Part 7 out of 8
"God forgive me, I have been wicked enough to accept him!"
Hearing this, some mothers might have made apologies; and other
mothers might have asked what that penitential reply could
possibly mean. Mrs. Presty was no matron of the ordinary type.
She welcomed the good news, without taking the smallest notice of
the expression of self-reproach which had accompanied it.
"My dear child, accept the congratulations of your fond old
mother. I have never been one of the kissing sort (I mean of
course where women are concerned); but this is an occasion which
justifies something quite out of the common way. Come and kiss
Catherine took no notice of that outburst of maternal love.
"I have forgotten everything that I
ought to have remembered," she said. "In my vanity, in my
weakness, in my selfish enjoyment of the passing moment, I have
been too supremely happy even to think of the trials of my past
life, and of the false position in which they have placed me
toward a man, whom I ought to be ashamed to deceive. I have only
been recalled to a sense of duty, I might almost say to a sense
of decency, by my poor little child. If Kitty had not reminded me
of her father--"
Mrs. Presty dropped into a chair: she was really frightened. Her
fat cheeks trembled like a jelly on a dish that is suddenly
"Has that man been here?" she asked.
"The man who may break off your marriage if he meets with the
Captain. Has Herbert Linley been here?"
"Certainly not. The one person associated with my troubles whom I
have seen to-day is Sydney Westerfield."
Mrs. Presty bounced out of her chair. "You--have seen--Sydney
Westerfield?" she repeated with emphatic pauses which expressed
amazement tempered by unbelief.
"Yes; I have seen her."
"In the garden."
"And spoken to her?"
Mrs. Presty raised her eyes to the ceiling. Whether she expected
our old friend "the recording angel" to take down the questions
and answers that had just passed, or whether she was only waiting
to see the hotel that held her daughter collapse under a sense of
moral responsibility, it is not possible to decide. After an
awful pause, the old lady remembered that she had something more
to say--and said it.
"I make no remark, Catherine; I don't even want to know what you
and Miss Westerfield said to each other. At the same time, as a
matter of convenience to myself, I wish to ascertain whether I
must leave this hotel or not. The same house doesn't hold that
woman and ME. Has she gone?"
"She has gone."
Mrs. Presty looked round the room. "And taken Kitty with her?"
"Don't speak of Kitty!" Catherine cried in the greatest distress.
"I have had to keep the poor innocent affectionate child apart
from Miss Westerfield by force. My heart aches when I think of
"I'm not surprised, Catherine. My granddaughter has been brought
up on the modern system. Children are all little angels--no
punishments--only gentle remonstrance--'Don't be naughty, dear,
because you will make poor mamma unhappy.' And then, mamma
grieves over it and wonders over it, when she finds her little
angel disobedient. What a fatal system of education! All my
success in life; every quality that endeared me to your father
and Mr. Presty; every social charm that has made me the idol of
society, I attribute entirely to judicious correction in early
life, applied freely with the open hand. We will change the
subject. Where is dear Bennydeck? I want to congratulate him on
his approaching marriage." She looked hard at her daughter, and
mentally added: "He'll live to regret it!"
Catherine knew nothing of the Captain's movements. "Like you,"
she told her mother, "I have something to say to him, and I don't
know where he is."
Mrs. Presty still kept her eyes fixed on her daughter. Nobody,
observing Catherine's face, and judging also by the tone of her
voice, would have supposed that she was alluding to the man whose
irresistible attractions had won her. She looked ill at ease, and
she spoke sadly.
"You don't seem to be in good spirits, my dear, Mrs. Presty
gently suggested. "No lovers' quarrel already, I hope?"
"Nothing of the kind."
"Can I be of any use to you?"'
"You might be of the greatest use. But I know only too well, you
Thus far, Mrs. Presty had been animated by curiosity. She began
now to feel vaguely alarmed. "After all that I have done for
you," she answered, "I don't think you ought to say that. Why
should I refuse?"
Her mother persisted in pressing her. "Has it anything to do with
"What is it?"
Catherine roused her courage.
"You know what it is as well as I do," she said. "Captain
Bennydeck believes that I am free to marry him because I am a
widow. You might help me to tell him the truth."
That exclamation of horror and astonishment was loud enough to
have been heard in the garden. If Mrs. Presty's hair had been all
her own, it must have been hair that stood on end.
Catherine quietly rose. "We won't discuss it," she said, with
resignation. "I knew you would refuse me." She approached the
door. Her mother got up and resolutely stood in the way. "Before
you commit an act of downright madness," Mrs. Presty said, "I
mean to try if I can stop you. Go back to your chair."
"I know how it will end," she answered; "and the sooner it ends
the better. You will find that I am quite as determined as you
are. A man who loves me as _he_ loves me, is a man whom I refuse
"Let's have it out plainly," Mrs. Presty insisted. "He believes
your first marriage has been dissolved by death. Do you mean to
tell him that it has been dissolved by Divorce?"
"What right has he to know it?"
"A right that is not to be denied. A wife must have no secrets
from her husband."
Mrs. Presty hit back smartly.
"You're not his wife yet. Wait till you are married."
"Never! Who but a wretch would marry an honest man under false
"I deny the false pretenses! You talk as if you were an impostor.
Are you, or are you not, the accomplished lady who has charmed
him? Are you, or are you not, the beautiful woman whom he loves?
There isn't a stain on your reputation. In every respect you are
the wife he wants and the wife who is worthy of him. And you are
cruel enough to disturb the poor man about a matter that doesn't
concern him! you are fool enough to raise doubts of you in his
mind, and give him a reproach to cast in your teeth the first
time you do anything that happens to offend him! Any woman--I
don't care who she may be--might envy the home that's waiting for
you and your child, if you're wise enough to hold your tongue.
Upon my word, Catherine, I am ashamed of you. Have you no
She really meant it! The purely selfish considerations which she
urged on her daughter were so many undeniable virtues in Mrs.
Presty's estimation. She took the highest moral ground, and stood
up and crowed on it, with a pride in her own principles which the
Primate of all England might have envied.
But Catherine's rare resolution held as firm as ever. She got a
little nearer to the door. "Good-night, mamma," was the only
reply she made.
"Is that all you have to say to me?"
"I am tired, and I must rest. Please let me go."
Mrs. Presty threw open the door with a bang.
"You refuse to take my advice?" she said. "Oh, very well, have
your own way! You are sure to prosper in the end. These are the
days of exhibitions and gold medals. If there is ever an
exhibition of idiots at large, I know who might win the prize."
Catherine was accustomed to preserve her respect for her mother
under difficulties; but this was far more than her sense of
filial duty could successfully endure.
"I only wish I had never taken your advice," she answered. "Many
a miserable moment would have been spared me, if I had always
done what I am doing now. You have been the evil genius of my
life since Miss Westerfield first came into our house."
She passed through the open doorway--stopped--and came back
again. "I didn't mean to offend you, mamma--but you do say such
irritating things. Good-night."
Not a word of reply acknowledged that kindly-meant apology. Mrs.
Presty--vivacious Mrs. Presty of the indomitable spirit and the
ready tongue--was petrified. She, the guardian angel of the
family, whose experience, devotion, and sound sense had steered
Catherine through difficulties and dangers which must have
otherwise ended in utter domestic shipwreck--she, the model
mother--had been stigmatized as the evil genius of her daughter's
life by no less a person than that daughter herself! What was to
be said? What was to be done? What terrible and unexampled course
of action should be taken after such an insult as this? Mrs.
Presty stood helpless in the middle of the room, and asked
herself these questions, and waited and wondered
and found no answer.
An interval passed. There was a knock at the door. A waiter
appeared. He said: "A gentleman to see Mrs. Norman."
The gentleman entered the room and revealed himself.
The divorced husband looked at his mother-in-law without making
the slightest sacrifice to the claims of politeness. He neither
offered his hand nor made his bow. His frowning eyebrows, his
flushed face, betrayed the anger that was consuming him.
"I want to see Catherine," he said.
This deliberate rudeness proved to be the very stimulant that was
required to restore Mrs. Presty to herself. The smile that always
meant mischief made its threatening appearance on the old lady's
"What sort of company have you been keeping since I last saw
you?" she began.
"What have you got to do with the company I keep?"
"Nothing whatever, I am happy to say. I was merely wondering
whether you have been traveling lately in the south part of
Africa, and have lived exclusively in the society of Hottentots.
The only other explanation of your behavior is that I have been
so unfortunate as to offend you. But it seems improbable--I am
not your wife."
"Thank God for that!"
"Thank God, as you say. But I should really be glad (as a mere
matter of curiosity) to know what your extraordinary conduct
means. You present yourself in this room uninvited, you find a
lady here, and you behave as if you had come into a shop and
wanted to ask the price of something. Let me give you a lesson in
good manners. Observe: I receive you with a bow, and I say: How
do you do, Mr. Linley? Do you understand me?"
"I don't want to understand you--I want to see Catherine."
"Who is Catherine?"
"You know as well as I do--your daughter."
"My daughter, sir, is a stranger to you. We will speak of her, if
you please, by the name--the illustrious name--which she
inherited at her birth. You wish to see Mrs. Norman?"
"Call her what you like. I have a word to say to her, and I mean
to say it."
"No, Mr. Linley, you won't say it."
"We'll see about that! Where is she?"
"My daughter is not well."
"Well or ill, I shan't keep her long."
"My daughter has retired to her room."
"Where is her room?"
Mrs. Presty moved to the fireplace, and laid her hand on the
"Are you aware that this house is a hotel ?" she asked.
"It doesn't matter to me what it is."
"Oh yes, it does. A hotel keeps waiters. A hotel, when it is as
large as this, has a policeman in attendance. Must I ring?"
The choice between giving way to Mrs. Presty, or being
disgracefully dismissed, was placed plainly before him. Herbert's
life had been the life of a gentleman; he knew that he had
forgotten himself; it was impossible that he could hesitate.
"I won't trouble you to ring," he said; "and I will beg your
pardon for having allowed my temper to get the better of me. At
the same time it ought to be remembered, I think, in my favor,
that I have had some provocation."
"I don't agree with you," Mrs. Presty answered. She was deaf to
any appeal for mercy from Herbert Linley. "As to provocation,"
she added, returning to her chair without asking him to be
seated, "when you apply that word to yourself, you insult my
daughter and me. _You_ provoked? Oh, heavens!"
"You wouldn't say that," he urged, speaking with marked restraint
of tone and manner, "if you knew what I have had to endure--"
Mrs. Presty suddenly looked toward the door. "Wait a minute," she
said; "I think I hear somebody coming in."
In the silence that followed, footsteps were audible outside--not
approaching the door, however, but retiring from it. Mrs. Presty
had apparently been mistaken. "Yes?" she said resignedly,
permitting Herbert to proceed.
He really had something to say for himself, and he said it with
sufficient moderation. That he had been guilty of serious
offenses he made no attempt to deny; but he pleaded that he had
not escaped without justly suffering for what he had done. He had
been entirely in the wrong when he threatened to take the child
away from her mother by force of law; but had he not been
punished when his wife obtained her Divorce, and separated him
from his little daughter as well as from herself? (No: Mrs.
Presty failed to see it; if anybody had suffered by the Divorce,
the victim was her injured daughter.) Still patient, Herbert did
not deny the injury; he only submitted once more that he had
suffered his punishment. Whether his life with Sydney Westerfield
had or had not been a happy one, he must decline to say; he would
only declare that it had come to an end. She had left him. Yes!
she had left him forever. He had no wish to persuade her to
return to their guilty life; they were both penitent, they were
both ashamed of it. But she had gone away without the provision
which he was bound in honor to offer to her.
"She is friendless; she may be in a state of poverty that I
tremble to think of," Herbert declared. "Is there nothing to
plead for me in such anxiety as I am suffering now?" Mrs. Presty
stopped him there; she had heard enough of Sydney already.
"I see nothing to be gained," she said, "by dwelling on the past;
and I should be glad to know why you have come to this place
"I have come to see Kitty."
"Quite out of the question."
"Don't tell me that, Mrs. Presty! I'm one of the wretchedest men
living, and I ask for the consolation of seeing my child. Kitty
hasn't forgotten me yet, I know. Her mother can't be so cruel as
to refuse. She shall fix her own time, and send me away when she
likes; I'll submit to anything. Will you ask Catherine to let me
"I can't do it."
"For private reasons."
"For reasons into which you have no right to inquire."
He got up from his chair. His face presented the same expression
which Mrs. Presty had seen on it when he first entered the room.
"When I came in here," he said, "I wished to be certain of one
thing. Your prevarication has told me what I wanted to know. The
newspapers had Catherine's own authority for it, Mrs. Presty,
when they called her widow. I know now why my brother, who never
deceived me before, has deceived me about this. I understand the
part that your daughter has been playing--and I am as certain as
if I had heard it, of the devilish lie that one of you--perhaps
both of you--must have told my poor child. No, no; I had better
not see Catherine. Many a man has killed his wife, and has not
had such good reason for doing it as I have. You are quite right
to keep me away from her."
He stopped--and looked suddenly toward the door. "I hear her," he
cried, "She's coming in!"
The footsteps outside were audible once more. This time, they
were approaching; they were close to the door. Herbert drew back
from it. Looking round to see that he was out of the way, Mrs.
Presty rushed forward--tore open the door in terror of what might
happen--and admitted Captain Bennydeck.
Keep the Secret.
The Captain's attention was first attracted by the visitor whom
he found in the room. He bowed to the stranger; but the first
impression produced on him did not appear to have been of the
favorable kind, when he turned next to Mrs. Presty.
Observing that she was agitated, he made the customary apologies,
expressing his regret if he had been so unfortunate as to commit
an intrusion. Trusting in the good sense and good breeding which
distinguished him on other occasions, Mrs. Presty anticipated
that he would see the propriety of leaving her alone again with
the person whom he had found in her company. To her dismay he
remained in the room; and, worse still, he noticed her daughter's
absence, and asked if there was any serious cause for it.
For the moment, Mrs. Presty was unable to reply. Her presence of
mind--or, to put it more correctly, her ready audacity--deserted
her, when she saw Catherine's husband that had been, and
Catherine's husband that was to be, meeting as strangers, and but
too likely to discover each other.
In all her experience she had never been placed in such a
position of embarrassment as the position in which she found
herself now. The sense of honor which had pr ompted Catherine's
resolution to make Bennydeck acquainted with the catastrophe of
married life, might plead her excuse in the estimation of a man
devotedly attached to her. But if the Captain was first informed
that he had been deceived by a person who was a perfect stranger
to him, what hope could be entertained of his still holding
himself bound by his marriage engagement? It was even possible
that distrust had been already excited in his mind. He must
certainly have heard a man's voice raised in anger when he
approached the door--and he was now observing that man with an
air of curiosity which was already assuming the appearance of
distrust. That Herbert, on his side, resented the Captain's
critical examination of him was plainly visible in his face.
After a glance at Bennydeck, he asked Mrs. Presty "who that
"I may be mistaken," he added; "but I thought your friend looked
at me just now as if he knew me."
"I have met you, sir, before this." The Captain made the reply
with a courteous composure of tone and manner which apparently
reminded Herbert of the claims of politeness.
"May I ask where I had the honor of seeing you?" he inquired.
"We passed each other in the hall of the hotel at Sandyseal. You
had a young woman with you."
"Your memory is a better one than mine, sir. I fail to remember
the circumstance to which you refer."
Bennydeck let the matter rest there. Struck by the remarkable
appearance of embarrassment in Mrs. Presty's manner--and feeling
(in spite of Herbert's politeness of language) increased distrust
of the man whom he had found visiting her--he thought it might
not be amiss to hint that she could rely on him in case of
necessity. "I am afraid I have interrupted a confidential
interview," he began; "and I ought perhaps to explain--"
Mrs. Presty listened absently; preoccupied by the fear that
Herbert would provoke a dangerous disclosure, and by the
difficulty of discovering a means of preventing it. She
interrupted the Captain.
"Excuse me for one moment; I have a word to say to this
gentleman." Bennydeck immediately drew back, and Mrs. Presty
lowered her voice. "If you wish to see Kitty," she resumed,
attacking Herbert on his weak side, "it depends entirely on your
"What do you mean by discretion?"
"Be careful not to speak of our family troubles--and I promise
you shall see Kitty. That is what I mean."
Herbert declined to say whether he would be careful or not. He
was determined to find out, first, with what purpose Bennydeck
had entered the room. "The gentleman was about to explain himself
to you," he said to Mrs. Presty. "Why don't you give him the
She had no choice but to submit--in appearance at least. Never
had she hated Herbert as she hated him at that moment. The
Captain went on with his explanation. He had his reasons (he
said) for hesitating, in the first instance, to present himself
uninvited, and he accordingly retired. On second thoughts,
however, he had returned, in the hope--
"In the hope," Herbert interposed, "of seeing Mrs. Presty's
"That was one of my motives," Bennydeck answered.
"Is it indiscreet to inquire what the other motive was?"
"Not at all. I heard a stranger's voice, speaking in a tone
which, to say the least of it, is not customary in a lady's room
and I thought--"
Herbert interrupted him again. "And you thought your interference
might be welcome to the lady! Am I right?"
"Am I making another lucky guess if I suppose myself to be
speaking to Captain Bennydeck?"
"I shall be glad to hear, sir, how you have arrived at the
knowledge of my name."
"Shall we say, Captain, that I have arrived at it by instinct?"
His face, as he made that reply, alarmed Mrs. Presty. She cast a
look at him, partly of entreaty, partly of warning. No effect was
produced by the look. He continued, in a tone of ironical
compliment: "You must pay the penalty of being a public
character. Your marriage is announced in the newspapers."
"I seldom read the newspapers."
"Ah, indeed? Perhaps the report is not true? As you don't read
the newspapers, allow me to repeat it. You are engaged to marry
the 'beautiful widow, Mrs. Norman.' I think I quote those last
Mrs. Presty suddenly got up. With an inscrutable face that told
no tales, she advanced to the door. Herbert's insane jealousy of
the man who was about to become Catherine's husband had led him
into a serious error; he had driven Catherine's mother to
desperation. In that state of mind she recovered her lost
audacity, as a matter of course. Opening the door, she turned
round to the two men, with a magnificent impudence of manner
which in her happiest moments she had never surpassed.
"I am sorry to interrupt this interesting conversation," she
said; "but I have stupidly forgotten one of my domestic duties.
You will allow me to return, and listen with renewed pleasure,
when my household business is off my mind. I shall hope to find
you both more polite to each other than ever when I come back."
She was in such a frenzy of suppressed rage that she actually
kissed her hand to them as she left the room!
Bennydeck looked after her, convinced that some sinister purpose
was concealed under Mrs. Presty's false excuses, and wholly
unable to imagine what that purpose might be. Herbert still
persisted in trying to force a quarrel on the Captain.
"As I remarked just now," he proceeded, "newspaper reports are
not always to be trusted. Do you seriously mean, my dear sir, to
marry Mrs. Norman?"
"I look forward to that honor and that happiness. But I am at a
loss to know how it interests you."
"In that case allow me to enlighten you. My name is Herbert
He had held his name in reserve, feeling certain of the effect
which he would produce when he pronounced it. The result took him
completely by surprise. Not the slightest appearance of agitation
showed itself in Bennydeck's manner. On the contrary, he looked
as if there was something that interested him in the discovery of
"You are probably related to a friend of mine?" he said, quietly.
"Who is your friend?"
"Mr. Randal Linley."
Herbert was entirely unprepared for this discovery. Once more,
the Captain had got the best of it.
"Are you and Randal Linley intimate friends?" he inquired, as
soon as he had recovered himself.
"It's strange that he should never have mentioned me, on any
occasion when you and he were together."
"It does indeed seem strange."
Herbert paused. His brother's keen sense of the disgrace that he
had inflicted on the family recurred to his memory. He began to
understand Randal's otherwise unaccountable silence.
"Are you nearly related to Mr. Randal Linley?" the Captain asked.
"I am his elder brother."
Ignorant on his part of the family disgrace, Bennydeck heard that
reply with amazement. From his point of view, it was impossible
to account for Randal's silence.
"Will you think me very inquisitive," Herbert resumed, "if I ask
whether my brother approves of your marriage?"
There was a change in his tone, as he put that question which
warned Bennydeck to be on his guard. "I have not yet consulted my
friend's opinion," he answered, shortly.
Herbert threw off the mask. "In the meantime, you shall have my
opinion," he said. "Your marriage is a crime--and I mean to
The Captain left his chair, and sternly faced the man who had
spoken those insolent words.
"Are you mad?" he asked.
Herbert was on the point of declaring himself to have been
Catherine's husband, until the law dissolved their marriage--when
a waiter came in and approached him with a message. "You are
wanted immediately, sir."
"Who wants me?"
"A person outside, sir. It's a serious matter--there is not a
moment to lose."
Herbert turned to the Captain. "I must have your promise to wait
for me," he said, "or I don't leave the room."
"Make your mind easy. I shall not stir from this place till you
have explained yourself," was the firm reply.
The servant led the way out. He crossed the passage, and opened
the door of a waiting-room. Herbert passed in--and found himself
face to face with his
Forgiveness to the Injured Doth Belong.
Without one word of explanation, Catherine stepped up to him, and
"Answer me this," she said--"have you told Captain Bennydeck who
The shortest possible reply was the only reply that he could
make, in the moment when he first looked at her.
She was not the same woman whom he had last seen at Sandyseal,
returning for her lost book. The agitation produced by that
unexpected meeting had turned her pale; the overpowering sense of
injury had hardened and aged her face. This time, she was
prepared to see him; this time, she was conscious of a resolution
that raised her in her own estimation. Her clear blue eyes
glittered as she looked at him, the bright color glowed in her
cheeks; he was literally dazzled by her beauty.
"In the past time, which we both remember," she resumed, "you
once said that I was the most truthful woman you had ever known.
Have I done anything to disturb that part of your old faith in
She went on: "Before you entered this house, I had determined to
tell Captain Bennydeck what you have not told him yet. When I say
that, do you believe me?"
If he had been able to look away from her, he might have foreseen
what was coming; and he would have remembered that his triumph
over the Captain was still incomplete. But his eyes were riveted
on her face; his tenderest memories of her were pleading with
him. He answered as a docile child might have answered.
"I do believe you."
She took a letter from her bosom; and, showing it, begged him to
remark that it was not closed.
"I was in my bedroom writing," she said, "When my mother came to
me and told me that you and Captain Bennydeck had met in my
sitting-room. She dreaded a quarrel and an exposure, and she
urged me to go downstairs and insist on sending you away--or
permit her to do so, if I could not prevail on myself to follow
her advice. I refused to allow the shameful dismissal of a man
who had once had his claim on my respect. The only alternative
that I could see was to speak with you here, in private, as we
are speaking now. My mother undertook to manage this for me; she
saw the servant, and gave him the message which you received.
Where is Captain Bennydeck now?"
"He is waiting in the sitting-room."
"Waiting for you?
She considered a little before she said her next words.
"I have brought with me what I was writing in my own room," she
resumed, "wishing to show it to you. Will you read it?"
She offered the letter to him. He hesitated. "Is it addressed to
me?" he asked.
"It is addressed to Captain Bennydeck," she answered.
The jealousy that still rankled in his mind--jealousy that he had
no more lawful or reasonable claim to feel than if he had been a
stranger--urged him to assume an indifference which he was far
from feeling. He begged that Catherine would accept his excuses.
She refused to excuse him.
"Before you decide," she said, "you ought at least to know why I
have written to Captain Bennydeck, instead of speaking to him as
I had proposed. My heart failed me when I thought of the distress
that he might feel--and, perhaps of the contempt of myself which,
good and gentle as he is, he might not be able to disguise. My
letter tells him the truth, without concealment. I am obliged to
speak of the manner in which you have treated me, and of the
circumstances which forced me into acts of deception that I now
bitterly regret. I have tried not to misrepresent you; I have
been anxious to do you no wrong. It is for you, not for me, to
say if I have succeeded. Once more, will you read my letter?"
The sad self-possession, the quiet dignity with which she spoke,
appealed to his memory of the pardon that she had so generously
granted, while he and Sydney Westerfield were still guiltless of
the injury inflicted on her at a later time. Silently he took the
letter from her, and read it.
She kept her face turned away from him and from the light. The
effort to be still calm and reasonable--to suffer the heart-ache,
and not to let the suffering be seen--made cruel demands on the
self-betraying nature of a woman possessed by strong emotion.
There was a moment when she heard him sigh while he was reading.
She looked round at him, and instantly looked away again.
He rose and approached her; he held out the letter in one hand,
and pointed to it with the other. Twice he attempted to speak.
Twice the influence of the letter unmanned him.
It was a hard struggle, but it was for her sake: he mastered his
weakness, and forced his trembling voice to submit to his will.
"Is the man whom you are going to marry worthy of _this?_" he
asked, still pointing to the letter.
She answered, firmly: "More than worthy of it."
"Marry him, Catherine--and forget Me."
The great heart that he had so sorely wounded pitied him, forgave
him, answered him with a burst of tears. She held out one
His lips touched it--he was gone.
Dum Spiro, Spero.
Brisk and smiling, Mrs. Presty presented herself in the
waiting-room. "We have got rid of our enemy!" she announced, "I
looked out of the window and saw him leaving the hotel." She
paused, struck with the deep dejection expressed in her
daughter's attitude. "Catherine!" she exclaimed, "I tell you
Herbert has gone, and you look as if you regretted it! Is there
anything wrong? Did my message fail to bring him here?"
"He was bent on mischief when I saw him last. Has he told
Bennydeck of the Divorce?"
"Thank Heaven for that! There is no one to be afraid of now.
Where is the Captain?"
"He is still in the sitting-room."
"Why don't you go to him?"
"Shall I go?"
"Yes--and give him this."
Mrs. Presty took the letter. "You mean, tear it up," she said,
and quite right, too."
"No; I mean what l say."
"My dear child, if you have any regard for yourself, if you have
any regard for me, don't ask me to give Bennydeck this mad
letter! You won't hear reason? You still insist on it?"
"If Kitty ever behaves to you, Catherine, as you have behaved to
me--you will have richly deserved it. Oh, if you were only a
child again, I'd beat it out of you--I would!"
With that outburst of temper, she took the letter to Bennydeck.
In less than a minute she returned, a tamed woman. "He frightens
me," she said.
"Is he angry?"
"No--and that is the worst of it. When men are angry, I am never
afraid of them. He's quiet, too quiet. He said: 'I'm waiting for
Mr. Herbert Linley; where is he?' I said. 'He has left the
hotel.' He said: 'What does that mean?' I handed the letter to
him. 'Perhaps this will explain,' I said. He looked at the
address, and at once recognized your handwriting. 'Why does she
write to me when we are both in the same house? Why doesn't she
speak to me?' I pointed to the letter. He wouldn't look at it; he
looked straight at me. 'There's some mystery here,' he said; 'I'm
a plain man, I don't like mysteries. Mr. Linley had something to
say to me, when the message interrupted him. Who sent the
message? Do you know?' If there is a woman living, Catherine, who
would have told the truth, in such a position as mine was at that
moment, I should like to have her photograph. I said I didn't
know- and I saw he suspected me of deceiving him. Those kind eyes
of his--you wouldn't believe it of them!--looked me through and
through. 'I won't detain you any longer,' he said. I'm not easily
daunted, as you know--the relief it was to me to get away from
him is not to be told in words. What do you think I heard when I
got into the passage? I heard him turn the key of the door. He's
locked in, my dear; he's locked in! We are too near him here.
Catherine refused. "I ought to be near him," she said, hopefully;
"he may wish to see me."
Her mother reminded her that the waiting-room was a public room,
and might be wanted.
"Let's go into the garden," Mrs. Presty proposed. "We can tell
the servant who waits on us where we may be found."
Catherine yielded. Mrs. Presty's excitement found its overflow in
talking perpetually. Her daughter had nothing to say, and cared
nothing wh ere they went; all outward manifestation of life in
her seemed to be suspended at that terrible time of expectation.
They wandered here and there, in the quietest part of the
grounds. Half an hour passed--and no message was received. The
hotel clock struck the hour--and still nothing happened.
"I can walk no longer," Catherine said. She dropped on one of the
garden-chairs, holding by her mother's hand. "Go to him, for
God's sake!" she entreated. "I can endure it no longer."
Mrs. Presty--even bold Mrs. Presty--was afraid to face him again.
"He's fond of the child," she suggested; "let's send Kitty."
Some little girls were at play close by who knew where Kitty was
to be found. In a few minutes more they brought her back with
them. Mrs. Presty gave the child her instructions, and sent her
away proud of her errand, and delighted at the prospect of
visiting the Captain by herself, as if she "was a grown-up lady."
This time the period of suspense was soon at an end. Kitty came
running back. "It's lucky you sent me," she declared. "He
wouldn't have opened the door to anybody else--he said so
"Did you knock softly, as I told you?" Mrs. Presty asked.
"No, grandmamma, I forgot that. I tried to open the door. He
called out not to disturb him. I said, 'It's only me,' and he
opened the door directly. What makes him look so pale, mamma? Is
"Perhaps he feels the heat," Mrs. Presty suggested, judiciously.
"He said, 'Dear little Kitty,' and he caught me up in his arms
and kissed me. When he sat down again he took me on his knee, and
he asked if I was fond of him, and I said, 'Yes, I am,' and he
kissed me again, and he asked if I had come to stay with him and
keep him company. I forgot what you wanted me to say," Kitty
acknowledged, addressing Mrs. Presty; "so I made it up out of my
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him, mamma was as fond of him as I was, and I said, 'We
will both keep you company.' He put me down on the floor, and he
got up and went to the window and looked out. I told him that
wasn't the way to find her, and I said, 'I know where she is;
I'll go and fetch her.' He's an obstinate man, our nice Captain.
He wouldn't come away from the window. I said, 'You wish to see
mamma, don't you?' And he said 'Yes.' 'You mustn't lock the door
again,' I told him, 'she won't like that'; and what do you think
he said? He said 'Good-by, Kitty!' Wasn't it funny? He didn't
seem to know what he was talking about. If you ask my opinion,
mamma, I think the sooner you go to him the better." Catherine
hesitated. Mrs. Presty on one side, and Kitty on the other, led
her between them into the house.
L'homme propose, et Dieu dispose.
Captain Bennydeck met Catherine and her child at the open door of
the room. Mrs. Presty, stopping a few paces behind them, waited
in the passage; eager to see what the Captain's face might tell
her. It told her nothing.
But Catherine saw a change in him. There was something in his
manner unnaturally passive and subdued. It suggested the idea of
a man whose mind had been forced into an effort of self-control
which had exhausted its power, and had allowed the signs of
depression and fatigue to find their way to the surface. The
Captain was quiet, the Captain was kind; neither by word nor look
did he warn Catherine that the continuity of their intimacy was
in danger of being broken--and yet, her spirits sank, when they
met at the open door.
He led her to a chair, and said she had come to him at a time
when he especially wished to speak with her. Kitty asked if she
might remain with them. He put his hand caressingly on her head;
"No, my dear, not now."
The child eyed him for a moment, conscious of something which she
had never noticed in him before, and puzzled by the discovery.
She walked back, cowed and silent, to the door. He followed her
and spoke to Mrs. Presty.
"Take your grandchild into the garden; we will Join you there in
a little while. Good-by for the present, Kitty."
Kitty said good-by mechanically--like a dull child repeating a
lesson. Her grandmother led her away in silence.
Bennydeck closed the door and seated himself by Catherine.
"I thank you for your letter," he said. "If such a thing is
possible, it has given me a higher opinion of you than any
opinion that I have held yet."
She looked at him with a feeling of surprise, so sudden and so
overwhelming that she was at a loss how to reply. The last words
which she expected to hear from him, when he alluded to her
confession, were the words that had just passed his lips.
"You have owned to faults that you have committed, and deceptions
that you have sanctioned," he went on--"with nothing to gain, and
everything to lose, by telling the truth. Who but a good woman
would have done that?"
There was a deeper feeling in him than he had ventured to
express. It betrayed itself by a momentary trembling in his
voice. Catherine drew a little closer to him.
"You don't know how you surprise me, how you relieve me," she
said, warmly--and pressed his hand. In the eagerness of her
gratitude, in the gladness that had revived her sinking heart,
she failed to feel that the pressure was not returned.
"What have I said to surprise you?" he asked. "What anxiety have
I relieved, without knowing it?"
"I was afraid you would despise me."
"Why should I despise you?"
"Have I not gained your good opinion under false pretenses? Have
I not allowed you to admire me and to love me without telling you
that there was anything in my past life which I have reason to
regret? Even now, I can hardly realize that you excuse and
forgive me; you, who have read the confession of my worst faults;
you, who know the shocking inconsistencies of my character--"
"Say at once," he answered, "that I know you to be a mortal
creature. Is there any human character, even the noblest, that is
always consistently good?"
"One reads of them sometimes," she suggested, "in books."
"Yes," he said. "In the worst books you could possibly read--the
only really immoral books written in our time."
"Why are they immoral?"
"For this plain reason, that they deliberately pervert the truth.
Clap-trap, you innocent creature, to catch foolish readers! When
do these consistently good people appear in the life around us,
the life that we all see? Never! Are the best mortals that ever
lived above the reach of temptation to do ill, and are they
always too good to yield to it? How does the Lord's Prayer
instruct humanity? It commands us all, without exception, to pray
that we may not be led into temptation. You have been led into
temptation. In other words, you are a human being. All that a
human being could do you have done--you have repented and
confessed. Don't I know how you have suffered and how you have
been tried! Why, what a mean Pharisee I should be if I presumed
to despise you!"
She looked at him proudly and gratefully; she lifted her arm as
if to thank him by an embrace, and suddenly let it drop again at
"Am I tormenting myself without cause?" she said. "Or is there
something that looks like sorrow, showing itself to me in your
"You see the bitterest sorrow that I have felt in all my sad
"Is it sorrow for me?"
"No. Sorrow for myself."
"Has it come to you through me? Is it my fault?"
"It is more your misfortune than your fault."
"Then you can feel for me?"
"I can and do."
He had not yet set her at ease.
"I am afraid your sympathy stops somewhere," she said. "Where
does it stop?"
For the first time, he shrank from directly answering her. "I
begin to wish I had followed your example," he owned. "It might
have been better for both of us if I had answered your letter in
"Tell me plainly," she cried, "is there something you can't
"There is something I can't forget."
"What is it? Oh, what is it! When my mother told poor little
Kitty that her father was dead, are you even more sorry than I am
that I allowed it? Are you even more ashamed of me than I am of
"No. I regret that you allowed it; but I understand how you were
led into that error. Your husband's infidelity had shaken his
hold on your respect for him and your sympathy with him, and had
so left you without your natural safeguard against Mrs. Presty's
sophistical reasoning and bad example. But for _that_
wrong-doing, there is a remedy left. Enlighten your child as you
have enlightened me; and then--I have no personal motive for
pleading Mr. Herbert Linley's cause, after what I have seen of
him--and then, acknowledge the father's claim on the child."
"Do you mean his claim to see her?"
"What else can I mean? Yes! let him see her. Do (God help me, now
when it's too late!)--do what you ought to have done, on that
accursed day which will be the blackest day in my calendar, to
the end of my life."
"What day do you mean?"
"The day when you remembered the law of man, and forgot the law
of God; the day when you broke the marriage tie, the sacred tie,
by a Divorce!"
She listened--not conscious now of suspense or fear; she
listened, with her whole heart in revolt against him.
"You are too cruel!" she declared. "You can feel for me, you can
understand me, you can pardon me in everything else that I have
done. But you judge without mercy of the one blameless act of my
life, since my husband left me--the act that protected a mother
in the exercise of her rights. Oh, can it be you? Can it be you?"
"It can be," he said, sighing bitterly; "and it is."
"What horrible delusion possesses you? Why do you curse the happy
day, the blessed day, which saw me safe in the possession of my
"For the worst and meanest of reasons," he answered--"a selfish
reason. Don't suppose that I have spoken of Divorce as one who
has had occasion to think of it. I have had no occasion to think
of it; I don't think of it even now. I abhor it because it stands
between you and me. I loathe it, I curse it because it separates
us for life."
"Separates us for life? How?"
"Can you ask me?"
"Yes, I do ask you!"
He looked round him. A society of religious persons had visited
the hotel, and had obtained permission to place a copy of the
Bible in every room. One of those copies lay on the chimney-piece
in Catherine's room. Bennydeck brought it to her, and placed it
on the table near which she was sitting. He turned to the New
Testament, and opened it at the Gospel of Saint Matthew. With his
hand on the page, he said:
"I have done my best rightly to understand the duties of a
Christian. One of those duties, as I interpret them, is to let
what I believe show itself in what I do. You have seen enough of
me, I hope, to know (though I have not been forward in speaking
of it) that I am, to the best of my poor ability, a faithful
follower of the teachings of Christ. I dare not set my own
interests and my own happiness above His laws. If I suffer in
obeying them as I suffer now, I must still submit. They are the
laws of my life."
"Is it through me that you suffer?"
"It is through you."
"Will you tell me how?"
He had already found the chapter. His tears dropped on it as he
pointed to the verse.
"Read," he answered, "what the most compassionate of all Teachers
has said, in the Sermon on the Mount."
She read: "Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth
Another innocent woman, in her place, might have pointed to that
first part of the verse, which pre-supposes the infidelity of the
divorced wife, and might have asked if those words applied to
_her_. This woman, knowing that she had lost him, knew also what
she owed to herself She rose in silence, and held out her hand at
He paused before he took her hand. "Can you forgive me?" he
She said: "I can pity you."
"Can you look back to the day of your marriage? Can you remember
the words which declared the union between you and your husband
to be separable only by death? Has he treated you with brutal
"Has he repented of his sin?"
"Ask your own conscience if there is not a worthier life for you
and your child than the life that you are leading now." He
waited, after that appeal to her. The silence remained unbroken.
"Do not mistake me," he resumed gently. "I am not thinking of the
calamity that has fallen on me in a spirit of selfish despair--I
am looking to _your_ future, and I am trying to show you the way
which leads to hope. Catherine! have you no word more to say to
In faint trembling tones she answered him at last:
"You have left me but one word to say. Farewell!"
He drew her to him gently, and kissed her on the forehead. The
agony in his face was more than she could support; she recoiled
from it in horror. His last act was devoted to the tranquillity
of the one woman whom he had loved. He signed to her to leave
The Largest Nature, the Longest Love.
Mrs. Presty waited in the garden to be joined by her daughter and
Captain Bennydeck, and waited in vain. It was past her
grandchild's bedtime; she decided on returning to the house.
"Suppose we look for them in the sitting-room?" Kitty proposed.
"Suppose we wait a moment, before we go in?" her wise grandmother
advised. "If I hear them talking I shall take you upstairs to
Mrs. Presty favored Kitty with a hint relating to the management
of inquisitive children which might prove useful to her in
after-life. "When you grow up to be a woman, my dear, beware of
making the mistake that I have just committed. Never be foolish
enough to mention your reasons when a child asks, Why;"
"Was that how they treated _you_, grandmamma, when you were a
"Of course it was!"
They had reached the sitting-room door by this time. Kitty opened
it without ceremony and looked in. The room was empty.
Having confided her granddaughter to the nursemaid's care, Mrs.
Presty knocked at Catherine's bedroom door. "May I come in?"
"Come in directly! Where is Kitty?"
"Susan is putting her to bed."
"Stop it! Kitty mustn't go to bed. No questions. I'll explain
myself when you come back." There was a wildness in her eyes, and
a tone of stern command in her voice, which warned her mother to
set dignity aside, and submit.
"I don't ask what has happened," Mrs. Presty resumed on her
return. "That letter, that fatal letter to the Captain, has
justified my worst fears. What in Heaven's name are we to do
"We are to leave this hotel," was the instant reply.
"Catherine! do you know what time it is?"
"Time enough to catch the last train to London. Don't raise
objections! If I stay at this place, with associations in every
part of it which remind me of that unhappy man, I shall go mad!
The shock I have suffered, the misery, the humiliation--I tell
you it's more than I can bear. Stay here by yourself if you like;
I mean to go."
She paced with frantic rapidity up and down the room. Mrs. Presty
took the only way by which it was possible to calm her. "Compose
yourself, Catherine, and all that you wish shall be done. I'll
settle everything with the landlord, and give the maid her
orders. Sit down by the open window; let the wind blow over you."
The railway service from Sydenham to London is a late service. At
a few minutes before midnight they were in time for the last
train. When they left the station, Catherine was calm enough to
communicate her plans for the future. The nearest hotel to the
terminus would offer them accommodation for that night. On the
next day they could find some quiet place in the country--no
matter where, so long as they were not disturbed. "Give me rest
and peace, and my mind will be easier," Catherine said. "Let
nobody know where to find me."
These conditions were strictly observed--with an exception in
favor of Mr. Sarrazin. While his client's pecuniary affairs were
still unsettled, the lawyer had his claim to be taken into her
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The next morning found Captain Bennydeck still keeping his rooms
at Sydenham. The state of his mind presented a complete contrast
to the state of Catherine's mind. So far from sharing her
aversion to the personal associations which were connected with
the hotel, he found his one consolation in visiting the scenes
which reminded him of the beloved woman whom he had lost. The
reason f or this was not far to seek. His was the largest nature,
and his had been the most devoted love.
As usual, his letters were forwarded to him from his place of
residence in London. Those addressed in handwritings that he knew
were the first that he read. The others he took out with him to
that sequestered part of the garden in which he had passed the
happiest hours of his life by Catherine's side.
He had been thinking of her all the morning; he was thinking of
His better judgment protested; his accusing conscience warned him
that he was committing, not only an act of folly but (with his
religious convictions) an act of sin--and still she held her
place in his thoughts. The manager had told him of her sudden
departure from the hotel, and had declared with perfect truth
that the place of her destination had not been communicated to
him. Asked if she had left no directions relating to her
correspondence, he had replied that his instructions were to
forward all letters to her lawyer. On the point of inquiring next
for the name and address, Bennydeck's sense of duty and sense of
shame (roused at last) filled him with a timely contempt for
himself. In feeling tempted to write to Catherine--in encouraging
fond thoughts of her among scenes which kept her in his
memory--he had been false to the very principles to which he had
appealed at their farewell interview. She had set him the right
example, the example which he was determined to follow, in
leaving the place. Before he could falter in his resolution, he
gave notice of his departure. The one hope for him now was to
find a refuge from himself in acts of mercy. Consolation was
perhaps waiting for him in his Home.
His unopened correspondence offered a harmless occupation to his
thoughts, in the meanwhile. One after another he read the
letters, with an attention constantly wandering and constantly
recalled, until he opened the last of them that remained. In a
moment more his interest was absorbed. The first sentences in the
letter told him that the deserted creature whom he had met in the
garden--the stranger to whom he had offered help and consolation
in the present and in the future--was no other than the lost girl
of whom he had been so long in search; the daughter of Roderick
Westerfield, once his dearest and oldest friend.
In the pages that followed, the writer confided to him her sad
story; leaving it to her father's friend to decide whether she
was worthy of the sympathy which he had offered to her, when he
thought she was a stranger.
This part of her letter was necessarily a repetition of what
Bennydeck had read, in the confession which Catherine had
addressed to him. That generous woman had been guilty of one, and
but one, concealment of the truth. In relating the circumstances
under which the elopement from Mount Morven had taken place, she
had abstained, in justice to the sincerity of Sydney's
repentance, from mentioning Sydney's name. "Another instance,"
the Captain thought bitterly, as he closed the letter, "of the
virtues which might have made the happiness of my life!"
But he was bound to remember--and he did remember--that there was
now a new interest, tenderly associating itself with his life to
come. The one best way of telling Sydney how dear she was to him
already, for her father's sake, would be to answer her in person.
He hurried away to London by the first train, and drove at once
to Randal's place of abode to ask for Sydney's address.
Wondering what had become of the postscript to his letter, which
had given Bennydeck the information of which he was now in
search, Randal complied with his friend's request, and then
ventured to allude to the report of the Captain's marriage
"Am I to congratulate you?" he asked.
"Congratulate me on having discovered Roderick Westerfield's
That reply, and the tone in which it was given, led Randal to ask
if the engagement had been prematurely announced.
"There is no engagement at all," Bennydeck answered, with a look
which suggested that it might be wise not to dwell on the
But the discovery was welcome to Randal, for his brother's sake.
He ran the risk of consequences, and inquired if Catherine was
still to be found at the hotel.
The Captain answered by a sign in the negative.
Randal persisted. "Do you know where she has gone?"
"Nobody knows but her lawyer."
"In that case," Randal concluded, "I shall get the information
that I want." Noticing that Bennydeck looked surprised, he
mentioned his motive. "Herbert is pining to see Kitty," h
continued; "and I mean to help him. He has done all that a man
could do to atone for the past. As things are, I believe I shall
not offend Catherine, if I arrange for a meeting between father
and child. What do you say?"
Bennydeck answered, earnestly and eagerly: "Do it at once!"
They left the house together--one to go to Sydney's lodgings, the
other on his way to Mr. Sarrazin's office.
Let Bygones Be Bygones.
When the servant at the lodgings announced a visitor, and
mentioned his name, Sydney's memory (instead of dwelling on the
recollection of the Captain's kindness) perversely recalled the
letter that she had addressed to him, and reminded her that she
stood in need of indulgence, which even so good a man might
hesitate to grant. Bennydeck's first words told the friendless
girl that her fears had wronged him.
My dear, how like your father you are! You have his eyes and his
smile; I can't tell you how pleasantly you remind me of my dear
old friend." He took her hand, and kissed her as he might have
kissed a daughter of his own. "Do you remember me at home,
Sydney, when you were a child? No: you must have been too young
She was deeply touched. In faint trembling tones she said; "I
remember your name; my poor father often spoke of you."
A man who feels true sympathy is never in danger of mistaking his
way to a woman's heart, when that woman has suffered. Bennydeck
consoled, interested, charmed Sydney, by still speaking of the
bygone days at home.
"I well remember how fond your father was of you, and what a
bright little girl you were," the Captain went on. "You have
forgotten, I dare say, the old-fashioned sea-songs that he used
to be so fond of teaching you. It was the strangest and prettiest
contrast, to hear your small piping child's voice singing of
storms and shipwrecks, and thunder and lightning, and reefing
sails in cold and darkness, without the least idea of what it all
meant. Your mother was strict in those days; you never amused her
as you used to amuse your father and me. When she caught you
searching my pockets for sweetmeats, she accused me of destroying
your digestion before you were five years old. I went on spoiling
it, for all that. The last time I saw you, my child, your father
was singing 'The Mariners of England,' and you were on his knee
trying to sing with him. You must have often wondered why you
never saw anything more of me. Did you think I had forgotten
"I am quite sure I never thought that!"
"You see I was in the Navy at the time," the Captain resumed;
"and we were ordered away to a foreign station. When I got back
to England, miserable news was waiting for me. I heard of your
father's death and of that shameful Trial. Poor fellow! He was as
innocent, Sydney, as you are of the offense which he was accused
of committing. The first thing I did was to set inquiries on foot
after your mother and her children. It was some consolation to me
to feel that I was rich enough to make your lives easy and
agreeable to you. I thought money could do anything. A serious
mistake, my dear--money couldn't find the widow and her children.
We supposed you were somewhere in London; and there, to my great
grief, it ended. From time to time--long afterward, when we
thought we had got the clew in our hands--I continued my
inquiries, still without success. A poor woman and her little
family are so easily engulfed in the big city! Years passed (more
of them than I like to reckon up) before I heard of you at last
by name. The person from whom I got my information told me how
you were employed, and where."
"O h, Captain Bennydeck, who could the person have been?"
"A poor old broken-down actor, Sydney. You were his favorite
pupil. Do you remember him?"
"I should be ungrateful indeed if I could forget him. He was the
only person in the school who was kind to me. Is the good old man
"No; he rests at last. I am glad to say I was able to make his
last days on earth the happiest days of his life."
"I wonder," Sydney confessed, "how you met with him."
"There was nothing at all romantic in my first discovery of him.
I was reading the police reports in a newspaper. The poor wretch
was brought before a magistrate, charged with breaking a window.
His one last chance of escaping starvation in the streets was to
get sent to prison. The magistrate questioned him, and brought to
light a really heart-breaking account of misfortune, imbittered
by neglect on the part of people in authority who were bound to
help him. He was remanded, so that inquiries might be made. I
attended the court on the day when he appeared there again, and
heard his statement confirmed. I paid his fine, and contrived to
put him in a way of earning a little money. He was very grateful,
and came now and then to thank me. In that way I heard how his
troubles had begun. He had asked for a small advance on the
wretched wages that he received. Can you guess how the
schoolmistress answered him?"
"I know but too well how she answered him," Sydney said; "I was
turned out of the house, too."
"And I heard of it," the Captain replied, "from the woman
herself. Everything that could distress me she was ready to
mention. She told me of your mother's second marriage, of her
miserable death, of the poor boy, your brother, missing, and
never heard of since. But when I asked where you had gone she had
nothing more to say. She knew nothing, and cared nothing, about
you. If I had not become acquainted with Mr. Randal Linley, I
might never have heard of you again. We will say no more of that,
and no more of anything that has happened in the past time. From
to-day, my dear, we begin a new life, and (please God) a happier
life. Have you any plans of your own for the future?"
"Perhaps, if I could find help," Sydney said resignedly, "I might
emigrate. Pride wouldn't stand in my way; no honest employment
would be beneath my notice. Besides, if I went to America, I
might meet with my brother."
"My dear child, after the time that has passed, there is no
imaginable chance of your meeting with your brother--and you
wouldn't know each other again if you did meet. Give up that vain
hope and stay here with me. Be useful and be happy in your own
"Useful?" Sydney repeated sadly. "Your own kind heart, Captain
Bennydeck, is deceiving you. To be useful means, I suppose, to
help others. Who will accept help from me?"
"I will, for one," the Captain answered.
"Yes. You can be of the greatest use to me--you shall hear how."
He told her of the founding of his Home and of the good it had
done. "You are the very person," he resumed, "to be the good
sister-friend that I want for my poor girls: _you_ can say for
them what they cannot always say to me for themselves."
The tears rose in Sydney's eyes. "It is hard to see such a
prospect as that," she said, "and to give it up as soon as it is
"Why give it up?"
"Because I am not fit for it. You are as good as a father to
those lost daughters of yours. If you give them a sister-friend
she ought to have set them a good example. Have I done that? Will
they listen to a girl who is no better than themselves?"
"Gladly! _Your_ sympathy will find its way to their hearts,
because it is animated by something that they can all feel in
common--something nearer and dearer to them than a sense of duty.
You won't consent, Sydney, for their sakes? Will you do what I
ask of you, for my sake?"
She looked at him, hardly able to understand--or, as it might
have been, perhaps afraid to understand him. He spoke to her more
"I have kept it concealed from you," he continued--"for why
should I lay my load of suffering on a friend so young as you
are, so cruelly tried already? Let me only say that I am in great
distress. If you were with me, my child, I might be better able
to bear it."
He held out his hand. Even a happy woman could hardly have found
it in her heart to resist him. In silent sympathy and respect,
Sydney kissed the hand that he had offered to her. It was the one
way in which she could trust herself to answer him.
Still encouraging her to see new hopes and new interests in the
future, the good Captain spoke of the share which she might take
in the management of the Home, if she would like to be his
secretary. With this view he showed her some written reports,
relating to the institution, which had been sent to him during
the time of his residence at Sydenham. She read them with an
interest and attention which amply justified his confidence in
"These reports," he explained to her, "are kept for reference;
but as a means of saving time, the substance of them is entered
in the daily journal of our proceedings. Come, Sydney! venture on
a first experiment in your new character. I see pen, ink, and
paper on the table; try if you can shorten one of the reports,
without leaving out anything which it is important to know. For
instance, the writer gives reasons for making his statement. Very
well expressed, no doubt, but we don't want reasons. Then, again,
he offers his own opinion on the right course to take. Very
creditable to him, but I don't want his opinion--I want his
facts. Take the pen, my secretary, and set down his facts. Never
mind his reflections."
Proud and pleased, Sydney obeyed him. She had made her little
abstract, and was reading it to him at his request, while he
compared it with the report, when they were interrupted by a
visitor. Randal Linley came in, and noticed the papers on the
table with surprise. "Is it possible that I am interrupting
business?" he asked.
Bennydeck answered with the assumed air of importance which was
in itself a compliment to Sydney: "You find me engaged on the
business of the Home with my new secretary."
Randal at once understood what had happened. He took his friend's
arm, and led him to the other end of the room.
"You good fellow!" he said. "Add to your kindness by excusing me
if I ask for a word with you in private."
Sydney rose to retire. After having encouraged her by a word of
praise, the Captain proposed that she should get ready to go out,
and should accompany him on a visit to the Home. He opened the
door for her as respectfully as if the poor girl had been one of
the highest ladies in the land.
"I have seen my friend Sarrazin," Randal began, "and I have
persuaded him to trust me with Catherine's present address. I can
send Herbert there immediately, if you will only help me."
"How can I help you?"
"Will you allow me to tell my brother that your engagement is
Bennydeck shrank from the painful allusion, and showed it.
Randal explained. "I am grieved," he said, "to distress you by
referring to this subject again. But if my brother is left under
the false impression that your engagement will be followed by
your marriage, he will refuse to intrude himself on the lady who
was once his wife."
The Captain understood. "Say what you please about me," he
replied. "Unite the father and child--and you may reconcile the
husband and wife."
"Have you forgotten," Randal asked, "that the marriage has been
Bennydeck's answer ignored the law. "I remember," he said, "that
the marriage has been profaned."
Leave It to the Child.
The front windows of Brightwater Cottage look out on a quiet
green lane in Middlesex, which joins the highroad within a few
miles of the market town of Uxbridge. Through the pretty garden
at the back runs a little brook, winding its merry way to a
distant river. The few rooms in this pleasant place of residence
are well (too well) furnished, having regard to the limits of a
building which is a cottage in the strictest sense of the word.
Water-color drawings by the old English masters of the art
ornament the dinin g-room. The parlor has been transformed into a
library. From floor to ceiling all four of its walls are covered
with books. Their old and well-chosen bindings, seen in the mass,
present nothing less than a feast of color to the eye. The
library and the works of art are described as heirlooms, which
have passed into the possession of the present proprietor--one
more among the hundreds of Englishmen who are ruined every year
by betting on the Turf.
So sorely in need of a little ready money was this victim of
gambling--tacitly permitted or conveniently ignored by the
audacious hypocrisy of a country which rejoiced in the extinction
of Baden, and which still shudders at the name of Monaco--that he
was ready to let his pretty cottage for no longer a term than one
month certain; and he even allowed the elderly lady, who drove
the hardest of hard bargains with him, to lessen by one guinea
the house-rent paid for each week. He took his revenge by means
of an ironical compliment, addressed to Mrs. Presty. "What a
saving it would be to the country, ma'am, if you were Chancellor
of the Exchequer!" With perfect gravity Mrs. Presty accepted that
well-earned tribute of praise. "You are quite right, sir; I
should be the first official person known to the history of
England who took proper care of the public money."
Within two days of the time when they had left the hotel at
Sydenham, Catherine and her little family circle had taken
possession of the cottage.
The two ladies were sitting in the library each occupied with a
book chosen from the well-stocked shelves. Catherine's reading
appeared to be more than once interrupted by Catherine's
thoughts. Noticing this circumstance, Mrs. Presty asked if some
remarkable event had happened, and if it was weighing heavily on
her daughter's mind.
Catherine answered that she was thinking of Kitty, and that
anxiety connected with the child did weigh heavily on her mind.
Some days had passed (she reminded Mrs. Presty) since the
interview at which Herbert Linley had bidden her farewell. On
that occasion he had referred to her proposed marriage (never to
be a marriage now!) in terms of forbearance and generosity which
claimed her sincerest admiration. It might be possible for her to
show a grateful appreciation of his conduct. Devotedly fond of
his little daughter, he must have felt acutely his long
separation from her; and it was quite likely that he might ask to
see Kitty. But there was an obstacle in the way of her willing
compliance with that request, which it was impossible to think of
without remorse, and which it was imperatively necessary to
remove. Mrs. Presty would understand that she alluded to the
shameful falsehood which had led the child to suppose that her
father was dead.
Strongly disapproving of the language in which her daughter had
done justice to the conduct of the divorced husband, Mrs. Presty
merely replied: "You are Kitty's mother; I leave it to you"--and
returned to her reading.
Catherine could not feel that she had deserved such an answer as
this. "Did I plan the deception?" she asked. "Did I tell the
Mrs. Presty was not in the least offended. "You are comparatively
innocent, my dear," she admitted, with an air of satirical
indulgence. "You only consented to the deception, and profited by
the lie. Suppose we own the truth? You are afraid."
Catherine owned the truth in the plainest terms:
"Yes, I _am_ afraid."
"And you leave it to me?"
"I leave it to you."
Mrs. Presty complacently closed her book. "I was quite prepared
to hear it," she said; "all the unpleasant complications since
your Divorce--and Heaven only knows how many of them have
presented themselves--have been left for me to unravel. It so
happens--though I was too modest to mention it prematurely--that
I have unraveled _this_ complication. If one only has eyes to see
it, there is a way out of every difficulty that can possibly
happen." She pushed the book that she had been reading across the
table to Catherine. "Turn to page two hundred and forty," she
said. "There is the way out."
The title of the book was "Disasters at Sea"; and the page
contained the narrative of a shipwreck. On evidence apparently
irresistible, the drowning of every soul on board the lost vessel
had been taken for granted--when a remnant of the passengers and
crew had been discovered on a desert island, and had been safely
restored to their friends. Having read this record of suffering
and suspense, Catherine looked at her mother, and waited for an
"Don't you see it?" Mrs. Presty asked.
"I can't say that I do."
The old lady's excellent temper was not in the least ruffled,
even by this.
"Quite inexcusable on my part," she acknowledged; "I ought to
have remembered that you don't inherit your mother's vivid
imagination. Age has left me in full possession of those powers
of invention which used to amaze your poor father. He wondered
how it was that I never wrote a novel. Mr. Presty's appreciation
of my intellect was equally sincere; but he took a different
view. 'Beware, my dear,' he said, 'of trifling with the
distinction which you now enjoy: you are one of the most
remarkable women in England--you have never written a novel.'
Pardon me; I am wandering into the region of literary anecdote,
when I ought to explain myself. Now pray attend to this:--I
propose to tell Kitty that I have found a book which is sure to
interest her; and I shall direct her attention to the lamentable
story which you have just read. She is quite sharp enough (there
are sparks of my intellectual fire in Kitty) to ask if the
friends of the poor shipwrecked people were not very much
surprised to see them again. To this I shall answer: 'Very much,
indeed, for their friends thought they were dead.' Ah, you dear
dull child, you see it now!"
Catherine saw it so plainly that she was eager to put the first
part of the experiment to an immediate trial.
Kitty was sent for, and made her appearance with a fishing-rod
over her shoulder. "I'm going to the brook," she announced;
"expect some fish for dinner to-day."
A wary old hand stopped Catherine, in the act of presenting
"Disasters at Sea," to Kitty's notice; and a voice, distinguished
by insinuating kindness, said to the child: "When you have done
fishing, my dear, come to me; I have got a nice book for you to
read.--How very absurd of you, Catherine," Mrs. Presty continued,
when they were alone again, "to expect the child to read, and
draw her own conclusions, while her head is full of fishing! If
there are any fish in the brook, _she_ won't catch them. When she
comes back disappointed and says: 'What am I to do now?' the
'Disasters at Sea' will have a chance. I make it a rule never to
boast; but if there is a thing that I understand, it's the
management of children. Why didn't I have a large family?"
Attended by the faithful Susan, Kitty baited her hook, and began
to fish where the waters of the brook were overshadowed by trees.
A little arbor covered by a thatched roof, and having walls of
wooden lattice-work, hidden by creepers climbing over them inside
and out, offered an attractive place of rest on this sheltered
side of the garden. Having brought her work with her, the
nursemaid retired to the summer-house and diligently plied her
needle, looking at Kitty from time to time through the open door.
The air was delightfully cool, the pleasant rippling of the brook
fell soothingly on the ear, the seat in the summer-house received
a sitter with the softly-yielding submission of elastic wires.
Susan had just finished her early dinner: in mind and body alike,
this good girl was entirely and deservedly at her ease. By finely
succeeding degrees, her eyelids began to show a tendency
downward; her truant needle-work escaped from her fingers, and
lay lazily on her lap. She snatched it up with a start, and sewed
with severe resolution until her thread was exhausted. The reel
was ready at her side; she took it up for a fresh supply, and
innocently rested her head against the leafy and flowery wall of
the arbor. Was it thought that gradually closed her eyes again?
or was it sleep? In either case, Susan was lost to all se nse of
passing events; and Susan's breathing became musically regular,
emulous of the musical regularity of the brook.
As a lesson in patience, the art of angling pursued in a shallow
brook has its moral uses. Kitty fished, and waited, and renewed
the bait and tried again, with a command of temper which would
have been a novelty in Susan's experience, if Susan had been
awake. But the end which comes to all things came also to Kitty's
patience. Leaving her rod on the bank, she let the line and hook
take care of themselves, and wandered away in search of some new
Lingering here and there to gather flowers from the beds as she
passed them, Kitty was stopped by a shrubbery, with a rustic seat
placed near it, which marked the limits of the garden on that
side. The path that she had been following led her further and
further away from the brook, but still left it well in view. She
could see, on her right hand, the clumsy old wooden bridge which
crossed the stream, and served as a means of communication for
the servants and the tradespeople, between the cottage and the
village on the lower ground a mile away.
The child felt hot and tired. She rested herself on the bench,
and, spreading the flowers by her side, began to arrange them in
the form of a nosegay. Still true to her love for Sydney, she had
planned to present the nosegay to her mother, offering the gift
as an excuse for returning to the forbidden subject of her
governess, and for asking when they might hope to see each other
Choosing flowers and then rejecting them, trying other colors and
wondering whether she had accomplished a change for the better,
Kitty was startled by the sound of a voice calling to her from
the direction of the brook.
She looked round, and saw a gentleman crossing the bridge. He
asked the way to Brightwater Cottage.
There was something in his voice that attracted her--how or why,
at her age, she never thought of inquiring. Eager and excited,
she ran across the lawn which lay between her and the brook,
before she answered the gentleman's question.
As they approached each other, his eyes sparkled, his face
flushed; he cried out joyfully, "Here she is!"--and then changed
again in an instant. A horrid pallor overspread his face as the
child stood looking at him with innocent curiosity. He startled
Kitty, not because he seemed to be shocked and distressed, she
hardly noticed that; but because he was so like--although he was
thinner and paler and older--oh, so like her lost father!
"This is the cottage, sir," she said faintly.
His sorrowful eyes rested kindly on her. And yet, it seemed as if
she had in some way disappointed him. The child ventured to say:
"Do you know me, sir?"
He answered in the saddest voice that Kitty had ever heard: "My
little girl, what makes you think I know you?"
She was at a loss how to reply, fearing to distress him. She
could only say: "You are so like my poor papa."
He shook and shuddered, as if she had said something to frighten
him. He took her hand. On that hot day, his fingers felt as cold
as if it had been winter time. He led her back to the seat that
she had left. "I'm tired, my dear," he said. "Shall we sit down?"
It was surely true that he was tired. He seemed hardly able to
lift one foot after the other; Kitty pitied him. "I think you
must be ill;" she said, as they took their places, side by side,
on the bench.
"No; not ill. Only weary, and perhaps a little afraid of
frightening you." He kept her hand in his hand, and patted it
from time to time. "My dear, why did you say '_poor_ papa,' when
you spoke of your father just now?"
"My father is dead, sir."
He turned his face away from her, and pressed both hands on his
breast, as if he had felt some dreadful pain there, and was
trying to hide it. But he mastered the pain; and he said a
strange thing to her--very gently, but still it was strange. He
wished to know who had told her that her father was dead.
"Grandmamma told me."
"Do you remember what grandmamma said?"
"Yes--she told me papa was drowned at sea."
He said something to himself, and said it twice over. "Not her
mother! Thank God, not her mother!" What did he mean?
Kitty looked and looked at him, and wondered and wondered. He put
his arm round her. "Come near to me," he said. "Don't be afraid
of me, my dear." She moved nearer and showed him that she was not
afraid. The poor man seemed hardly to understand her. His eyes
grew dim; he sighed like a person in distress; he said: "Your
father would have kissed you, little one, if he had been alive.
You say I am like your father. May I kiss you?"
She put her hands on his shoulder and lifted her face to him. In
the instant when he kissed her, the child knew him. Her heart
beat suddenly with an overpowering delight; she started back from
his embrace. "That's how papa used to kiss me!" she cried. "Oh!
you _are_ papa! Not drowned! not drowned!" She flung her arms
round his neck, and held him as if she would never let him go
again. "Dear papa! Poor lost papa!" His tears fell on her face;
he sobbed over her. "My sweet darling! my own little Kitty!"
The hysterical passion that had overcome her father filled her
with piteous surprise. How strange, how dreadful that he should
cry--that he should be so sorry when she was so glad! She took
her little handkerchief out of the pocket of her pinafore, and
dried his eyes. "Are you thinking of the cruel sea, papa? No! the
good sea, the kind, bright, beautiful sea that has given you back
to me, and to mamma--!"
They had forgotten her mother!--and Kitty only discovered it now.
She caught at one of her father's hands hanging helpless at his
side, and pulled at it as if her little strength could force him
to his feet. "Come," she cried, "and make mamma as happy as I
He hesitated. She sprang on his knee; she pressed her cheek
against his cheek with the caressing tenderness, familiar to him
in the first happy days when she was an infant. "Oh, papa, are
you going to be unkind to me for the first time in your life?"
His momentary resistance was at an end. He was as weak in her
hands now as if he had been the child and she had been the man.
Laughing and singing and dancing round him, Kitty led the way to
the window of the room that opened on the garden. Some one had
closed it on the inner side. She tapped impatiently at the glass.
Her mother heard the tapping; her mother came to the window; her
mother ran out to meet them. Since the miserable time when they
left Mount Morven, since the long unnatural separation of the
parents and the child, those three were together once more!
AFTER THE STORY
1.--The Lawyer's Apology.
That a woman of my wife's mature years should be jealous of one
of the most exemplary husbands that the records of matrimony can
produce is, to say the least of it, a discouraging circumstance.
A man forgets that virtue is its own reward, and asks, What is
the use of conjugal fidelity?
However, the motto of married life is (or ought to be): Peace at
any price. I have been this day relieved from the condition of
secrecy that has been imposed on me. You insisted on an
explanation some time since. Here it is at last.
For the ten-thousandth time, my dear, in our joint lives, you are
again right. That letter, marked private, which I received at the
domestic tea-table, was what you positively declared it to be, a
letter from a lady--a charming lady, plunged in the deepest