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Title: Court Netherleigh - A Novel
Author: Wood, Mrs. Henry (Ellen)
Language: English
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Transcriber's Notes:
     1. Page scan source: Google Books
        https://books.google.com/books?id=B05FAQAAMAAJ
        Novels, Volume 23 (University of Minnesota)



COURT NETHERLEIGH.



COURT NETHERLEIGH.
A Novel.


BY
MRS. HENRY WOOD,

AUTHOR OF
"EAST LYNNE," "THE CHANNINGS," "JOHNNY LUDLOW," ETC.


Eighteenth Thousand.


LONDON:
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,
Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen.
1889.
(_All rights reserved_.)



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER
          I. Miss Margery.
         II. The Shot.
        III. Left To Robert.
         IV. At Chenevix House.
          V. Lady Adela.
         VI. All Down-hill.
        VII. Desperation.
       VIII. Perversity.
         IX. Joseph Horn's Testimony.
          X. A Costly Mania.
         XI. With Madame Damereau.
        XII. A Lecture.
       XIII. Folly.
        XIV. Lady Adela.
         XV. The Day of Reckoning.
        XVI. The Diamond Bracelet.
       XVII. Driven into Exile.
      XVIII. An Unpleasant Rumour.
        XIX. Flirtation.
         XX. A Present of Coffee.
        XXI. Given into Custody.
       XXII. "That it may be well with us in after-life."
      XXIII. Tracing the Notes.
       XXIV. A Disagreeable Expedition.
        XXV. Sir Turtle Kite.
       XXVI. Infatuation.
      XXVII. Separation.
     XXVIII. On the Way from Blackheath.
       XXIX. A Dreary Life.
        XXX. Last Words.
       XXXI. In the Old Château.
      XXXII. Adela Startled.
     XXXIII. Despair.
      XXXIV. On Lady Livingstone's Arm.
       XXXV. Light at Last.
      XXXVI. Visitors at Moat Grange.
     XXXVII. An Alarm.
    XXXVIII. Robert Dalrymple.
      XXXIX. Lady Adela.
         XL. At Court Netherleigh.
        XLI. Conclusion.



COURT NETHERLEIGH.



CHAPTER I.
MISS MARGERY.


In the midst of the Berkshire scenery, so fair and wealthy, this
pleasant little place, Netherleigh, nestled in a sylvan hollow. It was
only a small, unpretending hamlet at its best, and its rustic
inhabitants were hard-working and simple.

On a wide extent of country, surrounded on all sides as far as the eye
could reach, with its forests, its hills and valleys, its sparkling
streams, sat many a noble mansion of ancient or modern architecture,
and of more or less note in the county. Farm homesteads might be seen,
surrounded by their outbuildings, their barns and substantial
hayricks. Labourers' cottages were dotted about; and the men
themselves toiled at their several occupations.

Flanking the village, and looking down upon it from its eminence, rose
the stately walls of Court Netherleigh: an imposing and beautiful
edifice, with which none of the other mansions in the distance could
compare. It was built of red brick, curious but bright-looking, and
its gables and angles were quaint and picturesque in a high degree.
Winding upwards from the village, you came upon the entrance-gates on
the left of the road--great gates of wrought iron, with two smaller
gates beside them. The lodges stood one on each side the gates, roses
and honeysuckles adorning the porches and lower windows. In one of
these lodges, that on the left as you entered, lived the gatekeeper
and his family; in the other the head gardener. Let us, in
imagination, enter the gates.

It is Monday morning, the first of October, and a lovely day--warm and
sunny. The gatekeeper's wife, a child clinging to her apron, runs to
the door at the sound of steps, lest, haply, the great gates should
need to be thrown open. Seeing only a foot-passenger, she drops a
curtsy. Winding onwards through the drive that surrounds the park, we
see the house itself--Court Netherleigh; a wide, low, picturesque
house: or perhaps it is only its size that makes it look low, for it
is three stories high. At the back, hidden by clustering trees, are
the stables and out-offices. Extensive gardens lie around, which show
a profusion of luscious fruits and choice vegetables, of smooth, green
lawns, miniature rocks, and lovely flowers. Fine old trees give shade
to the park, and the deer may be seen under their spreading branches.
Altogether, the place is noble, and evidently well-cared for.
Whosoever reigns at Court Netherleigh does so with no sparing hand.

We shall soon see her, for it is a lady. Ascending the three broad
stone steps to the entrance-hall, rooms lie on either hand. These
rooms are not inhabited this morning. We must make our way to the back
of the hall, go down a passage on our right, and open a door at the
end.

A rather small room, its walls white and gold, its furniture a pale,
subdued green, glass doors standing open to the outer air--this
arrested the eye. It was called Miss Margery's room, and of all the
rooms in Court Netherleigh it was the one that Miss Margery loved
best.

Miss Margery was seated in it this morning, near the table, sewing
away at a child's garment, intended probably for one of the inmates at
the lodge, or for some little waif in the hamlet. Miss Margery was not
clever at fine work, she was wont to say, but at plain work few could
equal her, and she was never idle. She was a little woman, short and
small, with a fair complexion and plain features, possessing more than
her share of good sense, and was very active and energetic, as little
people often are. She always wore silk. Her gown this morning was of
her favourite colour, violet, with a large lace collar fastened by a
gold brooch, and black lace mittens under her lace-edged sleeves. She
wore also a white clear-muslin apron with a braided border. The
fashion of these aprons had come in when Miss Margery was a much
younger woman, and she would not give them up. She need not have worn
a cap, for her hair was still abundant; but in those days middle-aged
ladies wore caps, and Miss Margery was turned fifty. She wore her hair
in ringlets, also the custom then, and her lace lappets fell behind
them. This was Miss Upton, generally in the house called Miss Margery,
the owner of Court Netherleigh and its broad lands.

The glass doors of the French windows opened to the lawn, on which
were beds of mignonette and other sweet-scented flowers, a fountain
playing in their midst. At the open window, one of them just outside,
the other within, stood two young girls in the first blush of
womanhood. The elder, Frances, had light hair and a piquant, saucy
face; it had no particular beauty to recommend it, but her temper was
very sweet, and her manner was charming. Hence Frances Chenevix was a
general favourite. Her sister, one year younger than herself, and just
nineteen, was beautiful. Her hair and eyes were of a bright brown, her
features faultless, and the colour on her cheeks was delicate as a
blush-rose. The sisters were of middle height, graceful and slender,
and eminently distinguished in bearing. They wore morning dresses of
pink cambric--a favourite material in those bygone days.

The elder, standing outside, had her hand to her eyes, shading them
from the light while she looked out steadily. The window faced the
open country on the side farthest from the village, which lay on the
other side of the house. About half-a-mile away might be seen the
irregular chimneys of an old-fashioned house, called Moat Grange, with
whose inmates they were intimate; and in that direction she was
gazing.

"Do you happen to have some opera-glasses, Aunt Margery? she suddenly
asked, turning to the room as she spoke.

"There are some in the blue drawing-room. Adela, can fetch them for
you. They are in the table-drawer, my dear. But what do you want to
look at, Frances?" added Miss Upton, as Adela went in search of the
glasses.

"Only at a group in the road there. I cannot make out whether or not
they are the people from the Grange. If so--they may be coming here.
But they seem to be standing still.

"Some labourers mending the road," quietly spoke Miss Upton.

"No, Aunt Margery, I don't think so; I am almost sure I can
distinguish bonnets. Something is glittering in the sun."

"Do bonnets glitter, Frances?"

Frances laughed. "Selina has some sparkling grass in hers. Did you not
notice it yesterday in church?"

"Not I," said Miss Upton; "but I can take your word for it. Selina
Dalrymple is more fond of dress than a Frenchwoman. Want of sense and
love of finery often go together," added Miss Upton, looking off her
work to re-thread her needle: and Frances Chenevix nodded assent.

She stood looking out at the landscape: at the signs of labour to be
seen around. The harvest was gathered, but much outdoor work lay to
hand. Waggoners paced slowly beside their teams, with a crack now and
again of the whip, or a word of encouragement to the leading horse. At
this moment the sound of a gun was heard in the direction of Moat
Grange. Frances exclaimed--

"Aunt Margery, they are shooting!"

"Well, my dear, is that anything unusual on the first of October?"
spoke Miss Upton, smiling. "Robert Dalrymple would think it strange if
he did not go out roday to bag his pheasants--poor things! I dare say
it was his gun you heard."

"And there's another--and another!" cried the young lady. "They are
shooting away! Adela must have run away with the glasses, Aunt
Margery."

Adela Chenevix had gone, listlessly enough, into the blue room: one of
the magnificent drawing-rooms in front, its colours pale blue and
silver. She opened the first table-drawer she came to; but did not see
any glasses. Then she glanced about in other directions.

"Janet," she called to a maid-servant passing the door, "do you know
where the opera-glasses are?"

"The opera-glasses," returned the girl, entering. "No, I don't, my
lady."

"Aunt Margery said they were in this room."

"I know Miss Margery had them a few days ago. She was looking through
them at the rick that was on fire over yonder. I'll look in the other
rooms, my lady."

Adela, sat down near the window, and fell into a train of thought. The
maid came back, saying she could not find the glasses: and the young
lady forgot all about them, and sat on.

"Well," said Miss Margery, interrupting her presently, "and where are
the glasses you were sent for, Adela? And what's the matter?"

Adela started up; the blush-rose on her cheek deepening to a rich
damask.

"I--I am afraid I forgot all about them, Aunt Margery. I can't find
them."

Miss Upton walked to the further end of the large room, opened the
drawer of a small table, and took out the glasses.

"Oh," said Adela, repentantly; "it was in this table that I looked,
Aunt Margery."

"No doubt. But you should have looked in this one also, Adela. I hope
the child has not got that Captain Stanley in her mind still, worrying
herself over his delinquencies?" mentally concluded Miss Upton for her
own private benefit.

They went back to the other room together. Frances Chenevix eagerly
took the delayed glasses, used them, and put them down with a
disappointed air.

"They are road labourers, Aunt Margery, and nothing else."

"To be sure, my dear," calmly returned Miss Upton, settling to her
sewing again.

The owner of Court Netherleigh, preceding Miss Margery, was Sir
Francis Netherleigh; his baronetcy being of old creation. Sir Francis
had lived at the Court with his wife, very quietly: they had no
children: and if both of them were of a saving, not to say
parsimonious, turn of mind, the fact might be accounted for, and
justified by their circumstances. Some of his ancestors had been
wofully extravagant: and before he, Sir Francis, was born, his
father and grandfather had contrived together to out off the
entail. The title had of course to go to the next male heir; but the
property--what was left of it--need not do so. However, it was
eventually willed in the right direction, and Francis Netherleigh came
into the estate and title when he was a young man. He married a
prudent, good woman, of gentle but not high lineage; they cheerfully
set themselves to the work of repairing what their forefathers had
destroyed, and by the time Sir Francis was five-and-fifty years of
age, the estate was again bringing in its full revenues of fifteen
thousand a-year. Lady Netherleigh died about that time, and Sir
Francis, as a widower, continued to live the same quiet, economical,
unceremonious life that he and his wife had lived together. He was a
religious, good man.

Naturally, the question, to whom Sir Francis would bequeath the
estate, became a matter of speculation with sundry gossips--who
always, you are aware, take more interest in our own affairs than we
take ourselves. The title would lapse; that was known; unless indeed
Sir Francis should marry again and have a son. The only relatives he
had in the world were three distant female cousins.

The eldest of these young ladies in point of years was Catherine
Grant; the second was Margery Upton; and the third was Elizabeth
Cleveland. Margery and Elizabeth were cousins in a third degree to one
another; but they were not related to Catherine. The young ladies met
occasionally at Court Netherleigh; for Sir Francis invariably invited
all three of them together; never one alone. They corresponded at
other times, and were good friends. The first to marry was Catherine
Grant. She became the wife of one Christopher Grubb, a merchant of
standing in the City of London. That, you must understand, was thirty
years before this month of October we are writing about: and _this_
again was many years prior to the present time.

In those days, to be in trade, no matter of how high a class it might
be, was looked upon by the upper classes as next door to being in
Purgatory. For all social purposes you might almost as well have been
in the one as the other. Trading was nothing less than a social crime.
Opinions have wonderfully altered now; but many will remember that
what I state is true. Therefore, when Catherine Grant, who was of
gentle blood, so far forgot what was due to herself and her friends as
to espouse Mr. Grubb, she was held to have degraded herself for ever.
What with the man's name, and what with his counting-house, poor
Catherine had effectually placed herself beyond the pale of society. A
few sharp, severe letters were written to her; one by Sir Francis
Netherleigh, one each by the two remaining young ladies. They told her
she had lost caste--and, in good truth, she had done so. From that
hour Mrs. Grubb was consigned to oblivion, the fate she was deemed to
have richly merited: and it may really be questioned whether in a few
years she was not absolutely forgotten. As the daughter of a small
country rector, Miss Grant had not had the opportunity of moving in
the higher ranks of society (except at Sir Francis Netherleigh's), and
the other two young ladies did move in it. She had, consequently, been
already privately looked down upon by Elizabeth Cleveland--whose
father, though a poor half-pay captain, was the Honourable Mr.
Cleveland: and so, said Elizabeth, the girl had perhaps made a
suitable match, after all, according to her station; all which made it
only the more easy to ignore Catherine Grubb's existence, and to
forget that such a person had ever inhabited the civilized world. The
next to marry was Elizabeth Cleveland. Her choice fell upon a
spendthrift young peer, George Frederick Chenevix, Earl of Acorn: or,
it may be more correct to say, his choice fell upon her. Margaret
Upton remained single.

Years went on. Lord and Lady Acorn took care to keep up an intimacy
with Sir Francis Netherleigh, privately hoping he would make the earl
his heir. The earl needed it: he was a careless spendthrift. But Sir
Francis never gave them, or any one else, the slightest sign of such
intention--and Lord Acorn's hopes were based solely on the fact that
he had "no one else to leave it to;" he had no male heir, or other
relative, himself excepted. He, the earl, chose to consider that he
was a relative, in right of his wife.

Disappointment, however, as all have too often experienced, is the lot
of man. Lord Acorn was fated to experience it in his turn. Sir Francis
Netherleigh died: and, with the exception of legacies to servants and
sundry charities, the whole of his property was left unconditionally
to Margery Upton. Miss Upton, though probably as much surprised as any
one else, accepted the large bequest calmly, just as though it had
been a matter of right, and she the heiress-apparent; and she took up
her abode at Court Netherleigh.

This was fourteen years ago; she was eight-and-thirty then; she was
two-and-fifty now. Miss Upton had not wanted for suitors--as the world
will readily believe: but she only shook her head and sent them all
adrift. It was her money they wanted, not herself, she told them
candidly; they had not thought of her when she was supposed to be
portionless; they should not think of her now. Thus she had lived on
at Court Netherleigh, and was looked upon as a somewhat eccentric
lady; but a thoroughly good woman and a kind mistress. And the Acorns?
They had swallowed their bitter disappointment with a good grace to
the world; and set themselves out to pay the same assiduous court to
Miss Upton that they had paid to Sir Francis. "I don't think hers will
be a long life," Lady Acorn said in confidence to her lord, "and then
all the property must come to us; to you and to me: she has no other
relative on earth."

The world at large took up the same idea, and Lord Acorn was
universally regarded as the undoubted heir to the broad lands of
Netherleigh. As to the peer himself, nothing short of a revelation
from heaven would have shaken his belief in the earnest of their
future good fortune; and, between ourselves, he had already borrowed
money on the strength of it. There never existed a more sanguine or
less prudent man than he. The young ladies now staying with Miss Upton
were his two youngest daughters. In the gushing affection professed
for her by the family generally, the girls had been trained to call
her "Aunt Margery:" though, as the reader perceives, she was not their
aunt at all; in fact, only very distantly related to them.

"Tiresome things!" cried Lady Frances, toying with the glasses still,
but looking towards the distant group of labourers. "I wish it had
been the Dalrymples on their way here."

"You can put on your hats and go to Moat Grange, as you seem so
anxious to see them," observed Miss Upton. "And you may ask the young
people to come in this evening, if you like."

"Oh, that will be delightful," cried Frances, all alert in a moment.
"And that young lady who was at church with them, Aunt Margery--are we
to ask her also? They called her Miss Lynn."

"Of course you are. What strangely beautiful eyes she had."

"Thank you, Aunt Margery," whispered Adela, bending down with a kiss
and a bright smile, as she passed Miss Upton. Not that Adela
particularly cared for the Dalrymples; but the days at Court
Netherleigh were, to her, very monotonous.

The girls set forth in their pretty gipsy straw hats, trimmed with a
wreath of roses. It was not a lonely walk, cottages being scattered
about on the way. When nearing the Grange they met a party coming from
it; Selina and Alice Dalrymple, the latter slightly lame, and a young
lady just come to visit them, Mary Isabel Lynn: a thoughtful girl,
with a fair, sweet countenance, and wonderful grey-blue eyes. Gerard
Hope was with them: a bright young fellow, who was a Government clerk
in London, and liked to run down to Moat Grange for Sundays as often
as he could find decent excuse for doing so.

"So you _are_ here!" cried Frances to him, in her offhand manner--and
perhaps the thought that he might be there had been the secret cause
of her impatience to meet the Dalrymples. "What have you to say for
yourself, Mr. Gerard--after protesting and vowing yesterday that the
earliest morning train would not more certainly start than you."

"Don't know what I shall say up there," returned Mr. Hope, nodding his
head in what might be the direction of London. "When I took French
leave to remain over Monday last time they told me I should some day
take it once too often."

"You can put it upon the shooting, you know, Gerard," interposed
Selina. "No barbarous tyrant of a red-tape martinet could expect you
to go up and leave the pheasants on the first of October. Put it to
him whether he could."

"And he will ask you how many pair you bagged, and look round for
those you have brought for himself--see if he does not," laughed Mary
Lynn.

"But Gerard is not shooting," commented Frances.

"No," said Gerard, "these girls kept me. Now, Selina, don't deny it:
you know you did."

"What a story!" retorted Selina. "If ever I met your equal, Gerard!
You remained behind of your own accord. Put it upon me, if you like.
_I_ know. It was not for me you stayed."

Frances Chenevix glanced at the delicate and too conscious face of
Alice Dalrymple. Mr. Gerard Hope was a general admirer; but these two
girls, Frances and Alice, were both rather dear to him--one of them,
however, more so than the other. Were they destined to be rivals?
Frances delivered Miss Margery's invitation; and it was eagerly
accepted: but not by Gerard. He really had to start for town by the
midday train.

"Will Miss Margery extend her invitation to Oscar, do you think?"
asked Alice, in her quiet voice. "He is staying with us."

"To be sure: the more, the merrier," assented Frances. "Not that Oscar
is one of my especial favourites," added the outspoken girl. "He is
too solemn for me. Why, he is graver than a judge."

They all rambled on together. Gerard Hope and Frances somehow found
themselves behind the others.

"Why did you stay roday?" the girl asked him, in low tones. "After
saying yesterday that it was simply impossible!"

"Could not tear myself away," he whispered back again. "For one thing,
I thought I might again see _you_."

"Are you playing two games, Gerard?" continued Frances, giving him a
keen glance. In truth she would like to know.

"I am not playing at one yet," answered the young man. "It would not
do, you know."

"What would not do? As if any one could make anything of your talk
when you go in for obscurity!" she added, with a light laugh, as she
gave a toss to her pretty hat.

"Were I to attempt to talk less obscurely, I should soon be set down;
therefore I never--we must conclude--shall do it," spoke he, in pained
and strangely earnest tones. And with that Mr. Hope walked forward to
join the others, leaving a line of pain on the fair open brow of Lady
Frances Chenevix.



CHAPTER II.
THE SHOT.


They had brought down the pheasants: never had a first of October
afforded better spoil: and they had lingered long at the sport, for
evening was drawing on. Robert Dalrymple, the head of the party and
owner of Moat Grange--a desolate grange enough, to look at, with the
remains of a moat around it, long since filled in--aimed at the last
bird he meant to hit that day, and missed it. He handed his gun to his
gamekeeper.

"Shall I load again, sir?"

"No; we have done enough for one day, Hardy: and it is getting late.
Come, Robert. Oscar, are you satisfied?"

"He must be greedy if he is not," broke in the hearty voice of the
Honourable and Reverend Thomas Cleveland, the Rector of Netherleigh,
who had joined the shooting-party, and who was related to Lady Acorn,
though very distantly: for, some twenty years ago, the Earldom of
Cleveland had lapsed to a distant branch.

"You will come home and dine with us, Cleveland?" spoke Mr. Dalrymple,
as they turned their faces towards the Grange.

"What, in this trim? Mrs. Dalrymple would say I made myself free and
easy."

"Nonsense! You know we don't stand upon ceremony. James will give your
boots a brush. And, if you insist on being smart, I will lend you a
coat."

"You have lent me one before now. Thank you. Then I don't care if I
do," concluded the Rector.

He had not time to go home and change his things. The Rectory and the
Grange stood a good mile apart from each other, the village lying
between them--and the dinner-hour was at hand. For the hours of that
period were not the fashionable ones of these, when people dine at
eight o'clock. Five o'clock was thought to be the proper hour then, or
six at the latest, especially with unceremonious country people. As to
parsons, they wore clothes cut as other people's were cut, only that
the coats were generally black.

"Look out, Robert," cried Mr. Cleveland to young Dalrymple. "Stand
away." And, turning round, the Rector fired his gun in the air.

"What is that for?" demanded Oscar Dalrymple, a relative of the
family, who was staying for a day or two at the Grange.

"I never carry home my gun loaded," was Mr. Cleveland's answer. "I
have too many young ones to risk it; they are in all parts of the
house at once, putting their hands to everything. Neither do I think
it fair to carry it into the house of a friend."

Oscar Dalrymple drew down the corners of his mouth; it gave an
unpleasing expression to his face, which was naturally cold. At that
moment a bird rose within range; Oscar raised his piece, fired and
brought it down. "That," said he, "is how I like to waste good powder
and shot."

"All right, Mr. Oscar," was the Rector's hearty answer. "To use it is
better than to waste it, but to waste it is better than to run risks.
Most of the accidents that happen with guns are caused by want of
precaution."

"Shall I draw your charge, Mr. Robert?" asked Hardy; who, as a good
church-going man, had a reverence for all the Rector said, in the
church and out of it.

"Draw the charge from _my_ gun!" retorted Hardy's young master; not,
however, speaking within ear-shot of Mr. Cleveland. "No. I can take
care of my playthings, if others can't, Hardy," he added, with all the
self-sufficiency of a young and vain man.

Presently there came up a substantial farmer, winding across the
stubble towards his own house, which they were passing. He rented
under Mr. Dalrymple.

"Famous good sport roday, hasn't it been, Squire?" cried he, saluting
his landlord.

"Famous. Never better. Will you accept a pair, Lee?" continued Mr.
Dalrymple. "We have bagged plenty."

The farmer gladly took the pheasants. "I shall tell my daughters you
shot them on purpose, Squire," said he, jestingly:

"Do," interposed Robert, with a laugh. "Tell Miss Judith I shot them
for her: in return for her sewing up that rent in my coat, the other
day, and making me decent to go home. Is the fence, where I fell,
mended yet?"

"Mended yet?" echoed Mr. Lee. "It was up again in an hour after you
left, Mr. Robert."

"Ah! I know you are the essence of order and punctuality," returned
Robert. "You must let me have the cost."

"Time enough for that," said the farmer. "'Twasn't much.
Good-afternoon, gentlemen; your servant, Squire."

"Oh--I say--Lee," called out Robert, as the farmer was turning
homewards, while the rest of the party pursued their way, "about the
mud in that weir? Hardy says it will hurt the fish to do it now."

"That's just what I told you, Mr. Robert."

"Well, then---- But I'll come down tomorrow, and talk it over with
you: I can't stop now."

"As you please, sir. I shall be somewhere about."

Robert Dalrymple turned too hastily. His foot caught against something
sticking out of the stubble, and in saving himself he nearly dropped
his gun. He recovered the gun with a jerk, but the trigger was
touched, he never knew how, or with what, and the piece went off. A
cry in front, a confusion, one man down, and the others gathered round
him, was all Robert Dalrymple saw, as through a mist. He dropped the
gun, started forward, and gave vent to a cry of anguish. For it was
his father who had fallen.

The most collected was Oscar. Dalrymple. He always was collected; his
nature was essentially cool and calm. Holding up Mr. Dalrymple's head
and shoulders, he strove to ascertain where the injury lay. Though
very pale, and lying with closed eyes, Mr. Dalrymple had not fainted.

"Oh, father," cried Robert, as he throw himself on his knees beside
him in a passion of grief, "I did not do it purposely--I don't know
how it happened."

"Purposely--no, my boy," answered his father, in a kind tone, as he
opened his eyes. "Cheer up, Charley." For, in fond moments, and at
other odd times, they would call the boy by his second name, Charles.
Robert often clashed with his father's.

"I do not believe there's much harm done," said the sufferer. "I think
the damage is in my left leg."

Mr. Dalrymple was right. The charge had entered the calf of the leg.
Oscar out the leg of the trouser round at the knee with a penknife,
unbuttoned the short gaiter, and drew them off, and the boot. The
blood was running freely. As a matter of course, not a soul knew what
ought to be done, whether anything or nothing, all being profoundly
ignorant of the simple principles of surgery, but they stumbled to the
conclusion that tying it up might stop the blood.

"Not that handkerchief," interposed Mr. Cleveland, as Oscar was about
to apply Mr. Dalrymple's own, a red silk one. "Take mine: it is white,
and linen. The first thing will be to get him home."

"The first thing must be to get a doctor," said Oscar.

"Of course. But we can move him home while the doctor is coming."

"My house is close at band," said Farmer Lee. "Better move him there
for the present."

"No; get me home," spoke up Mr. Dalrymple.

"The Squire thinks that home's home," commented the gamekeeper. "And
so it is; 'specially when one's sick."

True enough. The difficulty was, how to get Mr. Dalrymple there. But
necessity, as we all know, is the true mother of invention: and by the
help of a mattress, procured from the farmer's, with impromptu
bearings attached to it made of "webbing," as Mr. Lee's buxom daughter
called some particularly strong tape she happened to have by her, the
means were organized. Some labourers, summoned by Mr. Lee, were
pressed into the service; with Oscar Dalrymple, the farmer, and the
gamekeeper. These started with their load. Robert, in a state of
distraction, had flown off for medical assistance; Mr. Cleveland had
volunteered to go forward and prepare Mrs. Dalrymple.

Mrs. Dalrymple, with her daughters and their guest, Mary Lynn, sat in
one of the old-fashioned rooms of the Grange, they and dinner alike
awaiting the return of the shooting-party. Old-fashioned as regarded
its construction and its carved-oak panelling--dark as mahogany, but
handsome withal--and opening into a larger and lighter drawing room.
Mrs. Dalrymple, an agreeable woman of three or four and forty, had
risen, and was bending over Miss Lynn's tambour-frame, telling her it
was growing too dusk to see. Selina Dalrymple sat at the piano, trying
a piece of new music, talking and laughing at the same time; and
Alice, always more or less of an invalid, lay on her reclining sofa
near the window.

"Here is Mr. Cleveland," cried Alice, seeing him pass. "I said he
would be sure to come here to dinner, mamma."

Mrs. Dalrymple raised her head, and went, in her simple, hospitable
fashion, to open the hall-door. He followed her back to the
oak-parlour, and stood just within it.

"What a long day you have had!" she exclaimed. "I think you must all
be tired. Where are the others?"

"They are behind," replied the clergyman. He had been determining to
make light of the accident at first telling; quite a joke of it; to
prevent alarm. "We have bagged such a quantity, Mrs. Dalrymple: and
your husband has asked me to dinner: and is going to accommodate me
with a coat as well. Oh, but, talking of bagging, and dinner, and
coats, I hope you have plenty of hot water in the house; baths, and
all the rest of it. One of us has hurt his leg, and we may want no end
of hot water to bathe it."

"That is Charley, I know," said Selina. "He is always getting into
some scrape. Look at what he did at Lee's last week."

"No; it is not Charley for once. Guess again."

"Is it Oscar?"

"Oscar!" interposed Alice, from her sofa. "Oscar is too cautious to
get hurt."

"What should you say to its being me?" said Mr. Cleveland, sitting
down, and stretching out one leg, as if it were stiff and he could not
bend it.

"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Dalrymple, running forward with a
footstool. "How did it happen? You ought not to have walked home."

"No," said he, "my leg is all right. It is Dalrymple's leg: he has
hurt his a little."

"How did he do it? Is it the knee? Did he fall?" was reiterated
around.

"It is nothing," interrupted Mr. Cleveland. "But we would not let him
walk home. And I came on to tell you, lest you should be alarmed at
seeing him brought in."

"Brought in!" echoed Mrs. Dalrymple. "How do you mean? Who is bringing
him?"

"Hardy and Farmer Lee. Left to himself, he might have been for running
here, leaping the ditches over the shortest cut; so we just made him
lie down on a mattress, and they are carrying it. Miss Judith supplied
us."

"Has he sprained his leg?"

"No," carelessly returned Mr. Cleveland. "He has managed to get a
little shot into it; but-----"

"Shot!" interrupted Mrs. Dalrymple, in frightened tones. "_Shot?_"

"It is nothing, I assure you. A very slight wound. He will be out with
us again in a week."

"Oh, Mr. Cleveland!" she faintly cried. "Is it serious?"

"Serious!" laughed the well-intentioned clergyman. "My dear lady,
don't you see how merry I am? The most serious part is the leg of the
trousers. Oscar, taking alarm, like you, decapitated it at the knee.
The trousers will never be fit to wear again," added Mr. Cleveland,
with a grave face.

"We will turn them over to Robert's stock," said Selina. "I am sure,
what with one random action or another, half his clothes are in
ribands."

"How was it done?" inquired Alice.

"An accident," slightingly replied Mr. Cleveland. "One never does know
too well how such mishaps occur."

"We must send for a doctor," observed Mrs. Dalrymple, ringing the
bell. "However slight it may be, I shall not know how to treat it."

"We thought of that, and Robert is gone for Forth," said the Rector,
as he turned away.

In the passage he met Reuben, a staid, respectable manservant who had
been in the family many years; his healthy face was ruddy as a summer
apple, and his head, bald on the top, was sprinkled with powder. Mr.
Cleveland told him what had happened; he then went to the back-door,
and stood there, looking out--his hands in the pockets of his
velveteen coat. Selina came quietly up; she was trembling.

"Mr. Cleveland," she whispered, "is it not worse than you have said? I
think you have been purposely making light of it. Pray tell me the
truth. You know I am not excitable: I leave that to Alice."

"My dear, in one sense I made light of it, because I wished to prevent
unnecessary alarm. But I assure you I do not fear it is any serious
hurt."

"Was it papa's own gun that went off?"

"No."

"Whose, then?"

"Robert's."

"Oh!--but I might have known it," she added, her shocked tone giving
place to one of anger. "Robert is guilty of carelessness every day of
his life--of wanton recklessness."

"Robert is careless," acknowledged Mr. Cleveland. "You know, my dear,
it is said to be a failing of the Dalrymples. But he has a good heart;
and he is always so sorry for his faults."

"Yes; his life is made up of sinning and repenting."

"Sinning!"

"I call such carelessness sin," maintained Selina. "To think he should
have shot papa!"

"My dear, you are looking at it in the worst aspect. I believe it will
prove only a trifling injury. But, to see him borne here on a
mattress, minus the leg of his pantaloons, and his own leg bandaged,
might have frightened some of you into fits. Go back to the
oak-parlour, Selina; and don't let Alice run out of it at the first
slight sound she may chance to hear."

Selina did as she was told: Mr. Cleveland stayed where he was. Very
soon he distinguished the steady tread of feet approaching; and at the
same time he saw, to his surprise, the gig of the surgeon turning off
from the road. How quick Robert had been!

Quick indeed! Robert, as it proved, had met the surgeon's gig, and in
it himself and Dr. Tyler, a physician from the nearest town. They had
been together to a consultation. Robert, light and slim, had got into
the gig between them. He was now the first to get out; and he began
rushing about like a madman. The clergyman went forth and laid hands
upon him.

"You will do more harm than you have already done, young sir, unless
you can control yourself. Here have I been at the pains of impressing
upon your mother and sisters that it is nothing more than a flea-bite,
and you are going to upset it all! Be calm before them, at any rate."

"Oh, Mr. Cleveland! You talk of calmness! Perhaps I have killed my
father."

"I hope not. But I dare say a great deal depends upon his being kept
quiet and tranquil. Remember that. If you cannot," added Mr.
Cleveland, walking him forward a few paces, "I will just march you
over to the Rectory, and keep you there until all fear of danger is
over."

Robert rallied his senses with an effort. "I will be calm; I promise
you. Repentance," he continued, bitterly, "will do _him_ no good, so I
had better keep it to myself. I wish I had shot off my own head
first!"

"There, you begin again! _Will_ you be quiet?"

"Yes, I will. I'll go and stamp about where no one can see me, and get
rid of myself in that way."

He escaped from Mr. Cleveland, made his way to the kitchen-garden, and
began striding about amidst the autumn cabbages. Poor Robert! he
really felt as though it would be a mercy if his head were off. He was
good-hearted, generous, and affectionate, but thoughtless and
impulsive.

As the gamekeeper was departing, after helping to carry the mattress
upstairs, he caught sight of his young master's restless movements,
and went to him.

"Ah, Mr. Robert, it's bad enough, but racing about won't do no good.
If you had but let me draw that there charge! Mr. Cleveland's ideas is
sure to be right: the earl's always was, afore him."

Robert went on "racing" about worse than before, clearing a dozen
cabbages at a stride. "How did my father bear the transport home,
Hardy?"

"Pretty well. A bit faintish he got."

"Hardy, I will _never_ touch a gun again."

"I don't suppose you will, Mr. Robert--not till the next time. You may
touch 'em, sir, but you must be more careful of 'em."

Robert groaned.

"This is the second accident of just the same sort that I have been
in," continued Hardy. "The other was at the earl's, when I was a
youngster. Not Mr. Cleveland's father, you know, sir; t'other earl
afore him, over at t'other place. Two red-coat blades had come down
there for a week's sport, and one of 'em (he seemed to us keepers as
if he had never handled a gun in all his born days) got the shot into
the other's calf--just as it has been got this evening into the
Squire's. That was a worse accident, though, than this will be, I
hope. He was laid up at the inn, close by where it happened, for six
weeks, for they thought it best not to carry him to the Hall, and
then----"

"And then--did it terminate fatally?" interrupted Robert, scarcely
above his breath.

"Law, no, sir! At the end of the six weeks he was on his legs, as
strong as ever, and went back to London--or wherever it was he came
from."

Robert Dalrymple drew a relieved breath. "I shall go in and hear what
the surgeons say," said he, restlessly. "And you go round to the
kitchen, Hardy, and tell them to give you some tea; or anything else
you'd like."

Miss Lynn was in the oak-parlour alone, standing before the fire, when
Robert entered.

"Oh, Robert," she said, "I wanted to see you. Do you fear this will be
very bad?--very serious?"

"I don't know," was the desponding answer.

"Whose gun was it that did the mischief?"

"Whose gun! Have you not heard?" he broke forth, in tones of fierce
self-reproach. "MINE, of course. And if he dies, I shall have murdered
him."

Mary Lynn was used to Robert's heroics; but she looked terribly
grieved now.

"I see what you think, Mary," he said, being in the mood to view all
things in a gloomy light: "that you will be better without me than
with me. Cancel our engagement, if you will. I cannot say that I do
not deserve it."

"No, Robert, I was not thinking of that," she answered. Tears rose to
her eyes, and glistened in the firelight. "I was wondering whether I
could say or do anything to induce you to be less thoughtless;
less----"

"Less like a fool. Say it out, Mary."

"You are anything but that, and you know it. Only you will act so much
upon impulse. You think, speak, move and act without the slightest
deliberation or forethought. It is all random impulse."

"Impulse could hardly have been at fault here, Mary. It was a horrible
accident, and I shall deplore it to the last hour of my life."

"How did it happen?"

"I cannot tell. I had been speaking with Lee, gun in hand, and was
turning short round to catch up the others, when the gun went off.
Possibly the trigger caught my coat-sleeve--I cannot tell. Yes, that
was pure accident, Mary: but there's something worse connected with
it."

"What do you mean?"

"Mr. Cleveland had just before fired off his gun, because he would not
bring it indoors loaded. Hardy asked if he should draw the charge from
mine, and I answered him, mockingly, that I could take good care of
it. Why did I not let him do it?" added the young man, beginning to
stride the room in his remorse as he had previously been striding the
bed of cabbages. "What an idiot I was!--a wicked, self-sufficient
imbecile You had better give me up at once, Mary."

She turned and glanced at him with a smile. It brought him back to her
side, and he laid his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes
by the light of the fire.

"It may be to your interest," he whispered, in agitation. "Some day I
may be shooting you, in one of my careless moods. What do you say,
Mary?"

She said nothing. She only leaned slightly forward and smiled. Robert
threw his arms around her, and strained her to him in all the fervency
of a first affection. "My darling, my darling! Mary, you are too good
for me."

They were nice-looking young people, both of them, and in love with
one another. Robert was three-and-twenty; she only nineteen; and the
world looked fair before them. But, that she was too good for him, was
a greater truth than Mr. Robert thought.

Stir was heard in the house now; the medical men were coming
downstairs. Their report was favourable. The bleeding had been
stopped, the shots extracted, and there was no appearance of danger. A
little confinement, perfect quiet, and proper treatment, would, they
hoped, soon set all to rights again.

Dinner had not been thought of. When the cook had nearly succumbed to
despair, and Mr. Dalrymple had dropped into a calm sleep, and the
anxious ones were gathered together in the oak-parlour, Reuben came
in, and said the soup was on the table.

"Then I will wish you all a good appetite, and be gone," said the
Rector to Mrs. Dalrymple.

"Indeed you will not go without some dinner."

"I am in a pretty state for dinner," said he, "and I can't worry
Dalrymple about coats now. Look at me."

"Oh, Mr. Cleveland do you think we shall regard your coat! Is this a
time to be fastidious? We are not very much dressed ourselves."

"No?" said the Rector, regarding them. "I am sure you all look well.
You are not in shooting-jackets and gaiters and inch-thick boots."

"I am going to sit down as I am," interrupted Robert, who had not
changed a thing since he came in. "A fellow with a dreadful care at
his heart has not the pluck to put on a dandy-cut coat."

Mrs. Dalrymple ended the matter by taking the Rector's arm and bearing
him off to the dining-room. The rest followed. Oscar met them in the
hall--dressed. He was a small, spare man, cool and self-contained in
all emergencies, and fastidious in his habits, even to the putting on
of proper coats. His colourless face was rather unpleasing at times,
though its features were good, the eyes cold and light, the in-drawn
lips thin. Catching Selina's hand, he took her in.

It was a lively dinner-table, after all. Hope had arisen in every
heart, and Mr. Cleveland was at his merriest. He had great faith in
cheerful looks round a sick-bed, and he did not want desponding ones
to be displayed to his friend, Dalrymple.

Before the meal was over, a carriage was beard to approach the house.
It contained Miss Upton. The news of the accident had spread; it
had reached Court Netherleigh; and Miss Upton got up from her own
dinner-table and ordered her carriage. She came in, all concern,
penetrating to the midst of them in her unceremonious way. "And the
fault was _Robert's!_" she exclaimed, after listening to the recital,
as she turned her condemning eyes upon the culprit. "I am sorry to
hear _that_."

"You cannot blame me as I blame myself, Miss Upton," he said
ingenuously, a moisture dimming his sight. "I am always doing wrong; I
know that. But this time it was really an accident that might have
happened to any one. Even to Oscar, with all his prudence."

"I beg your pardon, young man; you are wrong there," returned Miss
Upton. "Oscar Dalrymple would have taken care to hold his gun so that
it _could not_ go off unawares. Never you fear that he will shoot any
one. I hope and trust your father will get well, Robert Dalrymple; and
I hope you will let this be a lesson to you."

"I mean it to be one," humbly answered Robert.

Miss Upton carried the three young ladies back to Court Netherleigh,
leaving Oscar and Robert to follow on foot: no reason why they should
not go, she told them, and it would help to keep the house quiet for
its master.

"Will it prove of serious consequence, this hurt?" she took an
opportunity of asking aside of Mr. Cleveland, as she was going out to
the carriage.

"No, I hope not. I think not. It is only a few stray shots in the
leg."

"I don't like those stray shots in the leg, mind you," returned Miss
Upton.

"Neither do I, in a general way," confessed the Rector.

Thinking of this, and of that, Miss Upton was silent during the drive
home. But it never did, or could, enter into her imagination to
suppose that the fair girl, with the sweet and thoughtful grey-blue
eyes, sitting opposite her--eyes that somehow did not seem altogether
unfamiliar to her memory--was the daughter of that friend of her
girlhood, Catherine Grant.



CHAPTER III.
LEFT TO ROBERT.


The eighth day after the accident to Mr. Dalrymple was a day of
rejoicing, for he was so far recovered as to be up for some hours. A
sofa was drawn before the fire, and he lay on it. The symptoms had all
along been favourable, and he now merrily told them that if any one
had written to order him a cork leg, he thought it might be
countermanded. Mr. Cleveland, a frequent visitor, privately decided
that the thanksgiving for his recovery might be offered up in church
on the following Sunday--such being the custom in the good and simple
place. They all rejoiced with him, paying visits to his chamber by
turns. Alice and Miss Lynn had been in together during the afternoon:
when they were leaving, he beckoned the latter back, but Alice did not
notice, and went limping away. Any great trouble affected Alice
Dalrymple's spirits sadly, and her lameness would then be more
conspicuous.

"Do you want me to do anything for you?" asked Mary, returning, and
bending over the sofa.

"Yes," said Mr. Dalrymple, taking possession of both her hands, and
looking up with an arch smile: "I want you to tell me what the secret
is between you and that graceless Robert."

Mary Lynn's eyes dropped, and her face grew scarlet. She was unable to
speak.

"_Won't_ you tell me?" repeated Mr. Dalrymple.

"Has he been--saying anything to you, sir?" she faltered.

"Not he. Not a word. Some one else told me they saw that he and Miss
Lynn had a secret between them, which might possibly bear results some
day."

She burst into tears, got one of her hands free, and held it before
her face.

"Nay, my dear," he kindly said, "I did not wish to make you
uncomfortable; quite the contrary. I want just to say one thing,
child: that if you and he are wishing to talk secrets to one another,
I and my wife will not say nay to it: and from a word your mother
dropped to me the last time I was in town, I don't think she would
either. Dry up your tears, Mary; it is a laughing matter, not a crying
one. Robert is frightfully random at times, but he is good as gold at
heart. I invite you and him to drink tea with me this evening. There."

Mary escaped, half smiles, half tears. And she and Robert had tea with
Mr. Dalrymple that evening. He took it early since his illness; six
o'clock. Mary made the tea, and Robert waited on his father, who was
then in bed. When tea was cleared away, Mary went with it; Robert
remained.

"This might have been an unlucky shot, Charley," Mr. Dalrymple
suddenly observed.

"Oh, father! do not talk about it. I am so thankful!"

"But I am going to talk about it. To tell you why it would have been
unlucky, had it turned out differently. This accident has made me
remember the uncertainty of life, if I never remembered it before. Put
the candles off the table; I don't like them right in my eyes; and
bring a chair here to the bedside. Get the lotion before you sit
down."

Robert did what was required, and took his seat.

"When I married, Robert, I was only the second brother, and no
settlement was made on your mother: I had nothing to settle. The post
I had in London in what you young people are now pleased to call the
red-tape office, brought me in six hundred a-year, and we married on
that, to rub on as we best could. And I dare say we should have rubbed
on very well," added Mr. Dalrymple, in a sort of parenthesis, "for our
desires were simple, and we were not likely to go beyond our income.
However, when you were about two years old, Moat Grange fell to me,
through the death of my elder brother."

"What was the cause of his death?" interrupted Robert. "He must have
been a young man."

"Eight-and-twenty only. It was young. I gave up my post in town, and
we came to Moat Grange----"

"But what did Uncle Claude die of?" asked Robert again. "I don't
remember to have heard."

"Never mind what. It was an unhappy death, and we have not cared to
speak of it. Moat Grange is worth about two thousand a-year: and we
have been doing wrong, in one respect, ever since we came to it, for
we have put nothing by."

"Why should you have put by, father?"

"There! That is an exemplification of your random way of speaking and
thinking. Moat Grange is entailed upon you, every shilling of it."

"Well, it will be enough for me, with what I have," said Robert.

"I hope it will. But it would have been anything but well had I died;
for in that case your mother and, sisters would have been beggars."

"Oh, father!"

"Yes; all would have lapsed to you. Lot me go on. Claude Dalrymple
left many debts behind him, some of them cruel ones--personal ones--we
will not enter into that. I--moved by a chivalrous feeling perhaps,
but which I and your mother have never repented of--took those
personal debts upon me, and paid them off by degrees."

"I should have done the same," cried impulsive Robert.

"And the estate had of course to be kept up, for I would not have had
it said that Moat Grange suffered by its change of owners, and your
mother thought with me; so that altogether we had a struggle for it,
and were positively less at our ease for ready-money here than we had
been in our little household in London. When the debts were cleared
off, and we had breathing time, I began to think of saving: but I am
sorry to say it was only thought of; not done. The cost of educating
you children increased as you grew older; Alice's illness came on and
was a great and continued expense; and, what with one thing and
another, we never did, or have, put by. Your expenses at college were
enormous."

"Were they?" returned Robert, indifferently.

"Were they!" echoed Mr. Dalrymple, almost in sharp tones. "Do you
forget that you also ran into debt there, like your uncle Claude?"

"Not much, was it, sir?" cried Robert, deprecatingly, who remembered
very little about the matter, beyond the fact that the bills had gone
in to Moat Grange.

"Pretty well," returned Mr. Dalrymple, with a cough. "The sum total
averaged between six and seven hundred a-year, for every year that you
were there."

"Surely not!" uttered Robert, startled to contrition.

"It seems to have made but little impression on you; you knew it at
the time. But I am not recalling this to cast reproach on you now,
Robert: I only wanted to explain how it is that we have been unable to
put by. Not a day after I am well, will I delay beginning it. We will
curtail our expenses, even in things hitherto considered necessary, no
matter what the neighbourhood may think; and I shall probably insure
my life. Your mother and I were talking of this all day yesterday."

"I can do with less than I spend, father; I will make the half of it
do," said Robert, in one of his fits of impulse.

"We shall see that," said Mr. Dalrymple, with another cough. "But you
do not know the trouble this has been to me since the accident,
Robert. I have lain here, and dwelt incessantly upon the helpless
condition of your mother and sisters--left helpless on your
hands--should I be called away."

"My dear father, it need not trouble you. Do you suppose I should ever
wish to disturb my mother and sisters in the possession of their home?
What do you take me for?"

"Ah, Robert, these generous resolves are easily made; but
circumstances more often than not mar them. You will be wanting a home
of your own--and a wife."

Robert's face took a very conscious look. "Time enough for that, sir."

"If you and Mary Lynn can both think so."

"You--don't--object to her, do you, sir?" came the deprecating
question.

"No, indeed I don't object to her: except on one score," replied Mr.
Dalrymple. "That she is too good for you."

Robert laughed. "I told her that myself, and asked her to give me up.
It was the night of the accident, when I was so truly miserable."

"Well, Robert, you could not have chosen a better girl than Mary Lynn.
She will have money----"

"I'm sure I've not thought whether she will or not," interrupted
Robert, quite indignantly.

"Of course not; I should be surprised if you had," said Mr. Dalrymple,
in the satirical tone his son disliked. "Commonplace ways and means,
pounds, shillings and pence, are beneath the exalted consideration of
young Mr. Dalrymple. I should not wonder but you would set up to live
upon air tomorrow, if you had nothing else to live upon."

"Well, father, you know what I meant--that I am not mercenary."

"I should be sorry if you were. But when we contemplate the prospect
of a separate household, it is sometimes necessary to consider how its
bread-and-cheese will be provided."

"I have the two hundred a-year that my own property brings in--that
Aunt Coolly left me. There's that to begin with."

"And I will allow you three or four hundred more; Mary will bring
something and be well-off later. Yes, Robert, I think you may set
up your tent, if you will. I like young men to marry young. I did
myself--at three-and-twenty: your present age. Your uncle Claude did
not, and ran into folly. And, Robert, I should advise you to begin and
read for the Bar. Better have a profession."

"I did begin, you know, father."

"And came down here when you were ill with that fever, and never went
up again. Moat Grange will be yours eventually----"

"Not for these twenty years, I hope, father," impulsively interrupted
Robert. "You are spared to us, and I can never be sufficiently
thankful for it. Why, in twenty years you would not be an old man; not
seventy."

"I am thankful, too, Robert; thankful that my life is not t off in its
midst--as it might have been. The future of your mother and sisters
has been a thorn in my side since I was brought face to face with
death. In health we are apt to be fearfully careless."

"Hear me, father," cried Robert, rising, and speaking with emotion.
"Had the worst happened, they should have been my first care; I
declare it to you. First and foremost, even before Mary Lynn."

"My boy, I know your heart. Are you going down? That's right. I think
I have talked enough. Bring a light here first. My leg is very
uneasy."

"Does it pain you?" inquired Robert, who had noticed that his father
was getting restless. "How tight the bandage is! The leg appears to be
swollen."

"The effect of the bandage being tight," remarked Mr. Dalrymple.
"Loosen it, and put plenty of lotion on."

"It feels very hot," were Robert's last words.

The evening went on. Just before bed-time, the young people were all
sitting round the fire in the oak-parlour, Mrs. Dalrymple being with
her husband. So assured did they now feel of no ill results ensuing,
that they had grown to speak lightly of it. Not of the accident: none
would have been capable of that: but of the circumstances attending
it. Selina had just been recommending Robert never in future to touch
any weapon stronger than a popgun.

"I don't mean to," said Robert.

"What a long conference you had with papa tonight after Mary came
down," went on Selina. "What was it about, Robert? Were you getting a
lesson how to carry loaded guns?"

"Not that," put in Oscar Dalrymple: "Robert has learnt that lesson by
heart. He was getting some hints how to manage Moat Grange."

Robert looked up quickly, almost believing Oscar must have been behind
the chamber wall.

"Your father has come so very near to losing it," added Oscar. "A
chance like that brings reflection with it."

"Only to think of it!" breathed Alice--"that we have been so near
losing the Grange! If dear papa had died, it would have come to
Robert."

"Ay, all Robert's; neither yours nor your mother's," mused Oscar. "I
dare say the thought has worried Mr. Dalrymple."

"I know it has," said Robert, in his hasty way. "But there was no
occasion for it."

"No, thank Heaven!" breathed Selina.

"However things had turned out, my father might have been easy on that
score. And we were talking of you," added Robert, in a whisper to Mary
Lynn, while making believe to regard attentively the sofa cushion at
her ear. "And of setting up our tent, Mary; and of ways and means--and
I am to go on reading for the Bar. It all looks couleur-de-rose."

"Robert," returned Alice, "should you have sent us adrift, had you
come into the old homestead?"

"To be sure I should, in double-quick time," answered he, tilting
Alice's chair back to kiss her, and keeping it in that position.
"'Sharp the word and quick the action' it would have been with me
then. I should have paid a premium with you both, and shipped you off
by an emigrant ship to some old Turkish Sultan who buys wives, so that
you might never trouble me or the Grange again."

"And mamma, Robert?"

"Oh, mamma--I _might_ perhaps, have allowed her to stop here,"
conceded Robert, with a mock serious face. "On condition that she
acted as my housekeeper."

They all laughed; they were secure in the love of Robert. In the midst
of which, the young man felt some one touch his shoulder. It was Mrs.
Dalrymple.

"Dearest mamma," said he, letting Alice and her chair go forward to
their natural position, and stepping backwards, laughing still. "Did
you hear what we were saying?"

"Yes, Robert, I heard it," she sighed. "Have you a mind for a drive
tonight?"

"A drive!" exclaimed Robert. "To find the emigrant ship?"

"I have told James to get the gig ready. He can go, if you do not, but
I thought you might be the quicker driver. It is to bring Mr. Forth.
Some change for the worse has taken place in your father."

All their mirth was forgotten instantly. They sat speechless.

"He complained, just now, of the bandage being too tight, and said
Robert had pretended to loosen it, but must have only fancied that he
did so," continued Mrs. Dalrymple, speaking to them generally. "It is
much inflamed and swollen, and he cannot bear the pain. I fear," she
added, sitting down and bursting into tears, "that we have reckoned on
his recovery too soon--that it is far off yet."

Robert flew on the wings of the wind, and soon brought back Mr. Forth.
Mrs. Dalrymple and Oscar went with the surgeon to the sick-chamber.
Uncovering the leg, he held the wax-light close to examine it. One
look, and he glanced up with a too-expressive face.

Oscar, always observant, noticed it; no one else. Mrs. Dalrymple asked
the cause of the change, the sudden heat and pain.

"It is a change--that--does--sometimes come on," drawled Mr. Forth;
who of course, as a medical man, would have protested against danger
had he known his patient was going to drop out of his hands the next
moment but one.

"That redness about it," said Mr. Dalrymple, "that's new."

"A touch of erysipelas," remarked the surgeon.

His manner soothed them, and the vague feeling of alarm subsided. None
of them looked to the worst side--and a day or two passed on. Dr.
Tyler came again now as well as Mr. Forth.

One morning when the doctors were driving out of the stable-yard--that
way was more convenient to the high-road than the front-entrance--they
met Mr. Cleveland. Mr. Forth pulled up, and the Rector leaned on the
gig while he talked to them, one hand on the wing, the other on the
dashboard.

"How is he this morning?"

"We were speaking of you, sir," replied Mr. Forth: "saying that you,
as Mr. Dalrymple's chief friend, would be the best to break the news
to the Grange. There is no hope."

"No hope of his life?"

"None. A day or two must terminate it."

Mr. Cleveland was inexpressibly shocked. He could not at first speak.
"This is very sudden, gentlemen."

"Not particularly so. At least, not to us. We have done all in our
power, but it has mastered us. Will you break it to him?"

"Yes," he answered, quitting them. "It is a hard task; but some one
must do it." And he went straight to Mr. Dalrymple.

In the evening, Robert, who had been away all day on some matter of
business, returned. As he went to his father's room to report what he
had done, his mother came out of it. She had her handkerchief to her
face: Robert supposed she was afraid of draughts. He approached the
bed.

Mr. Dalrymple, looking flushed and restless, took Robert's hand and
held it in his. "Have they told you the news, my boy?"

"No," answered Robert, never suspecting the true meaning of the words.
"Is there any?"

Robert Dalrymple the elder gazed at him; a yearning gaze. And an
uneasy sensation stole over his son.

"I am going to leave you, Robert."

He understood, and sank down by the side of the bed. It was as if a
thunderbolt had struck him: and one that would leave its trace
throughout life.

"Father! It cannot be!"

"In a day or two, Robert. That is all of time they can promise me
now."

He cried out with a low, wailing cry, and let his head drop on the
counterpane beside his father.

"You must not take it too much to heart, my son. Remember: that is one
of my dying injunctions."

"I wish I could die for you, father!" he passionately uttered. "I
shall never forgive myself."

"I forgive you heartily and freely, Robert. My boy, see you not that
this must be God's good will? I could die in peace, but for the
thought of your mother and sisters. I can but leave them to you: will
you take care of and cherish them?"

He lifted his head, speaking eagerly. "I will, I will. They shall be
my only care. Father, this shall ever be their home. I swear----"

"Be silent, Robert!" interrupted Mr. Dalrymple, his voice raised in
emotion. "How dare you? _Never take a rash oath_."

"I mean to fulfil it, father; just as though I had taken it. This
shall ever be my mother's home. But, oh, to lose you thus! My father,
say once more that you do forgive me. Oh, father, forgive and bless me
before you die!"


Death came, all too surely; and the neighbourhood, struck with
consternation, grieved sincerely for Mr. Dalrymple.

"If Mr. Robert had but let me draw that charge from his gun, the
Squire would have been here now," bewailed Hardy, the gamekeeper.



CHAPTER IV.
AT CHENEVIX HOUSE.


It was a magnificent room, everything magnificent about it, as it was
fitting the library of Chenevix House should be: a fine mansion
overlooking Hyde Park. What good is there to be imagined--worldly
good--that fortune, so capricious in her favours, had not showered
down upon the owner of this house, the Earl of Acorn? None. With his
majority he had come into a princely income, for his father, the late
earl, died years before, and the estates had been well nursed. Better
had it been, though, for the young Earl of Acorn that he had been born
a younger son, or in an inferior rank of life. With that spur to
exertion, necessity, he would have pushed on and _exercised_ the
talents which had been liberally bestowed on him; but gliding as he
did into a fortune that seemed unlimited, he plunged into every
extravagant folly of the day, and did his best to dissipate it. He was
twenty-one then; he is walking about his library now--you may see him
if you choose to enter it--with some five-and-thirty good years added
to his life: pacing up and down in perplexity, and possessing scarcely
a shilling that he can call his own. His six-and-fifty years have
rendered his slender figure somewhat portly, and an expression of
annoyance is casting its shade on his clear brow and handsome
features; but no deeper lines of sorrow are marked there. Not upon
these careless natures does the hand of care leave its sign.

But the earl is--to make the best of it--in a brown study, and he
scowls his eyebrows, and purses his lips, and motions with his hands
as he paces there, communing with himself. Not that he is so much
perplexed as to how he shall escape his already great embarrassments,
as he is to contriving the means to raise more money to rush into
greater. The gratification of the present moment--little else ever
troubled Lord Acorn.

A noise of a cab in the street, as it whirls along, and pulls up
before the steps and stately pillars of Chenevix House; a knock and a
ring that send their echoes through the mansion; and the earl strides
forward and looks cautiously from the window, so as to catch a glimpse
of the horse and vehicle. It was only a glimpse, for the window was
high from the ground, its embrasures deep, and the cab close to the
pavement; and, for a moment, he could not decide whether it belonged
to friend or foe; but soon he drew away with an ugly word, crossed the
room to unlatch the door, and stood with his ear at the opening. What!
a peer condescend to play eavesdropper, in an attitude that befits a
meaner man? Yes: and a prince has done the same, when in bodily fear
of duns.

A few minutes elapsed. The indistinct sound of contention approaches
his lordship's ear, in conjunction with a very uncomfortable stream of
wind, and then the house-door closes loudly, the cab whirls off again,
and the earl rings the library-bell.

"Jenkins, who was it?"

"That impudent Salmon again, my lord. I said you were out, and he
vowed you were in. I believe he would have pushed his way up here, but
John and the porter stood by, and I dare say he thought we three
should be a match for him."

"Insolent!" muttered his lordship. "Has Mr. Grubb been here?"

"No, my lord."

"What can detain him?" spoke the earl to himself, irascibly. "I begged
him to come roday. Mind you are in the hall yourself, Jenkins; you
know whom to admit and whom to deny."

"All right, my lord." And the butler, who had lived with the earl many
years, and was a confidential servant devoted to his master's
interests, closed the library-door and descended.

It was not until evening that Mr. Grubb came, and was shown into the
library. Do not be prejudiced against him on account of his name,
reader, but pay attention to him, for he is worthy of it, and plays a
prominent part in this little history. He is thirty years of age, a
tall, slender, noble-looking man, with intellect stamped on his ample
forehead, and good feeling pervading his countenance. It is a very
refined face, and its grey-blue eyes are simply beautiful. He is the
son of that city merchant, Christopher Grubb, who married Catherine
Grant. Christopher Grubb has been dead many years, and the son,
Francis Charles Christopher, is the head of the house now, and the
only one of the name living.

His acquaintanceship with Lord Acorn had commenced in this way. When
that nobleman's only son, Viscount Denne, was at Christchurch, Francis
Grubb was also there; and they became as intimate as two
undergraduates of totally opposite pursuits and tastes can become.
Lord Denne was wild, careless, and extravagant; more of a spendthrift
(and that's saying a great deal) than his father had been before him.
He fell into debt and difficulty; and Mr. Grubb, with his ample means,
over and over again got him out of it. During their last term, when
young Denne was in a maze of perplexity, and more deeply indebted to
his friend than he cared to count, the accident occurred that deprived
him of life. A mad race with another Oxonian, each of them in his own
stylish curricle, the fashionable bachelor carriage of the day,
resulted in the overturning of both vehicles, and in the fatal injury
of Lord Denne. During the three days that he lingered Mr. Grubb never
left him. Lord Acorn was summoned from London, but Lady Acorn and her
daughters were abroad. The young man told his father how much money he
owed to Francis Grubb, begging that it might be repaid, and the earl
promised it should be. The death of this, his only son, was a terrible
blow to him: he would have been nine-and-twenty this year.

For this happened some nine or ten years ago; and during all that time
Mr. Grubb had not been repaid.

Repaid! The debt had been only added to. For the earl had borrowed
money on his own score, and increased it with a vengeance. He had
borrowed it on the strength of some property that he was expecting
yearly to fall to him through the death of an uncle: and Mr. Grubb,
strictly honourable himself, had trusted to the earl's promises. The
property, however, had at length fallen in; had fallen in a year ago;
and Mr. Grubb had not been repaid one shilling. While Lord Acorn was
yet still saying to him, I shall have the money tomorrow, or, I shall
have it the next day, Mr. Grubb had now found out that he had had it
months before, and had used it in repaying more pressing creditors.
Francis Grubb did not like it.

"Ah, Grubb, how are you?" cried Lord Acorn, grasping his hand
cordially. "I thought you were never coming."

"It is foreign post night; I could not get away earlier," was Mr.
Grubb's answer, his voice a singularly pleasant one.

"Look here, Grubb: I am hard up, cleared down to the last gasp, and
money I must have," began his lordship, as he paced the carpet
restlessly. "I want you to advance me a little more."

"Not another farthing," spoke Mr. Grubb, in decisive tones. "It has
just come to my knowledge, Lord Acorn, that you received the proceeds
of your uncle's property long ago--and that you have spent them."

Remembering the deceit he had been practising, his lordship had the
grace to feel ashamed of himself. His brow flushed.

"I could not help it, Grubb; I could not indeed. I did not like to
tell you, and I have had the deuce's own trouble to keep my head above
water."

"I am very sorry; very," said the merchant. "Had you dealt fairly and
honourably with me, Lord Acorn, I would always have returned it in
kind; always. Had you said to me, I have that money at last, but I
cannot let you have it, for it must go elsewhere, I should never have
pressed you for it. I must press now."

"Rubbish!" cried the earl, secure in the other's long-extended good
feeling. "You will do nothing of the kind, I know, Grubb. You have a
good hold yet on the Netherleigh estate. That must come to me."

"Not so sure. Lord Acorn, I must have my money repaid to me."

"Then you can't have it. And I want you to let me have two thousand
pounds more. As true as that we are living, Grubb, if I don't get that
in the course of a few hours, I shall be in Queer Street."

"Lord Acorn, I will not do it; and I will do the other. You should
have dealt openly with me."

"Did you ever get blood from a stone?" asked the earl: and the
careless apathy of his manner contrasted strongly with the earnestness
of Mr. Grubb's. "There's no chance of your getting the money back
until I am under here," stamping his foot on the ground, "and you know
it: unless the Netherleigh estate falls in. I speak freely to you,
Grubb, presuming on our long friendship. Come, don't turn crusty at
last. You don't want the money: you are rich as Croesus, and you must
wait. I wish my son had lived; we would have cut off the entail."

"The debt must be liquidated," returned Mr. Grubb, after a pause of
regret, given to poor Lord Denne. And he spoke so coldly and
determinedly that Lord Acorn wheeled sharply round in his walk, and
looked at him.

"I don't know how the dickens it will be done, then. I suppose _you_
won't proceed to harsh measures, and bring a hornets' nest about my
head."

They faced one another, and a silence ensued. For once in his careless
life, the good-looking face of Lord Acorn was troubled.

"There is one way in which your lordship can repay the debt," resumed
Mr. Grubb. "And it will not cost you money."

"Ah!" laughed the earl, "how's that? If you mean by post-obit bonds,
I'll sign a cart-load, if you like."

Mr. Grubb approached the earl in a sort of nervous agitation. "Give
me, your youngest daughter, Lord Acorn," he breathed. "Let me woo and
win her! I will take her in lieu of all."

His lordship was considerably startled; the proud Chenevix blood rose,
and dyed his forehead crimson. He had not been listening particularly,
and he doubted whether he heard aright. In one respect he had not, for
he thought the words had been your _eldest_ daughter. Against Francis
Grubb personally, nothing could be said; but against his standing a
great deal. Many years had gone by since Catherine Grant lost caste by
marrying a "City man," but opinions had not changed, for it was yet
long antecedent to these tolerant days. Men in trade, no matter how
high the class of trade, were still kept at a distance by the upper
orders--not looked upon as being of the same race.

Therefore the demand was as a blow to Lord Acorn; and he dared not
resent it as he would have liked to. _His_ daughter descend from her
own rank, and become one with this trader! Was the world coming to an
end?

But as the two men stood gazing at one another, neither of them
speaking, the earl began to revolve in his mind the pros of the
matter, as well as the cons. Lady Grace was no longer young; she was
growing thin and rather cross, for she had been before the world ten
years, with no result. Would it be so bad a match for her?

"I will settle an ample income upon her," spoke Mr. Grubb. "And your
unpaid bonds--there are many of them, my lord--I will return into your
hands: all of them. Thus your debt to me will be cancelled, and, so
far as I am concerned, you are a free man again."

"I cannot be that. I am at my wits' end now for two thousand pounds."

"You shall have that."

"Egad, Grubb's a generous fellow!" cogitated the earl, "and it will be
a famous thing for Grace: if she can only think so. Have you ever
spoken to Grace of this," he asked, aloud.

"To Lady Grace? No."

"Do you think Grace likes you," continued Lord Acorn, remembering how
attractive a man the merchant was. "Do you think she will accept you?"

"I am not speaking of Lady Grace."

"No!" repeated the earl, opening his eyes wider than usual. "Which of
them is it, then?"

"Lady Adela."

If Lord Acorn had been startled when he thought the object of this
proposal was Grace, he was considerably more startled now. Adela!
young, beautiful, and haughty!--she would never have him. His first
impulse was indignantly to reject the proposition; his second thought
was, that he was trammelled and _dared_ not do so.

"I cannot force Adela's inclinations," he said, after an awkward
pause.

"Neither would I take a wife whose inclinations require to be forced,"
returned Mr. Grubb. "Pray understand that."

"My lord," cried a servant, entering the library, "her ladyship wishes
to know how much longer she is to wait dinner?"

"Dinner!" exclaimed the earl. "By Jove! I did not know it was so late.
Grubb, will you join us sans cérémonie?"

It was not the first time, by many, Mr. Grubb had dined there. He
followed the earl into the drawing-room. Lady Acorn was in it, a
little woman, all fire and impatience; especially just now, for if one
thing put her out more than another, it was that of being kept waiting
for her meals. The five daughters were there: they need not be
described. Grace, little and plain, but nevertheless with a nice face,
and eight-and-twenty, was the oldest; Adela, whom you have already
seen, twenty now, and a very flower of beauty, was the youngest. Four
daughters were between them. Sarah, next to Grace, and one year
younger, had married Major Hope, and was in India; Mary, Harriet, and
Frances; Adela coming last. Not a whit less beautiful was she than
when we saw her a year ago at Court Netherleigh.

"Here's the grub again," whispered Harriet, for the girls were given
to be flippant amongst themselves. Not that they disliked Mr. Grubb
personally, or wished to cast derision on him, but they made a
standing joke of his name. He was in trade--and all such people they
had been taught to hold in contempt. The house, "Christopher Grubb and
Son," was situated somewhere in the City, they believed: it did
business with India, and the colonies, and ever so many more places;
though what the precise business was the young ladies did not pretend
to understand; but they did know that it was second to few houses in
wealth, and that their father was a considerable debtor to it. While
liking Mr. Grubb personally very well indeed, they yet held him to be
of a totally different order from themselves.

"Dinner at once," cried the countess, impatiently, to the butler. "Of
course it's all cold," she sharply added, for the especial benefit of
her husband.

Mr. Grubb went to the upper end of the room after greeting the
countess, and was speaking with the young ladies there; Lord Acorn
bent over the back of his wife's chair, and began to whisper to her.

"Betsy, here's the strangest thing! Grubb wants to marry one of the
girls."

"Absurd!" responded the wrathful little woman.

"So it appears, at the first blush. But when we come to look at the
advantages--now do listen reasonably for a moment," he broke off, "you
are as much interested in this as I am. He will settle hundreds of
thousands upon her, and cancel all my debts to him besides."

"Did he say so?" quickly cried the countess, putting off her anger to
a less interested moment.

"He did," replied the earl, forgetting that he had improvised the
hundreds of thousands. "And in addition to putting me straight, he
will give me a handsome sum down. You shall have five hundred pounds
of it for your milliner, Madame Damereau, which will enable you all to
get a new rig-out," concluded the wily man, conscious that if his
self-willed better-half set her temper against the match, the
Archbishop of Canterbury himself could never tie it into one.

"Which of them does he want?" inquired the countess, snappishly,
as if wishing to intimate that, though she might have to say Yes, it
should be done with an ill grace. "He's talking now with--which is
it?--Mary."

"I thought it was Grace," began the earl, in a deprecatory tone; "I
took that for granted----"

"Dinner, my lady," came the interruption, as the door was flung open:
and the earl started up, and said not another word. He thought it well
that his lady wife should digest the news so far, before proceeding
further with it. The countess on her part, understood that all was
told, and that the desired bride was Grace.

Mr. Grubb gave his arm to Lady Acorn, and sat down at her right hand.
Lady Grace was next him on the other side. He was an agreeable man, of
easy manners. Could they ignore the City house, and had he boasted of
ancestry and a high-sounding name, they could not have wished for a
companion who was more thoroughly the gentleman. Unusually agreeable
he was this evening, for he now believed that no bar would be thrown
in the way of his winning the Lady Adela. He had long admired her
above all women; he had long loved her, and he saw no reason why any
bar should be thrown: what incompatibility ought to exist between the
portionless daughter of a ruined peer and a British merchant of high
character and standing and next to unlimited wealth? The ruined peer,
however, had he heard this argument, might have said the merchant
reasoned only in accordance with his merchant-origin; that he could
not be expected to understand distinctions which were above him.

Lady Acorn rose from table early. She had been making up her mind to
the match, during dinner: like her husband, she discovered, on
reflection, its numerous advantages, and she was impatient to disclose
the matter to Grace. Mr. Grubb held the door open as they filed out,
for which the countess thanked him by a bow more cordial than she had
ever bestowed on him in her life. Whether it had ever occurred to Lady
Acorn that this City man was probably the son of Catherine Grant,
cannot be told. She had never alluded to it. Catherine had offended
them all too greatly to be recalled even by name: and, so far as Lord
Acorn went, he did not know such a person as Catherine had ever
existed.

The girls gathered their chairs round the fire in the autumn evening,
and began grumbling. "Engagements"--he did not say of what nature--had
been Lord Acorn's plea for remaining in town when every one else had
left it. Adela was especially bitter.

"Papa never does things like other people. When we ought to be away,
we are boxed up in town; and when every one else is in town, we are
kept in the country. I'm sick of it."

"It's a pity, girls, you haven't husbands to cater for you, as you are
sick of your father's rule," tartly spoke their mother. "You don't go
off; any of you."

"It is Grace's turn to go first," cried Lady Harriet.

"Yes, it is--and one wedding in a family often leads to another,"
observed the wily countess. "I should like to see Grace well settled.
With a fine place of her own, where we could go and visit her, and a
nice town mansion; and a splendid income to support it all."

"And a box at the opera," suggested Frances.

"And a herd of deer, and a pack of hounds, and the crown diamonds,"
interrupted Adela, with irony in her tone, and a spice of scorn in her
eye, as she glanced up from her book. "Don't you wish we had Aladdin's
lamp? It might come to pass then."

"But if I tell you that it will come to pass without it," said Lady
Acorn, "that it _has_ come to pass, what should you say? Look up,
Grace, my dear; there's luck in store for you yet."

Their mother's manner was so pointedly significant, that all were
silent from amazement. The colour mounted to the cheeks of Grace, and
her lips parted: could it be that she was no longer to remain Lady
Grace _Chenevix?_

"Grace, child," continued the countess, "the time has gone by for you
to pick and choose. You are now getting on for thirty, and have never
had the ghost of a chance----"

"That is more than you ought to say, mamma," interrupted Grace, her
face flushing, perhaps at her mother's assertion telling home. "I may
have had--I _did_ have a chance, as you call it, but----"

"Well, not that we ever knew of; let us amend the sentence in
that way. What I was going to observe is, that you must not be
over-particular now."

"_Has_ Grace got an offer?" inquired Harriet, breathlessly.

"Yes, she has, and you need not all look so incredulous. It is a good
offer too, plenty of substance about it. She will abound in such
wealth that she'll be the envy of all the girls in London, and of you
four in particular. She will have her town and country mansions,
crowds of servants, dresses at will--everything, in short, that money
can purchase." For, in her maternal anxiety for the acceptance of the
offer, her ladyship thought she could not make too much of its
advantages.

"Why, for all that, Grace would marry a chimney-sweep," laughed the
plain-speaking Lady Frances.

"Grace has had it in her head to turn serious," added Harriet; "she
may put that off now. I think Aladdin's lamp has been at work."

"Of course there are some disadvantages attending the proposed match,"
said Lady Acorn, with deprecation; "no marriage is without them, I can
tell you that. Grace will have every real and substantial good; but
the gentleman, in birth and position, is--rather obscure. But he is
not a chimney-sweep: it's not so bad as that."

"Good Heavens, mamma!" interrupted Lady Grace. "'So bad as that'?"

"Pray do not make any further mystery, mamma," said Mary. "Who is it
that has fallen in love with Grace?"

"Mr. Grubb."

"Mr.----Grubb!" was echoed by the young ladies in every variety of
astonishment, and Grace thought that of all the men in the world she
should have guessed him last; but she did not say so. She was of a
cautious nature, and rarely spoke on impulse.

The silence of surprise was broken by a ringing laugh from Adela, one
laugh following upon another. It seemed as though she could not cease.
When had they seen Adela so merry?

"I cannot help it," she said apologetically, "but it did strike me as
sounding so absurd. 'Lady Grace Grubb!' Forgive me, Gracie."

"It will not bear so aristocratic a sound as Lady Grace Chenevix,"
retorted the mother, tartly, "but remember the old saying, 'What's in
a name?' It is you who are absurd, Adela."



CHAPTER V.
LADY ADELA.


"I have opened the matter to Grace, and there'll be no trouble with
her," began Lady Acorn to her husband the next morning, halting to say
it as she was going into her dressing-room. "No girl knows better than
she on which side her bread is buttered!"

"To Grace!" cried the earl, who was only half awake, and spoke from
the bedclothes. "Do you mean about Grubb?"

"Now what else should I mean?"

"But it is not Grace he wants. It's Adela."

"Adela!" echoed Lady Acorn, aghast.

"I don't think he'd have Grace at a gift--or any of them but Adela.
And so you told _her_, making her dream of wedding-rings and
orange-blossoms! Poor Gracie, what a sell!"

"Adela will never have him," broke forth the countess, in high
vexation, at herself, her husband, Mr. Grubb, and the world in
general. "Never!"

"Oh, nonsense, she must be talked into it. With five girls, it's
something to get off one of them."

"Adela is not a girl to be 'talked into' anything. She would like a
duke. She is the vainest of them all."

"Look at the amount of devilry this will patch up," urged the earl,
impressively, as he lifted his head from the pillow. "If he does not
get Adela, he is going to sue for his overdue bonds."

"You have no business with bonds, overdue or under-due," snapped his
wife. "I declare I have nothing but worry in this life."

"I shall get the two thousand pounds from him, if this comes off; you
shall have five hundred of it, as I told you; and my debt to him he
will cancel. The man's mad after Adela."

"But she's not mad after him," retorted Lady Acorn.

"Make her so," advised the earl. And her ladyship went forth to her
dressing-room, and allowed some of her superfluous temper to explode
on her unoffending maid, who stood there waiting for her.

"There, that will do," she impatiently said, when only half dressed,
"I'll finish for myself. Go and send Lady Grace to me." And the maid
went, gladly enough.

"Gracie, my dear," she began, when her daughter entered, "I am so
sorry; so vexed; but it was your papa's fault. He should have been
more explicit."

"Vexed at what?" asked Grace.

"That which I told you last night--I am so grieved, poor child! It
turns out to have been some horrible mistake."

Grace compressed her lips. "Yes, mamma?"

"A mistake in the name. It is Adela Mr. Grubb proposed for--not you. I
am deeply grieved, Grace."

Lady Grace laid one hand across her chest: it may be that her heart
was beating unpleasantly with the disappointment. Better, certainly,
that her hopes had never been raised, than that they should be dashed
thus unceremoniously down again. She had learnt to appreciate Mr.
Grubb as he deserved; she liked and esteemed him, and would gladly
have married him.

"Will Adela accept him?" were the first words she said. For she did
not forget that Adela, by way of amusing herself, had not been sparing
of her ridicule, the previous night, of Mr. Grubb and his pretensions.

"I don't know," growled Lady Acorn. "Adela, when she chooses, can be
the very essence of obstinacy. I have said nothing to her. It is only
now that I found out there was a misapprehension."

"Mother!" suddenly exclaimed Grace, "it has placed me in a painfully
ridiculous position, there's no denying that: we have been talking of
it among ourselves. If you will help me, it may be made less so."

"How?"

"Say that I was in your confidence; that we both know it was Adela;
and that what was said about me was arranged between us to break the
matter to her, and get her reconciled to the idea of him. And let it
be myself, not you, to explain now to Adela."

"Yes, yes; do as you will," eagerly assented the mother: for she did
feel sorry for Grace.

Grace went to Adela's room, and found her there, with Harriet. She had
been recalling the past: and she saw now how attentive Francis Grubb
had been to Adela; how fond of talking with her. "Had our eyes been
open, we might have seen it all!" sighed Grace.

"How nicely you were all taken in last night!" she said, assuming a
light playfulness, as she sat down at the open window. "Don't you
think mamma and I got up that fable well about Mr. Grubb?"

"Got it up!" cried Harriet. "You hypocritical sinners! Did he not make
the offer?"

"Ay; but not to me. It was better to put it so, don't you see, by way
of breaking it to you."

"Then you are not going to be Lady Grace Grubb, after all!" said
Adela. "Well, it would have been an incongruous assimilation of
names."

"I am not. Guess who it is he wants, Adela?"

"Frances?" cried Harriet.

"No, but you are very near--you burn, as we children used to say at
our play."

"Not Adela!"

"It is," answered Grace. "And I congratulate her heartily. Lady Adela
Grubb will sound better than Lady Grace would."

"Thank you," satirically answered Adela; "you may retain the name
yourself, Grace. None of your Grubbs for me."

"Ah, don't be silly, child. A grub, indeed! He is one of the best and
most admirable of men; a true nobleman."

The words were interrupted by a laugh from Harriet; a ringing laugh.
"Oh, Gracie, how unfortunate! What shall we do! Frances wrote last
night to tell Miss Upton of your engagement, and the letter's posted."

Grace Chenevix suppressed her mortification, and quitted her sisters
with a smiling face. But when she was safe in her own room, she burst
into a flood of distressing tears.

Lord and Lady Acorn chose to breakfast that morning alone in the
library. Afterwards Adela was sent for. Straightening down the slim
waist of her pretty morning dress with an action that spoke of
conscious vanity, she obeyed the summons. Lord Acorn threw aside the
morning paper when she entered.

"Adela, sit down," he said, pushing the chair at his elbow slightly
forward. "We have received an offer of marriage for you; and though it
is not in every respect all that we could wish----"

"From the grub," interrupted Adela, merging ceremony in indignation,
as she stood confronting both her parents, regardless of the seat
proffered. "Grace has been telling me."

"Hush, Adela! don't give way to flippant folly," interposed her
mother. "Have you considered the advantages of such an alliance as
this?"

"Advantages, mamma! I don't understand. Have you"--turning to her
father--"considered the disadvantages, sir?"

"There is only one disadvantage connected with it, Adela--that he is
not of noble birth."

"But that is insuperable, papa!"

"Indeed, no," said Lord Acorn. "You will possess every good that
wealth can command; all things that can conduce to happiness. Your
position will be an enviable one. How many of the daughters of our
order--in more favourable circumstances than yours--have married these
merchant-princes!"

Adela pouted. "That is no reason why I should do so, papa. I don't
want to marry."

"You might all remain unmarried for ever, and make five old maids of
yourselves, and buy cats and monkeys to pet, if it were not for the
horrible dilemma we are in," screamed the countess, in her well-known
fiery tones, and with a wrathful glance at the earl; for her tones
always were fiery and her glances wrathful when his unpardonable
recklessness was recalled to her mind. "Mr. Grubb has been, so to say,
the salvation of us for years--for years, Adela,--every year has
brought its embarrassments, and he has helped us out of them. As well
tell her the truth at once, Lord Acorn," she concluded sharply.

"Ugh!" grunted he, in what might be taken for a note of unwilling
assent.

"And if we put this affront upon him--refuse him your hand, which he
solicits with so much honour and liberality--it will be all over with
us. We can't live any longer in England, for there's nothing left to
live upon; we must go abroad to some wretched hole of a continental
place, and lodge on one dirty floor of six rooms, and live as common
people. What chance would there be of your picking up even a merchant
then?"

Adela rose, smiling incredulously. "Things cannot be as bad as that,
mamma."

"Sit down, Adela," cried her father, peremptorily, raising his hand to
check the flow of eloquence his wife was again about to enter upon.
"It _is_ as bad. Grubb has behaved like a prince to me, and nothing
less. And, if he should recall the money he has lent, I know not, in
truth, where any of us would be. _I_ should have to run; and be posted
up as a defaulter, into the bargain, all over the kingdom." And, in a
few brief words, he explained facts to her; making, of course, the
worst of them. The obstinacy on Adela's countenance faded away as she
listened: she was deeply attached to her father.

"You will be a very princess, if you take him, Adela," said Lady
Acorn. "Ah! I can tell you, child, before you have come to my age you
will have found out that there's little worth living for but wealth,
which brings ease and comfort. I ought to know; for our want of it,
through one absurd extravagance or another"--with a dreadful glance at
her lord--"has been the worry and bane of my married life."

"You have been extravagant on your own score," growled he.

"But, papa, I don't care for Mr. Grubb. Apart from the disreputable
fact that he is a tradesman----"

"Those merchant-princes cannot be called tradesmen, Adela," quickly
interposed Lord Acorn, who could put the case strongly, in spite of
his prejudices, when it suited his interest to do so.

"Well, apart from that, I say I do not like him."

"You cannot _dis_like him. No one can dislike Francis Grubb."

"I shall if I am made to marry him."

Her obstinate mood was returning; they saw that, and they let her
escape for a time. Adela, the youngest and most beautiful of all their
children, had been reprehensibly indulged: allowed to grow up in the
belief that the world was made for her.

"Well, Adela, and how have you sped?" asked Grace.

"Oh, I don't know," was Adela's answer, as she flung herself into a
low chair by her dressing-table. "Mamma is so fond of telling us that
the world's full of trouble; and I think it is."

"Have you consented?"

"No. And I don't intend to consent."

"But why not? He is very nice; very; and the advantages are very
groat. Tell me why you will not, Adela--_dear_ Adela?"

Adela turned her head away. "I do not care to marry yet; him, or any
other man."

A light--or rather a doubt--seemed to break upon Lady Grace. "Adela,"
she whispered, "it is not possible you are still thinking of Captain
Stanley?"

"Where would be the use of that?" was the answer. "He is fighting in
India, and I am here: little chance of our paths in life ever again
crossing each other."

"If I really thought your head was still running upon Stanley, I would
tell you----"

"What?" for Grace had stopped.

"The truth," was the reply, in a low voice. "News of him reached
England by the last mail."

"What news?"

"Well, I--I hardly know whether you will care much to hear it."

"Probably not. I should like to, for all that."

"He is married."

Adela looked up with a start, and her colour faded. "Married?"

"He is. He has married his cousin, a Miss Stanley, and it is said they
have long been attached to each other. He was a frightful flirt, but
he had no heart; I always said it; and I think he was not a good man
in other respects."

The news brought a pang of mortification to Adela; perhaps a deeper
pang than that. Some eighteen months back, she saw a good deal of this
Captain Stanley; it was thought by shrewd observers that she had lost
her heart to him. If so, it was now thrown back upon her.

And, whether it might have been this, or whether it was the persistent
persuasion of her father and mother, ay, and of her sisters, Adela
Chenevix consented to accept Mr. Grubb. But she bitterly resented the
necessity, and from that hour she deliberately steeled her heart
against him.

Daintily she swept into the room for her first interview with him.
He stood in agitation at its upper end--a fine, intellectual man;
one, young though he was, to be venerated and loved. She wore a
pink-and-white silk dress, and her hair had pink and white roses in
it; for Mr. Grubb had come to dinner, and she was already dressed for
it. A rich colour shone in her cheeks, her beautiful eyes and features
were lighted up with it, and her delicate figure was thrown back--in
disdain. Oh, that he could have read it then!

He never afterwards quite remembered what he said when he approached
her. He knew he took her hand. And he believed he whispered words of
thanks.

"They are not due to me," was her answer, delivered with cold
equanimity. "My father tells me I must marry you, and I accede to it."

"May God enable me to reward you for the confidence you repose in me!"
he whispered. "If it be given to man to love a wife as one never yet
was loved, may it be given to me!"

She twisted her hand from him with an ungracious movement, for he
would have retained it, and walked deliberately across the room,
leaving him where he stood, and rang the bell.

"Tell mamma Mr. Grubb is here," she said to the servant.

He felt pained: he understood this had been an accorded interview.
Like all other lovers, he began to speak of the future--of his hope
that she would learn to love him.

"There should be no misunderstanding between us on this point," she
hastily answered; and could it be that there was _contempt_ in her
tone? "I have agreed to be your wife; but, until a day or two ago, the
possibility of my becoming so had never been suggested to me.
Therefore, the love that I suppose ought to accompany this sort of
contract is not mine to offer."

How wondrously calm she spoke--in so matter-of-fact, business-like a
way! It struck even him, infatuated though he was.

"It may come in time," he whispered. "My love shall call forth yours;
my----"

"I hear mamma," interrupted Adela, drawing away from him like a second
cruel Barbara Allen.

"Adela, where's your town house to be?" began one of the girls to her
when they got into the drawing-room after dinner, the earl and Mr.
Grubb being still at table. "Not in the smoky City, surely!"

"His house is not in the City; it's in Russell Square," corrected
another. "Of course he won't take her _there!_"

"Ada, mind which opera-box you secure. Let it hold us all."

"Of course you'll be smothered in diamonds," suggested Lady Mary.

"One good thing will come of this wedding, if nothing else does: mamma
must get us new things, and plenty of them."

"I wonder whether he will give us any ornaments? He is generous to a
fault. Is he not, Adela?"

"How you tease!" was Adela's languid rejoinder. "Go and ask him."

"I protest, Adela, if you show yourself so supremely indifferent he
will declare off before the wedding-day."

"And take one of you instead. I wish he would."

"No fear. Ada's chains are bound fast about him. One may see how he
loves her."

"Love!" cried Adela. "It is perfectly absurd--from him to me. But it
is the way with those plebeians."

The preparations for the wedding were begun. On so magnificent a scale
that the fashionable world of London was ringing with them. The
bridegroom's liberality, in all that concerned his future wife, could
not be surpassed. Settlements, houses, carriages, horses, furniture,
ornaments, jewellery, all were perfect of their kind, leaving nothing
to be wished for. The Lady Adela had once spoken of Aladdin's lamp, in
reference to her sister Grace's ideal union; looking on these real
preparations, one might imagine that some magic, equally powerful, was
at work now.

Lord Acorn had a place in Oxfordshire, and the family went to it in
October. Mr. Grubb paid it one or two short visits, and went down for
Christmas, staying there ten days. They were all cordial with him,
except Adela; she continued to be supremely indifferent. He won upon
their regard strangely; the girls could do nothing but sing his
praises. Poor unselfish Grace once caught herself wishing that that
early misapprehension had not been one, and then took herself to task
severely. She loved Adela, and was glad for her sake.

But Adela was not quite always cold and haughty. As if to show her
affianced husband that such was not her true nature, she would now and
again be sweetly winning and gentle. On one of these occasions he
caught her hand. They were alone, sitting on a sofa; Frances had run
into the next room for a book they were discussing.

"Adela," he whispered passionately, taking both her hands in his, "but
for these rare moments, I should be in despair."

She did not, for a wonder, resent the words. She glanced up at him, a
shy look in her sweet brown eyes, a smile on her parted lips, a deeper
rose-blush on her delicate face. He stooped and kissed her; kissed her
fervently.

She resented that. For when Frances, coming back on the instant,
entered, she met Adela sweeping from the room in a storm of anger.

Not to let him kiss her! And in six weeks' time she was to be his
wife!

Mr. Grubb had an adventure on the journey home. They had passed
Reading some minutes, when the train was stopped. A down-train had
come to grief through the breaking of an axle, throwing a carriage,
fortunately empty, right across the line; which in consequence was
temporarily blocked up. The passengers of the down-train, very few of
them, were standing about; the passengers of the up-train got out
also.

"Can I be of any use?--can I do anything for you?" asked Mr. Grubb,
addressing a little lady in a black-silk cloak and close bonnet, who
was sitting on a box and looking rather helpless. And, though he had
heard of Miss Margery Upton, he was not aware that it was she to whom
he was speaking.

"It is good of you to inquire, sir; you are the first who has done
it," she answered; "but I don't see that there's anything to be done.
We might all have been killed. They should keep their material in
safer order."

She looked up as she spoke. Some drops of rain were beginning to fall.
Mr. Grubb put up his umbrella, and held it over her. To do this, he
laid down a small hand-bag of Russian leather, on the silver clasp of
which was engraved "C. Grubb." Miss Upton read the name, rose from her
box, and looked him steadily in the face. "It is a good face and a
handsome one," she thought to herself.

"Sir, is your name Grubb?" she asked.

"Yes, madam, it is."

"I read it here," she explained, pointing to the old-fashioned
article.

"Ab, yes," he smiled. "It was my late father's bag, and that was his
name."

"Was he Christopher Grubb?

"He was."

She put her hand on his coat-sleeve, apparently for the purpose of
steadying herself while regarding his face more attentively.

"You have your mother's eyes," she said; "I should know them anywhere.
Beautiful eyes they were. And so are yours."

"And may I inquire who it is that is doing honour to my vanity in
saying this?" he rejoined, in the winning voice and manner
characteristic of him.

"Ay, if you like. I dare say you have heard of me. I am Margery
Upton."

"Indeed I have; and I have wondered sometimes whether I should ever
see you. Then--did you know my mother, Miss Upton?"

"I did; in the old days when we were girls together. Has she never
told you so?"

"Not to my recollection."

"I see. Resented our resentment, and dropped us out of her life as we
dropped her," commented Miss Upton partly to herself, as she sat down
again. "What a tinkering they keep up there! Is your mother living?"

"Yes; but she is an invalid."

"Is it you who are about to marry Lord Acorn's daughter?" continued
Miss Upton.

"Yes. I have just come from them."

"I knew the name was Grubb, and that he was a City man and wealthy,"
she candidly continued; "and the thought occurred to me that it might
possibly be the son of the Christopher Grubb I heard something of in
early life. I did not put the question to the Acorns."

"It is by them I have heard you spoken of," he remarked. "Also by my
sister."

"By your sister!" exclaimed Miss Upton, in surprise. "What sister?
What does she know of me?"

"She was staying some fourteen or fifteen months ago with the
Dalrymples of Moat Grange--it was at the time of Mr. Dalrymple's sad
death--and she made your acquaintance there. She is Mary Lynn, my
half-sister. My father died when I was a little lad, and my mother
made a second marriage."

Miss Upton was silent, apparently revolving matters in her mind. "Did
your sister know that I was her mother's early friend?" she asked.

"Oh no; I think not. She only spoke of you as a stranger--or, rather,
as a friend of the Dalrymples. I never heard my mother speak of you at
all--I do not suppose Mary has."

"That young girl had her mother's eyes," suddenly cried Miss Upton,
"just as you have. They seemed familiar to me; I remember that; but I
wanted the clue, which this name"--bending to look at the bag--"has
supplied. C. Grubb--Christopher was your father's name."

"It is mine also."

"And Francis too!" she quickly cried.

"And Francis too--Francis Charles Christopher." It crossed his mind to
wonder how she knew it was Francis, then remembered it must have been
from the Acorns. Miss Upton had lifted her face, and was looking at
him.

"Why did your mother name you Francis?" she asked, rather sharply.

"I was named Francis after my father's only brother. He was my
godfather, and gave me his name--Francis Charles." And left me his
money also, Mr. Grubb might have added, but did not.

"I see," nodded Miss Upton, apparently satisfied. "You have been
letting Lord Acorn borrow no end of money of you on the strength of
his coming into the Netherleigh estate," she resumed, in her open,
matter-of-fact way, that spoke so much of candour.

Mr. Grubb hesitated, and his face slightly flushed. It did not seem
right to enter upon Lord Acorn's affairs with a stranger. But she
seemed to know all about it, and was waiting for his answer.

"Not on the Netherleigh estate," he answered. "I have always told Lord
Acorn that he ought not to make sure of that."

"You would be quite safe in lending it," she nodded, a peculiar look
of acuteness, which Mr. Grubb did not altogether fathom, on her face.
"Quite."

Some stir interrupted further conversation. The tinkering, as Miss
Upton called it, had ceased, and the down-line was at length ready for
traffic. "Where are my people, I wonder?" cried Miss Upton, rising and
looking around.

They came forward almost as she spoke--a man and a maid servant. The
former took up the box she had been sitting on, and Mr. Grubb gave her
his arm to the train, and put her into the carriage.

"This is the first time I have seen you, but I hope it will not be the
last," she said, retaining his hand, in hers when he had shaken it. "I
am now on my way to Cheltenham, to spend a month, perhaps two months.
I like the place, and go to it nearly every year. When I return, you
must come to Court Netherleigh."

"I shall be very much pleased to do so."

Mr. Grubb had left her, and was waiting to see the train go on, when
she made a hasty movement to him with her hand.

"Perhaps I was incautious in saying that you were safe in lending
money on the Netherleigh property," she whispered in his ear. "Take
care you don't breathe a word of that admission to Acorn. He would
want to borrow you out of house and home."

Mr. Grubb smiled. "I will take care; you may rely on me, Miss Upton."
And he stood back and lifted his hat as the delayed train puffed on.

And it may be well to give a word of explanation whilst Mr. Grubb is
waiting for _his_ delayed train, which is not ready to puff on yet.

The house, "Christopher Grubb and Son," situated in Leadenhall Street,
was second in importance to few in the City; I had almost said second
to none. It had been founded by the old man, Christopher Grubb, father
of the Christopher who had married Catherine Grant, and grandfather of
the Francis who is waiting for his train. The two Christophers, father
and son, died about the same time, and the business was carried on by
old Christopher's other son, Francis. Catherine Grubb, née Grant, was
left largely endowed, provided she did not marry again. If she did, a
comparatively small portion only would remain hers, and at her
disposal--about a thousand a-year; the rest would go at once to her
little son, of whom she would also forfeit the personal guardianship.
Mrs. Grubb did marry again; and the little lad, aged eight, was
transferred to the care of his uncle Francis, in accordance with the
terms of the will, and to his uncle's house in Russell Square. But Mr.
Francis Grubb was no churlish guardian, and the child was allowed to
be very often at Blackheath with his mother. Mrs. Grubb's second
husband, Richard Lynn, who was a barrister, not often troubled with
briefs, did not live long; and she was again left a widow, with her
little girl, Mary Isabel. She continued in the house at Blackheath,
which was her own, and she was in it still.

Upon quitting Oxford, where he took a degree, Francis entered the
house in Leadenhall Street, becoming at once its head and chief. He
showed good aptitude for business, was attentive, steady, punctual;
above all, he did not despise it. When he had been in it three or
four years, his uncle--with whom he continued to reside in Russell
Square--found his health failing. Seeing what must shortly occur, he
recommended his nephew to take a partner--one James Howard, a
methodical, middle-aged, honourable man, who had been in the house
since old Christopher's time. This was carried out; and the firm
became Grubb and Howard. The next event was the death of the uncle,
Francis Grubb. He bequeathed five thousand pounds to Mary Lynn, and
the whole of his large accumulated fortune, that excepted, to his
nephew, Francis the younger, including the house in Russell Square.
Francis had continued to reside in the house since then, until the
present time.

He was quitting it now--transferring it to Mr. Howard; who had taken a
fancy to leave his place at Richmond and live in London. Of course, a
house in Russell Square would not suit the aspiring tastes of Lady
Adela Chenevix, and Francis Grubb had been fortunate enough to secure
and purchase the lease of one within the aristocratic regions of
Grosvenor Square.

The wedding took place in February. Miss Upton did not attend it,
though pressed very much by the Acorn family to do so. She was
still at Cheltenham, not feeling very well, she told them, not
sufficiently so to come up; but she sent Adela a cheque for two
hundred pounds--which no doubt atoned for her absence.

The bride and bridegroom took their departure for Dover en route for
Rome: Lady Adela, having condescended to express a wish to visit the
Eternal City.



CHAPTER VI.
ALL DOWN-HILL.


The hot rays of the June sun lay on the west-end streets one Thursday
at midday, and on three men of fashion who were strolling through
them arm-in-arm. He who walked in the middle was a young man turned
six-and-twenty, but not looking it; a good-natured, easy-going,
attractive young fellow, who won his way with every one. It was Robert
Dalrymple. From two to three years had elapsed since his father's
death; and, alas, they had not been made years of wisdom to him.
Impulsive, generous, hasty, improvident, and very fond of London life,
Robert Dalrymple had been an easy prey to Satan's myrmidons in the
shape of designing men.

These two gentlemen, with him roday, were not precisely genii of
good. One of them, Colonel Haughton, was a stout, elderly man, with a
burly manner, and a mass of iron-grey hair adorning his large head;
his black eyes stood out, bold and hard, through his gold-rimmed
glasses. Mr. Piggott, much younger, was little and thin, with a stoop
in the shoulders, and one of the craftiest countenances ever seen, to
those who could read it. Suddenly Robert stood still, withdrew his arm
from Mr. Piggott's, and gazed across the street.

"What now, Dalrymple?"

"There's my cousin Oscar! If ever I saw him in my life, that is he.
What brings him to town? I will wish you good-day and be after him."

"To meet tonight," quickly cried Colonel Haughton.

"To meet tonight, of course. No fear of my not coming for my revenge.
Adieu to both of you until then."

It is a sad story that you have to hear of Robert Dalrymple. How shall
I tell it? And yet, while running into this pitfall, and tumbling into
that, the young man's intentions were so good and himself so sanguine
that one's heart ached for him.

In his chivalrous care for his mother, the first thing Robert did, on
coming home from his father's funeral, was to break off the engagement
with Mary Lynn. Or, rather, to postpone it--if you can understand such
a thing. "We shall not be able to marry for many a year, Mary," he
said, the tears that had fallen during the burial-service still
glistening in his eyes, "and so you had better take back your troth.
Moat Grange is no longer mine, for I cannot and will not turn my
mother and sisters out of it; I promised _him_ I would not: and
so--and so--there's nothing to be done but part."

In the grey gloaming that same evening they went out under the canopy
of heaven and talked the matter over calmly. Neither of them wanted
to part with the other: but they saw no way at present of escaping
from it. Robert had property of his own that brought him two hundred
a-year; Mary had the five thousand pounds left her by Mr. Francis
Grubb. Mary would have risked marrying, though she did not say so;
Robert never glanced at the possibility. Super-exalted ideas blind us
to the ordinary view of everyday life, and Robert could only look at
housekeeping in the style of that at Moat Grange. It occurred to Mary
that perhaps his mother and her mother might spare them something
yearly, but again she did not like it to be herself to suggest it. So
the open agreement come to between them was, to cancel the engagement;
the tacit one was to _wait_--and that they were just as much plighted
to each other as ever.

But the reader must fully understand Robert Dalrymple's position. He
had come into Moat Grange as surely and practically as though he had
had no mother in existence. Its revenues were his; his to do what he
pleased with. It is true that the keeping up of Moat Grange, as his
father had kept it up, would take nearly all those revenues: and
Robert had to learn that yet, in something beyond theory. Mrs.
Dalrymple instituted various curtailments, but her son in his
generosity thought they were unnecessary.

Close upon his father's death, Robert came to London, attended by
Reuben, and entered upon some rather luxurious chambers in South
Audley Street. The rooms and the expenses of fashionable living made
havoc of his purse, and speedily plunged him into embarrassment. It
might not have been serious embarrassment, this alone, for he of
course took to himself a certain portion of his rents; but
unfortunately some of the acquaintances he made introduced him to that
most dangerous vice, gambling; and they did not rest until they had
imbued him with a love of it. It is of no use to pursue the course of
his downfall. He had been gradually getting lower and lower since then
in regard to finances, and deeper into embarrassments: and in this,
the third season, Robert Dalrymple had hardly a guinea he could call
his own; and Moat Grange was mortgaged. He was open-hearted, generous
as of old. Ah, if he could only have been as free from care!

Dodging in and out among the vehicles that crowded Regent Street,
Robert got over at last, and tore after his cousin. "Oscar, Oscar! is
it you?" he called out. "When did you get here?"

"Ah, Robert, how are you? I was on my way to South Audley Street to
find you."

"Come for a long stay?" demanded Robert, as he linked his arm within
Oscar's.

"I came roday and I return tomorrow," replied Oscar.

"You don't mean that, man. Visit London in the height of the season,
and stay only a day! Such a calamity was never heard of."

"I cannot afford London in the season; my purse is not long enough."

"You shall stay with Ale. But what did you come for?"

"A small matter of business brought me," replied Oscar, "and I have to
go down tomorrow--thank you all the same."

He did not say what the business was; he did not choose to say. Mrs.
Dalrymple, still living at the Grange, had been tormented by doubts,
touching her son, for some time past. Recently she had heard rumours
that rendered her doubly uneasy, and she had begged of Oscar to come
up and find out whether there was any, or how much, ground for them.
If things were as bad as Mrs. Dalrymple feared, Oscar concluded that
from Robert he should hear nothing. He meant to put a question or two
to him, to make his observations silently, and, if necessary, to
question Reuben. They were of totally opposite natures, these two
young men; Oscar was all cool calculation, and the senior by
half-a-dozen years; Robert all thoughtless impulse.

Oscar put the question to Robert in the course of the afternoon; but
Robert simply waived the subject, laughing in Oscar's face the while.
And from the observations Oscar made in South Audley Street, nothing
could be gathered; the rooms were quiet.

They dined there in the evening, Reuben waiting on them. Robert urged
various outdoor attractions on Oscar afterwards, but he urged them in
vain: Oscar preferred to remain at home. So they sipped their wine,
and talked. At eleven o'clock Oscar rose to leave.

"It is time for sober people to be in bed, Robert. I hope I have not
kept you up."

Robert Dalrymple fairly exploded with laughter. Kept him up at only
eleven o'clock! "My evening is not begun yet," said he.

"No!" returned Oscar, looking surprised, whether he felt so or not.

"What do you mean?"

"I am engaged for the evening to Colonel Haughton."

"It sounds a curious time to us quiet country people to begin an
evening. What are you going to do at Colonel Haughton's?"

"Can't tell till I get there."

"Can I accompany you?"

Robert's face turned grave. "No," said he, "it is a liberty I may not
take. Colonel Haughton is a peculiar-tempered man."

"Good-night."

"Good-night, Oscar. Come to breakfast with me at ten."

Oscar Dalrymple departed. But he did not proceed to the hotel where he
had engaged a bed. On the contrary, he took up his station in a shady
nook, whence he could see the door he had just come out of; and there
he waited patiently. Presently he saw Robert Dalrymple emerge from it,
and betake himself away.

A little while yet waited Oscar, and then he retraced his steps to the
house, and rang the bell. Reuben answered it. A faithful servant,
getting in years now. Robert was the third of the family he had
served.

"Reuben, I may have left my note-case in the dining-room," said Oscar.
"Can I look for it?"

The note-case was looked for without success: and Oscar discovered
that it was safe in his pocket. Perhaps he knew that all the while.

"I am sorry to have troubled you for nothing, Reuben. Did I call you
out of your bed?"

"No, no," answered the man, shaking his head. "There's rarely much bed
for me before daylight, Mr. Oscar."

"How's that?"

"I suppose young men must be young men, sir. I should not mind that;
but Mr. Robert is getting into just the habits of his uncle."

Oscar looked up quickly, "His uncle--Claude Dalrymple?" he asked in a
low tone.

"Ay, he is, sir: and my heart is almost mad at times with fear. If my
dear late master was alive, I should just go down to the Grange and
tell him everything."

An idea floated into the mind of Oscar as he listened. Mrs. Dalrymple
had not mentioned whence she had heard the rumours of Robert's doings:
he now thought it might have been from no other than Reuben. This
enabled him to speak out.

"Reuben," he said, "I came up roday at Mrs. Dalrymple's request. She
is terribly uneasy about her son. Tell me all, for I have to report it
at the Grange. If what we fear be true, something must be done to save
him."

"It is all true, sir, and I wrote to warn my mistress," cried Reuben.
"Should things ever come to a crisis with him, as they did with his
uncle, I knew Mrs. Dalrymple would blame me bitterly for not having
spoken. And I should blame myself."

Oscar Dalrymple gazed at Reuben, for the man's words had struck
ominously on his ear. "Do you fancy--do you fear--things may come to a
crisis with him, as they did with his uncle?" he breathed in a low
tone.

"Not in the same way, sir; not as to _himself_," returned the man, in
agitation. "Mr. Oscar, how could you think it?"

"Nay, Reuben, I think it! Your words alone led to the thought."

"I meant as to his money, sir. He has fallen into a bad, gambling set,
just as Mr. Claude fell. One of them is the very same man: Colonel
Haughton. He ruined Mr. Claude, and he is ruining Mr. Robert. He was
Captain Haughton then; he is colonel now; but he has sold out of the
army long ago. He lives by gambling. I have told Mr. Robert so; but he
does not believe me."

"That's where he is gone tonight."

"Where he goes every night, Mr. Oscar. Haughton and those men have
lured him into their toils, and he can't escape them. He has not the
moral courage; and he has the mania for play upon him. He comes home
towards morning, flushed and haggard; sometimes in drink--yes, sir,
drinking and gaming mostly go together. He appeared laughing and
careless before you, but it was all put on."

"Have you warned him--or tried to stop him?"

"Yes, sir, once or twice; but it does no good. I don't like to say too
much: he might not take it from me. Those harpies won't let him rest;
they come hunting after him, just as they hunted his uncle a score, or
more, years ago. Nobody ever had a better heart than Mr. Robert; but
he is pliable, and gets led away."

Oscar frowned. He thought Robert had no business to be "led away," and
he felt little tolerance for him. Reuben had told all he knew, and
Oscar wished him good-night and departed, full of painful thought
touching Robert.

The night passed. In the morning Oscar went to South Audley Street to
breakfast. Robert was looking ill and anxious.

"Been making a night of it?" said Oscar, lightly. "You look as though
you had."

"Yes, I was late. Pour out the coffee, will you, Oscar?"

His own hands were shaking. Oscar saw it as Robert opened his letters.
One of them bore the Netherleigh postmark, and was from Farmer Lee.
Oscar hardly knew how to open the ball, or what to say for the best.

"I'm sure something is disturbing you, Robert. You have had no sleep;
that's easy to be seen. What pursuit can you have that it should keep
you up all night!"

"One is never at a loss to kill time in London."

"I suppose not, if it has to be killed. But I did not know it was
necessary to kill that which ought to be spent in sleep. One would
think you passed your nights at the gaming-table, Robert."

The words startled him, and a flush rose to his pallid features. Oscar
was gazing at him steadily.

"Robert, you look conscious. Have you learnt to gamble?"

"Oh, it's nothing," said Robert, confusedly. "I may play a little now
and then."

"Do not shirk the question. _Have you taken to play?_"

"A little, I tell you. Never mind. It's my own affair."

"You were playing last night?"

"Well--yes, I was. Very little."

"Lose or win?" asked Oscar, carelessly.

"Oh, I lost," answered Robert. "The luck was against me."

"Now, my good fellow, do you know what you had best do? Go home to
Moat Grange, and get out of this set; I know what gamesters are; they
never let a pigeon off till he is stripped of his last feather. Leave
with me for the Grange roday, and cheat them; and stop there until
the mania for play shall have left you, though it should be years to
come."

Ah, how heartily Robert Dalrymple wished in his heart that he could do
it!--that he could break through the net in which he was involved, in
more ways than one! "I cannot go to Moat Grange," he answered.

"Your reasons."

"Because I must stay where I am. I wish I had never come--never set up
these chambers; I do wish that. But, as I did so, here I am fixed."

"I cannot think why you did come--flying from your home as soon as
your father was under ground. Had you succeeded to twenty thousand
a-year, you could but have made hot haste to launch out in the
metropolis."

"I did not come to launch out," returned Robert, angrily. "I came to
get rid of myself. It was so wretched down there."

Oscar stared. "What made it so?"

"The remembrance of my father. Every face I met, every stick and stone
about the place seemed to reproach me with his death. And justly. But
for my carelessness he would not have died."

"Well, that is all past and gone, Robert. You shall come back to the
Grange with me. You will be safe there."

"No. It is too late."

"It is not too late. What do you mean? If----"

"I tell you it is too late," burst out Robert, in a sharp tone: and
Oscar thought it was full of anguish.

He tried persuasion, he tried anger; and no impression whatever could
he make on Robert Dalrymple. _He_ thought Robert was wilfully,
wickedly obstinate; the secret truth being that Robert was ruined.
Oscar told him he "washed his hands" of him, and departed.

It chanced that same afternoon that Robert was passing through
Grosvenor Square and met Mr. Grubb close to his house. Looking at him
casually, reader, he has not changed; he has the same noble presence,
the same gracious manner; nevertheless, the fifteen or sixteen months
that have elapsed since his marriage, have brought a look of care to
his refined and thoughtful face, a line of pain to his brow. They
shook hands.

"Will you come in, Robert?"

"I don't mind if I do," was the answer--for in good truth Robert
Dalrymple was too wretched not to seize on anything that might serve
to divert him from his own thoughts. But Mr. Grubb paused in sudden
remembrance.

"Mary is here roday. Have you any objection to meet her?"

"Objection! I shall like it," answered Robert, with a flush of
emotion, for Mary Lynn was still inexpressibly dear to him. "I wish
with my whole heart that she was my wife--that we had never parted! It
was all my foolish doing."

"I thought at the time you were rather chivalrous: I must say that,"
observed Mr. Grubb, regarding him attentively. "I suppose, in point of
fact, you are both waiting for one another now."

"Why do you say that?" asked the young man, in evident agitation.

"Step in here, Robert," said Mr. Grubb, drawing him through the hall
to his own room, the library. "Mary persistently refuses to accept
good offers: she has had two during the past year; therefore, I
conclude that she and you have some private understanding upon the
point. I told her so one day, and all the answer I received consisted
of a laugh and a blush."

It could have been nothing to the blush that rose to Robert's face
now; brow, ears, neck, all were dyed blood-red. The terrible
consciousness of how untrue this was, how untrue it was obliged to be,
was smiting him with reproachful sting. Mr. Grubb mistook the signs.

"I think," he said, "that former parting was a mistake. It was
perfectly right and just that Mrs. Dalrymple should have been well
provided for, but----"

"You think I should have taken Moat Grange myself, and procured
another home for my mother," interrupted Robert. "Most people do think
so. But, if you knew how I hated the sight of the Grange!--never a
single room of it but my poor dead father's face seemed to rise up to
confront me."

"It might have been best that you should remain in your own home; we
will not discuss it now. What I want to say is this--that if you and
Mary have been really living upon hope, I don't see why you need live
upon it any longer. A portion of your own revenues you may surely
claim, a few hundreds yearly; and Mary shall bring as much grist to
the mill on her side."

"You are very kind, very thoughtful," murmured Robert.

"But there must be a proviso to that," continued Mr. Grubb. "Reports
have reached me that Robert Dalrymple is going headlong to the
bad--pardon me if I speak out the whispers freely--that he is becoming
reckless, a gamester, I know not what all. I do not believe this,
Robert; I do not wish to believe it. I have seen nothing to confirm
it, myself; you are in one set of London men, I am in another. In a
young man situated as you are, alone, without home-ties, some latitude
of conduct may be pardoned if he be a good man and true, he will soon
pull himself straight again. If you can assure me on your honour it is
nothing more than this, well and good. If it be more--if the worst of
the whispers but indicate the truth, you cannot of course think of
Mary. Robert, I say I leave this to your honour."

"I should like to pull myself up beyond any earthly thing," spoke the
young man, in a flash of what looked far more like despair than hope.
"If I _could_ do it--and if Mary were my wife--I--I should have no
fear. Let us talk of this another day. Let me see her!"

Mary was just then alone in what they called the grey drawing-room. A
lovely room; as indeed all the rooms were in Mr. Grubb's house, made
so by him in his love for his wife. He went in search of his wife,
giving Robert the opportunity of seeing Mary alone.

Let no woman go to the altar cherishing dislike or contempt of him who
is to be her husband. Marriages of indifference are made in plenty,
and in time they may become unions of affection. But the other!--it is
the most fatal mistake that can be made. Lady Adela treated her
husband with scorn, _did so systematically_; she did not attempt to
conceal her dislike; she threw his love back upon him. On the very day
of their marriage, when she, in what appeared to be a fit of
petulance, drew down all the blinds of the chariot as they drove away
from Lord Acorn's door, and he, taking advantage of the privacy, laid
his hand on hers, and bent to whisper a word of love, perhaps to take
a kiss from her cheek, she effectually repressed him. "Pray do not
attempt these--endearments," she said in a scornful tone, "they are
not agreeable." Francis Grubb drew back to his corner of the carriage,
and a bitter blight fell upon his spirit.

For some months past now, Lady Adela had been pale and thin, sick and
ill. She resented the indisposition strongly, for it prevented her
joining in the gaiety she loved, and went about wishing fretfully that
her baby was born.

"Oh, Robert! _Robert!_"

Mary Lynn had started up with a cry, so surprised was she to see him
enter. She stood blushing even to tears. And Robert? Conscious how
unworthy he was of her, how impossible it was that he should dare to
claim her, while the love within him was beating on his heart with
lively pain, he sat down with a groan and covered his face with his
hands. She thought he was ill. She went to him and knelt down, and
looked up at him in appealing fear.

"Robert, what is it--what is amiss?"

And for answer, Robert Dalrymple, utterly overcome by the vivid sense
of the remorseful past, of despair for the future, let his face fall
upon her shoulder, and burst into a fit of heart-rending sobs so
terrible for a man to yield himself to.



CHAPTER VII.
DESPERATION.


Alone in the oak-parlour at Moat Grange, playing soft bits of melody
in the summer twilight, sat Selina Dalrymple, her very pretty face
slightly flushed, her bright hair pushed from her face. Ordinarily of
a calm and equable temperament, Selina was yet rather given to work
herself up to restlessness on occasion. She was expecting Oscar
Dalrymple; and though the excitement did not arise for himself, it did
for the news he might bring.

"There he is!" she cried, as a step was heard on the gravel. "He has
walked up from the station."

Oscar Dalrymple came in, very quiet as usual, not a speck of dust or
other sign of travel upon him, looking spick and span, as though he
had but come out of the next room. Oscar Dalrymple's place, a small
patrimony called Knutford, lay some three or four miles off; he would
probably walk on there by-and-by, if he did not sleep at the Grange.

"I thought you would come!" exclaimed Selina, gladly springing towards
him.

"I told Mrs. Dalrymple I should return before Saturday," was his
answer, as he took her hand, and kept it in his. "Where is she?"

"Gone with Alice to dine at Court Netherleigh," replied Selina. "I
sent an excuse: I was impatient to see you."

"Thank you, Selina!" he whispered in low, warm tones. "That is a great
admission from you."

"Not to see _you_; but for what you might have to tell," she hastened
to say. "Oscar, how vain you are!"

She sat down in the bow-window, in what remaining light there was, and
he took a chair opposite to her. Then she asked him his news.

"Do you know exactly why I went up?" he inquired with some hesitation,
in doubt how far he ought to speak.

"I know all," she answered pointedly. "I saw Reuben's letter to mamma;
and her fears are my fears. We keep it from poor Alice."

In a hushed voice, befitting the subject and the twilight hour, Oscar
related to her what he had gathered in London. The very worst
impression lay on his own mind: namely, that Robert was going rapidly
to the dogs, money and honour and peace, and all; nay; had already
gone; but he did not make the worst of it to Selina. He said that
Robert seemed to be on a downward course, and would not listen to any
sort of reason.

Selina sat in dismay; her soft dark eyes fixed on the evening sky, her
hands clasped on the dress of blue silk she wore. The evening star
shone in the heavens.

"What will be the end of it, Oscar?"

Oscar did not immediately answer. The end of it, as he fully believed,
would be ruin. Utter ruin for Robert; and that would involve ruin for
his mother and sisters.

"Does Robert really _play?_" pursued Selina.

"I fear he does. Yes."

"Could--could he play away our home--Moat Grange?"

"For his own life. That is, mortgage its revenues."

"But you don't, surely, _fear_ it will come to this?" she cried in
agitation.

"Selina, I hardly know what I fear. Robert is not my brother, and I
could not--I had no right--to question too closely. Neither, if I had
questioned, and--and heard the worst--do I see what I could have done.
Matters have gone too far for any aid, any suggestion, that I could
have given."

"What would become of us? Poor mamma! Poor Alice! Oh, what a trouble!"

"You, at least, can escape the trouble, Selina; you can let me take
you out of it. My home is not the luxurious home you have been
accustomed to here; but it will afford you every comfort--if you will
only come to it. Oh, my love, why do you let me plead to you so long
in vain!"

Selina Dalrymple pouted her pretty red lips. Oscar loved her to folly.
She did not discourage him; did not absolutely encourage him. She
liked him very well, and she liked his homage, for she was one of the
vainest girls living; but, as to marrying him?--that was another
thing. Had he possessed the rent-roll of a duke, she would have had
him tomorrow; his income was a small one, and she loved pomp and
show.

"Now, Oscar!" she remonstrated, putting him off as usual. "Is it a
time to bring in that nonsense, when we are talking and thinking of
poor Robert? And here come mamma and Alice, for that's Miss Upton's
carriage bringing them. They said they should be home early."

And now we have to go back some few hours. It is very inconvenient, as
the world knows, to tell two portions of a story at one and the same
time.


Turning out of one of the handsomest houses in Grosvenor Square, in
the bright sunshine of this same Friday afternoon in June, went Robert
Dalrymple, his step spiritless, a look of perplexity and pain on his
young and attractive face. He had been saying farewell to Mary Lynn,
and he felt, in his despairing heart, that it must be for life. Just a
hint he whispered to her of the worst--that he had been heedless and
reckless, and was ruined; but, woman-like, fond and confiding, she had
told him she never would believe it, and if it was so, there existed
all the more reason for her clinging to him.

Ah, if it only might be! If the prospect just suggested to him by that
good man, Francis Grubb, might only be realized If he could pull up at
any cost, and enter upon a peaceful life! _If!_ None knew better than
himself that there was no chance of it. All he had was gone--and, had
not Mr. Grubb left it to his honour?

Robert Dalrymple was ruined. Bitterly was the fact impressing itself
upon him, as he walked there under the summer sunlight. Not only were
all his available funds spent, but he had entered into liabilities
thick and threefold, far beyond what the rent-roll at the Grange would
be sufficient to meet. He had told Oscar Dalrymple this very morning
that he did not play much the previous night. Oscar did not believe
it, but it was true. Why did he not play much? Because he had nothing
left to play with, and had sat, gloomy and morose, looking on at the
other players. Introduced to the evil fascinations of play by Colonel
Haughton, he was drawn on until the unhappy mania took hold upon
himself. To remain away from the gambling table for one night would
have been intolerable, for the feverish disease was raging within him.
Poor infatuated man!--poor infatuated men, all of them, who thus lose
themselves!--he was positively still indulging a vision of success and
hope. Every time that he approached the pernicious table, it was rife
within him, buoying him up, and urging him on--that luck might turn in
his favour, and he might win the Grange back--or, rather, the money
he had lost upon it. Thus it is with all gamblers who are
comparatively fresh to the vice; only the vile old sinners such as
Colonel Houghton and his confederate, Piggott, know what such is
worth. The ignis-fatuus, delusive hope, beckoning ever onwards, lures
them to their destruction. Pandora's box, you know, contained every
imaginable evil, but Hope lay at the bottom. Even now, as Robert is
walking to South Audley Street, a feverish gleam of hope is positively
rising up within him. If he had only money to go to the tables that
night, who knew but luck might turn, and he could extricate himself
from his most pressing debts, and so be able to tell the whole truth
to Mr. Grubb?--and how carefully he would avoid all evil in future,
when Mary should be his wife But--where was the use of conjuring up
these fantastic visions, he asked himself, as he flung himself into a
chair in his sitting-room, when he had no money to stake?

Everything was gone, every available thing; he had nothing left but
the watch he had about him, and the ring he wore--and a few loose
shillings in his pocket. Nothing whatever, in the house, or out of it.

Yes, he had, but it was not his. Farmer Lee, wishing to invest a few
hundred pounds in the funds, had prayed his young landlord to transact
the business for him, and save him a journey to London. Robert
good-naturedly acquiesced. Had any man told him he could touch that
money for his own purposes, he would have knocked the offender down in
his indignation. The cheque, for the money to be transferred, had come
from Mr. Lee that morning. There it lay now, on the table at his
elbow, and there sat Robert, striving to turn his covetous eyes from
it, yet unable, for it was beginning to bear for him the fascination
of the basilisk. He wished it was in the midst of some blazing fire,
rather than lying there to tempt him. For the notion had seized upon
his mind that it was with this money, if he might dare to stake it, he
might win back a portion of what he had lost. With a shudder he shook
off the idea, and looked at his watch. Was it too late to take the
cheque to its destination? Yes, it was; the afternoon was waning, and
business places would be closed. Robert felt half inclined to hand it
to Reuben, and tell him to keep it in safety.

While in this frame of mind, that choice friend of his, Mr. Piggott,
honoured him with a call. Whether that worthy gentleman scented the
presence of the cheque, or heard of it casually from Robert, who was
candid to a fault, certain it was that he did not leave Robert
afterwards, but sat with him until the dinner-hour, and then took him
out to dine. Robert locked up the cheque in his desk before he went.

About eleven o'clock he came home again, heated with wine. Opening his
desk, he snatched out the cheque and hid it away in his breast-pocket,
as if it were something he had a horror of looking at. Piggott and
Colonel Haughton had plied him with something besides wine; alluring
hopes. Turning to leave the room, buttoning his coat over what it
contained, he saw Reuben standing there.

"Mr. Robert!--do not go out again tonight."

Robert stared at the man.

"Sir, I carried you in my arms when you were a child; your father, the
very day he died, told me to give you a word of warning, if I saw you
going wrong; let that be my excuse for speaking to you as you may
think I have no right to do," pleaded Reuben, the tears standing in
his faithful old eyes. "Do not go out again, sir; for this night, at
any rate, stay away from the set; they are nothing but blacklegs.
There's that Piggott waiting for you outside the door."

"Reuben, don't be a fool. How dare you say my friends are blacklegs?"

"They are so, sir. And you are losing your substance to them; and it
won't be their fault if they don't get it all."

Robert, eager to go out to his ruin, hot with wine, would not waste
more words. He moved to the door, but Reuben moved more quickly than
he, and stood with his back against it.

"What farce is this?" cried Robert, in his temper. "Stand away from
the door, or I shall be tempted to fling you from it."

"Oh, sir, hear reason!" And the man's manner was so painfully urgent,
that a half-doubt crossed his master's mind whether he could know what
it was he was about to stake. "Three or four and twenty years ago, Mr.
Robert--I'm not sure as to a year--I stood, in like manner, praying
your uncle Claude not to go out to his ruin. He had come to London,
sir, as fine and generous a young man as you, and the gamblers got
hold of him, and drew him into their ways, and stuck to him like a
leech, till all he had was gone. Moat Grange was played away,
mortgaged, or bartered, or whatever it might be, for the term of his
life; there's a clause in its deeds, as I take it you know, sir, that
prevents its owner from encumbering it for longer--and, perhaps,
that's usual with other estates----"

"You are an idiot, Reuben," interrupted Robert, his tone less fierce.

"A night came when Mr. Claude was half mad," continued Reuben,
unheeding the interruption. "I saw he was; and I stood before him, and
prayed him not to go out with them, as I am now praying you. It was of
no use, and he went. If I tell you what that night brought forth, sir,
will you regard it as a warning?"

"What did it bring forth?" demanded Robert, arrested to interest.

"I will tell you, sir, if you will take warning by it, and break with
those gamblers this night, and never go amongst them more. Will you
promise, Mr. Robert?"

"Out of the way, Reuben!" was the impatient rejoinder. "You are
getting into your dotage. If you have nothing to tell me, let me go."

"Listen, then," cried Reuben, bending his head forward, in his
excitement. "At three o'clock that same morning, Mr. Dalrymple
returned. He had been half-mad, I say, when he went, he was wholly mad
when he came back; mad with despair and despondency. He came in, his
head down, his steps lagging, and went into his bedroom. I went to
mine, and was undressing, when he called me back. He had got his
portmanteau from against the wall, opened it, and was standing over
it, looking in, his coat and cravat off, and the collar of his shirt
unbuttoned. 'Reuben,' said he, 'I have made up my mind to leave
London, and take a journey.'

"'Down to the Grange, sir?' I asked, my heart leaping within me at the
good news.

"'No, not to the Grange this time; it's farther than that. But as I
have not informed any one of my intention I must leave a word with
you, in case I am inquired after.'

"'Am I not to attend you, sir?' I interrupted.

"'No, I shan't want you particularly,' he answered; 'you'll do more
good here. Tell all who may inquire for me, and especially my brother'
(your father, sir, you know), 'that although they may think I did
wrong to start alone on a road where I have never been, I am obliged
to do so. I cannot help myself. Tell them I deliberated upon it before
making up my mind, and that I undertake it in the possession of all my
faculties and senses.' Those were the words."

"Well," cried Robert, impatient for the end of the tale.

"I found these words somewhat strange," continued Reuben, "but his
true meaning never struck me--Oh," wailed the old man, clasping his
hands, "it never struck me. My thoughts only turned to Scotland; for
my master had been talking of going there to see a Scotch laird, a
friend of his, and I believed he had now taken a sudden resolution to
pay the visit; I thought he had pulled out his trunk to put in some
things before I packed it. I asked him when he intended to start, and
he replied that I should know all in the morning; and I went back to
my bed."

Robert sat down on the nearest chair: his eyes were strained on
Reuben. Had he a foreshadowing of what was to come?

"In the morning one of the women-servants came and woke me. Her
face startled me the moment I opened my eyes; it was white and
terror-stricken, and she asked me what that stream of red meant that
had trickled from under the door of the master's chamber. I went there
when I had put a thing or two on. Master Robert," he added, dropping
his voice to a dread whisper, his thoughts wholly back in the past,
"he had indeed gone on his long journey."

"Was he dead?"

"He had been dead for hours. The razor was lying beside him near the
door. I have never quite got over that dreadful sight: and the thought
has always haunted me that, had I understood his meaning properly, it
might have been prevented."

"His trunk--what did he get that out for?" asked Robert, after a
pause.

"To blind me, sir--as I have believed since--while he gave the
message."

"Why did he commit the deed?" gloomily continued Robert, whom the
account seemed to have partially sobered.

"He had fallen into the clutches of the same sort of people that you
have, sir, and they had fleeced him down to beggary and shame, and he
had not the resolution to leave them, and face the poverty; that was
why he did it. His worst enemy was Captain Haughton. He is Colonel
Haughton now."

"What do you mean?" cried Robert Dalrymple, after a pause of
astonishment.

"Yes, sir, the same man. He is your evil genius, and he was your
uncle's before you. The last time I saw him, in the old days, was when
we both stood together over my master's dead body; he came in, along
with others. 'He must have been stark mad,' was his exclamation.
'Perhaps so, Captain Haughton,' I answered, 'but the guilt lies on
those who drove him so.' He took my meaning, and he slunk away out of
the room. Mr. Robert," added the old man, the tears streaming down his
cheeks, "do you know what I like to fancy--and to hope?"

Robert lifted his eyes.

"Why, that the _punishment_ will lie with these wretched tempters, as
well as the guilt. The good God is just and merciful."

Robert did not speak. Reuben resumed.

"The first time that Haughton called here upon you, sir, I knew him,
and he knew me; and I don't think he liked it. He has never come here
himself since; I don't know whether you've noticed it, sir, he has
sent that Piggott--the man that's waiting for you outside now. Mr.
Robert, you had better have fallen into the meshes of the Fiend
himself than into that man Haughton's."

"My uncle must have been insane when he did that," broke from Robert
Dalrymple.

"The jury said otherwise," sadly answered Reuben. "They brought
it in felo-de-se; and he was buried by torchlight, without the
burial-service."

The news had told upon Robert. His mind just then was a chaos. Nothing
tangible showing out of it, save that his plight was as bad as his
uncle Claude's had been, and that he was looking, in his infatuation,
for that night to redeem it. Could he go on with his work--with that
example before him? For a while he sat thinking, his head bent, his
eyes closed; then he rose up, and signed to Reuben to let him pass.
The latter's spirit sank within him.

"Is what I have told you of no avail, Mr. Robert? Are you still bent
on going forth to those wicked men? It will be your ruin."

"It is that already, Reuben. As it was with my uncle, so it is with
me: I am ruined, and worse than ruined, and after tonight I will know
Colonel Haughton no more. But I have resolved to make one desperate
effort this night to redeem myself; something whispers to me that I
shall have luck; and--and you don't know how much lies upon it."

He was thinking of his union with Mary Lynn, poor infatuated man.
Could he redeem himself in a degree this night, he would disclose his
position to Mr. Grubb, entreat his condonation of the past, and
forswear play for ever. A tempting prospect. Nevertheless the tale had
staggered him.

"Don't go, don't go, Mr. Robert. I ask you on my bended knees."

"Get up, Reuben! don't be foolish. Perhaps I will not go. But I must
tell Piggott: I cannot keep him waiting there all night."

Reuben could do no more. He stood aside, and his young master went
forth, _hesitating_.

What strange infatuation could it have been, that it should so cling
to him? Any one who has never been drawn into the fiery vortex of
gambling would have a difficulty in understanding it. Robert Dalrymple
was a desperate man, and yet a hopeful one, for this night might lift
him out of despair. Moreover, the feverish yearning for play, in
itself, was strong upon him: as it always was now at that night hour.
As yet, the penalty he had incurred was but embarrassment and poverty:
he was now about to stake what was not his, and risk guilt. And yet,
_he went forth_: for the dreadful vice had got fast hold of him; and
he knew that the hesitation in his mind was but worthless hesitation;
a species of sophistry.

Mr. Piggott had been cooling his heels and his patience outside, not
blessing his young friend for the unnecessary and unexpected delay,
and not doing the opposite. He was of too equable a nature to curse
and swear: he left that to his peppery partner, Haughton.

"I thought you were gone to bed," he said, when Robert appeared: "in
another minute I should have come in to see after you."

And it was a wonder he did not go in. But Colonel Haughton had
whispered a word of caution as to Reuben, and neither of them cared to
pursue the master too persistently in the man's sight. Robert
Dalrymple spoke of his hesitation, saying he was not sure he should
play that night. He did want to keep the farce of prudence up, even to
himself.

"You have that cheque in your pocket, I suppose?" sharply questioned
Piggott.

"Yes. But----"

"Come on, then; we'll talk of it as we go along." And Robert linked
his arm within Mr. Piggott's and walked on in the direction of Jermyn
Street.

They entered the "hell." It is not a pleasant word for polite pens and
ears, but it is an exceedingly appropriate one. It was blazing with
light, and as hot as its name; and fiery countenances of impassioned
triumph, and agonized countenances of vacillating suspense, and sullen
countenances of despair were crowding there. Colonel Haughton was in a
private room: it was mostly kept for himself and his friends, a choice
knot of whom stood around. Poor Robert's infatuation, under Mr.
Piggott's able tuition, had returned upon him. Down he sat at the
green cloth, wild and eager.

"It is of no use to make fools of us," whispered Colonel Haughton.
"You know you do not possess another stiver; why take up a place?"

"Now, Haughton, you are too stringent," benevolently interposed Mr.
Piggott, laying hold of the colonel's arm, and giving it a peculiar
pinch. "Here is Dalrymple, with an impression that luck will be upon
him tonight, a conviction of it, indeed, and you are afraid of giving
him his revenge. It is his turn to win now. As to stakes, he says he
has something with him that will do."

Robert drew the cheque from his pocket, and dashed it before Colonel
Haughton. "I am prepared to stake this," he said. "Nothing risk,
nothing win. Luck must favour me tonight; even Piggott says so, and
he knows how bad it has been."

Colonel Haughton ran his spectacles over the cheque. "I see," he said:
"it will do. The risking it is your business, not ours."

"Of course it is mine," answered Robert.

"Then put your signature to it. Here by the side of the other."

It was done, and they sat down to play. "Nothing risk, nothing win,"
Robert had said; he had better have said, "Nothing risk, nothing
lose;" and have acted upon it. A little past midnight, he went
staggering out of that house, a doomed man. All was over, all lost.
Farmer Lee's money, or the cheque representing it, had passed out of
his possession, and he was a criminal. A criminal in the sight of
himself, soon to be a criminal in the sight of the world; liable to be
arrested and tried at the bar of Justice, a common felon.

He had tasted nothing since he entered, yet he reeled about the
pavement as one who is the worse for drink. What was to become of him?
Involuntarily the fate his unfortunate uncle Claude had resorted to
came across his mind: nay, it had not been away from it. Even in the
mad turmoil of that last hour, when the suspense was awful to bear,
and hope and dread had fought with each other as a meeting whirlwind,
the facts of that dark history had been thrusting themselves forward.

His face was burning without, and his brain was burning within. It was
a remarkably windy night, and he took off his hat and suffered the
breeze to blow on his miserable brow. And so he paced the streets,
going from home, not to it. Where could he go? he with the brand of
crime and shame upon him? He got to Charing Cross, and there he
halted, and listened to the different clocks striking one. Should he
turn back to South Audley Street? And encounter Reuben, who had tried
to save him, and had failed? And go to bed, and wait, with what
calmness he might, till the law claimed him? Hardly. Anywhere but
home. The breeze was stronger now: it blew from the direction of the
water. Robert Dalrymple replaced his hat, pulled it firmly on his head
to hide his eyes from the night, and dragged his steps towards
Westminster Bridge.

Of all places in the world!--the bridge and the tempting stream!--what
evil power impelled him thither?



CHAPTER VIII.
PERVERSITY.


In the bed of a large and luxurious chamber, her delicate face
pressing the pillow, her eyes closed to the shaded light, lay Lady
Adela Grubb. The baby she so wished for had come at last. Not that it
was the baby itself she wanted, but that she might be at liberty
through renewed health to mingle with the great world again. To be
deprived of its gaiety and obliged to keep herself very much at home
had been to her a species of intolerable thraldom.

The baby was born on Friday night: a few hours subsequent to Robert
Dalrymple's interview with Mr. Grubb and Mary Lynn. Mary, only in
Grosvenor Square for the afternoon, returned to Blackheath unconscious
of the close approach of the event. The illness had been a favourable
one; and Adela, on this Sunday morning, was going on well towards
recovery. She had taken her breakfast, and was ready to see her
husband. The doctor had only now gone out.

A wee cry from the cradle caused her to open her eyes. An elderly
woman, with soft step, bent over the cradle, and would have hushed the
baby to sleep again.

"Put him here, nurse. I want to look at him."

The nurse took up the white bundle, and laid it in the great bed,
beside Lady Adela. The little pale face was turned to her; for it was
a pale face, not a red one; and she lay looking at it. The child
opened its eyes: and, young though it was, one could see it had the
beautiful grey-blue eyes of its father. Her own brilliant yet soft
brown eyes grew fond as she gazed on the still face.

"Is he quite healthy, nurse?" she suddenly asked.

For the space of half a moment the nurse hesitated. "He was born quite
healthy, my lady; but I think he might get on better if you nursed
him. Some infants require their mother more than others do. I suspect
this one does."

She made no reply; except by an all but imperceptible toss of the
head: one can't toss effectively lying down. There had been some
trouble with Lady Adela on the score of nursing the child. Nothing
would induce her to do it. It would be well for her and well for the
little one, Dr. Dove had said. Adela would not listen. Her mother,
Lady Acorn, had treated her to a sharp scolding the day before,
Saturday, and told her she was "unnatural." All the same: Adela
indignantly demanded whether they thought she should give up the
season for any infant in the world. She was also obstinate on another
score--she would not allow, would not hear of, a nurse being sought to
supply her place. And there she lay this morning: her own head on one
pillow, the child's on another. One of the windows was open behind the
drawn blind, admitting a breath of the warm June air. On a stand at
Lady Adela's elbow lay a bouquet of sweet-scented, lovely hot-house
flowers.

"Little wee thing!" she fondly cried, stretching out her fingers to
stroke the baby's soft face, and its fragile hand that lay so still.

A tap at the door. The nurse answered it and admitted Mr. Grubb; she
herself then retiring to the next room, which opened from this one. He
came to the bed, bent over his wife and gently kissed her.

"Oh, don't!" she cried, turning her cheek ungraciously from him, just
as she had for the most part done ever since their wedding-day. It had
grown into a habit now.

"Adela," he whispered, biting his trembling lips to keep down the
pain, "should not this little treasure, our child, teach you to be
more of a loving wife to me?"

"I am very sorry it has come," she answered in fretful tones. "I'm
sure I shall be if they are going to worry me over it. You should hear
mamma go on:--and Grace, too!--with their old-fashioned notions."

"No one shall worry you," he fondly said. "Tell me, Adela, what you
would like his name to be?"

"His name!" she repeated, looking up in quick surprise. "Time enough
for that."

"Dr. Dove thinks it may be as well to have him baptized. He came into
the library just now, as he went out; and, in talking of one thing and
another, he chanced to mention this." _Chanced_ to mention this! Mr.
Grubb was cautious not to alarm his wife.

"The baby is not ill! Is it?"

"No, no, I trust not, Adela. It is a delicate little thing; all babies
are, perhaps: and--and it is as well, you know, to be on the safe
side."

"But I should like a christening. A grand, proper christening; to be
held when I get well."

"Of course. His being baptized now will make no difference to that. I
think it must be done, my dear."

"In this room, then; by my bedside. I should like to see it."

"You shall. And now, what name?"

Adela lay back on the pillow, her cheeks slightly flushed with their
delicate pink, fresh and pure as the hue of a seashell, her eyes cast
upwards in thought.

"I should like it to have papa's name--George."

"George Frederick?"

"Not Frederick: I don't care about the name. George--would you like
also your own name--Francis?" she broke off to ask. "George Francis?"

"Would you care to have it Francis?" he returned, his tone one of
emotion, bending over her until his face nearly touched hers.

She heard the tone, she saw the wet eyelashes shading the wonderful
grey eyes, with their yearning, earnest expression. It flashed into
her mind to remember how few men were his equals, in looks, in worth,
in loving indulgence to a rebellious wife. Adela was not quite proof
against her better nature. She was not always hard.

"Yes, I should; and he has your eyes," she whispered softly, in answer
to the question, her own sweet eyes lifted to her husband's.

"Adela," he breathed, his voice low with its agitation, "you do love
me a little! You surely do!"

"Just a very little--sometimes," she whispered in a half-saucy,
half-loving tone. And, when he let his face fall on hers, she for once
held it there, and welcomed the kisses from his lips.

It was all the work of the baby, his child and hers, thought he in his
glad heart. But no. Now and again, at rare intervals, Adela did feel a
spark of tenderness for him: though instead of letting it come to
fruit, of allowing him to see it, she forced it back to the coldness
she had taken up, and resolutely steeled her heart against him.
Illness had just now somewhat softened her spirit.

He went round the bed to the side where the baby lay, and looked at it
long and earnestly. The doctor had just told him that he did not feel
altogether easy on the score of the child; could not be sure that it
was likely to live.

"It is a pale little blossom, Adela. I thought babies were generally
red."

"Frightfully red. I have seen them."

"Well, we will get it baptized; and then----"

"What?" she cried--for he had stopped.

"And then, I was going to say, whether it lives or dies, it will be
safe in its Saviour's arms."

"But you do not _think_ it will die?" she cried, taking up some alarm.
"Oh, Francis, I should not like him to die, now he has come!"

He went round to soothe her, the word "Francis" causing his heart to
leap. For in a general way she persistently called him "Mr. Grubb,"
and not graciously either.

"My darling, I assure you there is no cause for alarm. So far as I
know, the child is not ill; it will, I hope, do well. Dr. Dove does
not think him particularly strong--but what can be expected of a
two-day-old baby?"

"True," answered Adela, feeling reassured again. "Francis, I do
believe there's mamma coming up! Yes, it is her voice. Mind you don't
tell her----"

Lady Acorn came swiftly in; and, what he was not to tell her, Mr.
Grubb never knew. She had dressed early for church, and came round to
see Adela on her way to it. Grace was with her. One of the daughters
had married during the past year, but it was not Grace. It was
Harriet; she had espoused a little Scotch laird, Sir Sandy MacIvor.
Peppery and red, in came the countess, for she had just heard
something that vexed her; Lady Grace, so calm and still, presented a
contrast to her vivacious mother.

"Well, and now what's this I hear about things not going on well?"
began Lady Acorn, subduing her voice with difficulty to the
requisition of a sick-room.

"I am going on very well, mamma--how do you mean?" returned Adela,
assuming the doubt must apply to herself. "I have made a famous
breakfast. They let me have an egg and some buttered toast."

"You are all right, Dove says--we have just met him," returned Lady
Acorn. "But he does not think the baby is. And you have yourself to
thank for it, Adela."

The pink tinge on Lady Adela's cheeks increased to rose colour, as she
armed herself to do battle with her mother.

"Dove says the baby wants its proper food; not that gruel stuff, or
milk-and-water, or whatever rubbish it is, that it is being dosed
with. And it is not too late for you to reform, Adela, and do what you
ought."

"It is too late," retorted Adela, with flaming cheeks. "And
if you begin about it again, mamma, you will make me ill.
Francis"--stretching out her arm for her husband--"don't let me be
worried. You promised me, you know."

With a loving word to his wife, a reassuring pressure of her hand,
which he kept in his, he turned to Lady Acorn, and spoke to her in a
low tone.

"Talk to her when she's better and more able to bear it!" repeated the
countess, taking up his words aloud. "Why, my good man, it would be
too late. And--you do not want to lose your child, I suppose!"

"Indeed, I do not. But, better lose my child than my wife."

"_She_ is well enough, and safe enough," spoke the mother, secure in
her superior knowledge. "Adela has been an indulged girl all her life,
and you, her husband, continue the indulgence. It is not good for her;
mark you that. With regard to this caprice of hers, the not
undertaking the poor sickly baby, you ought to hold her to her duty,
Mr. Grubb, and insist upon her fulfilling it."

He turned to his wife, his eyes unconsciously wearing a pleading look.
"If you would only suffer yourself to be persuaded, Adela! For the
child's sake."

Adela looked at them separately; at her husband, at her mother, at
Grace, standing with a cold and impassive countenance that did not
betoken approbation; and she took up an idea that they were in league
with one another to "hold her to her duty," and enforce obedience. Had
not the doctor talked to her that very morning: had not the nurse
subsequently presumed to hint at an opinion? Yes, they were all in
league together. Lady Adela turned rebellious, and flung her husband's
hand away with passionate anger.

"Why do you come into my room at all?" she exclaimed to him. "You know
I do not want you."

At that moment the nurse looked in from the adjoining apartment and
made a sign to Mr. Grubb. He obeyed it at once, taking no notice of
his wife or her cruel words.

"There! you have driven him away now!" cried Lady Acorn, on the eve of
an explosion: for she had not seen the summons of the nurse. "You will
never go to heaven, Adela, for your wickedness to your husband."

Adela did not make any answer: perhaps she was feeling a little sorry
in her heart: and there ensued a silence. The sweet-toned bells,
calling people to service, rang out on the air.

Mr. Grubb came in again. Feeling more alarmed in his heart at the
doctor's words than he allowed to appear, and anxious for the child,
he had written a note as the medical man left him, and sent it to a
young assistant clergyman whose lodgings were close by. He had now
called, on his way to church, ready to perform the ceremony at once if
it were wished for, and a servant had come up to inform the nurse.

"Mr. Wilkinson has called, and is asking after you," began Mr. Grubb
to his wife, voice and demeanour a model of quietness, not to say
indifference. "It struck me, Adela, that he might as well baptize the
child--as he is here. He has time to do it before service."

"What a hurry you are in!" she returned, ungraciously. "As well take
the opportunity of his being here, Adela. And then it will be over."

"Oh, well, yes--if it has to be done," conceded she. "I'm sure there's
no necessity for it. Let Wilkinson come up."

Lady Acorn's sharp red nose turned purple. She had listened in
surprise. Saying nothing to Adela, she trotted into the dressing-room,
and shut the door.

"What's this, nurse--about the child being baptized?"

"I believe it is going to be done, my lady. Mr. Grubb has just said a
word to me."

"Is it so ill as that?"

"Well, no, I did not think it was," acknowledged the woman. "Dr. Dove
did not much like its look this morning; I saw that. I suppose he
spoke to Mr. Grubb more fully than to me."

"Do _you_ think it is in any danger?"

The nurse paused before replying. "One can never be quite sure of
these very young infants. When it was born, I thought it a nice
healthy little thing; yesterday it seemed quiet and peeky, and wailed
a bit; this morning it seems anything but well, and does not take its
food. Still, my lady, I can't say that it is in danger."

Lady Acorn nodded her head and her bonnet two or three times, as if
not satisfied with affairs in general, and went back to her daughter's
room.

The young clergyman came up; things were made ready; and they gathered
round in a group at the bedside, kneeling down for the short
preparatory prayers used in private baptism. When they arose, the
clergyman took the child in his arms from Grace, who had held it.

"Name this child."

"George," promptly spoke the mother from the bed, her tone giving
emphasis to the word. And Francis Grubb's face flushed as he heard it.
Ah, what pain was often his!

The short service was soon over. Mr. Wilkinson departed for his
church; Lady Acorn and Grace followed him. The nurse had gone back to
the dressing-room. Mr. Grubb stood by the bed in which the quiet child
had again been laid.

"I thought you were going to church?" said Lady Adela.

"Yes; directly." He wanted especially to go to church that day; to
return thanks to God for the mercy vouchsafed him in the preservation
of his wife. Though, indeed, he had not waited to be in church to do
that.

"How quiet the baby was all through it!" cried Adela.

"Very quiet. Too quiet, your mother says."

"Mamma says all sorts of things when she is in a temper, as you have
learnt by this time, and she is in one this morning," was Adela's
light, and not over-dutiful remark. Not but that it was true.

Mr. Grubb had taken the child in his arms, and stood looking down upon
it. Save that its eyes were open and that it breathed, it seemed still
enough for death. He did not understand babies, but he did think this
one was unnaturally quiet.

"Why are you looking at him so attentively?" asked Adela, by-and-by.

"I don't think he can be well."

"But--you don't think he is ill, do you?" returned she after a pause,
and speaking quickly.

"Adela, I do not know. He seems to me to have changed a little in the
last half-hour, since I first came in. Of course I may be mistaken."

"Suppose you send for Dr. Dove?"

"I can send if you like: he has only just gone, you know. The nurse
does not seem to be"--alarmed, he was about to say, but changed the
word--"anxious; so all may be well."

He put the baby in its place, and Lady Adela raised her head to look
at it. "He gets paler, I think," she observed; "and, as you say, he is
very, very quiet. Poor little thing! he has no strength yet."

"He cannot have much of that," remarked Mr. Grubb. "The nurse says she
cannot get him to take his food. If he does not, he must sink, Adela."

Their eyes met. There was certainly no reproach in his, only a settled
look of pain. Adela did not want her baby to die, and the fear of it
was beginning to trouble her; she was aware that, looking at matters
from _their_ point of view, her enemies', she might not be altogether
unconscious of meriting some reproach. Back she lay on the pillow
again, and burst into tears.

Mr. Grubb went round, bent down, and sheltered her head on his breast.
"I don't want him to die," she sobbed.

"Won't you try to save him?" he whispered in his tenderly persuasive
tones, as he held her face close to his own.

"But the trouble!--and the sacrifice. Oh, how cross and contrary the
world sometimes is!"

"Your own child and mine, Adela! It would be only a little sacrifice,
a little trouble. When he gets older, he will repay you love for
love."

A pause. "I suppose you will be very cross with me if I don't,
Francis."

"Am I ever cross with you! I should grieve for the child, if he died;
I should grieve for your grief, for I know you would feel it. Oh, my
darling, won't you try to save him? To do so must be right in God's
sight."

She cried silently for a minute longer, her wet cheek lying
contentedly against his. "Perhaps I will," she whispered in his ear.
"For _his_ sake, you know."

"For all our sakes, Adela."

"Put him nearer to me, please. I will look at him again--whether he
does seem ill. And how late you will be at church!"

"Not very: the bell is going yet," said Mr. Grubb. He placed the
infant where she could look at it closely; gave her a farewell kiss,
and departed. Adela rang for the nurse.

"You may throw away all the stupid gruel, nurse. I shall not let the
baby have any more of it."



CHAPTER IX.
JOSEPH HORN'S TESTIMONY.


"Some one is waiting to see you, sir," said one of Mr. Grubb's
servants to him, as he entered the house on his return from church.

"Who is it?"

"Mr. Dalrymple's man, sir. He has been waiting nearly an hour."

Reuben came forward from the back of the hall. The moment Mr. Grubb
caught sight of his face, usually so full of healthy bloom, now pale
and woe-begone, he was seized with a presentiment of evil.

"Come into the library, Reuben," he said. "Have you brought ill news
of any kind?" he added, shutting the door. "What is it?"

And to make matters more intelligible to you, reader, we will go back
to the past Friday night, when Robert Dalrymple left his lodgings in
the company of Mr. Piggott, leaving poor Reuben in distress and
despair.

Reuben sat up the livelong night. The light dawned after the brief
interval of darkness, very brief in June, the sun came out, the cries
and bustle in the streets gradually set in, and London had begun
another day. At six o'clock Reuben lay down on his bed for an hour,
and then got himself a bit of breakfast--which he could not eat. His
master did not come.

Fearing he knew not what, and attaching more importance, in his vague
uneasiness, to Robert's having stayed out than he might have done at
another time, at nine o'clock Reuben betook himself to Mr. Piggott's.
That gentleman did not live in very fashionable lodgings, and his
address was usually given at his club, not there. Reuben, however,
knew it. Some time before, Reuben had gone on a fishing tour, to catch
what information he could as to the private concerns of Mr. Piggott
and Colonel Haughton, and had found out where each lived.

The slipshod servant who came to the door could say nothing as to
whether Mr. Dalrymple was staying the night there; all she knew was,
that Mr. Piggott "warn't up yet." Reuben inquired as to the locality
of Mr. Piggott's chamber, went up to it without opposition, and
knocked at the door; a sharp, loud knock.

"Who's there?"

Another knock, sharper still.

"Come in."

Reuben walked in at once. "Sir," was his unceremonious address, "do
you know anything of my master?"

"I!" cried Mr. Piggott, when he had recovered his surprise, and
speaking from the midst of his bedclothes. "I do not. Why?"

"I thought you might know, sir, as you took him out last night. He
said he was going to play with you and Colonel Haughton. He has not
returned home, which I think very strange; and, as there is some
important business waiting for him, I want to find him."

Reuben spoke out freely. But the "important business" was only an
invention. He did not care to betray how uneasy he was, yet wanted an
excuse for inquiring. Poor man the fate of his early master lay
ominously on his mind.

"He left us last night between twelve and one o'clock; to go home, as
I suppose," said Mr. Piggott, somewhat taken aback.

"Between twelve and one, sir?"

"Close upon one it may have been; it had not struck. I know nothing
more."

"Did he go home with Colonel Haughton?"

"That I am sure he did not. Colonel Haughton and I walked away
together. I left the colonel at his own door."

"Away from Jermyn Street, I suppose you mean, sir!"

"You have no right to suppose anything of the kind," roared Mr.
Piggott, aroused to anger. "What is it to you? Go out, and shut the
door."

Reuben did as he was bid; there seemed to be no use in staying. He
sought out Colonel Haughton, who (remembering past events) was civil,
and who possibly felt some undefined uneasiness at the disappearance
of Robert. His story was the same as Piggott's--that the young man had
left them a little before one o'clock.

Trusting these gentlemen just as far as he could see them, and no
farther, or their word either, Reuben went to the gambling-house in
Jermyn Street. After some difficulty--for every impediment seemed put
in the way of any inquiry; and, to judge by appearances, the place
might have been the most innocent in the world--Reuben found a man
attached to the house who knew Mr. Dalrymple. This man happened to be
at the front-door when Mr. Dalrymple went out the previous night; it
wanted about five or ten minutes to one. He watched him walk away.

"Which way did he go?" asked Reuben. "Towards home--South Audley
Street?"

"No; the other way. He staggered a bit, as if not quite sober."

"Through the machinations of the wicked people that have been hunting
him; he never drank but when incited to it by them," spoke Reuben, in
his pain.

Back he went to South Audley Street, in the hope that his master might
have now reached it. Not so. The day wore on, and he did not come.
Reuben was half distracted. In the evening, he went to various
police-stations, and told his tale--his master, Mr. Robert Dalrymple,
had disappeared. It may, perhaps, seem to you, reader, that all this
was premature; hardly called for; but the faithful old servant's state
of mind must plead his excuse.

Another night passed. Sunday morning arose, and then tidings came of
Robert and his probable fate. The police had been making inquiries,
and one of them came to Reuben.

A hat had been found in the Thames, the previous day, floating away
with the tide. Inside it was written "B. Dalrymple." The policeman had
it in his hand; bringing it to Reuben to be owned or disowned. Reuben
recognized it in a moment. It was the one his unfortunate master had
worn on Friday night. How could it have got in the water?--and where,
then, was Robert Dalrymple?

Little need to speculate. Some bargemen who were in their vessel,
lying close to the side of Westminster Bridge, had disclosed to the
police that about two o'clock on Saturday morning they had heard a
weight drop into the water, seemingly from the bridge--"as if," said
one of them, "a body had throwed hisself right on to the Thames o'
purpose to make a hole in it."

It was this disastrous news that Reuben had now brought to Mr. Grubb.
That gentleman sat aghast as he listened. The old man, seated opposite
to him, broke down with a burst of anguish as he concluded, the salt
tears raining on his cheeks.

"Can he have wilfully destroyed himself?" breathed Mr. Grubb.

"Only too sure, sir," wailed Reuben; "only too sure."

"And the motive? Embarrassment?"

"Not a doubt of it, sir: he was quite ruined."

"If he had only applied to me!--if he had only applied to me!"
bewailed Mr. Grubb, rising from his chair to pace the room in
excitement. "I would have saved and helped him."

"A dreadful set had got hold of him, poor young man," sobbed Reuben.
"The same gamblers--one of them's the same, at any rate--that got hold
of and ruined his uncle. Doubtless you know that story, sir. On this
last Friday evening that ever was, I told it to Mr. Robert, hoping it
would turn him back. But those wretched men had laid too fast a hold
upon him. One was waiting for him outside in the street then. My
belief is, sir, he _couldn't_ break with them."

"Had the tale no effect upon him?"

"Some little it had; not enough. He must go forth to play that night,
he said to me; he had given his word to Piggott to go, and, besides,
he thought the luck would turn and favour him; but once the night was
over, he would know that Haughton and the rest of the set no more. And
I think he would have kept his word, sir."

"I suppose luck did not favour him? That shall, if possible, be
ascertained."

Reuben shook his head. "No need to doubt, sir. The worst is--the worst
is--I hardly like to say it."

"Can anything be worse, Reuben, than what you have told me?" was Mr.
Grubb's sad rejoinder, as he took his seat again.

"Ay, but I meant as to his means, sir; his losses. He was quite
cleared out; he told me that; everything, including Moat Grange, so
far as his life interest in it went, was staked and gone. But that
last night"--Reuben's voice dropped to a dread whisper--"he took out
with him what was not his to stake. And, no doubt, lost it."

"What was it?" questioned Mr. Grubb, in the same hushed tone, feeling
rather at sea, yet afraid of he knew not what.

"It was a cheque that had come up that morning from Netherleigh.
Farmer Lee wanted some money invested in some particular security, and
he got my master to undertake to do it for him, to save himself the
journey up. Mr. Robert had told me all about it--he mostly did tell me
things. Ah, sir, his disposition was open and generous as the day."

"And the money came?"

"The cheque came, sir. It was for five hundred pounds. Piggott called
that Friday afternoon and scented the cheque; saw it, most likely. He
took Mr. Robert out to dinner, and plied him with wine, and between
ten and eleven he brought him back again, staying outside while my
master came in--come in for the cheque. It was then I tried to pull
him up by telling him about his uncle Claude--how the man Haughton had
lured Mr. Claude to his destruction, just as he was now luring Mr.
Robert. He said he would have no more to do with Haughton after that
night; but he went out to Piggott with the cheque in his pocket, and
they walked away together arm-in-arm."

Mr. Grubb took out his pocketbook, and made a note in pencil. He
would get that cheque back from the gamblers, if possible. At any
rate, he would have a good try for it.

Reuben had not much more to tell. Mr. Grubb put on his hat and went
with him to see the police inspector who had the case in hand. It was
a terrible blow: terrible in all ways: Francis Grubb was feeling it to
be so--and what then would it be to his sister Mary?

The inspector pointed out to Mr. Grubb that, in spite of the finding
of the hat in the Thames, which hat was, beyond all doubt, Mr.
Dalrymple's, it did not follow that Mr. Dalrymple was himself in the
Thames; and the splash heard by the men in the barge might have been
made by any one else. There was no proof, he urged, that Mr. Dalrymple
had been on Westminster Bridge, or near it. And all this seemed so
reasonable that Mr. Grubb felt his heart's weight somewhat lightened.

But, ere the Sunday afternoon closed in, testimony on this point was
forthcoming, and rather singularly. It chanced that a young man, named
Horn, who was an assistant to Robert Dalrymple's tailor, and had often
measured Robert for clothes, was spending the Friday with some friends
at South Lambeth. Horn, a very respectable and steady man, had stayed
late, for it was a wedding feast, beyond the time of omnibuses, and
had to walk home to his lodgings near Leicester Square. In passing
over Westminster Bridge, it was then close upon two o'clock, he saw
some one mounted on the top, leaning right over the parapet, hanging
over it, as if he had a mind to fling himself into the water. Horn,
startled at the sight, ran up, and pulled the man back; and then, to
his unbounded astonishment, he found it was Mr. Dalrymple.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he said in apology. "I had no idea it was
you."

"Good-night, Horn," replied Robert.

"Good-night, sir," returned Horn; and walked on.

But Horn felt uneasy; especially so at the remembrance of Mr.
Dalrymple's face, for it looked full of trouble; and he turned back
again. Robert was then standing with his arms folded, apparently
looking down quietly on the water.

"Can I do anything for you, sir?" he asked. "Nothing has happened, I
hope?"

"Oh, nothing at all," replied Robert. "I don't want anything done;
thank you all the same, Horn. The night is warm, and I am enjoying the
air: one gets it here, if anywhere. Good-night."

Joseph Horn wished him good-night again and walked finally away. On
this day, Sunday, chancing to hear that Mr. Dalrymple was missing--for
inquiries were now being made extensively--he came forward and related
this.

It was just the one link that had been wanting. Poor Robert Dalrymple,
utterly ruined, soon now to be pointed at as a felon, had found his
trouble greater than he could bear, and had put an end to it. Of that
there could exist no reasonable doubt. The melancholy tale speedily
fled over London--how quickly such news does fly! Robert Dalrymple had
drowned himself--another victim to Play.

"It runs in the family," quoth some careless people who remembered the
former catastrophe. "Like uncle, like nephew! The name of Dalrymple
must be a fated one."

"I would at least have used a pistol, and gone out of the world like a
gentleman," was the bad remark of that bad man, Colonel Haughton, as
he stood on the Sunday night--yes, the Sunday night--and listened to
the news in that place with the hot name.

But the colonel changed his tone the following day, when Francis
Grubb, the great East India merchant, whom all men, high and low,
looked up to and respected, stood before him, and quietly informed him
he must give up a certain cheque belonging to Mr. Lee of Netherleigh,
or its value if it had been cashed; give it up, or submit to appear
before a magistrate, and run the gauntlet of public exposure. After
putting himself to a great deal of trouble, in the way of
remonstrance, excuse, and grumbling, to which Mr. Grubb made no sort
of reply, as he calmly waited the result, the colonel returned the
cheque--which had not been cashed. Possibly the disappearance of
Robert Dalrymple had put him and Mr. Piggott on their guard.

Meanwhile the Grange remained in ignorance of what was passing; but
the terrible tidings would soon have to be carried thither.

When Mrs. Dalrymple returned home on Friday evening from dining at
Court Netherleigh, she did not say much to Oscar about her son; but on
the following morning, after breakfast, Oscar having slept at the
Grange, she questioned him. Without making exactly the worst of it,
Oscar disclosed the truth--that is, that Robert was undoubtedly
falling into trouble through his gambling habits. He deemed it lay in
his duty to tell this; and Mrs. Dalrymple, as the reader must
remember, had been already warned by Reuben's letter. That letter had
been a great shock to her; she knew how fatal the vice had already
proved in the family.

It was a lovely midsummer morning, and she and Selina were sitting on
the bench under the great elm-tree. The bees were humming, the
butterflies sporting, the birds singing around them. The grass was
green at foot; overhead, the blue sky could be seen through the
branches of the flickering trees. Oscar leaned against the trunk of an
opposite tree as he talked to them.

"What can be done?--what can be done?" exclaimed Mrs. Dalrymple,
clasping her hands in distress. "Oscar, you ought to have brought him
down with you."

"He positively refused to come. I might as well have tried to bring a
mountain. Something ought to be done, and must be done," added Oscar;
"you are quite right in saying that. The question is--what is it that
can be?"

"The root of the evil lies in his having gone to London," said Mrs.
Dalrymple. "He ought to have taken up his own proper station here, and
ourselves have found a house elsewhere. But, in his chivalrous
affection for me, Robert would listen to no remonstrance; some implied
promise to his father, when he was on his death-bed, I believe, swayed
him. Robert was always so good-hearted--and so impulsive. He--here is
Alice," she broke off, in lowered tones.

Alice, with her sweet face, her slight figure, and her quite
perceptible limp, came across the grass. "May I not be admitted to the
conference?" she asked pleadingly. "I know you are talking of Robert."

"Oh, my dear, it is nothing that you need trouble yourself about,"
said her mother, soothingly. "Go back to your tatting."

"I have my tatting with me. Mamma--Oscar--do you not see that it will
be _well_ for me to hear what there is to hear. I know something is
wrong about Robert; I could not sleep all last night, no, nor the
night before, for dwelling on it. Whatever there is to hear, it cannot
make me more anxious than I am--and it would end this suspense."

"Well, well, sit down," said Mrs. Dalrymple, giving way. "I hardly
know myself how much or how little of evil there is to hear, Alice."
And she went on to speak without reservation: "Robert had fallen into
gambling habits; and there was no telling how deeply. All his own
means were undoubtedly gone. Of course things must get worse night by
night," she concluded. "Any night he may stake the Grange."

"Stake the Grange!" echoed Alice. "Mamma, what do you mean?"

"Stake it and lose it," confirmed Oscar. "When the mania for play sets
in on a man, he is not content to confine his ventures to trifles."

"But I do not understand," returned Alice. "How could he stake the
Grange? It is in the Dalrymple family, and cannot go out of it?"

"He might stake its value. Mortgage it, that is, for his own life."

"And could we not remain in it?" she quickly asked.

"Scarcely. It might take every shilling of its incomings to pay off
the interest. You could not remain here upon nothing."

"Would it be sacrificed; useless to us for so long as Robert lived?"
questioned Selina, not quite comprehending.

Oscar nodded. "I am only saying that he might do it: I do not say he
will. He might so hamper himself, so involve the estate, that he could
never derive further benefit from it. Or his family either, so long as
he lived."

"Does it return to us at Robert's death? I wish to goodness he would
be more careful of himself," added Selina, in her quick way. "Sitting
up till daylight, night after night, cannot be good for him."

"It--would return into the family," spoke Oscar, hesitatingly.

Alice Dalrymple looked up from a reverie. A contingency had occurred
to her which she had never thought of before: so entirely had the
Grange been theirs in their father's recent lifetime, and in the
certainty of its descending to Robert afterwards. "Suppose anything
were to happen to Robert," she said, "whose would the Grange be?
Mamma's?"

No one answered her.

"Oscar, I ask you, would it go to mamma?"

"To whom, then?"

"My dear," interposed Mrs. Dalrymple, "it would be Oscar's. It goes in
the male line."

The answer took both the young ladies by surprise. They were really
very ignorant of these matters. Each of them stole a glance at Oscar:
a red, conscious light had flown into his usually pale cheek.

"I never knew it," breathed Selina.

"And it is of little import your knowing it now," gently spoke Oscar.
"I am as likely to come into the Grange as I am of being made prime
minister. Robert is a younger man than I am."

"Poor Robert!" lamented Alice. "He has been left to himself up in that
great wicked town, he has had no one to turn to for advice or counsel,
and I dare say he has only done what he has done from thoughtlessness.
A word from mamma may set him right. Mamma, do you not think you ought
to go to him?"

"Yes, Alice. It is what I have been resolving to do, now, as you were
talking. And you must stay here over tomorrow, and go with me, Oscar.
We will start by the nine-o'clock train on Monday morning."

"So be it," acquiesced Oscar. "It is the only thing. He may listen to
you."

So Oscar Dalrymple stayed with them at the Grange until the Monday,
revelling in the society of the one only being he loved on
earth--Selina.

Mrs. Dalrymple had made ready for the journey--and how fervent, how
imploringly earnest her prayers were that it might bear happy fruit,
she and Heaven alone know. They all sat down to an early breakfast:
even Alice, whose lameness was an apology for not rising betimes in
general. In the midst of breakfast, James came in, and looked at Oscar
Dalrymple.

"Will you please to step here, sir, for a minute?"

"What for?"

"Just for a minute, sir," repeated the man; and his eyes seemed to
telegraph a momentary entreaty with the words.

Oscar went out hurriedly, for there was no time to spare, and the
carriage to take them to the station had already come round. James
shut the door.

"Here's Reuben come down, sir, by the early train," he whispered. "He
told me to fetch you out to him, quietly, but not to say who it was."

Oscar walked quickly across the hall. Reuben awaited him in an empty
room.

"What is it, Reuben? What has brought you from town?"

The old servant trembled with agitation, and grasped hold of the back
of a chair. "Oh, Mr. Oscar, it is all over. My poor young master is
gone."

Oscar sat down, seemingly unconscious what he did, and the red light
came again into his cheeks.

"The very night after you left London, sir, those men drew him out
again. Before he went, I spoke to him, trying to stop him, and he told
me he was ruined and worse than ruined. He never came back. He has
just followed in the steps of Mr. Claude Dalrymple, and has met with
the same fate."

"Surely he has not destroyed himself?" breathed Oscar.

"He has; he has."

"But how? In what manner?"

"By drowning, sir. He jumped over Westminster Bridge right into the
water during that same night. About two o'clock, they say. Oh, what
distraction his poor mind must have been in, to urge him to such a
death as that!"

Oscar rose and looked from the window. Cold as was his nature, the
news could not fail to shock him--although he was the inheritor of the
Grange.

"Has he been found?" he presently asked.

"No. Perhaps never will be. The officers say that not half the bodies
that get into the Thames ever see the light again. But his fate is as
sure and certain, sir, as though he had been found, and the drags are
yet at work. Mr. Oscar, I'd rather it was my own death that had to be
told of than his," added Reuben, breaking into sobs.

"It is sad indeed," cried Oscar, feeling, truth to say, terribly cut
up. "I and Mrs. Dalrymple were on the point of starting for London. It
is no use to go now. At least she must not."

"His hat was found in the Thames," said poor Reuben, regaining some
composure; "and, curious to say, one Joseph Horn, a young man,
who----"

"Oscar," called out the voice of Mrs. Dalrymple, "where are you? We
have not any more time to spare."

"How shall I break it to them?" wailed Oscar to himself, knowing that
it must be done, and without delay. "It is a terrible mission. Reuben,
don't show yourself for a minute."

He walked across the hall, now his own, and re-entered the
breakfast-room. He proceeded with his task as well as he could, and
got through it, not telling them the worst, only that some accident
had happened to Robert. By intuition however, they seemed to seize on
the truth--that he was dead. Oscar felt almost thankful that Alice
fainted and fell to the floor, because it caused some diversion to
Mrs. Dalrymple's death-like shock.

And, ere the midday sun was at its height, the estate was ringing
with the news that its generous young landlord had passed away, with
his faults and follies, and that Oscar Dalrymple would reign at the
Grange.



CHAPTER X.
A COSTLY MANIA.


The residence of Mrs. Lynn at Blackheath was a substantial,
old-fashioned, roomy house on the heath, standing alone within a high
wall surrounded by trees. And to this house, on the Monday morning,
went her son, Francis Grubb, carrying with him his burden of ill news.
The same fatal news which the old-serving man, Reuben, had already
taken to Moat Grange.

In the morning-room sat Mary Lynn, glancing over a short letter she
had just written. She started up in what looked like alarm when her
brother entered.

"Oh, Francis!" she exclaimed, a hectic colour flushing her face, "what
have you come roday for--now? Is it to bring me ill news?"

"Why do you imagine that?" he asked, rather struck with her words--and
her looks. "Can't a business man come out to pay a morning visit,
Mary, without bringing ill news with him? My wife and the baby are
going on well, if you are thinking of them."

He spoke in a half-jesting tone, making light of it at first. It was
not usual with him to leave the City at this early hour. Mary glanced
at the open letter on the table. She wore a cool muslin dress of a
pinkish colour, and was looking altogether fresh and fair and
pure--but sad.

"How is mamma?" he asked.

"Not at all well; she is keeping her room roday," said Mary. Mr.
Grubb, standing so near, could not fail to see that the letter was
written to Robert Dalrymple. The reader may like to see its contents.


"My DEAR ROBERT,

"Considering that you and I ceased to correspond some years ago,
you will be surprised at my writing to you. I have no doubt all
proper-minded old ladies, including my mother, would shake their heads
at me. Will you just drop me one line in answer, to say how you are,
and how the world is using you, and please let it be by return of
post. I have a reason for asking this. Pardon the trouble; and believe
me ever affectionately yours,

"MARY ISABEL LYNN."


"_Have_ you brought me ill news, Francis?" she repeated. "About Robert
Dalrymple?"

Her brother looked at her. "Again I ask you, Mary, why you should put
the question?"

"I will tell you," she said: "at the risk of your laughing at me,
Francis; and that I know you will do. I have had a dream about Robert,
and it has made me uneasy."

"A dream!" he repeated in surprise. But he did not laugh.

"It was last Friday night," she went on. "I came home from your house
rather tired, and--and troubled; troubled about Robert. I had seen
that he was in great trouble himself; in fact, he told me so; but he
would not tell me its nature. The world was using him hardly--that was
the most explicit admission he made. I could not get to sleep at first
for thinking of him; not before one o'clock, I dare say; and then I
had a terrible dream."

"You should not think of dreams, child," put in her brother. "But go
on."

"I thought we were in some gloomy room, Robert and I. At the end of it
was a small door, closed, with an opening at the top protected by iron
spikes. Beyond that narrow opening nothing could be seen, for it was
dark. Robert stood near this door, facing it in silence, as if waiting
for it to open, and I stood some yards behind him, waiting also. Some
trouble seemed to lie upon both of us, some apprehension, but I know
not what; something that could not be spoken of: it filled my heart to
sickness. Suddenly the door began slowly to open; and, as the intense
darkness beyond began to disclose itself more and more--a black, inky
darkness that seemed to reign in illimitable space--a most frightful
terror took possession of me, a terror more awful than can ever be
experienced in life. Robert turned and looked at me in token of
farewell, still in silence--and oh, Francis, I shall never forget the
despairing misery depicted on his face. He turned it away again, and
took a step towards the door, now quite open. I rushed forward with a
scream and caught his arm on its threshold. 'No, no, you shall not go
out there!' I cried: 'stay, and pray for deliverance.' This awoke me;
awoke me to the same vivid terror I had felt in the dream," concluded
Miss Lynn; "and just afterwards the clock struck two."

"Two?"

"Two. I lay in the most extreme agitation for the rest of the night;
instinct whispering me that some evil had befallen Robert. With the
morning the feeling in some degree passed away, and the occupations of
the day served still more to deaden it: several visitors called on
Saturday. Nevertheless, the dream has haunted me over since like a
nightmare. Not a word of the sermon yesterday morning could I take in.
When mamma asked me what the text was when I got home from church, I
was obliged to say I could not remember it. So, this morning, I
thought I would write a line to Robert, asking if things are well with
him--for anxiety and suspense yet cling to me."

Her voice ceased. Mr. Grubb made no comment.

"Has any ill happened to Francis?" she continued her face raised
wistfully. "Have you come to tell it me?"

Oh, it was a hard task, this, that was imposed upon him. Far harder
than the one that had fallen to Oscar Dalrymple at Moat Grange in
Berkshire. For the natures of the two men were essentially different:
the one stoically calm; the other warm, generous, loving. Francis
Grubb took his sister gently by the hand.

"Let us go into the open air, Mary; to the quiet shrubbery. What I
have to tell you, I will tell you there."


It was a most terrible thing to have come to pass. Better that the
ill-fated Robert Dalrymple, when in the very act of self-destruction,
had arrested himself, and prayed to God for deliverance as Mary Lynn
seemed to have implored him to do in her dream.

And if any latent doubt lingered in the minds of fond relatives, this
was to be extinguished. Some three weeks after the fatal night he was
found in the water near Mill-wall: quite unrecognizable in himself,
but identified by his clothes. The jury brought in a more merciful
verdict than was passed on his uncle before him--"Temporary insanity;"
and he was buried in the nearest churchyard.

As to his creditors, they were not paid. There was nothing to pay them
with. With the exception, however, of his gambling debts, it turned
out that Robert did not owe much. Mr. Grubb had got back Fanner Lee's
five-hundred-pound cheque--and Mr. Grubb, Reuben, and Oscar, to whom
it was alone known, kept that matter secret from the farmer and from
the world.

Oscar Dalrymple had come into the Grange, and would take possession of
it as soon as Mrs. Dalrymple could, at her convenience, move out.
Oscar, cold and calculating though he was, could but come forward to
Mrs. Dalrymple's rescue. It fell to him to keep her and her daughters
now. He spoke to her in a kindly, generous tone, letting nothing
appear of the inward wincing he possibly may have felt. She had
absolutely no resource in the world, save Oscar. They had a distant
relative indeed, one Benjamin Dalrymple, living in the West of
England; a crusty old man, who was reported to be very rich, and had
made his money at cotton-spinning; but this old man had created quite
a deadly feud between himself and all the Dalrymple family; and Mrs.
Dalrymple would starve rather than apply to him. Better be under an
obligation to Oscar than to him: though she did not over-well like
that. Oscar proposed (perhaps he felt he could do no less) that she
and her daughters should still make the Grange their home; but Mrs.
Dalrymple declined. A pretty little house on the estate, called Lawn
Cottage, was assigned to her use, rent free; and two hundred pounds
per annum. Oscar remonstrated against the smallness of the pittance,
but she absolutely refused to accept more. With her poultry and fruit
and vegetables, and the milk from her one cow, Mrs. Dalrymple assured
him she did not see how she could spend even that. So she and her
daughters removed to Lawn Cottage, and Oscar entered upon his reign at
the Grange.


A year had gone by. London was in a commotion: nothing was talked of
in its gay circles but the young and lovely bride, Mrs. Dalrymple.
Peers were going mad for her smiles; peeresses condescended to court
them. Panics do sometimes come over the fashionable world of this
great metropolis: now it is a rage for speculation, like that railway
mania which once turned people's sober senses upside down; now it is
the new and very ugly signora who is ruling the boards and the boxes
at Her Majesty's Theatre; now it is an insane sympathy--insane in the
working--with all the black Uncle and Aunt Toms in the western
hemisphere; but at the time of which we are writing, it was the
admiration of one of themselves, a woman, the beautiful Mrs.
Dalrymple.

She was charming; not because fashion said it, but that she really was
so. Naturally fascinating, the homage she received in the gay world--a
new world to her--rendered her manners irresistibly so. Some good
wives, staid and plain, who had never been guilty of courting a look
in their lives, and prided themselves on it, avowed privately to their
lords that she laid herself out for admiration, and was a compound of
vanity and danger; and the lords nodded a grave approval, and the
moment they could get out of sight, went running in the wake of Mrs.
Dalrymple.

A stylish vehicle, much favoured in those days by young fellows with
little brains and less prudence, something between a brake and a
dandy-horse, with two stylish men in it, especially in the extent of
their moustaches, was driving down Regent Street. He who held the
reins, Captain Stanley, was attending to some object at a distance
rather than to his horse: his head was raised, his eyes were intently
fixed far before him. A cab whirled suddenly round the corner of
Argyle Place: Captain Stanley was too much absorbed to avoid it, and
the two vehicles came into contact with each other.

No damage was done. All that came of it was a wordy war: for the
cabman's abuse was unlimited, and Captain Stanley retorted in angry
explosion.

"Is that the way you generally drive in London?" quietly asked his
companion, as they went on again.

"An insolent reptile! he shall smart for it. I'll have him before the
magistrate at Marlborough Street."

"Don't call me as a witness, then. It was your fault. You got into the
fellow's way."

"I didn't get into his way."

"At any rate, you didn't get out of it, which amounts to the same
thing. I ask if that is your usual mode of driving?"

"What if it is?"

"It is a careless one. The next time you offer me a seat, Stanley, I
shall propose to take the reins."

"I thought I saw her carriage before us," explained Captain Stanley,
in a more conciliatory tone, as he began to recover his good-humour.
"It made me blind to everything else, Winchester."

"Who is 'her'?" demanded Lord Winchester, who had just returned from a
prolonged sojourn on the Continent.

"The loveliest woman, Winchester. I can tell you you have a treat in
store: you will say it when you get introduced to her. I couldn't
exist," added the captain, twirling his moustache, "without a daily
sight of that angel."

The viscount smiled. He knew, of old, Captain Stanley's propensity for
going into heroics over "angels:" he did so himself upon occasion.
"Mrs. Stanley to be?" asked he, indifferently, by way of saying
something.

"No such luck. She's married. And so am I."

"Pardon, Stanley; I forgot it. When a fellow marries over in India,
the fact is apt to slip out of one's memory."

"By Jove here she comes! She has turned back again. The green carriage
and dark livery. I knew I saw it. Isn't she----"

"Take care of your horse," interrupted Lord Winchester; "here's
another cab."

"Hang the cabs! Look at her."

An open barouche was approaching. One lady sat within it. Lord
Winchester caught sight of an exquisite toilette, and then, the
point-lace parasol being slightly moved, of an exquisite face. A young
face, looking younger, perhaps, than it really was; clearly cut,
delicate features; cheeks of a rich damask, brown glossy hair, and
soft dark eyes of wonderful brightness.

"There's a picture for you!" murmured the enamoured Captain Stanley,
letting his horse go as it would. "And the face is nothing to her
fascination, when you come to talk to her. She has sent half London
wild."

Off went his hat, for the bright eyes were smiling, and the fair head
bowing to him. But off went Lord Winchester's also: for a brighter
smile and a more familiar recognition, though one of surprise, greeted
him.

"Halloa, Winchester! I say, that's too bad!" cried Captain Stanley,
when they had passed. "You know her?"

"Knew her before I knew you. She's Selina Dalrymple."

"Selina? yes, that is her Christian name; I saw it one day on her
handkerchief. Where was the use of your making a mystery over it? Why
couldn't you say that you knew her?"

"I made no mystery, my good fellow. I did not know it was Selina
Dalrymple you were speaking of. I used to meet her years ago at Court
Netherleigh. Whom has she married? What's her name?"

"What is the matter with you?" cried Captain Stanley, looking at the
viscount. "You call her Selina Dalrymple, and then ask what her name
is. Do you suppose she bears one name, and her husband another?"

"She has never married Oscar Dalrymple!" exclaimed Lord Winchester, in
lively tones. "Has she?"

"Her husband is the only Dalrymple I know of in the land of the
living. A cold, dry, wizen-faced man."

"So he, Master Oscar! it is better to be born lucky than rich. Moat
Grange and its fairest flower! You did not bargain for that, once upon
a time. Poor Robert Dalrymple! he was nobody's enemy but his own."

"You mean her brother. He went out of the world ungenteelly, I
believe, as Miss Bailey's ghost says. I did not know him."

"The Oscar Dalrymples are up in town for the season, I suppose?"

"Ay. They have taken part of a small house in Berkeley Street--not
being rich."

"Anything but that, I should fancy."

"It is said that he did not want to come to town; hates it. Only, her
heart was set upon it, and he can't deny her anything."

"Oh, that's it, is it," returned Lord Winchester.

That was it. Selina Dalrymple, the bride of a month or two, had made
Oscar promise that they should spend part of the season in town. Vain,
giddy, and thoughtless, Selina's heart was revelling in the pleasures
of this London life, her head turned with the admiration she received.
Alas! she had all too speedily forgotten the tragical end of her
once-loved brother, though it came but a year ago. Amidst all this
whirl of gaiety there was no time to remember _that_.

Mrs. Dalrymple's carriage had continued its course. It was now on its
way to her dressmaker's, Madame Damereau. Dead now, and the once large
business dispersed, Madame Damereau, a Frenchwoman, was famous in that
gone-by day. An enormous custom--clientèle she used to call it--had
she. Her house was handsome, and, so far as its appearance went,
strictly private. It was in a private street, amidst other handsome
houses, and there was nothing to betray its business except the
brass-plate on the wide mahogany door--"Madame Damereau." It was as
handsome inside as out; its rooms were a mixture of Parisian taste and
English comfort, with their velvet carpets, rich crimson furniture,
brilliant mirrors, and ornamental objects of porcelain, all delicate
landscape painting and burnished gold. Surely, rooms so elaborately
fitted up were not needed to carry on the business of a milliner and
dressmaker, great though that business was! Needed or not, there they
were. Madame Damereau had taste, and liked them. There was a hall and
a reception-room; and a painted glass-door at the end of a passage, as
the clientèle turned to ascend a handsome staircase that led to the
show-rooms; through which glass-door might be caught glimpses of a
paved court with green shrubs and plants. Above the stairs came an
anteroom, and a trying-on room--and I know not how much more. Madame
Damereau was as fascinating, in her line, as Mrs. Dalrymple in hers.
Ask the ladies who were for ever paying her visits, and they would
tell you that, once within reach of the fascinations of herself and
her show-rooms, there they were contentedly fixed; there was no
getting away, and there was no trying to get away. Madame's expenses
were very great, and she had feathered her nest pretty well: somebody
paid for it. When madame's nest should be sufficiently well
feathered--or what she would consider so--it was her intention to
return to La Belle France--pays chéri!--and quit England and its
natives--les barbares!--for ever. Every thought of madame had
reference to this enchanting finale: not a dress did she make, a
bonnet sell, a mantle improvise, but the charges for them (very high
generally) were elaborated with this one desirable end in view. Apart
from this propensity to gain, madame was not bad at heart. Very good,
in fact; and many a little kindness did she enact in private,
especially to her poor countrymen and women domiciled here. What
though she did stick on ruinous prices for those who could pay?--a
person must live. Quo voulez-vous?

There had been a Monsieur Damereau once upon a time. He had something
to do with the theatres, though not in the way of acting. But he grew
too fond of English porter and of fingering madame's profits. Madame
inveigled him into a journey to Paris with her; let him have his fling
a little while, and one fatal morning the poor deluded man woke to
find that he and his wife were two; she had obtained a separation from
him "de corps et de biens." Madame returned to England the same day,
and what became of him she neither knew nor cared; except that he
regularly drew the annuity she allowed to him, and which was to cease
if he ever reset his foot in the British Isles.

At the period of which we are writing, a great mania had seized upon
the gay London world. That other mania, admiration for Oscar
Dalrymple's wife, which chiefly concerned the men, was but a small and
private one; this was public and universal, and pertained to the
women. It was a love for dress. A wild, rampant love for extravagant
dress, not to be controlled within any limit. No fever yet known was
like unto it; and Madame Damereau blessed it heartily, and petted it,
and nursed it, and prayed--good Catholic that she was!--that it might
never abate. We who have come to a certain age (than which nothing was
ever more uncertain) can remember this, and the commotion it wrought.
It was not the ordinary passion for finery that obtains in the beau
monde, more or less, at all times, that is prevailing now, but
something worse--different. In truth it was a very madness; and it
ruined thousands. Few had fallen into this insidious snare as
completely as Mrs. Oscar Dalrymple. Bred up in the country, in
simplicity and comparative seclusion, London and its attractions had
burst upon her with irresistible power, dazzling her judgment, and
taking captive her senses. The passion for dress had been born with
Selina. No wonder, therefore--example is so contagious, rivalry so
rife in the human heart--that it had, with its means of gratification,
seized frantic hold of her; just as another passion had formerly
seized upon and destroyed her unfortunate brother. Not caring
particularly for her husband, the world's homage had become as second
life to her vain (and somewhat empty) mind; and of course she must
dress accordingly and go out at all times and seasons armed for
conquest. At breakfast gatherings; in afternoon visits; at teas, I was
going to say, but kettledrums had not then come into vogue; in the
parks, at dinners, at the play, and in the ball-room, she would be
conspicuous for the freshness and beauty of her toilette.

Does the reader remember a remark made by Miss Upton, of Court
Netherleigh? "Selina Dalrymple is more fond of dress than a
Frenchwoman. Want of sense and love of finery often go together."

Poor Oscar Dalrymple, knowing nothing of the mysteries of a lady's
toilette, or its cost, was content to admire his wife's as did other
men. And, it may be, that no thought ever intruded itself into
Selina's mind of the day of reckoning that must inevitably come.



CHAPTER XI.
WITH MADAME DAMEREAU.


Mrs. Oscar Dalrymple's carriage stopped at the door of Madame
Damereau. Other carriages, waiting for their ladies, drew aside for
it, and Mrs. Dalrymple descended. Rather tall, very elegant, her
dress, a delicate lilac silk, flounced to the waist, became her well,
and her rich white lace mantle became that. The Damereau footman threw
open the door for her, and she went up to the show-room. A lady in
plain black silk, but than which nothing could be more rich of its
kind, with a small cap on her head of costly lace, and lappets of the
same, disengaged herself from a group, to whom she was talking, and
came forward, bowing; such bows as only a Frenchwoman can achieve. It
was Madame Damereau. A clever-looking woman, with a fair skin, and
broad smooth forehead.

What could she have the honour of doing roday for Madame Dalreemp?

Mrs. Dalrymple scarcely knew. If put upon her conscience, she perhaps
could not have said she wanted much. She would walk round first, and
see. Was there anything fresh?

The Frenchwoman put the tip of one of her white fingers (very white
they were, and displayed some valuable rings) upon the glove of her
visitor, and then passed carelessly through the door to the next room.
Madame Damereau certainly favoured Selina, who bought so largely of
her, and never grumbled at the price. Selina understood the movement,
and, stopping to look at a displayed article or two in her way, as
carelessly followed her. That was madame's pet way when she was bent
upon doing a good stroke of business.

"Tenez--pardon, madame," quoth she, as soon as Selina joined her, and
speaking in scraps of French and English, as was her custom: though
she spoke both languages almost equally well, barring her accent of
ours--which was more than could be said for the clientèle, taking them
collectively, and hence, perhaps, the origin of her having acquired
the habit--"I have got the rarest caisse of articles arrived from
Paris this morning. Ah! qu'ils sont ravissants!"

"What are they?" cried Selina, with breathless interest.

"I have not shown them to anybody: I have kept them en cachette. I
said to my assistants, 'You put that up, and don't let it be seen till
Madame Dalreemp comes.' Il-y-a une robe--une robe--une robe!"
impressively repeated madame, turning up the whites of her eyes--"ma
chère dame, it could only have been made for you!"

Selina's eyes sparkled. She thought herself the especial protégée of
the Damereau establishment--as many another vain woman had thought
before, and would think again.

"Is it silk?" she inquired.

"No. Dentelle. Mais, quelle dentelle! Elle----"

"Madame," said one of the assistants, putting in her head and speaking
in a low tone, "the countess wishes to see you before she leaves."

"I am with her ladyship in the moment. Madame Dalreemp, if you are not
too hurried, if you can wait till some of these ladies are gone, the
caisse shall be brought out. I will not show it while they are here; I
want you to have first view."

"I am in no hurry," replied Mrs. Dalrymple. "I have not been here for
two days, so shall give myself time to look round."

As Selina did, and to gossip also. Several of her acquaintances were
present. Lady Adela Grubb for one. Adela was looking a little worn and
weary. A discontented expression sat on her face, not satisfactory to
see, and she evidently did not take the enraptured interest in those
fine articles, displayed around, that Selina took. Of course they were
all "superbes" and "ravissant," as madame was given to observe: still
a show-room, even such a one as this, tempting though it undoubtedly
is, does not bear for every one quite the fascination of the basilisk.

Amidst other ladies who came in was Selina's old neighbour in the
country, Mrs. Cleveland, the Rector's wife. Selina was surprised.

"I am only up for a day or two, my dear," she said. "I shall call in
Berkeley Street before I go back."

"And how is mamma?"

"She is pretty well, my dear, and Alice too. Mary Lynn is staying with
them."

"Oh is she? You never told me that," added Selina, turning to Lady
Adela.

Lady Adela's mouth took rather a scornful curve. "Do you suppose Miss
Lynn's movements concern me, that I should hear of them? When did you
see Aunt Margery last, Mrs. Cleveland?"

"At church on Sunday."

"How beautiful!" exclaimed Selina, as they were slowly walking round
the room, to look at the displayed wares: some on stands ranged
against the walls, some on a large centre table. The ladies moved from
one sight to another with enraptured gaze.

"What is beautiful?" asked Mrs. Cleveland. "That mantle?"

"Which mantle? That old dowdy black silk thing! I meant these sleeves.
See; there's a collar to match."

"Yes, ma'am," interrupted one of the assistants, "we never had
anything more beautiful in the house."

"What are they?" inquired Selina.

The young woman, attired in black silk only a degree less rich than
madame's and a gold chain, her hair arranged in the newest fashion,
carried the sleeves to her mistress.

"What am I to ask?" she said in a low tone.

"Twelve guineas."

"It is for Mrs. Dalrymple."

"Oh! I thought it was Madame Cliv-land. Fifteen guineas."

"They are fifteen guineas, madam," said the young person, returning.
"And dirt cheap."

"I inquired what description of lace it was," said Mrs. Dalrymple.
"Not the price."

"It is Venice point, madam. Real Venice point."

"I think I must have them," cried Mrs. Dalrymple. "Are they not
tempting?

"Not to me," laughed Mrs. Cleveland. "I have too many little pairs of
live arms to provide for, to give that price for a pair of sleeves."

"Only fifteen guineas!" remonstrated Selina. "And that includes the
collar. I will take these sleeves," she added to the young woman.

"Thank you, madam."

"Those are pretty, that muslin pair."

"Very pretty, madam, for morning. Will you allow me to put these up
with the others?"

"I don't mind--yes, if you like," replied Selina, never asking the
price. "I saw Lord Winchester just now," she resumed to Mrs.
Cleveland. "I did not know he had returned."

"Only a day or two since, I believe. My husband does not care to renew
our acquaintance with him, so----"

"Oh, what a love of a bonnet!" unceremoniously interrupted Mrs.
Dalrymple, as her eye fell on a gossamer article, all white lace and
beauty, with something green sparkling and shining in it.

"Ah," said madame, coming forward, "ce chapeau me rend triste chaque
fois que je le vois."

"Pourquoi?" demanded Selina, who was not quite sure of her French, but
liked to plunge into a word of it now and then. In those days, French
was not so universal a language, even in polite circles, as it is in
these.

"Parce que je ne suis pas dame, jeune et belle. Ainsi je ne peux que
le regarder de loin. Mais madame est l'une et l'autre."

Selina blushed and smiled, and fixed her eyes on the bonnet.

"It is a charming bonnet," observed Mrs. Cleveland. "What is the
price?"

"Thirteen guineas, madam."

Thirteen guineas! Mrs. Cleveland shook her head. Such bonnets were not
for her.

"It is a high price," observed Selina.

"High! Mesdames have surely not regarded it closely. These are
emeralds. Look well, ma chère Madame Dalreemp. Emeralds. It is the
very cheapest bonnet--for its real value--that I have shown this
season."

"I think I will try it on," cried Selina.

Madame was not backward to follow the thought. In a twinkling the
bonnet was on Selina's head, and herself at the glass. Twitching the
border and the flowers, twitching her own hair, she at length turned
round with a radiant face, blushing in its conscious beauty, as she
spoke to Mrs. Cleveland.

"Is it not a sweet bonnet?"

"If you do not take it, it will be a sin against yourself," interposed
the bonnet's present owner. "You never looked so well in all your
life, Madame Dalreemp. Your face does set off that chapeau
charmingly."

"I will take it," decided Selina. "What did you say it was? Fifteen
guineas?"

"Thirteen, madam; only thirteen. Ah! but it is cheap!"

Mrs. Cleveland bought the mantle Selina had designated as dowdy, and a
bonnet equally so. Selina told her they were frightful; fit for an
almshouse.

"My dear, they are quiet, and will wear well. I cannot afford more
than one new bonnet in a season. As to a mantle, it generally lasts me
three or four years."

"Look at this handkerchief," interposed Selina, thinking what a
dreadful fate Mrs. Cleveland's must be. "I really think it matches the
sleeves and collar I have bought. Yes, it does. I must have that."

"That's a dear handkerchief, I know," cried Mrs. Cleveland. "What is
it, Madame Damereau?"

"That--oh, but that's recherché, that," said madame, in a rapture.
"Nine guineas. Ah!"

"Send it home with the other things," said Selina.

"I am going," said Mrs. Cleveland. "I have bought all I came to buy,
and it is of no use staying here to be tempted, unless one has a long
purse."

"The truth is, one forgets whether the purse is long or short in the
midst of these enchanting things," observed Selina.

"I fear it is sometimes the case," was Mrs. Cleveland's reply. "Are
you coming, my dear?"

"Not yet," answered Selina.

Lady, Adela went out with Mrs. Cleveland. She had not given a single
order; had not gone with any particular intention of giving one,
unless she saw anything especially to take her fancy. But Madame
Damereau's was regarded as a favourite lounging place, and the gay
world of the gentler sex liked to congregate there.

"Can I drive you anywhere?" asked Adela of Mrs. Cleveland, as they
stood on the steps of Madame Damereau's handsome entrance-door. "Will
you come home with me?"

"Thank you, I wish I could," was the answer. "But when I do come to
London I have so many little commissions to execute that my time has
to be almost entirely given to them. I shall hope to call and see you
the next time."

"I wish you would come and stay with me for a week," cried Adela,
quickly. "It would be a charity--an oasis of pleasure in my lonely
life."

"Lonely from the want of children," thought Mrs. Cleveland, with a
sad, faint smile.

"Are you quite well?" asked Adela, quickly, some delicacy in Mrs.
Cleveland's face striking her.

"I--hope I am," was the hesitating answer. "At  least, I hope that
nothing serious is amiss. It is true I have not felt quite right
lately, have suffered much pain; and one of my errands here is to see
a physician. He has made an appointment for tomorrow morning."

Adela renewed her invitation, wished her good-day, and watched the
rather fragile form away with a wistful look. They never saw each
other again in life. Before two months had run their course, poor Mrs.
Cleveland had gone where pain and suffering are not.

Meanwhile, when the show-rooms had thinned a little, Madame Damereau
had the "caisse" brought out: that is to say, the contents of it. The
caisse was taken for granted; the articles only appeared. The chief
one, the lace dress, new from Paris, and secluded till that moment
from covetous eyes, was of a species of lace that madame called Point
d'Angleterre.

Madame shook out its folds with tender solicitude, and displayed its
temptations before Mrs. Dalrymple's enthralled eyes. Madame did not
speak; she let the dress do its own work: her face spoke eloquently
enough. Selina was sitting on one of the low crimson velvet ottomans,
her parasol tracing unconscious figures on the carpet, and her own
elegant silk gown spread out around her.

"Oh dear!" she ejaculated, withdrawing her enraptured gaze. "But I
fear it is very dear."

"Never let madame talk about that," said the Frenchwoman. "It is high;
but--look at it. One could not pick up such a dress as that every
day."

"How I should like to have it!"

"The moment we took this dress out of the caisse, I said to Miss
Atkinson, who was helping me, 'That must be for Madame Dalreemp: there
is no other lady who could do it justice.' Madame," she quickly added,
as if an idea had just occurred to her, "fancy this robe, fine et
belle, over a delicate pink glacé or a maize!"

"Or over white," suggested Selina.

"Or over white--Madame Dalreemp's taste is always correct. It would be
a dress fit for a duchess, too elegant for many of them."

Some silks of different colours were called for, and the lace robe was
displayed upon them successively. Selina went into ecstasies when the
peach-blossom colour was underneath.

"I must have it. What is the price?"

"Just one hundred guineas, neither more nor less: and to anybody but
Madame Dalreemp I should say a hundred and twenty. But I know that
when once she appears in this before the world, I shall have order
upon order. It will be, 'Where did you get that dress, ma chère Madame
Dalreemp?' and madame will answer, 'I got it of Damereau;' and then
they will come flocking to me. Ainsi, ma bonne dame, I can afford to
let you have your things cheap."

"I don't know what to say," hesitated Selina, taking in, nevertheless,
all the flattery. "A hundred guineas; it is a great deal: and what a
bill I shall have! that lace dress I bought three weeks ago was only
sixty."

"What was that lace robe compared with this?" was madame's indignant
rejoinder. "That was nothing but common guipure. Look at what the
effect of this will be! Ah, madame, if you do not take it I shall not
sleep: I shall be vexed to my heart. Just as madame pleases, though,
of course. Milady Grey did come to me yesterday for a lace dress: I
told milady I should have one in a week's time: I did not care for her
to see it first, for she is short, and she does not set off the things
well. I know she would give me one hundred and twenty for this, and be
glad to get it."

This was nearly the climax. Lady Grey, a young and pretty woman,
dressed as extravagantly as did Mrs. Dalrymple, and there was a hidden
rivalry between them, quite well known.

"There is another lady who would like it, I know, and she has but just
gone out--and a most charming angel she is. I do speak of the Lady
Adela----"

This was quite the climax, and Selina hastily interrupted. Lady Adela
was even more lovely than was she herself: very much, too, in the same
style of delicate beauty. What would Adela be in that lace dress!

"I will take it," cried Selina. "I must have a slip of that peach
glace to wear underneath it."

"It swill be altogether fit for a queen," quoth madame.

"But could I have them home by tomorrow night for Lady Burnham's
party?"

"Certainly madame can."

"Very well then," concluded Selina. "Or--stay: would white look better
under it, after all? I have ever so many white glacé slips."

Madame's opinion was that no colour, ever seen in the earth or in the
air, could or would look as well as the peach. Milady Grey could not
wear peach; she was too dark.

"Yes, I'll decide upon the peach blossom," concluded Selina. "But
that's not a good silk, is it?"

"Si. Mais si. C'est de la soie cuite."

"And that is all, I think, for roday."

"What will Madame Dalreemp wear in her hair with this, tomorrow
night?"

"Ah! that's well thought of. It must be either white or peach."

"Or mixed. Cherchez la botte, numero deux," quietly added madame to an
attendant.

Box, number two, was brought. And madame disentangled from its
contents of flowers a beautiful wreath of peach-blossom and white,
with crystallized leaves. "They came in only roday," she said. Which
was true.

"The very thing," cried Selina, in admiration. "Send that with the
bonnet and sleeves roday."

"Madame ought to wear amethysts with this toilette," suggested Madame
Damereau.

"Amethysts! I have none."

"It is a great pity, that. They would look superbe."

"I was admiring a set of amethysts the other day," thought Selina, as
she went down to her carriage. "I wish I could have them. I wonder
whether they were very out-of-the-way in point of cost? I'll drive
there and ascertain. I have had a good many little things there that
Oscar does not know of."

She entered her carriage, ordering it to the jeweller's; and with
her pretty face reposing amidst its lace and its flowers, and her
point-lace parasol shading it, Mrs. Dalrymple, satisfied and happy,
bowed right and left to the numerous admiring faces that met and bowed
to her.

That same evening, Madame Damereau, having dined well and taken her
coffee, proceeded to her usual business with her cashier, Mrs. Cooper.
A reduced gentlewoman, who had tried the position of governess till
she was heart-sick, and thankfully left it for her present situation,
where she had less to do and a liberal salary. Miss Atkinson and Miss
Wells, the two show-room assistants, came in. It was necessary to give
Mrs. Cooper a summary of the day's sale, that she might enter the
articles. They arrived, in due course, at the account of Mrs.
Dalrymple.

"Dress of Point d'Angleterre," cried Madame Damereau. "One hundred
guineas."

"Which dress is it she has bought?" inquired Mrs. Cooper, looking up
from her writing. She had learnt to take an interest in the sales and
customers.

"The one that the baroness ordered for her daughter, and would not
have when it came," explained madame. "I then sent it to the Countess
of Ac-corn, who was inquiring about a lace robe yesterday morning: but
it seems she did not keep it. She never knows her own mind two hours
together, that Milady Ac-corn."

"It is a very nice dress," remarked Mrs. Cooper.

"It is a beauty," added Miss Atkinson. "And Lady Acorn need not have
cried it down."

"Did she cry it down?" quickly asked madame.

"She said it was as dear as fire's hot."

"Par exemple!" uttered madame, with a flashing face. "Did she say
that?"

"Yes, madame. So Robert told me when he brought it back."

"She's the most insolent customer we have, that Femme Ac-corn,"
exploded madame. "And pays the worst. The robe would have been cheap
at the price I asked her--eighty guineas."

"Mrs. Dalrymple, lace robe, one hundred guineas," read Mrs. Cooper.
"What else?--making?"

"Making, two guineas. Peach glacé slip comes next."

"Peach glacé slip," wrote Mrs. Cooper. "The price, if you please?"

"Put it down in round figures. Ten guineas. She did not ask."

"I sold her those morning sleeves with the little dots," interposed
Miss Wells. "There was no price mentioned, madame."

"What were they marked?" asked madame.

"Fourteen and sixpence."

"Put them down at a guinea, Mrs. Cooper. Making peach glacé slip--let
me see, no lining or trimming--say fourteen shillings. White
point-lace bonnet, thirteen guineas. Sleeves and collar--what did I
say for that, Miss Wells?"

"Fifteen guineas, madame: and the handkerchief nine."

"Sleeves, collar, and handkerchief of Venice point, twenty-four
guineas," read Mrs. Cooper. "She must be rich, this Mrs. Dalrymple."

"Comme ça, for that," quoth madame.

"She has had for more than a thousand pounds in the last six weeks. I
suppose you are sure of her, madame? She is a new customer this
season."

"I wish I was as sure of getting to Paris next year," responded
madame. "Her husband has not long ago come into the Dalreemp estate.
And the English estates are fine, you know. These young brides will
dress and have their fling, and they must pay for it. They come to me:
I do not go to them. The Dalreemps are friends of the Cliv-lands, and
of those rich people in Grosvenor Square, the Grubbs, which is quite
sufficient passe-port. You can go on now to Madame Cliv-land, Mrs.
Cooper: one black mantle, silk and lace, three pounds ten shillings,
and one fancy straw bonnet, blue trimmings, three guineas."

"Is that all there is for Mrs. Cleveland?"

Madame shrugged her shoulders. "That's all. I would not give thank you
for the custom of Madame Cliv-land in itself; but they are well
connected, and she is a gentle, good woman. I thought she looked ill
roday."

"There was Mrs. Dalrymple's wreath," interrupted Miss Atkinson,
referring to a pencil list in her hand.

"Tiens, I forgot," answered madame. "What were those wreaths invoiced
to us at, Miss Wells? This is the first of them sold."

"Twenty-nine and sixpence each, madame."

"Peach-and-white crystallized wreath, Mrs. Cooper, if you please.
Forty-nine shillings."

"Forty-nine shillings," concluded Mrs. Cooper, making the entry. "That
is all, then, for Mrs. Dalrymple."

And a pretty good "all," for one day, it was, considering Mr.
Dalrymple's income.



CHAPTER XII.
A LECTURE.


A small, friendly dinner-table, Mr. Grubb and Lady Adela presiding. A
thin, sharp-featured, insignificant little man, whose evening clothes
looked the worse for wear, and who wore a black watered ribbon across
his waistcoat in lieu of a gold chain, sat at Lady Adela's right hand.
It was Colonel Hope. To look at him and his attire, you would have
said he did not know where to turn for a shilling: yet he was the
possessor of great wealth, and had seen hard service in India. Beside
Mr. Grubb sat the colonel's wife, Lady Sarah; a tall, portly woman,
whose face bore much resemblance to her mother's, Lady Acorn. Grace
and Frances Chenevix and Mr. Howard, Mr. Grubb's partner, completed
the party: the latter was a staid, stiff gentleman of sixty, with
iron-grey hair and whiskers, and a stern face. He and the colonel had
known each other in early life, when both had the world to fight for
fame or fortune. Each had fought it well, and won; certainly so far as
fortune was concerned. The colonel was just home from India, and Mr.
Grubb had given the two early friends a speedy opportunity of meeting.
One place at table was empty, and the young lady who sat next it,
Frances Chenevix, did not look quite pleased at its being so. It was
intended for Gerard Hope, who had somehow failed to make his
appearance.

Colonel Hope had retired from the army and was come home for good.
About a year ago he and Lady Sarah had lost their two sons, lads of
seven and eight, from fever. They had no other children, and it was
generally supposed the colonel would make his nephew, Gerard, his
heir. The colonel and his wife were both tired this evening, having
been looking at houses all day. Frances had been with them, but she
seemed fresh and bright as a lark. The colonel had bought a pretty
little property in Gloucestershire, but Lady Sarah wished for a town
house also.

"I think I shall take it, though it is rather small," observed the
colonel, talking of one of the houses they had seen. "There'd be room
for a friend or two as well as for ourselves: and for Gerard also, if
I decide to adopt him. By the way--what is your opinion of that young
man Grubb?"

"As to looks, do you mean, colonel?" smiled Mr. Grubb. "They are good.
I don't know much else of him."

"Thought you did," growled the colonel, who was a hot-tempered man,
and liked plain answers to his questions.

"I know nothing against him," said Mr. Grubb, emphatically. "I have
seen but little of him, but that little I like."

"He is very nice and very good, and quite worthy to be adopted by you
and Sarah, colonel," spoke up Lady Frances in her free way. "I'm sure
the manner he slaves away in that red-tape office he is chained to,
ought to be a gold feather in his cap."

"A gold feather?" repeated the literal colonel, looking at the speaker
questioningly. While Mr. Howard, who knew what "slaving away" amounted
to in a red-tape office, indulged in a silent laugh.

"Well, ought to tell in his favour, I mean," said Frances, mending her
speech.

"I suppose he only does what he is put to do--his daily work,"
continued the colonel. "That, he cannot shirk: he has nothing to look
to but his salary to pay his way. There's no merit in doing one's
simple duty."

"I think there is a great deal, when it is such hard work as
Gerard's," contended Frances. And this time Mr. Howard laughed
outright at the "hard work."

"Perhaps the hard work is keeping him tonight," suggested Mr. Grubb,
with just the ghost of a smile.

"No," said Frances, "I think the office closes at four."

"Oh," cried the colonel. "Where is he then? What does he mean by
staying away?"

"He is run over, of course," said Frances, "and taken to the nearest
hospital. Nothing short of that would have kept him away."

Lady Sarah Hope looked down the table at her sister. "Is Gerard in
love with you, Frances?"

"In love with me!" exclaimed the young lady, her face flushing
vividly. "What ridiculous fable will you imagine next, Sarah?"

"Is it a fable?" added Lady Sarah, struck with the flush.

"What else should it be?" laughed Frances. "Gerard could not think of
falling in love upon nothing a-year. Nothing a-year, and find himself!
That has been his case, poor fellow--or something akin to it."

"That may be remedied," remarked Lady Sarah. She had caught up an
opinion upon the subject, and she held to it in the future.

As the small line of ladies filed out of the dining-room, Lady Sarah,
walking first, turned just outside the door to wait for her sister
Adela. Mr. Grubb, who was holding the door open, said something to his
wife in an undertone as she passed him. Adela made no answer whatever;
except that her lifted face put on a look of scorn, and her lips took
a downward curve.

"What did your husband say to you?" asked Lady Sarah, having fancied
that she heard her own name--Hope.

"I don't know--or care. As if I should listen to anything he might
say!" contemptuously added Lady Adela.

Lady Sarah stared. "Why, child, what do you mean? He is your husband."

"To my cost."

"What do you mean? What does she mean?" continued Lady Sarah,
appealing to the other two sisters, for Adela had not deemed it
necessary to lower her voice. They did not answer. Grace took up an
album, her face wearing a sad look of pain; Frances walked into the
other drawing-room.

"I insist upon knowing what you mean, in saying that Mr. Grubb is your
husband to _your cost_," cried Lady Sarah, returning to the charge.
She was so much older than Adela--looking, in fact, old enough to be
her mother, for India's sun and the loss of her children had greatly
aged her--that she took her to task at will. Lady Sarah, like her
mother, had always displayed somewhat of a propensity for setting the
world to rights.

"It is to my cost," spoke Adela, defiantly. "That I should be _his_
wife, obliged to stand as such before the world, a man of _his_ name,
a tradesman!" And the emphatic scorn, the stress of aversion laid on
the "his," no pen could adequately express. "I never hear myself
announced, 'Lady Adela Grubb,' but I shiver; I never see it in the
_Morning Post_, amongst the lists at an entertainment, or perhaps at
Court, but I fling the paper from me. As I should like to fling
_him_."

"Bless my heart and mind, what's in a name?" demanded Lady Sarah,
having listened as one astounded.

"Grubb! Grubb!" hissed Adela, from between her dainty lips. "There is
a great deal in that name, at any rate, Sarah. I hate it. It is to me
as a nightmare. And I hate him for forcing me to bear it."

"Forcing you to bear it! Why, you are his wife."

"I am--to my shame. But he had no right to make me his wife: to ask me
to be his wife. Why could he not have fixed upon any one else? Grace,
there, for instance. She would not have minded the name or the trade.
She'd have got used to it--and to him."

Lady Sarah Hope nodded her head four or five times in succession. "A
pretty frame of mind you are cherishing, Adela! Leave off such evil
speaking--and thinking. Your husband is a true gentleman, a man that
the world may be proud of; he can hold his own as such anywhere. As to
the house in Leadenhall Street, it is of world-wide fame--the idea of
your calling him a 'tradesman!'--Let me speak! Where can you find a
man with so noble a presence, so refined and sweet a countenance? And
I feel sure that he is as good and true and generous in himself as he
is distinguished in reputation and person."

"All the same, I scorn him. I hate him for having chosen me. And it is
the pleasure of my life to let him see that I do," concluded Adela, in
sheer defiance, as she tossed her pretty head.

"Cease, Adela, cease!" interposed Grace, coming forward, her hands
lifted imploringly. "You little know the wickedness of what you are
saying; or the evil you may be laying up for yourself in the days to
come. This is not your true nature; you are only forcing it upon
yourself to gratify a resentment you have persistently taken up. How
often have I prayed to you to be your own true self!

"Pray for it yourself, child," enjoined Lady Sarah, laying her hand
with a firm grasp upon Adela's shoulder. "Pray upon your bended knees
to Heaven, to snatch and shield you from Satan. Most assuredly he has
got into you."

"What has got into me?" asked Adela, with languid indifference, not
having caught the words.

"The devil," angrily amended Lady Sarah.

That infant of Lady Adela's, little George, did not live. Just for a
mouth or two, just long enough for her to get passionately attached to
him, to use every means to make him strong, he lingered. Then there
came three days of illness, and the little soul fled from the feeble
frame. No other child had been born, and Lady Adela seemed to be left
with no end or aim in life, except that of cherishing resentment
against Mr. Grubb. She took it up more fiercely than ever, and she let
him feel it to his heart's core. The still, small voice of conscience,
warning her that this was a forced and unnatural state of mind, could
not always be deadened. The very fact of its pricking her caused her
to resent the pricks, and to nourish her ill-omened temper the more
persistently. Francis Grubb's life was not one of fair skies and
rose-leaves.

"I should like to shake it out of her--and I wonder he does not do
it," ran the thoughts of Frances Chenevix, as she opened the piano in
the next room and began to play a dashing march.

Very especially just now was the Lady Adela Grubb resenting things in
general. Captain Stanley--who had set up a flirtation with her when
she was but a slip of a girl, and with whom it had pleased her to
fancy herself in love after he sailed for India, though that was pure
fancy and not fact--had taken no notice of her now that he was home
again, beyond that demanded by the ordinary usages of society; and at
this Lady Adela felt mortified--slighted. He had not as much as said
to her, "So we are both married, you and I; we cannot sit in corners
any more to talk in whispers:" on the contrary, he spent his time
talking with newer beauties, Selina Dalrymple for one. It was quite
the behaviour of a bear, decided Adela; and she was resenting it by
showing temper to the world.

Frances Chenevix dashed through the march. Its last bars were dying
into silence, when she thought she heard footsteps on the stairs.
Going to the door, she saw Gerard Hope.

"Well, and what account have you to give of yourself?" began Frances,
as he took her hand.

"I was at a water-party at Richmond," breathlessly answered Gerard,
who had been having a race with time.

"Well, I'm sure! And here have I been vowing to them that nothing
could have kept you but being run over in the streets; and Colonel
Hope thinks you are detained over the red-tape duties. You might have
come for once, Gerard."

"I couldn't possibly, Frances; I couldn't land; and then I had to
dress. The tide kept us out. It has vexed me above a bit, I can tell
you."

"You look vexed," she retorted, regarding his laughing countenance.

"I am vexed; but it is of no use to weep over it. You know I want to
stand well with my uncle. I suppose you have finished dinner?"

"Ages ago."

"Where are the rest of you ladies?"

"In the next room, quarrelling. Lady Sarah is treating Adela to a bit
of her mind--and she deserves it. Now, Gerard, behave yourself. What
do you want to come so close to me for?"

For Mr. Gerard Hop was squeezing himself beside her on a small
ottoman, meant for only one portly personage. He did more than that:
he stole his arm round her waist.

"I believe Uncle Hope wants to adopt me," cried Gerard. "Won't it be
jolly. No more scratch, scratch, scratch away with a pen all the
blessed day."

"I called it 'slavery' to them just now," interrupted Frances.

"Good girl No more getting up by candle-light in winter, and trudging
off through the frost and through the thaw without breakfast, which
you have not had time to take! It will be a change--if he does it. I'm
not sure of it yet."

"You don't deserve it, Gerard."

"No! Why don't I? I'd try and be a good nephew to him--as dutiful as
the good boy in the spelling-book. I say, Frances, has he been asking
about me?--getting references as to character?"

"Yes, he has," was the perhaps unexpected answer. "Just as if you were
a footman. Mr. Grubb said he did not know much of you; but what he did
know he liked. Hark! They are coming out of the dining-room. And if
you want any dinner, you had better go there and ring for it."

"Perhaps there's none left for me."

Frances laughed. "I heard Mr. Grubb whisper to his wife that if Gerard
Hope came he was to go into the dining-room."

Gerard rose, went out, and met the gentlemen. Frances stayed where she
was, and fell into a reverie. Did Gerard really love her? At times she
thought so, at others she thought not.


The days wore onwards in their rapid flight. Time does not stand still
even for those favoured ones who are plunged, for the first time, into
the allurements of a London season: as was Selina Dalrymple.

One bright morning, when the sun was shining brilliantly and the
skies were blue and the streets warm and dusty, she sat in the
breakfast-room with her husband. The late meal was over, and Selina, a
hot colour in her cheeks, was drumming her pretty foot on the floor,
and not looking the essence of good-humour. She wore a richly
embroidered white dress with pink ribbons. Mr. Dalrymple's eyes had
rarely rested on a fairer woman, and his heart knew it too well.

"Selina, I asked you last night whether you intended to go to Lady
Burnham's breakfast, at that rural villa of theirs. Of course, if you
go, I will accompany you, otherwise I have some business I should like
to attend to on Thursday."

"I can't go," answered Selina. "I have nothing to wear."

"Nothing to wear!"

"Nothing on earth."

"How can you say so?"

"I did think of ordering a suitable toilette for it, and was at
Damereau's about it yesterday. But, after what you said last
night----"

"My dear, what do you mean? what did I say? Only that you seemed, to
me, never to appear in the same gown whether at home or out; and I
begged you to remember that our income was limited."

"You said I changed my dresses four times a-day, Oscar."

"Well. Don't you?"

"But every one else does; Some change them five times. You would not
like me to come down in the morning and go up to bed at night in the
same dress, would you?"

"I suppose not. It's of no use asking me about dress, Selina. I
scarcely know one gown from another. But it does strike me that you
have a most extraordinary number of new things. Go out or come in when
I will, there's sure to be the milliner's porter and basket at the
door."

"Would you have me look an object?"

"You never do look an object."

"Of course I don't. I guard against it. I'd give the world to go to
this fête at the Burnhams'. Every soul will be there, but me."

"And why not you, if your heart is so set upon It? I think all such
affairs a stupid bore: but that's nothing."

"Would you wish me to go there in a petticoat?"

"No; I suppose not. I tell you I am no judge of a lady's things. I
don't think I should know a petticoat from a gown. Those are gowns,
are they not, hanging in rows round the walls in the room above, and
covered up with sheets and table-cloths."

"Sheets and table-cloths! Oscar!"

"My dear, they look like it."

"Well--if they are gowns--there's not one I can wear."

"They are all recently new," said Mr. Dalrymple. "What's the matter
with them?"

"There's not one I can wear," persisted his wife.

"But why?"

"Why!" repeated Mr. Dalrymple, in quite a contemptuous tone, for she
had no patience with ignorance. "You ought to know why!"

"My dear, I really don't. If you wish me to know, you must tell me."

"_I have worn them all once_," was the angry answer. "And some twice,
and some three times. And one---- Oscar," she broke off, "you remember
that lovely one; a sky blue, shot with white; a robe à disposition?"

"What is à disposition?"

"Oh--a silk, flounced, and the flounces have some designs upon them,
embossed, or raised, sometimes of a different colour. That dress I
have worn five times. I really have, Oscar; five times!

"I wear my coats fifty times five."

"The idea of my being seen at Lady Burnham's in a dress I have worn
before! No; I'd rather go in a petticoat, of the two evils, and hide
my head for ever after."

Mr. Dalrymple was puzzled. "Why could you not be seen, there or
anywhere else, in a dress you have worn before?"

"Because no one else is."

"Then what becomes of all the new gowns?" inquired the wondering man.

"For goodness' sake, do not keep on calling them 'gowns.'"

"Dresses, then. What becomes of them?"

"Oh--they do for the country. Some few, by dint of retrimming, can be
made to look now for town. You don't understand ladies' dresses,
Oscar."

"I have said I do not."

"Neither ought you," added Selina, crossly. "We do not worry ourselves
to interfere between you and your tailors, or pry into the shape and
make of your waistcoats and buttons and things, and we do not expect
to have it done by us."

"Selina, let your grievance come to an end. I do not like to hear this
tone of reproach."

"Then you must retract what you said last night. It was as if you
wanted me never to have a new dress again."

"Nay, Selina, I only reminded you how small our income is. You must
not overlook that."

"Don't be foolish, Oscar. Do you fear I am going to ruin you? What's
the cost of a few dresses? I _must_ have one for Lady Burnham's fête."

"My dear, have what you like, in reason," he said, in the innocence of
his unconscious heart: "you are the best judge. Of course I can trust
you."

The words were as the sweetest music in her ear. She sprang up,
dancing to a scrap of a song.

"You dear, good Oscar I knew you were never going to be an old
griffin. I think I must have that lovely green-and-white gauze. It was
the most magnificent dress. I was divided between that and a
cream-coloured damask. I'll have the gauze. And gauze dresses cost
nothing."

"Nothing?"

"Next to nothing."

Selina flew upstairs. She pulled aside the "sheets and table-cloths,"
and glanced underneath. It was a goodly stock of robes; but yet not
all the stock: for the lace, and muslin, and flimsy gauze, and
delicate white, and delicate pearl, and delicate pink, and delicate
other shades, were reposing in drawers, out of sight, between folds of
tissue paper. Barége and balzarine: satin, plain and figured; velvet;
silk, plain, damask, flowered, shot, corded, and of all the colours of
the rainbow. Beautiful dresses; and yet--new, and rich, and elegant as
they were, Selina Dalrymple could not go to the fête without a new
one!

Away she went to Madame Damereau's. Astonishing that renowned artiste
by the early hour of her visit.

"I want a thousand things," began Selina, in the blitheness of her
heart. "Have you sold the green-and-white gauze dress?"

No, was madame's answer, she had kept it on purpose for Madame
Dalreemp. Milady Ac-corn had come in yesterday afternoon late, and
wanted it, but she had told milady that it was sold.

Selina took it all in. The fact was, madame had tried to persuade
Milady Ac-corn into buying it, but milady was proof against the price.
She had wanted it for Frances. It was only seventeen guineas, and that
included the fringe and trimmings. Selina had told her husband that
gauze dresses cost nothing!

"I want it for the breakfast on Thursday," cried Selina. "What mantle
can I wear?"

A momentous question. They ran over in memory the mantles, scarfs,
fichus, possessed by Mrs. Dalrymple, and came to the conclusion that
not one of them would "go with" the gauze dress.

"I have a lace mantle," said madame--"ah! but it is recherché!--a real
Brussels. If there is one robe in my house that it ought to go with,
it is that green-and-white."

She brought it forward and exhibited it upon the dress. Very
beautiful; of that there was no doubt. It was probably a beautiful
price also.

"Twenty-five guineas."

"Oh my goodness--twenty-five guineas!" cried Selina. "But I'll take
it. A breakfast fête does not come every day."

For a wonder--_for_ a wonder--Selina, having exhibited her white lace
bonnet with the emeralds only twice, came to the conclusion that that
"would do." Not that she hesitated at buying another, but that it was
so suitable to the green-and-white dress.

"And now for---- Oh, stop; I think I must have a now parasol. My
point-lace one is soiled, and I caught it in my bracelet the other day
and tore it a little. You had a beautiful point-lace parasol here
yesterday. Let me see it."

"The one you wore looking at yesterday will not do," cried madame. "It
is lined with blue: Madame Dalreemp knows that blue can never go with
the green dress. I have one parasol--ah, but it is a beauty!--a
point-lace, lined with white. I will get it. It does surpass the
other."

It did surpass the other, and in price also. Selina chose it. It was
twenty guineas.

"My husband thought I could have worn one of my old dresses," observed
Selina, as she turned over some gloves; "he says I have a great many.
But one can only appear in a perfectly fresh toilette at a magnificent
gathering such as this is to be." And madame fully assented.

Mrs. Dalrymple went to the breakfast, and she and her attire were
lovely amidst the lovely, exciting no end of admiration. Very
gratifying to her heart, then topsy-turvy with vanity. And so it went
on to the end of the season, and her pleasurable course was never
checked.

When they were preparing to return to the Grange, and her maid was
driven wild with perplexity as to the stowing away of so extensive a
wardrobe, and conjecturing that the carriage down of it would alone
come to "something," it occurred to Selina, as she sat watching, that
the original cost would also come to "something." Some hundreds, she
feared, now she came to see the whole collection in a mass.

"Of course I shall not let Oscar see the bill," she soliloquized.
"I'll get it from madame before I leave: and then there'll be no fear
of its coming to him at the Grange."

Mrs. Dalrymple asked for the bill; and madame, under protest that
there was no hurry in the world, promised to send it in.

Selina was alone, sitting in the drawing-room by twilight, when the
account was delivered to her; it was enclosed in a large thick
envelope, with an imposing red seal. She opened it somewhat eagerly.
"What makes it such a bulk?" she thought. "Oh, I see; she has detailed
the things."

Holding it close to the window, she looked at the bottom of the page,
and saw ninety-four pounds.

"Ninety-four pounds!" ejaculated Selina. "What does madame mean? It
must be much more than that."

She lighted the little taper on her writing-table; and then found she
had been looking at one item only--the Venice point-lace for the
decoration of a dress. So she turned the page and looked at the foot
of the next.

"Antique robe, lace trimmings, and sapphire buttons, one hundred and
twenty-five pounds. Tush!" impatiently exclaimed Selina.

With a rapid movement she turned the account over to the end, and
gazed at the sum total; gazed at it, stared at it, and recoiled from
it. Three thousand and odd pounds, odd shillings, and no pence! What
the odd pounds were, whether one, or whether nine hundred
ninety-nine, she did not catch in that moment of terror; the first
grand sum of three thousand absorbed her eyes and her faculties. And
there floated over her a confused consciousness of other bills to come
in: one from the jeweller's, one for shawls, one for expensively
trimmed linen. There was one shawl, real India--but she dared not
think of that. "Oscar will say I have been mad," she groaned.

No doubt he would.

At that moment she heard his step, coming in from the dining-room, and
turned sick. She crushed the bill in her right hand and thrust it down
the neck of her dress. Then she blew out the taper, and turned, with a
burning brow and shrinking frame, to the window again, and stood
there, apparently looking out. Selina had never attempted to sum up
what she had bought. At odd moments she had feared it might come to
something like a thousand pounds.

Oscar came up and put his arm around her, asking whether it was not
time to have the lights.

"Yes. Presently."

"What in the world have you got here?" cried he. "A ball?"

She pushed the "ball" higher up, and murmured something about "some
paper."

"My dear, what is the matter with you here? You are trembling."

"The night-air, I suppose. It is rather chilly."

Yet the night was hot. Mr. Dalrymple immediately began to close the
window. He was a minute or two over it, for one of the cords was stiff
and did not go well. When he turned round again, his wife had left the
room.

"Selina does not seem very well," thought Oscar.



CHAPTER XIII.
FOLLY.


There is no misfortune on earth so great as that of a troubled
conscience: there is nothing that will wear the spirits and the frame
like a burdensome secret which may not be told. It will blanch the
cheek and sicken the heart; it will render the day a terror and the
bed weary; so that the unhappy victim will be tempted to say with Job:
When shall I arise and the night be gone? He is full of tossings to
and fro unto the dawning of the day: his sleep is scared with dreams
and terrified with visions.

Had Mrs. Oscar Dalrymple been of a different temperament, this unhappy
state of mind would have been hers. But she had no very deep feeling.
Troubled in a degree she undoubtedly was. That terrible secret, the
debts she had incurred, lay on her mind always in a greater or a less
degree; for she knew that when her husband paid them he would be half
ruined; certainly crippled for years to come.

Another season had come round and was at its height; and Mr. and Mrs.
Dalrymple had again come up to it. The past autumn and winter had been
spent at Moat Grange, which Selina found insufferably dull, and where
her chief solace and recreation consisted in looking over her
beautiful and extensive wardrobe, and trying on portions of it in
private. A very negative sort of enjoyment. Where was the use of
possessing these divine dresses and adjuncts, when no field was
afforded for their display? Selina had ventured to wear one costly
robe on a certain evening that she dined at Court Netherleigh, and was
severely taken to task by her mother, who was the only other guest,
and by Miss Upton, for appearing in such "finery." They asked her what
she meant by such extravagance. And that before Oscar, too Selina
blushed a little and laughed it off; but she mentally wondered what
would have been said had she put on her very finest, or if they saw
the stock at home.

During the winter Selina had a fever, brought on, it was thought, from
exposing herself unduly to damp. She grew better, but was somewhat
delicate and very capricious. Oscar, loving her intensely, grew to
humour her fancies and to pet her as if she were a spoiled child. Her
conscience reproached her now and then for the tacit deceit she was
enacting, in thus suffering him to live in blissful ignorance of their
true position; but on the whole it did not trouble her greatly. Alice,
her sensitive sister, would have died under it; Selina contrived to
exist very comfortably.

"If you found out that I had done anything dreadfully wrong, would you
quite kill me?" she playfully said to him one day.

"Dare say I should," answered Oscar, putting on a face of mock
severity. "Might depend, perhaps, upon what the thing was."

"Ah, no; you'd just scold me for five minutes, and then kiss and be
friends. I always said you'd never turn out to be an old griffin."

That was the nearest approach Selina ever made towards confessing to
her husband. And Oscar had only looked upon it as a bit of passing
pleasantry.

Alice Dalrymple had left her mother's house to become companion to
Lady Sarah Hope. During a week's visit that Colonel Hope and his wife
made to Miss Upton in the autumn--it was soon after they had got into
their new house in London--Alice had also been staying at Court
Netherleigh. One day Lady Sarah chanced to say she wished she could
find some nice young gentlewoman, who would come to her in the
capacity of companion: upon which Alice said, "Would you take me?"
"Ay, and be glad to get you," returned Lady Sarah, supposing that
Alice had spoken in jest. Alice, however, was in earnest. She could
not bear to be living on the charity of Oscar Dalrymple, for she
shrewdly guessed that Selina threw as much expense on him as he could
well afford; and Alice quite believed that her mother, devoted to the
care of her poultry, her birds, and her flowers, would not miss her.
So the bargain was struck. "And please remember, Lady Sarah, that I
come to you entirely as companion, prepared to fulfil all a
companion's duties, and not merely as a visitor," Alice gravely said;
and she meant it.

Selina was vexed when she heard of the arrangement. She went straight
down to her mother's cottage, and upbraided Alice sharply. "It is
lowering us all," she said to her. "A companion is next door to a
servant; every one knows that. It will be just a disgrace to the name
of Dalrymple."

"Very well, Selina; then, as you think that, I will drop the name,"
returned Alice. "I was christened Alice Seaton, you know, after my
godmother, and I will be called Miss Seaton at Lady Sarah's."

"Stuff and nonsense, child!" retorted Selina. "You may call yourself
Seaton all the world over, but all the world will know still that you
are Alice Dalrymple."

Alice entered upon her new home in London, and gravely told everybody
in it that she wished to be called by her second name, Seaton. Lady
Sarah laughed, and promised to humour her as often as she could
remember to do it.

In December, Colonel Hope had formally adopted his nephew, Gerard. The
young man threw up his post in the red-tape office (not at all a wise
thing to do), and took up his abode with his uncle. They all went down
to the colonel's place in Gloucestershire to spend Christmas,
including Frances Chenevix, who almost seemed to have been as much
adopted as Gerard, so frequently was she staying with them. Christmas
passed; they came to London again, and things went on smoothly and
gaily until just before Easter, when a fracas occurred. Gerard Hope
contrived in some way to offend the colonel and Lady Sarah so
implacably that they discarded him; frequent growls had ended in a
quarrel. Gerard was insolent, and the colonel, hot and peppery, turned
him out of the house. They went again into Gloucestershire for Easter,
Alice with them as companion and Frances as a guest; but not Gerard.
In fact, so far as one might judge, he was discarded for ever.

The cause was this: Lady Sarah, detecting the predilection of her
sister Frances for the young man, and believing that he was equally
attached to her, went out of her way and her pride to offer her to
him. Gerard had refused it point blank. No wonder Lady Sarah was
angry! The sweet month of June came round again, and the London
season, as I have said, was at its height. Amidst those who were
plunging headlong into its vanities was Selina Dalrymple. She had
coaxed and begged and prayed her husband to give her just another
month or two of it this year, assuring him she should die if he did
not. And Oscar, though wincing at the cost, knowing well he could not
and ought not to afford it, at length gave in. It appeared that he
could deny her nothing. The expenses of the previous season were far
more than he had expected, and as yet he had not been able to
discharge them all. Apart, this, from his wife's private expenses, of
which he as yet remained in ignorance.

It may be questioned, however, whether Selina enjoyed this second
season quite as much as she had the last. The visit and the gaiety and
the homage were as captivating as ever, but she lived in a kind of
terror; for Madame Damereau was pressing for the payment of her
account. If that came to Oscar's knowledge, he would not only do to
her, she hardly knew what, perhaps even box her ears, but he would be
quite certain to carry her forthwith from this delightful London life
to that awful prison, Moat Grange, at Netherleigh.

One afternoon, Oscar was turning out of his temporary home in Berkeley
Street--for they had the same rooms as last year--when he saw coming
towards him a young lady who walked a little lame. It was Alice
Dalrymple.

"Ah, Alice!" he cried. "Have you come to London?"

"Yes," she replied. "Lady Sarah is better, and we left Gloucestershire
yesterday to join the colonel here: he has been writing for us for
more than a week past. Is Selina at home?"

"She is, for a wonder. Waiting for somebody she intends to go out
with."

"How is she?"

"I cannot tell you how she is. Rather strange, it seems to me."

"Strange!"

"Take my arm, Alice, and walk with me a few paces. There's something
the matter with Selina, and I cannot make it out," continued Mr.
Dalrymple. "She acts for all the world as if she had committed some
crime. I told her so the other day."

"Acts in what way?" cried Alice.

"She's frightened at her own shadow. When the post used to come in at
the Grange she would watch for the boy, dart down the path, and seize
the letters, as if she feared I might read the directions of hers.
When she was recovering from that fever, and I would take her letters
in to her, she more than once became blanched and scared. Often I ask
her questions, or address remarks to her, and she is buried in her own
thoughts, and does not hear me. She starts and moans in her sleep;
twice lately I have awakened in the middle of the night and found her
gone from the bed and pacing the dressing-room."

"You alarm me," exclaimed Alice. "What can it be?"

"I can only suppose that her nerves are overwrought with all these
follies she is plunged into. It is nothing but turmoil and excitement;
turmoil and excitement from day to day. I was a fool to come here
again this year, and that's the truth."

"Selina had always led so very quiet a life," murmured Alice.

"Of course she had; and it has been a wonderful change for her; enough
to upset the nervous system of a delicate woman. Selina has not been
too strong since she had that fever."

"She ought to keep more quiet."

"She ought; but she will not. Before we came up I told her she must
not do as she did last year; and I thought she did not mean to. Alice,
she is mad after these gay frivolities; worse than she was last
summer, I do believe--and that need not be. I wished not to come; I
told Selina why--the expense, and other reasons--but she would. She
would, Alice. I wonder what it is that chains her mind to this Babel
of a city. I hate it. Go you in and see her, Alice. I can't stay now,
for I have an appointment."

Mrs. Dalrymple was in her bedroom when Alice entered, dressed, and
waiting to go out: dressed with an elegance regardless of expense.

"Good gracious, child, is it you!" she exclaimed.

When the first moments had passed, Alice sat down and looked at her
sister: her cheek was thin, and its bloom told more of hectic than of
health.

"Selina!" exclaimed Alice, "what is the matter? You are much altered."

"Am I? People do alter. You are altered. You look ill."

"Not more so than usual," replied Alice. "I grow weaker with time But
you are ill: I can see it. You look as if you had something preying on
your mind."

"Nonsense, Alice. You are fanciful."

"What is it?" persisted Alice.

"If I have, your knowing it would do me no good, and would worry you.
And yet," added Mrs. Dalrymple, "I think I will tell you. I have felt
lately, Alice, that I must tell some one!"

Alice laid gentle hold of her. "Let us sit down on the sofa, as we
used to sit together at the Grange, when we were really sisters. But,
Selina, if you have wanted a confidant in any grief, who so fitted to
be that as your husband?"

"He!" cried Selina--"_he!_ It is the dread of his knowing it--the
anxiety I am in, daily and hourly, to keep it from him--that is
wearing me out. Sometimes I say to myself, 'What if I put an end to it
all, as Robert did?'"

Alice was accustomed to the random figures of speech her sister was at
moments given to using; nevertheless her heart stood still.

"What is it that you have done, Selina?"

"Ruined Oscar."

"Ruined Oscar!"

"And ruined myself, with him," added Selina, in reckless tones, as she
took off her bonnet with a jerk, and let it lie in her lap. "I have
contracted debts that neither he nor I can pay, thousands upon
thousands; and the worry of it, the constant fear is rendering my life
a--I will not _say_ what--upon earth."

"Debts! thousands upon thousands!" confusedly uttered Alice.

"It is so."

"How did you contract them? Not as--as--Robert did? Surely that
infatuation is not come upon you?"

"No. But that infatuation, as you call it, is in fashion in our
circles just now, I could tell you of one young lady, whom you know,
who amuses herself with it pretty largely."

"A young lady!"

"She is younger than I am--but she's married," returned Sauna: and the
young lady in question was the Lady Adela Grubb. "My embarrassment
arises from a love of pretty gowns," she added lightly; for it was not
possible for Selina Dalrymple to maintain a tragic mood many minutes
together. "Damereau's bill for last season was between three and four
thousand pounds. It is between four and five thousand now."

Alice Dalrymple felt bewildered. "It is not possible for one person to
owe all that for one year, Selina!"

"Not possible?" repeated Mrs. Dalrymple. "Some of my friends spend
double--treble--four times what I do."

"And so their example led you on?" cried Alice, presently, waking up
from a whirlpool of thought.

"Something led me on. If one is in the world, one must dress."

"No, Selina: not as you have done. Not to ruin. If people have only a
small income they dress accordingly."

"And make a sight of themselves. I don't choose to."

"Better that, and have peace of mind," remarked Alice.

"Peace of mind! Oh, I don't know where that is to be found nowadays."

"I hope you will find it, Selina. How much do you say you owe?"

"There's four thousand to Damereau, and----"

"Who is Damereau?"

"Goodness me, Alice; if you never did spend a season in town, you
ought to know who she is, without asking. Madame Damereau's the great
milliner and dressmaker; every one goes to her."

"I remember now. Lady Sarah has her things elsewhere."

"Then I owe for India shawls, and lace, and jewels, and furs and
things. I owe six thousand pounds if I owe a farthing."

"What a sum!" echoed Alice, aghast. "Six thousand pounds!"

"Ay, you may well repeat it! Which of the queens was it who said that
when she died the name of Calais would be found engraven on her heart?
Mary, I think. Were I to die, those two words, 'six thousand,' would
be found engraven on mine. They are never absent from me. I see
them written up in figures in my dreams; I see them always; in the
ball-room, at the opera, in the park they are buzzing in my ears; when
I wake from my troubled sleep they come rushing over me, and I start
from my bed to escape them. I am not at all sure that it won't turn
out to be seven thousand," candidly added Mrs. Dalrymple.

"You must have dressed in silver and gold," said poor Alice.

"No: only in things that cost it: such things as these," said Mrs.
Dalrymple, pulling at her bonnet with both hands in irritation so
passionate that it was torn in two.

"Oh, pray pray!" Alice interposed, but too late to prevent the
catastrophe. "Your beautiful bonnet Selina, it must have cost three or
four guineas. What a waste!"

"Tush!" peevishly replied Mrs. Dalrymple, flinging the wrecks to the
middle of the room. "A bonnet more or less--what does it matter?"

Alice sat in thought; looking very pained, very perplexed.

"It appears to me that you are on a wrong course altogether, Selina.
The past is past; but you might strive to redeem it."

"Strive against a whirlpool," sarcastically responded Selina.

"You are getting deeper into it: by your own admission, you are having
new things every day. It is adding fuel to fire."

"I can't go naked."

"But you must have a large stock of dresses by you."

"Do you think I would appear in last year's things? I can't and I
won't. You do not understand these matters, Alice."

"Then you ought not to 'appear' at all. You should have stopped at the
Grange."

"As good be in a nunnery. Once you have been initiated into the
delights of a London season, you can only come back to it. Fancy my
stopping at that mouldy old Grange."

"What is to be the end of all this?" lamented Alice.

"Ah, that's it! The End. One does not know, you see, how soon it may
come. I'd not so much mind if I could get all the season first. The
torment of it is, that Damereau is pressing for payment. She is
throwing out hints that she can't supply me any longer on credit--and
what on earth am I to do if she won't? What a shame it is that there
should be so much worry in the world!"

"The greatest portion of it is of our own creating, Selina. And no
worry ought to have the power very seriously to disturb our peace,"
the younger sister continued, in a whisper.

"Now, Alice, you are going to bring up some of those religious notions
of yours! They will be lost upon me. One cannot have one's body in
this world and one's heart in the next."

"Oh yes, we can," said, Alice, earnestly.

"Well, I don't suppose I am going into the next yet, unless I torment
myself out of this one; so don't go on about it," was Selina's
graceless reply. But as Alice rose to leave, her mood 'changed.

"Forgive my fractiousness, Alice; indeed, you would excuse it, if you
only knew how bothered and miserable I am. It makes me cross with
myself and with other people."

"Ma'am," interrupted Ann, Mrs. Dalrymple's maid, "Lady Burnham is at
the door, waiting for you."

"I am not going out roday," answered her mistress, rising. "I have
changed my mind."

"Oh, my patience!" uttered the maid. "What's this? Why, ma'am, it's
never your bonnet?"

No man is a hero to his valet-de-chambre: I fear the same may be said
of woman. "Bother the bonnet," was the undignified reply of Mrs.
Dalrymple, as she flirted the pieces further away with her foot. Ann
humbly followed them to the far-off corner, and there took them into
her hands. "Reach me another bonnet," said her mistress; "I think I
will go, after all. What's the use of staying indoors?"

"Which bonnet, ma'am?"

"Oh, I don't know! Bring some out."

An array of bonnets, new and costly, were displayed for Mrs.
Dalrymple's difficult choice. Alice, to whom all this was as a
revelation, took her departure with uplifted hands and a shrinking
heart.

Mrs. Dalrymple went downstairs, and took her seat in Lady Burnham's
carriage. The latter, an extremely wealthy woman, full of pleasurable
excitement, imparted some particulars she had learnt of the marriage
festivities about to be held in a family of their acquaintance, to
which they were both invited. Lady Burnham was then on her road to
Damereau's to order a suitable toilette for it--one that would eclipse
everybody's but the bride's. Selina, in listening, forgot her cares:
when carried out of herself by the excitement of preparing for these
pomps and vanities, she generally did so forget. But only then. In the
enacting of the pomps and vanities themselves, when they were before
her in all their glory, and she made one of the bedizened crowd, her
nightmare would return to her; the skeleton in the closet would at
those festive times, be exceeding prominent and bare. The reader may
be a philosopher, a grave old F.R.S., very learned in searching out
cause and effect, and so be able to account for this. I am not.

Selina's mouth watered as she listened to Lady Burnham's description
of what she meant to wear at the wedding, and what she recommended to
Selina: and the carriage stopped at Madame Damereau's. Mrs.
Dalrymple's orders were quite moderate roday--only amounting to about
ninety pounds.

Was she quite silly? the reader will ask. Well, not more so than many
another thoughtless woman.

Madame Damereau took the order as politely and carefully as though
Mrs. Oscar Dalrymple had been made of bank notes and gold. She knew
better manners--and better policy, too--than to make any objection
before others of her clientèle. But that same evening, when Selina was
dressing, she was told that a lady who gave the name of Cooper wished
to see her. Selina knew that there was a Mrs. Cooper in the
establishment of Madame Damereau, a partner, she fancied, or
book-keeper; something of that sort. She had seen her once or twice; a
lady-like woman, who had been reduced.

"Let Mrs. Cooper come up here," she said to the maid. And Mrs. Cooper
entered the bedroom.

"I come from Madame Damereau's," she began, taking the chair that
Selina pointed to. "She hopes----"

"For goodness' sake, speak low!" interrupted Selina, in ill-concealed
terror. "Mr. Dalrymple is only in his dressing-room, and I do not wish
him to hear all my private affairs. These London walls are thin. She
wants money, I suppose."

"She hopes, madam, that you will make it convenient to let her have
some," said Mrs. Cooper, sinking her voice to a whisper. "If it were
only a few hundred pounds," she said. "That is trifling compared with
the whole sum, which amounts now to----"

"Oh, I know what it amounts to; I can guess it near enough," hastily
interposed Mrs. Dalrymple. "In the course of a week or two I will see
what I can do."

Poor Selina, at her wits' end for excuses, had said "in the course of
a week or two" so many times now, that Madame Damereau was tired of
hearing the phrase.

Mrs. Cooper hesitated, not much liking her errand. "She bade me say,
madam, that she was extremely sorry to cause inconvenience, but that
she cannot execute the order you gave roday unless she previously
receives some money."

"Not execute it!" repeated Selina, with flashing eyes. "What do you
mean by saying such a thing to me?"

"Madam, I am but the agent of Madame Damereau. I can only speak as she
bids me."

"True," answered Selina, softening; "it is not your fault. But I must
have the things. You will get them for me, will you not?" she said, in
an accent of entreaty, feeling that she was speaking to a gentlewoman,
although one who but held a situation at a milliner's. "Oh, pray use
your influence; get her to let me have them."

Mrs. Cooper stood in distress, for hers was one of those refined
natures that cannot bear to cause or to witness pain.

"If it depended upon me, indeed you should have them," she answered,
"but I have no influence of that sort with Madame Damereau. She would
not allow the slightest interference between her and her ladies: were
I to attempt it, I might lose my place in her house, and be turned out
again to struggle with the world."

"Has it been a harsh world to you?" inquired Selina, pityingly.

"Oh yes," was Mrs. Cooper's answer, "or I should not be where I am
now. And I am thankful to be there," she hastily added: "I would not
seem ungrateful for the mercy that has followed me in my misfortunes."

"I think misfortunes are the lot of all," spoke Selina. "What can I do
to induce Madame Damereau to furnish me with these things?"

"Perhaps you had better call and see her yourself, madam," replied
Mrs. Cooper, relapsing into her ostensible position. "I will try and
say a word to her tonight that may prepare her. She has a good
heart."

"I will see her tomorrow. Thank you," replied Mrs. Dalrymple, ringing
for Mrs. Cooper to be shown out.

Selina finished dressing, and went forth to the evening's gaiety with
what spirits she had. Once plunged into the gay scene, she forgot care
and was merry as the merriest there. Her husband had never seen her
face brighter.

On the following day, Selina proceeded to Madame Damereau's at an
early hour, before any of the other clientèle would be likely to
appear. But the interview, although Mrs. Cooper had said as much as
she dared, was not productive of good. Madame had gradually learnt the
true position of Oscar Dalrymple, that he was a very poor man, instead
of a rich one; she feared she might have trouble over her account, and
was obstinate and obdurate. Not exactly insolent: she was never that,
to her customers' faces: but she and Mrs. Dalrymple both lost temper,
and the latter was impolitic enough to say some cutting things, not
only in disparagement of madame's goods, but about the "cheating
prices" she had been charged. Madame Damereau's face turned green, and
the interview ended by her stating that if some money was not
immediately furnished her, she should sue Mr. Dalrymple for the whole.
Selina went away sick at heart; for she read determination on the
incensed lips of the Frenchwoman.



CHAPTER XIV.
LADY ADELA.


"How sly Mary has been!"

The above exclamation spoken by Lady Adela Grubb in a sort of
resentful tone, as she read a letter while sipping her coffee,
caused her husband to look up. He sat at the opposite end of the
breakfast-table, attractive with its silver and flowers and its
beautiful Worcester china.

"Are you speaking of your sister Mary?" he asked. "What has she done?"

Any answer to this question Lady Adela did not condescend to give.
Unless the tossing of the letter across the table to him could be
called one--and she did it with a gesture of scorn. The letter, a
short one, came from Miss Upton, of Court Netherleigh.


"My DEAR ADELA,

"I have a little business to transact in London tomorrow, and will
take luncheon with you at one o'clock, if quite convenient. Tell your
husband, with my kind regards, that I hope to see him also--if he can
spare an hour from that exacting place of his, Leadenhall Street. So I
am to have your sister Mary as a neighbour, after all!

"Your sincere friend,

"MARGERY UPTON."


"Which means, I presume, that Mary is to marry Cleveland," remarked
Mr. Grubb, as he read the concluding sentence.

"Stupid thing I told her, weeks ago, she was flirting with him."

"Nay, not flirting, Adela. Cleveland is not capable of that."

Adela tossed her head. How lovely she looked fair as the fresh summer
morning.

"She was flirting, though. And he would flirt, if he were not too old.
Parsons, as a rule, flirt more than laymen. She must be hard up for a
husband to take him. He has a houseful of children!"

"I dare say she likes him," said Mr. Grubb.

"Oh, nonsense One only point can be urged in his favour--that he is a
patrician."

"That he is what?" cried Mr. Grubb, who was drinking his coffee at the
moment, and did not hoar the word.

"A patrician. Not a plebeian."

The offensive stress laid by Adela on the last word, the marked scorn
sitting on her lips, brought a flush to her husband's brow. Nothing
seemed to afford her so much gratification as to throw out these
lance-shafts to Mr. Grubb, on what she was pleased to term his
plebeian origin.

"Do you wish for more coffee?" she asked ungraciously.

"No. I have not time for it. I must make the best of my way into the
City, if I am to get back to luncheon."

"There is not the least necessity for you to get back," was her
slighting remark. "You will not be missed, if you don't come."

"By yourself, no. I am aware of that. But I do not care to be so
lacking in common courtesy as to disregard the express wish of Miss
Upton."

"She may have expressed it out of mere politeness."

"Miss Upton is not one to express a wish out of mere politeness,"
replied Mr. Grubb, as he gathered up some papers of his that were by
the side of his plate. "Besides, I shall like to see her."

Approaching his wife, who had taken up the _Morning Post_, he stood
over her. "Good-bye, Adela," he said; and bent to kiss her cheek.

"Oh, good-bye," she retorted in curt tones, and jerked her cheek away
from his very lips.

He went away with a suppressed sigh. This line of treatment had been
dealt out to him by her so long now that he had become inured to it.
It was none the less bitter for that.

Adela, dropping the newspaper and picking up a rose from one of the
glasses on the breakfast-table, went to the window to see whether it
looked very hot, for she wanted to walk to her mother's and hear about
Mary's contemplated marriage. She saw her husband cross the square.
For some reason he was crossing it on foot, his close carriage slowly
following him: on very hot days he rarely used an open one. What a
fine, noble-looking man he was! what a face of goodness and beauty was
his!--how few could compare with him. At odd moments this would even
strike Adela; it struck her now; and a flash of something like pride
in him darted into her heart.

Ah she saw now why he had walked across the square instead of getting
into his carriage at the door: her father was advancing towards him.
The two met, shook hands, stood for a few moments talking, and then
Lord Acorn put his arm within his son-in-law's, and they turned the
corner together.

"Papa wants more money of him," thought Adela. "It's rather too bad, I
must say. But that Leadenhall Street is just a mine of wealth."

For, now and again, ever since the marriage, Lord Acorn had come with
his troubles and embarrassments to Mr. Grubb, who seldom refused to
assist him.

As the clock was striking one that day, they sat down to lunch: Miss
Upton, who had just arrived, Mr. Grubb, and Lady Adela. Miss Upton
never took the meal later if she could help it. Indeed, at home she
took it at twelve. Her breakfast hour was eight precisely, and by
twelve she was ready for luncheon. Lady Acorn came in as they were
sitting down, threw her bonnet on a chair, and sat down with them.
Hearing that Miss Upton would be there, she had come, uninvited, to
meet her.

"How early you went out, mamma!" cried Adela, in rather an aggrieved
tone. For, when she reached Chenevix House that morning, she found her
mother and sisters had already left it: so that she had heard no
particulars at all about Lady Mary's proposed wedding, not even
whether there was certainly to be one, and Adela had her curiosity
upon the subject.

"We went shopping," answered Lady Acorn. "One likes to do that before
the heat of the day comes on. Do you know that Mr. Cleveland is going
to marry again, Margery?" she added abruptly, looking across the table
at Miss Upton.

"Yes, I know it. He came to the Court yesterday morning to tell me of
it. I think Mary will make him a god wife."

"She has courage," said Mr. Grubb, with a pleasant laugh. "How many
children are there? Ten?"

"No. Eight. And they are of all ages; from seven, up to
four-and-twenty," added Miss Upton.

Lady Acorn was nodding her head, in emphatic acquiescence to Mr.
Grubb's remark. "I told Mary she had the courage of Job, when the
thing first came to my ears. Eight children and a poor country Rector!
Young women are ready to marry a broomstick when they get to Mary's
age, if the chance falls in their way."

"Had Job so much courage, mamma?" put in Adela.

"Courage or patience, or some such virtue. It is not I that would have
taken an old widower with a flock of young ones," continued the
countess, in her plain-speaking tartness.

"You will get rid of us all in time, mamma," observed Adela.

"It entails trouble enough," was her mother's ungracious rejoinder. "I
am quite done over with heat and fatigue now--going about from one
place to another after Mary's things. Gowns and bonnets and slips and
mantles, and all the rest of it! Girls are so exacting when they are
going to marry: they must have this, and they must have that, and Mary
is no exception to the rule. One would think she had picked up a
duke."

"It is natural they should be," observed Miss Upton.

"But it's not the less ridiculous," retorted the countess. "One thing
I must say--that Tom Cleveland is showing himself in desperate haste
to take another wife."

"The haste is for his children's sake," said Miss Upton; "be very sure
of that, Betsy. 'I must have some one to control and train them; since
my poor wife's death the girls have run wild,' he said to me
yesterday, when he told me about Mary, and the tears were almost
running down his cheeks."

"It is a great charge," spoke Mr. Grubb. "I mean for Lady Mary."

"It is," acquiesced Miss Upton. "But I hope--I think--she will be
found equal to it, and will prove a good stepmother. That she
understands the responsibility she is undertaking, and has counted the
cost, I am sure of, by what she said in a long letter I received from
her this morning."

"It is to be hoped she will have no children of her own," struck in
Lady Acorn. "Many a woman makes a good stepmother until her own babies
come. After that----"

"After that--what?" asked Miss Upton, for Lady Acorn had stopped
abruptly.

"After that, she thinks of her own children and not of the first
wife's. And sometimes the poor things get hardly dealt by."

"And when is the wedding-day to be?" asked Adela.

"The day after twelve months shall have elapsed since the death of the
first Mrs. Cleveland; or in as short a time subsequent to that day as
may be convenient to me and the milliners," laughed Lady Acorn.

"That will make it some time in August, mamma?"

"Yes, in August."

"Adela, you must give them a substantial present--something worth
having," said Mr. Grubb to his wife.

"Is Damereau to furnish the wedding-dresses?" questioned Adela,
ignoring her husband's remark rather too pointedly, and addressing her
mother.

"Damereau!" shrieked the countess. "Not if I know it. We have been to
plain Mrs. Wilson. Damereau gets dearer every day. She is all very
well for those who have a long purse: mine's a short one."

At the close of the luncheon, Miss Upton said she must take her
departure: she had commissions to do. A fly waited for her at the
door.

"You should use one of Adela's carriages," said Mr. Grubb, as he took
her down to it.

"Ah, thank you; I know you and she would lend it to me with hearty
goodwill; but I like, you see, to be independent," was Miss Upton's
answer. "I have employed the same fly and the same man for years. When
I am coming to London, I write to him previously, and he holds himself
at my service for the day."

"Is there anything I can do for you?" asked Mr. Grubb, as he placed
her comfortably in the closed fly.

"Nothing. Unless you will get in and ride a little way with me. I am
going first to a shop in the Strand. Perhaps you can't spare the
time."

"Indeed I can," he answered, stepping in and taking the seat facing
her. "The Strand will be all in my way to Leadenhall Street."

They had not seen much of one another, and yet they were intimate, for
each liked the other. Mr. Grubb had paid one short visit to Court
Netherleigh with his wife; it was in the first year of his marriage,
and they stayed three days. Miss Upton called on them sometimes when
she came to town, perhaps once or twice a-year; and that was all.

"You were saying something to Adela about giving a present to her
sister," began Miss Upton, as they ambled along. "I take it that you
were sincere."

"Indeed I was. I should like to give them something that will be
useful--regardless of cost," he added, with a smile. "Can you suggest
anything?"

"I can. A little open-carriage and pony--if you would like to go as
far as that. Mary will want it badly. The old pony-carriage used by Mrs.
Cleveland all her married life to get about the straggling parish in,
is the most worn, ramshackle thing now you ever saw; it will hardly
hold together. And the poor pony is on its last legs."

"They shall have a new one. Thank you for telling me," added Mr.
Grubb, with a sunny smile.

"And I dare say you wonder why I can't give them this thing myself,"
resumed Miss Upton; "but the truth is--don't laugh--I am refurnishing
the house, and I don't like to do too much. It would look
ostentatious, patronizing, and Cleveland would feel it so in his
heart. I had a rare battle with him about the furniture, when I told
him what I meant to do; I had already, in fact, given orders for it.
'You cannot bring Lady Mary home to that shabby dining and
drawing-room of yours,' I said to him yesterday. 'I fear I can't
afford to have them renewed,' he answered me, his face taking a long
look. 'Of course you can't,' I said, 'whoever heard of a parson who
could; I mean to do it myself.' Well, then we had a fight. Mary had
seen the walls and the rooms and knew what they were, he maintained.
Upon which I cut short the argument by saying the orders were already
given, and the workmen ready to go in. I had seen for a month or two
past, you must understand, Francis, how matters were going between him
and Mary Chenevix."

Miss Upton broke off with a short laugh. "The idea of my calling you
Francis!" she exclaimed. "Will you forgive me?"

"_Forgive_ you! Dear Miss Upton, if you only know how pleasant to me
the name sounds from your lips!"

"When I think of you it is generally as _Francis_ Grubb, and so it
escaped me. Well, then, you will give them this new pony and
carriage?"

"I will. And thank you sincerely for suggesting it."

"Does Adela make you a good wife yet?" cried Miss Upton, fixing her
keen eyes upon him. And Francis Grubb, at the abrupt query, grew red
to the very roots of his waving hair.

"Is she becoming affectionate to you, as a gracious wife should be?"
pursued Miss Margery, for he did not answer.

"I do not complain of my wife; please understand that, Miss Upton."

"Quite right of you not to. But I believe I understand rather more
than appears on the surface; have understood for some time past. I
gave her a lecture when I was last here. I did, indeed; though you may
not suppose it."

He smiled. A poor smile at best. Margery Upton leaned forward and put
her hand upon his hand, that lay on his knee.

"There is only one thing for it--patience. Bear quietly. Adela used to
be a sweet girl I think she has a good heart, and what evil spirit has
taken possession of her I cannot conceive. I think things will work
round in time, even as you could desire them."

"Ay!"

"And, for the present, I say, keep up a good heart--and bear. It is my
best advice to you."

He took her hand within both his, and pressed it fervently, making no
further reply. And just then the fly pulled up in the Strand.

"I have not asked about your mother," said Miss Upton, as he stood at
the door to say farewell after getting out.

"She is pretty well, now."

"And your sister? Does she get over that wretched business of Robert
Dalrymple's?"

"Of course--in a degree. Time softens most things. But she will never
forget him."

He shook hands finally with Miss Upton; he walked on to his house in
Leadenhall Street, his step flagging, his heart weary. Entering his
own private room, he found two ladies within it. His mother, who was
seated in the most easy chair the room afforded; and his sister. Mrs.
Lynn was a tall, dignified, upright woman still: her beautiful grey
eyes were just like his own, her refined countenance, sickly now, bore
yet its marks of unusual intellect.

"Mother!" he exclaimed, in surprise. "How glad I am to see you!"

"I drove up to the Bank upon a little matter of business, and came on
to see you after it was transacted," she explained, as he kissed her.
"It is unusual to find you out at this time of day, Francis; but the
clerks thought you would be in soon, and I waited. I am glad of the
rest; the journey has so tired me."

"Why will you not let me do your matters of business for you, mother?"
he tenderly asked, as he busied himself to get a glass of wine for her
and some biscuits.

"Because so long as I _can_ do things for myself, I like to do them,"
she answered, "and my old-fashioned chariot is an easy one: I do not
care to become quite the incapable old woman before the necessity for
it inevitably sets in. And now, how is it with yourself, Francis? Your
brow wore a troubled look as you entered."

Never did Francis Grubb give a more genial smile than now. Not even to
his mother would he willingly show his care. "It is quite well with
me," he laughed; "well and flourishing. Take your wine, mother."

"Your wife?" whispered Mrs. Lynn, in a tone of doubt--of pain. "Is
she--more friendly?"

"Oh, we are friendly enough--quite so," he lightly answered, angry
with himself for not being able to suppress the flush that rose at the
question. "Is that a new dress you have on, Mary? It is marvellously
pretty."

"If her child had only lived!" sighed Mrs. Lynn, alluding to Lady
Adela.

"Quite new; new on roday; and I am very glad you admire it," gaily
answered Mary, as she spread out the dress with both hands, and turned
herself about on her brother's dull red carpet for inspection. She was
as thankful to drown the other subject as he was: she knew, unhappily,
more about it than her mother. "I am going out on a visit, so of
course I must have some pretty things."

"Going where?"

"To Lawn Cottage, at Netherleigh. Mrs. Dalrymple wants me--she is
lonely there. I can only spare her a week, though: it will not do to
leave mamma for longer. Alice is at Lady Sarah Hope's, you know, and
Selina is in town, the gayest of the gay."

"Rather too gay, I fancy," remarked Mr. Grubb. "Mother," he added,
turning from his sister, "I have just left your friend of early
life--Miss Upton. She inquired after you."

"Very good of her!" retorted Mrs. Lynn, proudly and stiffly. "I do not
care to be spoken to of Margery Upton, as you know, Francis. She--and
others--voluntarily severed all connection between us in those early
years. It pained me more than you, or any one else, will ever know;
but it is over and done with, and I do not willingly recall it, or
them, to my memory."

Ah! that separation might have brought keen pain to Mrs. Lynn in early
days, but not so cruelly keen as the pain something else was bringing
to her son in these later ones. As Francis Grubb, his visitors
departed, took his place at his desk, and strove to apply his mind to
his business, he found it a difficult task. Twice roday had his
wife's behaviour to him been remarked upon--by Miss Upton and by his
mother. Was it, could it be the fact, that the unhappiness of his
home, the miserable relations obtaining between himself and his wife,
had become patent to the world? The draught had already been rising to
a pretty good height in his cup of bitterness; this would fill it to
the brim.



CHAPTER XV.
THE DAY OF RECKONING.


The hum of the busy London world came floating drowsily in through a
bedroom window in Berkeley Street, open to the hot and brilliant
summer day, and falling, unnoticed, upon the ears of Mrs. Oscar
Dalrymple.

"What an idiot I have been!" soliloquized she. "And what a cat that
Damereau is!"

The above pretty speech--not at all suitable for pretty lips--was
given vent to by Selina on her return from that morning visit to her
milliner, when the latter had wholly refused to listen to reason, and
both had lost their courtesy.

Her dainty bonnet tossed on the bed, her little black lace mantle on
the back of her low dressing-chair, Selina, who had come straight
home, swayed herself backwards and forwards in the said chair, as she
mentally ran over the items of the keen words just exchanged between
herself and madame, and wondered what in the world she was to do.

"If I had only kept my temper!" she thought, in self-reproach. "It was
always a fault of mine to be quick and fiery--like poor Robert.
Nothing but that made her so angry. What on earth would become of me
if she should do as she says--send the account to Oscar?"

Selina started up at the thought. Calmly equable to a rather
remarkable degree in general, she was one of the most restless of
human beings when she did give way to excitement. Just as Robert had
been.

"If he had but lived!" she cried, tears filling her eyes as her
thoughts reverted to her brother, "I'd have taken this trouble to him
and he would have settled it. Robert was generous!"

But Selina quite forgot to recall the fact that her brother's income,
at the best, would not have been larger than her husband's was. Not
quite as large, indeed, for Oscar had his own small patrimony of six
or seven hundred a-year in addition. Just now she could not be
expected to remember common sense.

The Dalrymples had a distant cousin, a merchant, or cotton-broker, or
something of the kind, residing in Liverpool, who was supposed to be
fabulously rich. He had quarrelled with the family long ago, and was
looked upon as no better than an ill-natured, growling bear. An idea
had come into Selina's brain lately--what if she wrote to tell him her
position and beg a little money from his rich coffers to set her
straight? It came to her again now, as she sat there. But, no that
ungenial man was known to hold unseemly debt and extravagance of all
kinds in especial abhorrence. He would only write her a condemnatory
answer; perhaps even re-enclose her begging letter to Oscar! Selina
started from the thought, and put away for ever all notion of aid from
Benjamin Dalrymple.

"How is this woman to be pacified?" she resumed, her reflections
reverting to Madame Damereau. "What a simpleton I was to provoke her!
Two or three hundred pounds might do it for the present. Where am I to
get them? If she carries out this dreadful threat and appeals to
Oscar, what should I do? What _could_ I do? And all the world would
know---- Oh!" she shivered, "I must stop that. _I_ must get some from
him, if I can. I will try at once. Ugh; what a calamity the want of
money is!"

She descended the stairs and entered the dining-room, where her
husband was. He sat at the table writing letters, and seemed to be in
the midst of business accounts.

"Oscar!"

He looked up. "What is it?"

"Oscar," she said, advancing close to him, "can you, please, let me
have a little money?"

"No, that I can't, Selina. I am settling up a few payments now, and
can only do it by halves. Others I am writing to put off entirely for
the present."

He had bent over his writing again, as if the question, being
answered, was done with.

"Oscar, I must have it."

"What money do you mean? Some for housekeeping. I can let you have
that."

"No, no: for myself. I want--I want--two hundred pounds," she said,
jerking it out. She did not dare to say three; her courage failed her.

He put down the pen and turned towards her in displeasure. "Selina, I
told you before we came to town that I could not have these calls made
upon me, as I had last year. You know how very small our income is,
and you know that your extravagance has already crippled it. The
allowance I make you is greater than I can afford. I cannot give you
more."

"Oh, Oscar, I must have it," she exclaimed in excitement, terrified at
the aspect her situation presented to her, for her mind was apt to be
imaginative. "Indeed, I must--even at an inconvenience. Only two
hundred pounds!"

"To squander away in folly?"

"No. If it were only to squander away, I might do without it; and I
cannot do without this."

Mr. Dalrymple looked keenly at her, and she turned from his gaze. "Let
me know what you want it for, that I may judge of the necessity you
speak of. If it is not convenient to you to tell me, Selina, you must
be satisfied with my refusal."

"Well, then," she said, seeing no help for the avowal, "I owe it."

"Owe it! Owe two hundred pounds! _You!_"

So utter was his astonishment, so blank his dismay, that Selina's
heart failed her. If her owing two hundred pounds thus impressed him,
what would become of her when he learnt the whole truth!

"And I am pressed for it," she faintly added. "_Please_ let me have
it, Oscar."

"What have you gone in debt for?"

"Various things," she answered, not caring to avow particulars. But he
looked steadfastly at her, waiting for the truth. "Dress."

"The compact between us was that you should not run into debt," he
said, in severe tones; "you promised to make your allowance do. You
have behaved ill to me, Selina."

She bent her head, feeling that she had. Oh, feeling it terribly just
then.

"Is this all you owe? All?"

"Y--es." But the falsehood, as falsehoods ought to, left a tremor on
her lips.

Without speaking another word, he unsealed a paper in which were
enclosed some bank-notes, and handed several to her, to the amount of
two hundred pounds. "Understand me well, Selina, this must never occur
again," he said, in an impressive tone. "These notes had a different
and an urgent destination."

"What a goose I was, not to ask for the other hundred!" was her mental
comment, as she escaped from the room. "It is not of the least use
offering Damereau two hundred: but she might take three. And where am
I to get it?"

Where, indeed? Did the reader ever try when in extremity to borrow a
hundred pounds, or what not?--and does he remember how very hopeless a
cause it seemed when present before him? Just as it appeared now to
Selina Dalrymple.

"I wonder whether Alice could lend it to me?" she cried, swaying her
foot helplessly as she sat in the low chair. "It's not in the least
likely, but I might ask her. Who's this?"

The "Who's this," applied to a footstep on the stairs. It was her
husband's. Some tiresome, troublesome old man of their acquaintance
had come up from Netherleigh, and Oscar wanted his wife to help
entertain him. Remembering the two hundred pounds just procured from
Oscar she did not like to refuse, and went down.

They dined, to accommodate this gentleman, at what Selina called an
unearthly hour--four o'clock; and it was evening before she could
get to Lady Sarah Hope's. Alice, looking ill, was alone in the
drawing-room, having begged to be excused going down to dinner. On a
table in the back room lay some of Lady Sarah's jewels; valuable gems.
Selina privately wished they were hers. She had to take her departure
as she came, for Alice could not help her. A curiously mysterious
matter connected with these jewels has to be related. It ought to come
in here; but it may be better to defer it, not to interfere with the
sequence of events connected with this chapter.

Nothing further could be done that evening, and Selina went to rest
betimes--eleven o'clock--disappointing two or three entertainments
that wore languishing for her presence: but she had no heart that
night.

To rest! It was a mockery of the word, for she had become thoroughly
frightened. She passed the night turning and tossing from side to
side; and when morning came, and she arose, it was with trembling
limbs and a fevered brain.

Her whole anxiety was to make up this money, three hundred pounds;
hoping that it would prove a stop-gap for the milliner, and stave off
that dreaded threat of application to Oscar. What was to come
afterwards, and how in the world further stop-gaps would be supplied,
she did not now glance at. That evil seemed a hundred miles off,
compared with this one.

A faint idea had been looming through her mind; possibly led to by
what she had seen at Lady Sarah Hope's. At the commencement it had
neither shape nor form, but by midday it had acquired one, and was
entertained. She had heard of such things as pledging jewels: she was
sure she had heard that even noble ladies, driven to a pinch, so
disposed of them. Mrs. Dalrymple locked her bedroom door, reached out
her ornaments, and laid them in a heap on the bed.

She began to estimate their value: what they had cost to buy, as
nearly as she could remember and judge, amounted to fully five hundred
pounds. They were not paid for, but that was nothing. She supposed she
might be able to borrow four hundred upon them: and she decided to do
it. Some few, others, had belonged to her mother. Then, if that
cormorant of a French marchande de modes refused to be pacified with a
small sum, she should have a larger one to offer her. Yes, and get the
things for the wedding-breakfast besides.

The relief this determination brought to the superficial mind of
Selina Dalrymple, few, never reduced to a similar strait, can picture.
It almost removed her weight of care. The task of pledging them would
not be a pleasant one, but she must go through with it. The glittering
trinkets were still upon the bed when some one knocked at the
room-door. It was only her maid, come to say that Miss Alice was
below. Selina grew scared and terrified; for a troubled conscience
sees shadows where no shadows are, and hers whispered that curious
eyes, looking on those ornaments, must divine what she meant to do
with them. With a hasty hand she threw a dress upon the bed, and then
another on the first, and then a heavy one over all, before unbolting
the door. The glittering jewels were hidden now.


Oscar Dalrymple was thinking profoundly as he sat over his
after-dinner wine--not that he ever took much--and the street-lamps
were lighted, when a figure, looking as little like Mrs. Dalrymple as
possible, stole out of the house; stole stealthily, and closed the
door stealthily behind her, so that neither master nor servant should
hear it. She had ransacked her wardrobe for a plain gown and dark
shawl, and her straw bonnet might have served as a model for a
Quaker's. She had been out in the afternoon, and marked the place she
meant to go to. A renowned establishment in its line, and respectable;
even Selina knew that. She hurried along the streets, not unlike a
criminal; had she been going to rob the warerooms of their jewels,
instead of offering some to add to their hidden store, she could not
have felt more guilty. When she reached the place she could not make
up her mind to enter: she took a turn or two in front, she glanced in
at its door, at the window crowded with goods. She had never been in a
pawnbroker's in her life, and her ideas of its customers were vague:
comprising gentlewomen in distress, gliding in as she was; tipsy men
carrying their watches in their hand; poor objects out of work, in
dilapidated shirt-sleeves; and half-starved women with pillows and
flat-irons. It looked quiet, inside; so far as she could see there did
not appear to be a soul. With a desperate effort of resolution she
went in.

She stood at the counter, the chief part of the shop being hidden from
her. A dark man came forward.

"What can we do for you, ma'am?"

"Are you the master?" inquired Selina.

"No."

"I wish to see him."

Another presently appeared: a respectable-looking, well-dressed man,
of good manners.

"I am in temporary need of a little money, and wish to borrow some
upon my jewels," began Mrs. Dalrymple, in a hoarse whisper; and she
was really so agitated as scarcely to know what she said.

"Are they of value?" he inquired.

"Some hundreds of pounds. I have them with me."

He requested her to walk into a private room, and placed a chair. She
sat down and laid the jewels on the table. He examined them in
silence, one after another, not speaking until he had gone through the
whole.

"What did you wish to borrow on them?"

"As much as I can," replied Mrs. Dalrymple. "I thought about four
hundred pounds."

"Four hundred pounds!" echoed the pawnbroker. "Madam, they are not
worth, for this purpose, more than a quarter of the money."

She stared at him in astonishment. "They are real."

"Oh yes. Otherwise, they would not, to us, be worth so many pence."

"Many of them are new within twelve months," urged Selina.
"Altogether, they cost more than five hundred pounds."

"To buy. But they are not worth much to pledge. The fashion of these
ornaments changes with every season: and that, for one thing,
diminishes their value."

"What could you lend me on them?"

"One hundred pounds."

"Absurd!" returned Mrs. Dalrymple, her cheeks flushing. "Why, that one
set of amethysts alone cost more. I could not let them go for that.
One hundred would be of no use to me."

"Madam, it is entirely at your option, and I assure you I do not press
it," he answered, with respectful courtesy. "We care little about
taking these things in; so many are brought to us now, that our sales
are glutted with them."

"You will not be called upon to sell these. I shall redeem them."

The jeweller did not answer. He could have told her that never an
article, from a service of gold plate to a pair of boy's boots, was
pledged to him yet, but it was quite sure to be redeemed--in
intention.

"Are you aware that a great many ladies, even of high degree, now wear
false jewellery?" he resumed.

"No, indeed," she returned. "Neither should I believe it."

"Nevertheless, it is so. And the chief reason is the one I have just
mentioned: that in the present day the rage for ornaments is so great,
and the fashion of them so continually changing, that to be in the
fashion, a lady must spend a fortune in ornaments alone. I give you my
word, madam, that in the fashionable world a great deal of the
jewellery now worn is false; though it may pass, there, unsuspected.
And this fact deteriorates from the value of real stones, especially
for the purpose of pledging."

He began, as he spoke, to put the articles into their cases again, as
if the negotiation were at an end.

"Can you lend me two hundred pounds upon them?" asked Mrs. Dalrymple,
after a blank pause.

He shook his head. "I can advance you what I have stated, if you
please; not a pound more. And I feel sure you will not be able to
obtain more on them anywhere, madam, take them where you will."

"But what am I to do?" returned she, betraying some excitement. Very
uselessly: but that room was no stranger to it. The jeweller was firm,
and Mrs. Dalrymple gathered up her ornaments, her first feeling of
despair lost in anger. She was leaving the room with her parcel when
it occurred to her to ask herself, in sober truth, WHAT she was to
do--how procure the remainder of the sum necessary to appease Madame
Damereau. She turned back, and finally left the shop without her
jewels, but with a hundred pounds in her pocket, and her understanding
considerably enlightened as to the relative value of a jewel to buy
and a jewel to pledge.

Now it happened that, if Mrs. Dalrymple had repented showing her
temper to Madame Damereau, that renowned artiste had equally repented
showing hers to Mrs. Dalrymple. She feared it might tell against her
with her customers, if it came to be known: for she knew how popular
Selina was; truth to say, she liked her herself. Madame came to the
determination of paying Mrs. Dalrymple a visit, not exactly to
apologize, but to soothe away certain words. And to qualify the
pressing for some money, which she meant to do (whether she got it or
not), she intended to announce that the articles ordered for the
wedding festivities would be supplied. "It's only ninety pounds, more
or less," thought madame, "and I suppose I shall get the money some
time."

She reached Mrs. Dalrymple's in the evening, soon after that lady had
departed on her secret expedition to the pawnbroker. Their London
lodgings were confined. The dining-room had Mr. Dalrymple in it, so
Madame Damereau was shown to the drawing-room, and the maid went
hunting about the house for her mistress.

Whilst she was on her useless search, Mr. Dalrymple entered the
drawing-room, expecting to find it tenanted by his wife. Instead of
that, some strange lady sat there, who rose at his entrance, made him
a swimming curtsy, the like of which he had never seen in a ball-room,
and threw off some rapid sentences in an unknown tongue.

His perplexed look stopped her. "Ah," she said, changing her language,
"Monsieur, I fear, does not speak the French. I have the honour, I
believe, of addressing Mr. Dalreemp. I am covered with contrition at
intruding at this evening hour, but I know that Mrs. Dalreemp is much
out in the day; I thought I might perhaps get speech of her as she was
dressing for some soirée."

"Do you wish to see her? Have you seen her?" he asked.

"I wait now to see her," replied madame.

"Another of these milliner people, I suppose," thought Oscar to
himself, with not at all a polite word in connection with the
supposition. "Selina's mad to have the house beset with them; it's
like a swarm of flies. If she comes to town next year may I be shot!"

"Ann! tell your mistress she is wanted," he called out, opening the
door.

"I can't find my mistress, sir," said the servant, coming downstairs.
"I thought she must be in her own room, but she is not. I am sure she
is not gone out, because she said she meant to have a quiet evening at
home tonight, and she did not dress."

"She is somewhere about," said Mr. Dalrymple. "Go and look for her."

Madame Damereau had been coming to the rapid conclusion that this was
an opportunity she should do injustice to herself to omit using. And
as Mr. Dalrymple was about to leave her to herself, she stopped him.

"Sir--pardon me--but now that I have the happiness to see you, I may
ask if you will not use your influence with Mrs. Dalreemp to think of
my account. She does promise so often, so often, and I get nothing. I
have my heavy payments to make, and sometimes I do not know where to
find the money: though, if you saw my books, your hairs would bristle,
sir, at the sums owing to me."

"You are----?"

"I am Madame Damereau. If Mrs. Dalreemp would but give me a few
hundred pounds off her bill, it would be something."

A few hundred pounds! Oscar Dalrymple wondered what she meant. He
looked at her for some moments before he spoke.

"What is the amount of my wife's debt to you, madame?"

"Ah, it is---- But I cannot tell it you quite exactly: there are
recent items. The last note that went in to her was four thousand
three hundred and twenty-two pounds."

He had an impassive face, rarely showing emotion. It had probably not
been moved to it half-a-dozen times in the course of his life. But now
his lips gradually drew into a straight thin line, and a red spot
shone in his cheek.

"WHAT did you say? Do you speak of the account?"

"It was four thousand three hundred and twenty-two pounds," equably
answered madame, who was not familiar with his countenance. "And there
have been a few trifles since, and her last order this week will come
to ninety pounds. If you wish for it exactly, sir," added madame,
seizing at an idea of hope, "I will have it sent to you when I go
home. Mrs. Dalreemp has the details up to very recently."

"Four thousand pounds!" repeated Mr. Dalrymple, sitting down, in a
sort of helpless manner. "When could she have contracted it?"

"Last season, sir, chiefly. A little in the winter she had sent down
to her, and she has had things this spring: not so many."

He did not say more, save a mutter which madame could not catch. She
understood it to be that he would speak to Mrs. Dalrymple. The maid
returned, protesting that her mistress was not in the house and must
have changed her mind and gone out; and Madame Damereau, thinking she
might have gone out for the evening, and that it was of no use
waiting, made her adieu to Mr. Dalrymple, with the remarkable curtsy
more than once repeated.

He was sitting there still, in the same position, when his wife
appeared. She had entered the house stealthily, as she had left it,
had taken off her things, and now came into the room ready for tea, as
if she had only been upstairs to wash her hands. Scarcely had she
reached the middle of the room, when he rose and laid his hand heavily
on her shoulder. His face, as she turned to him in alarm, with its
drawn aspect, its mingled pallor and hectic, was so changed that she
could hardly recognize it for his.

"Oscar, you terrify me!" she cried out.

"What debts are these that you owe?" he asked, from between his parted
lips.

Was the dreaded moment come, then! A low moan escaped her.

"Four thousand and some hundred pounds to Damoreau, the milliner! How
much more to others?"

"Oh, Oscar, if you look and speak like that, you will kill me."

"I ask how much more?" he repeated, passing by her words as the idle
wind. "Tell me the truth, or I shall feel tempted to thrust you from
my home, and advertise you."

She wished the carpet would open and let her in; she hid her face.
Oscar held her, and repeated the question: "How much?"

"Six thousand pounds--in all--about that. Not more, I think."

He released her then with a jerk. Selina began to cry like a
school-girl.

"Are you prepared to go out and work for your living, as I must do?"
he panted. "I have nothing to keep you on, and shall not have for
years. If they throw me into a debtor's prison tomorrow, I cannot
help it."

"Oh," shrieked silly Selina, "a prison! I'd go with you."

"I might have expected something of this when I married into your
branch of the family," returned Oscar, who, in good truth, was nearly
beside himself. "A mania follows it. Your uncle gambled his means
away, and then took his own life; your father hampered himself with
his brother's debts, and remained poor; your brother followed in his
uncle's wake; and now the mania is upon you!"

"Oh, please, Oscar, please!" pleaded Selina, who had no more depth of
feeling than a magpie, while Oscar had plenty of it. "I'll never,
never go in debt again."

"You shall never have the chance," he answered. And, there and then,
Oscar Dalrymple, summoning his household, gave orders for their
removal to the Grange. Selina cried her eyes out at having to quit the
season and its attractions summarily.

Thus, as a wreathing cloud suddenly appears in the sky, and as
suddenly fades sway, had Mrs. Dalrymple, like a bright vision,
appeared to the admiring eyes of the London world, and vanished from
it.



CHAPTER XVI.
THE DIAMOND BRACELET.


But, as you have heard, there is something yet to relate of that hot
June day, or, rather, of its evening, when poor Selina Dalrymple had
applied for help, and unsuccessfully, to her sister Alice.

The great world of London was beginning to think of dinner. In a
well-furnished dressing-room, the windows being open for air, and the
blinds drawn down to exclude the sun, stood a tall, stately lady,
whose maid was giving the last touch to her rich attire. It was Lady
Sarah Hope.

"What bracelets, my lady?" asked the maid, taking a small bunch of
keys from her pocket.

"Not any, now: it is so very hot. Alice," added Lady Sarah, turning to
Alice, who was leaning back on a sofa, "will you put all my bracelets
out for me against I come up? I will decide then."

"_I_ put them out, Lady Sarah?" returned Alice. "Yes, certainly."

"If you will be so kind. Hughes, give the key to Miss Seaton." For
they did sometimes remember to address Alice by her adopted name.

Lady Sarah left the room, and the maid, Hughes, began taking one of
the small keys off the ring. "I have leave to go out, miss," she
explained, "which is the reason why my lady has asked you to see to
her bracelets. My mother is not well, and wants to see me. This is the
key, ma'am."

As Alice took it, Lady Sarah reappeared at the door. "Alice, you may
as well bring the bracelet-box down to the back drawing-room," she
said. "I shall not care to come up here after dinner: we shall be late
as it is."

"What's that about the bracelet-box?" inquired a pretty-looking girl,
who had come swiftly out of another apartment.

"Lady Sarah wishes me to bring her bracelets down to the drawing-room,
that she may choose which to put on. It was too hot to wear them to
dine in, she said."

"Are you not coming in to dinner, Alice?"

"No. I walked out, and it has tired me. I have had some tea instead.".

"I would not be you for all the world, Alice! To possess so little
capability of enjoying life."

"Yet, if you were as I am, weak in health and strength, your lot would
have been so soothed to you, Frances, that you would not repine at or
regret it."

"You mean I should be content," laughed Frances, upon whom the
defection of Mr. Gerard Hope earlier in the year did not appear to
have made much impression: though perhaps she did not know its
particulars. "Well, there is nothing like contentment, the sages tell
us. One of my detestable schoolroom copies used to be 'Contentment is
happiness.'"

"I can hear the dinner being taken in," said Alice. "You will be late
in the drawing-room."

Lady Frances Chenevix turned away to fly down the stairs. Her light,
rounded form, her elastic step, all telling of health and enjoyment,
presented a marked contrast to that of Alice Dalrymple. Alice's face
was indeed strangely beautiful, almost too refined and delicate for
the wear and tear of common life, but her figure was weak and
stooping, and her gait feeble.

Colonel Hope, thin and spare, with sharp brown eyes and sharp
features, sat at the foot of his table. He was beginning to look so
shrunk and short, that his friends jokingly told him he must have been
smuggled into the army, unless he had since been growing downwards,
for surely so little a commander could never expect to be obeyed. No
stranger could have believed him at ease in his circumstances, any
more than they would have believed him a colonel who had seen hard
service in India, for his clothes were frequently threadbare. A black
ribbon supplied the place of a gold chain as guard to his watch, and a
blue, tin-looking thing of a galvanized ring did duty for any other
ring on his finger. Yet he was rich; of fabulous riches, people said;
but he was of a close disposition, especially as regarded his personal
outlay. In his home and to his wife he was liberal. A good husband;
and, putting his crustiness and his crotchets aside, a good man. It
was the loss of his two boys that had so tried and changed him. His
large property was not entailed: it had been thought his nephew,
Gerard Hope, would inherit it, but Gerard had been turned from the
house. Lady Sarah remarked that it was too hot to dine; but the
colonel, in respect to heat, was a salamander..

Alice meanwhile lay on the sofa for half-an-hour; and then, taking the
bracelet-box in her hands, descended to the drawing-rooms. It was
intensely hot, she thought; a sultry, breathless heat; and she threw
open the back window. Which in truth made it hotter, for the sun
gleamed right athwart the leads which stretched themselves beyond the
windows over the outbuildings at the back of the row of houses.

Alice sat down near this back window, and began to put out some of the
bracelets on the table before it. They were rare and rich: of plain
gold, of silver, of pearl, of precious stones. One of them was of gold
links, studded with diamonds; it was very valuable, and had been the
present of Colonel Hope to his wife on her recent birthday. Another
diamond bracelet was there, but it was not so beautiful or so costly
as this. When her task was done, Alice passed into the front
drawing-room, and put up one of its large windows. Still there was no
air in the room.

As she stood at it, a handsome young man, tall and agile, who was
walking on the opposite side of the street, caught her eye. He nodded,
hesitated, and then crossed the street as if to enter.

"It is Gerard!" muttered Alice, under her breath. "Can he be coming
here?" She walked away from the window hastily, and sat down by the
bedecked table in the other room.

"Just as I supposed!" exclaimed Gerard Hope, entering, and advancing
to Alice with stealthy steps. "When I saw you at the window, the
thought struck me that you were alone here, and they at dinner. Thomas
happened to be airing himself at the door, so I crossed over, found I
was right, and came up. How are you, Alice?"

"Have you come to dinner?" inquired Alice, speaking at random, and
angry at her own agitation.

"_I_ come to dinner!" repeated Gerard. "Why, you know they'd as soon
sit down with the renowned Mr. Ketch."

"Indeed I know nothing about it: we have been away in Gloucestershire
for months, as I dare say you are aware: I was hoping that you and the
colonel might have been reconciled. Why did you come in, Gerard?
Thomas may tell them."

"Thomas won't. I charged him not to. The idea of your never coming up
till June! Some whim of Lady Sarah's, I suppose. Two or three times
a-week for the last month have I been marching past this house,
wondering when it was going to show signs of life. Frances is here
still?"

"Oh yes. She remains here altogether."

"To make up for---- Alice, was it not a shame to turn me out?"

"I was extremely sorry for what happened, Mr. Hope, but I knew nothing
of the details. Lady Sarah said you had displeased herself and the
colonel, and after that she never mentioned your name."

"What a show of smart things you have here, Alice! Are you going to
set up a bazaar?"

"They are Lady Sarah's bracelets."

"So they are, I see! This is a gem," added Gerard, taking up the fine
diamond bracelet already mentioned. "I don't remember this one."

"It is new. The colonel has just given it to her."

"What did it cost?"

Alice laughed. "Do you think it likely I have heard? I question if
Lady Sarah has."

"It never cot a farthing less than two hundred guineas," mused Gerard,
turning the bracelet in various directions, that its rich diamonds
might give out their gleaming light. "I wish it was mine."

"What should you do with it?" laughed Alice.

"Spout it."

"I do not understand," returned Alice. She really did not.

"I beg your pardon, Alice. I was thinking of the colloquial lingo
familiarly applied to such transactions, instead of to whom I was
talking. I mean raise money upon it."

"Oh, Mr. Hope!"

"Alice, that's twice you have called me 'Mr. Hope.' I thought I had
been 'Gerard' to you for many a year."

"Time changes things; and you seem more like a stranger than you
used to," returned Alice, a flush rising to her sensitive face.
"But you spoke of raising money: I hope you are not in temporary
embarrassment."

"A jolly good thing for me if it turns out only temporary," he
rejoined. "Look at my position! Debts hanging over my head--for you
may be sure, Alice, all young men, with a limited allowance and large
expectations, contract debts--and thrust out of my uncle's home with
just the loose cash I had in my pocket, and my clothes sent packing
after me."

"Has the colonel stopped your allowance?"

Gerard Hope laid down the bracelet from whence he had taken it, before
he replied.

"He stopped it then; it's months ago, you know; and I have not had a
shilling since, except from my own resources. I first went upon tick;
then I disposed of my watch and chain and all my other little matters
of value: and now I am upon tick again."

Alice did not answer. The light tone vexed her.

"Perhaps you don't understand these free terms, Alice," he said,
looking fondly at her, "and I hope you may never have occasion to.
Frances would: she has lived in their atmosphere."

"Yes, I know what an embarrassed man the earl often is. But I am
grieved to hear about yourself. Is the colonel implacable? What was
the cause of the quarrel?"

"You know I was to be his heir. Even if more children had come to him,
he undertook to provide amply for me. Last autumn he suddenly sent for
me to tell me it was his pleasure and Lady Sarah's that I should take
up my abode with them. So I did take it up, glad to get into such good
quarters; and stopped here like an innocent, unsuspicious lamb,
until--when was it, Alice? March? Then the plot came out."

"The plot," exclaimed Alice.

"It was nothing less. They had fixed upon a wife for me; and I was
ordered to hold myself in readiness to marry her at any given moment."

"Who was it?" inquired Alice, in a low tone, as she bent her head over
the bracelets.

"Never mind," laughed the young man; "it wasn't you. I said I would
not have her; and they both, he and Lady Sarah, pulled me and my want
of taste to pieces, assuring me I was a monster of ingratitude. It
provoked me into confessing that I liked some one else better. And
then the colonel turned me out."

Alice looked her sorrow, but she did not express it.

"Of course I saw the imprudence then of having thrown up my place in
the red-tape office; but it was done. And since then I have been
having a fight with my creditors, putting them off with fair words and
promises. But they have grown incredulous, and it has come to dodging.
In favour with my uncle, and his acknowledged heir, they would have
given me unlimited time and credit, but the breach between us is
known, and it makes all the difference. With the value of that at my
disposal"--nodding at the bracelet--"I should stop a few pressing
personal trifles and go on again for a while. So you see, Alice, a
diamond bracelet may be of use to a gentleman, should some genial
fortune drop one into his hands."

"I sympathize with you very much," said Alice, "and I would I had it
in my power to aid you."

"Thank you for your kind wishes; I know they are genuine. When my
uncle sees the name of Gerard Hope figuring in the insolvent list, or
amongst the outlaws, he---- Hark! Can they be coming up from dinner?"

"Scarcely yet," said Alice, starting up simultaneously with himself,
and listening. "But they will not sit long roday, because they are
going to the opera. Gerard, they must not find you here."

"It might get you turned out as well as myself! No, not if I can help
it. Alice!"--suddenly laying his hands upon her shoulders, and gazing
down into her eyes--"do you know who it was I had learnt to love,
instead of--of the other?"

She gasped for breath, and her colour went and came. "No--no; do not
tell me, Gerard."

"Why, no, I had better not, under present circumstances. But when the
good time comes--for all their high-roped indignation must and will
blow over--_then I will_; and here's the pledge of it." He bent his
head, took one long earnest kiss from her lips; and the next moment
was gone.

Agitated almost to sickness, trembling and confused, Alice stole to
look after him, terrified lest he might not escape unseen. She crept
partly down the stairs, so as to obtain sight of the hall-door, and
make sure that he got out in safety. As Gerard drew it quietly open,
there stood a lady just about to knock. It was Selina, waiting to
exchange a few words with Gerard. He waved his hand towards the
staircase. Alice met her, and took her into the front drawing-room.

"I cannot stay to sit down, Alice: I must hasten back to dress, for I
am engaged to three or four places tonight. Neither do I wish to
horrify Lady Sarah with a visit at this untoward hour. I had a request
to make to you, and thought to catch you in your room before you went
in to dinner."

"They are alone, and are dining earlier than usual. I was too tired to
appear. What can I do for you, Selina?"

Mrs. Oscar Dalrymple had come (as you have already heard) to try that
one hopeless task--the borrowing money of her sister.

"I am in pressing need of it, Alice," she said. "Can you lend it me?"

"I wish I could," returned Alice; "I am so very sorry. I sent all I
had to poor mamma the day before we came to town. It was only
twenty-five pounds."

"_That_ would have been of no use to me: I want more. I thought if you
had been misering up your salary, you might have had a hundred pounds,
or so, by you."

Alice shook her head. "I should be a long while saving up a hundred
pounds, even if dear mamma had no wants. But I send to her what I can
spare. Is it for--dresses, and that?"

"Yes," was Selina's laconic answer.

"I wish I had it to give you! Do not be in such a hurry," continued
Alice, as her sister was moving to the door. "At least wait one minute
while I fetch you a letter I received from mamma this morning, in
answer to mine. You will like to read it, for it is full of news of
the old place. You can take it home with you, Selina."

Alice left her sister standing in the front-room, and went upstairs.
But she was more than one minute away; she was three or four, for
she could not at first lay her hand upon the letter. When she
returned, her sister advanced to her from the back drawing-room, the
folding-doors between the two rooms being, as before, wide open.

"What a fine collection of bracelets, Alice!" she exclaimed, as she
took the letter. "Are they spread out for show?"

"No," laughed Alice; "Lady Sarah is going to the opera, and will have
no time to spare when she comes up from dinner. She asked me to bring
them all down, as she had not decided which to wear."

"I like to dress entirely before dinner on my opera nights."

"Oh, so of course does Lady Sarah," returned Alice, as her sister
descended the stairs; "but she said it was too hot to dine in
bracelets."

"It is fearfully hot. Good-bye, Alice. Don't ring: I will let myself
out."

Alice returned to the front-room and looked from the window, wondering
whether her sister had come in her carriage. No. A trifling evening
breeze was rising and beginning to move the curtains about. Gentle as
it was, it was grateful, and Alice sat down in it. In a very few
minutes the ladies came up from dinner.

"Have you the bracelets, Alice. Oh, I see."

Lady Sarah went into the back-room as she spoke, and stood before the
table, looking at the bracelets. Alice rose to follow her, when Lady
Frances Chenevix caught her by the arm, and began to speak in a covert
whisper.

"Who was that at the door just now? It was a visitor's knock. Do you
know, Alice, every hour, since we came to town, I have fancied Gerard
might be calling. In the country he could not get to us, but
here---- Was it Gerard?"

"It--it was my sister," carelessly answered Alice. It was not a true
answer, for her sister had not knocked, and she did not know who had.
But it was the readiest that rose to her lips, and she wished to
escape the questioning, for more reasons than one.

"Only your sister," replied Frances, turning to the window with a
gesture of disappointment.

"Which have you put on?" inquired Alice, going towards Lady Sarah.

"Those loose, fancy things; they are the coolest. I really am so hot:
the soup was that favourite soup of the colonel's, all capsicums and
cayenne, and the wine was hot; there had been a mistake about the ice.
Gill trusted to the new man, and he did not understand it. It was all
hot together. What the house will be tonight, I dread to think of."

Lady Sarah, whilst she spoke, had been putting the bracelets into the
jewel-box, with very little care.

"I had better put them straight," remarked Alice, when she reached the
table.

"Do not trouble," returned Lady Sarah, shutting down the lid. "You are
looking flushed and feverish, Alice; you were wrong to walk so far
roday. Hughes will set them to rights tomorrow morning; they will do
until then. Lock them up, and take possession of the key."

Alice did as she was bid. She locked the case and put the key in her
pocket. "Here is the carriage," exclaimed Lady Frances. "Are we to
wait for coffee?"

"Coffee in this heat!" retorted Lady Sarah; "it would be adding fuel
to fire. We will have some tea when we return. Alice, you must make
tea for the colonel; he will not come out without it. He thinks this
weather just what it ought to be: rather cold, if anything."

Alice had taken the bracelet-box in her hands as Lady Sarah spoke;
when they had departed, she carried it upstairs to its place in Lady
Sarah's bedroom. The colonel speedily rose from table, for his wife
had laid her commands on him to join them early. Alice helped him to
his tea, and as soon as he was gone she went upstairs to bed.

To bed, but not to sleep. Tired as she was, and exhausted in frame,
sleep would not come to her. She was living over again her interview
with Gerard Hope. She could not, in her conscious heart, affect to
misunderstand his implied meaning--that she had been the cause of his
rejecting the union proposed to him. It diffused a strange rapture
within her; and, though she had not perhaps been wholly blind and
unconscious during the period of Gerard's stay with them, and for some
time before that, she now kept repeating the words, "Can it be that he
loves me? can it be?"

It certainly was so. Love plays strange pranks. There was Gerard
Hope--heir to the colonel's fabulous wealth, consciously proud of his
handsome person, his height and strength--called home and planted down
by the side of a pretty and noble lady on purpose that he might fall
in love with her: the Lady Frances Chenevix. And yet, the well-laid
project failed: failed because there happened to be another at that
young lady's side: a sad, quiet, feeble-framed girl, whose very
weakness may have seemed to others to place her beyond the pale of
man's love. But love thrives by contrasts; and it was the feeble girl
who won the love of the strong man.

Yes; the knowledge diffused a strange rapture within her, Alice
Dalrymple, as she lay that night; and she may be excused if, for a
brief period, she allowed range to the sweet fantasies it conjured up.
For a brief period only. Too soon the depressing consciousness
returned to her, that these thoughts of earthly happiness must be
subdued: for she, with her confirmed ailments and conspicuous
weakness, must never hope to marry, as did other women. She had long
known--her mother had prepared her for it--that one so afflicted and
frail as she, whose tenure of existence was likely to be short, ought
not to become a wife; and it had been her earnest hope to pass through
life unloving, in that one sense, and unloved. She had striven to arm
herself against the danger, against being thrown into the perils of
temptation. Alas! it had come insidiously upon her; all her care had
been set at naught; and she knew that she loved Gerard Hope with a
deep and fervent love. "It is but another cross," she sighed, "another
burden to surmount and subdue, and I will set myself from this night
to the task. I have been a coward, shrinking from self-examination;
but now that Gerard has spoken out, I can deceive myself no longer. I
wish he had spoken more freely, that I might have told him it was
useless."

It was only towards morning that Alice dropped asleep: the consequence
was that long after her usual hour for rising she was still sleeping.
The opening of her door awoke her. It was Lady Sarah's maid who stood
there.

"Why, miss; are you not up? Well, I never! I wanted the key of the
small jewel-box; but I'd have waited, had I known."

"What do you say you want?" returned Alice, whose ideas were confused;
as is often the case on being suddenly awakened.

"The key of the bracelet-box, if you please."

"The key?" repeated Alice. "Oh, I remember," she added, recollection
returning to her. "Be at the trouble, will you, Hughes, of taking it
out of my pocket: it is on that chair, under my clothes."

The servant came to the pocket, and speedily found the key. "Are you
worse than usual, Miss Seaton, this morning," asked she, "or have you
overslept yourself?"

"I have overslept myself. Is it late?"

"Between nine and ten. My lady is up, and at breakfast with the
Colonel and Lady Frances."

Alice rose the instant the maid left the room, and made haste to
dress, vexed with herself for sleeping so long. She was nearly ready
when Hughes came in again.

"If ever I saw such confusion as that jewel-case was in!" cried she,
in as pert and grumbling a tone as she dared to use. "The bracelets
were thrown together without law or order--just as if they had been so
much glass and tinsel from the Lowther Arcade."

"It was Lady Sarah," replied Alice. "I would have put them straight,
but she told me to leave it for you. I thought she might prefer that
you should do it."

"Of course her ladyship is aware there's nobody but myself knows their
right places in it," returned Hughes, consequentially. "I could go to
that or to the other jewel-box in the dark, ma'am, and take out any
one thing my lady wanted, without disturbing the rest."

"I have observed that you have the gift of order," remarked Alice,
with a smile. "It is very useful to those who possess it, and saves
them much trouble and confusion."

"So it do, ma'am," said Hughes. "But I came to ask you for the diamond
bracelet."

"The diamond bracelet!" echoed Alice. "What diamond bracelet! What do
you mean, Hughes?"

"It is not in the box."

"The diamond bracelets are both in the box," rejoined Alice.

"The old one is there; not the new one. I thought you might have taken
it out to show some one, or to look at yourself, ma'am, for it's just
a sight for pleasant eyes."

"I can assure you it is in the case," said Alice. "All are there,
except the pair Lady Sarah had on. You must hare overlooked it."

"I am a great donkey if I have," grumbled the girl. "It must be at the
very bottom, amongst the cotton," she soliloquized, as she returned to
Lady Sarah's apartments, "and I have just got to take every individual
article out, to get to it. This comes of giving up one's keys to other
folks."

Alice entered the breakfast-room, begging pardon for her late
appearance. It was readily accorded. Her office in the house was
nearly a sinecure. When she had first entered upon it Lady Sarah was
ill, and required some one to sit with and read to her: now that she
was well again, Alice had little to do.

Breakfast was scarcely over when Alice was called from the room.
Hughes stood outside the door.

"Miss Seaton," said she, with a long face, "the diamond bracelet is
not in the box. I thought I could not be mistaken."

"But it must be in the box," said Alice.

"But it is _not_," persisted Hughes, emphasizing the negative. "Can't
you believe me, ma'am? I want to know where it is, that I may put it
up and lock the box."

Alice Seaton looked at Hughes with a puzzled, dreamy look. She was
thinking matters over. Her face soon cleared again.

"Then Lady Sarah must have kept it out when she put in the rest. It
was she who returned them to the case; I did not. Perhaps she wore it
last night."

"No, miss, that she didn't. She wore only those two----"

"I saw what she had on," interrupted Alice. "But she might also have
put on the other, without my noticing. Or she may have kept it out for
some other purpose. I will ask her. Wait here an instant, Hughes; for
of course you will like to be at a certainty."

"That's cool," thought Hughes, as Alice went into the breakfast-room,
and the colonel came out of it, with his _Times_. "I should have said
it was somebody else would like to be at a certainty, instead of me,"
continued the girl, indulging in soliloquy. "Thank goodness the box
wasn't in my charge last night, if anything dreadful has come to pass.
My lady don't keep out her bracelets for sport. Miss Seaton has left
the key about, that's what she has done, and it's hard to say who
hasn't been at it: I knew the box had been ransacked over."

"Lady Sarah," said Alice, "did you wear your new diamond bracelet last
night?"

"Then did you put it into the box with the others?"

"No," repeated Lady Sarah, who was languidly toying with a basket of
ferns.

"After you had chosen the bracelets you wished to wear, you put the
others into the box yourself," explained Alice, thinking she was not
understood. "Did you put in the new one, the diamond, or keep it out?"

"The new one was not there."

Alice stood confounded. "It was lying on the table, at the back of all
the rest, Lady Sarah," she presently said. "Next the window."

"I tell you, Alice, it was not there. I don't know that I should have
worn it if it had been, but I certainly looked for it. Not seeing it,
I supposed you had not put it out; and I did not care sufficiently to
ask for it."

Alice felt in a mesh of perplexity; curious thoughts, and very
unpleasing ones, were beginning to dawn upon her. "But indeed the
bracelet was there when you went to the table," she urged. "I put it
there."

"I can assure you that you labour under a mistake, as to its being
there when I came up from dinner," answered Lady Sarah. "Why do you
ask?"

"Hughes has come to say it is not in the case. She is outside,
waiting."

"Outside, now? Let her come in. What's this about my bracelet,
Hughes?"

"_I_ don't know, my lady. The bracelet is not in its place, so I asked
Miss Seaton for it. She thought your ladyship might have kept it out
yesterday evening."

"I neither touched it nor saw it," said Lady Sarah.

"Then we have had thieves at work," spoke Hughes, decisively; who had
been making up her mind to that as a fact.

"It must be in the box, Hughes," said Alice. "I laid it out on the
table in the back drawing-room; and it is impossible that thieves--as
you phrase it--could have come there."

"Oh yes, it is in the box, no doubt," said Lady Sarah, somewhat
crossly, for she disliked to be troubled, especially in hot weather.
"You have not searched properly, Hughes."

"My lady," answered Hughes, "I can trust my hands and I can trust my
eyes, and they have all four been into every hole and crevice of the
box."

Lady Frances Chenevix laid down the _Morning Post_, and advanced. "Is
the bracelet really lost?"

"It cannot be lost," returned Lady Sarah. "You are sure you put it
out, Alice?"

"I am quite sure of that. It was lying first in the case, and----"

"Yes, it was," interrupted Hughes. "That is its place."

"And was consequently the first that I took out," continued Alice. "I
put it on the table; and the others in a semicircle, nearer to me.
Why, as a proof that it lay there----"

What was Alice going to add? Was she going to adduce as a proof that
Gerard Hope had taken it up and made it a subject of conversation?
Recollection came to her in time; she faltered and abruptly broke off.
But a faint, horrible dread, to which she would not give a shape, came
stealing over her; her face turned white, and she sank on a chair,
trembling visibly.

"Now look at Alice!" uttered Frances Chenevix. "She is going into one
of her agitation fits."

"Do not agitate yourself, Alice," cried Lady Sarah; "that will do no
good. Besides, I feel sure the bracelet is all safe in the case: where
else can it be? Fetch the case, Hughes, and I will look for it
myself."

Hughes whirled out of the room, inwardly resenting the doubt cast on
her eyesight.

"It is so strange," mused Alice, "that you did not see the bracelet
when you came up from dinner."

"It was certainly not there to see," returned Lady Sarah. "Perhaps
you'll now look for yourself, my lady," cried Hughes, returning with
the jewel-box in her hands.

The box was well searched. The bracelet was not there.

"This is very strange, Hughes," exclaimed Lady Sarah.

"It's very ugly also, my lady," answered Hughes, in a lofty tone, "and
I'm thankful to the presiding genuses which rules such things, that I
was not in charge when it happened. Though maybe, if I had been, it
never would have took place, for I can give a guess how it was."

"Then you had better give it," said her mistress, curtly.

"If I do," returned Hughes, "I may offend Miss Seaton."

"No, you will not, Hughes," said Alice. "Say what you please: I have
need to wish this cleared up."

"Well, ma'am, if I may speak my thoughts, I think you must have left
the key about. And we have strange servants in the house, as my lady
knows. There's a kitchen-maid that only entered it when we came up;
and there's the new under-butler."

"Hughes, you are wrong," interrupted Alice. "The servants could not
have touched the box, for the key was never out of my possession, and
you know the lock is a Bramah. I locked the box last night in her
ladyship's presence, and the key was not out of my pocket afterwards,
until you took it from there this morning."

"The key seems to have had nothing to do with it," interposed Frances.
"Alice says she put the diamond bracelet on the table with the rest;
Lady Sarah says when she went to the table after dinner the bracelet
was not there. Were you in the room all the while, Alice?"

"Not quite. Very nearly. But no one could possibly have gone in
without my seeing them. The folding-doors were open."

"It is quite a mystery," cried Lady Sarah.

"It beats conjuring, my lady," said Hughes. "Did any visitor come
upstairs, I wonder?"

"I did hear a visitor's knock while we were at dinner," said Lady
Sarah. "Don't you remember, Fanny You looked up as if you noticed it."

"Did I?" answered Lady Frances, in a careless tone.

At that moment Thomas happened to enter with a letter; and his
mistress put the question to him: Who had knocked?

"Sir George Danvers, my lady," was the ready answer. "When I said the
colonel was at dinner, Sir George began to apologize for calling; but
I explained that you were dining earlier than usual, because of the
opera."

"No one else called?"

"Nobody knocked but Sir George, my lady."

"A covert answer," thought Alice. "But I am glad he is true to
Gerard."

"What an untruth!" thought Lady Frances, as she remembered hearing of
the visit of Alice's sister: "Thomas's memory must be short." In point
of fact, Thomas knew nothing of it.

All the talk--and it was much prolonged--did not tend to throw any
light upon the matter; and Alice, unhappy and ill, retired to her own
room. The agitation had brought on a nervous and violent headache; she
sat down in a low chair, and bent her forehead on her hands. One
belief alone possessed her: that the unfortunate Gerard Hope had
stolen the bracelet. Do as she would, she could not put it out of her
mind: she kept repeating that he was a gentleman, that he was
honourable, that he would never place her in so painful a position.
Common sense replied that the temptation was suddenly laid before him,
and he had confessed his pecuniary difficulties to be great; nay, had
he not wished for this very bracelet, that he might make money----

A knock at the chamber-door. Alice lifted her sickly countenance, and
bade the intruder enter. It was Lady Frances Chenevix.

"I came to---- Alice, how wretched you look! You will torment yourself
into a fever."

"Can you wonder at my looking wretched?" returned Alice. "Place
yourself in my position, Frances: it must appear to Lady Sarah as if
I--I--had made away with the bracelet. I am sure Hughes thinks so."

"Don't you say unorthodox things, Alice. They would rather think that
I had done it, of the two, for I have more use for diamond bracelets
than you."

"It is kind of you to try to cheer me," sighed Alice. "Just the thing
I came to do. And to have a bit of chat with you as well. If you will
let me."

"Of course I will let you."

"I wish to tell you I will not mention that your sister was here last
evening. I promise you I will not."

Alice did not immediately reply. The words and their hushed tone
caused a new trouble, a fresh thought, to arise within her, one which
she had not glanced at. Was it possible that Frances could imagine her
sister to be the----

"Lady Frances Chenevix!" burst forth Alice. "You cannot think it! She!
my sister!--guilty of a despicable theft! Have you forgotten that she
moves in your own position in the world? that our family is scarcely
inferior to yours?"

"Alice, I forgive you for so misjudging me, because you are not
yourself just now. Of course, your sister cannot be suspected; I know
that. But as you did not mention her when they were questioning
Thomas, nor did he, I supposed you had some reason for not wishing her
visit spoken of."

"Believe me, Selina is not the guilty person," returned Alice. "I have
more cause to say so than you think for."

"What do you mean by that?" briskly cried Lady Frances. "You surely
have no clue?"

Alice shook her head, and her companion's eagerness was lulled again.
"It is well that Thomas was forgetful," remarked Frances. "Was it
forgetfulness, Alice; or did you contrive to telegraph to him to be
silent?"

"Thomas only spoke truth, as regards Selina: he did not let her in.
She came but for a minute, to ask me about a private matter, and said
there was no need to tell Lady Sarah she had been."

"Then it is all quite easy; and you and I can keep our own counsel."

Quite easy, possibly, to the mind of Frances Chenevix. But anything
but easy to Alice Dalrymple: for the words of Lady Frances had
introduced an idea more repulsive, more terrifying even, than that of
suspecting Gerard Hope. Her sister acknowledged that she was in need
of money, "a hundred pounds, or so;" nay, Alice had only too good
cause to know that previously; and she had seen her come from the back
room where the jewels lay. Still--_she_ take a bracelet! Selina! It
was preposterous.

Preposterous or not, Alice's torment was doubled. Which of the two had
been the black sheep? One of them it must have been. Instinct,
sisterly relationship, reason, and common sense, all combined to turn
the scale against Gerard. But that there should be a doubt at all was
not pleasant, and Alice started up impulsively and put her bonnet on.

"Where now!" cried Lady Frances.

"I will go to Selina's and ask her--and ask her--if--she saw any
stranger here--any suspicious person in the hall or on the stairs,"
stammered Alice, making the best excuse she could make.

"But you know you were in or about the drawing-rooms all the time, and
no one came into them, suspicious or unsuspicious; so, how will that
aid you?"

"True," murmured Alice. "But it will be a relief to go somewhere or do
something."

Alice found her sister at home; had disturbed her, in fact, at a very,
interesting employment, as the reader may remember. In spite of her
own emotional preoccupation, Selina instantly detected that something
was wrong; for the suspense, illness, and agitation had taken every
vestige of colour from Alice's cheeks and lips.

"What can be the matter, Alice?" was her greeting. "You look just like
a walking ghost."

"I feel that I do," breathed poor Alice, "and I kept my veil down in
the street, lest I might be taken for one and scare the people. A
great misfortune has fallen upon me, Selina. You saw those bracelets
last night, spread out on the table?"

"Yes."

"They were in my charge, and one of them has been abstracted. It was
of great value; gold links, holding diamonds."

"Abstracted!" repeated the elder sister, in both concern and surprise,
but certainly without the smallest indications of a guilty knowledge.
"How? In what manner?"

"It is a mystery. I only left the room when I met you on the
staircase, and when I went upstairs to fetch the letter for you.
Directly after you left, Lady Sarah came up from dinner, and the
bracelet was not there."

"It is incredible, Alice. And no one else entered the room at all, you
say? No servant? no----"

"Not any one," interrupted Alice, determined not to speak of Gerard
Hope.

"Then, child, it is simply impossible," was the calm rejoinder. "It
must have fallen on the ground; or been mislaid in some way."

"It is hopelessly gone. Do you remember seeing it?"

"I do remember seeing amidst the rest a bracelet set with diamonds;
but only on the clasp, I think. It----"

"That was another; that one is safe," interrupted Alice. "The one
missing is of fine gold links studded with brilliants. Did you see
it?"

"Not that I remember. I was there scarcely a minute, for I had only
strolled into the back-room just before you came down. To tell you the
truth, Alice, my mind was too fully occupied with other things, to
take much notice even of jewels. Do not look so perplexed: it will be
all right. Only you and I were in the room, you say; and we could not
take it."

"Oh!" exclaimed Alice, clasping her hands, and lifting her white,
beseeching face to her sister's, "did you take it? In--in sport; or
in---- Oh, surely you were not tempted to take it for anything else?
Forgive me, Selina! you said you had need of money."

"Alice, are we going to have one of your old scenes of excitement?
Strive for calmness. I am sure you do not know what you are implying.
My poor child, I would rather help you to jewels than take them from
you."

"But look at the mystery."

"It does appear to be a mystery, but it will no doubt be cleared up,"
was the reply, calm and equable. "Alice, what could you have been
dreaming of, to suspect me? Have we not grown up together in our
honourable home? You ought to know me, if any one does."

"And you really saw nothing of it!" moaned Alice, with a sobbing of
the breath.

"Indeed I did not. In truth, I did not. If I could help you out of
your perplexity I would thankfully do it. Shall I return with you and
assist you to search for the bracelet?"

"No, thank you. Every search has been made."

"You have not told me what could induce you to suspect me?"

"I think--it was the impossibility of suspecting any one else,"
breathed poor Alice, with hesitation. "And you told me, you know,
Selina, how very badly you wanted money."

"So I do; far more badly than you have any idea of, child. So badly
that the thought crossed me for a moment of applying to that
dreadfully rich fifteenth cousin of papa's in Liverpool, Benjamin
Dalrymple, who estranged himself from us years ago; but I knew he
would only growl out a 'No' if I did apply. But not badly enough,
Alice, to bring me to stealing a diamond bracelet," emphatically
concluded Selina.

Not only was the denial fervent and calm, but Selina's manner and
countenance conveyed the impression of truth. Alice left her,
inexpressibly relieved; though the conviction, that it must have been
Gerard, returned to her in full force. "I wish I could see him!" was
her mental exclamation.

And, for once, fortune favoured her wish. As she was dragging her
weary limbs along, he came right upon her at the corner of a street.

"I am so thankful!" she exclaimed. "I wanted to see you."

"I think you most want to see a doctor, Alice. How ill you look!"

"I have cause," she returned. "That bracelet has been stolen."

"Which bracelet?" asked Gerard.

"That valuable one. The diamond. It was taken from the room."

"Taken when?" he rejoined, looking her full in the face--as a guilty
man would scarcely dare to look.

"Then; or within a few minutes of that time. When Lady Sarah came up
from dinner it was not there. She came up almost immediately."

"Who took it?" he repeated, not yet recovering his surprise.

"I don't know," she faintly said. "It was under my charge. No one else
was there."

"You do not wish me to understand that _you_ are suspected?" he burst
forth with genuine feeling. "Their unjust meanness cannot have gone
that length!"

"I trust not, but I am very unhappy. It is true I left the room when
you did, but I only lingered outside on the stairs, watching--if I may
tell the truth--whether you got out safely, and then I returned to it.
Yet when Lady Sarah came up from dinner it was gone."

"And did no one else go into the room?" he repeated. "Did Selina? I
met her at the door, and sent her upstairs."

"She went in for a minute. But she would not touch the jewels,
Gerard."

"Of course not. She counts as ourselves in this. The bracelet was in
the room when I left it----"

"You are sure of that?" interrupted Alice.

"I am. When I reached the door, I turned round to take a last look at
you, and the diamonds of that particular bracelet gleamed at me from
its place on the table."

"Oh, Gerard! Is this the truth?"

"It is the truth, on my sacred word of honour," he replied, looking at
her agitated face and wondering at her words. "Why else should I say
it? Good-bye, Alice; I cannot stay another moment, for there's
somebody yonder I don't want to meet."

He was off like a shot. But his words and manner had conveyed a
conviction of innocence to the mind of Alice, just as those of her
sister had done. She stood still, looking after him in her dreamy
wonder, and was jostled by the passers-by, mentally asking herself
_which_ of the two was the real delinquent? One of them it must have
been.



CHAPTER XVII.
DRIVEN INTO EXILE.


Colonel Hope was striding about his library with impatient steps. He
wore a wadded dressing-gown, handsome once, but remarkably shabby now,
and he wrapped it closely around him, though the heat of the weather
was intense. But Colonel Hope, large as were his coffers, never spent
upon himself a superfluous farthing, especially in the way of personal
adornment; and Colonel Hope would not have felt too warm cased in
sheepskins, for he had spent the best part of his life in India, and
was, besides, of a chilly nature.

That same afternoon he had been made acquainted with the unpleasant
transaction which had occurred in his house the past evening. The
household termed it a mystery; he, a scandalous robbery: and he had
written forthwith to the nearest chief police-station, demanding that
an officer might be despatched back with the messenger, to investigate
it. So there he was, waiting for their return in impatient
expectation, and occasionally halting before the window, to look out
on the busy London world.

The officer at length came, and was introduced. Lady Sarah joined
them, and she proceeded to give him the outline of the case. A
valuable diamond bracelet, recently presented to Lady Sarah by her
husband, had disappeared in a singular manner. Miss Seaton Dalrymple,
the companion to Lady Sarah, had temporary charge of the jewel-box.
She had brought it down the previous evening, Thursday, this being
Friday, to the back drawing-room, and laid several pairs of bracelets
out on a table, ready for Lady Sarah, who was going to the opera, to
choose which she would wear when she came up from dinner. Lady Sarah
chose a pair, and put, herself, the rest back into the box, which Miss
Seaton then locked, and carried to its place upstairs. In the few
minutes that the bracelets lay on the table, the most valuable one of
all, a diamond, disappeared from it.

"I did not want this to be officially investigated; at least, not so
quickly," observed Lady Sarah to the officer. "The colonel wrote for
you quite against my wish."

"And so have let the thief get clear off, and put up with the loss!"
cried the colonel. "Very fine, my lady."

"You see," added her ladyship, explaining to the officer, "Miss
Dalrymple is a young lady of extremely good family, with whom we are
intimate. She is of feeble constitution, and this affair has so
completely upset her, that I fear she will be laid on a sick bed."

"It won't be my fault, if she is," retorted the colonel, taking the
implied reproach to himself. "She'd be as glad to find it out as
ourselves. The loss of a diamond bracelet, worth two or three hundred
guineas, is not to be hushed up. They are not to be bought every day,
Lady Sarah."

The officer was taken to the back drawing-room, whence the bracelet
disappeared. It presented nothing peculiar. The folding-doors between
it and the front-room stood open, the back window, a large one, looked
out upon some flat leads. He seemed to take in the points of the
double room at a glance: he examined the latches of the two doors
opening to the corridor, he looked next from the front windows and
then from the one at the back. From the front ones ordinary ingress
was impossible; it was nearly as much so from the back one.

The officer leaned out for some time, but could make nothing of a
case; The window was shut in by a balcony that just encircled it, and
was not accessible from the leads underneath. The house was one of a
row, or terrace, of houses, and they all bore the same features: the
leads running along below; the confining balconies to the windows on
this floor above. But the windows could not be gained from the leads
except by means of a ladder; and the balconies were not at all near
each other.

"Nothing to be suspected there," concluded the officer, bringing in
his head and shoulders. "I should like, if you please, ma'am, to see
Miss Dalrymple."

Lady Sarah went for her, and brought her. A delicate girl, with a
transparent skin, looking almost too weak to walk. She was in a
visible tremor, and shook as she stood before the police-officer:
whose name, it turned out, was Pullet.

But he was a man of pleasant manners and speech, and he hastened to
reassure her. "There's nothing to be afraid of, young lady," said he,
with a broad smile. "We are not ogres: though I do believe some timid
folks look upon us as such. Just please to compose yourself; and tell
me as much as you can recollect of this."

"I laid out the bracelets here," began Alice, indicating the table
underneath the window. "The diamond bracelet, the one lost, I placed
just here," she added, touching the middle of the table at the back,
"and the rest I put around it."

"It was worth more than any of the others, I believe, ma'am?"

"Much more," growled the colonel.

The officer nodded to himself and Alice resumed:

"I left the bracelets, and went into the other room and sat down at
one of the front windows----"

"With the intervening doors open, I presume?"

"Wide open, as they are now," said Alice. "The other two doors were
shut. Lady Sarah came up from dinner almost directly; and then, as it
appears, the bracelet was not there."

"You are quite certain of that?"

"I am quite certain," interposed Lady Sarah. "I looked particularly
for that bracelet: not seeing it, I supposed Miss Seaton had not laid
it out. I chose out a pair, put them on, returned the others to the
box, and saw Miss Dalrymple lock it."

"Then your ladyship did not miss the bracelet at that time?"
questioned Mr. Pullet.

"I did not miss it in one sense, because I did not know it had been
put out," she returned. "I saw it was not there."

"But did you not miss it?" he asked of Alice.

"I only reached the table as Lady Sarah was closing the lid of the
box," she answered. "Lady Frances Chenevix had detained me in the
front-room."

"My sister," explained Lady Sarah. "She is staying with me, and had
come up with me from dinner."

"You say you went and sat in the front-room," resumed the officer to
Alice, in a quicker tone than he had used previously; "will you show
me where?"

Alice did not stir; she only turned her head towards the front-room,
and pointed to a chair a little drawn away from the window. "In that
chair," she said. "It stood as it stands now."

The officer looked baffled. "You must have had the back-room full in
view from there; both the door and window."

"Quite so," replied Alice. "If you will sit down in it, you will
perceive that I had an uninterrupted view, and faced the doors of both
rooms."

"I perceive that from here. And you saw no one enter?"

"No one did enter. It was impossible any one could do so without my
observing it. Had either of the doors been only quietly unlatched, I
must have both heard and seen."

"And yet the bracelet vanished," interposed Colonel Hope. "They must
have been confoundedly deep, whoever did it; but thieves are said to
possess sleight of hand."

"They are clever enough, some of them," observed the officer.

"Rascally villains! I should like to know how they accomplished this."

"So should I," significantly returned the officer. "At present it
appears to me incomprehensible."

There was a pause; the officer seemed to muse; and Alice, happening to
look up, saw his eyes stealthily studying her face. It did not tend to
reassure her.

"Your servants are trustworthy; they have lived with you some time?"
resumed Mr. Pullet, not apparently attaching much importance to what
the answer might be.

"Were they all escaped convicts, I don't see that it would throw light
on this," retorted Colonel Hope. "If they came into the room to steal
the bracelet, Miss Dalrymple must have seen them."

"From the time you put out the bracelets, to that of the ladies coming
up from dinner, how long was it?" inquired the officer of Alice.

"I scarcely know," panted she. What with his close looks and his close
questions, her breath was growing short. "I did not take particular
notice of the lapse of time: I was not well yesterday evening."

"Was it half-an-hour?"

"Yes--I dare say--nearly so.

"Miss Dalrymple," he continued in a brisk tone, "will you have any
objection to take an oath before a magistrate--in private, you
know--that no person whatever, except yourself, entered either of
these rooms during that period?"

Had she been requested to go before a magistrate to testify that she,
herself, was the guilty person, it could scarcely have affected her
more. Her cheeks grew white, her lips parted, and her eyes assumed a
beseeching look of terror. Lady Sarah Hope hastily pushed a chair
behind her, and drew her down upon it.

"Really, Alice, you are very foolish to allow yourself to be excited
about nothing," she remonstrated: "you would have fallen on the floor
in another minute. What harm is there in taking an oath privately,
when it is to further the ends of justice?"

The officer's eyes were still keenly fixed on Alice Dalrymple's, and
she cowered visibly beneath his gaze. He was puzzled by her evident
terror. "Will you assure me, on your sacred word, that no person did
enter the room?" he repeated in a low, firm tone; which somehow
carried to her the impression that he believed her to be trifling with
them.

She looked at him; gasped, and looked again; and then she raised her
handkerchief in her hand and wiped her ashy face.

"I think some one did come in," whispered the officer in her ear; "try
and recollect who it was." And Alice fell back in hysterics, and was
taken from the room.

"Miss Dalrymple has been an invalid for years; she is not strong, like
other people," remarked Lady Sarah. "I felt sure we should have a
scene of some kind, and that is why I wished the investigation not to
be gone into hurriedly."

"Don't you think there are good grounds for an investigation, sir?"
testily asked Colonel Hope of the officer.

"I must confess I do think so, colonel," was the reply. "Of course:
you hear, my lady. The difficulty is, how can we obtain the first clue
to the mystery?"

"I do not suppose there will be an insuperable difficulty," observed
Mr. Pullet. "I believe I have obtained one."

"You are a clever fellow, then," cried the colonel, "if you have
obtained it here. What is the clue?"

"Will Lady Sarah allow me to mention it--whatever it may be--without
taking offence?" continued the officer, looking at her ladyship.

She bowed her head, wondering much.

"What's the good of standing upon ceremony?" peevishly put in Colonel
Hope. "Her ladyship will be as glad as we shall be to get back her
bracelet; more glad, one would think. A clue to the thief! Who is it?"

Mr. Pullet smiled. When men have been as long in the police force as
he had, they give every word its duo significance. "I did not say a
clue to the thief, colonel: I said a clue to the mystery."

"Where's the difference?"

"Pardon me, it is perceptible. That the bracelet is gone is a palpable
fact: but by whose hands it went is as yet a mystery."

"What do you suspect?"

"I suspect," returned the officer, lowering his voice, "that Miss
Dalrymple knows how it went."

There was a silence of surprise; on Lady Sarah's part, of indignation.

"Is it possible that you suspect _her?_" demanded Colonel Hope.

"No," said the officer, "I do not suspect herself: she appears not to
be a suspicious person in any way: but I believe she knows who the
delinquent is, and that fear, or some other motive, keeps her silent.
Is she on familiar terms with any of the servants?"

"But you cannot know what you are saying!" interrupted Lady Sarah.
"Familiar with the servants! Miss Dalrymple is a gentlewoman; she has
always moved in good society. Her family is little inferior to mine;
and better--better than the colonel's," concluded her ladyship,
determined to speak out.

"Madam," said the officer, "you must be aware that in an investigation
of this nature we are compelled to put questions which we do not
expect to be answered in the affirmative. Colonel Hope will understand
what I mean, when I say that we call them 'feelers.' I did not expect
to hear that Miss Dalrymple had been on familiar terms with your
servants (though it might have been); but that question, being
disposed of, will lead me to another. I suspect that some one did
enter the room and make free with the bracelet, and that Miss
Dalrymple must have been cognizant of it. If a common thief, or an
absolute stranger, she would have been the first to give the alarm: if
not on too familiar terms with the servants, she would be as little
likely to screen them. So we come to the question--whom could it have
been?"

"May I inquire why you suspect this of Miss Dalrymple?" coldly
demanded Lady Sarah.

"Entirely from her manner; from the agitation she displays."

"Most young ladies, particularly in our class of life, would betray
agitation at being brought face to face with a police-officer," urged
Lady Sarah.

"My lady," he returned, "we are keen, experienced men: and we should
not be fit for the office we hold if we were not. We generally do find
lady witnesses betray uneasiness when first exposed to our questions,
but in a very short time, often in a few moments, it wears off, and
they grow gradually easy. It was not so with Miss Dalrymple. Her
agitation, excessive at first, increased visibly, and it ended as you
saw. I did not think it the agitation of guilt, but I did think it
that of conscious fear. And look at the related facts: that she laid
the bracelets there, never left them, no one came in, and yet the most
valuable one vanished. We have many extraordinary tales brought before
us, but not quite so extraordinary as that."

The colonel nodded approbation. Lady Sarah began to feel
uncomfortable.

"I should like to know whether any one called whilst you were at
dinner," mused the officer. "Can I see the man who attends to the
hall-door?"

"Thomas attends to that," said the colonel, ringing the bell. "There
is a side-door, but that is only for the servants and tradespeople."

"I heard Thomas say that Sir George Danvers called whilst we were at
dinner," observed Lady Sarah. "No one else. And Sir George did not go
upstairs."

The detective smiled. "If he had gone, my lady, it would have made the
case no clearer."

"No," laughed Lady Sarah; "poor old Sir George would be puzzled what
to do with a diamond bracelet."

"Will you tell me," said the officer, wheeling sharply round upon
Thomas when he entered, "who it was that called here yesterday
evening, while your master was at dinner? I do not mean Sir George
Danvers; the other one."

Thomas visibly hesitated: and that was sufficient for the lynx-eyed
officer. "Nobody called but Sir George, sir," he presently said.

The detective stood before the man, staring him full in the face, with
a look of amusement. "Think again, my man," quoth he. "Take your time.
There was some one else."

The colonel fell into an explosion: reproaching the unfortunate Thomas
with having eaten his bread for five years in India, to turn upon the
house and its master at last, and act the part of a deceitful,
conniving wretch, and let in that swindler----

"He is not a swindler, sir," interrupted Thomas.

"Oh no, not a swindler," roared the colonel; "he only steals diamond
bracelets."

"No more than I steal 'em, sir," again spoke Thomas. "He's not
capable, sir. It was Mr. Gerard."

The colonel was struck speechless: his rage vanished, and down he sat
in a chair, staring at Thomas. Lady Sarah coloured with surprise.

"Now, my man," cried the officer, "why could you not have said it was
Mr. Gerard?"

"Because Mr. Gerard asked me not to say he had been, sir. He is not
friendly here, just now; and I promised him I would not. And I am
sorry to have had to break my word."

"Who is Mr. Gerard, pray?"

"He is my nephew," interposed the checkmated colonel. "Gerard Hope."

"But, as Thomas says, he is no swindler," remarked Lady Sarah: "he is
not the thief. You may go, Thomas."

"No, sir," stormed the colonel; "fetch Miss Dalrymple here first. I'll
come to the bottom of this. If he has done it, Lady Sarah, I will
bring him to trial: though he is Gerard Hope."

Alice came back, leaning on the arm of Lady Frances Chenevix; the
latter having been dying with curiosity to come in before.

"So the mystery is out, ma'am," began the colonel, to Miss Dalrymple:
"it appears this gentleman was right, and that somebody did come in.
And that somebody was the rebellious Mr. Gerard Hope."

Alice was prepared for this, for Thomas had told her Mr. Gerard's
visit was known; and she was not so much agitated as before. It was
the fear of its being found out, the having to conceal it which had
troubled her.

"It is not possible that Gerard can have taken the bracelet," said
Lady Sarah.

"No, it is not possible," replied Alice. "And that is why I was
unwilling to mention his having come up."

"What did he come for?" thundered the colonel.

"It was not an intentional visit. I believe he only followed the
impulse of the moment. He saw me at the front window; and Thomas, it
appears, was standing at the door. He ran across, and came up."

"I think you might have said so, Alice," observed Lady Sarah, in a
stiff tone.

"Knowing he had been forbidden the house, I did not wish to bring him
under the colonel's displeasure," was all the excuse Alice could
offer. "It was not my place to tell of it."

"I presume he approached sufficiently near the bracelets to touch
them, had he wished?" observed the officer, who  of course had now
made up his mind upon the business--and upon the thief.

"Y--es," returned Alice, wishing she could have said "No."

"Did you notice the bracelet there, after he was gone?"

"I cannot say I did. I followed him from the room when he left, and
then I went into the front-room, so that I had no opportunity of
observing the bracelets."

"The doubt is solved," was the mental comment of the detective
officer.

The colonel, hot and hasty, sent several servants various ways in
search of Gerard Hope. He was speedily found, and brought; coming in
with a smile on his frank, good-looking face.

"Take him into custody, officer," was the colonel's impetuous command.

"Hands off, Mr. Officer--if you are an officer," cried Gerard, in the
first shock of the surprise, as he glanced at the gentlemanly
appearance of the other, who wore plain clothes. "You shall not touch
me, unless you can show legal authority. This is a shameful trick.
Colonel--excuse me for speaking plainly--as I owe nothing to you, I do
not see that you have any right, or power, to bring about my arrest."

The group would have made a fine study: especially Gerard, his head
thrown back in defiance, and looking angrily at every one.

"Did you hear me?" cried the colonel.

"I must do my duty," said the police-officer, approaching Gerard. "And
for authority--you need not suppose I should act without it."

"Allow me to understand a little, first," remarked Gerard, haughtily
eluding the officer. "What is it for? What is the sum total?"

"Two hundred and fifty pounds," growled the colonel. "But if you are
thinking to compromise it in that way, young sir, you will find
yourself mistaken."

"Oh, no fear," retorted Gerard; "I have not two hundred and fifty
pence. Let me see: it must be Dobbs's. A hundred and sixty--how on
earth do they slide the expenses up? I did it, sir, to oblige a
friend."

"The deuce you did!" echoed the colonel, who understood nothing of the
speech except the last sentence. "I never saw a cooler villain in all
my experience!"

"He was awfully hard up," went on Gerard, "as much so as I am now; and
I did it. I don't deny having done such things on my own account, but
from this particular one I did not benefit a shilling."

His calm assurance, and his words, struck them with consternation. You
see, he and they were at cross-purposes.

"Dobbs said he'd take care I should be put to no inconvenience--and
this comes of it! That's trusting your friends. He vowed to me, this
very week, that he had provided for the bill."

"He thinks it is only an affair of debt!" screamed Frances Chenevix.
"Oh, Gerard what a relief! We thought you were confessing."

"You are not arrested for debt, sir," explained the officer. "You are
apprehended for--in short, it is a case of felony."

"Felony!" echoed Gerard Hope. "Oh, indeed! Could you not make it
murder?" he added, with sarcasm.

"Off with him to Marlborough Street, officer," cried the exasperated
colonel; "I'll come with you, and prefer the charge. He scoffs at it,
does he?"

"Yes, that I do," answered Gerard. "Whatever pitfalls I may have
walked into in the way of debt and carelessness, I have not gone in
for felony."

"You are accused, sir," said the officer, "of stealing a diamond
bracelet."

"Hey!" uttered Gerard, a flash of intelligence rising to his face, as
he glanced at Alice. "I might have guessed it was the bracelet affair,
if I had had my recollection about me."

"Oh, oh," triumphed the colonel, in mocking jocularity. "So you
expected it was the bracelet, did you? We shall have it all out
presently."

"I heard of the bracelet's disappearance," said Gerard. "I met Alice
when she was out this morning, and she told me it was gone."

"Better make no admissions," whispered the officer in his ear. "They
may be used against you."

"Whatever admissions I may make, you are at liberty to use them,"
haughtily returned Gerard. "Is it possible that you do suspect me of
taking the bracelet, uncle?--or is this a joke?"

"Allow me to say a word," panted Alice, stepping forward. "I--I--did
not accuse you, Mr. Hope; I would not have mentioned your name in
connection with it, because I am sure you are innocent; but when it
was discovered that you had called, I could not deny that you were
upstairs while the bracelets lay on the table."

"Of course I was. But the idea of my taking one is absurdly
preposterous," went on Gerard. "Who accuses me?"

"I do," said Colonel Hope.

"Then I am very sorry it is not somebody else, sir, instead of you."

"Explain. Why?"

"Because they should get a kindly taste of my cane across their
shoulders."

"Gerard," interrupted Lady Sarah, "do not treat it in that light way.
If you did take the bracelet, say so, and you shall be forgiven. I am
sure you must have been put to it terribly hard; only confess it, and
the matter shall be hushed up."

"No, it shan't, my lady," cried the colonel. "I will not have him
encouraged--I mean, felony compounded."

"It shall," persisted Lady Sarah, "it shall, indeed. The bracelet was
mine, and I have a right to do as I please. Believe me, Gerard, I will
put up with the loss without a murmur; only confess, and let the worry
be done with."

Gerard Hope looked at her: little trace of shame was there in his
countenance. "Lady Sarah," he asked in a deeply earnest tone, "can you
indeed deem me capable of taking your bracelet?"

"The bracelet was there, sir; and it went; and you can't deny it,"
cried the colonel.

"The bracelet was there, sure enough," assented Gerard. "I held it in
my hand for two or three minutes, and was talking to Alice about it. I
told her I wished it was mine--and I said what I should do with it if
it was."

"Oh, Mr. Hope, pray say no more," involuntarily interrupted Alice.

"What do you want to screen him for?" impetuously broke forth the
colonel, turning upon Alice. "Let him say what he was going to say."

"I do not know why I should not say it," Gerard Hope answered, in his
spirit of bravado, which he disdained to check. "I said I should
pledge it."

"You'll send off to every pawnbroker's in the metropolis, before the
night's over, Mr. Officer," cried the choking colonel, breathless with
rage. "This beats everything."

"But I did not take it any the more for having said that," put in
Gerard, in a graver tone. "The remark might have been made by any one,
from a duke downwards, if reduced to his last shifts, as I am. I said
_if_ it were mine: I did not say I would steal it. Nor did I."

"I saw him put it down again," said Alice, in a calm, steady voice.

"Allow me to speak a word, colonel," resumed Lady Sarah, interrupting
what her husband was about to say. "Gerard--I cannot believe you
guilty; but consider the circumstances. The bracelet was there; you
acknowledge it: Alice left the apartment when you did, and went into
the front-room, and stayed there with the bracelet in view. Yet when I
came up from dinner, it was gone."

The colonel would speak. "So it lies between you and Miss Alice," he
put in. "Perhaps you would like us to believe she appropriated it."

"No," answered Gerard, with a flashing eye. "She cannot be doubted. I
would rather take the guilt upon myself, than allow her to be
suspected. Believe me, Lady Sarah, we are both innocent."

"The bracelet could not have gone without hands to take it, Gerard,"
replied Lady Sarah. "How else do you account for its disappearance?"

"I believe there must be some misapprehension, some great mistake, in
the affair altogether, Lady Sarah. It appears incomprehensible now;
but it will be unravelled."

"Ay, and in double-quick time," wrathfully exclaimed the colonel. "You
must think you are talking to a pack of idiots, Master Gerard. Here
the bracelet was spread temptingly out on a table; you went into the
room, being hard up for money, fingered it, wished for it, and both
you and the bracelet disappeared. Sir"--turning sharply round to Mr.
Pullet--"did a clearer case ever go before a jury!" Gerard Hope bit
his lip. "Be more just, colonel," said he. "Your own brother's son
steal a bracelet!"

"And I am happy my brother is not alive to know it," rejoined the
colonel, in an obstinate tone. "Take him in hand, Mr. Officer: we'll
go to Marlborough Street. I'll just change my coat, and----"

"No, no, you will not," cried Lady Sarah, laying hold of the
dressing-gown and the colonel in it. "You shall not go; or Gerard,
either. Whether he is guilty or not, it must not be brought against
him publicly. He bears your name, colonel, and so do I, and it would
reflect disgrace on us all."

"Perhaps you are made of money, my lady. If so, you may put up with
the loss of a two hundred-and-fifty guinea bracelet. I don't choose to
do so."

"Then, colonel, you will and you must. Sir," added Lady Sarah to the
detective, "we are obliged to you for your attendance and advice, but
it turns out to be a family affair, as you perceive, and we must
decline to prosecute. Besides, Mr. Hope may not be guilty."

Alice rose, and stood before Colonel Hope. "Sir, if this charge were
preferred against your nephew; if it came to trial; I think it would
kill me. You know my unfortunate state of health; the agitation, the
excitement of appearing to give evidence would be--I--I cannot
continue; I cannot speak of it without terror. I _pray_ you, for my
sake, do not prosecute Mr. Gerard."

The colonel was about to storm forth an answer, but her white face,
her heaving throat, had some effect upon him. Perhaps, also, he was
thinking of his dead brother. "He is so doggedly obstinate, you see,
Miss Dalrymple! If he would only confess, and tell where it is,
perhaps I'd let him off."

Alice thought some one else was obstinate. "I do not believe he has
anything to confess," she deliberately said; "I truly believe that he
has not. He could not have taken it, unseen by me: and when we quitted
the room, I feel sure the bracelet was left in it."

"It was," said Gerard. "When I left the room, I left the bracelet in
it, so help me Heaven!"

"And, now, I shall speak," put in Frances Chenevix. "Colonel, if you
press the charge against Gerard, I will go before the magistrate, and
proclaim myself the thief. I vow and protest I will; just to save him.
And you and Sarah could not prosecute _me_, you know."

"_You_ do well to stand up for him!" retorted the colonel. "You would
not be quite so ready to do it, my Lady Fanny, if you knew something I
could tell you."

"Oh yes, I should," returned the young lady, with a vivid blush.

The colonel, beset on all sides, had no choice but to submit; but he
did so with an ill grace, and dashed out of the room with Mr. Pullet
as fiercely as though he had been charging an enemy at full tilt. "The
sentimental apes these women make themselves!" cried he, in his polite
way, when he got Mr. Pullet in private. "Is it not a clear case of
guilt?"

"In my private opinion, it certainly is," was the reply; "though he
carries it off with a high hand. I suppose, colonel, you still wish
the bracelet to be searched for?"

"Search in and out, high and low; search everywhere. The rascal! to
dare even to enter my house in secret!"

"May I be allowed to inquire, colonel, whether the previous
estrangement between you and your nephew had anything to do with money
matters?"

"No," said the colonel, turning more crusty at the thoughts called up.
"I fixed upon a wife for him, and he wouldn't have her; so I turned
him out-of-doors and stopped his allowance."

"Oh," was the only comment of Mr. Pullet.

So Gerard was allowed to go out of the house, a free man.


It was the following week, and Saturday night. Thomas was standing at
Colonel Hope's door without his hat, a pastime he much favoured,
chatting sociably with an acquaintance, when he perceived Gerard come
tearing up the street. Thomas's friend backed against the rails and
the spikes, and Thomas himself stood with the door in his hand, ready
to touch his hair to Mr. Gerard, as he passed. Instead of passing,
however, Gerard cleared the steps at a bound, pulled Thomas with
himself inside, shut the door, and double-locked it.

Thomas was surprised in all ways. Not only at Mr. Hope's coming in at
all, for the colonel had most solemnly interdicted it, but at the
suddenness and strangeness of the action.

"Cleverly done," quoth Gerard, when he could get his breath. "I saw a
shark after me, Thomas, and had to make a bolt for it. Your having
been at the door saved me."

Thomas turned pale. "Mr. Gerard, you have locked it, and I'll put up
the chain, if you order me, but I'm afeard it's going again' the law
to keep out them detectives by force of arms."

"What is the man's head running on now?" returned Gerard. "There are
no detectives after me: it was only a seedy sheriff's officer. Psha,
Thomas! there's no worse crime attaching to me than a slight suspicion
of debt."

"I'm sure I trust not, sir: only master will have his own way."

"Is he at home?"

"He is gone to the opera with my lady. The young ladies are upstairs
alone. Miss Dalrymple has been ill, sir, ever since the bother of the
bracelet, and Lady Frances is staying at home with her."

"I'll go up and see them. If the colonel and my lady are at the opera,
we shall be snug and safe."

"Oh, Mr. Gerard, had you better go up, do you think?" the man ventured
to remark. "If the colonel should come to hear of it----"

"How can he? You are not going to tell him, and I am sure the young
ladies will not. Besides, there's no help for it: I can't go out again
for hours yet. And, Thomas, if any demon should knock and ask for me,
I am gone to--to--an evening party at Putney: went out, you know, by
the other door."

Thomas watched him run up the stairs, and shook his head, thinking
deeply. "One can't help liking him, with it all; though where could
the bracelet have gone to, if he did not take it?"

The drawing-rooms were empty, and Gerard made his way to a small room
that Lady Sarah called her boudoir. There they were: Alice buried in
the pillows of an invalid-chair, and Lady Frances careering about the
room, apparently practising some new mode of waltzing. She did not see
him: Gerard danced up to her, took her hands, and joined in it.

"Oh!" she cried, with a little scream of surprise, "you! Well, I have
stayed at home to some purpose. But how could you think of venturing
within these sacred and forbidden walls? Do you forget that the
colonel threatens us with the terrors of the law, if we suffer you to
enter? You are a bold man, Gerard."

"When the cat's away, the mice can play," said Gerard, treating them
to a pas seul.

"Mr. Hope!" remonstrated Alice, lifting her feeble voice. "How can you
indulge in these light spirits while things are so miserable?"

"Sighing and groaning won't make things better," he answered, sitting
down on a sofa near to Alice. "Here's a seat for you, Fanny; come
along," he added, pulling Frances to his side. "First and foremost,
has anything come to light about that mysterious bracelet?"

"Net yet," sighed Alice. "But I have no rest: I am in hourly fear of
it."

"_Fear!_" uttered Gerard, in astonishment.

Alice winced, and leaned her head upon her hand: she spoke in a low
tone.

"You must understand what I mean. The affair has been productive of so
much pain and annoyance to me, that I wish it could be ignored for
ever."

"Though it left me under a cloud," said Gerard. "You must pardon me,
if I cannot agree with you. My constant hope is, that daylight may
soon be let in upon it. I assure you I have specially mentioned it in
my prayers."

"Pray don't!" reproved Alice.

"I'm sure I have cause to mention it, for it is sending me into exile.
That, and other things."

"It is the guilty only who flee, not the innocent," said Frances. "You
don't mean what you say, Gerard."

"Don't I! There's a certain boat advertised to steam from London
Bridge Wharf tomorrow, wind and weather permitting, and it will steam
me with it. I am compelled to fly my country."

"Be serious, and say what you mean."

"Seriously, then, I am over head and ears in debt. You know my uncle
stopped my allowance in the spring, and sent me--metaphorically
speaking--to the dogs. It got wind; ill news always does get wind; I
had a few liabilities, and they have all come down upon me. But for
this confounded bracelet affair, there's no doubt the colonel would
have settled them, rather than let the name of Hope be dubiously
bandied about by the public; he would have expended his ire in growls,
and then gone and paid up. But that resource is over now; and I go to
take up my abode in some renowned colony for desolate Home subjects,
beyond the pale of British lock-ups. Boulogne, or Calais, or Dieppe,
or Ostend; I don't know which of the four I shall stay in: and there
I may be kept for years."

Neither of the young ladies answered immediately. They saw the facts
were difficult, and that Gerard was only making light of it before
them.

"How shall you live?" questioned Alice. "You must live there as well
as here: you cannot starve."

"I shall just escape the starving. I am possessed of a trifle: enough
to keep me on potatoes and salt. Upon my word, it's little more.
Perhaps I may get some writing to do for the newspapers? Don't you
envy me my prospects?"

"When do you suppose you may return?" inquired Lady Frances. "I ask it
seriously, Gerard."

"I know no more than you, Fanny. I have no expectations but from the
colonel. Should he never relent, I am caged there for good."

"And so you have ventured here to tell us this; and to bid us
good-bye?"

"No; I never thought of venturing here," was the candid answer: "how
could I tell that the Bashaw would be at the opera? A shark set on me
in the street, and I had to run for my life. Thomas happened to be
conveniently at the open door, and I rushed in, and saved myself."

"A shark!" exclaimed Alice, her inexperience taking the words
literally--"a shark in the street!" Frances Chenevix laughed.

"One with sharp eyes and nimble feet, Alice, speeding after me with a
polite invitation from one of the law lords. He is watching outside
now."

"How shall you get away?" wondered Frances.

"If the Bashaw comes home before twelve, Thomas must dispose of me
somewhere in the lower regions: Sunday is a free day for us, thank
goodness. So please to make the most of me, both of you, for it is the
last time you will have the privilege. By the way, Fanny, will you do
me a favour? There used to be a little book of mine in the glass
book-case in the library; my name in it, and a mottled cover: I wish
you would go and find it for me."

Lady Frances left the room with alacrity. Gerard immediately bent over
Alice, and his tone changed.

"I have sent her away on purpose. She'll be half-an-hour rummaging,
for I have not seen the book there for ages. Alice, one word before we
part. You must know that it was for your sake I refused the marriage
proposed to me by my uncle: you will not let me go into banishment
without a hope; a promise of your love to lighten it."

"Oh, Gerard," she eagerly said, "I am so glad you have spoken: I
almost think I must have spoken myself, if you had not. Just look at
me?"

"I am looking at you," he fondly answered.

"Then look at my hectic face; my constantly tired limbs; my sickly
hands: do they not plainly tell you that the topics you would speak of
must be barred topics to me?"

"Why should they be? You will get stronger."

"Never. There is no hope of it. Many years ago, when the illness first
came upon me, the doctors said I might grow better with time, but the
time has come, and come, and come, and--gone; and it has only left me
a more confirmed invalid. To an old age I cannot live; most probably
but a few years. Ask yourself, Gerard, if I am one who ought to marry,
and leave behind a husband to regret me; perhaps children. No, no."

"You are cruel, Alice."

"The cruelty would be, if I selfishly allowed you to talk of love to
me; or, still more selfishly, let you cherish hopes that I would
marry. When you hinted at this the other evening, the evening that
wretched bracelet was lost, I reproached myself with cowardice, in not
answering more plainly than you had spoken. I should have told you,
Gerard, as I tell you now, that nothing, no persuasion from even the
dearest person on earth, shall ever induce me to marry."

"You dislike me. I see that."

"I did not say so," answered Alice, with a glowing cheek. "I think it
very possible that--if I could allow myself ever to dwell on such
things--I should like you very much; perhaps better than I could like
any one."

"And why will you not?" he persuasively uttered.

"Gerard, I have told you. I am too weak and sickly to be other than I
am. It would be a sin, in me, to indulge hopes of it: it would only be
deceiving myself and you. No, Gerard, my love and hopes must lie
elsewhere."

"Where?" he eagerly asked.

Alice pointed upwards. "I am learning to look upon it as my home," she
whispered, "and I must not suffer hindrances to obscure the way. It
will be a better home than even your love, Gerard."

Gerard Hope smiled. "Even than my love: Alice, you like me more than
you admit. Unsay your words, my dearest, and give me hope."

"Do not vex me," she resumed, in a pained tone; "do not seek to turn
me from my duty. I--I--though I scarcely like to speak of these sacred
things, Gerard--_I have put my hand to the plough_: even you cannot
turn me back."

He did not answer; he only played with the hand he held between both
of his.

"Tell me one thing, Gerard: it will be safe. Was not the dispute about
Frances Chenevix?"

He contracted his brow; and nodded.

"And you could refuse her! You must learn to love her, for she would
make you a good wife."

"Much chance there is now of my making a wife of any one!"

"Oh, this will blow over in time: I feel it will. Meanwhile----"

"Meanwhile you destroy every hopeful feeling I thought to take with me
to cheer me in my exile," was his impatient interruption. "I love you
alone, Alice; I have loved you for months, nay years, truly,
fervently; and I know that you must have seen that I did."

"Love me still, Gerard," she softly answered; "but not with the love
you would give to one of earth: the love you will give--I hope--to
Frances Chenevix. Think of me as one rapidly going; soon to be gone."

"Oh, not yet!" he cried in an imploring tone, as if it were to be as
she willed.

"Not just yet: I hope to see you return from exile. Let us say
farewell while we are alone."

She spoke the last sentence hurriedly, for footsteps were heard.
Gerard snatched her to him, and laid his face upon hers.

"What cover did you say the book had?" demanded Frances Chenevix of
Gerard, who was then leaning back on the sofa, apparently waiting for
her. "A mottled? I cannot see one anything like it."

"No? I am sorry to have given you the trouble, Fanny. It has gone,
perhaps, amongst the 'have-beens.'"

"Listen," said Alice, removing her hand from before her face, "I hear
a carriage stopping. Can they have come home?"

Frances and Gerard flew into the next room, whence the street could be
seen. A carriage had stopped, but not at their house. "It is too early
for them yet," said Gerard.

"I am sorry things go so cross just now with you, Gerard," whispered
Lady Frances. "You will be very dull over there."

"Ay; fit to hang myself, if you knew all. And the bracelet may turn
up, and Lady Sarah be sporting it on her arm again, and I never know
that the cloud is off me. No chance that any of you will be at the
trouble of writing to a fellow."

"I will," said Frances. "Whether the bracelet turns up, or not, I will
write to you sometimes, if you like, Gerard, and give you all the
news."

"You are a good girl, Fanny," returned he, in a brighter accent, "and
I will send you my address as soon as I possess one. You are not to
turn proud, mind, and be off the bargain, if you find it to be in a
fish-market, au cinquième."

Frances laughed. "Take care of yourself, Gerard."

He took leave of them, and got out by the aid of Thomas, contriving to
elude the shark. And the next day the friendly steamer conveyed him
into exile on other shores. The prevalent opinion at Colonel Hope's
was, that he paid his expenses with the proceeds of the diamond
bracelet.

Perhaps it was not only the "bother of the bracelet" as Thomas phrased
it, that was rendering Alice Dalrymple so miserable. That, of course,
was bad enough to bear, from its very uncertainty. But she was in
trouble about her sister. Selina's debts had become known to the
world, and the embarrassment into which they had flung her husband.
What with her seven thousand pounds (at least) of debts, and the
liabilities cast on Oscar by the two London seasons, he owed a sum of
ten thousand pounds.

How was he to pay it? He knew not. That he should be a crippled man
for years and years, obliged to live in the nearest possible way,
before the debts and their attendant costs, in the shape of interest
and expenses, could be worked off, he knew. Selina knew it now, and
had the grace to feel repentant. They had shut themselves up at Moat
Grange, were "immured in it," Selina called it, every outlay of every
kind being cut down.

All these things tried Alice; and would try her more as the days went
on. There was no corner on earth to which she could turn for comfort.

In the silent watches of the night, in the broad glare of noonday, one
question was ever tormenting her brain--which of the two had taken the
bracelet? Impossible though it seemed to suspect either of stealing
it, emphatically though they both denied it, common sense told Alice
Dalrymple that one of them it must have been.



CHAPTER XVIII.
AN UNPLEASANT RUMOUR.


Once more a year has gone its round, bringing again to London all the
stir and bustle of another season. It is a lovely afternoon towards
the close of May, and there is some slight commotion in Chenevix
House. Only the commotion of an unexpected arrival. Lady Mary
Cleveland, with her infant child and its nurse, had come up from
Netherleigh on a short visit. The infant, barely four weeks old yet,
was a very small and fretful young gentleman, who had chosen to make
his appearance in the world two good months before the world expected
him.

No one was at home but Lady Grace. She ran down the stairs to welcome
her sister.

"My dear Mary! I am so glad to see you! We did not expect you until
Monday. You are doubly welcome."

"I thought it would make no difference--my coming a few days earlier,
and without warning you," said Lady Mary, as she kissed her elder
sister. "I am not very strong, Grace, and Mr. Forth has been anxious
that I should have a change. This morning was so warm and fine, and I
felt so languid, that he said to me, 'Why not start roday?' So he and
my husband packed me off, whether I would or no. Where's mamma?"

"Mamma is out somewhere. Gone to see the pictures, I think," added
Grace, as Lady Mary turned, of her own accord, into a small, cosy
sitting-room that used to belong to the girls, and which they had
nicknamed "The Hut." "Hamlet is with her."

Lady Mary looked surprised. "Harriet! Are the MacIvors here?"

"Oh dear, yes; staying with us. They came up from Scotland on Monday."

"I am rather sorry I came, then. It may be an inconvenience. And there
won't be a bit of quiet in the house."

"It will be no inconvenience at all, Mary--what are you thinking of?
You are to have your old room, and the baby the room next it. As to
the house, it shall be as quiet as you please. I assure you it is
wonderfully changed, in that respect, since all you girls were at home
together."

"That time seems ages ago," remarked Lady Mary.

"What light-headed, frivolous girls we were--and how life's cares
change us! Fancy our all marrying and leaving you behind!"

"There's Frances also."

"I forgot Frances. She is at Sarah's, I suppose, as usual. She will be
marrying next, no doubt. _I_ always thought she would be one of the
first to marry, though she is the youngest except Adela. And then it
will be your turn, Grace."

Grace slightly shook her head. "It will never be mine, Mary--as I
believe. I have settled down into an old maid--and I feel like one. I
would rather not marry now; at least, I think so. The time has gone by
for it."

"What nonsense you talk! Why, you are only about three or four and
thirty, Grace, though you are the eldest. A woman is not too old to
marry, at that age."

"Well, I am not anxious to marry," replied Grace. "Papa and mamma
should have one of us with them in their old age; and Frances will no
doubt marry. It will, I know, be all as God pleases. Morning by
morning as I get up, I put myself into His good care, and beseech Him
to undertake for me--to use me as He will."

Lady Mary Cleveland smiled. This was all very right, of course--Grace
had always had a religious corner in her heart.

"And now tell me all the news of Netherleigh," began Grace, when her
sister had taken some refreshment, and the small mite of a baby was
asleep, and they were back again in "The Hut," Mary lying on the sofa.
"How is Aunt Margery?"

"You have had this room refurnished!" cried Mary, looking about
her--at the bright carpet and chintz curtains. "Yes, this spring. It
was so very shabby."

"It is very pretty now. Aunt Margery?--oh, she is fairly well. Not too
strong, I fancy. I went to the Court yesterday and had lunch with her.
She is my baby's godmother."

"Is she? The baby's christened, then?"

"As if we should bring him away from home if he were not! You will
laugh at his old-fashioned name, Grace--Thomas."

"Thomas is a very good name. It is your husband's."

"Yes--and not one of his first wife's children bear it. So I thought
it high time this one should."

"Why did your husband not bring you up roday?"

"Because he has two funerals this afternoon--people are sure to die at
the wrong time," added Lady Mary, quaintly. "And the vicar of the next
parish, who is always ready to help him, is away this week."

"And the godfathers?--who are they, Mary?"

"My husband is one of them: he has stood to all his children. The
other is Oscar Dalrymple."

"Oscar Dalrymple?" echoed Grace.

"Yes. He is not a general favourite; but Mr. Cleveland likes him. And
he thinks he has behaved very well in this wretched business of
Selina's. The one we should have preferred to have for godfather, we
did not like to ask--if you can understand that apparent
contradiction, Gracie?"

"And who was that?" asked Grace, looking up.

"Francis Grubb. He has been so very, very kind to us, and we like and
respect him so greatly, above all other men on the face of the earth,
that we quite longed to ask him to stand to the poor little waif. On
the other hand, he is so wealthy and so generous, that my husband
thought it might look like coveting more benefits. And so we fixed on
Mr. Dalrymple."

Grace mused.

"I never use my beautiful pony-carriage but I feel grateful to Mr.
Grubb," went on Lady Mary. "And look how good he has been in regard to
Charles!"

A slight frown at the last word contracted Grace's fair and open brow,
as though the name brought her some sort of discomfort. It was
smoothed away at once.

"Are the Dalrymples at Moat Grange?" she asked.

"Still there; living like hermits, in the most inexpensive manner
possible, with two servants only--or three, I forget which. Two maids,
I think it is; and a man who has to do the garden--as much as one man
can do of it--and feed the two pigs, and milk the cow, and see to the
cocks and hens."

A smile crossed Grace's lips. "Does Selina like that kind of life?"

"Selina has to like it; at any rate, to put up with it, and she does
it with a good grace. It is she who has reduced Oscar to poverty; the
least she can do is to share in his retirement and retrenchments
without murmuring. Oscar is trying to let Moat Grange, but does not
seem able to succeed. His own little place, Knutford, was let for a
term of years when he came into Moat Grange, so they cannot retire to
that."

"It was very sad of Selina to act so," sighed Grace.

"It was unpardonable," corrected Lady Mary. "She knew how limited her
husband's income was. Thoughtlessness runs in the Dalrymple family.
Poor Mrs. Dalrymple wanted to give up the cottage and the income Oscar
allows her, and go out into the world to shift for herself; but Oscar
would not hear of it. We respect him for it. Close he may be, rather
crabbed in temper; but he has a keen sense of honour. It is said his
debts amount to ten thousand pounds."

"Ten thousand pounds!" almost screamed Grace.

"Quite that. Though indeed I should have said Selina's debts, rather
than his. Mr. Grubb's sister, Mary Lynn, comes sometimes to
Netherleigh, to spend a week with Mrs. Dalrymple--who was to have been
Mary's mother-in-law, you know, had things gone straight with Robert.
What a sweet girl she is!"

"I have always thought Mary Lynn that, since I knew her."

"Do you see Alice Dalrymple often?" continued Lady Mary.

"Pretty often, except when the Hopes are in Gloucestershire. Alice
looks very delicate."

"The colonel is not reconciled to Gerard yet?"

"No; and not likely to be. Poor Gerard is somewhere abroad."

"And that mysterious bracelet of Sarah's--I conclude it has never come
to light. Grace," added Lady Mary, dropping her voice, "is it still
thought that Gerard helped himself to it?"

Grace shook her head. "The colonel thinks so. And as long as he does
he will never forgive him, or take him back to favour."

"Well, I don't know that he could be expected to. Poor Gerard If he
did do it, he must have been reduced to some pitiable strait. And my
husband's boy, Charley--do you see much of him, Grace?"

"Oh, we see him now and then," replied Grace, in a tone of constraint.

"Adela has quite taken him up, we find. It is a relief to us, for we
feared she might not; might even, we thought, resent having him in the
house. How kind Mr. Grubb was over that; how considerately
thoughtful!" continued Lady Mary. "None can know how truly good he
is?"

"You are right there," acquiesced Grace. "But he does not always find
his reward."

"How does Adela behave to him now?" questioned Lady Mary, who had
understood the last remark to apply to her sister Adela; and again she
dropped her voice as she asked it.

"Just as usual. There's no improvement in her."

The previous summer, when the marriage of Lady Mary Chenevix took
place with Mr. Cleveland, he, the Rector, came up the day before it,
and stayed at Mr. Grubb's by invitation, to be in readiness for the
morrow's ceremony. Mr. Grubb liked the Rector: he had felt deeply
sorry for him when he was left a widower with so many children, and
was glad he was going to have a new helpmate and they a second mother.
That night, as they sat talking together after dinner--Adela being at
her mother's, deep in all the wedding paraphernalia--the Rector opened
his heart and his sorrows to Mr. Grubb: what a care his children were
to him, and what he should do to place his many sons out in life.
Charles, the second, was chiefly on his mind now. The eldest son,
Harry, was in the army, and getting on well; expected to get his
company soon. Charles, who was then twenty years of age, had been
intended for the Church, but he had never taken to the idea kindly,
and was now evincing a most unconquerable dislike to it. "I cannot
force him into it," said the Rector, sadly. "I must find some other
opening for him. He must go out and begin to earn a living somehow--I
have too many of them at home. I suppose,"--he added, in a hesitating
tone of deprecation--"you could not make room for him in Leadenhall
Street?" But Mr. Grubb told the Rector that he would gladly make room
for him; and, amid the grateful thanks of the Rector, it was decided
upon, there and then, Mr. Grubb being most liberal in his
arrangements. "I must find him a lodging," said the Rector; "perhaps
some family would take him and board him." "No, no; he had better come
here," said Mr. Grubb; "provided Adela makes no objection. Strange
lodgings are the ruin of many a young fellow--and will be of many
more. London lodgings are no true home for young men; they take to
going abroad at night out of sheer loneliness, get exposed to the
temptations of this most dangerous city, teeming with its specious
allurements, and fall helplessly into its evil ways. Your son, Mr.
Cleveland, shall come here and be sheltered from the danger, if my
wife will have him."

Lady Adela apathetically consented, when the proposal was made to her;
the lad might come if he liked, she did not care, was all she
answered. And so Charles Cleveland came: and his father believed and
declared that no man had ever been so good and generous as Mr. Grubb.

A tall, slender, gentlemanly, dark-eyed, very handsome and somewhat
idle young fellow Mr. Charles Cleveland turned out to be. He took well
enough to his duties in the counting-house; far better than he had
taken to Latin and Greek and theology; and Mr. Grubb was as kind to
him as could be; and the more active partner, Mr. Howard, not too
severe.

But at the close of winter, when Charles Cleveland had been some
months located in Grosvenor Square, Lady Adela began to show herself
very foolish. She struck up a flirtation with him. Whether it was done
out of sheer ennui at the prolonged cold weather, or in very
thoughtlessness, or by way of inventing another source of vexation for
her husband, Adela set up a strong flirtation with Charles Cleveland,
and the world was already talking of it and laughing at it. The
matter, absurd though it was in itself, was vexing Grace Chenevix, and
her sister's mention of Charley brought the vexation before her.

"We heard something about Adela last week," spoke Lady Mary,
maintaining her low tone, "not at all creditable to her: but we hope
it is not true."

Grace Chenevix felt her face flush. She assumed that her sister
alluded to what was filling her thoughts, and she would have been glad
to be spared speaking of it.

"It is only nonsense, Mary. It comes of sheer idle thoughtlessness on
Adela's part, nothing more. Rely upon that."

"I am glad to hear you say so, Grace. But--do you ever go there with
her?"

"Go where with her?"

"To Lady Sanely's."

The two sisters gazed at one another. They were at cross-purposes.

"To Lady Sanely's?" exclaimed Grace, in surprise. "I don't go there
with Adela; I don't go there at all. Mamma has scarcely any
acquaintance with Lady Sanely."

"Then how can you speak so confidently?" returned Mary Cleveland.
"Adela may be quite deep in the mischief, for all you know."

"Mary, I do not understand you. You must explain what you mean."

"It is said," whispered Mary, glancing round at the walls, as if to
reassure herself no one else was present, "that Adela has taken to
gambling. That----"

"To gambling?" gasped Grace.

Lady Mary nodded. "It is said that gambling to a very dangerous extent
is carried on at Lady Sanely's and that Adela has been drawn into the
snare, and goes there nightly, and plays deeply. How do you think we
heard this?"

"Heaven knows!" cried poor Grace, feeling a conviction that it might
be true.

"From Hurry; my husband's eldest son. He has got his promotion at
last, as perhaps you know, and is daily expecting orders to embark for
India. He ran down last week to see us, and it was he who mentioned
it. My husband told him to be careful; that it could not be true.
Harry maintained that it was true, and was, moreover, quite well
known. He said he thought Lord Acorn was aware of it--but that Mr.
Grubb was not."

"Papa _cannot_ be aware of it," disputed Grace.

"Don't make too sure of it, Grace. Papa does a little in that line
himself, you know; he may not look upon it in the dreadful light that
you do, or that we people do in a rustic parsonage. Anyway, Harry says
there's no mistake about Adela."

"Mr. Grubb ought to be warned--that he may save her."

"It is what my husband says--that Mr. Grubb ought to be told. I hope
Adela has enough petty sins on her conscience!"

"This the worst of all. She may ruin her husband, rich though he is."

"As poor Robert Dalrymple ruined himself. Scarcely that, however, in
this case, Gracie. Mr. Grubb cannot be brought to ruin blindfold by
his wife: and it strikes me he will take very good care, for her sake
as well as his own, that she does not bring him to it. But he ought to
be told without delay."

Grace Chenevix fell into one of the most unpleasant reveries she had
ever experienced. Adela went often to Lady Sanely's; she knew that.
Another moment, and Lord Acorn came in.

"Papa," cried Lady Mary, after she had greeted her father, "we were
talking of Adela. A rumour reached us at Netherleigh that she was
growing too fond of card-playing. It is carried on to a high extent at
Lady Sanely's house, we are led to believe, and that Adela is often
there, and joining in it."

"Ay, they go in for tolerably high stakes at Lady Sanely's," replied
the earl, in his careless, not to say supercilious manner. "Very silly
of Adela!"

"It is true then, papa!" gasped Grace.

"True enough," he remarked. "I dare say, though, Adela can take care
of her purse-strings, and draw them in when necessary."

"How indifferent papa is!" thought Grace, with a sigh.

She was anything but indifferent. She was thinking what it might be
best to do; how save Adela from further folly. After dinner, when the
carriage came round to take her mother and Harriet to a small early
gathering at old Lady Cust's, and Mary, tired with her day's journey,
had retired for the night, Grace suddenly spoke.

"Mamma, I think, if you have no objection, I will go with you in the
carriage and let it leave me at Adela's. I should like to sit an hour
with her."

"I have no objection," was the answer of Lady Acorn, spoken rather
tartly; as usual; for she lived in a chronic state of dissatisfaction
with her daughter Adela. "Go, if you like. And just give her a hint to
mend her manners, Grace, with regard to that boy."

"_That_ is pure idle pastime," was the mental comment of Grace
Chenevix. "This other may be worse."



CHAPTER XIX.
FLIRTATION.


They stood together in the dusk of the evening, the tempter and the
deceived. Really it is not too much so to designate them. She, one of
the fairest of earth's fair daughters, leaned in a listless attitude
against the window-frame, looking out on the square. Perhaps,
listening: for a woman of misery, with three children round her, was
singing her doleful ditty there, and gazing up at the noble mansion as
if she hoped some poor mite might be dropped to her from its
superfluity of wealth. The children were thin and haggard, with that
sharp, pinching look of _age_ in their faces so unsuited to childhood,
and which never comes but from famine and long-continued wretchedness.
The mother--she was little more than a girl--made a halt opposite the
window: her eye had caught the beautiful face enshrined there amidst
the curtains, and she sang out louder and more piteously than ever.

"Now I think that's real--no imposture--none of those made-up cases
that the Mendicity Society look up and expose."

The remark came from a young man, who was likewise looking out, a very
good-looking fellow of prepossessing countenance. There was an air of
tenderness in his manner as he spoke, implying tenderness of heart for
her who stood by him. And the Lady Adela roused herself, and
carelessly asked, "What's real?" For her mind and thoughts had been
dwelling on invisible and absent things, and the poverty and the
singing had remained to her as though they had not been.

"That poor wretch there, and those famished children. That one--the
boy--looks as if he had not tasted food for a week. See how he fixes
his eyes up here! I am sure they are famished."

"Oh, Charles, don't talk so! Street beggars ought not to be allowed to
bring the sight of their misery here. It makes one shiver. They should
confine themselves to the City, and similar low parts."

"What's that about the City," inquired Mr. Grubb, who had entered and
caught the last words; while the young man, Charley Cleveland, moving
listlessly towards a distant window, stealthily threw a shilling from
it and then quitted the room.

"Street beggars," answered Adela. "I say they ought not to be allowed
out of the City, exposing their rags and their wretchedness to us! It
is too bad."

"The City is much obliged to you," said her husband, in a marked
manner, as if implying that he belonged to it. And the Lady Adela
shrugged her shoulders in very French fashion, the gesture betraying
contempt for the speaker and his words.

"Adela," he said, quietly drawing her to a sofa and sitting down
beside her, "I have long wanted a few minutes' serious talk with you;
and I have put it off from day to day, for the subject is full of pain
to me, as it ought to be to you. Of shame, I had almost said."

She turned her lovely eyes upon him. He could see the hard and defiant
expression they took, even in the twilight gloom.

"You may spare yourself the trouble of a lecture--if that is what you
intend. It will do me no good."

"Whether it will do you good or not, you must hear it. Your
behaviour----"

She interrupted him, humming a merry tune.

"Adela, listen to me," he resumed; and perhaps it was the first time
she had heard from him so peremptory a tone. "Your behaviour is not
what it ought to be; it is not wise or seemly; and you must alter it."

"So you have told me ever since we were married, all the four years
and odd months," she said, with a half-playful, half-mocking laugh.

"Of your behaviour to me I have told you so repeatedly and uselessly
that I have now dropped the subject for ever. What I would speak of is
your behaviour to young Cleveland. The world is beginning to notice
it; and, Adela, what is objectionable in it _shall_ be discontinued."

"There is nothing objectionable--except in your imagination."

"There is: and you know it, Adela. You may treat me as you like; I
cannot, unfortunately, alter that; but I will guard _you_ from being
talked about. As to Cleveland----"

"Charley," she broke in, turning her head to look for him; "Charley,
do you hear my husband? He would like to---- I thought Charley was
here."

"Had he been here, I should not have spoken," was Mr. Grubb's reply,
signs of mortification on his refined and sensitive lips.

"Is your rôle going to be that of a jealous husband at last?"

"No," he replied. "You have striven, with unnecessary endeavour, to
deaden the love for you which once filled my heart; if that love has
not turned to gall and bitterness, it is not your fault. This is not a
case for jealousy, Adela. You must know that. _I_ jealous of a
schoolboy!"

"What is it a case of, then?"

"Your fair reputation. That shall be cared for in the eyes of the
world."

"There is no necessity for your caring for it," she retorted. "My
reputation--and your honour--are perfectly safe in my own keeping.
There lives not a man who could bring disgrace upon me. You are out of
your senses, Mr. Grubb."

"That my honour is safe, I do not doubt," he returned, drawing himself
slightly up. "Forgive me, if my words could have borne any other
construction. I speak only of your reputation for folly--frivolity.
The world is laughing at you: and I do not choose that it shall
laugh."

A shade of annoyance flashed into her pretty face. "The world is
nothing to me. It had better laugh at itself."

"Perfectly true. But I must take care it does not laugh at you. Your
mother spoke to me roday about Charles Cleveland. She called you a
child, Adela; and she said, if I did not interfere and put a stop to
it, she should."

"Let my mother mind her own affairs," was Adela's answer, full of
resentment. "She can dictate to the two who are left to her, but not
to the rest of us. When we married, we passed out of her control."

"Surely not. Your mother is always your mother."

"Pray where did you see her? Has it come to secret meetings, in which
my conduct is discussed?"

"Nonsense, Adela! Lady Acorn came to see me in Leadenhall Street, but
upon other matters."

"And so you got up a nice little mare's-nest between you! That I was
too fond of Charles Cleveland, and ought to be put in irons for it!"

"That you were too _free_ with him, Adela," corrected her husband.
"That your manners with him, chiefly in this your own house, were
losing that reserve which ought to temper them, though he is but a
boy. It was she who said the world was laughing at you."

"And what did you say?" asked Lady Adela, with an ill-concealed sneer.

"I said nothing," he replied, a sort of sadness in his tone. "I could
have said that the subject had for some little time been to me a
source of annoyance; and I might have added that if I had refrained
from remonstrance, it was because remonstrance from me to my wife had
ever been worse than useless."

"That's true enough, sir. Then why attempt it now?"

"For your own sake. And in years to come, when time shall have brought
to you sense and feeling, you will thank me for being more careful of
your fair fame than you seem inclined to be yourself. I do not wish to
pursue the subject, Adela; let the hint I have given you avail. Be
more circumspect in your manners to young Cleveland. You know
perfectly well that you are pursuing this senseless flirtation with
him for one sole end--to vex me: you really care no more for him than
for the wind that passes. But society, you see, not being behind the
scenes, may be apt to attribute other motives to you. Change your
tactics; _be true to yourself_; and then----"

"And then? Well?"

"I shall not be called upon to interpose my authority. To do so would
be against my inclination and Charles Cleveland's interests."

"_Your_ authority?" she retorted, in a blaze of scorn--for if there
was one thing that put out Lady Adela more than another it was to be
lectured: and she certainly did not like to be told that the world was
laughing at her. "Have I ever altered my manners for any authority you
could bring to bear?--do you suppose that I shall alter them now? Go
and preach to your people in the City, if you must preach somewhere."

"Lady Grace Chenevix," interrupted the groom of the chambers, throwing
wide the door.

"You are all in the dark!" exclaimed Grace. "I took the chance of
finding you at home, Adela. Mamma and Harriet are gone to the Dowager
Cust's."

"I am glad you came, Grace," said Mr. Grubb, ringing for lights. "I
wanted to look in at the club for half-an-hour: you will stay with
Lady Adela."

"Grace," to his sister-in-law, "_Lady_ Adela" to his wife: what did
that tell? Anyway, it told that he had been provoked almost beyond
bearing.

"Mary came up this afternoon, taking us by surprise," began Grace, as
Mr. Grubb left the room, and the man retired after lighting the
wax-lights. "She does not seem strong; and the baby is such a poor
little thing----"

"Pray are you a party to this conspiracy between my mother and him?"
unceremoniously interposed Adela, with a motion of her hand towards
the door by which her husband had disappeared, to indicate whom she
meant; and the words were the first she had condescended to speak to
her sister since her entrance.

"Conspiracy! I don't know of any," answered Grace, wondering what was
coming.

"Had you been a few moments earlier, you would have found him holding
forth about Charley Cleveland. And he said my mother went to him in
the City roday to put him up to it."

"Oh, if you mean about Charley Cleveland, I was going to speak to you
of it myself. You are getting quite absurd about him, Adela. Or he is
about you. It was said at Brookes's the other day that Charley
Cleveland was losing his head for Lady Adela Grubb."

Lady Adela laughed. "Who said it, Gracie?"

"Oh, I don't know; a lot of them were together. Captain Foster, and
John Cust, and Lord Deerham, and Booby Charteris, and others. It seems
Charley was a little overcome the previous evening. He and his brother
had been dining with the Guards, very freely, and afterwards they went
to--I forget the place--somewhere that young men go to of an evening,
and Charley finished himself up with brandy and cigars; and then he
managed to hiccup out, that the only angel living upon earth was Lady
Adela Grubb."

"And that's all!" she said lightly--"that Charley called me an angel!
I told him it was a mare's-nest."

"No; it is not all," quickly answered Lady Grace. "It might be all, if
it were not for your folly. I have seen Charley hold your hand in his;
I have seen him kiss it; I have seen him bend forward and whisper to
you until his hair has all but touched yours. It is very bad, Adela."

"It is very amusing; it serves to pass away the time," laughed Adela.
"And, pray, Grace, how came you to know so much of what they say and
do at their clubs?"

"That's one of the annoying parts of it. Colonel Hope heard it; he was
present. He went home, shocked and scared, to tell Sarah; and Sarah
came yesterday morning and told mamma."

"Shocked and scared too? I should like to have seen Sarah's long
face!"

"You should have seen mamma's. No wonder she went down to your
husband. But that is not all yet, Adela. One of them, I think it
was Lord Deerham--whoever it was, had dined here a night or two
before--told the others that you flirted with Charley desperately
before your husband's eyes, and that while you showed favour to one
you snubbed the other."

"And it's true," coolly avowed Adela.. "I like Charley Cleveland, and
I _choose_ to flirt with him. But if you strait-coated people think I
have any wrong liking for him, you err woefully. Grace, all this is
but idle talk. I shall never compromise myself by so much as a
hazardous word, for Charley, or for any one else. I have just told him
so."

"Pleasant! the necessity for such an assertion to one's lord and
master!"

"I never loved any one in my life; and I'm sure I am not going to
begin now. Not even Captain Stanley--though I did have a passing
liking for him. Perhaps you will be surprised to hear, Grace, that
there were odd moments in my life during the first year or two after
my marriage, when I was nearer loving Francis Grubb than I had been of
loving any one--only that I had set out by steeling my heart against
him."

Grace gazed at her sister wonderingly.

"But that's all past: and of love I feel none for any mortal man, and
don't mean to feel it. But I like amusement--and I am amusing myself
with Charley Cleveland."

"You have no right to do it, Adela. What is but sport to you, as it
seems, may be death to him."

"That is his look-out," laughed Adela. "My private belief is, if you
care to know it, that my husband was thinking as much of Charley as of
me when he took upon himself to lecture me just now. Of the
consequences to Charley's vulnerable and boyish heart; though he did
put it upon me and on what the world might say."

"How grievously you must try your husband!" exclaimed Grace.

"He's used to it."

"You provoking woman! You'll never go to heaven, I should say, if only
for your treatment of him. Adela, you made your vows before Heaven to
love and honour him: how do you fulfil them?"

"I heard the other day you had turned Methodist: Bessy Cust came in
and said it. I am sorry I contradicted it," cried the provoking Adela.

"You cannot set the world at defiance."

"I don't mean to. As to Charley dancing attendance on me, or kissing
my hand--what harm is there in it?"

"That may be according to one's own notion of 'harm.' Even the most
trifling approach to flirting is entirely unseemly in a married
woman."

"Are you quite a competent judge--not being married yourself?"
rejoined Adela. "See here, Grace--if you never flirt more with any one
than Charley flirts with me, you won't hurt."

"I am afraid he has learnt to _love_ you, Adela."

"Then more silly, he, for his pains. Why, I am oceans of years older
than Charley is. He ought to think of me as his grandmother."

"_Can't_ you be serious, child? I want you to see the thing in its
proper--or, rather, improper--light. When it comes to a man, other
than your husband, kissing you, it is time----

"Who said Charley kissed me?" retorted Adela, in a blaze of anger. "He
has never done such a thing--never dared to attempt it. I said he
kissed my hand sometimes--and then it has generally had a glove upon
it."

"Well, well, whatever the nonsense may be, you must give it up, Adela.
There can be no objection on your part to doing so, as you say you do
not care for Charles Cleveland."

"Incorrect, Lady Grace. I do care for him; I enjoy his friendship
amazingly. What I said was, that I did not love him. That would be too
absurd."

"Call it flirtation, don't call it friendship," wrathfully retorted
Grace. "And he must be devoid of brains as a calf, to attach himself
to you, if he has done it. I hope nothing of this will reach the ears
of Mary or of his father. They would not believe him capable of such
folly. From this hour, Adela, you must give it up."

"Just what Mr. Grubb has been good enough to tell me; but 'must' is a
word I do not understand," lightly rejoined Adela. "Neither you nor he
will make me break off my flirtation with Charles Cleveland. I shall
go into it all the more to spite you."

"If I were Francis Grubb I should beat you, Adela."

"If!" laughingly echoed Lady Adela. "If you were Francis Grubb, you
would do as he does. Why, Gracie, girl, he loves me passionately
still, for all his assumed indifference. Do you think there are never
moments when he betrays it? He is jealous of Charley; that's what he
is, in spite of his dignified denial--and oh, the fun it is to me to
have made him so!"

"Adela," said Grace, sadly, "does it never occur to you that this
behaviour may tire your husband out?--that his love and his patience
may give way at last?"

"I wish they would!" cried the provoking girl, little seeing or
caring, in her reckless humour, what the wish might imply. "I wish he
would go his way and let me go mine, and give me hundreds of thousands
a-year for my own share. He should have the dull rooms in the house
and I the bright ones, and we would only meet at dinner on state
occasions, when the world and his wife came to us."

Lady Grace felt downright angry. She wondered whether Adela spoke in
her heart's true sincerity.

"There's no fear of it, Gracie: don't look at me like that. My husband
would no more part company with me, whatsoever I might do, than he
would part with his soul. He loves me too well."

"It is a positive disgrace to have one's married sister's name coupled
with a flirtation," grumbled Grace: for the Lady Acorn, whatever might
be her failings as to tongue and temper, had brought her daughters up
to the purest and best of notions. "That reverend man, Dr. Short--I
cannot think how it came to _his_ ears--hinted at it roday in talking
with mamma when they met at the picture-galleries. He----"

"There it is!" shouted Adela, in glee; "the murder's out! So it is you
who have been putting mamma up to complain to Mr. Grubb! You are
setting your cap at that sanctimonious Dr. Short, and you fear he
won't see it if you have a naughty sister given to flirting. Oh,
Gracie!"

"You are wrong; you know you are wrong. How frivolous you are, Adela!
Dr. Short is going to be married to Miss Greatlands."

"Well, there's something of the sort in the wind, I know. If it's not
the Reverend Dr. Short, it's the Reverend Dr. Long; so don't shake
your head at me, Gracie."

Dancing across the room, Adela rang the bell. "My carriage," she said
to the servant.

"It has been waiting some time, my lady."

"Where are you going?" asked Grace, surprised:

"To Lady Sanely's."

"To Lady Sanely's," echoed the elder sister. Then, after a pause,
"Your husband did not know you were going there?"

"Do you suppose I tell him of my engagements? What next, I wonder?"

"Oh, Adela!" uttered Grace, rising from her seat--and there was a
piercing sound of grief in her tone, deeper than any which had
characterized it throughout the interview--"do not say you are
going _there!_ Another rumour is rife about you; worse than that
half-nonsensical one about Charles Cleveland; one likely to have a far
graver effect on your welfare and happiness."

"I--I do not understand," repeated Adela; but her tone, in spite of
its display of haughtiness, betrayed that she did understand, and it
struck terror to the heart of her sister. "I think you are all beside
yourselves roday!"

Grace, greatly agitated, clasped the other's arm as she was turning
away. "It is said, Adela--I have heard it, and papa has confirmed
it--it is rumoured that you have become addicted to a--a--dangerous
vice. Oh, forgive me, Adela! Is it so? You shall not go until you have
answered me."

The rich colour in Lady Adela's cheeks had faded to paleness; her eyes
dropped; she could not look her sister in the face. From this, her
manner of receiving the accusation, it might be seen how much more
real was this trouble, than the half-nonsensical one, as Grace had
called it, connected with Charles Cleveland.

"Vice!" she vaguely repeated.

"That of gaming," spoke Grace, her own voice unsteady in its deep
emotion. "That you play deeply, night by night, at Lady Sanely's."

"What strong words you use!" gasped Adela, resentfully. "Vice! Just
because I may take a hand at cards now and then!"

"Oh, my poor sister, my dear sister, you do not know what it may lead
to!" pleaded Grace. "You shall not go forth to Lady Sanely's this
night--do not! do not! Break through this dreadful chain at
once--before it be too late."

Angry at hearing this amusement of hers had become known at home,
vexed and embarrassed at being pressed, almost by force, to stay away
from its fascinations, Adela flung her sister's arm from her and moved
forward with an impatient gesture of passion. They were near a table,
and her own hand, or that of Grace, neither well knew which, caught in
a beautiful inkstand, and turned it over. The ink was scattered on the
light carpet: an ugly, dark blotch.

What cared Adela? If the costly carpet was spoiled, _his_ money might
purchase another. She moved on to her dressing-room, caused her maid,
waiting there, to envelop her in her evening mantle, and then swept
down to her carriage.

That Lady Adela did not care for Charles Cleveland was perfectly true.
She would have laughed at the very idea; she regarded him but as a
pleasant-mannered boy: nevertheless, partly to while away the time,
which sometimes hung heavily on her hands, partly because she hoped it
would vex her husband, whom she but lived to annoy, she had plunged
into the flirtation.

It was something more on Charley's part. For, while Adela cared not
for him, beyond the passing amusement of the moment, would not have
given to him a regretful thought had he suddenly been removed from her
sight for ever, he had grown to love her to idolatry. It is a strong
expression, but in this case justifiable. Almost as the sun is to the
world, bringing to it light and heat, life to flowers, perfection to
the corn, so had Lady Adela become to him. In her presence he could
alone be said to live; his heart then was at rest, feeding on its own
fulness of happiness, and there he could thankfully have lived and
died, and never asked for change: when obliged to be absent from her,
a miserable void was his, a feverish yearning for the hour that should
bring him to her again. Surely this was most reprehensible on his
part--to have become attached, in this senseless manner, to a married
woman! Reprehensible? Hear what one says of another love; he who knew
so much about love himself--Lord Byron:


     "Why did she love him? Curious fool, be still:
      Is human love the growth of human will?"


Could the fault have lain with Lady Adela? Most undoubtedly. She, not
casting a thought to the effect it might have upon his heart, and
secure in her own supreme indifference, purposely threw out the bait
of her beauty and her manifold attractions, and so led him on to
love--a love as true and impassioned as was ever felt by man. What did
he promise himself by it?--what did he think could come of it?
Nothing. He was not capable of cherishing towards her a dishonourable
thought, he had never addressed to her a disloyal word. It was not in
the nature of Charles Cleveland to do anything of the kind; he was
single-minded, single-hearted, chivalrously honourable. He thought of
her as being all that was good and beautiful: to him she seemed to be
without fault, sweet and pure as an angel. To conceal his deep love
for her was beyond his power; eye, tone, manner, tacitly and
unconsciously betrayed it. And Lady Adela, to give her her due, did
not encourage him to more.

And so, while poor Charley was living on in his fool's paradise,
wishing for nothing, looking for nothing, beyond the exquisite sense
of bliss her daily presence brought him, supremely content could he
have lived on it for ever, Lady Adela already found the affair was
growing rather monotonous. The chances were that had her husband and
Grace not spoken to her, she would very speedily have thrown off
Charley and his allegiance. Adela had no special pursuit whence to
draw daily satisfaction. No home (the French would better express it
by the word ménage) to keep up and contrive for; the hand of wealth
was at work, and all was provided for her to satiety; she had no
children to train and love; she had no husband whom it was a delight
to her to yield to, to please and cherish: worse than all, she had
(let us say _as yet_) no sense of responsibility to a higher Being,
for time and talents wasted.

A woman cannot be truly happy (or a man either) unless she possesses
some aim in life, some daily source of occupation, be it work or be it
pleasure, to contrive, and act, and live for. Without it she becomes a
vapid, weary, discontented being, full of vague longings for she knows
not what. One of two results is pretty sure to follow--mischief or
misery. Lady Adela was too young and pretty to be miserable, therefore
she turned to mischief.

Chance brought her an introduction to the Countess of Sanely, with
whom the Chenevix family had no previous acquaintance, and who had a
reputation for loving high card-playing and for encouraging it at her
house: she and Adela grew intimate, and Adela was drawn into the
disastrous pursuit. At first she liked it well enough; it was
fascinating, it was new: and now, when perhaps she was beginning to be
a little afraid and would fain have retreated, she did not see her way
clear to do so: for she owed money that she could not pay.

Lady Grace Chenevix, unceremoniously left alone in her sister's
drawing-room, rang the bell. It was to tell them to attend to the ink.
The carriage was not coming for her till eleven o'clock, and it was
now but half-past ten. Hers were not very pleasant thoughts with which
to get through the solitary half-hour. Mr. Grubb came in, and inquired
for his wife. Grace said she had gone out.

"What, and left you alone! Where's she gone to?"

"To Lady Sanely's."

"Who are these Sanelys, Grace?" he inquired as he sat down. "Adela
passes four or five nights a-week there. The other evening I took up
my hat to accompany her, and she would not have it. What sort of
people are they?"

"Four or five nights a-week," mechanically repeated Grace, passing
over his question. "And at what time does she get home?"

"At all hours. Sometimes very late."

Grace sat communing with herself. Should she impart this matter of
uneasiness to Mr. Grubb, or should she be silent, and let things take
their chance; which of the two courses would be more conducive to the
interests of Adela; for she was indeed most anxious for her. She
looked up at him, at his noble countenance, betraying commanding sense
and intellect--surely to impart the truth to such a man was to make a
confidant of one able to do for her sister all that could be done. Mr.
Cleveland and Mary both said he ought to hear it without delay. And
Grace's resolution was taken.

"Mr. Grubb," she said, her voice somewhat unsteady, "Adela is your
wife and my sister; we have both, therefore, her true welfare at
heart. I have been deliberating whether I should speak to you upon a
subject which--which--gives me uneasiness, and I believe I ought to do
so."

"Stay, Grace," he interrupted. "If it is--about--Cleveland, I would
rather not enter upon it. Lady Acorn spoke to me roday, and I have
given a hint to Adela."

"Oh no, it is not that. She goes on in a silly way with him, but
there's no harm in it, only thoughtlessness. I am _sure_ of it."

He nodded his head, in acquiescence, and began pacing the room.

"It is of her intimacy with Lady Sanely that I would speak; these
frequent visits there. Do you know what they say?"

"No," he replied, assuming great indifference, his thoughts apparently
directed to placing his feet on one particular portion of the pattern
of the carpet, and to nothing else.

"They say--they do say"--Grace faltered, hesitated: she hated to do
this, and the question flashed across her, could she still avoid it?

"Say what?" said Mr. Grubb, carelessly.

"That play to an incredible extent is carried on there. And that Adela
has been induced to join in it."

His assumed indifference was forgotten now, and the carpet might have
been patternless for all he knew of it. He had stopped right under the
chandelier, its flood of light illumining his countenance as he looked
long and hard at Grace, as one in a maze.

Much that had been inexplicable in his wife's conduct for some little
time past was rendered clear now. Her feverish restlessness on the
evenings she was going to Lady Sanely's; her coming home at all hours,
jaded, sick, out of spirits, yet unable to sleep; her extraordinary
demands for money, latterly to an extent which had puzzled and almost
terrified him. But he had never yet refused it to her.

"It must be put a stop to somehow," said Grace.

"It must," he answered, resuming his walk, and drawing a deep breath.
"What's all this wet on the carpet?"

"An accident this evening. Some ink was thrown down: my fault, I
believe. At any cost, any sacrifice," continued Lady Grace. "If the
habit should get hold of Adela, there is nothing but unhappiness
before her--perhaps ruin."

"Any cost, any sacrifice, that I can make, shall be made," repeated
Mr. Grubb. "But Adela will listen to no remonstrance from me. You know
that, Grace."

"You must--stop the supplies," suggested Grace, dropping her voice to
a confidential whisper. "Has she had much of late?"

"Yes."

"More than her allowance? Perhaps not, as that is so liberal."

"Her allowance!" half laughed her husband, not a happy laugh. "It has
been, to what she has drawn of me, as a silver coin in a purse of
gold."

Grace clasped her hands. "And you let her have it! Did you suspect
nothing?"

"Not of this nature. I suspected that she might be buying costly
things--after the reckless fashion of Selina Dalrymple. Or else
that--forgive me, Grace, I would rather not say more."

"Nay," said Grace, rising to put her hand on his arm and meeting his
earnest glance, "let there be entire confidence between us; keep
nothing back."

"Well, Grace, I fancied she might be lending it to your mother."

"No, no; my mother has not borrowed from her lately. Oh, how can we
save her! This is an insinuating vice that gains upon its votaries,
they say, like the eating of opium."

"Your carriage, my lady," interrupted a servant, entering the room.
And Grace caught up her mantle.

"Must you go, Grace? It is scarcely eleven."

"Yes. If mamma does not have the carriage to the minute, she won't
cease scolding for days, and it must take me home first. Dear Mr.
Grubb, turn this over in your mind," she whispered, "and see what you
can do. Use your influence with her, and be firm."

"My influence, did you say?" And there was a touch of sarcasm in his
tone, mingled with a grief painful to hear. "What has my influence
with her ever been, Grace?"

"I know, I know," she cried, wringing his hand, and turning from him
towards the stairs, that he might not see the tears gathering in her
eyes. Tears of sympathy with his wrongs, and partly, perhaps, of
regret: for she was thinking of that curious misapprehension, years
ago, when she had been led to believe that it was herself who was his
chosen bride. "I would not have treated him so," her heart murmured;
"I would have made his life a happy one, as he deserves it should be."

He gained upon her fast steps; and, drawing her arm within his, led
her downstairs, and placed her in the carriage.

"Dear Mr. Grubb," she whispered, as he clasped her hands, "do not let
what I have been obliged to say render you harsh with poor Adela.
Different days may be in store for you both; she may yet be the mother
of your children, when happiness in each other would surely follow. Do
not be unkind to her."

"Unkind to Adela No, Grace. Separation, rather than unkindness."

"Separation!" gasped Grace, the ominous word affrighting her.

"I have thought sometimes that it may come to it. A man cannot
patiently endure contumely for ever, Grace."

He withdrew his hand from hers, and turned back into his desolate
home. Grace sank back in the carriage, with a mental prayer.

"God keep him; God comfort him, and help him to bear!"



CHAPTER XX.
A PRESENT OF COFFEE.


It was two o'clock when Lady Adela returned home. She ran lightly
upstairs and into the drawing-room, throwing off her mantle as she
came in. A tray of refreshments stood on a side-table.

Mr. Grubb rose from his chair. "It is very late, Adela."

"Late! Not at all. I wish to _goodness_ you wouldn't sit up for me!"

She went to the table and stood looking at the decanters, as if
deliberating what she should take, murmuring something about being
"frightfully thirsty."

"What shall I give you?" he asked.

"Nothing," was the ungracious answer, most ungraciously spoken. And
she poured out a tumbler of weak sherry-and-water, and drank it; a
second, and drank that also. Then, without taking any notice of him,
she went up to her chamber. Anything more pointedly, stingingly
contemptuous than her behaviour to her husband now, and for some time
past, has never been exhibited by mortal woman.

Mr. Grubb rang for the servants to put out the wax-lights, and went up
in his turn. There was no sleep for him that night, whatever there
might have been for her. He knew not how to act, how to arrest this
new pursuit of hers; he scarcely knew even how to open the matter to
her. She appeared to be asleep when he rose in the morning and passed
into his dressing-room. She herself soon afforded him the opportunity.

He was seated at his solitary breakfast, a meal his wife rarely
condescended to take with him, when her maid entered, bringing a
message from her lady--that she wished to see him before he left for
the City. Master Charley Cleveland, usually his breakfast companion,
had not made his appearance at home since the previous night.

"Is your lady up, Darvy?"

"Oh dear yes, sir, and at breakfast in her dressing-room."

He went up to it. How very lovely she looked, sitting there at her
coffee, in her embroidered white dress and pink ribbons, and the
delicate lace cap shading her sweet features. She had risen thus early
to get money from him; he knew that, before she asked for it.

"You wished to see me, Lady Adela."

"I want some money," she said in a light, flippant kind of tone, as if
it were the sole purpose of Mr. Grubb's existence to supply her
demands.

"Impossible," he rejoined. "You had two hundred pounds from me the day
before yesterday."

"I must have two hundred more this morning. I want it."

"What is it that you are doing with all this money? It has much
puzzled me."

"Oh--making a purse for myself," she answered saucily.

"You can trust to me to do that for you. I cannot continue to supply
you, Adela."

"But I must have it," she retorted, raising her voice, and speaking as
if he were the very dirt under her feet. "I will have it."

"No," he replied calmly, but with firm resolution in his tone. "I
shall give you no more until your allowance is due."

She looked up, quite a furious expression on her lovely face.

"Not give it me! Why, what do you suppose I married you for?"

"Adela!" came his reproof, almost whispered.

"I would not have taken you but for your money; you know that. They
promised me at home that I should have unlimited command of it; and I
will."

"You have had unlimited command," he observed, and there was no
irritation suffered to appear in his tone, whatever may have been his
inward pain. "It is for your own sake I must discontinue to supply
it."

"You are intelligible!" was her scornful rejoinder: for, in good
truth, this refusal was making havoc of her temper. "All that you can
need in every way shall be yours, Adela. Purchase what you like, order
what you like; I will pay the bills without a murmur. _But I will not
give you money to waste, as you have latterly wasted it, at Lady
Sanely's_."

She rose from her seat, pale with anger. "First Charles Cleveland,
then Lady Sanely: what else am I to be lectured upon? How dare you
presume to interfere with my pursuits?"

"I should ill be fulfilling my duty to you, or my love either, Adela,
what is left of it, if I did not interfere."

"I will not listen, Mr. Grubb: if you attempt to preach to me, as you
did last night, I will run away. Sit down and write me a cheque for
the money."

"There is no necessity for me to repeat my refusal, Adela. Until I
have reason to believe that this now liking for PLAY has left you, you
should draw my blood from me, sooner than money to pursue it. But
remember," he impressively added, "that I say this in all kindness."

She looked at him, her delicate throat working, her breath growing
short with passion.

"Will you give me the cheque?"

"I will not. Anything more, Adela, for I am late?"

There was no answer in words, but she suddenly raised the cup, which
chanced to be in her hand and was half full of coffee and flung it at
him. It struck him on the chin, the coffee falling upon his clothes.

It was a moment of embarrassment for them both. He looked steadfastly
at her, with a calm, despairing sorrow, and then quitted the room.
Lady Adela, her senses returning, sank back in her chair; and in the
reaction of her inexcusable passion, she sobbed aloud.

It was quite a violent fit of sobbing: and she smothered her head up
that he should not hear. She did feel ashamed of herself, felt even a
little honest shame at her general treatment of him. As her sobs
subsided, she heard him in his dressing-room, changing his things, and
she wished she had not done it. But she must have the money; that; and
more; and without it, she should be in a frightful dilemma, and
might have her name posted up as a card-playing defaulter in the
drawing-rooms of society. So she determined to have another battle for
it with her husband, and she dried the tears on her fair young face,
and opened his dressing-room door quite humbly, so to say, and went
into it.

It was empty. Mr. Grubb's movements had been rapid, and he was already
gone. He had put out of sight the stained things taken off, removed
all traces of them. Was she not sensible even of this? Did she not
know that he was thus cautious for her own sake--that no scandal might
be given to the servants? Not she. With his disappearance, and the
consequent failure of her hope, all her resentment was returning. Her
foot kicked against something on the floor, and she stooped to pick it
up. It was her husband's cheque-book, which he must have unconsciously
dropped when transferring things from one pocket to another.

Was a demon just then at Lady Adela's side?--what else could have
impelled her?--what else whispered to her of a way to supply the money
she wanted? Once only a momentary hesitation crossed her; but she
drove it away, and carried the cheques to her writing-table and _used
one of them_.

She drew it for five hundred pounds, a heavy sum, and she boldly
signed it "Grubb and Howard." For it happened to be the cheque-book of
the firm, not of her husband's private account. She was clever at
drawing, clever at imitating styles of writing--not that she had ever
turned her talent to its present use, or thought so to turn it--and
the signature, when finished, looked very like her husband's own. Then
she carried back the cheque-book, and laid it on the floor where she
found it.

Some time after all this was accomplished, she was passing downstairs,
deliberating upon whether she could dare to go to the bank herself to
get the cheque cashed, when Charles Cleveland came in, and bounded up
the stairs.

"Where did Mr. Grubb breakfast this morning?" he inquired, apparently
in a desperate hurry, as they shook hands, and turned into one of the
sitting-rooms, Charley devouring her with his eyes all the time.
Little blame to him either, for she was looking most lovely: the
excitement, arising from what she had done, glowing in her cheeks like
a sweet blush rose.

"What a question! He breakfasted at home."

"Yes, yes, dear Lady Adela. I meant in which room." For Mr. Grubb
sometimes breakfasted in the regular breakfast-room, and sometimes in
his library.

"I really don't know, and don't care," returned Adela, connecting the
question somehow, in her own mind, with the present of coffee he had
received. "His breakfasting is a matter of indifference to me. And
pray, Mr. Charley, where did _you_ breakfast this morning?--and what
became of you last night? Have you been making a night of it with the
owls and the bats?"

"I went to my brother's. Harry had some fellows with him, and we, as
you express it, dear Lady Adela, made a night of it. That is, we broke
up so late that I would not disturb your house by returning here:
Harry gave me a sofa, and I went direct from him to Leadenhall Street
this morning."

"And what have you come back for?"

"For Mr. Grubb's cheque-book. He has missed it, and thinks he must
have left it on the breakfast-table."

"Charley," she said, "I was just wanting you. _Will_ you do me a
favour?"

"I will do everything you wish," he answered, his tones literally
trembling with tenderness.

"I want you to go to the bank in Lombard Street, and got me a cheque
cashed. Mr. Grubb gave it me this morning, and I am in a hurry for the
money, for I expect people here every minute with some accounts. It is
not crossed. Take a cab, and go at once."

"I will. I can leave the cheque-book in Leadenhall Street first."

"No, you must not wait to find the cheque-book. I will look for it
whilst you are gone. You will not be many minutes, I am sure, and I
tell you I am all impatience."

Charley Cleveland hesitated. "I scarcely know what to say," he
replied, dubiously, to this. "Mr. Grubb is waiting for the
cheque-book. This is Saturday, you know."

"What if it is?"

"We are always so busy on Saturdays."

"Very well, Charles," she returned in hurt, resentful tones. "If you
like Mr. Grubb better than you do me, you will oblige him first. You
would be there and back in no time."

"Dearest Lady Adela! Like Mr. Grubb better than---- Well, I will do
it, though I dare say I shall get into a row. Have the cheque-book
ready, that I may not lose a moment when I get back." And Adela nodded
assent.

"A confounded row, too," he muttered to himself, as he tore down the
stairs, and into the cab; "but I will go through a thundercloud full
of rows for _her_." Charley gave a concise word to the driver, and
away dashed the cab towards Lombard Street, at a pace which terrified
the road generally, and greatly astonished the apple-stalls.

He was back in an incredibly short space of time, and paid the notes
over to her. "Have you found the cheque-book?" he asked then.

"I declare I never thought about it," was Lady Adela's reply. "But he
breakfasted in the library, I hear. Perhaps you will find it there."

He rushed into the library. And there, on the table, was the missing
cheque-book. Oh, wary Lady Adela!

She followed him into the room. "Charley," she whispered, "don't say
you have been out for me--no need to say you have seen me. The fact
is, that staid husband of mine had a grumbling fit upon him last
night, and accused me of talking and laughing too much with the world
in general and Mr. Charles Cleveland in particular. If they find fault
with you for loitering, say you were detained on some matter of your
own."

He nodded in the affirmative. But a red vermilion was stealing over
his face, dyeing it to the very roots of his hair, and his heart's
pulses were rising high. For surely in that last speech she meant to
imply that she _loved_ him. And Master Charles felt his brain turn
round as it had never turned before, and he bent that flushed face
down upon her hand, and left on it an impassioned, though very
respectful kiss, by way of adieu.

"What a young goose he is!" thought Adela.

Very ill at ease, that day, was the Lady Adela. Reckless though she
might be as to her husband's good opinion, implicitly secure though
she felt that he would hush up the matter and shield her from
consequences, she could not help being dissatisfied with what she had
done. Suppose exposure came?--she would not like that. She had written
Mr. Howard's name, as well as her husband's! She lost herself in a
reverie, her mind running from one ugly point to another. Try as she
would, she could not drive the thoughts away, and by the afternoon she
had become seriously uneasy. Was such a case ever known as that of a
wife being brought to trial for---- "Whatever possesses me to dwell
upon such things?" she mentally queried, starting up in anger with
herself. "Rather order the carriage and go and pay my last night's
losses."

From Lady Sanely's she went to her mother's, intending to stay and
dine there. Somehow she was already beginning to shrink from meeting
her husband's face. However, she found they were all engaged to dine
at Colonel Hope's, including her sister Mary. So Adela had to return
home: but she took care not to do it until close upon the dinner hour.

Mr. Grubb and Charles Cleveland were both at table. Neither of them
alluded to the unpleasant topic uppermost in her mind, so she
concluded that as yet nothing had come out. Mr. Grubb was very
silent--the result no doubt of the coffee in the morning.

"I am going to Netherleigh tomorrow morning, sir," observed Charles;
"shall try to get there in time for church. My father has written to
ask me. Could you allow me to remain for Monday also? Harry means to
run down that day, to say good-bye."

"Monday?" considered Mr. Grubb. "Yes, I suppose you can. There's
nothing particular that you will be required for on Monday, that I
know of. You may stay."

"Thank you, sir."

"When does your brother leave?"

"I think on Tuesday morning."

Accordingly, on the following morning, Sunday, Charley left the house
to go to Netherleigh. Mr. Grubb went to church, as usual; Adela made
excuse--said her head ached. When he returned home at one o'clock, he
found she had gone to her mother's; and, without saying to him with
your leave, or by your leave, without, in fact, giving him any
intimation whatever, she remained at Chenevix House for the rest of
the day.

On the Monday, Mr. Grubb went to business at the customary hour,
but returned early in the afternoon to attend some public
meeting in Westminster, connected with politics. Influential
people--Conservatives: who were called Tories then--had for some time
past been soliciting him to go into Parliament; he had not quite made
up his mind yet whether he would, or not.

He and his wife dined alone. Lord and Lady Kindon, with whom they were
intimate, were to have dined with them; but only a few minutes before
the time of sitting down, a note came to say they had received ill
news of one of their children, who was at school at Twickenham, and
had to hasten thither. Adela was tryingly cross and contrary at table:
she had not wished to be alone with her husband, lest he should have
found out what she had done, and begin upon it. So, after the first
few minutes, the meal proceeded nearly in silence. She did not fear
the explosion quite as much as she did at first: each hour, as it went
on smoothly, helped to make her uneasiness less.

But she was not to escape long. Just as the servants were quitting the
room, leaving the wine on the table, one of them came back again.

"Mr. Howard has called, sir. He says he would not disturb you at this
hour, but he must see you on a matter of pressing business."

"Pressing business!" echoed Mr. Grubb. "Show Mr. Howard in. A chair,
Richard, and glasses."

The stiff and stern old man entered, bowing to Lady Adela. His
iron-grey hair looked greyer than usual, and his black coat rusty.
Rusty coats are worn by more than one millionaire.

"Why, Howard, this is quite an event for you! Why did you not come in
time for dinner? Sit down. Anything new? Anything happened?"

"Why, yes," replied Mr. Howard, who was a slow-speaking man, giving
one the idea that the bump of caution must be large on his head.
"Thank you, port."

"What is it?" inquired the senior partner.

"I will enter upon the matter presently," replied James Howard,
deliberately sipping his wine. By which answer Mr. Grubb of course
understood that he would only speak when they were alone.

Lady Adela swallowed her strawberries and left her seat so quickly
that Mr. Grubb could hardly get to the door in time to open it, and
she went up to the drawing-room. She felt sure, as sure as though she
could read his very thoughts, that "that horrid Howard" had come about
the cheque. She did not care so much that her husband should find it
out; he might do his best and his worst, and the worst from him she
did not dread greatly; but that that old ogre should know it, perhaps
take steps--oh, that was quite another thing. _Could_ he take
steps?--would the law justify it? Adela did not know; but she began to
give the reins to her imagination, and cowered in terror.

As she thus sat, her ears painfully alive to every sound, a cab
rattled into the square, and stopped at the door. It brought Charles
Cleveland. Charley had just come up from Netherleigh; the train was
late, and he was in a desperate hurry to get into his dress-clothes,
to attend a "spread"--it was what Charley called it--given by his
brother. Adela ran out, and arrested him as he was making for his
room, three stairs at a time.

"Charley, I want to speak to you--just for a moment. What mortal haste
you are in!"

To be invited thus into the drawing-room by her, to meet her again
after this temporary absence, was to him as light breaking in upon
darkness. "Oh, Charles," she added, giving him both her hands, in the
moment's agitation, "surely some good fairy sent you! I am in
distress."

"Can I soothe it?" he asked, wondering at her emotion, and retaining
her hands in his. "Can I do anything for you?"

"I am in sore need of a friend--to--to shelter me," she continued.
"Great, desperate need!"

"Can I be that friend? Suffer me, if you can. _Suffer_ me to be, Lady
Adela. Dear dear what can have happened?"

"But it may bring danger upon you, difficulty, even disgrace. I
believe I ought not to ask it of you."

"Danger and difficulty would be welcome, borne for you," returned
Charley, in his loyalty. "Believe that, Lady Adela."

He could not imagine what was amiss, and he caught somewhat of her
agitation. That she was in real trouble, nay, in terror, was all too
plain. For a moment the thought occurred--was Mr. Grubb angry with her
on his account? Oh, what a privilege it appeared to him, foolish but
honest-hearted fellow, to be asked to shield her!

"I will trust you," she cried, her emotion increasing. "That cheque--
but oh, Charles, do not you think ill of me! It was done in a moment
of irritation."

"Say on, dear Lady Adela."

"That cheque--he did not give it me. I had asked for money, and he
refused. I wanted it badly; and I was angry with him: _so I drew out
the cheque_."

Charley felt all at sea: not comprehending in the least. She saw it:
and was forced to go on with her painful explanation. The colour was
coming and going in her cheek; now white as a lily, now rose-red.

"That cheque you cashed for me on Saturday morning, Charley. Mr. Grubb
did not draw it. Mr. Howard's name was signed as well as his; and--and
he is with my husband in the dining-room, and I am frightened to
death."

There was a momentary pause. Charley understood now; and saw all the
_difficulty_ of the matter, as she had lightly called it. But his
honest love for her was working strongly in his heart, and he formed a
hasty, chivalrous resolve to shield her if he could. Had she not
appealed to him?

"I want you not to say that it was from me you had the cheque,
Charley."

"I never will say it. Rely upon me."

"They cannot do anything to me, I suppose; or to anyone else," she
went on. "It is the exposure that would drive me wild. I could not
bear that even that old Howard should know it was I. Oh, Charles, what
can be done?"

"Be at ease, Lady Adela. You shall never repent your confidence. Not a
breath of suspicion shall come near you. I will shield you; I am proud
to do it: shield you, if need be, with my life. You little know how
valueless that life would be without your society, dear Lady Adela."

"Now, Charles, hold your tongue. You must not take to say such things
to me. They are not right--and are all nonsense besides. What would
Mr. Grubb think?"

"Forgive me," murmured Charley, all repentance. "I did not mean to say
aught that was disloyal to him or you, Lady Adela: I could not be
capable of it, now, or ever. And I will keep my word--to shield you
through this trouble. I repeat it. I swear it."

He wrung her hand in token of good-faith, and escaped to prepare for
his engagement. She sat down, somewhat reassured, but not at all easy
in her conscience. The world just now seemed rather hard to the Lady
Adela.



CHAPTER XXI.
GIVEN INTO CUSTODY.


They sat at the well-spread dessert-table in Grosvenor Square, those
two gentlemen, the sole partners of almost the wealthiest house in
London; keen, honourable, first-rate men of business, yet presenting
somewhat of a contrast in themselves. He at the table head, Francis
Grubb, was fine and stately, wearing in his countenance, in its
expression of form and feature, the impress of true nobility--nature's
nobility, not that of the peerage--and young yet. James Howard, who
might be called the chief partner, so far as work and constant,
regular attendance in the City went, though he did not receive
anything like an equal share of the profits, was an elderly man,
high-shouldered, his face hard and stern, his hair iron-grey, and his
black coat rusty. Mr. Howard had walked up from his house in Russell
Square this evening to confer with his chief upon some matter of
business. It a little surprised Mr. Grubb: for, with them, business
discussions were always confined to their legitimate province--the
City.

The Lady Adela, Mr. Grubb's rebellious but very charming wife, quitted
the room speedily, leaving them to the discussion that Mr. Howard had
intimated he wished for. But Mr. Howard did not show himself in any
haste to enter upon it. He sat on, surveying abstractedly the
glittering table before him, with its rich cut glass, its silver, its
china, and its sweet flowers, talking--abstractedly also--of the
passing topics of the day, more particularly of a political meeting
which had taken place that afternoon. Mr. Grubb was a Conservative; he
a Liberal; or, as it was more often styled in those days, Tory and
Whig.

"What news is it that you have brought me, Howard?" began Mr. Grubb,
at last, breaking a pause of silence.

"Ay--my news," returned Mr. Howard, as though recalled to the thought.
"Did you draw a cheque on Saturday morning, before leaving home, in
favour of self, and get it cashed at Glyn's?"

Mr. Grubb threw his thoughts back on Saturday morning. The
reminiscence was unpleasant. The scene which had taken place with his
wife was painful to him, disgraceful to her. He had drawn no cheque.

"No," he answered, thinking a great deal more of that scene than of
Mr. Howard's question.

"A cheque for five hundred pounds, in favour of self?" continued Mr.
Howard, slowly sipping his port wine.

"I don't draw at Glyn's in favour of self. You know that, Howard, as
well as I do." Messrs. Glyn and Co. were the bankers of the firm;
Coutts and Co. the private bankers of Mr. Grubb.

"Just so. Therefore, upon the fact coming to our notice this afternoon
that such a cheque had been drawn and paid, I stepped over to Glyn's
and made inquiries."

"How did it come to your notice?"

"This way. John Strasfield had all the cheques drawn last week sent to
him for the usual purpose of verification--he has his own ways of
doing his business, you know. In looking over them he was rather
struck with this cheque, because it was drawn to self. Self, too; not
selves. After regarding it for a minute or two, another thought struck
him--that the signature was not quite like yours. So he brought the
cheque to me. I don't think you signed it."

Mr. Grubb rose and closed the door, which he had left ajar after
opening it for Lady Adela, the evening being very warm. John
Strasfield was their confidential cashier in Leadenhall Street.

"If it is your signature, your hand must have been nervous when you
wrote it," continued Mr. Howard, "rendering the letters less decided
than usual."

That Mr. Grubb had been nervous on Saturday morning he was quite
conscious of; though not, he believed, to the extent of making his
hand unsteady. But he had not drawn any cheque.

"It was drawn in favour of self, you say. Was it signed with my
private signature, Francis C. C. Grubb?"

"No; with the firm's signature, Grubb and Howard. Glyn's people
suspected nothing wrong, and cashed it."

"Who presented the cheque?"

"Charles Cleveland. And he received the money."

"Charles Cleveland!" repeated Mr. Grubb, in surprise, his whole
attention fully aroused now. "There is some mystery about this."

"So it seemed to me," answered the elder man. "Cleveland stayed out of
town roday--by your leave, I think you said."

"Yes, he asked me on Saturday to let him have roday; he was going
down to Netherleigh: his elder brother, Captain Cleveland, meant to
run down there to say good-bye, Charles will be back tonight, I
suppose. But--I don't understand about this cheque."

"I'm sure I don't," said Mr. Howard. "Except that Charles Cleveland
got it cashed."

"Where did Charles Cleveland procure the cheque?" asked Mr. Grubb, his
head all in a puzzle. "Who drew the cheque? Where's the money? Howard,
there must be some mistake in your information."

"It was Saturday morning that you left the cheque-book at home, and
sent Cleveland for it, if you remember," said Mr. Howard, quietly.

"Ah, to be sure it was; I do remember. A long while he was gone."

"You asked him what made him so long: I chanced to be in your room at
the moment: and he said he had been doing a little errand for himself.
Well, during the period of his absence, that is, somewhere between ten
and half-past eleven, the cheque was presented by him at Glyn's, and
cashed. What does it all say?" concluded Mr. Howard.

Francis Grubb looked a little bewildered. No clear idea upon the point
was suggesting itself to his mind.

"I thought young Cleveland was given to improvident habits," resumed
Mr. Howard, "but I never suspected he was one to help himself to money
in this way; to----"

"He _cannot_ have done it," interrupted Mr. Grubb, earnestly decisive.
"It is quite impossible. Charles Cleveland is foolish and silly
enough, just as boys will be, for he is no better than a boy; but he
is honest and honourable."

"Are you aware that he spends a great deal of money?"

"I think he does. I said so to him last week. It was that pouring wet
day, Wednesday I think, and I told him he might go down to Leadenhall
Street with me in the carriage, if he liked. I took the opportunity of
speaking to him about his expenditure, telling him it was a great deal
easier to get into debt than to get out of it."

"Which he had found out for himself, I expect," grumbled Mr. Howard.
"How did he receive it?"

"As ingenuously as you could wish. Blushed like a school-girl. He
confessed that he had been spending too much money lately, and laid it
chiefly to the score of his brother's being in London. Captain
Cleveland's comrades are rather an extravagant set; the allowance that
he gets from his uncle is good; and Charles has been led into expense
through mixing with them. The very moment his brother left, he said,
he should draw in and spend next to nothing."

Mr. Howard smiled grimly. "One evening, strolling out after my dinner,
I chanced to meet my young gentleman, came full upon him as he was
turning out of a florist's, a big bouquet of white flowers in his
hand. 'You must have given a guinea for that, young sir,' I said to
him, and he did not deny it; just leaped into a cab and was off. I
don't suppose those flowers were presented to Captain Cleveland or to
any of his comrades."

Mr. Grubb knitted his brow. He had not the slightest doubt they were
intended for his wife. What a silly fellow that Charley was!

"He may get into debt; I feel sure he is in debt; but he would not
commit forgery--or help himself to money that was not his. I tell you,
Howard, the thing is impossible."

"He presented the cheque and received the money," dryly remarked Mr.
Howard. "What has he done with it?"

"But no one, not oven a madman, would go to work in this barefaced
way," contended his more generous-minded partner, "conscious that it
must bring immediate detection and punishment upon his head."

"Detection, yes; punishment does not necessarily follow. That, he may
be already safe from."

"How do you mean?"

"Suppose you inquire what clothes he took with him," suggested Mr.
Howard. "My impression is that he's off. Gone. The Netherleigh tale
may have been only a blind."

Mr. Grubb rose and rang the bell, staggered nearly out of his senses;
and, until it was answered, not another word was spoken. Each
gentleman was busy with his own thoughts.

"Richard," began the master to his servant, "when Mr. Charles
Cleveland left for the country yesterday morning, did he take much
luggage with him?"

"I don't think he took any, sir; unless it was his small portmanteau."

"Did you happen to hear him say whether he intended to make a long
stay?"

"I did not hear him say anything, sir: he went out early, to catch the
first train.. But Mr. Cleveland is back."

"Back!" echoed Mr. Howard, surprised into the interference.

"Yes, sir, just now, and went out again as soon as he had dressed. He
is gone to dine at the Army and Navy."

"Then no elucidation can now take place until morning," observed Mr.
Grubb, as the servant withdrew. "When he has gone out lately on these
dining bouts he does not get home till late, sometimes not at all. But
rely upon it, Howard, this matter will be cleared up satisfactorily,
so far as he is concerned. Though what the mystery attending the
cheque can be, I am not able to imagine."

"I'm sure I am not, looking at it from your point of view," returned
the elder man. "See here: you come down to Leadenhall Street on
Saturday morning, and find you have left the cheque-book of the firm
at home here. You send Charles Cleveland for it, telling him to take a
cab and to make haste. After being away three or four times as long as
he need be, he comes back with the cheque-book, having found it, he
says, where you had told him it probably would be found--in the room
where you breakfasted. He does not account for his delay, except by
the excuse that he was doing an errand for himself, and begs pardon
for it. Well and good. Today we find that a cheque has been
abstracted from that same cheque-book, filled in for five hundred
pounds, and was cashed by Cleveland himself; all during this same
interval on Saturday morning when he declines to account for his time.
What do you make of it?"

Put thus plainly before him, Mr. Grubb did not know what to make of
it, and his faith in Charles Cleveland began to waver. The most
confiding mind cannot fight altogether against palpable facts. Mr.
Howard opened his pocketbook, took the cheque in question from it, and
laid it, open, before his senior partner.

"This is not Cleveland's writing," remarked Mr. Grubb.

"Of course not. It is an imitation of yours. That is, not his ordinary
handwriting. He has done it pretty cleverly. Glyn's were deceived. Not
but that I consider Glyn's clerk was incautious not to see the
difference between 'self' and 'selves.' He says he did not notice the
word at all: but he ought to have noticed it."

"It is a singular affair altogether," observed Mr. Grubb, in a musing
tone. "To begin with, my bringing home the cheque-book at all was
singular. You were not in the City on Friday, you know, Howard,
and----"

"I couldn't come when I was ill," grunted out Mr. Howard.

"My dear, good old friend, do you suppose I thought you could?"
answered Mr. Grubb, checking a laugh. "I was going to say that, as you
were absent, I signed the cheques on Friday, and the book lay on my
desk. It happened that my private cheque-book also lay there. When I
left, I put the firm's cheque-book in my pocket by mistake, and locked
up the other; meaning, of course, to do just the contrary. But for
this carelessness on my part, Charles Cleveland would not have had the
opportunity of--Good Heavens! what a blow this will be for his father!
We must hush it up!"

"Hush it up!" cried out the other and sterner man of business. "Not if
I know it. That's just like you, Francis Grubb! Your uncle Francis, my
many years' friend, used to accuse you, you know, of having a soft
place in your heart."

"I am thinking of that good man, with his many cares, the Rector of
Netherleigh."

"And I am thinking of his son's bold, barefaced iniquity. Be you very
sure of one thing, sir--Glyn's won't hush it up; they are the wrong
people to do it. Neither must you. A pretty example it would be! No,
thank you, no more wine! I have had my quantum."

"Well, well, we shall see, Howard. I cannot understand it yet."

When Mr. Grubb got upstairs that night, he found his wife gone out,
leaving no message for him. She never did leave any. Darvy thought her
lady had gone to the opera. Mr. Grubb followed, and found her there.
The box was full, and there was little room for him. He said nothing
to her of what had occurred: he meant to keep it from her if he could,
to save her pain; and from all others, for the Honourable and Reverend
Mr. Cleveland's sake.

Mr. Grubb sat down to breakfast the next morning alone. Lady Adela had
not risen; Charles Cleveland did not make his appearance.

"Does Mr. Charles Cleveland know I am at breakfast, Hilson?" he
inquired of the butler, who was in attendance.

"Mr. Charles Cleveland left word--I beg your pardon, sir, I forgot to
mention it--that he has gone out to breakfast with his brother,
Captain Cleveland, who sails roday for India. He went out between six
and seven."

"He came home last night, then?"

"Yes, sir; about one o'clock."

Mr. Grubb glanced over the letters waiting beside his plate, some for
himself, some for Lady Adela. Amidst the former was one from his
sister, written the previous day. Her mother (who had been seriously
ill for some time) was much worse, she said, and she begged her
brother to come down, if possible, in the morning.

It chanced that Mr. Grubb had made one or two appointments for people
to see him that morning at his house; so that it was eleven o'clock
when he reached Leadenhall Street.

"Well, whore is he?" began Mr. Howard, without ceremony of greeting.

"Where's who?" asked Mr. Grubb.

"Charles Cleveland."

"What--is he not come yet?" returned Mr. Grubb, whose thoughts had
been elsewhere.

"Not yet. I don't think he means to come."

To be late, or in any other way inattentive to his duties, had not
been one of Charley's sins. Therefore his absence was the more
remarkable. Mr. Grubb started for Blackheath, almost endorsing Mr.
Howard's opinion that the delinquent had embarked with his brother for
India; or for some other place not speedily accessible to officers of
justice.

Twelve o'clock was striking by St. Paul's when Charley bustled in;
hot, and out of breath. He was told that Mr. Howard wanted him.

"I beg your pardon, sir, for being so late," he panted, addressing
himself to that gentleman, when he reached his private room,
"especially after my holiday of yesterday. I went early this morning
to Woolwich, and on board ship with my brother, intending to be back
by business hours; but, what with one delay and another, I was unable
to get up till now."

"It is not business-like at all, sir," growled the old merchant.
"But--stay a bit, Mr. Cleveland; we have a few questions to put to
you."

Charles glanced round. In his hurry, he had seen no one but Mr.
Howard. His eye now fell on a little man, who sat in a corner. Charley
knew him to be connected with Messrs. Glyn's house; and he knew that
the time was at hand when he would have need of all his presence of
mind and his energies. It chanced that this gentleman had just called
to enquire if anything had come to light about the mysterious cheque.

"You presented a cheque for five hundred pounds at Glyn's on Saturday
morning, and received the amount in notes," began Mr. Howard, to
Charles. "From whom did you get that cheque?"

No reply.

"Purporting to be drawn and signed by Mr. Grubb. I ask from whom you
received it?"

"I decline to answer," Charles said at length, speaking with
hesitation, in spite of his preparation for firmness.

"Do you deny having presented the cheque?"

"No. I do not deny that."

"Do you deny having received the money for it?" interposed the
gentleman from the bank.

"Nor that, either. I acknowledge to having received five hundred
pounds. It would be worse than folly to deny it," continued Charles to
him, in a sort of calm desperation, "since your clerk could prove the
contrary."

"But did you know what you were laying yourself open to?" cried Mr.
Howard, evidently in a marvel of astonishment, for he took these
admissions of Charles's to be tantamount to an absolute acknowledgment
of his guilt.

"I know now, sir."

"Will you refund the money?" asked Mr. Howard, dropping his voice; for
that stern man of business had been going over the affair half the
night as he lay in bed, and concluded to give the reckless young
fellow a chance. Truth to say, Mr. Howard's bark was always worse than
his bite. "Out of consideration for your family, connected, as it is,
with that of the head of our firm, we are willing to be lenient; and
if you will confess, and refund----"

"I cannot refund, and I must decline to answer any more questions,"
interrupted Charles, fast relapsing into agitation.

Mr. Howard stared at him. "Do you understand, young man, what it is
that you would bring upon your head? In point of fact, we are laying
ourselves open to, I hardly know what penalty of law, in making you
this offer; but Mr. Grubb is anxious it should be hushed up for your
father's sake--whom every one respects. If you decline it; if you set
me at defiance, as it seems to me you wish to do; I shall have no
resource but to give you into custody."

"I beg to state that the matter is not in our hands yet," spoke up the
banker to Charles. "If it were, we could not make you any such offer.
Though of course we can fully understand and appreciate the motives
that actuate your principals, with whom the affair at present wholly
rests. It would be a terrible blow to fall on the Cleveland family;
and every one must wish to save them from it."

"I--I am very sorry," gasped Charles, feeling all this to his heart's
core. "Unfortunately----"

"The matter is not known beyond ourselves," interposed Mr. Howard
again, indicating himself and the banker; "and it need not be. But it
is solely out of consideration for your family, you understand, that
we offer to hush it up. Will you explain?"

"I cannot. Unfortunately, I cannot, sir. It is not in my power?"

"Then I give you in charge at once."

"I can't help it," said poor Charles, passing his hand over his hot
brow.

Mr. Howard, very hard, very uncompromising when deliberately provoked,
was as good as his word. And Charles Cleveland was given into custody
for forgery.



CHAPTER XXII.
"THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH US IN AFTER-LIFE."


It was all over and done with long before Mr. Grubb got up from
Blackheath in the afternoon. He felt terribly vexed. Vexed for Charles
himself, terribly vexed for Charles's family, vexed on his own score.
To his refined and sensitive mind, it almost seemed that he had
violated the sacred laws of hospitality, for Charles had been staying,
as a guest, in his house.

The first thing he did was to hasten to the prison to which Charles
had been conveyed, preparatory to his examination on the morrow. The
young man was in his cell, sitting on the edge of his narrow bed, and
looking very downhearted. The entrance of Mr. Grubb seemed to bring to
him a sudden flash of hope. He started up.

"Oh, sir," he exclaimed, in high excitement, "will you not look over
this one error? My father will replace the money--I am sure he will,
rather than suffer this public disgrace to fall upon the family. Do
not force the shame upon him. And--and there's my brother--just
embarked--what will he do? Oh, Mr. Grubb, if you will but have mercy!

"Charles--don't excite yourself like this--I have come here to offer
you the mercy," spoke Mr. Grubb; and his considerate manner, his voice
of music, were just like a healing balm. "I have come straight from
Mr. Howard to renew the offer he made you. It is not yet too late: we
will make things right tomorrow: there will be no prosecutor, you
understand. Will you give me, myself only, the particulars you denied
to Mr. Howard?"

Just for one eager moment the wish flashed across Charles's mind that
he might tell the truth to this good man. Was he not Adela's husband,
and would he not excuse her in his love? The next, he saw how futile
was the wish. Could _he_ be the one to betray her?--and to her
husband? Shame upon him for the thought! He had vowed to her to hold
her harmless, and he would do so for her sake.

"To me it appears that there is a mystery in the affair which I cannot
fathom," continued Mr. Grubb. "Your conduct in it is perfectly
incomprehensible. It may be better for you to confide in me, Charles."

"I cannot, sir. I wish I could."

"What if I tell you that, in spite of appearances, I do not myself
believe you guilty?"

A bright, eager flush, a glance as of mutual _understanding_ illumined
for a moment Charley's face. It seemed to say that just, honourable
natures know and trust in each other's innocence, no matter what may
be the surrounding signs of guilt. But the transient expression faded
away to sadness, and Mr. Grubb was in doubt whether it had really been
there.

"I can explain nothing," said the prisoner. "I can only thank you,
sir, for this proof of confidence, and implore your clemency on the
ground of compassion alone."

"Charles Cleveland, this won't do. You are either guilty or innocent.
Which is it?"

"Guilty, of course," said Charley, in his desperation. For if he said
"innocent," the next rejoinder would be, "Then who is guilty?" And he
could not answer that, or any other close question.

"Did you do this vile thing of your own accord; or were you induced to
do it by another?" pursued Mr. Grubb, his head running upon Charley's
debts and Charley's fast companions.

"I--I--pray do not ask me more, sir! It is a wretched business, and I
must suffer for it."

"Am I to understand that you wholly refuse to confide in me?--refuse
to be helped? I would be your true friend."

"I must refuse," gasped poor Charley. "I have nothing to tell. I did
present the cheque at Glyn's, and I drew the money. And--and I hope
you will forgive me, sir, for I am very miserable."

"Is all the money spent?"

"I--I have not as much as a shilling of it. If I had, I'd give it
back. It's too late."

Nothing better than this could Mr. Grubb wring from the unfortunate
prisoner. And he left him _believing he was guilty_. He left in rather
an angry mood, too, for he thought Charles was bearing out Mr.
Howard's report, and showing himself defiantly, ungratefully
obstinate. That he had been in some most pressing and perhaps
dangerous difficulty on the Saturday morning, and had used these
desperate means to extricate himself, must be, he concluded, the fact.
A great deal of his compassion for Charles melted away; the young man
seemed hardened.

In the morning the case was taken before the magistrates. It was heard
in private. The influential house, Grubb and Howard, could have
commanded a greater concession than that. One magistrate only sat, a
very pliable one, Sir Turtle Kite. The case was only slightly gone
into, the prosecutors asking for a remand until the following week:
they wished to trace out more particulars, also wished to trace the
notes. Then the prisoner would be brought up again; and meanwhile he
was consigned to that awful place, Newgate.

In spite of all efforts to keep it secret, the affair partially got
wind. Not, however, in its true details. All kinds of exaggerated
rumours and surmises ran the round of the clubs. But for the recent
sojourn of Captain Cleveland in London, Charley might have remained
quite an obscure individual, as regarded the fashionable world. But he
had been a great deal with his brother, and was known and liked
everywhere.

What a commotion arose! Charles Cleveland in Newgate on a
charge of robbery, or forgery, or what not! Charley Cleveland, the
popular--Charley Cleveland, the grandson of an earl gathered to his
fathers, and nephew of one who stood in his shoes--Charley Cleveland,
the out-and-out good fellow, who was wont to scare the blue-devils
away from every one--Charley Cleveland, who, in defiance of his
improvidence and his shallow pocket, was known to be of the nicest
honour amongst the honourable!

"The thing's altogether preposterous," stuttered John Cust, who had a
natural stammer. "If Charley had drawn the money he would have had the
money, and I know that on Saturday afternoon he had not a rap, for he
borrowed three sovs. of me to take him down to Brighton----"

"Netherleigh, Cust."

"Netherleigh, then. What put Brighton in my head, I wonder? Fancy he
went to try to get some money out of his governor."

"Which he did," added Lord Deerham. "A five-pound note."

"And paid me back the three sovs. on the Monday night, when he came to
his brother's spread at the Rag and Famish," continued John Cust.
"Gammon! Charley has not been making free with any one's name."

"But he acknowledges to having drawn the money," squeaked Booby
Charteris. "A thousand pounds, they say."

"You may take that in yourself, Booby. We don't."

"But the Lord Mayor----"

"Lord Mayor be hanged! If he swears till he's black in the face that
Charley did it, I know he didn't. There."

"'Twasn't the Lord Mayor. Some other of those City bigwigs."

"Anyway, he is in Newgate. It's said, too, that it is Grubb and Howard
who have sent him there."

"Did he rob their cash-box?"

"Do they accuse him of it, you mean, Booby. As if Charley would do
such a thing!"

"Let us go down to Newgate, and have a smoke with him," cried
Charteris, who had so small a share of brains and so very small a
voice as to have acquired the nickname of Booby. "It may cheer the
young fellow up, under the present alarming state of things."

"As if they'd admit us inside Newgate, or a smoke either!" retorted
John Cust. "There's only one thing more difficult than getting into
Newgate, and that is, if you are in, getting out again. Don't forget
that, Booby."

"Couldn't some of us go and punch a few heads down there, beginning
with old Howard's?" again proposed Booby. "I don't say Grubb's."

"Grubb has had nothing to do with bringing the charge; you may rely
upon that," said Lord Deerham. "Grubb's a gentleman. You shut up,
Booby."

Ah! it was all very well for these idle, foolish young men to express
their sympathy with the prisoner in their idle, foolish way: but, what
of the distress of those connected with him?

Thomas Cleveland, Honourable and Reverend, heard from his wife, who
was still staying at her mother's, that something was amiss, and came
up from Netherleigh to find his son incarcerated in Newgate, and
accused of forgery. Down he went to the prison at once, and obtained
admission. Charley looked, in that short period, greatly changed. His
dress was neglected, his hair unkempt, and his face haggard. Charley,
the fastidious!

Mr. Cleveland was overcome beyond control, and sobbed aloud. He was a
venerable-looking man of nearly sixty years now, and had always been a
fond father. Charley was little less affected.

"Why did you not kill me when you last came down, Charles?" he moaned
out in his perplexity and anguish. "Better have put me out of this
world of pain than bring this misery upon me. Oh, my boy! my boy you
were your mother's favourite: how can you so have disgraced her
memory?"

"I would I had been put out of the world, rather than be the curse to
you I have proved," writhed Charley, wishing Newgate would yawn
asunder and engulph him. "Oh, don't--father, don't!" he implored, as
Mr. Cleveland's sobs echoed through the cell. "If it will be a
consolation to you to know it, I will avow to you that I am not
guilty," he added, the sight of his father's affliction momentarily
outweighing his precaution. "By all your care of me, by your present
grief, by the memory of my dead mother, I swear to you that I am not
guilty."

Mr. Cleveland looked up, and his heart leaped within him. He knew
Charles was speaking truth. It was impossible to mistake that earnest
tone.

"Thank God!" he murmured. "But what, then, is this I hear, about your
declining to make a defence?" he presently asked. "I am told you have
as good as acknowledged your guilt." Charles hung his head, and
relapsed into prudence again.

"My boy, answer me. How came you to accept--as it were--the charge, if
you are innocent?"

"For your private comfort I have said this, dear father, but it must
remain between us as if it had not been spoken. The world must still,
and always, believe me guilty."

"But why?--why? What mystery is this?"

"Do not ask me, sir. Believe that you have not a son more free from
the guilt of this crime than I am. Nevertheless, I must pay the
penalty, for I cannot defend myself."

Mr. Cleveland thought this about the most extraordinary thing he had
ever met with. Nothing more could be got out of Charles; nevertheless,
he did believe in his innocence. From Newgate he went on to Leadenhall
Street, to see the gentlemen who had brought this charge, and found
only one of them in: Mr. Grubb.

"You are not more pained at the affair than I am," said the latter,
closing the door of his private room, "and certainly not more
astonished."

"Oh, Mr. Grubb," cried the clergyman, "could you not have hushed this
wretched disgrace up, for all our sakes?--or at least made more
inquiries before taking these extreme steps? You who have shown so
much true friendship for me!"

"I would have hushed it up. I wished to hush it up altogether. I would
have paid the money over and over again out of my own pocket, rather
than it should have become known, even to Mr. Howard. It was he,
however, who brought the tidings of it to me."

"And Mr. Howard would not?"

"Mr. Howard would. At first he seemed inclined to be hard. Thorough
business men look upon these things with a stern eye. However, he knew
my wishes, and came to. He was the first to speak to Charles. He asked
him to acknowledge the truth to him, and he would forgive it. Charles
refused; set him, so to say, at defiance; told him, I believe, to do
his best and his worst; and Mr. Howard gave him into custody."

"It is very strange."

"When I found what had happened--I had been out of town that day--I
went at once to Charles. I told him that I could not believe him
guilty, and I entreated him to tell me the circumstances of the case,
which looked to me then, and look still, unaccountably mysterious----"

"And he would not?" interrupted Mr. Cleveland, recalling how Charles
had just met a similar request from himself.

"He would not tell me a word: told me he would not. I said I could
even then set matters straight, and would get his release on the
morrow, and nothing about it should ever transpire. He thanked me, but
said he had nothing to tell; was, in fact, guilty. I could only think
he must be guilty, and left him with that impression on my mind."

"It is altogether very strange," repeated Mr. Cleveland, in a musing
tone, as he sat stroking his face and thinking. "Will you state the
particulars to me, as far as you are cognizant of them. I asked
Charles to do so, but he would not."

"It occurred on Saturday morning," began Mr. Grubb. "When I reached
the City, here, I found I had not got with me the cheque-book of the
firm, which I had taken away by mistake the previous evening; and I
sent Charles home to look for it. He was a long while gone, but
brought it when he came. During the period of his absence one of the
cheques was abstracted, filled up for five hundred pounds, and----"

"Filled up by whom?"

"The writing was an imitation of mine. Charles presented it at Glyn's,
and got it cashed. All this he acknowledges to; but he refuses to say
what he did with the money."

"Mr. Grubb," cried the agitated father, "appearances are against
him--were never, I perceive, more strongly against any one; but,
before Heaven I believe him to be innocent."

Mr. Grubb made no reply.

"He has assured me of his innocence by the memory of his dead mother;
and innocent I am sure he must be. He stated in the same breath that
he should avow it to no one else, but submit to the penalty of the
crime just as though he had committed it. As to what he did with the
money--he could not have used it for himself. On that very Saturday
afternoon he had to borrow money to bring him down to Netherleigh the
next morning. John Cust lent it him."

"It is very singular," acknowledged Mr. Grubb.

"Charles confessed as much to me at Netherleigh--that he had borrowed
the money from Cust to get down with; three pounds, I think it was. I
gave him a five-pound note, and a lecture with it. He promised to be
more cautious for the future, and said that after Harry left he should
not have occasion to spend much--which is true. But now, what I would
like to know is this--if he drew that money, that five hundred pounds,
where is it? How came it that the next hour, so to say, he had none in
his pocket?"

Mr. Grubb certainly could not answer, and remained silent.

"Has he been made the instrument of another?" returned Mr. Cleveland.
"Was be imposed upon by any one?--sent to cash a cheque that he
himself thought was a genuine and proper cheque?"

"That is scarcely likely. Were it the case, what objection could he
have to declare it? My opinion is--I am sorry to have to give it--that
Charles had got into some desperate money trouble, and used desperate
remedies to extricate himself."

"What more desperate trouble could he be in than this?"

"True. But he may have hoped we should be lenient. Even now," added
Mr. Grubb, his voice trembling with the concern he felt; "we might be
able to save him if he would only disclose the truth. Mr. Howard
absolutely refuses to quash the matter unless he does so: and I think
he is right."

"But Charles won't disclose it; he won't," bewailed the clergyman,
taking the other's hand in token of his gratitude. "Look here, my dear
friend," he added, after a pause of thought, "can Charles be keeping
silence to screen some one?"

"To screen some one? How?"

"That he did this thing willingly, with his eyes open, I never will
believe. It is not in a Cleveland's nature to commit a crime.
Moreover, I repeat to you that he has just assured me of his innocence
by the memory of his dead mother. No, no; whatever may be the facts,
Charles was not wilfully guilty. I could stake my life upon it. In
cashing that cheque he must have been made the innocent tool of
another, whom he won't betray out of some chivalrous feeling of
honour."

"But no one had possession of the cheque-book but Charles," reasoned
Mr. Grubb. "He found it in the breakfast-room where I had left it. My
servants are honest; they would not touch it. Moreover, it was Charles
himself who presented the cheque for payment, and got the money."

Mr. Cleveland rubbed his grey hair back with a look of perplexity;
hair that was getting scanty now. Look at the case in what way he
would, it presented contradictions and difficulties that seemed to be
insuperable.

"You are staying at Lord Acorn's, I suppose?" remarked Mr. Grubb, when
the clergyman rose to leave.

"Until Saturday. I can't run away from London and leave my boy in
Newgate. Heaven be with you! I know you'll do for him what you can."

The whole of the after-part of this day certain words spoken by the
unhappy father haunted Francis Grubb. _In cashing that cheque he must
have been made the innocent tool of another, whom he won't betray, out
of some chivalrous feeling of honour_. An idea had been presented to
him which he might never have taken up of himself; a painful idea;
and, do what he would, he could not drive it away. It intruded itself
into his business; it followed him home to dinner; and it worried him
while he ate it. He had not found Lady Adela at home. She was dining
out somewhere. Certainly, Mr. Grubb's domestic life was not a very
sociable one. After dinner, he went to his club.

It was eleven o'clock before he got home; later than he meant to be,
but he did not expect his wife to be there yet. The butler, a
trustworthy, semi-confidential servant, who had entered the service of
the uncle, Francis Grubb, when his present master was a boy, and who
had become greatly attached to him, came to the drawing-room to see if
anything was wanted.

"Is Lady Adela in?" asked his master.

"No, sir. Her ladyship came in not long ago, for a minute or two, and
went out again."

"Stay a minute, Hilson," cried Mr. Grubb, as the man was turning away.
"Shut the door. Carry your memory back to last Saturday. Did you
happen to see Mr. Charles Cleveland come in that morning?"

"Yes, sir: I was at the front-door, talking to one of Lady Acorn's
servants, who had brought a parcel for my lady. Mr. Cleveland jumped
out of the cab he was in, and ran past me all in a hurry, saying he
had come to look for something the master had left behind him."

"Did he go at once to the room where I breakfasted?"

"No, sir. My lady chanced to be descending the stairs at the moment;
Mr. Cleveland asked her where Mr. Grubb had breakfasted, and she
turned with him into the small room. In a minute or two, it could not
have been more, he came running out again, leaped into the cab, and
went away in it at a great rate. That was the first time, sir."

Mr. Grubb lifted his eyes. "The first time! What do you mean?"

"Mr. Charles Cleveland came back again, sir. Not directly;
half-an-hour or three-quarters later it may have been, perhaps more, I
had not taken particular note of the time. I was in the hall then,
watching John clean the lamp--he has done it slovenly of late. The
front-door was rung and knocked at as if it was going to be knocked
down. I opened it, and Mr. Charles Cleveland rushed past me up to the
drawing-room. I never hardly saw anybody in a greater hurry than he
seemed to be. He came down again directly, my lady with him, and they
went into the breakfast-room. He then ran out to the cab, and drove
away at a fiercer rate than before."

"Was it the same cab?"

"Oh yes, sir. Taking both times together, he was not in the house
three minutes."

"Not long enough to----" Mr. Grubb checked himself, and remained
silent.

"Not long enough to have drawn a false cheque, sir, when the
handwriting has to be studied--as we have been saying below," put in
the butler, following too closely his master's thoughts.

Mr. Grubb felt disagreeably startled. "Hilson what are you saying?
_Who_ has talked of this below?"

"Only Darvy, sir. She got to know of it this morning,
through---- Well, sir, I believe through a letter that my lady gave
her to read."

"But how was that?" questioned Mr. Grubb, in a displeased tone.

"It was through a mistake of my lady's, sir," replied Alison, dropping
his voice. "She had meant to give Darvy a note from Madame Damereau,
about the trimming of a dress; instead of that, she gave her one from
Lady Grace. Darvy has been uneasy ever since, and she spoke in
confidence to me."

"Why uneasy?"

"Well, sir, Darvy thinks it an unpleasant thing to have happened,
especially for us upper servants. The cheque must have been torn out
and filled in by somebody."

"Nonsense," interposed Mr. Grubb. "Take care you do not speak of this,
Hilson; and caution Darvy."

"No fear of me, sir; you know that. I told Darvy she must have
misunderstood Lady Grace's note, and that she must hold her tongue;
and I am sure she will. She was very sorry to have read it. She asked
my lady's instructions as to the dress, and my lady tossed the note to
her, saying she would find them there. Darvy read on to the very end,
expecting to come to them. That's how it was, sir."

Mr. Grubb remained on alone, deep in painful thought, his head bent on
his hand. His vague suspicions were strengthening--strengthening
terribly.

And what of Lady Adela? This could not have been a good time for
her--as the children say. Made aware that morning by Grace's letter
that Charles was taken into custody, she was seized with terror; and
perhaps it was not so much carelessness as utter bewilderment that
caused the stupid error of handing the wrong letter to Darvy. Adela
saw her father in the course of the day. Too anxious to remain
passive, she went out to hear what she could at Lord Acorn's, putting
to him a cautious word of inquiry. Lord Acorn made light of the whole
business--he did not yet know the particulars. Charley would soon be
released, he carelessly said; Grubb would take care of that. As to a
little fright, or a short incarceration, it would do Master Charley
good--he had been going the pace of late. And this opinion of her
father's so completely reassured Lady Adela, that her fears of
consequences to Charley subsided: she returned home, took up her
visiting, and was her own saucy self again.

She came in early tonight, before twelve o'clock, looking cross: Her
husband rose from his chair, and smoothed his troubled face.

"Where have you been, Adela?"

"At Lady Sanely's:" and the tone of defiance audible in Lady Adela's
answer arose from the consciousness that he had forbidden her to go
there. The dissatisfied face she brought back with her, and the early
hour of her return, seemed to say that she had not met with much
pleasure there this evening. Perhaps she had staked, and lost, all the
money she had taken; or, perhaps play was not going on that night.

She threw herself into a chair, eating a biscuit she had caught up
from a plate on the table, and let her mantle fall from her shoulders.
How very pretty she looked! Her dress was white lace, trimmed about
with small blush roses; her cheeks were a lovely flush; a pearl
necklace, of priceless value, lay on her fair neck, bracelets to match
encircled her slender arms: one of the many magnificent gifts of her
fond husband.

"Don't shut the door," cried Adela, tartly, for he had crossed the
room to do it. "I'm sure it's hot enough."

"Ah, but I want to say a few words to you," he replied, as he closed
it. And the Lady Adela, divining by a subtle instinct which penetrates
to us all at odd moments, one cannot tell how or wherefore, that the
subject of his "few words" was to be Charley's trouble, and not her
transgression as to Lady Sanely's, armed herself for reprisal. Adela
never felt sure afterwards that she had not been wicked enough to put
up a hasty prayer for aid. Aid to be firm in disguising the truth: aid
to blind him as to her share in the past Saturday's exploit, and to
strengthen the accusation against Charley. Rising from her seat, she
crossed to the nearest window and threw it open, as if needing a
breath of the soft midnight air.

"This is a sad business about Charles Cleveland, Adela. I find you
know of it."

"Yes," she answered, fanning away a moth that was floating in,
attracted by the light. "I hope you are satisfied with your work. You
had a paltry spite against him, and you have cast him into Newgate to
gratify it."

"Adela, you know better."

"It is enough to ruin his prospects for life. It would ruin some
people's--they who are without influential connections. Of course
Charley will soon be on his legs again, and laugh at his paltry
enemies."

Mr. Grubb put his hand, almost caressingly, on his wife's arm, and
caused her to turn her face to him. "Will you tell me what you know of
this, my dear?"

"Tell you what I know of it!--how should I know anything of it?" she
retorted, flirting her costly fan. "Poor Charley may have meant to
borrow the money for a day or two--I don't accuse him; I only say it
may have been so--and then to have replaced it: but you and that old
kangaroo of a partner of yours have prevented his doing it. To gratify
your own revenge you seized upon him before he had time to act, and
threw him into that place of crime where men are hung from--Newgate.
You did it to bring disgrace upon my family, through my sister Mary."

He did not reply to this; he was accustomed to her unjust accusations.

"Adela," he said, dropping his voice to a whisper, "were you wholly
ignorant of this business? _Who drew the cheque?_"

She turned round with a start, defiance in her eyes.

"Adela, my wife," he whispered, gently laying both hands upon her
shoulders in his earnestness, "if you had anything to do with this
business, if Charles Cleveland was not the guilty party, acknowledge
it now. Confide in me for once. I will avert consequences from him and
suspicion from you. The secret shall be buried in my breast, and I
will never revert to it."

Oh, what possessed her that she did not respond to this loving appeal
in time? Was it pure fright that prevented her? Shame?--Shame to have
to confess to her guilt? Any way, she steeled her heart against it.
Her lovely features had grown white, and her eyes fell before his.
Presently she raised them, flashing with indignation, her tone, her
words, as haughty as you please.

"Mr. Grubb, how dare you offer me this insult?"

"Do not meet me in this way, Adela. I am asking you a solemn question;
remember that there is One above Who will hear and register your
answer. Were you the principal in this transaction, and was Cleveland
but your agent? Do not fear to trust me--_your husband_: you shall
have my free forgiveness, now, beforehand, my shelter, my protection.
Only tell me the truth, as you wish it to be well with us both in
after-life."

Again she cowered before his gaze, and again recovered herself. Could
it be that her better angel was prompting her to the truthful path?

"What can possibly have induced you to put such a question to me?"

"It is an idea that has forced itself upon my mind. Without some such
explanation the affair is to me an utter mystery. If Charles
Cleveland----"

"And don't you think you ought to be ashamed of yourself!" she
interrupted. "I rob a bank I steal a cheque Has it come to this--that
you suspect _me?_"

"Forgive me, Adela, if I am wrong. Be it how it may, you should meet
me differently. Oh, my wife, let there be perfect confidence between
us at this moment, on this subject. Tell me the truth, as before
Heaven!"

"Am I in the habit of telling you untruths? I thought the truths I
tell you were generally a little too plain to be pleasant," she added,
in her bravado. "None but a mean-spirited man could so suspect his
wife."

"This is all you have to say to me, Adela--your definite answer?"

"Definite enough," she retorted, with a nervous sob, between a laugh
and a cry; for, what with fear and discomfort, she was becoming
slightly hysterical.

"I am bound to believe you, Adela," he said, the tears in her eyes
disarming his latent doubts. "I do believe you. But----"

"And now that you have had your say, listen to me," she interrupted,
choking down all better feelings and speaking with contemptuous anger.
"Never speak on the subject to me again if you would keep up the
semblance of peace between us. My spirit is being dangerously aroused
against you, Mr. Grubb; not only for this injustice to me, but for
your barbarous treatment of poor Charles Cleveland."

Once more, he knew not why or wherefore, something like a doubt
returned to Mr. Grubb's mind. He held her before him.

"It has been the truth, Adela?--as I hope, and pray, and trust! I ask
it you once again--that it may be well with us in after-life."

"Would I trouble myself to tell a falsehood about it to _you!_ Do you
think I have no feeling--that I should bear such distrust? And if you
would recompense me for this mauvais quart d'heure, you will release
that poor fellow tomorrow--for his father's sake."

She flung her husband's arm away and quitted the room, leaving him to
_his_ feelings. Few can imagine them--torn, outraged, thrown back upon
his generous heart. But she had certainly managed to dispel his doubts
of herself. No guilty woman, as he believed, could have faced it out
as she did.

"It must have been Cleveland's own act and deed, and no other
person's," he mentally concluded. "What madness could have come over
the lad?"



CHAPTER XXIII.
TRACING THE NOTES.


One of the most able counsellors of the day, Mr. Serjeant Mowham,
chanced to be intimately acquainted with the Rector of Netherleigh;
and the unhappy father despatched him to Newgate, in a friendly, not
in a legal capacity, to see what he could do with or for the prisoner.

He could not do much. The old saying, "Tell your whole case to your
lawyer and your doctor," is essential advice, but Charles Cleveland
would tell nothing, neither truth nor falsehood. In vain Serjeant
Mowham protested, with tears in his eyes (a stock of which, so the Bar
affirmed, he kept in readiness), that he was working in the dark,
working for pure friendship's sake, and that without some clue or hint
to go upon, no defence that had a chance of success could be made,
even though his advocate before the judge told all the _un_truths that
ever advocate's tongue gave utterance to. The prisoner was immovable,
and Serjeant Mowham in despair.

How matters really would have ended, and whether Mr. Howard would have
allowed it to come to trial, cannot be said, had not fortune been
kinder to Charles than he was to himself.

One morning, when the days before the prisoner's second examination
were growing few, the Earl of Acorn had a slice of luck. He had backed
a certain horse at a provincial race meeting, and the horse won.
Amongst other moneys that changed hands was a fifty-pound note. An
hour after the earl received it he made his way into his drawing-room
in haste, where sat his daughters, Grace, and Mary Cleveland; the
latter with her infant on her lap.

"Mary," cried the earl, "what were the numbers of the notes paid over
to Charles Cleveland at Glyn's? I partly remember them, but not
quite."

"My husband has the numbers," answered Lady Mary. "But the thing has
given me by far too much worry, papa, for me to retain them in my
head. I am not sure I ever heard them."

"I have them," interrupted Grace. "I copied them the other day. There
was no knowing, I thought, but it might prove useful."

"Quite right, Gracie, girl," said the earl. "Let's see them: 'A/Y 3,
0, 2, 5, 5,'" continued Lord Acorn, reading one of the numbers which
Lady Grace laid before him. "I thought so. One of these notes has just
been paid to me, Mary, by young Waterware."

"Where did he get it?" eagerly inquired Grace.

"I did not ask him. It was only since I left him that I noticed the
number. I'll get it out of him by-and-by."

"At once, at once, sir," urged Mary. "Oh, papa, do go to him. I feel
_sure_ Charles is not guilty."

"No impatience, Mary. Where the deuce am I to pick up Waterware at
this time of day? I might as well look for a needle in a bottle of
hay. Tonight I shall know where to find him."

Chance, however, favoured the earl. In strolling up St. James's Street
in the afternoon, he met Lord Waterware.

"I say, Waterware," he began, linking his arm in that of the younger
peer, "where did you get that fifty-pound note you gave me this
morning?"

"Where did I get it? Let's see. Oh, from Nile. He was owing me a
hundred pounds, and paid me yesterday. That fifty, two twenties, and a
ten. Why? It's not forged, I suppose," cried the young nobleman, with
a yawn.

"Not exactly. Wish I had a handful of them. Good-day. I'm going on to
Nile's."

Colonel Nile, though addicted to playing a little at cards for what he
called amusement, and sometimes did it for tolerably high stakes,
was a very different man from those other men mentioned in this
history--Colonel Haughton and Mr. Piggott, who had led Robert
Dalrymple to his ruin. They were professed gamblers, and had
disappeared from good society long ago. Colonel Nile was a popular
member of it, liked and respected.

Lord Acorn found him at home, walking about in a flowery
dressing-gown. He was a middle-aged man and a bachelor, and well off.

"The fifty-pound note I paid over to Waterware," cautiously repeated
Colonel Nile, somewhat surprised at the question, and wondering
whether random young Waterware had got into any scrape. "Why do you
want to know where I got it?"

"Because it is one of the notes that Charley Cleveland is in trouble
for: the first of them that has been traced. You must give me the
information, Nile, or I shall apply for it publicly."

"Oh, I have no objection in the world," cried the colonel, determined
to afford all that was in his power, and so wash his hands of any
unpleasantness that might turn up. "I received it at Lady Sanely's loo
table, from---- Egad! from your own daughter, Lady Adela."

"From Lady Adela!" echoed the surprised listener.

"From Lady Adela, and nobody else," repeated Colonel Nile. "She paid
another fifty to the old Dowager Beck the same evening."

Lord Acorn stared. "But surely they don't play as high as that there!"

"Don't they, though! and higher too. To tell you the truth, Acorn,
it's getting a little too high for prudent people. I, for one, mean to
draw in. Old Mother Sanely lives but for cards, and she'd stake her
head if it were loose. She has the deuce's own luck, though."

With a mental word, sharp and short, given to his daughter Adela for
allowing herself to be mixed up in company and amusement such as this,
Lord Acorn brought his attention back to the present moment. "Adela
gave another fifty-pound note to Lady Beck, you say, the same evening!
Do you happen to know its number?"

"Not I," retorted the colonel, who was not altogether pleased at the
question. "I don't make it my business to pry into notes that do not
concern me."

"How long is it ago?"

"I hardly know. Nearly a week, I suppose. It is four or five days
since I was first confined to the house with this incipient gout. I
think it was the night before that--Saturday night."

Lord Acorn proceeded straight to Lady Bock's; and, with much trouble
and persuasion, she was induced to exhibit the note spoken of by
Colonel Nile, which was still in her possession, for, like the
colonel, she had been ill for some days, so had had no opportunity of
playing it away. The old dowager was verging on her dotage, and could
not, at first, be convinced that the earl was not going to take law
proceedings against her for winning money of his daughter. He soothed
her, copied the number by stealth, went home, and compared it with
Lady Grace's pocketbook. _It was another of the notes!_

"What do you think of it, Grace?" cried the earl, in perplexity. "Can
Cleveland have been owing money to Adela?"

"I should imagine not," replied Lady Grace.

"To think she should be such a little fool as to frequent a place
where they play like that!"

"But, papa, you knew of it."

"I did not know old Sanely went in for those ruinous stakes. Five
pounds, or so, in a night to risk--I thought no worse than that."

Grace understood now. She had deemed her father indifferent. He was
then looking at it from one point of view; she from another.

"It wears a singular appearance," mused the earl. "To tell you the
truth, Grace, I don't like the fact of these notes being traced to
Adela. It looks--after the rumour of the absurd flirtation they
carried on--almost as if she and Cleveland had gone snacks in the
spoil. What now, Gracie? Are you going to fly?"

For Lady Grace Chenevix had bounded from her chair in sudden
agitation, her arms lifted as if to ward off some dread fear. "Sir!
father! the thing has become clear to me. That I should not have
suspected it before!--knowing what I did know."

"Child," he cried, gazing at her in amazement, "what is the matter
with you?"

"Adela did this. I see it all. She drew the cheque. Charles Cleveland
was only her instrument; and, in his infatuated attachment he has
taken the guilt on himself, to shield her. Well may he have asserted
his innocence to his father! Well may his conduct have appeared to us
all so incomprehensible!"

"Why, Grace, you are mad!" gasped the earl. "Accuse your sister
of--of--forgery! Do you reflect on the meaning of your words?"

"Father, do not look so sternly at me. I feel sure I am right. I
assure you it is as if scales had fallen from my eyes, for I see it
perfectly clearly. Adela wanted money for play: she had been drawn in,
far deeper than any one suspected, sir, at Lady Sanely's gaming-table.
It was Mr. Grubb's intention to refuse her further funds: no doubt he
did refuse them: and then----"

"How do you know it was his intention?"

"Oh, papa, I do know it; never mind how, now; I say that Mr. Grubb
must have refused her; and she, when this cheque-book fell into her
hands----"

"Don't continue, Grace," sharply interposed Lord Acorn; "you make
my blood run cold. You must prove what you assert, or retract it.
If--it--is proved"--the earl drew a long breath--"Cleveland must be
extricated. What a thundering fool the fellow must be?"

"Let me have time to think," said Grace, putting her hand to her head.
"Extricated of course he must be, for I know it is true, but--if
possible--without exposing Adela."

With the last words, Grace sank back in her chair and burst into a
storm of sobs. Lord Acorn was little less moved. They spoke together
further, and agreed not to tell Mary Cleveland, in spite of her state
of impatience, that Lord Acorn had traced the numbers of the two
notes.

Lady Grace decided to confide all to Mr. Grubb. It could not be kept
from him long; and she wanted to bespeak his clemency for Adela. So in
the evening she proceeded to his house, tolerably sure that her sister
would be out somewhere or other. But she found Mr. Grubb also out: at
his club, Hilson thought. Grace dismissed her carriage, went up to the
drawing-room, and wrote a word to Mr. Grubb, asking him to come home.
The thought crossed her, that perhaps it was not quite the thing to
do, but Lady Grace Chenevix was not the one to stand upon formal
ceremony.

He returned at once, looking rather anxious. "Anything the matter,
Grace? Anything amiss with Adela? She's not ill?"

"She is at the opera, I fancy; very well, no doubt." And then she sat
down and imparted her suspicions--just an allusion to them--that her
poor sister was the culprit.

"Grace," he whispered, "I don't mind telling you that the same fear
haunted me, and I spoke to her. She indignantly denied it."

"Two of the notes have been traced," murmured Grace.

"Traced!"

"Paid away by Adela at Lady Sanely's."

There was a dead silence. Lady Grace Chenevix did not raise her
eyelids, for she felt keenly the pain of avowal. An ominous shade of
despair overspread his face.

"Grace, Grace," he broke forth in anguish, "what is it you are
saying?"

"One of them, for fifty pounds, came into my father's hands roday,
and he has traced it back to Adela," continued Grace, striving to keep
down the signs of her pain. "Another of them she paid the same evening
to the Dowager Beck. Papa knows of this; he found it out roday. What
inference can we draw but that Adela---- You know what I would say."

"Could she descend to this?" he groaned. "To be a party with Charles
Cleveland in----"

"Charles was no party to it," interrupted Grace, warmly; "he must have
been her instrument, nothing more. Rely upon that. Whatever may be his
follies, he is the soul of honour. And it must be from some chivalrous
sense of honour, of noblesse oblige, you understand, that he is
continuing to shield her now the matter has come out. What is to be
done? Charles Cleveland must not be tried as a felon."

"Heaven forbid!--if he be indeed innocent. But, Grace," thoughtfully
added Mr. Grubb, "I cannot but think you are mistaken. Were Adela
guilty, she would have acknowledged it to me when I assured her in all
tenderness that I would forgive, shield, and protect her."

Grace answered by a despairing gesture. "She would not confess to you
for very shame, I fear. Dear Mr. Grubb, _what_ is to be done? We have
to save Adela's good name as well as his. You must see Charles, and
get the truth from him."

"I would rather get it from Adela."

"If you can. I doubt it. Having denied it once, she will never confess
now."

Lady Grace had reason. Mr. Grubb spoke to his wife the following
morning. He said that two of the notes had been traced to her
possession; and that, for her own sake, she had better explain, while
grace was yet held out to her. But he spoke very coolly, without the
smallest sign of endearment or tenderness; nay, there was a suspicion
of contempt in his tone, and that put Adela's spirit up.

What answered she? Was she quite blind, quite foolish? She persisted
in her denial, called him by a scornful name, haughtily ordered him to
be silent, and finally marched out of his presence, declaring she
would not re-enter it until he could finally drop all allusion to the
subject.

With a half-curse on his lips--he, so temperate and sweet-tempered a
man!--Mr. Grubb went straight to Newgate, and obtained an interview
with the prisoner. It came to nothing satisfactory; Charles was harder
in his obstinacy than ever. From thence Mr. Grubb drove back to the
West End, to Chenevix House. Some morning visitors were there, and
Lady Mary Cleveland was exhibiting her baby to them. Mr. Grubb admired
with the rest, and then made a sign to Grace. She followed him into
the next room.

"I don't see what is to be done," he began. "Adela will not hear a
word, will not admit anything, and I can make nothing of Charles
Cleveland. Upon my mentioning Adela--of course, only in hints; I could
not accuse my wife outright to him--he interrupted me with a request
that I would not introduce Lady Adela's name into so painful a matter;
that he had brought the disgrace upon himself, and was prepared to pay
for it. I think he may have lent the two notes to Adela. It would be
only one hundred pounds out of the five. I cannot believe, if my wife
were guilty, that Cleveland would take the penalty upon himself.
Transportation for life, or whatever the sentence incurred may be, is
no light matter, Grace."

Grace shuddered. "Do not let him incur the risk of it."

"I would rather cut off my right hand than punish a man unjustly, were
he my greatest enemy. But unless I can get at the truth of this
matter, and find proof that your view of it is correct, I shall have
no plea, to my partner, to my bankers, or to my own conscience, for
hushing it up; and the law must take its course."

"Alas! alas!" murmured Lady Grace.

"You seem to overlook my feelings in this affair, Grace," he
whispered, a deep hue dyeing his cheeks. "That she may have had
something to do with it, her paying away the notes proves: and to find
the wife of your bosom thus in league with another---- You don't know
what it is, Grace."

"I can imagine it," she answered, the tears standing in her eyes, as
she rose to answer his adieu. "Believe me, you have, and always have
had, my deepest and truest sympathy; but Adela is my sister; what more
can I say?"

Grace sat on, alone. The murmur of voices came to her from the
adjacent room, but she heeded it not. She leaned her head upon her
hand, and debated with herself. It was imperative that the real facts
of the case should be brought to light; for if Charles Cleveland were
permitted to stand his trial, perhaps to suffer the penalty of
transportation, and it came out, later, that he was innocent, and her
sister the guilty party, what a fearful position would be that of
Adela!

Could Charley not be brought to confess through stratagem, mentally
debated Grace. Suppose he were led to believe that Adela, to save him,
had declared the truth, then he might speak. It was surely a good
idea. Grace weighed it, in all its bearings, and thought the end would
justify the means. But to whom entrust so delicate a mission? Not to
Mr. Cleveland, he would betray it all to Charles at the first
sentence; not Mr. Grubb; his high sense of honour would never let him
intimate that Adela had confessed what she had not; not to Lady Mary,
for her only idea of Newgate was that it was a place overflowing with
infectious fevers, which she should inevitably bring home to baby.
Lord Acorn? Somehow Grace could not ask him. Who next? Who else was
there? _Herself?_ Yes, and Grace felt that none were more fitted for
the task than she was--she who had the subject so much at heart. And
she resolved to go.

But she could not go alone to Newgate. Her mother ought to be with
her. Now the matter, relative to the tracing of the notes to Adela,
had been kept from Lady Acorn. Grace disclosed it to her in the
emergency, and made her the confidante of what she meant to do.

Lady Acorn sat aghast. For once in her life she was terrified to
silence and meekness. Grace obtained her consent, and the time for the
expedition was fixed. Not that Lady Acorn relished it.

"If it be as you and your father believe, Grace, Master Charley
Cleveland deserves the soundest shaking man ever had yet," cried she,
when speech returned to her.

"Ah, mamma! Then what must Adela deserve?"

"To be in Newgate herself," tartly responded Lady Acorn.



CHAPTER XXIV.
A DISAGREEABLE EXPEDITION.


It was Monday morning. Charles Cleveland sat on his iron bedstead in
his dreary cell in Newgate: of which cell he had become heartily tired
by this time: chewing there in solitude the cud of his reflections,
which came crowding one upon another. None of them were agreeable, as
may be imagined, but pressing itself upon him more keenly than all,
was the sensation of deep, dark disappointment. Above the discomfort
of his present position, above the sense of shame endured, above the
hard, degrading life that loomed for him in the future, he felt the
neglect of Lady Adela. She, for whom he was bearing all the misery and
disgrace in this dreadful dungeon, had never, by letter or by message,
sought to convey a ray of sympathy to cheer him. The neglect, the
indifference may have been unavoidable, but it told not the less
bitterly on the spirit of the prisoner.

A noise at his cell door. The heavy key was turning in the lock, and
the prisoner looked up eagerly--a visit was such a break in his dreary
day. Two ladies were entering, and his heart beat wildly--wildly; for
in the appearance of one he discerned some resemblance to Lady
Adela's. _Had_ she come to see him! and he had been so ungratefully
blaming her! But the lady raised her veil, and he was recalled to his
sober senses. It was only Grace Chenevix.

"So, Charles, an awful scrape you have brought yourself into, through
your flirting nonsense with Adela!" began the Countess of Acorn, as
she followed her daughter in.

"Now, mamma, dear mamma," implored Grace, in a whisper, "if you
interfere, you will ruin all."

"Ruin all! much obliged to you, Grace! I think he has ruined himself,"
retorted the countess, in a shrill tone. Never famous for a sweet
temper or a silent tongue, Lady Acorn was not improved by the trouble
that had fallen on them, or by this distasteful expedition which she
had been forced, so to say, to take this morning, for she could not
allow Grace to come alone. The unhappy prisoner would reap the full
benefit of her acrimony.

"I wonder you can look us in the face," she went on to him. "Had any
one told me I should sometime walk through Newgate attended by
turnkeys, I should have said it was a libel. We came down in a hack
cab. I wouldn't have brought the servants here for the world."

"I shall ever feel grateful to you," breathed Charles.

"Oh, never mind about gratitude," unceremoniously interrupted Lady
Acorn; "there's no time for it. Let us say what we have to say, Grace,
and be gone. I'm all in a tremor, lest those men with keys should come
and lock me up. Of course, Charles, you know it has all come out."

Charles looked up sharply.

"Which is more luck than you could have expected," added the countess,
while Grace sat on thorns, lest some unlucky admission of her mother's
should ruin all, as she had just phrased it, and unable to get a word
in edgeways. "Of all brainless simpletons you are the worst. If Adela
chose (like the thoughtless, wicked girl she is, though she is my
daughter) to write her husband's name to a cheque, was that any reason
why you should go hotheaded to work, and make believe you did it? Mr.
Grubb is not your husband, and you have no right to his money. Things
that the law will permit a wife to do with impunity, you might be run
up to the drop for."

"Who has been saying this?" breathed the prisoner, bewildered with the
torrent of words, and their signification. "Surely not Lady Adela."

"Charles," interposed Grace, and her quiet tones, after those of the
countess, sounded like the lulling of a storm, "there is no necessity
for further mystery, or for your continuing to assume the guilt;
which, as my mother says, was an unwise step on your part----"

"I did not say unwise," sharply interrupted the countess; "call things
by their right names, Lady Grace. It was insanity, and nobody but an
idiot would have done it. That's what I said."

"The circumstances are known to us now," went on Grace, speaking
quietly. "Poor Adela, at her wits' end for money, drew the cheque, and
sent you to cash it. And then, terrified at what she had done,
persuaded you to assume the responsibility."

"She did not persuade me," explained Charles, falling  completely into
the snare, and believing every word that was spoken, yet still anxious
to excuse Lady Adela. "I volunteered to bear it. And I would do as
much again."

"Charles--mamma, pray let me speak for a minute--had you been present
when Adela wrote the cheque, you would been doubly to blame. She----"

Charles shook his head. "I was not present."

"She, poor thing, was excited at the moment, and incapable of
reflection, but you ought to have recalled her to reason, and refused
to aid in it--for her own sake."

"And of course I should," eagerly answered Mr. Charles, "had I known
there was anything wrong about it. She brought me the cheque, ready
filled in----"

"When you went up from the City for the cheque-book, on the Saturday
morning. Yes, we know all."

"I declare I thought it was Mr. Grubb's writing, if ever I saw his
writing in my life. I was not likely to have any other thought--how
could I have? And I never recalled the matter to my mind, or knew
anything more about it, till the Monday night, when I came up from
Netherleigh: as I suppose Lady Adela has told you, if she has told you
the rest."

"And then you undertook to shield her," interposed Lady Acorn, "and a
glorious mess you have made of it between you. Grace, how you worry!
you can speak when I have done. What she did would have been hushed up
by her husband for all our sakes, but what you did was a very
different matter. And the disgrace you have gratuitously brought upon
yourself may yet be blazoned forth to every corner of the United
Kingdom."

"And these are all the thanks I get," remarked Charles, striving to
speak lightly.

"What other thanks would you like?" remarked the countess. "A service
of plate presented to you? You deserve a testimonial, don't you, for
having run your head into a noose of this dangerous kind for any woman
And for Adela, of all others, who cares for no one on earth but her
blessed self. Not she."

"My mother is right," said Lady Grace, "and it may be as well,
Charles, that you should know it. Adela has never cared for you in any
way, except as an amusing boy, who could talk nonsense to her when she
chose to condescend to listen. If you have thought anything else----"

"I never had a disloyal thought to Lady Adela," interrupted Charles,
warmly. "Or to her husband--who has always been so kind to me. I would
have warded all such--all ill--from her with my life."

"And nicely she has repaid you!" commented Lady Acorn. "Do you suppose
she would have confessed this herself?--no, we found it out. She would
have let you suffer, and never said 'Thank you.'  I tell you this,
Master Charley; and I hope you will let it prove to you what the
smiles of a heartless butterfly of a married woman are worth."

He bit his dry and fevered lips with mortification--fevered for _her_.
And Lady Acorn, after bestowing a few more unpalatable truths upon the
unhappy prisoner, took her daughter's arm and hurried away, glad to
escape from the place and the interview.

"A capital success we have had, Gracie," she cried, when they were
outside the stone walls, "but it is all thanks to me. You would have
beat about the bush, and palavered, and hesitated, and done no good. I
got it out of him nicely--like the green sea-gull that the boy is.
But, Grace, my child"--and Lady Acorn's voice for once grew hushed and
solemn--"what in the world will be done with Adela?"


It was a painful scene, that in which they brought it home to Lady
Adela. When Lady Acorn carried to her husband the news of Charles's
unconscious avowal, he was struck almost dumb with consternation. The
worst conclusion he had come to, in regard to some of the notes being
traced to his daughter, was that she had but borrowed money from
Charles Cleveland. Innocently? Yes; he could not and would not think
she had any knowledge of how Charles became possessed of the notes.
Lord Acorn, in spite of his perpetual embarrassments, and his not
altogether straightforward shifts to evade them, possessed the true
sense of honour that generally belongs to his order. He possessed it
especially in regard to woman; and to find that his most favoured and
favourite daughter had been guilty of theft; of--of---- He could not
pursue the thought, as he sank down with his pain.

"We had better go to her, and hear what she has to plead in excuse,
and--and--ascertain how far her peculations have gone," he said
presently to his wife. "Perhaps there are more of them. Poor Grubb!"

So they went to Grosvenor Square, arm-in-arm, but sick at heart, and
found Lady Adela alone. She was toying with a golden bird in a golden
cage; gold at any rate in colour; a recent purchase. Her afternoon
dress of muslin had golden-hued sprigs upon it, and there was much
gilding of mirrors and other ornaments in the room, the taste of that
day. A gay scene altogether, and Adela the gayest and prettiest object
in it.

She was not quite as heartless, though, as appeared on the surface, or
as Lady Acorn judged her to be. Adela was growing frightened. She was
beginning to realize what it was she had done, and to wonder, in much
self-torment, what would come of it. That Mr. Grubb would release
Charles Cleveland she had not at first entertained the smallest doubt,
or that the affair would be entirely hushed up. Charles would be true
to her, never disclose her name, and there it would end. With this
fond expectation she had buoyed herself up. But as the days went on,
and Charles was still kept in Newgate, soon to be brought up for
another examination preparatory to committal for trial, she grew
alarmed. For the past day or two her uneasiness had been intolerable.
Could she have saved Charles and his good name by confessing the
truth, and run away for ever from the sight of men, she would have
done it thankfully; but to take the guilt upon herself, and such
debasing guilt, _and_ remain before the world!--this was utterly
repugnant, not to say impossible, to the proud heart of Lady Adela.

It was so unusual to see her father and mother come in together, and
to see them both with solemn faces, that Adela's heart leaped, as the
saying runs, into her mouth. Still, it _might_ not portend any adverse
meaning, and she rallied her courage.

"I want to make him sing," she cried, turning on them her bright and
smiling face. "Did you ever see so beautiful a colour, papa? I _hope_
he is not too beautiful to sing."

But there was no answering smile on the faces of either father or
mother, only an increased solemnity. Lord Acorn, waving his hand
towards the bird as if he would, wave off a too frivolous toy, touched
her arm and pointed to a chair.

"Sit down, Adela."

She turned as white as death. Lady Acorn opened her lips to begin, a
great wrath evidently upon them, but her lord and master imperatively
waved his hand to her for silence, as he had just waved away the
frivolous bird, and addressed his daughter.

"What is to become of you, Adela?"

She neither spoke nor moved. She sat back in an armchair, with her
white and terror-stricken face. Her teeth began to chatter.

"How came you to do it?" he continued.

"To--to--do what?" she gasped.

"To do what!" screamed out Lady Acorn, utterly unable to control her
tongue and her reproaches longer--"why, to rifle your husband's
cheque-book of a cheque, and fill it in, and forge the firm's
signature, and despatch that unsuspicious baby, Charles Cleveland, to
cash it."

"Who--who says I did that?" asked Adela, making one last, hopeless,
desperate effort to defend herself.

"Who----"

"Betsy, if you can't let me speak, you had better go away for a few
minutes," cried Lord Acorn, arresting a fresh burst of eloquence from
his wife. "That you did do this thing, Adela, is known now; some of
the notes have been traced to you, all the particulars have been
traced, and Charles Cleveland has confessed to them. Any denial you
could attempt would be more idle than the chirping of that bird."

"Charles has confessed to them?" she whispered, taken aback by this
blow. Nothing, save his confession, could have brought it absolutely
home to her.

"Did you set up a fantastic hope that he would keep silence to the
end, and go to his hanging to save you?" demanded Lady Acorn, defying
her lord's wish to have the whole ball to himself. "Proofs came out
against you, Madam Adela, as your father says; they were carried to
Charles Cleveland, and he could but admit the truth."

"_Why_ did you do this terrible thing? That my daughter whom I have so
loved, should be capable of sullying herself with such disgrace!"
broke off Lord Acorn, with a wail. In good truth, it had been a blow
to him, and one he had never bargained for. To play a little at Lady
Sanely's for amusement, was one thing; he had, so to say, winked at
that; but to _gamble_ and to steal money to pay her gambling debts,
was quite another. "Adela, I could almost wish I had died before
hearing of it."

Adela burst into tears. "I wanted the money so badly," she sobbed,
hiding her face with her trembling hands. "I owed it--a great deal--to
people at Lady Sanely's. I was at my wits' end, and Mr. Grubb would
not give me any more. Oh, papa, forgive me! Can't it be hushed up?"

"Did you help yourself to more than that?" asked Lord Acorn.

"I do not understand," she faltered, not catching his meaning.

"Have you drawn or used any other false cheque?"

"Oh no, no; only that. Papa, _won't_ you forgive me?"

He shook his head. No, he felt that he could not. "My forgiveness may
not be of vital consequence to you, one way or the other, Adela," he
remarked, with a groan, that he drowned by coughing. "The termination
of this affair does not lie with me."

"It lies with my husband," she said in a low tone. "He will hush it
up."

"It does not lie with him, Adela," sternly spoke Lord Acorn. "Had it
been one of his private cheques, had you used his name only, it might
in a great degree have rested with him--unless the bankers had taken
it up."

"But you borrowed old Mr. Howard's name as well," struck in Lady
Acorn; "and, if he pleases to be stern and obstinate, he can just
place you where Charles Cleveland is, and you would have to stand your
trial in the face and eyes of the world. A pretty disgrace for us all!
A frightful calamity!"

Adela looked from one to the other, her face changing pitiably; now
white as snow with fear, now hectic with emotion and shame.

"Mr. Grubb has full power in Leadenhall Street," she pleaded. "He will
take care to shield _me_."

"Are you sure of that?" quietly asked her father. "Has your conduct to
him been such--I don't allude to this one pitiable instance, I speak
of your treatment of him generally--has it been such that you can
assume he will inevitably go out of his way to shield you, right or
wrong?"

In spite of the miserable shame that filled her, a passing flush of
triumph crossed her face. Ay! and her heart. What though she _had_
persistently done her best to estrange her husband, with her provoking
ways and her scornful contumely, very conscious felt she that she was
all in all to him still. Why, had he not begged of her to confide this
thing to him, and he would make it straight and guard her from
exposure?

"I have nothing to fear from him, papa; I know it. It will be all
right."

"How can you assert this in barefaced confidence, you wicked child?"
groaned Lady Acorn. "I would not--no, I would not be so brazen for the
world."

"Adela, don't deceive yourself with vain expectations; it may be
harder for you in the end," interposed her father, once more making a
deprecatory motion towards the place where his wife's tongue lay. "You
are assuming a surety which you have no right to feel; better look the
truth sternly in the face."

"I am his wife, papa," she faintly urged. "He will be _sure_ to
shelter me."

"He may be able to shelter you from exposure; I doubt not but that he
will do it, so far as he can, for his own sake as well as for yours;
for all our sakes, indeed. But----"

"A few years ago you might have been hanged," struck in Lady Acorn.
"Hanged outside Newgate. I can remember the time when death was the
penalty for forgery. Dr. Dodd was hung for it. How would you have
liked that?"

Adela did not say how she would have liked it. She was passing her
hands nervously across her face, as if to keep down its pallor. As to
Lord Acorn, he despaired of being allowed to finish any argument he
might begin, and paced the room restlessly.

"But, though your husband may shield you from public exposure, it is
too much to hope that he will absolve you from consequences, and I
think you will have to face and bear them," recommenced Lord Acorn,
talking while he walked. "Had my wife served me as you have served
Grubb, I should have put her away from me for ever; and I tell it you,
Adela, before her as she stands there, though she is your mother."

"And served me right, too," commented Lady Acorn.

"How do you mean, papa?" gasped Adela.

"My meaning ought to be plain enough," was Lord Acorn's angry reproof.
"Are you wilfully shutting your eyes to the nature of the offence you
have sullied yourself with?--its degradation?--its sin?" he sharply
questioned. "There's hardly a worse in our criminal code, that I know
of, except murder."

"But I do not understand," she faintly reiterated. "If my husband
absolves me, who else----"

"He may absolve you so far as the general public goes, shield you from
that penalty," was the impatient interruption; "but not from your
offence to himself. In my judgment, you must not look for that."

Adela did not answer. She glanced at her father questioningly, with an
imploring look.

"A man has put his wife away from him for a much less cause than
this," continued Lord Acorn. "And your husband, I fancy, must have
been already pretty nigh tired out. What has your conduct been to him,
Adela, ever since your marriage?"

She bent her head, her face flushing. To be taken to task by her
father was a bitter pill, in addition to all the other discomfort.

"_It has been shameful!_" emphatically pronounced Lord Acorn. "For my
part, I marvel that Grubb has borne it. But that I make it a rule not
to interfere with my daughters, once they have left my roof for that
of a husband, I should not have borne it tamely for him; and that I
now tell you, Adela. One or two hints that I have given you from time
to time you have disregarded."

"He has borne with her and indulged her to the top of her bent, when
he ought to have taken her by the shoulders and shaken her insolence
out of her," nodded the mother.

"Had you been a loving wife, Adela, things might have a better chance
of going well with you," pursued her father, with another motion of
the hand. "But, remembering what your treatment of your husband has
persistently been, you can have no plea for praying leniency of him
now, or he much inclination to accord it."

Lady Adela would have liked to give her head a saucy toss. She knew
better; her father could not judge of her husband as she could.
"Francis can't beat me," she thought. "He can lecture me, and _will_;
and I must bear it meekly for once, under the circumstances."

She looked up at her father.

"My husband is very fond of me, in spite of all," she whispered.

"Yes; he is fond of you," returned Lord Acorn, with emotion. "Too
fond. His behaviour to you proves that. Why, how much money have you
had of him, drawn from him by your wiles, beyond your large legitimate
allowance?"

Adela did not answer. "Has he spoken of it?" she asked, the question
occurring to her.

"No, he has not spoken of it; he is not the man to speak of it. I
gather so much from your sisters: they talk of it among themselves.
One might have thought that your husband's kindness to you would have
won your regard, had nothing else done it. It strikes me all that will
be over now," concluded Lord Acorn.

Adela answered by a sobbing sigh.

"Yon have been on the wrong tack for some time now," he resumed, as an
afterthought. "Who but a silly-minded woman would have made herself
ridiculous, as you have, by flirting with a boy like Charles
Cleveland? Do----"

"Oh, papa! You cannot think for a moment I meant anything!" she
exclaimed, her cheeks flushing hotly.

"Except to vex your husband. Do you think your foolishness--I could
call it by a harsher name--did not give sorrow to myself and your
mother? We had deemed you sensible, honourable, open as the day: not
the hard-hearted, frivolous woman you have turned out to be. Well,
Adela, people generally have to reap what they sow: and I fear your
harvest will not be a pleasant one."

She pressed her trembling hands together.

"Where are you going?" inquired Lady Acorn, as her husband took his
hat up.

"To Leadenhall Street--to Grubb. Some one must apprise him of this
dreadful truth; and I suppose it falls to me to do it--and a most
distressing task it is. Would you have allowed young Cleveland to
stand his trial?--to have suffered the penalty of the crime?" broke
off Lord Acorn to his daughter.

"It would never have come to that, papa."

"But it would have come to that; it was coming to it. I ask, would you
have allowed an innocent lad to be sent over the seas for you?"

Adela shuddered. "I must have spoken then," was her faint answer.

Lord Acorn, jumping into a cab, proceeded to Leadenhall Street, to
make this wretched confession to his son-in-law. Had he been making it
of himself, he would have felt it less. He was, however, spared the
task. Mr. Grubb was not in the City, and Mr. Grubb already knew the
truth.

It chanced that, close upon the departure of Lady Acorn and her
daughter Grace from Charles Cleveland's cell that morning, Serjeant
Mowham was shown into it: and the reader may as well be reminded that
the learned serjeant had not taken up Charles's case in his
professional capacity, but simply as an anxious friend. Without going
into details, Charles told him that the truth had now come out, his
innocence was made apparent to those concerned, and he hoped he should
soon see the last of the precious walls he was incarcerated within.
Away rushed Serjeant Mowham to Leadenhall Street, asking an
explanation of Messrs. Grubb and Howard; and very much surprised did
he feel at finding those gentlemen knew nothing.

"I am positive it is a fact," persisted the serjeant to them. "One
cannot mistake Charley's changed tones and looks. Some evidence that
exculpates him has turned up, rely upon it, and I thought, of course,
you must know what it was. Lady Acorn and one of her daughters went
out from him just before I got there."

Mr. Grubb felt curious; rather uneasy. If Charles Cleveland was
exonerated, who had been the culprit?

"I shall go and see him at once," he said to Mr. Howard.

And now Charles Cleveland fell into another error. Never supposing but
that Mr. Grubb must know at least as much as Lady Acorn knew, he
unconsciously betrayed all. In his eagerness to show his kind patron
he was not quite the ungrateful wretch he appeared to be, he betrayed
it.

"I never thought of such a thing, sir, as that it was not your
cheque--I mean your own signature," he pleaded. "I wouldn't have done
such a thing for all the world--and after all your goodness to me for
so many months! It was only when I came up from Netherleigh on the
Monday evening I found there was something wrong with it."

"You heard it from Lady Adela," spoke Mr. Grubb, quietly accepting the
mistake.

"Yes. She told me how it was. Mr. Howard was with you then in the
dining-room, and his coming had frightened her. She seemed in dreadful
distress, and I promised to shield her as far as I could."

"You should have confided the truth to me," interrupted Mr. Grubb.
"All trouble might have been avoided."

"But how could I?--and after my voluntary promise to Lady Adela! What
would you have thought of me, sir, had I shifted the blame from myself
to lay it upon her?" added Charley, lifting his ingenuous, honest eyes
to his master's.

Mr. Grubb did not say what he should have thought. Charles rather
misinterpreted the silence: he fancied Mr. Grubb must be angry with
him.

"Of course it has been a heavy blow to me, the being accused of such a
thing, and to have had to accept the accusation, and to lie here in
Newgate, with no prospect before me but transportation; but I ask you
what else I could do, sir? I could not clear myself at the expense of
Lady Adela."

Mr. Grubb did not answer this appeal. Telling Charles that steps
should be taken for his release, and enjoining him to absolute silence
as regarded Lady Adela's name, he returned to Leadenhall Street, and
held a private conference with his partner.

What passed at it was known only to themselves, or how far Francis
Grubb found it necessary to speak of his wife. Mr. Howard noticed one
thing--that the young man (young, as compared with himself) looked at
moments utterly bewildered; once or twice he talked at random. The
following morning was the one fixed for Charles's second examination
before Sir Turtle Kite, when, that worthy alderman being satisfied, he
must of course be released.

Barely was the conference over and this resolution fixed upon, when a
most urgent summons came to Mr. Grubb from Blackheath--his mother was
supposed to be dying. He started off without the loss of a moment. And
when, some time later, the Earl of Acorn arrived, he found only Mr.
Howard, and learnt from him that Charles would be discharged on the
following morning.

Just for a moment we must return to Adela. When Lady Acorn left
her--after exhausting her whole vocabulary in the art of scolding,
and waiting to drink some tea she asked for, for her lips were
parched--Adela buried her face on the gold-coloured satin
sofa-cushion, and indulged her repentance to her heart's content. It
was sincere--and bitter. Were the time to come over again--oh, that it
could!--far rather would she cut off her right hand than do what she
had done; she would die, rather than do such a thing again. It was
altogether a dreadful prospect yet--at least, it might be. What if
they would not exonerate Charley without inculpating her? Not her
husband; she did not fear him; old Howard, and the bankers, and those
aldermen on the bench? How should she meet it? where should she run
to? what would the world say of her? Lady Adela started from the
cushion affrighted. Her lips were more parched than her mother's had
been, and she rang for some tea on her own score.

She sat back in her chair after drinking it, her pretty hands lying
listless on her pretty dress, and tried to think matters out. As soon
as her husband came home she would throw herself upon his bosom and
confess all, and plead for mercy with tears and kisses as she had
never pleaded before, and give him her word never to touch another
card, and whisper that in future she would be his dear wife. He would
not refuse to forgive her; no fear of that; he would tell her not to
be naughty again, and make all things right. She would tell him that
she might have loved him from the first, for it was the truth, but
that she steeled her heart and her temper against him, because of his
name and of his being a City man; and she would tell him that she
could and should love him from henceforth, that the past was past, and
they would be as happy together as the day was long.

A yearning impatience grew upon her for his return as she sat and
thought thus. What hour was it? Surely he was at home sometimes
earlier than this!

As she turned her head to look at the timepiece on the marble console,
Hilson came in, a note on his small silver salver.

"One of the clerks brought it up from Leadenhall Street, my lady," he
remarked, as he held it out to her. "He said there was no answer."

It was not her husband's writing, and Lady Adela opened it with
trembling fingers. Had some now and dreadful phase turned up in this
unhappy business? The fear, that it had, flashed through her.


"DEAR MADAM,

"Mr. Grubb has been sent for to his mother, who is dangerously ill. He
requested me to drop you a line to say he should probably remain at
Blackheath for the night. I therefore do so, and despatch it to you by
a clerk.

"Your obedient servant,

"JAMES HOWARD."


"So I can't do it," she cried, thinking of all she had been planning
out, something like resentment making itself heard in her disappointed
heart. "What a wretched evening it will be!"

Wretched enough. She did not venture to go to Chenevix House whilst
lying under its wrathful displeasure; she had not the face to show
herself elsewhere in this uncertainty and trouble.

"I wish," she burst forth, with a petulant tap of her black satin
slipper on the carpet, "I wish that tiresome Mrs. Lynn would get well!
Or else die, and have done with it."

The Lady Adela was not altogether in an entirely penitential frame of
mind yet.



CHAPTER XXV.
SIR TURTLE KITE.


What a delightful world this might be if all our fond plans and hopes
could only be fulfilled! if no adverse influence crept in to frustrate
them!

Never a doubt had crossed the mind of those concerned for the welfare
of Charles Cleveland, that he would be set at liberty on Tuesday, the
day following the one above spoken of.

It was not to be. Charles was brought up, as previously, for private
examination before Alderman Sir Turtle Kite. No evidence was offered;
on the contrary, a legal gentleman, one Mr. Primerly, the noted
solicitor for the house of Grubb and Howard, intimated that there was
none to offer--the charge had been a mistake altogether.

Sir Turtle Kite was a little man, as broad as he was long,
with a smiling round face and shiny bald head, the best-hearted,
easiest-natured, and pleasantest-tempered of all the bench of
aldermen. He would fain have been lenient to the worst offender; added
to which, he knew about as much of the law as he did of the new comet,
just then spreading its tail in the heavens. Therefore, unconsciously
lacking the acumen to make an able administrator of justice, Sir
Turtle, as a natural sequence, was especially fond of sitting to
administer it. Latterly he had sat daily, and generally alone, much
gout and dyspepsia prevailing just then amidst his brother-aldermen.
The Lord Mayor of the year was a bon vivant, and gave a civic dinner
five days in the week. Certain recent judicial decisions of Sir
Turtle's, mild as usual, had been called in question by the
newspapers; and one of them sharply attacked him in a leading article,
asking why he did not discharge every prisoner brought before him, and
regale him with luncheon.

Reading this article at breakfast, Sir Turtle came forth to the
magisterial bench this day, Tuesday, smarting under its castigation.
And, to the utter surprise of every one in the private justice-room,
he declined to release the prisoner, Charles Cleveland. Rubbing his
bald head, and making the best little speech he could--he was no
orator--Sir Turtle talked of the fatal effects that might arise from
the miscarriage of justice, and his resolve to uphold it in all its
integrity.

Mr. Grubb was not present. Mr. Howard, who was, stared with
astonishment, having always known the benevolent little alderman to be
as pliant as a bit of cap-paper. James Howard said what he dared; as
much as it was expedient to say, against the alderman's decision; but
to no purpose. Sir Turtle, trying to put the wisdom of an owl into his
round face, demanded to know, if the prisoner was not guilty, who was?
This not being satisfactorily explained, he remanded the prisoner to
the following morning, when he would probably be committed for trial.
And, with this consolatory decision, Charles was conveyed back to his
lodgings in Newgate.

Mr. Howard, somewhat put out by the contretemps, and by the alderman's
rejection of his declared testimony that the prisoner was innocent,
wrote a note to Lord Acorn with the news, and sent it to Chenevix
House by hand. He had promised to notify the release of Charles, when
that should be accomplished. But he had to notify a very different
fact.

"Bless my heart!" exclaimed Lord Acorn, when he opened the note late
in the afternoon, for he (also relieved of his worst fears) had been
out gadding. "This is a dreadful thing!"

"What is the matter?" cried his wife, who was sitting there with
Grace. "One would think the world was coming to an end, to look at
your face."

The earl's face just then was considerably lengthened. He stood
twirling his whiskers, and gazing at James Howard's very plain
handwriting.

"They won't release Cleveland, Howard writes me," said the earl.
"Things have taken a cross turn."

Grace closed her book and clasped her hands. Lady Acorn threw down her
knitting, and inquired who would not release him.

"The magistrate who has sat to hear the case," replied Lord Acorn.
"Sir--what's the odd name?--Turtle Kite. He refuses, absolutely, to
release Charles, until the true culprit shall be brought before
him--seems to think it is a trick, Howard says."

"Good Heavens!" cried Lady Grace, foreseeing more dire consequences
than she would have liked to speak of. "What will become of Charles?
What of Adela? Oh, papa! they cannot compel her to appear, can
they?--to take Charles's place?"

"I don't know what they can do," gloomily responded the earl. "Hang
these aldermen! What right have they to turn obstinate, when a
prisoner's innocence is vouched for?"

"And where _is_ the prisoner?" cried my lady.

"Taken back to Newgate. Is to be brought up again tomorrow, _to be
committed for trial_. Well, this is a pretty kettle of fish!"

Grace bit her pale and trembling lips. "Was Mr. Grubb at the
examination, papa?"

"No. Grubb's at Blackheath. Has not been up, Howard says, since he
went down yesterday. What on earth is to be done?"

"The best thing to do is for you to go to Blackheath and see Mr.
Grubb," promptly cried the countess. "If Adela were a child, I should
beat her. Bringing all this worry and disgrace upon us!"

"I couldn't go there and be back for the dinner," cried he.

For they were engaged that evening to a state dinner at a duke's.

"Bother dinner!" irascibly retorted Lady Acorn. "If this affair can't
be stopped, Adela will have to be smuggled over to the Continent, and
stay in hiding there. If it is _not_ stopped, and her name has to
appear, we shall never be able to show our faces at a dinner-table
again."

Lord Acorn wore a perplexed brow. Look at the affair in what light
they would, it seemed to present nothing but difficulty. Once Charles
Cleveland was committed for trial, what would be the end of it? He
_could not_ be allowed to stand his trial--and what might not that
involve for Adela?

Lord Acorn, hating personal trouble of all kinds, especially trouble
so disagreeable as this, betook himself--not to Blackheath, as
enjoined by his wife, but to the City. He would see Mr. Howard first,
and hear what his opinion was. Jumping out of the cab which had
conveyed him to Leadenhall Street, he jumped against Serjeant Mowham.

"No good your going up," cried the serjeant. "Howard has left, and
Grubb seems to be nowhere roday."

"Have you heard about poor Charley?" asked Lord Acorn.

"Of course I have; that has brought me here. Primerly came to my
chambers on other business, and told me what had happened. I came down
here at once to catch one of the partners--or both of them--and see if
there's anything to be done."

"What can be done?" returned Lord Acorn.

"Be shot if I know," said the serjeant. "It will be a serious thing
for Charley, mind you, if he does get committed for trial--as Sir
Turtle Kite has promised."

"What an ill-conditioned, revengeful man that Sir Turtle Kite must
be!"

"There you are wrong, my lord. He is just the contrary: one of the
sunniest-natured little men you can picture, and about as able upon
the bench as my old wig would be if you stuck it there. The newspapers
have been going in to him lately for his leniency, so I suppose he
thinks he must make an example of somebody. One of the papers had a
bantering article this morning, suggesting that Sir Turtle should open
a luncheon-room at the court, and treat the delinquents who appeared
before him to bottled stout and oysters. That article, I suspect, is
the cause of his turning crusty roday. Look here," added the
serjeant, lowering his voice and catching hold of the other's
button-hole, "what is there at the bottom of all this matter? Who
was it that Charley made himself a scapegoat for? Do you know?"

As it chanced, they were jostled just then by some one of the many
passers-by in the busy street--nearly pushed off the causeway. Lord
Acorn, forgetting his usual superlative equanimity, allowed himself to
be put out by it, and so evaded an answer.

"Nobody does know, that I can find out," said the serjeant, returning
to the charge, and facing Lord Acorn, with whom he had long been on
intimate terms: "and Charley makes a mystery of it. I suspect it
was some one of those wild blades he has been hand-in-glove with
lately--and that he won't betray him."

"Ah, yes, no doubt," carelessly assented Lord Acorn, his face wearing
a deeper tinge than ordinary. "I wonder where Howard is? Charley must
be saved."

"It will be of no use your seeing Howard, Lord Acorn--except for any
odds and ends of information he might afford you. The affair is out of
his hands now."

"But it can't be out of Mr. Grubb's!"

"Indeed it is. It is in Sir Turtle Kite's."

"Could one do any good with _him?_"

Serjeant Mowham laughed. "I can't say, one way or the other. You might
try, perhaps. Don't say, though, that I recommended it."

The peer smoothed his brow, smooth enough before to all appearance.
How often do these smiling brows hide a heavy load of perplexity
within!

"As for me, I must be off," added the serjeant. "I've a consultation
on for five o'clock at my chambers, and I believe five has struck."

He bustled away, leaving Lord Acorn in the crowd. Thought is
quick. That nobleman was saying to himself, "What if I _do_ see Sir
Turtle?--who knows but I might come over him by persuasion? Wonder
where he is to be found?"

He glanced up and down Leadenhall Street, at its houses on this side
and on that, as if, haply, he might discern the name. During this
survey he found himself subjected to an increased amount of jostling,
and became aware that the clerks were pouring out of the offices of
Grubb and Howard.

"Oh--ah," began Lord Acorn, addressing a young man who was nearly the
last, all his nonchalance of manner in full force again, "can you tell
me where Sir Turtle Kite is to be found?"

"Sir Turtle Kite, sir?" replied the young clerk, civilly. "I
think--I'm not quite sure--but I think his place is somewhere down by
the river. Here--Aitcheson"--stopping an older clerk--"where is Sir
Turtle Kite's place? This gentleman is asking."

"Tooley Street--forget the number--can't mistake it," replied the
other, who seemed in a great hurry to get away, and threw back the
words as he went.

"Tooley Street," repeated Lord Acorn, by way of impressing the name on
his mind. "Some commercial stronghold, I apprehend. What business is
he?"

"He's a tallow-merchant, sir."

"Ah--thank you--a tallow-merchant," repeated his lordship, with a
deprecatory shrug of the shoulders at the objectionable word, tallow.
"Thank you very much." And the young man, who was of good breeding,
lifted his hat and walked away.

Lord Acorn had as much notion in which direction he must look for
Tooley Street as he might have had in looking for the way to the North
Pole. Making another inquiry, this time of a policeman, the road was
pointed out to him, and the information given that it was "not far."
That, at least, was the policeman's opinion.

So Lord Acorn, whose cab had been dismissed at first, and who liked
walking, for he was a lithe, active man for his age, at length reached
Tooley Street, and began a pilgrimage up and down its narrow confines,
which seemed to be choked up with cumbersome drays and trolleys.
Presently he discovered a huge pile of dark buildings, all along the
wide face of which was posted the name of the firm: "Turtle Kite,
Tanner, Rex, and Co." The goal at last!

Wondering within himself how Sir Turtle Kite, or any other person
possessing rational instincts and ordinary lungs, could exist in such
an atmosphere of dirt and turmoil, Lord Acorn looked about for the
entrance. There was none to be seen: and he was beginning seriously to
speculate whether Turtle Kite, Tanner, Rex, and Co. entered the
building by means of a rope-ladder affixed to one of the little square
holes that served for windows, when a man, who had the appearance of a
porter, came out of a narrow, dark entry.

"Is there any entrance to this building, my man?"

"Entrance is up here, sir; waggon-entrance on t'other side."

"Oh--ah--you belong to it, I perceive. Do you happen to know whether
Sir Turtle Kite is in?"

"There's nobody in at all, sir; warehouses is shut for the evening,"
returned the porter. "Sir Turtle don't come here much hisself now; he
leaves things mostly to Tanner and Rex. They'll both be here tomorrow
morning, sir. Watchman's coming on presently."

"Ah, yes, no doubt," assented Lord Acorn, in his suave way. "Then Sir
Turtle does not live here, I presume."

The porter checked a laugh at the notion. "Sir Turtle lives at
Brixton, sir. Leastways, it's between Brixton and Clapham. Rosemary
Lodge, sir--a rare beautiful place it is."

Brixton now! To Lord Acorn's dismayed mind it seemed that he might
almost as well start for the moon; and for a few seconds he hesitated.
But--having undertaken this adventurous expedition--adventurous in
more ways than one--he mist carry it through for his unhappy
daughter's sake.

"Do you fancy Sir Turtle is likely to be at home now, at--ah, Rosemary
House--if I go there, my man?"

"Most likely, sir. He is mostly at home earlier than this. Sir Turtle
is very fond of his garden and greenhouses, you see, and makes haste
home to 'em. He's got no wife nor child. But it's Rosemary Lodge, sir;
not Rosemary House."

"Ah, yes, thank you--Rosemary Lodge," repeated his lordship, dropping
a shilling into the porter's hand, and hailing the first cab he met.

"Rosemary Lodge, Brixton," said he to the driver.

"Yes, sir. What part of Brixton?"

"Don't know at all," said his lordship. "Never was at Brixton in my
life."

"Brixton's a straggling sort of place, you see, sir. I might be
driving you about----"

"It is between Brixton and Clapham," interrupted the earl. "Rosemary
Lodge: Sir Turtle Kite's."

"Oh, come, the name's something," said the man, as he drove off.

Rosemary Lodge was not difficult to find, once the locality was
reached. It was a large and very pretty white villa, painted glass
borders surrounding its windows, and it stood in the midst of a
spacious lawn dotted with beds of bright flowers. Walking round the
gravel-drive, Lord Acorn rang at the door, which was speedily opened
by a man in chocolate-coloured livery.

"Is Sir Turtle Kite at home?"

"Yes, sir; but he is at dinner; just sat down to it."

"At dinner!" echoed Lord Acorn. "I want to see him very particularly."

"Well, sir, Sir Turtle does not much like to be disturbed at his
dinner," hesitated the man. "Perhaps you could wait?--or call again?"

"Look here," said Lord Acorn, hunting in his pocket for his card-case,
a bright idea seizing him, "you shall ask Sir Turtle to allow me to go
into the dining-room to him, and I'll say the few words I have to say
while he dines. I suppose he is alone I won't disturb him from it.
Deuce take it!" muttered his lordship, finding he had not his
card-case with him. "You must take in my name: Lord Acorn."

This colloquy took place in the hall. At that moment another
serving-man came out of the dining-room--his master wanted to know
what the stir was. Lord Acorn caught a glimpse of a well-spread table,
and of a round, good-humoured face above it. "Announce me," he rapidly
said: and the servant did so.

"Lord Acorn."

Up rose Sir Turtle, his beaming countenance looking its surprise, his
napkin tucked into his uppermost button-hole. Lord Acorn, a
fascinating mannered man as any living, entered upon his courtly
apology, his short explanation, and offered his hand. In two minutes
his lordship was seated at the dinner-table, regaling himself with
real turtle soup, served out of a silver tureen; he and his host
laughing and talking together as freely as though they were friends of
years.

"It is so very good of you to ask me to partake of your dinner in this
impromptu way, Sir Turtle," remarked his lordship. "I should have lost
mine. We were to have dined--I and my wife--with the Duke of Dunford
this evening, but I could not have got back for it. As to my business,
the little matter I have come down to you to speak of, I won't trouble
you with that until dinner's over."

"Quite right, my lord," said the knight. "Never unite eating and
business together when it can be avoided. As to your lordship's
partaking of my dinner, such as it is, the obligation lies on my side,
and I think it very condescending of you."

Sir Turtle Kite, knight, alderman, and tallow-merchant, held the same
reverence for dukes and lords that many another Sir Turtle holds, and
his round face and his little bald head shone again with the honour of
having the Earl of Acorn as a guest. But he need not have disparaged
his dinner by saying "such as it is!" Lord Acorn had rarely sat down
to a better. The knight liked to dine well, and he had a rare good
cook.

"As rich as Croesus, I know: these City men always are," thought Lord
Acorn. "And he is as genial a little man as one could wish to meet,
and not objectionable in any way," mentally added his lordship, as the
dinner went on.

It was not until the wine was on the table, and the servants were
gone, that Lord Acorn entered upon and explained the subject which had
brought him. He spoke rather lightly, interspersing praises of the
wines, which for excellence matched the dishes. One bottle of choice
claret, brought up specially for his lordship to taste, was truly of
rare quality.

"It would be so very dreadful a thing if this honest-minded,
chivalrous young fellow were to be compelled to stand a trial,"
continued the earl, confidentially, as he sipped the claret. "Painful
to your generous heart, I am quite sure, Sir Turtle, as well as to
mine and Mr. Grubb's."

"Of course it would, my lord."

"And I thought I would come to you myself and privately explain. By
allowing this young fellow to be released tomorrow, you will be doing
a righteous and a generous act."

Sir Turtle nodded. "But what a young fool the lad must be to have
allowed the world to think him guilty!" he remarked. "Who is it that
he is screening, do you say, my lord? Some unfortunate acquaintance of
his, who had got into a mess? Was the fellow also staying at Grubb's?"

Lord Acorn coughed. "Yes: the culprit was staying in Grosvenor Square
at the time. He, the true criminal, is out of the law's reach now, and
can't be caught," added the Earl, drawing upon his invention. "And we
wish to keep his name quiet, and give him another chance. But that the
prisoner, who has been twice before you, is innocent as the day, I
give you my solemn word of honour. I hope you will release him, dear
Sir Turtle."

"I will," assented Sir Turtle. "There's my hand upon it. And those
libellous newspapers may go and be--hanged."

Perhaps the word "hanged" was not exactly the one Sir Turtle rapped
out in his zeal. But he was not before his own magisterial bench just
then. Lord Acorn clasped the hand warmly. He had taken quite a fancy
to the genial little alderman, and he felt inexpressibly grateful.

"I do thank you; I thank you truly--for the young fellow's sake. What
claret this is, to be sure! Not equal to the port, you say? I have a
bin of very good port myself, and if you will dine with me tomorrow,
Sir Turtle, you shall taste it. Seven o'clock, sharp. Come a little
before it. I shall be glad to see you."

Sir Turtle Kite, in his gratification, hardly knew whether he stood on
his head or his heels. He had never, to his recollection, been bidden
to an earl's dinner-table before, and was profuse in thanks.

"I'll ask Grubb to join us," said Lord Acorn. "You know him?"

"Ay, we all know Grubb. What a charming young man he is! Young
compared with you and me, my lord--especially with me," added Sir
Turtle. "So honourable, so good, and so prosperous!"

Lord Acorn made quite an evening of it: looking at the greenhouses,
and the pinery, and the growing melons, with all the rest of the
horticultural treasures at Rosemary Lodge, and went back to town on
the top of a West-end omnibus.



CHAPTER XXVI.
INFATUATION.


Midnight. Pacing her chamber in her light dressing-robe, its open
sleeves thrown back from her restless hands, as if for coolness, was
the Lady Adela. Throughout the whole business she had never been so
terrified as now, had never before realized her dangerous position in
all its fulness. Her heart and her brow were alike beating with fever
heat.

On the Monday evening, for we must go back a day, after receiving the
news that her husband would probably not be home, as conveyed to her
by note from Mr. Howard, Adela did not spend quite the solitary hours
she had anticipated. Grace came to her: and though rather given to
calling Grace an "old lecturer," Adela was heartily glad to see her
now. The evening's solitude had only intensified her fears, and dismal
doubts chased each other through her mind.

Ever thoughtful and kind, though she did condemn Adela, Grace came to
bring her the tidings that Charles Cleveland would be discharged on
the morrow--for Lord Acorn, on his return from that afternoon's
interview with Mr. Howard, in Leadenhall Street, had spoken of the
release as an assured fact. The more bitter the condemnation by her
father and mother of Adela, and it really was bitter, the greater
need, thought Grace, that some one should stand by her: and here she
was, with her cheering news. And the relief it brought no pen can
express. Adela forgot her fears; ay, and her repentance. She became
her own light-headed self again, and provoked Grace by her saucy
words. In the great revulsion of feeling she almost forgot her
trouble; nay, resented it.

"What a shame!--to frighten me as papa and mamma did this afternoon! I
thought old Howard would not be quite a bear; and I knew my husband
had all power in his hand--if he chose to exercise it."

"Any way, Adela, he has exercised it. You have a husband in a
thousand. I do hope you will show your gratitude by behaving to him
well in future."

"I dare say! I did think of--what do you suppose I thought of doing,
Gracie? That if he proved obdurate, as papa hinted, I would win him
over by saying, 'Let us kiss and be friends.'"

"If you could have so won him."

"If!" retorted Adela, a mocking smile on her pretty lips. "You do
think he yet cares for me a little, Gracie; but you do not know how
much. I believe--now don't you start away at my irreverence!--that he
loves me better than Heaven. I shall not do it now."

"Do what?" asked Grace.

"Kiss and be friends. Neither the one nor the other. I shall abuse him
instead; reproach him for having stood out so long about that poor
wretched Charley: and I shall hold him at arm's-length, as before. The
time has not come for me to be reconciled to _him_."

"You do not mean it, Adela! You cannot be so wicked."

"Not mean it You will see. So will he. Tra-la-la-la! Oh, what a
horrible nightmare it has been!--and what a mercy to awaken from it!"

She laid hold of her pretty gold-sprigged muslin dress with both
hands; she had not changed it; and waltzed across the room and back
again. Grace wondered whether she could be growing really heartless;
she was not born so: but of course it must be a glad relief.

The old proverb, "when the devil was sick," no doubt so well known to
the reader that it need not be quoted, is exemplified very often
indeed in our everyday life. With the removal of the danger, Adela no
longer remembered it had been there, only too willingly did she thrust
it away from her. She passed a good night, and the next day was seen
driving gaily in the Park and elsewhere with her friend the young Lady
Cust--who was just as frivolous as herself.

Evening came: Tuesday evening, please remember. Mr. Grubb did not come
home: neither had Adela heard from him: she supposed him to be still
at Blackheath, and sat down to dinner alone. She wondered whither
Charley had betaken himself off on his release: and whether he would
be likely to call upon her. She hoped not: her cheeks would take a
tinge of shame at facing him. Suppose he were to come in that evening!

Charley did not come. But Frances Chenevix did. Frances, very
downright, very outspoken, had been honestly indignant with Adela for
the part she had played, she had not scrupled to tell her so, and they
had quarrelled. Therefore Adela was not much pleased to see her. She
found that Frances had been dining at home, and had ordered the
carriage round here on her way back to Lady Sarah Hope's. It was about
nine o'clock.

"Is your husband at home?" she inquired of Adela, without any
circumlocution, when she entered the drawing-room.

"No. He has not been home since yesterday morning. I expect he is at
Blackheath with that wavering old mother of his, dying roday and well
tomorrow," listlessly added Adela.

"Had he been at home I should have sent him round to the mother and
Grace; they are so frightfully uneasy."

"The mother?" repeated Adela. "Is she back already from the
Dunfords'?"

"She has not been to the Dunfords'," said Frances. "I suppose you know
of the dreadful turn affairs have taken with Charles Cleveland?"

Something like a drop of iced water seemed to trickle down Adela's
back. "I know nothing--I have heard nothing," she gasped. "Is Charles
not set at liberty?"

"Good gracious, no! And he is not going to be. The city magistrates
won't do it; they will commit him for trial."

It was as if a whole pailful of cold water were pouring down now. "Oh,
Frances, it cannot be true!"

"It is too true. Mr. Howard wrote this afternoon to tell papa that
Charles was remanded back to prison, and would be committed in the
morning. Papa went off at once to see about it, and mamma sent an
excuse to the Dunfords. I was to have dined quietly with Grace and
Mary this evening; and I heard all this when I arrived."

"And--is papa not back yet?" again gasped Adela.

"No; and mamma can hardly contain herself for uneasiness. For, of
course, you see what this implies?"

Adela was not sure whether she saw it or not. She only gazed at her
sister.

"It means that either Charles must suffer, or you, Adela, so far as
can be gathered from present aspects. And the question at home is--can
they allow him to suffer, even if he be willing, and the truth does
not transpire in other ways?"

"To--suffer?" hesitated Adela.

"To stand his trial."

"Why does not Mr. Grubb stop all this?" angrily flashed Adela, in her
sick tremor.

"Mr. Grubb would no doubt be only too glad to do it--and Mr. Howard
also would be now, but it is out of their hands. Once a magistrate
turns adverse, it is all up. Charley's lawyer impressed upon the
magistrate, one Sir Turtle Kite, that his client was not the
individual who was guilty: very well, said Sir Turtle, bring forward
the individual who was guilty, and he would release Charley; not
before. Adela, we have not seen the mother cry often, but she sobbed
tonight."

Suddenly, violently, almost as though she had caught the infection
from the words, Adela burst into a storm of sobs. The revulsion from
terror to ease had told upon her feelings the previous night, but not
as that of ease to terror was telling this. What now of her boastful,
saucy avowals to Grace?

Leaving her sister to digest the ill-starred news, Frances departed;
she could not keep the carriage longer, as it was wanted by Lady
Sarah. Adela sat up till past eleven, and then, shivering inwardly,
went to her room, but she was too uneasy to go to bed. Dismissing her
maid, she put on a dressing-gown--as was told at the beginning of the
chapter--and so prepared to pass the wretched night. Now pacing the
carpet in an agony, now gazing eagerly from the open window at every
cab that rattled across the square, lest happily it might bring her
husband. She could see no refuge anywhere but in him.

The intelligent reader has of course discerned that it was on this
same evening Lord Acorn was at Rosemary Lodge, making things right
with Sir Turtle Kite. About eleven o'clock the earl got home, bringing
with him his glad tidings. Lady Acorn, relieved of her fears, took up
her temper again, and was more wrathfully bitter against Adela than
ever. But Adela knew nothing of all this.

With the morning, Wednesday, Sir Turtle Kite appeared on the
magisterial bench, and the prisoner, Charles Cleveland, was brought
before him. As before, the proceedings were heard in private. Mr.
Grubb was present; had come up specially from Blackheath. He assured
Sir Turtle that the prisoner was wholly innocent, had been made the
unconscious dupe of another: upon which Sir Turtle, in a learned
speech that even his own legal clerk could make neither head nor tail
of, discharged the prisoner, and graciously informed him he left the
court "without a stain upon his character."

Charles looked half-dazed amidst the sea of faces around him: he made
his way to Mr. Grubb. "I thank you with my whole heart, sir," he
whispered deprecatingly. "I shall never forget your kindness."

"Let it be a warning to you for all your future life," was the grave,
kind answer.

The question flashed through Charley's mind--where was he to go? That
he had forfeited his post at Grubb and Howard's, and his residence in
Mr. Grubb's house, went without saying. At that moment Lord Acorn
advanced from some dark region of the outer passage.

"You are going down to Netherleigh this afternoon with your father,
Charles," said he. "But you can come home with me first and get some
lunch. Wait a minute. I want to speak to Mr. Grubb."

Mr. Grubb appeared to have vanished. Lord Acorn could not see him
anywhere. He wrote a line in pencil, asking him to dine with him that
day at seven o'clock, sent it to Leadenhall Street, and got into a cab
with Charley.

"Oh," said the Countess of Acorn, when she saw the ex-prisoner arrive,
"so you _are_ here, young man! It is more than I expected."

"And more than I did--since yesterday," confessed he.

"Pray what name do you give to that devoted chivalry of yours,
Charley?--the taking of another's sins upon your own shoulders?"
whispered Frances Chenevix, who happened to be at her father's. In
fact, Colonel Hope and Lady Sarah, outwardly anxious, and inwardly
scandalized at the whole affair, beginning with Adela and ending with
Charley, had despatched her to Chenevix House for any news there might
be.

"I don't know," answered Charley. "Perhaps you might call it
infatuation."

"That was just it," nodded Frances. "Don't you go and be an idiot
again. _That_ is my mother's best name for you."

Charles nodded assentingly. He saw the past in its true light now. He
was a changed man. His confinement and reflections in prison, combined
with the prospect of being condemned as a felon, from which he had
then seen no chance of escape except by his own confession, which he
had persistently resolved not to make, had added years to his
experience in life. He was a light-hearted, light-headed boy when he
entered Newgate; he came out of it older and graver than his years.

More severely than for aught else did he blame himself for having
responded in ever so slight a degree to the ridiculous flirtation
commenced by Lady Adela; and for having fallen into worshipping her
almost as he might have worshipped an angel; and he thanked God in his
heart, now, that he had never been betrayed into offering her a
disrespectful look or word. She belonged to her husband; not to him;
and to be disloyal to either of them Charley would have regarded as
the most consummate folly or sin.

Was he cured of that infatuation? Ay, he was. The heartless conduct of
Lady Adela, in leaving him to bear the brunt of the crime and the
disgrace that came of it, without giving heed or aid, had helped to
cure him. He had not wished that she should sacrifice her good name to
save his, though the whole sin lay with her; but he did think she
might have offered him one little word of sympathy. He lay languishing
within the walls of that awful prison for her sake, and she had never
conveyed to him, by note or message, so much as the intimation, I am
sorry for you. Charles Cleveland could not know that Adela had been
afraid to do it; afraid lest the smallest notice on her part should
lead to the betrayal of herself. What she would have done, what they
would all have done, had he really been committed to take his trial,
she does not know to this day. However, to him her silence had
appeared to be heartless indifference; and that, combined with his own
danger and his prolonged reflection, had served to change and cure
him.

"I am very thankful, Charles," breathed Grace, and the tears stood in
her eyes as she took his hand. "No one knows what trouble this has
been to me."

"I have more cause to be thankful than you, Grace; and I think I am,"
he answered. "It has been to me a life's lesson."

"Ay. You will not fall into mischief again, Charley?" she said, almost
entreatingly. "You will not lose your wits for a married woman, as you
did for Adela?"

"If ever again I get trapped by any woman, married or single, all
courtly smiles one day, when she wants to amuse herself and serve her
turn, and all careless neglect the next, like a confounded
weathercock, I'll give you leave to transport me to a penal settlement
in earnest," was Charley's wrathful interruption, the sense of his
wrongs pressing upon him sorely. "But let me thank _you_, Grace," he
added, his tone changing to one of deep feeling, "for all your care
and concern for me."

Charles could not eat any lunch, though the table was well spread. In
spite of his release from the great danger, he was altogether
miserable. Lady Acorn talked at him; Lady Frances, taking matters
lightly, after her custom, joked and laughed, and handed him all the
sweets upon the table, one dish after another. It was all one to
Charley: and perhaps he felt that he merited Lady Acorn's reproaches
more than he did the offered sweets. He had not yet seen his father
and his stepmother. For the past two or three days they had been
staying with their relative, the Earl of Cleveland; a confirmed
invalid, who lived in seclusion a few miles out of London.

They all departed for Netherleigh in the course of the afternoon:
the Rector, Lady Mary and the baby; Charles joining them at the
railway-station. What was to become of him in future? It was a
question he seriously put to himself. Surely he had bought experience,
if any young man ever had in this world; an experience that would
leave behind it its lasting and bitter pain.

Seven o'clock--nay, some fifteen minutes before it--brought Sir Turtle
Kite to the Earl of Acorn's. Sir Turtle enjoyed the visit and the
dinner immensely--though he frankly avowed his opinion that his own
port wine was the best. For once the earl's wife made herself
gracious; tart though she might be at other times, she knew something
of gratitude; and Grace, who made the fourth at table, could not keep
her heart's thankfulness out of her manner--for where should they all
have been without Sir Turtle?

But Mr. Grubb did not make his appearance. Neither had Lord Acorn
heard from him.



CHAPTER XXVII.
SEPARATION.


Pacing his library at Chenevix House, in almost the same perturbation
that was tormenting his mind when we first met him in this history,
strode the Earl of Acorn. The cause of disquiet was not the same. Then
it had arisen from a want of cash; now it was the trouble connected
with his daughter Adela.

By the mantelpiece, erect and noble as ever, but with a countenance
full of pain, stood Mr. Grubb. He could scarcely speak without
betraying his emotion. Lord Acorn was agitated also--which was a great
deal to say of _him_.

Mr. Grubb had come this morning to inform Lord Acorn of the separation
he had resolved upon; and to submit its terms for his approval. Never,
he said, would he live with his wife again. After what had passed
recently, and after the years of penance he had endured with her, he
could only put her away from him.

"And, egad, it is what I should do myself," thought the earl. But he
did not say so. He said just the opposite.

"_Must_ this be, Grubb? Cannot she and you make it up--or something?"

"Never again," was the decisive answer. "Could you, looking at matters
impartially, _wish_ me to do it? Though, as her father, perhaps it is
too much to expect you to exercise an impartial judgment,"
considerately added Mr. Grubb.

"I don't excuse her; mind that, Grubb. And I acknowledge--I'll be shot
if I can help saying it--that some men would have put her away before
this. She has behaved ill to you; no doubt of it; but she is young and
light-headed, and will gain sense with time. Can't there be some
modification?"

"Not any," spoke Mr. Grubb. "The pain this decision has caused me no
one will ever know, but there has not been one moment's wavering in my
mind as regards its absolute necessity. Lord Acorn, I think you cannot
blame me. Imagine yourself in my place, and then see whether you do."

"I don't, I don't, looking at it from your point of view," said the
earl. "I am thinking of Adela, and the blow it will be to her."

"A blow?--to be rid of me? Surely not. It is what she has been wishing
for years."

"In talk. Girls will talk--silly minxes! To be put away by you, Grubb,
and from her home, is quite another thing."

"She must care for my home as little as she cares for me. She has
already taken the initiative, and left it."

Lord Acorn wheeled round on his heel in surprise. "Left your home,
Grubb? What do you mean?"

Mr. Grubb looked surprised in his turn. "Did you not know it? Is she
not here?"

"She is certainly not here, and I did not know it. Confound these
silly women! She has run away, I suppose, to hide herself from----"

"From the law," Lord Acorn would have said; but he did not end the
sentence. He asked Mr. Grubb when she went, and how, and if he had any
idea where she was. Mr. Grubb had not any idea, and related all he
knew; he had supposed her to be at Chenevix House.

Heaven alone knew, or ever would know, the terrible shock, the blow
the discovery of his wife's treachery brought to Mr. Grubb. That she
should have been capable of robbing him, of forging his name and his
partner's, of obtaining the money, all in so imprudent, so barefaced a
manner, and of using it to pay her gaming debts, would alone have
filled him with a dismay to shrink from. But that she should have
allowed the guilt and the punishment to fall upon another; and that
she should have impudently denied her own guilt to himself, and flung
back with scorn his entreaties for her confidence and the offer he
made to shield her in all tenderness, shook his soul to the centre.

From the hour of his enlightenment he was a changed man. That which
the insults, the scorn of years, had failed to effect on his heart,
was accomplished now. His consideration for his wife had turned to
sternness; his love to righteous anger. Never again would he bear her
contumely; no longer should his home be hers. This most fatal action
of hers--the crime she had committed, and the innocent tool she had
made of Charles Cleveland--afforded Mr. Grubb the justification for
extreme measures, which he might otherwise have lacked. During the
hours he spent by his mother's sick-bed, he formed and matured his
plans. Not with Lady Adela would he enter on the negotiations for
their separation, but with her father and mother. She must return to
them; must live under their protection and guidance, as she did before
her marriage; she was not yet old enough or wise enough to be trusted
alone.

And Mr. Grubb came up from Blackheath to make known his decision to
Lord Acorn. It was the morning following the day of Charles's release
and of Sir Turtle Kite's dinner at Chenevix House.

Mrs. Lynn's illness had been a dangerous one. For many hours it had
not been known whether she would live or die. On the Tuesday evening,
Mr. Howard went to Blackheath, carrying with him the tidings of the
obduracy of Sir Turtle Kite: in consequence of which, Mr. Grubb came
up on the Wednesday to attend the examination. His mother was then a
shade better, but he returned to her the instant the examination was
over and Charles released.

On the Thursday morning, Mr. Grubb again came up, as just stated, to
confer with Lord Acorn. On his way he called at his own home in
Grosvenor Square, intending to acquaint his wife with his
decision--that they must separate--but not to enter into details with
her. Hilson looked very glad to see his master, and feelingly inquired
after Mrs. Lynn. Better, answered Mr. Grubb; she might recover now.

"Ask Lady Adela if she will be good enough to come to me here," he
added to the butler, as he turned into his library.

"Her ladyship is not at home, sir," promptly replied Hilson.

"Not at home!" and Mr. Grubb could not altogether keep his surprise
out of his tone. "She has gone out early."

"My lady left home yesterday morning, sir, before breakfast. Darvy, I
believe, carried a cup of tea to her room."

"But she returned, I suppose?"

"No, sir, not since."

"Where is her ladyship gone? Do you know?"

"Not at all, sir. Darvy was mysterious over it. She heard her lady say
this was no longer any home for her; she told me that much. John was
sent to fetch a cab, and her ladyship and Darvy went away in it, with
a carpet bag."

"She must be at Lord Acorn's," remarked Mr. Grubb; a conclusion he had
rapidly come to. Hilson agreed with it.

"No doubt, sir. My lady may have felt lonely here without you."

Mr. Grubb went straight to Chenevix House. Not to see Adela, but to
enter on his business with Lord Acorn. And then, as you find, he
learnt that she was not there.

"Stay a moment," said Lord Acorn, a recollection occurring to him.
"Adela, was at Colonel Hope's yesterday: I remember Frances said so.
She must be staying there. That's it."

"Probably so," was Mr. Grubb's cold assent. "She has, I say, taken the
initiative in the matter."

He sat down as he spoke, motioning Lord Acorn to the seat on the other
side of the small table between them, and took a paper from his
pocketbook on which he had pencilled a few notes, as to the terms of
separation.

Terms that were wonderfully liberal in their pecuniary aspect. Lord
Acorn heard the amount of the sum he proposed to allow his wife
annually with a thrill of generous admiration. Oh, what a fool Adela
has been! thought he. Why could she not have made herself a loving
helpmeet to this noble-minded man, whose every instinct is good and
great?

"Are you satisfied with the amount, Lord Acorn?"

"Quite."

"It will be paid to you; not to herself," continued Mr. Grubb. "As a
matter of course, her home must be with you and her mother. The
allowance that you may deem suitable for herself personally you will
be good enough to pay to her out of it, as you and she may arrange. I
do not interfere with details. She had better have her own separate
carriage and horses."

Lord Acorn nodded in silence. He knew why he was to be the recipient
of the income, instead of Adela--that she might not have the means at
her disposal to lose herself in future at Lady Sanely's. _That_ had
been the leading source of this last dangerous episode.

"I hope you will take care of her," cried Mr. Grubb, as he rose, and
pressed Lord Acorn's hand in parting.

"To the best of my power. Ah, Grubb I--I can't grumble, of course; no,
neither at the step nor the proposed arrangements--but, if you _could_
but see your way to condone the past; to receive her back!"

"Never again," was the quiet answer. "Darvy can attend to the removal
of her things from Grosvenor Square."

Mr. Grubb walked back to his own home with slow and thoughtful steps,
his heart filled with the bitterness of disappointed hopes. It is no
light matter for a man to part for ever with the wife of his bosom; to
say to her, "Your road lies that way from henceforth; mine this."
Especially a wife who had been loved as Francis Grubb had loved his.

That Adela had run away from his home, abandoned it and him, he
entertained not the slightest doubt. She had been tacitly
demonstrating to him for years that she wished to be rid of
him--indeed, not always tacitly--and now she had accomplished it. This
impression did not lead to Mr. Grubb's decision to put her away; it
had, and could have had, nothing to do with that: but it tended to
deaden any small regret he may have felt.

It was a wrong impression, however. Lady Adela had not run away from
Grosvenor Square to be quit of her husband; she had left it under
fear.

When Frances Chenevix quitted her the night already told of, Tuesday,
leaving her with the dread news that the magistrates would not release
Charley, unless they produced the true culprit, herself, in his stead,
Adela's worst fears were aroused. She passed a wretched night, now
pacing her chamber, now tossing on her sleepless bed. She saw the
matter now in its true colours, all its deadly peril, its shameful
sin. Throwing herself on her knees, she raised her hands in prayerful
agony, beseeching the Most High to spare them both--herself from
exposure, the innocent young fellow, who had been made her tool, from
punishment--and she took a solemn oath never again to be tempted to
play.

Whether the prayer soothed her spirit, or whether the natural reaction
that follows upon violent emotion set in, certain it was that a sort
of calm stole over Adela. Her head lay on the bed, her arms were
outstretched, and by-and-by she slept. If, indeed, it could be called
sleep.

For she still seemed to be conscious of the peril that awaited her and
a sort of dream, that was half reality, began weaving its threads in
her brain.

She thought she was in that, her own chamber, and kneeling down by the
bed, as she was, in fact, kneeling. She seemed to be endeavouring to
hide and could not. Suddenly, a faint noise arose in the street, and
she appeared to rise from her knees, and go to the window to peep out.
There she saw two fierce-looking men, whom she knew instinctively to
be officers of justice come to apprehend her, mounted on horses. Each
horse had a red lantern fixed above its head, from which bright red
rays radiated on all sides. As she looked, the rays flashed upwards
and discovered her. "There she is!" called out a voice that she knew
to be Charles Cleveland's, and in the fright and horror she awoke. Her
whole frame shook with terror, and several minutes passed before she
could understand that it was not reality.

The peril existed, all too surely. What if Charles, to save himself,
avowed the truth, that it was she who was guilty, and was already
piloting those dread officers of justice to her house? Nay, and if he
did not avow it, others must. How could she, she herself, allow him to
stand in her place to suffer for her, now that it had come to this?

The dream had struck to her nerves. Ensuing upon the natural fear, it
had created a perfect terror. The horrible red lights seemed yet to
flash upon her face: and a lively dread set in that the officers might
be, there and then, on their way westward, to secure her. This fear
tormented her throughout the rest of the livelong night; and by the
morning it had grown into a desperate belief, a reality, a living
agony. There was only one step that could save her--flight.

With the first sounds of stir in the house, she rang for Darvy. That
damsel, fearing illness, threw on a few garments, and ran to her
lady's room. To her intense astonishment, there stood Lady Adela, up
and dressed, her eyes wild and her cheeks hectic.

"I want to go away somewhere, Darvy," she said, her lively imagination
picturing to herself, with increased certainty and increased terror,
the capturing officers drawing nearer and nearer. "Will you pack up a
few things, and have a cab called?"

"Name o' goodness!" uttered Darvy, who was three-parts Welsh, and was
privately wondering whether her lady had gone suddenly demented. "And
what's it all for, my lady?--and where is it you want to go?"

"Anywhere; this house is no longer a home for me. At least--there,
don't stand staring, but do as I tell you," broke off Lady Adela,
saying anything that came uppermost in her perplexity and fear. "Put
up a few things for me in haste, and get a cab."

"Am I to attend you, my lady?" asked the bewildered woman.

"No--yes--no. Yes, perhaps you had better," finally decided Lady
Adela, in grievous uncertainty. "Don't lose a moment."

Darvy obeyed orders, believing nevertheless that somebody's head was
turned. She got herself ready, packed a carpet bag, had the thought to
take her lady a cup of tea, exchanging a little private conference
with her crony, the butler, while she made it, and ordered the cab.
Then she and Lady Adela came down and entered it, neither of them
having the slightest notion for what quarter of the wide world she was
bound.

"Where to?" asked John of Darvy, as she followed her mistress into the
cab.

"Where to, my lady?" demanded Darvy, in turn. "Anywhere. Tell him to
drive on," responded Lady Adela.

"Tell him to drive straight on," said Darvy to John.

"Where can I go?--where shall I be safe?" thought Adela to herself, as
they went along. "I wonder--I wonder if Sarah would take me in?"
came the next thought. "They"--the "they" applying to the legal
thief-catchers--"would never think of looking for me there. Sarah is
angry with me, I know, but she won't refuse to hide me. Darvy, direct
the man to Colonel Hope's."

This last sensible injunction was a wonderful relief to Darvy's
troubled mind. And to Colonel Hope's they went.

Lady Sarah "took her in," and Adela hid herself away in the bedroom of
her sister Frances. Truth to say, they were in much anxiety
themselves, the colonel included, as to what trouble and exposure
might not be falling upon Adela. They did not refuse to shelter her,
but they let her know tacitly how utterly they condemned her conduct.
Lady Sarah was coldly distant in manner; the colonel would not see her
at all.

Before the day was over--it was in the afternoon--Grace came to them
with the truth--that Charles Cleveland was released and had gone to
Netherleigh. Adela, perhaps not altogether entirely reassured about
herself, said she would stay at the colonel's another night, if
permitted: and she did so.

That was the explanation of Adela's absence from home. She had left
the house in fear; not voluntarily to quit it or her husband. Her
husband, however, not knowing this, took the opposite view, and dwelt
upon it as he walked away from Lord Acorn's in the summer sun. Not
that, one way or the other, it would make any difference to him.

Entering his house, Mr. Grubb went straight upstairs to his
dressing-room, intending to change the coat he wore for a lighter one.
The bedroom door came first. He opened that, intending to pass across
it, when he came face to face with his wife.

Just for a moment he was taken by surprise, having supposed the room
to be empty. She had returned from Lady Sarah's, and was standing at
the dressing-glass, doing something to her hair, her bonnet evidently
just taken off. She wore a quiet dress of black silk--the one she had
gone away in.

That frequent saying, "the devil, was sick," was alluded to a few
pages back. It might again be quoted. Lady Adela, when she thought the
trouble had not passed and her heart was softened, had mentally
rehearsed once more a little scene of tenderness, to be enacted when
she next met her husband. She met him now; and she turned back to the
looking-glass without speaking a word.

She now knew that the danger was over; over for good. Charley was
discharged, scathless; her own name had been kept silent and
sacred--and there was an end of it.

She turned back to the glass, after looking round to see who it was
that had come in, saying not a word. Possibly she anticipated a
lecture, and deemed it the wisest plan to keep silent--who knew? Not
Mr. Grubb. She gave him neither word nor smile, neither tear nor kiss.

He walked across the room, and stood at the window nearest the
dressing-table, turning to face her. Could she not have said
good-morning?--could she not have asked him how he had been these
three days, and what the news was from Blackheath? She appeared to be
too much occupied with her lovely hair.

"I must request you to give me your attention for a few minutes, Lady
Adela."

There was something in the proud, distant tone, in the formality of
the address, that caused her to glance at him quickly. She did not
like his face. It was stern, impassive, as she had never before seen
it.

"Yes," she answered, quite timidly.

In the same cold tone, with the same unbending countenance, Mr. Grubb
in a few concise words informed her of the resolution he had taken. He
could never allow her to inhabit the same house with himself again;
her father and mother would receive her back in her maiden home. The
arrangements connected with this step had been settled between himself
and Lord Acorn: and he should be glad if she made it convenient to
leave Grosvenor Square that day.

Intense astonishment, gradually giving place to dismay, kept her
silent. The comb dropped from her hand. "Anything but this," beat the
refrain in her heart; "anything but this." For Lady Adela, so alive to
the good opinion of the world, would almost rather have preferred
death than that she should be publicly put away by her husband.

"You have no right to do this," she stammered, her face ashy pale.

"No right! After what has passed? Ask your father whether I possess
the right, or not," he added, his voice stern with indignation. "But
for my clemency, you might have taken the place from which Charles
Cleveland has been released."

"Is that the reason?" she asked.

"It has afforded the justification for the step. Following on the
course of treatment you have dealt out to me for years----"

"I have been very wrong," she interrupted. "I meant to have told you
so. I have not behaved as--as--I ought to behave for a long while; I
acknowledge it. Won't you forgive me?"

"No," he answered--and his voice had no relenting in it.

"I will try and do better; I will indeed," she reiterated: not daring
now to offer the caresses her imagination had planned out. "Oh, you
must forgive me; you must not put me away!"

"Lady Adela, but a few days ago, it was my turn to make supplication
to you; I did so more than once. I told you I would protect, forgive,
shield you. I prayed you, almost as solemnly as I pray to Heaven, to
trust me--your husband--_as you wished it to be well with us in our
future life_. Do you remember how you met that prayer?--how you
answered me?"

Yes, she did. And her face flushed painfully at the remembrance.

"As you rejected me, so must I reject you."

"Not to separation!"

"Separation will be only too welcome to you. Have you not been telling
me as much for years?"

"But not in earnest; not to mean it really. I will give up play--I
have given it up; believe that. A man may not reject his wife," she
continued in agitation.

"He may--when he has sufficient reason for it. Look at the wife you
have been to me; the shameful treatment you have persistently dealt to
me. I speak not now of this recent act of disgrace, by which you
hazarded your own good name and mine--I will not trust myself to speak
of it--but of the past. Few men would have borne with you as I have
borne. I loved you with a true and tender love: how have you repaid
me?"

"Let us start afresh," she said, imploringly, putting up her hands.
Indeed this was a most terrible moment for her.

"It may not be," he coldly rejoined. "My resolution has been
deliberately taken, and I cannot change it upon impulse."

"I had meant to pray you to forgive me--for this and all the past--I
had indeed. I had meant to say that I would be different--would try to
love you."

"Too late."

"In a little while, then," she panted, her face working with emotion,
tears starting to her eyes. "You will take me back later! In a week or
two."

"Neither now nor later. My feelings were long, long outraged, and I
bore with you, hoping for better things. But in this last fearful act,
and more especially in the circumstances attending it, you have broken
all allegiance, you have deliberately thrown off my protection. Lady
Adela, I shall never live under the same roof with you again."

She laid her hand upon her palpitating heart. He crossed the room with
the last words, and quietly left it. A faint cry of distress seemed to
be sounding in his ear: "Mercy! mercy" as he closed the door.
Descending the stairs with a deliberate step, he caught up his hat in
the hall, and went out. And Adela, the usually indifferent, fell to
the ground in a storm of anguished tears.



CHAPTER XXVIII.
ON THE WAY FROM BLACKHEATH.


Strolling hither and thither, just as his steps led him, for in truth
he had no purpose just then, so intense was his mental distress, Mr.
Grubb found himself somehow in Jermyn Street. He was passing the
Cavendish Hotel, his eyes nowhere, when a hand was laid upon his arm.
A little lady in a close bonnet and black veil, standing at the hotel
entrance, had arrested him.

"Were you going to pass me, Francis Grubb?"

"Miss Upton!" he exclaimed, coming with an effort, out of his
wilderness, and clasping her offered hand. "I did not see you; I was
buried in thought."

"In deep thought, as it seemed to me," rejoined Miss Upton, regarding
his face with a meaning look. "Come upstairs to my sitting-room."

"Are you staying here?" he asked.

"Only until tomorrow afternoon. I came from home this morning. Sit
down and take lunch with me," she added, removing her bonnet. "It is
ready, you perceive. I told them to have it on the table by one
o'clock. They are punctual, and so am I."

"You have been out?"

"Only to Chenevix House. I came up on business of my own, but I wanted
to see the Acorns, so I drove there at once, after reporting myself
here to the hotel people, to whom I wrote yesterday to secure my
rooms. No meat! Why, what do you live upon?"

Something like a faint smile parted his lips. "Thank you--no, not
roday. I have no appetite."

"_Try_," she kindly whispered, leaning forward and laying her hand for
a moment upon his. "Other men have had to bear as much before you."

So, then, she knew it! A vivid red dyed his brow. How painful it was,
this allusion to it, even from her.

"You have heard it?" he breathed.

"I heard of the trouble about the cheque last week from the Rector,
during a flying visit he had to pay Netherleigh. The man was in
terrible distress, hardly knowing whether his son was guilty or not
guilty. A little further news dropped out later, and yesterday Charles
was brought home by his father and stepmother; his name cleared, but
some one else's mentioned."

She paused a moment. Mr. Grubb said nothing.

"When I reached Lady Acorn's this morning, she was alone--and in a
state, not of temper, but of real, genuine distress," continued Miss
Upton. "I told her I had come to hear the whole truth about this
miserable business, and she told me all, from beginning to end. She is
full of wrath and bitterness: and who can wonder?"

"Against me?"

"Against you! No. Against Adela. She did not spare her daughter in the
recital. She said that Mr. Grubb--you--were at that moment with Lord
Acorn, negotiating, she believed, the articles of a separation. Was it
so?"

"Yes. They are arranged."

"Alas! I have long foreseen that it might come to it. Before there was
any notion of this last terrible offence of hers, I thought the day of
retribution must surely come, unless she mended her ways. But we will
say no more, now. Adela is my god-daughter, and I will do what I can
for her, though I would rather have seen her in her grave."

He lifted his eyes to the earnest face.

"I would, indeed. Far rather would I have seen her in her grave than
what she is--a heartless woman. You have been to her a husband in a
thousand, and this is how she has requited you. And now, tell me--if
you don't mind telling tales out of school--how Acorn is going on: for
I expect you know. Fighting shy of his debts, as usual?"

In spite of the mental pain that pressed so heavily upon him, Mr.
Grubb could not forbear a smile, her tone was so quaint. "Just now his
lordship is flourishing," replied he, his voice assuming a lightness
he did not feel. "He had a slice of luck at the Derby: won, it is
said, between ten and twelve thousand pounds."

Miss Upton lifted her hands. "What a sum of money to win, or to lose
He might have lost it, I suppose, as easily as gained it: and then
where would he have been? How can men do these things lightly? How
much does he owe you?"

The question was put abruptly. A faint colour tinged Mr. Grubb's face.
He hesitated.

"You do not care to say," quickly spoke Miss Upton. "Quite right of
you, no doubt. I conclude you feel pretty secure, having taken his
bonds on Court Netherleigh--whenever it shall fall in."

"I have not taken any bonds on Court Netherleigh. Believe that, Miss
Upton."

"Do you mean to say that he has not offered you bonds on it, as
security for your loans?"

"He has offered them over and over again. But I have never taken them.
In the first place, it would have been no true security. Court
Netherleigh is not his, and there exists, of course, a possibility
that it may never be his: for he--is older than its present
possessor," concluded Mr. Grubb, his eyes meeting Miss Upton's. "No;
for what I have lent Lord Acorn, I possess no security beyond his
acknowledgment."

"Ah," shortly commented Miss Upton. "I told you once, you know, that
you were safe in letting him borrow money on the Netherleigh estate.
But I did not mean to imply that I sanctioned your doing so; certainly
not to help him to any extent."

"I have not helped him to any great extent. At least, not to more than
I can afford to lose with equanimity. I have never advanced to him a
sum, large or small, but in the full consciousness that it would
probably never be returned."

Miss Upton nodded her approval, and passed to another topic. "Will you
tell me how your mother is?" she asked. "I hear she is so ill as to be
in danger, and that you have been afraid to leave her."

"She was in danger three or four days ago, and I was sent for in
haste. But the danger has passed, and she is tolerably well
again--excepting for weakness. My mother has had several of these
attacks now, and it seems to me, that each one is more severe than the
last. They are connected with the heart."

"Ay, we must all have some affliction or other as we draw near to the
close of life; some reminder, more or less ominous in itself, that God
will soon be calling us to that better world where there is neither
sickness nor death," she remarked, dreamily. "She is going--and I am
going--and yet----"

"Not you, surely, dear Miss Upton!" he interrupted, struck with the
words.

She looked at him for a moment, saw his concern, and smiled.

"Are we not all going?" she asked--"some sooner, some later. And yet,
I was about to say, what a short time ago it seems since I and
Catherine Grant were girls together: dear friends and companions! How
much I should like to see her!"

"Would you really like to do so? Would you care to go to Blackheath?"

"I should. But I don't know how to get there. When one comes to be
close upon sixty years of age, and not strong, these short railway
journeys try one mightily. I know they try me."

"Dear Miss Upton, you can go to Blackheath without the slightest
exertion or trouble. My carriage will take you to my mother's door,
and bring you back to this. Shall it do so?"

"Without trouble, you say? Then I will go this afternoon. No time like
the present. I had meant to do two or three errands for myself, and
told the fly to be here at three o'clock, but Annis shall do them for
me."

"The carriage shall be here instead. Will you have it open or shut?"

"Open in going. Closed in returning, if it be at all late. Catherine
and I will have a great deal to say to each other; once we meet, we
shall not be in haste to part. That is, if she does not cherish too
much resentment to speak to me at all. Of course, you will accompany
me?"

"Of course I will," he answered: and hastened away to give the
necessary orders. Not to his house; he did not go near that; and did
not intend to do so, until fully assured that Lady Adela had left it;
he went direct to the stables.

At three o'clock the carriage stood before the door of the hotel. Its
master stood waiting for it, and Miss Upton came out, followed by her
maid Annis, who was departing to do the errands. Mr. Grubb handed Miss
Upton into the carriage, and they drove to Blackheath.

"Catherine!"

"Margery!"

The names simultaneously broke from their lips when the early friends
met; they who had lived estranged for the better part of their lives.
Mrs. Lynn was in what she called her invalid sitting-room, one that
opened from her bed-chamber, and which she occupied when she was
too ill to go downstairs. She was lying on a sofa near the
open window--from which window there was to be seen so fair a
landscape--but she rose when Miss Upton entered.

They sat on the sofa side by side, hand clasping hand. Grievances were
forgotten, estrangement was at an end. Miss Upton had taken off her
bonnet and mantle, and looked as much at home as though she had lived
there for years. They fell to talking of the old days. Francis
remained below with his sister.

"I did not expect to see you again, Margery, on this side the grave,"
spoke Mrs. Lynn. "Not so very long ago, I should have declined a visit
from you had you proffered it. It is only when sickness has subdued
the spirit that we lay aside old animosities."

"And therefore towards the end of life sickness comes to us. I said so
this afternoon to your son. We quarrel and fight and take vengeance on
one another in our hotheaded days: but when the blood chills with
years and the world is fading from us, we see what our crooked ways
have been worth."

"You were all very bitter with me for marrying Christopher Grubb,
Margery; and you took care to let me know it. Uncle Francis--as we
used to call Sir Francis Netherleigh, though without the slightest
right to do so--was the most bitter of all."

"Just as Elizabeth Acorn's girls call me 'aunt' in these later years,"
remarked Miss Upton. "Yes, Uncle Francis was very angry. He thought
you had thrown yourself away."

"Elizabeth Acorn has never condescended to take the slightest notice
of me. Although my son has married her daughter, she has never given
him the smallest intimation that she remembers we were friends in
early life."

"Betsy always had her crotchets; they don't diminish with age,"
returned Miss Upton. "She may be called a disappointed woman; and
disappointment seldom renders any one more genial."

Mrs. Lynn did not understand. "Disappointed in what way?"

"In her husband. Not in himself, but in his circumstances. When Betsy
married him, it was to enter, as she supposed, upon a career of
unlimited wealth and splendour. Instead of that, she found him to be
the most reckless of men as regards money, spending all before him,
and her life has been one of almost incessant embarrassment. You
little know what shifts she has been sometimes put to. It has soured
her, Catherine. What a noble man your son is," added the speaker,
after a brief pause. "One in a thousand."

"And what a miserable mistake he made in wedding Adela Chenevix!"
returned Mrs. Lynn, with emotion. "She makes him the most wretched
wife. He does not open his lips to me, he never will do it; but I can
see what a blighted life his is--and I hear others speak of it. I
cannot help thinking that he is in some especial trouble with her at
the present moment, or why does he remain down here, now that I am
better?"

"So they have not thought well to tell his mother," reflected Margery
Upton. Neither would she tell her.

"You are happy in your children, Catherine. Of your son the world may
be proud--and is. As to your daughter, she is one of the sweetest
girls I know."

"Yes, I am truly happy in my children," assented Mrs. Lynn. "It is a
wonderful consolation. But happiness does not attend them. Francis we
have spoken of. And poor Mary lost her betrothed husband, Robert
Dalrymple, by a dreadful fate, as you know. She will never marry."

"A h, that was a cruel business. Poor Robert! If he had only brought
his troubles to me, I would have saved him."

"The singular thing is, that he did not take them to Francis," quickly
spoke Mrs. Lynn. "Francis had the power to help him, equally with
yourself, and he had the will. The very last day of Robert's life; at
least, I think it was the last, he was with Francis in Grosvenor
Square, and I believe Francis then offered to help him--or as good as
offered to do so."

Margery Upton sighed. It was an unprofitable subject; a gloomy
reminiscence. "Let us leave it, Catherine," she said. "Did you give
your son the name of Francis in remembrance of Francis Netherleigh?"

"Indeed I did not. Sir Francis Netherleigh had wounded me too greatly
for me to wish to retain any remembrance of him. Francis was named
after his uncle and his father."

"Were you surprised at Netherleigh's being left to me?" resumed Miss
Upton, breaking a pause of silence.

"Not at all. I thought it the most natural thing for Sir Francis to
do. I had married, and was discarded; Betsy Cleveland had also
married; her husband was a nobleman; mine was rich; and we neither of
us needed Netherleigh. It was not likely he would leave it to either
of us. You, on the contrary, continued to live with him as his
niece--his child--and you had no fortune. It was a just bequest,
Margery, in my judgment. It never occurred to me to think of it in any
other light."

"Betsy Acorn has never forgiven me for having inherited it--or
forgiven Uncle Francis for leaving it to me. I have wondered at odd
moments whether you felt about it as she did."

"I?" returned Mrs. Lynn, in surprise. "Never. Sir Francis did right in
leaving it to you. And, now, tell me a little about yourself, Margery.
Are you in good health? You do not look strong."

We will leave them to themselves. It was a pleasant, and yet partly a
sad meeting; and perhaps each opened her heart to the other in more
confidential intercourse than had ever been exchanged between them
before.

"Won't you come down and stay with me, and see the old place again,
Catherine?" spoke entreatingly the mistress of Court Netherleigh, in
parting.

"Never again, Margery. I would willingly come to you; I should like to
see the dear old spot; but I shall never be able to go another day's
journey from this, my home. Not very long now, and I shall be carried
from it."

Twilight was advancing, when the carriage came round to take Miss
Upton back to London. Lovely sunset colours lingered in the west; a
few light clouds floated across the sky; the crescent moon shone with
a pale silvery light.

Lost, no doubt, in thoughts of the past interview, Margery Upton sat
in silence, leaning back in her corner of the carriage. Mr. Grubb did
not break it. So far as could be seen, he was wholly occupied with the
beauties of the sky. At least a mile of the way was thus passed.
Presently she glanced at him, and noted his outward, dreamy gaze. How
this trouble of his had troubled her, she did not care to tell. He had
her warmest sympathy.

"Do not let this crush you," she suddenly cried, leaning towards him.
"Do not let the world see that it has subdued you; don't give her that
triumph. God can never mean that the life of a good and noble
Christian man, as you are, should be blighted. Yes, I know," she
continued, interrupting some words he spoke, "troubles come to all,
and it is on the best of us, as I believe, that they fall most
heavily; on God's chosen few."

He laid his other hand upon hers, and kept it there.

"It is, you know, through tribulation that we enter into the Kingdom,"
she continued, softly; "and tribulation takes various shapes and
forms, as may be best suited to our true welfare. The cruelest pain
that the world knows may be fraught with guidance to the gate of
Eternity: which, otherwise, we might have missed."

He could but give a silent assent.

"Accept this trial, Francis. Bear it like a man, and you will in time
live it down. Make no change in your manner of living; do not give up
your home or establishment: no, nor your visitors: continue all that
as before. It is my best advice to you."

"It is the best advice you could give," he answered, with emotion.
"Thank you for all your sympathy, dear Miss Upton. Thank you ever."

She drew back to her corner, and he looked out at the night again.
Thus nearly another mile was passed.

"Did you find my mother much changed?" he said by-and-bye. "Should you
have known her again?"

"Known her again!"--returned Miss Upton, with a brief smile. "I knew
whom I was going to see, and therefore I could trace the features I
was once familiar with. We were girls when we parted, young and
blooming; now we are old women verging on the grave. Catherine retains
her remarkable eyes, undimmed, unclouded. They are beautiful as ever;
beautiful as yours."

Francis Grubb had heard so much of his eyes all his life, remarkable
eyes, in truth, as Miss Upton called them, and very beautiful, that
the allusion fell unheeded, if not unheard, on his ear. Something else
in the words laid more hold upon him.

"Not verging on the grave yet, I trust: _you_. My dear mother will
not, I fear, be spared long to us; but she has an incurable disease.
Such is not your case, dear Miss Upton; and you should not talk so.
You are young yet, as compared with many people. As, in fact, is my
mother."

Margery Upton touched his arm, that he should look at her. "How do you
know that I have not an incurable disease? Why should not such a thing
come to me, as well as to your mother?"

Something in the tone, the earnest look, struck on him with fear. "It
cannot be!" he slowly whispered.

"It is. I am dying, Francis. Dying slowly but surely. The probability
is that I shall go before your mother goes."

He remembered how worn and weary he had thought her looking for some
time past; how especially so on this same morning when she stopped him
at the door of the Cavendish. He recalled a sentence, a word, that had
fallen from her now and then, seeming to imply that she saw the close
of life drawing near. Yet still, with all this presenting itself to
him in a sudden mental effort, he could only reiterate: "It cannot be;
it cannot be!"

"It is," she repeated. "I have suspected it for some time. I know it
now."

A lump seemed to rise in his throat. How truly he esteemed and valued
this good lady he never quite realized until this morning. She
resumed.

"I know my friends, the few who consider they have a right to concern
themselves about me, wonder that I should have come up to town so much
more frequently during the past few months than I was wont to come.
What I come for is to see my physician, Dr. Stair. I live too far off
to expect him to come to me; and the journey does me no harm. I have
an appointment with him tomorrow at eleven: after that, I return
home."

"Is it the heart?" he asked, drawing a deep breath.

"No: but it is a disorder none the less fatal than some of those
diseases that attack the heart. It is about two years ago--perhaps not
quite so much," she broke off, "since I began to fear I was not well.
I let it go on for a little time; Frost, our local doctor, did not
seem to make much out of it; and then I came up to Dr. Stair. He is a
straightforward man, and he plainly said he did not like my symptoms,
but he thought he could subdue them and set me right. I grew better
for a time; the malady seemed to have been checked, though it did not
entirely leave me. Latterly it has returned with increased force;
and--I know my fate."

The disclosure brought to him the keenest pain. "If I could only avert
it!" he cried out, in his sorrow; "if I could only ward it off you!"

"No one on earth can do that. For myself, I am quite resigned;
resting, and content to rest, in God's good hands."

"And, how long----"

"How long will it be before the end comes, you would ask," she said,
for he did not conclude the sentence. "That I do not know. I mean to
put the question to Dr. Stair tomorrow, and I am sure he will answer
it to the best of his belief. It may be pretty near."

"Do you suffer pain?"

"Always; more or less. That will grow worse, I suppose, before it is
over."

"Alas! alas!" he mentally breathed. "Should not your friends be made
acquainted with this, Miss Upton?"

"My chief friends are acquainted with it. I have no very close
friends. The Rector of Netherleigh is the closest, and he has known of
it for some time. That is, he knows I am suffering from a disorder
that I shall probably never get the better of. Your mother knows it,
for I told her this evening; and now you know it. My faithful maid
Annie knows a little--Frost and Dr. Stair most of all. No one else
knows of it in the wide world: and I do not wish that any one should
know."

"Is it right? Right to them?"

"Why, what other friends have I? Lady Acorn, you may say. She has
never been as a _friend_ to me. Your mother and I, had opportunity
permitted, might have been the truest and dearest friends, but I and
Betsy Acorn, never. She and I do not assimilate. Time enough to
proclaim my condition to the world when I become so ill that it cannot
be concealed."

She fell into a reverie; and they scarcely exchanged another word for
the rest of the way.

"You will not speak of this to the Acorns," she said to him, as the
carriage stopped at the hotel.

"Certainly not, as you do not wish it. Or to any one else."

"It would only give a fillip to Lord Acorn's extravagance. With the
prospect of coming into Court Netherleigh close at hand, he would
increase his debts thick and threefold."

Francis Grubb nodded assent; he knew how true it was: he shook her
hand with a lingering pressure, and watched her up the stairs. Then,
dismissing his carriage, he walked through the lighted streets to
Charing-Cross Station on his way back to Blackheath.

It may be that he shunned his home lest his wife should still be in
it. He need not have feared. Within an hour of his departure from it
at midday, while she was still in the depth of the bewilderment which
the blow had brought her, Lord Acorn arrived. His errand was to take
her away with him; and to take her peremptorily. He did not say to
her, "Will you put on your bonnet and come with me, Adela:" he said,
curtly, "Come."

"I cannot leave my home in this dreadful way, papa," she gasped, voice
and hands alike trembling. "I cannot leave it for ever."

"You will," he coldly answered. "You must. You have no alternative. I
am come to remove you from it."

"No, no," she pleaded. "Oh, papa, have mercy! Papa, papa!"

"You should have made that prayer to your husband, Adela--while the
time to do it yet remained to you."

She clasped her hands in bitter repentance. "He will forgive me yet; I
know he will. He may let me----"

"Never," interrupted Lord Acorn. "You may put that notion out of your
mind for good, Adela. Francis Grubb will never forgive you, or receive
you back while life shall last."

She moaned faintly.

"And you have only yourself to thank for it. Put your things on, as I
bid you," he sternly added. "This is waste of time. And send your maid
to me for instructions."

And thus Adela was removed from her husband's house overwhelmed with
shame and remorse.



CHAPTER XXIX.
A DREARY LIFE.


In the light of the late but genial autumn sunshine lay Court
Netherleigh. September was quickly passing. It was summer weather when
we last met the reader; it is getting on for winter now.

In that favourite room of Miss Upton's where we first saw her--Miss
Margery's room, as it is called in the household--she sits roday,
shivering near a blazing fire, a bright cashmere shawl worn over her
purple silk gown, a simple cap of rich white lace shading her shrunken
features. Her malady is making steady progress, and she always feels
cold.

The small, pretty room has been renewed, but its old colours are
retained. The glass-doors, that used to stand open when the sun shone
or the air was balmy, are closed roday, for the faintest breath of
wind chills the invalid. On the table at her elbow lies a book of
devotion half closed, her spectacles resting between the leaves; one
of those books that the gay and busy world turn from as being so
gloomy, and that bring comfort so great to those who are leaving it.
Miss Upton sits back in her chair, looking up at the blue heavens,
where she is so soon to be.

"I cannot help wishing sometimes," she began in low dreamy tones,
"that more decided revelation of what heaven will be had been
vouchsafed to us. I mean as to our own state there, our work, and
occupations. Though I suppose that all work--work, as we call it
here--will be as rest there. We know that we shall be in a state of
happiness beyond conception; but we know not precisely of what it will
consist."

"I suppose we were not meant to know," replied the young lady to whom
she spoke, who sat apart on the green satin sofa, her elbow resting on
one arm of it, her delicate hand shading her face. The tone of her
voice was weary and depressed, the other hand lay listless on her
muslin dress. "Time enough for that, perhaps, when we get there--those
who _do_ get there."

"Don't be irreverent," came the quick reproof.

"Irreverent! I did not mean to be so, Aunt Margery."

"You used to be irreverent enough, Lady Adela. As the world knows."

"Ay. Things have changed for me."

It was indeed the Lady Adela sitting there. But she was altered in
looks almost as much as Miss Margery. The once careless, saucy,
haughty girl had grown sad, her manner utterly spiritless, the once
blooming face was pale and thin. Only yesterday had she come to Court
Netherleigh, following on a communication from Lady Acorn.

"I can do nothing with her; she is utterly self-willed and obstinate;
I shall send her to you for a little while, Margery," wrote Lady Acorn
to Miss Upton: and Margery Upton had replied that she might come.

That a wave of trouble had swept over Lady Adela, leaving desolation
and despair behind it, was all too visible. To be put away by her
husband in the face and eyes of her own family and of the world, was
to her proud spirit the very bitterest blow possible to be inflicted
on it; a cruel mortification, that she would never quite lose the
sting of as long as life lasted.

On the very day the separation was decided upon, not an hour after Mr.
Grubb left her in her chamber after apprising her of it, Lord Acorn,
as you have read, came to the house, and took her from it without
ceremony. His usual débonnaire indifference had given place to a
sternness, against which there could be no thought of rebellion.

She took up her abode at Chenevix House that day, and Darvy followed
with the possessions that belonged to her. She was not kindly
received, or warmly treated. No, she had given too serious offence for
that. Her mother did not spare her in the matter of reproach; her
father was calmly bitter; Grace was cold. Lady Sarah Hope ran away to
the country to avoid her, taking her sister Frances and Alice
Dalrymple; and Lady Sarah made no scruple of letting it be known at
her father's why she had gone.

Lord and Lady Acorn might have their personal failings, the one be too
lavish of money, the other of temper, but they had at least brought up
their daughters to be good and honourable women, instilling into them
strict principles; and the blow was a sharp one. They deemed it right
and just not to spare her who had inflicted it--inflicted it in wanton
wilfulness--and they let her pain come home to her. It all told upon
Adela.

The world turned upon her a cold shoulder. Rumours of the separation
between Mr. and Lady Adela Grubb soon grew into certainty; and the
world wanted to know the cause of it. For, after all, the true and
immediate cause, that terrible crime she had allowed herself to
commit, never transpired. The very few cognizant of it buried the
secret within their own bosoms for her good name's sake. No clue
transpiring as to this, people fell back upon the other and only cause
known, more or less, to them--her long-maintained cavalier treatment
of her husband. Mr. Grubb must have come to his senses at last,
reasoned society, and sent her home to her mother to be taught better
manners. And society considered that he had done righteously.

So the world, taking up other people's business according to custom,
turned its back upon her. Which was, to say the least of it,
inconsistent. For now, had the Lady Adela been suspected of any grave
social crime; one, let us say, involving fears of having to appear
before the Judge of the Divorce Court, society would have shaken hands
with her as usual, so long as public proceedings remained in abeyance:
what every one may privately see or suspect goes for nothing. This
other offence was lighter, it did not involve those fatal extremes;
this was more as though she were being punished as a naughty child;
consequently the world thought fit to let its opinion be known, and to
deal out a rued of censure on its own immaculate score.

But it told, I say, on Lady Adela. Told cruelly. Cast off by her
husband for good and aye; tacitly reproached daily and hourly by her
parents; rejected by her sisters, as though she might tarnish them if
brought into too close contact, and looked askance at by society; Lady
Adela, drank the cup of repentance to the dregs.

If she could, if she could only undo her work--if that one fatal
morning, when she found the cheque-book lying on the floor of her
husband's dressing-room, had never been numbered in the calendar of
the past! She was for ever wishing this fruitless wish. For ever
wishing that her treatment of her husband had been different in the
time before that one temptation set in.

No more invitations came for her from the gay world. Not that she
would have accepted them. For the short time the Chenevix family
remained in town after the outbreak, cards would come in, bidding Lord
and Lady Acorn and their daughter Grace to this entertainment or to
that; but never a one came for Lady Adela Grubb. She might have passed
out of existence for all the notice taken of her. Mr. Grubb had
suggested to her father that she should have her own carriage. She did
not set one up; she would have had no use for it, had it been set up
for her.

They went to their seat in Oxfordshire, carrying her with them. Lord
Acorn returned to town in a day or two: Grace went on to Colonel
Hope's place near Cheltenham, to stay with her sisters, Sarah and
Frances. This left Adela and Lady Acorn alone; and her ladyship very
nearly drove the girl wild with her tartness. She would have driven
her quite wild had Adela's spirit been what it once was; but it was
altogether subdued.

"Mamma," said Adela to her one day, after some mutual bickering, "do
you want me to die?"

"Don't talk like a simpleton," retorted Lady Acorn.

"I think I shall die--if I have to lead this life much longer."

"You are as much likely to die as I am. What do you mean?"

"I mean what I say. I think I must--must kill myself, or something.
Take a dose of opium, perhaps."

"You wicked girl! Running on in that false manner! Whatever your life
may be, you have brought it upon yourself."

"Yes," thought Adela, "there lies the sting."

"What's the matter with the life?" tartly resumed her mother.

"It is so weary. And there's no hope left in it."

"It would not be weary if you chose to exert yourself. Get
music--books--work. Look at Grace, how busy she is when we are staying
here, with her sick-clubs, and her poor cottagers, and her schools."

Lady Adela turned up her pretty nose. "Sick-clubs and schools! Yes,
that suits Grace."

"At all events, it keeps her from being dull. What do you do all day
long! Just sit with your head bent on your hand, or mope about the
rooms like one demented! It gives me the fidgets to look at you! You
should rouse yourself, Adela."

"Rouse myself to what?" she faintly asked. "There's nothing to rouse
myself to."

"_Make_ something: some interest for yourself. No life is open to you
now except a quiet one. Even were it possible that you could wish for
any other, I and your father would take care you did not enter on it.
But quiet lives may be made full of interest, if we will; a great deal
more so than noisy ones."

Good advice, no doubt: perhaps the only advice now open to Lady Adela.
She did not profit by it. The weary time went on, and she grew more
weary day by day. Lady Acorn called her obstinate; sometimes Adela
retaliated. At last, the countess, losing all patience, wrote to Miss
Upton to say she should send her for a little change to Court
Netherleigh; for she was quite unaware of the critical state of Miss
Upton's health.

And this was the first time, this morning when we see Miss Upton and
Adela sitting together, that any special conversation had been held
between them. The previous day had been one of Miss Margery's "bad
days," when she was confined to the sofa in her chamber, and she had
only been able to see Adela for a minute or two, to bid her welcome.
Miss Upton criticizing Adela's appearance by the morning light, found
her looking ill, but she quite believed her to be just as graceless as
ever.

"Things change for all of us, Adela," observed she, continuing the
conversation. "They have changed most especially for you."

Lady Adela raised her face, something like defiance on it. Was the
miserable past to be recalled to her _here_, as well as at home?--was
she going to be for ever lectured upon its fruits, as her mother
lectured her? She was wretched enough herself about it, Heaven knew,
and would undo it if she could; but that was no reason why all the
world should be incessantly casting it in her teeth. She answered
sharply.

"The past is over, Aunt Margery, and the less said about it the
better. To be told of it will do me no good."

Aunt Margery did not like the tone. Could this mistaken girl--she
really looked but as a girl--be _extenuating_ the past, and her own
conduct in it?

"Do you know what I said, Adela, when the news reached me of all
you had done, and I thought of the consequences it might involve? I
said--and I spoke truly--that I would rather have seen you in your
grave."

"Said it to mamma, I suppose?"

"No. I tried to excuse you to her. I said it to your husband."

"Oh--to him," said Adela, assuming an indifference she did not feel.

"And I am not sure but death might have been a happier fate for you
than this that you have brought upon yourself--disgrace, the neglect
of the world, and a dreary, purposeless life."

It might have been. Adela felt it so to her heart's core. She bit her
lips to conceal their trembling.

"All the same, Aunt Margery, he was harsher than he need have been."

"Who was?"

"Mr. Grubb."

"Do you think so, Adela--remembering your long course of scorn and
cruelty? My only wonder was that he had not emancipated himself from
it long before."

Adela flushed, and began to tap her foot on the carpet in incipient
rebellion. Of all things, she hated to be reminded of that mistake of
the long-continued years. Miss Margery noted the signs.

"Child, I do not wish to pain you unnecessarily: but, as the topic has
come up, I cannot allow you to mistake my opinion. You had a prince of
a husband; a man of rare merit: he has, I truly believe, scarcely his
equal in the world----"

"I know you always thought him perfection," interrupted Adela.

"I _found_ him so. As near perfection as mortal man may be here."

"Including his name," she put in, with a touch of her old sauciness.

Miss Upton replied not in words: she simply looked at her. It was a
long, steady, and very peculiar look, one that Adela did not
understand, and it passed away with a half-smile.

"For true nobility of mind," resumed Miss Margery, "for uprightness of
life, for goodness of heart, who is like him? Look at his generosity
to all and every one. Recall one slight recent act of his--what he did
for that fantastically foolish lad, Charles Cleveland. Most men,
provoked as Mr. Grubb had been by you, and in a degree also by
Charles, would have abandoned him to his fate. Not he. That is not his
way. When the poor Rector was fretting himself to discover what was
next to be done with Charles, and the young fellow was mooning about
Netherleigh, his hands in his pockets, trying to make up his mind to
go and enlist, for he saw no other opening for him, there came a
letter to the Rector from Mr. Grubb. He had interested himself with
his correspondents in Calcutta--I'm not sure but it is a branch of his
own house--and had obtained Charles a place, out there, at just double
the salary he enjoyed here."

"And Charley is half-way over the seas on his voyage to it," lightly
remarked Adela. "Charley was only a goose, Aunt Margery."

"You cannot say that of your husband," sharply returned Miss Margery,
not approving the tone. "Unless it was in his love for you. Your
husband was fond of you to folly; he indulged your every whim; he
would have made your life happy as a dream of Paradise. And how did
you requite him?"

No answer. The rebellious tapping of the foot had ceased.

"It has been a sad, cruel business altogether," sighed Miss Upton:
"both for him and for you. It has blighted his life; taken all the
sunshine out of it. And what has it done for yours?"

What indeed? Adela pushed back her pretty brown hair with both hands
from her feverish forehead.

"Any way, the blight does not seem to have sensibly affected him, Aunt
Margery. One hears of him here, there, and everywhere. You can't take
up a newspaper but you see his name reiterated in it--Grubb, Grubb,
Grubb!"

She put a great amount of scorn into the name. Miss Upton sighed.

"I am grieved to see you in this frame of mind, Adela."

"I am only saying what's true, Aunt Margery. I'm sure one would think
he had taken the whole business of the world upon his shoulders. He is
being asked to stand for some county or other now."

"Yes; he is playing an active part in the world," assented Miss
Margery. "All honour to him that it is so! Do you suppose that one,
wise and conscientious as he is, would put aside his duties to God and
man because his heart has been well-nigh broken by a heartless wife?
Rather would he be the more earnest in fulfilling them. Occupation
will enable him to forget the past sooner and more effectually than
anything else would."

"To forget me, I suppose you mean, Aunt Margery."

"Would you wish him to remember you, Adela--and what you have been to
him? I tell you, child, that my whole heart aches for your husband: it
ached long before you left him; while--I must say it--it was full of
resentment against you. I am very sorry for you, Adela; you are my
god-daughter, and I will try my best, whilst you stay with me, to
soothe your wounds and reconcile you to this inevitable change. It has
tried you: I see that, in spite of your pretended carelessness; you
appear to me to be anything but strong."

"I am not strong, Aunt Margery. And if I fade away into the grave, I
don't suppose any one will miss me or regret me."

"The best thing for her, perhaps, poor child--to be removed from this
blighted life to the bright and beautiful life above! And her husband,
released from his trammels, would then probably find that comfort in a
second wife which he missed in her. Who knows but this may be God's
purpose? He is over all."

Was Margery Upton aware that these words were spoken in a murmur--not
merely thought? Probably not. They reached Adela: and a curious pang
shot through her heart.

The butler came into the room at the moment, bringing a message to his
mistress. One of her tenants had called, and wished very much to be
allowed a short interview with her. And Miss Upton, who was still able
to attend at times to worldly matters, quitted the room at once.

A faint cry escaped Lady Adela as the door closed. She turned her face
upon the sofa-cushion, and burst into a flood of distressing tears.



CHAPTER XXX.
LAST WORDS.


December was in, and winter weather lay on the earth. Court
Netherleigh looked out on a lovely view, rare as a scene from
fairyland. Snow clung to the branches of the trees in feathery beauty;
icicles sparkled in the sun. A new and strange world might have
replaced the old one.

Margery Upton lay on the sofa in her dressing-room. She was able to
get into it most days, but she had given up going downstairs now.
During the months that had gone on since the autumn and the time of
Lady Adela's sojourn, the fatal disease which had fastened on Miss
Upton had made its persistent though partly imperceptible ravages, and
her condition was now no longer a secret; though few people suspected
how very near the end might be. In her warm dressing-gown of soft
violet silk, for she remained loyal to her favourite colour, and her
lace cap shading her face, she lay between the fireplace and the
window, gazing at the snowy landscape. She did not look very ill, and
Grace Chenevix might be excused for the hopeful thought, now crossing
her mind, that perhaps after all Aunt Margery would rally. Grace had
come down to spend a few days with her. She sat on the other side the
hearthrug, tatting, the small ivory shuttle passing rapidly through
her fingers.

"You do not have this beautiful scene in London, Grace," observed Miss
Upton.

"Not often, Aunt Margery. Now and then, once, say, in four or five
winters, the trees in the park look lovely. Of course we never see so
beautiful a prospect as this is in its completeness."

"I wonder if our scenery in the next world will be much more
beautiful--or if it will even be anything like this?" came the dreamy
remark from the invalid. "Ah, Grace, I suppose I shall soon know now."

Lady Grace checked a sigh. She thought it best to be cheerful. The
shuttle had to be threaded again, and she got up to reach the ball of
thread.

"Who was your letter from this morning, Gracie? Annis said you had
one: from 'foreign parts,' she took care to inform me."

Grace smiled. "Yes, I had, Aunt Margery; I had forgotten it for the
moment. It was from Harriet. They are still in Switzerland, and mean
to stay there."

"I thought they were to go to Rome for Christmas."

"But Adela objects to it so much, Harriet says; so they intend to
remain where they are, in the desolate old château. They have made it
as air-tight as they can, and keep up large wood fires. Adela shrinks
from meeting the world, and Rome is unusually full of English."

"How is Adela?"

"Just the same. Worse, if anything; more sad, more spiritless. Harriet
begins to fear she will become really ill; she seems to have a sort of
low fever upon her."

"Poor girl!" sighed Miss Upton. "How she has blighted her life! I had
a letter, too, this morning," she resumed, "from Mrs. Lynn. She is
very ill; thinks she cannot last much longer--Francis told me so last
week. I wonder"--in a half-whisper--"which of us will go first, she or
I?"

"Was Mr. Grubb here last week, Aunt Margery?"

"For a few hours. I like him to come to me sometimes; he is a great
favourite of mine. Grace, do you know what I have often wished--that
that old story, that he proposed for _you_, had been fact instead of
misapprehension. With you he would have found the happiness he missed
with Adela."

A flush passed over Grace's fair, placid face. She bent her head.

"Marriages are said, you know, to be made in heaven," she remarked,
looking up with a smile; "so I conclude that all must have been right.
Were the years to come over again, Adela would act very differently.
She--oh, Aunt Margery, the snowy sprays are disappearing!"

"Ay; the sun has come out, and the snow melts. Few pleasant things
last long in this world, child; something or other comes to mar them.
But I thought you meant to go to Moat Grange this morning, Grace. You
should start at once; it has struck eleven."

"I said I should like to see Selina, and to call on Mrs. Dalrymple on
the way."

"Well, do so. Selina will receive you with open arms. She must be
amazingly lonely, shut up in that dreary house from year's end to
year's end. They see no company."

Grace put her tatting into its little basket, and rose. "Are you sure
you shall not feel dull at being left, Aunt Margery?" she stayed to
ask.

"I never feel dull, Grace."

Barely had Grace started on her walk, when the maid came to the
dressing-room to say the Rector had called. "Will you see him, ma'am?"
she inquired.

"Yes, Annis, I wish to see him," was Miss Upton's reply, as she rose
from her recumbent position on the sofa and sat down upon it. Annis
folded a grey shawl over her mistress's knees, put a footstool under
her feet, and sent up Mr. Cleveland.

After a short time given to subjects of more vital importance, Miss
Upton began to talk of her worldly affairs, induced to it possibly by
a question of the Rector's as to whether all things were settled.

"You mean my will, I suppose," she answered, slightly smiling. "Yes,
it is settled and done with. Will you be surprised to hear that I made
my will within a month of coming into this estate, and that it has
never been altered?"

"Indeed!" he remarked.

"I added a codicil to it last year, specifying the legacies I wish to
bequeath; but the substance of the will, with its bequest, Court
Netherleigh, remains unchanged."

Mr. Cleveland opened his lips to speak, and closed them again. In the
impulse of the moment, he was about to say, "To whom have you left
it?" But he remembered that it was a question he could not properly
put.

"You were about to ask me who it is that will inherit this property,
and you do not like to do so," she said, nodding to him pleasantly.
"Well----"

"I beg your pardon," he interrupted. "The thought did arise to me, and
I almost forgot myself."

"And very natural that it should arise to you. I am about to tell you
all about it. I meant to do so before my death: as well now as any
other time."

"Have you left it to Lord Acorn?"

"No; that I have not," she replied, in quick, decisive tones, as if
the very suggestion did not please her. "Lord Acorn and his wife have
chosen to entertain the notion; though they have not had any warranty
for it from me, but the contrary: understand me, please, the contrary.
Court Netherleigh is willed to Francis Grubb."

Mr. Cleveland's surprise was so great that for the moment he could
only gaze at the speaker. He doubted if he heard correctly.

"To Francis Grubb!" he exclaimed.

"Yes; to him, and no other. I see how surprised you are. The world
will feel surprise also."

"But Mr. Grubb is so rich!--he does not want Court Netherleigh,"
debated the Rector: not that he had any wish to cavil with the decree;
he simply spoke out the thought that occurred to him.

"Were Mr. Grubb in possession of all the wealth of the Indies, he
would still inherit Court Netherleigh," said she, looking across at
her listener.

"I see. He is a favourite of yours; and most deservedly so."

"Cast your thoughts outwards, Mr. Cleveland, to the circle known to
you and to me," she continued: "can you point out one single
individual who has any abstract right to succeed to Court
Netherleigh?"

"No, I cannot," he said, after a pause. "It is only because I have
been accustomed to think it would become Lord Acorn's that I feel
surprise."

"Lord Acorn would only make ducks-and-drakes of it; we all know that.
And, to return to the subject of right, or claim, he does not possess
so much of that as does Mr. Grubb."

Mr. Cleveland waited. He could not quite understand.

"Listen," said Miss Upton. "We three girls--you know whom I mean--were
the only relatives Sir Francis Netherleigh had in the world. The other
two married; I was left; and, after my mother's death, I came to live
here. One day, during his fatal illness--it was the very last day he
ever came downstairs--he bade me put aside my work and listen to him.
It was a lovely summer afternoon, and we were sitting in the blue
drawing-room, at the open window, he in his easy-chair. Uncle
Francis--as we three girls had always called him, though, as you know,
he was no uncle of ours--began speaking to me for the first time of
his approaching death. I burst into tears, and that did not please
him: he could be impatient at times. 'I want you to listen to me
rationally, not to cry,' he said; 'and you must have known for some
time that I was going.' So I dried my tears as well as I could, and he
went on to tell me that it was I who would succeed to Court
Netherleigh. I was indeed surprised I could not believe it; just as
you did not believe me now, when I told you I had bequeathed it to
Francis Grubb; and I said something about not taking it--that _I_ was
not of sufficient consequence to be the mistress of Court Netherleigh.
That put him out--little things had done so of late--and he testily
asked me who else there was to take it. 'I have neither son nor
nephew, more's the pity,' he went on, 'no relative of any kind, except
you three girls. Had Catherine Grant not married she would have had
Court Netherleigh,' he continued, 'but she put herself beyond the pale
of society. Betsy Cleveland has done the same; and there is only you.'
He then passed on to say how he should wish the place to be kept up.
'And to whom am I to leave it?' I said to him in turn, feeling greatly
perplexed; 'I shall not know what to do with it.' 'That is chiefly
what I want to talk to you about,' he answered. 'Perhaps you will
marry, and have a son----' 'No; I shall never marry--never!' I
interrupted. For I had had my little romance in early life," broke off
Miss Upton, looking at the Rector, "and that kind of thing had closed
for me. You have heard something of it, I fancy?"

Mr. Cleveland nodded: and she resumed.

"Uncle Francis saw I was in earnest; that no heir to Court Netherleigh
would ever spring from me. 'In that case,' he said, 'I must suggest
some one else,' and there he came to a pause. 'There's Lord Acorn,' I
ventured to say, 'Betsy's husband----' 'Hold your tongue, unless you
can talk sense!' he called out in anger. 'Would I allow Court
Netherleigh to fall into the hands of a spendthrift? If George Acorn
came into the property tomorrow, by the end of the year there would
be nothing left of it: every acre would be mortgaged away. I charge
you,' he solemnly added, 'not to allow George Acorn, or that son of
his, little Denne, or any other son he may hereafter have, ever to
come into Court Netherleigh. You understand, Margery, I forbid it.
Putting aside Acorn's spendthrift nature, which would be an
insurmountable barrier, and I dare say his son inherits it, I should
not care for a peer to own the property; rather some one who will take
the name of Netherleigh, and in whom the baronetcy may perhaps be
revived.' You now see," added Miss Upton, glancing at the earnest face
of the Rector, "why I am debarred, even though it had been my wish,
from bequeathing Court Netherleigh to Lord Acorn."

"I do indeed."

"To go back to my uncle. 'Failing children of your own,' he continued,
'there is only one I can name as your successor--there's no other
person living to name--and that is the little son of Catherine Grubb.'
'_Catherine's_ son!' I interrupted, in very astonishment. 'Yes; why
not?' he answered. 'She offended me; but he has not; and I hear, for
I have made inquiries through Pencot, that he is a noble little lad:
his name, too, is Francis--Pencot has obtained all necessary
information. In the years to come, when he shall be a good man--for
Pencot tells me no pains are being spared to make him _that_--perhaps
also a great one, he may come here and reign as my successor, a second
Sir Francis Netherleigh. In any case, he must take the name with the
property; it must be made a condition: do not forget that.' I promised
that I would not forget it, but I could not get over the surprise I
felt. This boy was the son of Christopher Grubb; and it was to him, to
his calling, so much objection had been raised in the family."

"It does appear rather contradictory on the face of it," agreed Mr.
Cleveland.

"Yes. Uncle Francis saw what was in my mind. 'Were the past to come
over again,' he observed, 'I might be less harsh with Catherine, more
tolerant to him.' 'But Mr. Grubb _is_ in trade, is a merchant, just as
he was then,' I returned, wonderingly. 'When our days in this world
draw to their close, and we stand on the threshold of another, ideas
change,' returned my uncle. 'We see then that the inordinate value we
have set on worldly distinctions may have been, to say the least of
it, exaggerated; whilst the principles of right and justice become
more weighty. What little right or claim there is in the matter, with
regard to a successor to Court Netherleigh, lay with Catherine Grant.
I have had to substitute you, Margery, for her; but it is _right_ that
her son should come in after you. I also find that Mr. Grubb's
business is of a high standing, altogether different from the ideas we
formed of it.'"

"How did any right lie with Catherine Grant--more than with you or
Elizabeth Cleveland?" asked the Rector.

"In this way: Catherine Grant was the most nearly related to Sir
Francis. Her mother was his first cousin, whereas my mother and
Betsy's mother were only second cousins. Catherine also was the
eldest of the three, by about a year. So you perceive he spoke with
reason--the right of succession, if any right existed, lay with her."

Mr. Cleveland nodded.

"'After you come into possession here, do not lose time in making your
will,' he continued. 'Tomorrow I will write down a few particulars to
guide you, which you can, at the proper time, show to Pencot. The
lad's name, Francis Grubb, will be put in as your successor, and when
he comes here, in later years, he must change it to Francis
Netherleigh.' 'But,' I rejoined, 'suppose the little boy should grow
up a bad man, a man of evil repute, what then?' 'Then,' he said,
striking his hand emphatically upon the elbow of his chair, 'I charge
you to destroy your first will, and make a fresh one. Look out in the
world for yourself, and choose a worthy successor--not any one of the
Acorns, mind, I have interdicted that; some gentleman of fair and
estimable character, who will do his duty earnestly to God and to his
neighbour, and who will take my name. Not the baronetcy. Unless he
were of blood relationship to me, though ever so remote, no plea would
exist for petitioning for that. But I think better things of this
little boy in question,' he added quickly; 'instinct whispers that he
will be found worthy.' As he _is_," emphatically concluded Miss Upton.
"And I intend him to be, and hope he will be, a second Sir Francis
Netherleigh. I have put things in train for it."

Miss Upton paused a moment, as if lost in the past.

"It is a singular coincidence, not unlike a link in a chain," she went
on, dreamily, "that the present Prime Minister should be an old
habitué of Court Netherleigh; many a week in his boyhood did he pass
here with Uncle Francis, who was very kind to him. He has continued
his friendship with me unto this day; coming down to visit me
occasionally. I made a confidant of him during his last visit, telling
him what I am now telling you, and I asked him to get this
accomplished. He promised faithfully to do so, for our old
friendship's sake, and in remembrance of his obligations to Uncle
Francis, who had been a substantial friend to him. It would not be
difficult, he said, Mr. Grubb assenting--whom, by the way, he esteems
greatly. Therefore, you will, I hope, at no very prolonged period
after my death, see him reigning here, Sir Francis Netherleigh."

"Has Mr. Grubb assented?" asked the Rector.

Miss Upton shook her head and smiled. "Mr. Grubb knows nothing
whatever about the matter. He has no more idea that he will inherit
Court Netherleigh than I had that I should inherit it before that
revelation to me by Uncle Francis. He will know nothing until I am
dead. I have written him a farewell letter, which will then reach him,
explaining all things; just as I have written out a statement for the
world, disclosing the commands laid upon me by Uncle Francis, lest I
should be accused of caprice, and possibly--Mr. Grubb of cupidity."

"You are content to leave him your successor?"

"More than content. I look around, and ask myself who else is so
worthy. After Uncle Francis's death, I was not content. No, I confess
it: Catherine had offended all our prejudices, and her child shared
them in my mind. But I never thought of disputing the charge laid upon
me, and my will was made in the boy's favour. From time to time, as
the years passed on, Mr. Pencot brought me reports of him--that he was
growing up all that could be wished for. Still, I could not quite put
away my prejudice; and whether I should have sought to make
acquaintance with him, had chance not brought it about, I cannot say.
I met him first at a railway-station."

"Indeed?" cried Mr. Cleveland, who had never heard of that day's
meeting.

"I was going down to Cheltenham with Annis and Marcus, and our train
came to grief near Reading; the passengers had to get out whilst the
damage, something to an axle, was tinkered up. Francis Grubb was
coming up from the Acorns' place in Oxfordshire: it was during the
time he was making love to Adela, and the accident to my train stopped
his. I was sitting by the wayside disconsolately enough on my little
wooden bonnet-box, when one of the nicest-looking and grandest men,
for a young man, I ever saw, came up and politely asked if he could be
of any service to me. My heart, so to say, went out to him at once,
his manner was so winning, his countenance so good and noble.
Something in his eyes struck me as familiar--you know how beautiful
they are--when in another moment my own eyes fell on the name on his
hand-bag, 'C. Grubb.' Then I remembered the eyes; they were
Catherine's; and I knew that I saw before me her son and my heir."

"And your silent prejudice against him ceased from that time," laughed
the Rector.

"Entirely. I have learnt to love him, to be proud of him. Catherine
cannot feel more pride in her son than I feel in him. But I have never
given him the slightest hint that he will inherit Court Netherleigh.
Not that I have never felt tempted to do so. When Adela has jeered at
his name, in her contemptuous way, it has been on the tip of my tongue
more than once to say to her: He will bear a better sometime. And I
have told himself once--or twice--that he was quite safe in letting
Acorn borrow money on Court Netherleigh. He is safe, you see, seeing
that it is he himself who will come into it: though, of course, he
took it to mean that Acorn would do so."

Mr. Cleveland drew a long breath. These matters had surprised him, but
in his heart of hearts he felt thankful that the rich demesnes would
become Francis Grubb's and not thriftless George Acorn's.

"Never a word of this abroad until I am gone, my old friend," she
enjoined, "not even to your wife; you understand that?"

"I understand it perfectly, dear Miss Upton, and will observe it."

"You will not have long to wait."



CHAPTER XXXI.
IN THE OLD CHÂTEAU.


A draughty old château in Switzerland. Not that it need have been
draughty, for it lay at the foot of a mountain, sheltered from the
east winds. But the doors did not fit, and the windows rattled, after
the custom of most old châteaux: and so the winter air crept in. It
stood in a secluded spot quite out of the beaten tracks of travellers;
and it looked upon one of the most glorious prospects that even this
favoured land of lovely scenery can boast.

That prospect in part, and in part the very moderate rent asked for
the house, had induced Sir Sandy MacIvor to take it for the autumn
months. The MacIvors, though descended from half the kings of
Scotland, could not boast of anything very great in the shape of
income. Sir Sandy's was but small, and he and his wife, Lady Harriet,
formerly Harriet Chenevix, had some trouble to make both ends meet.
The little baronet was fond of quoting the old saying that he had to
cut his coat according to his cloth. Therefore, when Lady Adela went
to them for a prolonged stay, the very ample allowance made for her to
Sir Sandy was most welcome.

Upon the close of Adela's short visit to Court Netherleigh in the
autumn, she returned to her mother. The visit had not been productive
of any good result as regarded her cheerfulness of mind and manner;
for her life seemed only to grow more dreary. Lady Acorn did not
approve of this, and took care daily to let Adela know she did not,
dealing out to her sundry reproaches. One day when Adela was unusually
low-spirited, the countess made use of a threat--that she should be
transported to that gloomy Swiss fastness the MacIvors had settled
themselves in, and stop there until she mended her manners.

A chance word, spoken at hazard, sometimes bears fruit. Adela, a faint
light rising in her eyes as she heard this, lifted her voice eagerly.
"Mother, let me go; send me there as soon as you please," she said.
"It will at least be better for me there than here, for I shall be out
of the world."

"Out of the world!" snapped Lady Acorn. "You can't be much more out of
it than you are down here in Oxfordshire."

"Yes, I can. The neighbours, those who are at their places, come in to
see us, and papa sometimes brings people home from town. Let me go to
Harriet."

It was speedily decided. Lady Acorn, severe though she was with Adela,
had her welfare at heart, and she thought a thorough change might be
beneficial to her. An old friend, who chanced to be going abroad, took
charge of Lady Adela to Geneva: Sir Sandy MacIvor and his wife met her
there, and took her back with them to the château.

That was in October. Adela found the château as isolated as she could
well desire, and therefore she was pleased with it; and she told Sir
Sandy and Harriet she was glad to have come.

They had never thought of staying in this château for the winter; they
meant to go to Rome early in December. But as that month approached,
Adela evinced a great dislike to move. She would not go to Rome to
encounter the English there, she told them; she would stay where she
was. It a little perplexed the MacIvors; Adela had now grown so weak
and low-spirited that they did not like to cross her or to insist upon
it that she must go; neither did they care to give her up as their
inmate, for her money was of consequence to them.

"What if we make up our minds to stay here for the winter, Harriet?"
at length said Sir Sandy, who was as easy-tempered, genial-hearted a
little laird as could be met with in or out of Scotland: though he
stood only five feet high in his shoes, and nothing could be seen of
his face except his small retroussé nose standing out of the mass of
bright yellow hair which adorned it.

"It will be so cold," grumbled Harriet. "Think of all these draughts."

"They won't hurt," said the laird, who was bred to such things, his
paternal stronghold in the Highlands not being altogether air-tight.
"I'll nail some list over the cracks, and we'll lay in a good stock of
wood and keep up grand fires. I think we might be comfortable,
Harriet. It must be as you decide, of course, dear; but Adela can't be
left here alone, and if we say she must go with us to Rome, she may
fret herself into a fever."

"She is doing that as it is," returned Harriet. "We might stay here,
of course--and we should get the place for an old song during the cold
months. Perhaps we had better do so. Yet I should like to have been in
Rome for the Christmas festivities, and for the carnival later."

"We will go next Christmas instead," said Sir Sandy.

As they had no children, they were not tied to their Scottish home,
and could lay their plans freely. It was decided to remain in the
château for the winter, and Sir Sandy began hammering at the doors and
windows.

So they settled down contentedly enough; and, cold though it was, in
spite of the list and the hissing wood fires, which certainly gave out
more sparks than heat, Sir Sandy and his wife made the best of it.

It was more than could be said of Lady Adela. She not only did not
make the best of things, but did not try to do so. Not that she
complained of the cold, or the heat, or appeared to feel either. All
seemed as one to her.

Her room was large; its great old-fashioned sofa and its heavy
fauteuils were covered with amber velvet. Uncomfortable-looking
furniture stood about--mahogany tables and consoles with cold white
marble tops. The walls of the room were papered with a running
landscape, representing green plains, rivers, blue mountains, sombre
pine-trees, castles, and picturesque peasants at work in a vineyard.
In a recess, shut off with heavy curtains, stood the bed; it was, in
fact, a bedroom and sitting-room combined, as is so frequently the
case on the Continent.

In a dress of black silk and crape, worn for Margery Upton, who had
died the day after Christmas-Day, Lady Adela sat in this room near the
crackling wood fire. January was wearing away. She leaned back in the
great yellow armchair in listless apathy, her wasted hands lying on
her lap, a warm cashmere shawl drawn round her, and two scarlet spots
on her once blooming-cheeks. The low fever, that, as predicted by Lady
Harriet weeks and weeks ago, she was fretting herself into, had all
too surely attacked her. And she had not seemed in the least to care
whether or not she died of it.

"If I die, will my death be sudden?" she one day startled the Swiss
doctor by asking him.

"You will not die, you will get well," replied Monsieur Le Brun. "If
you will only be reasonable, be it understood, and second our efforts
to make you so, by wishing for it yourself," he added.

"I do wish it," she murmured; though her tone was apathetical enough.
"But I said to you, '_If_ I die,'--and I want the question answered,
sir. Would there be time to send for any friends from England that I
may wish to see?"

"Ample time, miladi."

"Harriet," she whispered to her sister that same night, "mind you send
for Mr. Grubb when I get into that state that I cannot recover--if I
do get into it. _Will you?_"

"What next!" retorted Harriet. "Who says you will not recover?"

"I could not die in peace without seeing my husband--without asking
for his forgiveness," pleaded the poor invalid, bitter tears of regret
for the past slowly coursing down her cheeks. "You will be sure to
send in time, won't you, Harriet?"

"Yes, yes, I promise it," answered Harriet, humouring the fancy; and
she set herself to kiss and soothe her sister.

Lady Harriet MacIvor, who resembled her mother more than any of the
rest, both in person and quickness of temper, had been tart enough
with Adela before the illness declared itself, freely avowing that she
had no patience with people who fretted themselves ill; but when the
fever had really come she became a tender and efficient nurse.

The sickness and danger had passed--though of danger there had not
perhaps been very much--and Adela was up again. With the passing, Lady
Harriet resumed again her tendency to set the world and its pilgrims
right, especially Adela. January was now drawing to a close.

The fever had left her very weak. In fact, it had not yet wholly taken
itself away. She would lie back in the large easy-chair, utterly
inert, day after day, recalling dreams of the past. Thinking of the
luxurious home she had lost, one that might have been all brightness;
picturing what she would do to render it so, were the opportunity
still hers.

For hours she would lose herself in recollections of the child she had
lost; the little boy, George. A rush of fever would pass through her
veins as she recalled her behaviour at its baptism: her scornful
rejection of her husband's name, Francis; her unseemly interruption
from her bed to the clergyman that the name should be George. How she
yearned after the little child now! Had he lived--why surely her
husband would not have put her away from him! A man may not, and does
not, put away the mother of his child; it could never have been. Would
he have kept the child--or she? No, no; with that precious, living tie
between them, he could not have thrust his wife from him. Thus she
would lie, tormenting herself with deceitful fantasies that could
never be, and wake with a shudder to the miserable reality.

Sufficient of the fever lingered yet to tinge with hectic her white
face, and to heat her trembling hands. But for one thought Adela would
not have cared whether she died or lived--at least, she told herself
so in her misery; and that thought was that, if she died, her husband
might take another wife. A wife who would give him back what she
herself had not given--love for love. Since Miss Upton, perhaps
unwittingly, had breathed that suggestion, it had not left Adela night
or day.

How bitterly she regretted the past none knew, or ever would know.
During these weeks of illness, before the fever and since, she had had
leisure to dwell upon her conduct; to repent of it; to pray to Heaven
for pardon for it. The approach of possible death, the presence of
hopeless misery, had brought Adela to that Refuge which she had never
sought or found before, an ever-merciful God. Never again, even were
it possible that she should once more mingle with the world, could she
be the frivolous, heartless, unchristian woman she had been. Nothing
in a small way had ever surprised Lady Harriet so much, as to find
Adela take out her Bible and Prayer-book, and keep them near her.

She sat roday, buried as usual in the past, the bitter anguish of
remembrance rending her soul. We are told in Holy Writ that the heart
of man is deceitful and desperately wicked. The heart of woman is
undoubtedly contradictory. When Adela was Mr. Grubb's wife, she had
done her best to scorn and despise him, to persuade herself she hated
him: now that he was lost to her for ever, she had grown to love him,
passionately as ever man was loved by woman. The very fact that
relations between them could never be renewed only fostered this love.
For Lady Adela knew better than to deceive herself with vain hopes;
she knew that to cherish them would be the veriest mockery; that when
Francis Grubb threw her off, it was for ever.

Many a moment did she spend now, regretting that she had not died in
the fever. It would at least have brought about a last interview; for
Harriet would have kept her word and sent for him.

"Better for me to die than live," she murmured to herself, lifting her
fevered hand. "I could have died happily, with his forgiveness on my
lips. Whereas, to live is nothing but pain; weariness--and who knows
how many years my life will last?"

Darvy came in; a tumbler in her hand containing an egg beaten up with
wine and milk. Darvy did not choose to abandon her mistress in her
sickness and misfortunes, but Darvy considered herself the most
ill-used lady's-maid that fate ever produced. Buried alive in this
dismal place in a foreign country, where the companions with whom she
consorted, the other domestics, spoke a language that was barbarous
and unintelligible, Darvy wondered when it would end.

"I don't want it," said Adela, turning away.

"But Lady Harriet says you must take it, my lady. You'll never get
your strength up, if you refuse nourishment."

"I don't care to get my strength up. If you brought me some wine and
water, Darvy, instead, I could take that. Or some tea--or lemonade. I
am always thirsty."

"And what good is there in tea or lemonade?" returned Darvy, who
ventured to contend now as she never had when her lady was in health,
coaxing her also sometimes as if she were a child. "Lady Harriet said
if you would not take this from me, my lady, she should have to come
herself. And she does not want to come; she's busy."

To hear that Harriet was busy seemed something new. "What is she busy
about?" languidly asked Adela.

"Talking," answered Darvy. "Some English traveller has turned out of
his way to call on her and Sir Sandy, my lady, and he is giving them
all the home news."

"Oh," was the indifferent comment of Lady Adela. Home news was nothing
to her now. And, to put an end to Darvy's importunity, she drank the
refreshment without further objection.


Margery Upton had died and was buried; and her will, when it became
known, created a nine-days' wonder in London. Amidst those assembled
to hear its reading, the mourners, who had just returned from the
churchyard, none was more utterly astonished than Mr. Grubb. Never in
his whole life had such an idea--that he would be the inheritor of
Court Netherleigh--occurred to him. Miss Upton's statement of why it
was left to him, as explained by her by word of mouth to Mr.
Cleveland, was read out after the will; and Francis Grubb found a
private letter, written by her to himself; put into his hand.

Lord Acorn was similarly astonished. Intensely so. But, in his
débonnaire manner, he carried it off with easy indifference, and did
not let his mortification appear. Perhaps he had not in his heart felt
so sure of Court Netherleigh as he had allowed the world to think:
Miss Upton's warnings might not have been quite lost upon him. Failing
himself, he would rather Francis Grubb had it than any one; there
might be no trouble about those overdue bonds; though Lord Acorn,
always sanguine, had not allowed himself to dream of such a
catastrophe as this.

Perhaps the most unwelcome minor item in the affair to Lord Acorn was
having to carry the news home to his wife. It was evening when he
arrived there. He and Mr. Grubb had travelled up together: for the
easy-natured peer did not intend to show the cold shoulder to his
son-in-law because he had supplanted him.

"Will you give me a bit of dinner, Frank?" asked the earl, as they got
into a cab together at the terminus, only too willing to put off the
mauvais quart d'heure with my lady as long as might be.

"I will give it to you, and welcome, if there is any to be had,"
smiled Mr. Grubb. "I left no orders for dinner roday, not knowing
when I should be back."

Alighting in Grosvenor Square, they found dinner prepared. Afterwards
Lord Acorn went home. His wife, attired in one of Madame Damereau's
best black silk gowns, garnished with a crape apron, was sitting in
the small drawing-room, all impatience.

"Well, you _are_ late," cried she. "What can have kept you until now?"

"It is only ten o'clock," replied the earl, drawing a chair to the
fire. "At work, Gracie!" he added, turning to his daughter, who sat at
the table, busy with her tatting.

"Only ten o'clock!" snapped the countess. "I expected you at five or
six. And now--how are things left? I suppose we have Court
Netherleigh?"

"Well, no; we have not," quietly replied Lord Acorn.

"_Not!_"

"Not at all. Grubb is made the heir. He has Court Netherleigh--and is
to take the name."

Lady Acorn's face, in its petrified astonishment, its righteous
indignation, would have made a model for a painter. Not for a couple
of minutes did she speak, voice and words alike failed her.

"The deceitful wretch!" broke from her at length. "To play the sneak
with Margery in that way!"

"Don't waste your words, Betsy. Grubb knew nothing about it: is more
surprised than you are. Court Netherleigh was willed to him when
Margery first came into it; when he was a young lad. She only carried
out the directions of Sir Francis Netherleigh."

Lady Acorn was beginning to breathe again. But she was not the less
angry.

"I don't care. It is no better than a swindle. How _deceitful_ Margery
must have been!"

"She kept counsel--if you mean that. As to being deceitful--no, I
don't see it. She never did, or would, admit that the estate would
come to us: discouraged the idea, in fact."

"All the same, it is a frightful blow. We were _reckoning_ on it. Was
no one in her confidence?"

"No one whatever except the old lawyer, Pencot. Two or three weeks
before she died she disclosed all to Cleveland in a confidential
interview. As it is not ourselves, I am heartily glad it's Grubb."

"What has she done with all her accumulated money?" tartly went on her
ladyship. "She must have saved a heap of it, living in the quiet way
she did!"

"Yes, there is a pretty good lot of that," equably replied the earl.
"It is left to one and another; legacies here, legacies there. I don't
come in for one."

"No! What a shame!"

"You do, though," resumed Lord Acorn, stretching out his boots to
catch the warmth of the fire. "You get ten thousand pounds."

The words were to the countess as a very sop in the pan. Her fiery
face became a little calmer.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"Quite sure," nodded the earl. "You don't get it, though, without
conditions. Only the interest for life; the sum itself then goes to
Grace, here. I congratulate you, Gracie, my dear."

Grace let fall her shuttle; her colour rose. "Oh, papa! And--what do
my sisters have?" she added, ever, in her unselfishness, thinking of
others.

"Mary, Harriet, and Frances have a thousand pounds each; Sarah and
Adela only some trinkets as a remembrance. I suppose Margery thought
they were well married, and did not require money."

"And, papa, who else comes in?" asked Grace, glancing across at her
mother, who sat beating her foot on the carpet.

"Who else? Let me see. Thomas Cleveland has two thousand pounds. And
Mrs. Dalrymple, the elder, has a thousand. And several of Margery's
servants are provided for. And I think that's about all I remember."

"The furniture at Court Netherleigh?" interrupted Lady Acorn. "Who
takes that?"

"Grubb; he takes everything belonging to the house and estate;
everything that was Sir Francis Netherleigh's. He is left residuary
legatee. Margery Upton has only willed away what was her own of
right."

"As if he wanted it!" grumbled Lady Acorn.

"The less one needs things, the more one gets them, as it seems to me.
The baronetcy is to be renewed in him, Betsy."

"The baronetcy! In _him!_"

"Sir Francis wished it. There won't be much delay in the matter,
either. Margery Upton put things in train for it before she died."

Lady Acorn could only reply by a stare; and there ensued a pause.

"The idiot that little minx Adela has shown herself!" was her final
comment. "Court Netherleigh, it seems, would have been hers."


The little minx Adela, wasting away with fever in her Swiss abode,
knew nothing of all this, and cared less. The barest items of news
concerning it came to the MacIvors; Grace wrote to Harriet to say that
Court Netherleigh had been willed to Mr. Grubb, not to her father; but
in that first letter she gave no details. That much was told to Adela.
She aroused herself sufficiently to ask who had Court Netherleigh, and
was told that Margery Upton had left it to Mr. Grubb.

"I knew he was a favourite of hers," was all the comment she made;
and, but for the sudden flush, Lady Harriet might have thought the
news was perfectly indifferent to her: and she made no further
allusion to it, then or afterwards.

But of the particulars, I say, Sir Sandy and Lady Harriet remained in
ignorance, for Grace did not write again. No one else wrote. And their
extreme surprise at Mr. Grubb's inheritance had become a thing of the
past, when one day a traveller, recently from England, found them out
and their old château. It was Captain Frederick Cust, brother to the
John Cust who stuttered. The Custs and the Acorns had always been very
intimate; the young Cust lads, there were six of them, and the Ladies
Chenevix had played and quarrelled together as boys and girls. Captain
Cust knew all about the Court Netherleigh inheritance, and supplied
the information lacking, until then, to Sir Sandy and Lady Harriet
MacIvor. No wonder Darvy had said that Lady Harriet was too busy to go
upstairs: she was as fond of talking as her mother.

And so, the abuse they had been mutually lavishing upon Mr. Grubb in
private for these two or three past weeks they found to be unmerited.
He was the lucky inheritor, it is true, but through no complicity of
his own.

"You might have known that," said Captain Cast, upon Lady Harriet's
candidly avowing this. "Grubb is the most honourable man living; he
would not do an underhand deed to be made king of England tomorrow. I
am surprised you could think it of him for a moment, Harriet."

"Be quiet, Fred," she retorted. "It was not an unnatural thought. The
best of men will stretch a point when such a property as Court
Netherleigh is in question."

"Grubb would not. And he could have bought such a place any day had he
a mind to do it."

"And he is to take up the baronetcy! You are sure that is true?"

"Sure and certain. And I wish him joy with all my heart! There's not
one of us in the social world but would welcome him into our order
with drums and trumpets."

Lady Harriet laughed. "You are just the goose you used to be, Fred."

"No doubt," assented Captain Frederick. "Where's the use of being
anything better in such a silly world as this? Your wife has always
paid me compliments, MacIvor, since the time we were in pinafores."

"Just as she does me," nodded little Sir Sandy. "And how is Mr.
Grubb?--I liked him, too, captain. Does he still keep up that big
establishment in Grosvenor Square all for himself?"

"Yes. Why shouldn't he? He is rich enough to keep up ten of them. By
the way, he is a member of Parliament now--do you know it? They've
returned him for Wheatshire."

And thus the conversation continued. But we need not follow it.

After Captain Cust left at night, for he stayed the day with them,
Lady Harriet sat in silent thought, apparently weighing some matter in
her mind.

"Sandy," she said at length, looking across at him, "I don't think I
shall tell Adela anything about this--I mean that her husband is to
take the baronetcy. It will be better not."

"Why?" asked Sir Sandy.

"It will bring her past folly home to her so severely. It may bring
all the fever back again."

"As you please, of course, dear. But she did not seem to care at all
when told he had inherited Netherleigh."

"That's all you know about it, Sandy!" retorted Lady Harriet. "_I_
saw--all the light in her eyes and the flush in her cheeks. I tell
you, sir, she is in love with her husband now, though she may never
have been before, and it will try her too greatly, in her weak state.
Her chief bone of contention in the old days was his name; that's
removed now. And she has forfeited that lovely place, Court
Netherleigh!"

"You know best, my dear. Perhaps it will be kinder not to tell her.
But you will have to caution Darvy, and those about her: this is news
that will not rest in a nutshell. Though," remarked Sir Sandy, after a
pause, "with all deference to your superior judgment, Harriet, I do
not think she can care much more for her husband now than she cared of
old."

"Listen, Sandy," was the whispered answer. "Yesterday evening at dusk
I went softly up to Adela's room, and peeped in to see whether she was
dozing. She sat in the firelight, her head bent over that little old
photograph she has of Mr. Grubb. Suddenly she gave a little cry, and
began raining tears and kisses upon it."



CHAPTER XXXII.
ADELA STARTLED.


In a small "appartement" in the Champs Elysées, so small, indeed, that
the whole of it could almost have been put into the salon of the
château in Switzerland, and in its small drawing-room sat Lady Harriet
MacIvor and Monsieur le Docteur Féron. Lady Adela sat in it also; but
she went for nobody now. It was a lovely April day; the sun shone
through the crimson draperies of the window, the flowers were budding,
the trees were already green.

Monsieur le Docteur Féron and Lady Harriet were talking partly to,
partly _at_ Adela. Inert, listless, dispirited, she paid little or no
attention to either of them, or to anything they might choose to say:
life and its interests seemed to be no longer of moment to her.

When we saw her in January she was recovering from the low fever. But
she did not grow strong. The fever subsided, but the weakness and
listlessness remained. Do what they would, the MacIvors could not
rouse her from her apathy. Sir Sandy tried reasoning and amusement;
Lady Harriet alternately soothed and ridiculed; Darvy, even, ventured
now and again on a good scolding. It was all one.

That exposé the previous summer, when she was put away by her husband,
seemed to have changed Adela's very nature. At first her mood was
resentful; then it became repentant: that was succeeded by one of
heart-sickening remorse. Remorse for her own line of conduct during
the past years. With the low fever in Switzerland, she began to think
of serious things. The awakening to the responsibilities that lie upon
us to remember and prepare for a future and better state--an awakening
that comes to us all sooner or later, in a greater or a less
degree--came to Lady Adela. She saw what her past life had been, all
its mocking contempt for what was good, its supreme indifference, its
intense selfishness. Night by night, on her bended knees, amid sobs
and bitter tears, she besought forgiveness of the Most High. Her
cheeks turned red with shame whenever she thought of her kind and good
husband, and of how she had requited him. Lady Harriet was right too
in her surmise--that Adela had now grown to love her husband. How full
of contradictions this human heart of ours is, experience shows us
more surely day by day. When she could have indulged that love, she
threw it contemptuously from her; now that the time had gone by for
indulging it, it was becoming something like idolatry.

Adela did not grow strong; perhaps, with this distressed frame of
mind, much improvement was not to be looked for. At length the
MacIvors grew alarmed, and resolved to take her to Paris for change
and for better advice. Contrary to expectation, Adela made no
objection; it seemed as though she no longer cared a straw where she
went, or what became of her. "If we offered to box her up in a coffin
and bury her for good and all, I don't believe she'd say no," said
Lady Harriet one day to the laird. To Paris they went, reaching it
during March, and Monsieur le Docteur Féron was at once called in, a
man of great repute amongst the English. It was now April, and
Monsieur le Docteur, with all his skill, had done nothing.

"But truly there's no reason in it, miladi," he was saying this fine
day to Lady Harriet, in English, the language he generally chose to
use with his patients, however perfectly they might speak his own.
"Miladi Adela has nothing grave amiss with her; absolutely nothing. I
assert that to sit as she does has no reason, no common sense in it."

"As I tell her continually," rejoined Lady Harriet, inwardly smiling
at his quaint phrases.

"What illness she has, rests on the nerves," proceeded the doctor. "A
little on the mind. The earliest day I saw her I asked whether she did
have one great shock, or trouble: you remember, do you not, madame?"

"But--good gracious!--one ought not to give way for ever to any shock
or trouble--even if one has had such a thing," remonstrated Lady
Harriet.

"As I say. Can anything be more clear? Miladi has nothing to make her
ill, and yet miladi sits there, ill, day after day. You hear, madame?"
turning to Adela.

"Oh yes, I hear," she gently answered, lifting her wan but still
lovely face for a moment and then letting it droop again.

"And it is time to end this state of things," resumed the doctor to
Lady Harriet. "It must be finished, madame."

"It ought to be," acquiesced Lady Harriet. "But if she does not end it
herself, how are we to do it?"

"You go out, madame, with monsieur, your husband, into a little
society: is it not so?" spoke the doctor, after a pause of
consideration, during which he stroked his face with his gloved hand.

"Of course we do, Monsieur Féron; we are not hermits, and Paris is gay
just now," quickly answered Lady Harriet. "We go to the Blunts'
tonight."

"Then take her at once also; take her with you. That may be tried. If
it has no result, truly I shall not know what to propose. Drugs are
hopeless in a case like this," added the doctor, as he made two
elaborate bows, one to each lady, and went out.

"Now, Adela, you hear," began Lady Harriet, the moment the door
closed, and her voice was sternly resolute. "We have tried everything,
and now we shall try this. You go with us to Mrs. Blunt's tonight."

She did not refuse--wonderful to be able to say it. She folded her
hands upon her chest and sighed in resignation: too worn out to combat
longer: or, perhaps, too apathetical.

"What is it, Harriet? Not a dinner-party?"

"Oh dear, no. An evening party: a crowd, I dare say. Music, I think.
And now I shall go and talk to Darvy about what you are to wear,"
concluded Lady Harriet, escaping from the room lest there should come
a tardy opposition. But no, Adela never made it. It seemed to her that
she was quite worn out with it all; with the antagonism and the
preaching, and the doctors and Harriet; wearied to death. Darvy
dressed her plainly enough; a black net robe with black trimmings; and
Lady Adela quietly submitted, saying neither yes nor no.

"Don't let me be announced, Harriet," pleaded Adela, as they were
going along. "No one cares to hear my name now. I can creep in after
you and Sir Sandy."

Mr. and Mrs. Blunt's house was small and their company large. Lady
Harriet expected a crowd, and she met with it. Adela, unannounced
according to her wish, shook hands with Mrs. Blunt, and escaped into a
small recess at the end of the further reception-room. It was draped
off by crimson-and-gold curtains, and she sat down, thankful to be
alone. She turned giddy: the noise, the lights, the crowd unnerved
her. It was so long now since she had mingled in anything of the sort.

She sat on, and began thinking _when_ the last time had been. It came
into her memory with a rush. The last time she had made one in these
large gatherings was at her own home in Grosvenor Square, not very
many days before she finally left it. Ay, and the attendant
circumstances also came back to her, even to the words which had
passed between herself and her husband. In the bitter contempt she
cherished for him, she had not chosen to inform him of the assembly
she purposed having, but had sent out the cards unknown to him. He
knew nothing about it until the night arrived and he came home to
dinner.

"What is the awning up for?" he asked of Hilson, wondering a little.

"My lady has an assembly tonight, sir," was the answer.

"A large one?"

"Yes, sir."

Mr. Grubb knitted his brow, and went on to his wife. It was not the
fact of the assembly that vexed him: it was that she had not thought
it worth her while to inform him of it. Darvy was putting the
finishing touches to her hair. How well she remembered it now; every
minute particular came back to her: where she sat in the room--not at
the dressing-glass as usual, but before the open window, for it was
intensely hot. Her robe was of costly white lace, adorned with pearls.
Pearls that he had given her.

"What is this, Adela?" he had asked. "I hear you have a large assembly
tonight."

"Well?" she retorted.

"Could you not have told me?"

"I did not see any especial necessity for telling you."

"I might have had an engagement. In fact, I have one. I ought to go to
one of the hotels tonight to see a gentleman who has come over from
India on business."

"You can go," was her scornful reply to this. "Your presence is not
needed here; it is not at all necessary to the success of the
evening."

"There is one, at any rate, who would not miss me," had been his reply
as he left her, to go to his room to dress for dinner. Yes, it all
came back vividly tonight.

She bent her face on her hand as she recalled this, hiding it in very
shame that she could have been so wicked. Lady Sarah Hope had once
told her the devil had got possession of her. "Not only the devil,"
moaned Adela now, "but all his myrmidons."

A lady was beginning to sing. She had a sweet and powerful voice, and
she chose a song Mr. Grubb used to be particularly fond of--"Robin
Adair."

Adela looked beyond the draperies at the crowd, gathering itself up
for a momentary stillness, and disposed herself to listen. Her
thoughts were full of Mr. Grubb, as the verses went on. Every word
came home to her aching heart.


          "But him I loved so well
           Still in my heart doth dwell--
           Oh, I shall ne'er forget
                          Robin Adair."


Applause ensued. It was much better deserved than that usually
accorded in these cases. A minute later, and some one called out
"Hush!" for the lady had consented to sing again. The noise subsided
into silence; the singer was turning over the leaves of her
music-book.

To this silence there arose an interruption. Mr. Blunt's English
butler appeared, announcing a late guest:

"Sir Francis Netherleigh."

The man had a low, sonorous voice, and every syllable penetrated to
Lady Adela's ear. The name struck on the chords of her memory. Sir
Francis Netherleigh! Why, he had been dead many a year. Could another
Sir Francis Netherleigh be in existence? What did it mean?--for it
must be remembered that all such news had been kept and was still kept
from her. Lady Adela gazed out from her obscure vantage-ground.

Not for a minute or two did she see anything: the company was dense.
Then, threading his way through the line made for him, advanced a man
of noble form and face, the form and face of him she had once called
husband.

He was in evening-dress, and in mourning. He seemed to be making
direct for the recess, and for Adela; and she shrank behind the
draperies to conceal herself.

For a moment all things seemed to be in a mist, inwardly and
outwardly. What brought Mr. Grubb _there_--and who was the Sir Francis
Netherleigh that had been announced, and where was he?

Not to Adela had he been advancing, neither did he see her. Mrs. Blunt
chanced to be standing before the recess; it was to her he was making
his way.

"How do you do, Sir Francis?" she warmly exclaimed, meeting his hand.
"It is so good of you to come: my husband feared you would not be able
to spare the time."

"I thought so also when I spoke to him this afternoon," was the
answer, given in the earnest pleasant tones Adela remembered so well.
"My stay in Paris is but for a few hours this time. Where is Mr.
Blunt?"

"I saw him close by a minute ago. Ah, there he is. John," called Mrs.
Blunt, "here is Sir Francis Netherleigh."

They moved towards the fireplace; the crowd closed behind them, hiding
them from sight, and Adela breathed again. So then, _he_ was Sir
Francis Netherleigh! How had it all come about?

Gathering her shawl around her, she escaped from the recess and glided
through the room with bent head. In the outer room, opening to the
corridor and the staircase, she came upon her sister.

"Harriet, I must go," she feverishly uttered. "I can't stay here."

"Oh, indeed!" said Lady Harriet. "Well--I don't know."

"If there's no carriage waiting, I can have a coach. Or I can walk. It
will do me no harm. I shall find my way through the streets."

She ran down the stairs. Harriet felt obliged to follow her. "Will you
call up Sir Sandy MacIvor's carriage," asked Lady Harriet of the
servants standing below. "Adela, do wait an instant! One would think
the house was on fire."

"I must get away," was the eager, terrified interruption, and Adela
bore onwards to the outer door.

The carriage was called, and came up. In point of fact, Sir Sandy and
his wife had privately agreed to keep it waiting, in case Adela should
turn faint in the unusual scene and have to leave. In the porte
cochère they encountered a lady who was only then arriving.

"What, going already!" she exclaimed.

"Yes," replied Lady Harriet; "and I wish you would just tell Sir Sandy
for me: you will be sure to see him somewhere in the rooms. Say my
sister does not feel well, and we have gone home."

They passed out to the carriage and were soon bowling along the
streets. Adela drew into her corner, cowering and shivering.

"Did you see him?" she gasped.

"Oh yes, I saw him," grumblingly responded Lady Harriet, who was not
very pleased at having to quit the gay scene in this summary fashion.
"I am sure Sandy will conclude we have been spirited away, unless Mrs.
Seymour finds him. A fine flurry he'll be in."

"Harriet, what did it mean? They called him Sir Francis Netherleigh."

"He is Sir Francis Netherleigh."

"Since when? Why did you not tell me?"

"He has been Francis Netherleigh since Aunt Margery died: the name
came to him with the property. He has been Sir Francis since--oh, for
about six weeks now. The old Uncle Francis wished the baronetcy to be
revived in him, and his wishes have been carried out."

Adela paused, apparently revolving the information. "Then his name is
no longer Grubb?"

"In one sense, no. For all social uses that name has passed from him."

"Why did you never tell me this?" repeated Adela.

"From the uncertainty as to whether you would care to hear it, Adela.
We decided to say nothing until you were stronger."

A second pause of thought. "If he has succeeded to the name, why, so
have I. Have I not? Though he puts me away from himself, Harriet, he
cannot take from me his name."

"Of course you have succeeded to it."

Pause the third. "Then I ought to have been announced tonight as Lady
Adela Netherleigh!"

"Had you been announced at all. You solved the difficulty, you know,
by telling me you would not be announced--you would creep in after me
and Sandy."

"What difficulty?"

"Well, had you heard yourself called Netherleigh, you would have
wanted to know, there and then, the why and the wherefore. It might
have created a small commotion."

Pause the fourth. "Who is he in mourning for? Aunt Margery?"

"And also for his mother. Mrs. Lynn lived just long enough to see him
take up the baronetcy. I think it must have gratified her--that her
son should be the one to succeed at last. _She_ would have had Court
Netherleigh in the old days, Adela, had she not displeased Uncle
Francis by her marriage, not Margery Upton. He told Margery so when he
was dying."

"The world seems full of changes," sighed Adela.

"It always was, and always will be. But I fancy the right mostly comes
uppermost in the end," added Lady Harriet. "Where is Mary Lynn, you
ask? She lives with Sir Francis, in Grosvenor Square; the house's
mistress."

Adela ceased her questioning. Amidst the many items for reflection
suggested to her by the news, was this: that the once-hated name of
Grubb had been suppressed for ever. There flashed across her a
reminiscence of a day in the past autumn, when she was last staying at
Court Netherleigh. She had been giving some scorn to the name, after
her all-frequent custom, and Miss Upton had answered it with a
peculiar look. Adela did not then understand the look: she did now.
That expressive look, had she been able to read it, might have told
her that Mr. Grubb would not long retain the name. Adela shrank closer
into the corner of the carriage and pressed her hands upon her burning
eyes. Foolish, infatuated woman that she had been!

"Did you notice how noble he looked tonight?" she murmured, after
awhile.

"He always did look noble, Adela. Here we are."

The carriage drew up. As Lady Harriet, after getting out herself,
turned to give her hand to Adela, still weak enough to require
especial care, she did not find it responded to.

"Are you asleep, Adela? Come. We are at home."

"I beg your pardon," was the meek answer.

She had only been waiting to stem the torrent of tears flowing forth.
Lady Harriet saw them glistening on her wasted cheeks by the light of
the carriage-lamps. Bitter tears, telling of a breaking heart.

"Sandy," observed Lady Harriet to her husband that night, "I do not
see that a further stay here will be of any use to Adela. We may as
well be making preparations for our journey to the Highlands."

"Just as you please," acquiesced Sir Sandy. "I, you know, would rather
be in the Highlands than anywhere else. Fix your own time."

"Then we will start next week," decided Lady Harriet. But we must
revert for a few moments to Sir Francis Netherleigh before closing the
chapter.

His stay in Paris, a matter of business having taken him there, was
limited to some four-and-twenty hours. Upon reaching Calais on his
return homewards, he found one of the worst gales blowing that Calais
had ever known, and he was greeted with the news that not a boat could
leave the harbour. All he could do was to go to an hotel, Dessin's,
and make himself comfortable until the morrow. Late in the afternoon
he strolled out to take a look at the raging sea, and found it was
with difficulty he could struggle against the wind. In returning, he
was blown against a gentleman, or the gentleman against him; the two
laughed, began an apology, and then simultaneously shook hands--for it
was Gerard Hope. Sir Francis Netherleigh's heart went out in
compassion; Gerard was looking so thin and careworn.

"Come to my hotel and dine with me, Gerard," he said impulsively. And
Gerard went.

After dinner, they left the table d'hôte for a private room, to which
a bottle of choice claret was ordered. Talking together of past times,
the subject of the lost bracelet came up. Sir Francis, listening
attentively to what Gerard said, looking at him keenly as he said it,
drew the absolute conclusion that Gerard was not the thief: he was
quick at distinguishing truth from falsehood.

"Gerard," he quietly asked, "why have you remained so long abroad? It
bears a look, you see, to some people, that you are afraid to come
back and face the charge."

"It's not that," returned Gerard. "What I can't face is my body of
creditors. They would pretty soon lay hold of me, if I went over. As
to the other affair, what could I do in it? Nothing. My uncle will
never believe me not guilty; and I could not prove that I am
innocent."

"Fill your glass, Gerard. How much do you owe?"

"Well, it must be as much, I'm afraid, as five hundred pounds."

"Is that all?" spoke Sir Francis, rather slightingly.

Gerard laughed. "Not much to many a man; but a very great deal to a
poor one. I don't know that I should be much better off at home than
here," he added in a thoughtful tone. "So long as that bracelet affair
lies in doubt, the world will look askance at me: and I expect it will
never be cleared up."

"It was a most singular thing, quite a mystery, as Lady Sarah always
calls it. I suppose you have no suspicion yourself, Gerard, as to the
culprit."

"Why, yes, I have, unfortunately."

Sir Francis caught at the words. "Who was it?"

Gerard Hope's pale face, so much paler than of yore, turned red. But
that he had been in a reverie he would not have made the unguarded
admission.

"I am sorry to have said so much, Sir Francis," he avowed hastily. "It
is true that a doubt lies on my mind; but I ought not to have spoken
of it."

"Nay, but you may trust me, Gerard."

"I don't like to," hesitated Gerard. "It was of a lady. And perhaps I
was mistaken."

"Not Alice herself," cried Sir Francis, jestingly.

"No, no. I--think--Alice--holds--the--same--suspicion," he added, with
a pause between each word.

"You had better trust me, Gerard. No harm shall come of it, to you or
to her; I promise you that."

"I thought," breathed Gerard, "it was Selina Dalrymple."

"Selina Dalrymple!" echoed Sir Francis, utterly surprised. "Since when
have you thought that?"

"Ever since."

"But why?"

"Well, partly because no one but myself and Selina went into the room;
and I know that it was not I who took it. And partly because her visit
to the house that evening was kept secret. Her name, as I dare say you
know, was never spoken of at all in connection with the matter. Alice
did not say she had been there, and of course I did not."

"But how do you know she was there?"

"I opened the door to her. As I left that back-room where the jewels
lay upon the table, I looked round to speak to Alice, and I saw that
self-same glistening bracelet lying on the table behind the others. I
did not return into the room at all; what I had to say to Alice I said
with the door in my hand. Upon opening the front-door, to let myself
out, there stood Selina Dalrymple, about to ring. She asked for Alice,
and ran upstairs to her quietly, as if she did not want to be heard.
That Selina went into the room where the jewels were and admired them,
Alice casually said to me when we met in the street next day. But her
visit was never spoken of in the house, as far as I know."

Sir Francis made no remark. Gerard went on.

"In the first blush of the loss, I should as soon have suspected
myself as Selina Dalrymple; sooner perhaps: but when it came to
be asserted at the investigation that no other person whatever had
been in the room than myself, excepting Alice, I could not see the
reason of that assertion, and the doubt flashed upon me. For one
thing"--Gerard dropped his voice--"we learnt how terribly hard-up poor
Selina was just then. Worse than I was."

"I am very sorry to have heard this, Gerard," said Sir Francis,
perceiving at once how grave were the grounds for suspicion. "Poor
Selina, indeed! It must never transpire; it would kill Oscar. At
heart, he is fond of her as ever."

"Of course it must not transpire," assented Gerard. "I have never
breathed it, until now, to mortal man. But it has made things harder
for me, you see."

"It was said at the time, I remember, that you denied the theft in a
half-hearted manner. Lady Sarah herself told me that. This suspicion
trammelled you?"

"To be sure it did. I vowed to them I did not take the bracelet, but
in my fear of directing doubts to Selina, I was not as emphatic
as I might have been. I felt just as you express it, Sir
Francis--trammelled. And I fear," went on Gerard, after a pause, "that
this same suspicion has been making havoc with poor Alice's heart and
health. When I receive a letter from Frances, as I do now and then,
she is sure to lament over Alice's low spirits and her increasing
illness."

Francis Netherleigh sat thinking. "It seems to me, Gerard," he
presently said, "that you are being punished unjustly. You ought to
return to England."

"Ah, but I can't," answered Gerard, shaking his head. "The sharks
would be on to me. Before I could turn round I should be lodged in the
Queen's Bench."

"No, no; not if they saw you wished to pay them later, and that there
was a fair probability of your doing so."

"My wish is good enough. As to the probability--it is nowhere."

"Creditors are not as hard as they are sometimes represented, Gerard.
I can assure you of that. I have always found them reasonable."

Gerard laughed outright. "I dare _say_ you have, Sir Francis. It would
be an odd creditor that would be hard to you."

"Ah, but I meant when I have dealt with them for other people,"
replied Sir Francis, joining in the laugh.

"And if I did get back to London, I should have nothing to live upon,"
resumed Gerard. "The pittance that I half starve upon in these cheap
places, I might wholly starve upon there. I often wish I could get
employed as a clerk; no one but myself knows how thankful I should be.
But with this other thing hanging over my head, who'd give me a
recommendation, and who'd take me without one!"

"Well, well, we will see, Gerard. It is a long lane that has no
turning."

They talked yet further, and then Gerard said good-night. And in the
morning Sir Francis Netherleigh heard the welcome tidings that the
wind had gone down sufficiently to allow the mail-packet to venture
out. So he went in her to England.



CHAPTER XXXIII.
DESPAIR.


The year had gone on, and the season was at its height. In the
breakfast-room at Sir Francis Netherleigh's house in Grosvenor Square
sat his sister, waiting to pour out the coffee. Ah, how different
things were from what they had been in his wife's time! Then he had to
wait upon himself at breakfast, often to take it alone; now he always
found his sister down before him.

Mary Lynn was good-looking as ever, her wonderful grey eyes, as Miss
Upton used to call them, were not a whit less beautiful; but the mirth
of early days had given place to a calm, sad seriousness. It could be
seen that some great sorrow had passed over her heart and left its
traces there for ever. Just now, as she laid down a letter she had
been reading, her face wore an especial air of sadness, somewhat of
perplexity. Sir Francis entered.

"I have a letter from Netherleigh, Francis, from Alice Dalrymple,"
began Mary, after they had said good-morning. "Mrs. Dalrymple has met
with an accident, and--but I will read you what she says," she broke
off, taking up the letter.

"'Selina was driving mamma in a borrowed pony-chaise yesterday; the
pony took fright at a passing caravan--a huge thing, Selina says,
covered with brooms and baskets and shining tins--ran away, and
overturned the chaise. Selina was not hurt, she never is; but mamma
has received, it is feared, some internal injury. She asks if you will
come down to her, dear Mary. Lose no time; you know how she values
you!'"

"Selina was driving carelessly, I expect," observed Sir Francis.

"Of course I will go down. But it cannot be roday, Francis?"

"Not very well," he answered, as he took his cup of coffee from her
hand. "What should I do with the crowd, coming here tonight, without
a hostess to receive them?"

For Sir Francis Netherleigh had bidden the great world to his house
that evening. Such invitations from him were rare. This was the first
he had given since his wife's departure and his mother's death.

"True," observed Mary, in answer. "And you also expect that gentleman
and his wife, who are just home from India, to lunch here roday.
Then I will write to Alice, and tell her I cannot be with her until
tomorrow. Her mother is not so ill, I trust, as to make a day's delay
of moment. Perhaps you will go down with me, Francis?"

"If I can. I know I am wanted at Court Netherleigh."

"That is settled, then. And now tell me, will the Hopes also be here
at luncheon?"

"Yes, I asked them last night to meet the Didnums. As I told you,
Mary, the Hopes and the Didnums were great friends out in India."

Although Francis Netherleigh had put away his wife, the intimate
relations that had existed between himself and her family had not been
interrupted. He was sometimes at Lord Acorn's and at Colonel Hope's,
and they were often with him. Mr. Didnum, the head of a great
mercantile house in Calcutta, in constant correspondence with that of
Christopher Grubb and Son in London, was an old friend of Colonel
Hope, and they were now about to meet at luncheon in Grosvenor Square.

Breakfast over, Sir Francis Netherleigh went to Leadenhall Street as
usual, returning in time to receive his visitors.

Frances Chenevix, staying with her sister, Lady Sarah Hope, made one
of the party. "I don't know whether I am expected or whether I am not,
but I shall go," she remarked to Lady Sarah, in her careless fashion.
And she went, and was warmly welcomed. Every one liked gay-hearted
Frances Chenevix.

The luncheon had been over some little time, and they were all talking
together with interest, when a telegram was brought in for Miss Lynn.
It proved to be from the Rector of Netherleigh, the Reverend Thomas
Cleveland.

"Mrs. Dalrymple has undergone an operation, and is in a very exhausted
condition. Come to her at once. I am sending also to Leadenhall Street
to your brother. She is asking for him."

Such a message creates confusion. Sir Francis looked to ascertain at
what time they were likely to find a train to carry them to
Netherleigh, and found they could just catch one if they started at
once. A servant was sent for the fleetest-looking cab he could find;
there was no time to get the carriage round.

Mary Lynn was already seated in the cab, and Sir Francis was shaking
hands with Colonel Hope, who had come out to the door, when he
remembered the guests bidden to his house that night. It caused him to
pause.

"You must stay and receive them for me, colonel: be host in my place,
and your wife hostess, if she will be so good," he hastily decided.
"Explain to every one how it is: dying wishes must be attended to, you
know: and my getting back is, I dare say, out of the question."

"All right," answered Colonel Hope. "Don't wait, or you will lose your
train."

The colonel returned indoors, went back to the dining-room and told
his wife what was required of them. Lady Sarah stared in perplexity.

"Receive the people tonight in his place! Why, we cannot do so,
colonel. Did you forget that we dine with those people at Hounslow?
It's hard to say at _what_ time we shall get back."

Colonel Hope looked a little perplexed too. "I did forget it," he said
in his solemn way. "What is to be done?"

"Let mamma be here early and receive them," suggested Lady Frances. "I
will help her."

It was an excellent solution of the difficulty. Mr. and Mrs. Didnum
took their departure; and Lady Sarah Hope, accompanied by Frances,
entered her carriage and ordered it to Chenevix House. The colonel
walked away to his club.

Lady Acorn was alone when they entered. She listened to the news her
daughters told her of her son-in-law's being summoned away, and of the
request that she would take his place that night, and receive his
guests.

"I suppose I must," said she, in her tart way; "but I shall have to
get round to Grosvenor Square at an inconveniently early hour.
Something is sure to happen when you want things to go particularly
smoothly. And now--who do you suppose is here?" continued Lady Acorn.

"How can we tell, mamma?" cried Frances, before Sarah had time to
speak. "Mary?"

"No; Adela."

"_Adela!_"

The countess nodded. "She and MacIvor arrived here this morning by the
Scotch mail. Sandy had an unexpected summons to London, from the
lawyers who are acting for him in the action about that small property
he lays claim to; and when he was starting from home, nothing would do
for Adela, it seems, but she must accompany him."

"Has Harriet come also?" asked Lady Sarah.

"No. Sandy goes back in a day or two."

"And Adela? Does she return with him?"

"_I_ don't know. Sir Sandy says she seems miserable with them, and he
thinks she will be miserable everywhere."

"Where is she?" asked Frances.

"Upstairs somewhere: Grace is with her. Grace pities and soothes her
just as though she were a martyr--instead of a silly woman who has
wilfully blighted her own happiness in life, and entailed no end of
anxiety on us all."

After their short stay in Paris in the spring, where we last saw Lady
Adela, the MacIvors went straight to Scotland, avoiding London and the
cost that would have attended a London season, which they could ill
afford. Adela also shrank from that; she would have left them had they
sojourned in the metropolis. They took up their abode in the
Highlands, in the old castle that was the paternal stronghold of the
MacIvors, which was utterly bleak, dull, and remote; and, here, for
the past three months, Adela had been slowly dying of remorse.

No wonder. Her mind, her whole being, so to say, was filled with the
image of her husband; with the longing only to see him; with the
bitter, unavailing remorse for the past. That one solitary sight of
him, in Paris at Mrs. Blunt's, had revived within her the pain and
excitement, which had been previously subsiding into a sort of dull
apathy. The château in Switzerland had been, as a residence, lonely
and wearisome; it was nothing, in those respects, compared with this
old castle of Sir Sandy's. At least, Adela, found it so. In fact, she
did not know what she wanted. She shrank from even the bare suggestion
of publicity, and she shrank from solitude. She felt herself in the
position of one whose whole interest in life has departed while yet a
long life lies before her: the saddest of all sad positions, and the
most rare.

Was it to continue so for ever and for ever? Yes, she would wail out
in answer, when asking herself the question: at least, as long as time
should last. For there could be no change in it. She had forfeited all
possibility of that. The lone, miserable woman that she was now, must
she remain to the end.

She wondered sometimes whether any one ever died of repentance and
regret. Existence was becoming all but unendurable. When she opened
her weary eyelids to the dawn of a new day she would moan out a faint
prayer that God in His compassion would help her to get through it,
and would bury her face in the pillow, wishing she could so bury
herself and her misery.

It must not be thought she was encouraged in this state of mind. Lady
Harriet MacIvor had become intolerably cross about it long ago, openly
telling Adela she had no patience with her. From her Adela received no
sympathy whatever. Look where she would, not a gleam of brightness
shone for her. Sick at heart, fainting in spirit, it seemed to Adela
that any change would be welcome; and when Sir Sandy received a letter
one morning, telling him his presence was needed in London, and he
announced his intention of starting that same day, Adela said she
should go with him.

Lady Harriet did not oppose it. In truth, it brought her relief. Adela
was becoming more of a responsibility day by day; and she had held
some anxious conferences with her husband as to the expediency of
their resigning charge of her.

"It is the best thing that could have happened, Sandy," she said to
him in private. "Take her over to mamma, and tell her everything. I
think they had better keep her themselves for a time."

Hence the unexpected irruption of the travellers at Chenevix House.
Lady Acorn was not pleased. Not that she was sorry to see Adela once
more; but she had lived in a chronic state of anger with her since the
separation, and the accounts written to her from time to time by her
daughter Harriet in no way diminished it.

After the briefest interview with her mother, Adela escaped to the
chamber assigned her; the one she used to occupy. This left Sir Sandy
free to open the budget his wife had charged him with, and to say that
for the present he and Harriet would rather not continue to have the
responsibility of Adela. Lady Acorn, as she listened, audibly wished
Adela was a child again, that she might "have the nonsense shaken out
of her."

Lady Sarah Hope raised her condemnatory shoulders, as her mother
related this. She had never had the slightest sympathy with the
trouble Adela had brought upon herself, or with the remorse it
entailed.

"Will you see her, Sarah?" asked Lady Acorn.

"No; I would rather not. At least, not roday. I must be going
shortly."

Poor Adela! True, she had been guilty of grievous offences, but they
had brought their punishment. As we sow, so do we generally reap. This
return to her mother's home seemed to bring back all the past sin, all
the present anguish, in colours tenfold more vivid.

Kneeling on the floor in the bedroom, her hands clasped round Grace's
knees as she sat, Adela sobbed out her repentance, her hopeless
longings for the life and the husband she had thrown away.

"Poor child!" sighed Grace, her own tears falling as she stroked with
a gentle hand her unhappy sister's hair, "your sorrow is, I see, hard
to bear. If I only knew how to comfort you!"

No answer.

"Still, Adela, although he is yet, in one sense of the word, your
husband, it is not well for you to indulge these thoughts; these
regrets. Were there even the most distant hope that things between you
would alter, it would be different; but I fear there is none."

"I know it," bewailed Adela. "What he did, he did for ever."

"Then you should no longer, for your own peace' sake, dwell upon his
memory. Try and forget him. It seems curious advice, Adela, but I have
none better to give."

"I cannot forget him. My dreams by night, my thoughts by day, are of
him, of him alone. If I could only be with him for just one week of
reconciliation, to show him how I would, if possible, atone to him, to
let him see that my repentance is lasting, though he put me away again
at the week's end, it would be something. Oh, Grace, you don't know
what my remorse is--how hard a cross I have to bear."

She knelt there in her bitter distress. Not much less distressing was
it to Grace. By dint of coaxing, Adela was at length partially calmed,
and lay back, half-exhausted, in an easy-chair.

At lunch-time, for this had occurred in the morning, she refused to go
down, or to take anything. In the afternoon, when Grace was back
again, Darvy brought up a cup of chocolate and some toast. Whilst
languidly taking this, Adela abruptly renewed the subject: the only
one, as she truly said, that ever occupied her mind.

"Do you see him often, Grace?"

"Rather often," replied Grace, knowing that the question must refer to
Sir Francis.

"He is friendly with you, then?"

"Quite so. The friendship has never been interrupted. We are going to
his house tonight," she added, perhaps incautiously.

"To Grosvenor Square?" cried Adela.

"Yes. I think it is the first entertainment he has given since you
left it. Half London will be there."

"If I could only got" exclaimed Adela, a light rising in her eye, a
flush to her pale cheek. Grace looked at her in surprise; she had
forfeited the right ever to enter there. Grace made no comment, and a
pause ensued.

"Did you read the speech he made last Thursday night to the Commons?"
resumed Adela, in a low tone.

"Yes. Every one was talking of it. Did _you_ read it, Adela?--in
Scotland?"

Grace received no answer. Sir Sandy below could have told her that
Adela used to seize upon the _Times_, when it arrived, with feverish
interest, to see whether any speech of her husband's was reported in
it. If so, Sir Sandy's belief was that she learnt it by heart, so long
did she keep the paper.

The chocolate finished, she lay back in the chair, her eyes looking
into vacancy, her listless hands folded before her. Grace, sitting
opposite, ostensibly occupied with some work, for she was rarely idle,
had leisure to note her sister's countenance. It was much changed.
Worn, wan, and weary it looked, but there was no special appearance
now of ill health.

"You are much better, are you not, Adela?"

"Oh, I am very well," was the languid answer.

"Do you like Scotland?"

"I don't know."

Grace thought she was tired after the night journey, and resolved to
leave her to silence; but an interruption occurred. Frances came in.

And, that Frances Chenevix could be melancholy for more than a minute
at any time, was not to be expected. In spite of Adela's evidently
subdued state of mind, she, after a few staid sentences, ran off at a
gay tangent.

"What do you think, Grace?" she began. "We had very nearly lost our
party tonight--one, Adela, that your whilom husband gives. He and his
sister have been telegraphed for this afternoon to Netherleigh. Poor
Mrs. Dalrymple has met with some serious accident; there has been an
operation, and the result is, I suppose, uncertain. They have both
started by train, and therefore cannot be at home to receive the
people tonight."

"Is the party put off, then?" questioned Grace.

"No, there was not time to do it: how could he send round to all the
world and his wife? It is to take place without him, mamma playing
host in his absence."

"I wonder what Mrs. Dalrymple could want with him?"

"Just what I wondered, Grace. Mamma thinks it must be to speak to him
about her affairs. He is her executor, I believe: not, poor woman,
that she has much to leave."

Adela had listened to this in silence: an eager look was dawning on
her face.

"Do you mean to say, Frances, that he--that my husband--will not be
there at all?--in his own house?"

"To be sure I mean it, Adela. He cannot be in two places at once, here
and Netherleigh. He and Mary Lynn have only now started on their way
there. I tell mamma that whilst she plays host I shall play hostess.
Won't it be fun!"

"Grace," began Adela very quietly, after her sisters had left, for
Lady Sarah, thinking better of it, came up to see her for a moment, "I
shall go with you tonight."

"Go--where did you say?" questioned Grace, in doubt. "To my husband's
house."

Grace dropped her work in consternation. "You cannot mean it, Adela."

"I do mean it. I shall go."

"Oh, Adela, pray consider what you are saying. Go _there_. Why, you
know that you must not do so."

"It was my house once," said Adela, in agitation.

"But it is yours no longer. Pray consider. Of all people in the world,
you must not attempt to enter it. It would be unseemly."

Adela, burst into tears. "If you knew--if you knew how I long for a
sight of it, Gracie," she gasped, "you would not deny me. Only just
one little look at it, Grace! What can it matter? _He_ is not there."

How Grace would have contrived to combat this wish, cannot be told:
but Lady Acorn came in. In answer to her questioning as to what Adela
was crying about now, Grace thought it well to tell her.

"Oh," said the countess, receiving the affair lightly, for she did not
suppose Adela could be serious. "Go _there_, would you! What would the
world say, I wonder, if they met Lady Adela Netherleigh at that house?
Don't be silly, child."

What indeed! Adela sighed and said no more. Yet, she did so want to
go. Lying back in her chair, her thoughts busy with the past and
present, the longing took a terrible hold upon her.

She dressed, but did not go down to dinner, refusing that meal as she
had refused luncheon. Lady Acorn went straight from the dinner-table
to Grosvenor Square, calling on her way at Colonel Hope's for her
daughter Frances, as had been arranged. Grace, who did not care to
leave Adela alone for too long an evening, would go later with Sir
Sandy. She hastened to dress, not having done so before dinner, and
then went to her sister's room to remain with her to the last moment.

But when Grace got there, she found, to her dismay, that Adela _was
prepared to go also_. Her fan lay on the table, her gloves beside it.

"Adela, indeed you must not go!" decisively spoke Grace. "Only think
how--I said it this afternoon--_unseemly_ it will be."

"If you only knew how I am yearning for it," came the piteous
reiteration, and Adela entwined her wasted arms entreatingly about her
sister. "My own home once, Gracie, my own home once! I seem to be
dying for a sight of it."

Never had Grace felt so perplexed, rarely so distressed. "Adela, I
_dare_ not sanction it; dare not take you. What would be said and
thought? Mamma----"

"You need not take me; I don't wish to get you into trouble with
mamma. Darvy can tell them to get a cab. Grace, you have no right to
oppose me," went on Adela, in low, firm tones; "what right can you
have? My husband will not be there, and I must see my old home. It may
be the last time I shall have the chance of it."

Sir Sandy's step was heard outside in the corridor, passing to his
chamber. Grace opened the door, and told him of the trouble. He put
his little head inside and said a few words to Adela in his mild way,
begging her not to attempt to go; and then went on to his room.

"I must go, Gracie; I _must_ go! Grace, don't look harshly at me, for
I am very miserable."

What was Grace to do? A little more combating, and she yielded in very
helplessness. The conviction lay upon her that if she refused to the
end, Adela would certainly go alone. When an ardent desire, such as
this, takes possession of one weakened in spirit and in health, it
assumes the form of a fever that must have its course.

The contention delayed them, and it was late when they went down to
the carriage. Little Sir Sandy took his seat opposite Grace and Adela.

"I wash my hands of it," he said, amiably. "Do not let your mother put
the blame of it upon me, Lady Adela, and tell me I ought not to have
brought you."

A few minutes, and the carriage stopped in Grosvenor Square. Other
guests were entering the house at the same moment. Adela, shrank
behind Grace and Sir Sandy, and was not observed in the crowd. Her
dress was black net, as it had been at Mrs. Blunt's, though she was
not in mourning now; she kept her thin black burnous cloak on and held
it up to her face as she passed close to Hilson. The man stepped back
in astonishment, recollected himself, and saluted her with an
impassive face.

Keeping in the shade as much as was possible, shrinking into corners
to avoid observation, Adela lost the others. She heard their names
shouted out in a louder voice than Hilson's, "Lady Grace Chenevix and
Sir Sandy MacIvor," and she lingered behind looking about her.

How painful to her was the sight of the old familiar spots She turned
into a small niche and halted there; her heart was beating too
painfully to go on, her breath had left her. No, she should not be
able to carry out this expedition; she saw now how wrong and foolish
it had been to attempt it; she had put herself into a false position,
and she felt it in every tingling vein.

Just one peep she would give at the drawing-rooms above. Just one. No
one would notice her. Amidst the crowds pressing in she should escape
observation. One yearning look, and then she would turn back and
escape the way she came.

Three or four persons in a group, strangers to her, were passing
upwards. Adela glided on behind them. Their names were shouted out as
her sister's and Sir Sandy's had been; as others were; and she stole
after them, within the portals.

But only to steal back again. Nay, to start back. For a
too-well-remembered voice had greeted the visitors: "I am so glad to
see you," and a tall, distinguished form stood there with outstretched
hands: the voice and form of her husband. Later, she knew how it was.
The faintness succeeding to the operation (a very slight one), which
had alarmed Mrs. Dalrymple herself, and also the surgeon and the
Rector, had passed off, and she was really in no danger. So that when
Sir Francis learnt this on his arrival at Netherleigh, he found
himself at liberty to return.

Feeling as if she must die in her agony of shame, shame at her
unwarrantable intrusion, which the unexpected sight of her husband
brought home to her, Adela got down the stairs again unseen and
unnoticed, and encountered Hilson in the hall.

"Can I do anything for you, my lady?--can I get you anything?" he
asked, his tone betraying his compassion for her evident sickness.

"Yes," she said, "yes. I want to go home; I find I am not well enough
to remain: perhaps one of the carriages outside would take me?"

"Can I assist you, Lady Adela?" said a voice at her side, from one who
was then entering and had overheard the colloquy: and Adela turned to
behold Gerard Hope.

"Is it you?" she faintly cried. "I thought you were abroad, Gerard.
Are you making one of the crowd here tonight?"

"Not as a guest. These grand things no longer belong to me. I am in
England again, and at work--a clerk in your husband's house, Lady
Adela; and I have come here tonight to see him on a pressing matter
of business."

Hilson managed it all. An obliging coachman, then setting down his
freight, was only too willing to take home a sick lady. Gerard Hope
and Hilson both went out with her.

"Don't say to--to any one--that I came, Hilson," she whispered, as she
shrank into a corner of the carriage: and Hilson discerned that by
"any one" she must especially mean Sir Francis Netherleigh.

"You may depend upon me, my lady. Chenevix House," he added to the
friendly coachman: and closed the door on the unhappy woman who was
once his master's indulged and idolized wife.

"How she is changed!" thought Gerard, gazing after the carriage as it
bowled away. "Hilson," he said, turning to the butler, "I must see
your master for a minute or two. Have you any room that you can put me
into, away from this crowd?"

"There's the housekeeper's parlour, sir: if you don't mind going
there. It's quite empty."

"AU right, Tell Sir Francis I bring a note from Mr. Howard. Something
important, I believe."



CHAPTER XXXIV.
ON LADY LIVINGSTONE'S ARM.


The stately rooms were thrown open for the reception of the guests,
and the evening was already waning. Wax-lights innumerable shed their
rays on the gilded decorations, the exquisite paintings, the gorgeous
dresses of the ladies; the enlivening strains of the band invited to
the dance, and rare exotics shed forth a sweet perfume. Admission to
the residence of Sir Francis Netherleigh was coveted by the gay world.

"There's a tear!" almost screamed a pretty-looking girl. By some
mishap in the dancing-room her partner had contrived to put his foot
upon her thin white dress, and the bottom of the skirt was half torn
away.

"Quite impossible than I can finish the quadrille," quoth she, half in
amusement, half provoked at the misfortune. "You must find another
partner whilst I go and have this repaired."

It was Frances Chenevix. By some neglect, no maid was at the moment in
attendance upstairs; and Frances, in her impatience, ran down to the
housekeeper's parlour. As Adela's sister, and frequently there with
Mary Lynn, she was quite at home in the house. She had gathered the
damaged dress up on her arm, but her white silk petticoat fell in rich
folds around her.

"Just look what an object that stupid----" And there stopped the young
lady. For, instead of the housekeeper or maid, whom she expected to
meet, no one was in the room but a gentleman; a tall, handsome man.
She looked thunderstruck: and then slowly advanced and stared at him,
as if unable to believe her own eyes.

"Gerard! Well, I should just as soon have expected to meet the dead
here."

"How are you, Lady Frances?" he said, holding out his hand with
hesitation.

"_Lady_ Frances I am much obliged to you for your formality. Lady
Frances returns her thanks to Mr. Hope for his polite inquiries,"
continued she, honouring him with a swimming curtsy.

He caught her hand. "Forgive me, Fanny, but our positions have
altered. At least, mine has: and how did I know that you were not
altered with it?"

"You are an ungrateful--raven," cried she, "to croak like that. After
getting me to write to you no end of letters, with all the news about
every one, and beginning 'My dear Gerard,' and ending 'Your
affectionate Fanny,' and being as good to you as a sister, you meet me
with 'My Lady Frances!' Now, don't squeeze my hand to atoms. What on
earth have you come to England for?"

"I could not stop over there," he returned, with emotion; "I was
fretting away my hearttstrings. So I accepted an offer that was made
to me, and came back. Guess in what way, Frances; and what to do."

"How should I know? To call me 'Lady Frances,' perhaps."

"As a City clerk; earning my bread. That's what I am now. Very
consistent, is it not, for one in my position to address familiarly
Lady Frances Chenevix?"

"You never spoke a grain of sense in your life, Gerard," she exclaimed
peevishly. "What do you mean?"

"Sir Francis Netherleigh has taken me into his house in Leadenhall
Street."

"Sir Francis Netherleigh!" she echoed, in surprise. "What, with
that--that----"

"That crime hanging over me. Speak up, Frances."

"No; I was going to say that doubt," returned the outspoken girl. "I
don't believe you were guilty: you know that, Gerard."

"I have been there some little time now, Frances; and I came up
tonight from the City to bring a note to him from Mr. Howard----"

"Rather late, is it not, to be in the City?"

"It is foreign post night, and we are very busy. A telegram came, of
some importance, I believe, and Mr. Howard has enclosed it to Sir
Francis."

"But you owned to a mountain of debt in England, Gerard; you were
afraid of arrest."

"I have managed a portion of that, thanks to Sir Francis, and the rest
they are going to let me square up by instalments."

"And pray, if you have been back some time, why have you not come to
see us?"

"I don't care to encounter old acquaintances, Frances; still less to
intrude voluntarily upon them. They might not like it, you see."

"I see that you have taken up very ridiculous notions; that you are
curiously altered."

"Adversity alters most people. That bracelet has never been heard of?"

"Oh, that's gone for good. No doubt melted down in a caldron, as the
colonel calls it, and the diamonds reset. It remains a mystery of the
past, and is never expected to be solved."

"And they still suspect me! What is the matter with your dress?"

"Matter enough," answered she, letting it down and turning round for
his inspection. "I came here to get it repaired. That great booby,
John Cust, did it for me."

"Fanny, how is Alice Dalrymple?"

"You have cause to ask after her! She is dying."

"Dying!" repeated Gerard, in hushed, shocked tones.

"I do not mean actually dying tonight, or going to die tomorrow; but
that she is dying by slow degrees there is no doubt. It may be weeks
yet, or months; perhaps years: I cannot tell."

"Where is she?"

"Still at Lady Sarah's. Just now she is making a short stay with her
mother at Netherleigh. She went home also in the spring for a month,
and when she came back Sarah was so shocked at the change in her that
she called in medical advice, and we have been trying to nurse her up.
It is all of no use: she grows thinner and weaker."

"You are still at Lady Sarah's also?"

"Oh, to be sure; I am a fixture there," laughed Frances. "Are the
Hopes here tonight?"

"Yes: or will be. They went out somewhere to dinner, and expected to
be late."

"Does my uncle ever speak of me less resentfully?"

"Not he. I think his storming over it has only made his suspicion
stronger. Not a week passes but he begins again about that detestable
bracelet. He is unalterably persuaded that you took it, and no one
must dare to put in a word in your defence."

"And does your sister honour me with the same belief?" demanded the
young man, bitterly.

"Sarah is silent on the point to me: I think she scarcely knows what
to believe. You see I tell you all freely, Gerard."

"Fanny," he said, dropping his voice, "how is it that I saw Lady Adela
here tonight?"

"Lady Adela!" retorted Frances, who knew nothing of the escapade.
"That you never did."

"But I assure you----"

"Hush, for goodness' sake. Here comes Sir Francis."

"Why, Fanny," he exclaimed to his sister-in-law as he entered, "you
here!"

"Yes: look at the sight they have made of me," replied she, shaking
down her dress for his benefit, as she had previously done for
Gerard's. "I am waiting for some of the damsels to mend it for me: I
suppose Mr. Hope's presence has scared them sway. Won't mamma be in a
rage when she sees it! it is new on tonight."

She made her escape. Sir Francis's business with Gerard was soon over,
when he walked with him into the hall. Who should be standing there
but Colonel Hope. He started back when he saw Gerard.

"Can I believe my senses?" stuttered he. "Sir Francis Netherleigh, is
he one of your guests?"

"He is here on business," was the reply. "Pass on, colonel."

"No, sir, I will not pass on," cried the enraged colonel, who had not
rightly caught the word business. "Or if I do pass on, it will only be
to warn your guests to take care of their jewellery. So, sir," he
added, turning to his nephew, "you can come back, can you, when the
proceeds of your theft are spent! You have been starring it in Calais,
I hear. How long did the bracelet last you to live upon?"

"Sir," answered Gerard, with a pale face, "it has been starving rather
than starring. I asserted my innocence at the time, Colonel Hope, and
I repeat it now."

"Innocence!" ironically repeated the colonel, turning to all sides of
the hall, as if he took delight in parading the details of the
unfortunate past. "The trinkets were spread out on a table in Lady
Sarah's own house: you came stealthily into it--after having been
forbidden it for another fault--went stealthily into the room, and the
next minute the diamond bracelet was missing. It was owing to my
confounded folly in listening to a parcel of women that I did not
bring you to trial at the time; I have only once regretted not doing
it, and that has been ever since. A little wholesome correction at the
Penitentiary might have made an honest man of you. Good-night, Sir
Francis; if you encourage him in your house, you don't have me in it."

Now another gentleman had entered and heard this: some servants also
heard it. Colonel Hope, who firmly believed in his nephew's guilt,
turned off, peppery and indignant; his wife had gone upstairs; and
Gerard, giving vent to sundry unnephew-like expletives, strode after
him. The colonel made a dash into a street cab, and Gerard walked
towards the City.

The evening went on. Lady Frances Chenevix, her dress all right again,
at least to appearance, was waiting to regain breath, after a whirling
waltz. Next to her stood a lady who had also been whirling. Frances
did not know her.

"You are quite exhausted: we kept it up too long," said the gentleman
in attendance on the stranger. "Sit down. What can I get you?"

"My fan: there it is. Thank you. Nothing else."

"What an old creature to dance herself down!" thought Frances. "She's
forty, if she's a day."

The lady opened her fan, and, whilst using it, the diamonds of her
rich bracelet gleamed right in the eyes of Frances Chenevix. Frances
looked at it, and started: she strained her eyes and looked at it
again: she bent nearer to it, and became agitated with emotion. If her
recollection did not play her false, that was the lost bracelet.

She saw Grace at a distance, and glided up to her. "Who is that lady?"
she asked, pointing to the stranger.

"I don't know who she is," replied Grace. "I was standing by mamma
when she was introduced, but did not catch the name. She came late,
with the Cadogans."

"The idea of people being in the house that you don't know!"
indignantly spoke Frances, who was working herself into a fever.
"Where's Sarah? Do you know that?"

"In the card-room, at the whist-table."

Lady Sarah, however, had left it, for Frances only turned from Grace
to encounter her. "I do believe your lost bracelet is in the room,"
she whispered, in agitation. "I think I have seen it."

"Impossible!" responded Lady Sarah Hope.

"It looks exactly the same; gold links interspersed with diamonds: and
the clasp is the same; three stars. A tall, ugly woman has it on, her
black hair strained off her face." For, it should be remarked _en
passant_, that such was not the fashion then.

"So very trying for plain people!" remarked Lady Sarah, carelessly.
"Where is she?"

"There: she is standing up now. Let us get close to her. Her dress is
that beautiful maize colour, with old lace."

Lady Sarah Hope drew near, and obtained a sight of the bracelet. The
colour flew into her face.

"It is mine, Fanny," she whispered.

But the lady, at that moment, took the gentleman's arm, and moved
away. Lady Sarah followed her, with the view of obtaining another
look. Fanny went to Sir Francis, and told him. He showed himself hard
of belief.

"You cannot be sure at this distance of time, Fanny. And, besides,
more bracelets than one may have been made of that pattern."

"I am so certain, that I feel as if I could swear to the bracelet,"
eagerly replied Lady Frances.

"Hush, hush, Fanny."

"I recollect it perfectly: the bracelet struck me the moment I saw it.
How singular that I should have been talking to Gerard Hope about it
tonight!"

Sir Francis smiled. "Imagination is very deceptive, Frances. Your
having spoken to Mr. Hope of the bracelet brought it into your
thoughts."

"But it could not have brought it to my eyes," returned the girl.
"Stuff and nonsense about imagination, Francis Netherleigh! I am
positive it is the bracelet. Here comes Sarah."

"I suppose Frances has been telling you," observed Lady Sarah to her
brother-in-law. "I feel convinced it is my own bracelet."

"But--as I have just remarked to Frances--other bracelets may have
been made precisely similar to yours," he urged. "If it is mine, the
initials 'S. H.' are scratched on the back of the middle star. I did
it one day with a penknife."

"You never mentioned that fact before."

"No. I was determined to give no clue. I was always afraid of the
affair being traced home to Gerard, and it would have reflected so
much disgrace on my husband's name."

"Did you speak to the lady?--did you ask where she got the bracelet?"
interrupted Frances.

"How could I ask her?" retorted Lady Sarah. "I do not know her."

"I will," cried Frances, in a resolute tone.

"My dear Fanny!" remonstrated Sir Francis.

"I vow I will," she persisted. But they did not believe her.

Frances kept her word. She found the strange lady in the
refreshment-room. Locating herself by her side, she entered upon a few
trifling remarks, which were civilly received. Suddenly she dashed at
once to her subject.

"What a beautiful bracelet!"

"I think it is," was the stranger's reply, holding out her arm for its
inspection, without any reservation.

"One does not often see such a bracelet as this," pursued Frances.
"Where did you buy it?--if you don't mind my asking."

"Garrards are my jewellers," she replied.

This very nearly did for Frances: for it was at Garrards' that the
colonel originally purchased it: and it seemed to give a colouring to
Sir Francis Netherleigh's view of more bracelets having been made of
the same pattern. But she was too anxious and determined to stand upon
ceremony--for Gerard's sake: and he was dearer to her than the world
suspected.

"We--one of my family--lost a bracelet exactly like this some time
back. When I saw it on your arm, I thought it was the same. I hoped it
was."

The lady froze directly, and laid down her arm, making no reply.

"Are you--pardon me, there are painful interests involved--are you
sure you purchased this at Garrards'?"

"I have said that Messrs. Garrard are ray jewellers," replied the
stranger, in cold, repelling tones; and the words sounded evasive to
Frances. "More I cannot say: neither am I aware by what law of
courtesy you thus question me, nor whom you may be."

The young lady drew herself up, proudly secure in her name and rank.
"I am Lady Frances Chenevix. And I must beg you to pardon me."

But the stranger only bowed in silence, and turned to the
refreshment-table. Frances went to find the Cadogans, and to question
them.

She was a Lady Livingstone, they told her, wife of Sir Jasper
Livingstone. The husband had made a mint of money at something or
other, and had been knighted; and now they were launching out into
high society.

The nose of Lady Frances went into the air. A City knight and his
wife: that was it, was it! How could Mrs. Cadogan have taken up with
_them?_

The Honourable Mrs. Cadogan did not choose to say: beyond the
assertion that they were extremely worthy, good sort of people. She
could have said that her spendthrift of a husband had borrowed money
from Sir Jasper Livingstone; and to prevent being bothered for it, and
keep them in good humour, they introduced the Livingstones where they
could.

It seemed that nothing more could be done. Frances Chenevix went home
with her sister Sarah in great excitement, ready to go through fire
and water, if that would have set her doubts at rest one way or the
other.

They found Colonel Hope in excitement on another score, and Lady Sarah
learnt what it was that had caused her husband not to make his
appearance in the rooms, which she had thought quite unaccountable.
The colonel treated them to a little abuse of Gerard, prophesying that
the young man would come to be hanged--which he would deserve, if for
impudence alone--and wondering what on earth could possess Francis
Netherleigh to make that Leadenhall house of his a refuge for the
ill-doing destitute.

Before Frances went to bed, she wrote a full account of what had
happened to Alice Dalrymple, at Netherleigh, saying she was _quite
sure_ it was the lost bracelet, and also telling her of Gerard's
return.

It may, perhaps, as well be mentioned, before we have quite done with
the evening, that the sudden disappearance of Adela caused some
commotion in the minds of those two individuals, Grace Chenevix and
Sir Sandy MacIvor, who were alone cognizant of her presence in the
house. When Grace saw Sir Francis Netherleigh standing in his place as
host, she turned sharply round to motion back Adela, following, as she
believed, behind. But she did not see her: and at the moment Sir
Francis advanced, took Grace's hand, and began telling her about Mrs.
Dalrymple.

What had become of Adela? Grace's face went hot and cold, and as soon
as she got away from Sir Francis, she looked about for her. Not
finding her, unable to inquire after her of any of the guests, as it
would have betrayed Adela's unlawful presence in the house, fearing
she knew not what, Grace grew so troubled that she had no resource but
to seek her mother and whisper the news. Lady Acorn, whilst giving a
few hard words to Adela and to Grace also, hit upon the truth--that
the sight of her husband had terrified her away, and she had in all
probability gone back home. "Hilson will know; he is in the hall,"
she said to Grace: and Grace went to Hilson, and found her mother's
view the correct one.

But, although it had ended without exposure, Lady Acorn could not
forgive it. She spent the next day telling Adela what she thought of
her, and that she must be getting into a fit state for a lunatic
asylum.


The letter of Frances Chenevix so troubled Alice Dalrymple that she
showed it to Selina, confessing at the same time what a terrible
nightmare the loss of the bracelet had been to her. Selina told her
she was "silly;" that but for her weak health she would surely never
have suspected either herself or Gerard of taking it. "Go back to
London without delay," was her emphatic advice to Alice, "and sift it,
if you can, to the bottom." And, as Mrs. Dalrymple was certainly out
of danger, Alice went up at once.

She found Frances Chenevix had lost none of her eager excitement,
whilst Lady Sarah had nearly determined not to move in the matter: the
bracelet seen on Lady Livingstone's arm must have been one of the same
pattern sold to that lady by Messrs. Garrard. To the colonel nothing
had been said. Frances, however, would not let it drop.

The following morning, saying she wanted to do an errand or two,
Frances got possession of Lady Sarah's carriage, and down she went to
the Haymarket to see the Messrs. Garrard. Alice--more fragile than
ever, her once lovely countenance so faded now that she looked to be
dying, as Frances had said to Gerard Hope--waited her return in a
pitiable state of anxiety. Frances came in, all excitement.

"Alice, it _is_ the bracelet. I am more certain of it than ever.
Garrards' people say they have sold many articles of jewellery to Lady
Livingstone, but not a diamond bracelet. Moreover, they say that they
never had, of that precise pattern, but the one bracelet Colonel Hope
bought."

"What is to be done?" exclaimed Alice.

"I know: I shall go to those Livingstones; Garrards' people gave me
their address. Gerard shall not remain under this cloud if I can help
him out of it. Sir Francis won't act in it; he laughs at me: Sarah
won't act; and we dare not tell the colonel. He is so obstinate and
wrongheaded, he would be for arresting Gerard, pending the
investigation."

"Frances----"

"Now, don't preach, Alice. When I will a thing, I _will_. I am like my
lady mother for that. Sarah says she scratched her initials on the
gold inside the bracelet, and I shall demand to see it: if these
Livingstones refuse, I'll put the detectives on the scent. I will; as
sure as my name is Frances Chenevix."

"And if the investigation should bring the guilt home to--to--Gerard?"
whispered Alice, in hollow tones.

"And if it should bring it home to you! and if it should bring it home
to me!" spoke the exasperated Frances. "For shame, Alice! it cannot
bring it home to Gerard, for he was never guilty."

Alice sighed; she saw there was no help for it, for Lady Frances was
resolute. "I have a deeper stake in this than you," she said, after a
pause of consideration: "let me go to the Livingstones. Yes, Frances,
you must not refuse me; I have a very, very urgent motive for wishing
it."

"You, you weak mite of a thing! you would faint before you were
half-way through the interview," cried Frances, in tones between jest
and vexation.

Alice persisted: and Frances at length conceded the point, though with
much grumbling. The carriage was still at the door, for Frances had
desired that it should wait, and Alice hastily dressed herself and
went down to it, without speaking to Lady Sarah. The footman was
closing the door upon her, when out flew Frances.

"Alice, I have made up my mind to go with you; I cannot keep my
patience until you are back again. I can sit in the carriage whilst
you go in, you know. Lady Livingstone will be two feet higher from
roday--that the world should have been gladdened with a spectacle of
Lady Frances Chenevix waiting humbly at her door."

They drove off. Frances talked incessantly on the road, but Alice was
silent: she was deliberating what she should say, and was nerving
herself to the task. Lady Livingstone was at home; and Alice, sending
in her card, was conducted to her presence, leaving Lady Frances in
the carriage.

Frances had described her to be as thin as a whipping-post, with a red
nose: and Alice found Lady Livingstone answer to it very well. Sir
Jasper, who was also present, was much older than his wife, and short
and stout; a good-natured looking man, with a wig on the top of his
head.

Alice, refined and sensitive, scarcely knew how she opened her
subject, but she was met in a different manner from what she had
expected. The knight and his wife were really worthy people, as Mrs.
Cadogan had said: but the latter had a mania for getting into "high
life and high-lived company:" a feat she would never be able
thoroughly to accomplish. They listened to Alice's tale with courtesy,
and at length with interest.

"You will readily conceive the nightmare this has been to me," panted
Alice, for her emotion was great. "The bracelet was under my charge,
and it disappeared in this extraordinary way. All the trouble it has
been productive of to me I am not at liberty to tell you, but it has
certainly helped to shorten my life."

"You look very ill," observed Lady Livingstone, with sympathy.

"I am worse than I look. I am going into the grave rapidly. Others
less sensitive, or with stronger health, might have battled
successfully with the distress and annoyance; I could not. I shall die
in greater peace if this unhappy affair can be cleared. Should it
prove to be the same bracelet, we may be able to trace out how it was
lost."

Lady Livingstone left the room and returned with the diamond bracelet.
She held it out to Miss Dalrymple, and the colour rushed into Alice's
poor wan face at the gleam of the diamonds: for she believed she
recognized them.

"But, stay," she said, drawing back her hand as she was about to touch
it: "do not give it me just yet. If it be the one we lost, the letters
'S. H.' are scratched irregularly on the back of the middle star.
Perhaps you will first look if they are there, Lady Livingstone."

Lady Livingstone turned the bracelet, glanced at the spot indicated,
and then silently handed it to Sir Jasper. The latter smiled.

"Sure enough here's something on the gold--I can't see distinctly
without my glasses. What is it, Lady Livingstone?"

"The letters 'S. H.,' as Miss Dalrymple described: I cannot deny it."

"Deny it! no, my lady, why should we deny it? If we are in possession
of another's bracelet, lost by fraud, and if the discovery will set
this young lady's mind at ease, I don't think either you or I shall be
the one to deny it. Examine it for yourself, ma'am," added he, giving
it to Alice.

She turned it about, she put it on her arm, her eyes lighting with the
eagerness of conviction. "It is certainly the same bracelet," she
affirmed: "I could be sure of it, I think, without proof; but Lady
Sarah's initials are there, scratched irregularly, just as she
describes to have scratched them."

"It is not beyond the range of possibility that initials may have been
scratched on this bracelet, without its being the same," observed Lady
Livingstone.

"I think it must be the same," mused Sir Jasper. "It looks
suspicious."

"Lady Frances Chenevix understood you to say you bought this of
Messrs. Garrard," resumed Alice.

Lady Livingstone felt rather foolish. "What I said was, that Messrs.
Garrard were my jewellers. The fact is, I do not know exactly where
this was bought: but I did not consider myself called upon to proclaim
that fact to a young lady who was a stranger to me, and in answer to
questions which I thought verged on impertinence."

"Her anxiety, scarcely less than my own, may have rendered her
abrupt," replied Alice, by way of apology for Frances. "Our hope is
not so much to regain the bracelet, as to penetrate the mystery of its
disappearance. Can you not let me know where you did buy it?"

"I can," interposed Sir Jasper: "there's no disgrace in having bought
it where I did. I got it at a pawnbroker's."

Alice's heart beat violently. A pawnbroker's! Was her haunting fear
growing into a dread reality?

"I was one day at the East-end of London, walking fast, when I saw a
topaz-and-amethyst cross in a pawnbroker's window," said Sir Jasper.
"The thought struck me that it would be a pretty ornament for my wife,
and I went in to look at it. In talking about jewellery with the
master, he reached out this diamond bracelet, and told me _that_ would
be a present worth making. Now, I knew my lady's head had been running
on a diamond bracelet; and I was tempted to ask what was the lowest
figure he would put it at. He said it was the most valuable article of
the sort he had had for a long while, the diamonds of the first water,
worth four hundred guineas of anybody's money; but that, being
second-hand, he could part with it for two hundred and fifty. And I
bought it. There's where I got the bracelet, ma'am."

"That was just the money Colonel Hope gave for it new at Garrards',"
said Alice. "Two hundred and fifty guineas."

Sir Jasper stared at her: and then broke forth with a comical attempt
at rage, for he was one of the best-tempered men in the world.

"The old wretch of a cheat! Sold it to me at second-hand price, as he
called it, for the identical sum it cost new! Why, he ought to be
prosecuted for usury."

"It is just what I tell you, Sir Jasper," grumbled his lady. "You will
go to these low second-hand dealers, who always cheat where they can,
instead of to a regular jeweller; and nine times out of ten you get
taken in."

"But your having bought it of this pawnbroker does not bring me any
nearer to knowing how he procured it," observed Alice.

"I shall go to him this very day and ascertain," returned Sir Jasper.
"Tradespeople may not sell stolen bracelets with impunity. You shall
hear from me as soon as possible," he added to Alice, as he escorted
her out to the carriage.

But Sir Jasper Livingstone found it easier to say a thing than to do
it. The pawnbroker protested his ignorance and innocence. If the
bracelet was a stolen bracelet, he knew nothing of that. He had bought
it, he said, in the regular course of business, at one of the
pawnbrokers' periodical sales: and of this he convinced Sir Jasper.

Frances Chenevix was in despair. She made a confidante of Lady Sarah,
and got her to put the affair once more into the hands of the
detectives; the same officer who had charge of it before, Mr. Pullet,
taking it up again. He had something to work upon now.



CHAPTER XXXV.
LIGHT AT LAST.


Some weeks later, in an obscure room of a low and dilapidated
lodging-house, in a low and dilapidated neighbourhood, there sat a man
one evening in the coming twilight: a towering, gaunt skeleton, whose
remarkably long arms and legs looked little more than skin and bone.
The arms were fully exposed to view, since their owner, though he
possessed and wore a waistcoat, dispensed with the use of a shirt. An
article, once a coat, lay on the floor, to be donned at will--if it
could be got into for the holes. The man sat on the floor in a corner,
his head finding a resting-place against the wall, and he had dropped
into a light sleep; but if ever famine was depicted in a face, it was
in his. Unwashed, unshaven, with matted hair and feverish lips: the
cheeks were hollow, the nostrils white and pinched. Some one tried,
and shook the door; it aroused him, and he started up, but only to
cower in a bending attitude, and listen.

"I hear you," cried a voice. "How are you tonight, Joe? Open the
door."

The voice was not one he knew; consequently not one that might be
responded to.

"Do you call this politeness, Joe Nicholls? If you don't open the
door, I shall take the liberty of opening it for myself: which will
put you to the trouble of mending the fastenings afterwards."

"Who are you?" cried Nicholls, reading determination in the voice.
"I'm gone to bed, and I can't admit folks tonight."

"Gone to bed at eight o'clock?"

"Yes: I am ill."

"I give you one minute, and then I come in. You will open it, if you
wish to save trouble."

Nicholls yielded to his fate: and opened the door.

The gentleman--he looked like one--cast his keen eyes round the room.
There was not a vestige of furniture in it; nothing but the bare dirty
walls, from which the mortar crumbled, and the bare dirty boards.

"What did you mean by saying you were gone to bed, eh?"

"So I was. I was asleep there," pointing to the corner, "and that's my
bed. What do you want?" added Nicholls, peering at the stranger's face
in the gloom of the evening, but seeing it imperfectly, for his hat
was drawn low over it.

"A little talk with you. That last sweepstake you put into----"

The man lifted his face, and burst forth with such eagerness that the
stranger could only arrest his own words and listen.

"It was a swindle from beginning to end. I had scraped together the
ten shillings to put in it; and I drew the right horse, and was
shuffled out of the gains, and I have never had my dues; not a
farthing of 'em. Since then I've been ill, and I can't get about to
better myself. Are you come, sir, to make it right?"

"Some"--the stranger coughed--"friends of mine were in it also," said
he: "and they lost their money."

"Everybody lost it; the getters-up bolted with all they had drawn into
their fingers. Have they been took, do you know?"

"All in good time; they have loft their trail. So you have been ill,
have you?"

"Ill! just take a sight at me There's a arm for a big man."

He stretched out his naked arm for inspection: it appeared as if a
touch would snap it. The stranger laid his hand upon its fingers, and
his other hand appeared to be stealing furtively towards his own
pocket.

"I should say this looks like starvation, Joe."

"Some'at akin to it."

A pause of unsuspicion, and the handcuffs were clapped on the
astonished man. He started up with an oath.

"No need to make a noise, Nicholls," said the detective, with a
careless air, as he lifted off his hat: "I have two men waiting
outside. Do you know me?"

The prisoner gave a gasp. "Why, it's Mr. Pullet!"

"Yes; it's Mr. Pullet, Joe."

"I swear I wasn't in the plate robbery," passionately uttered the man.
"I knew of it, but I didn't join 'em, and I never had the worth of as
much as a saltspoon, after it was melted down. And they call me a
coward, and they leave me here to starve and die! Sir, I swear I
wasn't in it."

"We'll talk of the plate robbery another time," said the officer; "you
have got these bracelets on, Ay man, for another sort of bracelet. A
diamond one. Don't you remember it?"

The prisoner's mouth fell. "I thought that was over and done with, all
this time---- I don't know what you mean," he added, correcting
himself.

"No," said the officer, "it is just beginning. The bracelet is found,
and has been traced to you. You were a clever fellow, Joe, and I had
my doubts of you at the time, you know. I thought then you were too
clever to go on long."

"I should be ashamed to play the sneak, and catch a fellow in this
way," cried Joe, driven to exasperation. "Why couldn't you come
openly, in your proper clothes--not playing the spy in the garb of a
friendly civilian?"

"My men are in their proper clothes,'" was the equable answer, "and
you will have the honour of their escort presently. I came in because
they did not know you, and I did. You might have had a host of friends
around you here."

"Three officers to take a single man, and he a skeleton!" retorted
Nicholls, with a great show of indignation.

"Ay; but you were powerful once, and ferocious too. The skeleton
aspect is a recent one."

"And to be took for nothing! I know naught of any bracelet."

"Don't trouble yourself with inventions, Nicholls. Your friend is safe
in our hands, and has made a full confession."

"What friend?" asked Nicholls, too eagerly.

"The lady you got to dispose of it for you."

Nicholls was startled to incaution. "She hasn't split, has she?"

"Every particular she knew or guessed at. Split to save herself."

"Then there's no faith in woman."

"There never was yet," returned Mr. Pullet. "If they are not at the
top and bottom of every mischief, Joe, they are sure to be in the
middle. Is this your coat?" touching it gingerly.

"She's a disgrace to the female sex, she is!" raved Nicholls,
disregarding the question as to his coat. "But it's a relief now I'm
took: it's a weight off my mind. I was always expecting it: and I
shall, at any rate, get food in the Old Bailey."

"Ah," said the officer, "you were in good service as a respectable
servant, Nicholls: you had better have stuck to your duties."

"The temptation was so great," returned the man, who had evidently
abandoned all idea of denial; and, now that he had done so, was ready
to be voluble with remembrances and particulars.

"Don't say anything to me. It will be used against you."

"It all came of my long legs," cried Nicholls, ignoring the friendly
injunction, and proceeding to enlarge on the feat he had performed.
And it may as well be observed that legs so long as his are rarely
seen. "I have never had a happy hour since; it's true, sir. I was
second footman there, and a good place I had: and I have wished,
thousands of times, that the bracelet had been at the bottom of the
sea. Our folks had took a house in the neighbourhood of Ascot for the
race-week; they had left me at home to take care of the kitchen-maid
and another inferior or two, carrying the rest of the servants with
them. I had to clean the winders before they returned, and I had druv
it off till the Thursday evening, when out I got on the balqueny,
intending to begin with the back drawing-room----"

"What do you say you got out on?"

"The balqueny. The thing with the green rails round it, that
encloses the winder. While I was leaning over the rails sorting my
wash-leathers, I heard something like click, click, click, going on in
the fellow-room next door--which was Colonel Hope's--just as if light
articles of some sort were being laid sharp on a table. Presently two
voices began to talk, a lady's and a gentleman's, and I listened----"

"No good ever comes of listening, Joe," interrupted the officer.

"I didn't listen for the sake of listening; but it was awful hot,
standing outside there in the sun, and listening was better than
working. I didn't want to hear, neither, for I was thinking of my own
concerns, and what a fool I was to have idled away my time all day
till the sun come on the back winders. Bit by bit, I heard what they
were talking of--that it was jewels they had got there, and that one
of 'em was worth two hundred guineas. Thinks I, if that was mine,
I'd do no more work. After a while, I heard them go out of the room,
and I thought I'd have a look at the rich things, so I stepped over
slant-ways on to the little ledge running along the houses, holding on
by our balqueny, and then I passed my hands along the wall till I got
hold of their balqueny--but one with ordinary legs and arms couldn't
have done it. You couldn't, sir."

"Perhaps not," remarked the officer.

"There wasn't fur to fall, if I had fell, only on to the kitchen leads
underneath: leastways not fur enough to kill one, and the leads was
flat. But I didn't fall, and I raised myself on to their balqueny, and
looked in. My! what a show it was! stunning jewels, all laid out there:
so close, that if I had put my hand inside, it must have struck all
among 'em: and the fiend prompted me to take one. I didn't stop to
look, I didn't stop to think: the one that twinkled the brightest and
had the most stones in it was the nearest to me, and I clutched it,
and slipped it into my footman's undress jacket, and stepped back
again."

"And got safe into your balcony?"

"Yes, and inside the room. I didn't clean the winder that night. I was
upset like, by what I had done; and, if I could have put it back
again, I think I should; but there was no opportunity. I wrapped it in
my winder-leather, and then in a sheet of brown paper, and then I put
it up the chimbley in one of the spare bedrooms. I was up the next
morning afore five, and I cleaned my winders: I'd no trouble to awake
myself, for I had never slept. The same day, towards evening--or
the next was it? I forget--you called, sir, and asked me some
questions--whether we had seen any one on the leads at the back, and
such like. I said that master was just come home from Ascot, and would
you be pleased to speak to him."

"Ah!" again remarked the officer, "you were a clever fellow that day.
But if my suspicions had not been strongly directed to another
quarter, I might have looked you up more sharply."

"I kep' it by me for a month or two, and then I gave warning to
leave. I thought I'd have my fling, and I had made acquaintance with
her--that lady you've just spoke of--and somehow she wormed out of me
that I had got it, and I let her dispose of it for me, for she said
she knew how to do it without danger."

"What did you get for it?"

The skeleton shook his head. "Thirty-four pounds, and I had counted on
a hundred and fifty. She took her oath she had not helped herself to a
sixpence."

"Oaths are plentiful with some ladies," remarked Mr. Pullet.

"She stood to it she hadn't kep' a farthing, and she stopped and
helped me to spend the change. After that was done she went over to
stop with somebody else who was in luck. And I have tried to go on,
and I can't: honestly or dishonestly, it seems all one: nothing
prospers, and I'm naked and famishing. I wish I was dying."

"Evil courses rarely do prosper, Nicholls," said the officer, as he
called in the policemen and consigned the gentleman to their care.


So Gerard Hope was innocent!

"But how was it you skilful detectives could not be on this man's
scent?" asked Colonel Hope of Mr. Pullet, when he heard the tale.

"Colonel, I was thrown off it. Your positive belief in your nephew's
guilt infected me; appearances were certainly very strong against him.
Neither was his own manner altogether satisfactory to my mind. He
treated the obvious suspicion of him more as a jest than in earnest;
never, so far as I heard, giving a downright hearty denial to it."

"He was a fool," interjected the colonel.

"Also," continued Mr. Pullet, "Miss Dalrymple's evidence served to
throw me off other suspicion. She said, if you remember, sir, that she
did not leave the room; but it now appears that she did leave it when
your nephew did, though only for a few moments. Those few moments
sufficed to do the job."

"It is strange she could not tell the exact truth," growled the
colonel.

"She probably thought she was exact enough, since she remained outside
the door, and could answer for it that no one entered by it. She
forgot the window. I thought of the window the instant the loss was
mentioned to me; but Miss Dalrymple's assertion, that she never had
the window out of her view, prevented my dwelling on it. I did go to
the next door, and saw this very fellow who committed the robbery, but
his manner was sufficiently satisfactory. He talked too freely; I did
not like that; but I found he had been in the same service fifteen
months; and, as I must repeat, in my mind the guilt lay with another."

"It is a confoundedly unpleasant affair for me," cried the colonel. "I
have published my nephew's disgrace all over London."

"It is more unpleasant for him, colonel," was the rejoinder of Mr.
Pullet.

"And I have kept him short of money, and suffered him to be sued for
debt; and I have let him go and live among the runaway scamps over the
water; and now he is working as a merchant's clerk In short, I have
played the very deuce with him."

"But reparation lies, doubtless, in your own heart and hands,
colonel."

"I don't know that, sir," testily concluded the colonel.

Once more Gerard Hope entered his uncle's house; not as an interloper,
stealing into it in secret; but as an honoured guest, to whom
reparation was due, and must be made. Alice Dalrymple chanced to be
alone. She was leaning back in her invalid-chair, a joyous flush on
her wasted cheek, a joyous happiness in her eye. Still the shadow of
coming death was there, and Mr. Hope was shocked to see her--more
shocked and startled than he had expected, or chose to express.

"Oh, Alice! what has done this?"

"That has helped it on," she answered, pointing to the bracelet;
which, returned to its true owner, lay on the table. "I should not
have lived very many years; of that I am convinced: but I think this
has taken a little from my life. The bracelet has been the cause of
misery to many of us. Lady Sarah says she shall never regard it but as
an ill-starred trinket, or wear it with any pleasure."

"But, Alice, why should, you have suffered it thus to affect you?" he
remonstrated. "You knew your own innocence, and you say you believed
and trusted in mine: what did you fear?

"I will tell you, Gerard," she whispered, a deeper hectic rising to
her cheeks. "I could not have confessed my fear, even in dying; it was
too distressing, too terrible; but now that it is all clear, I will
tell it. _I believed my sister had taken the bracelet_."

"Ah," said Gerard, carelessly.

"Selina called to see me that evening, as you saw, and she was for a
minute or two in the room alone with the trinkets: I went upstairs to
get a letter. She wanted money badly at the time, as you cannot
fail to remember, and I feared she had been tempted to take the
bracelet--just as this unfortunate man was tempted. Oh, Gerard! the
dread of it has been upon me night and day, preying upon my fears,
weighing down my spirits, wearing away my health and my life. Now hope
would be in the ascendant, now fear. And I had to bear it all in
silence. It is that enforced, dreadful silence that has so tried me."

"Why did you not question Selina?"

"I did. She denied it. As good as laughed at me. But you know how
light-headed and careless her nature is; and the fear remained with
me."

"It must have been a morbid fear, Alice."

"Not so--if you knew all. But it is at an end, and I am very thankful.
I have only one hope now," she added, looking up at him with a sunny
smile. "Ah, Gerard, can you not guess it?"

"No," he answered, in a stifled voice. "I can only guess that you are
lost to me."

"Lost to all here. Have you forgotten our brief conversation, the
night you went into exile? I told you then there was one far more
worthy of you than I could have ever been."

"None will ever be half so worthy; or--I will say it, Alice, in spite
of your warning hand--half so loved."

"Gerard," sinking her voice, "she has waited for you."

"Nonsense," he rejoined.

"She has. When she shall be your wife, you may tell her that I saw it
and said it. She might have had John Cust."

"My darling----"

"Stay, Gerard," she gravely interrupted; "those words of endearment
are not for me. Can you deny that you love her?"

"Perhaps I do--in a degree. Next to yourself----"

"Put me out of your thoughts whilst we speak. If I were--where I may
perhaps soon be, would she not be dearer to you than any one on earth?
Would you not be well pleased to make her your wife?"

"Yes, I might be."

"That is enough, Gerard. Frances----"

"Wait a bit," interrupted Gerard. "Don't you think, Alice, that you
have the morbid feeling on you yet? With this dread removed--which, as
you truly express it, must have been to you a very nightmare--you may,
nay, I think you will, regain health and strength, and be a comfort to
us all for years."

"I may regain it in a measure. It is simply impossible that in any
case my life will be a long one. Let me--dear Gerard!--let me make
some one happy while I may! Hark that's the door--and this is her
light step on the stairs!"

Frances Chenevix came in. "Good gracious, is it you, Gerard!" she
exclaimed. "You and Alice look as if you had been talking secrets."

"So we have been," said Alice. "Frances, what can we do to keep him
amongst us? Do you know what Colonel Hope has told him?"

"No. What?"

"That though he shall be reinstated in favour as to money matters, he
shall not be in his affection or his home, unless he prove sorry for
that past rebellion of his."

"When did the colonel tell him? When did he see him?"

"This morning: before Gerard came here. I think Gerard _is_ sorry for
it: you must help him to be more so."

"Fanny," said Gerard, while a damask flush mantled in her cheeks,
deeper than the hectic making havoc with those of Alice, "_will_ you
help me?"

"As if I could make head or tail of what you two are rambling about!"
cried she, as she attempted to turn away; but Gerard caught her to his
side.

"Fanny--will you drive me again from the house?"

She lifted her eyes, twinkling with a little spice of mischief. "I did
not drive you before."

"In a manner, yes. Do you know what did drive me?" She had known it at
the time; and Gerard read it in her face.

"I see it all," he murmured; "you have been far kinder to me than I
deserved. Fanny, let me try and repay you for it."

"Are you sure you would not rather have Alice?" she asked, in her
clear-sighted independence.

He shook his head sorrowfully. Alice caught their hands together, and
held them between her own, with a mental aspiration for their life's
future happiness. Some time back she could not have breathed it in so
fervent a spirit: but--as she had said--the present world and its
hopes were closing to her.

"But you know, Gerard," cried Lady Frances, in a saucy tone, "if you
ever do help yourself to somebody's bracelet in reality, you must not
expect me to go to prison with you."

"Yes, I shall," he answered promptly. "A wife must share the fortunes
of her husband. She takes him for better--or for worse."

He sealed the compact with a kiss. And there was much rejoicing that
day in the house of Colonel Hope.



CHAPTER XXXVI.
VISITORS AT MOAT GRANGE.


Autumn weather lay on the world and on Netherleigh.

Things were coming to a revolt. Never were poor tenant-farmers so
ground down and oppressed as those on the estate of Moat Grange. Rents
were raised, fines imposed, expenses, properly belonging to landlords,
refused to be paid or allowed for. Oscar Dalrymple was ruling with a
hand of iron, hard and cruel.

At least, Oscar had the credit of it. In point of fact, he was perhaps
a little ashamed of the existing state of things, and would have
somewhat altered it if he could. A year ago Oscar had let the whole
estate to a sort of agent, a man named Pinnett, and Pinnett was
playing Old Gooseberry with everything.

That was the expressive phrase, whatever it might mean, the indignant
people used. They refused to lay the blame on Pinnett, utterly refused
to recognize him in the matter; arguing, perhaps rightly, that unless
he had Mr. Dalrymple's sanction to harsh measures, he could not
exercise them, and that Mr. Dalrymple was, therefore, alone to blame.
Most likely Oscar had no resource but to sanction it all, tacitly at
any rate.

As to the Grange itself, the mansion, it was now the dreariest of the
dreary. It had not been let with the estate, and Oscar and his wife
still lived in it. Two maids were kept, and a man for outdoor
work--the garden and the poultry. Most of the rooms were locked up.
Selina would unlock the doors sometimes and open the shutters; and
pace about the lonely floors, and wish she had not been guilty of the
folly which had led to these wretched retrenchments. Things indoors
and out were growing worse day by day.

One morning John Lee called at the Grange: a respectable man, whose
name you cannot have forgotten. He had rented all his life, and his
father before him, under the Dalrymples.

"Sir," he began to Oscar, without circumlocution, "I have come up
about that paper which has been sent to me by Jones, your lawyer. It's
a notice that next Michaelmas, when my lease will expire, the rent is
to be raised."

"Well?" said Mr. Dalrymple.

"A pound an acre. _A pound an acre_," repeated the farmer, with
increased emphasis. "Jones must have made a mistake, sir."

"I fancy not. But Jones is not my lawyer, you know; he is Mr.
Pinnett's."

"We don't want to have anything to do with Mr. Pinnett, or to hear his
name, sir. I have always rented under the Dalrymples; and I hope to do
it still, sir, with your leave."

"You know, Lee, that Pinnett has a lease of the whole estate. What he
proposes is no doubt fair. Your farm will well bear the increased rent
he means to put on it."

"Increased by a pound an acre!" cried the farmer, in his excitement.
"No, sir; it won't bear it, for I'll never pay it."

"I am sorry for that, Mr. Lee, because it will leave Pinnett only one
alternative: to substitute in its place a notice to quit."

"To quit to quit the farm!" reiterated Lee, in his astonishment. "Why,
it has been my home all my life, sir, and it was my father's before
me. I was born on that farm, Mr. Dalrymple, years and years before you
ever came into the world, and I mean to die on it. I have spared
neither money nor labour to bring it to its present flourishing
condition."

"My good sir, I say as you do, that the land is flourishing:
sufficiently so to justify the advanced rent Pinnett proposes. Two of
you were here yesterday on this same errand--Watkins and Rumford."

"They have spent money on their farms, too, expecting to reap future
benefit. You see, we never thought of Mr. Dalrymple's dying young,
and----"

"Are you speaking of young Robert Dalrymple?"

"No, no, poor fellow: of his father. Mr. Dalrymple did die young, so
to say; you can't call a man under fifty old. His death, and his son's
close upon it, brought you, sir, to rule over us, and I am sorry to
say your rule's a very hard one."

"It will not be made easier," curtly replied Oscar Dalrymple, who was
getting angry. "And I will not detain you longer, Mr. Lee," he added,
rising. "Your time is valuable."

"And what is to be my answer, sir?"

"It no longer lies with me to give an answer, Lee, and I must request
that you do not refer to me again. Pinnett's answer will no doubt be
that you must renew the lease at the additional rent demanded, or else
give up the farm."

Farmer Lee swung away in a passion. In turning out of the first field
he met two ladies: one young and very pretty, the other getting to
look old; her thin features were white and her hair was grey. They
were Mrs. Dalrymple and Mary Lynn. Close upon Mrs. Dalrymple's
recovery from her accident, which turned out to have been not at all
formidable, she caught a violent cold; it laid her up longer than a
cold had ever laid her up before, and seemed to have tried her
greatly. Mary Lynn had now just come again to Netherleigh to stay a
week or two with her.

"Is it you, ma'am!" cried the farmer, touching his hat. "I'm glad to
see you out again."

"At one time I thought I never should be out again," she answered; "I
am very weak still. And how are you, Mr. Lee?"

"Middling, ma'am. Anything but well just now, in temper." And the
farmer touched upon his grievances, spoke of the interview he had just
held at the Grange, and of its master's harshness.

"_Is_ it right to us, ma'am?" he wound up with. "_Is_ it just, Miss
Lynn?" turning to that young lady. "Ah, if poor young Mr. Robert had
but lived! We should have had no oppression then."

Mary turned away her face, blushing almost to tears with unhappy
remembrances. Robert! Robert!

"I do believe it will come to a revolt!" said the farmer to Mrs.
Dalrymple. "Not with us tenants; you know better than to think that
likely, ma'am; but with those people at the cottages. They are getting
ripe for it."

"Ay," she answered, in a low, grieved tone. "And the worst of it, Mr.
Lee, the worst to me is, that I am powerless for help or remedy."

"We cannot quite think--it is impossible to think or believe, that Mr.
Oscar Dalrymple should have put all control out of his power.
Therefore, his refusing to interfere with Pinnett seems all the more
harsh. You must see that, ma'am."

"I have no comfort, no advice to give," she whispered, putting her
hand into Mr. Lee's as she turned away. For Mrs. Dalrymple could not
bear to speak of the existing state of things, the trouble that had
come of Selina's folly and Oscar's rule.

Yet Oscar was kind to her. Continuously so. In no way would he allow
her income, that which he allowed her, to be in the slightest degree
diminished. He pinched himself, but he would not pinch poor Mrs.
Dalrymple. Over and over again had she wished Reuben to leave her, but
Oscar would not hear of it. Neither, for the matter of that, would
Reuben. He did not want wages, he said, but he would not desert his
mistress in her premature old ago, her sickness, and her sorrow. A
small maid only was kept in addition to Reuben; and the man had
degenerated (as he might have called it but for his loyalty) to little
better than a man-of-all-work. He stood behind the ladies now at a
respectful distance, having stopped when they stopped.

The grievance alluded to by Mr. Lee, ready to ripen into open revolt,
had nothing to do with the tenant-farmers. It was this. In a very
favourable position on the estate, as regarded situation, stood a
cluster of small dwellings. They were for the most part very poor,
some of them little better than huts, but they commanded a lovely
view. They were inhabited by labourers employed on the land, and were
called the Mill Cottages: a mill, done away with now, having formerly
stood close by.

One fine day it had struck the new man, Pinnett--looking about here
and there to discover some means of adding to the profits he meant to
make off the land--that if these cottages were taken down and handsome
dwellings erected in their place, it would be a great improvement,
pecuniarily and artistically, for such houses would let directly in
this picturesque locality. No sooner thought of than resolved upon.
Miles Pinnett was not a man to linger over his plans, and he gave
these small tenants notice to quit.

It was rebelled against. Some of the men had been in the cottages as
long as Farmer Lee had been in his farm, and to be ordered to leave
seemed a terrible hardship. It no doubt increased the difficulty that
there were no other small dwellings on the estate the men could go
into: all others were already occupied: and, if they left these, they
must go to a distance whence they would have a two or three miles'
walk to their day's work. And so, encouraged perhaps by the feeling
pervading the neighbourhood, of sympathy with them and opposition to
Pinnett, the men, one and all, refused to go out. The next step would
be ejectment; and it was looked for day by day.

For all this, Oscar Dalrymple suffered in opinion. Pinnett could not
go to such lengths, oppress them as he was oppressing, against the
will of the owner, Mr. Dalrymple, argued the community, rich and poor.
Perhaps he could not. But how it really was, no one knew, or what
power Mr. Dalrymple had put out of his own hands, and into Pinnett's,
when he leased him the demesne.

Farmer Lee's visit to Moat Grange was paid in the morning. In the
afternoon the Grange had another visitor--Lady Adela Netherleigh.

Adela had not lingered long at her mother's in London. After a few
weeks' sojourn she came down to Netherleigh Rectory, invited by the
Rector and his wife, her sister Mary. They had gone to London for a
day, had been struck with compassion at Adela's evident state of
mental suffering, and they asked her to return with them for a little
change.

"It is not change I want," she had answered, speaking to Lady Mary.
"What I want is peace. Perhaps I shall find it with you, Mary, at the
Rectory."

Lady Mary Cleveland hesitated. Peace? The word posed her.

"Adela," she said, "we should be very glad to have you, and there is
plenty of room for you and Darvy. But, as to peace--I don't know about
that. The Rectory is full of children great and small, and I'm afraid
it is noisy and bustling from morning till night."

Adela smiled faintly. The peace her heart craved for was not that
imparted by the absence of noise. She might feel all the better for
having the bustle of children about her; it might draw her at moments
out of her own sorrow. But another thought struck her.

"My----" husband, she had been about to say, but changed the words.
"Sir Francis is not staying at Court Netherleigh? Is he?"

"No. It is said he means to take up his abode there later; he is not
there yet."

"Then I will come to you, Mary. And I will stay with you for months
and months if I like it--and you must allow me to contribute towards
your housekeeping as Sir Sandy and Harriet did."

Lady Mary winced a little at that, but she did not say no. With all
those children--she had two of her own now--and the Rector's moderate
income, they could not be rich.

So Adela and Darvy went down with them to Netherleigh. That was in
summer, now it was autumn: and, so far as could be seen or judged, the
change had not as yet effected much for her. Adela seemed just as
before; wan, weary, sick, and sorry.

And yet, there was a change in a certain degree. The bitter rebellion
at her fate had partly passed from her mind, and therefore its traces
had left her face. The active repining in which her days had been
spent was giving place to a sort of hopeless resignation. She strove
to accept her punishment, strove to bear it, to be patient and gentle
always, hardly ever ceasing day or night to beseech God to blot out
the past from the book of the Recording Angel. The sense of shame,
entailed by her conduct of long years, had not lifted itself in the
least degree; nay, it seemed to grow of a deeper scarlet as time went
on. Sometimes she would think if she could trample upon herself and
annihilate all power of remembrance, she would do it gladly; but that
would not stamp it out of her ever-living soul. Adela had erred;
wilfully, cruelly, persistently; and if ever retribution came home to
a woman, it surely had come to her.

On this same day, when the sky was blue and the afternoon sun lay on
the green fields at Netherleigh, Lady Adela went out, and turned her
languid steps towards Moat Grange. Selina had called to see her at the
Rectory several times; each time Adela had promised to pay return
visits, and had not yet done so. The direct road lay, as the reader
may perhaps remember, through the village and past Court Netherleigh.
Lingeringly would her eyes look on the house whenever this happened,
lingeringly they rested on it now. The home, in which she had spent so
many happy days with Aunt Margery, was closed to her for ever. Of all
people in the living world, she was the only one debarred from
entering it. Very rarely indeed was Sir Francis at Netherleigh. It had
been supposed that he meant to take up his abode in it for the autumn
months; but this appeared to be a mistake; when he did come it was but
for a flying visit of a few hours. Mr. Cleveland privately told his
wife that he believed Sir Francis stayed away from the place because
Adela was in it.

Selina was in the larger of the two drawing-rooms when Adela reached
the Grange. Selina rarely used it now, her husband never, but she had
gone into it this afternoon. Opening the shutters and the window, she
sat there making herself a lace collar. The time had gone by when she
could order these articles of a Madame Damereau, and pay a fabulous
price for them.

Adela untied her bonnet strings and took off her gloves as she sat
down opposite Selina. Not strong now, the walk had greatly tired her.
Selina could but notice how fragile and delicate she looked, as the
light from the window fell upon her face. The once rounded cheeks were
wasted, their bright colour had faded to the faintest tinge of pink;
from the once lustrous eyes shone only sadness.

"Let me get you something, Adela," cried Selina, impulsively. "A cup
of tea--I will make it for you directly. Of wine--well, I am not sure,
really, that we possess any. I can ask Oscar."

"Not anything, not anything," returned Adela, "I could not take it.
Thank you all the same. As to my looks--I look as I always do."

"Ah me," sighed Selina, "it is a weary life. A weary life, Adela, for
you and for me."

"If that were all--its weariness--it might be better borne," murmured
Adela. "And yet I do try to bear," she added, pushing her pretty brown
hair from her aching brow, and for once induced to speak of her
troubles to this friend, who had suffered too--though not as she had.
"But there is the remorse as well, you see. Oh, how wrong, how
foolish, how _wicked_ we were!--at least _I_ was. Do you ever think of
our past folly, Selina?--of the ease and happiness we then held in our
hands, and flung away?"

"We have paid for it," said Selina. "Yes, I do sometimes think of the
past, Adela; and then I wonder at the folly of women. See to what
folly has reduced me!--to drag out a dead-alive existence in a
semi-prison, for the Grange is no better now, with never a friend to
stay with me, or a shilling to spend. And all for the sake of a few
fine bonnets and gowns! Would you believe it," she added, laughing,
"that the costly things have not half come to an end yet?"

"Just for _that?_" dissented Adela, in her pain, and losing sight of
Selina's trouble in her own. "If it had been for nothing more than
that!"

"Well, well, we have paid for it, I say. Bitterly and cruelly."

"_I_ have. You have not."

"No?" somewhat indifferently returned Selina, her attention partly
given to her lace again, for she was never serious long together. "How
do you make that out?"

"You have your husband still. Poverty with him, with one we love, must
carry little sting with it. But for me--my whole life is one of
never-ending loneliness, without a future, without hope. Do you know
what fanciful thought came to me the other night?" she went on, after
a pause. "I have all sorts of fanciful ideas when I sit alone in the
twilight. I thought that life might be so much happier if God gave us
a chance once of beginning it all over again from the first. Just
once, when we found out what dreadful mistakes we had been making."

"And we should make the same again, though we began it fifty times
over, Adela. Unless we could carry back with us our dearly-bought
experience."

Adela sighed. "Yes, I suppose so. God would have so ordered it had it
been well for us. He knows best. But there are some women who seem
never to make mistakes, who go on their way smoothly and happily."

"Placing themselves under God's guidance, I imagine," returned Selina.
"That's what my mother says to me, when she lectures me on the past."

Adela's eyes filled with tears. "Yes, yes," she murmured, meekly,
recalling that it was what she had been striving to do for some little
time now--to hold on her way, under submission to God.

The conversation turned into other channels, and by-and-by, when Adela
was rested, she rose to leave. Selina accompanied her into the hall.

"Won't you just say 'How d'you do' to my husband?" she cried, opening
the door of their common sitting-room. "He is here."

Adela made no objection, and followed Selina. Oscar was standing in
the bay window, facing the door. And some one else, towering nearly a
head above him, was standing at his side.

Sir Francis Netherleigh.

They stood, the husband and wife, face to face. With a faint cry,
Adela put up her hands, as if to ward off the sight--as if to bespeak
pardon in all humility for herself, for her intrusion--and disappeared
again, whiter than death. It was rather an awkward moment for them
all. Selina disappeared after her, and shut the door.

"Is Lady Adela ill?" asked Sir Francis of Oscar, the question breaking
from him involuntarily in the moment's impulse--for she did, indeed,
look fearfully so.

"Ay," replied Oscar, "ill with remembrance. Repentance has made her
sick unto death. Remorse has told upon her."

But Sir Francis said no more.

Adela had departed across the fields with the best speed she could
command. About half-way home she came upon Mr. Cleveland, seated on a
stile and whistling softly.

"Those two young rascals of mine"--alluding to two of his little
sons--"seduced me from my study to help fly their kites," he began to
Adela. "Here I follow them, to the appointed field, and find them
nowhere, little light-headed monkeys But, my dear, what's the matter
with you?" he added, with fatherly kindness, as he remarked her pale,
troubled face. "You look alarmed."

"I have just seen my husband," she panted, her breath painfully short.
All the old pain that she had been striving to subdue had come back
again; the sight of him, whom she now passionately loved, had stirred
distressing emotion within her.

"Well?" said Mr. Cleveland.

"Did you know he was at Netherleigh?"

"He came down roday."

"He was in the bay-parlour with Oscar, and I went into it. It has
agitated me."

"But why should it agitate you?" rejoined the old Rector, who was very
matter-of-fact. "It seems to me that you ought to accustom yourself to
bear these chance meetings with equanimity, child. You can scarcely
expect to go through life without seeing him now and then."

Adela bent her head to the stile and broke into sobs. Mr. Cleveland
laid his protecting hand upon her shoulder.

"My dear! my dear! Strive to be calm. Surely a momentary sight of him
ought not to put you into this state. Is it that you still dislike him
so much?"

"Dislike him!" she exclaimed, the contrast between the word and the
truth striking her painfully, and causing her to say more than she
would have said. "I am dying for his forgiveness; dying to show him
how true is my remorse; dying because I lost him."

The Rector did not quite see what answer to make to this. He held his
tongue, and Adela resumed.

"I wish I was a Roman Catholic!"

The good man, evangelical Protestant, felt as if his gray hair were
standing on end with surprise. "Oh, hush!" said he. "You don't know
what you are saying."

"I do wish it," she sobbed. "I could then go into a convent, and find
peace."

"Peace!" echoed Mr. Cleveland. "No, child, don't let your imagination
run away with that idea. It is a false one. No woman, entering a
convent in the frame of mind you seem to be entertaining, could expect
peace, or find it."

"Any way, I should feel more at rest: I should _have_ to bear life
then, you know. And, oh, I was trying to do so: I was indeed trying!"

Thoroughly put out, the Rector made no comment. Perhaps would not
trust himself to make any.

"I suppose there are no such things as Protestant convents, or
sisterhoods," she went on, "that receive poor creatures who have no
longer any place in this world?"

"Not to my knowledge," sharply spoke Mr. Cleveland, as he jumped off
the stile. "It is time we went home, Adela."

They walked away side by side. Gaining the Rectory--a large,
straggling, red-brick building, its old walls covered with
time-honoured ivy--Adela ascended to her chamber, and shut herself in
with her grief.

How scornfully her husband must despise her!--despise her for her past
shame and sin; despise her in her present contemptible humiliation,
she reflected, a low moan escaping her--he so pure and upright in all
his ways, so good and generous and noble! Oh that she could hide to
the end from him and from the world!

Lifting her trembling hands, her despairing face, Adela breathed a
faint petition that the Most High would be pleased to vouchsafe to her
somewhat of His heavenly comfort, or take her out of the tribulation
that she could so hardly battle with.



CHAPTER XXXVII.
AN ALARM.


It was a few days later. Mrs. Oscar Dalrymple, who had been spending
the afternoon with her mother and Mary Lynn, was preparing to return
to the Grange. Alice had just come home again, a brilliant hectic on
her cheeks, but weaker, as it seemed to them all. Alice was happier
than she had been for years, in her sweet unselfishness. The trouble
which had divided Colonel Hope and his nephew was at an end; Gerard
had been reinstated in his uncle's favour, and was to marry Frances
Chenevix. Lying on the sofa by the window, in the fading light, Alice
had been giving them various particulars of this; and Selina, greatly
interested, lingered longer than she had intended. But she had to go.

Rising hurriedly, she put on her bonnet and cloak. Mrs. Dalrymple rang
the bell. It was to tell Reuben to be in readiness to attend her
daughter.

"As if I wanted old Reuben with me, mamma!" exclaimed Selina. "Why, I
shall run home in no time!"

"He had better be with you," sighed Mrs. Dalrymple: the sigh given to
the disturbed state of things abroad. "The neighbourhood is not very
quiet roday, as you know, Selina, and it is growing dusk."

It was not quiet at all. The summary process, eviction, had been
resorted to by Pinnett, as regarded the tenants of the Mill Cottages.
He had forced them out with violence. One of them, named Thoms, had
resisted to the last. Go out he would not, and the assailants could
not get him out.

A meeting was to be held this same evening at Farmer Lee's. It could
not be called a secret meeting; the farmer would have disdained the
name; but those about to attend it waited until the dusk should
shelter them, conscious that they were likely to speak treason against
their landlord.

"Thoms is out," cried Farmer Bumford, as he entered Mr. Lee's house in
excitement.

"How did they get him out?"

"Unroofed him, Lee. Pulled his place to pieces bit by bit, and so
forced him out. He is now with the rest of the unfortunate lot."

"I thought such practices were confined to Ireland," said the honest
farmer. "It's time something was done to protect us. Oscar Dalrymple
will have his sins to answer for."

It was at this hour, when the autumn twilight was deepening, that
Selina started for home. She chose the way by the common: a longer
way, and in other respects not a desirable one tonight. Selina's
spirit was fearless enough, and she wanted to see whether the rumour
could be true--that the unhappy people, just ejected, had collected
there, meaning to encamp on it. Reuben, with the licence of an old and
faithful servant, remonstrated, begging her to go home by the turnpike
road: but Selina chose to cross the common.

Surely enough, the unfortunate lot, as Mr. Bumford called them, had
gathered on its outskirts, in view of their late homes, their poor
goods and chattels, much damaged in the mêlée, piled in little heaps
around them. Men, their hearts panting for revenge, sobbing women and
shivering children, there they stood, sat, or lay about. The farmers,
Lee and Bumford, would later on open their barns to them for the
night; but at present they expected to encamp under the stars.

In the midst of the harsh converse that prevailed, the oaths, and the
abuse lavished on Oscar Dalrymple--for these poor, ignorant labourers
refused, like their betters, to believe that Pinnett could so act
without the landlord's orders--they espied, hurrying past them at a
swift pace, their landlord's wife. Selina walked with her head down;
now that she saw the threatening aspect of affairs, she wished she had
listened to Reuben, and taken the open road. One of them came running
up; a resolute fellow, named Dyke.

"You'd hurry by, would you?" said he, in tones that spoke more of
plaint than threat. "Won't you turn your eyes once to the ruin your
husband has wrought? Look at the mud and mortar! If the walls weren't
of new brick or costly stone, they was good enough for us. They were
our homes. Look at the spot now."

Selina trembled visibly. She was aware of the awful feeling abroad
against her husband, and a dread rushed into her heart that they might
be going to visit it on her. Would they ill-use her?--beat her, or
kill her?

Reuben spoke up: but he was powerless against so many, and he knew it;
therefore his tone was more conciliating than it would otherwise have
been.

"What do you mean by molesting this lady? Stand away, Dyke, and let
her pass. You wouldn't hurt her; if she is Mr. Dalrymple's wife, she
was the Squire's daughter, and he was always good to you."

"Stand away yourself, old man; who said we were going to hurt her?"
roughly retorted Dyke. "'Taint likely; and you've said the reason why.
Ma'am, do you see these ruins? Do they make you blush?"

"I am very sorry to see them, Dyke," answered Selina. "It is no fault
of mine."

"Is it hard upon us, or not, that we should be turned out of the poor
walls that sheltered us? We paid our bit of rent, all on us; not one
was a defaulter. How would you like to be turned out of your home, and
told the poorhouse was afore you and an order for it, if you liked to
go there?"

"I can only say how very sorry I am," she returned, distressed as well
as terrified. "I wish I could help you, and put you into better
cottages tomorrow! But I am as powerless as you are."

"Will you tell the master to do it? We be coming up to ask him. Will
you tell him to come out and face us, and look at the ruins he have
made, and look at our wives and little ones a-shivering there in the
cold?"

Selina seemed to be shivering as much as they were. "It is Pinnett who
has done it," she said, "not Mr. Dalrymple. You should lay the blame
on him."

"Pinnett!" roared Dyke, throwing his arm before the other men, now
surrounding them, to silence their murmurings, for he thought his own
eloquence the best. "Would Pinnett have dared to do this without the
master's orders? Pinnett's a tool in his hands. Say to him, ma'am,
please, that we're not going to stand Pinnett's doings and be quiet;
we'll drownd him first, let us once catch hold on him; and we be
coming up to the Grange ourselves to say so to the master."

Finding she was to be no further detained, Selina sped on to the
Grange. Oscar was in the oak-parlour. She threw herself into a chair,
and burst into tears.

"Oscar, I have been so terrified. As I came by the common with Reuben,
the men were there, and----"

"What men?" interrupted Mr. Dalrymple.

"Those who have been ejected from the cottages. They stopped me, and
began to speak about their wrongs."

"Their--_wrongs_--did they say?"

"Yes, and I must say it also," she firmly answered, induced by fright
and excitement to remonstrate against the injustice she had hitherto
not liked to interfere with. "Cruel wrongs. Oscar, if you go on like
this, oppressing all on the estate, you will be murdered as sure as
you are living. They are threatening to drown Pinnett, if they can get
hold of him; and they do not lay the blame on Pinnett, except as your
agent, but on you."

"Pinnett is not my agent. What Pinnett does, he does on his own score.
As to these harsh measures--as they are called--my sanction was not
asked for them."

"But the poor men cannot see it in that light, Oscar; cannot be
brought to believe it," she returned, the tears running down her
cheeks. "It does seem so impossible to believe that Pinnett can be
allowed to----"

"There, that's enough," interrupted Oscar. "Let it end."

"Yes; but the trouble won't end, Oscar. And the men say they are
coming up here. There's a meeting, too, at Lee's tonight."

"They can come if they please, and hold as many meetings as they
please," equably observed Oscar. "Men who are living in a state of
semi-rebellion must learn a wholesome lesson."

"They have been provoked to it. They were never rebellious in papa's
time."

He made no reply. Selina, her feelings strongly excited, her
sympathies bubbling up, continued.

"It will be cruel to the farmers if you turn them from their farms; it
is doubly cruel to have forced these poor men from their cottages.
They paid their rent. You should see the miserable wives and children
huddled together on the common. I could not have acted so, Oscar, if I
had not a shilling in the world."

Mr. Dalrymple wheeled round his chair to face his wife. "Whose cruel
conduct has been the original cause of it?" he asked in his cold
voice, that to her sounded worse than another man's anger. "Who
got into secret debt, to the tune of some seven or eight thousand
pounds--ay, nearer ten thousand, counting expenses--and let the bills
come in to me?"

She dropped her eyes then, for his reproach was true.

"And forced me to retrench, almost to starvation, and to exact the
last farthing that the estate will yield, to keep me from a prison?
Was it you or I, Mrs. Dalrymple?"

"But things need not be made quite so bad," she took courage to say in
a timid tone; "you need not proceed to these extremes."

"Your father's system was one of indulgence, mine is not; and the
tenants, large and small, don't know what to make of it. As to
Pinnett, he does not consider himself responsible to me for his
actions; and I--I cannot interfere with them. So long as I am a poor
man, struggling to pay your debts, Selina, so long must Pinnett take
his own course."

Oscar turned back again, caught up the book he had laid down, and went
on reading it. Selina took a seat on the other side of the table, and
sat supporting her head with her hands. She wished things were not so
wretchedly uncomfortable, or that some good fairy would endow her with
a fortune. Suddenly a tramp of feet arose outside the house. Oscar
heard it, unmoved; Selina, her ears covered, did not hear it, or she
might have flown sooner to bar the doors. Before she could effect
this, the malcontents of the common were in the hall, their numbers
considerably augmented. It looked a formidable invasion. Was it murder
they intended?--or arson?--what was it not? Selina, in her terror,
flew to the top of the house, a servant-maid after her: they both,
with one accord, seized upon a rope, and the great alarm-bell boomed
out from the Grange.

Up came the people from far and near; up came the fire-engines, from
the station close by, and felt exceedingly aggrieved at finding no
fire: the farmers, disturbed in the midst of their pipes and ale,
rushed up from Mr. Lee's. It was nothing but commotion. Old Mrs.
Dalrymple, terrified at the alarm-bell, hastened to the scene, Mary
Lynn with her, and Reuben coming up behind them.

Contention, prolonged and bitter, was going on in the hall. Oscar
Dalrymple was at one end, listening, and not impatiently, to his
undesirable visitors, who would insist upon being heard at length. He
answered them calmly and civilly, not exasperating them in any way,
but he gave no hope of a change in the existing policy.

After seeing his mistress seated in the hall, for she insisted on
making one of the audience, poor Reuben, grieved to the heart at the
aspect of affairs altogether, went outside the house, and paced about
in the moonlight. It was a fine, light night. He had strolled near the
stables, when he was accosted by some one who stood aloof, under the
shade of the walls.

"What's the matter here, that people should be running, in this way,
into the Grange?"

"I should call it something like a rise," answered Reuben,
sorrowfully. "Are you a stranger, sir?"

"I am a stranger. Until this night I have not been in the
neighbourhood for years. But I formerly was on intimate terms with the
Dalrymple family, and have stayed here with them for weeks together."

"Have you, though!" cried Reuben. "In the Squire's time, sir?"

"In the Squire's time. I remember you, I think. Reuben."

"Ay, I am Reuben, sir. Sad changes have taken place since then. My old
master's gone, and Mr. Robert is gone, and the Grange is now Oscar
Dalrymple's."

"I knew of Mr. Dalrymple's death. What became of his son?"

"He soon followed his father. It will not do to talk of, sir."

"Do you mean that he died?" returned the stranger. But before Reuben
could answer, Farmer Lee came up and commenced a warm comment on the
night's work.

"I hope there'll be no bloodshed," said he; "we don't want that; but
the men are growing more excited, and Mr. Dalrymple has sent off a
private messenger to the police-station."

"This gentleman used to know the family," interposed Reuben; "he has
come to the place tonight for the first time for years. This riot is
a fine welcome for him."

"I was asking some particulars of what has transpired since my
absence," explained the stranger. "I have been out of England, and now
thought to renew my acquaintance with the family. What did Robert
Dalrymple die of? I knew him well."

"He fell into trouble, sir," interposed Reuben. "A random, wicked
London set got hold of him, fleeced and ruined him, and he could not
bear up against it."

"Died of it?" questioned the stranger.

"He put an end to himself," said Mr. Lee, in a low tone. "Threw
himself into the Thames from one of the London bridges, and was
drowned."

"How deplorable! And so the Grange passed to Oscar Dalrymple."

"Yes," said the farmer. "He married the eldest of the young ladies,
Selina, and something not pleasant arose with them. They went to
London, and there she ran very deeply into debt. Her husband brought
her back to the Grange; and since then he has been an awful landlord,
grinding us all down to powder. Things have come to such a pass now
that we expect a riot. The poor labourers who tenanted the Mill
Cottages have been ejected roday; they have come up to have it out
with Oscar Dalrymple, leaving their families and chairs and tables on
the common. One of them, Thoms, could not be forced out, so they just
took his roof off and his doors out."

The stranger seemed painfully surprised. "I never thought to hear this
of a Dalrymple!"

But here Reuben again interposed. Jealous for the name, even though
borne by Oscar, he told of the leasing of the estate to Pinnett, and
that it was he, not Oscar, who was proceeding to these cruel
extremities.

"I should call that so much nonsense," said the stranger. "Lease the
estate! that has a curious sound. Has he leased away all power over
it? One cannot believe that."

"No; and we don't believe it," said the farmer, "not one of us; Mr.
Dalrymple can't make us, though he tries hard to do so. He is playing
Old Nick with us, sir, and nothing else. It was a fatal night for us
that took Mr. Robert."

"You would have been better off under him, you think?"

"Think!" indignantly retorted the farmer. "You could not have known
Robert Dalrymple to ask it."

"Robert Dalrymple died in debt, I take it. Did he owe much in this
neighbourhood?"

"Nothing here."

"Did he owe you anything?"

"Me!" cried the farmer. "Not he. Why, only a day before his death I
had sent five hundred pounds to him to invest for me. He had not time
to do it himself, but a gentleman who took a great deal of interest in
Mr. Robert, and saw to his affairs afterwards, did it."

"What gentleman was that?"

"It was Mr. Grubb: he is Sir Francis Netherleigh now, and has come
into Court Netherleigh. His sister--who is at the Grange tonight with
old Mrs. Dalrymple--and Mr. Robert were to have been married. She has
stayed single for his sake."

"Robert Dalrymple may not be dead," spoke the stranger.

But this hypothesis was received with disfavour; not to say scorn. The
stranger maintained his opinion, saying that it was his opinion.

"Then perhaps you'll enjoy your opinion in private," rebuked Mr. Lee.
"To talk in that senseless manner only makes us feel the fact of his
death more sharply."

"What if I tell you I met him abroad, only a year ago?" There was a
dead pause. Reuben breathed heavily. "Oh, don't play with us!" he
cried out; "if my dear young master's alive, let me know it. But he
cannot be alive," he added mournfully: "he would have made it known to
us before now."

The stranger unwound a largo handkerchief, in which his face and chin
had been muffled, raised his soft round hat from his brows, and
advanced from the shade into the moonlight.

"Reuben! John Lee do I look anything like him?"

Reuben sank on his knees, too faint to support himself in the
overwhelming surprise and joy. For it was indeed his young master,
Robert Dalrymple, raised, as it seemed, from a many years' grave. The
old servant broke into sobs that would not be controlled.

"But it is nothing less than magic," cried the farmer, when he had
wrung Robert's hand as if he would wring it off, and both he and
Reuben had had time to take in the full truth of the revelation.
"Dead--yet living!"

"I never was dead," said Robert. "The night that I found myself
irretrievably ruined----"

But here Robert Dalrymple's explanation was interrupted by a noise.
The malcontents, driven wild by Oscar's cold equanimity, which they
took to be purely supercilious, were rushing out of the Grange by the
front-entrance, fierce threats and oaths pouring from their lips.
Oscar Dalrymple might go to perdition! They'd fire the place over his
head, commencing with the barns and outhouses!

"Stay, stay, stay let me have a few words with you before you begin,"
spoke one, meeting them with assured, but kind authority; and his calm
voice acted like oil poured upon troubled waters.

It was Sir Francis Netherleigh. Hearing of the riot, he had hastened
up. He reasoned with the men, promised to see what he could do to get
their wrongs redressed, told them that certain barns and outhouses of
his were being warmed and made comfortable for them for the night, and
their wives and children were already on their way to take possession.
Finally, he subdued them to peace and good temper.

But while this was taking place in front of the house, there had been
another bit of by-play near the stables. Mary Lynn, terrified for the
effect of the riotous threats on Mrs. Dalrymple in her precarious
state of health, begged her to return home, and ran out to look
for Reuben. Mr. Lee discerned her leaning over the gate of the
kitchen-garden, gazing about on all sides in the moonlight. A bright
idea struck him, quite a little bit of romance.

"I'll fetch her to you here, Mr. Robert," he said. "I'll break the
glad news to her carefully. And--_you_ won't turn as out of our homes,
will you, sir?" he lingered to say.

"That I certainly will not; and those who are already out shall go
back again. But," added Robert, smiling, "I fear I shall be obliged to
turn somebody out of the Grange."

"There's Pinnett, sir?" came the next doubting remark. "If Mr. Oscar
Dalrymple has leased him the estate, who knows but the law may give
him full power over us----"

"Leased him the estate!" interposed Robert. "Why, my good friend, it
was not Oscar Dalrymple's to lease: it was mine. Be at rest."

Relieved at heart, the farmer marched up to Mary; managing, despite
the most ingenious intentions, to startle and confuse her. He opened
the conference by telling her, with an uncomfortably mysterious air,
that a dead man had come to life again who was waiting to see her: and
Mary's thoughts, greatly disturbed, flew to a poor labourer who had
died, really died, that morning.

"What do you mean, Mr. Lee?" she interrupted, with some awe. "You
can't know what you are saying. Colter come to life again!"

"There! I know how I always bungle over this sort o' thing," cried the
abashed farmer. "You must just forgive me. And you can well afford to,
Miss Mary, for it's not Colter come to life at all; it is young Mr.
Robert Dalrymple. And here he is, walking towards you."

The farmer discreetly disappeared. Mary tottered into the shade, and
stood for support against the trunk of the great elm-tree. Robert drew
her from it to the shelter of his faithful heart.

"Yes; it is I, my darling; I, myself--do not tremble so," he
whispered. "God has been very merciful to me, more merciful than I
deserve, and has brought me back to you and to home again."

She lay there, on his breast, the strong arms  around her that would
henceforth be her shelter throughout life.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.
ROBERT DALRYMPLE.


Sundry shouts startling the night-air, combined with the dashing up of
horsemen, caused no little stir amidst the crowd. The booming of the
alarm-bell somewhat earlier in the evening had been less ominous than
this.

They were the police-officers from Netherleigh, sent for by Oscar
Dalrymple, and they had come mounted, for the sake of speed. The
moon had gone under a cloud, the old structure, Moat Grange,
appeared shadowy and indistinct, and to the imagination of these poor
excited labourers, assembled to discuss their position, the three
officers--for there were but three--looked magnified into a formidable
number. Sir Francis Netherleigh had appeased their anger, but he could
not subdue the sense of wrong that burnt in the men's minds; and when
he left them, they, instead of dispersing quietly in accordance with
his recommendation, lingered where they were, and whispered together
of Pinnett and of treason.

On the other side of the house was a group, more peaceful, but not a
whit less excited. Of all the surprises met with by Francis
Netherleigh in his own life, he had never had so complete a one as
this, or one so satisfactory. Searching about after malcontents that
might have scattered themselves, he came round by the outhouses and
the kitchen-garden; and there he saw a stranger talking with his
sister Mary, Farmer Lee and Reuben standing at a little distance. The
moon was bright then; the stranger stood bareheaded, and there was
that in his form and in the outlines of his face that thrilled chords
in the memory of Sir Francis.

"Don't be frightened, sir," spoke Farmer Leo to him, in whispered
tones, as befitted the wonderful subject; "it is himself, and not his
ghost. It is, indeed."

"But _who_ is it?" cried Sir Francis, his eyes strained earnestly on
the stranger.

"Himself, I say, sir--Robert Dalrymple."

"Robert Dalrymple!"

"Ay. Come back from the dead, as one may say. He made himself known to
me and Reuben; and then I went and broke the news to Miss Mary. And
there they both are, talking together."

But Mary had discerned her brother, and they were coming forward. "Is
it possible to believe it?" asked Sir Francis, as they met, his hand
clasping Robert's with a warm grasp.

"I think you may; I think you cannot fail to recognize me, changed and
aged though I know I am," answered Robert, with an emotion that
bordered upon tears.

"You have been alive all this time--and not dead, as we have deplored
you?"

"Yes, all this time; and I never knew until a little while ago that I
was looked upon as dead."

"But what became of you, Robert? It was thought, that dreadful night,
that you----"

"Threw myself into the Thames," put in Robert, in the slight pause
made by Sir Francis. They were all standing together now, Mary a
little apart, her hand upon the gate, and the moonlight flickered on
them through the branches of the thinning autumn trees. "I was very
near doing it," he continued; "nearer than any one, save God, can
know. It was a dreadful night to me, one of shame and despair. Knowing
myself to be irretrievably ruined, a rogue upon earth----"

"Hold there, sir," cried Reuben, "a rogue you never were."

"I was, Reuben. And you shall all hear how. Mary,"--turning to
her--"_you_ shall hear also. A beggar myself, I staked that night at
the gaming-table the money I held of yours, Lee, the five hundred
pounds you had entrusted to me, staked it, and lost it. I cannot
understand how you--but I'll leave that just now. The money gone, I
wandered about the streets, a desperate man, and found myself on
Westminster Bridge. It was in my heart to leap into the river, to take
the blind leap into futurity my uncle had taken before me. I was
almost in the very act of doing it, when a passer-by, seeing my
perilous position, pulled me back, and asked what I meant by hanging
over there. It is to him I owe my life."

"Under God," breathed Mary, remembering her dream.

"Ay," assented Robert, "under God. It proved to be one Joseph Horn, a
young man employed at my tailor's, and he recognized me. I made an
excuse about the heat of the night, that I was leaning over for a
breath of air from the water: and finally Horn left me. But the
incident had served to arrest my purpose; to show me my folly and my
sin. I am not ashamed to confess that I knelt down, there and then, to
ask God to help me, and to save me from myself; and--He did it. I
quitted the dangerous spot----"

"Your hat was found in the Thames, and brought back the next day, Mr.
Robert," interrupted poor, bewildered, happy Reuben.

"It blew off, into the river; it was one of the windiest nights I was
ever out in, except at sea," answered Robert. "I walked about the
streets till morning, taking myself sharply to task, and considering
how I could give myself a chance for a better life. I had still my
watch and ring, both of value--they would have gone long before, just
as everything else had gone, but that they had been my father's, and
were given over by him to me on his death-bed. I parted with them now,
disguised myself in rough clothes, went to Liverpool, and thence to
America."

"But why did you not come to me instead?" asked Sir Francis.

"I was ashamed to do so. Look at the debts I owed; at what I had done
with Lee's money! No, there was nothing for it but to hide my head
from you all, and from the world. Had I made a fortune, I should have
come back in triumph, but I never did make it. I found employment as a
clerk at New Orleans, and kept myself; that was all."

"If you had only just let us know you were alive, Robert!" cried Mary.

He shook his head. "I did not suppose any one would care to know it. I
expected that the extent of my villainy had come out, and that you
would all be thankful if I disappeared for ever. So there I remained,
in the Crescent City, passing as 'Mr. Charles,' my second name, and
making the best of my blighted life. I"--his tone suddenly changed to
laughter--"nearly married and settled there."

"Oh!"--Mary gave quite a start.

"I had an excellent offer; yes, I assure you I had. It was leap-year.
A flourishing widow, some few years older than myself, took a fancy to
me. She had a fine house and grounds on the banks of the Mississippi,
and an income not to be despised; and she proposed that I should throw
up my wearisome daily work and become the master of all this--and of
her. I took it into consideration, I can tell you."

"And what prevented your accepting it?" laughed Sir Francis.

"Well, the one bare thought--it did not amount to hope--that a turn of
good fortune _might_ some time bring me back here, to find"--with a
glance at Mary--"what I have found."

"And the good fortune came, sir--and has brought you back!" exclaimed
the farmer.

"Yes; it came," replied Robert, "it came: a turn that was very like
romance, and once more exemplified the saying that truth is stranger
than fiction. You are aware, I think, that my father had a relative
living in Liverpool, Benjamin Dalrymple?" added Robert, chiefly
addressing Sir Francis--who nodded in reply.

"Benjamin Dalrymple never corresponded with us, would not notice us; a
serious difference had arisen between him and my father in early days.
But, a year after my father's death, when I chanced to be in
Liverpool, I called upon him. He was cordial enough with me, seemed
rather to take a fancy to me, and I stayed with him three weeks. He
was a cotton-broker, and would take me down to his office in a
morning, and show me his routine of business, verily hoping, I
believe, that I should take to it and join him. When, later, I became
hard up, and had not a shilling to turn to in the world, I wrote to
Benjamin Dalrymple from London, asking him to help me. Not by the
smallest fraction, he replied; a young man who could run into debt,
with my patrimony, would run into debt to the end of the chapter,
though his income might number tens of thousands. Well, all that
passed away; and----"

Robert paused.

"The house I served in America exported cotton home in large
quantities," he continued rapidly. "Benjamin Dalrymple was amongst
their larger correspondents. Some few months ago, his confidential
clerk, a taciturn gentleman named Patten, came over on business to New
Orleans, to this very house I was in. He saw me and recognized me; we
had dined together more than once at old Benjamin's table in
Liverpool. Patten had believed me dead; drowned; and it no doubt gave
him a turn when he saw me alive. I  told him my history, asking him
not to let it transpire in the old world or the new. But it seems he
considered it his duty to repeat it to old Benjamin on his return
home: and he did so. The result was, that Benjamin set up a
correspondence with me, and finally commanded me to give up my place
as clerk and go back to him. I did so; and I----"

Again Robert stopped; this time in evident emotion.

"Go on, Robert," said Sir Francis. "What is it?"

"My story has a sad ending," answered Robert, his tone depressed. "I
landed at Liverpool to find Benjamin Dalrymple ill with a mortal
illness. He had been ailing for some time, but the fatal truth had
then declared itself. He was so changed, too!--I suppose people do
change when they are about to die. From being a cold, hard man, he had
become gentle and loving in manner. I must remain with him until the
end, he said, and be to him as a son."

"Was he not married, sir?" asked Farmer Lee.

"He had never married. I did remain with him, doing what I could for
him, and making no end of promises, which he exacted, with regard to
my future life and conduct. In twenty-one days, exactly, from the day
I landed, the end came."

"He died?"

"He died. I waited for his funeral. And," concluded Robert, modestly,
"he has made me his heir."

"Thank Heaven for that!" murmured old Reuben.

"How much it is, I cannot tell you," said Robert, "but an enormous
sum. Patten puts it down at half a million: and, that, after clerks
and other dependents have been well provided for. So, every one who
has ever suffered by me in the shape of debt will be recompensed; and
Moat Grange will hold its own again."

But his return had to be made known to others who were interested in
it: his mother, his sisters, Oscar Dalrymple. Of the latter Robert
spoke some hard words.

"I had thought to give him a fair portion of this wealth in right of
Selina," avowed he. "But I don't know now. A man who can so oppress an
estate does not merit much favour."

"Oscar has been worse thought of than he deserves," explained Sir
Francis Netherleigh. "Rely upon that, Robert. He has been sorely
tried, sorely put to for money for some few years now, through no
fault of his own----"

"No; through Selina's," interrupted Robert. "Old Benjamin knew all
about it."

"He has been striving to make both ends meet, to pay his obligations
justly and honourably, and he could only do it by dint of pinching and
screwing," went on Sir Francis. "The great mistake of his later life
was leasing the estate to Pinnett. It is thought that he could have
arrested Pinnett's harsh acts; my opinion is that he could not."

"I am glad to hear you say so," cried Robert, cordially. "Oscar was
always near, but he was just."

They were moving slowly through the garden to the house, when a
disturbance struck upon their ears. It came from the front of the
Grange; and all, except Mary, hastened round to the scene. It was, in
fact, the moment of the arrival of the mounted police. The officers
shouted, the crowd rebelled; and Oscar Dalrymple ran out. The police,
hasty as usual, were for taking up the malcontents wholesale; the
latter resisted, protesting they had done nothing to be taken up for.
They had only come up to speak to Mr. Dalrymple, and "there was no law
against that," said they.

"You break the law when you use threats to a man in his own house,"
cried Featherston, the chief constable.

"We haven't used no threats," retorted Dyke. "We want an answer from
Mr. Dalrymple; whether he's going to force us to lodge under the wind
and the rain, or whether he'll find us roofs in place of them he has
destroyed. They've bid us go to the workhouse; but he knows that if we
go there we lose all chance of getting our living, and shall never
have a home for our families again."

"There's no longer room for you on the estate; no dwellings for you
left upon it," spoke up a voice; and the men turned sharply, for they
knew it was Pinnett's. Countenanced by the presence of the constables,
the agent came out from some shelter or other, and showed himself
openly.

"We won't say nothing about mercy," savagely cried Dyke; "but we'd
like justice. Justice, sir!" turning to Oscar Dalrymple, as he stood
by the side of Mr. Cleveland, who had just come up. "Hands off, Mr.
Constable! I'm doing nothing yet, save asking a plain question. Is
there any justice?"

"Yes, there is justice," interrupted another voice, which thrilled
through the very marrow of Oscar Dalrymple, as Robert advanced and
took his place near Mr. Cleveland, who started back in positive
fright. "Oscar, you know me, I see; gentlemen, some of you know me: I
am Robert Dalrymple, and I have returned to claim my own."

Was it a spectre? Many of them looked as if they feared so. Was it
some deception of the moonlight? Featherston, brave policeman though
he was, backed away in terror.

"I find you have all thought me dead," proceeded Robert; "but I am not
dead, and never was dead; I have simply been abroad. I fell into debt
and difficulty; but, now that the difficulties are over, I have come
amongst you again."

"It's the Squire!" burst forth the men, as they gradually awoke to the
truth; "we've never called the other one so. Our own young Squire's
come home again, and our troubles are over. Good luck to the ship that
brought him!"

Robert laughed. "Yes, your troubles shall be over. I hear that there
has been dissatisfaction; and, perhaps, oppression. I can only say
that I will set everything right. The tenants who have been served
with a notice to quit"--glancing round at Lee and Bumford--"may burn
it; and you, my poor fellows, who have been ejected from your
cottages, shall be reinstalled in them."

"But, my dear young master," cried Dyke, despondingly, "some of the
roofs be off, and the walls be pretty nigh levelled with the ground."

"I will build thorn up for you, Dyke, stronger than ever," said
Robert, heartily. "Here's my hand upon it."

Not only Dyke, but many more pressed forward to clasp Robert's hands;
and so hard and earnest were the pressures, that Robert was almost
tempted to cry for quarter. In the midst of this, Pinnett thought it
time to speak.

"You talk rather fast, sir: even if you are Mr. Robert Dalrymple. The
estate is mine for some six years to come. It has been leased to me by
its owner."

"That it certainly has not been," returned Robert, his tone one of
conscious power. "I am its owner. The estate has been mine throughout;
as I did not die, it could not have lapsed from me. My brother-in-law,
acting under a mistake, entered into possession, but he has never been
the legal owner. Consequently, whatever acts be may have ordered,
performed, or sanctioned, are NULL and VOID. Constables, I think your
services will not be required here."

Pinnett ground his teeth. "It's to know whether you _are_ Robert
Dalrymple--and not an impostor."

"I can certify that it is really Robert Dalrymple; I baptized him,"
laughed Mr. Cleveland. "There is no mistaking him and his handsome
face."

"And I and Mr. Lee can swear to it, if you like," put in Reuben,
looking at Pinnett. "So could the rest of us. I wish we were all as
sure of heaven!"

Robert put his hand into Oscar's under cover of the darkness. "You
know me, Oscar, well enough. Let us be friends. I have not come home
to sow discord; rather peace and goodwill. The Grange must be mine
again, you know; I can't help that; but, when you and Selina quit it
for your own place, you shall not go out empty-handed.

"I don't understand you," returned Oscar.

"I have come back a rich man; and you shall share in the good. Next to
endowing my mother, I shall take care of my sisters. Ah, Oscar, these
past few years have been full of gloom and trouble for many of us. Now
that the clouds have broken, let us hope that the future will bring
with it a good deal of sunshine."

The assemblage began to disperse. Mr. Cleveland undertook to break the
glad news to Mrs. Dalrymple and Selina.

Reuben crept up to his master with an anxious, troubled face. "Mr.
Robert," he breathed, "have you quite left off the--the PLAY? You will
not be tempted to take to it again?"

"Never, Reuben," was the grave, hushed answer. "That night, which you
all thought fatal to me, and which was so near being so, as I stood on
the bridge, looking into the dark water, I took a solemn oath that I
would never again touch a card, or any other incentive to gambling. I
never shall."

"Heaven be praised!" murmured Reuben. And the old man felt that he was
ready to say with Simeon of old: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant
depart in peace."



CHAPTER XXXIX.
LADY ADELA.


Winter had come, and passed; and spring flowers and sunshine gladdened
the land.

In my Lady Acorn's dressing-room at Chenevix House stood my lady
herself, her head and hands betraying temper, her tart tongue in loud
assertion. Opposite to her, the same blonde, suave dame she had ever
been, waited Madame Damereau. Madame was not tart or rude; she could
not be that; but nevertheless she maintained her own cause, and gave
my lady answer for answer.

Every available place in the room was covered with a robe, bonnet,
mantle, or other choice article essential to a lady's attire: on the
sofa lay a costly bridal dress. You might have fancied it the
show-room itself of Madame Damereau. Lady Frances Chenevix was to be
married on the morrow to Gerard Hope. The colonel had been telling
them both ever since Christmas that he thought they ought to fix the
day if they meant to marry at all, and so arrangements were made, and
they named one early in April.

The articles lying about formed part of the trousseau of Lady Frances;
the grievance distracting Lady Acorn was connected with them; for she
saw great many more spread out than she had ordered, and was giving
way to wrath. Madame Damereau, condescending to appear at Chenevix
House this afternoon, to superintend, herself, the trying-on of the
bridal robe, had arrived just in time for the storm.

"Was anything so unreasonable, was anything so extravagant ever seen
before in this world?" demanded Lady Acorn, spreading out her arms to
right and left. "I tell you there are fifty things here that I
never ordered; that I never should order, unless I lost my senses.
Look at that costly silk costume--that shaded grey--why, you'd charge
five-and-twenty guineas for that, if you charged a farthing. Don't
tell me, madame."

"Plutôt thirty guineas, I believe," equably answered madame. "It is of
the richest, that silk. Miladi Frances intends it for her robe de
voyage tomorrow."

"She may intend to go voyaging about in gold, but be no nearer doing
it," retorted the countess. "I never ordered that dress, and I won't
take it."

"Is anything the matter?" interrupted a joyous voice at this juncture,
and Frances ran into the room with her bonnet on. "I am sorry to have
kept you waiting, madame, but I could not help it. Is my lady mother
scolding at my extravagance?"

"Extravagance is not the name for it," retorted the countess. "How
dare you do these wild things, Frances? Do you suppose I should accept
all these things, or pay for them?"

"No, mamma, I knew you would not," laughed Frances, "I shall pay for
them myself."

"Oh, indeed! Where will the money come from?"

"Colonel Hope gave it me," said the happy girl, executing a pirouette.
"A few days ago he put three bank-notes of one hundred pounds each
into my hands, saying he supposed I could spend it; and I went to
madame's at once. What a love of a costume!" cried Frances, turning to
the grey silk which had so excited her mother's ire. "I am going away
in that."

But the great event of this afternoon, that of trying-on the bridal
dress, must be proceeded with, for Madame Damereau's time was more
precious than that of ordinary mortals. The bride-elect was arrayed in
it, and was pacing about in her splendour, peeping into all the
mirrors, when a message was brought to Lady Acorn that Mr. Cleveland
was below. He had come up from Netherleigh to perform the marriage
ceremony, and was to be the guest for a day or two of Lord and Lady
Acorn.

She went down at once, leaving Frances and Madame Damereau. There were
many odds and ends of Netherleigh gossip she wished to hear from the
Rector. He was bending over the drawing-room fire.

"Are you cold?" inquired Lady Acorn.

"Rather. As we grow older, we feel the cold and fatigue of a journey
more keenly," he added, smiling. "It is a regular April day: warm in
the sun, very cold in the wind and shade."

"He is getting older," thought Lady Acorn, as she looked at his face,
chilled and grey, and his whitening hair; though, for a wonder, she
did not tell him so. They had not met for some months. He had paid no
visit to London since the previous November, and then his errand had
been the same as now--to celebrate a marriage.

And, of the events of the past autumn and winter months there is not
much to relate. Oscar Dalrymple was in his own place now, Knutford,
Selina with a handsome income settled on her; and Robert and his wife
lived at Moat Grange. They had been married from Grosvenor Square in
November, Mr. Cleveland, as again now, coming up for it. Lady Adela
was still at Netherleigh Rectory. And, perhaps it was of her that the
countess wanted chiefly to question the Rector. She did not, however,
do that all at once.

"All quite well at home?" she asked.

"Tolerably so, thank you," he replied. "Mary, as you know, is ailing:
and will be for some little time to come."

"Dear me, yes," came the quick, irritable assent. "This baby will make
the third. I can't think what you want with so many."

The Rector laughed. "Mary sent her love to you; and especially to
Frances: and I was to be sure to say to Frances how sorry she was not
to be able to be at her wedding. Adela also sent her love."

"Ah! And how is _she?_"

"She----" Mr. Cleveland hesitated. "She is much the same. Tolerably
well in health, I think."

"I suppose Robert Dalrymple and his wife are coming up roday?"

"They came with me. Francis Netherleigh's carriage was waiting for
them at the terminus. It brought me on also."

"And that poor girl Alice, is she any stronger?"

"She will never be stronger in this world," said the Rector, shaking
his head. "But she is pretty well--for her. I think her life may be
prolonged some few years yet."

"She and Gerard Hope had a love affair once; I am pretty sure of it.
He liked her better than he liked Frances."

"Well, she could never have married. One so sickly as Alice ought not
to become a wife; and she had, I expect,  the good sense to see that.
I know she is pleased at his marriage with Frances. She is most
unselfish; truly good; there are not many like Alice Dalrymple. Her
mother is surprisingly well," he went on, after a pause; "seems to
have gone from an old woman into a young one. Robert's coming back did
that for her."

"And now--what about Adela's behaviour? how is she going on?" snapped
Lady Acorn, as if the very subject soured her.

"I wanted to speak to you about Adela," said Mr. Cleveland. "In one
sense of the word, she is not going on satisfactorily. Though her
health is pretty good, I believe, her mind is anything but healthy.
Mary and I often talk of it in private, and she said I had better
speak to you."

"Why, it is just the case of the MacIvors over again!" interrupted
Lady Acorn. "Harriet sent Sandy to talk to me about it, just in this
way, last summer."

"Yes, there has not been much change since then, I fancy. I confess
that I am very sorry for Adela."

"Is she still like a shadow?"

"Like little else. The fever of the mind is consuming the body. I look
upon it as the most hopeless case I have ever known. Adela does the
same, though from a different point of view. She is dying for her
husband's forgiveness. She would like to live in his memory as one not
abjectly despicable, and she knows she must and does so live in it.
She pictures his contempt for her, his condemnation of the way she
acted in the past; and her humiliation, coupled with remorse, has
grown into a disease. Yes, it is a miserable case. They are as
entirely and hopelessly separated as they could be by death."

"Ah, Cleveland! You are here, then?"

The interruption came from the earl. He stepped forward to shake
hands, and drew a chair beside the Rector.

"We were talking of Adela," said the countess, when the few words of
greeting were over. "She has not come to her senses yet."

"I was saying that her case is certainly one of the most hopeless ever
known," observed Mr. Cleveland. "She is as utterly separated from her
husband as she could be by death, whilst both are yet living, and have
probably a long life before them."

Lord Acorn sighed. "One can't help being sorry for Adela, wrong and
mistaken though she was."

Mr. Cleveland glanced at the earl. "I am glad you came in," he said.
"I wanted to speak to you as well as to Lady Acorn. Adela talks of
going into a Sisterhood."

"Into a _what?_" cried her ladyship; her tone one of unbounded
surprise.

"She has had the idea in her mind for some time, I fancy," continued
the Rector. "I heard of it first last autumn, when she startled me one
day by suddenly expressing a wish that she was a Roman Catholic. I
found that the wish did not proceed from any desire to change her
creed, but simply because the Roman Catholics possess places of refuge
in the shape of convents, into which a poor creature, as Adela
expressed it, tired of having no longer a place in the world, might
enter, and find peace."

"She'd soon wish herself out again!" cried Lady Acorn: while the
earl's generally impassive face wore a look of disturbance.

"I heard no more of this for some time," resumed Mr. Cleveland, "and
dismissed it from my memory, believing it to have been only a hasty
expression arising from some moment's vexation. But a week or two ago
Mary discovered that Adela was really and truly thinking of retiring
into some place of refuge or other."

"Into a convent?" cried Lady Acorn.

"No. And not into any institution of the Roman Catholics. It seems she
has been corresponding lately with some of her former acquaintances,
who might, as she thought, help her, and making inquiries of them. I
noticed that letters came for her rather frequently, and I hoped she
was beginning to take a little more interest in life. However, through
some person or other, she has heard of an institution that she feels
inclined to try. I think----"

"What is this institution?" imperatively demanded the countess. "If
it's not a convent, what is it?"

"Well, it is not, as I gather, a religious institution at all, in the
sense of setting itself up for religion especially, or professing any
one particular creed over other creeds," replied Mr. Cleveland. "It
is, in point of fact, a nursing institution. And Adela, if she enters
it, will have to attend to the sick, night or day."

"Heaven help her for a simpleton!" ejaculated her ladyship. "Why, you
might take every occupation known to this world, and not find one to
which she is less suited. Adela could not nurse the sick, however good
her will night be. She has no vocation for it."

"Just what my wife says. Some people are, so to say, born nurses,
while others, and Adela is one of them, could never fit themselves for
it. Mary told her so only yesterday. To this, and to other
remonstrance, Adela has only one answer--that the probationary
training she will have to undergo will remedy her defects and
inexperience," replied the Rector.

"But the life of a sick-nurse is so exhausting, so wearying to the
frame and spirit!" cried Lord Acorn, who had listened in dismay.
"Where is this place?"

"It is in Yorkshire. Three or four ladies, sisters, middle-aged,
educated women of fortune, set up the scheme. Wishing, it is said, to
satisfy their consciences by doing some useful work in the world, they
pitched upon nursing, and began by going out of their home, first one
and then another, whenever any poor peasant turned sick. They were, no
doubt, good Christian women, sacrificing their own ease, comfort, and
income for the benefit of others. From that arose the Institution, as
it is called now; other ladies joined it, and it is known far and
wide. I have not one word to say against it: rather would I speak in
its praise; but it will not do for Adela. Perhaps you can remonstrate
with her. It is not settled, I believe," added Mr. Cleveland. "Adela
has not finally made up her mind to go; though Mary fears she will do
so at once."

"Let her," cried the countess, in her vexation. "Let my young lady
give the place a trial! She will soon come out of it again."

In truth, poor Adela was at a loss what to do with her blighted
life--how to get through the weary days that had no pleasure in them.
Netherleigh Rectory had brought to her no more rest than Sir Sandy's
Scottish stronghold had brought, or the bleak old château in
Switzerland. She wanted peace, and she found it not.

Some excitement crept into the daily monotony of her life whenever Sir
Francis was staying at Court Netherleigh. It was not often. She could
not bear to see him, for it brought back to her all the cruel pain of
having lost him; and yet, when she knew he was at Netherleigh, she was
unable to rest indoors, but must go out in the hope that she should
meet him at some safe distance; for she never ventured within view. It
was as a fever. And perhaps this very fact--that she could not, when
he was breathing the same atmosphere, rest without striving to see
him, combined with the consciousness that she ought not to do
so--rendered her more anxious to get away from Netherleigh and be
employed, mentally and bodily, at some wholesome daily work. Anyway,
what Mr. Cleveland stated was quite true: Lady Adela was corresponding
with this nursing institution in Yorkshire, with the view of entering
it.

One phase of torment, which has not been mentioned, was growing to lie
so heavily upon her mind as to be almost insupportable. It was the
thought of the income allowed her by her husband. That she, who had
blighted his life, should be living upon his bounty, indebted to him
for every luxury that remained to her, was in truth hard to bear. If
she could only get a living for herself, though ever so poor a one,
how thankful she should be, she often told herself. And, perhaps this
trouble turned the scale, or speedily would turn it, in regard to
embracing this life of usefulness: for there would no longer be any
necessity for the allowance from Sir Francis.


The wedding-day, Thursday, rose bright and glorious; just the day that
should shine on all happy bridals. Frances was given away by her
father, and Gerard was attended by a former fellow-clerk in the Red
Tape Office. Colonel Hope had settled an income upon his nephew; but
Gerard was still in the house in Leadenhall Street, and was likely to
remain there: for the colonel disapproved of idle young men. Gerard
had taken a small and pretty house at Richmond, and would travel to
the City of a morning.

At the wedding breakfast-table at Lord Acorn's, Grace and Sir Francis
Netherleigh sat side by side. Towards its close, Grace took the
opportunity of saying something to him in a whisper.

"We have been so confidential on many points for years, you and I,
unhappily have had to be so," she began, "that I think I scarcely need
make an apology, or ask your forgiveness, for a few words I wish to
say to you now."

"Say on, Grace," was the cordial answer.

"It is about Adela." And then she briefly touched upon what her father
and mother had heard from Mr. Cleveland the day before: of Adela's
unhappy frame of mind, and her idea of entering a nursing institution,
to become one of its sisterhood.

Sir Francis heard her to the end in silence. But he heard her
apparently without interest: and somehow Grace's anxious spirit felt
thrown back upon itself.

"It has troubled us all to hear this, my father especially," she said.
"It would be so laborious a life, so very unsuited to one delicate as
Adela."

"I can readily understand that you would not altogether like it," he
replied, at length. "If money could be of any use----"

"Oh no, no," interrupted Grace, flushing painfully. "The allowance you
have made from the first has been so wonderfully liberal. I don't know
why I mentioned the subject to you--except that we think it is
altogether undesirable for Adela."

"Lord and Lady Acorn must be the best judges of that," was the very
indifferent answer.

"Her mind is in the most unhappy state conceivable; as it has been all
along. For one thing," added Grace, her voice sinking to a yet lower
key, "I think she is pining for your forgiveness."

"That is not at all likely, I fancy," coldly returned Sir Francis. And
as he evinced no inclination to continue the subject, but rather the
contrary, Grace said no more.

She could not have told herself why she introduced it. Had it been
with any hope, consciously, or unconsciously, of being of service to
Adela, it had signally failed. Evidently his wife and her concerns
were topics that bore no longer any interest for Francis Netherleigh.



CHAPTER XL.
AT COURT NETHERLEIGH.


"Oh, Robert, what a lovely day!"

Standing at the open window of her own pretty sitting-room, a room
that had been built and decorated for her during the late alterations
to Moat Grange, was Mary Dalrymple. Robert, heated and flushed, had
come swinging in at the gate, and caught the words across the lawn. He
had been out since early morning, superintending various matters; for
roday was the grand fête-day at Moat Grange, and preparations were
being made for it.

Robert called it a house-warming. He had talked of it, as a thing to
come, ever since his marvellous return--and marvellous the world
thought that return still: but he had waited for his marriage with
Mary Lynn to take place, and then for the alterations to be completed
that were to make the gloomy old house into a new one, and finally for
the warm summer weather. For this was to be an open-air entertainment,
for the gratification of the poor as well as the rich. Improvements
had gone on without doors as well as within. Those cottages by the old
mill had been rebuilt, and their humble tenants were reinstated.
Gratitude and contentment had taken the place of rebellion, and the
once angry men thought they could never do enough for their young
Squire, Robert Dalrymple.

"What a lovely day!" repeated Mary.

It was the first day of June, and one of the sweetest days that
charming month ever put forth. Excepting for a light fleecy cloud here
and there, the sky was of a deep blue; the sun flickered through the
trees, that yet wore somewhat of their tender green, and caught
Robert's head as he stood looking up at his wife.

"Ay, it is," said Robert, in reply to her remark, "very lovely. But it
will be uncommonly hot, Mary; it is so already."

She leaned from the window in her cool white morning gown, smiling at
her husband. How good-looking they both were--and how happy! Every now
and then, even yet, Mary could scarcely realize the change--the
intense happiness which had succeeded to the years of what had
appeared irredeemable sorrow.

"And now, Robert," said Mary, "I think you must want breakfast--if you
have not had it."

"But I have had it. I ran in to my mother's, and took some with her
and Alice. The tents are all up, Mary, and the people are getting into
their Sunday best."

"So soon! Don't forget, if you please, sir, that we sit down to lunch
roday at one o'clock precisely. We can't do without you then, you
know, though we did without you at breakfast."

Robert drew a little nearer to the window. "Where are they all?" he
asked.

"Gone for a stroll. I told them that I had a famished husband coming
in and must wait at home for him. I think Gerard and his wife have
only gone to your mother's. I don't know about Oscar and Selina.
Perhaps she is gone to see the new baby at the Rectory."

"Selina does not care for babies."

"But she cares for gossip. And Lady Mary is well enough for any amount
of that."

"What is that letter in your hand?" asked Robert.

His wife's face changed to sadness. "It contains bad news, Robert; and
though I have been chattering to you so gaily and lightly, it is lying
on my heart. Francis cannot come."

"No!"

"Some dreadful measure--important, he calls it--has to be debated upon
in committee in the House this afternoon, and Francis has to stay for
it."

"Well, I am disappointed," cried Robert.

"As we all are. Robert, I do think it is too bad. I do think Francis
might have spared this one day to us," added Mary, with a sigh. "He
seems to regard politics as quite a recreation."

"Don't be hard on him, Mary. He has little else now in the way of
recreation."

Gerard Hope and Lady Frances had come to the Grange for the fête:
Gerard having coaxed a three days' holiday out of Mr. Howard, with
whom he was a favourite, though the old gentleman had grumblingly
reminded him that his honeymoon was not long over. Oscar Dalrymple and
Selina had also arrived the previous night from their own place,
Knutford. Perhaps in his heart Oscar had not been sorry to give up the
Grange and its troubles. At any rate, he made no sign of regret. Peace
and plenty had supervened on discomfort, and he and Selina were
friends with all.

Mary had guessed rightly: Selina had gone to the Rectory. If not to
see the new baby, to see the baby's mother. The baby was more than two
weeks old, and Lady Mary was seated on a sofa, doing some useful work.

"It is early days for that, is it not?" cried Selina, as she went in.

"Not at all," laughed Lady Mary. "With all my little ones, I have to
be always at work. And I am thankful to be well enough for it. You
reached the Grange yesterday?"

"Yes--and found all well. Mamma came up to dinner last night. She is
quite young and active. Gerard and Frances have gone to see Alice, who
is much better--and then Frances is coming here to see you. Every one
seems to be better," concluded Selina.--"And what delightful weather
we have for roday!"

"Where is your husband?"

"Oscar! He went across the fields to the Mead House to see old
Bridport. What a pity you cannot come out today, Mary And who else do
you think cannot come out? At least, not out _here_."

"Who is that?"

"Francis Netherleigh. Mary Dalrymple heard from him this morning. He
is kept in London by some business connected with the House. He would
have been the star of the fête. Yes, don't laugh at me--he _would_--
and we are all vexed. I wouldn't be in that House of Commons for the
world," resentfully concluded Selina. "I do think he might have
stretched a point roday!"

"Y-e-s--if he wished to come," was: the doubting assent. "The question
is--did he wish it?"

"What do you mean?" asked Selina.

Mary Cleveland dropped her needle and looked at Mrs. Oscar Dalrymple.
"It has struck me that he has not cared to come here, you know.
Instead of taking up his abode at Court Netherleigh, he pays only a
flying visit to it now and then. My husband and I both think that he
does not choose to subject himself to the chance of meeting Adela."

"I should not wonder. They were talking about Adela at the Grange last
night," resumed Selina, in accents of hesitation--"saying something
about her joining a sisterhood of nurses. But I'm sure _that_ can't be
true."

"It is quite true, Selina."

Selina opened her amazed eyes. "True! Why, she would have to put her
hair under a huge cap, and wear straight-down cotton gowns and white
aprons!"

Lady Mary smiled. _That_ part of the programme would assuredly have
kept Selina from entering on anything of the sort.

"Yes; it is true," repeated Mary. "The negotiations have been pending
for some time; but it is decided at last, and Adela departs for
Yorkshire on Saturday, the day after tomorrow, to shut herself into
the institution."

"And will she never come out again?"

Lady Mary shook her head. "We cannot foresee the future, Selina. All
we know is, that Adela is most unfitted for the kind of work, and we
shall be surprised if she does not break down under it. Her frame is
slight and delicate, her instincts are sensitive and refined. Fancy
Adela dressing broken heads, or sitting up for a week with a family of
children ill with fever!"

Selina put her hands before her eyes. "Oh!" she cried in horror. "But
she surely won't have to do all that?"

"She will. She must take any case she is appointed to."

Lady Mary took up her work again, and Selina, serious and sobered for
once in her life, sat revolving what she had heard.

"Surely she will not do this, Mary!"

"Indeed she will. She is fully determined to enter upon it, and she
intends that it shall be for life. Her father came down here to
remonstrate with her: he has always had more influence over her than
any one else: but it availed nothing. They were together for an hour
in Adela's sitting-room here--and I could see how distressing to her
the interview had been. Her eyes were swollen with crying."

"Well, I can't understand it," concluded Selina, rising. "Had it been
a question of necessity, there might be reason in her wanting to make
a guy of herself, but it is not so. Those big linen caps are
dreadful."

The door of the red parlour was open as Selina gained the hall. Adela
sat there sewing: and Selina went in. How fragile and dainty and
delicate she looked, this still young and lovely woman, in her simple
muslin dress, with a ribbon at her throat and an edging of lace at the
wrists. Selina sat down.

"At work roday, Adela!"

"I am making frocks for that poor Widow Jeffrey's children. But for
Mr. Cleveland I don't know what they would do, now their father is
gone."

"But all Netherleigh is en fête roday So ought you to be!"

Adela raised her sad and beautiful eyes to Selina's in some surprise.
"The fête can have nothing to do with me, Selina. I am very glad it is
so fine for it: and I hope every one will enjoy it, yourself
included."

"Thank you: I'm sure I shall. Adela, what is this we hear about you?"
broke forth Selina, unable to keep silence longer. "You are going to
shut yourself up in a grim building, and wear a most disfiguring
costume, and nurse cases of fever!"

"Yes," sighed Adela.

"But you surely never will?"

"I must do it. I leave for it the day after tomorrow."

Selina lowered her voice. "Have you sat down and _counted the cost?_"

"Over and over again. It will be less painful than what I have long
been enduring: bodily discomfort is more tolerable than remorse. I
shall live a useful life, at any rate, Selina. For a long while now it
has been worse than a wasted one."

"They think--Mary does at least--that you will not be strong enough to
stand the fatigue."

"I must do my best," sighed Adela. "I hope the strength--in all
ways--will come with the need."

"I dare say they give nothing but suet puddings for dinner four days
out of the seven!"

Adela faintly smiled. "I don't expect to find luxuries, Selina."

"Do you take Darvy?"

"Darvy!" echoed Lady Adela. "No, indeed. I shall be, so to say, a
servant myself."

Selina, in very dismay, gave her hands a slight wring. To her, it
seemed that Adela might as well put herself at once out of the world.

"I must be going," she said, advancing to say farewell. "You are sure
you will not come to the fête, Adela?"

"I have done with fetes for ever," replied Adela, as she drew down
Selina's face for a farewell kiss. "Perhaps you will write to me
sometimes?" And Selina Dalrymple, sick and sorry for the blighted
life, went out with her eyes full of tears.

The day wore on to the afternoon, and the business of the fête began.
Old and young, gentle and simple, the aristocracy surrounding the
neighbourhood, the tenant-farmers and the labourers, all congregated
on the lawns, in the gardens, and in the home field, where the tents
were placed. Of the attendants, Reuben was chief, his fresh face happy
again as of yore.

Amidst games, dancing, and various other entertainments, there was a
fancy-fair, the proceeds of it to be distributed to the poor: though
indeed it was more for fun than gain, fortune-telling, post-offices,
and mock auctions prevailing.

Alice Dalrymple had a corner in this tent for her reclining chair, and
watched with pleasure the busy scene. Lady Frances Hope stood by her;
her husband was flitting from stall to stall. Robert's coming back had
worked wonders for Alice.

"There!" said Gerard, coming up to her, his face gay as usual,
his tone light, as he handed a charming bouquet to Alice: "a fine
squabble I have had to get you this. Ten shillings those keepers of
the flower-stall wanted, if you'll believe me I gave them five, and
told them they were harpies."

"You should not have bought it for me," smiled Alice, gratefully
inhaling at the same time the scent of the flowers. "You are just what
you always were, Gerard--thinking of every one else, never of self."

"Why should I think of self?" returned Gerard, his wife having left
them for a distant stall. "But you know you always liked to lecture
me, Alice."

"For your good," she answered, raising her eyes to his.

"Was it for my good? Ah, Alice," he added, his tone changing to one of
regret, "if you had only taken me into your hands, as you might have
done--as I prayed you to do--you would have made a Solomon of me for
wisdom----"

"Hush, Gerard. Best as it is," she impressively whispered, gently
laying her hand upon his. "I was not fit--in any way. As it is, I have
you both to love, and I am supremely happy. And I think you are."

"Ah, well," quaintly conceded Gerard, "one is warned not to expect
perfect bliss in this sublunary world, so one can only make the best
of what fate and fortune bestow upon us. Would you not like to walk
round and look at the stalls, Alice? You can go comfortably, I think,
on my arm."

"Thank you; yes, I should like it--if you will take me."

Amidst the few people of note not at the fête was Lady Adela. She had
kept to her determination not to go near it. Mr. Cleveland had asked
her, when setting out himself, whether she would not go with him just
to have a peep at it, but she said she preferred to sit with Mary. She
had heard the news, spoken openly by the Rector at the luncheon-table,
that Sir Francis Netherleigh was not coming to it. And in Lady Mary's
room she sat, pursuing her work.

But as the afternoon advanced, and its hours struck, one after the
other, Adela, grew weary and restless, needing a little fresh air. She
put on her garden-hat and went out: not with any view of going near
the gaiety, rather of keeping securely away from it. And little fear
was there of her encountering any stragglers, for the feasting was
just beginning, and no Englishman voluntarily walks away from that.

These later hours of the day, as the earlier ones had been, were warm
and beautiful. Adela walked gently along, until she came to Court
Netherleigh. A sudden impulse prompted her to enter the grounds. She
had never yet done so during these months of sojourn, had always
driven back the almost irrepressible yearning. Surely there would be
no harm in entering now: she did want to see the place once more
before quitting Netherleigh and civilized life for ever. No one
would see her. She was perfectly secure from interruption by Sir
Francis--and from all other people besides, the world and his wife
having gone a-gadding.

Not by the lodge-gates and the avenue did she enter; but by a little
gate, higher up the road, that she had gone in and out of so often in
the time of Aunt Margery. Drawing near to the house, she sat down
under a group of trees in view of the favourite apartment that used to
be called Miss Margery's parlour, the glass-doors of which were
standing open. Cool and gentle she looked as she sat there; she wore
the same simple muslin gown that she had worn in the morning.
Unfastening the strings of her straw hat, she pushed it somewhat back
from her delicate face, and sat on, thinking of the past.

Of the past generally and of her own particular part in it--when was
it absent from her memory? Of the means of happiness that had been
bestowed upon her in a degree Heaven seldom vouchsafes to mortal
woman, and of her terrible ingratitude. How different all would have
been now had she only been what she might have been!

Not only had she wrecked her own life, but also her husband's. The
bitter requital she had dealt out to him day after day and year after
year in return for all the loving care he lavished on her, was very
present to her now. For a long while past she had pined for his
forgiveness--just to hear him speak it; she coveted it more than ever
now that she was about to put all chance of hearing it beyond
possibility. God's pardon she hoped she was obtaining, for she prayed
for it night and day--but she yearned for her husband's.

It was close upon two years since he put her away from him and from
her home. It would be two years next Christmas since Miss Margery
died. All that time to have been feeding the bitter grief that played
upon her heartstrings!--to have been doing perpetual battle with her
remorse!

Lost in these regrets, Adela sat on, taking no heed of the time, when
a movement caught her eye. Some one, who appeared to have come in by
the same little gate, was striding towards the house. With a faint
exclamation of dismay, Adela drew back within the trees. For it was
her husband.

Of all the world that could intrude, she had deemed herself most
secure from Mm: knowing that he was detained in London, and could not
be down. How was it, ran her tumultuous thoughts. She supposed--what
was indeed the truth--that he had at the last found himself able to
come.

Yes, but only for an hour or two. She did not know that he had got
down at midday, had been to the fête, and was now on his way back to
the train, calling at home on his road. He made straight for the open
doors of Miss Margery's room, and went in.

A strange impulse seized upon Adela. What if she dared speak to him
now? to sue for the forgiveness for which her heart seemed breaking?
He could not kill her for it: and perhaps he might speak it--and she
should carry with her to her isolation so much of peace.

Without pausing to weigh the words she should utter, or the
consequences of her act, she glided after him into the room. Sir
Francis stood at a table, his back to the window, apparently taking
some papers out of his pocketbook. The sudden darkening of the
light, for she made no noise, must have caused him to turn: and there
they stood face to face, each gazing, if they so minded, at the
ravages time had made in the other. She was the more changed. Her
once-brilliant eyes were sad and gentle, her cheeks bore the hectic of
emotion, all the haughtiness had gone out of her sweet face for ever.
And he? He was noble as always, but his hair had grey threads in it,
and his forehead was lined.

"May I be allowed to speak to you for a moment?" she panted, breaking
the silence, yet hardly able to articulate "I--I----" And then she
broke down from sheer inability to draw breath.

He stood quite still by the table, as if waiting, his tall form drawn
to its full height, his face and bearing perfectly calm. But he made
no answer.

"I beg your pardon," she humbly began again, having halted just inside
the window. "I would not have presumed to follow you in, or to speak
to you, but that it is the last opportunity we shall have of meeting
on earth. I go away the day after tomorrow to seclude myself from the
world; and I--I cannot go without your forgiveness. When I saw you
come in now, not knowing even that you were at Netherleigh--an impulse
I could not resist brought me after you to ask you to forgive me. Just
to ask it!"

But still Sir Francis did not answer. Poor Adela, now white, now
hectic, went on, in her weak and imploring tone.

"It has seemed to me that if I went away for good without your
forgiveness, I should almost die as the days went on--knowing that I
could never ask it then. If you could believe how truly, how bitterly
I have repented, perhaps you would not in pity withhold it from me.
Will you not give it me? Will you not hear me?" she added, lifting her
trembling hands, as he yet made no sign. "God forgives: will not you
forgive also?"

Advancing, she sank on her knees before him, as he stood; her sad face
lifted to his in yearning. He drew a step back: he had listened in
impassive silence; but he spoke now.

"Rise, rise, Lady Adela. Do not kneel to me."

She bent forward; she laid her poor weak hands upon him; the scalding
tears began to stream down her face, so pitiful in its sad entreaty.
Sir Francis gently touched her hands with his, essaying to raise her;
a cold, distant touch, evidently not of goodwill.

"Lady Adela, I will not say another word, or allow you to say one,
until you rise. You must be aware that you are only vexing me."

She rose to her feet obediently. She stood still, apart from him. He
drew back yet, and stood still also, his arms folded.

"Tell me what it is you wish. I scarcely understand."

"Only your forgiveness, your pardon for the past. It will be a comfort
to carry it with me where I am going."

"Where is it that you are going?"

"I am going to join some ladies in Yorkshire, who pass their time in
nursing the poor and sick," she answered. "It is called a Sisterhood.
I have been thinking that perhaps in that retirement, and in the
occupation it will entail, I may find peace. Once entered, I feel sure
I shall never have courage to leave it: therefore I know that we shall
not meet again."

He did not speak.

"And I should like to thank you, if I may dare, for all your
consideration, your generous loving-kindness. Believe me, that, in the
midst of the humiliation of accepting it, I have been grateful. When
once I have entered this refuge, the necessity for your bounty will
cease. Thank you deeply for all."

"You are tired of the world?"

"Yes. It has been to me so full of shame and misery."

"Do you know that you brought a great deal of misery upon _me?_"

"Oh, it is the consciousness of _that_ that is killing me. If I could
undo it with my life, I would; and be thankful. The recollection of
the past, the cruel remorse ever haunting my conscience, has well-nigh
crushed me. I want you to say that you will try to be happy in your
life; there will be less impediment, perhaps, now that I shall be far
away: I shall be to you as one dead. If I could only know that you
were happy! that I have not quite blighted your life, as I have my
own!"

"Do you like the idea of entering this retreat?"

"As well as I could like anything that can be open to me in this
world now. It will be a refuge; and I dare to hope--I have dared to
_pray_--that I may in time gain peace."

"Could the past come over again, you would, then, be a different wife
to me?"

"Don't reproach me," she sobbed. "None can know how cruel my fate is,
how bitter my repentance. Will you not be merciful?--will you not say
that you forgive me before I go away for ever?"

"Yes, Adela, I will say it," he answered then. "I forgive you from my
heart. I will say more. If you do wish to atone for the past, to be my
true and loving wife, these arms are open to you."

He opened them as he spoke. She staggered back, unable to comprehend
or believe. He did not move: simply stood still where he was, his
extended arms inviting her.

"Do not mock me, pray," she feebly wailed. "Do not be cruel: you were
never that. I have told you how bitterly I repent--that my remorse is
greater than I can bear. If my life could undo the past, could atone
to you in the least degree, I would gladly lay it down."

"Adela, I am not mocking you. You cannot surely think it, knowing me
as you do. You may come back to me, if you will, and be once more my
dear wife. My arms are waiting for you; my heart is waiting for you:
it shall be as you will."

Panting, breathless, the hectic coming and going on her wasted cheeks,
she slowly, doubtfully advanced; and when near him she halted and fell
at his feet. His own breath was shortening, emotion nearly overcame
him. Raising her, he enfolded her to his loving heart.

For a little while, as she lay in his arms, their tears mingled
together; ay, even his were falling. A moment of agitation, such as
this, does not often visit a man during his lifetime.

"There must be no mistake in future, Adela? You will be to me a loving
wife?"

Once more, in deep humiliation, she bent before him. "Your loving and
faithful wife for ever and for ever."


Quietly enough they walked, side by side, through the park. Who,
watching them, could have suspected the agitation just lived through,
the momentous change that had taken place in their lives? Sir Francis
went on his way to the railway-station, for he had to go back to
London. Adela returned to the Rectory.

And that night, in the solitude of her chamber, its window open to the
stars of the summer sky, she spent hours on her knees in prayer and
thanksgiving.

On the following morning Mr. Cleveland took Adela to Chenevix House.
Sir Francis had been there to prepare the way for her. It was great
news for the earl and countess; but it had not much diminished my
lady's tartness. She had been too angry with Adela to come round at
once.

"Do you know where you are going this evening, Adela?" Grace asked her
in a whisper, a happy light in her eyes.

"No. Where?"

"Francis Netherleigh has some mission that is taking him to Paris--my
belief is, he has improvised it. He starts tonight, and he will take
you with him--if you are very good."

"How kind he is!" murmured Adela.

"Have a care how you behave in future, Adela," said her father, in
solemn admonition that evening, as Sir Francis stood ready to take her
out to his carriage, which waited to convey them to the station.

"I will, papa: Heaven helping me. Good-bye, dear mamma."

"Oh, good-bye, and a pleasant journey to you! It's more than you
deserve," retorted my lady.



CHAPTER XLI.
CONCLUSION.


There is little more to relate.

On just such a lovely June day as described above, and twelve months
later, another fête took place. But this time it was at Court
Netherleigh. Not an open-air fête, this, or one on a large scale, for
only a few chosen friends had been invited to it.

In the morning, in Netherleigh Church, and at the hands of the good
Rector, the infant heir of Court Netherleigh bad been made one of
Christ's fold.

Court Netherleigh was made their chief home by Sir Francis and his
wife. Grosvenor Square was visited occasionally, but not for very long
together. Adela's tastes had totally changed: fashion and frivolity no
longer held chief places in her heart: higher aims and duties had
superseded them. Lady Mary Cleveland herself was not so actively
anxious for the welfare of the poor and distressed as was Adela,
Netherleigh.


     "Sweet are the uses of adversity,
      Which like a toad, ugly and venomous,
      Wears yet a precious jewel in its head."


As she stood this morning at the baptismal font, her child in the arms
of Mr. Cleveland, tears of joy silently trickled down her face. Hardly
a day or a night of this latter twelvemonth, but they had risen in
gratitude, contrasting what had been with what was.

Lord and Lady Acorn were present; and Grace, who was godmother, held
the baby in readiness for the clergyman. Mr. Howard had come down with
Colonel and Lady Sarah Hope; Robert Dalrymple and Mary were there from
Moat Grange, and the Rector's wife.

While walking back to Court Netherleigh after the ceremony, the party
were joined by another guest--Sir Turtle Kite.

Sir Turtle's presence was quite unexpected. Deeply sensible of the
service he once rendered them--for, had the little alderman chosen to
be crusty then, where would Charles Cleveland have been, where Lady
Adela?--the Acorn family had not dropped him with the passing moment.
Neither had Sir Francis Netherleigh. On this particular day--a very
splendid one in London--the knight chanced to think he should like to
air himself in the sunbeams, and take a holiday. Remembering the
standing invitation to Court Netherleigh--of which he had not yet
availed himself--and knowing that Sir Francis was staying there and
not in Grosvenor Square, Sir Turtle travelled down, and met the party
as they were going home from church.

"Dear me I am very sorry," he cried, somewhat disconcerted. "I had no
idea--I had better go home again."

"Not a bit of it," said Sir Francis, heartily, as he clasped his hand.
"You are all the more welcome. I am sure you will like to join us in
good wishes to my little boy. Adela will show him to you."

So Sir Turtle's beaming face made one at the luncheon-table, none so
delighted as he. And he surreptitiously scribbled a note in his
pocketbook to purchase the handsomest christening-cup that could be
found for money.

Luncheon over, they went out into the charming sunshine, some
strolling hither and thither, some taking refuge on the shaded benches
under the trees. Adela gained possession of her baby in the nursery,
and carried him out to show him to Sir Turtle. He was a fine little
fellow of six weeks old, promising to be as noble-looking as his
father, and certainly possessing his beautiful grey-blue eyes.

"What is its name?" asked Sir Turtle, venturing to pat the soft little
cheek with his forefinger, and rather at a loss what to say, for he
did not understand as much about babies as he did about tallow.

"Francis," answered Adela. "Francis Upton. I would not have had any
name but Francis for the world, and my husband thought he would like
to add Upton, in remembrance of Miss Upton who used to live here."

"Francis is a very nice name; better than mine," observed Sir Turtle,
sitting down by Adela. "And who are its godfathers?" he resumed, still
at sea as to the proper things to be said of a baby.

"My father is one, Mr. Howard the other. Sir Francis fixed upon papa,
and I upon Mr. Howard. Formerly I used not to like Mr. Howard,"
ingenuously added Lady Adela, "but I have learnt his worth."

"Ay, a worthy man, my lady; first-rate in business. Talking of
business," broke off the little alderman, glad, no doubt, to leave the
subject of the baby, but none the less inopportunely, "do you chance
to know what has become of a young fellow who got into some trouble at
Grubb and Howard's--the Rector's son, yonder"--nodding towards Mr.
Cleveland--"Charles, I think, his name was. I have often wished to ask
about him."

Lady Adela bent over her child, as if to do something to its cap: her
face had flushed blood-red.

"Charles Cleveland is in India," she said. "He is doing well, very
well. My husband was--was very kind to him, and pushes him forward. He
is kind to every one."

Rising rather abruptly from the bench, she gave the baby to the nurse
and went into the house. Her mother, standing at one of the windows of
the large drawing-room, turned round as she entered.

"What have you been doing to flush your face so, Adela?" called out my
lady--for it was glowing still.

"Oh, nothing: the sun perhaps," answered Adela, carelessly.

"You were talking with Sir Turtle Kite."

"Yes, he was looking at baby, and asking me his name. I told him his
father's--Francis."

"Ah," said Lady Acorn, with her irrepressible propensity for bringing
up disagreeable reminiscences, "I remember the time when you would not
have your child's name Francis, because it was your husband's."

"Oh, mamma, don't! That was in the mistaken years of long ago."

"And I hope you were civil to Sir Turtle," continued my lady: "you
seemed to leave him very abruptly. He is a funny little round-headed
man, and nothing but an alderman; but he means well. Think what _your_
fate might have been now--but for his--his clemency."

"If you would _please_ not recall these things, mother!" besought
Adela, meekly, tears starting to her eyes. "Especially roday, when we
are all so happy."

Somehow the past, with all its terrible mistakes and the misery they
had entailed, came rushing upon her mind so vividly that she could not
control her emotion. Passing into the next room, and not perceiving
her husband, her sobs broke forth. He came forward.

"My love, what is it?"

"Only----"

"Nay, tell me."

"Something mamma said made me think of that cruel time when--when I
was so wrong and wicked. Francis, the shame and sin seemed all to come
back again."

He held her before him; his tone one of tender reproof. "But the shame
and sin never can come back, Adela. My wife, you know it."

"I know how good you are. And I know how merciful to me God has been,"
she replied, glancing at him through her wet lashes, with eyes full of
love and devotion.

"Very merciful: very merciful to me and to you," whispered Francis
Netherleigh. "Do you know, my darling, that through all that dark
time, I never lost my trust in Him."



THE END.



----------------------------------------------------------------
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES.





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