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Title: The professor's experiment: A novel, Vol. 3 (of 3)

Author: Duchess

Release date: December 7, 2022 [eBook #69496]

Language: English

Original publication: United Kingdom: Chatto & Windus, 1895

Credits: Richard Tonsing and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


Transcriber’s Note:

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.


Mrs. Hungerford has well deserved the title of being one of the most fascinating novelists of the day. The stories written by her are the airiest, lightest, and brightest imaginable, full of wit, spirit, and gaiety; but they contain, nevertheless, touches of the most exquisite pathos. There is something good in all of them.’—Academy.

A MAIDEN ALL FORLORN, and other Stories. Post 8vo., illustrated boards, 2s.; cloth limp, 2s. 6d.

‘There is no guile in the novels of the authoress of “Molly Bawn,” nor any consistency or analysis of character; but they exhibit a faculty truly remarkable for reproducing the rapid small-talk, the shallow but harmless “chaff” of certain strata of modern fashionable society.’—Spectator.

IN DURANCE VILE, and other Stories. Post 8vo., illustrated boards, 2s.; cloth limp, 2s. 6d.

‘Mrs. Hungerford’s Irish girls have always been pleasant to meet upon the dusty pathways of fiction. They are flippant, no doubt, and often sentimental, and they certainly flirt, and their stories are told often in rather ornamental phrase and with a profusion of the first person singular. But they are charming all the same.’—Academy.

A MENTAL STRUGGLE. Post 8vo., illustrated boards, 2s.; cloth limp, 2s. 6d.

‘She can invent an interesting story, she can tell it well, and she trusts to honest, natural, human emotions and interests of life for her materials.’—Spectator.

A MODERN CIRCE. Post 8vo., illustrated boards, 2s.; cloth limp, 2s. 6d.

‘Mrs. Hungerford is a distinctly amusing author.... In all her books there is a “healthy absenteeism” of ethical purpose, and we have derived more genuine pleasure from them than probably the most earnest student has ever obtained from a chapter of “Robert Elsmere.”’—Saturday Review.

MARVEL. Post 8vo., illustrated boards, 2s.; cloth, 2s. 6d.

‘The author has long since created an imaginary world, peopled with more or less natural figures; but her many admirers acknowledge the easy grace and inexhaustible verve that characterize her scenes of Hibernian life, and never tire of the type of national heroine she has made her own.’—Morning Post.

LADY VERNER’S FLIGHT. Crown 8vo., cloth extra, 3s. 6d.; post 8vo., illustrated boards, 2s.; cloth limp, 2s. 6d.

‘There are in “Lady Verner’s Flight” several of the bright young people who are wont to make Mrs. Hungerford’s books such very pleasant reading.... In all the novels by the author of “Molly Bawn” there is a breezy freshness of treatment which makes them most agreeable.’—Spectator.

THE RED-HOUSE MYSTERY. Crown 8vo., cloth extra, 3s. 6d.

‘Mrs. Hungerford is never seen to the best advantage when not dealing with the brighter sides of life, or seeming to enjoy as much as her readers the ready sallies and laughing jests of her youthful personages. In her present novel, however, the heroine, if not all smiles and mirth, is quite as taking as her many predecessors, while the spirit of uncontrolled mischief is typified in the American heiress.’—Morning Post.

THE THREE GRACES. 2 vols., crown 8vo., 10s. net.

‘It is impossible to deny that Mrs. Hungerford is capable of writing a charming love-story, and that she proves her capacity to do so in “The Three Graces.”’—Academy.

London: CHATTO & WINDUS, Piccadilly.

A Novel

Professor’s Experiment


‘Heart’s-ease I found where love-lies-bleeding
Empurpled all the ground;
Whatever flower I missed, unheeding,
Heart’s-ease I found.’

The day is still lingering, but one can see that night is beginning to coquet with it. Tender shadows lie here and there in the corners of the curving road, and in and among the beech-trees that overhang it birds are already rustling with a view to slumber. The soft coo-coo of the pigeon stirs the air, and on the river down below, ‘Now winding bright and full with naked banks,’ the first faint glimmer of a new moon is falling—falling 2as though sinking through it to a world beneath.

‘What are you thinking of, Susan?’ asks Crosby at last, when the sound of their feet upon the road has been left unbroken for quite five minutes. Susan has chatted to him quite gaily all down the avenue, and until the gates are left behind, but after that she has grown—well, thoughtful.

‘Thinking?’ She looks up at him as if startled out of a reverie.

‘Yes. What have you been thinking of so steadily for the past five minutes?’

Thus brought to book, Susan gives him the truest answer.

‘I was thinking of Lady Muriel Kennedy. I was thinking that I had never seen anyone so beautiful before.’

‘That’s high praise.’

‘You think so too?’

‘Well—hardly. She is handsome, very handsome, but not altogether the most beautiful person I have ever seen.’

‘To me she is,’ says Susan simply.

3‘That only shows to what poor use you have put your looking-glass,’ says he, and Susan laughs involuntarily as at a most excellent joke. Crosby, glancing at her and noting her sweet unconsciousness, feels a strong longing to take her hand and draw it within his arm and hold it, but from such idyllic pleasures he refrains.

The dusky shades are growing more pronounced now: ‘Eve saddens into night.’ The long and pretty road, bordered by overhanging trees, though still full of light just here, looks black in the distance, and overhead

‘The pale moon sheds a softer day,
Mellowing the woods beneath its pensive beam.’

After a little silence Susan turns her head and looks frankly at him.

‘Are you going to be married to her?’ asks she, gently and quite naturally.

‘What!’ says Crosby. He is honestly amazed, and conscious of some other feeling, too, that brings a pucker to his forehead. ‘Good heavens, no! what put that into your head?’

4‘I don’t know. I——’ She has grown all at once confused, and a pink flush is warming her cheek. ‘Of course I shouldn’t have asked you that. But she is so lovely, and I thought—I fancied——I am afraid’—her eyes growing rather misty as they meet his in mute appeal—‘you think me very rude.’

‘I never think you anything but just what you are,’ says Crosby slowly. ‘I wonder if you could be rude if you tried. I doubt it. However, don’t try. It would spoil you. As for Lady Muriel, she wouldn’t look at me.’

Susan remains silent, pondering over this. Would he look at her?

‘Should you like her to?’ asks she at last.

‘To look at me?’ Crosby is now openly amused. ‘A cat may look at a king, you know.’

‘Oh, but she——’

‘Is not the cat? That’s rude, any way. Susan, I take back all the handsome things I said of you just now. So I’m the cat, and she is the queen, I suppose. Well, no; I don’t want Queen Muriel to look at me. It 5would be rather embarrassing, considering all things. She is a very high and mighty young lady, you know, and I’m terribly shy. On the whole, Susan’—he pauses, and studies her a minute—‘I should prefer you to look at me.’

His studying goes for naught; not a vestige of blush appears on Susan’s face or any emotion whatever. His little flattery has gone by her.

‘Oh, you know what I mean,’ says she.

‘Do I? You are often very deep, you know; but if you mean that perhaps I should like to marry Lady Muriel—well, I shouldn’t.’

‘How strange!’ says Susan. ‘I think if I were a man I should be dreadfully in love with her.’

Crosby laughs.

‘So you think you could be dreadfully in love?’ says he.

Susan’s lips part in a little smile.

‘Oh, not as it is. I was only thinking of Lady Muriel ... and you—that you ought to be——’

6‘Dreadfully in love? How do you know I am not—with somebody else?’

She shakes her head.

‘No, you are not,’ says she. ‘After all, I think you are just as little likely to be dreadfully in love with anyone as I am.’

‘Susan! You are growing positively profound,’ says he.

They are now drawing near to the Rectory gates, and Susan’s fingers are stealing into her pocket and out again with nervous rapidity. Oh, she must give it to him now or never! To-morrow it will be too late. One can’t give a birthday gift the day after the birthday. But it is such a ridiculous little bag, and she has seen so many of his presents up at the Hall, and all so lovely, and in such good taste. Still, to let him think, after all his kindness, that she had not even remembered his birthday——

‘Mr. Crosby,’ says she, and now the hand that comes from the pocket has something in it. ‘I—all day, I’—tremulously—‘have been wanting to give you something for your 7birthday. I know’—she pauses, and slowly and reluctantly, and in a very agony of shyness, now holds out to him the little silken bag filled with fragrant lavender—‘I know’—tears filling her eyes—‘after what I saw to-day ... those other gifts, that it is not worth giving, but—I made it for you.’

She holds it out to him, and Crosby, who has coloured a dark red, takes it from her, but never a word comes from him.

The dear, darling child! To think of her having done this for him!... To Susan his silence sounds fatal.

‘Of course,’ says she, ‘I knew you wouldn’t care for it. But——’

‘Care for it! Oh, Susan! To call yourself my friend and so misjudge me! I care for it a good deal more, I can tell you, than for all those other things up there put together.’

There is no mistaking the genuine ring in his tone. Indeed, his delight and secret emotion amaze even himself. Susan’s spirits revive.

8‘Oh no,’ protests she.

‘Yes, though! No one else,’ says Crosby, ‘took the trouble to make me anything! That’s the difference, you see. To make it for me—with your own hands. It is easy to buy a thing—there is no trouble there.’ He looks at her present, turning and twisting it with unmistakable gratification. ‘What a lovely little bag, and filled with lavender, eh?’

‘It is to put in your drawer with your handkerchiefs,’ says Susan, shyly still; but she is smiling now, and looking frankly delighted. ‘Betty made me one last year, and I keep it with mine.’

‘So we have a bag each,’ says Crosby, and somehow he feels a ridiculous pleasure in the knowledge that he and she have bags alike, and that both their handkerchiefs will be made sweet with the same perfume. And now his eyes fall on the worked words that lie criss-cross in one of the corners: ‘Mr. Crosby, from Susan.’

‘Do you mean to say you actually did that 9too?’ asks he, with such extreme astonishment that Susan grows actually elated.

‘Oh yes,’ says she, taking a modest tone, though her conceit is rising; ‘it is quite easy.’

‘To me it seems impossible. To do that, and only with one’s fingers; it beats typewriting,’ says he. ‘It is twice as legible. Do you mean to say you wrote—worked, I mean—that with a common needle and thread?’

‘I did indeed,’ says Susan earnestly, her heart again knowing a throb of exultation. Why, if he could only see the cushion she worked for Lady Millbank’s bazaar!

‘It must have taken a long time,’ says he thoughtfully. And then, ‘And to think of you doing it for me!’

‘Oh, for you,’ says Susan—‘you who have been so kind to us all! I’—growing shy again—‘I am very glad you really like that little bag; but it is nothing—nothing. And I was delighted to make it for you, and to think of you all the time as I made it.’

‘Were you, Susan?’ says Crosby, as gratefully 10as possible, though he feels his heart in some silly way is sinking.

‘I was—I was indeed!’ says Susan openly, emphatically. ‘So you must not trouble yourself about that.’ Crosby’s heart falls another fathom or two.

‘I’ll try not to,’ says he, with a somewhat melancholy reflection of his usual lightheartedness. They have arrived at the gate now, and Susan holds out her hand to him.

‘Remember you have promised to bring up the boys to-morrow for their gipsy tea,’ says he, holding it.

‘Yes.’ She hesitates and flushes warmly. ‘Might I bring Betty, too?’

‘Why, of course’—eagerly. ‘Give my love to her, and tell her from—my sister that we can’t have a gipsy tea without her.’

‘And Lady Forster?’ Susan grows uncertain about the propriety of asking Betty without Lady Forster’s consent.

‘Now, Susan! As if you aren’t clever enough to know that Katherine delights in nothing so much as young people—she’s quite 11as young as the youngest herself—and that she will be only too pleased to see a sister of yours.’

There is emphasis on the last word.

‘You think that she likes me?’ Susan’s tone is anxious.

‘I think she has fallen in love with you.’ She smiles happily and moves a step away. But his voice checks her: ‘Not the only one either, Susan.’

‘Oh, not Captain Lennox again! I have had one lecture.’ Susan looks really saucy, for once in her life, and altogether delightful, as she defies him from under her big straw hat.

‘No. I was thinking of——’


‘Never mind.’

He turns and walks away, and Susan, laughing to herself at his inability to accuse her further, runs down the little avenue to her home. There is a rush from the lawn as she comes in sight.

‘Oh, there you are, Susan!’

12‘How did it go off?’

‘Were they all nice? Were you nervous?’

‘Is the house lovely?’

‘Oh, it is!’ says Susan, now having reached a seat, and feeling a little consequential with all of them sitting round her and waiting on her words. ‘You never saw such a house! Much, much more beautiful than Lady Millbank’s.’

‘Well, we all know it’s twice—four times the size; but Lady Millbank’s furniture was——’

‘Oh, that’s all changed. Mr. Crosby has furnished his house all over again from beginning to end. Of course we’ve been through it many times when he was away, but now you wouldn’t know it. It appears he has had things stored up after his travels—left in their cases, indeed—that lately have been brought to light. The drawing-room is perfect, and—the pictures——’

‘And the people?’ asks Betty impatiently; she is distinctly material.

‘Very, very nice too—that is, most of them. 13Miss Prior was there. She—well, I can’t bring myself to like her.’

‘What did she do to you?’ asks Dom.

‘Oh, nothing; nothing really, only——’

‘That’s enough,’ says Carew. ‘You didn’t hit it off with her, evidently.’

Susan hesitates, and as usual is lost.

‘I can’t bear her,’ says she.

‘And that lovely girl who drove home with Mr. Crosby?’ asks Betty.

‘Ah, she is even lovelier than I thought,’ says Susan, with increased enthusiasm. She finds it quite easy to praise her now. ‘And so charming! She wished particularly to be introduced to me, and——’

‘Did she?’—from Betty. ‘What a good thing that she likes you! If she marries Mr. Crosby she may be very useful to us.’

‘I don’t think she is going to marry him,’ says Susan thoughtfully.

‘No?’—with growing interest. ‘They’—casting back her thoughts—‘looked very like it on Sunday. How do you know?’

‘I asked him,’ says Susan simply.

14‘What!’ They all sit up in a body. ‘You—asked him?’

‘Yes. Does it sound dreadful?’ Poor Susan grows very red. ‘It’—nervously—‘didn’t sound a bit dreadful when I did it. And’—desperately—‘I did, any way.’

‘It wasn’t a bit dreadful,’ says Carew good-naturedly.

‘Not a bit. Go on, Susan.’ Dom regards her with large encouragement. ‘Did you ask him any more questions? Did you ask him if he would like to marry you? There wouldn’t be a bit of harm in that, either, and——’

‘Dominick!’ says Susan in an outraged tone.

Here Betty promptly catches his ear, and, pulling him down beside her, begins to pommel him within an inch of his life.

‘Never mind him, Susan. He’s got no brains. They were left out when he was born. Tell us more about your luncheon-party.’

‘There is so little to tell,’ says Susan in a subdued voice. Her pretty colour has died away, and she is looking very pale.

15‘What about the poet?’

‘Oh, the poet! His name is Jones, of all the names in the world!’

Here she revives a little, and at certain recollections of the illustrious Jones, in spite of herself, her smiles break forth again. ‘He——’ She bursts out laughing. ‘It sounds horribly conceited, but I really think he believes he is in love with me. Such nonsense, isn’t it?’

(Oh, too pretty Susan! who wouldn’t be in love with you?)

‘I don’t know about that,’ says Dom, who has escaped from Betty’s wrathful hands and is prepared to go any length to prevent a recurrence of the late ceremonies. ‘He might do worse!’

‘And so the house is lovely,’ says Betty, with a regretful sigh. Now if only they would ask her there; but of course nobody remembers second girls.

‘Yes, lovely. The halls are all done up; and there are paintings on the walls; and as for the marbles, they are exquisite!’

16‘Nice simple people, apparently,’ says Dom. ‘Were they glass or stone, Susan? Alleys or stony taws? Did you have a game yourself? I’m afraid our education has been a little neglected in that line; but, still, I can recollect your doing a little flutter in the way of marbles about half a decade or so ago; and you won, too!’

‘I suppose you think you’re funny,’ says Betty, which is about the most damping speech that anyone can make, but Mr. Fitzgerald is hard to damp. He gives her a reproachful glance and sinks back with the air of one thoroughly misunderstood.

‘For the matter of games, I suppose they’—Betty is alluding to Mr. Crosby’s guests—‘wouldn’t play one to save their lives; quite fashionable people, of course!’ Betty plainly knows little of fashionable people. ‘Hardly even tennis, I dare say. They would call that, no doubt, fatiguing. Were they—were they very starchy?’

‘So far from that,’ says Susan, ‘that——’ She hesitates. ‘I’m almost sure I heard quite 17right—and certainly Lady Forster asked Mr. Crosby to let me stay on this evening, and sleep there, so that I might take part in——’

She pauses.

‘Private theatricals?’ cries Betty excitedly.

‘No. I think it was a “pillow-scuffle” they called it.’

There is a solemn silence after this, and then, ‘A pillow-scuffle!’ says Betty faintly. ‘Are they so nice as that?’

‘They are. They are very nice, just like ourselves.’

This flagrant bit of self-appreciation goes for a wonder unnoticed beneath the weight of the late announcement.

‘Why on earth don’t they ask us to go up?’ says Dominick, who has many reasons for knowing he could do much with a pillow.

‘Well, they have asked you,’ cries Susan eagerly; ‘not for a pillow-match, but for afternoon tea in the woods to-morrow. She—Lady Forster, you know—was delighted when she heard of you boys, and she said I 18was to be sure and bring you. And there is to be a fire lit, and——’

‘Oh, Susan!’ cries Betty, in a deplorable tone, tears fast rising to her eyes; ‘I think you might have said you had a sister.’

‘So I did—so I did’—eagerly; ‘and you are to come too; and——’

‘Oh no! Not really!’

‘Yes, really.’

‘Oh, darling Susan!’



‘As long as men do silent go,
Nor faults nor merits can we know;
Yet deem not every still place empty:
A tiger may be met with so.’

Friday has dawned, and is as delightful a day as ever any miserable out-of-door entertainer can desire; and Miss Barry, in spite of her tremors, and her fears for the success of this, her first big adventurous party, feels a certain sense of elation. Yes, to-day she is going to entertain all the party at the Park; yesterday the Park had entertained all her young people. The good soul (so good in spite of her temper and her peculiarities) has felt deep joy in the thought that the children had been not only invited, but actually sought after, by all those fashionable 20folk up there, and though she would have died rather than boast of it to her neighbours, being too well-born for boasting of that kind, still, her own heart swells with pride at the thought that, in spite of their poverty, the children’s birth has asserted itself, and carried them through all difficulties to the society where they should be.

So happy has she been in her unselfish gladness, that she has forgotten to scold one of them for quite ten hours. And now Friday, the day of her coming triumph, has arrived, and she has risen almost with the sun that has brought it. There is so much to be done, you see: the best table-cloths to be brought out, and the old Queen Anne teapot to get a last rub, and all the cakes to be made! There will be plenty of time for the baking of them before five o’clock, at which hour Lady Forster has arranged to come with all her guests.

Susan and Betty have been busy with the drawing-room—one of the smallest rooms on record; a fact, however, made up for lavishly 21by the size of the furniture, which would not disgrace a salon. It is now, to confess the truth, in the sere and yellow stage, and some of the chairs have legs that are distinctly wobbly, and by no means to be depended upon.

‘Hurry up, Susan!’ says Betty. ‘The room will do very well now, especially as no one will come into it. They are sure to stay in the garden this lovely evening. Come and see about the flowers for the table.’

‘Oh, look at that screen!’ cries Susan; and indeed, as a fact, it is upside down.

‘Never mind! Come on,’ says Betty impatiently, dragging her away. ‘Even if it is the wrong way up it doesn’t matter. It looks twice as Japanesey that way. I wonder if the boys have brought the fruit yet?’

When first Dominick had heard of Miss Barry’s intention of giving a party for the Park people, he had decided that at all risks it should be a success. But his quarter’s allowance was, as usual (he had received it only a month ago), at death’s door, and only 22thirty shillings remained of it. He had at once written to his guardian saying circumstances over which he had no control—I suppose he meant his inability to refrain from buying everything his eye lit on—had made away with the sum sent last June, and he would feel immensely obliged to Sir Spencer if he could let him have a few pounds more, or even give him an advance on his next allowance. The answer had come this morning, had been opened hurriedly, but, alas! had contained, instead of the modest cheque asked for, a distinct and uncompromising ‘No.’

‘Mean old brute!’ said Dom indignantly, referring, I regret to say, to his uncle. ‘I wrote to him for a bare fiver, and the old beast refuses to part. Never mind, Susan! We’ll have our spread just the same. I’ve thirty shillings to the good still, and that’ll get us all we want.’

‘No, indeed, Dom,’ said Susan, flushing. ‘You mustn’t spend your last penny like that. We’ll do very well as we are, with auntie’s cakes.’

23‘We must have fruit,’ said Mr. Fitzgerald with determination. ‘Do you remember all those grapes yesterday, and the late peaches and things?’

Indeed they had had a most heavenly day yesterday—a distinctly rollicking day—in the woods, and had played hide and seek afterwards amongst the shrubberies, at which noble game Lady Forster and Miss Forbes had quite distinguished themselves, the latter beating Dom all to nothing in the dodging line, and reaching the goal every time without being caught. It had been altogether a splendid romp, and the Barrys had come home flushed and happy, and with so much to tell their aunt that their words tumbled over each other, and were hard to put together in any consecutive way. I think Aunt Jemima was a little shocked when Betty told her that Lady Forster had called Carew ‘a rowdy-dowdy boy,’ but she fortified herself with the thought that no doubt the world had changed a good deal since she was a girl—as no doubt it had. 24Any way, the children were delighted, and Dominick felt that nothing they could do for the Park people, and especially for that jolly Miss Forbes, could be good enough.

‘We must have some grapes,’ said he, ‘and even if it is to be my last penny, Susan, I am sure I can depend on you to patch up my old breeches so as to carry me with decency, if not with elegance, through the next two months.’

‘But, Dom—I really don’t think you should——’

‘Never mind her,’ Betty had said promptly here—Betty, who is devoid of any sort of false shame, and looks upon Dom as a possession; ‘of course we must have fruit.’

‘And those little cakes at Ricketty’s, with chocolate on them. Put on your hat, Betty, and come down town with me, and we’ll astonish the natives yet!’

But Betty had too much to do, and finally Carew had gone off with Dom on a foraging quest, and now, as the girls come out of the drawing-room, they meet the two boys ‘laden 25with golden grain,’ like the Argosy, and eager to display their purchases.

Such grapes! Such dear sweet little cakes! They are all enchanted; and soon the table, delicately laid out in a corner of the queer, pretty old garden, is a sight to behold! And beyond lies the tennis-court—one only, but so beautifully mown and rolled, looking like the priest of famous history, all ‘shaven and shorn.’

‘Didn’t I tell you it was a perfect old garden?’ Lady Forster is saying, addressing Lady Muriel, who is laughing, quite immensely for her, at one of Carew’s boyish jokes. Lady Forster is dressed in one of her smartest gowns—a mere trifle, perhaps, but done to please, and therefore a charming deed. And all her guests, incited by her, no doubt, have donned their prettiest frocks, so that Miss Barry’s garden at this moment presents a picture more suggestive of a garden-party at Twickenham than a quiet tea in the grounds of an old Irish rectory.

26‘It is too pretty for anything,’ says Lady Muriel. ‘I wouldn’t have missed it for a good deal. I think it was very kind of your aunt, Mr.——’

‘Carew!’ says he quickly.

‘May I? What a charming name! It was very kind of your aunt, Carew’—smiling—‘to ask us here.’

‘It is very kind of you to come,’ says Carew.

‘Do you run over to town?’ asks Lady Muriel. It has occurred to her that she would like to repay this pretty kindness of Miss Barry’s.

‘Oh no’—shaking his handsome head. And then frankly, ‘We are too poor for that.’

‘Ah! your sister ought to come,’ says she, after which she grows thoughtful.

Crosby glances quickly at her. He has heard that last remark of hers, and somehow resents it. Susan—in London!

He had taken his cup of tea from Miss Barry a little while ago, and carried it to where Susan is sitting, throwing himself on 27the grass at her feet, his cup beside him. Lady Muriel’s words grate on him. He looks up now at the pure profile beside him, and wonders what would be the result of starting Susan as a debutante in town under good auspices. What?

‘You are thinking,’ says Susan softly, breaking into his reverie gently.

‘Yes, I was thinking.’ He looks up at her. ‘If I said of you, would you believe me?’

‘Not a bit’—gaily. ‘Anyone would say that.’

‘Would they?’ His regard grows even more pronounced. How many have said that to her? How, indeed, could anyone refrain from saying it? And—he draws his breath a little quickly here, as conviction forces itself on him—and everyone with truth! ‘Susan, this is disgraceful!’ says he carelessly. ‘You must have had a long list of flirtations to speak like that.’

Susan laughs merrily. She is in high spirits. All is going so well, and even Lady 28Millbank has praised the tea-cakes—Lady Millbank, who never praises anything! But to-day Lady Millbank has changed her tune. Perhaps no one had been so astonished as she, to see all the Park people here to-day in this quiet old garden. She had been asked to meet them, of course, being a friend and distant relation of the Rector’s; but she had dreamed of seeing only Lady Forster, for half an hour or so, as a concession to her brother’s parish priest, and now—now—here they all are! All these smart people, who had refused to go to her only the day before yesterday! Now, horrid snob that she is, she goes quite out of her way to be nice to the Barrys.

‘A disgraceful list, indeed!’ says Susan, laughing down into Crosby’s eyes. Oh, what pretty eyes hers are!

‘You acknowledge it, then?’

‘Certainly. It is a list so bare that one must be ashamed of it. Not even one name!’

‘What about James, the redoubtable?’

‘Oh, if you are going to be stupid!’ says 29she; and, rising with a pretty show of scorn, she leaves him. It is not entirely her scorn of him, however, that leads her to this drastic step; it is an appealing glance from Betty, who is sitting near her aunt, looking perplexed in the extreme. There is cause for perplexity. Next to Miss Barry sits the poet! Unfortunately Miss Barry has heard a great deal about this young man and all his works, and plainly considers it her duty to live up to him, if possible, during his visit to the Rectory. She has now put on quite a literary air and her best spectacles, and is holding forth on literature generally, with a view to impressing him. She succeeds beyond her expectations. The great Jones, who is reclining beside her in an artistic attitude, becomes by degrees smitten into stone, so great, so wondrously surprising, are some of her utterances. Through all his astonishment, however, he holds on to the artistic pose. Having struck it with the intention of conquering Susan, he refuses to alter it until, at all events, she has had a 30good look. It may be a long time, poor girl! before she will get the chance of seeing anything like it again.

‘What’s the matter with his leg?’ asks Dom, who has just come up, in a whisper to Betty. ‘It’s got turned round, hasn’t it?’

‘It looks broken,’ says Betty. ‘But it’s all right. It’s a way he has with it. For goodness’ sake, Dom, stop auntie, if you can.’

But auntie is enjoying herself tremendously, and now, seeing her audience greatly increased, and the poet evidently much struck, her voice rises higher, and she beams on all around her.

‘My two favourite authors,’ she is now saying, ‘are—and I’m sure you will agree with me, dear Lady Forster, and you too, Mr. Jones: your opinion’—with alarming flattery—‘is indeed important—my two favourite authors are dear Wilkie Trollope and Anthony Collins!’

Great sensation! Naturally everyone is impressed by this startling declaration, and Miss Forbes is actually overcome. At all 31events, she subsides behind her parasol, and is for a little time lost in thought.

‘Yes, yes. Charming people—charming!’ says Lady Forster quickly, if a little hysterically; and the poet, having seen Susan’s eye upon him and his pose, and feeling that he has not endured the last half-hour in vain, struggles into a more every-day attitude. Pins and needles, however, having set in in the most posé of the legs, he is conscious of a good deal of unpleasantness, and at last a desire to get up. Essaying to rise, however, it distinctly declines to support him, and, to his everlasting chagrin, he falls ‘plop’ upon the ground again, in a painfully inartistic position this time.

‘Anything wrong, old man? Got a cramp?’ asks Captain Lennox, hauling him into sitting posture.

‘It is nothing, nothing,’ says the poet sadly. Oh, what it is to dwell in the tents of the Philistines! ‘I was merely overcome by the beauty of this divine spot.’ He gives a sickly glance at Susan. ‘Such tones, you 32know! Such colour! Such a satisfying atmosphere!’

Here Susan, who is under the impression that he is ill, brings him hurriedly a cup of coffee, which he takes, pressing her hand, and murmuring to her inaudible, but no doubt very ‘precious,’ things.

‘One yearns over the beautiful always,’ says he. It is plain to everyone that he is yearning over Susan, and Crosby, looking on, feels a sudden mad longing to kick him over the laurel hedge on to the road below. ‘And such a spot as this wakes all one’s dreams into life. Those trees! Those distant glimpses! The little soft throbs of Nature—Mother Nature! All, all can be felt!’

‘I wish to heaven I could make him feel something!’ says Sir William in a low but moving tone.

‘And there—over there; see those green glimpses, the parting of the leaves.’

‘Oh, go on, go on,’ says Miss Barry, growing tearful behind her glasses. ‘This is indeed beautiful!’

33‘Dear lady, you feel it too! There’—pointing to where the Cottage trees seem to become one with those of the Rectory—at which Wyndham starts slightly, ‘one can see the delicate blendings of Nature’s sweetest tints, and can fancy that from between those pleasant leaves a face might once again, as in the old, sweet phantasies, peep forth. This dear place looks as if Hamadryads had not yet died from out the world: as if still they might be found inhabitating these lovely ways. Almost it seems to me as if their divine faces might even now be seen, peeping through those perfumed greeneries beyond.’



‘Spite is a little word, but it represents as strange a jumble of feelings and compound of discords as any polysyllable in the language.’

Involuntarily, unconsciously, all their eyes follow his, to the trees in the Cottage grounds.

And there

‘All orators are dumb when beauty pleadeth.’

A profound silence falls on the group. Captain Lennox, whose eyeglass is immovably fixed on something in the distance, is the first to break it.

‘Almost it does!’ says he, mimicking the poet’s lachrymose drawl to a nicety. But no one laughs; they are all too engrossed with what they see, peeping out shyly from between the branches of those trees below, 35that seem to belong to the Rectory, meeting them as they do, and mingling with them so closely that one loses memory of the road that runs between. ‘I feel as if I saw one now. How do you feel, Forster?’

Sir William laughs.

‘A charming Hamadryad beyond dispute,’ says he.

Charming indeed! Crowned by the leaves that hang above her head, Ella’s face is looking out at them like some lovely vision. Her face only can be seen, but that very distinctly. To her, unfortunately, it had seemed quite certain that she could not be seen at all. It was so far away, and they would be talking and thinking, and it was so hard to resist the desire to see them. Carew had insisted on her being asked to join their party, and Susan had begged and implored, but Ella had steadfastly refused to accept the invitation. And then Susan had remembered that strange minute or two during her luncheon at the Park, and the evident anxiety of Mr. Wyndham that Mrs. 36Prior should know nothing about Ella, and had refrained from further pressing.

Now again this uncertain certainty occurs to Susan, and she makes a little eager gesture, hoping that Ella will see her and take the hint and go away. But, alas! Ella is not looking at her, or at Carew, or anyone, except—strange to say—at Mrs. Prior.

There is an intensity in her gaze that even at such a distance Susan, who is eminently sympathetic, divines.

‘It’s her bonnet!’ thinks Susan hurriedly; she had, indeed, been immensely struck by Mrs. Prior’s head-gear on her arrival. Such a tall aigrette, and such big wings at the sides! Again she makes little passes in the air, meant for Ella’s benefit, but again in vain. Turning with a view to enlisting Carew’s help, she finds herself close to Wyndham.

His face is livid. He is, indeed, consumed with anger. Good heavens, is the girl bent on his undoing? Is she determined wilfully to add to the already too risqué situation?

37‘Carew might do something,’ whispers she to him softly. ‘He might run across and tell her she can be seen, or——’

She looks round for Carew, and Wyndham follows her lead, to see Carew behind an escallonia bush, waving his arms frantically in the air. There is intense anxiety in the boy’s air, but something else too. There is, as Wyndham can see, heartfelt admiration; and beyond all doubt the admiration outweighs the anxiety. He is conscious of a sensation of annoyance for a moment, then his thoughts come back to the more pressing need. He looks at Susan, and then expressively at Mrs. Prior, and Susan, in answer to his evident entreaty, goes quickly to her, and suggests softly a little stroll through the old orchard; but Mrs. Prior peremptorily puts her aside, and, taking a step forward, comes up to Wyndham, and looks straight at him in a questioning fashion, at which—as though by the removal of Mrs. Prior’s eyes from hers Ella all at once ceases to be under some strange spell—the charming 38head between the sycamore-trees disappears from view, and no more is seen of Mr. Jones’s Hamadryad.

‘“Though lost to sight, to memory dear!”’ breathes Captain Lennox sentimentally. ‘I feel I shall remember that goddess of the grove as long as I live.’

The tiny excitement is at an end for most of the guests, and they are now chatting gaily again of petty nothings, all except Mrs. Prior, who is still looking at Wyndham.

‘Who is that girl?’ asks she, in a low but firm tone. Wyndham would have spoken, but Carew breaks angrily into the conversation. His heart is sore, his boyish indignation at its height. Surely there had been disrespect in their tone as they spoke of Ella! He had specially objected to that word ‘Hamadryad.’

‘She is a young lady who has taken Mr. Wyndham’s cottage,’ says he, in his clear young voice, ‘and a friend of my sister’s.’

‘Oh, indeed!’ says Mrs. Prior. ‘I congratulate 39you, Paul’—turning a withering glance on him—‘on your taste in tenants!’

The evening lights are falling—falling softly, tenderly, but surely. The crows are sailing home to their beds in the elm-trees, cawing as they come. The tall hollyhocks are growing indistinct, the tenderer colours fading into white. There is a rising odour of damp, sweet earth upon the air. Lady Forster is making little signs of departure—not hurried signs, by any means; she seems, indeed, rather reluctant to say good-bye, but Mrs. Prior has said something to her, on which she has risen, the others following her example. There is no doubt about Mrs. Prior’s anxiety to go. With her face set like a flint, she is already bidding Miss Barry a stiff farewell, and is waiting with ill-concealed impatience for Lady Forster.

‘Good-bye, Susan,’ says Crosby, coming up at this moment to the slim maiden who bears that name. ‘Though you deserted me so shamelessly a while ago, I bear you no ill-will. I understood the action. It was a 40guilty conscience drove you to it. I asked you a simple question, and you refused to answer it. I ask it again now.’ A pause, during which Susan taps her foot on the ground, and tries to assume a puzzled air that would not have deceived a boy. ‘And you still refuse, Susan?’—tragically. ‘Is it that you can’t?’

‘Can’t what?’—blushing fatally.

‘Can’t say that the redoubtable James is nothing to you.’

‘I suppose you want to drive me away again,’ says Susan demurely.

‘That subterfuge won’t answer a second time. Don’t dream of it. If you attempt to fly me now, I warn you that I shall grapple with that blue tie round your neck, and—you wouldn’t like a scene, Susan, would you? Come, is he nothing to you?’

‘I really wonder,’ says Susan, struggling with a desire for laughter that brightens up her pretty eyes and curves the corners of her lips, ‘that after all I have said before you should still persist in this nonsense.’

41‘That still is no answer. I don’t even know if it is nonsense. I begin to suspect you of being a diplomatist, Susan.’

‘I am not,’ says she, a little indignantly. ‘I am nothing in the world but what you see—just Susan Barry.’

‘And that means—shall I tell you what that means?’ He is smiling lightly, easily, but a good deal of heartfelt passion can lie behind a smile. ‘Shall I?’

This is another question. But Susan, softly glancing, puts that question by.

‘What, no answer to anything?’

‘Not to silly things.’ She shakes her head. ‘Besides, it’s my turn now. Do you’—she lays her hand lightly on his arm and looks cautiously round her—‘do you think it—is all right?’

‘All right? How should I know? You refuse to answer me, and what do I know of James?’

‘Oh, oh, oh!’ Her soft voice shows irritation, and her hand trembles on his arm as if she would dearly like to shake him. ‘I begin to hate James.’

42‘Ah, now we get near the answer,’ says he. ‘I feel better. Go on. What’s to be all right?’

‘You saw Ella—Mr. Wyndham’s tenant, you know—in the tree over there a little time ago. What do you think about it? I thought Mrs. Prior looked put out. But what can it matter to her who is living there? Did she want the Cottage?’

‘It seems a fair solution of the problem,’ says Crosby thoughtfully, and, after all, truthfully enough. Certainly Mrs. Prior has worked for eighteen months, not only for the Cottage, but for the owner of the Cottage and all the rest of his possessions for her daughter.

‘But she won’t be disagreeable to poor Ella, will she?’

‘Won’t she, if she gets the chance!’ thinks Crosby. ‘Must see that she doesn’t get it, though. No, no; of course’—out aloud.

‘And you think it doesn’t matter her being seen; that nothing will come of it?’

‘Only a most infernal row,’ thinks Crosby 43again, but says: ‘Naturally nothing. Besides, Mrs. Prior is going home to-morrow.’

‘Oh, I’m glad of that,’ says Susan. ‘I didn’t like her expression when she saw Ella. And now I must go; Lady Forster wants to say good-bye to me.’ She turns, then runs back again. ‘Oh, a moment. Tell me’—looking at him eagerly, but shyly—‘you—do you really think it has gone off—well?’

The eyes are so anxious that Crosby feels it is impossible to jest here. This little party has seemed a great deal to her—quite a tremendous event in her calm, isolated life.

‘I heard Katherine say just now,’ says he, ‘that she had never enjoyed herself so much in all her life!’ And if he hadn’t heard Katherine say that, I hope it will be forgiven him.

‘And—and the others?’

‘“The proof of the pudding is in the eating,”’ quotes he solemnly. ‘In my opinion you will have to get up the sergeant and all his merry men to turn them out.’

‘Oh, now!’ says Susan, with a lovely laugh, 44that has such sweet and open gratification in it, ‘that’s too much. And you’—anxiously—‘you weren’t dull?’

He pauses; then: ‘I don’t think so.’ He pauses again, as if to more religiously search his memory. ‘I really don’t think so!’

At this Susan laughs with even greater gaiety than before, and he laughs too, and with a little friendly hand-clasp they part.

It doesn’t take the Barrys—that is, Susan, Dom, Carew, and Betty—a second after their guests have gone, to scamper down the road to the little green gate and beat upon it the tattoo that is the signal between them and Ella. And it takes only another moment for Ella herself to open the gate cautiously, whereupon she finds herself instantly with her hands full of cakes and fruit and sweets that they have brought her from their party, leaving the rest to the children, who had really behaved remarkably well all through the afternoon, thanks to the sombre Jacky, who had kept them under his unflinching eye.

45‘Well, we’re alive,’ cries Betty. ‘Rather the worse for wear, but still in the land of the living. And, really, it went off miraculously well—for us. Not even a fly in the cream. You saw us, I know. How did we look?’

‘Oh, it was all so pretty—so pretty!’ says Ella, a little sadly, perhaps, but with enthusiasm that leaves nothing to be desired. ‘Yes, of course I saw you. I climbed up the tree. But’—nervously, looking at Susan—‘I’m afraid they saw me.’

‘Certainly they saw you,’ says Carew, a little hotly. ‘Why shouldn’t they?’

‘Oh no! I didn’t want that. I am sorry,’ says Ella, with evident distress. ‘I thought I was quite safe there—that no one could see me. But—Susan—did Mr. Wyndham see me?’

‘Yes,’ says Susan gently. Ella’s distress at once growing deeper, she goes on hurriedly: ‘But, as Carew says, why not? It is your own place—your own tree—and I have always said you ought to come out and mix with us.’

46‘No, no!’—hurriedly. All at once it seems to her that she must tell Susan the whole truth; how it is with her, and her horror of being discovered by that man, and the past sadness of her life, and the present loneliness of it. But not now; another time, when they are quite alone.

‘The poet saw you, at all events,’ says Dom. ‘He’s not quite right in his head, poor old chap! and he got very mixed. He thought you were a Hindoo idol——’

‘Dominick!’ Betty turns upon him indignantly. ‘How disgracefully ignorant you are! After all papa’s teaching! Hamadryads aren’t Hindoo idols. They are lovely things. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!’

‘I am—I am,’ says Mr. Fitzgerald, with resignation. ‘I really don’t think I shall pass any exam.’

‘You don’t try,’ says Susan, with a slight touch of anger. ‘You don’t put your mind into your work. And it is such a shame towards father. Why don’t you try?’

47‘He does try!’ says Betty angrily. She is so evidently on the defensive—on the side of the prisoner at the bar—that they all stare, a matter that brings her to her senses in a hurry. She to defend Dom, with whom she is always at daggers drawn! A gleam of pleasure in Dom’s eyes enrages her, and brings the crisis.

‘He does try,’ repeats she. ‘But’—with a glance at Dom meant to reduce him to powder—‘he has no brains.’

The glance is lost. Dom comes up smiling.

‘You’ve got it,’ says he. And then, ‘Anyway, Miss Moore, our only poet thought you were a sylvan goddess. Will that do, Betty? Didn’t he, Carew?’

‘He’s a fool,’ says Carew morosely.

‘Did you notice him, Ella?’ asks Betty. ‘A little man with a dismal eye and a nose you could hang your hat on? If poets are all like that, defend me from them! He goes about as if he was searching for a corner in which to weep, and he looks as if——’

‘“’E don’t know where ’e are,”’ quotes Dom.

48‘Yes, I saw him. He was sitting near you, Susan; and I saw Mr. Wyndham, and——’ She pauses, and a faint colour steals into her cheeks. ‘Susan, who was that woman with the high things in her bonnet?’

‘High things!’ Susan looks puzzled, and Ella goes on to describe Mrs. Prior’s bonnet with more extreme accuracy.

‘That was Mrs. Prior—Mr. Wyndham’s aunt. Fancy your noticing her! Do you know, Ella, I can’t bear her, or her daughter. They are all so—so unreal—so cruel, I think——’

But Ella is hardly listening. Her eyes are troubled. She is thinking—thinking.

‘It is strange,’ says she at last, ‘but, somehow, it seems to me as if I had seen her before. Not here—not now—but long, long, long ago.’ She makes a little movement of her hands as if driving something from her, then looks at Susan. ‘It is nonsense, of course.’ She is very pale, and her smile is dull and lifeless. ‘But—I have seen her 49somewhere in my past—or someone like her; but not so cold—so cruel.’

‘She is Mr. Wyndham’s aunt,’ says Susan again. ‘Perhaps the likeness you see lies there.’

‘Perhaps so. But no, he is not like her,’ says the girl earnestly. ‘No, it is not Mr. Wyndham she reminds me of.’

‘My goodness, Susan,’ says Betty suddenly, ‘perhaps we should not have left all those cakes with the children. They will make themselves ill, and we shall have a horrid time to-morrow.’

‘Oh, and Bonnie!’ says Susan, paling. She kisses Ella hurriedly and races home again up the quiet little shadowy road, without waiting for the slower coming of those behind her.



‘Fortune makes quick despatch, and in a day
May strip you bare as beggary itself.’

‘Is this thing true, George?’

‘What thing?’ asks Crosby.

‘Oh, you know—you know. You’—turning her cold eyes on him with actual fury in their depths—‘must have known it all along.’

‘My dear Mrs. Prior, if you would only explain!’

Mrs. Prior motions him to a seat. She is already dressed for dinner, though it is barely seven o’clock. She had, however, determined—after a stormy interview with Josephine on their return from the Rectory—on seeing Wyndham at once, and demanding an explanation with regard to ‘that creature,’ as 51she called her. Wyndham, it seemed, however, had not yet returned. ‘Gone to see her, no doubt,’ cried Mrs. Prior, with ever-rising wrath; and thus foiled in her efforts to see him, she had sent for her host, who, of course, being a bosom friend of Wyndham’s, and living down here, must have known all about it from the first.

‘Do you think I need?’ says she, with a touch of scorn. ‘Are you going to tell me deliberately that you do not know what this—woman—is to Paul?’

‘His tenant,’ says Crosby calmly. ‘What’s the matter with that? Lots of fellows have tenants.’

‘That is quite true. It is also true that “lots of fellows”’—she draws in her breath as if suffocating—‘have——’

‘Oh, come now!’ says Crosby.

‘You would have me mince matters,’ says she in her low, cold voice, that is now vibrating with anger. ‘It is inadmissible, of course, to mention things of this sort. But I have my poor girl’s interest at stake, and I 52dare to go far—for her. This arrangement of Paul’s down here, close to you’—she gives him a sudden quick glance—‘in the very midst of us, as it were, is a direct insult.’

‘So it certainly would be, if matters were as you suppose. I am confident, however, that they are not. I have Paul’s word for it.’

‘Oh, a man’s word on such an occasion as this!’

‘Well, I suppose a man’s word, if you know the man, is as good on one occasion as another,’ says Crosby. ‘And why should he lie to me about it? I have no interest in his tenants. If, as you seem to fancy, she is——’

‘Oh, hush!’ says Mrs. Prior, making an entreating gesture; ‘don’t speak so loud. That poor child of mine—that poor, poor child—is there’—pointing to the door on her left—‘and if she heard this, it would almost kill her, I think.’ Mrs. Prior throws a little tragedy into her pale blue eyes. ‘Her heart is deeply concerned—is filled, indeed, with Paul! As you know, George, for years this engagement has been thought of.’


‘Between’—a little impatiently, but solemnly—‘Paul and——’ She stops as if heart-broken, and covers her face with her handkerchief.

‘Virginia,’ is on the tip of Crosby’s tongue, but by a noble effort he swallows it.

‘My unhappy Josephine,’ says Mrs. Prior, having commanded her grief. ‘For myself, I cannot see what the end of this thing will be.’

‘It’s an unlucky name beyond doubt,’ says Crosby, growing historical. ‘I don’t think I’d christen another—h’m—I mean, I don’t think it is a good name to call a girl by, don’t you know; but I fail to see where the unhappiness comes in this time.’

‘Don’t you? Do you imagine my poor child would wed a man with such disgraceful antecedents? I had thought of the marriage for next year; but now! And dear Shangarry has so set his heart on a union between my girl and Paul. Only last month he was speaking to me about it. It will be a horrible 54blow to the poor old man. Indeed, I shouldn’t wonder if he disinherited Paul on account of it.’

Here she looks steadily, meaningly at Crosby. It is a challenge. Crosby quite understands that he is to convey to Wyndham that he is to give up his tenant, or else Mrs. Prior will declare war upon him, and prejudice the old man, his uncle, against him.

‘On account of what?’ asks he, unmoved. ‘Because he has a tenant in his cottage, or because——’

‘Oh, tenant!’ Mrs. Prior makes a swift movement of her white and beautiful hands.

‘Or, because——’

She interrupts him again, as he has expected. He has no desire whatever to go on; to say to her, ‘because he will probably refuse to marry your daughter,’ would be a little too broad. He has risked the beginning of his speech with a hope of frightening her into some sort of propriety; but he has failed.

‘There will be a scandal,’ says she, with determination.

55‘Not unless somebody insists upon one.’ Crosby crosses one leg over the other with a judicial air. ‘And scandals are so very vulgar.’

‘Quite the most vulgar things one knows; but they do occur, for all that. And if Shangarry once knew that Paul so much as wavered in his allegiance to Josephine, he would be very hard to manage.’

‘But has it, then, gone so far as that?’

‘Far! What can be farther? A girl, a young girl, and a—well, I dare say there are some who would call her beautiful—kept in seclusion, called, for decency’s sake, his tenant——’

‘Oh, that!’ says Crosby; ‘I wasn’t alluding to that. I mean, has this affair between your daughter and Wyndham gone so very far? Is this engagement you hint at a thing accomplished? Has it been settled?’ He leans towards her in a strictly confidential manner. ‘Any words said?’

‘Oh, words! What are words?’ says Mrs. Prior. ‘Deeds count, not words. And all 56our world knows how attentive he has been to my poor child for years.’

This is a slip, and she is at once conscious of it.

‘Years! Bad sign,’ says Crosby, stroking his chin.

‘I don’t know what you mean by that’—irritably, and with a view to retrieving her position. ‘The longer the time, the greater the injustice—the injury—afterwards. I feel that my poor darling is quite compromised over this affair. I need hardly tell you, George, who know her, and how attractive she is’—Crosby nods feelingly, and, I hope, offers up a prayer for pardon—‘that she has refused many and many a magnificent offer because she believed herself pledged surely, if unspokenly, to her cousin. Her great attachment to him’—all at once Crosby sees Josephine’s calm, calculating eyes and passionless manner—‘has been, I now begin to fear, the misfortune of her life, because certainly—yes, certainly—he led her to believe all along that he meant to make her his wife.’

57‘Well, perhaps he does,’ says Crosby.

‘What! And do you imagine I would submit to—to—that establishment, whilst my daughter——’ She buries her face in her handkerchief. ‘Shangarry will be so grieved,’ says she.

This is a second threat, meant to be conveyed to Wyndham. Crosby represses an inclination to laugh. After all, she has chosen, poor woman! about the worst man in Europe for her ambassador. To him, Mrs. Prior’s indignation is as clear as day. With his clear common-sense he thus reads her: She has doubts about Wyndham’s relations with his pretty tenant, but she has deliberately set herself to believe the worst. The worst to her, however, would not be the immoral attitude of the case, but the dread that the girl would inveigle Wyndham into a marriage with her, and so spoil her daughter’s chance. The girl, as she saw her through the spreading branches, was very beautiful, and Josephine—well, there was a time when she was younger, fresher.

58‘I really think, Mrs. Prior, you are making a mountain out of a mole-hill,’ says he presently. ‘I assure you I think this young lady, now living in the Cottage, is nothing more or less than Wyndham’s tenant. Why make a fuss about it? I am sure if you ask Wyndham——By-the-by, why don’t you ask him?’

‘Because he refuses me the opportunity,’ says Mrs. Prior. ‘I sent for him; he was not to be found. He purposely avoids me this evening. But he shall not do so to-morrow. I am his aunt; I have every right to speak to him on this disgraceful subject.’

‘Not disgraceful, I trust,’ says Crosby, who is devoutly thanking his stars that Mrs. Prior is not his aunt.

‘Utterly disgraceful, when I think of how he has behaved to my poor trusting girl——’

‘Still,’ says Crosby thoughtfully, ‘you tell me there were no words said.’

‘No actual words.’

‘Ah, the others are so useless,’ says Crosby.

59Mrs. Prior lifts her eyes to his for a moment. Real emotion shines in them; and all at once Crosby is conscious of a sense of shame. Poor soul! however mistaken, however contemptible her trouble, still it is trouble, and therefore worthy of consideration.

‘I can see you are not on my side,’ says she at last. ‘You have no sympathy with my grief, and yet you might have. I have had many griefs in my time, George, but this is the worst of all. To have my daughter thus treated! Of course, after this I could not—I really believe I could not sanction her marriage with Paul.’ She pauses, and delicately dabs her handkerchief into her eyes. Her hopes of a marriage between her daughter and Wyndham have been at such a low ebb for a long time that there is scarcely any harm in declaring now her determination not to wed her daughter to her cousin at any price. If things should take a turn for the better, if her threats about informing Shangarry should take effect, she can easily get out of her present 60attitude. ‘Yes, such troubles!’ She dabs her eyes again. ‘First my sister’s terrible marriage with a perfectly impossible person—you know all about that, George—poor dear Eleanor; and then my father’s will, leaving everything to Eleanor and her children, though he had so often excommunicated her, as it were. And the trouble with that will! The searching here and there for Eleanor—poor Eleanor; such awful trouble—advertisements, and private inquiry people, and all the rest. As you know, it is only quite lately that, certain information of her death without issue having come to hand, I have been enabled to live.’

‘Yes—yes, I know,’ says Crosby. He is on his very best behaviour now.

‘You have always appreciated my sweet girl at her proper worth, at all events,’ says Mrs. Prior, dabbing her eyes for the last time, and emerging from behind her handkerchief with wonderfully pale lids.

‘I have—I have indeed!’ exclaims Crosby warmly. Anything to pacify her! His 61manner is so warm, so ardent, that Mrs. Prior pauses, and her mind starts on another track. With rapidity her thoughts fly back and then forward. Crosby is quite as good a match as Paul, if one excludes the title. And perhaps—who knows?

‘George,’ says she softly, but with emotion, ‘perhaps you think me hard. But a mother—and that dreadful girl lives there alone in his house; and he visits her; and can you still, from your heart, tell me that she——’

She breaks off, as if quite overcome, and unable to go on.

‘I can tell you this, at all events,’ says Crosby, ‘that she does not live alone. Wyndham has engaged a lady to be a companion to her.’

‘Paul!’ Mrs. Prior turns her eyes, moist with her late emotion, on him—eyes now full of wrath. ‘Is she an imbecile, then, this girl? Must Paul engage a keeper for her? What absurd throwing of dust in the eyes of the world!’

62‘A companion, I said.’

She throws him a little contemptuous glance, and, with agitation, begins to pace up and down the room. ‘A nice companion! They are well met, no doubt,’ cries she suddenly, ‘this “companion” and her charge. I tell you, George, I shall get at the root of this.’

‘I don’t think you will have to go very deep,’ says Crosby.

‘You think it is so much on the surface as that? I don’t. And I shall take measures; I shall know what to do.’

There is something so determined in her air as she says this, that Crosby looks at her with some consideration. What is she going to do?

But she is looking down upon the carpet, and is evidently thinking. Yes, she knows what she will do. She will go to that girl to-morrow, and tell her plainly what her position is. She will so speak and so argue, that if the girl is, as George Crosby pretends to suppose, a virtuous girl, she will frighten 63her out of her present position. And if she is what Mrs. Prior, with horrible hope, determines she is, well, then, no harm will be done, but the ‘little establishment,’ as she calls it, will infallibly be broken up. There is another thought, however. Crosby just now had spoken almost tenderly of Josephine. If there is the smallest chance of Crosby’s being attracted by her, Mrs. Prior feels that she could stay proceedings with regard to Paul with a most willing hand. If not? Any way, there is a whole evening to think it over.

‘What do you think of doing?’ asks Crosby at this moment, a little anxiously. To attack Wyndham before them all, downstairs?... That would be abominable! And yet he would hardly put it beyond her.

‘Ah, that lies in the future,’ says she. She rises languidly from the chair into which she has sunk, and smiles at him. ‘I am afraid I am keeping you from your other guests.’

64‘Not at all—not at all,’ says Crosby amiably. ‘You are keeping me only from my man and my tie, and the rest of it.’

He bows himself hurriedly, but amiably, out of the room.



‘Where jealousie is the jailour, many break the prison, it opening more wayes to wickedness than it stoppeth.’

It is indeed perilously near the dinner-hour! Mrs. Prior, after a few words with Josephine—who had evidently had her dainty ear applied to the keyhole, and who is distinctly sulky—has gone downstairs and into the smaller drawing-room, where she finds a group on the hearthrug gathered round a little, but friendly, autumn fire, discussing all in heaven and earth. They have evidently come down to earth as she enters, because the name of Susan Barry is being wafted to and fro.

66‘Oh, she’s lovely—lovely!’ Lady Forster is saying with enthusiasm. ‘Such eyes, and with such a funny expression in them sometimes—sometimes, when she isn’t so dreadfully in earnest, as she generally is. After all, perhaps the earnestness is her charm. She is certainly the very sweetest thing! George’—she turns, looks round her, and, finding Crosby not present, laughs, and makes a little gesture with her hands—‘George will never be able to go back to his niggers.’ In her heart, being devoted to her only brother, she hopes this will be the case.

‘If you don’t take care, she will marry your brother,’ says Miss Prior from her low seat. She is protecting her complexion from the light of the big lamp near her by a fan far bigger than the lamp.

‘Well, why not?’ says Lady Forster, who detests Josephine.

‘A girl like that—a mere nobody—the daughter of an obscure country parson?’

‘Oh, not so very obscure!’ says Lady 67Muriel, in her gentle way. ‘Mr. Barry is very well connected; I have met some of his people.’

‘Still, hardly a match for Mr. Crosby.’ Josephine waves her fan lightly, yet with a suggestion of temper. Her mother, who has subsided into a seat, listens with an interest that borders on agitation to the answer to this speech. On it hangs her decision about the girl at the Cottage. If Crosby’s people support Crosby in his infatuation for that silly child at the Rectory, then—nothing is left to Josephine.

‘Do you know,’ says Lady Forster, ‘I don’t feel a bit like that. Let us all be happy, is my motto. I think’—thoughtfully—‘I am not sure, mind you—but I think if George wanted to marry a barmaid, or something like that, I should enter a gentle protest. But if he has set his heart on this delightful Susan——Isn’t she a heart, Muriel? Such a ducky child!’

‘I thought her delightful, and her brother, too,’ says Lady Muriel, laughing at Katherine’s 68exaggerations. ‘She is decidedly pretty, at all events. Even more than that.’

‘Oh, a great deal more,’ says Captain Lennox, who has come into the room with some of the other men.

‘And of very good family, too,’ says Lady Millbank, who is dining with them. The Barrys, as has been said, are a connection of hers, but always up to this—on account of their poverty—scarcely acknowledged, and kept carefully in the shade. But now, with this brilliant chance of a marriage for Susan, she is willing to bring them suddenly into the fuller light.

‘But penniless,’ puts in Josephine carefully.

‘Ah! what do pennies matter?’ says Lady Forster sweetly, but with a faint grin at her husband, who is near her. He, too, feels small affection for the stately Josephine.

‘And if George fancies her—why, it will keep him from marrying a squaw. They don’t call them squaws in Africa, do they? Something worse, perhaps.’

69‘Not much difference,’ says Captain Lennox. ‘But the squaws, as a rule, wear more clothing than the Zulu ladies, and that might perhaps——’

‘Oh, good heavens!’ says Lady Forster; ‘it might indeed! If they wear less petticoat than the dear old squaws——And if he should bring one here! Fancy her advent into one’s drawing-room! People would go away.’

‘I don’t think so—I really don’t,’ says Captain Lennox reassuringly. ‘I believe honestly you might depend on “people” to support you under the trying circumstances. What are friends for, if——’

‘Oh, well, I couldn’t stand it if you could,’ says Lady Forster, with a glance at him. ‘And I don’t want George to marry a nasty Zulu, any way. What do you think, Billee Barlow?’—to her husband. ‘Isn’t Susan nicer than a Zulu woman?’

‘I’ve not had much experience,’ says Sir William lazily. ‘But I dare say you’re right.’

70‘But listen. Isn’t it better for George to marry Susan than to go out there again, and perhaps give you a sister-in-law “mit nodings” on her?’

‘It’s very startling,’ says Lennox. ‘Take time, Billee, before answering; you might commit yourself.’

‘Really, the question is,’ says Josephine, in her cold, settled way, ‘whether it would be wise to encourage a marriage so distinctly one-sided in the way of advantage as that between——’

‘Yes, yes, yes,’ interrupts Lady Forster impatiently. ‘But if George goes away again, I have a horrid feeling that he won’t come back at all. You see, he is too much one of us to bring into our midst a dusky bride—and men have married out there—and if he likes this charming child and she likes him——People should always marry for love, I think, eh, Billee?’—turning to her husband.

‘I always think as you do,’ says the wise man.

71‘Billee Barlow, what an answer!’ She looks aggrieved, and throws up her little dainty, fairy-like head. ‘Do you think I’d have married you if I hadn’t—liked you?’

‘Was that why you married me?’ asks he, laughing, and bent on teasing her.

‘No.’ She turns her back on him. ‘I don’t know why I married you, except—that you were the biggest duffer in Europe.’

Forster roars.

‘I’m glad I’m the biggest,’ says he. ‘It’s well to be great in one’s own line.’

‘Well, that’s where it is,’ says Lady Forster, returning with perfect equanimity to the original subject. ‘And if it comes off, Susan will be a perfect sister-in-law. One has to think of one’s self, you know; and what I dwell on is, that I’ll have the greatest fun bringing her out in town. I’ve thought it all over. She will have a regular boom. There won’t be a girl next year in it with her. I know all the coming debutantes, and she could give them miles and beat them.’

72Miss Prior laughs curiously, and Lady Forster looks at her.

‘You think?’

‘That you are the most disinterested sister on earth, or——’


‘The most selfish.’

Lady Forster, who is impetuous to a fault, makes a movement as if to say something crushing—then restrains herself. After all, it is her brother’s house; this girl is her guest.

‘Oh, not selfish,’ says she sweetly. ‘I have a strange fancy that George adores her.’

‘Strange fancies are not always true,’ says Miss Prior. ‘Sir William, do you agree with Katherine about this adoration?’

Sir William shrugs his shoulders. How should he know?

‘Oh, Billee’s a fool,’ says Lady Forster, in her plaintive voice. ‘Aren’t you, Billee?’

‘My darling, you forget I married you,’ says Forster, in his tragic tone. Whereat 73she rolls her handkerchief into a little ball and throws it at him.

Mrs. Prior, who has sat on a lounge near the door listening silently to this conversation, now makes up her mind. There is nothing to be hoped for from Crosby. To-morrow, then, she will see this ‘tenant’ of Paul’s, though all the guardians and chaperons in Europe rise up to prevent her.

‘But are you really so sure that your brother is in love with Miss Susan?’ asks Lennox of Lady Forster, in a low tone, unheard by the others.

‘No, I’m not,’ declares she, with astounding frankness. ‘I only wanted to be a tiny bit nasty to Josephine, who, I’m sure, has her eye on him in case another complication fails. No, indeed’—sighing—‘no such luck! Wanderers like George are like confirmed gamblers, or drunkards, or that sort of extraordinary person—they are beyond cure. I’m sure that, in spite of all that pretty Susan’s charms, he will go back to his nasty blacks and his lions and his general tomfoolery.’



‘They begin with making falsehood appear like truth, and end with making truth appear like falsehood.’

Mrs. Prior knocks gently at the front-gate of the Cottage, not the little green gate so well known to the Barrys; and after a little delay Mrs. Denis’s martial strides can be heard behind it, and her voice pierces the woodwork.

‘Who’s there?’

‘It is I, Mrs. Prior.’ Mrs. Prior’s tones are soft and suave and persuasive. ‘That is you, I think, Mrs. Denis. I recognise your voice as that of an old friend. I have been here before, you know, several times, and I quite remember you. My nephew—your master, Mr. Wyndham, has at last let me 75know about his tenant, and I have come’—very softly this—‘to call on her.’

That she is lying horribly and with set purpose is beyond doubt. To herself she excuses herself with the old, sad, detestable fallacy, that her words are true, whatever the spirit of them may be.

Mrs. Denis, astute matron and alert Cerberus as she is (a rather comical combination), is completely taken in. She is the more ready to be deceived, in that she is at her heart, good soul! so unfeignedly glad to think that now, after all this time, her master’s people are coming forward to recognise, and no doubt make much of, the ‘purty darlin’’ under her care. Her care. Never for a moment has she admitted Miss Manning’s right to chaperon Ella, though now on excellent terms with that most excellent lady.

She does not answer Mrs. Prior immediately, but strokes her beard behind the gate, and smiles languidly to herself. Hah! He’s tould ’em! He’s found out for himself that he loves her! The crathure! An’ why 76not! Fegs, there isn’t her aqual between this and the Injies! An’, of course, it is a mark of honour designed by him to his young lady, that his aunt should come an’ pay her respects to her.

For all this, she is still cautious, and now opens the gate to Mrs. Prior by only an inch or so at a time. Mrs. Prior, on this, calmly and with the leisurely manner that belongs to her, moves forward a step or two, a step that places her parasol and her arm inside the gateway.

‘You are, I can see, a most faithful guardian,’ says she pleasantly, and with the distinctly approving tones of the superior to the efficient inferior. ‘I shall take care to tell Mr. Wyndham my opinion of you.’ The little sinister meaning in her speech is clouded in smiles. She takes another step forward that brings not only her arm and parasol, but herself, inside the gate; thus mistress of the situation, she smiles again—this time a little differently, but still with the utmost suavity.

77‘This young lady?’ asks she. ‘She is in the house, no doubt? If you could let me see her without any formal introduction, it would be so much more friendly, it seems to me.’

Mrs. Denis’s ample bosom swells with joy and pride. Her beard vibrates. ‘Friendly.’ So they are going to be friendly—those people of his! After all, perhaps Miss Ella is a princess in disguise, and they have only just found it out. ‘Well, she looks one—wid her little feet, an’ her little hands, an’ those small features of hers.’

‘No, ma’am,’ says she, addressing Mrs. Prior with a courtesy she seldom uses to anyone. ‘Miss Ella is in the garding; an’ as you say ye’d like to see her all be yerself, if ye’ll go round that corner ye’ll find her aisy, near the hollyhocks. An’ I’ll tell ye this,’ says Mrs. Denis, squaring her arms, and growing sentimental, ‘’tis plazed ye’ll be whin ye do see her.’

‘I feel sure of that,’ says Mrs. Prior. She speaks quite calmly, yet a rage of hatred 78shakes her. Glad to see this abominable creature, who has interfered with the marriage of her daughter!

‘She’s got the face of an angel, ma’am.’

‘And the heart of one, of course,’ says Mrs. Prior. The sarcasm is thrown away upon Mrs. Denis, who is now bursting with a pæan addressed to her goddess.

‘Ay, ma’am. Fegs, ’tis aisy to see the masther has bin’ tellin’ you about her.’

‘Just a little,’ says Mrs. Prior. ‘He——’

‘He thinks a dale of her,’ says Mrs. Denis, putting her hand to her mouth, and speaking mysteriously. ‘I can see that much, but ’tis little he says. But sure, ye know him. ’Tis mighty quiet he is entirely.’

‘Yes, I think I know him. But this ... young lady——’

‘Wisha! ’tis only keepin’ ye from her I am. An’ ’tis longin’ ye are to see her, ov course.’

‘You are right, my good woman,’ says Mrs. Prior; ‘I really don’t think I was ever so anxious to make the acquaintance of anyone before.... Round that corner, you say? 79Thank you. I shall certainly tell my nephew what a trustworthy guardian you make.’

She parts with Mrs. Denis with a little gracious bow, and a sudden swift change of countenance that strikes that worthy woman at the time—but unfortunately works out a little late. Stepping quickly in the direction indicated, Mrs. Prior turns the corner and goes along the southern border of the pretty cottage until she reaches a small iron gate that leads to the garden proper.

In here, soft perfumes meet one in the air, and delicate tints delight the eye. The little walks run here and there, the grasses grow, and from the flowering shrubs sweet trills are heard, sounds beautiful, and

‘Not sooner heard
Than answered, doubled, trebled more,
Voice of an Eden in the bird,
Renewing with his pipe of four
The sob; a troubled Eden, rich
In throb of heart.’

The grandeur of the dying autumn strikes through all; for over there, as a background to the still brilliant flowers, are fading yellows, 80and sad reds, and leaves russet-brown, more lovely now, perhaps, than when a life dwelt in them.

Mrs. Prior moves through all these things untouched by their beauty—on one thought bent. And all at once the subject of her thought lies there before her. The clearest, sweetest thought!

Ella, on one of the many small paths, is standing as if struck by some great surprise. She is looking at Mrs. Prior earnestly, half fearfully, with eager searching in her large dark eyes, as of one trying to work out some problem that had been suggested many years ago.

The sight of the girl, standing there with her hand pressed against her forehead as if to compel thought, drives the anger she is feeling even deeper into Mrs. Prior’s soul. Such an attitude! As if not understanding! The absurd put-on innocence of it is positively—well, disgusting!

And always Ella stands looking at her, as if frightened by the sudden unexpected 81visitor, but presently through her fear and astonishment another look springs into life. Her eyes widen—she does nothing, she says nothing, but anyone looking on would say that the girl all at once had remembered. But something terribly vague had touched her—something startling out of the past that until that moment had lain dead. Oh, surely she knows this lady, has met her somewhere.

As if impelled by this mad fancy, she goes quickly towards Mrs. Prior.

‘I—do I know you?’ asks she, in a low tense way.

‘I think not,’ says Mrs. Prior, in her calm trainante voice, that is now insolent to a degree. A faint, most cruel smile plays upon her lips. ‘You, and such as you, are seldom known by—us.’

The girl stands silent. No actual knowledge of her meaning enters into her heart, but what does come home to her in some vague way is that she has been thrust back—put far away—cast out, as it were.

82‘I don’t understand,’ says she, a little faintly.

‘Oh, I think you do,’ says Mrs. Prior, with cultivated rudeness. ‘But I have not come here to-day to inform you as to your position in life. I have come rather to explain to you that your—er—relations with my nephew must come to an end—and at once.’

‘Your nephew?’

‘Has Mr. Wyndham not spoken to you of his people, then? Rather better taste than I should have expected from him. But one may judge from it that he is not yet lost to all sense of decency.’

The insolence in her tone stings.

‘You must believe me or not, as you like,’ says the girl, drawing up her slight figure, ‘but I don’t know what you are speaking about. Do you mean that you think it wrong of me to have rented this cottage from Mr. Wyndham?’

Mrs. Prior raises her pince-nez and looks at her.

‘Really, you are very amusing!’ says she. 83‘Now what do you think it is? Right? Your views should be interesting.’

‘If not this house, I should take another,’ says Ella. She is feeling bewildered and frightened, and has grown very pale.

‘Of course, if you insist on the innocent rôle,’ says Mrs. Prior coldly, shrugging her shoulders, ‘it is useless my wasting my time. If, however, you have any regard for Mr. Wyndham, who, it seems, has been very kind to you’—she glances meaningly round the charming little home and garden—‘if distinctly unkind to himself, it may be of use to let you know that your presence here is very likely to be the cause of his ruin.’

‘His—ruin!’ The unmistakable horror in the girl’s face strikes Mrs. Prior as hopeful, so she proceeds briskly.

‘Social ruin! It will undoubtedly mean his disinheritance by his uncle, Lord Shangarry, and—the rupture of his engagement with the girl he—loves!’

She plants this barb with joy. The telling 84of a lie more or less has never troubled her during her life.

‘The girl he loves!’ Ella’s voice as she repeats the words sounds dull and monotonous. She is quite ghastly now, and she has laid her hand on the back of a garden-chair to steady herself.

‘Yes. The girl he has always meant to marry!’ She lays great stress on the last word. That ought to tell. ‘Whom he meant to marry until your—fascinations’—she throws detestable meaning into her speech, base as it is detestable—‘alienated him—for the moment!’

All at once Ella recovers herself.

‘Oh, you are wrong, wrong!’ cries she vehemently. ‘Somebody has been telling you what is not true, what is not the case! Mr. Wyndham does not—does not’—she trembles violently—‘love me. Not me—anyone but me. Oh! who could have said such a thing? Believe me, do believe me’—she comes forward, holding out her hands imploringly—‘when I tell you that I am the 85last girl in the world he would fall in love with. If you know this young lady he loves, go back to her, I implore you, and tell her it is all untrue—that he loves her, and her only, and that all she has heard to the contrary is not worth one thought. Oh, madam! If he should be hurt through me!... After all his goodness to me! Oh ... go ... go to her and tell her what I say!’

She stops, and covers her face suddenly with her hands. She is not crying, however. Tears are far from her eyes. But the misery of death has swept over her soul.

Mrs. Prior gives way to a low laugh.

‘Why didn’t you go on the stage?’ she says. ‘You would have made even a better living there. But perhaps you have only just come off it?’

The girl lets her hand drop to her sides, and turns passionately upon her.

‘Why won’t you believe me?’ cries she, with sudden wild vehemence. ‘What have I done that you should disbelieve my word?’ 86Her eyes are bright with grief and the eager desire that is consuming her to make things straight for Wyndham and the girl he loves. Wyndham, who has been so good to her, who has brought her out of such deep waters! To hurt him—to injure him: the very thought is unbearable. She has involuntarily—unknowingly—drawn up her svelte and slender body to its fullest height, and with a courage that few women could have found under circumstances so poignant, so filled with agonized memory, and with yet another feeling that perhaps is bitterest of all (though hardly known), she looks full at her tormentor.

‘Can’t you see,’ cries she, with a proud humility, ‘how wrong you must be? How could I interfere between Mr. Wyndham and the woman he loves? Who am I? Nothing!’ She throws up her beautiful head with a touch of inalienable pride, and repeats the word distinctly: ‘Nothing!’

‘Less than nothing,’ says Mrs. Prior, who is only moved to increased and unendurable 87hatred by her beauty and her unconscious hauteur. ‘So far as he regards you!’

Ella draws her breath quickly.

‘If so small in his regard, how then do I prevent his marriage with the girl he loves?’

Alas for the sorrow of her voice! It might have touched the heart of anyone. Mrs. Prior, however, is impervious to such touches.

‘Don’t you think it very absurd, your pretending like this?’ says she contemptuously.

‘Of course, in spite of the absurd innocence you pretend, one can see that you quite understand the situation, and how unpleasantly you are in the way. If he had brought you anywhere but here, it might have been hushed up, but to the very house his poor mother left him—why, it is an open scandal, and an insult to my daughter!’

The girl makes a shocked gesture.

‘It is your daughter, then? But’—quickly—‘now you know he doesn’t love me, and you can tell her—and——’ She is looking 88eagerly, with almost passionate hope, at Mrs. Prior.

‘Tell her! Tell my daughter about you!’ Mrs. Prior’s voice is terrible. ‘How dare you suggest the idea of my speaking to my girl of——’ She checks herself with difficulty, and goes on coldly: ‘No doubt you believe Mr. Wyndham will be to you always as he is now. Women of your class delude themselves like that. But—when he marries—as he will—as he shall—you will learn that a wife is one thing and a mis——’

She breaks off in the middle of her odious word as though shot. A hand has grasped her shoulder.

‘Hould yer tongue, woman, if there’s still a dhrop o’ dacency left in ye! Hould yer tongue, I say!’

The voice is the voice of Mrs. Denis.

‘May I ask who it is you are addressing?’ asks Mrs. Prior, releasing herself easily enough. Putting up her eyeglass, she bends upon Mrs. Denis the glare that she has always found so effectual for the undoing of 89her foes. But Mrs. Denis thinks nothing of glares. She is, indeed, at this moment producing one of her own, beneath which Mrs. Prior’s sinks into insignificance.

‘Faith ye may!’ says she, advancing towards the enemy with a regular ‘come on’ sort of air. ‘An’ as ye ask me, I’ll give ye yer answer. Ye’re the aunt of a nevvy that has ivery right to be ashamed o’ ye! Know ye, is it? Arrah!’ Here the unapproachable sarcasm of the Irish peasant breaks forth. ‘Is it that ye’re askin’? Fegs, I do, thin, an’ to me cost, for ’tis too late I am wid me knowledge.’ She pauses here, and planting her hands on her ample hips, surveys Mrs. Prior with deliberate scorn.

‘Oh, ye ould thraitor!’ says she at last.


It is open to question whether Mrs. Prior’s instant anger arises most from the word ‘ould’ or ‘thraitor.’ Probably the ‘ould.’

‘You forget yourself!’ cries she sharply, furiously.

‘Ye’re out there,’ says Mrs. Denis; ‘for 90’tis I’m remimberin’. “Oh, Mrs. Denis”’—with a wonderful attempt at Mrs. Prior’s air—‘“an’ is that you?”—so swate like. An’, “I’ll be tellin’ me nevvy what a good guardian ye are.” An’, “’Tis me nevvy tould me to come an’ pay me respecks to your young lady.”’ Here Mrs. Denis lifts her powerful fist and shakes it in the air. ‘I wondher to the divil,’ says she, ‘that yer tongue didn’t sthick to yer mouth whin ye said thim words. Yer nevvy indeed! Wait till I see yer nevvy! ’Tis shakin’ in yer shoes ye’ll be thin! Worse than ye made this poor lamb’—with a glance at Ella, who has drawn back and is trembling violently—‘shake to-day.’

‘You shall have reason to remember this—this most insolent behaviour. You shall know——’ begins Mrs. Prior, white with wrath; but Mrs. Denis will have none of her.

‘I know one thing, any way,’ says she, ‘that out ov this ye go, this minnit-second. Ye can tell yer nevvy all about it whin ye git out, an’ the sooner ye’re out, the sooner 91ye can tell him; an’ I wish ye joy of the tellin’! Come now!’—she steps up to Mrs. Prior with a menacing air—‘quick march!’

This grand old soldier—with whom even her husband, good man and true as he had proved himself on many a battlefield, would probably have come off second best at a close tussle—now sidling up to Mrs. Prior with distinct battle in her eyes, that lady deems it best to lay down her arms and sound a retreat.

‘This disreputable conduct only coincides with the whole of this establishment,’ says Mrs. Prior, making a faint effort to sustain her position whilst being literally moved towards the gate by the powerful personality and still more powerful arm of Mrs. Denis. The latter does not touch her, indeed, but she keeps waving that muscular member up and down like a windmill, in a most threatening manner. ‘You understand that I shall report all this to Mr. Wyndham?’

‘Ye’ve said all that before,’ says Mrs. Denis, with great contempt. ‘An’ now I’ll 92tell you something. That report ye spake of, in my humble opinion, will make mighty little noise!’

After that she closes the gate with scant ceremony on Mrs. Prior’s departing heels.



‘To hear an open scandal is a curse;
But not to find an answer is a worse.’

Mrs. Prior, thus forcibly ejected (ejections are the vogue in Ireland), commences her return journey to Crosby Park, smarting considerably under her wrongs and the big umbrella she is holding over her head. She has gone but a little way, however, when, on suddenly turning a corner, she finds herself face to face with Wyndham.

He has evidently been walking in a great hurry, but as he sees her he comes to a dead stop. All his worst fears are at once realized. The fact is that Crosby had missed Mrs. Prior at luncheon hour—a most unusual thing, by the way, for her to be absent, 94for she dearly loved a meal—and he had asked Miss Prior where she was. Miss Prior had said she did not know—hadn’t the faintest notion—perhaps gone for a prowl and forgotten her way home. Crosby somehow had felt that the fair Josephine was lying openly and freely, and had at once given a hint to Wyndham of Mrs. Prior’s conversation with him on the previous night, even suggesting that Mrs. Prior’s unusual absence from luncheon might have some connection with the Cottage. The result of all of which is that Mrs. Prior now finds herself looking into her nephew’s eyes and wondering rather vaguely what the next move is going to be.

His eyes are distinctly unpleasant. They had been anxious—horribly anxious—when first she saw them; but now they seem alive with active rage.

‘Where have you been?’ asks he immediately, his face set and white. Crosby, then, had been quite right in his suggestion.

‘I have been doing my duty,’ returns 95Mrs. Prior, who has pulled herself together. Her tone is stern and uncompromising.

‘You have been at the Cottage?’

‘You have guessed quite correctly.’

‘You have seen that poor girl, then, and——’

‘I have seen that most wretched girl, and told her my opinion of her.’

Wyndham makes a sharp ejaculation. ‘You spoke to her, insulted her, that poor child?’ He feels that reproach is no longer possible to him. What has she said? What, indeed, has she left unsaid? Great heavens, what monsters some women can be!

‘I explained to her her position. Not that she needed explanation, in spite of all her extremely clever efforts at an innocent bearing. I passed over that, however, and told her—hoping that perhaps she had some real feeling for you, though I understand that class of person never has any honest feeling—that beyond all doubt Lord Shangarry would disinherit you if he heard of your connection with her.’ She pauses here. This 96is her trump card, and she looks straight at Paul as she plays it.

It proves valueless. He passes it over as though it were of no consequence whatever.

‘I don’t know what to say to you,’ says he, struggling with his passionate rage, and grief, and shame. ‘I hardly know how to condemn you strongly enough. I wish to God you were not a woman, and then I should know what to do. This girl you have so insulted is a girl as good and pure as the best girl you have ever met, and yet you have gone down there’—pointing in the direction of the Cottage—‘and deliberately hurt and wounded her. I wonder you had the courage to do it. Are you’—growing now furious—‘a fool that you couldn’t see how sweet and gentle and innocent she is?’

‘Is it your intercourse with this sweet and gentle and innocent girl that has made you so extremely rude?’ asks his aunt in her low, well-bred voice. ‘If so, I consider I have done an extra duty by my visit to her. It may have results. Your disinheritance by Shangarry, 97for example, is sure to have an effect upon her. I am afraid, after all, it is you who are the fool. In the meantime, Paul, I can quite see that your infatuation for an extremely ordinary sort of girl has blinded you to her defects. Some of these people, I am told, quite study our manners nowadays; but she lacks distinction of any sort. That you happen to be in love with her at present of course prevents your seeing these faults.’

‘You seem so remarkably well up in the affair,’ says Wyndham, who could now have cheerfully strangled her, ‘that I suppose it will be quite superfluous to tell you that love has no voice in the matter. I am not in love with her, and she most positively is not in love with me.’

Mrs. Prior makes a contemptuous movement of her thin shoulders.

‘So very old,’ says she. ‘Do you suppose, my dear Paul, with the stake you have in view, that I expected you to say the truth—to tell me that you had fallen violently in love with this little paltry creature, who has 98come out of no one knows where, except yourself, to go back to no one knows where when you are tired of her?’

‘Look here,’ says Wyndham, driven beyond all courtesy by some feeling that he can hardly explain, ‘I think you have the worst mind of any woman I have ever met. I see now that it is useless to try to convince you; but remember—remember always’—he makes a distinct pause, as if on purpose, as if to fasten the words on her mind—‘what I say to you now—that anyone who calls Ella Moore anything less than the best woman on earth—lies!’

‘Your infatuation has gone deep,’ says Mrs. Prior. ‘Few men would speak so strongly in favour of the virtue of their—friends.’

‘I understand your hideous hint,’ says Wyndham, who has now grown cold and collected. ‘You are a woman, and it is hard to tell a woman that she lies. But if you were a man, I shouldn’t hesitate about it.’

99‘As I tell you, she has not improved your manners,’ says Mrs. Prior, with a bitter smile. She has not dreamt the affair would take this turn. She has believed that Paul, through dread of Shangarry’s displeasure, would at the most have made light of the matter, have parried the attack, and perhaps have sworn fresh allegiance to Josephine on the head of it. That he should defend this ‘creature’ and defy her, his aunt, because of her—— The situation has become strained beyond bearing.

‘If you do not love her, and she does not love you, and is not even your friend,’ says she sneeringly, ‘what is she to you?’

‘My tenant—neither more nor less.’

‘You mean to tell me, on your honour, that she pays you rent?’

‘Certainly she does.’

‘She is a bonâ-fide tenant, nothing more? Then, if so, why all this mystery? Why did you give me to understand weeks ago that she was a man?’

‘You understood that for yourself. And 100with regard to the mystery, it seems that she is desirous of privacy.’

‘How very modest, and what an extraordinary tenant to pick up! May I ask where you first heard of her? By advertisement?’


‘How, then?’

For a moment Wyndham hesitates. Hesitation is supposed to lead to ruin, but Wyndham comes out of it sound in wind and limb. His mind had suffered a shock as it fell back upon that tragic scene in the Professor’s room, but recovered from it almost immediately.

‘You may have heard of Professor Hennessy,’ says he—‘a very distinguished man. He told me of her just before his death. Now’—sarcastically—‘have I answered enough of your questions? Is your conscience quite satisfied as to your duty?’

‘It is open to anyone to make light of sacred subjects,’ said Mrs. Prior, with dignity. ‘Duty to me is the one sacred 101thing in life. I have taken this matter in hand, and, in spite of all you have said, Paul, I may as well warn you that I shall not take your word for it, but shall sift it steadily to the bottom. I consider that my duty to both you and to my daughter.’

‘To Josephine?’

‘Yes, to Josephine. Are you prepared to say that you have no duty towards her?’

‘Not that I am aware of.’

‘After all these years? After all Shangarry has hinted and said? After all the notoriety, the talk, the gossip, of our world? That a man should pay pointed attentions to a girl for two years—should come and go, be received at her mother’s house, and escort her to balls and concerts and to theatres—is all that to go for nothing? Is my poor girl to be cast aside now as though nothing had occurred——’

‘If you are alluding to Josephine,’ says Wyndham coldly and calmly, ‘I can’t see that anything has occurred to cause her annoyance of any kind. I am afraid you are 102misleading yourself. You ought to speak to your daughter, and she, no doubt, will post you up about it. I, for my part, can assure you that there is nothing between us, nor has there ever been. Your daughter is as indifferent to me as’—emphatically—‘I am to her.’

He feels abominably rude as he says this, but he feels, too, the necessity for saying it. And, after all, the onus of the rudeness lies with her. Mrs. Prior is silent for a moment, more from anger than from inability to speak; then she breaks out:

‘I shall write to Shangarry.’

‘You can write,’ says Wyndham quietly, ‘to anyone on earth you like.’

‘You distinctly, then, decline to carry out your engagement to my daughter?’

‘My dear aunt, surely you exaggerate? When was there any engagement?’

‘It was the same thing. You paid her great attention, and Shangarry has set his heart on it.’

‘I am sorry for Lord Shangarry.’

103‘You refuse, then?’

‘Distinctly,’ says Wyndham. He lifts his hat and hurries past her. She waits a little, watching him until he disappears round the corner that will lead him to the Cottage.



‘For what wert thou to me?
How shall I say?’

He finds Ella standing, where she had stood throughout her interview with Mrs. Prior, beneath a big horse-chestnut-tree in the garden. She had resisted all Miss Manning’s entreaties to come indoors and lie down and have a cup of tea (that kind woman’s one unfailing recipe for all diseases and griefs under the sun), and had only entreated piteously that she might be left alone.

Now, as she hears Wyndham’s step upon the gravel, she lifts her head, and the white misery of her face, as he sees it, makes his heart swell with wrath within him. Great heavens! what had that fiend said to her? 105He struggles with an almost ungovernable desire to go to her and press those poor forlorn eyes against his breast, if only to shut them out from his vision; and he struggles, too, it must be confessed—not so successfully—with a wild longing to give way to bad language. A few words escape him, breathed low, but extremely pungent. They bring some faint relief; but still his heart burns within him, and, indeed, he himself is surprised at the intensity of his emotion.

She does not speak, and he does not attempt to shake hands with her. It is impossible for him to forget that it is his own aunt who has thus wantonly insulted her—who has brought this terrible look into her young face. She, who has known so much suffering, who is now, indeed, only slowly recovering from a life unutterably sad.

‘I know it all,’ begins he hurriedly, disconnectedly—he, the cold, clever barrister. ‘I met her just now, just outside the gate. She is a woman of a most vindictive temper. I hope you will not let anything she may 106have said dwell for a moment in your memory. It is not worth it, believe me. She is unscrupulous.’ He is almost out of breath now, but still hurries on. ‘She would do anything to gain a point. She——’

‘You are talking of your aunt,’ says Ella at last in a stifled tone.

‘Yes; and God knows,’ says he, with vehement bitterness, ‘there was never anyone more ashamed to acknowledge anything than I am to acknowledge her. You—you will try to forget what she said——’

‘Forget! Every word,’ says the girl, lifting her hands and pressing the palms against her pretty head, ‘seems beaten in here.’

‘But such words—so false, so meaningless—the words of a malicious woman, used to gain her own purpose——’

‘Still, they are here,’ says she wearily.

‘For the moment; but in time you will forget, not only her words, but her.’

‘Her! I shall never forget her!’ She turns to him with quick questioning in her eyes. ‘Is she really your aunt, Mr. Wyndham? 107It is strange—it is impossible—but I know I have seen her before. In my dreams sometimes, now, I see her. But in my dreams she does not look as she did to-day.’ She shudders, and presses her fingers against her eyes, as if to shut out something. ‘She is lovely there, and kind, and so beautiful; and she calls me “Ellie.” I must be going mad, I think,’ cries she abruptly. ‘A brain diseased sees queer things; and when I saw her in the Rectory garden yesterday, all at once it came to me that I knew her—that I had seen her before. Perhaps’—she goes closer to him, and examines his face with interest, marking every line, as it were, every feature, until Wyndham begins to wish that his parents had granted him better looks, and then, ‘No, no,’ says she, sighing. ‘I thought perhaps it was her likeness to you that made her face seem familiar. But you are not like her. She’—sighing again—‘is very handsome.’

This is a distinct ‘takedown.’ Wyndham, however, bears up nobly.

108‘No,’ says he; ‘I am grateful to say that I resemble my father’s family, plain though they may be. The Burkes, of course, were always considered very handsome.’

‘Burke?’ She looks at him again, and frowns a little, as if again memory is troubling her. ‘The Burkes were——’

‘My mother was a daughter of Sir John Burke.’

‘Yes, yes; I see. And the lady who was here just now, Mrs.——’


‘She was a daughter, too?’

‘I regret to say so—yes.’

‘Well, my dreams are wrong,’ says she, as if half to herself. ‘And yet——’ She breaks off.

She moves away from him, and in an idle, inconsequent way, pulls at the shrubs and flowers near her. He can see at once that she is thinking, wrestling with the troubled waters of her mind, and there is something in the dignity and sadness of the young figure that appeals to him, and awakens afresh that 109eager desire to help her that has been his from the first.

After awhile she comes back to him, her hands full of the late flowers that she nervously pulls from finger to finger in an unconscious fashion.

‘I can’t live here any longer,’ says she. ‘I should not have come here at all. She has quite shown me that.’

‘I have already told you that not one word Mrs. Prior said is worthy of another thought.’

He is alluding to Mrs. Prior’s abominable suggestions as to the real meaning of the girl’s presence in the Cottage.

‘Mr. Wyndham,’ says Ella, resting her earnest eyes on his, ‘perhaps I have never let you fully understand how I regard all you have done for me—how grateful I am to you—a mere waif, a nobody. But I am grateful, and, believe me, the one thing that has cut me to the very heart to-day is the thought that I—I’—with poignant meaning—‘should be the one to cause dissension between you and—and—and her.’


‘Yes, yes; she told me.’

‘She? Who? Her?’ This involved sentence is taken no notice of.

‘It was your aunt who told me. But you can explain to her——’

‘To her! To whom? My aunt?’

‘Oh, no, no!’ She pauses. ‘Surely you know.’ At this moment something in the girl’s air makes Wyndham feel that she is believing him guilty of a desire to play the hypocrite—to conceal something. ‘It cannot have gone so very far,’ says she miserably. ‘A few words from you to her——’

‘To “her” again? If not my aunt,’ demands he frantically, ‘what her?’

She looks at him with sad astonishment.

‘I see now you wouldn’t trust me,’ says she. Her eyes are suffused with tears. She turns aside, her hands tightly clenched, as if in pain. Then all at once she breaks out. ‘Oh,’ cries she passionately, ‘why didn’t you tell her at first?’ Tell her at first! Who the deuce is ‘her’? ‘Or even me. If’—miserably—‘if 111I had known, I should not have come here, and then there would have been no trouble, no wondering, no mystery; and there would have been no misunderstanding between you and’—she draws a sharp breath—‘the girl you love!’

‘Good heavens! Do I find myself in Bedlam?’ cries Wyndham, who is not by any means an even-tempered man, and who now has lost the last rag of self-control. ‘What girl do I love?’

But his burst of rage seems to take small effect on Ella.

‘Of course,’ says she, in a stifled tone, directing her attention now to a bush near her, plucking hurriedly at its leaves, ‘if you wish to keep it a secret—and you know I said you didn’t trust me—and, of course, if you wish to’—her voice here sounds broken—‘to tell me nothing, you are right—quite right. There is no reason why I should be let into your confidence.’

‘Look here,’ says Wyndham roughly. He catches her arm and compels her to turn 112round. ‘Let’s get to the bottom of this matter. What did my aunt tell you? Come now! Out with it straight and plain.’

He has occasionally entreated his clients to be honest, but usually with very poor results. Now, however, he finds one to answer him even more straightly than he had at all bargained for. Ella flings up her head. Perhaps she had objected to that magisterial ‘Come now.’

‘She said you were in love with her daughter, and that you had meant to marry her, until—my being here interfered with it. She’—the girl pauses, and regards him anxiously, as if looking to him for an explanation—‘didn’t say how I interfered.’

‘She said that?’ Wyndham’s voice is full of suppressed but violent rage.

‘Yes, that, and a great deal more,’ she goes on now vehemently. ‘That my being here would ruin you. That some lord—your uncle—your grand-uncle—Shan—Shanbally or garry was the name’—striving wildly with her memory—‘would disinherit you because 113you had let your cottage to me. But that wasn’t just, was it? Why shouldn’t you let your house to me as well as to anybody else, Mr. Wyndham?’—with angry intonation. ‘Is that three hundred a year the Professor left me mine really? Did he leave it to me at all? Oh! if he didn’t—if I am indebted to you for all this comfort, this happiness——’ She breaks down.

‘You are entitled to that money; I swear it!’ says Wyndham. ‘His very last words were of you.’

‘You are sure! Of course, if not——That might be the reason for their all being angry with me.’

She is so very far off the actual truth that Wyndham hesitates before replying to her.

‘I am quite sure,’ says he presently. ‘The money is yours.’

‘Then I do not understand your aunt,’ cries she, throwing up her small head proudly. ‘She said a great many other things that I thought very rude—at least, I’m sure they were meant to be rude by her air. But they 114were so stupid that no one could understand them. I hardly remember them. I only remember those about——’ She breaks off suddenly; tears rise in her saddened eyes. ‘I wish—I wish,’ cries she, in an agonized tone, ‘you had told me that you loved her.’

‘Loved her! Josephine!’

‘Is that her name—your cousin’s name?’

‘Yes, and a most detestable name it is.’ There is frank disgust in his tone. The girl watches him wistfully.

‘Perhaps, after all,’ says she—she hesitates, and the hand on the rose-bush now trembles, though Wyndham never sees it—‘perhaps it wasn’t your cousin she meant. I misunderstood her, I dare say. It’—she looks at him with eager, searching young eyes—‘it was someone else, perhaps——’

‘Someone else?’

‘You are in love with.’ She draws back a little, almost leaning against the rose-bush now, and looking up at him from under frightened brows.

‘I am in love with no one,’ says Wyndham, 115with much directness—‘with no one in the wide world.’ He quite believes himself as he says this. But, in spite of this belief, a sensation of discontent pervades him, as, looking at the girl, he sees a smile, wide and happy, spreading over her charming face. Evidently it is nothing to her. She has had no desire that he should be in love with—her. ‘There is one thing,’ says he, a little austerely—that smile is still upon her face—‘if you really desire privacy, you should be careful about letting yourself be seen. Yesterday, in that tree,’ he points towards it, and Ella colours in a little sad, ashamed way that goes to his heart, but does not disturb his determination to read her a lecture, ‘you laid yourself open to discovery, and therefore to insult. The getting up into a tree or looking at people is nothing,’ argues he coldly. ‘It is the fact that, though you wish to look at people, you refuse to let them look at you, that makes the mischief. Anyone in this narrow society of ours who decides on withdrawing herself from the public gaze is open to misconception—to 116gossip—and finally to insult. I warned you of that long ago.’

‘I will not—I cannot. You know I cannot go out of this without great fear and danger,’ says Ella faintly.

‘I know nothing of the kind. This determination of yours to shut yourself away from the world is only a species of madness, and it will grow upon you. Supposing that man found you, what could he do?’

‘Oh, don’t, don’t!’ says she faintly. She covers her eyes with her hands. Then suddenly she takes them down and looks at him. ‘You have never felt fear,’ says she. She says this quickly, reproachfully, almost angrily; but through all the anger and reproach and haste there runs a thread of admiration. ‘But I have. And I tell you if—that man—were to see me again—were to come here and order me to go away with him—I should not dare to refuse.’

‘He knows better than to come here,’ says Wyndham curtly. ‘You may dispose of that fear.’

117‘Ah!’ says she, sighing, ‘you don’t know him.’

‘I know—if not him individually—his class,’ says Wyndham confidently. ‘Give up, I counsel you, this secrecy of yours. See what it has brought upon you to-day. And these insults will continue. I warn you’—he looks at her with a frowning brow—‘I warn you they will continue.’

‘She?’ Ella looks at him timidly. ‘You think she will come again?’

‘Mrs. Prior?’—contemptuously; ‘no. But there will be others. What do you think people are saying?’

‘Saying of me?’ She looks frightened. ‘They have heard about that night at the Professor’s?’ questions she. She looks now almost on the verge of fainting. ‘Your aunt—she—did she know? She said nothing.’

‘No. She knows nothing of that,’ says Wyndham hurriedly. After all, it is impossible to explain to her. But Miss Manning will know—she will know what to say.

‘She only saw me in the tree,’ says the 118girl, with a voice that is now half sobbing. And then she thought you—that I—oh!’—more wretchedly still—‘I don’t know what she thought! But’—trembling—‘I wish I had never climbed into that tree.’

‘Because she happened to see you? Never mind that. She’s got eyes in the back of her head; no one could escape her,’ says he, touched by her agitation.

‘I am not thinking of her,’ says Ella proudly, making a gesture that might almost be called imperious. ‘I am only vexed because you are angry with me about it. But’—eagerly—‘I never thought anyone would find me out, and I did so want to see what you—what’—quickly correcting herself and colouring faintly—‘you were all doing in the Rectory garden.’

‘If you want so much, and so naturally,’ says he, ‘to see your fellow-people, why didn’t you accept Susan’s invitation? It would have prevented all this.’

‘I know. But I couldn’t,’ says she, hanging her pretty head. ‘You know I tried it 119once, and it was only when I got back again here—here into this safe, safe place—that I knew how frightened I had been all the time. And you may remember how I fancied then, on my return, that I had seen——’ She stops as if unable to go on.

‘I know. I remember. But that was a mere hallucination, I am sure. You must try to conquer such absurd fears. Promise me you will try.’

‘I will try,’ cries she impulsively. She holds out to him her hand, and he takes it. ‘I will indeed. You have been so good to me, that I ought to do something for you. But all the same’—shaking her head—‘I know you are vexed with me about this.’

‘For your sake only. This abominable visit of my aunt’s, for example——’

‘Yes; about the girl you——’ She stops and withdraws her hand.

‘I thought I had explained that,’ says he, with a laugh. ‘But what troubles me is the thought that you may be again annoyed in this way. Not by her; I shall see about 120that’—with force. ‘But there may be others. And of course your welfare is’—he checks himself—‘of some consequence to me.’

‘Is it?’ She has grown cold too. ‘Your aunt’s welfare must be something to you as well.’

‘Do you mean by that that you don’t think I am on your side?’

She lifts her heavy lids and looks at him.

‘You told me that my affairs were nothing to you—that they did not concern you in the smallest degree.’

‘Was that—some time ago?’

‘Yes. Almost at first.’

‘Don’t you think it is a little vindictive to visit one’s former utterances upon one now?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Well, good-bye,’ says he quickly. He turns, wounded more than he could have believed it possible to be by a girl who is positively nothing to him. Nothing! he quite insists on this as he goes down the path.

121But now—what is this? Swift feet running after him; a small eager hand upon his arm.

‘Mr. Wyndham! Don’t go away like this. If I have offended you, I am sorry; I’—her lips begin to tremble now, and the eyes that are uplifted to his are dim—‘I am dreadfully sorry. Oh, don’t go away like this! Forgive me!’ Suddenly she bursts into tears. ‘Do forgive me!’

‘Forgive? I? It is you who have to forgive,’ stammers he. ‘Ella!’

He has laid his hand upon hers to draw them from her eyes, but with a sudden movement she breaks from him and runs back to the house. At the door, however, she stops, and glances back at him, and he can see that her face is radiant now, though her eyes are still wet with their late tears.

‘Good-bye! Good-bye!’ cries she. She raises both her hands to her lips, and in the prettiest, the most graceful fashion flings him a last farewell. This manner of hers is new to him. It is full, not only of friendliness, 122but of the joy of one who has been restored once more to happiness.

On the avenue of Crosby Park Wyndham meets the master of it, who has plainly been strolling this way with a view to meeting him on his return.

‘Well!’ says Crosby. Then, seeing the other’s face, ‘I was right, then?’

‘You were. She had made her way in, and insulted the poor child in the most violent way.’

‘I felt sure she was up to mischief,’ says Crosby, colouring hotly; he, too, is conscious of strong resentment. That anyone should go from his house to deliberately annoy a girl—a young girl, and one so sadly circumstanced—makes his usually easy-going blood boil. ‘I thought her manner to you at breakfast was over-suave. Well?’

‘There is hardly anything to tell you. That she was there, that she spoke as few women would have had the heart to do, is all I am sure of. No; this more: that that 123poor child, thank God! didn’t understand half of her vile insinuations. I could see so much. But she was cut to the heart, for all that. If you could have seen her face, so white, so frightened! I tell you this, Crosby——’

He never told him, however. He broke off short—as if not able to trust his voice, and Crosby, after one sharp glance at him, bestowed all his attention on the gravel at his feet. And as he waited for the other to recover his serenity, he shook his head over the whole affair. Yes, this was always the end of this sort of thing. If Wyndham didn’t know it, he did. Wyndham was desperately in love with this ‘waif’ of his—with this girl who had sprung out of nowhere, who had been flung upon his hands out of the angry tide of life. Presently, seeing Wyndham continuing silent, as if lost in a train of thought, he breaks in.

‘How did you know Mrs. Prior was there?’

‘From herself.’

‘What! you met her?’

124‘Just outside the gate.’

‘And’—Crosby here shows signs of hopeful joy—‘had it out with her?’

‘On the spot. She denied nothing. Rather led the attack. One has but a poor vengeance with women, Crosby; but at all events she knows what I think of her. Of course there is an end to all pretence of friendship with her in the future, and I am glad of it.’

‘I hope you didn’t say too much,’ says Crosby, rather taken aback by the sullen rage on the other’s brow.

‘How could I do that? If it had been a man——’

‘She might well congratulate herself that she isn’t, if she could only see your eyes at this moment,’ says Crosby, laughing in spite of himself. ‘But she’ll make mischief out of this, Paul, I’m afraid.’ He is silent a moment, and then: ‘Your uncle is still bent, I suppose, on your marriage with her daughter?’

‘Yes, rather a bore,’ says Wyndham, frowning. ‘I don’t like to disappoint the old man.’

125‘You mean?’

‘That I should not marry Josephine Prior if my accession to a throne depended upon it.’

‘So bad as that?’

‘Is what so bad as that?’—struck by a meaning in the other’s tone.

‘Why, your infatuation for your tenant.’

‘My——Oh, of course I might have known you would come to look at it like that,’ says Wyndham, shrugging his shoulders. With another man he might have been offended. But it is hard to be offended with Crosby. ‘Still, you are a sort of fellow one might trust to take a broader view of things.’

‘What broader do you want me to take?’ begins Crosby, slightly amused. ‘But to get back to our argument—mine, rather. I think it will be bad for you if you quarrel with Shangarry over this matter. The title, of course, must be yours—but barren honours are hardly worth getting. And he may leave his money away from you. You have told me before this that he has immense sums in his hands to dispose of—and much of the 126property is not entailed. You should think, Paul—you should think.’ He was the last man in the world to think himself on such an occasion as this.

‘I have thought.’

‘You mean?’

‘I don’t know what I mean,’ says Wyndham; then, with sudden impatience: ‘Is love necessary to marriage?’

Crosby laughs.

‘Is marriage necessary at all?’ says he. ‘Why not elect to do as I do, live and die a jolly old bachelor?’

‘Ah! I don’t believe in you,’ says Paul, with a rather mirthless smile. ‘If I went in for that state of life, depending on you as a companion, I should find myself left—sooner or later.’

‘Well, then,’ says Crosby, who has no prejudices, ‘why not marry her?’


‘Your tenant—this charming, unhappy, pretty girl, who, believe me, Wyndham’—growing suddenly grave—‘I regard as much 127as you do with the very deepest respect.’ Crosby has his charm.

‘You go too far,’ says Wyndham, looking a little agitated, however. ‘I am not in love with her, as you seem to imagine.’ Crosby smothers a smile, as in duty bound. ‘And, besides, even if I did desire to marry her, how could I do it? It would kill Shangarry with his queer, old-fashioned ideas.... A girl with no name.... And our name—so old.... It would kill him, I tell you. And—and besides all that, George, I don’t care for her, and she doesn’t care for me ... not in that way.’

‘Well, you are the best judge of that,’ says Crosby. ‘And if it is as you say, I am sorry you ever saw her. She has brought you into a decidedly risqué situation. And she is too good-looking to get out of it—or you either, without scandal.’

‘You have seen her?’ Wyndham’s face is full of rather angry inquiry.

‘My dear fellow, don’t eat me! We all saw her yesterday, if you come to think 128of it, in that tree of hers. You may remember that ass Jones’s remarks about a Hamadryad.’

‘Oh yes, of course. And you thought——’

‘To tell you the truth,’ says Crosby, ‘I thought her the very image of—don’t hit a little one, Wyndham! But I did think her more like Mrs. Prior than even Mrs. Prior’s own daughter is.’

‘What absurd nonsense! And yet, now I remember it, she—Ella—Miss Moore said she felt as if she had seen Mrs. Prior before.’

‘That’s odd. And yet not so odd as it seems. Many families totally unrelated to each other are often very much alike; I dare say Mrs. Prior and Miss Moore’s mother, though in different ranks of life, might have possessed features of the same type, and nature very similar, too. Same features, same manners, you know, very often.’

‘That ends the argument for me,’ says Wyndham, with a frown; ‘Miss Moore’s manners are as far removed from my aunt’s, and as far above them, as is possible.’

129He brushes rather hurriedly past his friend. But his friend forgives him. He stands, indeed, in the middle of the avenue, staring after Wyndham’s vanishing form.

‘And to think he doesn’t know he is in love with her!’ says he at last. ‘Any fellow might know when he was in love with a woman. Well,’—with a friendly sigh of deep regret—‘I am afraid it will cost him a good deal.’



‘What a rich feast the canker grief has made!
How has it suck’d the roses of thy cheeks,
And drunk the liquid crystals of thy eyes!’

Autumn is dead. It has faded slowly and tenderly away, with no great sudden changes, no desperate looking back towards the life departing, no morbid rushing towards the death in front. Delicately, but very sorrowfully, it went to its grave, and was buried almost before one realized its loss.

And now winter is with us; chill and still chiller grow the winds, and harsh the biting frosts.

‘The upper skies are palest blue,
Mottled with pearl and fretted snow;
With tattered fleece of inky hue,
Close overhead the storm-clouds go.
131‘Their shadows fly along the hills,
And o’er the crest mount one by one;
The whitened planking of the mill
Is now in shade and now in sun.’

It is as yet a young winter, just freshly born, and full of the terrible vitality that belongs to infancy. Sharp are the little darting breezes, and merry blow the blinding showers of snow, still so light and fragile, laughed at by the children, and caught in their little upturned hands, but still sure forerunners of the bitter days to come, when the baby winter shall be a man full grown, and bad to wrestle with.

To these days, so cold and pitiless to the fragile creatures of the earth, little Bonnie has succumbed. Into his aching limbs the frosts have entered, racking the tender little body, and bringing it to so low an ebb that Susan, watching over him with miserable fear and terrible forebodings from morning till night, and from night again to morning (she never now lets him out of her sight, refusing even to let anyone else sleep with 132him), lives in secret, awful terror of what every day may bring.

Cuddled into her young warm arms at night, she clasps him tightly to her, feeling he cannot be taken from her whilst thus she holds him, whilst still she can feel him—feel his little beloved form, now, alas! mere bones, with their sad covering, that seems to be of skin only. And to her Father in heaven she prays, not only nightly, when he is in her arms, but at intervals when she is on her strong young feet, that he will spare her this one awful grief—the death of her pretty boy.

No mother ever prayed harder, entreated more wildly (yet always so silently), for the life of her offspring than Susan prays for the continuance of this small life.

For the last week he has been very bad, in great and incessant pain; and Susan, abandoning all other duties, has given herself up to him.

No one has reprimanded her for this giving up of her daily work, though the household 133is suffering much through lack of her many customary ministrations. Even Miss Barry has forgotten to scold, and goes very silently about the house; whilst the Rector’s face has taken a heart-broken expression—the look it used to wear, as the elder children so well remember, after their mother’s death.

All day long Susan sits with her little boy, sometimes, when his aches are worse than usual, hushing him against her breast, and breathing soft childish songs into his ear to soothe his sufferings and keep up his heart, whilst her own is breaking. For is it not her fault that he is suffering now? If she had not forgotten him—this little lamb of her dead mother’s fold, left by that dying mother to her special care—he might be now as well and strong as all the rest of them.

She is sitting with him now in the schoolroom, lying back in the old armchair quite motionless, for the suffering child within her arms has fallen into a fitful slumber, when the door is opened, and Crosby enters. He 134had left the Park about a month ago, and had not been expected back for some time—not until the spring, indeed—but something unknown or unacknowledged even by himself had driven him back after four weeks to this small corner of the earth.

‘Sh!’ breathes Susan softly, putting up her hand. A warm flush has suddenly dyed her pale face, grown white through grief and many watchings. Her surprise at seeing Crosby is almost unbounded, and with it is another feeling—of joy, of comfort, of support. All through her strange joy and surprise, however, she remembers the child, and that he sleeps. Of late his slumbers have grown very precious.

Crosby advances slowly, carefully. This gives him time to look at Susan, to mark the sadness of the tender face bending over the sleeping child, to mark also the terrible lines of suffering on his. But his eyes wander always back to Susan.

In her grief, how beautiful she is! how human! how womanly! And with the child 135pressed against her breast. Oh, Susan, you were always pretty, but now! The grief is almost divine. Oh, little young Madonna!

But, then, to have Susan look like that! He wakes from his dreams of her beauty with a sharp anger against himself. And now only one thing is uppermost in his mind—Susan is suffering. Well, then, Susan must not be allowed to suffer.

‘He is ill?’ he says quickly, in a low tone.

‘Oh, so ill! He—he has been ill now for three weeks. The cold, that hurt him.’ She lifts her face for a moment, struggles with herself, and then lowers her head again, as if to do something to Bonnie’s little necktie, lest he should see her tears.

‘Tell me about it,’ says Crosby, drawing up a chair and seating himself close to her and the boy. There is something so friendly, so sympathetic, in his action that the poor child’s heart expands.

‘Oh, you can’t think how bad it has been!’ she says. ‘This dreadful cold seems to get 136into him. Speak very low. He slept hardly two hours the whole of last night.’

‘How do you know that?’—quickly.

‘How should I not know?’—surprised. ‘I slept with him. Who should know if I didn’t?’

‘Then you did not even sleep two hours?’

‘Oh, what does it matter about me?’ says she in a low, impatient tone. ‘Think of him. All last night he cried—he cried dreadfully. And what cut me to the heart,’ says the girl in an agonized tone, ‘was that I think sometimes he was keeping back his tears, for fear they should grieve me. Oh, how he suffers! Mr. Crosby’—suddenly, almost sharply—‘should people, should little, lovely, darling children like this, suffer so horribly, and when it is no fault of their own? Oh’—passionately—‘it is frightful! it is wrong! Father is sometimes angry with me about saying it, but how can God be so cruel?’

Her tone vibrates with wild and angry grief, yet still she keeps it low. It strikes Crosby as wonderful that, through all her 137violent agitation, she never forgets the child sleeping in her arms.

He says nothing, however. Who could, to comfort her, in an hour like this? He bends over the sleeping child and looks at him. Such a small face, and so lovely, in spite of the furrows pain has laid upon it. How clearly writ they are! And yet the child is like Susan—strangely like. In the young blooming face, bending over the emaciated one, the likeness can be traced.

‘You think—you think——’ whispers Susan eagerly, following his gaze, and demanding an answer to it.

‘He looks ill, but——’

‘But?’ There is a terrible inquiry—oh, more, poor child!—there is terrible entreaty in her question.

‘Susan,’ says Crosby, ‘there is always hope. But the child is very ill.’

‘Ah!’ She shrinks from him. ‘That there is no hope is what you want to say to me.’

‘It is not. Far worse cases have sometimes 138recovered. But in the meantime’ anxiously—‘I think of you. You look exhausted. You shouldn’t keep him on your lap like that. I have just seen Miss Barry, and she tells me you keep him in your arms by night and by day.’

Susan turns upon him with an almost fierce light in her gentle eyes.

‘I shall keep him in my arms always—always—when he wishes it. I——’ She stops. ‘He can’t die whilst I hold him,’ cries she. She draws in her breath sharply, and then, as if the cruel word ‘die’ has stung her, she breaks into silent, but most bitter, weeping.

‘This is killing you,’ says Crosby.

‘Oh, I almost wish it were,’ says she. She has choked back her tears, fearing lest the sleeping child should be disturbed by the heaving of her chest. She lifts her haggard, sad young eyes to his. ‘It is I who have brought him to this pass. Every pang of his should by right be mine. It is I who should bear them.’

139‘It seems to me,’ says Crosby gravely, ‘that you are bearing them.’

He waits a moment; but she has gone back to her contemplation of her little brother’s face. She is hanging over him, her eyes fixed on the pale, fragile features, as if fearing, as if dwelling, on the thought of the last sad moment of all, when he will be no longer with her, when the grave will have closed over him.

Presently Crosby, seeing her so absorbed, rises very quietly and takes a step towards the door.

As he moves she lifts her head, and holds out to him the one hand free.

‘Mr. Crosby,’ whispers she, with a dreary attempt at a smile, ‘I don’t believe I have even said so much as “How d’ye do?” to you. I certainly have not welcomed you back——’

‘No,’ says Crosby, ‘not one word of welcome. But how could I expect it at such a time?’

‘And, any way, I need not say it,’ says 140she, her eyes filling. ‘You know you are welcome.’

‘To you, Susan?’

‘To me? You know—you must know that,’ says Susan, with the sweetest friendliness.

Crosby goes straight into Mr. Barry’s study, where he finds the Rector immersed in his books and notes, and there makes clear to him the subject that only five minutes ago had become clear to himself. Yet it is so cleverly described to Mr. Barry that the latter might well be excused for believing that it had been thought out for many days, and carefully digested before being laid before him. The fact was that he, Crosby, was going to Germany almost immediately—certainly next week—though even more certainly he had not thought of going to Germany—a country he detested—so late as this morning. There were wonderful baths there, he said, and a specialist for rheumatic people. He made the specialist the least 141part of the argument, though in reality it was the greatest, as the professor he had in mind (who had come to his mind during his interview with Susan, so sadly miserable with that child upon her knee) was one of the most distinguished men alive where rheumatic affections were in question. If Mr. Barry would trust his little son to him, would let him take Bonnie to these wonderful life-restoring baths and to this even more wonderful specialist, he would regard it as a great privilege, as a mark of friendship, of esteem.

Poor Mr. Barry! He sank back in his chair, and covered his eyes with his hands. How could he take from a perfect—well, a comparative stranger—so great a boon? All the old instincts, the pride of a good race, fought with him; but with the old instincts and the pride love fought, and gained the victory.

The child—had he the right to refuse life to the child because of his senseless shrinking from obligations to another? He asked himself 142this question over and over again, whilst Crosby, who sincerely pitied him because he understood him, waited. And then all at once the father saw the child bathed in sweat and moaning with awful pain, and human nature prevailed. He gave in.

‘I can never repay you, Mr. Crosby,’ he said, in a shortened tone, standing tall and grim and crushed behind his table, his sharp aristocratic features intensified by the shabbiness of the furniture around him.

‘There is nothing to repay,’ says Crosby lightly. ‘This is a whim of mine. I believe in this specialist of whom I tell you; many do not. But I have sufficient cause for my belief to ask you to entrust your little son to my care. I tell you honestly it is a whim. If you will gratify it, it will give me pleasure.’

Mr. Barry rises and walks to the window. His gaunt figure stands out clear before it and the room.

‘No, no,’ says he. ‘You cannot put it like 143that. Do not imagine all your kind words can destroy the real meaning of your kind action. This is the best action, sir, that I have ever known’—his voice shakes—‘and, as I tell you, I can never repay it.... But the child——’

He turns more sharply, as if going to the window merely to adjust the blind, but a slight glance at him has told Crosby that the tears are running down his cheeks. Poor man! Poor father!

‘The child will be safe with me,’ says Crosby earnestly.

‘I know that.’ The Rector turns all at once; his face is now composed, but he looks older, thinner, if that could be. He comes straight up to Crosby. ‘I am a dull old man,’ says he hurriedly. ‘I can’t explain myself. But I know what you are doing—I know—I——’ He hesitates. ‘I would pray for you, but you have no need of prayers.’

‘We all have need of prayers,’ says Crosby gravely. ‘Mr. Barry, this is an adventure of mine, out of which no man can say how 144I may come. I take your child from you, but how can I say that I will bring him back to you? If you will pray, pray for him, and for me, too, that we may come back together.’



‘Tears from the depth of some divine despair.’

Thus it was arranged, and when another week has come and gone, the day arrives when Crosby is to carry off little Bonnie to distant lands with a view to his recovery.

Susan had of course been told, and there had been a rather painful scene between her and her aunt and her father.

‘Bonnie to be taken from her!’ and so soon.

‘But for his good, Susan.’

She had given in at the last, as was inevitable, with many cruel tearings at her heart, and miserable beliefs that his going now would mean his going for ever. He would never come back. And they would 146bury him there in that strange land without his Susan to comfort him and soothe his dying moments.

It is with great fainting of the spirit that Susan rises to-day—to-day, that will see her little lad carried away from her, no matter in whose kindly hands, to where she cannot know under three days’ post whether he be alive or——

At one part of his dressing (he has never yet since his first illness been dressed by anyone but Susan) she had given way.

Of course, the child knew he was going somewhere with Mr. Crosby—he liked Crosby—‘to be made well and strong, my own ducky,’ as Susan had told him, with her heart bursting.

But I think it was when she was halfway through his dressing, and, kneeling on the floor beside him, was fastening his small suspenders, that Susan’s courage failed her.

‘Oh, Bonnie! Oh, my own Bonnie!’ she cried, pressing her head against his thin little ribs.

‘Susan,’ said the child earnestly, turning 147and clasping his arms round her bent head, ‘I’ll come back to you. I will indeed! I promise!’

It was a solemn promise; but it gave Susan nothing but such an awful pang of sure foreboding that it subdued her. Despair gives strength. She stopped her tears, and rose, and ministered to his little needs, and became as though grief was no longer hers—as though she lived and moved as her usual self. This immobility frightened her, because she knew she would pay the penalty for it later on, when he was gone.

Now, standing in the garden, awaiting Mr. Crosby and the carriage that is to carry the boy away from her for six long months, she is still dry-eyed and calm.

Here it comes. She can hear the horses’ hoofs now, and the roll of the carriage-wheels along the road. And now it is stopping at the gate. And now——

Mr. Crosby has jumped out and is coming towards her.

148‘You must say good-bye to me here, Susan,’ says he, ‘because there will only be good-bye for the little brother presently.’

‘Good-bye,’ says she.

‘Obedient child.’ But as he holds her hand and looks at her, he can see the rings that grief has made around her beautiful eyes.

Seeing him still waiting, as if for a larger answer, as she thinks, though in reality he is only silent because of his studying of her sad sweet face with its tears and its courage, so terrible in one so young, she says tremulously, ‘I have not even thanked you!’

‘That is not it,’ says Crosby. ‘There is nothing to thank me for, but there is something, Susan, you might say. Tell me that you will miss me a little bit whilst I’m away.’

Susan’s hand trembles within his, but answer makes she none.

‘Well?’ says he again, as if determined not to be defrauded of his rights by this child—this 149pretty child. She may not love him, but surely she may miss him.

Susan raises her eyes, and he can see that they are filled with tears.

‘Oh, I shall!’ says she earnestly. ‘I shall miss you, and long for your return.’

This fervid speech is so unlike Susan, that all at once he arranges a meaning for it. Of course, Bonnie will be with him; she will long for the child’s return. If he resents a little this thought of Susan’s for Bonnie, to the entire exclusion of himself, he still admires the affection that has inspired it and that desolates her lovely face.

‘Susan, I shall take care of him,’ says he earnestly. ‘Trust me in this matter. If human skill can do anything for him, I shall see that it is done; if care and watching and attention are of any use, he shall have them from me.’

‘Ah, but love?’ says Susan. ‘He has been so used to love! And now he will not have me. Mr. Crosby’—clasping her hands together as if to keep the trembling of them 150from him—‘try—try to love him! He is so sweet, so dear, that it can’t be hard—and—and——’

She stops; her face is as white as death.

‘I would to God, Susan,’ says he, ‘that you could have come with us too; but that—that was impossible.’

‘I know—I know. And, of course, I sound very ungrateful; but he is so ill, so fragile, so near to——’ She shivers, as if some horrid pain had touched her. ‘And it is to me he has turned for everything up to this. And to-morrow’—suddenly she lifts her hands to her face, and breaks down altogether—‘oh, who will dress him to-morrow?’

The end has almost come. Bonnie has said good-bye to his father and all the rest of them, and is now clinging to Susan and crying bitterly. Poor Susan! she is very pale, and is visibly trembling as she holds the child to her with all her strength, as though to let him go is almost impossible to 151her; but she holds back her tears bravely, afraid of distressing him further.

‘I told you I should have taken you with us,’ says Crosby in a low tone to Susan, more with a view to lightening the situation than anything else. But the situation is made of material too heavy to be blown aside by any such light wind. Susan pays no heed to him. He is quite aware, indeed, after a moment, that Susan neither sees nor hears him. She is holding the child against her heart, and breathing into his ear broken words of love and hope and courage.

At last the final moment comes. Crosby has shaken hands with Mr. Barry, who is looking paler and more gaunt than usual, for at least the fourth time, and has now come to the carriage in which Susan has placed Bonnie, having wrapped him warmly round with rugs. Betty is standing near her.

‘Good-bye,’ says Crosby, holding out his hand to Betty, who is crying softly.

‘Oh, good-bye,’ cries she, flinging her arms round his neck and giving him a little 152hug. ‘We shall never forget this of you—never!’

‘I shall bring him back,’ says he, smiling. He pats her shoulder—dear little girl!—and turns to Susan. ‘Don’t be unhappy,’ he whispers hurriedly. ‘You spoke of love for him. I shall love him! I shall never let him out of my sight, Susan. I swear that to you. You believe me? You will take comfort?’

‘I believe you,’ says Susan, lifting her miserable eyes to his, ‘and I trust you.’

‘Good-bye, then.’

‘Good-bye. I heard what you said to Betty. You will bring him back—that is a promise.’

‘With the help of God I’ll bring him back to you,’ says Crosby solemnly. ‘And now, good-bye again.’

‘Good-bye,’ says Susan. And then, to his everlasting surprise, she leans forward, lays her hands upon his shoulders, and presses her lips to his cheek, not lightly or carelessly, but with heartfelt feeling. She shows no confusion. Not so much as a blush appears 153upon her face. It seems the most natural thing in the world—to her!

That it is gratitude only that has impelled her to this deed is quite plain to Crosby. He pushes her back from him very gently, and, stepping into the carriage, is soon out of sight.

But the memory of that kiss goes with him. It seems to linger on his cheek, and he can still see her as she raised her head, with her lovely tear-dimmed eyes on his. It was all done in the most innocent, the most friendly way. She had no thought beyond the fact that he was being very good to the little idolized brother. It was thus she showed her gratitude.

But even through gratitude to kiss him! Suddenly a fresh, a most unpleasant thought springs to life. No doubt she regards him as an old fogey—a man of such and such an age—a kind of bachelor uncle! Oh, confound it! He is not so very much older than she is, if one comes to think of it. He feels a rush of anger towards Susan, followed by a 154strange depression, that he either will not or does not understand. The anger, however, he understands well enough. There is no earthly reason why she should think him old enough to kiss like that. It was abominable of her.

He is conscious of a longing to go back and have it out with her—to ask her at what age she considers a man may be kissed. But at this point he checks himself, and gives way to a touch of mirth that is a trifle grim. She might mistake his meaning, and say twenty—that would be about her own age.

And of course it is impossible to go back, the journey once begun. Though why he had undertaken the charge of this child except to please her he hardly knows. And in all probability the cure will never be effected. And then she will go even further, and regret having given him that insulting kiss—of gratitude. And what on earth is he to do with this child—this burden?

Here he looks round at the little burden. Bonnie is asleep. All the tears and excitement 155have overcome him, and he is lying back in a deep slumber, and in a most uncomfortable position.

Crosby bends over him, and tenderly, very tenderly, lifts the small delicate, flower-like head from its uneasy resting-place against the side of the carriage, and lays it softly on his arm. And thus he supports it for the rest of the drive, until, Dublin being reached, he gives him into the care of a trained nurse procured from the Rotunda, who is to accompany the child abroad.



‘How goodness heightens beauty!’

‘Oh, what a Christmas Day!’ cries Betty, springing out of bed and rushing to the window.

‘You will catch your death of cold,’ says Susan sleepily; but in spite of this protest, or, rather, in despite of it, she, too, jumps out of her cosy nest and hurries to the window. ‘Oh, what a morning!’ breathes she.

And, indeed, the world seems all afire to-day. The sun is glittering upon the snow, and the snow is casting back at it lights scarcely less brilliant. All the trees and shrubs are gaily decked with snowy wraps and armlets, whilst here and there, through 157the universal white, big branches of holly-berries, scarlet as blood, peep out.

‘Ouf! Yes; but it’s cold,’ says Betty, after a moment or two.

‘I told you you would catch cold,’ says Susan, turning upon her indignantly, though in reality she stands quite as big a chance of meeting the dread foe as Betty.

‘I’ll catch you instead!’ cries Betty, with full intent.

Whereon ensues a combat that might have given the gods pause—a most spirited hunt, that takes them round and round the small bedroom a dozen times or more. It is a regular chase; over the bed, and past the wardrobe, and behind the dressing-table—it was a near shave for Susan that last, and full of complication, but she gets out of it with the loss of only one small china ornament, the very least concession that could be made to the god of battle.

And now away again! Over the bed once more, and round a chair, deftly directed at the enemy’s toes, and——After all, the 158very bravest of us can sometimes know defeat, and Susan is at last run to earth between a basket-chair and a trunk.

After this they condescend to dress—both a little exhausted, and Betty, I regret to say, jibbing at her bath.

‘If it was hot I’d say nothing,’ says she. ‘When I’m married I’ll have a hot bath in December.’

‘Who’d marry you?’ says Susan, and then, like the immortal parrot, is sorry that she spoke. Showers of icy water descend upon her!

But now breakfast is ready, and they must hasten down, with a last look out of their favourite window at the golden colouring there.

‘I suppose it’s almost warm where Bonnie is,’ says Betty, after a slight pause.

‘I hope so. Yes; I think so.’ There is, however, doubt in Susan’s tone. It seems impossible to believe any place warm with that snow-burdened garden outside.

159‘It must be warm,’ says Betty. ‘Bonnie could not stand cold like this, and the last accounts were not bad’—this rather doubtfully.

‘No. But’—Susan’s face, that had been glowing, now loses something of its warmth—‘not good, either. Still——Betty’—she looks at her sister—‘don’t you think Mr. Crosby is a man one might depend upon?’

‘Oh, I do—I do indeed!’ says Betty. ‘He’—earnestly, and with a view to please Susan—‘is so ugly that anyone might depend upon him.’

‘Ugly! He certainly is not ugly,’ says Susan. ‘I must say, Betty, I think sometimes you make the most foolish remarks.’

‘Well, I’ll say he’s handsome, if you like,’ says Betty, slightly affronted. ‘Any way, he has been very good to Bonnie. I suppose that’s what makes him handsome in your eyes. And he has been kind, too—could anyone be kinder?—and sometimes, Susan, I feel that I love him just as much as you do.’

160‘Oh, I don’t love him!’ says Susan, flushing.

‘No? Is it gratitude, then? Well, whatever it is you feel, Susan, I feel just the same—because he has been so kind to poor Bonnie.’

Susan turns away without replying. And then, ‘We must go down,’ says she.

‘Well, come,’ says Betty, a little urgently. ‘I’m sure I have only been waiting for you, Susan. I wonder what Christmas cards we shall get.’

‘One from Dom, any way.’

Mr. Fitzgerald had been summoned home by his guardian for Christmas, much to his disgust.

‘Oh, that! But Dom doesn’t count!’ says Betty, tilting her pretty nose in rather a disdainful fashion.

Breakfast is nearly over, however, before the post arrives. The postman of Curraghcloyne has had many delays to-day. At every house every resident has given him his Christmas-box, and sometimes a ‘stirrup 161cup’ besides, so that by the time he gets to the Rectory he is very considerably the worse for wear. Yet he gives out his letters there with the air of a finished postman, and accepts the Rectory annual five shillings with a bow that would not have disgraced Chesterfield. That his old caubeen is on the side of his head, and his articulation somewhat indistinct, detracts in no wise from the dignity of the way in which he delivers his packages and bids Mr. Barry ‘All th’ complaints o’ t’ saison!’

‘Oh, here’s one from Dom!’ cries Betty, tearing open her letter. ‘And written all on the back! What on earth has he got to say on a Christmas card? Why didn’t he write a letter?

‘“My dear Betty,

‘“I feel as I write this that you don’t know where you are. That shows the great moral difference between you and me. I know where I am, and I wish to Heaven I didn’t. Old uncle is awfully trying. Puts 162your back up half a dozen times a minute. I don’t believe I’ll ever get back; because if he doesn’t murder me I shall infallibly murder him, and then where shall we all be? I’ve written most religiously all over this card (I chose a big one on purpose), so that you cannot, in the usual mean fashion peculiar to girls, send it on again to your dearest friend as a New Year’s offering. See how well I know your little ways!”’

‘Isn’t he a beast!’ says Betty, with honest meaning. ‘And it would have done so nicely for old Miss Blake. You see, she has sent me one, though I had quite forgotten all about her. I must say Dom is downright malignant. I suppose I’ll have to buy her one now. All the rest of mine have “Happy Christmas” on them, and it does look badly to send a card like that for New Year’s Day. Dom’s has both Christmas and New Year on it, and of course it would have suited beautifully. Oh, Susan’—pouncing on a card in Susan’s hand—‘what a beauty, and nothing 163written on the back. You will let me have it for Miss Blake, won’t you?’

‘No, no,’ says Susan hastily. She takes it back quickly from Betty. A little sharp unwelcome blush has sprung into her cheeks.

‘Who is it from—James?’

‘James! Are you mad?’ says Susan. ‘Fancy my caring for a card from James! Why, here is his, and you can have it to make ducks and drakes of, if you like.’

‘But that, then?’ questions Betty, with some pardonable curiosity, pointing at the card denied her.

‘It is from Mr. Crosby. Don’t you think, Betty,’ the treacherous colour growing deeper, ‘that one should treasure even a card sent by one who has been so good to Bonnie?’

‘I do—I do indeed,’ says Betty earnestly. ‘And, after all, one would treasure a card from most people. Even this’—flicking Dom’s somewhat contemptuously—‘I’ll have to treasure, as I can’t send it away to anyone. Susan, I wonder if Ella has got any cards 164besides those we sent her? Shall we go to her this afternoon and ask her?’

‘I don’t suppose she can have got any,’ says Susan thoughtfully. ‘You know she keeps herself so aloof from the world. She had yours and mine certainly, and Carew’s.’

‘Did Carew send her one?’

‘Didn’t you know?’ Susan laughs a little. ‘I didn’t think it was a secret. I went into his room yesterday, and saw an envelope directed to Ella, and said something about it; but I really quite thought he had told you, too.’

‘Well, he didn’t! After dinner, Susan, let us run down and see her, and show her our cards.’

‘Oh no!’ says Susan, shrinking a little. ‘If she had none of her own, it might make her feel—feel lonely!’

‘That’s true,’ says Betty.



‘Who would trust slippery chance?’

But, after all, Ella has a card of her own, that is not from Susan, or Betty, or Carew. Some hours ago the post brought it to her, and she has gone out into the garden, that is now lovely in its white garments, with the red berries of the holly-trees peeping through the snow, to read it and look at it again.

The walks have been swept clear by Denis, who has come down from Dublin to spend a long (a very long) and happy Christmas week with his wife. A third person in Mrs. Denis’s kitchen and private apartments might have questioned about the happiness, but that it is a lively week goes beyond all doubt.

With Ella’s card a little line had come too. 166Mr. Wyndham was coming down by the afternoon train, to see to something for Crosby, who had written to him from Carlsbad, and he hoped to call at the Cottage before his return. Ella reads and re-reads the little note. The afternoon train comes in at one o’clock. It is now after twelve. Soon he will be here! How kind he is to her! How good! And to remember that Christmas card! She had heard Susan and Betty talking of Christmas cards, and they had sent her one, each of them, and Carew had sent one, too. They also were kind, so kind; but that Mr. Wyndham should remember her, with all his other friends to think of!

Alone in this dear garden, with no one to hear or see her, she gives way to her mood. Miss Manning has gone up to Dublin to spend her Christmas Day with an old friend, urged thereto by Ella, who, indeed, wished to be alone after her post had come. Now she can walk about here, and speak to her own heart without interruption, Mrs. Denis being engaged in that intellectual game called 167‘words’ with her husband. Oh, how happy she feels—how extraordinarily happy! She laughs aloud, and, lifting her arms, crosses them with lazy delight behind her head, and amongst the warm furs that encircle her neck. This action draws her head backwards—her eyes upwards——

Upwards! To the top of the wall on that far distant corner. There her eyes rest as if transfixed, and then grow frozen in this awful horror that has come to her. Where is the happiness now in the eyes—the young, glad joy?

She stands as if stricken into stone, staring into a face that is staring back at her.

On the wall close to the old tree, from which she loves to look into the Rectory garden and wave a handkerchief to the children there to come to her, sits Moore, the man from whom she had fled; the man whom she dreads most of all things upon earth; the man who wanted to marry her!

Oh dear, dear Heaven, is all her good time 168ended? Such a little, little time, too—such a transient gleam of light—and all so black behind it! Like a flash her life spreads itself out before her. What a childhood! Unmothered, unloved! What a cold, terrible girlhood! and then a few short months of quiet rest and calm, and now again the old, hideous misery.

It seems impossible for her to remove her eyes from those above her—to move in any way. Her brain grows at last confused, and only three words seem to be clear—to din themselves with a cruel persistency in her ears: ‘All is over! All is over!’

They have neither sense nor meaning to her in her present state, but still they go on repeating themselves: ‘All is over! All, all, all is over!’

The man has caught a branch of the tree now, and with a certain activity, considering the squareness and the bulk of his body, has swung himself into it, and so on to the ground.

He is coming towards her. The girl still 169stands immovable, as if rooted to the gravel walk; but her mind has returned to her. Alas! it brings no hope with it. This man, who has been a terror to her from her childhood, has now again come into the circle of her daily life. She draws back as he approaches her—her first movement since her frightened eyes met his—and holds up her hands, as a child might, to ward off mischief. This coming face to face with him is a horrible shock as well as an awakening. She had believed herself mistress of her fears of him, though her horror might still obtain, and now, now she knows that both her horror and her fear are still rampant.

‘Well, I’ve found you at last,’ says the man, advancing across the grass. ‘And here!’ There is something terrible in his tone and in the look of scorn he casts at the pretty surroundings, beautiful always, though now wrapped in their snowy shrouds. ‘Four months ago I was here,’ says he, after a lengthened pause. ‘I was on your track then, but a mere chance put me off it. Four 170months ago I might have dragged you out of this sink of iniquity—had I but known!’

Ella is silent. That day when she had run back from the Rectory and fancied she saw him turn the corner of the road. That fancy had been no delusion, then! Ah! why had she played with it?

‘Have you nothing to say?’ asks he slowly, sullenly, gazing at her with hard, compelling eyes. ‘No excuse to make, or are you trying to get up a story? I tell you, girl, it will be useless. This speaks for itself.’ Again he looks round him, at the charming cottage, the tall trees, the dainty garden and winding walks.

‘There is no story,’ says Ella at last. Her voice is dry and husky; she can hardly force the words between her lips.

‘You lie!’ says the man fiercely. ‘There is a story, and a most —— one for you.’ His eyes light with a sudden fury, and he looks for a moment as though he would willingly fall upon her and choke the life out of her slender body. His manner is 171distinctly brutal, but yet there is something about it that speaks of honesty. It is rough, cruel, hateful, but honest for all that. A certain belief in himself is uppermost.

He is a tall man, very strong in build, and with strong features too. His dress is that of the comfortable, half-educated artisan; but he shows some neatness in his attire. His shirt is immaculate, his hair well cut, and altogether he might suggest to the unimpassioned observer that he was a man who had dreamt many dreams of rising above the life to which he had been born. He is, at all events, not an ordinary man of any type, and distinctly one to be feared, if only for the enormous strength he had put forth to fight with his daily surroundings, and with his past (a more difficult enemy still), so as to gain a footing on the ladder that will raise him above his fellows.

The girl shrinks from him, frightened even more by the wild light in his eyes than by his words, and as she shrinks he advances, contempt mingled with menace in his eyes.

172‘You thought I should never find you,’ says he, with cruel slowness. ‘But mine you were from the beginning, and mine you are still.’

Ella makes a faint and trembling protest.

‘Deny it!’ cries he. ‘Deny it if you can! Your own mother left you to me—a mother who was ashamed to tell her real name. She left you—a waif, a stray—to my charity, and so, of my charity, I bought you through my wife. You are mine, I tell you. Hah! well you may hide your face! Child of infamy, now sunk in infamy!’

His strong, horrible face is working. The girl, as if petrified by fear, has fallen back into a garden-chair, and is sitting there cowering, her face hidden in her shaking hands.

‘So,’ continues the man in mocking accents, the very mockery of it betraying the intolerable love he had borne her in her sad past—a love now deadened, but still half alive, and quick with revengeful wrath, ‘you ran away from me, not so much from hatred of me, but for love of him.’

173‘Of him?’ Ella lifts her haggard face at this.

‘Ay, girl, of him! The man who has dragged you down to this—who has brought you here to be a bird in his gilded cage. D’ye think to blind me still? I’ve followed you, I tell you, step by step. You didn’t reckon on my staying powers, perhaps. But I had sworn by the heaven above me’—lifting his hand, large and rough and powerful, to the sky—‘that I would have you, dead or alive!’ He pauses. ‘When you left me, I thought at first that I had been too harsh to you. But I was wrong: such as you require harshness.’ Again he grows silent. ‘You ran to him, then, because you loved him! Such as you love easily; has it occurred to you, however, to ask yourself how long he will love you?’

‘I—someone must have been telling you strange things. All this is impossible,’ says the girl, pressing her hands against her beating heart. ‘No one loves me—no one.’

174‘And you do not love anyone? Answer that,’ says Moore.

‘No. No—except——’ She hesitates miserably. She had thought of Susan—she had meant to declare her love for Susan as her sole love, but another form had suddenly risen between her and Susan, and she loses herself.

‘Another lie,’ says Moore, with a sneer. ‘Lies become fine ladies, and you seem to be making yourself into one in a hurry. But you’ll find yerself out there’—with all his care he sometimes drops into his earlier form of speech, and that ‘yerself’ betrays him. ‘You’re not built for a fine lady. You—you’—furiously—‘who came out of the gutter! Yet I can see you have been doing the fine lady very considerably of late—so considerably that you can now lie like the best of them. But’—with a touch of absolute ferocity—‘I tell you, your lies will be of little use to you with me. I’ve dropped on the truth of your story, and there shall be an end of it. To my dead wife your 175dead mother left you, and from my dead wife you have come to me again. To me you belong; I am your guardian; you are bound by law to follow me.’

Ella makes a terrified gesture, then sinks back upon her seat, pale and chilled to her heart’s core.

‘To follow you?’ The words come from between her lips, whispered rather than uttered; but he hears them.

‘Ay, to follow me. You shall not stay in this home of infamy another hour if I can prevent it. And prevent it I shall.’

His rugged, disagreeable face, so full of strength, lights up as he speaks these words of command.

‘I cannot go,’ says the girl faintly.

She puts out her hands again with that old, childish movement as if to ward off something hateful to her. There is so much aversion in this act that Moore’s temper fails him.

‘Hate me as much as you will, still, come with me you shall!’ says he. ‘Do you 176imagine——’ Here he takes a step towards her, and, catching her by the wrist, swings her to and fro with distinct brutality, then lets her go. ‘Do you think, having once found you, I shall let you go? No; though’—he makes a pause, and, standing before her, pours his words into her unwilling, nay, but half-understanding, ears—‘though I so despise you that I would now consider my name dishonoured if joined with yours—even now when I know you not to be worth the picking up—still, I will not let you go. You are mine, and with me you shall leave this old country and seek another. I start for Australia to-morrow week, and you shall start with me. Together we shall seek that land.’

‘I cannot go,’ repeats Ella feebly. She looks magnetized. The old terror is full upon her, and it is but a dying effort to resist him that she now makes. ‘I—I——’ She stops again, and then bursts out: ‘It would kill me! Oh!’—holding out her hands wildly—‘why do you want me to go away? 177Why do you want me to leave this place? How’—miserably—‘can I be of any help to you? Of any use? You know’—in softest, most piteous accents—‘that I hate you—why, then, take me with you? Why not let me stay here in peace?’

‘In sin you mean,’ says Moore, his harsh voice now filled with a new virulence. ‘Make an end of this, girl—for come with me you shall. What’—violently—‘you would not live with me, who would have honourably married you; but you would live with him, who will never marry you!’

‘I do not desire that he should marry me,’ says the girl, drawing herself up. Even in this terrible moment, when all her senses feel dulled, a look of pride grows upon her beautiful face. ‘And he does not live here.’

‘Enough of that!’—gruffly. ‘You have told lies sufficient for one morning. Get up, and come with me.’

‘Come with you?’

‘Ay—and at once!’

‘But’—she has risen, as if in strange unreasoning 178obedience to his command, being fully beneath the spell born of her horror and fear of him—‘but—I must have time—to write—to leave a word. He has been so kind—so kind. Give me’—her face is deadly white now, her tone anguished—‘only one moment to go in and write a line of good-bye to him.’

‘Not one!’ says Moore sternly. ‘I shall not even wait for you to take off those garments—the garments of sin—that you are wearing. You shall come as you are—and now.’

He lays his hand upon her arm, and draws her towards the gate; still, as in a dream, she follows him. The bitterness of death is on her, yet she goes with him calmly—quietly. Perhaps there is a hope in her heart that as she had run away from him once, she might be able to do so again. But could she? Would he not, having been warned by her first escape, take pains to guard against a second? She knows that in her dreams, when he is not here, she can 179defy him, elude him, but to defy him when he is present would be too much for her; and, besides, he is her lawful guardian; he has said so. Her own mother had left her to him. He might call in the policeman in the village, and so compel her in that way. But oh, to go without saying good-bye to Mr. Wyndham!

He had said he would come to-day! But all hope of his coming now is at an end. And Mrs. Denis! Not even to see her—she might have helped her. And not to say one word to her, or to Susan! What—what will they all think of her?

At this moment they come to the hall-door of the Cottage, and she stops suddenly, and makes a little rush towards it, but the clutch on her arm is strong.

‘To say one word to Mrs. Denis,’ she gasps imploringly, damp breaking out upon her young forehead. ‘Oh!’—beating her hands with miserable agony upon her chest—‘think how it will be! They will for ever and ever remember me as ungrateful—unloving—a 180creature who had taken their love, and abused it. They will be glad to forget me.’

‘I hope so,’ says he coldly, utterly unmoved—nay, knowing even pleasure in her grief. ‘The sooner they forget you, and you them, the better. “They!”’ He repeats the word. ‘Why don’t you say “he” and be done with it?’ cries he furiously. ‘What a —— hypocrite you are!’

He almost drags her to the gate. Ella, half fainting, finds herself at it. It is the last step. In here lies safety and happiness and peace—out there—— Moore turns the key in the lock, and pulls at the handle of the door. Yes, it is all over. The door opens. At this instant a long, low, passionate cry escapes from Ella.

Wyndham is standing in the roadway just outside the gate!



‘Narrow minds think nothing right that is above their own capacity.’

‘What is the meaning of this?’ says Wyndham. He comes in quickly, locking the door and putting the key in his pocket. He has taken in the situation at a glance.

‘It means that I have come here to take this girl out of your hands,’ says Moore, who shows no fear, or anything else, save a concentrated hatred of the man before him.

‘Then you have come on an idle errand,’ says Wyndham haughtily. ‘I should advise you to amuse yourself on Christmas Days, in future, with something more likely to prove amusing. This young lady’—with 182strong emphasis—‘does not stir from this spot except at her own desire.’

‘She is coming, for all that,’ says Moore doggedly. Wyndham glances from him to Ella, who now, white as a sheet, is standing trembling, like a frightened creature, with one small hand uplifted to her lips, as if to hide their trembling. Her eyes are agonized, but in some way Wyndham can see that, though she fancies hope dead, still hope in him has lit one small spark.

‘Are you going?’ says Wyndham, addressing her directly.

‘No, no,’ breathes she from between her frozen lips. She takes a step forward. ‘Don’t let me go,’ says she.

‘Certainly I shan’t let you go,’ says Wyndham, with the utmost cheerfulness. ‘As a fact, indeed, I forbid you to go. I have excellent authority for looking after you.’

‘What authority?’ asks Moore, who has now struck a most aggressive attitude upon the gravel path. ‘I shall question that. 183You to talk of authority! Why, I tell you that you, and such as you, cut a very bad figure in a court of law.’

‘Never mind that, my man,’ says Wyndham. ‘I have no time now for impromptu speeches. May I ask what claim you have on this young lady?’

‘I am her rightful guardian,’ says Moore, ‘and I shall exercise my rights. Open that gate, or it will be the worse for you. You talk of claims! What claim have you? Is she your wife or your——’

Wyndham, who is now as white as Ella herself, turns to her:

‘Go away,’ says he quickly; ‘go at once.’

‘Hah! you don’t like her to hear it,’ cries Moore, now in a frenzy, as Ella, only too glad to get back into the beloved house, runs quickly towards the Cottage. He would have intercepted her flight, but Wyndham prevents him.

‘But if not your wife, what is she? Your mistress?’

184‘Hold your tongue, you —— scoundrel,’ says Wyndham, his eyes blazing.

‘Hold yours,’ says Moore. ‘Is she your wife? Come, answer that.’

‘No,’ says Wyndham. ‘But——’

‘No “buts” for me,’ says Moore. ‘I know the meaning of your “but.” Come, who’s the —— scoundrel now?’

‘You, beyond all doubt,’ says Wyndham. ‘Stand back, man’—as the other makes a lunge towards him—‘and listen to law, if not to reason. You have as much claim on her as the beggar in the street beyond, and you know it.’

‘I do not.’ Moore shows an air of open defiance. ‘Her mother died in my wife’s house, and my wife died later on and left her to me. That makes me her guardian, I reckon. As for you’—turning upon Wyndham defiantly—‘I wonder you can look an honest man in the face after what you’ve done to her.’

‘I can look an honester man than you in the face,’ says Wyndham quietly. ‘But let’s 185come to business. You wanted to marry her—eh?’

‘She told you that?’

‘Certainly she told me that.’

‘She told you most things, it seems to me’—with a sneer that is full of trouble and jealousy. ‘Aren’t you ashamed to repeat them—to me?’ He pauses, and his face grows positively livid. ‘To me, who would have married her fair and square, whilst you—what have you done?’ He steps forward, and makes as though he would clutch at Wyndham’s collar, but the latter flings him backward.

‘Well, what have I done?’

‘Ruined her, body and soul.’

‘You are wrong there,’ says Wyndham, who has recovered from his sudden temper, and is now quite calm. ‘You had better sit down and let us talk it over. You are wrong on all counts. I have done her no injury. You are not her proper guardian. She is in a position to support herself.’

‘She is not,’ says Moore coarsely.

186‘But she is, I assure you, if’—with elaborate politeness—‘you will permit me to explain. Miss—what is her name, by the way, Moore?’

‘That’—with a scowl—‘is for you to find out.’

‘True. Well, I shall find it out. In the meantime, I suppose you quite recognise the fact that all is at an end about that idea of yours that you have any power over her.’

‘It would take a good lawyer to convince me of that,’ says Moore insolently.

‘A good lawyer,’ says Wyndham. ‘Well, name one.’

‘Paul Wyndham, for one.’ Moore laughs sardonically as he says it, and looks at his antagonist as if defying him to question the power of the man he has named.

Wyndham smiles. After all, what a compliment this man has paid him! He dips his hand into his waistcoat-pocket, and brings out a leather card-case, and hands it to Moore. The latter opens it.

187There is a slight pause, then Moore gives him back the case in silence.

‘So you are Paul Wyndham?’ says he. His face has changed colour, but still his bull-dog courage sticks to him. ‘Then you ought to be the more ashamed of yourself.’

‘I expect I’ll make you very much ashamed of yourself,’ says Wyndham, ‘and that almost immediately. An abduction has a very unpleasant sound nowadays, and generally means trouble to the principal actor in it. I’d advise you to sit down and let us talk sense. I know all your dealings with this—this young lady, and they scarcely redound to your credit. In fact, I am pretty sure they would lead you into mischief—and six months’ hard labour—if eloquently stated. That is the very least you would get—unless——’

‘Six months! I am going abroad on Thursday next.’

‘Are you? I wouldn’t be too sure, if I were you,’ says Wyndham grimly. ‘It’s as bad a case of persecution as I have ever gone 188into. And I may as well say at once that, if you persist in your determination to carry off this poor child against her will, I shall call in the village police and expose the whole matter.’

Moore, who has been cowed by Wyndham’s name and the stern air of the barrister, in spite of his show of defiance, falters here, and the result of the long conversation that ensues between the two men leaves all in Wyndham’s hands.

At the end, seeing the game was up, Moore gave in unconditionally. He acknowledged that Ella’s name was not Moore. It was Haynes. She was no relation of his or his wife’s, but undoubtedly her mother had left the girl to their charge when dying, and as she was useful and his wife was fond of her, they kept her with them. Her father was dead. Mrs. Haynes had always been very reticent. He was of opinion that she had once been in better circumstances. Haynes was not respectable—he, Moore, had an idea that his father had cast him 189off. He was not at all sure that Haynes was his real name. He had, indeed, reasons for thinking it wasn’t, but he had never been able to discover anything; and when the child was left to them, his wife had insisted on calling her Moore. She had gone by that name ever since.

All this information was not given until payment had been demanded and made, and after that there had been a final settlement, by which all the small belongings of the girl were to be delivered up to Wyndham; over this part of the transaction Moore had proved himself specially shrewd. As the game was up, he was determined to see himself really well out of it; and in the end he made so excellent a bargain that Wyndham found himself a good deal out of pocket. The price he paid was certainly a heavy one for two boxes, that might contain anything or nothing, and, for an astute lawyer like Wyndham, bordered on the absurd. Beyond doubt, if he went to law with the fellow, Ella would have got her own, but then there 190would be the publicity, and—— Any way, he paid it—not so much for the boxes, however, as for the certainty that Moore would go abroad and leave Ella free. It was for that he bought and paid. But in spite of his better sense, that told him if there were anything in the boxes worth having Moore or his wife would have traded on it long ago, still he looked forward to the examining of them with a strange anxiety.

When they came, they brought only disappointment with them—one was a hideous trunk, absolutely empty; the other a small dressing-case that had been costly when first made, the clasps and fastenings being of silver. The bottles inside had no doubt been made of silver, but they were all gone. It was a melancholy relic, and Wyndham, looking at it, told himself that probably Ella’s mother had picked it up for the sake of its outside beauty (the wood was Coromandel, and very pretty) at some cheap sale. Inside it was as empty of information as the trunk itself, a reel or two of thread, a pair 191of old black silk gloves, and a little bit of fancy work half done, being the only things to be seen. No letters or clue of any sort. It looked like the dressing-case of a young girl. On the lid were engraved the letters E. B. He was right, then—of course Ella’s mother had bought it. What could E. B. have to do with Mrs. Haynes? Unless her maiden name. But it seemed a common story, scarce worth looking into any further. All that was to be seen to now was Moore’s departure. And this he saw to effectually, getting up on a pouring morning to see Moore off, and giving him half of the cheque agreed on, as he left the outward-bound ship that took Moore with it. The big trunk he got rid of through the means of Denis, who burnt it, and the dressing-case he took down to Ella, who regarded it with reverence, and made a little special place for it on one of the small tables in the drawing-room of the Cottage. It was all that remained to her, poor child—all that she knew—of the woman who was her mother.



‘Were my whole life to come one heap of troubles,
The pleasure of this moment would suffice,
And sweeten all my griefs with its remembrance.’

For the twentieth time within the last hour Susan has rushed tumultuously to the window, under the mistaken impression that she has heard the sound of wheels, and for the twentieth time has walked back dejectedly to her seat to the slow accompaniment of her aunt’s voice: ‘Impatience, Susan, never took a second off any hour.’ It sounds like a heading from a copy-book.

But Susan, after each disappointment, feels her spirits rise again, and, with glad delight in her heart, trifles with the work she is pretending to do. Betty and the boys are on 193the top of the garden wall, and have promised to send her instant tidings of the approach of the carriage. Susan felt she could not watch from there the home-coming of her Bonnie. The workings of the human mind are strange, and Susan, who had climbed many a wall in her time, and still can climb them with the best, shrank with a sort of nervous terror from being up there—on the top of that wall—when he came! She would have to climb down, you see, to meet her little sweetheart, whereas here it will be so easy to run out and catch him to her heart, and ask him if he has forgotten his Susan during all these long, long days.

But truly this sitting indoors is very trying. It would be much better to go to the gate and wait there. Even though those others on the garden wall will have the first glimpse of him, still—at the gate she would have the first kiss. Her father had gone to the station to meet him, but had forbidden the others to go with him. Susan had been somehow glad of this command. But to go 194to the gate! She had thought of this often, but had somehow recoiled from it through a sense of nervousness; but now it grows too much for her, and flinging down her work, she runs out of the room and up to the gate, and there stands trembling, listening, waiting.

Waiting for what? She hardly knows. Crosby’s letters of late have been very vague. They have scarcely conveyed anything. But that Bonnie is alive is certain, and that is all that Susan dwells on now. God grant he be not worse than when he left her—that he is better there seems no real reason for believing. But still he is coming back to her—her little boy!

And in this fair spring weather too, so closely verging on the warmer summer. That will be good for him. If Mr. Crosby had not taken him away when he did, surely those late winter frosts and colds would have chilled to death the little life left in his precious body.... A perfect passion of gratitude towards Crosby shakes her soul, 195and brings the tears to her eyes. She will never forget that, never. And though, of course, he has failed in a sense, and her little Bonnie will come back to her as he went—on crutches, that had always hurt so cruelly poor Susan’s heart—still, he has done all he could, and he is to be reverenced and loved for ever because of it. Who else, indeed, would have thought of the delicate child, or——

Oh! what is that?

She strains forward. Now—now really the sound of wheels is here. It is echoing through the village street, and now.... Now a shout has gone up from the denizens on the top of the garden wall, and now a carriage has turned the corner.

It has stopped. Mr. Crosby springs out of it; he looks at Susan, but Susan, after one swift glance, does not look at him; her eyes have gone farther, to a small, slim, beautiful boy who gets out of the carriage by himself, and slowly, but without a crutch, goes to Susan, and precipitates himself upon her with a little loving cry.

196‘Susan! Susan!’ says he.

‘Oh, Bonnie! Oh, Bonnie!’ Her arms are round him. They seem to hold him as though she could never let him go again. ‘Oh, Bonnie! you can walk by yourself!’

Suddenly she bursts into a storm of tears, and the child clinging to her cries too. ‘You can walk—you can walk alone!’ She repeats this between her sobs, her face buried in the boy’s pretty locks. It seems, indeed, as if she has nothing else to say—as if everything else is forgotten by her. The injury she had done him has been wiped out. He can walk without the aid of those terrible sticks.

The child, thin still, and now very pale through his emotion, yet wonderfully healthy in comparison with what he had been, pats her with his little hands; and presently he laughs—a laugh so free from pain, and so unlike the old laugh that was more sad than many others’ tears, that Susan looks up.

‘It is true, then,’ says she; ‘but walk for me again, Bonnie! Walk!’

Again Bonnie’s laugh rings clear—how 197sweet the music of it is!—and stepping back from her, he goes to his father, who had followed him out of the carriage, and from him to Crosby, and from him back again to Susan, slowly, carefully, yet with a certain vigour that speaks of perfect health in the near future.

Susan, who has looked as if on the point of fainting during this little trial, catches him in her slender arms. She is trembling visibly.

Crosby goes to her quickly.

‘I should have given you a hint,’ says he remorsefully. ‘I thought of only giving you a glad surprise; but it has been too much for you. I should have said a word or two.’

‘There is nothing, nothing you have left undone,’ says Susan, looking at him over Bonnie’s head, and speaking with a gratitude that is almost fierce. ‘Nothing!’

The others have all got down off their wall by this time, and are kissing and hugging Bonnie. After all, if they had had the first view of the carriage, still Susan has 198certainly had the best of the whole affair. Mr. Barry, with his handsome, gaunt face, radiant now, is endeavouring to hold them back.

‘You will come in?’ says Susan to Crosby. ‘Auntie is waiting for you, to thank you—as if’—her eyes slowly filling again—‘anyone could thank you.’

‘Oh, you can!’ says Crosby, laughing. ‘I was never so thanked in all my life. Why, your eyes, Susan! They hold great worlds of gratitude. You’ll have to stop being thankful to me, or I shall run away once more. And’—he looks at her with a half-laugh on his lips, but question in his eyes—‘you would not like to drive me into exile so soon again, would you?’

‘No, no!’ says Susan. ‘You have been a very long time away as it is.’

‘You have missed me, I hope—by that.’

‘We have all missed you,’ says Susan softly.

‘That’s a very general remark. Have you missed me?’

199‘Every hour of the day,’ says Susan fervently—too fervently, too openly. Crosby laughs again, but there is a tincture of disappointment in his mirth this time.

‘Faithful little friend!’ returns he gaily. ‘No, Susan, I don’t think I’ll go in now; but tell Miss Barry from me that I shall come down to-morrow to see her and my little charge. By-the-by, I have kept my promise to you about loving him. It was easy work; I don’t wonder now at your love for him. I assure you I feel downright lonely at the thought of leaving him behind me.’

He presses her hand lightly, and goes towards Bonnie.

‘Well, good-bye, old man,’ says he, catching the child and drawing him towards him.

‘Oh no. Oh, you won’t go!’ says Bonnie anxiously.

‘For the present I must. And mind you go to bed early and sleep well, or there will be a regular row on when next we meet.’

200‘You will come this evening?’ says the child, hardly listening to him.

‘No;’ he shakes his head.

‘To-morrow, then?’ entreats the child, clinging to him.

‘To-morrow, yes.’ He whispers something in his ear, and the boy, flinging his arm round his neck, kisses him warmly. Crosby smiles at Susan. ‘See what chums we are,’ says he.



‘What Zal said once to Rostum dost thou know?
“Think none contemptible who is thy foe.”’

To-morrow brings him, faithful to his word. It brings, too, a great many gifts with him. Is there one child of the house forgotten? Not one. And even Miss Barry is remembered.

‘Oh, how good, how kind of you!’ says Susan. ‘Fancy remembering every one of us!’

‘I don’t believe I was ever called good before,’ says Crosby. ‘It makes me feel like the bachelor uncle’—as he says this he thinks again of the kiss that Susan had once given him—‘and old, quite hopelessly old!’

‘Nonsense!’ says Susan. ‘You?’—looking at him—‘you are not old.’

202‘Go to, flatterer! You really shouldn’t, Susan! Flattery is bad for people generally, and for me in particular. I’m very open to it.’

‘I don’t flatter,’ says Susan. She laughs and runs away to answer a call from her aunt, who is evidently struggling with an idea, in one of the rooms within.

‘Who’s that on the tennis-ground?’ asks Crosby of Betty as they are standing on the hall-door steps.

‘Oh, don’t you know? That’s James. He came back a week ago. Of course, now I think of it’—airily—‘you couldn’t know, as we were unable to write to you for the past week. But it’s James. You remember hearing about him?’ Crosby does. ‘Well, he’s home on leave now. But,’ says Betty, giving way to suppressed mirth, ‘I think his wits have gone astray, and he believes his home is here. Anyway, we can always find him somewhere, round any corner, from ten to eight. And’—she grows convulsed with silent mirth again—‘he’s just as spooney on Susan as ever!’

203‘Yes?’ says Crosby.

‘He’s perfectly ridiculous. He is here morning, noon and night. And when she lets him, he sits in her pocket by the hour. Of course it bores her, but Susan is so absurdly good-natured that she puts up with everything. Come down and have a game of tennis. Do!’

Betty, who is bon camarade with Crosby, slips her hand into his arm and leads him tennis-wards.

So this is James. Crosby gives direct attention to the young man on the tennis-ground below him. A young man got up in irreproachable flannels, and with a sufficiently well-bred air about him. Crosby gives him all his good points without stint. He is well got up, and well groomed, and decently shaved—and confoundedly ugly. He laughs as he tells himself this. There is solace in the thought. In fact, James McIlveagh with his big nose and little eyes, and the rather heavy jaw, and the general look of doggedness about him, could hardly be 204considered a beauty except by a deluded mother.

He is playing a set with Carew against Dom and Jacky, who is by no means to be despised as a server. It occurs to Crosby, watching him, that he is playing rather wildly, and giving more attention to the hall-door in the distance than to his adversary. Game and set are called for Dom and Jacky. It is with an open sense of joy upon his ugly face that Mr. McIlveagh flings down his racket and balls; and indeed presently, when he goes straight towards——

Towards whom?

Crosby, curious, follows the young man’s going, and then sees Susan.

Susan, with Bonnie! A Bonnie who now trots happily beside her, and is evidently quite her slave—a pretty undoing of the old days, when she was always his. Tommy, full of toys brought by Crosby—a white rabbit, a performing elephant, an awful bear, and various other delightful things tucked under his fat arms—is following them.

205And now McIlveagh has reached her. He is speaking to her. Crosby, with a grim sense of amusement at his own frame of mind, wonders what on earth that idiot can be saying.

Presently Susan, smiling sweetly, and shaking her head as if giving a very soft refusal to some proposal on the part of James, comes this way. Tommy has caught hold of Bonnie’s hand—the new Bonnie, who can now run about with him—and is dragging him towards the little wood, and Susan is protesting. But now Bonnie is protesting too. ‘I can go, Susan. I have walked a great deal farther than that. I have really.’ Crosby, watching still, as if infatuated, can see that Susan is studying Bonnie silently, as if in great amazement.

This little, well Bonnie seems almost impossible to her. Bonnie going for a run—alone into the wood!

Crosby comes up to her.

‘I hardly realize it,’ she says gently, her eyes still upon the retreating form of the child.

206‘A great many things are hard to realize,’ says he. ‘For my part, I find it very hard to see myself supplanted.’


‘Decidedly. And by the redoubtable James. By the way, Susan, I think you gave me a distinctly wrong impression of that hero in the beginning of our acquaintance. He doesn’t look half so wild as you represented him.’

‘As for that’—indifferently—‘I suppose they have drilled him.’

‘He’s quite presentable,’ glancing at the young soldier in question, who, a few yards off, is looking as ugly as any impressionist could desire, and sulky into the bargain. He can see that Susan is sitting with a stranger, and evidently quite content—and—who the deuce is that fellow, anyway?

‘What did you expect him to be?’ asks Susan.

‘Unpresentable, of course. I’ve been immensely taken in. And by you, Susan! You quite led me to expect something interesting—a 207rare specimen—and here he is, as like one of the rest of us as two peas.’

‘Did you expect him to have two heads?’ asks Susan, with a rather ungrateful levity, considering James is an old friend of hers.

‘I hardly hoped for so much,’ says Crosby. ‘I’m not greedy. As a rule I am thankful for small mercies—perhaps’—with a thoughtful glance at her—‘because big ones don’t come my way. And I don’t think you need be so very angry with me, Susan, because I think the excellent James less ugly than’—with a reproachful air—‘I had been led to believe.’

‘I think him hideous,’ says Susan promptly, and with no attempt at softening of any sort.

‘Alas! Poor James! But do you really?’

‘Very really,’ says Susan, laughing. ‘Just look at his profile.’

‘It’s a good honest one,’ says Crosby. ‘If a trifle——’

‘Well, I suppose it’s the trifle,’ says Susan.

‘I have seen worse.’

208‘Oh! you can think him an Apollo if you like,’ says Susan, with a little shrug. Shrugs from Susan are so unexpected that Crosby regards her with interest. The unexpected is often very delightful, and certainly Susan, at this moment, with her little new petulant mood upon her, is as sweet as sunshine. It seems all at once to Crosby that he is seeing her now again for the first time, with a fresh idea of her. What a little slender maiden—and how beautiful, even in her thin ‘uneducated’ frock, that has so often seen the tub, and is of a fashion of five years ago! And yet, in a way, that old frock is kind to her—who would not be kind to her? It stands to her, in spite of its age. It throws out all the beauties of her delicately-built, but healthy young figure.

Susan here, in this primitive gown, is Susan! Susan got up in silks and laces and satins, and all the fripperies of fashion, what would she be like?

It is a question quickly answered. Why, she would be Susan too! Nothing could 209change that gentle, tender heart. He feels quite sure of that. It would only be Susan glorified! A Susan that would probably reduce to envy half the so-called society beauties of the season.

Here he breaks through his thoughts, and comes back to the moment.

‘I don’t like your tone,’ says he reproachfully; ‘it savours of unkindness. And considering how long it is since last we met——’

Here Susan interrupts him, remorse tearing at her soul:

‘I know. Seven months.’

‘You must have found it long,’ says Crosby. ‘I make it only twenty-two hours, and’—consulting his watch—‘sixteen minutes.’

‘Oh! if you are alluding to yesterday,’ says Susan, with dignity that has a sort of disgust in it.

‘Of course.’

‘I thought you were alluding to your being away in Germany. And as to finding it long’—resentfully—‘I think you must have found 210it very much longer, if you can count to a minute like that.’

Was there ever such a child? Crosby roars with laughter, though something in his laughter amounts to passionate tenderness.

‘Forgive me, Susan!’ He leans forward, and takes her hand. As he feels it within his—close clasped, and not withdrawn—and with Susan’s earnest eyes looking into his, words spring to his lips: ‘Susan, once you took me under your protection. Do you remember that old garden, and——’

Whatever he was going to say is here rudely broken in upon by the advance of James, who, though distinctly ugly, looks no longer dull. He seems now dreadfully wide-awake. Susan draws her hand quickly away, and Crosby, who believes she has done this lest James should see the too friendly attitude, is still further mortified by her manner.

‘I think I told you you were not to speak of that—that hateful day again,’ says she; 211and turning from him as if eternally offended, seats herself on a rug quite far away from him, and in such a position that James can find a resting-place at her feet—a fact he is very swift to see.

The others have all come up now, and Dom, who is terribly conversational, opens the ball.

‘What are you now, James?’ asks he. ‘General?’

‘Not quite,’ responds James gruffly, who naturally objects to being chaffed in the presence of the beloved one.

‘Colonel? Eh?’

‘Don’t be stupid, Dom,’ says Susan suddenly. ‘He is a lieutenant, but soon he’ll be a captain—won’t you, James? Come up here and take part of my rug.’

‘Oh no! no!’ says James, in a nervous, flurried tone that is filled with absolute adoration; ‘I like being here.’


‘My dear Susan, why interfere with his mad joy?’ says Dom in a whisper that is 212meant to be perfectly audible, and is so, to all around. ‘He’ll catch cold to a moral; and he’s frightfully uncomfortable. But to sit at your feet: what comfort could compare with that?’

‘Several,’ says Susan calmly. ‘Come here, James. I want to talk to you.’

And, indeed, from this moment she devotes herself to the devoted James. Crosby she ignores completely, and when at last he rises to go, she says ‘good-bye’ to him with a very conventional air.

‘Are you really going—and so soon?’

The others have moved a little away from them.

‘What is the good of my staying when you won’t even look at me?’

‘I am looking at you,’ says Susan, flushing scarlet, but compelling her eyes to rest on his—for a moment only, however. ‘But—you know I don’t like you to allude to that day.’

‘It was a very small allusion. It gave you’—slowly—‘your chance, however.’

213‘My chance?’

‘To amuse yourself with the man of war.’

‘You think that I——’

‘I think a good deal at times.’ He laughs lightly, if a little anxiously. ‘I am thinking even now.’

‘Of me?’

‘Naturally’—smiling. ‘Am I not always thinking of you?’

‘But what—what?’ demands she imperiously, tapping her slender foot upon the ground.

‘That you do not believe the martial James so hideous after all.’

‘Then you are wrong—quite wrong’—vehemently.

‘Yes? Well, then, I think now——’


‘That you are a very dangerous little coquette.’

Susan’s colour fades. A frown wrinkles her lovely brow.

‘I am not!’ says she coldly. ‘If all your 214thinking has only come to that—I—despise your thoughts.’

It is the nearest approach to a quarrel he has ever had with her; but, instead of depressing him, it seems to exalt him, and he goes on his way apparently rejoicing.



‘There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my love, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate.’

To-day the sun is out, and all the walks at the Cottage are glittering in its rays. Sparks like diamonds come from the small white stones in the gravel, and the grassy edges close to them—clean shaven by Denis, who is down again on a penitential visit to his wife—are sweet and fresh, and suggestive of a desire to make to-day’s work a work again for to-morrow, so quickly the spring blades grow and prosper.

Wyndham, as he walks from the station to this pretty spot, takes great note of Nature. 216Lately the loveliness—the charm of it!—the desire that grows in the heart for it, has come to him, has sunk into his soul. As he goes life seems everywhere, and with it such calm!... And here in this old home, what a place it is! A veritable treasury of old-world delights—

‘Dewy pastures, dewy trees,
Softer than sleep—all things in order stored,
A haunt of ancient peace.’

As he walks from the gate to the Cottage, a slim figure darting sideways brings him to a standstill. After her bounds a huge dog. Wyndham restrains the cry upon his lips that would have called the dog to him, and, standing still, watches the pretty pair.

He has come down to-day with the intention, avowed and open to his heart, of asking this girl to marry him. That the deed will mean ruin to him socially he knows, but he has faced the idea. That she will probably accept him seems clear, but that it will not be for love seems even clearer. She has always treated him as one who had given her 217a helping hand out of her Slough of Despond, but no more.

Many days have led to his decision of to-day, and many thoughts, and many sleepless nights. But he has conquered all fears save that supreme one that she does not love him.

This marriage, if he can persuade her to it, will offend his uncle, Lord Shangarry. Not a farthing will that old Irish aristocrat leave him if he knows he has wedded himself to a girl outside his own world—a mere waif and stray, disreputable, as many would call her.


It was when this thought of what his friends’ view of his marriage would be first came to him, and with it a mad longing to seize the throats of those hideous scandalmongers, that Wyndham knew that he loved the girl he had saved and protected—and most honourably loved.

And to-day—well, he has come down to ask her to marry him. Shangarry’s money may go, and all things else that the old lord 218can keep from him; the title will still be his—and hers; and with his profession, and the talent that they say is his, and the money left him by his dead mother—oh, if she had lived and seen Ella!—he may still be able to keep up the old name, if not in its old splendour, at all events with a sort of decency.

Ella is now running towards him, as he stands in the shelter of the rhododendrons, the dog running after her, jumping about her, with soft velvety paws and a wagging tail. Suddenly he springs upon her and threatens the daintiness of her frock.

‘Down now! Down now! Down!’ cries she, laughing. She catches the handsome brute round the neck, and looks into his eyes. “Does he love his own missis, then? Then down! It is really down now, sir. Not another jump. See’—glancing ruefully at her pretty white serge dress—‘the stains you have made here already.’

How soft, how delicate is her voice, how full of affection for the dog! Surely, ‘There’s nothing ill can dwell in such a temple.’

219Wyndham comes forward very casually from amongst the bushes.

‘Oh—you!’ cries she, colouring delightfully, but showing no embarrassment—he would have liked a little embarrassment. He tells himself that the want of it quite proves his theory that she regards him merely as a good friend—no more.

‘Yes; I have run down for an hour or so. You’—looking round him—‘have been quite a good fairy to my flowers, I see.’

‘Oh, your flowers!’ says she gaily, yet shyly too. Her air is of the happiest. She has, indeed, been a different creature since Wyndham had assured her a few months ago of Moore’s actual arrival in Australia. ‘Why, they are mine now, aren’t they? You have given them to me with this.’ She threw out her arms in a little appropriative way towards the garden.

‘In a way—yes.’ He pauses. Passion is rising within him. ‘Come in,’ says he abruptly. ‘There is something I must say to you.’

220The pretty drawing-room is bright with flowers, and there is a certain air of daintiness—a charm—about the whole place that tells of the refinement of its owner. It is not Miss Manning who has given this delicate cosiness to it—Miss Manning, good soul, who is now in the kitchen, very proud in the fond belief that she is helping Mrs. Denis to make marmalade. No! In every cluster of early roses, in every bunch of sweet-smelling daffodils, in the pushing of the chairs here, and the screens there, Wyndham can see the touch of Ella’s hand.

In the far-off window, on a little table, stands the dressing-case that he had sent her after his interview with Moore. It is open, and some of the contents—what remains of them—with their silver tops, are shining in the rays of the sun. The girl’s glance catches them, and all at once the merry touch upon her lips dies away, and gloom settles on her brow. The lost bottles, the battered and dismantled case, seem to Wyndham but the broken links of a broken life, and a thrill of pity urges him to instant speech.

221‘Don’t look like that, Ella.’ And then, with a burst of passion and grief: ‘My darling, what does it matter?’ And then again, almost without a stop, ‘Ella, will you marry me?’

For a moment she looks at him as if not understanding. Then a most wonderful light springs into her eyes. But when he would go to her and take her in his arms, she puts out hers, and almost imperiously forbids him.

‘No,’ says she clearly, if a little wildly perhaps.

‘But why—why? Oh, this is nonsense! You know—you must have known for a long time—that I love you.’

‘I did not know,’ says she faintly. ‘I—even now it seems impossible. Don’t!’ as he makes a movement towards her. ‘Don’t misunderstand me. I know now’—her voice breaking a little—‘that it might have been. But what is impossible’—her young voice growing rounder, fuller, and unutterably wretched—‘is that I should marry you.’

‘You think because——’

222But she sweeps his words aside.

‘It is useless,’ says she, with a strength strange in one so few miles advanced upon life’s roadway, until one remembers how sad and eventful those few miles she has trodden have been—how full of miserable knowledge, how full of the cruel lesson—how to bear! ‘I am nobody, less than nobody. And you—are somebody. Do you think I would consent to ruin your life—the life of the only one who has—who has ever stood my friend?’

‘This gratitude is absurd!’ he breaks in eagerly. ‘What have I done for you? Let you the Cottage at a fair rental!’

‘Ah, no!’ There is irrepressible sadness in her air. She struggles with herself, holding her hands against her eyes for a little while—pressing them hard, as if to keep down her emotion. ‘I won’t—I can’t go into it,’ says she brokenly. ‘But when I forget—Mr. Wyndham’—she turns upon him passionately—‘never ask me that question again. Nothing on earth would induce me to link my name with yours.’ She pauses, 223and a hot blush covers her face. ‘My name!’—she repeats her words with determination, though he can see how the determination hurts her—‘I have no name.’

‘That is all the more reason why you should take mine,’ breaks he in hotly.

‘And so destroy it. I shall not, indeed,’ says the girl firmly. Her firmness is costing her a good deal. It causes Wyndham absolute physical suffering to see the pallor of her face, the trembling of her slight form. But that he can shake her decision seems improbable. Something in her face takes him back to that terrible hour in which he first saw her, when with pale face and undaunted spirit she accepted the chance of death. Her voice, even in this hour of renunciation of all that she holds dearest, rings clear. ‘Do you think I would requite all your kindness to me by being the cause of your disinheritance by your uncle? Do you think Lord Shangarry would ever forgive your marriage with a woman of whom no one knows anything—not even her parentage?’

224‘I am willing to risk all that.’

‘But I’—slowly—‘am not.’

‘Ella, if you loved me——’

‘Ah!’ A cry breaks from her, a cry that betrays her secret, and convinces him of her love for him. It is full of exquisite pain, and seems to wound her. Is it not because she loves him that—— ‘Well, then,’ says she miserably, ‘say I do not. Think I do not.’

‘I will not think it,’ cries he vehemently, ‘until you say it. Ella, my beloved, what has this old man’s wealth to do with you or me? What has the world to do with us? Come now, look into it with me. Here are you, and here am I, and what else is there in all the wide world for us two, Ella?’ And now he breaks into earnest, most manly entreaties, and wooes her with all his soul, and at last—as a true lover should—upon his knees.

But she resists him, pushing his clasping hands away.

‘I will not! I will not!’ repeats she steadfastly.

225‘Oh, you are cold; you do not care,’ cries he suddenly.

He springs to his feet, angry, yet filled with an admiration for her that has, if not increased his love, made it more open to him. A strong man himself, and hard to move, he can see the splendid strength of this poor girl, who, because of her love for him, refuses his love for her.

His sudden movement has upset the small table on which the dressing-case is standing, and brings it heavily to the ground.

There is a crash, a breaking asunder of the sides of the case, and here on the carpet before their astonished gaze lies a small sheaf of letters and a faded photograph. Where had they come from? Had there been a secret drawer? Wyndham, stooping, picks them up. A name catches his eye. Why, this thing, surely, is a certificate of marriage!

As he reads, hurriedly, breathlessly, going from one letter to another and back again, from the few pages of a small disconnected 226diary to the marriage certificate in his other hand, his face grows slowly white as death.

‘Oh, what is it?’ cries Ella at last.

‘Give me time.’ His tone is full of ill-repressed agitation.

Again he reads.

The girl drops on her knees beside him, her face no less white than his. What does it all mean? What secret do these old letters hold? The photograph is lying still upon the floor, and her eyes, riveting themselves upon it, feel at once as though they were looking at someone—someone remembered—loved! She stares more eagerly. Surely it reminds her, too, of ... of—she leans closer over it—of someone feared and hated! Oh! how could that gentle face be feared—or hated—and yet, was there not someone, who——

‘Oh, I know it!’ cries she suddenly, violently. She springs to her feet as if stung, and turns a ghastly face on Wyndham. ‘Look at it!’ cries she, gasping, pointing 227to the photograph at her feet. ‘It is like your aunt, Mrs. Prior.’

‘Like your aunt!’ says Wyndham slowly, emphatically. The hand with the letters in it has dropped to his side, but he is holding those old documents as if in a vice.

‘Mine—Mrs. Prior—oh no! oh no!’ says Ella, making a gesture of fear and horror.

‘Yes, yours and mine, Ella!’ There is passionate delight and triumph in his whole air. ‘A moment ago you said you had no name; now—now,’ striking the papers in his hand, ‘you have one! These are genuine, I swear they are, and they prove you to be the grand-daughter of Sir John Burke, and of—strangest of all things—the Professor.’

‘I—how can I understand? What is it?’ asks she faintly.

He explains it to her, and it is, indeed, all that he has said. The breaking up of that queer old dressing-case, that afterwards Mrs. Prior had most unwillingly to admit belonged to Ella’s mother—the lost Eleanor Burke—brought all things to a conclusion. There 228was the diary in it that proved the writer to be Eleanor Burke beyond all doubt, and the heiress of her dead father, Sir John; and there was the marriage certificate that proved poor Eleanor’s marriage to as big a scamp as could be found in Europe, which is saying a good deal; and there were many other letters besides, to show that the scamp, who called himself Haynes to evade the law (and his father), was the son of Professor Hennessy. That Ella had forgotten the other name her poor mother bore, ‘Haynes,’ and had let her identity be lost in the word ‘Moore,’ had, of course, much to do with the unhappy mystery that had so long surrounded her. After Sir John’s death—that left Eleanor, his eldest girl, his heir, or failing her, her children—much search had been made for Eleanor under the name of Haynes, but naturally without avail. Anyway, the whole thing had gradually sunk out of sight; Eleanor was accepted as dead, and her fortune lapsing to Mrs. Prior, she reigned in her stead.

229‘You see how it is,’ says Wyndham, who from a rather prematurely old, self-contained man has developed into an ordinary person, full of enthusiasm. ‘You are now Miss Hennessy—a hideous name, I allow. But you were,’ with a flick of humour, ‘so very anxious for a name of any sort, that perhaps you will forgive the ugliness. And you are heir to a good deal of money on both sides. Mrs. Prior will have to hand out a considerable amount of her capital, and as for me ... I feel nothing less than a defrauder. You know your grandfather, the Professor, left me the bulk of his fortune—not knowing you were so much as in the world at the time he made his will. Of course, that, too—— Are you listening, Ella?’

The fact that the girl is not listening to him has evoked this remark. Whatever ‘gray grief’ had to do with her a few minutes ago, before the breaking of her mother’s dressing-case, it has nothing to do with her now. All the splendour of youth has come back to her face, and all the happiness; 230yet still it is quite plain to him that her mind is not set on the money that fate has cast upon her path, or on the high chances of gaining a place in society, but on——

‘No,’ says she slowly, simply, and with a touch of trouble, as if bringing her mind with difficulty back to something far away.

‘You must give me your attention for a moment,’ says he sharply. Ever since he discovered that she was not only the possessor of a very good name, in spite of its ugliness, but also the heiress of a very considerable sum of money, all passion has died out of his tone. If he thought, however, by this to deceive her with regard to his honest feeling for her, he is entirely mistaken. ‘There are things to which you will have to listen—to which you ought to wish to listen. And if’—with a frown—‘you will not think of your good fortune, of what will you think?’

There is a long silence. And then there is a little rush towards him, and two arms are flung round his neck.

231‘I am thinking,’ cries she softly, clinging to him, ‘that now I can marry you.’

Heavenly moments on this side of the sky are few and far between. It is Ella, so strangely unlike a woman, who breaks into the delicious silence.

‘That night! I wish now——’

‘Wish nothing, so far as that is concerned. That night I saw you first gave you to me.’


‘That sounds like fright,’ interrupts he, laughing. ‘But you are not easily frightened, are you? That night—you see, I insist upon going back to it’—catching her hands and drawing her to him—‘no, you shall not be ashamed of it. That night in which we both met for the first time you were not frightened. You walked towards death without a qualm.’

‘Ah, I was too wretched then to be frightened of anything!’ says she.

She looks at him, a smile parts her lips, 232and slowly, slowly she leans towards him until her cheek is resting against his.

‘I should be frightened now,’ says she softly, tenderly.

His arms close round her. He clasps her to his heart.



‘Your heart is never away,
But ever with mine, for ever,
For ever, without endeavour,
To-morrow, love, as to-day;
Two blent hearts never astray,
Two souls no power may sever,
Together, O my love, for ever!’

There was a deal of trouble over it for a while, but when that faded photograph and the certificate and the diary were brought into a larger light things smoothed down. Shangarry saw at once how it must end, and accepted the situation gracefully; but Mrs. Prior was a little hard to manage until Ella (who refused point-blank to meet her) declared her determination not to take more than half the money that had been left to 234her by Sir John Burke, her grandfather. It was quite astonishing how Mrs. Prior softened towards her after that. But Ella stood firm and would not see her.

Later on she might consent to meet—at Lord Shangarry’s, perhaps (he had fallen in love with the pretty, gentle girl who had endured so much), or at Lady Forster’s house this season—Lady Forster had written a very charming note—but not just now. Gentle as Ella was, she could not forgive too readily. Yes, Lady Forster’s would be the best place. They would be in town after their honeymoon, and there they could see Mrs. Prior and break the ice, as it were.

But to-day no ice has to be broken. Ella, who has arranged with Wyndham to meet him in the old Rectory garden, has gone over quite early to be petted and made much of by all there—Carew excepted. That unhappy youth, his first grand passion having been ruthlessly laid in the dust, and with yet another new trouble that had arrived by the post some days ago upon his shoulders, has 235carried himself and his injured affections far, far away, to a distant trout stream.

Wyndham is staying with Crosby, who is most honestly glad of his friend’s successful exit from a difficult situation. He has, indeed, been highly sympathetic all through, astonishingly so for so determined a bachelor, as he seems to Wyndham, who six months ago had seemed quite as determined a bachelor to Crosby. Only to-day, at luncheon, he had told Wyndham not to mind about leaving him when the ‘Rectory’ called. He (Crosby) might walk down there later on. But he advised Wyndham to hurry up, to start as early as he liked, not to wait for him, and so forth. Wyndham took him at his word, decided not to wait, and was therefore naturally a little surprised to find Crosby on the door-steps, not only ready to go with him, but distinctly impatient. This seemed such devotion to the cause, such honest friendliness towards him and Ella, that Wyndham felt quite grateful to him.

236‘How happy they look!’ says Miss Barry to Susan, finding herself alone with her niece for a moment. She is looking at Wyndham and Ella, who indeed seem to have reached their pinnacle of bliss. ‘And no wonder,’ with a sigh. ‘He is a most excellent match. Not only money, but a title—in the distance. I can’t help wishing, Susan,’ sighing again, and more heavily this time, ‘that it had been you.’

‘Me! I wouldn’t marry him for anything,’ says Susan indignantly.

‘That’s what girls always say,’ says Miss Barry mournfully, ‘until they are asked.’ Perhaps she herself had said it many times. ‘But I assure you, Susan, money is a good thing—and your poor father just now, with the loss of this four hundred pounds that he had laid aside for Carew——’

‘Oh, I know!’ says Susan miserably. ‘It is dreadful. Poor, poor father—and poor Carew, too! I suppose he can’t go in for his exam now?’

‘No, I’m afraid not, unless some miraculous 237thing should occur. Susan!’—Miss Barry looks wistfully at her niece—‘James, now, he will be well off—and he could help us. If you could——’

‘Could what?’ Susan’s eyes are almost menacing.

‘Think of him—in that way. He is well off, my dear, and——’

‘I shall not marry James,’ says Susan distinctly. ‘I wonder how you could suggest it to me.’

‘Certainly he is very ugly,’ says Miss Barry, who has grown, poor soul, very meek of late; the smashing of the bank that had held the four hundred pounds, the savings of years, that the Rector had laid by with the hope of putting his eldest boy into the army, has lowered her spirit. Poverty seems to pursue them. And the sight of the Rector, crushed and more gaunt than usual, has gone to her old heart. If only Susan—any of them—could be provided for. How happy that girl Ella is! how rich the man is who has chosen her! and yet is she to be so much 238as compared with Susan? Miss Barry’s soul swells within her at the injustice of it all.

If only Susan could be induced to think of James McIlveagh. But no, Susan is not like that. She looks up suddenly, and there before her eyes are James and Susan strolling leisurely, in quite a loverlike way, towards the little shrubbery. Can the girl have taken her hint to heart? A glow of hope radiates her mind for a moment. But then come other thoughts, and fear, and trouble, and a keen, strange disappointment.

No, no! Susan—Susan to be worldly! Her pretty girl! God grant she has not been the means of driving her to belie her better—her own—self.

Good gracious! If Susan comes back and tells her she has engaged herself to James because of her father’s trouble—because of Carew’s trouble—what shall she do? Miss Barry, who is hardly equal to emergencies so great as this, looks with a certain wildness round her. Who can help her? That 239foolish girl must be sent for; brought back from that shrubbery where Miss Barry, in her panic, feels now assured James is once again, for the hundredth time, proposing to her, and being (no doubt to his everlasting astonishment) accepted. The last words can’t have been said as yet: there may still be time to drag Susan out of the fire.

Wyndham and Ella and Miss Manning are coming towards her. Ella is going home; it is nearly seven o’clock, and Wyndham will have barely time to see her to the Cottage and catch his train to Dublin. Miss Barry bids him a rather hurried good-bye, and then looks round for Betty. Betty is always useful—when she can be found! But unfortunately Betty and Dom have gone off to eat green gooseberries in the vegetable garden, a fearsome occupation, of which they are both disgracefully fond, and that seems to affect their stomachs in no wise. Betty, therefore, is not to be had, but Miss Barry’s troubled eye wandering round sees Crosby, who is sitting with Bonnie on his knee, and 240with courage born of desperation she beckons him to come to her.

‘Mr. Crosby, I want Betty. Where is she?’

‘I think she went into the garden a moment ago with Dom.’

‘Do you mind—would you be so good as to tell her I want her, and at once?’

‘Certainly,’ says Crosby, laughing; ‘though she and Dom, or both, bring down all the anathemas in the world on my head.’

He starts on his quest, a little glad, indeed, to get away from the others. Early in the afternoon he had had a little tiff with Susan—just a small thing, a mere breeze, and certainly of his own creating. He had said something about James—why the deuce can’t he leave James alone? But it seems he can’t of late; and Susan had been a little, just a little—what was it?—offended? Well, put out in some way, at all events. Perhaps after all she does care for James. Like to like, you know—and youth to youth; and there can be but a year or two between him and Susan.

241At this moment there is a quick movement of the branches on his left; someone is pushing the laurel bushes aside with an angry, impatient touch, and now——

Susan has stepped into view; a new Susan—angry, pale, hurried. Her soft eyes are dark and frowning, but as she sees Crosby they lighten again, and grow suddenly thick with tears. Then, as though in him lie comfort and protection, she runs to him, holding out her hands.

He catches them, and saying nothing, draws her down the bank and into a little leafy recess that leads to a small wood beyond. The touch of her hand is good to him. She has forgiven, then, that late little conflict. She can be angry with James, too, it seems. Confound that fool! What has he been saying to her?

‘Well?’ says he.



‘My lady is so fair and dear
That all my heart to her is given;
One word she whispered in my ear,
And earth for me was changed to heaven.’

He has held one of her hands all the time, but now she releases it. She has recovered herself marvellously, but there is still a good deal of nervousness in the laugh that breaks from her as she seats herself in the old rustic seat in the corner.

‘Well—what?’ She is evidently prepared to carry it off boldly.

‘You don’t mean to tell me there was no reason for that look in your eyes just now?’

There is a very obstinate look in his own eyes just now, at all events.

‘What look?’

243‘Susan,’ says Crosby, with a solemn shake of his head, ‘you might as well give it up at once. You were never made for this sort of thing. You wouldn’t take in a new-born infant. Come, get it off your mind. Make your confession. What has the immaculate James been doing?’

‘James!’ She tries to look surprised, but breaks down ignominiously. ‘Oh, nothing’—hurriedly—‘nothing.... Nothing at all, really! Only—he’s so stupid!’

‘He’s been stupid very often of late, hasn’t he? Look here’—severely—‘you are suppressing something; either you or he (and you for choice, I should say, judging by the obvious guilt upon your countenance) have been doing something of which you are thoroughly ashamed. Even such small signs of grace are to be welcomed, but in the meantime I think a fuller confession would make for the good of your soul. Come, what have you been doing?’

‘It was James a moment ago,’ says she slowly.

244‘Was it?’—quickly—‘I thought as much. But what was he doing a moment ago?’

‘Nonsense’—flushing hotly—‘you know what I mean—that it was James you were accusing a moment ago.’

‘True! And it should have been you. I am in fault this time, then. That makes a third.’

‘No, indeed, because I am not in fault at all.’

‘Then it was the immaculate one! What of him? Has he been at his old game again: chasing you round the garden to——’

‘Mr. Crosby!’ There is indignant protest in her tone, but the rich colour that rises to her cheek tells him that his guess has been at least partly accurate.

‘Not that,’ says he. ‘Foolish James!’ Even as he says these idle words he is cursing James up hill and down dale for the abominable impertinence of him. No little shred of allowance for James’ honest love for this pretty maiden enters into his heart.

‘Well—go on! That is only a negative statement—if it is a statement at all.’

245‘There is nothing to tell. And’—she pauses—‘and, any way, I won’t tell it,’ says she.

Crosby suppresses a desire to laugh. Oh, how sweet—how sweet his little darling is!

‘Not even to me—your guide, philosopher, and friend? Susan’—he is looking into her eyes as if compelling an answer—‘he proposed to you again, didn’t he?’

‘Oh yes,’ says Susan, as if throwing a load off her mind; ‘and when I told him again that I couldn’t and wouldn’t—he—he was horrid. And he wanted——’ She stops.

‘Yes’—Crosby’s voice is sharp now—‘but you didn’t——’

‘No, no! But I hate him!’

‘So do I, with all my soul,’ says Crosby, more to himself, however, than for her hearing. He stands looking on the ground for a bit, and then:

‘So you have refused the gunner. Poor James! You don’t really care for him, then?’

‘I thought all the world knew that,’ says Susan. ‘Why’—with almost pathetic contempt—‘can’t 246he know it? It is unkind of him, isn’t it, to make me so unkind? But I can’t love him—I can’t!’ A little sigh escapes her.

The rose on the straggling bush above her is not sweeter or more beautiful than Susan is now, with her pretty bent head and her flower-like face, and all the delicate beauty of her soul shining through her earnest eyes.

A strange nervousness seizes on Crosby. He takes a step towards her, however, and takes both her hands in his strong clasp.

‘Susan, am I too old?’ says he.

Susan turns her startled eyes upon him, grows crimson, and then deadly white. She pulls her hands out of his and turns away, but too late—too late to hide the rapture in her eyes, that the heavy tears in vain are trying to drown.

‘Susan, my darling! my own sweet little girl! Susan’—his arms are round her now—‘is it true? So you do care for me! For me—such an old fellow next to you—you’—clasping her to him and laughing—‘are only 247a baby, you know. But my baby now, eh? Oh, Susan, is it true?’

Susan tightens her hand upon his arm, but answer makes she none.

‘Afterwards you may be sorry; thirty-four and nineteen—a great many milestones between us, you see.’

‘Ah, it is you who will be sorry!’ says Susan, lifting her head a minute from the safe shelter of his breast to look at him. It is a lovely look. Poor James! if he had only seen it!

‘Are you going to lead me such a life as that?’ says Crosby, laughing. ‘I don’t believe it.’

‘You know what I mean.’

‘I don’t, indeed. I don’t even know if you love me yet.’

‘Oh, as for that——’ Suddenly she laughs, too, and with the sweetest tenderness slips one arm round his neck and draws his head down to hers. ‘And, besides, I’m very nearly twenty,’ says she.

‘Look here,’ says Crosby presently; ‘too 248much happiness is bad for any man. Now, you sit over there’—putting her into a far corner of the old garden-seat—‘and I’ll sit here’—seating himself with the sternest virtue at the other end. ‘Don’t come within a mile of me again for a while, and let us be sensible and talk business. When will you marry me—next week?’

‘Next week?’—with a laugh—‘is that talking business?’

‘The best business.’

‘Oh, nonsense!’

‘Where does the nonsense come in? I’ve been waiting all my life for you, and what’s the good of waiting any longer—even a day? See here, now, Susan. In seven days you could——’

‘I could not, indeed!’ She breaks off suddenly. ‘You are coming nearer.’

‘So I am,’ says he, sighing, and moving back to his corner. ‘Good Susan! Keep reminding me, will you?’

‘I certainly shall,’ says Susan, who has perhaps been only half understood up to this.

249‘Well, if not next week—next month?’

‘Oh no,’ says Susan. ‘In a year perhaps I——’

‘How dare you make such a proposition! Come now, Susan, you have heard the old adage beginning, “Life is short.”’

‘Yes, but I don’t believe it. And besides—no; don’t stir. And besides—you are coming nearer.’

‘It is all your fault if I am. You are behaving so disgracefully. The idea of your mentioning a year. I shall appeal to your father.’

‘I am certain he won’t hear of it at all. He—oh, there, you are coming closer again.’

‘Susan,’ says Crosby sternly, ‘enough of this. I’ll stand no more of it. You shan’t keep me at arm’s length any longer.’

‘I? What had I to do with it?’ says Susan, arching her charming brows.

After which it takes only a moment to have the arm in question round her again, and to have her drawn into it—a most willing captive.

250‘Do you remember when you made me promise I would never steal anything again?’ asks Crosby, after an eloquent pause.


‘Well, I have broken that promise.’

‘You haven’t, I hope.’

‘I have, though. I’—with disgraceful triumph—‘have stolen your heart.’

‘Not a bit of it,’ cries Susan, with a triumph that puts his to shame; ‘I gave it to you. Deny that if you dare.’

He evidently doesn’t dare. He does something else, however, that is quite as effective.

‘Well, it’s a month, any way, isn’t it?’ says he. ‘In a month we’ll get married, and we’ll go away—away, all by ourselves, Susan—just you and I, to the heavenly places of the earth. You shall see the world, and the world shall see you—the loveliest thing that is in it.’

‘You mean that we shall go abroad?’ says Susan. ‘To Rome, perhaps?’

‘To Rome or any other spot your fancy dictates, so long as you take me with you.’ 251He draws her to him as he says this, and—‘Susan, will you answer me one word?’

Susan’s clear, truthful eyes fasten upon his.

‘What is it?’ asks she softly.

‘Am I the one man in all the world you would see the world with?’

The clear truthful eyes do not falter.

‘Why do you ask me that?’ says she. ‘Surely you know it.’

‘Where is your father?’ asks he presently. ‘Let us go and tell him.’

‘Tell father?’ Her tone has an ominous trembling in it.

‘Why, of course,’ says Crosby, regarding her with some surprise. It must be forgiven him if he thinks Mr. Barry will be decidedly glad to hear the news.

‘Oh, I couldn’t,’ says Susan, growing quite pale. ‘He’ll be very angry with me. He will keep on thinking of me as a child, you know, and I can’t get him out of it. When I put on long frocks last year, I thought he’d see it then, but he didn’t; and even the 252doing up of my hair wasn’t of the slightest use.’

‘We might give him a third lesson,’ says Crosby. ‘Come on, and let us get it over.’

‘You’—Susan draws back, and her tone now is distinctly fearful—‘You couldn’t go without me, could you? By yourself, I mean.’

‘I could, of course,’ says he. ‘But——’

‘Oh, then, do,’ cries Susan, giving him a little push—there are unmistakable signs of cowardice about her. And all at once to Crosby comes the thought, how pure at heart all these people are—how ‘far from the madding crowd’ of self-seekers! She has not realized that he is what most of his town acquaintances call a ‘good match.’ She is even afraid to announce her engagement to her father, lest he should think her too young to marry. It sounds incredible, but a glance at Susan, and a vision of the sad man sitting alone with his new sorrow and disappointment in his little study beyond, dissolves all suspicions.

253‘Yes—do go,’ says Susan. ‘To tell you the truth, father is in rather a disturbed state of mind just now, and I’m afraid he won’t receive you very well. He may be grumpy. He is unhappy. He has lost a great deal of money lately.’

‘A great deal?’

‘A very great deal. Four hundred pounds!’ Susan looks tragic. ‘And it had been set aside to put Carew into the army, so of course he feels it. The bank failed, you see.’

‘Banks will do these rude things at times,’ says Crosby. ‘But what I fail to see is, why you can’t come with me, and get your blessing on the spot.’

‘Why, I’ve told you’—reproachfully. ‘Father is in a bad temper, and he——’ She pauses. ‘Oh, I can’t go,’ says she. ‘But you can.’

‘Alone! After the awful picture you have just drawn of your father’s wrath! Have you no regard for my life, Susan? Is this your vaunted love for me?—to abandon me 254remorselessly to the foe. Is it safe, do you think? Suppose I never come back?’

‘Tut!’ says Susan. ‘There—go on! But be sure you say it isn’t my fault.’

‘That makes an end of it,’ says Crosby. ‘Your fault. Whose fault is it, if it isn’t yours? Susan, I refuse to stir a step without you. I feel it is your distinct duty to be there, if only to see fair play and be a witness at the inquest afterwards. Besides, I should like you to gather up my remains; you might give a helping hand so far. Seriously, darling’—drawing her to him—‘I think it would be wise of you to come with me. He would understand so much better if—if only you will look at me as you are looking now.’

‘Well, I’ll come,’ says Susan, sighing dejectedly, but with another look that makes his heart sing aloud for joy.

‘That’s a darling Susan! But now, before we go, I must put you through a strict cross-examination. To begin with—you are positive you love me?’

255‘Positive.’ Susan, laughing, lays her hands against his shoulders, pressing him back.

‘That doesn’t look like it!’

‘It’s true, though!’—laughing.

‘And it isn’t out of pity?’

‘I’ll certainly have to pity you soon. Are you going out of your mind?’

‘No wonder if I were.’ He swiftly undoes that unkind touch upon his shoulders, and takes her in his arms and kisses her.

‘I don’t think that is cross-examination,’ says she reproachfully. No doubt later on she will be capable of developing a little wit of her own.

‘You are right. To continue, then: how much do you love me?’

‘Better’—Susan’s eyes, now sweeter than ever, raise themselves to his for one shy moment—‘than anyone.’

‘That is vague, Susan. Give it a voice. Better than—Bonnie? Oh no!’—quickly—‘I shouldn’t have asked that. Don’t answer it, my sweetheart,’ pressing her head against 256his breast. ‘We’ll take another. You love me better than you thought you would ever love anyone—tell me that, any way.’

‘Oh, much, much more,’ says she. She clings to him for a moment, then steps back, and a little air of meditation grows on her. ‘Do you know,’ says she in a low, rather ashamed tone, ‘about this very thing I have lately been very much surprised at myself.’

It is irresistible. Crosby bursts out laughing—such happy laughter!

‘What are you laughing at?’ asks Susan, a little nervously.

‘At you.’

‘At me?’

‘Yes; because you are just the sweetest angel, Susan. What sort of rings do you like best?’

Susan is silent for a moment, and now through all the rose-white of her skin a warm flush rises.

‘You are going to give me a ring?’ says she. ‘Do you know, I hadn’t thought of that. A ring! I have never had a ring!’

257He draws her head softly down upon his breast.

‘Your first will be a sacred one, then. It will be our engagement-ring, my darling!’

‘I should like a blue ring,’ says Susan shyly, after a little while.

‘Like your own eyes. Sapphire, then? So be it. It will do for a first one. But you must have a keeper for it, Susan, and you must leave that to me.’ He is silent a moment. Where are the best diamonds to be got? ‘Now, come,’ says he; ‘I think honestly we ought to tackle your father together.’



‘My heart is full of joy to-day,
The air hath music in it.’

Mr. Barry is sitting at his shabby writing-table in his very shabby study. His pale, refined face seems paler than usual, and there is a look of dejection in his sunken eyes that goes to Crosby’s heart. He has entered the room without a word of warning—a very reluctant Susan at his back—and has therefore caught that look on the Rector’s face before he has had time to take it off.

‘Mr. Barry,’ begins he quickly. ‘I—we—Susan, where are you?—we’—with emphasis that devastates the soul of the culprit next him—‘have come to tell you that—Susan, this is mean,’ as Susan makes a base effort to 259hide behind him once again—‘that Susan and I’—he laughs a little here, partly through nervousness, and partly because of an agonized, if unconscious, pinch from Susan on his arm—‘want to get married.’

Mr. Barry lays down the pen he has been holding since their unexpected entrance, and stares at Crosby as though he were the proud possessor of two heads, or else a decided madman.

At last a flush dyes the pallor of his face.

‘Sir,’ says he, with dignity, ‘if this is a jest——’

‘Not a jest such as you think,’ breaks in Crosby quickly; ‘though I hope our life together’—with a quick glance back at Susan, who still declines to show herself—‘will have a good deal of laughter in it. What I really want you to know’—gently—‘is that I have asked Susan to marry me, and she has said “Yes,” if’—with charming courtesy—‘you will give your consent.’

Mr. Barry rises from his chair. If he could 260be paler than he was a moment since, he is certainly so now.

‘Do you mean to tell me that you want’—he points at the only part of the abashed Susan that he can see—‘that you want that child for your wife?’

There is a slight pause. It is long enough for Susan to cast an eloquent glance at Crosby. ‘I told you so,’ is the gist of it.

‘She is nineteen,’ says Crosby; ‘and she says that she——’

Here he comes to grief; it seems impossible to so true a lover to say out aloud that Susan has confessed her love for him. He turns round.

‘I really think, Susan, it is your turn now,’ whispers he. ‘You might say something.’

Susan gives him an indignant glance. Hadn’t she told him how it would be? But dignity sweeps her into the breach.

‘It—it is quite true, papa,’ says she, faltering, trembling.

‘What is true?’ asks her father.

She is not trembling half so much outwardly 261as he is trembling inwardly. This thing, can it be true? And that baby—but is she a baby? How many years is it since the other Susan—his own Susan—died?

‘That—that I love him!’ says Susan brokenly.

When she says this she covers her face with her hands as if distinctly ashamed of herself, and Crosby, divining her thoughts, lays his arms round her and presses both hands and face out of sight against his breast.

Mr. Barry looks at him.

‘She is only a little country girl,’ says he. As if disliking the definition of her, Susan releases herself and stands back from Crosby. ‘And you—have large possessions—and a position that will enable you to choose a wife anywhere. Susan—has nothing!’

‘She has everything,’ says Crosby hotly. ‘When I look at her I know it is I who have nothing. What money, what position, could compare with the wealth of her beauty?... And now this gift of her love!... I am 262only too proud, I think myself only too blest, to be allowed to lay at her feet all that I have.’

He turns to his pretty sweetheart and holds out his hand to her frankly. And she comes to him—a little pale, a little unnerved, but with earnest love in her shining eyes. And as he bends to her she gives him back with honest warmth the kiss that in her father’s presence he gives her.

It seems a seal upon the truth of their declaration. Mr. Barry, going to her, lays his hands upon her shoulders. He is pale still, but the look of depression that almost amounted to despair that marked his face when Crosby first came in is now gone, and in its place is hope—and some other feeling hard to place—but pride, perhaps, is the nearest to it.

‘God bless you, Susan, always!’ says he solemnly. In this moment, as he looks at her, for the first time it comes to him that she is the very image of her dead mother. ‘It is a great responsibility,’ says he. His 263words are slow and difficult. ‘Try to be worthy of it! Be a good woman, and love your husband!’

‘Oh, I will—I will, papa!’ says Susan, throwing her arms round his neck. It seems such an easy request. And all her fear of him seems gone. She clings to him. And the father presses her closely to him, but nervously, as if afraid of breaking down.

Crosby can see how it is, and touches Susan lightly on the arm.

‘Go into the garden,’ he whispers to her. ‘I will meet you there presently.’

There is a last quick embrace between father and daughter, and Susan, who is now crying softly, leaves the room.

‘You will let me have her,’ says Crosby, turning to the Rector. ‘And I thank you for the gift. I think’—earnestly—‘you know enough of me to understand how I shall prize it.’

Mr. Barry comes back from the window.

‘It is such a relief,’ says he quickly, and with extraordinary honesty. ‘It will be a 264weight off my mind. It is such a prospect as I could never have dreamed of for her. They tell me’—absently—‘that she is very pretty; her mother, at that age——’ He does not continue his sentence. A heavy sigh escapes him. ‘I have had great trouble lately,’ says he, after a minute or two, ‘and this, coming unexpectedly, has unnerved me.’

‘There shall be no more trouble that I can prevent,’ says Crosby gently, calmly, yet with strength. ‘You must think of me from to-day as your son.’ He pauses. ‘By-the-by, I hear that there is some little difficulty about Carew’s continuing his profession. That would be a pity, considering how far he has gone. We must not allow that.’

‘There is no “we” in it,’ says Mr. Barry, his thin white face now whiter. ‘I can do nothing in the matter. As you have heard so much, you, of course, know that the money that I had laid by for Carew’s start in life has been lost.’

‘That failure of a bank? Yes; but——’

‘You are giving a great deal to my daughter, 265Crosby,’ says the Rector quickly; ‘I cannot allow you to give to——’

‘My brother, sir. Come, Mr. Barry, do not make me feel I am kept at arm’s length by Susan’s people. If a man can’t help his own brother, who can he help? And, after all, if you come to think of it, have you any right to prevent my helping him—to check his career like this? Besides’—laughing—‘you may as well give in, as I am going to see him through, whether you will or not. If I didn’t, there would be bad times for me with Susan.’

There is something about him—something in his happy, strong, kindly manner, that precludes the idea of offence of any sort; and Mr. Barry, after a struggle with his conscience, gives in. That suggestion about his having any right to deny the boy his profession had touched him.

‘Well, that’s settled,’ says Crosby comfortably. And it gives an idea of the charm of his character that, as he says it, no feeling of chagrin, of smallness, enters into the soul 266of the man he has benefited. Mr. Barry, indeed, smiles a happier smile than his worn face has known for many a day.

‘God bless you, Crosby!’ says he. And then, pausing and colouring—the slow and painful colour of age, ‘God bless you, George! It is useless to speak. I cannot say what I want to say. But this’—his tone, nervous and awkward always, now almost stammers—‘this I must say, that Susan ought to be a happy woman.’

‘Oh, as to that,’ says Crosby, laughing again, a little nervously himself now, as he sees the other’s suppressed emotion, ‘I hope so. I’ll see to it, you know. But there’s one thing sure—that I’m going to be a happy man.’

He looks towards the window.

‘I think she is waiting for me in the garden,’ says he.

‘Well, go to her.’ But as he walks to the door the Rector follows him, struggling in his silent way with some thought; and just as Crosby is disappearing through it the 267struggle ends. Mr. Barry goes quickly after him, and lays his hand upon his shoulder.

‘Oh, Crosby,’ says he, with sharp feeling, ‘it is good to give happiness to others. It will stand to you all your life, and on your death-bed, too. There, go to her. She is in the garden, you say.’

And there, indeed, she is, waiting for him. He finds her in the old summer-house watching shyly for him from between the soft green branches. And soon she is not only in the garden, but in his strong and loving arms.


  1. Silently corrected obvious typographical errors and variations in spelling.
  2. Retained archaic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings as printed.