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Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins

Part 15 out of 15

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could she give for raising an alarm? There was not the shadow of
a reason to justify any one in placing her under the protection
of the law.

As a last resource, impelled by her blind distrust of the change
in the position of the bed, she attempted to move it. The utmost
exertion of her strength did not suffice to stir the heavy piece
of furniture out of its place, by so much as a hair's breadth.

There was no alternative but to trust to the security of the
locked and bolted door, and to keep watch through the
night--certain that Sir Patrick and Arnold were, on their part,
also keeping watch in the near neighborhood of the cottage. She
took out her work and her books; and returned to her chair,
placing it near the table, in the middle of the room.

The last noises which told of life and movement about her died
away. The breathless stillness of the night closed round her.



THE new day dawned; the sun rose; the household was astir again.
Inside the spare room, and outside the spare room, nothing had

At the hour appointed for leaving the cottage to pay the promised
visit to Holchester House, Hester Dethridge and Geoffrey were
alone together in the bedroom in which Anne had passed the night.

"She's dressed, and waiting for me in the front garden," said
Geoffrey. "You wanted to see me here alone. What is it?"

Hester pointed to the bed.

"You want it moved from the wall?"

Hester nodded her head.

They moved the bed some feet away from the partition wall. After
a momentary pause, Geoffrey spoke again.

"It must be done to-night," he said. "Her friends may interfere;
the girl may come back. It must be done to-night."

Hester bowed her head slowly.

"How long do you want to be left by yourself in the house?"

She held up three of her fingers.

"Does that mean three hours?"

She nodded her head.

"Will it be done in that time?"

She made the affirmative sign once more.

Thus far, she had never lifted her eyes to his. In her manner of
listening to him when he spoke, in the slightest movement that
she made when necessity required it, the same lifeless submission
to him, the same mute horror of him, was expressed. He had, thus
far, silently resented this, on his side. On the point of leaving
the room the restraint which he had laid on himself gave way. For
the first time, he resented it in words.

"Why the devil can't you look at me?" he asked

She let the question pass, without a sign to show that she had
heard him. He angrily repeated it. She wrote on her slate, and
held it out to him--still without raising her eyes to his face.

"You know you can speak," he said. "You know I have found you
out. What's the use of playing the fool with _me?_"

She persisted in holding the slate before him. He read these

" I am dumb to you, and blind to you. Let me be."

"Let you be!" he repeated. "It's a little late in the day to be
scrupulous, after what you have done. Do you want your Confession
back, or not?"

As the reference to the Confession passed his lips, she raised
her head. A faint tinge of color showed itself on her livid
cheeks; a momentary spasm of pain stirred her deathlike face. The
one last interest left in the woman's life was the interest of
recovering the manuscript which had been taken from her. To
_that_ appeal the stunned intelligence still faintly
answered--and to no other.

"Remember the bargain on your side," Geoffrey went on, "and I'll
remember the bargain on mine. This is how it stands, you know. I
have read your Confession; and I find one thing wanting. You
don't tell how it was done. I know you smothered him--but I don't
know how. I want to know. You're dumb; and you can't tell me. You
must do to the wall here what you did in the other house. You run
no risks. There isn't a soul to see you. You have got the place
to yourself. When I come back let me find this wall like the
other wall--at that small hour of the morning you know, when you
were waiting, with the towel in your hand, for the first stroke
of the clock. Let me find that; and to-morrow you shall have your
Confession back again."

As the reference to the Confession passed his lips for the second
time, the sinking energy in the woman leaped up in her once more.
She snatched her slate from her side; and, writing on it rapidly,
held it, with both hands, close under his eyes. He read these

"I won't wait. I must have it to-night."

"Do you think I keep your Confession about me?" said Geoffrey. "I
haven't even got it in the house."

She staggered back; and looked up for the first time.

"Don't alarm yourself," he went on. "It's sealed up with my seal;
and it's safe in my bankers' keeping. I posted it to them myself.
You don't stick at a trifle, Mrs. Dethridge. If I had kept it
locked up in the house, you might have forced the lock when my
back was turned. If I had kept it about me--I might have had that
towel over my face, in the small hours of the morning! The
bankers will give you back your Confession--just as they have
received it from me--on receipt of an order in my handwriting. Do
what I have told you; and you shall have the order to-night."

She passed her apron over her face, and drew a long breath of
relief. Geoffrey turned to the door.

"I will be back at six this evening," he said. "Shall I find it

She bowed her head.

His first condition accepted, he proceeded to the second.

"When the opportunity offers," he resumed, "I shall go up to my
room. I shall ring the dining room bell first. You will go up
before me when you hear that--and you will show me how you did it
in the empty house?"

She made the affirmative sign once more.

At the same moment the door in the passage below was opened and
closed again. Geoffrey instantly went down stairs. It was
possible that Anne might have forgotten something; and it was
necessary to prevent her from returning to her own room.

They met in the passage.

"Tired of waiting in the garden?" he asked, abruptly.

She pointed to the dining-room.

"The postman has just given me a letter for you, through the
grating in the gate," she answered. "I have put it on the table
in there."

He went in. The handwriting on the address of the letter was the
handwriting of Mrs. Glenarm. He put it unread into his pocket,
and went back to Anne.

"Step out!" he said. "We shall lose the train."

They started for their visit to Holchester House.



AT a few minutes before six o'clock that evening, Lord
Holchester's carriage brought Geoffrey and Anne back to the

Geoffrey prevented the servant from ringing at the gate. He had
taken the key with him, when he left home earlier in the day.
Having admitted Anne, and having closed the gate again, he went
on before her to the kitchen window, and called to Hester

"Take some cold water into the drawing-room and fill the vase on
the chimney-piece," he said. "The sooner you put those flowers
into water," he added, turning to his wife, "the longer they will

He pointed, as he spoke, to a nosegay in Anne's hand, which
Julius had gathered for her from the conservatory at Holchester
House. Leaving her to arrange the flowers in the vase, he went up
stairs. After waiting for a moment, he was joined by Hester

"Done?" he asked, in a whisper.

Hester made the affirmative sign.
Geoffrey took off his boots and led the way into the spare room.
They noiselessly moved the bed back to its place against the
partition wall--and left the room again. When Anne entered it,
some minutes afterward, not the slightest change of any kind was
visible since she had last seen it in the middle of the day.

She removed her bonnet and mantle, and sat down to rest.

The whole course of events, since the previous night, had tended
one way, and had exerted the same delusive influence over her
mind. It was impossible for her any longer to resist the
conviction that she had distrusted appearances without the
slightest reason, and that she had permitted purely visionary
suspicions to fill her with purely causeless alarm. In the firm
belief that she was in danger, she had watched through the
night--and nothing had happened. In the confident anticipation
that Geoffrey had promised what he was resolved not to perform,
she had waited to see what excuse he would find for keeping her
at the cottage. And, when the time came for the visit, she found
him ready to fulfill the engagement which he had made. At
Holchester House, not the slightest interference had been
attempted with her perfect liberty of action and speech. Resolved
to inform Sir Patrick that she had changed her room, she had
described the alarm of fire and the events which had succeeded
it, in the fullest detail--and had not been once checked by
Geoffrey from beginning to end. She had spoken in confidence to
Blanche, and had never been interrupted. Walking round the
conservatory, she had dropped behind the others with perfect
impunity, to say a grateful word to Sir Patrick, and to ask if
the interpretation that he placed on Geoffrey's conduct was
really the interpretation which had been hinted at by Blanche.
They had talked together for ten minutes or more. Sir Patrick had
assured her that Blanche had correctly represented his opinion.
He had declared his conviction that the rash way was, in her
case, the right way; and that she would do well (with his
assistance) to take the initiative, in the matter of the
separation, on herself. "As long as he can keep you under the
same roof with him"--Sir Patrick had said--"so long he will
speculate on our anxiety to release you from the oppression of
living with him; and so long he will hold out with his brother
(in the character of a penitent husband) for higher terms. Put
the signal in the window, and try the experiment to-night. Once
find your way to the garden door, and I answer for keeping you
safely out of his reach until he has submitted to the separation,
and has signed the deed." In those words he had urged Anne to
prompt action. He had received, in return, her promise to be
guided by his advice. She had gone back to the drawing-room; and
Geoffrey had made no remark on her absence. She had returned to
Fulham, alone with him in his brother's carriage; and he had
asked no questions. What was it natural, with her means of
judging, to infer from all this? Could she see into Sir Patrick's
mind and detect that he was deliberately concealing his own
conviction, in the fear that he might paralyze her energies if he
acknowledged the alarm for her that he really felt? No. She could
only accept the false appearances that surrounded her in the
disguise of truth. She could only adopt, in good faith, Sir
Patrick's assumed point of view, and believe, on the evidence of
her own observation, that Sir Patrick was right.

Toward dusk, Anne began to feel the exhaustion which was the
necessary result of a night passed without sleep. She rang her
bell, and asked for some tea.

Hester Dethridge answered the bell. Instead of making the usual
sign, she stood considering--and then wrote on her slate. These
were the words: "I have all the work to do, now the girl has
gone. If you would have your tea in the drawing-room, you would
save me another journey up stairs."

Anne at once engaged to comply with the request.

"Are you ill?" she asked; noticing, faint as the light now was,
something strangely altered in Hester's manner.

Without looking up, Hester shook her head.

"Has any thing happened to vex you?"

The negative sign was repeated.

"Have I offended you?"

She suddenly advanced a step, suddenly looked at Anne; checked
herself with a dull moan, like a moan of pain; and hurried out of
the room.

Concluding that she had inadvertently said, or done, something to
offend Hester Dethridge, Anne determined to return to the subject
at the first favorable opportunity. In the mean time, she
descended to the ground-floor. The dining-room door, standing
wide open, showed her Geoffrey sitting at the table, writing a
letter--with the fatal brandy-bottle at his side.

After what Mr. Speedwell had told her, it was her duty to
interfere. She performed her duty, without an instant's

"Pardon me for interrupting you," she said. "I think you have
forgotten what Mr. Speedwell told you about that."

She pointed to the bottle. Geoffrey looked at it; looked down
again at his letter; and impatiently shook his head. She made a
second attempt at remonstrance--again without effect. He only
said, "All right!" in lower tones than were customary with him,
and continued his occupation. It was useless to court a third
repulse. Anne went into the drawing-room.

The letter on which he was engaged was an answer to Mrs. Glenarm,
who had written to tell him that she was leaving town. He had
reached his two concluding sentences when Anne spoke to him. They
ran as follows: "I may have news to bring you, before long, which
you don't look for. Stay where you are through to-morrow, and
wait to hear from me."

After sealing the envelope, he emptied his glass of brandy and
water; and waited, looking through the open door. When Hester
Dethridge crossed the passage with the tea-tray, and entered the
drawing-room, he gave the sign which had been agreed on. He rang
his bell. Hester came out again, closing the drawing-room door
behind her.

"Is she safe at her tea?" he asked, removing his heavy boots, and
putting on the slippers which were placed ready for him.

Hester bowed her head.

He pointed up the stairs. "You go first," he whispered. "No
nonsense! and no noise!"

She ascended the stairs. He followed slowly. Although he had only
drunk one glass of brandy and water, his step was uncertain
already. With one hand on the wall, and one hand on the banister,
he made his way to the top; stopped, and listened for a moment;
then joined Hester in his own room, and softly locked the door.

"Well?" he said.

She was standing motionless in the middle of the room--not like a
living woman--like a machine waiting to be set in movement.
Finding it useless to speak to her, he touched her (with a
strange sensation of shrinking in him as he did it), and pointed
to the partition wall.

The touch roused her. With slow step and vacant face--moving as
if she was walking in her sleep--she led the way to the papered
wall; knelt down at the skirting-board; and, taking out two small
sharp nails, lifted up a long strip of the paper which had been
detached from the plaster beneath. Mounting on a chair, she
turned back the strip and pinned it up, out of the way, using the
two nails, which she had kept ready in her hand.

By the last dim rays of twilight, Geoffrey looked at the wall.

A hollow space met his view. At a distance of some three feet
from the floor, the laths had been sawn away, and the plaster had
been ripped out, piecemeal, so as to leave a cavity, sufficient
in height and width to allow free power of working in any
direction, to a man's arms. The cavity completely pierced the
substance of the wall. Nothing but the paper on the other side
prevented eye or hand from penetrating into the next room.

Hester Dethridge got down from the chair, and made signs for a

Geoffrey took a match from the box. The same strange uncertainty
which had already possessed his feet, appeared now to possess his
hands. He struck the match too heavily against the sandpaper, and
broke it. He tried another, and struck it too lightly to kindle
the flame. Hester took the box out of his hands. Having lit the
candle, she hel d it low, and pointed to the skirting-board.

Two little hooks were fixed into the floor, near the part of the
wall from which the paper had been removed. Two lengths of fine
and strong string were twisted once or twice round the hooks. The
loose ends of the string extending to some length beyond the
twisted parts, were neatly coiled away against the
skirting-board. The other ends, drawn tight, disappeared in two
small holes drilled through the wall, at a height of a foot from
the floor.

After first untwisting the strings from the hooks, Hester rose,
and held the candle so as to light the cavity in the wall. Two
more pieces of the fine string were seen here, resting loose upon
the uneven surface which marked the lower boundary of the
hollowed space. Lifting these higher strings, Hester lifted the
loosened paper in the next room--the lower strings, which had
previously held the strip firm and flat against the sound portion
of the wall, working in their holes, and allowing the paper to
move up freely. As it rose higher and higher, Geoffrey saw thin
strips of cotton wool lightly attached, at intervals, to the back
of the paper, so as effectually to prevent it from making a
grating sound against the wall. Up and up it came slowly, till it
could be pulled through the hollow space, and pinned up out of
the way, as the strip previously lifted had been pinned before
it. Hester drew back, and made way for Geoffrey to look through.
There was Anne's room, visible through the wall! He softly parted
the light curtains that hang over the bed. There was the pillow,
on which her head would rest at night, within reach of his hands!

The deadly dexterity of it struck him cold. His nerves gave way.
He drew back with a start of guilty fear, and looked round the
room. A pocket flask of brandy lay on the table at his bedside.
He snatched it up, and emptied it at a draught--and felt like
himself again.

He beckoned to Hester to approach him.

"Before we go any further," he said, "there's one thing I want to
know. How is it all to be put right again? Suppose this room is
examined? Those strings will show."

Hester opened a cupboard and produced a jar. She took out the
cork. There was a mixture inside which looked like glue. Partly
by signs, and partly by help of the slate, she showed how the
mixture could be applied to the back of the loosened strip of
paper in the next room--how the paper could be glued to the sound
lower part of the wall by tightening the strings--how the
strings, having served that purpose, could be safely removed--how
the same process could be followed in Geoffrey's room, after the
hollowed place had been filled up again with the materials
waiting in the scullery, or even without filling up the hollowed
place if the time failed for doing it. In either case, the
refastened paper would hide every thing, and the wall would tell
no tales.

Geoffrey was satisfied. He pointed next to the towels in his

"Take one of them," he said, "and show me how you did it, with
your own hands."

As he said the words, Anne's voice reached his ear from below,
calling for "Mrs. Dethridge."

It was impossible to say what might happen next. In another
minute, she might go up to her room, and discover every thing.
Geoffrey pointed to the wall.

"Put it right again," he said. "Instantly!"

It was soon done. All that was necessary was to let the two
strips of paper drop back into their places--to fasten the strip
to the wall in Anne's room, by tightening the two lower
strings--and then to replace the nails which held the loose strip
on Geoffrey's side. In a minute, the wall had reassumed its
customary aspect.

They stole out, and looked over the stairs into the passage
below. After calling uselessly for the second time, Anne
appeared, crossed over to the kitchen; and, returning again with
the kettle in her hand, closed the drawing-room door.

Hester Dethridge waited impenetrably to receive her next
directions. There were no further directions to give. The hideous
dramatic representation of the woman's crime for which Geoffrey
had asked was in no respect necessary: the means were all
prepared, and the manner of using them was self-evident. Nothing
but the opportunity, and the resolution to profit by it, were
wanting to lead the way to the end. Geoffrey signed to Hester to
go down stairs.

"Get back into the kitchen," he said, "before she comes out
again. I shall keep in the garden. When she goes up into her room
for the night, show yourself at the back-door--and I shall know."

Hester set her foot on the first stair--stopped--turned
round--and looked slowly along the two walls of the passage, from
end to end--shuddered--shook her head--and went slowly on down
the stairs.

"What were you looking for?" he whispered after her.

She neither answered, nor looked back--she went her way into the

He waited a minute, and then followed her.

On his way out to the garden, he went into the dining-room. The
moon had risen; and the window-shutters were not closed. It was
easy to find the brandy and the jug of water on the table. He
mixed the two, and emptied the tumbler at a draught. "My head's
queer," he whispered to himself. He passed his handkerchief over
his face. "How infernally hot it is to-night!" He made for the
door. It was open, and plainly visible--and yet, he failed to
find his way to it. Twice, he found himself trying to walk
through the wall, on either side. The third time, he got out, and
reached the garden. A strange sensation possessed him, as he
walked round and round. He had not drunk enough, or nearly
enough, to intoxicate him. His mind, in a dull way, felt the same
as usual; but his body was like the body of a drunken man.

The night advanced; the clock of Putney Church struck ten.

Anne appeared again from the drawing room, with her bedroom
candle in her hand.

"Put out the lights," she said to Hester, at the kitchen door; "I
am going up stairs."

She entered her room. The insupportable sense of weariness, after
the sleepless night that she had passed, weighed more heavily on
her than ever. She locked her door, but forbore, on this
occasion, to fasten the bolts. The dread of danger was no longer
present to her mind; and there was this positive objection to
losing the bolts, that the unfastening of them would increase the
difficulty of leaving the room noiselessly later in the night.
She loosened her dress, and lifted her hair from her temples--and
paced to and fro in the room wearily, thinking. Geoffrey's habits
were irregular; Hester seldom went to bed early.

Two hours at least--more probably three--must pass, before it
would be safe to communicate with Sir Patrick by means of the
signal in the window. Her strength was fast failing her. If she
persisted, for the next three hours, in denying herself the
repose which she sorely needed, the chances were that her nerves
might fail her, through sheer exhaustion, when the time came for
facing the risk and making the effort to escape. Sleep was
falling on her even now--and sleep she must have. She had no fear
of failing to wake at the needful time. Falling asleep, with a
special necessity for rising at a given hour present to her mind,
Anne (like most other sensitively organized people) could trust
herself to wake at that given hour, instinctively. She put her
lighted candle in a safe position, and laid down on the bed. In
less than five minutes, she was in a deep sleep.

* * * * * *

The church clock struck the quarter to eleven. Hester Dethridge
showed herself at the back garden door. Geoffrey crossed the
lawn, and joined her. The light of the lamp in the passage fell
on his face. She started back from the sight of it.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

She shook her head; and pointed through the dining-room door to
the brandy-bottle on the table.

"I'm as sober as you are, you fool!" he said. "Whatever else it
is, it's not that."

Hester looked at him again. He was right. However unsteady his
gait might be, his speech was not the speech, his eyes were not
the eyes, of a drunken man.

"Is she in her room for the night?"

Hester made the affirmative sign.

Geoffrey ascended the st airs, swaying from side to side. He
stopped at the top, and beckoned to Hester to join him. He went
on into his room; and, signing to her to follow him, closed the

He looked at the partition wall--without approaching it. Hester
waited, behind him

"Is she asleep?" he asked.

Hester went to the wall; listened at it; and made the affirmative

He sat down. "My head's queer," he said. "Give me a drink of
water." He drank part of the water, and poured the rest over his
head. Hester turned toward the door to leave him. He instantly
stopped her. "_I_ can't unwind the strings. _I_ can't lift up the
paper. Do it."

She sternly made the sign of refusal: she resolutely opened the
door to leave him. "Do you want your Confession back?" he asked.
She closed the door, stolidly submissive in an instant; and
crossed to the partition wall.

She lifted the loose strips of paper on either side of the
wall--pointed through the hollowed place--and drew back again to
the other end of the room.

He rose and walked unsteadily from the chair to the foot of his
bed. Holding by the wood-work of the bed; he waited a little.
While he waited, he became conscious of a change in the strange
sensations that possessed him. A feeling as of a breath of cold
air passed over the right side of his head. He became steady
again: he could calculate his distances: he could put his hands
through the hollowed place, and draw aside the light curtains,
hanging from the hook in the ceiling over the head of her bed. He
could look at his sleeping wife.

She was dimly visible, by the light of the candle placed at the
other end of her room. The worn and weary look had disappeared
from her face. All that had been purest and sweetest in it, in
the by-gone time, seemed to be renewed by the deep sleep that
held her gently. She was young again in the dim light: she was
beautiful in her calm repose. Her head lay back on the pillow.
Her upturned face was in a position which placed her completely
at the mercy of the man under whose eyes she was sleeping--the
man who was looking at her, with the merciless resolution in him
to take her life.

After waiting a while, he drew back. "She's more like a child
than a woman to-night," he muttered to himself under his breath.
He glanced across the room at Hester Dethridge. The lighted
candle which she had brought up stairs with her was burning near
the place where she stood. "Blow it out," he whispered. She never
moved. He repeated the direction. There she stood, deaf to him.

What was she doing? She was looking fixedly into one of the
corners of the room.

He turned his head again toward the hollowed place in the wall.
He looked at the peaceful face on the pillow once more. He
deliberately revived his own vindictive sense of the debt that he
owed her. "But for you," he whispered to himself, "I should have
won the race: but for you, I should have been friends with my
father: but for you, I might marry Mrs. Glenarm." He turned back
again into the room while the sense of it was at its fiercest in
him. He looked round and round him. He took up a towel;
considered for a moment; and threw it down again.

A new idea struck him. In two steps he was at the side of his
bed. He seized on one of the pillows, and looked suddenly at
Hester. "It's not a drunken brute, this time," he said to her.
"It's a woman who will fight for her life. The pillow's the
safest of the two." She never answered him, and never looked
toward him. He made once more for the place in the wall; and
stopped midway between it and his bed--stopped, and cast a
backward glance over his shoulder.

Hester Dethridge was stirring at last.

With no third person in the room, she was looking, and moving,
nevertheless, as if she was following a third person along the
wall, from the corner. Her lips were parted in horror; her eyes,
opening wider and wider, stared rigid and glittering at the empty
wall. Step by step she stole nearer and nearer to Geoffrey, still
following some visionary Thing, which was stealing nearer and
nearer, too. He asked himself what it meant. Was the terror of
the deed that he was about to do more than the woman's brain
could bear? Would she burst out screaming, and wake his wife?

He hurried to the place in the wall--to seize the chance, while
the chance was his.

He steadied his strong hold on the pillow.

He stooped to pass it through the opening.

He poised it over Anne's sleeping face.

At the same moment he felt Hester Dethridge's hand laid on him
from behind. The touch ran through him, from head to foot, like a
touch of ice. He drew back with a start, and faced her. Her eyes
were staring straight over his shoulder at something behind
him--looking as they had looked in the garden at Windygates.

Before he could speak he felt the flash of her eyes in _his_
eyes. For the third time, she had seen the Apparition behind him.
The homicidal frenzy possessed her. She flew at his throat like a
wild beast. The feeble old woman attacked the athlete!

He dropped the pillow, and lifted his terrible right arm to brush
her from him, as he might have brushed an insect from him.

Even as he raised the arm a frightful distortion seized on his
face. As if with an invisible hand, it dragged down the brow and
the eyelid on the right; it dragged down the mouth on the same
side. His arm fell helpless; his whole body, on the side under
the arm, gave way. He dropped on the floor, like a man shot dead.

Hester Dethridge pounced on his prostrate body--knelt on his
broad breast--and fastened her ten fingers on his throat.

* * * * * *

The shock of the fall woke Anne on the instant. She started
up--looked round--and saw a gap in the wall at the head of her
bed, and the candle-light glimmering in the next room.
Panic-stricken; doubting, for the moment, if she were in her
right mind, she drew back, waiting--listening--looking. She saw
nothing but the glimmering light in the room; she heard nothing
but a hoarse gasping, as of some person laboring for breath. The
sound ceased. There was an interval of silence. Then the head of
Hester Dethridge rose slowly into sight through the gap in the
wall--rose with the glittering light of madness in the eyes, and
looked at her.

She flew to the open window, and screamed for help.

Sir Patrick's voice answered her, from the road in front of the

"Wait for me, for God's sake!" she cried.

She fled from the room, and rushed down the stairs. In another
moment, she had opened the door, and was out in the front garden.

As she ran to the gate, she heard the voice of a strange man on
the other side of it. Sir Patrick called to her encouragingly.
"The police man is with us," he said. "He patrols the garden at
night--he has a key." As he spoke the gate was opened from the
outside. She saw Sir Patrick, Arnold, and the policeman. She
staggered toward them as they came in--she was just able to say,
"Up stairs!" before her senses failed her. Sir Patrick saved her
from falling. He placed her on the bench in the garden, and
waited by her, while Arnold and the policeman hurried into the

"Where first?" asked Arnold.

"The room the lady called from," said the policeman

They mounted the stairs, and entered Anne's room. The gap in the
wall was instantly observed by both of them. They looked through

Geoffrey Delamayn's dead body lay on the floor. Hester Dethridge
was kneeling at his head, praying.




THE newspapers have announced the return of Lord and Lady
Holchester to their residence in London, after an absence on the
continent of more than six months.

It is the height of the season. All day long, within the
canonical hours, the door of Holchester House is perpetually
opening to receive visitors. The vast majority leave their cards,
and go away again. Certain privileged individuals only, get out
of their carriages, and enter the house.

Among these last, arriving at an earlier hour than is customary,
is a person of distinction who is positively bent on seeing
either the master or the mistress of the house, and who will take
no denial. While this person is parleying with the chief of the
servants , Lord Holchester, passing from one room to another,
happens to cross the inner end of the hall. The person instantly
darts at him with a cry of "Dear Lord Holchester!" Julius turns,
and sees--Lady Lundie!

He is fairly caught, and he gives way with his best grace. As he
opens the door of the nearest room for her ladyship, he furtively
consults his watch, and says in his inmost soul, "How am I to get
rid of her before the others come?"

Lady Lundie settles down on a sofa in a whirlwind of silk and
lace, and becomes, in her own majestic way, "perfectly charming."
She makes the most affectionate inquiries about Lady Holchester,
about the Dowager Lady Holchester, about Julius himself. Where
have they been? what have they seen? have time and change helped
them to recover the shock of that dreadful event, to which Lady
Lundie dare not more particularly allude? Julius answers
resignedly, and a little absently. He makes polite inquiries, on
his side, as to her ladyship's plans and proceedings--with a mind
uneasily conscious of the inexorable lapse of time, and of
certain probabilities which that lapse may bring with it. Lady
Lundie has very little to say about herself. She is only in town
for a few weeks. Her life is a life of retirement. "My modest
round of duties at Windygates, Lord Holchester; occasionally
relieved, when my mind is overworked, by the society of a few
earnest friends whose views harmonize with my own--my existence
passes (not quite uselessly, I hope) in that way. I have no news;
I see nothing--except, indeed, yesterday, a sight of the saddest
kind." She pauses there. Julius observes that he is expected to
make inquiries, and makes them accordingly.

Lady Lundie hesitates; announces that her news refers to that
painful past event which she has already touched on; acknowledges
that she could not find herself in London without feeling an act
of duty involved in making inquiries at the asylum in which
Hester Dethridge is confined for life; announces that she has not
only made the inquiries, but has seen the unhappy woman herself;
has spoken to her, has found her unconscious of her dreadful
position, incapable of the smallest exertion of memory, resigned
to the existence that she leads, and likely (in the opinion of
the medical superintendent) to live for some years to come.
Having stated these facts, her ladyship is about to make a few of
those "remarks appropriate to the occasion," in which she excels,
when the door opens; and Lady Holchester, in search of her
missing husband, enters the room.


There is a new outburst of affectionate interest on Lady Lundie's
part--met civilly, but not cordially, by Lady Holchester.
Julius's wife seems, like Julius, to be uneasily conscious of the
lapse of time. Like Julius again, she privately wonders how long
Lady Lundie is going to stay.

Lady Lundie shows no signs of leaving the sofa. She has evidently
come to Holchester House to say something--and she has not said
it yet. Is she going to say it? Yes. She is going to get, by a
roundabout way, to the object in view. She has another inquiry of
the affectionate sort to make. May she be permitted to resume the
subject of Lord and Lady Holchester's travels? They have been at
Rome. Can they confirm the shocking intelligence which has
reached her of the "apostasy" of Mrs. Glenarm?

Lady Holchester can confirm it, by personal xexperience. Mrs.
Glenarm has renounced the world, and has taken refuge in the
bosom of the Holy Catholic Church. Lady Holchester has seen her
in a convent at Rome. She is passing through the period of her
probation; and she is resolved to take the veil. Lady Lundie, as
a good Protestant, lifts her hands in horror--declares the topic
to be too painful to dwell on--and, by way of varying it, goes
straight to the point at last. Has Lady I Holchester, in the
course of her continental experience, happened to meet with, or
to hear of--Mrs. Arnold Brinkworth?

"I have ceased, as you know, to hold any communication with my
relatives," Lady Lundie explains. "The course they took at the
time of our family trial--the sympathy they felt with a Person
whom I can not even now trust myself to name more
particularly--alienated us from each other. I may be grieved,
dear Lady Holchester; but I bear no malice. And I shall always
feel a motherly interest in hearing of Blanche's welfare. I have
been told that she and her husband were traveling, at the time
when you and Lord Holchester were traveling. Did you meet with

Julius and his wife looked at each other. Lord Holchester is
dumb. Lady Holchester replies:

"We saw Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Brinkworth at Florence, and afterward
at Naples, Lady Lundie. They returned to England a week since, in
anticipation of a certain happy event, which will possibly
increase the members of your family circle. They are now in
London. Indeed, I may tell you that we expect them here to lunch

Having made this plain statement, Lady Holchester looks at Lady
Lundie. (If _that_ doesn't hasten her departure, nothing will!)

Quite useless! Lady Lundie holds her ground. Having heard
absolutely nothing of her relatives for the last six months, she
is burning with curiosity to hear more. There is a name she has
not mentioned yet. She places a certain constraint upon herself,
and mentions it now.

"And Sir Patrick?" says her ladyship, subsiding into a gentle
melancholy, suggestive of past injuries condoned by Christian
forgiveness. "I only know what report tells me. Did you meet with
Sir Patrick at Florence and Naples, also?"

Julius and his wife look at each other again. The clock in the
hall strikes. Julius shudders. Lady Holchester's patience begins
to give way. There is an awkward pause. Somebody must say
something. As before, Lady Holchester replies "Sir Patrick went
abroad, Lady Lundie, with his niece and her husband; and Sir
Patrick has come back with them."

"In good health?" her ladyship inquires.

"Younger than ever," Lady Holchester rejoins.

Lady Lundie smiles satirically. Lady Holchester notices the
smile; decides that mercy shown to _this_ woman is mercy
misplaced; and announces (to her husband's horror) that she has
news to tell of Sir Patrick, which will probably take his
sister-in-law by surprise.

Lady Lundie waits eagerly to hear what the news is.

"It is no secret," Lady Holchester proceeds--"though it is only
known, as yet to a few intimate friends. Sir Patrick has made an
important change in his life."

Lady Lundie's charming smile suddenly dies out.

"Sir Patrick is not only a very clever and a very agreeable man,"
Lady Holchester resumes a little maliciously; "he is also, in all
his habits and ways (as you well know), a man younger than his
years--who still possesses many of the qualities which seldom
fail to attract women."

Lady Lundie starts to her feet.

"You don't mean to tell me, Lady Holchester, that Sir Patrick is

"I do."

Her ladyship drops back on the sofa; helpless really and truly
helpless, under the double blow that has fallen on her. She is
not only struck out of her place as the chief woman of the
family, but (still on the right side of forty) she is socially
superannuated, as The Dowager Lady Lundie, for the rest of her

"At his age!" she exclaims, as soon as she can speak.

"Pardon me for reminding you," Lady Holchester answers, "that
plenty of men marry at Sir Patrick's age. In his case, it is only
due to him to say that his motive raises him beyond the reach of
ridicule or reproach. His marriage is a good action, in the
highest sense of the word. It does honor to _him,_ as well as to
the lady who shares his position and his name."

"A young girl, of course!" is Lady Lundie's next remark.

"No. A woman who has been tried by no common suffering, and who
has borne her hard lot nobly. A woman who deserves the calmer and
the happier life on which she is entering now."

"May I ask who she is?"

Before the question can be answered, a knock at the house door
announces the arrival of visitors. For the third time, Julius and
his wife look at each other. On this occasion, Julius interferes.

"My wife has already told you, Lady Lundie, that we expect Mr.
and Mrs. Brinkworth to lunch. Sir Patrick, and the new Lady
Lundie, accompany them. If I am mistaken in supposing that it
might not be quite agreeable to you to meet them, I can only ask
your pardon. If I am right, I will leave Lady Holchester to
receive our friends, and will do myself the honor of taking you
into another room."

He advances to the door of an inner room. He offers his arm to
Lady Lundie. Her ladyship stands immovable; determined to see the
woman who has supplanted her. In a moment more, the door of
entrance from the hall is thrown open; and the servant announces,
"Sir Patrick and Lady Lundie. Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Brinkworth."

Lady Lundie looks at the woman who has taken her place at the
head of the family; and sees--ANNE SILVESTER!

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