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Title: Anne Hereford: A Novel
Author: Wood, Henry, Mrs.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Anne Hereford: A Novel" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Anne Hereford
 A Novel.

by Mrs. Henry Wood,

AUTHOR OF
"EAST LYNNE," "RED COURT FARM," "ST. MARTIN'S EVE,"
"MILDRED ARKELL," ETC.

LONDON:
TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND.
1871.

[_All rights of Translation and Reproduction are reserved_.]


Contents

 I. MRS. EDWIN BARLEY.
 II. IN THE WOOD.
 III. GOING OUT IN THE FOG.
 IV. VERY ILL.
 V. ANOTHER DREAM.
 VI. DEAD!
 VII. AT MISS FENTON'S.
 VIII. EMILY CHANDOS.
 IX. A STEP IRREVOCABLE.
 X. AT MRS. PALER'S.
 XI. CHANDOS.
 XII. OUT OF DOORS AT CHANDOS.
 XIII. A SHOCK.
 XIV. THE NEW TENANT BY THE LODGE GATES.
 XV. IN THE IRONING ROOM.
 XVI. DISTURBED BY MRS. CHANDOS.
 XVII. THE STRANGER APPLICANT.
 XVIII. THE NEW COMPANION.
 XIX. TELEGRAPHING FOR A PHYSICIAN.
 XX. LIZZY DENE.
 XXI. IN THE PINE-WALK.
 XXII. A NIGHT ALARM.
 XXIII. SEEN IN THE GALLERY BY MOONLIGHT.
 XXIV. MRS. PENN'S REVELATION.
 XXV. NOTHING BUT MISERY.
 XXVI. GETTING INTO THE WEST WING.
 XXVII. GEORGE HENEAGE.
 XXVIII. AN IGNOMINIOUS EXIT.
 XXIX. MR. EDWIN BARLEY IN THE WEST WING.
 XXX. THE LAST FRIGHT OF ALL.
 XXXI. BACK FOR AYE AT CHANDOS.



ANNE HEREFORD.



CHAPTER I.
MRS. EDWIN BARLEY.


An express train was dashing along a line of rails in the heart of
England. On one of the first-class carriages there had been a board,
bearing the intimation 'For Ladies Only,' but the guard took it off
when the train first started. It had come many miles since. Seated
inside, the only passenger in that compartment, was a little girl in
deep mourning. All was black about her save the white frills of her
drawers, which peeped below her short, black, flounced frock. A
thoughtful, gentle child, with a smooth, pale forehead, earnest eyes,
and long, dark eyelashes that swept her cheek. It was a gloomy
September day, foggy, and threatening rain—a _sad_-looking day; and the
child's face seemed to have borrowed the aspect of the weather,
pervaded, as it was, by a tinge of sadness. That little girl was
myself, Anne Hereford.

The train slackened speed, and glided into an important station, larger
than any we had passed. It was striking one, and the guard came up to
the carriage. "Now, my little lady," said he, "change lines here, and
stop for ten minutes."

I liked that guard. He had a kind, hearty face, and he had come up
several times to the carriage-door during the journey, asking how I got
on. He told me he had a little girl of his own, about as old as I.

"Are you hungry?" he asked, as he lifted me from the carriage.

"Not very, thank you. I have eaten the biscuits."

"Halloa! Stern!" he called out, stopping a man who was hurrying past.
"Are you going with the Nettleby train?"

"Yes. What if I am?" was the man's answer. He was rightly named Stern,
for he had a stern, sour face.

"See this little girl. She is in the guard's charge. To be put in the
ladies' carriage, and taken on to Nettleby."

The man gave a short nod by way of answer, and hurried away. And the
guard took me into a large room, where crowds were pressing round a
counter. "Here, Miss Williams," he said, to one of the young women
behind it, "give this little lady something to eat and drink, and take
care of her till the Nettleby train starts. She's to have what comes to
a shilling."

"What will you take, my dear?" asked Miss Williams.

The counter was so full of good things that I did not know what, but
fixed at length upon a plum-tart. Miss Williams laughed, and said I had
better eat some sandwiches first and the tart afterwards.

She was pouring me out a cup of coffee when the guard came up again.
"Your baggage is changed, little lady," said he. "You'll find it all
right at the Nettleby station. Good day."

"Good-bye, and thank you," I answered, holding out my hand, that he
might shake it. I felt sorry to part with him—he seemed like a friend.
Soon after, the surly guard put in his head and beckoned to me. He
marshalled me to a carriage which had a similar board upon it to the
other, "For Ladies Only," and shut me in without a word. Two ladies sat
opposite to me. They did not speak either; but they stared a great
deal. I thought it must be at the two tarts Miss Williams had given me
in a paper bag, and did not like to eat them.

At the next station another lady got in, and she began talking at once.

"Are you travelling all alone, little girl?"

"Yes, ma'am. The guard takes care of me?"

"Have you come far?"

I had come from a remote part of Devonshire, the seacoast. It seemed a
long way to me, and I said so.

"Will you tell me your name? I daresay it is a pretty one."

"It is Anne Hereford."

"Devonshire is a very nice part of the country. Have you lived in it
all your life?"

"Not quite. I was born in India. Mamma brought me to England when I was
three years old."

"You are in deep mourning. Is it for a near relative?"

I did not answer. I turned to look out at the window until the tears
should go away again. I could not bear that strangers should see them.
The lady asked again, and presently I turned round.

"For mamma."

She was silent for some time, looking at me. "Is your papa dead also?"

"He died a long while before mamma did."

"You say you were born in India: perhaps he was an officer?"

"He was Colonel Hereford."

"How many brothers and sisters have you?"

"Not any."

"Where are you going to live?"

"I don't know. I am going now to my Aunt Selina's."

The train approached a station, and the lady got out, or she probably
would have asked me a great deal more. At the station following that,
the two silent ladies left, and I was alone again. The first thing I
did was to eat my tarts and throw away the paper bag. After that I fell
asleep, and remembered no more till the guard's surly voice woke me.

"This is Nettleby, if you are a-going to get out. He said something
about some luggage. How much is it?"

"A large box and a small one, and two carpet-bags. 'Miss Hereford,
passenger to Nettleby,' is written on them. Can you please to tell me
whether it is far to Mr. Edwin Barley's?"

"I don't know any Mr. Edwin Barley. Jem," added he, to one of the
porters, "see after her. I'm going to hand out her things."

"Where do you want to go, Miss?" the porter asked.

"To Mr. Edwin Barley's. They told me I must get out at the Nettleby
station, and ask to be sent on, unless a carriage met me here."

"You must mean Mr. Edwin Barley of Hallam."

"Yes, that's it. Is it far?"

"Well, Hallam's five miles off, and the house is a mile on this side of
it. There's no rail, Miss; you must go by the omnibus."

"But you are sure that Mrs. Edwin Barley has not come to meet me?" I
asked, feeling a sort of chill.

Not any one had come, and the porter put me into the omnibus with some
more passengers. What a long drive it seemed! And the hedges and trees
looked very dreary, for the shades of evening were gathering.

At the foot of a hill the omnibus pulled up, and a man who had sat by
the driver came round. "Ain't there somebody inside for Mr. Edwin
Barley's?"

"Yes; I am."

I got out, and the luggage was put upon the ground. "Two shillings,
Miss," said the man.

"Two shillings!" I repeated, in great alarm.

"Why, did you expect to come for one—and inside too! It's uncommon
cheap, is this omnibus."

"Oh, it is not that. But I have not any money."

"Not got any money!"

"They did not give me any. They gave the guard my fare to Nettleby. Mr.
Sterling said I should be sure to be met."

The man went up to the driver. "I say, Bill, this child says she's got
no money."

The driver turned round and looked at me. "We can call to-morrow for
it; I daresay it's all right. Do you belong to the Barleys, Miss?"

"Mrs. Edwin Barley is my aunt. I am come on a visit to her."

"Oh, it's all right. Get up, Joe."

"But please," said I, stopping the man, in an agony of fear—for I could
see no house or sign of one, save a small, round, low building that
might contain one room—"which is Mr. Edwin Barley's? Am I to stay in
the road with the boxes?"

The man laughed, said he had supposed I knew, and began shouting out,
"Here; missis!" two or three times. "You see that big green gate,
Miss?" he added to me. "Well, that leads up to Mr. Barley's, and that's
his lodge."

A woman came out of the lodge; in answer to the shouts, and opened the
gate. The man explained, put the trunks inside the gate, and the
omnibus drove on.

"I beg pardon that I can't go up to the house with you, Miss, but it's
not far, and you can't miss it," said she. "I have got my baby sick in
its cradle, and dare not leave it alone. You are little Miss Hereford?"

"Yes."

"It's odd they never sent to meet you at Nettleby, if they knew you
were coming! But they have visitors at the house, and perhaps young
madam forgot it. Straight on, Miss, and you'll soon come to the
hall-door; go up the steps, and give a good pull at the bell."

There was no help for it: I had to go up the gloomy avenue alone. It
was a broad gravel drive, wide enough for two carriages to pass each
other; a thick grove of trees on either side. The road wound round, and
I had just got in sight of the house when I was startled considerably
by what proved to be a man's head projecting beyond the trees. He
appeared to be gazing steadfastly at the house, but turned his face
suddenly at my approach. But for that, I might not have observed him.
The face looked dark, ugly, menacing; and I started with a spring to
the other side of the way.

I did not speak to him, or he to me, but my heart beat with fear, and I
was glad enough to see lights from several of the windows in front of
me. I thought it a very large house; I found afterwards that it
contained eighteen rooms, and some of them small: but then we had lived
in a pretty cottage of six. There was no need to ring. At the open door
stood a man and a maid-servant, laughing and talking.

"Who are you?" cried the girl.

"I want Mrs. Edwin Barley."

"Then I think want must be your master," she returned. "It is somebody
from Hallam, I suppose. Mrs. Edwin Barley cannot possibly see you
to-night."

"You just go away, little girl," added the footman. "You must come
to-morrow morning, if you want anything."

Their manner was so authoritative that I felt frightened, nearly crying
as I stood. What if they should really turn me away!

"Why don't you go?" asked the girl, sharply.

"I have nowhere to go to. My boxes are down at the gate."

"Why, who are you?" she inquired, in a quick tone.

"I am Miss Hereford."

"Heart alive!" she whispered to the man. "I beg your pardon, Miss. I'll
call Charlotte Delves."

"What's that? Who will you call?" broke from an angry voice at the back
of the hall. "Call 'Charlotte Delves,' will you? Go in to your work
this instant, you insolent girl. Do you hear me, Jemima?"

"I didn't know you were there, Miss Delves," was the half-saucy,
half-deprecating answer. "The young lady has come—Miss Hereford."

A tall, slight, good-looking woman of thirty-five or thirty-six came
forward. I could not tell whether she was a lady or a smart maid. She
wore a small, stylish cap, and a handsome muslin gown with
flounces—which were in fashion then. Her eyes were light; long, light
curls fell on either side her face, and her address was good.

"How do you do, Miss Hereford?" she said, taking my hand. "Come in, my
dear. We did not expect you until next week. Mrs. Barley is in the
drawing-room."

"Mrs. Barley is in her chamber, dressing for dinner," contended Jemima,
from the back of the hall, as if intent on aggravation.

Miss Delves made no reply. She ran upstairs, and opened a door, from
whence came a warm glow of fire-light. "Wait there a moment," she said,
looking round at me. "Mrs. Edwin Barley, the child has come."

"What child?" returned a voice—a young, gay, sweet, voice.

"Little Miss Hereford."

"My goodness! Come to-day! And I with no mourning about me, to speak
of. Well, let her come in."

I knew my Aunt Selina again in a moment. She had stayed with us in
Devonshire for three months two years before, when she was nineteen.
The same lovely face, with its laughing blue eyes, and its shining
golden hair. She wore an embroidered clear-muslin white dress, with low
body and sleeves, and a few black ribbons; jet bracelets, and a long
jet chain.

"You darling child! But what made you come in this strange way, without
notice?"

"Mr. Sterling said he wrote word to you, Selina, that I should be here
on Thursday. You ought to have had the letter yesterday."

"Well, so he did write; but I thought—how stupid I must have been!" she
interrupted, with a sudden laugh. "I declare I took it to mean next
Thursday. But you are all the more welcome, dear. You have grown
prettier, Anne, with those deep eyes of yours."

I stood before her very gravely. I had _dreaded_ the meeting, believing
it would be one of sobs and lamentation for my mother: not taking into
account how careless and light-headed Selina was. I had called her
"Selina," since, a little girl of four, I had gone on a visit to
Keppe-Carew.

Taking off my bonnet, she kissed me several times, and then held me
before her by my hands as she sat on the sofa. Miss Delves went out and
closed the door.

"They are not home from shooting yet, Anne, so we can have a little
talk to ourselves. When they go to the far covers, there's no knowing
when they'll be in: two nights ago they kept me waiting dinner until
eight o'clock."

"Who did, Aunt Selina?"

"Mr. Barley, and the rest," she answered, carelessly. "Anne, how very
strange it was that your mamma should have died so quickly at the last!
It was only two weeks before her death that she wrote to tell me she
was ill."

"She had been ill longer than that, Aunt Selina——"

"Call me Selina, child."

"But she did not tell any one until she knew there was danger. She did
not tell me."

"It was a renewal of that old complaint she had in India—that inward
complaint."

I turned my head and my wet eyes from her. "They told me it was her
heart, Selina."

"Yes; in a measure; that had something to do with it. It must have been
a sad parting, Anne. Why, child, you are sobbing!"

"Please don't talk of it!"

"But I must talk of it: I like to have my curiosity gratified," she
said, in her quick way. "Did the doctors say from the first that there
was no hope?"

"Mamma knew there was no hope when she wrote to you. She had told me so
the day before."

"I wonder she told you at all."

"Oh, Selina! that fortnight was too short for the leave-taking; for all
she had to say to me. It will be years, perhaps, before we meet again."

"Meet again! Meet where?"

"In Heaven!"

"You are a strange child!" exclaimed Selina, looking at me very
steadfastly. "Ursula has infected you, I see, with her serious notions.
I used to tell her there was time enough for it years hence."

"And mamma used to tell you that perhaps, if you put off and put off,
the years hence might never come for you, Selina."

"What! you remember that, do you?" she said, with a smile. "Yes, she
used to lecture me; she was fifteen years older than I, and assumed the
right to do so."

"Mamma never _lectured_; what she said was always kind and gentle," was
my sobbing answer.

"Yes, yes. You think me insensible now, Anne; but my grief is over—that
is the violence of the grief. When the letter came to say Ursula was
dead, I cried the whole day, never ceasing."

"Mamma had a warning of her death," I continued; for it was one of the
things she had charged me to tell to her sister Selina.

"Had a what, child?"

"A warning. The night before she was taken ill—I mean dangerously
ill—she dreamt she saw papa in a most beautiful place, all light and
flowers; no place on earth could ever have been so beautiful except the
Garden of Eden. He beckoned her to come to him, and pointed to a vacant
place by his side, saying, 'It is ready for you now, Ursula.' Mamma
awoke then, and the words were sounding in her ears; she could have
felt sure that they were positively spoken."

"And you can tell me this with a grave face, calling it a warning!"
exclaimed Selina.

"Mamma charged me to tell it you. She related the dream to us the next
morning——"

"_Us!_ Whom do you mean, child?"

"Me and our old maid Betty. She was my nurse, you know. Mamma said what
a pleasant dream it was, that she was sorry to awake from it; but after
she grew ill, she said she knew it was sent as a warning."

Selina laughed. "You have lived boxed up with that stupid old Betty and
your mamma, child, until you are like a grave little woman. Ursula was
always superstitious. You will say you believe in ghosts next."

"No, I do not believe in ghosts. I do in warnings. Mamma said that
never a Keppe-Carew died yet without being warned of it: though few of
them had noticed it at the time."

"There, that will do, Anne. I am a Carew, and I don't want to be
frightened into watching for a 'warning.' You are a Carew also, by the
mother's side. Do you know, my poor child, that you are not left well
off?"

"Yes; mamma has told me all. I don't mind."

"Don't mind!" echoed Selina, with another light laugh. "That's because
you don't understand, Anne. What little your mamma had left has been
sunk in an annuity for your education—eighty or a hundred pounds a
year, until you are eighteen. There's something more, I believe, for
clothes and incidental expenses."

"I said I did not mind, Selina, because I am not afraid of getting my
own living. Mamma said that a young lady, well-educated and of good
birth, can always command a desirable position as governess. She told
me not to fear, for God would take care of me."

"Some money might be desirable for all that," returned my aunt, in a
tone that sounded full of irreverence to my unaccustomed ears. "The
maddest step Colonel Hereford ever took was that of selling out. He
thought to better himself, and he spent and lost the money, leaving
your mamma with very little when he died."

"I don't think mamma cared much for money, Selina."

"I don't think she did, or she would not have taken matters so quietly.
Do you remember, Anne, how she used to go on at me when I said I should
marry Edwin Barley?"

"Yes; mamma said how very wrong it would be of you to marry for money."

"Quite true. She used to put her hands to her ears when I said I hated
him. Now, what are those earnest eyes of your searching me for?"

"_Do_ you hate him, Selina?"

"I am not dying of love for him, you strange child."

"One day a poor boy had a monkey before the window, and you said Mr.
Edwin Barley was as ugly as that. Is he ugly?"

Selina burst into a peal of ringing laughter. "Oh, he is very handsome,
Anne; as handsome as the day: when you see him you shall tell me if you
don't think so. I—— What is the matter? What are you looking at?"

As I stood before my aunt, the door behind her seemed to be pushed
gently open. I had thought some one was coming in; and said so.

"The fire-light must have deceived you, Anne. That door is kept bolted;
it leads to a passage communicating with my bedroom, but we do not use
it."

"I am certain that I saw it open," was my answer; and an unpleasant,
fanciful thought came over me that it might be the man I saw in the
avenue. "It is shut now; it shut again when I spoke."

She rose, walked to the door, and tried to open it but it was fast.

"You see, Anne. Don't you get fanciful, my dear; that is what your
mamma was:" but I shook my head in answer.

"Selina, did not Mr. Edwin Barley want me to go to Mrs. Hemson's
instead of coming here?"

"Who told you that?"

"I heard Mr. Sterling talking of it with mamma."

"Mr. Edwin Barley did, little woman. Did you hear why he wished it?"

"No."

"You should have heard that, it was so flattering to me. He thought I
was too giddy to take charge of a young lady."

"Did he?"

"But Ursula would not accept the objection. It could not matter for a
few weeks, she wrote to Mr. Edwin Barley, whether I were giddy or
serious, and she could not think of consigning you, even temporarily,
to Mrs. Hemson. Ah! my cousin Frances Carew and I took exactly opposite
courses, Anne; I married for money, she for love. She met an attractive
stranger at a watering-place, and married him."

"And it was not right?"

"It was all wrong. He was a tradesman. A good-looking, educated man—I
grant that; but a tradesman. Never was such a thing heard of, as for a
Carew to stoop to that. You see, Anne, she had learnt to like him
before she knew anything of his position, or who he was. He was a
visitor at the place, just as she was. Of course she ought to have
given him up. Not she; she gave herself and her money to him, and a
very pretty little fortune she had."

"Did she marry in disobedience?"

"That cannot be charged upon her, for she was alone in the world, and
her own mistress. But a Carew of Keppe-Carew ought to have known
better."

"She was not of Keppe-Carew, Selina."

"She was. Don't you know that, Anne? her father was Carew of
Keppe-Carew; and when he died without a son, his brother, your mamma's
father and mine, succeeded to Keppe-Carew. He died in his turn, leaving
no son, and Keppe-Carew and its broad lands went to a distant man, the
male heir. We three Carews have all married badly, in one way or
another."

Mrs. Edwin Barley was speaking dreamily then, as if forgetting anybody
heard her.

"She, Frances, married Hemson the tradesman, throwing a barrier between
herself and her family; Ursula married Colonel Hereford, to wear out a
few of her best years in India, and then to die in poverty, and leave
an unprovided-for child; and I have married him, Edwin Barley. Which is
the worst, I wonder?"

I thought over what she said in my busy brain. Few children had so
active a one.

"Selina, you say you married Mr. Edwin Barley because he is rich."

"Well."

"Why did you, when you were rich yourself?"

"_I_ rich? You will count riches differently when you are older. Why,
Anne, do you know what my fortune was? Four thousand pounds. Ursula had
the same, and she and Colonel Hereford spent it. That put a notion in
my father's head, and he tied mine up tight enough, securing it to my
absolute use until I die."

"Will it be Mr. Barley's when you die, Selina?"

"Were I to die before next Monday, it would be yours, pussy, for it is
so settled. After that, if I die without a will, it would go to Mr.
Edwin Barley; but I shall be of age next Monday, and then can make one.
I think it must be my first care—a will;" she laughed. "So munificent a
sum to dispose of! Shall I leave it to you?"

The room-door was pushed open, and some one entered. A shortish man, of
nearly forty years, in a velveteen shooting-coat and gaiters, and with
a dark face: the same dark face that looked out from the trees in the
avenue. I shrank round Selina with a sudden fear. Not that the features
were particularly ill-favoured in themselves, but so dark and stern.
And the remembrance of the fright was on me still.

"Where are you coming to, child?" she said. "This is Mr. Edwin Barley."



CHAPTER II.
IN THE WOOD.

That Mr. Edwin Barley! My imagination had been setting the face down
for a robber's at least; and the thought flashed over me—How could
Selina have married him? Another thought came with it—Had he been the
intruder at the door?

"Who is that, Selina?" he asked, in a very strong, determined voice,
but not an unpleasing one.

"Anne Hereford. Fancy my making so stupid a mistake as to conclude it
was next Thursday the lawyer meant. And she has had to find her way
from Nettleby in the best way she could."

He looked at me with his black eyes, the blackest eyes I had ever seen.
Either they wore a warning expression, or I fancied so, and I took it
to mean I was not to say I saw him watching the house from the avenue.
No fear, after that, that I should speak of it.

"Did you walk from Nettleby, little one?"

"No, sir. I came in the omnibus to the gate."

"She has been asking me if you were very handsome and I told her to
wait and see," observed Selina, with a laugh, and somehow it grated on
my ears. He made no reply in words, but his brow contracted a little. I
noticed one thing—that he had very pretty teeth, white and even.

"How is it you are home before the others?" she resumed. "And where are
they lingering? Charlotte Delves says the dinner is spoiling."

"They cannot be far behind," was Mr. Edwin Barley's answer. "I'll go
and dress."

As he went out of the room we heard sounds of voices and laughter.
Selina opened the window, and I stood by her. The night had grown
clearer, the moon was bright. Three gentlemen, dressed something like
Mr. Edwin Barley, were approaching the house with game, guns, and dogs.

"Can you see them by this light, Anne?"

"I can see that two are young, and one looks old. He has grey hair."

"Not very old, not more than fifty—but he is so stout. It is the
parson, Mr. Martin."

"Do parsons go out shooting, Selina?"

"Only when they can get the chance," she laughed. "That young one is
Philip King, a ward of Mr. Edwin Barley's. He and I are not friends at
all, and I do what I can to vex him. He is terribly ill-tempered."

"Is he!"

"He fell in love with me at Easter, the silly boy! Fancy that! One
can't think it was in earnest, you know, but it really seemed like it.
I asked him if he would like his ears boxed, and Mr. Edwin Barley gave
us both a sharp talking-to, saying we ought to be sent to school
again."

"Both! But if it was not your fault?"

"Mr. Edwin Barley said it was my fault," she returned, with a laugh.
"Perhaps it was. He has not, as I believe, loved Philip King since."

"Who is the other one with them, Selina?" I asked, as the gentlemen
below disappeared.

"The other is George Heneage—a great friend of mine. Hush! he is coming
up."

George Heneage entered. A young man, tall, slender, active; with a
pale, pleasant face, and dark wavy hair. He had a merry smile, and I
thought I had never seen any one so nice-looking. Mrs. Edwin Barley
moved to the fire, and he took her hand in greeting.

"Well! And how have you been all day? Dull?"

It was the pleasantest voice! Quite a contrast after that of Mr. Edwin
Barley.

"Much any of you care whether I am dull or gay," she returned in
answer, half laughing, half pouting. "The partridges get all your time,
just now. I might be dead and buried before any of you came home to see
after me."

"We must shoot, you know, Selina. One of us, at any rate, came home a
couple of hours ago—Barley."

"Not to me. He has but just come in. You must be mistaken."

"Look here. I was away for a short while from the party, seeing after
the horse I lamed the other day, and when I got back, Barley had
vanished: they thought he had gone to look after me. Perhaps he had in
one sense, the great simpleton—Halloa! who's that?" He broke off,
seeing me for the first time, as I stood partly within the shade of the
window-curtain.

"It is little Anne Hereford. She has come a week before I expected her.
Anne, come forward, and let Mr. Heneage make love to you. It is a
pastime he favours."

He lifted me up by the waist, looked at me, and put me down again.

"A pretty little face to make love to. How old are you?"

"Eleven, sir."

"Eleven!" he echoed, in surprise. "I should have taken you for nine at
the very most. Eleven!"

"And eleventeen in sober sense," interposed Selina, in her lightest and
most careless manner. "I suppose children are so who never live with
brothers and sisters. You should hear her talk, George! I tell her, her
mamma and nurse have made an old woman of her."

"Dare I venture to your presence in this trim, Mrs. Edwin Barley?"

The speaker was the Rev. Mr. Martin, who came slowly in, pointing to
his attire.

"It is Barley's fault, and you must blame him, not me," he continued.
"Barley invited me to say grace at your table to-day, and then
disappeared, keeping us waiting for him until now, and giving me no
time to go home and make myself presentable."

"Never mind, Mr. Martin, there are worse misfortunes at sea," she said,
in that charmingly attractive manner that she could sometimes use. "I
have sat down with gentlemen in shooting-coats before to-day, and
enjoyed my dinner none the worse for it. Is that you, Miss Delves?"

Footsteps were passing the open door, and Miss Delves came in.

"Did you speak, Mrs. Edwin Barley?"

"Yes. Take this child, please: she must have some tea. Anne dear, ask
for anything to eat that you best fancy. You shall come up again after
dinner."

We went to a small parlour on the ground floor—Miss Delves said it was
her own sitting-room—and she rang the bell. The maid who had been
gossiping at the front door came in to answer it.

"Are you at tea still, Jemima?"

"Yes, Miss Delves."

"I thought so. There's no regularity unless I'm about everywhere
myself. Bring in a cup for Miss Hereford, and some bread and butter."

They both left the room. I supposed that Miss Delves was going to dine
presently, for a cloth was spread over one end of the table, with a
knife and silver forks, the cruet-stand and salt-cellar, glasses, and a
decanter of wine. Presently Jemima came back with a small tray, that
had my tea upon it. She seemed a free-and-easy sort of girl, sat down
in a chair, and began chattering. Another servant came in with a small
jar of preserves. They called her Sarah.

"Miss Delves has sent some jam for the young lady, if she'd like it. Or
will she take a slice of cold meat first, she says?"

"I'll have the jam, please."

"That's right, Miss," laughed Jemima. "Sweets is good."

"Arn't you coming to your tea, Jemima? There'll be a fuss if she comes
in and finds you have not begun it."

"Bother the tea! We are not obliged to swallow it down just at the
minute she pleases," was the answer of Jemima.

"I say," exclaimed the other suddenly, "what do you think I saw? Young
King——"

Jemima gave a warning shake of the head, and pointed to me. The
conversation was dropped to a whisper, in which I once caught the words
"that handsome George Heneage." Presently steps were heard approaching,
and the two maids disturbed themselves. Sarah caught up the plate of
bread and butter, and stood as if she were handing it to me, and Jemima
stirred the fire vigorously. It had been warm in the day, but the bit
of lighted fire in the grate looked pleasant in the autumn evening. The
footsteps passed on.

"How stupid you are, Sarah! startling one for nothing!" exclaimed
Jemima.

"I thought it was Charlotte Delves. It sounded just like her foot."

"She's in the kitchen, and won't come out of it till the dinner's gone
in. She's in one of her tempers to-day."

"Is Charlotte Delves the mistress?" I could not help asking.

Both the maids burst out laughing. "She would like to be, Miss; and she
is, too, in many things," answered Jemima. "When young madam came home
first——"

"Hush, Jemima! she may go and repeat it again."

Jemima looked at me. "No: she does not look like it. You won't go and
repeat in the drawing-room the nonsense we foolish servants talk, will
you, Miss Hereford?"

"Of course I will not. Mamma taught me never to carry tales; she said
it made mischief."

"And so it does, Miss," cried Jemima. "Your mamma was a nice lady, I'm
sure! Was she not Mrs. Edwin Barley's sister?"

Before I had time to answer, Charlotte Delves came in. We had not heard
her, and I thought she must have crept up on tiptoe. Sarah made her
escape. Jemima took up the jam-pot.

"What are you waiting for?" she demanded, with asperity.

"I came in to see if the young lady wanted anything, ma'am."

"When Miss Hereford wants anything, she will ring."

Jemima retired. I went on with may tea, and Miss Delves began asking me
questions about home and mamma. We were interrupted by a footman. He
was bringing the fish out of the dining-room, and he laid the dish down
on the table. Miss Delves turned her chair towards it, and began her
dinner. I found that this was her usual manner of dining, but I thought
it a curious one. The dishes, as they came out of the dining-room, were
placed before her, and she helped herself. Her other meals she took
when she pleased, Jemima generally waiting upon her. I did wonder who
she could be.

It seemed that I had to sit there a long while. I was then taken
upstairs by Jemima, and my hair brushed. It hung down in curls all
round, and Jemima pleased me by saying it was the loveliest brown hair
she ever saw. Then I was marshalled to the drawing-room. Jemima opened
the door quietly, and I went in, seen, I believe, by nobody. It was a
large room, of a three-cornered shape, quite full of bright furniture.
Selina's grand piano was in the angle.

Standing before the fire, talking, were the clergyman and Mr. Edwin
Barley. A stranger might have taken one for the other, for the
clergyman was in his sporting clothes, and Mr. Barley was all in black,
with a white neckcloth. On a distant sofa, apparently reading a
newspaper, sat Philip King; his features were handsome, but they had a
very cross, disagreeable expression. He held the newspaper nearly level
with his face, and I saw that his eyes, instead of being on it, were
watching the movements of Mrs. Edwin Barley. She was at the piano, not
so much singing or playing, as trying scraps of songs and pieces; Mr.
Heneage standing by and talking to her. I went quietly round by the
chairs at the back, and sat down on the low footstool at the corner of
the hearth. The clergyman saw me and smiled. Mr. Barley did not; he
stood with his back to me. He also seemed to be watching the piano, or
those at it, while he spoke in a low, confidential tone with the
clergyman.

"I disagree with you entirely, Barley," Mr. Martin was saying. "Rely
upon it, he will be all the better and happier for following a
profession. Why! at Easter he made up his mind to read for the Bar!"

"Young men are changeable as the wind, especially those whom fortune
has placed at ease in the world," replied Mr. Barley. "Philip was
red-hot for the Bar at Easter, as you observe; but something appears to
have set him against it now."

"You, as his guardian and trustee, should urge him to take it up; or,
if not that, something else. A life of idleness plays the very ruin
with some natures; and it strikes me that Philip King has no great
resources within him to counteract the mischief of non-occupation. What
is the amount of his property?" resumed Mr. Martin, after a pause.

"About eighteen hundred pounds a year the estate brings in."

"Nonsense! I thought it was only ten or twelve."

"Eighteen, full. Reginald's was a long minority, you know."

"Well, if it brought in eight-and-twenty, I should still say give him a
profession. Let him have some legitimate work; occupy his hands and his
head, and they won't get into mischief. That's sound advice, mind,
Barley."

"Quite sound," rejoined Mr. Barley; but there was a tone in his voice
throughout that to me seemed to tell either of want of sincerity or
else of a knowledge that to urge a profession on Philip King would be
wrong and useless. At this period of my life people used to reproach me
with taking up prejudices, likes, and dislikes; as I grew older, I knew
that God had gifted me in an eminent degree with the faculty of reading
human countenances and human tones.

"I have no power to force a profession upon him," resumed Mr. Edwin
Barley; "and I should not exercise it if I had. Shall I tell you why?"

"Well?"

"I don't think his lungs are sound. In my opinion, he is likely to go
off as his brother did."

"Of consumption!" hastily muttered the clergyman: and Mr. Edwin Barley
nodded.

"Therefore, why urge him to fag at acquiring a profession that he may
not live to exercise?" continued Mr. Barley. "He looks anything but
well; he is nothing like as robust as he was at Easter."

Mr. Martin turned his head and attentively scanned the face of Philip
King. "I don't see anything the matter with him, Barley, except that he
looks uncommonly cross. I hope you are mistaken."

"I hope I am. I saw a whole row of medicine phials in his room
yesterday: when I inquired what they did there, he told me they
contained steel medicine—tonics—the physician at Oxford had ordered
them. Did you ever notice him at dinner—what he eats?"

"Not particularly."

"Do so, then, on the next opportunity. He takes scarcely anything. The
commencement of Reginald's malady was loss of appetite: the doctors
prescribed tonics for him. But they did not succeed in saving him."

Once more Mr. Martin turned his eyes on Philip King. "How old was
Reginald King when he died?"

"Twenty-three. Three years older than Philip is now."

"Well, poor fellow, I hope he will outlive his weakness, whatever may
cause it, and get strong again. That money of his would be a nice
windfall for somebody to drop into," added the clergyman, after a
pause. "Who is heir-at-law?"

"I am."

"You!"

"Of course I am," was the quiet reply of Mr. Edwin Barley.

"Nurse him up, nurse him up, then," said the clergyman, jokingly.
"Lest, if anything did happen, the world should say you had not done
your best to prevent it; for you know you are a dear lover of money,
Barley."

There may have been a great deal more said, but I did not hear. My head
had sought the wall for its resting-place, and sleep stole over me.

What I felt most glad of, the next morning, was to get my purse. There
were twenty-seven shillings in it; and old Betty had caused it to be
put in one of the boxes, vexing me. "People in the train might rob me
of it," she said.

Jemima waited on me at dressing, and I had breakfast in Miss Delves's
parlour. Afterwards I went up to Mrs. Edwin Barley in the drawing-room.
She was in mourning, deep as mine.

"I had been tempted to put it off for a cool dress yesterday evening,"
she said to me. "What with the dinner, and the fire they _will_ have,
though I am sure it is not weather for it, I feel melted in black. The
fire is kept large to please Philip King. So Miss Delves informed me
when I remonstrated against it the other day. He must be of a chilly
nature."

Remembering what I had heard said the previous night, I thought he
might be. But the words had afforded the opportunity for a question
that I was longing, in my curiosity, to put.

"Selina, who is Miss Delves? Is she a lady or a servant?"

"You had better not call her a servant, Anne; she would never forgive
it," answered Selina, with a laugh. "She is a relative of Mr. Edwin
Barley's."

"Then, why does she not sit with you, and dine at table?"

"Because I do not choose that she shall sit with me, and dine at
table," was the resentful, haughty retort; and I could see that there
had been some past unpleasantness in regard to Miss Delves. "When Mr.
Edwin Barley's mother died, who used to live with him, Charlotte Delves
came here as mistress of the house. That was all very well so long as
there was no legitimate mistress, but ages went on, and I came to it.
She assumed a great deal; I found she was planted down at table with
us, and made herself my companion in the drawing-room at will. I did
not like it; and one day I told my husband so in her presence. I said
that I must be the sole mistress in my own house, and quitted the room,
leaving them to settle it. Since then she has taken the parlour for her
sitting-room, and looks to the household, as she did before. In short,
Miss Delves is housekeeper. I have no objection to that; it saves me
trouble, and I know nothing of domestic management. Now and then I
invite her to take tea with us, or to a drive with me in the pony
carriage, and we are vastly polite to each other always."

"But if you do not like her——"

"Like her!" interrupted Selina. "My dear child, we hate each other like
poison. It was not in human nature, you know, for her not to feel my
entrance to the house as a _wrong_, displacing her from her high post,
and from the influence she had contrived to acquire over Mr. Edwin
Barley. They were as intimate as brother and sister; and I believe he
is the only living being she cares for in the whole world. When I took
a high tone with her, it exasperated her all the more against me,
there's no doubt of it; and she repays it by carrying petty tales of me
to Mr. Edwin Barley."

"And whose part did he take, Selina!"

"MINE, of course—always?" she returned, with a forcible emphasis on the
first word. "But it has never been open warfare between me and Miss
Delves, Anne; you must understand that. Should anything of the sort
supervene, she would have to quit the house. A bitter pill that would
be, for she has no money, and would have to go out as housekeeper in
reality, or something of the kind. My occupation would be gone then."

"What occupation?"

"The saying and doing all sorts of wild things to make her think ill of
me. She goes and whispers them to Mr. Edwin Barley. He listens to her—I
know he does, and that provokes me. Well, little pet, what are those
honest brown eyes of yours longing to say?"

"Why did you marry him, Selina?"

"People say for money, Anne. I say it was fate."

"He persuaded you, perhaps?"

"He did. Persuaded, pressed, worried me. He was two years talking me
into it. Better, perhaps, that he had given his great love elsewhere!
Better for him, possibly, that he had married Charlotte Delves!"

"But did he want to marry Charlotte Delves?"

"Never. I don't believe that even the thought ever entered his head.
The servants say she used to hope it; but they rattle nonsense at
random. Edwin Barley never cared but for two things in the world:
myself and money."

"Money?"

"Money, Anne. Pretty little pieces of gold and silver; new, crisp
bank-notes; yellow old deeds of parchment, representing houses and
lands. He cares for money almost as much as for me; and he'll care for
it more than for me in time. Who's this?"

It was Philip King. He came in, looking more cross, if possible, than
he did the previous night. His face shone out sickly, too, in the
bright morning sun. Selina spoke, but did not offer her hand.

"Good morning, Mr. King; I hope you feel better to-day. You did not get
down to breakfast, I understand. Neither did I?"

"I did get down to breakfast," he answered, speaking as if something
had very much put him out. "I took it with Mr. Edwin Barley in his
study."

"Leaving George Heneage to breakfast alone. You two polite men! Had I
known that, I would have come down and breakfasted with him."

That she said this in a spirit of mischief, in a manner most especially
calculated to provoke him, I saw by the saucy look that shot from her
bright blue eyes.

"I think you and Heneage breakfast together quite often enough as it
is, Mrs. Edwin Barley."

"You do? Then, if I were you, sir, I would have the good manners to
keep such thoughts to myself; or tell them to Mr. Edwin Barley, if you
like. He might offer you a premium for them—who knows?"

Philip King was getting into an angry heat.

"I hope you have tolerably strong shoulders," she resumed, as if struck
with some sudden thought.

"Why so?"

"George Heneage intends to try his cane upon them on the next
convenient day."

His lips turned white.

"Mrs. Barley, what do you mean?"

"Just what I say. You have taken to peep and pry after me—whether set
on by any one, or from some worthy motive of your own, you best know.
It will not serve you, Philip King. If there be one thing more
detestable than another, it is that of spying. I happened to mention
this new pastime of yours before Mr. Heneage, and he observed that he
had a cane somewhere. That's all."

The intense aggravation with which she said it was enough to rouse the
ire of one less excitable than Philip King. He was breaking out in
abuse of Mr. Heneage, when the latter happened to come in. A few
menacing words, a dark look or two from either side, and then came the
quarrel.

A quarrel that terrified me. I ran out of the room; I ran back again; I
don't know what I did. Mrs. Edwin Barley seemed nearly as excited as
they were: it was not the first time I had seen her in a passion. She
called out (taking the words from the old ballad, "Lord Thomas"), that
she cared more for the little finger of George Heneage than for the
whole body of ill-conditioned Philip King. I knew it was only one of
her wild sayings: when in a passion she did not mind what she said, or
whom she offended. I knew that this present quarrel was altogether
Selina's fault—that her love of provocation had brought it on. Mr.
Edwin Barley had gone over to his brother's; and it was well, perhaps,
that it was so.

Jemima appeared on the stairs, carrying up a pail—there was no back
staircase to the house. "What is the matter, Miss Hereford?" she asked.
"Goodness me! how you are trembling!"

"They are quarrelling in there—Mr. Heneage and Mr. King. I am afraid
they will fight."

"Oh, it has come to that, has it?" said Jemima, carelessly. "I thought
it would. Never mind them, Miss Hereford; they'll not hurt you."

She tripped upstairs with the pail, as if a quarrel were the most
natural event in the world, and I looked into the room again. Mr.
Heneage held Philip King by the collar of the coat.

"Mark me!" he was saying; "if I catch you dodging my movements again,
if I hear of your being insolent to this lady, I'll shoot you with as
little compunction as I would a partridge. There!"

"What is Mrs. Edwin Barley to you, that you should interfere?" retorted
Philip King, his voice raised to a shriek. "And she! Why does she set
herself to provoke me every hour of my life?"

"I interfere of right: by my long friendship with her, and by the
respect I bear for her mother's memory. Now you know."

Mr. Heneage gave a shake to the collar as he spoke, and I ran up to my
room, there to sob out my fit of terror. My heart was beating, my
breath catching itself in gasps. In my own peaceful home I had never
seen or heard the faintest shadow of a quarrel.

By-and-by Jemima came in search of me. Mrs. Edwin Barley was waiting
for me to go out in the pony carriage. I washed my face and my red
eyes, was dressed, and went down. At the door stood a low open
basket-chaise, large and wide, drawn by a pony. Mrs. Edwin Barley was
already in it, and Mr. Heneage stood waiting for me. He drove, and I
sat on a stool at their feet. We went through green lanes, and over a
pleasant common. Not a word was said about the recent quarrel; but part
of the time they spoke together in an undertone, and I did not try to
hear. We were away about two hours.

"You can run about the grounds until your dinner's ready, if you like,
Anne," Mrs. Barley said to me when we alighted. "I daresay you feel
cramped, sitting so long on that low seat."

She went in with Mr. Heneage, the footman saying that some ladies were
waiting. I ran away amidst the trees, and presently lost myself. As I
stood, wondering which way to take, Mr. Edwin Barley and Philip King
came through, arm-in-arm, on their way home, talking together eagerly.
I thought Philip King was telling about the quarrel.

It was no doubt unfortunate that my acquaintance with Mr. Edwin Barley
should have begun with a fright. I was a most impressionable child, and
_could not_ get over that first fear. Every time I met him, my heart,
as the saying runs, leaped into my mouth. He saw me and spoke.

"So you have got back, Anne Hereford?"

"Yes, sir," I answered, my lips feeling as if they were glued together.

"Where's Mrs. Barley?"

"She is gone indoors, sir."

"And George Heneage. Where's he?"

"He went in also, sir. John said some visitors were waiting to see Mrs.
Barley."

And to that he made no rejoinder, but went on with Philip King.

Nothing more occurred that day to disturb the peace of the house. A
gentleman, who called in the afternoon, was invited to dine, and
stayed. Mrs. Edwin Barley rang for me as soon as she went up to the
drawing-room. I thought how lovely she looked in her black net dress,
and with the silver ornaments on her neck and arms.

"What did you think of Mr. Philip King's temper this morning, Anne?"
she asked, as she stood near the fire and sipped the cup of coffee that
John had brought in.

"Oh, Selina! I never was so alarmed before."

"You little goose! But it was a specimen, was it not, of gentlemanly
bearing?"

"I think—I mean I thought—that it was not Mr. King who was in fault," I
said; not, however, liking to say it.

"You thought it was George Heneage, I suppose. Ah! but you don't know
all, Anne; the scenes behind the curtain are hidden to you. Philip King
has wanted a chastisement this fortnight past; and he got it. Unless he
alters his policy, he will get one of a different nature. Mr. Heneage
will as surely cane him as that I stand here."

"Why do you like Mr. Heneage so much, Selina?"

"I like him better than anybody I know, Anne. Not with the sort of
liking, however, that Mr. Philip King would insinuate, the worthy
youth! Though it is great fun," she added, with a merry laugh, "to let
the young gentleman think I do. I have known George Heneage a long
while: he used to visit at Keppe-Carew, and be as one of ourselves. I
could not like a brother, if I had one, more than I do George Heneage.
And Mr. Philip King, and his ally, Charlotte Delves, tell tales of me
to my husband! It is as good as a comedy."

A comedy! If she could but have foreseen the comedy's ending!

On the following morning, Saturday, they all went out shooting again.
Mrs. Edwin Barley had visitors in the forenoon, and afterwards she
drove over to Hallam in the pony carriage, with the little boy-groom
Tom, not taking me. I was anywhere—with Charlotte Delves; with Jemima;
reading a fairy-tale I found; playing "Poor Mary Anne" on the piano. As
it grew towards dusk, and nobody came home, I went strolling down the
avenue, and met the pony carriage. Only Tom was in it.

"Where is Mrs. Edwin Barley?"

"She is coming on, Miss, with Mr. Heneage. He came up to the lodge-gate
just as we got back."

I went to the end of the avenue, but did not see her. The woman at the
lodge said they had taken the path on the left, which would equally
bring them to the house, though by a greater round. I ran along it, and
came to the pretty summer-house that stood where the ornamental grounds
were railed off from the pasture at the back and the wood beyond. At
the foot of the summer-house steps my aunt stood, straining her eyes on
a letter, in the fading light; George Heneage was looking over her
shoulder, a gun in his hand.

"You see what they say," he observed. "Rather peremptory, is it not?"

"George, you must go by the first train that starts from Nettleby," she
returned. "You should not lose a minute; the pony carriage will take
you. Is that you, Anne?"

"I would give something to know what's up, and why I am called for in
this fashion," was his rejoinder, spoken angrily. "They might let me
alone until the term I was invited for here is at an end."

Mrs. Edwin Barley laughed. "Perhaps our friend, Philip King, has
favoured Heneage Grange with a communication, telling of your fancied
misdoings."

No doubt she spoke it lightly, neither believing her own words nor
heeding the fashion of them. But George Heneage took them seriously;
and it unfortunately happened that she ran up the steps at the same
moment. A stir was heard in the summer-house. Mr. Heneage dashed in in
time to see Philip King escaping by the opposite door.

The notion that he had been "spying" was, of course, taken up by Mr.
Heneage. With a passionate word, he was speeding after him; but Mrs.
Edwin Barley caught his arm.

"George, you shall not go. There might be murder done between you."

"I'll pay him off; I'll make him remember it! Pray release me. I beg
your pardon, Selina."

For he had flung her hand away with rather too much force, in his storm
of passion; and was crashing through the opposite door, and down the
steps, in pursuit of Philip King. Both of them made straight for the
wood; but Philip King had a good start, and nothing in his hand; George
Heneage had his gun. Selina alluded to it.

"I hope it is not loaded! Flying along with that speed, he might strike
it against a tree, and be shot before he knows it. Anne, look here! You
are fleeter than I. Run you crossways over that side grass to the
corner entrance; it will take you to a path in the wood where you will
just meet them. Tell Mr. Heneage from me, that I _command_ him to come
back, and to let Philip King alone. I command it, in his mother's
name."

I did not dare to refuse, and yet scarcely dared to go. I ran along, my
heart beating. Arrived at the entrance indicated I plunged in, and went
on down many turns and windings amidst the trees. They were not very
thick, and were intersected by narrow paths. But no one could I see.

And now arrived a small calamity. I had lost my way. How to trace an
exit from the wood I knew not, and felt really frightened. Down I sat
on an old stump, and cried. What if I should have to stay there until
morning!

Not so. A slight noise made me look up. Who should be standing near,
his back against a tree, smoking a cigar and smiling at me, but Philip
King.

"What is the grief, Miss Anne? Have you met a wolf?"

"I can't find my way out, sir."

"Oh, I'll soon show you that. We are almost close to the south border.
You——"

He stopped suddenly, turned his head, and looked attentively in a
direction to the left. At that moment there came a report, something
seemed to whizz through the air, and strike Philip King. He leaped up,
and then fell to the ground with a scream. This was followed so
instantly that it seemed to be part and parcel of the scream, by a
distant exclamation of dismay or of warning. From whom did it come?

Though not perfectly understanding what had occurred, or that Philip
King had received a fatal shot, I screamed also, and fell on my knees;
not fainting, but with a sick, horrible sensation of fear, such as
perhaps no child ever before experienced. And the next thing I saw was
Mr. Edwin Barley, coming towards us with his gun, not quite from the
same direction as the shot, but very near it. I had been thinking that
George Heneage must have done it, but another question arose now to my
terrified heart: Could it have been Mr. Edwin Barley?

"Philip, what is it?" he asked, as he came up. "Has any one fired at
you?"

"George Heneage," was the faint rejoinder. "I saw him. He stood there."

With a motion of the eyes, rather than with aught else, poor Philip
King pointed to the left, and Mr. Edwin Barley turned and looked,
laying his gun against a tree. Nothing was to be seen.

"Are you sure, Philip?"

"I tell it you with my dying lips. I saw him."

Not another word. Mr. Edwin Barley raised his head, but the face had
grown still, and had an awful shade upon it—the same shade that mamma's
first wore after she was dead. Mr. Barley put the head gently down, and
stood looking at him. All in a moment he caught sight of me, and I
think it startled him.

"Are _you_ there, you little imp?"

But the word, ugly though it sounds, was spoken in rough surprise, not
in unkindness. I cried and shook, too terrified to give any answer. Mr.
Barley stood up before Philip King, so that I no longer saw him.

"What were you doing in the wood?"

"I lost my way, and could not get out sir," I sobbed, trembling lest he
should press for further details. "That gentleman saw me, and was
saying he would show me the way out, when he fell."

"Had he been here long?"

"I don't know. I was crying a good while, and not looking up. It was
only a minute ago that I saw him standing there."

"Did you see Mr. Heneage fire?"

"Oh no, sir. I did not see Mr. Heneage at all."

He took my hand, walked with me a few steps, and showed me a path that
was rather wider than the others. "Go straight down here until you come
to a cross-path, running right and left: it is not far. Take the one to
the right, and it will bring you out in front of the house. Do you
understand, little one?"

"Yes, sir," I answered, though, in truth, too agitated to understand
distinctly, and only anxious to get away from him. Suppose he should
shoot me! was running through my foolish thoughts.

"Make speed to the house, then," he resumed, "and see Charlotte Delves.
Tell her what has occurred: that Philip King has been shot, and that
she must send help to convey him home. She must also send at once for
the doctor, and for the police. Can you remember all that?"

"Oh yes, sir. Is he much hurt?"

"He is dead, child. Now be as quick as you can. Do not tell your aunt
what has happened: it would alarm her."

I sped along quicker than any child ever sped before, and soon came to
the cross-path. But there I made a mistake: I went blindly on to the
left, instead of to the right, and I came suddenly upon Mr. Heneage. He
was standing quite still, leaning on his gun, his finger on his lip to
impose silence and caution on me, and his face looked as I had never
seen it look before, white as death.

"Whose voice was that I heard talking to you?" he asked, in a whisper.

"Mr. Edwin Barley's. Oh, sir, don't stop me; Mr. King is dead!"

"Dead! Mr. King dead?"

"Yes, sir. Mr. Edwin Barley says so, and I am on my way to the house to
tell Miss Delves to send for the police. Mr. Heneage, did you do it?"

"I! You silly child!" he returned, in an accent of rebuke. "What in the
world put that in your head? I have been looking for Philip
King—waiting here in the hope that he might pass. There, go along,
child, and don't tremble so. That way: you are coming from the house,
this."

Back I went, my fears increasing. To an imaginative, excitable, and
timid nature, such as mine, all this was simply terrible. I did gain
the house, but only to rush into the arms of Jemima, who happened to be
in the hall, and fall into a fit of hysterical, nervous, sobbing cries,
clinging to her tightly, as if I could never let her go again.

A pretty messenger, truly, in time of need!



CHAPTER III.
GOING OUT IN THE FOG.

Help had arrived from another quarter. A knot of labourers on the
estate, going home from work, happened to choose the road through the
wood, and Mr. Edwin Barley heard them.

One of them, a young man they called Duff, was at the house almost as
soon as I. He came into the hall, and saw me clinging to Jemima.
Nothing could have stopped my threatened fit of hysterics so
effectually as an interruption. Duff told his tale. The young heir had
been shot in the wood, he said. "Shot dead!"

"The young heir!" cried Jemima, with a cry. She was at no loss to
understand who was meant: it was what Philip King had been mostly
styled since his brother's death. Charlotte Delves came forward as Duff
was speaking. Duff took off his felt hat in deference to her, and
explained.

She turned as white as a sheet—white as George Heneage had looked—and
sat down on a chair. Duff had not mentioned George Heneage's name, only
Mr. Edwin Barley's: perhaps she thought it was the latter who had fired
the shot.

"It must have been an accident, Duff. They are so careless with their
guns!"

"No, ma'am, it was murder! Leastways, that's what they are saying."

"He cannot be dead."

"He's as dead as a door-nail!" affirmed Duff, with decision. "I can't
be mistaken in a dead man. I've seen enough of 'em, father being the
grave-digger. They are bringing him on, ma'am, now."

Even as Duff spoke, sounds of the approach stole on the air from the
distance—the measured tread of feet that bear a burden. It came nearer
and nearer; and Philip King, or what was left of him, was laid on the
large table in the hall. As is the case in some country houses, the
hall was furnished like a plain room. Duff, making ready, had pushed
the table close to the window, between the wall and the entrance-door,
shutting me into a corner. I sank down on the matting, not daring to
move.

"Light the lamp," said Mr. Edwin Barley.

The news had spread; the servants crowded in; some of the women began
to shriek. It became one indescribable scene of confusion,
exclamations, and alarm. Mr. Edwin Barley turned round, in anger.

"Clear out, all of you!" he said, roughly. "What do you mean by making
this uproar? You men can stay in the barn, you may be wanted," he
added, to the out-door labourers.

They crowded out at the hall-door; the servants disappeared through the
opposite one. Mr. Edwin Barley was one who brooked no delay in being
obeyed. Miss Delves remained, and she drew near.

"How did it happen?" she asked, in a low voice, that did not sound much
like hers.

"Get me some brandy, and a teaspoon!" was Mr. Edwin Barley's rejoinder.
"He is certainly dead, as I believe; but we must try restoratives, for
all that. Make haste; bring it in a wine-glass."

She ran into the dining-room, and in the same moment Mrs. Edwin Barley
came lightly down the stairs. She had on her dinner-dress, black silk
trimmed with crape, no ornaments yet, and her lovely light hair was
hanging down on her bare neck. The noise, as it appeared, had disturbed
her in the midst of dressing.

"What is all this disturbance?" she began, as she tripped across the
hall, and it was the first intimation Mr. Edwin Barley had of her
presence. He might have arrested her, had there been time; but she was
bending over the table too soon. Believing, as she said afterwards,
that it was a load of game lying there, it must have been a great
shock; the grey-and-brown woollen plaid they had flung over him, from
the neck downwards, looking not unlike the colour of partridge feathers
in the dim light. There was no gas in the house; oil was burnt in the
hall and passages—wax-candles in the sitting-rooms.

"It is Philip King!" she cried, with a sort of shriek. "What is the
matter? What is amiss with him?"

"Don't you see what it is?" returned Mr. Edwin Barley, who was all this
while chafing the poor cold hands. "He has been shot in the chest;
marked out in the wood, and shot down like a dog."

A cry of dread—of fear—broke from her. She began to tremble violently.
"How was it done, Edwin? Who did it?"

"You."

"_I!_" came from her ashy lips. "Are you going mad, Edwin Barley?"

"Selina, this is as surely the result of your work as though you had
actually drawn the trigger. I hope you are satisfied with it!"

"How can you be so cruel?" she asked, her bosom heaving, her breath
bursting from her in gasps.

He had spoken to her in a low, calm tone—not an angry one. It changed
to sorrow now.

"I thought harm would come of it; I have thought so these two days;
not, however, such harm as this. You have been urging that fellow a
little too much against this defenceless ward and relative of mine; but
I could not have supposed he would carry it on to murder. Philip King
would have died quite soon enough without that, Selina; he was
following Reginald with galloping strides."

Charlotte Delves returned with a teaspoon and the brandy in a
wine-glass. As is sure to be the case in an emergency, there had been
an unavoidable delay. The spirit-stand was not in its place, and for a
minute or two she had been unable to find it. Mr. Edwin Barley took up
a teaspoonful. His wife drew away.

"Was it an accident, or—or—done deliberately?" inquired Charlotte
Delves, as she stood there, holding the glass.

"It was deliberate murder!"

"Duff said so. But who did it?"

"It is of no use, Charlotte," was all the reply Mr. Barley made, as he
gave her back the teaspoon. "He is quite dead."

Hasty footsteps were heard running along the avenue, and up the steps
to the door. They proved to be those of Mr. Lowe, the surgeon from
Hallam.

"I was walking over to Smith's to dinner, Mr. Edwin Barley, and met one
of your labourers coming for me," he exclaimed, in a loud tone, as he
entered. "He said some accident had happened to young King."

"Accident enough," said Mr. Edwin Barley. "Here he lies."

For a few moments nothing more was said. Mr. Lowe was stooping over the
table.

"I was trying to give him some brandy when you came in."

"He'll never take brandy or anything else again," was the reply of Mr.
Lowe. "He is dead."

"As I feared. Was as sure of it, in fact, as a non-professional man can
well be. I believe that he died in the wood, a minute after the shot
struck him."

"How did it happen?" asked the surgeon. "These young fellows are so
careless!"

"I'll tell you all I know," said Mr. Barley. "We had been out
shooting—he, I, and Heneage, with the two keepers. He and Heneage were
not upon good terms; they were sour with each other as could be; had
been cross and crabbed all day. Coming home, Heneage dropped us;
whether to go forward, or to lag behind, I am unable to say. After
that, we met Smith—as he can tell you, if you are going to his house.
He stopped me about that right-of-common business, and began discussing
what would be our better mode of proceeding against the fellows. Philip
King, whom it did not interest, said he should go on, and Smith and I
sat down on the bench outside the beer-shop, and called for a pint of
cider. Half-an-hour we may have sat there, and then, I started for home
through the wood, which cuts off the corner——"

"Philip King having gone forward, did you say?" interrupted the
surgeon.

"Yes. I was nearly through the wood, when I heard a slight movement
near me, and then a gun was fired. A terrible scream—the scream of a
man, Lowe—succeeded in an opposite direction. I pushed through the
trees, and saw Philip King. He had leaped up with the shot, and was
then falling to the ground. I went to his succour, and asked who had
done it. 'George Heneage,' was his answer. He had seen him raise his
gun, take aim, and fire upon him."

Crouching down there on the matting, trembling though I was, an impulse
prompted me to interrupt: to say that Mr. Edwin Barley's words went
beyond the truth. All that Philip King had said was, that he saw George
Heneage, saw him stand there. But fear was more powerful than impulse,
and I remained silent. How could I dare contradict Mr. Edwin Barley?

"It must have been an accident," said Mr. Lowe. "Heneage must have
aimed at a bird."

"There's no doubt that it was deliberate murder!" replied Mr. Edwin
Barley. "My ward affirmed it to me with his dying lips. They were his
own words. I expressed a doubt, as you are doing. 'It was Heneage,' he
said; 'I tell it you with my dying lips.' A bad man!—a villain!" Mr.
Barley emphatically added. "Another day or two, and I should have
kicked him out of my house; I waited but a decent pretext."

"If he is that, why did you have him in it?" asked the surgeon.

"Because it is but recently that my eyes have been opened to him and
his ways. This poor fellow," pointing to the dead, "lifted their scales
for me in the first instance. Pity the other is not the one to be lying
here!"

Sounds of hysterical emotion were heard on the stairs: they came from
Mrs. Edwin Barley. It appeared that she had been sitting on the lowest
step all this while, her face bent on her knees, and must have heard
what passed. Mr. Barley, as if wishing to offer an apology for her,
said she had just looked on Philip King's face, and it had frightened
her much.

Mr. Lowe tried to persuade her to retire from the scene, but she would
not, and there she sat on, growing calm by degrees. The surgeon
measured something in a teaspoon into a wine-glass, filled it up with
cold water, and made her drink it. He then took his leave, saying that
he would call again in the course of the evening. Not a minute had he
been gone, when Mr. Martin burst into the hall.

"What is this report?" he cried, in agitation. "People are saying that
Philip King is killed."

"They might have said murdered," said Mr. Edwin Barley. "Heneage shot
him in the wood."

"Heneage!"

"Heneage. Took aim, and fired at him, and killed him. There never was a
case of more deliberate murder."

That Mr. Edwin Barley was actuated by intense animus as he said this,
the tone proved.

"Poor fellow!" said the clergyman, gently, as he leaned over him and
touched his face. "I have seen for some days they were not cordial.
What ill-blood could have been between them?"

"Heneage had better explain that when he makes his defence," said Mr.
Edwin Barley, grimly.

"It is but a night or two ago that we were speculating on his health,
upon his taking a profession; we might have spared ourselves the pains,
poor lad. I asked you, who was his heir-at-law, little thinking another
would so soon inherit."

Mr. Edwin Barley made no reply.

"Why—good heavens!—is that Mrs. Barley sitting there?" he inquired, in
a low tone, as his eyes fell on the distant stairs.

"She won't move away. These things do terrify women. Don't notice her,
Martin: she will be better left to herself."

"Upon my word, this is a startling and sudden blow," resumed the
clergyman, again recurring to the death. "But you must surely be
mistaken in calling it murder."

"There's no mistake about it: it was wilful murder. I am as sure of it
as though I had seen the aim taken," persisted Mr. Barley. "And I will
pursue Heneage to the death."

"Have you secured him? If it really is murder, he must answer for it.
Where is he?"

Mr. Barley spoke a passionate word. It was a positive fact—account for
it, any one that can—that until that moment he had never given a
thought to the securing of George Heneage. "What a fool I have been!"
he exclaimed, "what an idiot! He has had time to escape."

"He cannot have escaped far."

"Stay here, will you, Martin. I'll send the labourers after him; he may
be hiding in the wood until the night's darker."

Mr. Edwin Barley hastened from the hall, and the clergyman bent over
the table again. I had my face turned to him, and was scarcely
conscious, until it had passed, of something dark that glided from the
back of the hall, and followed Mr. Barley out. With him gone, to whom I
had taken so unaccountable a dislike and dread, it was my favourable
moment for escape; I seemed to fear him more than poor Philip King on
the table. But nervous terror held possession of me still, and in
moving I cried out in spite of myself. The clergyman looked round.

"I declare it is little Miss Hereford!" he said, very kindly, as he
took my hand. "What brought you there, my dear?"

I sobbed out the explanation. That I had been pushed into the corner by
the table, and was afraid to move. "Don't tell, sir, please! Mr. Edwin
Barley might be angry with me. Don't tell him I was there."

"He would not be angry at a little girl's very natural fears," answered
Mr. Martin, stroking my hair. "But I will not tell him. Will you stay
by your aunt, Mrs. Edwin Barley?"

"Yes, please, sir."

"But where _is_ Mrs. Barley?" he resumed, as he led me towards the
stairs.

"I was wondering, too," interposed Charlotte Delves, who stood at the
dining-room door. "A minute ago she was still sitting there. I turned
into the room for a moment, and when I came back she was gone."

"She must have gone upstairs, Miss Delves."

"I suppose she has, Mr. Martin," was Miss Delves's reply. But a thought
came over me that it must have been Mrs. Edwin Barley who had glided
out at the hall-door.

And, in point of fact, it was. She was sought for upstairs, and could
not be found; she was sought for downstairs, all in vain. Whither had
she gone? On what errand was she bent? One of those raw, damp fogs,
prevalent in the autumn months, had come on, making the air wet, as if
with rain, and she had no out-door things on, no bonnet, and her black
silk dress had a low body and short sleeves. Was she with her husband,
searching the wood for George Heneage?

The dark oak-door that shut out the passage leading to the domains of
the servants was pushed open, and Jemima's head appeared at it. I ran
and laid hold of her.

"Oh, Jemima, let me stay by you!"

"Hark!" she whispered, putting her arm round me. "There are horses
galloping up to the house."

Two police-officers, mounted. They gave their horses in charge to one
of the men-servants, and came into the hall, the scabbards of their
swords clanking against the steps.

"I don't like the look of them," whispered Jemima. "Let us go away."

She took me to the kitchen. Sarah, Mary, and the cook were in it; the
latter a tall, stout woman, with a rosy colour and black eyes. Her
chief concern seemed to be for the dinner.

"Look here," she exclaimed to Jemima, as she stood over her saucepans,
"everything's a-spiling. Who's to know whether they'll have it served
in one hour or in two?"

"I should think they wouldn't have it served at all," returned Jemima:
"that sight in the hall's enough dinner for them to-day, one would
suppose. The police are come now."

"Ah, it is bad, I know," said the cook. "And the going to look at it
took everything else out of my head, worse luck to me! I forgot my
soles were on the fire, and when I got back they were burnt to the pan.
I've had to skin 'em now, and put 'em into wine sauce. Who's this
coming in?"

It was Miss Delves. The cook appealed to her about the dinner.

"It won't be eatable, ma'am, if it's kept much longer. Some of the
dishes is half cold, and some's dried up to a scratchin'."

"There's no help for it, cook; you must manage it in the best way you
can," was Miss Delves's reply. "It is a dreadful thing to have
happened, but I suppose dinner must be served all the same for the
master and Mrs. Edwin Barley."

"Miss Delves, is it true what they are saying—that it was Mr. Heneage
who did it?" inquired Sarah.

"Suppose you trouble yourself with your own affairs, and let alone what
does not concern you," was Miss Delves's reprimand.

She left the kitchen. Jemima made a motion of contempt after her, and
gave the door a bang.

"She'll put in _her_ word against Mr. Heneage, I know; for she didn't
like him. But I am confident it was never he that did it—unless his gun
went off accidental."

For full an hour by the clock we stayed in the kitchen, uninterrupted,
the cook reducing herself to a state of despair over the uncalled-for
dinner. The men-servants had been sent out, some to one place, some to
another. The cook served us some coffee and bread-and-butter, but I
don't think any one of us touched the latter. I thought by that time my
aunt must surely have come in, and asked Jemima to take me upstairs to
her. A policeman was in the hall as we passed across the back of it,
and Charlotte Delves and Mr. Martin were sitting in the dining-room,
the door open. Mrs. Edwin Barley was nowhere to be found, and we went
back to the kitchen. I began to cry; a dreadful fear came upon me that
she might have gone away for ever, and left me to the companionship of
Mr. Edwin Barley.

"Come and sit down here, child," said the cook, in a motherly way, as
she placed a low stool near the fire. "It's enough to frighten her,
poor little stranger, to have this happen, just as she comes into the
house."

"I say, though, where can the mistress be!" Jemima said to her, in a
low tone, as I drew the stool into the shade and sat down, leaning my
head against the wall.

Presently Miss Delves's bell rang. The servants said they always knew
her ring—it came with a jerk. Jemima went to answer it. It was for some
hot water, which she took up. Somebody was going to have
brandy-and-water, she said; perhaps Mr. Martin—she did not know. Her
master was in the hall then, and Mr. Barley, of the Oaks, was with him.

"Who's Mr. Barley of the Oaks, Jemima?" I asked.

"He is master's elder brother, Miss. He lives at the Oaks, about three
miles from here. Such a nice place it is—ten times better than this.
When the old gentleman died, Mr. Barley came into the Oaks, and Mr.
Edwin into this."

Then there was silence again for another half-hour. I sat with my eyes
closed, and heard them say I was asleep. The young farm labourer, Duff,
came in at last.

"Well," said he, "it have been a useless chase. I wonder whether I am
wanted for anything else."

"Where have you been?" asked Jemima.

"Scouring the wood, seven of us, in search of Mr. Heneage: and them two
mounted police is a-dashing about the roads. We haven't found him."

"Duff, Mr. Heneage no more did it than you did."

"That's all you know about it," was Duff's answer. "Master says he
did."

"Have a cup of coffee, Duff?" asked the cook.

"Thank ye," said Duff. "I'd be glad on't."

She was placing the cup before him, when he suddenly leaned forward
from the chair he had taken, speaking in a covert whisper.

"I say, who do you think was in the wood, a-scouring it, up one path
and down another, as much as ever we was?"

"Who?" asked the servants in a breath.

"The young missis. She hadn't got an earthly thing on her but just what
she sits in, indoors. Her hair was down, and her neck and arms was
bare; and there she was, a-racing up and down like one demented."

"Tush!" said the cook. "You must have seen double. What should bring
young madam dancing about the wood, Duff, at this time o' night?"

"I tell ye I see her. I see her three times over. Maybe she was looking
for Mr. Heneage, too. At any rate, there she was, and with nothing on,
as if she'd started out in a hurry, and had forget to dress herself.
And if she don't catch a cold, it's odd to me," added Duff. "The fog's
as thick as pea-soup, and wets you worse than rain. 'Twas enough to
give her her death."

Duff's report was true. As he spoke, a bell called Jemima up again. She
came back, laid hold of me without speaking, and took me to the
drawing-room. Mrs. Edwin Barley stood there, just come in: she was
shaking like a leaf, with the damp and cold, her hair dripping wet.
When she had seen her husband leave the hall in search of George
Heneage, an impulse came over her to follow and interpose between the
anger of the two, should they meet. At least, partly this, partly to
look after George Heneage herself, and warn him to escape. She gave me
this explanation openly.

"I could not find him," she said, kneeling down before the fire, and
holding out her shivering arms to the blaze. "I hope and trust he has
escaped. One man's life is enough for me to have upon my hands, without
having two."

"Oh, Aunt Selina! _you_ did not take Philip King's life!"

"No, I did not take it. And I have been guilty of no intentional wrong.
But I did set the one against the other, Anne—in my vanity and
wilfulness."

Looking back to the child's eyes with which I saw things then, and
judging of these same things with my woman's experience now, I can but
hold Selina Barley entirely to blame. An indulged daughter, born when
her sister Ursula was nearly grown, she had been suffered to have her
own way at Keppe-Carew, and grew up to think the world was made for
her. Dangerously attractive, fond to excess of admiration, she had
probably encouraged Philip King's boyish fancy, and then turned round
upon him for it. At the previous Easter, on his former visit, she had
been all smiles and sweetness; this time she had done nothing but turn
him into ridicule. "What is sport to you may be death to me," says the
fly to the spider. It might not have mattered so much from _her_, this
ridicule; but she pressed George Heneage into the service: and Philip
King was not of a disposition to bear it tamely. His weak health made
him appear somewhat of a coward; he was not strong enough to take the
law into his own hands, and repay Mr. Heneage with personal
chastisement. Selina's liking for George Heneage was no doubt great;
but it was not an improper liking, although the world—the little world
at Mr. Edwin Barley's—might have wished to deem it so. Before she
married Mr. Edwin Barley, she refused George Heneage, and laughed at
him for proposing to her. She should wed a rich man, she told him, or
none at all. It was Mr. Edwin Barley himself who invited Heneage to his
house, and also Philip King, as it most unfortunately happened. His
wife, in her wilful folly—I had almost written her wilful
wickedness—played them off, one upon another. The first day they met,
Philip King took umbrage at some remark of Mr. Heneage's, and Selina,
liking the one, and disliking the other, forthwith began. A few days
on, and young King so far forgot his good manners as to tell her she
"liked that Coxcomb Heneage too much." The reproach made her laugh; but
she, nevertheless, out of pure mischief, did what she could to confirm
Philip King in the impression. He, Philip King, took to talk of this to
Miss Delves; he took to watch Selina and George Heneage; there could be
little doubt that he carried tales of his observation to Mr. Edwin
Barley, which only incited Selina to persevere; the whole thing amused
her immensely. What passed between Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Barley, in
private about it, whether anything or nothing, was never known. At the
moment of the accident he was exceedingly vexed with her; _incensed_
may be the proper word.

And poor Philip King! perhaps, after all, his death may have been a
mistake—if it was in truth George Heneage that it proceeded from.
Circumstances, as they came out, seemed to say that he had not been
"spying," but only taking the short cut through the summer-house on his
way home from shooting; an unusual route, it's true, but not an
impossible one. Seeing them on the other side when he entered it, he
waited until they should proceed onwards; but Mrs. Barley's sudden run
up the steps sent him away. Not that he would avoid them; only make his
escape, without their seeing him, lest he should be accused of the very
thing they did accuse him of—spying. But he was too late; the creaking
of the outer door betrayed him. At least this was the opinion taken up
by Mr. Martin, later, when Selina told the whole truth to him, under
the seal of secrecy.

But Mrs. Edwin Barley was kneeling before the fire in the drawing-room,
with her dripping hair; and I standing by her looking on; and that
first terrible night was not over.

"Selina, why did you stay out in the wet fog?"

"I was looking for him, I tell you, Anne."

"But you had nothing on. You might have caught your death, Duff said."

"And what if I had?" she sharply interrupted. "I'd as soon die as
live."

It was one of her customary random retorts, meaning nothing. Before
more was said, strange footsteps and voices were heard on the stairs.
Selina started up, and looked at herself in the glass.

"I can't let them see me like this," she muttered, clutching her
drooping hair. "You wait here, Anne."

Darting to the side-door she had spoken of as leading to her bedroom,
she pulled it open with a wrench, as if a bolt had given way, and
disappeared, leaving me standing on the hearth-rug.



CHAPTER IV.
VERY ILL.

He who first entered the room was a gentleman of middle age and size.
His complexion was healthy and ruddy; his short dark hair, sprinkled
with grey, was combed down upon the forehead: his countenance was
good-natured and simple. This was Mr. Barley of the Oaks. Not the least
resemblance did he bear to his brother. Following him was one in an
official dress, who was probably superior to a common policeman, for
his manners were good, and Mr. Barley called him "Sir." It was not the
same who had been in the hall.

"Oh, this—this must be the little girl," observed Mr. Barley. "Are you
Mrs. Edwin's niece, my dear—Miss Hereford?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Do you know where she is?"

"In her bedroom, I think, sir."

It had transpired that a quarrel had taken place the previous Friday
between Mr. Heneage and Philip King; and the officer had now been in
the kitchen to question Jemima. Jemima disclaimed all knowledge of the
affair, beyond the fact that she had heard of it from little Miss
Hereford, whom she saw on the stairs, crying and frightened. He had now
come to question me.

"Now, my little maid, try and recollect," said the officer, drawing me
to him. "What did they quarrel about?"

"I don't know, sir," I answered. And I spoke the literal truth, for I
had not understood at the time.

"Can you not recollect?"

"I can recollect," I said, looking at him, and feeling that I did not
shrink from him, though he was a policeman. "Mr. King seemed to have
done something wrong, for Mr. Heneage was angry with him, and called
him a spy; but I did not know what it was that he had done. I was too
frightened to listen; I ran out of the room."

"Then you did not hear what the quarrel was about?"

"I did not understand, sir. Except that they said that Mr. King was
mean, and a spy."

"They!" he repeated, catching me up quickly; "who else was in the
room?"

"My Aunt Selina."

"Then she took Mr. Heneage's part?"

"Yes, sir."

"How did the quarrel end? Amicably, or in evil feeling?"

"I don't know, sir. I went away, and stayed in my bedroom."

"My sister-in-law, Mrs. Edwin, may be able to tell you more about it,
as she was present," interposed Mr. Barley.

"I dare say she can," was the officer's reply. "It seems a curious
thing altogether—that two gentlemen should be visiting at a house, and
one should shoot the other. How long had they been staying here?"

"Let's see," said Mr. Barley, rubbing his forefinger upon his forehead.
"It must be a month, I fancy, sir, since they came. Heneage was here
first: some days before Philip."

"Were they acquainted previously?"

"I—think—not," said Mr. Barley, speaking with hesitation. "Heneage was
here on a short visit in the middle of the summer, but not Philip:
whereas Philip was here at Easter, and the other was not. No, sir, I
believe they were not acquainted before, but my brother can tell you."

"Who is this Mr. Heneage?"

"Don't you know? He is the son of the member for Wexborough. Oh, he is
of very good family—very. A sad blow it will be for them, if things
turn out as black as they look. Will he get clear off, think you?"

"You may depend upon it, he would not have got off far, but for this
confounded fog that has come on," warmly replied the police-officer.
"We shall have him to-morrow, no doubt."

"I never hardly saw such a fog at this time of year," observed Mr.
Barley. "I couldn't see a yard before me as I came along. Upon my word,
it almost seems as if it had come on purpose to screen him."

"Was he a pleasant man, this Heneage?"

"One of the nicest fellows you ever met, sir," was Mr. Barley's
impulsive reply. "The last week or two Edwin seems to have taken some
spite against him; I don't know what was up between them, for my part:
but I liked Heneage, what I saw of him, and thought him an uncommon
good fellow. Mrs. Edwin Barley has known him a long while; my brother
only recently. They all met in London last spring."

"Heneage derives no benefit in any way, by property or otherwise, from
his death?" observed the policeman, speaking half as a question, half
as a soliloquy.

"It's not likely, sir. The only person to benefit is my brother. He
comes in for it all."

The officer raised his eyes. "Your brother comes in for young King's
fortune, Mr. Barley?"

"Yes, he does. And I'll be bound he never gave a thought to the
inheriting of it. How should he, from a young and hearty lad like
Philip? Edwin has croaked over Philip's health of late, said he was
consumptive, and going the way of his brother Reginald; but I saw
nothing amiss with Philip."

"May I ask why you don't inherit, Mr. Barley, being the eldest
brother?"

"He was no blood relation to me. My father married twice, I was the son
of the first wife; Edwin of the second; and Philip King's father and
Edwin's mother were cousins. Philip had no male relative living but my
brother, therefore he comes in for the estate."

Mrs. Edwin Barley appeared at the door, and paused there, as if
listening to the conclusion of the last sentence. Mr. Barley turned and
saw her, and she came forward. She had twisted up her damp hair, and
thrown on a shawl of white China crape. Her eyes were brilliant, her
cheeks carmine—beautiful she looked altogether.

The officer questioned her as to the cause of the quarrel which she had
been present at, but she would give him no satisfactory answer. She
"could not remember;" "Philip King was in the wrong, she knew that;"
"the officer must excuse her talking, for her head ached, and her brain
felt confused." Such was the substance—all, in fact, that he could get
from her. He bowed and withdrew, and Mr. Barley followed him
downstairs, Selina bolting the door after them.

"Now, Anne, I must have a little conversation with you," she said,
drawing me to her as she sat on the low ottoman. And I could see that
she shivered still. She proceeded to question me of what had occurred
after I left her at the summer-house. I told her; and had got to where
Philip King was shot, when she interrupted.

"Good heavens, child! you _saw_ him shot?"

"I heard the noise, and saw him fall. It seemed to come from the spot
where he had been gazing."

"Did you see who did it?" she asked, scarcely above her breath.

"No!"

"Then you saw no one about but Philip King?"

"I saw Mr. Edwin Barley. He was near the spot from whence the shot
seemed to come, looking through the trees and standing still, as if he
wondered what could be amiss. For, oh, Selina! Philip King's scream was
dreadful, and must have been heard a long way."

My aunt caught hold of my arm in a sort of fright. "Anne! what do you
say? You saw _Edwin Barley_ at that spot! Not Mr. Heneage?"

"I did not see Mr. Heneage at all then. I saw only Mr. Edwin Barley. He
came up to Philip King, asking what was the matter."

"Had he his gun with him—Edwin Barley?"

"Yes, he was carrying it."

She dropped my arm, and sat quite still, shrinking as if some blow had
struck her. Two or three minutes passed before she spoke again.

"Go on, Anne. What next? Tell me all that passed, for I suppose you
heard." And I related what I knew, word for word.

"You have not told me all, Anne."

"Yes, I have."

"Did not Philip King say that Mr. Heneage had raised his gun, aimed at
him, and fired?—that he saw him do it?"

"He did not, aunt. He only said what I have told you."

"Lie the first!" she exclaimed, lifting her hand and letting it fall
passionately. "Then you never saw Mr. Heneage?"

"I saw him later." And I went on to tell her of the meeting him through
my taking the wrong turning. I told her all: how he looked like one in
mortal fright; what he said; and of my asking him whether he had done
it.

"Well?" she feverishly interrupted. "Well?"

"He quite denied it," I answered, repeating to her exactly the words
Mr. Heneage had said.

"You say he looked scared—confused?"

"Yes, very much so."

"And Mr. Edwin Barley—did he?"

"Not at all. He looked just as he always looks. He seemed to be
surprised, and very sorry; his voice, when he spoke to Philip King, was
kinder than I ever heard it."

Another pause. She seemed to be thinking.

"I can hardly understand where it was you saw George Heneage, Anne: you
must show me, to-morrow. Was it on the same side from which the shot
came?"

"Yes; I think near to the place. Or how could he have heard Mr. Barley
speak to me?"

"How long had you been in the wood when the shot was fired?"

"About ten minutes or a quarter of an hour."

"Little girls compute time differently from grown people, Anne. A few
minutes might seem like a quarter of an hour to you."

"Mamma taught me how differently time appears to pass, according to
what we may be doing, Aunt Selina. That when we are pleasantly
occupied, it seems to fly; and when we are impatient for it to go on,
or in any suspense or fear, it does not seem to move. I think I have
learnt to be pretty exact, and I do believe that I was in the wood
nearly a quarter of an hour. I was running about for some time, looking
for Mr. Heneage, as you told me, before I found I had lost myself. And
then I was some minutes getting over the fright. I had said my prayers,
and——"

"You had—WHAT?"

"I was much alarmed; I thought I might have to stay in the wood until
morning, and I could only pray to God to protect me: I knew that harm
would not come to me then. It must have been a quarter of an hour in
all: so you see Mr. Heneage did not do it in the heat of passion, in
running after him: he must have done it deliberately."

"I don't care," she repeated to herself, in a sort of defiant voice; "I
know George Heneage did not wilfully shoot Philip King. If he did do
it, it was an accident; but I don't believe he did."

"If he did not, why did he hide in the wood, and look as if he had done
something wrong, Selina? Why did he not go boldly up, and see what was
amiss with Philip King, as Mr. Edwin Barley did?"

"There is no accounting for what people do in these moments of
confusion and terror: some act in one way, some in another," she said,
slowly. "Anne, I don't like to speak out openly to you—what I fear and
what I don't fear. It was imperative upon George Heneage to hasten
home—and he may not have believed that Philip King was really dead."

"But, Selina——"

"Go! go! lie down there," she said, drawing me to the distant sofa, and
pushing me on it, with the pillow over my head. "You are asleep, mind!
He might think I had been tutoring you."

So sudden and unexpected was the movement, I could only obey, and lie
still. Selina unbolted the door, and was back in her seat before Mr.
Edwin Barley entered the room.

"Are you coming down to dinner, Selina?"

"Dinner! It is well for you that you can eat it," was her answer. "You
must dine without me to-day—those who dine at all. Now, don't disturb
that sleeping child, Mr. Barley! I was just going to send her to bed."

"It might do you more good to eat dinner than to roam about in a
night-fog," was Mr. Edwin Barley's rejoinder. "It is rather curious you
should choose such a night as this to be out, half-naked."

"Not curious," she said, coldly: "very natural."

"Very! Especially that you should be tearing up and down the wood
paths, like a mad woman. Others saw you as well as myself, and are
speaking of it."

"Let them speak."

"But for what purpose were you there?"

"I was looking for George Heneage. There! you may make the most of it."

"Did you find him?"

"No. I wish I had: _I wish I had_. I should have learnt from him the
truth of this night's business; for the truth, as I believe, has not
come to light yet."

"What do you suppose to be the truth?" he returned, in a tone of
surprise; whether natural, or assumed, who could say?

"No matter—no matter now: it is something that I scarcely dare to
glance at. Better, even, that Heneage had done it, than—than—what I am
thinking of. My head is confused to-night," she broke off; "my mind
unhinged—hardly sane. You had better leave me, Mr. Barley."

"You had better come and eat a bit of dinner," he said, roughly, but
not unkindly. "None of us can touch much, I daresay, but we are going
to sit down. William is staying, and so is Martin. Won't you come and
try to take a bit? Or shall I send you something up?"

"It would be of no use."

Mr. Edwin Barley looked at her: she was shivering outwardly and
inwardly. I could just see out under the corner of the cushion.

"You have caught a violent cold, Selina. How could you think of going
out?"

"I will tell you," she added, in a more conciliating spirit. "I went
out because you went. To prevent any encounter between you and George
Heneage,—I mean any violence. After that, I stayed looking for him."

"You need not have feared violence from me. I should have handed him
over to the police, nothing more."

There was a mocking sound in his voice as he spoke. Selina sat down and
put her feet on the fender.

"I hate to dine without somebody at the table's head," Mr. Edwin Barley
said, turning to the door. "If you will not come, I shall ask Charlotte
Delves to sit down."

"It is nothing to me who sits down when I am not there."

He departed with the ungracious reply ringing in his ears: and
ungracious I felt it to be. She bolted the door again, and pulled the
blue velvet cushion off my head.

"Are you smothered, child? Get up. Now, mark me: you must not say a
word to Mr. Edwin Barley of what happened at the summer-house. Do not
mention it at all—to him, or to any one else."

"But suppose I am asked, Selina?"

"How can you be asked? Philip King is gone, poor fellow; George Heneage
is not here, and who else is there to ask you? You surely have not
spoken of it already?" she continued, in a tone of alarm.

I had not spoken of it to any one, and told her so. Jemima had
questioned me as to the cause of my terror, when I ran in from the
wood, and I said I had heard a shot and a scream I had not courage to
say more.

"That's well," said Selina.

She sent me to rest, ordering Jemima to stay by me until I was asleep.
"The child may feel nervous," she remarked to her, in an undertone, but
the words reached me. And I suppose Jemima felt nervous, for one of the
other maids came too.

The night passed; the morning came, Sunday, and with it illness for
Mrs. Edwin Barley. I gathered from Jemima's conversation, while she was
dressing me, that Selina had slept alone: Mr. Edwin Barley, with his
brother and some more gentlemen, had been out a great part of the night
looking for George Heneage. It was so near morning when they got back
that he would not go to his wife's room for fear of disturbing her.

I ran in when I went downstairs. She lay in bed, and her voice, as she
spoke to me, did not sound like her own.

"Are you ill, Selina? Why do you speak so hoarsely?"

"I feel very ill, Anne. My throat is bad—or my chest, I can scarcely
tell which: perhaps it is both. Go downstairs, and send Miss Delves to
me."

I have said that I was an imaginative, thoughtful, excitable child, and
as I hastened to obey her, one sole recollection (I could have said
fear) kept running through my brain. It was the oracular observation
made by Duff, relating to his mistress and the fog: "It's enough to
give her her death!" Suppose she _had_ caught her death? My fingers,
fastening my narrow waist-band, trembled at the thought.

The first thing I saw when I went down was a large high screen of many
folds, raised across the hall, shutting out part of it from view. It
seemed to strike me back with fear. Sarah was coming out of the
dining-room with a duster in her hand: it was early yet. I caught hold
of her gown.

"Sarah, what is behind there?"

"The same that was last night, Miss," she answered. "Nothing is to be
moved until the coroner has come.

"Have they taken Mr. Heneage?"

"Not that I have heard of, Miss. One of the police was in just now, and
he told Miss Delves there was no news."

"I want to find Miss Delves. Where is she?"

"In master's study. You can go in. Don't you know which it is? It's
that room built out at the back, half-way up the first flight of
stairs. You can see the door from here."

In the study sat Mr. Barley and Mr. Edwin Barley at breakfast,
Charlotte Delves serving them. I gave her my aunt's message, but was
nearly scared out of my senses at being laid hold of by Mr. Edwin
Barley.

"Go up at once, Charlotte, and see what it is," he said. "How do you
say, little one—that her throat is bad?"

"Yes, sir; she cannot speak well."

"No wonder; she has only herself to thank," he muttered, as Charlotte
Delves left the room. "The wonder would be if she were not ill."

"Why?" asked Mr. Barley, curiously, lifting his head.

"Oh, she got frightened last night when poor Philip was brought in, and
ran out in the fog after me with nothing on."

He released my arm, and Mr. Barley put a chair for me beside him, and
gave me some breakfast. I had taken quite a liking to him, he was so
simple and kind. He told me he had no little girls or boys of his own,
and his wife was always ill, unable to go out.

"Mrs. Edwin Barley appears exceedingly poorly," said Charlotte Delves,
when she returned. "Lowe said he should be here this morning; he shall
see her when he comes. She must have taken cold."

Scarcely had she spoken when the surgeon arrived. Mr. Edwin Barley went
upstairs with him. Mr. Lowe came down alone afterwards, and I caught a
moment to speak to him when no one was listening.

"Will my Aunt Selina get well, sir?"

"I do not know, my dear," he answered, turning upon me his grave face.
"I fear she is going to be very ill."

Sunday came to an end; oh, such a dull day it had seemed!—and Monday
morning dawned. It was Selina's birthday: she was twenty-one.

Nothing could be heard of George Heneage. The police scoured the
country; handbills were printed, offering a reward for his
apprehension; no effort was left untried, but he was not found.
Opinions were freely bandied about: some said he must have escaped in
the fog, and got off by the railway from Nettleby, or by the other line
beyond Hallam; others thought he was lying concealed near the spot
still. Mr. Edwin Barley was in great anger at his escape, and avowed he
would pursue him to the death.

Not on this day, but the following one, Tuesday, Mr. Heneage's father
came to the house—a fine old gentleman, with white hair. Mr. Lowe
corrected me for calling him old, and said he could not be much more
than fifty. I had not then the experience to know that while young
people call fifty old, those past that age are apt to style it young. I
saw him twice as he went along the passages, but was not close to him.
He was a courteous, gentlemanly man, but seemed bowed down with grief.
It was said he could not understand the calamity at all, and decidedly
refused to believe in his son's guilt. If the shot had in truth
proceeded from him, the gun must have gone off by accident.

"Then why should he run away?" argued Mr. Edwin Barley.

He stayed in the house altogether but about two hours, and had an
interview with Mrs. Edwin Barley in her bedroom before his departure.
Refreshments were laid for him, but he declined to touch anything: I
heard the servants commenting on it.

In the afternoon the coroner's inquest sat. It was held in the
dining-room. The chief witness was Mr. Edwin Barley. I was not called
upon, and Selina said it was a proof that he had not mentioned I was
present at the time. You may be sure _I_ took care not to mention it;
neither did she. Nothing transpired touching the encounter at the
summer-house; therefore the affair appeared to the public involved in
mystery. Mr. Edwin Barley protested that it was a mystery to him. He
could not conceive what motive Heneage could have had in taking Philip
King's life. Mr. Edwin Barley testified that Philip King, in dying, had
asserted he saw George Heneage take aim and fire at him, and there was
nobody to contradict the assertion. I knew Philip King had not said so
much; but no one else knew it, save Mrs. Edwin Barley, and she only
from me. They did not require her to appear at the inquest; it was
assumed that she knew nothing whatever about the transaction.

Charlotte Delves was called, at the request of the jury, because Philip
King had sat with her in her parlour for half an hour the morning of
his death; but she proved that he had not touched upon anything
unpleasant, or spoken then of George Heneage. The feeling between them
had not been good, she testified, and there used to be bickering and
disputes. "What about?" asked the jury; but Miss Delves only answered
that she "could not say." The fact was, Mr. Edwin Barley in his stern
way had ordered her not to bring in his wife's name.

While the inquest was sitting I stayed in Selina's room. She seemed
very restless, turning about in bed continually, and telling me to
listen how it was "going on." But I could hear nothing, though I went
often on the stairs to try.

"What was that stir just now, Anne?" she asked, when it was late.

"They called from the dining-room to have the chandelier lighted. John
went in and did it."

"Is it dark, Anne?"

"Not dark. It is getting dark."

Dark it appeared to be in the chamber, for the crimson silk curtains
were drawn before the large, deep bay-window, and also partially round
the bed. You could distinguish the outline of objects, and that was
all. I went close up to the bed and looked at her; she was buried in
the pillows: that she was very ill I knew, for a physician from
Nettleby had come that morning with Mr. Lowe.

"I think it must be over," she said, as a bustle was heard below. "Go
and see, dear."

I went half-way down the stairs in the dark. Nobody had thought to
light the hall-lamp. Sure enough, they were pouring out of the room, a
crowd of dark figures, talking as they came, and slowly making for the
hall-door. Suddenly I distinguished Mr. Edwin Barley coming towards the
stairs.

To his study, as I thought, and back went I, not caring to encounter
him. Added to my childish dislike and fear of Mr. Edwin Barley, since
Saturday night another impulse to avoid him had been added: a dread,
which I could not divest myself of, that he might question me as to
that meeting at the summer-house, and to the subsequent interview with
George Heneage. Selina had ordered me to be silent; but if he found
anything out and questioned me, what could I do? I know that the fear
was upon me then and for a long time afterwards.

I crept swiftly back again up the stairs, and into my aunt's room.
Surely he was not coming to it! Those were his footsteps, and they drew
nearer: he could not have turned into his study! No, they came on. In
the impulse of the moment, I pushed behind the heavy window-curtain. It
was drawn straight across from wall to wall, leaving a space between it
and the bow of the window nearly as large as a small room. There were
three chairs there, one in the middle of the window and at the two
sides. I sat down on one of them, and, pulling the white blind slightly
aside, looked out at the dark figures who were then sauntering down the
avenue.

"Well, it's over," said Mr. Edwin Barley to his wife, as he came in and
shut the door. "And now all the work will be to find him."

"How has it ended?" she asked.

"Wilful murder. The coroner was about to clear the room, but the jury
intimated that they required no deliberation, and returned their
verdict at once."

"Wilful murder against whom?"

"Against George Heneage. Did you suppose it was against you or me?"

There was a pause. I felt in miserable indecision, knowing that I
ought, in honour, to go out and show myself, but not daring to do it.
Selina resumed, speaking as emphatically as her inflamed throat
permitted.

"I cannot believe—I never will believe—that George Heneage was capable
of committing murder. His whole nature would rise up against it: as his
father said in this room a few hours ago. If the shot did come from his
gun, it must have been fired inadvertently."

"The shot did come from his gun," returned Mr. Edwin Barley. "There's
no 'if' in the question."

"I am aware you say so; but it was passing strange that you, also with
your gun, should have been upon the spot. Now, stay!—don't put yourself
in a passion. I cannot help saying it. I think all this suspense and
uncertainty are killing me!"

Mr. Edwin Barley dragged a chair to the side of the bed, anger in the
very sound. I felt ready to drop, lest he should see me through the
slit in the curtain.

"We will have this out, Selina. It is not the first time you have given
utterance to hints that you ought to be ashamed of. Do you suspect that
I shot Philip King?"

His tone was so stern that, perhaps, she did not like to say "yes"
outright, and tampered with the question.

"Not exactly that. But there's only your word to prove that it was
George Heneage. And you know how incensed you have latterly been
against him!"

"Who caused me to be incensed? Why, you."

"There was no real cause. Were it the last words I had to speak,
Edwin"—and she burst into tears—"were I dying, I would assert it. I
never cared for George Heneage in the way you fancy."

"_I_ fancy! Had I fancied that, I should have flung George Heneage out
of my house long ago," was his rejoinder, spoken calmly. "But now, hear
me, Selina. It has been your pleasure to declare so much to me. On my
part, I declare to you that Heneage, and Heneage only, killed Philip
King. Dispossess your mind of all dark folly. You must be insane, I
think, to take it up against your husband."

"Did you see Heneage fire?" she asked, after a silence.

"No. I should have known pretty surely that it could only be Heneage,
had there been no proof against him; but there were Philip's dying
words. Still, I did not see Heneage at the place, and I have never said
I did. I was pushing home through the wood, and halted a second,
thinking I heard voices: it must have been Philip talking to the child:
at that very moment a shot was fired close to me—close, mind you—not
two yards off; but the trees are thick just there, and whoever fired it
was hid from my view. I was turning to search, when Philip King's awful
scream rang out, and I pushed my head beyond the trees and saw him in
the act of falling to the ground. I hastened to him, and the other
escaped. This is the entire truth, so far as I am cognizant of it."

It might have been the truth; and, again, it might not. It was just one
of those things that depend upon the credibility of the utterer. What
little corroboration there was, certainly was on Mr. Edwin Barley's
side: _only_ that he had asserted more than was true of the dying words
of Philip King. If these were the simple facts, the truth, why have
added falsehood to them?

"Heneage could have had no motive to take the life of Philip King,"
argued Mrs. Edwin Barley. "That he would have caned him, or given him
some other sound chastisement, I grant you—and richly he deserved it,
for he was the cause of all the ill-feeling that had arisen in the
house—but, to kill him! No, no!"

"And yet you would deem me capable of it!"

"I am not accusing you. But when you come to speak of motives, I cannot
help seeing that George Heneage could have had none."

"You have just observed that the author of the mischief, the bad
feeling which had sprung up in the house, was Philip King; but you are
wrong. The author was you, Selina."

No answer. She put up one of her hot hands, and shaded her eyes.

"I forgive you," he continued. "I am willing to bury the past in
silence: never to recur to it—never henceforth to allude to it, though
the boy was my relative and ward, and I liked him. But I would
recommend you to bear this tragical ending in mind, as a warning for
the future. I will not tolerate further folly in my wife; and your own
sense ought to tell you that had I been ambitious of putting somebody
out of the world, it would have been Heneage, not Philip. Heneage has
killed him, and upon his head be the consequences. I will never cease
my endeavours to bring him to the drop. I will spare no pains, or
energy, or cost, until it is accomplished. So help me Heaven!"

He rose with the last solemn word, and put the chair back in its place.
On his way to the door he turned, speaking in a softer voice.

"Are you better this evening, Selina?"

"Not any. It seems to me that I grow worse with every hour."

"I'll send Lowe up to you. He is somewhere about."

"Oh, aunt, aunt!" I said, going forward with lifted hands and streaming
eyes, as he left the chamber, "I was here all the time! I saw Mr. Edwin
Barley coming in, and I hid behind the window-curtain. I never meant to
be a listener: I was afraid to come out."

She looked at me without speaking, and her face, hot with fever, grew
more flushed. She seemed to be considering; perhaps remembering what
had passed.

"I—I——don't think there was anything very particular said, that you
need care; or, rather, that I need," she said at length. "Was there?"

"No, Selina. Only——"

"Only what, child? Why do you hesitate?"

"You think it might have been Mr. Edwin Barley. I wish I had not heard
that."

I said, or implied, it was as likely to have been he as the other.
"Anne," she suddenly added, "you possess thought and sense beyond your
years: what do you think?"

"I think it was Mr. Heneage. I think so because he has run away, and
because he looked so strangely when he was hiding. And I do not think
it was Mr. Edwin Barley. When he told you how it occurred just now, and
that it was not he, his voice sounded as though he were speaking
truth."

"Oh, dear!" she moaned, "I hope it was so! What a mercy if that Philip
King had never come near the house!"

"But, Selina, you are sorry that he is dead?"

"Sorry that he is dead? Of course I am sorry. What a curious child you
are! He was no favourite of mine; but," she cried, passionately
clasping her hands, "I would give all I am worth to call him back to
life."

But I could not be reconciled to what I had done, and sobbed on
heavily, until lights and Mr. Lowe came in together.



CHAPTER V.
ANOTHER DREAM.

"If ever I heard the like of that! one won't be able to open one's lips
next before you, Miss Hereford. Did I say anything about her dying,
pray? Or about your dying? Or my dying? Time enough to snap me up when
I do."

Thus spoke Jemima, with a volubility that nearly took her breath away.
She had come to my room in the morning with the news that Mrs. Edwin
Barley was worse. I burst into tears, and asked if she were going to
die: which brought forth the above rebuke.

"My thoughts were running upon whether we servants should have mourning
given us for young Mr. King," resumed Jemima, as if she were bent upon
removing unpleasant impressions from my mind. "Now just you make haste
and dress yourself, Miss Hereford—Mrs. Edwin Barley has been asking for
you."

I made haste; Jemima helped; and she ushered me to the door of the
sickroom, halting to whisper a parting word.

"Don't you begin crying again, Miss. Your aunt is no more going to die
than I am."

The first words spoken by Mrs. Edwin Barley were a contradiction to
this, curious coincident that it may seem. She was lying very high on
the frilled white pillows, no cap on, her cheeks hectic, and her lovely
golden hair failing around her head. A large bright fire burned in the
grate, and a small tray, with a white cloth and cup on it, stood on the
table near.

"Child," she began, holding out her hand to me, "I fear I am about to
be taken from you."

I did not answer; I did not cry; all tears seemed scared away then. It
was a confirmation of my secret, inward fears, and my face turned
white.

"What was that you said to me about the Keppe-Carews never dying
without a warning? And I laughed at you! Do you remember? Anne, I think
the warning came to me last night."

I glanced timidly round the room. It was a luxurious bed-chamber,
costly furniture and pretty toilette trifles everywhere. The crimson
silk curtains were drawn closely before the bay-window, and I could see
Selina clearly in the semi-light.

"Your mamma told you she had a dream, Anne. Well, _I_ have had a dream.
And yet I feel sure it was not a dream, but reality, reality. She
appeared to me last night."

"Who? Mamma?"

"Your mamma. The Keppe-Carew superstition is, that when one is going to
die, the last relative, whether near or distant, who has been taken
from them by death, comes again to give them notice that their own
departure is near. Ursula was the last who went, and she came to me in
the night."

"It can't be true," I sobbed, shivering from head to foot.

"She stood there, in the faint rays of the shaded lamp," pursued
Selina, not so much as listening to me. "I have not really slept all
night; I have been in that semi-conscious, dozing state when the mind
is awake both to dreams and to reality, knowing not which is which.
Just before the clock struck two, I awoke partially from one of these
semi-dreams, and I saw your mamma at the foot of the bed—a shadowy sort
of figure and face, but I knew it for Ursula's. She just looked at me,
and said, 'Selina!' Then I woke up thoroughly—the name, the sound of
her well-remembered voice ringing in my ears."

"And seeing her?" I eagerly asked.

"No. Seeing nothing but the opening between the curtains at the foot of
the bed, and the door beyond it; nothing more than is to be seen now."

"Then, Selina, it was a dream after all?"

"In one sense, yes. The world would call it so. To me it was something
more. A minute afterwards the clock struck two, and I was as wide awake
as I am now."

The reaction came, and I burst into tears. "Selina! it was a dream; it
could only have been a dream!"

"I should no doubt think so, Anne, but for what you told me of your
mamma's warning. But for hearing that, I might never have remembered
that such a thing is said to follow the Keppe-Carews."

What with remorse for having told her, though charged by my mother to
do it, and what with my own fears, I could not speak for hysterical
sobbing.

"You stupid little sensitive thing!" exclaimed Selina, with a touch of
her old lightness; "perhaps in a week's time I shall be well, and
running about out of doors with you. Go you down to Charlotte Delves's
parlour, and get your breakfast, and then come to me again. I want you
to go on an errand for me but don't say so. Mind that, Anne."

"No, no; I'll not say it, Selina."

"Tell them to give you some honey."

They brought the honey and set out other good things for me in Miss
Delves's parlour, but I could not eat. Charlotte Delves was very kind.
Both the doctors came up the avenue. I watched them into the house; I
heard them come downstairs again. The physician from Nettleby went
straight out: Mr. Lowe came to the parlour.

"My dear," he said to me, "you are to go up to Mrs. Edwin Barley."

"Is she much worse, sir?" I lingered to ask.

"I can hardly say how she is," was his answer. "We must hope for the
best."

He stayed in the room himself, and shut the door while he talked to
Miss Delves. The hall-clock struck ten as I passed under it, making me
start. The hall was clear to-day, and the window and door stood a
little open. Jemima told me that Philip King was in a sitting-room at
the back, one that was rarely used. I ran quickly up to Selina's
chamber. Mr. Edwin Barley was in it, to my dismay. He turned to leave
it when I went in, and put his hand kindly enough upon my hair.

"You look pale, little one; you should run out of doors for a while."

His wife watched him from the room with her strangely altered eyes, and
then beckoned to me.

"Shut the door, and bolt it, Anne." And very glad I felt to do it. It
was impossible to overcome my fear of Mr. Edwin Barley.

"Do you think you could find your way to Hallam?"

"I daresay I could, aunt."

"Selina, call me Selina," she impatiently interposed. "Call it me to
the last."

To the last!

"You remember the way you came from Nettleby, Anne? In going out at the
gates by the lodge, Nettleby lies on your left hand, Hallam on your
right. You understand?"

"Oh, quite."

"You have only to turn to the right, and keep straight along the high
road; in a short time you come to Hallam village. The way is not at all
lonely; cottages and houses are scattered all along it."

"I am sure I could go quite easily, Selina."

"Then put your things on, and take this note," she said, giving me a
little piece of paper twisted up, that she took from under the pillow.
"In going down Hallam Street, you will see on the left hand a house
standing by itself, with 'Mr. Gregg, Attorney at Law,' on a plate on
the door. Go in, ask to see Mr. Gregg alone, and give him that note.
But mind, Anne, you are not to speak of this to any one. Should Mr.
Edwin Barley or any one else meet you, and inquire where you are going,
say only that you are walking out. Do you fully understand?"

"Yes."

"Hide the note, so that no one sees it, and give it into Mr. Gregg's
hands. Tell him I hope he will comprehend it, but that I was too ill to
write it more elaborately."

No one noticed me as I left the house, and I pursued the road to
Hallam, my head and thoughts full. Suppose Mr. Edwin Barley _should_
meet and question me! I knew that I should make a poor hand at
deception: besides being naturally open, mamma had brought me up to be
so very candid and truthful. I had crushed the note inside my glove,
having no better place of concealment,—suppose he should seize my hand
and find it! And if the gentleman I was going to see should not be at
home, what was I to do then? Bring the note back to Selina, or leave
it? I ought to have asked her.

"Well, my little maid, and where are you off to?"

The salutation proceeded from Mr. Martin, who had come right upon me at
a turning of the road. My face grew hot as I answered him.

"I am out for a walk, sir."

"But this is rather far to come alone. You are close upon Hallam."

"My Aunt Selina knows it, sir," I said, trembling lest he should stop
me, or order me to walk back with him.

"Oh, very well," he answered, good-naturedly. "How is she to-day?"

"She is not any better, sir," I replied. And he left me, telling me I
was not to lose myself.

I came to the houses, straggling at first, but soon contiguous to each
other, as they are in most streets. Mr. Gregg's stood alone, its plate
on the door. A young man came running out of it as I stood hesitating
whether to knock or ring.

"If you please, is Mr. Gregg at home?"

"Yes," answered he. "He is in the office. You can go in if you want
him."

Opening an inner door, he showed me into a room where there seemed to
be a confused mass of faces. In reality there might have been three or
four, but they multiplied themselves to my timid eyes.

"A little girl wants to see Mr. Gregg," said the young man.

A tall gentleman came forward, with a pale face and grey whiskers. He
said he was Mr. Gregg, and asked what my business was.

"I want to see you by yourself, if you please, sir."

He led the way to another room, and I took the note out of my glove and
gave it him. He read it over—to me it appeared a long one—looked at me,
and then read it again.

"Are you Anne Hereford?"

"Yes," I said, wondering how he knew my name. "My aunt, Mrs. Edwin
Barley, bade me say she was too ill to write it better, but she hoped
you would understand it."

"Is she so ill as to be in danger?"

"I am afraid so."

He still looked at me, and twirled the note in his fingers. I could see
that it was written with a pencil.

"Do you know the purport of this?" he inquired, pointing to the note.

"No sir."

"Did you not read it coming along? It was not sealed."

"Oh, no. I did not take it out of my glove."

"Well—tell Mrs. Edwin Barley that I perfectly understand, and shall
immediately obey her: tell her all will be ready by the time she sends
to me. And—stay a bit. Have you any Christian name besides Anne?"

"My name is Anne Ursula."

"And what was your father's name? And what your mother's?"

"Papa's was Thomas, and mamma's Ursula," I answered, wondering very
much.

He wrote down the name, asked a few more questions, and then showed me
out at the street-door, giving a parting injunction that I was not to
forget the words of his message to Mrs. Edwin Barley, and not to
mention abroad that I had been to his office.

Reaching home without hindrance, I was about to enter the sickroom,
when Miss Delves softly called to me from the upper stairs: Mrs. Edwin
Barley was sleeping, and must not be disturbed. So I went higher up to
take my things off, and Charlotte Delves asked me into her chamber—a
very nice one, immediately over Mrs. Edwin Barley's.

"Tread softly, my dear. If she can only sleep, it will do her good."

I would not tread at all, though the carpet was thick and soft, but sat
down on the first chair. Miss Delves was changing her cap. She wore
very nice ones always.

"Miss Delves, I wish you'd please to tell me. Do you think my aunt will
get well?"

"It is to be hoped so," was the answer. "But Mr. Edwin Barley is
fretting himself to fiddle-strings over it."

"Do _you_ think she will?"

Miss Delves was combing out her long flaxen curls; bright thick curls
they were; very smooth, and of an exceedingly light shade. She twirled
two round her finger before she answered.

"Yes, I think she will. It is true that she is very ill—very; but, on
the other hand, she has youth in her favour."

"Is she dangerously ill?"

"No doubt. But how many people are there, lying in danger daily, who
recover! The worst of it is, she is so excited, so restless: the
doctors don't like that. It is not to be wondered at, with this trouble
in the house; she could not have fallen ill at a more unfortunate time.
I think she has a good constitution."

"Mamma used to say that all the Carews had that. They were in general
long-lived."

Charlotte Delves looked round at me. "Your mamma was not long-lived.
She died young—so to say."

"But mamma's illness came on first from an accident. She was hurt in
India. Oh Miss Delves! can't anything be done to cure my Aunt Selina?"

"My dear, everything will be done that it is possible to do. The
doctors talk of the shock to the system; but, as I say, she is young.
You must not be too anxious; it would answer no end. Had you a nice
walk this morning?"

"Yes."

She finished her hair, and put on the pretty cap, its rich lace lappets
falling behind the curls. Then she took up her watch and chain, and
looked out at the window as she put them round her neck.

"Here's a policeman coming to the house! I wonder what he wants?"

"Has there been any news yet of George Heneage?"

"None," she answered. "Heneage Grange is being watched."

"Is that where he lives?"

"It is his father's place."

"And is it near to here?"

"Oh, no. More than a hundred miles away. The police think it not
improbable that he escaped there at once. The Grange has been searched
for him, we hear, unsuccessfully. But the police are by no means sure
that he is not concealed there, and they have set a watch."

"Oh dear! I hope they will not find him!"

I said it with a shudder. The finding of George Heneage seemed to
promise I knew not what renewal of horror. Charlotte Delves turned her
eyes upon me in astonishment and reproof.

"You hope they will not find him! You cannot know what you are saying,
Miss Hereford. I think I would give half the good that is left in my
life to have him found—and hung. What right had he to take that poor
young man's life? or to bring this shocking trouble into a gentleman's
family?"

Very true. Of course he had none.

"Mr. Edwin Barley has taken a vow to track him out; and he will be sure
to do it, sooner or later. We will go down, Miss Hereford."

The policeman had not come upon the business, at all, but about some
poaching matter. Mr. Edwin Barley came out of his wife's room as we
were creeping by it. Charlotte Delves asked if Mrs. Edwin was awake?

"Awake? Yes! and in a fine excitable state," he answered, irritably.
"She does not sleep three minutes together. It is giving herself no
chance of recovery. She has got it in her head now that she's going to
die, and is sending for Martin."

He strode down to the waiting policeman. Charlotte Delves went into
Mrs. Edwin Barley's room, and took me. Selina's cheeks were still
hectic with fever; her blue eyes bright and wild.

"If you would but try to calm yourself, Mrs. Edwin Barley!"

"I am as calm as I can expect to be," was her answer, given with some
petulance. "My husband need not talk; he's worse than I am. He says now
the doctors are treating me wrongly, and that he shall call in a fresh
one. I suppose I shall die between them."

"I wish I knew what would soothe you," spoke Charlotte Delves, in a
kind, pleasant voice.

"I'm very thirsty; I've taken all the lemonade; you can fetch me up
some more. Anne, do you stay here."

Charlotte Delves took down the lemonade waiter, and Selina drew me to
her. "The message, Anne!—the message! Did you see Mr. Gregg?"

I gave her the message as I had received it. It was well, she said, and
turned away from me in her restlessness. Mr. Martin came in the
afternoon: and from that time he seemed to be a great deal with Selina.
A day or two passed on, bringing no change: she continued very ill, and
George Heneage was not found.

I had another walk to Hallam on the Friday. Philip King's funeral was
to be on the Saturday, and the walk appeared to have some connexion
with that event. Selina sent no note this time, but a mysterious
message.

"See Mr. Gregg alone as before, Anne," were the orders she gave me.
"Tell him that the funeral is fixed for eleven o'clock to-morrow
morning, and he must be at hand, and watch his time. You can mention
that I am now too ill to write."

"Tell him—what do you say, Selina?"

"Tell him exactly what I have told you; he will understand, though you
do not. Why do you make me speak?" she added, irritably. "I send you in
preference to a servant on this private business."

I discharged the commission; and, with the exception of about one
minute on my return, did not see Selina again that day. It was said in
the household that she was a trifle better. Mr. Edwin Barley had been
as good as his word, and a third doctor attended now, a solemn old
gentleman in black dress clothes and gold spectacles. It transpired, no
one but Miss Delves knowing with what truth, that he agreed with his
two brethren in the treatment they had pursued.

Saturday morning. The house woke up to a quiet bustle. People were
going and coming, servants were moving about and preparing, all in a
subdued decorous manner. The servants had been put in mourning—Mr.
Edwin Barley was all in black, and Charlotte Delves rustled from room
to room in rich black silk. Philip King had been related to her in a
very distant degree. Mrs. Edwin Barley was no worse; better, if
anything, the doctors said. From what could be gathered by us, who were
not doctors, the throat was a trifle better; she herself weaker.

The funeral was late. The clocks were striking eleven as it wound down
the avenue on its way to the church, an old-fashioned little structure,
situate at right angles between the house and Hallam. In the first
black chariot sat the clergyman, Mr. Martin; then followed the hearse;
then two mourning-coaches. In the first were Mr. Edwin Barley, his
brother, and two gentlemen whom I did not know—they were the mourners;
in the other were the six pall-bearers. Some men walked in hatbands,
and the carriages were drawn by four horses, bearing plumes.

"Is it out of sight, Anne?"

The questioner was my aunt, for it was at her window I stood, peeping
beside the blind. It had been out of sight some minutes, I told her,
and must have passed the lodge.

"Then you go downstairs, Anne, and open the hall-door. Stand there
until Mr. Gregg comes; he will have a clerk with him: bring them up
here. Do all this quietly, child."

In five minutes Mr. Gregg came, a young man accompanying him. I shut
the hall-door and took them upstairs. They trod so softly! just as
though they would avoid being heard. Selina held out her hand to Mr.
Gregg.

"How are you to-day, Mrs. Edwin Barley?"

"They say I am better," she replied; "I hope I am. Is it quite ready?"

"Quite," said he, taking a parchment from one of his pockets. "You will
hear it read?"

"Yes; that I may see whether you understood my imperfect letter. I hope
it is not long. The church, you know, is not so far-off; they will be
back soon."

"It is quite short," Mr. Gregg replied, having bent his ear to catch
her speech, for she spoke low and imperfectly. "Where shall my clerk
wait while I read it?"

She sent us into her dressing-room, the clerk and I, whence we could
hear Mr. Gregg's voice slowly reading something, but could not
distinguish the words or sense; once I caught the name "Anne Ursula
Hereford." And then we were called in again.

"Anne, go downstairs and find Jemima," were the next orders. "Bring her
up here."

"Is it to give her her medicine?" asked Jemima, as she followed me
upstairs.

"I don't know."

"My girl," began the attorney to Jemima, "can you be discreet, and hold
your tongue?"

Jemima stared very much: first at seeing them there, next at the
question. She gave no answer in her surprise, and Mrs. Edwin Barley
made a sign that she should come close to her.

"Jemima, I am sure you know that I have been a good mistress to you,
and I ask you to render me a slight service in return. In my present
state of health, I have thought it necessary to make my will; to devise
away the trifle of property I possess of my own. I am about to sign it,
and you and Mr. Gregg's clerk will witness my signature. The service I
require of you is, that you will not speak of this to any one. Can I
rely upon you?"

"Yes, ma'am, certainly you may," replied the servant, speaking in an
earnest tone; and she evidently meant to keep her word honestly.

"And my clerk I have answered to you for," put in Mr. Gregg, as he
raised Mrs. Edwin Barley and placed the open parchment before her.

She signed her name, "Selina Barley;" the clerk signed his, "William
Dixon;" and Jemima hers, "Jemima Lea." Mr. Gregg remarked that Jemima's
writing _might_ be read, and it was as much as could be said of it. She
quitted the room, and soon afterwards Mr. Gregg and his clerk took
their departure in the same quiet manner that they had come.

I was closing the hall-door after them, when the sound of silk,
rustling up, fell on my startled ears, and Charlotte Delves stepped
into the hall from one of the passages. She had been shut up in her
parlour.

"Who is it that has gone out?"

But I was already half way up to Selina's room, and would not hear.
Miss Delves opened the door and looked after them. And at that moment
Jemima appeared. Charlotte Delves laid hold of her, and no doubt turned
her inside out.

"Anne, my dear, if I die you are now provided for. At least——"

"Oh, Selina! Selina! You cannot be going to die!"

"Perhaps not. I hope not. Yes, I do hope it, Anne, in spite of my
fancied warning—which, I suppose, was only a dream after all. My mind
must have dwelt on what you said about Ursula. If you ever relate to me
anything of the sort again, Anne, I'll beat you."

I stood conscience-stricken. But in telling her what I did, I had only
obeyed my mother. I like to repeat this over and over.

"At least, as well provided for as I have it in my power to provide,"
she continued, just as though there had been no interruption. "I have
left you my four thousand pounds. It is out at good interest—five per
cent.; and I have directed it to accumulate until you are eighteen.
Then it goes to you. This will just keep you; just be enough to keep
you from going out as a governess. If I live, you will have your home
with me after leaving school. Of course, that governess scheme was all
a farce; Ursula could only have meant it as such. The world would stare
to see a governess in a granddaughter of Carew of Keppe-Carew."

The will lay on the bed. She told me to lock it up in the opposite
cabinet, taking the keys from underneath the pillow, and I obeyed her.
By her directions, I took the cabinet key off the bunch, locked it up
alone in a drawer, and she returned the bunch underneath her pillow. By
that time she could not speak at all. Charlotte Delves, happening to
come in, asked what she had been doing to reduce her strength like
that.

It was a miserable day after they came in from the funeral. Mr. Edwin
Barley did not seem to know what to do with himself; and the other
people had gone home. Mr. Martin was alone with Selina for a great
portion of the afternoon. At first I did not know he was there, and
looked in. The clergyman was kneeling down by the bed, praying aloud. I
shut the door again, hoping they had not heard it open. In the evening
Selina appeared considerably better. She sat up in bed, and ate a few
spoonfuls of arrowroot. Mr. Edwin Barley, who was in the arm-chair near
the fire, said it was poor stuff, and she ought to take either brandy
or wine, or both.

"Let me give you some in that, Selina," he cried. And indeed he had
been wanting to give it her all along.

"I should be afraid to take it; don't tease me," she feebly answered,
and it was astonishing how low her voice was getting. "You know what
the doctors say, Edwin. When once the inflammation (or whatever it is)
in the throat has passed, then I may be fed up every hour. Perhaps they
will let me begin to-morrow."

"If they don't mind, they'll keep you so low that——that we shall have
to give you a bottle of brandy a day." I think the concluding words,
after the pause, had been quite changed from what he had been going to
say, and he spoke half-jokingly. "I know that the proper treatment for
you would have been stimulants. I told Lowe so again to-day, but he
would not have it. But for one thing, I'd take the case into my own
hands, and give you a wine-glass of brandy now."

"And that one thing?" she asked, in her scarcely perceptible voice.

"The doubt that I _might_ do wrong."

Jemima appeared at the door with a candle: it was my signal. Selina
kissed me twice, and said she should hope to get up on the morrow. I
went round to Mr. Edwin Barley.

"Good night, sir."

"Is it your bedtime, child? Good night."



CHAPTER VI.
DEAD!

Eight o'clock the next morning, and the church-bells ringing out on the
sunshiny air! Everything looked joyous as I drew up the blind—kept down
for a week previously. I dressed myself, without waiting for Jemima, in
my Sunday frock with its deep crape trimmings. The house would be open
again to-day; Selina be sitting up.

I scrambled over my dressing; I fear I scrambled over my prayers.
Everything was so still below I thought they had forgotten me. Going
down, I knocked at Selina's door, and was waiting to hear her answer,
when one of the maids came running up the stairs in a flurry. It was
Sarah.

"You cannot go in there, Miss Hereford."

"I want to see how my aunt is."

"Oh, she—she—you must not go in, Miss I say. Your aunt cannot see you
just now; you must please go down into Miss Delves's parlour."

Dropping the handle of the door in obedience, I went down a few steps.
Sarah ascended to the upper flights. But the girl's manner had alarmed
me; and, without any thought of doing wrong, I turned back and softly
opened the door. The curtains were drawn closely round the bed.

"Are you worse, Selina?"

No reply came, and I feared she was worse. Perhaps lying with leeches
to her throat. I had seen leeches to a throat once, and had never
forgotten the sight. At that moment the appearance of the room struck
me as strange. _It seemed to have been put to rights_. I pulled open
the curtain in full dread of the leeches.

Alas! it was not leeches I saw; but a still, white face. The face of my
Aunt Selina, it is true, but—dead. I shrieked out, in my shock of
terror, and flew into the arms of Sarah, who came running in.

"What is the matter?" exclaimed Charlotte Delves, flying up to the
landing where we stood.

"Why, Miss Hereford has been in there; and I told her not to go!" said
Sarah, hushing my face to her as she spoke. "Why couldn't you listen to
me, Miss?"

"I didn't know Miss Hereford was up; she should have waited for
Jemima," said Charlotte Delves, as she laid hold of me, and led me down
to her parlour.

"Oh, Miss Delves, Miss Delves, what is it?" I sobbed. "Is she really
dead?"

"She is dead, all too certain, my dear. But I am very sorry you should
have gone in. It is just like Jemima's carelessness."

"What's that?—that's like my carelessness, Miss Delves?" resentfully
inquired Jemima, who had come forward on hearing the noise.

"Why, your suffering this child to dress herself alone, and go about
the house at large. One would think you might have been attentive this
morning, of all others."

"I went up just before eight, and she was asleep," answered Jemima,
with as pert an accent as he dared to use. "Who was to imagine she'd
awake and be down so soon?"

"Why did she die? what killed her?" I asked, my sobs choking me. "Dead!
_dead!_ My Aunt Selina dead!"

"She was taken worse at eleven o'clock last night, and Mr. Lowe was
sent for," explained Charlotte Delves. "He could do nothing, and she
died at two."

"Where was Mr. Edwin Barley?"

"He was with her."

"Not when she was taken worse," interposed Jemima. "I was with her
alone. It was my turn to sit up, and she had spoken quite cheerfully to
me. Before settling myself in the arm-chair, I went to see if she had
dropped asleep. My patience!—my heart went pit-a-pat at the change in
her. I ran for Mr. Edwin Barley, and he came in. Mr. Lowe was sent for:
everything was done, but she could not be saved."

I turned to Charlotte Delves in my sad distress. "She was so much
better last night," I said, imploringly. "She was getting well."

"It was a deceitful improvement," replied Charlotte Delves—and she
seemed really sad and grieved. "Lowe said he could have told us so had
he been here. Mr. Edwin Barley quite flew out at him, avowing his
belief that it was the medical treatment that had killed her."

"And was it?" I eagerly asked, as if, the point ascertained, it could
bring her back to life. "Do they know what she died of?"

"As to knowing, I don't think any of them know too much," answered
Charlotte Delves. "The doctors say the disorder, together with the
shock her system had received, could not be subdued. Mr. Edwin Barley
says it could have been, under a different treatment. Lowe tells me now
he had little hope from the first."

"And couldn't open his lips to say so!" interposed Jemima. "It's just
like those doctors. The master is dreadfully cut up."

They tried to make me take some breakfast, but I could neither eat nor
drink. Jemima said they had had theirs "ages ago." None of the
household had been to bed since the alarm.

"All I know is, that if blame lies anywhere it is with the doctors,"
observed Charlotte Delves, as she pressed me to eat. "Every direction
they gave was minutely followed."

"Why did nobody fetch me down to see her?"

"Child, she never asked for you; she was past thinking of things. And
to you it would only have been a painful sight."

"That's true," added Jemima. "When I looked at her, all unconcerned, I
saw death in her face. It frightened me, I can tell you. I ran to call
the master, thinking——"

"Thinking what?" spoke Charlotte Delves, for Jemima had made a sudden
pause.

"Nothing particular, Miss Delves. Only that something which had
happened in the day was odd," added Jemima, glancing significantly at
me. "The master was in his room half undressed, and he came rushing
after me, just as he was. The minute he looked on her he murmured that
she was dying, and sent off a man for Mr. Lowe, and another for the old
doctor from Nettleby. Lowe came at once, but the other did not get here
till it was over. She died at two."

Jemima would have enlarged on the details for ever. I felt sick as I
listened. Even now, as I write, a sort of sickness comes over me with
the remembrance. I wandered into the hall, and was sobbing with my head
against the dining-room door-post, not knowing any one was there, when
Mr. Edwin Barley gently unlatched the door and looked out.

He had been weeping, as was easy to be seen. His eyes were red—his air
and manner subdued; but my acquired fear of him was in full force, and
I would rather have gone away than been drawn in.

"Child, don't cry so."

"I never took leave of her, sir. I did not see her before she died."

"If weeping tears of blood would bring her back to life, she'd be here
again," he responded, almost fiercely. "They have killed her between
them; they have, Anne; and, by heavens! if there was any law to touch
them, they should feel it."

"Who, sir?"

"The doctors. And precious doctors they have proved themselves! Why do
you tremble so, child? They have not understood the disorder from the
first: it is one requiring the utmost possible help from stimulants;
otherwise the system cannot battle with it. They gave her none; they
kept her upon water, and—she is lying there. Oh! that I had done as it
perpetually crossed my mind to do!" he continued, clasping his hands
together in anguish; "that I had taken her treatment upon myself,
risking the responsibility! She would have been living now!"

If ever a man spoke the genuine sentiments of his heart, Mr. Edwin
Barley appeared to do so then, and a little bit of my dislike of him
subsided—just a shade of it.

"I am sorry you should have come into the house at this time, my poor
child; some spell seems to have been upon it ever since. Go now to
Charlotte Delves; tell her I say she is to take good care of you."

He shut himself in again as I went away. Oh, the restless day! the
miserable day! That, and the one of mamma's death, remain still upon my
memory as the two sad epochs of my life, standing out conspicuously in
their bitterness.

Moving about the house restlessly; shedding tears by turns; leaning my
head on the sofa in Miss Delves's parlour! She was very kind to me; but
what was any kindness to me then? It seemed to me that I could never,
never be happy again. I had so loved Selina!

I wanted to see her again. It was almost as if I had _not_ seen her in
the morning, for the shock of surprise had startled away my senses. I
had looked upon mamma so many times after death, that the customary
dread of childhood at such sights lingered but little with me. And I
began to watch for an opportunity to go in.

It came at twilight. In passing the room I saw the door open, and
supposed some of the maids might be there. In I went bravely; and
passed round to the far side of the bed, nearest to the window and the
fading light.

But I had not courage to draw aside the curtain quite at first, and sat
down for a moment in the low chair by the bed's head, to wait until
courage came. Some one else came first; and that was Mr. Edwin Barley.

He walked slowly in, carrying a candle, startling me nearly to
sickness. His slippers were light, and I had not heard his approach. It
must have been he who had left the door open, probably having been to
fetch the very candle in his hand. He did not come near the bed, at
least on the side where I was, but seemed to be searching for
something; looking about, opening two or three drawers. I sat cowering,
feeling I had no business to be there; my heart was in my mouth, when
he went to the door and called Charlotte Delves.

"Where are my wife's keys?" he inquired, as she came up.

"I do not know," was her answer; and she began to look about the room
as he had previously done. "They must be somewhere."

"Not know! But it was your place to take possession of them, Charlotte.
I want to examine her desk; there may be directions left in it, for all
I can tell."

"I really forgot all about the keys," Charlotte Delves deprecatingly
said. "I will ask the women who were here. Why! here they are; in this
china basket on the mantelpiece," she suddenly exclaimed. "I knew they
could not be far-off."

Mr. Edwin Barley took the keys, and went out, the desk under his arm.
Charlotte followed him, and closed the door. But I was too much scared
to attempt to remain; I softly opened it, and stole out after them,
waiting against the wall in the shade. They had halted at the turning
to Mr. Barley's study, half way down the stairs, and were talking in
subdued tones. Charlotte Delves was telling him of the lawyer's visit
on the previous day.

"I did not mention it before," she observed: "of course, while poor
Mrs. Edwin was here, it was not my business to report to you on
anything she might do, and to-day has had too much trouble in it. But
there's no doubt that Gregg was here, and a clerk with him. Little Miss
Hereford showed them out, and I suppose admitted them. It was an odd
time to choose for the visit—the hour of the funeral."

Can you imagine how terrified I felt as Charlotte Delves related this?
I had done no wrong; I had simply obeyed the orders of Mrs. Edwin
Barley; but it was uncertain what amount of blame her husband might lay
to my share, and how he would punish it.

"It is strange what Gregg could be doing here at that time with a
clerk; and in private, as you appear to assume," said Mr. Edwin Barley.
"Could he have come by appointment, to transact any legal business for
my wife?"

"But, if so, why should she wish it kept from you?" and Charlotte
Delves's voice had a jealous ring in it: jealous for the rights of her
cousin, Edwin Barley.

"I don't know. The little girl may be able to explain. Call her up."

Another fright for me. But the next moment his voice countermanded the
order.

"Never mind, Charlotte; let it be. When I want information of Anne
Hereford, I'll question her myself. And if my wife did anything, made a
will, or gave Gregg any other directions, we shall soon know of it."

"Made a will!" exclaimed Charlotte Delves.

"I should not think it likely that she would without speaking to me,
but she could do it: she was of age," replied Mr. Barley.

He went into his study with the desk, and Charlotte Delves passed
downstairs. I got into her parlour as soon as she did; never having
seen my dear Aunt Selina.

They took me to see her the next day, when she was in her first coffin.
She looked very calm and peaceful; but I think the dead, generally
speaking, do look peaceful; whether they have died a happy death or
not. A few autumn flowers were strewed upon her flannel shroud.

In coming out of the room, my face streaming with tears, there stood
Mr. Lowe.

"Oh, sir!" I cried, in my burst of grief; "what made her die? Could you
not have saved her?"

"My little girl, what she really died of was exhaustion," he answered.
"The disease took hold of her, and she could not rally from it. As to
saving her—God alone could have done that."

There was no inquest this time. The doctors certified to some cause of
death. The house was more closely shut up than before; the servants
went about speaking in whispers; deeper mourning was prepared for them.
In Selina's desk a paper had been found by Mr. Edwin Barley—a few
pencilled directions on it, should she "unhappily die." Therefore the
prevision of death had been really upon her. She named two or three
persons whom she should wish to attend her funeral, Mr. Gregg being one
of them.

Saturday again, and another funeral! Ever since, even to this hour,
Saturdays and funerals have been connected together in my
impressionable mind. I had a pleasant dream early that morning. I saw
Selina in bright white robes, looking peacefully happy, saying that her
sins had been washed away by Jesus Christ, the Redeemer. I had
previously sobbed myself to sleep, hoping that they had.

It was fixed for twelve o'clock this time. The long procession, longer
than the other one had been, wound down the avenue. Mr. Edwin Barley
went in a coach by himself; perhaps he did not like to be seen
grieving; three or four coaches followed it, and some private
carriages, Mr. Barley's taking the lead. There was not a dry eye amidst
the household—us, who were left at home—with the exception of Charlotte
Delves. I did not see her weep at all, then or previously. The narrow
crape tucks on her gown were exchanged for wide ones, and some black
love-ribbon mingled with her hair. I sobbed till they came back,
sitting by myself in the dining-room.

It was the very room they filed into, those who entered. A formidable
array, in their sweeping scarves and hatbands; too formidable for me to
pass, and I shrunk into the far corner, between the sideboard and the
dumb-waiter. But they began to leave again, only just saying good day
in a low tone to Mr. Edwin Barley, and got into the coaches that
waited. Mr. Gregg the lawyer remained, and Mr. Barley.

"Pardon me that I stay," observed the lawyer to Mr. Edwin Barley; "I am
but obeying the request of your late wife. She charged me, in the event
of her death, to stay and read the will after the funeral."

"The will!" echoed Mr. Edwin Barley.

"She made a will just before she died. She gave me instructions for it
privately; though what her motives were for keeping it a secret, she
did not state. It was executed on the day previous to her death."

"This is news to me," observed Mr. Edwin Barley. "Do you hold the
will?"

"No, I left it with her. You had better remain, my little girl," the
lawyer added to me, touching my arm with his black glove as I was
essaying to quit the room. "The will concerns you. I asked your wife if
I should take possession of it, but she preferred to keep it herself."

"I do not know where it can have been put, then," returned Mr. Edwin
Barley, while his brother lifted his head in interest. "I have examined
her desk and one or two of her drawers where she kept papers; but I
have found no will."

"Perhaps you did not look particularly for a will, not knowing she had
made one, and so it may have escaped your notice, sir," suggested the
lawyer.

"Pardon me; it was the precise thing I looked for. I heard of your
visit to my wife: not, however, until after her death; and it struck me
that your coming might have reference to something of the sort. But I
found no will; only a few pencilled words on a half-sheet of paper in
her desk. Do you know where it was put?"

The lawyer turned to me. "Perhaps this little lady may know," he said.
"She made one in the room when I was with Mrs. Edwin Barley, and may
have seen afterwards where the will was placed."

Again I felt sick with apprehension: few children at my age have ever
been so shy and sensitive. It seemed to me that all was coming out; at
any rate, my share in it. But I spoke pretty bravely.

"You mean the paper that you left on my Aunt Selina's bed, sir? I put
it in the cabinet; she directed me to do so."

"In the cabinet?" repeated Mr. Edwin Barley to me.

"Yes, sir. Just inside as you open it."

"Will you go with me to search for it?" said Mr. Edwin Barley to the
lawyer. "And you can go into Miss Delves's parlour, Anne; little girls
are better out of these affairs."

"Pardon me," dissented Mr. Gregg. "Miss Hereford, as the only
interested party, had better remain. And if she can show us where the
will is, it will save time."

Mr. Edwin Barley looked as if he meant to object, but did not. "The
child's nerves have been unhinged," he said to the lawyer as they went
upstairs, I and Mr. Barley following.

The key of the cabinet lay in the corner of the drawer where I had
placed it. Mr. Edwin Barley took it from me and opened the cabinet. But
no will was to be seen.

"I did not think of looking here," he observed; "my wife never used the
cabinet to my knowledge. There is no will here."

There was no will anywhere, apparently. Drawers were opened; her desk,
standing now on the drawers, was searched; all without effect.

"It is very extraordinary," said Mr. Gregg to him.

"I can only come to one conclusion—that my wife must have destroyed it
herself. It is true the keys were lying about for several hours
subsequent to her death, at anybody's command; but who would steal a
will?"

"I do not suppose Mrs. Edwin Barley would destroy it," dissented Mr.
Gregg. "Nothing can be more improbable. She expressed her happiness at
having been able to make a will; her great satisfaction. Who left the
keys about, sir?"

"The blame of that lies with Charlotte Delves. It escaped her memory to
secure them, she tells me: and in the confusion of the sudden blow, it
is not to be wondered at. But, and if the keys were left about? I have
honest people in my house, Mr. Gregg."

"Who benefited by the will?" asked Mr. Barley of the Oaks, he having
helped in the search, and was now looking on with a face of puzzled
concern. "Who comes into the money, Gregg?"

"Ay, who?" put in Mr. Edwin Barley.

"This little girl, Anne Ursula Hereford. Mrs. Edwin Barley bequeathed
to her the whole of her money, and also her trinkets, except the
trinkets that had been your own gift to her, Mr. Edwin Barley." And he
proceeded to detail the provisions of the short will. "In fact, she
left to Miss Hereford everything of value she had to leave; money,
clothes, trinkets. It is most strange where the will can be."

"It is more than strange," observed Mr. Edwin Barley. "Why did she wish
to make the will in secret?"

"I have told you, sir, that she did not say why."

"But can you not form an idea why?"

"It occurred to me that she thought you might not like her leaving all
she had away from you, and might have feared you would interfere."

"No," he quietly said, "I should not have done that. Every wish that
she confided to me should have been scrupulously carried out."

"Oh, but come, you know! a big sheet of parchment, sealed and
inscribed, can't vanish in this way," exclaimed Mr. Barley. "It must be
somewhere in the room."

It might be, but nobody could find it. Mr. Barley got quite excited and
angry: Mr. Edwin was calm throughout. Mr. Barley went to the door,
calling out for Miss Delves.

"Charlotte, come up here. Do you hear, Charlotte?"

She ran up quickly, evidently wondering.

"Look here," cried Mr. Barley, "Mrs. Edwin's will can't be found. It
was left in this cabinet, my brother is told."

"Oh, then Mrs. Edwin did make a will?" was the response of Charlotte
Delves.

"Yes; but it is gone," repeated Mr. Barley of the Oaks.

"It cannot be gone," said Charlotte. "If the will was left in the
cabinet, there it would be now."

The old story was gone over again; nothing more. The will had been
made, and as certainly placed there. The servants were honest, not
capable of meddling with that or anything else. But there was no sign
or symptom of a will left.

"It is very strange," exclaimed Mr. Edwin Barley, looking furtively
from the corner of his black eyes at most of us in succession, as if we
were in league against him or against the will. "I will have the house
searched throughout."

The search took place that same evening. Himself, his brother, Mr.
Gregg, and Charlotte Delves taking part in it. Entirely without
success.

And in my busy heart there was running a conviction all the while, that
Mr. Edwin Barley had himself made away with the will.

"Will you not act in accordance with its provisions, sir?" Mr. Gregg
asked him as he was leaving.

"I do not think I shall," said Mr. Edwin Barley. "Produce the will, and
every behest in it shall be fulfilled. Failing a will, my wife's
property becomes mine, and I shall act as I please by it."

The days went by; ten unhappy days. I spent most of my time with Miss
Delves, seeing scarcely anything of Mr. Edwin Barley. Part of the time
he was staying at his brother's, but now and then I met him in the
passages or the hall. He would give me a nod, and pass by. I cannot
describe my state of feeling, or how miserable the house appeared to
me: I was as one unsettled in it, as one who lived in constant
discomfort, fear, and dread; though, of what, I could not define.
Jemima remarked one day that "Miss Hereford went about moithered, like
a fish out of water."

The will did not turn up, and probably never would: neither was any
clue given to the mystery of its disappearance. Meanwhile rumours of
its loss grew rife in the household and in the neighbourhood: whether
the lawyer talked, or Mr. Barley of the Oaks, and thus set them afloat,
was uncertain, but it was thought to have been one or the other. I know
I had said nothing; Charlotte Delves said she had not; neither, beyond
doubt, had Mr. Edwin Barley. When an acquaintance once asked him
whether the report was true, he answered Yes, it was true so far as
that Mr. Gregg said his late wife had made a will, and it could not be
found; but his own belief was that she must have destroyed it again; he
could not suspect any of the household would tamper with its mistress's
private affairs.

One day Mr. Edwin Barley called me to him. I was standing by the large
Michaelmas daisy shrub, and he passed along the path.

"Are you quite sure," he asked in his sternest tone, but perhaps it was
only a serious one, "that you did not reopen the cabinet yourself, and
do something with the parchment?"

"I never opened it again, sir. If I had, my aunt must have seen me. And
I could not have done so," I added, recollecting myself, "for she kept
the bunch of keys under her pillow."

"She was the only one, though, who knew where it was placed," muttered
Mr. Edwin Barley to himself in allusion to me, as he walked on.

"It's a queer start about that will!" Jemima resentfully remarked that
same night when she was undressing me. "And I don't half like it; I can
tell you that, Miss Hereford. They may turn round on me next, and say I
made away with it."

"That's not likely, Jemima. The will would not do you any good. Do you
think it will ever be found?"

"It's to be hoped it will—with all this unpleasantness! I wish I had
never come within hearing of it for my part. The day old Gregg and the
young man were here, Charlotte Delves got hold of me, pumping me on
this side, pumping me on that. Had they been up to Mrs. Edwin Barley?
she asked: and what had their business been with her? She didn't get
much out of me, but it made me as cross as two sticks. It _is_ droll
where the will can have gone! One can't suspect Mr. Edwin Barley of
touching it; and I don't; but the loss makes him all the richer. That's
the way of the world," concluded Jemima: "the more money one has, the
more one gets added to it. It is said that he comes into possession of
forty thousand pounds by the death of Philip King."

The ten days' sojourn in the desolate house ended, and then Charlotte
Delves told me I was going to leave it. In consequence of the death of
Selina, the trustees had assigned to Mrs. Hemson the task of choosing a
school for me. Mrs. Hemson had fixed on one near to the town where she
resided, Dashleigh; and I was to pass a week at Mrs. Hemson's house
before entering it. On the evening previous to my departure, a message
came from Mr. Edwin Barley that I was to go to him in the dining-room.
Charlotte Delves smoothed my hair with her fingers; and sent me in. He
was at dessert: fruit and wine were on the table; and John set a chair
for me. Mr. Edwin Barley put some walnuts that he cracked and a bunch
of grapes on my plate.

"Will you take some wine, little girl?"

"No, thank you, sir. I have just had tea."

Presently he put a small box into my hands. I remembered having seen it
on Selina's dressing-table.

"It contains a few of your Aunt Selina's trinkets," he said. "All she
brought here, except a necklace, which is of value, and will be
forwarded, with some of her more costly clothes, to Mrs. Hemson for
you. Do you think you can take care of these until you are of an age to
wear them?"

"I will take great care of them, sir. I will lock them up in the little
desk mamma gave me, and I wear the key of it round my neck."

"Mind you do take care of them," he rejoined, with suppressed emotion.
"If I thought you would not, I would never give them to you. You must
treasure them always. And these things, recollect, are of value," he
added, touching the box. "They are not child's toys. Take them
upstairs, and put them in your trunk."

"If you please, sir, has the will been found?" I waited to ask.

"It has not. Why?"

"Because, sir, you asked me if I had taken it; you said I was the only
one who knew where it had been put. Indeed, I would not have touched it
for anything."

"Be easy, little girl. I believe my wife herself destroyed the will:
but I live in hopes of coming to the bottom of the mystery yet. As you
have introduced the subject, you shall hear a word upon it from me.
Busybodies have given me hints that I ought to carry out its substance
in spite of the loss. I do not think so. The will, and what I hear
connected with its making, has angered me, look you, Anne Hereford. Had
my wife only breathed half a word to me that she wished you to have her
money, every shilling should be yours. But I don't like the underhand
work that went on in regard to it, and shall hold it precisely as
though it had never existed. If I ever relent in your favour, it will
not be yet awhile."

"I did not know she was going to leave me anything, indeed, sir."

"Just so. But it was you who undertook the communications to Gregg, it
seems, and admitted him when he came. You all acted as though I were a
common enemy; and it has vexed me in no measured degree. That's all,
child. Take another bunch of grapes with you."

I went away, carrying the casket and the grapes. Jemima was packing my
trunks when I went upstairs, and she shared the grapes and the delight
of looking at the contents of the casket: Selina's thin gold chain, and
her beautiful little French watch, two or three bracelets, some rings,
brooches, and a smelling-bottle, encased in filigree gold. All these
treasures were mine. At first I gazed at them with a mixed feeling, in
which awe and sorrow held their share; Jemima the same: it seemed a
profanation to rejoice over what had been so recently _hers:_ but the
sorrow soon lost itself in the moment's seduction. Jemima hung the
chain and watch round her own neck, put on all the bracelets, thrust
the largest of the rings on her little finger, and figured off before
the glass; while I knelt on a chair looking on in mute admiration,
anticipating the time when they would be adorning me. Ah, my readers!
when we indeed become of an age to wear ornaments, how poor is the
pleasure they afford then, compared to that other early anticipation!

A stern voice shouting out "Anne Hereford!" broke the charm, startling
us excessively. Jemima tore off the ornaments, I jumped from the chair.

"Anne, I want you," came the reiterated call.

It was from Mr. Edwin Barley. He stood at the foot of the stairs as I
ran down, my heart beating, expecting nothing but that the precious
treasures were going to be wrested from me. Taking my hand, he led me
into the dining-room, sat down, and held me before him.

"Anne, you are a sensible little girl," he began, "and will understand
what I say to you. The events, the tragedies which have happened in
this house since you came to it, are not pleasant, they do not bring
honour, either to the living or the dead. Were everything that occurred
to be rigidly investigated, a large share of blame might be cast on my
wife, your Aunt Selina. It is a reflection I would have striven to
shield her from had she lived. I would doubly shield her now that she
is dead. Will you do the same?"

"Yes, sir; I should like to do so."

"That is right. Henceforth, when strangers question you, you must know
nothing. The better plan will be to be wholly silent. Remember, child,
I urge this for Selina's sake. We know how innocent of deliberate wrong
she was, but she was careless, and people might put a different
construction on things. They might be capable of saying that she urged
Heneage to revenge. You were present at that scene by the summer-house,
from which Heneage ran off, and shot King. Do not ever speak of it."

I think my breath went away from me in my consternation. How had Mr.
Edwin Barley learnt that? It could only have been from Selina.

"She sent me after Mr. Heneage, sir, to tell him to let Philip King
alone—to command it in his mother's name."

"I know. Instead of that he went and shot him. I would keep my wife's
name out of all this; you must do the same. But that you are a child of
right feeling and of understanding beyond your years, I should not say
this to you. Good-bye. I shall not see you in the morning."

"Good-bye sir," I answered. "Thank you for letting them all be kind to
me."

And he shook hands with me for the first time.



CHAPTER VII.
AT MISS FENTON'S.

I must have been a very impressionable child; easily swayed by the
opinions of those about me. The idea conveyed to my mind by what I had
heard of Mrs. Hemson was, that she was something of an ogre with claws;
and I can truthfully say, I would almost as soon have been consigned to
the care of an ogre as to hers. I felt so all the while I was going to
her.

Charlotte Delves placed me in the ladies' carriage at Nettleby station
under charge of the guard—just as it had been in coming. And once more
I, poor lonely little girl, was being whirled on a railroad journey.
But ah! with what a sad amount of experience added to my young life!

Two o'clock was striking as the train steamed into Dashleigh station. I
was not sure at first that it was Dashleigh, and in the uncertainty did
not get out. Several people were on the platform, waiting for the
passengers the train might bring. One lady in particular attracted my
notice, a tall, fair, graceful woman, with a sweet countenance. There
was something in her face that put me in mind of mamma. She was looking
attentively at the carriages, one after another, when her eyes caught
mine, and she came to the door.

"I think you must be, Anne," she said, with a bright smile, and sweet
voice of kindness. "Did you not know I should be here? I am Mrs.
Hemson."

That Mrs. Hemson! that the ogre with claws my imagination had painted!
In my astonishment I never spoke or stirred. The guard came up.

"This is Dashleigh," said he to me. "Are you come to receive this young
lady, ma'am?"

Mrs. Hemson did receive me, with a warm embrace. She saw to my luggage,
and then put me in a fly to proceed to her house. A thorough
gentlewoman was she in all ways; a _lady_ in appearance, mind, and
manners. But it seemed to me a great puzzle how she could be so; or,
being so that she could have married a retail tradesman.

Mr. Hemson was a silk-mercer and linendraper. It appeared to me a
large, handsome shop, containing many shopmen and customers. The fly
passed it and stopped at the private door. We went through a wide
passage and up a handsome staircase, into large and well-furnished
sitting-rooms. My impression had been that Mrs. Hemson lived in a
hovel, or, at the best, in some little dark sitting-room behind a shop.
Mrs. Jones, who kept the little shop where mamma used to buy her
things, had only a kitchen behind. Upstairs again were the nursery and
bedrooms, a very large house altogether. There were six children, two
girls who went to school by day, two boys out at boarding-school, and
two little ones in the nursery. In the yard behind were other rooms,
occupied by the young men engaged in the business, with whom Mrs.
Hemson appeared to have nothing whatever to do.

"This is where you will sleep, Anne," she said, opening the door of a
chamber which had two beds in it. "Frances and Mary sleep here, but
they can occupy the same bed while you stay. Make haste and get your
things off, my dear, for the dinner is ready."

I soon went down. There was no one in the drawing-room then, and I was
looking at some of the books on the centre table, when a gentleman
entered: he was tall, bright, handsome; a far more gentlemanly man than
any I had seen at Mr. Edwin Barley's, more so than even George Heneage.
I wondered who he could be.

"My dear little girl, I am glad you have arrived in safety," he said,
cordially taking my hand. "It was a long way for them to send you
alone."

It was Mr. Hemson. How could they have prejudiced me against him? was
the first thought that struck me. I had yet to learn that people in our
Keppe-Carew class of life estimate tradespeople not by themselves but
by their callings. The appearance of Mrs. Hemson had surprised me; how
much more, then, did that of her husband! Mrs. Jones's husband was a
little mean man, who carried out the parcels, and was given, people
said, to cheat. Since Selina mentioned Mr. Hemson's trade to me, I had
associated the two in my mind. Well educated, good and kind, respected
in his native town, and making money fast by fair dealing, Mr. Hemson,
to my ignorance, was a world's wonder.

"Is she not like Ursula, Frederick!" exclaimed Mrs. Hemson, holding up
my chin. "You remember her?"

He looked at me with a smile. "I scarcely remember her. I don't think
Ursula ever had eyes like these. They are worth a king's ransom; and
they are honest and true."

We went into the other room to dinner—a plain dinner of roast veal and
ham, and a damson tart, all nicely cooked and served, with a
well-dressed maid-servant to wait upon us. Altogether the house seemed
thoroughly well conducted; a pleasant, plentiful home, and where they
certainly lived as quiet gentlepeople, not for show, but for comfort.
Mr. Hemson went downstairs after dinner, and we returned to the
drawing-room.

"Anne," Mrs. Hemson said, smiling at me, "you have appeared all amaze
since you came into the house. What is the reason?"

I coloured very much; but she pressed the question.

"It is—a better house than I expected, ma'am."

"What! did they prejudice you against me?" she laughed. "Did your mamma
do that?"

"Mamma told me nothing. It was my Aunt Selina. She said you had raised
a barrier between—between——"

"Between myself and the Carews," she interrupted, filling up the pause.
"They say I lost caste in marrying Mr. Hemson. And so I did. But—do you
like him, Anne?"

"Very, very much. He seems quite a gentleman."

"He is a gentleman in all respects save one; but that is one which
people cannot get over, rendering it impossible for them to meet him as
an equal. Anne, when I became acquainted with Mr. Hemson, I did not
know he was in trade. Not that he intentionally deceived me, you must
understand; he is a man of nice honour, incapable of deceit; but it
fell out so. We were in a strange place, both far away from home, and
what our relative position might be at home never happened to be
alluded to by either of us. By the time I heard who and what he was, a
silk-mercer and linendraper, I had learnt to value him above all else
in the world. After that, he asked me to be his wife."

"And you agreed?"

"My dear, I first of all sat down and counted the cost. Before giving
my answer, I calculated which I could best give up, my position in
society as a gentlewoman and a gentleman's daughter of long pedigree,
or Frederick Hemson. I knew that constant slights—not intentional ones,
but what I should feel as such—would be my portion if I married him;
that I should descend for ever in the scale of society—must leap the
great gulf which separates the gentlewoman from the tradesman's wife.
But I believed that I should find my compensation in him: and I tried
it. I have never repented the step; I find more certainly, year by
year, that if I threw away the shadow, I grasped the substance."

"Oh, but surely you are still a gentlewoman!"

"My dear, such is not my position: I have put myself beyond the pale of
what the world calls society. But I counted all that beforehand, I tell
you, and I put it from me bravely. I weighed the cost well; it has not
been more than I bargained for."

"But indeed you are a gentlewoman," I said, earnestly, the tears rising
to my eyes at what I thought injustice; "I can see you are."

"Granted, Anne. But what if others do not accord me the place? I cannot
visit gentlepeople or be visited by them. I am the wife of Mr. Hemson,
a retail trader. This is a cathedral town, too; and, in such, the
distinctions of society are bowed to in an ultra degree."

"But is it right?"

"Quite right; perfectly right; as you will find when you are older. If
you have been gathering from my words that I rebel at existing things,
you are in error. The world would not get along without its social
distinctive marks, though France once had a try at it."

"Yes, I know."

"I repeat, that I sat down and counted _the cost_; and I grow more
willing to pay it year by year. But, Anne dear." and she laid her hand
impressively on my arm, "I would not recommend my plan of action to
others. It has answered in my case, for Mr. Hemson is a man in a
thousand; and I have dug a grave and buried my pride; but in nine cases
out of ten it would bring unhappiness, repentance, bickering. Nothing
can be more productive of misery generally, than an unequal marriage."

I did not quite understand. She had said that she was paying off the
cost year by year.

"Yes, Anne. One part of the cost must always remain——a weighty incubus.
It is not only that I have put myself beyond the pale of my own sphere,
but I have entailed it on my children. My girls must grow up in the
state to which they are born: let them be ever so refined, ever so well
educated, a barrier lies across their path: in visiting, they must be
confined to their father's class; they can never expect to be sought in
marriage by gentlemen. Wealthy tradespeople, professional men, they may
stand a chance of; but gentlemen, in the strict sense of the term,
never."

"Will they feel it?"

"No, oh no. That part of the cost is alone mine. I have taken care not
to bring them up to views above their father's station. There are
moments when I wish I had never had children. We cannot put away our
prejudices entirely, we Keppe-Carews, you see, Anne," she added, with a
light laugh.

"I don't think anybody can," I said, with a wise shake of the head.

"And now, Anne—to change the subject—what were the details of that
dreadful tragedy at Mr. Edwin Barley's?"

"I cannot tell them," I answered, with a rushing colour, remembering
Mr. Edwin Barley's caution as to secrecy. Mrs. Hemson misunderstood the
refusal.

"Poor child! I suppose they kept particulars from you: and it was right
to do so. Could they not save Selina?"

"No—for she died. Mr. Edwin Barley says he knows she was treated
wrongly."

"Ill-fated Selina! Were you with her when she died, Anne?"

"I was with her the night before. We thought she was getting better,
and she thought it. She had forgotten all about the warning, saying it
must be a dream."

"About the what?" interrupted Mrs. Hemson.

"While Selina was ill, she saw mamma. She said the Keppe-Carews always
had these warnings."

"Child, be silent!" imperatively spoke Mrs. Hemson. "How could they
think of imbuing you with their superstitions. It is all fancy."

"Mamma had the same warning, Mrs. Hemson. She said papa called her."

"Be quiet, I say, child!" she repeated, in a tone of emotion. "These
subjects are totally unfit for you. Mind, Anne, that you do not allude
to them before my little girls; and forget them yourself."

"They do not frighten me. But I should not speak of them to any one but
you, Mrs. Hemson."

"Frances and Mary will be home from school at five, and be delighted to
make acquaintance with you. You are going to school yourself next week.
Have you heard that?"

"To a school in Dashleigh?"

"In the suburbs. The trustees have at length decided it, and I shall be
at hand, in case of your illness, or anything of that sort. Had your
Aunt Selina lived, you would have been placed at Nettleby."

"Where am I to spend the holidays?"

"At school. It is to Miss Fenton's that you are going."

"Is that where Frances and Mary go?"

"No," she answered, a smile crossing her lips. "They would not be
admitted to Miss Fenton's."

"But why?"

"Because she professes to take none but gentlemen's daughters. My
daughters, especially with their father living in the same town, would
not do at any price. It will be a condescension," she laughed, "that
Miss Fenton allows you to dine with us once in a while."

"Perhaps she will not take me," I breathlessly said.

"My dear, she will be only too glad to do so. You are the daughter of
Colonel Hereford, the granddaughter of Carew of Keppe-Carew."

And in spite of the lost caste of Mrs. Hemson, in spite of the shop
below, I never spent a happier week than the one I spent with her.

And now came school life; school life that was to continue without
intermission, and did continue, until I was eighteen years of age. Part
of these coming years were spent at Miss Fenton's; the rest (as I found
afterwards) at a school in France. It is very much the custom to cry
down French scholastic establishments, to contrast them unfavourably
with English ones. They may deserve the censure; I do not know; but I
can truthfully say that so far as my experience goes, the balance is on
the other side.

Miss Fenton's was a "Select Establishment," styling itself a
first-class one. I have often wondered whether those less select, less
expensive, were not more liberal in their arrangements. Fourteen was
the number of girls professed to be taken, but never once, during my
stay, was the school quite full. It had a name; and there lay the
secret of its success. The teaching was good; the girls were brought on
well: but for the comforts! You shall hear of them. And I declare that
I transcribe each account faithfully.

There were nine pupils at the time I entered: I made the tenth. Miss
Fenton, an English teacher, a French teacher who taught German also,
and several day-masters, instructed us. Miss Fenton herself took
nothing, that I saw, but the music; she was about five-and-thirty,
tall, thin, and very prim.

"You will be well off there, my dear, in regard to living," Mrs. Hemson
had said to me. "Miss Fenton tells me her pupils are treated most
liberally; and that she keeps an excellent table. Indeed she ought to
do so, considering her terms."

Of course I thought I _should_ be treated liberally, and enjoy the
benefits of the excellent table.

We got there just before tea time, six o'clock. Mrs. Hemson, acting for
my trustees had made the negotiations with Miss Fenton; of course she
took me to school, stayed a few minutes with Miss Fenton, and then left
me. When my things were off, and I was back in the drawing-room, Miss
Fenton rang the bell.

"You shall join the young ladies at once," she said to me; "they are
about to take tea. You have never been to school before, I think."

"No, ma'am. Mamma instructed me."

"Have the young ladies gone into the refectory?" Miss Fenton inquired,
when a maid-servant appeared.

"I suppose so, ma'am," was the answer. "The bell has been rung for
them."

"Desire Miss Linthorn to step hither."

Miss Linthorn appeared, a scholar of fifteen or sixteen, very upright.
She made a deep curtsey as she entered. "Take this young lady and
introduce her," said Miss Fenton. "Her name is Hereford."

We went through some spacious, well-carpeted passages; their corners
displaying a chaste statue, or a large plant in beautiful bloom; and
thence into some shabby passages, uncarpeted. Nothing could be more
magnificent (in a moderate, middle-class point of view) than the show
part, the _company_ part of Miss Fenton's house; nothing much more
meagre than the rest.

A long, bare deal table, with the tea-tray at the top; two plates of
thick bread-and-butter, _very_ thick, and one plate of thinner; the
English teacher pouring out the tea, the French one seated by her side,
and eight girls lower down, that was what I saw on entering a room that
looked cold and comfortless.

Miss Linthorn, leaving me just inside the door, walked up to the
teachers and spoke.

"Miss Hereford."

"I heard there was a new girl coming in to-day," interrupted a young
lady, lifting her head, and speaking in a rude, free tone. "What's the
name, Linthorn?"

"Will you have the goodness to behave as a lady—if you can, Miss
Glynn?" interrupted the English teacher, whose name was Dale. "That
will be your place, Miss Hereford," she added, to me, indicating the
end of the form on the left side, below the rest. "Have you taken tea?"

"No, ma'am."

"Qu'elles sont impolies, ces filles Anglaises!" said Mademoiselle
Leduc, the French teacher, with a frowning glance at Miss Glynn for her
especial benefit.

"It is the nature of school girls to be so, Mademoiselle," pertly
responded Miss Glynn. "And I beg to remind you that we are not under
your charge when we are out of school in the evening; therefore,
whether we are 'impolies' or 'polies,' it is no affair of yours."

Mademoiselle Leduc only half comprehended the words; it was as well she
did not. Miss Dale administered a sharp reprimand, and passed me my
tea. I stirred it, tasted it, and stirred it again.

"Don't you like it?" asked a laughing girl next to me; Clara Webb, they
called her.

I did not like it at all, and would rather have had milk and water. So
far as flavour went, it might have been hot water coloured, was
sweetened with brown sugar, and contained about a teaspoonful of milk.
I never had any better tea, night or morning, so long as I remained:
but school girls get used to these things. The teachers had a little
black teapot to themselves, and their tea looked good. The plate of
thin bread-and-butter was for them.

A very handsome girl of seventeen, with haughty eyes and still more
haughty tones, craned her neck forward and stared at me. Some of the
rest followed her example.

"That child has nothing to eat," she observed. "Why don't you hand the
bread-and-butter to her, Webb?"

Clara Webb presented the plate to me. It was so thick, the bread, that
I hesitated to take it, and the butter was scraped upon it in a
niggardly fashion; but for my experience at Miss Fenton's I should
never have thought it possible for butter to have been spread so thin.
The others were eating it with all the appetite of hunger. The slice
was too thick to bite conveniently, so I had to manage as well as I
could, listening—how could I avoid it?—to a conversation the girls
began among themselves in an undertone. To hear them call each other by
the surname alone had a strange sound. It was the custom of the school.
The teachers were talking together, taking no notice of the girls.

"Hereford? Hereford?" debated the handsome girl, and I found her name
was Tayler. "I wonder where she comes from?"

"I know who I saw her with last Sunday, when I was spending the day at
home. The Hemsons."

"What Hemsons? Who are they?"

"Hemsons the linendrapers."

"Hemsons the linendrapers!" echoed an indignant voice, whilst I felt my
own face turn to a glowing crimson. "What absurd nonsense you are
talking, Glynn!"

"I tell you I did. I knew her face again the moment Linthorn brought
her in. She came to church with them, and sat in their pew."

"I don't believe it," coldly exclaimed an exceedingly ugly girl, with a
prominent mouth. "As if Miss Fenton would admit that class of people!
Glynn is playing upon our credulity; just as she did, do you remember,
about that affair of the prizes. We want some more bread-and-butter,
Miss Dale—may we ring?"

"Yes, if you do want it," replied Miss Dale, turning her face from
Mademoiselle to speak.

"Betsey, stop a moment, I have something to ask you!" suddenly called
out one dressed in mourning, leaping over the form and darting after
the maid, who had come in and was departing with the plate in her hand.
A whispered colloquy ensued at the door, half in, half out of it; close
to me, who was seated near it.

"I say, Betsey! Do you know who the new pupil is?"

"Not exactly, Miss. Mrs. Hemson brought her!"

"Mrs. Hemson! There! Glynn said so! Are you sure?"

"I am quite sure, Miss Thorpe. Mrs. Hemson has been here several times
this last week or two; I knew it was about a new pupil. And when she
brought her to-night, she gave me half a crown, and told me to be kind
to her. A nice lady is Mrs. Hemson as ever I spoke to."

"I daresay she may be, for her station," spoke Miss Thorpe, going back
to her seat with a stalk.

"I say, girls—I have been asking Betsey—come close." And they all
huddled their heads together. "I thought I'd ask Betsey: she says she
does come from the Hemsons. Did you ever know such a shame?"

"It _can't be_, you know," cried the one with the large mouth. "Miss
Fenton would not dare to do it. Would my papa, a prebendary of the
Cathedral, allow me to be placed where I could be associated with
tradespeople?"

"Ask Betsey for yourselves," retorted Miss Thorpe. "She says it was
Mrs. Hemson who brought her to school."

"Nonsense about asking Betsey," said Nancy Tayler; "ask herself. Come
here, child," she added, in a louder tone, beckoning to me.

I went humbly up, behind the form, feeling very humble indeed just
then. They were nearly all older than I, and I began again to think it
must be something sadly lowering to be connected with the Hemsons.

"Are you related to Hemsons, the shopkeepers?"

"Yes. To Mrs. Hemson. Mamma was——"

"Oh, there, that will do," she unceremoniously interposed, with a
scornful gesture. "Go back to your seat, and don't sit too close to
Miss Webb; she's a gentleman's daughter."

My readers, you may be slow to believe this, but I can only say it
occurred exactly as written. I returned to my seat, a terrible feeling
of mortification having passed over my young life.

They never spoke to me again that evening. There was no supper, and at
half-past eight we went up to bed; three smallish beds were in the room
where I was to sleep, and one large one with curtains round it. The
large one was Miss Dale's, and two of us, I found, shared each of the
smaller ones; my bedfellow was Clara Webb. She was a good-humoured
girl, more careless upon the point of 'family' than most of the rest
seemed to be, and did not openly rebel at having to sleep with me. Miss
Dale came up for the candle after we were in bed.

The bell rang at half-past six in the morning, our signal for getting
up: we had to be down by seven. There were studies till eight, and then
breakfast—the same wretched tea, and the same coarse bread-and-butter.
At half-past eight Miss Fenton read prayers; and at nine the school
business commenced.

At ten Mademoiselle was assembling her German class. Seven only of the
pupils learnt it. I rose and went up with them: and was rewarded with a
stare.

"What will be the use of German to _her?_" rudely cried Miss Peacock, a
tall, stout girl, directing to me all the scorn of which a look is
capable. "I should not fancy Miss Hereford is to learn German,
Mademoiselle Leduc. It may be as well to inquire."

Mademoiselle Leduc looked at me, hesitated, and then put the question
to Miss Fenton, her imperfect English sounding through the room.

"Dis new young lady, is she to learn de German, madam?"

Miss Fenton directed her eyes towards us.

"Miss Hereford? Yes. Miss Hereford is to learn everything taught in my
establishment."

"Oh!" said Nancy Tayler, _sotto voce_. "Are you to be a governess,
pray, Miss Hereford?"

A moment's hesitation between pride and truth, and then, with a blush
of shame in my cheeks _for_ the hesitation, came the brave answer.

"I am to be a governess; mamma gave the directions in her will. What
fortune she left is to be expended upon my education, and she said
there might be no better path of life open to me."

"That's candid, at any rate," cried Miss Peacock. And so I began
German.

We dined at two; and I don't suppose but that every girl was terribly
hungry. I know I was. With a scanty eight-o'clock breakfast, children
ought not to wait until two for the next meal. We had to dress for
dinner, which was laid in Miss Fenton's dining-room, not in the bare
place called the refectory; Miss Fenton dining with us and carving. It
was handsomely laid. A good deal of silver was on the table, with
napkins and finger-glasses; indeed, the style and serving were
superior. Two servants waited: Betsey and another. The meat was roast
beef—a part of beef I had never seen; it seemed a large lump of meat
and no bone. Very acceptable looked it to us hungry school girls. We
shall have plenty now, I thought.

My plate came to me at last; _such_ a little mite of meat, and three
large potatoes! I could well have put the whole piece of meat in my
mouth at once. Did Miss Fenton fancy I disliked meat? But upon looking
at the other plates, I saw they were no better supplied than mine was;
plenty of potatoes, but an apology for meat.

"Would we take more?" Miss Fenton asked, when we had despatched it. And
the question was invariably put by her every day; we as invariably
answered "Yes." The servants took our plates up, and brought them back.
I do not believe that the whole meat combined, supplied to all the
plates in that second serving, would have weighed two ounces. Potatoes
again we had, much as we liked, and then came a baked rice pudding.

Miss Fenton boasted of her plentiful table. That there was a plentiful
dinner always placed on the table was indisputable, _but we did not get
enough of it_; we were starved in the sight of plenty. I have seen a
leg of mutton leave the table (nay, the joints always so left the
table), when two hearty eaters might well have eaten all there was cut
of it, and upon that the whole thirteen had dined! I, a woman grown
now, have seen much of this stingy, deceitful habit of carving, not
only in schools, but in some private families. "We keep a plentiful
table," many, who have to do with the young will say. "Yes," I think to
myself, "but do those you profess to feed get helped to enough of it?"
Sometimes often indeed, two dishes were on the table; we were asked
which we would take, but never partook of both. The scanty breakfast,
this dinner, and the tea I have described, were all the meals we had;
and this was a "select," "first-class" establishment, where the terms
charged were high. Miss Fenton took her supper at eight, alone, and the
teachers supped at nine in the refectory; rumours were abroad in the
school, that these suppers, or at least Miss Fenton's, were sumptuous
meals. I know we often smelt savoury cooking at bedtime. Sometimes we
had pudding before meat, often we had cold meat, sometimes hashed,
often meat pies, with a very thick crust over and under. I do not fancy
Miss Fenton's butcher's bill could have been a heavy one. Altogether,
it recurs to me now like a fraud: a fraud upon the parents, a cruel
wrong upon the children. A child who is not well nourished, will not
possess too much of rude health and strength in after-life.

That was an unhappy day to me! How I was despised, slighted, scorned, I
cannot adequately describe. It became so palpable as to attract the
attention of the teachers, and in the evening they inquired into the
cause. Mademoiselle Leduc could not by any force of reasoning be
brought to comprehend it; she was unable to understand why I was not as
good as the rest, and why they should not deem me so; things are
estimated so differently in France from what they are in England.

"Bah!" said she, slightingly, giving up as useless the trying to
comprehend, "elles sont folles, ces demoiselles."

Miss Dale held a colloquy with one or two of the elder girls, and then
called me up. She began asking me questions about my studies, what
mamma had taught me, how far I was advanced, all in a kind, gentle way;
and she parted my hair on my forehead, and looked into my eyes.

"Your mamma was Mrs. Hemson's sister," she said, presently.

"Not her sister, ma'am; her cousin."

"Her cousin, was it?" she resumed after a pause. "What was your papa? I
heard Miss Fenton say you were an orphan."

"Papa?"

"I mean, in what position?—was he in trade?"

"He was an officer in Her Majesty's service. Colonel Hereford."

"Colonel Hereford?" she returned, looking at me as though she wondered
whether I was in error. "Are you sure?"

"Quite sure, Miss Dale. Mamma was Miss Carew of Keppe-Carew."

"Miss Carew of Keppe-Carew!" she exclaimed, with a little scream of
surprise; for the Keppe-Carews were of note in the world.

"Mrs. Hemson was a Keppe-Carew also," I continued. "She forfeited her
position to marry Mr. Hemson; and she says she has not repented it."

Miss Dale paused; said she remembered to have heard the noise it made
when a Miss Carew, of Keppe-Carew, quitted her home for a tradesman's;
but had never known that it related to Mrs. Hemson.

"I was a stranger to Dashleigh until I came here as teacher," she
observed, beckoning up the two young ladies, Miss Tayler and Miss
Peacock.

"When next you young ladies take a prejudice against a new pupil, it
may be as well to make sure first of all of your grounds," she said to
them, her tone sarcastic. "You have been sending this child to
'Coventry' on the score of her not being your equal in point of family;
let me tell you there's not one of you in the whole school whose family
is fit to tie the shoes of hers. She is the daughter of Colonel
Hereford, and of Miss Carew of Keppe-Carew."

They looked blank. Some of the other girls raised their heads to
listen. Miss Peacock and one or two more—as I found afterwards—were but
the daughters of merchants; others of professional men.

"She is related to the Hemsons," spoke Miss Peacock, defiantly. "She
has acknowledged that she is."

"If she were related to a chimney-sweep, that does not take from her
own proper position," returned Miss Dale, angrily. "Because a member of
the Keppe-Carew family chose to forfeit her rank and sacrifice herself
for Mr. Hemson, is Miss Hereford to be made answerable for it? Go away,
you silly girls, and don't expose yourselves again."

The explanation had its weight in the school, and the tide set in for
me as strenuously as it had been against me. The avowal that I was to
be a governess appeared to be ignored or disbelieved, and the elder
girls begun a system of patronage.

"How much money have you brought, little Anne Hereford?"

I exhibited my purse and its three half-crowns, all the money Mrs.
Hemson had allowed me to bring.

"Seven and sixpence! That's not much. I suppose you would wish to act
in accordance with the custom of the school?"

I intimated that I of course should—if I knew what that was.

"Well, the rule is for a new girl to give a feast to the rest. We have
it in the bedroom after Dale has been for the candle. Ten shillings has
been the sum usually spent—but I suppose your three half-crowns must be
made sufficient; you are but a little one."

I wished to myself that they had left me one of the half-crowns, but
could not for the world have said it. I wrote out a list of the
articles suggested, and gave the money to one of the servants, Betsey,
to procure them; doing all this according to directions. Cold beef and
ham from the eating-house, rolls and butter, penny pork pies, small
German sausages, jam tarts, and a bottle of raisin wine comprised the
list.

Betsey smuggled the things in, and conveyed them to the play-room.
Strict orders meanwhile being given to me to say that I brought them to
school in my box, should the affair, by mischance, be found out. It
would be so cruel to get Betsey turned out of her place, they observed;
but they had held many such treats, and never been found out yet.

Miss Dale came as usual for the candle that night, and took it. For a
few minutes we lay still as mice, and then sprang up and admitted the
rest from their bedroom. Half a dozen wax tapers were lighted,
abstracted from the girls' private writing-desks, and half a dozen more
were in readiness to be lighted, should the first not hold out. And the
feast began.

"Now, Anne Hereford, it's your treat, so of course you are the one to
wait upon us. You must go to the decanter for water when we want it,
and listen at the door against eavesdroppers, and deal out the rolls.
By the way, how many knives have come up? Look, Peacock."

"There's only one. One knife and two plates. Well, we'll make the
counterpane or our hands do for plates."

"Our hands will be best, and then we can lick up the crumbs. Is the
corkscrew there? Who'll draw the cork of the wine?"

"Hush! don't talk so loud; they are hardly at supper yet downstairs,"
interposed Miss Tayler, who was the oldest girl in the school. "Now,
mind! we'll have no dispute about what shall be eaten first, as we had
last time; it shall be served regularly. Beef and ham to begin with:
pork pies and sausages next; jam tarts last; rolls and butter ad
libitum; water with the feast, and the wine to finish up with. That's
the order of the day, and if any girl's not satisfied with it, she can
retire to bed, which will leave the more for us who are. You see that
washhand-stand, little Hereford? Take the water-bottles there, and pour
out as we want it; and put a taper near, or you may be giving yourself
a bath. Now then, I'll be carver."

She cut the ham into ten portions, the beef likewise, and told me to
give round a roll. Then the rolls were cut open and buttered, various
devices being improvised for the latter necessity, by those who could
not wait their turn for the knife; tooth-brush handles prevailing, and
fingers not being altogether absent. Next came the delightful business
of eating.

"Some water, little Hereford."

I obeyed, though it was just as I was about to take the first bite of
the feast. Laying down my share on the counterpane, I brought the
tumbler of water.

"And now, Hereford, you must listen at the door."

"If you please, may I take this with me?" for I had once more caught up
the tantalizing supper.

"Of course you can, little stupid!"

I went to the door, the beef and ham doubled up in one hand, the
buttered roll in the other, and there eat and listened. The scene would
have made a good picture. The distant bed on which the eatables were
flung, and on which the tapers in their little bronze stands rested,
and the girls in their night-gowns gathered round, half lounging on it,
talking eagerly, eating ravenously, enjoying themselves thoroughly; I
shivering at the door, delighted with the feast, but half-terrified
lest interruption should come from below. That unlucky door had no
fastening to it, so that any one could come, as the girls expressed it,
bolt in. Some time previously there had been a disturbance, because the
girls one night locked out Miss Dale, upon which Miss Fenton had
carried away the key.

"Our beef and ham's gone, Anne Hereford. Is your?"

It was Georgina Digges who spoke, and she half-turned round to do so,
for she was leaning forward on the bed with her back to me. I was about
to answer, when there came a shrill scream from one of the others, a
scream of terror. It was followed by another and another, until they
were all screaming together, and I darted in alarm to the bed. Georgina
Digges, in turning round, had let her night-gown sleeve touch one of
the wax tapers, and set it on fire.

Oh, then was confusion! the shrieks rising and the flames with them.
With a presence of mind perfectly astonishing in one so young, Nancy
Tyler tore up the bedside carpet and flung it round her.

"Throw her down, throw her down! it is the only chance!" Nancy screamed
to the rest, and there she was on the ground by the time those
downstairs had rushed up. Some smothered more carpet on her, some threw
a blanket, and the cook further poured out all the water from the
washhand jugs.

"Who is it?" demanded Miss Fenton, speaking and looking more dead than
alive.

None of us answered; we were too much terrified; but Miss Dale, who had
been taking hurried note of our faces, said it must be Georgina Diggs:
her face was the only one missing.

I wonder what Miss Fenton thought when she saw the items of the feast
as they lay on the bed! The scanty remains of the beef and ham, the
buttered rolls half eaten, others ready to butter, the pork pies, the
German sausages, the jam tarts, and the bottle of wine. Did a thought
cross her that if the girls had been allowed better dinners, they might
have been less eager for stolen suppers? She had probably been
disturbed at her good supper, for a table napkin was tucked before her,
underneath the string of her silk apron.

"You deceitful, rebellious girls!" exclaimed Miss Fenton. "Who has been
the ringleader in this?"

A pause, and then a voice spoke from amidst the huddled group of
girls—_whose_ voice I did not know then and have never known to this
day.

"The new girl, Anne Hereford. She brought the things to school in her
box."

Miss Fenton looked round for me: I was standing quite at the back. I
had not courage to contradict the words. But just then a commotion
arose from the group which stood round the burnt girl, and Miss Fenton
turned to it in her sickening fear.

The doctors came, and we were consigned to bed, Georgina Digges being
taken into another room. Happily, she was found not to be dangerously
burnt, badly on the arm and shoulder, but no further.

Of course there was a great trouble in the morning. Mrs. Hemson was
sent for and to her I told the truth, which I had not dared to tell to
Miss Fenton. The two ladies had afterwards an interview alone, in which
I felt sure Mrs. Hemson repeated every word I had spoken. Nothing more
was said to me. Miss Fenton made a speech in the school, beginning with
a reproach at their taking a young child's money from her, and going on
to the enormity of our offence in "sitting up at night to gormandize"
(apologizing for the broad word), which she forbad absolutely for the
future.

Thus the affair ended. Georgina Digges recovered, and joined us in the
school-room: and she was not taken away, though we had thought she
would be. But, in spite of the accident and Miss Fenton's prohibition,
the feasts at night did go on, as often as a new girl came to be made
to furnish one, or when the school subscribed a shilling each, and
constituted it a joint affair. _One_ little wax taper did duty in
future, and that was placed on the mantelpiece, out of harm's way.

And that is all I shall have to say of my school-life in England.



CHAPTER VIII.
EMILY CHANDOS.

In the grey dawn of an August morning, I stood on a steamer that was
about to clear out from alongside one of the wharves near London
Bridge. It was bound for a seaport town in France. Scarcely dawn yet,
the night-clouds still hung upon the earth, but light was breaking in
the eastern horizon. The passengers were coming on board—not many; it
did not appear that the boat would have much of a freight that day. I
heard one of the seamen say so; I knew nothing about it; and the scene
was as new to me as the world is to a bird, flying for the first time
from a cage where it has been hatched and reared.

I was fifteen, and had left Miss Fenton's for good; thoroughly
well-educated, so far. And now they were sending me to a school in
France to finish.

I will not say precisely where this school was situated: there are
reasons against it; but what little record I give of the establishment
shall be true and faithful. It was not at Boulogne or at Calais, those
renowned seaports, inundated with Anglo-French schools; neither was it
in Paris or Brussels, or at Dieppe. We can call the town Nulle, and
that's near enough. It was kept by two ladies, sisters, the Demoiselles
Barlieu. The negotiations had been made by my trustees, and Mrs. Hemson
had brought me to London, down to the steamer on this early morning,
and was now consigning me to the care of Miss Barlieu's English
governess, whom we had met there by appointment. She was a very plain
young person, carrying no authority in appearance, and looking not much
like a lady. Authority, as I found, she would have little in the
school; she was engaged to teach English, and there her duties ended.

"You had better secure a berth and lie down," she said to me. "The
night has been cold, and it is scarcely light enough yet to be on
deck."

"Any ladies for shore?" cried a rough voice at the cabin door.

"Shore!" echoed Miss Johnstone, in what seemed alarm. "You are surely
not going to start yet! I am waiting for another young lady."

"It wont be more than five minutes now, mum."

"A pupil?" I asked her.

"I believe so. Mademoiselle Barlieu wrote to me that two——"

"Any lady here of the name of Johnstone?"

The inquiry came from a middle-aged, quiet-looking person, who was
glancing in at the cabin door. By her side stood a most elegant girl of
seventeen, perhaps eighteen, her eyes blue, her face brilliantly fair,
her dress handsome.

"I am Miss Johnstone," said the teacher, advancing.

"What a relief! The steward thought no governess had come on board, and
I must not have dared to send Miss Chandos alone. My lady——"

"You would, Hill; so don't talk nonsense," interrupted the young lady,
with a laugh, as she threw up her white veil, and brought her beauty
right underneath the cabin lamp. "Would the fishes have swallowed me up
any the quicker for not being in somebody's charge? Unfasten my cloak,
Hill."

"This young lady is Miss Chandos, ma'am," said the person addressed as
Hill, presenting the beautiful girl to Miss Johnstone. "Please take
every care of her in going across."

The young lady wheeled round. "Are you our new English teacher?"

"I am engaged as English governess at Mademoiselle Barlieu's," replied
Miss Johnstone, who had not at all a pleasant manner of speaking. "She
wrote word to me that I might expect Miss Chandos and Miss Hereford on
board."

"Miss Hereford!" was the quick response. "Who is she?"

But by that time I was lying down on the berth, and the rough voice
again interrupted.

"Any lady as is for shore had better look sharp, unless they'd like to
be took off to t'other side the Channel."

"What fun, Hill, if they should take you off!" laughed Miss Chandos, as
the former started up with trepidation. "Now don't stumble overboard in
your haste to get off the boat."

"Good-bye to you, Miss Emily, and a pleasant journey! You won't fail to
write as soon as you arrive: my lady will be anxious."

"Oh, I will gladden mamma's heart with a letter, or she may be thinking
the bottom of the steamer has come out," lightly returned Miss Chandos.
"Mind, Hill, that you give my love to Mr. Harry when he gets home."

Those who were for shore went on shore, and soon we were in all the
bustle and noise of departure. Miss Chandos stood by the small round
table, looking in the hanging-glass, and turning her shining golden
ringlets round her fingers. On one of those fingers was a ring, whose
fine large stones formed a hearts-ease: two were yellow topaz, the
other three dark amethyst: the whole beautiful.

"May I suggest that you should lie down, Miss Chandos?" said our
governess for the time being. "You will find the benefit of doing so."

"Have you crossed the Channel many times?" was the reply of Miss
Chandos, as she coolly proceeded with her hair: her tone to Miss
Johnstone was a patronizing one.

"Only twice; to France and home again."

"And I have crossed it a dozen times at least, between school and
Continental voyages with mamma, so you cannot teach me much in that
respect. I can assure you there's nothing more disagreeable than to be
stewed in one of these suffocating berths. When we leave the river,
should it prove a rough sea, well and good; but I don't put myself in a
berth until then."

"Have you been long with the Miss Barlieus?" inquired Miss Johnstone of
her.

"Two dismal years. But I have outlived the dismality now—if you will
allow me to coin a word. Mamma has known the Barlieus all her life: an
aunt of theirs was her governess when she was young; and when we were
returning home from Italy, mamma went to the place and left me there,
instead of taking me on to England. Was I not rebellious over it! for
three months I planned, every day, to run away on the next."

"But you did not?" I spoke up from my berth, greatly interested.

Miss Chandos turned round and looked at me. "No," she laughed, "it was
never accomplished. I believe the chief impediment was, the not knowing
where to run to. Are you the Miss Hereford?"

"Yes."

"What a bit of a child you seem! You won't like a French school, if
this is your first entrance to one. Home comforts and French schools
are as far apart as the two poles."

"But I am not accustomed to home comforts; I have no home. I have been
for some years at an English school where there was little comfort of
any sort. Do your friends live in England? Have you a home there?"

"A home in England!" she answered, with some surprise at the question,
or at my ignorance. "Of course: I am Miss Chandos. Chandos is mamma's
present residence; though, strictly speaking, it belongs to Sir
Thomas."

All this was so much Greek to me. Perhaps Miss Chandos saw that it was,
for she laughed gaily.

"Sir Thomas Chandos is my brother. Harry is the other one. We thought
Tom would have retired from the army and come home when papa died, two
or three years ago; but he still remains in India. Mamma writes him
word that he should come home and marry, and so make himself into a
respectable man; he sends word back that he is respectable enough as it
is."

"Your papa was——?"

"Sir Thomas Chandos. Ah, dear! if he had but lived! He was so kind to
us! Mamma is in widow's weeds yet, and always will be."

"And who was she who brought you on board?"

"Hill. She is the housekeeper at Chandos. Some one has always taken me
over until this time, generally Harry. But Harry is away, and Miss
Barlieu wrote word to mamma that the English governess could bring me,
so Hill was despatched with me to town."

"What a beautiful ring that is!" I exclaimed, as the stones flashed in
the lamp-light.

Her eyes fell upon it, and a blush and a smile rose to her face. She
sat down on the edge of my berth, and twirled it over with the fingers
of her other hand.

"Yes it is a nice ring. Let any one attempt to give me a ring that is
not a nice one; they would get it flung back at them."

"Is Mademoiselle Barlieu's a large school?"

"There were seventy-five last trimestre."

"Seventy-five!" I repeated, amazed at the number.

"That includes the externes—nearly fifty of them—with whom we have
nothing to do. There are three class-rooms: one for the elder girls,
one for the younger, and the third (it's the size almost of the large
hall at the Tribunal of Commerce) for the externes."

"Are there many teachers?"

"Six, including the English governess and the two Miss Barlieus; and
six masters, who are in nearly constant attendance."

"Altogether, do you like being there?"

"Yes," she said, laughing significantly, "I like it very well _now_. I
am going on deck to watch the day break; so adieu for the present.

We had a rough passage; of which I cannot think to this day
without—without wishing not to think of it; and late in the afternoon
the steamer was made fast to the port it was bound for. In the midst of
the bustle preparatory to landing, a gentleman, young, vain, and
good-looking, leaped on board, braving the douaniers, who were too late
to prevent him, and warmly greeted Miss Chandos.

"My dear Emily!"

"Speak in French, Alfred," she said, taking the initiative and
addressing him in the language—her damask cheeks, her dimples, and her
dancing eyes all being something lovely to behold. "I have not come
alone, as I thought I should. A duenna, in the shape of the English
governess, has charge of me."

"Miss Chandos, the men are calling out that we must land."

The interruption came from Miss Johnstone, who had approached, looking
keenly at the gentleman. The latter, with scant courtesy to the
governess, made no reply: he was too much occupied in assisting Miss
Chandos up the landing-steps. Miss Chandos turned her head when she
reached the top.

"Be so good as to look in the cabin, Miss Johnstone; I have left a
hundred things there, odds and ends. My warm cloak is somewhere."

Miss Johnstone appeared anything but pleased. It is not usual for
pupils to order their teachers to look after their things; and Miss
Chandos was of somewhat imperious manner: not purposely: it was her
nature. I turned with Miss Johnstone, and we collected together the
items left by Miss Chandos. By the time we got to the custom-house, she
had disappeared. Twenty minutes after, when we and our luggage had been
examined, we found her outside, walking to and fro with the gentleman.

"Where are your boxes, Miss Chandos?" asked Miss Johnstone.

"My boxes? I don't know anything about them. I gave my keys to one of
the commissionaires; he will see to them. Or you can, if you like."

"I do not imagine that it is my business to do so," was Miss
Johnstone's offended reply. But Miss Chandos was again walking with her
companion, and paid no heed to her.

"Halloa, De Mellissie! have you been to England?" inquired a passing
Englishman of Miss Chandos's friend.

"Not I," he replied. "I stepped on board the boat when it came in, so
they took their revenge by making me go through the custom-house and
turning my pockets inside out. Much good it did them!"

An omnibus was waiting round the corner, in which we were finally to be
conveyed to our destination, Mademoiselle Barlieu's. Seated in it was a
little, stout, good-tempered dame of fifty, Mademoiselle Caroline, the
senior teacher. She received Miss Chandos with open arms, and a kiss on
each cheek. The gentleman politely handed us by turn into the omnibus,
and stood bowing to us, bareheaded, as we drove away.

"Do you think him handsome?" Miss Chandos whispered to me, the glow on
her face fading.

"Pretty well. What is his name?"

"Alfred de Mellissie. You can be good-natured, can't you?" she added.

"I can, if I like."

"Then be so now, and don't preach it out to the whole school that he
met me. He——"

"Is that gentleman a relative of yours, Miss Chandos?" interrupted Miss
Johnstone from the end of the omnibus.

Miss Chandos did not like the tone or the question: the one savoured of
acrimony, the other she resented as impertinent. She fixed her haughty
blue eyes on Miss Johnstone before she answered: they said very
plainly, "By what right do you presume to inquire of me?" and Miss
Johnstone bit her lips at the look.

"They are not related to us. Madame de Mellissie is an intimate friend
of my mother, Lady Chandos." And that was all she condescended to say,
for she turned her back and began laughing and chattering in French
with Mademoiselle Caroline.

The Miss Barlieus received us graciously, giving us all the same
friendly greeting that the old teacher had given only to Miss Chandos.
Two pleasant, kind-hearted maiden ladies were they, not very young.
Miss Annette confessed to having passed thirty-five. We were their
visitors that evening, and were regaled with nice things in their own
parlour.

I said I would relate the mode of treatment in that school. It was a
superior establishment, the terms high _for France_; but they were not
much more than half the amount of Miss Fenton's. Here they included the
month's holiday at autumn. At Miss Fenton's the holidays were three
months in the year; and if you stayed (as I did), extra money had to be
paid.

The dormitories were spacious and airy, a small, separate, thoroughly
clean bed being given to each pupil. No French school can be
overcrowded, for they are under the close inspection of the Government;
and the number of pupils to be taken is registered. A large airy room
is set apart as an infirmary, should any fall sick.

Clang! clang! clang! went the great bell in the morning, waking us out
of our sleep at six. Dressing, practising, lessons, and prayers,
occupied the time until eight. Miss Johnstone read prayers to the
English pupils, all Protestants; Mademoiselle Caroline read them to the
French, who were Roman Catholics. For breakfast there was as much
bread-and-butter as we liked to eat, and a small basin each of good
rich milk. Some of the English girls chose tea in preference, which
they were at liberty to do. On Sunday morning's the breakfast was a
treat: coffee and _petits pains_, a sort of roll. We had them hot, two
each, and a small pat of butter. Such coffee as that we never get in
England: one-third coffee, two-thirds hot milk, and strong then.
Breakfast over (to go back to the week days), we played till nine, and
then came studies until twelve.

The professed dinner hour was half-past twelve, but the cook rarely
sent in before a quarter to one. We all dined together with Miss
Barlieu and Miss Annette, at two long tables. I remember the dinner,
that first day, as well as though I had eaten it yesterday. A plateful
of soup first, very poor, as all French soup is; after that the
bouilli, the meat that the soup is made of. The English at first never
like this bouilli, but in time they learn to know how good it is, eaten
with the French piquante mustard. Sometimes carrots were served with
the bouilli, sometimes small pickled cucumbers: this day we had
cucumbers. Remembering Miss Fenton's, I wondered if that comprised the
dinner—and, talking of Miss Fenton's, I have never mentioned that in
her house we were not allowed bread at dinner; here, if we could have
eaten a whole loaf, we might have had it.

It did not comprise the dinner; there came on some delicious roast veal
and potatoes; and afterwards fried pancakes, with sugar. On Sundays we
sometimes had poultry, always a second dish of vegetables, and a fruit
or cream tart. The drink was the same as at Miss Fenton's—beer or
water, as might be preferred. Four or five of the girls had wine; but
it was either supplied by the parents, or paid for as an extra. It was
commonly reported that in some other schools, in the colleges
especially, the soup, the bouilli, bread and potatoes, comprised the
dinner _every day_, with a roast joint in addition on Sundays.

At two o'clock came school again until four, when we were released for
half an hour, and had each a slice of bread-and-butter, called
collation. Then school again until six, and supper at seven. The
suppers varied; meat was never served, but vegetables were often:
sometimes bread and cheese and salad; or bread and butter, with an egg,
or with shrimps, or fried potatoes; and tea to drink. I think this was
a more sensible mode of living than Miss Fenton's: altogether I can
truly say that we experienced liberality and kindness at Miss
Barlieu's; it was a far better home than the other.

But I have not got past the first day yet. In assorting her clothes
after unpacking, Miss Chandos missed a new velvet mantle; there was
some commotion about it, and she was told that she ought to have
watched more narrowly the visiting her trunks in the custom-house. Miss
Chandos took the loss equably, as she appeared to do most things. "Oh,
if it's lost, mamma must send me over another," was her careless
comment.

We were at our studies in the afternoon when Mademoiselle Annette
entered. The mode of sitting was different here from what it had been
at Miss Fenton's. There, we sat on a hard form for hours together
without any support for the arms or back: stooping was the inevitable
consequence, and many of the girls got a curve in the spine; or, as the
saying ran, "grew aside." In France we sat at a sloping desk, on which
our arms rested, so that the spine could not get fatigued: I never
once, the whole period I stayed at Miss Barlieu's, saw a crooked girl.
Mademoiselle Annette entered and accosted Miss Chandos.

"I understand, Miss Chandos, that you did not take any care of your
boxes yourself at the custom-house; merely gave up your keys?"

A slight accession of colour, and Miss Chandos turned round her fair
bright face, acknowledging that it was so.

"But, my dear, that was evincing great carelessness."

"I don't see it, Mademoiselle Annette," was Miss Chandos's smiling
dissent. "What are the commissionaires for, but to take charge of keys,
and examine baggage?"

"Well; they have been up from the customs to say that the mantle was
not left there. The commissionaire himself is here now; he says
everything taken out of your boxes was safely put in again."

"It was a beautiful mantle, Mademoiselle Annette, and I daresay
somebody caught it up and ran away with it when the man's attention was
turned the other way. It can't be helped: there are worse misfortunes
at sea."

"What gentleman was it that you were walking about with?" resumed
Mademoiselle Annette.

"Gentleman?" returned Miss Chandos, in a questioning tone, as if she
could not understand, or did not remember. "Gentleman, Mademoiselle
Annette?"

"A gentleman who came on board to speak to you; and who assisted you to
land: and with whom you were walking about afterwards, while the other
ladies were in the custom-house?"

"Oh, I recollect; yes. There was a gentleman who came on board: it was
Monsieur de Mellissie." Very brilliant had Miss Chandos's cheeks
become; but she turned her face to the desk as if anxious to continue
her studies, and Mademoiselle Barlieu saw it not.

"What took him on board?" resumed Mademoiselle Annette.

"As if I knew, Mademoiselle Annette!" lightly replied the young lady.
"He may have wanted to speak to the captain—or to some of the
sailors—or to me. He did not tell me."

"But you were promenading with him afterwards!"

"And very polite of him it was to give up his time to promenade with
me, while I was waiting for them to come out," replied Miss Chandos. "I
returned him my thanks for it, Mademoiselle Annette. If the new English
teacher had had a thousand boxes to clear, she could not have been much
longer over it. I thought she was never coming."

"Well, my dear, do not promenade again with Monsieur de Mellissie. It
is not the right thing for a young lady to do; and Miladi Chandos might
not be pleased that you should."

"On the contrary, Mademoiselle Annette, mamma charged me with twenty
messages to give him, in trust for his mother," replied the undaunted
girl. "I was glad of an opportunity of delivering them."

Mademoiselle Annette said no more. She charged the girls as she quitted
the room to get ready their geography books, for she should return for
that class in five minutes.

"I say, Emily Chandos, whatever is all that about?" asked a young lady,
Ellen Roper.

"I don't care! It's that new English teacher who has been reporting!
Alfred jumped on board as soon as we touched the side, and I stayed
with him until the omnibus was ready—or until we were ready for the
omnibus. Where was the harm? _You_ did not tell, Anne Hereford?"

"I have not spoken of it to any one."

"No; I was sure of that: it's that precious teacher. I did not like her
before, but for this I'll give her all the trouble I can at my English
lessons. Such folly for Mademoiselle Barlieu to engage a girl as
governess; and she's no better. I could teach her. She's not nice,
either; you can't like or respect her."

"I think the Miss Barlieus were surprised when they saw her," observed
Ellen Roper. "Mademoiselle Annette asked her this morning if she were
really twenty-one. So that is the age she must have represented herself
to be in writing to them."

In the course of a day or two Emily Chandos received a letter from
home. Lady Chandos had discovered that the velvet mantle, by some
unaccountable mischance, had not been put into the boxes. She would
forward it to Nulle.

The De Mellissies were staying in the town. Madame de Mellissie, the
mother, an English lady by birth, had been intimate with Lady Chandos
in early life; they were good friends still. Her son, and only child,
Monsieur Alfred de Mellissie, chief of the family now in place of his
dead father, appeared to make it the whole business of his life to
admire Emily Chandos. The school commented on it.

"It can never lead to anything," they said. "He is only a Frenchman of
comme-ça family, and she is Miss Chandos of Chandos."

And—being Miss Chandos of Chandos—it occurred to me to wonder that she
should be at that French school. Not but that it was superior—one of
the first to be found in France; but scarcely the place for Miss
Chandos.

I said as much—talking one day with Mademoiselle Annette, when I was by
her, drawing.

"My dear, Emily Chandos, though one of the most charming and loveable
girls ever seen, is inclined to be wild; and Miladi Chandos thinks the
discipline of a school good for her," was the answer. "They do not care
to have a governess residing at Chandos."

"But why, Mademoiselle?"

Mademoiselle Annette shook her head mysteriously. "I know not. Miladi
said it to me. She is altered terribly. There is always a cloud hanging
over Chandos. Go on with your sketch, my dear; young ladies should not
be curious."

One of the first questions put to me by the girls was—were any names
given in for my visiting. I did not understand the question. We elder
ones were seated at the desk-table, doing German exercises—or
pretending to do them. Miss Barlieu had found me so well advanced, that
I was put in the first classes for every study. Ellen Roper saw I
looked puzzled, and explained.

"When a pupil is placed at school in France, her friends give in the
names of the families where she may visit, and the governess writes
them down. It is not a bad custom."

"It is a miserable custom, Ellen Roper," retorted Miss Chandos. "When
the Stapletons were passing through Nulle last spring, they invited me
to the hotel for a day, and Mademoiselle Barlieu put her veto upon it,
because their name had not been given in by mamma. Lady Stapleton came
and expostulated; said her husband, Sir Gregory, was the oldest friend
possible of the late Sir Thomas Chandos, had been for years, and that
they would take every imaginable care of me, and she knew Lady Chandos
would wish me to go. Not a bit of it; you might as well have tried to
move the house as to move Mademoiselle Barlieu. Miladi Chandos had not
given her the name, she said, and she could not depart from the usual
custom. Don't you remember what a passion I was in? Cried my eyes out,
and would not do a single devoir. Anne Hereford, you can write home and
ask them to give in some names to Miss Barlieu."

Home! What home had I to write to?



CHAPTER IX.
A STEP IRREVOCABLE.

There was war between the English governess and Emily Chandos. Emily
was excessively popular; with her beauty, her gaiety, and her generous
wilfulness; she did nearly what she liked in the school—except of
course with the Miss Barlieus. For myself, I had learnt to love her.
She had her faults—what girl is without them? She was vain, petulant,
haughty when displeased, and a little selfish. But she possessed one
great gift of attraction—that of taking hearts by storm. Miss Johnstone
began by a mistake: the striving to put down Miss Chandos. She was
over-strict besides with her lessons and exercises; and more than once
reported her to Miss Annette for some trifling fault, magnified by her
into a grave one. The girls espoused Emily's cause; and Miss Johnstone
grew to be regarded, and also treated, with contempt. It vexed her
greatly; and there were other things.

Her name was Margaret. But she had incautiously left an open letter
about, in which she was repeatedly called "Peg." Of course that was
quite enough for the girls, and they took to call her Peg, almost in
her hearing. A new English pupil, who entered as weekly boarder, went
up at the English dictation and addressed her as "Miss Pegg," believing
it to be her real name. You should have seen Miss Johnstone's dark and
angry face, and the dancing eyes of Emily Chandos.

Madame de Mellissie had left for Paris; but her son, Monsieur Alfred,
remained at Nulle—his attraction being, as the girls said openly, Emily
Chandos. Emily laughed as she listened: but denial she made none. They
said another thing—that the beautiful hearts-ease ring she wore had
been his love-gift: and still there was no express denial. "Have it so
if you like," was all Emily said.

"She cannot think _seriously_ of him, you know," Ellen Roper observed
one day. "It is a match that could never be allowed by her family. He
is quite a second-rate sort of Frenchman, and she is Miss Chandos of
Chandos. He is a bit of a jackanapes too, vain and silly."

"Ellen Roper, I am within hearing, I beg to inform you," said Miss
Chandos, from half way up the desk, her face in a lovely glow.

"That is just why I said it," returned Ellen Roper, who, however, had
not known Emily was near, and started at the sound of her voice. "I
daresay he has not above a thousand pounds or two a year; a very fair
patrimony for a Frenchman, you know; but only fancy it for one in the
position of Miss Chandos."

"Go on, Ellen Roper! I'll tell something of you by-and-by."

"And, setting aside everything else, there's another great barrier,"
went on Ellen Roper, making objections very strong in her spirit of
mischief. "The De Mellissies are Roman Catholics; cela va, you know;
while the Chandos family are staunch Conservative Protestants. Lady
Chandos would almost as soon give Emily to the Grand Turk as to Alfred
de Mellissie."

A sort of movement at the desk, and we looked round. Quietly seated on
the low chair in the corner, her ears drinking in all, for we had been
speaking in English, was Miss Johnstone. Had she been there all the
time? Emily Chandos's bright cheek paled a little, as if there had
fallen upon her a foreshadowing of ill.

I do not know that it would have come, but that circumstances worked
for it. On this afternoon, this very same afternoon as we sat there,
Emily was called out of the room by one of the maids, who said Mrs.
Trehern had called to see her.

"Trehern?—Trehern?" cried Emily, as she went. "I don't know the name
from Adam."

Back she soon came with a radiant face, and presented herself to
Mademoiselle Annette, who was in class.

"Oh, Mademoiselle, some friends are here, and they wish me to go out
with them. Will you give me permission? It is Mr. and Mrs. Trehern."

"Trehern? Trehern?" repeated Mademoiselle Annette. "I don't remember
that name on your visiting list."

Emily knew quite well it was not there, since this was the first time
she had seen either of the parties: but she had trusted to the good
luck of Mademoiselle Annette's believing that it was.

"Mamma will be so vexed if I do not go. She is very intimate with the
Treherns. They have only just arrived at the town, Mademoiselle, and
have descended at the Hotel du Lion d'Or."

Which concluding words gave us the clue to Emily's eagerness for the
visit. For it was at that renowned hotel that Mr. Alfred de Mellissie
had been sojourning since his mother's departure. Mademoiselle Annette
was firm.

"You know the rules of the school, my dear. We have heard nothing of
these gentlepeople from your mamma, and it is impossible that you can
be allowed to go."

Emily Chandos carried back her excuses to the salon, and after school
gave vent to her mortification in a private outburst to us.

"Such a dreadful shame, these horrid French rules! As if the Treherns
would have poisoned me! But I despatch a letter to mamma to-night to
get permission. They are going to stay a month at Nulle. It is the
bridal tour."

"Have they just come from England?"

"Not at all. She is French, and never was in England in her life. She
is a friend"—dropping her voice still lower—"of the De Mellissies; at
least her mother is: it was through Alfred they called upon me to-day."

"Then does Lady Chandos not know them?"

"She knows him. It is a Cornish family. This one, young Trehern, fell
in love with a French girl, and has married her. They were married last
Thursday, she told me. She had the most ravishing toilette on to-day: a
white and blue robe: you might have taken it for silver. She's nearly
as young as I am."

The letter despatched to Lady Chandos by Emily set forth the praises of
Mrs. Trehern, and especially dwelt upon the fact that her mother was a
dear friend of Madame de Mellissie. Not a word said it, though, that
Mr. Alfred de Mellissie was sojourning at the Lion d'Or, or at Nulle.
And there came back permission from Lady Chandos for Emily to visit
them: she wrote herself to Miss Barlieu, desiring that it might be so.
Emily was in her glory.

A great apparent friendship sprang up between her and young Mrs.
Trehern, who was something like herself, inexperienced and thoughtless.
She was of good family, pleasing in manners, and quite won the hearts
of the Miss Barlieus. Relatives of hers, the De Rosnys, lived in their
château near Nulle—the cause of her passing sojourn there. We
schoolgirls remembered how Maximilian de Bethune, the young Baron de
Rosny, had been the envoy despatched by Henri le Grand to solicit
assistance of Queen Elizabeth, in the years subsequent to the great
slaughter of the Huguenots. We assumed that Mrs. Trehern might be of
the same family; but did not know it.

Often and often she arrived at the school to take out Emily Chandos. At
length the Miss Barlieus began to grumble: Mademoiselle Chandos went
out too frequently, and her studies were getting in arrear. Emily
protested it was her mamma's wish and pleasure that she should take
advantage of the sojourn of Mrs. Trehern to go out, and exhibited part
of a letter from Lady Chandos, in which the same appeared to be
intimated. Mademoiselle Annette shook her head, and said it was a good
thing the month of Mrs. Trehern's stay was drawing to its close.

Now it happened about this time that an uncle of Miss Johnstone's
passed through Nulle on his way to Paris, staying for a day at the
Hotel du Lion d'Or. He invited his niece to go to see him, saying she
might bring any one of the young ladies with her. She chose me, to my
own surprise: perhaps the reason was that I had never taken an active
part in annoying her as some of the rest had. The Miss Barlieus allowed
me to go; for they looked upon it, not that I was about to pay an
indiscriminate visit, but going out with one of the governesses, under
her safe convoy and companionship.

"Where are you off to, little Hereford," demanded Emily Chandos, who
was attiring herself before the one glass in the bedroom when I went
up, for she was to spend the afternoon with the Treherns.

"Miss Johnstone's uncle is at the Lion d'Or, and she has asked me to
dinner there. We are to dine at the table d'hôte."

"The Lion d'Or!" cried Emily, turning round. "What a chance! to have
that sharp-sighted duenna, Peg, dining at table with us!"

"What, do you—do the Treherns dine at the table d'hôte?"

"Where else should they dine? The hotel is too full, just now, to admit
of private dinners."

Mr. Johnstone came for us, and we walked about, looking at the old
town, until six o'clock, the dinner hour. A novel scene to me was that
crowded dining-room, with its array of company, of waiters, and of good
cheer; so novel that for some time I did not notice four seats,
immediately opposite to us, quite vacant. All eyes were raised at the
four who came in to fill them. Mr. and Mrs. Trehern; she dressed
elaborately, perfectly; not a fold of her robe out of place, not a hair
of her many braids; Alfred de Mellissie, with his airs of a petit
maître, but good-looking enough; and Emily Chandos, with her gay and
sparkling beauty.

"Just look there, Miss Hereford! Do you see that?"

Miss Johnstone's words were spoken in a low tone of consternation. I
_would not_ understand to whom she alluded.

"See what, Miss Johnstone?"

"Miss Chandos," she answered, devouring Emily with her eyes. "I wonder
if the Demoiselles Barlieu know that while she has been pretending to
visit the Treherns, it has been a cloak for her meeting that
Frenchman?"

"Oh, Miss Johnstone! she _has_ visited the Treherns?

"I can see through a mill-stone," was Miss Johnstone's cold answer.

Never were more defiant looks cast upon a governess than Emily Chandos
threw over the table at Miss Johnstone. That the latter provoked them
by her manner there was no doubt. I think—I always had thought—that she
was envious of Miss Chandos, though whence or why the feeling should
have arisen I cannot say. They were the most distinguished group at
table, Mr. Trehern—a fine, big, burly Cornishman—and his wife, Monsieur
de Mellissie and Emily: and the waiters treated them with marked
distinction. Even the appurtenances of their dinner were superior, for
none others within the range of my view ventured upon sparkling Moselle
and ice. They rose from table earlier than many, Emily throwing me a
laughing nod, as she took Mr. Trehern's arm, Alfred de Mellissie
following with Mrs. Trehern; but not vouchsafing the slightest notice
of Miss Johnstone.

"She may take her leave of it," I heard the latter whisper to herself.

Mr. Johnstone did not mend the matter, or his niece's temper. "What a
lovely girl that is!" he exclaimed. "She is English."

"Yes," answered Miss Johnstone, her lips parting with acrimony. "She is
one of my pupils."

"One of your pupils! How is it she took no notice of you?"

Miss Johnstone made no reply, but the acrimony on her lips grew
sharper: very sharp indeed when she saw Emily escorted home by M. de
Mellissie, with Mrs. Trehern's maid in attendance.

The explosion came next day. Miss Johnstone lodged a formal complaint
in private before the Miss Barlieus. Miss Chandos, she felt perfectly
certain, was being made clandestine love to by Monsieur Alfred de
Mellissie!

"Seated at the table d'hôte with the young man!—accompanied by him home
afterwards!" cried Mademoiselle Annette. "It is not to be believed."

Miss Johnstone said it was, and called me as a witness. Emily Chandos
was commanded to the salon, and questioned.

She could not deny it; she did not attempt it: rather braved it out.

"Where was the harm of it, Mademoiselle Annette? Monsieur de Mellissie
did not attempt to eat me."

"You know that the customs and ideas of our country are against this
kind of thing," emphatically pronounced Miss Barlieu. "I am surprised
at you, Mademoiselle Emily; you have deceived us. I shall write to
Miladi your mother to-day. If she sanctions this public visiting, I
cannot. I cannot possibly allow any young lady in my establishment to
run the risk of being talked of as imprudent. You will not go to Mrs.
Trehern again; she has shown herself little capable of taking care of
you."

"Do you mean, Mademoiselle, that I am not to go out in future when
invited?" asked Emily, her heart beating visibly.

"I shall very unmistakeably point out to your mamma the desirability of
your not again going out to visit; certainly you will not while
Monsieur de Mellissie remains at Nulle," was the pointed reply of Miss
Barlieu.

And Emily Chandos knew that her liberty was over. But for this, would
she have taken the irrevocable step she did take? Alas! it was soon too
late to speculate.

An immediate reply came from Lady Chandos, interdicting all
indiscriminate visiting for Emily; and saying that she must make good
use of her time in study, as she would leave school early in the
spring.

Did the arrival of that letter expedite the catastrophe? I cannot tell.
It was known that Madame de Mellissie, the mother, was at Nulle again,
and a very short while went on.

We were doing English with Miss Johnstone one afternoon, when Mrs.
Trehern called. Emily was allowed to see her, but Mademoiselle Barlieu
accompanied her to the salon. Some sort of explanation took place, and
Mrs. Trehern was informed that Miss Chandos could not visit her again.
She left, and Emily returned to the class, but the English lesson was
over then. Over in disgrace, for none of us had done well; at least,
Miss Johnstone said we had not. By way of punishment, she protested she
should make us finish it after supper.

We had bread-and-butter and shrimps for supper that night—I shall
always remember it; and we prolonged it as much as we could, drinking
three cups of tea each, and eating as many shrimps as we could get.
Emily Chandos did not appear, and Mademoiselle Caroline—who had viewed
the scandal, touching Alfred de Mellissie, with shocked
displeasure—would not allow her to be called, saying she was 'sulking.'
But the supper, spin it out as we would, could not last all night, and
Miss Johnstone, as good as her word, called us up with our English
books.

"Go and find Miss Chandos," she said to me. "She has chosen to go
without her supper, but she shall not escape her lesson."

Emily was not to be found. Amidst a search of commotion, the like of
which I had never seen, it was discovered that she had quitted the
house. The De Mellissies, the next inquired for, had quitted the town.
A telegraphic message went to Chandos, and Mademoiselle Barlieu took to
her bed with chagrin.

The despatch brought back Mr. Chandos, Emily's brother. About the same
hour that he arrived, a letter was received from London from M. Alfred
de Mellissie, saying that he and Miss Chandos had just been married by
special licence, and also by the rites of the Romish Church. That his
English mother had aided and abetted the step, although she did not
accompany them in their flight to England, there was no question of.

Miss Barlieu saw Mr. Chandos in her chamber; the affair had made her
really ill. Afterwards, as I was passing down the stairs, he came forth
from the drawing-room from an interview with Miss Annette. She was
talking very fast, her eyes streaming with grief, and Mr. Chandos
strove to soothe her.

"It all comes of that indiscriminate visiting, sir, that was allowed to
Mademoiselle Chandos," she said, with bitter tears. "I told my sister
ten times that Miladi Chandos was wrong to permit it. Ah! sir, we shall
not ever get over the blow. Nothing of the kind has ever happened to
us."

"Do not distress yourself," Mr. Chandos answered. "I can see that no
shadow of blame rests with you. That lies with Emily and the De
Mellissies: my sister's fortune is a great prize to a Frenchman."

What made me gather myself into a nook of the wall, and gaze upon Mr.
Chandos, as he passed out in the dusk of the evening? Not the deep,
mellow tones—not the sweet accent of voice in which his words were
spoken. That they were all that, my ear told me; but something else had
struck upon me—his face and form. Where had I seen him?

Somewhere, I felt certain. The contour of the pale face, with its fine
and delicate features; something in the tall, slim figure, even in the
manner of turning his head as he spoke: all seemed to touch on a chord
of my memory. Where, where could I have seen Mr. Chandos?

The question was not solved, and time went steadily on again.



CHAPTER X.
AT MRS. PALER'S.

Nineteen years of age. Nineteen! For the last twelvemonth, since the
completion of my education, I had helped in the school as one of the
governesses. The Miss Barlieus, whose connexion was extensive amidst
the English as well as the French, had undertaken the responsibility of
"placing me out," as my trustees phrased it. When I was eighteen their
task, as trustees, was over, and the annuity I had enjoyed ceased.
Henceforth I had no friends in the world but the Miss Barlieus: and
truly kind and good those ladies were to me.

I was attacked with an illness soon after my eighteenth birthday: not a
severe one, but lasting tolerably long; and that had caused me to
remain the additional twelvemonth, for which I received a slight
salary. They liked me, and I liked them.

So I was to be a governess after all! The last descendant of the
Herefords and the Keppe-Carews had no home in the world, no means of
living, and must work for them. My pride rebelled against it now, as it
never had when I was a child; and I made a resolution never to talk of
my family. I was an orphan; I had no relatives living: that would be
quite enough answer when asked about it. Keppe-Carew had again changed
masters: a little lad of eight, whose dead father I had never seen, and
who perhaps had never heard of me, was its owner now.

I had never heard a syllable of Mr. Edwin Barley since I left him, or
of any of his household, or of the events that had taken place there.
That George Heneage had never been traced, I knew; that Mr. Edwin
Barley was still seeking after him, I was quite sure: the lapse of
years could not abate the anger of a man like him. Mrs. Hemson was dead
now, a twelvemonth past; so that I was entirely alone in the world. As
to the will, it had not been found, as was to be supposed, or the money
would have been mine. My growth in years, the passing from the little
girl into the woman, and the new ties and interests of my foreign
school life had in a degree obliterated those unhappy events, and I
scarcely ever gave even a thought to the past.

Mr. and Mrs. Paler were staying temporarily at Nulle; well-connected
English people, about to fix their residence in Paris. They were
strangers to me personally, but the Miss Barlieus knew something of
their family, and we heard that Mrs. Paler was inquiring for a
governess; one who spoke thoroughly English, French, and German.
Mademoiselle Annette thought it might suit me, and proposed to take me
to call on them at the Lion d'Or hotel.

I seized upon the idea eagerly. The word Paris had wrought its own
charm. To be conveyed to that city of delight appeared only secondary
to entering within the precincts of a modern Elysium.

"Oh, Mademoiselle Annette, pray let us go! I might perhaps do for
them."

Mademoiselle Annette laughed at the eagerness so unequivocally
betrayed. But she set off with me the same day.

The Lion d'Or was full. Mr. and Mrs. Paler had no private sitting-room
(there were only two salons in the whole house), and we were ushered
into their chamber, French fashion. Mr. Paler was a stout man in gold
spectacles, shy and silent; his wife, a tall handsome woman with large
eyes and dark hair, talked enough for both. Some conversation ensued,
chiefly taken up by Mrs. Paler explaining the sort of governess she
wished for, Mr. Paler having quitted us.

"If you require a completely well-educated young lady—a gentlewoman in
every sense of the term—you cannot do better than engage Miss
Hereford," said Mademoiselle Annette.

"But what's her religion?" abruptly asked Mrs. Paler. "I would not
admit a Roman Catholic into the bosom of my family; no, not though she
paid me to come. Designing Jesuits, as a great many of them are!"

Which, considering she was speaking to a Roman Catholic, and that a
moment's consideration might have told her she was, evinced anything
but courtesy on the lady's part, to say nothing of good feeling.
Mademoiselle Annette's brown cheek deepened, and so did mine.

"I belong to the Church of England, madam," I answered.

"And with regard to singing?" resumed Mrs. Paler, passing to another
qualification unceremoniously. "Have you a fine voice?—a good
style?—can you teach it well?"

"I sing but little, and should not like to teach it. Neither am I a
very brilliant player. I have no great forte for music. What I do play
I play well, and I can teach it well."

"There it is! Was there ever anything so tiresome?" grumbled Mrs.
Paler. "I declare you cannot have everything, try as you will. Our last
governess was first-rate in music—quite a divine voice she had—and her
style perfect; but, of all the barbarous accents in French and German
(not to speak of her wretched grammar), hers were the worst. Now, you
are a good linguist, but no hand at music! What a worry it is!"

"May I ask what age your children are?" interposed Mademoiselle
Annette, who could speak sufficient English to understand and join in
the conversation.

"The eldest is twelve."

"Then I can assure you Miss Hereford is quite sufficient musician for
what you will want at present, madam. It is not always the most
brilliant players who are the best instructors; our experience has
taught us the contrary is the case."

Mrs. Paler mused. "Does Miss Hereford draw?"

"Excellently well," replied Mademoiselle Annette.

"I have a great mind to try her," debated Mrs. Paler, as if
soliloquizing with herself. "But I must just pay my husband the
compliment of asking what he thinks: though I never allow any opinion
of his to influence me. He is the shyest man! he went out, you saw, as
you came in. I am not sure but he will think Miss Hereford too good
looking; but she has a very dignified air with her, though her manners
are charmingly simple."

"When you have considered the matter, madam, we shall be glad to
receive your answer," observed Mademoiselle Annette, as she rose. And
Mrs. Paler acquiesced.

"Anne," began Mademoiselle Annette, as we walked home, "I do not think
that situation will suit you. You will not be comfortable in it."

"But why?" I asked, feeling my golden visions of Paris dimmed by the
words. "I think it would perfectly suit me, Mademoiselle."

"Madame Paler is not a nice lady; she is not a gentlewoman. I question,
too, if she would make you comfortable."

"I am willing to risk it. You and Mademoiselle Barlieu have told me all
along that I cannot expect everything."

"That is true, my child. Go where you will, you must look out for
disagreeables and crosses. The lives of all of us are made up of
trials; none, save ourselves, can feel them; few, save ourselves, can
see, or will believe in them. Many a governess, tossed and turned about
in the world's tempest, weary of her daily task, sick of its monotony,
is tempted, no doubt, to say, 'Oh that I were established as the
Demoiselles Barlieu are, with a home and school of my own!' But I can
tell you, Anne, that often and often I and my sister envy the lot of
the poorest governess out on her own account, because she is free from
anxiety."

She spoke truly. Every individual lot has its peculiar trials, and none
can mitigate them. "The heart knoweth its own bitterness." I walked on
by her side then, in my young inexperience, wondering whether _all_
people had these trials, whether they would come to me. It was my
morning of life, when the unseen future looks as a bright and flowery
dream. Mademoiselle Annette broke the silence.

"You will never forget, my dear, that you have a friend in us. Should
you meet with any trouble, should you be at any time out of a
situation, come to us; our house is open to you."

"Thank you, thank you, dear Mademoiselle Annette," I replied, grasping
her hand. "I will try and do brave battle with the world's cares; I
have not forgotten my mother's lessons."

"Anne," she gravely responded, "do not _battle_: rather welcome them."

Well, I was engaged. And, as the Demoiselles Barlieu observed, it was
not altogether like my entering the house of people entirely strange,
for they were acquainted with the family of Mr. Paler: himself they had
never before seen, but two of his sisters had been educated in their
establishment.

A week or two after the Palers had settled themselves in Paris, I was
escorted thither by a friend of the Miss Barlieus. The address given me
was Avenue de St. Cloud, Commune de Passy. We found it a good-looking,
commodious house, and my travelling protector, Madame Bernadotte, left
me at the door. A young girl came forward as I was shown into a room.

"Are you Miss Hereford, the new governess?"

"Yes. I think I have had the pleasure of seeing you at Nulle," I
answered, holding out my hand to her.

"That I'm sure you've not. I never was at Nulle. It was Kate and
Harriet who went there with papa and mamma. I and Fanny and Grace came
straight here last week from England, with nurse."

Now, strange to say, it had never occurred to me or to the Miss
Barlieus to ask Mrs. Paler, during the negotiations, how many pupils I
should have. Two children were with them at Nulle, Kate and Harriet,
and I never supposed that there were others; I believed these would be
my only pupils.

"How many are you, my dear?"

"Oh, we are five.

"Am I to teach you all?"

"Of course. There's nobody else to teach us. And we have two little
brothers, but they are quite in the nursery."

Had Mrs. Paler purposely concealed the number? or had it been the
result of inadvertence? The thought that came over me was, that were I
engaging a governess for five pupils, I should take care to mention
that there were five. They came flocking round me now, every one of
them, high-spirited, romping girls, impatient of control, their ages
varying from six to twelve.

"Mamma and papa are out, but I don't suppose they'll be long. Do you
want to see mamma?"

"I shall be glad to see her.

"Do you wish for anything to eat?" inquired Miss Paler. "You can have
what you like: dinner or tea; you have only to ring and order it. We
have dined and had tea also. Mamma has not; but you don't take your
meals with her."

As she spoke, some noise was heard in the house, and they all ran out.
It proved to be Mrs. Paler. She went up to her own sitting-room, and
thither I was summoned.

"So you have got here safely, Miss Hereford?" was her salutation,
spoken cordially enough. But she did not offer to shake hands with me.

"I have been making acquaintance with my pupils, madam. I did not know
there were so many."

"Did you not? Oh, you forget; I have no doubt I mentioned it."

"I think not. I believed that the two Miss Palers I saw at Nulle were
your only children."

"My only children! Good gracious, Miss Hereford, what an idea! Why, I
have seven! and have lost two, which made nine, and shall have more
yet, for all I know. You will take the five girls; five are as easily
taught as two."

I did not dispute the words. I had come, intending and hoping to do my
duty to the very utmost extent, whether it might be much or little.
Though certainly the five pupils did look formidable in prospective,
considering that I should have to teach them everything, singing
excepted.

"I hope you will suit me," went on Mrs. Paler. "I have had many qualms
of doubt since I engaged you. But I can't beat them into Mr. Paler; he
turns round, and politely tells me they are 'rubbish,' as any heathen
might."

"Qualms of doubt as to my being but nineteen, or to my skill in music?"
I asked.

"Neither; your age I never made an objection, and I daresay your music
will do very well for the present. Here's Mr. Paler."

He came in, the same apparently shy, silent, portly man as at Nulle, in
his gold spectacles. But he came up kindly to me, and shook hands.

"My doubts turn upon serious points, Miss Hereford," pursued Mrs.
Paler. "If I thought you would undermine the faith of my children and
imbue them with Roman Catholic doctrines——"

"Mrs. Paler!" I interrupted in surprise. "I told you I was a
Protestant, brought up strictly in the tenets of the Church of England.
Your children are of the same faith: there is little fear, then, that I
should seek to undermine it. I know of none better in the world."

"You must excuse my anxiety, Miss Hereford. Can you conscientiously
assure me that you hate all Roman Catholics?"

I looked at her in amazement. And she looked at me, waiting for my
answer. A smile, unless I mistook, crossed the lips of Mr. Paler.

"Oh, Mrs. Paler, what would my own religion be worth if I could hate?
Believe me there are excellent Christians amidst the Roman Catholics,
as there are amidst us. People who are striving to do their duty in
this world, living and working on for the next. Look at the Miss
Barlieus! I love them dearly; every one respects them: but I would not
change my religion for theirs."

"Is it the fact of your having spent four years in their house that
makes me doubtful. But I think can trust you; you look so sincere and
true. The alarming number of converts to Romanism which we have of late
years been obliged to witness, must make us all fearful."

"Perverts, if you please," interrupted Mr. Paler. "When I hear of our
folks going over to the Romish faith, I always suspect they are those
who have not done their duty in their own. A man may find all he wants
in his own religion, if he only looks out for it."

"Oh, that's very true," I exclaimed, my eyes sparkling, glad, somehow,
to hear him say it. "It is what I have been trying to express to Mrs.
Paler."

"She has got her head full of some nonsensical fear that her children
should be turned into Roman Catholics—I suppose because we are in a
Catholic country," he resumed, looking at his wife through his glasses.
"She'll talk about it till she turns into one herself, if she doesn't
mind; that's the way the mania begins. There's no more fear of sensible
people turning Catholics than there is of my turning Dutchman: as to
the children, the notion is simply absurd. And what sort of weather
have you had at Nulle, Miss Hereford, since we left it?"

"Not very fine. Yesterday it poured with rain all day."

"Ah. That would make it pleasant for travelling, though."

"Yes: it laid the dust."

"Did you travel alone?"

"Oh, no; the Miss Barlieus would not have allowed it. It is not
etiquette in France for a young lady to go out even for a walk alone.
An acquaintance of Miss Barlieus, Madame Bernadotte, who was journeying
to Paris, accompanied me."

"Well, I hope you will be comfortable here," he concluded.

"Thank you; I hope so."

"And look here, I'll give you a hint. Just you get the upper hand of
those children at once, or you'll never do it. They are like so many
untrained colts."

Nothing more was said. I had not been asked to sit, and supposed the
silence was a hint that I must quit the room. Before I had got far, a
servant came and said I was to go back to it. Mrs. Paler was alone
then, looking very solemn and dark.

"Miss Hereford, you have been reared in seclusion, mostly in school,
and probably know little of the convenances—the exactions of social
life. Do not be offended if I set you right upon a point—I have no
doubt you have erred, not from want of respect, but from lack of
knowledge."

What had I done? of course I said I should be obliged to her to set me
right in anything when found wrong.

"You are a governess; you hold a dependent situation in my house. Is it
not so?"

"Certainly it is," I answered, wondering much.

"Then never forget that a certain amount of respect in manner is due to
myself and to Mr. Paler. I do not, of course, wish to exact the
deference a servant would give—you must understand that; but there's a
medium: a medium, Miss Hereford. To you, I and Mr. Paler are 'madam'
and 'sir,' and I beg that we may be always addressed as such."

I curtsied and turned away, the burning colour dyeing my face. It was
my first lesson in dependence. But Mrs. Paler was right; and I felt
vexed to have forgotten that I was only a governess. Misplaced
rebellion rose in my heart, whispering that I was a lady born; that my
family was far higher in the social world than Mr. or Mrs. Paler's;
whispering, moreover, that that lady was not a gentlewoman, and never
could be one. But after a few minutes spent in sober reflection, common
sense chased away my foolish thoughts, leaving in place a firm
resolution never so to transgress again. From that hour, I took up my
position bravely—the yielding, dependent, submissive governess.

But what a life of toil I entered upon! and—where were my dreams of
Paris? Have you forgotten that they had visited me, in all their
beautiful delusion? I had not. Delusive hopes are always the sweetest.

When I had stayed three months at Mrs. Paler's I had never once been
into Paris further than the Champs Elysées. Save that we went every
Sunday morning in a closed carriage to the Ambassador's chapel, I saw
nothing of Paris. The streets may have been of crystal, the fountains
of malachite marble, the houses of burnished gold, for all I witnessed
of them—and I believe my warm imagination had pictured something of the
like resplendence. There was no pleasure for me; no going out; my days
were one lasting scene of toil.

I am not going to complain unjustly of Mrs. Paler's situation, or make
it out worse than it was. It has become much the fashion of late
years—I may say a mania—to set forth the sorrows and ill-treatment that
governesses have to endure: were the other side of the question to be
taken up, it might be seen that ladies have as much to bear from
governesses. There are good places and there are bad ones; and there
are admirable governesses, as well as undesirable and most incapable
ones: perhaps the good and bad, on both sides are about balanced. I was
well-treated at Mr. Paler's; I had a generous diet, and a maid to wait
upon me in conjunction with the two elder girls. When they had visitors
in an evening, I was admitted on an equality (at any rate to
appearance); I had respect paid me by the servants; and I was not found
fault with by Mr. and Mrs. Paler. Could I desire better than this? No.
But I was overworked.

Put it to yourselves what it was, if you have any experience in
teaching. Five girls, all in different stages of advancement, to learn
everything, from German and good English down to needle-work. The worst
task was the music; the drawing lessons I could give conjointly. All
five learnt it, piano and harp, and two of them, the second and the
youngest but one, were so wild and unsteady that they could not be
trusted to practise one instant alone. I rose every morning at
half-past six to begin the music lessons, and I was usually up until
twelve or one o'clock the next morning correcting exercises, for I
could not find time to do them during the day. "Make time," says
somebody. I could only have made it by neglecting the children.

"Our last governess never did a thing after six in the evening," Kate
said to me one day. "You should not be so particular, Miss Hereford."

"But she did not get you on to your mamma's satisfaction."

"No, indeed: mamma sent her away because of that. She did not care
whether we advanced or not. All she cared for was to get the studies
over anyhow."

Just so: it had been eye-service, as I could have told by their
ignorance when I took the girls in hand. My dear mother had enjoined me
differently: "Whatever you undertake, Anne, let it be done to the very
best of your ability: do it as to God; as though His eye and ear were
ever present with you."

I appealed to Mrs. Paler: telling her I could not continue to work as I
was doing, and asking what could be done.

"Oh, nonsense, Miss Hereford, you must be a bad economizer of time,"
she answered. "The other governesses I have had did not complain of
being overworked."

"But, madam, did they do their duty?"

"Middling for that—but then they were incorrigibly lazy. We are _quite_
satisfied with you, Miss Hereford, and you must manage your time so as
to afford yourself more leisure."

I suggested to Mrs. Paler that she should get help for part of the
music lessons, but she would not hear of it; so I had to go on doing my
best; but to do that best overtaxed my strength sadly. Mrs. Paler might
have had more consideration: she saw that I rarely went out; one
hurried walk in the week, perhaps, and the drive to church on Sunday.
My pupils walked out every day, taken by one or other of the servants;
but they did not go together: two or three stayed with me while the
rest went, and when they came back to me these went. Mrs. Paler
insisted upon my giving an hour of music to each child daily, which
made five hours a day for music alone. The confinement and the hard
work, perhaps the broken spirits, began to tell upon me; nervous
headaches came on, and I wrote to the Miss Barlieus, asking what I
should do. I wrote the letter on a Sunday, I am sorry to say, failing
time on a week day. None of us went abroad on a Sunday afternoon. Mrs.
Paler protested that nothing but sin and gallivanting was to be seen
out of doors on a French Sunday; and once home from church we were shut
up for the rest of the day. She did not go out herself, or suffer
anybody else to go; Mr. Paler excepted. He took the reins into his own
hands.

The Miss Barlieus answered me sensibly; it was Miss Annette who wrote.
"Put up with it to the close of your year from the time of entrance,"
she said. "It is never well for a governess to leave her situation
before the year is up, if it can be avoided; and were you to do so,
some ladies might urge it as an objection to making another engagement
with you. You are but young still. Give Mrs. Paler ample notice, three
months, we believe, is the English usage—and endeavour to part with her
amicably. She must see that her situation is beyond your strength."

I took the advice, and in June gave Mrs. Paler warning to leave, having
entered her house in September. She was angry, and affected to believe
I would not go. I respectfully asked her to put herself in idea in my
place, and candidly say whether or not the work was too hard. She
muttered something about "over-conscientiousness;" that I should get
along better without it. Nothing more was said; nothing satisfactory
decided, and the time went on again to the approach of September. I
wondered how I must set about looking out for another asylum; I had no
time to look out, no opportunity to go abroad. Mr. Paler was in
England.

"Miss Hereford, mamma told me to say that we shall be expected in the
drawing-room to-night; you, and I, and Harriet," observed Kate Paler to
me one hot summer's day. "The Gordons are coming and the De
Mellissies."

"What De Mellissies are those?" I inquired, the name striking upon my
ear with a thrill of remembrance.

"What De Mellissies are those? why, the De Mellissies," returned Kate,
girl-fashion. "She is young and very pretty; I saw her when I was out
with mamma in the carriage the other day."

"Is she English or French?"

"English, I'll vow. No French tongue could speak English as she does."

"When you answer in that free, abrupt manner, Kate, you greatly
displease me," I interposed. "It is most unladylike."

Kate laughed; said she was free-spoken by nature, and it was of no use
trying to be otherwise. By habit more than by nature, I told her: and I
waited with impatience for the evening.

It was Emily. I knew her at once. Gay-mannered, laughing, lovely as
ever, she came into the room on her husband's arm, wearing a pink silk
dress and wreath of roses. Alfred de Mellissie looked ill; at least he
was paler and thinner than in the old days at Nulle. She either did not
or would not remember me; as the evening drew on, I felt sure that she
did not, for she spoke cordially enough to me, though as to an utter
stranger. It happened that we were quite alone once, in the recess of a
window, and I interrupted what she was saying about a song.

"Have you quite forgotten me, Madame de Mellissie?"

"Forgotten you!" she returned, with a quick glance. "I never knew you,
did I?"

"In the years gone by, when you were Miss Chandos. I am Anne Hereford."

A puzzled gaze at me, and then she hid her face in her hands, its
penitent expression mixed with laughter. "Never say a word about that
naughty time, if you love me! everybody says it should be buried five
fathoms deep. I ought to have known you, though, for it is the same
gentle face; the sweet and steady eyes, with the long eyelashes, and
the honest good sense and the pretty smile. But you have grown out of
all knowledge. Not that you are much of a size now. What an escapade
that was! the staid Demoiselles Barlieu will never get over it. I shall
go and beg their pardon in person some day. Were you shocked at it?"

"Yes. But has it brought you happiness?"

"Who talks of happiness at soirées? You must be as unsophisticated as
ever, Anne Hereford. Has that Johnstone left?"

"A long, long while ago. She was dismissed at the end of a few months.
The Miss Barlieus did not like her."

"I don't know who could like her. And so you are a governess?"

"Yes," I bravely avowed. "I have been nearly a year with the Miss
Palers."

"You must get leave to come and see me. Alfred, here's an old
schoolfellow of mine. I daresay you will remember her."

M. de Mellissie came at the call, and was talking to me for the rest of
the evening.

The great things that a night may bring forth! The sadness that the
rising of another sun may be bearing to us on its hot wings!

It was the morning following the soirée. I was in the schoolroom with
the girls, but quitted it for a minute to read a letter in peace that
arrived by the early post. It was written by Miss Barlieu. A very kind
letter, telling me to go back to them while I looked out for a fresh
situation, should I not get one before leaving Mrs. Paler. Suddenly the
door opened, and Mrs. Paler came in without any ceremony of knocking,
her face white, and an open letter in her hand. She looked scared,
fierce; agitation impeding her free utterance.

"Here's news!" she brought out at length, her voice rising to a scream;
"here's news to come upon me like a thunderbolt! Does he expect me to
live through it?"

"Oh, Mrs. Paler, what has happened? You look ill and terrified. You
have had bad tidings! Will you not tell them to me?"

"What else have I come for but to tell you?" she retorted, speaking in
a tone that betrayed as much anger as distress. "I went to the study
after you, and frightened the girls; they were for following me here,
so I locked them in. I must tell some one, or my feelings will burst
bounds; they always were of a demonstrative nature. Not like _his_, the
sly, quiet fox!"

My fears flew to Mr. Paler. He had been in England some time now, ever
since the middle of May. Though I did not understand her anger, or the
last words.

"You have heard from Mr. Paler, madam!" I uttered. "Some harm has
happened to him!"

"Harm! yes, it has. Harm to me and my children, though, more than to
him. Miss Hereford, he has just gone and ruined himself."

"How?" I asked, feeling grieved and puzzled.

"It was always his mania, that turf-gambling, and as a young man he got
out of thousands at it. I thought how it would be—I declare I did—when
he became restless here in Paris, just before the Epsom Meeting, and at
last went off to it. 'You'll drop some hundreds over it, if you do go,'
I said to him. 'Not I,' was his retort, 'since I have had children to
drop hundreds over, I don't spare them for racehorses.' A wicked,
reckless man!"

"And has he—dropped the hundreds, madam?"

"Hundreds!" she shrieked; and then, looking covertly around the roof,
as if fearful others might be listening, she sunk her voice to a
whisper: "He has lost thirty thousand pounds."

"Oh!" I exclaimed, in my horror. Mrs. Paler wrung her hands.

"Thirty thousand pounds, every pound of it—and I hope remorse will
haunt him to his dying day! Epsom, Ascot, Goodwood—I know not how many
other courses he has visited this summer, and has betted frantically at
all. The mania was upon him again, and he could not stop himself. He is
lying ill now at Doncaster, at one of the inns there, and his brother
writes; he tells me they dare not conceal the facts from me any
longer."

"Shall you not go over to him, madam?"

"I go over to him!" she retorted; "I would not go to him if he were
dying. But that my children are his, I would never live with him again;
I would never notice him: I would get a divorce if practicable, but for
their sakes. You look shocked, Miss Hereford; but you, an unmarried
girl, cannot realize the blow in all its extent. Do you think a man has
any _right_ wilfully to bring disgrace and misery upon his wife and
children?"

"Oh, madam—no!"

"It is my punishment come home to me," she wildly exclaimed. "They told
me how it would be, sooner or later, if I persisted in marrying James
Paler: but I would not listen to them. My mother and sisters will say
it serves me right."

I heard the children squealing and kicking at the schoolroom door, and
did not dare to go to them.

"It is next door to ruin," said Mrs. Paler; "it will take from us more
than half our income; and present debt and embarrassment it must bring.
Ah! see how some things—trifles—happen sometimes for the best! I
thought it a great misfortune to lose you, but I am glad of it now, for
I am sure I can no longer afford an expensive governess. Nor many
servants, either. Oh, woe's me!"

I stood looking at her distress with great pity, feeling that Mr. Paler
must be next kin to a madman. And yet I had liked him: he was most
affectionate to his children, and solicitous for the comfort of his
household. Mrs. Paler seemed to become suddenly awake to the uproar.
She darted to the schoolroom, scolded one, boxed another, locked the
door upon them again, and came back to me.

"I had better settle things with you at once, Miss Hereford. If I take
it in my head, I may go off to my family in England at a minute's
notice; there's no knowing. Your time here will expire in a fortnight?"

"Yes."

"I had intended to offer an increased salary, if you would stay on—but
that's all out of the question now. I suppose you have no settled
plans; no fresh situation to go to?"

"Madam, it has not been in my power to look out for one."

"True. Yet it is better that you should go. I don't know what may
become of us in future: where we shall live, or what we shall
do—perhaps go to some obscure place in Germany, or Scotland, or Wales,
and economize: anywhere, that it's cheap. I wonder that such men, who
deliberately bring ruin on their families, are permitted to live! But
now we must try and find you another situation."

"Perhaps Madame de Mellissie may know of something: and I think she
would interest herself for me, if I knew how to see her."

"You can go and see her," replied Mrs. Paler, "you can go to-day, and
call upon her. My maid shall take you. Never mind the studies: I feel
as if I should not care if the girls never learnt anything again—with
this blow upon them."

I did not wait for a second permission: the thought that Emily de
Mellissie might help me to a fresh situation had been floating in my
mind all night. She was well-connected in England; she was in the best
society in Paris; and she was good-natured.

In the afternoon I proceeded to the hotel (as it was called) of old
Madame de Mellissie, for it was her house, and her son and
daughter-in-law lived with her. Emily was at home, surrounded by
morning callers, quite a crowd of them. She looked intensely surprised
at seeing me; was, or I fancied it, rather distant and haughty in
manner; and, pointing to a chair, desired me to wait. Did she deem I
had presumptuously intruded _as_ one of those morning callers? Very
humbly I waited until the last had gone: schooling myself to remember
that I was but a poor governess, while she was Madame Alfred de
Mellissie, _née_ Miss Chandos of Chandos.

"And so you have soon come to pay me a visit, Miss Hereford!"

"I have come as a petitioner, rather than as a visitor, Madame de
Mellissie. Can you spare me five minutes?"

"I can spare you ten if you like, now those loungers are gone."

I forthwith told my tale. That I was leaving Mrs. Paler's, where I was
overworked: that I had thought it possible she might know of some
situation open: if so, would she kindly recommend me?

"The idea, Anne Hereford, of your coming to me upon such an errand!"
was her laughing answer. "As if I troubled myself about vacant
situations! There is a rumour current in Paris this morning that James
Paler has been idiot enough to go and ruin himself on the turf. That he
has lost a great deal of money is certain, for the newspapers allude to
it in a manner not to be mistaken. Thank goodness, Alfred has no
weakness that way, though he is empty-headed enough. Is it not a
dreadful life, that of a governess?"

"At Mrs. Paler's it has been one of incessant toil. I hope to go where
the duties will be lighter. It is not the life I like, or would have
chosen; but I must bend to circumstances."

"That's true enough. I will ask all my friends in Paris if they——by the
way," she abruptly broke off, speaking with slow deliberation, "I
wonder whether—if you should be found suitable—whether you would like
something else?"

I made no reply; only waited for her to explain herself.

"The case is this, Miss Hereford," she resumed, assuming a light
manner. "I thought of going to Chandos on a visit; my husband was to
have conducted me thither, but Madame de Mellissie has been ailing, and
Alfred says it would not do for him to leave her. This morning we had a
dispute over it. 'There's nothing much amiss with her,' I said; 'were
she in danger, it would be a different matter, but it's quite
unreasonable to keep me away from Chandos for nothing but this.'
Monsieur Alfred grew vexed, said he should not quit her, and moreover,
did not himself feel well enough to travel—for he has a sort of French
fever hanging over him. They are always getting it, you know. I am sick
of hearing one say to another, 'J'ai fièvre aujourd'hui!' Then I said I
should go without him: 'With great pleasure,' he complacently replied,
provided I would engage a lady as companion, but he should not trust me
alone. Complimentary to my discretion, was it not?"

I could not deny it—in a certain sense.

"But the bargain was made; it was indeed. I am to look out for a
companion, and then I may be off the next hour to England; destination
Chandos. Would you like to take the place?"

A thousand thoughts flew over me at the abrupt question crowding my
mind, dyeing my cheeks. The prospect, at the first glance, appeared
like a haven of rest after Mrs. Paler's. But—what would be my
duties?—and was _I_, a comparative child, fit for the post? Should I be
deemed fit by Monsieur de Mellissie?

"What should I have to do?" I asked.

"Anything I please," she answered. "You must amuse me when I am tired,
read to me when I feel inclined to listen, play to me when I wish, be
ready to go out when I want you, give orders to my maid for me, write
my letters when I am too idle to do it, and post yourself at my side to
play propriety between this and Chandos. Those are the onerous duties
of a dame de compagnie, are they not? but I have no experience in the
matter. Could you undertake them?"

She spoke all this curiously, in a haughty tone, but with a smile on
her face. I did not know how to take it. "Are you speaking seriously,
Madame de Mellissie?"

"Of course I am. Stay, though. About the payment? I could not afford to
give much, for my purse has a hole at both ends of it, and I am
dreadfully poor. I suppose you have had a high salary at Mrs. Paler's?"

"Sixty guineas."

"Oh, don't talk of it!" she exclaimed, stopping her ears. "I wish I
could give it; but I never could squeeze out more than twenty. Anne, I
will make a bargain with you: go with me to Chandos, stay with me
during my visit there; it will not last above a week or two; and when
we return here, I will get you a more lucrative situation. For the time
you are with me, I will give you what I can afford, and of course pay
your travelling expenses!"

With the word. "Anne," she had gone back to the old familiar manner of
our school-days. I accepted the offer willingly, subject, of course, to
the approval of Monsieur de Mellissie; and feeling very doubtful in my
own mind whether it would be carried out. As to the payment—what she
said seemed reasonable enough, and money wore but little value in my
eyes: I had not then found out its uses. Provided I had enough for my
ordinary wants of dress, it was all I cared for; and a large sum was
due to me from Mrs. Paler.

Somewhat to my surprise, M. de Mellissie approved of me as his wife's
companion, paying me a compliment on the occasion. "You are young,
Mademoiselle Hereford, but I can see you are one fully to be trusted: I
confide my wife to you."

"I will do what I can, sir."

"You laugh at my saying that thing," he said, speaking in his sometimes
rather odd English. "You think my wife can better take care of you,
than you of her."

"I am younger than she is."

"That goes without telling, Mademoiselle. You look it. The case is
this," he added, in a confidential tone. "It is not that my wife wants
protection on her journey; she has her femme de chambre; but because I
do not think they would like to see her arrive alone at Chandos. My
lady is difficile."

The permission to depart accorded, Madame de Mellissie was all
impatience to set off. I bought a dress or two, but she would not allow
me time to get them made, and I had to take them unmade. Though I was
going to Chandos as a humble companion, I could not forget that my
birth would have entitled me to go as a visitor, and wished to dress
accordingly.

The foolish girl that I was! I spent my money down to one Napoleon and
some silver; it was not very much I had by me; and then Mrs. Paler, to
my intense consternation, told me it was not convenient to pay me my
salary.

She owed me thirty guineas. I had received the first thirty at the
termination of the half-year: it was all spent, including what I had
laid out now. I appealed to Mrs. Paler's good feeling, showing my needy
state. In return she appealed to mine.

"My dear Miss Hereford, I have not got it. Until remittances shall
reach me from Mr. Paler, I am very short. You do not require money for
your journey, Madame Alfred de Mellissie pays all that, and I will
remit it to you ere you have been many days at Chandos. You will not, I
am sure, object so far to oblige a poor distressed woman."

What answer could I give?

On a lovely September morning we started for Boulogne-sur-Mer, Madame
Alfred de Mellissie, I, and her maid Pauline. M. de Mellissie saw us
off at the station.

"I would have run down to Boulogne to put you on board the boat, but
that I do not feel well enough; my fever is very bad to-day," he said
to me and his wife. She took no notice of the words, but I saw they
were true: his pale thin face had a hectic red upon it, his hand,
meeting mine in the adieu, burnt me through my glove.

"Madame de Mellissie, your husband certainly has an attack of fever," I
said, as the train started.

"Ah, yes, no doubt; the French, as I previously observed, are subject
to it. But it never comes to anything."



CHAPTER XI.
CHANDOS.

The station of Hetton, some fifty miles' journey from London on the
Great Western line, and two from Chandos, lay hot and bright in the
September sun. It was afternoon when we reached it. Madame de Mellissie
had preferred to stay a night in London, and go on the next day at
leisure. A handsome close carriage was in waiting outside the station,
its three attendants wearing the Chandos livery, its panels bearing the
arms of the Chandos family, surmounted by the badge of England's
baronetage, the bloody hand. The servants lifted their hands to their
hats, and respectfully welcomed Madame de Mellissie.

"Is mamma well?" she inquired of them.

"Quite well, madam."

"And my brother? Why is he not here?"

"Mr. Chandos, madam, was obliged to attend a county meeting."

"Those ponderous county meetings!" she retorted. "And they never do any
good. Step in, Miss Hereford."

We were soon driving along. Pauline sat behind with one of the footmen,
the other remained to bring on the luggage. Madame de Mellissie looked
out on the points of road as we passed, with all the glee of a child.

"This is my second visit only to Chandos since my marriage. For two
years mamma was implacable, and would not see me; but last year she
relented, and I came here for a little while. I don't believe, though,
mamma will ever forgive me in her heart. I am sorry for it now."

"Sorry for having—having married as you did?"

"Ay, I am: Those rebellious marriages never bring luck. They can't, you
know; only, girls are so thoughtless and stupid. I made my own bed, and
must lie on it; it is not so bad as it might have been: but—of course,
all that's left is to make the best of it. Alfred says we should get on
better if we had children. I say we should not. And there, in the
distance, you see the chimneys of Chandos. Look, Anne!"

She was wayward in her moods; wayward to me as to others. Sometimes,
during our past journey, she would be distantly polite, calling me
"Miss Hereford:" the next moment open and cordial as ever she had been
at school. That she had thrown herself away in a worldly point of view,
marrying as she did, was indisputable, and Emily Chandos was not one to
forget it.

Chandos was a long, low, red brick house, with gables and turrets to
its two end wings, and a small turret in the middle, which gave it a
somewhat gothic appearance. It was but two stories high, and struck me
as looking low, not elevated, perhaps partly from its length. No steps
ascended to the house, the lower rooms were on a level with the ground
outside. It was a sort of double house; the servants' rooms, kitchens,
and chambers, all looking to the back, where there was a separate
entrance. Extensive grounds lay around it, but they were so crowded
with trees, except just close to the house, as to impart a weird-like,
gloomy appearance; they completely shut Chandos House from the view of
the world beyond, and the beyond world from the view of Chandos. A
pretty trellised portico was at the entrance; jessamine, roses, and
clematis entwined themselves round it, extending even to the windows on
either hand. Before the carriage had well stopped, a gentleman rode up
on horseback, followed by a groom. He threw himself from his horse, and
came to the carriage-door.

"Back just in time to receive you, Emily. How are you, my dear?"

She jumped lightly from the carriage, and he was turning away with her
when he saw me. His look of intense surprise was curious to behold, and
he stopped in hesitation. Emily spoke: her tone a slighting one, almost
disparaging.

"It is only my companion. Would you believe it, Harry, Alfred took a
prudent fit, and would not suffer me to travel alone? So I engaged Miss
Hereford: she was in quest of a situation; and we knew each other in
days gone by."

He assisted me from the carriage. It was the same fine man I had seen
some years before at Mademoiselle Barlieu's; the same pale countenance,
with its delicate features and rather sad expression; the same sweet
voice. He then gave his arm to his sister, and I followed them to the
sitting-room. They called it the oak parlour; a large, square room,
somewhat dark, its colours harmoniously blending, and its windows
shaded with the trained clematis and jessamine. It was the favourite
sitting-room at Chandos. Other reception-rooms there were: a gorgeous
double drawing-room, a well-stored library, a spacious dining-room; but
the oak parlour was the favourite. And none could wonder at it; for it
was just one of those seductive apartments that speak to the feelings
of repose.

"Where's mamma?" exclaimed Emily, as we entered.

"Not far; she will be here directly, you may be sure," replied Mr.
Chandos. "Is this your first visit to our part of the country, Miss
Hereford?"

"Yes; I never was here before."

Now what was there in this reply to offend Madame de Mellissie? or did
she resent his speaking to me at all? She turned round, haughty pride
stamped on every line of her countenance, rebuke on her tongue: though
the rebuke lay in the tone, rather than in the words.

"Miss Hereford! the gentleman to whom you speak is Mr. Chandos."

Had I again omitted the sign of my dependent situation, the "sir?" I,
who had resolved, with my then burning face (burning again now), never
so to offend for the future—I supposed that that was the meaning of
Madame de Mellissie; I suppose so still, to this hour. I had spoken as
though I were the equal of Mr. Chandos: I must not—I _would_ not—so
offend again.

"Emily, my love, you are welcome."

A little woman had entered the room, and was holding Madame de
Mellissie in her arms. It was Lady Chandos. She wore a small and pretty
widow's cap of net, a rich but soft black silk dress, and black lace
mittens. Her nose was sharp, and her small face had a permanent
redness, the result of disturbed health. She was not like her daughter,
not half so beautiful; and she was not like her handsome son, unless it
was in the subdued, sad expression. She quite started back when her
eyes fell on me, evidently not prepared to see a stranger.

"Miss Hereford, mamma; a young lady whom I have engaged as companion.
Alfred would not suffer me to travel alone."

Lady Chandos turned to me with a pleasant smile, but it struck me as
being a forced one.

"I think you look more fit to take care of Miss Hereford, Emily, than
Miss Hereford of you," she said.

"I am the elder by some two or three years, if you mean that, mamma.
Oh! it was just a whim of my husband's."

More questioning on either side; just the information sought for when
relatives meet after a long absence. Emily answered carelessly and
lightly; and I sat behind, unnoticed.

Hill was called. Hill was still at Chandos, lady's-maid and
housekeeper, a confidential servant. She came forward, wearing a dark
brown gown and handsome black silk apron, her grey hair banded under
her close white lace cap. Lady Chandos spoke with her in an undertone,
most likely consulting what chamber I should be placed in, for Hill
turned her eyes upon me and looked cross.

A wide staircase, its balustrades of carved oak, gilded in places,
wound up to the rooms above. A gallery, lighted from above, ran along
this upper floor, from wing to wing, paintings lining it. It seemed as
if the wings had some time been added to the house, for they were of a
different style of architecture. A green-baize door shut them out from
the gallery. Beyond this was a narrow corridor, and then a double door
of stout oak, which formed the real entrance to the wings: the same on
both sides. What rooms might be within them, I did not yet know. Each
wing had a staircase of communication between its upper and lower
floors, and also a small door of egress to the grounds on the sides of
the house, where the trees grew very thick. In the east wing (the
house, you must understand, facing the south), this lower outer door
was kept locked and barred—to all intents and purposes, closed up; in
the west wing, which was inhabited exclusively by Lady Chandos, the
door was simply locked, and could be opened inside at will; though no
one ever made use of it but herself, and she very rarely.

Several rooms opened from the gallery to the front—all of them
bed-chambers, except one: that was the library. The library was the
room next to the _east_ wing. Opposite to it was a door opening to a
room that looked back, level with the north rooms in the east wing. A
similar room opened from the gallery at the other end. In fact, the
house was built in uniform—one end the same as the other. Between the
doors of these two rooms the wall of the gallery ran unbroken; there
was, in fact, no communication whatever, as regards the upper rooms,
between the back portion of the house and the front.

And now for the ground-floor. The portico was not in the middle of the
house, but near to the east wing; one room only, the large dining-room,
that seemed to be never used, lying between. The hall was rather small,
dark, and shut in, the oak parlour being on the left hand as you
entered. Two doors at the back of the hall led, the one to the handsome
staircase, the other to the kitchens and other domestic rooms belonging
to the household. A spacious corridor, underneath the gallery above,
branched off from the hall by means of an open archway behind the oak
parlour, and ran along the house; and the various reception-rooms, all
looking front, including Mr. Chandos's private sitting-room, opened
from it. A passage at the other end of the corridor led to the rooms at
the back, but it had been closed up; and there was no communication
whatever on this lower floor with the wings. The doors in the hall,
leading to the stairs and to the servants' offices, as often as not
stood open during the day. Lady Chandos sat much in the west wing; she
seemed to like being alone. And I think that is all that need be said
at present in regard to the in-door features of the house. The
description has not been given unnecessarily.

Hill marshalled me up the staircase. It had been decided that I was to
have the "blue room." The stairs terminated in a wide landing. The
library and the east wing lay to the right, as we ascended; the long
gallery on the left. Hill passed two chamber-doors, and opened a third,
that of the blue room. It was as little calculated for immediate
occupation as any room can well be; the whole of the furniture being
covered up with clean sheets of linen, except the blue silk
window-hangings. Madame de Mellissie had the room next to it, and I
could hear her talking in it with her mother. Hill surveyed matters,
and gave a sort of grunt.

"Ugh! I thought the maids had uncovered this room yesterday: as I've
just told my lady. They must have hurried over their cleaning pretty
quick. Please to step this way, Miss. If you'll wait here a few
minutes, I'll have things arranged."

She went back along the gallery, opened the door of the first bedroom
on this side the staircase, and showed me in. It was a very pretty
room, not large; its hangings and curtains of delicate chintz, lined
with pale rose-colour, and its furniture _not_ covered up, but as
evidently not in occupation. I wondered why they could not put me in
that. The window was wide open. I untied my bonnet and stood there,
Hill closing the door and going downstairs, no doubt to call up the
housemaids.

With the exception of the gravel drive below, and the green lawn in
front of it, its velvet softness dotted with the brightest flowers, the
place seemed to look upon nothing but trees, intersected with gloomy
walks. Trees of all sorts—low as dwarf shrubs, high as towering
poplars, dark green, light green, bright green. The walks branched
everywhere—one in particular, just opposite my window, looked very
gloomy, shaded as it was by dark pine-trees. I found afterwards that it
was called the Pine Walk. Why the place should have struck upon me with
a gloom, I can hardly tell; other people might have seen nothing to
justify the impression. "Chandos has need to live in a world of its
own," I thought, "for assuredly it is shut in from all view of the
outer world."

There arose a sound as of some one softly whistling. It came from the
adjacent window, one in the gallery, which must have been open the same
as mine. I did not like to lean forward and look. Another moment, and
the whistling ceased; some one else appeared to have come up, and
voices in conversation supervened. They were those of Lady Chandos and
her son, and I became an involuntary hearer of what troubled me much.

"This is one of Emily's wild actions," said Lady Chandos. "She knows
quite enough of our unhappy secrets to be sure that a stranger is not
wanted at Chandos."

"Look for the most improbable thing in the world, mother, before you
look for discretion or thought in Emily," was the reply of Mr. Chandos.
"But this is but a young girl, unsuspicious naturally from her age and
sex: Emily might have introduced a more dangerous inmate. And it may
happen that——"

"I know what you would urge, Harry," interrupted the voice of Lady
Chandos. "But there's no certainty. There cannot be: and it is most
unfortunate that Emily should have brought her here. Every night, night
by night as they come round, I lie awake shivering; if the wind does
but move the trees, I start; if an owl shrieks forth its dreary note, I
almost shriek with it. You know what we have cause to fear. And for a
stranger to be sleeping in the house!"

"Yes, it is certainly unfortunate."

"It is more than that; it is dangerous. Harry, I have never, I hope,
done a discourteous thing, but it did occur to me to put this young
girl to sleep on the servants' side of the house. I think her being so
ladylike in appearance saved her from it, not my good manners. I don't
know what to be at."

Mr. Chandos made no reply.

"I wish I had done it!" resumed Lady Chandos. "But there's another
thing—Emily might object: and to have any fuss would be worse than all.
Still, look at the risk—the stake! Is it too late, do you think, Harry?
Would it do to change her room now?"

"My dear mother, you are the best judge," observed Mr. Chandos. "I
should not change the room if I could possibly avoid it; the young lady
might consider it in the light of an indignity. Emily introduced her in
a slighting sort of manner; but her looks are refined, her manners
those of a gentlewoman."

"Yes, that's true."

"How long does Emily think of remaining?"

"She says two weeks. But she is uncertain as the wind. How _could_ she
think of bringing a stranger?"

"Have you told her all?—why it is just now particularly undesirable?"

"No. She never has been told. And I hope and trust she may be gone
again before—before trouble comes."

"Quite right; I should not tell her. Well, mother, as you ask my
opinion, I say things had better remain as arranged; let the young lady
occupy the blue room. How cross Hill looked over it!"

"Not without cause. I cannot think how Emily can have been so
senseless. It is just as if she had planned the annoyance—bringing her
here without writing! Had she written, I should have forbidden it."

"Let us hope that nothing will happen."

"Harry, we cannot answer for it. Again, on Ethel's account a stranger
in the house is not desirable. Emily might have thought of that."

The voices ceased; I suppose the speakers quitted the place; and down I
sat, overwhelmed with shame and consternation. To be introduced in this
unwelcome manner into a house, bringing annoyance and discomfort to its
inmates, seemed to me little less than a crime; I could scarcely have
felt more guilty had I committed one.

And what was the mystery? That something or other was amiss in the
family was all too evident. "Have they got a ghost here?" I said to
myself, in peevishness. Involuntarily the long-past words of Annette
Barlieu flashed into my mind: and I had never thought of them since
they were spoken. "There is always a cloud hanging over Chandos. They
do not care to have a governess residing there: Miladi said it to me."
Then what was the cloud?—what was the fear?

Hill came in again, saying I was to keep the chintz-room. Lady Chandos,
in passing just now along the gallery to her own apartments in the west
wing, saw for the first time that the blue room was not ready. So it
was decided between her and Hill that I should occupy the chintz one.

The luggage was brought up, and I began to dress for dinner. A question
occurred to me—are companions expected to dress, in the wide sense of
the term? I really did not know, in my inexperience. My birth entitled
me to do so; but did my position? A minute's hesitation told me I was a
guest at Chandos, treated and regarded as one, and might appear
accordingly. So I put on a pretty low blue silk, with my necklace of
real pearls, that had once been mamma's, and the pale-blue enamelled
bracelets with the pearl clasps. I had been obliged to dress a good
deal at Mrs. Paler's in the evening; and—to confess the truth—I liked
it.

I stood at the door, hesitating whether to go down, as one is apt to do
in a house, the ways of which are unfamiliar, when Mr. Chandos, ready
for dinner, came suddenly out of the room opposite to the library,
nearly opposite to mine, the one that I spoke of as looking to the back
of the house, and adjoining the back rooms of the east wing. I
concluded that it was his bed-chamber. He smiled at me as he crossed to
the stairs, but did not say anything. Directly after, Emily de
Mellissie appeared in the gallery, radiant in white silk, with an
apple-blush rose in her hair, and a diamond aigrette embedded in it.
They said she was full of whims—as I knew for myself. How ardently I
hoped that some whim would send her speedily away from Chandos!

We went into the first drawing-room, one of the most beautiful rooms I
had ever seen, its fittings violet and gold. Lady Chandos was there,
and did not appear to have changed her dress. The dinner was served in
the oak-parlour; not once in a year did they use the great dining-room.
Lady Chandos kindly passed her arm through mine; and Mr. Chandos
brought in his sister.

It was a pleasant dinner, and a pleasant evening. Emily was on her best
behaviour, telling all manner of amusing anecdotes of Paris life to her
mother and brother, ignoring me. I listened, and was spoken to by the
others now and then. We did not quit the oak-parlour. When dessert was
taken, Hickens, the butler, removed it and brought in tea. "After my
snug sitting-room upstairs, the drawing-room is so large," observed
Lady Chandos to me, as if in apology; "I like this parlour best."

Upon retiring to rest, a neat-looking servant with light hair, whose
name I found was Harriet, came to the chintz-room, and asked whether
she should do anything for me. She said she was one of the
housemaids—there were two besides herself, Lizzy Dene and Emma.
Altogether, including the coachman, a helper in the stables, and two
gardeners—all four of whom were out of doors, living half a mile
away—there were seventeen servants at Chandos. A large number, as it
seemed to me, considering the very little attendance that was required
of them. I told Harriet I had been accustomed to wait upon myself, and
she retired.

But I could not get to sleep. The conversation I had overheard kept
haunting me. I wondered what the mystery could be; I wondered whether I
should be disturbed in the night by noises, or else. What uncanny
doings could there be in the house?—what unseemly inmates, rendering it
inexpedient that a stranger should share its hospitality? Was it really
tenanted by ghosts?—or by something worse? At any rate, they did not
molest me, and my sleep at last was tranquil.

We went down the following morning at half-past eight; Emily in a white
dimity robe of no shape, but tied round the waist with a scarlet cord,
the effect altogether rather untidy; I in a mauve-coloured muslin, with
ribbons of the same shade; and found Lady and Mr. Chandos waiting
breakfast in the oak-parlour. The panels of this room were of alternate
white and carved oak, with a great deal of gilding about both; it had a
most unusual appearance; I had never seen anything like it before. The
ceiling was white, with gilt scrolls round it, and cornices. The large
chimney-glass was in a carved oak frame, gilded in places to match the
walls; the slanting girandole opposite the window, reflecting the green
grass and the waving trees in its convex mirrored surface, had a
similar frame. The chandelier for the wax lights was of gilt, also the
branches on the mantelpiece, and those of the girandole. It was a
pleasant room to enter—as I thought that morning. The oak-brown silk
curtains, with their golden satin-wrought flowers, were drawn quite
back from the windows, which were thrown open to the lovely morning
air; a bright fire burnt in the grate opposite the door; the
breakfast-table, with its snow-white linen, its painted Worcester
china, and its glittering silver, was in the middle. Easy-chairs stood
about the room, a sofa against the wall—all covered to match the
curtains—brown and gold: a piano was there, a sideboard stood at the
back, underneath the reflective mirror; other chairs, tables,
ornaments; and the dark carpet was soft as the softest moss. Out of all
order though cavillers for severe taste might have called the room, I
know that it had an indescribable charm.

Lady Chandos, dressed just as she had been the previous day—and I found
it was her usual dress at all times—sat with her back to the window,
her son facing her, I and Emily on either side. Breakfast was about
half over when Hickens brought in some letters on a small silver
waiter, presenting them to Mr. Chandos. I was soon to learn that all
letters coming to the house, whether for servants or else, were
invariably handed first of all to Mr. Chandos. One of these was
directed to "Lady Chandos;" two to "Harry Chandos, Esquire;" the fourth
to "Mrs. Chandos." Mr. Chandos put his mother's letter on the waiter
again, and Hickens handed it to her. He then came back with the waiter
to his master, who placed the other letter upon it.

"For Mrs. Chandos." And Hickens went out with it.

Who was Mrs. Chandos? I should have liked to ask, but dared not.

"Do you mean to say that there is no letter for me, Harry?" exclaimed
Madame de Mellissie. "That's my punctual husband! He said he should be
quite certain to send me a letter to-day."

"The French letters often come in later, Emily," remarked her brother.

He and Lady Chandos read their letters, Emily talked and laughed, and
the meal came to an end. At its conclusion Mr. Chandos offered to go
round the grounds with his sister.

"Yes, I'll go," she answered. "You can go also, Miss Hereford, if you
like. But we must get our bonnets and parasols, first, Harry."

My bonnet and parasol were soon got, and I stood at my bedroom door,
waiting for Emily. As she came down the gallery, the green-baize door
on my right, leading to the east wing, opened, and a middle-aged lady
appeared at it. Madame de Mellissie advanced and cordially saluted her.

"I should have paid you a visit yesterday, Mrs. Freeman, but that I
heard Mrs. Chandos was ill."

"You are very kind, madam," was the lady's reply. "Mrs. Chandos was
exceedingly unwell yesterday, but she is better to-day. She——"

Mrs. Freeman was interrupted. A lovely-looking girl—girl she looked,
though she may have been seven or eight-and-twenty—appeared at the door
of one of the rooms in the wing. Her dress was white; she wore a
beautiful little head-dress of lace and lavender ribbons, and she came
forward, smiling.

"I heard you had arrived, Emily dear, and should have joined you all
yesterday, but I was so poorly," she said, clasping Madame de
Mellissie's hand. "How well you look!"

"And you look well also," replied Emily. "We must never judge you by
your looks, Mrs. Chandos."

"No, that you must not: I always look in rude health, in spite of my
ailments," answered Mrs. Chandos. "Will you not come and sit with me
for half an hour?"

"Of course I will," was Madame de Mellissie's reply, as she untied her
bonnet and threw it to me carelessly, speaking as careless words.

"Have the goodness to tell Mr. Chandos that I am not going out yet."
Mrs. Chandos, who had not noticed me before, turned in surprise, and
looked at me; but Madame de Mellissie did not, I suppose, deem me worth
an introduction.

I went downstairs to deliver her message. Mr. Chandos was waiting in
the oak-parlour, talking to his mother.

"Madame de Mellissie has desired me to say that she will not go out
yet, sir."

"I did not expect she would," he answered, with a slight laugh, "for
she is changeable as the wind. Tell her so from me, will you, Miss
Hereford?"

He bent his dark blue eyes upon me with a half-saucy glance, as if
intimating that he meant what he said.

"Very well, sir."

I returned to my own room, took off my things, and sat down to think.

Who was Mrs. Chandos?



CHAPTER XII.
OUT OF DOORS AT CHANDOS.

That day was a dull one. I did not feel at home, and could not make
myself feel so. Madame de Mellissie went out in the carriage with Lady
Chandos, and I was alone. I strolled out a little in the afternoon,
just to see what the place outside was like. The gates of egress were
on the left, the gravel drive leading straight to them; but there were
so many paths and walks, and trees and rocks, and banks and flower-beds
on either side, that you might almost lose yourself, and quite lose
sight of the broad drive. The most curious-looking feature about
Chandos was the little upper turret: but for the narrow Gothic window
in it, it might have been taken for a pigeon-house.

I came back, and crossed to the Pine Walk; that again was intersected
by paths, conducting it was hard to say whither. The trees were
towering aloft, the lower shrubs were high and thick. In three minutes
after quitting the house, not a vestige even of its chimneys was to be
seen; and I retraced my steps, not caring to lose myself. But for the
beautiful order in which everything was kept, the place might have been
called a wilderness.

I noticed one thing: that the front windows in each of the wings had
their inside shutters closed; strong oak shutters: both the lower and
the upper rooms were shut in from the light of day. I never saw them
opened while I stayed at Chandos. The lower windows, looking to the
sides of the house, were also kept dark; but the rooms above and those
looking to the back were open. A narrow gravel path, shut in by
laurels, led round the wings to the back of the house. The servants
used that by the east wing, the one inhabited by Mrs. Chandos. No one
used the other, except Lady Chandos. For a servant or any one else to
be seen there would have been high treason, involving probably
dismissal. It was an understood law of the house, and never rebelled
against. The shrubs on Lady Chandos's side had grown thick as a very
grove, affording just space for one person to pass to the small door
that gave entrance to the wing. I knew nothing of the prohibition in
strolling there that day. On learning it afterwards, I felt thankful
not to have been seen.

I was indoors, and sitting in my bed-chamber, the chintz room, when the
carriage returned. Emily, in high spirits, saw me as she ran upstairs,
and came in.

"All alone, Anne! We have had a charming drive. To-morrow, if you are
good, you shall have one; we'll take the large carriage."

She stood with her foot on a small low chair, tilting it about, and
looking out at the servants, who were turning the horses to drive round
to the stables at the back.

"What a nice place this seems to be, Madame de Mellissie! But I think,
if I were Lady Chandos, I should have the trees and shrubs thinned a
little."

"It is mamma's pleasure that they shall be thick. She only lives in
retirement. Were my brother, Sir Thomas, to come home, he might effect
a change. As long as he is away, mamma's will is paramount at Chandos."

"How many brothers have you?"

"Two. Sir Thomas and Harry."

"Have you lost any?"

"Any brothers? A little one: Greville. He died when he was six years
old. Why do you ask?"

"I was only wondering who Mrs. Chandos was. It has been crossing my
mind that she is perhaps a daughter-in-law."

Madame de Mellissie turned on me a haughty face of reproof. "It
certainly is no affair of yours, Miss Hereford. Mrs. Chandos is Mrs.
Chandos; she is no impostor."

"I beg your pardon, madam," I meekly answered, feeling I had deserved
it. What right had I, Anne Hereford, to be curious, and to show it?

It effectually silenced me for the rest of the day. We dined together;
herself, Lady Chandos, and I. Mrs. Chandos I saw no more of, and Mr.
Chandos was dining at Marden, a town some few miles off.

We were at breakfast the following morning, when the letters, as
before, were brought in. Two or three for the servants, which Mr.
Chandos returned to Hickens, one for Mr. Chandos, and one for Madame
Alfred de Mellissie.

"I thought he would be writing," Emily observed, in a tone of apathy,
carelessly holding out her hand for the letter. "Though I know he hates
it like poison, Frenchman like."

"It is not your husband's hand, Emily," said Mr. Chandos.

"No? Why—I declare it is old Madame de Mellissie's! What can be amiss?"
she cried.

"There! was ever anything like that?" she exclaimed, glancing down the
letter. "Alfred's taken ill: his fancied gastric fever has turned into
a real one. And I must go back without delay, the old mère writes."

"Is he very ill?" inquired Lady Chandos.

"So _she_ says—in danger. But she is timid and fanciful. I shall not
go."

"Will you allow me to see the letter, Emily?" asked Lady Chandos, in a
grave tone.

"See it and welcome; read it out for the public benefit, if you will,
mamma. Look at Harry, staring at me with his blue eyes! He deems me, no
doubt, the very model of a loving wife."

"Emily! can you have read this letter?" asked Lady Chandos.

"Yes, I've read it."

"Then how can you hesitate? Your husband is in danger: he may not
survive: he will not, they say, unless a change takes place. You must
hasten away by the first train."

"Mamma, you need not take the half of it for gospel. Madame de
Mellissie is so wrapped up in her son, that if his finger aches she
sends for a doctor, and asks whether it will mortify."

"Child! I must recommend you to go," was the impressive response of
Lady Chandos.

"Of course I shall go; I never meant to hesitate," came the peevish
answer. "But it is excessively tiresome."

It appeared that the letter to Mr. Chandos was also from Madame de
Mellissie, asking him to urge his sister's instant departure. She
finished her breakfast, and was leaving the room to prepare, when she
saw me following.

"I do not want you just now, Miss Hereford. Pauline will see to my
things."

"But I have my own to pack."

"Your own! What for? Alfred de Mellissie is not your husband, that you
should hasten to him."

"But—am I not to go with you, madam?"

"Certainly not," was her emphatic answer. "It would be a needless
expense and trouble."

I felt dumbfounded. "But, Madame de Mellissie, what am I to do?"

"Do! Why, stay here till my return. What else should you do? I shall be
back in a few days at most. I know what Monsieur Alfred's danger is!
Only, if I did not make the journey, madame la mère would hold me forth
to all Paris as a model of barbarity. Mamma," she quickly added,
turning to Lady Chandos, "I shall return here to finish my visit as
soon as I can get away. It will not be a week before you will see me
again. You can let Miss Hereford wait here for me, can't you? Can't
you, Harry?"

"Provided Miss Hereford will make herself at home with us, which I
fancy she has not yet done," was the reply of Mr. Chandos, looking at
me with a smile. Lady Chandos simply bowed her head.

"Oh, she is one who always gives you the notion of being shy,"
carelessly replied Emily, as she ran up the staircase.

What was I to do? I could not say to her, "You shall take me;" but,
after the conversation I had overheard, it was most unpleasant to me to
stay. I ran after Emily. I told her that my remaining might not be
really agreeable to Lady and Mr. Chandos. Her reply was, that they must
make it agreeable, for there was no accommodation for me at Madame de
Mellissie's.

"Look here, Anne; don't you be shy and stupid. I cannot drop you in the
street like a waif, en route, and I cannot take you home. Suppose
Alfred's illness should turn to typhus fever? would it be well for you
to be there? But there's no room for you, and that's the fact."

I disclosed to her my penniless condition, for some of my poor
twenty-five shillings had melted on the journey from Paris, and I had
but fifteen left. I begged her to lend me some money, and I would find
my way alone to Nulle. Emily laughed heartily, but she did not give me
any.

"I shall be back next week, child. Make yourself easy."

By mid-day she was gone, Pauline attending her, and Mr. Chandos
escorting her to the station. I was left, with the words I had heard
spoken, as to my unwelcome presence in the house, beating their refrain
on my brain. Whether Lady Chandos remonstrated privately with her
daughter against leaving me or whether she recognised it as a sort of
necessity, and tacitly acquiesced in the arrangement, I had no means of
knowing.

What was I to do with myself? Put on my things and go out? There was
nothing else to do. As I came down with them on, Lady Chandos met me in
the hall.

"Are you going abroad, Miss Hereford?"

"If you have no objection, madam. But I was only going because I felt
at a loss for something to occupy myself with. Perhaps you can give me
something to do, Lady Chandos?"

"I cannot aid you, I believe. It is a pity Madame de Mellissie should
have left you here, for I fear you will find it dull; but I suppose
there was no help for it. I speak for your sake, my dear," she kindly
added.

"I should be so glad to do anything for you. I can sew."

"My maids do the sewing," she said. "You will find some pleasant walks
in the vicinity. There is one to the left, as you leave the gates,
exceedingly rural and quiet. You will be quite safe; it is an honest
neighbourhood."

I found the walk she spoke of and stayed out for nearly two hours. Not
a single house, but one, did I pass. I found afterwards that what few
houses there were lay to the right. This one stood in view of the
entrance gates, nearly opposite to the lodge; a substantial,
moderate-sized house, closed at present, and displaying a board—"To
Let." I had half a mind to open its front gate and explore the garden,
but I had been out long enough, and turned to Chandos.

I was not to go home without an adventure. In passing through the small
iron gate, by the side of the large ones, an awfully fierce great dog
sprang forward, savagely barking. Back I flew, and shut the gate
between us: why he did not leap over the gate, I don't know: he stood
there barking, and rattling part of a chain that was attached to his
collar. Never having been brought into contact with dogs, I was
terribly afraid of fierce ones, and cowered there in an agony of fear,
not daring to run away, lest the angry animal should leap the gate and
spring upon me.

Footsteps came behind me, and I looked round, hoping for protection. It
was Mr. Chandos. He saw what was the matter, and seemed to make but one
bound to the gate.

"Stay there, Miss Hereford!"

He passed quietly through, and confronted the dog; the dog confronted
him, barking still.

"Nero!"

The voice allayed the angry passions, and the dog stepped up. Mr.
Chandos seized the end of the chain.

"You and I must have a settling for this, Nero. Will you come here,
Miss Hereford, and I will teach him to know you, so that he does not
alarm you again, should he get loose. He must have broken his chain."

"Oh, sir! Pray do not make me come near him!"

Mr. Chandos turned his face quickly towards me, "Are you afraid of
dogs?"

"Rather, sir. I am of that one."

At this juncture, a groom came running up, in search of the dog. Mr.
Chandos spoke sharply to him, and the man answered, in a tone of
deprecation, that it was no fault of his; that the dog sometimes, in
his fits of effort to get loose was as a "born devil," and in one of
those fits had, a quarter of an hour before, snapped his chain, and
burst through the stable window.

"He has run the fit off, then," said Mr. Chandos, "for he is quiet
enough now. Take him back, and mind you secure him fast."

The man took the chain in his hand, and went off, leading the dog. Mr.
Chandos opened the gate for me. I had not overcome the fright yet, and
my face felt ashy pale.

"My poor child! It has indeed frightened you. Do you feel faint?"

"I shall not faint, sir. I never fainted in my life."

Without the least ceremony, he placed my hand within his arm, and
walked on. A little to the right, underneath some thick cypress trees,
there was a bench. He bade me sit down, and seated himself beside me.

"You will be all the better for resting here a minute or two. How did
it happen? Where did you and Mr. Nero encounter each other?"

"I had been out walking, sir. Lady Chandos told me of a pretty walk
there is to the left, outside the gates. In coming back, I was just
inside the gate, when the dog came up, leaping and barking."

"And you were frightened?"

"Very much frightened. Had I not occasion, sir? One moment later, and
he might have torn me to pieces."

"It is my dog," he resumed, "and I am exceedingly sorry he should have
given you the alarm. Will you return good for evil?"

"Good for evil! In what manner, sir?" I asked.

"By not mentioning this to my mother," he replied. "She has a great
dislike to dogs being kept on the premises. Some few months ago, when a
friend of mine was dying, he asked me to take his dog—this one which
has just frightened you—but Lady Chandos would only consent to its
coming here on condition that it should be kept tied up. It is a
valuable dog, though fierce on occasions, the confinement to which it
is mostly condemned making it more fierce. I will take care it does not
break bounds again, and I would prefer that my mother should not know
of this."

"I will not tell her, sir. I suppose Lady Chandos dislikes dogs as much
as I do."

"She does not dislike dogs: she rather likes them. But she objects—at
least, she has objected latterly—to have dogs loose about the
premises."

"She fears their going mad, perhaps?"

Mr. Chandos laughed. "No, she does not fear that. I must make you and
Nero friends, Miss Hereford; you will then find how little he is to be
dreaded. You shall come to the stables with me when he is tied up fast.
How long have you known my sister?" he resumed, changing the subject.

"I knew her a little at Mademoiselle Barlieu's. I entered the school
just before she left it."

"Then you must have known—have known—the circumstances under which she
quitted it?"

He had begun the sentence rapidly, as if impelled to it by impulse, but
after the hesitation, continued it more slowly.

"Yes, sir. They could not be kept from the school."

"A mad act—a mad act!" he murmured: "and—if I may read signs—heartily
repented of. It is, I fancy, an exemplification of the old saying, Miss
Hereford, 'Marry in haste, and repent at leisure.' Poor Emily has
leisure enough for it before her: she is only beginning life. I went
over at the time to Mademoiselle Barlieu's."

"Yes, sir; I saw you when you were going away, and I hid myself in a
niche of the hall while you passed. I knew you again as soon as I met
you here."

"You must have a good memory for faces, then," he said, laughing.

"I think a circumstance made me recollect you, sir. It was, that your
face struck upon me at Mademoiselle Barlieu's as being familiar to my
memory; I felt sure that if I had not seen you before, I had seen some
one very like you."

He turned round and looked at me a full minute ere he spoke.

"Who was it, Miss Hereford?"

"I cannot tell, sir. I wish I could tell. The resemblance in your face
haunts me still."

"It's not much of a face to remember," he slightingly said, as a stout
gentleman came through the entrance-gates. He carried a roll of paper,
or parchment, and was wiping his brows, his hat off.

"You look warm, Dexter," called out Mr. Chandos.

"It's a close day for autumn, sir, and I walked over," was the response
of the new-comer, as he turned out of the great drive and came up. "I'm
glad to catch you at home, Mr. Chandos. I have had an offer for this
house."

Mr. Chandos made room for him to sit down. "I have been turning myself
into a knight-errant, Dexter; delivering a lady from the fangs of a
ferocious dog."

Mr. Dexter looked as if he did not know whether to take the words in
jest or earnest.

"That dog of mine got loose, and terrified this young lady nearly out
of her life. I really do not know but he would have attacked her, had I
not come home at the very moment. She is sitting here to gain breath
and courage. About the house? which house do you mean?"

"I speak of the house opposite your lodge-gates, sir," resumed Mr.
Dexter, after giving me a polite nod. "Haines came over to me this
morning, saying a gentleman wished to take it, and required to enter
immediately."

"What gentleman? Who is he?"

"Nobody belonging to this neighbourhood, sir: a stranger. Haines spoke
of a Mr. Freshfield; but was not clear upon the point whether it was
for Mr. Freshfield himself, or for a friend of Mr. Freshfield's. It's
all perfectly right, Haines says; he will be answerable for that; rent
as safe as if it were paid beforehand."

"Well, I shall be glad to let the house," returned Mr. Chandos. "You
need not rise, Miss Hereford; we are not discussing secrets. It has
been empty these nine months, you know, Dexter; and empty houses bring
no good to themselves."

"Very true, sir. I had an offer for it some days back, and did not
trouble you with it, for I know you would not have accepted the tenant.
It was that Major Mann, and his rough lot," added Mr. Dexter, dropping
his voice.

"Oh," shortly replied Mr. Chandos, his lip curling. "I should be sorry
to have them within hail of my gates."

"I was sure of that. He pressed hard, though; seemed to have taken a
fancy for the place. I put him off as civilly as I could; it's no use
to make enemies of people, where it can be helped. 'My Lady Chandos
will only let it to a quiet tenant,' I told him. 'Wants a Darby and
Joan, perhaps?' said he, turning up his nose. 'Something of that sort,
Major,' I answered; and so the thing dropped through. Haines assures me
the present applicant is most respectable; all that could be desired."

"Very well, Dexter, I give you power to treat. You know who would be
acceptable and who not, just as well as I do."

"Haines wants the bargain to be concluded to-day, sir," said Mr.
Dexter, rising. "He has orders to furnish at once."

"Is Haines going to furnish?"

"As it appears. I should fancy it may be for somebody arriving from
abroad. There's plenty of money, Haines says. I had better put a man or
two on to the garden at once, had I not, sir?"

"Yes. And don't have those complaints about the locks, Dexter, as we
had, you may remember, when the last house on the estate was let. Let
them be examined throughout."

"I'm off then," said Mr. Dexter. "Good-day, sir. My respects to my
lady. Good-day, ma'am."

"Good-day," I answered.

"Possessions bring trouble, Miss Hereford," cried Mr. Chandos, as Mr.
Dexter moved away. "There are several houses on this estate, and they
are almost as much plague as profit. One tenant finds fault and
grumbles; another must have this, that, and the other done; a third
runs away, leaving no rent behind him, and his premises dilapidated.
Our last agent was not a desirable one; accepted tenants who were not
eligible, and did not look after details. He died some months back, and
a pretty game we found he had been carrying on; grinding the tenants
down, and cheating us. Dexter, recently appointed, appears to be a keen
man of business, and straightforward: that is, as agents go: they are
none of them too honest."

"I think I should let the houses for myself, sir, on my own estate, and
not employ an agent."

"Do you mean that as a piece of advice to me, Miss Hereford?" he
returned, smiling. "What I might do on my own estate, I cannot answer
for: but this one is not mine. It belongs to my brother, Sir Thomas
Chandos. The mistress of it for the time being is my mother; but I take
the trouble off her hands. Here's Dexter coming back again!"

"It is not often I go away and leave half my errand undone, though I
have this time," Mr. Dexter called out as he came up, and extended the
roll of paper he held. "This is the plan of the proposed alteration in
the stables at the farm, sir, which you wished to look over. Shall I
carry it to the house?"

"By no means. I'll carry it myself, if you will give it me," replied
Mr. Chandos. And the agent finally departed.

"Are you sufficiently rested, Miss Hereford?"

My answer was to rise and proceed towards the house. Mr. Chandos,
walking by my side, seemed absorbed in the roll, which he had partially
opened. On the right the drive leading to the stables branched off. I
was glad that Mr. Chandos passed on, and did not propose to go to Nero
then. Lady Chandos came forward as we were entering the portico.

"What is this—about the dog attacking you, Miss Hereford?" she
exclaimed.

I was so taken to, after the wish expressed by Mr. Chandos, and the
promise I had given him, that I remained like a stupid mute. He
answered.

"Nero got loose, mother. Miss Hereford was in the act of entering the
gate—or had just entered, was it not, Miss Hereford?—and he like a
castle's zealous watch-dog, prevented her advancing further."

"Did he touch you, Miss Hereford?" Lady Chandos asked, turning to me.

"He was not quick enough, madam: I ran back beyond the gate. My fear
was, that he would leap over; but he did not. Perhaps it was too high."

"But he would have attacked you had you not gone back?"

"I think he would. He seemed very savage."

"Harry, this is just what I have feared," Lady Chandos observed to her
son, in a peculiar significant tone. "A fierce, powerful dog, like
that, _is_ liable to break his chain and get loose; and I have said so
to you over and over again. He would attack a stranger—any one he did
not know, and might cause a fearful disturbance. You know why I have
feared this."

"The stables are safely closed at night, mother," was the somewhat
curious reply of Mr. Chandos.

"Robin says the dog sprang through the window; dashed through the
glass. There can be no security against that, day or night."

"My opinion is, that some of the men must have been teasing him and so
worked him into a fury. I shall inquire into it, and if I find it to be
the fact, whoever did it shall go. Better precaution shall be observed
for the future."

"Yes," said Lady Chandos, in a decisive tone, "and that precaution must
be the sending away of the dog."

"But really, mother, there is no necessity."

"Harry, I am surprised at you. You know why I urge it: why I ought to
urge it."

The conversation did not make me feel very comfortable, and I
interposed, "I do beg that no change may be made on my account, Lady
Chandos. No harm is done. I am not hurt."

"It is not on your account I am speaking, Miss Hereford. And—as you are
not hurt—I am pleased that the thing has happened, because it must
prove to Mr. Chandos the necessity of sending away the dog. He could
not see it previously."

"I should see it equally with you, mother, were the dog to be
insecurely fastened. But if we make him secure——"

"You deemed him secure now," she interrupted. "I will not risk it. Good
heavens, Harry! have you forgotten the stake?"

"What stake?" I thought, as I went up to my room. Certainly the words
savoured of something that I could not comprehend.

Standing at the window at the head of the stairs was the young lady
whom they called Mrs. Chandos. She wore a bonnet and shawl, and spoke
as I approached.

"I do believe it is raining!"

"Yes," I replied; "some drops were falling when I came in."

But it appeared that Mrs. Chandos, when she spoke, had not thought she
was addressing me, for she turned round in astonishment at the sound of
my voice.

"Oh—I beg your pardon," she coldly said. And then I saw that she had a
white kitten in her arms. I went into my room, but did not close the
door, and in a minute I heard the approach of Mrs. Freeman.

"Did you ever know anything so tiresome?" exclaimed Mrs. Chandos to
her. "It is raining fast. I am sure it is not once in a month, hardly,
that I make up my mind to walk in the grounds, but so sure as I do, I
am prevented. It rains; or it snows; or it's too hot; or there's
thunder in the air! It comes on purpose, I know."

"Perhaps it will not be much," replied Mrs. Freeman; who, by the sound
of her voice, appeared to be also now looking out at the window.

"It will: look at those clouds, gathering fast into one thick mass.
Oo—oh!" she added, with a shiver, "I don't like to hear the dripping of
the rain on the trees: it puts me in mind of—of——"

"Of what, my dear?" asked Mrs. Freeman.

"Of the night I first heard those awful tidings. It was raining then, a
steady soaking rain, and I had been listening to its falling on the
leaves till the monotony of the sound worried me, and I began wishing
_he_ was at home. Not on these trees, you know; we were at the other
place. Drop, drop, drop; as the rain never sounds but where there are
trees for it to fall on. The opening of the room-door interrupted me,
and my lady came in. Ah! I shall never forget her; her face was white,
her eyes looked wild, her hands were lifted; I saw there was something
dreadful to be told. She sat down, and, drawing me to her, said——"

"Hush—sh—sh!" interposed Mrs. Freeman, with sharp caution. "You may be
speaking for other ears than mine.

"I was not going to allude to _facts_," was the retort of Mrs. Chandos,
her tone peevish at the interruption. "My lady asked me if I could bear
trouble; fiery trouble, such as had rarely overtaken one in my rank of
life before; and my answer was to fall into a fainting fit at her feet.
Never, since then, have I liked to hear the rain pattering down on the
leaves where the trees are thick."

I would have shut my door, but feared it might look ungracious to do
so. They had eyes, and could see that it was open, if they pleased to
look; therefore they might choose their subjects accordingly. Mrs.
Chandos resumed.

"Who _is_ that young lady? She came up the stairs, and I spoke without
looking round, thinking it was you."

"I don't know who. A Miss Hereford. She came here with Madame de
Mellissie as travelling companion."

"But she is a stranger to Lady Chandos?"

"Entirely so."

"Then why does Lady Chandos permit her to be here? Is it well, in this
house of misfortune? Is it prudent?"

"Scarcely so. Of course Lady Chandos can only hope—how you are
squeezing that kitten, my dear!"

"Pretty little thing! it likes to be squeezed," responded Mrs. Chandos.
"It is hiding itself from you; from that ugly bonnet. You do wear
frightful bonnets, Mrs. Freeman; as ugly as the black ones of Lady
Chandos."

"I do not think widows' bonnets ugly," was the reply of Mrs. Freeman.
"To some faces they are particularly becoming."

"They are so ugly, so disfiguring, that I hope it will be long before I
am called upon to wear them," returned Mrs. Chandos, speaking
impulsively. "Were my husband to die—but there! I know what you want to
say; why do I dwell upon trifles such as bonnets, when heavy calamities
are on the house?"

"Suppose you walk about the gallery, my dear?" suggested Mrs. Freeman.
"I see no chance of the rain's leaving off."

"No, I'll go back and take my things off, and play with pussy. Poor
pussy wanted a walk in the grounds as much as I did. Oh,"—with a
shriek—"it's gone!"

For the kitten, allured, perhaps, by the attractions of a promenade in
the grounds, had leaped from the arms of Mrs. Chandos on to a shrub
below. I saw it from my window. The shriek brought out Mr. Chandos from
the house; he looked up.

"My kitten, Harry," she said. "It has flown away from me. Get it, will
you? But I am sorry to give you the trouble."

Mr. Chandos took the kitten from the bush and once more looked up; at
my window as well as at theirs.

"Who will come for it? Will you, Miss Hereford?—and oblige my—oblige
Mrs. Chandos."

Oblige my _what?_ Was he going to say 'sister-in-law' when he suddenly
stopped himself? But, if so, why should he have stopped himself? And
how could she be his sister-in-law? Were she the wife of Sir Thomas,
she would be Lady Chandos; and Emily had said her brother Thomas was
not married. She had said she had but two brothers, Thomas and Harry;
who, then, was this young Mrs. Chandos? That she had a husband living
was apparent, from the conversation I had just heard; and I had
imagined all along that she must be the daughter-in-law of Lady
Chandos.

These thoughts passed through my head as I ran down for the kitten. Mr.
Chandos handed it to me, and turned away, for he was called to by some
one at a distance. At the same moment the kitten was taken from my
hands. It was by Mrs. Freeman, who had also come down.

"I hope it is not hurt, poor thing," she said, looking at it. "It seems
lively enough."

"Mr. Chandos said it was not hurt, when he gave it to me."

"Oh, that's right. Had it been hurt, Mrs. Chandos would have grieved
over it. She is fond of this kitten; and she has so few pleasures, poor
child!"

"Who _is_ Mrs. Chandos?" I asked, in a low tone.

"Madam?" returned Mrs. Freeman.

The tone—cold, haughty, reserved—struck me as conveying the keenest
reproach for my unjustifiable curiosity; unjustifiable so far as that I
had betrayed it. I faltered forth the question again—for she seemed
looking at me and waiting; and it might be that she had not heard it.

"Who is Mrs. Chandos?"

"Mrs. Chandos?" was the answer. "Who should she be? She is Mrs.
Chandos." And Mrs. Freeman stalked away.

That same evening at dusk, the dog Nero was taken away. A few words
spoken by Hickens to his master enlightened me as to the exit.

"Is he going to be shot?" I asked, impulsively, of Mr. Chandos.

"Oh no. A farmer living near has promised to take care of him."

But the tone was not quite so free as usual, and I said no more.



CHAPTER XIII.
A SHOCK.

The time passed monotonously. Always looking upon myself as an
intruder, an unwelcome interloper, I could not feel at home at Chandos.
A letter arrived in course of post from Emily de Mellissie, saying she
had found her husband certainly ill, but not as much so as "la mère"
had been willing to lead them to expect. In a few days she should write
and fix the date of her return. I was at a loss what to do in more
senses than one. Not liking to sit down to the piano uninvited—and no
one did invite me—it remained closed. Now and then, when I knew that
neither Lady Chandos nor her son was at home, I would play quietly for
a few minutes—stealthily might be the best term. Twice Lady Chandos
took me for a drive; she went herself every day; generally taking Mrs.
Chandos. The latter I very rarely saw at any time.

And so I was reduced to walking and reading. Newspapers, books, and
reviews lay about the room. Had I been anything of a dressmaker, I
should have made up the dresses bought in Paris, failing the money to
give them out; as it was, they lay in my large trunk, unmade. Mr.
Chandos had told me the books in the library were at my service, and I
chose some of them.

One morning, when I had gone in to get a book, Lady Chandos, passing
the door, saw me and came in. I was standing before a book-case in the
darkest part of the room; before which the inner curtains had always
been drawn. They were undrawn now, but the doors were locked as usual.

"Are you searching for a book, Miss Hereford?"

"Yes, madam. Amidst so many——"

The sight of Lady Chandos's face caused my sentence to fail. The
evident astonishment with which she gazed on the book-case; the
displeased, nay, the dismayed, expression of her countenance, was
something curious. In my timidity, I feared she might think I had
undrawn the curtains. There appeared to be books of all kinds, shapes,
and sizes, inside; pamphlets and loose papers. Mr. Chandos happened to
come out of his room, and she called him.

"Harry," she began, in a sharp, authoritative tone, "who has been at
this book-case, and left the curtains undrawn?"

"It must have been Mrs. Chandos," he replied, advancing to his mother's
side. "The doors are locked, I see; there's no great harm done."

"No harm!" repeated Lady Chandos; "look here."

She pointed to a name written on the white paper cover of one of the
books. Mr. Chandos knitted his brow as he bent closer.

"Very thoughtless of her; very negligent," murmured Lady Chandos. "I
have said before the keys ought not to be entrusted to Ethel."

As I quitted the room quietly, not liking to stay in it, I saw Mr.
Chandos take a bunch of keys from his pocket; and, subsequently, heard
the silk curtains drawn close, and the doors relocked. Never should I
feel free to go to the book-case again. I had one volume of Shakespeare
out, and must make the most of it.

We were having lovely days, and this was one of them. I strolled out,
the book in my hand. But, before settling to read, I went to the gates
to see how they were getting on with the opposite house. They had been
busy furnishing it for two or three days, and I—for want of something
better to do—had taken an interest in it, and watched the things going
in. It appeared all in order this morning; there was no bustle, no
litter; curtains were up, blinds were half-drawn, and smoke was
ascending from more than one chimney. The tenant or tenants must have
arrived and taken possession.

As I stood leaning over the small side-gate, there came out of that
house a man; a gentleman, to appearance; short, and with a dark face.
But of the latter I caught but a passing glimpse, for he turned his
back immediately to look up at the front of the house. Calling to a
manservant, he appeared to be pointing out something that he wished
done, or finding fault with something that had been left undone. I
could not hear the words but I could the tones; they were
authoritative, as was his manner. He was evidently the master.

I thought I had seen him before, for there was something in his figure,
and even in the passing sight of his face, which struck upon me as
being familiar. I waited for him to turn again, that I might obtain a
better view; but he did not, and soon went in. I walked back to a shady
bench, and began reading. It was underneath the trees that shaded the
side of the broad open walk. Presently the sound of two people,
apparently encountering each other, reached me from behind the shrubs.

"Are you here alone, Ethel?" was asked by Mr. Chandos.

"Yes, I took a fancy to come; I and my kitten. Mrs. Freeman said wait
an hour or two, and perhaps she could come with me. She is ill."

"What ails her?"

"I don't know. She often complains now; pains come in her head."

"Did you unlock the book-case in the library and leave the curtains
undrawn?"

"What book-case?" returned Mrs. Chandos.

"_That_ book-case."

"What next, Harry! As if I should do anything of the sort!"

"You had the keys last night. And no one opens that book-case but
yourself."

"I did open that book-case, I remember, and undraw the curtains; I
thought they were dusty, but I'm sure I thought I drew them again. I'm
very sorry."

"Be more cautious for the future, Ethel. Lady Chandos is vexed. You
see, while this young lady is in the house——"

"But I cannot see what business she has in the library," interrupted
Mrs. Chandos, in a quick complaining tone. "A stranger has no right to
the run of the house. I think you must be all out of your minds to have
her here at all."

"In regard to the library, Ethel, I told her——"

They were the last words that reached me. Mrs. Chandos, ever
changeable, was walking rapidly to the house again. Presently Mr.
Chandos came down the broad walk, saw me, and approached.

"Are you fond of Shakespeare's works?" he asked, when he knew what I
was reading.

"I have never read them, sir."

"Never read them!" he cried, in surprise. "You cannot mean that, Miss
Hereford."

"But, sir, I have always been at school. And schoolgirls have no
opportunity of obtaining such works. At my English school, Miss
Fenton's, there were some volumes of Shakespeare in the governess's
private parlour; but I never saw anything of them but their backs."

"Have you never read Byron?"

"Oh no."

"Nor any novels?"

"Not any books of that kind."

He looked at me with a half smile, standing with his back against a
tree. "I think I understood from my sister that you are an orphan?"

"Yes, sir."

"Have you no home?"

"I have neither home nor relatives. The place that seems more like a
home to me than any other is Mademoiselle Barlieu's, at Nulle. I was
there four years."

"Did you never get any French novels there?"

"Indeed no."

"My sister told me she did."

"I don't see how that could have been, sir, unless she read them when
she was out. Miss Chandos visited a great deal."

"Yes, to her cost."

He drew in his lips when he spoke, like one in pain, and his blue
eyes—they were so dark as to be purple in some lights—went out far
away, as if looking into the past.

"We were too closely superintended to admit of our reading any books,
unless by permission; as to novels, the Miss Barlieus would have been
in fits at the thought. And since I left them I have been too fully
occupied to read for recreation. This is the first leisure time I have
had for nearly as long as I can remember."

"Indeed! It must seem strange to you."

"So strange, sir, that I am not sure whether I like it or not."

Mr. Chandos laughed. "Did you visit much, when you were at Nulle?"

"No sir. I had not a friend in the town. Towards the last, Miss Annette
would sometimes take me when she went out to spend the evening."

"Will you allow me to direct your reading, Miss Hereford?" he returned,
after a pause.

"Oh, sir, if you would!" I answered eagerly. "For in truth that library
seems to me like a wild sea, with its multitude of books."

"Yes; and a young lady might get amidst shoals; for all the books are
not equally worthy!"

"Perhaps, sir, you will look out a few and give to me."

"I will, with pleasure."

"Thank you. Meanwhile, may I go on with this, as I have begun it?"

He left the tree, took the book from my hand and looked at it.
"'Othello;' yes, you may read that."

As he returned the book to me and resumed his position against the
tree, some one approached from the outer gate. I thought it was a
visitor. He came strolling on in the very middle of the broad avenue,
his arms underneath his coat-tails; and soon I perceived it was the
gentleman I had seen at the newly-occupied house, giving his directions
to the servant. But ah! as he neared us, remembrance, with its cold
chill of terror, struck upon my heart. I knew him instantly. It was Mr.
Edwin Barley. Mr. Edwin Barley, and not in the least altered.

"Do you want anything, sir?" demanded Mr. Chandos. For the intruder was
passing us without ceremony, and turning his head about from side to
side as curiously and freely as he might have done on the public road.

"I don't want anything," was the independent answer, and Mr. Edwin
Barley stood and faced Mr. Chandos as he spoke it, looking at him
keenly. "The open air is free to walk in, I believe."

"Quite so—when you are without these boundaries. But these are private
property."

"I am aware that they are the grounds belonging to Chandos House; but I
did not know a stranger might not be permitted to walk in them."

"Lady Chandos prefers privacy. Strangers are not in the habit of
entering here; nor can their doing so be sanctioned."

"I presume that I am speaking to Mr. Harry Chandos?" Mr. Chandos bowed
his head, very coldly. Mr. Edwin Barley bowed in his turn; it might
have been called an introduction.

"I will retreat," he said, "and I suppose I must beg your pardon for
intruding. It did not occur to me that my strolling in might be
unwelcome."

Mr. Chandos said nothing to detain him, and Mr. Edwin Barley raised his
hat and departed. Mr. Chandos returned the courtesy, and looked after
him.

"Who can he be, I wonder? I don't much like his face."

"I think it is the new tenant, sir. I saw him at the house just now."

"_He_ the tenant!" returned Mr. Chandos. "Miss Hereford, what is the
matter with you? You are as white as that statue."

I turned it off, giving no explanation; and Mr. Chandos walked towards
the gate. I daresay I did look white, for the sight of Mr. Edwin Barley
brought back all the old horror of the events that had occurred during
my sojourn in his house. Not that it was so much the recollection that
drove the colour from my cheeks, as the dread fear that he should
recognise me though why I should have feared it, I did not know. Little
chance was there of that—had I been calm enough to judge the matter
sensibly. While Mr. Edwin Barley had remained stationary in appearance,
I had changed from a child into a woman.

But what had brought Mr. Edwin Barley entering as the tenant of that
small and inferior house? he, with his fine fortune and his fine
estates! There seemed to be mystery enough at Chandos! was this going
to be another mystery?

"I believe you must be right, Miss Hereford; he has entered the house,"
said Mr. Chandos, returning. "If he is really the new tenant—as I
suppose he is—he appears by no means a prepossessing one. I wonder what
his name may be?"

I could not, for the whole world, have told Mr. Chandos that I knew his
name; I could not have told that I knew him. All my hope was that it
would never be betrayed that I had known him, that he was any connexion
of mine, or that he would ever recognise me. What, what could have
brought Edwin Barley to Chandos?



CHAPTER XIV.
THE NEW TENANT BY THE LODGE GATES.

The new tenant by the lodge gates! And it was Edwin Barley! What could
have brought him to Chandos?

Was it to look after me?

The conviction that it was so, fixed itself in my mind with startling
force, and I grew nearly as sick with fear as I had been when I was a
little child. That he was personally unknown to the Chandos family was
evident: it seemed a strange thing that he should come and plant
himself down at their very gates as soon as I became an inmate in the
family. Had he in some crafty manner made himself acquainted with my
entrance to it the very hour it took place? Surely it must have been
so. And he had lost no time in following.

When once suspicion connected with fear arises in man's mind, or in
woman's, the most trifling circumstances are allowed to confirm it.
Events, however unconnected with it in reality, accidental coincidences
that have no rapport (I'm afraid that's a French word, but I can't help
it) with it whatever, are converted by the suggestive imagination into
suspicious proofs, and looked upon as links in the chain. It might have
occurred to my mind—it did occur to it—that it was just within the
range of possibility Mr. Edwin Barley's advent had nothing whatever to
do with me or my presence at Chandos, that it might be wholly
unconnected with it, and he ignorant of it and of who I was; but I
threw this view away at once in my fear, and did not glance at it a
second time. Edwin Barley had come to Chandos because I was there, and
no power of reasoning could have removed this impression from me. All
these years, and he had never (so far as appeared) sought to put
himself in personal connexion with the family: why should he have done
it now, save for my presence in it?

Thought is quick. Before Mr. Chandos returned to me from watching Edwin
Barley out at the lodge-gates and across the road, I had gone over it
all in my mind, and arrived at my unpleasant conviction. Some dim idea
of putting as great a space of ground between me and him as was
practicable, caused me to rise hastily from the garden chair and turn
to go indoors. Mr. Chandos walked by my side, talking of various
things—the leaves that were beginning to fall, the fineness of the
early autumn day, the discontent of Mr. Nero in his new home at the
farmer's—having apparently forgotten already the episode of the
intrusion. I answered in monosyllables, scarcely knowing what, my mind
full of its new trouble.

I had done no harm during my short sojourn at Mr. Edwin Barley's, in
those long past days; I had never heard of or from him since; he had
never, so far as I knew, inquired after me; so why should I fear him
now? I cannot answer this: I have never been able to answer it—no, not
even since things, dark and mysterious then, have been made clear. The
fear had taken possession of me, and probably seemed all the worse
because it was vague and inexplicable.

Luncheon was on the table when we turned into the oak parlour, and Lady
Chandos ready for it. Hickens was uncorking a bottle of claret.

"Harry, Hickens says that our new tenant has arrived," observed Lady
Chandos.

We were sitting down then and Mr. Chandos did not immediately reply.
Perhaps Hickens thought the news required confirmation, for he turned
round from the sideboard.

"The gentleman took possession last night, sir; so Brooks tells me:
himself and four or five servants. It is only a single gentleman;
there's no family. Immensely rich, they say."

"Do you know who he is, Harry?" pursued Lady Chandos.

"I don't know who he is, but I have just seen himself," replied Mr.
Chandos. "He came in at our gates, deeming Chandos public property. I
had to warn him off by telling him it was private."

"What did he want?" asked Lady Chandos.

"Nothing, except to look about him. Had I known he was your new tenant,
I might not have been in so great a hurry to eject him."

"Oh, but, Harry, it was as well to do it. Better to let him understand
from the first that we cannot have strangers entering here at will. It
would not suit me, you know; I like privacy."

"That is what I told him."

"I suppose you were civil?"

"Quite civil, both of us—on the surface, at any rate. I did not take to
him at first sight; that is, to his looks; and I don't fancy he took to
me. There was something peculiar in the tone of his voice, and he eyed
me as though he wished to take my photograph."

"He did not know you, I daresay."

"He said he supposed he was speaking to Mr. Harry Chandos. Perhaps he
thought it discourteous to be warned off in that manner. Not that he
looks like one to go in for much courtesy himself: there was an air of
independence about him _almost_ bordering upon insolence. This young
lady, I fancy, was not prepossessed in his favour."

I had sat with my head bent on my plate, trying to seem unconcerned, as
if the matter were no business of mine. The sudden address of Mr.
Chandos turned my face crimson. Lady Chandos looked at me.

"He—is very ugly," I stammered in my perplexity.

"Is he?" she cried, turning to her son.

"He is rather ill-favoured, mother; a short, dark man. There's one
redeeming feature in his face; his teeth. They are small, white, and
regular: very beautiful."

"What is his name?"

"I don't know," said Mr. Chandos.

"Not know his name!" repeated Lady Chandos, laughing slightly; "and yet
you accepted him as tenant!"

"Oh, well, Dexter made all the arrangements. I did not interfere
personally."

"I think, before I accepted a man as tenant, I should make myself
acquainted with his name," spoke Lady Chandos, in a half-joking tone,
evidently attaching no importance to the matter. "Do you happen to have
heard it, Hickens?"

"No, my lady."

"We shall learn it soon enough," carelessly observed Mr. Chandos. "A
man may not make a less desirable tenant because he happens not to have
a handsome face. Tastes differ, you know, Miss Hereford. Were we all
bought and sold by our looks, what a squabbling of opinions there'd
be!"

The meal was nearly over, when a startling interruption occurred. Mrs.
Chandos burst wildly into the room, agitated, trembling; her hands
raised, her face ashy white. Mr. Chandos threw down his knife and fork,
and rose in consternation.

"Oh, Lady Chandos! Oh, Harry!" came the words, almost in a shriek. "Do
come! She has fallen on the carpet in a fit—or something. I think she
may be dying!"

"Excited again, Ethel!" observed Lady Chandos, the perfect calmness of
her tone presenting a curious contrast. "When will you learn to take
trifles quietly and rationally? Who has fallen? The white kitten?"

Mrs. Chandos did not like the reproach. "There's nothing to blame me
for this time," she said, with a sob of vehemence. "It is Mrs. Freeman.
She is lying there on the floor, looking frightful. I am not sure but
she's dead."

"Take care of her, Harry," said Lady Chandos. "I will see what it is."

"Shall I go?" he asked. "It may be better. You can stay with Ethel."

Lady Chandos only answered by waving him back, as she quitted the room.
Mrs. Chandos trembled excessively, and Mr. Chandos placed her in an
easy-chair.

"Calm yourself, Ethel—as my mother says."

"What nonsense you talk, Harry! As if everybody could have their
feelings under control as she has—as you have! Time was when I was calm
and heedless enough, Heaven knows, but since—since—you know?"

"Yes, yes; be still now. I think you might acquire a little more
self-control if you tried, considering that excitement does you so much
harm."

"It weakens me; it lays me prostrate for three or four days. I don't
know what other harm it does me."

"Is not that enough? Where is Mrs. Freeman?"

"She is in my dining-room. I will tell you what happened. We were at
luncheon—that is, I was, for she sat by the window, and would not take
any: she has complained of illness latterly, as I told you. 'I think
you might eat a bit of this fowl,' I said to her; 'it is very nice.'
Well, she made no answer; so I spoke again. Still she said nothing, and
I got up to look at her, wondering whether she could have dropped
asleep in a minute. I went round the chair, and there she was with a
face drawn in the most frightful manner you can conceive, and the next
moment she had slipped from the chair to the carpet. And you and Lady
Chandos blame me for not retaining my calmness."

"Will you take anything?" he inquired, pointing to the luncheon-tray;
and it struck me that he wished to get the scene she had described out
of her memory.

"No, thank you. The sight of Mrs. Freeman has taken my appetite away.
Suppose you come and see her for yourself: I don't mind going with
you."

Mrs. Chandos put her arm within his, and they departed. Hill ran
upstairs; two or three of the maids followed her. Hickens looked after
them in curiosity, and then came back to his luncheon-table. Not to be
in the way of anybody, I went up to my room.

For some hours I saw none of them. There was bustle in the house. Lady
Chandos's voice I heard now and then, and once I caught a glimpse of
Mr. Chandos in the grounds. Getting tired of my confinement, I looked
out, and asked a maid-servant, who was passing in the corridor, what
had been the matter.

"It was a sort of fit, Miss, but she's better now," was Harriet's
reply. "The doctor says she must be still, and have rest for some time
to come, and she is going away this evening."

"Going away! Do you speak of Mrs. Freeman?"

"Yes, Miss. She is going by her own choice. She has a sister who lives
about thirteen miles from this, and she wishes to go at once to her
house. My lady urged her to wait, at any rate until to-morrow, but Mrs.
Freeman said she would rather go, especially as she can be of no
further use at present to Mrs. Chandos. They have a suspicion that she
fears another attack, and thinks she had better get to her sister's
without delay. So it's all settled, and Hill is to accompany her."

Harriet departed, leaving my door on the latch. I sat, reading and
listening by turns, and presently there sounded two more encountering
voices outside. Those of Lady Chandos and Hill, her attendant.

"My lady," said the latter, in one of those loud whispers which
penetrate the ear worse than open speaking, "is it right that I should
go to-night? I could not allude to it before Mrs. Chandos."

"Why should it not be right, Hill?"

"It is the full of the moon, my lady."

Lady Chandos paused before replying, possibly in reflection. "There is
no help for it, Hill," she said, at last. "Mrs. Freeman is too ill to
be trusted to the care of any one but you."

The carriage was brought to the lower door in the wing, unbarred and
unbolted for the occasion, and Mrs. Freeman was taken down the enclosed
stairs to it, by Mr. Chandos and the doctor, so that I and my curiosity
saw nothing of the exit, which I looked upon as an unmerited wrong. She
was placed in the carriage, and Hill and the doctor went with her.

It was getting near dinner-time. I scarcely knew whether to go down or
not, or whether there would be any dinner at all, in the state of
confusion the house seemed to be in, when my doubt was solved by Lady
Chandos herself. Looking out at my door, she passed me, coming along
the gallery from her own room.

"I think the dinner is ready, Miss Hereford?"

Following her downstairs, I saw Mr. Dexter, the agent, in the open
portico, having that moment, as it appeared, come to the house. Lady
Chandos crossed the hall to speak to him. He put a sealed parcel, or
thick letter into her hands.

"I beg your pardon, my lady. As I was passing here, I brought up these
papers for Mr. Chandos. The new tenant opposite says there's something
amiss with the roof of the coach-house, and I'm going to call and look
at it."

Lady Chandos glanced casually at the letter she held; and then a
thought seemed to strike her.

"What is the name of the new tenant, Mr. Dexter?"

"Barley, my lady. Mr. Edwin Barley."

There was a startled pause. Lady Chandos suddenly put her hand to her
heart, as if some pang had taken it.

"Barley!" she repeated. "Edwin Barley! Do you know whether he comes
from Hallam?"

"Hallam?—Hallam?" debated Mr. Dexter with himself, in consideration.
"Yes, that _is_ the place he comes from. I remember now. 'Edwin Barley,
Esquire, of the Oaks, Hallam.' That's the address in the deed of
agreement. Good-day, my lady."

She did not attempt to detain him. With the look of awful consternation
on her livid face, she turned to come back. I slipped into the
dining-room, and sat down in a shady nook by the piano, hoping not to
have been seen. The cloth was laid, but no servants were in the room.
Only Mr. Chandos, and he stood at a side-table looking into his desk,
his back to the room.

"Harry! Harry!"

Turning at the tones of unmistakeable terror, Mr. Chandos came swiftly
to his mother, and took her hand.

"The new tenant," she gasped—and I think it was the only time I ever
saw Lady Chandos excited; she, who imparted always the idea of calmness
intensified; who had reproached Mrs. Chandos with allowing emotion to
sway her! "The man by our entrance-gates!"

"Yes, yes! what of him?" cried Mr. Chandos, when she stopped from pain.
"My dear mother, what has alarmed you?"

"It is Edwin Barley."

"Who?" almost shouted Mr. Chandos.

"Edwin Barley. Here at our very gates!"

Whatever calamity the words might imply, it seemed nearly to overwhelm
Mr. Chandos. He dropped his mother's hands, and stood looking at her.

"Is the agreement signed, Harry?"

"Yes."

"Then we cannot get rid of him! What can have brought him here? Here,
of all places in the world! Chance, think you?"

"No. Chance it cannot have been. I told you the new tenant had an
ill-favoured face. He——"

Mr. Chandos stopped: Hickens and the footman were coming in. The soup
was put on the table, and we sat down to dinner. As I moved forward
from my corner, quietly and unobtrusively, looking as if I had neither
seen nor heard, Lady Chandos turned to me with a start, a red flush
darkening her cheeks. But I don't believe she knows, to this hour,
whether I had been present during the scene, or had come in with the
soup and the servants.

The dinner was eaten in almost total silence. Lady and Mr. Chandos were
absorbed in their own thoughts; I in mine. The chance words of the
agent, "Mr. Edwin Barley of the Oaks," had disclosed the fact that the
simple-minded old man who had been so kind to me was dead, and his
brother reigned in his stead, lord of all. A rich man, indeed, Edwin
Barley must be. I think the servants in waiting must have seen that
something was amiss; though, perhaps, the silence did not strike upon
them so ominously as it did on my own self-consciousness.

You cannot have failed to note—and I think I have said it—that there
was little ceremony observed in the everyday life at Chandos. Ten
minutes after dinner, tea was rung for. Lady Chandos sat while it was
brought in, and the dessert taken away.

"Will you oblige me by presiding at tea this evening, Miss Hereford?"

Had Lady Chandos not preferred the request at once, I should have
withdrawn to my own room, with an excuse that I did not wish for any
tea. How miserably uncomfortable I felt, sitting with them, an
interloper, when I knew they must want to be talking together, and were
wishing me, naturally, at the other end of the earth, none but myself
can tell. I poured out the tea. Lady Chandos drank one sup, and rose.

"I must go to sit with Ethel, Harry. Will you come?"

"She does not want me," was his reply. And Lady Chandos left the room.

He let his tea stand until it was quite cold, evidently forgetting it:
forgetting all but his own thoughts. I sat in patient silence.
Awakening later out of his reverie, he drank it down at a draught, and
rang the bell for the things to be taken away. As the man left the room
with them, I happened to look at Mr. Chandos, who was then standing
near the mantelpiece, and caught his eyes fixed on me, something
peculiar in their expression.

"Mr. Chandos," I took courage to say, "I am very sorry to be in this
position—an intruder here."

"And but for one thing I should be very glad of it," was his ready
answer. "It is a pleasant in-break on our monotonous life."

"And that one thing, sir?"

"Ah! I cannot tell you all my secrets," he said, with a light laugh.
"Do you make yourself at home, young lady. But for your book, that I
know you are longing to be reading again, I should have compunction at
leaving you alone."

He quitted the room, laughing still. I reached the book he alluded to,
and sat down again. But I could not read; the surprise was too new, and
thought upon thought kept crowding upon me. _They_ evidently had cause
to fear Edwin Barley, far more than I; perhaps then, after all, he had
not come here to look after me? What the matter or the mystery could
be, I knew not: but unmistakeably there was something wrong between him
and Chandos.

It was turned half-past ten when Lady Chandos came back again to the
oak-parlour. I had got to my book then, and was buried in it. Mr.
Chandos followed her nearly immediately, and began to wish us
good-night.

"You must be tired, Harry," she observed. "You have had a fatiguing
day."

"I am tired," was his reply. "I shall sleep to-night without rocking.
Good-night, mother; good-night, Miss Hereford."

He left the room. Lady Chandos said she was tired too, and she and I
went out together. Mr. Chandos, who had stayed in the hall, speaking to
Hickens, went up just before us, entered his room and closed the door.
I turned into mine; and I heard Lady Chandos traverse the long gallery
and shut herself into the west wing.

Instead of undressing, what should I do but put back the curtains and
shutters, sit down and open my book again. Only for two minutes, of
course, said I to my conscience. It was that most charming of all
romances, whether of Scott's works or of others, the "Bride of
Lammermoor," which Mr. Chandos had given me out the previous day. The
two minutes grew into—but that I have to do it, I should not confess
how many, especially as I could only guess at the number. My watch—the
pretty watch of Selina's, given me so long ago by Mr. Edwin Barley—had
latterly acquired a trick of stopping. It had been so delightful
sitting there with that enchanting romance, the window open to the
bright night and balmy air.

Perhaps, after all, it was not more than twelve o'clock. I wound up the
defaulting watch, shook it till it went again; set it at twelve by
guess, and undressed slowly, and in silence. Then, putting out the
light, I threw on a warm shawl, and leaned out of the window for a last
look, before closing it. Which, of course, was a very senseless
proceeding, although romantic. If Mademoiselle Annette could have seen
me!

I stayed there, lost in thought; various interests jumbling themselves
together in my mind, Lucy Ashton and the Master of Ravenswood; my own
uncertain future and present disagreeable position; the curious
mysteries that seemed to envelop Chandos; and the ominous proximity of
Mr. Edwin Barley. As I leaned against the corner of the window, still
as a statue, I was startled by observing a movement in the garden.

And a very extraordinary movement, too, if it was that of a rational
being. Something dark, the height of a tall man, appeared to emerge
from the clusters of trees skirting the lawn opposite, approach a few
steps; and then dart in again and this was repeated over and over
again, the man advancing always nearer to the other end of the house.
It was like the motions of one who wished to come on, yet feared being
seen; a full minute he stood within those dark trees, each time that he
penetrated them.

I watched, still as a mouse, and gazed eagerly, feeling like one
chilled with a sudden fear. It was certainly very singular. When
opposite the west wing, he stood for a minute out on the open
greensward, and took off his round broad-brimmed hat as he looked up at
the windows. Then I recognised the features of Mr. Chandos. He wore a
short cloak, which in a degree hid his figure; but there was no
mistaking the face, for the moon shone full upon it. The next moment he
crossed the grass, and disappeared within the narrow laurel path that
led to the private entrance of the west wing.

How had he got out of his room? That he had not come out of its door, I
felt sure; for I had been so silent that I must have heard it, had it
opened; besides, that door of his would only open with a jerk and a
creaking noise. If there was another door to his apartment, it must
lead into the wing inhabited by Mrs. Chandos. Why had he been dodging
about in that strange way in the grounds? and put on a cloak and broad
hat to do it in, just as if he wished to disguise himself? And what
could he want in the apartments of Lady Chandos in the middle of the
night? Truly there _was_ mystery at Chandos. But I could not solve it,
and went to bed.

"Good morning, Miss Hereford."

The salutation came from Mr. Chandos, who was following me into the
breakfast-room, having that instant quitted his own. I was going
quickly; so was he; for we were late, and Lady Chandos liked
punctuality. But she was not in the oak-parlour.

"That's right," he cried, when he saw the room empty. "I hope my mother
has overslept herself too, and had as good a night as I have."

"Have you had a good night, sir?" came the involuntary question.

"Too good: a man does not want eight or nine hours' sleep. I dropped
asleep the minute I got into bed last night; did not even hear my clock
strike eleven, though it only wanted a few minutes to it; and I never
woke until twenty minutes to eight this morning. I was very tired last
night."

Was Mr. Chandos mystifying me? Somehow it caused me vexation. My eyes
had a resentful expression as I fixed them on his; which, of course,
they had no right in the world to have.

"You did not go to sleep at eleven o'clock, sir."

"Indeed I did, Miss Hereford."

"Then you must have got up again, sir."

"Nothing of the sort! Why do you say that? I never woke until this
morning."

Standing there and deliberately saying this to my face, with every
appearance of truth, could only be done to mislead—to deceive me. I had
far rather he had struck me a blow; though _why_, I did not stay to ask
myself.

"Mr. Chandos, I saw you in the grounds in the middle of the night!"

"Saw me in the grounds in the middle of the night!" he echoed. "You
were dreaming, Miss Hereford."

"No, sir; I was wide awake. It must have been getting on for one
o'clock. You had on a cloak and a low broad-brimmed hat, and were
dodging in and out of the trees."

"What trees?"

"Those opposite."

"Wearing a cloak and broad hat, and dodging in and out of the opposite
trees! Well, that is good, Miss Hereford!"

His face wore an amused expression: his dark eyes—and they were looking
dark as purple in the morning light—were dancing with mirth. I turned
cross. Some foolish thought, that Mr. Chandos would make a confidant of
me in the morning, had run into my mind in the night.

"I don't possess a cloak, young lady."

"At any rate, sir, I saw you in one. A short one, a sort of cape. I saw
your face quite plainly when you were looking up at the windows. The
moon was as bright as day, and shining full upon you."

"It must decidedly have been my ghost, Miss Hereford."

"No, sir; it was yourself. I don't believe in ghosts. When you had
finished your dance in and out of the trees, you crossed the grass to
the laurel walk that leads down by the west wing."

"What do you say?"

The tone was an abrupt one; the manner had entirely changed: something
like a glance of fear shot across the face of Mr. Chandos. But at that
moment Hill came in.

"So you are back, Hill!" he exclaimed.

"I have been back an hour, sir. Mrs. Freeman's no worse, and I came by
the Parliamentary train. And it is well I did come," added she, "for I
found my lady ill!"

Mr. Chandos swung himself short round on his heel. "My mother ill! what
is the matter with her?"

"Well, sir, I hardly know. I came to ask you to go up and see her."

"She was very well last night," he observed, striding upstairs on his
way to the west wing.

"You had better begin breakfast, Miss," Hill said to me. "My lady won't
be down; I'll go and order it in."

"Am I to send any up to Lady Chandos, Hill?"

"I have taken my lady's breakfast up," was her answer. The tea and
coffee came in, and I waited; waited, and waited. When I had nearly
given Mr. Chandos up, he came. His face was pale, troubled, and he
appeared lost in inward thought. From the signs, I gathered that Lady
Chandos's malady was serious.

"I fear you have found Lady Chandos worse than you anticipated, sir?"

"Yes—no—yes—not exactly," was the contradictory answer. "I hope it is
nothing dangerous," he more collectedly added; "but she will not be
able to leave her rooms to-day."

"Is she in bed, sir?"

"No; she is sitting up. My tea? thank you. You should not have waited
for me, Miss Hereford."

He took his breakfast in silence, ringing once for Hickens, to ask
after a paper that ought to have come. Afterwards he quitted the room,
and I saw him go strolling across to the Pine Walk.



CHAPTER XV.
IN THE IRONING-ROOM.

"Will you allow me to repose a word of confidence in you, Miss
Hereford, and at the same time to tender an apology?"

Playing a little bit of quiet harmony, reading a little, musing a
little, half an hour had passed, and I was leaning my back against the
frame of the open window. Mr. Chandos had come across the grass unheard
by me, and took me by surprise.

I turned, and stammered forth "Yes." His tones were cautious and low,
as though he feared eavesdroppers, though no one was within hearing; or
could have been, without being seen.

"You accused me of wandering out there last night," he began, sitting
on the stone ledge of the window outside, his face turned to me, "and I
rashly denied it to you. As it is within the range of possibility that
you may see me there again at the same ghostly hour, I have been
deliberating whether it may not be the wiser plan to impart to you the
truth. You have heard of sleepwalkers?"

"Yes," I replied, staring at him.

"What will you say if I acknowledge to being one?"

Of course I did not know what to say, and stood there like a statue,
looking foolish. The thought that rushed over my heart was, what an
unhappy misfortune to attend the sensible and otherwise attractive Mr.
Chandos.

"You see," he continued, "when you spoke, I did not know I had been
out, and denied it, really believing you were mistaken."

"And do you positively walk in your sleep, sir?—go out of your room,
out of the locked doors of the house, and pace the grounds?" I
breathlessly exclaimed.

"Ay. Not a pleasant endowment is it? Stranger things are heard of some
who possess it: they spirit themselves on to the roofs of houses, to
the tops of chimneys, and contrive to spirit themselves down again,
without coming to harm. So far as I am aware, I have never yet
attempted those ambitious feats."

"Does Lady Chandos know of this?"

"Of course. My mother saw me last night, I find: she felt unable to
sleep, she says, thinking of poor Mrs. Freeman, and rose from her bed.
It was a light night, and she drew aside her curtains and looked from
the window. But for her additional testimony, I might not have believed
you yet, Miss Hereford."

"You seemed to be making for her apartments, sir—for the little door in
the laurel walk."

"Did I?" he carelessly rejoined. "What freak guided my steps thither, I
wonder? Did you see me come back again?"

"No, sir. I did not stay much longer at the window."

"I daresay I came back at once. A pity you missed the sight a second
time," he continued, with a laugh that sounded very much like a forced
one. "Having decorated myself with a cloak and broad hat, I must have
been worth seeing. I really did not know that I had a cloak in my
dressing-closet, but I find there is an old one."

He sat still, pulling to pieces a white rose and scattering its petals
one by one. His eyes seemed to seek any object rather than mine; his
dark hair, looking in some lights almost purple like his eyes, was
impatiently pushed now and again from his brow. Altogether, there was
something in Mr. Chandos that morning that jarred upon me—something
that did not seem _true_.

"I cannot think, sir, how you could have gone down so quietly from your
room. For the first time since I have been in your house—for the first
time, I think, in my whole life—I sat up reading last night, and yet I
did not hear you; unless, indeed, you descended by some egress through
the east wing."

"Oh, you don't know how quiet and cunning sleepwalkers are; the
stillness with which they carry on their migrations is incredible," was
his rejoinder. "You must never be surprised at anything they do."

But I noticed one thing: that he did not deny the existence of a second
door. In spite of his plausible reasoning, I could not divest myself of
the conviction that he had not left his chamber by the entrance near
mine.

"Is it a nightly occurrence, sir?"

"What—my walking about? Oh dear, no! Months and years sometimes elapse,
and I have nothing of it. The last time I 'walked'—is not that an
ominous word for the superstitious?—must be at least two years ago."

"And then only for one night, sir?"

"For more than one," he replied, a strangely-grave expression settling
on his countenance. "So, if you see me again, Miss Hereford, do not be
alarmed, or think I have taken sudden leave of my senses."

"Mr. Chandos, can nothing be done for you? To prevent it, I mean."

"Nothing at all."

"If—if Lady Chandos, or one of the men-servants were to lock you in the
room at night?" I timidly suggested.

"And if I—finding egress stopped that way—were to precipitate myself
from the window, in my unconsciousness, what then, Miss Hereford?"

"Oh, don't talk of it!" I said, hiding my eyes with a shudder. "I do
not understand these things: I spoke in ignorance."

"Happily few do understand them," he replied. "I have given you this in
strict confidence, Miss Hereford; you will, I am sure, regard it as
such. No one knows of it except my mother; but she would not like you
to speak of it to her."

"Certainly not. Then the servants do not know it?"

"Not one: not even Hill. It would be most disagreeable to me were the
unpleasant fact to reach them; neither might they be willing to remain
in a house where there was a sleepwalker. The last time the roving fit
was upon me, some of them unfortunately saw me from the upper window;
they recognised me, and came to the conclusion, by some subtle force of
reasoning, explainable only by themselves, that it was my 'fetch,' or
ghost. It was the first time I had ever heard of ghosts of the living
appearing," he added, with a slight laugh.

"Do you think they saw you last night?" was my next question.

"I hope not," he replied, in a tone meant to be a light one; but that,
to my ear, told of ill-concealed anxiety.

"But—Mr. Chandos!—there are no windows in the servants' part of the
house that look this way!" I exclaimed, the recollection flashing on
me.

"There is one. That small Gothic window in the turret. The fear that
some of them may have been looking out is worrying my mother."

"It is that, perhaps, that has made Lady Chandos ill."

"Yes; they took me for my own ghost," he resumed, apparently not having
heard the remark. "You now perceive, possibly, why I have told you this
Miss Hereford? You would not be likely to adopt the ghostly view of the
affair, and might have spoken of what you saw in the hearing of the
servants, or of strangers. You have now the secret: will you keep it?"

"With my whole heart, sir," was my impulsive rejoinder. "No allusion to
it shall ever pass my lips." And Mr. Chandos took my hand, held it for
a moment, and then departed, leaving me to digest the revelation.

It was a strange one and I asked myself whether this physical
infirmity, attaching to him, was the cause of what had appeared so
mysterious at Chandos. That it might account for their not wishing to
have strangers located at Chandos, sleeping in the house, was highly
probable. Why! was not I myself an illustration of the case in point?
I, a young girl, but a week or so in the house, and it had already
become expedient to entrust me with the secret! Oh, yes! no wonder, no
wonder that they shunned visitors at Chandos! To me it seemed a most
awful affliction.

As I quitted the oak parlour and went upstairs, Hill stood in the
gallery.

"Lady Chandos is up, I understand, Hill?"

"Well, I don't know where you could have understood that," was Hill's
rejoinder, spoken in a sullen and resentful tone. "My lady up, indeed!
ill as she is! If she's out of her bed, in a week hence it will be time
enough. _I_ don't think she will be."

I declare that the words so astonished me as to take my senses
temporarily away, and Hill was gone before I could speak again. Which
of the two told the truth, Mr. Chandos or Hill? He said his mother was
up; Hill said she was not, and would not be for a week to come.

Meanwhile Hill had traversed the gallery, and disappeared in the west
wing, banging the green-baize door after her. I stood in deliberation.
Ought I, or ought I not, to proffer a visit to Lady Chandos?—to inquire
if I could do anything for her. It seemed to me that it would be
respectful so to do, and I moved forward and knocked gently at the
green-baize door.

There came no answer, and I knocked again—and again; softly always.
Then I pushed it open and entered. I found myself in a narrow passage,
richly carpeted, with a handsome oak door before me. I gave a stout
knock at that, and the green-baize door made a noise in swinging to.
Out rushed Hill. If ever terror was implanted in a woman's face, it was
so then in hers.

"Heaven and earth, Miss Hereford! Do you want to send me into my grave
with fright?" ejaculated she.

"I have not frightened you! What have I done?"

"Done? Do you know, Miss, that no soul is permitted to enter these
apartments when my lady is ill, except myself and Mr. Chandos? I knew
it was not he; and thought—I thought—I don't know what I did not think.
Be so good, Miss, as not to serve me so again."

Did she take me for a wild tiger, that she made all that fuss? "I wish
to see Lady Chandos," I said, aloud.

"Then you can't see her, Miss," was the peremptory retort.

"That is, if it be agreeable to her to receive me," I continued,
resenting Hill's assumption of authority.

"But it is not agreeable, and it never can be agreeable," returned
Hill, working herself up to a great pitch of excitement. "Don't I tell
you, Miss Hereford, my lady never receives in these rooms? Perhaps,
Miss, you'll be so good as to quit them."

"At least you can take my message to Lady Chandos, and inquire
whether——"

"I can't deliver any message, and I decline to make any inquiries,"
interrupted Hill, evidently in a fever of anxiety for my absence.
"Excuse me, Miss Hereford, but you will please return by the way you
came."

Who should appear next on the scene but Lady Chandos! She came from
beyond the oak door, as Hill had done, apparently wondering at the
noise. I was thunderstruck. She looked quite well, and wore her usual
dress; but she went back again at once, and it was but a momentary
glimpse I had of her. Hill made no ceremony. She took me by the
shoulders as you would take a child, turned me towards the entrance,
and bundled me out; shutting the green-baize door with a slam, and
propping her back against it.

"Now, Miss Hereford, you must pardon me; and remember your obstinacy
has just brought this upon yourself. I couldn't help it; for to have
suffered you to talk to my lady to-day would have been almost a matter
of life or death."

"I think you are out of your mind, Hill," I gasped, recovering my
breath, but not my temper, after the summary exit.

"Perhaps I am, Miss; let it go so. All I have got to say, out of my
mind or in my mind, is this: never you attempt to enter this west wing.
The rooms in it are sacred to my lady, whose pleasure it is to keep
them strictly private. And intrusion here, after this warning, is what
would never be pardoned you by any of the family, if you lived to be
ninety years old!"

"Hill, you take too much upon yourself," was my indignant answer.

"If I do, my lady will correct me; so do not trouble your mind about
that, Miss Hereford. I have not been her confidential attendant for
sixteen years to be taught my duty now. And when I advise you to keep
at a distance from these apartments, Miss, I advise you for your own
good. If you are wise, you will heed it: ask Mr. Chandos."

She returned within the wing, and I heard a strong bolt slipped,
effectually barring my entrance, had I felt inclined to disobey her;
but I never felt less inclined for anything in my life than to do that.
Certainly her warning had been solemnly spoken.

Now, who was insane?—I? or Lady Chandos? or Hill? It seemed to me that
it must be one of us, for assuredly all this savoured of insanity. What
was it that ailed Lady Chandos? That she was perfectly well in health,
I felt persuaded; and she was up and dressed and active; no symptom
whatever of the invalid was about her. Could it be that her mind was
affected? or was she so overcome with grief at the previous night's
exploits of Mr. Chandos as to be obliged to remain in retirement? The
latter supposition appeared the more feasible—and I weighed the case in
all its bearings.

But not quite feasible, either. For Hill appeared to be full mistress
of the subject of the mystery, whatever it might be, and Mr. Chandos
had said she had no suspicion of his malady. And, besides, would it be
enough to keep Lady Chandos in for a week? I dwelt upon it all until my
head ached; and, to get rid of my perplexities, I went strolling into
the open air.

It was a fine sunshiny day, and the blue tint of the bloom upon the
pine trees looked lovely in the gleaming light. I turned down a shady
path on the left of the broad gravel drive, midway between the house
and the entrance-gates. It took me to a part of the grounds where I had
never yet penetrated, remote and very solitary. The path was narrow,
scarcely admitting of two persons passing each other, and the privet
hedge on either side, with the overhanging trees, imparted to it an air
of excessive gloom. The path wound in its course; in turning one of its
angles, I came right in the face of some one advancing; some one who
was so close as to touch me: and my heart leaped into my mouth. It was
Mr. Edwin Barley.

"Good morning, young lady."

"Good morning, sir," I stammered, sick almost unto death, lest he
should recognise me; though why that excessive dread of his recognition
should be upon me, I could not possibly have explained. He was again
trespassing on Chandos; but it was not for me, in my timidity, to tell
him so; neither had I any business to set myself forward in upholding
the rights of Chandos.

"All well at the house?" he continued.

"Yes, thank you. All, except Lady Chandos. She keeps her room this
morning."

"You are a visitor at Chandos, I presume?"

"For a little time, sir."

"So I judged, when I saw you with Harry Chandos. That you were not Miss
Chandos, who married the Frenchman, I knew, for you bear no resemblance
to her: and she is the only daughter of the family. I fancied they did
not welcome strangers at Chandos."

I made no answer; though he looked at me with his jet-black eyes as if
waiting for it; the same stern, penetrating eyes as of old. How I
wished to get away! but it was impossible to pass by him without
rudeness, and he stood blocking up the confined path.

"Are you a confidential friend of the family?" he resumed.

"No, sir; I am not to be called a friend at all; quite otherwise. Until
a few days ago, I was a stranger to them. Accident brought me then to
Chandos, but my stay here will be temporary."

"I should be glad to make your acquaintance by name," he went on, never
taking those terrible eyes off me. Not that the eyes in themselves were
so very terrible; but the fear of my childhood had returned to me in
all its force—a very bugbear. I had made the first acquaintance of Mr.
Edwin Barley in a moment of fear—that is, he frightened me.
Unintentionally on his own part, it is true, but with not less of
effect upon me. The circumstances of horror (surely it is not too
strong a word) that had followed, in all of which he was mixed up, had
only tended to increase the feeling; and woman-grown though I was now,
the meeting with him had brought it all back to me.

"Will you not favour me with your name?"

He spoke politely, quite as a gentleman, but I felt my face grow red,
white, hot, and cold. I had answered his questions, feeling that I
dared not resist; that I feared to show him aught but civility; but—to
give him my name; to rush, as it were, into the lion's jaws! No, I
would not do that; and I plucked up what courage was left me.

"My name is of no consequence, sir. I am but a very humble individual,
little more than a schoolgirl. I was brought here by a lady, who,
immediately upon her arrival, was recalled home by illness in her
family, and I am in daily expectation of a summons from her; after
which I daresay I shall never see Chandos or any of its inmates again.
Will you be kind enough to allow me to pass?"

"You must mean Miss Chandos—I don't recollect her married name," said
he, without stirring. "I heard she had been here: and left almost as
soon as she came."

I bowed my head and tried to pass him. I might as readily have tried to
pass through the privet hedge.

"Some lady was taken away ill, yesterday," he resumed. "Who was it?"

"It was Mrs. Freeman."

"Oh! the companion. I thought as much. Is she very ill?"

"It was something of a fit, I believe. It did not last long."

"Those fits are ticklish things," he remarked. "I should think she will
not be in a state to return for some time, if at all."

He had turned his eyes away now, and was speaking in a dreamy sort of
tone; as I once heard him speak to Selina.

"They will be wanting some one to fill Mrs. Freeman's place, will they
not?"

"I cannot say, I'm sure, sir. The family do not talk of their affairs
before me."

"Who is staying at Chandos now?" he abruptly asked.

"Only the family."

"Ah! the family—of course. I mean what members of it."

"All; except Madame de Mellissie and Sir Thomas Chandos."

"That is, there are Lady Chandos, her son, and daughter-in-law. That
comprises the whole, I suppose—except you."

"Yes, it does. But I must really beg you to allow me to pass, sir."

"You are welcome now, and I am going to turn, myself. It is pleasant to
have met an intelligent lady; and I hope we often shall meet, that I
may hear good tidings of my friends at Chandos. I was intimate with
part of the family once, but a coolness arose between us, and I do not
go there. Good-day."

He turned and walked rapidly back. I struck into the nearest side walk
I could find that would bring me to the open grounds, and nearly struck
against Mr. Chandos.

"Are you alone, Miss Hereford? I surely heard voices."

"A gentleman met me, sir, and spoke."

"A gentleman—in this remote part of the grounds!" he repeated, looking
keenly at me, as a severe expression passed momentarily across his
face. "Was it any one you knew?"

"It was he who came into the broad walk, and whom you ordered out—the
new tenant. He is gone now."

"He! I fancied so," returned Mr. Chandos, the angry flush deepening.
And it seemed almost as though he were angry with me.

"I found out the walk by accident, sir, and I met him in it. He stopped
and accosted me with several questions, which I thought very rude of
him."

"What did he ask you?"

"He wished to know my name, who I was, and what I was doing at Chandos;
but I did not satisfy him. He then inquired about the family, asking
what members of it were at home."

"And you told him?"

"There was no need to tell him, sir, for he mentioned the names to me;
yourself, Lady, and Mrs. Chandos."

"Ethel! he mentioned her, did he! What did he call her?—Mrs. Chandos?"

"He did not mention her by name, sir; he said 'daughter-in-law.'" I did
not tell Mr. Chandos that the designation made an impression upon me,
establishing the supposition that Mrs. Chandos _was_ a daughter-in-law.

"And pray what did he call me?"

"Harry Chandos."

"Well, now mark me, Miss Hereford. That man accosted you to worm out
what he could of our everyday life at home. His name is Barley—Edwin
Barley. He is a bitter enemy of ours, and if he could pick up any scrap
of news or trifle of fact that he could by possibility turn about and
work so as to injure us, he would do it."

"But how could he, sir?" I exclaimed, not understanding.

"His suspicions are no doubt aroused that—that—I beg your pardon, Miss
Hereford," he abruptly broke off, with the air of one who has said more
than he meant to say. "These matters cannot interest you. You—you did
not tell Mr. Barley what I imparted to you this morning, touching
myself?"

"Oh, Mr. Chandos, how can you ask the question? Did I not promise you
to hold it sacred?"

"Forgive me," he gently said. "Nay, I am sorry to have pained you."

He had pained me in no slight degree, and the tears very nearly rose in
my eyes. I would rather be beaten with rods than have my good faith
slighted. I think Mr. Chandos saw something of this in my face.

"Believe me, I do not doubt you for a moment; but Edwin Barley, in all
that regards our family, is cunning and crafty. Be upon your guard,
should he stop you again, not to betray aught of our affairs at
Chandos, the little daily occurrences of home life. A chance word, to
all appearance innocent and trifling, might work incalculable mischief
to us, even ruin. Will you remember this, Miss Hereford?"

I promised him I would, and went back to the house, he continuing his
way. At the end of the privet walk a gate led to the open country, and
I supposed Mr. Chandos had business there. As I reached the portico a
gentleman was standing there with the butler, asking to see Lady
Chandos. It was Mr. Jarvis, the curate.

"My lady is sick in bed, sir," was Hickens's reply, his long, grave
face giving ample token that he held belief in his own words.

"I am sorry to hear that. Is her illness serious?"

"Rather so, sir, I believe. Mrs. Hill fears it will be days before her
ladyship is downstairs. She used to be subject to dreadful bilious
attacks; I suppose it's one of them come back again."

The curate gave in a card, left a message, and departed. So it appeared
that Hill was regaling the servants with the same story that she had
told me. I could have spoken up, had I dared, and said there was
nothing the matter with the health of Lady Chandos.

At six o'clock I went down to dinner, wondering who would preside. I
have said that no ceremony was observed at Chandos, the everyday life
was simple in the extreme. Since the departure of Emily de Mellissie we
had sat in the oak-parlour, and all the meals were taken there. In
fact, there was nobody to sit but myself. Lady Chandos had been mostly
in the west wing; Mr. Chandos out, or in his study; Mrs. Chandos I
never saw. The servants were placing the soup on the table. In another
moment Mr. Chandos came in.

"A small company this evening, Miss Hereford; only you and I," he
laughed, as we took our seats.

"Is Lady Chandos not sufficiently well to dine, sir?" I asked.

"She will eat something, no doubt. Hill takes care of her mistress. I
met her carrying up the tray as I came down."

"I hope I am not the cause of your dining downstairs," I rejoined, the
unpleasant thought striking me that it might be so. "Perhaps, but for
me, you would take your dinner with Lady Chandos?"

"Nothing of the sort, I assure you. Were it not for you, I should sit
here in a solitary state, and eat my lonely dinner with what appetite I
might. And a solitary dinner is not good for the digestion, the doctors
tell us. Did any one call while I was out, Hickens?"

"Only Mr. Jarvis, sir. I think he wanted to see my lady about the new
schools. He was very particular in asking what was the matter with her,
and I said I thought it might be one of those old bilious attacks come
on again. My lady had a bad one or two at times, years ago, sir, you
may remember."

"Ay," replied Mr. Chandos: but it was all the comment he made.

"Is Lady Chandos subject to bilious attacks?" I inquired of Mr.
Chandos.

"Not particularly. She has been free from them latterly."

"Did you know, sir," continued Hickens, "that we have had news of Mrs.
Freeman?"

"No. When did it come? I hope it's good."

"Not very good, sir. It came half an hour ago. She had another fit
to-day in the forenoon, and it's certain now that she wont be able to
come back here for a long while, if she is at all. The relation that
she is with wrote to Mrs. Hill, who took up the note to my lady. Hill
says, when she left her there were symptoms of a second attack coming
on."

Mr. Chandos leaned back for a moment in his chair, forgetful that he
was at dinner, and not alone. He was in a reverie; but, as his eye fell
on me, he shook it off, and spoke.

"Her not returning will prove an inconvenience to Mrs. Chandos."

"I am afraid it will, sir," rejoined Hickens, who had fancied himself
addressed; though, in point of fact, Mr. Chandos had but unconsciously
spoken aloud his thoughts. Hickens had been a long while in the family,
was a faithful and valued servant, consequently he thought himself at
liberty to talk in season and out of season. "I warned Mrs. Chandos's
maid, sir, not to tell her mistress about Mrs. Freeman's being worse,"
he went on. "It would do no good, and only worrit her."

Mr. Chandos slightly nodded, and the dinner then proceeded in silence.
At its conclusion, Mr. Chandos, after taking one glass of wine, rose.

"I must apologize for leaving you alone, Miss Hereford, but I believe
my mother will expect me to sit with her. Be sure you make yourself at
home; and ring for tea when you wish for it."

"Shall you not be in to tea, sir?"

"I think not. At all events, don't wait."

Dreary enough was it for me, sitting in that great solitary room—not
solitary in itself; but from want of tenants.

I went and stood at the window. The wax-lights were burning, but
nothing but the muslin curtains was before the windows. There was no
one to overlook the room; comers to the house did not pass it; the
servants had no business whatever in the front; and very often the
shutters were not closed until bedtime. It was scarcely yet to be
called dark: the atmosphere was calm and clear, and a bright white
light came from the west. Putting on a shawl, I went quietly out.

It was nearly, for me, as dreary out of doors as in. All seemed still;
no soul was about; no voices were to be heard; no cheering lights
gleamed from the windows. I was daring enough to walk to the end and
look up at the west wing; a slight glimmering, as of fire, sparkled up
now and again in what I had understood was Lady Chandos's sitting-room.
Back to the east wing, and looked at the end of that. Plenty of
cheerful blaze there, both of fire and candle; and, once, the slight
form of Mrs. Chandos appeared for a minute at the window, looking out.

I passed on to the back of the house, by the servants' ordinary path,
round the east wing. It was a good opportunity for seeing what the
place was like. But I did not bargain for the great flood of light into
which I was thrown on turning the angle. It proceeded from the corner
room; the windows were thrown wide open, and some maid-servants were
ironing at a long board underneath. Not caring that they should see me,
I drew under the cover of a projecting shed, that I believe belonged to
the brewhouse, and took a leisurely survey. Plenty of life here; plenty
of buildings; it seemed like a colony. Lights shone from several
windows of the long edifice—as long as it was in front. The entrance
was in the middle; a poultry-yard lay at the other end; a pasture for
cows opposite; the range of stables could be seen in the distance.

Harriet and Emma were the two maids ironing; Lizzy Dene, a very dark
young woman of thirty, with a bunch of wild-looking black curls on
either side her face, sat by the ironing-stove, doing nothing. Why they
added her surname, Dene, to her Christian name in speaking of her, I
did not know, but it seemed to be the usual custom. These three, it may
be remembered, have been mentioned as the housemaids. Another woman,
whom I did not recognise, but knew her later for the laundry-maid, was
at the back, folding clothes. They were talking fast, but very
distinctly, in that half-covert tone which betrays the subject to be a
forbidden one. The conversation and the stove's heat were alike wafted
to me through the open window.

"You may preach from now until to-morrow morning," were the first words
I heard, and they came from Harriet; "but you will never make me
believe that people's ghosts can appear before they die. It is not in
nature's order."

"_His_ appears. I'll stand to that. And what's more, I'll stand to it
that I saw it last night!" cried Lizzy Dene, looking up and speaking in
strong, fierce jerks, as she was in the habit of doing. "I sat up in
the bedroom sewing. It's that new black silk polka of mine that I
wanted to finish, and if I got it about downstairs, Madam Hill would go
on above a bit about finery. Emma got into bed and lay awake talking,
her and me. Before I'd done, my piece of candle came to an end, and I
thought I'd go into Harriet's room and borrow hers. It was a lovely
night, the moon shone slantways in at the turret window, and something
took me that I'd have a look out. So I went up the turret stairs and
stood at the casement. I'd not been there a minute before I saw it—the
living image of Mr. Chandos!—and I thought I should have swooned away.
Ask Emma."

"Well, I say it might have been Mr. Chandos himself, but it never was
his ghost," argued Harriet.

"You might be a soft, but I daresay you'd stand to it you are not,"
retorted Lizzy. "Don't I tell you that in the old days we saw that
apparition when Mr. Harry was safe in his bed? When we knew him to be
in his bed with that attack of fever he had? I saw it twice then with
my own eyes. And once, when Mr. Harry was miles and miles away—gone
over to that French place where Miss Emily was at school—it came again.
Half the household saw it; and a fine commotion there was! Don't tell
me, girl! I've lived in the family seven years. I came here before old
Sir Thomas died."

There was a pause. Harriet, evidently not discomfited, whisked away her
iron to the stove, changed it, and came back again before she spoke.

"I don't know anything about back times; the present ones is enough for
me. Did you see this, Emma, last night?"

"Yes I did," replied Emma, who was a silent and rather stupid-looking
girl, with a very retreating chin. "Lizzy Dene came rushing back into
the room, saying the ghost had come again, and I ran after her up to
the turret window. Something was there, safe enough."

"Who was it like?"

"Mr. Chandos. There was no mistaking him: one does not see a tall,
thin, upright man like him every day. There was his face, too, and his
beautiful features quite plain; the moon gave a light like day."

"It was himself, as I said," coolly contended Harriet.

"It was not," said Lizzy. "Mr. Chandos would no more have been dancing
in and out of the trees in that fashion, like a jack-in-the-box, than
he'd try to fly in the air. It was the ghost at its tricks again."

"But the thing is incredible," persisted Harriet. "Let us suppose, for
argument's sake, that it is Mr. Chandos's ghost that walks, what does
it come for, Lizzy Dene?"

"I never heard that ghosts stooped to explain their motives. How should
we know why it comes?"

"And I never heard yet that ghosts of live people came at all,"
continued Harriet, in recrimination. "And I don't think anybody else
ever did."

"But you know that's only your ignorance, Harriet. Certain people are
born into the world with their own fetches or wraiths, which appear
sometimes with them, sometimes at a distance, and Mr. Chandos must be
one. I knew a lady's-maid of that kind. While she was with her mistress
in Scotland, her fetch used to walk about in England, startling
acquaintances into fits. Some people call 'em doubles."

"But what's the use of them?" reiterated Harriet; "what do they do?
That's what I want to know."

"Harriet, don't you be profane, and set up your back against spirituous
things," rebuked Lizzy Dene. "There was a man in our village, over
beyond Marden, that never could be brought to reverence such; he mocked
at 'em like any heathen, saying he'd fight single-handed the best ten
ghosts that ever walked, for ten pound a side, and wished he could get
the chance. What was the awful consequences? Why that man, going home
one night from the beer-shop, marched right into the canal in mistake
for his own house-door, and was drowned."

Emma replenished the stove, took a fresh iron, singed a rag in rubbing
it, and continued her work. The woman, folding clothes at the back,
turned round to speak.

"How was the notion first taken up—that it was Mr. Chandos's fetch?"

"This way," said Lizzy Dene, who appeared from her longer period of
service in the family to know more than the rest. "It was about the
time of Sir Thomas's death; just before it, or after it, I forget which
now. Mr. Harry—as he was mostly called when he was younger—was ill with
that low fever; it was said something had worried him and brought the
sickness on. My lady, by token, was poorly at the same time, and kept
her rooms; and, now that I remember, Sir Thomas _was_ dead, for she
wore her widow's caps. At the very time Mr. Harry was in his bed, this
figure, his very self, was seen at night in the grounds. That was the
first of it."

"If there's one thing more deceptive than another, it's night-light,"
meekly observed the woman.

"The next time was about two years after that," resumed Lizzy, ignoring
the suggestion. "Mr. Harry was in France, and one of the servants
stopped out late one evening without leave: Ph[oe]by it was, who's
married now. She had missed the train and had to walk, and it was
between twelve and one when she got in, and me and Ann sitting up for
her in a desperate fright lest Mrs. Hill should find it out. In she
came, all in a fluster, saying Mr. Harry was in the pine-walk, which
she had come across, as being the nearest way, and she was afraid he
had seen her. Of course, we thought it was Mr. Harry come home, and
that the house would be called up to serve refreshments for him. But
nothing happened; no bells were rung, and to bed we went. The next
morning we found he had not come home, and finely laughed at Ph[oe]by,
asking her what she had taken to obscure her eyesight—which made her
very mad. Evening came, and one of them telegraph messages came over
the sea to my lady from Mr. Harry, proving he was in the French town.
But law! that night, there he was in the dark pine-path again, walking
up and down it, and all us maids sat up and saw him. My lady was ill
again then, I remember; she does have bad bouts now and then."

"Do you mean to say you all saw him?" questioned Harriet.

"We all saw him, four or five of us," emphatically repeated Lizzy.
"Hickens came to hear of it, and called us all the simpletons he could
lay his tongue to. He told Hill—leastways we never knew who did if he
didn't—and didn't she make a commotion! If ever she heard a syllable of
such rubbish from us again, she said, we should all go packing: and she
locked up the turret-door, and kept the key in her pocket for weeks."

"You see, what staggers one is that Mr. Chandos should be alive," said
Harriet. "One could understand if he were dead."

"Nothing that's connected with ghosts, and those things, ought to
stagger one at all," dissented Lizzy.

"According to you, Lizzy Dene, the ghost only appears by fits and
starts."

"No more it does. Every two years or so. Any way it has been seen once
since the time I tell you of when Mr. Chandos was abroad, which is four
years ago, and now it's here again."

"One would think you watched for it, Lizzy!"

"And so I do. Often of a moonlight night, I get out of bed and go to
that turret-window."

Some one came quickly down the path at this juncture, brushing by me as
I stood in the shade. It was the still room maid. She had a bundle in
her hand, went on to the entrance, and then came into the ironing-room.
Hill followed her in; but the latter remained at the back, looking at
some ironed laces on a table, and not one of the girls noticed her
presence. The still-room maid advanced to the ironing-board, let her
bundle fall on it, and threw up her arms in some excitement.

"I say, you know Mrs. Peters, over at the brook! Well—she's dead."

"Dead!" echoed the girls, pausing in their work. "Why it was not a week
ago that she was here."

"She's dead. They were laying her out when I came by just now. Some
fever, they say, which took her off in no time; a catching fever, too.
A mortal fright it put me in, to hear that; I shouldn't like to die yet
awhile."

"If fever has broke out in the place, who knows but it's fever that has
taken my lady!" exclaimed Emma, her stupid face alive with
consternation: and the rest let their irons drop on their stands. "All
our lives may be in jeopardy."

"Your places will be in greater jeopardy if you don't pay a little more
attention to work, and leave off talking nonsense," called out the
sharp voice of Mrs. Hill from the background. The servants started
round at its sound, and the irons were taken up again.



CHAPTER XVI.
DISTURBED BY MRS. CHANDOS.

No candles yet in Lady Chandos's rooms, but a great flood of light in
those of Mrs. Chandos. The commotion in the ironing-room, that followed
on the discovered presence of Hill, had given me the opportunity to
come away, and so exchange (not willingly) the gossiping cheerfulness
of the back, for the dreary front of the house. I had nearly laughed
aloud at those foolish servant-girls; nevertheless, in what they had
said there was food for speculation. For when Harry Chandos was abed,
sick with fever; when he was over in France, with the broad sea and
many miles of land between him and his home; how could they have seen
him, or fancied they saw him, in these dark walks, night after night,
at Chandos?

Pacing the dark gravel-walk from wing to wing, glancing, as I passed
each time, through the window-panes and the muslin curtains into the
oak-parlour, where the solitary tea waited, I thought over it all, and
came to the conclusion that, taking one curious thing with another,
something was uncanny in the place. How long should I have to stay at
it?—how long would it be before Emily de Mellissie came back to me?

The hall-door stood open, and the hall-lamp threw its light across the
lawn in a straight line. It seemed like a ray of company amid the
general dreariness. I took a fancy to walk along the pleasant stream,
forgetting or unheeding the dew that might lie on the grass. On
reaching the other side, I stood a moment at the top of the pine-walk,
and then advanced a few steps down it.

Some one was there before me. A white figure—as it looked—was flitting
about; and I gave a great start. What with the night-hour, the solitary
loneliness of all around, the soft sighing sound from the branches of
the trees, and the servant-girls' recent talk of the "ghost," I am not
sure but I began to think of ghosts myself. Ghost, or no ghost, it came
gliding up to me, with its slender form, its lovely face: Mrs. Chandos,
in a white silk evening dress, with a small white opera-cloak on her
shoulders. It was her pleasure, as I learnt later, to dress each day
for her own lonely society just as she would for a state dinner-table.

"How you startled me!" she exclaimed. "With that great brown shawl on
your head, you look as much like a man as a woman. But I saw by the
height it was not _he_. Did you know that he came—that he was here last
night?" she added, dropping her voice to the faintest whisper.

It was the first time Mrs. Chandos had voluntarily addressed me. Of
course I guessed that she alluded to Mr. Harry Chandos: but I hesitated
to answer, after the caution he had given me. Was there anything _wild_
about her voice and manner as she spoke?—had her spirits run away with
her to-night?—or did the fact of her flitting about in the white
evening-dress in this wild way, like any schoolgirl, cause me to fancy
it?

"Did you know it, I ask?" she impatiently rejoined. "Surely you may
answer _me_."

"Yes!" There seemed no help for it. "I saw him madam, but I shall not
mention it. The secret is safe with me."

"You saw him! Oh, heaven, what will be done?" she cried, in evident
distress. "It was so once before: the servants saw him. You must not
tell any one; you must not."

"Indeed I will not. I am quite trustworthy."

"What are you doing out here?" she sharply said. "Looking for him?"

"Indeed no. I was dull by myself, and came across unthinkingly. I am as
true as you, Mrs. Chandos. I would not, for the world, say a word to
harm him."

The assurance seemed to satisfy—to calm her; she grew quiet as a little
child.

"To talk of it might cause grievous evil, you know; it might lead
to—but I had better not say more to a stranger. How did you come to
know of it?"

I made no answer. Some feeling, that I did not stay to sift, forbade me
to say it was from himself.

"I know; it was from Madame de Mellissie. It was very foolish of her to
tell you. It was wrong of her to bring you here at all."

As Mrs. Chandos spoke, there was something in her words, in her tone,
in her manner altogether, that caused a worse idea to flash across
me—that she was not quite herself. Not insane; it was not that thought;
but a little wanting in intellect; as if the powers of mind were
impaired. It startled me beyond measure, and I began to think that I
ought to try and get her indoors.

"Shall you not take cold out her, Mrs. Chandos?"

"I never take cold. You see, I am my own mistress now: when Mrs.
Freeman's here, she will never let me come out after dusk. Lady Chandos
sent my maid to sit with me this evening, but I lay down on the sofa,
and told her I was perhaps going to sleep and she could not stay with
me. And I came out; I thought I might see _him_."

Every word she spoke added to the impression.

"And so you saw him last night! I did not; I never do. The windows
looking this way are closed. And perhaps if I were to see him like
that, and be taken by surprise, it might make me ill: Mrs. Freeman says
it would. It is so sad, you know!"

"Very sad," I murmured, assuming still that she alluded to the
infirmity of Mr. Chandos.

"They never told me. They are not aware that I know it. I found it out
to-day. I was going about the gallery early this morning, before Hill
came home, and I found it out. When Mrs. Freeman's here, I can only get
out when she pleases. You cannot think what a long time it is
since—since——"

"Since what?" I asked, as she came to a stop.

"Since the last time. Harry has not said a word to me all day; it is a
shame of him. He ought to have told _me_."

"Yes, yes," I murmured, wishing to soothe her.

"You see, Harry's not friends with me. He tells me he is, but he is not
in reality. It is through my having treated him badly: he has been the
same as a stranger ever since. But he ought to have told me this. You
must not tell them that I know it."

"Certainly not."

"They might lock me in, you know; they did once before: but that was
not the last time, it was when Harry was in France. If Mrs. Freeman had
been here to-day, I should not have known it so soon. It is very cruel:
I think I shall tell Lady Chandos so. If Harry——"

During the last few words, Mrs. Chandos's eyes had been strained on a
particular spot near to us. What she saw, or fancied she saw, I know
not, but she broke into a low smothered cry of fear, and sped away
swiftly to the house. Rather startled, I bent my eyes on the place, as
if by some fascination, half expecting—how foolish it was!—to see Mr.
Chandos perambulating in his sleep. And I believe, had I done so, I
should have run away more terrified than from any ghost.

Something did appear to be there that ought not. It was between the
trunks of two trees, in a line with them, as if it were another tree of
never-yet-witnessed form and shape. A vast deal more like the figure of
a man, thought I, as I gazed. Not a tall slender man like Mr. Chandos;
more of the build of Mr. Edwin Barley.

Why the idea of the latter should have occurred to me, or whether the
man (it certainly was one!) bore him any resemblance, I could not tell.
The fancy was quite enough for me, and I sped away as quickly as Mrs.
Chandos had done. She had whisked silently through the hall towards her
rooms, and met her maid on the stairs; who had probably just discovered
her absence.

"Are you ready to make tea, Miss Hereford? I have come to have some."

It was the greeting of Mr. Chandos, as I ran, scared and breathless,
into the oak-parlour. He was sitting in the easy-chair near the table,
a review in his hand, and looked up with surprise. No wonder—seeing me
dart in as if pursued by a wild cat, an ugly shawl over my head. But,
you see, I had not thought he would be there.

However, he said nothing. I sat down, as sedate as any old matron, and
made the tea. Mr. Chandos read his paper, and spoke to me between
whiles.

"Don't you think, sir, we ought to have heard to-day from Madame de
Mellissie?"

"Why to-day?"

"It is getting time that I heard. Except the short note to Lady
Chandos, written upon her arrival in Paris, she has not sent a
syllable. It is very strange."

"Nothing is strange that Emily does. She may be intending to surprise
us by arriving without notice. I fully expect it. On the other hand, we
may not hear from her for weeks to come."

"But she has left me here, sir! She said she should be sure to come
back the very first day she could."

Mr. Chandos slightly laughed. "You may have passed from her memory,
Miss Hereford, as completely as though you never existed in it."

I paused in consternation, the suggestion bringing to me I know not
what of perplexity. He looked excessively amused.

"What can I do, sir?"

"Not anything that I see, except make yourself contented here. At least
until we hear from Emily."

With the tea-things, disappeared Mr. Chandos; and a sensation of
loneliness fell upon me. At what? At his exit, or at my previous alarm
in the pine-walk? I might have asked myself, but did not. He came back
again shortly, remarking that it was a fine night.

"Have you been out, sir?"

"No. I have been to my mother's rooms."

"Is she better this evening?"

"Much the same."

He stood with his elbow on the mantelpiece, his hand lifted to his
head; evidently in deep thought, a strange look of anxiety, of pain, in
the expression of his countenance. I went over to a side table to get
something out of my workbox; and, not to disturb him by going back
again, I softly pulled aside the muslin window-curtain to look out for
a minute on the dusky, still night.

What was it made me spring back with a sudden movement of terror and a
half-cry? Surely I could not be mistaken! That _was_ a face close to
the window, looking in; the dark face of a man; and, unless I was much
mistaken, bearing a strong resemblance to that of Mr. Edwin Barley.

"What is it?" asked Mr. Chandos, coming forward. "Has anything alarmed
you?"

"Oh, sir! I saw a face pressed close to the window-pane. A man's face."

Without the loss of a moment, Mr. Chandos threw up the window, and had
his head out. All I felt good for was to sit down in a chair out of
sight. He could see no one, as it appeared, and he shut the window
again very quietly. Perhaps his thoughts only pointed to some one of
the servants.

"Are you sure you saw any one, Miss Hereford?"

"I am very nearly sure, sir."

"Who was it?"

In truth I could not say, and I was not obliged to avow my suspicions.
Mr. Chandos hastened outside, and I remained alone, as timid as could
be.

A curious and most unpleasant suspicion was fixing itself upon my mind,
dim glimpses of which had been haunting me during tea—that Mr. Edwin
Barley's object was me. That it was himself who had been in the
pine-walk, and again now at the window, I felt a positive conviction.
He must have recognised me; this stealthy intrusion at odd times,
seasonable and unseasonable, must be to watch me, to take note of my
movements, not of those of the owners of Chandos. But for his motive I
searched in vain.

"I cannot see or hear any one about," said Mr. Chandos, when he
returned; "all seems to be quite free and still. I fancy you must have
been mistaken, Miss Hereford."

I shook my head, but did not care to say much, after the notion that
had taken possession of me. Words might lead to deeper questions, and I
could not for the world have said that I knew Edwin Barley.

"Possibly you may be a little nervous to-night," he continued, ringing
the bell; "and at such times the fancy considers itself at liberty to
play us all sorts of tricks. My having told you what I did this morning
relating to myself, may have taken hold of your imagination."

"Oh, no; it has not."

"I shall be very sorry to have mentioned it, if it has. Believe me,
there's nothing in that to disturb you. When you ran in at tea-time I
thought you looked scared. Close the shutters," he added, to the
servant, who had appeared in answer to his ring. "And if you will
pardon my leaving you alone, Miss Hereford, I will wish you good-night.
I am very tired, and I have some writing to do yet."

He shook hands with me and departed. Joseph bolted and barred the
shutters, and I was left alone. But I went up to my room before ten
o'clock.

Would Mr. Chandos—or his ghost, as the servants had it—be out again
that night in his somnambulant state? The subject had taken hold of my
most vivid interest, and after undressing I undid the shutters and
stood for a few minutes at the window in a warm wrapper, watching the
grounds. Eyes and ears were alike strained, but to no purpose. No noise
disturbed the house indoors, and all appeared still without. It might
be too early yet for Mr. Chandos.

But the silence told upon me. There was not a voice to be heard, not a
sound to break the intense stillness. I began to feel nervous, hurried
into bed, and went to sleep.

Not to sleep for very long. I was awakened suddenly by a commotion in
the gallery outside. A loud, angry cry; reproachful tones; all in the
voice of Mrs. Chandos; they were followed by low, remonstrating words,
as if somebody wished to soothe her. Were you ever aroused thus in the
middle of the night in a strange, or comparatively strange, place? If
so, you may divine what was my terror. I sat up in bed with parted
lips, unable to hear anything distinctly for the violent beating of my
heart; and then darted to the door, putting on my slippers and my large
warm wrapper, before drawing it cautiously an inch open.

It was not possible to make out anything at first in the dim gallery.
Three dusky forms were there, having apparently come from the west
wing, which I took to be those of Lady, Mr., and Mrs. Chandos. She, the
latter, had her hair hanging down over a white wrapper; and Mr.
Chandos, his arm about her waist, was drawing her to her own
apartments. It was by that I knew him; who else would have presumed so
to touch her?—his coat was off, his slippers were noiseless. The
moonlight, coming in faintly on the gallery from above, made things
tolerably clear, as my eyes got used to them.

"You never would have told me," she sobbed, pushing back her hair with
a petulant hand; "you know you never meant to tell me for ever so long.
It is cruel—cruel! What am I here but a caged bird?"

"Oh, Ethel! Ethel! you will betray us all!" cried Lady Chandos, in a
voice of dire, reproachful tribulation. "To think that you should make
this disturbance at night! Did you forget that a stranger was sleeping
here?—that the servants may hear you in their rooms? You will bring
desolation on the house."

Scarcely had they disappeared within the doors of the east wing, when
Mr. Chandos came swiftly and suddenly out of his own chamber. Only a
moment seemed to have elapsed, yet he had found it sufficient time to
finish dressing, for he was now fully attired. His appearing from his
chamber, after disappearing within the east wing, established the fact
that his room did communicate with it. Almost simultaneously Hickens
ran up the stairs from the hall, a light in his hand. Mr. Chandos
advanced upon him, and peremptorily waved him back.

"Go back to bed, sir. You are not wanted."

But as the light fell on Mr. Chandos's face, I saw that he was deadly
pale, and his imperative manner seemed to proceed from fear, not anger.

"I heard a scream, Mr. Harry," responded poor Hickens, evidently taken
to. "I'm sure I heard voices; and I—I—thought some thieves or villains
of that sort had got in, sir."

"Nothing of the kind. There's nothing whatever the matter to call for
your aid. Mrs. Chandos is nervous to-night, and cried out—it is not the
first time it has happened, as you know. She is all right again now,
and my mother is with her. Go back, and get your rest as usual."

"Shall I leave you the light, sir?" asked Hickens, perceiving that Mr.
Chandos had none.

"Light? No. What do I want with a light? Mrs. Chandos's ailments have
nothing to do with me."

He stood at the head of the stairs, watching Hickens down, and
listening to his quiet closing of the doors dividing the hall from the
kitchen-passages. Hickens slept downstairs, near his plate-pantry. He
was late in going to rest, as it was explained afterwards, and had
heard the noise overhead in the midst of undressing.

Mr. Chandos turned from the stairs, and I suppose the slender
inch-stream of moonlight must have betrayed to him that my door was
open. He came straight towards it with his stern, white face, and I had
no time to draw back. He and ceremony were at variance that night.

"Miss Hereford, I beg your pardon, but I must request that you retire
within your room and allow your door to be closed," came the peremptory
injunction. "Mrs. Chandos is ill, and the sight of strangers would make
her worse. I will close it for you; I should so act by my sister, were
she here."

He shut it with his own hand, and turned the key upon me. Turned the
key upon me! Well, I could only submit, feeling very much ashamed to
have had my curiosity observed, and scuffled into bed. Nothing more was
heard; not the faintest movement to tell that anything unusual had
happened.

But how strangely mysterious it all appeared! One curious commotion,
one unaccountable mystery succeeding to another: I had heard of haunted
castles in romances, of ghostly abbeys; surely the events enacted in
them could not be more startling than these at Chandos.

Morning came. I was up betimes; dressed, read; found my room unlocked,
and went out of doors while waiting for breakfast. Mr. Chandos passed
on his way from the house, and stopped.

"Did I offend you last night, Miss Hereford?"

"No, sir."

"Walk with me a few steps, then," he rejoined. "I assumed the liberty
of treating you as a sister—as though you were Emily. I thought you
would have the good sense to understood so, and feel no offence. What
caused you to be looking from your door?"

"The commotion in the gallery awoke me, sir, and I felt frightened. It
was only natural I should look to see what caused it."

"What did you see?"

"I saw Lady and Mrs. Chandos; and I saw you, sir. You were supporting
Mrs. Chandos."

"Did you see any one else."

"No; not any one else."

For the space of a full minute Mr. Chandos never took his eyes from me.
It looked as if he questioned my veracity.

"I forgot Hickens, sir; I saw him. At least, in point of fact, I did
not see him; he did not come high enough; I only heard him."

"Suppose I were to tell you it was not Mrs. Chandos you saw?"

"But it was Mrs. Chandos, sir; I am sure of it. I recognised her in
spite of her hanging hair, and I also recognised her voice."

"You are equally sure, I presume, that it was myself?"

"Of course I am, sir. Why, did you not speak to me at my door
afterwards?"

Could I have been mistaken in thinking that a great relief came over
his face?

"Ah, yes," he continued after a pause, while his gaze went out into the
far distance, "Mrs. Chandos is one of our troubles. She is not in good
health, and has disturbed us before in the same manner. The fact is,
she is what is called nervous; meaning that she is not so collected at
times as she ought to be. I am very sorry you were disturbed."

"Pray don't think anything of that, sir. She feels strange, perhaps,
now Mrs. Freeman is gone."

"Yes, that is it. But it has very much upset my mother."

"I fancied yesterday evening that Mrs. Chandos was not quite right;
though, perhaps, I ought not to repeat it. Her manner was a little
wild."

"Yesterday evening! When did you see her yesterday evening?"

"I saw her out in the grounds, sir, in the pine walk."

"Alone?"

"Quite alone, sir, in her white silk evening-dress. It was at dusk;
just before I ran in to the oak-parlour, if you remember. Mrs. Chandos
and I came in together."

"What took _you_ there?" he asked, abruptly.

I told him what—that I had stepped out, being alone, and crossed the
grass.

"Well," he said, gravely, "allow me to caution you not to go out of
doors after dusk, Miss Hereford; there are reasons against it. I will
take care that Mrs. Chandos does not. We might have you both run away
with," he added, in a lighter tone.

"There is no fear of that, sir."

"You do not know what there is fear of," he sharply answered. "Last
night you looked as scared as could be. You will be fancying you see
ghosts in the pine walk next, or me, perhaps, walking in my sleep."

"We thought we did, sir. At least, something was there that looked like
a man."

"What kind of man?" he hastily asked.

"One short and thick. I suppose it was only the trunk of a tree."

"Stay indoors; don't go roaming about at dark," he emphatically said.
"And now I have another request to make to you, Miss Hereford."

"What is it, sir?"

"That you will leave off calling me 'sir.' It does not sound well on
your lips."

He smiled as he spoke. And I blushed until I was ashamed of myself.

"Have you any love for the appellation?"

"No, indeed! But Madame de Mellissie——"

"Just so," he interrupted. "I suspected as much. You would not have
fallen into it yourself."

"I don't know that, sir."

"Sir?"

"It was a slip of the tongue. I used to say 'Sir' and 'Madam' to Mr.
and Mrs. Paler. I was told to do so when I went there as governess."

"Well, you are not governess here, and we can dispense with it. Good
morning!" he added, as we neared the gates. "It is too bad to bring you
so far, and send you back alone."

"Are you not coming to breakfast, sir?" Another slip.

"My breakfast was taken an hour ago. I am going to see how Mrs. Freeman
is. You will be condemned to make a solitary breakfast this morning.
Good-bye!"

A very pleasant one, for all that. It _is_ pleasant to live amidst the
luxuries of life. The fare of a governess had been exchanged for the
liberal table of Chandos. Not that I cared much what I ate and drank: I
was young and healthy; but I did like the ease and refinement, the
state and the innocent vanities pertaining to the order of the Chandos
world.

Half sitting, half lying in one of the garden-chairs in the balmy
sunshine, I partly read and partly dreamed away the morning. The house
was within view; servants and comers passed to it within hail; cheery
voices could be heard; snatches of laughter now and again. On that side
all was busy life; on the other lay the silent mass of trees that
surrounded Chandos. The sun was twinkling through their foliage; the
glorious tints of ruddy autumn lighted them up. A charming tableau!

Uncertain though my stay was, unusual and perhaps undesirable as the
position was for a young girl, I was beginning to feel strangely happy
in it. Madame de Mellissie did not come; another post in, that day, and
no letter from her. And there I sat on unconcerned, in my pretty lilac
muslin, with the ribbons in my chestnut hair, watching the little birds
as they flew about singing; watching the gardener sweeping up his
leaves at a distance; and feeling more joyous than the morning. I ought
not to have felt so, I daresay, but I did, and broke out into snatches
of song as gay as the birds. Tra la la la; tra la la la!

Mr. Chandos passed to the house with a quick step, not seeing me. He
was back, then; I followed, for it was the luncheon hour, and I was not
on a sufficient footing at Chandos to keep meals waiting. Hill was in
the oak-parlour, inquiring after the state of Mrs. Freeman.

"Her state is this, Hill—that it admits no probability whatever of her
returning here," said Mr. Chandos, throwing back his velveteen coat,
for he was in sporting clothes. And well he looked in them! as a tall,
handsome man generally does.

"There's a bother!" was Hill's retort. "Then some one else must be seen
about, Mr. Harry, without loss of time."

"I suppose so. Things seem to be going tolerably cross just now.

"Cross and contrary," groaned Hill. "As they always do, I've noticed,
when it's specially necessary they should go smooth. My lady was
speaking about Miss White, you know, sir."

"Yes. I'll go up and speak with my mother. But I must have something to
eat, Hill."

"The luncheon ought to be in," was Hill's reply. And she crossed to the
bell and gave it a sharp pull.

"Have you been walking to Mrs. Freeman's?" I asked of Mr. Chandos, as
he was quitting the room.

"That would be more than a twenty-mile walk, there and back," he
answered, turning to speak. "I honoured the omnibus with my company as
far as the station, and then went on by train; coming back in the same
way."

The luncheon was on the table when he descended from his mother's
rooms, and he hastily sat down to it. He was dressed differently then.

"I will not invite you to take it with me," he observed, "for I must
not sit five minutes, and can barely snatch a mouthful."

"Are you going far?"

"Not very far; but I wish to be home to dinner. That will do, Joseph;
you need not wait."

"Let me wait upon you, Mr. Chandos," I said, springing up.

"Very well. How will you begin?"

"I don't know what to begin with. I don't know what you want first."

"Nor I. For I do not want anything at all just now. What have you been
doing with yourself all the morning?"

"Working a little, and reading. Not Shakespeare, but a play of
Goldsmith's; 'She Stoops to Conquer.'

"Why, where did you pick up that?" he interrupted. "I did not know the
book was about."

"I saw it lying in the window-seat near the east wing, and dipped into
it. After that, I could not put it down again—although it was not in
the list of books you gave me."

"You thought you would enjoy the mischief first, as the children do,
whether the scolding came afterwards or not."

"Ought I not to have read it?"

"You may read it again if you like. It is an excellent comedy; more
entertaining, I fancy, to read than to witness, though. Did you fall in
love with Tony Lumpkin?"

"Not irrevocably. Here comes your horse round, Mr. Chandos."

"My signal for departure. And I believe I am speeding on a useless
errand."

"Is it an important one?"

"It is to inquire after a lady to replace Mrs. Freeman as companion to
Mrs. Chandos. Some one my mother knows; a Miss White. Miss White was
seeking for such a situation a few months ago; but the probabilities
are that she has found one."

A strong impulse came over me to offer to supply the place—until I
should be called away by Madame de Mellissie. _Miss_ White! she might
be only a young person. If I could but make myself useful, it would
take away the compunction I felt at having been thrust upon them at
Chandos. I spoke on the impulse of the moment, blushing and timid as a
schoolgirl. Mr. Chandos smiled, and shook his head.

"It is not a situation that would suit you; or you it."

"Is Miss White older than I?"

"A little. She is about fifty-six."

"Oh! But as a temporary arrangement, sir?—Until we have news from
Madame de Mellissie. I should like to repay a tithe of the obligation I
am under to Lady Chandos."

"A great obligation, that! No, it could not be. We should have you and
Mrs. Chandos running into the shrubberies after sleepwalkers and
ghosts, as it seems you did last night. Besides," he added, taking up
his gloves and riding-whip, "if you became Mrs. Chandos's companion,
what should I do for mine?"

He nodded to me after he got on his horse; a spirited animal, Black
Knave by name: and rode away at a brisk canter, followed by his groom.



CHAPTER XVII.
THE STRANGER APPLICANT.

"Is Mr. Chandos gone, do you know, Miss?"

The question came from Hill, who put her head in at the oak-parlour to
make it.

"He rode away not three minutes ago."

"Dear me! My lady wanted him to call somewhere else. I suppose a note
must be posted."

"Stay an instant, Mrs. Hill," I said, detaining her. "There's a new
companion wanted, is there not, for Mrs. Chandos?"

"Of course there is," returned Hill. "What of it?"

"Can I see Lady Chandos?"

Hill turned hard directly, facing me resolutely.

"Now, Miss, you listen: we have had that discussion once before, and we
don't want it gone over again. So long as my lady keeps her rooms,
neither you nor anybody else can be admitted to her; you wouldn't be if
you paid for it in gold. And I'm much surprised that a young lady,
calling herself a lady, should persist in pressing it."

"Hill, I am not pressing it. I only asked the question: As I cannot see
Lady Chandos, will you deliver a message to her for me? If I can be of
any use in taking the duties of companion to Mrs. Chandos in this
temporary need, I shall be glad to be so, and will do my very best."

To see the countenance with which Hill received these words, was
something comical: the open mouth, the stare of astonishment.

"_You_ take the duties of companion to Mrs. Chandos!" uttered she, at
length. "Bless the child! you little know what you ask for."

"But will you mention it to Lady Chandos?"

Hill vouchsafed no answer. She cast a glance of pity on my ignorance or
presumption, whichever she may have deemed it, and quietly went out of
the room.

That it was perfectly useless persisting, or even thinking of the
affair further, I saw, and got out my writing-desk. Not a word had come
to me from Mrs. Paler, not a hint at payment; and I wrote a civil
request that she would kindly forward me the money due.

This over, I sat, pen in hand, deliberating whether to write or not to
Emily de Mellissie, when a loud ring came to the house-door. One of the
footmen crossed the hall to answer it.

"Is Lady Chandos at home?" I heard demanded, in a ladylike and firm
voice.

"Her ladyship is at home, ma'am," answered Joseph, "but she does not
receive visitors."

"I wish to see her."

"She is ill, madam; not able to see any one."

"Lady Chandos would admit me. My business is of importance. In short, I
must see her."

Joseph seemed to hesitate.

"I'll call Mrs. Hill, and you can see her, ma'am," he said, after a
little pause. "But I feel certain you cannot be admitted to my lady."

She was ushered by Joseph into the oak parlour. A good-looking woman,
as might be seen through her black Chantilly veil, dressed in a soft
black silk gown and handsome shawl. She was of middle height, portly,
and had a mass of fiery red hair, _crêpé_ on the temples, and taken to
the back of her head. I rose to receive her. She bowed, but did not
lift her veil; and it struck me that I had seen her somewhere before.

"I presume that I have the honour of speaking to a Miss Chandos?"

"I am not Miss Chandos. Will you take a seat?"

"I grieve to hear that Lady Chandos is ill. Is she so ill that she
cannot see me?"

What I should have answered I scarcely know, and was relieved by the
entrance of Hill. The visitor rose.

"I have come here, some distance, to request an interview with Lady
Chandos. I hear she is indisposed; but not, I trust, too much so to
grant it to me."

"I'm sorry you should have taken the trouble," bluntly returned Hill,
who was in one of her ungracious moods. "My lady cannot see any one."

"My business with her is of importance."

"I can't help that. If all England came, Lady Chandos could not receive
them."

"To whom am I speaking?—if I may inquire," resumed the lady.

"I am Mrs. Hill. The many-years' confidential attendant of Lady
Chandos."

"You share her entire confidence?"

"Her entire confidence, and that of the family."

"I have heard of you. It is not every family who possesses so faithful
a friend."

"Anything you may have to say to her ladyship, whatever its nature, you
can, if you please, charge me with," resumed Hill, completely ignoring
the compliment. "I do not urge it, or covet it," she hastily added, in
an uncompromising tone. "I only mention it because it is impossible
that you can see Lady Chandos."

"Mrs. Chandos requires a companion, at the present moment, to replace
one who has gone away ill."

"What of that?" returned Hill.

"I have come to offer myself for the appointment," said the visitor,
handing her card, which Hill dropped on the table without looking at.
"I flatter myself I shall be found eligible."

Hill looked surprised, and I felt so. Only a candidate for the vacant
place?—after all that circumlocution!

"Why could you not have said at first what you wanted?" was Hill's next
question, put with scant politeness. Indeed, she seemed to resent both
the visit and the application as a personal affront. "I don't think
you'll suit, madam."

"Why do you think I shall not?"

"And we are about somebody already. Mr. Chandos is gone to inquire for
her now."

A flush, and a shade of disappointment, immediately hid under a smile,
appeared on the lady's face. I felt sorry for her. I thought perhaps
she might be wanting a home.

"Mr. Chandos may not engage her," observed the visitor.

"That's true enough," acknowledged Hill. "Yet she would have suited
well; for she is not a stranger to the Chandos family."

"Neither am I," quietly replied the applicant. "My name is Penn—if you
will have the goodness to look at the card—Mrs. Penn."

"Penn? Penn?" repeated Hill, revolving the information, but paying no
attention to the suggestion. "I don't recognise the name. I remember
nobody bearing it who is known to us."

"Neither would Lady Chandos recognise it, for personally I am unknown
to her. When I said I was no stranger to the Chandos family, I meant
that I was not strange to certain unpleasant events connected with it.
That dreadful misfortune——"

"It's not a thing to be talked of in the light of day," shrieked Hill;
putting up her hands to stop the words. "Have you not more discretion
than that? Very fit, you'd be, as companion to young Mrs. Chandos!"

"Do not alarm yourself for nothing," rejoined Mrs. Penn, with soothing
coolness. "I was not going to talk of it, beyond the barest allusion:
and the whole world knows that the Chandos family are not as others. I
would only observe that I am acquainted with everything that occurred;
all the details; and therefore I should be more eligible than some to
reside at Chandos."

"How did you learn them?" asked Hill.

"Lady Chandos had once an intimate friend—Mrs. Sackville; who is now
dead. I was at Mrs. Sackville's when the affair happened, and become
cognizant of all through her. Perhaps Lady Chandos may deem it worth
while to see me, if you tell her this."

"How can she see you, when she's confined to her bed?" irritably
responded Hill, who appeared fully bent upon admitting none to the
presence of Lady Chandos. The very mention of it excited her anger in a
most unreasonable manner, for which I could see no occasion whatever.

More talking. At its conclusion, Hill took the card up to Lady Chandos;
also the messages of the stranger; one of which was, that she would
prove a faithful friend in the event of being engaged. Hill returned
presently, to inquire how Mrs. Penn heard that a companion to Mrs.
Chandos was required; that lady replied that she had heard it
accidentally at Marden. She had lived but in three situations, she
said: with Mrs. Sackville, Mrs. James, both of whom were dead, and at
present she was with Mrs. Howard, of Marden, who would personally
answer all inquiries.

Hill appeared to regard this as satisfactory. She noted the address
given, and accompanied Mrs. Penn to the portico, who declined the offer
of refreshments. They spoke together for some minutes in an undertone,
and then Mrs. Penn walked away at a brisk pace, wishing, she said, to
catch the omnibus that would presently pass Chandos gates on its way to
the station. I put my head out at the window, and gazed after her,
trying to recall, looking at her back, what I had not been able to do
looking at her face. Hill's voice interrupted me.

"Is not there something rather queer about that person's looks, Miss
Hereford?"

"In what way, Hill? She is good-looking."

"Well, her face struck me as being a curious one. What bright red hair
she's got!—quite scarlet!—and I have heard say that red hair is
sometimes deceitful. It is her own, though: for I looked at it in the
sunlight outside."

"She puts me in mind of some one I have seen, and I cannot recollect
who. It is not often you see red hair with those very light blue eyes."

"I never saw hair so shiny-red in all my life," returned Hill; "it
looks just as if it had been burnished. She seems straightforward and
independent. We shall see what the references say, if it comes to an
inquiry."

"If you and Lady Chandos would but let me try the situation, Hill! I'm
sure I should suit Mrs. Chandos as well as this lady would. I am only
twenty; but I have had experience one way or another."

As if the words were a signal to drive her away, Hill walked off. I
wrote to Madame de Mellissie, finishing a drawing, and got through the
afternoon; going up to dress at half-past five.

Now that Lady Chandos was secluded, and Mr. Chandos my sole dinner
companion, instinct told me that full dress was best avoided. So I put
on my pretty pink barége, with its little tucker of Honiton lace at the
throat, and its falling cuffs of Honiton lace at the wrists. Nothing in
my hair but a bit of pink ribbon. I had not worn anything but ribbon
since I came to Chandos.

The dinner waited and I waited, but Mr. Chandos did not come. I had
seen a covered tray carried upstairs by Hickens; at the door of the
west wing Hill would relieve him of it, the invariable custom. At the
special request of Lady Chandos, Hickens alone went up there; the other
men-servants never. Joseph carried up the meals for Mrs. Chandos and
stayed to wait on her.

"Would you like to sit down without Mr. Chandos, Miss?" Hickens came to
inquire of me when half-past six o'clock had struck.

No, I did not care to do that. And the time went on again; I wondering
what was detaining him. By-and-by I went out of doors in the twilight,
and strolled a little way down the open carriage drive. Surely Mr.
Chandos's prohibition could not extend to the broad public walk. It was
not so pleasant an evening as the previous one; clouds chased each
other across the sky, a dim star or two struggled out, the air was
troubled, and the wind was sighing and moaning in the trees.

There broke upon my ear the footsteps of a horse. I did not care that
its master should see me walking there, and turned to gain the house.
But—what sort of a speed was it coming at? Why should Mr. Chandos be
riding in that break-neck fashion? Little chance, in truth, that I
could outstrip that! So I stepped close to the side trees, and in
another moment Black Knave tore furiously by without its rider, the
bridle trailing on the ground.

Mr. Chandos must have met with an accident; he might be lying in
desperate need. Where could it have happened? and where was the groom
who had gone out in attendance on him? I ran along at my swiftest
speed, and soon saw a dark object in the distance, nearly as far as the
entrance-gates. It was Mr. Chandos trying to raise himself.

"Are you hurt?" I asked, kneeling down beside him.

"Some trifling damage, I suppose. How came you here, Miss Hereford?"

"I saw the horse gallop in, and ran to see what the accident might be,
sir. How did it happen?"

"Get up, child. Get up, and I will tell you."

"Yes, sir," I said, obeying him.

"I was riding fast, being late, and in passing this spot, some
creature—I should say 'devil' to any one but a young lady—darted out of
those trees there, and threw up its hands with a noise right in front
of my horse, to startle it, or to startle me. Black Knave reared bolt
upright, bounded forward, and I lost my seat. I had deemed myself a
first-rate horseman before to-night; but I was sitting carelessly."

"Was it a man?"

"To the best of my belief, it was a woman. The night is dusk; and I saw
things less accurately than I might have done in a more collected
moment. It was a something in a grey cloak, with a shrill voice. I
wonder if you could help me up?"

"I will do my best."

I stooped, and he placed his hands upon me, and raised himself. But it
appeared that he could not walk: but for holding on to me, he would
have fallen.

"I believe you must let me lie on the ground again, and go and send
assistance, Miss Hereford. Stay: who's this?"

It was one of the servants, Lizzy Dene, who had been, as was
subsequently explained, on an errand to the village. She called out in
dismayed astonishment when she comprehended the helpless position of
Mr. Chandos.

"Now don't lose your wits, Lizzy Dene, but see what you can do to help
me," he cried. "With you on one side, and Miss Hereford on the other,
perhaps I may make a hobble of it."

The woman put her basket down, concealing it between the trees, and Mr.
Chandos laid his hand upon her shoulder, I helping him on the other
side. She was full of questions, calling the horse all sorts of
treacherous names. Mr. Chandos said the horse was not to blame, and
gave her the explanation that he had given me.

"Sir, I'd lay a hundred guineas that it was one of those gipsy jades!"
she exclaimed. "There's a lot of them 'camped on the common."

"I'll gipsy them, should it prove so," he answered. "Miss Hereford, I
am sorry to lean upon you so heavily. The order of things is being
reversed. Instead of the knight supporting the lady, the lady is
bearing the weight of the knight."

"Where was your groom, sir?" I inquired. "He went abroad with you."

"Yes, but I despatched him on an errand, and rode back alone."

"Should you know the woman again, sir?" asked Lizzy.

"I think I should know her scream. It was as shrill as a sea-gull's.
Her head was enveloped in some covering that concealed her face;
probably the hood of the grey cloak."

"Who's to know that it was not a man?" resumed Lizzy Dene.

"If so, he wore petticoats," said Mr. Chandos. "A seat at last!" he
added, as we approached one. "I will remain here whilst you go and send
two of the men."

"Can't we get you on further, sir?" said Lizzy.

"No. I have taxed your strength too much in this short distance. And my
own also, through endeavouring to ease my weight to you."

In point of fact, the weight had been felt, for the one foot seemed
quite powerless. He sat down on the bench, his brow white and moist
with pain, and motioned to us to go on. "I think they had better bring
my mother's garden-chair," he said.

"I'll run and send it," cried Lizzy. "Miss had better stop with you,
sir."

"What for?" asked Mr. Chandos.

"Look you here, sir. That woman, whoever she might have been, was
trying to do you an injury; to cause you to lose your life, I should
say; and the chances are that she's concealed somewhere about here
still. Look at the opportunities for hiding there are here! Why a whole
regiment of gipsies and murderers and thieves might be skulking amid
the trees, and us none the wiser till they showed themselves out with
guns and knives. That woman—which I'll be bound was a man—may be
watching to come out upon you, sir, if you can be caught by yourself."

Mr. Chandos laughed, but Lizzy Dene seemed in anything but a laughing
mood. "I will stay with you, sir," I said, and sat down resolutely on
the bench. Lizzy went off with a nod.

"Now, Miss Hereford, you and I have an account to settle," he began, as
her footsteps died away in the distance. "Why am I 'sir' again?"

"Lizzy Dene was present," I answered, giving him the truth. I had not
liked that she should see me familiar with him—putting myself, as it
were, on a level with Mr. Chandos; and in truth the word still slipped
out at odd times in my shyness. Lizzy Dene might have commented upon
the omission in the household: but this I did not say. Mr. Chandos
turned to look at me.

"Never mind who is present, I am not 'sir' to you. I beg you to
recollect that, Miss Hereford. And now," he continued, taking my hand,
"how am I to thank you?"

"For what?"

"For coming and looking for me. I might have lain until morning,
inhaling the benefit of the night dews; or until that grey witch had
'come out again with a gun' and finished me."

The last words, a repetition of Lizzy Dene's, were spoken in joke. I
laughed.

"You would soon have been found, without me, Mr. Chandos. Lizzy Dane
was not many moments after me, and scores of others will be coming in
before the night is over."

"I don't know about the 'scores.' But see how you destroy the romance
of the thing, Miss Hereford! I wish there _was_ a probability that the
woman had gone into hiding in the groves of Chandos; I would soon have
her hunted out of them."

"Do you suppose it was one of the gipsies?"

"I am at a loss for any supposition on the point," he replied. "I am
unconscious of having given offence to any person or persons."

"Do you think you are much injured?"

"There are worse misfortunes in hospitals than the injury to my foot. I
believe it to be nothing but a common sprain, although it has disabled
me. The pain——"

"That's great, I am sure."

"Pretty well. I should not like you to experience it."

That it was more than pretty well, I saw, for the drops were coursing
down his face. The men soon came up with the garden-chair, and Mr.
Chandos sent me on.

He was laid on the sofa in the oak-parlour. Hill examined the foot and
bound it up, one of the grooms having been despatched for a medical
man. He arrived after dinner—which was taken in a scrambling sort of
manner—a Mr. Dickenson, from the village, who was left with Mr.
Chandos.

At tea time, when I went in again, things looked comfortable. The
surgeon had pronounced it to be but a sprain, and Mr. Chandos was on
the sofa, quietly reading, a shaded lamp at his elbow. From his
conversation with Hill, I gathered that the lady he had been inquiring
after, Miss White, had taken a situation at a distance, and could not
come to Chandos.

"We have had another applicant after the place, Mr. Harry," observed
Hill who was settling the cushion under his foot. And she proceeded to
tell him the particulars of Mrs. Penn's visit.

"Is she likely to suit?"

"My lady thinks so. Mr. Harry,"—dropping her voice to a whisper, which
she, no doubt, thought would be inaudible to me, busy with the tea-cups
at the table ever so far-off—"she knows all about that past trouble."

Mr. Chandos laid down his book and looked at her.

"Every unhappy syllable of it, sir; more than my lady knows herself,"
whispered Hill. "She mentioned one or two particulars to me which I'm
sure we had never known; and she said she could tell my lady more than
that."

"That is extraordinary," observed Mr. Chandos, in the same subdued
tone. "Who is this Mrs. Penn? Whence could she have heard anything?"

"From Mrs. Sackville. You must remember her, sir. She stayed a week
with us about that time."

"This comes of my mother's having made a confidant of Mrs. Sackville!"
he muttered. "I always thought Mrs. Sackville a chattering woman. But
it does not account for Mrs. Penn's knowing the particulars that my
mother does not know," he added, after a pause. "I shall be curious to
see Mrs. Penn."

"That's just the question I put to her, sir: where Mrs. Sackville could
have learnt these details. Mrs. Penn answered that she had them from
Sir Thomas himself. Therefore, I conclude, Sir Thomas must have
revealed to her what he spared my lady."

Mr. Chandos shook his head with a proud, repellant air.

"I don't believe it, Hill. However Mrs. Sackville might have learnt
them, rely upon it it was not from Sir Thomas. She was no favourite of
his."

"Misfortunes never come singly," resumed Hill, quitting the subject
with a sort of grunt. "Mrs. Freeman could not have fallen ill at a
worse time."

"And now I am disabled! Temporarily, at least."

"Oh, well, sir, let's hope for the best," cried she, getting up from
her knees. "When troubles come, the only plan is to look them steadily
in the face, and meet them bravely."

"It is rather curious, though," cried Mr. Chandos, looking at Hill.

"What is, sir?"

"That I should be laid aside now. It has been so each time. There's
something more than chance in it."

Hill appeared to understand. I did not. As she was quitting the room,
Hickens came in.

"Mr. Dexter has called, sir," he said. "Would you like to see him?"

"Does he want anything particular?" asked Mr. Chandos.

"No business, sir. He heard of this accident to you, and hurried here,"
he says.

"Let him come in. You need not leave us, Miss Hereford," he added to
me, for I was rising. "Dexter will thank you for a cup of tea."

"Well, now, Mr. Chandos, how was this?" cried the agent, as he bustled
in, wiping his red face. Mr. Dexter gave me the idea of being always in
a hurry.

"I can hardly tell you," replied Mr. Chandos. "I don't quite know
myself."

"News was brought into my office that Mr. Chandos's horse had thrown
him, and he was supposed to be dying. So I caught up my hat and came
rushing off. Hickens says it is only an injury to the ankle."

"And that's enough, Dexter, for it is keeping me a prisoner. However,
it might have been as you heard, so I must not grumble. The question
is, what ill-working jade caused it?"

"Ill-working jade?" repeated Mr. Dexter. "Was it not an accident? I
don't understand."

"An accident maliciously perpetrated. Some venomous spirit in the guise
of a woman sprang before my horse with a shouting scream, and threw up
her arms in his face. Black Knave wont stand such jokes. I was riding
carelessly, and lost my seat."

"Bless my heart!" exclaimed Mr. Dexter, after a pause, given to digest
the words. "Who was it? Is she taken?"

"A tramp, probably. Though why she should set on me I am unable to
conjecture. Where she vanished to, or what became of her, I know not. I
raised myself on my elbow directly I could collect my wits, which I
assure you were somewhat scattered, but the coast was already clear:
and I had not been down a minute then."

"What was the woman like?" pursued the agent, as I handed him some tea.

"I can tell you nothing of that. She wore a grey cloak, or something
that looked like one, which enveloped her person and shaded her face. I
should not know her if she stood before me this minute."

"Was the cloak assumed for the purpose of disguise, sir, think you?"
eagerly questioned the agent, who seemed to take the matter up with
much warmth, as if he had a suspicion.

"It looked uncommonly like it."

"Then I tell you what, Mr. Chandos; it was no ordinary tramp, or
gaol-bird of that description. Depend upon it, you must look nearer
home."

"Nearer home!" repeated Mr. Chandos. "Do you allude to our household
servants?"

"I don't allude to any party or parties in particular, sir. But when a
disguise is assumed for the purpose of molesting a gentlemen, riding to
his home in the dusk of night, be assured that the offender is no
stranger. This ought to be investigated, Mr. Chandos."

"I sent two of the men to seek round about, and they scoured the
plantations near the spot, but without result. So far as they could
ascertain, no live body, worse than a hare was concealed there."

"I could understand if you were obnoxious to the tenants, or to any
others, in the neighbourhood, but the exact contrary is the case,"
pursued Mr. Dexter, stirring his tea violently round and round. "The
tenants often say they wish Mr. Chandos was their real landlord. Not
that they have any cause of complaint against Sir Thomas; but Sir
Thomas is a stranger to them, and you, sir, are in their midst; one, as
it were, of themselves."

"Talking about tenants—and to leave an unprofitable subject, for we
shall make nothing of it in the present stage of the affair," resumed
Mr. Chandos—"I don't like the new tenant by the gates here, Dexter."

"No? Why not, sir?"

"And I should like to get rid of him."

Our visitor put his bread-and-butter down on the plate, and stared at
Mr. Chandos, as if questioning whether he might be in jest or earnest.

"What is your objection to him, sir?" he asked, after a pause.

"I cannot state any objection in detail. I have seen the man, and I
don't like him. How can he be got rid of, Dexter?"

"He cannot be got rid of at all, sir, until the lease is out—three
years—unless he chooses to quit of his own accord. There's a clause in
the lease that he can leave at the end of any twelvemonth by giving
proper notice."

"That's his side—as regards the agreement. What is mine?"

"You have no power to dismiss him until the three years are up."

"How came you to draw up a one-sided deed, such as that?"

"Haines said his client wished to have the option of quitting at the
end of any year, though he would probably continue for the three. In
point of fact, Mr. Edwin Barley is a yearly tenant; but he wished to
have the power in his own hands of remaining the three years. I did
speak to you, Mr. Chandos, and you made no objection."

Mr. Chandos sat, twirling the watch-key and beautiful transparent seal
that drooped from his gold chain. It was self-evident to him that what
might appear to be just terms for any other man on the face of the
earth who had offered himself as tenant, looked anything but just now
that the tenant proved to be Mr. Edwin Barley.

"And the agreement is signed, of course?"

"Signed, sealed, and delivered," was the answer of Mr. Dexter, who had
taken the remark as a question.

"Just so. And there are no legal means of getting rid of the man?"

"None at all, sir, for three years, if he pleases to stop. But, Mr.
Chandos, he appears to me to be an exceedingly eligible tenant—so very
wealthy and respectable a gentleman!"

"Wealthy and respectable though he may be, I would give a thousand
pounds to be quit of him, Dexter."

"But why, sir?" repeated the agent, in surprise.

"He is not likely to prove an agreeable neighbour. I don't like the
look of him."

"Pardon the suggestion, Mr. Chandos, but you are not obliged to have
anything to do with him," returned the agent, who looked as though the
views propounded were quite different from any he had ever met with.
"So long as Mr. Edwin Barley keeps his house respectable and pays his
rent, that's all you need know of him, sir, unless you like."

"What brought him to settle himself here?" abruptly asked Mr. Chandos.

"Well, I inquired once, but got no satisfactory answer. They say his
own place by Nettleby is quite magnificent, compared to this house that
he has taken. I remarked upon it to Haines. 'Gentlemen like to go about
the country and please their fancy for change,' Haines answered me.
Which is true enough, sir."

Mr. Chandos gave a sort of incredulous nod, and the agent rose.

"Now that I have seen you, sir, and had the pleasure of ascertaining
that the injury is less than report said, I'll be going back again. But
I shall keep my eyes open for a women in a grey cloak. If I meet one,
I'll pounce upon her, as sure my name's Bob Dexter. Pray don't trouble
yourself, young lady! I know my way out."

I had risen to ring the bell. Mr. Dexter was gone beforehand, and we
heard the hall-door close after him with a sharp click.

Just as the tea-things were taken away, Lizzy Dene came in. The woman
looked wild to-night; her eyes were shining as with fire; her dark
cheeks had a glow in them as of fever; the bunches of black curls on
either side were tangled; and she had not removed her bonnet and shawl
before appearing in the presence of Mr. Chandos.

"I beg your pardon, sir!" she said, "but I thought I'd tell you where
I've been to."

"Well?" returned Mr. Chandos, turning his head to her from the sofa.

"I couldn't get it out of my head, sir, that the woman who served you
that trick must be one of the gipsies, so I just put my best foot
foremost, and walked over to the common. They are encamped at the far
end of it, down in the hollow amid the trees. Such a sight! A big tent
lighted with a torch stuck in the ground, and four or five women and
children in it, and straw beds in the corner, with brown rugs, and a
pot a-boiling on the fire outside. But I had my walk for nothing; for
the women seemed quiet and peaceable enough; one of them was sewing,
and, so far as I saw, they had never a grey cloak between 'em. There
was an old creature bent double, she could scarce bobble, and two young
women with babies to their breasts, and there was a growing girl or two
I'm bound to confess that none of them looked wicked enough to have
been the one that set on you, sir."

"Well?" repeated Mr. Chandos, regarding Lizzy with some wonder. "What
else?"

"Why, sir, this. If it was one of the gipsies that attacked you, she's
not back at the camp yet; she must be in hiding somewhere; and most
likely it's in these very grounds, where they're thickest. If all the
men went out to beat the place, they might drop upon her."

There was something curiously eager about the woman as she spoke, with
her cheeks and eyes glowing, and her tone full of passion. I think it
struck Mr. Chandos. It certainly struck me and to a degree that set me
wondering. But Mr. Chandos betrayed no curiosity, and answered with
quiet decision.

"We will forget this, Lizzy Dene; at any rate for the present. I am
tired of this subject; and I do not suppose it to have been any of the
gipsies. Some poor mad woman, more probably, escaped from the county
asylum. Don't trouble yourself about it further."

Lizzy looked hard at him, as if she would have said more, but finally
withdrew in silence.

"Tired of everything, I think, to-night!" he added, with a weary sigh,
as she closed the door. "Tired even of reading!"

"Can I do anything to amuse you, Mr. Chandos?" I asked, for he threw
his book on the stand.

"Ay. Sit you down on that low chair, and tell me the stories of your
past life, after the manner of fairy-tales."

The chair was on the opposite side to the sofa, and I sat down upon it.
He made me come quite close to him, lest he should not hear. Which must
have been said in jest, for his ears were quick. But I drew it nearer.

"Now for fairy-tale the first. How shall you begin?"

"I don't know how to begin, sir. My life has had no fairy-tales in it.
I have not had a home, as other girls have."

"Not had a home!"

"I had one when I was a little girl. Mamma lived in a cottage in
Devonshire, and I was with her."

"So you are a little Devonshire woman?"

"No; I was born in India. Mamma brought me over when I was three years
old."

"And your father?"

"He had to stay behind in India. He was in the army. After that he sold
out to come home, and died very soon. Mamma died when I was eleven, and
since that I have been at school."

"Had you no relatives to offer you a home?"

"No!" And I felt my face flush as I thought of Mr. Edwin Barley. He
must have noticed it: he was looking at me.

"No home all those years! How you must long for one!"

"I keep my longings down. It may never be my happiness to know a home;
certainly there is no present prospect of it. I resign myself to my
position, doing my duty, as it is placed before me, and not looking
beyond it."

"What do you call your 'position'?"

"That of a governess."

"I should say you are of gentle blood?"

"Oh yes."

He paused. I paused. I saw that he expected I should tell him something
more about myself and my family; and I would willingly have told all,
but for having to bring in the names of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Barley. The
fear of doing that; of alluding to the dreadful events of the past,
clung to me still as a nightmare. Mr. Chandos, who did not fail to
detect the reluctance, concluded there must be some reason for it, not
expedient to tell; he quitted the subject at once, with the innate
delicacy of a refined man, and did not again, then or later, make
allusion to my family.

"Well, now for the fairy-tales. Begin. If you don't tell me something
worth hearing, I shall fall asleep."

I laughed; and related to him one or two short anecdotes of my school
life, and then remembered the supper-scene at Miss Fenton's, and the
setting on fire of Georgina Digges. He had grown interested in that,
and we were both talking very fast, when the clock struck ten. I got up
and put away the low chair.

"Good-night, sir."

"Good-night—_miss!_"

It made me laugh. He took my hand, kept it for a minute in his, and
said he wished me pleasant dreams.

"I shall dream of a woman in a grey cloak. But, Mr. Chandos! in one
sense, the accident is a good thing for you."

"You must explain how. I don't see it."

"With that disabled foot you may make sure of uninterrupted rest. There
is no fear that you will leave your bed to-night to walk in the
moonlight."

"You go to bed, and to sleep, and never mind looking for me in the
moonlight; to-night, or any other night."

His mood had changed; his brow had grown angry, his voice stern. The
thought of having alluded to his infirmity brought back all my
humiliation.

"I beg your pardon, sir," I meekly said. And he released my hand
without another word.

I thought of it all the time I was undressing; I thought of it after I
was in bed. Not of that only, but of other things. If Mr. Edwin Barley
was the enemy of the family, as hinted at by Mr. Chandos, and could do
them at will irreparable injury; and if he, Edwin Barley, had thus
brought himself into proximity, because he had learnt in some
unaccountable manner that I was staying there, how they would have
cause to detest me! Of course it might not be. Mr. Edwin Barley might
have come for his own purposes to Chandos, irrespective of me. I could
only hope it was so; but the doubt caused me most jealously to guard
his name, as a connexion of mine, from Mr. Chandos.

I dropped into peaceful sleep. My last thought, as it stole over me,
was to wonder whether Lizzy Dene and the other maids were watching from
the turret-window for the ghost in the pine-walk.



CHAPTER XVIII.
THE NEW COMPANION.

A solitary breakfast for me. Mr. Chandos remained in his room, nursing
his foot; Lady Chandos was in hers. As I was eating it, Hill came in.

"Will you transact a commission for my lady, this morning, Miss
Hereford?"

"With great pleasure," I answered, starting up with alacrity, glad that
they were going to give me something to do at last. "What is it?"

"Well, it's nothing that you need be in such a hurry for as to lose
your breakfast," grimly responded Hill. "My lady is sick, Mr. Chandos
is disabled, I can't be spared; so we want you to go to Marden, and
make some inquiries."

"Oh, yes; I will go anywhere. It is very dull here, by myself all day.
Is it about Mrs. Penn?"

"It is about Mrs. Penn," returned Hill, in her stiffest manner. "You
will have to see Mrs. Howard, the lady she referred to, and ask certain
questions of her, which will be written down for you."

"Am I to go by train, Hill?"

"My lady would not send you alone by train. Her own carriage will be
round by ten o'clock to convey you to Marden."

At ten the carriage drew up. I was quite ready for it. Vain girl! I had
put on one of my prettiest dresses, and a white bonnet; my chestnut
hair rippled back from my brow, and the pink flowers mingled with it. I
had grown fairer in complexion than I was as a child, and my cheeks
wore generally a soft bright colour.

Stepping in, I was bowled away, in the same state that my lady would
have gone. The fine barouche had its handsome hammercloth, its
baronet's badge on the panels, its attendant servants. I was born to
this social state, if I had not been brought up in it, and it was very
delightful. The old lodge-keeper touched his hat to me as we passed
through the gates to the smooth road. The sun was shining, the birds
were singing, the leafy trees were dancing.

"Now mind!" Hill had said to me. "All you have to do is to put by word
of mouth these questions written down for you, and to take strict note
of the answers, so as to report them accurately when you come back.
They are but ordinary questions: or else you would not be sent. Be
discreet, young lady, and don't talk on your own score."

I opened the paper and read over the questions as we went long. Simple
queries, as Hill had said; just such as are put when a dependent,
whether lady or servant, is being engaged. The address given was "Mrs.
Charles Howard, number nine, King Street, Marden." And there the
carriage drew up. Carrying the paper, I was shown upstairs to the
drawing-rooms, sending in my name—"Miss Hereford."

Handsome rooms, two communicating. A lady, very much dressed in
elaborate morning costume, rose to receive me. I found it was Mrs.
Howard, and entered upon my queries.

They were most satisfactorily answered. A higher character than she
gave to Mrs. Penn could not be tendered. Mrs. Penn was faithful, good,
discreet, and trustworthy; very capable in all ways, and invaluable in
a sick room. Her regret at parting with her was great, but she, Mrs.
Howard, was going to Brussels on a long visit to her married daughter,
and it would be inconvenient to take Mrs. Penn. She should be so glad
to see her settled elsewhere comfortably, before leaving England.

So voluble was Mrs. Howard, saying ten times more than she need have
said, that I could not get in a word. I should have liked her better
had she been less flourishing in speech and not worn quite so many
ornaments. As soon as I could speak, I asked if I might see Mrs. Penn,
such having been Hill's instructions to me, in case the references
proved satisfactory.

Mrs. Howard rang for her, and she came in. She wore a bright violet
gown of some soft material; her red hair was disposed in waving bands
low on her forehead and taken back underneath her cap. _Had_ I seen her
anywhere in my past life? The expression of her full face when her eyes
were turned on me seemed so familiar: striking upon the mind like
something we may have seen in a dream; but when I examined her features
I could not trace in them any remembrance. Perhaps I was mistaken. We
do see faces that resemble others as we go through the world.

I told her she was to proceed with as little delay as possible to
Chandos, to hold an interview with its mistress; when she would
probably be engaged.

My mission over, I entered the carriage to be driven home again. We had
nearly reached Chandos when I missed my pocket-handkerchief. It was one
that had been embroidered for me by a favourite schoolfellow at Miss
Barlieu's, Marguerite Van Blumm, and I valued it for her sake. Besides,
I only possessed two handsome handkerchiefs in the world: that, and one
I had bought in Paris. I hoped I had left it at Mrs. Howard's, and that
Mrs. Penn would bring it to me.

To my great amazement, when I got home, I found Mrs. Penn was already
there. Not engaged: Hill was waiting to hear my report of what Mrs.
Howard said. Mr. Chandos laughed at the expression of my face.

"The triumph of steam over carriage wheels, Miss Hereford. She took a
train immediately, and a fly on at Hetton station."

The fly was outside the windows as he spoke; it had drawn away from the
door to allow the carriage to set me down. I did not see Mrs. Penn; she
was waiting in the large drawing-room; and I did not like to make the
fuss to go to her and ask about my handkerchief.

But a quarter of an hour, and it was driving her back to Hetton. She
was engaged; and had agreed to enter that same evening. She came, quite
punctually. But for a day or two afterwards it so fell out that I did
not see her.

The first time we met was one morning, when I was finishing breakfast.
Mrs. Penn came into the oak-parlour with her bonnet and shawl on. She
had been out of doors.

"I don't know what your grim old butler will say to me, but I have
forestalled him with the postman," she began, without any other
greeting. "Unless I take a turn for ten minutes in the open air of a
morning, I feel stifled for the day: the postman came up while I was in
the broad walk, and I took the letters from him. Only two," she
continued, regarding the addresses in a free and easy sort of manner
scarcely becoming her position. "Both foreign letters," she went on in
a running comment. "One is for Harry Chandos, Esquire; the other for
Miss Hereford. That is yourself, I think."

"I am Miss Hereford."

"It is a pretty name," she observed, looking at me: "almost as pretty
as you are. Do you remember in the school history of England we are
told of the banishment of Lord Hereford by his sovereign, and how it
broke his heart? Is your Christian name as pretty?"

"It is Anne."

"Anne Hereford! A nice name altogether. Where do your friends live?"

Instead of answering, I rose and rang the bell for the butler; who came
in.

"The letters are here, Hickens," I said, putting the one for Mr.
Chandos in his hand, while I kept mine. Hickens, with a dubious air,
looked alternately at me, and the letters, as if wondering how they
came there. I explained.

"Mrs. Penn brought them in. She tells me she met the postman in the
broad walk, and took them from him."

"Please to let the man bring the letters to the house, ma'am, should
you meet him again," Hickens respectfully observed, turning to Mrs.
Penn. "My lady never allows any one to take them from the postman: he
brings them into the hall, and delivers them into my hand. Once when
Miss Emily was at home, she took them from the man in the grounds, and
my lady was very much displeased with her. Her ladyship is exceedingly
strict in the matter."

"How particular they seem about their letters!" exclaimed Mrs. Penn in
an undertone, as Hickens departed with his master's.

"Many families are so. Mr. Paler was worse than this, for he always
liked to take the letters from the facteur himself."

"Who is Mr. Paler?" she questioned.

"I have been living as governess in his family in Paris. Mrs. Penn, may
I ask you whether I left a handkerchief at Mrs. Howard's the day I went
there?"

"Not that I know of. I did not hear of it. Have you lost one?"

"Yes; one that I valued: it was a keepsake. I know I had it in the
carriage in going to Marden, but I remember nothing of it subsequently.
When I got home I missed it."

"You most likely dropped it in stepping out of the carriage."

"Yes, I fear so."

She quitted the room with a remark that her time was up. I opened my
letter, which was in Emily de Mellissie's handwriting; and read as
follows:—

"The idea of your making all this fuss! Though I suppose it is mamma's
fault, not yours. She is neither poison nor a tiger, and therefore will
not do the house irretrievable damage. It's not my fault if Alfred has
taken this gastric fever, and I am detained here. I'd rather be in the
wilds of Africa, I do assure you, scampering over the sandy desert on a
mad pony, than condemned to be pent up in sickchambers. Fancy what it
is! Alfred reduced to a skeleton, in his bed on alternate days, taking
nothing but _tisane_, and that sort of slops, and lamenting that he
wont get over it: Madame de Mellissie in _her_ bed, groaning under an
agonizing attack of sciatica; and I doing duty between the two. It's
dreadful. I should come off to Chandos to-morrow and leave them till
they were better, but that the world would call me hard-hearted, and
any other polite name it could lay its tongue to. Every second day he
seems nearly as well as I am, and says I shall be sure to start for
Chandos on the next. When the next comes, there he is, down again with
fever. And that is my present fate!—which is quite miserable enough
without your reproaching me for being thoughtless, and all the rest of
it. How I should get through the dreary days but for some novels and a
few callers, I don't know; but the novels are not exciting, and the
visitors are stupid. Paris is empty just now, and as dull as a dungeon.
Don't go worrying me with any more letters reflecting on my 'prudence,'
or I shall send them back to you. If mamma orders you to write, tell
her plainly that you wont. Pray who is Anne Hereford, that she should
be allowed to disturb the peace of Chandos? Indeed, Harry, she is
_nobody!_ and you need not stand on ceremony with her. I am sorry that
her staying there just now should be so very inconvenient—as you hint
that it is. Mamma has a great dislike to have people in the house, I
know; but the leaving her was really not my fault, as you ought to see.
I will be over as soon as I can, for my own sake, and relieve you of
her:—you cannot form an idea what it is here, no soirées going on, no
fêtes, no anything. But if you really cannot allow her to remain until
then, the shortest way will be to let her go to Nulle.

"Love to mamma, and believe me, your affectionate sister,

"Emily De Mellissie."

I read nearly to the end before suspecting that the letter was not
meant for me. I had supposed it to be the answer to the one I
despatched to Emily in the previous week. Some one else—as it would
appear—had despatched one also, remonstrating at the inconvenience my
presence caused at Chandos.

With a face that was burning in its every lineament—with hands that
trembled as they closed—with a heart that felt half sick with shame—I
started up. That very moment I would write word to Madame de Mellissie
that I was quitting Chandos; and to Miss Barlieu, to say I was coming.
In the midst of which paroxysm there entered Mr. Chandos, between
Hickens and a stick.

He sat down in an arm-chair, wishing me good morning. When the man had
gone I advanced to him with the open letter.

"This letter must be intended for you, I think, Mr. Chandos, although
it was addressed to me. It is from Madame Alfred de Mellissie."

"Just so," he said, taking it, and handing me the one he himself held.
This I presume is for you, as it begins "My dear Anne Hereford. Emily
has betrayed her characteristic heedlessness, in sending my letter to
you, and yours to me."

He ran his eyes over the note, and then called to me. I stood looking
from the window.

"Have you read this?"

"Every word. Until I came to my own name I never suspected that it was
not written for me. I am very sorry, Mr. Chandos; but I hope you will
not blame me; indeed it was done inadvertently."

"So am I sorry," he answered, in a joking sort of tone, as if he would
pass the matter over lightly. "Emily's letters ought to be preserved in
the British Museum."

Before he could say more, Hill came in, and began talking with him in
an undertone, looking crossly at me. Of course it drove me away. I went
to the portico, and read my letter.

"My Dear Anne Hereford,

"You need not trouble yourself at all about being what you call 'an
encumbrance' at Chandos, but just make yourself contented until I can
come over. Mamma and my brother ought to be glad to have you there, for
they are mured up alone from year's end to year's end. Keep out of
their way as much as possible, so as not to annoy them.

"Yours sincerely,

"Emily De Mellissie.

"P.S.—Of course you might go to Miss Barlieu's, if Lady Chandos deems
it expedient that you should."

A fine specimen of contradiction the note presented. I folded it and
went upstairs, one determination strong upon me—to depart for Nulle.

Mrs. Penn was standing at the gallery-window between my room and the
library. She was dressed handsomely, this new companion: a grey silk
robe, a gold chain, a pretty blonde-lace cap mingling with her nearly
scarlet hair, valuable rings on her fingers. Just as I took likes and
dislikes when a child, so I took them still. And I did not like Mrs.
Penn.

"I cannot divest myself of the notion that I have met you before, Mrs.
Penn," I said. "But I am unable to recollect where."

"I can tell you," she answered. "You were at school at Nulle, and
attended the English Protestant Church. It was there you and I used to
see each other."

"There?" I repeated, incredulously, thinking she must be wrong.

"Yes, there," said Mrs. Penn. "I was staying in the town for some weeks
two or three years ago; I remembered your face again here directly,
though you have grown much. You were wont to study my face nearly as
much as you studied your prayer-book. I used to wonder what you found
in me to admire."

Throw my recollection back as I would, I could not connect the face
before me with my associations of Nulle. It certainly might have been
there that we met—and indeed why should she say so, were it not?—but it
did not seem to be. As to the looking off the prayer-book part, I was
sure that there could not have been much of that, the English governess
who succeeded Miss Johnstone always watched us so sharply.

"Did you know the Miss Barlieus, Mrs. Penn?"

"Only by sight; I had no acquaintance with them. Quite old maids they
are."

"They are kind, good women," I broke out, indignantly, and Mrs. Penn
laughed.

"Somewhat careless withal, are they not? I think that was exemplified
in the matter relating to Miss Chandos."

I could not answer. The whole blame had lain with Emily, but I did not
choose to say that to Mrs. Penn. She was turning her gold chain round
and round her finger, her very light blue eyes seemingly fixed on the
opposite pine-trees, and then she spoke again her voice had dropped to
a low tone.

"Do you believe in ghosts, Miss Hereford?"

"Ghosts?" I echoed, astonished at the question.

"Ghosts," she repeated. "Do you believe that the dead come again?"

"When I see any ghosts I will tell you whether I believe in them or
not," I said, jokingly. "Up to the present time it has not been my good
fortune to fall in with any."

"It is said," she proceeded, looking round with caution, "that a ghost
haunts Chandos. Have you not seen any strange sights?"

"No, indeed. It would very much astonish me to see such—if by 'strange
sights' you mean ghosts."

"I saw one once," she said.

"Mrs. Penn!"

"A lady died in a house where I was staying; died almost suddenly. If
ever I saw anything in my life, I saw her after she was in her grave.
You look at me with incredulity."

"I cannot fancy that a real genuine ghost was ever seen. I am aware
that strange tales are told—and believed: but I think they are but
tales of the imagination."

"In speaking of strange tales do you allude to Chandos?"

"Certainly not. I spoke of the world in general."

"You take me up sharply. Nevertheless, strange tales are whispered of
Chandos. On a moonlight night, as report runs, the spirit of Sir Thomas
may be seen in the walks."

"Does it swim over from India to take its promenade?" I mockingly
asked.

"You are thinking of the present baronet: he is not dead. I spoke of
the late one. Look out some of these light nights, will you, and tell
me whether you see anything. I cannot; for the available windows of the
east wing do not face this way. They say he takes exercise there,"
pointing to the pine-walk.

"Did you say Sir Thomas's ghost, Mrs. Penn?" I asked, laughing.

"The world says so. I hear that some of the maids here, seeing the
sight, have arrived at the notion that it is only Mr. Harry Chandos
given to come out of his room at night and take moonlight promenades."

There was a ball in the window-seat, and I tossed it with indifference.
She had got hold of the wrong story, and it was not my place to set her
right. Hill came up, saying Mr. Chandos wished to speak to me; but I
did not hurry down.

I had made my mind up to borrow sufficient money of him to take me to
Nulle, and was trying to call up courage to ask it. His leg was upon a
rest when I went in, and he leaned back in his chair reading a
newspaper.

"I want to speak to you, Miss Hereford."

"And I—wanted—to speak to you, sir, if you please," I said, resolutely,
in spite of my natural hesitation.

"Very well. Place aux dames. You shall have the first word."

It appeared, however, that Lizzy Dene was to have that. She came in at
the moment, asked leave to speak, and began a recital of a second visit
she had paid the gipsies the previous night, in which she had accused
them of having attacked Mr. Chandos. The recital was a long one, and
delivered curiously, very fast and in one tone, just as if she were
repeating from a book, and imparting the idea that it had been learnt
by heart. She wound up with saying the gipsies quitted the common in
the night; and therefore no doubt could remain that one of the women
had been the assailant. Mr. Chandos regarded her keenly.

"Lizzy Dene, what is your motive for pursuing these gipsies in the way
you do? No one accuses them but you."

"Motive, sir?" returned the woman.

"Ay; motive," he pointedly said. "I shall begin to suspect that you
know more about the matter than you would like made public. I think it
is you to whom we must look for an explanation, not the gipsies."

Did you ever see a pale face turn to a glowing, fiery red?—the scarlet
of confusion, if not of guilt? So turned Lizzy Dene's, to my utter
amazement, and I think to that of her master. Could _she_ have had
anything to do with the attack upon him? She stammered forth a few
deprecatory words, that, in suspecting the gipsies, she had only been
actuated by the wish to serve Mr. Chandos, and backed out of the
parlour.

Backed out to find herself confronted by a tall swarthy man, who had
made his way into the hall without the ceremony of knocking for
admittance. One of the gipsies unquestionably. Lizzie Dene gave a half
shriek and flew away, and the man came inside the room, fixing his
piercing eyes upon those of Mr. Chandos.

"It has been told to me this morning that you and your people accuse us
of having assaulted you," he began, without prelude. "Master, I have
walked back ten miles to set it right."

"I have not accused you," said Mr. Chandos. "The assault upon me—if it
can be called such—proceeded from a woman; but I have no more cause to
suspect that it was one of your women, than I have to suspect any other
woman in the wide world."

"'Twas none of ours, master. We was 'camped upon your common, and you
let us stop there unmolested; some lords of the soil drive us off ere
we can pitch our tent, hunt us away as they'd hunt a hare. You didn't;
you spoke kind to us, more than once in passing; you spoke kind to our
little children; and we'd have protected you with our own lives, any of
us, had need been. Do you believe me, master?"

The man's voice was earnest, and he raised his honest eyes, fierce
though they were, to Mr. Chandos, waiting for the question to be
answered.

"I do believe you."

"That's well, then, and what I came back hoping to hear. But now,
master, I'll tell ye what I saw myself that same night. I was coming up
toward this way, and you overtook me, riding fast. May be you noticed
me, for I touched my hat."

"I remember it," said Mr. Chandos.

"You rode in at the gates at a hand gallop; I could hear the horse's
hoofs in the silence of the evening. I met one of our fellows, and
stopped to speak to him, which hindered me three—or four minutes;
and—you know them trees to the left of the gate, master, with posts
afore 'em?"

"Well?" said Mr. Chandos.

"There stood a woman there when I got up. She was taking off a grey
cloak, and she folded it small and put it on her arm and walked away.
Folks put on clothes at night, instead of taking 'em off, was in my
thoughts, and I looked after her."

"Did you know her?"

"I never saw her afore. She was one in your condition of life, master,
for her clothes were brave, and the rings glittered on her fingers.
Next morning when we heard what had happened, we said she was the one.
I have not seen her since. She seemed to be making for the railroad."

"Why did you not come and tell me this at the time?"

"Nay, master, was it any business of mine? How did I know I should be
welcome? or that our people was suspected? That's all, sir."

"Will you take some refreshment?" said Mr. Chandos. "You are welcome to
it."

"Master, I don't need any."

The man, with a rude salute to me, turned and departed, and we saw him
treading the gravel walk with a fearless step. Mr. Chandos turned to me
with a smile.

"What do you think of all this?"

"I am sure that the gipsies are innocent."

"I have been tolerably sure of that from the first, for I knew that
their interest did not lie in making an enemy of me; rather the
contrary; what puzzles me, is Lizzy Dene's manner. But let us return to
the matter we were interrupted in, Miss Hereford. Go on with what you
were about to say."

Very shrinkingly I began, standing close to him, giving him a sketch of
the circumstances (Mrs. Paler's tardy payment) that caused me to be
without money; and asking him to lend me a trifle: just enough to take
me back to Nulle. About a guinea, I thought, or a guinea and a half: I
had a few shillings left still. Mr. Chandos seemed highly amused,
smiling in the most provoking way.

"Does Mrs. Paler really owe you thirty guineas?"

"Yes, sir. It is half a year's salary."

"Then I think she ought to pay you."

"Will you lend me the trifle, sir?"

"No. Not for the purpose you name. I will lend you as much as you like
to put in your pocket; but not to take you to Nulle."

"I must go, sir. At least I must go somewhere. And I only know the Miss
Barlieus in all the world."

"You wish to go because, in consequence of Emily's letter, you are
deeming yourself an encumbrance at Chandos?"

I made no answer in words: the colour that flushed into my cheeks was
all-sufficient.

"Let me speak to you confidentially," he said, taking my hand in his;
"for a few minutes we will understand each other as friends. I am
grieved that Emily's carelessness should have been the cause of
annoyance to you; my mother will be sadly vexed when I tell her; but
you must now listen to the explanation. There are certain family
reasons which render it inexpedient for a stranger to be located at
Chandos; even Emily herself would not at all times be welcome. Emily
left you here. As the days went on, and we heard nothing from her, my
mother desired me to write and inquire when she would be over, and to
reprove her thoughtlessness in leaving you at Chandos, when she knew
why it was more expedient that we should be alone. I simply wrote what
my mother desired me; no more; and this letter of Emily's to-day is the
answer to it. Now you have the whole gist of the affair. But I must ask
you fully to understand that it is not to you personally my mother has
an objection; on the contrary, she likes you; the objection applies to
_any_ one, save its regular inmates, who may be at Chandos. Did a royal
princess offer a visit here, she would be equally unwelcome. Do you
understand this?"

"Quite so. But, understanding it, I can only see the more necessity for
my leaving."

"And where would you go?"

"To Nulle. To the Miss Barlieus."

"No; that would not do," he said. "Emily has left you here under our
charge, and we cannot part with you, except to her. You said you must
be guided by me in your reading; you must be guided by me also in
this."

"I should only be too willing under happier circumstances. But you
cannot imagine how uncomfortable is the feeling of knowing that I am
intruding here in opposition to the wish of Lady Chandos."

"Lady Chandos does not blame you for it; be assured of that. And I can
tell you my mother has other things to think of just now than of you—or
Emily either. Will you try and make yourself contented?"

"You must please not say any more, Mr. Chandos. If I had nowhere else
to go to, it would be a different thing; but I have Miss Barlieu's
house."

"And suppose you had not that? Would you make yourself contented and
stay?"

"Yes," I said, rashly.

"Then be happy from this moment. Miss Barlieu's house is a barred one
to you at present."

Something like a leap of joy seemed to take my heart. His tone of truth
was not to be mistaken.

"Lady Chandos had a note from Miss Annette on Saturday," he said, his
beautiful truthful eyes fixed on my face with the same steady
earnestness that they had been all along. "Amidst other news it
contained the unpleasant tidings that fever had broken out at Nulle;
one of their young ladies had been seized with it, and was lying very
ill; and another was sickening."

"Oh, Mr. Chandos!"

"So you see we should not allow you to go there just now. Neither would
the Miss Barlieus receive you. As my mother observed, that news settled
the question."

I remained silent: in my shock and perplexity.

"Fever seems to be busy this autumn," he remarked, carelessly. "It is
in this neighbourhood; it is in Paris; it is in Nulle: and probably in
a great many more places."

"But, Mr. Chandos! what am I to do?"

"There is only one thing that you can do—or that Lady Chandos would
allow you to do: and that is, stay here. Not another word, Miss
Hereford. You can't help yourself, you know," he added, laughing; "and
we are happy to have you."

"But the objection that Lady Chandos feels to having any one?"

"Ah well—you will not be a dangerous visitor. If the worst came to the
worst, we shall have to enlist you on our side, and make you take a vow
of fidelity to Chandos and its interests."

He was speaking in a laughing joking way, so that one could not tell
whether his words were jest or earnest. Still they were curious ones.

"That is the situation, young lady. You can't help yourself, you see,
if you would. How much money will you have?"

"Oh, sir, none. I do not require it, if I am not to go. I wish—as I am
to stay here—I could make myself useful to some one."

"So you can; you can be useful to me. I will constitute you my
head-nurse and walking companion. I shall use your shoulder at will
until my foot has its free use again. Take care I don't tire you out."

He had kept my hand in his all that while, and now those deep blue
speaking eyes of his, gazing still into mine, danced with merriment or
pleasure. A thrill of rapture ran through me, and I never asked myself
wherefore. Could it be that I was learning to love Mr. Chandos?

I sat in the oak parlour through the live-long day; I had nowhere else
to sit but in my bedroom. Dangerous companionship!—that of an
attractive man like Mr. Chandos.

Calling Hickens to his aid in the afternoon, he went slowly up to the
apartments of Lady Chandos, and I saw no more of him until dinner time.
Meanwhile I wrote a long letter to Miss Annette, expressing my great
sympathy with the illness amidst the schoolgirls, and begging her to
write and tell me which of them were ill, and also to let me know the
very instant that the house should be safe again, for that I wanted to
come to it.

In the evening Mr. Chandos, his lamp at his elbow, read aloud from a
volume of Tennyson. I worked. Never had poetry sounded so sweet before;
never will it sound sweeter; and when I went upstairs to bed, the
melodious measure, and that still more melodious voice, yet rang in my
ears.

To bed, but not to rest. What was the matter with me? I know not, but I
could not sleep. Tossing and turning from side to side, now a line of
the poems would recur to me: now would rise up the face of Mr. Chandos;
now the remembrance of Lady Chandos's vexation at my being there. As
the clock struck one, I rose from my uneasy bed, determined to try what
walking about the chamber would do. Pulling the blind aside, quietly
opening the shutters, I paused to look out on the lovely night, its
clear atmosphere and its shining stars nearly as bright as day.

Why!—was I awake? or was I dreaming? There, under the shade of the
thick trees, keeping close to them, as if not wishing to be seen, but
all too plain to me, nevertheless, paced Mr. Chandos, wrapped in a
large over-coat. What had become of his lame foot? That he walked
slowly, as one does who is weak, there was no denying, but still he did
not walk _lame_. Did, or would, a state of somnambulancy cause a
disabled limb to recover temporary service and strength? Every sense I
possessed, every reason, answered no. As I gazed at the sight with
bewildered brain and beating heart, Mrs. Penn's words flashed over
me—that it was the ghost of the dead Sir Thomas which was said to haunt
the groves of Chandos.

Could it be? Was I looking at a real ghost? We all know how susceptible
the brain is to superstition in the lonely midnight hours, and I
succumbed in that moment to an awful terror. Don't laugh at me. With a
smothered cry, I flew to the bed, leaped in, and covered my face with
the bedclothes.

One idea was uppermost amid the many that crowded on me. If that was
indeed the spirit of Sir Thomas, he must have died a younger man than I
supposed, and have borne a great likeness to his son, Harry Chandos.

The morning's bright sun dispelled all ghostly illusions. I went out of
doors as soon as I got down, just for a run along the broad walk and
back again. At the corner where the angle hid the house, I came upon
Mrs. Penn and the postman, only a few yards off. She had stopped to
look at the addresses of the letters he was bringing. The sight sent me
back again; but not before she turned and saw me. Not only did the
action appear to me dishonourable—one I could not have countenanced—but
some instinct seemed to say that Mrs. Penn was unjustifiably prying
into the affairs of the Chandos family.

As Hickens took the letters from the man in the hall, Mrs. Penn came
into the oak parlour. I was pouring out my coffee then.

"I am quite in despair," she exclaimed, flinging herself into a chair,
with short ceremony. "These three days have I been expecting news of an
invalid friend; and it does not come. I hope and trust she is not
dead!"

"Perhaps she is unable to write?"

"She is. I said news of her; not from her. When I saw the postman come
in at the gates just now, hope rose up within me, and I ran to meet
him. But hope was false. The man brought me no letter, nothing but
disappointment."

I am not sure but I must have had a wicked heart about that time.
Instead of feeling sympathy with Mrs. Penn and her sick friend, a sort
of doubt came over me, that she was only saying this to excuse her
having stopped the postman. She untied the strings of her black lace
bonnet, and rose, saying she supposed breakfast would be ready by the
time she got upstairs.

"Mrs. Penn," I interposed, taking a sudden resolution to speak, "was
that a joke of yours yesterday, about Sir Thomas Chandos?"

"About his ghost, do you mean? It was certainly not my joke. Why?"

"Nothing. I have been thinking about it."

"I don't tell you the ghost comes; but I should watch if I had the
opportunity. The shutters in the front of the east wing are
unfortunately fastened down with iron staples. I conclude—I
_conclude_," repeated Mrs. Penn, slowly and thoughtfully—"as a
precaution against the looking out of Mrs. Chandos."

"I daresay it is the greatest nonsense in the world. A ghost! People
have grown wise now."

"I daresay it may be nonsense," she rejoined. "But for one thing I
should heartily say it is nothing else."

"And that one thing, Mrs. Penn?"

"I will not disclose it to you, Anne Hereford. The report is common
enough in the neighbourhood. Inquire of any of the petty shopkeepers in
the hamlet, and you will find it to be so. They will tell you that
rumours have been afloat for a long while that Sir Thomas may be seen
at night in the pine walk."

She quitted the room as she spoke, leaving on my mind a stronger
impression than ever that I had met her somewhere in my lifetime, had
talked with her and she with me. There was in her manner an unconscious
familiarity rarely indulged in save from old acquaintanceship. It was
strange that she and Mr. Chandos should both strike on chords of my
memory. Chords that would not be traced.

They were fortunate in this new companion. Gathering a word from one
and another, I heard she was thoroughly efficient. And they made much
of her, treating her essentially as a lady. She went out in the
carriage with Mrs. Chandos; she talked to Mr. Chandos as an equal; she
patronized me. But a whisper floated through the house that the only
one who did not take kindly to her was Mrs. Chandos.



CHAPTER XIX.
TELEGRAPHING FOR A PHYSICIAN.

Some uncomfortable days passed on. Uncomfortable in one sense. Heaven
knows I was happy enough, for the society of Mr. Chandos had become all
too dear, and in it I was basking away the golden hours. Looking back
now I cannot sufficiently blame myself. Not for staying at Chandos; I
could not help that; but for allowing my heart to yield unresistingly
to the love. How could I suppose it would end? Alas! that was what I
never so much as thought of: the present was becoming too much of an
Elysium for me to look questioning beyond it; it was as a very haven of
sweet and happy rest.

With some of the other inmates, things seemed to be anything but easy.
Lady Chandos was still invisible; and, by what I could gather, growing
daily worse. Mr. Chandos, his lameness better, looked bowed down with a
weight of apprehensive care. Hill was in a state of fume and fret; and
the women-servants, meeting in odd corners, spoke whisperingly of the
figure that nightly haunted Chandos.

What astonished me more than anything was, that no medical man was
called in to Lady Chandos. Quite unintentionally, without being able to
help myself, I overheard a few words spoken between Hill and Mr.
Chandos. That Lady Chandos was dangerously ill, and medical aid an
absolute necessity, appeared indisputable; and yet it seemed they did
not dare to summon it. It was a riddle unfathomable. The surgeon from
Hetton, Mr. Dickenson, came still to Mr. Chandos every day. What would
have been easier than for him to go up to Lady Chandos? He never did,
however; he was not asked to do so. Day after day he would say, "How is
Lady Chandos?" and Mr. Chandos's reply would be, "Much the same."

The omission also struck on Mrs. Penn. One day, when she had come into
my chamber uninvited, she spoke of it abruptly, looking full in my
face, in her keen way.

"How is it they don't have a doctor to her?"

"What is the use of asking me, Mrs. Penn? I cannot tell why they
don't."

"Do you never hear Mr. Chandos say why?"

"Never. At the beginning of her illness, he said his mother knew how to
treat herself, and that she had a dislike to doctors."

"There's more in it than that, I think," returned Mrs. Penn, in a tone
of significance. "That surly Hill wont answer a single question. All I
get out of her is, 'My lady's no better.' Mrs. Chandos goes into the
west wing most days, but she is as close as Hill. The fact is—it is
very unfortunate, but Mrs. Chandos appears to have taken a dislike to
me."

"Taken a dislike to you!"

Mrs. Penn nodded. "And not a word upon any subject, save the merest
conversational trifles, will she speak. But I have my own opinion of
Lady Chandos's illness: if I am right, their reticence is accounted
for."

Again the tone was so significant that I could but note it, and looked
to her for an explanation. She dropped her voice as she gave it.

"I think that the malady which has attacked Lady Chandos is not bodily,
but mental; and that they, in consequence, keep her in seclusion. Poor
woman! She has had enough trouble to drive her mad."

"Oh, Mrs. Penn! Mad!"

"I mean what I say."

"But did you not have an interview with her when you came?"

"Yes, a short one. Harry Chandos was sitting with her, and went out,
after a few words to me, staying in the next room. It seemed to me that
she was impatient to have him back again: any way, she cut the meeting
very short. I am bound to say that she appeared collected then."

Mrs. Penn lifted her hand, glittering with rings, to her brow as she
spoke, and pushed slightly back her glowing hair. Her face looked
troubled—that kind of trouble that arises from perplexity.

"Allowing it to be as you fancy, Mrs. Penn, they would surely have a
doctor to her. Any medical man, if requested, would keep the secret."

"Ah! it's not altogether that, I expect," returned Mrs. Penn, with a
curious look. "You would keep it, and I would keep it, as inmates of
the family; and yet you see how jealously we are excluded. I suspect
the true motive is, that they dare not risk the revelations she might
make."

"What revelations?"

"You do not, perhaps, know it, Miss Hereford, but there is a sword
hanging over the Chandos family," she continued, dropping her voice to
a whisper. "An awful sword. It is suspended by a hair; and a chance
word of betrayal might cause it to fall. Of that chance word the
Chandoses live in dread. Lady Chandos, if she be really insane, might
inadvertently speak it."

"Over which of them?" I exclaimed, in dismay.

"I had rather not tell you which. It lies over them all, so to say. It
is that, beyond question, which keeps Sir Thomas in India: when the
blow comes, he can battle with it better there than at home. They lie
under enough disgrace as it is: they will lie under far greater then."

"They appear to be just those quiet, unpretending, honourable people
who could not invoke disgrace. They—surely you cannot be alluding to
Miss Chandos's runaway marriage!" I broke off, as the thought occurred
to me.

"Tush! Runaway marriages are as good as others for what I see," avowed
Mrs. Penn, with careless creed. "I question if Miss Chandos even knows
of the blow that fell on them. I tell you, child, it was a fearful one.
It killed old Sir Thomas; it must be slowly killing Lady Chandos. Do
you not observe how they seclude themselves from the world?"

"They might have plenty of visitors if they chose."

"They _don't_ have them. Any one in the secret would wonder if they
did. Looking back, there's the disgrace that has fallen; looking
forward, there's the terrible blow that has yet to fall."

"What is the nature of the disgrace?—what is the blow?"

Mrs. Penn shook her head resolutely. "I am unable to tell you, for two
reasons. It is not my place to reveal private troubles of the family
sheltering me; and its details would not be meet for a young lady's
ears. Ill doings generally leave their consequences behind them—as they
have here. Harry Chandos——"

"There is no ill-doing attaching to _him_," I interrupted, a great deal
too eagerly.

A smile of derision parted the lips of Mrs. Penn. I saw that it must be
one of two things—Harry Chandos was not a good man, or else Mrs. Penn
disliked him.

"You don't know," she said. "And if you did, Harry Chandos can be
nothing to you."

Her light eyes were turned on me with a searching look, and my cheeks
went into a red heat. Mrs. Penn gathered her conclusions.

"Child," she impressively said, "if you are acquiring any liking for
Harry Chandos, _dis_-acquire it. Put the thought of him far from you.
That he may be a pleasant man in intercourse, I grant; but he must not
become too pleasant to you, or to any other woman. Never waste your
heart on a man who cannot marry."

"Cannot _he_ marry?"

"No. But I am saying more than I ought," she suddenly added. "We get
led on unconsciously in talking, and one word brings out another."

I could have boxed her ears in my vexation. Never, never had the idea
of marrying Mr. Chandos crossed my mind; no, not in the wildest dream
of dreams. I was a poor dependent governess; he was the presumptive
heir to Sir Thomas Chandos.

"To return to what I was saying of Lady Chandos," resumed Mrs. Penn.
"Rely upon it, I am right: that she has been suddenly afflicted with
insanity. There is no other way of accounting for the mystery attaching
to that west wing."

I sat down to think when she left me. To think. Could it possibly be
true, her theory?—were there sufficient apparent grounds for it? My
poor brain—bewildered with the strange events passing around on the
surface or beneath the surface, this new supposition one of the
strangest—was unable to decide.

Had somebody come in to say I'd had a fortune left me, I could not have
been more surprised than when Hill appeared with a gracious face. Lady
Chandos's carriage was going into Marden on an errand—would I like the
drive there and back? It might be a change for me.

"You dear good Hill!" I cried, in my delight. "I'll never call you
cross again."

"Then just please to put your things on at once, and leave off talking
nonsense, Miss Hereford," was Hill's reproval.

Again, as before, it was a lovely day, and altogether the greatest
treat they could have given me. I liked the drive, and I liked the
state it was taken in. A magnificent carriage and horses, powdered
servants, and one pretty girl seated inside. Which was ME!

It was a good opportunity to inquire after my lost handkerchief, and I
told James to stop at Mrs. Howard's. Accordingly the carriage drew up
there the first thing. But the answer was not satisfactory. Mrs. Howard
was gone. "On the Continent," they believed.

"When will she be back?" I asked, leaning from the carriage to speak.

The servant girl, rather a dirty one and slipshod, did not know. Not at
all, she thought. Mrs. Howard had left for good.

"But does Mrs. Howard not live here? Is not this her house?"

"No, ma'am. She lodged here for a little while; that was all."

I don't know why the information struck on my mind as curious, but it
did so. Why should she have been there one day, as it were, and be gone
the next? It might be all right, however, and I fanciful. Mrs. Penn had
said—Mrs. Howard herself had said—she was going to visit her daughter
in Brussels. Only I had thought she lived in that house at Marden.

That evening I found I had to dine alone. Mr. Chandos was rather
poorly, not able to eat any dinner, Hickens said. How solitary it was
to me, nobody knows.

Afterwards, when I was sitting at the window in the dusk, he came
downstairs. He had been in the west wing nearly all day. Opening his
desk, he took out a bundle of letters: which appeared to be what he had
come for.

"You must feel lonely, Miss Hereford?"

"A little, sir."

"That 'sir!'" he said, with a smile. "I am sorry not to be able to be
down here with you. When I get better, we will have our pleasant times
again."

I was standing up by the table. He held out his hand to shake mine.
Thin and shadowy he always looked, but his face wore a grey hue in the
dusk of the room.

"I fear you are very ill, sir. Suppose it should be the fever?"

"It is not the fever."

"But how can you tell it is not?"

"Do not be alarmed. It is nothing but—but what I have had before.
Good-night, and take care of yourself."

His tone was strangely sad, his spirits were evidently depressed, and a
foreboding of ill fell upon me. It was not lessened when I heard that a
bed was made up for him in the west wing, that Lady Chandos and Hill
might be within call in the night in case of need.

Therefore, when consternation broke over the house next morning, I was
half prepared for it. Mr. Chandos was alarmingly ill, and a telegraphic
express had gone up at dawn for a London physician.

It was so sudden, so unexpected, that none of the household seemed able
to comprehend it. As to Hill, she bustled about like one demented. A
large table was placed at the west wing door, and things likely to be
wanted in the sickroom were carried up and put there, ready to her
hand.

The physician, a Dr. Amos, arrived in the afternoon, the carriage
having been sent to await him at the Hetton terminus. A slight-made
man, dressed in black, with a Roman nose, and glasses resting on it.
Hickens marshalled him to the door of the west wing, where Hill
received him.

He stayed a long while; but they said he was taking refreshments as
well as seeing his patient. The servants all liked Mr. Chandos, and
they stood peeping in doorways, anxious for the doctor to come out.
Hill came down and caught them, a jug in hand.

"Hill, do wait a moment and tell me!" I cried, as they flew away. "Does
he find Mr. Chandos dangerously ill?"

"There's a change for the better," she answered. "Mr. Chandos will be
about again to-morrow or next day. For goodness sake don't keep me with
questions now, Miss Hereford!"

Not I. I did not care to keep her after that good news; and I ran away
as light as a bird.

The carriage drew up to the portico and Dr. Amos came down to it
attended by Hickens and Hill. After he passed the parlour-door, I
looked out of it, and saw Mr. Dexter come up. He had heard the news of
Mr. Chandos's illness, and had come to inquire after him. Seeing the
gentleman, who carried physician in his every look, about to step into
the carriage, Mr. Dexter had no difficulty in divining who he was.
Raising his hat, he accosted him.

"I hope, sir, you have not found Mr. Harry Chandos seriously ill?"

"Mr. Harry Chandos is very ill indeed!—very ill!" replied Dr. Amos, who
appeared to be a pleasant man. "I fear there are but faint hopes of
him."

"Good heavens!" cried the thunderstruck agent when he was able to
speak. "But faint hopes? How awfully sudden it must have come on!"

"Sudden? Not at all. It has been coming on for some time. He may have
grown rapidly worse, if you mean that. In saying but faint hopes, I
mean, of course, of his eventual recovery. He'll not be quite laid by
yet."

Dr. Amos entered the carriage with the last words, and it drove away,
leaving his hearers to digest them; leaving me, I know, with a mist
before my eyes and pulses that had ceased to beat. Hill's sharp tones
broke the silence, bearing harshly upon Mr. Dexter.

"What on earth need _you_ have interfered for? Can't a doctor come and
go from a place but he must be smothered with questions? If you have
got anything to ask, you can ask me."

"Why, Mrs. Hill, what do you mean?" remonstrated the agent. "I intended
no harm, and I have done no harm. But what a pitiable thing about Mr.
Chandos!"

"Doctors are not oracles always," snapped Hill. "My opinion's as good
as his, and I know Mr. Chandos _will_ get better: there's every chance
that he'll be about to-morrow. The bad symptoms seem to be going off as
sudden as they came on."

"Hill," I whispered, laying hold of her gown as she was flouncing past
me, "you say he may be about to-morrow; but will he get well
eventually?"

"That's another affair," answered Hill.

"Dr. Amos said it had been coming on a long while," I pursued,
detaining her still. "What complaint is it?"

"It's just a complaint that you had better not ask about, for your
curiosity can't be satisfied, Miss Hereford," was Hill's response, as
she broke away.

Broke away, leaving me. In my dreadful uncertainty, I went up to
Hickens, who was standing still, looking so sad, and asked him to tell
me what was the matter with Mr. Chandos.

"I don't know any more than you, Miss. Mr. Chandos has had a vast deal
of grief and trouble, and it may be telling upon him. He has looked ill
of late."

No comfort anywhere—no comfort. How I got through the day I don't know.
It seemed as if I had received my death-knell, instead of he his.

Hill's opinion, in one respect, proved to be a correct one, for the
next day Mr. Chandos appeared to the household. He came down about
twelve o'clock, looking pale and subdued—but so he often looked—and I
must say I could not detect much change in him. Starting from my seat
in the oak-parlour, as he entered it, went up to him in the impulse of
the moment. He took both my hands.

"Glad to see me again?"

"Yes, I am glad," I whispered, calming down my excitement, and
swallowing the intrusive tears that had risen. "Mr. Chandos, are you so
very ill?"

"Who has been telling you that I am?" he inquired, walking to an
arm-chair by help of my shoulder, for his ankle was weak yet, but not
releasing me when he had sat down in it.

"I heard Dr. Amos say so. He said——"

"What did he say? Why do you stop?"

I could not answer. I could not disclose the opinion I had heard.

"I suppose you were within hearing when the doctor said he had but
faint hopes of me?"

"Yes, I was. But, Mr. Chandos, who could have told you that Dr. Amos
said it?"

"I was told," he smiled. "All are not so cautious as you, my little
maid."

"But I hope it is not true. I hope you will get well."

"Would it give you any concern if I did not?"

My face flushed as I stood before him. Instead of answering, I bent it
like a culprit—like a simpleton.

"I may cheat the doctors yet," he said, cheerfully.

"Have you been ill long?"

"I have not been quite well. Anxiety of mind sometimes takes its
revenge upon the body."

He moved away to his desk as he spoke, which stood on a side-table. It
was quite evident he did not wish to pursue the topic. What could I do
but let it drop? Taking up my work, I carried it to the window, while
he stood rummaging the desk, evidently searching for something. Every
individual thing was at length turned out of it and put back again.

"Well, it's very strange!"

"What is it, sir?" That sir! as he would say. But I felt too shy, in my
new and all-conscious feeling for him, to discard it entirely.

He had missed his note-book. One he was in the habit of using for any
purpose; as a sort of diary, and also to enter business matters. That
he had locked it up in his desk when he last wrote in it, two days ago,
he felt absolutely certain.

"Have you left your keys about, sir?"

"I don't know. I generally put them in my pocket. But if I did leave
them about, nobody would use them. Our servants are honest."

The book, however, could not be found. Mr. Chandos looked for it, I
looked, the servants looked. He said, in a joking sort of manner, that
some sleight-of-hand must have been at work; and sat down to write a
letter. I saw its address: London, Henry Amos, M.D.

While making tea for Mr. Chandos in the evening, a discussion arose
about the date of Emily's last letter, and I ran to my room to get it.
Just within the door I encountered Lizzy Dene, darting out with a haste
that nearly knocked me down.

"What did you want in my room, Lizzy?"

She murmured some incoherent answer about taking the housemaid's place
that evening. A lame excuse. All work connected with the chambers had
to be done by daylight; it was a rule of the house. I had had doubts,
vague and indefinable, of Lizzy Dene for some days—that the girl was
not altogether what she seemed. She looked red and confused now.

Emily's letter was not to be found. And yet I knew that I had tied it
up with two or three others and left the packet in a certain
compartment of my smaller trunk. Both boxes looked as though they had
been searched over, for the things were not as I placed them. But I
missed nothing, except the letters. Lizzy was in the gallery now,
peering out at the window close by I called to her to come in, and bade
her shut the door.

"Boxes opened! Letters gone!" she retorted, in a passionate tone—though
I had only mentioned the fact. "I have never laid a finger on anything
belonging to you, Miss. It's come to a pretty pass if I am to be
suspected of that."

"Will you tell me what you were doing in my room, Lizzy?"

"No I wont!" Doggedly.

"I insist upon knowing: or I shall call Mrs. Hill."

"Well then, I _will_ tell; I can't be hung for it," she returned, with
sudden resolution. "I came into your room, Miss, to look for something
in the grounds that I thought might come there."

"The ghost?" I said, incautiously.

"So _you_ know of it, Miss!" was her answer. "Yes; it is walking again:
and I'm veering round to their way of thought. Mrs. Hill has locked up
the turret, so that lookout is barred to us."

She pulled open the door with a jerk, and departed. The draught of air
blew out my frail wax taper, and I went to the window: Lizzy had left
the curtains and shutters open. I had no fear; it never occurred to me
that there could be anything to see. But superstition is catching,
and—what did my eyes rest upon?

In the old spot, hovering about the entrance to the pine-walk, was a
man's shadowy figure; the one I had been told to believe was looked
upon as the ghost of Sir Thomas Chandos.

These things can be laughed at in the open day in the broad sunshine.
We are ready then to brave ghosts, to acknowledge them to be myths of
the fancy, as indisputably as we know the bogies of children to be
puppets dressed up to frighten them; but all alone in the darkness the
case is different. I was by myself on that vast floor; Lizzy Dene had
gone down, the wing-doors were shut, silence reigned. Once more terror
got the better of me, the pacing figure was all too shadowy, and
downstairs I flew, crossed the lighted hall, and burst into the
oak-parlour to Mr. Chandos.

"Have you been waiting to re-write the letter?" he asked, "oblivious
that your tea stood here, getting cold!"

I could make no answer just yet, but sank into my seat with a white
face.

"You look as though you had seen a ghost," he jestingly said.

And then I burst into tears, just for a moment; the effect no doubt of
nervous excitement. Mr. Chandos rose at once, his manner changing to
one of tender kindness.

"Has anything alarmed you?"

"I cannot find Madame de Mellissie's letter," was all I answered,
feeling vexed with myself.

"But that is not the cause of _this_. Something has frightened you.
Come, Miss Hereford; I must know what it is," he concluded, with that
quiet command of manner so few resist.

I did not: perhaps did not care to: and told him briefly what had
occurred. Not mentioning suspicions of Lizzy Dene or what she said; but
simply that the woman had opened the door too hastily, thereby putting
my candle out—and then on to what I had seen.

"It must have been one of the gardeners," he quietly observed. "Why
should that have alarmed you?"

That the gardeners never remained in the gardens after twilight,
obeying the strict orders of the house, I knew. "Not a gardener," I
answered, "but a ghost." And, taking courage, I told him all I had
heard—that a ghost was said to walk nightly in the grounds.

"Whose ghost?" he asked, with angry sharpness.

"Your late father's, sir; Sir Thomas Chandos."

He turned quickly to the mantelpiece, put his elbow on it, and stood
there with his back to me. But that his face had looked so troubled, I
might have thought he did it to indulge in a quiet laugh.

"Miss Hereford, you cannot seriously believe in such nonsense!"

"No, indeed; not in collected moments; but I was left alone in the
dark, and the surprise at seeing some one changed to fright."

"May I inquire from whom you heard this fine tale?"

"From Mrs. Penn first. But the women-servants talk of it. Lizzy Dene
confessed she had gone up now to watch for it?"

He turned round quickly. "_What_ do you say? Lizzy Dene went up to
watch for it?"

"I was not pleased at finding Lizzy in my room; she has no business to
call her there, and I insisted upon knowing what took her to it. At
first she would not say, but presently confessed: she had gone to watch
for the ghost."

If ever a man's countenance betrayed a sickly dread, Mr. Chandos's did
then. He went to the door, hesitated, and came back again, as if
scarcely knowing what to be about.

"And she saw it?—saw some one walking there? She, and you?"

"I don't think she did; I saw it after she had gone. Oh, Mr. Chandos; I
can see you are angry with me! I am very sorry; I——"

"Angry? no," he interrupted, in a gentle tone. "I only think how
foolish you must be to listen to anything of the sort. I wish I could
have shielded you from this alarm! I wish you had not come just now to
Chandos!"

He rang the bell; a loud peal; and desired that Hill should be sent to
him. I had never seen his face so stern as when he turned it upon her.

"Can you not contrive to keep the women-servants to their proper
occupations, Hill? I hear they are going about the house looking after
ghosts."

"Sir! Mr. Harry!"

"Miss Hereford went to her room just now, and found Lizzy Dene at its
window. The woman said she was watching for the ghost."

Hill's face presented a picture. She stood more like a petrifaction
than a living woman. Mr. Chandos recalled her to herself.

"Hill!" was all he said.

"I'll see about it, sir. I'll give that Lizzy Dene a word of a sort."

"I think you had better give her no 'word' at all, in the sense you
indicate," returned Mr. Chandos. "Keep the women to their duties below
at night, and say nothing. _Let the ghost die out, Hill_."

"Very well, sir."

"As I daresay it will do, quietly enough. Sit with them yourself, if
necessary. And—Hill—there's no necessity to mention anything of this to
Lady Chandos."

"But—Mr. Harry——"

"Yes, yes; I know what you would say," he interrupted; "leave that to
me."

He went limping out at the hall-door as he spoke. Hill disappeared in
the direction of the kitchens, muttering angrily. . "That beast of a
Lizzy! If she should get spreading this among the out-door men! I
always said that girl brought no good to Chandos."



CHAPTER XX.
LIZZY DENE.


"For my heart was hot and restless:
And my life was full of care;
And the burden laid upon me
Seemed greater than I could bear."

Seated back in the shade, where the sunlight of the afternoon did not
fall upon him, I saw him lift his hands at the last line, with a
gesture half of despair, half of prayer, and then lay them on his pale
face. Whatever his burden might be, it was a heavy one. It was he who
had asked me to sing—Mr. Chandos; for the first time since I was in the
house. Not much of a singer at the best, I never ventured on any but
the most simple songs: and, of modern ones, "The Bridge," set to music
by Miss Lindsay, is the sweetest.

"But now it has fallen from me;
It is buried in the sea;
And only the sorrow of others
Throws its shadow over me."

Rather boisterously the door was opened, and Mrs. Penn came in. Her
hair was decidedly of a more glowing red than usual; but her light
green gown of damask silk, her point-lace lappets thrown behind, her
gold ornaments, ay, and herself, were altogether handsome. Mr. Chandos
rose.

"Oh, I beg your pardon," she said, "for entering so unceremoniously.
Hearing the piano, I thought Miss Hereford was alone."

I turned round on the music-stool and sat facing the room. Mr. Chandos
handed her a chair.

"Thank you," she said, hesitating to take it. "Mrs. Chandos is in the
west wing: but perhaps I shall be intruding if I remain?"

"Not at all," replied Mr. Chandos. "Miss Hereford may be glad of your
company. I am going to the west wing myself."

"Have you found your manuscript, Mr. Chandos?"

"What manuscript?"

She paused a moment. "I heard yesterday you had lost one. When Emma
came in about her housemaid's duties last evening, she mentioned it."

It may as well be said, en passant, that Emma was housemaid to the east
wing; Harriet to the chambers on the first floor generally, mine
included; Lizzy Dene to the west wing: but it would frequently be the
pleasure of Lady Chandos that Lizzy did not enter her apartments for
days together, only Hill.

"It was a memorandum-book; not a manuscript," said Mr. Chandos.

"Oh; I understood her to say a manuscript."

"I have not found it," he continued. "Fortunately the contents are of
little consequence. They consist chiefly of notes relative to the
everyday business of the estate, and a few private items concerning
myself. Some things are entered in hieroglyphics of my own," he
continued, with a half laugh, "and I'll defy the thief to make them
out, however clever he may be. The singular thing is, how it could have
disappeared from my locked desk."

"You must have left your keys out," she quickly said.

"That is more than likely. Having honest people about me at Chandos, I
have not been over-particular."

"It is a bad practice to leave keys where they may be picked up and
used; it gives opportunities that otherwise might never have been
seized upon," observed Mrs. Penn, in a dreamy tone.

"Not a bit of it, madam. Unless dishonest people are at hand to take
advantage of the opportunities."

"Then how do you think your book can have gone, Mr. Chandos?"

"Well, I cannot think. I am content to leave the elucidation to time."

Mrs. Penn looked at him: she seemed to be hesitating over something. It
was so palpable that Mr. Chandos noticed it.

"What is it?" he asked.

"I think I will speak," she said, with sudden decision. "Though indeed
I do not like to do so, Mr. Chandos: and I certainly should not, but
for hearing of this loss of yours. I have had a small loss too."

Mr. Chandos sat down; he had been standing since she came in; and
waited for her to continue.

"It is not of much value; but—as you say by your book—it is the fact of
its having gone that troubles me. Only a bit of what we call Honiton
lace, about three yards of it, two inches in width. That it was safe in
my workbox yesterday morning I know. This morning it was no longer
there."

"Was the workbox locked?"

"It was. I had left it in the library, locked. My keys were in a drawer
of my bedroom, where I keep them, for they are heavy, and weigh down my
dress-pockets. Curious to say, upon looking for my keys this morning, I
found them not in the usual drawer, but in the fellow-drawer beside it.
Whoever had taken them out forgot which was the right drawer and put
them back in the wrong one."

"And you missed the lace?"

"Yes. It happened that I was going to use it to trim some sleeves: but
for that I might not have missed it for weeks. It was in the bottom of
the workbox, lying a-top of some other things: as soon as I lifted the
upper tray I saw it was gone. Of course I searched the box over, but
without result."

"Have you spoken to the servants?"

"I have not said much, lest they should think I accused them. What I
said was that I had lost or mislaid some lace; and described it. They
all appear to be quite innocent. Still, the lace could not go without
hands.

"I don't like this," observed Mr. Chandos, after a pause.

"It is not the loss in itself—as I say: it is the feeling of insecurity
it leaves," returned Mrs. Penn. "One cannot be sure that other things
will not follow. But I must not detain you longer," she added, rising.
"I hope, Mr. Chandos, you will not think I have been wrong or unkind to
mention this."

"I think you have done quite right, Mrs. Penn," he warmly replied, as
he opened the door for her. "If we really have a thief in the house,
the sooner we are upon our guard the better. Take greater care of your
keys for the present. As to the lace, Mrs. Chandos will make it good to
you——"

"Sir! Mr. Chandos!" she interrupted, rather fiercely. "Oh, pray don't
talk in that way; I shall be vexed to have mentioned it. The loss is
nothing."

She left the room. Not a word had I spoken all the while; not a
syllable as to my own boxes having been visited. I did not care to
throw any accusation upon Lizzy Dene. Besides, the matter seemed to
present contradiction to my mind: as I found by the next words it was
doing to that of Mr. Chandos.

"I cannot fathom this at all: unless we have two light-fingered people
in the house. Mrs. Penn's lace must have been cribbed by one of the
maids, I fear; but it is hardly likely she'd take a memorandum-book.
Where would be the use of it to any one of them? There were things of
value in my desk, not touched: a gold paper-knife; a large gold seal;
and some loose silver. Well, we must wait; and meanwhile take care of
our keys," he concluded, as he left the parlour.

I finished my interrupted song in a low voice, sang another or two, and
then went up to my room. Mrs. Penn was standing at the library-door.

"Has Mr. Chandos gone into the west wing, do you know, Miss Hereford?"

"I think so. He quitted the parlour almost as soon as you did."

"I am sorry to have missed him. I don't know what he'll think of me.
Did you notice my omission?"

"What omission?"

"Never to have asked after his health. I feel ashamed of myself. I have
not seen him since the day's illness he had, when the physician came
down to him. I _hate_ to be unfeeling," added Mrs. Penn, in wrath. "But
what with seeing him in the oak-parlour when I expected only you were
there, and what with the thought of my lace, I completely forgot it."

"He says he is better. I think he must be very much better from the
alarming state they said he was in that day. But he looks ill."

"_That's_ caused by worry; his ill looks," said Mrs. Penn. "I should
wonder if he could look well. Look at his figure: it's no better than a
skeleton's."

We had been walking together to the end of the library. I don't know
whether I have mentioned it before, but every evening a good hour
before dusk, the door of this library was locked for the night by Hill,
and the key carried away in her pocket. Mrs. Penn turned to me as we
stood together at the window, dropping her voice to a whisper.

"Was there not something _mysterious_ about his illness?"

Frankly speaking, I thought there was. But in mind I had connected it
in some undefined way with his sleepwalking. I could not say this.

"But that he is so remarkably unlikely a subject for it, a living
atomy, as may be said, I should think it had been a fit," she
continued. "Did you hear whether the London doctor also saw Lady
Chandos?"

"No, I did not. There's nobody to inquire of, except Hill. And you know
how much information we should be likely to get from her."

"Except _him_," corrected Mrs. Penn, with emphasis. "With all his sins,
Harry Chandos is a gentleman and would give you an answer."

I shook my head. It was not my place, a young visitor there on
sufferance, to inquire of things they seemed to wish not inquired of:
and I said as much to Mrs. Penn.

"You are too fastidious, Miss Hereford; you are no better than a
schoolgirl. Look here," she added, turning briskly, "this is the
workbox. I will show you where the lace was."

It was a large, handsome box; a beautiful box; tortoiseshell inlaid
with silver, its fittings of silver and sky-blue velvet; its scissors
(save the steel part), its thimble, bodkin, and stiletto of gold.

"I wonder they did not take _these_ as well as the lace."

"They might be afraid to do that," said Mrs. Penn. "See!" she cried,
lifting the tray, "that's where it lay. It was a very handsome piece of
lace, and I am sorry to lose it."

The sweeping of a silk dress along the corridor gave token of the
approach of Mrs. Chandos. She passed into the east wing and Mrs. Penn
hastened after her. Standing at the door of the west wing, as if he had
attended Mrs. Chandos from it, was Mr. Chandos. He saw us both come out
of the library.

Where he had his dinner that day I don't know. Mine was over and the
things were taken away before I saw him again. I had been upstairs for
a book and met him in the hall. He followed me to the oak-parlour and
threw himself into a chair, like one utterly weary.

"You have not been walking much, have you, Mr. Chandos?"

"Not much; my foot's too weak yet. I have been taking a turn or two in
the pine-walk. And you? Have you been spirit-gazing again?"

I did not answer, except by a shake of the head, and he sat for a long
while in silence, breaking it at last abruptly.

"Does Mrs. Penn get looking from the front windows, after that—that
sight—that you professed to see the night before last?"

"I think she would like to do so: but there's no opportunity. The rooms
in the east wing do not look to the front, you know."

"Ah, I see you and she get talking of this together."

"The talking has been very little, and of her seeking, not mine. I
would rather she never spoke to me at all of it: it embarrasses me."

"Why does it embarrass you?"

"I—I——"

"Well?" he said, looking straight at me.

"I don't like to say, Mr. Chandos."

He left his chair and came to the window, where I stood playing with
the jessamine. How soft the air was! how sweet the perfume of the
flowers in the approaching night!

"Now then. I am come to hear what you mean."

The tones were persuasive: the face, as it drooped a little, wore a
smile of inviting confidence. I bent my head and told him—that I
thought what people had seen at midnight and taken for a ghost might be
himself walking in his sleep; but that I could not say this to Mrs.
Penn. He made no rejoinder whatever. He lifted his head and gazed
straight out towards the entrance of the pine-walk.

"Shall I tell Mrs. Penn that it is not a ghost at all, sir, and set her
mind, so far, at rest? I need not give any particulars."

"But suppose it is a ghost, Miss Hereford?"

The tones were very sad and serious. My heart beat a little quicker.

"Did you not assure me you saw it the other night—when I was safe in
this very parlour?"

"Yes; but I thought afterwards it might be what you said—one of the
gardeners. Night-light is so deceptive."

"Come back for his tools," added Mr. Chandos. "Mrs. Penn, however, says
it is something else that walks there—my late father's spirit. Do you
think she _believes_ it?"

"Yes. She spoke as if she did believe it: and dreaded it. Shall I tell
her she need not?"

"No," he sadly said. "I cannot unfortunately ask you to do that."

What did the speech mean? Did it really bear the intimation that he
could not in truth deny it? Something like a tremor, with that dark and
weird pine-walk within sight, crept over me. Mr. Chandos leaned from
the window, plucked a white rose, and put it into my hand.

"There," he said, "that's better than talking of ghosts. And, Miss
Hereford—keep your curtains above closed after dusk: I don't like to be
watched when I go out there."

He rang the bell for lights and tea. Ah, that rose, that rose! Does
anybody, reading this, remember receiving one from a beloved hand? Had
it been a flower of Paradise it could not have borne for me a greater
charm. The skies were brighter, the coming night was sweeter, the whole
atmosphere seemed impregnated with a bliss, not of this world. My heart
was wild with happiness; the rose was worth more than Golconda's
costliest diamonds. I have it still. I shall keep it for ever.

"And now for a cup of tea, if you'll give me one, Miss Hereford."

I turned from the window, the rose held carelessly in my fingers, and
put it down, as of no moment, beside the tray. Afterwards he stayed
talking to me a little while, and then rose to leave for the evening.

"I wish I could stay longer; it is very lonely for you," he said, as he
shook hands. "But my mother feels lonely too; and so—I must divide
myself as I best may."

"Is not Lady Chandos better?" I asked, interrupting his light laugh.

"Some days she is. Not much on the whole."

"And you, sir?"

I suppose I looked at him wistfully, for he put his hand for a moment
on my head, and bent his kind face.

"Don't be anxious for me. I am sorry you heard what Amos said. I am
very much better than I was the day he was here. Good-night."

It was all dreary again; sunshine had gone out; and I went up to bed at
half-past nine. The first thing I did was to kiss the rose before
putting it away: my cheeks burn at confessing it as they burnt then.
Kissing the senseless rose! And in the very midst of the sweet folly my
chamber-door was knocked at, and Mrs. Penn came in.

"How early you have come up! Dull? Ay, I daresay you do find it dull.
But I can't stay a moment. I want you to do me a favour, Anne Hereford.
When Mrs. Chandos shall be abed and asleep to-night, let me come to
your room."

"What for?" I exclaimed, in great surprise.

"I want to watch from your windows. I want to see whether it is a ghost
that is said to haunt the walks at nights: or—whether it is anything
else. I knew the late Sir Thomas, and should recognise——"

"Hush, Mrs. Penn," I interrupted. Every impulse my mind possessed
prompted me to deny the request utterly; to nip it in the bud. "It is
what I cannot do. I might get very much frightened myself; but it is
not that; it is that I am a visitor in the family, and would not pry
into an affair that must no doubt be one of pain and annoyance to them.
Don't you perceive that it would be dishonourable? I keep my curtains
closed at night, you see; and no persuasion would induce me to allow
them to be opened."

"You are a foolish girl," she said, with good humour. "Hill locks up
the other rooms at dusk: and if she did not, I should be too great a
coward to watch alone in them. A love of the marvellous was born with
me; I may say a terror of it; and my early training served to increase
this. As a child I was allowed to read ghost stories; my nurse used to
tell them in my hearing to her companions; of course it could but bear
fruit. I think it perfectly wicked to allow such tales to penetrate to
the impressionable imaginations of young children; they never wholly
recover it."

"But you cannot seriously believe in ghosts, Mrs. Penn!"

"I should be ashamed to avow that I do believe in them. And yet the
subject bears for me both a terror and a charm: nay, a strange
fascination."

That she spoke the truth now was evident; though I could not think she
always did. I stood waiting for her to go.

"And so you will not let me come, Miss Hereford! Well, perhaps you are
right: it never occurred to me that the family might feel annoyed at
it. Good-night."

But I did not trust her: she might steal in while I slept: and I turned
the key of my door inside for the first time since I was at Chandos.

The next day was a gloomy one. Not as to weather; that was bright
enough; but for me. Mr. Chandos was away. Gone out somewhere by rail,
very far; and would not be back until night.

"Is he well enough to bear the fatigue, Hickens?" I could not help
asking the butler as he stood by me at breakfast.

"Well, Miss, I should say he is _not_ well enough. Hill says it is some
pressing business for my lady that he has gone upon; and Mr. Harry is
one to go through with any duty, let him be well or ill; ay, though he
died for it."

Idling away the morning desultorily, I got through an hour or two. Was
this new feeling making me worthless? Half ashamed of myself as the
question flashed over me, I took out a German book of study, and
settled down to it on a bench amid the thickest trees, not far from the
entrance gates, and near the privet walk where I had once met Edwin
Barley. While I was reading steadily, a voice began speaking at a
little distance, and I recognised it for _his_.

Edwin Barley's. Did he habitually come to the shady walk? The clump of
thick shrubs, intervening, hid me from him, and him from me; for some
minutes I could do nothing but give way to my fear; and did not dare to
stir hand or foot.

Some one was speaking with him; whether man or woman I could not tell,
the voice was so faint. And it seemed that while Mr. Barley must have
had his face turned to me, and the wind, setting this way, bore his
accents with it, the other person must have faced the opposite way, and
the voice was lost.

"You are stupid, woman!" were the first distinct words I heard from
him, seemingly spoken in sudden petulance. "Where's the use of your
telling me this much, if you can't tell more?"

It was a woman, then. Sure and swiftly came the conviction of her
identity to me with a force I could not account for. Lizzy Dene.

"It must have been a very serious attack, for a physician to be
telegraphed for in that haste," resumed Mr. Edwin Barley. "And to be
well again now to go out for a whole day by rail!"

A pause. It was occupied by the answer, but of that I could not hear so
much as a tone. Mr. Edwin Barley resumed.

"There's a mystery about it all that I can't dive into. There's a
mystery altogether about Harry Chandos. That attack upon him in the
avenue was a curious thing. And his mother? Is she visible yet?"

Another inaudible answer.

"Well, you must work better, if you work at all. This is your affair,
mind; not mine; I did not ask you to bring me news, or to look into
letters—what do you say? Not able to look into letters? You can read, I
suppose?"

It _is_ Lizzy Dene, my conscience whispered me; for a half doubt had
been crossing me of Mrs. Penn.

"Oh, I understand; don't get the chance of looking into them?" he went
on. "Well—it is your own affair, I repeat; but as you choose to make
the offer of looking out for discoveries, _I shall expect you to make_
some. Do you hear?" he continued, in his voice of power. "What? Speak
low, for fear of hearers? Nonsense; there's no one to hear. If you want
money for bribery, of course I can furnish you with it, if you
undertake to use it legitimately."

Again a pause. The higher Mr. Edwin Barley raised his voice, the lower
the other seemed to speak.

"No, you are wrong; the greatest enemy to your plans would be Harry
Chandos; the rest are women. That there's something to be discovered
connected with _him_, and at this present time, I am absolutely certain
of. Discovered it shall be," emphatically pronounced Mr. Edwin Barley.
"About his wife?" he suddenly asked.

"All that's wanted is the clue," he recommenced, after listening to the
answer. "_It is to be had_, I know. They'd not live in this dark,
retired manner for nothing; and I have my theory about it. What do you
say?—oh, well, yes, if you like; I did not ask you to repeat things of
the family to me, you know; you are doing it of your own spontaneous
will. How long have you lived in this neighbourhood?"

Strain my ears as I would, I could not catch more than a faint sound of
whisper in reply.

"Eh? What?" briskly resumed Mr. Edwin Barley. "The ghost walks again!
Sir Thomas Chandos! Give my compliments to it, and ask if it remembers
me! You foolish woman!" he went on, the scorn in his voice echoing on
the air. "A troubled conscience may cause people to 'walk' in life; but
it never yet brought them back after death. Now don't—oh, I thought you
were going to insist on the ghost. Upon thorns lest you should be
missed and called for? Hill looks you all up so sharply? I'll depart
then. Advice? I have none to give."

I heard his steps walking leisurely away. Stealing swiftly along the
bye-paths, I went round to the servants' entrance, determined to see
whether Lizzy Dene was out of doors or not. A miserable gnat had bitten
me, affording an excuse; but I should have made one in case of need.
The cook stood by her kitchen fire.

"Oh, cook, would you please give me a little warm water? A gnat has
just stung my wrist. Perhaps if I bathe it at once, it will not
inflame."

She gave it me immediately, putting the basin on the table underneath
the window. Harriet ran and brought a little sponge. At that moment
Mrs. Hill came in.

"Where's Lizzy Dene? Is she not here?"

"No, she's not here," was the quick answer of the cook, spoken with
irritation. "She's off again—as she always is. I sent her to get the
eggs, for the boy never brought them in this morning, and she has been
gone pretty near an hour! It's a shame."

"It is not Lizzy's work, that you should send her," remarked Mrs. Hill;
"but she has no business to stop. Have you hurt your hand, Miss
Hereford?"

I told her what it was, and she left the kitchen again, leaving orders
for Lizzy Dene to come to her in the linen-room as soon as she entered.

"You need not have told," remonstrated Harriet to the cook, in an
undertone, on account of my presence. "Mother Hill finds enough fault
with us without being helped to more."

"I'm not going to put up with Lizzy, then, if you are!" cried out the
cook, not caring whether I was present or not. "Send her but for the
least thing, and there she stops. My custard ought to have been made,
and set to cool by this time. She gets talking to the out-door men; I
know she does. What else can she do?"

"That woman was here again last night," rejoined Harriet, as they stood
over the fire.

"I say, who _is_ that woman?—coming after Lizzy Dene, as she does! Why
shouldn't Lizzy be open about it?"

"I asked her who it was, the other day, but she'd give me no answer,"
replied Harriet. "You know that weeping ash, off yonder to the right.
Well, there they stood with their heads together, last night, Lizzy
Dene and the woman. Lizzy's very much altered of late. I can't make her
out. At the time of the accident to Mr. Chandos, she was like one out
of her mind. I asked her if _she_ had frightened the horse. There was
always something odd about her."

"There'll be something odder about her yet, if she don't speedily bring
them eggs," retorted the cook. "I wont put up with this."

I took my hand out of the water, wrapped a handkerchief loosely round
it, and went out at the back-door, taking my way leisurely round. Truth
to say, I was watching for Lizzy Dene.

And I saw her. She came darting down one of the paths, and caught up a
basket of eggs that stood behind a tree; her face was red and flushed,
as if she had been walking or talking herself into a heat.

"Lizzy," I said, confronting her, "they are waiting for the eggs. Where
have you been?"

"Don't stop me, Miss, please; cook's in a rage as it is, I know," was
all the answer I received; and the woman bore on to the kitchen.



CHAPTER XXI.
IN THE PINE-WALK.

Really mine was just now a strange life. A young girl—I was only that;
young in experience as well as years—living in that house without any
companion except Mr. Chandos. More unrestrained companionship could
scarcely have existed between us had we been brother and sister. Our
meals were taken together; he presiding at luncheon and dinner, I at
breakfast and tea. The oak-parlour was our common sitting-room; the
groves and glades of Chandos, glowing with the tints of autumn, our
frequent walks. It was very pleasant; too pleasant; I don't say
anything about its prudence.

Later, when I grew more conversant with the ways of the world and its
exactions, I wondered that Lady Chandos had not seen its inexpediency.
But that _love_ should supervene on either side never crossed her
thoughts; had it been suggested to her, she would have rejected the
idea as entirely improbable: I was a schoolgirl, her son (as she had
reason to think) was love-proof. In regard to other considerations, Mr.
Chandos was one of those men with whom a young girl would be perfectly
safe; and she knew it.

Three or four days passed on. Mr. Chandos had recovered from his
lameness, and went to church with us on Sunday. Our order of going was,
as usual, this: he walked by the side of Mrs. Chandos, almost in
silence: I and Mrs. Penn behind. In a pew at right angles with ours sat
Mr. Edwin Barley alone; and his dark stern eyes seemed to be fixed on
me from the beginning of the service to the end.

Well from his lameness; but anything but well as to his health, if
looks might be relied upon; he seemed to grow more shadowy day by day.
What his illness was I could not think and might not ask: it certainly
seemed on the mind more than the body. A conviction grew gradually upon
me that some curious mystery, apart from the sleepwalking, did attach
to Mr. Chandos; and the words I overheard spoken by Edwin Barley
strengthened the impression: "That there is something to be discovered
connected with him, and at this present time, I am absolutely certain
of." What did he allude to?

Surely it was nothing of disgrace! As he sat there before me, with his
calm pale face and its sweet expression, it was against the dictates of
common sense to suppose that ill or wicked antecedents attached to him.
No; I would not believe it, let Madam Penn say what she chose.

It was a lovely autumn morning to begin the week with. The fire burnt
briskly in the grate, but the window, near which we sat, was open. Mr.
Chandos seemed low and depressed. His moods were changeable: sometimes
he would be lively, laughing, quite gay; as if he put away the inward
trouble for a time. During breakfast, which he ate this morning nearly
in silence, he took a letter from his pocket and glanced down its
contents, heaving an involuntary sigh. I recognised it for one that had
been delivered the previous morning: the name "Henry Amos" on the
corner of the envelope proved the writer. I wondered then—I wonder
still—_why_ people put their names outside the letters they send, as
some do.

"Does he write instructions to you still, Mr. Chandos?"

"Who? Dr. Amos? Well, yes; in a measure."

"I hope he thinks you are getting better?"

"I tell him that I am. You have forgotten the sugar. A small lump,
please. Thank you."

It was ever so. If I did summon up courage to ask about his health he
only turned it off. His tea did not want further sweetening more than
mine did.

We were sent out that day for a drive in the large open carriage; Mrs.
Chandos, Mrs. Penn, and I. It was the first time we had gone together.
Mr. Chandos was away; attending some county meeting. It was nearly five
when we got home. Later, when I had my hair down and dress off, getting
ready for dinner, Mrs. Penn came in.

"Oh, this dreary life at Chandos!" she exclaimed, sinking into a chair,
without any ceremony or apology for entering. "I am not sure that I can
continue to put up with it."

"Dreary, do you find it?"

"It is dreary. It is not pleasant or satisfactory. Mrs. Chandos grows
colder and more capricious; and you are not half the companion you
might be. It was on the tip of my tongue just now to give her warning.
If I _do_ give it, I shall be off the next day. I never found a place
dull in all my life before."

"Something has vexed you, perhaps, Mrs. Penn?"

"If it has, it's only a slight vexation. I made haste to write this as
soon as we came in"—turning her left hand, in which lay a sealed
letter—"and I find the letters are gone. I thought the man called for
them at half-past five."

"No; at five."

"So Hickens has just informed me. What few letters I have had to write
since I came have been done in the morning. It can't be helped; it must
wait until to-morrow."

She put the letter into her bag, shutting it with a sharp click that
told of vexation; a small morocco bag with a steel clasp and chain;
took her keys from her pocket and locked it.

"What a pretty thing that is!"

"This reticule? Yes, it is pretty: and very convenient. Have you one?"

"Not like that. Mine is an ugly one, made out of a piece of carpet; I
bought it ever so long ago at the fair at Nulle."

"Shall you ever go back to Nulle?"

"I should be there at this present time, but for a fever that has
broken out at Miss Barlieu's. It is getting better, though; I heard
from Miss Annette on Saturday."

"Fever, or not fever, I should say it would be a happy change for you
from this dull place.

Dull! This! It was my Elysium. I felt like a guilty girl in my
self-consciousness, and the bright colour stole over my face and neck.

"Allow me to fasten your dress for you."

I thanked her, but laughingly said that I was accustomed to dress
myself. She laughed too; observed that schoolgirls generally could help
themselves, having no choice upon the point, and turned to look from
the window.

She stood there with her back to me until I was ready to go down,
sometimes turning her head to speak. We quitted the room together, and
she seemed to have recovered her good temper. I had reached the foot of
the stairs when I happened to look up the well of the staircase. There
was the face of Mrs. Penn, regarding me with a strange intensity. What
did she see in me?

Is this to be a full confession? When my solitary dinner was brought
in, and Hickens said his master dined at Warsall, I felt half sick with
disappointment. What was I coming to? Something not good, I feared, if
I could feel like that; and I sat down after dinner to take myself to
task.

Why did I love him? _That_ I could not help now; but I could help
encouraging it. And yet—_could_ I help it, so long as I stayed at
Chandos? I foresaw how it would be: a short period of time—it could not
be a long one—and Madame de Mellissie would be there and carry me away
with her, and end it. I should get another situation, and never see or
hear of Chandos again, or of him. Better go away at once than wait
until my heart broke! better go to the fever, as Mrs. Penn had said!

"Why! What's the matter?"

He had come up to the open window, riding-whip in hand, having alighted
at the gates, and left his horse to the groom. There was no possibility
of concealment, and my face was blistered with crying.

"I felt a little dull, sir."

"Dull! Ah, yes; of course you do," he continued, as he came into the
room, and stood with me at the window. "I wish I could be more with
you, but duties of various kinds call me elsewhere."

The very thing I had been thinking ought not to be! My tears were
dried, but I felt ashamed of my burning face.

"Would you please to let me have that money, Mr. Chandos?"

"What money?"

"Some I asked you for. Enough to take me to Nulle."

"You shall have as much money as you please, and welcome. But not to
take you to Nulle."

"Oh, sir! I must go."

He paused, looking at me. "Will you tell me _why_ you want to go there,
knowing that it might be dangerous?"

"I have not anywhere else to go to. I don't suppose the fever would
come near me. In all French schools there is, you know, an infirmary
apart."

"Then your motive is to quit Chandos. Why?"

I did not speak. Only hung my head.

"Is it because you find it dull? Are you so unhappy in it?"

"It is not dull to me; only at moments. But I ought to leave it,
because—because the longer I stay, the worse the going away will be."

But that I was confused and miserable, I should not have told him
anything so near the truth. The words slipped from me. There was no
reply, and I looked up to find his eyes fixed earnestly upon mine.

"Only think, sir, for yourself," I stammered. "I am but a governess,
accustomed to be at work from morning until night. After this life of
ease and idleness, how shall I be able to reconcile myself to labour
again?"

"It seems to me that you ought to welcome this interval as a rest. You
know best about that, of course. But, whether or not, there is no help
for it. Do you think my mother would suffer you to go to the fever?"

"I don't know," I answered, with a catching sob.

"Yes, I think you do know. _I_ should not."

"You are too kind to me, Mr. Chandos."

"Am I? Will you repay it by giving me some tea? I am going up to my
mother, and shall expect it ready when I come down. Put out, and cool,
mind, ready to drink. I am as thirsty as a fish."

I ran to the bell; he meant to forestal me, and his hand fell on mine
as it touched the handle. He kept his there while he spoke.

"Can you not be happy at Chandos a little longer?"

"Oh, sir, yes. But it will only make the leaving worse when it comes."

"Well, that lies in the future."

Yes, it did lie in it. And in the throbbing bliss his presence brought,
I was content to let it lie. Parting could not be worse in the future
than it would be now.

The tea had time to get cold, instead of cool, for he stayed a long
while in the west wing. He seemed very tired; did not talk much, and
said good-night early.

It must have been getting on for eleven o'clock the next morning. Mr.
Chandos had been asking me to sew a button on his glove. "They are
always coming off," he cried, as he watched my fingers. "My belief is,
they are just pitched on to the gloves, and left there. I have heard
Harriet say the same; she sews them on in general."

"Why did you not give her this one?" I had been laughing, and was in
high spirits; and until the words were out, it did not strike me that
it was not quite the right thing for me to say, even in joke.

"Because I best like you to do it."

"There it is, sir. Are there any more?"

If there were, he had no time to give them me. A sharp decisive knock
at the room door, and Mrs. Penn came in, looking pale and angry.

She has been coming to a rupture with Mrs. Chandos, thought I. But I
was wrong.

It appeared, by what she began to say, that she had left,
unintentionally, the small bag, or reticule as she called it, in my
room the previous evening, and had not thought of it until just now.
Upon sending one of the maids for it, she found it had been opened.

"Mrs. Penn!" I exclaimed.

"It's quite true, she rejoined, almost vehemently, as she held out the
bag. Do you remember seeing me put the letter in the bag, Miss
Hereford? The letter I was too late to send away?"

"Yes; I saw you put it in and lock the bag."

"Just so. Well, while I talked with you afterwards, I presume I must
have let the bag slip on the window-seat; and forgot it. This morning,
not long ago, I missed it, looked everywhere, and it was only by
tracing back to when I last remembered to have had it, that I thought
of your room, and that I might inadvertently have left it there. I sent
Emma to look; and when she brought me the bag, I found it had been
opened."

"Opened!" I repeated.

"Opened," she fiercely affirmed. And then, perhaps our very calmness
recalling her to herself, she went on in a quiet tone.

"I am sure you will make allowance for me if I appear a little excited.
I do not seek to cast suspicion upon any one: but I cannot deny that I
am both annoyed and angry. You would be so yourself, Mr. Chandos, did
such a thing happen to you," she added, suddenly turning to him.

"Take a seat, and explain to me what it is that has happened," replied
Mr. Chandos, handing her a chair. "I scarcely comprehend."

"Thank you, no," she said, rejecting the seat. "I cannot stay to sit
down, I must return to Mrs. Chandos; it was she who recommended me to
come and speak to Miss Hereford. Upon Emma's bringing me the reticule I
unlocked it, suspecting nothing, and——"

"I thought you said it had been opened, Mrs. Penn?"

"It had been opened. You shall hear. The first thing I saw was my
letter, and the read seal looked cracked across. I thought perhaps the
bag had fallen fiercely to the ground; but upon my looking at it more
attentively I saw it had been opened. See."

She put the envelope into Mr. Chandos's hand for examination. It had
been opened with a penknife, cut underneath, and afterwards fastened
down with gum. Of this there was no doubt; part of the letter had also
been cut.

"This is very extraordinary," said Mr. Chandos, as he turned the
envelope about. It was addressed to London, to a medical man.

"Yes, it _is_ extraordinary, sir," said Mrs. Penn, with some slight
temper, which I am sure he considered excusable. "I did. The note was a
private note to the gentleman who has attended me for some years; I
didn't write it for the perusal of the world. But _that_ is not the
chief question. There must be false keys in the house."

"Did you leave your key in the bag, Mrs. Penn?"

"No, sir. I had my keys in my pocket. The lock has not been hurt,
therefore it can only have been opened with a false key."

Remembering my own boxes and Mr. Chandos's desk, I felt no doubt that
false keys must be at hand. Mrs. Penn said she had not yet spoken to
the servants, and Mr. Chandos nodded approval: he would wish to deal
with it himself. For my part I had not seen the bag in my room, except
in her possession, and did not notice whether she had carried it away
or left it.

She quitted the parlour, taking the bag and note and envelope. Mr.
Chandos called Hickens and desired that Emma should be sent to him. The
girl arrived in some wonder. But she could tell nothing; except that
she found the bag lying on the floor by the window-seat, and carried it
at once to Mrs. Penn. Harriet was next questioned. She had seen the bag
lying in the window-seat the previous evening, she said, when she put
the room to rights after Miss Hereford went down to dinner, and left it
there, drawing the curtains before it.

"Did you touch it?" asked Mr. Chandos.

"Yes, sir. I took it up in my hand, and thought what a pretty thing it
was: I had never seen it before."

"Did you open it?"

"Open it? No, sir, that I did not. I think it was locked, for I saw
there was a key-hole: at any rate, it was close shut. I did not keep it
in my hands a moment, but put it down where I found it, and drew the
curtains."

"Who else went into Miss Hereford's room last evening?"

"Why, sir, how can I tell?" returned Harriet, after a pause of
surprise. "What I have to do in the room does not take five minutes,
and I am not anigh it afterwards. Twenty folks might go in and out
without my knowing of it."

That both the girls were innocent there could be no question. Then who
was guilty? In undrawing the curtains that morning I must have pulled
the bag off the window-seat, which caused me not to see it. Hill went
into a fit of temper when she heard of the affair.

"I don't believe there's one of the maids would do such a thing, Mr.
Harry. What should they want with other folk's letters? And where would
they get gum from to stick them down?"

"There's some gum on my mantelpiece, Hill: I use it with my drawings,"
I said to her.

"Ah, well, gum or no gum, they'd not cut open letters," was Hill's
reply, given with obstinacy.

"There must be false keys in the house, Mr. Chandos," I began, as Hill
went out.

"There's something worse than that—a spy," was his answer. "Though the
one implies the other."

And I thought I could have put my hand upon her—Lizzy Dene. But it was
only a doubt. I was not sure. And, being but a doubt, I did not
consider I ought to speak.

Some days elapsed with nothing particular to record, and then some
money was missed. Mr. Chandos and I were together as usual in the
oak-parlour. Opening his desk, he called out rather sharply, and I
looked up from my work.

"So! they have walked into the trap, have they!" he cried, searching
here and there in it. "I thought so."

"What is it, Mr. Chandos?" I asked, and he presently turned to me,
quitting the table.

"These matters have been puzzling me, Miss Hereford. Is it a petty
thief that we have in the house, one to crib lace and such trifles; or
is it a spy? I have thought it may be both: such a thing is not beyond
the bounds of possibility. A person who took Mrs. Penn's lace would not
be likely to take my memorandum-book: for _that_ must have been done to
pry into my private affairs, or those of the Chandos family: and a spy,
aiming at higher game, would keep clear of petty thefts. The taking of
Mrs. Penn's letter, I mean the breaking its seal, I do not understand:
but, before that was done, I marked some money and put it in my desk;
two sovereigns and two half-crowns. They are gone."

"You locked the desk afterwards?"

"Yes. Now I shall act decisively. Mrs. Penn has thought me very quiet
over her loss, I daresay, but I have not seen my way at all clear. I do
not, truth to say, see it now."

"In what way, sir?"

"I cannot reconcile the one kind of loss with the other. Unless we have
two false inmates among us. I begin to think it is so. Say nothing at
all to any one, Miss Hereford."

He wrote a hasty note, directed it, and sealed it with the Chandos
coat-of-arms; then ordered his own groom, James, into his presence.

"Saddle one of the horses for yourself, James. When you are ready, come
round with him, and I will give you directions."

The man was soon equipped. He appeared leading the horse. Mr. Chandos
went out, and I stood at the open window.

"Are you quite ready to go?"

"Quite, sir."

"Mount then."

The servant did as he was bid, and Mr. Chandos continued, putting the
note he had written into his hands.

"Go straight to Warsall, to the police-station, and deliver this. Do
not loiter."

James touched his hat, then his horse, and cantered off.

Ever since I had seen the police at Mr. Edwin Barley's, at the time of
the death of Philip King, I had felt an invincible dread of them; they
were always associated in my mind with darkness and terror. The
gendarmes in France had not tended to reassure me; with their flashing
uniform, their cocked hats, their conspicuous swords, and their fiery
horses; but the police there were quite another sort of people, far
more harmless than ours. The worst I saw of them was the never-ending
warfare they kept up with the servant-maids for being late in washing
before the doors in a morning. The cook at Miss Barlieu's, Marie,
called them old women, setting them at defiance always: but one day
they cited her before the tribunal, and she had to pay a fine of five
francs.

The police arrived in the afternoon; two, in plain clothes; and Mr.
Chandos was closeted with them alone. Then we heard—at least, I
did—that the servants' pockets were to be examined, and their boxes
searched. I was standing in the hall, looking wistful enough, no doubt,
when Mr. Chandos and his two visitors came forth from the drawing-room.

"You appear scared," he stayed to say, smiling in my face. "Have no
fear."

They were disappearing down the passage that led to the kitchens and
thence to the servants' rooms above, when Mrs. Penn came in with her
bonnet on. She gazed after the strangers.

"Those look just like police!" she whispered. "What have they come
for?"

"About these losses, I believe. Mr. Chandos has again lost something
from his desk."

"What! besides the first loss the other day?"

"Yes, he feels very much annoyed: and it is enough to make him feel
so."

"I'd forgive a little bit of pilfering—that is, I would not be too
harsh upon the thief," she remarked. "Pretty lace and such like
vanities do bear their attractions. But when it comes to violating
letters and private papers, that is essentially another affair. What
are the police going to do in it? Do you know?"

"I believe the servants' boxes and pockets are about to be examined."

"I should think, then, my lace, at any rate, will come to light," she
laughed, as she tripped up the stairs.

The process of searching seemed to be pretty long. Mr. Chandos was in
the oak-parlour, when one of the officers, who seemed to be superior to
the other, came in.

"Well, sir," said he, as he took the seat to which Mr. Chandos invited
him, "there's no trace of any stolen property about the maids or their
boxes. One or two of them had got some love-letters: they seemed
precious more afraid of my reading them than of finding lace or money,"
he added, with a broad smile. "I just glanced over the epistles, enough
to convince myself that there was nothing wrong: but there is no game
more formidable to be found."

Mr. Chandos made no reply. I thought he looked puzzled.

"We have hitherto placed great trust in our servants," he observed,
presently. "But the disappearance of these things is unaccountable."

"There does seem some mystery about it," returned the policeman. "You
say, sir, that you are sure of the housekeeper."

"As sure as I am of myself."

"Shall we search the rooms in the front, above here, sir? Thieves have
a trick of hiding things, you know."

"No," decisively replied Mr. Chandos. "My mother might hear you; I
could not risk the annoyance to her in her sick state. Besides, the
rooms have been fully searched by the housekeeper."

"Would you like a watch placed in the house, sir, unknown to the
servants?"

"No, no," said Mr. Chandos. "It——"

The appearance of Mrs. Penn caused the pause. She came in, after
knocking quietly at the door. Mr. Chandos rose; the officer rose.

"I beg your pardon for my interruption, Mr. Chandos. Will it not be
better that the police"—slightly bowing to the one present—"should come
up now? Mrs. Chandos has gone into my lady's rooms: if they can come up
at once, she will be spared the sight."

"Come up for what?" asked Mr. Chandos.

"I understood our boxes were to be examined."

She evidently meant her own and mine. Mr. Chandos laughed pleasantly.

"Your boxes? Certainly not, Mrs. Penn. Why, you are the chief sufferer!
It would be a new thing to search places for the articles lost out of
them."

But Mrs. Penn pressed it. It was not pleasant, although she had lost a
bit of lace: and she thought the boxes should all share alike,
excepting those belonging to the Chandos family: it would be more
satisfactory to our minds. Mr. Chandos repeated his No, courteously,
but somewhat imperatively, and left the room with the officer.

"Did you offer your boxes for their inspection?" she asked of me.

"Of course not. They know quite well I should not be likely to take the
things."

"I may say the same of myself. But I cannot help remembering that you
and I are the only strangers in the place; and it makes me, for my
part, feel uncomfortable. Such a thing never before happened in any
house where I have been."

"At any rate, Mrs. Penn, _you_ must be exempt from suspicion."

"It is not altogether that. I look at it in this light. These servants
are searched: they are proved innocent; at least nothing is found upon
them to imply guilt. They may turn round and say—why don't you search
these two strangers?—and talk of injustice. However—of course Mr.
Chandos must do as he pleases: he seems sole master here."

"Do not fear that he will suspect either you or me, Mrs. Penn. And Lady
Chandos, as I gather, knows nothing of the matter."

The search and the commotion had the effect of delaying dinner. It was
late when the men departed, and I got tired of being alone in the
oak-parlour. Mr. Chandos had gone out somewhere. Putting a shawl over
my shoulders, for the evenings were not so warm as they had been, I
went out and walked down the avenue.

All in a minute, as I paced it, it occurred to me that Mr. Chandos
might be coming home. Would it look as though I had gone to meet him!
Love was making me jealously reticent, and I plunged thoughtlessly into
the shady walks opposite, trusting to good luck to take me back to the
house. Good luck proved a traitor. It lost my way for me: and when I
found it again I was at the far end of the pine-walk.

To my dismay. The superstitions attaching to this gloomy walk flashed
into my mind. Outside, it had been a grey twilight; here it was nearly
as dark as night: in fact, night had set in. There was nothing for it
but to run straight through: to turn back would be worse now: and I
should inevitably lose myself again. I was about half way up the walk,
flying like the wind, when in turning a corner I ran nearly against Mr.
Chandos, who was coming quickly down it.

But, in the first moment I did not recognise him; it was too dark. Fear
came over me, my heart beat wildly and but for catching hold of him I
must have screamed.

"I beg your pardon, sir," I said, loosing him. "I did not know you
quite at first."

"_You_ here!" he exclaimed in abrupt astonishment, and (as it sounded
to my ear) alarm. "What did you come into this dreary portion of the
grounds for, and at this hour? I have already warned you not to do it."

I told him quite humbly how it was: that I had got into it without
knowing, after losing my way. Humbly, because he seemed to be in anger
at my disobedience.

"I had better take you out of it," he said, drawing my arm within his,
without the ceremony of asking leave. "When dusk approaches, you must
confine your rambles to the open walk, Miss Hereford."

"Indeed, yes. This has been a lesson to me. But it seemed quite light
outside."

He went on without another word, walking as though he were walking for
a wager; almost dragging me, so swift was his pace. The dark boughs
meeting overhead, the late hour, the still atmosphere, imparted
altogether a sensation of strange dreariness.

All at once a curious thing occurred. What, I scarcely know to this
day. I saw nothing; I heard nothing; but Mr. Chandos apparently did,
for he stopped short, and his face became as one living terror. At this
portion of the walk there was no outlet on either side; the trees and
the low dwarf shrubs around them were too thickly planted. His eyes and
ears alike strained—not that he could see far, for the walk wound in
and out—Mr. Chandos stood; then he suddenly drew me close against those
said trees, placed himself before me, and bent my face down upon his
breast, so that I could see nothing.

"You will be safe thus; I will take care of you," he whispered, the
words trembling as they left his hot lips. "Hush! Be still, for the
love of Heaven."

So entirely was I taken by surprise, so great was my alarm, that
"still" I kept, unresistingly; there as he placed and held me. I heard
measured footsteps advance, pass us—they must have touched him—and go
on their way. Mr. Chandos's heart was beating more violently than is
common to man, and as the steps went by, he clasped me with almost a
painful pressure; so that to look up, had I been so inclined, was
impossible. When the sound of the footsteps had died away, he raised
his head, went on a few yards up the walk, and drew me into one of the
narrow intersecting paths, holding still my face near to him. His own
was deadly white. Then he released my head, just a little.

"Anne, I could not help it. You must forgive me."

The name, Anne—the first time he had called me by it—sent a whole rush
of joy through my veins. What with that, what with the emotion
altogether, what with the fright, I burst into tears.

"You are angry with me!"

"Oh, no, not angry. Thank you for sheltering me: I am sure you must
have had good cause. I am only frightened."

"Indeed, I had cause," he replied, in a passionate sort of wail. "But
you are safe now. I wish—I wish I could shelter you through life."

He must have felt my heart beat at the words; he must; swifter, far,
than his had done just now.

"But what was the danger?" I took courage to ask.

"A danger that you may not inquire about. You have escaped it; let that
suffice. But you must never encounter the risk again; do you hear,
Anne?"

"Only tell me how I am to avoid it."

"By keeping away from these gloomy walks at nightfall. I feel as if I
could never be thankful enough for having come up when I did."

He had turned into the pine-walk again, my arm within his now, and was
striding up it. At the top he released me quite.

"Shall you be afraid to run across the lawn alone?"

"Oh, no; there's the hall-lamp for company."

"To be sure. One moment yet. I want a promise from you."

He held me before him, looking straight into my eyes, and took my hand
between both of his, not in affection, I saw that well enough, but in
painful anxiety.

"A promise not to mention what has occurred to any one."

"Trust me, I will not. _Trust_ me, Mr. Chandos."

"Yes, I do trust you. Thank you, my dear little friend."

But all the while his face had remained cold and white. Rarely had such
terror fallen upon man: its signs were there. He turned back into the
walk again, and I ran swiftly across in the stream of light thrown on
the grass by the hall-lamp, and got indoors; one bewildering query
haunting me—did ghosts emit sounds as of footsteps when they walked?

My dinner was getting cold on the table. Hickens stared at me as I went
in, wondering, doubtless, where I had been. Mr. Chandos's place
remained unoccupied; and the things were taken away. I did marvel at
his remaining out of doors so long. By-and-by, Hill came in to get
something from the sideboard; she ran in and out of the rooms at will,
without any sort of ceremony. To speak to her was a sort of relief.

"Hill, don't you think it is very imprudent of Mr. Chandos to be out in
the night-air so long, considering that he was ill recently?"

"I should if he was in it," responded Hill, in the short tone she
always gave me. "Mr. Chandos is in the west wing with my lady."

It had occurred to my mind many times—and I think I was right—that Hill
resented the fact of my unfortunate detention at Chandos.

On the following day a new feature was to be added to the mysterious
illness of Lady Chandos—a doctor at length came to see her. He had
travelled from a distance, as was understood; but whether by train or
other conveyance did not appear. They called him Dr. Laken. He was a
short, thin man, getting in years, with dark eyes, and a benevolent,
and truthful countenance. His appearance was unexpected—but it seemed
more welcome than gold. Mr. Chandos came to him in the oak-parlour,
shaking hands warmly.

"Doctor! how glad I am to see you! So you have at last returned!"

"Ay, safe and sound; and considerably refreshed by my two months'
change. Where do you think I have been, Mr. Harry? All the way to the
other end of Scotland."

"And you were such a stay-at-home!"

"When I was obliged to be. I'm getting old now, and my son has taken to
the patients. Well, and who is it that is in urgent need of me? Your
blooming self?"

"My blooming self is in no need of medical aid just now," replied Mr.
Chandos, something constrained in his voice. "Will you take anything at
once, doctor?"

"I'll see my patient first. It is my lady, I suppose?"

Mr. Chandos nodded.

"Ah," said the doctor, following him from the parlour, "I said, you may
remember, that the time might come when you'd be glad of me at Chandos.
No skill in these remote parts; a set of muffs, all; known to be."

Mr. Chandos echoed his laugh; and leading the way to his study, shut
himself in with the doctor. Afterwards he took him up to the west wing.

Why should Mr. Chandos have denied that he was ill?—as by implication
he certainly did—was the question that I kept asking myself. Later,
when he came to the oak-parlour, I asked it of him.

"One patient is enough in a house," was all his answer. He had come
down from the west wing grave, grave even to sadness.

"But—to imply that you were well—when you know what the other doctor
said!"

"Hush! Don't allude to that. It was a painful episode, one that I like
to be silent upon. The—the danger, as I thought it, passed with the
day, you know."

"But are you really better?"

"I am well enough, now," he answered, the gloom on his face breaking.
"At least, I should be if—I mean that I am as well as I can expect to
be."

"Oh, Mr. Chandos! I think you are only saying this to satisfy me."

"Anne—I must call you 'Anne;' I did so last night, you know, and I
cannot go back to the formality of 'Miss Hereford'——"

"Yes, yes, please call me it," I interrupted all too earnestly.

He touched the tip of my shoulder, looking down with a sad sweet smile
into my eyes and my blushing face.

"Anne, whether I am ill or well, you must not make it of moment to you.
I wish it might be otherwise."

I felt fit to strike myself. Had I so betrayed my own feelings? The
soft blush of love turned to the glowing red of shame, and I could but
look down, in hope of hiding it.

"My little friend! my dear little friend!" he softly whispered, as if
to atone for the former words, "in saying I wish it might be
otherwise—and perhaps I owe it to you to say as much—the subject must
close. You and I may be the best friends living, Anne; and that is all
I can be to you, or to any one."

Quitting the parlour rather hastily, he encountered Dr. Laken in the
hall, who had just come down from the west wing. Mr. Chandos said
something in a low tone; I presume, by the answer, it was an inquiry as
to what he thought of his patient.

"Emaciated, and as obstinate as——"

Mr. Chandos checked the loud voice; and the doctor, turning into the
parlour, caught sight of me.

"I never was famous for civility you know, Mr. Harry, but I confess I
ought not to abuse Lady Chandos before this young lady: I was going to
say 'obstinate as a mule.' Your mother _is_ obstinate."

"I know it," replied Mr. Chandos, lifting his eyes to the doctor's.
"That is one of the worst features of the case. They are all bad
enough."

"And it can't be remedied. Unless—but there might be danger attending
that. Besides—well, well, we must do the best we can; it would not
answer to try experiments on Lady Chandos."

Up to the word "besides," Dr. Laken seemed to be forgetting that I was
in the room; with the recollection he stopped, making the break. Mr.
Chandos rang for refreshments to be served, and I gathered up my work
to leave them alone.

"I wish you could remain for the night, Dr. Laken."

"So do I. But it's of no use wishing it, Mr. Harry. I'll see what I can
do towards spending a couple of days here next week."

They were the last words I heard. In half an hour the pony carriage was
ordered round, and the doctor went away, Mr. Chandos driving.



CHAPTER XXII.
A NIGHT ALARM.

It was the loveliest autumn I had ever remembered. Clear, soft, balmy;
the foliage glowing with its ruddy tints, the sky blue and beautiful.

There would be a fire in the grate of the oak-parlour, and the window
thrown open to the lawn and the scent of the sweet flowers. One
afternoon I sat there, a bit of work in my hand, the sprays of
jessamine nearly touching me, and the far-off pine-walk looking almost
as bright as though no ghost had the reputation of haunting it. Mr.
Chandos sat at the table writing. Out of doors or in, we were very much
together, and my heart was at rest. I'm afraid I had taken to think
that the heaven of hereafter could not be more blissful than this that
I seemed to be living in now.

His foot was weak again. Not to disable him from getting about; only to
deter him from walking more than was absolutely necessary. It was all
his own fault; as Mr. Dickenson, the surgeon, told him; he had
persisted in using the ankle too much before it was quite strong.

Lady Chandos kept her rooms still; report said her bed; and the
impression in the house was that she lay in danger. The discovery of
the petty pilferer, or pilferers, appeared to be as far-off as ever:
but one or two strange things connected with the subject were about to
occur.

"Will you put these on the hall-table for me, Anne?"

I turned to take the letters from him. When he did not let me save his
foot in these little things, it made me cross, and I told him so. One
of the letters was addressed to his sister.

"You have been writing to Madame de Mellissie, Mr. Chandos!"

"Yes. We heard from her this morning. She expects to be here in a day
or two. Stay! I think I will show my mother what I have said. You shall
put only the other one on the table."

The news fell on my heart like a shaft of ice. Chandos had become all
too dear.

The other letter was to Mr. Haines; I remembered the name as that of an
agent who had taken the house by the lodge-gates for Mr. Edwin Barley.
It was sealed with the Chandos coat of arms in black wax. I had never
seen Mr. Chandos use red. Lizzy Dene was passing through the hall as I
laid the letter down. I observed that she looked at me; seemed to look
at what I was doing; and Mrs. Penn and Hill were speaking on the
stairs, nearly beyond view; whether they saw me or not, I could not
say.

"Thank you," said Mr. Chandos, when I went in again. "What should I do
without you to fetch and carry? I want that book now."

It lay on the side-table; a dreadfully dry scientific work. He locked
his desk and took the book from me.

"You must put down your slavery to my stupid foot. When you get
disabled, Anne, I'll do as much for you."

"You know the fault is yours, Mr. Chandos. Had you only been a little
patient when the foot was getting better, it would have been strong
before now. As to the slavery——"

"Well? What as to the slavery? Are you going to strike?"

I had been about to say that I _liked_ the slavery, but stopped in
time. The colour of embarrassment was coming into my cheek, and I
turned it off with a light laugh and light words.

"I won't strike just yet. Not until Madame de Mellissie comes."

"Then suppose you lend me your shoulder?"

He could have walked quite well without it, as he knew and I knew; I
daresay if put to it he might have walked to the railway station. But
ah! the bliss of feeling his hand on me! if it were only half as great
to him he had kept his ankle sick for ever!

"As to Emily, with her proverbial uncertainty, she is just as likely to
be here in two months as in two days, Anne."

_I_ took up my work again; a pretty bag I was embroidering in grey and
black silk for Lady Chandos. He sat on the other side the window,
reading his book and talking to me between whiles. All things seemed
full of rest and peace and love; a very paradise.

Soon—I daresay it was an hour, but time passed so swiftly—we heard
footsteps come along the broad walk to the portico. I looked out to see
whose they were.

"It is Mr. Dexter," I said to Mr. Chandos.

"Dexter! The very man I wanted to see. Now you need not go away," he
added, as I began to gather up my work, "we are not about to talk
treason. Don't you know, Anne, that I like to have you with me while I
may."

He must have been thinking of the approaching separation that the event
of Emily would bring about. But I had to get some more silk, and went
to fetch it, staying in my room some minutes. When I got back they were
both seated at the table, some papers before them. I turned to the
window, and went on with my work.

The conversation appeared to be of little moment; of none to me! it was
of leases, rents, repairs, and other matters connected with the estate.
Presently Mr. Dexter mentioned that he had received a letter from
Haines.

"Have you?" said Mr. Chandos. "I wrote to him this afternoon. What does
he say?"

Mr. Dexter took a letter from his pocket-book, and put it into his
master's hand, who ran his eyes over it.

"My letter will be useless, then, and I must write another," he
observed when he had finished. "I'll get it, and show you what I said.
It will save explanation."

"Let me get it for you, Mr. Chandos," I interposed, anxious to save
him. And without waiting for permission I left the room. But the letter
was not on the table.

"It is not there, Mr. Chandos; it is gone."

"It cannot be gone," he said, taking out his watch. "It is only four
o'clock. Emily's letter is not put there yet."

Hickens was called. Hickens, in a marvel of consternation—at being
asked what he had done with the letter—protested he had not seen it; he
had not been in the hall that afternoon.

We all went out; it seemed so strange a thing; and I showed Mr. Chandos
where I had laid the letter. It had not slipped down; it could not be
seen anywhere. Mr. Chandos looked at me: he was evidently thinking that
the spy was again at work.

"Was any one in the hall when you put the letter here, Miss Hereford?"

"Lizzy Dene was passing through it. And Mrs. Penn and Hill were
standing on the stairs."

"They would not touch it," said Mr. Chandos, just as Lizzy Dene,
hearing the commotion, looked from the door of the large dining-room.
It was her place to keep the room in order, and she seemed to choose
odd times to do it in. Mr. Chandos questioned her, but she said she had
not touched the letter; had not in fact noticed it.

At this juncture Mrs. Chandos came down the stairs, dressed for going
out, attended by Mrs. Penn. She inquired of Mr. Chandos what the matter
was.

"A letter has mysteriously disappeared from the hall, Ethel," he
replied.

"A letter disappeared! how strange!" she returned, in the rather vacant
manner that at times characterized her. "Was it of consequence?"

"In itself, no. But these curious losses are always of consequence in
another sense of the word. I beg your pardon, Mrs. Penn: did you
speak?"

For Mrs. Penn, who first stood back in her surprise, had advanced
behind him, and was saying something in a low tone.

"Mr. Chandos! reply upon it, the same hand that opened my letter has
taken this one. You ought not to leave a stone unturned to discover the
culprit. I speak in the interest of all."

Mr. Chandos nodded grave assent. He seemed to be in a hopeless puzzle.
I fully suspected Lizzy Dene; and I think she saw something of this in
my face.

"What should I do with a letter that was not mine?" she cried, her tone
resentful, and addressing no one in particular. "If Mr. Chandos offered
me a dozen of his letters to read, I'd rather be spared the trouble; I
am no great scholar. And what good would they do me?"

The argument seemed all conclusive; at least to Mr. Chandos. I
suspected the girl more and more.

"Well, Harry, I must leave you to your investigation, if I am to have a
walk this afternoon," concluded Mrs. Chandos.

She went out and turned down the broad walk. Lizzy resumed her work in
the dining-room, I and Mr. Dexter went back to the oak-parlour and
stood at the window: and then I became aware that Mrs. Penn had
lingered in the portico, talking with Mr. Chandos.

"Until recently I believed we had the most trustworthy set of servants
that it is possible for any family to have," he was saying. "What can
there be in my letters that should interest them?"

"Nay," said Mrs. Penn, "I think it is the greater wonder what there
should be in mine. I am a stranger to your servants: my affairs cannot
be supposed to concern any one of them."

"It is my habit to leave letters on the table every day. They have
never been touched or tampered with, so far as I know, until this
afternoon."

"You cannot be sure of that. But what shall you do in the matter now?"

"I don't know what to do; it is the sort of thing that causes me to
feel at a nonplus. Were I to have an officer in the house to watch, as
you suggest, it might prove useless."

"Have you a suspicion of any one in particular?" she abruptly asked.
And by this time Mr. Dexter had grown interested in the conversation,
and was listening as closely as I.

"Not the slightest. Neither can you have, I suppose."

Mrs. Penn was silent.

"Have you?" repeated he, thinking her manner peculiar.

"I would rather not answer the question, Mr. Chandos; because it would
inevitably be followed by another."

"Which is equivalent to admitting that your suspicions are directed to
some one in particular," he returned, with awakened interest. "Why
should you object to avow it?"

"Well, it is so," she replied. "I do think that all the
circumstances—taking one loss, one disagreeable event with another—do
tend to point suspicion to a certain quarter. But I may be wrong."

"To whom?" he asked.

"That is just the question that I knew would follow," returned Mrs.
Penn, "and I must decline to answer it. No, Mr. Chandos; you possess
the same facilities for observing and judging that I do: in fact,
greater ones: and if you cannot draw your own deductions, I certainly
will not help you to them. I might be wrong, you know."

"You must allude to an inmate of Chandos?"

"I should deem it impossible that any but an inmate of Chandos could
play these tricks. Where would be the opportunity?"

"Mrs. Penn, if you possess any clue; nay, if you think you have any
well-founded cause of suspicion, you ought to impart it to me," he
gravely said.

"Were I _sure_ that my suspicions were correct, I would do so; but, as
I say, they may be mistaken. Forgive me, if I hint that perhaps your
own eyes are shut closer than they need be."

She hastened away, leaving the impression of her mysterious words
behind. I wondered very much if she alluded to Lizzy Dene.

That same evening I had an opportunity of asking her. Mr. Chandos went
to the west wing after dinner, I sat near the lights, working at my
bag, when Mrs. Penn came into the oak-parlour, not having troubled
herself to knock for admittance.

"It's fine to be you, Anne Hereford," she said, putting herself into
Mr. Chandos's chair by the fire. "I wish I had this room to sit in."

"Are the rooms upstairs not comfortable?"

"I don't know about comfort: they are wretchedly dull. I'd as soon be
cooped up in a prison. Not a soul to speak to from morning to night,
but Mrs. Chandos. Here you have Mr. Chandos; full state and ceremony;
and the chance of seeing all the visitors."

"All the visitors consist of a doctor now and then, and Mr. Dexter once
a week, or so," I said, laughing.

"A doctor and an agent are better than nobody. I suppose," she added,
after a pause, "they are all assembled in party conclave in the west
wing; Mr. Chandos, Mrs. Chandos, and my lady."

"I wish Lady Chandos was better," I remarked.

Mrs. Penn turned round eagerly, her eye lighting with excitement.

"I _wish_ I knew what it is that's the matter with her! I wish I knew!
Do you never gather a hint of it from Mr. Chandos?"

"Never. But why should you be so desirous to learn? What is it to you,
Mrs. Penn?"

"I have my reasons," she replied, nodding her head. "I won't tell them
to you this evening, but I have not made a vow that I never will. If
she is insane, as I suspect, why then—but I'll say no more now. What a
strange thing it is about that letter!"

"Very. You are suspecting some one in particular?"

"Well?" she answered, sharply, turning her face to me.

"Is it Lizzy Dene?"

"Who it is, or who it is not, is nothing to you," she rejoined, in the
crossest tone I ever heard. "I know this: I would give the worth of a
dozen letters ten times over to bring the mystery to light. They may be
suspecting you and me next."

"Mrs. Penn!"

"Yes, Mrs. Penn!" she retorted, in a mocking tone. "We are the only
strangers in the house, Anne Hereford."

As if my words had angered her past redemption, she quitted the room
abruptly. Very soon Mr. Chandos returned to it, and the tea came in. He
began talking of the lost letter—of the unpleasantness altogether.
Should I tell him of my doubt? The old proverb runs, that if a woman
deliberates she is lost: it proved so in my case, and I mentioned Lizzy
Dene.

"Lizzy Dene!" repeated Mr. Chandos, in great surprise. "_Lizzy Dene!_"

"But indeed it is a doubt more than a suspicion; and it arises chiefly
from my having found her in my room that night," I eagerly added,
feeling half afraid of what I had done, and determined not to hint at
her supposed alliance with Mr. Edwin Barley.

"Rely upon it, you are wrong, Anne," Mr. Chandos decided, without any
pause. "Lizzy Dene would be the very last woman to act in a treacherous
manner to our family. She may be foolishly superstitious, but she is
honest as the day. I'll answer for _her_."

How could I say more?—unless my grounds against Lizzy Dene had been
surer. Joseph took away the tea-things, and Mr. Chandos went to his own
sitting-room. I stood at the little table in the corner of the room
nearest the window, putting my workbox to rights. Some of its reels
were on the window-ledge, and I moved to get them.

I don't know why I should have done it; unthinkingly, I believe; but I
drew aside the muslin curtain to look out on the lovely night, and
found my face in contact (save for the glass that was between us) with
that of another face, peering in. Terribly startled, I drew away with a
scream. Mr. Chandos came back at the moment, and I gave a frightened
word of explanation. Quick as lightning, he laid forcible hold of me,
put me in a chair in the sheltered corner close to the workbox, ordered
me to stay in it—_ordered_ me, and in the most peremptory manner—and
turned to the window to fling it up. One moment and he had leaped out:
but in his haste he broke a pane of glass.

I sat there, trembling and shaking; the window open, the curtain waving
gently in the night breeze—and the thought of that terrible face
without. Mr. Chandos looked stern and white when he returned—not
through the window—and blood was dripping from his hand.

"I can see no one: but I could not stay long, my hand bled so," he
said, snatching up his white handkerchief which lay on the table, and
winding it round the palm. "But now—Anne, do you think these can be
fancies of yours? This is the second time."

"I wish I could think so. I am _certain_ a man stood there, looking in.
He had not time to draw away. I just moved to the window from that
corner, so that he did not see me approaching."

"Whose face was it? That man's by the lodge-gates—Edwin Barley?"

My very fear. But I did not dare to say it. What I did say was the
strict truth—that it had all passed so momentarily, and I was so
startled, as to allow no chance of recognition.

"Can you find a piece of linen rag, Anne? I don't care to make a
commotion over this. I dare say I can do up my hand myself: I'm a bit
of a surgeon."

I ran upstairs to get some, and began turning over the contents of my
large trunk in search of it. In doing this, a small parcel, very small,
got into my hands, and I looked at it with some curiosity, not
remembering what it contained.

As I undid the paper two sovereigns fell into my hand. They were not
mine; I possessed none. As I looked and wondered, a strange thought
flashed through my mind: were they the two lost sovereigns marked by
Mr. Chandos?

There was no time to stay speculating; Mr. Chandos was waiting for the
rag. Finding it, I ran down.

"You ought to put your hand in warm water, Mr. Chandos. There may be
fragments of glass in it."

"I was thinking so," He said; when at that moment Hickens came in with
a letter. The man noticed the white handkerchief and its stains.

"You have met with an accident, sir."

"Ah," said Mr. Chandos, in a tone of raillery, as if making light of
the affair, "this comes, Hickens, of doing things in a hurry. You must
bring me a basin of warm water. I attempted to open the window, not
observing it was fastened, and my hand slipped through the glass. Close
the shutters. At once."

Hickens went to the window: I stood by Mr. Chandos with the linen rag.
"Presently," he nodded; "I must wait for the water. Open this for me,
will you, Anne?"

I unsealed the letter, and opened it. In handing it to him, my eyes
accidentally fell upon my own name.

"It is about me!" I exclaimed, in thoughtless impulse. Mr. Chandos ran
his eyes over the lines—there were but few—and a scowl contracted his
brow. He read them over again, and then folded the letter with his one
hand.

"Hickens, who brought this? When did it come?"

"It came but now, sir. A lad brought it to the back-door. I happened to
be standing there, and took it from him. 'For Mr. Chandos,' he said,
and turned away. I thought how quickly he made off."

"Should you know him again?"

"No, sir, I think not. I'm not sure, though."

"Well, bring the warm water."

"Is the letter from Madame de Mellissie?" I asked.

"I don't know who it is from," said Mr. Chandos. "It is anonymous."

"Anonymous! And about me!"

I stood looking at him. I connected this letter with the two sovereigns
I had just found: was any one at work to ruin me in the estimation of
Chandos House?

"Mr. Chandos, that is not a pleasant letter, is it?"

"Anonymous letters never are pleasant ones," he rejoined. "If I had my
way, the writers of such should all be shaken in a bag together and
sunk in the bottom of the sea. Do not let it trouble you; it defeats
its own ends."

"Will you allow me to read it?"

"It would give you no pleasure."

"But it might give me some light; and light is what I want just now; I
do indeed. Let me see it, Mr. Chandos! I request it as a favour."

"Very well. My showing it to you will prove the sort of estimation I
have for it."

Taking the letter from his unresisting hand, I opened it and laid it
before me. It ran as follows:—

"Mr. Chandos,—It is rumoured that you have some trouble in your house,
and are suspecting your servants. The probability is that they are
honest; they have been with you long enough to be proved. There are two
strangers under your roof: the companion to Mrs. Chandos, and the
younger lady, Miss Hereford. Please just reflect that all the
misfortunes have occurred since these ladies entered Chandos. In doing
this, perhaps you will find a way out of the wood. The suggestion is
offered by

"A Friend."

"This would implicate Mrs. Penn as well as myself!" I exclaimed.

"Yes," he said. "Forgetting that Mrs. Penn is a sufferer. Or perhaps
not knowing it."

The tears rose: I could not help it. "Then—do you doubt _me_, Mr.
Chandos?"

He touched my arm; and those grave eyes of his, half laughing then,
looked right into mine.

"Doubt you? So greatly that I am deliberating whether I shall not call
in the police again and give you in charge."

It was said in jest I knew, but at that moment it told upon me, and the
sobs were palpably near the surface. Hickens was heard approaching with
the basin of water.

"Oh, Anne, Anne! you are a very simple child."

"Will you see to your hand, sir?"

"Ay, it wants seeing to."

It was the palm that was cut; badly, I thought. Mr. Chandos seemed to
understand what to do, and dressed it himself with the butler's help, I
watching the process. When we were alone again, I took the little
parcel from my pocket, and gave it to Mr. Chandos.

"Will you please to open that, sir?"

"Two sovereigns," he cried, as he did so. "What of them?"

I told him all about it, where I found them. He held them close to the
light, and smiled.

"They are the sovereigns I lost out of my desk, Anne."

"Are you sure?"

"Sure? Here are the marks. See."

Standing close, I looked where he pointed. The marks were plain. I went
to my seat and sat down.

"And you found them in your trunk! Anne, who is your enemy in the
house?"

"I did not know I had one, sir. So far as I am aware I have not given
offence to any within it. I must quit it now."

"Oh, indeed! What else would you like to do?"

I could no longer keep my tears back; it was of no use trying, and they
ran over my checks. "It seems to me, Mr. Chandos, that I am no longer
safe in it."

"You are perfectly safe, Anne, for you possess in it a powerful
protector. One who will not suffer harm to reach you; who will be a
shield to you in every assault; who will guard annoyance from you so
far as shall be practicable."

I knew that he alluded to himself, and thanked him in my heart. But—so
far as was practicable! There it lay. If I really had a hidden enemy,
who might shield me? Mr. Edwin Barley it could not be; and I fell back
to the suspecting of Lizzy Dene.

Mr. Chandos began telling off the inmates on his fingers.

"There's my mother, Mrs. Chandos, myself, Hill, Hickens; for all these
I can answer. Then come the servants. For some of them I can equally
answer, Lizzy Dene being one; but I regard them all as honest and
trustworthy."

"Therefore the uncertain ones are only Mrs. Penn and myself."

"And Mrs. Penn is certainly exempted," he rejoined. "For she has been
meddled with in an equal degree with any of us."

"That leaves only me!"

"Just so; only you. But Anne," bending those earnest eyes upon me, "I
would answer for you with my _life_."

"If it is not Lizzy Dene that is my enemy, who else can it be?" I
exclaimed, foolishly speaking what was in my thoughts.

"Why should you think it to be Lizzy Dene more than any one else?" he
hastily cried, in a resenting sort of tone. "She can have no cause of
enmity against you."

There flashed across me that interview with Mr. Edwin Barley. If it was
Lizzy Dene who had held it, who was in league with him, no need to
search for a motive.

"That I have an enemy is indisputable. The letter you have just
received and these sovereigns prove it."

"Anne, Lizzy Dene could not have written such a letter as this."

That he was prejudiced in favour of Lizzy Dene, determined to admit
nothing against her, seemed evident; and I let the subject drop.

But now the strangest incident was to occur; an alarming incident; nay,
it might rather be called a scene. In the minute's silence that had
supervened, Mrs. Penn glided into the room without notice. The word
"glided" is not inapplicable; she came softly in, scarcely seeming to
move, her face scared, her voice sunk to a whisper.

"Mr. Chandos! Do you know that there are mounted police outside the
house?"

He rose from his seat, looking at her as if he thought she must be
dreaming.

"Mounted police!" he repeated.

"They are riding quietly up, three of them; I saw their sabres flash in
the starlight. I had gone to the library to get a book for Mrs.
Chandos; she having sent to Hill for the key; when I thought I heard a
noise as of horsemen, and opened the shutters to look out. Oh, Mr.
Chandos! what can they have come for? They once rode up to a house
where I was staying, in the same silent manner; it was to make
investigations in a charge of murder."

I had seen Mr. Chandos turn pale before; you have heard me say so; but
I never saw a tinge so livid in man or woman as that which overspread
his countenance now. He retained nevertheless his self-possession; ay,
and that quiet tone of command which somehow is rarely disobeyed.

"You will be so kind as return immediately to Mrs. Chandos," he calmly
said to Mrs. Penn. "_Close the doors of the east wing_ as soon as you
have entered, and keep her attention amused. She is excitable—as you by
this time probably know—and this visit must be kept from her
cognizance."

Allowing no time for answer or dissent, he took Mrs. Penn by the hand
somewhat peremptorily, and watched her go upstairs. Then he stole to
the hall-door and put up its bar without noise. As for me, I do not
know that I had ever in my whole life felt so sick and frightened. All
the past scene at Mr. Edwin Barley's, when the mounted police had come
there, recurred to me: and Mr. Chandos's manner completed the dread. I
put my hands on his arm; reticence was forgotten in the moment's
terror; as he stood listening in the middle of the oak-parlour.

"Tell me what it is! Tell me!"

"Oh, Anne, this is an awful blow," he said, in the deepest agitation,
as if he had never heard my words. "I joked about the police coming to
take you in charge, but——"

"Not for me! They cannot have come for me!" I reiterated foolishly, in
my confused alarm.

"Would to heaven they had come for you! I mean, would they had come for
one who could as readily be exonerated as you! Mercy! mercy! so the
blow has fallen at last!"

The words brought to my memory what Mrs. Penn had said, about a sword
hanging by a single hair over Mr. Chandos and his family. I don't think
he knew what he was about. He walked across the hall towards the
stairs, hesitated, and came back, listening evidently for the knocking
of the police; all in the deepest agitation and alarm.

"It may be well for me not to go!" he muttered. "Better that I should
be here to face them when they enter! Anne, run you and find Hill:
bring her hither quickly: but make no alarm."

I knew it was the hour of supper in the housekeeper's room, and ran to
it. Hill was seated at the head of the table, the upper-servants round
her.

"Mrs. Hill," I said, appearing among them without ceremony, "Mr.
Chandos wants you for a moment. Instantly, if you please."

"There! His hand has burst out bleeding again!" surmised Hickens, who
occupied the chair opposite Hill. Mrs. Hill said nothing, but rose and
followed me. As we passed through the hall, there came a loud ring at
the front door, and a knocking at it as if with sabres.

"Hill," Mr. Chandos whispered, drawing her into the oak-parlour, and
there was a world of dread and terror in his tone, "the police are
outside the house, mounted."

She shrieked out aloud, making the room ring. The woman actually
trembled all over.

"Hush!" interrupted Mr. Chandos. "Don't lose _your_ senses, Hill."

"Oh, Mr. Harry! the police at last! It's what I have dreamt of ever
since that awful night!"

"Well, you and I must be calm. You know the plan decided upon; if it
ever came to this. I may not go; I must stay and face it. Make you
haste! And—Hill! _lock_ the outer door of the east wing on the outside;
Mrs. Chandos must not see these men."

Hill did not stay to listen. She appeared to take in all, and was
flying up the stairs, breathless and panting. There came another ring,
another noise as with the sabres: and Robin, one of the under men, who
was coming across the hall, increased his speed. Mr. Chandos arrested
him.

"Robin, desire Hickens to attend himself. I wish it."

The man turned back, and Mr. Chandos stood for a moment against the
wall, his hands on his pale face.

"Mr. Chandos!" I said, in emotion great as his, "why are you afraid?
what dreadful thing is it! Confide in me! tell me!"

"That you may run from me, as the rest will do! You have said the word,
Anne—dreadful. That is it."

Hickens was advancing to the hall. Mr. Chandos went out to him; I
looked from the parlour-door.

"Hickens," said Mr. Chandos, speaking with apparent carelessness,
"these may be the police at the door. If so, they may enter."

"Them police again, sir!" returned Hickens, in consternation. "Weren't
they satisfied with their last visit? Whatever can they want at this
hour?"

"That's my business," replied Mr. Chandos. And Hickens turned to the
entrance.

"What a cowardly donkey that Joseph is, barring up the house before
bedtime!" quoth Hickens to himself as he threw wide the door.

Threw it wide, and admitted two of the officers. The other one remained
with the horses.



CHAPTER XXIII.
SEEN IN THE GALLERY BY MOONLIGHT.

Mr. Chandos advanced with suavity; the officers saluted him and took
off their hats. He held his handkerchief to his face, as if fearing the
draught: _I_ knew that it was to shade his livid countenance.

"A late visit, gentlemen! To what am I indebted for it?"

He had been gradually withdrawing to the oak-parlour as he spoke, and
they came with him. I drew back in confused indecision, and stood
humbly in the remotest and darkest corner. I had not courage to quit
the room, for I must have brushed by them: I hoped that Mr. Chandos
would see and dismiss me. But no; he never looked my way. He closed the
door, in the face of Hickens, whose state of mind was a pretty even
balance between wonder and dismay.

"We could not get here sooner, sir," observed one of the officers, who
spoke quite like a gentleman, "but we hope the delay has not been
inconvenient to you. The inspector, to whom your note was addressed,
was out when it arrived, so that it was not opened immediately."

Had the sentence been spoken in an unknown tongue, it could not more
completely have puzzled Mr. Chandos, to judge by his looks.

"What note do you speak of?"

"The note you sent in to-day."

This appeared to be no elucidation to Mr. Chandos.

"Will you tell me what its contents were?"

"We got but one, sir. It requested two or three of us to be here
to-night, mounted. It intimated that the thief, who has been playing
tricks in your house, was discovered, and would be given up to us. Our
inspector wondered why we were wanted to come mounted."

Oh, the change that fell over the face of Mr. Chandos! the eager light
of hope, the vivid rush of renewed colour! It was as one awakening from
death to life.

"Gentlemen," he said with a smile, as he pointed to seats, "I fear a
trick has been played upon _you._ I have not written to your inspector,
and most certainly possess as yet, no clue to the parties who have been
so disagreeably busy at Chandos."

They seemed hardly to believe him. For my own part I could scarcely
tell what was real, what not.

"But you must not go back without refreshment, although you have had a
useless ride," concluded Mr. Chandos, when some further explanation had
passed. "It shall be brought in at once," he added, ringing for
Hickens. "And this young lady," looking at me then, "will obligingly
see the housekeeper and bid her hasten it."

I obeyed the look and followed him into the hall. Hickens was there.

"Supper, Hickens. These gentlemen will take some before their
departure. Bring the best of what you have, and be quick over it."

Hickens moved away with alacrity: the word "departure" had reassured
him, and also seemed to afford hope that his curiosity would be
satisfied. Mr. Chandos caught my hand and drew me through the door to
the foot of the stairs. His own hand was trembling, and cold as ice:
unconsciously, I think, to himself, he laid it on my shoulder, and
spoke in the gentlest whisper.

"Go to the west wing, Anne. Knock at the outer door, but do not attempt
to enter. Hill will answer you. Tell her to inform Lady Chandos that it
is a false alarm; that the officers have only come respecting what was
recently lost from my desk, and that I have ordered supper for them.
Say that I will be with my mother as soon as possible, but I remain at
present to entertain them."

He returned swiftly to the parlour, closing the door, leaving me to
proceed on my errand. Hill answered my knock, her face and her cap of
an equal whiteness, and I delivered the message, speaking in a whisper.
Strangely relieved seemed she, at least in an equal degree with Mr.
Chandos, and she made me repeat the little I had heard said by the
officers, as if scarcely daring to believe the good tidings, without
confirmation.

"Heaven be praised!" she exclaimed; "it would just have killed my lady.
Bless you, child, for a good girl."

That Hill's relief of mind must have been something extraordinary for
her to bless _me_, one could but acknowledge; and I excused her
shutting the baize door in my face.

In less than half an hour, I heard the police ride away, as I sat in my
chamber, and Mr. Chandos passed to the west wing. It was very dull for
me in that lonely bedroom, and only half-past nine o'clock; so I
thought I might go down again. Hickens was putting the things together
on the supper tray.

"Miss, do you know what those men came for?" he asked.

"Well, Hickens, not exactly. Nothing at all to be afraid of, so far as
I could gather. I heard Mr. Chandos laughing with them when they went
away."

"Oh, I heard that; I was rung for to show 'em out," returned Hickens.
"My opinion is this, Miss, that it's just a scandal for policemen to
ride up at will in the dark night to a gentleman's seat—almost a
nobleman's—and if I were Mr. Chandos I'd let them know it. Swords
clanging to 'em, indeed! What next?"

He went away with his tray. Five minutes afterwards Mr. Chandos came
down. He was so gay; his step was light, his face smiling. It was only
the reaction that sometimes sets in after deliverance from great fear.
I had not thought to see him again that night: and stupidly said so.

"No! I came to look after you; lest you should have melted away with
terror. Were you very much scared, Anne?"

"Yes; just at first."

"Take it for all in all this has been a sensational evening," he
resumed, laughing. "My accident at the window; your discovery of the
marked money in your box; and the visitation of the police. Private
families cannot in general boast of so much entertainment all at once."

I looked at him wistfully. After the intense agitation and dread he had
betrayed, this light tone sounded very unnatural; almost like a mocking
make-believe.

"Mr. Chandos, I fear you live in some great peril," was my timid
rejoinder. "I suppose I may not be told what it is; but I wish I could
ease you; I wish I could avert it from you, whatever it may be."

As if by magic, his mood changed, and the dark shade came back to his
countenance. "So you won't let me cheat myself, Anne! I was trying if I
could do it."

"If you would but tell me what it is! If I could avert it from you!"

"No living being can do that, child. I wish I could forget it, if only
for a moment."

"And you cannot?"

"Never; by night or by day. I appear as the rest of the world does; I
laugh, I talk; but within lies ever that one terrible care, weighing me
down like an incubus."

How terrible it was, I could see even then, as he covered his eyes for
a moment with his wasted hand.

"But to-night has brought me a great relief—though it may be but
temporary," he resumed, looking up. "How thankful I felt when the
police explained their errand, God alone can ever know."

"But what errand did you fear they had come upon?"

"That I cannot tell you. Not upon quite so harmless a one as it turned
out to be."

"Better, perhaps, that they had come for me."

Mr. Chandos smiled—as well he might at the words; and passed to a gayer
strain.

"Which of the three would you have preferred to ride before, had I
given you into custody for finding that money of mine in your
possession? We must have looked for a pillion!"

But I did not answer in the same jesting spirit; I could not so readily
forget my alarm, or their hidden trouble. Very gravely, for it was
nearly bedtime, I put my hand out to wish him good-night. He took it
within both of his, and there was a pause of silence.

"Anne," he said, his low voice sounding strangely solemn in the
stillness of the room, "you have been to-night forced into what may be
called a species of confidence as to our unhappy secrets; at least, to
have become cognizant that Chandos has things to be concealed. Will you
be true to us—in so far as not to speak of this?"

"I will."

"In the house and out of it?"—and he seemed to lay emphasis on the
"in."

"I will be true as heaven," I answered in my earnestness. "I will seem
to forget that I know it myself."

"Thank you, my best friend. Good-night."

I had come up earlier than usual; it was not ten o'clock; and I thought
I might read for half an hour without transgressing any good rule. But
where had I left my book? Looking about, I could not see it.

It occurred to me then. I had been sitting reading in the gallery
window for some minutes before dinner; and must have left the book
there. It was but a few steps, and I went to fetch it.

There it was. I found it by feel, not by sight. The moon was bright
again, but the window-shutters were closed and barred. It was that
beautiful story, the "Heir of Redclyffe." Madame de Mellissie had
bought the Tauchnitz edition of it in Paris, and had left it behind her
at Chandos. Soon after she departed, I had found it and read it; and
was now dipping into it again.

But now—as I took it in my hand, there occurred a very strange thing,
frightening me nearly to death. Turning from the window, the whole
length of gallery was before me up to the door of the west wing, the
moonlight shining into it in places from the high windows above. There,
midway in the passage, the moonlight revealing it, was a shadowy sort
of form; looking like nothing on earth but an apparition.

I was in the shade; in the dark; remember that. Gliding along slowly,
one of its arms stretched out, looking just as if it were stretched out
in warning to me to escape—and I had not the sense then to remember
that I must be invisible—on it came. A tall, thin skeleton of a form,
with a white and shadowy face. There was no escape for me: to fly to my
own room would be to meet it; and no other door of refuge was open.

It has never been your fate as I feel sure, my gentle reader, to be at
one end of a gallery in a haunted house at night and see a ghost
gliding towards you from the other; so please don't laugh at me. What
my sensations were I can neither describe nor you conceive: I cannot
bear to think of them even now. That I beheld the ghost, said to haunt
Chandos, my sick heart as fully believed, in that moment, as it
believed in Heaven. Presence of mind forsook me; all that the wildest
imagination can picture of superstitious terror assailed me: and I
almost think—yes, I do think—that I might have lost my senses or died,
but for the arrival of succour.

Oh, believe me! In these awful moments, which have on occasion come to
people in real life far more certainly and terribly than anything ever
represented in fiction, believe me, God is ever at hand to send relief.
The overstrung mind is not abandoned to itself: very, very rarely
indeed are our guardian angels absent, or unready to work by an earthly
instrument.

It came to _me_ in the person of Mr. Chandos. Ascending the stairs, a
candle in his hand, softly whistling in unconcern, he came. It was no
moment for deliberation: had it been a king or emperor, it had been all
the same to me. With a great cry of anguish; with a low prolonged
shriek, that burst from me in the tension of nerves and brain; with a
clasp of his arm, as if I dare not let him go again, I laid hold of
him; dropping the book on the carpet of the gallery.

I suppose he put the wax-light down; I suppose he got over his
astonishment in some way: all I knew was that in a moment he was
holding me in his arms, trying to soothe my sobbing. Reaction had come,
and with it tears; never before had I cried so violently; and I clung
to him still in an agony of terror, as one, drowning, clings to the
living. But nothing remained in the gallery. Whatever had been in it
had vanished.

"What is all this? What has alarmed you?"

"It was there; it was coming towards me!" I whispered hysterically in
answer. "Oh forgive me! Hold me! I feel as though I should die."

"What was coming?" he inquired.

"The same—I think—that is seen in the grounds. The ghost. I saw it."

"How can you be so foolish? how can you take up these absurd fancies?"
he remonstrated, in a sharp tone, moving some steps away from me.

"I did, Mr. Chandos; I did. It came along with its arm raised, as if to
warn me off: a tall skeleton of a form, with shadowy features the hue
of the dead. Features that bear, in their formation, a great
resemblance to yours."

Was it fancy? or was it fact?—that his own features, as I spoke,
assumed an ashy tint, just as they had done when the police-officers
came?

"What were you doing out here?" he asked, in the same sharp accent.

"I only came to the window-seat to get a book. I saw it as I turned to
go back."

"You saw nothing," he persisted, with some warmth. "I am astonished at
you, Miss Hereford: the fancy was the creation of your own brain, and
nothing more. Pray, if the ghost was here then, where is it now?"

"I don't know. It disappeared: I think it seemed to go back towards the
west wing. It was certainly there."

"You are certainly silly," was his response. "A vast deal more so than
I had given you credit for."

"Ah, Mr. Chandos, you cannot reason me out of my eyesight and my
senses. Thank you, thank you ever for coming up the stairs just then: I
do believe I should have died, or lost my reason."

Picking up the "Heir of Redclyffe," I walked to my room, went in, and
shut the door. Mr. Chandos pulled it open again with a sharp pull.

"Forgive me if I have been harsh. Good-night."

"Oh, yes, sir; I know how foolish it must seem to you. Good-night."

"Go to rest in peace and safety, Anne. And be assured that no ill,
ghostly or human, shall work you harm while I am at hand to prevent
it."

I closed the door and bolted it, a vague idea in my mind that a bolted
door is a better safeguard against a ghost than on unbolted one. Mr.
Chandos's footsteps died away in the direction of the west wing.

With the morning, a little of the night's impression had vanished, for
the sun was shining brilliantly. Ghosts and sunlight don't accord with
each other; you cannot make them amalgamate. Ghosts at midnight are
ghosts: in the warm and cheery morning sun they are of doubtful
identity; or, at any rate, have vanished very far-off, into unknown
regions. I dressed myself as usual, in better spirits than might be
supposed, and went down. Mr. Chandos was earlier than I, and stood at
the window in the oak-parlour. He took my hand and retained it for some
moments in silence, I standing side by side with him, and looking from
the window as he did.

"And how is the ghost this morning, Anne?"

"I wish you would regard me as a rational being, Mr. Chandos! Do
anything but treat me as a child."

"Nay, I think you proved yourself both irrational and a child last
night," he laughingly said.

"Indeed I did not. I wish you had seen what I did."

"I wish I had," was the mocking answer. "Anne, trust me: there is no
ghost inside Chandos, whatever they may say as to there being one out
of it."

"I don't know how I shall be able to go upstairs alone at night again."

"Nor I. You will want Hill and half a dozen lighted torches to escort
you. Do you remember my remarking, that last evening, taking one event
with another, was a sensational one? But I did not suppose it was to
wind up with anything so grand as a ghost."

The mocking tone, the ridicule vexed me. It was as if he ridiculed me.
In spite of my good sense and my good manners, the vexation appeared in
my eyes.

"There! We will declare a truce, Anne, and let the ghost drop. I don't
want to make you angry with me."

"I am not angry, sir. I can never repay all your kindness to me; and
especially that last one of coming to my relief last night."

"Which was accidental. Shall I tell you how you can repay it all,
Anne?"

His voice dropped to earnest seriousness; his eyes, a strangely-sad
gravity seated in their depths, looked yearningly into mine.

"I wish you could, sir."

"Let this matter of your ghost be a perfect secret between you and me.
One to be disclosed to no one."

"Certainly. I promise."

That some great reason prompted the request was unmistakeable: that
there were certain interests attaching to this "ghost," whether it
might walk out of doors or in, could but be apparent. A mysterious
awe—pardon the words—pervaded the subject altogether; and had from the
moment I first entered Chandos. How I wished he would take me into his
confidence!—if it were only that I might show him that I would be true
and faithful. But for the strange reticence imposed by love when once
it takes possession of the soul, I might have boldly suggested this.

He leaned out of the window, inhaling the crisp air of the bright
October morning. Courage at length came to me to say a word.

"Of course, sir, I do not fail to see that there are interests here
that involve caution and care, though I cannot think how, or what they
are. If you would entrust me with them—and I could help in any way—I
should be glad. I would be so true."

"Ay, I am sure you would be. Latterly a vision has crossed me of a
time—a possible future when it might be disclosed. But it is neither
probable nor near. Indeed, it seems like a dream even to glance at it."

He had been looking at the far-off skies as he spoke, as though _he_
were in a dream. The urn was brought in, and I went to the table to
make the tea. Newspapers and letters arrived; he was buried in them
during breakfast, and carried them afterwards to his own sitting-room.

I saw his horse brought to the door in the course of the morning. In
crossing the hall to go to it, he looked in at oak-parlour. I was
mending gloves.

"Hard at work! Do you wear mended gloves?"

"Everybody is not Mr. Chandos of Chandos. Poor governesses have to wear
many things that the gay world does not. And Mrs. Paler has not paid
me."

"Shall I bring you some gloves home to-day?"

"Oh, no indeed; no, thank you, Mr. Chandos;" I answered, speaking and
colouring much more vehemently than the occasion called for. "Are you
going for a ride?"

"I am going to the police-station at Warsall, to endeavour to get a
sight of that note."

"Who could have written it? It seems so useless a hoax to have played."

"Useless?—As it turned out, yes. But it strikes me the intention was
neither harmless nor useless," he added, in a thoughtful tone.

"Shall you not institute an inquiry into it, Mr. Chandos?"

"No. I shall pick up what there may be to pick up in a quiet way; but I
shall make no stir in it. I have my reasons. Good-bye, Anne. Mind you
mend those gloves neatly."

"Good-bye, sir. Take care of Black Knave—that he does not throw you
again."

He went away laughing at his own remark on the gloves, or mine on Black
Knave, went up to the west wing, and was down again in a minute. The
horse was a favourite, and he patted him and spoke to him before
mounting. The groom rode a bright bay horse; a fine animal also.

Surely there was no harm in my looking from the window to watch them
away! But Mrs. Penn, who came into the oak-parlour at the moment,
appeared to think there was. Her lips were drawn in and her brow had a
frown on it as I turned to her. With that want of ceremony that
distinguished her customary behaviour to me, she flung herself back in
an easy-chair, her arms hanging down listlessly, her feet stretching
out. Her gown was a bright muslin of beautiful hue and texture; her
glowing hair had purple ribbons in it and black lace lappets.

"What a place this Chandos seems to be!" she exclaimed. "Did you ever
see such a house, Miss Hereford? That visit of the police—riding up
with their naked sabres!"

"The sabres were in their sheaths."

"They clanked; I know that. I can tell you it gave me a turn. And after
all, after terrifying us nearly to death, Mr. Chandos, I hear,
entertained them amicably at supper."

"It was as well to be civil; it was not their fault that they came. A
trick had been played on them."

"A trick? I don't understand."

"A note was written in Mr. Chandos's name to the inspector of police at
Warsall, asking for mounted officers to be sent over. They supposed
they were coming to take into custody the person who had been playing
tricks at Chandos. Tricks: that was the word used."

Mrs. Penn stared at me. "Who wrote the note?"

"Mr. Chandos does not know. He received a note himself also last night,
an anonymous one: insinuating that as you and I were the only strangers
at Chandos, one of us must be the guilty person."

"What next?" demanded Mrs. Penn, angrily taking up the words. "Does Mr.
Chandos suppose I stole my own lace and rifled my own letter? But it is
only what I have anticipated."

"Mr. Chandos knows better. I say it was the anonymous letter that
suggested the idea to him. I thought it seemed to point more to me than
to you."

"Mr. Chandos would not admit the idea—would he?"

"Oh, no. I am quite easy on that score. Mr. Chandos knows he may trust
me."

Whether Mrs. Penn thought this remark seemed to reflect on herself; to
shift the imputation on her, failing me, I could not tell; certainly no
such thing had been in my mind. Her eyes grew angry: she rose from the
chair, and shook her finger in my face.

"Anne Hereford, I have warned you once not to allow yourself to grow
attached to Mr. Chandos; I now warn you again. There are reasons—I may
not speak them—why it could bring you nothing but misery. Misery! It is
but a faint word for it: disgrace, shame; more than you in your
inexperience can imagine of evil. Better that you fell in love with the
lowest manservant attached to the place, than with Harry Chandos."

The tell-tale crimson arose in my cheeks, and I bent to pick one of the
late rose-buds, entwining themselves about the trellis-work outside.

"Child! should harm ever come of this, recollect that I did my best to
warn you. I am older than you by many years; had I ever possessed a
daughter, she might have been of your age."

"Thank you, Mrs. Penn," I gently said; "there is no cause to fear for
me."

"Where has Mr. Chandos gone?"

"To Warsall. He would like to discover the writer of the note to the
police."

"You seem to be quite in his confidence," remarked Mrs. Penn.

"He told me so much—that he intended to ride thither. It was no very
great amount of confidence."

"There are many things I don't like in this house," she continued,
after an interval of silence. "What do you suppose they did last night?
Actually locked us up in the east wing! Turned the key upon us! I was
coming forth to see if I could find out what those police were doing,
and I found myself a prisoner! Madam Hill's act and deed, that was."

"Indeed!" was my reply, not choosing to tell her that I had heard the
order given by Mr. Chandos.

"Hill takes a vast deal too much upon herself. I thought it could be no
one else, and taxed her with it, asking how she could presume to lock
up me. She coolly replied that she had never thought of me at all in
the affair, but of Mrs. Chandos, who was of a timid nature, and would
not like the sight of policemen inside the house. Poor thing! she has
cause," added Mrs. Penn, in a sort of self-soliloquy.

"Mrs. Chandos has!"

"No unhappy prisoner escaped from Portland Island, hiding his head
anywhere to elude notice, has more cause to dread the detective
officers of justice than she. Your friend, Harry Chandos, has the same.
I would not lead the life of apprehension he does, for untold gold.
Look at the skeleton it makes of him! he is consuming away with inward
fever. You were surprised when that London physician was brought down
to him; the household were surprised: I was not."

"How came you to be so deep in their secrets?"

"Had I not been in their secrets, and shown them that I was, I should
not have been admitted an inmate of that east wing," she answered. "Do
you know, when the police came last night—but I had better hold my
tongue, or I may say too much."

To avoid doing so, possibly, she quitted the room. But there were few
women—as I believed—less likely than Mrs. Penn to be betrayed into
speaking on impulse what it might not be expedient to speak.

The adventures of the day were not over for me. I wish they had been! I
finished my gloves; I practised; I did a little German; and in the
afternoon, when it was getting late, I strolled out with my book, the
"Heir of Redclyffe," and sat down between the house and the lodge-gates
in a sheltered seat; where I could see who passed to and from the
house, without being seen.

The morning had been very lovely; the evening was setting in less so; a
sighing wind whistled amidst the trees, clouds passed rapidly over the
face of the sky, and the autumn leaves fell and were whirled about the
paths. Did it ever strike you that there is something melancholy in
these dying leaves? Many people like autumn the best of the four
seasons; but I think there is in it a great deal of sadness. It brings
our own autumn of life too forcibly to the mind: as the leaves of the
trees decay, and fall, and die; so must we when our time shall come.

I was listening to the rustle of the leaves, and watching—if this is to
be a true confession—for Mr. Chandos, when he rode by to the house.
Inclination would have led me after him; common sense and propriety
kept me where I was. Presently, I saw Lizzy Dene advancing quietly
along one of the dark and private paths. She wore her cloak and bonnet,
and had a basket on her arm, as if she had been on an errand to the
village. In a moment some gentleman had met her and they were talking
together. It was Edwin Barley. There were so many outlets from the
broad walk that almost any of these private paths could be gained at
will.

Lizzy Dene came on almost directly; she seemed to be in a hurry, and
turned off towards the kitchens. The next to appear in the same walk
was Mrs. Penn, striking right across the steps of Mr. Edwin Barley.

I was so sheltered by surrounding trees that they could not see me; but
as they came nearer, walking side by side, Mrs. Penn's eye caught mine.
She quickened her pace, and Mr. Edwin Barley turned back, raising his
hat to her. "Here you are with your book," she began. "Is it not too
dark to see to read?"

"Almost. Have you been for a walk, Mrs. Penn?" I asked, hoping she'd
not mention the name of Edwin Barley.

"I have been to the village post. I don't care to entrust my letters
now to the hall-table. Did you notice a gentleman with me down there,
Miss Hereford?"

"I think I did see some one walking with you. It is dark amid all those
trees."

"I want to know his name," she continued, looking at me. "He has
accosted me once or twice lately. A very civil, gentlemanly man."

"_Is_ he! He has spoken to me, and I—I did not think him so. At least,
I did not much like him. He lives in that house by the lodge-gates."

"Oh, then, it must be Mr. Edwin Barley, I suppose. Did you know his
name?"

"Yes."

"He is a friend of the people here, I imagine. He stopped me just now
and began asking after the health of Lady Chandos, as if he had an
interest in it."

"I should not answer any of his questions at all, if I were you, Mrs.
Penn."

"Why not?"

"You don't know anything of him, or what his motives may be for
inquiry. I once heard Mr. Chandos warn him off these grounds; after
that, he has no right to enter them. I think his doing so looks
suspicious."

"I think you must be a suspicious young lady to fancy it," returned
Mrs. Penn with a laugh. "You were certainly born to be a vieille fille,
Anne Hereford. They are always ultra-cautious."

"I daresay I was."

"When a gentleman—and a neighbour, as you now say he is—makes inquiries
in passing after the invalids of the family you may be staying with,
_I_ do not see any harm in answering. One can't turn away like a bear,
and say, I will not tell you."

"As you please. I do not think Mr. Chandos would approve of your
speaking to him."

"Talking of Mr. Chandos, has he returned from that police errand yet?"

"I saw him ride past half an hour ago."

"I must hasten home," she returned, beginning to move away. "Mrs.
Chandos cannot be left for long. I have run all the way back from the
post, and I ran to it."

What a strangely persevering man that Edwin Barley seemed to be! If
Mrs. Penn knew—as she evidently did know—the dark secrets of the
Chandos family, what might he not get out of her? I nearly made up my
mind to inform Mr. Chandos.

Alas for me! for my poor courage! Turning a sharp corner by the alcove
to go home, I came upon him standing there; Edwin Barley. Was he
waiting for me, or for Mrs. Penn? But she had gone by the other path.
It was too late to retreat. I essayed to do it, but he placed himself
in my way.

"Not so fast, young lady. I have been expecting you to come up: I saw
you in the distance, and waited to exchange a word with you. Why! you
won't be so discourteous as to refuse!"

"I cannot stay now, thank you."

"Oh, yes, you can—when I wish it. I want to inquire after the health of
the family. There's no getting anything out of anybody: they 'can't
tell me how my lady is, save from hearsay;' they 'never see her,' they
'see nearly as little of Mr. Chandos.' You and I can be more
confidential."

"No, we cannot, sir. I never see Lady Chandos, any more than others
do."

"Which you cannot say of Mr. Harry; you see rather much of him,"
retorted Mr. Edwin Barley, with a parting of the lips that showed the
subject vexed him. "You and he are together always—as the news is
brought to me."

"Did Mrs. Penn tell you that?" I asked, my colour and my anger rising
together.

"Mrs. Penn!"

"The lady you have just parted with," I answered, supposing he did not
know her by name.

"Mrs. Chandos's companion? _She's_ none too civil to me. You had a
visit from the mounted police last evening; an unexpected one, rumour
runs. Did their sudden appearance confound Mr. Harry Chandos?"

How he seemed to know things! Did he get them from mere rumour, or from
Lizzy Dene? I remained silent.

"Did they bring, I ask, confusion to Mr. Chandos? Did he exhibit the
aspect, the terror, of one who—who has been guilty of some great crime,
and dreads to expiate, it?"

"I cannot tell you, sir."

"You were with him, I know that much," he returned, in the same
commanding, angry, imperative tone of voice I had once heard him use to
my aunt Selina.

"But what if I was? I cannot say how Mr. Chandos felt or thought."

"You _can_—if you choose. I asked you how he looked; what his manner
betrayed: not what he felt or thought."

Loving _him_ as I did, bound to his interests, could I be otherwise
than on my guard? Nevertheless there must have been that in my tone and
look that carried doubt to Mr. Edwin Barley.

"Mr. Chandos spoke to the officers quite calmly, sir. They were
admitted at once, and he invited them into the sitting-room."

He looked at me keenly: I say, there must have been some doubt on his
mind. "Are you aware that I know you, Anne? I think you must know me.
As your uncle, your only living relative, I have a right to question
you of these and other things."

My heart beat violently. Nearly too sick to speak felt I: and the words
shook as they issued from my lips.

"You are not my uncle, sir. Selina was my aunt, but——"

"And as Selina's husband, I became your uncle, Anne, by law. She is
dead, but I am living: your uncle still. So you did know me?"

"I have known you, sir, ever since the day I first saw you here."

"It is more than I did by you, young lady; or I should not have allowed
you to remain so quietly at Chandos. For the sake of my dead wife, I
hold an interest in your welfare: and _that_ will not be enhanced by
your companionship with Harry Chandos."

The hint conveyed by the words half frightened me to death. _He_ allow
me! _he_ assume a right to control me! I spoke out in my sick terror.

"You cannot have any power over me or my actions, Mr. Edwin Barley."

"Indeed I have, Anne. The law would say so. Do you know who Mrs. Penn
is?" he abruptly asked.

"I don't know who Mrs. Penn is or where she comes from," was my quick
reply, glad he had put a question at last that I could answer honestly.
"Will you please to let me go, sir? it is getting dark."

"Not just yet. You must first reply to a question or two I wish to ask
touching Harry Chandos. To begin with: Does he go often from home?"

Sick, faint, weak, though I was, I had presence of mind to put up one
little sentence of prayer to be helped to do right: and that right I
knew lay in denying him all information.

"I cannot tell you anything whatever about Mr. Chandos—or what he
does—or what any one else does. As long as I am in the family,
protected by them, trusted by them, it is dishonourable even to listen
to such questions. But indeed I know nothing. If the Chandos family
have secrets, they do not tell them to me."

"I should not imagine they would. I am not asking you for secrets.
There are reasons why I wish to learn a little of their ordinary
everyday doings. This, at any rate, is a simple question: Does Mr.
Harry Chandos——"

"It is of no use, sir; I will not answer that or any other. Pray do not
stop me again! I hope you will pardon me for reminding you that I heard
Mr. Chandos desire you not to intrude on these grounds: I think you
ought to obey him, sir."

His face, always stern, grew fierce in its anger. Perhaps it was only
natural that it should. He raised his hand before me.

"I hold the Chandoses under my finger and thumb. A little movement
(here he closed them), and they may go trooping out of the kingdom to
hide their disgrace; your friend, Mr. Harry, with all his high and
mighty pride, leading the van. It will not be long first. By the
obedience you owed your Aunt Selina, my dead wife, by the tenderness
for her cherished memory, I order you to speak. You must do so, Anne."

One single moment of hesitation—I am ashamed to confess to it; but his
voice and manner were so solemn—and my resolve returned, fixed and
firm.

"I have said that I will not, now or ever."

He laid hold of me by the two arms as if he were going to shake me; his
angry face, with its beautiful white teeth—he always showed them when
in anger—close to mine. You see, the old fear I used to have of him as
a child clung to me still, and I shrieked out loud twice in my terror.
I had always been wanting in presence of mind.

It all passed in a moment. _What_ I hardly knew. There was a crash as
if the slender hedge gave way; and Mr. Chandos was holding me behind
him, having flung Mr. Edwin Barley back against the opposite tree.



CHAPTER XXIV.
MRS. PENN'S REVELATION.

Against the tree to which the powerful push had flung him, he stood
quietly. There had been no blow. Mr. Chandos had but come between us,
calmly put me behind him, laid his hand on Mr. Edwin Barley's chest,
and pushed him backwards. These very slender, delicate-looking men
sometimes possess unusual strength—as he did. Edwin Barley, in an
encounter, would have been as a reed in his hand.

Neither of them seemed in a passion: at least their manner did not
betray it. Mr. Chandos's face was a little paler than common; it was
stern, haughty, and its nostrils were working; but otherwise he looked
cool and collected. And Mr. Edwin Barley stood gazing at him, a strange
look of conscious power in his eye and lip.

"How dare you presume to molest this young lady?" were the first words
of Mr. Chandos. "What do you mean by it?"

"As to 'molesting,' I do not understand the term, as applied to Miss
Hereford," returned Mr. Edwin Barley, with cool equanimity. "I possess
the right to talk to her, and touch her; you don't. Neither possess you
the right to protect her: I do. What relative may she be of yours?"

"None. But she is my mother's guest."

"None; just so. She is my niece."

Mr. Chandos, with a gesture of astonishment, looked in my face for
confirmation or refutation. He got neither. I only clung to him for
protection, the tears running down my cheeks.

"She has no protecting relative save myself; she has no other relative,
so far as I know, or she knows, in the world, save a lad younger than
she is," pursued Mr. Edwin Barley, no anger in his tone, only the
firmness of conscious power. "My niece, I tell you, sir."

"Whatever she may be, she is residing under my mother's roof, and as
such, is in my charge. If you ever dare to touch her against her will
again, sir, I will horsewhip you."

Mr. Chandos held his riding-whip in his hand as he spoke (he had
brought it out by chance), and it trembled ominously. Mr. Edwin Barley
drew back his lips: not in laughter, in all he did he was in earnest,
and his teeth were momentarily seen. Few could boast a set so white and
beautiful.

"Harry Chandos, you know that you will one day have to pay for your
incivility."

"I know nothing of the sort; and if I did, the Chandoses are not given
to calculation. I can tell you what you shall be made to pay for, Mr.
Edwin Barley—the trespassing upon my domains. I warned you off them
once; I will not warn you again—the law shall do it for me."

"_Your_ domains!" retorted Mr. Edwin Barley.

"Yes, sir, mine," was the haughty answer. "They are mine so long as I
am the representative of Sir Thomas Chandos. Have the goodness to quit
them now, or I will call my servants to escort you."

Whatever Mr. Edwin Barley might do privately, he knew he had no legal
right to remain within the domains of Chandos, when ordered off them,
and he was not one openly to defy usages. He moved away in the
direction of the gates; turning his head to speak at about the third
step, and halting as he did so.

"The law, so far, lies with you at present, Mr. Harry Chandos. A short
while, and perhaps it will lie with me, in a matter far more weighty.
As to you, Anne, I shall officially claim you."

Nothing else was said. Mr. Chandos watched him to the turning of the
dark wall, then walked by my side to the house, flicking the shrubs
with his whip.

"I happened to have it with me," he said, whether addressing the whip,
or me, or the air, was not clear. "I was fastening the handle, which
had got loose. _Is_ that man your uncle?"

He turned to me full now, a look of stern pain on his pale, proud face.
The tears gushed forth again at the question; I was wishing my heart
could break.

"Oh no, no; indeed I am no blood-relation of his."

Mr. Chandos went on without another word. I thought he was despising
me: would think that I had been in league with his enemy, Edwin Barley.
I who had pretended not to know him!

The cloth was laid in the oak-parlour, but there were no lights yet.
Mr. Chandos flung his whip into a corner, and stood in the shade of the
curtain. I went up to him, feeling very hysterical.

"Do not misjudge me, Mr. Chandos. I will tell you all, if you please,
after dinner. I should have told you before but that I have felt so
frightened at Mr. Edwin Barley."

"Since when have you felt frightened?"

"Since I was a little girl. I had not seen him for a good many years
until I saw him here at Chandos, and I was afraid to speak of
him—afraid also that he would recognise me."

"He says he can claim you. Is that an idle boast?"

"I don't know; I don't understand English laws. Perhaps he might, but I
would a great deal rather die."

The tears were falling down my face, lifted to his in its yearning for
pity and forgiveness. Mr. Chandos bent towards me, a strange look of
tenderness in his earnest eyes. I think he was going to lay his kind
hand on my shoulder to assure me of his care, when at that moment some
one passed the window, whom I took to be Edwin Barley. It was but the
gardener—as I learned later—he had put on his coat to go home; a short,
dark man walking past, and the dusk was deceptive. I thought Edwin
Barley had come to take me there and then.

For the minute I was certainly not in my proper senses: terror alone
reigned. I laid hold of Mr. Chandos in hysterical excitement, clinging
to him as one clings for dear life.

"Oh, keep me, keep me! Do not let him take me! Mr. Chandos! Mr.
Chandos! I know you are angry with me and despise me; but do not give
me up to him!"

Before I had done speaking he had me in his arms, holding me closely to
his breast. We stood there in the shade of the dark room, heart beating
wildly against heart.

"I wish I could give myself the right to keep you from him, and from
every other ill," he breathed. "Do you know, Anne, that I love you
above all else in the world?"

I—I made no answer, save that I did turn my face a little bit towards
his; but I should have liked to remain where I was for ever.

"But, my darling, it can only end here as it has begun; for I cannot
marry. My brother, Sir Thomas, does not marry."

I looked at him. He saw that I would have asked why.

"Because we ought not: it would not be right. There are dark clouds
hanging over Chandos: should they open, it would be to hurl down
desolation and disgrace. How can either of us, he or I, think of
exposing a wife to encounter this? Could I in honour do it?"

"It might be happier for you, if this sorrow should arrive, to have one
with you to soothe your cares and share them."

"And there is one who would not shrink from it," he said, tenderly, the
tears standing in his eyes. "Had I not seen that, Anne, I should have
been as much knave as fool to confess to my own state of feeling. For
some days past I have been thinking it might be better to speak; that I
owed as much to you; to speak and have done with it. Before I knew my
danger, love had stolen over me, and it was too late to guard against
it. It has not been our fault: we were thrown together."

He took some impassioned kisses from my face. I let him take them. I'm
afraid I did not think whether it was right or wrong; I'm not sure that
I cared which it was: I only know that I felt as one in a blissful
dream.

"I have been betrayed into this, Anne," he said, releasing me. "I ought
to beg your pardon in all humility. It is not what I intended: though I
might just tell you of my love, I never thought to give you tokens of
it. Will you forgive me?"

He held out his hand. I put mine into it, the silent tears running down
my blushing face. "Do not fear a similar transgression for the future.
The fleeting moment over, it is over for good. I would give half my
remaining existence, Anne, to be able to marry, to make you my wife;
but it cannot be. Believe me, my darling, it _cannot_. No, though you
are my darling, and will be for ever."

"Oh look! look at this! It is from your hand! What has happened to it?"

On my dress of white sprigged muslin there were two red stains, wet.
The straps of his hand had become loosened, perhaps in the encounter
with Mr. Edwin Barley, and it had burst out bleeding again. I ran
upstairs to put on another dress, leaving Mr. Chandos to attend to his
hand.

Oh, but I was in a glow of happiness! He had said he could not marry.
What was marriage to me? Had there been no impediment on his side,
there might have been one on mine: a poor friendless young governess
was no match for Mr. Chandos of Chandos. He loved me: that was quite
enough for present bliss; and, as it seemed to me, for future.

Mr. Chandos presided at dinner as usual, himself once more; calm,
collected, courteous, and gentlemanly. The servants in waiting could
never have suspected he had been making me a declaration of love, and
pressing kisses on my lips not many minutes before.

"Did you get to see the letter at Warsall?" I asked, when the servants
had left again, and silence was growing for me too self-conscious.

"Yes, but I don't know the handwriting. It looks like a lady's. They
let me bring the note home; I'll show it you presently. Talking of
that——"

"Without concluding, he rose, went to a side-table, and brought me a
box, done up in paper.

"There! Don't say I forget you."

It contained gloves; a good many pairs. Beautiful French gloves of all
colours; some dark and useful, others delicate and rare. But I thought
it would not be right to accept them, and the tell-tale pink flushed my
cheeks.

"Don't scruple; they are not from me. Look at the bit of writing
paper."

I pulled it out of the box. A few words were on it, pencilled by Lady
Chandos, asking me to wear the gloves.

"It happened that I was going to buy some for my mother to-day. When I
went up to her after Black Knave was brought round, I told her Miss
Hereford had no gloves left, and she asked me to get you some. There,
Miss Hereford."

I supposed I might wear them now. The blushes changed to crimson, and I
began putting on a glove to cover my confusion. Mr. Chandos ate his
grapes with his usual equanimity.

"Six and a half. How did you guess my size?"

"By your hand. I had seen it, and felt it."

As if jealous of the interview—it seemed so to me at the moment—Hill
came in to break it. Lady Chandos wanted him in the west wing.

He went up at once. I sat thinking of all that had occurred. Would Mr.
Edwin Barley indeed claim me? _Could_ he? Would the law allow him? A
shiver took me at the thought.

The tea waited on the table when he came down again. It seems very
monotonous, I feel sure, to be alluding so continually to the meals,
but you see they were the chief times when I was alone with Mr.
Chandos; so I can only crave pardon.

Mr. Chandos's countenance wore a sad and gloomy look: but that was
nothing unusual after his visits to the west wing. I wondered very much
that he did not have the shutters closed after what took place the
previous night; but there they were open, and nothing between the room
and the window but the thin lace curtains. The oak-brown silk curtains,
with their golden flowers, were at the extreme corners of the windows,
not made to draw. Long afterwards I found that he had the shutters left
open because I was there. As the habit had been to leave them open
previously, he did not choose to alter it now: people inclined to be
censorious, might have remarked upon it. That aspect of the affair
never occurred to me.

"What led to the scene with that man to-day?" he abruptly asked, after
drinking his cup of tea in silence. "How came you to meet him?"

I briefly explained. Mentioning also that I had seen Mrs. Penn with
him, and what she said to me of his inquiries. And I told him of Mr.
Edwin Barley's questions to me about the visit of the police-officers.

"If Mrs. Penn is to make an acquaintance of Mr. Edwin Barley, she
cannot remain at Chandos," he coldly remarked. "Have you finished tea?
Then it shall go away."

He rose to ring the bell, did not resume his seat again, but stood with
his back to the fire, and watched the servants take the things away. I
got my work about as usual.

"Now then, Anne, I claim your promise. What are you to Edwin Barley?
and what is he to you?"

A moment's pause. But I had made my mind up to tell him all, and would
not flinch now the moment had come. Putting down the work, I sat with
my hands on my lap.

"Did you know that there was once a Mrs. Edwin Barley?"

"Unfortunately, I had too good cause to know it."

I thought the answer a strange one, but went on.

"She was a Carew. Miss Selina Carew, of Keppe-Carew."

"I know she was."

"And my aunt."

"Your aunt!" he repeated, looking at me strangely. "Why, whose daughter
are you?"

"My father was Colonel Hereford. A brave officer and gentleman."

"Thomas Hereford? Of the —th?"

"Yes."

"And your mother?"

"My mother was Miss Carew of Keppe-Carew. She was a good deal older
than Selina. They were sisters."

The information appeared to surprise him beyond expression. He sat down
in a chair in front of me, his eyes fixed on my face with an earnest
gaze.

"The daughter of Colonel Hereford and of Miss Carew of Keppe-Carew! And
we have been thinking of you as only a governess! Je vous en fais mes
compliments empressés, Miss Hereford! You are of better family than
ours."

"That does me no good. I have still to be a governess."

"Does it not, young lady? Well—about Mrs. Edwin Barley. Did you see
much of her?"

"Not much until the last. I was there when she died."

"There! At Edwin Barley's! She died at his place near Hallam."

"Yes." And I gave him the outline of what had taken me there: to spend
the short interval between mamma's death and my being placed at school.

"You must have heard of a—a tragedy"—he spoke the words in a
hesitating, unwilling manner—"that occurred there about the same time.
A young man, a ward of Edwin Barley's, died."

"Philip King. Yes; he was killed. I saw it done, Mr. Chandos."

"Saw what done?"

"Saw Philip King murdered. That's not a nice word to repeat, but it is
what they all called it at the time. I was in the wood. I saw the shot
strike him, and watched him fall."

"Why, what a strange girl you are!" Mr. Chandos exclaimed, after a
pause of astonishment. "What else have you seen?"

"Nothing like that. Nothing half so dreadful. I trust I never shall."

"I trust not, either. Anne," he continued, dropping his voice to a low,
solemn tone, "you say you saw that shot strike him. _Who fired it?_"

"It was said to be—but perhaps I ought not to mention the name even to
you, Mr. Chandos," I broke off. "Mrs. Hemson cautioned me never to
repeat it under any circumstances."

"Who is Mrs. Hemson?"

"She was also once a Miss Carew of Keppe-Carew. Her father was John
Carew; and my grandfather, Hubert Carew, succeeded him. She married Mr.
Hemson; he was in trade, and the Carews did not like it: but oh, Mr.
Chandos, he is one of the noblest of gentlemen in mind and manners."

"As I have heard my mother say. Go on, Anne."

"After Mrs. Edwin Barley died, I was sent to Mrs. Hemson's at
Dashleigh; she had undertaken the charge of fixing on a school for me.
It was she who told me not to mention the name."

"You may mention it to me. Was it George Heneage?"

"You know it, then, Mr. Chandos!"

"I know so much—as the public in general knew. They said it was George
Heneage; a gentleman staying there at the time. Did you see who it was
that fired the shot? Pray answer me."

"I did not see it fired: but I think it was George Heneage. Quite at
first I doubted, because—but never mind that. I did not doubt
afterwards, and I think it was certainly George Heneage."

"'Never mind' will not do for me, Anne. I mind it all; have too much
cause; and from me you must conceal nothing. Why did you at first doubt
that it was George Heneage?"

"I saw Mr. Edwin Barley coming from the direction where the shot was
fired, with his gun in his hand, and wondered at the moment whether he
had done it. I used to feel afraid of him; I did not like him; and he
disliked George Heneage.

"Did you hear or know the cause of his dislike of George Heneage?"

"I gathered it," I answered, feeling my face flush.

"Mrs. Edwin Barley was beautiful, was she not?" he asked, after a
pause.

"Very beautiful."

"Are you anything like her?"

I could not help laughing. I like Selina!

"Not one bit. She had a very fair, piquante face, light and careless,
with blue eyes and a mass of light curling hair."

"Do you remember George Heneage?" he continued, stooping for something
as he asked the question.

"No; not his face. When I try to recall it, it always seems to slip
from me. I remember thinking him good-looking. He was very tall.
Charlotte Delves called him a scarecrow; but I thought she disliked him
because Mr. Edwin Barley did."

"Who was Charlotte Delves?"

"She lived there. She was distantly related to Mr. Edwin Barley.
Jemima—one of the maids—once said that Charlotte Delves liked Mr. Edwin
Barley too well to be just."

"I remember hearing of her—of some relation, at least, who was in the
house at the time," he observed, in a dreamy sort of tone. "Delves?
perhaps that was the name. A candid, pleasant-mannered, ladylike
woman—as described to me."

"I don't recollect much about her, or what she was like, except that
she was very kind to me after my Aunt Selina's death. It is a good
while ago, and I was only a little girl."

"Ay. But now, Anne, I want you to relate to me all the particulars of
that bygone miserable tragedy: anything and everything that you may
remember as connected with it. Understand me: it is not curiosity that
prompts me to ask it. Were I to consult my own wishes, I would bury the
whole in a stream of Lethe; every word spoken of it is to me so much
agony. Nevertheless, you may do me a service if you will relate what
you know of it."

"I would tell you willingly, Mr. Chandos. But—I fear—I—should have to
seem to cast blame on Selina."

"You cannot cast so much blame on her as has already been cast on her
to me. Perhaps your account may tend to remove the impression it left
on my mind."

I began at the beginning, and told him all, so far as I could
recollect, giving my childish impressions of things. I told him also my
own early history. When I came to the details of Philip King's death,
Mr. Chandos sat with his elbow on the arm of the chair, his face turned
from me and buried in his hand.

"You saw George Heneage just afterwards?" he remarked.

"Yes. He was hiding in the wood, trembling all over, and his face very
white."

"Had he the look of a guilty man?"

"I think he had. Had he not been guilty, why should he not have come
openly forward to succour Philip King?"

"True. Did Mrs. Edwin Barley deem him guilty?"

"Not at first. I don't know what she might have done later. Mr. Edwin
Barley did."

"As he took care to let the world know. Go on with your narrative,
Anne. I ought not to have interrupted it."

I went on to the end. Mr. Chandos heard me without comment; and
remained so long silent that I thought he was never going to speak
again.

"Has George Heneage ever been heard of, do you happen to know, Mr.
Chandos?"

"It is said not."

"Then I think he must be dead. Or perhaps he has kept out of the
country. Mr. Edwin Barley said at the time that he would bring him to
justice, were it years and years to come."

"Mr. Edwin Barley was excessively bitter against him. He, Barley,
succeeded to Philip King's fine property. Were I on the jury when
George Heneage was brought to trial, I should require strong
proof—stronger than brought, Edwin Barley's word—ere I convicted him."

"Mr. Edwin Barley did not shoot him," I said, gravely.

"I do not accuse him; I feel sure he did not. But there were one or two
private doubts entertained upon the matter; I can tell you that, Anne.
He was suspiciously eager in his accusations of George Heneage!"

"Think of his provocation! Selina and George Heneage had both lived
only to provoke him; and people said he was really attached to Philip
King."

"Good arguments, Anne. I believe I am unjust in all that relates to
Edwin Barley."

"But why should you be, Mr. Chandos? Don't you think it must have been
George Heneage who did the murder?"

"I beg you will not use that ugly word, Anne. My full and firm belief
is that it was an accident—nothing more."

"Then why should George Heneage stay away?"

"A natural question. Of course we cannot answer for what George Heneage
does or does not do. Were he to appear in England, Mr. Edwin Barley
would instantly cause him to be apprehended; there's no doubt of that;
innocent or guilty, he must stand his trial; and to some men that
ordeal would be just as bad as conviction. Besides, he might not be
able to prove that it was but an accident; I think he would not be;
and, failing that proof, he would be condemned. In saying this, I am
not seeking to defend George Heneage."

"Did you ever see George Heneage, Mr. Chandos?"

"Yes."

"Perhaps you knew him?"

He made no reply; but rose from his seat and began to pace the room.

"About that will of Mrs. Edwin Barley's, Anne?" he presently asked.
"Did her husband destroy it?"

If I had thought so as a child, and thought so still, it was not
possible for me to say it; but Mr. Chandos had acquired a habit of
reading what I hesitated to speak.

"I see; you think it better not to avow dangerous doctrines."

"Indeed, I should be grieved to know that he really took it. Its
disappearance was very strange."

"You don't think he took it; you only had an instinct that way. But,
Anne, your instincts are generally true ones. Mr. Barley has the
character of being a hard, grasping man, loving money better than
anything else in the world, except the bringing to punishment of George
Heneage. He could not bear for the little trifle to go beside him;
compared to his large property, it was but what a drop of water is to
the wide ocean. He did not want it, you did; you have but little."

"I have nothing, nothing but what I earn. Mamma sunk for my education
the trifle of money she had saved."

"But—the daughter of Colonel Hereford ought to enjoy a pension," he
debated, stopping short in his walk.

"Papa sold out previous to his death."

"Oh, I see," and he resumed his walk.

"Mr. Chandos, may I ask you a question?"

"You know you may. I will answer it if I can."

"What has Mr. Edwin Barley to do with you? Why should he be your
enemy?"

"That is what I cannot answer," he quickly rejoined. "He is an
implacable enemy to me and my family; and likely ever to remain so. I
cannot divest myself of the idea that he was the author of that visit
we were favoured with last night by the police. Between the two—him and
his wife—we have suffered enough. I should be puzzled to say which of
them did us most harm, Miss Hereford."

Miss Hereford! And I was the Barleys' relative! My heart felt sick and
faint within me.

"Well, what now?" asked Mr. Chandos, who happened to be looking, and he
came up and stood close before me.

"Nothing, sir, nothing; only I cannot help Selina's having been my
aunt. Perhaps you will never care to be kind to me again."

His eyes, so grave before, quite danced with their pleasant light. He
laid his hand gently on my shoulder.

"Anne, the only kind thought I have had of your aunt Selina is since I
knew she was of your kindred. If——"

I pushed his hand away from me. I rose with a vivid blush. Inside the
door, having come in so quietly as to be unheard, stood Mrs. Penn, Mr.
Chandos turned, a haughty frown on his brow.

"I beg your pardon, madam; do you want anything?"

"I beg yours, sir, for my intrusion," she answered, civilly. "I only
had a little errand with Miss Hereford. Will you"—turning to me—"kindly
let me have my embroidery scissors, if you have done with them?"

I took them from my basket and gave them to her. "Thank you, Mrs. Penn,
for the loan of them. They cut my strip of work nicely."

"It is a chilly evening," she remarked, moving to depart. "I fancy we
are going to have rain."

Mr. Chandos opened the door for her, and when she left slipped the
bolt. Ere he was half way across the room on his return, however, he
went back and undid it, some reflection appearing to strike him. His
brow was stern and displeased.

"That Mrs. Penn is a curious woman!"

"Curious! In what way, sir? Do you mean her hair?"

He slightly laughed. "I spoke the word literally, Anne. She came in, I
fancy, just to see what was going on, the scissors being the excuse."

"She complains of its being so dull in the east wing. I think she is
glad to escape from it for a moment when she can."

"Ay, no doubt; we must not be harsh upon her. She is a contrast to Mrs.
Freeman, who never put herself into anybody's way. I wish I could
discover the author of these losses in the house," he continued,
passing to another subject. "Had it been alone the looking into letters
or stealing them, I might have suspected Edwin Barley. That is, that
some one was at work for him here. That he would like to get my private
memoranda into his fingers, and peep at my letters, I know; but he
could have no possible motive for causing lace and money to be stolen."

My head was full of Lizzy Dene, and I thought the time had come for me
to speak. Ah, what would I not tell him in the bond of confidence that
seemed to be established between us.

"But, Mr. Chandos—suppose, for argument's sake—that he has an agent in
the house; suppose that it is a woman, that agent may be transacting a
little business on her own account while she does his."

Mr. Chandos came and stood before me. "Have you a motive in saying
this?"

"Yes. I think, I do think, if there is one, that it is Lizzy Dene."

Of course, having said so much, I told all. Of the interview that some
one (I suspected Lizzy Dene) had held with Edwin Barley in the grounds;
the chance meeting they had held that afternoon. Mr. Chandos was
terribly displeased, but still he could not—I saw it—be brought to
believe that it was Dene.

"You have great faith in her, Mr. Chandos?"

"I have, because I believe Lizzy Dene to be of true and honest nature;
I do not think her capable of acting as a spy, or any other false part.
She is an inveterate gossip; she is superstitious, and looks after
ghosts; but I believe her to be faithful to the backbone."

It was no use to contend: he had his opinion, I had mine. To look at
Lizzy's face, to listen to her voice, I should have thought her honest
too; but I could not shut my eyes to facts and circumstances. Mr.
Chandos rang for Hill.

"I want to say a word to Lizzy Dene, Hill; incidentally, you
understand. Can you contrive to send her here on some ostensible
errand?"

Hill nodded her head and withdrew. Presently Lizzy Dene came in with a
knock and a curtsey; she went to the sideboard and began looking in it
for something that appeared difficult to find. Mr. Chandos, standing
with his back to the fire, suddenly accosted her; she had got her head
nearly inside one of the sideboard cupboards.

"How long have you known Mr. Edwin Barley, Lizzy?"

"Known who, sir, did you ask?" she returned, standing up and looking
round at him.

"Mr. Edwin Barley."

"I don't know him at all, sir," she replied, after a minute's pause
given apparently to surprise and consideration. "Not but what I seem to
have heard that name—lately, too."

"He is the new tenant at the house outside the gates."

"Dear! yes, to be sure! Two of the men were talking of him one day;
that was the name, for I remember I said it put me in mind of the
fields. I have seen him once or twice sir; a short, dark man."

"Where did you first see him?"

"It was coming home from church one Sunday, sir. We were crossing the
road to the gates, me and Robin, and Harriet, when I noticed a swarthy
gentleman standing stock-still and staring at us. 'I hope he'll know us
again,' said I; 'he's ugly enough.' 'Hush!' says Robin, 'that's
master's new tenant at the house there!'"

"Have you spoken to him?" inquired Mr. Chandos.

"Well, sir, if you can call it speaking, I have. This evening, as I was
coming home, I met him in one of the walks. He wished me good evening,
and asked how my lady was. I stood to answer him, saying my lady was
still very ill. That's all, sir."

"Has he spoken to you at any other time?"

"No, sir, never. I had forgot his name, sir, till you mentioned it
now."

She did seem to speak truthfully, and Mr. Chandos looked at me. Lizzy,
finding nothing more was asked, turned to the sideboard again, and
presently quitted the room.

"The traitor is not Lizzy Dene, Anne!"

Certainly it did not appear to be. I felt puzzled. Mr. Chandos
continued his walk, and the clock struck ten. Putting up my work, I
held out my hand to wish him good-night, and took courage to speak out
the question lying so heavily on my heart.

"Do you think, sir, Mr. Edwin Barley can really claim me?"

"I cannot tell, Anne. At any rate he would have, I imagine, to make you
first of all a ward in Chancery, and get himself appointed guardian;
and that would take time."

"He could not come into your house and take me forcibly out of it?"

"Certainly not; and I—acting for Lady Chandos—will take very good care
he does not do it."

"Good-night, sir!"

"It is to be 'sir' to the end—is it? Good-night, Anne," he went on,
shaking me by the hand. "I wish I dare offer you a different good-night
from this formal one! I wish I could feel justified in doing it."

I don't know what I stammered; something foolish and incoherent; and in
tone, at any rate, full of my depth of love.

"No, it may not be," he answered, very decisively. "If a wavering
crossed my mind before, when I thought you—forgive me, Anne—an
unpretending governess-girl, as to whether I should lay the good and
the ill before you and let you decide, it has passed now. The daughter
of Colonel Hereford and of Miss Carew of Keppe-Carew, must not be
trifled with. Good-night, child!"

The tears were streaming down my cheeks when I entered my bedroom. Had
Mr. Chandos cast me off for ever? Since that unlucky remark of his,
that my family was better than his own, I know not what sweet visions
of rose-colour had been floating in my mind. I _was_ of good descent,
with a lady's breeding and education; surely, if he could forgive my
want of money and my having lived as a dependent at Mrs. Paler's, there
had been no very great barrier between me and a younger brother of
Chandos!

Dwelling upon this, my tears blinding me, it startled me to see Mrs.
Penn quietly seated in my room. She pointed to the door.

"Shut it and bolt it, Miss Hereford. I have been waiting to talk to
you!"

I shut it, but did not slip the bolt. Where was the necessity? Nobody
ever came into my room at night—Mrs. Penn excepted.

"Come and sit down, and tell me why you are crying!"

"I am not crying. I have no cause to cry," I resentfully answered,
vexed beyond everything. "I thought of something as I came upstairs,
which brought the tears into my eyes: we often laugh until we cry, you
know."

"Oh, indeed," said Mrs. Penn, "perhaps yours are tears of joy?"

"I should be so very much obliged if you could put off what you wish to
say until the morning. You don't know how sleepy I am."

"I know that you can tell a parcel of fibs, you wicked child," she
returned, in a fond accent. "Anne,—I shall call you so to-night,—I have
come to talk to you; and talk I shall. I want to save you."

"Save me from what?"

"From the—what shall I call it?—the machinations of Harry Chandos."

"Mr. Chandos is working no machinations against me."

"I know that he _is_. He has been making you a declaration of love."

The tell-tale crimson lighted up my face. Mrs. Penn continued, taking
my hand.

"I felt uneasy, and made my scissors an excuse for coming to the
oak-parlour. You should not have heard it from him. I warned you that
any attachment between you and Mr. Chandos could not end happily; you
cannot marry him!"

My nerves were completely unstrung, and I burst into tears; I could
play a false part no longer. It was bitter enough to hear her confirm
his own words. Mrs. Penn gently stroked my hair.

"Child, do you know why I thus interfere between you and Mr. Chandos? I
will tell you. A few years ago I became attached to a young girl of
eighteen—a connexion of mine. She was under my charge and under my eye;
her name, Lottie Penn! A stranger came, fascinating as Mr. Chandos; and
I, believing him to be upright and honourable, exercised little
caution. He gained her love, just as Mr. Chandos is gaining yours——

"Mrs. Penn!"

"Hush! do you think I am blind? He gained the love of Lottie; and, when
marriage came to be spoken of as a natural sequence, we found out that
we had been entertaining a Jesuit in disguise. He could not marry."

"A Jesuit?"

"I am speaking metaphorically. The man called himself a Protestant, if
he called himself anything. I heard him say he was a Christian. Very
Christian work it was of him to gain Lottie's heart, and then confess
that he had gained it for no end. Lottie died. The blow was too sharp
for her. She was a timid, gentle flower, and could not stand the rough
blast. Anne, believe me, there is no fate so cruel in the whole
catalogue of the world's troubles as that of misplaced love."

"Why could he not marry?" I asked, growing interested in the tale.

"Ah! why, indeed!" she answered, curling her lips with mockery: "why
cannot Harry Chandos? The cases are somewhat parallel. It is the
remembrance of Lottie which causes me to feel this interest in you, for
you put me very much in mind of her, and I must try to save you."

"There is nothing to save me from!" I answered, touched with her
kindness, and feeling ashamed of myself not to be more touched with it
than I was. "I am not likely to marry Mr. Chandos, or to be asked to
marry him!"

"My dear, I don't think I can be deceived. There _is_ love between
you!"

"You did not finish about Lottie," I said, evading the question. "Why
could he not marry her?"

"Because he had a wife living, from whom he was separated."

"At least, Mr. Chandos has not that."

She remained silent, only looked at me. I am not sure but an idea
struck me that the silence was strange. I could never tell afterwards
whether or not it so struck me _then_.

"I said the cases were somewhat parallel," she slowly observed.

"Scarcely, Mrs. Penn. Mr. Chandos at least does not deceive me. He says
he cannot marry. His life is given up to sorrow."

"Given up to sorrow? He says that, does he? Anne, I have half a mind to
tell you the truth. What is his sorrow, compared to that of poor Mrs.
Chandos. I pity _her_."

"Who is Mrs. Chandos?" I interrupted, seizing on the opportunity to
inquire on the subject that remained a puzzle, and thinking this kind
woman might satisfy me. "They call her Lady Chandos's daughter-in-law,
but I cannot see how she can be so."

"Mrs. Chandos was once Miss Ethel Wynne."

"But who is her husband?"

"Ah, _you_ may well ask. It is curious though that you should."

Was it the stress on the word "you?"—was it that her face was so
suggestive as it gazed into mine?—or was it that the previous vague
idea was growing into life? I knew not; I never have known. I only felt
that I turned sick with an undefined doubt and dread as I waited for
Mrs. Penn's answer. She was a full minute, looking into my whitening
face, before she gave it.

"My poor stricken lamb! Has it never struck you who it might be?
Speak."

Speak! I put up my trembling hand as if to beat off her words. That
unholy idea—yes, it did seem to me unholy in those first confused
moments—was growing into a great monster of fear. Mrs. Penn looked as
if she could not take in enough of the signs.

"What if her husband were Harry Chandos?"

With the strange noise surging in my ears—with my pulses standing cold
and still, and then coursing on to fever heat,—with my temples beating
to burning pain—no wonder I could not weigh my words.

"Oh, Mrs. Penn! Do not tell it me!"

"Think you that you need telling, Anne? I can add something more. Never
will Harry Chandos love again in this world, you or any one else, as
passionately as he once loved Ethel Wynne."

My senses were getting confused; as if I no longer understood things.
She went on.

"Husband and wife live apart sometimes, although they may inhabit the
same roof. She and Harry Chandos parted; it is years ago now; she used
him very ill; and I don't suppose he has ever so much as touched her
hand since, save in the very commonest courtesies of everyday life: and
that only when he could not help himself. Passion has long been over
between them; they are civil when they meet; nothing more. My poor
child, you look ready to fall."

I did fall. But not until she left the room. I fell on the ground, and
let my head lie there in my shock of misery. Much that had been obscure
before seemed to shine out clearly now; things to which I had wanted a
clue, appeared to be plain. I wished I could die, there as I lay,
rather than have found him out in deceit so despicable.



CHAPTER XXV
NOTHING BUT MISERY.

The sun shone brightly into my room in the morning, but there would be
no more day's sun for me. What a night I had passed! If you have ever
been deceived in the manner I had, you will understand it; if not, all
the writing in the world would fail to convey to you a tithe of the
misery that was mine—and that would be mine for years to come. _Her_
husband! whilst he pretended to love _me!_

All my study would now be to avoid Mr. Chandos. Entirely I could not;
for we must meet at the daily repasts when he chose to sit down to
them. In that I could not help myself. I was very silent that morning,
and he was busy with his newspapers.

He rode out after breakfast; to attend some county meeting, it was
said; and returned at four o'clock. I remained in my own room until
dinner-time; but I had to go down then.

He appeared inclined to be thoroughly sociable; talked and laughed; and
told me of a ludicrous scene which had occurred at the meeting; but I
was cold and reserved, scarcely answering him. He regarded me keenly,
as if debating with himself what it could be that had so changed my
manner. When the servants had withdrawn, I quitted my place at table,
and sat down in a low chair near the fire.

"Why do you go there?" said Mr. Chandos. "You will take some dessert?"

"Not this evening."

"But why?"

"My head aches."

He quitted the table, came up, and stood before me. "Anne, what is the
matter with you?"

My breath was coming quickly, my swelling heart seemed as if it must
burst. All the past rose up forcibly before me; he, a married man, had
mocked me with his love; had—oh, worse than all!—gained mine. It was a
crying insult; and it was wringing bitterly every sense of feeling I
possessed. Anything else I could have borne. Mrs. Penn had hinted at
some great crime; words of his own had confirmed it. Had he committed
every crime known to man, I could have better forgiven it. But for this
deliberate deceit upon me, there could be no forgiveness: and there
could be no cure, no comfort for my lacerated heart.

"Are you angry with me for any cause? Have I offended you?"

The question unnerved me worse than I was already unnerved. It did
more, it raised all the ire of my spirit. A choice between two evils
only seemed to be left to me; either to burst into hysterical tears, or
to openly reproach Mr. Chandos. The latter course came first.

"Why did you deceive me, Mr. Chandos?"

"Deceive you!"

"Yes, deceive me, and wretchedly deceive me," I answered in my
desperation; neither caring nor quite knowing what it was I said. "How
came you to speak to me at all of love knowing _why_ it is that you
cannot marry?"

He bit his lip as he looked at me. "Do _you_ know why it is?"

"I do now. I did not yesterday, as you may be very sure!"

"It is impossible you can know it," he rejoined, in some agitation.

"Mr. Chandos, I _do_. Spare me from saying more. It is not a subject on
which either you or I should enlarge."

"And pray, Anne, who was it that enlightened you?"

"_That_ is of no consequence," I passionately answered, aroused more
and more by the cool manner of his taking the reproach. "I know now
what the barrier is you have more than once hinted at, and that is
quite enough."

"You consider that barrier an insuperable one—that I ought not to have
avowed my love?"

I burst into hysterical tears. It was the last insult: and the last
feather, you know, breaks the camel's back. Alas! we were at
cross-purposes.

"Forgive me, Anne," he sadly cried. "Before I remembered that there
might be danger in your companionship; before I was aware that love
could ever dawn for me, it had come, and was filling every crevice of
my heart. It is stirring within me now as I speak to you. My pulses are
thrilling with the bliss of your presence; my whole being tells of the
gladness of heaven."

In spite of the cruel wrong; in spite of my own bitter misery; in spite
of the ties to which he was bound, to hear the avowal of this deep
tenderness, stirred with a rapture akin to his every fibre of my
rebellious love. I know how terribly wrong it must seem; I know how
worse than wrong is the confession of it; but _so it was_. I was but
human.

"I am aware that I have acted unwisely," he pursued, his tone very
subdued and repentant. "Still—you must not blame me too greatly.
Circumstances are at least as much in fault. We were thrown together,
unavoidably; I could not, for reasons, absent myself from home; you
were located in it. Of course I ought to have remembered that I was not
free to love: but then you see, the danger did not occur to my mind. If
it had, I should have been cold as an icicle."

To hear him defend himself seemed worse than all. I had thought, if
there lived one man on the face of the earth who was the soul of
nobility, uprightness, honour, it was Harry Chandos.

"It was the cruelest insult to me possible to be offered, Mr. Chandos."

"What was?"

"What was! The telling me of your love."

"Anne, I told it you because—forgive my boldness!—I saw that you loved
me."

Heaven help me! Yes, it was so; I did love him. My face grew burning
hot; I beat my foot upon the carpet.

"I did the best that could be done: at least I strove to do it. It was
my intention to lay before you the unhappy case without disguise, its
whole facts and deterrent circumstances, and then to say—'Now marry me
or reject me?'"

"How can you so speak to me, sir? Marry me! with—with—that barrier?"

"But that barrier may be removed."

Oh! I saw now, or fancied I saw, the far-off thought he was driving at.
Staying seemed to make matters worse; and I got up from my seat to
leave him.

"Your turning out to be who you are of course made the difficulty
greater. I said so last night——"

"No, it does not," I interrupted, with an impassioned sob, partly of
love, partly of anger. "Whether I am regarded as a poor strange
governess, or the daughter of Colonel Hereford, there could never,
never be any excuse for you."

"Is that your final, calm opinion?" he asked, standing before me to ask
the question.

"It is, Mr. Chandos. It will never change. You ought to despise me if
it could."

"Forgive, forgive me, Miss Hereford! Nothing remains for me now but to
ask it."

I could not forgive him; but I was spared saying it, for Hill opened
the parlour-door in haste.

"Mr. Harry, will you please go up to the west wing? At once, sir."

"Any change, Hill?"

"No, sir; it's not that. A little trouble."

"Oh! Mrs. Chandos is there, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir."

_Need_ he have asked that question, have mentioned her name in my
presence? It struck me that it was a gratuitous insult. Mr. Chandos
followed Hill from the room, and as soon as I thought he was safe
within the west wing, I flew up to my own chamber.

Flew up with a breaking heart: a heart that felt its need of solitude,
of being where it could indulge its own grief unseen, unmolested. I was
not, however, to gain my chamber; for, at the entrance to the east wing
stood Mrs. Penn, and she arrested me.

"Come into my sitting-room," she said. "Mrs. Chandos will not be back
for an hour. She is paying a visit to the west wing."

"Mr. Chandos also," I replied, as indifferently as I could well speak.

"Mr. Chandos also," she assented, having paused to look in my face
before speaking. "They meet there more frequently than the house
suspects."

"But why may they not meet? Why is it that they live estranged—or
appear to do so?"

"Sit you down," she said, drawing me along the passage and into a small
sitting-room. "Here is a warm seat by the fire. There is estrangement
between Mr. and Mrs. Chandos, but how far it precisely extends I cannot
tell you."

"I did not ask you how far the estrangement extended; I asked you its
cause."

"Be content with knowing what you do know, Miss Hereford, without
inquiring into causes. The advice is offered you in kindness. I can
tell you one thing, that never was more impassioned love given to woman
than he at one time felt for Mrs. Chandos."

Ashamed I am to confess that the words caused my heart to chill and my
face to burn. I turned the latter where it could not be seen. Mrs. Penn
continued.

"He says he loves you, but, compared with the passion he once bore for
Mrs. Chandos, his love for you is as _nothing_. Contrast the pale cold
beams of the moon with the burning rays of the tropical sun, and you
have a type of that passion, and of this one."

"Why do you say this to me? Is it well?"

"I deem it well. I say it because I think it right that you should know
it: were you my own child I should say more. You have one course only
before you, my dear, a plain and simple one."

"What is it?"

"To quit Chandos."

"I shall not do that."

"Not do it?"

"No."

"Miss Hereford, you _must_. There lives not a more attractive man than
Harry Chandos: and you are already three parts in his toils."

"In his toils? I do not understand you, Mrs. Penn."

"My dear, I only alluded to toils of the heart. I don't suppose he
would so far forget himself as to attempt positive ones."

I would not answer her: I felt too indignant, and sat holding my
throbbing temples. How dared she so speak to me?

"Your own good sense might to show you the necessity of leaving him. By
this time to-morrow evening you must have put miles between yourself
and Chandos," she eagerly continued, as though she had a personal
interest in my going. Hot, angry, flushed, I resented both the words
and the advice.

"Mrs. Penn, you are making too much of this. I think you have taken a
wrong view of things. My heart is all right, thank you."

"Is it!" she retorted. "You cannot stay on here, his companion. You
_cannot_, Anne Hereford."

"I will! Whether with him as a companion or without him is not of any
moment—he will not eat me. But I do not quit Chandos until my
legitimate plans call me away."

In point of fact I had nowhere to go to; but I did not say that. All
this, and her assumption of reading my love, drove me into a perfect
fit of anger.

Mrs. Penn paused, seemingly in deliberation, and when she next spoke it
was in a whisper.

"Has he given you any hint of what the dark cloud is that hangs over
Chandos? Of the—the crime that was committed?"

"No."

"It was a very fearful crime: the greatest social crime forbidden in
the Decalogue. When the police rode up here the other night I thought
they had come for him. I know Mr. Chandos thought it."

"For whom?"

"For Mrs. Chandos's husband," she answered, in a sharp, irascible tone.
"Why do you make me repeat it?"

At least I thought she need not repeat the word "husband" in my ears.

"It was murder," she continued, "if you wish to hear the plain English
of it."

"Was there a trial?"

"No. That has to come. Certain"—she seemed to hesitate—"proofs are
being waited for. Poor Mrs. Chandos has not been quite right since:
when the moon is at the change and full they think her worse; but at
all times it is well that she should be under surveillance. That is why
I am here."

I did not speak; I was thinking. No doubt it was all true.

"Poor thing! the blow was enough to turn her brain," observed Mrs.
Penn, musingly. "But I fancy she could never have been of strong
intellect. A light, frivolous, butterfly girl, her only recommendation
her beauty and soft manner."

"What you told me before was, that she had used Mr. Chandos ill."

"And so she did; very. But that was altogether a different matter,
quite unconnected with what followed."

"How did you become acquainted with these things, Mrs. Penn?"

"In a perfectly legitimate manner. Believe me, Anne, this house is no
proper home for you; Harry Chandos is an unfit companion. Quit both
to-morrow."

The pertinacity vexed me nearly beyond bearing. "I'll think of it," I
said, sharply; and getting up quickly made my escape from the room and
the east wing.

Not any too soon. To go to the east wing was against the law, and as I
turned into my own room, Mrs. Chandos was coming down the gallery, Mr.
Chandos by her side.

"When will you get it for me, Harry?" she was saying as they passed my
door.

"Shortly, I hope. The booksellers here may have to send to London for
it, but I'll see that you have it as soon as possible."

He held open the door of the east wing for her to enter, and then took
his way downstairs. I followed presently. Tea would be waiting and I
expected to preside at it. How could I absent myself from the routine
of the house and the oak-parlour—I, who was but there on sufferance, an
interloper? Were the circumstances that had passed such as that I—a
lady born, and reared to goodness and modesty and all right
instincts—ought to make a commotion over? No. And I felt as if I could
bite my tongue to pieces for having said what I did to Mr. Chandos just
now. Henceforth, I would hold on my course in calm self-respect;
meeting him civilly, forgetting and believing that he forgot anything
undesirable that had passed. As to the "crime" spoken of by Mrs.
Penn—well, I thought it _could not be_: crime of any sort seemed so
entirely incompatible with Mr. Chandos.

And my love? Oh, don't make me speak of it. I could only resolve to
beat it down, down, whenever it rose in my heart. Others had suffered,
so must I.

He did not appear at tea. I drank mine with what relish I might, and
Joseph came for the things. Ah, what passion is like unto love! None
can control it. I had resolved to put it away from me and that whole
evening it was uppermost! Fifty times I caught myself yearning for his
presence, and saying to myself unbidden that life was a blank without
him. Very shortly after taking away the tea-tray, Joseph came in again.

"I am going to close the shutters, Miss."

"Very well. Who ordered it to be done?"

"The master."

"The master" meant Mr. Chandos. As Joseph put aside the white curtains
to get to the shutters, I looked out. Pacing the lawn in the moonlight,
with his arms folded and his head bent, was Mr. Chandos; pacing it as
one in pain. And yet he had thought of me in the midst of it; of my
possible timidity, and desired that the shutters should be closed.

It was nearly ten o'clock when he came into the parlour for some
papers. I concluded he was going to his own sitting-room.

"Good-night!" he said, holding out his hand as usual.

Should I take it? A momentary debate with myself, and then I shook
hands coldly with him. Had I not decided to let the past be as though
it had never been? And all the display of resentment possible would not
convert bad into good.

Days went on: days of an unsatisfactory life. The physician, Dr. Laken,
came over, and stayed two of them. Of Mr. Chandos I saw but little: he
was out and about, and more than usual in the west wing. I seemed
estranged from everybody. Mrs. Penn I shunned; Mr. Chandos was just
courteous to me, nothing more, and I had never been intimate with any
one else in the house.

And now I resolved to leave. It would not look _now_ as though I
hurried away in passion, or because I feared my own love. Heaven knows
I wished to do right, whatever it cost me; and reason pointed out that
to remain longer was not only inexpedient but might be looked upon as
such: The life for me was beginning to be intolerable. He was with me
at times, the very fact of his presence feeding the love that held
possession of me; and the image of Mrs. Chandos upstairs began to haunt
me as a spectre. It was not possible longer to deceive myself with fine
resolutions; my eyes were opened to the fact that I could not begin to
forget him or to love him less so long as I stayed at Chandos.

I wrote to Madame de Mellissie, telling her that I felt obliged to
cancel my engagement with her, and should quit Chandos. Then I wrote to
the Misses Barlieu, asking them to receive me while I looked out for
another situation, and begging them not to refuse me on the score of
the fever: I was not afraid of it; I said, I need not go near the
infirmary. But I truly hoped and expected it had by that time passed.

It was a fine afternoon, and a fancy came over to take the letters to
the village post-office instead of leaving them on the hall-table, so I
put my things on. In going out at the portico I met Mrs. Penn.

"Do you know that you are looking ill—that this struggle is telling
upon you?" she abruptly exclaimed, but in a tone full of kindness. "Why
don't you make an effort, and quit it?"

"The effort is made," I answered, half in anger, half in despair, as I
held to her view the letters in my hand. "Here is the announcement to
those who will, I hope, receive me. I must wait for an answer, and then
I bid adieu to Chandos."

"My dear, you have done well," she answered, as she passed into the
house, and I out of the portico.

Leaning against the wall, on the far side, was Mr. Chandos, who must
have heard what had been said. That she was unconscious of his
vicinity, I was certain, and, for myself, I started when I saw him. He
said something, but I made as if I did not hear, and went quickly on.

The post-office was farther than I thought. I picked some ferns and
blackberries; and I lingered on my road in miserable musing. By the
time I turned to go home again, it had grown dusk. There was a lane
near to Chandos, which led to a small entrance-gate at an obscure part
of the grounds: the laurel-gate it was called, because many laurels
grew near it. By taking this way I should cut off a good portion of the
road, and down the lane I turned. Very much to my surprise, I came
by-and-by to a cottage. A cottage I had never seen before; and was very
sorry to see it now, for it showed me that I had turned down the wrong
lane.

It was the waste of time that vexed me; but all I could do was to
retrace my steps and take the right lane. It was nearly dark night when
I at length got to the laurel-gate; some of the stars were shining.

The gate was unlatched, as if the last person who passed through had
omitted to close it. A narrow path led to other narrow paths, which
branched off through the trees; I hesitated which to take, not being
certain which would lead me soonest to the house; and as I stood
thinking, a dark form came following me down the lane. It was Mr. Edwin
Barley's.

The dark night, the superstition attaching to the place, the proximity
of the man I so dreaded, brought enough of terror. He might be coming
to seize me and claim me then! The fear lent me wings. Flying up a path
at hazard, I never ceased the speed until I was in the broad walk, and
close—it was rather curious that it should be so,—to Mr. Chandos. He
was coming in from an errand to the lodge.

With a sense of protection that was as a very balm to my spirit, I
rested my hand on his arm. All considerations were merged in the
moment's terror. I forgot his great offence; I forgot my own
self-esteem: standing there, he appeared to me only as a great and
powerful protector, one in whom I might find safety and shelter.

"Oh, Mr. Chandos! In mercy take care of me!"

Once more, as if nothing wrong had stepped between us, he held me
against his side. He must have felt the throbs of my beating heart.

"What has alarmed you?" he asked, in a tone a great deal too full of
tenderness.

My only answer was to draw back amid the side trees, that I might be
hidden from Edwin Barley. Mr. Chandos came and stood there also.

"What is it, Anne? The ghost? Or Edwin Barley again?"

My senses were in a degree returning to me and I told him what had
occurred; turning my head to listen still.

"He will not follow you here. As to the lane, usage has made it public
property, and he has a right to walk in it if he chooses."

I turned to the house. He quietly put my arm within his. "Suffer it to
be so for an instant, Anne; you are trembling still."

And so we went on thus.

"What was it I heard you say to Mrs. Penn about quitting Chandos?"

"I think the time has come for me to quit it. If the Misses Barlieu can
receive me, I shall go to them. I have written to ask."

"That's the letter you have been so far to post! Were you afraid I
should intercept it?—as mine was intercepted!"

"Not that. I thought the walk would be pleasant."

"Rather too late a one, nevertheless!"

I did not tell him I had wasted my time in it, picking ferns, eating
blackberries, thinking, and finally losing my way. "What's this?" said
Mr. Chandos.

He alluded to the handful of ferns I carried, and without ceremony took
one of the best sprays and put it in his coat "as a keepsake."

"If you are to leave, Anne, I must have something to remind me of
you—you know!"

There was a light sound in his voice, which seemed to say he treated
the notion of my leaving as a jest; as if he knew I should not go.

"I _shall_ leave, Mr. Chandos!"

"Not just yet, at any rate. Madame de Mellissie left you with us, and
to her only can we resign you!"

"I have written to Madame de Mellissie also, telling her I now take my
plans upon myself."

"Oh, been posting that letter also, I suppose! Go you must not, Anne; I
cannot part with you."

Every right feeling within me rose in rebellion against the avowal, and
I strove to withdraw my arm, but my strength was as nothing in his firm
grasp.

"I cannot part with you, I say; it would be like parting with life.
These last few days—when we have been living in estrangement—have
sufficed to show me what it would be were you to be away entirely. And
so——"

"But you know you ought not to say this to me, Mr. Chandos!" I
interrupted, speaking passionately and through my blinding tears. "It
is unworthy of you. What have I done that you should so insult me?"

"Listen to me for a minute, Anne. I have been weighing things calmly
and dispassionately; it has been my employment since the night of the
explanation, when you told me you had become cognizant of preventing
circumstances. I have endeavoured to judge unselfishly, as though the
interest lay with another—not with myself; and I confess I cannot see
any good reason why you should not become my wife. I mean, of course,
later; when difficulties that exist now shall be removed from my path."

It was strangely unaccountable to hear him speak in this manner. I had
always deemed him to be of a most honourable nature, one to whom the
bare allusion of anything not good and perfect and upright, would be
distasteful. Before I knew of existing circumstances, it had been bad
enough to speak to me of love; but now——

Whether he had taken my silence for acquiescence I know not; I suppose
there can be no doubt of it; but he suddenly bent his head and left
some kisses on my face. Was he insane, or only a bad man?

"I _could_ not help it," he hastily murmured in agitation. "I know it
is wrong and foolish, but a man has not always his actions under cold
control. Forgive me Anne! Stay here to gladden me: and hope, with me,
that things will work round. I should not bid you do so without good
reason."

A variety of emotions nearly choked me. His words told upon me worse
than his kisses. How could things work round so that he might be free,
save by one event, the death of his wife?—and she was young and
healthy! How dared he during this, her life, urge me to remain there to
gladden him? But for the strongest control, I should have burst into
hysterical tears born of indignation and of excitement; and little
recked what I said in my passion, as I wrenched my arm away from him.

"Things work round, Mr. Chandos! Are your thoughts glancing to a second
murder?"

I borrowed the word from Mrs. Penn's mysterious communication—winch I
had not believed. It was very bad of me to say it; I know that; but
when in a passion of confusion one does not wait to choose words.

"Anne, you might have spared me that reproach," he rejoined, in a
subdued tone of pain.

"How have you spared me?"

"It may end brightly yet; it may indeed. What's that?"

A rustling amidst the dense shrubs on the right caused the question.
Possibly with an idea that it might be Edwin Barley, Mr. Chandos
quitted me to look. I darted across the road, and plunged amidst the
trees, intending to get on by a bye-path, and so escape him. Suddenly I
came upon Lizzy Dene, talking to a man. She started back, with a faint
cry.

"I am going right for the house, am I not, Lizzy?"

"Quite so, Miss. Take the path on the right when you come to the
weeping elm-tree."

I had nearly gained the tree, when Lizzy Dene came up with me. The
woman seemed to be in agitation as great as mine.

"Miss," she began, "will you do me a favour, and not mention who you
saw me talking to?"

"I should be clever to mention it, Lizzy. I don't know him."

"But, please Miss, not to say you saw me talking to any one. The young
man is not a sweetheart, I do assure you; he is a relation; but those
servants are dreadful scandalmongers."

"You need not fear; it is no affair of mine. And I am not in the habit
of telling tales to servants."

She continued to walk a little behind me. It seemed I was to have
nothing but encounters. There, on a garden-chair, as we turned on to
the lawn, sat Mrs. Penn.

"I am sitting here to recover breath," she said, in answer to my word
of exclamation. "It has been taken away by surprise. I don't quite know
whether I am awake or dreaming."

"Have you seen the ghost, ma'am?" asked Lizzy, breathlessly, putting
her own comment on the words.

"Well, I don't know; I should just as soon have expected to see one as
Lady Chandos. She was in the pine-walk.

"Impossible, Mrs. Penn," I exclaimed.

"Impossible or possible, Miss Hereford, Lady Chandos it was," she
answered, in a resolute tone. "I can tell you I rubbed my eyes when I
caught sight of her, believing they must see things that were not. She
wore a black silk cloak, and had a black hood over her head. It was
certainly Lady Chandos; she seemed to be walking to take the air."

To hear that any lady, bed-ridden, as may be said, was suddenly walking
abroad in a damp, dark night to take the air, was nearly unbelievable.
It was quite so to Lizzy Dene. Her eyes grew round with wonder as they
were turned on Mrs. Penn.

"Then I say with Miss here that it's just impossible. My lady's no more
capable of walking out, ma'am, than——"

"I tell you I saw her," conclusively interrupted Mrs. Penn. "It was
twenty minutes ago, at the turn from dusk to dark. I came and sat down
here, waiting for her to pass me: which she has not done. But I suppose
there are other paths by which she could gain the house. Lizzy, how
obstinate you look over it!"

"And enough to make me, ma'am; when I know that my lady it _could not
be_."

"Do you see much of her?" asked Mrs. Penn.

"Me! Neither me nor nobody else, ma'am. If ever Hill calls me to help
with a room in the west wing, my lady has first been moved out of it.
Since her illness, Hill does the work there herself. No, no; it never
was my lady. Unless—unless—oh, goodness, grant it may not be!—unless
she's dead!"

"Why, what does the girl mean?" cried Mrs. Penn, tartly.

Lizzy Dene had suddenly flown into one of her rather frequent phases of
superstition, and began to explain with a shivering sob.

"It is just this," she whispered, glancing timidly over her shoulder.
"Hill was in some distress at mid-day; we servants asked her what was
the matter, and she said my lady was worse; as ill as she could be.
Now, it is well known, in the moment of death people have appeared to
others at a distance. I think my lady must have died, and it was her
spirit that Mrs. Penn has just seen in the pine-walk. Oh! ah! oh!"

Lizzy Dene wound up with three shrieks. In some curiosity—to say the
least of it—we crossed the lawn. It _was_ curious that Lady Chandos, if
worse, should be abroad. Hickens was at the hall-door, looking out
probably for me. It was past dinner-time.

"How is Lady Chandos?" I impulsively asked.

"I have not thought to inquire this evening, Miss. I suppose, much as
usual."

"Isn't she dead?" put in Lizzy.

"Dead!" he echoed, staring at the girl. "Anyway there's a basin of
arrowroot just gone up for her, and I never heard that dead people
could eat. What crotchet have you got in your head now, Lizzy Dene?"

I think we all looked a little foolish. Mrs. Penn laughed as she ran
in; Lizzy Dene went round to the servants' entrance.

"Hickens," I said, in a low tone, passing him to go upstairs, "I have
the headache, and shall not take any dinner. Perhaps Harriet will
kindly light a bit of fire in my room, and bring me up some tea."

For I had caught a glimpse of Mr. Chandos and the dinner, both waiting
for me in the oak-parlour.



CHAPTER XXVI.
GETTING INTO THE WEST WING.

Sitting by the fire in the pretty bedroom with the candles on the
table, and the chintz curtains drawn before the window, shutting out
the pine-walk and any unearthly sight that might be in it, I thought
and resolved. To remain at Chandos with its ostensible master in his
present mood was excessively undesirable, almost an impossibility; and
I began to think I might quit it without waiting for an answer from
Miss Barlieu. The chief difficulty would be the getting away; the
actual departure; for Mr. Chandos was certain to oppose it. Another
difficulty was money.

It struck me that the only feasible plan would be to see Lady Chandos.
I would tell her that I _must_ go, not mentioning why; ask her to
sanction it, and to lend me enough money to take me to Nulle. I did not
see that I could leave without seeing her; certainly not without making
her acquainted with the proposed fact, and thanking her for her
hospitality and kindness. Heroines of romance, read of in fiction,
might take abrupt flight from dwellings by night, or else; but I was
nothing of the sort; only a rational girl of sober, everyday life, and
must act accordingly.

"Do you happen to know how Lady Chandos is to-night, Harriet?" I asked,
when the maid came in to inquire whether I wanted anything more.

"Her ladyship's a trifle better, Miss. I have just heard Hill say so."

Harriet left the room; and I sat thinking as before. That my seeing
Lady Chandos could only be accomplished by stratagem I knew, for Hill
was a very dragon, guarding that west wing. If it was really Lady
Chandos who had been pacing the grounds—and Mrs. Penn was positive in
her assertion and belief—she must undoubtedly be well enough to speak
to me. It was but a few words I had to say to her; a few minutes' time
that I should detain her. "Circumstances have called me away, but I
could not leave without personally acquainting you, madam, and thanking
you for your hospitality and kindness." Something to that effect: and
then I would borrow the money—about forty, or fifty francs; which Miss
Barlieu would give me to remit, as soon as I got to Nulle. With Lady
Chandos's sanction to my departure, Mr. Chandos could not put forth any
plea to detain me.

Never were plans better laid than mine—as I thought. Rehearsing them
over and over again in my mind after I, lay down in bed, the usual
sleeplessness followed. I tossed and turned from side to side; I began
to repeat verses; all in vain. Sleep had gone away from me, and I heard
the clock strike two.

I heard something else: a stir in the gallery. It seemed as if some one
burst out at the doors of the west wing, and came swiftly to the
chamber of Mr. Chandos. In the stillness of night, sounds are plainly
distinct that would be inaudible in the day. The footsteps were like
Hill's, as if she had only stockings on. There was a brief whispering
in Mr. Chandos's chamber, and the same footsteps ran back to the west
wing.

What could be the matter? Was Lady Chandos worse? Almost as I asked
myself the question, I heard Mr. Chandos come out of his room, go
downstairs, and out at the hall-door. Curiosity led me to look from the
window. The stars were shining; I suppose it was a frost; and the tops
of the dark pine-trees rose clear and defined against the sky. All was
quiet.

A very few minutes and other sounds broke the silence: those of a
horse's footsteps. Mr. Chandos—as I supposed it to be—came riding forth
at a canter from the direction of the stables: the pace increasing to a
gallop as he turned into the broad walk.

There seemed less sleep for me than ever. In about an hour's time I
heard Mr. Chandos ride in again. I heard him ride round to the stables,
and come back thence on foot. He let himself in at the hall-door, came
softly upstairs, and went into the west wing. It was in that wing that
something must be amiss.

I was three-parts dressed in the morning when Mrs. Penn knocked at my
door and entered. I did wish she would not thus interrupt me! Once she
had come when I was reading my chapter; once during my prayers.

"Did you hear any disturbance in the night?" she began. "Mr. Chandos
went out at two o'clock. Do you know what for?"

"Mrs. Penn! How should I be likely to know?"

"I happened to be up, looking from the end window——"

"At that time of night?" I interrupted.

"Yes, at that time of night," she repeated. "I was watching for—for—the
ghost if you will" (but I thought somehow she said the ghost to mystify
me), "and so I may as well confess it. I often do watch from my window
at night. Quite on a sudden a figure appeared making its way swiftly
towards the stables; my heart stood still for a moment; I thought the
ghost had come at last. I did, Anne Hereford: and you need not gaze at
me with your searching eyes, as if you questioned my veracity. But soon
I recognised Mr. Chandos, and presently saw him come back on horseback.
Where did he go? For what purpose?"

"You put the questions as though you thought I could answer them," I
said to her; and so she did, speaking in a demanding sort of way. "I
cannot tell where Mr. Chandos has gone."

"He is back now: he was home again in about hour. I would give the
whole world to know!"

"But why? What business is it of yours or mine? Mr. Chandos's movements
are nothing to us."

"They are so much to us—to me—that I would forfeit this to be able to
follow him about and see where he goes and what he does," she said,
holding up her right hand.

I looked at her in wonder.

"I would. Is it not a singular sort of thing that a gentleman should
rise from his bed at two o'clock in the morning, saddle his horse by
stealth, and ride forth on a mysterious journey?"

"It is singular. But he may not have saddled his horse by stealth."

"How now?" she tartly answered. "He did saddle it; saddled it himself."

"Yes: but that may have been only from a wish not to disturb the grooms
from their rest. To do a thing oneself with a view of sparing others,
and to do it stealthily are two things."

"So your spirit must rise up to defend him still! Take care of
yourself, Anne Hereford!"

"Nay, there was no _defence_. What does it signify whether Mr. Chandos
saddles a horse for himself or gets a man to saddle it?"

"Not much, perhaps; looking at it in the light you do."

"Mrs. Penn, I wish you would please to go, and let me finish dressing.
I am afraid of being late."

Rather to my surprise, she moved to the door without another word, and
shut it behind her.

I went down to breakfast: I could not help myself. It would not do to
plead illness or the sulks, and ask to have my meals sent upstairs. But
we had a third at table, I found; and that was Dr. Laken. I am not sure
how I and Mr. Chandos should have got on without him; with him all went
smoothly.

But not merrily. For both he and Mr. Chandos spoke and looked as if
under the influence of some great care. Listening to their
conversation, I discovered a rather singular circumstance. Mr.
Chandos's errand in the night had been to the telegraph office at
Warsall, to send an imperative message for Dr. Laken. That gentleman
(almost as though a prevision had been upon him that he would be
wanted) had started for Chandos the previous evening by a night train,
and was at Chandos at seven in the morning. So that he and the message
crossed each other. His visit was of course—though I was not told it—to
Lady Chandos; and I feared there must be some dangerous change in her.
They talked together, without reference to me.

"I wish you could have remained," Mr. Chandos suddenly said to the
doctor.

"I wish I could. I have told you why I am obliged to go, and where.
I'll be back to-night, if I can; if not, early to-morrow. Remember one
thing, Mr. Harry—that my staying here could be of no possible benefit.
It is a satisfaction to you, of course, that I should be at hand, but I
can do nothing."

"Mr. Dexter is here, sir, and wishes to see you," said Hickens,
entering the parlour at this juncture. "He says he is sorry to disturb
you so early, sir, but he is off to that sale of stock, and must speak
to you first. I have shown him into your private room, sir."

Mr. Chandos rose from his seat and went out. And now came my turn. I
was alone with Dr. Laken, and seized on the opportunity to inquire
about Lady Chandos. See her I must, and would.

"Is Lady Chandos alarmingly ill, Dr. Laken?"

He was eating an egg at the time, and he did not speak immediately: his
attention seemed almost equally divided between regarding me and
finishing the egg.

"What you young ladies might call alarmingly ill, we old doctors might
not," were his words, when he at length spoke.

"Can she speak?"

"Oh, yes."

"And is sufficiently well to understand, if any one speaks to her?"

"Quite so. Don't trouble yourself, my dear, about Lady Chandos. I trust
she will be all right with time."

Not another word did I get from him. He began talking of the weather;
and then took up a newspaper until Mr. Chandos came back. As I was
leaving them alone after breakfast, Mr. Chandos spoke to me in a
half-grave, half-jesting tone.

"You are one of the family, you know, Miss Hereford, and may be asked
to keep its affairs close, just as Emily would be were she here. Don't
mention that I went to Warsall in the night—as you have now heard I did
go. It is of no use to make the household uneasy."

And, as if to enforce the words, Dr. Laken gave three or four emphatic
nods. I bowed and withdrew.

To see lady Chandos? How was it to be done? And, in spite of Dr.
Laken's reassuring answer, I scarcely knew what to believe. Hill went
about with a solemn face, silent as the grave; and an impression
pervaded the household that something was very much amiss in the west
wing. _My_ impression was, that there was a great deal of unaccountable
mystery somewhere.

"Harriet," I said, as the girl came to my room in thin course of her
duties, "how _is_ Lady Chandos?"

"Well, Miss, we can't quite make out," was the answer. "Hill is in
dreadful trouble, and the doctor is here again; but Lizzy Dene saw my
lady for a minute this morning, and she looked much as usual."

So far well. To Lady Chandos I determined to penetrate ere the day
should close. And I am sure, had anybody seen me that morning, dodging
into the gallery from my room and back again, they would have deemed me
haunted by a restless spirit. I was watching for my opportunity. It did
not come for nearly all day. In the morning Dr. Laken and Mr. Chandos
were there; in the afternoon Hill was shut up in it. It was getting
dusk when I, still on the watch, saw Hill come forth. She left the door
ajar, as if she intended to return instantly, and whisked into a large
linen-closet close by. Now was my time. I glided past the closet, quiet
as a mouse, and inside the green-baize door of the west wing.

But which was the room of Lady Chandos? No time was to be lost, for if
Hill returned, she was sure to eject me summarily, as she had done once
before. I softly opened two doors, taking no notice of what the rooms
might contain, looking only whether Lady Chandos was inside. Next I
came to one, and opened it, as I had the others; and saw—what? Who—who
was it sitting there? Not Lady Chandos.

In a large arm-chair at the fire, propped up with pillows, sat an
emaciated object, white, thin, cadaverous. A tall man evidently,
bearing in features a great resemblance to Mr. Chandos, a strange
likeness to that ghostly vision—if it had been one—I had once seen in
the gallery. Was he the ghost?—sitting there and staring at me with his
large eyes, but never speaking? If not a ghost, it must be a living
skeleton.

My pulses stood still; my heart leaped into my mouth. The figure raised
his arm, and pointed peremptorily to the door with his long, lanky,
white fingers. A sign that I must quit his presence.

I was glad to do so. Startled, terrified, bewildered, I thought no more
of Lady Chandos, but went back through the passage, and out at the
green-baize door. There, face to face, I encountered Mr. Chandos.

I shall not readily forget _his_ face when he looked at me. Never had
greater hauteur, rarely greater anger, appeared in the countenance of
any living man.

"Have you been in _there?_" he demanded.

"Yes. I——" More I could not say. The words stuck in my throat.

"Listen, Miss Hereford," he said, his lips working with emotion. "I am
grieved to be compelled to say anything discourteous to a lady, more
especially to you, but I must _forbid_ you to approach these rooms,
however powerfully your curiosity may urge you to visit them. I act as
the master of Chandos, and demand it as a right. Your business lies at
the other end of the gallery; this end is sacred, and must be kept so
from intrusion."

I stole away with my crimsoned face, with a crimsoned brain, I think,
wishing the gallery floor would open and admit me. Hill came out of the
closet with wondering eyes; Mr. Chandos went on, and shut the door of
the west wing after him. I felt ashamed to sickness. My "curiosity!"

But who could it be, he whom I had just seen, thus closeted in the
apartments of Lady Chandos? Could it be Sir Thomas, arrived from
abroad? But when did he arrive? and why this concealment in his
mother's rooms? for concealment it appeared to be. Whoever it was, he
was fearfully ill and wasted: of that there could be no doubt; ill, as
it seemed to me, almost unto death; and a conviction came over me that
Dr. Laken's visits were paid to him, not to Lady Chandos.

"My dear child, how flushed and strange you look!"

The speaker was Mrs. Penn, interrupting my chain of thought. She was
standing at the door of the east wing, came forward, and turned with me
into my room.

"Anne," she continued, her tone full of kind, gentle compassion, "was
Mr. Chandos speaking in that manner to _you?_"

"I deserved it," I sighed, "for I really had no right to enter the west
wing clandestinely. I went there in search of Lady Chandos. I want to
leave, but I cannot go without first seeking her, and I thought I would
try to do so, in spite of Hill."

"And did you see her?" questioned Mrs. Penn.

"No; I could not see her anywhere; I suppose I did not go into all the
rooms. But I saw some one else."

"Who was it?"

"The strangest being," I answered, too absorbed in the subject, too
surprised and bewildered, to observe my usual custom of telling nothing
to Mrs. Penn. "He was sitting in an easy-chair, supported by pillows; a
tall, emaciated man, looking—oh, so ill! His face was the thinnest and
whitest I ever saw; but it had a likeness to Mr. Chandos."

Had I been more collected, I might have seen how the revelation
affected Mrs. Penn. Just then my eyes and senses were, so to say,
blinded. She put her hand on my arm, listening for more.

"He startled me terribly; I declare, at first sight, I did think it was
a ghost. Why should he be hidden there?—if he is hidden. Unless it is
Sir Thomas Chandos come home from India—Mrs. Penn! what's the matter?"

The expression of her countenance at length arrested me. Her face had
turned white, her lips were working with excitement.

"For the love of Heaven, wait!" she uttered. "A tall man, bearing a
family likeness to Mr. Chandos—was that what you said?"

"A striking likeness: allowing for the fact that Mr. Chandos is in
health, and that the other looks as though he were dying. The eyes are
not alike: his are large and dark, Mr. Chandos's blue. Why? Perhaps it
is Sir Thomas Chandos."

"It is not Sir Thomas; he is a short, plain man, resembling his mother.
No, no; I know too well who it is; and it explains the mystery of that
west wing. All that has been so unaccountable to me since I have dwelt
at Chandos is plain now. Dolt that I was, never to have suspected it!
Oh! but they were clever dissemblers, with their sicknesses of my Lady
Chandos!"

She went out, and darted into the east wing. So astonished was I, that
I stood looking after her, and saw her come quietly forth again after a
minute or two, attired to go out. She was gliding down the stairs, when
Mrs. Chandos likewise came from the east wing and called to her.

"Mrs. Penn, where are you going? I want you."

Mrs. Penn thus arrested, turned round, a vexed expression on her face.

"I wish to do a very slight errand for myself, madam. I shall not be
long."

"I cannot spare you now; I cannot, indeed. You must defer it until
to-morrow. I will not stay by myself now it is getting dusk. I am as
nervous as I can be this evening. You are not half so attentive as Mrs.
Freeman was: you are always away, or wanting to be."

Mrs. Penn came slowly up the stairs again, untying her bonnet-strings.
But I saw she had a great mind to rebel, and depart on her errand in
defiance of her mistress.

What could it be that she was so anxious for? what was she going to do?
As she had passed to the stairs before being called back, the words
"Down now with the Chandoses!" had reached my ears from her lips,
softly spoken. I felt sick and frightened. What mischief might I not
have caused by my incautious revelation? Oh! it seemed as though _I_
had been treacherous to Chandos.

Restless and uncomfortable, I was going into the oak-parlour a little
later, when Lizzy Dene, in a smart new bonnet and plaid shawl, a small
basket on her arm, came into the hall to say something to Hickens, who
was there.

"I suppose I may go out at this door, now I'm here?" said she,
afterwards; and Hickens grunted out "Yes" as he withdrew. At that
self-same moment Mrs. Penn came softly and swiftly down the stairs, and
called to her. Neither of them saw me, just inside the parlour.

"You are going out, I see, Lizzy. Will you do a little errand for me?"

"If it won't take long," was the girl's free answer. "But I have got
leave to go out to tea, and am an hour later than I thought to be."

"It will not take you a minute out of your way. You know where Mr.
Edwin Barley lives—the new tenant. Go to his house with this note, and
desire that it may be given to him: should he not be at home, say that
it must be handed to him the instant he comes in. If you do this
promptly, and keep it to yourself, mind!—I will give you a crown
piece!"

"I'll do it, and say 'thank ye,' too, ma'am," laughed Lizzy, in glee.

She opened the lid of her basket, popped in the note, and went out at
the hall-door. Mrs. Penn disappeared upstairs.

But Lizzy Dene had halted in the portico, and had her face turned
towards the skies.

"Now, is it going to rain?—or is it only the dark of the evening?" she
deliberated aloud. "Better take an umbrella. I should not like my new
shawl to be spoilt; and they didn't warrant the blue in it, if it got a
soaking."

She put down the basket, and ran back to the kitchen. Now was my
opportunity. I stole to the basket, lifted the lid, and took out the
letter, trusting to good luck, and to Lizzy's not looking into the
basket on her return.

She did not. She came back with the umbrella, snatched up the basket by
its two handles, and went down the broad walk, at a run.

With the letter grasped in my hand, I was hastening to my own room to
read it in peace—

"Read it!" interposes the reader, aghast at the dishonour. "_Read_ it?"

Yes; read it. I believed that that letter was full of treachery to
Chandos, and that I had unwittingly contributed to raise it, through my
incautious revelation. Surely it was my duty now to do what I could to
avert it, even though it involved the opening of Mrs. Penn's letter. A
sudden light of suspicion seemed to have opened upon her—whispering a
doubt that _she_ was treacherous.

But in the hall I met the dinner coming in, and Mr. Chandos with it.
Putting the note inside my dress, I sat down to table.

It was a silent dinner, save for the most ordinary courtesies; Mr.
Chandos was grave, preoccupied, and sorrowful; I was as grave and
preoccupied as he. When the servants left, he drew a dish of walnuts
towards him, peeled some, and passed them to me; then he began to peel
for himself. It was upon my tongue to say No; not to accept them from
him: but somehow words failed.

"Anne, I have not understood you these last few days."

The address took me by surprise, for there had been a long silence. He
did not raise his eyes to mine as he spoke, but kept them on the
walnuts.

"Have you not, sir?"

"What could have induced you to intrude into the west wing, to-day?
Pardon the word, if it grates upon your ear; that part of Chandos House
is _private_; private and sacred; known to be so by all inmates; and,
for any one to enter unsolicited, is an intrusion."

"I am sorry that I went in—very sorry; no one can repent of it now more
than I do; but I had an urgent motive for wishing to see Lady Chandos.
I wish to see her still, if possible; I do not like to quit Chandos
without it."

"You are not going to quit Chandos?"

"I leave to-morrow, if it be practicable. If not, the next day."

"No," he said; "it must not be. I act for my mother, and refuse her
sanction."

Too vexed to answer, too vexed to remain at table, I rose and went to
the fire, standing with my back to him.

"What has changed you?" he abruptly asked.

"Changed me?"

"For some days now you have been unlike yourself. Why visit upon me the
sins of another? I suffer sufficiently as it is; I suffer always."

I could not understand the speech any more than if it had been Greek,
and glanced to him for explanation.

"I look back on my past conduct, and cannot see that I am to blame. We
were thrown together by circumstances; and if love stole unconsciously
over us, it was neither my fault nor yours. I was wrong, you will say,
to avow this love; I believe I was; it might have been better that I
had held my tongue. But——"

"It would be better that you should hold it now, sir. I do not wish to
enter upon any explanation. Quit your house, I will. Lady Chandos, were
she made acquainted with what has passed, would be the first to send me
from it."

Mr. Chandos rose and stood up by me. "Am I to understand that you wish
to quit it because I have spoken of this love?"

"Yes; and because—because it is no longer a fit residence for me."

"Do you wish to imply that under no circumstances—that is, with any
barrier that may exist now against my marrying removed—would you accept
my love?"

The hot tears came into my eyes. Scarcely could I keep them from
raining down.

"I wish to imply—to say—that not under any alteration of circumstances
that the world can bring about, would I accept your love, Mr. Chandos.
The very fact of your naming it to me is an insult."

Ah, me! and how passionately was I loving him in my heart all the time,
even as I spoke it.

"Very well. In that case it may be better that you quit Chandos. Should
Miss Barlieu's answer prove favourable—I mean, if she assures you that
danger from the fever is past—you shall be conveyed thither under
proper escort."

"Thank you," I interrupted, feeling, I do believe, not half as grateful
as I ought.

"A moment yet. In case the danger is not past, you must remain here a
little longer. There is no help for it. I will promise not to speak
another unwelcome word to you, and to give you as little of my company
as possible. We will both ignore the past as a pleasant dream, just as
though it had not existed. Will this content you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then I give you my honour that after this evening it shall be so. But
we must have a few words together first. I have already intimated that
I should not have spoken so soon but for perceiving that love had
arisen on your side as well as mine. Now don't fly off at a tangent: I
intend to have an explanation from you this night: an explanation that
shall set things straight between us, or sever us for ever. We are not
boy and girl that we should shrink from it. At least, if you are but a
girl in years, you have sense and prudence and right feeling that
belong rather to double your age."

Standing there before me, calm and resolute, I knew there could be no
avoidance of the explanation he sought. His was the master-spirit. But
it was cruel to wish me to put it into words. And so entirely needless!

"If I allude to your love for me, it is not needlessly to pain, or, as
you may think, insult you: believe me, when I say it; but only to call
to your notice the inconsistency of your conduct. It is _this_ that I
require an explanation of. Child, you _know_ you loved me,"——and his
hand slightly trembled as he laid it on my shoulder. "Whence, then, the
sudden change?"

"I did not know your position then," I answered, meeting the words as I
supposed he wished to force me to meet them, and taking a step
backwards on the hearth-rug.

"I cannot but think you must in some way be mistaking my position.
Circumstances, very sad and grievous circumstances, are rendering it of
brighter prospect. I am aware of the misfortune that attaches to my
family, the disgrace that is reflected upon me: but you should not
treat me as though the disgrace or the fault were mine. Surely there is
no justice in resenting it on me! You might have rejected me with
civility."

"I do not know what you are saying," I interrupted, passionately angry.
"What is it to me, the disgrace attaching to your family? That could
not sway _me_. It is unknown to me."

"Unknown to you?" he repeated in accents of surprise.

"Entirely unknown, save for vague rumours that I have not wished to
attend to. The disgrace lies with you, sir, not with your family."

"With me? What have I done? Do you mean in having spoken to you of
love?" he added, finding I did not answer. "At least, I do not see that
_disgrace_ could be charged on me for that. I intended to lay the case
openly before you, and it would have been at your option to accept or
reject me."

"Do you call deceit and dishonour no disgrace, Mr. Chandos?"

"Great disgrace. But I have not been guilty of either."

"You have been guilty of both."

"When? and how?"

"To me. You know it. You know it, sir. Had my father been alive; had I
any friend in the world to protect me, I do not think you would have
dared to speak to me of love."

"Were your father, Colonel Hereford, alive, Anne, I should lay the
whole case before him, and say—'Judge for yourself; shall, or shall not
your daughter be mine?' I fancy he would find the objection less
insuperable than you appear to do."

I believe I simply stared in answer to this. Calm, good, and noble he
looked, standing there with his truthful eyes, speaking his apparently
truthful words. It seemed that we must be at cross-purposes.

"When you spoke of the bar that existed to your marrying, you put it
upon the hinted-at misfortunes, the disgrace attaching to your family,
Mr. Chandos. But you never alluded to the real bar."

"There is no other bar. But for that, I would like to make you my wife
to-morrow. What have you got in your head?"

I knew what I was beginning to have in my temper. "If you continue to
detain me here, sir, and to say these things, I will go straight with
my complaint to Mrs. Chandos."

"To Mrs. Chandos! What good would that do?" he coolly questioned.

"Oh, sir, spare me! I did not think you would behave so. Don't you see,
putting me and my feelings out of the question, how all this wrongs
_her?_"

He looked at me strangely, his countenance a puzzle. "What has Mrs.
Chandos to do with it? She is nothing to you or to me."

"She is your wife, sir."

His elbow displaced some ornament on the mantelpiece; he had to turn
and save it from falling. Then he faced me again.

"My wife, did you say?"

And very much ashamed I had felt to say it: with my hot face and my
eyes bent on the carpet.

"Mrs. Chandos is no wife of mine. I never was married yet. Did you go
to sleep and dream it?"

Ah, how that poor foolish heart of mine stood still! Was it possible
that Mrs. Penn had been mistaken?—that my misery had been without
foundation; my supposed offered insults only fancied ones. No condemned
criminal, called forth from his cell to hear the reprieve read that
will restore to him the life he has forfeited, could experience a more
intense revulsion of joy than I did then.

I put my hands up in front of him: it was no moment for affectation or
reticence.

"Tell me the truth," I gasped; "the truth as before heaven? Is, or is
not, Mrs. Chandos your wife?"

He bent his head a little forward, speaking clearly and distinctly,
with an emphasis on every word.

"Mrs. Chandos is my sister-in-law. She is my brother's wife. It is the
truth, in the presence of heaven."

I covered my face with my hands to hide the blinding tears that fell on
my cheeks of shame. To have made so dreadful a mistake!—and to have
spoken of it!

Mr. Chandos took the hands away, holding them and me before him.

"Having said so much, Anne, you must say more. Has this been the cause
of your changed conduct? Whence could the strange notion have arisen?"

I spoke a few words as well as I could; just the heads of what I had
heard, and from whom.

"Mrs. Penn! Why she of all people must know better. She knows who Mrs.
Chandos's husband is. Surely she cannot be mistaking me for my
brother!"

"I thought, sir, you had no brother, except Sir Thomas."

"Yes, I have another brother," he answered, in a whisper. "You saw him
to-day, Anne."

"That poor sick gentleman, who looks so near the grave?"

"Even so. It is he who is the husband of Mrs. Chandos. The fact of his
being at Chandos is unknown, not to be spoken of," he said, sinking his
voice still lower, and glancing round the walls of the room, as though
he feared they might contain eavesdroppers. "Take care that it does not
escape your lips."

Alas! it had escaped them. I bent my head and my troubled face,
wondering whether I ought to confess it to him. But he spoke again.

"And so—this is the silly dream you have been losing yourself in! Anne!
could you not have trusted me better?"

"You must please forgive me," I said, looking piteously at him through
my tears.

Forgive me! He suddenly put out his arms, and gathered me to his
breast.

"Will you recall your vow, child; never—under any circumstances that
the world can bring forth—to accept my love?" he whispered. "Oh, Anne,
my darling! it would be cruel of you to part us."

Never more would I doubt him, never more. True, kind, good, his face
was bent, waiting for the answer. My whole heart, my trust went out to
him, then and for ever. I lifted my eyes with all their love, and stole
my hand into his. Down came his kisses upon my lips by way of sealing
the compact.

"And so you are willing to trust me without the explanation?"

How willing, none save myself could tell.

"Quite willing," I whispered. "I am certain you have not been guilty of
any crime."

"Never; so help me heaven," he fervently answered. "But disgrace
reflects upon me, for all that, and you must give your final decision
when you have heard it."

Oh, but he knew; the smile on his face betrayed it; that I should never
go back from him again.

I sat down in my chair: he put his elbow on the mantelpiece as before.

"Anne, you will not run away from Chandos now?"

"Not to-morrow, sir."

"Am I to be 'sir' always, you shy child? But about this fable of yours
connecting me with Mrs. Chandos? It could scarcely have been Mrs. Penn
who imparted it to you?"

"Indeed it was. She said a great deal more than that."

"It is not possible she can be mistaking me for my brother," he
repeated, in deliberation with himself. "That cannot be, for she
believes him to be a fugitive. This is very strange, Anne."

Perhaps Mrs. Penn is false? I thought in my inmost heart. Perhaps she
has a motive in wishing me to quit Chandos? She had certainly done her
best to forward it—and to prejudice me against him.

"Do you _know_ Mrs. Penn to be true to your interests, Mr. Chandos? I
mean to those of the family?"

"I know nothing about her. Of course but for being supposed to be true
and honourable, she would not have been admitted here. My mother——
Hark! What's that?"

A sound of wheels was heard, as of a carriage being driven to the door.
Mr. Chandos turned to listen. It struck me that a sort of dread rose to
his countenance.

"What troubles you?" I whispered, approaching him. "You look as if
there were cause for fear."

He touched me to be quiet, listening while he answered—

"There is every cause for fear in this unhappy house. Do you remember
the night that the police rode up, Anne. I thought surely the blow had
come. I know not whom this carriage may have brought: I am not
expecting anybody."

We heard the door opened by one of the servants. Mr. Chandos took his
hand off me and sat down again.

"It may be Dr. Laken, sir."

"No he could not be back yet."

In bustled Hickens, faster than was usual with that solemn personage.

"It's Miss Emily, sir," said he, addressing Mr. Chandos. "That is,
Madame de Mellissie. Her foreign French name never comes pat to me."

Miss Emily was in the room ere Hickens had done speaking—bright,
handsome, gay as ever.

"There's plenty of luggage, Hickens, mind; you must see to it with
Pauline," were the first words she spoke. "And how are you, Harry?" she
continued, putting up her mouth to be kissed.

"This is an unexpected visit, Emily," he said, as he took the kiss.
"You should have written us word; and I would have met you at the
station with the carriage. How did you come from thence?"

"Oh, I got a conveyance of some sort; a fly, or a chaise; I hardly know
what it was, except that I believe it had no springs, for it shook me
to pieces. How is mamma?"

"Wont you speak to me, Madame de Mellissie?" I asked, holding out my
hand. I had stood there waiting for her to notice me which she did not
appear to have the least intention of doing; waiting and waiting.

"I hope you are well, Anne Hereford," was her reply, but she pointedly
and rudely neglected my offered hand.

"Did you leave your husband well?" Mr. Chandos hastily asked, as a sort
of covering to her ill manners.

"Well neither in health nor in temper, but as cranky as can be. I ran
away."

"Ran away!"

"Of course I did. There came to me a letter, some days past——"

"Yes, I wrote to you," I interrupted.

"You!" she rudely said, in a condemning tone of voice; "I am not
alluding to your letter. When this other letter came, I told Alfred I
must go at once to Chandos. 'Very well,' said he, 'I shall be able to
take you in a day or so.' But the days went on, and still he was too
ill; or said he was. 'I _must_ go,' I said to him yesterday morning. 'I
must and I will,' and that put him up. 'Listen, ma chère,' cried he, in
his cool way, 'I am too ill to travel, and there's nobody else to take
you, so you _can't_ go; therefore let us hear no more about it.' Merci,
monsieur! I thought to myself; and I forthwith told Pauline to pack up,
and get the boxes out of the house en cachette. Which she did: and I
followed them, Alfred and Madame in Mère believing I had gone for a
drive in the Bois de Boulogne. A pretty long drive they must think it
by this time."

"Emily, how can you act so?" exclaimed her brother, in a tone of stern
reproval.

"Now, Harry, I don't want any of your morality. Look at home, before
you preach to me. What have _you_ been doing the last few weeks? I have
heard."

"Shall I pay for the chaise, ma'am?" inquired Hickens, putting in his
head.

"Pay for anything and everything, Hickens," was her answer. "I have
brought no money with me, to speak of. I ran away."

"Emily, how _can_ you?" exclaimed Mr. Chandos, as the man withdrew.

"Rubbish! Who's Hickens? Pauline's sure to tell him all about it. I
repeat to you, Harry, that you need not preach to me: you have more
need to reform your own acts and doings. The letter I received was
about you; and, from what it said, I began to think it high time that I
should be at Chandos."

"Indeed!" he quietly answered. "Pray who may have taken the trouble to
write it?"

"That is what I cannot tell you. It was anonymous."

Mr. Chandos curled his lip. "There is only one thing to do with an
anonymous letter, Emily—put it in the fire, with a thought of pity for
its miserable writer, and then forget it for ever. We have been dealing
in anonymous letters here, lately. I received one; and the inspector of
police at Warsall received one, falsely purporting to be from me. The
result was that a descent of mounted police came swooping upon us one
night with sabres, drawn or undrawn, frightening sober Chandos out of
its propriety."

"I never heard of such a thing!" exclaimed Madame de Mellissie, her
interest momentarily diverted from her own grievances. "What did they
want?"

"The inspector was led to believe I required them to take somebody into
custody for theft. I assure you anonymous letters have been the fashion
here lately. But they are not the less despicable."

"Shall I tell you what was in mine?"

"I do not wish to hear it."

"Ah, you are afraid," she answered, with a ringing laugh. "Conscience
makes cowards of all of us."

Mr. Chandos looked anything but afraid: he stood very calm, his head
raised. Emily began taking off her things, throwing a bonnet on one
chair, gloves on another, a shawl on the floor. I went forward to
assist her.

"Don't touch anything of mine," she haughtily interrupted, putting
herself before the shawl with a slight stamp. "Harry, how long has
mamma kept her room?"

"Ever since you left," replied Mr. Chandos.

"Oh. And you and Anne Hereford have had the sole benefit of each
other's company!"

"And a very pleasant benefit, too," boldly retorted Mr. Chandos. But my
cheeks were in a flame, and they both saw it.

"You wrote me word that you wished to leave," she said, turning to me.
"You are no longer in my service, and are at liberty to do so. When can
you be ready?"

"My preparations will not take me long," was my reply.

Little cause was there to ask what had been the purport of her
anonymous letter. Who could have written it? Who could be concerning
themselves about me and Mr. Chandos? Was it Mrs. Penn?

"I should like some tea," she said, as she poured out a glass of wine
and drank it. "Ring the bell and order it in, Anne Hereford. While they
bring it I will run up to mamma's rooms, Harry. Wont she pull a long
face when she hears that I decamped without the cognizance of le mari
et la vieille mère!"

"Emily," said Mr. Chandos, gravely, "you cannot go into your mamma's
rooms at present."

"But I will go."

"My dear, you must not; at least until I have spoken to you. There are
urgent reasons against it."

"What are the reasons?"

"I will tell you later. You had better have some tea first. Shall I
ring for Hill to show you a chamber?"

"I will be shown to a chamber when I have been in to mamma," she
defiantly responded. "Take yourself out of the way, Harry."

For Mr. Chandos was standing between her and the door. "Emily, did I
ever advise you but for your good—your comfort? Pray attend to me."

"For my good, no doubt," she said, with a gay laugh. "I don't know
about my comfort. Harry, we shall come to a battle royal, if you don't
move from that door. I am quite determined to go into the west wing,
and I will not be stopped. Goodness me! you are trying to control me as
though I were a child."

Mr. Chandos opened the door and followed her out. In the hall they
stood for a moment talking together in a whisper, and I heard a cry of
pain and dismay escape her lips.



CHAPTER XXVII.
GEORGE HENEAGE.

I sat down with my great weight of happiness. Oh, the change that had
passed over me! He was not married; he was true and honourable, and he
loved me! Hickens came in to remove the wine, and I chattered to him
like a merry schoolgirl. Everything else went out of my head, even the
letter I held, still unopened; and when I should have thought of it I
cannot say, but that some time later I heard the voice of Mrs. Penn in
the hall, speaking in covert tones.

It came to my memory then fast enough. Was she going to steal out, as
she had previously essayed to do? I went to the door and opened it
about an inch. Lizzy Dene stood there.

"How early you are home!" Mrs. Penn was saying.

"Thanks to Madam Hill!" grumbled Lizzy. "She wouldn't give me leave to
go unless I'd be in by seven, or a bit later: with illness in the
house, she said, there was no knowing what might be wanted."

"Did you deliver the letter?" resumed Mrs. Penn, in the faintest
possible whisper.

"Yes, ma'am," was the ready answer. "A young man came to the door, and
I asked if Mr. Barley was at home, and he said, 'Yes, all alone,' so I
gave him the note, and he took it in."

"Thank you, Lizzy," answered Mrs. Penn, complacently. "There's the five
shillings I promised you."

"Many thanks all the same to you, ma'am, but I'd rather not take it,"
replied Lizzy, to my great astonishment, and no doubt to Mrs. Penn's.
"I'm well paid here, and I don't care to be rewarded for any little
extra service. It's all in the way of the day's work."

They parted, Mrs. Penn going up the stairs again. But a startling doubt
had come over me at Lizzy Dene's words: could I have taken the wrong
letter from the basket? I hastened back to the light and drew it forth.
No, it was all right: it was directed to Mr. Edwin Barley. What could
Lizzy Dene mean by saying she had delivered it? I wondered, as I tore
it open.

"I am overwhelmed with astonishment. I was coming round to your house,
in spite of your prohibition, to tell you what I have discovered, but
was prevented by Mrs. Chandos. _He is here!_ I am as certain of it as
that I am writing these words: and it sets clear the mystery of that
closely-guarded west wing, which has been as a closed book to me. Anne
Hereford went surreptitiously in there just now, and saw what she
describes as a tall, emaciated object, reclining in an invalid chair,
whose face bore a striking resemblance to that of Harry Chandos. There
can be no doubt that it is he, not the slightest in the world; you can
therefore take immediate steps, if you choose, to have him apprehended.
My part is now over.
"C. D. P."

The contents of the letter frightened me. What mischief had I not
caused by that incautious revelation to Mrs. Penn! Mrs. Penn the
treacherous—as she undoubtedly was. "Take immediate steps to have him
apprehended." Who was he? what had he done? and how did it concern Mr.
Edwin Barley? Surely I ought to acquaint Mr. Chandos, and show him the
note without loss of time.

The tea waited on the table, when Hickens came in with a message sent
down from the west wing—that Mr. Chandos and Madame de Mellissie were
taking tea there. I put out a cup, and sent the things away again,
debating whether I might venture on the unheard-of proceeding of
sending to the west wing for Mr. Chandos.

Yes. It was a matter of necessity, and I ought to do it. I sought for
Hill. Hill was in the west wing, waiting on the tea party. Should I
send Hickens to knock at the west wing door, or go myself? Better go
myself, instinct told me.

I ran lightly up the stairs. Peeping out at the east wing door,
listening and prying, was the head of Mrs. Penn.

"They have quite a soirée in the west wing to-night," she said to me,
as I passed; "family gathering: all of them at it, save Sir Thomas.
Whither are you off to so fast?"

"I have a message for the west wing," I answered, as I brushed on, and
knocked at the door.

Hill came to unfasten the door. She turned desperately savage when she
saw me.

"I am not come to intrude, Hill. Mr. Chandos is here, is he not?"

"What's that to anybody?" retorted Hill.

"He is wanted, that is all. Be so good as ask him to step down to the
oak-parlour. At once, please; it is very pressing."

Hill banged the door in my face, and bolted it. Mrs. Penn, whose soft
steps had come stealing near, seized hold of me by the gathers of my
dress as I would have passed her.

"Anne, who wants Mr. Chandos? Have the police come?"

"I want him; I have a message for him," I boldly answered, the
remembrance of her treachery giving me courage to say it. "Why should
the police come? What do you mean?"

"As they made a night invasion of the house once before, I did not know
but they might have done it again. How tart you are this evening!"

I broke from her and ran down to the parlour. Mr. Chandos was in it
nearly as soon.

"Hill said I was wanted. Who is it, Anne? Do you know?"

"You must forgive me for having ventured to call you Mr. Chandos. I
have been the cause of some unhappy mischief, and how I shall make the
confession to you I hardly know. But, made it must be, and there's no
time to be lost."

"Sit down and don't excite yourself," he returned. "I daresay it is
nothing very formidable."

"When we were speaking of the gentleman I saw before dinner in the west
wing, you warned me that his being there was a secret which I must take
care not to betray."

"Well?"

"I ought to have told you then—but I had not the courage—that I had
already betrayed it. In the surprise of the moment, as I left the west
wing after seeing him, I mentioned it to Mrs. Penn. It was done
thoughtlessly; not intentionally; and I am very sorry for it."

"I am sorry also," he said, after a pause. "Mrs. Penn?" he slowly
continued, as if deliberating whether she were a safe person or not.
"Well, it might possibly have been imparted to a worse."

"Oh, but you have not heard all," I feverishly returned. "I do not
think it could have been imparted to a worse than Mrs. Penn; but I did
not know it then. I believe she has been writing to Mr. Edwin Barley."

My fingers were trembling, my face I know was flushed. Mr. Chandos laid
his cool hand upon me.

"Take breath, Anne; and calmness. I shall understand it better."

I strove to do as he said, and tell what I had to tell in as few words
as possible. That I had said it must be Sir Thomas Chandos: that Mrs.
Penn, wildly excited, said it was not Sir Thomas; and so on to the note
she gave Lizzy Dene. Mr. Chandos grew a little excited himself as he
read the note.

"Nothing could have been more unfortunate than this. Nothing; nothing."

"The most curious thing is, that when Lizzy Dene came back she affirmed
to Mrs. Penn that she had delivered the note," I resumed. "I cannot
make that out."

Mr. Chandos sat thinking, his pale face full of trouble and perplexity.

"Could Mrs. Penn have written two notes, think you, Anne?"

"I fear to think so: but it is not impossible. I only saw one in the
basket; but I scarcely noticed in my hurry."

"If she did not write two, the mischief as yet is confined to the
house, and I must take care that for this night at least it is not
carried beyond it. After that——"

He concluded his sentence in too low a tone to be heard, and rang for
Hickens. The man came immediately, and his master spoke.

"Hickens, will you lock the entrance doors of the house, back and
front, and put the keys into your pocket. No one must pass out of it
again to-night."

Hickens stared as if stupefied. It was the most extraordinary order
ever given to him at Chandos. "Why, sir?" he cried. "Whatever for?"

"It is my pleasure, Hickens," replied Mr. Chandos, in his quiet tone of
command. "Lock the doors and keep the keys; and suffer no person to go
out on any pretence whatsoever. No person that the house contains, you
understand, myself excepted. Neither Mrs. Chandos nor Mrs. Penn; Miss
Hereford"—turning to me with a half smile—"or the servants. Should any
one of them present themselves at the door, and, finding it fast, ask
to be let out, say you have my orders not to do it."

"Very well, sir," replied the amazed Hickens. "There's two of the maids
out on an errand now, sir; are they to be let in?"

"Certainly. But take care that you fasten the door afterwards again. Go
at once and do this; and then send Lizzy Dene to me."

Away went Hickens. Mr. Chandos paced the room until Lizzy Dene
appeared.

"Did you want me, sir?"

"I do. Come in and shut the door. What I want from you, Lizzy, is a
little bit of information. If, as I believe, you are true to the house
you serve, and its interests, you will give it me truthfully."

Lizzy burst into tears, without any occasion, that I could see, and
hung her head. Evidently there was something or other on which she
feared to be questioned.

"It's what I always have been, sir, and what I hope I shall be. What
have I done?"

"Did Mrs. Penn give you a letter, some two or three hours ago, to
deliver at Mr. Edwin Barley's?"

"Yes, sir," was the reply, spoken without hesitation or embarrassment.
Apparently that was not Lizzy Dene's sore point.

"Did you deliver it?"

Lizzy hesitated now, and Mr. Chandos repeated his question.

"Now only to think that one can't meet with an accident without its
being known all round as soon as done!" she exclaimed. "If I had
thought you had anything to do with the matter, sir, I'd have told the
truth when I came back; but I was afraid Mrs. Penn would be angry with
me."

"I shall be pleased to hear that the letter was not delivered," said
Mr. Chandos. "So tell the truth now."

"Where I could have lost it, master, I know no more than the dead," she
resumed. "I know I put it safe in my basket; and though I did run, it
could not have shaken out, because the lid was shut down; but when I
got to Mr. Barley's, and went to take it out, it was gone. Sleighted
off right away; just like that letter you lost from the hall-table,
sir. What to do I didn't know, for I had given a good pull at their
bell before I found out the loss. But I had got another letter in my
basket——"

"Another letter?" interrupted Mr. Chandos, thinking his fears were
verified.

"Leastways, as good as a letter, sir. As luck would have it, when I was
running down the avenue, I met the young man from the fancy-draper's
shop in the village, and he thrust a folded letter in my hands. 'For
Lady Chandos, and mind you give it her,' says he, 'for it's a list of
our new fashions.' So, what should I do, sir, when I found the other
was gone, but give in the fashions to Mr. Barley's young man. 'And mind
you take it in to your master without no delay,' says I, 'for it's
particular.' He'll wonder what they want, sending him the fashions,"
concluded Lizzy.

"You said nothing to Mrs. Penn of this?"

"Well—no, I didn't. I meant, when she found it out, to let her think I
had given in the wrong letter by mistake. I don't suppose hers was of
much consequence, for it was only writ in pencil. I didn't take the
money she offered me, though; I thought that wouldn't be fair, as had
not done the service."

"And my desire is, that you say nothing to her," said Mr. Chandos. "Let
the matter rest as it is."

Mr. Chandos looked very grave after Lizzy Dene withdrew, as though he
were debating something in his mind. Suddenly he spoke—

"Anne, cast your thoughts back a few years. Was there any one in Mr.
Edwin Barley's house, at the time Philip King was killed, at all
answering to the description of Mrs. Penn?"

I looked at him in simple astonishment.

"It has struck me once or twice that Mrs. Penn must have been in the
house, or very near it, by the knowledge she has of the details, great
and small. And it would almost seem now, Anne, as though she were in
league with Edwin Barley, acting as his spy."

"No one whatever was there except the servants and Charlotte Delves?"

"Stop a bit. Charlotte Delves—C. D. P.; C. D. would stand for that
name. Is Mrs. Penn Charlotte Delves?" The question nearly took my
breath away.

"But, Mr. Chandos, look at Mrs. Penn's hair! Charlotte Delves had
pretty hair—very light; quite different from this."

He smiled sadly.

"You must be inexperienced in the world's fashions, my dear, if you
have believed the present colour of Mrs. Penn's hair to be natural. She
must have dyed her hair, intending, no doubt, to change it to golden:
instead of which it has come out of the ordeal a blazing vermilion. I
think Mrs. Penn _is_ Charlotte Delves."

Little by little, as I compared the past Charlotte Delves with the
present Mrs. Penn, the truth dawned upon me. All that was obscure, that
had puzzled me in the likeness I could not trace, became clear. She had
grown older; she had grown much stouter; shape of both figure and face
had changed. Mrs. Penn, with a plump face and glowing red hair taken
back, was quite another person from Miss Delves with a thin face and
long fair ringlets shading it.

"You are right," I said, in a low, earnest tone. "It is Charlotte
Delves."

"And has been here trying to find out what she can of George Heneage. I
see it all."

"But, Mr. Chandos, what is George Heneage to you?"

"He is my brother, Anne. _He_ is George Heneage," he added, pointing in
the direction of the west wing.

He George Heneage! I sat in greater and greater amazement. But, as I
had traced the likeness in Charlotte Delves, so, now that the clue was
given me, did I see that the resemblance which had so haunted me in Mr.
Chandos, was to the George Heneage of that unhappy time.

"You were but a child, you know, then. And a child's remembrance does
not retain faces very long."

"But, Mr. Chandos, how can George Heneage be your brother?"

"Is it perplexing you? Soon after the sad time of which we know too
much, my father, Sir Thomas Heneage, had a large estate—this—bequeathed
to him by Mr. Chandos, my mother's brother, on condition that he
assumed the name. You may be sure we lost no time in doing so,—too
thankful to drop our own, which George had disgraced."

"Then—his name is no longer George Heneage, but George Chandos?" I
said, unable to take the facts in quickly.

"Strictly speaking, our name is Heneage-Chandos; and Heneage-Chandos we
should have been always styled. But we preferred to drop the name of
Heneage completely. It may be—I don't know—that we shall take it up
again hereafter."

"And where has he been all this while?"

"Ah, where! You may well ask. Leading the life of a miserable, exiled
man, conscious that Edwin Barley was ever on the watch for him, seeking
to bring him to trial for the murder of Philip King."

"Did your brother really do it?" I asked, in a low tone.

"In one sense, yes. He killed Philip King, but not intentionally. So
much as this he said to me for the first time only two days ago. Were
he brought to trial, there could be no doubt of his condemnation and
execution—and only think of the awful fear that has been ours! You can
now understand why I and my brother, Sir Thomas, have felt ourselves
bound in honour not to marry while that possible disgrace was hanging
over us. Ill-fated George!"

"Has he been concealed here always?"

"That would have been next to impossible," replied Mr. Chandos, with a
half smile at my simplicity. "He has been here a short time: and no end
of stratagems have we had to resort to, to conceal the fact. My mother
has been compelled to feign illness, and remain in the west wing, that
an excuse might be afforded for provisions and things being carried up.
I have assumed to you the unenviable character of a sleepwalker; we
have suffered the report that my dead father, Sir Thomas, haunted the
pine-walk, without contradicting it——"

"And are you not a sleepwalker? and is there no ghost?" I breathlessly
interrupted.

"The only ghost, the only sleepwalker, has been poor George," he sadly
answered. "_You_ saw him arrive, Anne."

"I!"

"Have you forgotten the night when you saw me—as you thought—dodging in
and out of the trees, as if I wished to escape observation, and finally
disappearing within the west wing? It was George. The next morning you
accused me of having been there; I knew I had not, and positively
denied it. Later I found that George had come: and then I amused you
with a fable of my being addicted to sleepwalking. I knew not what else
to invent; anything to cast off suspicion from the right quarter; and I
feared you would be seeing him there again."

"But is it not highly dangerous for him to have ventured here?"

"Ay. After the misfortune happened he lay a short while concealed at
Heneage Grange, where we then lived, and eventually escaped to the
Prussian dominions. We heard nothing of him for some time, though we
were in the habit of remitting him funds periodically for his support.
But one night he made his appearance here; it was not long after we had
settled at Chandos; startling my mother and Hill nearly out of their
senses. They concealed him in the west wing, and Lady Chandos feigned
illness and remained in it with him; as she has done this time. He did
not stay long; but henceforth we could be at no certainty, and took to
leaving the lower entrance door of the west wing unfastened at night,
so that he might enter at once, should he arrive a second time. Three
or four times in all has he come, including this."

"But it must surely be hazardous?"

"Nothing can be more so; not to speak of the constant state of suspense
and anxiety it keeps us all in. He declares he is obliged to come, or
die; that he is attacked with the _mal du pays_, the yearning for home,
to such an extent that when the fit comes on him, he is forced to come
and risk it. More dangerous, too, than his actually being here, is his
walking out at night in the grounds; and he will do it in spite of
remonstrance. George was always given to self-will."

"Does he walk out?"

"Does he? Why, Anne, need you ask the question? Sometimes at dusk,
sometimes not until midnight, at any hour just as the whim takes him,
out he will go. He has led so restless a life that walking once or
twice in the twenty-four hours is essential, or he could not exist.
Have you not seen the 'ghost' yourself more than once? Were you not
terrified at him in the corridor? Do you forget when I gathered your
face to me in the dark walk, while some one passed? I feared that you
should see him—should detect that it was a living man, real flesh and
blood, not a harmless ghost. Very glad were we when the servants at his
first visit, took up the theory of a ghost, in place of any more
dangerous notion. From them it spread outside, so that the Chandos
ghost has become public rumour and public property."

"Do the servants know that you have this brother?"

"Hickens and some of the elder ones of course know it: know all he was
accused of, and why he went into exile; but so many years have elapsed
since, that I feel sure the remembrance of him has nearly died out.
This visit has been worse for us than any, owing to the proximity of
Edwin Barley."

"You think Edwin Barley has been looking out for him?"

"Think! I know it. Something must have arisen to give him the notion
that George had returned to England, and was in hiding: though he could
not have suspected Chandos, or he would have had it searched. Many
things, that we were obliged to say and do, appear to have been very
foolish, looking back, and they will seem still more so in after years;
but they were done in dread fear. The singular thing is that Mrs.
Penn—being here to find out what she could—should not have hit upon the
truth before."

"Would Mr. Edwin Barley cause him to be apprehended, do you think?"

"He will apprehend him the very moment that the news shall reach his
ears," spoke Mr. Chandos, lifting his hands in agitation. "Living
or—dead, I had all but said—at any rate, living or dying, Edwin Barley
will seize upon George Heneage. I do not say but he would be
justified."

"Oh, Mr. Chandos! Can you not take him somewhere for escape?"

He sadly shook his head. "No. George is past being taken. He has grown
worse with rapid quickness. Yesterday I should have said his hours were
numbered: to-day he is so much better that I can only think he has
entered on a renewed lease of life. At least of some days."

"What is it that is the matter with him?"

"In my opinion it is a broken heart. He has fretted himself away. Think
what existence has been for him. In exile under a false name; no home,
no comfort, an innocent man's death upon his conscience; and living,
whether at home or abroad, in the ever-perpetual dread of being called
upon to answer publicly for what has been called murder. The doctors
call it decline. He is a living shadow."

"And Mrs. Chandos is his wife! Oh, poor thing, what a life of sadness
hers must be!"

"Mrs. Chandos was his wife; in one sense of the word is his wife still,
for she bears his name," he gravely answered. "But I have a word to say
to you, Anne, respecting Mrs. Chandos. Mrs. Penn—I shall begin to doubt
whether every word and action of that woman be not false, put forth
with a covert motive—informed you Mrs. Chandos was my wife,flashing.
knowing perfectly well the contrary. Mrs. Chandos was never my wife,
Anne, but she was once my love."

A chill stole over my heart.

"I met with her when she was Ethel Wynne, a lovely, soft-mannered girl,
and I learned to love her with impassioned fervour. We became engaged,
and were to be married later: I was only two-and-twenty then, she
seventeen. She came to Heneage Grange on a visit, she and her elder
sister, since dead. Little thought I that my sweet, soft-mannered girl
was eaten up with ambition. One morning at breakfast a letter was
brought in to my father. It was from India, and contained news of the
death of my brother Tom; which, I need not tell you, who know that he
is alive yet, was premature. Captain Heneage had been in action, the
letter stated, was desperately wounded, and taken up for dead. Tom
wrote us word afterwards that it was only when they went to bury him
that they discovered he was alive. But he is given to joking. Well, we
mourned him as dead; and George, in his free, careless manner, told
Ethel she had better have engaged herself to him than to me, for that
he could make her Lady Heneage being the heir now, which Harry never
could. That George had always admired her, was certain. He had a
weakness for pretty women. But for that weakness, and Mrs. Edwin
Barley's being pretty, Philip King might be alive now."

Mr. Chandos paused a moment, and then went on in a lower tone, bending
rather nearer to me: "Anne, will you believe that in less than two
weeks' time they had gone away together?"

"Who had?"

"George Heneage and Ethel Wynne. They had gone to be married. When they
returned, man and wife, my mother, Lady Heneage, would have refused to
receive them, but Sir Thomas, ever lenient to us all, persuaded her. A
marriage entered into as theirs had been would bring plenty of
punishment in its wake, he observed. The punishment—for Ethel, at any
rate—had already begun. She liked me best, far best, but ambition had
temporarily blinded her. She married George on the strength of his
being heir apparent to the title, and news had now arrived that my
brother Thomas was alive, and progressing steadily towards health."

"And you—what did you do?" I interrupted.

"I hid my bruised feelings, and rode the high horse of mocking
indifference; letting none suppose false Ethel had left a wound. The
wound was there, and a pretty sharp one; five fathom deep, though I
strove to bury it." He paused an instant, and then went on. "In six
months' time she and George were tired of each other—if appearances
might be trusted—and he spent a great deal of his time abroad. Ethel
resented it: she said he had no right to go out taking pleasure without
her: but George laughed off the complaints in his light way. They made
their home at Heneage Grange, and had been married nearly a year when
George went on that fatal visit to Mr. Edwin Barley's."

"Then—when that calamity took place he had a wife!" I exclaimed in
surprise: I suppose because I had never heard it at the time.

"Certainly. The shock to Ethel was dreadful. She believed him guilty.
Brain fever attacked her, and she has never been quite bright in
intellect since, but is worse at times than others. Hers is a
disappointed life. She had married George in the supposition that he
was heir to the baronetcy; she found herself the wife of an exiled man,
an accused murderer."

"Has she been aware of the secret visits of her husband?"

"They could not be kept entirely from her. Since the calamity, she has
never been cordial with him: acquaintances they have been, but no more:
it almost seems as though Ethel had forgotten that other ties once
existed between them. She is most anxious to guard his secret; our only
fear has been that she might inadvertently betray it. For this we would
have concealed from her his presence here as long as might be, but she
has always found it out and resented it loudly, reproaching me and my
mother with having no confidence in her. You must remember the scene in
the corridor when I locked the door of your room; Ethel had just burst
into the west wing with reproaches, and they, George and my mother,
were bringing her back to her own apartments. She goes there daily now,
and reads the Bible to him."

How the things came out—one after the other!

"And now, Anne, I think you know all; and will understand how, with
this terrible sword—George's apprehension—ever unsheathed, I could not
tell you of my love."

And what if it did? Strike or not strike, it would be all the same to
my simple heart, beating now with its weight of happiness. I believe
Mr. Chandos could read this in my downcast face, for a smile was
parting his lips.

"Is it to be yes in any case, Anne?"

"I—— Perhaps," I stammered. "And then you will tell me the truth about
yourself. What is it that is really the matter with you?" I took
courage to ask, speaking at length of the fear that always lay upon me
so heavily, and which I had been forbidden to speak about.

"The matter with me?"

"The illness that Dr. Amos said you would never get well from."

Mr. Chandos laughed. "Why, Anne, don't you see?—it was my brother
George he spoke of, not me. I never had anything serious the matter
with me in my life; we wiry-built fellows never have."

Was it so? Could this great dread be, like the other, a myth? In the
revulsion of feeling, my wits momentarily deserted me. Pulses were
bounding, cheeks were blushing, eyes were thrilling; and I looked up at
him asking, was it true?—was it true!

And got my answer for my pains. Mr. Chandos snatched my face to his,
and kissed it as if he could never leave off again. Hot, sweet,
perfumed kisses, that seemed to be of heaven.

"But I do not quite understand yet," I said, when I could get away.
"You have looked ill; especially about the time Dr. Amos came."

"And in one sense I was ill; ill with anxiety. We have lived, you see,
Anne, with a perpetual terror upon us; never free from it a moment, by
night or by day. When George was not here, there was the ever constant
dread of his coming, the _watching_ for him as it were; and now that he
is here the dread is awful. When George grew worse, and it became
necessary that some medical man should see him, Dr. Amos was summoned
to 'Mr. Harry Chandos;' and I had a bed made up in the west wing, and
secluded myself for four-and-twenty hours."

"Did Dr. Amos think he came to you?"

"He thought so. Thought that the sickly, worn-out man he saw lying on
the sofa in my mother's sitting-room was Mr. Harry Chandos. I being all
the while closely shut up from sight in my temporary chamber. Laken,
who has been our medical attendant for a great many years, and in our
entire confidence, was unfortunately away from home, and we had to
resort to a stratagem. It would not do to let the world or the
household know that George Heneage was lying concealed at Chandos."

"Then—when Dr. Laken said Lady Chandos was emaciated and obstinate, he
really spoke of _him?_"

"He did: because you were within hearing. The obstinacy related to
George's persistency in taking his night walks in the grounds. It has
been a grievous confinement for my mother: _she_ went out a night or
two ago for a stroll at dusk, and was unfortunately seen by Mrs. Penn.
Hill was so cross that Mrs. Penn should have gone near the pine-walk."

"How much does Madame de Mellissie know of this?" I asked.

"She was cognizant of the crime George was accused of having committed,
and that he was in exile. She also knew that we always lived in dread
of his coming to Chandos; and for that reason did not welcome strangers
here."

"And yet she brought, and left, me!"

"But you have not proved a dangerous inmate, my dear one."

It was kind of him to say that, but I feared I had. That Mrs. Penn had
contrived to give notice to Edwin Barley, or would contrive it, was
only too probable. Once the house should be opened in the morning
nothing could hinder her. Troubled and fearful, I had not spoken for
some minutes, neither had he, when Madame de Mellissie's voice was
heard in the hall, and he left the room.

She came into it, crossing him on the threshold. Just casting an angry
and contemptuous glance on me, she withdrew, and shut the door with a
heavy bang, coming back again in a short while.

"Closeted with my brother as usual!" she began, as if not one minute
instead of ten had elapsed since seeing me with Mr. Chandos. "Why do
you put yourself continuously in his way?"

"Did you speak to me, Madame de Mellissie?" I asked, really doubting if
the attack could be meant for me.

"To whom else should I speak?" she returned, in a passionate and abrupt
tone. "How dare you presume to seek to entangle Mr. Harry Chandos?"

"I do not understand you, Madame de Mellissie. I have never yet sought
to entangle any one."

"You have; you know you have," she answered, giving the reins to her
temper. "The letter I received warned me you were doing it, and that
brought me over. You and he have dined alone, sat alone, walked alone;
together always. Is it seemly that you, a dependent governess-girl,
should cast a covetous eye upon a Chandos?"

My heart was beginning to beat painfully. What defence had I to make?

"Why did you leave me here, madam?"

"Leave you here! Because it suited my convenience. But I left you here
as a dependent: a servant, so to say. I did not expect you to make
yourself to into yourself into my brother's companion."

"Stay, Madame de Mellissie. I beg you to reflect a little before you
reproach me. How could I help being your brother's companion, _when he
chose to make himself mine_. This, the oak-parlour, was the general
sitting-room; no other was shown to me for my use; was it my fault that
Mr. Chandos also made it his? Could I ask to have my breakfast and
dinner served in my bed-chamber?"

"I don't care," she intemperately rejoined. "I say that had you not
been lost to all sense of propriety, of the fitness of things, you
would have kept yourself beyond the notice of Mr. Harry Chandos.
To-morrow morning you will leave."

"To whom are you speaking, Emily?" demanded a quiet voice behind us.

It was his; it was his. I drew back with a sort of gasping sob.

"I am speaking to Anne Hereford," she defiantly answered. "Giving her a
warning of summary ejectment. She has been in the house rather too
long!"

"You might have moderated your tone, at any rate, Emily: and perhaps
would, had you known to whom you were offering a gratuitous insult," he
said, with admirable calmness.

"I spoke to Anne Hereford."

"Yes. And to my future wife."

The crimson colour flashed into her beautiful face. "Harry!"

"Therefore I must beg of you to treat Miss Hereford accordingly."

"Are you mad, Harry?"

"Perfectly sane, I hope."

"It cannot be your attention to marry _her_? How can you think of so
degrading yourself?"

"You are mistaking the case altogether, Emily. I, and my family with
me, will be honoured by the alliance."

"What on earth do you mean?"

A half smile crossed his face at her wondering look, but he gave no
explanation: perhaps the time had not come. I escaped from the room,
and he came after me.

"Anne, I want you to go with me to the west wing. George says he should
like to see you."

I went up with him at once. George Heneage—I shall never call him
Chandos, and indeed he had never assumed the name—sat in the same
easy-chair with the pillows at his back. Mr. Chandos put me a seat
near, and he took my hands within his wasted ones. They called him
better. Better! He, with the white, drawn face, the glassy eyes, the
laboured breath!

"My little friend Anne! Have you quite forgotten me?"

"No; I have remembered you always, Mr. Heneage. I am sorry to see you
look so ill."

"Better that I should look so. My life is a burden to me and to others.
I have prayed to God a long while to take it, and I think He has at
last heard me. Leave us, Harry, for a few minutes."

I felt half frightened as Mr. Chandos went out. What could he want with
me?—and he looked so near death!

"You have retained a remembrance of those evil days?" he abruptly
began, turning on the pillow to face me.

"Every remembrance, I think. I have forgotten nothing."

"Just so: they could but strike forcibly on a child's heart. Well, ever
since Harry told me that it was _you_ who were in this house, a day or
two back now, I have thought I must see you at the last. I should not
like to die leaving you to a wrong impression. You have assumed, with
the rest of the world, that I murdered Philip King?"

I hesitated, really not knowing what to say.

"But I did not murder him. The shot from my gun killed him, but not
intentionally. As Heaven, soon to be my judge, hears me, I tell you the
truth. Philip King had angered me very much. As I saw him in the
distance smoking a cigar, his back against the tree's trunk, I pointed
my gun at him and put my finger on the trigger, saying, 'How I should
like to put a shot into you!' Without meaning it—without meaning it,
the gun went off; Anne: my elbow caught against the branch of a tree,
and it went off and shot him. I had rather—yes, even then—that it had
shot myself."

"But why did you not come forward and say so, Mr. Heneage?"

"Because the fact paralysed me, making me both a fool and a coward, and
the moment for avowals went by, passed for ever. I would have give my
own life to undo my work and restore that of Philip King. It was too
late. All was too late. So I have lived on as I best could, hiding
myself from the law, an exile from my country, my wife a stranger;
regarded by the world as a murderer, liable to be called upon at any
moment to expiate it, and with a man's death upon my soul. Over and
over again would I have given myself up, but for the disgrace it would
bring to my family."

"I thought it might be an accident, Mr. Heneage—have always thought
it," I said, with a sigh of relief.

"Thank God, yes! But the wicked wish had been there, though uttered in
reckless sport. Oh, child, don't you see how glad I shall be to go?
Christ has washed away sins as red as mine. Not of my sins,
comparatively speaking, has the care lain heavily upon me night and
day; but of another's."

Did he mean Selina's? "Of whose, sir?"

"Philip King's. I gave him no time to pray for them. There's a verse in
the Bible, Anne, that has brought me comfort at times," he whispered,
with feverish eagerness, gazing at me with his earnest, yearning eyes.
"When the disciples asked of the Redeemer who then can be saved, there
came in answer the loving words, 'With men this is impossible, but with
God all things are possible.'"

He might not have said more; I don't know; but Hill came in to announce
Dr. Laken. Her face of astonishment when she saw me sitting there was
ludicrous to behold. George Heneage wrung my hand as I left him.

"You see, Hill, they ask me in here of themselves," I could not help
saying, in a sort of triumph, as she held the green-baize door open for
me.

Hill returned a defiant grunt by way of answer, and I brushed past Dr.
Laken as he came along the gallery with another gentleman, who was
dressed in the garb of a clergyman.



CHAPTER XXVIII.
AN IGNOMINIOUS EXIT.

The windows were thrown open to the bright morning air; the late autumn
birds were singing, the trees were gently waving; even the gloomy
pine-walk opposite had a ray of sunlight on it. Little thought I as I
stood in the oak-parlour with my great happiness, little thought the
servants as they went about their work, that some one lay dead in the
west wing.

Breakfast waited on the table; the postman came with the letters;
Hickens looked in to see if he might bring the urn. He waited on us far
more than the rest did, although he was butler, knowing that Mr.
Chandos liked it.

A stir in the hall at last: Mrs. Penn's voice speaking to Lizzy Dene.
The tones were low, but they reached my ear.

"I cannot think you delivered that letter last evening, Lizzy. I ought
to have received an answer long before this."

"Not deliver it, ma'am!" returned Lizzy, with every sound of surprise.
"I gave it in to the young man at the door."

"Wait a moment, Lizzy: what a hurry you are in! Are you sure Mr. Edwin
Barley was at home?"

"Of course I am not sure," returned Lizzy: and I pictured Mrs. Penn to
myself at that moment: her cheeks flushing red, her eyes flashing fire.

"You deceitful woman! You told me last night Mr. Edwin Barley was at
home!"

"Ma'am, I told you the young man said he was at home. I can't stay here
a minute longer: if Hill finds me gossiping here, she'll be fit to pull
my ears for me."

A slight rustling in the portico. I looked from the window and saw Mrs.
Penn go flying away as speedily as a middle-aged, portly women can fly.
Mr. Chandos came into the room at the same time.

"How is your brother, Mr. Chandos?"

"Better, I trust, than he has been for many years in this life. It is
over, Anne. He died at twelve last night."

The words struck on me as a great shock. Over! Dead!

"He was sensible to the last moment. It was a happy death," continued
Mr. Chandos, in a low, solemn tone. "Truly may it be said that he has
'come out of great tribulation.' God receive and bless him!"

I sat down. Mr. Chandos turned over the letters in an abstracted kind
of manner, but did not really look at them. When I thought I might
venture to speak, I mentioned Mrs. Penn's reproach to Lizzy Dene, and
her running off after (there was no doubt) to Mr. Edwin Barley.

"Ay, I saw her go," he replied. "The answer she has been waiting for
were the police, on their mission to arrest my brother George. They may
come now. And presently will do so," he added, "for I have sent for
them."

"For the police again! What for?"

He made no answer. Emily came in, looking as he did, rather subdued.
She spoke civilly to me: with death in a house people keep down their
temper. Mr. Chandos rang the bell for breakfast, and then we all stood
at the window.

"Where's Dr. Laken?" asked Emily.

"Gone out," replied Mr. Chandos. "He breakfasted early."

"How unfortunate it is that I should have arrived just now!" she
exclaimed, after a pause, during which we were all silent. "The
carriages must not go out, I suppose, for the next few days."

"Ill doing is sure to bring its own punishment, Emily," Mr. Chandos
said to her, jestingly, with a sad smile. "You should not have run
away."

"We shall have Alfred over after me, I expect. His gastric fever will
politely vanish when it is necessary that his wife should be looked up.
But I am _glad_ that I was here, Harry, after all," she added, her
voice changing to one of deep feeling, "for it enabled me to see the
last of _him_."

"I am glad that he was here," observed Mr. Chandos, "for it afforded
the opportunity of his receiving comforts and attendance in his illness
that he could not have had abroad. Now that the awful dread of his
being discovered has passed away, I see how certainly all things were
for the best."

"He stayed here a long while this time."

"He was too ill to leave. We could not urge it. The final end seemed
rapidly and surely approaching."

"Do you call his illness consumption?"

"Not the consumption that attacks most people. If ever man died of a
broken heart, George has."

"Did he come home to die? I mean, knowing that he was soon about to
die?"

"No. He was weak and emaciated when he came, worn to a shadow; but he
did not become really ill, dangerously ill, until afterwards."

"Do the servants know of it?" she asked, lowering her voice. "Will they
be told of it?"

"Certainly not. We hope to keep it private to the end."

"But there must be——"

"Yes, yes," he hastily interrupted, seeing she would have alluded to
the funeral. "Laken manages all that. What a bright morning it is!"

Mr. Chandos leaned from the window as if to turn the conversation.
Emily, easily swayed, plucked a piece of mignonette.

"I suppose mamma will come downstairs to-day. Well, it's time she did."

"It is," asserted Mr. Chandos.

"For more reasons than one," she tartly added, which was a lance-shaft
at me.

Hickens came in with the urn. Seeing the letters lying there untouched,
he spoke with the familiarity of a privileged servant.

"The Indian mail is in, sir."

Mr. Chandos turned quickly to the table. "I see it is, Hickens." But I
don't think he had seen it until then.

"I suppose there's nothing for me from Alfred," said Madame de
Mellissie, languidly looking round. "I'm not anxious to read it if
there is: it would only be full of groans and scolding. Or from Tom,
either? He never writes to me."

Mr. Chandos shook his head. "There's only one from Tom, and that is to
me."

"But I see another Indian letter," she said, slowly approaching the
table. "It has a black seal."

"Not from Thomas: it is in a strange handwriting. It is addressed to my
mother."

"Any letters for my lady, sir?" asked Hill, entering the parlour.

"Two. One of them from India, tell her; but not from Sir Thomas."

Hill retreated with the letters. Emily placed herself in my seat at the
head of the table, and we began breakfast. It was a poor meal for all
of us that morning. Mr. Chandos drank his coffee at a draught, and
opened his brother's letter.

"They were on the eve of action, Emily," he presently said. "Just going
into it when Thomas wrote this. Some local engagement."

"Is it well over?"

"I hope so. But he closed this letter at once. Here is what he says in
conclusion: 'I shall drop this into the post now, and if I come out of
the turmoil safely, give you a second note to say so. That is, if the
post should not have gone: if it has, you must wait another fortnight.'
Where's the evening paper?" added Mr. Chandos, seeking out a newspaper
which had come with the letters, and tearing it open. "News of this
action, however unimportant it was, ought to have come by telegraph."

He had scarcely said this when Hill came in, speaking and looking like
one in alarm. I thought of the police; I fancy Mr. Chandos did.

"Sir—Mr. Harry—my lady wishes you to come to her instantly."

He appeared aroused by the tone—or the looks—and went out at once,
opening the sheets of the newspaper as he did so. Madame de Mellissie
demanded of Hill what he was wanted for.

"I hardly know what, ma'am. Something very sad, I fear, has happened."

Emily started to her feet. "Hill, that letter never contained bad news
from India?—from Sir Thomas?"

"It has got bad news of some sort in it, for certain," was Hill's
rejoinder. "My lady gave a great scream before she had read three
lines, and said some confused words about her 'darling son Thomas.' The
fear upon me, ma'am, is, that he has been hurt in battle."

Worse than that! worse than that! It came upon me with a prevision as I
thought of the black seal and the strange handwriting. Emily, impulsive
in all she did, went running up to the west wing. While I waited alone
for them to return with some news, good or bad, I heard Mrs. Penn come
in and accost Lizzy Dene, who was rubbing the brasses in the hall.

"Where is the letter I gave you last night?" she curtly demanded, her
tone very sharp.

"Why, ma'am, what's the use of asking me?" returned the undaunted
Lizzy, after a faint pause. "Mr. Edwin Barley's people must know more
about that."

"The letter you delivered was not my letter."

"Not your letter!" repeated Lizzy Dene, evidently affecting the most
genuine surprise. "I don't know what you mean, ma'am."

"The letter you left at Mr. Edwin Barley's, instead of being the one I
handed to you, was some rubbishing circular of the fashions. How dared
you do such a thing?"

"My goodness me!" exclaimed Lizzy. "To think of that! But, Mrs. Penn,
it's not possible."

"Don't talk to me about its not being possible! You have been wilfully
careless. I must have my letter produced."

"I declare to goodness I don't know where it is, or what has become of
it, if—as you say, ma'am, it was not the one I gave in to the young
man," spoke Lizzy, this time with real earnestness. I had a letter of
fashions in my basket; but it's odd I could make such a mistake!

"You did make it," Mrs. Penn angrily rejoined. "Where is the letter
now?"

"Ma'am, I can't imagine. It must have been spirited away."

"Don't talk nonsense to me about 'spirited.' If you gave in the one for
the other, you must still have had my letter left in your basket. What
did you do with it?"

"If you offered me a thousand pounds to tell, I couldn't," was Lizzy's
answer. "Looking upon it as nothing but a letter of the fashions, I
thought it was of no moment, else I remember opening my basket after
leaving Mr. Barley's, and seeing there was nothing in it. I wondered
then what could have gone with the fashions. I'm sure, ma'am, I am
verry sorry."

Mrs. Penn went upstairs. It was apparently a profitless inquiry. Lizzy
Dene rubbed away again at her brass, and I waited and waited. The
servants began to stand about in groups, coming perpetually into the
hall; the rumour that something was wrong in India had spread.
By-and-by the truth was brought down by Hill, with great tears upon her
face. Sir Thomas Chandos was dead.

It was not a false report, as had once come, of his death. Ah, no. He
had fallen in battle, gallantly leading his men to the charge. The
Commander-in-Chief in India had written to Lady Chandos with his own
hand: he said how much her son was regretted—that all the officers who
could be spared attended the funeral. A shot had struck him in the
breast. He had but time to say a few words, and died, his mother's name
being the last upon his lips.

Hickens entered the oak-parlour and drew down the white blinds. While
talking of Sir Thomas he burst into tears. It all proved to me how much
Thomas Chandos had been liked by those about him.

The breakfast things were taken away; an hour passed, and the morning
was growing weary, when Mr. Chandos came down, traces of emotion on his
face. Alas! he was no longer "Mr." but Sir Harry Chandos.

The first person I heard give him his title was Dr. Laken. How strange
it was!—had the news arrived only on the previous morning, the title
must have remained in abeyance. Poor, banned, dying George had been the
heir to it by right of birth but I suppose the law would not have given
it to him. Dr. Laken called Mr. Chandos "Sir Harry" three or four times
in the presence of the servants very pointedly. I thought he wanted to
impress tacitly upon them the fact that there was no intervening heir.
It was very strange; all: those blinds that they had not dared to draw
down for George, the grief they had not liked to show, the mourning
they might have been doubtful whether to assume; all did duty for both
brothers now, and might be open and legitimate.

"I think the shadow of death had fallen upon Thomas when he wrote,"
said Mr. Chandos, in a low tone. And Dr. Laken echoed the words
questioningly.

"The shadow of death?"

"I mean the prevision of it. Throughout his letter to me a vein of
sadness runs; and he concludes it, 'Farewell, Harry; God bless you!' He
never so wrote before. You shall read the letter, Laken: my mother has
it now."

Lady Chandos had been coming down that day, they said; but the news had
stopped it, and she would not now be seen until the morrow. The morning
went on. Two official-looking people came, gentlemen, and were taken by
Dr. Laken to the west wing. I gathered that it had something to do with
identification, in case there should be any doubt afterwards of the
death: both of them had known George Heneage in the days gone by.

The blinds were down throughout the house. Every room was dull. Madame
de Mellissie evidently found it so, and came in listlessly to the
oak-parlour. She seemed very cross: perhaps at seeing her brother
there; but he had only come to it a minute before.

"Harry, I suppose Chandos will be looking up again, and taking its part
in county gaieties after awhile—as it never has done yet?"

"Yes," he answered; "after a while."

"It would not be a bad plan for me to reside here occasionally as its
mistress. Mamma goes back to the old Heneage homestead: she always
intended to do so, if this crisis came in poor George's life, leaving
you here to manage the estate for Thomas. And now it is yours, to
manage for yourself. What changes!"

"Changes indeed! I wish I could be the manager for him still."

"You will want a mistress for it; and I shall be glad to escape at
times from home. I get sick and tired of Paris."

"Many thanks, Emily, but the future mistress of Chandos is already
bespoken."

Her fair face flushed; and there was a very tart ring in her voice when
she spoke again.

"Do you forget that your position is changed? When you gave me that
hint last evening, you were, comparatively speaking, an obscure
individual; now you are Sir Harry Chandos, a powerful and very wealthy
baronet."

What he answered, I know not. There was a smile on his face as I left
the room and strolled outside. The sound of approaching footsteps
caused me to look down the avenue, and the look sent me running in
again. Two of the police who had been there before were approaching on
foot.

"I have been waiting for them," said Mr. Chandos, quietly. I _cannot_
get quite at once into the way of calling him anything else. "Emily,
will you oblige me by going up to Mrs. Chandos, and make some excuse
for taking her into the west wing at once. You can stay here, or go to
another room, as you like, Anne."

I went up to my chamber. Madame de Mellissie was already passing along
the gallery, her arm linked within that of Mrs. Chandos. Mrs. Penn
advanced to the well of the staircase and saw the police. A glow of
triumph overspread her whole face.

"Sooner here than I thought for!" she exclaimed. "You will see
something now, Anne Hereford."

They came up the stairs, Mr. Chandos with them. Mrs. Penn retreated to
the door of the east wing, but she could not resist the temptation of
standing at it to look. They went towards her.

"Not here," she said, waving her hand in the direction of the west
wing. "The person for whom your visit is intended is _there_."

"Pardon me, madam," interposed Mr. Chandos; "the visit of these
officers is to _you_."

"To me! What do you mean?" she asked, after a pause, her voice rising
to a shriek.

Never did I see a change so great come over a human countenance. They
all retreated into the east wing, and the door was closed. What took
place I learnt later.

In the most courteous manner possible, consistent with the
circumstances, Mr. Chandos explained to Mrs. Penn why the police had
come for her. He had reason to believe _she_ was the person who had
been disturbing the tranquillity of Chandos, he said. When she had
offered her boxes for search before, he had declined to permit them to
be touched: he must, much as he regretted the necessity, order them to
be searched now. All this we heard later. Mrs. Penn was taken to. What
she said, never transpired: resistance would have been simply foolish;
and she made up for it by insolence. The police quietly did their duty;
and found ample proof: a few skeleton keys, that would open any lock in
the house, the chief. Her own lace was was there; Mr. Chandos's
memorandum-book. She had came into the house to spy; feverishly hoping
to find out the abiding place of George Heneage.

Her bitter animosity against him had but grown with years. An
accidental circumstance had brought to her a suspicion that George
Heneage's hiding-place was in England; and she had laid her plans and
entered Chandos in the full intention of discovering it. My presence
there had somewhat baffled her: she could not go peeping about in my
sight; she took Mr. Chandos's private book from his desk in the hope
that it might help her to the discovery she had at heart, and then
invented the story of losing her lace to divert the scent from herself.
Later, she conceived another scheme—that of getting me out of the
house; and she stole the money to put it into my box; and arranged the
supposed opening of her reticule in my room, and the reading of her
sealed letter; and abstracted the letter I had put on the hall-table,
hoping Mr. Chandos would fall into the trap and send me from Chandos.
_Now_ could be understood her former anxiety that the police should
search her boxes and mine; hers were ready for the inspection, mine had
the money in them; and, at that time (as I knew later) also the
memorandum-book. Something else was found in her boxes besides skeleton
keys—a grey cloak. Putting one thing with another, Mr. Chandos thought
he had little need of further speculation as to who had stopped his
horse in the avenue that night, and caused his fall from it. And the
reason may as well be mentioned here, though it is anticipating our
knowledge of it. She had lingered about the private groves of Chandos
until dusk that afternoon, hoping to see Mr. Edwin Barley, whose house
she was forbidden; in going forth at length, openly, having put her
cloak on because she was cold—and how it was Hill had not seen it on
her arm when talking with her in the portico, was a mystery, for she
had brought it to Chandos, left it in the hall there, and taken it upon
her departure—in going down the avenue she met Mr. Chandos riding up
it. She had never before seen him, and she took him in the dusk for his
brother. She actually thought she was encountering George Heneage; and
the noise with which she approached the horse and flung up her arms,
was not made to frighten the animal, but simply to express execration,
in her great surprise. At the same moment, even as it escaped her, she
discovered her mistake, and that it was not George Heneage.

"Now, madam," said Mr. Chandos, the search over, the proofs in the
officers' hands, "what have you to urge why I should not give you into
custody? You have been living in my mother's house under false colours;
you have been rifling locks; you have taken my money; you have been
writing anonymous letters, and carrying tales to Mr. Edwin Barley."

"All that I have done, I was justified in doing," she answered, braving
it out. "I was at work in your house, Harry Chandos, as a detective: my
acts bore but one aim—the discovery of your brother, the murderer. And
I have succeeded. In an hour's time from this, perhaps, the tables will
be turned. As to your money, Mr. Chandos, it is wrapped in paper and
directed to you. I don't steal money."

"What palliation have you to offer for your conduct? what excuse
against my giving you into custody?" repeated Mr. Chandos.

"If you choose to do it, _do_ it," she returned. "Some one of far
greater import than I will be shortly taken into custody from this
house. I am of the kin of the Barleys: you and they are implacable
enemies: all stratagems are fair when the discovery of criminals,
hiding from the law, is in question. I have only done my duty; I would
do it again. Give me into custody if you like, Mr. Chandos. The tables
will soon be turned."

"No, they will not be turned in the sense you would insinuate, and for
that reason I can afford to be generous," answered Mr. Chandos. "Had
real harm come of this matter, I would have prosecuted you to the
utmost rigour of the law. But, as it is beyond your power now, or Mr.
Edwin Barley's either, to do us harm, you may go from us scot-free. But
I cannot allow you to remain longer at Chandos. Forgive the seeming
inhospitality, if I say I would prefer that you should not wait to
partake of another meal in the house. Your things shall be sent after
you. Or, if you prefer to gather them together, these officers will
wait while you do it, and then escort you from my house into that of
Mr. Edwin Barley."

"I will not be escorted abroad by police officers," she passionately
answered.

"You possess no choice, madam. I have, so far, given you into their
charge: and they will take care to undertake it."

A very short while seemed to suffice to put her things together, and
Mrs. Penn came forth, attended by the two officers. In some mood of
reckless defiance, or perhaps to conceal herself as much as possible
from the gaze of the world, she had put on the grey cloak and drawn the
hood over her head.

Mr. Chandos recognised her at once, as she had looked that night. He
could but be a gentleman, and had gone out to the hall in courtesy when
she came down to depart. The sight of her thus startled him for a
moment.

"Ah, I should have known you anywhere, Mrs. Penn. What had I or my
horse done to you that you should attack us?"

She turned and faced him. It really seemed as though she believed
herself in the right in all the past acts, and felt proud to have done
so well. All this while, it must be remembered, she supposed George
Heneage was alive in the west wing, and would soon be taken from it to
a criminal prison. She could afford to make concessions now.

"It was not you or your horse I attacked intentionally. I mistook you
for another. For that brother of yours, Mr. Chandos, whose liberty will
soon be put beyond jeopardy, and his life after it. Your great likeness
to George Heneage, as he looked in those old days at Hallam, is
unfortunate. For one thing, it has caused me to hate you; when, to
speak candidly, I think in yourself there is not much to hate.
You"—turning her flashing eyes on the men—"are seeing me out of the
house because I have acted my part effectually in it; a part that Sir
Richard Mayne himself would say I was justified in; but there is a
greater criminal concealed above, for whom a warrant is, as I expect,
already in force."

"You are wrong," said Mr. Chandos. "Were the whole establishment of
Scotland Yard to make their appearance here, each with a warrant in his
hand, they would scarcely execute it. It has been a long, a weary, and
a wearing battle: Edwin Barley against George Heneage: but God has
shown himself on the side of mercy."

The words puzzled her a little. "Has he escaped?" she fiercely asked.
"Has he left the house?"

"He has not left it, Mrs. Penn; he is in the west wing." She threw up
her head with a glow of triumph, and walked rapidly away down the broad
walk, the policemen escorting her.

Standing at the back of the hall in utter amazement, partly at seeing
Mrs. Penn go forth at all, partly at the object she presented in the
grey cloak, was Lizzy Dene. "Miss," she said to me, as I stood just
inside the great dining-room, "I should say she must have been the one
to frighten Black Knave that night."

"Perhaps she was, Lizzy. Her cloak is grey."

An impulse came over me that I would ask Lizzy Dene the motive of her
suspicious conduct in the past. Now that the culprit had turned out to
be Mrs. Penn, Lizzy Dene must have been innocent. Stepping within the
large dining-room, I asked her there and then.

"Ah," said she, with a sort of fling out of the hands, habitual to her
when annoyed or in pain, "I don't mind telling now. I was in trouble at
that time."

"What do you mean, Lizzy?"

"I have got a brother, Miss; as steady, well-meaning a man as you'd
wish to see," she answered, coming nearer and dropping her voice to a
low tone. "He came into this neighbourhood in search of work, he and
his wife. Oh, but it's she that's the plague; and a fine worry he has
had with her, on and off. She's wild; if there's a wake or a dance
within ten miles, she'll be off after it: and at times she has been
seen the worse for drink. Not that you'd think it, to look at her;
she's a pretty, neat, jaunty young woman; never a pleasanter than she
when she chooses. Well, try as he would, he couldn't get work in these
parts, except an odd job now and again: and you know, Miss, when
everything is going out, and nothing's coming in, it don't take long
for any few pounds that may have been saved in an old stocking, to come
to an end."

"That's true enough, Lizzy."

"_Theirs_ did. And what should they do when all was gone but come to me
to help them. I did it. I helped them till I was tired, till I could
help no longer. She, it was, mostly that asked; he'd never have begged
a sixpence from me but when driven to it by sheer want. She pestered my
very life out, coming here continually, and when I told her I had no
more money to give, and it was of no use asking for it, then she prayed
for broken victuals. Things had got very low with them. 'Who's that
woman that's always creeping here after Lizzy Dene!' the servants said.
'Who's that man that we see her with!' they'd say again. And I did not
choose to say who. Both of them had got shabby then, in rags almost;
and he, what with the ill luck and her conduct, had been seen twice in
drink. My lady is excessively particular that the servants she has
about her shall belong to respectable people; Hill, she's always on the
watch; and what I feared was that I might be turned from my place. It
was not a pleasant life for me, Miss."

I thought it could not have been.

"One afternoon—the same that the accident occurred to Mr. Chandos—Tilda
had been up to the house, begging as usual. She vowed, if I would not
relieve her with either money or food, to do some damage to the family:
but she had been having a drop of beer, and I paid no attention to her,
and wouldn't give her anything. I may be giving for ever, I said to
her, and she went away, threatening. After she was gone, I kept
thinking over what she had said—that she'd do some damage to the
family—the words wouldn't go away from me, and I got right down
frightened, lest she should put her threat in force. What if she should
fire one of the haystacks, or poison the poultry?—all sorts of horrors
I kept on imagining. I begged some cold meat of the cook, inventing a
story of a poor sick family, and collected some broken bits of bread,
with a pinch of tea, and ran out with it all in a basket, at the dusk
hour. They were lodging in one of the lanes close by; and when I got
there I found Tilda had not been in. I couldn't stop; I gave the things
to John, and told him he must keep Tilda away or I should lose my
place; he promised he'd do what he could, but added that I knew as well
as he did how little she'd be said. In hurrying back through the
avenue, with my basket, I came upon Mr. Chandos lying there; you were
standing by him. Miss, when I heard what had happened, as true as that
we are here, I was afraid that she had done it. I went back and taxed
her with it; she had come in then, but she was sullen and would not say
yes nor no. I was frightened out of my senses for fear it should come
out; and I tried to lay it upon the gipsies. But the next day, when her
temper came to her, she vowed and protested that she'd had nothing to
do with it. I thought then it really was the gipsies, and wished to
bring it home to them. That's the truth, Miss, as I'm here living."

"And what were you doing in my room that night, Lizzy?"

"What night, Miss?"

"When I surprised you, and you appeared so confused. The excuse you
made was that you were looking for the ghost."

"And so I was looking for it, Miss," she answered: "I was doing nothing
else. One of the girls had said the ghost was abroad that night, and I
thought I'd look. Between Tilda and the ghost my time was a bad one
just then. I'm sure I was thankful when she and John left these parts.
He has got work at the malting in a distant town, and they are doing
well. I wish the ghost could be got rid of as easily."

If Lizzy Dene had but known how entirely the poor ghost had gone out of
the world for ever! Would Chandos ever lose its belief in it?

"I have told you this, Miss, because I thought you seemed to suspect
me; and I didn't deserve it. I'm true to the family, to the backbone,
Miss; and so I always will be. My lady has confidence in me; she has
known me a long while."

The explanation over, Lizzy Dene left me. I crossed the hall to enter
the oak-parlour just in time to see Hickens open the front door to a
visitor, and to hear a colloquy. My heart seemed to shrink within me at
the voice, for it was Mr. Edwin Barley's. What could have brought _him_
to the house, boldly inquiring for its inmates?

It appeared that Mrs. Penn, on her stealthy visit to his house that
morning, had not seen him. Upon inquiring for Mr. Barley she was told
he had gone out betimes, shooting. The information took her aback. Go
out shooting, when his enemy, for whom he had been searching night and
day these ten years, was found to be close at hand, waiting to be
apprehended! And she forthwith accused the footman of not delivering to
his master the note left at the house the previous night, upon which
she had the pleasure of hearing that the note was duly delivered to Mr.
Edwin Barley, and turned out to be a circular of the fashions. All she
could do then was to write a few lines, giving him the information
about George Heneage, with a charge that it should be put into Mr.
Barley's hands the instant he set foot in the house. But Mr. Barley did
not return to it quickly. The birds were shy that day.

Later, when he was at length going home, his gun in one hand and a
brace of pheasants in the other, he encountered a procession. Turning
out at the lodge-gates came Mrs. Penn, one policeman walking by her
side, another behind; and, following on, Mrs. Penn's luggage in a truck
propelled by a man in the Chandos livery. Mr. Edwin Barley naturally
stopped; although he had not been on good terms with Mrs. Penn for some
years; and inquired the meaning of what he saw.

"You are the only relative I have left in the world, Mr. Edwin Barley;
will you, as such, suffer this indignity to be put upon me?" were the
first words she spoke. And he, thus called upon, turned in his haughty,
menacing manner on the officers. She _was_ his relative, as she said,
and he possessed some right feeling.

"What is the meaning of this? Unhand the lady! Why are you guarding her
in that offensive manner?"

"We have orders, sir, to see the lady safely away from Chandos."

"Who gave you the orders?"

"Mr. Chandos."

Mr. Edwin Barley said something about making Mr. Chandos retract his
orders before the day was over; but the men were not to be intimidated.

"The lady has not been behaving on the square, sir, and we thought at
first she would be given into custody. But Mr. Chandos considered it
over; and said, as she had been able to effect no great harm, he'd let
her go."

Mr. Edwin Barley looked to Mrs. Penn for an explanation. Instead of
giving it, she whispered in his ear the information about George
Heneage. For the first time for years, Mr. Edwin Barley's face twitched
with powerful emotion.

"WHAT do you say?" he asked in his surprise and bewilderment.

"What I say is plain: George Heneage, the murderer of your ward, the
indirect murderer of your wife, is in concealment at Chandos," said
Mrs. Penn, rather tragically. "The mysteries of that west wing have
been cleared to me. Anne Hereford penetrated to it yesterday for some
purpose of her own, and saw him: an emaciated being she described him,
bearing a striking resemblance to Harry Chandos. Now what do you say to
my having entered the house as a detective, Mr. Edwin Barley? And it is
for having pursued my investigations that Mr. Chandos has turned me
forth in in this ignominious manner."

Mr. Edwin Barley drew in his lips. She said not a word, be it
understood, of the illegitimate mode in which she had pursued the said
investigation. He turned matters rapidly over in his mind, and then
addressed the policeman.

"What were you intending to do with this lady?"

"Our orders were to see her into your house, sir. Nothing more."

"My mission in this part of the world is over," interrupted Mrs. Penn;
"I shall leave it for London this afternoon. Until then, say for an
hour or two, I shall be glad to find a shelter in your house, Mr. Edwin
Barley."

"Very good. After that you are at liberty, I presume, to take orders
from me?" he added to the officers. And they signified they were if he
had any to give.

"You can then follow me to Chandos. Stay outside the house, and be
ready to obey the signal I shall give you. Be prepared to take into
custody a criminal who has been evading the law for years, and who will
probably make a desperate resistance. What do you say? No warrant?
Nonsense. I am in the commission of the peace, and will absolve you of
any consequences."

Laying his gun and birds on the top of the luggage, Mr. Edwin Barley
turned to Chandos. The policemen, who had not the remotest intention of
quitting their prisoner until they had seen her within Mr. Barley's
doors continued their way thither. Thus it happened: and the voice of
Edwin Barley demanding to see Lady Chandos greeted my dismayed ears as
I crossed the hall. Why he should have asked for Lady Chandos, he
himself best knew: the demand was an imperative one.

"My lady cannot be seen, sir," was the reply of Hickens. "She is
better, I hear; but she is not yet out of her rooms. Sir Harry is
within."

"Who do you say is within?" cried Mr. Edwin Barley, probably thinking
his ears might deceive him.

"Sir Harry Chandos."

"Sir Harry," repeated Mr. Edwin Barley, wondering doubtless whether
Hickens had lost his senses. "What do you mean by calling him that."

"I call him nothing but what's right, sir. He is Sir Harry now,
unfortunately: that is unfortunately for poor Sir Thomas. News came
this morning, sir, that Sir Thomas has been killed in battle. We have
got the house shut up for him."

Mr. Edwin Barley took a step backwards, and looked at the white blinds,
closely drawn behind, the windows. The tidings took him by surprise.
Having gone out shooting before the letters and papers were delivered,
he was in ignorance of the morning's news.

"I am sorry to hear it," he said. "It is an additional blow for Lady
Chandos; and she does not need it. Sir Thomas was the best of the three
sons: I had no grudge against him. But Mr. Harry Chandos does not take
the title, my man."

"Oh yes, he does, sir. He is now Sir Harry Chandos."

"I tell you _no_," returned Mr. Edwin Barley, with a grim smile. "He is
just as much Sir Harry Chandos as I am: it is not he who comes into the
title. Let it pass, however."

"Did you want him, sir?" inquired Hickens, quitting at once the
controversy like a well-trained servant.

"I do. But I would very much have preferred to see Lady Chandos first."

"That is quite out of the question, sir," concluded Hickens, as he
conducted his visitor to the state drawing-room. Oh, but it was a
relief to me—shivering just inside the oak-parlour—to hear him pass it!

As will readily be understood, I have to relate things now that did not
at the time come under my personal sight or hearing: they only reached
me later. Mr. Edwin Barley looked upon his prisoner as _his_; as much
his own, with those two keen policemen posted outside the house and he
inside it, as though George Heneage had lain at his feet manacled and
fettered. He could not resist the temptation of entering the house that
contained his long-evading enemy.

Hickens took out his revenge. Returning with his master to the large
drawing-room, he contrived to let it be known that he maintained his
own opinion; giving the introduction with great emphasis—

"Mr. Edwin Barley, Sir Harry."



CHAPTER XXIX.
MR. EDWIN BARLEY IN THE WEST WING.

Mr. Edwin Barley, standing with his back to the door, his thumbs in the
button-holes of his waistcoat, as a man at complete ease, wheeled round
at the words. Sir Harry Chandos waited for him to speak, never inviting
him to sit.

"Good morning, Mr. Chandos."

"Good morning," coldly returned Sir Harry. "To what am I indebted for
the honour of this visit?"

"I will tell you. One object of it is to demand an explanation of your
treatment of Mrs. Penn. She has brought her wrongs to me; her only
living relative, as she puts it. I suppose, as such it lies with me to
ask it. Mrs. Penn was engaged by Lady Chandos; engaged as a lady: and
you have turned her away as a menial, subjecting her to gross
indignity."

Sir Harry stared at the speaker, scarcely crediting his own ears. The
exceeding impudence of the proceeding, after Mrs. Penn's treacherous
conduct, was something unique.

"You will obtain no explanation from me, sir; you can apply to Mrs.
Penn herself if you require one. I am disgusted at the wickedness, the
false deception of the whole affair, and will not condescend to recur
to it. You are not welcome in this house, Mr. Edwin Barley, and I must
request you to quit it. I cannot conceive how you could have dared to
come here."

"The explanation, sir," persisted Mr. Edwin Barley. "Fine words will
not enable you to evade it."

He spoke as though he really required the explanation. Sir Harry did
not understand, and a few sharp words passed on either side. Both were
labouring under a mistake. Sir Harry assumed that all Mrs. Penn had
done in the house had been under the express direction of Mr. Edwin
Barley. Mr. Edwin Barley, on his side, was not aware that she had done
anything wrong. They were at cross-purposes, and at that angry moment
did not arrive at straight ones.

"Treachery?" echoed Mr. Edwin Barley, in answer to a word dropped by
Sir Harry. "The police will soon be in charge of one, guilty of
something worse than treachery. A criminal lying under the ban of the
law is not far off."

"You allude to my brother, Mr. Edwin Barley. True. He is lying not
far-off—very near."

The quiet words—for Sir Harry's voice had dropped to a strange
calmness—took Edwin Barley by surprise. In this ready avowal, could it
be that he foresaw fear to doubt that George Heneage had already again
made his escape? Drawing aside the white blind, he saw one of the
police officers under the trees opposite; the other of course being at
the back of the house. And it reassured him. Never more could George
Heneage escape him.

"Your brother shall not elude me, Mr. Chandos. I swear it. I have
waited for years—for years Harry Chandos—to catch him upon English
ground. That he is on it now, I know. I know that you have him in
hiding: here in the west wing of your house. Will you resign him
peacefully to the two men I have outside? Revengeful though you may
deem me, I would rather spare disturbance to your mother. The fact of
his apprehension cannot be concealed from her: that is impossible; but
I would spare her as far as I can, and I would have wished to see her
to tell her this. If you do not give him up quietly, the policemen must
come in."

"I think—to save you and the police useless trouble—you had better pay
a personal visit to my brother," said Sir Harry. "You have rightly said
that he has been in hiding in the west wing; he is there still."

"Your brother!—George!" exclaimed Mr. Edwin Barley, quite taken aback
by the invitation, and suspecting some trick.

"My brother George," was the quiet answer. "Did you think I was
speaking of Sir Thomas? He, poor fellow, is no longer in existence."

"As I hear: and I am sorry for it. Your servant wished to assure me
that you had succeeded to the honours; he calls you 'Sir Harry.' I told
him better," concluded Mr. Edwin Barley, with a cough that said much.

"I do succeed to them—more's the pity. I wish Thomas had lived to bear
them to a green old age."

"Let me advise you not to _assume_ them, at any rate, Harry Chandos the
time has not come for it, and the world might laugh at you. George
Chandos, fugitive-criminal though he has been, would succeed until
proved guilty. Wait."

"You are wasting my time," rejoined Sir Harry. "Will you pay a visit to
the west wing?"

"For what purpose? You are fooling me!"

"I told you the purpose—to see my brother George. You shall see him, on
my word of honour."

The answer was a gesture of assent, and Sir Harry crossed the hall to
ascend the stairs. Mr. Edwin Barley slowly followed him, doubt in his
step, defiance in his face. That he was thoroughly perplexed, is saying
little; but he came to the conclusion as he walked along the gallery
that George Heneage was about to beseech his clemency. His clemency!
Hill opened the west wing. Seeing a stranger, she would have barred it
again, but Sir Harry put her aside with calm authority, and went
straight to one of the rooms. Turning for a moment there, he spoke to
his visitor.

"We have not been friends, Mr. Barley; the one has regarded the other
as his natural enemy, still I would not allow even you to come in here
without a word of warning, lest you should be shocked."

"Lead on, sir," was the imperative answer. And Sir Harry went in
without further delay.

On the bed, laid out in his shroud, sleeping the peaceful sleep of
death, was the emaciated form of George Heneage Chandos. Mr. Edwin
Barley gazed at him, and the perspiration broke out on his forehead.

"By heaven! he has escaped me!"

"He has escaped all the foes of this world," answered Sir Harry, lowly
and reverently. "You perceive now, Mr. Edwin Barley, that were you to
bring the whole police force of the county here, they would only have
the trouble of going back for their pains. He is at rest from
persecution; and we are at rest from suspense and anxiety."

"It has destroyed my life's aim," observed Mr. Edwin Barley.

"And with it your thirst for revenge. When a man pursues another with
the persistent hatred that you have pursued him, it can be called
nothing less than revenge."

"Revenge! What do you mean? He did commit the murder."

"His hand was the hand that killed Philip King: but it was not
intentional murder. He never knew exactly—at the time or since—how he
fired the gun, save that his elbow caught against the branch of a tree
when the gun was on cock. Some movement of his own undoubtedly caused
it; he knew that; but not a wilful one. He asserted this with his dying
lips before taking the Sacrament."

"Wilful or not wilful, he murdered Philip King," insisted Mr. Edwin
Barley.

"And has paid for it. The banned life he has been obliged to live since
was surely an expiation. His punishment was greater than he could bear;
it was prolonged and prolonged, and his heart broke."

Mr. Edwin Barley had his eyes fixed on the dead face, possibly tracing
the likeness to the handsome young man of nine or ten years ago.

"Of other crime towards you he was innocent," pursued Sir Harry. "He
never injured you or yours; there might have been folly in his heart in
the heyday of his youth and spirits; there was no sin. You have been
unreasonably vindictive."

"I say NO," returned Mr. Edwin Barley, striving to suppress an emotion
that was rising and would not be suppressed. "Had I ever injured George
Heneage, that he should come into my home and make it desolate? What
had my wife or my ward done to him that he should take their lives? He
killed both of them: the one deliberately, the other indirectly, for
her death arose out of the trouble. Charlotte Delves—Mrs. Penn now, of
whom you complain,—lost her only relative, saving myself, when she lost
Philip King. And for me? I was left in that same desolate home, bereft
of all I cared for, left to go through life _alone_. Few men have loved
a wife as I loved mine: she was my one little ewe lamb, Harry Chandos.
Vindictive! Think of my wrongs."

Looking there at each other, the dead face lying between them, it might
be that both felt there was much to forgive. Certainly Harry Chandos
had never until that moment realized the misery it had brought to Edwin
Barley.

"I see; we have all alike suffered. But he who caused the suffering is
beyond reproach now."

"As things have turned out the game is yours, Sir Harry," said Mr.
Edwin Barley, who was too much a man of the world to persist in denying
him the title, now that he found it was beyond dispute his. "For my
actions I am accountable to none; and were the time to come over again,
I should do as I have done."

He turned to quit the room as he spoke, and Mr. Chandos followed him
downstairs. A word exchanged at their foot caused Mr. Barley to inquire
what it was Mrs. Penn had done: and then Sir Harry gave him the full
particulars, with the additional information that she was assumed to
have been acting for him, Edwin Barley.

"She was not," said Mr. Barley, shortly. "I knew nothing of this.
Placed in the house by me, Sir Harry? She placed herself in the house,
as I conclude; certainly I did not place her."

"You have met her in secret in the grounds."

"I have met her accidentally, not secretly. Twice, I think it was: or
three times, I am not sure. She chose to repeat things to me; I did not
ask for them. Not that they were of any worth—as the unmolested
retirement of George Heneage here proves."

He had been moving to the hall-door gradually. Sir Harry put a sudden
question to him, quite upon impulse, he told me afterwards, just as the
thought occurred.

"Has your wife's will ever been found?"

"What is that to you?" asked Mr. Edwin Barley, turning to face him.

"Little indeed. I am sorry to have mentioned it: it was not in any wish
to add to the discomforts of the day. As I have, I will ask you to
remember that there are others in the world as capable of error, not to
say crime, as was poor George Heneage."

"Do you insinuate that I suppressed the will?" demanded Mr. Edwin
Barley.

"No. The will could not disappear without hands; but I should be sorry
to give the very faintest opinion as to whose hands they were that took
it. With your great fortune, it seems next door to an impossibility
that you could have suppressed it: on the other hand, you alone derived
benefit. The thing is a puzzle to me, Mr. Edwin Barley."

"But that you seem to speak honestly in saying so, without sinister
insinuation, I would knock you down, Sir Harry Chandos," was Edwin
Barley's answer.

"I insinuate nothing; and I say neither more nor less than I have said.
It was a paltry sum to run a risk for, whoever might have been guilty
of the abstraction. Not only that: no blessing—or luck, as the world
would call it—ever yet attended one who robbed the orphan."

"You would wish me to make a merit of generosity, and offer Miss
Hereford a present of the money," said Mr. Edwin Barley, a ring of
mockery in his tones.

"By no means," hastily replied Sir Harry. "Miss Hereford's future
position in life will preclude her feeling the want of it. You informed
me the last time I had the honour of speaking to you, that you were
Miss Hereford's only relative: as such, allow me to acquaint you with
the fact that she is to be my wife."

"I expected it would end in that," was Mr. Edwin Barley's answer. "And
I tell you honestly that I would have removed her from here in time to
prevent it, had it been in my power. I liked the child; my wife loved
her; and I had rather she married any one in the world than a Chandos.
It is too late now."

"Quite too late. Although I am a Chandos, I shall hope to make her
happy, Mr. Edwin Barley. I will do my best for it."

Hickens went into the hall at that juncture and the colloquy came to a
close. Mr. Edwin Barley moved rapidly to the door, which Hickens
opened, and went away with a quick step.

"I have no further orders," he said to the policeman, who was standing
at an angle watching the back of the house and part of the avenue. "The
prisoner has escaped."

"Escaped, sir! It must have been before we came on then. Shall we
search for him?"

"No. He is gone where search would not reach him."

Mr. Edwin Barley strode on with the last words. The man, somewhat
mystified, stared after him, and then crossed the lawn to give notice
to his fellow that their mission to Chandos seemed to be over.

"Le diable n'est pas si noir que l'on dit," runs the idiomatic saying
in France. We have it also in English, as the world of course knows;
but it sounds better, that is, less wrong, to give it in the former
language. We girls at school there said it often; had one of us
ventured on the English sentence at Miss Fenton's, that lady's eyes
would have grown round with horror.

It might be applied to Mr. Edwin Barley. Looking back dispassionately,
bringing reason to bear on the retrospect, I could not trace one single
act or word in him that would justify me in having thought him so bad a
man. Taking the colouring from my first view of him, when his dark and
certainly ugly face peeped out from the avenue at Hallam, frightening
me terribly; and from the dreadful events that followed, in which my
childish imagination mixed him up as the worst actor, this prejudice
had lived and grown in my mind. He had really done nothing to merit it.
There was the abstracted will, but it was not proved that he had taken
it; probably he had not. I had been too young to realize the terrible
blow brought upon him through George Heneage. And, as we got to know
later, the vindictive feeling with which he had pursued him all through
these years had its rise in self-defence as well as in a desire to
inflict punishment. The semi-doubt cast, or to himself seeming to be
cast, on Mr. Edwin Barley at the time, in the remarks that he had been
the only one to profit, and that largely, by Philip King's death, had
rankled in his mind, implanting there a burning anxiety, apart from
other considerations, to bring to light the real criminal. For his own
part, he had never for a moment doubted that it had been intentional,
deliberate, cruel murder. And I have grown to think that the
exaggeration he imparted to Philip King's dying words arose unwittingly
in the confusion of the moment; that he was not conscious he did so
exaggerate. A passive listener hears words more clearly than an actor.

Altogether, the "diable" was not so black as my fancy had painted him;
indeed, I began, as days went on, to doubt whether the word would apply
to Mr. Edwin Barley at all. One does not grow wise in an hour; no, nor
even in a year: youth clings to its prejudices, and it takes experience
and age, and sober judgment, to subdue them.

Mr. Edwin Barley went home after quitting Chandos. Seated there, her
things off, and a luncheon tray before her, with no trace of her
luggage to be seen, was Charlotte Delves—Mrs. Penn of late years. Was
she intending to take up her present quarters at his house? the
question mentally occurred to Mr. Edwin Barley, and it did not tend to
his gratification. Not if he knew it; he had not been upon cordial
terms with Charlotte Delves for years; and what he had now heard of her
line of conduct at Chandos vexed him.

There must be a word or two of retrospect. Shortly after Selina's
death, Mr. Edwin Barley went abroad. Not a place on the European
continent but he visited, one feverish object alone swaying him—the
discovery of George Heneage. The detective police were at work in
England with the same view: all in vain. At the end of three years he
came back home; and almost close upon it there occurred some rupture
between him and Charlotte Delves, who had remained at Hallam all that
time as the house's mistress. People thought she cherished visions of
becoming the house's bonâ fide mistress, its master's wife; if so, she
was lamentably mistaken. Mr. Edwin Barley was wedded to Selina and her
memory; he had no intention whatever of exalting another into her
place. Whether Charlotte found out this in too sudden a manner; whether
the cause was totally unconnected with this, certain it was a rupture
occurred; and Charlotte threw up the housekeeping, and quitted the
house. She took the same kind of service with an old man, a connexion
also, of the name of Penn. He had married late in life, and had a young
daughter, Lottie, who had been named after Charlotte Delves. Very much
to the world's surprise—her little world—it was soon announced that
Charlotte Delves was going to marry him. Mr. Edwin Barley, hearing of
it, wrote to tell her what he thought of it in his own outspoken
fearlessness: "Old Penn was quite a cripple, and three parts an idiot
since he fell into his dotage. She would be better without him than
with him, and would only make herself a laughing-stock if she married
him." The gratuitous advice did not tend to heal the breach. Charlotte
Delves did marry Mr. Penn, and very shortly afterwards was called upon
to bury him. The young girl, Lottie, by whom her stepmother seemed to
have done a good part, died within a year; and Mrs. Penn, left with a
slender income, chose to go out in the world again. She became
companion to a lady, and the years passed on.

Time softens most thing's. Mrs. Penn grew to forget her fleeting
marriage and with it the episodes of her middle life; and went back to
her old likings and prejudices. Her heart's allegiance to Edwin Barley
returned; she was of his kin, and the wrongs inflicted by George
Heneage, temporarily forgotten, resumed all their sway within her.
While she was at Marden (travelling about from place to place with Mrs.
Howard) some accidental occurrence caused her to suspect that George
Heneage, instead of being abroad, was in concealment in England, and
within a drive of Chandos. She at once wrote news of this to Mr. Edwin
Barley, with whom she had held no communication since the advent of
that letter of his at her marriage. It caused him to remove himself,
and four or five of his household, to the vicinity of Chandos. There he
took up his abode, and spent his time watching the house and the
movements of Mr. Chandos, in the hope to gain some clue to the retreat
of George Heneage. With this exception, the watching, which caused him
to stroll at unorthodox hours into the groves and private paths, to
peer in at windows by night, his watching was inoffensive. Mrs. Penn,
on her side, seized on the opportunity afforded by Mrs. Freeman's
illness (it was as though fortune favoured her), and got into Chandos.
My presence in it might have been a serious counter-check, only that I
did not recognise her. She did not recognise me in the first interview,
not until the day when I sent in my name at Mrs. Marden's. Of course
Mrs. Penn's object after that was to _keep_ me in ignorance. She had
really been to Nulle for a week or two; it was the autumn I first went
there; had seen me at church with the school, and so tried to persuade
me it was there I had seen her. Much as she wanted me away from Chandos
in the furtherance of her own ends, cruel as were the means she used to
try to effect it, she had, strange to say, taken a liking for me; and
in her _dis_like to Mr. Chandos she had not much cared what wild
untruths she told me of him, hoping to separate us effectually.

Of her effecting an entrance into Chandos as companion, Edwin Barley
knew nothing. After she was settled there she looked out for him, and
waylaid him in the grounds. While Mr. Edwin Barley had been ignorant of
her life and doings for some years, there was no doubt she had
contrived to keep herself acquainted with his, including his removal to
the gates of Chandos. In this interview with him, which I had partially
overheard—and I now think it was the first she held with him—she told
him what her object was: the finding out all there was to be found out
about George Heneage. With the change in Mrs. Penn's person and the
remarkable change in her hair, Mr. Edwin Barley had some difficulty in
believing it to be Charlotte Delves. The hair was an unhappy calamity.
Mrs. Penn, beguiled by fashion and confidential advertisements to wish
to turn her light flaxen hair to gold colour, had experimented upon it:
the result was not gold, but a glowing, permanent, scarlet-red. She
told him she was watching at Chandos for his sake. Mr. Edwin Barley, an
implacable man when once offended, was cool to her, declining, in a
sense, to accept her services. If she made discoveries that could
assist in the tracking of George Heneage, well and good; she might
bring them to him: and so the interview ended.

Mrs. Penn might have made a discovery to some purpose but for two
things. The one was that she was a real coward, and believed the ghost
haunting the pine-walk to be a ghost: the other was that she took up a
theory of her own in regard to the west wing. She assumed that Lady
Chandos had become mad; to this she set down all the mystery enacted in
it; and this view she imparted to Mr. Edwin Barley. He neither asked
her to bring tales to him, nor encouraged her to do it; if she worked,
she worked of her own accord; and his doors remained closed to her. At
least, Mrs. Penn did not choose to try whether they would be open.
Until this day: and her entering of them now could not be said to be of
her own seeking.

She sat taking her luncheon, cold partridge and sherry. Mr. Barley
entered in silence, and stood with a dark expression on his lips.
Charlotte knew it of old, and saw that something had not pleased him.
Things had very much displeased him; firstly, the escape of the
long-sought-for prisoner; secondly, Madam Charlotte's doings at
Chandos. Mr. Edwin Barley might have winked at the peering and prying,
might have encouraged the peeping into letters: but to steal things
(even though but in appearance) he very much disapproved of, especially
as _he_ was looked upon as having instigated her.

"What's the matter, Mr. Barley?" asked Charlotte, helping herself to
some more partridge. "He _is_ there, is he not?"

"Who?"

"George Heneage. In the west wing."

"Yes, he's there. I've seen him."

"Ah, I knew it," she said, with a relieved sigh, and she suddenly
poured out another glass of sherry, and lifted it to her lips. "Here's
to your health, George Heneage! Have the police got him?"

"No, the police have gone. I dismissed them."

Charlotte flung down her knife and fork in a passion. "Dismissed them!
Without taking him! Are you going to show leniency at the eleventh
hour, like a weak woman, Mr. Edwin Barley? After what I have done to
trace him!"

"You have done a little too much," returned Mr. Edwin Barley. And,
abandoning his short and crusty answers, he spoke at length his opinion
of her acts at Chandos. He was not in the humour to suppress any
bitterness of tongue, and said some keen things.

Charlotte went into a real passion.

What with the disappointment at finding Mr. Edwin Barley in this mood,
which seemed to promise badly for her semi-idea of prolonging her stay
under his roof; what with his ingratitude after all her pains; what
with her recent ignominious exit from Chandos; and what with the good
old sherry, that is apt to have its effects when taken at mid-day, Mrs.
Penn lost control of her temper. Prudence was forgotten in passion; and
Mr. Edwin Barley was doomed to listen to the wild ravings of an angry
woman. Reproach for the past, for things that she had deemed wrongs in
the bygone years, came out all the more freely for having been pent up
within her so long. She contrasted her conduct with his: her ever
anxious solicitude for his interests; his neglect and cruel
non-recognition of them. As the most forcible means of impressing his
ingratitude upon him, she recapitulated the benefits she had wrought
one by one; talking fast and furiously. Mr. Edwin Barley, a cool man
under petty grievances, listened in silence: he had said his say, said
it with stinging coldness, and it was over. Feeling very much inclined
to stop his ears was he, when something further said by her caused him
to open them, as ears had never perhaps been opened yet. Charlotte had
shot beyond her mark in her reckless rage; and was scarcely aware that
she had done so until Mr. Edwin Barley, his face and eyes alike ablaze,
seized her wrists.

She had gone too for to retract, and she brazened out her avowal,
making a merit of it, rather than taking shame.

It was she who had stolen Mrs. Edwin Barley's will. She, Charlotte
Delves. She had taken it as a duty—in her regard for his, Edwin
Barley's interests. Who was the child, Anne Hereford, that she should
inherit what of right belonged to him? When she had appeared to find
the keys in the china basket on the mantel-shelf, it was she who had
put them there ready to be found.

There ensued no reproach from Mr. Barley's lips. At first she thought
he was going to strike her, staring at her with his white and working
face; but the minutes passed and he overcame his emotion. Perhaps he
feared he might be tempted to strike her if he spoke: it seemed as if a
blow had fallen on him—as if the depth of feeling aroused by her
confession were, not so much wrath, as a sense of awful injury to
himself that could never be repaired.

"What became of the will?" was the only question he put when the
silence was getting ominous to her ears.

"I burnt it. It was done for you. Throughout my life I have had regard
only to the interests of the Barleys. And this is my
recompense—reproach and base ingratitude!"

He quitted the room without speaking another word. This was the worst
dose Mr. Edwin Barley had received. He knew that the disappearance of
the will had been set down by some people to his own hands. Why, had
not Sir Harry Chandos hinted as much, but an hour ago? He had treated
the past insinuations with contempt, always insisting that there had
been no will to abstract—for he fully believed his wife had herself
repented of the testament and destroyed it. He knew how capricious
Selina was; never keeping in the same mind two days together. And now
he had to hear that the world was right and he wrong: the will _had_
been abstracted. It did not tend to soothe him, the being told that it
was taken out of regard to him and to his monied interests.

Altogether he deemed it well to cut short his interview with Mrs. Penn.
That lady, finding the house intended to show itself inexorably
inhospitable, put her bonnet on and went forth to the railway station
of her own accord, her luggage behind her. Whether she should annoy Mr.
Edwin Barley by sundry letters of reproach, one of the reproaches being
that he had never cared for any living being but his doll of a wife; or
whether she should wash her hands of him altogether, and treat him
henceforth with silent contempt, she had not determined in her mind.
She inclined to the letters. Taking her seat in a first-class carriage,
she would have leisure to think of it and decide on her journey to
London.



CHAPTER XXX.
THE LAST FRIGHT OF ALL.

I saw none of them all the afternoon. After the departure of Mr. Edwin
Barley, Sir Harry Chandos went out with Dr. Laken. Mrs. Chandos and
Madame de Mellissie were in the east wing, and, I fancied, Lady Chandos
with them. Emily had offered to take Mrs. Penn's place for a short
while, so far as sitting with Mrs. Chandos went; it was one of the
best-natured things I had known her do.

Oh, but it seemed to me ominous, the suffering me to sit there all the
afternoon alone, no companion but myself and the oak-parlour, and with
death in the house! The few words dropped by Emily to her brother about
his changed position were beating their sad refrain on my brain. His
position was indeed changed: and I was but a poor governess, although I
might be the descendant of the Keppe-Carews. I quite thought that the
neglect now cast upon me was an earnest of proof that the family at
least would not countenance my entrance into it. Well, I would do what
was right, and gave him back his fealty: I could but act honourably,
though my heart broke over the separation that might ensue.

It was quite dusk when Mr. Chandos came back—the old name will slip
out. Dr. Laken went upstairs at once; he turned into the oak-parlour.

"All alone in the dark, Anne?" he said, drawing up the blind a few
inches.

It gave a little more light, and I could see his features. He looked
preoccupied; but I thought the occasion had come to speak and ought to
be seized upon.

What should I say? How frame the words necessary for my task? With my
hands and lips trembling, brain and heart alike beating, I was about to
speak incoherently, when some one came into the room.

Emily, as I thought at first; but when she came nearer the window I saw
that it was Mrs. Chandos. Being left alone for an instant, she had
taken the opportunity to come in search of Sir Harry.

"I have not seen you since the Indian mail came in this morning," she
said to him. "Why have you not been near me?"

"The day has been a busy one for me," he answered, speaking with the
gentleness that one uses to a child. "Many things have had to be seen
to."

"It is sad news."

"Very." And the ring of pain in his voice no one could mistake. "Thomas
would have come home now."

"Instead of that, we shall never see him again; and you, they tell me,
are Sir Harry Chandos. Who would have thought once that you would ever
inherit!"

"Strange changes take place," was his reply, spoken altogether in a
different tone, as if he did not care to encourage in her any
reminiscence of the past.

"It is so singular that they should both die together. At least, die to
us. That when we were mourning for the one, news should arrive of the
death of the other."

"Very singular. But it enables us to mourn openly, Ethel."

"Shall you live at Chandos?" she resumed, after a pause.

"Certainly."

"But mamma says she shall leave it and take me." She sometimes called
Lady Chandos mother. "Would you stay on alone?"

"I shall not be alone for long."

She looked at him questioningly. I could see her lovely blue eyes
raised to his in the dim light.

"Perhaps you will be marrying, Sir Harry?"

"Yes. In a short time."

The faint pink on her delicate cheeks deepened to crimson. Could it be
that she had ever suffered the old hopes to arise should certain
contingencies occur? Surely not! And yet—poor thing!—her intellect was
not quite as ours is.

"Have you fixed upon your wife?" she inquired, drawing a deep breath.

"I have asked this young lady to be my wife."

He indicated me, standing as I did back against the window. Mrs.
Chandos looked at me, her bright colour varying. The same thought
evidently crossed her that I had thought might cross them—my unfitness
in point of rank. She spoke to him proudly and coldly.

"Your wife will be Lady Chandos now, you must remember."

"I do not forget it, Ethel."

She sighed imperceptibly, and turned to the door. He went to open it
for her.

"Emily and mamma have gone to the west wing. I should not like to go
there: I never saw anybody dead. I was almost afraid to come down the
stairs, and now I am afraid to go up them."

"Do you wish to go up?" asked Sir Harry.

"Yes. I wish to be in my own rooms."

He held out his arm to her, and she took it. I stayed alone, wishing
the explanation had been made before he went away. But ere the lapse of
a minute Mrs. Chandos was in the east wing, and he back in the room
with me.

"Would you please let me speak to you a moment," I said—for he had only
returned to take up a small parcel left on the table: and he came up to
me, putting it down again.

But I could not speak. No, I could not. Now that the moment was come,
every word went out of my mind, power of utterance from my mouth. He
stood looking at me—at my evident agitation and whitening lips.

"It is only right that I should speak; I have been waiting all the
afternoon to do so, Mr. Chandos—I beg your pardon; I mean Sir Harry," I
brought out at last, and the very fact of speaking gave me courage. "I
wish—I wish——"

"Why, Anne what is the matter?" he asked, for a great breath like a sob
stopped me, momentarily. "What is it that you wish?"

"To tell you that I quite absolve you from anything you have said to
me:" and the shame I felt at having betrayed emotion brought to me a
sudden and satisfactory coldness of manner. "Please not to think any
more about me. It is not your fault, and I shall not think it is. Let
it all be forgotten."

A perception of my meaning flashed upon him, badly though I had
expressed it. He looked at me steadily.

"Do you mean, not think further of making you my wife?"

"Yes."

"Very well. But now will you tell me why you say this?"

I hesitated. I think I was becoming agitated again: all because I knew
I was getting through my task so stupidly.

"Circumstances have altered with you."

"Well, yes, in a measure. I am a trifle richer; and my wife—as Ethel
remarked just now—will be Lady instead of Mrs. Chandos. Why should you
object to that?"

"Oh, Mr. Chandos, you know. It is not I who would object; but your
family. And—perhaps—yourself."

"Anne, I vow I have a great mind to punish you for that last word. Oh,
you silly child!" he continued, putting his arms round my waist and
holding me close before him. "But that it would punish me as well as
you, I'd not speak to you for three days: I'd let you think I took you
at your word."

"Please don't joke. Don't laugh at me."

"Joke! laugh! I suppose you think that under the 'altered
circumstances,' as you call them, I ought to renew my vows. And, by the
way, I don't know that I ever did make you a formal offer; one that you
could use against me in a suit of breach of promise. Miss Hereford, I
lay my heart and hand at your disposal. Will you condescend to be my
future wife, Lady Chandos?"

Partly from vexation, partly from a great tumult of bliss, I gave no
answer. Sir Harry took one for himself. Ay, and was welcome to take it.

With my face in a burning heat,—with my heart in a glow of love, as if
filled with the strains of some delightful melody,—with my whole being
thrilling with rapture,—I ran upstairs, barely in time to change my
dress for dinner, and nearly ran against Lady Chandos, who was coming
out of the east wing.

"There are twin genii, who, strong and mighty,
Under their guidance mankind retain;
And the name of the lovely one is Pleasure,
And the name of the loathly one is Pain.
Never divided, where one can enter
Ever the other comes close behind;
And he who in pleasure his thoughts would centre,
Surely pain in the search shall find."

The good old words (and I don't at this present moment of writing
recollect whose they are) came forcibly to my mind in their impressive
truth. The sight of Lady Chandos changed my pleasure to pain: for I had
had no warranty from _him_ that she would approve of what he had been
doing. Bounding into my bedroom, I stood there at the open door until
she should pass: it would not do to shut it in her face, as though I
had not seen her.

But instead of passing, she turned to me. While my head was bowed in
silent salutation, she halted, and put her hand upon my shoulder,
causing my face to meet hers. With time consciousness of whose it had
just met, and very closely, with the consciousness of feeling like a
miserable interloping girl who was to be exalted into the place of her
predecessor against her approving will, no wonder I trembled and bent
my shrinking face.

"And so you are to be my daughter-in-law?"

The words were not spoken in angry pride, but in gentle kindness. I
looked up and saw love in her eyes; and she might see the gratitude
that shone in every line of mine.

"Harry told me last night in the midst of our great sadness; after you
had been into our poor George's room. My dear, I have heard a great
deal of you since I have been upstairs in confinement, and I feel sure
you will make him a good wife."

In my revulsion of feeling I clasped her hands in mine, thanking
her—oh, so earnestly. "There's only one thing," I said, with the tears
running down my face.

"What's that?"

"I am not good enough for him. And oh, Lady Chandos, I was so afraid
you would not think me so. I have been a governess, you know. I would
have given him up, I have just told him so, now he is Sir Harry
Chandos."

She smiled a little. "One objection arose to me when he first
spoke—that you were the niece of Mrs. Edwin Barley. But I have grown
to-day to think it may be well to overcome the prejudice. Do you know
what Harry says?"

I only shook my head.

"He says, as Mrs. Edwin Barley brought (I must speak freely) a curse
into our house, you may be destined to bring to it a blessing as the
recompense. My dear child, I think it will be so."

She inclined her head, and gave me a fervent kiss. I could have knelt
to receive it. I pressed her hand as if I could not let it go. I
watched her along the gallery to the west wing amid my blinding tears.
I could hardly help lifting my voice aloft in thanks to Heaven for its
great love to me. Hill came up the stairs and broke the charm.

"Why, Miss Hereford, you have no light," she said and indeed my chamber
was in darkness. "Allow me to light the branches, Miss."

By the unusual attention—a solitary candle would have been good enough
for me before—by the sound of her voice as she offered it, I saw she
had heard the news. I could not help putting my hand into hers as she
turned round from the lighted branches.

"Hill, I hope you will forget that I used to cross you about that west
wing. I did not know what it was, you see. But oh, if you had only told
me! I would have been so true to you all."

Old Hill put her candle down, that she might have her other hand at
liberty; and she laid it upon mine, making it a prisoner.

"Miss, it is I who have got to ask pardon of you for my crossness. We
were all living in so much dread, that a stranger in the house brought
nothing but extra fear and trouble. But I liked you through it all; I
liked your face that morning years ago on the Nulle steamer at London
Bridge. Miss, it is the same nice face still. And, Miss Hereford, I am
not sorry to hear that you are to be for good at Chandos."

"We shall be friends always, Hill."

"I hope so, Miss. I shan't be here; I go with my lady."

She went away with her candle. It gave me a shy feeling to think the
news should be known to the household. But I soon found it was not
known. Hill, the confidential attendant, it may be said friend, was
made acquainted with all things, but she did not carry them forth to
the servants under her.

Emily and Dr. Laken dined with us in the oak-parlour. Lady and Mrs.
Chandos dined in the east wing. Except that a subdued air pervaded all,
even to the tone of our voices and the servants' tread, the meal and
evening were just as usual.

"Why did you never tell me you were a Keppe-Carew?" Emily suddenly
asked me when we were alone together.

"But I am not a Keppe-Carew."

"Nonsense. Your mother was: it's all the same."

"As a governess, I did not care to say that my family was good."

"You were a little idiot, then, Anne Hereford. The Keppe-Carews are as
good as we are—better, some might say; and so I suppose I must
reconcile myself to the idea of your becoming my brother's wife."

"Oh, Madame de Mellissie, if you only could!"

"And forget that you were a governess. Well, child, I never disliked
you; and there's the truth. It wont seem right, though, for you to take
precedence of us all—as you will when you are Sir Harry's wife."

"I never will; indeed I never will."

She burst out laughing. At my being so simple-minded, she told Dr.
Laken, who then came in.

It was chilly that night; and when I got into my room at bedtime, I
found a fire blazing in the grate—by Hill's orders, I was sure. Ah me,
with all my natural propensity to be simple-minded, my earnest wish to
remain so for ever, I did feel a glow of pride at being tacitly
recognised as the future mistress of Chandos.

Over this fire—a bright, beautiful fire, as befitted a dull house—I sat
late, reading, musing, half dreaming. The clock struck twelve, and
still I sat on.

For half an hour, or so. It was so delightful to realize my happiness;
and I was in no mood for sleep. But of course sleep had to be prepared
for, and I took my feet from the fender, wondering what sort of a night
it was. There had been indications of frost in the evening, and I drew
the heavy window-curtains back to take a view outside. "No fear of
seeing a ghost now," I too boastfully whispered.

I thought I should have fainted; I nearly dropped on the floor with
startled alarm. Not at a ghost: there was none to be seen; but at
something that in that startling moment seemed to me far worse.

Emerging from its progress up the avenue, at a snail's pace, as if it
cared not to alarm sleepers with its echoes—advancing, as it seemed,
upon me—came a great, black, dismal thing, savouring of the dead. A
hearse. A hearse without its plumes, driven by a man in a long black
cloak.

For a moment I believed I saw a phantom. I rubbed my eyes, and looked,
and rubbed again, doubting what spectral vision was obscuring them. But
no, it was too real, too palpable. On it came, on and on; turned round,
and halted before the entrance door.

I sat down to hold my beating heart: sure never were enacted night
alarms like those I had encountered at Chandos. And, while I sat,
muffled sounds as of measured footsteps bearing a burden, smote upon my
ear from the corridor.

I listened till they had passed my door, and then silently drew it an
inch open. Do not attribute it to an unjustifiable curiosity: I declare
that I was impelled to it by fear. Strange though the assertion may
seem, it is true; the real cause of all this did not occur to me. Had I
been so absorbed in my own happiness as to forget all else?—or had I
grown stupid? I know not—only that it was as I say.

They had gained the head of the stairs, and were stopping there,
apparently hesitating how best to get down. Four of them besides Sir
Henry Chandos, and they bore a coffin on their shoulders covered with
black cloth—Dr. Laken, Hickens, and two men who looked like carpenters.
So! that was it!—the unhappy George Heneage was being removed by
night!—and the stairs of the west wing, as I knew later, were too
narrow.

I could not see, for the hearse was right underneath my window, but I
heard the sounds as they put in the coffin, after they had got it
safely down. And then the great black thing drove away again, with its
slow and covert steps, some of them following it. It was going to the
railway station.

Sir Harry and Dr. Laken were away for two or three days. The funeral
had taken place from the doctor's house. There was no real reason why
he might not have been buried from Chandos, except that it would have
created so much noise, and put the place up in arms.

And so ended the life and history of the ill-fated. George Heneage
Chandos.



CHAPTER XXXI.
BACK FOR AYE AT CHANDOS.

Once more there was a light in the gloomy house of Chandos. The blinds
were drawn up; the sunlight was allowed to shine in. He who had been
the destroyer of its tranquillity and its fair name—through whom, and
for whom, they had lived in dread for so many years, having, as Mrs.
Penn aptly expressed it, a sword hanging perpetually over their heads,
which might fall at any minute—he, the erring man, was laid to rest;
and had left rest for them. With him, the fear and the dread were
gone—almost the disgrace; there was no further need of secrecy, of
retirement, of ghosts, of sleepwalking; there was no longer dread of a
night invasion by the police. Chandos could hold up its head now in the
face of day.

The deep mourning was supposed, by all save a few, to be worn for Sir
Thomas Chandos. When Mrs. Chandos appeared in her widow's garb, people
at first treated it as one of her eccentricities, but the truth got to
be known in time. They put me into mourning too; and it was done in
this way.

"Would you not like to wear it?" Sir Harry said to me the day he came
home. "I think, as you are in the house, one of us, it might be well;
also as my future wife. What do you say, Anne? Would you object?"

"Indeed I would not object: I should like to wear it. I will order——"
and there the state of the case occurred to me, and I sat down in
consternation.

I had not a shilling in the world. I had no money, either for mourning
or for my wedding clothes. The exceeding incongruity of this order of
affairs with my position as the future Lady Chandos, struck on me with
shame and dismay. What would they all think of me? What reflections of
meanness might even the servants not cast upon me? Tears of
mortification filled my eyes, nearly dropped upon my burning cheeks.

"What's the matter, Anne?"

"I have no money."

Sir Harry laughed. "Don't cry over that, my darling. You'll have so
much soon, you wont know what to do with it. Tell my mother of your
dilemma."

_I_ did not. Perhaps he did. In the afternoon Hill came to my room with
Lady Chandos's dressmaker; and in two days my black things were home.

The first visitor we had at the house—and he arrived the day I put my
mourning on—was Monsieur de Mellissie, looking very ill. Of course he
had come after his wife, having started the instant he was able to
travel. A somewhat stormy interview ensued between them; but she spoke
like one accustomed to have things her own way, and he appeared rather
meek beside her. He had arrived with the view of taking her back to
France; she vowed and protested that she was not going home yet
awhile—that all the steamers plying between the two countries should
not drag her; her mamma was about to spend some time at Brighton or
Scarborough, as might be agreed up on, and she purposed accompanying
her: she wanted recruiting as well as other people.

Lady Chandos stepped forward to the rescue, her compassion awakened for
the poor, sick, evidently suffering man. The first thing, he must go to
bed and be nursed, she said; they would talk of plans afterwards.
Monsieur de Mellissie was really too ill to dispute the mandate;
neither did he feel inclined to do it: after his hurried journey from
Paris, bed seemed as a very haven of rest.

They left the room, followed by Lady Chandos, and the next to appear
was the agent, Mr. Dexter. He came in, rubbing his hot face as usual.
Not that the weather put him into a heat to-day, but the news he
brought.

Mr. Edwin Barley had gone away. Mr. Edwin Barley's servant had called
upon him with a cheque for a twelve-month's rent and taxes, and an
intimation that his master would not occupy the house again. Mr. Dexter
might make what use he pleased of it. If there were any dilapidations
for which Mr. Edwin Barley was legally responsible, they would be paid
for on the amount being sent to him at the Oaks.

"Gone away, has he?" cried Sir Harry.

"Gone clean away, sir, bag and baggage," replied Mr. Dexter, who seemed
not able to get over the surprising fact. "It's the oddest thing I ever
knew. The furniture—it was only hired, as you may remember, Sir
Harry—is already being removed out of the house. A strange whim, to be
red-hot for a place one month, and run away from it the next!"

"Very," said Sir Harry, quietly.

"I suppose the truth is, he found the house so different from his own
place, the Oaks, that he couldn't reconcile himself to stop in it,"
resumed Mr. Dexter, talking as fast as ever. "A magnificent place that,
his servant tells me. He has another, too, close by it, that he keeps
up as well. I pressed the question on the servant—a most respectable
man, quite superior, Sir Harry—what could be taking his master away;
but he said he didn't know, unless it might be that he was disappointed
at finding the shooting here so poor. The preserves at the Oaks are
hardly to be matched in the kingdom. Any way, Sir Harry, he's _gone_,
whatever may have taken him."

As Mr. Dexter went out of the room, disburdened of his news, Sir Harry
came to the window where I sat at work, laid his hand upon my head, and
made me look up at him.

"Is that little heart of yours relieved by the tidings?"

"Yes; oh, yes. I have not dreaded Mr. Edwin Barley so much the last few
days; but I am glad he is gone. I was always fearing that he might
apply for some power that would enable him legally to take me hence."

"In that case I must have got legal power on my side in the shape of a
special licence, and married you romantically in the great drawing-room
at twelve at night, and so made you secure in that way. I think even
now it may be safer, Anne, not to delay the ceremony long."

I looked up in consternation, believing he really thought there might
still be danger, and met the expression in his eyes. Mine fell on my
work again. I began sewing fast.

"Don't you think Monsieur de Mellissie looks very ill, Sir Harry?"

"I do; but low fever reduces a man greatly. When are you going to leave
off the 'Sir?' 'Sir Harry' is worse than 'Mr. Chandos' was."

"But what can I call you?"

"I was christened Harry."

"I shall learn it in time," I answered, shyly, "through hearing the
others say it."

"Anne, do you know what poor George said the last night of his life?"
he asked, after a pause.

"No. Was it about me?"

"It was about you: when you were the little thing he met at Hallam. He
said you were a sweet, loveable child: truthful, honest, and good. I
think you are the same still."

I bent my blushing face: praises were so sweet from him. Sir Harry
suddenly clasped me to him with a deep sound—quite a cry of love; and I
had to kneel down afterwards and hunt for my needle.

A few mornings subsequent to this, the post brought a packet addressed
to Sir Harry Chandos. When I saw it was Mr. Edwin Barley's handwriting,
my heart failed me. Sir Harry read it twice over; glanced at me, and
put it in his pocket. Monsieur de Mellissie was considerably better;
the change of air and scene had almost restored him. He did not yet get
up to breakfast. I, Emily, and her brother took it alone. Plans had
been under discussion for some days. Sir Harry's marriage was already
talked of openly.

"Mamma says it will be Scarborough," observed Emily, following out the
train of thought she had been pursuing while Sir Harry read his letter.
"She shall go there for a month, and get to Heneage Grange for
Christmas. Ethel goes with her of course, and so shall I. Alfred also;
she has been inviting him. And you, Anne—where do you go?"

I could not tell. I had neither money nor friends. Except the Miss
Barlieus.

"Where are you going, Anne? Don't you hear me?" she cried, with some
impatience. "Even if mamma remained at Chandos, _you_ could not, under
the same roof with Harry. It would be out of all precedent, you know.
The world _would_ talk."

"Wouldn't it?" put in Sir Harry. But I thought he was laughing at her.

"Where are you to be married? I mean, from whose house?" she asked,
looking straight at me.

"From—Miss Barlieu's," I suggested, humbly, feeling now very humble my
share of everything was altogether.

Emily gave a scream. "From Miss Barlieu's! Sir Harry Chandos take his
wife from _them?_ Well, you have notions of things, Anne Hereford. You
ought to be married from Keppe-Carew."

"There is no one at Keppe-Carew now. Arthur Carew is a boy at school."

"Oh well, I wash my hands of it," said Emily; "I suppose mamma will
have to arrange it all. Look here, Anne; I mean to be a frequent
visitor at Chandos, so I give you fair warning."

It was on my lips to say she would be always welcome, when Sir Harry
spoke: telling her she might probably find that mamma _had_ arranged
it; all that was necessary to be arranged. She flew upstairs to ask,
and Sir Harry turned to me.

Oh, what wonderful news he had to tell! That old saying I spoke of but
a few pages back was nothing to it. I sat and listened as one in a vast
maze—and when Sir Harry showed me the letter, I read it twice over, as
he had done, before knowing whether or not to believe it.

Mr. Edwin Barley had made over to me the amount of money left by
Selina, with the full interest thereon at five per cent, up to the
present date. He frankly stated that the mystery of the lost will had
now been cleared up: it had been (contrary to his own opinion)
abstracted, and, as he found, burnt. He did not give any hint as to the
culprit; with all his sins, he was too much of a gentleman to do that:
I could acknowledge it now that my prejudices were partially removed:
but we felt sure (and knew it later) that it was Charlotte Delves. This
money he had caused to be settled on me to my exclusive use and
benefit. He informed Sir Harry that the first instalment of the
half-yearly interest was waiting to be drawn by me.

"So you are an heiress, after all," said Sir Harry, laughing. "You can
buy your wedding dress."

But I did not laugh. I was thinking how I had misjudged Mr. Edwin
Barley. I had thought him so hard and unjust a man! Hard, he might be:
but strictly just.

"I should like to write and thank him."

"Certainly. Write when you like, and what you like. I shall answer his
letter. It contains something more, that I have not shown you."

"Am I not to see it?"

For answer Sir Harry folded the letter back, and placed a postscript
before me. It seemed to me more amazing than the other.

"Should my niece, Anne Hereford, find herself less happy as Lady
Chandos—your wife—than she expects to be, and wish for a refuge, my
house will be open to her. If she enters it, whether in the present
year or in those long to come, she will be treated in every way as my
own child; and be very amply provided for at my death."

"Do you expect you will require a refuge?"

His eyes were gleaming with merriment as he spoke it—a whole lifetime
of loving affection in their depths. If mine unconsciously looked back
their great and tender trust, it was not my fault. But a vision of
sometime meeting Edwin Barley and thanking him for this new kindness;
of making some little atonement for my past hatred, so far as words of
gratitude could atone, rose within me as a vision.

The following week we quitted Chandos for Scarborough—all of us, except
Sir Harry. There were many things to be done to the house, improvements
and alterations, and he remained to superintend them. He spent
Christmas with us at Heneage Grange: it was a smaller place than
Chandos, very open, very pretty, and belonged to Lady Chandos for life.
I was to remain and be married from thence; Lady Chandos so decided it.

The winter had passed, the spring had come, before I saw Chandos again.
I was then in Harry's carriage: alone with him; his dear wife, his wife
of only a day or two. Chandos was very far from Heneage Grange, and we
had taken the journey easily, travelling post.

I saw it as we turned round from the avenue; and did not know it: so
different was it now in its light and gay appearance from the gloomy
place of the previous autumn. The trees, some of them cut down, were
budding into the fresh green of spring; the flowers were opening in
their parterres; the birds sang joyously; the once closed and barred
windows were open cheerily to the warm sun. All things spoke of hope
for us, as if nature had arrayed herself expressly in her brightest
colours.

I saw the servants in their gala clothes, with their glad faces of
greeting, coming forth to welcome us, Hickens at their head, and Lizzy
Dene with her bunches of black curls. The tears rained over my eyes,
and Harry turned to me.

"My darling, what is grieving you?"

"Joy, I think. There is a promise of so much happiness that I cannot
realize it, can scarcely believe in it. My past life has been nothing
but loneliness; can you wonder at my almost doubting the great
blessings showered upon me now? Harry!"—and I looked down with a shy
whisper—"it seems that I never, never can be sufficiently grateful to
God."

"We will try to be so, Anne. Sufficiently, no; but just a little, as He
shall give us aid for. What has been your life, compared to the
suffering of mine?—and He has lifted it from me."

He bent his head, I know in prayer. Prayer never to forget the great
mercies given. The carriage stopped at the door, and he helped me out.

Once more in the old hall; but it had light now, and bright painted
windows, and all sorts of beautiful things. Hill came forward. It was a
surprise. Lady Chandos had despatched her there, to superintend for our
reception, lending her to Chandos for a week.

"Welcome, my Lady; welcome home."

My Lady! I think it was the first time I had been addressed so, and
glanced at Harry. He had me on his arm, and was leading me into the
oak-parlour! The dear oak-parlour! We might have to keep state at
times, but that would ever be his favourite room and mine.

"Harry, how beautiful it all is! Do you know who I should like to ask
to come and see us first of all?"

"Well!" he said, smiling.

"Miss Annette Barlieu."

"And so we will."

Harry came into my dressing-room that night, with an open Bible in his
hand. He made me sit down by him while he read a chapter aloud; and I
found it was to be his usual custom morning and evening. It was that
chapter in Deuteronomy where the following verses occur; and I knew why
he had chosen it:—

"And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into
the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to
Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities which thou buildedst not,

"And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells
digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive-trees which thou
plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;

"Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of
the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

"Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him . . . . And thou shalt
do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may
be well with thee.

"And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these
commandments before the Lord thy God, as he hath commanded us."

"Amen!" said Harry, softly, as he closed the book, carrying it with him
from the room.

And I knelt down alone to say my prayers, my heart full to overflowing
with a sense of its great blessings, and lifted up in thankfulness to
Heaven.

THE END.





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allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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