Part 4 out of 6
There was just the least possible inflection of kindness in her voice,
and this ruffian's heart leaped to meet it, while the tears came to
his eyes. He dashed them savagely away, and took a letter from his
"That's all we found on him, miss," said he, "that an' a couple o'
cigars. He hadn't no watch, no blunt, no latch-key, no nothink. I
kep' this here careful to bring it you. Bless ye, I can read, I can,
_well_, but I've not read that there. I couldn't even smoke of his
cigars. No, I guv 'em to a pal. This here job warn't done for money,
miss! It were done for--for--well--for _you_!"
She took the letter with as little emotion as if it had been an
ordinary tradesman's bill for a few shillings; yet had she once pawned
a good many hundred pounds' worth of diamonds only on the chance of
recovering its contents.
"At least, I must pay you for the shawl," said she, pulling the notes
out of their case.
"For the shawl, miss? Yes," answered Jim. "Ten pounds will buy that,
an' leave a fair profit for my pal as owns it. Not a shilling more,
miss--no--no. D'ye mind the first time as ever I see you? D'ye mind
what I said then? There's one chap, miss, in this world, as belongs of
you, body and soul. He's a poor chap, he is, and a rough chap, but he
asks no better than to sarve of you, be the job what it may--ay, if he
swings for it! Now it's out!"
Over her pale haughty face swept a flash of mingled triumph, malice,
and even amusement, while she listened to this desperate man's
avowal of fidelity and belief. But she only vouchsafed him a cold
condescending smile, observing, as she selected a ten-pound note--
"Is there nothing I can do to mark my satisfaction and approval?"
He fidgeted, glanced at the note-case, and began packing up his goods.
"If _you're_ pleased, miss, that's enough. But if so be as you _could_
do without that there empty bit of silk, and spare it me for a
keepsake--well, miss, I'd never part with it--no, not if the rope was
rove, and the nightcap drawed over my blessed face!"
She put the empty note-case in his hand.
"You're a fool," she said, ringing the bell for a servant to show him
out; "but you're a stanch one, and I wish there were more like you."
"Blast me, I _am_!" he muttered; adding, as he turned into the wet
street, and walked on through the rain like a man in a dream, "if
there was more such gals as you, maybe there'd be more fools like me.
It would be a rum world then, blessed if it wouldn't! And now it will
be a whole week afore I shall see her again!"
Dorothea, clinging to the area railings, even in the imminence of
discovery had not the heart to leave them as he went out. Stupefied,
bewildered, benumbed, she could scarcely believe in the reality of the
scene she had witnessed. She felt it explained much that had lately
puzzled her exceedingly; but at present she was unequal to the task
of arranging her ideas so as to understand the mystery that enveloped
Gradually the thunderstorm rolled away, the rain cleared off, the moon
shone out, and Dorothea reached her squalid home, drenched, cold,
weary, and sick at heart.
We must go back a few days to watch with Dick Stanmore through the sad
sorrowing hours that succeeded his step-mother's ball. I trust I have
not so described this gentleman as to leave an impression that he was
what young ladies call a romantic person. Romance, like port
wine, after-dinner slumbers, flannel next the skin, and such
self-indulgences, should be reserved as a luxury for after-life; under
no circumstances must it be permitted to impair the efficiency of
manhood in its prime. Dick Stanmore took his punishment with true
British pluck and pertinacity. It was a "facer." As it could not
possibly be returned, his instincts prompted him to "grin and bear
it." He had sustained a severe fall. His first impulse was to get up
again. None the less did nerves thrill and brain spin with the force
and agony of the blow. Perhaps the very nature that most resists,
suffers also the most severely from such shocks, as a granite wall
cracks and splinters to the round shot, while an earth-work accepts
that rushing missile with a stolid harmless thud.
Dick's composition was at least not earthy enough to let him go to bed
after this recent downfall of his hopes. Restless, hurt, sorrowful,
angry with himself, not _her_--for his nature could be gallantly
loyal under defeat--sleep was as impossible as any other occupation
requiring quietude and self-control. No. The only thing to be done was
to smoke, of course! and then to pack up everything he could lay hands
on, without delay, so as to leave London that very morning, for any
part of England, Europe, or the habitable world. All places would be
alike to him now, only the farther from Belgrave Square the better.
Therefore it was, perhaps, that, after shamming to breakfast, and
enduring considerable pain in a state of enforced inactivity, while
his servant completed their travelling arrangements, he drove through
this very Square, though it lay by no means in a direct line for the
railway station to which he was bound. Those who believe in ghosts
affirm that a disembodied spirit haunts the place it best loved on
earth; and what are we but the ghosts of our former selves, when all
that constituted the pith and colouring and vitality of our lives has
passed away? Ah! Lady Macbeth's are not the only white hands from
which that cruel stain can never be removed. There are soft eyes and
sweet smiles and gentle whispers, enough in the world guilty of moral
manslaughter (I believe the culprits themselves call it "justifiable
homicide"), not entirely divested of that malice prepense which
constitutes the crime of murder! Happy the victims in whom life is not
completely extinguished, who recover their feet, bind up their wounds,
and undeterred by a ghastly experience, hazard in more encounters a
fresh assassination of the heart. Such fortitude would have afforded a
remedy to Dick Stanmore. "Wanted--a lady!" should have been the motto
emblazoned on his banner if ever he turned back into the battle once
more. Homoeopathy, no doubt, is the treatment for a malady like
that which prostrated this hapless sufferer,--homoeopathy, at first
distrusted, ridiculed, accepted only under protest, and in accordance
with the force of circumstances, the exigences of the position;
gradually found to soothe, to revive, to ameliorate, till at last it
effects a perfect and triumphant cure, nay, even shows itself powerful
enough to produce a second attack of the same nature, fierce and
virulent as the first. But, meanwhile, Dick Stanmore followed the
ghost's example, and drove sadly through Belgrave Square, as he told
himself, for the last--last time! Had he been an hour later, just one
hour, he might have taken away with him a subject for considerable
speculation, during his proposed travels in search of distraction.
This is what he would have seen.
A good-looking bad-looking man, with dark eyes and hair, sweeping a
crossing very inefficiently, while he watched the adjacent street with
an air of eager anxiety, foreign to an occupation which indeed seems
to demand unusual philosophy and composure of mind. Presently, Maud
Bruce, tripping daintily across the path he had swept clean, let
herself into the Square gardens, dropping her glove in the muddy
street as she took a pass-key from her pocket. The crossing-sweeper
pounced at it like a hawk, stuck his broom against a lamp-post, and
hurried round to the other side of the Square.
Here Maud appeared at the gate, while "Gentleman Jim," for it was none
other, returned her glove without a word through the iron bars.
"I hardly expected you so soon," said Miss Bruce. "My letter could
only have been posted at five this morning."
"You might ha' made sure I'd come that instant, miss," answered Jim,
his face brightening with excitement and delight. "I knowed who 'twas
from, well enough, though 'twas but a line as a man might say. I ain't
had it an hour, an' here I am, ready and willing for your job, be it
what it may!"
"You're a bold fellow, I know," said Maud, "but it's a desperate
undertaking. If you don't like it, say so."
Jim swore a horrible oath, and then drew his hand across his lips as
though to wipe away its traces.
"Look'ee here, miss," he muttered in a hoarse thick whisper. "If you
says to me, Jim, says you, go and rob that there church--see, now, I'd
have the wards of the big key in wax, ah! this weary arternoon. If you
says to me, says you, Jim, go and cut that there parson's throat, I've
got a old knife in my pocket as I wouldn't want to sharpen afore the
job was done, and the parson too, for good an' all!"
There was a peculiar grace in the setting on of Maud's head,
especially in the firm lines of her mouth and chin. Though she looked
even paler than usual, her rare beauty, always somewhat resolute and
defiant in character, never showed to greater advantage than now.
"I won't speak of reward to _you_," she said, very clearly and
distinctly, "though you shall name your own price, and be paid at
your own time. Listen--I have an enemy--a bitter enemy who threatened
me--actually dared to threaten _me_ last night--who would hesitate at
nothing to do me an injury."
"Blast him!" muttered Jim ferociously. "Leave 'un to me, miss, leave
'un to me!"
She took no heed of his interruption.
"That enemy," she continued, "must be got out of my way."
The sweat stood on her listener's brow.
"I understand you, miss," he gasped in a broken voice. "It shall be
Over the face this ruffian thought too beautiful to be mortal came a
stern proud smile.
"I forbid _that_" she replied, "forbid it distinctly, and I _will_ be
obeyed to the very letter. If you were to kill this man, I should be
the first to hand you over to justice. Listen. He must be kept quiet
and out of the way for something less than three weeks. After that, he
can harm me no more. I bear him no grudge, I wish him no evil; but he
must be taken away this very afternoon. Every hour might make it too
late. Can you do this?"
Jim pondered. He was an experienced criminal. A man with certain
qualities which, in the honest paths of life, might have made him
successful, even remarkable. In a few seconds he had run over his
chances, his resources, his risk of detection, all the pros and cons
of the undertaking. He looked cheerfully in her face.
"I _can_, miss," said he confidently. "I don't go for to say as it's
a job to be done right off, like easy shavin', or taking a dozen of
hiseters. But it's to be worked. I'll engage for that, and I'm the
chap as can work it. You couldn't give me no longer than to-day, could
"If it's not done at once, you must let it alone," was the answer.
"Now that's business," replied Jim, growing cooler and more
self-possessed as he reviewed the difficulties of his enterprise. "The
party being in town, miss, o' course. You may depend on my makin' of
him safe before nine o'clock to-night. Shall I trouble you for the
name and address, or will you give me a description in full, that will
do as well?"
"You have seen him," she observed quietly. "On this very spot where I
am standing now. I walked with him in these gardens the first morning
you swept our crossing. A gentleman in a frock coat with a bunch of
flowers at his buttonhole. Do you remember?"
_Did he remember_? Why the man's figure, features, every detail of his
dress was photographed on Jim's heart.
"No need to tell me his name, miss," was the answer. "I knows him as
well as I knows these here old shoes o' mine. I've had my eye on him
ever since. I can tell you when he goes out, when he comes in, where
he takes his meals. I could lay my hand on him in any part of this
here town at two hours' notice. Make yourself easy, miss. Your job's
as good as done, and some day you'll see me again, miss, won't you?
And--and you'll thank me kindly, perhaps, when it's off your mind for
good and all!"
"You shall come and tell me the particulars," answered Miss Bruce,
with a gracious smile that seemed to flood him in sunshine, "when the
thing is finished. And now I ought to be at home again; but before I
go, understand plainly, to-morrow will be too late!"
Jim was deep in thought.
"The bird might be shy, miss," said he after a pause. "Some on 'em's
easy scared, and this doesn't seem like a green one, not a bit of it.
Supposin' as he _won't_ be 'ticed, miss; there's only one way, then!"
For a moment she felt a keen stab of compunction, but, remembering the
stake she ventured, nerved herself to resist the pang. This was no
time for child's play, for a morbid sensitiveness, for weak indulgence
of the feelings.
"Tell him you have a message from _me_, from Miss Bruce," she replied
firmly. "It will lead him anywhere."
Jim looked as if he would rather set about the business in any other
way; nevertheless, he was keenly alive to the efficiency of so
tempting a bait, reflecting at the same time with a kind of awe on Mr.
Ryfe's temerity in affronting such a character as this.
Another hurried sentence. A light in Jim's eyes like that with which a
dog receives directions from its master, a gesture such as dismisses
the same dog imperiously to its kennel, and Miss Bruce walked quietly
home to her music and her embroidery, while the crossing-sweeper,
recovering his broom, hurried off in another direction to commence
operations against the unsuspecting Tom Ryfe.
That gentleman's feelings, as he sat in his uncle's office the morning
after Mrs. Stanmore's ball, were of no enviable nature. Malice,
hatred, and all uncharitableness might indeed sufficiently describe
the frame of mind in which he went about his daily business,
unfortunately on the present occasion an affair of such mere routine
as in no way to distract his attention from his sorrows and his
"She has dared me," thought he, poring over a deed he knew by heart,
and of which his eye only took in the form and outward semblance,
"challenged me to do my worst, and herself declared it is to be war
to the knife. O Maud, Maud, how could you, how could you! Was it not
enough to have wound yourself round my heart, to have identified
yourself with my hopes, my ambition, my manhood, my very existence,
and then with one turn of your hand to have destroyed them, each and
all, but you must add insult to injury--must scorn and trample on me
as well? Some men may stand this sort of treatment--I won't. I _have_
a pull over you. Ah! I'm not such a fool, after all, perhaps, as you
thought. I have it, and hang me, but I'll make use of it! You have
blasted my life, and thought it good fun, no doubt. I'll see if I
can't give tit-for-tat and spoil _your_ little game, my haughty lady,
with your white face and your cursed high-handed airs. Yet, how I
loved them--how I loved them! Must I never see a woman again without
that queenly beauty coming between me and my share of happiness? What
right had you to destroy my whole future? And I would have been so
different if you had cared _for_ me; I might have made a better
gentleman than any of them. As for that emptyheaded cousin (to be sure
you've thrown him over, too, and I hope he feels it to his marrow),
and that swaggering lord, can they care for you like I did? Would they
have worked as hard to please you, and sat up night after night, as I
have done, poring over papers to see you righted? and why am I to
be sacrificed to such men as these? I won't be sacrificed; no, by
heavens! I've done my best for you hitherto, Miss Bruce, and you've
dared me now to do my _worst_. I shall rather astonish you, I think,
when you learn what that worst is. Curse you; I'll have no mercy! If
I _am_ to suffer, I'll take care not to suffer meekly and alone. It's
_my_ turn now, my lady, as, before twelve hours are out, you shall
know to your cost."
Mr. Ryfe, you see, was sadly wanting in that first element of chivalry
which establishes the maxim that "a woman can do no wrong." This
principle, when acted up to in its fullest sense, is convenient,
no doubt, and beneficial to us all. It involves free trade on the
broadest basis, sweeping away much of the selfishness and morbid
sentimentality that constitute the superstition we call Love. _She_
has a perfect right to change her mind, bless her! why shouldn't she?
And so, no doubt, have _you_! Ring for fresh cards, cut again for
partners, and so sit merrily down to another rubber. Thus, too, you
will learn to play the game cautiously and with counters, saving both
your temper and your gold. It may be you will miss the excitement of
real gambling, finding the pastime so wearisome that you are fain to
leave off and go to bed. Whatever you do, retire with a good grace.
It is but a choice of evils. Perhaps you had better be bored than
miserable, and, if less exciting, it is surely less painful to stifle
listless yawns, than to crush down the cry of a wilful wounded heart.
Mr. Ryfe, however, I consider perfectly inexcusable in the course
he chose to adopt. Self-sacrifice is, of all others, the quality by
which, in questions of feeling, the true gold is to be distinguished
from the false. But Tom had no idea of such generous immolation--not
Hour after hour, poring over the deeds of which he never read a line,
he raged and chafed and came to a determination at last.
He had thought of writing to Lord Bearwarden, in his own name, warning
him as a true friend of the lady's antecedents who was about to become
his lordship's bride, enclosing at the same time a copy of her promise
to himself; for, with professional caution, he reflected that the
original had better not pass out of his hands. Then, he argued, if his
lordship could only see with his own eyes the treasured lines in her
well-known handwriting, by which Miss Bruce had bound herself in all
honour to the lawyer's clerk, that nobleman must readily, and of
necessity, hold himself absolved from any engagement he might have
contracted with her, and perceive at once the folly and impropriety
of making such a woman his wife. Yes, Lord Bearwarden should read the
letter itself; he would obtain a personal interview that very evening,
when the latter dressed for dinner. There would thus be no necessity
for trusting the important document out of his own possession, while
at the same time he could himself adopt a tone of candour and high
feeling, calculated to make a strong impression on such a true
gentleman as his friend.
He took Miss Bruce's promise from the safe in which he kept it locked
up, and hid it carefully in his breast-pocket. Then, looking at his
watch, and finding it was time to leave his office for the West-End,
heaped his papers together, bundled them into the safe, and prepared
Walking moodily down-stairs he was waylaid by Dorothea, who, sluicing
the steps with dirty water under pretence of cleaning them, thus held,
as it were, the key of the position, and so had him at command. It
surprised him not a little that she should desist from her occupation
to request an interview.
"Can I speak to you for a moment, Mr. Thomas?" said she. "It's
private, and it's particular."
The amount of pressure put on Dorothea ere she consented to the
job now in hand it is not for me to estimate. Her Jim was a man of
unscrupulous habits and desperate resources. It is probable that she
had been subjected to the influences of affection, sentiment, and
intimidation, perhaps even physical force. I cannot tell, my business
is only with results.
There was no escaping, even had Mr. Ryfe been so inclined, for
Dorothea's person, pail, and scrubbing-brushes defended the whole
width of the staircase.
"It's strange, Mr. Thomas," she continued, pushing the hair off her
face. "Lor! I was that frightened and that surprised, as you might
have 'eard my 'eart beatin' like carpets. Who she may be, an' wot she
may be, I know no more than the dead. But her words was these--I'm
tellin' you her werry words--If you can make sure of seeing Mr. Ryfe,
says she,--that's _you_, Mr. Thomas,--any time afore to-night, says
she, tell him, as I must have a word with him in priwate atween him
and me this werry evening, or it would have been better for both of
us, poor things, says she, if we'd 'a never been born!"
Tom Ryfe stared.
"What do you mean?" he said. "Am I to understand that the--the
lady who spoke to you was desirous of an interview with me here in
chambers, or where?"
"An' a born lady she is an' were!" answered Dorothea, incoherent, and
therefore in the acute lawyer's opinion more likely to be telling
the truth. "A beautiful lady, too--tall and pale, 'aughty and
'andsome--(Tom started)--dressed in 'alf-mourning, with a
black-and-white parasol in her 'and. It's to see you priwate, Mr.
Thomas, as she bade me to warn of you. To-night at height in the
Birdcage Walk, without fail, says she, for it's life and death as is
the matter, or marriage, says she, which is sometimes wuss nor both."
Dorothea then removed herself, her pail, and her scrubbing-brushes to
one side, as though inviting him to follow out his assignation without
"I ask yer pardon," said she, "Mr. Thomas, if I done wrong. But the
young lady she seemed so anxious and aggrawated-like. No offence, sir,
I 'umbly 'ope, and she guv' me 'alf-a-sovereign."
"And I'll give you another," exclaimed Tom, placing a coin of that
value in Dorothea's damp hot hand. "The Birdcage Walk, at eight. And
it's past six now. Thank you, Dorothea. I've no doubt it's all right.
I'll start at once."
Leaving Gray's Inn, the warm tears filled his eyes to think he had
so misjudged her. Evidently she was in some difficulty, some
complication; she had no opportunity of confiding to him, and hence
her apparent heartlessness, the inconsistency of her conduct which he
had been unable to understand. Obviously she loved him still, and the
conviction filled him with rapture, all the more thrilling and intense
for his late misgivings.
He pulled her written promise from his pocket, and kissed it
passionately, reading it over and over again in the fading light. A
prayer rose from heart to lip for the woman he loved, while he looked
up to the crimson glories of the western sky. Do such prayers fall
back in the form of curses on the heads of those who betray, haunting
them in their sorrows--at their need--worst of all in their supreme
moments of happiness and joy? God forbid! Rather let us believe that,
true to their heaven-born nature, they are blessings for those who
give and those who receive.
Some two hours later, Tom Ryfe found himself pacing to and fro under
the trees in the Birdcage Walk, with a happier heart, though it beat
so fast, than had been within his waistcoat for weeks.
It was getting very dark, and even beneath the gas-lamps it was
difficult to distinguish the figure of man or woman, flitting through
the deep shadows cast by trees still thick with their summer foliage.
Tom, peering anxiously into the obscure, could make out nothing but
a policeman, a foot-guardsman with a clothes-basket, and a drunken
slattern carrying her baby upside-down.
He was growing anxious. Big Ben's booming tones had already warned him
it was a quarter past eight, when, suddenly, so close to him he could
almost touch it, loomed the figure of a woman.
"Miss Bruce," he exclaimed--"Maud--is it you?"
Turning his own body, so as to take advantage of a dim ray from the
nearest gaslight, he was aware that the woman, shorter and stouter
than Miss Bruce, had muffled herself in a cloak, and was closely
"You have a letter--a message," he continued in a whisper. "It's all
right. I'm the party you expected to meet--here--at eight--under the
"And wot the--are you at with my missus under the trees?" growled
a brutal voice over his shoulder, while Tom felt he was helplessly
pinioned by a pair of strong arms from behind, that crushed and
bruised him like iron. Ere he could twist his hands free to show
fight, which he meant to do pretty fiercely, he found himself baffled,
blinded, suffocated, by a handkerchief thrust into his face, while a
strong, pungent, yet not altogether unpleasant flavour of ether filled
eyes, mouth, and nostrils, till it permeated to his very lungs. Then
with every pulsation of the blood Big Ben seemed to be striking
inside his brain till something gave way with a great whizz! like
the mainspring of a watch, and Tom Ryfe was perfectly quiet and
Five minutes afterwards a belated bricklayer lounging home with his
mate observed two persons, man and woman, supporting between them a
limp helpless figure, obviously incapable of sense or motion. Said the
bricklayer, "That's a stiff-'un, Bill, to all appearance."
"Stiff-'un be d----d!" retorted Bill; "he's only jolly drunk. I wish I
The bricklayer seemed a man of reflection; for half-a-mile or so he
held his peace, then, with a backward nod of the head, to indicate his
meaning, observed solemnly--
"I wouldn't take that chap's head-ache when he comes to, no, not to be
as jolly drunk as he is this minnit--I wouldn't!"
"THE COMING QUEEN"
"And whenever she comes she will find me waiting
To do her homage--my queen--my queen!"
How many an aspiring heart has breathed the high chivalrous sentiment,
never before so touchingly expressed, as in the words of this
beautiful song! How many a gallant generous nature has desired with
unspeakable longing to lay its wealth of loyalty and devotion at her
feet who is to prove the coming queen of its affections, the ladye of
its love! And for how many is the unwavering worship, the unfailing
faith, the venture of wealth and honour, the risk of life and limb,
right royally rewarded according to its merits and its claim! I am not
sure that implicit belief, unquestioning obedience, are the qualities
most esteemed by those illustrious personages on whom they are
lavished; and I think that the rebel who sends in his adhesion on his
own terms is sometimes treated with more courtesy and consideration
than the stanch vassal whose fidelity remains unaffected by coldness,
ingratitude, or neglect.
Dick Stanmore, reading in the _Morning Post_ an eloquent account of
Viscount Bearwarden's marriage to Miss Bruce, with the festivities
consequent thereon, felt that he had sadly wasted his loyalty, if
indeed this lady were the real sovereign to whom the homage of his
heart was due. He began now to entertain certain misgivings on that
score. What if he had over-estimated his own admiration and the force
of her attractions? Perhaps his _real_ queen had not come to him after
all. It might be she was advancing even now in her maiden majesty,
as yet unseen, but shedding before her a soft and mellow radiance, a
tender quiver of light and warmth, like that which flushes the horizon
at the break of a summer's day.
His dark hour had been cold and dismal enough. There is nothing to be
ashamed of in the confession. Dick suffered severely, as every manly
nature must suffer when deceived by a woman. He did not blame the
woman--why should he?--but he felt that a calamity had befallen him,
the heaviest of his young experience, and he bore it as best he might.
"_Caelum non animum_" is a very old proverb: his first impulse, no
doubt, was to change the scene, and seek under other skies an altered
frame of mind, in defiance of Horace and his worldly wisdom, so rarely
at fault. In these days a code of behaviour has been established by
society to meet every eventuality of life. When your fortunes are
impaired you winter at Rome; when your liver is affected you travel in
Germany; when your heart is broke you start at once for India. There
is something unspeakably soothing, I imagine, in the swing of an
elephant as he crashes through jungle, beating it out for tigers;
something consolatory to wounded feelings in the grin of a heavy old
tusker, lumbering along, half sulky, half defiant, winking a little
blood-red eye at the pig-sticker, pushing his Arab to speed with a
loose rein ere he delivers the meditated thrust that shall win first
spear. Snipe, too, killed by the despairing lover while standing in a
paddy-field up to his knees in water, with a tropical sun beating on
his head, to be eaten afterwards in military society, not undiluted by
pale ale and brandy-pawnee, afford a relief to the finer feelings of
his nature as delightful as it is unaccountable; while those more
adventurous spirits who, penetrating far into the mountainous regions
of the north-west frontier, persecute the wild sheep or the eland, and
even make acquaintance with the lordly ibex "rocketing" down from crag
to crag, breaking the force and impetus of his leap by alighting on
horns and forehead, would seem to gain in their life of hardship and
adventure an immunity from the "common evil" which lasts them well
into middle age.
Dick Stanmore's first impulse, therefore, was to secure a berth in the
P. and O. steamer at once. Then he reflected that it would not be
a bad plan to stop at Constantinople--one of the Egean islands,
Messina--or, indeed, why go farther than Marseilles? If you come to
that, Paris was the very place for a short visit. A man might spend
a fortnight there pleasantly enough, even in the hot weather, and it
would be a complete change, the eventual result of these deliberations
being a resolve to go down and look after his landed property in the
west of England. I believe that in this determination Mr. Stanmore
showed more wisdom than his friends had hitherto given him credit for
possessing. At his own place he had his own affairs to interest him, a
good deal of business to attend to, above all, constant opportunities
of doing good. This it is, I fancy, which constitutes the real pith
and enjoyment of a country gentleman's life--which imparts zest and
flavour to the marking of trees, the setting of trimmers, the shooting
of partridges, nay, even to the joyous excitement of fox-hunting
This, too, is a wondrous salve for such wounds as those under which
Dick Stanmore was now smarting. The very comparison of our own sorrows
with those of others has a tendency to decrease their proportions
and diminish their importance. How can I prate of my cut finger in
presence of your broken leg? And how utterly ridiculous would have
seemed Mr. Stanmore's sentimental sorrows to one of his own labourers
keeping a wife and half-a-dozen children on eleven shillings a week?
In the whole moral physic-shop there is no anodyne like duty,
sweetened with a little charity towards your neighbours. Amusement
and dissipation simply aggravate the evil. Personal danger, while
its excitement braces nerve and intellect for the time, is an
over-powerful stimulant for the imagination, and leaves a reaction
sadly softening to the heart. Successful ambition, gratified vanity,
what are these with none to share the triumph? But put the sufferer
through a steady course of daily duties, engrossing in their nature,
stupefying in the monotony of their routine, and insensibly, while his
attention is distracted from self and selfish feelings, he gathers
strength, day by day, till at last he is able to look his sorrow in
the face, and fight it fairly, as he would any other honourable foe.
The worst is over then, and victory a mere question of time.
So Dick Stanmore, setting to work with a will, found sleep and
appetite and bodily strength come back rapidly enough. He had moments
of pain, no doubt, particularly when he woke in the morning. Also at
intervals during the day, when the breeze sighed through his woods,
or the sweetbrier's fragrance stole on his senses more heavily than
usual. Once, when a gipsy-girl blessed his handsome face, adding, in
the fervour of her gratitude, a thousand good wishes for "the lass he
loved, as must love him dear, sure-lie!" but for very shame he could
have cried like a child.
Such relapses, however, were of rarer occurrence every week. It was
not long before he told himself that he had been through the worst of
his ordeal and could meet Lady Bearwarden now without looking like
a fool. In this more rational frame of mind Mr. Stanmore arrived in
London in business at that period of settled weather and comparative
stagnation called by tradesmen the "dead time of year," and found his
late-acquired philosophy put somewhat unexpectedly to the proof.
He was staring at a shop-window in Oxford Street--studying, indeed,
the print of a patent mowing-machine, but thinking, I fear, more of
past scenes in certain well-lit rooms, on slippery floors, than of the
velvet lawns at home--when a barouche drew up to the kerb-stone with
such trampling of hoofs, such pulling about of horses' mouths, such a
jerk and vibration of the whole concern, as denoted a smart carriage
with considerable pretension, a body-coachman of no ordinary calibre.
Dick turned sharply round, and there, not five yards off, was the pale
face, proud, dreamy, and beautiful as of old. Had she seen him? He
hardly knew, for he was sick at heart, growing white to his very
lips--he, a strong healthy man, with as much courage as his
neighbours. Horribly ashamed of himself he felt. And well he might be!
But with more wisdom than he had hitherto shown, he made a snatch at
his hat, and took refuge in immediate retreat. It was his only chance.
How, indeed, could he have met her manfully and with dignity, while
every nerve and fibre quivered at her presence? how endure the shame
of betraying in his manner that he loved her very dearly still? It
gave him, indeed, a sharp and cruel pang to think that it had come to
this--that the face he had so worshipped he must now fly from like a
culprit--that for his own sake, in sheer self-defence, he must
avoid her presence, as if he had committed against her some deadly
injury--against _her_, for whom, even now, he would willingly have
laid down his life! Poor Dick! He little knew, but it was the last
pang he was destined to feel from his untoward attachment, and it
punished him far more severely than he deserved.
Blundering hastily up a by-street, he ran into the very arms of a
gentleman who had turned aside to apply a latch-key at the door of a
rambling unfurnished-looking house, sadly in want of paint, whitewash,
and general repair. The gentleman, with an exclamation of delight, put
both hands on Mr. Stanmore's shoulders.
"This _is_ a piece of luck!" exclaimed the latter. "Why, it's 'old Sir
Simon the King'!"
His mind reverted insensibly to the pleasant Oxford days, and he
used a nickname universally bestowed on his friend by the men of his
"And what can _you_ be doing here at this time of year?" asked Simon.
"In the first place, how came you to be in London? In the second, how
did you ever get so far along Oxford Street? In the third, being here,
won't you come up to the painting-room? I'll show you my sketches;
I'll give you some 'baccy--I haven't forgot Iffley Lock and your vile
habit of stopping to drink. I can even supply you with beer! We'll
have a smoke, and a talk over old times."
"Willingly," answered Dick, declining the beer, however, on the plea
that such potations only went well with boating or cricket, and
followed the painter up-stairs into an exceedingly uncomfortable room,
of which the principal object of furniture seemed to be an easel,
bearing a sketch, apparently to be transferred hereafter into some
Dick was in no frame of mind to converse upon his own affairs;
accepting the proffered cigar, and taking the only seat in the place,
he preferred listening to his friend, who got to work at once, and
talked disjointedly while he painted.
"I can't complain," said Simon, in answer to the other's questions
concerning his prosperity and success. "I was always a plodding sort
of fellow, as you remember. Not a genius--I don't _think_ I've the
divine gift. Sometimes I hope it may come. I've worked hard, I grant
you--very hard; but I've had extraordinary luck--marvellous! What do
you think of that imp's tail?--Isn't it a trifle too long?"
"I'm no judge of imps," answered Dick. "He's horribly ugly. Go on
"Well, as I was saying," continued Simon, foreshortening his imp the
while, "my luck has been wonderful. It all began with _you_. If you
hadn't gone fishing there, I should never have seen Norway. If I
hadn't seen it, I couldn't have painted it."
"I'm not sure that follows," interrupted Dick.
"Well, I _shouldn't_ have painted it, then," resumed the artist. "And
the credit I got for those Norway sketches was perfectly absurd. I see
their faults now. They're cold and crude, and one or two are quite
contrary to the first principles of art. I should like to paint them
all over again. But still, if I hadn't been to Norway, I shouldn't be
"No more should I," observed Dick, puffing out a volume of smoke. "I
should have been 'marry-ed to a mermy-ed' by this time, if you had
shown a proper devotion to your art, and the customary indifference to
"O, that was nothing!" said the painter, blushing. "Any other fellow
could have pulled you out just as well. I say, Stanmore, how jolly it
was over there! Those were happy days. And yet I don't wish to have
them back again--do you?"
Dick sighed and held his peace. For him it seemed that the light heart
and joyous carelessness of that bright youthful time was gone, never
to come again.
"I have learned so much since then," continued Simon, putting a little
grey into his imp's muzzle, "and unlearned so much, too, which is better
still. Mannerism, Stanmore--mannerism is the great enemy of art. Now,
I'll explain what I mean in two words. In the first place, you observe
the light from that chink streaming down on my imp's back; well, in the
picture, you know--"
"Where _is_ the picture?" exclaimed Dick, whose cigar was finished,
and who had no scruples in thus unceremoniously interrupting a
professional lecture which previous experience told him might be
wearisome. "Let's see it. Let's see _all_ the pictures. Illustration's
better than argument, and I can't understand anything unless it's set
before me in bright colours, under my very nose."
Good-natured Simon desisted from his occupation at once, and began
lifting picture after picture, as they stood in layers against the
wall, to place them in a favourable light for the inspection of
his friend. Many and discursive were his criticisms on these, the
progressive results of eye, and hand, and brain, improving every
day. Here the drawing was faulty, there the tints were coarse. This
betrayed mannerism, that lacked power, and in a very ambitious
landscape, enriched with wood, water, and mountain, a patchy sky
spoiled the effect of the whole.
Nevertheless it seemed that he was himself not entirely dissatisfied
with his work, and whenever his friend ventured on the diffident
criticism of an amateur, Simon demonstrated at great length that each
fault, as he pointed it out, was in truth a singular merit and beauty
in the picture.
Presently, with a face of increased importance, he moved a large
oblong canvas from its hiding-place, to prop it artistically at such
an angle as showed the lights and shades of its finished portion to
the best advantage. Then he fell back a couple of paces, contemplating
it in silence with his head on one side, and so waited for his
But Dick was mute. Something in this picture woke up the pain of a
recent wound festering in his heart, and yet through all the smart and
tingling came a strange sensation of relief, like that with which a
styptic salves a sore.
"What do you think of it?" asked the artist. "I want your candid
opinion, Stanmore--impartial--unprejudiced, I tell you. I hope great
things from it. I believe it far and away the best I've painted yet.
Look into the work. O, it will stand inspection. You might examine it
with a microscope. Then, the conception, eh? And the drawing's not
amiss. A little more this way--you catch the outline of his eyebrow,
with the turn of the Rhymer's head."
"Hang the Rhymer's head!" replied Dick, "I don't care about it. I
won't look at it. I _can't_ look at it, man, with such a woman as
_that_ in the picture. Old boy, you've won immortality at last!"
But Simon's face fell.
"That's a great fault," he answered gravely. "The details, though
kept down as accessories to the whole, should yet be worked out so
carefully as to possess individual merit of their own. I see, though;
I see how to remedy the defect you have suggested. I can easily bring
him out by darkening the shadows of the background. Then, this fairy
at his elbow is paltry, and too near him besides. I shall paint her
out altogether. She takes the eye off my principal figures, and breaks
that grand line of light pouring in from the morning sky. Don't you
But Dick gave no answer. With feverish thirst and longing, he was
drinking in the beauty of the Fairy Queen; and had not Simon Perkins
been the dullest of observers, and the least conceited of painters, he
must have felt intensely flattered by the effect of his work.
"So you like her," said he, after a pause, during which, in truth, he
had been considering whether he should not paint out the intrusive
fairy that very afternoon.
"Like her!" replied the other. "It's the image of the most beautiful
face I ever saw in my life; only it's softer and even more beautiful.
I'll tell you what, old fellow, put a price on that picture and I'll
have it, cost what it may! Only you must give me a little time," added
Dick somewhat ruefully, reflecting that he had spent a good deal of
money lately, and rent-day was still a long way off.
"I wonder what you'd think of the original," said he, "the model who
sits to me for my Fairy Queen! I can tell you that face on the canvas
is no more to be compared to hers than I am to Velasquez. And yet
Velasquez must have been a beginner once."
"I don't believe there's such a woman--two such women--in London,"
replied his friend, correcting himself. "I can hardly imagine such
eyes, such an expression. It's what the fellows who write poetry call
'the beauty of a dream,' and I'll never say poetry is nonsense again.
No, that's neither more nor less than an imaginary angel, Simon.
Simply an impossible duck!"
"Would you like to see her?" asked the painter, laughing. "She'll be
here in five minutes. I do believe that's her step on the stairs now."
A strange wild hope thrilled through Dick Stanmore's heart. Could it
be possible that Lady Bearwarden had employed his friend to paint her
likeness in this fancy picture, perhaps under a feigned name, and was
she coming to take her sitting now?
All his stoicism, all his philosophy, vanished on the instant. He
would remain where he was though he should die for it. O, to see her,
to be in the same room with her, to look in her eyes, and hear her
voice once more!
A gown rustled, a light step was heard, the door opened, and a
sweet laughing voice rung out its greeting to the painter from the
"So late, Simon! Shameful, isn't it? But I've got all they wanted.
Such bargains! I suppose nobody ever did so much shopping in so short
She caught sight of Dick, stopped, blushed, and made a very
fascinating little curtsey, as they were formally introduced; but next
time she spoke the merriment had gone out of her voice. It had become
more staid, more formal, and its deeper, fuller tones reminded him
painfully of Maud.
[Illustration: "She caught sight of Dick."]
Yes. Had he not known Lady Bearwarden so well, he thought it would
have been quite possible for him to have mistaken this beautiful young
lady for that faithless peeress. The likeness was extraordinary,
ridiculous. Not that he felt the least inclined to laugh. The features
were absolutely the same, and a certain backward gesture of the head,
a certain trick of the mouth and chin were identical with the manner
of Lady Bearwarden, in those merry days that seemed so long ago
now, when she had been Maud Bruce. Only Miss Algernon's face had a
softness, a kindly trustful expression he never remembered on the
other, and her large pleading eyes seemed as if they could neither
kindle with anger nor harden to freezing glances of scorn.
As for the Fairy Queen, he looked from the picture to its original,
and felt constrained to admit that, wondrously beautiful as he had
thought its likeness on canvas, the face before him was infinitely
superior to the painter's fairest and most cherished work.
Dick went away of course almost immediately, though sorely against his
will. Contrary to her wont, Miss Algernon, who was rather a mimic and
full of fun, neither imitated the gestures nor ridiculed the bearing
of this chance visitor. "She had not observed him much," she said,
when taxed by Simon with this unusual forbearance. This was false. But
"she might know him again, perhaps, if they met." This, I imagine, was
And Dick, wending his way back to his hotel buried in thought, passed
without recognising it the spot where he met Lady Bearwarden one short
hour ago. He was pondering, no doubt, on the face he had just seen--on
its truth, its purity, its fresh innocent mirth, its dazzling beauty,
more, perhaps, than on its extraordinary likeness to hers who had
brought him the one great misfortune of his life.
It is not to be supposed that any gentleman can see a lady in the
streets of London and remain himself unseen. In the human as in meaner
races the female organ of perception is quicker, keener, and more
accurate than the male. Therefore it is that a man bowing in Pall Mall
or Piccadilly to some divinity in an open carriage, and failing to
receive any return for his salute, sinks at once into a false position
of awkwardness and discomfiture, _il a manque son coup_, and his face
assumes incontinently the expression of one who has missed a woodcock
in the open, and has no second barrel with which to redeem his shot.
As Dick saw Lady Bearwarden in Oxford Street, we may be sure that Lady
Bearwarden also saw Dick. Nor was her ladyship best pleased with the
activity he displayed in avoiding her carriage and escaping from her
society. If Mr. Stanmore had been the most successful Lovelace who
ever devoted himself to the least remunerative of pursuits, instead
of a loyal, kindhearted, unassuming gentleman, he could hardly have
chosen a line of conduct so calculated to keep alive some spark of
interest in Maud's breast as that which he unconsciously adopted. It
is one thing to dismiss a lover because suited with a superior article
(as some ladies send away five-foot-ten of footman when six-foot comes
to look after the place), and another to lose a vassal for good, like
an unreclaimed hawk, heedless of the lure, clear of the jesses, and
checking, perhaps, at every kind of prey in wilful wanton flight,
down-wind towards the sea.
There is but one chance for a man worsted in these duels _a
l'outrance_, which are fought out with such merciless animosity. It is
to bind up his wounds as best he may, and take himself off to die or
get well in secret. Presently the conqueror finds that a battle only
has been won, and not a territory gained. After the flush of combat
comes a reaction. The triumph seems somewhat tame, ungraced by
presence of the captive. Curiosity wakes up, pity puts in its pleading
word, a certain jealous instinct of appropriation is aroused. Where is
he? What has become of him? I wonder if he ever thinks of me _now_!
Poor fellow! I shouldn't wish to be forgotten altogether, as if we had
never met; and though I didn't want him to like _me_, I never meant
that he was to care for anybody else. Such are the thoughts that chase
each other through the female heart when deprived of sovereignty in
the remotest particular; and it was very much in this way that Lady
Bearwarden, sitting alone in her boudoir, speculated on the present
doings and sentiments of the man who had loved her so well and had
given her up so unwillingly, yet with never a word of reproach, never
a look nor action that could add to her remorse or make her task more
Alas, she was not happy; even now, when she had gained all she most
wished and schemed for in the world. She felt she was not happy, and
she felt, too, that for Dick to know of her unhappiness would be the
bitterest drop in the bitter cup he had been compelled to drain.
As she looked round her beautiful boudoir, with its blue-satin
hangings, its numerous mirrors, its redundancy of coronets surmounting
her own cipher, twisted and twined into a far more graceful decoration
than the grim heraldic bruin which formed her husband's cognisance,
she said to herself that something was yet required to constitute
a woman's happiness beyond the utmost efforts of the upholder's
art--that even carriages, horses, tall footmen, quantities of flowers,
unlimited credit, and whole packs of cards left on the hall table
every day were mere accessories and superfluities, not the real pith
and substance of that for which she pined.
Lady Bearwarden, more than most women, had, since her marriage, found
the worldly ball at her foot. She needed but to kick it where she
would. As Miss Bruce, with nothing to depend on but her own good looks
and conquering manners, she had wrested a large share of admiration
from an unwilling public; now, as a peeress, and a rich one, the same
public of both sexes courted, toadied, and flattered her, till she
grew tired of hearing herself praised. The men--at least those of high
position and great prospects--had no scruple in offering a married
woman that homage which might have entailed their own domestic
subjugation if laid at a spinster's feet; and the women--all except
the very smartest ladies (who liked her for her utter fearlessness and
_sang-froid_ as well as for her own sake)--thought it a fine thing to
be on intimate terms with "Maud Bearwarden," as they loved to call
her, and being much afraid of her, made up to her with the sweet
facility and sincerity of their sex.
Yet in defiance of ciphers, coronets, visiting-cards, blue hangings,
the homage of lords, and the vassalage of ladies, there was something
amiss. She caught herself continually looking back to the old days
at Ecclesfield Manor, to the soft lawns and shady avenues, the fond
father, who thought his darling the perfection of humanity, and whose
face lit up so joyfully whenever she came into the room; the sweet
delicate mother from whom she could never remember an unkind look nor
an angry word; the hills, the river, the cottages, the tenants, the
flower-garden, the ponies, and the old retriever that died licking her
hand. She felt kindly towards Mrs. Stanmore, and wondered whether she
had behaved quite as well to that lady as she ought, recalling many a
little act of triumphant malice and overt resistance which afforded
keen gratification to the rebel at the time. By an easy transition,
she glided on to Dick Stanmore's honest and respectful admiration, his
courtesy, his kindness, his unfailing forbearance and good humour.
Bearwarden was not always good-humoured--she had found that out
already. But as for Dick, she remembered how no mishap nor annoyance
of his own ever irritated him in the slightest degree; how his first
consideration always seemed to be _her_ comfort and _her_ happiness;
how even in his deep sorrow, deceived, humiliated, cut to the heart,
he had never so much as spoken one bitter word. How nobly had he
trusted her about those diamonds! How well he had behaved to her
throughout, and how fondly would he have loved and cherished her had
she confided her future to his care! He must be strangely altered now,
to avoid her like this. She was sure he recognised her, for she saw
his face fall, saw him wince--that at least was a comfort--but never
to shake hands, never even to stop and speak! Well, she had treated
him cruelly, and perhaps he was right.
But this was not the actual grievance, after all. She felt she would
do precisely the same over again. It was less repentance that pained
her, than retribution. Maud, for the first time in her life, was
beginning to feel really in love, and with her own husband. Such an
infatuation, rare as it is admirable, ought to have been satisfactory
and prosperous enough. When ladies do so far condescend, it is usually
a gratifying domestic arrangement for themselves and their lords;
but in the present instance the wife's increasing affection afforded
neither happiness to herself nor comfort to her husband. There was
a "Something" always between them, a shadow, not of suspicion nor
mistrust, for Bearwarden was frank and loyal by nature, but of
coldness. She had a secret from him, and she was a bad dissembler; his
finer instincts told him that he did not possess her full confidence,
and he was too proud to ask it. So they lived together a few short
weeks after marriage, on outward terms of courtesy and cordiality, but
with this little rift of dissatisfaction gradually yet surely widening
into a fissure that should rend each of these proud unbending hearts
"What would I give to be like other wives," thought Maud, looking at
a half-length of her husband in uniform, which occupied the place of
honour in her boudoir. "What is it? Why is it? I would love him so, if
he would let me. How I wish I could be good--_really_ good, like mamma
was. I suppose it's impossible now. I wonder if it's too late to try."
And with the laudable intention of beginning amendment at once, Lady
Bearwarden rang sharply to tell her servants she was "not at home to
anybody till Lord Bearwarden came in, except"--and here she turned
away from her own footman, that he might not see the colour rising in
her face--"except a man should call with some silks and brocades, in
which case he was to be shown up-stairs at once."
The door had scarcely closed ere the paper-cutter in Maud's fingers
broke short off at the handle. Her grasp tightened on it insensibly,
while she ground and gnashed her small white teeth, to think that she,
with her proud nature, in her high position, should not be free
to admit or deny what visitors she pleased. So dandies of various
patterns, afoot, in tea-carts, and on hacks more or less deserving in
shape and action, discharged themselves of their visiting-cards at
Lady Bearwarden's door, and passed on in peace to fulfil the same rite
Two only betrayed an unseemly emotion when informed "her ladyship was
not at home": the one, a cheerful youth, bound for a water-party
at Skindle's, and fearful of missing his train, thanked Providence
audibly for what he called "an unexpected let off"; the other, an
older, graver, and far handsomer man, suffered an expression of
palpable discomfiture to overspread his comely face, and, regardless
of observation, walked away from the door with the heavy step that
denotes a heavy heart. Not that he had fallen in love with Lady
Bearwarden--far from it. But there _was_ a Somebody--that Somebody an
adverse fate had decreed he must neither meet to-day nor to-morrow,
and the interval seemed to both of them wearisome, and even painful.
But Maud was Somebody's dear friend. Maud either had seen her or would
see her that very afternoon. Maud would let him talk about her, praise
her, perhaps would even give her a message--nay, it was just possible
she might arrive to pay a morning visit while he was there. No wonder
he looked so sad to forego this series of chances; and all the while,
if he had only known it, Fate, having veered round at luncheon-time,
would have permitted him to call at Somebody's house, to find her at
home, enchanted to see him, and to sit with her as long as he liked
in the well-known room, with its flowers and sun-shades and globes
of gold-fish, and the picture over the chimney-piece, and its dear
original by his side. But it is a game at cross-purposes all through
this dangerous pastime; and perhaps its very _contretemps_ are what
make it so interesting to the players, so amusing to the lookers-on.
Lady Bearwarden grew fidgety after a while. It is needless to say that
"the man with some silks and brocades" to be admitted by her servants
was none other than "Gentleman Jim," who, finding the disguise of a
"travelling merchant" that in which he excited least suspicion in his
interviews with her ladyship, had resolved to risk detection yet once
more, and had given her notice of his intention.
We all remember Sinbad's Old Man of the Sea, and the grip of that
merciless rider tightening closer and closer the longer he was carried
by his disgusted victim. There is more truth in the fable than most of
us would like to allow. If you once permit yourself to set up an "Old
Man of the Sea," farewell to free agency, happiness, even tolerable
comfort, from that time forth! Sometimes your burden takes the shape
of a renewed bill, sometimes of a fatal secret, sometimes of an unwise
attachment, sometimes only of a bad habit; but whatever it be, the
farther you carry it the heavier it seems to grow; and in this case
custom does not in the least degree reconcile you to the infliction.
Up with your heels, and kick it off at any price! Even should you rick
your back in the process, it is better to be crippled for life than
eternally oppressed by a ruthless rider and an intolerable weight.
Gentleman Jim was becoming Lady Bearwarden's Old Man of the Sea. More
than once of late he had forced himself on her presence when it was
exceedingly inconvenient and even dangerous to meet him. The promised
interview of to-day had been extorted from her most unwillingly, and
by threats, implied if not expressed. She began to feel that she was
no longer her own mistress--that she had lost her independence, and
was virtually at the command of an inferior. To a proud nature like
hers such a situation seemed simply intolerable.
Lord Bearwarden seldom came in much before it was time to dress for
dinner; but young men's habits are not usually very regular, the
monotonous custom of doing everything by clockwork being a tedious
concomitant of old age. Maud could not calculate on his absence at any
particular hour of the day unless he were on duty, and the bare notion
that she should _wish_ thus to calculate fretted and chafed her beyond
measure. It was a relief to hear the door-bell once more, and prepare
to confront the worst. A London servant never betrays astonishment,
nor indeed any emotion whatever, beyond a shade of dignified and
forbearing contempt. The first footman showed Lady Bearwarden's
suspicious-looking visitor into her boudoir with sublime indifference,
returning thereafter leisurely and loftily to his tea. Maud felt her
courage departing, and her defeat, like that of brave troops seized
by panic, seemed all the more imminent for habitual steadiness and
valour. She took refuge in an attempt to bully.
"Why are you here?" said Maud, standing bolt upright; while Gentleman
Jim, with an awkward bow, began as usual to unroll his goods. "I have
told you often enough this persecution must finish. I am determined
not to endure it any longer. The next time you call I shall order my
servants to drive you from the door. O, will you--_will_ you not come
His face had been growing darker and darker while she spoke, and she
watched its expression as the Mediterranean fisherman watches a white
squall gliding with fatal swiftness over the waters, to bring ruin and
shipwreck and despair. It sometimes happens that the fisherman loses
his head precisely at the wrong moment, so that foiled, helpless,
and taken aback, he comes to fatal and irremediable grief. Thus Lady
Bearwarden, too, found the nerve on which she prided herself failing
when she most wanted it, and knew that the prestige and influence
which formed her only safeguards were slipping from her grasp.
She had cowed this ruffian at their first meeting by an assumption
of calm courage and superiority in a crisis when most women, thus
confronted at dead of night by a housebreaker, would have shrunk
trembling and helpless before him. She had retained her superiority
during their subsequent association by an utter indifference as to
results, so long as they only affected character and fortune, which
to his lower nature seemed simply incomprehensible; but now that her
heart was touched she could no longer remain thus reckless, thus
defiant. With womanly feelings came womanly misgivings and fear of
consequences. The charm was lost, the spell broken, and the familiar
spirit had grown to an exacting master from an obedient slave.
"That's not the way as them speaks who's had the pith and marrow out
of a chap's werry bones," growled Jim. "There wasn't no talkin of
figure-footmen and drivin' of respectable tradesmen from folks' doors
when a _man_ was wanted, like this here. A _man_, I says, wot wasn't
afeard to swing, if so be as he could act honourable and fulfil his
"I'll pay anything. Hush! _pray_. Don't speak so loud. What _must_ my
servants think? Consider the frightful risks I run. Why should you
wish to make me utterly miserable--to drive me out of my senses? I'll
pay anything--anything to be free from this intolerable persecution."
"Pay--pay anythink!" repeated Jim, slightly mollified by her distress,
but still in a tone of deep disgust. "Pay. Ah! that's always the word
with the likes of you. You think your blessed money can buy us poor
chaps up, body and heart and soul Blast your money! says I. There,
that's not over civil, my lady, but it's plain speaking."
"What would you have me do?" she asked, in a low plaintive voice.
She had sunk into an arm-chair, and was wringing her hands. How lovely
she looked now in her sore distress! It imparted the one feminine
charm generally wanting in her beauty.
Gentleman Jim, standing over against her, could not but feel the old
mysterious influence pervading him once more. "If you was to say to
me, Jim, says you, I believe as you're a true chap!--I believe as
you'd serve of me, body and bones. Well, not for money. Money be
d----d! But for goodwill, we'll say. I believe as you thinks there's
nobody on this 'arth as is to be compared of me, says you; and see
now, you shall come here once a week, once a fortnit, once a month,
even, and I'll never say no more about drivin' of you away; but you
shall see me, and I'll speak of you kind and haffable; and whatever
I wants done I'll tell you, do it: and it _will_ be done; see if it
won't! Why--why I'd be proud, my lady--there--and happy too. Ay, there
wouldn't walk a happier man, nor a prouder, maybe, in the streets of
It was a long speech for Jim. At its conclusion he drew his sleeve
across his face and bent down to re-arrange the contents of his
Tears were falling from her eyes at last. Noiselessly enough, and
without that redness of nose, those contortions of face, which render
them so unbecoming to most women.
"Is there no way but this?" she murmured. "No way but this? It's
impossible! It's absurd! It's infamous! Do you know who I am? Do you
know what you ask? How dare you dictate terms to _me_? How dare you
presume to say I shall do this, I shall not do _that?_ Leave my house
this minute. I will not listen to another syllable!"
She was blazing out again, and the fire of pride had dried her tears
ere she concluded. Anger brought back her natural courage, but it was
Gentleman Jim's face, distorted with fury, looked hideous. Under his
waistcoat lurked a long thin knife. Maud never knew how near, for one
ghastly moment, that knife was to being buried in her round white
He was not quite madman enough, however, to indulge his passions so
far, with the certainty of immediate destruction.
"Have a care!" he hissed through his clenched teeth. "If you and me
is to be enemies, look out! You know me--leastways you ought to; and
_you_ know I stick at nothing!"
She was still dreadfully frightened. Once more she went back to the
old plea, and offered him fifty pounds--a hundred pounds. Anything!
He was tying the knots of his bundle. Completing the last, he looked
up, and the glare in his eyes haunted her through many a sleepless
"You've done it now!" was all he muttered. "When next you see me
you'll wish you hadn't."
It speaks well for Jim's self-command that, as he went down, he could
say, "Your servant, my lord," with perfect composure, to a gentleman
whom he met on the stairs.
"THE LITTLE CLOUD"
Lord Bearwarden, like other noblemen and gentlemen keeping house in
London, was not invariably fortunate in the selection of his servants.
The division of labour, that admirable system by which such great
results are attained, had been brought to perfection in his as in many
other establishments. A man who cleaned knives, it appeared, could
not possibly do anything else, and for several days the domestic
arrangements below-stairs had been disturbed by a knotty question as
to _whose_ business it was to answer "my lord's bell". Now my lord
was what his servants called rather "a arbitrary gentleman", seeming,
indeed, to entertain the preposterous notion that these were paid
their wages in consideration of doing as they were bid. It was
not therefore surprising that figure-footmen, high of stature and
faultless in general appearance, should have succeeded each other with
startling rapidity, throwing up their appointments and doffing his
lordship's livery, without regard to their own welfare or their
employer's convenience, but in accordance with some Quixotic notions
of respect for their office and loyalty to their order.
Thus it came about that a subordinate in rank, holding the appointment
of second footman, had been so lately enlisted as not yet to have made
himself acquainted with the personal appearance of his master; and it
speaks well for the amiable disposition of this recruit that, although
his liveries were not made, he should, during the temporary absence of
a fellow-servant, who was curling his whiskers below, have consented
to answer the door.
Lord Bearwarden had rung like any other arrival; but it must be
allowed that his composure was somewhat ruffled when refused
admittance by his own servant to his own house.
"Her ladyship's not at home, I tell ye", said the man, apparently
resenting the freedom with which this stranger proceeded into the
hall, while he placed his own massive person in the way; "and if you
want to see my lord, you just can't--_that_ I know!"
"Why?" asked his master, beginning to suspect how the land lay, and
"Because his lordship's particularly engaged. He's having his 'air
cut just now, and the dentist's waiting to see him after he's
done", returned this imaginative retainer, arguing indeed from his
pertinacity that the visitor must be one of the swell mob, therefore
to be kept out at any cost.
"And who are _you_?" said his lordship, now laughing outright.
"Who am I?" repeated the man. "I'm his lordship's footman. Now, then,
who are _you_? That's more like it!"
"I'm Lord Bearwarden himself", replied his master.
"Lord Bearwarden! O! I dare say", was the unexpected rejoinder. "Well,
that _is_ a good one. Come, young man, none of these games here:
there's a policeman round the corner."
At this juncture the fortunate arrival of the gentleman with
lately-curled whiskers, in search of his _Bell's Life_, left on the
hall-table, produced an _eclaircissement_ much to the unbeliever's
confusion, and the master of the house was permitted to ascend his own
staircase without further obstruction.
Meeting "Gentleman Jim" coming down with a bundle, it did not strike
him as the least extraordinary that his wife should have denied
herself to other visitors. Slight as was his experience of women and
their ways, he had yet learned to respect those various rites that
constitute the mystery of shopping, appreciating the composure and
undisturbed attention indispensable to a satisfactory performance of
But it _did_ trouble him to observe on Lady Bearwarden's face traces
of recent emotion, even, he thought, to tears. She turned quickly
aside when he came into the room, busying herself with the blinds and
muslin window-curtains; but he had a quick eye, and his perceptions
were sharpened besides by an affection he was too proud to admit,
while racked with cruel misgivings that it might not be returned.
"Gentleman-like man _that_, I met just now on the stairs!" he began,
good-humouredly enough, though in a certain cold, conventional tone,
that Maud knew too well, and hated accordingly. "Dancing partner,
swell mob, smuggler, respectable tradesman, what is he? Ought to sell
cheap, I should say. Looks as if he stole the things ready made. Hope
you've done good business with him, my lady? May I see the plunder?"
He never called her Maud; it was always "my lady", as if they had
been married for twenty years. How she longed for an endearing
word, slipping out, as it were, by accident--for a covert smile, an
occasional caress. Perhaps had these been lavished more freely she
might have rated them at a lower value.
Lady Bearwarden was not one of those women who can tell a lie without
the slightest hesitation, calmly satisfied that "the end justifies
the means"; neither did it form a part of her creed that a lie by
implication is less dishonourable than a lie direct. On the contrary,
her nature was exceedingly frank, even defiant, and from pride,
perhaps, rather than principle, she scorned no baseness so heartily
as duplicity. Therefore she hesitated now and changed colour, looking
guilty and confused, but taking refuge, as usual, in self-assertion.
"I had business with the man", she answered haughtily, "or you would
not have found him here. I might have got rid of him sooner, perhaps,
if I had known you were to be home so early. I'm sure I hate shopping,
I hate tradespeople, I hate--"
She was going to say "I hate everything", but stopped herself in time.
Counting her married life as yet only by weeks, it would have sounded
too ungracious, too ungrateful!
"Why should you do anything you hate?" said her husband, very kindly,
and to all appearance dismissing every suspicion from his mind, though
deep in his heart rankled the cruel conviction that between them this
strange, mysterious barrier increased day by day. "I want you to have as
little of the rough and as much of the smooth in life as is possible.
All the ups and none of the downs, my lady. If this fellow bores you,
tell them not to let him in again. That second footman will keep him out
like a dragon, I'll be bound." Then he proceeded laughingly to relate
his own adventure with his new servant in the hall.
He seemed cordial, kind, good-humoured enough, but his tone was that
of man to man, brother officer to comrade, not of a lover to his
mistress, a husband to his lately-married wife.
She felt this keenly, though at the same time she could appreciate his
tact, forbearance, and generosity in asking no more questions about
her visitor. To have shown suspicion of Maud would have been at once
to drive her to extremities, while implicit confidence put her on
honour and rendered her both unable and unwilling to deceive. Never
since their first acquaintance had she found occasion to test this
quality of trust in her husband, and now it seemed that he possessed
it largely, like a number of other manly characteristics. That he was
brave, loyal, and generous she had discovered already; handsome and of
high position she knew long ago, or she would never have resolved
on his capture; and what was there wanting to complete her perfect
happiness? Only one thing, she answered herself; but for it she would
so willingly have bartered all the rest--that he should love her as
Dick Stanmore did. Poor Dick Stanmore! how badly she had treated him,
and perhaps this was to be her punishment.
"Bearwarden," she said, crossing the room to lean on the arm of his
chair, "we've got to dine at your aunt's to-night. I suppose they will
be very late. I wish there were no such things as dinners, don't you?"
"Not when I've missed luncheon, as I did to-day," answered his
lordship, whose appetite was like that of any other healthy man under
"I hoped you wouldn't," she observed, in rather a low voice; "it was
very dull without you. We see each other so seldom, somehow. I should
like to go to the play to-morrow--you and I, Darby and Joan--I don't
care which house, nor what the play is."
"To-morrow", he answered, with a bright smile. "All right, my lady,
I'll send for a box. I forgot, though, I can't go to-morrow, I'm on
Her face fell, but she turned away that he might not detect her
disappointment, and began to feed her bullfinch in the window.
"You're always on guard, I think", said she, after a pause. "I
wonder you like it: surely it must be a dreadful tie. You lost your
grouse-shooting this year and the Derby, didn't you? all to sit in
plate armour and jack-boots at that gloomiest and stuffiest of Horse
Guards. Bearwarden, I--I wish you'd give up the regiment, I do
When Maud's countenance wore a pleading expression, as now, it was
more than beautiful, it was lovely. Looking in her face it seemed to
him that it was the face of an angel.
"Do you honestly wish it?" he replied gently. "I would do a great deal
to please you, my lady; but--no--I couldn't do _that_."
"He can't really care for me; I knew it all along", thought poor Maud,
but she only looked up at him rather wistfully and held her peace.
He was gazing miles away, through the window, through the opposite
houses, their offices, their washing-ground, and the mews at the back.
She had never seen him look so grave; she had never seen that soft,
sad look on his face before. She wondered now that she could ever have
regarded that face as a mere encumbrance and accessory to be taken
with a coronet and twenty thousand a year.
"Would you like to know why I cannot make this sacrifice to please
you?" he asked, in a low, serious voice. "I think you _ought_ to know,
my lady, and I will tell you. I'm fond of soldiering, of course. I've
been brought up to the trade--that's nothing. So I am of hunting,
shooting, rackets, cricketing, London porter, and dry champagne; but
I'd give them up, each and all, at a moment's notice, if it made you
any happier for ten minutes. I _am_ a little ambitious, I grant, and
the only fame I would care much for is a soldier's. Still, even if
my chance of military distinction were ten times as good I shouldn't
grudge losing it for your sake. No: what makes me stick to the
regiment is what makes a fellow take a life-buoy on board ship--the
instinct of self-preservation. When everything else goes down he's got
that to cling to, and can have a fight for his life. Once, my lady,
long before I had ever seen you, it was my bad luck to be very
unhappy. I didn't howl about it at the time, I'm not going to howl
about it now. Simply, all at once, in a day, an hour, everything in
the world turned from a joy to a misery and a pain. If my mother
hadn't taught me better, I should have taken the quickest remedy of
all. If I hadn't had the regiment to fall back upon I must have gone
mad. The kindness of my brother officers I never can forget; and to
go down the ranks scanning the bold, honest faces of the men, feeling
that we had cast our lot in together, and when the time came would all
play the same stake, win or lose, reminded me that there were others
to live for besides myself, and that I had not lost everything, while
yet a share remained invested in our joint venture. When I lay awake
in my barrack-room at night I could hear the stamp and snort of the
old black troopers, and it did me good. I don't know the reason, but
it did me good. You will think I was very unhappy--so I was."
"But why?" asked Maud, shrewdly guessing, and at the same time
dreading the answer.
"Because I was a fool, my lady," replied her husband--"a fool of the
very highest calibre. You have, no doubt, discovered that in this
world folly is punished far more severely than villainy. Deceive
others, and you prosper well enough; allow yourself to be deceived,
and you're pitched into as if you were the greatest rogue unhung. It's
not a subject for you and me to talk about, my lady. I only mentioned
it to show you why I am so unwilling to leave the army. Why, I _dare_
not do it, even to please you."
"But"--she hesitated, and her voice came very soft and low--"you--you
are not afraid--I mean you don't think it likely, do you, that you
will ever be so unhappy again? It was about--about somebody that you
cared for, I suppose."
She got it out with difficulty, and already hated that unknown
Somebody with an unreasoning hatred, such as women think justifiable
and even meritorious in like cases.
He laughed a harsh, forced laugh.
"What a fool you must think me", said he: "I ought never to have told
you. Yes, it was about a woman, of course. You did not fancy I could
be so soft, did you? Don't let us talk about it. I'll tell you in
three words, and then will never mention the subject again. I trusted
and believed in her. She deceived me, and that sort of thing puts a
fellow all wrong, you know, unless he's very good-tempered, and I
suppose I'm not. It's never likely to happen again, but still, blows
of all sorts fall upon people when they least expect them, and that's
why I can't give up the old corps, but shall stick by it to the last."
"Are you sure you haven't forgiven her?" asked Maud, inwardly
trembling for an answer.
"Forgiven her!" repeated his lordship; "well, I've forgiven her like
a Christian, as they say--perhaps even more fully than that. I don't
wish her any evil. I wouldn't do her a bad turn, but as for ever
thinking of her or caring for her afterwards, that was impossible. No.
While I confided in her freely and fully, while I gave up for her sake
everything I prized and cared for in the world, while I was even on
the verge of sending in my papers because it seemed to be her wish I
should leave the regiment, she had her own secret hidden up from me
all the time. That showed what she was. No; I don't think I could ever
forgive _that_--except _as a Christian_, you know, my lady!"
He ended in a light sarcastic tone, for like most men who have lived
much in the world, he had acquired a habit of discussing the gravest
and most painful subjects with conventional coolness, originating
perhaps in our national dislike of anything sentimental or dramatic
in situation. He could have written probably eloquently and seriously
enough, but to "speak like a book" would have lowered him, in his own
esteem, as being unmanly no less than ungentlemanlike.
Maud's heart ached very painfully. A secret then, kept from him by the
woman he trusted, was the one thing he could not pardon. Must this
indeed be her punishment? Day by day to live with this honourable,
generous nature, learning to love it so dearly, and yet so hopelessly,
because of the great gulf fixed by her own desperate venture, risked,
after all, that she might win _him_! For a moment, under the influence
of that great tide of love which swelled up in her breast, she felt as
if she must put her whole life's happiness on one desperate throw, and
abide the result. Make a clean breast, implore his forgiveness, and
tell him all.
She had been wandering about while he spoke, straightening a
table-cover here, snipping a dead leaf off a geranium there, and
otherwise fidgeting to conceal her emotion. Now she walked across the
room to her husband's side, and in another minute perhaps the whole
truth would have been out, and these two might have driven off to
dinner in their brougham, the happiest couple in London; but the door
was thrown wide open, and the student of _Bell's Life_, on whose
whiskers the time employed in curling them had obviously not been
thrown away, announced to her ladyship, with much pomp, that her
carriage was at the door.
"Good gracious!" exclaimed Maud, "and your aunt is always so punctual.
You must dress in ten minutes, Bearwarden. I'm certain I can. Run down
this moment, and don't stop to answer a single letter if it's a case
of life and death."
And Lady Bearwarden, casting all other thoughts to the winds in the
present emergency, hurried up-stairs after the pretty little feet of
her French maid, whose anxiety that her lady should not be late, and
perhaps a certain curiosity to know the cause of delay, had tempted
her down at least as far as the first landing, while my lord walked to
his dressing-room on the ground-floor, with the comfortable conviction
that he might spend a good half-hour at his toilet, and would then be
ready a considerable time before his wife.
The reflections that chased each other through the pretty head of the
latter while subjected to Justine's skilful manipulations, I will not
take upon me to detail. I may state, however, that the dress she chose
to wear was trimmed with Bearwarden's favourite colour; that she
carried a bunch of his favourite flowers on her breast and another in
A brougham drawn by a pair of long, low, high-stepping horses, at
the rate of twelve miles an hour, is an untoward vehicle for serious
conversation when taking its occupants out to dinner, although well
adapted for tender confidence or mutual recrimination on its return
from a party at night. Lady Bearwarden could not even make sure that
her husband observed she had consulted his taste in dress. Truth
to tell, Lord Bearwarden was only conscious that his wife looked
exceedingly handsome, and that he wished they were going to dine at
home. Marriage had made him very slow, and this inconvenient wish
lasted him all through dinner, notwithstanding that it was his
enviable lot to sit by a fast young lady of the period, who rallied
him with exceeding good taste on his wife, his house, his furniture,
manners, dress, horses, and everything that was his. Once, in
extremity of boredom, he caught sight of Maud's delicate profile
five couples off, and fancied he could detect on the pale, pure face
something of his own weariness and abstraction. After that the fast
young lady "went at him", as she called it, in vain. Later, in the
drawing-room, she told another damsel of her kind that "Bruin's
marriage had utterly spoilt him. Simply ruination, my dear! So unlike
men in general. What he could see in her I can't make out! She looks
like death, and she's not _very_ well dressed, in my opinion. I wonder
if she bullies him. He used to be such fun. So fast, so cheery, so
delightfully satirical, and as wicked as Sin!"
Maud went home in the brougham by herself. After a tedious dinner,
lasting through a couple of hours, enlivened by the conversation of
a man he can't understand, and the persecutions of a woman who bores
him, it is natural for the male human subject to desire tobacco, and
a walk home in order to smoke. Somehow, the male human subject never
does walk straight home with its cigar.
Bearwarden, like others of his class, went off to Pratt's, where, we
will hope, he was amused, though he did not look it. A cigar on a
close evening leads to soda-water, with a slice of lemon, and, I had
almost forgotten to add, a small modicum of gin. This entails another
cigar, and it is wonderful how soon one o'clock in the morning comes
round again. When Lord Bearwarden turned out of St. James's Street it
was too late to think of anything but immediate bed. Her ladyship's
confessions, if she had any to make, must be put off till
breakfast-time, and, alas! by _her_ breakfast-time, which was none of
the earliest, my lord was well down in his sheepskin, riding out of
the barrack-gate in command of his guard.
"Fronte capillata post est Oceasio calav"
Bald-pated Father Time had succeeded in slipping his forelock out of
Maud's hand the evening before, and, henceforth, behind his bare and
mocking skull, those delicate, disappointed fingers must close on
empty air in vain!
FURENS QUID FOEMINA
We left Tom Ryfe, helpless, unconscious, more dead than alive,
supported between a man and woman up a back street in Westminster: we
must return to him after a considerable interval, pale, languid, but
convalescent, on a sofa in his own room under his uncle's roof. He is
only now beginning to understand that he has been dangerously ill;
that according to his doctor nothing but a "splendid constitution" and
unprecedented medical skill have brought him back from the threshold
of that grim portal known as death's door. This he does not quite
believe, but is aware, nevertheless, that he is much enfeebled, and
that his system has sustained what he himself calls "a deuced awkward
shake." Even now he retains no very clear idea of what happened to
him. He remembers vaguely, as in a dream, certain bare walls of a dim
and gloomy chamber, tapestried with cobwebs, smelling of damp and
mould like a vault, certain broken furniture, shabby and scarce, on
a bare brick floor, with a grate in which no fire could have been
kindled without falling into the middle of the room. He recalls that
racking head-ache, that scorching thirst, and those pains in all the
bones of a wan, wasted figure lying under a patchwork quilt on a
squalid bed. A figure, independent of, and dissevered from himself,
yet in some degree identified with his thoughts, his sufferings,
and his memories. Somebody nursed the figure, too--he is sure of
that--bringing it water, medicines, food, and leeches for its aching
temples; smoothing its pillow and arranging its bed-clothes, in those
endless nights, so much longer, yet scarce more dismal than the
days,--somebody, whose voice he never heard, whose face he never saw,
yet in whose slow, cautious tread there seemed a familiar sound. Once,
in delirium, he insisted it was Miss Bruce, but even _through_ that
delirium he knew he must be raving, and it was impossible. Could that
be a part of his dream, too, in which he dragged himself out of bed,
to dress in his own clothes, laid out on the chair that had hitherto
carried a basin of gruel or a jug of cooling drink? No, it must have
been reality surely, for even to-day he has so vivid a remembrance of
the fresh air, the blinding sunshine, and the homely life-like look of
that four-wheeled cab waiting in the narrow street, which he entered
mechanically, which _as_ mechanically brought him home to his uncle's
house, the man asking no questions, nor stopping to receive his fare.
To be sure, he fainted from utter weakness at the door. Of that he
is satisfied, for he remembers nothing between the jolting of those
slippery cushions and another bed in which he found himself, with a
grave doctor watching over him, and which he recognised, doubtfully,
as his own.
Gradually, with returning strength, Tom began to suspect the truth
that he had been hocussed and robbed. His pockets, when he resumed
his clothes, were empty. Their only contents, his cigar-case and Miss
Bruce's letter, were gone. The motive for so desperate an attack he
felt unable to fathom. His intellect was still affected by bodily
weakness, and he inclined at first to think he had been mistaken for
somebody else. The real truth only dawned on him by degrees. Its first
ray originated with no less brilliant a luminary than old Bargrave.
To do him justice, the uncle had shown far more natural affection than
his household had hitherto believed him capable of feeling. During
his nephew's absence, he had been like one distracted, and the large
reward offered for discovery of the missing gentleman sufficiently
testified his anxiety and alarm. When Tom did return, more dead than
alive, Bargrave hurried off in person to procure the best medical
advice, and postponing inquiry into his wrongs to the more immediate
necessity of nursing the sufferer, spent six or seven hours out of the
twenty-four at the sick man's bedside.
The first day Tom could sit up his uncle thought well to enliven him
with a little news, social, general, and professional. Having told
him that he had outbid Mortlake for the last batch of poor Mr.
Chalkstone's port, and stated, at some length, his reasons for
doubting the stability of Government, he entered gleefully upon
congenial topics, and proceeded to give the invalid a general sketch
of business affairs during his retirement.
"I've worked the coach, Tom," said he, walking up and down the
room, waving his coat-tails, "as well as it _could_ be worked,
single-handed. I don't think you'll find a screw loose anywhere. Ah,
Tom! an old head, you know, is worth a many pair of hands. When you're
well enough, in a week or so, my lad, I shall like to show you how
I've kept everything going, though I was so anxious, terribly anxious,
all the time. The only matter that's been left what you call _in statu
quo_ is that business of Miss Bruce's, which I had nothing to do with.
It will last you a good while yet, Tom, though it's of less importance
to her now, poor thing!--don't you move, Tom--I'll hand you the
barley-water--because she's Miss Bruce no longer."
Tom gasped, and hid his pale, thin face in the jug of barley-water.
He had some pluck about him, after all; for weak and ill as he was he
managed to get out an indifferent question.
"Not Miss Bruce, isn't she? Ah! I hadn't heard. Who is she then,
uncle? I suppose you mean she's--she's married." He was so husky, no
wonder he took another pull at the barley-water.
"Yes, she's married," answered his uncle, in the indifferent tone with
which threescore years and odd can discuss that fatality. "Made a good
marriage, too--an excellent marriage. What do you think of a peerage,
my boy? She's Viscountess Bearwarden now. Twenty thousand a year, if
it's a penny. I am sure of it, for I was concerned in a lawsuit of the
late lord's twenty years ago. I don't suppose you're acquainted with
her husband, Tom. Not in our circle, you know; but a most respectable
young man, I understand, and likely to be lord-lieutenant of his
county before long. I'm sure I trust she'll be happy. And now, Tom, as
you seem easy and comfortable, perhaps you'd like to go to sleep for a
little. If you want anything you can reach the bell, and I'll come and
see you again before I dress for dinner."
Easy and comfortable! When the door shut behind his uncle, Tom bowed
his head upon the table and gave way completely. He was unmanned by
illness, and the shock had been too much for him. It was succeeded,
however, and that pretty quickly, by feelings of bitter wrath and
resentment, which did more to restore his strength than all the tonics
in the world. An explanation, too, seemed now afforded to much that
had so mystified him of late. What if, rendered desperate by his
threats, Miss Bruce had been in some indirect manner the origin of his
captivity and illness--Miss Bruce, the woman who of all others owed
him the largest debt of gratitude (like most people, Tom argued
from his own side of the question); for whom he had laboured so
unremittingly, and was willing to sacrifice so much? Could it be so?
And if it was, should he not be justified in going to any extremity
for revenge? Revenge--yes, that was all he had to live for now; and
the very thought seemed to put new vigour into his system, infuse
fresh blood in his veins. So is it with all baser spirits; and perhaps
in the indulgence of this cowardly craving they obtain a more speedy
relief than nobler natures from the first agony of suffering; but
their cure is not and never can be permanent; and to them must remain
unknown that strange wild strain of some unearthly music which thrills
through those sore hearts that can repay good for evil, kindly
interest for cold indifference; that, true to themselves and their own
honour, can continue to love a memory, though it be but the memory
of a dream. Tom felt as if he could make an exceedingly high bid,
involving probity, character, good faith, and the whole of his
moral code, for an auxiliary who should help him in his vengeance.
Assistance was at hand even now, in an unexpected moment and an
"A person wishes to see you, sir, if you're well enough," said a
little housemaid who had volunteered to provide for the wants of the
invalid, and took very good care of him indeed.
"What sort of a person?" asked Tom languidly, feeling, nevertheless,
that any distraction would be a relief.
"Well, sir," replied the maid, "it seems a respectable person, I
should say. Like a sick-nurse or what not."
There is no surmise so wild but that a rejected lover will grasp at
and connect it with the origin of his disappointment. "I'll see her,"
said Tom stoutly, not yet despairing but that it might be a messenger
He certainly was surprised when Dorothea, whom he recognised at once,
even in her Sunday clothes, entered the room, with a wandering eye and
a vacillating step.
"You'll never forgive me, Master Tom," was her startling salutation.
"It's me as nursed you through it; but you'll never forgive me--never!
And I don't deserve as you should."
Dorothea was nervous, hysterical, but she steadied herself bravely,
though her fingers worked and trembled under her faded shawl.
Tom stared, and his visitor went on--
"You'd 'a died for sure if I hadn't. Don't ye cast it up to me, Master
Tom. I've been punished enough. Punished! If I was to bare my arm now
I could show you weals that's more colours and brighter than your
neckankercher there. I've been served worse nor that, though, since. I
ain't a-goin' to put up with it no longer. Master Tom, do you know as
you've Been put upon, and by who?"
His senses were keenly on the alert. "Tell me the truth, my good
girl," said he, "and I'll forgive you all your share. More, I'll stick
by you through thick and thin."
She whimpered a little, affected by the kindness of his tone, but
tugging harder at her shawl, proceeded to further confessions.
"You was hocussed, Master Tom; and I can point out to you the man as
did it. You'd 'a been murdered amongst 'em if it hadn't been for me.
Who was it, d'ye think, as nussed of you, and cared for you, all
through, and laid out your clothes ready brushed and folded, and went
and got you a cab the day as you come back here? Master Tom, I've been
put upon too. Put upon and deceived, as never yet was born woman used
so bad; and it's my turn now! Look ye here, Master Tom. It's that
villain, Jim--Gentleman Jim, as we calls him--what's been at the
bottom of this here. And yet there's worse than Jim in it too. There's
others that set Jim on. O! to believe as a fine handsome chap like him
could turn out to be so black-hearted, and such a soft too. She'll
never think no more of him, for all his comely face, than the dirt
beneath her feet."
"_She_!" repeated Tom, intensely interested, and therefore
preternaturally calm. "What d'ye mean by _she_? Don't fret, that's a
good girl, and don't excite yourself. Tell your story your own way,
you know, but keep as quiet as you can. You're safe enough here."
"We'd been asked in church," replied Dorothea, somewhat
inconsequently. "Ah! more than once, we had. And I'd ha' been as true
to him, and was, as ever a needle to a stitch. Well, sir, when he
slights of me, and leaves of me, why it's natural as I should run up
and down the streets a-lookin' for him like wild. So one day, after
I'd done my work, and put things straight, for I never was one of your
sluttish ones, Master Tom--and your uncle, he's always been a kind
gentleman to me, and a haffable, like yourself, Master Tom--according,
I comes upon my Jim at the Sunflower, and I follows him unbeknown for
miles and miles right away to the West-End. So he never looks behind
him, nor he never stops, o' course, till he comes to Belgrave Square;
and he turns down a street as I couldn't read its name, but should
know it again as well as I know my own hand. And then, Master Tom, if
you'll believe me, I thought as I must have dropped."
"Well?" said Tom, not prepared to be satisfied with this climax,
though his companion stopped, as if she had got to the end of her
"Well indeed!" resumed Dorothea, after a considerable interval, "when
he come that far, I know'd as he must be up to some of his games, and
I watched. They lets him into a three-storied house, and I sees him in
the best parlour with a lady, speaking up to her, but not half so bold
as usual. He a not often dashed, Jim isn't. I will say that for him."
"What sort of a lady?" asked Tom, quivering with excitement. "You took
a good look at her, I'll be bound!"
"Well, a real lady in a muslin dress," answered Dorothea. "A tall
young lady--not much to boast of for looks, but with hair as black as
your hat and a face as white as cream. Very 'aughty too an' arbitrary,
and seemed to have my Jim like quite at her command. So from where I
stood I couldn't help hearing everything that passed. My Jim, he gives
her the very letter as laid in your pocket that night, as you--as you
was taken so poorly, you know. And from what she said and what he
said, and putting this and that together, I'm sure as they got you out
of the way between them, Master Tom, and gammoned me into the job too,
when I'd rather have cut both my hands off, if I'd only known the
Tom sat back on his sofa, shutting his eyes that he might concentrate
his powers of reflection. Yes, it was all clear enough at last. The
nature and origin of the outrage to which he had been subjected were
obvious, nor could he entertain any further doubt of Maud's motives,
though marvelling exceedingly, as well he might, at her courage, her
recklessness, and the social standing of her accomplice. It seemed
to him as if he could forgive every one concerned but her. This poor
woman who had fairly thrown herself on his mercy: the ruffian whose
grip had been at his throat, but who might hereafter prove as
efficient an ally as he had been a formidable enemy. Only let him have
Maud in his power, that was all he asked, praying him to spare her,
kneeling at his feet, and then without a shade of compunction to ruin,
and crush, and humble her to the dust!
He saw his way presently, but he must work warily, he told himself,
and use all the tools that came to his hand.
"If you can clear the matter up, Dorothea," said he, kindly, "I will
not visit your share in it on your head, as I have already told you.
Indeed I believe I owe you my life. But this man you mention, this
Gentleman Jim as you call him, can you find him? Do you know where he
is? My poor girl! I think I understand. Surely you deserved better
treatment at his hands."
The kind words produced this time no softening effect, and Tom knew
enough of human nature to feel sure that she was bent on revenge as
earnestly as himself, while he also knew that he must take advantage
of her present humour at once, for it might change in an hour.
"If I could lay my hand on him," answered Dorothea fiercely, "it's
likely I'd leave my mark! I've looked for him now, high and low, every
evening and many arternoons, better nor a week. I ain't come on him
yet, the false-hearted thief! but I seen _her_ only the day before
yesterday, seen her walk into a house in Berners Street as bold as you
please. I watched and waited better nor two hours, for, thinks I,
he won't be long follerin'; and I seen her come out agin with a
gentleman, a comely young gentleman; I'd know him anywheres, but he
warn't like my Jim."
"Are you sure it was the same lady?" asked Tom eagerly, but ashamed
of putting so unnecessary a question when he saw the expression of
"Am I _sure_?" said she, with a short gasping laugh. "Do you suppose
as a woman can be mistook as has been put upon like me? Lawyers is
clever men, askin' your pardon, Mr. Ryfe, but there's not much sense
in such a question as yours: I seen the lady, sir, and I seen the
house; that's enough for _me_!"
"And you observed the gentleman narrowly?" continued Tom, stifling
down a little pang of jealousy that was surely unreasonable now.
"Well, I didn't take much notice of the gentleman," answered Dorothea
wearily, for the reaction was coming on apace. "It warn't my Jim, I
know. You and me has both been used bad, Master Tom, and it's a shame,
it is. But the weather's uncommon close, and it's a long walk here,
and I'm a'most fit to drop, askin' your pardon, sir. I wrote down the
number of the house, Master Tom, to make sure--there it is. If you
please, I'll go down-stairs, and ask the servants for a cup o' tea,
and I wish you a good arternoon, sir, and am glad to see you lookin' a
trifle better at last."
So Dorothea departed to enjoy the luxury of strong tea and unlimited
gossip with Mr. Bargrave's household, drawing largely on her invention
in explanation of her recent interview, but affording them no clue to
the real object of her visit.
Tom Ryfe was still puzzled. That Maud (he could not endure to think of
her as Lady Bearwarden)--that Maud should, so soon after her marriage,
be seen going about London by herself under such questionable
circumstances was strange, to say the least of it, even making
allowances for her recklessness and wilful disposition, of which no
one could be better aware than himself. What could be her object?
though he loved her so fiercely in his own way, he had no great
opinion of her discretion; and now, in the bitterness of his anger,
was prepared to put the very worst construction upon everything she
did. He recalled, painfully enough, a previous occasion on which he
had met her, as he believed, walking with a stranger in the Park, and
did not forget her displeasure while cutting short his inquiries on
the subject. After all, it occurred to him almost immediately, that
the person with whom she had been lately seen was probably her own
husband. He would not himself have described Lord Bearwarden exactly
as a "comely young gentleman," but on the subject of manly beauty
Dorothea's taste was probably more reliable than his own. If so,
however, what could they be doing in Berners Street? Pshaw! How this
illness had weakened his intellect! Having her picture painted, of
course! what else could bring a doting couple, married only a few
weeks, to that part of the town? He cursed Dorothea bitterly for her
ridiculous surmises and speculations--cursed the fond pair--cursed his
own wild unconquerable folly--cursed the day he first set eyes on that
fatal beauty, so maddening to his senses, so destructive to his heart;
and thus cursing staggered across the room to take his strengthening
draught, looked at his pale, worn face in the glass, and sat down
again to think.
The doctor had visited him at noon, and stated with proper caution
that in a day or two, if amendment still progressed satisfactorily,
"carriage exercise," as he called it, might be taken with undoubted
benefit to the invalid. We all know, none better than medical men
themselves, that if your doctor says you may get up to-morrow, you
jump out of bed the moment his back is turned. Tom Ryfe, worried,
agitated, unable to rest where he was, resolved that he would take his
carriage exercise without delay, and to the housemaid's astonishment,
indeed much against her protest, ordered a hansom cab to the door at
Though so weak he could not dress without assistance, he no sooner
found himself on the move, and out of doors, than he began to feel
stronger and better; he had no object in driving beyond change of
scene, air, and exercise; but it will not surprise those who have
suffered from the cruel thirst and longing which accompanies such
mental maladies as his, that he should have directed the cabman to
proceed to Berners Street.
It sometimes happens that when we thus "draw a bow at a venture" our
random shaft hits the mark we might have aimed at for an hour in
vain. Tom Ryfe esteemed it an unlooked-for piece of good fortune that
turning out of Oxford Street he should meet another hansom going at
speed in an opposite direction, and containing--yes, he could have
sworn to them before any jury in England--the faces, very near each
other, of Lady Bearwarden and Dick Stanmore.
It was enough. Dorothea's statement seemed sufficiently corroborated,
and after proceeding to the number she indicated, as if to satisfy
himself that the house had not walked bodily away, Mr. Ryfe returned
home very much benefited in his own opinion by the drive, though the
doctor, visiting his patient next day, was disappointed to find him
still low and feverish, altogether not so much better as he expected.
"NOT FOR JOSEPH"
But Dick Stanmore was _not_ in a hansom with Lady Bearwarden. Shall
I confess, to the utter destruction of his character for undying
constancy, that he did not wish to be?
Dick had been cured at last--cured of the painful disease he once
believed mortal--cured by a course of sanitary treatment, delightful
in its process, unerring in its results; and he walked about now with
the buoyant step, the cheerful air of one who has been lightened of a
load lying next his heart.
Medical discoveries have of late years brought into vogue a science of
which I have borrowed the motto for these volumes. _Similia similibus
curantur_ is the maxim of homoeopathy; and whatever success this
healing principle may obtain with bodily ailments, I have little doubt
of its efficacy in affections of the heart. I do not mean to say
its precepts will render us invulnerable or immortal. There are
constitutions that, once shaken, can never be restored; there are
characters that, once outraged, become saddened for evermore. The
fairest flowers and the sweetest, are those which, if trampled down,
never hold up their heads again. But I do mean, that should man or
woman be capable of cure under sufferings originating in misplaced
confidence, such cure is most readily effected by a modified attack of
the same nature, at the risk of misplacing it again.
After Dick Stanmore's first visit to the painting-room in Berners
Street, it was astonishing how enthusiastic a taste he contracted for
art. He was never tired of contemplating his friend's great picture,
and Simon used laughingly to declare the amateur knew every line and
shade of colour in his Fairy Queen as accurately as the painter.
He remained in London at a season which could have afforded few
attractions for a young man of his previous habits, and came every day
to the painting-room as regularly as the model herself. Thus it fell
out that Dick, religiously superintending the progress of this Fairy
Queen, found his eyes wandering perpetually from the representation on
canvas to its original on Miss Algernon's shoulders, and gratified his
sense of sight with less scruple, that from the very nature of her
occupation she was compelled to keep her head always turned one way.
It must have been agreeable for Nina, no doubt, if not improving, to
listen to Dick's light and rather trivial conversation which relieved
the monotony of her task, and formed a cheerful addition to the short,
jerking, preoccupied sentences of the artist, enunciated obviously
at random, and very often with a brush in his mouth. Nor was it
displeasing, I imagine, to be aware of Mr. Stanmore's admiration,