Part 2 out of 10
"Captain Horton is in the drawing-room, ma'am," she said.
Miss Starbrow rose to go to her visitor.
"You can stay where you are, Fan, until bed-time," she said. "And by-and-
by the maid will give you some supper in the back room. Is Rosie impudent
to you--how has she been treating you to-day?"
Fan was filled with distress, remembering her promise, and cast down her
"Very well, say nothing; that's the best way, Fan. Take no notice of what
anyone says to you. Servants are always vile, spiteful creatures, and
will act after their kind. Good-night, my girl," and with that she went
Fan sat there for half an hour longer in the grateful twilight and warmth
of that luxurious room, and then Rosie's voice startled her crying at the
"Doggie! doggie! come and have its supper."
Fan got up and went to the next room, where her supper and a lighted lamp
were on the centre table. Rosie followed her.
"Can you tell the truth?" she said.
"Yes," returned Fan.
"Well, then, have you told Miss Starbrow?"
"Did she ask you anything?"
"Yes, and I didn't tell her."
"Oh, how very kind!" said Rosie; and giving her a box on the ear, ran out
of the room.
Not much hurt, and not caring much, Fan sat down to her supper. Returning
to the bedroom she heard the sound of the piano, and paused on the
landing to listen. Then a fine baritone voice began singing, and was
succeeded by a woman's voice, a rich contralto, for they were singing a
duet; and voice following voice, and anon mingling in passionate harmony,
the song floated out loud from the open door, and rose and seemed to fill
the whole house, while Fan stood there listening, trembling with joy at
The singing and playing continued for upwards of an hour, and Fan still
kept her place, until the maid came up with a candle to show her to her
bedroom. They went up together to the next floor into a small neatly-
furnished room which had been prepared for her.
"Here's your room," said Rosie, setting down the candle on the table,
"and now I'm going to give you a good spanking before you go to bed."
"If you touch me again I'll scream and tell Miss Starbrow everything,"
said Fan, plucking up a spirit.
Rosie shut and locked the door. "Now you can scream your loudest, cat,
and she'll not hear a sound."
For a few moments Fan did not know what to do to save herself; then all
at once the memory of some old violent wrangle came to her aid, and
springing forward she blew out the candle and softly retreated to a
corner of the room, where she remained silent and expectant.
"You little wretch!" exclaimed the other. "Speak, or I'll kill you!" But
there was no answer. For some time Rosie stumbled about until she found
the door, and after some jeering words retreated downstairs, leaving Fan
in the dark.
She had defeated her enemy this time, and quickly locking the door, went
to bed without a light.
The next few days, although very sweet and full to Fan, were uneventful;
then, early on a Wednesday evening, once more Miss Starbrow made her sit
with her at her bedroom fire and talked to her for a long time.
"What did you tell me your name is?" she asked.
"I don't like it. I call it _horrid_. It was only your stepfather's
name according to your account, and I must find you a different one. Do
you know what your mother's name was--before she married, I mean?"
"Oh yes, ma'am; it was Margaret Affleck."
"Affleck. It is not common and not ugly. Frances Affleck--that sounds
better. Yes, that will do; your name, as long as you live with me, shall
be Affleck; you must not forget that."
"No, ma'am," Fan replied humbly. But she had some doubts, and after a
while said, "But can you change my name, ma'am?"
"Change your name! Why, of course I can. It is just as easy to do that as
to give you a new dress; easier in fact. And what do you know, Fan? What
did they teach you at the Board School? Reading, I suppose; very well,
take this book and read to me."
She took the book, but felt strangely nervous at this unexpected call to
display her accomplishments, and began hurriedly reading in a low voice.
Miss Starbrow laughed.
"I can't stand that, Fan," she said. "You might be gabbling Dutch or
Hindustani. And you are running on without a single pause. Even a bee
hovering about the flowers has an occasional comma, or colon, or full
stop in its humming. Try once more, but not so fast and a little louder."
The good-humoured tone in which she spoke served to reassure Fan; and
knowing that she could do better, and getting over her nervousness, she
began again, and this time Miss Starbrow let her finish the page.
"You _can_ read, I find. Better, I think, than any of the maids I
have had. You have a very nice expressive voice, and you will do better
when you read a book through from the beginning, and feel interested in
it. I shall let you read every day to me. What else did you learn--
"Yes, ma'am, I always got a high mark for that. And we had Scripture
lessons, and grammar, and composition, and arithmetic, and geography; and
when I was in the fifth form I had history and drawing."
"History and drawing--well, what next, I wonder! That's what we are taxed
a shilling in the pound for, to give education to a--well, never mind.
But can you really draw, Fan? Here's pencil and paper, just draw
something for me."
"What shall I draw, ma'am?" she said, taking the pencil and feeling
"Oh, anything you like."
Now it happened that her drawing lessons had always given her more
pleasure than anything else at school, but owing to Joe Harrod's having
taken her away as soon as he was allowed to do so, they had not continued
long. Still, even in a short time she had made some progress; and even
after leaving school she had continued to find a mournful pleasure in
depicting leaf and flower forms. Left to choose her own subject, she
naturally began sketching a flower--a-rosebud, half-open, with leaves.
"Don't hurry, Fan, as you did with your reading. The slower you are the
better it will be," said Miss Starbrow, taking up a volume and beginning
to read, or pretending to read, for her eyes were on the face of the girl
most of the time.
Fan, happily unconscious of the other's regard, gave eight or ten minutes
to her drawing, and then Miss Starbrow took it in her hands to examine
"This is really very well done," she said, "but what in goodness' name
did they teach you drawing for!' What would be the use of it after
leaving school? Well, yes, it might be useful in one way. It astonishes
me to think how you were trying to live, Fan. You were certainly not fit
for that hard rough work, and would have starved at it. You were made,
body and mind, in a more delicate mould, and for something better. I
think that with all you have learnt at school, and with your appearance,
especially with those truthful eyes of yours and that sweet voice, you
might have got a place as nursery governess, to teach small children, or
something of that sort. Why did you go starving about the streets, Fan?"
"But no one would take me with such clothes, ma'am. They wouldn't look at
me or speak to me even in the little shops where I went to ask for work."
Miss Starbrow uttered a curious little laugh.
"What a strange thing it seems," she said, "that a few shillings to buy
decent clothes may alter a person's destiny. With the shillings--about as
many as the man of God pays for his sirloin--shelter from the weather and
temptations to evil, three meals a day, a long pleasant life, husband and
children, perhaps, and at last--Heaven. And without them, rags and
starvation and the streets, and--well, this is a question for the mighty
intellect of a man and a theologian, not for mine. I dare say you don't
know what I'm talking about, Fan?"
"Not all, ma'am, but I think I understand a little."
"Very little, I should think. Don't try to understand too much, my poor
girl. Perhaps before you are eighty, if you live so long, you will
discover that you didn't even understand a little. Ah, Fan, you have been
sadly cheated by destiny! Childhood without joy, and girlhood without
hope. I wish I could give you happiness to make up for it all, but I
can't be Providence to anyone."
"Oh, ma'am, you have made me so happy!" exclaimed Fan, the tears
springing to her eyes.
Miss Starbrow frowned a little and turned her face aside. Then she said:
"Just because I fed and dressed and sheltered you, Fan--does happiness
come so easily to you?"
"Oh no, ma'am, not that--it isn't that," with such keen distress that she
could scarcely speak without a sob.
"How then have I made you happy? Will you not answer me? I took you
because I believed that you would trust me, and always speak openly from
your heart, and hide nothing."
"Oh, ma'am, I'm afraid to say it. I was so happy because I thought--
because--" and here she sunk her voice to a trembling whisper--"I thought
that you loved me."
Miss Starbrow put her arm round the girl's waist and drew her against her
"Your instinct was not at fault, Fan," she said in a caressing tone. "I
_do_ love you, and loved you when I saw you in your rags, and it
pained my heart when I told you to clean my doorsteps as if you had been
my sister. No, not a sister, but something better and sweeter; my sisters
I do not love at all. And do you know now what I meant, Fan, when I said
that there was something you could do for me?"
"I think I know," returned Fan, still troubled in her mind and anxious.
"It was that made me feel so happy. I thought--that you wanted me to love
"You are right, my dear girl; I think that I made no mistake when I took
On that evening Fan had tea with her mistress, and afterwards, earlier
than usual, was allowed to comb her hair out--a task which gave her the
greatest delight. Miss Starbrow then put on an evening dress, which Fan
now saw for the first time, and was filled with wonder at its richness
and beauty. It was of saffron-coloured silk, trimmed with black lace; but
she wore no ornaments with it, except gold bracelets on her round shapely
"What makes you stare so, Fan?" she said with a laugh, as she stood
surveying herself in the tall glass, and fastening the bracelets on.
"Oh, ma'am, you do look so beautiful in that dress! Are you going to the
"No, Fan. On Wednesday evenings I always have a number of friends come in
to see me--all gentlemen. I have very few lady friends, and care very
little for them. And, now I think of it, you can sit up to-night until I
tell you to go to bed."
Miss Starbrow was moving towards the door. Then she paused, and finally
came back and sat down again, and drew Fan against her knee as before.
"Fan," she said, "when you speak about me to others, and to me in the
presence of others, or of the servants, call me Miss Starbrow. I don't
like to hear you call me ma'am, it wounds my ear. Do you understand?"
"But when we are alone together, as we are now, let me hear you call me
Mary. That's my Christian name, and I should like to hear you speak it.
Will you remember?"
"Yes"; and then from her lips trembled the name "Mary."
"It sounds very loving and sweet," said the other, and, drawing the girl
closer, for the first time she kissed her.
With the memory of those tender words and the blissful sensation left by
that unexpected kiss, Fan spent the evening alone, hearing, after her
supper, the arrival of visitors, and the sound of conversation and
laughter from the drawing-room, and then music and singing. Later in the
evening the guests went to sup into the dining-room, and there they
stayed playing cards until eleven o'clock or later, when she heard them
leaving the house.
They were not all gone, however; three of Miss Starbrow's intimate
friends still lingered, drinking whisky-and-water and talking. There was
Captain Horton--captain by courtesy, since he was no longer in the army
--a tall, fine-looking man, slightly horsy in his get-up, with a very
large red moustache, reddish-brown hair, and keen blue eyes. He wore a
cut-away coat, and was standing on the hearthrug, his hands thrust into
his trousers pockets, and smiling as he talked to a young clerical
gentleman near him--the Rev. Octavius Brown. The Rev. Octavius was curate
of a neighbouring ritualistic church, but in his life he was not ascetic;
he loved whisky-and-water not wisely but too well, and he was
passionately devoted to the noble game of Napoleon. Mr. Brown had just
won seven shillings, and was in very high spirits; for being poor he had
a great dread of losing, and played carefully for very small stakes, and
seldom won more than half-a-crown or three shillings. At some distance
from them a young gentleman reclined in an easy-chair, smoking a
cigarette, and apparently not listening to their conversation. This was
Mr. Merton Chance, clerk in the Foreign Office, and supposed by his
friends to be extremely talented. He was rather slight but well-formed, a
little under the medium height, clean shaved, handsome, colourless as
marble, with black hair and dark blue eyes that looked black.
Miss Starbrow, who had left the room a few minutes before, came in, and
standing by the table listened to the curate.
"Miss Starbrow," said he, appealing to her, "is it not hard? Captain
Horton either doubts my veracity or believes that I am only joking when I
assure him that what I have just told him is plain truth."
"Well, let me hear the whole story," she replied, "and I'll act as
"I couldn't wish for a juster one--nor for a fairer," he replied with a
weak smile. "What I said was that I had once attended a dinner to the
clergy in Yorkshire, at which there were sixteen of us present, and the
surnames of all were names of things--objects or offices or something--
connected with a church."
"Well, what were the names?"
"You see he remembers only one--a Mr. Church," said Captain Horton.
"No, pardon me. A Mr. Church, and a Mr. Bishop, and a Mr. Priest, and a
Mr. Cross, and--and oh, yes, Mr. Bell."
"Five of your sixteen," said Captain Horton, checking them off on his
"And a Mr. Graves, and a Mr. Sexton, and--and--of course, I can't
remember all the names now. Can you expect it, Miss Starbrow?"
"No, of course not; but you have only named seven. If you can remember
ten I shall decide in your favour."
"Thank you. There was a Mr. Church--"
"No, no, old man, we've had that already," cried the Captain.
"Mr. Tombs," he continued, and fell again to thinking.
"That makes eight," said Miss Starbrow. "Cheer up, Mr. Brown, you'll soon
remember two others."
"Your own name makes nine, Mr. Brown," broke in Mr. Chance, "only I can't
make out what connection it has with a church."
The other two laughed.
"I'm afraid it looks very bad for you," said Miss Starbrow.
"No, no, Miss Starbrow, please don't think that. Wait a minute and let me
see if I can remember how that was," said the poor curate. "I
_think_ I said that all present at the table except myself--"
"No, there was no exception," interrupted Captain Horton. "Now, if you
sixteen fellows had been Catholic priests instead of in the Established
Church, and you were Scarlett by name instead of Brown--"
"Don't say any more--please!" cried the curate, lifting his hand. "You
are going too far, Captain Horton. I like a little innocent fun well
enough, but I draw the line at sacred subjects. Let us drop the subject."
"Oh, yes, of course, that's a good way of getting out of it. And as for
jesting about sacred matters, I always understood that one couldn't prove
his zeal for Protestantism better than by having a shot at the Roman
"I am happy to say that I do not class myself with Prots," said the
curate, getting up from his chair very carefully, and then consulting his
watch. "I must run away now--"
"You can't do it," interrupted the Captain.
Miss Starbrow laughed. "Don't go just yet, Mr. Brown," she said. "I wish
you all to help me with your advice, or with an opinion at least. You
know that I have taken in a young girl, and I have not yet decided what
to do with her. I shall call her down for you to see her, as you are all
three my very candid friends, and you shall tell me what you think of her
She then opened the door and called Fan down, and the poor girl was
brought into the neighbourhood of the three gentlemen, and stood with
eyes cast down, her pale face reddening with shame to find herself the
centre of so much curiosity.
Miss Starbrow glanced at the Captain, who was keenly studying Fan's face,
as he stood before the fire, stroking his red moustache.
"Well, if I'm to give a candid opinion," he said, "all I can say is that
she looks an underfed little monkey."
"I think you are excessively rude!" returned Miss Starbrow, firing up.
"She is too young to feel your words, perhaps, but they are nothing less
than insulting to my judgment."
"Oh, confound it, Pollie, you are always flying out at me! I dare say
she's a good girl--she looks it, but if you want me to say that she's
good-looking, I can't be such a hypocrite even to please you."
Miss Starbrow flashed a keen glance at him, and then without replying
turned to Mr. Brown.
"Really--honestly, Miss Starbrow," he said, "you couldn't have selected a
more charming-looking girl. But your judgment is always--well, just what
it should be; that goes without saying."
She turned impatiently from him and looked at Mr. Chance, still
gracefully reclining in his chair.
"Is my poor opinion really worth anything to you?" he said, and rising he
walked over to the girl and touched her hand, which made her start a
little. "I wish to see your eyes--won't you look at me?" He spoke very
Fan glanced up into his face for a moment.
"Thank you--just what I thought," said he, returning to his seat.
"Well?" said Miss Starbrow.
"Must I put it in words--those poor symbols?" he returned. "I know so
well that you can understand without them."
"Perhaps I might if I tried very hard, but I choose not to try," she
replied, with a slight toss of her head.
"It is a pleasure to obey; but the poor girl looks nervous and
uncomfortable, and would be so glad _not_ to hear my personal
"Oh yes, it was thoughtless of me to keep her here--thanks for reminding
me," said Miss Starbrow, with a strange softening of her voice her
friends were not accustomed to hear. "Run up to your room, Fan, and go to
bed. I'm sorry I've kept you up so late, poor child."
And Fan, with a grateful look towards Mr. Chance, left the room gladly
"When she first came into the room I wondered what had attracted you,"
said Mr. Chance. "I concluded that it must be something under those long
drooping eyelashes, and when I looked there I found out the secret."
"Intelligent eyes--very intelligent eyes--I noticed that also," said Mr.
"Oh no, heaven forbid--I did not mean anything of the kind," said Mr.
Chance. "Intelligence is a masculine quality which I do not love to see
in a woman: it is suitable for us, like a rough skin and--moustachios,"
with a glance at Captain Horton, and touching his own clean-shaven upper
lip. "The more delicate female organism has something finer and higher
than intelligence, which however serves the same purpose--and other
"I don't quite follow you," said the curate, again preparing to take his
leave. "I dare say it's all plain enough to some minds, but--well, Mr.
Chance, you'll forgive me for saying that when you talk that way I don't
know whether I'm standing on my head or my heels."
"Naturally, you wouldn't," said Captain Horton, with a mocking smile.
"But don't go yet, Brown; have some more whisky-and-water."
"No, thanks, no more. I never exceed two or three glasses, you know.
Thank you, my dear Miss Starbrow, for a most delightful evening." And
after shaking hands he made his way to the door, bestowing a kindly touch
on each chair in passing, and appearing greatly relieved when he reached
Captain Horton lit a cigarette and threw himself into an easy-chair. Mr.
Chance lit another cigarette; if the other was an idle man, he (Chance)
was in the Foreign Office, and privileged to sit up as late as he liked.
"On the whole," he said in a meditative way, "I am inclined to think that
Brown is a rather clever fellow."
Miss Starbrow laughed: she was still standing. "You two appear to be
taking it very quietly," she said. "It is one o'clock--why will you
compel me to be rude?"
Then they started up, put on their coats, exchanged a few words at the
door with their hostess, and walked down the street together. Presently a
hansom came rattling along the quiet street.
"Keb, sir?" came the inevitable question, in a tone sharp as a whip-
crack, as the driver pulled up near the kerb.
"Yes, two cabs," said Captain Horton. "I'll toss you for the first,
Chance"; and pulling out a florin he sent it spinning up and deftly
caught it as it fell. "Heads or tails?"
"Oh, take it yourself, and I'll find another."
"No, no, fair play," insisted the Captain.
"Very well then, heads."
"Tails!" cried the other, opening his hand. "Goodnight, old man, you're
sure to find one in another minute. Oxford Terrace," he cried to the
driver, jumping in. And the cabman, who had watched the proceedings with
the deep interest and approval of a true sporting man, shook the reins,
flicked the horse's ears with his whip, clicked with his tongue, and
drove rapidly away.
Left to himself, Mr. Chance sauntered on in no hurry to get home, and
finally stood still at a street corner, evidently pondering some matter
of considerable import to him. "By heaven, I'm more than half resolved to
try it!" he exclaimed at last. And after a little further reflection, he
added, "And I shall--
"He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch
To win or lose it all."
Then he turned and walked deliberately back to Dawson Place: coming to
the house which he had lately quitted, he peered anxiously at windows and
doors, and presently caught sight of a faint reflection from burning gas
or candle within on the fanlight over the street door, which, he
conjectured, came from the open dining-room.
"Fortune favours me," he said to himself. "'Faint heart never won fair
lady.' A happy inspiration, I am beginning to think. Losing that toss
will perhaps result in my winning a higher stake. There's a good deal of
dash and devilry in that infernal blackguard Horton, and doubtless that
is why he has made some progress here. Well then, she ought to appreciate
my spirit in coming to her at this time of night, or morning, rather.
There's a wild, primitive strain in her; she's not to be wooed and won in
the usual silly mawkish way. More like one of the old Sabine women, who
liked nothing better than being knocked down and dragged off by their
future lords. I suppose that a female of that antique type of mind can be
knocked down and taken captive, as it were, with good vigorous words,
just as formerly they were knocked down with the fist or the butt end of
His action was scarcely in keeping with the daring, resolute spirit of
his language: instead of seizing the knocker and demanding admittance
with thunderous racket, he went cautiously up the steps, rapped softly on
the door with his knuckles, and then anxiously waited the result of his
Miss Starbrow was in the dining-room, and heard the tapping. Her servants
had been in bed two hours; and after the departure of her late guests she
had turned off the gas at the chandelier, and was leaving the room, when
seeing a _Globe_, left by one of her visitors, she took it up to
glance at the evening's news. Something she found in the paper interested
her, and she continued reading until that subdued knocking attracted her
attention. Taking up her candle she went to the door and unfastened it,
but without letting down the chain. Her visitor hurriedly whispered his
name, and asked to be admitted for a few minutes, as he had something
very important to communicate.
She took down the chain and allowed him to come into the hall. "Why have
you come back?" she demanded in some alarm. "Where is Captain Horton?--
you left together."
"He went home in the first cab we found. We tossed for it, and he won,
for which I thank the gods. Then, acting on the impulse of the moment, I
came back to say something to you. A very unusual--very eccentric thing
to do, no doubt. But when something involving great issues has to be done
or said, I think the best plan is _not_ to wait for a favourable
opportunity. Don't you agree with me?"
"I don't understand you, Mr. Chance, and am therefore unable to agree
with you. I hope you are not going to keep me standing here much longer."
"Not for a moment! But will you not let me come inside to say the few
words I have to say?"
"Oh yes, you may come in," she returned not very graciously, and leading
the way to the dining-room, where decanters, tumblers, and cards
scattered about the table, seen by the dim light of one candle, gave it a
somewhat disreputable appearance. "What do you wish to say to me?" she
asked a little impatiently, and seating herself.
He took a chair near her. "You are a little unkind to hurry me in this
way," he said, trying to smile, "since you compel me to put my request in
very plain blunt language. However, that is perhaps the best plan. Twice
I have come to you intending to speak, and have been baffled by fate--"
"Then you might have written, or telegraphed," she interrupted, "if the
matter was so important."
"Not very well," he returned, growing very serious. "You know that as
well as I do. You must know, dear Miss Starbrow, that I have admired you
for a long time. Perhaps you also know that I love you. Miss Starbrow,
will you be my wife and make me happy?"
"No, Mr. Chance, I cannot be your wife and make you happy. I must decline
Her cold, somewhat ironical tone from the first had prepared him for this
result, and he returned almost too quickly, "Oh, I see, you are offended
with me for coming to you at this hour. I must suffer the consequences of
my mistake, and study to be more cautious and proper in the future. I
have always regarded you as an unconventional woman. That, to my mind, is
one of your greatest charms; and when I say that I say a good deal. I
never imagined that my coming to you like this would have prejudiced you
She gave a little laugh, but there was an ominous cloud on her face as
she answered: "You imagined it was the right thing to do to come at half-
past one o'clock in the morning to offer me your hand! Your opinion of my
conduct is not a subject I am the least interested in; but whether I am
unconventional or not, I assure you, Mr. Chance, that I am not to be
pushed or driven one step further than I choose to go."
"I should never dream of attempting such a thing, Miss Starbrow. But it
would be useless to say much more; whatever line I take to-night only
makes matters worse for me. But allow me to say one thing before bidding
you good-night. The annoyance you feel at the present moment will not
last. You have too much generosity, too much intellect, to allow it to
rest long in your bosom; and deeply as I feel this rebuff, I am not going
to be so weak as to let it darken and spoil my whole life. No, my hope is
too strong and too reasonable to be killed so easily. I shall come to you
again, and again, and again. For I know that with you for a wife and
companion my life would be a happy one; and not happy only, for that is
not everything. An ambitious man looks to other greater and perhaps
The cloud was gone from her brows, and she sat regarding him as he spoke
with a slight smile on her lips and a curious critical expression in her
eyes. When he finished speaking she laughed and said, "But is _my_
happiness of such little account--do you not propose to make _me_
happy also, Mr. Chance?"
"No," he returned, his face clouding, and dropping his eyes before her
mocking gaze. "You shall not despise me. Single or married, you must make
your own happiness or misery. You know that; why do you wish to make me
repeat the wretched commonplaces that others use?"
"I'm glad you have so good an opinion of yourself, Mr. Chance," she
replied. "I was vexed with you at first, but am not so now. To watch the
changes of your chameleon mind, not always successful in getting the
right colour at the right moment, is just as good as a play. If you
really mean to come again and again I shall not object--it will amuse me.
Only do not come at two o'clock in the morning; it might compromise me,
and, unconventional as I am, I should not forgive you a second time. But
honestly, Mr. Chance, I don't believe you will come again. You know now
that I know you, and you are too wise to waste your energies on me. I
hope you will not give up visiting me--in the daytime. We admire each
other, and I have always had a friendly feeling for you. That is a real
feeling--not an artificial one like the love you spoke of."
He rose to go. "Time will show whether it is an artificial feeling or
not," he said; and after bidding good-night and hearing the door close
after him, he walked away towards Westbourne Grove. He had gone from her
presence with a smile on his lips, but in the street it quickly vanished
from his face, and breaking into a rapid walk and clenching his fists, he
exclaimed, between his set teeth, "Curse the jade!"
It was not a sufficient relief to his feelings, and yet he seemed unable
to think of any other expression more suitable to the occasion, for after
going a little further, he repeated, "Curse the jade!"
Then he walked on slower and slower, and finally stopped, and turning
towards Dawson Place, he repeated for the third time, "Curse the jade!"
Fan saw no more company after that evening, for which she was not sorry;
but that had been a red-letter day to her--not soon, perhaps never, to be
Great as the human adaptiveness is at the age at which Fan then was, that
loving-kindness of her mistress--of one so proud and beautiful above all
women, and, to the girl's humble ideas, so rich "beyond the dreams of
avarice"--retained its mysterious, almost incredible, character to her
mind, and was a continual cause of wonder to her, and at times of ill-
defined but anxious thought. For what had she--a poor, simple, ignorant
useless girl--to keep the affection of such a one as Miss Starbrow? And
as the days and weeks went by, that vague anxiety did not leave her; for
the more she saw of her mistress, the less did she seem like one of a
steadfast mind, whose feelings would always remain the same. She was
touchy, passionate, variable in temper; and if her stormy periods were
short-lived, she also had cold and sullen moods, which lasted long, and
turned all her sweetness sour; and at such times Fan feared to approach
her, but sat apart distressed and sorrowful. And yet, whatever her mood
was, she never spoke sharply to Fan, or seemed to grow weary of her. And
once, during one of those precious half-hours, when they sat together at
the bedroom fire before dinner, when Miss Starbrow in a tender mood again
drew the girl to her side and kissed her, Fan, even while her heart was
overflowing with happiness, allowed something of the fear that was mixed
with it to appear in her words.
"Oh, Mary, if I could do something for you!" she murmured. "But I can do
nothing--I can only love you. I wish--I wish you would tell me what to do
to--to keep your love!"
Miss Starbrow's face clouded. "Perhaps your heart is a prophetic one,
Fan," she said; "but you must not have those dismal forebodings, or if
they will come, then pay as little heed to them as possible. Everything
changes about us, and we change too--I suppose we can't help it. Let us
try to believe that we will always love each other. Our food is not less
grateful to us because it is possible that at some future day we shall
have to go hungry. Oh, poor Fan, why should such thoughts trouble your
young heart? Take the goods the gods give you, and do not repine because
we are not angels in Heaven, with an eternity to enjoy ourselves in. I
love you now, and find it sweet to love you, as I have never loved anyone
of my own sex before. Women, as a rule, I detest. You can do, and are
doing, more than you know for me."
Fan did not understand it all; but something of it she did understand,
and it had a reassuring effect on her mind.
Her life at this period was a solitary one. After breakfast she would go
out for a walk, usually to Kensington Gardens, and returning by way of
Westbourne Grove, to execute some small commissions for her mistress.
Between dinner and tea the time was mostly spent in the back room on the
first floor, which nobody else used; and when the weather permitted she
sat with the window open, and read aloud to improve herself in the art,
and practised writing and drawing, or read in some book Miss Starbrow had
recommended to her. With all her time so agreeably filled she did not
feel her loneliness, and the life of ease and plenty soon began to tell
on her appearance. Her skin became more pure and transparent, although
naturally pale; her eyes grew brighter, and could look glad as well as
sorrowful; her face lost its painfully bony look, and was rounder and
softer, and the straight lines and sharp angles of her girlish form
changed to graceful curves from day to day. Miss Starbrow, regarding her
with a curious and not untroubled smile, remarked:
"You are improving in your looks every day, Fan; by-and-by you will be a
beautiful girl--and then!"
The attitude of the servants had not changed towards her, the cook
continuing to observe a kind of neutrality which was scarcely benevolent,
while the housemaid's animosity was still active; but it had ceased to
trouble her very much. Since the evening on which Fan had baffled her by
blowing out the candle, Rosie had not attempted to inflict corporal
punishment beyond an occasional pinch or slap, but contented herself by
mocking and jeering, and sometimes spitting at her.
Rosie is destined to disappear from the history of Fan's early life in
the first third of this volume; but before that time her malice bore very
bitter fruit, and for that and other reasons her character is deserving
of some description.
She was decidedly pretty, short but well-shaped, with a small English
slightly-upturned nose; small mouth with ripe red lips, which were never
still except when she held them pressed with her sharp white teeth to
make them look redder and riper than ever. Her brown fluffy hair was worn
short like a boy's, and she looked not unlike a handsome high-spirited
boy, with brown eyes, mirthful and daring. She was extremely vivacious in
disposition, and active--too active, in fact, for she got through her
housemaid's work so quickly that it left her many hours of each day in
which to listen to the promptings of the demon of mischief. It was only
because she did her work so rapidly and so well that her mistress kept
her on--"put up with her," as she expressed it--in spite of her faults of
temper and tongue. But Rosie's heart was not in her work. She was
romantic and ambitious, and her shallow little brain was filled with a
thousand dreams of wonderful things to be. She was a constant and
ravenous reader of _Bow Bells_, the _London Journal_, and one
or two penny weeklies besides; and not satisfied with the half-hundred
columns of microscopical letterpress they afforded her, she laid her busy
hands on all the light literature left about by her mistress, and thought
herself hardly treated because Miss Starbrow was a great reader of French
novels. It was exceedingly tantalising to know that those yellow-covered
books were so well suited to her taste, and not be able to read them. For
someone had told her what nice books they were--someone with a big red
moustache, who was as fond of pretty red lips as a greedy school-boy is
of ripe cherries.
Many were the stolen interviews between the daring little housemaid and
her gentleman lover; sometimes in the house itself, in a shaded part of
the hall, or in one of the reception-rooms when a happy opportunity
offered--and opportunities always come to those who watch for them;
sometimes out of doors in the shadow of convenient trees in the
neighbouring quiet street and squares after dark. But Rosie was not too
reckless. There was a considerable amount of cunning in that small brain
of hers, which prevented her from falling over the brink of the precipice
on the perilous edge of which she danced like a playful kid so airily. It
was very nice and not too naughty to be cuddled and kissed by a handsome
gentleman, with a big moustache, fine eyes, and baritone voice! but she
was not prepared to go further than that--just yet; only pretending that
by-and-by--perhaps; firing his heart with languishing sighs, the soft
unspoken "Ask me no more, for at a touch I yield"; and then she would
slip from his arms, and run away to put by the little present of sham
jewellery, and think it all very fine fun. They were amusing themselves.
His serious love-making was for her mistress. She--Rosie--had a future--a
great splendid future, to which she must advance by slow degrees, step by
step, sometimes even losing ground a little--and much had been lost since
that starved white kitten had come into the house.
When Miss Starbrow, in a fit of anger, had dismissed her maid some months
before, and then had accepted some little personal assistance in dressing
for the play, and at other times, from her housemaid, Rosie at once
imagined that she was winning her way to her mistress's heart, and her
silly dream was that she would eventually get promoted to the vacant and
desirable place of lady's-maid. The cast-off dresses, boots, pieces of
finery, and many other things which would be her perquisites would be a
little fortune to her, and greatly excited her cupidity. But there were
other more important considerations: she would occupy a much higher
position in the social scale, and dress well, her hands and skin would
grow soft and white, and her appearance and conversation would be that of
a lady; for to be a lady's-maid is, of course, the nearest thing to being
a lady. And with her native charms, ambitious intriguing brain, what
might she not rise to in time? and she had been so careful, and, she
imagined, had succeeded so well in ingratiating herself with her
mistress; and by means of a few well-constructed lies had so filled Miss
Starbrow with disgust at the ordinary lady's-maid taken ready-made out of
a registry-office, that she had begun to look on the place almost as her
own. She had quite overlooked the small fact that she was not qualified
to fill it, and never would be. If she had proposed such an arrangement,
Miss Starbrow would have laughed heartily, and sent the impudent minx
away with a flea in her ear; but she had not yet ventured to broach the
Fan's coming into the house had not only filled her with the indignation
natural to one of her class and in her position at being compelled to
wait on a girl picked up half-starved in the streets; but when it
appeared that her mistress meant to keep Fan and make much of her, then
her jealousy was aroused, and she displayed as much spite and malice as
she dared. She had not succeeded in frightening Fan into submission, and
she had not dared to invent lies about her; and unable to use her only
weapon, she felt herself for the time powerless. On the other hand, it
was evident that Fan had made no complaints.
"I'd like to catch the little beggar daring to tell tales of me!" she
exclaimed, clenching her vindictive little fists in a fury. But when her
mistress gave her any commands about Fan's meals, or other matters, her
tone was so sharp and peremptory, and her eyes so penetrating, that Rosie
knew that the hatred she cherished in her heart was no secret. The voice,
the look seemed to say plainly, as if it had been expressed in words,
"One word and you go; and when you send to me for a character, you shall
have justice but no mercy."
This was a terrible state of things for Rosie. There was nothing she
could do; and to sit still and wait was torture to one of her restless,
energetic mind. When her mistress was out of the house she could give
vent to her spite by getting into Fan's room and teasing her in every way
that her malice suggested. But Fan usually locked her out, and would not
even open the door to take in her dinner when it was brought; then Rosie
would wait until it was cold before leaving it on the landing.
When Miss Starbrow was in the house, and had Fan with her to comb her
hair or read to her, Rosie would hang about, listening at keyholes, to
find out how matters were progressing between "lady and lady's-maid." But
nothing to give her any comfort was discovered. On the contrary, Miss
Starbrow showed no signs of becoming disgusted at her own disgraceful
infatuation, and seemed more friendly towards the girl than ever. She
took her to the dressmaker at the West End, and had a very pretty, dark
green walking-dress made for her, in which Fan looked prettier than ever.
She also bought her a new stylish hat, a grey fur cape, and long gloves,
besides giving her small pieces of jewellery, and so many things besides
that poor Rosie was green with envy. Then, as a climax, she ordered in a
new pretty iron bed for the girl, and had it put in her own room.
"Fan will be so much warmer and more comfortable here than at the top of
the house," she remarked to Rosie, as if she too had a little malice in
her disposition, and was able to take pleasure in sprinkling powder on a
Not until the end of November did anything important occur to make a
break in Fan's happy, and on the whole peaceful, life in Dawson Place;
then came an eventful day, which rudely reminded her that she was living,
if not on, at any rate in the neighbourhood of a volcano. One morning
that was not wet nor foggy Miss Starbrow made up her mind to visit the
West End to do a little shopping, and, to the maid's unbounded disgust,
she took Fan with her. An hour after breakfast they started in a hansom
and drove to the Marble Arch, where they dismissed the cab.
"Now," said Miss Starbrow, who was in high spirits, "we'll walk to Peter
Robinson's and afterwards to Piccadilly Circus, looking at all the shops,
and then have lunch at the St. James's Restaurant; and walk home along
the parks. It is so beautifully dry underfoot to-day."
Fan was delighted with the prospect, and they proceeded along Oxford
Street. The thoroughfares about the Marble Arch had been familiar to her
in the old days, and yet they seemed now to have a novel and infinitely
more attractive appearance--she did not know why. But the reason was very
simple. She was no longer a beggar, hungry, in rags, ashamed, and feeling
that she had no right to be there, but was herself a part of that
pleasant world of men and women and children. An old Moon Street
neighbour, seeing her now in her beautiful dress and with her sweet
peaceful face, would not have recognised her.
At Peter Robinson's they spent about half an hour, Miss Starbrow making
some purchases for herself, and, being in a generous mood, she also
ordered a few things for Fan. As they came out at the door they met a Mr.
Mortimer, an old friend of Miss Starbrow's, elderly, but dandified in his
dress, and got up to look as youthful as possible. After warmly shaking
hands with Miss Starbrow, and bowing to Fan, he accompanied them for some
distance up Regent Street. Fan walked a little ahead. Mr. Mortimer seemed
very much taken with her, and was most anxious to find out all about her,
and to know how she came to be in Miss Starbrow's company. The answers he
got were short and not explicit; and whether he resented this, or merely
took a malicious pleasure in irritating his companion, whose character he
well knew, he continued speaking of Fan, protesting that he had not seen
a lovelier girl for a long time, and begging Miss Starbrow to note how
everyone--or every _man_, rather, since man only has eyes to see so
exquisite a face--looked keenly at the girl in passing.
"My dear Miss Starbrow," he said, "I must congratulate you on your--ahem
--late repentance. You know you were always a great woman-hater--a kind of
she-misogynist, if such a form of expression is allowable. You must have
changed indeed before bringing that fresh charming young girl out with
you." He angered her and she did not conceal it, because she could not,
though knowing that he was studying to annoy her from motives of revenge.
For this man, who was old enough to be her father, and had spent the last
decade trying to pick up a woman with money to mend his broken fortunes--
this watery-eyed, smirking old beau, who wrote himself down young, going
about Regent Street on a cold November day without overcoat or
spectacles--this man had had the audacity to propose marriage to her! She
had sent him about his business with a burst of scorn, which shook his
old, battered moral constitution like a tempest of wind and thunder, and
he had not forgotten it. He chuckled at the successful result of his
attack, not caring to conceal his glee; but this meeting proved very
unfortunate for poor Fan. After dismissing her old lover with scant
courtesy, Miss Starbrow caught up with the girl, and they walked on in
silence, looking at no shop-windows now. One glance at the dark angry
face was enough to spoil Fan's pleasure for the day and to make her
shrink within herself, wondering much as to what had caused so great and
sudden a change.
Arrived at Piccadilly Circus, Miss Starbrow called a cab.
"Get in, Fan," she said, speaking rather sharply. "I have a headache and
am going home."
The headache seemed so like a fit of anger that Fan did not venture to
speak one word of sympathy.
After reaching home, Miss Starbrow, without saying a word, went to her
room. Fan ventured to follow her there.
"I wish to be left alone for the rest of the day," said her mistress.
"Tell Rosie that I don't wish to be disturbed. After you have had your
dinner go down to the drawing-room and sit there by the fire with your
book. And--stay, if anyone calls to see me, say that I have a headache
and do not wish to be disturbed."
Fan went sorrowfully away and had her dinner, and was mocked by Rosie
when she delivered the message, and then taking her book she went to the
drawing-room on the ground-floor. After she had been there half an hour
she heard a knock, and presently the door was opened and Captain Horton
"What, alone, Miss Affleck! Tell me about Miss Starbrow," he said,
advancing and taking her hand.
Fan explained that Miss Starbrow was lying down, suffering from a
headache, and did not wish to be disturbed.
"I am sorry to hear it," he said. "But I can sit here and have a little
conversation with you, Fan--your name is Fan, is it not?"
He sat down near the fire still keeping her hand in his, and when she
tried gently to withdraw it, his grasp became firmer. His hand was very
soft, as is usual with men who play cards much--and well; and it held
tenaciously--again a characteristic of the card-playing hand.
"Oh, please, sir, let me go!" she said.
"Why, my dear child, don't you know it's the custom for a gentleman to
hold a girl's hand in his when he talks to her? But you have always lived
among the very poor--have you not?--where they have different customs.
Never mind, Fan, you will soon learn. Now look up, Fan, and let me see
those wonderful eyes of yours; yes, they are very pretty. You don't mind
my teaching you a little, do you, Fan, so that you will know how to
behave when you are with well-bred people?"
"No, sir; but please, sir, will you let me go?"
"Why, you foolish child, I am not going to hurt you. You don't take me
for a dentist, do you?" he continued, trying to make her laugh. But his
smile and the look in his eyes only frightened her. "Look here, Fan, I
will teach you something else. Don't you know that it is the custom among
ladies and gentlemen for a young girl to kiss a gentleman when he speaks
kindly to her?"
"No," said Fan, reddening and trying again to free herself.
"Don't be so foolish, child, or you will never learn how to behave. Do
you know that if you make a noise or fuss you'll disturb your mistress
and she will be very angry with you. Come now, be a good dear little
And with gentle force he drew her between his knees and put his arm round
her. Fan, afraid to cry out, struggled vainly to get free; he held her
firmly and closely, and had just put his lips to her face when the door
swung open, and Miss Starbrow sailed like a tragedy-queen into the room,
her head thrown back, her face white as marble and her eyes gleaming.
The visitor instantly rose, while Fan, released from his grip, her face
crimson with shame, slunk away, trembling with apprehension.
"Captain Horton, what is the meaning of this?" demanded the lady.
"Why nothing--a mere trifle--a joke, Pollie. Your little girl doesn't
mind being kissed by a friend of the family--that's all."
"Come here, Fan," she said, in a tone of concentrated rage; and the girl,
frightened and hesitating, approached her. "This is the way you behave
the moment my back is turned. You corrupt-minded little wretch! Take
that!" and with her open hand she struck the girl's face a cruel blow,
with force enough to leave the red print of her fingers on the pale
Fan, covering her face with her hands, shrunk back against the wall,
"Oh, come, Pollie!" exclaimed Horton, "don't be so hard on the poor
monkey--she's a mere child, you know, and didn't think any harm."
Miss Starbrow made no reply, but standing motionless looked at him--
watched his face with a fierce, dangerous gleam in her half-closed eyes.
"Don't stand snivelling here," she spoke, turning to Fan. "Go up
instantly to the back room, and stay there. I shall know how to trust a
girl out of the slums another time."
Crying bitterly she left the room, and her mistress shut the door after
her, remaining there with her lover.
Fan found the window of the back room open, but she did not feel cold;
and kneeling on the sofa, with her face resting on her hands, and still
crying, she remained there for a long time. A little wintry sunshine
rested on the garden, brightening the brown naked branches of the trees
and the dark green leaves of ivy and shrub, and gladdening the sparrows.
By-and-by the shortlived sunshine died away, and the sparrows left. It
was strangely quiet in the house; distinctly she heard Miss Starbrow come
out of the drawing-room and up the stairs; she trembled a little then and
felt a little rebellious stirring in her heart, thinking that her
mistress was coming up to her. But no, she went to her own room, and
closed the door. Then Rosie came in, stealing up to her on tiptoe, and
curiously peering into her face.
"Oh I say--something's happened!" she exclaimed, and tripped joyfully
away. Half an hour later she came up with some tea.
"I've brought your la'ship a cup of tea. I'm sure it will do your head
good," she said, advancing with mincing steps and affecting profound
sympathy in her tone.
"Take it away--I shan't touch it!" returned Fan, becoming angry in her
"Oh, but your la'ship's health is so important! Society will be so
distressed when it hears that your la'ship is unwell! I'll leave the cup
in the window in case your la'ship--"
Fan pushed cup and saucer angrily away, and over they went, falling
outside down to the area, where they struck with a loud crash and were
shivered to pieces.
Rosie laughed and clapped her hands in glee. "Oh, I'm so glad you've
smashed it!" she exclaimed. "I'll tell Miss Starbrow, and then you'll
see! That cup was the thing she valued most in the house. She bought it
at a sale at Christie and Manson's and gave twenty-five guineas for it.
Oh, how mad she'll be!"
Fan paid no heed to her words, knowing that there was no truth in them.
While pushing it away she had noticed that it was an old kitchen cup,
chipped and cracked and without a handle; the valuable curio had as a
fact been fished out of a heap of rubbish that morning by the maid, who
thought that it would serve very well for "her la'ship's tea."
Rosie got tired of tormenting her, and took herself off at last; then
another hour went slowly by while it gradually grew dark; and as the
lights faded her rebellious feelings left her, and she began to hope that
Miss Starbrow would soon call her or come to her. And at length, unable
to bear the loneliness and suspense, she went to the bedroom door and
softly knocked. There was no answer, and trying the door she found that
it was locked. She waited outside the door for about half an hour, and
then hearing her mistress moving in the room she tapped again, with the
same result as before. Then she went back despairingly to the back room
and her place beside the window. The night was starry and not very cold,
and to protect herself from the night air she put on her fur cape. Hour
after hour she listened to the bells of St. Matthew's chiming the
quarters, feeling a strange loneliness each time the chimes ceased; and
then, after a few minutes' time, beginning again to listen for the next
quarter. It was getting very late, and still no one came to her, not even
Rosie with her supper, which she had made up her mind not to touch. Then
she dropped her head on her hands, and cried quietly to herself. She had
so many thoughts, and each one seemed sadder than the last. For the great
tumult in her soul was over now, and she could think about it all, and of
all the individuals who had treated her cruelly. She felt very
differently towards them. Captain Horton she feared and hated, and wished
him dead with all her heart; and Rosie she also hated, but not so
intensely, for the maid's enmity had not injured her. Against Mary she
only felt a great anger, but no hatred; for Mary had been so kind, so
loving, and she could not forget that, and all the sweetness it had given
her life. Then she began to compare this new luxurious life in Dawson
Place to the old wretched life in Moon Street, which now seemed so far
back in time; and it seemed strange to her that, in spite of the great
difference, yet to-night she felt more unhappy than she had ever felt in
the old days. She remembered her poor degraded mother, who had never
turned against her, and cried quietly again, leaning her face on the
window-sill. Then she had a thought which greatly perplexed her, and she
asked herself why it was in those old days, when hard words and unjust
blows came to her, she only felt a fearful shrinking of the flesh, and
wished like some poor hunted animal to fly away and hide herself from her
tormentors, while now a spirit of resentment and rebellion was kindled in
her and burnt in her heart with a strange fire. Was it wrong to feel like
that, to wish that those who made her suffer were dead? That was a hard
question which Fan put to herself, and she could not answer it.
Her long fast and the excitement she had experienced, with so many lonely
hours of suspense after it, began to tell on her and make her sleepy. It
was eleven o'clock; she heard the servants going round to fasten doors
and turn off the gas, and finally they passed her landing on their way to
bed. It was getting very cold, and giving up all hope of being called by
her mistress, she closed the window and, with an old table-cover for
covering, coiled herself up on the sofa and went to sleep.
When she woke it was with a start; her face had grown very cold, and she
felt a warm hand touching her cheek. The hand was quickly withdrawn when
she woke, and looking round Fan saw someone seated by her, and although
there was only the starlight from the window in the dim room, she knew
that it was her mistress. She raised herself to a sitting position on the
sofa, but without speaking. All her bitter, resentful feelings had
suddenly rushed back to her heart.
"Well, you have condescended to wake at last," said Miss Starbrow. "Do
you know that it is nearly one o'clock in the morning?"
"No," returned Fan.
"No! well then, I say yes. It is nearly one o'clock. Do you intend to
keep me here waiting your pleasure all night, I wonder!"
"I don't want you to come here. I had no place to sleep because you
locked me out of your room."
"And for an excellent reason," said the other sharply. "How could I admit
you into my room after the outrageous scene I witnessed downstairs! You
seem to think that you can behave just how you like in my house, and that
it will make no difference."
Fan was silent.
"Oh, very well, Miss Fan, if you have nothing to say for yourself!"
"What do you want me to say?"
"Say! I wonder at the question. I want you to tell me the truth, of
course. That is, if you can. How did it all happen--you must tell me
everything just as it occurred, without concealment or prevarication."
Fan related the facts simply and clearly; she remembered every word the
Captain had spoken only too well.
"I wish I knew whether you have told me the simple truth or not," said
"May God strike me dead if I'm not telling the truth!" said Fan.
"There, that will do. A young lady is supposed to be able to answer a
question with a simple yes or no, without swearing about it like a bargee
on the Regent's Canal."
"Then why don't you believe me when I say yes and no, and--and why didn't
you ask me before you struck me?"
"I shouldn't have struck you if I had not thought you were a little to
blame. It is not likely. You ought to know that after all my kindness to
you--but I dare say that is all forgotten. I declare I have been treated
most shamefully!" And here she dropped her face into her hands and began
But the girl felt no softening of the heart; that strange fire was still
burning in her, and she could only think of the cruel words, the unjust
Miss Starbrow suddenly ceased her crying. "I thought that you, at any
rate, had a little gratitude and affection for me," she said. "But of
course I was mistaken about that as I have been about everything else. If
you had the faintest spark of sympathy in you, you would show a little
feeling, and--and ask me why I cry, or say something."
For some moments Fan continued silent, then she moved and touched the
other's hand, and said very softly, for now all her anger was melting
away, "Why do you cry, Mary?"
"You know, Fan, because I love you, and am so sorry I struck you. What a
brute I was to hurt you--a poor outcast and orphan, with no friend but me
in the world. Forgive me, dear Fan, for treating you so cruelly!" Then
she put her arms about the girl and kissed her, holding her close to her
"Oh, Mary, dear," said Fan, now also crying; "you didn't hurt me very
much. I only felt it because--because it was you."
"I know, Fan, and that's why I can't forgive myself. But I shall never,
never hurt you again, for I know that you are truth itself, and that I
can trust you. And now let us go down and have some supper together
before going to bed. I know you've had nothing since lunch, and I
couldn't touch a morsel, I was so troubled about that wretch of a man. I
think I have been sitting here quite two hours waiting for you to wake."
Together they went down to the dining-room, where a delicate little
supper, such as Miss Starbrow loved to find on coming home from the play,
was laid out for them. For the first time Fan sat at table with her
mistress; another new experience was the taste of wine. She had a glass
of Sauterne, and thought it very nice.
On the next morning, after a sharp frost, the sun shone brightly as in
spring. Fan was up early and enjoyed her breakfast, notwithstanding the
late supper, and not in the least disturbed by the scornful words flung
at her by the housemaid when she brought up the tray. After breakfasting
she went to Miss Starbrow's room, to find her still in bed and not
inclined to get up.
"Put on your dress and go for a walk in Kensington Gardens," she said. "I
think it is a fine day, for a wonder. You may stop out until one o'clock,
if you like, and take my watch, so as to know the time. And if you wish
to rest while out don't sit down on a bench, or you will be sure to have
someone speak to you. According to the last census, or Registrar-
General's report, or whatever it is, there are twenty thousand young
gentlemen loafers in London, who spend their whole time hanging about the
parks and public places trying to make the acquaintance of young girls.
Sit on a chair by yourself when you are tired--you can always find a
chair even in winter--and give the chairman a penny when he comes to
"I haven't got a penny, Mary. But it doesn't matter; I'll not get tired."
"Then I must give you a purse and some money, and you must never go out
without it, and don't mind spending a little money now and then, and
giving away a penny when you feel inclined. Give me my writing desk and
She opened the desk and took out a small plush purse, then some silver
and coppers to put in it, and finally a sovereign.
"The silver you can use, the sovereign you must not change, but keep it
in case you should require money when I am not with you."
With all these fresh proofs of Mary's affection to make her happy, in her
lovely new dress and hat, and the beautiful gold chain on her bosom, Fan
went out for her walk feeling as light-hearted as a linnet. It was the
last day of November, usually a dreary time in London, but never had the
world looked so bright and beautiful to Fan as on that morning; and as
she walked along with swift elastic tread she could hardly refrain from
bursting bird-like into some natural joyous melody. Passing into the
Gardens at the Queen's Road entrance, she went along the Broad Walk to
the Round Pond, and then on to the Albert Memorial, shining with gold and
brilliant colours in the sun like some fairy edifice. Running up the
steps she walked round and round the sculptured base of the monument,
studying the marble faces and reading the names, and above all admiring
the figures there--blind old Homer playing on his harp, with Dante,
Shakespeare, Milton, and all the immortal sons of song, grouped about him
listening. But nothing to her mind equalled the great group of statuary
representing Asia at one of the four corners, with that colossal calm-
faced woman seated on an elephant in the centre. What a great majestic
face, and yet how placid and sweet it looked, reminding her a little of
Mary in her kindly moods. But this noble face was of marble, and never
changed; Mary's changed every hour, so that the soft expression when it
came seemed doubly sweet. By-and-by she walked away towards the bridge
over the Serpentine, and in the narrow path, thickly bordered with trees
and shrubs and late flowers, she stepped aside to make room for a lady to
pass, who held by the hand a little angel-faced, golden-haired child,
dressed in a quaint pretty costume. The child stood still and looked up
into Fan's face, and then she also involuntarily stopped, so taken was
she with the little thing's beauty.
"Mammy," said the child, pointing to Fan, "I'se like to tiss the pretty
"Well, my darling, perhaps the young lady will kiss you if you ask very
nicely," said the mother.
"Oh, may I kiss her?" said Fan, reddening with pleasure, and quickly
stooping she pressed her lips to the little cherub face.
"I loves you--what's your name?" said the child.
"No, darling, you must not ask questions. You've got your kiss and that
ought to satisfy you"; and with a smile and nod to Fan she walked on.
Fan pursued her walk to the Serpentine, with a new delicious sensation in
her heart. It was so strange and sweet to be spoken to by a lady, a
stranger, and treated like an equal! And in the days that were not so
long ago with what sad desire in her eyes had she looked at smiling
beautiful faces, like this lady's face, and no smile and no gentle word
had been bestowed on her, and no glance that did not express pity or
At the head of the Serpentine she stood for ten or fifteen minutes to
watch the children and nursemaids feeding the swans and ducks. The swans
were very stately and graceful, the ducks very noisy and contentious, and
it was great fun to see them squabbling over the crumbs of bread. But
after leaving the waterside she came upon a scene among the great elms
and chestnuts close by which amused her still more. Some poor ragged
children--three boys and a girl--were engaged in making a great heap of
the old dead fallen leaves, gathering them in armfuls and bringing them
to one spot. By-and-by the little girl came up with a fresh load, and as
she stooped to put it on the pile, the boys, who had all gathered round,
pushed her over and covered her with a mass of old leaves; then, with a
shout of laughter at their rough joke, they ran away. She struggled out
and stood up half-choked with dust, her face covered with dirt, and dress
and hair with the black half-rotten leaves. As soon as she got her breath
she burst out in a prolonged howl, while the big tears rushed out, making
channels on her grimy cheeks.
"Oh, poor little girl, don't cry," said Fan, going up to her, but the
child only howled the louder. Then Fan remembered her money and Mary's
words, and taking out a penny she offered it to the little girl.
Instantly the crying ceased, the child clutched the penny in her dirty
little fist, then stared at Fan, then at the penny, and finally turned
and ran away as fast as she could run, past the fountains, out at the
gate, and into the Bayswater Road.
When she was quite out of sight Fan resumed her walk, laughing a little,
but with misty eyes, for it was the first time in her life that she had
given a penny away, and it made her strangely happy. Before quitting the
Gardens, however, one little incident occurred to interfere with her
pleasure. Close to the Broad Walk she suddenly encountered Captain Horton
walking with a companion in the opposite direction. There was no time to
turn aside in order to avoid him; when she recognised him he was watching
her face with a curious smile under his moustache which made her feel a
little uncomfortable; then, raising his hat, he passed her without
"You know that pretty girl?" she heard his friend ask, as she hurried
away a little frightened towards the Queen's Road gate.
Miss Starbrow appeared very much put out about this casual encounter in
the Gardens when Fan related the incidents of her walk.
"I'll not walk there again, Mary, so as not to meet him," said Fan
"On the contrary, you shall walk there as often as you like--I had almost
said whether you like it or not; and in the Grove, where you are still
more likely to meet him." She spoke angrily; but after a while added, "He
couldn't well have done less than notice you when he met you, and I do
not think you need be afraid of anything. It is not likely that he would
address you. He put an altogether false complexion on that affair
yesterday--a cowardly thing to do, and caused us both a great deal of
pain, and for that I shall never forgive him. Think no more about it,
It was pretty plain, however, that she permitted herself to think more
about it; for during the next few days she was by no means cheerful,
while her moody fits and bursts of temper were more frequent than usual.
Then, one Wednesday evening, when Fan assisted her in dressing to receive
her visitors, she seemed all at once to have recovered her spirits, and
talked to the girl and laughed in a merry light-hearted way.
"Poor Fan, how dull it must always be for you on a Wednesday evening,
sitting here so long by yourself," she said.
"Oh no, Mary, I always open the door and listen to the music; I like the
singing so much."
"That reminds me," said Miss Starbrow. "Who do you think is coming this
"Captain Horton," she answered promptly.
Miss Starbrow laughed. "Yes; how quick you are at guessing. I must tell
you all about it; and do you know, Fan, I find it very delightful to have
a dear trusty girl to talk to. I suppose you have noticed how cross I
have been all these days. It was all on account of that man. He offended
me so much that day that I made up my mind never to speak to him again.
But he is very sorry; besides, he looked on you as little more than a
child, and really meant it only for a joke. And so I have half forgiven
him, and shall let him visit me again, but only on Wednesday evenings
when there will be others. I shall not allow him to come whenever he
likes, as he used to do. Fan was silent. Miss Starbrow, sitting before
the glass, read the ill-concealed trouble in the girl's face reflected
"Now don't be foolish, Fan, and think no more about it," she said. "You
are very young--not nearly sixteen yet, and gentlemen look on girls of
that age as scarcely more than children, and think it no harm to kiss
them. He's a thoughtless fellow, and doesn't always do what is right, but
he certainly did not think any harm or he would not have acted that way
in my house. That's what he says, and I know very well when I hear the
After finishing her hair, Miss Starbrow, not yet satisfied that she had
removed all disagreeable impression, turned round and said, "Now, my
solemn-faced girl, why are you so silent? Are you going to be cross with
me? Don't you think I know best what is right and believe what I tell
The tears came to the girl's eyes. "I do believe you know best, Mary,"
she said, in a distressed voice. "Oh, please don't think that I am cross.
I am so glad you like to talk to me."
Miss Starbrow smiled and touched her cheek, and at length stooped and
kissed her; and this little display of confidence and affection chased
away the last remaining cloud, and made Fan perfectly happy.
The partial forgiveness extended to Captain Horton did not have exactly
the results foretold. Miss Starbrow was fond of affirming that when her
mind was once made up about anything it was not to be moved; but in this
affair she had already yielded to persuasion, and had permitted the
Captain to visit her again; and by-and-by the second resolution also
proved weak, and his visits were not confined to Wednesday evenings. She
had struggled against her unworthy feeling for him, and knowing that it
was unworthy, that the strength she prided herself so much on was
weakness where he was concerned, she was dissatisfied in mind and angry
with herself for making these concessions. She really believed in the
love he professed for her, and did not think much the worse of him for
being a man without income or occupation, and a gambler to boot; but she
feared that a marriage with him would only make her miserable, and
between her love for him, which could not be concealed, and the fear that
he would eventually win her consent to be his wife, her mind was in a
constant state of anxiety and restlessness. The little indiscretion he
had been guilty of with Fan she had forgiven in her heart: that he had
actually conceived a fondness for this poor young girl she could not
believe, for in that case he would have been very careful not to do
anything to betray it to the woman he wished to marry; but though she had
forgiven him, she was resolved not to let him know it just yet, and so
continued to be a little distant and formal in her manner, never calling
him by his christian name, "Jack," as formerly, and not allowing him to
call her "Pollie."
All this was nothing to Fan, as she very rarely saw him, but on the few
occasions when she accidentally met him, in the house or when out
walking, he always had that curious smile on his lips, and studied her
face with a bold searching look in his eyes, which made her uncomfortable
and even a little afraid.
One day, about the middle of December, Miss Starbrow began to speak to
her about her future.
"You have improved wonderfully, Fan, since you first came," she said,
"but I fear that this kind of improvement will not be of much practical
use, and my conscience is not quite satisfied about you. I have taken
this responsibility on myself, and must not go on shutting my eyes to it.
Some day it will be necessary for you to go out into the world to earn
your own living; that is what we have got to think about. Remember that
you can't have me always to take care of you; I might go abroad, or die,
or get married, and then you would be left to your own resources. You
couldn't make your living by simply looking pretty; you must be useful as
well as ornamental; and I have taught you nothing--teaching is not in my
line. It would be a thousand pities if you were ever to sink down to the
servant-girl level: we must think of something better than that. A young
lady generally aspires to be a governess. But then she must know
everything--music, drawing, French, German, Latin, mathematics, algebra;
all that she must have at her finger-ends, and be able to gabble
political economy, science, and metaphysics to boot. All that is beyond
you--unattainable as the stars. But you needn't break your heart about
it. She doesn't get much. Her wages are about equal to those of a
kitchen-maid, who can't spell, but only peel potatoes. And the more
learned she is, the more she is disliked and snubbed by her betters; and
she never marries, in spite of what the _Family Herald_ says, but
goes on toiling until she is fifty, and then retires to live alone on
fifteen shillings a week in some cheap lodging for the remnant of her
dreary life. No, poor Fan, you can't hope to be anything as grand as a
Fan laughed a little: she had grown accustomed to and understood this
half-serious mocking style of speech in which her mistress often
"But," she continued, "you might qualify yourself for some other kind of
employment less magnificent, but still respectable, and even genteel
enough. That of a nursery-governess, for instance; you are fond of
children, and could teach them their letters. Or you could be companion
to a lady; some simple-minded, old-fashioned dame who stays at home, and
would not require you to know languages. Or, better still perhaps, you
might go into one of the large West End shops. I do not think it would be
very difficult for you to get a place of that kind, as your appearance is
so much in your favour. I know that your ambition is not a very soaring
one, and a few months ago you would not have ventured to dream of ever
being a young lady in a shop like Jay's or Peter Robinson's. Yet for such
a place you would not have to study for years and pass a stiff
examination, as a poor girl is obliged to do before she can make her
living by sitting behind a counter selling penny postage-stamps. Homely
girls can succeed there: for the fine shop a pretty face, an elegant
figure, and a pleasing lady-like manner are greatly prized--more than a
knowledge of archaeology and the higher mathematics; and you possess all
these essentials to start with. But whether you are destined to go into a
shop or private house, it is important that you should make a better use
of your time just now, while you are with me, and learn something--
dressmaking, let us say, and all kinds of needlework; then you will at
least be able to make your own clothes."
"I should like to learn that very much," said Fan eagerly.
"Very well, you shall learn then. I have been making inquiries, and find
that there is a place in Regent Street, where for a moderate premium they
do really succeed in teaching girls such things in a short time. I shall
take you there to-morrow, and make all arrangements."
Very soon after this conversation Fan commenced her new work of learning
dressmaking, going every morning by omnibus to Regent Street, lunching
where she worked, and returning to Dawson Place at four o'clock. After
the preliminary difficulties, or rather strangeness inseparable from a
new occupation, had been got over, she began to find her work very
agreeable. It was maintained by the teachers in the establishment she was
in that by means of their system even a stupid girl could be taught the
mystery of dressmaking in a little while. And Fan was not stupid,
although she had an extremely modest opinion of her own abilities, and
was not regarded by others as remarkably intelligent; but she was
diligent and painstaking, and above everything anxious to please her
mistress, who had paid extra money to ensure pains being taken with her.
So rapid was her progress, that before the end of January Miss Starbrow
bought some inexpensive material, and allowed her to make herself a
couple of dresses to wear in the house; and these first efforts resulted
so well that a better stuff was got for a walking-dress.
The winter had thus far proved a full and happy one to Fan; in February
she was even more fully occupied, and, if possible, happier; for after
leaving the establishment in Regent Street, Miss Starbrow sent her to the
school of embroidery in South Kensington to take lessons in a new and
still more delightful art. But at the end of that month Fan unhappily,
and from no fault of her own, fell into serious disgrace. She had gone to
the Exhibition Road with a sample of her work on the morning of a bright
windy day which promised to be dry; a little later Miss Starbrow also
went out. Before noon the weather changed, and a heavy continuous rain
began to fall. At one o'clock Miss Starbrow came home in a cab, and as
she went into the house it occurred to her to ask the maid if Fan had got
very wet or had come in a cab. She knew that Fan had not taken an
"No, ma'am; she walked home, but didn't get wet. A young gentleman came
with her, and I s'pose he kept her dry with his umbrella."
"A young gentleman--are you quite sure?"
"Yes, ma'am, quite sure," she returned, indignant at having her sacred
word doubted. "He was with her on the steps when I opened the door, and
shook hands with her just like an old friend when he went away; and she
was quite dry."
Miss Starbrow said no more. She knew that the servant, though no friend
to Fan, would not have dared to invent a story of this kind, and resolved
to say nothing, but to wait for the girl to give her own account of the
Fan said nothing about it. On leaving the school of embroidery, seeing
how threatening the sky was, she was hurrying towards the park, when the
rain came down, and in a few moments she would have been wet through if
help had not come in the shape of an umbrella held over her head by an
attentive young stranger. He kept at her side all the way across the
Gardens to Dawson Place, and Fan felt grateful for his kindness; she
conversed with him during the walk, and at the door she had not refused
to shake hands when he offered his. In ordinary circumstances, she would
have made haste to tell her mistress all about it, thinking no harm;
unfortunately it happened that for some days Miss Starbrow had been in
one of her worst moods, and during these sullen irritable periods Fan
seldom spoke unless spoken to.
When Miss Starbrow found the girl in her room on going there, she looked
keenly and not too kindly at her, and imagined that poor Fan wore a look
of guilt on her face, whereas it was nothing but distress at her own
continued ill-temper which she saw.
"I shall give her till to-morrow to tell me," thought the lady, "and if
she says nothing, I shall conclude that she has made friends out of doors
and wishes to keep it from me."
Fan knew nothing of what was passing in the other's mind; she only saw
that her mistress was even less gracious to her than she had been, and
thought it best to keep out of her sight. For the rest of the day not one
word passed between them.
Next morning Fan got ready to go to Kensington, but first came in to her
mistress as was her custom. Miss Starbrow was also dressed in readiness
to go out; she was sitting apparently waiting to speak to Fan before
leaving the house.
"Are you going out, Mary?" said Fan, a little timidly.
"Yes, I am going out," she returned coldly, and then seemed waiting for
something more to be said.
"May I go now?" said Fan.
"No," the other returned after some moments. "Change your dress again and
stay at home to-day." Presently she added, "You are learning a little too
much in Exhibition Road--more, I fancy, than I bargained for."
Fan was silent, not knowing what was meant.
Then Miss Starbrow went out, but first she called the maid and told her
to remove Fan's bed and toilet requisites out of her room into the back
Greatly distressed and perplexed at the unkind way she had been spoken
to, Fan changed her dress and sat down in the cold back room to do some
work. After a while she heard a great noise as of furniture being dragged
about, and presently Rosie came in with the separate pieces of her
"What are you doing with my things?" exclaimed Fan in surprise.
"Your things!" retorted Rosie, with scorn. "What your mistress told me to
do, you cheeky little beggar! Your things indeed! 'Put a beggar on
horseback and he'll ride to the devil,' and that's what Miss Starbrow's
beginning to find out at last. And quite time, too! Embroidery! That's
what you're going to wear perhaps when you're back in the slums you came
from! I thought it wouldn't last!" And Rosie, banging the things about,
pounding the mattress with clenched fist, and shaking the pillows like a
terrier with a rat, kept up this strain of invective until she had
finished her task, and then went off, well pleased to think that the day
of her triumph was not perhaps very far distant.
On that day, however, Rosie herself was destined to experience great
trouble of mind, and an anxiety about her future even exceeding that of
Fan, who was spending the long hours alone in that big, cold, fireless
room, grieving in her heart at the great change in her beloved mistress,
and dropping many a tear on the embroidery in her hands.
It was about three o'clock, and feeling her fingers quite stiff with
cold, she determined to go quietly down to the drawing-room in the hope
of finding a fire lighted there so as to warm her hands. Miss Starbrow
had not returned, and the house was very still, and after standing a few
moments on the landing, anxious not to rouse the maid and draw a fresh
volley of abuse on herself, she went softly down the stairs, and opened
the drawing-room door. For a moment or two she stood motionless, and then
muttering some incoherent apology turned and fled back to her room. For
there, very much at his ease, sat Captain Horton, with Rosie on his
knees, her arms about his neck, and her lips either touching his or in
very close proximity to them.
Rosie slipped from her seat, and the Captain stood up, but the intruder
had seen and gone, and their movements were too late.
"The spy! the cat!" snapped Rosie, grown suddenly pale with anger and
"It's very fine to abuse the girl," said the Captain; "but it was all
through your infernal carelessness. Why didn't you lock the door?"
"Oh, you're going to blame me! That's like a man. Perhaps you're in love
with the cat. I s'pose you think she's pretty."
"I'd like to twist her neck, and yours too, for a fool. If any trouble
comes you will be to blame."
"Say what you like, I don't care. There'll be trouble enough, you may be
"Do you mean to say that she will dare to tell?"
"Tell! She'll only be too glad of the chance. She'll tell everything to
Miss Starbrow, and she hates me and hates you like poison. It would be
very funny if she didn't tell."
He walked about the room fuming.
"It will be as bad for you as for me," he said.
"No, it won't. I can get another place, I s'pose."
"Oh, yes; very fine, and be a wretched slavey all your life, if you like
that. You know very well that I have promised you two hundred pounds the
day I marry your mistress."
"Yes; because I'm not a fool, and you can't help yourself. Don't think
_I_ want to marry you. Not me! Keep your love for Miss Starbrow, and
much you'll get out of her!"
"You idiot!" he began; but seeing that she was half sobbing he said no
more, and continued walking about the room. Presently he came back to
her. "It's no use quarrelling," he said. "If anything can be done to get
out of this infernal scrape it will only be by our acting together. Since
this wretched Fan has been in the house, Miss Starbrow is harder than
ever to get on with; and even if Fan holds her tongue about this--"
"She won't hold her tongue."
"But even if she should, we'll never do any good while she has that girl
to amuse herself with. You know perfectly well, Rosie, that if there is
anyone I really love it is you; but then we've both of us got to do the
best we can for ourselves. I shall love you just the same after I am
married, and if you still should like me, why then, Rosie, we might be
able to enjoy ourselves very well. But if Fan tells at once what she saw
just now, then it will be all over with us--with you, at any rate."
"She won't tell at once--not while her mistress is in her tantrums. The
little cat keeps out of her way then. Not to-day, and perhaps not to-
morrow; and the day after I think Miss Starbrow's going to visit her
friends at Croydon. That's what she said; and if she goes, she'll be out
"Oh!" ejaculated the Captain; then rising he carefully closed and locked
the door before continuing the conversation. They were both very much
interested in it; but when it was at last over, and the Captain took his
departure, Rosie did not bounce away as usual with tumbled hair and merry
flushed face. She left the drawing-room looking pale and a little scared
perhaps, and for the rest of the day was unusually silent and subdued.
To Fan no comfort came that evening, and an hour after supper she went to
bed to get warm, without seeing her mistress, who had returned to dinner.
Next day she was no better off; she did not venture to ask whether she
might go out or not, or even to go to Miss Starbrow's room, but kept to
her own cold apartment, working and grieving, and seeing no one except
the maid. Rosie came and went, but she was moody, or else afraid to use
her tongue, and silent. On the following morning Miss Starbrow left the
house at an early hour, and Fan resigned herself to yet another cold
solitary day. About eleven o'clock Rosie came running up in no little
excitement with a telegram addressed to "Miss Affleck." She took it,
wondering a little at the change in the maid's manner, but not thinking
much about it, for she had never received a telegram before, and it
startled and troubled her to have one thrust into her hand. Rosie stood
by, anxiously waiting to hear its contents.
"How long are you going to be about it?" she exclaimed. "Let me read it
Fan held it back, and went on perusing it slowly. It was from Miss
Starbrow at Twickenham, and said: "Come to me here by train from
Westbourne Park Station. Bring two or three dresses and all you will
require in my bag. Shall remain here several days. The housekeeper will
meet you at Twickenham Station."
She allowed Rosie to read the message, and was told that Twickenham was
very near London; that she must take a cab to get quickly to Westbourne
Park Station, so as not to keep Miss Starbrow waiting. Then, while Fan
changed her dress and got herself ready, the maid selected one of Miss
Starbrow's best bags and busied herself in folding up and packing as many
of Fan's things as she could cram into it. Then she ran out to call a
cab, leaving Fan again studying the telegram and feeling strangely
perplexed at being thus suddenly sent for by her mistress, who had gone
out of the house without speaking one word to her.
In a few minutes the cab was at the door, and Rosie officiously helped
the girl in, handed her the bag, and told her to pay the cabman one
shilling. After it started she rushed excitedly into the road and stopped
"Oh, I forgot, Miss Fan, leave the telegram, you don't want it any more,"
she said, coming to the side of the cab.
Fan mechanically pulled the yellow envelope from her pocket and gave it
to her without question, and was then driven off. But in her agitation at
the sudden summons she had thrust the missive and the cover separately
into her pocket, so that Rosie had after all only got the envelope. It
was a little matter--a small oversight caused by hurry--but the result
was important; in all probability Fan's whole after life would have been
different if she had not made that trivial mistake.
She was quickly at the station, and after taking her ticket had only a
few minutes to wait for a train; half an hour later she was at Twickenham
Station. As soon as the platform was clear of the other passengers who
had alighted, a respectably-dressed woman got up from one of the seats
and came up to Fan. "You are Miss Affleck," she said, with a furtive
glance at the girl's face. "Miss Starbrow sent me to meet you. She is
going to stay a few days with friends just outside of Twickenham. Will
you please come this way?"
She took the bag from Fan, then led the way not to, but round the
village, and at some distance beyond it into a road with trees planted in
it and occasional garden-seats. They followed this road for about a
quarter of a mile, then left it, and the villas and houses near it, and
struck across a wide field. Beyond it, in an open space, they came to an
isolated terrace of small red-brick cottages. The cottages seemed newly
built and empty, and no person was moving about; nor had any road been
made, but the houses stood on the wet clay, full of deep cart-wheel ruts,
and strewn with broken bricks and builders' rubbish. In the middle of the
row Fan noticed that one of the cottages was inhabited, apparently by
very poor people, for as she passed by with her guide, three or four
children and a woman, all wretchedly dressed, came out and stared
curiously at her. Then, to her surprise, her guide stopped at the last
house of the row, and opened the door with a latchkey. The windows were
all closed, and from the outside it looked uninhabited, and as they went
into the narrow uncarpeted hall Fan began to experience some nervous
fears. Why had her mistress, a rich woman, with a luxurious home of her
own, come into this miserable suburban cottage? The door of a small
square room on the ground-floor was standing open, and looking into it
she saw that it contained a couple of chairs and a table, but no other
furniture and no carpet.
"Where's Miss Starbrow?" she asked, becoming alarmed.
"Upstairs, waiting for you. This way, please"; and taking Fan by the
hand, she attempted to lead her up the narrow uncarpeted stairs. But
suddenly, with a cry of terror, the girl snatched herself free and rushed
down into the open room, and stood there panting, white and trembling
with terror, her eyes dilated, like some wild animal that finds itself
caught in a trap.
"What ails you?" said the woman, quickly following her down.
"Captain Horton is there--I saw him looking down!" said Fan, in a
terrified whisper. "Oh, please let me out--let me out!"
"Why, what nonsense you are talking, to be sure! There's no Captain
Horton here, and what's more, I don't know who Captain Horton is. It was
Miss Starbrow you saw waiting for you on the landing."
"No, no, no--let me out! let me out!" was Fan's only reply.
The woman then made a dash at her, but the girl, now wild with fear,
sprang quickly from her, and running round the room came to the window at
the front, and began madly pulling at the fastenings to open it. There
she was seized, but not to be conquered yet, for the sense of the
terrible peril she was in gave her an unnatural strength, and struggling
still to return to the window, her only way of escape, they presently
came violently against it and shattered a pane of glass. At this moment
the woman, exerting her whole strength, succeeded in dragging her back to
the middle of the room; and Fan, finding that she was being overcome,
burst forth in a succession of piercing screams, which had the effect of
quickly bringing Captain Horton on to the scene.
"Oh, you've come at last! There--manage her yourself--the wild beast!"
cried the woman, flinging the girl from her towards him.
He caught her in his arms. "Will you stop screaming?" he shouted; but Fan
only screamed the louder.
"Stop her--stop her quick, or we'll have those people and the police
here," cried the woman, running to the window and peering out at the
broken pane to see if the noise had attracted their neighbours.
He succeeded in getting one of his hands over her mouth, and still
keeping her clasped firmly with the other arm, began drawing her towards
the door. But not even yet was she wholly overcome; all the power which
had been in her imprisoned arms and hands appeared suddenly to have gone
into the muscles of her jaws, and in a moment her sharp teeth had cut his
hand to the bone.
"Oh, curse the hell-cat!" he cried; and maddened with rage at the pain,
he struck her from him, and her head coming violently in contact with the
sharp edge of the table, she was thrown down senseless on the floor. Her
forehead was deeply cut, and presently the blood began flowing over her
still, white face.
The woman now became terrified in her turn.
"You have killed her!" she cried. "Oh, Captain, you have killed her, and
you'll hang for it and make me hang too. Oh God! what's to be done now?"
"Hold your noise, you cursed fool!" exclaimed the other, in a rage. "Get
some cold water and dash it over her face."
She obeyed quickly enough, and kneeling down washed the blood from the
girl's face and hair, and loosened her dress. But the fear that they
would be discovered unnerved her, her hands shook, and she kept on
moaning that the girl was dead, that they would be found out and tried
"She's not dead, I tell you--damn you for a fool!" exclaimed Captain
Horton, dashing the blood from his wounded hand and stamping on the floor
in a rage.
"She is! she is! There's not a spark of life in her that I can feel! Oh,
what shall I do?"
He pushed her roughly aside and felt for the girl's pulse, and placed his
hand over her heart, but was perhaps too much agitated himself to feel
its feeble pulsations.
"Good God, it can't be!" he said. "A girl can't be killed with a light
knock in falling like that. No, no, she'll come to presently and be all
right. And we're safe enough--not a soul knows where she is."
"Oh, don't you think that!" returned the woman, again kneeling down and
chafing and slapping Fan's palms, and moistening her face. "The people at
the other house were all there watching us when I brought the girl in.
They're curious about it, and maybe suspect something; and when the
policeman comes round you may be sure they'll tell him, and they'll have
heard the screams too, and they'll be watching about now. Oh, what a
blessed fool I was to have anything to do with it!"
Captain Horton began cursing her again; but just then Fan's bosom moved,
she drew a long breath, and presently her eyes opened.
They were watching her with a feeling of intense relief, thinking that
they had now escaped from a great and terrible danger. Fan looked up into
the face of the woman bent over her, and gazed at her in a dazed kind of
way, not yet remembering where she was or what had befallen her. Then she
glanced at the man's face, a little distance off, shivered and closed her
eyes, and in her stillness and extreme pallor seemed to have become
insensible again, although her white lips twitched at intervals.
"Go away, for God's sake! Go to the other room--it kills her to see you!"
said the woman, in an excited whisper.
He moved away and slipped out at the door very quietly, but presently
called softly to the woman.
"Here, make her swallow a little brandy," he said, giving her a pocket
In about half an hour Fan had recovered so far that she could sit up in a
chair; but with her strength her distress and terror came back, and
feeling herself powerless she began to cry and beg to be let out.
The woman went to the door and spoke softly to her companion.
"It's all right now; she's getting over it."
"It's all wrong, I tell you," said the other with an oath, and in a tone
of concentrated rage. "There are two of your neighbour's boys prying
about in front and trying to peer through the window. For heaven's sake
get rid of her and let her go as soon as you can."
She was about to return to Fan when he called her back.
"Take her to the station yourself," he said; and proceeded to give her
some directions which she promised to obey, after which she came back to
Fan, to find her at the window feebly struggling to unfasten the stiff
"Don't you be afraid any more, my dear," she said effusively. "I'll take
you back to the station as soon as you're well enough to walk. You've had
a fall against the table and hurt yourself a little, but you'll soon be
Fan looked at her and shrunk away as she approached, and then turned her
eyes, dilating again with fear, towards the door.
"He's gone, my dear, and won't come near you again, so don't you fear.
Sit down quietly and I'll make you a cup of tea, and then you'll be able
to walk to the station."
But Fan would not be reassured, and continued piteously begging the woman
to let her out.
"Very well, you shall go out; only take a little brandy first to give you
strength to walk."
Fan thrust the flask away, and then putting her hand to her forehead,
"Oh, what's this on my head?"
"Only a bit of sticking-plaster where you hit yourself against the table,
Then she smoothed out Fan's broken hat, and with a wet sponge cleaned the
bloodstains from her gown, and finally opening the door and with the bag
in her hand, she accompanied the girl out.
Once in the cold keen air Fan began to recover strength and confidence,
but she was still too weak to walk fast, and when they had got to the
long road where the benches were, she was compelled to sit down and rest
for some time.
"Where are you going after I leave you at the station?" asked the woman.
"To London--to Westbourne Park."
"I don't know--I can't think. Oh, please leave me here!"
"No, my dear, I'll see you in your train at the station."
"Perhaps _he_'ll be there," said Fan, in sudden fear.
"Oh no, bless you, _he_ won't be there. He didn't mean any harm,
don't you believe it. We were only going to shut you up in the house just
for a few days because Miss Starbrow wanted us to."
"Why, yes; didn't you get her telegram telling you to come to Twickenham
to her, and that I'd meet you at the station?"
"Yes, I remember. Where is she?"
"The Lord knows, my dear. But it seems she's taken a great hatred to you,
and can't abide you, and that's all I know. She came this morning with
Captain Horton, and they arranged it all together; and she telegraphed
and then went away, and said she hated the very sight of your face; and
hoped I'd keep you safe because she never wanted to see you again, and
was sorry she ever took you."
"But why--why--what had I done?" moaned Fan, the tears coming to her
"There's no knowing why, except that she's a cruel, wicked, bad woman.
That's all I know about it. Where is the telegram--have you got it?"
Fan put her hand into her pocket and then drew it out again.
"No, I haven't got it; I gave it to Rosie before I left--I remember now
she asked me for it when I was in the cab."
"That's all right; it doesn't matter a bit. But tell me, where are you
going when you get back to London--back to Miss Starbrow?"
Fan looked at her, puzzled and surprised at the question. "But you say
she sent for me to shut me up because she hated me, and never wished to
see me again."
"Yes, my dear, that's quite right what I told you. But what are you going
to do in London? Where will you go to sleep to-night? Here's your bag
you'd forgotten all about; if you go and forget it you'll have no clothes
to change; and perhaps you'll lose yourself in London, and when they ask
you where you belong, you'll let them take you to Miss Starbrow's house."
The woman in her anxiety was quite voluble; while Fan slowly turned it
all over in her mind before replying. "My head is paining so, I was
forgetting. But I shan't lose my bag, and I'll find some place to sleep