Part 1 out of 4
[Italics are indicatedby underscores
James Rusk, firstname.lastname@example.org.]
[Etext version by James Rusk, email@example.com. Italics are
indicated by underscores.]
MY LADY'S MONEY
by Wilkie Collins
AN EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF A YOUNG GIRL
PERSONS OF THE STORY
Lady Lydiard (Widow of Lord Lydiard)
Isabel Miller (her Adopted Daughter)
Miss Pink (of South Morden)
The Hon. Mrs. Drumblade (Sister to the Hon. A. Hardyman)
The Hon. Alfred Hardyman (of the Stud Farm)
Mr. Felix Sweetsir (Lady Lydiard's Nephew)
Robert Moody (Lady Lydiard's Steward)
Mr. Troy (Lady Lydiard's Lawyer)
Old Sharon (in the Byways of Legal Bohemia)
Tommie (Lady Lydiard's Dog)
PART THE FIRST.
OLD Lady Lydiard sat meditating by the fireside, with three
letters lying open on her lap.
Time had discolored the paper, and had turned the ink to a
brownish hue. The letters were all addressed to the same
person--"THE RT. HON. LORD LYDIARD"--and were all signed in the
same way--"Your affectionate cousin, James Tollmidge." Judged by
these specimens of his correspondence, Mr. Tollmidge must have
possessed one great merit as a letter-writer--the merit of
brevity. He will weary nobody's patience, if he is allowed to
have a hearing. Let him, therefore, be permitted, in his own
high-flown way, to speak for himself.
_First Letter._--"My statement, as your Lordship requests, shall
be short and to the point. I was doing very well as a
portrait-painter in the country; and I had a wife and children to
consider. Under the circumstances, if I had been left to decide
for myself, I should certainly have waited until I had saved a
little money before I ventured on the serious expense of taking a
house and studio at the west end of London. Your Lordship, I
positively declare, encouraged me to try the experiment without
waiting. And here I am, unknown and unemployed, a helpless artist
lost in London--with a sick wife and hungry children, and
bankruptcy staring me in the face. On whose shoulders does this
dreadful responsibility rest? On your Lordship's!"
_Second Letter._--"After a week's delay, you favor me, my Lord,
with a curt reply. I can be equally curt on my side. I
indignantly deny that I or my wife ever presumed to see your
Lordship's name as a means of recommendation to sitters without
your permission. Some enemy has slandered us. I claim as my right
to know the name of that enemy."
_Third (and last) Letter._--"Another week has passed--and not a
word of answer has reached me from your Lordship. It matters
little. I have employed the interval in making inquiries, and I
have at last discovered the hostile influence which has estranged
you from me. I have been, it seems, so unfortunate as to offend
Lady Lydiard (how, I cannot imagine); and the all-powerful
influence of this noble lady is now used against the struggling
artist who is united to you by the sacred ties of kindred. Be it
so. I can fight my way upwards, my Lord, as other men have done
before me. A day may yet come when the throng of carriages
waiting at the door of the fashionable portrait-painter will
include her Ladyship's vehicle, and bring me the tardy expression
of her Ladyship's regret. I refer you, my Lord Lydiard, to that
Having read Mr. Tollmidge's formidable assertions relating to
herself for the second time, Lady Lydiard's meditations came to
an abrupt end. She rose, took the letters in both hands to tear
them up, hesitated, and threw them back in the cabinet drawer in
which she had discovered them, among other papers that had not
been arranged since Lord Lydiard's death.
"The idiot!" said her Ladyship, thinking of Mr. Tollmidge, "I
never even heard of him, in my husband's lifetime; I never even
knew that he was really related to Lord Lydiard, till I found his
letters. What is to be done next?"
She looked, as she put that question to herself, at an open
newspaper thrown on the table, which announced the death of "that
accomplished artist Mr. Tollmidge, related, it is said, to the
late well-known connoisseur, Lord Lydiard." In the next sentence
the writer of the obituary notice deplored the destitute
condition of Mrs. Tollmidge and her children, "thrown helpless on
the mercy of the world." Lady Lydiard stood by the table with her
eyes on those lines, and saw but too plainly the direction in
which they pointed--the direction of her check-book.
Turning towards the fireplace, she rang the bell. "I can do
nothing in this matter," she thought to herself, "until I know
whether the report about Mrs. Tollmidge and her family is to be
depended on. Has Moody come back?" she asked, when the servant
appeared at the door. "Moody" (otherwise her Ladyship's steward)
had not come back. Lady Lydiard dismissed the subject of the
artist's widow from further consideration until the steward
returned, and gave her mind to a question of domestic interest
which lay nearer to her heart. Her favorite dog had been ailing
for some time past, and no report of him had reached her that
morning. She opened a door near the fireplace, which led, through
a little corridor hung with rare prints, to her own boudoir.
"Isabel!" she called out, "how is Tommie?"
A fresh young voice answered from behind the curtain which closed
the further end of the corridor, "No better, my Lady."
A low growl followed the fresh young voice, and added (in dog's
language), "Much worse, my Lady--much worse!"
Lady Lydiard closed the door again, with a compassionate sigh for
Tommie, and walked slowly to and fro in her spacious
drawing-room, waiting for the steward's return.
Accurately described, Lord Lydiard's widow was short and fat,
and, in the matter of age, perilously near her sixtieth birthday.
But it may be said, without paying a compliment, that she looked
younger than her age by ten years at least. Her complexion was of
that delicate pink tinge which is sometimes seen in old women
with well-preserved constitutions. Her eyes (equally well
preserved) were of that hard light blue color which wears well,
and does not wash out when tried by the test of tears. Add to
this her short nose, her plump cheeks that set wrinkles at
defiance, her white hair dressed in stiff little curls; and, if a
doll could grow old, Lady Lydiard, at sixty, would have been the
living image of that doll, taking life easily on its journey
downwards to the prettiest of tombs, in a burial-ground where the
myrtles and roses grew all the year round.
These being her Ladyship's personal merits, impartial history
must acknowledge, on the list of her defects, a total want of
tact and taste in her attire. The lapse of time since Lord
Lydiard's death had left her at liberty to dress as she pleased.
She arrayed her short, clumsy figure in colors that were far too
bright for a woman of her ages. Her dresses, badly chosen as to
their hues, were perhaps not badly made, but were certainly badly
worn. Morally, as well as physically, it must be said of Lady
Lydiard that her outward side was her worst side. The anomalies
of her dress were matched by the anomalies of her character.
There were moments when she felt and spoke as became a lady of
rank; and there were other moments when she felt and spoke as
might have become the cook in the kitchen. Beneath these
superficial inconsistencies, the great heart, the essentially
true and generous nature of the woman, only waited the sufficient
occasion to assert themselves. In the trivial intercourse of
society she was open to ridicule on every side of her. But when a
serious emergency tried the metal of which she was really made,
the people who were loudest in laughing at her stood aghast, and
wondered what had become of the familiar companion of their
Her Ladyship's promenade had lasted but a little while, when a
man in black clothing presented himself noiselessly at the great
door which opened on the staircase. Lady Lydiard signed to him
impatiently to enter the room.
"I have been expecting you for some time, Moody," she said. "You
look tired. Take a chair."
The man in black bowed respectfully, and took his seat.
ROBERT MOODY was at this time nearly forty years of age. He was a
shy, quiet, dark person, with a pale, closely-shav en face,
agreeably animated by large black eyes, set deep in their orbits.
His mouth was perhaps his best feature; he had firm, well-shaped
lips, which softened on rare occasions into a particularly
winning smile. The whole look of the man, in spite of his
habitual reserve, declared him to be eminently trustworthy. His
position in Lady Lydiard's household was in no sense of the
menial sort. He acted as her almoner and secretary as well as her
steward--distributed her charities, wrote her letters on
business, paid her bills, engaged her servants, stocked her
wine-cellar, was authorized to borrow books from her library, and
was served with his meals in his own room. His parentage gave him
claims to these special favors; he was by birth entitled to rank
as a gentleman. His father had failed at a time of commercial
panic as a country banker, had paid a good dividend, and had died
in exile abroad a broken-hearted man. Robert had tried to hold
his place in the world, but adverse fortune kept him down.
Undeserved disaster followed him from one employment to another,
until he abandoned the struggle, bade a last farewell to the
pride of other days, and accepted the position considerately and
delicately offered to him in Lady Lydiard's house. He had now no
near relations living, and he had never made many friends. In the
intervals of occupation he led a lonely life in his little room.
It was a matter of secret wonder among the women in the servants'
hall, considering his personal advantages and the opportunities
which must surely have been thrown in his way, that he had never
tempted fortune in the character of a married man. Robert Moody
entered into no explanations on that subject. In his own sad and
quiet way he continued to lead his own sad and quiet life. The
women all failing, from the handsome housekeeper downward, to
make the smallest impression on him, consoled themselves by
prophetic visions of his future relations with the sex, and
predicted vindictively that "his time would come."
"Well," said Lady Lydiard, "and what have you done?"
"Your Ladyship seemed to be anxious about the dog," Moody
answered, in the low tone which was habitual to him. "I went
first to the veterinary surgeon. He had been called away into the
Lady Lydiard waved away the conclusion of the sentence with her
hand. "Never mind the surgeon. We must find somebody else. Where
did you go next?"
"To your Ladyship"s lawyer. Mr. Troy wished me to say that he
will have the honor of waiting on you--"
"Pass over the lawyer, Moody. I want to know about the painter's
widow. Is it true that Mrs. Tollmidge and her family are left in
"Not quite true, my Lady. I have seen the clergyman of the
parish, who takes an interest in the case--"
Lady Lydiard interrupted her steward for the third time. "Did you
mention my name?" she asked sharply.
"Certainly not, my Lady. I followed my instructions, and
described you as a benevolent person in search of cases of real
distress. It is quite true that Mr. Tollmidge has died, leaving
nothing to his family. But the widow has a little income of
seventy pounds in her own right."
"Is that enough to live on, Moody?" her Ladyship asked.
"Enough, in this case, for the widow and her daughter," Moody
answered. "The difficulty is to pay the few debts left standing,
and to start the two sons in life. They are reported to be steady
lads; and the family is much respected in the neighborhood. The
clergyman proposes to get a few influential names to begin with,
and to start a subscription."
"No subscription!" protested Lady Lydiard. "Mr. Tollmidge was
Lord Lydiard's cousin; and Mrs. Tollmidge is related to his
Lordship by marriage. It would be degrading to my husband's
memory to have the begging-box sent round for his relations, no
matter how distant they may be. Cousins!" exclaimed her Ladyship,
suddenly descending from the lofty ranges of sentiment to the
low. "I hate the very name of them! A person who is near enough
to me to be my relation and far enough off from me to be my
sweetheart, is a double-faced sort of person that I don't like.
Let's get back to the widow and her sons. How much do they want?"
"A subscription of five hundred pounds, my Lady, would provide
for everything--if it could only be collected."
"It _shall_ be collected, Moody! I will pay the subscription out
of my own purse." Having asserted herself in those noble terms,
she spoilt the effect of her own outburst of generosity by
dropping to the sordid view of the subject in her next sentence.
"Five hundred pounds is a good bit of money, though; isn't it,
"It is, indeed, my Lady." Rich and generous as he knew his
mistress to be, her proposal to pay the whole subscription took
the steward by surprise. Lady Lydiard's quick perception
instantly detected what was passing in his mind.
"You don't quite understand my position in this matter," she
said. "When I read the newspaper notice of Mr. Tollmidge's death,
I searched among his Lordship's papers to see if they really were
related. I discovered some letters from Mr. Tollmidge, which
showed me that he and Lord Lydiard were cousins. One of those
letters contains some very painful statements, reflecting most
untruly and unjustly on my conduct; lies, in short," her Ladyship
burst out, losing her dignity, as usual. "Lies, Moody, for which
Mr. Tollmidge deserved to be horsewhipped. I would have done it
myself if his Lordship had told me at the time. No matter; it's
useless to dwell on the thing now," she continued, ascending
again to the forms of expression which became a lady of rank.
"This unhappy man has done me a gross injustice; my motives may
be seriously misjudged, if I appear personally in communicating
with his family. If I relieve them anonymously in their present
trouble, I spare them the exposure of a public subscription, and
I do what I believe his Lordship would have done himself if he
had lived. My desk is on the other table. Bring it here, Moody;
and let me return good for evil, while I'm in the humor for it!"
Moody obeyed in silence. Lady Lydiard wrote a check.
"Take that to the banker's, and bring back a five-hundred pound
note," she said. "I'll inclose it to the clergyman as coming from
'an unknown friend.' And be quick about it. I am only a fallible
mortal, Moody. Don't leave me time enough to take the stingy view
of five hundred pounds."
Moody went out with the check. No delay was to be apprehended in
obtaining the money; the banking-house was hard by, in St.
James's Street. Left alone, Lady Lydiard decided on occupying her
mind in the generous direction by composing her anonymous letter
to the clergyman. She had just taken a sheet of note-paper from
her desk, when a servant appeared at the door announcing a
"Mr. Felix Sweetsir!"
"MY nephew!" Lady Lydiard exclaimed in a tone which expressed
astonishment, but certainly not pleasure as well. "How many years
is it since you and I last met?" she asked, in her abruptly
straightforward way, as Mr. Felix Sweetsir approached her
The visitor was not a person easily discouraged. He took Lady
Lydiard's hand, and kissed it with easy grace. A shade of irony
was in his manner, agreeably relieved by a playful flash of
"Years, my dear aunt?" he said. "Look in your glass and you will
see that time has stood still since we met last. How wonderfully
well you wear! When shall we celebrate the appearance of your
first wrinkle? I am too old; I shall never live to see it."
He took an easychair, uninvited; placed himself close at his
aunt's side, and ran his eye over her ill-chosen dress with an
air of satirical admiration. "How perfectly successful!" he said,
with his well-bred insolence. "What a chaste gayety of color!"
"What do you want?" asked her Ladyship, not in the least softened
by the compliment.
"I want to pay my respects to my dear aunt," Felix answered,
perfectly impenetrable to his ungracious reception, and perfectly
comfortable in a spacious arm-chair.
No pen-and-ink portrait need surely be drawn of Felix
Sweetsir--he is too well-known a picture in society. The little
lith e man, with his bright, restless eyes, and his long
iron-gray hair falling in curls to his shoulders, his airy step
and his cordial manner; his uncertain age, his innumerable
accomplishments, and his unbounded popularity--is he not familiar
everywhere, and welcome everywhere? How gratefully he receives,
how prodigally he repays, the cordial appreciation of an admiring
world! Every man he knows is "a charming fellow." Every woman he
sees is "sweetly pretty." What picnics he gives on the banks of
the Thames in the summer season! What a well-earned little income
he derives from the whist-table! What an inestimable actor he is
at private theatricals of all sorts (weddings included)! Did you
never read Sweetsir's novel, dashed off in the intervals of
curative perspiration at a German bath? Then you don't know what
brilliant fiction really is. He has never written a second work;
he does everything, and only does it once. One song--the despair
of professional composers. One picture--just to show how easily a
gentleman can take up an art and drop it again. A really
multiform man, with all the graces and all the accomplishments
scintillating perpetually at his fingers' ends. If these poor
pages have achieved nothing else, they have done a service to
persons not in society by presenting them to Sweetsir. In his
gracious company the narrative brightens; and writer and reader
(catching reflected brilliancy) understand each other at last,
thanks to Sweetsir.
"Well," said Lady Lydiard, "now you are here, what have you got
to say for yourself? You have been abroad, of course! Where?"
"Principally at Paris, my dear aunt. The only place that is fit
to live in--for this excellent reason, that the French are the
only people who know how to make the most of life. One has
relations and friends in England and every now and then one
returns to London--"
"When one has spent all one's money in Paris," her Ladyship
interposed. "That's what you were going to say, isn't it?"
Felix submitted to the interruption with his delightful
"What a bright creature you are!" he exclaimed. "What would I not
give for your flow of spirits! Yes--one does spend money in
Paris, as you say. The clubs, the stock exchange, the
race-course: you try your luck here, there, and everywhere; and
you lose and win, win and lose--and you haven't a dull day to
complain of." He paused, his smile died away, he looked
inquiringly at Lady Lydiard. "What a wonderful existence yours
must be," he resumed. "The everlasting question with your needy
fellow-creatures, 'Where am I to get money?' is a question that
has never passed your lips. Enviable woman!" He paused once
more--surprised and puzzled this time. "What is the matter, my
dear aunt? You seem to be suffering under some uneasiness."
"I am suffering under your conversation," her Ladyship answered
sharply. "Money is a sore subject with me just now," she went on,
with her eyes on her nephew, watching the effect of what she
said. "I have spent five hundred pounds this morning with a
scrape of my pen. And, only a week since, I yielded to temptation
and made an addition to my picture-gallery." She looked, as she
said those words, towards an archway at the further end of the
room, closed by curtains of purple velvet. "I really tremble when
I think of what that one picture cost me before I could call it
mine. A landscape by Hobbema; and the National Gallery bidding
against me. Never mind!" she concluded, consoling herself, as
usual, with considerations that were beneath her. "Hobbema will
sell at my death for a bigger price than I gave for him--that's
one comfort!" She looked again at Felix; a smile of mischievous
satisfaction began to show itself in her face. "Anything wrong
with your watch-chain?" she asked.
Felix, absently playing with his watch-chain, started as if his
aunt had suddenly awakened him. While Lady Lydiard had been
speaking, his vivacity had subsided little by little, and had
left him looking so serious and so old that his most intimate
friend would hardly have known him again. Roused by the sudden
question that had been put to him, he seemed to be casting about
in his mind in search of the first excuse for his silence that
might turn up.
"I was wondering," he began, "why I miss something when I look
round this beautiful room; something familiar, you know, that I
fully expected to find here."
"Tommie?" suggested Lady Lydiard, still watching her nephew as
maliciously as ever.
"That's it!" cried Felix, seizing his excuse, and rallying his
spirits. "Why don't I hear Tommie snarling behind me; why don't I
feel Tommie's teeth in my trousers?"
The smile vanished from Lady Lydiard's face; the tone taken by
her nephew in speaking of her dog was disrespectful in the
extreme. She showed him plainly that she disapproved of it. Felix
went on, nevertheless, impenetrable to reproof of the silent
sort. "Dear little Tommie! So delightfully fat; and such an
infernal temper! I don't know whether I hate him or love him.
Where is he?"
"Ill in bed," answered her ladyship, with a gravity which
startled even Felix himself. "I wish to speak to you about
Tommie. You know everybody. Do you know of a good dog-doctor? The
person I have employed so far doesn't at all satisfy me."
"Professional person?" inquired Felix.
"All humbugs, my dear aunt. The worse the dog gets the bigger the
bill grows, don't you see? I have got the man for you--a
gentleman. Knows more about horses and dogs than all the
veterinary surgeons put together. We met in the boat yesterday
crossing the Channel. You know him by name, of course? Lord
Rotherfield's youngest son, Alfred Hardyman."
"The owner of the stud farm? The man who has bred the famous
racehorses?" cried Lady Lydiard. "My dear Felix, how can I
presume to trouble such a great personage about my dog?"
Felix burst into his genial laugh. "Never was modesty more
woefully out of place," he rejoined. "Hardyman is dying to be
presented to your Ladyship. He has heard, like everybody, of the
magnificent decorations of this house, and he is longing to see
them. His chambers are close by, in Pall Mall. If he is at home
we will have him here in five minutes. Perhaps I had better see
the dog first?"
Lady Lydiard shook her head. "Isabel says he had better not be
disturbed," she answered. "Isabel understands him better than
Felix lifted his lively eyebrows with a mixed expression of
curiosity and surprise. "Who is Isabel?"
Lady Lydiard was vexed with herself for carelessly mentioning
Isabel's name in her nephew's presence. Felix was not the sort of
person whom she was desirous of admitting to her confidence in
domestic matters. "Isabel is an addition to my household since
you were here last," she answered shortly.
"Young and pretty?" inquired Felix. "Ah! you look serious, and
you don't answer me. Young and pretty, evidently. Which may I see
first, the addition to your household or the addition to your
picture-gallery? You look at the picture-gallery--I am answered
again." He rose to approach the archway, and stopped at his first
step forward. "A sweet girl is a dreadful responsibility, aunt,"
he resumed, with an ironical assumption of gravity. "Do you know,
I shouldn't be surprised if Isabel, in the long run, cost you
more than Hobbema. Who is this at the door?"
The person at the door was Robert Moody, returned from the bank.
Mr. Felix Sweetsir, being near-sighted, was obliged to fit his
eye-glass in position before he could recognize the prime
minister of Lady Lydiard's household.
"Ha! our worthy Moody. How well he wears! Not a gray hair on his
head--and look at mine! What dye do you use, Moody? If he had my
open disposition he would tell. As it is, he looks unutterable
things, and holds his tongue. Ah! if I could only have held _my_
tongue--when I was in the diplomatic service, you know--what a
position I might have occupied by this time! Don't let me
interrupt you, Moody, if you have anything to say to Lady
Having acknowledged Mr. Sweetsir's lively greeting by a formal
bow, and a grave look of wonder which respectfully repelled that
vivacious gentleman's flow of humor, Moody turned
towards his mistress.
"Have you got the bank-note?" asked her Ladyship.
Moody laid the bank-note on the table.
"Am I in the way?" inquired Felix.
"No," said his aunt. "I have a letter to write; it won't occupy
me for more than a few minutes. You can stay here, or go and look
at the Hobbema, which you please."
Felix made a second sauntering attempt to reach the
picture-gallery. Arrived within a few steps of the entrance, he
stopped again, attracted by an open cabinet of Italian
workmanship, filled with rare old china. Being nothing if not a
cultivated amateur, Mr. Sweetsir paused to pay his passing
tribute of admiration before the contents of the cabinet.
"Charming! charming!" he said to himself, with his head twisted
appreciatively a little on one side. Lady Lydiard and Moody left
him in undisturbed enjoyment of the china, and went on with the
business of the bank-note.
"Ought we to take the number of the note, in case of accident?"
asked her Ladyship.
Moody produced a slip of paper from his waistcoat pocket. "I took
the number, my Lady, at the bank."
"Very well. You keep it. While I am writing my letter, suppose
you direct the envelope. What is the clergyman's name?"
Moody mentioned the name and directed the envelope. Felix,
happening to look round at Lady Lydiard and the steward while
they were both engaged in writing, returned suddenly to the table
as if he had been struck by a new idea.
"Is there a third pen?" he asked. "Why shouldn't I write a line
at once to Hardyman, aunt? The sooner you have his opinion about
Tommie the better--don't you think so?"
Lady Lydiard pointed to the pen tray, with a smile. To show
consideration for her dog was to seize irresistibly on the
high-road to her favor. Felix set to work on his letter, in a
large scrambling handwriting, with plenty of ink and a noisy pen.
"I declare we are like clerks in an office," he remarked, in his
cheery way. "All with our noses to the paper, writing as if we
lived by it! Here, Moody, let one of the servants take this at
once to Mr. Hardyman's."
The messenger was despatched. Robert returned, and waited near
his mistress, with the directed envelope in his hand. Felix
sauntered back slowly towards the picture-gallery, for the third
time. In a moment more Lady Lydiard finished her letter, and
folded up the bank-note in it. She had just taken the directed
envelope from Moody, and had just placed the letter inside it,
when a scream from the inner room, in which Isabel was nursing
the sick dog, startled everybody. "My Lady! my Lady!" cried the
girl, distractedly, "Tommie is in a fit? Tommie is dying!"
Lady Lydiard dropped the unclosed envelope on the table, and
ran--yes, short as she was and fat as she was, ran--into the
inner room. The two men, left together, looked at each other.
"Moody," said Felix, in his lazily-cynical way, "do you think if
you or I were in a fit that her Ladyship would run? Bah! these
are the things that shake one's faith in human nature. I feel
infernally seedy. That cursed Channel passage--I tremble in my
inmost stomach when I think of it. Get me something, Moody."
"What shall I send you, sir?" Moody asked coldly.
"Some dry curacoa and a biscuit. And let it be brought to me in
the picture-gallery. Damn the dog! I'll go and look at Hobbema."
This time he succeeded in reaching the archway, and disappeared
behind the curtains of the picture-gallery.
LEFT alone in the drawing-room, Moody looked at the unfastened
envelope on the table.
Considering the value of the inclosure, might he feel justified
in wetting the gum and securing the envelope for safety's sake?
After thinking it over, Moody decided that he was not justified
in meddling with the letter. On reflection, her Ladyship might
have changes to make in it or might have a postscript to add to
what she had already written. Apart too, from these
considerations, was it reasonable to act as if Lady Lydiard's
house was a hotel, perpetually open to the intrusion of
strangers? Objects worth twice five hundred pounds in the
aggregate were scattered about on the tables and in the unlocked
cabinets all round him. Moody withdrew, without further
hesitation, to order the light restorative prescribed for himself
by Mr. Sweetsir.
The footman who took the curacoa into the picture gallery found
Felix recumbent on a sofa, admiring the famous Hobbema.
"Don't interrupt me," he said peevishly, catching the servant in
the act of staring at him. "Put down the bottle and go!"
Forbidden to look at Mr. Sweetsir, the man's eyes as he left the
gallery turned wonderingly towards the famous landscape. And what
did he see? He saw one towering big cloud in the sky that
threatened rain, two withered mahogany-colored trees sorely in
want of rain, a muddy road greatly the worse for rain, and a
vagabond boy running home who was afraid of the rain. That was
the picture, to the footman's eye. He took a gloomy view of the
state of Mr. Sweetsir's brains on his return to the servants'
hall. "A slate loose, poor devil!" That was the footman's report
of the brilliant Felix.
Immediately on the servant's departure, the silence in the
picture-gallery was broken by voices penetrating into it from the
drawing-room. Felix rose to a sitting position on the sofa. He
had recognized the voice of Alfred Hardyman saying, "Don't
disturb Lady Lydiard," and the voice of Moody answering, "I will
just knock at the door of her Ladyship's room, sir; you will find
Mr. Sweetsir in the picture-gallery."
The curtains over the archway parted, and disclosed the figure of
a tall man, with a closely cropped head set a little stiffly on
his shoulders. The immovable gravity of face and manner which
every Englishman seems to acquire who lives constantly in the
society of horses, was the gravity which this gentleman displayed
as he entered the picture-gallery. He was a finely made, sinewy
man, with clearly cut, regular features. If he had not been
affected with horses on the brain he would doubtless have been
personally popular with the women. As it was, the serene and
hippic gloom of the handsome horse-breeder daunted the daughters
of Eve, and they failed to make up their minds about the exact
value of him, socially considered. Alfred Hardyman was
nevertheless a remarkable man in his way. He had been offered the
customary alternatives submitted to the younger sons of the
nobility--the Church or the diplomatic service--and had refused
the one and the other. "I like horses," he said, "and I mean to
get my living out of them. Don't talk to me about my position in
the world. Talk to my eldest brother, who gets the money and the
title." Starting in life with these sensible views, and with a
small capital of five thousand pounds, Hardyman took his own
place in the sphere that was fitted for him. At the period of
this narrative he was already a rich man, and one of the greatest
authorities on horse-breeding in England. His prosperity made no
change in him. He was always the same grave, quiet, obstinately
resolute man--true to the few friends whom he admitted to his
intimacy, and sincere to a fault in the expression of his
feelings among persons whom he distrusted or disliked. As he
entered the picture-gallery and paused for a moment looking at
Felix on the sofa, his large, cold, steady gray eyes rested on
the little man with an indifference that just verged on contempt.
Felix, on the other hand, sprang to his feet with alert
politeness and greeted his friend with exuberant cordiality.
"Dear old boy! This is so good of you," he began. "I feel it--I
do assure you I feel it!"
"You needn't trouble yourself to feel it," was the
quietly-ungracious answer. "Lady Lydiard brings me here. I come
to see the house--and the dog." He looked round the gallery in
his gravely attentive way. "I don't understand pictures," he
remarked resignedly. "I shall go back to the drawing-room."
After a moment's consideration, Felix followed him into the
drawing-room, with the air of a man who was determined not to be
"Well?" asked Hardyman. "What is it?"
"About that matter?" Felix said, inquiringly.
"Oh, you know. Will next week do?"
"Nex t week _won't_ do."
Mr. Felix Sweetsir cast one look at his friend. His friend was
too intently occupied with the decorations of the drawing-room to
notice the look.
"Will to-morrow do?" Felix resumed, after an interval.
"At what time?"
"Between twelve and one in the afternoon."
"Between twelve and one in the afternoon," Felix repeated. He
looked again at Hardyman and took his hat. "Make my apologies to
my aunt," he said. "You must introduce yourself to her Ladyship.
I can't wait here any longer." He walked out of the room, having
deliberately returned the contemptuous indifference of Hardyman
by a similar indifference on his own side, at parting.
Left by himself, Hardyman took a chair and glanced at the door
which led into the boudoir. The steward had knocked at that door,
had disappeared through it, and had not appeared again. How much
longer was Lady Lydiard's visitor to be left unnoticed in Lady
As the question passed through his mind the boudoir door opened.
For once in his life, Alfred Hardyman's composure deserted him.
He started to his feet, like an ordinary mortal taken completely
Instead of Mr. Moody, instead of Lady Lydiard, there appeared in
the open doorway a young woman in a state of embarrassment, who
actually quickened the beat of Mr. Hardyman's heart the moment he
set eyes on her. Was the person who produced this amazing
impression at first sight a person of importance? Nothing of the
sort. She was only "Isabel" surnamed "Miller." Even her name had
nothing in it. Only "Isabel Miller!"
Had she any pretensions to distinction in virtue of her personal
It is not easy to answer the question. The women (let us put the
worst judges first) had long since discovered that she wanted
that indispensable elegance of figure which is derived from
slimness of waist and length of limb. The men (who were better
acquainted with the subject) looked at her figure from their
point of view; and, finding it essentially embraceable, asked for
nothing more. It might have been her bright complexion or it
might have been the bold luster of her eyes (as the women
considered it), that dazzled the lords of creation generally, and
made them all alike incompetent to discover her faults. Still,
she had compensating attractions which no severity of criticism
could dispute. Her smile, beginning at her lips, flowed brightly
and instantly over her whole face. A delicious atmosphere of
health, freshness, and good humor seemed to radiate from her
wherever she went and whatever she did. For the rest her brown
hair grew low over her broad white forehead, and was topped by a
neat little lace cap with ribbons of a violet color. A plain
collar and plain cuffs encircled her smooth, round neck, and her
plump dimpled hands. Her merino dress, covering but not hiding
the charming outline of her bosom, matched the color of the
cap-ribbons, and was brightened by a white muslin apron
coquettishly trimmed about the pockets, a gift from Lady Lydiard.
Blushing and smiling, she let the door fall to behind her, and,
shyly approaching the stranger, said to him, in her small, clear
voice, "If you please, sir, are you Mr. Hardyman?"
The gravity of the great horse-breeder deserted him at her first
question. He smiled as he acknowledged that he was "Mr.
Hardyman"--he smiled as he offered her a chair.
"No, thank you, sir," she said, with a quaintly pretty
inclination of her head. "I am only sent here to make her
Ladyship's apologies. She has put the poor dear dog into a warm
bath, and she can't leave him. And Mr. Moody can't come instead
of me, because I was too frightened to be of any use, and so he
had to hold the dog. That's all. We are very anxious sir, to know
if the warm bath is the right thing. Please come into the room
and tell us."
She led the way back to the door. Hardyman, naturally enough, was
slow to follow her. When a man is fascinated by the charm of
youth and beauty, he is in no hurry to transfer his attention to
a sick animal in a bath. Hardyman seized on the first excuse that
he could devise for keeping Isabel to himself--that is to say,
for keeping her in the drawing-room.
"I think I shall be better able to help you," he said, "if you
will tell me something about the dog first."
Even his accent in speaking had altered to a certain degree. The
quiet, dreary monotone in which he habitually spoke quickened a
little under his present excitement. As for Isabel, she was too
deeply interested in Tommie's welfare to suspect that she was
being made the victim of a stratagem. She left the door and
returned to Hardyman with eager eyes. "What can I tell you, sir?"
she asked innocently.
Hardyman pressed his advantage without mercy.
"You can tell me what sort of dog he is?"
"How old he is?"
"What his name is?--what his temper is?--what his illness is?
what diseases his father and mother had?--what--"
Isabel's head began to turn giddy. "One thing at a time, sir!"
she interposed, with a gesture of entreaty. "The dog sleeps on my
bed, and I had a bad night with him, he disturbed me so, and I am
afraid I am very stupid this morning. His name is Tommie. We are
obliged to call him by it, because he won't answer to any other
than the name he had when my Lady bought him. But we spell it
with an _i e_ at the end, which makes it less vulgar than Tommy
with a _y_. I am very sorry, sir--I forget what else you wanted
to know. Please to come in here and my Lady will tell you
She tried to get back to the door of the boudoir. Hardyman,
feasting his eyes on the pretty, changeful face that looked up at
him with such innocent confidence in his authority, drew her away
from the door by the one means at his disposal. He returned to
his questions about Tommie.
"Wait a little, please. What sort of dog is he?"
Isabel turned back again from the door. To describe Tommie was a
labor of love. "He is the most beautiful dog in the world!" the
girl began, with kindling eyes. "He has the most exquisite white
curly hair and two light brown patches on his back--and, oh!
_such_ lovely dark eyes! They call him a Scotch terrier. When he
is well his appetite is truly wonderful--nothing comes amiss to
him, sir, from pate de foie gras to potatoes. He has his enemies,
poor dear, though you wouldn't think it. People who won't put up
with being bitten by him (what shocking tempers one does meet
with, to be sure!) call him a mongrel. Isn't it a shame? Please
come in and see him, sir; my Lady will be tired of waiting."
Another journey to the door followed those words, checked
instantly by a serious objection.
"Stop a minute! You must tell me what his temper is, or I can do
nothing for him."
Isabel returned once more, feeling that it was really serious
this time. Her gravity was even more charming than her gayety. As
she lifted her face to him, with large solemn eyes, expressive of
her sense of responsibility, Hardyman would have given every
horse in his stables to have had the privilege of taking her in
his arms and kissing her.
"Tommie has the temper of an angel with the people he likes," she
said. "When he bites, it generally means that he objects to
strangers. He loves my Lady, and he loves Mr. Moody, and he loves
me, and--and I think that's all. This way, sir, if you please, I
am sure I heard my Lady call."
"No," said Hardyman, in his immovably obstinate way. "Nobody
called. About this dog's temper? Doesn't he take to any
strangers? What sort of people does he bite in general?"
Isabel's pretty lips began to curl upward at the corners in a
quaint smile. Hardyman's last imbecile question had opened her
eyes to the true state of the case. Still, Tommie's future was in
this strange gentleman's hands; she felt bound to consider that.
And, moreover, it was no everyday event, in Isabel's experience,
to fascinate a famous personage, who was also a magnificent and
perfectly dressed man. She ran the risk of wasting another minute
or two, and went on with the memoirs of Tommie.
"I must own, sir," she resumed, "that he behaves a little
ungratefully--even to strangers who take an interest in him. When
he gets lost in the streets (which is very often), he sits down
on the pavement and howls till he collects a pitying crowd round
him; and when they try to read his name and address on his collar
he snaps at them. The servants generally find him and bring him
back; and as soon as he gets home he turns round on the doorstep
and snaps at the servants. I think it must be his fun. You should
see him sitting up in his chair at dinner-time, waiting to be
helped, with his fore paws on the edge of the table, like the
hands of a gentleman at a public dinner making a speech. But,
oh!" cried Isabel, checking herself, with the tears in her eyes,
"how can I talk of him in this way when he is so dreadfully ill!
Some of them say it's bronchitis, and some say it's his liver.
Only yesterday I took him to the front door to give him a little
air, and he stood still on the pavement, quite stupefied. For the
first time in his life, he snapped at nobody who went by; and,
oh, dear, he hadn't even the heart to smell a lamp-post!"
Isabel had barely stated this last afflicting circumstance when
the memoirs of Tommie were suddenly cut short by the voice of
Lady Lydiard--really calling this time--from the inner room.
"Isabel! Isabel!" cried her Ladyship, "what are you about?"
Isabel ran to the door of the boudoir and threw it open. "Go in,
sir! Pray go in!" she said.
"Without you?" Hardyman asked.
"I will follow you, sir. I have something to do for her Ladyship
She still held the door open, and pointed entreatingly to the
passage which led to the boudoir "I shall be blamed, sir," she
said, "if you don't go in."
This statement of the case left Hardyman no alternative. He
presented himself to Lady Lydiard without another moment of
Having closed the drawing-room door on him, Isabel waited a
little, absorbed in her own thoughts.
She was now perfectly well aware of the effect which she had
produced on Hardyman. Her vanity, it is not to be denied, was
flattered by his admiration--he was so grand and so tall, and he
had such fine large eyes. The girl looked prettier than ever as
she stood with her head down and her color heightened, smiling to
herself. A clock on the chimney-piece striking the half-hour
roused her. She cast one look at the glass, as she passed it, and
went to the table at which Lady Lydiard had been writing.
Methodical Mr. Moody, in submitting to be employed as
bath-attendant upon Tommie, had not forgotten the interests of
his mistress. He reminded her Ladyship that she had left her
letter, with a bank-note inclosed in it, unsealed. Absorbed in
the dog, Lady Lydiard answered, "Isabel is doing nothing, let
Isabel seal it. Show Mr. Hardyman in here," she continued,
turning to Isabel, "and then seal a letter of mine which you will
find on the table." "And when you have sealed it," careful Mr.
Moody added, "put it back on the table; I will take charge of it
when her Ladyship has done with me."
Such were the special instructions which now detained Isabel in
the drawing-room. She lighted the taper, and closed and sealed
the open envelope, without feeling curiosity enough even to look
at the address. Mr. Hardyman was the uppermost subject in her
thoughts. Leaving the sealed letter on the table, she returned to
the fireplace, and studied her own charming face attentively in
the looking-glass. The time passed--and Isabel's reflection was
still the subject of Isabel's contemplation . "He must see many
beautiful ladies," she thought, veering backward and forward
between pride and humility. "I wonder what he sees in Me?"
The clock struck the hour. Almost at the same moment the
boudoir-door opened, and Robert Moody, released at last from
attendance on Tommie, entered the drawing-room.
"WELL?" asked Isabel eagerly, "what does Mr. Hardyman say? Does
he think he can cure Tommie?"
Moody answered a little coldly and stiffly. His dark, deeply-set
eyes rested on Isabel with an uneasy look.
"Mr. Hardyman seems to understand animals," he said. "He lifted
the dog's eyelid and looked at his eyes, and then he told us the
bath was useless."
"Go on!" said Isabel impatiently. "He did something, I suppose,
besides telling you that the bath was useless?"
"He took a knife out of his pocket, with a lancet in it."
Isabel clasped her hands with a faint cry of horror. "Oh, Mr.
Moody! did he hurt Tommie?"
"Hurt him?" Moody repeated, indignant at the interest which she
felt in the animal, and the indifference which she exhibited
towards the man (as represented by himself). "Hurt him, indeed!
Mr. Hardyman bled the brute--"
"Brute?" Isabel reiterated, with flashing eyes. "I know some
people, Mr. Moody, who really deserve to be called by that horrid
word. If you can't say 'Tommie,' when you speak of him in my
presence, be so good as to say 'the dog.' "
Moody yielded with the worst possible grace. "Oh, very well! Mr.
Hardyman bled the dog, and brought him to his senses directly. I
am charged to tell you--" He stopped, as if the message which he
was instructed to deliver was in the last degree distasteful to
"Well, what were you charged to tell me?"
"I was to say that Mr. Hardyman will give you instructions how to
treat the dog for the future."
Isabel hastened to the door, eager to receive her instructions.
Moody stopped her before she could open it.
"You are in a great hurry to get to Mr. Hardyman," he remarked.
Isabel looked back at him in surprise. "You said just now that
Mr. Hardyman was waiting to tell me how to nurse Tommie."
"Let him wait," Moody rejoined sternly. "When I left him, he was
sufficiently occupied in expressing his favorable opinion of you
to her Ladyship."
The steward's pale face turned paler still as he said those
words. With the arrival of Isabel in Lady Lydiard's house "his
time had come"--exactly as the women in the servants' hall had
predicted. At last the impenetrable man felt the influence of the
sex; at last he knew the passion of love misplaced, ill-starred,
hopeless love, for a woman who was young enough to be his child.
He had already spoken to Isabel more than once in terms which
told his secret plainly enough. But the smouldering fire of
jealousy in the man, fanned into flame by Hardyman, now showed
itself for the first time. His looks, even more than his words,
would have warned a woman with any knowledge of the natures of
men to be careful how she answered him. Young, giddy, and
inexperienced, Isabel followed the flippant impulse of the
moment, without a thought of the consequences. "I'm sure it's
very kind of Mr. Hardyman to speak favorably of me," she said,
with a pert little laugh. "I hope you are not jealous of him, Mr.
Moody was in no humor to make allowances for the unbridled gayety
of youth and good spirits.
"I hate any man who admires you," he burst out passionately, "let
him be who he may!"
Isabel looked at her strange lover with unaffected astonishment.
How unlike Mr. Hardyman, who had treated her as a lady from first
to last! "What an odd man you are!" she said. "You can't take a
joke. I'm sure I didn't mean to offend you."
"You don't offend me--you do worse, you distress me."
Isabel's color began to rise. The merriment died out of her face;
she looked at Moody gravely. "I don't like to be accused of
distressing people when I don't deserve it," she said. "I had
better leave you. Let me by, if you please."
Having committed one error in offending her, Moody committed
another in attempting to make his peace with her. Acting under
the fear that she would really leave him, he took her roughly by
"You are always trying to get away from me," he said. "I wish I
knew how to make you like me, Isabel."
"I don't allow you to call me Isabel!" she retorted, struggling
to free herself from his hold. "Let go of my arm. You hurt me."
Moody dropped her arm with a bitter sigh. "I don't know how to
deal with you," he said simply. "Have some pity on me!"
If the steward had known anything of women (at Isabel's age) he
would never have appealed to her mercy in those plain terms, and
at the unpropitious moment. "Pity you?" she repeated
contemptuously. "Is that all you have to say to me after hurting
my arm? What a bear you are!" She shrugged her shoulders and put
her hands coquettishly into the pockets of her apron. That was
how she pitied him! His face turned paler and paler--he writhed
"For God"s sake, don't turn everything I say to you into
ridicule!" he cried. "You know I love you with all my heart and
soul. Again and again I have asked you to be my wife--and you
laugh at me as if it was a joke. I haven't deserved to be treated
in that cruel way. It maddens me--I can't endure it!"
Isabel looked down on the floor, and followed the lines in the
pattern of the carpet with the end of her smart little shoe. She
could hardly have been further away from really understanding
Moody if he had spoken in Hebrew. She was partly startled, partly
puzzled, by the strong emotions which she had unconsciously
called into being. "Oh dear me!" she said, "why can't you talk of
something else? Why can't we be friends? Excuse me for mentioning
it," she went on, looking up at him with a saucy smile, "you are
old enough to be my father."
Moody's head sank on his breast. "I own it," he answered humbly.
"But there is something to be said for me. Men as old as I am
have made good husbands before now. I would devote my whole life
to make you happy. There isn't a wish you could form which I
wouldn't be proud to obey. You mustnŐt reckon me by years. My
youth has not been wasted in a profligate life; I can be truer to
you and fonder of you than many a younger man. Surely my heart is
not quite unworthy of you, when it is all yours. I have lived
such a lonely, miserable life--and you might so easily brighten
it. You are kind to everybody else, Isabel. Tell me, dear, why
are you so hard on _me?_"
His voice trembled as he appealed to her in those simple words.
He had taken the right way at last to produce an impression on
her. She really felt for him. All that was true and tender in her
nature began to rise in her and take his part. Unhappily, he felt
too deeply and too strongly to be patient, and give her time. He
completely misinterpreted her silence--completely mistook the
motive that made her turn aside for a moment, to gather composure
enough to speak to him. "Ah!" he burst out bitterly, turning away
on his side, "you have no heart."
She instantly resented those unjust words. At that moment they
wounded her to the quick.
"You know best," she said. "I have no doubt you are right.
Remember one thing, however, that though I have no heart, I have
never encouraged you, Mr. Moody. I have declared over and over
again that I could only be your friend. Understand that for the
future, if you please. There are plenty of nice women who will be
glad to marry you, I have no doubt. You will always have my best
wishes for your welfare. Good-morning. Her Ladyship will wonder
what has become of me. Be so kind as to let me pass."
Tortured by the passion that consumed him, Moody obstinately kept
his place between Isabel and the door. The unworthy suspicion of
her, which had been in his mind all through the interview, now
forced its way outwards to expression at last.
"No woman ever used a man as you use me without some reason for
it," he said. "You have kept your secret wonderfully well--but
sooner or later all secrets get found out. I know what is in your
mind as well as you know it yourself. You are in love with some
Isabel's face flushed deeply; the defensive pride of her sex was
up in arms in an instant. She cast one disdainful look at Moody,
without troubling herself to express her contempt in words.
"Stand out of my way, sir!" --that was all she said to him.
"You are in love with some other man," he reiterated
passionately. "Deny it if you can!"
"Deny it?" she repeated, with flashing eyes. "What right have you
to ask the question? Am I not free to do as I please?"
He stood looking at her, meditating his next words with a sudden
and sinister change to self-restraint. Suppressed rage was in his
rigidly set eyes, suppressed rage was in his trembling hand as he
raised it emphatically while he spoke his next words.
"I have one thing more to say," he answered, "and then I have
done. If I am not your husband, no other man shall be. Look well
to it, Isabel Miller. If there _is_ another man between us, I can
tell him this--he shall find it no easy matter to rob me of you!"
She started, and turned pale--but it was only for a moment. The
high spirit that was in her rose brightly in her eyes, and faced
him without shrinking.
"Threats?" she said, with quiet contempt. "When you make love,
Mr. Moody, you take strange ways of doing it. My conscience is
easy. You may try to frighten me, but you will not succeed. When
you have recovered your temper I will accept your excuses." She
paused, and pointed to the table. "There is the letter that you
told me to leave for you when I had sealed it," she went on. "I
suppose you have her Ladyship's orders. Isn't it time you began
to think of obeying them?"
The contemptuous composure of her tone and manner seemed to act
on Moody with crushing effect. Without a word of answer, the
unfortunate steward took up the letter from the table. Without a
word of answer, he walked mechanically to the great door which
opened on the staircase--turned on the threshold to look at
Isabel--waited a moment, pale and still--and suddenly left the
That silent departure, that hopeless submission, impressed Isabel
in spite of herself. The sustaining sense of injury and insult
sank, as it were, from under her the moment she was alone. He had
not been gone a minute before she began to be sorry for him once
more. The interview had taught her nothing. She was neither old
enough nor experienced enough to understand the overwhelming
revolution produced in a man's character when he feels the
passion of love for the first time in the maturity of his life.
If Moody had stolen a kiss at the first opportunity, she would
have resented the liberty he had taken with her; but she would
have thoroughly understood him. His terrible earnestness, his
overpowering agitation, his abrupt violence--all these evidences
of a passion that was a mystery to himself--simply puzzled her.
"I'm sure I didn't wish to hurt his feelings" (such was the form
that her reflections took, in her present penitent frame of
mind); "but why did he provoke me? It is a shame to tell me that
I love some other man--when there is no other man. I declare I
begin to hate the men, if they are all like Mr. Moody. I wonder
whether he will forgive me when he sees me again? I'm sure I'm
willing to forget and forgive on my side--especially if he won't
insist on my being fond of him because he is fond of me. Oh,
dear! I wish he would come back and shake hands. It's enough to
try the patience of a saint to be treated in this way. I wish I
was ugly! The ugly ones have a quiet time of it--the men let them
be. Mr. Moody! Mr. Moody!" She went out to the landing and called
to him softly. There was no answer. He was no longer in the
house. She stood still for a moment in silent vexation. "I'll go
to Tommie!" she decided. "I'm sure he's the more agreeable
company of the two. And--oh, good gracious! there's Mr. Hardyman
waiting to give me my instructions! How do I look, I wonder?"
She consulted the glass once more--gave one or two corrective
touches to her hair and her cap--and hastened into the boudoir.
FOR a quarter of an hour the drawing-room remained empty. At the
end of that time the council in the boudoir broke up. Lady
Lydiard led the way back into the drawing-room, followed by
Hardyman, Isabel being left to look after the dog. Before the
door closed behind him, Hardyman turned round to reiterate his
last medical directions--or, in plainer words, to take a last
look at Isabel.
"Plenty of water, Miss Isabel, for the dog to lap, and a little
bread or biscuit, if he wants something to eat. Nothing more, if
you please, till I see him to-morrow."
"Thank you, sir. I will take the greatest care--"
At that point Lady Lydiard cut short the interchange of
instructions and civilities. "Shut the door, if you please, Mr.
Hardyman. I feel the draught. Many thanks! I am really at a loss
to tell you how gratefully I feel your kindness. But for you my
poor little dog might be dead by this time."
Hardyman answered, in the quiet melancholy monotone which was
habitual with him, "Your Ladyship need feel no further anxiety
about the dog. Only be careful not to overfeed him. He will do
very well under Miss Isabel's care. By the bye, her family name
is Miller--is it not? Is she related to the Warwickshire Millers
of Duxborough House?"
Lady Lydiard looked at him with an expression of satirical
surprise. "Mr. Hardyman," she said, "this makes the fourth time
you have questioned me about Isabel. You seem to take a great
interest in my little companion. Don't make any apologies, pray!
You pay Isabel a compliment, and, as I am very fond of her, I am
naturally gratified when I find her admired. At the same time,"
she added, with one of her abrupt transitions of language, "I had
my eye on you, and I had my eye on her, when you were talking in
the next room; and I don't mean to let you make a fool of the
girl. She is not in your line of life, and the sooner you know it
the better. You make me laugh when you ask if she is related to
gentlefolks. She is the orphan daughter of a chemist in the
country. Her relations haven't a penny to bless themselves with,
except an old aunt, who lives in a village on two or three
hundred a year. I heard of the girl by accident. When she lost
her father and mother, her aunt offered to take her. Isabel said,
'No, thank you; I will not be a burden on a relation who has only
enough for herself. A girl can earn an honest living if she
tries; and I mean to try'--that's what she said. I admired her
independence," her Ladyship proceeded, ascending again to the
higher regions of thought and expression. "My niece's marriage,
just at that time, had left me alone in this great house. I
proposed to Isabel to come to me as companion and reader for a
few weeks, and to decide for herself whether she liked the life
or not. We have never been separated since that time. I could
hardly be fonder of her if she were my own daughter; and she
returns my affection with all her heart. She has excellent
qualities--prudent, cheerful, sweet-tempered; with good sense
enough to understand what her place is in the world, as
distinguished from her place in my regard. I have taken care, for
her own sake, never to leave that part of the question in any
doubt. It would be cruel kindness to deceive her as to her future
position when she marries. I shall take good care that the man
who pays his addresses to her is a man in her rank of life. I
know but too well, in the case of one of my own relatives, what
miseries unequal marriages bring with them. Excuse me for
troubling you at this length on domestic matters. I am very fond
of Isabel; and a girl's head is so easily turned. Now you know
what her position really is, you will also know what limits there
must be to the expression of your interest in her. I am sure we
understand each other; and I say no more."
Hardyman listened to this long harangue with the immovable
gravity which was part of his character--except when Isabel had
taken him by surprise. When her Ladyship gave him the opportunity
of speaking on his side, he had very little to say, and that
little did not suggest that he had greatly profited by what he
had heard. His mind had been full of Isabel when Lady Lydiard
began, and it remained just as full of her, in just the same way,
when Lady Lydiard had done.
"Yes," he remarked quietly, "Miss Isabel is an uncommonly nice
girl, as you say. Very pretty, and such frank, unaffected
manners. I don't deny that I feel an interest in her. The young
ladies one meets in society are not much to my taste. Miss Isabel
is my taste."
Lady Lydiard's face assumed a look of blank dismay. "I am afraid
I have failed to convey my exact meaning to you," she said.
Hardyman gravely declared that he understood her perfectly.
"Perfectly!" he repeated, with his impenetrable obstinacy. "Your
Ladyship exactly expresses my opinion of Miss Isabel. Prudent,
and cheerful, and sweet-tempered, as you say--all the qualities
in a woman that I admire. With good looks, too--of course, with
good looks. She will be a perfect treasure (as you remarked just
now) to the man who marries her. I may claim to know something
about it. I have twice narrowly escaped being married myself;
and, though I can't exactly explain it, I'm all the harder to
please in consequence. Miss Isabel pleases me. I think I have
said that before? Pardon me for saying it again. I'll call again
to-morrow morning and look at the dog as early as eleven o'clock,
if you will allow me. Later in the day I must be off to France to
attend a sale of horses. Glad to have been of any use to your
Ladyship, I am sure. Good-morning."
Lady Lydiard let him go, wisely resigning any further attempt to
establish an understanding between her visitor and herself.
"He is either a person of very limited intelligence when he is
away from his stables," she thought, "or he deliberately declines
to take a plain hint when it is given to him. I can't drop his
acquaintance, on Tommie's account. The only other alternative is
to keep Isabel out of his way. My good little girl shall not
drift into a false position while I am living to look after her.
When Mr. Hardyman calls to-morrow she shall be out on an errand.
When he calls the next time she shall be upstairs with a
headache. And if he tries it again she shall be away at my house
in the country. If he makes any remarks on her absence--well, he
will find that I can be just as dull of understanding as he is
when the occasion calls for it."
Having arrived at this satisfactory solution of the difficulty,
Lady Lydiard became conscious of an irresistible impulse to
summon Isabel to her presence and caress her. In the nature of a
warm-hearted woman, this was only the inevitable reaction which
followed the subsidence of anxiety about the girl, after her own
resolution had set that anxiety at rest. She threw open the door
and made one of her sudden appearances at the boudoir. Even in
the fervent outpouring of her affection, there was still the
inherent abruptness of manner which so strongly marked Lady
Lydiard's character in all the relations of life.
"Did I give you a kiss, this morning?" she asked, when Isabel
rose to receive her.
"Yes, my Lady," said the girl, with her charming smile.
"Come, then, and give me a kiss in return. Do you love me? Very
well, then, treat me like your mother. Never mind 'my lady' this
time. Give me a good hug!"
Something in those homely words, or something perhaps in the look
that accompanied them, touched sympathies in Isabel which seldom
showed themselves on the surface. Her smiling lips trembled, the
bright tears rose in her eyes. "You are too good to me," she
murmured, with her head on Lady Lydiard's bosom. "How can I ever
love you enough in return?"
Lady Lydiard patted the pretty head that rested on her with such
filial tenderness. "There! there!" she said, "Go back and play
with Tommie, my dear. We may be as fond of each other as we like;
but we mustn't cry. God bless you! Go away--go away!"
She turned aside quickly; her own eyes were moistening, and it
was part of her character to be reluctant to let Isabel see it.
"Why have I made a fool of myself?" she wondered, as she
approached the drawing-room door. "It doesn't matter. I am all
the better for it. Odd, that Mr. Hardyman should have made me
feel fonder of Isabel than ever!"
With those reflections she re-entered the drawing-room--and
suddenly checked herself with a start. "Good Heavens!" she
exclaimed irritably, "how you frightened me! Why was I not told
you were here?"
Having left the drawing-room in a state of solitude, Lady Lydiard
on her return found herself suddenly confronted with a gentleman,
mysteriously planted on the hearth-rug in her absence. The new
visitor may be rightly described as a gray man. He had gray hair,
eyebrows, and whiskers; he wore a gray coat, waistcoat, and
trousers, and gray gloves. For the rest, his appearance was
eminently suggestive of wealth and respectability and, in this
case, appearances were really to
be trusted. The gray man was no other than Lady Lydiard's legal
adviser, Mr. Troy.
"I regret, my Lady, that I should have been so unfortunate as to
startle you," he said, with a certain underlying embarrassment in
his manner. "I had the honor of sending word by Mr. Moody that I
would call at this hour, on some matters of business connected
with your Ladyship's house property. I presumed that you expected
to find me here, waiting your pleasure--"
Thus far Lady Lydiard had listened to her legal adviser, fixing
her eyes on his face in her usually frank, straightforward way.
She now stopped him in the middle of a sentence, with a change of
expression in her own face which was undisguisedly a change to
"Don't apologize, Mr. Troy," she said. "I am to blame for
forgetting your appointment and for not keeping my nerves under
proper control." She paused for a moment and took a seat before
she said her next words. "May I ask," she resumed, "if there is
something unpleasant in the business that brings you here?"
"Nothing whatever, my Lady; mere formalities, which can wait till
to-morrow or next day, if you wish it."
Lady Lydiard's fingers drummed impatiently on the table. "You
have known me long enough, Mr. Troy, to know that I cannot endure
suspense. You _have_ something unpleasant to tell me."
The lawyer respectfully remonstrated. "Really, Lady Lydiard!--"
"It won't do, Mr. Troy! I know how you look at me on ordinary
occasions, and I see how you look at me now. You are a very
clever lawyer; but, happily for the interests that I commit to
your charge, you are also a thoroughly honest man. After twenty
years' experience of you, you can't deceive _me_. You bring me
bad news. Speak at once, sir, and speak plainly."
Mr. Troy yielded--inch by inch, as it were. "I bring news which,
I fear, may annoy your Ladyship." He paused, and advanced another
inch. "It is news which I only became acquainted with myself on
entering this house."
He waited again, and made another advance. "I happened to meet
your Ladyship's steward, Mr. Moody, in the hall--"
"Where is he?" Lady Lydiard interposed angrily. "I can make _him_
speak out, and I will. Send him here instantly."
The lawyer made a last effort to hold off the coming disclosure a
little longer. "Mr. Moody will be here directly," he said. "Mr.
Moody requested me to prepare your Ladyship--"
"Will you ring the bell, Mr. Troy, or must I?"
Moody had evidently been waiting outside while the lawyer spoke
for him. He saved Mr. Troy the trouble of ringing the bell by
presenting himself in the drawing-room. Lady Lydiard's eyes
searched his face as he approached. Her bright complexion faded
suddenly. Not a word more passed her lips. She looked, and
In silence on his part, Moody laid an open sheet of paper on the
table. The paper quivered in his trembling hand.
Lady Lydiard recovered herself first. "Is that for me?" she
"Yes, my Lady."
She took up the paper without an instant's hesitation. Both the
men watched her anxiously as she read it.
The handwriting was strange to her. The words were these:--
"I hereby certify that the bearer of these lines, Robert Moody by
name, has presented to me the letter with which he was charged,
addressed to myself, with the seal intact. I regret to add that
there is, to say the least of it, some mistake. The inclosure
referred to by the anonymous writer of the letter, who signs 'a
friend in need,' has not reached me. No five-hundred pound
bank-note was in the letter when I opened it. My wife was present
when I broke the seal, and can certify to this statement if
necessary. Not knowing who my charitable correspondent is (Mr.
Moody being forbidden to give me any information), I can only
take this means of stating the case exactly as it stands, and
hold myself at the disposal of the writer of the letter. My
private address is at the head of the page. --Samuel Bradstock,
Rector, St. Anne's, Deansbury, London."
Lady Lydiard dropped the paper on the table. For the moment,
plainly as the Rector's statement was expressed, she appeared to
be incapable of understanding it. "What, in God's name, does this
mean?" she asked.
The lawyer and the steward looked at each other. Which of the two
was entitled to speak first? Lady Lydiard gave them no time to
decide. "Moody," she said sternly, "you took charge of the
letter--I look to you for an explanation."
Moody's dark eyes flashed. He answered Lady Lydiard without
caring to conceal that he resented the tone in which she had
spoken to him.
"I undertook to deliver the letter at its address," he said. "I
found it, sealed, on the table. Your Ladyship has the clergyman's
written testimony that I handed it to him with the seal unbroken.
I have done my duty; and I have no explanation to offer."
Before Lady Lydiard could speak again, Mr. Troy discreetly
interfered. He saw plainly that his experience was required to
lead the investigation in the right direction.
"Pardon me, my Lady," he said, with that happy mixture of the
positive and the polite in his manner, of which lawyers alone
possess the secret. "There is only one way of arriving at the
truth in painful matters of this sort. We must begin at the
beginning. May I venture to ask your Ladyship a question?"
Lady Lydiard felt the composing influence of Mr. Troy. "I am at
your disposal, sir," she said, quietly.
"Are you absolutely certain that you inclosed the bank-note in
the letter?" the lawyer asked.
"I certainly believe I inclosed it" Lady Lydiard answered. "But I
was so alarmed at the time by the sudden illness of my dog, that
I do not feel justified in speaking positively."
"Was anybody in the room with your Ladyship when you put the
inclosure in the letter--as you believe?"
"_I_ was in the room," said Moody. "I can swear that I saw her
Ladyship put the bank-note in the letter, and the letter in the
"And seal the envelope?" asked Mr. Troy.
"No, sir. Her Ladyship was called away into the next room to the
dog, before she could seal the envelope."
Mr. Troy addressed himself once more to Lady Lydiard. "Did your
Ladyship take the letter into the next room with you?"
"I was too much alarmed to think of it, Mr. Troy. I left it here,
on the table."
"With the envelope open?"
"How long were you absent in the other room?"
"Half an hour or more."
"Ha!" said Mr. Troy to himself. "This complicates it a little."
He reflected for a while, and then turned again to Moody. "Did
any of the servants know of this bank-note being in her
"Not one of them," Moody answered.
"Do you suspect any of the servants?"
"Certainly not, sir."
"Are there any workmen employed in the house?"
"Do you know of any persons who had access to the room while Lady
Lydiard was absent from it?"
"Two visitors called, sir."
"Who were they?"
"Her Ladyship's nephew, Mr. Felix Sweetsir, and the Honorable
Mr. Troy shook his head irritably. "I am not speaking of
gentlemen of high position and repute," he said. "It's absurd
even to mention Mr. Sweetsir and Mr. Hardyman. My question
related to strangers who might have obtained access to the
drawing-room--people calling, with her Ladyship's sanction, for
subscriptions, for instance; or people calling with articles of
dress or ornament to be submitted to her Ladyship's inspection.""
"No such persons came to the house with my knowledge," Moody
Mr. Troy suspended the investigation, and took a turn
thoughtfully in the room. The theory on which his inquiries had
proceeded thus far had failed to produce any results. His
experience warned him to waste no more time on it, and to return
to the starting-point of the investigation--in other words, to
the letter. Shifting his point of view, he turned again to Lady
Lydiard, and tried his questions in a new direction.
"Mr. Moody mentioned just now," he said, "that your Ladyship was
called into the next room before you could seal your letter. On
your return to this room, did you seal the letter?"
"I was busy with the dog," Lady Lydiard answered. "Isabel Miller
was of no use in the boudoir, and I told her to seal it for
Mr. Troy started. The new direction in which he was pushing his
inquiries began to look like the right direction already. "Miss
Isabel Miller," he proceeded, "has been a resident under your
Ladyship's roof for some little time, I believe?"
"For nearly two years, Mr. Troy."
"As your Ladyship's companion and reader?"
"As my adopted daughter," her Ladyship answered, with marked
Wise Mr. Troy rightly interpreted the emphasis as a warning to
him to suspend the examination of her Ladyship, and to address to
Mr. Moody the far more serious questions which were now to come.
"Did anyone give you the letter before you left the house with
it?" he said to the steward. "Or did you take it yourself?"
"I took it myself, from the table here."
"Was it sealed?"
"Was anybody present when you took the letter from the table?"
"Miss Isabel was present."
"Did you find her alone in the room?"
Lady Lydiard opened her lips to speak, and checked herself. Mr.
Troy, having cleared the ground before him, put the fatal
"Mr. Moody," he said, "when Miss Isabel was instructed to seal
the letter, did she know that a bank-note was inclosed in it?"
Instead of replying, Robert drew back from the lawyer with a look
of horror. Lady Lydiard started to her feet--and checked herself
again, on the point of speaking.
"Answer him, Moody," she said, putting a strong constraint on
Robert answered very unwillingly. "I took the liberty of
reminding her ladyship that she had left her letter unsealed," he
said. "And I mentioned as my excuse for speaking"--he stopped,
and corrected himself--"_I believe_ I mentioned that a valuable
inclosure was in the letter."
"You believe?" Mr. Troy repeated. "Can't you speak more
positively than that?"
"_I_ can speak positively," said Lady Lydiard, with her eyes on
the lawyer. "Moody did mention the inclosure in the letter--in
Isabel Miller's hearing as well as in mine." She paused, steadily
controlling herself. "And what of that, Mr. Troy?" she added,
very quietly and firmly.
Mr. Troy answered quietly and firmly, on his side. "I am
surprised that your Ladyship should ask the question," he said.
"I persist in repeating the question," Lady Lydiard rejoined. "I
say that Isabel Miller knew of the inclosure in my letter--and I
ask, What of that?"
"And I answer," retorted the impenetrable lawyer, "that the
suspicion of theft rests on your Ladyship's adopted daughter, and
on nobody else."
"It's false!" cried Robert, with a burst of honest indignation.
"I wish to God I had never said a word to you about the loss of
the bank-note! Oh, my Lady! my Lady! don't let him distress you!
What does _he_ know about it?"
"Hush!" said Lady Lydiard. "Control yourself, and hear what he
has to say." She rested her hand on Moody's shoulder, partly to
encourage him, partly to support herself; and, fixing her eyes
again on Mr. Troy, repeated his last words, " 'Suspicion rests on
my adopted daughter, and on nobody else.' Why on nobody else?"
"Is your Ladyship prepared to suspect the Rector of St. Anne's of
embezzlement, or your own relatives and equals of theft?" Mr.
Troy asked. "Does a shadow of doubt rest on the servants? Not if
Mr. Moody's evidence is to be believed. Who, to our own certain
knowledge, had access to the letter while it was unsealed? Who
was alone in the room with it? And who knew of the inclosure in
it? I leave the answer to your Ladyship."
"Isabel Miller is as incapable of an act of theft as I am. There
is my answer, Mr. Troy."
The lawyer bowed resignedly, and advanced to the door.
"Am I to take your Ladyship's generous assertion as finally
disposing of the question of the lost bank-note?" he inquired.
Lady Lydiard met the challenge without shrinking from it.
"No!" she said. "The loss of the bank-note is known out of my
house. Other persons may suspect this innocent girl as you
suspect her. It is due to Isabel's reputation--her unstained
reputation, Mr. Troy!--that she should know what has happened,
and should have an opportunity of defending herself. She is in
the next room, Moody. Bring her here."
Robert's courage failed him: he trembled at the bare idea of
exposing Isabel to the terrible ordeal that awaited her. "Oh, my
Lady!" he pleaded, "think again before you tell the poor girl
that she is suspected of theft. Keep it a secret from her--the
shame of it will break her heart!"
"Keep it a secret," said Lady Lydiard, "when the Rector and the
Rector's wife both know of it! Do you think they will let the
matter rest where it is, even if I could consent to hush it up? I
must write to them; and I can't write anonymously after what has
happened. Put yourself in Isabel's place, and tell me if you
would thank the person who knew you to be innocently exposed to a
disgraceful suspicion, and who concealed it from you? Go, Moody!
The longer you delay, the harder it will be."
With his head sunk on his breast, with anguish written in every
line of his face, Moody obeyed. Passing slowly down the short
passage which connected the two rooms , and still shrinking from
the duty that had been imposed on him, he paused, looking through
the curtains which hung over the entrance to the boudoir.
THE sight that met Moody's view wrung him to the heart.
Isabel and the dog were at play together. Among the varied
accomplishments possessed by Tommie, the capacity to take his
part at a game of hide-and-seek was one. His playfellow for the
time being put a shawl or a handkerchief over his head, so as to
prevent him from seeing, and then hid among the furniture a
pocketbook, or a cigar-case, or a purse, or anything else that
happened to be at hand, leaving the dog to find it, with his keen
sense of smell to guide him. Doubly relieved by the fit and the
bleeding, Tommie's spirits had revived; and he and Isabel had
just begun their game when Moody looked into the room, charged
with his terrible errand. "You're burning, Tommie, you're
burning!" cried the girl, laughing and clapping her hands. The
next moment she happened to look round and saw Moody through the
parted curtains. His face warned her instantly that something
serious had happened. She advanced a few steps, her eyes resting
on him in silent alarm. He was himself too painfully agitated to
speak. Not a word was exchanged between Lady Lydiard and Mr. Troy
in the next room. In the complete stillness that prevailed, the
dog was heard sniffing and fidgeting about the furniture. Robert
took Isabel by the hand and led her into the drawing-room. "For
God's sake, spare her, my Lady!" he whispered. The lawyer heard
him. "No," said Mr. Troy. "Be merciful, and tell her the truth!"
He spoke to a woman who stood in no need of his advice. The
inherent nobility in Lady Lydiard's nature was aroused: her great
heart offered itself patiently to any sorrow, to any sacrifice.
Putting her arm round Isabel--half caressing her, half supporting
her--Lady Lydiard accepted the whole responsibility and told the
Reeling under the first shock, the poor girl recovered herself
with admirable courage. She raised her head, and eyed the lawyer
without uttering a word. In its artless consciousness of
innocence the look was nothing less than sublime. Addressing
herself to Mr. Troy, Lady Lydiard pointed to Isabel. "Do you see
guilt there?" she asked.
Mr. Troy made no answer. In the melancholy experience of humanity
to which his profession condemned him, he had seen conscious
guilt assume the face of innocence, and helpless innocence admit
the disguise of guilt: the keenest observation, in either case,
failing completely to detect the truth. Lady Lydiard
misinterpreted his silence as expressing the sullen
self-assertion of a heartless man. She turned from him, in
contempt, and held out her hand to Isabel.
"Mr. Troy is not satisfied yet," she said bitterly. "My love,
take my hand, and look me in the face as your equal; I know no
difference of rank at such a time as this. Before God, who hears
you, are you innocent of the theft of the bank-note?"
"Before God, who hears me," Isabel answered, "I am innocent."
Lady Lydiard looked once more at the lawyer, and waited to hear
if he believed _that_.
Mr. Troy took refuge in dumb diplomacy--he made a low bow. It
might have meant that he believed Isabel, or it might have meant
that he modestly withdrew his own opinion into the background.
Lady Lydiard did not condescend to inquire what it meant.
"The sooner we bring this painful scene to an end the better,"
she said. "I shall be glad to avail myself of your professional
assistance, Mr. Troy, within certain limits. Outside of my house,
I beg that you will spare no trouble in tracing the lost money to
the person who has really stolen it. Inside of my house, I must
positively request that the disappearance of the note may never
be alluded to, in any way whatever, until your inquiries have
been successful in discovering the thief. In the meanwhile, Mrs.
Tollmidge and her family must not be sufferers by my loss: I
shall pay the money again." She paused, and pressed Isabel's hand
with affectionate fervor. "My child," she said, "one last word to
you, and I have done. You remain here, with my trust in you, and
my love for you, absolutely unshaken. When you think of what has
been said here to-day, never forget that."
Isabel bent her head, and kissed the kind hand that still held
hers. The high spirit that was in her, inspired by Lady Lydiard's
example, rose equal to the dreadful situation in which she was
"No, my Lady," she said calmly and sadly; "it cannot be. What
this gentleman has said of me is not to be denied--the
appearances are against me. The letter was open, and I was alone
in the room with it, and Mr. Moody told me that a valuable
inclosure was inside it. Dear and kind mistress! I am not fit to
be a member of your household, I am not worthy to live with the
honest people who serve you, while my innocence is in doubt. It
is enough for me now that _you_ don't doubt it. I can wait
patiently, after that, for the day that gives me back my good
name. Oh, my Lady, don't cry about it! Pray, pray don't cry!"
Lady Lydiard's self-control failed her for the first time.
Isabel's courage had made Isabel dearer to her than ever. She
sank into a chair, and covered her face with her handkerchief.
Mr. Troy turned aside abruptly, and examined a Japanese vase,
without any idea in his mind of what he was looking at. Lady
Lydiard had gravely misjudged him in believing him to be a
Isabel followed the lawyer, and touched him gently on the arm to
rouse his attention.
"I have one relation living, sir--an aunt--who will receive me if
I go to her," she said simply. "Is there any harm in my going?
Lady Lydiard will give you the address when you want me. Spare
her Ladyship, sir, all the pain and trouble that you can."
At last the heart that was in Mr. Troy asserted itself. "You are
a fine creature!" he said, with a burst of enthusiasm. "I agree
with Lady Lydiard--I believe you are innocent, too; and I will
leave no effort untried to find the proof of it." He turned aside
again, and had another look at the Japanese vase.
As the lawyer withdrew himself from observation, Moody approached
Thus far he had stood apart, watching her and listening to her in
silence. Not a look that had crossed her face, not a word that
had fallen from her, had escaped him. Unconsciously on her side,
unconsciously on his side, she now wrought on his nature with a
purifying and ennobling influence which animated it with a new
life. All that had been selfish and violent in his passion for
her left him to return no more. The immeasurable devotion which
he laid at her feet, in the days that were yet to come--the
unyielding courage which cheerfully accepted the sacrifice of
himself when events demanded it at a later period of his
life--struck root in him now. Without attempting to conceal the
tears that were falling fast over his cheeks--striving vainly to
express those new thoughts in him that were beyond the reach of
words--he stood before her the truest friend and servant that
ever woman had.
"Oh, my dear! my heart is heavy for you. Take me to serve you and
help you. Her Ladyship's kindness will permit it, I am sure."
He could say no more. In those simple words the cry of his heart
reached her. "Forgive me, Robert," she answered, gratefully, "if
I said anything to pain you when we spoke together a little while
since. I didn't mean it." She gave him her hand, and looked
timidly over her shoulder at Lady Lydiard. "Let me go!" she said,
in low, broken tones, "Let me go!"
Mr. Troy heard her, and stepped forward to interfere before Lady
Lydiard could speak. The man had recovered his self-control; the
lawyer took his place again on the scene.
"You must not leave us, my dear," he said to Isabel, "until I
have put a question to Mr. Moody in which you are interested. Do
you happen to have the number of the lost bank-note?" he asked,
turning to the steward.
Moody produced his slip of paper with the number on it. Mr. Troy
made two copies of it before he returned the paper. One copy he
put in his pocket, the other he handed to Isabel.
"Keep it carefully," he said. "Neither you nor I know how soon it
may be of use to you."
Receiving the copy from him, she felt mechanically in her apron
for her pocketbook. She had used it, in playing with the dog, as
an object to hide from him; but she had suffered, and was still
suffering, too keenly to be capable of the effort of remembrance.
Moody, eager to help her even in the most trifling thing, guessed
what had happened. "You were playing with Tommie," he said; "is
it in the next room?"
The dog heard his name pronounced through the open door. The next
moment he trotted into the drawing-room with Isabel's pocketbook
in his mouth. He was a strong, well-grown Scotch terrier of the
largest size, with bright, intelligent eyes, and a coat of thick
curling white hair, diversified by two light brown patches on his
back. As he reached the middle of the room, and looked from one
to another of the persons present, the fine sympathy of his race
told him that there was trouble among his human friends. His tail
dropped; he whined softly as he approached Isabel, and laid her
pocketbook at her feet.
She knelt as she picked up the pocketbook, and raised her
playfellow of happier days to take her leave of him. As the dog
put his paws on her shoulders, returning her caress, her first
tears fell. "Foolish of me," she said, faintly, "to cry over a
dog. I can't help it. Good-by, Tommie!"
Putting him away from her gently, she walked towards the door.
The dog instantly followed. She put him away from her, for the
second time, and left him. He was not to be denied; he followed
her again, and took the skirt of her dress in his teeth, as if to
hold her back. Robert forced the dog, growling and resisting with
all his might, to let go of the dress. "Don't be rough with him,"
said Isabel. "Put him on her ladyship's lap; he will be quieter
there." Robert obeyed. He whispered to Lady Lydiard as she
received the dog; she seemed to be still incapable of
speaking--she bowed her head in silent assent. Robert hurried
back to Isabel before she had passed the door. "Not alone!" he
said entreatingly. "Her Ladyship permits it, Isabel. Let me see
you safe to your aunt's house."
Isabel looked at him, felt for him, and yielded.
"Yes," she answered softly; "to make amends for what I said to
you when I was thoughtless and happy!" She waited a little to
compose herself before she spoke her farewell words to Lady
Lydiard. "Good-by, my Lady. Your kindness has not been thrown
away on an ungrateful girl. I love you, and thank you, with all
Lady Lydiard rose, placing the dog on the chair as she left it.
She seemed to have grown older by years, instead of by minutes,
in the short interval that had passed since she had hidden her
face from view. "I can't bear it!" she cried, in husky, broken
tones. "Isabel! Isabel! I forbid you to leave me!"
But one person could venture to resist her. That person was Mr.
Troy--and Mr. Troy knew it.
"Control yourself," he said to her in a whisper. "The girl is
doing what is best and most becoming in her position--and is
doing it with a patience and courage wonderful to see. Sh e
places herself under the protection of her nearest relative,
until her character is vindicated and her position in your house
is once more beyond a doubt. Is this a time to throw obstacles in
her way? Be worthy of yourself, Lady Lydiard and think of the day
when she will return to you without the breath of a suspicion to
rest on her!"
There was no disputing with him--he was too plainly in the right
. Lady Lydiard submitted; she concealed the torture that her own
resolution inflicted on her with an endurance which was, indeed,
worthy of herself. Taking Isabel in her arms she kissed her in a
passion of sorrow and love. "My poor dear! My own sweet girl!
don't suppose that this is a parting kiss! I shall see you
again--often and often I shall see you again at your aunt's!" At
a sign from Mr. Troy, Robert took Isabel's arm in his and led her
away. Tommie, watching her from his chair, lifted his little
white muzzle as his playfellow looked back on passing the
doorway. The long, melancholy, farewell howl of the dog was the
last sound Isabel Miller heard as she left the house.
PART THE SECOND.
ON the day after Isabel's departure, diligent Mr. Troy set forth
for the Head Office in Whitehall to consult the police on the
question of the missing money. He had previously sent information
of the robbery to the Bank of England, and had also advertised
the loss in the daily newspapers.
The air was so pleasant, and the sun was so bright, that he
determined on proceeding to his destination on foot. He was
hardly out of sight of his own offices when he was overtaken by a
friend, who was also walking in the direction of Whitehall. This
gentleman was a person of considerable worldly wisdom and