated him; and I suppose I remembered that,
even in my unconsciousness. Not an hour before the accident she had
beaten him cruelly."

"_Beaten_ him!" interrupted Mr. St. John.

"She did, sir. It's over now, and I said nothing about it: where was
the use? Well, all these things must have got jumbled together in my
poor fevered brain, and caused me to say what I did. I was very sorry
for it, sir, when I got well; I should never have thought of such a
thing in my senses."

"Then--although you used the word 'madness,' you never had cause to
think her really insane?"

"Oh no, never. In those frightful passions she was as one mad, sir,
but they were over directly. I hope you'll pardon me, sir, for having
been so foolish as to say it."

"Nay, Honour, it is nothing to me. We all make slips occasionally in
talking. That's all I wanted to ask you."

She turned to leave the room. Mr. St. John took a rapid summary in his
mind of what he had heard. It seemed only to increase his
difficulties. There was not the slightest corroborative testimony as
to her possible insanity; but there were other hints which tended to
render her a most unfit wife for Isaac. If----

His reflections were brought to a sudden conclusion by a scream
outside. This studio of his was situated in an angle of the staircase,
where it was rather dark. Honour had not yet closed the door: but the
scream did not appear to have come from her. He hastened out.

It had come from Mrs. Carleton. Standing in the opposite angle,
gathered closely against the wall, as if hiding from a ghost, her eyes
were fixed with a glare of terror upon Honour, her face was white as
death. She had just come in from the drive with Sir Isaac, and was on
her way to her room to take off her bonnet for luncheon. Honour saw
the effect her appearance caused, and stood irresolute, curtseying,
not liking to go down, because she would have to brush past Mrs.
Carleton. Before Mr. St. John had recovered from his astonishment,
Prance came gliding up and took her mistress by the arm.

"It's only Honour Tritton, ma'am; do you not know her? You fool, why
did you put yourself in her sight!" added the woman to Honour in
whispered exasperation. "I told you to keep out of it--that she didn't
know you were here. The sight of _you_ cannot be pleasant to her
remembrance."

Almost by force, as it seemed, she led her mistress away to her
bedroom and closed the door. A good way down the corridor Mrs.
Carleton's white face was turned back on Honour, with its look of
wild, desperate fear.

Mr. St. John seemed equally stunned with Honour. "What is the meaning
of this?" he asked.

"I'm sure I don't know, sir," was the girl's answer, as she burst into
tears.

"Prance said she had warned you to keep out of Mrs. Carleton's sight.
Is that true?"

"Yes, sir, it's true. She said her mistress did not know I was at
Castle Wafer, and I had better take care and not show myself to her."

"But why?"

"I don't know, sir. All she said was that Mrs. Carleton St. John was
fearfully angry with me still, knowing that, but for my carelessness
in leaving the child he would be alive now. I had kept out of her
sight until today. But it seemed to me now that she looked more
terrified than angry."

As it had to Mr. St. John. Honour went out about her business, and he
felt bewildered with the complication of events that seemed to be
arising. There came down an apology to the luncheon-room from Mrs.
Carleton, delivered by Prance. Her lady had a headache, brought on by
being so long in the hot sun without a parasol, and was now lying
down.

"How sorry I am!" exclaimed Sir Isaac. "She complained of the sun when
we were out."

Late in the afternoon, she came into the drawing-room, dressed for
dinner. Frederick happened to be there alone. As a matter of
politeness, he condoled with her on her indisposition, hoping it was
gone.

"Not quite. To tell you the truth, Mr. St. John," she continued in
quiet, confidential tones, "the sight of that woman, Honour Tritton,
had as much to do with my headache as the heat. You know who she was,
I presume--nurse to my poor little stepson; the woman to whose
unpardonable carelessness his death was attributable. I have never
been able to think of the woman since without horror, and the
unexpected sight of her--for I had no idea she was at Castle
Wafer--was almost too much for me."

"She is one of the servants here," observed Frederick, not very well
knowing what else to answer.

"As I hear. I wonder Sir Isaac should have engaged her. However, of
course, that is no business of mine. I hope she will not come into my
way again, for I have a perfect horror of her. But for her wickedness,
we might all still have been happy at Alnwick."

She rose as she spoke, and went on the lawn. Mrs. St. John was there.
Sir Isaac was then in his own sitting-room, and Frederick went in to
him. The table was strewed with papers, and he was writing rapidly.

"Look at this," he said to Frederick, holding out a letter, and in his
voice might be traced a sound of annoyance. "It is incomprehensible
how people can be so stupid."

"Are you writing to stop it?" asked Frederick, when he had read the
note.

"I am writing; but whether it will be in time to stop it, is another
matter. The letter only came by this afternoon's post."

"I should telegraph," said Frederick. Sir Isaac laid down his pen. "It
might be the better plan, But you can say so little in a message."

"Do both," advised the younger brother. "I will go off at once and
send the message, and you can post your letter afterwards. You will
then have the satisfaction of knowing that all has been done that can
be done."

"Yes, that will be better. If you don't mind the trouble. But you will
hardly be back by dinner-time."

"Yes I shall. And as to trouble, Isaac, I think it's doing me a
kindness. I have been in a cross-grained mood all day, for want
perhaps of something to do."

Sir Isaac wrote the message, and Frederick started with it, leaping
down the slopes buoyant as a schoolboy. It was a sensible relief,
perhaps, to what he had called his cross-grained mood. He had only a
short walk; for the railway had now been extended from Lexington, and
its small station was not far from the lodge gates of Castle Wafer.

Mr. St. John entered the little telegraph office. He gave in his
message, and was exchanging a few words with the clerk, when the
rustle of petticoats was heard, and a female voice addressed the clerk
in hurried accents. Mr. St. John at the moment was behind the
partition, and unseen by the newcomer.

"Young man, can I send a telegraph off at once? It's in a hurry."

"You can send a telegram," responded the clerk. "Where's it to?"

"Paris."

"What's the message?"

"I've wrote it down here, so that there may be no mistake. It's quite
private, if you please, and must be kept so: a little matter that
don't concern anybody. And be particular, for it's from Castle Wafer.
Will it be in Paris tonight?"

"Yes," said the clerk, confidently, as he counted the words.

"What's to pay?"

"Twelve-and-sixpence."

"Twelve-and-sixpence!" repeated the voice. "What a swindle."

"You needn't pay it if you don't like."

"But then the telegram would not go?"

"Of course it wouldn't."

The clink of silver was heard, dashed down upon the counter. "I can't
stop to argue about the charge, so I must pay it," grumbled the voice.
"But it's a great shame, young man."

"The charges ain't of my fixing," responded the young man. "Good
afternoon, ma'am."

She bustled out again as hurriedly as she had come in, not having seen
Mr. St. John, or suspected that the wooden partition had any one
behind it. He went to the door, looked after her, and recognized
Prance: he thought he had not been mistaken in the voice. She was
walking very fast indeed in the direction of Castle Wafer.

"I must see that message, Jones," said Mr. St. John, turning back into
the little room.

Mr. Jones hesitated; but there was an air of quiet command in the
words--and the speaker was the heir of Castle Wafer. He laid the
written message on the desk.


"_Mary Prance to Mrs. Darling_.

"Please come back as quick as you can. I don't like her symptoms. I am
afraid of something that I had better not write down here."


"Is it to go, sir?" asked the clerk.

"Oh yes, it is to go. Thank you. It's all right. I had a reason for
wishing to see it."

He walked back to the house; not quickly, as Prance was doing, but
slowly and reflectively. Sufficient food for reflection he had, in
truth. They had not gone in to dinner; and Georgina Beauclerc, her
beautiful grey eyes sparkling with excitement, crossed the lawn to
meet him, wearing a blue silk evening dress, and pearls in her hair.

"Oh, Frederick, guess the news! It has come to me only now. I won't
tell it you unless you guess it."

He took both her hands in his, and gazed steadfastly into her excited
face. The blushes began to rise.

"News--and I am to guess it? Perhaps it is that you are going to be a
sober girl."

She laughed, and would have drawn her hands away. But he held them
still.

"I can't wait: I must tell you. Papa and mamma are on their way home.
They will be at the Rectory tomorrow night."

"How have you heard it?"

"They have had news at the Rectory and sent up to tell me, I am so
glad! It seems ages and ages since I saw papa. Only think how I might
have been spared the trouble of writing that long letter to mamma
today, had I known?"

"I am glad too," he said, his tone changing to seriousness. "We shall
get rid of you now."

One hasty glance at his face. What she saw there puzzled her. He
really did look as though he meant it.

"Why do you say that?"

"Because it's the truth. I shall be glad when you are away from here,
safe in the dean's charge again."

There was an earnestness in his tone which caused her large eyes to
open.

"You have not been rude to me once this time until now," she pouted.
"Sir Isaac would not say that."

"Rude?"

"It is rude to tell me you want to get rid of me. I never said a ruder
thing to you than that, in my wildest days."

"I do want it," he answered, laughing. But he laid his hand upon her
head as he spoke, and looked fondly at her. Her eyelids fell.

"You know I don't care for you, Georgina."

But the words were spoken as though he did care for her. Georgina ran
away from him into the drawing-room. He followed, and found them going
in to dinner, Charlotte Carleton leaning on the arm of Sir Isaac.


"What are you going to do with Alnwick, Sir Isaac?"

The question came from Mrs. Carleton, and it may be that it took Sir
Isaac somewhat by surprise, after her previous avoidance of the
subject. They were at dessert, not on this same day, but on the next,
for four-and-twenty hours have gone on.

"In what way do you mean?" Sir Isaac asked, consideration very
distinguishable in his tone. But it was called up by the subject
alone.

"Shall you ever live at it?"

"I am not sure. I have a place in the North, you know, hitherto held
in reserve should I leave Castle Wafer."

"But you would never leave Castle Wafer!"

"As its master, yes, should Frederick marry. It has always been my
intention to resign it to him. But I dare say they would have me as
their guest for six months of the year."

Her handsome face was bent downwards; her raven hair, with the
perfumed white rose in it, was very close to her host.

"Is he likely to marry?"

"Not that I am aware of. I wish he was!"

"Let him take Alnwick as a residence, and remain yourself at Castle
Wafer. The idea of your having to quit this beautiful place when you
have made it what it is!"

Sir Isaac smiled. "Frederick says as you do, Mrs. Carleton. He
protests he will never reign at Castle Wafer so long as I live. It may
end in our living here together, two old bachelors; or, rather, an old
bachelor and a young one."

"But shall you never marry?" she softly asked. "Why should you not
form ties of your own? Oh, Sir Isaac, it is what every one would wish
you to do."

Sir Isaac slightly shook his head. Frederick St. John's ears were
strained to catch the conversation, although he was giving his
attention to Miss Beauclerc.

"Do you know what I should like to do with Alnwick?"--and Sir Isaac's
voice dropped to a whisper. "I should like to see _you_ in it."

A streak of crimson crossed her cheek at the words. "I never, never
could live again at Alnwick. Oh, Sir Isaac"--and the handsome face was
raised pathetically to his--"think of the trouble it brought me! You
could not expect me to go back to it."

He answered the look with eyes as pitying as her own.

"Give Alnwick to your brother, Sir Isaac. Remain yourself at Castle
Wafer: never think of leaving it."

"You like Castle Wafer?"

"I never was in any place that I liked so much."

"Then you must not run away from it," said Sir Isaac, smiling.

"I don't want to run away from it," she answered, her eyes lifted
pleadingly to his. "I have nowhere to run to. It is so hard--so very
hard to make a fresh home! And I have so little to make one with. I
lost all when I lost Alnwick."

A movement. Mrs. St. John was rising, and Frederick gave his mother a
mental blessing as he opened the door. Sir Isaac passed the claret to
him as he sat down, and he poured out a glass mechanically, but did
not touch it. In the last twenty-four hours his doubts, as to Mrs.
Carleton's designs on Sir Isaac, had become certainties, and his
spirit was troubled.

"You have been inviting Mrs. Carleton to prolong her stay here,
Isaac?"

"I invited her, when she first came, to stay as long as she liked,"
was Sir Isaac's reply. "I hope she will do so."

"Do you like her?"

"Very much indeed. I liked her the first time I ever saw her. Poor
thing! so meek, so gentle, and so unfortunate! she has all my
sympathy."

Frederick St. John took up his dessert-knife and balanced it on one of
his fingers, supremely unconscious of his actions. He by no means saw
his way clear to saying what he should like to say.

"She urges me to give you Alnwick as a residence, Fred."

"She is very generous," returned Fred: and Sir Isaac did not detect
the irony of the remark. "I heard her say it would be a sin for you to
quit Castle Wafer; or something to that effect. It has been always my
own opinion, you know, Isaac."

"We shall see."

"Isaac, I am going to be rather bold, and attack one of your--I had
almost said prejudices. You like Charlotte Carleton. I don't like
her."

"Not like her!"

"No, I don't. And I am annoyed beyond measure at her staying on here,
with no chance, as far as I can see, of her leaving. Annoyed, for--for
your sake."

The words evidently surprised Sir Isaac. He turned his keen eyes upon
the speaker. Frederick's were not lifted from the balancing knife.

"What do you see in her to dislike?"

"For one thing, I don't think she's sincere. For another----"

Down fell the knife on the dessert-plate, chipping a piece off its
edge. The culprit was vexed. Sir Isaac smiled.

"The old action, Fred. Do you remember breaking that beautiful plate
of Worcester porcelain in the same way?"

"I do: and how it vexed my mother, for it spoilt the set. They had
better not put me a knife and fork; make me go without, as they do the
children. I am sure to get playing with them."

"But about Mrs. Carleton? Go on with your catalogue of grievances
against her."

When the mind is hovering in the balance, how a word, a tone, will
turn it either way! The slight sound of amusement, apparent in Isaac's
voice, was a very mockery to his listener; and he went on, hating his
task more than before, almost inclined to give it up.

"For another thing, I was going to say, Isaac--I am not sure that she
is _sane_."

"You are not sure of--what?"

"That Charlotte Carleton is quite in her sane senses."

Sir Isaac stared at his brother as though asking whether he was in
_his_.

"Are you jesting, Frederick?"

"No. I am in sober earnest."

"Then perhaps you will tell me what grounds you have for saying this."

And here was Frederick's dilemma. What grounds had he? None. The
reasons that seemed weighty enough to his own mind, were as nothing
when spoken; and it suddenly struck him that he was not justified in
repeating the gossip of a girl as careless as Rose.

"I have seen a strange look in her face more than once," he said; "a
wild, awful expression in her eyes, that I don't believe _could_ visit
the perfectly sane. Isaac, on my honour I don't speak without
believing that I have good reason--and that it lies in my duty to do
so."

"I think you speak without grounds, Frederick," said Sir Isaac,
gravely. "Many of us look wild enough at times. I have noticed nothing
of this."

"She is on her guard before you."

"That is nonsense. Insane people are no more on their guard before one
person than another. Did you go to sleep and dream this?"

Frederick winced. He saw that Isaac was laughing at him. "There are
other indications," he said.

"What are they?"

Could he answer? Could he tell the doubt, spoken by Georgina--that the
lady had been in her room in the night? Could he tell of the meeting
with Honour on the stairs? Of the telegram he had surreptitiously
read? And if he did, what proofs were they? Georgina might have had
nightmare: Mrs. Carleton's horror at sight of Honour was not
unnatural: and Prance's telegram need not refer to her mistress. No;
it was of no use mentioning these: they might weaken rather than
strengthen Isaac's belief.

"Isaac, I am almost sorry that I spoke to you," he resumed. "To my own
mind, things are pretty conclusive, but I suppose they would not be so
to yours."

"Certainly not, unless you have other grounds than 'looks' to go upon.
Why did you mention the matter at all?"

Frederick was silent. The true motive--the fear that Isaac might be
drawn into marrying her--he could not reveal. He might have been
misconstrued.

"Did you enter on this to prejudice me against her?"

"Well--yes; in a sense I did."

"That you might get her away from Castle Wafer?"

"Yes, also."

"Then all I can say is, I don't understand you: unless, indeed, you
are more insane than she is. She may stop here for ever if she likes.
Remember, I enjoy the revenues that were once hers. And please don't
attempt anything of this sort again, Frederick."

Sir Isaac left the dining-room as he spoke, and Frederick took his hat
and went out, his veins tingling with a sense of shame and failure. He
_could_ not speak to more effect than he had spoken now; that wretched
self-consciousness withheld him: and yet he felt that Isaac ought to
be warned. Were he indeed to marry her, and find out afterwards that
she was insane, Frederick believed that it would kill him.

Ill at ease, he strode on towards the Rectory, Georgina having exacted
a promise from him that he would go and learn at what hour Dr. and
Mrs. Beauclerc were expected. They had already arrived. The dean was
in his study alone, his genial face bent over sundry letters he was
opening. A few threads of silver mingled now with his light auburn
hair, and his shoulders were slightly stooping; but his eyes, the very
counterpart of his daughter's, were frank and benevolent as ever, and
his hand was as cordial.

Losing his own father at an early age, and being much with Dean
Beauclerc, it is possible that Frederick St. John had insensibly grown
to look upon him almost in the light of a father. Certain it was, that
as he shook hands now with the dean, an impulse came over him to
confide his trouble to him. None would give him wiser and more honest
counsel than this good man. With Frederick St. John to think of a
thing was to do it impulsively; and, without an instant's
deliberation, he entered on his story. Not, however, mentioning
Georgina as in any way connected with it.

The dean listened attentively to its conclusion, and shook his head.
"Very slight grounds indeed, my young friend, on which to suspect a
woman of insanity."

"I know it," answered Frederick; "there lies my stumbling-block. Were
they only a little stronger, I should feel more at liberty to pursue
any course of action that might appear advisable."

"Your chief fear is--if I take your meaning--that this lady is making
herself too agreeable to Sir Isaac."

"Yes; but pray don't misunderstand me, Dr. Beauclerc," was the eager
rejoinder. "Were she a person likely to bring Isaac happiness, I would
further the matter to the utmost; I would indeed. Do you not see how
difficult it is for _me_ to interfere? Ninety-nine persons out of a
hundred would say I did so from interested motives; a fear of losing
the inheritance. I declare before Heaven, that it is not so: and that
I have only my brother's happiness at heart. He is one of the justest
men living, and if he were to marry, I know he would first of all
secure me an ample fortune."

"My opinion is that he never will marry," said the dean.

"I don't know. I have the fear upon me; the fear of _her_. Were he to
marry her, and afterwards discover that she was not quite right, I
believe it would kill him. You know, sir, his great sensitiveness."

"Just go over again what you have said," returned the dean. "I mean as
to Mrs. Carleton's symptoms."

Frederick St. John did so. He related what Rose had told him; he
mentioned the wild and excited looks he had himself observed in Mrs.
Carleton; he spoke of meeting Honour on the stairs; of the telegram
sent by Prance. Somewhat suspicious circumstances, perhaps, when taken
together, but each one nothing by itself. "Nevertheless, I believe in
them," he concluded. "I believe that she is not sane."

"I wonder if there has ever been insanity in her family?" mused the
dean--who by no means saw things with Frederick's eyes. "Let me
see--who was she?"

"She was a Miss Norris. Daughter of Norris, of Norris Court. Mrs.
Darling."

"Oh, to be sure," interrupted the dean, as recollection came to him.
"I knew her father. I was once a curate in that neighbourhood."

Mr. St. John looked up at the high-church dignitary before him. "_You_
once a curate!"

The dean laughed. "We must all begin as curates, Frederick."

The young man laughed also. "You knew Mr. Norris, then?"

"Yes; slightly. I once dined at his house. My church was on the
confines of Alnwick parish, not very far from Norris Court. Mr. Norris
died just as I was leaving. He died rather suddenly, I think. I know
it took the neighbourhood by surprise. And, if I remember rightly,
there seemed to be some mystery attaching to his death."

"What did he die of?"

"No one knew. It was in that that the mystery lay. Report said he died
of fever, but Mr. Pym, the surgeon who attended him, told me it was
not fever; though he did not say what it was."

"Is that Pym of Alnwick?"

"Mr. Pym was in practice then at Alnwick. He may be still, for aught I
know."

"He is. I met him twice at Alnwick Hall when I went down to the
funerals; George St. John's and poor Benja's. Isaac was too ill to go
each time, and I had to represent him. Do you"--he paused a moment in
hesitation, and then went on--"think it likely that Mr. Norris died
insane? I am sure there is no insanity on Mrs. Darling's side."

"I have no reason for thinking so," replied the dean. "I was in want
of a servant at the time, and a man who had lived with Mr. Norris
applied to me for the situation. It was the surgeon, Pym, who spoke to
his character: Mrs. Norris was ill and could not be seen. I engaged
him. He had been the personal attendant of Mr. Norris in his last
illness."

"Did he ever say what Mr. Norris's disease was?"

"No. He was very reserved. A good servant, but one of the closest men
I ever came across. I once asked him what illness his master had died
of, and he said fever. I observed that Mr. Pym had told me it was not
fever. He replied he believed the illness had a little puzzled Mr.
Pym, but he himself felt sure it was fever of some description; there
could be no doubt whatever about it."

"Is he with you now?"

"No, poor fellow, he is dead. My place was too hard for him, for I
kept only one man then, and he left me for a lighter one. After that
he went back to his late mistress, who had just married Colonel
Darling. A little later I heard of his death."

Frederick St. John was paying no attention to this last item of
explanation: he had fallen into a train of thought. The dean looked at
him.

"Dr. Beauclerc, if any one could throw light upon this subject, it is
Pym. I wish you would write and ask him."

"Ask him what?"

"What Mr. Norris really died of. It might have been insanity."

"People don't generally die of insanity."

"But there's no harm in writing. If you have no objection."

"I'll think it over," said the dean.

"And now I must go back," said Frederick, rising. "Will you walk with
me, and see Georgina?"

"Ah, Frederick, you know how to tempt me! I would walk further than to
Castle Wafer to see _her_. My only darling: I believe no one in the
world knows her real worth."

They went out together. Looking into the drawing-room for a minute
first of all, to tell Mrs. Beauclerc. She was there with Miss Denison,
a middle-aged lady who had come home with them for a long visit, and
who was one of the _bêtes noires_ of Georgina's life.

Georgina was watching: whether for the possible sight of her father,
or for the more certain one of his companion--there she stood, half
in, half out of the open French window. Frederick stole a march upon
her. He made the dean creep round the corner of the house, so that she
did not see them until they were close upon her. He watched the
meeting; he saw the clinging, heartfelt embrace, the glad tears rising
to her eyes: never after that could he doubt the girl's loving nature.
Perhaps, with all her lightness, he had not doubted it before.

"And where's mamma. Could she not also come?"

"I left her to entertain Miss Denison."

Georgina gave a scream. "Papa! You have never brought _her_ home!"

"Mamma has done so. She has come for two months, Georgie."

Georgie groaned. "Then I shall remain at Castle Wafer."

"No, you won't," cried Frederick, and then hastened to turn his
apparent discourtesy into a laugh. "We wouldn't keep you, Georgina."

"And I could not spare you," said the dean.

They entered the room, Georgina--who so proud as she?--on her father's
arm. Sir Isaac, who was playing chess with Mrs. Carleton, rose to
welcome him. Mrs. Carleton rose also. She had never seen the Dean of
Westerbury, and the introduction took place. Calm, impassive,
perfectly self-possessed, she stood; exchanging a few words of
courtesy with the dean, her handsome features looking singularly
attractive, one of the beautiful crystal chessmen held between her
slender fingers. Not a woman in the world could look much less insane
than did Charlotte Carleton; and the dean turned his eyes on
Frederick, in momentary wonder at that gentleman's hallucination.

Georgina stole up to the master of Castle Wafer.

"You'll let me stay here, won't you, Sir Isaac?"

"You know I will. _Let_ you stay!"

"But you'll ask papa to let me stay?"

"My dear, yes. Does he want to take you away?"

"Of course he will want it. And--do you know what mamma has done?
Brought home with her that horrible Miss Denison. I wonder papa let
her. The last time she was with us--but that was at Westerbury--there
was no peace in the house for her. She was always quarrelling with me,
and of course I quarrelled with her again. Nothing that I did was
right; and one day she actually got mamma to lock me in my room for
two hours, because she said I had been insolent to her. You'll get
leave for me to stay, Sir Isaac?"

He gave her a reassuring smile, and sat down to chess again. The dean
talked with Mrs. St. John, Georgina flitted incessantly from them to
the chess-players, making every one as merry as she was; Frederick
alone seemed quiet and abstracted. He sat apart, near the tea-table, a
cup before him, as if tea-drinking was his whole business in life.

The evening wore on. When ten o'clock struck, the dean rose, saying he
had not supposed it to be so late.

"You will spare Georgina to us a little longer?" said Sir Isaac. They
were still at chess, of which it seemed Mrs. Carleton never tired; and
he rose as he spoke to the dean.

"Until tomorrow. She must come home then."

"Oh, papa!" broke in the really earnest voice, "do let me stay longer.
You know why I wish to--it's because of that Miss Denison."

The dean looked grave.

"Only a few days longer, papa; just a few days. Then I will come home.
It will take me all that time to get over the shock."

But there was a merry twinkle in her eye; and the dean smiled. Whilst
he was shaking hands with Mrs. Carleton, Georgina turned suddenly to
Frederick. "Won't you say a word for me? You once called Miss Denison
an old hag yourself."

"It must have been when I was a rude boy," he answered.

"But won't you?"

"No," he said, in a low and unmistakably serious tone. "I would rather
you did not stay, Georgina."

While Georgina was recovering from her surprise, she became conscious
of some commotion in the room. Turning, she saw a lady in travelling
costume, and recognized Mrs. Darling. Her appearance was exciting
universal astonishment: Frederick in particular rubbed his eyes to be
sure he was not dreaming. How quickly she had answered the telegram!

It happened that the dean, the only one of the party not pressing
forward either in surprise or welcome, was close to Mrs. Carleton, and
had leisure to note her looks, though indeed chance alone caused his
glance to fall upon her in the first instance. Instead of pressing
forward, Mrs. Carleton drew back, seemed to stagger; her face turned
livid, her eyes were ablaze with a wild, curious light; and one of the
costly chessmen fell and was broken in pieces. It almost seemed to
have been crushed in her hand. Another had seen it too, Frederick St.
John. Was it a habit, then, of hers to be so unpleasantly excited
under any surprise? Or were these indeed signs of incipient insanity?
If the crystal had broken in her hand and not in the fall, she must
possess a strength beyond that of ordinary women. He, Frederick St.
John, had just time to see that the dean's gaze was riveted upon her,
before the stir became universal, every one talking at once, Mrs.
Darling laughing gaily.

She knew she should take them by surprise, she was saying, as she
shook hands with one and another; had been enjoying it in anticipation
the whole day. From a communication received from her cottage at
Alnwick, she found her orders were wanted in some repairs that were
being done; so had started quite on a moment's impulse; and--here she
was, having determined to take Castle Wafer on her way, and see
whether Charlotte was ready to return home. Rose? Oh, Rose was quite
well, and staying with some friends in Paris, the Castellas. Darling
Charlotte! How well she was looking!

Darling Charlotte had recovered from her emotion, and was herself
again,--calm, sweet, impassive Charlotte. After submitting to the
embrace of her mother, she turned in contrition to Sir Isaac.
Frederick and Georgina were both stooping to gather up the broken
crystal.

Would Sir Isaac ever forgive her? That lovely set of chessmen! And how
it came to slip out of her hand, she could not imagine: how it came to
break on the soft carpet (unless indeed it struck against the foot of
the chess-table) she could not tell. In vain Sir Isaac begged her not
to think more of so trifling a misfortune: it seemed that she could
not cease her excuses.

"Mrs. Carleton! look at your hand. You must have broken the bishop
yourself."

The words came from Georgina Beauclerc. The fair white hand had sundry
cuts within it, and the red spots oozing from them had caught
Georgina's gaze as she rose from the carpet. One angry, evil glance
from Mrs. Carleton's eyes at the outspoken young lady, and then she
resigned the white hand to Sir Isaac to be bound up.

"Strange, that we rarely can tell how these things happen," she said,
with a genial smile. "Miss Beauclerc must have a curious idea of
strength, to suppose my fingers could have broken that bishop. Thank
you very much, Sir Isaac."

Frederick St. John went out with the dean. "I do hope you will write
to Mr. Pym?" he said.

"I intend to," answered the dean.



CHAPTER XXXIV.
WALKING OUT TO DINNER.


If Mrs. Darling's hurried visit to England was caused by the fact of
the repairs in progress at her cottage, being at a standstill, the
repairs must be at a standstill yet; for the lady did not go farther
than Castle Wafer. On the morning following her arrival, Sir Isaac
politely asked whether she would not remain a few days with them
before going on; and Mrs. Darling took him at his word and did remain.
Georgina also remained, and things seemed to go on very smoothly and
quietly, but Mrs. Carleton remained a great deal in her own room; and
to Mr. Frederick St. John's eyes her mother's face wore a strangely
haggard, anxious look.

"Is Mrs. Carleton well?" he asked her one day.

"Quite well, thank you," responded Mrs. Darling, stooping, as she
spoke, to pluck a geranium.

"I have not liked her look at times," continued Frederick, boldly. "I
was fearing she was not in--altogether good health."

"She is in excellent health," was the reply, and Mrs. Darling faced
the speaker with a look intended to express surprise. "Charlotte was
always strong. She and Rose are like myself, blessed with rude health:
I cannot say as much for the other two. I want to take Charlotte away
with me; but she does not feel inclined to come, and was quite angry
when she saw me arrive. She is very happy here."

No more was said, for Mrs. Darling sauntered leisurely away. Frederick
St. John had gained nothing by his move.

The dean, who had written to Mr. Pym, received in due course that
gentleman's answer. Mr. Norris, of Norris Court, had died mad. The
widow, subsequently Mrs. Darling, had hushed the matter up for the
sake of her child, and succeeded in keeping it secret. He, Mr. Pym,
had never disclosed it to mortal ears; but the high character of the
Dean of Westerbury was such that he knew he might safely confide the
fact to him. Indeed, from the tenour of the dean's letter, he felt
there might be some essential reason for not remaining silent.

"You see," cried Frederick, when the dean showed him the letter, "I
was right."

"Nay," dissented the dean. "Right as to your suspicion that madness
was in the family; but this does not prove that it has yet attacked
Mrs. Carleton."

"I suppose it would not prove it to most minds; it does to mine, in a
very great degree. You will at least admit that this renders her a
most undesirable wife for Isaac."

"Granted. But, Frederick, my opinion is that Sir Isaac is in just as
much danger from her as you are, and no more. Rely upon it he has no
idea of marrying."

Frederick was silent. In a sense he agreed with the dean; but he knew
how subtle is the constant companionship of a designing and attractive
woman; and that the danger was all the greater where that
companionship had been previously held aloof from, as in the case of
Sir Isaac.

Two or three days passed on, and nothing occurred to disturb the peace
even of fanciful Frederick St. John. The old routine of life was
observed at Castle Wafer, varied with visits to the Rectory, or with
the Rectory's visits back again. But for the suspicion he was making
so great a trouble of, Mr. St. John would have felt supremely happy. A
strangely bright feeling was stealing over him; a feeling whose source
he did not question or analyze. The influence of Georgina was quietly
making its way in his heart; perhaps, unconsciously to himself, it had
ever in a degree lain there.

Mrs. Darling sat in her room, writing letters. Mrs. Carleton was with
her, looking from the window, the folds of her silver-grey brocade
rustling with every movement. She wore very slight mourning now.

"Charlotte, my dear child," suddenly cried Mrs. Darling, "I am
writing to the cottage. Let me once again ask you when you will be
ready to go with me?"

"Never--to Alnwick. When I left the cottage to become George St.
John's wife, I left it, as a residence, for ever."

"Where _will_ you go? Will you go into Berkshire?--will you go to
London?--to Brighton?--to Paris? Only say where--I don't wish to force
you to Alnwick."

"Mamma, I beg you not to worry me on this point. I am very comfortable
at Castle Wafer, and you need not try to force me away from it. It is
lost labour."

Mrs. Darling made no reply. It would have been useless. All her life
she had found it "lost labour" to endeavour to force Charlotte to do
anything against her will; and sometimes she felt the yoke upon her
was a very heavy one. She bent over her writing again in silence.
Presently Charlotte spoke, abruptly:

"How long is that girl going to remain here?" Mrs. Darling's train of
thought just then was roaming to many things, pleasant or unpleasant,
and she thought "that girl" must mean Honour Tritton. Charlotte's eyes
were ablaze with light at the mistake; and Mrs. Darling could have
bitten her tongue out for her incaution in mentioning the name. What
she next said, did not mend it.

"Charlotte, my darling, I really beg your pardon. I'm sure I don't
know how I came to think of her, unless it was that I was talking to
her this morning. You----"

"Talking to _her!_" came the imperative interruption. "I should like
to know, mamma, what you can have to say to her. If every one had
their deserts, Honour Tritton would be--would be---- What did she
presume to say of me?"

"My dear Charlotte!" cried the unfortunate mother, half aghast at the
tone in which the last sentence was spoken, "she did not presume to
speak of you at all. It was only a casual meeting in one of the lower
passages. She just dropped a curtsey, and asked how I was: that was
all."

"She presumed to put herself in my way the other day, that woman; I
know that," scornfully returned Mrs. Carleton. "But that it might be
said I made too much of a trifle utterly beneath me, I should ask Sir
Isaac to banish her from Castle Wafer."

"Oh, Charlotte! What, because she--she happened to meet you?"

"No. For the misery she wrought in the years gone by. I wonder what
brought her _here_--why she came?"

Mrs. Darling had heard of the meeting with Honour on the stairs, and
knew as much of the scene as though she had been present. She passed
to another topic.

"Then it was of Miss Beauclerc you spoke, Charlotte?"

"It was of Miss Beauclerc. _I want to know what she stops here for_."

The low, impressive whisper in which this was spoken, astonished Mrs.
Darling. What had Charlotte got in her head now?

"My dear, it cannot matter to you whether she stays here or whether
she goes home."

"But it does matter: it matters very much. She is staying as a spy
upon me."

"A spy? Charlotte!"

"She is. She is doing what she can to turn Sir Isaac against me."

"Oh, Charlotte! Indeed you are mistaken. I am quite sure she is doing
nothing of the sort."

"I tell you yes. Look there!"

Mrs. Darling rose in obedience, and glanced from the window in the
direction in which Charlotte had pointed. Georgina Beauclerc, in her
flowing dinner-dress of a clear white muslin, was marching about with
Sir Isaac, both her hands clasped upon his arm, her pretty head and
its silken hair almost touching his face as she talked to him. That
Sir Isaac was bending down to the fair head, a great deal of tender
love in his face, might be discerned even at this distance.

"He promised to ride out with _me_ this afternoon; he was going on his
pony, and I was to try Mr. St. John's grey horse, and she came and
took him from me. He gave me up for her with scarcely a word of
apology, and they have been away together for hours somewhere on foot.
She cannot let him rest. The moment she is dressed for dinner, you
see, she lures him to her side again. And you say she is not plotting
against me?"

What could Mrs. Darling reply? The idea had taken possession of
Charlotte, and she knew that no earthly argument would turn it by so
much as a hair's-breadth. The shadow of a trouble that she should not
have strength to combat fell upon her; and as Charlotte abruptly left
the room, she took a letter from her pocket and read it with a gleam
of thankfulness, for it told of the speedy arrival of one who might be
of use.

Mrs. Carleton descended, glancing to the left and right of the broad
staircase, into all its angles, over the gilded balustrades down on
the inner hall, as had been her custom since that encounter with
Honour. Not with open look, but with stealthy glance, as if she
dreaded meeting the woman again. She went into the drawing-room, and
stood gazing through the open window with covert glances, partially
shielding herself behind the blue satin curtains. Georgina was on the
terrace with Sir Isaac, and on them her regard was fixed. A gaze,
evil, bitter, menacing. Her eyes shone with a lurid light, her lips
were pale, and her hands were contracted as with irrepressible anger.
In the midst of these unwholesome signs, as if instinct whispered to
her that she was not alone, she turned and saw, quietly seated at a
table near, and as quietly regarding her, Frederick St. John.

She came up to him at once, her brow smoothed to its ordinary
impassiveness.

"What a warm afternoon it has been, Mr. St. John!"

"Very warm."

"You are ready for dinner early," she said, in allusion to his notably
late appearance for that meal; often coming in after they had sat down
to table.

"I don't dine at home today. I am going with Miss Beauclerc to the
Rectory."

"And Sir Isaac also?" she quickly asked.

"I think not."

Sir Isaac and Georgina approached the window. They, with Frederick,
had walked to the Rectory that afternoon, and the dean asked them to
come in to dinner. It was very dull, he said, with only Miss Denison,
who generally contrived to act as a wet blanket. So it was arranged
that Georgina and Frederick should go; but Sir Isaac could not
promise. It appeared that Georgina was now urging him to accompany
them. Her voice was heard in the room.

"It is very uncharitable of you, Sir Isaac. You know what papa said it
was for him, with that statue of a woman there. If _you_ were shut up
in a house with a female Hottentot, and you asked papa to come in as a
relief, he would not think of refusing."

"But I can't go," returned Sir Isaac, in laughing tones. "I told the
dean that Mrs. St. John was not well enough to come down."

"And you will let me walk all that way without you! It's not kind, Sir
Isaac. Suppose I get run away with? There may be kidnappers in the
shrubbery."

"You will have a more efficient protector with you than I could make;
one young and powerful--I am old and weak."

"Never old to me--never old to me. Oh, I _wish_ you would come!"

"I wish I could, Georgina; you know that when you leave me, half my
sunshine goes also. But I must head the table at home, in the absence
of Mrs. St. John: I cannot leave my visitors."

"Tiresome people!" apostrophized Georgina, in allusion to the lady
visitors. "I know you would rather be with us. I shall tell papa that
if he is fixed with Miss Denison, you are fixed with Mrs. Carleton. I
don't see how you would get through your days with her just now, if it
were not for me."

She stepped into the room, a saucy expression on her charming face; a
loving smile on Sir Isaac's. Mrs. Carleton was in time to catch a
glimpse of each as she swiftly glided away in the distance; and
neither had the remotest suspicion that their conversation had been
overheard.

Frederick St. John rose. "I think we shall be late, Georgina."

"Shall we! I shall say it was your fault," cried the happy girl, as
she caught up her white mantle and straw hat from a chair. "I'm ready
now."

"Won't you put your cloak on?"

"No. I am only taking it to come back in tonight. You may carry it
for me."

She placed it on his arm; and with her face shaded only by her little
dainty parasol, they went out. Mrs. Carleton was at one of the other
windows watching the departure.

"Do you know the time, Georgina?" he asked.

"Oh--more than five, I suppose."

He held his watch towards her. It wanted only twenty-five minutes to
six. "Of course you can say it is my fault if you like; but Mrs.
Beauclerc will be excessively angry with both of us."

"Not as angry as Miss Denison will be," returned Georgina, laughingly.
"Fanciful old creature! saying she gets indigestion if she dines later
than half-past five. If I were papa, I should let her dine alone, and
order the regular dinner at seven. See how quickly she'd come to her
senses."

"If you were your papa you'd do just as he does" cried Frederick. "And
when you have a house of your own, Georgina, you will be just as
courteous as he is."

"Shall I? Not to Miss Denison. But I should take care not to have
disagreeable people staying with me. I wouldn't have Mrs. Carleton,
for instance."

"Do you think Mrs. Carleton disagreeable?" he asked. "I have heard you
say you liked her."

"So I did at first. I pitied her. But she gets very disagreeable. She
looks at me sometimes as if she would like to kill me, and--see what
she did yesterday."

Georgina extended her wrist towards her companion. There was a blue
mark upon it, as from pressure.

"How did she do this!" he exclaimed, examining the wrist.

"Not purposely, of course; that is, not intending to hurt me, I
differed from her: it was about going out with Sir Isaac. She said it
was too hot for me, and I said the hotter the pleasanter; and she
caught me by the wrist as I was running away. I cried out with the
pain; indeed it was very sharp; and Sir Isaac heard it outside and
looked back. She laughed then, and so did I, and I ran away. This
morning I saw that my wrist had turned blue."

"Did you tell Isaac of this?"

"I don't remember. Stay, though--I think I told him Mrs. Carleton had
been preaching morality to me, as connected with sunstrokes and
freckles," continued the careless girl "Please loose my hand, Mr. St.
John."

He released her hand, saying nothing. Georgina floated on by his side,
her blue ribbons and her fair hair flashing in the setting sun as they
passed through the shrubbery.

"I think she must be frequently out of temper," continued Georgina,
alluding still to Mrs. Carleton. "Did you see her as we passed the
window just now? She looked so cross at me."

"I presume she thinks she has cause for it," observed Mr. St. John.

"What cause?"

"She is jealous of you."

"Jealous of me?"

"Of you and Sir Isaac."

Georgina's grey eyes opened to their utmost width as she stared at the
speaker.

"Jealous of me and Sir Isaac? Why, what could put such an idea into
her stupid head? How _could_ she be jealous of me, in relation to Sir
Isaac? She might as well be jealous of papa."

"I suppose she thinks that she, as chief guest, ought to receive more
of the host's attention than any one else," he said, not caring to be
more explanatory. "And therefore she does not like your monopolizing
Isaac."

"Oh!" cried Georgina, turning up her pretty nose. "I declare I thought
you meant it in another light. I'll take up Sir Isaac's attention all
tomorrow, just to tease her."

He made no reply. He was thinking. It had not been his fault that
Georgina's stay at Castle Wafer was prolonged; but he had seen no
feasible way of preventing it. And yet there was always an
undercurrent in his heart--a wish that she was away from it, beyond
the risk of any possible harm.

"Please put the mantle over my shoulders, Mr. St. John."

"Ah, you are getting cold! You should have put it on at first."

"Getting cold this warm afternoon! Indeed no. But in one minute we
shall be in the Rectory grounds, liable to meet mamma or her charming
guest. They would sing a duet all dinner-time at my walking here in
nothing but my dinner-dress. Miss Denison comes out before dinner, and
creeps round the paths for half-an-hour. She calls it 'taking her
constitutional.' Thank you; she can't find fault now."

Mrs. Beauclerc was a fretful lady of forty-five; Miss Denison was a
fretful lady of somewhat more: and Georgina was greeted with a shower
of reproaches, for having kept dinner waiting. She laid the blame on
Mr. St. John; and Miss Denison looked daggers at him to her heart's
content.

"I could not make him believe you were dining at the gothic hour of
half-past five," cried the imperturbable girl. "The more I told him to
hasten the less he did so. And, mamma, Mrs. St. John says will we all
go to Castle Wafer for the evening."

She stole a glance at him. He was standing calm, upright; a
half-tender, half-reproving look cast upon her for her nonsense. But
he contradicted nothing.

The dean and Mr. St. John were sitting alone after dinner, when a
servant came in and said a gentleman was asking if he could see Dr.
Beauclerc. The dean inquired who it was, but the servant did not know:
when he requested the name, the gentleman said he would tell it
himself to the doctor.

"You can show him in here," said the dean, who was one of the most
accessible men living.

The servant retired, and ushered in a little grey-haired man in
spectacles. The dean did not recognize him: Frederick St. John did,
and with some astonishment. It was Mr. Pym of Alnwick.

He explained to the dean that a little matter of business had brought
him into the neighbourhood, and he had taken the opportunity
(following on the slight correspondence which had just taken place
between them) to call on Dr. Beauclerc. Dr. Beauclerc--who was not
addressed as "Mr. Dean" out of his cathedral city as much as he was in
it--inquired how long he had been in the neighbourhood, and found he
had only just arrived by the evening train,--had come straight to the
Rectory from the station.

A suspicion crossed the dean's mind, and he spoke in accordance with
it. "Did Mr. Pym come from Alnwick on purpose to see him?"

"No," said the little surgeon, taking the glass of wine the dean
passed to him, but declining other refreshment. "I have been summoned
to the neighbourhood of Lexington to see a patient; and as I was on
the spot, I thought I would call upon you, Dr. Beauclerc. My chief
motive in doing so," he added, after a brief pause, "was to inquire
whether you had any particular reason for asking me those questions."

The dean looked at Frederick St. John, as much as to say, Shall we, or
shall we not confide in this medical man?

"I do not inquire from motives of idle curiosity, Dr. Beauclerc,"
resumed the surgeon, marking the dean's hesitation. "Believe me, I
have an urgent reason for wishing to know."

"Better tell him everything," cried Frederick, who had read the dean's
look, and was vehement in his earnestness. "I am sure Mr. Pym may be
trusted; and perhaps he can help us with his advice."

"Very well," said the dean. "But you know, Frederick, the suspicion is
more yours than mine."

"Yes, yes; I take it all upon myself," was the young man's impatient
answer, so fearful was he of losing this new ally. "Mr. Pym, you have
known Mrs. Carleton St. John all her life, have you not? She was
Charlotte Norris."

"Yes, it may be said that I have known her all her life. I brought her
into the world."

"Well, a disagreeable suspicion has recently come upon us in regard to
her--upon me, that is. An awful suspicion; one that I do not like to
mention."

"What is it?" cried the surgeon.

"I fear that she is showing symptoms of insanity."

Frederick St. John looked at Mr. Pym as he spoke, expecting a start of
surprise. Far from evincing any, that gentleman quietly raised his
wine to his lips, sipped it, and put the glass down again.

"Ah," said he. "Well?"

Then Mr. St. John poured forth his tale. He who was usually almost
coldly impassive, who had every tone of his voice, every pulse of his
veins under control, seemed this evening to have become all impulse
and excitement. But in telling his story, he grew gradually calm and
cool.

Mr. Pym listened in silence. At the conclusion of the story he waited
a minute or two, apparently expecting to hear more, but the narrator
had ceased. He spoke then.

"You are sure about that telegram--that it was Prance who sent it?"

"Quite sure. There can be no mistake about that."

"A cautious woman," observed the surgeon. "She mentioned no name. You
see it might have applied to any one as much as to Mrs. Carleton."

"The very remark I made," interposed the dean, and it was the first
word he had spoken. "I tell Mr. St. John that the symptoms and facts
he thinks so much of are very slight."

"Too slight to pronounce any one insane upon," said the doctor. "Will
you be so good as tell me, Mr. St. John, what _first_ gave rise to
suspicion in your mind? It is a rare thing, however eccentric our
friends' actions may be, for us to take up the notion that they are
insane."

"What first gave rise to the suspicion in my mind?" repeated
Frederick. "Why, I don't suppose I ever should have thought of it but
for--but I forgot to tell you that," he broke off, suddenly
remembering that he had omitted to mention what Rose Darling had told
him at Belport.

He related it now. The assertions of the nurse Brayford that Mrs.
Carleton was mad; her terror at the sight of the lighted lanterns in
the Flemish town on St. Martin's Eve. Still Mr. Pym said nothing: he
only took out a note-book and entered something in it.

"Can you not help us, Mr. Pym? Do you not think she must be insane?"

"I cannot say that. But I may tell you that I have always feared it
for her."

"Her father died mad, you wrote word to the dean."

"He died raving mad. You have confided in me, and I see no reason why
I should not tell you all I know--premising, of course, that it must
not be repeated. His madness, as I gathered at the time, was
hereditary; but he had been (unlike his daughter) perfectly well all
his life, betraying no symptoms of it. I was sent for in haste one
night to Norris Court. I was only a young man then--thirty, perhaps;
I'm turned sixty now. My predecessor and late partner, Mr. Jevons, had
been the usual attendant there, but he had retired from business, and
was very infirm. I thought I was wanted for Mrs. Norris, whom I was to
attend in her approaching confinement; but when I reached the Court, I
found what it was. Mr. Norris had suddenly become mad; utterly,
unmistakably mad; and Mrs. Norris, poor thing, was nearly as much so
with terror. He had always been of a remarkably jealous disposition;
some slight incident had caused him to become that day jealous of his
wife, without, I am certain, the least foundation, and after an awful
scene, he attempted her life with his razor. In her endeavour to
escape from him, she dashed her hand through a mirror, whether
accidentally or purposely she could not afterwards remember. Never
shall I forget her dismay and terror when I reached the Court. Her
husband was tolerably quiet then; exhausted, no doubt, from violence;
and his own man, James, was keeping guard over him. That night we had
to put him into a strait-waistcoat. Mrs. Norris, poor young lady--and
she was not twenty then--cried most bitterly as she told me the tale
of her husband's jealousy. She could not imagine what had given rise
to it. She had only received some gentleman, a friend of theirs who
had often called, and had sat and talked with him in the drawing-room,
as she would with any other visitor; but the jealousy, as I explained
to her, preceded the attack of madness. In three or four days the
child Charlotte was born. I took the baby in to Mr. Norris, thinking
it might possibly have a soothing effect upon him. It had just the
contrary--though it is unnecessary to recall minor particulars now. He
had seemed better that day, quite collected, and his servant had
removed the strait-waistcoat. An accession of violence came on at
sight of the child; he sprang out of bed and attempted to seize it; I
put the baby down under the bed, while I helped James to overpower his
master; but it was the hardest struggle I had ever been engaged in.
Mr. Norris never was calm afterwards, and died in a few days, raving
mad."

"But," interrupted the dean, "how was it possible to keep this state
of things from transpiring in the house? The domestics understood, I
believe, that their master died of fever."

"True, Dr. Beauclerc. Fortunately the room to which Mr. Norris was
taken was shut in by other surrounding apartments, and no sound
penetrated beyond it. The servants were kept away by a hint of
infection; a confidential man from an asylum was had in to assist
James and take turn in watching--the servants supposing him to be
merely a sick-nurse. Poor Mrs. Norris entreated for her child's sake
that the nature of its father's malady might be suppressed, if
possible; and the secret was kept. Whether it was well in the long-run
that it should be so kept, I have often asked myself."

Mr. Pym paused in thought. Frederick St. John interrupted it.

"You say this madness was hereditary?"

"Mr. Jevons managed to get to the Court when he found what had
happened. It appeared that some near relatives of Mr. Norris--two, I
think--had died abroad, insane. Mr. Norris was aware of this, and had
been fond of talking of it to Mr. Jevons: the latter thought he had
feared the malady for himself. He had used to say that he should never
marry; and that resolution Mr. Jevons emphatically endorsed. However,
he did marry, and, of course, Mr. Jevons had no power to prevent it.
These particulars I learned of Mr. Jevons as I was driving him to the
Court. Mrs. Norris begged to be made acquainted with all details; and
after her husband's death Mr. Jevons disclosed them to her,
suppressing nothing. What a changed woman she was from that time! and
I believe would then have been thankful had her baby died. 'It must be
my care to prevent its marrying, should it live to grow up,' she said
to Mr. Jevons in my presence; and ten times over during that one
interview she begged him to tell her whether he thought the child
would inherit the fatal disease."

"But the child did marry," interrupted the dean. "Married Mr. Carleton
St. John."

"Yes. I believe Mrs. Darling did try to prevent it, but it was of no
use. Whilst she concealed the reason, arguments could not fail to
prove powerless. It might have been better--I don't know--had she
allowed her daughter to become acquainted with the truth. My opinion
is, that Charlotte has more than once, even before her marriage, been
on the verge of insanity. In her attacks of temper the violence
displayed was very great for a person perfectly sane."

"Did Mrs. Darling ever attempt to excuse this violence to you?"

"Mrs. Darling has never spoken to me on the subject at all since her
first husband's death," replied Mr. Pym. "She has ignored it. But for
an expression at times in her face, I might suppose she fancied that
all recollection of the tragedy had faded from my mind. When I heard
that George St. John was about to marry Miss Norris, I called on Mrs.
Darling, and in the course of conversation I said, incidentally, as it
were, 'Will this marriage be for your daughter's benefit, think you?'
and she seemed offended, and said, Of course it would--what did I
mean?"

"Could you not"--Frederick St. John hesitated as he spoke--"have
whispered a word of warning to Mr. George St. John?"

"I suppose not. The thought crossed me, but I could not see that I was
justified in carrying it out. Had Mrs. Darling met me in a different
manner, I might have ventured. I don't think it would have done any
good, though. George St. John was in love with Miss Norris, or fancied
himself so; and would most likely have married her in spite of
caution."

"In her life, subsequently to her marriage, were there at any time
indications of insanity?"

"I feel tempted to say there were, though I could not bear witness to
it in a court of law," was the reply of Mr. Pym. "One thing is
indisputable--that she inherited her father's jealousy of disposition.
I don't know what it might have been in him; but in her it was in
excess so great as to be in itself a species of madness. She was not,
that I ever heard, jealous of her husband; it displayed itself in her
jealous love for her child. Until he was born, I don't think she had
one of those paroxysms of violence that those about her called
'temper.' George St. John could not understand them. These fits of
passion, coupled with the fierce jealousy that was beyond all reason,
all parallel in my experience, were very like madness."

There was a pause. Frederick St. John broke it with a question.

"Did you suspect--I mean, was there any cause to suspect--that she had
a hand in the little boy's death--Benja's?"

"I did suspect it. That is, I doubted whether it might not be so,"
said Mr. Pym, in low tones. "There was an ugly point in the matter
that I have never liked--that of the doors being fastened. But I am
bound to say there was no proof against her. Still I could not get rid
of my doubts, and I think her mother entertained them also."

"Mrs. Darling!"

"I think so. We both caught each other in the act of trying whether
the bolt would slip when the door closed, in the manner asserted. You
see, when a suspicion of insanity attaches to a man or woman, we are
prone to imagine things that we should never think of doing under
ordinary circumstances."

"Very true," emphatically assented the dean.

"The most bitter person upon the tragedy was Honour; it was only
natural she should be so; but even she did not suspect Mrs. Carleton.
She spoke against her in her ravings, but ravings go for nothing. If
Honour suspected any one, it was Prance rather than Mrs. Carleton."

"Prance!" echoed Mr. St. John.

"She told some tale, at the time, of having seen Prance hiding in a
niche of the corridor, opposite the nursery door. I did not think much
of it, from the state of confusion in which Honour must then have
been; and Prance denied it _in toto_: said she had never been there."

"Then you cannot give me any help?" said Frederick St. John, in tones
of disappointment. "You are unable to bear out my suspicions of her
present madness?"

"How can I bear them out?" asked Mr. Pym. "I have not seen her."

Frederick drummed for a minute on the table. "Don't you think it
strange that Prance should telegraph for Mrs. Darling in the manner
she did, and that Mrs. Darling should hasten to respond to it--on the
wings of the wind, as one may say--and stay on at Castle Wafer?"

"I do," was the surgeon's reply: "assuming that the message related to
Mrs. Carleton, of which I suppose there can be no doubt. Mrs. Carleton
is not ill in body; therefore it must have had reference to her mind."

"I wish you could see her!" impulsively spoke Frederick, "and watch
her as I have done."

"I intend to see her," said Mr. Pym. "I thought of calling at once on
Mrs. Darling; now, as I leave you."

"Do so," cried Frederick. "Contrive to remain a few days at Castle
Wafer. You can say that you are my guest. Stay; I'll give you the
invitation in a careless sort of way before them all tonight, and you
can accept it."

"We will see about that," said the surgeon, rising. "I had better be
going, if Dr. Beauclerc will excuse me, or it may look late to call.
Perhaps you will direct me the nearest way to Castle Wafer."

"I will go with you," said Mr. St. John. "The nearest way is through
the shrubberies. We shall be there in five minutes."

They went out together, the dean saying he would follow with the
ladies, as they were all to spend the evening at Castle Wafer. But
when the dean reached the drawing-room he found they had already gone,
and he did not hurry himself.

It was a lovely moonlight night, clear and bright, and Mr. St. John
and the surgeon commenced their walk, talking eagerly. Mr. St. John
told him, what he had not liked to mention before the dean--Mrs.
Carleton's jealousy of Miss Beauclerc; the occasional wildness of her
eyes when she looked at her, and the little adventure in Georgina's
chamber at midnight. "It is an awful responsibility that rests upon
us," he remarked. "I feel it so, Mr. Pym, now that I have heard your
story tonight. If her father went mad from jealousy, and attempted the
life of his wife, Mrs. Carleton may be attempting some violence to
Miss Beauclerc."

"Miss Beauclerc is young and good-looking, I suppose."

"Both; and her manners are perfectly charming. She is just the girl
that would be obnoxious to a rival."

"It is all fancy, I presume, on Mrs. Carleton's part. There is nothing
between Miss Beauclerc and Sir Isaac?"

Frederick St. John broke into a laugh. "Sir Isaac loves her as he
would a child of his own; and she venerates him as a father. There is
no other sort of love between them, Mr. Pym."

Mr. Pym took a side glance at the speaker. Something in the tone had
struck him that some one else might be a lover of Miss Beauclerc's, if
Sir Isaac was not.

"Even allowing that Mrs. Carleton has been sane hitherto, and my
suspicion a myth, it would never do for her to marry Sir Isaac,"
resumed Frederick. "You would say so if you knew my brother and his
extreme sensitiveness. The very thought of his wife being liable to
insanity would be to him perfectly horrible."

"It would be to most people," said the doctor.

"I think he must be told now. I have abstained from speaking out
hitherto, from a fear that my motives might be misconstrued. My
brother, a confirmed old bachelor, has brought me up to consider
myself his heir; and it would look as though I were swayed by
self-interest."

"I understand," said the surgeon. "But he must be saved from Mrs.
Carleton."

"I cannot bring myself to think that he is in real danger; I believe
still that he has no thought of marrying, and never will have. But
Mrs. Carleton is undeniably attractive, and stranger things have been
known."

"The better plan would be to lay the whole case before Sir Isaac. It
need not be yourself. I should suggest Dr. Beauclerc. And then----"

The surgeon ceased, arrested by the warning hand of Frederick. They
had turned into the dark labyrinth of a place where the artificial
rocks rose on the confines of the Rectory grounds. Georgina Beauclerc
was walking very deliberately towards them. Not at her did Frederick
lift his hand; but at a swift, dark figure, who was following her
silently as a shadow, stealthily as an omen of evil. Frederick St.
John sprang forward and clasped Georgina in his arms.

The dark figure turned suddenly and vanished; but not before its
glaring eyes and its white teeth had been seen by the unwelcome
intruder. He recognized Mrs. Carleton, her black lace shawl thrown
over her head.

"Well, I'm sure!" exclaimed Georgina.

It all passed in an instant. Georgina had heard nothing, seen nothing;
and she felt inclined to resent Mr. St. John's extraordinary movement,
when the first surprise was over. He held her for a moment against his
beating heart; beating more perceptibly than usual just then.

"What did you do that for? Were you going to smother me?"

"I did it to shield you from harm, my darling," he whispered,
unconscious, perhaps, that he used the endearing term. Rarely had
Frederick St. John been less himself than he was at that moment. Miss
Beauclerc looked at him in surprise; in the midst of her bounding
pulses, her glowing blushes, she saw that something had disturbed his
equanimity.

"What are you doing out here alone?"

"You need not be cross"--and indeed his sharp quick question had
sounded so. "As if I could not take a stroll by moonlight if I like!
Perhaps you are afraid of the moon, as mamma is."

"But what were you doing? Had you come from Castle Wafer? You must not
go out at night alone, Georgina."

"Oh indeed; who says so?" she returned, with wilful impertinence; but
it was all put on to hide the ecstatic rapture his one word had
brought to her. "If you must know, mamma and Miss Denison kept up such
a chorus of abuse of me as we went to Castle Wafer, that I would not
go on with them. I came slowly back to meet you and papa."

He had drawn her arm within his own, and was leading her back to the
Rectory. She could hardly keep up with him.

"Where are you hurrying me to?"

"To the dean. He will take care of you to Castle Wafer."

It may be that she thought some one else might have taken care of her.
But she said nothing. Just before they reached the Rectory door, Mr.
St. John stopped under the shade of the laurels.

"Georgina, I must say a serious word to you. Put away nonsense for a
minute, and hear me. I think I have saved you from a great danger;
Will you make me a promise in return?"

"From a great danger!" she repeated, the words rendering her as
serious as he was. "What danger? What can you mean?"

"I cannot tell precisely what danger, neither can I say more
particularly what I mean. Nevertheless I think I am right. It is not
good for you to be about alone just now, whether before nightfall or
after it. You must give me your promise not to be so."

"What is there to harm me?" she whispered, involuntarily clinging more
closely to his arm.

"Leave that with me for the present. Only trust me, and do as I say.
Will you promise?"

"Yes, if there is a necessity for it. I promise you."

Her earnest face was raised in the moonlight. She had never seen him
so solemn as now. He bent his head.

"Will you seal the compact, Georgina?"

Instinct, and the grave tender tone, told her what he meant. Her eyes
filled with tears; but she did not draw her face away, and he left a
kiss upon her lips.

"Mind, Georgina, that's as binding as an oath," he said, as he walked
on. "Take care that you strictly keep your promise. There is urgent
necessity why you should do so. Sometime I may tell you why, if you
are good. I may be telling you all sorts of things besides."

Her face was bent to conceal its hot blushes. Heaven seemed suddenly
to have opened for Georgina Beauclerc.

"Halloa!" cried the dean, as he met them in the hall. "I thought you
had gone on with your mamma, Georgina."

"She came back to walk with you, sir," said Mr. St. John, only waiting
to speak the words and then hastening away again.

Mr. Pym was standing near the rocks as he got up to him. "Where did
you hide yourself?" cried Frederick. "You seemed to vanish into air. I
could see you nowhere."

"I slipped behind here," answered the surgeon, indicating the rocks.
"Was not one of those ladies Mrs. Carleton?"

"Yes."

"Well, I thought it might be as well for her not to see me here. I
wish to call at Castle Wafer by accident, you understand."

Frederick St. John nodded. "Could you see her teeth and her glistening
eyes? She was stealthily following Miss Beauclerc. _For what purpose?_
I am thankful we were here."

"Where is Miss Beauclerc now?"

"She is coming on with the dean. I have cautioned her not to go out
alone. Mr. Pym, what is to be done? This state of things cannot be
allowed to go on. I call upon you, as a good and true man, to aid us,
if it be in your power."

Mr. Pym made no reply. He walked on in his favourite attitude, his
hands clasped behind his back, just as he was walking in that
sorrowful chamber, the evening you first beheld him; and his face
wore, to Mr. St. John's thinking, a strangely troubled look in the
moonlight.



CHAPTER XXXV.
ON THE TERRACE.


Mr. Pym went to the house alone. Frederick St. John met him in the
hall as if by accident, and took him at once into the dining-room. Any
suspicion that they had met before at the Rectory and come away from
it together, was as far from the minds of the assembled company, as
that they had both dropped from the clouds.

Mrs. St. John, who was better and had come down since dinner, Mrs.
Beauclerc, Mrs. Carleton, and Sir Isaac, had sat down to whist. Mrs.
Darling and Miss Denison were talking to each other at the centre
table; Miss Denison abusing Georgina as the wildest girl in
Christendom, Mrs. Darling protesting that she could not be half so
wild as her own daughter Rose. Mrs. Darling was all wonder and
astonishment when Mr. Pym came in. What _could_ have brought him to
Lexington?--how very kind of him to call and see her. And it was she
who took him up to introduce him to Sir Isaac.

One moment's recoil, one startled look at the face, and Mrs. Carleton
held out her hand to the little surgeon, and was her own calm and
gracious self. Seated at whist there, opposite to Sir Isaac, her voice
low and sweet, her manner so gentle and collected, it would never have
entered into any one's mind to imagine that _she_ had been gliding
about stealthily in the moonlight like a ghost, or a female poacher on
forbidden ground: and perhaps the surgeon might have been excused his
momentary doubt whether it was really Mrs. Carleton that they had
seen.

"How well you are looking!" he exclaimed, as he shook hands with her.

And it was no hollow compliment. The woman he saw before him now,
radiant in beauty, was no more like the distressing shadow he had
visited at Ypres, than he himself was like a lamp-post. Mrs. Carleton
laughed. Yes, she said, she was quite well now.

Mr. Pym begged he might not interrupt the game, and drew away. Close
upon that, the dean and his daughter came in, and then came tea. Ere
the surgeon had well swallowed his, he was pacing the terrace outside
with Mrs. Darling, no one paying attention to them.

"You see I have obeyed your summons, Mrs. Darling," he began; "have
called at Castle Wafer by accident, as you desired. What is the
business that you wish to consult me upon?"

Mrs. Darling had caught up her daughter's black lace shawl as she left
the room, and put it over her head; just as Charlotte had so recently
worn it upon hers. She pulled it tightly round her silk gown as she
answered--

"I wish to speak to you about my daughter: I fear she is ill."

"In body, or in mind?"

A moment's struggle with herself ere she should answer. But no; even
now, although she had summoned the surgeon, at a great cost and
trouble, to her aid, she _could_ not bring her lips to admit a hint of
the fatal malady.

"In mind!" she echoed, rather indignantly. "I don't know what you
mean, Mr. Pym. What should be wrong with Mrs. Carleton's mind?"

"As you please," he said, with indifference. "I can go back tonight
if I am not wanted."

They had come to the end of the gravel walk, and Mrs. Darling stood
still, apparently contemplating the lovely prospect to be seen from
Castle Wafer. How anxious looked her face in the moonlight; but for
those betraying beams the surgeon might not have read the struggle
that was going on within her breast.

"Why should you think anything was wrong with her mind?" she again
asked, but this time the tones were of pain, not of resentment.

"Mrs. Darling, it may be as well that we should understand each
other," said he. "I did not come here to be trifled with. Either let
there be confidence between us, or let me go back whence I came. It
may facilitate matters if I tell you _I_ have cause to suspect your
daughter's mind to be at present not altogether in a healthy state. If
I do go back, I fear it will be my duty to intimate as much beforehand
to Sir Isaac St. John."

She looked perfectly aghast. "What do you mean, Mr. Pym?"

"I mean just what I say, and no more. Oh, Mrs. Darling, what nonsense
this is--you and I to play at bo-peep with each other! We have been
doing it all the years of your daughter's life. You cannot forget how
much I know of the past: do you think I have drowned my memory in a
draught of Lethe's waters? Surely if there is one man on earth whom
you might consult confidentially, it is myself. I know as much as you
know."

Mrs. Darling burst into tears, and sobbed for some minutes. "I shall
be better now," she said; "it will do me good. Heaven alone knows what
the tension has been."

"And now just tell me the whole, from beginning to end," said Mr. Pym,
in a more kindly tone, "you ought to have done it years ago. You may
be sure I will do what I can for the best: and there may be safety in
counsel."

Now that the ice was broken, she entered pretty freely into details,
and soon experienced that relief, and it may also be said that
satisfaction in talking, which this confidential disclosure of some
long-secret trouble is sure to bring. She told Mr. Pym how, ever since
Benja's death, she had had her doubts of Charlotte's perfect sanity:
and she freely confessed that her hasty return to Castle Wafer was
caused by a telegraphic message from Prance, who was growing alarmed
at her mistress's symptoms.

"What symptoms were they?" inquired the doctor.

"I don't know that I can enumerate them to you; they were little odds
and ends of things that Prance has noticed. Not much, taken
separately, but curious in the aggregate. Of course the message did
not contain them: I have learnt them since I arrived. One thing I
disliked more than all the rest--Prance awoke one night and found her
mistress was out of the room. She was hastening away in search of her,
and saw her coming out of Miss Beauclerc's chamber. Now, for some
reason or other, Charlotte has taken a prejudice against Miss
Beauclerc----."

"A moment, Mrs. Darling. If I am to help you with advice, you must
speak without disguise. Do not say 'for some reason or other;' tell
the reason, if you know it."

Another struggle with herself: _must_ she confess? Mrs. Darling
clasped her hands in pain.

"Oh, how cruel it is to have to say these things! And of Charlotte,
who has always been so reticent, so honourable, whatever her other
failings. There! let me speak out and have done with it. I believe she
is jealous of Miss Beauclerc: of Miss Beauclerc and of Sir Isaac St.
John."

"Your daughter would like to remain here for ever--mistress of Castle
Wafer, and Sir Isaac's wife?"

"Yes, I do believe it is so. And I could have believed such planning
of any one in the world rather than of Charlotte. I have striven to
persuade her to leave with me, and it is of no use. I would not for
the world that she should marry again."

"She ought not to have married at all," remarked the surgeon.

"I could not help it. I did my best. You don't know what a care
Charlotte has always been to me!"

"To return to Miss Beauclerc. Do you fear Mrs. Carleton might injure
her?"

"Not if she retains her reason. But--should that leave her, even
momentarily,--Mr. Pym," she broke off, "it was because I found myself
incompetent to deal with these troubles that I wrote for you."

"You must take her away from Castle Wafer without delay."

"But she will not be taken away. In all ordinary matters she is as
sane as I am; as capable of judging, of arguing, and of sensibly
acting. It is only now and then that a sort of paroxysm comes over
her. It may be only violent passion, to which you know she has ever
been subject; but, it may be something worse. She is then, as I
believe, incapable of controlling her actions; and should she find an
opportunity of doing an injury at these times he might do it. There
are two people in this house against whom I can see she is desperately
incensed: Miss Beauclerc and Honour Tritton. Should she find herself
alone with either of them in one of these paroxysms----"

Mrs. Darling stopped. The subject was too painful to continue. But the
surgeon took up the thread in a quiet tone.

"We might have a second edition of the Alnwick tragedy."

Mrs. Darling--he could see it in the bright night--seemed to recoil a
step. But she strove to answer with more than customary calmness.

"The Alnwick tragedy! I do not understand."

"When Alnwick's heir was--killed."

"Oh, Mr. Pym, Mr. Pym! you _cannot_ think that was anything but a
miserable accident?" cried the unfortunate mother. "It was nothing
else. Honour alone was in fault."

"It may be that we shall never know," he answered. "My
impression--nay, my belief--you and I had better be outspoken now,
Mrs. Darling--always was, that Mrs. Carleton _had_ something to do
with that. I think at the time you entertained the same opinion."

Mrs. Darling made no answer. She walked on, her scared face raised in
that tell-tale moonlight; her very lips white.

"I thought the probabilities, knowing what you and I know, were
greatly against her at the time," repeated the surgeon; "I think them
greater now. You are aware, I presume, that the imaginary image of
Benja and the lighted church haunted her for months? And in that show
of lanterns in France, on St. Martin's Eve----"

"How did you hear of that?" interrupted Mrs. Darling. "Oh, I get to
hear of many things," was the reply. "It does not matter how. I fear
this terror, in one so cold and impassive as your daughter has always
been, is rather suggestive of a guilty conscience."

"Why recall this?" asked Mrs. Darling, with a sob. "I think you are
wrong in your suspicions."

"I do not recall it to give you pain. Only to impress upon you how
essential it is, with these doubts upon our minds, that Mrs. Carleton
should be removed from Castle Wafer."

"Indeed, I see it as strongly as you do. But you know what her _will_
has always been. And if our suspicion of her state of mind is wrong,
and she is really sane, we are not justified in forcing her actions.
Can you remain a few days and watch her, so as to form an opinion of
her state? There's a plain, comfortable inn at hand, the Barley Mow,
and you could be here very much in the daytime."

"For the matter of that, I could contrive to get invited to stay
here," observed the surgeon, with a cough. "That good-natured brother
of Sir Isaac's is sure to ask me. And, to tell you the truth, Mrs.
Darling, if I undertake to watch her at all, it must be a close and
uninterrupted watch."

"Close and uninterrupted!" repeated Mrs. Darling, whom the words did
not altogether please. "I am so very fearful of any suspicion being
excited abroad as to Charlotte's state."

"That suspicion already exists," remarked the doctor. "Your daughter's
manners--these paroxysms that you speak of--have been observed and
commented on. It was only a post or two before I got your summons,
that I received a letter from this neighbourhood, implying doubts of
Mrs. Carleton's state of mind, and inquiring if I could inform the
writer whether insanity had been in her family."

Mrs. Darling's breath was nearly taken away with astonishment. "Who
could have sent the letter? Surely, not Sir Isaac!"

"The letter was a confidential letter, and I cannot name the writer."

"If it was not Sir Isaac, it must have been Frederick St. John. Why
need _he_ meddle?"

"It was neither Frederick St. John nor Sir Isaac: I may tell you that
much. I only mention this to prove to you that even were we willing to
allow matters to go on as they have been going, it is now impossible.
A weighty responsibility lies upon me, Mrs. Darling: and something
must be done in one shape or another. Had I received no summons from
you, I think I should still have come to Lexington."

Mrs. Darling walked to the end of the terrace before replying. Matters
seemed to be growing complicated. Was the time of exposure really
come? It had always lain upon her with an awful dread.

"But what can you do?" she asked. "Suppose, after watching Charlotte,
you come to the conclusion that there's nothing really the matter with
her----"

"But I should not come to that conclusion," he interrupted. "Were I to
remain in the house a month, and see no proof whatever of insanity, I
could not be sure that it did not exist. We know how cunning these
people are, and----"

"Oh, Mr. Pym, how cruelly you speak!"

"I am sorry to do so. What I was about to say, in answer to your
question, is this. Allowing that I perceive no present grounds for
alarm, I must still assume that such grounds do exist; in short, both
you and I know they do: and there will be one of two courses to
pursue. Either you must remove your daughter from Castle Wafer before
I quit it: or I must get rid of my responsibility by disclosing my
fears to Sir Isaac St. John."

"No, no; not to him--not to any one if it can be prevented," implored
Mrs. Darling. "I will get Charlotte away. Anything rather than make
the dread public. Think how long I have succeeded in concealing it."

"To speak to Sir Isaac would not be to make it public. And I have
already told you, Mrs. Darling, it is not so entirely a secret as you
have supposed. However, if you remove Charlotte, undertaking that she
does not return, there will be no cause for my speaking to any one."

"I'll do it all; I'll try and do it," said Mrs. Darling. "And now
about your own stay at Castle Wafer. How shall you manage it?"

"Leave it to me," replied Mr. Pym. "We medical men often possess a
pass-key in an emergency. I think Mrs. Carleton will not like my
staying. She did not seem pleased to see me."

"No?"

"It struck me that she did not. I observed a strange sort of shiver, a
look of terror, pass over her face when she saw me."

"How observant you are!" was Mrs. Darling's comment, "_I_ saw nothing
of it."

"It is our business to be observant."

"Of course. And very useful I dare say you find the habit."

"You spoke of Honour Tritton," resumed the surgeon, passing by the
other remark. "Why do you suppose----"

"Hush!" breathed Mrs. Darling in a warning voice, and she laid her
hand upon his arm to enforce the caution more emphatically. "Is that
Charlotte?"

Some one had cautiously raised the window of an upper room, and was
peeping out. Mr. Pym's quick eyes saw at once that it was not
Charlotte, but Prance. Mrs. Prance had her share of curiosity as well
as more demonstrative people.

"We had better go in, Mrs. Darling," remarked the surgeon. "Should
Mrs. Carleton come out and see us talking together, she might fancy my
visit here had reference to her, and be forthwith on her guard
accordingly. As she was--I know she was--on her guard when I went to
Ypres."

The evening was not quite over, when the anxious pacers on the terrace
re-entered the drawing-room; the whist players were just rising. Mrs.
Carleton came over at once to Mr. Pym. Handsome and stately did she
look, her rich dress sweeping the ground; her face calm, her manner
gracious, she seemed just as sane as Mr. Pym himself. He happened to
be looking with some interest at Miss Beauclerc; a fair, lovely,
attractive girl, in her pretty white dress, and with her grey-blue
honest eyes.

"When did you come to Lexington, Mr. Pym?"

The question proceeded from Mrs. Carleton, who had slipped into a seat
beside him. He answered that he had arrived only that evening; had
been sent for to see a patient.

"Who is it?" she asked.

"A young man suffering from heart disease," promptly responded Mr.
Pym, deeming this positive evasion justifiable under the
circumstances.

"And so you took the opportunity to call at Castle Wafer!" she said.
And there might have been the slightest possible resentment
perceptible in the tone, though not to an ear less quick than the
surgeon's.

"Just so," he answered. "When we have nothing particular to do with
ourselves, we are apt to make use of any past civilities that may be
available. I remembered that Mr. Frederick St. John, when I met him at
Alnwick, proffered me an invitation to call at Castle Wafer, should I
ever travel to its vicinity."

"Oh!" she said. "Fred St. John's rather fond of those impromptu
invitations. Do you go back tomorrow?"

"Not unless my patient shall have done with me."

Mr. Pym remained at Castle Wafer, a temporary guest. In the most
natural manner conceivable, Frederick St. John, without being
suspected of any ulterior motive, pressed the invitation on the little
surgeon. Castle Wafer would be a more comfortable roof for him than
the Barley Mow, and his sojourn there would afford him, Frederick, an
opportunity of improving the acquaintance begun at Alnwick, he
graciously observed, when they had met at the funeral of Mr. Carleton
St. John. Mr. Pym suffered himself to be persuaded. And thus the
surgeon took up his task of watching Mrs. Carleton, a very
private-detective; installed thereunto by two anxious parties, neither
of whom suspected the connivance of the other. What wheels within
wheels there are in this world!

In one sense of the word, the step might have been dispensed with, for
it did not serve to prevent the disclosure to Sir Isaac St. John. Mrs.
Darling's great hope from the respite of the two or three days'
watching, was, that she should in the meanwhile succeed in inducing
Charlotte to bid adieu to Castle Wafer, and thus obviate the necessity
for any appeal to Sir Isaac. It might have proved so, so far as Mr.
Pym was concerned; but the initiative was taken by the dean.

Very disagreeably impressed by the fresh doubts of Mrs. Carleton's
sanity, acquired during the evening visit of Mr. Pym to the Rectory,
the dean considered that there was now sufficient matter to justify a
communication to Sir Isaac. He resolved to make it himself; and on the
following morning, the one succeeding Mr. Pym's arrival, he went up
for that purpose to Castle Wafer, and procured a private interview
with Sir Isaac in his sitting-room.

A very different story, this, from the one sought to be told the other
evening by Frederick. As the dean, calm, sensible, reliable, went
through the whole, point by point, concluding with the fact that Mr.
Pym was at Castle Wafer for no other purpose than to watch Charlotte
Carleton, Sir Isaac listened with increasing wonder.

"And you say Frederick knew of this!" he exclaimed. "Why did he not
tell me?"

"He did attempt to tell you; but failed. I suppose his ultra
self-consciousness and the fear that even you might misconstrue his
motives, withheld him from saying more."

"How could I be likely to misconstrue them?"

The dean said how. Which certainly did not tend to decrease the wonder
of Sir Isaac.

"He has been assuming that Mrs. Carleton was looking after me! That
she had designs upon me! _Me!_ You must be mistaking me for
Frederick."

"Certainly not for Frederick. Frederick's private opinion is, that the
young woman hates him. I fancy there's not much doubt that she would
have no objection to your making her Lady St. John."

When Sir Isaac fully comprehended this hypothesis as to himself, which
he had little difficulty in doing, he burst into an uncontrollable fit
of laughter. The dean saw how it was: Isaac St. John had been so
firmly fixed in his resolution never to marry, had _lived_ so in it,
that the very notion of his breaking it, or of any woman's thinking
she could induce him to break it, seemed to him nothing less than an
impossibility.

"Then you never had an idea of Mrs. Carleton?" observed the dean.

"I never had an idea of Mrs. Carleton in that sense of the word, or of
any one else," answered Sir Isaac. "I should as soon think of getting
hanged as of getting married. And I do believe you must be wrong in
supposing she has entertained such a notion. A young and pretty woman
want to tie herself to me! Why, look at me; at what I am. No, no: it
is not likely. And it was only the other day she lost her husband and
her child; her heart must be buried with them for some time yet to
come."

"Well, there lay the cause of Frederick's hesitation," said the dean.
"With this idea upon him, no wonder he was tenacious of speaking. I
confess I did not agree with him. I thought you were no more likely to
take a wife than I am--who possess one already.

"It will be a joke against Frederick for the rest of my days," said
Sir Isaac. "_I_ marry? I wish, by the way, _he_ would marry! But about
poor Mrs. Carleton? I should like to see Mr. Pym."

The surgeon was summoned to the conference. And after the dean's
departure, he disclosed to Sir Isaac the fear of her attempting some
injury to Miss Beauclerc or to Honour: of which the dean remained in
ignorance.

"There is only one thing to do," was the conclusion, come to by Sir
Isaac. "Inhospitable though any such measure may seem, Mrs. Carleton
must this day quit Castle Wafer."



CHAPTER XXXVI.
LOCKED IN.


Mr. Pym appeared to make himself at home at Castle Wafer. One of the
best chambers had been assigned him, its door opening exactly opposite
to the room occupied by Mrs. Carleton and by Prance. And that
gentleman retired to rest with his door propped back, and his gaze on
the corridor. Perhaps he slept with his eyes open.

In the morning he was up betimes. Going downstairs, he sought Honour,
and sat in the housekeeper's room while he talked to her. He had
really no ulterior motive in this; but he was a sociable man, and he
merely wished to be civil to the girl, whom he had once seen so much
of as Benja's nurse.

Honour was excessively gratified. In the first place at seeing the
surgeon again; in the next at indulging her gossiping propensities.
She had heard little or nothing of Alnwick since she quitted it: Mrs.
Tritton having left the Hall and the neighbourhood soon after herself.
Question after question did she ask Mr. Pym of the changes, and would
probably have gone on for an hour of her own good will, but that Mr.
Pym, who was remarkably quick of sight and hearing, and why he wore
glasses no one ever could make out--detected some faint sound or
movement at the partially closed door, as if somebody were listening
at it.

"Is any one wanting to come in, Honour?"

Honour pulled the door open, and saw nothing. But a faint rustling, as
of some person turning from the door as soon as he spoke, had caught
Mr. Pym's ears.

"Look out," said he, sharply.

Honour looked out, and was just in time to see the petticoats of a
lady disappearing round the corner of the passage, and to recognize
them as Mrs. Carleton's.

"Mrs. Carleton, was it?" observed the surgeon carelessly, as she made
the remark. "Does she often pay you a visit here, Honour?"

"I never saw her here before, sir. Perhaps she was coming in search of
you."

"Ah, perhaps so," replied Mr. Pym, carelessly. "What were you saying,
Honour?--that you heard I went over to Germany to see the boy? Well,
it's true. Whether it was Germany or France, or any other habitable
part of the globe, though, I can't take upon myself to say. I could
not do him any good. He was at death's-door then. How did you hear
it?"

"From Mrs. Darling, sir. She often said a word to me when she was
staying here the last time, and she mentioned that you had been had
over to Master George, but it was of no use. What a sad thing it was
that the child could not be cured!"

"Ay. There are many sad things in the world, Honour; sadder even than
that. Well, I must go, or I shall keep breakfast waiting. You'll see
me again before I leave."

He made his way to the breakfast-room, and sat down to breakfast with
the rest. Mrs. Carleton's face was impassive as usual: but the surgeon
saw that she watched him just as keenly as he did her. After
breakfast, as if to defeat the purpose for which he was staying at
Castle Wafer, she shut herself up in Mrs. St. John's room, and no one
could get near her. It was during this time that the interview took
place between the dean and Sir Isaac.

"I entrust it all to you, Mr. Pym," Sir Isaac had said. "Perhaps
speaking to Mrs. Darling will be sufficient: but--you know the laws of
hospitality--I would rather not appear at all in this matter if I can
help it. Let the departure be your doing--you understand. Only in case
of necessity bring in my name."

Mr. Pym's first step was to seek Mrs. Darling. _She_ was shut up in
her room too; so, after waiting for some time, he sent a message to
her, and she came to him. The observant surgeon saw that there was a
blank, disappointed look in her face.

"I can do nothing with Charlotte," she exclaimed. "She refuses most
positively to quit Castle Wafer: and when I urged it, she put an end
to the colloquy by leaving me. What is to be done?"

The surgeon could not say what was to be done. Only that to get away
Mrs. Carleton that day was indispensable.

Mrs. Darling, poor woman, began to temporize. Charlotte was perfectly
well now, she was sure, and a day or two's delay could make no
difference. Tomorrow, perhaps, or the next day, she might be induced
to hear reason. At length Mr. Pym--for Mrs. Darling seemed inclined to
become obstinate in her turn--was obliged to hint at the commands of
Sir Isaac.

Mrs. Darling was bitterly incensed, believing that Mr. Pym had been
the informant. "I did not think you would have been so treacherous,"
she exclaimed. "You promised me not to speak to Sir Isaac until all
means had been tried to get Charlotte away."

"I did not speak to him. He spoke to me."

"He spoke to you! First?"

"Yes. He sent for me into his room, and entered upon it."

"Who could have told him?" cried Mrs. Darling, after a mortified
pause. And Mr. Pym remained silent: it was not his business to speak
of the dean.

"The less we discuss this matter the better, Mrs. Darling. It would
bring no profit. All we have to do is to remove your daughter. And if
I were you I would let this hint about Sir Isaac be as if it had not
been spoken. It would be painful to you to show consciousness of it;
doubly painful to him. He is a true gentleman: but tales have been
carried to him of Mrs. Carleton's state of mind, and he deems it
necessary that she should not remain."

"I would give half I am worth to know who it is that has been
meddling!" exclaimed Mrs. Darling. "What is to be done? Will you speak
to Charlotte?"

"Of course I will. If you cannot persuade her, I must try my powers.
It will be a very awkward thing if we have to get her away by force or
stratagem."

"By stratagem we shall never accomplish it," said Mrs. Darling.
"Charlotte is too keen to be imposed upon."

He waited until luncheon-time. He thought it better to lead to an
interview with Mrs. Carleton, than to send and demand it. She came
down with Mrs. St. John, and the luncheon passed off as usual, every
one being at table except Sir Isaac. Mr. Brumm said his master was
taking luncheon in his room, but offered no other apology for his
absence, and Georgina went boldly in to him.

But Mr. Pym was destined to be defeated, at least in a degree. He
whispered to Mrs. Carleton to come and walk with him on the terrace as
they rose from table, and drew her hand within his arm and went out
with her. It was a dull lowering day, threatening rain, and she looked
up at the skies with rather a vacant look. Mr. Pym told her as gently
as he could, that it was deemed necessary she should have change of
air; that he and Mrs. Darling were both anxious on the score of her
health, and thought immediate change of scene essential. She laughed
in his face; she set him and her mother at defiance; she spoke of
appealing to Sir Isaac: and then Mr. Pym hinted--as he had done to her
mother--that Sir Isaac acquiesced in the measure.

No sooner had the words left his lips, than a change passed over her
face. Medical man though he was, Mr. Pym shrank from it: never had its
aspect been more livid, its expression so wildly terrible. He caught
her arm, put it within his, and began to speak words of soothing
kindness. But she broke from him; muttered something incoherently
about the plot against her, which those in the house had been planning
to carry out, and escaped indoors. Mr. Pym had little doubt that by
"those in the house," she meant Miss Beauclerc and Honour. It is very
likely she included himself and Mrs. Darling.

He followed her; he called Mrs. Darling to his aid. That she had
secreted herself in her own room, they found at once, since the door
was fastened inside, and no reply was given to their knocks. The
surgeon grew alarmed. This state of things was more than likely to end
in a paroxysm of insanity. By-and-by mutterings were heard inside;
violent pacings of the room; short derisive laughs; and one shrill
scream. Mrs. Darling was nearly beside herself; and Prance--Prance the
impassive--for once betrayed terror.

"I shall break open the door," said Mr. Pym.

But he went first of all to apprise Sir Isaac of what he was going to
do. Sir Isaac gave him _carte blanche_ to do what he pleased; but
urged that poor Mrs. Carleton's comfort should be studied as much as
was practicable. And under the circumstances he did not press for her
departure; only stipulating that Mr. Pym should undertake the charge
of her until she did leave.

When Mr. Pym got back to the corridor, he found the dismayed watchers
and waiters outside it, Mrs. Darling and Prance, had been joined by
another--Honour Tritton.

It is not possible for a commotion such as this to occur in a house
without its sounds transpiring to the household. Quietly as these
knockings and callings had been carried on, news of them penetrated to
the servants below. "Mrs. Carleton had bolted herself in her chamber,
and could not be got at." Honour, in her interest, it may be in her
curiosity, went upstairs at once. Perhaps she deemed she had a sort of
right to do so, from her former relations with Mrs. Carleton.

Mr. Pym scarcely noticed her. The noise inside the room had increased;
that is, the pacings to and fro were louder and quicker. Mrs. Darling
clasped her hands in helpless dismay: she lifted her imploring face to
the surgeon; she put her lips to the key-hole for the twentieth time.

"Charlotte! my darling Charlotte! I want to come in. I must come in.
I--I have left a key in your room. It will soon be time to dress for
dinner."

There was no response. But the pacings increased to a run. The dull
day had become darker, and Honour turned into Miss Beauclerc's room,
and brought out a tall wax candle, lighted, in a silver candlestick.

"Mrs. Carleton, I must beg of you to unlock the door," cried out the
surgeon. "If you do not, I shall be compelled to break it open. Pray
undo it."

It was of no avail. A mocking laugh was again heard, but there was no
other response.

"Take care of yourselves," said Mr. Pym.

The door flew open with a burst. The first object they saw was Mrs.
Carleton, standing against the opposite wall and glaring at them.
Glaring! the word has been used often in regard to her eyes at times,
but there is no other so applicable. Mr. Pym went straight up to her.
She eluded him with a spring, pounced upon the unsuspecting and
terrified Honour, and in another moment was grappling with her, a
fight for dear life.

Poor lady! What her thoughts had been during that self-imprisonment
she alone knew. That they had tended rapidly to increase the mind's
confusion, to speed her on to the great gulf of insanity, already so
near at hand, perhaps to have been its very turning-point, there could
be no doubt of. And it may be that the sight of Honour amidst her
enemies, of Honour bearing a lighted candle, recalled her mind to that
dreadful night not yet two years gone by.

Whatever it may have been, whether any single cause, or many causes
combined: the mortification of being turned from Castle Wafer, the
visit of Mr. Pym, the seeing him that morning with Honour, or the
opposition and confusion of this one afternoon: certain it was, that
the moment her mother and Prance had been dreading in secret so long,
had come. Mrs. Carleton was insane.

It took all three, the surgeon, Mrs. Darling, and Prance, to secure
her in her violence: just as it had taken more than one to secure her
father in the years gone by. Honour was released, terrified nearly to
death, bruises on her arms, and a bite on her cheek, of which she
would never lose the mark.

When she was secured from doing harm to herself or others, Mr. Pym
touched Prance, and motioned her to a room apart. Had Prance been
capable of astonishment at anything, she might have felt it then. He
closed the door and pointed to a chair.

"The time for evasion has gone by," he began. "Tomorrow will see your
mistress in an asylum, Prance, from which she can never more be
released in safety. And--do you know for what cause I have brought you
here?"

"No, sir," answered Prance; but in some hesitation, as if she
half-divined what the cause might be.

"I am about to speak of that past night at Alnwick; the burning
of Benja. I feel as sure"--and he raised his finger to her
impressively--"that your mistress had something to do with that, and
that you knew it, as I am that you are before me there. Few persons
can deceive me; and your manner that night and subsequent to it,
clever as you may have thought yourself, convinced me there was a tale
to tell. I did not press for it then; I had my reasons; but I must
hear it now."

"I had nothing to do with it, sir," replied Prance, not daring to
equivocate; feeling perhaps, with him, that the time for suppression
had gone by.

"I don't suppose you had," returned Mr. Pym. "But you were in that
niche, where Honour saw you, for all that. Come! You must acquaint me
with the particulars of that night: they may be a guide to my
treatment of your mistress. I must know them, whether or not. Did she
set the child on fire?"

"No, sir, I don't think she did. At least, not intentionally."

"At any rate, she was in the room at the time?"

"Yes, she was. But I think he caught fire accidentally. There was some
scuffle, and I fancy his white pinafore set alight."

"But she bolted the door upon him?"

Prance actually for a moment looked distressed. "I'm afraid she did,
sir: the one door. The other, I have always believed, and always shall
believe, the child fastened himself."

"She bolted it on him when he was burning?"

"Ah, I don't know that, sir; I don't know it for certain."

"You have feared it."

"Yes; only that."

Mr. Pym sat down in a chair opposite Prance, the table being between
them. "Begin at the beginning, Prance," he said. "This is a waste of
time. How much of that night's occurrences did you see and hear?"

"You--you are not asking for the purpose of proving the crime against
her, are you, sir?" demanded Prance.

"Of proving the crime against her, woman!" echoed Mr. Pym,served wrathfully.
"Your mistress is past having anything of that sort proved against
her: past its consequences, for that is, I presume, what you mean. Had
I wished to bring it home to her, I should have stirred in it at the
time. I have been as quiet and careful as you. Now then, begin. Let us
hear what you had to do with it, and what brought you in the niche.
You have not forgotten, I suppose?"

"No, indeed, sir! I have thought of it all a great deal too often to
be pleasant," she said, leaning her head upon her hand. "The account I
gave before had very much of truth in it: though not the whole of the
truth," she added, after a pause.

"Then tell the whole now," said Mr. Pym, growing impatient at the
delay.

The substance of Prance's communication was as follows. After she had
been in the herb-room, she went upstairs to wash her hands, which had
become soiled from picking the herbs. Whilst in her chamber, which was
next to Mrs. Carleton's, she heard her mistress come up from the
dining-room and go into her chamber, and she followed her in, to ask
whether she wanted a light or anything, for it was getting quite
dusk. Mrs. Carleton was not in her room, but had gone through the
dressing-room, and was standing in the nursery, just inside the door,
apparently gazing at something, as one transfixed: a dull sort of
light came from the nursery, enabling Prance to see her distinctly.
Being rather curious, she peeped in, and saw Master Benja slowly
parading a lighted church about, which he carried before him: it was
on this her mistress's eyes were fixed. It was really a pretty object,
Prance said, lighted up in the dark room. The child was speaking;
words calculated to irritate Mrs. Carleton----

"What were they!" interrupted Mr. Pym, when Prance had got thus far in
her narrative. "Can you repeat them?"

"'I'll tell you what I shall do, Honour, when I am master of
Alnwick,'" repeated Prance. "'You shall be mistress, and give all the
orders, and we'll have a great wall built up, so that mamma can't come
near us. But we'll have Georgy, and keep him to ourselves.'" Those
were the words, Prance continued, and they seemed to irritate her
mistress: she darted forward, and gave the child a sharp blow on the
ear. She (Prance) went away, leaving a sound of noise and crying
behind her. Declared, if it were the last word she had to speak, that
she had no thought of real injury. She went through the dressing-room,
through the bedroom, which door she shut, and went down into the
dining-room. Georgy was asleep on the large chair, his legs hanging
down. A very short while--immediately, indeed--her mistress followed
her down; noticed, and thought it very singular, that she bolted the
dining-room door after her. Seemed greatly excited; walked about in a
strange manner; Prance thought she must have been quarrelling with
Honour. Presently she sat down, and took Georgy's feet upon her lap.
This gave Prance an opportunity of slipping back the bolt, and
quitting the room. Had not liked to do so before; must have been there
at least a quarter-of-an-hour. Went up to her room; heard no noise
whatever; never supposed but that Honour was in the nursery with
Master Benja. Stood a minute or two in the passage, listening; thought
she might hear them speaking of the quarrel. Heard nothing--all was
quite still, and then supposed Honour had taken Master Benja down to
the servants' hall, which had been forbidden by Mrs. Carleton. Was
stealing along the passage to find this out, intending to tell of her,
when Honour came running up the backstairs, and Prance, not to be
seen, slipped into the niche until Honour should have entered the
nursery. Found then that Master Benja was in the nursery. Honour could
not open the door, and called out to ask why he had turned the button.
Was peeping out of the niche, and saw Honour drop a load of things
from her apron, and come flying past her into the dressing-room. Did
not think at the time she was seen; passage was pretty dark. Took the
opportunity to escape into her own room, and was lighting a candle
when Honour's cries startled her. Came out of her room, saw Honour
running down the front staircase, her cries awful. It brought the
servants from the kitchen, it brought Mrs. Carleton and Georgy out of
the dining-room; and then she (Prance) found out what had happened.
That was all.

"And you mean to tell me you did not suspect anything wrong until
then?" asked Mr. Pym, as she concluded.

"As I am a living, breathing woman, sir, I never suspected it,"
answered Prance, showing for once some emotion. "I don't think Honour
herself was more shocked than I was."

"And why did you not tell the truth about your being in the niche?"

"Ah, sir, I did not dare. Might it not, in the questioning that would
have ensued, have directed suspicion to my mistress? The moment I
discovered that Honour was not in the room when my mistress attacked
Master Benja, I felt frightened to death, fearing she had done it.
I----"

"Stay a minute. I don't understand," interrupted Mr. Pym. "You say you
looked into the nursery. You must have seen that Honour was not
there."

"Indeed, sir, I did not. I saw but a very small portion of the room;
the door opens inwards to the wall, and obstructs the best part of the
room to any one standing as I did. I never supposed but that Honour
was present in her usual seat; otherwise I should not have left my
mistress alone with the child. The boy himself, helped to mislead me:
those few words he said appeared to be spoken _to Honour_. I concluded
afterwards, that when he heard his mamma enter, he must have thought
it was Honour who had gone in, and was too much occupied with his toy
to turn his head to look."

"It's an awful thing!" ejaculated Mr. Pym.

"It has driven my mistress mad," returned Prance. "But, sir--she did
not purposely set him on fire: she did not. I have gathered a great
deal from words she has let drop in her paroxysms, and I know it was
not done purposely. 'The church fell and set fire to his pinafore, in
blazing up,' she said one night when she was moaning: and I am sure it
did."

"But she bolted the door on him."

"Ah, yes, she did that; bolted it upon him, knowing he was on fire;
there's no doubt of it. I have gathered that much. I think at the
moment she was mad, unconscious of what she did. She is not naturally
cruel, only in these uncontrollable attacks. And then--and then----"

"And then, what?" asked the surgeon.

"She had taken too much wine that afternoon," continued Prance,
lowering her voice. "Not intentionally; not from the love of drinking:
unthinkingly, as it were. You see, sir, she had dined at the hour when
she usually took her luncheon, and she did not eat much, I noticed;
made a luncheon more than a dinner. But she seemed to have a great
thirst upon her, and drank a good deal of wine; champagne, and sherry,
and port; altogether, I think her head was a little confused; indeed,
I'm sure it was. She would not have beaten Benja in the dining-room,
but for that. Oh, the remorse that has been hers!"

"I suppose so."

"It is remorse that has turned her brain. I thought in Flanders it
would come on then; it did in a measure; but she got over it. Over and
over again would she have given her own life to recall the boy's; I
think she would even have given Georgy's. What she did, she did in a
moment of passion; of aberration; and she has repented it ever since,
and lived in dread of detection. Her horror of Honour has arisen from
the feeling that had the girl not left Benja alone, it could not have
happened, and she had not had the sin upon her. Indeed, sir, she is to
be pitied; to be pitied more than condemned."

"Let us think so, at any rate, Prance," remarked Mr. Pym. "Does Mrs.
Darling know this?"

"Well, sir, no; not exactly. I have dropped a word or two, and I know
she guesses the rest; but I have not said it."

"Best not, perhaps," said the surgeon. "It is a secret that may remain
between you and me."



CHAPTER XXXVII.
A MEETING IN PARIS.


"I Wonder why I am kept a prisoner here?" exclaimed Georgina
Beauclerc.

She stood at the open French window of the Rectory drawing-room as she
said it, partly indoors, partly out, and her auditor was Frederick St.
John, who was coming along the gravel path, in the twilight of the
autumn evening, on his road from Castle Wafer. Georgina had happened
to walk over to the Rectory early in the afternoon, and a message
followed her from Sir Isaac, that she was not to go back to Castle
Wafer until sent for. The young lady was surprised, indignant, and
excessively curious. The message had arrived about three o'clock: it
was now very nearly dinner-time, and she was not released. The dean,
Mrs. Beauclerc, and their guest were at Lexington; consequently, Miss
Georgina had passed the hours by herself, and very dull they had been.

He came up, taking off his hat as he approached, as if he were warm
from fast walking. Georgina retreated inside the room, but waited for
him at the window.

"I have come to release you," he said, in answer to her question. "I
am glad you obeyed me, and stayed."

"Obeyed you! I obeyed Sir Isaac."

"It was I who sent the message, Georgina."

"I wish I had known that!" she exclaimed, after a breathless pause. "I
never should have stayed."

He laughed. "That's why I used Isaac's name. I thought you might not
be obedient to me."

"Obedient to you, indeed, Mr. St. John! I should think not. Things
would have come to a pretty pass!"

She tossed back her shapely head, to show her indignation. Mr. St.
John only laughed again.

"Are they all out, Georgina?"

"Yes, they are out, and I have been alone all these hours. I wonder
you don't take contrition to yourself."

"I wonder at it too."

"I should like to know the reason of my having been kept here? In all
the course of my experience I never met with so outrageous a thing."

"Your experience has been so long a one, Georgie!"

"Well, I am not going to be ridiculed. I shall go back to Castle
Wafer: perhaps Sir Isaac will be able to enlighten me. You can stay
behind here; they'll be home sometime."

She tied her bonnet, fastened her mantle--having stood in them all
the afternoon, momentarily expecting to be released, as he had called
it--and was hastening through the window. Frederick laid a detaining
hand upon her.

"Not yet, Georgina. I have come to stop your return to Castle Wafer."

"I thought you said you had come to release me!"

"I meant release you from suspense--to satisfy your curiosity, which
has, I suppose, been on the rack. You are not to come back to Castle
Wafer at all: we won't have you."

"You can let things alone," returned Georgina, throwing off her
bonnet. "But I think you might have told me before now--keeping me
with my things on all these hours!"

"I could not conveniently come before. Well, shall I relieve that
curiosity of yours?"

Again she threw up her face petulantly. "That's just as you like. I
don't care to hear it."

"You know you do care to hear it," he said. "But indeed,
Georgina"--and his half-mocking, half-tender tone changed to
seriousness--"it is a subject that I shrink from entering upon. Mrs.
Carleton is ill. That is the reason we are banishing you for the
present from Castle Wafer."

Georgina's mood changed also: the past one had been all make-believe,
not real.

"Ill! I am so sorry. Is it anything infectious?"

"I will tell you what it is, Georgina: it is insanity. That she was
not quite sane, I have suspected some little time; but this afternoon
she has become very much worse. She locked herself in her room, and
Mr. Pym was obliged to burst the door open, and now she is--very
excited indeed. Mr. Pym told me he feared some crisis was approaching.
This was just after she fastened herself in her room; and I sent that
message to you at once. Isaac agrees with me that you had better
remain at home tonight: Castle Wafer will not be a very sociable
place this evening; and we must respect Mrs. Darling's feelings."

"Oh, I see, I see!" impulsively interrupted Georgina, all her good
qualities in full play. "Of course it would not be right for strangers
to be there. Poor Mrs. Darling! But is it true, Frederick? _Insane!_"

"I fear so."

"Perhaps it is some temporary fever that will pass off?"

"Well--we must hope for the best. And now--will you regard this as a
confidential communication?"

"Yes, certainly; if you wish it."

"I think it is better to do so. She may recover; and in that case it
would be very sad for the report to have been spread abroad. I knew I
might trust you; otherwise I should not have spoken. We have had
secrets together before."

"Shall you not tell papa?"

"I shall tell him, because he knows of the matter already. No one
else. Should her malady be confirmed, of course it will become
generally known."

"Do you know, I thought you had bad news when I saw your face,"
resumed Georgina. "You looked so worn and anxious. But you have looked
so for some days past."

"Have I? I've been tired, I suppose, from want of sleep. I have not
been in bed for some nights. I have been, watching."

"Watching! Where?"

"In the corridor at home."

Georgina looked at him in surprise. "What were you watching for?"

"Oh--for ghosts."

"Please be serious. Do tell me what you mean. I don't understand you
in the least."

"It is so pleasant to share a secret that I think I must tell it you,
Georgina. You remember your nightmare?"

"My nightmare? Oh yes, when I fancied some one came into my room.
Well?"

"Well--I thought it just possible, that instead of a nightmare it
might have been reality. That Mrs. Carleton, in her restlessness, had
wandered out of her room. It was not an agreeable thought, so I have
watched every night since, lest there should be a repetition of it."

Georgina was as quick as lightning at catching an idea. "You were
afraid for me! You watched to take care of me!"

"Something of that sort. Did you lock your door as I desired?"

"Yes: all but one night, when I forgot to do it."

"Just so. Knowing what a forgetful, careless young lady I had to deal
with, I concluded that I must depend upon myself, instead of her. A
pretty thing, if Mrs. Carleton had run away with you!"

A few bright rays were perceptible in the western horizon, illumining
the twilight of the hitherto dull day. Georgina Beauclerc was gazing
straight out to them, a very conscious look in her face. Suddenly she
turned it to Mr. St. John.

"Will you tell me--had your words to me last evening, warning me not
to be abroad, anything to do with this?"

He nodded. "Suspecting Mrs. Carleton's malady, I did not know who
might be safe from her, who not: and I saw her in the grounds then."

"Last night?"

"Last night. She was close to you."

A moment's thought, which was a revelation to Georgina, and she drew
nearer to him with a start. "I see it all, Frederick. I remember what
you said about her jealousy: you have been protecting me."

"Trying to do it."

"How shall I thank you? And I have been so impertinent and cross!
Perhaps I owe even my life to you!"

"I have not done it for nothing, I can tell you, young lady. I have
been thinking of my repayment all through it."

He put his arm round her before she could get away, and drew her close
to him. His voice became low and tender; his face, bent to hers, was
radiant with persuasive eloquence.

"I told you last night that I thought I had saved you from a great
danger----"

"And you repaid yourself," interrupted Georgina, with a dash of her
native sauciness, and a glow on her blushing cheeks.

"No, I did not. I--don't know whether it's this watching after your
safety, or what else it may be; but I have arrived at the conviction,
that I shall have to take care of you for life. Georgina, we might
have known years ago that it would come to this."

"Known that! When you only hated me!"

"If I hated you then--which I did not--I love you now. I cannot part
with you. Georgina, my darling, I shall never part with you. I don't
think you would like to part with me."

Her heart beat as it had never beaten before in her life; her eyes
were blinded with tears. Joy so great as this had never been
foreshadowed, except in some rare dream. He kissed the tears away.

"But it cannot be that you love me," she whispered.

"I love you dearly; although I once told a friend of yours that I
would not marry Georgina Beauclerc though there were not another
English girl extant. He saw into the future, it may be also into my
heart, more clearly than I did."

"You said that? To a friend of mine! Who was it?"

"One who lies buried in the cloisters at Westerbury."

Her eyes went far out again to that light in the west. The words
carried her back again to those past days,--to the handsome boy who
had so loved her.

"You never cared for him, poor fellow!" observed Mr. St. John.

"No; I never cared but for one in my life," she softly whispered.

"I know that. He was the first to tell me of it. Not that I--as I
believe now--needed telling. Georgina, they say marriages are made in
heaven; I think we might have seen, even then, that we were destined
for each other---- What's the matter?"

Georgina darted away from him as if she had been shot. Her ears were
quicker than his. The dean's carriage was approaching; was close upon
them.

"I suppose I may speak to him, Georgina?"

"Perhaps if I said no, you wouldn't listen to me. You always did
contrive to have your own way, and I suppose you will take it still.
But I think you are very unfeeling--very cruel; and I am as bad."

"I know what you mean: that we should allow--this--to ensue upon the
news I came to tell you. Poor Mrs. Carleton! We shall have time and to
spare, I fear, for all our best sympathies. Oh, child! you don't know
what my anxiety on your score has been! But it has served to show me,
what I was only half convinced of before: my love for you."

The dean came in. Georgina escaped to her mother and Miss Denison. The
latter spoke crossly to her. "Ah," thought Georgina, "would she dare
to abuse me if she only knew whose wife I am going to be?" and she
actually kissed the astonished Miss Denison, in her great happiness.

Mr. St. John spoke to the dean. Of Mrs. Carleton first: and the dean
was both shocked and surprised to find the crisis had come on so
quickly. He then said that he and Sir Isaac thought it better that
Georgina should for the moment quit Castle Wafer.

"Quite right," said the dean. "She ought not to have stayed there so
long. Of course she should not, had I been aware of this. The fact is,
she would not come home; you heard her; she has a great affection for
Castle Wafer."

"Would you very much mind, sir, if she some time came back to it for
good?"

"Eh?" said the dean, turning his surprised eyes sharply on Mr. St.
John. "Who wants that?"

"I do. I have been asking her if she will do so."

"And what does she say?"

A smile crossed Mr. St. John's lips. "She said I generally contrived
to have my own way, and she supposed I should have it now."

"Ah, well; I have thought it might come to that! But I cannot bear to
part with her. Frederick St. John"--and the dean spoke with emotion as
he wrung his hand--"I would rather you took her from me than any other
man in the world."


It was a lovely day in the following spring, and Paris was gay and
bright. In a handsome house in one of its best quarters, its
drawing-rooms presenting that blended aspect of magnificence and
lightness which you rarely see out of the French capital, were a group
of three people; two ladies, both brides of a week or two, and a
gentleman. Never did eye gaze on two more charming brides, than Madame
de la Chasse, that house's mistress, and Mrs. Frederick St. John.

Are you prepared to hear that that mistress was Rose? She sat laughing
gaily, throwing back, as was her wont of old, that mass of golden
curls. Her marriage had taken many by surprise, Frederick St. John for
one; and he was now joking her about it.

"It was quite impossible to believe it, you know, Rose. I thought you
would not have condescended to marry a Frenchman."

"I'd rather have married you," freely confessed Rose, and they all
laughed. "But he has changed now; he has become presentable, thanks to
me; and I don't intend to let him lapse again."

"I am sure you are happy!" said Georgina. "I see it in your face."

"Well, the truth is, I do like him a little bit," answered Rose, with
a shy sort of blush, which spoke more plainly than her words. "And
then he is so fond and proud of me; and heaps such luxuries upon me.
It all arose through my staying at the Castellas' last autumn; he was
always coming there."

"You know, Rose"--and Mr. St. John took her hand and spoke in all
seriousness,--"that I wish you both, from my very heart, every
happiness."

"And I'm sure I wish it to you," she said. "And I think you might have
told me when I used to tease you about Sarah Beauclerc, that I was
wrong in the Christian name. I suspected it last year when I saw you
both together at Castle Wafer."

"Not then," interrupted Georgina; "you could not have seen it then."

"I did, though; I'm clever in that line, Mrs. St. John. I used to see
his eyes follow you about, and he would leave me at any moment for
you. How is Sir Isaac?"

"Quite well," answered Mr. St. John, "and as happy in my marriage as a
child. Our ostensible home, after all, is to be Alnwick; but I dare
say we shall spend with him eight months out of every year at Castle
Wafer."

"And my ill-fated half-sister, Mrs. Carleton St. John?" asked Rose, a
deep shade of sadness clouding her radiant face. "Is there _no_ hope
of her restoration?"

"I fear none," he replied.

"I wonder sometimes whether they are quite kind to her in that private
asylum?"

"There's no doubt they are. Mr. Pym sees her sometimes; your mamma
often. But that of course you know better than I do."

"I wanted mamma to take me to see her before I left England for good;
but she would not."

"And so much the better," said Mr. St. John. "It could not be well for
you, Madame de la Chasse."

"'Madame de la Chasse!'" she echoed. "Well, it sounds curious to hear
_you_ call me so. Ah! how strange! that he should have married me; and
you--Poor Adeline! Does your wife know about her?" suddenly questioned
Rose, in her careless way.

"Yes," spoke up Georgina.

"Old loves go for nothing when we come to be married. We laugh at the
past then, and think what love-sick silly children we were. I have
settled down into the most sober wife living."

"It looks like it," cried Mr. St. John.

"I _have_," retorted Rose, "whether it looks like it or not. I shall
be as good and steady a matron as your wife there, who loves you to
her fingers' ends."

Georgina laughed and blushed as they rose to leave, promising plenty
of visits to the young Baroness during their stay in Paris.

In going out, they met the Baron. Georgina was surprised to see so
good-looking a man; for Mr. St. John had described to her his
close-cut hair and his curled moustache. That was altered now; the
hair was in light waves; the moustache reduced to propriety: Rose said
she had made him presentable.

He was very cordial; had apparently forgotten old scores against Mr.
St. John, and pressed the hospitality of his house upon them as long
as they were in Paris. Their frequent presence in it, he said, would
complete the bliss of himself and his wife.

"Frederick," exclaimed Georgina, thoughtfully, when they had returned
to their hotel, "should you think the Baron ever loved Adeline as he
does Rose? He is evidently very fond of her."

"Perhaps he did not. His intended marriage with Adeline was a
_contract_; with Rose he had time to fall in love."

"And--perhaps--_you_ never loved her so very, very deeply!" timidly
rejoined Georgina, raising to him her grey-blue eyes.

"I must say one thing," he answered, smiling; "that if a certain young
lady of my particular acquaintance is not satisfied with her husband's
love----"

She did not let him go on; she threw herself into his sheltering arms,
the tears of emotion falling from her eyes.

"Oh, my husband, my darling; you know, you know! I think you must have
loved me a little all through; even when we used to quarrel at
Westerbury."

"I think I did, Georgina. Of one fact you may be very sure, that I
would not exchange my wife for any other, living or dead. I hope, I
believe, under Heaven's blessing, that I may so love her to the end."

"Amen," softly breathed Georgina.



THE END.



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PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES.





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