Part 3 out of 10
reasonably or not, I am unable to say) were in some fear of the
political consequences that might follow.
At parting, I made Mademoiselle Jeanne a present, in the shape of
a plain gold brooch. For some time past, I had taken my lessons
at Monsieur Bonnefoy's house; his daughter and I often sang
together under his direction. Seeing much of Jeanne, under these
circumstances, the little gift that I had offered to her was only
the natural expression of a true interest in her welfare. Idle
rumor asserted--quite falsely--that I was in love with her. I was
sincerely the young lady's friend: no more, no less.
Having alluded to my lessons in singing, it may not be out of
place to mention the circumstances under which I became Monsieur
Bonnefoy's pupil, and to allude to the change in my life that
followed in due course of time.
Our family property--excepting the sum of five thousand pounds
left to me by my mother--is landed property strictly entailed.
The estates were inherited by my only brother, Lord Medhurst; the
kindest, the best, and, I grieve to say it, the unhappiest of
men. He lived separated from a bad wife; he had no children to
console him; and he only enjoyed at rare intervals the blessing
of good health. Having myself nothing to live on but the interest
of my mother's little fortune, I had to make my own way in the
world. Poor younger sons, not possessed of the commanding ability
which achieves distinction, find the roads that lead to
prosperity closed to them, with one exception. They can always
apply themselves to the social arts which make a man agreeable in
society. I had naturally a good voice, and I cultivated it. I was
ready to sing, without being subject to the wretched vanity which
makes objections and excuses--I pleased the ladies--the ladies
spoke favorably of me to their husbands--and some of their
husbands were persons of rank and influence. After no very long
lapse of time, the result of this combination of circumstances
declared itself. Monsieur Bonnefoy's lessons became the indirect
means of starting me on a diplomatic career--and the diplomatic
career made poor Ernest Medhurst, to his own unutterable
astonishment, the hero of a love story!
The story being true, I must beg to be excused, if I abstain from
mentioning names, places, and dates, when I enter on German
ground. Let it be enough to say that I am writing of a bygone
year in the present century, when no such thing as a German
Empire existed, and when the revolutionary spirit of France was
still an object of well-founded suspicion to tyrants by right
divine on the continent of Europe.
ON joining the legation, I was not particularly attracted by my
chief, the Minister. His manners were oppressively polite; and
his sense of his own importance was not sufficiently influenced
by diplomatic reserve. I venture to describe him (mentally
speaking) as an empty man, carefully trained to look full on
My colleague, the first secretary, was a far more interesting
person. Bright, unaffected, and agreeable, he at once interested
me when we were introduced to each other. I pay myself a
compliment, as I consider, when I add that he became my firm and
We took a walk together in the palace gardens on the evening of
my arrival. Reaching a remote part of the grounds, we were passed
by a lean, sallow, sour-looking old man, drawn by a servant in a
chair on wheels. My companion stopped, whispered to me, "Here is
the Prince," and bowed bareheaded. I followed his example as a
matter of course. The Prince feebly returned our salutation. "Is
he ill?" I asked, when we had put our hats on again.
"Shakespeare," the secretary replied, "tells us that 'one man in
his time plays many parts.' Under what various aspects the
Prince's character may have presented itself, in his younger
days, I am no t able to tell you. Since l have been here, he has
played the part of a martyr to illness, misunderstood by his
"And his daughter, the Princess--what do you say of her?"
"Ah, she is not so easily described! I can only appeal to your
memory of other women like her, whom you must often have
seen--women who are tall and fair, and fragile and elegant; who
have delicate aquiline noses and melting blue eyes--women who
have often charmed you by their tender smiles and their supple
graces of movement. As for the character of this popular young
lady, I must not influence you either way; study it for
"Without a hint to guide me?"
"With a suggestion," he replied, "which may be worth considering.
If you wish to please the Princess, begin by endeavoring to win
the good graces of the Baroness."
"Who is the Baroness?"
"One of the ladies in waiting--bosom friend of her Highness, and
chosen repository of all her secrets. Personally, not likely to
attract you; short and fat, and ill-tempered and ugly. Just at
this time, I happen myself to get on with her better than usual.
We have discovered that we possess one sympathy in common--we are
the only people at Court who don't believe in the Prince's new
"Is the new doctor a quack?"
The secretary looked round, before he answered, to see that
nobody was near us.
"It strikes me," he said, "that the Doctor is a spy. Mind! I have
no right to speak of him in that way; it is only my
impression--and I ought to add that appearances are all in his
favor. He is in the service of our nearest royal neighbor, the
Grand Duke; and he has been sent here expressly to relieve the
sufferings of the Duke's good friend and brother, our invalid
Prince. This is an honorable mission no doubt. And the man
himself is handsome, well-bred, and (I don't quite know whether
this is an additional recommendation) a countryman of ours.
Nevertheless I doubt him, and the Baroness doubts him. You are an
independent witness; I shall be anxious to hear if your opinion
agrees with ours."
I was presented at Court, toward the end of the week; and, in the
course of the next two or three days, I more than once saw the
Doctor. The impression that he produced on me surprised my
colleague. It was my opinion that he and the Baroness had
mistaken the character of a worthy and capable man.
The secretary obstinately adhered to his own view.
"Wait a little," he answered, "and we shall see."
He was quite right. We did see.
BUT the Princess--the gentle, gracious, beautiful Princess--what
can I say of her Highness?
I can only say that she enchanted me.
I had been a little discouraged by the reception that I met with
from her father. Strictly confining himself within the limits of
politeness, he bade me welcome to his Court in the fewest
possible words, and then passed me by without further notice. He
afterward informed the English Minister that I had been so
unfortunate as to try his temper: "Your new secretary irritates
me, sir--he is a person in an offensively perfect state of
health." The Prince's charming daughter was not of her father's
way of thinking; it is impossible to say how graciously, how
sweetly I was received. She honored me by speaking to me in my
own language, of which she showed herself to be a perfect
mistress. I was not only permitted, but encouraged, to talk of my
family, and to dwell on my own tastes, amusements, and pursuits.
Even when her Highness's attention was claimed by other persons
waiting to be presented, I was not forgotten. The Baroness was
instructed to invite me for the next evening to the Princess's
tea-table; and it was hinted that I should be especially welcome
if I brought my music with me, and sang.
My friend the secretary, standing near us at the time, looked at
me with a mysterious smile. He had suggested that I should make
advances to the Baroness--and here was the Baroness (under royal
instructions) making advances to Me!
"We know what _that_ means," he whispered.
In justice to myself, I must declare that I entirely failed to
On the occasion of my second reception by the Princess, at her
little evening party, I detected the Baroness, more than once, in
the act of watching her Highness and myself, with an appearance
of disapproval in her manner, which puzzled me. When I had taken
my leave, she followed me out of the room.
"I have a word of advice to give you," she said. "The best thing
you can do, sir, is to make an excuse to your Minister, and go
back to England."
I declare again, that I entirely failed to understand the
BEFORE the season came to an end, the Court removed to the
Prince's country-seat, in the interests of his Highness's health.
Entertainments were given (at the Doctor's suggestion), with a
view of raising the patient's depressed spirits. The members of
the English legation were among the guests invited. To me it was
a delightful visit. I had again every reason to feel gratefully
sensible of the Princess's condescending kindness. Meeting the
secretary one day in the library, I said that I thought her a
perfect creature. Was this an absurd remark to make? I could see
nothing absurd in it--and yet my friend burst out laughing.
"My good fellow, nobody is a perfect creature," he said. "The
Princess has her faults and failings, like the rest of us."
I denied it positively.
"Use your eyes," he went on; "and you will see, for example, that
she is shallow and frivolous. Yesterday was a day of rain. We
were all obliged to employ ourselves somehow indoors. Didn't you
notice that she had no resources in herself? She can't even
"There you are wrong at any rate," I declared. "I saw her reading
"You saw her with the newspaper in her hand. If you had not been
deaf and blind to her defects, you would have noticed that she
couldn't fix her attention on it. She was always ready to join in
the chatter of the ladies about her. When even their stores of
gossip were exhausted, she let the newspaper drop on her lap, and
sat in vacant idleness smiling at nothing."
I reminded him that she might have met with a dull number of the
newspaper. He took no notice of this unanswerable reply.
"You were talking the other day of her warmth of feeling," he
proceeded. "She has plenty of sentiment (German sentiment), I
grant you, but no true feeling. What happened only this morning,
when the Prince was in the breakfast-room, and when the Princess
and her ladies were dressed to go out riding? Even she noticed
the wretchedly depressed state of her father's spirits. A man of
that hypochondriacal temperament suffers acutely, though he may
only fancy himself to be ill. The Princess overflowed with
sympathy, but she never proposed to stay at home, and try to
cheer the old man. Her filial duty was performed to her own
entire satisfaction when she had kissed her hand to the Prince.
The moment after, she was out of the room--eager to enjoy her
ride. We all heard her laughing gayly among the ladies in the
I could have answered this also, if our discussion had not been
interrupted at the moment. The Doctor came into the library in
search of a book. When he had left us, my colleague's strong
prejudice against him instantly declared itself.
"Be on your guard with that man," he said.
"Why?" I asked.
"Haven't you noticed," he replied, "that when the Princess is
talking to you, the Doctor always happens to be in that part of
"What does it matter where the Doctor is?"
My friend looked at me with an oddly mingled expression of doubt
and surprise. "Do you really not understand me?" he said.
"I don't indeed."
"My dear Ernest, you are a rare and admirable example to the rest
of us--you are a truly modest man."
What did he mean?
EVENTS followed, on the next day, which (as will presently be
seen) I have a personal interest in relating.
The Baroness left us suddenly, on leave of absence. The Prince
wearied of his residence in the country; and the Court returned
to the capital. The charming Princess was reported to be
"indisposed," and retired to the seclusion of her own apartments.
A week later, I received a note f rom the Baroness, marked
"private and confidential." It informed me that she had resumed
her duties as lady-in-waiting, and that she wished to see me at
my earliest convenience. I obeyed at once; and naturally asked if
there were better accounts of her Highness's health.
The Baroness's reply a little surprised me. She said, "The
Princess is perfectly well."
"Recovered already!" I exclaimed.
"She has never been ill," the Baroness answered. "Her
indisposition was a sham; forced on her by me, in her own
interests. Her reputation is in peril; and you--you hateful
Englishman--are the cause of it."
Not feeling disposed to put up with such language as this, even
when it was used by a lady, I requested that she would explain
herself. She complied without hesitation. In another minute my
eyes were opened to the truth. I knew--no; that is too
positive--let me say I had reason to believe that the Princess
It is simply impossible to convey to the minds of others any idea
of the emotions that overwhelmed me at that critical moment of my
life. I was in a state of confusion at the time; and, when my
memory tries to realize it, I am in a state of confusion now. The
one thing I can do is to repeat what the Baroness said to me when
I had in some degree recovered my composure.
"I suppose you are aware," she began, "of the disgrace to which
the Princess's infatuation exposes her, if it is discovered? On
my own responsibility I repeat what I said to you a short time
since. Do you refuse to leave this place immediately?"
Does the man live, honored as I was, who would have hesitated to
refuse? Find him if you can!
"Very well," she resumed. "As the friend of the Princess, I have
no choice now but to take things as they are, and to make the
best of them. Let us realize your position to begin with. If you
were (like your elder brother) a nobleman possessed of vast
estates, my royal mistress might be excused. As it is, whatever
you may be in the future, you are nothing now but an obscure
young man, without fortune or title. Do you see your duty to the
Princess? or must I explain it to you?"
I saw my duty as plainly as she did. "Her Highness's secret is a
sacred secret," I said. "I am bound to shrink from no sacrifice
which may preserve it."
The Baroness smiled maliciously. "I may have occasion," she
answered, "to remind you of what you have just said. In the
meanwhile the Princess's secret is in danger of discovery."
"By her father?"
"No. By the Doctor."
At first, I doubted whether she was in jest or in earnest. The
next instant, I remembered that the secretary had expressly
cautioned me against that man.
"It is evidently one of your virtues," the Baroness proceeded,
"to be slow to suspect. Prepare yourself for a disagreeable
surprise. The Doctor has been watching the Princess, on every
occasion when she speaks to you, with some object of his own in
view. During my absence, young sir, I have been engaged in
discovering what that object is. My excellent mother lives at the
Court of the Grand Duke, and enjoys the confidence of his
Ministers. He is still a bachelor; and, in the interests of the
succession to the throne, the time has arrived when he must
marry. With my mother's assistance, I have found out that the
Doctor's medical errand here is a pretense. Influenced by the
Princess's beauty the Grand Duke has thought of her first as his
future duchess. Whether he has heard slanderous stories, or
whether he is only a cautious man, I can't tell you. But this I
know: he has instructed his physician--if he had employed a
professed diplomatist his motive might have been suspected--to
observe her Highness privately, and to communicate the result.
The object of the report is to satisfy the Duke that the
Princess's reputation is above the reach of scandal; that she is
free from entanglements of a certain kind; and that she is in
every respect a person to whom he can with propriety offer his
hand in marriage. The Doctor, Mr. Ernest, is not disposed to
allow you to prevent him from sending in a favorable report. He
has drawn his conclusions from the Princess's extraordinary
kindness to the second secretary of the English legation; and he
is only waiting for a little plainer evidence to communicate his
suspicions to the Prince. It rests with you to save the
"Only tell me how I am to do it!" I said.
"There is but one way of doing it," she answered; "and that way
has (comically enough) been suggested to me by the Doctor
Her tone and manner tried my patience.
"Come to the point!" I said.
She seemed to enjoy provoking me.
"No hurry, Mr. Ernest--no hurry! You shall be fully enlightened,
if you will only wait a little. The Prince, I must tell you,
believes in his daughter's indisposition. When he visited her
this morning, he was attended by his medical adviser. I was
present at the interview. To do him justice, the Doctor is worthy
of the trust reposed in him--he boldly attempted to verify his
suspicions of the daughter in the father's presence."
"Oh, in the well-known way that has been tried over and over
again, under similar circumstances! He merely invented a report
that you were engaged in a love-affair with some charming person
in the town. Don't be angry; there's no harm done."
"But there _is_ harm done," I insisted. "What must the Princess
think of me?"
"Do you suppose she is weak enough to believe the Doctor? Her
Highness beat him at his own weapons; not the slightest sign of
agitation on her part rewarded his ingenuity. All that you have
to do is to help her to mislead this medical spy. It's as easy as
lying: and easier. The Doctor's slander declares that you have a
love-affair in the town. Take the hint--and astonish the Doctor
by proving that he has hit on the truth."
It was a hot day; the Baroness was beginning to get excited. She
paused and fanned herself.
"Do I startle you?" she asked.
"You disgust me."
"What a thick-headed man this is!" she said, pleasantly. "Must I
put it more plainly still? Engage in what your English prudery
calls a 'flirtation,' with some woman here--the lower in degree
the better, or the Princess might be jealous--and let the affair
be seen and known by everybody about the Court. Sly as he is, the
Doctor is not prepared for that! At your age, and with your
personal advantages, he will take appearances for granted; he
will conclude that he has wronged you, and misinterpreted the
motives of the Princess. The secret of her Highness's weakness
will be preserved--thanks to that sacrifice, Mr. Ernest, which
you are so willing and so eager to make."
It was useless to remonstrate with such a woman as this. I simply
stated my own objection to her artfully devised scheme.
"I don't wish to appear vain," I said; "but the woman to whom I
am to pay these attentions may believe that I really admire
her--and it is just possible that she may honestly return the
feeling which I am only assuming."
"Well--and what then?"
"It's hard on the woman, surely?"
The Baroness was shocked, unaffectedly shocked.
"Good heavens!" she exclaimed, "how can anything that you do for
the Princess be hard on a woman of the lower orders? There must
be an end of this nonsense, sir! You have heard what I propose,
and you know what the circumstances are. My mistress is waiting
for your answer. What am I to say?"
"Let me see her Highness, and speak for myself," I said.
"Quite impossible to-day, without running too great a risk. Your
reply must be made through me."
There was to be a Court concert at the end of the week. On that
occasion I should be able to make my own reply. In the meanwhile
I only told the Baroness I wanted time to consider.
"What time?" she asked.
"Until to-morrow. Do you object?"
"On the contrary, I cordially agree. Your base hesitation may
lead to results which I have not hitherto dared to anticipate."
"What do you mean?"
"Between this and to-morrow," the horrid woman replied, "the
Princess may end in seeing you with my eyes. In that hope I wish
MY enemies say that I am a weak man, unduly influenced by persons
of rank--because of their rank. If this we re true, I should have
found little difficulty in consenting to adopt the Baroness's
suggestion. As it was, the longer I reflected on the scheme the
less I liked it. I tried to think of some alternative that might
be acceptably proposed. The time passed, and nothing occurred to
me. In this embarrassing position my mind became seriously
disturbed; I felt the necessity of obtaining some relief, which
might turn my thoughts for a while into a new channel. The
secretary called on me, while I was still in doubt what to do. He
reminded me that a new prima donna was advertised to appear on
that night; and he suggested that we should go to the opera.
Feeling as I did at the time, I readily agreed.
We found the theater already filled, before the performance
began. Two French gentlemen were seated in the row of stalls
behind us. They were talking of the new singer.
"She is advertised as 'Mademoiselle Fontenay,'" one of them said.
"That sounds like an assumed name."
"It _is_ an assumed name," the other replied. "She is the
daughter of a French singing-master, named Bonnefoy."
To my friend's astonishment I started to my feet, and left him
without a word of apology. In another minute I was at the
stage-door, and had sent in my card to "Mademoiselle Fontenay."
While I was waiting, I had time to think. Was it possible that
Jeanne had gone on the stage? Or were there two singing-masters
in existence named Bonnefoy? My doubts were soon decided. The
French woman-servant whom I remembered when I was Monsieur
Bonnefoy's pupil, made her appearance, and conducted me to her
young mistress's dressing-room. Dear good Jeanne, how glad she
was to see me!
I found her standing before the glass, having just completed her
preparations for appearing on the stage. Dressed in her
picturesque costume, she was so charming that I expressed my
admiration heartily, as became her old friend. "Do you really
like me?" she said, with the innocent familiarity which I
recollected so well. "See how I look in the glass--that is the
great test." It was not easy to apply the test. Instead of
looking at her image in the glass, it was far more agreeable to
look at herself. We were interrupted--too soon interrupted--by
the call-boy. He knocked at the door, and announced that the
overture had begun.
"I have a thousand things to ask you," I told her. "What has made
this wonderful change in your life? How is it that I don't see
Her face instantly saddened; her hand trembled as she laid it on
my arm to silence me.
"Don't speak of him now," she said, "or you will unnerve me. Come
to me to-morrow when the stage will not be waiting; Annette will
give you my address." She opened the door to go out, and
returned. "Will you think me very unreasonable if I ask you not
to make one of my audience to-night? You have reminded me of the
dear old days that can never come again. If I feel that I am
singing to _you_--" She left me to understand the rest, and
turned away again to the door. As I followed her out, to say
good-by, she drew from her bosom the little brooch which had been
my parting gift, and held it out to me. "On the stage, or off, "
she said, "I always wear it. Good-night, Ernest."
I was prepared to hear sad news when we met the next morning.
My good old friend and master had died suddenly. To add to the
bitterness of that affliction, he had died in debt to a dear and
intimate friend. For his daughter's sake he had endeavored to add
to his little savings by speculating with borrowed money on the
Stock Exchange. He had failed, and the loan advanced had not been
repaid, when a fit of apoplexy struck him down. Offered the
opportunity of trying her fortune on the operatic stage, Jeanne
made the attempt, and was now nobly employed in earning the money
to pay her father's debt.
"It was the only way in which I could do justice to his memory,"
she said, simply. "I hope you don't object to my going on the
I took her hand, poor child--and let that simple action answer
for me. I was too deeply affected to be able to speak.
"It is not in me to be a great actress," she resumed; "but you
know what an admirable musician my father was. He has taught me
to sing, so that I can satisfy the critics, as well as please the
public. There was what they call a great success last night. It
has earned me an engagement for another year to come, and an
increase of salary. I have already sent some money to our good
old friend at home, and I shall soon send more. It is my one
consolation--I feel almost happy again when I am paying my poor
father's debt. No more now of my sad story! I want to hear all
that you can tell me of yourself." She moved to the window, and
looked out. "Oh, the beautiful blue sky! We used sometimes to
take a walk, when we were in London, on fine days like this. Is
there a park here?"
I took her to the palace gardens, famous for their beauty in that
part of Germany.
Arm in arm we loitered along the pleasant walks. The lovely
flowers, the bright sun, the fresh fragrant breeze, all helped
her to recover her spirits. She began to be like the happy Jeanne
of my past experience, as easily pleased as a child. When we sat
down to rest, the lap of her dress was full of daisies. "Do you
remember," she said, "when you first taught me to make a
daisy-chain? Are you too great a man to help me again now?"
We were still engaged with our chain, seated close together, when
the smell of tobacco-smoke was wafted to us on the air.
I looked up and saw the Doctor passing us, enjoying his cigar. He
bowed; eyed my pretty companion with a malicious smile; and
"Who is that man?" she asked.
"The Prince's physician," I replied.
"I don't like him," she said; "why did he smile when he looked at
"Perhaps," I suggested, "he thought we were lovers."
She blushed. "Don't let him think that! tell him we are only old
We were not destined to finish our flower chain on that day.
Another person interrupted us, whom I recognized as the elder
brother of Monsieur Bonnefoy--already mentioned in these pages,
under the name of Uncle David. Having left France for political
reasons, the old republican had taken care of his niece after her
father's death, and had accepted the position of Jeanne's
business manager in her relations with the stage. Uncle David's
object, when he joined us in the garden, was to remind her that
she was wanted at rehearsal, and must at once return with him to
the theater. We parted, having arranged that I was to see the
performance on that night.
Later in the day, the Baroness sent for me again.
"Let me apologize for having misunderstood you yesterday," she
said: "and let me offer you my best congratulations. You have
done wonders already in the way of misleading the Doctor. There
is only one objection to that girl at the theater--I hear she is
so pretty that she may possibly displease the Princess. In other
respects, she is just in the public position which will make your
attentions to her look like the beginning of a serious intrigue.
Bravo, Mr. Ernest--bravo!"
I was too indignant to place any restraint on the language in
which I answered her.
"Understand, if you please," I said, "that I am renewing an old
friendship with Mademoiselle Jeanne--begun under the sanction of
her father. Respect that young lady, madam, as I respect her."
The detestable Baroness clapped her hands, as if she had been at
"If you only say that to the Princess," she remarked, "as well as
you have said it to me, there will be no danger of arousing her
Highness's jealousy. I have a message for you. At the concert, on
Saturday, you are to retire to the conservatory, and you may hope
for an interview when the singers begin the second part of the
programme. Don't let me detain you any longer. Go back to your
young lady, Mr. Ernest--pray go back!"
ON the second night of the opera the applications for places were
too numerous to be received. Among the crowded audience, I
recognized many of my friends. They persisted in believing an
absurd report (first circulated, as I imagine, by the Doctor),
which asserted that my interest in the new singer was something
more than the interest of an old friend. When I went behind the
scenes to congratulate Jeanne on her success, I was annoyed in
another way--and by the Doctor again. He followed me to Jeanne's
room, to offer _his_ congratulations; and he begged that I would
introduce him to the charming prima donna. Having expressed his
admiration, he looked at me with his insolently suggestive smile,
and said he could not think of prolonging his intrusion. On
leaving the room, he noticed Uncle David, waiting as usual to
take care of Jeanne on her return from the theater--looked at him
attentively--bowed, and went out.
The next morning, I received a note from the Baroness, expressed
in these terms:
"More news! My rooms look out on the wing of the palace in which
the Doctor is lodged. Half an hour since, I discovered him at his
window, giving a letter to a person who is a stranger to me. The
man left the palace immediately afterward. My maid followed him,
by my directions. Instead of putting the letter in the post, he
took a ticket at the railway-station--for what place the servant
was unable to discover. Here, you will observe, is a letter
important enough to be dispatched by special messenger, and
written at a time when we have succeeded in freeing ourselves
from the Doctor's suspicions. It is at least possible that he has
decided on sending a favorable report of the Princess to the
Grand Duke. If this is the case, please consider whether you will
not act wisely (in her Highness's interests) by keeping away from
Viewing this suggestion as another act of impertinence on the
part of the Baroness, I persisted in my intention of going to the
concert. It was for the Princess to decide what course of conduct
I was bound to follow. What did I care for the Doctor's report to
the Duke! Shall I own my folly? I do really believe I was jealous
of the Duke.
ENTERING the Concert Room, I found the Princess alone on the
dais, receiving the company. "Nervous prostration" had made it
impossible for the Prince to be present. He was confined to his
bed-chamber; and the Doctor was in attendance on him.
I bowed to the Baroness, but she was too seriously offended with
me for declining to take her advice to notice my salutation.
Passing into the conservatory, it occurred to me that I might be
seen, and possibly suspected, in the interval between the first
and second parts of the programme, when the music no longer
absorbed the attention of the audience. I went on, and waited
outside on the steps that led to the garden; keeping the glass
door open, so as to hear when the music of the second part of the
After an interval which seemed to be endless, I saw the Princess
She had made the heat in the Concert Room an excuse for retiring
for a while; and she had the Baroness in attendance on her to
save appearances. Instead of leaving us to ourselves, the
malicious creature persisted in paying the most respectful
attentions to her mistress. It was impossible to make her
understand that she was not wanted any longer until the Princess
said sharply, "Go back to the music!" Even then, the detestable
woman made a low curtsey, and answered: "I will return, Madam, in
I ventured to present myself in the conservatory.
The Princess was dressed with exquisite simplicity, entirely in
white. Her only ornaments were white roses in her hair and in her
bosom. To say that she looked lovely is to say nothing. She
seemed to be the ethereal creature of some higher sphere; too
exquisitely delicate and pure to be approached by a mere mortal
man like myself. I was awed; I was silent. Her Highness's sweet
smile encouraged me to venture a little nearer. She pointed to a
footstool which the Baroness had placed for her. "Are you afraid
of me, Ernest?" she asked softly.
Her divinely beautiful eyes rested on me with a look of
encouragement. I dropped on my knees at her feet. She had asked
if I was afraid of her. This, if I may use such an expression,
roused my manhood. My own boldness astonished me. I answered:
"Madam, I adore you."
She laid her fair hand on my head, and looked at me thoughtfully.
"Forget my rank," she whispered--"have I not set you the example?
Suppose that I am nothing but an English Miss. What would you say
"I should say, I love you."
"Say it to Me."
My lips said it on her hand. She bent forward. My heart beats
fast at the bare remembrance of it. Oh, heavens, her Highness
"There is your reward," she murmured, "for all you have
sacrificed for my sake. What an effort it must have been to offer
the pretense of love to an obscure stranger! The Baroness tells
me this actress--this singer--what is she?--is pretty. Is it
The Baroness was quite mischievous enough to have also mentioned
the false impression, prevalent about the Court, that I was in
love with Jeanne. I attempted to explain. The gracious Princess
refused to hear me.
"Do you think I doubt you?" she said. "Distinguished by me, could
you waste a look on a person in _that_ rank of life?" She laughed
softly, as if the mere idea of such a thing amused her. It was
only for a moment: her thoughts took a new direction--they
contemplated the uncertain future. "How is this to end?" she
asked. "Dear Ernest, we are not in Paradise; we are in a hard
cruel world which insists on distinctions in rank. To what
unhappy destiny does the fascination which you exercise over me
condemn us both?"
She paused--took one of the white roses out of her bosom--touched
it with her lips--and gave it to me.
"I wonder whether you feel the burden of life as I feel it?" she
resumed. "It is immaterial to me, whether we are united in this
world or in the next. Accept my rose, Ernest, as an assurance
that I speak with perfect sincerity. I see but two alternatives
before us. One of them (beset with dangers) is elopement. And the
other," she added, with truly majestic composure, "is suicide."
Would Englishmen in general have rightly understood such fearless
confidence in them as this language implied? I am afraid they
might have attributed it to what my friend the secretary called
"German sentiment." Perhaps they might even have suspected the
Princess of quoting from some old-fashioned German play. Under
the irresistible influence of that glorious creature, I
contemplated with such equal serenity the perils of elopement and
the martyrdom of love, that I was for the moment at a loss how to
reply. In that moment, the evil genius of my life appeared in the
conservatory. With haste in her steps, with alarm in her face,
the Baroness rushed up to her royal mistress, and said, "For
God's sake, Madam, come away! The Prince desires to speak with
Her Highness rose, calmly superior to the vulgar excitement of
her lady in waiting. "Think of it to-night," she said to me, "and
let me hear from you to-morrow."
She pressed my hand; she gave me a farewell look. I sank into the
chair that she had just left. Did I think of elopement? Did I
think of suicide? The elevating influence of the Princess no
longer sustained me; my nature became degraded. Horrid doubts
rose in my mind. Did her father suspect us?
NEED I say that I passed a sleepless night?
The morning found me with my pen in my hand, confronting the
serious responsibility of writing to the Princess, and not
knowing what to say. I had already torn up two letters, when
Uncle David presented himself with a message from his niece.
Jeanne was in trouble, and wanted to ask my advice.
My state of mind, on hearing this, became simply inexplicable.
Here was an interruption which ought to have annoyed me. It did
nothing of the kind--it inspired me with a feeling of relief!
I naturally expected that the old Frenchman would return with me
to his niece, and tell me what had happened. To my surprise, he
begged that I would excuse him, and left me without a word of
explanation. I found Jeanne walking up and down her little
sitting-room, flushed and angry. Fragments of torn paper and
heaps of flowers littered the floor; and three unopen jewel-cases
appeared to have been thrown into the empty fireplace. She caught
excitedly by the hand the moment I entered the room.
"You are my true friend," she said; "you were present the other
night when I sang. Was there anything in my behavior on the stage
which could justify men who call themselves gentlemen in
"My dear, how can you ask the question?"
"I must ask it. Some of them send flowers, and some of them send
jewels; and every one of them writes letters--infamous,
abominable letters--saying they are in love with me, and asking
for appointments as if I was--"
She could say no more. Poor dear Jeanne--her head dropped on my
shoulder; she burst out crying. Who could see her so cruelly
humiliated--the faithful loving daughter, whose one motive for
appearing on the stage had been to preserve her father's good
name--and not feel for her as I did? I forgot all considerations
of prudence; I thought of nothing but consoling her; I took her
in my arms; I dried her tears; I kissed her; I said, "Tell me the
name of any one of the wretches who has written to you, and I
will make him an example to the rest!" She shook her head, and
pointed to the morsels of paper on the floor. "Oh, Ernest, do you
think I asked you to come here for any such purpose as that?
Those jewels, those hateful jewels, tell me how I can send them
back! spare me the sight of them!"
So far it was easy to console her. I sent the jewels at once to
the manager of the theater--with a written notice to be posted at
the stage door, stating that they were waiting to be returned to
the persons who could describe them.
"Try, my dear, to forget what has happened," I said. "Try to find
consolation and encouragement in your art."
"I have lost all interest in my success on the stage," she
answered, "now I know the penalty I must pay for it. When my
father's memory is clear of reproach, I shall leave the theater
never to return to it again."
"Take time to consider, Jeanne."
"I will do anything you ask of me."
For a while we were silent. Without any influence to lead to it
that I could trace, I found myself recalling the language that
the Princess had used in alluding to Jeanne. When I thought of
them now, the words and the tone in which they had been spoken
jarred on me. There is surely something mean in an assertion of
superiority which depends on nothing better than the accident of
birth. I don't know why I took Jeanne's hand; I don't know why I
said, "What a good girl you are! how glad I am to have been of
some little use to you!" Is my friend the secretary right, when
he reproaches me with acting on impulse, like a woman? I don't
like to think so; and yet, this I must own--it was well for me
that I was obliged to leave her, before I had perhaps said other
words which might have been alike unworthy of Jeanne, of the
Princess, and of myself. I was called away to speak to my
servant. He brought with him the secretary's card, having a line
written on it: "I am waiting at your rooms, on business which
permits of no delay."
As we shook hands, Jeanne asked me if I knew where her uncle was.
I could only tell her that he had left me at my own door. She
made no remark; but she seemed to be uneasy on receiving that
WHEN I arrived at my rooms, my colleague hurried to meet me the
moment I opened the door.
"I am going to surprise you," he said; "and there is no time to
prepare you for it. Our chief, the Minister, has seen the Prince
this morning, and has been officially informed of an event of
importance in the life of the Princess. She is engaged to be
married to the Grand Duke."
Engaged to the Duke--and not a word from her to warn me of it!
Engaged--after what she had said to me no longer ago than the
past night! Had I been made a plaything to amuse a great lady?
Oh, what degradation! I was furious; I snatched up my hat to go
to the palace--to force my way to her--to overwhelm her with
reproaches. My friend stopped me. He put an official document
into my hand.
"There is your leave of absence from the legation," he said;
"beginning from to-day. I have informed the Minister, in strict
confidence, of the critical position in which you are placed. He
agrees with me that the Princess's inexcusable folly is alone to
blame. Leave us, Ernest, by the next train. There is some
intrigue going on, and I fear you may be involved in it. You know
that the rulers of these little German States can exercise
despotic authority when they choose?"
"Whether the Prince has acted of his own free will--or whether he
has been influenced by some person about him--I am not able to
tell you. He has issued an order to arrest an old Frenchman,
known to be a republican, and suspected of associating with one
of the secret societies in this part of Germany. The conspirator
has taken to flight; having friends, as we suppose, who warned
him in time. But this, Ernest, is not the worst of it. That
charming singer, that modest, pretty girl--"
"You don't mean Jeanne?"
"I am sorry to say I do. Advantage has been taken of her
relationship to the old man, to include that innocent creature in
political suspicions which it is simply absurd to suppose that
she has deserved. She is ordered to leave the Prince's domains
immediately.--Are you going to her?"
"Instantly!" I replied.
Could I feel a moment's hesitation, after the infamous manner in
which the Princess had sacrificed me to the Grand Duke? Could I
think of the poor girl, friendless, helpless--with nobody near
her but a stupid woman-servant, unable to speak the language of
the country--and fail to devote myself to the protection of
Jeanne? Thank God, I reached her lodgings in time to tell her
what had happened, and to take it on myself to receive the
IN three days more, Jeanne was safe in London; having traveled
under my escort. I was fortunate enough to find a home for her,
in the house of a lady who had been my mother's oldest and
We were separated, a few days afterward, by the distressing news
which reached me of the state of my brother's health. I went at
once to his house in the country. His medical attendants had lost
all hope of saving him: they told me plainly that his release
from a life of suffering was near at hand.
While I was still in attendance at his bedside, I heard from the
secretary. He inclosed a letter, directed to me in a strange
handwriting. I opened the envelope and looked for the signature.
My friend had been entrapped into sending me an anonymous letter.
Besides addressing me in French (a language seldom used in my
experience at the legation), the writer disguised the identity of
the persons mentioned by the use of classical names. In spite of
these precautions, I felt no difficulty in arriving at a
conclusion. My correspondent's special knowledge of Court
secrets, and her malicious way of communicating them, betrayed
I translate the letter; restoring to the persons who figure in it
the names under which they are already known. The writer began in
these satirically familiar terms:
"When you left the Prince's dominions, my dear sir, you no doubt
believed yourself to be a free agent. Quite a mistake! You were a
mere puppet; and the strings that moved you were pulled by the
"Let me tell you how.
"On a certain night, which you well remember, the Princess was
unexpectedly summoned to the presence of her father. His
physician's skill had succeeded in relieving the illustrious
Prince, prostrate under nervous miseries. He was able to attend
to a state affair of importance, revealed to him by the
Doctor--who then for the first time acknowledged that he had
presented himself at Court in a diplomatic, as well as in a
"This state affair related to a proposal for the hand of the
Princess, received from the Grand Duke through the authorized
medium of the Doctor. Her Highness, being consulted, refused to
consider the proposal. The Prince asked for her reason. She
answered: 'I have no wish to be married.' Naturally irritated by
such a ridiculous excuse, her father declared positively that the
marriage should take place.
"The impression produced on the Grand Duke's favorite and
emissary was of a different kind.
"Certain suspicions of the Princess and yourself, which you had
successfully contrived to dissipate, revived in the Doctor's mind
when he heard the lady's reason for refusing to marry his royal
master. It was now too late to regret that he had suffered
himself to be misled by cleverly managed appearances. He could
not recall the favorable report which he had addressed to the
Duke--or withdraw the proposal of marriage which he had been
commanded to make.
"In this emergency, the one safe course open to him was to get
rid of You--and, at the same time, so to handle circumstances as
to excite against you the pride and anger of the Princess. In the
pursuit of this latter object he was assisted by one of the
ladies in waiting, sincerely interested in the welfare of her
gracious mistress, and therefore ardently desirous of seeing her
Highness married to the Duke.
"A wretched old French conspirator was made the convenient pivot
on which the intrigue turned.
"An order for the arrest of this foreign republican having been
first obtained, the Prince was prevailed on to extend his
distrust of the Frenchman to the Frenchman's niece. You know this
already; but you don't know why it was done. Having believed from
the first that you were really in love with the young lady, the
Doctor reckoned confidently on your devoting yourself to the
protection of a friendless girl, cruelly exiled at an hour's
"The one chance against us was that tender considerations,
associated with her Highness, might induce you to hesitate. The
lady in waiting easily moved this obstacle out of the way. She
abstained from delivering a letter addressed to you, intrusted to
her by the Princess. When the great lady asked why she had not
received your reply, she was informed (quite truly) that you and
the charming opera singer had taken your departure together. You
may imagine what her Highness thought of you, and said of you,
when I mention in conclusion that she consented, the same day, to
marry the Duke.
"So, Mr. Ernest, these clever people tricked you into serving
their interests, blindfold. In relating how it was done, I hope I
may have assisted you in forming a correct estimate of the state
of your own intelligence. You have made a serious mistake in
adopting your present profession. Give up diplomacy--and get a
farmer to employ you in keeping his sheep."
* * * * *
Do I sometimes think regretfully of the Princess?
Permit me to mention a circumstance, and to leave my answer to be
inferred. Jeanne is Lady Medhurst.
MR. LISMORE AND THE WIDOW.
LATE in the autumn, not many years since, a public meeting was
held at the Mansion House, London, under the direction of the
The list of gentlemen invited to address the audience had been
chosen with two objects in view. Speakers of celebrity, who would
rouse public enthusiasm, were supported by speakers connected
with commerce, who would be practically useful in explaining the
purpose for which the meeting was convened. Money wisely spent in
advertising had produced the customary result--every seat was
occupied before the proceedings began.
Among the late arrivals, who had no choice but to stand or to
leave the hall, were two ladies. One of them at once decided on
leaving the hall. "I shall go back to the carriage," she said,
"and wait for you at the door." Her friend answered, "I shan't
keep you long. He is advertised to support the second Resolution;
I want to see him--and that is all."
An elderly gentleman, seated at the end of a bench, rose and
offered his place to the lady who remained. She hesitated to take
advantage of his kindness, until he reminded her that he had
heard what she said to her friend. Before the third Resolution
was proposed, his seat would be at his own disposal again. She
thanked him, and without further ceremony took his place He was
provided with an opera-glass, which he more than once offered to
her, when famous orators appeared on the platform; she made no
use of it until a speaker--known in the City as a
ship-owner--stepped forward to support the second Resolution.
His name (announced in the advertisements) was Ernest Lismore.
The moment he rose, the lady asked for the opera-glass. She kept
it to her eyes for such a length of time, and with such evident
interest in Mr. Lismore, that the curiosity of her neighbors was
aroused. Had he anything to say in which a lady (evidently a
stranger to him) was personally interested? There was nothing in
the address that he delivered which appealed to the enthusiasm of
women. He was undoubtedly a handsome man, whose appearance
proclaimed him to be in the prime of life--midway perhaps between
thirty and forty years of age. But why a lady should persist in
keeping an opera-glass fixed on him all through his speech, was a
question which found the general ingenuity at a loss for a reply.
Having returned the glass with an apology, the lady ventured on
putting a question next. "Did it strike you, sir, that Mr.
Lismore seemed to be out of spirits?" she asked.
"I can't say it did, ma'am."
"Perhaps you noticed that he left the platform the moment he had
This betrayal of interest in the speaker did not escape the
notice of a lady, seated on the bench in front. Before the old
gentleman could answer, she volunteered an explanation.
"I am afraid Mr. Lismore is troubled by anxieties connected with
his business," she said. "My husband heard it reported in the
City yesterday that he was seriously embarrassed by the
A loud burst of applause made the end of the sentence inaudible.
A famous member of Parliament had risen to propose the third
Resolution. The polite old man took his seat, and the lady left
the hall to join her friend.
"Well, Mrs. Callender, has Mr. Lismore disappointed you?"
"Far from it! But I have heard a report about him which has
alarmed me: he is said to be seriously troubled about money
matters. How can I find out his address in the City?"
"We can stop at the first stationer's shop we pass, and ask to
look at the Directory. Are you going to pay Mr. Lismore a visit?"
"I am going to think about it."
THE next day a clerk entered Mr. Lismore's private room at the
office, and presented a visiting-card. Mrs. Callender had
reflected, and had arrived at a decision. Underneath her name she
had written these explanatory words: "On important business."
"Does she look as if she wanted money?" Mr. Lismore inquired.
"Oh dear, no! She comes in her carriage."
"Is she young or old?"
To Mr. Lismore--conscious of the disastrous influence
occasionally exercised over busy men by youth and beauty--this
was a recommendation in itself. He said: "Show her in."
Observing the lady, as she approached him, with the momentary
curiosity of a stranger, he noticed that she still preserved the
remains of beauty. She had also escaped the misfortune, common to
persons at her time of life, of becoming too fat. Even to a man's
eye, her dressmaker appeared to have made the most of that
favorable circumstance. Her figure had its defects concealed, and
its remaining merits set off to advantage. At the same time she
evidently held herself above the common deceptions by which some
women seek to conceal their age. She wore her own gray hair; and
her complexion bore the test of daylight. On entering the room,
she made her apologies with some embarrassment. Being the
embarrassment of a stranger (and not of a youthful stranger), it
failed to impress Mr. Lismore favorably.
"I am afraid I have chosen an inconvenient time for my visit,"
"I am at your service," he answered a little stiffly; "especially
if you will be so kind as to mention your business with me in few
She was a woman of some spirit, and that reply roused her.
"I will mention it in one word, " she said smartly. "My business
He was completely at a loss to understand what she meant, and he
said so plainly. Instead of explaining herself, she put a
"Do you remember the night of the eleventh of March, between five
and six years since?"
He considered for a moment.
"No," he said, "I don't r emember it. Excuse me, Mrs. Callender,
I have affairs of my own to attend to which cause me some
"Let me assist your memory, Mr. Lismore; and I will leave you to
your affairs. On the date that I have referred to, you were on
your way to the railway-station at Bexmore, to catch the night
express from the North to London."
As a hint that his time was valuable the ship-owner had hitherto
remained standing. He now took his customary seat, and began to
listen with some interest. Mrs. Callender had produced her effect
on him already.
"It was absolutely necessary," she proceeded, "that you should be
on board your ship in the London Docks at nine o'clock the next
morning. If you had lost the express, the vessel would have
sailed without you."
The expression of his face began to change to surprise. "Who told
you that?" he asked.
"You shall hear directly. On your way into the town, your
carriage was stopped by an obstruction on the highroad. The
people of Bexmore were looking at a house on fire."
He started to his feet.
"Good heavens! are you the lady?"
She held up her hand in satirical protest.
"Gently, sir! You suspected me just now of wasting your valuable
time. Don't rashly conclude that I am the lady, until you find
that I am acquainted with the circumstances."
"Is there no excuse for my failing to recognize you?" Mr. Lismore
asked. "We were on the dark side of the burning house; you were
fainting, and I--"
"And you," she interposed, "after saving me at the risk of your
own life, turned a deaf ear to my poor husband's entreaties, when
he asked you to wait till I had recovered my senses."
"Your poor husband? Surely, Mrs. Callender, he received no
serious injury from the fire?"
"The firemen rescued him under circumstances of peril," she
answered, "and at his great age he sank under the shock. I have
lost the kindest and best of men. Do you remember how you parted
from him--burned and bruised in saving me? He liked to talk of it
in his last illness. 'At least' (he said to you), 'tell me the
name of the man who has preserved my wife from a dreadful death.'
You threw your card to him out of the carriage window, and away
you went at a gallop to catch your train! In all the years that
have passed I have kept that card, and have vainly inquired for
my brave sea-captain. Yesterday I saw your name on the list of
speakers at the Mansion House. Need I say that I attended the
meeting? Need I tell you now why I come here and interrupt you in
She held out her hand. Mr. Lismore took it in silence, and
pressed it warmly.
"You have not done with me yet," she resumed with a smile. "Do
you remember what I said of my errand, when I first came in?"
"You said it was an errand of gratitude."
"Something more than the gratitude which only says 'Thank you,' "
she added. "Before I explain myself, however, I want to know what
you have been doing, and how it was that my inquiries failed to
trace you after that terrible night."
The appearance of depression which Mrs. Callender had noticed at
the public meeting showed itself again in Mr. Lismore's face. He
sighed as he answered her.
"My story has one merit," he said; "it is soon told. I cannot
wonder that you failed to discover me. In the first place, I was
not captain of my ship at that time; I was only mate. In the
second place, I inherited some money, and ceased to lead a
sailor's life, in less than a year from the night of the fire.
You will now understand what obstacles were in the way of your
tracing me. With my little capital I started successfully in
business as a ship-owner. At the time, I naturally congratulated
myself on my own good fortune. We little know, Mrs. Callender,
what the future has in store for us."
He stopped. His handsome features hardened--as if he was
suffering (and concealing) pain. Before it was possible to speak
to him, there was a knock at the door. Another visitor, without
an appointment, had called; the clerk appeared again, with a card
and a message.
"The gentleman begs you will see him, sir. He has something to
tell you which is too important to be delayed."
Hearing the message, Mrs. Callender rose immediately.
"It is enough for to-day that we understand each other," she
said. "Have you any engagement to-morrow, after the hours of
She pointed to her card on the writing-table. "Will you come to
me to-morrow evening at that address? I am like the gentleman who
has just called; I, too, have my reason for wishing to see you."
He gladly accepted the invitation. Mrs. Callender stopped him as
he opened the door for her.
"Shall I offend you," she said, "if I ask a strange question
before I go? I have a better motive, mind, than mere curiosity.
Are you married?"
"Forgive me again," she resumed. "At my age, you cannot possibly
misunderstand me; and yet--"
She hesitated. Mr. Lismore tried to give her confidence. "Pray
don't stand on ceremony, Mrs. Callender. Nothing that _you_ can
ask me need be prefaced by an apology."
Thus encouraged, she ventured to proceed.
"You may be engaged to be married?" she suggested. "Or you may be
He found it impossible to conceal his surprise. But he answered
"There is no such bright prospect in _my_ life," he said. "I am
not even in love."
She left him with a little sigh. It sounded like a sigh of
Ernest Lismore was thoroughly puzzled. What could be the old
lady's object in ascertaining that he was still free from a
matrimonial engagement? If the idea had occurred to him in time,
he might have alluded to her domestic life, and might have asked
if she had children? With a little tact he might have discovered
more than this. She had described her feeling toward him as
passing the ordinary limits of gratitude; and she was evidently
rich enough to be above the imputation of a mercenary motive. Did
she propose to brighten those dreary prospects to which he had
alluded in speaking of his own life? When he presented himself at
her house the next evening, would she introduce him to a charming
He smiled as the idea occurred to him. "An appropriate time to be
thinking of my chances of marriage!" he said to himself. "In
another month I may be a ruined man."
THE gentleman who had so urgently requested an interview was a
devoted friend--who had obtained a means of helping Ernest at a
serious crisis in his affairs.
It had been truly reported that he was in a position of pecuniary
embarrassment, owing to the failure of a mercantile house with
which he had been intimately connected. Whispers affecting his
own solvency had followed on the bankruptcy of the firm. He had
already endeavored to obtain advances of money on the usual
conditions, and had been met by excuses for delay. His friend had
now arrived with a letter of introduction to a capitalist, well
known in commercial circles for his daring speculations and for
his great wealth.
Looking at the letter, Ernest observed that the envelope was
sealed. In spite of that ominous innovation on established usage,
in cases of personal introduction, he presented the letter. On
this occasion, he was not put off with excuses. The capitalist
flatly declined to discount Mr. Lismore's bills, unless they were
backed by responsible names.
Ernest made a last effort.
He applied for help to two mercantile men whom he had assisted in
_their_ difficulties, and whose names would have satisfied the
money-lender. They were most sincerely sorry--but they, too,
The one security that he could offer was open, it must be owned,
to serious objections on the score of risk. He wanted an advance
of twenty thousand pounds, secured on a homeward-bound ship and
cargo. But the vessel was not insured; and, at that stormy
season, she was already more than a month overdue. Could grateful
colleagues be blamed if they forgot their obligations when they
were asked to offer pecuniary help to a merchant in this
situation? Ernest returned to his office, without money and
A man threatened by ruin is in no state of mind to keep an
engagement at a lady's tea-table. Ernest sent a letter of apology
to Mrs. Call ender, alleging extreme pressure of business as the
excuse for breaking his engagement.
"Am I to wait for an answer, sir?" the messenger asked.
"No; you are merely to leave the letter."
IN an hour's time--to Ernest's astonishment--the messenger
returned with a reply.
"The lady was just going out, sir, when I rang at the door," he
explained, "and she took the letter from me herself. She didn't
appear to know your handwriting, and she asked me who I came
from. When I mentioned your name, I was ordered to wait."
Ernest opened the letter.
"DEAR MR. LISMORE--One of us must speak out, and your letter of
apology forces me to be that one. If you are really so proud and
so distrustfull as you seem to be, I shall offend you. If not, I
shall prove myself to be your friend.
"Your excuse is 'pressure of business.' The truth (as I have good
reason to believe) is 'want of money.' I heard a stranger, at
that public meeting, say that you were seriously embarrassed by
some failure in the City.
"Let me tell you what my own pecuniary position is in two words.
I am the childless widow of a rich man--"
Ernest paused. His anticipated discovery of Mrs. Callender's
"charming daughter" was in his mind for the moment. "That little
romance must return to the world of dreams," he thought--and went
on with the letter.
"After what I owe to you, I don't regard it as repaying an
obligation--I consider myself as merely performing a duty when I
offer to assist you by a loan of money.
"Wait a little before you throw my letter into the wastepaper
"Circumstances (which it is impossible for me to mention before
we meet) put it out of my power to help you--unless I attach to
my most sincere offer of service a very unusual and very
embarrassing condition. If you are on the brink of ruin, that
misfortune will plead my excuse--and your excuse, too, if you
accept the loan on my terms. In any case, I rely on the sympathy
and forbearance of the man to whom I owe my life.
"After what I have now written, there is only one thing to add. I
beg to decline accepting your excuses; and I shall expect to see
you tomorrow evening, as we arranged. I am an obstinate old
woman--but I am also your faithful friend and servant,
Ernest looked up from the letter. "What can this possibly mean?"
But he was too sensible a man to be content with wondering--he
decided on keeping his engagement.
WHAT Doctor Johnson called "the insolence of wealth" appears far
more frequently in the houses of the rich than in the manners of
the rich. The reason is plain enough. Personal ostentation is, in
the very nature of it, ridiculous. But the ostentation which
exhibits magnificent pictures, priceless china, and splendid
furniture, can purchase good taste to guide it, and can assert
itself without affording the smallest opening for a word of
depreciation, or a look of contempt. If I am worth a million of
money, and if I am dying to show it, I don't ask you to look at
me--I ask you to look at my house.
Keeping his engagement with Mrs. Callender, Ernest discovered
that riches might be lavishly and yet modestly used.
In crossing the hall and ascending the stairs, look where he
might, his notice was insensibly won by proofs of the taste which
is not to be purchased, and the wealth which uses but never
exhibits its purse. Conducted by a man-servant to the landing on
the first floor, he found a maid at the door of the boudoir
waiting to announce him. Mrs. Callender advanced to welcome her
guest, in a simple evening dress perfectly suited to her age. All
that had looked worn and faded in her fine face, by daylight, was
now softly obscured by shaded lamps. Objects of beauty surrounded
her, which glowed with subdued radiance from their background of
sober color. The influence of appearances is the strongest of all
outward influences, while it lasts. For the moment, the scene
produced its impression on Ernest, in spite of the terrible
anxieties which consumed him. Mrs. Callender, in his office, was
a woman who had stepped out of her appropriate sphere. Mrs.
Callender, in her own house, was a woman who had risen to a new
place in his estimation.
"I am afraid you don't thank me for forcing you to keep your
engagement," she said, with her friendly tones and her pleasant
"Indeed I do thank you," he replied. "Your beautiful house and
your gracious welcome have persuaded me into forgetting my
troubles--for a while."
The smile passed away from her face. "Then it is true," she said
"Only too true."
She led him to a seat beside her, and waited to speak again until
her maid had brought in the tea.
"Have you read my letter in the same friendly spirit in which I
wrote it?" she asked, when they were alone again.
"I have read your letter gratefully, but--"
"But you don't know yet what I have to say. Let us understand
each other before we make any objections on either side. Will you
tell me what your present position is--at its worst? I can and
will speak plainly when my turn comes, if you will honor me with
your confidence. Not if it distresses you," she added, observing
He was ashamed of his hesitation--and he made amends for it.
"Do you thoroughly understand me?" he asked, when the whole truth
had been laid before her without reserve.
She summed up the result in her own words.
"If your overdue ship returns safely, within a month from this
time, you can borrow the money you want, without difficulty. If
the ship is lost, you have no alternative (when the end of the
month comes) but to accept a loan from me or to suspend payment.
Is that the hard truth?"
"And the sum you require is--twenty thousand pounds?"
"I have twenty times as much money as that, Mr. Lismore, at my
sole disposal--on one condition."
"The condition alluded to in your letter?"
"Does the fulfillment of the condition depend in some way on any
decision of mine?"
"It depends entirely on you."
That answer closed his lips.
With a composed manner and a steady hand she poured herself out a
cup of tea.
"I conceal it from you," she said; "but I want confidence. Here"
(she pointed to the cup) "is the friend of women, rich or poor,
when they are in trouble. What I have now to say obliges me to
speak in praise of myself. I don't like it--let me get it over as
soon as I can. My husband was very fond of me: he had the most
absolute confidence in my discretion, and in my sense of duty to
him and to myself. His last words, before he died, were words
that thanked me for making the happiness of his life. As soon as
I had in some degree recovered, after the affliction that had
fallen on me, his lawyer and executor produced a copy of his
will, and said there were two clauses in it which my husband had
expressed a wish that I should read. It is needless to say that I
She still controlled her agitation--but she was now unable to
conceal it. Ernest made an attempt to spare her.
"Am I concerned in this?" he asked.
"Yes. Before I tell you why, I want to know what you would do--in
a certain case which I am unwilling even to suppose. I have heard
of men, unable to pay the demands made on them, who began
business again, and succeeded, and in course of time paid their
"And you want to know if there is any likelihood of my following
their example?" he said. "Have you also heard of men who have
made that second effort--who have failed again--and who have
doubled the debts they owed to their brethren in business who
trusted them? I knew one of those men myself. He committed
She laid her hand for a moment on his.
"I understand you," she said. "If ruin comes--"
"If ruin comes," he interposed, "a man without money and without
credit can make but one last atonement. Don't speak of it now."
She looked at him with horror.
"I didn't mean _that!_" she said.
"Shall we go back to what you read in the will?" he suggested.
"Yes--if you will give me a minute to compose myself."
IN less than the minute she had asked for, Mrs. Callender was
calm enough to go on.
"I now possess what i s called a life-interest in my husband's
fortune," she said. "The money is to be divided, at my death,
among charitable institutions; excepting a certain event--"
"Which is provided for in the will?" Ernest added, helping her to
"Yes. I am to be absolute mistress of the whole of the four
hundred thousand pounds--" her voice dropped, and her eyes looked
away from him as she spoke the next words--"on this one
condition, that I marry again."
He looked at her in amazement.
"Surely I have mistaken you," he said. "You mean on this one
condition, that you do _not_ marry again?"
"No, Mr. Lismore; I mean exactly what I have said. You now know
that the recovery of your credit and your peace of mind rests
entirely with yourself."
After a moment of reflection he took her hand and raised it
respectfully to his lips. "You are a noble woman!" he said.
She made no reply. With drooping head and downcast eyes she
waited for his decision. He accepted his responsibility.
"I must not, and dare not, think of the hardship of my own
position," he said; "I owe it to you to speak without reference
to the future that may be in store for me. No man can be worthy
of the sacrifice which your generous forgetfulness of yourself is
willing to make. I respect you; I admire you; I thank you with my
whole heart. Leave me to my fate, Mrs. Callender--and let me go."
He rose. She stopped him by a gesture.
"A _young_ woman," she answered, would shrink from saying--what
I, as an old woman, mean to say now. I refuse to leave you to
your fate. I ask you to prove that you respect me, admire me, and
thank me with your whole heart. Take one day to think--and let me
hear the result. You promise me this?"
He promised. "Now go," she said.
NEXT morning Ernest received a letter from Mrs. Callender. She
wrote to him as follows:
"There are some considerations which I ought to have mentioned
yesterday evening, before you left my house.
"I ought to have reminded you--if you consent to reconsider your
decision--that the circumstances do not require you to pledge
yourself to me absolutely.
"At my age, I can with perfect propriety assure you that I regard
our marriage simply and solely as a formality which we must
fulfill, if I am to carry out my intention of standing between
you and ruin.
"Therefore--if the missing ship appears in time, the only reason
for the marriage is at an end. We shall be as good friends as
ever; without the encumbrance of a formal tie to bind us.
"In the other event, I should ask you to submit to certain
restrictions which, remembering my position, you will understand
"We are to live together, it is unnecessary to say, as mother and
son. The marriage ceremony is to be strictly private; and you are
so to arrange your affairs that, immediately afterward, we leave
England for any foreign place which you prefer. Some of my
friends, and (perhaps) some of your friends, will certainly
misinterpret our motives--if we stay in our own country--in a
manner which would be unendurable to a woman like me.
"As to our future lives, I have the most perfect confidence in
you, and I should leave you in the same position of independence
which you occupy now. When you wish for my company you will
always be welcome. At other times, you are your own master. I
live on my side of the house, and you live on yours--and I am to
be allowed my hours of solitude every day, in the pursuit of
musical occupations, which have been happily associated with all
my past life and which I trust confidently to your indulgence.
"A last word, to remind you of what you may be too kind to think
"At my age, you cannot, in the course of Nature, be troubled by
the society of a grateful old woman for many years. You are young
enough to look forward to another marriage, which shall be
something more than a mere form. Even if you meet with the happy
woman in my lifetime, honestly tell me of it--and I promise to
tell her that she has only to wait.
"In the meantime, don't think, because I write composedly, that I
write heartlessly. You pleased and interested me, when I first
saw you, at the public meeting. I don't think I could have
proposed, what you call this sacrifice of myself, to a man who
had personally repelled me--though I might have felt my debt of
gratitude as sincerely as ever. Whether your ship is saved, or
whether your ship is lost, old Mary Callender likes you--and owns
it without false shame.
"Let me have your answer this evening, either personally or by
letter--whichever you like best."
MRS. CALLENDER received a written answer long before the evening.
It said much in few words:
"A man impenetrable to kindness might be able to resist your
letter. I am not that man. Your great heart has conquered me."
The few formalities which precede marriage by special license
were observed by Ernest. While the destiny of their future lives
was still in suspense, an unacknowledged feeling of
embarrassment, on either side, kept Ernest and Mrs. Callender
apart. Every day brought the lady her report of the state of
affairs in the City, written always in the same words: "No news
of the ship."
ON the day before the ship-owner's liabilities became due, the
terms of the report from the City remained unchanged--and the
special license was put to its contemplated use. Mrs. Callender's
lawyer and Mrs. Callender's maid were the only persons trusted
with the secret. Leaving the chief clerk in charge of the
business, with every pecuniary demand on his employer satisfied
in full, the strangely married pair quitted England.
They arranged to wait for a few days in Paris, to receive any
letters of importance which might have been addressed to Ernest
in the interval. On the evening of their arrival, a telegram from
London was waiting at their hotel. It announced that the missing
ship had passed up Channel--undiscovered in a fog, until she
reached the Downs--on the day before Ernest's liabilities fell
"Do you regret it?" Mrs. Lismore said to her husband.
"Not for a moment!" he answered.
They decided on pursuing their journey as far as Munich.
Mrs. Lismore's taste for music was matched by Ernest's taste for
painting. In his leisure hours he cultivated the art, and
delighted in it. The picture-galleries of Munich were almost the
only galleries in Europe which he had not seen. True to the
engagements to which she had pledged herself, his wife was
willing to go wherever it might please him to take her. The one
suggestion she made was, that they should hire furnished
apartments. If they lived at an hotel, friends of the husband or
the wife (visitors like themselves to the famous city) might see
their names in the book, or might meet them at the door.
They were soon established in a house large enough to provide
them with every accommodation which they required.
Ernest's days were passed in the galleries; Mrs. Lismore
remaining at home, devoted to her music, until it was time to go
out with her husband for a drive. Living together in perfect
amity and concord, they were nevertheless not living happily.
Without any visible reason for the change, Mrs. Lismore's spirits
were depressed. On the one occasion when Ernest noticed it she
made an effort to be cheerful, which it distressed him to see. He
allowed her to think that she had relieved him of any further
anxiety. Whatever doubts he might feel were doubts delicately
concealed from that time forth.
But when two people are living together in a state of artificial
tranquillity, it seems to be a law of Nature that the element of
disturbance gathers unseen, and that the outburst comes
inevitably with the lapse of time.
In ten days from the date of their arrival at Munich, the crisis
came. Ernest returned later than usual from the picture-gallery,
and--for the first time in his wife's experience--shut himself up
in his own room.
He appeared at the dinner-hour with a futile excuse. Mrs. Lismore
waited until the servant had withdrawn. "Now, Ernest," she said,
"it's time to tell me the truth."
Her manner, when she said those few words, took him by surprise.
She was unquestionably confused; and, instead of lookin g at him,
she trifled with the fruit on her plate. Embarrassed on his side,
he could only answer:
"I have nothing to tell."
"Were there many visitors at the gallery?" she asked.
"About the same as usual."
"Any that you particularly noticed?" she went on. "I mean, among
He laughed uneasily. "You forget how interested I am in the
pictures," he said.
There was a pause. She looked up at him--and suddenly looked away
again. But he saw it plainly: there were tears in her eyes.
"Do you mind turning down the gas?" she said. "My eyes have been
weak all day."
He complied with her request--the more readily, having his own
reasons for being glad to escape the glaring scrutiny of the
"I think I will rest a little on the sofa," she resumed. In the
position which he occupied, his back would have been now turned
on her. She stopped him when he tried to move his chair. "I would
rather not look at you, Ernest," she said, "when you have lost
confidence in me."
Not the words, but the tone, touched all that was generous and
noble in his nature. He left his place, and knelt beside her--and
opened to her his whole heart.
"Am I not unworthy of you?" he asked, when it was over.
She pressed his hand in silence.
"I should be the most ungrateful wretch living," he said, "if I
did not think of you, and you only, now that my confession is
made. We will leave Munich to-morrow--and, if resolution can help
me, I will only remember the sweetest woman my eyes ever looked
on as the creature of a dream."
She hid her face on his breast, and reminded him of that letter
of her writing, which had decided the course of their lives.
"When I thought you might meet the happy woman in my life-time, I
said to you, 'Tell me of it--and I promise to tell _her_ that she
has only to wait.' Time must pass, Ernest, before it can be
needful to perform my promise. But you might let me see her. If
you find her in the gallery to-morrow, you might bring her here."
Mrs. Lismore's request met with no refusal. Ernest was only at a
loss to know how to grant it.
"You tell me she is a copyist of pictures," his wife reminded
him. "She will be interested in hearing of the portfolio of
drawings by the great French artists which I bought for you in
Paris. Ask her to come and see them, and to tell you if she can
make some copies. And say, if you like, that I shall be glad to
become acquainted with her."
He felt her breath beating fast on his bosom. In the fear that
she might lose all control over herself, he tried to relieve her
by speaking lightly. "What an invention yours is!" he said. "If
my wife ever tries to deceive me, I shall be a mere child in her
She rose abruptly from the sofa--kissed him on the forehead--and
said wildly, "I shall be better in bed!" Before he could move or
speak, she had left him.
THE next morning he knocked at the door of his wife's room and
asked how she had passed the night.
"I have slept badly," she answered, "and I must beg you to excuse
my absence at breakfast-time." She called him back as he was
about to withdraw. "Remember," she said, "when you return from
the gallery to-day, I expect that you will not return alone."
* * * * * * *
Three hours later he was at home again. The young lady's services
as a copyist were at his disposal; she had returned with him to
look at the drawings.
The sitting-room was empty when they entered it. He rang for his
wife's maid--and was informed that Mrs. Lismore had gone out.
Refusing to believe the woman, he went to his wife's apartments.
She was not to be found.
When he returned to the sitting-room, the young lady was not
unnaturally offended. He could make allowances for her being a
little out of temper at the slight that had been put on her; but
he was inexpressibly disconcerted by the manner--almost the
coarse manner--in which she expressed herself.
"I have been talking to your wife's maid, while you have been
away," she said. "I find you have married an old lady for her
money. She is jealous of me, of course?"
"Let me beg you to alter your opinion," he answered. "You are
wronging my wife; she is incapable of any such feeling as you
attribute to her."
The young lady laughed. "At any rate you are a good husband," she
said satirically. "Suppose you own the truth? Wouldn't you like
her better if she was young and pretty like me?"
He was not merely surprised--he was disgusted. Her beauty had so
completely fascinated him, when he first saw her, that the idea
of associating any want of refinement and good breeding with such
a charming creature never entered his mind. The disenchantment to
him was already so complete that he was even disagreeably
affected by the tone of her voice: it was almost as repellent to
him as the exhibition of unrestrained bad temper which she seemed
perfectly careless to conceal.
"I confess you surprise me," he said, coldly.
The reply produced no effect on her. On the contrary, she became
more insolent than ever.
"I have a fertile fancy," she went on, "and your absurd way of
taking a joke only encourages me! Suppose you could transform
this sour old wife of yours, who has insulted me, into the
sweetest young creature that ever lived, by only holding up your
finger--wouldn't you do it?"
This passed the limits of his endurance. "I have no wish," he
said, "to forget the consideration which is due to a woman. You
leave me but one alternative." He rose to go out of the room.
She ran to the door as he spoke, and placed herself in the way of
his going out.
He signed to her to let him pass.
She suddenly threw her arms round his neck, kissed him
passionately, and whispered, with her lips at his ear: "Oh,
Ernest, forgive me! Could I have asked you to marry me for my
money if I had not taken refuge in a disguise?"
WHEN he had sufficiently recovered to think, he put her back from
him. "Is there an end of the deception now?" he asked, sternly.
"Am I to trust you in your new character?"
"You are not to be harder on me than I deserve," she answered,
gently. "Did you ever hear of an actress named Miss Max?"
He began to understand her. "Forgive me if I spoke harshly," he
said. "You have put me to a severe trial."
She burst into tears. "Love," she murmured, "is my only excuse."
From that moment she had won her pardon. He took her hand, and
made her sit by him.
"Yes," he said, "I have heard of Miss Max and of her wonderful
powers of personation--and I have always regretted not having
seen her while she was on the stage."
"Did you hear anything more of her, Ernest?"
"Yes, I heard that she was a pattern of modesty and good conduct,
and that she gave up her profession, at the height of her
success, to marry an old man."
"Will you come with me to my room?" she asked. "I have something
there which I wish to show you."
It was the copy of her husband's will.
"Read the lines, Ernest, which begin at the top of the page. Let
my dead husband speak for me."
The lines ran thus:
"My motive in marrying Miss Max must be stated in this place, in
justice to her--and, I will venture to add, in justice to myself.
I felt the sincerest sympathy for her position. She was without
father, mother, or friends; one of the poor forsaken children,