Part 3 out of 8
Mrs. Linley was ready to accept that condition, or any condition,
which promised her a night of uninterrupted repose. She crossed
the room to her husband, and took his arm. "In my state of
fatigue, Herbert, I shall never get up our steep stairs, unless
you help me."
As they ascended the stairs together, Linley found that his wife
had a reason of her own for leaving the drawing-room.
"I am quite weary enough to go to bed," she explained. "But I
wanted to speak to you first. It's about Miss Westerfield. (No,
no, we needn't stop on the landing.) Do you know, I think I have
found out what has altered our little governess so strangely--I
seem to startle you?"
"I am only astonished," Mrs. Linley resumed, "at my own stupidity
in not having discovered it before. We must be kinder than ever
to the poor girl now; can't you guess why? My dear, how dull you
are! Must I remind you that we have had two single men among our
visitors? One of them is old and doesn't matter. But the other--I
mean Sir George, of course--is young, handsome, and agreeable. I
am so sorry for Sydney Westerfield. It's plain to me that she is
hopelessly in love with a man who has run through his fortune,
and must marry money if he marries at all. I shall speak to
Sydney to-morrow; and I hope and trust I shall succeed in winning
her confidence. Thank Heaven, here we are at my door at last! I
can't say more now; I'm ready to drop. Good-night, dear; you look
tired, too. It's a nice thing to have friends, I know; but, oh,
what a relief it is sometimes to get rid of them!"
She kissed him, and let him go.
Left by himself, to compare his wife's innocent mistake with the
terrible enlightenment that awaited her, Linley's courage failed
him. He leaned on the quaintly-carved rail that protected the
outer side of the landing, and looked down at the stone hall far
below. If the old woodwork (he thought) would only give way under
his weight, there would be an escape from the coming catastrophe,
found in an instant.
A timely remembrance of Sydney recalled him to himself. For her
sake, he was bound to prevent Mrs. Presty's contemplated
interview with his wife on the next morning.
Descending the stairs, he met his brother in the corridor on the
"The very man I want to see," Randal said. "Tell me, Herbert,
what is the matter with that curious old woman?"
"Do you mean Mrs. Presty?"
"Yes. She has just been telling me that our friend Mrs. MacEdwin
has taken a fancy to Miss Westerfield, and would be only too glad
to deprive us of our pretty governess."
"Did Mrs. Presty say that in Miss Westerfield's presence?"
"No. Soon after you and Catherine left the room, Miss Westerfield
left it too. I daresay I am wrong, for I haven't had time to
think of it; but Mrs. Presty's manner suggested to me that she
would be glad to see the poor girl sent out of the house."
"I am going to speak to her, Randal, on that very subject. Is she
still in the drawing-room?"
"Did she say anything more to you?"
"I didn't give her the chance; I don't like Mrs. Presty. You look
worn and worried, Herbert. Is there anything wrong?"
"If there is, my dear fellow, you will hear of it tomorrow."
So they parted.
Comfortably established in the drawing-room, Mrs. Presty had just
opened her favorite newspaper. Her only companion was Linley's
black poodle, resting at her feet. On the opening of the door,
the dog rose--advanced to caress his master--and looked up in
Linley's face. If Mrs. Presty's attention had happened to be
turned that way, she might have seen, in the faithful creature's
sudden and silent retreat, a warning of her son-in-law's humor at
that moment. But she was, or assumed to be, interested in her
reading; and she deliberately overlooked Linley's appearance.
After waiting a little to attract her attention, he quietly took
the newspaper out of her hand.
"What does this mean?" Mrs. Presty asked.
"It means, ma'am, that I have something to say to you."
"Apparently, something that can't be said with common civility?
Be as rude as you please; I am well used to it."
Linley wisely took no notice of this.
"Since you have lived at Mount Morven," he proceeded, "I think
you have found me, on the whole, an easy man to get on with. At
the same time, when I do make up my mind to be master
in my own house, I _am_ master."
Mrs. Presty crossed her hands placidly on her lap, and asked:
"Master of what?"
"Master of your suspicions of Miss Westerfield. You are free, of
course, to think of her and of me as you please. What I forbid is
the expression of your thoughts--either by way of hints to my
brother, or officious communications with my wife. Don't suppose
that I am afraid of the truth. Mrs. Linley shall know more than
you think for, and shall know it to-morrow; not from you, but
Mrs. Presty shook her head compassionately. "My good sir, surely
you know me too well to think that I am to be disposed of in that
easy way? Must I remind you that your wife's mother has 'the
cunning of the devil'?"
Linley recognized his own words. "So you were listening among the
trees!" he said.
"Yes; I was listening; and I have only to regret that I didn't
hear more. Let us return to our subject. I don't trust my
daughter's interests--my much-injured daughter's interests--in
your hands. They are not clean hands, Mr. Linley. I have a duty
to do; and I shall do it to-morrow
"No, Mrs. Presty, you won't do it to-morrow."
"Who will prevent me?"
"I shall prevent you."
"In what way, if you please?"
"I don't think it necessary to answer that question. My servants
will have their instructions; and I shall see myself that my
orders are obeyed."
"Thank you. I begin to understand; I am to be turned out of the
house. Very well. We shall see what my daughter says."
"You know as well as I do, Mrs. Presty, that if your daughter is
forced to choose between us she will decide for her husband. You
have the night before you for consideration. I have no more to
Among Mrs. Presty's merits, it is only just to reckon a capacity
for making up her mind rapidly, under stress of circumstances.
Before Linley had opened the door, on his way out, he was called
"I am shocked to trouble you again," Mrs. Presty said, "but I
don't propose to interfere with my night's rest by thinking about
_you_. My position is perfectly clear to me, without wasting time
in consideration. When a man so completely forgets what is due to
the weaker sex as to threaten a woman, the woman has no
alternative but to submit. You are aware that I had arranged to
see my daughter to-morrow morning. I yield to brute force, sir.
Tell your wife that I shall not keep my appointment. Are you
"Quite satisfied," Linley said--and left the room.
His mother-in-law looked after him with a familiar expression of
opinion, and a smile of supreme contempt.
Only two words; and yet there seemed to be some hidden meaning in
them--relating perhaps to what might happen on the next
day--which gently tickled Mrs. Presty in the region assigned by
phrenologists to the sense of self-esteem.
Two of Them Sleep Badly.
Waiting for Sydney to come into the bedroom as usual and wish her
good-night, Kitty was astonished by the appearance of her
grandmother, entering on tiptoe from the corridor, with a small
paper parcel in her hand.
"Whisper!" said Mrs. Presty, pointing to the open door of
communication with Mrs. Linley's room. "This is your birthday
present. You mustn't look at it till you wake to-morrow morning."
She pushed the parcel under the pillow--and, instead of saying
good-night, took a chair and sat down.
"May I show my present," Kitty asked, "when I go to mamma in the
The present hidden under the paper wrapper was a sixpenny
picture-book. Kitty's grandmother disapproved of spending money
lavishly on birthday gifts to children. "Show it, of course; and
take the greatest care of it," Mrs. Presty answered gravely. "But
tell me one thing, my dear, wouldn't you like to see all your
presents early in the morning, like mine?"
Still smarting under the recollection of her interview with her
son-in-law, Mrs. Presty had certain ends to gain in putting this
idea into the child's head. It was her special object to raise
domestic obstacles to a private interview between the husband and
wife during the earlier hours of the day. If the gifts, usually
presented after the nursery dinner, were produced on this
occasion after breakfast, there would be a period of delay before
any confidential conversation could take place between Mr. and
Mrs. Linley. In this interval Mrs. Presty saw her opportunity of
setting Linley's authority at defiance, by rousing the first
jealous suspicion in the mind of his wife.
Innocent little Kitty became her grandmother's accomplice on the
spot. "I shall ask mamma to let me have my presents at
breakfast-time," she announced.
"And kind mamma will say Yes," Mrs. Presty chimed in. "We will
breakfast early, my precious child. Good-night."
Kitty was half asleep when her governess entered the room
afterward, much later than usual. "I thought you had forgotten
me," she said, yawning and stretching out her plump little arms.
Sydney's heart ached when she thought of the separation that was
to come with the next day; her despair forced its way to
expression in words.
"I wish I could forget you," she answered, in reckless
The child was still too drowsy to hear plainly. "What did you
say?" she asked. Sydney gently lifted her in the bed, and kissed
her again and again. Kitty's sleepy eyes opened in surprise. "How
cold your hands are!" she said; "and how often you kiss me. What
is it you have come to say to me--good-night or good-by?"
Sydney laid her down again on the pillow, gave her a last kiss,
and ran out of the room.
In the corridor she heard Linley's voice on the lower floor. He
was asking one of the servants if Miss Westerfield was in the
house or in the garden. Her first impulse was to advance to the
stairs and to answer his question. In a moment more the
remembrance of Mrs. Linley checked her. She went back to her
bed-chamber. The presents that she had received, since her
arrival at Mount Morven, were all laid out so that they could be
easily seen by any person entering the room, after she had left
the house. On the sofa lay the pretty new dress which she had
worn at the evening party. Other little gifts were arranged on
either side of it. The bracelet, resting on the pedestal of a
statue close by, kept a morsel of paper in its place--on which
she had written a few penitent words of farewell addressed to
Mrs. Linley. On the toilet-table three photographic portraits
showed themselves among the brushes and combs. She sat down, and
looked first at the likenesses of Mrs. Linley and Kitty.
Had she any right to make those dear faces her companions in the
She hesitated; her tears dropped on the photographs. "They're as
good as spoiled now," she thought; "they're no longer fit for
anybody but me." She paused, and abruptly took up the third and
last photograph--the likeness of Herbert Linley.
Was it an offense, now, even to look at his portrait? No idea of
leaving it behind her was in her mind. Her resolution vibrated
between two miseries--the misery of preserving her keep-sake
after she had parted from him forever, and the misery of
destroying it. Resigned to one more sacrifice, she took the card
in both hands to tear it up. It would have been scattered in
pieces on the floor, but for the chance which had turned the
portrait side of the card toward her instead of the back. Her
longing eyes stole a last look at him--a frenzy seized her--she
pressed her lips to the photograph in a passion of hopeless love.
"What does it matter?" she asked herself. "I'm nothing but the
ignorant object of his kindness--the poor fool who could see no
difference between gratitude and love. Where is the harm of
having him with me when I am starving in the streets, or dying in
the workhouse?" The fervid spirit in her that had never known a
mother's loving discipline, never thrilled to the sympathy of a
sister-friend, rose in revolt against the evil destiny which had
imbittered her life. Her eyes still rested on the photograph.
"Come to my heart, my only friend, and kill me!" As those wild
words escaped her, she thrust the card furiously into the bosom
of her dress--and threw herself on the floor. There was something
in the mad sel f-abandonment of that action which mocked the
innocent despair of her childhood, on the day when her mother
left her at the cruel mercy of her aunt.
That night was a night of torment in secret to another person at
Wandering, in his need of self-isolation, up and down the dreary
stone passages in the lower part of the house, Linley counted the
hours, inexorably lessening the interval between him and the
ordeal of confession to his wife. As yet, he had failed to find
the opportunity of addressing to Sydney the only words of
encouragement he could allow to pass his lips: he had asked for
her earlier in the evening, and nobody could tell him where she
was. Still in ignorance of the refuge which she might by bare
possibility hope to find in Mrs. MacEdwin's house, Sydney was
spared the torturing doubts which now beset Herbert Linley's
mind. Would the noble woman whom they had injured allow their
atonement to plead for them, and consent to keep their miserable
secret? Might they still put their trust in that generous nature
a few hours hence? Again and again those questions confronted
Linley; and again and again he shrank from attempting to answer
Kitty Keeps Her Birthday.
They were all assembled as usual at the breakfast-table.
Preferring the request suggested to her by Mrs. Presty, Kitty had
hastened the presentation of the birthday gifts, by getting into
her mother's bed in the morning, and exacting her mother's
promise before she would consent to get out again. By her own
express wish, she was left in ignorance of what the presents
would prove to be. "Hide them from me," said this young epicure
in pleasurable sensations, "and make me want to see them until I
can bear it no longer." The gifts had accordingly been collected
in an embrasure of one of the windows; and the time had now
arrived when Kitty could bear it no longer.
In the procession of the presents, Mrs. Linley led the way.
She had passed behind the screen which had thus far protected the
hidden treasures from discovery, and appeared again with a vision
of beauty in the shape of a doll. The dress of this wonderful
creature exhibited the latest audacities of French fashion. Her
head made a bow; her eyes went to sleep and woke again; she had a
voice that said two words--more precious than two thousand in the
mouth of a mere living creature. Kitty's arms opened and embraced
her gift with a scream of ecstasy. That fervent pressure found
its way to the right spring. The doll squeaked: "Mamma!"--and
creaked--and cried again--and said: "Papa!" Kitty sat down on the
floor; her legs would support her no longer. "I think I shall
faint," she said quite seriously.
In the midst of the general laughter, Sydney silently placed a
new toy (a pretty little imitation of a jeweler's casket) at
Kitty's side, and drew back before the child could look at her.
Mrs. Presty was the only person present who noticed her pale face
and the trembling of her hands as she made the effort which
preserved her composure.
The doll's necklace, bracelets, and watch and chain, riveted
Kitty's attention on the casket. Just as she thought of looking
round for her dear Syd, her father produced a new outburst of
delight by presenting a perambulator worthy of the doll. Her
uncle followed with a parasol, devoted to the preservation of the
doll's complexion when she went out for an airing. Then there
came a pause. Where was the generous grandmother's gift? Nobody
remembered it; Mrs. Presty herself discovered the inestimable
sixpenny picture-book cast away and forgotten on a distant
window-seat. "I have a great mind to keep this," she said to
Kitty, "till you are old enough to value it properly." In the
moment of her absence at the window, Linley's mother-in-law lost
the chance of seeing him whisper to Sydney. "Meet me in the
shrubbery in half an hour," he said. She stepped back from him,
startled by the proposal. When Mrs. Presty was in the middle of
the room again, Linley and the governess were no longer near each
Having by this time recovered herself, Kitty got on her legs.
"Now," the spoiled child declared, addressing the company
present, "I'm going to play."
The doll was put into the perambulator, and was wheeled about the
room, while Mrs. Linley moved the chairs out of the way, and
Randal attended with the open parasol--under orders to "pretend
that the sun was shining." Once more the sixpenny picture-book
was neglected. Mrs. Presty picked it up from the floor,
determined by this time to hold it in reserve until her
ungrateful grandchild reached years of discretion. She put it in
the bookcase between Byron's "Don Juan" and Butler's "Lives of
the Saints." In the position which she now occupied, Linley was
visible approaching Sydney again. "Your own interests are
seriously concerned," he whispered, "in something that I have to
Incapable of hearing what passed between them, Mrs. Presty could
see that a secret understanding united her son-in-law and the
governess. She looked round cautiously at Mrs. Linley.
Kitty's humor had changed; she was now eager to see the doll's
splendid clothes taken off and put on again. "Come and look at
it," she said to Sydney; "I want you to enjoy my birthday as much
as I do." Left by himself, Randal got rid of the parasol by
putting it on a table near the door. Mrs. Presty beckoned to him
to join her at the further end of the room.
"I want you to do me a favor," she began.
Glancing at Linley before she proceeded, Mrs. Presty took up a
newspaper, and affected to be consulting Randal's opinion on a
passage which had attracted her attention. "Your brother is
looking our way," she whispered: "he mustn't suspect that there
is a secret between us."
False pretenses of any kind invariably irritated Randal. "What do
you want me to do?" he asked sharply.
The reply only increased his perplexity.
"Observe Miss Westerfield and your brother. Look at them now."
"What is there to look at?" he inquired.
"Can't you see?"
"I see they are talking to each other."
"They are talking confidentially; talking so that Mrs. Linley
can't hear them. Look again."
Randal fixed his eyes on Mrs. Presty, with an expression which
showed his dislike of that lady a little too plainly. Before he
could answer what she had just said to him, his lively little
niece hit on a new idea. The sun was shining, the flowers were in
their brightest beauty--and the doll had not yet been taken into
the garden! Kitty at once led the way out; so completely
preoccupied in steering the perambulator in a straight course
that she forgot her uncle and the parasol. Only waiting to remind
her husband and Sydney that they were wasting the beautiful
summer morning indoors, Mrs. Linley followed her daughter--and
innocently placed a fatal obstacle in Mrs. Presty's way by
leaving the room. Having consulted each other by a look, Linley
and the governess went out next. Left alone with Randal, Mrs.
Presty's anger, under the complete overthrow of her
carefully-laid scheme, set restraint at defiance.
"My daughter's married life is a wreck," she burst out, pointing
theatrically to the door by which Linley and Sydney Westerfield
had retired. "And Catherine has the vile creature whom your
brother picked up in London to thank for it! Now do you
"Less than ever," Randal answered--"unless you have taken leave
of your senses."
Mrs. Presty recovered the command of her temper.
On that fine morning her daughter might remain in the garden
until the luncheon-bell rang. Linley had only to say that he
wished to speak with his wife; and the private interview which he
had so rudely insisted on as his sole privilege, would assuredly
take place. The one chance left of still defeating him on his own
ground was to force Randal to interfere by convincing him of his
brother's guilt. Moderation of language and composure of manner
offered the only hopeful prospect of reaching this end. Mrs.
Presty assumed the disguise of patient submission, and used the
irresistible influence of good humor and good sense.
"I don't complain, dear Randal, of what you have said to me," she
replied . "My indiscretion has deserved it. I ought to have
produced my proofs, and have left it to you to draw the
conclusion. Sit down, if you please. I won't detain you for more
than a few minutes."
Randal had not anticipated such moderation as this; he took the
chair that was nearest to Mrs. Presty. They were both now sitting
with their backs turned to the entrance from the library to the
"I won't trouble you with my own impressions," Mrs. Presty went
on. "I will be careful only to mention what I have seen and
heard. If you refuse to believe me, I refer you to the guilty
She had just got to the end of those introductory words when Mrs.
Linley returned, by way of the library, to fetch the forgotten
Randal insisted on making Mrs. Presty express herself plainly.
"You speak of guilty persons," he said. "Am I to understand that
one of those guilty persons is my brother?"
Mrs. Linley advanced a step and took the parasol from the table.
Hearing what Randal said, she paused, wondering at the strange
allusion to her husband. In the meanwhile, Mrs. Presty answered
the question that had been addressed to her.
"Yes," she said to Randal; "I mean your brother, and your
brother's mistress--Sydney Westerfield."
Mrs. Linley laid the parasol back on the table, and approached
She never once looked at her mother; her face, white and rigid,
was turned toward Randal. To him, and to him only, she spoke.
"What does my mother's horrible language mean?" she asked.
Mrs. Presty triumphed inwardly; chance had decided in her favor,
after all! "Don't you see," she said to her daughter, "that I am
here to answer for myself?"
Mrs. Linley still looked at Randal, and still spoke to him. "It
is impossible for me to insist on an explanation from my mother,"
she proceeded. "No matter what I may feel, I must remember that
she _is_ my mother. I ask you again--you who have been listening
to her--what does she mean?"
Mrs. Presty's sense of her own importance refused to submit to
being passed over in this way.
"However insolently you may behave, Catherine, you will not
succeed in provoking me. Your mother is bound to open your eyes
to the truth. You have a rival in your husband's affections; and
that rival is your governess. Take your own course now; I have no
more to say." With her head high in the air--looking the picture
of conscious virtue--the old lady walked out.
At the same moment Randal seized his first opportunity of
He addressed himself gently and respectfully to his
sister-in-law. She refused to hear him. The indignation which
Mrs. Presty had roused in her made no allowances, and was blind
to all sense of right.
"Don't trouble yourself to account for your silence," she said,
most unjustly. "You were listening to my mother without a word of
remonstrance when I came into the room. You are concerned in this
vile slander, too."
Randal considerately refrained from provoking her by attempting
to defend himself, while she was incapable of understanding him.
"You will be sorry when you find that you have misjudged me," he
said, and sighed, and left her.
She dropped into a chair. If there was any one distinct thought
in her at that moment, it was the thought of her husband. She was
eager to see him; she longed to say to him: "My love, I don't
believe a word of it!" He was not in the garden when she had
returned for the parasol; and Sydney was not in the garden.
Wondering what had become of her father and her governess, Kitty
had asked the nursemaid to look for them. What had happened
since? Where had they been found? After some hesitation, Mrs.
Linley sent for the nursemaid. She felt the strongest reluctance,
when the girl appeared, to approach the very inquiries which she
was interested in making.
"Have you found Mr. Linley?" she said--with an effort.
"Where did you find him?"
"In the shrubbery."
"Did your master say anything?"
"I slipped away, ma'am, before he saw me."
"Miss Westerfield was in the shrubbery, with my master. I might
have been mistaken--" The girl paused, and looked confused.
Mrs. Linley tried to tell her to go on. The words were in her
mind; but the capacity of giving expression to them failed her.
She impatiently made a sign. The sign was understood.
"I might have been mistaken," the maid repeated--"but I thought
Miss Westerfield was crying."
Having replied in those terms, she seemed to be anxious to get
away. The parasol caught her eye. "Miss Kitty wants this," she
said, "and wonders why you have not gone back to her in the
garden. May I take the parasol?"
The tone of the mistress's voice was completely changed. The
servant looked at her with vague misgivings. "Are you not well,
The servant withdrew.
Mrs. Linley's chair happened to be near one of the windows, which
commanded a view of the drive leading to the main entrance of the
house. A carriage had just arrived bringing holiday travelers to
visit that part of Mount Morven which was open to strangers. She
watched them as they got out, talking and laughing, and looking
about them. Still shrinking instinctively from the first doubt of
Herbert that had ever entered her mind, she found a refuge from
herself in watching the ordinary events of the day. One by one
the tourists disappeared under the portico of the front door. The
empty carriage was driven away next, to water the horses at the
village inn. Solitude was all she could see from the windows;
silence, horrible silence, surrounded her out of doors and in.
The thoughts from which she recoiled forced their way back into
her mind; the narrative of the nursemaid's discovery became a
burden on her memory once more. She considered the circumstances.
In spite of herself, she considered the circumstances again. Her
husband and Sydney Westerfield together in the shrubbery--and
Sydney crying. Had Mrs. Presty's abominable suspicion of them
reached their ears? or?--No! that second possibility might be
estimated at its right value by any other woman; not by Herbert
She snatched up the newspaper, and fixed her eyes on it in the
hope of fixing her mind on it next. Obstinately, desperately, she
read without knowing what she was reading. The lines of print
were beginning to mingle and grow dim, when she was startled by
the sudden opening of the door. She looked round.
Her husband entered the room.
Kitty Feels the Heartache.
Linley advanced a few steps--and stopped.
His wife, hurrying eagerly to meet him, checked herself. It might
have been distrust, or it might have been unreasoning fear--she
hesitated on the point of approaching him.
"I have something to say, Catherine, which I'm afraid will
His voice faltered, his eyes rested on her--then looked away
again. He said no more.
He had spoken a few commonplace words--and yet he had said
enough. She saw the truth in his eyes, heard the truth in his
voice. A fit of trembling seized her. Linley stepped forward, in
the fear that she might fall. She instantly controlled herself,
and signed to him to keep back. "Don't touch me!" she said. "You
come from Miss Westerfield!"
That reproach roused him.
"I own that I come from Miss Westerfield," he answered. "She
addresses a request to you through me."
"I refuse to grant it."
"Hear it first."
"Hear it--in your own interest. She asks permission to leave the
house, never to return again. While she is still innocent--"
His wife eyed him with a look of unutterable contempt. He
submitted to it, but not in silence.
"A man doesn't lie, Catherine, who makes such a confession as I
am making now. Miss Westerfield offers the one atonement in her
power, while she is still innocent of having wronged you--except
"Is that all?" Mrs. Linley asked.
"It rests with you," he replied, "to say if there is any other
sacrifice of herself which will be more acceptable to you."
"Let me understand first what the sacrifice means. Does Miss
Westerfield make any conditions?"
"She has positively forbidden me to make conditions."
"And goes out into the world, helpless and friendless?"
Even under the terrible trial that wrung her, the nobility of the
woman's nature spoke in her next words.
"Give me time to think of what you have said," she pleaded. "I
have led a happy life; I am not used to suffer as I am suffering
They were both silent. Kitty's voice was audible on the stairs
that led to the picture-gallery, disputing with the maid. Neither
her father nor her mother heard her.
"Miss Westerfield is innocent of having wronged me, except in
thought," Mrs. Linley resumed. "Do you tell me that on your word
"On my word of honor."
So far his wife was satisfied. "My governess," she said, "might
have deceived me--she has not deceived me. I owe it to her to
remember that. She shall go, but not helpless and not
Her husband forgot the restraints he had imposed on himself.
"Is there another woman in the world like you!" he exclaimed.
"Many other women," she answered, firmly. "A vulgar termagant,
feeling a sense of injury, finds relief in an outburst of
jealousy and a furious quarrel. You have always lived among
ladies. Surely you ought to know that a wife in my position, who
respects herself, restrains herself. I try to remember what I owe
to others as well as what they owe to me."
She approached the writing table, and took up a pen.
Feeling his position acutely, Linley refrained from openly
admiring her generosity. Until he had deserved to be forgiven, he
had forfeited the right to express an opinion on her conduct. She
misinterpreted his silence. As she understood it, he appreciated
an act of self-sacrifice on Miss Westerfield's side--but he had
no word of encouragement for an act of self-sacrifice on his
wife's side. She threw down the pen, with the first outbreak of
anger that had escaped her yet.
"You have spoken for the governess," she said to him. "I haven't
heard yet, sir, what you have to say for yourself. Is it you who
tempted her? You know how gratefully she feels toward you--have
you perverted her gratitude, and led her blindfold to love?
Cruel, cruel, cruel! Defend yourself if you can."
He made no reply.
"Is it not worth your while to defend yourself?" she burst out,
passionately. "Your silence is an insult!"
"My silence is a confession," he answered, sadly. "_She_ may
accept your mercy--I may not even hope for it."
Something in the tone of his voice reminded her of past days--the
days of perfect love and perfect confidence, when she had been
the one woman in the world to him. Dearly treasured remembrances
of her married life filled her heart with tenderness, and dimmed
with tears the angry light that had risen in her eyes. There was
no pride, no anger, in his wife when she spoke to him now.
"Oh, my husband, has she taken your love from me?"
"Judge for yourself, Catherine, if there is no proof of my love
for you in what I have resisted--and no remembrance of all that I
owe to you in what I have confessed."
She ventured a little nearer to him. "Can I believe you?"
"Put me to the test."
She instantly took him at his word. "When Miss Westerfield has
left us, promise not to see her again."
"And not even to write to her."
She went back to the writing-table. "My heart is easier," she
said, simply. "I can be merciful to her now."
After writing a few lines, she rose and handed the paper to him.
He looked up from it in surprise. "Addressed to Mrs. MacEdwin!"
"Addressed," she answered, "to the only person I know who feels a
true interest in Miss Westerfield. Have you not heard of it?"
"I remember," he said--and read the lines that followed:
"I recommend Miss Westerfield as a teacher of young children,
having had ample proof of her capacity, industry, and good temper
while she has been governess to my child. She leaves her
situation in my service under circumstances which testify to her
sense of duty and her sense of gratitude."
"Have I said," she asked, "more than I could honorably and truly
say--even after what has happened?"
He could only look at her; no words could have spoken for him as
his silence spoke for him at that moment. When she took back the
written paper there was pardon in her eyes already.
The last worst trial remained to be undergone; she faced it
resolutely. "Tell Miss Westerfield that I wish to see her."
On the point of leaving the room, Herbert was called back. "If
you happen to meet with my mother," his wife added, "will you ask
her to come to me?"
Mrs. Presty knew her daughter's nature; Mrs. Presty had been
waiting near at hand, in expectation of the message which she now
Tenderly and respectfully, Mrs. Linley addressed herself to her
mother. "When we last met, I thought you spoke rashly and
cruelly. I know now that there was truth--_some_ truth, let me
say--in what offended me at the time. If you felt strongly, it
was for my sake. I wish to beg your pardon; I was hasty, I was
On an occasion when she had first irritated and then surprised
him, Randal Linley had said to Mrs. Presty, "You have got a
heart, after all!" Her reply to her daughter showed that view of
her character to be the right one. "Say no more, my dear," she
answered "_I_ was hasty; _I_ was wrong."
The words had barely fallen from her lips, before Herbert
returned. He was followed by Sydney Westerfield.
The governess stopped in the middle of the room. Her head sank on
her breast; her quick convulsive breathing was the only sound
that broke the silence. Mrs. Linley advanced to the place in
which Sydney stood. There was something divine in her beauty as
she looked at the shrinking girl, and held out her hand.
Sydney fell on her knees. In silence she lifted that generous
hand to her lips. In silence, Mrs. Linley raised her--took the
writing which testified to her character from the table--and
presented it. Linley looked at his wife, looked at the governess.
He waited--and still neither the one nor the other uttered a
word. It was more than he could endure. He addressed himself to
"Try to thank Mrs. Linley," he said.
She answered faintly: "I can't speak!"
He appealed to his wife next. "Say a last kind word to her," he
She made an effort, a vain effort to obey him. A gesture of
despair answered for her as Sydney had answered: "I can't speak!"
True, nobly true, to the Christian virtue that repents, to the
Christian virtue that forgives, those three persons stood
together on the brink of separation, and forced their frail
humanity to suffer and submit.
In mercy to the woman, Linley summoned the courage to part them.
He turned to his wife first.
"I may say, Catherine, that she has your good wishes for happier
days to come?"
Mrs. Linley pressed his hand.
He approached Sydney, and gave his wife's message. It was in his
heart to add something equally kind on his own part. He could
only say what we have all said--how sincerely, how sorrowfully,
we all know--the common word, "Good-by!"--the common wish, "God
At that last moment the child ran into the room, in search of her
There was a low murmur of horror at the sight of her. That
innocent heart, they had all hoped, might have been spared the
misery of the parting scene!
She saw that Sydney had her hat and cloak on. "You're dressed to
go out," she said. Sydney turned away to hide her face. It was
too late; Kitty had seen the tears. "Oh, my darling, you're not
going away!" She looked at her father and mother. "Is she going
away?" They were afraid to answer her. With all her little
strength, she clasped her beloved friend and play-fellow round
the waist. "My own dear, you're not going to leave me!" The dumb
misery in Sydney's face struck Linley with horror. He placed
Kitty in her mother's arms. The child's piteous cry, "Oh, don't
let her go! don't let her go!" followed the governess as she
suffered her martyrdom, and went out. Linley's heart ached; he
watched her until she was lost to view. "Gone!" he murmured to
Mrs. Presty heard him, and answered him:--"She'll come back
As the year advanced, the servants at Mount Morven remarked that
the weeks seeme d to follow each other more slowly than usual. In
the higher regions of the house, the same impression was
prevalent; but the sense of dullness among the gentlefolks
submitted to circumstances in silence.
If the question had been asked in past days: Who is the brightest
and happiest member of the family? everybody would have said:
Kitty. If the question had been asked at the present time,
differences of opinion might have suggested different
answers--but the whole household would have refrained without
hesitation from mentioning the child's name.
Since Sydney Westerfield's departure Kitty had never held up her
Time quieted the child's first vehement outbreak of distress
under the loss of the companion whom she had so dearly loved.
Delicate management, gently yet resolutely applied, held the
faithful little creature in check, when she tried to discover the
cause of her governess's banishment from the house. She made no
more complaints; she asked no more embarrassing questions--but it
was miserably plain to everybody about her that she failed to
recover her spirits. She was willing to learn her lessons (but
not under another governess) when her mother was able to attend
to her: she played with her toys, and went out riding on her
pony. But the delightful gayety of other days was gone; the
shrill laughter that once rang through the house was heard no
more. Kitty had become a quiet child; and, worse still, a child
who seemed to be easily tired.
The doctor was consulted.
He was a man skilled in the sound medical practice that learns
its lessons without books--bedside practice. His opinion declared
that the child's vital power was seriously lowered. "Some cause
is at work here," he said to the mother, "which I don't
understand. Can you help me?" Mrs. Linley helped him without
hesitation. "My little daughter dearly loved her governess; and
her governess has been obliged to leave us." That was her reply.
The doctor wanted to hear no more; he at once advised that Kitty
should be taken to the seaside, and that everything which might
remind her of the absent friend--books, presents, even articles
of clothing likely to revive old associations--should be left at
home. A new life, in new air. When pen, ink, and paper were
offered to him, that was the doctor's prescription
Mrs. Linley consulted her husband on the choice of the seaside
place to which the child should be removed.
The blank which Sydney's departure left in the life of the
household was felt by the master and mistress of Mount
Morven--and felt, unhappily, without any open avowal on either
side of what was passing in their minds. In this way the
governess became a forbidden subject between them; the husband
waited for the wife to set the example of approaching it, and the
wife waited for the husband. The trial of temper produced by this
state of hesitation, and by the secret doubts which it
encouraged, led insensibly to a certain estrangement--which
Linley in particular was morbidly unwilling to acknowledge. If,
when the dinner-hour brought them together, he was silent and
dull in his wife's presence, he attributed it to anxiety on the
subject of his brother--then absent on a critical business errand
in London. If he sometimes left the house the first thing in the
morning, and only returned at night, it was because the
management of the model farm had become one of his duties, in
Randal's absence. Mrs. Linley made no attempt to dispute this
view of the altered circumstances in home-life--but she submitted
with a mind ill at ease. Secretly fearing that Linley was
suffering under Miss Westerfield's absence, she allowed herself
to hope that Kitty's father would see a necessity, in his own
case, for change of scene, and would accompany them to the
"Won't you come with us, Herbert?" she suggested, when they had
both agreed on the choice of a place.
His temper was in a state of constant irritation. Without meaning
it he answered her harmless question sharply.
"How can I go away with you, when we are losing by the farm, and
when there is nobody to check the ruinous expenses but myself?"
Mrs. Linley's thoughts naturally turned to Randal's prolonged
absence. "What can be keeping him all this time in London?" she
Linley's failing patience suffered a severe trial.
"Don't you know," he broke out, "that I have inherited my poor
mother's property in England, saddled with a lawsuit? Have you
never heard of delays and disappointments, and quibbles and false
pretenses, encountered by unfortunate wretches like me who are
obliged to go to law? God only knows when Randal will be free to
return, or what bad news he may bring with him when he does come
"You have many anxieties, Herbert; and I ought to have remembered
That gentle answer touched him. He made the best apology in his
power: he said his nerves were out of order, and asked her to
excuse him if he had spoken roughly. There was no unfriendly
feeling on either side; and yet there was something wanting in
the reconciliation. Mrs. Linley left her husband, shaken by a
conflict of feelings. At one moment she felt angry with him; at
another she felt angry with herself.
With the best intentions (as usual) Mrs. Presty made mischief,
nevertheless. Observing that her daughter was in tears, and
feeling sincerely distressed by the discovery, she was eager to
administer consolation. "Make your mind easy, my dear, if you
have any doubt about Herbert's movements when he is away from
home. I followed him myself the day before yesterday when he went
out. A long walk for an old woman--but I can assure you he that
he does really go to the farm."
Implicitly trusting her husband--and rightly trusting
him--Linley's wife replied by a look which Mrs. Presty received
in silent indignation. She summoned her dignity and marched out
of the room.
Five minutes afterward, Mrs. Linley received an intimation that
her mother was seriously offended, in the form of a little note:
"I find that my maternal interest in your welfare, and my devoted
efforts to serve you, are only rewarded with furious looks. The
less we see of each other the better. Permit me to thank you for
your invitation, and to decline accompanying you when you leave
Mount Morven tomorrow." Mrs. Linley answered the note in person.
The next day Kitty's grandmother--ripe for more mischief--altered
her mind, and thoroughly enjoyed her journey to the seaside.
During the first week there was an improvement in the child's
health, which justified the doctor's hopeful anticipations. Mrs.
Linley wrote cheerfully to her husband; and the better nature of
Mrs. Linley's mother seemed, by some inscrutable process, to
thrive morally under the encouraging influences of the sea air.
It may be a bold thing to say, but it is surely true that our
virtues depend greatly on the state of our health.
During the second week, the reports sent to Mount Morven were
less encouraging. The improvement in Kitty was maintained; but it
made no further progress.
The lapse of the third week brought with it depressing results.
There could be no doubt now that the child was losing ground.
Bitterly disappointed, Mrs. Linley wrote to her medical adviser,
describing the symptoms, and asking for instructions. The doctor
wrote back: "Find out where your supply of drinking water comes
from. If from a well, let me know how it is situated. Answer by
telegraph." The reply arrived: "A well near the parish church."'
The doctor's advice ran back along the wires: "Come home
They returned the same day--and they returned too late.
Kitty's first night at home was wakeful and restless; her little
hands felt feverish, and she was tormented by perpetual thirst.
The good doctor still spoke hopefully; attributing the symptoms
to fatigue after the journey. But, as the days followed each
other, his medical visits were paid at shorter intervals. The
mother noticed that his pleasant face became grave and anxious,
and implored him to tell her the truth. The truth was told in two
dreadful words: "Typhoid Fever."
A day or two later, the doctor spoke privately with Mr. Linley.
The child' s debilitated condition--that lowered state of the
vital power which he had observed when Kitty's case was first
submitted to him--placed a terrible obstacle in the way of
successful resistance to the advance of the disease. "Say nothing
to Mrs. Linley just yet. There is no absolute danger so far,
unless delirium sets in." "Do you think it likely?" Linley asked.
The doctor shook his head, and said "God knows."
On the next evening but one, the fatal symptom showed itself.
There was nothing violent in the delirium. Unconscious of past
events in the family life, the poor child supposed that her
governess was living in the house as usual. She piteously
wondered why Sydney remained downstairs in the schoolroom. "Oh,
don't keep her away from me! I want Syd! I want Syd!" That was
her one cry. When exhaustion silenced her, they hoped that the
sad delusion was at an end. No! As the slow fire of the fever
flamed up again, the same words were on the child's lips, the
same fond hope was in her sinking heart.
The doctor led Mrs. Linley out of the room. "Is this the
governess?" he asked.
"Is she within easy reach?"
"She is employed in the family of a friend of ours, living five
miles away from us."
"Send for her instantly!"
Mrs. Linley looked at him with a wildly-mingled expression of
hope and fear. She was not thinking of herself--she was not even
thinking, for that one moment, of the child. What would her
husband say, if she (who had extorted his promise never to see
the governess again) brought Sydney Westerfield back to the
The doctor spoke to her more strongly still.
"I don't presume to inquire into your private reasons for
hesitating to follow my advice," he said; "but I am bound to tell
you the truth. My poor little patient is in serious danger--every
hour of delay is an hour gained by death. Bring that lady to the
bedside as fast as your carriage can fetch her, and let us see
the result. If Kitty recognizes her governess--there, I tell you
plainly, is the one chance of saving the child's life."
Mrs. Linley's resolution flashed on him in her weary eyes--the
eyes which, by day and night alike, had known so little rest. She
rang for her maid. "Tell your master I want to speak to him."
The woman answered: "My master has gone out."
The doctor watched the mother's face. No sign of hesitation
appeared in it--the one thought in her mind now was the thought
of the child. She called the maid back.
"Order the carriage."
"At what time do you want it, ma'am?"
Mrs. Linley's first impulse in ordering the carriage was to use
it herself. One look at the child reminded her that her freedom
of action began and ended at the bedside. More than an hour must
elapse before Sydney Westerfield could be brought back to Mount
Morven; the bare thought of what might happen in that interval,
if she was absent, filled the mother with horror. She wrote to
Mrs. MacEdwin, and sent her maid with the letter.
Of the result of this proceeding it was not possible to entertain
Sydney's love for Kitty would hesitate at no sacrifice; and Mrs.
MacEdwin's conduct had already answered for her. She had received
the governess with the utmost kindness, and she had generously
and delicately refrained from asking any questions. But one
person at Mount Morven thought it necessary to investigate the
motives under which she had acted. Mrs. Presty's inquiring mind
arrived at discoveries; and Mrs. Presty's sense of duty
communicated them to her daughter.
"There can be no sort of doubt, Catherine, that our good friend
and neighbor has heard, probably from the servants, of what has
happened; and (having her husband to consider--men are so weak!)
has drawn her own conclusions. If she trusts our fascinating
governess, it's because she knows that Miss Westerfield's
affections are left behind her in this house. Does my explanation
Mrs. Linley said: "Never let me hear it again!"
And Mrs. Presty answered: "How very ungrateful!"
The dreary interval of expectation, after the departure of the
carriage, was brightened by a domestic event.
Thinking it possible that Mrs. Presty might know why her husband
had left the house, Mrs. Linley sent to ask for information. The
message in reply informed her that Linley had received a telegram
announcing Randal's return from London. He had gone to the
railway station to meet his brother.
Before she went downstairs to welcome Randal, Mrs. Linley paused
to consider her situation. The one alternative before her was to
acknowledge at the first opportunity that she had assumed the
serious responsibility of sending for Sydney Westerfield. For the
first time in her life, Catherine Linley found herself planning
beforehand what she would say to her husband.
A second message interrupted her, announcing that the two
brothers had just arrived. She joined them in the drawing-room.
Linley was sitting in a corner by himself. The dreadful discovery
that the child's life (by the doctor's confession) was in danger
had completely overwhelmed him: he had never even lifted his head
when his wife opened the door. Randal and Mrs. Presty were
talking together. The old lady's insatiable curiosity was eager
for news from London: she wanted to know how Randal had amused
himself when he was not attending to business.
He was grieving for Kitty; and he was looking sadly at his
brother. "I don't remember," he answered, absently. Other women
might have discovered that they had chosen their time badly. Mrs.
Presty, with the best possible intentions, remonstrated.
"Really, Randal, you must rouse yourself. Surely you can tell us
something. Did you meet with any agreeable people, while you were
"I met one person who interested me," he said, with weary
Mrs. Presty smiled. "A woman, of course!"
"A man," Randal answered; "a guest like myself at a club dinner."
"Who is he?"
"In the army?"
"No: formerly in the navy."
"And you and he had a long talk together?"
RandalŐs tones began to betray irritation. "No," he said "the
Captain went away early."
Mrs. Presty's vigorous intellect discovered an improbability
here. "Then how came you to feel interested in him?" she
Even Randal's patience gave way. "I can't account for it," he
said sharply. "I only know I took a liking to Captain Bennydeck."
He left Mrs. Presty and sat down by his brother. "You know I feel
for you," he said, taking Linley's hand. "Try to hope."
The bitterness of the father's despair broke out in his answer.
"I can bear other troubles, Randal, as well as most men. This
affliction revolts me. There's something so horribly unnatural in
the child being threatened by death, while the parents (who
should die first) are alive and well--" He checked himself. "I
had better say no more, I shall only shock you."
The misery in his face wrung the faithful heart of his wife. She
forgot the conciliatory expressions which she had prepared
herself to use. "Hope, my dear, as Randal tells you," she said,
"because there _is_ hope."
His face flushed, his dim eyes brightened. "Has the doctor said
it?" he asked.
"Why haven't I been told of it before?"
"When I sent for you, I heard that you had gone out."
The explanation passed by him unnoticed--perhaps even unheard.
"Tell me what the doctor said," he insisted; "I want it exactly,
word for word."
She obeyed him to the letter.
The sinister change in his face, as the narrative proceeded was
observed by both the other persons present, as well as by his
wife. She waited for a kind word of encouragement. He only said,
coldly: "What have you done?"
Speaking coldly on her side, she answered: "I have sent the
carriage to fetch Miss Westerfield."
There was a pause. Mrs. Presty whispered to Randal: "I knew she
would come back again! The Evil Genius of the family--that's what
I call Miss Westerfield. The name exactly fits her!"
The idea in Randal's mind was that the name exactly fitted Mrs.
Presty. He made no reply; his eyes rested in sympathy on his
sister-in-law. She saw, and felt, his kindness at a time when
kindness was doubly precious. Her ton es trembled a little as she
spoke to her silent husband.
"Don't you approve of what I have done, Herbert?"
His nerves were shattered by grief and suspense; but he made an
effort this time to speak gently. "How can I say that," he
replied, "if the poor child's life depends on Miss Westerfield? I
ask one favor--give me time to leave the house before she comes
Mrs. Linley looked at him in amazement.
Her mother touched her arm; Randal tried by a sign to warn her to
be careful. Their calmer minds had seen what the wife's agitation
had prevented her from discovering. In Linley's position, the
return of the governess was a trial to his self-control which he
had every reason to dread: his look, his voice, his manner
proclaimed it to persons capable of quietly observing him. He had
struggled against his guilty passion--at what sacrifice of his
own feelings no one knew but himself--and here was the
temptation, at the very time when he was honorably resisting it,
brought back to him by his wife! Her motive did unquestionably
excuse, perhaps even sanction, what she had done; but this was an
estimate of her conduct which commended itself to others. From
his point of view--motive or no motive--he saw the old struggle
against himself in danger of being renewed; he felt the ground
that he had gained slipping from under him already.
In spite of the well-meant efforts made by her relatives to
prevent it, Mrs. Linley committed the very error which it was the
most important that she should avoid. She justified herself,
instead of leaving it to events to justify her. "Miss Westerfield
comes here," she argued, "on an errand that is beyond
reproach--an errand of mercy. Why should you leave the house?"
"In justice to you," Linley answered.
Mrs. Presty could restrain herself no longer. "Drop it
Catherine!" she said in a whisper.
Catherine refused to drop it; Linley's short and sharp reply had
irritated her. "After my experience," she persisted, "have I no
reason to trust you?"
"It is part of your experience," he reminded her, "that I
promised not to see Miss Westerfield again."
"Own it at once!" she broke out, provoked beyond endurance;
"though I may be willing to trust you--you are afraid to trust
Unlucky Mrs. Presty interfered again. "Don't listen to her,
Herbert. Keep out of harm's way, and you keep right."
She patted him on the shoulder, as if she had been giving good
advice to a boy. He expressed his sense of his mother-in-law's
friendly offices in language which astonished her.
"Hold your tongue!"
"Do you hear that?" Mrs. Presty asked, appealing indignantly to
Linley took his hat. "At what time do you expect Miss Westerfield
to arrive?" he said to his wife.
She looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. "Before the half-hour
strikes. Don't be alarmed," she added, with an air of ironical
sympathy; "you will have time to make your escape."
He advanced to the door, and looked at her.
"One thing I beg you will remember," he said. "Every half-hour
while I am away (I am going to the farm) you are to send and let
me know how Kitty is--and especially if Miss Westerfield
justifies the experiment which the doctor has advised us to try."
Having given those instructions he went out.
The sofa was near Mrs. Linley. She sank on it, overpowered by the
utter destruction of the hopes that she had founded on the
separation of Herbert and the governess. Sydney Westerfield was
still in possession of her husband's heart!
Her mother was surely the right person to say a word of comfort
to her. Randal made the suggestion--with the worst possible
result. Mrs. Presty had not forgotten that she had been told--at
her age, in her position as the widow of a Cabinet Minister--to
hold her tongue. "Your brother has insulted me," she said to
Randal. He was weak enough to attempt to make an explanation. "I
was speaking of my brother's wife," he said. "Your brother's wife
has allowed me to be insulted." Having received that reply,
Randal could only wonder. This woman went to church every Sunday,
and kept a New Testament, bound in excellent taste, on her
toilet-table! The occasion suggested reflection on the system
which produces average Christians at the present time. Nothing
more was said by Mrs. Presty; Mrs. Linley remained absorbed in
her own bitter thoughts. In silence they waited for the return of
the carriage, and the appearance of the governess.
Pale, worn, haggard with anxiety, Sydney Westerfield entered the
room, and looked once more on the faces which she had resigned
herself never to see again. She appeared to be hardly conscious
of the kind reception which did its best to set her at her ease.
"Am I in time?" were the first words that escaped her on entering
the room. Reassured by the answer, she turned back to the door,
eager to hurry upstairs to Kitty's bedside.
Mrs. Linley's gentle hand detained her.
The doctor had left certain instructions, warning the mother to
guard against any accident that might remind Kitty of the day on
which Sydney had left her. At the time of that bitter parting,
the child had seen her governess in the same walking-dress which
she wore now. Mrs. Linley removed the hat and cloak, and laid
them on a chair.
"There is one other precaution which we must observe," she said;
"I must ask you to wait in my room until I find that you may show
yourself safely. Now come with me."
Mrs. Presty followed them, and begged earnestly for leave to wait
the result of the momentous experiment, at the door of Kitty's
bedroom. Her self-asserting manner had vanished; she was quiet,
she was even humble. While the last chance for the child's life
was fast becoming a matter of minutes only, the grandmother's
better nature showed itself on the surface. Randal opened the
door for them as the three went out together. He was in that
state of maddening anxiety about his poor little niece in which
men of his imaginative temperament become morbid, and say
strangely inappropriate things. In the same breath with which he
implored his sister-in-law to let him hear what had happened,
without an instant of delay, he startled Mrs. Presty by one of
his familiar remarks on the inconsistencies in her character.
"You disagreeable old woman," he whispered, as she passed him,
"you have got a heart, after all."
Left alone, he was never for one moment in repose, while the slow
minutes followed each other in the silent house.
He walked about the room, he listened at the door, he arranged
and disarranged the furniture. When the nursemaid descended from
the upper regions with her mistress's message for him, he ran out
to meet her; saw the good news in her smiling face; and, for the
first and last time in his life kissed one of his brother's
female servants. Susan--a well-bred young person, thoroughly
capable in ordinary cases of saying "For shame, sir!" and looking
as if she expected to feel an arm round her waist next--trembled
with terror under that astounding salute. Her master's brother, a
pattern of propriety up to that time, a man declared by her to be
incapable of kissing a woman unless she had a right to insist on
it in the licensed character of his wife, had evidently taken
leave of his senses. Would he bite her next? No: he only looked
confused, and said (how very extraordinary!) that he would never
do it again. Susan gave her message gravely. Here was an
unintelligible man; she felt the necessity of being careful in
her choice of words.
"Miss Kitty stared at Miss Westerfield--only for a moment,
sir--as if she didn't quite understand, and then knew her again
directly. The doctor had just called. He drew up the blind to let
the light in, and he looked, and he says: 'Only be careful'--"
Tender-hearted Susan broke down, and began to cry. "I can't help
it, sir; we are all so fond of Miss Kitty, and we are so happy.
'Only be careful' (those were the exact words, if you please),
'and I answer for her life.'--Oh, dear! what have I said to make
him run away from me?"
Randal had left her abruptly, and had shut himself into the
drawing-room. Susan's experience of men had not yet informed her
that a true Engli shman is ashamed to be seen (especially by his
inferiors) with the tears in his eyes.
He had barely succeeded in composing himself, when another
servant appeared--this time a man--with something to say to him.
"I don't know whether I have done right, sir," Malcolm began.
"There's a stranger downstairs among the tourists who are looking
at the rooms and the pictures. He said he knew you. And he asked
if you were not related to the gentleman who allowed travelers to
see his interesting old house."
"Well, sir, I said Yes. And then he wanted to know if you
happened to be here at the present time."
Randal cut the man's story short. "And you said Yes again, and he
gave you his card. Let me look at it."
Malcolm produced the card, and instantly received instructions to
show the gentleman up. The name recalled the dinner at the London
The fair complexion of the Captain's youthful days had been
darkened by exposure to hard weather and extreme climates. His
smooth face of twenty years since was scored by the telltale
marks of care; his dark beard was beginning to present variety of
color by means of streaks of gray; and his hair was in course of
undisguised retreat from his strong broad forehead. Not rising
above the middle height, the Captain's spare figure was well
preserved. It revealed power and activity, severely tested
perhaps at some former time, but capable even yet of endurance
under trial. Although he looked older than his age, he was still,
personally speaking, an attractive man. In repose, his eyes were
by habit sad and a little weary in their expression. They only
caught a brighter light when he smiled. At such times, helped by
this change and by his simple, earnest manner, they recommended
him to his fellow-creatures before he opened his lips. Men and
women taking shelter with him, for instance, from the rain, found
the temptation to talk with Captain Bennydeck irresistible; and,
when the weather cleared, they mostly carried away with them the
same favorable impression: "One would like to meet with that
Randal's first words of welcome relieved the Captain of certain
modest doubts of his reception, which appeared to trouble him
when he entered the room. "I am glad to find you remember me as
kindly as I remember you." Those were his first words when he and
Randal shook hands.
"You might have felt sure of that," Randal said.
The Captain's modesty still doubted.
"You see, the circumstances were a little against me. We met at a
dull dinner, among wearisome worldly men, full of boastful talk
about themselves. It was all 'I did this,' and 'I said that'--and
the gentlemen who were present had always been right; and the
gentlemen who were absent had always been wrong. And, oh, dear.
when they came to politics, how they bragged about what they
would have done if they had only been at the head of the
Government; and how cruelly hard to please they were in the
matter of wine! Do you remember recommending me to spend my next
holiday in Scotland?"
"Perfectly. My advice was selfish--it really meant that I wanted
to see you again."
"And you have your wish, at your brother's house! The guide book
did it. First, I saw your family name. Then, I read on and
discovered that there were pictures at Mount Morven and that
strangers were allowed to see them. I like pictures. And here I
This allusion to the house naturally reminded Randal of the
master. "I wish I could introduce you to my brother and his
wife," he said. "Unhappily their only child is ill--"
Captain Bennydeck started to his feet. "I am ashamed of having
intruded on you," he began. His new friend pressed him back into
his chair without ceremony. "On the contrary, you have arrived at
the best of all possible times--the time when our suspense is at
an end. The doctor has just told us that his poor little patient
is out of danger. You may imagine how happy we are."
"And how grateful to God!" The Captain said those words in tones
that trembled--speaking to himself.
Randal was conscious of feeling a momentary embarrassment. The
character of his visitor had presented itself in a new light.
Captain Bennydeck looked at him--understood him--and returned to
the subject of his travels.
"Do you remember your holiday-time when you were a boy, and when
you had to go back to school?" he asked with a smile. "My mind is
in much the same state at leaving Scotland, and going back to my
work in London. I hardly know which I admire most--your beautiful
country or the people who inhabit it. I have had some pleasant
talk with your poorer neighbors; the one improvement I could wish
for among them is a keener sense of their religious duties."
This was an objection new in Randal's experience of travelers in
"Our Highlanders have noble qualities," he said. "If you knew
them as well as I do, you would find a true sense of religion
among them; not presenting itself, however, to strangers as
strongly--I had almost said as aggressively--as the devotional
feeling of the Lowland Scotch. Different races, different
"And all," the Captain added, gravely and gently, "with souls to
be saved. If I sent to these poor people some copies of the New
Testament, translated into their own language, would my gift be
Strongly interested by this time, in studying Captain Bennydeck's
character on the side of it which was new to him, Randal owned
that he observed with surprise the interest which his friend felt
in perfect strangers. The Captain seemed to wonder why this
impression should have been produced by what he had just said.
"I only try," he answered, "to do what good I can, wherever I
"Your life must be a happy one," Randal said.
Captain Bennydeck's head drooped. The shadows that attend on the
gloom of melancholy remembrance showed their darkening presence
on his face. Briefly, almost sternly, he set Randal right.
"Forgive me, the younger man pleaded, "if I have spoken
"You have mistaken me," the Captain explained; "and it is my
fault. My life is an atonement for the sins of my youth. I have
reached my fortieth year--and that one purpose is before me for
the rest of my days. Sufferings and dangers which but few men
undergo awakened my conscience. My last exercise of the duties of
my profession associated me with an expedition to the Polar Seas.
Our ship was crushed in the ice. Our march to the nearest regions
inhabited by humanity was a hopeless struggle of starving men,
rotten with scurvy, against the merciless forces of Nature. One
by one my comrades dropped and died. Out of twenty men there were
three left with a last flicker in them of the vital flame when
the party of rescue found us. One of the three died on the
homeward journey. One lived to reach his native place, and to
sink to rest with his wife and children round his bed. The last
man left, out of that band of martyrs to a hopeless cause, lives
to be worthier of God's mercy--and tries to make God's creatures
better and happier in this world, and worthier of the world that
is to come."
Randal's generous nature felt the appeal that had been made to
it. "Will you let me take your hand, Captain?" he said.
They clasped hands in silence.
Captain Bennydeck was the first to speak again. That modest
distrust of himself, which a man essentially noble and brave is
generally the readiest of men to feel, seemed to be troubling him
once more--just as it had troubled him when he first found
himself in Randal's presence.
"I hope you won't think me vain," he resumed; "I seldom say so
much about myself as I have said to you."
"I only wish you would say more," Randal rejoined. "Can't you put
off your return to London for a day or two?"
The thing was not to be done. Duties which it was impossible to
trifle with called the Captain back. "It's quite likely," he
said, alluding pleasantly to the impression which he had produced
in speaking of the Highlanders, "that I shall find more strangers
to interest me in the great city."
"Are they always strangers?" Randal asked. "Have you never met by
accident with persons whom you may once have known?"
"Never--yet. But it may happen on my return."
"In what way?"
"In this way. I have been in search of a poor girl who has lost
both her parents: she has, I fear, been left helpless at the
mercy of the world. Her father was an old friend of mine--once an
officer in the Navy like myself. The agent whom I formerly
employed (without success) to trace her, writes me word that he
has reason to believe she has obtained a situation as
pupil-teacher at a school in the suburbs of London; and I am
going back (among other things) to try if I can follow the clew
myself. Good-by, my friend. I am heartily sorry to go!"
"Life is made up of partings," Randal answered.
"And of meetings," the Captain wisely reminded him. "When you are
in London, you will always hear of me at the club."
Heartily reciprocating his good wishes, Randal attended Captain
Bennydeck to the door. On the way back to the drawing-room, he
found his mind dwelling, rather to his surprise, on the Captain's
contemplated search for the lost girl.
Was the good man likely to find her? It seemed useless enough to
inquire--and yet Randal asked himself the question. Her father
had been described as an officer in the Navy. Well, and what did
that matter? Inclined to laugh at his own idle curiosity, he was
suddenly struck by a new idea. What had his brother told him of
Miss Westerfield? _She_ was the daughter of an officer in the
Navy; _she_ had been pupil-teacher at a school. Was it really
possible that Sydney Westerfield could be the person whom Captain
Bennydeck was attempting to trace? Randal threw up the window
which overlooked the drive in front of the house. Too late! The
carriage which had brought the Captain to Mount Morven was no
longer in sight.
The one other course that he could take was to mention Captain
Bennydeck's name to Sydney, and be guided by the result.
As he approached the bell, determining to send a message
upstairs, he heard the door opened behind him. Mrs. Presty had
entered the drawing-room, with a purpose (as it seemed) in which
Randal was concerned.
Strong as the impression was which Captain Bennydeck had produced
on Randal, Mrs. Presty's first words dismissed it from his mind.
She asked him if he had any message for his brother.
Randal instantly looked at the clock. "Has Catherine not sent to
the farm, yet?" he asked in astonishment.
Mrs. Presty's mind seemed to be absorbed in her daughter. "Ah,
poor Catherine! Worn out with anxiety and watching at Kitty's
bedside. Night after night without any sleep; night after night
tortured by suspense. As usual, she can depend on her old mother
for sympathy. I have taken all her household duties on myself,
till she is in better health."
Randal tried again. "Mrs. Presty, am I to understand (after the
plain direction Herbert gave) that no messenger has been sent to
Mrs. Presty held her venerable head higher than ever, when Randal
pronounced his brother's name. "I see no necessity for being in a
hurry," she answered stiffly, "after the brutal manner in which
Herbert has behaved to me. Put yourself in my place--and imagine
what you would feel if you were told to hold your tongue."
Randal wasted no more time on ears that were deaf to
remonstrance. Feeling the serious necessity of interfering to
some good purpose, he asked where he might find his
"I have taken Catherine into the garden," Mrs. Presty announced.
"The doctor himself suggested--no, I may say, ordered it. He is
afraid that _she_ may fall ill next, poor soul, if she doesn't
get air and exercise."
In Mrs. Linley's own interests, Randal resolved on advising her
to write to her husband by the messenger; explaining that she was
not to blame for the inexcusable delay which had already taken
place. Without a word more to Mrs. Presty, he hastened out of the
room. That inveterately distrustful woman called him back. She
desired to know where he was going, and why he was in a hurry.
"I am going to the garden," Randal answered.
"To speak to Catherine?"
"Needless trouble, my dear Randal. She will be back in a quarter
of an hour, and she will pass through this room on her way
Another quarter of an hour was a matter of no importance to Mrs.
Presty! Randal took his own way--the way into the garden.
His silence and his determination to join his sister-in-law
roused Mrs. Presty's ready suspicions; she concluded that he was
bent on making mischief between her daughter and herself. The one
thing to do in this case was to follow him instantly. The active
old lady trotted out of the room, strongly inclined to think that
the Evil Genius of the family might be Randal Linley after all!
They had both taken the shortest way to the garden; that is to
say, the way through the library, which communicated at its
furthest end with the corridor and the vaulted flight of stairs
leading directly out of the house. Of the two doors in the
drawing-room, one, on the left, led to the grand staircase and
the hall; the other, on the right, opened on the backstairs, and
on a side entrance to the house, used by the family when they
were pressed for time, as well as by the servants.
The drawing-room had not been empty more than a few minutes when
the door on the right was suddenly opened. Herbert Linley,
entered with hurried, uncertain steps. He took the chair that was
nearest to him, and dropped into it like a man overpowered by
agitation or fatigue.
He had ridden from the farm at headlong speed, terrified by the
unexplained delay in the arrival of the messenger from home.
Unable any longer to suffer the torment of unrelieved suspense,
he had returned to make inquiry at the house. As he interpreted
the otherwise inexplicable neglect of his instructions, the last
chance of saving the child's life had failed, and his wife had
been afraid to tell him the dreadful truth.
After an interval, he rose and went into the library.
It was empty, like the drawing-room. The bell was close by him.
He lifted his hand to ring it--and drew back. As brave a man as
ever lived, he knew what fear was now. The father's courage
failed him before the prospect of summoning a servant, and
hearing, for all he knew to the contrary, that his child was
How long he stood there, alone and irresolute, he never
remembered when he thought of it in after-days. All he knew was
that there came a time when a sound in the drawing-room attracted
his attention. It was nothing more important than the opening of
The sound came from that side of the room which was nearest to
the grand staircase--and therefore nearest also to the hall in
one direction, and to the bed-chambers in the other.
Some person had entered the room. Whether it was one of the
family or one of the servants, he would hear in either case what
had happened in his absence. He parted the curtains over the
library entrance, and looked through.
The person was a woman. She stood with her back turned toward the
library, lifting a cloak off a chair. As she shook the cloak out
before putting it on, she changed her position. He saw the face,
never to be forgotten by him to the last day of his life. He saw
Linley had one instant left, in which he might have drawn, back
into the library in time to escape Sydney's notice. He was
incapable of the effort of will. Grief and suspense had deprived
him of that elastic readiness of mind which springs at once from
thought to action. For a moment he hesitated. In that moment she
looked up and saw him.
With a faint cry of alarm she let the cloak drop from her hands.
As helpless as he was, as silent as he was, she stood rooted to
He tried to control himself. Hardly knowing what he said, he made
commonplace excuses, as if he had been a stranger: "I am sorry to
have startled you; I had no idea of finding you in this room."
Sydney pointed to her cloak on the floor, and to her hat on a
chair near it. Understanding the necessity which had brought her
into the room, he did his best to reconcile her to the meeting
that had followed.
"It's a relief to me
to have seen you," he said, "before you leave us."
A relief to him to see her! Why? How? What did that strange word
mean, addressed to _her?_ She roused herself, and put the
question to him.
"It's surely better for me," he answered, "to hear the miserable
news from you than from a servant."
"What miserable news?" she asked, still as perplexed as ever.
He could preserve his self-control no longer; the misery in him
forced its way outward at last. The convulsive struggles for
breath which burst from a man in tears shook him from head to
"My poor little darling!" he gasped. "My only child!"
All that was embarrassing in her position passed from Sydney's
mind in an instant. She stepped close up to him; she laid her
hand gently and fearlessly on his arm. "Oh, Mr. Linley, what
dreadful mistake is this?"
His dim eyes rested on her with a piteous expression of doubt. He
heard her--and he was afraid to believe her. She was too deeply
distressed, too full of the truest pity for him, to wait and
think before she spoke. "Yes! yes!" she cried, under the impulse
of the moment. "The dear child knew me again, the moment I spoke
to her. Kitty's recovery is only a matter of time."
He staggered back--with a livid change in his face startling to
see. The mischief done by Mrs. Presty's sense of injury had led
already to serious results. If the thought in Linley, at that
moment, had shaped itself into words, he would have said, "And
Catherine never told me of it!" How bitterly he thought of the
woman who had left him in suspense--how gratefully he felt toward
the woman who had lightened his heart of the heaviest burden ever
laid on it!
Innocent of all suspicion of the feeling that she had aroused,
Sydney blamed her own want of discretion as the one cause of the
change that she perceived in him. "How thoughtless, how cruel of
me," she said, "not to have been more careful in telling you the
good news! Pray forgive me."
"You thoughtless! you cruel!" At the bare idea of her speaking in
that way of herself, his sense of what he owed to her defied all
restraint. He seized her hands and covered them with grateful
kisses. "Dear Sydney! dear, good Sydney!"
She drew back from him; not abruptly, not as if she felt
offended. Her fine perception penetrated the meaning of those
harmless kisses--the uncontrollable outburst of a sense of relief
beyond the reach of expression in words. But she changed the
subject. Mrs. Linley (she told him) had kindly ordered fresh
horses to be put to the carriage, so that she might go back to
her duties if the doctor sanctioned it.
She turned away to take up her cloak. Linley stopped her. "You
can't leave Kitty," he said, positively.
A faint smile brightened her face for a moment. "Kitty has fallen
asleep--such a sweet, peaceful sleep! I don't think I should have
left her but for that. The maid is watching at the bedside, and
Mrs. Linley is only away for a little while."
"Wait a few minutes," he pleaded; "it's so long since we have
seen each other."
The tone in which he spoke warned her to persist in leaving him
while her resolution remained firm. "I had arranged with Mrs.
MacEdwin," she began, "if all went well--"
"Speak of yourself," he interposed. "Tell me if you are happy."
She let this pass without a reply. "The doctor sees no harm," she
went on, "in my being away for a few hours. Mrs. MacEdwin has
offered to send me here in the evening, so that I can sleep in
"You don't look well, Sydney. You are pale and worn--you are not
She began to tremble. For the second time, she turned away to
take up her cloak. For the second time, he stopped her.
"Not just yet," he said. "You don't know how it distresses me to
see you so sadly changed. I remember the time when you were the
happiest creature living. Do you remember it, too?"
"Don't ask me!" was all she could say.
He sighed as he looked at her. "It's dreadful to think of your
young life, that ought to be so bright, wasting and withering
among strangers." He said those words with increasing agitation;
his eyes rested on her eagerly with a wild look in them. She made
a resolute effort to speak to him coldly--she called him "Mr.
Linley"--she bade him good-by.
It was useless. He stood between her and the door; he disregarded
what she had said as if he had not heard it. "Hardly a day
passes," he owned to her, "that I don't think of you."
"You shouldn't tell me that!"
"How can I see you again--and not tell you?"
She burst out with a last entreaty. "For God's sake, let us say
His manner became undisguisedly tender; his language changed in
the one way of all others that was most perilous to her--he
appealed to her pity: "Oh, Sydney, it's so hard to part with
"Spare me!" she cried, passionately. "You don't know how I
"My sweet angel, I do know it--by what I suffer myself! Do you
ever feel for me as I feel for you?"
"Oh, Herbert! Herbert!"
"Have you ever thought of me since we parted?"
She had striven against herself, and against him, till her last
effort at resistance was exhausted. In reckless despair she let
the truth escape her at last.
"When do I ever think of anything else! I am a wretch unworthy of
all the kindness that has been shown to me. I don't deserve your
interest; I don't even deserve your pity. Send me away--be hard
on me--be brutal to me. Have some mercy on a miserable creature
whose life is one long hopeless effort to forget you!" Her voice,
her look, maddened him. He drew her to his bosom; he held her in
his arms; she struggled vainly to get away from him. "Oh," she
murmured, "how cruel you are! Remember, my dear one, remember how
young I am, how weak I am. Oh, Herbert, I'm dying--dying--dying!"
Her voice grew fainter and fainter; her head sank on his breast.
He lifted her face to him with whispered words of love. He kissed
her again and again.
The curtains over the library entrance moved noiselessly when
they were parted. The footsteps of Catherine Linley were
inaudible as she passed through, and entered the room.
She stood still for a moment in silent horror.