Part 6 out of 6
"They won't fight! All sorts of difficulties have
been made, and even if we can obtain a meeting at last, it
must be after considerable delay. In the meantime I have
business of my own which forces me to leave town for
four-and-twenty hours at least. If possible, I will look
you up before I start. If not, send a line to the office.
I shall find it on my return: these matters complicate
themselves as they go on, but I still venture to hope you
may leave the conduct of the present affair with perfect
safety in my hands, and I remain, with much sympathy,"
Your lordship's obedient servant,
The second, though a very short production, took longer time, both in
composition and penmanship. It was written purposely on a scrap of
paper from which the stationer's name and the water-mark had been
carefully torn off. It consisted but of these lines--
"A cruel mystery has deprived you of your husband.
You have courage. Walk out to-night at eight, fifty yards
from your own door. Turn to the right--I will meet you
and explain all."
"My reputation is at stake. I trust you as one woman
trusts another. Seek to learn no more."
"That will bring her," thought Tom, "for she fears nothing!" and he
sealed the letter with a dab of black wax flattened by the impression
of the woman's thimble, who kept the shop.
There was a Court Guide on the counter. Tom Ryfe knew Lady
Bearwarden's address as well as his own, yet from a methodical and
lawyer-like habit of accuracy, seeing that it lay open at the letter
B, he glanced his eye, and ran his finger down the page to stop at the
very bottom, and thus verify, as it were, his own recollection of his
lordship's number, ere he paid for the paper and walked away to post
his letters in company with Jim, who waited outside.
The stationer, fitting shelves in his back shop, was a man of
observation and some eccentricity.
"Poll," said he to his wife, "it's an uncertain business, is the
book-trade. A Court Guide hasn't been asked for over that counter, no,
not for six months, and here's two parties come in and look at it in
a morning. There's nothing goes off, to depend on, but hymns. Both
of 'em wanted the same address, I do believe, for I took notice each
stopped in the same column at the very foot. Nothing escapes me, lass!
However, that isn't no business of yours nor mine."
The wife, a woman of few words and abrupt demeanour, made a pounce at
the Court Guide to put it back in its place, but her "master," as she
somewhat inconsequently called him, interposed.
"Let it be, lass!" said he. "There's luck in odd numbers, they say.
Who knows but we mayn't have a third party come in on the same errand?
Let it be, and go make the toast. It's getting on for tea-time, and
the fire in the back parlour's nearly out."
When these letters were posted, the confederates, feeling themselves
fairly embarked on their joint scheme, separated to advance each his
own share of the contemplated enormity. Tom Ryfe jumped into a cab,
and was off on a multiplicity of errands, while Jim, pondering deeply
with his head down, and his hands thrust into his coat-pockets, slunk
towards Holborn, revolving in his mind the least he could offer some
dissipated cabman, whose licence was in danger at any rate, for the
hire of horse and vehicle during the ensuing night.
Feeling his sleeve plucked feebly from behind, he broke off these
meditations, to turn round with a savage oath.
What a dreary face was that which met his arm! Pale and gaunt, with
the hollow eyes that denote bodily suffering, and the deep cruel lines
that speak of mental care. What a thin wasted hand was laid on his
burly arm, in its velveteen sleeve; and what a weak faint voice in
trembling accents, urged its sad, wistful prayer.
"Speak to me, Jim--won't you speak to me, dear? I've looked for you
day and night, and followed you mile after mile till I'm ready to lie
down and die here on the cold stones."
"Bother!" replied Jim, shaking himself free. "I'm busy, I tell ye.
What call had you, I should like to know, to be tracking, and hunting
of me about, as if I was a--well--a fancy dog we'll say, as had
strayed out of a parlour? Go home, I tell ye, or it'll be the worse
"You don't love me no more, Jim!" said the woman. There was a calm
sadness in her voice speaking of that resignation which is but the
apathy of despair.
"Well--I don't. There!" replied Jim, acceding to this proposition with
"But you can't keep me off of loving _you_, Jim," she replied, with a
wild stare; "nobody can't keep me off of that. Won't ye think better
of it, old man? Give us one chance more, that's a good chap. It's for
dear life I'm askin'!"
She had wound both hands round his arm, and was hanging to it with all
her weight. How light a burden it seemed, to which those limp rags
clung so shabbily, compared with the substantial frame he remembered
in former days, when Dorothea was honest, hard-working, and happy.
"It ain't o' no use tryin' on of these here games," said he,
unclasping the poor weak hands with brutal force. "Come! I can't stop
all day. Shut up, I tell ye! you'll wish you had by and by."
"O! Jim," she pleaded. "Is it come to this? Never say it, dear. If you
and me is to part in anger now we'll not meet again. Leastways, not
on this earth. And if it's true, as I was taught at Sunday-school,
heaven's too good a place for us!"
"Go to h----ll!" exclaimed the ruffian furiously; and he flung her from
him with a force that would have brought her to the ground had she not
caught at the street railings for support.
She moaned and sat down on a doorstep a few paces off, without looking
For a moment Jim's heart smote him, and he thought to turn back, but
in his maddened brain there rose a vision of the pale, haughty face,
the queenly bearing, the commanding gestures that bade him kneel to
worship, and with another oath--remorseless, pitiless, untouched, and
unrepentant--he passed on to his iniquity.
Dorothea sat with head bent down, and hands clasped about her knees,
unconscious, as it seemed, of all the world outside. The heart knoweth
its own bitterness, and who shall say what expiation she may not
have made for sin in that dull trance of pain which took no note of
circumstance, kept no count of time?
Ere long, a policeman, good-humoured but imperative, touched her on
the shoulder, and bade her "move on."
The face that looked up to him puzzled this functionary extremely. The
woman was sober enough, he could see, and yet there seemed something
queer about her, uncommon queer: he was blessed if he knew what to
make of her, and he had been a goodish time in the force, too!
She thanked him very quietly. She had been taking a rest, she said,
thinking no harm, for she was tired, and now she would go home. Yes,
she was dead-tired, she had better go home!
Wrapping her faded shawl about her, she glided on, instinctively
avoiding the jostling of foot-passengers and the trampling of
horses, proceeding at an even, leisurely pace, with something of the
sleep-walker's wandering step and gestures. The roll of wheels came
dull and muffled on her ear: those were phantoms surely, those
meaningless faces that met her in the street, not living men and
women, and yet she had a distinct perception of an apple-woman's
stall, of some sham jewelry she saw in a shop-window. She was near
turning back then, but it didn't seem worth while, and it was less
trouble to plod stupidly on, always westward, always towards the
Without knowing how she got there, presently she felt tufts of grass
beneath her feet dank with dew, growing greener and coarser under
large towering elms. O! she knew an elm-tree well enough! She was
country bred, she was, and could milk a cow long ago.
It wasn't Kensington Gardens, was it? She didn't remember whether
she'd ever been here before or not. She'd heard of the place, of
course, indeed Jim had promised to take her there some Sunday. Then
she shivered from head to foot, and wrapped her shawl tight round her
as she walked on.
What was that shining far-off between the trees, cool, and quiet, and
bright, like heaven? Could it be the water? That was what had brought
her, to be sure. She remembered all about it now and hurried forward
with quick, irregular steps, causing her breath to come thick, and her
heart to beat with sudden choking throbs.
She pulled at her collar, and undid its fastenings. She took her
bonnet off and swung it in her hand. The soiled tawdry ribbon had been
given her by Jim, long ago. Was it long ago? She couldn't tell, and
what did it matter? She wouldn't have looked twice at it a while back.
She might kiss and cuddle it now, if she'd a mind.
What a long way off that water seemed! Not there yet, and she had been
walking--walking like the wayfarer she remembered to have read of in
the _Pilgrim's Progress_. All in a moment, with a flash, as it were,
of its own light, there it lay glistening at her feet. Another step
and she would have been in head-foremost! There was time enough. How
cool and quiet it looked! She sat down on the brink and wondered why
she was born!
Would Jim feel it very much? Ah! they'd none of them care for him like
she used. He'd find that out at last. How could he? How _could_ he?
She'd given him fair warning!
She'd do it now. This moment, while she'd a mind to it. Afraid! Why
should she be afraid? Better than the gin-palace! Better than the
workhouse! Better than the cold cruel streets! She couldn't be worse
off anywhere than here! Once! Twice!
Her head swam. She was rising to her feet, when a light touch rested
on her shoulder, and the sweetest voice that had ever sounded in poor
Dorothea's ears, whispered softly, "You are ill, my good woman. Don't
sit here on the damp grass. Come home with me."
What did it mean? Was it over? Could this be one of the angels, and
had she got to heaven after all? No; there were the trees, the grass,
the distant roar of the city, and the peaceful water--fair, smooth,
serene, like the face of a friend.
She burst into a fit of hysterical weeping, cowering under that kindly
touch as if it had been a mountain to crush her, rocking herself to
and fro, sobbing out wildly, "I wish I was dead! I wish I was dead!"
Like a disturbed spirit Lady Bearwarden wandered about in the fever
of a sorrow, so keen that her whole soul would sometimes rise in
rebellion against the unaccustomed pain. There was something stifling
to her senses in the fact of remaining between the four walls of a
house. She panted for air, motion, freedom, and betook herself to
Kensington Gardens, partly because that beautiful retreat lay within
an easy walk of her house, partly perhaps, that for her, as for many
of us, it had been brightened by a certain transient and delusive
light which turns everything to gold while it lasts, leaves everything
but a dull dim copper when it has passed away.
It was a benevolent and merciful restriction, no doubt, that debarred
our first parents from re-entering the paradise they had forfeited.
Better far to carry away unsullied and unfaded the sweet sad memories
of the Happy Land, than revisit it to find weeds grown rank, fountains
dry, the skies darkened, the song of birds hushed, its bloom faded off
the flower, and its glory departed from the day.
She used to sit here in the shade with _him_. There was the very tree.
Even the broken chair they had laughed at was not mended, and yet for
her a century ago could not have seemed a more hopeless past. Other
springs would bloom with coming years, other summers glow, and she
could not doubt that many another worshipper would kneel humbly and
gratefully at her shrine, but their votive garlands could never more
glisten with the fresh dew of morning, the fumes from their lower
altars, though they might lull the senses and intoxicate the brain,
could never thrill like that earlier incense, with subtle sudden
poison to her heart.
To be sure, on more than one occasion she had walked here with Dick
Stanmore too. It was but human nature, I suppose, that she should have
looked on that gentleman's grievances from a totally different point
of view. It couldn't be half so bad in his case, she argued, men had
so many resources, so many distractions. She was sorry for him, of
course, but he couldn't be expected to feel a disappointment of this
nature like a woman, and, after all, theirs was more a flirtation
than an attachment. He need not have minded it so very much, and had
probably fancied he cared a great deal more than he really did.
It is thus we are all prone to reason, gauging the tide of each
other's feelings by the ebb and flow of our own.
Love, diffused amongst the species, is the best and purest of
earthly motives, concentrated on the individual it seems but a dual
selfishness after all.
There were few occupants of the Gardens; here two or three
nursery-maids and children, there a foreign gentleman reading a
newspaper. Occasionally, in some rare sequestered nook, an umbrella,
springing up unnecessarily and defiantly like a toadstool, above
two male legs and a muslin skirt. Lady Bearwarden passed on, with a
haughty step, and a bitter smile.
There is something of freemasonry in sorrow. Dorothea's vague
abstracted gait arrested Maud's attention even from a distance, and
involuntarily the delicate lady followed on the track of that limp
shabby figure with which she had but this one unconscious link, of a
common sorrow, an aching heart.
Approaching nearer, she watched the poor sufferer with a curiosity
that soon grew to interest and even alarm.
While Dorothea sat herself down by the water's edge, her ladyship
looked round in vain for a policeman or a park-keeper, holding herself
in readiness to prevent the horror she already anticipated, and
which drove clear off her mind every thought of her own regrets and
There was no time to lose; when the despairing woman half rose to her
feet, Lady Bearwarden interposed, calm, collected, and commanding in
the courage which had hitherto never failed her in an emergency.
That burst of hysterical tears, that despairing cry, "I wish I was
dead!" told her for the present Dorothea was saved. She sat down on
the grass by her side. She took the poor coarse hands in her own. She
laid the drooping head on her lap, and with gentle, loving phrases,
such as soothe a suffering child, encouraged the helpless wretch to
weep and sob her fill.
She could have wept too for company, because of the load that seemed
lifted in an instant from her own breast; but this was a time for
action, and at such a season it was no part of Maud's nature to sit
down and cry.
It was long ere the numbed heart and surcharged brain had relieved
themselves sufficiently for apprehension and intelligible speech.
Dorothea's first impulse, on coming to herself, was to smooth her
unkempt hair and apologise for the disorder of her costume.
"If ever mind your dress," said Lady Bearwarden, resuming, now the
crisis was past, her habitual air of authority, conscious that it
would be most efficacious under the circumstances. "You are tired and
exhausted. You must have food and rest. I ask no questions, and I
listen to no explanations, at least till to-morrow. Can you walk to
the gate? You must come home with me."
"O, miss! O, my lady!" stammered poor Dorothea, quite overcome by such
unlikely sympathy, such unexpected succour. "It's too much! It's too
much! I'm not fit for it! If you only knowed what I am!" then, lifting
her eyes to the other's face, a pang, keener than all previous
sufferings, went through her woman's heart like the thrust of a knife.
It all came on her at once. This beautiful being, clad in shining
raiment, who had saved and soothed her like an angel from heaven, was
the pale girl Jim had gone to visit in her stately, luxurious home,
when she followed him so far through those weary streets on the night
of the thunderstorm.
She could bear no more. Her physical system gave way, just as a tree
that has sustained crash after crash falls with the last well-directed
blow. She rolled her eyes, lifted both bare arms above her head, and
with a faint despairing cry, went down at Lady Bearwarden's feet,
motionless and helpless as the dead.
But assistance was at hand at last. A park-keeper helped to raise the
prostrate figure. An elderly gentleman volunteered to fetch a cab.
Amongst them they supported Dorothea to the gate and placed her in the
vehicle. The park-keeper touched his hat, the elderly gentleman made
a profusion of bows, and as many offers of assistance which were
declined, while Maud, soothing and supporting her charge, told the
driver where to stop. As they jingled and rattled away from the gate,
a pardonable curiosity prompted the elderly gentleman to inquire the
name of this beautiful Samaritan, clad in silks and satins, so
ready to succour the fallen and give shelter to the homeless. The
park-keeper took his hat off, looked in the crown, and put it on
"I see her once afore under them trees," he said, "with a gentleman. I
see a many and I don't often take notice. But she's a rare sort, she
is! and as good as she's good-looking. I wish you a good-evening,
Then he retired into his cabin and ruminated on this "precious start,"
as he called it, during his tea.
Meantime, Maud took her charge home, and would fain have put her to
bed. For this sanatory measure, however, Dorothea, who had recovered
consciousness, seemed to entertain an unaccountable repugnance. She
consented, indeed, to lie down for an hour or two, but could not
conceal a wild, restless anxiety to depart as soon as possible.
Something more than the obvious astonishment of the servants,
something more than the incongruity of the situation, seemed prompting
her to leave Lady Bearwarden's house without delay and fly from the
presence of almost the first friend she had ever known in her life.
When the bustle and excitement consequent on this little adventure had
subsided, her ladyship found herself once more face to face with her
own sorrow, and the despondency she had shaken off during a time of
action gathered again all the blacker and heavier round her heart. She
was glad to find distraction in the arrival of a nameless visitor,
announced by the most pompous of footmen as "a young person desirous
of waiting on her ladyship."
"Show her up," said Lady Bearwarden; and for the first time in their
lives the two sisters stood face to face.
Each started, as if she had come suddenly on her own reflection in a
mirror. During a few seconds both looked stupefied, bewildered. Lady
Bearwarden spoke first.
"You wish to see me, I believe. A sick person has just been brought
into the house, and we are rather in confusion. I fear you have been
"I called while your ladyship was out," answered Nina. "So I walked
about till I thought you must have come home again. You've never seen
me before--I didn't even know where you lived--I found your address
in the Court Guide--O! I can't say it properly, but I did so want to
speak to you. I hope I haven't done anything rude or wrong."
There was no mistaking the refinement of Nina's voice and manner.
Lady Bearwarden recognised one of her own station at a glance. And
this girl so like herself--how beautiful she was! How beautiful they
"What can I do for you?" said her ladyship, very kindly. "Sit down; I
am sure you must be tired."
But Nina had too much of her sister's character to feel tired when
there was a purpose to carry out. The girl stood erect and looked full
in her ladyship's face. All unconscious of their relationship,
the likeness between them was at this moment so striking as to be
"I have come on a strange errand, Lady Bearwarden," said Nina,
hardening her heart for the impending effort--"I have come to tell a
truth and to put a question. I suppose, even now, you have some regard
for your husband?"
Lady Bearwarden started. "What do you know about my husband?" she
asked, turning very pale.
"That he is in danger," was the answer, in a voice of such
preternatural fortitude as promised a speedy break-down. "That he is
going to fight a duel--and it's about _you_--with--with Mr. Stanmore!
O! Lady Bearwarden, how _could_ you? You'd everything in the world,
everything to make a woman good and happy, and now, see what you've
Tears and choking sobs were coming thick, but she kept them back.
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Maud, trembling in every limb, for
through the dark midnight of her misery she began to see gleams of a
"I mean _this_," answered Nina, steadying herself bravely. "Lord
Bearwarden has found everything out. He has sent a challenge to Mr.
Stanmore. I--I--care for Mr. Stanmore, Lady Bearwarden--at least, I
_did_. I was engaged to him." (Here, notwithstanding the tumult of her
feelings, a little twinge crossed Lady Bearwarden to learn how quickly
Dick had consoled himself.) "I'm only a girl, but I know these things
_can_ be prevented, and that's why I'm here now. You've done the
mischief; you are bound to repair it; and I have a right to come to
you for help."
"But I haven't done anything!" pleaded Maud, in for humbler tones than
she habitually used. "I love my husband very dearly, and I've not
set eyes on Mr. Stanmore but once since I married, in Oxford Street,
looking into a shop-window, and directly he caught sight of me, he got
out of the way as if I had the plague! There's some mistake. Not a
minute should be lost in setting it right. I wonder what we ought to
"And--and you're not in love with Mr. Stanmore? and he isn't going to
run away with you? Lady Bearwarden, are you quite sure? And I don't
deserve to be so happy. I judged him so harshly, so unkindly. What
will he think of me when he knows it? He'll never speak to me again."
Then the tears came in good earnest, and presently Miss Algernon
grew more composed, giving her hostess an account of herself, her
prospects, her Putney home, and the person she most depended on in the
world to get them all out of their present difficulty, Simon Perkins,
the painter. "I know he can stop it," pursued Nina eagerly, "and be
will, too. He told the other man nothing should be done in a hurry.
I heard him say so, for I listened, Lady Bearwarden, I _did_. And I
would again if I had the same reason. Wouldn't _you_? I hope the other
man will be hanged. He seemed to want them so to kill each other.
Don't you think he can be punished? For it's murder, you know,
_really_, after all."
Without entering into the vexed question of duelling--a practice for
which each lady in her heart entertained a secret respect--the sisters
consulted long and earnestly on the best method of preventing a
conflict that should endanger the two lives now dearer to them than
They drank tea over it, we may be sure, and in the course of that
refreshment could not fail to observe how the gloves they laid aside
were the same number (six and three-quarters, if you would like to
know), how their hands were precisely similar in shape, how the turn
of their arms and wrists corresponded as closely as the tone of their
voices. Each thought she liked the other better than any one she had
ever met of her own sex.
After a long debate it was decided that Nina should return at once to
her Putney home, doubtless ere now much disturbed at her prolonged
absence; that she should have full powers to inform Simon of all the
confidences regarding her husband Lady Bearwarden had poured in her
ear; should authorise him to seek his lordship out and tell him the
whole truth on his wife's behalf; also, finally, for women rarely
neglect the worship of Nemesis, that after a general reconciliation
had been effected, measures should be taken for bringing to condign
punishment the false friend who had been at such pains to foment
hostilities between the men they both loved.
Lady Bearwarden had her hand on the bell to order the carriage for her
visitor, but the latter would not hear of it.
"I can get a cab every twenty yards in this part of the town," said
Nina. "I shall be home in three-quarters of an hour. It's hardly dark
yet, and I'm quite used to going about by myself. I am not at all a
coward, Lady Bearwarden, but my aunts would be horribly alarmed if one
of your smart carriages drove up to the gate. Besides, I don't believe
it could turn round in the lane. No; I won't even have a servant,
thanks. I'll put my bonnet on and start at once, please. You've been
very kind to me, and I'm so much obliged. Good-night!"
Lord Bearwarden's groom of the chambers, a person by no means
deficient in self-confidence, owned that he was mystified. Amongst
all the domestic dissensions with which his situation had made him
familiar, he could recall nothing like his present experience. This
bringing home of a shabby woman out of the street and ordering the
best bedroom for her reception; this visit of a beautiful young person
so exactly resembling his mistress that, but for the evidence of his
own senses, when he brought in tea and found them together, he could
have sworn it was her ladyship; this general confusion of household
arrangements, and culpable indifference to the important ceremony of
dinner, forced him to admit that he was in a position of which he
had no preconceived idea, and from which he doubted whether he could
extricate himself with the dignity essential to his office.
Returning to his own department, and glancing at the letter-box in the
hall, he reflected with satisfaction how his professional duties
had been scrupulously fulfilled, and how in accordance with his
misconception of Lord Bearwarden's orders, every packet that reached
the house had been forwarded to its master without delay.
Hence it came to pass, that the vexed and angry husband received in
due course of post a letter which puzzled him exceedingly.
He had only just digested Tom Ryfe's unwelcome missive, announcing
somewhat vaguely that the revenge for which he panted must be delayed
two or three days at least, and had cursed, energetically enough,
his own friend's mismanagement of the affair, with the scruples
entertained by the other side, when a fresh budget was placed in his
hands, and he opened the envelopes as people often do, without looking
at their addresses: thus it fell out, that he read the anonymous
letter directed to his wife, asking for a meeting that same night, in
the vicinity of his own house.
"A cruel mystery has deprived you of your husband." What could
it mean? He studied the brief communication very attentively,
particularly that first line. And a vague hope rose in his loving,
generous heart, that he might have judged her too harshly after all.
It was but the faintest spark, yet he tried hard to kindle it into
flame. The wariest rogue is never armed on all sides. He is sure to
forget some trifling precaution, that, left unguarded, is like the
chink in a shutter to let in the light of day. Lord Bearwarden
recognised the same hand that had penned the anonymous letter he
received on guard--this argued a plot of some sort. He resolved to
sift the matter thoroughly, and instead of forwarding so mysterious a
request to his wife, repair to the indicated spot in person, and there
by threats, bribery, compulsion, any or all means in his power, arrive
at a true solution of the mystery.
It was a welcome distraction, too, this new idea, with which to while
away the weary interminable day. It seemed well perhaps, after all,
that the duel had been postponed. He might learn something to-night
that would change the whole current of his actions, if not, let Mr.
Stanmore look to himself!
That gentleman, in the meantime, had completely forgotten Lord
Bearwarden's existence--had forgotten Mr. Ryfe's visit the night
before at his club, the unintelligible quarrel, the proposed meeting,
everything but that Nina was lost. Lost! a stray lamb, helpless in the
streets of London! His blood ran cold to think of it. He hastened down
to Putney, and indeed only knew that he had made so sure of finding
her there, by his disappointment to learn she had not returned home.
It made his task no easier that Aunt Susannah was in the garden when
he reached the house, and he had to dissemble his alarm in presence of
that weak-minded and affectionate spinster. "He was passing by," he
said, "on his way to town, and only looked in (he couldn't stay a
moment) to know if they had any message to--to their nephew. He was
going straight from here to the painting-room."
"How considerate!" said Aunt Susannah; not without reason, for it was
but this morning they parted with Simon, and they expected him back to
dinner. "We have a few autumn flowers left. I'll just run in, and
get the scissors to make up a nosegay. It won't take ten minutes. O!
nothing like ten minutes! You can give it to poor Simon with our dear
love. He's so fond of flowers! and Nina too. But perhaps you know
Nina's tastes as well as we do, and indeed I think they're very
creditable to her, and she's not at all a bad judge!"
Then the good lady, shaking her grey curls, smiled and looked knowing,
while Dick cursed her below his breath, for a grinning old idiot, and
glared wildly about him, like a beast in a trap seeking some way of
escape. It was provoking, no doubt, to be kept talking platitudes to a
silly old woman in the garden, while every moment drifted his heart's
treasure farther and farther into the uncertainty he scarcely dared to
Some women are totally deficient in the essentially feminine quality
of tact. Aunt Susannah, with a pocket-handkerchief tied round her
head, might have stood drivelling nonsense to her visitor for an hour,
and never found out he wanted to get away. Fortunately, she went
indoors for her scissors, and Dick, regardless of the proprieties,
made his escape forthwith, thus avoiding also the ignominy of carrying
back to London a nosegay as big as a chimney-sweep's on May-day.
Hastening to the painting-room, his worst fears were realised. Nina
had not returned. Simon, too, began to share his alarm, and not
without considerable misgivings did the two men hold counsel on their
It occurred to them at this juncture, that the maid-of-all-work
below-stairs might possibly impart some information as to the exact
time when the young lady left the house. They rang for that domestic
accordingly, and bewildered her with a variety of questions in vain.
Had she seen Miss Algernon during the morning? She was to think, and
take time, and answer without being frightened.
"Miss Algernon! Lor! that was her as come here most days, along o'
him," with a backward nod at Dick. "No--she hadn't a-seen her to-day,
she was sure. Not _particler_, that was. Not more nor any other day."
"Had she seen her at all?"
"O, yes! she'd seen her at all. In course, you know, she couldn't be
off of seeing her at all!"
"When did she see her?"
"When? O! last week, every day a'most. And the week afore that too!
She wasn't a-goin' to tell a lie!"
"Then she hadn't seen her this morning?"
"Yes, she'd seen her this morning. When she come in, you know, along
o' the other gentleman." Here a dive of the shock head at Simon, and
symptoms of approaching emotion.
"Why you said you hadn't at first!" exclaimed Dick, perplexed and
Forthwith a burst of sobs and tears.
"Compose yourself, my good girl," said the painter kindly. "We don't
want to hurry nor confuse you. We are in great distress ourselves.
Miss Algernon went out, we believe, to take a walk. She has not
returned here, nor gone home. It would help us very much if we knew
the exact time at which she left the house, or could find anybody who
saw her after she went away."
If you want a woman to help you, even a maid-of-all-work, tell her
your whole story, and make no half-confidences: the drudge brightened
up through her tears, and assumed a look of intelligence at once.
"Lor!" said she, "why didn't ye say so? In course I see the young
lady, as I was a-fetchin' in the dinner beer. She'd a-got her bonnet
on, I took notice, and was maybe goin' for a walk, or to get a few
odds and ends, or such like."
Here a full stop with a curtsey. The men looked at each other and
"She went into a shop round the corner, for I seen her myself. A
stationer's shop it were. An' I come home then, with the beer, an'
shut to the door, an' I couldn't tell you no more; no, not if you was
to take and kill me dead this very minute!"
Stronger symptoms of agitation now appearing, Simon thought well
to dismiss this incoherent witness, and proceed at once to the
stationer's shop in quest of further intelligence. Its proprietor was
ready to furnish all the information in his power.
"Had a lady answering their description been in his shop?" "Well, a
great many ladies come backwards and forwards, you know. Trade wasn't
very brisk just now, but there was always something doing in the fancy
stationery line. It was a light business, and most of his customers
were females. His 'missis' didn't take much notice, but he happened to
be something of a physiognomist himself, and a face never escaped him.
A very beautiful young lady, was it? Tall, pale, with dark eyes and
hair. Certainly, no doubt, that must be the party. Stepped in about
dinner-time; seemed anxious and in a hurry, as you might say; didn't
take any order from her,--the young lady only asked as a favour to
look into their Court Guide. There it lay, just as she left it.
Singular enough, another party had come in afterwards to write a
letter, and took the same address, he believed, right at the foot of
the column; these were trifles, but it was his way to notice trifles.
He was a scientific man, to a certain extent, and in science, as they
probably knew, there were no such things as trifles. He remembered a
curious story of Sir Isaac Newton. But perhaps the gentlemen were in a
The gentlemen _were_ in a hurry. Dick Stanmore with characteristic
impetuosity had plunged at the Court Guide, to scan the page at which
it lay open with eager eyes. At the foot of the column, said this man
of science. To be sure, there it was, Barsac, Barwise, Barzillai,
Bearwarden--the very last name in the page. And yet what could Nina
want at Lord Bearwarden's house? Of all places in London why should
she go there? Nevertheless, in such a hopeless search, the vaguest
hint was welcome, the faintest clue must be followed out. So the two
men, standing in earnest colloquy, under the gas-lamps, resolved to
hunt their trail as far as Lord Bearwarden's residence without further
The more precious are the moments, the faster they seem to pass. An
autumn day had long given place to night, ere they verified this
last piece of intelligence, and acquired some definite aim for their
exertions; but neither liked to compare notes with the other, nor
express his own disheartening reflection that Nina might be wandering
so late, bewildered, lonely, and unprotected, through the labyrinths
of the great city.
In the meantime, Gentleman Jim and his confederate were fully
occupied with the details necessary to carry their infamous plot into
execution. The lawyer had drawn out from the bank all the ready money
he could lay hands on, amounting to several hundred pounds. He
had furnished Jim with ample funds to facilitate his share of the
preparations, and he had still an hour or two on hand before the
important moment arrived. That interval he devoted to his private
affairs, and those of the office, so that his uncle should be
inconvenienced as little as possible by an absence which he now hoped
might be prolonged for a considerable time.
It had been dark for more than an hour ere the accomplices met again,
equipped and ready for the work they had pledged themselves to
Jim, indeed, contrary to his wont, when "business," as he called it,
was on hand, seemed scarcely sober; but to obtain the use of the
vehicle he required without the company of its driver, he had found
it necessary to ply the latter with liquor till he became insensible,
although the drunken man's instincts of good-fellowship bade him
insist that his generous entertainer should partake largely of the
fluids consumed at his expense. To drink down a London cabman, on
anything like fair terms, is an arduous task, even for a housebreaker,
and Jim's passions were roused to their worst by alcohol long before
he arrived with his four-wheeled cab at the appointed spot where he
was to wait for Tom Ryfe.
How he laughed to himself while he felt the pliant life-preserver
coiled in his great-coat pocket--the long, keen, murderous knife
resting against his heart. A fiend had taken possession of the man.
Already overleaping the intervening time, ignoring everything but the
crime he meditated, his chief difficulty seemed how he should dispose
of Tom's mutilated body ere he flew to reap the harvest of his guilt.
He chuckled and grinned with a fierce, savage sense of humour, while
he recalled the imperious manner in which Mr. Ryfe had taken the
initiative in their joint proceedings; as if they originated in his
own invention, were ordered solely for his own convenience; and the
tone of authority in which that gentleman had warned him not to be
"It's good! That is!" said Jim, sitting on the box of the cab, and
peering into the darkness, through which a gas-lamp glimmered with
dull, uncertain rays, blurred by the autumn fog. "You'd like to be
master, you would, I dare say, all through the job, and for me to be
man! You'd best look sharp about it. I'll have that blessed life of
yours afore the sun's up to-morrow, and see who'll be master then. Ay,
and missis too! Hooray! for the cruel eyes, and the touch-me-not airs.
The proud, pale-faced devil! as thought Jim wasn't quite the equals of
the dirt beneath her feet. Steady! Here he comes."
And looming through the fog, Mr. Ryfe approached with cautious,
resolute step; carrying a revolver in his pocket, prepared to use it,
too, on occasion, with the fearless energy of a desperate man.
"Is it all ready, Jim?" said he in a whisper. "You haven't forgot the
gag? Nor the shawl to throw round her head? The least mistake upsets a
job like this."
For answer, Jim descended heavily from his seat, and holding the
cab-door open, pointed to the above-named articles lying folded on the
"You'll drive, master," said he, with a hoarse chuckle. "You knows
the way. First turn to the left. I'll ride inside, like a lord, or a
fashionable doctor, and keep my eye on the tackle."
"It's very dark," continued Tom uneasily. "But that's all in our
favour, of course. You know her figure as well as I do. Don't forget,
now. I'll drive close to the pavement, and the instant we stop, you
must throw the shawl over her head, muffle her up, and whip her in.
This beggar can gallop, I suppose."
"He's a thoroughbred 'un," answered Jim, with a sounding pat on the
horse's bony ribs. "Leastways, so the chap as I borrowed him off swore
solemn. He was so precious drunk, I'm blessed if I think he knowed
what he meant. But howsoever, I make no doubt the critter can go when
Thus speaking, Jim helped the other to mount the box, and placed
himself inside with the door open, ready to spring like a tiger when
he should catch sight of his prey.
The streets of the great city are never so deserted as an hour or
two after nightfall, and an hour or two before dawn. Not a single
passenger did they meet, and only one policeman; while the cab with
its desperate inmates rattled and jolted along on this nefarious
It was stopped at last, close to the footway in a dimly-lighted
street, within a hundred yards of Lord Bearwarden's house, which stood
a few doors off round the corner.
A distant clock struck the hour. That heavy clang seemed to dwell on
the gloomy stillness of the atmosphere, and both men felt their nerves
strangely jarred by the dull, familiar sound.
Their hearts beat fast. Tom began to wish he had adopted some less
unconventional means of attaining his object, and tried in vain to
drive from his mind the punishments awarded to such offences as he
meditated, by the severity of our criminal code.
Jim had but one feeling, with which heart and brain were saturated.
In a few minutes he would see her again! In a new character,
possibly--tearful, humbled, supplicating. No; his instincts told him
that not even the last extremity of danger would force a tear from
those proud eyes, nor bow that haughty head an inch. How this wild,
fierce worship maddened him! So longing, yet so slavish--so reckless,
so debased, yet all the while cursed with a certain leavening of the
true faith, that drove him to despair. But come what might, in a
few minutes he would see her again. Even at such a time, there was
something of repose and happiness in the thought.
So the quasi-thoroughbred horse went to sleep and the men waited;
waited, wondering how the lagging minutes could pass so slow.
Listen! a light footstep round the corner. The gentle rustle of
a woman's dress. A tall, slight figure gliding yonder under the
gas-lamp, coming down the street, even now, with head erect, and easy,
The blood rose to Jim's brain till it beat like strokes from a
sledge-hammer. Tom shortened the reins, and tightened his grasp round
Nearer, nearer, she came on. The pure, calm face held high aloft, the
pliant figure moving ever with the same smooth, graceful gestures.
Fortune favoured them; she stopped when she reached the cab, and
seemed about to engage it for her journey.
The men were quick to see their advantage. Jim, coiled for a spring,
shrank into the darkest corner of the vehicle. Tom, enacting driver,
jumped down, and held the door to help her in.
Catching sight of the dark figure on the front seat, she started back.
The next moment, there rose a faint stifled shriek, the shawl was over
her head. Jim's powerful arms wound themselves tight round her body,
and Tom clambered in haste to the box.
But quick feet had already rained along that fifty yards of pavement.
A powerful grasp was at the driver's throat, pulling him back between
the wheels of the cab; and he found himself struggling for life with a
strong, angry man, who swore desperately, while two more figures ran
at speed up the street.
Tom's eyes were starting, his tongue was out.
"Jim, help me!" he managed to articulate. "I'm choking."
"You infernal scoundrel!" exclaimed his antagonist, whose fury seemed
redoubled by the sound of that familiar voice: the grasp, closing
round Tom's neck like iron, threatened death unless he could get free.
An instinct of self-preservation bade him pluck at his revolver. He
got it out at the moment when Jim, setting his back to the door to
secure his captive, dealt with the heavy life-preserver a blow at the
assailant's head, which fortunately only reached his shoulder. The
latter released Tom's throat to get possession of the pistol. In the
struggle it went off. There was a hideous blasphemy, a groan, and a
heavy fall between the wheels of the cab.
Ere the smoke cleared away two more auxiliaries appeared on the scene.
With Simon Perkins's assistance, Lord Bearwarden had little difficulty
in pinioning his late antagonist, while Dick Stanmore, having lifted
the imprisoned lady out of the cab, over the housebreaker's prostrate
body, held her tightly embraced, in a transport of affection
intensified by alarm.
Lord Bearwarden, usually so collected, was now utterly stupefied and
amazed. He looked from Tom Ryfe's white face, staring over the badge
and great-coat of a London cabman, to the sinking form of his wife--as
he believed--in the arms of her lover, clinging to him for protection,
responding in utter shamelessness to his caresses and endearments.
"Mr. Stanmore!" he exclaimed, in a voice breathless from exertion, and
choking with anger. "You and I have an account to settle that cannot
be put off. Lady Bearwarden, I will see you home. Come with me this
Dick seemed as if he thought his lordship had gone mad. Nina stared
helplessly at the group. Another gasp and a fainter groan came from
the body lying underneath the cab.
"We must look to this man; he is dying," said Simon Perkins, on his
knees by the prostrate form, now motionless and insensible.
"My house is round the corner," answered Lord Bearwarden, stooping
over the fallen ruffian. "Let us take him in. All the doctors in
the world won't save him," he added, in a tone of grave pity. "He's
bleeding to death inside."
Nina had been a good deal frightened, but recovered wonderfully in
the reassuring presence of her lover. "_His_ house?" she asked, in a
sufficiently audible voice, considering her late agitation. "Who is
he, Dick, and where does he live?"
Two of the police had now arrived, and were turning their lanterns on
the party. The strong white light glared full on Miss Algernon's
face and figure, so like Lady Bearwarden's but yet to the husband's
bewildered senses so surely not his wife's.
He shook all over. His face, though flushed a moment ago, turned
deadly pale. He clutched Dick's shoulder, and his voice came dry and
husky, while he gasped--
"What is it, Stanmore? Speak, man, for the love of heaven. What does
it all mean?"
Then came question and answer; clearer, fuller, more fluent with every
sentence. And so the explanation went on: how some enemy had
roused his worst suspicions; how Lord Bearwarden, deceived by the
extraordinary likeness which he could not but acknowledge even now,
had been satisfied he saw Dick Stanmore with Maud in a hansom cab; how
he had left his home in consequence, and sent that hostile message to
Dick, which had so puzzled that gallant, open-hearted gentleman; how
a certain letter from Lady Bearwarden, addressed to Mr. Stanmore, and
forwarded to her husband, had but confirmed his suspicions; and
how, at last, an anonymous communication to the same lady, falling
accidentally into his hands, had mystified him completely, and
made him resolve to watch and follow her at the hour named, with a
desperate hope that something might be revealed to alleviate his
sufferings, to give him more certainty of action and future guidance.
"I was horribly cut up, I don't mind confessing it," said Lord
Bearwarden, with his kindly grasp still on Dick's shoulder. "And I
waited there, outside my own house, like some d----d poaching thief.
It seemed so hard I couldn't go in and see her just once more!
Presently, out she came, as I thought, and I followed, very craftily,
and not too near for fear she should look round. She didn't, though,
but walked straight on; and when I saw the cab waiting, and she
stopped as if she meant to get in, I couldn't tell what to make of it
"I was only just in time. I came that last few yards with a rush, I
give you my word! And I made a grab at the driver, thinking the best
chance was to stop the conveyance at once, or if I couldn't do that,
take a free passage with the rest of them. She wasn't going of her own
accord, I felt sure. That villain of a lawyer struggled hard. I didn't
think he'd been so good a man. I wasn't at all sorry to see you
fellows coming up. It was two to one, you know, and I do believe, if
it hadn't been for the pistol, they might have got clear off. It shot
the worst customer of the two, that poor fellow behind us, right
through the body. Under my arm, I should think, for I got a very nasty
one on the shoulder just as the smoke flew in my face. It has squared
_his_ accounts, I fancy. But here we are at my house. Let's get him
in, and then you must introduce me properly to this young lady, whose
acquaintance I have made in such an unusual manner."
The strange procession had, indeed, arrived at Lord Bearwarden's
residence. It consisted of the proprietor himself, whose right arm was
now completely disabled, but who gesticulated forcibly with his left;
of Dick Stanmore and Nina, listening to his lordship with the utmost
deference and attention; of Jim's senseless body, carried by Simon
Perkins and one policeman, while Tom Ryfe, in close custody of the
other, brought up the rear.
As they entered the hall, Lady Bearwarden's pale, astonished face was
seen looking over the banisters. Dorothea, too, creeping down-stairs,
with some vague idea of escaping from this friendly refuge, and
finding her way back, perhaps, to the cool shining Serpentine, came
full upon the group at the moment when Jim was laid tenderly down by
his bearers, and the policeman whispered audibly to his comrade that,
even if the doctor were in the next street now, he would come too
She ran forward with a wild, despairing cry. She flung herself down by
the long, limp, helpless figure. She raised the drooping head with
its matted locks, its fixed, white, rigid face, and pressed it hard
against her bosom--hard to her wayward, ignorant, warped, but loving
"Speak to me, Jim!" she moaned once more, rocking backwards and
forwards in her fierce agony. "Speak to me, deary! You'll never speak
again. O! why did they stop _me_ to-day? It's cruel--cruel! Why did
they stop me? We'd have been together before now!"
And the groom of the chambers, an unwilling witness of all these
indecorous proceedings, resolved, for that one night, to do his duty
stanchly by his employer, but give up his place with inflexible
dignity on the morrow.
UNDER THE ACACIAS
"Out of drawing; flesh tints infamous; chiaroscuro grossly muddled; no
breadth; not much story in it; badly composed; badly treated; badly
So said the reviews, laying down the infallible law of the writer,
concerning Simon Perkins's great picture. The public followed the
reviews, of course, in accordance with a generous instinct, urging
it to believe that he who can write his own language, not, indeed,
accurately, but with a certain force and rapidity, must therefore
be conversant with all the subjects on which he chooses to declaim.
Statesman, chemist, engineer, shipbuilder, soldier, above all,
navigator, painter, plasterer, and statuary; like the hungry Greek
adventurer of Juvenal, _omnia novit_: like Horace's wise man amongst
the Stoics; be the subject boots, beauty, bullocks, or the beer-trade,
he is universal instructor and referee.
"Et sutor bonus, et solus formosus, et est rex."
So reviewers abused the picture persistently, and Lord Bearwarden was
furious, brandishing a weekly newspaper above his head, and striding
about the little Putney lawn with an energy that threatened to immerse
him in the river, forgetful of those narrow limits, suggesting the
proverbial extent of a fisherman's walk on deck, "two steps and
His audience, though, were partial and indulgent. The old ladies
in the drawing-room, overhearing an occasional sentence, devoutly
believed their nephew was the first painter of his time, Lord
Bearwarden the wisest critic that ever lived, the greatest nobleman,
the bravest soldier, the kindest husband, always excepting, perhaps,
that other husband smoking there under the acacia, interchanging with
his lordship many a pleasant jest and smile, that argued the good
understanding existing between them.
Dick Stanmore and Lord Bearwarden were now inseparable. Their alliance
furnished a standing joke for their wives. "They have the same
perverted tastes, my dear, and like the same sort of people,"
lighthearted Nina would observe to the sister whom she had not found
till the close of her girlish life. "It's always fast friends, or, at
least, men with a strong tendency to friendship, who are in love with
the same woman, and I don't believe they hate each other half as much
as we should, even for _that_!"
To which Maud would make no reply, gazing with her dark eyes out upon
the river, and wondering whether Dick had ever told the wife he loved
how fondly he once worshipped another face so like her own.
For my part, I don't think he had. I don't think he could realise the
force of those past feelings, nor comprehend that he could ever have
cared much for any one but the darling who now made the joy of his
whole life. When first he fell in love with Nina, it was for her
likeness to her sister. Now, though in his eyes the likeness was
fading every day, that sister's face was chiefly dear to him because
of its resemblance to his wife's.
Never was there a happier family party than these persons constituted.
Lord and Lady Bearwarden, Mr. and Mrs. Stanmore, drove down from
London many days in the week to the pretty Putney villa. Simon was
truly rejoiced to see them, while the old ladies vibrated all over,
caps, fronts, ribbons, lockets, and laces, with excitement and
delight. The very flowers had a sweeter perfume, the laburnums a
richer gold, the river a softer ripple, than in the experience of all
"They may say what they like," continued Lord Bearwarden, still with
the weekly paper in his hand. "I maintain the criterion of merit
is success. I maintain that the Rhymer and the Fairy Queen is an
extraordinary picture, and the general public the best judge. Why
there was no getting near it at the Academy. The people crowded round
as they do about a Cheap Jack at a fair. I'm not a little fellow, but
I couldn't catch a glimpse of any part except the Fairy Queen's head.
I think it's _the_ most beautiful face I ever saw in my life!"
"Thank you, Lord Bearwarden," said Nina, laughing. "He'd such a
subject, you know; it's no wonder he made a good picture of it."
No wonder, indeed! Did she ever think his brush was dipped in colours
ground on the poor artist's heart?
"It's very like _you_ and it's very like Maud," answered Lord
Bearwarden. "Somehow you don't seem to me so like each other as you
used to be. And yet how puzzled I was the second time I ever set eyes
"How cross you were! and how you scolded!" answered saucy Mrs.
Stanmore. "I wouldn't have stood it from Dick. Do you ever speak to
Maud like that?"
The look that passed between Lord and Lady Bearwarden was a sufficient
reply. The crowning beauty had come to those dark eyes of hers, now
that their pride was centred in another, their lustre deepened and
softened with the light of love.
"It was lucky for you, dear, that he _was_ angry," said her ladyship.
"If he had hesitated a moment, it's frightful to think what would have
become of you, at the mercy of those reckless, desperate men!"
"They were punished, at any rate," observed Nina gravely. "I shall
never forget that dead fixed face in the hall. Nor the other man's
look, the cowardly one, while he prayed to be forgiven. Forgiven,
indeed! One ought to forgive a great deal, but not such an enormity as
"I think he got off very cheap," interposed Dick Stanmore. "He
deserved to be hanged, in my opinion, and they only transported
him--not even for life!"
"Think of the temptation, Dick," replied Nina, with another saucy
smile. "How would you like it yourself?"
"And you were in pursuit of the same object. You can't deny that, only
he hit upon me first."
"I was more sorry for the other villain," said Lord Bearwarden, who
had heard long ago the history of Gentleman Jim's persecution of her
ladyship. "He was a daring, reckless scoundrel, and I should like to
have killed him myself, but _it_ did seem hard lines to be shot by his
own confederate in the row!"
"I pity that poor woman most of all," observed Lady Bearwarden, with a
sigh. "It is quite a mercy that she should have lost her senses. She
suffered so dreadfully till her mind failed."
"How is she?" "Have you seen her?" came from the others in a breath.
"I was with her this morning," answered Maud. "She didn't know me.
I don't think she knows anybody. They can't get her to read, nor do
needlework, nor even walk out into the garden. She's never still, poor
thing! but paces up and down the room mumbling over a bent halfcrown
and a knot of ribbon," added Lady Bearwarden, with a meaning glance
at her husband, "that they found on the dead man's body, and keeps
pressing it against her breast while she mutters something about their
wanting to take it away. It's a sad, sad sight! I can't get that wild
vacant stare out of my head. It's the same expression that frightened
me so on her face that day by the Serpentine. It has haunted me
ever since. She seemed to be looking miles away across the water at
something I couldn't see. I wonder what it was. I wonder what she
looks at now!"
"She's never been in her right senses, has she, since that dreadful
night?" asked Nina. "If she were a lady, and well dressed, and
respectable, one would say it's quite a romance. Don't you think
perhaps, after all, it's more touching as it is?" and Nina, who liked
to make little heartless speeches she did not mean, looked lovingly
on Dick, with her dark eyes full of tears, as she wondered what would
become of her if anything happened to _him_!
"I can scarcely bear to think of it," answered Maud, laying her
hand on her husband's shoulder. "Through all the happiness of that
night--far, far the happiest of my whole life--this poor thing's utter
misery comes back to me like a warning and a reproach. If I live to a
hundred I shall never forget her when she looked up to heaven from the
long rigid figure with its fixed white face, and tried to pray, and
couldn't, and didn't know how! O! my darling!"--and here Maud's voice
sank to a whisper, while the haughty head drooped lovingly and humbly
towards her husband's arm,--"what have I done that I should be so
blessed, while there is all this misery and disappointment and despair
in the world?"
He made no attempt at explanation. The philosophy of our Household
Cavalry, like the religion of Napoleon's "Old Guard," is adapted for
action rather than casuistry. He did not tell her that in the journey
of life for some the path is made smooth and easy, for others paved
with flint and choked with thorns; but that a wise Director knows best
the capabilities of the wayfarer, and the amount of toil required to
fit him for his rest. So up and down, through rough and smooth, in
storm and sunshine--all these devious tracks lead home at last. If
Lord Bearwarden thought this, he could not put it into words, but his
arm stole lovingly round the slender waist, and over his brave, manly
face came a gentle look that seemed to say he asked no better than
to lighten every load for that dear one through life, and bear her
tenderly with him on the road to heaven.
"_C'est l'amour_!" laughed Nina, "that makes all the bother and
complications of our artificial state of existence!"
"And all its sorrows!" said Lord Bearwarden.
"And all its sin!" said her ladyship.
"And all its beauty!" said Dick.
"And all its happiness!" added the painter, who had not yet spoken,
from his seat under the acacia that grew by the water's edge.
"Well put!" exclaimed the others, "and you need not go out of this
dear little garden in search of the proof."
But Simon made no answer. Once more he was looking wistfully on the
river, thinking how it freshened and fertilised all about it as it
passed by. Fulfilling its noble task--bearing riches, comforts,
health, happiness, yet taking to deck its own bosom, not one of
the humblest wildflowers that must droop and die but for its love.
Consoler, sympathiser, benefactor, night and day. Gently, noiselessly,
imperceptibly speeding its good work, making no pause, knowing no
rest, till far away beyond that dim horizon, under the golden heaven,
it merged into the sea.