Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins

Part 12 out of 15

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"Are they a long-lived race?"

"Far from it. They are exceptions when they live to be old men."

Mr. Speedwell looked at Sir Patrick. Sir Patrick put a question
to the umpire.

"You have just told us," he said, "that the two young men who
appear to-day are going to run the longest distance yet attempted
in their experience. Is it generally thought, by persons who
understand such things, that they are both fit to bear the
exertion demanded of them?"

"You can judge for yourself, Sir. Here is one of them."

He pointed toward the
pavilion. At the same moment there rose a mighty clapping of
hands from the great throng of spectators. Fleetwood, champion of
the North, decorated in his pink colors, descended the pavilion
steps and walked into the arena.

Young, lithe, and elegant, with supple strength expressed in
every movement of his limbs, with a bright smile on his resolute
young face, the man of the north won the women's hearts at
starting. The murmur of eager talk rose among them on all sides.
The men were quieter--especially the men who understood the
subject. It was a serious question with these experts whether
Fleetwood was not "a little too fine." Superbly trained, it was
admitted--but, possibly, a little over-trained for a four-mile

The northern hero was followed into the inclosure by his friends
and backers, and by his trainer. This last carried a tin can in
his hand. "Cold water," the umpire explained. "If he gets
exhausted, his trainer will pick him up with a dash of it as he
goes by."

A new burst of hand-clapping rattled all round the arena.
Delamayn, champion of the South, decorated in his yellow colors,
presented himself to the public view.

The immense hum of voices rose louder and louder as he walked
into the centre of the great green space. Surprise at the
extraordinary contrast between the two men was the prevalent
emotion of the moment. Geoffrey was more than a head taller than
his antagonist, and broader in full proportion. The women who had
been charmed with the easy gait and confident smile of Fleetwood,
were all more or less painfully impressed by the sullen strength
of the southern man, as he passed before them slowly, with his
head down and his brows knit, deaf to the applause showered on
him, reckless of the eyes that looked at him; speaking to nobody;
concentrated in himself; biding his time. He held the men who
understood the subject breathless with interest. There it was!
the famous "staying power" that was to endure in the last
terrible half-mile of the race, when the nimble and jaunty
Fleetwood was run off his legs. Whispers had been spread abroad
hinting at something which had gone wrong with Delamayn in his
training. And now that all eyes could judge him, his appearance
suggested criticism in some quarters. It was exactly the opposite
of the criticism passed on his antagonist. The doubt as to
Delamayn was whether he had been sufficiently trained. Still the
solid strength of the man, the slow, panther-like smoothness of
his movements--and, above all, his great reputation in the world
of muscle and sport--had their effect. The betting which, with
occasional fluctuations, had held steadily in his favor thus far,
held, now that he was publicly seen, steadily in his favor still.

"Fleetwood for shorter distances, if you like; but Delamayn for a
four-mile race."

"Do you think he sees us?" whispered Sir Patrick to the surgeon.

"He sees nobody."

"Can you judge of the condition he is in, at this distance?"

"He has twice the muscular strength of the other man. His trunk
and limbs are magnificent. It is useless to ask me more than that
about his condition. We are too far from him to see his face

The conversation among the audience began to flag again; and the
silent expectation set in among them once more. One by one, the
different persons officially connected with the race gathered
together on the grass. The trainer Perry was among them, with his
can of water in his hand, in anxious whispering conversation with
his principal--giving him the last words of advice before the
start. The trainer's doctor, leaving them together, came up to
pay his respects to his illustrious colleague.

"How has he got on since I was at Fulham?" asked Mr. Speedwell.

"First-rate, Sir! It was one of his bad days when you saw him. He
has done wonders in the last eight-and-forty hours."

"Is he going to win the race?"

Privately the doctor had done what Perry had done before him--he
had backed Geoffrey's antagonist. Publicly he was true to his
colors. He cast a disparaging look at Fleetwood--and answered
Yes, without the slightest hesitation.

At that point, the conversation was suspended by a sudden
movement in the inclosure. The runners were on their way to the
starting-place. The moment of the race had come.

Shoulder to shoulder, the two men waited--each with his foot
touching the mark. The firing of a pistol gave the signal for the
start. At the instant when the report sounded they were off.

Fleetwood at once took the lead, Delamayn following, at from two
to three yards behind him. In that order they ran the first
round. the second, and the third--both reserving their strength;
both watched with breathless interest by every soul in the place.
The trainers, with their cans in their hands, ran backward and
forward over the grass, meeting their men at certain points, and
eying them narrowly, in silence. The official persons stood
together in a group; their eyes following the runners round and
round with the closest attention. The trainer's doctor, still
attached to his illustrious colleague, offered the necessary
explanations to Mr. Speedwell and his friend.

"Nothing much to see for the first mile, Sir, except the 'style'
of the two men."

"You mean they are not really exerting themselves yet?"

"No. Getting their wind, and feeling their legs. Pretty runner,
Fleetwood--if you notice Sir? Gets his legs a trifle better in
front, and hardly lifts his heels quite so high as our man. His
action's the best of the two; I grant that. But just look, as
they come by, which keeps the straightest line. There's where
Delamayn has him! It's a steadier, stronger, truer pace; and
you'll see it tell when they're half-way through." So, for the
first three rounds, the doctor expatiated on the two contrasted
"styles"--in terms mercifully adapted to the comprehension of
persons unacquainted with the language of the running ring.

At the fourth round--in other words, at the round which completed
the first mile, the first change in the relative position of the
runners occurred. Delamayn suddenly dashed to the front.
Fleetwood smiled as the other passed him. Delamayn held the lead
till they were half way through the fifth round--when Fleetwood,
at a hint from his trainer, forced the pace. He lightly passed
Delamayn in an instant; and led again to the completion of the
sixth round.

At the opening of the seventh, Delamayn forced the pace on his
side. For a few moments, they ran exactly abreast. Then Delamayn
drew away inch by inch; and recovered the lead. The first burst
of applause (led by the south) rang out, as the big man beat
Fleetwood at his own tactics, and headed him at the critical
moment when the race was nearly half run.

"It begins to look as if Delamayn _was_ going to win!" said Sir

The trainer's doctor forgot himself. Infected by the rising
excitement of every body about him, he let out the truth.

"Wait a bit!" he said. "Fleetwood has got directions to let him
pass--Fleetwood is waiting to see what he can do."

"Cunning, you see, Sir Patrick, is one of the elements in a manly
sport," said Mr. Speedwell, quietly.

At the end of the seventh round, Fleetwood proved the doctor to
be right. He shot past Delamayn like an arrow from a bow. At the
end of the eight round, he was leading by two yards. Half the
race had then been run. Time, ten minutes and thirty-three

Toward the end of the ninth round, the pace slackened a little;
and Delamayn was in front again. He kept ahead, until the opening
of the eleventh round. At that point, Fleetwood flung up one hand
in the air with a gesture of triumph; and bounded past Delamayn
with a shout of "Hooray for the North!" The shout was echoed by
the spectators. In proportion as the exertion began to tell upon
the men, so the excitement steadily rose among the people looking
at them.

At the twelfth round, Fleetwood was leading by six yards. Cries
of triumph rose among the adherents of the north, met by
counter-cries of defiance from the south. At the next turn
Delamayn resolutely lessened the distance between his antagonist
and himself. At the opening of the fourteenth round, they were
coming sid e by side. A few yards more, and Delamayn was in front
again, amidst a roar of applause from the whole public voice. Yet
a few yards further, and Fleetwood neared him, passed him,
dropped behind again, led again, and was passed again at the end
of the round. The excitement rose to its highest pitch, as the
runners--gasping for breath; with dark flushed faces, and heaving
breasts--alternately passed and repassed each other. Oaths were
heard now as well as cheers. Women turned pale and men set their
teeth, as the last round but one began.

At the opening of it, Delamayn was still in advance. Before six
yards more had been covered, Fleetwood betrayed the purpose of
his running in the previous round, and electrified the whole
assembly, by dashing past his antagonist--for the first time in
the race at the top of his speed. Every body present could see,
now, that Delamayn had been allowed to lead on sufferance--had
been dextrously drawn on to put out his whole power--and had
then, and not till then, been seriously deprived of the lead. He
made another effort, with a desperate resolution that roused the
public enthusiasm to frenzy. While the voices were roaring; while
the hats and handkerchiefs were waving round the course; while
the actual event of the race was, for one supreme moment, still
in doubt--Mr. Speedwell caught Sir Patrick by the arm.

"Prepare yourself!" he whispered. "It's all over."

As the words passed his lips, Delamayn swerved on the path. His
trainer dashed water over him. He rallied, and ran another step
or two--swerved again--staggered--lifted his arm to his mouth
with a hoarse cry of rage--fastened his own teeth in his flesh
like a wild beast--and fell senseless on the course.

A Babel of sounds arose. The cries of alarm in some places,
mingling with the shouts of triumph from the backers of Fleetwood
in others--as their man ran lightly on to win the now uncontested
race. Not the inclosure only, but the course itself was invaded
by the crowd. In the midst of the tumult the fallen man was drawn
on to the grass--with Mr. Speedwell and the trainer's doctor in
attendance on him. At the terrible moment when the surgeon laid
his hand on the heart, Fleetwood passed the spot--a passage being
forced for him through the people by his friends and the
police--running the sixteenth and last round of the race.

Had the beaten man fainted under it, or had he died under it?
Every body waited, with their eyes riveted on the surgeon's hand.

The surgeon looked up from him, and called for water to throw
over his face, for brandy to put into his mouth. He was coming to
life again--he had survived the race. The last shout of applause
which hailed Fleetwood's victory rang out as they lifted him from
the ground to carry him to the pavilion. Sir Patrick (admitted at
Mr. Speedwell's request) was the one stranger allowed to pass the
door. At the moment when he was ascending the steps, some one
touched his arm. It was Captain Newenden.

"Do the doctors answer for his life?" asked the captain. "I can't
get my niece to leave the ground till she is satisfied of that."

Mr. Speedwell heard the question and replied to it briefly from
the top of the pavilion steps.

"For the present--yes," he said.

The captain thanked him, and disappeared.

They entered the pavilion. The necessary restorative measures
were taken under Mr. Speedwell's directions. There the conquered
athlete lay: outwardly an inert mass of strength, formidable to
look at, even in its fall; inwardly, a weaker creature, in all
that constitutes vital force, than the fly that buzzed on the
window-pane. By slow degrees the fluttering life came back. The
sun was setting; and the evening light was beginning to fail. Mr.
Speedwell beckoned to Perry to follow him into an unoccupied
corner of the room.

"In half an hour or less he will be well enough to be taken home.
Where are his friends? He has a brother--hasn't he?"

"His brother's in Scotland, Sir."

"His father?"

Perry scratched his head. "From all I hear, Sir, he and his
father don't agree."

Mr. Speedwell applied to Sir Patrick.

"Do you know any thing of his family affairs?"

"Very little. I believe what the man has told you to be the

"Is his mother living?"


"I will write to her myself. In the mean time, somebody must take
him home. He has plenty of friends here. Where are they?"

He looked out of the window as he spoke. A throng of people had
gathered round the pavilion, waiting to hear the latest news. Mr.
Speedwell directed Perry to go out and search among them for any
friends of his employer whom he might know by sight. Perry
hesitated, and scratched his head for the second time.

"What are you waiting for?" asked the surgeon, sharply. "You know
his friends by sight, don't you?"

"I don't think I shall find them outside," said Perry.

"Why not?"

"They backed him heavily, Sir--and they have all lost."

Deaf to this unanswerable reason for the absence of friends, Mr.
Speedwell insisted on sending Perry out to search among the
persons who composed the crowd. The trainer returned with his
report. "You were right, Sir. There are some of his friends
outside. They want to see him."

"Let two or three of them in."

Three came in. They stared at him. They uttered brief expressions
of pity in slang. They said to Mr. Speedwell, "We wanted to see
him. What is it--eh?"

"It's a break-down in his health."

"Bad training?"

"Athletic Sports."

"Oh! Thank you. Good-evening."

Mr. Speedwell's answer drove them out like a flock of sheep
before a dog. There was not even time to put the question to them
as to who was to take him home.

"I'll look after him, Sir," said Perry. "You can trust me."

"I'll go too," added the trainer's doctor; "and see him littered
down for the night."

(The only two men who had "hedged" their bets, by privately
backing his opponent, were also the only two men who volunteered
to take him home!)

They went back to the sofa on which he was lying. His bloodshot
eyes were rolling heavily and vacantly about him, on the search
for something. They rested on the doctor--and looked away again.
They turned to Mr. Speedwell--and stopped, riveted on his face.
The surgeon bent over him, and said, "What is it?"

He answered with a thick accent and laboring breath--uttering a
word at a time: "Shall--I--die?"

"I hope not."



He looked round him again. This time his eyes rested on the
trainer. Perry came forward.

"What can I do for you, Sir?"

The reply came slowly as before. "My--coat--pocket."

"This one, Sir?"



"Yes. Book."

The trainer felt in the pocket, and produced a betting-book.

"What's to be done with this. Sir?"


The trainer held the book before him; open at the last two pages
on which entries had been made. He rolled his head impatiently
from side to side of the sofa pillow. It was plain that he was
not yet sufficiently recovered to be able to read what he had

"Shall I read for you, Sir?"


The trainer read three entries, one after another, without
result; they had all been honestly settled. At the fourth the
prostrate man said, "Stop!" This was the first of the entries
which still depended on a future event. It recorded the wager
laid at Windygates, when Geoffrey had backed himself (in defiance
of the surgeon's opinion) to row in the University boat-race next
spring--and had forced Arnold Brinkworth to bet against him.

"Well, Sir? What's to be done about this?"

He collected his strength for the effort; and answered by a word
at a time.

"Write--brother--Julius. Pay--Arnold--wins."

His lifted hand, solemnly emphasizing what he said, dropped at
his side. He closed his eyes; and fell into a heavy stertorous
sleep. Give him his due. Scoundrel as he was, give him his due.
The awful moment, when his life was trembling in the balance,
found him true to the last living faith left among the men of his
tribe and time--the faith of the betting-book.

Sir Patrick and Mr. Speedwell quitted the race-ground together;
Geoffrey having been previously removed to his lodgings hard by.
They met Arnold Brinkworth at the gate. He had, by his own
desire, kept out of view
among the crowd; and he decided on walking back by himself. The
separation from Blanche had changed him in all his habits. He
asked but two favors during the interval which was to elapse
before he saw his wife again--to be allowed to bear it in his own
way, and to be left alone.

Relieved of the oppression which had kept him silent while the
race was in progress, Sir Patrick put a question to the surgeon
as they drove home, which had been in his mind from the moment
when Geoffrey had lost the day.

"I hardly understand the anxiety you showed about Delamayn," he
said, "when you found that he had only fainted under the fatigue.
Was it something more than a common fainting fit?"

"It is useless to conceal it now," replied Mr. Speedwell. "He has
had a narrow escape from a paralytic stroke."

"Was that what you dreaded when you spoke to him at Windygates?"

"That was what I saw in his face when I gave him the warning. I
was right, so far. I was wrong in my estimate of the reserve of
vital power left in him. When he dropped on the race-course, I
firmly believed we should find him a dead man."

"Is it hereditary paralysis? His father's last illness was of
that sort."

Mr. Speedwell smiled. "Hereditary paralysis?" he repeated. "Why
the man is (naturally) a phenomenon of health and strength--in
the prime of his life. Hereditary paralysis might have found him
out thirty years hence. His rowing and his running, for the last
four years, are alone answerable for what has happened to-day."

Sir Patrick ventured on a suggestion.

"Surely," he said, "with your name to compel attention to it, you
ought to make this public--as a warning to others?"

"It would be quite useless. Delamayn is far from being the first
man who has dropped at foot-racing, under the cruel stress laid
on the vital organs. The public have a happy knack of forgetting
these accidents. They would be quite satisfied when they found
the other man (who happens to have got through it) produced as a
sufficient answer to me."

Anne Silvester's future was still dwelling on Sir Patrick's mind.
His next inquiry related to the serious subject of Geoffrey's
prospect of recovery in the time to come.

"He will never recover," said Mr. Speedwell. "Paralysis is
hanging over him. How long he may live it is impossible for me to
say. Much depends on himself. In his condition, any new
imprudence, any violent emotion, may kill him at a moment's

"If no accident happens," said Sir Patrick, "will he be
sufficiently himself again to leave his bed and go out?"


"He has an appointment that I know of for Saturday next. Is it
likely that he will be able to keep it?"

"Quite likely."

Sir Patrick said no more. Anne's face was before him again at the
memorable moment when he had told her that she was Geoffrey's




IT was Saturday, the third of October--the day on which the
assertion of Arnold's marriage to Anne Silvester was to be put to
the proof.

Toward two o'clock in the afternoon Blanche and her step-mother
entered the drawing-room of Lady Lundie's town house in Portland

Since the previous evening the weather had altered for the worse.
The rain, which had set in from an early hour that morning, still
fell. Viewed from the drawing-room windows, the desolation of
Portland Place in the dead season wore its aspect of deepest
gloom. The dreary opposite houses were all shut up; the black mud
was inches deep in the roadway; the soot, floating in tiny black
particles, mixed with the falling rain, and heightened the dirty
obscurity of the rising mist. Foot-passengers and vehicles,
succeeding each other at rare intervals, left great gaps of
silence absolutely uninterrupted by sound. Even the grinders of
organs were mute; and the wandering dogs of the street were too
wet to bark. Looking back from the view out of Lady Lundie's
state windows to the view in Lady Lundie's state room, the
melancholy that reigned without was more than matched by the
melancholy that reigned within. The house had been shut up for
the season: it had not been considered necessary, during its
mistress's brief visit, to disturb the existing state of things.
Coverings of dim brown hue shrouded the furniture. The
chandeliers hung invisible in enormous bags. The silent clocks
hibernated under extinguishers dropped over them two months
since. The tables, drawn up in corners--loaded with ornaments at
other times--had nothing but pen, ink, and paper (suggestive of
the coming proceedings) placed on them now. The smell of the
house was musty; the voice of the house was still. One melancholy
maid haunted the bedrooms up stairs, like a ghost. One melancholy
man, appointed to admit the visitors, sat solitary in the lower
regions--the last of the flunkies, mouldering in an extinct
servants' hall. Not a word passed, in the drawing-room, between
Lady Lundie and Blanche. Each waited the appearance of the
persons concerned in the coming inquiry, absorbed in her own
thoughts. Their situation at the moment was a solemn burlesque of
the situation of two ladies who are giving an evening party, and
who are waiting to receive their guests. Did neither of them see
this? Or, seeing it, did they shrink from acknowledging it? In
similar positions, who does not shrink? The occasions are many on
which we have excellent reason to laugh when the tears are in our
eyes; but only children are bold enough to follow the impulse. So
strangely, in human existence, does the mockery of what is
serious mingle with the serious reality itself, that nothing but
our own self-respect preserves our gravity at some of the most
important emergencies in our lives. The two ladies waited the
coming ordeal together gravely, as became the occasion. The
silent maid flitted noiseless up stairs. The silent man waited
motionless in the lower regions. Outside, the street was a
desert. Inside, the house was a tomb.

The church clock struck the hour. Two.

At the same moment the first of the persons concerned in the
investigation arrived.

Lady Lundie waited composedly for the opening of the drawing-room
door. Blanche started, and trembled. Was it Arnold? Was it Anne?

The door opened--and Blanche drew a breath of relief. The first
arrival was only Lady Lundie's solicitor--invited to attend the
proceedings on her ladyship's behalf. He was one of that large
class of purely mechanical and perfectly mediocre persons
connected with the practice of the law who will probably, in a
more advanced state of science, be superseded by machinery. He
made himself useful in altering the arrangement of the tables and
chairs, so as to keep the contending parties effectually
separated from each other. He also entreated Lady Lundie to bear
in mind that he knew nothing of Scotch law, and that he was there
in the capacity of a friend only. This done, he sat down, and
looked out with silent interest at the rain--as if it was an
operation of Nature which he had never had an opportunity of
inspecting before.

The next knock at the door heralded the arrival of a visitor of a
totally different order. The melancholy man-servant announced
Captain Newenden.

Possibly, in deference to the occasion, possibly, in defiance of
the weather, the captain had taken another backward step toward
the days of his youth. He was painted and padded, wigged and
dressed, to represent the abstract idea of a male human being of
five-and twenty in robust health. There might have been a little
stiffness in the region of the waist, and a slight want of
firmness in the eyelid and the chin. Otherwise there was the
fiction of five-and twenty, founded in appearance on the fact of
five-and-thirty--with the truth invisible behind it, counting
seventy years! Wearing a flower in his buttonhole, and carrying a
jaunty little cane in his hand--brisk, rosy, smiling,
perfumed--the captain's appearance brightened the dreary room. It
was pleasantly suggestive of a morning visit from an idle young
man. He appeared to be a little surprised to find Blanche present
on the scene of approaching conflict. Lady Lundie thought it due
to herself to explain. "My s tep-daughter is here in direct
defiance of my entreaties and my advice. Persons may present
themselves whom it is, in my opinion, improper she should see.
Revelations will take place which no young woman, in her
position, should hear. She insists on it, Captain Newenden--and I
am obliged to submit."

The captain shrugged his shoulders, and showed his beautiful

Blanche was far too deeply interested in the coming ordeal to
care to defend herself: she looked as if she had not even heard
what her step-mother had said of her. The solicitor remained
absorbed in the interesting view of the falling rain. Lady Lundie
asked after Mrs. Glenarm. The captain, in reply, described his
niece's anxiety as something--something--something, in short,
only to be indicated by shaking his ambrosial curls and waving
his jaunty cane. Mrs. Delamayn was staying with her until her
uncle returned with the news. And where was Julius? Detained in
Scotland by election business. And Lord and Lady Holchester? Lord
and Lady Holchester knew nothing about it.

There was another knock at the door. Blanche's pale face turned
paler still. Was it Arnold? Was it Anne? After a longer delay
than usual, the servant announced Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn and Mr.

Geoffrey, slowly entering first, saluted the two ladies in
silence, and noticed no one else. The London solicitor,
withdrawing himself for a moment from the absorbing prospect of
the rain, pointed to the places reserved for the new-comer and
for the legal adviser whom he had brought with him. Geoffrey
seated himself, without so much as a glance round the room.
Leaning his elbows on his knees, he vacantly traced patterns on
the carpet with his clumsy oaken walking-stick. Stolid
indifference expressed itself in his lowering brow and his
loosely-hanging mouth. The loss of the race, and the
circumstances accompanying it, appeared to have made him duller
than usual and heavier than usual--and that was all.

Captain Newenden, approaching to speak to him, stopped half-way,
hesitated, thought better of it--and addressed himself to Mr.

Geoffrey's legal adviser--a Scotchman of the ruddy, ready, and
convivial type--cordially met the advance. He announced, in reply
to the captain's inquiry, that the witnesses (Mrs. Inchbare and
Bishopriggs) were waiting below until they were wanted, in the
housekeeper's room. Had there been any difficulty in finding
them? Not the least. Mrs. Inchbare was, as a matter of course, at
her hotel. Inquiries being set on foot for Bishopriggs, it
appeared that he and the landlady had come to an understanding,
and that he had returned to his old post of headwaiter at the
inn. The captain and Mr. Moy kept up the conversation between
them, thus begun, with unflagging ease and spirit. Theirs were
the only voices heard in the trying interval that elapsed before
the next knock was heard at the door.

At last it came. There could be no doubt now as to the persons
who might next be expected to enter the room. Lady Lundie took
her step-daughter firmly by the hand. She was not sure of what
Blanche's first impulse might lead her to do. For the first time
in her life, Blanche left her hand willingly in her step-mother's

The door opened, and they came in.

Sir Patrick Lundie entered first, with Anne Silvester on his arm.
Arnold Brinkworth followed them.

Both Sir Patrick and Anne bowed in silence to the persons
assembled. Lady Lundie ceremoniously returned her
brother-in-law's salute--and pointedly abstained from noticing
Anne's presence in the room. Blanche never looked up. Arnold
advanced to her, with his hand held out. Lady Lundie rose, and
motioned him back. "Not _yet,_ Mr. Brinkworth!" she said, in her
most quietly merciless manner. Arnold stood, heedless of her,
looking at his wife. His wife lifted her eyes to his; the tears
rose in them on the instant. Arnold's dark complexion turned ashy
pale under the effort that it cost him to command himself. "I
won't distress you," he said, gently--and turned back again to
the table at which Sir Patrick and Anne were seated together
apart from the rest. Sir Patrick took his hand, and pressed it in
silent approval.

The one person who took no part, even as spectator, in the events
that followed the appearance of Sir Patrick and his companions in
the room--was Geoffrey. The only change visible in him was a
change in the handling of his walking-stick. Instead of tracing
patterns on the carpet, it beat a tattoo. For the rest, there he
sat with his heavy head on his breast and his brawny arms on his
knees--weary of it by anticipation before it had begun.

Sir Patrick broke the silence. He addressed himself to his

"Lady Lundie, are all the persons present whom you expected to
see here to-day?"

The gathered venom in Lady Lundie seized the opportunity of
planting its first sting.

"All whom I expected are here," she answered. "And more than I
expected," she added, with a look at Anne.

The look was not returned--was not even seen. From the moment
when she had taken her place by Sir Patrick, Anne's eyes had
rested on Blanche. They never moved--they never for an instant
lost their tender sadness--when the woman who hated her spoke.
All that was beautiful and true in that noble nature seemed to
find its one sufficient encouragement in Blanche. As she looked
once more at the sister of the unforgotten days of old, its
native beauty of expression shone out again in her worn and weary
face. Every man in the room (but Geoffrey) looked at her; and
every man (but Geoffrey) felt for her.

Sir Patrick addressed a second question to his sister-in-law.

"Is there any one here to represent the interests of Mr. Geoffrey
Delamayn?" he asked.

Lady Lundie referred Sir Patrick to Geoffrey himself. Without
looking up, Geoffrey motioned with his big brown hand to Mr. Moy,
sitting by his side.

Mr. Moy (holding the legal rank in Scotland which corresponds to
the rank held by solicitors in England) rose and bowed to Sir
Patrick, with the courtesy due to a man eminent in his time at
the Scottish Bar.

"I represent Mr. Delamayn," he said. "I congratulate myself, Sir
Patrick, on having your ability and experience to appeal to in
the conduct of the pending inquiry."

Sir Patrick returned the compliment as well as the bow.

"It is I who should learn from you," he answered. "_I_ have had
time, Mr. Moy, to forget what I once knew."

Lady Lundie looked from one to the other with unconcealed
impatience as these formal courtesies were exchanged between the
lawyers. "Allow me to remind you, gentlemen, of the suspense that
we are suffering at this end of the room," she said. "And permit
me to ask when you propose to begin?"

Sir Patrick looked invitingly at Mr. Moy. Mr. Moy looked
invitingly at Sir Patrick. More formal courtesies! a polite
contest this time as to which of the two learned gentlemen should
permit the other to speak first! Mr. Moy's modesty proving to be
quite immovable, Sir Patrick ended it by opening the proceedings.

"I am here," he said, "to act on behalf of my friend, Mr. Arnold
Brinkworth. I beg to present him to you, Mr. Moy as the husband
of my niece--to whom he was lawfully married on the seventh of
September last, at the Church of Saint Margaret, in the parish of
Hawley, Kent. I have a copy of the marriage certificate here--if
you wish to look at it."

Mr. Moy's modesty declined to look at it.

"Quite needless, Sir Patrick! I admit that a marriage ceremony
took place on the date named, between the persons named; but I
contend that it was not a valid marriage. I say, on behalf of my
client here present (Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn), that Arnold
Brinkworth was married at a date prior to the seventh of
September last--namely, on the fourteenth of August in this year,
and at a place called Craig Fernie, in Scotland--to a lady named
Anne Silvester, now living, and present among us (as I
understand) at this moment."

Sir Patrick presented Anne. "This is the lady, Mr. Moy."

Mr. Moy bowed, and made a suggestion. "To save needless
formalities, Sir Patrick, shall we take the question of identity
as established on both sides?"

Sir Patrick agreed with his learned friend. Lad y Lundie opened
and shut her fan in undisguised impatience. The London solicitor
was deeply interested. Captain Newenden, taking out his
handkerchief, and using it as a screen, yawned behind it to his
heart's content. Sir Patrick resumed.

"You assert the prior marriage," he said to his colleague. "It
rests with you to begin."

Mr. Moy cast a preliminary look round him at the persons

"The object of our meeting here," he said, "is, if I am not
mistaken, of a twofold nature. In the first place, it is thought
desirable, by a person who has a special interest in the issue of
this inquiry" (he glanced at the captain--the captain suddenly
became attentive), "to put my client's assertion, relating to Mr.
Brinkworth's marriage, to the proof. In the second place, we are
all equally desirous--whatever difference of opinion may
otherwise exist--to make this informal inquiry a means, if
possible, of avoiding the painful publicity which would result
from an appeal to a Court of Law."

At those words the gathered venom in Lady Lundie planted its
second sting--under cover of a protest addressed to Mr. Moy.

"I beg to inform you, Sir, on behalf of my step-daughter," she
said, "that we have nothing to dread from the widest publicity.
We consent to be present at, what you call, 'this informal
inquiry,' reserving our right to carry the matter beyond the four
walls of this room. I am not referring now to Mr. Brinkworth's
chance of clearing himself from an odious suspicion which rests
upon him, and upon another Person present. That is an
after-matter. The object immediately before us--so far as a woman
can pretend to understand it--is to establish my step-daughter's
right to call Mr. Brinkworth to account in the character of his
wife. If the result, so far, fails to satisfy us in that
particular, we shall not hesitate to appeal to a Court of Law."
She leaned back in her chair, and opened her fan, and looked
round her with the air of a woman who called society to witness
that she had done her duty.

An expression of pain crossed Blanche's face while her
step-mother was speaking. Lady Lundie took her hand for the
second time. Blanche resolutely and pointedly withdrew it--Sir
Patrick noticing the action with special interest. Before Mr. Moy
could say a word in answer, Arnold centred the general attention
on himself by suddenly interfering in the proceedings. Blanche
looked at him. A bright flash of color appeared on her face--and
left it again. Sir Patrick noted the change of color--and
observed her more attentively than ever. Arnold's letter to his
wife, with time to help it, had plainly shaken her ladyship's
influence over Blanche.

"After what Lady Lundie has said, in my wife's presence," Arnold
burst out, in his straightforward, boyish way, "I think I ought
to be allowed to say a word on my side. I only want to explain
how it was I came to go to Craig Fernie at all--and I challenge
Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn to deny it, if he can."

His voice rose at the last words, and his eyes brightened with
indignation as he looked at Geoffrey.

Mr. Moy appealed to his learned friend.

"With submission, Sir Patrick, to your better judgment," he said,
"this young gentleman's proposal seems to be a little out of
place at the present stage of the proceedings."

"Pardon me," answered Sir Patrick. "You have yourself described
the proceedings as representing an informal inquiry. An informal
proposal--with submission to _your_ better judgment, Mr. Moy--is
hardly out of place, under those circumstances, is it?"

Mr. Moy's inexhaustible modesty gave way, without a struggle. The
answer which he received had the effect of puzzling him at the
outset of the investigation. A man of Sir Patrick's experience
must have known that Arnold's mere assertion of his own innocence
could be productive of nothing but useless delay in the
proceedings. And yet he sanctioned that delay. Was he privately
on the watch for any accidental circumstance which might help him
to better a case that he knew to be a bad one?

Permitted to speak, Arnold spoke. The unmistakable accent of
truth was in every word that he uttered. He gave a fairly
coherent account of events, from the time when Geoffrey had
claimed his assistance at the lawn-party to the time when he
found himself at the door of the inn at Craig Fernie. There Sir
Patrick interfered, and closed his lips. He asked leave to appeal
to Geoffrey to confirm him. Sir Patrick amazed Mr. Moy by
sanctioning this irregularity also. Arnold sternly addressed
himself to Geoffrey.

"Do you deny that what I have said is true?" he asked.

Mr. Moy did his duty by his client. "You are not bound to
answer," he said, "unless you wish it yourself."

Geoffrey slowly lifted his heavy head, and confronted the man
whom he had betrayed.

"I deny every word of it," he answered--with a stolid defiance of
tone and manner

"Have we had enough of assertion and counter-assertion, Sir
Patrick, by this time?" asked Mr. Moy, with undiminished

After first forcing Arnold--with some little difficulty--to
control himself, Sir Patrick raised Mr. Moy's astonishment to the
culminating point. For reasons of his own, he determined to
strengthen the favorable impression which Arnold's statement had
plainly produced on his wife before the inquiry proceeded a step

"I must throw myself on your indulgence, Mr. Moy," he said. "I
have not had enough of assertion and counter-assertion, even

Mr. Moy leaned back in his chair, with a mixed expression of
bewilderment and resignation. Either his colleague's intellect
was in a failing state--or his colleague had some purpose in view
which had not openly asserted itself yet. He began to suspect
that the right reading of the riddle was involved in the latter
of those two alternatives. Instead of entering any fresh protest,
he wisely waited and watched.

Sir Patrick went on unblushingly from one irregularity to

"I request Mr. Moy's permission to revert to the alleged
marriage, on the fourteenth of August, at Craig Fernie," he said.
"Arnold Brinkworth! answer for yourself, in the presence of the
persons here assembled. In all that you said, and all that you
did, while you were at the inn, were you not solely influenced by
the wish to make Miss Silvester's position as little painful to
her as possible, and by anxiety to carry out the instructions
given to you by Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn? Is that the whole truth?"

"That is the whole truth, Sir Patrick."

"On the day when you went to Craig Fernie, had you not, a few
hours previously, applied for my permission to marry my niece?"

"I applied for your permission, Sir Patrick; and you gave it me."

"From the moment when you entered the inn to the moment when you
left it, were you absolutely innocent of the slightest intention
to marry Miss Silvester?"

"No such thing as the thought of marrying Miss Silvester ever
entered my head."

"And this you say, on your word of honor as a gentleman?"

"On my word of honor as a gentleman."

Sir Patrick turned to Anne.

"Was it a matter of necessity, Miss Silvester, that you should
appear in the assumed character of a married woman--on the
fourteenth of August last, at the Craig Fernie inn?"

Anne looked away from Blanche for the first time. She replied to
Sir Patrick quietly, readily, firmly--Blanche looking at her, and
listening to her with eager interest.

"I went to the inn alone, Sir Patrick. The landlady refused, in
the plainest terms, to let me stay there, unless she was first
satisfied that I was a married woman."

"Which of the two gentlemen did you expect to join you at the
inn--Mr. Arnold Brinkworth, or Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn?"

"Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn."

"When Mr. Arnold Brinkworth came in his place and said what was
necessary to satisfy the scruples of the landlady, you understood
that he was acting in your interests, from motives of kindness
only, and under the instructions of Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn?"

"I understood that; and I objected as strongly as I could to Mr.
Brinkworth placing himself in a false position on my account."

"Did your objection proceed from any knowledge of the Scottish
law of marriage, and of the positi on in which the peculiarities
of that law might place Mr. Brinkworth?"

"I had no knowledge of the Scottish law. I had a vague dislike
and dread of the deception which Mr. Brinkworth was practicing on
the people of the inn. And I feared that it might lead to some
possible misinterpretation of me on the part of a person whom I
dearly loved."

"That person being my niece?"


"You appealed to Mr. Brinkworth (knowing of his attachment to my
niece), in her name, and for her sake, to leave you to shift for

"I did."

"As a gentleman who had given his promise to help and protect a
lady, in the absence of the person whom she had depended on to
join her, he refused to leave you to shift by yourself?"

"Unhappily, he refused on that account."

"From first to last, you were absolutely innocent of the
slightest intention to marry Mr. Brinkworth?"

"I answer, Sir Patrick, as Mr. Brinkworth has answered. No such
thing as the thought of marrying him ever entered my head."

"And this you say, on your oath as a Christian woman?"

"On my oath as a Christian woman."

Sir Patrick looked round at Blanche. Her face was hidden in her
hands. Her step-mother was vainly appealing to her to compose

In the moment of silence that followed, Mr. Moy interfered in the
interests of his client.

"I waive my claim, Sir Patrick, to put any questions on my side.
I merely desire to remind you, and to remind the company present,
that all that we have just heard is mere assertion--on the part
of two persons strongly interested in extricating themselves from
a position which fatally compromises them both. The marriage
which they deny I am now waiting to prove--not by assertion, on
my side, but by appeal to competent witnesses."

After a brief consultation with her own solicitor, Lady Lundie
followed Mr. Moy, in stronger language still.

"I wish you to understand, Sir Patrick, before you proceed any
farther, that I shall remove my step-daughter from the room if
any more attempts are made to harrow her feelings and mislead her
judgment. I want words to express my sense of this most cruel and
unfair way of conducting the inquiry."

The London lawyer followed, stating his professional approval of
his client's view. "As her ladyship's legal adviser," he said, "I
support the protest which her ladyship has just made."

Even Captain Newenden agreed in the general disapproval of Sir
Patrick's conduct. "Hear, hear!" said the captain, when the
lawyer had spoken. "Quite right. I must say, quite right."

Apparently impenetrable to all due sense of his position, Sir
Patrick addressed himself to Mr. Moy, as if nothing had happened.

"Do you wish to produce your witnesses at once?" he asked. "I
have not the least objection to meet your views--on the
understanding that I am permitted to return to the proceedings as
interrupted at this point."

Mr. Moy considered. The adversary (there could be no doubt of it
by this time) had something in reserve--and the adversary had not
yet shown his hand. It was more immediately important to lead him
into doing this than to insist on rights and privileges of the
purely formal sort. Nothing could shake the strength of the
position which Mr. Moy occupied. The longer Sir Patrick's
irregularities delayed the proceedings, the more irresistibly the
plain facts of the case would assert themselves--with all the
force of contrast--out of the mouths of the witnesses who were in
attendance down stairs. He determined to wait.

"Reserving my right of objection, Sir Patrick," he answered, "I
beg you to go on."

To the surprise of every body, Sir Patrick addressed himself
directly to Blanche--quoting the language in which Lady Lundie
had spoken to him, with perfect composure of tone and manner.

"You know me well enough, my dear," he said, "to be assured that
I am incapable of willingly harrowing your feelings or misleading
your judgment. I have a question to ask you, which you can answer
or not, entirely as you please."

Before he could put the question there was a momentary contest
between Lady Lundie and her legal adviser. Silencing her ladyship
(not without difficulty), the London lawyer interposed. He also
begged leave to reserve the right of objection, so far as _his_
client was concerned.

Sir Patrick assented by a sign, and proceeded to put his question
to Blanche.

"You have heard what Arnold Brinkworth has said, and what Miss
Silvester has said," he resumed. "The husband who loves you, and
the sisterly friend who loves you, have each made a solemn
declaration. Recall your past experience of both of them;
remember what they have just said; and now tell me--do you
believe they have spoken falsely?"

Blanche answered on the instant.

"I believe, uncle, they have spoken the truth!"

Both the lawyers registered their objections. Lady Lundie made
another attempt to speak, and was stopped once more--this time by
Mr. Moy as well as by her own adviser. Sir Patrick went on.

"Do you feel any doubt as to the entire propriety of your
husband's conduct and your friend's conduct, now you have seen
them and heard them, face to face?"

Blanche answered again, with the same absence of reserve.

"I ask them to forgive me," she said. "I believe I have done them
both a great wrong."

She looked at her husband first--then at Anne. Arnold attempted
to leave his chair. Sir Patrick firmly restrained him. "Wait!" he
whispered. "You don't know what is coming." Having said that, he
turned toward Anne. Blanche's look had gone to the heart of the
faithful woman who loved her. Anne's face was turned away--the
tears were forcing themselves through the worn weak hands that
tried vainly to hide them.

The formal objections of the lawyers were registered once more.
Sir Patrick addressed himself to his niece for the last time.

"You believe what Arnold Brinkworth has said; you believe what
Miss Silvester has said. You know that not even the thought of
marriage was in the mind of either of them, at the inn. You
know--whatever else may happen in the future--that there is not
the most remote possibility of either of them consenting to
acknowledge that they ever have been, or ever can be, Man and
Wife. Is that enough for you? Are you willing, before this
inquiry proceeds any farther to take your husband's hand; to
return to your husband's protection; and to leave the rest to
me--satisfied with my assurance that, on the facts as they
happened, not even the Scotch Law can prove the monstrous
assertion of the marriage at Craig Fernie to be true?"

Lady Lundie rose. Both the lawyers rose. Arnold sat lost in
astonishment. Geoffrey himself--brutishly careless thus far of
all that had passed--lifted his head with a sudden start. In the
midst of the profound impression thus produced, Blanche, on whose
decision the whole future course of the inquiry now turned,
answered in these words:

"I hope you will not think me ungrateful, uncle. I am sure that
Arnold has not, knowingly, done me any wrong. But I can't go back
to him until I am first _certain_ that I am his wife."

Lady Lundie embraced her step-daughter with a sudden outburst of
affection. "My dear child!" exclaimed her ladyship, fervently.
"Well done, my own dear child!"

Sir Patrick's head dropped on his breast. "Oh, Blanche! Blanche!"
Arnold heard him whisper to himself; "if you only knew what you
are forcing me to!"

Mr. Moy put in his word, on Blanche's side of the question.

"I must most respectfully express my approval also of the course
which the young lady has taken," he said. "A more dangerous
compromise than the compromise which we have just heard suggested
it is difficult to imagine. With all deference to Sir Patrick
Lundie, his opinion of the impossibility of proving the marriage
at Craig Fernie remains to be confirmed as the right one. My own
professional opinion is opposed to it. The opinion of another
Scottish lawyer (in Glasgow) is, to my certain knowledge, opposed
to it. If the young lady had not acted with a wisdom and courage
which do her honor, she might have lived to see the day when her
reputation would have been destroyed, and her children declared
illegitimate. Who is to say that circumstances may not h appen in
the future which may force Mr. Brinkworth or Miss Silvester--one
or the other--to assert the very marriage which they repudiate
now? Who is to say that interested relatives (property being
concerned here) may not in the lapse of years, discover motives
of their own for questioning the asserted marriage in Kent? I
acknowledge that I envy the immense self-confidence which
emboldens Sir Patrick to venture, what he is willing to venture
upon his own individual opinion on an undecided point of law."

He sat down amidst a murmur of approval, and cast a
slyly-expectant look at his defeated adversary. "If _that_
doesn't irritate him into showing his hand," thought Mr. Moy,
"nothing will!"

Sir Patrick slowly raised his head. There was no
irritation--there was only distress in his face--when he spoke

"I don't propose, Mr. Moy, to argue the point with you," he said,
gently. "I can understand that my conduct must necessarily appear
strange and even blameworthy, not in your eyes only, but in the
eyes of others. My young friend here will tell you" (he looked
toward Arnold) "that the view which you express as to the future
peril involved in this case was once the view in my mind too, and
that in what I have done thus far I have acted in direct
contradiction to advice which I myself gave at no very distant
period. Excuse me, if you please, from entering (for the present
at least) into the motive which has influenced me from the time
when I entered this room. My position is one of unexampled
responsibility and of indescribable distress. May I appeal to
that statement to stand as my excuse, if I plead for a last
extension of indulgence toward the last irregularity of which I
shall be guilty, in connection with these proceedings?"

Lady Lundie alone resisted the unaffected and touching dignity
with which those words were spoken.

"We have had enough of irregularity," she said. sternly. "I, for
one, object to more."

Sir Patrick waited patiently for Mr. Moy's reply. The Scotch
lawyer and the English lawyer looked at each other--and
understood each other. Mr. Moy answered for both.

"We don't presume to restrain you, Sir Patrick, by other limits
than those which, as a gentleman, you impose on yourself.
Subject," added the cautious Scotchman, "to the right of
objection which we have already reserved."

"Do you object to my speaking to your client?" asked Sir Patrick.

"To Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn?"


All eyes turned on Geoffrey. He was sitting half asleep, as it
seemed--with his heavy hands hanging listlessly over his knees,
and his chin resting on the hooked handle of his stick.

Looking toward Anne, when Sir Patrick pronounced Geoffrey's name,
Mr. Moy saw a change in her. She withdrew her hands from her
face, and turned suddenly toward her legal adviser. Was she in
the secret of the carefully concealed object at which his
opponent had been aiming from the first? Mr. Moy decided to put
that doubt to the test. He invited Sir Patrick, by a gesture, to
proceed. Sir Patrick addressed himself to Geoffrey.

"You are seriously interested in this inquiry," he said; "and you
have taken no part in it yet. Take a part in it now. Look at this

Geoffrey never moved.

"I've seen enough of her already," he said, brutally.

"You may well be ashamed to look at her," said Sir Patrick,
quietly. "But you might have acknowledged it in fitter words.
Carry your memory back to the fourteenth of August. Do you deny
that you promised to many Miss Silvester privately at the Craig
Fernie inn?"

"I object to that question," said Mr. Moy. "My client is under no
sort of obligation to answer it."

Geoffrey's rising temper--ready to resent any thing--resented his
adviser's interference. "I shall answer if I like," he retorted,
insolently. He looked up for a moment at Sir Patrick, without
moving his chin from the hook of his stick. Then he looked down
again. "I do deny it," he said.

"You deny that you have promised to marry Miss Silvester?"


"I asked you just now to look at her--"

"And I told you I had seen enough of her already."

"Look at _me._ In my presence, and in the presence of the other
persons here, do you deny that you owe this lady, by your own
solemn engagement, the reparation of marriage?"

He suddenly lifted his head. His eyes, after resting for an
instant only on Sir Patrick, turned, little by little; and,
brightening slowly, fixed themselves with a hideous, tigerish
glare on Anne's face. "I know what I owe her," he said.

The devouring hatred of his look was matched by the ferocious
vindictiveness of his tone, as he spoke those words. It was
horrible to see him; it was horrible to hear him. Mr. Moy said to
him, in a whisper, "Control yourself, or I will throw up your

Without answering--without even listening--he lifted one of his
hands, and looked at it vacantly. He whispered something to
himself; and counted out what he was whispering slowly; in
divisions of his own, on three of his fingers in succession. He
fixed his eyes again on Anne with the same devouring hatred in
their look, and spoke (this time directly addressing himself to
her) with the same ferocious vindictiveness in his tone. "But for
you, I should be married to Mrs. Glenarm. But for you, I should
be friends with my father. But for you, I should have won the
race. I know what I owe you." His loosely hanging hands
stealthily clenched themselves. His head sank again on his broad
breast. He said no more.

Not a soul moved--not a word was spoken. The same common horror
held them all speechless. Anne's eyes turned once more on
Blanche. Anne's courage upheld her, even at that moment.

Sir Patrick rose. The strong emotion which he had suppressed thus
far, showed itself plainly in his face--uttered itself plainly in
his voice.

"Come into the next room," he said to Anne. "I must speak to you

Without noticing the astonishment that he caused; without paying
the smallest attention to the remonstrances addressed to him by
his sister-in-law and by the Scotch lawyer, he took Anne by the
arm, opened the folding-doors at one end of the room--entered the
room beyond with her--and closed the doors again.

Lady Lundie appealed to her legal adviser. Blanche rose--advanced
a few steps--and stood in breathless suspense, looking at the
folding-doors. Arnold advanced a step, to speak to his wife. The
captain approached Mr. Moy.

"What does this mean?" he asked.

Mr. Moy answered, in strong agitation on his side.

"It means that I have not been properly instructed. Sir Patrick
Lundie has some evidence in his possession that seriously
compromises Mr. Delamayn's case. He has shrunk from producing it
hitherto--he finds himself forced to produce it now. How is it,"
asked the lawyer, turning sternly on his client, "that you have
left me in the dark?"

"I know nothing about it," answered Geoffrey, without lifting his

Lady Lundie signed to Blanche to stand aside, and advanced toward
the folding-doors. Mr. Moy stopped her.

"I advise your ladyship to be patient. Interference is useless

"Am I not to interfere, Sir, in my own house?"

"Unless I am entirely mistaken, madam, the end of the proceedings
in your house is at hand. You will damage your own interests by
interfering. Let us know what we are about at last. Let the end

Lady Lundie yielded, and returned to her place. They all waited
in silence for the opening of the doors.

Sir Patrick Lundie and Anne Silvester were alone in the room.

He took from the breast-pocket of his coat the sheet of
note-paper which contained Anne's letter, and Geoffrey's reply.
His hand trembled as he held it; his voice faltered as he spoke.

"I have done all that can be done," he said. "I have left nothing
untried, to prevent the necessity of producing this."

"I feel your kindness gratefully, Sir Patrick. You must produce
it now."

The woman's calmness presented a strange and touching contrast to
the man's emotion. There was no shrinking in her face, there was
no unsteadiness in her voice as she answered him. He took her
hand. Twice he attempted to speak; and twice his own agitation
overpowered him. He offered the letter to her i n silence.

In silence, on her side, she put the letter away from her,
wondering what he meant.

"Take it back," he said. "I can't produce it! I daren't produce
it! After what my own eyes have seen, after what my own ears have
heard, in the next room--as God is my witness, I daren't ask you
to declare yourself Geoffrey Delamayn's wife!"

She answered him in one word.


He shook his head impatiently. "Not even in Blanche's interests!
Not even for Blanche's sake! If there is any risk, it is a risk I
am ready to run. I hold to my own opinion. I believe my own view
to be right. Let it come to an appeal to the law! I will fight
the case, and win it."

"Are you _sure_ of winning it, Sir Patrick?"

Instead of replying, he pressed the letter on her. "Destroy it,"
he whispered. "And rely on my silence."

She took the letter from him.

"Destroy it," he repeated. "They may open the doors. They may
come in at any moment, and see it in your hand."

"I have something to ask you, Sir Patrick, before I destroy it.
Blanche refuses to go back to her husband, unless she returns
with the certain assurance of being really his wife. If I produce
this letter, she may go back to him to-day. If I declare myself
Geoffrey Delamayn's wife, I clear Arnold Brinkworth, at once and
forever of all suspicion of being married to me. Can you as
certainly and effectually clear him in any other way? Answer me
that, as a man of honor speaking to a woman who implicitly trusts

She looked him full in the face. His eyes dropped before hers--he
made no reply.

"I am answered," she said.

With those words, she passed him, and laid her hand on the door.

He checked her. The tears rose in his eyes as he drew her gently
back into the room.

"Why should we wait?" she asked.

"Wait," he answered, "as a favor to _me._"

She seated herself calmly in the nearest chair, and rested her
head on her hand, thinking.

He bent over her, and roused her, impatiently, almost angrily.
The steady resolution in her face was terrible to him, when he
thought of the man in the next room.

"Take time to consider," he pleaded. "Don't be led away by your
own impulse. Don't act under a false excitement. Nothing binds
you to this dreadful sacrifice of yourself."

"Excitement! Sacrifice!" She smiled sadly as she repeated the
words. "Do you know, Sir Patrick, what I was thinking of a moment
since? Only of old times, when I was a little girl. I saw the sad
side of life sooner than most children see it. My mother was
cruelly deserted. The hard marriage laws of this country were
harder on her than on me. She died broken-hearted. But one friend
comforted her at the last moment, and promised to be a mother to
her child. I can't remember one unhappy day in all the after-time
when I lived with that faithful woman and her little
daughter--till the day that parted us. She went away with her
husband; and I and the little daughter were left behind. She said
her last words to me. Her heart was sinking under the dread of
coming death. 'I promised your mother 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 Blanche.' Where is the false
excitement, Sir Patrick, in old remembrances like these? And how
can there be a sacrifice in any thing that I do for Blanche?"

She rose, and offered him her hand. Sir Patrick lifted it to his
lips in silence.

"Come!" she said. "For both our sakes, let us not prolong this."

He turned aside his head. It was no moment to let her see that
she had completely unmanned him. She waited for him, with her
hand on the lock. He rallied his courage--he forced himself to
face the horror of the situation calmly. She opened the door, and
led the way back into the other room.

Not a word was spoken by any of the persons present, as the two
returned to their places. The noise of a carriage passing in the
street was painfully audible. The chance banging of a door in the
lower regions of the house made every one start.

Anne's sweet voice broke the dreary silence.

"Must I speak for myself, Sir Patrick? Or will you (I ask it as a
last and greatest favor) speak for me?"

"You insist on appealing to the letter in your hand?"

"I am resolved to appeal to it."

"Will nothing induce you to defer the close of this inquiry--so
far as you are concerned--for four-and-twenty hours?"

"Either you or I, Sir Patrick, must say what is to be said, and
do what is to be done, before we leave this room."

"Give me the letter."

She gave it to him. Mr. Moy whispered to his client, "Do you know
what that is?" Geoffrey shook his head. "Do you really remember
nothing about it?" Geoffrey answered in one surly word,

Sir Patrick addressed himself to the assembled company.

"I have to ask your pardon," he said, "for abruptly leaving the
room, and for obliging Miss Silvester to leave it with me. Every
body present, except that man" (he pointed to Geoffrey), "will, I
believe, understand and forgive me, now that I am forced to make
my conduct the subject of the plainest and the fullest
explanation. I shall address that explanation, for reasons which
will presently appear, to my niece."

Blanche started. "To me!" she exclaimed.

"To you," Sir Patrick answered.

Blanche turned toward Arnold, daunted by a vague sense of
something serious to come. The letter that she had received from
her husband on her departure from Ham Farm had necessarily
alluded to relations between Geoffrey and Anne, of which Blanche
had been previously ignorant. Was any reference coming to those
relations? Was there something yet to be disclosed which Arnold's
letter had not prepared her to hear?

Sir Patrick resumed.

"A short time since," he said to Blanche, "I proposed to you to
return to your husband's protection--and to leave the termination
of this matter in my hands. You have refused to go back to him
until you are first certainly assured that you are his wife.
Thanks to a sacrifice to your interests and your happiness, on
Miss Silvester's part--which I tell you frankly I have done my
utmost to prevent--I am in a position to prove positively that
Arnold Brinkworth was a single man when he married you from my
house in Kent."

Mr. Moy's experience forewarned him of what was coming. He
pointed to the letter in Sir Patrick's hand.

"Do you claim on a promise of marriage?" he asked.

Sir Patrick rejoined by putting a question on his side.

"Do you remember the famous decision at Doctors' Commons, which
established the marriage of Captain Dalrymple and Miss Gordon?"

Mr. Moy was answered. "I understand you, Sir Patrick," he said.
After a moment's pause, he addressed his next words to Anne. "And
from the bottom of my heart, madam, I respect _you._"

It was said with a fervent sincerity of tone which wrought the
interest of the other persons, who were still waiting for
enlightenment, to the highest pitch. Lady Lundie and Captain
Newenden whispered to each other anxiously. Arnold turned pale.
Blanche burst into tears.

Sir Patrick turned once more to his niece.

"Some little time since," he said, "I had occasion to speak to
you of the scandalous uncertainty of the marriage laws of
Scotland. But for that uncertainty (entirely without parallel in
any other civilized country in Europe), Arnold Brinkworth would
never have occupied the position in which he stands here
to-day--and these proceedings would never have taken place. Bear
that fact in mind. It is not only answerable for the mischief
that has been already done, but for the far more serious evil
which is still to come."

Mr. Moy took a note. Sir Patrick went on.

"Loose and reckless as the Scotch law is, there happens, however,
to be one case in which the action of it has been confirmed and
settled by the English Courts. A written promise of marriage
exchanged between a man and woman, in Scotland, marries that man
and woman by Scotch law. An English Court of Justice (sitting in
judgment on the ease I have just mentioned to Mr. Moy) has
pronounced that law to be good--and the decision has since been
confirmed by the supreme authority of the Hous e of Lords. Where
the persons therefore--living in Scotland at the time--have
promised each other marriage in writing, there is now no longer
any doubt they are certainly, and lawfully, Man and Wife." He
turned from his niece, and appealed to Mr. Moy." Am I right?"

"Quite right, Sir Patrick, as to the facts. I own, however, that
your commentary on them surprises me. I have the highest opinion
of our Scottish marriage law. A man who has betrayed a woman
under a promise of marriage is forced by that law (in the
interests of public morality) to acknowledge her as his wife."

"The persons here present, Mr. Moy, are now about to see the
moral merit of the Scotch law of marriage (as approved by
England) practically in operation before their own eyes. They
will judge for themselves of the morality (Scotch or English)
which first forces a deserted woman back on the villain who has
betrayed her, and then virtuously leaves her to bear the

With that answer, he turned to Anne, and showed her the letter,
open in his hand.

"For the last time," he said, "do you insist on my appealing to

She rose, and bowed her head gravely.

"It is my distressing duty," said Sir Patrick, "to declare, in
this lady's name, and on the faith of written promises of
marriage exchanged between the parties, then residing in
Scotland, that she claims to be now--and to have been on the
afternoon of the fourteenth of August last--Mr. Geoffrey
Delamayn's wedded wife."

A cry of horror from Blanche, a low murmur of dismay from the
rest, followed the utterance of those words.

There was a pause of an instant.

Then Geoffrey rose slowly to his feet, and fixed his eyes on the
wife who had claimed him.

The spectators of the terrible scene turned with one accord
toward the sacrificed woman. The look which Geoffrey had cast on
her--the words which Geoffrey had spoken to her--were present to
all their minds. She stood, waiting by Sir Patrick's side--her
soft gray eyes resting sadly and tenderly on Blanche's face. To
see that matchless courage and resignation was to doubt the
reality of what had happened. They were forced to look back at
the man to possess their minds with the truth.

The triumph of law and morality over him was complete. He never
uttered a word. His furious temper was perfectly and fearfully
calm. With the promise of merciless vengeance written in the
Devil s writing on his Devil-possessed face, he kept his eyes
fixed on the hated woman whom he had ruined--on the hated woman
who was fastened to him as his wife.

His lawyer went over to the table at which Sir Patrick sat. Sir
Patrick handed him the sheet of note-paper.

He read the two letters contained in it with absorbed and
deliberate attention. The moments that passed before he lifted
his head from his reading seemed like hours. "Can you prove the
handwritings?" he asked. "And prove the residence?"

Sir Patrick took up a second morsel of paper lying ready under
his hand.

"There are the names of persons who can prove the writing, and
prove the residence," he replied. "One of your two witnesses
below stairs (otherwise useless) can speak to the hour at which
Mr. Brinkworth arrived at the inn, and so can prove that the lady
for whom he asked was, at that moment, Mrs. Geoffrey Delamayn.
The indorsement on the back of the note-paper, also referring to
the question of time, is in the handwriting of the same
witness--to whom I refer you, when it suits your convenience to
question him."

"I will verify the references, Sir Patrick, as matter of form. In
the mean time, not to interpose needless and vexatious delay, I
am bound to say that I can not resist the evidence of the

Having replied in those terms he addressed himself, with marked
respect and sympathy, to Anne.

"On the faith of the written promise of marriage exchanged
between you in Scotland," he said, "you claim Mr. Geoffrey
Delamayn as your husband?"

She steadily repented the words after him.

"I claim Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn as my husband."

Mr. Moy appealed to his client. Geoffrey broke silence at last.

"Is it settled?" he asked.

"To all practical purposes, it is settled."

He went on, still looking at nobody but Anne.

"Has the law of Scotland made her my wife?"

"The law of Scotland has made her your wife."

He asked a third and last question.

"Does the law tell her to go where her husband goes?"


He laughed softly to himself, and beckoned to her to cross the
room to the place at which he was standing.

She obeyed. At the moment when she took the first step to
approach him, Sir Patrick caught her hand, and whispered to her,
"Rely on me!" She gently pressed his hand in token that she
understood him, and advanced to Geoffrey. At the same moment,
Blanche rushed between them, and flung her arms around Anne's

"Oh, Anne! Anne!"

An hysterical passion of tears choked her utterance. Anne gently
unwound the arms that clung round her--gently lifted the head
that lay helpless on her bosom.

"Happier days are coming, my love," she said. "Don't think of

She kissed her--looked at her--kissed her again--and placed her
in her husband's arms. Arnold remembered her parting words at
Craig Fernie, when they had wished each other good-night. "You
have not befriended an ungrateful woman. The day may yet come
when I shall prove it." Gratitude and admiration struggled in him
which should utter itself first, and held him speechless.

She bent her head gently in token that she understood him. Then
she went on, and stood before Geoffrey.

"I am here," she said to him. "What do you wish me to do?"

A hideous smile parted his heavy lips. He offered her his arm.

"Mrs. Geoffrey Delamayn," he said. "Come home."

The picture of the lonely house, isolated amidst its high walls;
the ill-omened figure of the dumb woman with the stony eyes and
the savage ways--the whole scene, as Anne had pictured it to him
but two days since, rose vivid as reality before Sir Patrick's
mind. "No!" he cried out, carried away by the generous impulse of
the moment. "It shall _not_ be!"

Geoffrey stood impenetrable--waiting with his offered arm. Pale
and resolute, she lifted her noble head--called back the courage
which had faltered for a moment--and took his arm. He led her to
the door. "Don't let Blanche fret about me," she said, simply, to
Arnold as they went by. They passed Sir Patrick next. Once more
his sympathy for her set every other consideration at defiance.
He started up to bar the way to Geoffrey. Geoffrey paused, and
looked at Sir Patrick for the first time.

"The law tells her to go with her husband," he said. "The law
forbids you to part Man and Wife."

True. Absolutely, undeniably true. The law sanctioned the
sacrifice of her as unanswerably as it had sanctioned the
sacrifice of her mother before her. In the name of Morality, let
him take her! In the interests of Virtue, let her get out of it
if she can!

Her husband opened the door. Mr. Moy laid his hand on Sir
Patrick's arm. Lady Lundie, Captain Newenden, the London lawyer,
all left their places, influenced, for once, by the same
interest; feeling, for once, the same suspense. Arnold followed
them, supporting his wife. For one memorable instant Anne looked
back at them all. Then she and her husband crossed the threshold.
They descended the stairs together. The opening and closing of
the house door was heard. They were gone.

Done, in the name of Morality. Done, in the interests of Virtue.
Done, in an age of progress, and under the most perfect
government on the face of the earth.




"HIS lordship is dangerously ill, Sir. Her ladyship can receive
no visitors."

"Be so good as to take that card to Lady Holchester. It is
absolutely necessary that your mistress should be made
acquainted--in the interests of her younger son--with something
which I can only mention to her ladyship herself."

The two persons speaking were Lord Holchester's head servant and
Sir Patrick Lundie. At that time barely half an hour had passed
since the close of the proceedings at Portland Place.

The servant still hesitated with the card
in his hand. "I shall forfeit my situation," he said, "if I do

"You will most assuredly forfeit your situation if you _don't_ do
it," returned Sir Patrick. "I warn you plainly, this is too
serious a matter to be trifled with."

The tone in which those words were spoken had its effect. The man
went up stairs with his message.

Sir Patrick waited in the hall. Even the momentary delay of
entering one of the reception-rooms was more than he could endure
at that moment. Anne's happiness was hopelessly sacrificed
already. The preservation of her personal safety--which Sir
Patrick firmly believed to be in danger--was the one service
which it was possible to render to her now. The perilous position
in which she stood toward her husband--as an immovable obstacle,
while she lived, between Geoffrey and Mrs. Glenarm--was beyond
the reach of remedy. But it was still possible to prevent her
from becoming the innocent cause of Geoffrey's pecuniary ruin, by
standing in the way of a reconciliation between father and son.

Resolute to leave no means untried of serving Anne's interests,
Sir Patrick had allowed Arnold and Blanche to go to his own
residence in London, alone, and had not even waited to say a
farewell word to any of the persons who had taken part in the
inquiry. "Her life may depend on what I can do for her at
Holchester House!" With that conviction in him, he had left
Portland Place. With that conviction in him, he had sent his
message to Lady Holchester, and was now waiting for the reply.

The servant appeared again on the stairs. Sir Patrick went up to
meet him.

"Her ladyship will see you, Sir, for a few minutes."

The door of an upper room was opened; and Sir Patrick found
himself in the presence of Geoffrey's mother. There was only time
to observe that she possessed the remains of rare personal
beauty, and that she received her visitor with a grace and
courtesy which implied (under the circumstances) a considerate
regard for _his_ position at the expense of her own.

"You have something to say to me, Sir Patrick, on the subject of
my second son. I am in great affliction. If you bring me bad
news, I will do my best to bear it. May I trust to your kindness
not to keep me in suspense?"

"It will help me to make my intrusion as little painful as
possible to your ladyship," replied Sir Patrick, "if I am
permitted to ask a question. Have you heard of any obstacle to
the contemplated marriage of Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn and Mrs.

Even that distant reference to Anne produced an ominous change
for the worse in Lady Holchester's manner.

"I have heard of the obstacle to which you allude," she said.
"Mrs. Glenarm is an intimate friend of mine. She has informed me
that a person named Silvester, an impudent adventuress--"

"I beg your ladyship's pardon. You are doing a cruel wrong to the
noblest woman I have ever met with."

"I can not undertake, Sir Patrick, to enter into your reasons for
admiring her. Her conduct toward my son has, I repeat, been the
conduct of an impudent adventuress."

Those words showed Sir Patrick the utter hopelessness of shaking
her prejudice against Anne. He decided on proceeding at once to
the disclosure of the truth.

"I entreat you so say no more," he answered. "Your ladyship is
speaking of your son's wife."

"My son has married Miss Silvester?"


She turned deadly pale. It appeared, for an instant, as if the
shock had completely overwhelmed her. But the mother's weakness
was only momentary The virtuous indignation of the great lady had
taken its place before Sir Patrick could speak again. She rose to
terminate the interview.

"I presume," she said, "that your errand here is as an end."

Sir Patrick rose, on his side, resolute to do the duty which had
brought him to the house.

"I am compelled to trespass on your ladyship's attention for a
few minutes more," he answered. "The circumstances attending the
marriage of Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn are of no common importance. I
beg permission (in the interests of his family) to state, very
briefly, what they are."

In a few clear sentences he narrated what had happened, that
afternoon, in Portland Place. Lady Holchester listened with the
steadiest and coldest attention. So far as outward appearances
were concerned, no impression was produced upon her.

"Do you expect me," she asked, "to espouse the interests of a
person who has prevented my son from marrying the lady of his
choice, and of mine?"

"Mr. Geoffrey Delamayn, unhappily, has that reason for resenting
his wife's innocent interference with interests of considerable,
importance to him," returned Sir Patrick. "I request your
ladyship to consider whether it is desirable--in view of your
son's conduct in the future--to allow his wife to stand in the
doubly perilous relation toward him of being also a cause of
estrangement between his father and himself."

He had put it with scrupulous caution. But Lady Holchester
understood what he had refrained from saving as well as what he
had actually said. She had hitherto remained standing--she now
sat down again. There was a visible impression produced on her at

"In Lord Holchester's critical state of health," she answered, "I
decline to take the responsibility of telling him what you have
just told me. My own influence has been uniformly exerted in my
son's favor--as long as my interference could be productive of
any good result. The time for my interference has passed. Lord
Holchester has altered his will this morning. I was not present;
and I have not yet been informed of what has been done. Even if I

"Your ladyship would naturally decline," said Sir Patrick, "to
communicate the information to a stranger."

"Certainly. At the same time, after what you have said, I do not
feel justified in deciding on this matter entirely by myself. One
of Lord Holchester's executors is now in the house. There can be
no impropriety in your seeing him--if you wish it. You are at
liberty to say, from me, that I leave it entirely to his
discretion to decide what ought to be done."

"I gladly accept your ladyship's proposal."

Lady Holchester rang the bell at her side.

"Take Sir Patrick Lundie to Mr. Marchwood," she said to the

Sir Patrick started. The name was familiar to him, as the name of
a friend.

"Mr. Marchwood of Hurlbeck?" he asked.

"The same."

With that brief answer, Lady Holchester dismissed her visitor.
Following the servant to the other end of the corridor, Sir
Patrick was conducted into a small room--the ante-chamber to the
bedroom in which Lord Holchester lay. The door of communication
was closed. A gentleman sat writing at a table near the window.
He rose, and held out his hand, with a look of surprise, when the
servant announced Sir Patrick's name. This was Mr. Marchwood.

After the first explanations had been given, Sir Patrick
patiently reverted to the object of his visit to Holchester
House. On the first occasion when he mentioned Anne's name he
observed that Mr. Marchwood became, from that moment, specially
interested in what he was saying.

"Do you happen to be acquainted with the lady?" he asked

"I only know her as the cause of a very strange proceeding, this
morning, in that room." He pointed to Lord Holchester's bedroom
as he spoke.

"Are you at liberty to mention what the proceeding was?"

"Hardly--even to an old friend like you--unless I felt it a
matter of duty, on my part, to state the circumstances. Pray go
on with what you were saying to me. You were on the point of
telling me what brought you to this house."

Without a word more of preface, Sir Patrick told him the news of
Geoffrey's marriage to Anne.

"Married!" cried Mr. Marchwood. "Are you sure of what you say?"

"I am one of the witnesses of the marriage."

"Good Heavens! And Lord Holchester's lawyer has left the house!"

"Can I replace him? Have I, by any chance justified you in
telling me what happened this morning in the next room?"

"Justified me? You have left me no other alternative. The doctors
are all agreed in dreading apoplexy--his lordship may die at any
moment. In the lawyer's absence, I must take it on myself. Here
are the facts. There is the codicil to Lord
Holchester's Will which is still unsigned."

"Relating to his second son?"

"Relating to Geoffrey Delamayn, and giving him (when it is once
executed) a liberal provision for life."

"What is the object in the way of his executing it?"

"The lady whom you have just mentioned to me."

"Anne Silvester!"

"Anne Silvester--now (as you tell me) Mrs. Geoffrey Delamayn. I
can only explain the thing very imperfectly. There are certain
painful circumstances associated in his lordship's memory with
this lady, or with some member of her family. We can only gather
that he did something--in the early part of his professional
career--which was strictly within the limits of his duty, but
which apparently led to very sad results. Some days since he
unfortunately heard (either through Mrs. Glenarm or through Mrs.
Julius Delamayn) of Miss Silvester's appearance at Swanhaven
Lodge. No remark on the subject escaped him at the time. It was
only this morning, when the codicil giving the legacy to Geoffrey
was waiting to be executed, that his real feeling in the matter
came out. To our astonishment, he refused to sign it. 'Find Anne
Silvester' (was the only answer we could get from him); 'and
bring her to my bedside. You all say my son is guiltless of
injuring her. I am lying on my death-bed. I have serious reasons
of my own--I owe it to the memory of the dead--to assure myself
of the truth. If Anne Silvester herself acquits him of having
wronged her, I will provide for Geoffrey. Not otherwise.' We went
the length of reminding him that he might die before Miss
Silvester could be found. Our interference had but one result. He
desired the lawyer to add a second codicil to the Will--which he
executed on the spot. It directs his executors to inquire into
the relations that have actually existed between Anne Silvester
and his younger son. If we find reason to conclude that Geoffrey
has gravely wronged her, we are directed to pay her a
legacy--provided that she is a single woman at the time."

"And her marriage violates the provision!" exclaimed Sir Patrick.

"Yes. The codicil actually executed is now worthless. And the
other codicil remains unsigned until the lawyer can produce Miss
Silvester. He has left the house to apply to Geoffrey at Fulham,
as the only means at our disposal of finding the lady. Some hours
have passed--and he has not yet returned."

"It is useless to wait for him," said Sir Patrick. "While the
lawyer was on his way to Fulham, Lord Holchester's son was on his
way to Portland Place. This is even more serious than you
suppose. Tell me, what under less pressing circumstances I should
have no right to ask. Apart from the unexecuted codicil what is
Geoffrey Delamayn's position in the will?"

"He is not even mentioned in it."

"Have you got the will?"

Mr. Marchwood unlocked a drawer, and took it out.

Sir Patrick instantly rose from his chair. "No waiting for the
lawyer!" he repeated, vehemently. "This is a matter of life and
death. Lady Holchester bitterly resents her son's marriage. She
speaks and feels as a friend of Mrs. Glenarm. Do you think Lord
Holchester would take the same view if he knew of it?"

"It depends entirely on the circumstances."

Book of the day: