Part 8 out of 8
to go to Belford."
"He didn't say."
Emily eyed the note in the man's hand with well-grounded
distrust. In all probability, Mirabel's object in writing was to
instruct his sister to prevent her guest from going to Belford.
The carriage was waiting at the door. With her usual promptness
of resolution, Emily decided on taking it for granted that she
was free to use as she pleased a carriage which had been already
placed at her disposal.
"Tell your mistress," she said to the groom, "that I am going to
Belford instead of to Redwood Hall."
In a minute more, she and Mrs. Ellmother were on their way to
join Mirabel at the station.
OUTSIDE THE ROOM.
Emily found Mirabel in the waiting room at Belford. Her sudden
appearance might well have amazed him; but his face expressed a
more serious emotion than surprise--he looked at her as if she
had alarmed him.
"Didn't you get my message?" he asked. "I told the groom I wished
you to wait for my return. I sent a note to my sister, in case he
made any mistake."
"The man made no mistake," Emily answered. "I was in too great a
hurry to be able to speak with Mrs. Delvin. Did you really
suppose I could endure the suspense of waiting till you came
back? Do you think I can be of no use--I who know Mrs. Rook?"
"They won't let you see her."
"Why not? _You_ seem to be waiting to see her."
"I am waiting for the return of the rector of Belford. He is at
Berwick; and he has been sent for at Mrs. Rook's urgent request."
"Is she dying?"
"She is in fear of death--whether rightly or wrongly, I don't
know. There is some internal injury from the fall. I hope to see
her when the rector returns. As a brother cler gyman, I may with
perfect propriety ask him to use his influence in my favor."
"I am glad to find you so eager about it."
"I am always eager in your interests."
"Don't think me ungrateful," Emily replied gently. "I am no
stranger to Mrs. Rook; and, if I send in my name, I may be able
to see her before the clergyman returns."
She stopped. Mirabel suddenly moved so as to place himself
between her and the door. "I must really beg of you to give up
that idea," he said; "you don't know what horrid sight you may
see--what dreadful agonies of pain this unhappy woman may be
His manner suggested to Emily that he might be acting under some
motive which he was unwilling to acknowledge. "If you have a
reason for wishing that I should keep away from Mrs. Rook," she
said, "let me hear what it is. Surely we trust each other? I have
done my best to set the example, at any rate."
Mirabel seemed to be at a loss for a reply.
While he was hesitating, the station-master passed the door.
Emily asked him to direct her to the house in which Mrs. Rook had
been received. He led the way to the end of the platform, and
pointed to the house. Emily and Mrs. Ellmother immediately left
the station. Mirabel accompanied them, still remonstrating, still
The house door was opened by an old man. He looked reproachfully
at Mirabel. "You have been told already," he said, "that no
strangers are to see my wife?"
Encouraged by discovering that the man was Mr. Rook, Emily
mentioned her name. "Perhaps you may have heard Mrs. Rook speak
of me," she added.
"I've heard her speak of you oftentimes."
"What does the doctor say?"
"He thinks she may get over it. She doesn't believe him."
"Will you say that I am anxious to see her, if she feels well
enough to receive me?"
Mr. Rook looked at Mrs. Ellmother. "Are there two of you wanting
to go upstairs?" he inquired.
"This is my old friend and servant," Emily answered. "She will
wait for me down here."
"She can wait in the parlor; the good people of this house are
well known to me." He pointed to the parlor door--and then led
the way to the first floor. Emily followed him. Mirabel, as
obstinate as ever, followed Emily.
Mr. Rook opened a door at the end of the landing; and, turning
round to speak to Emily, noticed Mirabel standing behind her.
Without making any remarks, the old man pointed significantly
down the stairs. His resolution was evidently immovable. Mirabel
appealed to Emily to help him.
"She will see me, if _you_ ask her," he said, "Let me wait here?"
The sound of his voice was instantly followed by a cry from the
bed-chamber--a cry of terror.
Mr. Rook hurried into the room, and closed the door. In less than
a minute, he opened it again, with doubt and horror plainly
visible in his face. He stepped up to Mirabel--eyed him with the
closest scrutiny--and drew back again with a look of relief.
"She's wrong," he said; "you are not the man."
This strange proceeding startled Emily.
"What man do you mean?" she asked.
Mr. Rook took no notice of the question. Still looking at
Mirabel, he pointed down the stairs once more. With vacant
eyes--moving mechanically, like a sleep-walker in his
dream--Mirabel silently obeyed. Mr. Rook turned to Emily.
"Are you easily frightened?" he said
"I don't understand you," Emily replied. "Who is going to
frighten me? Why did you speak to Mr. Mirabel in that strange
Mr. Rook looked toward the bedroom door. "Maybe you'll hear why,
inside there. If I could have my way, you shouldn't see her--but
she's not to be reasoned with. A caution, miss. Don't be too
ready to believe what my wife may say to you. She's had a
fright." He opened the door. "In my belief," he whispered, "she's
off her head."
Emily crossed the threshold. Mr. Rook softly closed the door
INSIDE THE ROOM.
A decent elderly woman was seated at the bedside. She rose, and
spoke to Emily with a mingling of sorrow and confusion strikingly
expressed on her face. "It isn't my fault," she said, "that Mrs.
Rook receives you in this manner; I am obliged to humor her."
She drew aside, and showed Mrs. Rook with her head supported by
many pillows, and her face strangely hidden from view under a
veil. Emily started back in horror. "Is her face injured?" she
Mrs. Rook answered the question herself. Her voice was low and
weak; but she still spoke with the same nervous hurry of
articulation which had been remarked by Alban Morris, on the day
when she asked him to direct her to Netherwoods
"Not exactly injured," she explained; "but one's appearance is a
matter of some anxiety even on one's death-bed. I am disfigured
by a thoughtless use of water, to bring me to when I had my
fall--and I can't get at my toilet-things to put myself right
again. I don't wish to shock you. Please excuse the veil."
Emily remembered the rouge on her cheeks, and the dye on her
hair, when they had first seen each other at the school.
Vanity--of all human frailties the longest-lived--still held its
firmly-rooted place in this woman's nature; superior to torment
of conscience, unassailable by terror of death!
The good woman of the house waited a moment before she left the
room. "What shall I say," she asked, "if the clergyman comes?"
Mrs. Rook lifted her hand solemnly "Say," she answered, "that a
dying sinner is making atonement for sin. Say this young lady is
present, by the decree of an all-wise Providence. No mortal
creature must disturb us." Her hand dropped back heavily on the
bed. "Are we alone?" she asked.
"We are alone," Emily answered. "What made you scream just before
I came in?"
"No! I can't allow you to remind me of that," Mrs. Rook
protested. "I must compose myself. Be quiet. Let me think."
Recovering her composure, she also recovered that sense of
enjoyment in talking of herself, which was one of the marked
peculiarities in her character.
"You will excuse me if I exhibit religion," she resumed. "My dear
parents were exemplary people; I was most carefully brought up.
Are you pious? Let us hope so."
Emily was once more reminded of the past.
The bygone time returned to her memory--the time when she had
accepted Sir Jervis Redwood's offer of employment, and when Mrs.
Rook had arrived at the school to be her traveling companion to
the North. The wretched creature had entirely forgotten her own
loose talk, after she had drunk Miss Ladd's good wine to the last
drop in the bottle. As she was boasting now of her piety, so she
had boasted then of her lost faith and hope, and had mockingly
declared her free-thinking opinions to be the result of her
ill-assorted marriage. Forgotten--all forgotten, in this later
time of pain and fear. Prostrate under the dread of death, her
innermost nature--stripped of the concealments of her later
life--was revealed to view. The early religious training, at
which she had scoffed in the insolence of health and strength,
revealed its latent influence--intermitted, but a living
influence always from first to last. Mrs. Rook was tenderly
mindful of her exemplary parents, and proud of exhibiting
religion, on the bed from which she was never to rise again.
"Did I tell you that I am a miserable sinner?" she asked, after
an interval of silence.
Emily could endure it no longer. "Say that to the clergyman," she
answered--"not to me."
"Oh, but I must say it," Mrs. Rook insisted. "I _am_ a miserable
sinner. Let me give you an instance of it," she continued, with a
shameless relish of the memory of her own frailties. "I have been
a drinker, in my time. Anything was welcome, when the fit was on
me, as long as it got into my head. Like other persons in liquor,
I sometimes talked of things that had better have been kept
secret. We bore that in mind--my old man and I---when we were
engaged by Sir Jervis. Miss Redwood wanted to put us in the next
bedroom to hers--a risk not to be run. I might have talked of the
murder at the inn; and she might have heard me. Please to remark
a curious thing. Whatever else I might let out, when I was in my
cups, not a word about the pocketbook ever dropped from me. You
will ask how I know it. My dear, I should have heard of it from
my husband, if I had let _that_ out--and he is as much in the
dark as you are. Wonderful are the workings of the human mind, as
the poet says; and drink drowns care, as the proverb says. But
can drink deliver a person from fear by day, and fear by night? I
believe, if I had dropped a word about the pocketbook, it would
have sobered me in an instant. Have you any remark to make on
this curious circumstance?"
Thus far, Emily had allowed the woman to ramble on, in the hope
of getting information which direct inquiry might fail to
produce. It was impossible, however, to pass over the allusion to
the pocketbook. After giving her time to recover from the
exhaustion which her heavy breathing sufficiently revealed, Emily
put the question:
"Who did the pocketbook belong to?"
"Wait a little," said Mrs. Rook. "Everything in its right place,
is my motto. I mustn't begin with the pocketbook. Why did I begin
with it? Do you think this veil on my face confuses me? Suppose I
take it off. But you must promise first--solemnly promise you
won't look at my face. How can I tell you about the murder (the
murder is part of my confession, you know), with this lace
tickling my skin? Go away--and stand there with your back to me.
Thank you. Now I'll take it off. Ha! the air feels refreshing; I
know what I am about. Good heavens, I have forgotten something! I
have forgotten _him_. And after such a fright as he gave me! Did
you see him on the landing?"
"Who are you talking of?" Emily asked.
Mrs. Rook's failing voice sank lower still.
"Come closer," she said, "this must be whispered. Who am I
talking of?" she repeated. "I am talking of the man who slept in
the other bed at the inn; the man who did the deed with his own
razor. He was gone when I looked into the outhouse in the gray of
the morning. Oh, I have done my duty! I have told Mr. Rook to
keep an eye on him downstairs. You haven't an idea how obstinate
and stupid my husband is. He says I couldn't know the man,
because I didn't see him. Ha! there's such a thing as hearing,
when you don't see. I heard--and I knew it again."
Emily turned cold from head to foot.
"What did you know again?" she said.
"His voice," Mrs. Rook answered. "I'll swear to his voice before
all the judges in England."
Emily rushed to the bed. She looked at the woman who had said
those dreadful words, speechless with horror.
"You're breaking your promise!" cried Mrs. Rook. "You false girl,
you're breaking your promise!"
She snatched at the veil, and put it on again. The sight of her
face, momentary as it had been, reassured Emily. Her wild eyes,
made wilder still by the blurred stains of rouge below them, half
washed away--her disheveled hair, with streaks of gray showing
through the dye--presented a spectacle which would have been
grotesque under other circumstances, but which now reminded Emily
of Mr. Rook's last words; warning her not to believe what his
wife said, and even declaring his conviction that her intellect
was deranged. Emily drew back from the bed, conscious of an
overpowering sense of self-reproach. Although it was only for a
moment, she had allowed her faith in Mirabel to be shaken by a
woman who was out of her mind.
"Try to forgive me," she said. "I didn't willfully break my
promise; you frightened me."
Mrs. Rook began to cry. "I was a handsome woman in my time," she
murmured. "You would say I was handsome still, if the clumsy
fools about me had not spoiled my appearance. Oh, I do feel so
weak! Where's my medicine?"
The bottle was on the table. Emily gave her the prescribed dose,
and revived her failing strength.
"I am an extraordinary person," she resumed. "My resolution has
always been the admiration of every one who knew me. But my mind
feels--how shall I express it?--a little vacant. Have mercy on my
poor wicked soul! Help me."
"How can I help you?"
"I want to recollect. Something happened in the summer time, when
we were talking at Netherwoods. I mean when that impudent master
at the school showed his suspicions of me. (Lord! how he
frightened me, when he turned up afterward at Sir Jervis's
house.) You must have seen yourself he suspected me. How did he
"He showed you my locket," Emily answered.
"Oh, the horrid reminder of the murder!" Mrs. Rook exclaimed.
"_I_ didn't mention it: don't blame Me. You poor innocent, I have
something dreadful to tell you."
Emily's horror of the woman forced her to speak. "Don't tell me!"
she cried. "I know more than you suppose; I know what I was
ignorant of when you saw the locket."
Mrs. Rook took offense at the interruption.
"Clever as you are, there's one thing you don't know," she said.
"You asked me, just now, who the pocketbook belonged to. It
belonged to your father. What's the matter? Are you crying?"
Emily was thinking of her father. The pocketbook was the last
present she had given to him--a present on his birthday. "Is it
lost?" she asked sadly.
"No; it's not lost. You will hear more of it directly. Dry your
eyes, and expect something interesting--I'm going to talk about
love. Love, my dear, means myself. Why shouldn't it? I'm not the
only nice-looking woman, married to an old man, who has had a
"Wretch! what has that got to do with it?"
"Everything, you rude girl! My lover was like the rest of them;
he would bet on race-horses, and he lost. He owned it to me, on
the day when your father came to our inn. He said, 'I must find
the money--or be off to America, and say good-by forever.' I was
fool enough to be fond of him. It broke my heart to hear him talk
in that way. I said, 'If I find the money, and more than the
money, will you take me with you wherever you go?' Of course, he
said Yes. I suppose you have heard of the inquest held at our old
place by the coroner and jury? Oh, what idiots! They believed I
was asleep on the night of the murder. I never closed my eyes--I
was so miserable, I was so tempted."
"Tempted? What tempted you?"
"Do you think I had any money to spare? Your father's pocketbook
tempted me. I had seen him open it, to pay his bill over-night.
It was full of bank-notes. Oh, what an overpowering thing love
is! Perhaps you have known it yourself."
Emily's indignation once more got the better of her prudence.
"Have you no feeling of decency on your death-bed!" she said.
Mrs. Rook forgot her piety; she was ready with an impudent
rejoinder. "You hot-headed little woman, your time will come,"
she answered. "But you're right--I am wandering from the point; I
am not sufficiently sensible of this solemn occasion. By-the-by,
do you notice my language? I inherit correct English from my
mother--a cultivated person, who married beneath her. My paternal
grandfather was a gentleman. Did I tell you that there came a
time, on that dreadful night, when I could stay in bed no longer?
The pocketbook--I did nothing but think of that devilish
pocketbook, full of bank-notes. My husband was fast asleep all
the time. I got a chair and stood on it. I looked into the place
where the two men were sleeping, through the glass in the top of
the door. Your father was awake; he was walking up and down the
room. What do you say? Was he agitated? I didn't notice. I don't
know whether the other man was asleep or awake. I saw nothing but
the pocketbook stuck under the pillow, half in and half out. Your
father kept on walking up and down. I thought to myself, 'I'll
wait till he gets tired, and then I'll have another look at the
pocketbook.' Where's the wine? The doctor said I might have a
glass of wine when I wanted it."
Emily found the wine and gave it to her. She shuddered as she
accidentally touched Mrs. Rook's hand.
The wine helped the sinking woman.
"I must have got up more than once," she resumed. "And more than
once my heart must have failed me. I don't clearly remember what
I did, till the gray of the morning came. I think that must have
been the last time I looked through the glass in the door."
She began to tremble. She tore the veil off her face. She cried
out piteously, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner! Come here," she
said to Emily. "Where are you? No! I daren't tell you what I saw;
I daren't tell you what I did. When you're pos sessed by the
devil, there's nothing, nothing, nothing you can't do! Where did
I find the courage to unlock the door? Where did I find the
courage to go in? Any other woman would have lost her senses,
when she found blood on her fingers after taking the
Emily's head swam; her heart beat furiously--she staggered to the
door, and opened it to escape from the room.
"I'm guilty of robbing him; but I'm innocent of his blood!" Mrs.
Rook called after her wildly. "The deed was done--the yard door
was wide open, and the man was gone--when I looked in for the
last time. Come back, come back!"
Emily looked round.
"I can't go near you," she said, faintly.
"Come near enough to see this."
She opened her bed-gown at the throat, and drew up a loop of
ribbon over her head. 'The pocketbook was attached to the ribbon.
She held it out.
"Your father's book," she said. "Won't you take your father's
For a moment, and only for a moment, Emily was repelled by the
profanation associated with her birthday gift. Then, the loving
remembrance of the dear hands that had so often touched that
relic, drew the faithful daughter back to the woman whom she
abhorred. Her eyes rested tenderly on the book. Before it had
lain in that guilty bosom, it had been _his_ book. The beloved
memory was all that was left to her now; the beloved memory
consecrated it to her hand. She took the book.
"Open it," said Mrs. Rook.
There were two five-pound bank-notes in it.
"His?" Emily asked.
"No; mine--the little I have been able to save toward restoring
what I stole."
"Oh!" Emily cried, "is there some good in this woman, after all?"
"There's no good in the woman!" Mrs. Rook answered desperately.
"There's nothing but fear--fear of hell now; fear of the
pocketbook in the past time. Twice I tried to destroy it--and
twice it came back, to remind me of the duty that I owed to my
miserable soul. I tried to throw it into the fire. It struck the
bar, and fell back into the fender at my feet. I went out, and
cast it into the well. It came back again in the first bucket of
water that was drawn up. From that moment, I began to save what I
could. Restitution! Atonement! I tell you the book found a
tongue--and those were the grand words it dinned in my ears,
morning and night." She stooped to fetch her breath--stopped, and
struck her bosom. "I hid it here, so that no person should see
it, and no person take it from me. Superstition? Oh, yes,
superstition! Shall tell you something? _You_ may find yourself
superstitious, if you are ever cut to the heart as I was. He left
me! The man I had disgraced myself for, deserted me on the day
when I gave him the stolen money. He suspected it was stolen; he
took care of his own cowardly self--and left me to the hard mercy
of the law, if the theft was found out. What do you call that, in
the way of punishment? Haven't I suffered? Haven't I made
atonement? Be a Christian--say you forgive me."
"I do forgive you."
"Say you will pray for me."
"Ah! that comforts me! Now you can go."
Emily looked at her imploringly. "Don't send me away, knowing no
more of the murder than I knew when I came here! Is there
nothing, really nothing, you can tell me?"
Mrs. Rook pointed to the door.
"Haven't I told you already? Go downstairs, and see the wretch
who escaped in the dawn of the morning!"
"Gently, ma'am, gently! You're talking too loud," cried a mocking
voice from outside.
"It's only the doctor," said Mrs. Rook. She crossed her hands
over her bosom with a deep-drawn sigh. "I want no doctor, now. My
peace is made with my Maker. I'm ready for death; I'm fit for
Heaven. Go away! go away!"
In a moment more, the doctor came in--a brisk, smiling,
self-sufficient man--smartly dressed, with a flower in his
button-hole. A stifling odor of musk filled the room, as he drew
out his handkerchief with a flourish, and wiped his forehead.
"Plenty of hard work in my line, just now," he said. "Hullo, Mrs.
Rook! somebody has been allowing you to excite yourself. I heard
you, before I opened the door. Have you been encouraging her to
talk?" he asked, turning to Emily, and shaking his finger at her
with an air of facetious remonstrance.
Incapable of answering him; forgetful of the ordinary restraints
of social intercourse--with the one doubt that preserved her
belief in Mirabel, eager for confirmation--Emily signed to this
stranger to follow her into a corner of the room, out of hearing.
She made no excuses: she took no notice of his look of surprise.
One hope was all she could feel, one word was all she could say,
after that second assertion of Mirabel's guilt. Indicating Mrs.
Rook by a glance at the bed, she whispered the word:
Flippant and familiar, the doctor imitated her; he too looked at
"No more mad than you are, miss. As I said just now, my patient
has been exciting herself; I daresay she has talked a little
wildly in consequence. _Hers_ isn't a brain to give way, I can
tell you. But there's somebody else--"
Emily had fled from the room. He had destroyed her last fragment
of belief in Mirabel's innocence. She was on the landing trying
to console herself, when the doctor joined her.
"Are you acquainted with the gentleman downstairs?" he asked.
"I haven't heard his name; he looks like a clergyman. If you know
"I do know him. I can't answer questions! My mind--"
"Steady your mind, miss! and take your friend home as soon as you
can. _He_ hasn't got Mrs. Rook's hard brain; he's in a state of
nervous prostration, which may end badly. Do you know where he
"He is staying with his sister--Mrs. Delvin."
"Mrs. Delvin! she's a friend and patient of mine. Say I'll look
in to-morrow morning, and see what I can do for her brother. In
the meantime, get him to bed, and to rest; and don't be afraid of
giving him brandy."
The doctor returned to the bedroom. Emily heard Mrs. Ellmother's
"Are you up there, miss?"
Mrs. Ellmother ascended the stairs. "It was an evil hour," she
said, "that you insisted on going to this place. Mr. Mirabel--"
The sight of Emily's face suspended the next words on her lips.
She took the poor young mistress in her motherly arms. "Oh, my
child! what has happened to you?"
"Don't ask me now. Give me your arm--let us go downstairs."
"You won't be startled when you see Mr. Mirabel--will you, my
dear? I wouldn't let them disturb you; I said nobody should speak
to you but myself. The truth is, Mr. Mirabel has had a dreadful
fright. What are you looking for?"
"Is there a garden here? Any place where we can breathe the fresh
There was a courtyard at the back of the house. They found their
way to it. A bench was placed against one of the walls. They sat
"Shall I wait till you're better before I say any more?" Mrs.
Ellmother asked. "No? You want to hear about Mr. Mirabel? My
dear, he came into the parlor where I was; and Mr. Rook came in
too---and waited, looking at him. Mr. Mirabel sat down in a
corner, in a dazed state as I thought. It wasn't for long. He
jumped up, and clapped his hand on his heart as if his heart hurt
him. 'I must and will know what's going on upstairs,' he says.
Mr. Rook pulled him back, and told him to wait till the young
lady came down. Mr. Mirabel wouldn't hear of it. 'Your wife's
frightening her,' he says; 'your wife's telling her horrible
things about me.' He was taken on a sudden with a shivering fit;
his eyes rolled, and his teeth chattered. Mr. Rook made matters
worse; he lost his temper. 'I'm damned,' he says, 'if I don't
begin to think you _are_ the man, after all; I've half a mind to
send for the police.' Mr. Mirabel dropped into his chair. His
eyes stared, his mouth fell open. I took hold of his hand.
Cold--cold as ice. What it all meant I can't say. Oh, miss, _you_
know! Let me tell you the rest of it some other time."
Emily insisted on hearing more. "The end!" she cried. "How did it
"I don't know how it might have ended, if the doctor hadn't come
in--to pay his visit, you know, upstairs. He said some learned
words. When he came to plain English, he asked if anybody had
frig htened the gentleman. I said Mr. Rook had frightened him.
The doctor says to Mr. Rook, 'Mind what you are about. If you
frighten him again, you may have his death to answer for.' That
cowed Mr. Rook. He asked what he had better do. 'Give me some
brandy for him first,' says the doctor; 'and then get him home at
once.' I found the brandy, and went away to the inn to order the
carriage. Your ears are quicker than mine, miss--do I hear it
They rose, and went to the house door. The carriage was there.
Still cowed by what the doctor had said, Mr. Rook appeared,
carefully leading Mirabel out. He had revived under the action of
the stimulant. Passing Emily he raised his eyes to
her--trembled--and looked down again. When Mr. Rook opened the
door of the carriage he paused, with one of his feet on the step.
A momentary impulse inspired him with a false courage, and
brought a flush into his ghastly face. He turned to Emily.
"May I speak to you?" he asked.
She started back from him. He looked at Mrs. Ellmother. "Tell her
I am innocent," he said. The trembling seized on him again. Mr.
Rook was obliged to lift him into the carriage.
Emily caught at Mrs. Ellmother's arm. "You go with him," she
said. "I can't."
"How are you to get back, miss?"
She turned away and spoke to the coachman. "I am not very well. I
want the fresh air--I'll sit by you."
Mrs. Ellmother remonstrated and protested, in vain. As Emily had
determined it should be, so it was.
"Has he said anything?" she asked, when they had arrived at their
"He has been like a man frozen up; he hasn't said a word; he
hasn't even moved."
"Take him to his sister; and tell her all that you know. Be
careful to repeat what the doctor said. I can't face Mrs. Delvin.
Be patient, my good old friend; I have no secrets from you. Only
wait till to-morrow; and leave me by myself to-night."
Alone in her room, Emily opened her writing-case. Searching among
the letters in it, she drew out a printed paper. It was the
Handbill describing the man who had escaped from the inn, and
offering a reward for the discovery of him.
At the first line of the personal description of the fugitive,
the paper dropped from her hand. Burning tears forced their way
into her eyes. Feeling for her handkerchief, she touched the
pocketbook which she had received from Mrs. Rook. After a little
hesitation she took it out. She looked at it. She opened it.
The sight of the bank-notes repelled her; she hid them in one of
the pockets of the book. There was a second pocket which she had
not yet examined. She pat her hand into it, and, touching
something, drew out a letter.
The envelope (already open) was addressed to "James Brown, Esq.,
Post Office, Zeeland. "Would it be inconsistent with her respect
for her father's memory to examine the letter? No; a glance would
decide whether she ought to read it or not.
It was without date or address; a startling letter to look
at--for it only contained three words:
"I say No."
The words were signed in initials:
In the instant when she read the initials, the name occurred to
THE DEFENSE OF MIRABEL.
The discovery of the letter gave a new direction to Emily's
thoughts--and so, for the time at least, relieved her mind from
the burden that weighed on it. To what question, on her father's
part, had "I say No" been Miss Jethro's brief and stern reply?
Neither letter nor envelope offered the slightest hint that might
assist inquiry; even the postmark had been so carelessly
impressed that it was illegible.
Emily was still pondering over the three mysterious words, when
she was interrupted by Mrs. Ellmother's voice at the door.
"I must ask you to let me come in, miss; though I know you wished
to be left by yourself till to-morrow. Mrs. Delvin says she must
positively see you to-night. It's my belief that she will send
for the servants, and have herself carried in here, if you refuse
to do what she asks. You needn't be afraid of seeing Mr.
"Where is he?"
"His sister has given up her bedroom to him," Mrs. Ellmother
answered. "She thought of your feelings before she sent me
here--and had the curtains closed between the sitting-room and
the bedroom. I suspect my nasty temper misled me, when I took a
dislike to Mrs. Delvin. She's a good creature; I'm sorry you
didn't go to her as soon as we got back."
"Did she seem to be angry, when she sent you here?"
"Angry! She was crying when I left her."
Emily hesitated no longer.
She noticed a remarkable change in the invalid's sitting-room--so
brilliantly lighted on other occasions--the moment she entered
it. The lamps were shaded, and the candles were all extinguished.
"My eyes don't bear the light so well as usual," Mrs. Delvin
said. "Come and sit near me, Emily; I hope to quiet your mind. I
should be grieved if you left my house with a wrong impression of
Knowing what she knew, suffering as she must have suffered, the
quiet kindness of her tone implied an exercise of self-restraint
which appealed irresistibly to Emily's sympathies. "Forgive me,"
she said, "for having done you an injustice. I am ashamed to
think that I shrank from seeing you when I returned from
"I will endeavor to be worthy of your better opinion of me," Mrs.
Delvin replied. "In one respect at least, I may claim to have had
your best interests at heart--while we were still personally
strangers. I tried to prevail on my poor brother to own the
truth, when he discovered the terrible position in which he was
placed toward you. He was too conscious of the absence of any
proof which might induce you to believe him, if he attempted to
defend himself--in one word, he was too timid--to take my advice.
He has paid the penalty, and I have paid the penalty, of
Emily started. "In what way have you deceived me?" she asked.
"In the way that was forced on us by our own conduct," Mrs.
Delvin said. "We have appeared to help you, without really doing
so; we calculated on inducing you to marry my brother, and then
(when he could speak with the authority of a husband) on
prevailing on you to give up all further inquiries. When you
insisted on seeing Mrs. Rook, Miles had the money in his hand to
bribe her and her husband to leave England."
"Oh, Mrs. Delvin!"
"I don't attempt to excuse myself. I don't expect you to consider
how sorely I was tempted to secure the happiness of my brother's
life, by marriage with such a woman as yourself. I don't remind
you that I knew--when I put obstacles in your way--that you were
blindly devoting yourself to the discovery of an innocent man."
Emily heard her with angry surprise. "Innocent?" she repeated.
"Mrs. Rook recognized his voice the instant she heard him speak."
Impenetrable to interruption, Mrs. Delvin went on. "But what I do
ask," she persisted, "even after our short acquaintance, is this.
Do you suspect me of deliberately scheming to make you the wife
of a murderer?"
Emily had never viewed the serious question between them in this
light. Warmly, generously, she answered the appeal that had been
made to her. "Oh, don't think that of me! I know I spoke
thoughtlessly and cruelly to you, just now--"
"You spoke impulsively," Mrs. Delvin interposed; "that was all.
My one desire before we part--how can I expect you to remain
here, after what has happened?--is to tell you the truth. I have
no interested object in view; for all hope of your marriage with
my brother is now at an end. May I ask if you have heard that he
and your father were strangers, when they met at the inn?"
"Yes; I know that."
"If there had been any conversation between them, when they
retired to rest, they might have mentioned their names. But your
father was preoccupied; and my brother, after a long day's walk,
was so tired that he fell asleep as soon as his head was on the
pillow. He only woke when the morning dawned. What he saw when he
looked toward the opposite bed might have struck with terror the
boldest man that ever lived. His first impulse was naturally to
alarm the house. When he got on his feet, he saw his own razor--a
blood-stained razor on the bed by the side of the corp se. At
that discovery, he lost all control over himself. In a panic of
terror, he snatched up his knapsack, unfastened the yard door,
and fled from the house. Knowing him, as you and I know him, can
we wonder at it? Many a man has been hanged for murder, on
circumstantial evidence less direct than the evidence against
poor Miles. His horror of his own recollections was so
overpowering that he forbade me even to mention the inn at
Zeeland in my letters, while he was abroad. 'Never tell me (he
wrote) who that wretched murdered stranger was, if I only heard
of his name, I believe it would haunt me to my dying day. I ought
not to trouble you with these details--and yet, I am surely not
without excuse. In the absence of any proof, I cannot expect you
to believe as I do in my brother's innocence. But I may at least
hope to show you that there is some reason for doubt. Will you
give him the benefit of that doubt?"
"Willingly!" Emily replied. "Am I right in supposing that you
don't despair of proving his innocence, even yet'?"
"I don't quite despair. But my hopes have grown fainter and
fainter, as the years have gone on. There is a person associated
with his escape from Zeeland; a person named Jethro--"
"You mean Miss Jethro!"
"Yes. Do you know her?"
"I know her--and my father knew her. I have found a letter,
addressed to him, which I have no doubt was written by Miss
Jethro. It is barely possible that you may understand what it
means. Pray look at it."
"I am quite unable to help you," Mrs. Delvin answered, after
reading the letter. "All I know of Miss Jethro is that, but for
her interposition, my brother might have fallen into the hands of
the police. She saved him."
"Knowing him, of course?"
"That is the remarkable part of it: they were perfect strangers
to each other."
"But she must have had some motive."
"_There_ is the foundation of my hope for Miles. Miss Jethro
declared, when I wrote and put the question to her, that the one
motive by which she was actuated was the motive of mercy. I don't
believe her. To my mind, it is in the last degree improbable that
she would consent to protect a stranger from discovery, who owned
to her (as my brother did) that he was a fugitive suspected of
murder. She knows something, I am firmly convinced, of that
dreadful event at Zeeland--and she has some reason for keeping it
secret. Have you any influence over her?"
"Tell me where I can find her."
"I can't tell you. She has removed from the address at which my
brother saw her last. He has made every possible inquiry--without
As she replied in those discouraging terms, the curtains which
divided Mrs. Delvin's bedroom from her sitting-room were drawn
aside. An elderly woman-servant approached her mistress's couch.
"Mr. Mirabel is awake, ma'am. He is very low; I can hardly feel
his pulse. Shall I give him some more brandy?"
Mrs. Delvin held out her hand to Emily. "Come to me to-morrow
morning," she said--and signed to the servant to wheel her couch
into the next room. As the curtain closed over them, Emily heard
Mirabel's voice. "Where am I?" he said faintly. "Is it all a
The prospect of his recovery the next morning was gloomy indeed.
He had sunk into a state of deplorable weakness, in mind as well
as in body. The little memory of events that he still preserved
was regarded by him as the memory of a dream. He alluded to
Emily, and to his meeting with her unexpectedly. But from that
point his recollection failed him. They had talked of something
interesting, he said--but he was unable to remember what it was.
And they had waited together at a railway station--but for what
purpose he could not tell. He sighed and wondered when Emily
would marry him--and so fell asleep again, weaker than ever.
Not having any confidence in the doctor at Belford, Mrs. Delvin
had sent an urgent message to a physician at Edinburgh, famous
for his skill in treating diseases of the nervous system. "I
cannot expect him to reach this remote place, without some
delay," she said; "I must bear my suspense as well as I can."
"You shall not bear it alone," Emily answered. "I will wait with
you till the doctor comes."
Mrs. Delvin lifted her frail wasted hands to Emily's face, drew
it a little nearer--and kissed her.
ON THE WAY TO LONDON.
The parting words had been spoken. Emily and her companion were
on their way to London.
For some little time, they traveled in silence--alone in the
railway carriage. After submitting as long as she could to lay an
embargo on the use of her tongue, Mrs. Ellmother started the
conversation by means of a question: "Do you think Mr. Mirabel
will get over it, miss?"
"It's useless to ask me," Emily said. "Even the great man from
Edinburgh is not able to decide yet, whether he will recover or
"You have taken me into your confidence, Miss Emily, as you
promised--and I have got something in my mind in consequence. May
I mention it without giving offense?"
"What is it?"
"I wish you had never taken up with Mr. Mirabel."
Emily was silent. Mrs. Ellmother, having a design of her own to
accomplish, ventured to speak more plainly. "I often think of Mr.
Alban Morris," she proceeded. "I always did like him, and I
Emily suddenly pulled down her veil. "Don't speak of him!" she
"I didn't mean to offend you."
"You don't offend me. You distress me. Oh, how often I have
wished--!" She threw herself back in a corner of the carriage and
said no more.
Although not remarkable for the possession of delicate tact, Mrs.
Ellmother discovered that the best course she could now follow
was a course of silence.
Even at the time when she had most implicitly trusted Mirabel,
the fear that she might have acted hastily and harshly toward
Alban had occasionally troubled Emily's mind. The impression
produced by later events had not only intensified this feeling,
but had presented the motives of that true friend under an
entirely new point of view. If she had been left in ignorance of
the manner of her father's death--as Alban had designed to leave
her; as she would have been left, but for the treachery of
Francine--how happily free she would have been from thoughts
which it was now a terror to her to recall. She would have parted
from Mirabel, when the visit to the pleasant country house had
come to an end, remembering him as an amusing acquaintance and
nothing more. He would have been spared, and she would have been
spared, the shock that had so cruelly assailed them both. What
had she gained by Mrs. Rook's detestable confession? The result
had been perpetual disturbance of mind provoked by self-torturing
speculations on the subject of the murder. If Mirabel was
innocent, who was guilty? The false wife, without pity and
without shame--or the brutal husband, who looked capable of any
enormity? What was her future to be? How was it all to end? In
the despair of that bitter moment--seeing her devoted old servant
looking at her with kind compassionate eyes--Emily's troubled
spirit sought refuge in impetuous self-betrayal; the very
betrayal which she had resolved should not escape her, hardly a
She bent forward out of her corner, and suddenly drew up her
veil. "Do you expect to see Mr. Alban Morris, when we get back?"
"I should like to see him, miss--if you have no objection."
"Tell him I am ashamed of myself! and say I ask his pardon with
all my heart!"
"The Lord be praised!" Mrs. Ellmother burst out--and then, when
it was too late, remembered the conventional restraints
appropriate to the occasion. "Gracious, what a fool I am!" she
said to herself. "Beautiful weather, Miss Emily, isn't it?" she
continued, in a desperate hurry to change the subject.
Emily reclined again in her corner of the carriage. She smiled,
for the first time since she had become Mrs. Delvin's guest at
BOOK THE LAST--AT HOME AGAIN.
CECILIA IN A NEW CHARACTER.
Reaching the cottage at night, Emily found the card of a visitor
who had called during the day. It bore the name of "Miss Wyvil,"
and had a message written on it which strongly excited Emily's
"I have seen the telegra m which tells your servant that you
return to-night. Expect me early to-morrow morning--with news
that will deeply interest you."
To what news did Cecilia allude? Emily questioned the woman who
had been left in charge of the cottage, and found that she had
next to nothing to tell. Miss Wyvil had flushed up, and had
looked excited, when she read the telegraphic message--that was
all. Emily's impatience was, as usual, not to be concealed.
Expert Mrs. Ellmother treated the case in the right way--first
with supper, and then with an adjournment to bed. The clock
struck twelve, when she put out the young mistress's candle. "Ten
hours to pass before Cecilia comes here!" Emily exclaimed. "Not
ten minutes," Mrs. Ellmother reminded her, "if you will only go
Cecilia arrived before the breakfast-table was cleared; as
lovely, as gentle, as affectionate as ever--but looking unusually
serious and subdued.
"Out with it at once!" Emily cried. "What have you got to tell
"Perhaps, I had better tell you first," Cecilia said, "that I
know what you kept from me when I came here, after you left us at
Monksmoor. Don't think, my dear, that I say this by way of
complaint. Mr. Alban Morris says you had good reasons for keeping
"Mr. Alban Morris! Did you get your information from _him?_"
"Yes. Do I surprise you?"
"More than words can tell!"
"Can you bear another surprise? Mr. Morris has seen Miss Jethro,
and has discovered that Mr. Mirabel has been wrongly suspected of
a dreadful crime. Our amiable little clergyman is guilty of being
a coward--and guilty of nothing else. Are you really quiet enough
to read about it?"
She produced some leaves of paper filled with writing. "There,"
she explained, "is Mr. Morris's own account of all that passed
between Miss Jethro and himself."
"But how do _you_ come by it?"
"Mr. Morris gave it to me. He said, 'Show it to Emily as soon as
possible; and take care to be with her while she reads it.' There
is a reason for this--" Cecilia's voice faltered. On the brink of
some explanation, she seemed to recoil from it. "I will tell you
by-and-by what the reason is," she said.
Emily looked nervously at the manuscript. "Why doesn't he tell me
himself what he has discovered? Is he--" The leaves began to
flutter in her trembling fingers--"is he angry with me?"
"Oh, Emily, angry with You! Read what he has written and you
shall know why he keeps away."
Emily opened the manuscript.
"The information which I have obtained from Miss Jethro has been
communicated to me, on the condition that I shall not disclose
the place of her residence. 'Let me pass out of notice (she said)
as completely as if I had passed out of life; I wish to be
forgotten by some, and to be unknown by others.' With this one
stipulation, she left me free to write the present narrative of
what passed at the interview between us. I feel that the
discoveries which I have made are too important to the persons
interested to be trusted to memory.
1. _She Receives Me_.
"Finding Miss Jethro's place of abode, with far less difficulty
than I had anticipated (thanks to favoring circumstances), I
stated plainly the object of my visit. She declined to enter into
conversation with me on the subject of the murder at Zeeland.
"I was prepared to meet with this rebuke, and to take the
necessary measures for obtaining a more satisfactory reception.
'A person is suspected of having committed the murder,' I said;
'and there is reason to believe that you are in a position to say
whether the suspicion is justified or not. Do you refuse to
answer me, if I put the question?'
"Miss Jethro asked who the person was.
"I mentioned the name--Mr. Miles Mirabel.
"It is not necessary, and it would certainly be not agreeable to
me, to describe the effect which this reply produced on Miss
Jethro. After giving her time to compose herself, I entered into
certain explanations, in order to convince her at the outset of
my good faith. The result justified my anticipations. I was at
once admitted to her confidence.
"She said, 'I must not hesitate to do an act of justice to an
innocent man. But, in such a serious matter as this, you have a
right to judge for yourself whether the person who is now
speaking to you is a person whom you can trust. You may believe
that I tell the truth about others, if I begin--whatever it may
cost me--by telling the truth about myself.'
2. _She Speaks of Herself_.
"I shall not attempt to place on record the confession of a most
unhappy woman. It was the common story of sin bitterly repented,
and of vain effort to recover the lost place in social esteem.
Too well known a story, surely, to be told again.
"But I may with perfect propriety repeat what Miss Jethro said to
me, in allusion to later events in her life which are connected
with my own personal experience. She recalled to my memory a
visit which she had paid to me at Netherwoods, and a letter
addressed to her by Doctor Allday, which I had read at her
"She said, 'You may remember that the letter contained some
severe reflections on my conduct. Among other things, the doctor
mentions that he called at the lodging I occupied during my visit
to London, and found I had taken to flight: also that he had
reason to believe I had entered Miss Ladd's service, under false
"I asked if the doctor had wronged her.
"She answered 'No: in one case, he is ignorant; in the other, he
is right. On leaving his house, I found myself followed in the
street by the man to whom I owe the shame and misery of my past
life. My horror of him is not to be described in words. The one
way of escaping was offered by an empty cab that passed me. I
reached the railway station safely, and went back to my home in
the country. Do you blame me?'
"It was impossible to blame her--and I said so.
"She then confessed the deception which she had practiced on Miss
Ladd. 'I have a cousin,' she said, 'who was a Miss Jethro like
me. Before her marriage she had been employed as a governess. She
pitied me; she sympathized with my longing to recover the
character that I had lost. With her permission, I made use of the
testimonials which she had earned as a teacher--I was betrayed
(to this day I don't know by whom)--and I was dismissed from
Netherwoods. Now you know that I deceived Miss Ladd, you may
reasonably conclude that I am likely to deceive You.'
"I assured her, with perfect sincerity, that I had drawn no such
conclusion. Encouraged by my reply, Miss Jethro proceeded as
3. _She Speaks of Mirabel_.
"'Four years ago, I was living near Cowes, in the Isle of
Wight--in a cottage which had been taken for me by a gentleman
who was the owner of a yacht. We had just returned from a short
cruise, and the vessel was under orders to sail for Cherbourg
with the next tide.
"'While I was walking in my garden, I was startled by the sudden
appearance Of a man (evidently a gentleman) who was a perfect
stranger to me. He was in a pitiable state of terror, and he
implored my protection. In reply to my first inquiries, he
mentioned the inn at Zeeland, and the dreadful death of a person
unknown to him; whom I recognized (partly by the description
given, and partly by comparison of dates) as Mr. James Brown. I
shall say nothing of the shock inflicted on me: you don't want to
know what I felt. What I did (having literally only a minute left
for decision) was to hide the fugitive from discovery, and to
exert my influence in his favor with the owner of the yacht. I
saw nothing more of him. He was put on board, as soon as the
police were out of sight, and was safely landed at Cherbourg.'
"I asked what induced her to run the risk of protecting a
stranger, who was under suspicion of having committed a murder.
"She said, 'You shall hear my explanation directly. Let us have
done with Mr. Mirabel first. We occasionally corresponded, during
the long absence on the continent; never alluding, at his express
request, to the horrible event at the inn. His last letter
reached me, after he had established himself at Vale Regis.
Writing of the society in the neighborhood, he infor med me of
his introduction to Miss Wyvil, and of the invitation that he had
received to meet her friend and schoolfellow at Monksmoor. I knew
that Miss Emily possessed a Handbill describing personal
peculiarities in Mr. Mirabel, not hidden under the changed
appearance of his head and face. If she remembered or happened to
refer to that description, while she was living in the same house
with him, there was a possibility at least of her suspicion being
excited. The fear of this took me to you. It was a morbid fear,
and, as events turned out, an unfounded fear: but I was unable to
control it. Failing to produce any effect on you, I went to Vale
Regis, and tried (vainly again) to induce Mr. Mirabel to send an
excuse to Monksmoor. He, like you, wanted to know what my motive
was. When I tell you that I acted solely in Miss Emily's
interests, and that I knew how she had been deceived about her
father's death, need I say why I was afraid to acknowledge my
"I understood that Miss Jethro might well be afraid of the
consequences, if she risked any allusion to Mr. Brown's horrible
death, and if it afterward chanced to reach his daughter's ears.
But this state of feeling implied an extraordinary interest in
the preservation of Emily's peace of mind. I asked Miss Jethro
how that interest had been excited?
"She answered, 'I can only satisfy you in one way. I must speak
of her father now.'"
Emily looked up from the manuscript. She felt Cecilia's arm
tenderly caressing her. She heard Cecilia say, "My poor dear,
there is one last trial of your courage still to come. I am
afraid of what you are going to read, when you turn to the next
page. And yet--"
"And yet," Emily replied gently, "it must be done. I have learned
my hard lesson of endurance, Cecilia, don't be afraid."
Emily turned to the next page.
4. _She Speaks of the Dead_.
"For the first time, Miss Jethro appeared to be at a loss how to
proceed. I could see that she was suffering. She rose, and
opening a drawer in her writing table, took a letter from it.
"She said, 'Will you read this? It was written by Miss Emily's
father. Perhaps it may say more for me than I can say for
"I copy the letter. It was thus expressed:
"'You have declared that our farewell to-day is our farewell
forever. For the second time, you have refused to be my wife; and
you have done this, to use your own words, in mercy to Me.
"'In mercy to Me, I implore you to reconsider your decision.
"'If you condemn me to live without you--I feel it, I know
it--you condemn me to despair which I have not fortitude enough
to endure. Look at the passages which I have marked for you in
the New Testament. Again and again, I say it; your true
repentance has made you worthy of the pardon of God. Are you not
worthy of the love, admiration, and respect of man? Think! oh,
Sara, think of what our lives might be, and let them be united
for time and for eternity.
"'I can write no more. A deadly faintness oppresses me. My mind
is in a state unknown to me in past years. I am in such confusion
that I sometimes think I hate you. And then I recover from my
delusion, and know that man never loved woman as I love you.
"'You will have time to write to me by this evening's post. I
shall stop at Zeeland to-morrow, on my way back, and ask for a
letter at the post office. I forbid explanations and excuses. I
forbid heartless allusions to your duty. Let me have an answer
which does not keep me for a moment in suspense.
"'For the last time, I ask you: Do you consent to be my wife?
Say, Yes--or say, No.'
"I gave her back the letter--with the one comment on it, which
the circumstances permitted me to make:
"'You said No?'
"She bent her head in silence.
"I went on--not willingly, for I would have spared her if it had
been possible. I said, 'He died, despairing, by his own hand--and
you knew it?'
"She looked up. 'No! To say that I knew it is too much. To say
that I feared it is the truth.'
"'Did you love him?'
"She eyed me in stern surprise. 'Have _I_ any right to love?
Could I disgrace an honorable man by allowing him to marry me?
You look as if you held me responsible for his death.'
"'Innocently responsible,' I said.
"She still followed her own train of thought. 'Do you suppose I
could for a moment anticipate that he would destroy himself, when
I wrote my reply? He was a truly religious man. If he had been in
his right mind, he would have shrunk from the idea of suicide as
from the idea of a crime.'
"On reflection, I was inclined to agree with her. In his terrible
position, it was at least possible that the sight of the razor
(placed ready, with the other appliances of the toilet, for his
fellow-traveler's use) might have fatally tempted a man whose
last hope was crushed, whose mind was tortured by despair. I
should have been merciless indeed, if I had held Miss Jethro
accountable thus far. But I found it hard to sympathize with the
course which she had pursued, in permitting Mr. Brown's death to
be attributed to murder without a word of protest. 'Why were you
silent?' I said.
"She smiled bitterly.
"'A woman would have known why, without asking,' she replied. 'A
woman would have understood that I shrank from a public
confession of my shameful past life. A woman would have
remembered what reasons I had for pitying the man who loved me,
and for accepting any responsibility rather than associate his
memory, before the world, with an unworthy passion for a degraded
creature, ending in an act of suicide. Even if I had made that
cruel sacrifice, would public opinion have believed such a person
as I am--against the evidence of a medical man, and the verdict
of a jury? No, Mr. Morris! I said nothing, and I was resolved to
say nothing, so long as the choice of alternatives was left to
me. On the day when Mr. Mirabel implored me to save him, that
choice was no longer mine--and you know what I did. And now again
when suspicion (after all the long interval that had passed) has
followed and found that innocent man, you know what I have done.
What more do you ask of me?'
"'Your pardon,' I said, 'for not having understood you--and a
last favor. May I repeat what I have heard to the one person of
all others who ought to know, and who must know, what you have
"It was needless to hint more plainly that I was speaking of
Emily. Miss Jethro granted my request.
"'It shall be as you please,' she answered. 'Say for me to _his_
daughter, that the grateful remembrance of her is my one refuge
from the thoughts that tortured me, when we spoke together on her
last night at school. She has made this dead heart of mine feel a
reviving breath of life, when I think of her. Never, in our
earthly pilgrimage, shall we meet again--I implore her to pity
and forget me. Farewell, Mr. Morris; farewell forever.'
"I confess that the tears came into my eyes. When I could see
clearly again, I was alone in the room."
THE TRUE CONSOLATION.
Emily closed the pages which told her that her father had died by
his own hand.
Cecilia still held her tenderly embraced. By slow degrees, her
head dropped until it rested on her friend's bosom. Silently she
suffered. Silently Cecilia bent forward, and kissed her forehead.
The sounds that penetrated to the room were not out of harmony
with the time. From a distant house the voices of children were
just audible, singing the plaintive melody of a hymn; and, now
and then, the breeze blew the first faded leaves of autumn
against the window. Neither of the girls knew how long the
minutes followed each other uneventfully, before there was a
change. Emily raised her head, and looked at Cecilia.
"I have one friend left," she said.
"Not only me, love--oh, I hope not only me!"
"Yes. Only you."
"I want to say something, Emily; but I am afraid of hurting you."
"My dear, do you remember what we once read in a book of history
at school? It told of the death of a tortured man, in the old
time, who was broken on the wheel. He lived through it long
enough to say that the agony, after the first stroke of the club,
dulled his capacity for feeling pain when the next blows fell. I
fancy pain of the mind must f ollow the same rule. Nothing you
can say will hurt me now."
"I only wanted to ask, Emily, if you were engaged--at one
time--to marry Mr. Mirabel. Is it true?"
"False! He pressed me to consent to an engagement--and I said he
must not hurry me."
"What made you say that?"
"I thought of Alban Morris."
Vainly Cecilia tried to restrain herself. A cry of joy escaped
"Are you glad?" Emily asked. "Why?"
Cecilia made no direct reply. "May I tell you what you wanted to
know, a little while since?" she said. "You asked why Mr. Morris
left it all to me, instead of speaking to you himself. When I put
the same question to him, he told me to read what he had written.
'Not a shadow of suspicion rests on Mr. Mirabel,' he said. 'Emily
is free to marry him--and free through Me. Can _I_ tell her that?
For her sake, and for mine, it must not be. All that I can do is
to leave old remembrances to plead for me. If they fail, I shall
know that she will be happier with Mr. Mirabel than with me.'
'And you will submit?' I asked. 'Because I love her,' he
answered, 'I must submit.' Oh, how pale you are! Have I
"You have done me good."
"Will you see him?"
Emily pointed to the manuscript. "At such a time as this?" she
Cecilia still held to her resolution. "Such a time as this is the
right time," she answered. "It is now, when you most want to be
comforted, that you ought to see him. Who can quiet your poor
aching heart as _he_ can quiet it?" She impulsively snatched at
the manuscript and threw it out of sight. "I can't bear to look
at it," she said. "Emily! if I have done wrong, will you forgive
me? I saw him this morning before I came here. I was afraid of
what might happen--I refused to break the dreadful news to you,
unless he was somewhere near us. Your good old servant knows
where to go. Let me send her--"
Mrs. Ellmother herself opened the door, and stood doubtful on the
threshold, hysterically sobbing and laughing at the same time.
"I'm everything that's bad!" the good old creature burst out.
"I've been listening--I've been lying--I said you wanted him.
Turn me out of my situation, if you like. I've got him! Here he
In another moment, Emily was in his arms--and they were alone. On
his faithful breast the blessed relief of tears came to her at
last: she burst out crying.
"Oh, Alban, can you forgive me?"
He gently raised her head, so that he could see her face.
"My love, let me look at you," he said. "I want to think again of
the day when we parted in the garden at school. Do you remember
the one conviction that sustained me? I told you, Emily, there
was a time of fulfillment to come in our two lives; and I have
never wholly lost the dear belief. My own darling, the time has
GOSSIP IN THE STUDIO.
The winter time had arrived. Alban was clearing his palette,
after a hard day's work at the cottage. The servant announced
that tea was ready, and that Miss Ladd was waiting to see him in
the next room.
Alban ran in, and received the visitor cordially with both hands.
"Welcome back to England! I needn't ask if the sea-voyage has
done you good. You are looking ten years younger than when you
Miss Ladd smiled. "I shall soon be ten years older again, if I go
back to Netherwoods," she replied. "I didn't believe it at the
time; but I know better now. Our friend Doctor Allday was right,
when he said that my working days were over. I must give up the
school to a younger and stronger successor, and make the best I
can in retirement of what is left of my life. You and Emily may
expect to have me as a near neighbor. Where is Emily?"
"Far away in the North."
"In the North! You don't mean that she has gone back to Mrs.
"She has gone back--with Mrs. Ellmother to take care of her--at
my express request. You know what Emily is, when there is an act
of mercy to be done. That unhappy man has been sinking (with
intervals of partial recovery) for months past. Mrs. Delvin sent
word to us that the end was near, and that the one last wish her
brother was able to express was the wish to see Emily. He had
been for some hours unable to speak when my wife arrived. But he
knew her, and smiled faintly. He was just able to lift his hand.
She took it, and waited by him, and spoke words of consolation
and kindness from time to time. As the night advanced, he sank
into sleep, still holding her hand. They only knew that he had
passed from sleep to death--passed without a movement or a
sigh--when his hand turned cold. Emily remained for a day at the
tower to comfort poor Mrs. Delvin--and she comes home, thank God,
"I needn't ask if you are happy?" Miss Ladd said.
"Happy? I sing, when I have my bath in the morning. If that isn't
happiness (in a man of my age) I don't know what is!"
"And how are you getting on?"
"Famously! I have turned portrait painter, since you were sent
away for your health. A portrait of Mr. Wyvil is to decorate the
town hall in the place that he represents; and our dear
kind-hearted Cecilia has induced a fascinated mayor and
corporation to confide the work to my hands."
"Is there no hope yet of that sweet girl being married?" Miss
Ladd asked. "We old maids all believe in marriage, Mr.
Morris--though some of us don't own it."
"There seems to be a chance," Alban answered. "A young lord has
turned up at Monksmoor; a handsome pleasant fellow, and a rising
man in politics. He happened to be in the house a few days before
Cecilia's birthday; and he asked my advice about the right
present to give her. I said, 'Try something new in Tarts.' When
he found I was in earnest, what do you think he did? Sent his
steam yacht to Rouen for some of the famous pastry! You should
have seen Cecilia, when the young lord offered his delicious
gift. If I could paint that smile and those eyes, I should be the
greatest artist living. I believe she will marry him. Need I say
how rich they will be? We shall not envy them--we are rich too.
Everything is comparative. The portrait of Mr. Wyvil will put
three hundred pounds in my pocket. I have earned a hundred and
twenty more by illustrations, since we have been married. And my
wife's income (I like to be particular) is only five shillings
and tenpence short of two hundred a year. Moral! we are rich as
well as happy."
"Without a thought of the future?" Miss Ladd asked slyly.
"Oh, Doctor Allday has taken the future in hand! He revels in the
old-fashioned jokes, which used to be addressed to newly-married
people, in his time. 'My dear fellow,' he said the other day,
'you may possibly be under a joyful necessity of sending for the
doctor, before we are all a year older. In that case, let it be
understood that I am Honorary Physician to the family.' The
warm-hearted old man talks of getting me another portrait to do.
'The greatest ass in the medical profession (he informed me) has
just been made a baronet; and his admiring friends have decided
that he is to be painted at full length, with his bandy legs
hidden under a gown, and his great globular eyes staring at the
spectator--I'll get you the job.' Shall I tell you what he says
of Mrs. Rook's recovery?"
Miss Ladd held up her hands in amazement. "Recovery!" she
"And a most remarkable recovery too," Alban informed her. "It is
the first case on record of any person getting over such an
injury as she has received. Doctor Allday looked grave when he
heard of it. 'I begin to believe in the devil,' he said; 'nobody
else could have saved Mrs. Rook.' Other people don't take that
view. She has been celebrated in all the medical newspapers--and
she has been admitted to come excellent almshouse, to live in
comfortable idleness to a green old age. The best of it is that
she shakes her head, when her wonderful recovery is mentioned.
'It seems such a pity,' she says; 'I was so fit for heaven.' Mr.
Rook having got rid of his wife, is in excellent spirits. He is
occupied in looking after an imbecile old gentleman; and, when he
is asked if he likes the employment, he winks mysteriously and
slaps his pocket. Now, Miss Ladd, I think it's my turn to hear
some news. What have you got to tell me?"
"I believe I can match your account of Mrs. Rook," Miss Ladd
said. "Do you care to hear what has become of Francine?"
Alban, rattling on hitherto in boyish high spirits, suddenly
became serious. "I have no doubt Miss de Sor is doing well," he
said sternly. "She is too heartless and wicked not to prosper."
"You are getting like your old cynical self again, Mr.
Morris--and you are wrong. I called this morning on the agent who
had the care of Francine, when I left England. When I mentioned
her name, he showed me a telegram, sent to him by her father.
'There's my authority,' he said, 'for letting her leave my
house.' The message was short enough to be easily remembered:
'Anything my daughter likes as long as she doesn't come back to
us.' In those cruel terms Mr. de Sor wrote of his own child. The
agent was just as unfeeling, in his way. He called her the victim
of slighted love and clever proselytizing. 'In plain words,' he
said, 'the priest of the Catholic chapel close by has converted
her; and she is now a novice in a convent of Carmelite nuns in
the West of England. Who could have expected it? Who knows how it
As Miss Ladd spoke, the bell rang at the cottage gate. "Here she
is!" Alban cried, leading the way into the hall. "Emily has come