Part 4 out of 8
Not a sound warned them when she advanced. After hesitating for a
moment, she raised her hand toward her husband, as if to tell him
of her presence by a touch; drew it back, suddenly recoiling from
her own first intention; and touched Sydney instead.
Then, and then only, they knew what had happened.
Face to face, those three persons--with every tie that had once
united them snapped asunder in an instant--looked at each other.
The man owed a duty to the lost creature whose weakness had
appealed to his mercy in vain. The man broke the silence.
With immeasurable contempt looking brightly out of her steady
eyes, his wife stopped him.
"Not a word!"
He refused to be silent. "It is I," he said; "I only who am to
"Spare yourself the trouble of making excuses," she answered;
"they are needless. Herbert Linley, the woman who was once your
wife despises you."
Her eyes turned from him and rested on Sydney Westerfield.
"I have a last word to say to _you_. Look at me, if you can."
Sydney lifted her head. She looked vacantly at the outraged woman
before her, as if she saw a woman in a dream.
With the same terrible self-possession which she had preserved
from the first--standing between her husband and her
governess--Mrs. Linley spoke.
"Miss Westerfield, you have saved my child's life." She
paused--her eyes still resting on the girl's face. Deadly pale,
she pointed to her husband, and said to Sydney: "Take him!"
She passed out of the room--and left them together.
The autumn holiday-time had come to an end; and the tourists had
left Scotland to the Scots.
In the dull season, a solitary traveler from the North arrived at
the nearest post-town to Mount Morven. A sketchbook and a
color-box formed part of his luggage, and declared him to be an
artist. Falling into talk over his dinner with the waiter at the
hotel, he made inquiries about a picturesque house in the
neighborhood, which showed that Mount Morven was well known to
him by reputation. When he proposed paying a visit
to the old border fortress the next day, the waiter said: "You
can't see the house." When the traveler asked Why, this man of
few words merely added: "Shut up."
The landlord made his appearance with a bottle of wine and proved
to be a more communicative person in his relations with
strangers. Presented in an abridged form, and in the English
language, these (as he related them) were the circumstances under
which Mount Morven had been closed to the public.
A complete dispersion of the family had taken place not long
since. For miles round everybody was sorry for it. Rich and poor
alike felt the same sympathy with the good lady of the house. She
had been most shamefully treated by her husband, and by a
good-for-nothing girl employed as governess. To put it plainly,
the two had run away together; one report said they had gone
abroad, and another declared that they were living in London. Mr.
Linley's conduct was perfectly incomprehensible. He had always
borne the highest character--a good landlord, a kind father, a
devoted husband. And yet, after more than eight years of
exemplary married life, he had disgraced himself. The minister of
the parish, preaching on the subject, had attributed this
extraordinary outbreak of vice on the part of an otherwise
virtuous man, to a possession of the devil. Assuming "the devil,"
in this case, to be only a discreet and clerical way of alluding
from the pulpit to a woman, the landlord was inclined to agree
with the minister. After what had happened, it was, of course,
impossible that Mrs. Linley could remain in her husband's house.
She and her little girl, and her mother, were supposed to be
living in retirement. They kept the place of their retreat a
secret from everybody but Mrs. Linley's legal adviser, who was
instructed to forward letters. But one other member of the family
remained to be accounted for. This was Mr. Linley's younger
brother, known at present to be traveling on the Continent. Two
trustworthy old servants had been left in charge at Mount
Morven--and there was the whole story; and that was why the house
was shut up.
In a cottage on the banks of one of the Cumberland Lakes, two
ladies were seated at the breakfast-table. The windows of the
room opened on a garden which extended to the water's edge, and
on a boat-house and wooden pier beyond. On the pier a little girl
was fishing, under the care of her maid. After a prevalence of
rainy weather, the sun was warm this morning for the time of
year; and the broad sheet of water alternately darkened and
brightened as the moving masses of cloud now gathered and now
parted over the blue beauty of the sky.
The ladies had finished their breakfast; the elder of the
two--that is to say, Mrs. Presty--took up her knitting and eyed
her silent daughter with an expression of impatient surprise.
"Another bad night, Catherine?"
The personal attractions that distinguished Mrs. Linley were not
derived from the short-lived beauty which depends on youth and
health. Pale as she was, her face preserved its fine outline; her
features had not lost their grace and symmetry of form.
Presenting the appearance of a woman who had suffered acutely,
she would have been more than ever (in the eyes of some men) a
woman to be admired and loved.
"I seldom sleep well now," she answered, patiently.
"You don't give yourself a chance," Mrs. Presty remonstrated.
"Here's a fine morning--come out for a sail on the lake.
To-morrow there's a concert in the town--let's take tickets.
There's a want of what I call elastic power in your mind,
Catherine--the very quality for which your father was so
remarkable; the very quality which Mr. Presty used to say made
him envy Mr. Norman. Look at your dress! Where's the
common-sense, at your age, of wearing nothing but black? Nobody's
dead who belongs to us, and yet you do your best to look as if
you were in mourning."
"I have no heart, mamma, to wear colors."
Mrs. Presty considered this reply to be unworthy of notice. She
went on with her knitting, and only laid it down when the servant
brought in the letters which had arrived by the morning's post.
They were but two in number--and both were for Mrs. Linley. In
the absence of any correspondence of her own, Mrs. Presty took
possession of her daughter's letters.
"One addressed in the lawyer's handwriting," she announced; "and
one from Randal. Which shall I open for you first?"
"Randal's letter, if you please."
Mrs. Presty handed it across the table. "Any news is a relief
from the dullness of this place," she said. "If there are no
secrets, Catherine, read it out."
There were no secrets on the first page.
Randal announced his arrival in London from the Continent, and
his intention of staying there for a while. He had met with a
friend (formerly an officer holding high rank in the Navy) whom
he was glad to see again--a rich man who used his wealth
admirably in the interest of his poor and helpless
fellow-creatures. A "Home," established on a new plan, was just
now engaging all his attention: he was devoting himself so
unremittingly to the founding of this institution that his doctor
predicted injury to his health at no distant date. If it was
possible to persuade him to take a holiday, Randal might return
to the Continent as the traveling-companion of his friend.
"This must be the man whom he first met at the club," Mrs. Presty
remarked. "Well, Catherine, I suppose there is some more of it.
What's the matter? Bad news?"
"Something that I wish Randal had not written. Read it
yourself--and don't talk of it afterward."
Mrs. Presty read:
"I know nothing whatever of my unfortunate brother. If you think
this is a too-indulgent way of alluding to a man who has so
shamefully wronged you, let my conviction that he is already
beginning to suffer the penalty of his crime plead my excuse.
Herbert's nature is, in some respects, better known to me than it
is to you. I am persuaded that your hold on his respect and his
devotion is shaken--not lost. He has been misled by one of those
passing fancies, disastrous and even criminal in their results,
to which men are liable when they are led by no better influence
than the influence of their senses. It is not, and never will be,
in the nature of women to understand this. I fear I may offend
you in what I am now writing; but I must speak what I believe to
be the truth, at any sacrifice. Bitter repentance (if he is not
already feeling it) is in store for Herbert, when he finds
himself tied to a person who cannot bear comparison with you. I
say this, pitying the poor girl most sincerely, when I think of
her youth and her wretched past life. How it will end I cannot
presume to say. I can only acknowledge that I do not look to the
future with the absolute despair which you naturally felt when I
last saw you."
Mrs. Presty laid the letter down, privately resolving to write to
Randal, and tell him to keep his convictions for the future to
himself. A glance at her daughter's face warned her, if she said
anything, to choose a new subject.
The second letter still remained unnoticed. "Shall we see what
the lawyer says?" she suggested--and opened the envelope. The
lawyer had nothing to say. He simply inclosed a letter received
at his office.
Mrs. Presty had long passed the age at which emotion expresses
itself outwardly by a change of color. She turned pale,
nevertheless, when she looked at the second letter.
The address was in Herbert Linley's handwriting.
When she was not eating her meals or asleep in her bed, absolute
silence on Mrs. Presty's part was a circumstance without
precedent in the experience of her daughter. Mrs. Presty was
absolutely silent now. Mrs. Linley looked up.
She at once perceived the change in her mother's face and asked
what it meant. "Mamma, you look as if something had frightened
you. Is it anything in that letter?" She bent over the table, and
looked a little closer at the letter. Mrs. Presty had turned it
so that the address was underneath; and the closed envelope was
visible still intact. "Why don't you open it?" Mrs. Linley asked.
Mrs. Presty made a strange reply. " I am thinking of throwing it
into the fire."
"Yes; your letter."
"Let me look at it first."
"You had better not look at it, Catherine."
Naturally enough, Mrs. Linley remonstrated. "Surely I ought to
read a letter forwarded by my lawyer. Why are you hiding the
address from me? Is it from some person whose handwriting we both
know?" She looked again at her silent mother--reflected--and
guessed the truth. "Give it to me directly," she said; "my
husband has written to me."
Mrs. Presty's heavy eyebrows gathered into a frown. "Is it
possible," she asked sternly, "that you are still fond enough of
that man to care about what he writes to you?" Mrs. Linley held
out her hand for the letter. Her wise mother found it desirable
to try persuasion next. "If you really won't give way, my dear,
humor me for once. Will you let me read it to you?"
"Yes--if you promise to read every word of it."
Mrs. Presty promised (with a mental reservation), and opened the
At the two first words, she stopped and began to clean her
spectacles. Had her own eyes deceived her? Or had Herbert Linley
actually addressed her daughter--after having been guilty of the
cruelest wrong that a husband can inflict on a wife--as "Dear
Catherine"? Yes: there were the words, when she put her
spectacles on again. Was he in his right senses? or had he
written in a state of intoxication?
Mrs. Linley waited, with a preoccupied mind: she showed no signs
of impatience or surprise. As it presently appeared, she was not
thinking of the letter addressed to her by Herbert, but of the
letter written by Randal. "I want to look at it again." With that
brief explanation she turned at once to the closing lines which
had offended her when she first read them.
Mrs. Presty hazarded a guess at what was going on in her
daughter's mind. "Now your husband has written to you," she said,
"are you beginning to think Randal's opinion may be worth
considering again?" With her eyes still on Randal's letter, Mrs.
Linley merely answered: "Why don't you begin?" Mrs. Presty began
as follows, leaving out the familiarity of her son-in-law's
address to his wife.
"I hope and trust you will forgive me for venturing to write to
you, in consideration of the subject of my letter. I have
something to say concerning our child. Although I have deserved
the worst you can think of me, I believe you will not deny that
even your love for our little Kitty (while we were living
together) was not a truer love than mine. Bad as I am, my heart
has that tender place left in it still. I cannot endure
separation from my child."
Mrs. Linley rose to her feet. The first vague anticipations of
future atonement and reconciliation, suggested by her
brother-in-law, no longer existed in her mind: she foresaw but
too plainly what was to come. "Read faster," she said, "or let me
read it for myself."
Mrs. Presty went on: "There is no wish, on my part, to pain you
by any needless allusion to my claims as a father. My one desire
is to enter into an arrangement which shall be as just toward
you, as it is toward me. I propose that Kitty shall live with her
father one half of the year, and shall return to her mother's
care for the other half If there is any valid objection to this,
I confess I fail to see it."
Mrs. Linley could remain silent no longer.
"Does he see no difference," she broke out, "between his position
and mine? What consolation--in God's name, what consolation is
left to me for the rest of my life but my child? And he threatens
to separate us for six months in every year! And he takes credit
to himself for an act of exalted justice on his part! Is there no
such thing as shame in the hearts of men?"
Under ordinary circumstances, her mother would have tried to calm
her. But Mrs. Presty had turned to the next page of the letter,
at the moment when her daughter spoke.
What she found written, on that other side, produced a startling
effect on her. She crumpled the letter up in her hand, and threw
it into the fireplace. It fell under the grate instead of into
the grate. With amazing activity for a woman of her age, she ran
across the room to burn it. Younger and quicker, Mrs. Linley got
to the fireplace first, and seized the letter. "There is
something more!" she exclaimed. "And you are afraid of my knowing
what it is."
"Don't read it!" Mrs. Presty called out.
There was but one sentence left to read: "If your maternal
anxiety suggests any misgiving, let me add that a woman's loving
care will watch over our little girl while she is under my roof.
You will remember how fond Miss Westerfield was of Kitty, and you
will believe me when I tell you that she is as truly devoted to
the child as ever."
"I tried to prevent you from reading it," said Mrs. Presty.
Mrs. Linley looked at her mother with a strange unnatural smile.
"I wouldn't have missed this for anything!" she said. "The
cruelest of all separations is proposed to me--and I am expected
to submit to it, because my husband's mistress is fond of my
child!" She threw the letter from her with a frantic gesture of
contempt and burst into a fit of hysterical laughter.
The old mother's instinct--not the old mother's reason--told her
what to do. She drew her daughter to the open window, and called
to Kitty to come in. The child (still amusing herself by fishing
in the lake) laid down her rod. Mrs. Linley saw her running
lightly along the little pier, on her way to the house. _That_
influence effected what no other influence could have achieved.
The outraged wife controlled herself, for the sake of her child.
Mrs. Presty led her out to meet Kitty in the garden; waited until
she saw them together; and returned to the breakfast-room.
Herbert Linley's letter lay on the floor; his discreet
mother-in-law picked it up. It could do no more harm now, and
there might be reasons for keeping the husband's proposal.
"Unless I am very much mistaken," Mrs. Presty concluded, "we
shall hear more from the lawyer before long." She locked up the
letter, and wondered what her daughter would do next.
In half an hour Mrs. Linley returned--pale, silent,
She seated herself at her desk; wrote literally one line; signed
it without an instant's hesitation, and folded the paper. Before
it was secured in the envelope, Mrs. Presty interfered with a
characteristic request. "You are writing to Mr. Linley, of
course," she said. "May I see it?"
Mrs. Linley handed the letter to her. The one line of writing
contained these words: "I refuse positively to part with my
"Have you considered what is likely to happen, when he gets
this?" Mrs. Presty inquired.
"Will you consult Randal?"
"I would rather not consult him."
"Will you let me consult him for you?"
"After what Randal has written to me, I don't attach any value to
his opinion." With that reply she sent her letter to the post,
and went back again to Kitty.
After this, Mrs. Presty resolved to wait the arrival of Herbert
Linley's answer, and to let events take their course. The view
from the window (as she passed it, walking up and down the room)
offered her little help in forecasting the future. Kitty had
returned to her fishing; and Kitty's mother was walking slowly up
and down the pier, deep in thought. Was she thinking of what
might happen, and summoning the resolution which so seldom showed
itself on ordinary occasions?
No second letter arrived. But a telegram was received from the
lawyer toward the end of the week.
"Expect me to-morrow on business which requires personal
That was the message. In taking the long journey to Cumberland,
Mrs. Linley's legal adviser sacrificed two days of his precious
time in London. Something serious must assuredly have happened.
In the meantime, who was the lawyer?
He was Mr. Sarrazin, of Lincoln's Inn Fields.
Was he an Englishman or a Frenchman?
He was a curious mixture of both. His ancestors had been among
the persecuted French people who found a refuge in England, when
the priest-ridden tyrant, Louis the Fourteenth, revoked the Edict
of Nantes. A British subje ct by birth, and a thoroughly
competent and trustworthy man, Mr. Sarrazin labored under one
inveterate delusion; he firmly believed that his original French
nature had been completely eradicated, under the influence of our
insular climate and our insular customs. No matter how often the
strain of the lively French blood might assert itself, at
inconvenient times and under regrettable circumstances, he never
recognized this foreign side of his character. His excellent
spirits, his quick sympathies, his bright mutability of mind--all
those qualities, in short, which were most mischievously ready to
raise distrust in the mind of English clients, before their
sentiment changed for the better under the light of later
experience--were attributed by Mr. Sarrazin to the exhilarating
influence of his happy domestic circumstances and his successful
professional career. His essentially English wife; his
essentially English children; his whiskers, his politics, his
umbrella, his pew at church, his plum pudding, his _Times_
newspaper, all answered for him (he was accustomed to say) as an
inbred member of the glorious nation that rejoices in hunting the
fox, and believes in innumerable pills.
This excellent man arrived at the cottage, desperately fatigued
after his long journey, but in perfect possession of his
incomparable temper, nevertheless.
He afforded a proof of this happy state of mind, on sitting down
to his supper. An epicure, if ever there was one yet, he found
the solid part of the refreshments offered to him to consist of a
chop. The old French blood curdled at the sight of it--but the
true-born Englishman heroically devoted himself to the national
meal. At the same time the French vivacity discovered a kindred
soul in Kitty; Mr. Sarrazin became her intimate friend in five
minutes. He listened to her and talked to her, as if the child
had been his client, and fishing from the pier the business which
had brought him from London. To Mrs. Presty's disgust, he turned
up a corner of the table-cloth, when he had finished his chop,
and began to conjure so deftly with the spoons and forks that
poor little Kitty (often dull, now, under the changed domestic
circumstances of her life) clapped her hands with pleasure, and
became the joyous child of the happy old times once more. Mrs.
Linley, flattered in her maternal love and her maternal pride,
never thought of recalling this extraordinary lawyer to the
business that was waiting to be discussed. But Mrs. Presty looked
at the clock, and discovered that her grandchild ought to have
been in bed half-an-hour ago.
"Time to say good-night," the grandmother suggested.
The grandchild failed to see the subject of bed in the same
light. "Oh, not yet," she pleaded; "I want to speak to Mr.--"
Having only heard the visitor's name once, and not finding her
memory in good working order after the conjuring, Kitty
hesitated. "Isn't your name something like Saracen?" she asked.
"Very like!" cried the genial lawyer. "Try my other name, my
dear. I'm Samuel as well as Sarrazin."
"Ah, that'll do," said Kitty. Grandmamma, before I go to bed,
I've something to ask Samuel."
Grandmamma persisted in deferring the question until the next
morning. Samuel administered consolation before he said
good-night. "I'll get up early," he whispered, "and we'll go on
the pier before breakfast and fish."
Kitty expressed her gratitude in her own outspoken way. "Oh,
dear, how nice it would be, Samuel, if you lived with us!" Mrs.
Linley laughed for the first time, poor soul, since the
catastrophe which had broken up her home. Mrs. Presty set a
proper example. She moved her chair so that she faced the lawyer,
and said: "Now, Mr. Sarrazin!"
He acknowledged that he understood what this meant, by a very
unprofessional choice of words. "We are in a mess," he began,
"and the sooner we are out of it the better."
"Only let me keep Kitty," Mrs. Linley declared, "and I'll do
whatever you think right."
"Stick to that, dear madam, when you have heard what I have to
tell you--and I shall not have taken my journey in vain. In the
first place, may I look at the letter which I had the honor of
forwarding some days since?"
Mrs. Presty gave him Herbert Linley's letter. He read it with the
closest attention, and tapped the breast-pocket of his coat when
he had done.
"If I didn't know what I have got here," he remarked, "I should
have said: Another person dictated this letter, and the name of
the person is Miss Westerfield."
"Just my idea!" Mrs. Presty exclaimed. "There can't be a doubt of
"Oh, but there is a very great doubt of it, ma'am; and you will
say so too when you know what your severe son-in-law threatens to
do." He turned to Mrs. Linley. "After having seen that pretty
little friend of mine who has just gone to bed (how much nicer it
would be for all of us if we could go to bed too!), I think I
know how you answered your husband's letter. But I ought perhaps
to see how you have expressed yourself. Have you got a copy?"
"It was too short, Mr. Sarrazin, to make a copy necessary."
"Do you mean you can remember it?"
"I can repeat it word for word. This was my reply: I refuse,
positively, to part with my child."
"No more like that?"
Mr. Sarrazin looked at his client with undisguised admiration.
"The only time in all my long experience," he said, "in which I
have found a lady's letter capable of expressing itself strongly
in a few words. What a lawyer you will make, Mrs. Linley, when
the rights of women invade my profession!"
He put his hand into his pocket and produced a letter addressed
Watching him anxiously, the ladies saw his bright face become
overclouded with anxiety. "I am the wretched bearer of bad news,"
he resumed, "and if I fidget in my chair, that is the reason for
it. Let us get to the point--and let us get off it again as soon
as possible. Here is a letter, written to me by Mr. Linley's
lawyer. If you will take my advice you will let me say what the
substance of it is, and then put it back in my pocket. I doubt if
a woman has influenced these cruel instructions, Mrs. Presty;
and, therefore, I doubt if a woman influenced the letter which
led the way to them. Did I not say just now that I was coming to
the point? and here I am wandering further and further away from
it. A lawyer is human; there is the only excuse. Now, Mrs.
Linley, in two words; your husband is determined to have little
Miss Kitty; and the law, when he applies to it, is his obedient
"Do you mean that the law takes my child away from me?"
"I am ashamed, madam, to think that I live by the law; but that,
I must own, is exactly what it is capable of doing in the present
case. Compose yourself, I beg and pray. A time will come when
women will remind men that the mother bears the child and feeds
the child, and will insist that the mother's right is the best
right of the two. In the meanwhile--"
"In the meanwhile, Mr. Sarrazin, I won't submit to the law."
"Quite right, Catherine!" cried Mrs. Presty. "Exactly what I
should do, in your place."
Mr. Sarrazin listened patiently. "I am all attention, good
ladies," he said, with the gentlest resignation. "Let me hear how
you mean to do it."
The good ladies looked at each other. They discovered that it is
one thing to set an abuse at defiance in words, and another thing
to apply the remedy in deeds. The kind-hearted lawyer helped them
with a suggestion. "Perhaps you think of making your escape with
the child, and taking refuge abroad?"
Mrs. Linley eagerly accepted the hint. "The first train to-morrow
morning starts at half-past seven," she said. "We might catch
some foreign steamer that sails from the east coast of Scotland."
Mrs. Presty, keeping a wary eye on Mr. Sarrazin, was not quite so
ready as her daughter in rushing at conclusions. "I am afraid,"
she acknowledged, "our worthy friend sees some objection. What is
"I don't presume to offer a positive opinion, ma'am; but I think
Mr. Linley and his lawyer have their suspicions. Plainly
speaking, I am afraid spies are set to watch us already."
"You shall hear. I travel second-class; one saves mone y and one
finds people to talk to--and at what sacrifice? Only a hard
cushion to sit on! In the same carriage with me there was a very
conversable person--a smart young man with flaming red hair. When
we took the omnibus at your station here, all the passengers got
out in the town except two. I was one exception, and the smart
young man was the other. When I stopped at your gate, the omnibus
went on a few yards, and set down my fellow-traveler at the
village inn. My profession makes me sly. I waited a little before
I rang your bell; and, when I could do it without being seen, I
crossed the road, and had a look at the inn. There is a moon
to-night; I was very careful. The young man didn't see me. But I
saw a head of flaming hair, and a pair of amiable blue eyes, over
the blind of a window; and it happened to be the one window of
the inn which commands a full view of your gate. Mere suspicion,
you will say! I can't deny it, and yet I have my reasons for
suspecting. Before I left London, one of my clerks followed me in
a great hurry to the terminus, and caught me as I was opening the
carriage door. 'We have just made a discovery,' he said; 'you and
Mrs. Linley are to be reckoned up.' Reckoned up is, if you
please, detective English for being watched. My clerk might have
repeated a false report, of course. And my fellow-traveler might
have come all the way from London to look out of the window of an
inn, in a Cumberland village. What do you think yourselves?"
It seemed to be easier to dispute the law than to dispute Mr.
"Suppose I choose to travel abroad, and to take my child with
me," Mrs. Linley persisted, "who has any right to prevent me?"
Mr. Sarrazin reluctantly reminded her that the father had a
right. "No person--not even the mother--can take the child out of
the father's custody," he said, "except with the father's
consent. His authority is the supreme authority--unless it
happens that the law has deprived him of his privilege, and has
expressly confided the child to the mother's care. Ha!" cried Mr.
Sarrazin, twisting round in his chair and fixing his keen eyes on
Mrs. Presty, "look at your good mother; _she_ sees what I am
"I see something more than you think," Mrs. Presty answered. "If
I know anything of my daughter's nature, you will find yourself,
before long, on delicate ground."
"What do you mean, mamma?"
Mrs. Presty had lived in the past age when persons occasionally
used metaphor as an aid to the expression of their ideas. Being
called upon to explain herself, she did it in metaphor, to her
own entire satisfaction.
"Our learned friend here reminds me, my dear Catherine, of a
traveler exploring a strange town. He takes a turning, in the
confident expectation that it will reward him by leading him to
some satisfactory result--and he finds himself in a blind alley,
or, as the French put it (I speak French fluently), in a _cool de
sack_. Do I make my meaning clear, Mr. Sarrazin?"
"Not the least in the world, ma'am."
"How very extraordinary! Perhaps I have been misled by my own
vivid imagination. Let me endeavor to express myself plainly--let
me say that my fancy looks prophetically at what you are going to
do, and sincerely wishes you well out of it. Pray go on."
"And pray speak more plainly than my mother has spoken," Mrs.
Linley added. "As I understood what you said just now, there is a
law, after all, that will protect me in the possession of my
little girl. I don't care what it costs; I want that law."
"May I ask first," Mr. Sarrazin stipulated, "whether you are
positively resolved not to give way to your husband in this
matter of Kitty?"
"One more question, if you please, on a matter of fact. I have
heard that you were married in Scotland. Is that true?"
Mr. Sarrazin exhibited himself once more in a highly
unprofessional aspect. He clapped his hands, and cried, "Bravo!"
as if he had been in a theater.
Mrs. Linley caught the infection of the lawyer's excitement. "How
dull I am!" she exclaimed. "There is a thing they call
'incompatibility of temper'--and married people sign a paper at
the lawyer's and promise never to trouble each other again as
long as they both live. And they're readier to do it in Scotland
than they are in England. That's what you mean--isn't it?"
Mr. Sarrazin found it necessary to reassume his professional
"No, indeed, madam," he said, "I should be unworthy of your
confidence if I proposed nothing better than that. You can only
secure the sole possession of little Kitty by getting the help of
"Get it at once," Mrs. Linley interposed.
"And you can only prevail on the judge to listen to you," Mr.
Sarrazin proceeded, "in one way. Summon your courage, madam.
Apply for a divorce."
There was a sudden silence. Mrs. Linley rose trembling, as if she
saw--not good Mr. Sarrazin--but the devil himself tempting her.
"Do you hear that?" she said to her mother.
Mrs. Presty only bowed.
"Think of the dreadful exposure!"
Mrs. Presty bowed again.
The lawyer had his opportunity now.
"Well, Mrs. Linley," he asked, "what do you say?"
"No--never!" She made that positive reply; and disposed
beforehand of everything that might have been urged, in the way
of remonstrance and persuasion, by leaving the room. The two
persons who remained, sitting opposite to each other, took
"Mr. Sarrazin, she won't do it."
"Mrs. Presty, she will."
Punctual to his fishing appointment with Kitty, Mr. Sarrazin was
out in the early morning, waiting on the pier.
Not a breath of wind was stirring; the lazy mist lay asleep on
the further shore of the lake. Here and there only the dim tops
of the hills rose like shadows cast by the earth on the faint
gray of the sky. Nearer at hand, the waters of the lake showed a
gloomy surface; no birds flew over the colorless calm; no passing
insects tempted the fish to rise. From time to time a last-left
leaf on the wooded shore dropped noiselessly and died. No
vehicles passed as yet on the lonely road; no voices were audible
from the village; slow and straight wreaths of smoke stole their
way out of the chimneys, and lost their vapor in the misty sky.
The one sound that disturbed the sullen repose of the morning was
the tramp of the lawyer's footsteps, as he paced up and down the
pier. He thought of London and its ceaseless traffic, its roaring
high tide of life in action--and he said to himself, with the
strong conviction of a town-bred man: How miserable this is!
A voice from the garden cheered him, just as he reached the end
of the pier for the fiftieth time, and looked with fifty-fold
intensity of dislike at the dreary lake.
There stood Kitty behind the garden-gate, with a fishing-rod in
each hand. A tin box was strapped on one side of her little body
and a basket on the other. Burdened with these impediments, she
required assistance. Susan had let her out of the house; and
Samuel must now open the gate for her. She was pleased to observe
that the raw morning had reddened her friend's nose; and she
presented her own nose to notice as exhibiting perfect sympathy
in this respect. Feeling a misplaced confidence in Mr. Sarrazin's
knowledge and experience as an angler, she handed the
fishing-rods to him. "My fingers are cold," she said; "you bait
the hooks." He looked at his young friend in silent perplexity;
she pointed to the tin box. "Plenty of bait there, Samuel; we
find maggots do best." Mr. Sarrazin eyed the box with undisguised
disgust; and Kitty made an unexpected discovery. "You seem to
know nothing about it," she said. And Samuel answered, cordially,
"Nothing!" In five minutes more he found himself by the side of
his young friend--with his hook baited, his line in the water,
and strict injunctions to keep an eye on the float.
They began to fish.
Kitty looked at her companion, and looked away again in silence.
By way of encouraging her to talk, the good-natured lawyer
alluded to what she had said when they parted overnight. You
wanted to ask me something," he reminded her. "What is it?"
Without one preliminary word of warning to prepare him for
the shock, Kitty answered: "I want you to tell me what has
become of papa, and why Syd has gone away and left me. You know
who Syd is, don't you?"
The only alternative left to Mr. Sarrazin was to plead ignorance.
While Kitty was instructing him on the subject of her governess,
he had time to consider what he should say to her next. The
result added one more to the lost opportunities of Mr. Sarrazin's
"You see," the child gravely continued, "you are a clever man;
and you have come here to help mamma. I have got that much out of
grandmamma, if I have got nothing else. Don't look at me; look at
your float. My papa has gone away and Syd has left me without
even saying good-by, and we have given up our nice old house in
Scotland and come to live here. I tell you I don't understand it.
If you see your float begin to tremble, and then give a little
dip down as if it was going to sink, pull your line out of the
water; you will most likely find a fish at the end of it. When I
ask mamma what all this means, she says there is a reason, and I
am not old enough to understand it, and she looks unhappy, and
she gives me a kiss, and it ends in that way. You've got a bite;
no you haven't; it's only a nibble; fish are so sly. And
grandmamma is worse still. Sometimes she tells me I'm a spoiled
child; and sometimes she says well-behaved little girls don't ask
questions. That's nonsense--and I think it's hard on me. You look
uncomfortable. Is it my fault? I don't want to bother you; I only
want to know why Syd has gone away. When I was younger I might
have thought the fairies had taken her. Oh, no! that won't do any
longer; I'm too old. Now tell me."
Mr. Sarrazin weakly attempted to gain time: he looked at his
watch. Kitty looked over his shoulder: "Oh, we needn't be in a
hurry; breakfast won't be ready for half an hour yet. Plenty of
time to talk of Syd; go on."
Most unwisely (seeing that he had to deal with a clever child,
and that child a girl), Mr. Sarrazin tried flat denial as a way
out of the difficulty. He said: "I don't know why she has gone
away." The next question followed instantly: 'Well, then, what do
you _think_ about it?" In sheer despair, the persecuted friend
said the first thing that came into his head.
"I think she has gone to be married."
Kitty was indignant.
"Gone to be married, and not tell me!" she exclaimed. "What do
you mean by that?"
Mr. Sarrazin's professional experience of women and marriages
failed to supply him with an answer. In this difficulty he
exerted his imagination, and invented something that no woman
ever did yet. "She's waiting," he said. "to see how her marriage
succeeds, before she tells anybody about it."
This sounded probable to the mind of a child.
"I hope she hasn't married a beast," Kitty said, with a serious
face and an ominous shake of the head. "When shall I hear from
Mr. Sarrazin tried another prevarication--with better results
this time. "You will be the first person she writes to, of
course." As that excusable lie passed his lips, his float began
to tremble. Here was a chance of changing the subject--"I've got
a fish!" he cried.
Kitty was immediately interested. She threw down her own rod, and
assisted her ignorant companion. A wretched little fish appeared
in the air, wriggling. "It's a roach," Kitty pronounced. "It's in
pain," the merciful lawyer added; "give it to me." Kitty took it
off the hook, and obeyed. Mr. Sarrazin with humane gentleness of
handling put it back into the water. "Go, and God bless you,"
said this excellent man, as the roach disappeared joyously with a
flick of its tail. Kitty was scandalized. "That's not sport!" she
said. "Oh, yes, it is," he answered--"sport to the fish."
They went on with their angling. What embarrassing question would
Kitty ask next? Would she want to be told why her father had left
her? No: the last image in the child's mind had been the image of
Sydney Westerfield. She was still thinking of it when she spoke
"I wonder whether you're right about Syd?" she began. You might
be mistaken, mightn't you? I sometimes fancy mamma and Sydney may
have had a quarrel. Would you mind asking mamma if that's true?"
the affectionate little creature said, anxiously. "You see, I
can't help talking of Syd, I'm so fond of her; and I do miss her
so dreadfully every now and then; and I'm afraid--oh, dear, dear,
I'm afraid I shall never see her again!" She let her rod drop on
the pier, and put her little hands over her face and burst out
Shocked and distressed, good Mr. Sarrazin kissed her, and
consoled her, and told another excusable lie.
"Try to be comforted, Kitty; I'm sure you will see her again."
His conscience reproached him as he held out that false hope. It
could never be! The one unpardonable sin, in the judgment of
fallible human creatures like herself, was the sin that Sydney
Westerfield had committed. Is there something wrong in human
nature? or something wrong in human laws? All that is best and
noblest in us feels the influence of love--and the rules of
society declare that an accident of position shall decide whether
love is a virtue or a crime.
These thoughts were in the lawyer's mind. They troubled him and
disheartened him: it was a relief rather than an interruption
when he felt Kitty's hand on his arm. She had dried her tears,
with a child's happy facility in passing from one emotion to
another, and was now astonished and interested by a marked change
in the weather.
"Look for the lake!" she cried. "You can't see it."
A dense white fog was closing round them. Its stealthy advance
over the water had already begun to hide the boathouse at the end
of the pier from view. The raw cold of the atmosphere made the
child shiver. As Mr. Sarrazin took her hand to lead her indoors,
he turned and looked back at the faint outline of the boathouse,
disappearing in the fog. Kitty wondered. "Do you see anything?"
He answered that there was nothing to see, in the absent tone of
a man busy with his own thoughts. They took the garden path which
led to the cottage. As they reached the door he roused himself,
and looked round again in the direction of the invisible lake.
"Was the boat-house of any use now," he inquired--"was there a
boat in it, for instance?" "There was a capital boat, fit to go
anywhere." "And a man to manage it?" "To be sure! the gardener
was the man; he had been a sailor once; and he knew the lake as
well as--" Kitty stopped, at a loss for a comparison. "As well as
you know your multiplication table?" said Mr. Sarrazin, dropping
his serious questions on a sudden. Kitty shook her head. "Much
better," she honestly acknowledged.
Opening the breakfast-room door they saw Mrs. Presty making
coffee. Kitty at once retired. When she had been fishing, her
grandmamma inculcated habits of order by directing her to take
the rods to pieces, and to put them away in their cases in the
lumber-room. While she was absent, Mr. Sarrazin profited by the
opportunity, and asked if Mrs. Linley had thought it over in the
night, and had decided on applying for a Divorce.
"I know nothing about my daughter," Mrs. Presty answered, "except
that she had a bad night. Thinking, no doubt, over your advice,"
the old lady added with a mischievous smile.
"Will you kindly inquire if Mrs. Linley has made up her mind
yet?" the lawyer ventured to say.
"Isn't that your business?" Mrs. Presty asked slyly. "Suppose you
write a little note, and I will send it up to her room." The
worldly-wisdom which prompted this suggestion contemplated a
possible necessity for calling a domestic council, assembled to
consider the course of action which Mrs. Linley would do well to
adopt. If the influence of her mother was among the forms of
persuasion which might be tried, that wary relative maneuvered to
make the lawyer speak first, and so to reserve to herself the
advantage of having the last word.
Patient Mr. Sarrazin wrote the note.
He modestly asked for instructions; and he was content to receive
them in one word--Yes or No. In the event of the answer being
Yes, he would ask for a few minutes' conversation with Mrs.
Linley, at her earliest convenience. Tha t was all.
The reply was returned in a form which left Yes to be inferred:
"I will receive you as soon as you have finished your breakfast."
Having read Mrs. Linley's answer, Mr. Sarrazin looked out of the
breakfast-room window, and saw that the fog had reached the
cottage. Before Mrs. Presty could make any remark on the change
in the weather, he surprised her by an extraordinary question.
"Is there an upper room here, ma'am, which has a view of the road
before your front gate?"
"And can I go into it without disturbing anybody?"
Mrs. Presty said, "Of course!" with an uplifting of her eye brows
which expressed astonishment not unmixed with suspicion. "Do you
want to go up now?" she added, "or will you wait till you have
had your breakfast?"
"I want to go up, if you please, before the fog thickens. Oh,
Mrs. Presty, I am ashamed to trouble you! Let the servant show me
No. For the first time in her life Mrs. Presty insisted on doing
servant's duty. If she had been crippled in both legs her
curiosity would have helped her to get up the stairs on her
hands. "There!" she said, opening the door of the upper room, and
placing herself exactly in the middle of it, so that she could
see all round her: "Will that do for you?"
Mr. Sarrazin went to the window; hid himself behind the curtain;
and cautiously peeped out. In half a minute he turned his back on
the misty view of the road, and said to himself: "Just what I
Other women might have asked what this mysterious proceeding
meant. Mrs. Presty's sense of her own dignity adopted a system of
independent discovery. To Mr. Sarrazin's amusement, she imitated
him to his face. Advancing to the window, she, too, hid herself
behind the curtain, and she, too, peeped out. Still following her
model, she next turned her back on the view--and then she became
herself again. "Now we have both looked out of window," she said
to the lawyer, in her own inimitably impudent way, "suppose we
compare our impressions."
This was easily done. They had both seen the same two men walking
backward and forward, opposite the front gate of the cottage.
Before the advancing fog made it impossible to identify him, Mr.
Sarrazin had recognized in one of the men his agreeable
fellow-traveler on the journey from London. The other man--a
stranger--was in all probability an assistant spy obtained in the
neighborhood. This discovery suggested serious embarrassment in
the future. Mrs. Presty asked what was to be done next. Mr.
Sarrazin answered: "Let us have our breakfast."
In another quarter of an hour they were both in Mrs. Linley's
Her agitated manner, her reddened eyes, showed that she was still
suffering under the emotions of the past night. The moment the
lawyer approached her, she crossed the room with hurried steps,
and took both his hands in her trembling grasp. "You are a good
man, you are a kind man," she said to him wildly; "you have my
truest respect and regard. Tell me, are
you--really--really--really sure that the one way in which I can
keep my child with me is the way you mentioned last night?"
Mr. Sarrazin led her gently back to her chair.
The sad change in her startled and distressed him. Sincerely,
solemnly even, he declared that the one alternative before her
was the alternative that he had mentioned. He entreated her to
control herself. It was useless, she still held him as if she was
holding to her last hope.
"Listen to me!" she cried. "There's something more; there's
another chance for me. I must, and will, know what you think of
"Wait a little. Pray wait a little!"
"No! not a moment. Is there any hope in appealing to the lawyer
whom Mr. Linley has employed? Let me go back with you to London.
I will persuade him to exert his influence--I will go down on my
knees to him--I will never leave him till I have won him over to
my side--I will take Kitty with me; he shall see us both, and
pity us, and help us!"
"Hopeless. Quite hopeless, Mrs. Linley."
"Oh, don't say that!"
"My dear lady, my poor dear lady, I must say it. The man you are
talking of is the last man in the world to be influenced as you
suppose. He is notoriously a lawyer, and nothing but a lawyer. If
you tried to move him to pity you, he would say, 'Madam, I am
doing my duty to my client'; and he would ring his bell and have
you shown out. Yes! even if he saw you crushed and crying at his
Mrs. Presty interfered for the first time.
"In your place, Catherine," she said, "I would put my foot down
on that man and crush _him_. Consent to the Divorce, and you may
Mrs. Linley lay prostrate in her chair. The excitement which had
sustained her thus far seemed to have sunk with the sinking of
her last hope. Pale, exhausted, yielding to hard necessity, she
looked up when her mother said, "Consent to the Divorce," and
answered, "I have consented."
"And trust me," Mr. Sarrazin said fervently, "to see that Justice
is done, and to protect you in the meanwhile."
Mrs. Presty added her tribute of consolation.
"After all," she asked, "what is there to terrify you in the
prospect of a Divorce? You won't hear what people say about
it--for we see no society now. And, as for the newspapers, keep
them out of the house."
Mrs. Linley answered with a momentary revival of energy
"It is not the fear of exposure that has tortured me," she said.
"When I was left in the solitude of the night, my heart turned to
Kitty; I felt that any sacrifice of myself might be endured for
her sake. It's the remembrance of my marriage, Mr. Sarrazin, that
is the terrible trial to me. Those whom God has joined together,
let no man put asunder. Is there nothing to terrify me in setting
that solemn command at defiance? I do it--oh, I do it--in
consenting to the Divorce! I renounce the vows which I bound
myself to respect in the presence of God; I profane the
remembrance of eight happy years, hallowed by true love. Ah, you
needn't remind me of what my husband has done. I don't forget how
cruelly he has wronged me; I don't forget that his own act has
cast me from him. But whose act destroys our marriage? Mine,
mine! Forgive me, mamma; forgive me, my kind friend--the horror
that I have of myself forces its way to my lips. No more of it!
My child is my one treasure left. What must I do next? What must
I sign? What must I sacrifice? Tell me--and it shall be done. I
submit! I submit!"
Delicately and mercifully Mr. Sarrazin answered that sad appeal.
All that his knowledge, experience and resolution could suggest
he addressed to Mrs. Presty. Mrs. Linley could listen or not
listen, as her own wishes inclined. In the one case or in the
other, her interests would be equally well served. The good
lawyer kissed her hand. "Rest, and recover," he whispered. And
then he turned to her mother--and became a man of business once
"The first thing I shall do, ma'am, is to telegraph to my agent
in Edinburgh. He will arrange for the speediest possible hearing
of our case in the Court of Session. Make your mind easy so far."
Mrs. Presty's mind was by this time equally inaccessible to
information and advice. "I want to know what is to be done with
those two men who are watching the gate," was all she said in the
way of reply.
Mrs. Linley raised her head in alarm.
"Two!" she exclaimed--and looked at Mr. Sarrazin. "You only spoke
of one last night."
"And I add another this morning. Rest your poor head, Mrs.
Linley, I know how it aches; I know how it burns." He still
persisted in speaking to Mrs. Presty. "One of those two men will
follow me to the station, and see me off on my way to London. The
other will look after you, or your daughter, or the maid, or any
other person who may try to get away into hiding with Kitty. And
they are both keeping close to the gate, in the fear of losing
sight of us in the fog."
"I wish we lived in the Middle Ages!" said Mrs. Presty.
"What would be the use of that, ma'am?"
"Good heavens, Mr. Sarrazin, don't you see? In those grand old
days you would have taken a dagger, and the gardener would have
taken a dagger, and you would have stolen out, and stabbed those
two villains a s a matter of course. And this is the age of
progress! The vilest rogue in existence is a sacred person whose
life we are bound to respect. Ah, what good that national hero
would have done who put his barrels of gunpowder in the right
place on the Fifth of November! I have always said it, and I
stick to it, Guy Fawkes was a great statesman."
In the meanwhile Mrs. Linley was not resting, and not listening
to the expression of her mother's political sentiments. She was
intently watching Mr. Sarrazin's face.
"There is danger threatening us," she said. "Do you see a way out
To persist in trying to spare her was plainly useless; Mr.
Sarrazin answered her directly.
"The danger of legal proceedings to obtain possession of the
child," he said, "is more near and more serious than I thought it
right to acknowledge, while you were in doubt which way to
decide. I was careful--too careful, perhaps--not to unduly
influence you in a matter of the utmost importance to your future
life. But you have made up your mind. I don't scruple now to
remind you that an interval of time must pass before the decree
for your Divorce can be pronounced, and the care of the child be
legally secured to the mother. The only doubt and the only danger
are there. If you are not frightened by the prospect of a
desperate venture which some women would shrink from, I believe I
see a way of baffling the spies."
Mrs. Linley started to her feet. "Say what I am to do," she
cried, "and judge for yourself if I am as easily frightened as
The lawyer pointed with a persuasive smile to her empty chair.
"If you allow yourself to be excited," he said, "you will
frighten me. Please--oh, please sit down again!"
Mrs. Linley felt the strong will, asserting itself in terms of
courteous entreaty. She obeyed. Mrs. Presty had never admired the
lawyer as she admired him now. "Is that how you manage your
wife?" she asked.
Mr. Sarrazin was equal to the occasion, whatever it might be. "In
your time, ma'am," he said, "did you reveal the mysteries of
conjugal life?" He turned to Mrs. Linley. "I have something to
ask first," he resumed, "and then you shall hear what I propose.
How many people serve you in this cottage?"
"Three. Our landlady, who is housekeeper and cook. Our own maid.
And the landlady's daughter, who does the housework."
"Any out-of-door servants?"
"Only the gardener."
"Can you trust these people?"
"In what way, Mr. Sarrazin?"
"Can you trust them with a secret which only concerns yourself?"
"Certainly! The maid has been with us for years; no truer woman
ever lived. The good old landlady often drinks tea with us. Her
daughter is going to be married; and I have given the
wedding-dress. As for the gardener, let Kitty settle the matter
with him, and I answer for the rest. Why are you pointing to the
"Look out, and tell me what you see."
"I see the fog."
"And I, Mrs. Linley, have seen the boathouse. While the spies are
watching your gate, what do you say to crossing the lake, under
cover of the fog?"
Mr. Randal Linley.
Winter had come and gone; spring was nearing its end, and London
still suffered under the rigid regularity of easterly winds.
Although in less than a week summer would begin with the first of
June, Mr. Sarrazin was glad to find his office warmed by a fire,
when he arrived to open the letters of the day.
The correspondence in general related exclusively to proceedings
connected with the law. Two letters only presented an exception
to the general rule. The first was addressed in Mrs. Linley's
handwriting, and bore the postmark of Hanover. Kitty's mother had
not only succeeded in getting to the safe side of the lake--she
and her child had crossed the German Ocean as well. In one
respect her letter was a remarkable composition. Although it was
written by a lady, it was short enough to be read in less than a
"MY DEAR MR. SARRAZIN--I have just time to write by this
evening's post. Our excellent courier has satisfied himself that
the danger of discovery has passed away. The wretches have been
so completely deceived that they are already on their way back to
England, to lie in wait for us at Folkestone and Dover. To-morrow
morning we leave this charming place--oh, how unwillingly!--for
Bremen, to catch the steamer to Hull. You shall hear from me
again on our arrival. Gratefully yours,
Mr. Sarrazin put this letter into a private drawer and smiled as
he turned the key. "Has she made up her mind at last?" he asked
himself. "But for the courier, I shouldn't feel sure of her even
The second letter agreeably surprised him. It was announced that
the writer had just returned from the United States; it invited
him to dinner that evening; and it was signed "Randal Linley." In
Mr. Sarrazin's estimation, Randal had always occupied a higher
place than his brother. The lawyer had known Mrs. Linley before
her marriage, and had been inclined to think that she would have
done wisely if she had given her hand to the younger brother
instead of the elder. His acquaintance with Randal ripened
rapidly into friendship. But his relations with Herbert made no
advance toward intimacy: there was a gentlemanlike cordiality
between them, and nothing more.
At seven o'clock the two friends sat at a snug little table, in
the private room of a hotel, with an infinite number of questions
to ask of each other, and with nothing to interrupt them but a
dinner of such extraordinary merit that it insisted on being
noticed, from the first course to the last.
Randal began. "Before we talk of anything else," he said, "tell
me about Catherine and the child. Where are they?"
"On their way to England, after a residence in Germany."
"And the old lady?"
"Mrs. Presty has been staying with friends in London."
"What! have they parted company? Has there been a quarrel?"
"Nothing of the sort; a friendly separation, in the strictest
sense of the word. Oh, Randal, what are you about? Don't put
pepper into this perfect soup. It's as good as the _gras double_
at the Cafe Anglais in Paris."
"So it is; I wasn't paying proper attention to it. But I am
anxious about Catherine. Why did she go abroad?"
"Haven't you heard from her?"
"Not for six months or more. I innocently vexed her by writing a
little too hopefully about Herbert. Mrs. Presty answered my
letter, and recommended me not to write again. It isn't like
Catherine to bear malice."
"Don't even think such a thing possible!" the lawyer answered,
earnestly. "Attribute her silence to the right cause. Terrible
anxieties have been weighing on her mind since you went to
"Anxieties caused by my brother? Oh, I hope not!"
"Caused entirely by your brother--if I must tell the truth. Can't
you guess how?"
"Is it the child? You don't mean to tell me that Herbert has
taken Kitty away from her mother!"
"While I am her mother's lawyer, my friend, your brother won't do
that. Welcome back to England in the first glass of sherry; good
wine, but a little too dry for my taste. No, we won't talk of
domestic troubles just yet. You shall hear all about it after
dinner. What made you go to America? You haven't been delivering
lectures, have you?"
"I have been enjoying myself among the most hospitable people in
Mr. Sarrazin shook his head; he had a case of copyright in hand
just then. "A people to be pitied," he said.
"Because their Government forgets what is due to the honor of the
"In this way. The honor of a nation which confers right of
property in works of art, produced by its own citizens, is surely
concerned in protecting from theft works of art produced by other
"That's not the fault of the people."
"Certainly not. I have already said it's the fault of the
Government. Let's attend to the fish now."
Randal took his friend's advice. "Good sauce, isn't it?" he said.
The epicure entered a protest. "Good?" he repeated. "My dear
fellow, it's absolute perfection. I don't like to cast a slur on
English cookery. But think of melted butter, and tell me if
anybody but a foreigner (I don't like foreigners, but I give them
their due) could have produced this white wine sauce? So you
really had no particular motive in going to America?"
"On the contrary, I had a very particular motive. Just remember
what my life used to be when I was in Scotland--and look at my
life now! No Mount Morven; no model farm to look after; no
pleasant Highland neighbors; I can't go to my brother while he is
leading his present life; I have hurt Catherine's feelings; I
have lost dear little Kitty; I am not obliged to earn my living
(more's the pity); I don't care about politics; I have a pleasure
in eating harmless creatures, but no pleasure in shooting them.
What is there left for me to do, but to try change of scene, and
go roaming around the world, a restless creature without an
object in life? Have I done something wrong again? It isn't the
pepper this time--and yet you're looking at me as if I was trying
The French side of Mr. Sarrazin's nature had got the better of
him once more. He pointed indignantly to a supreme preparation of
fowl on his friend's plate. "Do I actually see you picking out
your truffles, and putting them on one side?" he asked.
"Well," Randal acknowledged, "I don't care about truffles."
Mr. Sarrazin rose, with his plate in his hand and his fork ready
for action. He walked round the table to his friend's side, and
reverently transferred the neglected truffles to his own plate.
"Randal, you will live to repent this," he said solemnly. "In the
meantime, I am the gainer." Until he had finished the truffles,
no word fell from his lips. "I think I should have enjoyed them
more," he remarked, "if I had concentrated my attention by
closing my eyes; but you would have thought I was going to
sleep." He recovered his English nationality, after this, until
the dessert had been placed on the table, and the waiter was
ready to leave the room. At that auspicious moment, he underwent
another relapse. He insisted on sending his compliments and
thanks to the cook.
"At last," said Randal, "we are by ourselves--and now I want to
know why Catherine went to Germany."
As a lawyer, Randal's guest understood that a narrative of events
can only produce the right effect, on one condition: it must
begin at the beginning. Having related all that had been said and
done during his visit to the cottage, including his first efforts
in the character of an angler under Kitty's supervision, he
stopped to fill his glass again--and then astonished Randal by
describing the plan that he had devised for escaping from the
spies by crossing the lake in the fog.
"What did the ladies say to it?" Randal inquired. "Who spoke
"Mrs. Presty, of course! She objected to risk her life on the
water, in a fog. Mrs. Linley showed a resolution for which I was
not prepared. She thought of Kitty, saw the value of my
suggestion, and went away at once to consult with the landlady.
In the meantime I sent for the gardener, and told him what I was
thinking of. He was one of those stolid Englishmen, who possess
resources which don't express themselves outwardly. Judging by
his face, you would have said he was subsiding into a slumber
under the infliction of a sermon, instead of listening to a
lawyer proposing a stratagem. When I had done, the man showed the
metal he was made of. In plain English, he put three questions
which gave me the highest opinion of his intelligence. 'How much
luggage, sir?' 'As little as they can conveniently take with
them,' I said. 'How many persons?' 'The two ladies, the child,
and myself.' 'Can you row, sir?' 'In any water you like, Mr.
Gardener, fresh or salt'. Think of asking Me, an athletic
Englishman, if I could row! In an hour more we were ready to
embark, and the blessed fog was thicker than ever. Mrs. Presty
yielded under protest; Kitty was wild with delight; her mother
was quiet and resigned. But one circumstance occurred that I
didn't quite understand--the presence of a stranger on the pier
with a gun in his hand."
"You don't mean one of the spies?"
"Nothing of the sort; I mean an idea of the gardener's. He had
been a sailor in his time--and that's a trade which teaches a man
(if he's good for anything) to think, and act on his thought, at
one and the same moment. He had taken a peep at the blackguards
in front of the house, and had recognized the shortest of the two
as a native of the place, perfectly well aware that one of the
features attached to the cottage was a boathouse. 'That chap is
not such a fool as he looks,' says the gardener. 'If he mentions
the boat-house, the other fellow from London may have his
suspicions. I thought I would post my son on the pier--that quiet
young man there with the gun--to keep a lookout. If he sees
another boat (there are half a dozen on this side of the lake)
putting off after us, he has orders to fire, on the chance of our
hearing him. A little notion of mine, sir, to prevent our being
surprised in the fog. Do you see any objection to it?' Objection!
In the days when diplomacy was something more than a solemn
pretense, what a member of Congress that gardener would have
made! Well, we shipped our oars, and away we went. Not quite
haphazard--for we had a compass with us. Our course was as
straight as we could go, to a village on the opposite side of the
lake, called Brightfold. Nothing happened for the first quarter
of an hour--and then, by the living Jingo (excuse my vulgarity),
we heard the gun!"
"What did you do?"
"Went on rowing, and held a council. This time I came out as the
clever one of the party. The men were following us in the dark;
they would have to guess at the direction we had taken, and they
would most likely assume (in such weather as we had) that we
should choose the shortest way across the lake. At my suggestion
we changed our course, and made for a large town, higher up on
the shore, called Tawley. We landed, and waited for events, and
made no discovery of another boat behind us. The fools had
justified my confidence in them--they had gone to Brightfold.
There was half-an-hour to spare before the next train came to
Tawley; and the fog was beginning to lift on that side of the
lake. We looked at the shops; and I made a purchase in the town."
"Stop a minute," said Randal. "Is Brightfold on the railway?"
"Is there an electric telegraph at the place?"
"That was awkward, wasn't it? The first thing those men would do
would be to telegraph to Tawley."
"Not a doubt of it. How would they describe us, do you think?"
Randal answered. "A middle-aged gentleman--two ladies, one of
them elderly--and a little girl. Quite enough to identify you at
Tawley, if the station-master understood the message."
"Shall I tell you what the station-master discovered, with the
message in his hand? No elderly lady, no middle-aged gentleman;
nothing more remarkable than _one_ lady--and a little boy."
Randal's face brightened. "You parted company, of course," he
said; "and you disguised Kitty! How did you manage it?"
"Didn't I say just now that we looked at the shops, and that I
made a purchase in the town? A boy's ready-made suit--not at all
a bad fit for Kitty! Mrs. Linley put on the suit, and tucked up
the child's hair under a straw hat, in an empty yard--no idlers
about in that bad weather. We said good-by, and parted, with
grievous misgivings on my side, which proved (thank God!) to have
been quite needless. Kitty and her mother went to the station,
and Mrs. Presty and I hired a carriage, and drove away to the
head of the lake, to catch the train to London. Do you know,
Randal, I have altered my opinion of Mrs. Presty?"
Randal smiled. "You too have found something in that old woman,"
he said, "which doesn't appear on the surface."
"The occasion seems to bring that something out," the lawyer
remarked. "When I proposed the separation, and mentioned my
reasons, I expected to find some difficulty in persuading Mrs.
Presty to give up the adventurous journey with her daughter and
her grandchild. I reminded her that she had friends in London who
would receive her, and got snubbed for taking the liberty. 'I
know that as well as you do. Come along--I'm ready to go w ith
you.' It isn't agreeable to my self-esteem to own it, but I
expected to hear her say that she would consent to any sacrifice
for the sake of her dear daughter. No such clap-trap as that
passed her lips. She owned the true motive with a superiority to
cant which won my sincerest respect. 'I'll do anything,' she
said, 'to baffle Herbert Linley and the spies he has set to watch
us.' I can't tell you how glad I was that she had her reward on
the same day. We were too late at the station, and we had to wait
for the next train. And what do you think happened? The two
scoundrels followed us instead of following Mrs. Linley! They had
inquired no doubt at the livery stables where we hired the
carriage--had recognized the description of us--and had taken the
long journey to London for nothing. Mrs. Presty and I shook hands
at the terminus the best friends that ever traveled together with
the best of motives. After that, I think I deserve another glass
"Go on with your story, and you shall have another bottle!" cried
Randal. "What did Catherine and the child do after they left
"They did the safest thing--they left England. Mrs. Linley
distinguished herself on this occasion. It was her excellent idea
to avoid popular ports of departure, like Folkestone and Dover,
which were sure to be watched, and to get away (if the thing
could be done) from some place on the east coast. We consulted
our guide and found that a line of steamers sailed from Hull to
Bremen once a week. A tedious journey from our part of
Cumberland, with some troublesome changing of trains, but they
got there in time to embark. My first news of them reached me in
a telegram from Bremen. There they waited for further
instructions. I sent the instructions by a thoroughly capable and
trustworthy man--an Italian courier, known to me by an experience
of twenty years. Shall I confess it? I thought I had done rather
a clever thing in providing Mrs. Linley with a friend in need
while I was away from her."
"I think so, too," said Randal.
"Wrong, completely wrong. I had made a mistake--I had been too
clever, and I got my reward accordingly. You know how I advised
"Yes. You persuaded her, with the greatest difficulty, to apply
for a Divorce."
"Very well. I had made all the necessary arrangements for the
trial, when I received a letter from Germany. My charming client
had changed her mind, and declined to apply for the Divorce.
There was my reward for having been too clever!"
"I don't understand you."
"My dear fellow, you are dull to-night. I had been so successful
in protecting Mrs. Linley and the child, and my excellent courier
had found such a charming place of retreat for them in one of the
suburbs of Hanover, that 'she saw no reason now for taking the
shocking course that I had recommended to her--so repugnant to
all her most cherished convictions; so sinful and so shameful in
its doing of evil that good might come. Experience had convinced
her that (thanks to me) there was no fear of Kitty being
discovered and taken from her. She therefore begged me to write
to my agent in Edinburgh, and tell him that her application to
the court was withdrawn.' Ah, you understand my position at last.
The headstrong woman was running a risk which renewed all my
anxieties. By every day's post I expected to hear that she had
paid the penalty of her folly, and that your brother had
succeeded in getting possession of the child. Wait a little
before you laugh at me. But for the courier, the thing would have
really happened a week since."
Randal looked astonished. "Months must have passed," he objected.
"Surely, after that lapse of time, Mrs. Linley must have been
safe from discovery."
"Take your own positive view of it! I only know that the thing
happened. And why not? The luck had begun by being on one
side--why shouldn't the other side have had its turn next?"
"Do you really believe in luck?"
"Devoutly. A lawyer must believe in something. He knows the law
too well to put any faith in that: and his clients present to him
(if he is a man of any feeling) a hideous view of human nature.
The poor devil believes in luck--rather than believe in nothing.
I think it quite likely that accident helped the person employed
by the husband to discover the wife and child. Anyhow, Mrs.
Linley and Kitty were seen in the streets of Hanover; seen,
recognized, and followed. The courier happened to be with
them--luck again! For thirty years and more, he had been
traveling in every part of Europe; there was not a landlord of
the smallest pretensions anywhere who didn't know him and like
him. 'I pretended not to see that anybody was following us,' he
said (writing from Hanover to relieve my anxiety); 'and I took
the ladies to a hotel. The hotel possessed two merits from our
point of view--it had a way out at the back, through the stables,
and it was kept by a landlord who was an excellent good friend of
mine. I arranged with him what he was to say when inquiries were
made; and I kept my poor ladies prisoners in their lodgings for
three days. The end of it is that Mr. Linley's policeman has gone
away to watch the Channel steam-service, while we return quietly
by way of Bremen and Hull.' There is the courier's account of it.
I have only to add that poor Mrs. Linley has been fairly
frightened into submission. She changes her mind again, and
pledges herself once more to apply for the Divorce. If we are
only lucky enough to get our case heard without any very serious
delay, I am not afraid of my client slipping through my fingers
for the second time. When will the courts of session be open to
us? You have lived in Scotland, Randal--"
"But I haven't lived in the courts of law. I wish I could give
you the information you want."
Mr. Sarrazin looked at his watch. "For all I know to the
contrary," he said, "we may be wasting precious time while we are
talking here. Will you excuse me if I go away to my club?"
"Are you going in search of information?"
"Yes. We have some inveterate old whist-players who are always to
be found in the card-room. One of them formerly practiced, I
believe, in the Scotch courts. It has just occurred to me that
the chance is worth trying."
"Will you let me know if you succeed?" Randal asked.
The lawyer took his hand at parting. "You seem to be almost as
anxious about it as I am," he said.
"To tell you the truth, I am a little alarmed when I think of
Catherine. If there is another long delay, how do we know what
may happen before the law has confirmed the mother's claim to the
child? Let me send one of the servants here to wait at your club.
Will you give him a line telling me when the trial is likely to
"With the greatest pleasure. Good-night."
Left alone, Randal sat by the fireside for a while, thinking of
the future. The prospect, as he saw it, disheartened him. As a
means of employing his mind on a more agreeable subject for
reflection, he opened his traveling desk and took out two or
three letters. They had been addressed to him, while he was in
America, by Captain Bennydeck.
The captain had committed an error of which most of us have been
guilty in our time. He had been too exclusively devoted to work
that interested him to remember what was due to the care of his
health. The doctor's warnings had been neglected; his
over-strained nerves had given way; and the man whose strong
constitution had resisted cold and starvation in the Arctic
wastes, had broken down under stress of brain-work in London.
This was the news which the first of the letters contained.
The second, written under dictation, alluded briefly to the
remedies suggested. In the captain's case, the fresh air
recommended was the air of the sea. At the same time he was
forbidden to receive either letters or telegrams, during his
absence from town, until the doctor had seen him again. These
instructions pointed, in Captain Bennydeck's estimation, to
sailing for pleasure's sake, and therefore to hiring a yacht.
The third and last letter announced that the yacht had been
found, and described the captain's plans when the vessel was
ready for sea.
He proposed to sail here and there abou t the Channel, wherever
it might please the wind to take him. Friends would accompany
him, but not in any number. The yacht was not large enough to
accommodate comfortably more than one or two guests at a time.
Every now and then, the vessel would come to an anchor in the bay
of the little coast town of Sandyseal, to accommodate friends
going and coming and (in spite of medical advice) to receive
letters. "You may have heard of Sandyseal," the Captain wrote,
"as one of the places which have lately been found out by the
doctors. They are recommending the air to patients suffering from
nervous disorders all over England. The one hotel in the place,
and the few cottages which let lodgings, are crammed, as I hear,
and the speculative builder is beginning his operations at such a
rate that Sandyseal will be no longer recognizable in a few
months more. Before the crescents and terraces and grand hotels
turn the town into a fashionable watering-place, I want to take a
last look at scenes familiar to me under their old aspect. If you
are inclined to wonder at my feeling such a wish as this, I can
easily explain myself. Two miles inland from Sandyseal, there is
a lonely old moated house. In that house I was born. When you
return from America, write to me at the postoffice, or at the
hotel (I am equally well known in both places), and let us
arrange for a speedy meeting. I wish I could ask you to come and
see me in my birth-place. It was sold, years since, under
instructions in my father's will, and was purchased for the use
of a community of nuns. We may look at the outside, and we can do
no more. In the meantime, don't despair of my recovery; the sea
is my old friend, and my trust is in God's mercy."
These last lines were added in a postscript:
"Have you heard any more of that poor girl, the daughter of my
old friend Roderick Westerfield--whose sad story would never have
been known to me but for you? I feel sure that you have good
reasons for not telling me the name of the man who has misled
her, or the address at which she may be found. But you may one
day be at liberty to break your silence. In that case, don't
hesitate to do so because there may happen to be obstacles in my
way. No difficulties discourage me, when my end in view is the
saving of a soul in peril."
Randal returned to his desk to write to the Captain. He had only
got as far as the first sentences, when the servant returned with
the lawyer's promised message. Mr. Sarrazin's news was
communicated in these cheering terms:
"I am a firmer believer in luck than ever. If we only make
haste--and won't I make haste!--we may get the Divorce, as I
calculate, in three weeks' time."
The Lord President.
Mrs. Linley's application for a Divorce was heard in the first
division of the Court of Session at Edinburgh, the Lord President
being the judge.
To the disappointment of the large audience assembled, no defense
was attempted on the part of the husband--a wise decision, seeing
that the evidence of the wife and her witnesses was beyond
dispute. But one exciting incident occurred toward the close of
the proceedings. Sudden illness made Mrs. Linley's removal
necessary, at the moment of all others most interesting to
herself--the moment before the judge's decision was announced.
But, as the event proved, the poor lady's withdrawal was the most
fortunate circumstance that could have occurred, in her own
interests. After condemning the husband's conduct with unsparing
severity, the Lord President surprised most of the persons
present by speaking of the wife in these terms:
"Grievously as Mrs. Linley has been injured, the evidence shows
that she was herself by no means free from blame. She has been
guilty, to say the least of it, of acts of indiscretion. When the
criminal attachment which had grown up between Mr. Herbert Linley
and Miss Westerfield had been confessed to her, she appears to
have most unreasonably overrated whatever merit there might have
been in their resistance to the final temptation. She was indeed
so impulsively ready to forgive (without waiting to see if the
event justified the exercise of mercy) that she owns to having
given her hand to Miss Westerfield, at parting, not half an hour
after that young person's shameless forgetfulness of the claims
of modesty, duty and gratitude had been first communicated to
her. To say that this was the act of an inconsiderate woman,
culpably indiscreet and, I had almost added, culpably indelicate,
is only to say what she has deserved. On the next occasion to
which I feel bound to advert, her conduct was even more deserving
of censure. She herself appears to have placed the temptation
under which he fell in her husband's way, and so (in some degree
at least) to have provoked the catastrophe which has brought her
before this court. I allude, it is needless to say, to her having
invited the governess--then out of harm's way; then employed
elsewhere--to return to her house, and to risk (what actually
occurred) a meeting with Mr. Herbert Linley when no third person
happened to be present. I know that the maternal motive which
animated Mrs. Linley is considered, by many persons, to excuse
and even to justify that most regrettable act; and I have myself
allowed (I fear weakly allowed) more than due weight to this
consideration in pronouncing for the Divorce. Let me express the
earnest hope that Mrs. Linley will take warning by what has
happened; and, if she finds herself hereafter placed in other
circumstances of difficulty, let me advise her to exercise more
control over impulses which one might expect perhaps to find in a
young girl, but which are neither natural nor excusable in a
woman of her age."
His lordship then decreed the Divorce in the customary form,
giving the custody of the child to the mother.
* * * * *
As fast as a hired carriage could take him, Mr. Sarrazin drove
from the court to Mrs. Linley's lodgings, to tell her that the
one great object of securing her right to her child had been
At the door he was met by Mrs. Presty. She was accompanied by a
stranger, whose medical services had been required. Interested
professionally in hearing the result of the trial, this gentleman
volunteered to communicate the good news to his patient. He had
been waiting to administer a composing draught, until the
suspense from which Mrs. Linley was suffering might be relieved,
and a reasonable hope be entertained that the medicine would
produce the right effect. With that explanation he left the room.
While the doctor was speaking, Mrs. Presty was drawing her own
conclusions from a close scrutiny of Mr. Sarrazin's face.
"I am going to make a disagreeable remark," she announced. "You
look ten years older, sir, than you did when you left us this
morning to go to the Court. Do me a favor--come to the
sideboard." The lawyer having obeyed, she poured out a glass of
wine. "There is the remedy," she resumed, "when something has
happened to worry you."
"'Worry' isn't the right word," Mr. Sarrazin declared. "I'm
furious! It's a most improper thing for a person in my position
to say of a person in the Lord President's position; but I do say
it--he ought to be ashamed of himself."
"After giving us our Divorce!" Mrs. Presty exclaimed. "What has
Mr. Sarrazin repeated what the judge had said of Mrs. Linley. "In
my opinion," he added, "such language as that is an insult to
"And yet," Mrs. Presty repeated, "he has given us our Divorce."
She returned to the sideboard, poured out a second dose of the
remedy against worry, and took it herself. "What sort of
character does the Lord President bear?" she asked when she had
emptied her glass.
This seemed to be an extraordinary question to put, under the
circumstances. Mr. Sarrazin answered it, however, to the best of
his ability. "An excellent character," he said--"that's the
unaccountable part of it. I hear that he is one of the most
careful and considerate men who ever sat on the bench. Excuse me,
Mrs. Presty, I didn't intend to produce that impression on you."
"What impression, Mr. Sarrazin?"
"You look as if you thought there was some excuse for the judge."
"That's exactly what I do think."
"You find an excuse for him?
"What is it, ma'am?"
"Constitutional infirmity, sir."
"May I ask of what nature?"
"You may. Gout."
Mr. Sarrazin thought he understood her at last. "You know the
Lord President," he said.
Mrs. Presty denied it positively. "No, Mr. Sarrazin, I don't get
at it in that way. I merely consult my experience of another
official person of high rank, and apply it to the Lord President.
You know that my first husband was a Cabinet Minister?"
"I have heard you say so, Mrs. Presty, on more than one
"Very well. You may also have heard that the late Mr. Norman was
a remarkably well-bred man. In and out of the House of Commons,
courteous almost to a fault. One day I happened to interrupt him
when he was absorbed over an Act of Parliament. Before I could
apologize--I tell you this in the strictest confidence--he threw
the Act of Parliament at my head. Ninety-nine women out of a
hundred would have thrown it back again. Knowing his
constitution, I decided on waiting a day or two. On the second
day, my anticipations were realized. Mr. Norman's great toe was
as big as my fist and as red as a lobster; he apologized for the
Act of Parliament with tears in his eyes. Suppressed gout in Mr.
Norman's temper; suppressed gout in the Lord President's temper.
_He_ will have a toe; and, if I can prevail upon my daughter to
call upon him, I have not the least doubt he will apologize to
her with tears in _his_ eyes."
This interesting experiment was never destined to be tried. Right
or wrong, Mrs. Presty's theory remained the only explanation of
the judge's severity. Mr. Sarrazin attempted to change the
subject. Mrs. Presty had not quite done with it yet. "There is
one more thing I want to say," she proceeded. "Will his
lordship's remarks appear in the newspapers?"
"Not a doubt of it."
"In that case I will take care (for my daughter's sake) that no
newspapers enter the house to-morrow. As for visitors, we needn't
be afraid of them. Catherine is not likely to be able to leave
her room; the worry of this miserable business has quite broken
The doctor returned at that moment.
Without taking the old lady's gloomy view of his patient, he
admitted that she was in a low nervous condition, and he had
reason to suppose, judging by her reply to a question which he
had ventured to put, that she had associations with Scotland
which made a visit to that country far from agreeable to her. His
advice was that she should leave Edinburgh as soon as possible,
and go South. If the change of climate led to no improvement, she
would at least be in a position to consult the best physicians in
London. In a day or two more it would be safe to remove
her--provided she was not permitted to exhaust her strength by
taking long railway journeys.
Having given his advice, the doctor took leave. Soon after he had
gone, Kitty made her appearance, charged with a message from Mrs.
"Hasn't the physic sent your mother to sleep yet?" Mrs. Presty
Kitty shook her head. "Mamma wants to go away tomorrow, and no
physic will make her sleep till she has seen you, and settled
about it. That's what she told me to say. If _I_ behaved in that
way about my physic, I should catch it."
Mrs. Presty left the room; watched by her granddaughter with an
appearance of anxiety which it was not easy to understand.
"What's the matter?" Mr. Sarrazin asked. "You look very serious
Kitty held up a warning hand. "Grandmamma sometimes listens at
doors," she whispered; "I don't want her to hear me." She waited
a little longer, and then approached Mr. Sarrazin, frowning
mysteriously. "Take me up on your knee," she said. "There's
something wrong going on in this house."
Mr. Sarrazin took her on his knee, and rashly asked what had gone
wrong. Kitty's reply puzzled him.
"I go to mamma's room every morning when I wake," the child
began. "I get into her bed, and I give her a kiss, and I say
'Good-morning'--and sometimes, if she isn't in a hurry to get up,
I stop in her bed, and go to sleep again. Mamma thought I was
asleep this morning. I wasn't asleep--I was only quiet. I don't
know why I was quiet."
Mr. Sarrazin's kindness still encouraged her. "Well," he said,
"and what happened after that?"