Part 9 out of 11
and it shall be the business of my future life to banish from your
remembrance every sorrow and every humiliation that you have suffered
in the past. Say that you will be my wife, Paulina. I love you as few
women are loved. I am rich, and have the power to remove you far from
every association that is painful to you. Tell me that I may be the
guardian of your future existence."
Paulina contemplated her lover for a few moments with singular
earnestness. She was deeply impressed by his generous devotion, and she
could not but compare this self-sacrificing love with the base
selfishness of Reginald Eversleigh's conduct.
"You do not ask me if I can return your affection," she said, after
that earnest look. "You offer to raise me from degradation and poverty,
and you demand nothing in return."
"No, Paulina," replied Douglas; "I would not make a _bargain_ with the
woman I love. I know that you have not yet learned to love me, and yet
I do not fear for the future, if you consent to become my wife. True
love, such as mine, rarely fails to win its reward, sooner or later. I
am content to wait. It will be sufficient happiness to me to know that
I have rescued you from a miserable and degrading position."
"You are only too generous," murmured Paulina, softly; "only too
"And now tell me the immediate object of this most welcome summons. I
will not press you for a prompt reply to my suit; I will trust that
time may be my friend. Tell me how I can serve you, and why you sent
for me to-day?"
"I sent for you that I might ask you for the loan of two hundred
pounds, to satisfy the claims of my most urgent creditors, and to
prevent the necessity of an ignominious flight."
"I will write you a cheque immediately for five hundred," said Douglas.
"You can drive to my banker's, and get it cashed there. Or stay; it
would not be so well for my banker to know that I lent you money. Let
me come again to you this evening, and bring ink sum in bank-notes.
That will give me an excuse for coming."
"How can I ever thank you sufficiently?"
"Do not thank me at all. Only let me love you, looking forward
hopefully to the day in-which you may learn to love me." "That day must
surely come ere long," replied Paulina, thoughtfully. "Gratitude so
profound as mine, esteem so sincere, must needs grow into a warmer
"Yes, Paulina," said Douglas, "if your heart is free. Forgive me if I
approach a subject painful to you and to me. Reginald Eversleigh--my
cousin--have you seen him often lately?"
"I have not seen him since he left London for Hallgrove. I am not
likely to see him again."
"I am very glad of that. There is but one fear in my mind when I think
of our future, Paulina."
"And that is?"
"The fear that Reginald Eversleigh may come between you and me."
"You need no longer fear that," replied Madame Durski. "You have been
so noble, so devoted in your conduct to me, that I must be indeed a
worthless wretch if I shrink from the painful duty of laying my heart
bare before you. I have loved your cousin Reginald, foolishly, blindly;
but there must come an end to all folly; there must come a day when the
bandage falls from the eyes that have obstinately shunned the light.
That day has come for me; and Sir Reginald Eversleigh is henceforward
nothing more to me than the veriest stranger."
"A thousand thanks, dearest, for that assurance," exclaimed Douglas;
"and now trust in me. Tour future shall be so bright and happy that the
past will seem to you no more than a troubled dream."
PREPARING THE GROUND.
Black Milsom made his appearance in the little village of Raynham
immediately after Lady Eversleigh's departure from the castle. But on
this occasion it would have been very difficult for those who had seen
him at the date of Sir Oswald Eversleigh's funeral to recognize, in the
respectable-looking, well-dressed citizen of to-day, the ragged tramp
of that period.
While Honoria Eversleigh was living under a false name in Percy Street,
Tottenham Court Road, the man who called himself her father,
established himself in a little river-side public-house, under the
shadow of Raynham Castle. The house in question had never borne too
good a character; and its reputation was in nowise improved when, on
the death of its owner, it passed into the custody of Mr. Milsom, who
came down to Raynham one November morning, almost immediately after
Lady Eversleigh's departure, saw the "Cat and Fiddle" public-house
vacant, and went straight to the attorney who had the letting of it, to
offer himself as a tenant, announcing himself to the lawyer as Thomas
The attorney at first looked rather suspiciously at the gentleman who
had earned for himself the ominous nickname of Black Milsom; but when
the would-be tenant offered to pay a year's rent in advance down on the
nail, the man of law melted, and took the money.
Thomas Milsom lost no time in taking possession of his new abode. It
was the haunt of the lower class of agricultural labourers, and of the
bargemen, who moored their barges sometimes beneath the shadow of
Raynham Bridge, while they dawdled away a few lazy hours in the village
Any one who had cared to study Mr. Milsom's face and manners during his
residence at Raynham, would have speedily perceived that the life did
not suit him. He lounged at the door of the low-gabled cottage, looking
out into the village street with a moody and sullen countenance.
He drank a great deal, and swore not a little, and led altogether as
dissolute a life as it was possible to lead in that peaceful village.
No sooner had Mr. Milsom established himself at Raynham, than he made
it his business to find out the exact state of affairs at the castle.
He contrived to entice one of the under-servants into his bar-parlour,
and entertained the man so liberally, with a smoking jorum of strong
rum-punch, that a friendly acquaintance was established between the two
on the spot.
"There's nothing in my place you ain't welcome to, James Harwood," he
said. "You're uncommonly like a favourite brother of mine that died
young of the measles; and I've taken a fancy to you on account of that
likeness. Come when you like, and as often as you like, and call for
what you like; and there shan't be no talk of scores between you and
me. I'm a bitter foe, and a firm friend. When I like a man there's
nothing I couldn't do to prove my liking; when I hate him--"
Here Mr. Milsom's speech died away into an ominous growl; and James
Harwood, who was rather a timid young man, felt as if drops of cold
water had been running down his back. But the rum-punch was very nice;
and he saw no reason why he should refuse Mr. Milsom's offer of
He did drop in very often, having plenty of leisure evenings in which
to amuse himself; and through him Thomas Milsom was enabled to become
familiar with every detail of the household at Raynham Castle.
"No news of your lady, I suppose, Mr. Harwood?" Milsom said to him one
Sunday evening in January. "Not coming home yet, I suppose?"
"No, Mr. Maunders," answered the groom; "not to my knowledge. And as to
news, there ain't anymore news of her than if she and Miss Payland had
gone off to the very wildest part of Africa, where, if you feel
lonesome, and want company, your only choice lies between tigers and
"Never mind Africa! What was it that you were going to say about your
"Well, I was about to inform you," replied the groom, with offended
dignity, "when you took me up so uncommon short as to prevent me--I was
about to observe that, although we haven't received no news whatsoever
from my lady direct, we have received a little bit of news promiscuous
that is rather puzzling, in a manner of speaking."
"What is it?"
"Well, you see, Mr. Maunders," began James Harwood, with extreme
solemnity, "it is given out that Lady Eversleigh is gone abroad to the
Continent--wherever that place may be situated--and a very nice place
I dare say it is, when you get there; and it is likewise given out that
Miss Payland have gone with her."
"Well, what then?"
"I really wish you hadn't such a habit of taking people up short, Mr.
Maunders," remonstrated the groom. "I was on the point of telling you
that our head-coachman had a holiday this Christmas; and where does he
go but up to London, to see his friends, which live there; and while in
London where does he go but to Drury Lane Theatre; and while coming out
of Drury Lane Theatre who does he set his eyes on but Miss Payland,
Lady Eversleigh's own maid, as large as life, and hanging on the arm of
a respectable elderly man, which might be her father. Our head-coachman
warn't near enough to her to speak to her; and though he tried to catch
her eye he couldn't catch it; but he'll take his Bible oath that the
young woman he saw was Jane Payland, Lady Eversleigh's own maid. Now,
that's rather a curious circumstance, is it not, Mr. Maunders?"
"It is, rather," answered the landlord; "but it seems to me your
mistress, Lady Eversleigh, is rather a strange person altogether. It's
a strange thing for a mother to run away to foreign parts--if she has
gone to foreign parts--and leave her only child behind her."
"Yes; and a child she was so fond of too; that's the strangest part of
the whole business," said the groom. "I'm sure to see that mother and
child together, you'd have thought there was no power on earth would
part them; and yet, all of a sudden, my lady goes off, and leaves Miss
Gertrude behind her. But if Miss Gertrude was a royal princess, she
couldn't be more watched over, or taken more care of, than she is. To
see Mrs. Morden, the governess, with her, you'd think as the little
girl was made of barley-sugar, and would melt away with a drop of rain;
and to see Captain Copplestone with her, you'd think as she was the
crown-jewels of England, and that everybody was on the watch to get the
chance of stealing her."
Black Milsom smiled as the groom said this. It was a grim smile, not by
any means pleasant to see; but James Harwood was not an observer, and
he was looking tenderly at his last spoonful of rum-punch, and
wondering within himself whether Mr. Milsom was likely to offer him
another glass of that delicious beverage.
"And pray what sort of a customer is Captain Copplestone?" asked
"An uncommonly tough customer," replied James Harwood; "that's what he
is. If it wasn't for his rheumatic gout, he's a man that would be ready
to fight the champion of England any day in the week. There's very few
things the captain wouldn't do in the way of downright pluck; but, you
see, whatever pluck a man may have, it can't help him much when he's
laid by the heels with the rheumatic gout, as the captain is very
"Ha! and who takes care of little missy then?"
"Why, the captain. He's like a watch-dog, and his kennel is at little
missy's door. That's what he says himself, in his queer way. Miss
Gertrude and her governess live in three handsome rooms in the south
wing--my lady's own rooms--and the principal way to these rooms is
along a wide corridor. So what does the captain do when my lady goes
away, but order a great iron door down from London, and has the
corridor shut off with this iron door, bolted, and locked, and barred,
so that the cleverest burglar that ever were couldn't get it open."
"But how do people get to the little girl's rooms, then?" asked Thomas
"Why, through a small bed-room, intended for Lady Eversleigh's maid;
and a little bit of a dressing-room, that poor Sir Oswald used to keep
his boots, and hat-boxes, and such like in. These rooms open on to the
second staircase; and what does the captain do but have these two small
rooms fitted up for hisself and his servant, Solomon Grundy, with a
thin wooden partition, with little glass spy-holes in it, put across
the two rooms, to make a kind of passage to the rooms beyond; so that
night and day he can hear every footstep that goes by to Miss
Gertrude's rooms. Now, what do you think of such whims and fancies?"
"I think the captain must be stark staring mad," answered Milsom; but
it was to be observed that he said this in rather an absent manner, and
appeared to be thinking deeply.
"Oh no, he ain't," said James Harwood; "there ain't a sharper customer
And then, finding that the landlord of the "Cat and Fiddle" did not
offer anything more in the way of refreshment, Mr. Harwood departed.
There was a full moon that January night, and when Mr. Milsom had
attended to the wants of his customers, seen the last of them to the
door a little before twelve o'clock, shut his shutters, and
extinguished the lights, he stole quietly out of his house, went forth
into the deserted street, and made his way towards the summit of the
hill on which the castle stood, like an ancient fortress, frowning
darkly upon the humble habitations beneath it.
He passed the archway and the noble gothic gates, and crept along by
the fine old wall that enclosed the park, where the interlaced
branches of giant oaks and beeches were white under the snow that had
fallen upon them, and formed a picture that was almost like a scene in
He climbed the wall at a spot where a thick curtain of ivy afforded him
a safe footing, and dropped softly upon the ground beneath, where the
snow had drifted into a heap, and made a soft bed for him to fall on.
"There will be more snow before daylight to-morrow," he muttered to
himself, "if I'm any judge of the weather; and there'll be no trace of
my footsteps to give the hint of mischief." He ran across the park,
leaped the light, invisible fence dividing the park from the gardens,
and crept cautiously along a shrubberied pathway, where the evergreens
afforded him an impenetrable screen.
Thus concealed from the eyes of any chance watcher, he contrived to
approach one end of the terraced slope which formed the garden front of
the castle. Each terrace was adorned with stone balustrades, surmounted
by large vases, also of stone; and, sheltered by these vases, Milsom
ascended to the southern angle of the great pile of building.
Seven lighted windows at this southern end of the castle indicated the
apartments occupied by the heiress of Raynham and her eccentric
guardian. The lights burned but dimly, like the night-lamps left
burning during the hours of rest; and Milsom had ascertained from Mr.
Harwood that the household retired before eleven o'clock, at the
The apartments occupied by the little girl were on the first floor. The
massive stone walls here were unadorned with ivy, nor were there any of
those elaborate decorations in stonework which might have afforded a
hold for the foot of the climber. The bare stone wall frowned down upon
Thomas Milsom, impregnable as the walls of Newgate itself.
"No," he muttered to himself, after a long and thoughtful scrutiny; "no
man will ever get at those rooms from the outside; no, not if he had
the power of changing himself into a cat or a monkey. Whoever wants to
have a peep at the heiress of Raynham must go through this valiant
captain's chamber. Well, well, I've heard of tricks played upon
faithful watch-dogs before to-day. There's very few things a man can't
do, if he only tries hard enough; and I mean to be revenged upon my
Lady Eversleigh!" He paused for a few moments, standing close against
the wall of the castle, sheltered by its black shadow, and looking down
upon the broad domain beneath.
"And this is all hers, is it P--lands and houses; horses and carriages;
powdered footmen to fetch and carry for her; jewels to wear; plates and
dishes of solid gold to eat her dinner off, if she likes! All hers! And
she refuses me a few hundred pounds, and defies me, does she? We'll see
whether that's a safe game. I've sworn to have my revenge, and I'll
have it," he muttered, shaking his brawny fist, as if some phantom
figure were standing before him in the wintry moonlight. "I can afford
to wait; I wouldn't mind waiting years to get it; but I'll have it, if
I grow old and gray while I'm watching and plotting for it. I'll be
patient as Time, but I'll have it. She has refused me a few hundreds,
has she? I'll see her there, on the ground at my feet, grovelling like
a beaten dog, offering me half her fortune--all her fortune--her very
life itself! I'll humble her proud spirit! I'll bring her grandeur down
to the the dust. She won't own me for a father, won't she! Why, if I
choose, she shall tramp barefoot through the mud after me, singing
street-ballads in every town in England, and going round with my
battered old hat to beg for halfpence afterwards. I'll humble her! I'll
do it--I'll do it--as sure as there's a moon in the sky!"
Sanguine as Victor Carrington had been, confidently as he had
calculated upon the fascination which Paulina had exerted over Douglas
Dale, he was not prepared for the news contained in Miss Brewer's
promised letter, which reached him punctually, a few hours after
Paulina had become the affianced wife of Douglas Dale. This was indeed
success beyond his hopes. He had not expected this result for some
days, at the very earliest, and the surprise and pleasure with which he
learned it were almost equal. Carrington did not believe in good; he
absolutely distrusted and despised human nature, and he never dreamed
of imputing Madame Durski's conduct to anything but coquetry and
fickleness. "She's on with the new love, beyond a doubt," said he to
himself, as he read Miss Brewer's letter; "whether she's off with the
old is quite another question, and rests with him rather than with her,
Victor Carrington's first move was to present himself before Madame
Durski on the following day, at the hour at which she habitually
received visitors. He took up the confidential conversation which they
had had on the last occasion of their meeting, as if it had not been
dropped in the interval, and came at once to the subject of Douglas
Dale. This plan answered admirably; Paulina was naturally full of the
subject, and the ice of formalism had been sufficiently broken between
her and Victor Carrington, to enable her to refer to the interview
which had taken place between herself and Douglas Dale without any
impropriety. When she had done so, Carrington began to play his part.
He assured Paulina of his warm interest in her, of the influence which
he possessed over Sir Reginald Eversleigh, and the fears which he
entertained of some treacherous proceeding on Reginald's part which
might place her in a most unpleasant position.
"Reginald has no real love for you," said Carrington; "he would not
hesitate to sacrifice you to the meanest of his interests, but his
vanity and his temper are such that it is impossible to calculate upon
what sort of folly he may be guilty."
Paulina Durski was a thorough woman; and, therefore, having utterly
discarded Reginald from her heart, having learned to substitute utter
contempt for love, she was not averse to receiving any information, to
learning any opinion, which tended to justify her change of feeling.
"What harm can he do me with Douglas?" asked Paulina, in alarm.
"Who can tell that, Madame Durski?" replied Carrington. "But this is
not to the purpose. I don't pretend to be wholly disinterested in this
matter. I tell you plainly I am not so; it is very important to me that
Sir Reginald should marry a woman of fortune, and should not marry
"He never had any intention of marrying me," said Paulina, hastily and
"No, I don't believe he had; but he would have liked very well to have
compromised you in the eyes of society, so that no other man would have
married you, to have bragged of relations existing between you which
never did exist, and to have effectually ruined your fortunes in any
other direction than the gaming-table. Now this I am determined he
shall not do, and as I have more power over him than any one else, it
lies with me to prevent it. What that power springs from, or how I have
hitherto exercised it, you need not inquire, Madame Durski; I only wish
you to believe that I exercise it in this instance for your good, for
Paulina murmured some vague words of acknowledgment. He continued--
"If Reginald Eversleigh knows I am here, constantly cognizant of the
state of affairs, and prepared to act for your advantage, he will not
dare to come here and compromise you by his violent and unreasonable
jealousy; he will be forced--it is needless to explain how--to keep his
envy and rage to himself, and to suppress the enmity with which he
regards Douglas Dale. Let me tell you, Madame Durski, Reginald's enmity
is no trifling rock ahead in life, and your engaged lover has that rock
Paulina turned very pale.
"Save him from it, Mr. Carrington," she said, appealingly. "Save him
from it, and let me have a little happiness in this weary world, if
such a thing there be."
"I will, Madame Durski," replied Victor. "You have already done as I
have counselled you, and you have no reason to regret the result."
The soft, dreamy smile of happy love stole over Paulina's face as she
listened to him.
"Let me be here with you as much as possible, and you will have no
reason to fear Reginald. He is capable of anything, but he is afraid of
me, and if he knows that I am determined to advance the marriage of
yourself and Douglas Dale, he will not venture to oppose it openly. But
there is one condition which I must append to my frequent presence
here"--he spoke as though he were conferring the greatest favour on
her--"Mr. Dale must not know me as Victor Carrington."
With an expression in which there was something of the suspicious
quickness which Miss Brewer had manifested when Carrington made a
similar statement to her, Paulina asked him why.
Then Victor told her his version of the story of Honoria Eversleigh,
the "unfortunate woman," whom Douglas Dale's unhappy and misguided
uncle had raised to such undoubted rank and fortune, and the wild and
absurd accusations the wretched woman had made against him.
"Mr. Dale never saw me," said Victor, "and I know not whether he was
thoroughly aware of the absurdity, the insanity of this woman's
accusations. At all events, I don't wish to recall any unpleasantness
to his mind, and therefore I venture to propose that I should visit
here, and be introduced to him as Mr. Carton. The fraud is a very
harmless one; what do you say, Madame Durski?"
Paulina had her full share of the feminine love of mystery and
intrigue, and she consented at once. "What can the name matter," she
thought, "if it is really necessary for this man to be here?"
"And there is another consideration which we must take into account,"
said Victor; "it is this. Mr. Dale may not like to find any man
established here, in the degree of intimacy to which (in your
interests) I aspire; and therefore I propose, with your leave, to pass
as a relation of Miss Brewer's--say, her cousin. This will thoroughly
account for my intimacy here. What do you say, Madame Durski?"
"As you please," said Paulina, carelessly. "I am sure you are right,
Mr. Carrington--Carton, I mean, and I am sure you mean kindly and well
by me. But how odd it will seem to Charlotte and me, lonely creatures,
waifs and derelicts as we have been so long, to have any one with whom
we can claim even a pretended kinship!"
She spoke with a mingled bitterness and levity which have been painful
to any man of right feelings, but which was pleasant to Victor
Carrington, because it showed him how helpless and ignorant she was,
how her mind had been warped, how ready a tool he had found in her.
When the interview between them came to an end, it had been arranged
that Mr. Dale was to be introduced on the following day at Hilton House
to Miss Brewer's cousin, Mr. Carton.
The introduction took place. A very short time, well employed in close
observation, sufficed to assure Victor that Douglas Dale was as much in
love as any man need be to be certain of committing any number of
follies, and that Paulina was a changed woman under the influence of
the same soul-subduing sentiment which, though not so strong in her
case, was assuming strength and intensity as each day taught her more
and more of her lover's moral and intellectual excellence. Douglas Dale
was much pleased with Mr. Carton; and that gentleman did all in his
power to render himself agreeable, and so far succeeded that, before
the close of the evening, he had made a considerable advance towards
establishing a very pleasant intimacy with Sir Reginald Eversleigh's
Victor Carrington, always an observant man, had peculiarly the air of
being on the watch that day during dinner. He noticed everything that
Paulina ate and drank, and he took equal note of Miss Brewer's and
Douglas Dale's choice of meats and wines. Miss Brewer drank no wine,
Paulina very little, and Douglas Dale exclusively claret. When the
dinner had reached its conclusion, a stand of liqueurs was placed upon
the table, one of the few art-treasures left to the impoverished
adventuress, rare and fragile Venetian flacons, and tiny goblets of
opal and ruby glass. These glasses were the especial admiration of
Douglas Dale, and Paulina filled the ruby goblet with curacoa. She
touched the edge of the glass playfully with her lips as she handed it
to her lover; but Victor observed that she did not taste the liqueur.
"You do not affect curacoa, madame?" he asked, carelessly.
"No; I never take that, or indeed, any other liqueur."
"And yet you drink scarcely any wine?"
"No," replied Paulina, indifferently; "I take very little wine."
There was the faintest possible significance in Carrington's tone as he
said this. He had watched Madame Durski closely during dinner, and he
had noted an excitement in her manner, a nervous vivacity, such as are
generally inspired by something stronger than water. And yet this woman
had taken little else than water during the dinner. And it was to be
observed that the almost febrile gaiety which distinguished her manner
this evening had been as apparent when she first entered the drawing-
room as it was now. This was a physiological or psychological enigma,
extremely interesting to Mr. Carrington. He was not slow to find a
solution that was, in his opinion, sufficiently satisfactory. "That
woman takes opium in some form or other," he said to himself.
Miss Brewer did not touch the liqueur in question, and her cousin took
Maraschino. After a very short interval, Douglas Dale and his new
friend rose to join the ladies. They crossed the hall together, but as
they reached the drawing-room door, Mr. Carrington discovered that he
had dropped a letter in the dining-room, and returned to find it, first
opening the drawing-room door that Dale might pass through it.
All was undisturbed in the dining-room; the table was just as they had
left it. Victor approached the table, took up the carafon containing
curacoa, and, holding it up to the light with one hand, poured the
contents of a small phial into it with the other. He watched the one
liquid mingling with the other until no further traces of the operation
were visible; and then setting the carafon softly down where he had
found it, went smiling across the hall and joined the ladies.
Reginald Eversleigh was in complete ignorance of Victor Carrington's
proceedings, when he received the letter summoning him to an interview
with his friend at a stated time. Carrington's estimate of Reginald's
character was quite correct. All this time his vanity had been chafing
under Paulina's silence and apparent oblivion of him.
He had not received any letter from Paulina, fond as she had been of
writing to him long, half-despairing letters, full of complaint against
destiny, and breathing in every line that hopeless love which the
beautiful Austrian woman had so long wasted on the egotist and coward,
whose baseness she had half suspected even while she still clung to
Sir Reginald had been in the habit of receiving these letters as coolly
as if they had been but the fitting tribute to his transcendant merits.
"Poor Paulina!" he murmured sometimes, as he folded the perfumed pages,
after running his eyes carelessly over their contents; "poor Paulina!
how devotedly she loves me. And what a pity she hasn't a penny she can
call her own. If she were a great heiress, now, what could be more
delightful than this devotion? But, under existing circumstances, it is
nothing but an embarrassment--a bore. Unfortunately, I cannot be brutal
enough to tell her this plainly: and so matters go on. And I fear, in
spite of all my hints, she may believe in the possibility of my
ultimately making a sacrifice of my prospects For her sake."
This was how Reginald Eversleigh felt, while Paulina was scattering at
his feet the treasures of a disinterested affection.
He had been vain and selfish from boyhood, and his vices grew stronger
with increasing years. His nature was hardened, and not chastened, by
the trials and disappointments which had befallen him.
In the hour of his poverty and degradation it had been a triumph for
him to win the devotion of a woman whom many men--men better than
himself--had loved in vain.
It was a rich tribute to the graces of him who had once been the
irresistible Reginald Eversleigh, the favourite of fashionable drawing-
Thus it was that, when Paulina's letters suddenly ceased, Sir Reginald
was at once mortified and indignant. He had made up his mind to obey
Victor's suggestion, or rather, command, by abstaining from either
visiting or writing to Paulina; but he had not been prepared for a
similar line of proceeding on her part, and it hurt his vanity much.
She had ceased to write. Could she have ceased to care for him? Could
any one else, richer--more disinterested--have usurped his place in her
The baronet remembered what Victor Carrington had said about Douglas
Dale; but he could not for one moment believe that his cousin--a man
whom he considered infinitely beneath him--had the power to win Paulina
"She may perhaps encourage him," he said to himself, "especially now
that his income is doubled. She might even accept him as a husband--
women are so mercenary. But her heart will never cease to be mine."
Sir Reginald waited a week, a fortnight, but there came no letter from
Paulina. He called on Carrington, according to appointment, but his
friend had changed his mind, or his tactics, and gave him no
Victor had been a daily visitor at Hilton House during the week which
had intervened since the day he had dined there and been introduced to
Douglas Dale. His observation had enabled him to decide upon
accelerating the progress of his designs. The hold which Paulina had
obtained upon Douglas Dale's affection was secure; he had proposed to
her much sooner than Victor had anticipated; the perfect understanding
and confidence subsisting between them rendered the cautious game which
he had intended to play unnecessary, and he did not now care how soon a
final rupture between Paulina and Reginald should take place. Indeed,
for two of his purposes--the establishment of an avowed quarrel between
Douglas Dale and his cousin, Sir Reginald, and the infliction of ever-
growing injury on Paulina's reputation,--the sooner such a rupture
could be brought about the better. Therefore Victor Carrington assumed
a tone of reserve and mystery, which did not fail to exasperate Sir
"Do not question me, Reginald," he said. "You are afflicted with a lack
of moral courage, and your want of nerve would only enfeeble my hand.
Know nothing--expect nothing. Those who are at work for you know how to
do their work quietly. Oh, by the way, I want you to sign a little
document--very much the style of thing you gave me at Raynham Castle."
Nothing could be more careless than the Frenchman's tone and manner as
he said this; but the document in question was a deed of gift, by which
Reginald Eversleigh bestowed upon Victor Carrington the clear half of
whatever income should arise to him, from real or personal property,
from the date of the first day of June following.
"I am to give you half my income?"
"Yes, my dear Reginald, after the first of next June. You know that I
am working laboriously to bring about good fortune for you. You cannot
suppose that I am working for nothing. If you do not choose to sign
this document, neither do I choose to devote myself any longer to your
"And what if you fail?"
"If I fail, the document in question is so much waste paper, since you
have no income at present, nor are likely to have any income between
this and next June, unless by my agency."
The result was the same as usual. Reginald signed the deed, without
even taking the trouble to study its full bearing.
"Have you seen Paulina lately?" he asked, afterwards.
"Not very lately."
"I don't know what's amiss with her," exclaimed Reginald, peevishly;
"she has not written to me to ask explanation of my absence and
"Perhaps she grew tired of writing to a person who valued her letters
"I was glad enough to hear from her," answered Reginald; "but I could
not be expected to find time to answer all her letters. Women have
nothing better to do than to scribble long epistles."
"Perhaps Madame Durski has found some one who will take the trouble to
answer her letters," said Victor.
After this, the two men parted, and Reginald Eversleigh called a cab,
in which he drove down to Hilton House.
He might have stayed away much longer, in self-interested obedience to
Carrington, had he been sure of Paulina's unabated devotion; but he was
piqued by her silence, and he wanted to discover whether there was a
rival in the field.
He knew Madame Durski's habits, and that it was not till late in the
afternoon that she was to be seen.
It was nearly six o'clock when he drove up to the door of Hilton House.
Carlo Toas admitted him, and favoured him with a searching and somewhat
severe scrutiny, as he led the way to the drawing-room in which Paulina
was wont to receive her guests.
Here Sir Reginald felt some little surprise, and a touch of
mortification, on beholding the aspect of things. He had expected to
find Paulina pensive, unhappy, perhaps ill. He had expected to see her
agitated at his coming. He had pondered much upon the cessation of her
letters; and he had told himself that she had ceased to write because
she was angry with him--with that anger which exists only where there
To his surprise, he found her brilliant, radiant, dressed in her most
Never had he seen her looking more beautiful or more happy.
He pressed the widow's hand tenderly, and contemplated her for some
moments in silence.
"My dear Paulina," he said at last, "I never saw you looking more
lovely than to-night. And yet to-night I almost feared to find you
"Indeed; and why so?" she asked. Her tone was the ordinary tone of
society, from which it was impossible to draw any inference.
"Because it is so long since I heard from you."
"I have grown tired of writing letters that were rarely honoured by
"So, so," thought the baronet; "I was right. She is offended."
"To what do I owe this visit?" asked Madame Durski.
"She is desperately angry," thought the baronet. "My dear Paulina," he
said, aloud, "can you imagine that your letters were indifferent to me?
I have been busy, and, as you know, I have been away from London."
"Yes," she said; "you spent your Christmas very agreeably, I believe."
"Not at all, I assure you. A bachelors' party in a country parsonage is
one of the dullest things possible, to say nothing of the tragical
event which ended my visit," added Reginald, his cheek paling as he
"A bachelors' party!" repeated Paulina; "there were no ladies, then, at
your cousin's house?"
Paulina Durski's lip curled contemptuously, but she did not openly
convict Sir Reginald of the deliberate falsehood he had uttered.
"I am very glad you have come to me," she said, presently, "because I
have urgent need of your help."
"My dear Paulina, believe me--" began the baronet
"Do not make your protest till you have heard what I have to ask," said
Madame Durski. "You know how troublesome my creditors had become before
Christmas. The time has arrived when they must be paid, or when I--"
She stopped, and looked searchingly at the face of her companion.
"When you--what?" he asked. "What is the alternative, Paulina?"
"I think you ought to know as well as I," she answered. "I must either
pay those debts or fly from this place, and from this country,
disgraced. I appeal to you in this bitter hour of need. Can you not
help me--you, who have professed to love me?"
"Surely, Paulina, you cannot doubt my love," replied Sir Reginald;
"unhappily, there is no magical process by which the truest and purest
love can transform itself into money. I have not a twenty-pound note in
"Indeed; and the four hundred and fifty pounds you won from Lord
Caversham just before Christmas--is that money gone?"
"Every shilling of it," answered Reginald, coolly.
He had notes to the amount of nearly two hundred pounds in his desk;
but he was the last man in Christendom to sacrifice money which he
himself required, and his luxurious habits kept him always deeply in
"You must have disposed of it very speedily. Surely, it is not all
gone, Reginald. I think a hundred would satisfy my creditors, for a
time at least."
"I tell you it is gone, Paulina. I gave you a considerable sum at the
time I won the money--you should remember."
"Yes, I remember perfectly. You gave me fifty pounds--fifty pounds for
the support of the house which enabled you to entrap your dupes, while
I was the bait to lure them to their ruin. Oh, you have been very
generous, very noble; and now that your dupes are tired of being
cheated--now that your cat's paw has become useless to you--I am to
leave the country, because you will not sacrifice one selfish desire to
save me from disgrace."
"This is absurd, Paulina," exclaimed the baronet, impatiently; "you
talk the usual nonsense women indulge in when they can't have
everything their own way. It is not in my power to help you to pay your
creditors, and you had much better slip quietly away while you are free
to do so, and before they contrive to get you into prison. You know
what Sheridan said about frittering away his money in paying his debts.
There's no knowing where to leave off if you once begin that sort of
"You would have me steal away in secret, like what you English call a
"You needn't dwell upon unpleasant names. Some of the best people in
England have been obliged to cross the water for the same reasons that
render your residence here unpleasant. There's nothing to be gained by
sentimental talk about the business, my dear Paulina. My friends at the
clubs have begun to grow suspicious of this house, and I don't think
there's a chance of my ever winning another sovereign in these rooms.
Why, then, should you remain to be tormented by your creditors? Return
to Paris, where you have twice as many devoted slaves and admirers as
in this detestable straight-laced land of ours. I will slip across as
soon as ever I can settle my affairs here some way or other, and once
more you may be queen of a brilliant _salon_, while I--"
"While you may find a convenient cat's paw for getting hold of new
plunder," cried Paulina, with unmitigated scorn. Then, with a sudden
burst of passion, she exclaimed, "Oh, Sir Reginald Eversleigh, I thank
Providence for this interview. At last--at last, I understand you
completely. I have been testing you, Sir Reginald--I have been sounding
your character. I have stooped to beg for help from you, in order that
I might know the broken reed on which I have leaned. And now I can
laugh at you, and despise you. Go, Sir Reginald Eversleigh; this house
is mine--my home--no longer a private gambling-house--no longer a snare
for the delusion of your rich friends. I am no longer friendless. My
debts have been paid--paid by one who, if he had owned but one
sixpence, would have given it to me, content to be penniless himself
for my sake. I have no need of your help. I am not obliged to creep
away in the night like a felon, from the house that has sheltered me. I
can now dare to call myself mistress of this house, unfettered by debt,
untrammelled by the shameful secrets that made my life odious to me;
and my first act as mistress of this house shall be to forbid its doors
"Indeed, Madame Durski!" cried Reginald, with a sneer; "this is a
"You thought, perhaps, there were no limits to a woman's folly," said
Paulina; "but you see you were wrong. There is an end even to that. And
now, Sir Reginald Eversleigh, I will wish you good evening, and
"Is this a farce, Paulina?" asked the baronet, in a voice that was
almost stifled by rage.
"No, Sir Reginald, it is a stern reality," answered Madame Durski,
laying her hand on the bell.
Her summons was speedily answered by Carlo Toas.
"Carlo, the door," she said, quietly.
The baronet gave her one look--a dark and threatening glance--and then
left the room, followed by the Spaniard, who conducted him to his cab
with every token of grave respect.
"Curse her!" muttered Sir Reginald, between his set teeth, as he drove
away from Hilton House. "It must be Douglas Dale who has given her the
power to insult me thus, and he shall pay for her insolence. But why
did Victor bring those two together? An alliance between them can only
result in mischief to me. I must and will fathom his motive for conduct
that seems so incomprehensible."
* * * * *
Sir Reginald and his fatal ally, Carrington, met on the following day,
and the former angrily related the scene which had been enacted at
"Your influence has been at work there," he exclaimed. "You have
brought about an alliance between this woman and Douglas Dale."
"I have," answered Victor, coolly. "Mr. Dale has offered her his hand
and fortune, as well as his heart, and has been accepted."
"You are going to play me false, Victor Carrington!"
"Yes, or else why take such pains to bring about this marriage?"
"You are a fool, Reginald Eversleigh, and an obstinate fool, or you
would not harp upon this subject after what I have said. I have told
you that the marriage which you fear will never take place."
"How will you prevent it?"
"As easily as I could bring it about, did I choose to do so. Pshaw! my
dear boy, the simple, honest people in this world are so many puppets,
and it needs but the master-mind to pull the strings."
"If this marriage is not intended to take place, why have you brought
about an engagement between Paulina and Douglas?" asked the baronet, in
nowise convinced by what his ally had said. "I have my reasons, and
good ones, though you are too dull of brain to perceive them," replied
Victor, impatiently. "You and your cousin, Douglas Dale, have been fast
friends, have you not?"
"Listen to me, then. If he were to die without direct heirs you are the
only person who would profit by his death; and if he, a young; man,
powerful of frame, in robust health, no likely subject for disease,
were to die, leaving you owner of ten thousand a year, and were to die
while in the habit of holding daily intercourse with you, known to be
your friend and companion, is it not just possible that malevolent and
suspicious people might drop strange hints as to the cause of his
death? They might harp upon your motives for wishing him out of the
way. They might dwell upon the fact that you were so much together, and
that you had such opportunities--mark me, Reginald, _opportunities_--
for tampering with the one solitary life which stood between you and
fortune. They might say all this, might they not?"
"Yes," replied Reginald, in his gloomiest tone, "they might."
"Very well, then, if you take my advice, you will cut your cousin's
acquaintance from this time. You will take care to let your friends of
the clubs know that he has supplanted you in the affections of the
woman you loved, and that you and he are no longer on speaking terms.
You will cut him publicly at one of your clubs; so that the fact of the
coldness between you may become sufficiently notorious. And when you
have done this, you will start for the Continent."
"Go abroad? But why?"
"That is my secret. Remember, you have promised to obey me blindly,"
answered Victor. "You will go abroad; you will let the world know that
you and Douglas Dale are divided by the width of the Channel; you will
leave him free to devote himself to the woman he has chosen for his
wife; and if, while engaged to her, an untimely fate should overtake
this young man--if he, like his elder brother, should be removed from
your pathway, the most malicious scandal-monger that ever lived could
scarcely say that you had any hand in his fate."
"I understand," murmured Reginald, in a low voice; "I understand."
He said no more. He had grown white to the very lips; and those pale
lips were dry and feverish. But the conversation changed abruptly, and
Douglas Dale's name was not again mentioned.
In the meantime, the betrothed lovers had been very happy and this
interview, which she had always dreaded but felt she could not avoid,
having passed over, Paulina was more at liberty to realize her changed
position, and dwell on her future prospects. She was really happy, but
in her happiness there was some touch of fever, something too much of
nervous excitement. It was not the calm happiness which makes the
crowning joy of an untroubled life. A long career of artificial
excitement, of alternate fears and hopes, the mad delight and madder
despair which makes the gambler's fever, had unfitted Paulina for the
quiet peace of a spirit at rest. She yearned for rest, but the angel of
rest had been scared away by the long nights of dissipation, and would
not answer to her call.
Victor Carrington had fathomed the mystery of her feverish gaiety--her
intervals of dull apathy that was almost despair. In the depth of her
misery she had lulled herself to a false repose by the use of opium;
and even now, when the old miseries were no more, she could not exist
without the poisonous anodyne.
"Douglas Dale must be blinded by his infatuation, or he would have
found out the state of the case by this time," Victor said to himself.
"Circumstances could not be more favourable to my plans. A man who is
blind and deaf, and utterly idiotic under the influence of an absurd
infatuation, one woman whose brains are intoxicated by opium, and
another who would sell her soul for money."
* * * * *
These incidents, which have occupied so much space in the telling, in
reality did not fill up much time. Only a month had elapsed since
Lionel Dale's death, when Reginald Eversleigh and Paulina had the
interview described above. And now it seemed as though Fate itself were
conspiring with the conspirators, for the watch kept upon them by
Andrew Larkspur was perforce delayed, and Lady Eversleigh's designs of
retributive punishment were suspended. A few days after the return of
Mr. Larkspur to town, that gentleman was seized with serious illness,
and for three weeks was unable to leave his bed. Mr. Andrew lay ill
with acute bronchitis, in the lodging-house in Percy Street, and Mrs.
Eden was compelled to wait his convalescence with what patience she
* * * * *
Sir Reginald Eversleigh and Douglas Dale met at the Phoenix Club soon
after Reginald's interview with Madame Durski.
Douglas met his cousin with a quiet and courteous manner, in which
there was no trace of unfriendly feeling: a manner that expressed so
little of any feeling whatever as to be almost negative.
It was not so, however, with Sir Reginald. He remembered Victor
Carrington's advice as to the wisdom of a palpable estrangement between
himself and his cousin, and he took good care to act upon that counsel.
This course was, indeed, the only one that would have been at all
agreeable to him.
He hated Douglas Dale with all the force of his evil nature, as the
innocent instrument of Sir Oswald's retribution upon the destroyer of
He envied the young man the advantages which his own bad conduct had
forfeited; and he now had learned to hate him with redoubled intensity,
as the man who had supplanted him in the affections of Paulina Durski.
The two men met in the smoking-room of the club at the most fashionable
hour of the day.
Nothing could have been more conspicuous than the haughty insolence of
the spendthrift baronet as he saluted his wealthy cousin.
"How is it I have not seen you at my chambers in the Temple,
Eversleigh?" asked Douglas, in that calm tone of studied courtesy which
expresses so little.
"Because I had no particular reason for calling on you; and because, if
I had wished to see you, I should scarcely have expected to find you in
your Temple chambers," answered Sir Reginald. "If report does not belie
you, you spend the greater part of your existence at a certain villa at
There was that in Sir Reginald Eversleigh's tone which attracted the
attention of the men within hearing--almost all of whom were well
acquainted with the careers of the two cousins, and many of whom knew
Though the club loungers were too well-bred to listen, it was
nevertheless obvious that the attention of all had been more or less
aroused by the baronet's tone and manner.
Douglas Dale answered, in accents as audible, and a tone as haughty as
the accents and tone of his cousin.
"Report is not likely to belie me," he said, "since there is no mystery
in my life to afford food for gossip. If by a certain villa at Fulham
you mean Hilton House, you are not mistaken. I have the honour to be a
frequent guest at that house."
"It is an honour which many of us have enjoyed," answered Reginald,
with a sneer.
"An honour which I used to find deuced expensive, by Jove!" exclaimed
Viscount Caversham, who was standing near Douglas Dale.
"That was at the time when Sir Reginald Eversleigh usurped the position
of host in Madame Durski's house," replied Douglas. "You would find
things much changed there now, Caversham, were the lady to favour you
by an invitation. When Madame Durski first came to England she was so
unfortunate as to fall into the hands of evil counsellors. She has
learned since to know her friends from her enemies."
"She is a very charming woman," drawled the viscount, laughingly; "but
if you want to keep a balance at your banker's, Dale, I should strongly
advise you to refuse her hospitality."
"Madame Durski will shortly be my wife," replied Douglas, in a voice
loud enough to be heard by the bystanders; "and the smallest word
calculated to cast a slur on her fair fame will be an insult to me--an
insult which I shall know how to resent."
This announcement fell like a thunderbolt in the assembly of
fashionable idlers. All knew the history of the house at Fulham. They
knew of Paulina Durski only as a beautiful, but dangerous, syren, whose
fatal smiles lured men to their ruin. That Douglas Dale should unite
himself to such a woman seemed to them little short of absolute
Love must be strong indeed which will face the ridicule of mankind
unflinchingly. Douglas Dale knew that, in redeeming Paulina from her
miserable situation, in elevating her to a position that many blameless
and well-born Englishwomen would have gladly accepted, he was making a
sacrifice which the men amongst whom he lived would condemn as the act
of a fool. But he was willing to endure this, painful though it was to
him, for the sake of the woman he loved.
"Better that I should have the scorn of shallow-brained worldlings than
that the blight on her life should continue," he said to himself. "When
she is my wife, no man will dare to question her honour--no woman will
dare to frown upon her when she enters society leaning on my arm."
This is what Douglas Dale repeated to himself very often during his
courtship of Paulina Durski. This is what he thought as he stood erect
and defiant in the crowded room of the Pall Mall club, facing the
curious looks of his acquaintances.
After the first shock there was a dead silence; no voice murmured the
common-place phrases of congratulation which might naturally have
followed such an announcement. If Douglas Dale had just announced that
some dire misfortune had befallen him, the faces of the men around him
could not have been more serious. No one smiled; no one applauded his
choice; not one voice congratulated him on having won for himself so
fair a bride.
That ominous silence told Douglas Dale how terrible was the stigma
which the world had set upon her he so fondly loved. The anguish which
rent his heart during those few moments is not to be expressed by
words. After that most painful silence, he walked to the table at which
it was his habit to sit, and began to read a newspaper. Sir Reginald
watched him furtively for a few moments in silence, and then left the
After this the two cousins met frequently; but they never spoke. They
passed each other with the coldest and most ceremonious salutation. The
idlers of the club perceived this, and commented on the fact.
"Douglas Dale and his cousin are not on speaking terms," they said:
"they have quarrelled about that beautiful Austrian widow, at whose
house there used to be such high play."
In Paulina's society, Douglas tried to forget the cruel shadow which
darkened, and which, in all likelihood, would for ever darken, her
name; and while in her society he contrived to banish from his mind all
bitter thought of the world's harsh verdict and cruel condemnation.
But away from Paulina he was tortured by the recollection of that scene
at the Phoenix Club; tormented by the thought that, let him make what
sacrifice he might, he could never wipe out the stain which those
midnight assemblies of gamesters had left on his future wife's
"We will leave England for ever after the marriage," he said to himself
sometimes. "We will make our home in some fair Italian city, where my
Paulina will be respected and admired as if she were a queen, as well
as the loveliest and sweetest of women."
If he asked Paulina where their future life was to be spent she always
replied to him in the same manner.
"Wherever you take me I shall be content," she said. "I can never be
grateful enough for your goodness; I can never repay the debt I owe
you. Let our future be your planning, not mine."
"And you have no wish, no fancy, that I can realize, Paulina?"
"None. Prom my earliest girlhood I have sighed for only one blessing--
peace! You have given me that. What more can I ask at your hands? Ah!
Douglas, I fear my love has already cost you too dearly. The world will
never forgive you for your choice; you, who might make so brilliant a
Her generous feelings once aroused, Paulina could be almost as noble as
her lover. Again and again she implored him to withdraw his promise--to
leave, and to forget her.
"Believe me, Douglas, our engagement is a mistake," she said. "Consider
this before it is too late. You are a proud man where honour is
concerned, and the past life of her whom you marry should be without
spot or blemish. It is not so with me. If I have not sinned as other
women have sinned, I have stooped to be the companion of gamblers and
roues; I have allowed my house to become the haunt of reckless and
dissipated men. Society revenges itself cruelly upon those who break
its laws. Society will neither forget nor forgive my offence."
"I do not live for society, but for you, Paulina," replied Douglas,
passionately; "you are all the world to me. Let me never hear these
arguments again, unless you would have me think that you are weary of
me, and that you only want an excuse for getting rid of me."
"Weary of you!" exclaimed Paulina; "my friend, my benefactor. How can I
ever prove my gratitude for your goodness--your devotion?"
"By learning to love me a little," answered Douglas, tenderly.
"The lesson ought not to be difficult," Paulina murmured.
Could she do less than love this noble friend, this pure-minded and
He came to her one day, accompanied by a solicitor; but before
introducing the man of law, he asked for a private interview with
Paulina, and in this interview gave her a new proof of his devotion.
"In thinking much of our position, dearest, I have been struck with a
sudden terror of the uncertainty of life. What would be your fate,
Paulina, if anything were to happen--if--well, if I were to die
suddenly, as men so often die in this high-pressure age, before
marriage had united our interests? What would be your fate, alone and
helpless, assailed once more by all the perplexities of poverty, and,
perhaps, subject to the mean spite of my cousin, Reginald Eversleigh,
who does not forgive me for having robbed him of his place in your
heart, little as he was worthy of your love?"
"Oh, Douglas!" exclaimed Paulina, "why do you imagine such things? Why
should death assail you?"
"Why, indeed, dearest," returned Douglas, with a smile. "Do not think
that I anticipate so sad a close to our engagement. But it is the duty
of a man to look sharply out for every danger in the pathway of the
woman he is bound to protect. I am a lawyer, remember, Paulina, and I
contemplate the future with the eye of a lawyer. So far as I can secure
you from even the possibility of misfortune, I will do it. I have
brought a solicitor here to-day, in order that he may read you a will
which I have this morning executed in your favour."
"A will!" repeated Madame Durski; "you are only too good to me. But
there is something horrible to my mind in these legal formalities."
"That is only a woman's prejudice. It is the feminine idea that a man
must needs be at the point of death when he makes his will. And now let
me explain the nature of this will," continued Douglas. "I have told
you that if I should happen to die without direct heirs, the estate
left me by Sir Oswald Eversleigh will go to my cousin Reginald. That
estate, from which is derived my income, I have no power to alienate; I
am a tenant for life only. But my income has been double, and sometimes
treble, my expenditure, for my habits have been very simple, and my
life only that of a student in the Temple. My sole extravagance,
indeed, has been the collection of a library. I have, therefore, been
able to save twelve thousand pounds, and this sum is my own to
bequeath. I have made a will, leaving this amount to you, Paulina--
charged only with a small annuity to a faithful old servant--together
with my personal property, consisting only of a few good Italian
pictures, a library of rare old books, and the carvings and decorations
of my roams--all valuable in their way. This is all the law allows me
to give you, Paulina; but it will, at least, secure you from want."
Madame Durski tried to speak; but she was too deeply affected by this
new proof of her lover's generosity. Tears choked her utterance; she
took Douglas Dale's hand in both her own, and lifted it to her lips;
and this silent expression of gratitude touched his heart more than the
most eloquent speech could have affected it.
He led her into the room where the attorney awaited her.
"This gentleman is Mr. Horley," he said, "a friend and adviser in whom
you may place unbounded confidence. My will is to remain in his
possession; and should any untimely fate overtake me, he will protect
your interests. And now, Mr. Horley, will you be good enough to read
the document to Madame Durski, in order that she may understand what
her position would be in case of the worst?"
Mr. Horley read the will. It was as simple and concise as the law
allows any legal document to be; and it made Paulina Durski mistress of
twelve thousand pounds, and property equal to two or three thousand
more, in the event of Douglas Dale's death.
* * * * *
"A WORTHLESS WOMAN, MERE COLD CLAY."
Neither Lydia Graham nor her brother were quick to recover from the
disappointment caused by the untimely fate of Lionel Dale. Miss Graham
endeavoured to sustain her failing spirits with the hope that in
Douglas she might find a wealthier prize than his brother; but Douglas
was yet to be enslaved by those charms which Lydia herself felt were on
the wane, and by fascinations which twelve years of fashionable
existence had rendered somewhat stale even to the fair Lydia's most
It was very bitter--the cup had been so near her lips, when an adverse
destiny had dashed it from her. The lady's grief was painfully sincere.
She did not waste one lamentation on her lover's sad fate, but she most
bitterly regretted her own loss of a rich husband.
She watched and hoped day after day for the promised visit from Douglas
Dale, but he did not come. Every day during visiting hours she wore her
most becoming toilets; she arranged her small drawing-room with the
studied carelessness of an elegant woman; she seated herself in her
most graceful attitudes every time the knocker heralded the advent of a
caller; but it was all so much wasted labour. The only guest whom she
cared to see was not among those morning visitors; and Lydia's heart
began to be oppressed by a sense of despair.
"Well, Gordon, have you heard anything of Douglas Dale?" she asked her
brother, day after day.
One day he came home with a very gloomy face, and when she uttered the
usual question, he answered her in his gloomiest tone.
"I've heard something you'll scarcely care to learn," he said, "as it
must sound the death-knell of all your hopes in that quarter. You know,
Douglas Dale is a member of the Phoenix, as well as the Forum. I don't
belong to the Phoenix, as you also know, but I meet Dale occasionally
at the Forum. Yesterday I lunched with Lord Caversham, a member of the
Phoenix, and an acquaintance of Dale's; and from him I learned that
Douglas Dale has publicly announced his intended marriage with Paulina
"Impossible!" exclaimed Lydia.
She had heard of Paulina and the villa at Fulham from her brother, and
she hated the lovely Austrian for the beauty and the fascination which
won her a kind of renown amongst the fops and lordlings--the idlers and
spendthrifts of the fashionable clubs.
"It cannot be true," cried Miss Graham, flushing crimson with anger.
"It is one of Lord Caversham's absurd stories; and I dare say is
without the slightest foundation. I cannot and will not believe that
Douglas Dale would throw himself away upon such a woman as this Madame
"You have never seen her?"
"Of course not."
"Then don't speak so very confidently," said Captain Graham, who was
malicious enough to take some pleasure in his sister's discomfiture.
"Paulina Durski is one of the handsomest women I ever saw; not above
five-and-twenty years of age--elegant, fascinating, patrician--a woman
for whose sake a wiser man than Douglas Dale might be willing to
"I will see Mr. Dale," exclaimed Lydia. "I will ascertain from his own
lips whether there is any foundation for this report."
"How will you contrive to see him?" "You must arrange that for me. You
can invite him to dinner."
"I can invite him; but the question is whether he will come. Perhaps,
if you were to write him a note, he would be more flattered than by any
verbal invitation from me."
Lydia was not slow to take this hint. She wrote one of those charming
and flattering epistles which an artful and self-seeking woman of the
world so well knows how to pen. She expressed her surprise and regret
at not having seen Mr. Dale since her return to town--her fear that he
might be ill, her hope that he would accept an invitation to a friendly
dinner with herself and her brother, who was also most anxious about
She was not destined to disappointment. On the following day she
received a brief note from Mr. Dale, accepting her invitation for the
The note was very stiffly--nay, almost coldly worded; but Lydia
attributed the apparent lack of warmth to the reserved nature of
Douglas Dale, rather than to any failure of her own scheme.
The fact that he accepted her invitation at all, she considered a proof
of the falsehood of the report about his intended marriage, and a good
omen for herself.
She took care to provide a _recherche_ little dinner for her important
guest, low as the finances of herself and her brother were--and were
likely to be for some time to come. She invited a dashing widow, who
was her obliging friend and neighbour, and who was quite ready to play
propriety for the occasion. Lydia Graham looked her handsomest when
Douglas Dale was ushered into her presence that evening; but she little
knew how indifferent were the eyes that contemplated her bold, dark
beauty; and how, even as he looked at her, Douglas Dale's thoughts
wandered to the fair, pale face of Paulina Durski--that face, which for
him was the loveliest that had ever beamed with light and beauty below
The dinner was to all appearance a success. Nothing could be more
cordial or friendly, as it seemed, than that party of four, seated at a
prettily decorated circular table, attended by a well-trained man-
servant--the dashing widow's butler and factotum, borrowed for the
Mrs. Marmaduke, the dashing widow, made herself very agreeable, and
took care to engage Captain Graham in conversation all the evening,
leaving Lydia free to occupy the entire attention of Douglas Dale.
That young lady made excellent use of her time. Day by day her chances
of a rich marriage had grown less and less, and day by day she had
grown more and more anxious to secure a position and a home. She had a
very poor opinion of Mr. Dale's intellect, for she believed only in the
cleverness of those bolder and more obtrusive men who make themselves
prominent in every assembly. She thought him a man easily to be
beguiled by honeyed words and bewitching glances, and she had,
therefore, determined to play a bold, if not a desperate game. While
Mrs. Marmaduke and Captain Graham were talking in the front drawing-
room, Lydia contrived to detain her guest in the inner apartment--a
tiny chamber, just large enough to hold a small cottage piano, a stand
of music-books, and a couple of chairs.
Miss Graham seated herself at the piano, and played a few bars with an
absent and somewhat pensive air.
"That is a mournful melody," said Douglas. "I don't think I ever heard
"Indeed!" murmured Lydia; "and yet I think it is very generally known.
The air is pretty, is it not? But the words are ultra-sentimental."
And then she began to sing softly--
"I do not ask to offer thee
A timid love like mine;
I lay it, as the rose is laid,
On some immortal shrine."
"I think the words are rather pretty," said Douglas.
"Do you?" murmured Miss Graham; and then she stopped suddenly, looking
downward, with one of those conscious blushes which were always at her
There was a pause. Douglas Dale stood by the music-stand, listlessly
turning over a volume of songs.
Lydia was the first to break the silence.
"Why did you not come to see us sooner, Mr. Dale?" she asked. "You
promised me you would come."
"I have been too much engaged to come," answered Douglas.
This reply sounded almost rude; but to Lydia this unpolished manner
seemed only the result of extreme shyness, and, indeed, embarrassment,
which to her appeared proof positive of her intended victim's
Her eyes grew bright with a glance of triumph.
"I shall win," she thought to herself; "I shall win."
"Have you really wished to see me?" asked Douglas, after another pause.
"I did indeed wish to see you," she murmured, in tremulous tones.
"Indeed!" said Douglas, in a tone that might mean astonishment,
delight, or anything else. "Well, Miss Graham, that was very kind of
you. I go out very little, and never except to the houses of intimate
"Surely you number us--my brother, I mean--among that privileged
class," said Lydia, once more blushing bewitchingly.
"I do, indeed," said Douglas Dale, in a candid, kind, unembarrassed
tone, which, if she had been a little less under the dominion of that
proverbially blinding quality, vanity, would have been the most
discouraging of all possible tones, to the schemes which she had
formed; "I never forget how high you stood in my poor brother's esteem,
Miss Graham; indeed, if you will pardon my saying so, I thought there
was a much warmer feeling than that, on his part."
Lydia hardly knew how to take this observation. In one sense it was
flattering, in another discouraging. If the belief brought Douglas Dale
into easier relations with her, if it induced him to feel that a bond
of friendship, cemented by the memory of the past, subsisted between
them, so much the better for her purpose; but if he believed that this
supposed love of Lionel's had been returned, and proposed to cultivate
her on the mutual sympathy, or "weep with thee, tear for tear,"
principle, so much the worse. The position was undeniably embarrassing
even to a young lady of Miss Lydia Graham's remarkable strength of
mind, and _savoir faire_. But she extricated herself from it, without
speaking, by some wonderful management of her eyes, and a slight
deprecatory movement of her shoulders, which made even Douglas Dale, a
by no means ready man, though endowed with deep feelings and strong
common sense, understand, as well as if she had spoken, that Lionel had
indeed entertained feelings of a tender nature towards her, but that
she had not returned them by any warmer sentiment than friendship. It
was admirably well done; and the next sentence which Douglas Dale spoke
was certainly calculated to nourish Lydia's hopes.
"He might have sustained a terrible grief, then, had he lived longer,"
said Douglas; "but I see this subject pains you, Miss Graham; I will
touch upon it no more. But perhaps you will allow the recollection of
what we must both believe to have been his feelings and his hopes, to
plead with you for me."
"For you, Mr. Dale!" and Lydia Graham's breast heaved with genuine
emotion, and her voice trembled with no artificial faltering.
"Yes, Miss Graham, for me. I need a friend, such a friend as you could
be, if you would, to counsel and to aid me. But, pardon me, I am
detaining you, and you have another guest." (How ardently Lydia Graham
wished she had not invited the accommodating widow to play propriety!)
"You will permit me to visit you soon again, and we will speak of much
which cannot now be discussed. May I come soon?"
As he spoke these hope-inspiring words, there was genuine eagerness in
the tone of Douglas Dale's voice, there was brightness in his frank
eyes. No wonder Lydia held the story her brother had told her in
scornful disbelief; no wonder she felt all the glow of the fulfilment
of long-deferred hope. What would have been her sensations had she
known that Douglas Dale's only actuating motive in the proposed
friendly alliance, was to secure a female friend for his adored
Paulina, to gain for her the countenance and protection of a woman
whose place in society was recognized and unassailable?
"You will excuse my joining your brother and your friend now, will you
not, Miss Graham? I must, at all events, have taken an early leave of
you, and this conversation has given me much to think of. I shall see
you soon again. Good night!"
He moved hastily, passed through the door of the small apartment which,
opened on the staircase, and was gone. Lydia Graham remained alone for
a few moments, in a triumphant reverie, then she joined Gordon Graham
and the bewitching widow, who had been making the most of the
opportunity for indulging in her favourite florid style of flirtation.
"I have won," Lydia said to herself; "and how easily! Poor fellow; his
agitation was really painful. He did not even stop to shake hands with
Mrs. Marmaduke took leave of her dearest Lydia, and her dearest Lydia's
brother, soon after Douglas Dale had departed, and Miss Graham and her
brother were left _tete-a-tete_.
"Well," said Gordon Graham, with rather a sulky air, "you don't seem to
have done much execution by your dinner-party, my young lady. Dale went
off in a great hurry, which does not say much for your powers of
Lydia gave her head a triumphant little toss as she looked at her
"You are remarkably clever, my dear Gordon," she said; "but you are apt
to make mistakes occasionally, in spite of your cleverness. What should
you say if I were to tell you that Mr. Dale has this evening almost
made me an offer of his hand?"
"You don't mean to say so?"
"I do mean to say so," answered Lydia, triumphantly. "He is one of that
eccentric kind of people who have their own manner of doing things, and
do not care to tread the beaten track; or it may be that it is only his
reserved nature which renders him strange and awkward in his manner of
"Never mind how awkwardly the offer has been made, provided it is
genuine," returned the practical Captain Graham. "But I don't like
'almosts.' Besides, you really must mind what you are about, Lydia; for
I assure you there is no doubt at all about the fact of his engagement.
He stated it himself."
"Well, and suppose he did," said Lydia, "and suppose some good-for-
nothing woman, in an equivocal position, _has_ trapped him into an
offer. Is he the first man who has got into a dilemma of that kind, and
got out of it? He thought I cared for Lionel, and that so there was no
hope for him. I can quite understand his getting himself into an
entanglement of the kind, under such circumstances."
Gordon Graham smiled, a certain satirical smile, intensely irritating
to his sister's temper (which she called her nerves), and which it was
rather fortunate she did not see. He was perfectly alive to the
omnivorous quality of his sister's vanity, and perfectly aware that it
had on many occasions led her into a fool's paradise, whence she had
been ejected into the waste regions of disappointment and bitterness of
spirit. He had been quite willing that she should try the experiment
upon Douglas Dale, to which that gentleman had just been subjected; but
he had not been sanguine as to its results, and he did not implicitly
confide in the very exhilarating statement now made to him by Lydia. If
Douglas Dale's "almost" proposal meant nothing more than that he would
be glad, or implied that he would be glad to be off with Paulina and on
with Lydia, he did not think very highly of the chances of the latter.
A man of the world, in the worst sense of that widely significant word,
Gordon Graham was inclined to think that Douglas Dale was merely
trifling with his sister, indulging in a "safe" flirtation, under the
aegis of an avowed engagement. Graham felt very anxious to know the
particulars of the conversation between Dale and his sister, in order
to discover how far they bore out his theory; but he knew Lydia too
well to place implicit reliance on any statement of them he might
elicit from her.
"Well, but," said he, "supposing you are right in all this, the
'entanglement,' as you call it, exists. How did he explain, or excuse
Lydia smiled, a self-satisfied, contemptuous smile. She was not jealous
of Madame Durski; she despised her. "He did not excuse it; he did not
explain; he knows he has no severity to fear from me. All he needs is
to induce me to acknowledge my affection for him, and then he will soon
rid himself of all obstacles. Don't be afraid, Gordon; this is a great
falling off from the ambitions I once cherished, the hopes I once
formed; this is a very different kind of thing from Sir Oswald
Eversleigh and Raynham Castle, but I have made up my mind to be content
Lydia spoke with a kind of virtuous resignation and resolution,
infinitely assuring to her brother. But he was getting tired of the
discussion, and desirous to end it. Anxious as he was to be rid of his
sister, and to effect the riddance on the best possible terms, he did
not mean to be bored by her just then. So he spoke to the point at
"That's rather a queer mode of proceeding," he said. "You are to avow
your affection for this fine gentleman, and then he is to throw over
another lady in order to reward your devotion. There was a day when
Miss Graham's pride would have been outraged by a proposition which
certainly seems rather humiliating."
Lydia flushed crimson, and looked at her brother with angry eyes. She
felt the sting of his malicious speech, and knew that it was intended
to wound her.
"Pride and I have long parted company," she answered, bitterly. "I have
learnt to endure degradation as placidly as you do when you condescend
to become the toady and flatterer of richer men than yourself."
Captain Graham did not take the trouble to resent this remark. He
smiled at his sister's anger, with the air of a man who is quite
indifferent to the opinion of others.
"Well, my dear Lydia," he said, good-humouredly, "all I can say is,
that if you have caught the brother of your late admirer, you are very
lucky. The merest schoolboy knows enough arithmetic to be aware that
ten thousand a year is twice as good as five. And it certainly is not
every woman's fortune to be able to recover a chance which seemed so
nearly lost as yours when we left Hallgrove. By all means nail him to
his proposition, and let him throw over the lovely Paulina. What a fool
the man must be not to know his mind a little better!"
"Madame Durski entrapped him into the engagement," said Lydia,
"Ah, to be sure, women have a way of laying snares of the matrimonial
kind, as you and I know, my dear Lydia. And now, good night. Go and
think about your trousseau in the silence of your own apartment."
Lydia Graham fell asleep that night, secure in the certainty that the
end and aim of her selfish life had been at last attained, and disposed
to regard the interval as very brief that must elapse before Douglas
Dale would come to throw himself at her feet.
For a day or two unwonted peace and serenity were observable in Lydia
Graham's demeanour and countenance. She took even more than the
ordinary pains with her dress; she arranged her little drawing-room
more than ever effectively and with sedulous care, and she remained at
home every afternoon, in spite of fine weather and an unusual number of
invitations. But Douglas Dale made no sign, he did not come, he did not
write, and all his enthusiastic declarations seemed to have ended in
nothing. The truth was that Paulina Durski was ill, and in his anxiety
and uneasiness, Douglas forgot even the existence of Lydia Graham.
A vague alarm began to fill Lydia's mind, and she felt as if the good
establishment, the liberal allowance of pin-money, the equipages, the
clever French maid, the diamonds, and all the other delightful things
which she had looked upon almost as already her own, were suddenly
vanishing away like a dream.
Miss Graham was in no very amiable humour when, after a week's watching
and suspense, she descended to the dining-room, a small and shabbily
furnished apartment, which bore upon it the stamp peculiar to London
lodging-houses--an aspect which is just the reverse of everything we
look for in a home.
Gordon Graham was already seated at the breakfast-table.
A letter for Miss Graham lay by the side of her breakfast-cup--a bulky
document, with four stamps upon the envelope.
Lydia knew the hand too well. It was that of her French milliner,
Mademoiselle Susanne, to whom she owed a sum which she knew never could
be paid out of her own finances. The thought of this debt had been a
perpetual nightmare to her. There was no such thing as bankruptcy for a
lady of fashion in those days; and it was in the power of Mademoiselle
Susanna to put her high-bred creditor into a common prison, and detain
her there until she had passed the ordeal of the Insolvent Debtors'
Lydia opened the packet with a sinking heart. There it was, the awful
bill, with its records of elegant dresses--every one of which had been
worn with the hope of conquest, and all of which had, so far, failed to
attain the hoped-for victory. And at the end of that long list came the
fearful total--close upon three hundred pounds!
"I can never pay it!" murmured Lydia; "never! never!"
Her involuntary exclamation sounded almost like a cry of despair.
Gordon Graham looked up from the newspaper in which he had been
absorbed until this moment, and stared at his sister.
"What's the matter?" he exclaimed. "Oh, I see! it's a bill--Susanne's,
I suppose? Well, well, you women will make yourselves handsome at any
cost, and you must pay for it sooner or later. If you can secure
Douglas Dale, a cheque from him will soon settle Mademoiselle Susanne,
and make her your humble slave for the future. But what has gone wrong
with you, my Lydia? Your brow wears a gloomy shade this morning. Have
you received no tidings of your lover?"
"Gordon," said Lydia, passionately, "do not taunt me. I don't know what
to think. But I have played a desperate game--I have risked all upon
the hazard of this die--and if I have failed I must submit to my fate.
I can struggle no longer; I am utterly weary of a life that has brought
me nothing but disappointment and defeat."
* * * * *
A MEETING AND AN EXPLANATION.
For George Jernam's young wife, the days passed sadly enough in the
pleasant village of Allanbay. Fair as the scene of her life was, to
poor Rosamond it seemed as if the earth were overshadowed by dark
clouds, through which no ray of sunlight could penetrate. The affection
which had sprung up between her and Susan Jernam was deep and strong,
and the only gleam of happiness which Rosamond experienced in her
melancholy existence came from the affection of her husband's aunt.
If Rosamond's existence was not happy, it was, at least in all outward
seeming, peaceful. But the heart of the deserted wife knew not peace.
She was perpetually brooding over the strange circumstances of George's
departure--perpetually asking herself why it was he had left her.
She could shape no answer to that constantly repeated question.
Had he ceased to love her? No! surely that could not be, for the change
which arises in the most inconstant heart is, at least, gradual. George
Jernam had changed in a day--in an hour.
Reason upon the subject as she might, the conviction at which Rosamond
arrived at last was always the same. She believed that the mysterious
change that had arisen in the husband she so fondly loved was a change
in the mind itself--a sudden monomania, beyond the influence of the
outer world--a wild hallucination of the brain, not to be cured by any
Believing this, the wife's heart was tortured as she thought of the
perils that surrounded her husband's life--perils that were doubly
terrible for one whose mind had lost its even balance.
She watched every alteration in the atmosphere, every cloud in the sky,
with unspeakable anxiety. As the autumn gave place to winter, as the
winds blew loud above the broad expanse of ocean, as the foam-crests of
the dark waves rose high, and gleamed white and silvery in the dim
twilight, her heart sank with an awful fear for the absent wanderer.
Night and day her prayers arose to heaven--such prayers as only the
loving heart of woman breathes for the object of all her thoughts.
While Rosamond occupied the abode which Captain Jernam had chosen for
her, River View Cottage was abandoned entirely to the care of Mrs.
Mugby and Susan Trott, and the trim house had a desolate look in the
dismal autumn days, and the darkening winter twilights, carefully as it
was kept by Mrs. Mugby, who aired the rooms, and dusted and polished
the furniture every day, as industriously as if she had been certain of
the captain's return before night-fall.
"He may come this night, or he may not come for a year," she said to
Susan very often, when Miss Trott was a little disposed to neglect some
of her duties, in the way of dusting and polishing; "but mark my words,
Susan, when he does come, he'll come sudden, without so much as one
line of warning, or notice enough to get a bit of dinner ready for
The day came at last when the housekeeper was gratified to find that
all her dusting and polishing had not been thrown away. Captain
Duncombe returned exactly as she had prophesied he would return,
without sending either note or message to give warning of his arrival.
He rang the bell one day, and walked into the garden, and from the
garden into the house, with the air of a man who had just come home
from a morning's walk, much to the astonishment of Susan Trott, who
admitted him, and who stared at him with eyes opened to their widest
extent, as he strode hurriedly past her.
He went straight into the parlour he had been accustomed to sit in. A
fire was burning brightly in the polished steel grate, and everything
bore the appearance of extreme comfort.
The merchant-captain looked round the room with an air of satisfaction.
"There's nothing like a trip to the Indies for making a man appreciate
the comforts of his own home," he exclaimed. "How cheery it all looks;
and a man must be a fool who couldn't enjoy himself at home after
tossing about in a hurricane off Gibraltar for a week at a stretch. But
where's your mistress?" cried Joe Duncombe, suddenly, turning to the
astonished Susan. "Where's Mrs. Jernam?--where's my daughter? Doesn't
she hear her old father's gruff voice? Isn't she coming to bid me
welcome after all I've gone through to earn more money for her?"
Before Susan could answer, Mrs. Mugby had heard the voice of her
master, and came hurrying in to greet him.
"Thank you for your hearty welcome," said the captain, hurriedly; "but
where's my daughter? Is she out of doors this cold winter day, gadding
about London streets?--or how the deuce is it she doesn't come to give
her old father a kiss, and bid him welcome home?"
"Lor', sir," cried Mrs. Mugby, "you don't mean to say as you haven't
heard from Miss Rosa--begging your pardon, Mrs. Jernam--but the other
do come so much more natural?"
"Heard from her!" exclaimed the captain. "Not I, I haven't had a line
from her. But heaven have mercy on us! how the woman does stare! There
isn't anything wrong with my daughter, is there? She's well--eh?"
The captain's honest face grew pale, as a sudden fear arose in his
"Don't tell me my daughter is ill," he gasped; "or worse--"
"No, no, no, captain," cried Mrs. Mugby. "I heard from Mrs. Jernam only
a week ago, and she was quite well; but she is residing down in
Devonshire, where she removed with her husband last July; and I made
sure you would have received a letter telling you of the change."
"What!" roared Joseph Duncombe; "did my daughter go and turn her back
upon the comfortable little box her father built for her--the place he
spent his hard-won earnings upon for her sake? So Rosy got tired of the
cottage, did she? It wasn't good enough for her, I suppose. Well, well,
that does seem rather hard somehow--it does seem hard."
The captain dropped heavily down into the chair nearest him. He was
deeply wounded by the idea that his daughter had deserted the home
which he had made for her.
"Begging your pardon, sir," interposed Mrs. Mugby, in her most
insinuating tone, "which I am well aware it's not my place to interfere
in family matters; but knowing as devotion itself is a word not strong
enough to express Mrs. Jernam's feelings for her pa, I cannot stand by
and see her misunderstood by that very pa. It was no doings of hers as
she left River View, Captain Buncombe, for the place was very dear to
her; but Captain Jernam, he took it into his head all of a sudden he'd
set off for foreign parts in his ship the 'Albert's horse'; and before
he went, he insisted on taking Mrs. Jernam down to Devonshire, which
burying her alive would be too mild a word for such cruelty, I think."
"What! he deserted his post, did he?" exclaimed the captain. "Ran away
from his pretty young wife, after promising to stop with her till I
came back! Now, I don't call that an honest man's conduct," added the
"No more would any one, sir," answered the housekeeper. "A wild, roving
life is all very well in its way, but if a man who is just married to a
pretty young wife, that worships the very ground he walks on, can't
stay at home quiet, I should like to know who can?"
"So he went to sea himself, and took his wife down to Devonshire before
he sailed, eh?" said the captain. "Very fine goings on, upon my word!
And did Miss Rosy consent to leave her father's home without a murmur?"
he asked, angrily.
"Begging your pardon, sir," pleaded Mrs. Mugby, "Miss Rosamond was not
the one to murmur before servants, whatever she might feel in her
heart. I overheard her crying and sobbing dreadful one night, poor
dear, when she little thought as there was any one to overhear her."
"Did she say anything to you before she left?"
"Not till the night before she went away, and then she came to me in my
kitchen, and said, 'Mrs. Mugby, it's my husband's wish I should go down
to Devonshire and live there, while he's away with his ship. Of course,
I am very sorry to leave the house that my dear father made such a
happy home for me, and in which he and I lived so peaceably together;
but I am bound to obey my husband, let him ask what he will. I shall
write to my dear father, and tell him how sorry I am to leave my
"Did she say that?" said the captain, evidently touched by this proof
of his child's affection. "Then I won't belie her so much as to doubt
her love for me. I never got her letter; and why George Jernam should
kick up his heels directly I was gone, and be off with his ship
goodness knows where, is more than I can tell. I begin to think the
best sailor that ever roamed the seas is a bad bargain for a husband.
I'm sorry I ever let my girl marry a rover. However, I'll just settle
my business in London, and be off to Devonshire to see my poor little
deserted Rosy. I suppose she's gone to live at that sea-coast village
where Jernam's aunt lives?"
"Yes, sir, Allandale--or Allanbay--or some such name, I think, they
call the place."
"Yes, Allanbay--I remember," answered the captain. "I'll try and get
through the business I've got on hand to-night, and be off to
Mrs. Mugby exerted herself to the uttermost in her endeavour to make
the captain's first dinner at home a great culinary triumph, but the
disappointment he had experienced that morning had quite taken away his
appetite. He had anticipated such delight from his unannounced return
to River View Cottage; he had pictured to himself his daughter's
rapturous welcome; he had fancied her rushing to greet him at the first
sound of his voice; and had almost felt her soft arm clasped around his
neck, her kisses on his face.
Instead of the realization of this bright dream, he had found only
Susan Trott placed the materials for the captain's favourite punch upon
the table after she had removed the cloth; but Joseph Duncombe did not
appear to see the cherry preparations for a comfortable evening. He
rose hastily from his chair, put on his hat, and went out, much to the
discomfiture of the worthy Mrs. Mugby.
"After what I went through with standing over that roaring furnace of a
kitchen-range, it does seem hard to see my sole just turned over and
played with, like, and my chicking not so much as touched," said the
dame. "Oh, Miss Rosamond, Miss Rosamond, you've a deal to answer for!"
Captain Duncombe walked along the dark road between the cottage and
Ratcliff Highway at a rapid pace. He soon reached the flaring lights of
the sailors' quarter, through which he made his way as fast as he could
to a respectable and comfortable little tavern near the Tower, much
frequented by officers of the merchant service.
He had promised to meet an old shipmate at this house, and was very
glad of an excuse for spending his evening away from home.
In the little parlour he found the friend he expected to see, and the
two sailors took their glasses of grog together in a very friendly
manner, and then parted, the captain's friend going away first, as he
had a long distance to walk, in order to reach his suburban home.
The captain was sitting by the fire meditating, and sipping his last
glass of grog, when the door was opened, and some one came into the
Joseph Duncombe looked up with a start as the new-comer entered, and,
to his intense astonishment, recognized George Jernam.
"Jernam!" he cried; "you in London? Well, this is the greatest surprise
"Indeed, Captain Duncombe," answered the other, coolly; "the
'Albatross' only entered the port of London this afternoon. This is the
first place I have come to, and of all men on earth I least expected to
meet you here."
"And from your tone, youngster, it seems as if the surprise were by no
means a pleasant one," cried Joseph Duncombe. "May I ask how Rosamond
Duncombe's husband comes to address his wife's father in the tone you
have just used to me?"
"You are Rosamond's father," answered George; "that is sufficient
reason that Valentine Jernam's brother should keep aloof from you."
"The man's mad," muttered Captain Duncombe; "undoubtedly mad."
"No," answered George Jernam, "I am not mad--I am only too acutely
conscious of the misery of my position. I love your daughter, Joseph
Duncombe; love her as fondly and truly as ever a man loved the wife of
his choice. And yet here am I skulking in London, alone and miserable,
at the hour when I should be hurrying back to the home of my darling.
Dear though she is to me--truly as I love her--I dare not go back to
her; for between her and me there rises the phantom of my murdered
"What on earth has my daughter Rosamond to do with the wretched fate of
your brother?" asked the captain.
"In her own person, nothing; but it is her misfortune to be allied to
one who was in league with the assassin, or assassins, of my unhappy
"What, in heaven's name, do you mean?" asked the bewildered captain of
"Do not press me for my meaning, Captain Duncombe," answered George, in
a repellant tone; "you are my father-in-law. The knowledge which
accident revealed to me of one dark secret in your life of seeming
honesty came too late to prevent that tie between us. When the fatal
truth revealed itself to me I was already your daughter's husband. That
secures my silence. Do not force yourself upon me. I shall do my duty
to your daughter as if you and your crime had never been upon this
earth. But you and I can never meet again except as foes. The
remembrance of my brother Valentine is part and parcel of my life, and
a wrong done to him is twice a wrong to myself."
The captain of the "Vixen" had arisen from his chair. He stood before
his son-in-law, breathless, crimson with passion.
"George Jernam," he cried, "do you want me to knock you down? Egad, my
fine gentleman, you may consider yourself lucky that I have not done it
before this. What do you mean by all that balderdash you've been
talking? What does it all mean, I say? Are you drunk, or mad, or both?"
"Captain Duncombe," said George, calmly, "do you really wish me to
"It will be very much the worse for you if you don't," retorted the
"First, then, let me tell you that before I left River View Cottage
last July, your daughter pressed me to avail myself of the contents of
your desk one day when I was in want of foreign letter-paper."
"Well, what then?"
"Very much against my own inclination, I consented to open that desk
with a key in Rosamond's possession. I did not pry into the secrets of
its contents; but before me, in the tray intended for pens, I saw an
object which could not fail to attract my attention--which riveted my
gaze as surely as if I had 'lighted on a snake."
"What in the name of all that's bewildering could that object have
been?" cried the captain. "I don't keep many curiosities in my writing-
"I will show you what I found that day," answered George. "The finding
of it changed the whole current of my life, and sent me away from that
once happy home a restless and miserable wanderer."
"The man's mad," muttered Captain Duncombe to himself; "he must be
George Jernam took from his waistcoat pocket a tiny parcel, and
unfolding the paper covering, revealed a gold coin--the bent Brazilian
coin--which he placed in the captain's hands.
"Why! heaven have mercy on us!" cried Joseph Duncombe, "if that isn't
the ghost's money!"
There was astonishment plainly depicted on his countenance; but no look
of guilt. George Jernam watched his face as he contemplated the token,
and saw that it was not the face of a guilty man.
"Oh, captain, captain!" he exclaimed, remorsefully, "if I have
suspected you all this time for nothing?"
"Suspected me of what?"