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Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins

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[Italics are indicatedby underscores
James Rusk, jrusk@cyberramp.net.]


by Wilkie Collins


Part the First.



ON a summer's morning, between thirty and forty years ago, two
girls were crying bitterly in the cabin of an East Indian
passenger ship, bound outward, from Gravesend to Bombay.

They were both of the same age--eighteen. They had both, from
childhood upward, been close and dear friends at the same school.
They were now parting for the first time--and parting, it might
be, for life.

The name of one was Blanche. The name of the other was Anne.

Both were the children of poor parents, both had been
pupil-teachers at the school; and both were destined to earn
their own bread. Personally speaking, and socially speaking,
these were the only points of resemblance between them.

Blanche was passably attractive and passably intelligent, and no
more. Anne was rarely beautiful and rarely endowed. Blanche's
parents were worthy people, whose first consideration was to
secure, at any sacrifice, the future well-being of their child.
Anne's parents were heartless and depraved. Their one idea, in
connection with their daughter, was to speculate on her beauty,
and to turn her abilities to profitable account.

The girls were starting in life under widely different
conditions. Blanche was going to India, to be governess in the
household of a Judge, under care of the Judge's wife. Anne was to
wait at home until the first opportunity offered of sending her
cheaply to Milan. There, among strangers, she was to be perfected
in the actress's and the singer's art; then to return to England,
and make the fortune of her family on the lyric stage.

Such were the prospects of the two as they sat together in the
cabin of the Indiaman locked fast in each other's arms, and
crying bitterly. The whispered farewell talk exchanged between
them--exaggerated and impulsive as girls' talk is apt to be--came
honestly, in each case, straight from the heart.

"Blanche! you may be married in India. Make your husband bring
you back to England."

"Anne! you may take a dislike to the stage. Come out to India if
you do."

"In England or out of England, married or not married, we will
meet, darling--if it's years hence--with all the old love between
us; friends who help each other, sisters who trust each other,
for life! Vow it, Blanche!"

"I vow it, Anne!"

"With all your heart and soul?"

"With all my heart and soul!"

The sails were spread to the wind, and the ship began to move in
the water. It was necessary to appeal to the captain's authority
before the girls could be parted. The captain interfered gently
and firmly. "Come, my dear," he said, putting his arm round Anne;
"you won't mind _me!_ I have got a daughter of my own." Anne's
head fell on the sailor's shoulder. He put her, with his own
hands, into the shore-boat alongside. In five minutes more the
ship had gathered way; the boat was at the landing-stage--and the
girls had seen the last of each other for many a long year to

This was in the summer of eighteen hundred and thirty-one.


Twenty-four years later--in the summer of eighteen hundred and
fifty-five--there was a villa at Hampstead to be let, furnished.

The house was still occupied by the persons who desired to let
it. On the evening on which this scene opens a lady and two
gentlemen were seated at the dinner-table. The lady had reached
the mature age of forty-two. She was still a rarely beautiful
woman. Her husband, some years younger than herself, faced her at
the table, sitting silent and constrained, and never, even by
accident, looking at his wife. The third person was a guest. The
husband's name was Vanborough. The guest's name was Kendrew.

It was the end of the dinner. The fruit and the wine were on the
table. Mr. Vanborough pushed the bottles in silence to Mr.
Kendrew. The lady of the house looked round at the servant who
was waiting, and said, "Tell the children to come in."

The door opened, and a girl twelve years old entered, lending by
the hand a younger girl of five. They were both prettily dressed
in white, with sashes of the same shade of light blue. But there
was no family resemblance between them. The elder girl was frail
and delicate, with a pale, sensitive face. The younger was light
and florid, with round red cheeks and bright, saucy eyes--a
charming little picture of happiness and health.

Mr. Kendrew looked inquiringly at the youngest of the two girls.

"Here is a young lady," he said, "who is a total stranger to me."

"If you had not been a total stranger yourself for a whole year
past," answered Mrs. Vanborough, "you would never have made that
confession. This is little Blanche--the only child of the dearest
friend I have. When Blanche's mother and I last saw each other we
were two poor school-girls beginning the world. My friend went to
India, and married there late in life. You may have heard of her
husband--the famous Indian officer, Sir Thomas Lundie? Yes: 'the
rich Sir Thomas,' as you call him. Lady Lundie is now on her way
back to England, for the first time since she left it--I am
afraid to say how many years since. I expected her yesterday; I
expect her to-day--she may come at any moment. We exchanged
promises to meet, in the ship that took her to India--'vows' we
called them in the dear old times. Imagine how changed we shall
find each other when we _do_ meet again at last!"

"In the mean time," said Mr. Kendrew, "your friend appears to
have sent you her little daughter to represent her? It's a long
journey for so young a traveler."

"A journey ordered by the doctors in India a year since,"
rejoined Mrs. Vanborough. "They said Blanche's health required
English air. Sir Thomas was ill at the time, and his wife
couldn't leave him. She had to send the child to England, and who
should she send her to but me? Look at her now, and say if the
English air hasn't agreed with her! We two mothers, Mr. Kendrew,
seem literally to live again in our children. I have an only
child. My friend has an only child. My daughter is little
Anne--as _I_ was. My friend's daughter is little Blanche--as
_she_ was. And, to crown it all, those two girls have taken the
same fancy to each other which we took to each other in the
by-gone days at school. One has often heard of hereditary hatred.
Is there such a thing as hereditary love as well?"

Before the guest could answer, his attention was claimed by the
master of the house.

"Kendrew," said Mr. Vanborough, "when you have had enough of
domestic sentiment, suppose you take a glass of wine?"

The words were spoken with undisguised contempt of tone and
manner. Mrs. Vanborough's color rose. She waited, and controlled
the momentary irritation. When she spoke to her husband it was
evidently with a wish to soothe and conciliate him.

"I am afraid, my dear, you are not well this evening?"

"I shall be better when those children have done clattering with
their knives and forks."

The girls were peeling fruit. The younger one went on. The elder
stopped, and looked at her mother. Mrs. Vanborough beckoned to
Blanche to come to her, and pointed toward the French window
opening to the floor.

"Would you like to eat your fruit in the garden, Blanche?"

"Yes," said Blanche, "if Anne will go with me."

Anne rose at once, and the two girls went away together into the
garden, hand in hand. On their departure Mr. Kendrew wisely
started a new subject. He referred to the letting of the house.

"The loss of the garden will be a sad loss to those two young
ladies," he said. "It really seems to be a pity that you should
be giving up this pretty place."

"Leaving the house is not the worst of the sacrifice," answered
Mrs. Vanborough. "If John finds Hampstead too far for him from
London, of course we must move. The only hardship that I complain
of is the hardship of having the house to let."

Mr. Vanborough looked across the table, as ungraciously as
possible, at his wife.

"What have _you_ to do with it?" he asked.

Mrs. Vanborough tried to clear the conjugal horizon b y a smile.

"My dear John," she said, gently, "you forget that, while you are
at business, I am here all day. I can't help seeing the people
who come to look at the house. Such people!" she continued,
turning to Mr. Kendrew. "They distrust every thing, from the
scraper at the door to the chimneys on the roof. They force their
way in at all hours. They ask all sorts of impudent
questions--and they show you plainly that they don't mean to
believe your answers, before you have time to make them. Some
wretch of a woman says, 'Do you think the drains are right?'--and
sniffs suspiciously, before I can say Yes. Some brute of a man
asks, 'Are you quite sure this house is solidly built,
ma'am?'--and jumps on the floor at the full stretch of his legs,
without waiting for me to reply. Nobody believes in our gravel
soil and our south aspect. Nobody wants any of our improvements.
The moment they hear of John's Artesian well, they look as if
they never drank water. And, if they happen to pass my
poultry-yard, they instantly lose all appreciation of the merits
of a fresh egg!"

Mr. Kendrew laughed. "I have been through it all in my time," he
said. "The people who want to take a house are the born enemies
of the people who want to let a house. Odd--isn't it,

Mr. Vanborough's sullen humor resisted his friend as obstinately
as it had resisted his wife.

"I dare say," he answered. "I wasn't listening."

This time the tone was almost brutal. Mrs. Vanborough looked at
her husband with unconcealed surprise and distress.

"John!" she said. "What _can_ be the matter with you? Are you in

"A man may be anxious and worried, I suppose, without being
actually in pain."

"I am sorry to hear you are worried. Is it business?"


"Consult Mr. Kendrew."

"I am waiting to consult him."

Mrs. Vanborough rose immediately. "Ring, dear," she said, "when
you want coffee." As she passed her husband she stopped and laid
her hand tenderly on his forehead. "I wish I could smooth out
that frown!" she whispered. Mr. Vanborough impatiently shook his
head. Mrs. Vanborough sighed as she turned to the door. Her
husband called to her before she could leave the room.

"Mind we are not interrupted!"

"I will do my best, John." She looked at Mr. Kendrew, holding the
door open for her; and resumed, with an effort, her former
lightness of tone. "But don't forget our 'born enemies!' Somebody
may come, even at this hour of the evening, who wants to see the

The two gentlemen were left alone over their wine. There was a
strong personal contrast between them. Mr. Vanborough was tall
and dark--a dashing, handsome man; with an energy in his face
which all the world saw; with an inbred falseness under it which
only a special observer could detect. Mr. Kendrew was short and
light--slow and awkward in manner, except when something happened
to rouse him. Looking in _his_ face, the world saw an ugly and
undemonstrative little man. The special observer, penetrating
under the surface, found a fine nature beneath, resting on a
steady foundation of honor and truth.

Mr. Vanborough opened the conversation.

"If you ever marry," he said, "don't be such a fool, Kendrew, as
I have been. Don't take a wife from the stage."

"If I could get such a wife as yours," replied the other, "I
would take her from the stage to-morrow. A beautiful woman, a
clever woman, a woman of unblemished character, and a woman who
truly loves you. Man alive! what do you want more?"

"I want a great deal more. I want a woman highly connected and
highly bred--a woman who can receive the best society in England,
and open her husband's way to a position in the world."

"A position in the world!" cried Mr. Kendrew. "Here is a man
whose father has left him half a million of money--with the one
condition annexed to it of taking his father's place at the head
of one of the greatest mercantile houses in England. And he talks
about a position, as if he was a junior clerk in his own office!
What on earth does your ambition see, beyond what your ambition
has already got?"

Mr. Vanborough finished his glass of wine, and looked his friend
steadily in the face.

"My ambition," he said, "sees a Parliamentary career, with a
Peerage at the end of it--and with no obstacle in the way but my
estimable wife."

Mr. Kendrew lifted his hand warningly. "Don't talk in that way,"
he said. "If you're joking--it's a joke I don't see. If you're in
earnest--you force a suspicion on me which I would rather not
feel. Let us change the subject."

"No! Let us have it out at once. What do you suspect?"

"I suspect you are getting tired of your wife."

"She is forty-two, and I am thirty-five; and I have been married
to her for thirteen years. You know all that--and you only
suspect I am tired of her. Bless your innocence! Have you any
thing more to say?"

"If you force me to it, I take the freedom of an old friend, and
I say you are not treating her fairly. It's nearly two years
since you broke up your establishment abroad, and came to England
on your father's death. With the exception of myself, and one or
two other friends of former days, you have presented your wife to
nobody. Your new position has smoothed the way for you into the
best society. You never take your wife with you. You go out as if
you were a single man. I have reason to know that you are
actually believed to be a single man, among these new
acquaintances of yours, in more than one quarter. Forgive me for
speaking my mind bluntly--I say what I think. It's unworthy of
you to keep your wife buried here, as if you were ashamed of

"I _am_ ashamed of her."


"Wait a little! you are not to have it all your own way, my good
fellow. What are the facts? Thirteen years ago I fell in love
with a handsome public singer, and married her. My father was
angry with me; and I had to go and live with her abroad. It
didn't matter, abroad. My father forgave me on his death-bed, and
I had to bring her home again. It does matter, at home. I find
myself, with a great career opening before me, tied to a woman
whose relations are (as you well know) the lowest of the low. A
woman without the slightest distinction of manner, or the
slightest aspiration beyond her nursery and her kitchen, her
piano and her books. Is _that_ a wife who can help me to make my
place in society?--who can smooth my way through social obstacles
and political obstacles, to the House of Lords? By Jupiter! if
ever there was a woman to be 'buried' (as you call it), that
woman is my wife. And, what's more, if you want the truth, it's
because I _can't_ bury her here that I'm going to leave this
house. She has got a cursed knack of making acquaintances
wherever she goes. She'll have a circle of friends about her if I
leave her in this neighborhood much longer. Friends who remember
her as the famous opera-singer. Friends who will see her
swindling scoundrel of a father (when my back is turned) coming
drunk to the door to borrow money of her! I tell you, my marriage
has wrecked my prospects. It's no use talking to me of my wife's
virtues. She is a millstone round my neck, with all her virtues.
If I had not been a born idiot I should have waited, and married
a woman who would have been of some use to me; a woman with high

Mr. Kendrew touched his host's arm, and suddenly interrupted him.

"To come to the point," he said--"a woman like Lady Jane

Mr. Vanborough started. His eyes fell, for the first time, before
the eyes of his friend.

"What do you know about Lady Jane?" he asked.

"Nothing. I don't move in Lady Jane's world--but I do go
sometimes to the opera. I saw you with her last night in her box;
and I heard what was said in the stalls near me. You were openly
spoken of as the favored man who was singled out from the rest by
Lady Jane. Imagine what would happen if your wife heard that! You
are wrong, Vanborough--you are in every way wrong. You alarm, you
distress, you disappoint me. I never sought this explanation--but
now it has come, I won't shrink from it. Reconsider your conduct;
reconsider what you have said to me--or you count me no longer
among your friends. No! I
want no farther talk about it now. We are both getting hot--we
may end in saying what had better have been left unsaid. Once
more, let us change the subject. You wrote me word that you
wanted me here to-day, because you needed my advice on a matter
of some importance. What is it?"

Silence followed that question. Mr. Vanborough's face betrayed
signs of embarrassment. He poured himself out another glass of
wine, and drank it at a draught before he replied.

"It's not so easy to tell you what I want," he said, "after the
tone you have taken with me about my wife."

Mr. Kendrew looked surprised.

"Is Mrs. Vanborough concerned in the matter?" he asked.


"Does she know about it?"


"Have you kept the thing a secret out of regard for _her?_"


"Have I any right to advise on it?"

"You have the right of an old friend."

"Then, why not tell me frankly what it is?"

There was another moment of embarrassment on Mr. Vanborough's

"It will come better," he answered, "from a third person, whom I
expect here every minute. He is in possession of all the
facts--and he is better able to state them than I am."

"Who is the person?"

"My friend, Delamayn."

"Your lawyer?"

"Yes--the junior partner in the firm of Delamayn, Hawke, and
Delamayn. Do you know him?"

"I am acquainted with him. His wife's family were friends of mine
before he married. I don't like him."

"You're rather hard to please to-day! Delamayn is a rising man,
if ever there was one yet. A man with a career before him, and
with courage enough to pursue it. He is going to leave the Firm,
and try his luck at the Bar. Every body says he will do great
things. What's your objection to him?"

"I have no objection whatever. We meet with people occasionally
whom we dislike without knowing why. Without knowing why, I
dislike Mr. Delamayn."

"Whatever you do you must put up with him this evening. He will
be here directly."

He was there at that moment. The servant opened the door, and
announced--"Mr. Delamayn."


Externally speaking, the rising solicitor, who was going to try
his luck at the Bar, looked like a man who was going to succeed.
His hard, hairless face, his watchful gray eyes, his thin,
resolute lips, said plainly, in so many words, "I mean to get on
in the world; and, if you are in my way, I mean to get on at your
expense." Mr. Delamayn was habitually polite to every body--but
he had never been known to say one unnecessary word to his
dearest friend. A man of rare ability; a man of unblemished honor
(as the code of the world goes); but not a man to be taken
familiarly by the hand. You would never have borrowed money of
him--but you would have trusted him with untold gold. Involved in
private and personal troubles, you would have hesitated at asking
him to help you. Involved in public and producible troubles, you
would have said, Here is my man. Sure to push his way--nobody
could look at him and doubt it--sure to push his way.

"Kendrew is an old friend of mine," said Mr. Vanborough,
addressing himself to the lawyer. "Whatever you have to say to
_me_ you may say before _him._ Will you have some wine?"

"No--thank you."

"Have you brought any news?"


"Have you got the written opinions of the two barristers?"


"Why not?"

"'Because nothing of the sort is necessary. If the facts of the
case are correctly stated there is not the slightest doubt about
the law."

With that reply Mr. Delamayn took a written paper from his
pocket, and spread it out on the table before him.

"What is that?" asked Mr. Vanborough.

"The case relating to your marriage."

Mr. Kendrew started, and showed the first tokens of interest in
the proceedings which had escaped him yet. Mr. Delamayn looked at
him for a moment, and went on.

"The case," he resumed, "as originally stated by you, and taken
down in writing by our head-clerk."

Mr. Vanborough's temper began to show itself again.

"What have we got to do with that now?" he asked. "You have made
your inquiries to prove the correctness of my statement--haven't


"And you have found out that I am right?"

"I have found out that you are right--if the case is right. I
wish to be sure that no mistake has occurred between you and the
clerk. This is a very important matter. I am going to take the
responsibility of giving an opinion which may be followed by
serious consequences; and I mean to assure myself that the
opinion is given on a sound basis, first. I have some questions
to ask you. Don't be impatient, if you please. They won't take

He referred to the manuscript, and put the first question.

"You were married at Inchmallock, in Ireland, Mr. Vanborough,
thirteen years since?"


"Your wife--then Miss Anne Silvester--was a Roman Catholic?"


"Her father and mother were Roman Catholics?"

"They were."

"_Your_ father and mother were Protestants? and _you_ were
baptized and brought up in the Church of England?"

"All right!"

"Miss Anne Silvester felt, and expressed, a strong repugnance to
marrying you, because you and she belonged to different religious

"She did."

"You got over her objection by consenting to become n Roman
Catholic, like herself?"

"It was the shortest way with her and it didn't matter to _me_."

"You were formally received into the Roman Catholic Church?"

"I went through the whole ceremony."

"Abroad or at home?"


"How long was it before the date of your marriage?"

"Six weeks before I was married."

Referring perpetually to the paper in his hand, Mr. Delamayn was
especially careful in comparing that last answer with the answer
given to the head-clerk.

"Quite right," he said, and went on with his questions.

"The priest who married you was one Ambrose Redman--a young man
recently appointed to his clerical duties?"


"Did he ask if you were both Roman Catholics?"


"Did he ask any thing more?"


"Are you sure he never inquired whether you had both been
Catholics _for more than one year before you came to him to be

"I am certain of it."

"He must have forgotten that part of his duty--or being only a
beginner, he may well have been ignorant of it altogether. Did
neither you nor the lady think of informing him on the point?"

"Neither I nor the lady knew there was any necessity for
informing him."

Mr. Delamayn folded up the manuscript, and put it back in his

"Right," he said, "in every particular."

Mr. Vanborough's swarthy complexion slowly turned pale. He cast
one furtive glance at Mr. Kendrew, and turned away again.

"Well," he said to the lawyer, "now for your opinion! What is the

"The law," answered Mr. Delamayn, "is beyond all doubt or
dispute. Your marriage with Miss Anne Silvester is no marriage at

Mr. Kendrew started to his feet.

"What do you mean?" he asked, sternly.

The rising solicitor lifted his eyebrows in polite surprise. If
Mr. Kendrew wanted information, why should Mr. Kendrew ask for it
in that way? "Do you wish me to go into the law of the case?" he

"I do."

Mr. Delamayn stated the law, as that law still stands--to the
disgrace of the English Legislature and the English Nation.

"By the Irish Statute of George the Second," he said, "every
marriage celebrated by a Popish priest between two Protestants,
or between a Papist and any person who has been a Protestant
within twelve months before the marriage, is declared null and
void. And by two other Acts of the same reign such a celebration
of marriage is made a felony on the part of the priest. The
clergy in Ireland of other religious denominations have been
relieved from this law. But it still remains in force so far as
the Roman Catholic priesthood is concerned."

"Is such a state of things possible in the age we live in!"
exclaimed Mr. Kendrew.

Mr. Delamayn smiled. He had outgrown the customary illusions as
to the age we live in.

"There are other instances in which the Irish marriage-law
presents some curious anomalies of its own," he went on. "It is
felony, as I have just told you, for a Roman Catholic priest to
celebrate a marriage which may be lawfully celebrated by a
parochial clergyman, a Presbyterian mini ster, and a
Non-conformist minister. It is also felony (by another law) on
the part of a parochial clergyman to celebrate a marriage that
may be lawfully celebrated by a Roman Catholic priest. And it is
again felony (by yet another law) for a Presbyterian minister and
a Non-conformist minister to celebrate a marriage which may be
lawfully celebrated by a clergyman of the Established Church. An
odd state of things. Foreigners might possibly think it a
scandalous state of things. In this country we don't appear to
mind it. Returning to the present case, the results stand thus:
Mr. Vanborough is a single man; Mrs. Vanborough is a single
woman; their child is illegitimate, and the priest, Ambrose
Redman, is liable to be tried, and punished, as a felon, for
marrying them."

"An infamous law!" said Mr. Kendrew.

"It _is_ the law," returned Mr. Delamayn, as a sufficient answer
to him.

Thus far not a word had escaped the master of the house. He sat
with his lips fast closed and his eyes riveted on the table,

Mr. Kendrew turned to him, and broke the silence.

"Am I to understand," he asked, "that the advice you wanted from
me related to _this?_"


"You mean to tell me that, foreseeing the present interview and
the result to which it might lead, you felt any doubt as to the
course you were bound to take? Am I really to understand that you
hesitate to set this dreadful mistake right, and to make the
woman who is your wife in the sight of Heaven your wife in the
sight of the law?"

"If you choose to put it in that light," said Mr. Vanborough; "if
you won't consider--"

"I want a plain answer to my question--'yes, or no.' "

"Let me speak, will you! A man has a right to explain himself, I

Mr. Kendrew stopped him by a gesture of disgust.

"I won't trouble you to explain yourself," he said. "I prefer to
leave the house. You have given me a lesson, Sir, which I shall
not forget. I find that one man may have known another from the
days when they were both boys, and may have seen nothing but the
false surface of him in all that time. I am ashamed of having
ever been your friend. You are a stranger to me from this

With those words he left the room.

"That is a curiously hot-headed man," remarked Mr. Delamayn. "If
you will allow me, I think I'll change my mind. I'll have a glass
of wine."

Mr. Vanborough rose to his feet without replying, and took a turn
in the room impatiently. Scoundrel as he was--in intention, if
not yet in act--the loss of the oldest friend he had in the world
staggered him for the moment.

"This is an awkward business, Delamayn," he said. "What would you
advise me to do?"

Mr. Delamayn shook his head, and sipped his claret.

"I decline to advise you," he answered. "I take no
responsibility, beyond the responsibility of stating the law as
it stands, in your case."

Mr. Vanborough sat down again at the table, to consider the
alternative of asserting or not asserting his freedom from the
marriage tie. He had not had much time thus far for turning the
matter over in his mind. But for his residence on the Continent
the question of the flaw in his marriage might no doubt have been
raised long since. As things were, the question had only taken
its rise in a chance conversation with Mr. Delamayn in the summer
of that year.

For some minutes the lawyer sat silent, sipping his wine, and the
husband sat silent, thinking his own thoughts. The first change
that came over the scene was produced by the appearance of a
servant in the dining-room.

Mr. Vanborough looked up at the man with a sudden outbreak of

"What do you want here?"

The man was a well-bred English servant. In other words, a human
machine, doing its duty impenetrably when it was once wound up.
He had his words to speak, and he spoke them.

"There is a lady at the door, Sir, who wishes to see the house."

"The house is not to be seen at this time of the evening."

The machine had a message to deliver, and delivered it.

"The lady desired me to present her apologies, Sir. I was to tell
you she was much pressed for time. This was the last house on the
house agent's list, and her coachman is stupid about finding his
way in strange places."

"Hold your tongue, and tell the lady to go to the devil!"

Mr. Delamayn interfered--partly in the interests of his client,
partly in the interests of propriety.

"You attach some importance, I think, to letting this house as
soon as possible?" he said.

"Of course I do!"

"Is it wise--on account of a momentary annoyance--to lose an
opportunity of laying your hand on a tenant?"

"Wise or not, it's an infernal nuisance to be disturbed by a

"Just as you please. I don't wish to interfere. I only wish to
say--in case you are thinking of my convenience as your
guest--that it will be no nuisance to _me._"

The servant impenetrably waited. Mr. Vanborough impatiently gave

"Very well. Let her in. Mind, if she comes here, she's only to
look into the room, and go out again. If she wants to ask
questions, she must go to the agent."

Mr. Delamayn interfered once more, in the interests, this time,
of the lady of the house.

"Might it not be desirable," he suggested, to consult Mrs.
Vanborough before you quite decide?"

"Where's your mistress?"

"In the garden, or the paddock, Sir--I am not sure which."

"We can't send all over the grounds in search of her. Tell the
house-maid, and show the lady in."

The servant withdrew. Mr. Delamayn helped himself to a second
glass of wine.

"Excellent claret," he said. "Do you get it direct from

There was no answer. Mr. Vanborough had returned to the
contemplation of the alternative between freeing himself or not
freeing himself from the marriage tie. One of his elbows was on
the table, he bit fiercely at his finger-nails. He muttered
between his teeth, "What am I to do?"

A sound of rustling silk made itself gently audible in the
passage outside. The door opened, and the lady who had come to
see the house appeared in the dining-room.


She was tall and elegant; beautifully dressed, in the happiest
combination of simplicity and splendor. A light summer veil hung
over her face. She lifted it, and made her apologies for
disturbing the gentlemen over their wine, with the unaffected
ease and grace of a highly-bred woman.

"Pray accept my excuses for this intrusion. I am ashamed to
disturb you. One look at the room will be quite enough."

Thus far she had addressed Mr. Delamayn, who happened to be
nearest to her. Looking round the room her eye fell on Mr.
Vanborough. She started, with a loud exclamation of astonishment.
_"You!"_ she said. "Good Heavens! who would have thought of
meeting _you_ here?"

Mr. Vanborough, on his side, stood petrified.

"Lady Jane!" he exclaimed. "Is it possible?"

He barely looked at her while she spoke. His eyes wandered
guiltily toward the window which led into the garden. The
situation was a terrible one--equally terrible if his wife
discovered Lady Jane, or if Lady Jane discovered his wife. For
the moment nobody was visible on the lawn. There was time, if the
chance only offered--there was time for him to get the visitor
out of the house. The visitor, innocent of all knowledge of the
truth, gayly offered him her hand.

"I believe in mesmerism for the first time," she said. "This is
an instance of magnetic sympathy, Mr. Vanborough. An invalid
friend of mine wants a furnished house at Hampstead. I undertake
to find one for her, and the day _I_ select to make the discovery
is the day _you_ select for dining with a friend. A last house at
Hampstead is left on my list--and in that house I meet you.
Astonishing!" She turned to Mr. Delamayn. "I presume I am
addressing the owner of the house?" Before a word could be said
by either of the gentlemen she noticed the garden. "What pretty
grounds! Do I see a lady in the garden? I hope I have not driven
her away." She looked round, and appealed to Mr. Vanborough.
"Your friend's wife?" she asked, and, on this occasion, waited
for a reply.

In Mr. Vanborough's situation what reply was possible?

Mrs. Vanborough was not only visible--but audible--in the garden;
giving her orders to one of the out-of-door servants with the
tone and manner which proclaimed the mistress of the house.
Suppose he said, "She is _not_ my friend's wife?" Female
curiosity would inevitably put the next question, "Who is she?"
Suppose he invented an explanation? The explanation would take
time, and time would give his wife an opportunity of discovering
Lady Jane. Seeing all these considerations in one breathless
moment, Mr. Vanborough took the shortest and the boldest way out
of the difficulty. He answered silently by an affirmative
inclination of the head, which dextrously turned Mrs. Vanborough
into to Mrs. Delamayn without allowing Mr. Delamayn the
opportunity of hearing it.

But the lawyer's eye was habitually watchful, and the lawyer saw

Mastering in a moment his first natural astonishment at the
liberty taken with him, Mr. Delamayn drew the inevitable
conclusion that there was something wrong, and that there was an
attempt (not to be permitted for a moment) to mix him up in it.
He advanced, resolute to contradict his client, to his client's
own face.

The voluble Lady Jane interrupted him before he could open his

"Might I ask one question? Is the aspect south? Of course it is!
I ought to see by the sun that the aspect is south. These and the
other two are, I suppose, the only rooms on the ground-floor? And
is it quiet? Of course it's quiet! A charming house. Far more
likely to suit my friend than any I have seen yet. Will you give
me the refusal of it till to-morrow?" There she stopped for
breath, and gave Mr. Delamayn his first opportunity of speaking
to her.

"I beg your ladyship's pardon," he began. "I really can't--"

Mr. Vanborough--passing close behind him and whispering as he
passed--stopped the lawyer before he could say a word more.

"For God's sake, don't contradict me! My wife is coming this

At the same moment (still supposing that Mr. Delamayn was the
master of the house) Lady Jane returned to the charge.

"You appear to feel some hesitation," she said. "Do you want a
reference?" She smiled satirically, and summoned her friend to
her aid. "Mr. Vanborough!"

Mr. Vanborough, stealing step by step nearer to the
window--intent, come what might of it, on keeping his wife out of
the room--neither heeded nor heard her. Lady Jane followed him,
and tapped him briskly on the shoulder with her parasol.

At that moment Mrs. Vanborough appeared on the garden side of the

"Am I in the way?" she asked, addressing her husband, after one
steady look at Lady Jane. "This lady appears to be an old friend
of yours." There was a tone of sarcasm in that allusion to the
parasol, which might develop into a tone of jealousy at a
moment's notice.

Lady Jane was not in the least disconcerted. She had her double
privilege of familiarity with the men whom she liked--her
privilege as a woman of high rank, and her privilege as a young
widow. She bowed to Mrs. Vanborough, with all the highly-finished
politeness of the order to which she belonged.

"The lady of the house, I presume?" she said, with a gracious

Mrs. Vanborough returned the bow coldly--entered the room
first--and then answered, "Yes."

Lady Jane turned to Mr. Vanborough.

"Present me!" she said, submitting resignedly to the formalities
of the middle classes.

Mr. Vanborough obeyed, without looking at his wife, and without
mentioning his wife's name.

"Lady Jane Parnell," he said, passing over the introduction as
rapidly as possible. "Let me see you to your carriage," he added,
offering his arm. "I will take care that you have the refusal of
the house. You may trust it all to me."

No! Lady Jane was accustomed to leave a favorable impression
behind her wherever she went. It was a habit with her to be
charming (in widely different ways) to both sexes. The social
experience of the upper classes is, in England, an experience of
universal welcome. Lady Jane declined to leave until she had
thawed the icy reception of the lady of the house.

"I must repeat my apologies," she said to Mrs. Vanborough, "for
coming at this inconvenient time. My intrusion appears to have
sadly disturbed the two gentlemen. Mr. Vanborough looks as if he
wished me a hundred miles away. And as for your husband--" She
stopped and glanced toward Mr. Delamayn. "Pardon me for speaking
in that familiar way. I have not the pleasure of knowing your
husband's name."

In speechless amazement Mrs. Vanborough's eyes followed the
direction of Lady Jane's eyes--and rested on the lawyer,
personally a total stranger to her.

Mr. Delamayn, resolutely waiting his opportunity to speak, seized
it once more--and held it this time.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "There is some misapprehension
here, for which I am in no way responsible. I am _not_ that
lady's husband."

It was Lady Jane's turn to be astonished. She looked at the
lawyer. Useless! Mr. Delamayn had set himself right--Mr. Delamayn
declined to interfere further. He silently took a chair at the
other end of the room. Lady Jane addressed Mr. Vanborough.

"Whatever the mistake may be," she said, "you are responsible for
it. You certainly told me this lady was your friend's wife."

"What!!!" cried Mrs. Vanborough--loudly, sternly, incredulously.

The inbred pride of the great lady began to appear behind the
thin outer veil of politeness that covered it.

"I will speak louder if you wish it," she said. "Mr. Vanborough
told me you were that gentleman's wife."

Mr. Vanborough whispered fiercely to his wife through his
clenched teeth.

"The whole thing is a mistake. Go into the garden again!"

Mrs. Vanborough's indignation was suspended for the moment in
dread, as she saw the passion and the terror struggling in her
husband's face.

"How you look at me!" she said. "How you speak to me!"

He only repeated, "Go into the garden!"

Lady Jane began to perceive, what the lawyer had discovered some
minutes previously--that there was something wrong in the villa
at Hampstead. The lady of the house was a lady in an anomalous
position of some kind. And as the house, to all appearance,
belonged to Mr. Vanborough's friend, Mr. Vanborough's friend must
(in spite of his recent disclaimer) be in some way responsible
for it. Arriving, naturally enough, at this erroneous conclusion,
Lady Jane's eyes rested for an instant on Mrs. Vanborough with a
finely contemptuous expression of inquiry which would have roused
the spirit of the tamest woman in existence. The implied insult
stung the wife's sensitive nature to the quick. She turned once
more to her husband--this time without flinching.

"Who is that woman?" she asked.

Lady Jane was equal to the emergency. The manner in which she
wrapped herself up in her own virtue, without the slightest
pretension on the one hand, and without the slightest compromise
on the other, was a sight to see.

"Mr. Vanborough," she said, "you offered to take me to my
carriage just now. I begin to understand that I had better have
accepted the offer at once. Give me your arm."

"Stop!" said Mrs. Vanborough, "your ladyship's looks are looks of
contempt; your ladyship's words can bear but one interpretation.
I am innocently involved in some vile deception which I don't
understand. But this I do know--I won't submit to be insulted in
my own house. After what you have just said I forbid my husband
to give you his arm.

Her husband!

Lady Jane looked at Mr. Vanborough--at Mr. Vanborough, whom she
loved; whom she had honestly believed to be a single man; whom
she had suspected, up to that moment, of nothing worse than of
trying to screen the frailties of his friend. She dropped her
highly-bred tone; she lost her highly-bred manners. The sense of
her injury (if this was true), the pang of her jealousy (if that
woman was his wife), stripped the human nature in her bare of all
disguises, raised the angry color in her cheeks, and struck the
angry fire out of her eyes.

"If you can tell the truth, Sir," she said, haughtily, "be so
good as to tell it now. Have you been falsely presenting yourself
to the world--falsely presenting yourself to _me_--in the
character and with the aspirations of a single man? Is that lady
your wife?"

"Do you hear her? do you see her?" cri ed Mrs. Vanborough,
appealing to her husband, in her turn. She suddenly drew back
from him, shuddering from head to foot. "He hesitates!" she said
to herself, faintly. "Good God! he hesitates!"

Lady Jane sternly repeated her question.

"Is that lady your wife?"

He roused his scoundrel-courage, and said the fatal word:


Mrs. Vanborough staggered back. She caught at the white curtains
of the window to save herself from falling, and tore them. She
looked at her husband, with the torn curtain clenched fast in her
hand. She asked herself, "Am I mad? or is he?"

Lady Jane drew a deep breath of relief. He was not married! He
was only a profligate single man. A profligate single man is
shocking--but reclaimable. It is possible to blame him severely,
and to insist on his reformation in the most uncompromising
terms. It is also possible to forgive him, and marry him. Lady
Jane took the necessary position under the circumstances with
perfect tact. She inflicted reproof in the present without
excluding hope in the future.

"I have made a very painful discovery," she said, gravely, to Mr.
Vanborough. "It rests with _you_ to persuade me to forget it!

She accompanied the last words by a farewell look which aroused
Mrs. Vanborough to frenzy. She sprang forward and prevented Lady
Jane from leaving the room.

"No!" she said. "You don't go yet!"

Mr. Vanborough came forward to interfere. His wife eyed him with
a terrible look, and turned from him with a terrible contempt.
"That man has lied!" she said. "In justice to myself, I insist on
proving it!" She struck a bell on a table near her. The servant
came in. "Fetch my writing-desk out of the next room." She
waited--with her back turned on her husband, with her eyes fixed
on Lady Jane. Defenseless and alone she stood on the wreck of her
married life, superior to the husband's treachery, the lawyer's
indifference, and her rival's contempt. At that dreadful moment
her beauty shone out again with a gleam of its old glory. The
grand woman, who in the old stage days had held thousands
breathless over the mimic woes of the scene, stood there grander
than ever, in her own woe, and held the three people who looked
at her breathless till she spoke again.

The servant came in with the desk. She took out a paper and
handed it to Lady Jane.

"I was a singer on the stage," she said, "when I was a single
woman. The slander to which such women are exposed doubted my
marriage. I provided myself with the paper in your hand. It
speaks for itself. Even the highest society, madam, respects

Lady Jane examined the paper. It was a marriage-certificate. She
turned deadly pale, and beckoned to Mr. Vanborough. "Are you
deceiving me?" she asked.

Mr. Vanborough looked back into the far corner of the room, in
which the lawyer sat, impenetrably waiting for events. "Oblige me
by coming here for a moment," he said.

Mr. Delamayn rose and complied with the request. Mr. Vanborough
addressed himself to Lady Jane.

"I beg to refer you to my man of business. _He_ is not interested
in deceiving you."

"Am I required simply to speak to the fact?" asked Mr. Delamayn.
"I decline to do more."

"You are not wanted to do more."

Listening intently to that interchange of question and answer,
Mrs. Vanborough advanced a step in silence. The high courage that
had sustained her against outrage which had openly declared
itself shrank under the sense of something coming which she had
not foreseen. A nameless dread throbbed at her heart and crept
among the roots of her hair.

Lady Jane handed the certificate to the lawyer.

"In two words, Sir," she said, impatiently, "what is this?"

"In two words, madam," answered Mr. Delamayn; "waste paper."

"He is _not_ married?"

"He is _not_ married."

After a moment's hesitation Lady Jane looked round at Mrs.
Vanborough, standing silent at her side--looked, and started back
in terror. "Take me away!" she cried, shrinking from the ghastly
face that confronted her with the fixed stare of agony in the
great, glittering eyes. "Take me away! That woman will murder

Mr. Vanborough gave her his arm and led her to the door. There
was dead silence in the room as he did it. Step by step the
wife's eyes followed them with the same dreadful stare, till the
door closed and shut them out. The lawyer, left alone with the
disowned and deserted woman, put the useless certificate silently
on the table. She looked from him to the paper, and dropped,
without a cry to warn him, without an effort to save herself,
senseless at his feet.

He lifted her from the floor and placed her on the sofa, and
waited to see if Mr. Vanborough would come back. Looking at the
beautiful face--still beautiful, even in the swoon--he owned it
was hard on her. Yes! in his own impenetrable way, the rising
lawyer owned it was hard on her.

But the law justified it. There was no doubt in this case. The
law justified it.

The trampling of horses and the grating of wheels sounded
outside. Lady Jane's carriage was driving away. Would the husband
come back? (See what a thing habit is! Even Mr. Delamayn still
mechanically thought of him as the husband--in the face of the
law! in the face of the facts!)

No. Then minutes passed. And no sign of the husband coming back.

It was not wise to make a scandal in the house. It was not
desirable (on his own sole responsibility) to let the servants
see what had happened. Still, there she lay senseless. The cool
evening air came in through the open window and lifted the light
ribbons in her lace cap, lifted the little lock of hair that had
broken loose and drooped over her neck. Still, there she lay--the
wife who had loved him, the mother of his child--there she lay.

He stretched out his hand to ring the bell and summon help.

At the same moment the quiet of the summer evening was once more
disturbed. He held his hand suspended over the bell. The noise
outside came nearer. It was again the trampling of horses and the
grating of wheels. Advancing--rapidly advancing--stopping at the

Was Lady Jane coming back?

Was the husband coming back?

There was a loud ring at the bell--a quick opening of the
house-door--a rustling of a woman's dress in the passage. The
door of the room opened, and the woman appeared--alone. Not Lady
Jane. A stranger--older, years older, than Lady Jane. A plain
woman, perhaps, at other times. A woman almost beautiful now,
with the eager happiness that beamed in her face.

She saw the figure on the sofa. She ran to it with a cry--a cry
of recognition and a cry of terror in one. She dropped on her
knees--and laid that helpless head on her bosom, and kissed, with
a sister's kisses, that cold, white cheek.

"Oh, my darling!" she said. "Is it thus we meet again?"

Yes! After all the years that had passed since the parting in the
cabin of the ship, it was thus the two school-friends met again.

Part the Second.



ADVANCING from time past to time present, the Prologue leaves the
date last attained (the summer of eighteen hundred and
fifty-five), and travels on through an interval of twelve
years--tells who lived, who died, who prospered, and who failed
among the persons concerned in the tragedy at the Hampstead
villa--and, this done, leaves the reader at the opening of THE
STORY in the spring of eighteen hundred and sixty-eight.

The record begins with a marriage--the marriage of Mr. Vanborough
and Lady Jane Parnell.

In three months from the memorable day when his solicitor had
informed him that he was a free man, Mr. Vanborough possessed the
wife he desired, to grace the head of his table and to push his
fortunes in the world--the Legislature of Great Britain being the
humble servant of his treachery, and the respectable accomplice
of his crime.

He entered Parliament. He gave (thanks to his wife) six of the
grandest dinners, and two of the most crowded balls of the
season. He made a successful first speech in the House of
Commons. He endowed a church in a poor neighborhood. He wrote an
article which attracted attention in a quarterly review. He
discovered, denounced, and remedied a crying abuse in the
administration of a public charity. He r eceived (thanks once
more to his wife) a member of the Royal family among the visitors
at his country house in the autumn recess. These were his
triumphs, and this his rate of progress on the way to the
peerage, during the first year of his life as the husband of Lady

There was but one more favor that Fortune could confer on her
spoiled child--and Fortune bestowed it. There was a spot on Mr.
Vanborough's past life as long as the woman lived whom he had
disowned and deserted. At the end of the first year Death took
her--and the spot was rubbed out.

She had met the merciless injury inflicted on her with a rare
patience, with an admirable courage. It is due to Mr. Vanborough
to admit that he broke her heart, with the strictest attention to
propriety. He offered (through his lawyer ) a handsome provision
for her and for her child. It was rejected, without an instant's
hesitation. She repudiated his money--she repudiated his name. By
the name which she had borne in her maiden days--the name which
she had made illustrious in her Art--the mother and daughter were
known to all who cared to inquire after them when they had sunk
in the world.

There was no false pride in the resolute attitude which she thus
assumed after her husband had forsaken her. Mrs. Silvester (as
she was now called) gratefully accepted for herself, and for Miss
Silvester, the assistance of the dear old friend who had found
her again in her affliction, and who remained faithful to her to
the end. They lived with Lady Lundie until the mother was strong
enough to carry out the plan of life which she had arranged for
the future, and to earn her bread as a teacher of singing. To all
appearance she rallied, and became herself again, in a few
months' time. She was making her way; she was winning sympathy,
confidence, and respect every where--when she sank suddenly at
the opening of her new life. Nobody could account for it. The
doctors themselves were divided in opinion. Scientifically
speaking, there was no reason why she should die. It was a mere
figure of speech--in no degree satisfactory to any reasonable
mind--to say, as Lady Lundie said, that she had got her
death-blow on the day when her husband deserted her. The one
thing certain was the fact--account for it as you might. In spite
of science (which meant little), in spite of her own courage
(which meant much), the woman dropped at her post and died.

In the latter part of her illness her mind gave way. The friend
of her old school-days, sitting at the bedside, heard her talking
as if she thought herself back again in the cabin of the ship.
The poor soul found the tone, almost the look, that had been lost
for so many years--the tone of the past time when the two girls
had gone their different ways in the world. She said, "we will
meet, darling, with all the old love between us," just as she had
said almost a lifetime since. Before the end her mind rallied.
She surprised the doctor and the nurse by begging them gently to
leave the room. When they had gone she looked at Lady Lundie, and
woke, as it seemed, to consciousness from a dream.

"Blanche," she said, "you will take care of my child?"

"She shall be _my_ child, Anne, when you are gone."

The dying woman paused, and thought for a little. A sudden
trembling seized her.

"Keep it a secret!" she said. "I am afraid for my child."

"Afraid? After what I have promised you?"

She solemnly repeated the words, "I am afraid for my child."


"My Anne is my second self--isn't she?"


"She is as fond of your child as I was of you?"


"She is not called by her father's name--she is called by mine.
She is Anne Silvester as I was. Blanche! _Will she end like Me?_"

The question was put with the laboring breath, with the heavy
accents which tell that death is near. It chilled the living
woman who heard it to the marrow of her bones.

"Don't think that!" she cried, horror-struck. "For God's sake,
don't think that!"

The wildness began to appear again in Anne Silvester's eyes. She
made feebly impatient signs with her hands. Lady Lundie bent over
her, and heard her whisper, "Lift me up."

She lay in her friend's arms; she looked up in her friend's face;
she went back wildly to her fear for her child.

"Don't bring her up like Me! She must be a governess--she must
get her bread. Don't let her act! don't let her sing! don't let
her go on the stage!" She stopped--her voice suddenly recovered
its sweetness of tone--she smiled faintly--she said the old
girlish words once more, in the old girlish way, "Vow it,
Blanche!" Lady Lundie kissed her, and answered, as she had
answered when they parted in the ship, "I vow it, Anne!"

The head sank, never to be lifted more. The last look of life
flickered in the filmy eyes and went out. For a moment afterward
her lips moved. Lady Lundie put her ear close to them, and heard
the dreadful question reiterated, in the same dreadful words:
"She is Anne Silvester--as I was. _Will she end like Me?_"


Five years passed--and the lives of the three men who had sat at
the dinner-table in the Hampstead villa began, in their altered
aspects, to reveal the progress of time and change.

Mr. Kendrew; Mr. Delamayn; Mr. Vanborough. Let the order in which
they are here named be the order in which their lives are
reviewed, as seen once more after a lapse of five years.

How the husband's friend marked his sense of the husband's
treachery has been told already. How he felt the death of the
deserted wife is still left to tell. Report, which sees the
inmost hearts of men, and delights in turning them outward to the
public view, had always declared that Mr. Kendrew's life had its
secret, and that the secret was a hopeless passion for the
beautiful woman who had married his friend. Not a hint ever
dropped to any living soul, not a word ever spoken to the woman
herself, could be produced in proof of the assertion while the
woman lived. When she died Report started up again more
confidently than ever, and appealed to the man's own conduct as
proof against the man himself.

He attended the funeral--though he was no relation. He took a few
blades of grass from the turf with which they covered her
grave--when he thought that nobody was looking at him. He
disappeared from his club. He traveled. He came back. He admitted
that he was weary of England. He applied for, and obtained, an
appointment in one of the colonies. To what conclusion did all
this point? Was it not plain that his usual course of life had
lost its attraction for him, when the object of his infatuation
had ceased to exist? It might have been so--guesses less likely
have been made at the truth, and have hit the mark. It is, at any
rate, certain that he left England, never to return again.
Another man lost, Report said. Add to that, a man in ten
thousand--and, for once, Report might claim to be right.

Mr. Delamayn comes next.

The rising solicitor was struck off the roll, at his own
request--and entered himself as a student at one of the Inns of
Court. For three years nothing was known of him but that he was
reading hard and keeping his terms. He was called to the Bar. His
late partners in the firm knew they could trust him, and put
business into his hands. In two years he made himself a position
in Court. At the end of the two years he made himself a position
out of Court. He appeared as "Junior" in "a famous case," in
which the honor of a great family, and the title to a great
estate were concerned. His "Senior" fell ill on the eve of the
trial. He conducted the case for the defendant and won it. The
defendant said, "What can I do for you?" Mr. Delamayn answered,
"Put me into Parliament." Being a landed gentleman, the defendant
had only to issue the necessary orders--and behold, Mr. Delamayn
was in Parliament!

In the House of Commons the new member and Mr. Vanborough met

They sat on the same bench, and sided with the same party. Mr.
Delamayn noticed that Mr. Vanborough was looking old and worn and
gray. He put a few questions to a well-informed person. The
well-informed person shook his head. Mr. Vanborough was rich; Mr.
Vanborough was well-connected (through his wife); Mr. Van borough
was a sound man in every sense of the word; _but_--nobody liked
him. He had done very well the first year, and there it had
ended. He was undeniably clever, but he produced a disagreeable
impression in the House. He gave splendid entertainments, but he
wasn't popular in society. His party respected him, but when they
had any thing to give they passed him over. He had a temper of
his own, if the truth must be told; and with nothing against
him--on the contrary, with every thing in his favor--he didn't
make friends. A soured man. At home and abroad, a soured man.


Five years more passed, dating from the day when the deserted
wife was laid in her grave. It was now the year eighteen hundred
and sixty six.

On a certain day in that year two special items of news appeared
in the papers--the news of an elevation to the peerage, and the
news of a suicide.

Getting on well at the Bar, Mr. Delamayn got on better still in
Parliament. He became one of the prominent men in the House.
Spoke clearly, sensibly, and modestly, and was never too long.
Held the House, where men of higher abilities "bored" it. The
chiefs of his party said openly, "We must do something for
Delamayn," The opportunity offered, and the chiefs kept their
word. Their Solicitor-General was advanced a step, and they put
Delamayn in his place. There was an outcry on the part of the
older members of the Bar. The Ministry answered, "We want a man
who is listened to in the House, and we have got him." The papers
supported the new nomination. A great debate came off, and the
new Solicitor-General justified the Ministry and the papers. His
enemies said, derisively, "He will be Lord Chancellor in a year
or two!" His friends made genial jokes in his domestic circle,
which pointed to the same conclusion. They warned his two sons,
Julius and Geoffrey (then at college), to be careful what
acquaintances they made, as they might find themselves the sons
of a lord at a moment's notice. It really began to look like
something of the sort. Always rising, Mr. Delamayn rose next to
be Attorney-General. About the same time--so true it is that
"nothing succeeds like success"--a childless relative died and
left him a fortune. In the summer of 'sixty-six a Chief Judgeship
fell vacant. The Ministry had made a previous appointment which
had been universally unpopular. They saw their way to supplying
the place of their Attorney-General, and they offered the
judicial appointment to Mr. Delamayn. He preferred remaining in
the House of Commons, and refused to accept it. The Ministry
declined to take No for an answer. They whispered confidentially,
" Will you take it with a peerage?" Mr. Delamayn consulted his
wife, and took it with a peerage. The London _ Gazette_ announced
him to the world as Baron Holchester of Holchester. And the
friends of the family rubbed their hands and said, "What did we
tell you? Here are our two young friends, Julius and Geoffrey,
the sons of a lord!"

And where was Mr. Vanborough all this time? Exactly where we left
him five years since.

He was as rich, or richer, than ever. He was as well-connected as
ever. He was as ambitious as ever. But there it ended. He stood
still in the House; he stood still in society; nobody liked him;
he made no friends. It was all the old story over again, with
this difference, that the soured man was sourer; the gray head,
grayer; and the irritable temper more unendurable than ever. His
wife had her rooms in the house and he had his, and the
confidential servants took care that they never met on the
stairs. They had no children. They only saw each other at their
grand dinners and balls. People ate at their table, and danced on
their floor, and compared notes afterward, and said how dull it
was. Step by step the man who had once been Mr. Vanborough's
lawyer rose, till the peerage received him, and he could rise no
longer; while Mr. Vanborough, on the lower round of the ladder,
looked up, and noted it, with no more chance (rich as he was and
well-connected as he was) of climbing to the House of Lords than
your chance or mine.

The man's career was ended; and on the day when the nomination of
the new peer was announced, the man ended with it.

He laid the newspaper aside without making any remark, and went
out. His carriage set him down, where the green fields still
remain, on the northwest of London, near the foot-path which
leads to Hampstead. He walked alone to the villa where he had
once lived with the woman whom he had so cruelly wronged. New
houses had risen round it, part of the old garden had been sold
and built on. After a moment's hesitation he went to the gate and
rang the bell. He gave the servant his card. The servant's master
knew the name as the name of a man of great wealth, and of a
Member of Parliament. He asked politely to what fortunate
circumstance he owed the honor of that visit. Mr. Vanborough
answered, briefly and simply, "I once lived here; I have
associations with the place with which it is not necessary for me
to trouble you. Will you excuse what must seem to you a very
strange request? I should like to see the dining-room again, if
there is no objection, and if I am disturbing nobody."

The "strange requests" of rich men are of the nature of
"privileged communications," for this excellent reason, that they
are sure not to be requests for money. Mr. Vanborough was shown
into the dining-room. The master of the house, secretly
wondering, watched him.

He walked straight to a certain spot on the carpet, not far from
the window that led into the garden, and nearly opposite the
door. On that spot he stood silently, with his head on his
breast--thinking. Was it _there_ he had seen her for the last
time, on the day when he left the room forever? Yes; it was
there. After a minute or so he roused himself, but in a dreamy,
absent manner. He said it was a pretty place, and expressed his
thanks, and looked back before the door closed, and then went his
way again. His carriage picked him up where it had set him down.
He drove to the residence of the new Lord Holchester, and left a
card for him. Then he went home. Arrived at his house, his
secretary reminded him that he had an appointment in ten minutes'
time. He thanked the secretary in the same dreamy, absent manner
in which he had thanked the owner of the villa, and went into his
dressing-room. The person with whom he had made the appointment
came, and the secretary sent the valet up stairs to knock at the
door. There was no answer. On trying the lock it proved to be
turned inside. They broke open the door, and saw him lying on the
sofa. They went close to look--and found him dead by his own


Drawing fast to its close, the Prologue reverts to the two
girls--and tells, in a few words, how the years passed with Anne
and Blanche.

Lady Lundie more than redeemed the solemn pledge that she had
given to her friend. Preserved from every temptation which might
lure her into a longing to follow her mother's career; trained
for a teacher's life, with all the arts and all the advantages
that money could procure, Anne's first and only essays as a
governess were made, under Lady Lundie's own roof, on Lady
Lundie's own child. The difference in the ages of the
girls--seven years--the love between them, which seemed, as time
went on, to grow with their growth, favored the trial of the
experiment. In the double relation of teacher and friend to
little Blanche, the girlhood of Anne Silvester the younger passed
safely, happily, uneventfully, in the modest sanctuary of home.
Who could imagine a contrast more complete than the contrast
between her early life and her mother's? Who could see any thing
but a death-bed delusion in the terrible question which had
tortured the mother's last moments: "Will she end like Me?"

But two events of importance occurred in the quiet family circle
during the lapse of years which is now under review. In eighteen
hundred and fifty-eight the household was enlivened by the
arrival of Sir Thomas Lundie. In eighteen hundred and sixty-five
the household was broken up by the return of Sir Thomas to India,
accompanied by his wife.

Lady Lundie's health had b een failing for some time previously.
The medical men, consulted on the case, agreed that a sea-voyage
was the one change needful to restore their patient's wasted
strength--exactly at the time, as it happened, when Sir Thomas
was due again in India. For his wife's sake, he agreed to defer
his return, by taking the sea-voyage with her. The one difficulty
to get over was the difficulty of leaving Blanche and Anne behind
in England.

Appealed to on this point, the doctors had declared that at
Blanche's critical time of life they could not sanction her going
to India with her mother. At the same time, near and dear
relatives came forward, who were ready and anxious to give
Blanche and her governess a home--Sir Thomas, on his side,
engaging to bring his wife back in a year and a half, or, at
most, in two years' time. Assailed in all directions, Lady
Lundie's natural unwillingness to leave the girls was overruled.
She consented to the parting--with a mind secretly depressed, and
secretly doubtful of the future.

At the last moment she drew Anne Silvester on one side, out of
hearing of the rest. Anne was then a young woman of twenty-two,
and Blanche a girl of fifteen.

"My dear," she said, simply, "I must tell _you_ what I can not
tell Sir Thomas, and what I am afraid to tell Blanche. I am going
away, with a mind that misgives me. I am persuaded I shall not
live to return to England; and, when I am dead, I believe my
husband will marry again. Years ago your mother was uneasy, on
her death-bed, about _your_ future. I am uneasy, now, about
Blanche's future. I promised my dear dead friend that you should
be like my own child to me--and it quieted her mind. Quiet my
mind, Anne, before I go. Whatever happens in years to
come--promise me to be always, what you are now, a sister to

She held out her hand for the last time. With a full heart Anne
Silvester kissed it, and gave the promise.


In two months from that time one of the forebodings which had
weighed on Lady Lundie's mind was fulfilled. She died on the
voyage, and was buried at sea.

In a year more the second misgiving was confirmed. Sir Thomas
Lundie married again. He brought his second wife to England
toward the close of eighteen hundred and sixty six.

Time, in the new household, promised to pass as quietly as in the
old. Sir Thomas remembered and respected the trust which his
first wife had placed in Anne. The second Lady Lundie, wisely
guiding her conduct in this matter by the conduct of her husband,
left things as she found them in the new house. At the opening of
eighteen hundred and sixty-seven the relations between Anne and
Blanche were relations of sisterly sympathy and sisterly love.
The prospect in the future was as fair as a prospect could be.

At this date, of the persons concerned in the tragedy of twelve
years since at the Hampstead villa, three were dead; and one was
self-exiled in a foreign land. There now remained living Anne and
Blanche, who had been children at the time; and the rising
solicitor who had discovered the flaw in the Irish marriage--once
Mr. Delamayn: now Lord Holchester.





IN the spring of the year eighteen hundred and sixty-eight there
lived, in a certain county of North Britain, two venerable White

The Owls inhabited a decayed and deserted summer-house. The
summer-house stood in grounds attached to a country seat in
Perthshire, known by the name of Windygates.

The situation of Windygates had been skillfully chosen in that
part of the county where the fertile lowlands first begin to
merge into the mountain region beyond. The mansion-house was
intelligently laid out, and luxuriously furnished. The stables
offered a model for ventilation and space; and the gardens and
grounds were fit for a prince.

Possessed of these advantages, at starting, Windygates,
nevertheless, went the road to ruin in due course of time. The
curse of litigation fell on house and lands. For more than ten
years an interminable lawsuit coiled itself closer and closer
round the place, sequestering it from human habitation, and even
from human approach. The mansion was closed. The garden became a
wilderness of weeds. The summer-house was choked up by creeping
plants; and the appearance of the creepers was followed by the
appearance of the birds of night.

For years the Owls lived undisturbed on the property which they
had acquired by the oldest of all existing rights--the right of
taking. Throughout the day they sat peaceful and solemn, with
closed eyes, in the cool darkness shed round them by the ivy.
With the twilight they roused themselves softly to the business
of life. In sage and silent companionship of two, they went
flying, noiseless, along the quiet lanes in search of a meal. At
one time they would beat a field like a setter dog, and drop down
in an instant on a mouse unaware of them. At another time--moving
spectral over the black surface of the water--they would try the
lake for a change, and catch a perch as they had caught the
mouse. Their catholic digestions were equally tolerant of a rat
or an insect. And there were moments, proud moments, in their
lives, when they were clever enough to snatch a small bird at
roost off his perch. On those occasions the sense of superiority
which the large bird feels every where over the small, warmed
their cool blood, and set them screeching cheerfully in the
stillness of the night.

So, for years, the Owls slept their happy sleep by day, and found
their comfortable meal when darkness fell. They had come, with
the creepers, into possession of the summer-house. Consequently,
the creepers were a part of the constitution of the summer-house.
And consequently the Owls were the guardians of the Constitution.
There are some human owls who reason as they did, and who are, in
this respect--as also in respect of snatching smaller birds off
their roosts--wonderfully like them.

The constitution of the summer-house had lasted until the spring
of the year eighteen hundred and sixty-eight, when the unhallowed
footsteps of innovation passed that way; and the venerable
privileges of the Owls were assailed, for the first time, from
the world outside.

Two featherless beings appeared, uninvited, at the door of the
summer-house, surveyed the constitutional creepers, and said,
"These must come down"--looked around at the horrid light of
noonday, and said, "That must come in"--went away, thereupon, and
were heard, in the distance, agreeing together, "To-morrow it
shall be done."

And the Owls said, "Have we honored the summer-house by occupying
it all these years--and is the horrid light of noonday to be let
in on us at last? My lords and gentlemen, the Constitution is

They passed a resolution to that effect, as is the manner of
their kind. And then they shut their eyes again, and felt that
they had done their duty.

The same night, on their way to the fields, they observed with
dismay a light in one of the windows of the house. What did the
light mean?

It meant, in the first place, that the lawsuit was over at last.
It meant, in the second place that the owner of Windygates,
wanting money, had decided on letting the property. It meant, in
the third place, that the property had found a tenant, and was to
be renovated immediately out of doors and in. The Owls shrieked
as they flapped along the lanes in the darkness, And that night
they struck at a mouse--and missed him.

The next morning, the Owls--fast asleep in charge of the
Constitution--were roused by voices of featherless beings all
round them. They opened their eyes, under protest, and saw
instruments of destruction attacking the creepers. Now in one
direction, and now in another, those instruments let in on the
summer-house the horrid light of day. But the Owls were equal to
the occasion. They ruffled their feathers, and cried, "No
surrender!" The featherless beings plied their work cheerfully,
and answered, "Reform!" The creepers were torn down this way and
that. The horrid daylight poured in brighter and brighter. The
Owls had barely time to pass a new resolution, namely, "That we
do stand
by the Constitution," when a ray of the outer sunlight flashed
into their eyes, and sent them flying headlong to the nearest
shade. There they sat winking, while the summer-house was cleared
of the rank growth that had choked it up, while the rotten
wood-work was renewed, while all the murky place was purified
with air and light. And when the world saw it, and said, "Now we
shall do!" the Owls shut their eyes in pious remembrance of the
darkness, and answered, "My lords and gentlemen, the Constitution
is destroyed!"



Who was responsible for the reform of the summer-house? The new
tenant at Windygates was responsible.

And who was the new tenant?

Come, and see.

In the spring of eighteen hundred and sixty-eight the
summer-house had been the dismal dwelling-place of a pair of
owls. In the autumn
of the same year the summer-house was the lively gathering-place
of a crowd of ladies and gentlemen, assembled at a lawn
party--the guests of the tenant who had taken Windygates.

The scene--at the opening of the party--was as pleasant to look
at as light and beauty and movement could make it.

Inside the summer-house the butterfly-brightness of the women in
their summer dresses shone radiant out of the gloom shed round it
by the dreary modern clothing of the men. Outside the
summer-house, seen through three arched openings, the cool green
prospect of a lawn led away, in the distance, to flower-beds and
shrubberies, and, farther still, disclosed, through a break in
the trees, a grand stone house which closed the view, with a
fountain in front of it playing in the sun.

They were half of them laughing, they were all of them
talking--the comfortable hum of their voices was at its loudest;
the cheery pealing of the laughter was soaring to its highest
notes--when one dominant voice, rising clear and shrill above all
the rest, called imperatively for silence. The moment after, a
young lady stepped into the vacant space in front of the
summer-house, and surveyed the throng of guests as a general in
command surveys a regiment under review.

She was young, she was pretty, she was plump, she was fair. She
was not the least embarrassed by her prominent position. She was
dressed in the height of the fashion. A hat, like a cheese-plate,
was tilted over her forehead. A balloon of light brown hair
soared, fully inflated, from the crown of her head. A cataract of
beads poured over her bosom. A pair of cock-chafers in enamel
(frightfully like the living originals) hung at her ears. Her
scanty skirts shone splendid with the blue of heaven. Her ankles
twinkled in striped stockings. Her shoes were of the sort called
"Watteau." And her heels were of the height at which men shudder,
and ask themselves (in contemplating an otherwise lovable woman),
"Can this charming person straighten her knees?"

The young lady thus presenting herself to the general view was
Miss Blanche Lundie--once the little rosy Blanche whom the
Prologue has introduced to the reader. Age, at the present time,
eighteen. Position, excellent. Money, certain. Temper, quick.
Disposition, variable. In a word, a child of the modern
time--with the merits of the age we live in, and the failings of
the age we live in--and a substance of sincerity and truth and
feeling underlying it all.

"Now then, good people," cried Miss Blanche, "silence, if you
please! We are going to choose sides at croquet. Business,
business, business!"

Upon this, a second lady among the company assumed a position of
prominence, and answered the young person who had just spoken
with a look of mild reproof, and in a tone of benevolent protest.

The second lady was tall, and solid, and five-and-thirty. She
presented to the general observation a cruel aquiline nose, an
obstinate straight chin, magnificent dark hair and eyes, a serene
splendor of fawn-colored apparel, and a lazy grace of movement
which was attractive at first sight, but inexpressibly monotonous
and wearisome on a longer acquaintance. This was Lady Lundie the
Second, now the widow (after four months only of married life) of
Sir Thomas Lundie, deceased. In other words, the step-mother of
Blanche, and the enviable person who had taken the house and
lands of Windygates.

"My dear," said Lady Lundie, "words have their meanings--even on
a young lady's lips. Do you call Croquet, 'business?' "

"You don't call it pleasure, surely?" said a gravely ironical
voice in the back-ground of the summer-house.

The ranks of the visitors parted before the last speaker, and
disclosed to view, in the midst of that modern assembly, a
gentleman of the bygone time.

The manner of this gentleman was distinguished by a pliant grace
and courtesy unknown to the present generation. The attire of
this gentleman was composed of a many-folded white cravat, a
close-buttoned blue dress-coat, and nankeen trousers with gaiters
to match, ridiculous to the present generation. The talk of this
gentleman ran in an easy flow--revealing an independent habit of
mind, and exhibiting a carefully-polished capacity for satirical
retort--dreaded and disliked by the present generation.
Personally, he was little and wiry and slim--with a bright white
head, and sparkling black eyes, and a wry twist of humor curling
sharply at the corners of his lips. At his lower extremities, he
exhibited the deformity which is popularly known as "a
club-foot." But he carried his lameness, as he carried his years,
gayly. He was socially celebrated for his ivory cane, with a
snuff-box artfully let into the knob at the top--and he was
socially dreaded for a hatred of modern institutions, which
expressed itself in season and out of season, and which always
showed the same, fatal knack of hitting smartly on the weakest
place. Such was Sir Patrick Lundie; brother of the late baronet,
Sir Thomas; and inheritor, at Sir Thomas's death, of the title
and estates.

Miss Blanche--taking no notice of her step-mother's reproof, or
of her uncle's commentary on it--pointed to a table on which
croquet mallets and balls were laid ready, and recalled the
attention of the company to the matter in hand.

"I head one side, ladies and gentlemen," she resumed. "And Lady
Lundie heads the other. We choose our players turn and turn
about. Mamma has the advantage of me in years. So mamma chooses

With a look at her step-daughter--which, being interpreted,
meant, "I would send you back to the nursery, miss, if I
could!"--Lady Lundie turned and ran her eye over her guests. She
had evidently made up her mind, beforehand, what player to pick
out first.

"I choose Miss Silvester," she said--with a special emphasis laid
on the name.

At that there was another parting among the crowd. To us (who
know her), it was Anne who now appeared. Strangers, who saw her
for the first time, saw a lady in the prime of her life--a lady
plainly dressed in unornamented white--who advanced slowly, and
confronted the mistress of the house.

A certain proportion--and not a small one--of the men at the
lawn-party had been brought there by friends who were privileged
to introduce them. The moment she appeared every one of those men
suddenly became interested in the lady who had been chosen first.

"That's a very charming woman," whispered one of the strangers at
the house to one of the friends of the house. "Who is she?"

The friend whispered back.

"Miss Lundie's governess--that's all."

The moment during which the question was put and answered was
also the moment which brought Lady Lundie and Miss Silvester face
to face in the presence of the company.

The stranger at the house looked at the two women, and whispered

"Something wrong between the lady and the governess," he said.

The friend looked also, and answered, in one emphatic word:


There are certain women whose influence over men is an
unfathomable mystery to observers of their own sex. The governess
was one of those women. She had inherited the charm, but not the
beauty, of her unhappy mother. Judge her by the standard set up
in the illustrated gift-books and the print-shop windows--and the
sentence must have inevitably followed. "She has not a single
good feature
in her face."

There was nothing individually remarkable about Miss Silvester,
seen in a state of repose. She was of the average height. She was
as well made as most women. In hair and complexion she was
neither light nor dark, but provokingly neutral just between the
two. Worse even than this, there were positive defects in her
face, which it was impossible to deny. A nervous contraction at
one corner of her mouth drew up the lips out of the symmetrically
right line, when, they moved. A nervous uncertainty in the eye on
the same side narrowly escaped presenting the deformity of a
"cast." And yet, with these indisputable drawbacks, here was one
of those women--the formidable few--who have the hearts of men
and the peace of families at their mercy. She moved--and there
was some subtle charm, Sir, in the movement, that made you look
back, and suspend your conversation with your friend, and watch
her silently while she walked. She sat by you and talked to
you--and behold, a sensitive something passed into that little
twist at the corner of the mouth, and into that nervous
uncertainty in the soft gray eye, which turned defect into
beauty--which enchained your senses--which made your nerves
thrill if she touched you by accident, and set your heart beating
if you looked at the same book with her, and felt her breath on
your face. All this, let it be well understood, only happened if
you were a man.

If you saw her with the eyes of a woman, the results were of
quite another kind. In that case you merely turned to your
nearest female friend, and said, with unaffected pity for the
other sex, "What _can_ the men see in her!"

The eyes of the lady of the house and the eyes of the governess
met, with marked distrust on either side. Few people could have
failed to see what the stranger and the friend had noticed
alike--that there was something smoldering under the surface
here. Miss Silvester spoke first.

"Thank you, Lady Lundie," she said. "I would rather not play."

Lady Lundie assumed an extreme surprise which passed the limits
of good-breeding.

"Oh, indeed?" she rejoined, sharply. "Considering that we are all
here for the purpose of playing, that seems rather remarkable. Is
any thing wrong, Miss Silvester?"

A flush appeared on the delicate paleness of Miss Silvester's
face. But she did her duty as a woman and a governess. She
submitted, and so preserved appearances, for that time.

"Nothing is the matter," she answered. "I am not very well this
morning. But I will play if you wish it."

"I do wish it," answered Lady Lundie.

Miss Silvester turned aside toward one of the entrances into the
summer-house. She waited for events, looking out over the lawn,
with a visible inner disturbance, marked over the bosom by the

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