Part 1 out of 6
[Italics are indicatedby underscores
James Rusk, firstname.lastname@example.org.]
[Etext prepared by James Rusk, email@example.com. Italics are
indicated by the underscore character.]
THE TWO DESTINIES
by Wilkie Collins
THE GUEST WRITES AND TELLS THE STORY OF THE DINNER PARTY.
MANY years have passed since my wife and I left the United States
to pay our first visit to England.
We were provided with letters of introduction, as a matter of
course. Among them there was a letter which had been written for
us by my wife's brother. It presented us to an English gentleman
who held a high rank on the list of his old and valued friends.
"You will become acquainted with Mr. George Germaine," my
brother-in-law said, when we took leave of him, "at a very
interesting period of his life. My last news of him tells me that
he is just married. I know nothing of the lady, or of the
circumstances under which my friend first met with her. But of
this I am certain: married or single, George Germaine will give
you and your wife a hearty welcome to England, for my sake."
The day after our arrival in London, we left our letter of
introduction at the house of Mr. Germaine.
The next morning we went to see a favorite object of American
interest, in the metropolis of England--the Tower of London. The
citizens of the United States find this relic of the good old
times of great use in raising their national estimate of the
value of republican institutions. On getting back to the hotel,
the cards of Mr. and Mrs. Germaine told us that they had already
returned our visit. The same evening we received an invitation to
dine with the newly married couple. It was inclosed in a little
note from Mrs. Germaine to my wife, warning us that we were not
to expect to meet a large party. "It is the first dinner we give,
on our return from our wedding tour" (the lady wrote); "and you
will only be introduced to a few of my husband's old friends."
In America, and (as I hear) on the continent of Europe also, when
your host invites you to dine at a given hour, you pay him the
compliment of arriving punctually at his house. In England alone,
the incomprehensible and discourteous custom prevails of keeping
the host and the dinner waiting for half an hour or more--without
any assignable reason and without any better excuse than the
purely formal apology that is implied in the words, "Sorry to be
Arriving at the appointed time at the house of Mr. and Mrs.
Germaine, we had every reason to congratulate ourselves on the
ignorant punctuality which had brought us into the drawing-room
half an hour in advance of the other guests.
In the first place, there was so much heartiness, and so little
ceremony, in the welcome accorded to us, that we almost fancied
ourselves back in our own country. In the second place, both
husband and wife interested us the moment we set eyes on them.
The lady, especially, although she was not, strictly speaking, a
beautiful woman, quite fascinated us. There was an artless charm
in her face and manner, a simple grace in all her movements, a
low, delicious melody in her voice, which we Americans felt to be
simply irresistible. And then, it was so plain (and so pleasant)
to see that here at least was a happy marriage! Here were two
people who had all their dearest hopes, wishes, and sympathies in
common--who looked, if I may risk the expression, born to be man
and wife. By the time when the fashionable delay of the half hour
had expired, we were talking together as familiarly and as
confidentially as if we had been all four of us old friends.
Eight o'clock struck, and the first of the English guests
Having forgotten this gentleman's name, I must beg leave to
distinguish him by means of a letter of the alphabet. Let me call
him Mr. A. When he entered the room alone, our host and hostess
both started, and both looked surprised. Apparently they expected
him to be accompanied by some other person. Mr. Germaine put a
curious question to his friend.
"Where is your wife?" he asked.
Mr. A answered for the absent lady by a neat little apology,
expressed in these words:
"She has got a bad cold. She is very sorry. She begs me to make
He had just time to deliver his message, before another
unaccompanied gentleman appeared. Reverting to the letters of the
alphabet, let me call him Mr. B. Once more, I noticed that our
host and hostess started when they saw him enter the room alone.
And, rather to my surprise, I heard Mr. Germaine put his curious
question again to the new guest:
"Where is your wife?"
The answer--with slight variations--was Mr. A's neat little
apology, repeated by Mr. B.
"I am very sorry. Mrs. B has got a bad headache. She is subject
to bad headaches. She begs me to make her excuses."
Mr. and Mrs. Germaine glanced at one another. The husband's face
plainly expressed the suspicion which this second apology had
roused in his mind. The wife was steady and calm. An interval
passed--a silent interval. Mr. A and Mr. B retired together
guiltily into a corner. My wife and I looked at the pictures.
Mrs. Germaine was the first to relieve us from our own
intolerable silence. Two more guests, it appeared, were still
wanting to complete the party. "Shall we have dinner at once,
George?" she said to her husband. "Or shall we wait for Mr. and
"We will wait five minutes," he answered, shortly--with his eye
on Mr. A and Mr. B, guiltily secluded in their corner.
The drawing-room door opened. We all knew that a third married
lady was expected; we all looked toward the door in unutterable
anticipation. Our unexpressed hopes rested silently on the
possible appearance of Mrs. C. Would that admirable, but unknown,
woman, at once charm and relieve us by her presence? I shudder as
I write it. Mr. C walked into the room--and walked in, _alone_.
Mr. Germaine suddenly varied his formal inquiry in receiving the
"Is your wife ill?" he asked.
Mr. C was an elderly man; Mr. C had lived (judging by
appearances) in the days when the old-fashioned laws of
politeness were still in force. He discovered his two married
brethren in their corner, unaccompanied by _their_ wives; and he
delivered his apology for _his_ wife with the air of a man who
felt unaffectedly ashamed of it:
"Mrs. C is so sorry. She has got such a bad cold. She does so
regret not being able to accompany me."
At this third apology, Mr. Germaine's indignation forced its way
outward into expression in words.
"Two bad colds and one bad headache," he said, with ironical
politeness. "I don't know how your wives agree, gentlemen, when
they are well. But when they are ill, their unanimity is
The dinner was announced as that sharp saying passed his lips.
I had the honor of taking Mrs. Germaine to the dining-room. Her
sense of the implied insult offered to her by the wives of her
husband's friends only showed itself in a trembling, a very
slight trembling, of the hand that rested on my arm. My interest
in her increased tenfold. Only a woman who had been accustomed to
suffer, who had been broken and disciplined to self-restraint,
could have endured the moral martyrdom inflicted on her as _this_
woman endured it, from the beginning of the evening to the end.
Am I using the language of exaggeration when I write of my
hostess in these terms? Look at the circumstances as they struck
two strangers like my wife and myself.
Here was the first dinner party which Mr. and Mrs. Germaine had
given since their marriage. Three of Mr. Germaine's friends, all
married men, had been invited with their wives to meet Mr.
Germaine's wife, and had (evidently) accepted the invitation
without reserve. What discoveries had taken place between the
giving of the invitation and the giving of the dinner it was
impossible to say. The one thing plainly discernible was, that in
the interval the three wives had agreed in the resolution to
leave their husbands to represent them at Mrs. Germaine's table;
and, more amazing still, the husbands had so far approved of the
grossly discourteous conduct of the wives as to consent to make
the most insultingly trivial excuses for their absence. Could any
crueler slur than this have been cast on a woman at the outs et
of her married life, before the face of her husband, and in the
presence of two strangers from another country? Is "martyrdom"
too big a word to use in describing what a sensitive person must
have suffered, subjected to such treatment as this? Well, I think
We took our places at the dinner-table. Don't ask me to describe
that most miserable of mortal meetings, that weariest and
dreariest of human festivals! It is quite bad enough to remember
that evening--it is indeed.
My wife and I did our best to keep the conversation moving as
easily and as harmlessly as might be. I may say that we really
worked hard. Nevertheless, our success was not very encouraging.
Try as we might to overlook them, there were the three empty
places of the three absent women, speaking in their own dismal
language for themselves. Try as we might to resist it, we all
felt the one sad conclusion which those empty places persisted in
forcing on our minds. It was surely too plain that some terrible
report, affecting the character of the unhappy woman at the head
of the table, had unexpectedly come to light, and had at one blow
destroyed her position in the estimation of her husband's
friends. In the face of the excuses in the drawing-room, in the
face of the empty places at the dinner-table, what could the
friendliest guests do, to any good purpose, to help the husband
and wife in their sore and sudden need? They could say good-night
at the earliest possible opportunity, and mercifully leave the
married pair to themselves.
Let it at least be recorded to the credit of the three gentlemen,
designated in these pages as A, B, and C, that they were
sufficiently ashamed of themselves and their wives to be the
first members of the dinner party who left the house. In a few
minutes more we rose to follow their example. Mrs. Germaine
earnestly requested that we would delay our departure.
"Wait a few minutes," she whispered, with a glance at her
husband. "I have something to say to you before you go."
She left us, and, taking Mr. Germaine by the arm, led him away to
the opposite side of the room. The two held a little colloquy
together in low voices. The husband closed the consultation by
lifting the wife's hand to his lips.
"Do as you please, my love," he said to her. "I leave it entirely
He sat down sorrowfully, lost in his thoughts. Mrs. Germaine
unlocked a cabinet at the further end of the room, and returned
to us, alone, carrying a small portfolio in her hand.
"No words of mine can tell you how gratefully I feel your
kindness," she said, with perfect simplicity, and with perfect
dignity at the same time. "Under very trying circumstances, you
have treated me with the tenderness and the sympathy which you
might have shown to an old friend. The one return I can make for
all that I owe to you is to admit you to my fullest confidence,
and to leave you to judge for yourselves whether I deserve the
treatment which I have received to-night."
Her eyes filled with tears. She paused to control herself. We
both begged her to say no more. Her husband, joining us, added
his entreaties to ours. She thanked us, but she persisted. Like
most sensitively organized persons, she could be resolute when
she believed that the occasion called for it.
"I have a few words more to say," she resumed, addressing my
wife. "You are the only married woman who has come to our little
dinner party. The marked absence of the other wives explains
itself. It is not for me to say whether they are right or wrong
in refusing to sit at our table. My dear husband--who knows my
whole life as well as I know it myself--expressed the wish that
we should invite these ladies. He wrongly supposed that _his_
estimate of me would be the estimate accepted by his friends; and
neither he nor I anticipated that the misfortunes of my past life
would be revealed by some person acquainted with them, whose
treachery we have yet to discover. The least I can do, by way of
acknowledging your kindness, is to place you in the same position
toward me which the other ladies now occupy. The circumstances
under which I have become the wife of Mr. Germaine are, in some
respects, very remarkable. They are related, without suppression
or reserve, in a little narrative which my husband wrote, at the
time of our marriage, for the satisfaction of one of his absent
relatives, whose good opinion he was unwilling to forfeit. The
manuscript is in this portfolio. After what has happened, I ask
you both to read it, as a personal favor to me. It is for you to
decide, when you know all, whether I am a fit person for an
honest woman to associate with or not."
She held out her hand, with a sweet, sad smile, and bid us good
night. My wife, in her impulsive way, forgot the formalities
proper to the occasion, and kissed her at parting. At that one
little act of sisterly sympathy, the fortitude which the poor
creature had preserved all through the evening gave way in an
instant. She burst into tears.
I felt as fond of her and as sorry for her as my wife. But
(unfortunately) I could not take my wife's privilege of kissing
her. On our way downstairs, I found the opportunity of saying a
cheering word to her husband as he accompanied us to the door.
"Before I open this," I remarked, pointing to the portfolio under
my arm, "my mind is made up, sir, about one thing. If I wasn't
married already, I tell you this--I should envy you your wife."
He pointed to the portfolio in his turn.
"Read what I have written there," he said; "and you will
understand what those false friends of mine have made me suffer
The next morning my wife and I opened the portfolio, and read the
strange story of George Germaine's marriage.
GEORGE GERMAINE WRITES, AND TELLS HIS OWN LOVE STORY.
LOOK back, my memory, through the dim labyrinth of the past,
through the mingling joys and sorrows of twenty years. Rise
again, my boyhood's days, by the winding green shores of the
little lake. Come to me once more, my child-love, in the innocent
beauty of your first ten years of life. Let us live again, my
angel, as we lived in our first paradise, before sin and sorrow
lifted their flaming swords and drove us out into the world.
The month was March. The last wild fowl of the season were
floating on the waters of the lake which, in our Suffolk tongue,
we called Greenwater Broad.
Wind where it might, the grassy banks and the overhanging trees
tinged the lake with the soft green reflections from which it
took its name. In a creek at the south end, the boats were
kept--my own pretty sailing boat having a tiny natural harbor all
to itself. In a creek at the north end stood the great trap
(called a "decoy"), used for snaring the wild fowl which flocked
every winter, by thousands and thousands, to Greenwater Broad.
My little Mary and I went out together, hand in hand, to see the
last birds of the season lured into the decoy.
The outer part of the strange bird-trap rose from the waters of
the lake in a series of circular arches, formed of elastic
branches bent to the needed shape, and covered with folds of fine
network, making the roof. Little by little diminishing in size,
the arches and their net-work followed the secret windings of the
creek inland to its end. Built back round the arches, on their
landward side, ran a wooden paling, high enough to hide a man
kneeling behind it from the view of the birds on the lake. At
certain intervals a hole was broken in the paling just large
enough to allow of the passage through it of a dog of the terrier
or the spaniel breed. And there began and ended the simple yet
sufficient mechanism of the decoy.
In those days I was thirteen, and Mary was ten years old. Walking
on our way to the lake we had Mary's father with us for guide and
companion. The good man served as bailiff on my father's estate.
He was, besides, a skilled master in the art of decoying ducks.
The dog that helped him (we used no tame ducks as decoys in
Suffolk) was a little black terrier; a skilled master also, in
his way; a creature who possessed, in equal proportions, the
enviable advantages of perfect good-humor a nd perfect common
The dog followed the bailiff, and we followed the dog.
Arrived at the paling which surrounded the decoy, the dog sat
down to wait until he was wanted. The bailiff and the children
crouched behind the paling, and peeped through the outermost
dog-hole, which commanded a full view of the lake. It was a day
without wind; not a ripple stirred the surface of the water; the
soft gray clouds filled all the sky, and hid the sun from view.
We peeped through the hole in the paling. There were the wild
ducks--collected within easy reach of the decoy--placidly
dressing their feathers on the placid surface of the lake.
The bailiff looked at the dog, and made a sign. The dog looked at
the bailiff; and, stepping forward quietly, passed through the
hole, so as to show himself on the narrow strip of ground
shelving down from the outer side of the paling to the lake.
First one duck, then another, then half a dozen together,
discovered the dog.
A new object showing itself on the solitary scene instantly
became an object of all-devouring curiosity to the ducks. The
outermost of them began to swim slowly toward the strange
four-footed creature, planted motionless on the bank. By twos and
threes, the main body of the waterfowl gradually followed the
advanced guard. Swimming nearer and nearer to the dog, the wary
ducks suddenly came to a halt, and, poised on the water, viewed
from a safe distance the phenomenon on the land.
The bailiff, kneeling behind the paling, whispered, "Trim!"
Hearing his name, the terrier turned about, and retiring through
the hole, became lost to the view of the ducks. Motionless on the
water, the wild fowl wondered and waited. In a minute more, the
dog had trotted round, and had shown himself through the next
hole in the paling, pierced further inward where the lake ran up
into the outermost of the windings of the creek.
The second appearance of the terrier instantly produced a second
fit of curiosity among the ducks. With one accord, they swam
forward again, to get another and a nearer view of the dog; then,
judging their safe distance once more, they stopped for the
second time, under the outermost arch of the decoy. Again the dog
vanished, and the puzzled ducks waited. An interval passed, and
the third appearance of Trim took place, through a third hole in
the paling, pierced further inland up the creek. For the third
time irresistible curiosity urged the ducks to advance further
and further inward, under the fatal arches of the decoy. A fourth
and a fifth time the game went on, until the dog had lured the
water-fowl from point to point into the inner recesses of the
decoy. There a last appearance of Trim took place. A last
advance, a last cautious pause, was made by the ducks. The
bailiff touched the strings, the weighed net-work fell vertically
into the water, and closed the decoy. There, by dozens and
dozens, were the ducks, caught by means of their own
curiosity--with nothing but a little dog for a bait! In a few
hours afterward they were all dead ducks on their way to the
As the last act in the curious comedy of the decoy came to its
end, little Mary laid her hand on my shoulder, and, raising
herself on tiptoe, whispered in my ear:
"George, come home with me. I have got something to show you that
is better worth seeing than the ducks."
"What is it?"
"It's a surprise. I won't tell you."
"Will you give me a kiss?"
The charming little creature put her slim sun-burned arms round
my neck, and answered:
"As many kisses as you like, George."
It was innocently said, on her side. It was innocently done, on
mine. The good easy bailiff, looking aside at the moment from his
ducks, discovered us pursuing our boy-and-girl courtship in each
other's arms. He shook his big forefinger at us, with something
of a sad and doubting smile.
"Ah, Master George, Master George!" he said. "When your father
comes home, do you think he will approve of his son and heir
kissing his bailiff's daughter?"
"When my father comes home," I answered, with great dignity, "I
shall tell him the truth. I shall say I am going to marry your
The bailiff burst out laughing, and looked back again at his
"Well, well!" we heard him say to himself. "They're only
children. There's no call, poor things, to part them yet awhile."
Mary and I had a great dislike to be called children. Properly
understood, one of us was a lady aged ten, and the other was a
gentleman aged thirteen. We left the good bailiff indignantly,
and went away together, hand in hand, to the cottage.
TWO YOUNG HEARTS.
"HE is growing too fast," said the doctor to my mother; "and he
is getting a great deal too clever for a boy at his age. Remove
him from school, ma'am, for six months; let him run about in the
open air at home; and if you find him with a book in his hand,
take it away directly. There is my prescription."
Those words decided my fate in life.
In obedience to the doctor's advice, I was left an idle
boy--without brothers, sisters, or companions of my own age--to
roam about the grounds of our lonely country-house. The bailiff's
daughter, like me, was an only child; and, like me, she had no
playfellows. We met in our wanderings on the solitary shores of
the lake. Beginning by being inseparable companions, we ripened
and developed into true lovers. Our preliminary courtship
concluded, we next proposed (before I returned to school) to
burst into complete maturity by becoming man and wife.
I am not writing in jest. Absurd as it may appear to "sensible
people," we two children were lovers, if ever there were lovers
We had no pleasures apart from the one all-sufficient pleasure
which we found in each other's society. We objected to the night,
because it parted us. We entreated our parents, on either side,
to let us sleep in the same room. I was angry with my mother, and
Mary was disappointed in her father, when they laughed at us, and
wondered what we should want next. Looking onward, from those
days to the days of my manhood, I can vividly recall such hours
of happiness as have fallen to my share. But I remember no
delights of that later time comparable to the exquisite and
enduring pleasure that filled my young being when I walked with
Mary in the woods; when I sailed with Mary in my boat on the
lake; when I met Mary, after the cruel separation of the night,
and flew into her open arms as if we had been parted for months
and months together.
What was the attraction that drew us so closely one to the other,
at an age when the sexual sympathies lay dormant in her and in
We neither knew nor sought to know. We obeyed the impulse to love
one another, as a bird obeys the impulse to fly.
Let it not be supposed that we possessed any natural gifts, or
advantages which singled us out as differing in a marked way from
other children at our time of life. We possessed nothing of the
sort. I had been called a clever boy at school; but there were
thousands of other boys, at thousands of other schools, who
headed their classes and won their prizes, like me. Personally
speaking, I was in no way remarkable--except for being, in the
ordinary phrase, "tall for my age." On her side, Mary displayed
no striking attractions. She was a fragile child, with mild gray
eyes and a pale complexion; singularly undemonstrative,
singularly shy and silent, except when she was alone with me.
Such beauty as she had, in those early days, lay in a certain
artless purity and tenderness of expression, and in the charming
reddish-brown color of her hair, varying quaintly and prettily in
different lights. To all outward appearance two perfectly
commonplace children, we were mysteriously united by some kindred
association of the spirit in her and the spirit in me, which not
only defied discovery by our young selves, but which lay too deep
for investigation by far older and far wiser heads than ours.
You will naturally wonder whether anything was done by our elders
to check our precocious attachment, while it was still an
innocent love union between a boy and a girl.
Nothing was done by my father, for the simple reason that he was
away from home.
He was a man of a restless and speculative turn of mind.
Inheriting his estate burdened with debt, his grand ambition was
to increase his small available income by his own exertions; to
set up an establishment in London; and to climb to political
distinction by the ladder of Parliament. An old friend, who had
emigrated to America, had proposed to him a speculation in
agriculture, in one of the Western States, which was to make both
their fortunes. My father's eccentric fancy was struck by the
idea. For more than a year past he had been away from us in the
United States; and all we knew of him (instructed by his letters)
was, that he might be shortly expected to return to us in the
enviable character of one of the richest men in England.
As for my poor mother--the sweetest and softest-hearted of
women--to see me happy was all that she desired.
The quaint little love romance of the two children amused and
interested her. She jested with Mary's father about the coming
union between the two families, without one serious thought of
the future--without even a foreboding of what might happen when
my father returned. "Sufficient for the day is the evil (or the
good) thereof," had been my mother's motto all her life. She
agreed with the easy philosophy of the bailiff, already recorded
in these pages: "They're only children. There's no call, poor
things, to part them yet a while."
There was one member of the family, however, who took a sensible
and serious view of the matter.
My father's brother paid us a visit in our solitude; discovered
what was going on between Mary and me; and was, at first,
naturally enough, inclined to laugh at us. Closer investigation
altered his way of thinking. He became convinced that my mother
was acting like a fool; that the bailiff (a faithful servant, if
ever there was one yet) was cunningly advancing his own interests
by means of his daughter; and that I was a young idiot, who had
developed his native reserves of imbecility at an unusually early
period of life. Speaking to my mother under the influence of
these strong impressions, my uncle offered to take me back with
him to London, and keep me there until I had been brought to my
senses by association with his own children, and by careful
superintendence under his own roof.
My mother hesitated about accepting this proposal; she had the
advantage over my uncle of understanding my disposition. While
she was still doubting, while my uncle was still impatiently
waiting for her decision, I settled the question for my elders by
I left a letter to represent me in my absence; declaring that no
mortal power should part me from Mary, and promising to return
and ask my mother's pardon as soon as my uncle had left the
house. The strictest search was made for me without discovering a
trace of my place of refuge. My uncle departed for London,
predicting that I should live to be a disgrace to the family, and
announcing that he should transmit his opinion of me to my father
in America by the next mail.
The secret of the hiding-place in which I contrived to defy
discovery is soon told. I was hidden (without the bailiff's
knowledge) in the bedroom of the bailiff's mother. And did the
bailiff's mother know it? you will ask. To which I answer: the
bailiff's mother did it. And, what is more, gloried in doing
it--not, observe, as an act of hostility to my relatives, but
simply as a duty that lay on her conscience.
What sort of old woman, in the name of all that is wonderful, was
this? Let her appear, and speak for herself--the wild and weird
grandmother of gentle little Mary; the Sibyl of modern times,
known, far and wide, in our part of Suffolk, as Dame Dermody.
I see her again, as I write, sitting in her son's pretty cottage
parlor, hard by the window, so that the light fell over her
shoulder while she knitted or read. A little, lean, wiry old
woman was Dame Dermody--with fierce black eyes, surmounted by
bushy white eyebrows, by a high wrinkled forehead, and by thick
white hair gathered neatly under her old-fashioned "mob-cap."
Report whispered (and whispered truly) that she had been a lady
by birth and breeding, and that she had deliberately closed her
prospects in life by marrying a man greatly her inferior in
social rank. Whatever her family might think of her marriage, she
herself never regretted it. In her estimation her husband's
memory was a sacred memory; his spirit was a guardian spirit,
watching over her, waking or sleeping, morning or night.
Holding this faith, she was in no respect influenced by those
grossly material ideas of modern growth which associate the
presence of spiritual beings with clumsy conjuring tricks and
monkey antics performed on tables and chairs. Dame Dermody's
nobler superstition formed an integral part of her religious
convictions--convictions which had long since found their chosen
resting-place in the mystic doctrines of Emanuel Swedenborg. The
only books which she read were the works of the Swedish Seer. She
mixed up Swedenborg's teachings on angels and departed spirits,
on love to one's neighbor and purity of life, with wild fancies,
and kindred beliefs of her own; and preached the visionary
religious doctrines thus derived, not only in the bailiff's
household, but also on proselytizing expeditions to the
households of her humble neighbors, far and near.
Under her son's roof--after the death of his wife--she reigned a
supreme power; priding herself alike on her close attention to
her domestic duties, and on her privileged communications with
angels and spirits. She would hold long colloquys with the spirit
of her dead husband before anybody who happened to be
present--colloquys which struck the simple spectators mute with
terror. To her mystic view, the love union between Mary and me
was something too sacred and too beautiful to be tried by the
mean and matter-of-fact tests set up by society. She wrote for us
little formulas of prayer and praise, which we were to use when
we met and when we parted, day by day. She solemnly warned her
son to look upon us as two young consecrated creatures, walking
unconsciously on a heavenly path of their own, whose beginning
was on earth, but whose bright end was among the angels in a
better state of being. Imagine my appearing before such a woman
as this, and telling her with tears of despair that I was
determined to die, rather than let my uncle part me from little
Mary, and you will no longer be astonished at the hospitality
which threw open to me the sanctuary of Dame Dermody's own room.
When the safe time came for leaving my hiding-place, I committed
a serious mistake. In thanking the old woman at parting, I said
to her (with a boy's sense of honor), "I won't tell upon you,
Dame. My mother shan't know that you hid me in your bedroom."
The Sibyl laid her dry, fleshless hand on my shoulder, and forced
me roughly back into the chair from which I had just risen.
"Boy!" she said, looking through and through me with her fierce
black eyes. "Do you dare suppose that I ever did anything that I
was ashamed of? Do you think I am ashamed of what I have done
now? Wait there. Your mother may mistake me too. I shall write to
She put on her great round spectacles with tortoise-shell rims
and sat down to her letter. Whenever her thoughts flagged,
whenever she was at a loss for an expression, she looked over her
shoulder, as if some visible creature were stationed behind her,
watching what she wrote; consulted the spirit of her husband,
exactly as she might have consulted a living man; smiled softly
to herself, and went on with her writing.
"There!" she said, handing me the completed letter with an
imperial gesture of indulgence. "_His_ mind and _my_ mind are
written there. Go, boy. I pardon you. Give my letter to your
So she always spoke, with the same formal and measured dignity of
manner and language.
I gave the letter to my mother. We read it, and marveled over it
together. Thus, counseled by the ever-present spirit of her
husband, Dame Dermody wrote:
"MADAM--I have taken what you may be inclined to think a great
liberty. I have assisted your son George in se tting his uncle's
authority at defiance. I have encouraged your son George in his
resolution to be true, in time and in eternity, to my grandchild,
"It is due to you and to me that I should tell you with what
motive I have acted in doing these things.
"I hold the belief that all love that is true is foreordained and
consecrated in heaven. Spirits destined to be united in the
better world are divinely commissioned to discover each other and
to begin their union in this world. The only happy marriages are
those in which the two destined spirits have succeeded in meeting
one another in this sphere of life.
"When the kindred spirits have once met, no human power can
really part them. Sooner or later, they must, by divine law, find
each other again and become united spirits once more. Worldly
wisdom may force them into widely different ways of life; worldly
wisdom may delude them, or may make them delude themselves, into
contracting an earthly and a fallible union. It matters nothing.
The time will certainly come when that union will manifest itself
as earthly and fallible; and the two disunited spirits, finding
each other again, will become united here for the world beyond
this--united, I tell you, in defiance of all human laws and of
all human notions of right and wrong.
"This is my belief. I have proved it by my own life. Maid, wife,
and widow, I have held to it, and I have found it good.
"I was born, madam, in the rank of society to which you belong. I
received the mean, material teaching which fulfills the worldly
notion of education. Thanks be to God, my kindred spirit met _my_
spirit while I was still young. I knew true love and true union
before I was twenty years of age. I married, madam, in the rank
from which Christ chose his apostles--I married a laboring-man.
No human language can tell my happiness while we lived united
here. His death has not parted us. He helps me to write this
letter. In my last hours I shall see him standing among the
angels, waiting for me on the banks of the shining river.
"You will now understand the view I take of the tie which unites
the young spirits of our children at the bright outset of their
"Believe me, the thing which your husband's brother has proposed
to you to do is a sacrilege and a profanation. I own to you
freely that I look on what I have done toward thwarting your
relative in this matter as an act of virtue. You cannot expect
_me_ to think it a serious obstacle to a union predestined in
heaven, that your son is the squire's heir, and that my
grandchild is only the bailiff's daughter. Dismiss from your
mind, I implore you, the unworthy and unchristian prejudices of
rank. Are we not all equal before God? Are we not all equal (even
in this world) before disease and death? Not your son's happiness
only, but your own peace of mind, is concerned in taking heed to
my words. I warn you, madam, you cannot hinder the destined union
of these two child-spirits, in after-years, as man and wife. Part
them now--and YOU will be responsible for the sacrifices,
degradations and distresses through which your George and my Mary
may be condemned to pass on their way back to each other in later
"Now my mind is unburdened. Now I have said all.
"If I have spoken too freely, or have in any other way
unwittingly offended, I ask your pardon, and remain, madam, your
faithful servant and well-wisher,
So the letter ended.
To me it is something more than a mere curiosity of epistolary
composition. I see in it the prophecy--strangely fulfilled in
later years--of events in Mary's life, and in mine, which future
pages are now to tell.
My mother decided on leaving the letter unanswered. Like many of
her poorer neighbors, she was a little afraid of Dame Dermody;
and she was, besides, habitually averse to all discussions which
turned on the mysteries of spiritual life. I was reproved,
admonished, and forgiven; and there was the end of it.
For some happy weeks Mary and I returned, without hinderance or
interruption, to our old intimate companionship The end was
coming, however, when we least expected it. My mother was
startled, one morning, by a letter from my father, which informed
her that he had been unexpectedly obliged to sail for England at
a moment's notice; that he had arrived in London, and that he was
detained there by business which would admit of no delay. We were
to wait for him at home, in daily expectation of seeing him the
moment he was free.
This news filled my mother's mind with foreboding doubts of the
stability of her husband's grand speculation in America. The
sudden departure from the United States, and the mysterious delay
in London, were ominous, to her eyes, of misfortune to come. I am
now writing of those dark days in the past, when the railway and
the electric telegraph were still visions in the minds of
inventors. Rapid communication with my father (even if he would
have consented to take us into his confidence) was impossible. We
had no choice but to wait and hope.
The weary days passed; and still my father's brief letters
described him as detained by his business. The morning came when
Mary and I went out with Dermody, the bailiff, to see the last
wild fowl of the season lured into the decoy; and still the
welcome home waited for the master, and waited in vain.
SWEDENBORG AND THE SIBYL.
MY narrative may move on again from the point at which it paused
in the first chapter.
Mary and I (as you may remember) had left the bailiff alone at
the decoy, and had set forth on our way together to Dermody's
As we approached the garden gate, I saw a servant from the house
waiting there. He carried a message from my mother--a message for
"My mistress wishes you to go home, Master George, as soon as you
can. A letter has come by the coach. My master means to take a
post-chaise from London, and sends word that we may expect him in
the course of the day."
Mary's attentive face saddened when she heard those words.
"Must you really go away, George," she whispered, "before you see
what I have got waiting for you at home?"
I remembered Mary's promised "surprise," the secret of which was
only to be revealed to me when we got to the cottage. How could I
disappoint her? My poor little lady-love looked ready to cry at
the bare prospect of it.
I dismissed the servant with a message of the temporizing sort.
My love to my mother--and I would be back at the house in half an
We entered the cottage.
Dame Dermody was sitting in the light of the window, as usual,
with one of the mystic books of Emanuel Swedenborg open on her
lap. She solemnly lifted her hand on our appearance, signing to
us to occupy our customary corner without speaking to her. It was
an act of domestic high treason to interrupt the Sibyl at her
books. We crept quietly into our places. Mary waited until she
saw her grandmother's gray head bend down, and her grandmother's
bushy eyebrows contract attentively, over her reading. Then, and
then only, the discreet child rose on tiptoe, disappeared
noiselessly in the direction of her bedchamber, and came back to
me carrying something carefully wrapped up in her best cambric
"Is that the surprise?" I whispered.
Mary whispered back: "Guess what it is?"
"Something for me?"
"Yes. Go on guessing. What is it?"
I guessed three times, and each guess was wrong. Mary decided on
helping me by a hint.
"Say your letters," she suggested; "and go on till I stop you."
I began: "A, B, C, D, E, F--" There she stopped me.
"It's the name of a Thing," she said; "and it begins with F."
I guessed, "Fern," "Feather," "Fife." And here my resources
Mary sighed, and shook her head. "You don't take pains," she
said. "You are three whole years older than I am. After all the
trouble I have taken to please you, you may be too big to care
for my present when you see it. Guess again."
"I can't guess."
"I give it up."
Mary refused to let me give it up. She helped me by another hint.
"What did you once say you wished you had in your boat?" she
"Was i t long ago?" I inquired, at a loss for an answer.
"Long, long ago! Before the winter. When the autumn leaves were
falling, and you took me out one evening for a sail. Ah, George,
_ you_ have forgotten!"
Too true, of me and of my brethren, old and young alike! It is
always _his_ love that forgets, and _her_ love that remembers. We
were only two children, and we were types of the man and the
Mary lost patience with me. Forgetting the terrible presence of
her grandmother, she jumped up, and snatched the concealed object
out of her handkerchief.
"There! " she cried, briskly, "_now_ do you know what it is?"
I remembered at last. The thing I had wished for in my boat, all
those months ago, was a new flag. And here was the flag, made for
me in secret by Mary's own hand! The ground was green silk, with
a dove embroidered on it in white, carrying in its beak the
typical olive-branch, wrought in gold thread. The work was the
tremulous, uncertain work of a child's fingers. But how
faithfully my little darling had remembered my wish! how
patiently she had plied the needle over the traced lines of the
pattern! how industriously she had labored through the dreary
winter days! and all for my sake! What words could tell my pride,
my gratitude, my happiness?
I too forgot the presence of the Sibyl bending over her book. I
took the little workwoman in my arms, and kissed her till I was
fairly out of breath and could kiss no longer.
"Mary!" I burst out, in the first heat of my enthusiasm, "my
father is coming home to-day. I will speak to him to-night. And I
will marry you to-morrow!"
"Boy!" said the awful voice at the other end of the room. "Come
Dame Dermody's mystic book was closed; Dame Dermody's weird black
eyes were watching us in our corner. I approached her; and Mary
followed me timidly, by a footstep at a time.
The Sibyl took me by the hand, with a caressing gentleness which
was new in my experience of her.
"Do you prize that toy?" she inquired, looking at the flag. "Hide
it!" she cried, before I could answer. "Hide it--or it may be
taken from you!"
"Why should I hide it?" I asked. "I want to fly it at the mast of
"You will never fly it at the mast of your boat!" With that
answer she took the flag from me and thrust it impatiently into
the breast-pocket of my jacket.
"Don't crumple it, grandmother!" said Mary, piteously.
I repeated my question:
"Why shall I never fly it at the mast of my boat?"
Dame Dermody laid her hand on the closed volume of Swedenborg
lying in her lap.
"Three times I have opened this book since the morning," she
said. "Three times the words of the prophet warn me that there is
trouble coming. Children, it is trouble that is coming to You. I
look there," she went on, pointing to the place where a ray of
sunlight poured slanting into the room, "and I see my husband in
the heavenly light. He bows his head in grief, and he points his
unerring hand at You. George and Mary, you are consecrated to
each other! Be always worthy of your consecration; be always
worthy of yourselves." She paused. Her voice faltered. She looked
at us with softening eyes, as those look who know sadly that
there is a parting at hand. "Kneel!" she said, in low tones of
awe and grief. "It may be the last time I bless you--it may be
the last time I pray over you, in this house. Kneel!"
We knelt close together at her feet. I could feel Mary's heart
throbbing, as she pressed nearer and nearer to my side. I could
feel my own heart quickening its beat, with a fear that was a
mystery to me.
"God bless and keep George and Mary, here and hereafter! God
prosper, in future days, the union which God's wisdom has willed!
Amen. So be it. Amen."
As the last words fell from her lips the cottage door was thrust
open. My father--followed by the bailiff--entered the room.
Dame Dermody got slowly on her feet, and looked at him with a
"It has come," she said to herself. "It looks with the eyes--it
will speak with the voice--of that man."
My father broke the silence that followed, addressing himself to
"You see, Dermody," he said, "here is my son in your
cottage--when he ought to be in my house." He turned, and looked
at me as I stood with my arm round little Mary, patiently waiting
for my opportunity to speak. "George," he said, with the hard
smile which was peculiar to him, when he was angry and was trying
to hide it, "you are making a fool of yourself there. Leave that
child, and come to me."
Now, or never, was my time to declare myself. Judging by
appearances, I was still a boy. Judging by my own sensations, I
had developed into a man at a moment's notice.
"Papa," I said, "I am glad to see you home again. This is Mary
Dermody. I am in love with her, and she is in love with me. I
wish to marry her as soon as it is convenient to my mother and
My father burst out laughing. Before I could speak again, his
humor changed. He had observed that Dermody, too, presumed to be
amused. He seemed to become mad with anger, all in a moment.
"I have been told of this infernal tomfoolery," he said, "but I
didn't believe it till now. Who has turned the boy's weak head?
Who has encouraged him to stand there hugging that girl? If it's
you, Dermody, it shall be the worst day's work you ever did in
your life." He turned to me again, before the bailiff could
defend himself. "Do you hear what I say? I tell you to leave
Dermody's girl, and come home with me."
"Yes, papa," I answered. "But I must go back to Mary, if you
please, after I have been with you."
Angry as he was, my father was positively staggered by my
"You young idiot, your insolence exceeds belief!" he burst out.
"I tell you this: you will never darken these doors again! You
have been taught to disobey me here. You have had things put into
your head, here, which no boy of your age ought to know--I'll say
more, which no decent people would have let you know."
"I beg your pardon, sir," Dermody interposed, very respectfully
and very firmly at the same time. "There are many things which a
master in a hot temper is privileged to say to the man who serves
him. But you have gone beyond your privilege. You have shamed me,
sir, in the presence of my mother, in the hearing of my child--"
My father checked him there.
"You may spare the rest of it," he said. "We are master and
servant no longer. When my son came hanging about your cottage,
and playing at sweethearts with your girl there, your duty was to
close the door on him. You have failed in your duty. I trust you
no longer. Take a month's notice, Dermody. You leave my service."
The bailiff steadily met my father on his ground. He was no
longer the easy, sweet-tempered, modest man who was the man of my
"I beg to decline taking your month's notice, sir," he answered.
"You shall have no opportunity of repeating what you have just
said to me. I will send in my accounts to-night. And I will leave
your service to-morrow."
"We agree for once," retorted my father. "The sooner you go, the
He stepped across the room and put his hand on my shoulder.
"Listen to me," he said, making a last effort to control himself.
"I don't want to quarrel with you before a discarded servant.
There must be an end to this nonsense. Leave these people to pack
up and go, and come back to the house with me."
His heavy hand, pressing on my shoulder, seemed to press the
spirit of resistance out of me. I so far gave way as to try to
melt him by entreaties.
"Oh, papa! papa!" I cried. "Don't part me from Mary! See how
pretty and good she is! She has made me a flag for my boat. Let
me come here and see her sometimes. I can't live without her"
I could say no more. My poor little Mary burst out crying. Her
tears and my entreaties were alike wasted on my father.
"Take your choice," he said, "between coming away of your own
accord, or obliging me to take you away by force. I mean to part
you and Dermody's girl."
"Neither you nor any man can part them," interposed a voice,
speaking behind us. "Rid your mind of that notion, master, before
it is too late."
My father looked round quickly, and discovere d Dame Dermody
facing him in the full light of the window. She had stepped back,
at the outset of the dispute, into the corner behind the
fireplace. There she had remained, biding her time to speak,
until my father's last threat brought her out of her place of
They looked at each other for a moment. My father seemed to think
it beneath his dignity to answer her. He went on with what he had
to say to me.
"I shall count three slowly," he resumed. "Before I get to the
last number, make up your mind to do what I tell you, or submit
to the disgrace of being taken away by force."
"Take him where you may," said Dame Dermody, "he will still be on
his way to his marriage with my grandchild."
"And where shall I be, if you please?" asked my father, stung
into speaking to her this time.
The answer followed instantly in these startling words:
"_You_ will be on your way to your ruin and your death."
My father turned his back on the prophetess with a smile of
"One!" he said, beginning to count.
I set my teeth, and clasped both arms round Mary as he spoke. I
had inherited some of his temper, and he was now to know it.
"Two!" proceeded my father, after waiting a little.
Mary put her trembling lips to my ear, and whispered: "Let me go,
George! I can't bear to see it. Oh, look how he frowns! I know
he'll hurt you."
My father lifted his forefinger as a preliminary warning before
he counted Three.
"Stop!" cried Dame Dermody.
My father looked round at her again with sardonic astonishment.
"I beg your pardon, ma'am--have you anything particular to say to
me?" he asked.
"Man!" returned the Sibyl, "you speak lightly. Have I spoken
lightly to You? I warn you to bow your wicked will before a Will
that is mightier than yours. The spirits of these children are
kindred spirits. For time and for eternity they are united one to
the other. Put land and sea between them--they will still be
together; they will communicate in visions, they will be revealed
to each other in dreams. Bind them by worldly ties; wed your son,
in the time to come, to another woman, and my grand-daughter to
another man. In vain! I tell you, in vain! You may doom them to
misery, you may drive them to sin--the day of their union on
earth is still a day predestined in heaven. It will come! it will
come! Submit, while the time for submission is yours. You are a
doomed man. I see the shadow of disaster, I see the seal of
death, on your face. Go; and leave these consecrated ones to walk
the dark ways of the world together, in the strength of their
innocence, in the light of their love. Go--and God forgive you!"
In spite of himself, my father was struck by the irresistible
strength of conviction which inspired those words. The bailiff's
mother had impressed him as a tragic actress might have impressed
him on the stage. She had checked the mocking answer on his lips,
but she had not shaken his iron will. His face was as hard as
ever when he turned my way once more.
"The last chance, George, " he said, and counted the last number:
I neither moved nor answered him.
"You _will_ have it?" he said, as he fastened his hold on my arm.
I fastened _my_ hold on Mary; I whispered to her, "I won't leave
you!" She seemed not to hear me. She trembled from head to foot
in my arms. A faint cry of terror fluttered from her lips.
Dermody instantly stepped forward. Before my father could wrench
me away from her, he had said in my ear, "You can give her to
_me_, Master George," and had released his child from my embrace.
She stretched her little frail hands out yearningly to me, as she
lay in Dermody's arms. "Good-by, dear," she said, faintly. I saw
her head sink on her father's bosom as I was dragged to the door.
In my helpless rage and misery, I struggled against the cruel
hands that had got me with all the strength I had left. I cried
out to her, "I love you, Mary! I will come back to you, Mary! I
will never marry any one but you!" Step by step, I was forced
further and further away. The last I saw of her, my darling's
head was still resting on Dermody's breast. Her grandmother stood
near, and shook her withered hands at my father, and shrieked her
terrible prophecy, in the hysteric frenzy that possessed her when
she saw the separation accomplished. "Go!--you go to your ruin!
you go to your death!" While her voice still rang in my ears, the
cottage door was opened and closed again. It was all over. The
modest world of my boyish love and my boyish joy disappeared like
the vision of a dream. The empty outer wilderness, which was my
father's world, opened before me void of love and void of joy.
God forgive me--how I hated him at that moment!
THE CURTAIN FALLS.
FOR the rest of the day, and through the night, I was kept a
close prisoner in my room, watched by a man on whose fidelity my
father could depend.
The next morning I made an effort to escape, and was discovered
before I had got free of the house. Confined again to my room, I
contrived to write to Mary, and to slip my note into the willing
hand of the housemaid who attended on me. Useless! The vigilance
of my guardian was not to be evaded. The woman was suspected and
followed, and the letter was taken from her. My father tore it up
with his own hands.
Later in the day, my mother was permitted to see me.
She was quite unfit, poor soul, to intercede for me, or to serve
my interests in any way. My father had completely overwhelmed her
by announcing that his wife and his son were to accompany him,
when he returned to America.
"Every farthing he has in the world," said my mother, "is to be
thrown into that hateful speculation. He has raised money in
London; he has let the house to some rich tradesman for seven
years; he has sold the plate, and the jewels that came to me from
his mother. The land in America swallows it all up. We have no
home, George, and no choice but to go with him."
An hour afterward the post-chaise was at the door.
My father himself took me to the carriage. I broke away from him,
with a desperation which not even his resolution could resist. I
ran, I flew, along the path that led to Dermody's cottage. The
door stood open; the parlor was empty. I went into the kitchen; I
went into the upper rooms. Solitude everywhere. The bailiff had
left the place; and his mother and his daughter had gone with
him. No friend or neighbor lingered near with a message; no
letter lay waiting for me; no hint was left to tell me in what
direction they had taken their departure. After the insulting
words which his master had spoken to him, Dermody's pride was
concerned in leaving no trace of his whereabouts; my father might
consider it as a trace purposely left with the object of
reuniting Mary and me. I had no keepsake to speak to me of my
lost darling but the flag which she had embroidered with her own
hand. The furniture still remained in the cottage. I sat down in
our customary corner, by Mary's empty chair, and looked again at
the pretty green flag, and burst out crying.
A light touch roused me. My father had so far yielded as to leave
to my mother the responsibility of bringing me back to the
"We shall not find Mary here, George," she said, gently. "And we
_ may_ hear of her in London. Come with me."
I rose and silently gave her my hand. Something low down on the
clean white door-post caught my eye as we passed it. I stooped,
and discovered some writing in pencil. I looked closer--it was
writing in Mary's hand! The unformed childish characters traced
these last words of farewell:
"Good-by, dear. Don't forget Mary."
I knelt down and kissed the writing. It comforted me--it was like
a farewell touch from Mary's hand. I followed my mother quietly
to the carriage.
Late that night we were in London.
My good mother did all that the most compassionate kindness could
do (in her position) to comfort me. She privately wrote to the
solicitors employed by her family, inclosing a description of
Dermody and his mother and daughter and directing inquiries to be
made at the various coach-offices in London. She also referred
the lawyers to two of Dermody's relatives, who lived in the city,
a nd who might know something of his movements after he left my
father's service. When she had done this, she had done all that
lay in her power. We neither of us possessed money enough to
advertise in the newspapers.
A week afterward we sailed for the United States. Twice in that
interval I communicated with the lawyers; and twice I was
informed that the inquiries had led to nothing.
With this the first epoch in my love story comes to an end.
For ten long years afterward I never again met with my little
Mary; I never even heard whether she had lived to grow to
womanhood or not. I still kept the green flag, with the dove
worked on it. For the rest, the waters of oblivion had closed
over the old golden days at Greenwater Broad.
WHEN YOU last saw me, I was a boy of thirteen. You now see me a
man of twenty-three.
The story of my life, in the interval between these two ages, is
a story that can be soon told.
Speaking of my father first, I have to record that the end of his
career did indeed come as Dame Dermody had foretold it. Before we
had been a year in America, the total collapse of his land
speculation was followed by his death. The catastrophe was
complete. But for my mother's little income (settled on her at
her marriage) we should both have been left helpless at the mercy
of the world.
We made some kind friends among the hearty and hospitable people
of the United States, whom we were unaffectedly sorry to leave.
But there were reasons which inclined us to return to our own
country after my father's death; and we did return accordingly.
Besides her brother-in-law (already mentioned in the earlier
pages of my narrative), my mother had another relative--a cousin
named Germaine--on whose assistance she mainly relied for
starting me, when the time came, in a professional career. I
remember it as a family rumor, that Mr. Germaine had been an
unsuccessful suitor for my mother's hand in the days when they
were young people together. He was still a bachelor at the later
period when his eldest brother's death without issue placed him
in possession of a handsome fortune. The accession of wealth made
no difference in his habits of life: he was a lonely old man,
estranged from his other relatives, when my mother and I returned
to England. If I could only succeed in pleasing Mr. Germaine, I
might consider my prospects (in some degree, at least) as being
This was one consideration that influenced us in leaving America.
There was another--in which I was especially interested--that
drew me back to the lonely shores of Greenwater Broad.
My only hope of recovering a trace of Mary was to make inquiries
among the cottagers in the neighborhood of my old home. The good
bailiff had been heartily liked and respected in his little
sphere. It seemed at least possible that some among his many
friends in Suffolk might have discovered traces of him, in the
year that had passed since I had left England. In my dreams of
Mary--and I dreamed of her constantly--the lake and its woody
banks formed a frequent background in the visionary picture of my
lost companion. To the lake shores I looked, with a natural
superstition, as to my way back to the one life that had its
promise of happiness for _me_--my life with Mary.
On our arrival in London, I started for Suffolk alone--at my
mother's request. At her age she naturally shrank from revisiting
the home scenes now occupied by the strangers to whom our house
had been let.
Ah, how my heart ached (young as I was) when I saw the familiar
green waters of the lake once more! It was evening. The first
object that caught my eye was the gayly painted boat, once mine,
in which Mary and I had so often sailed together. The people in
possession of our house were sailing now. The sound of their
laughter floated toward me merrily over the still water. _Their_
flag flew at the little mast-head, from which Mary's flag had
never fluttered in the pleasant breeze. I turned my eyes from the
boat; it hurt me to look at it. A few steps onward brought me to
a promontory on the shore, and revealed the brown archways of the
decoy on the opposite bank. There was the paling behind which we
had knelt to watch the snaring of the ducks; there was the hole
through which "Trim," the terrier, had shown himself to rouse the
stupid curiosity of the water-fowl; there, seen at intervals
through the trees, was the winding woodland path along which Mary
and I had traced our way to Dermody's cottage on the day when my
father's cruel hand had torn us from each other. How wisely my
good mother had shrunk from looking again at the dear old scenes!
I turned my back on the lake, to think with calmer thoughts in
the shadowy solitude of the woods.
An hour's walk along the winding banks brought me round to the
cottage which had once been Mary's home.
The door was opened by a woman who was a stranger to me. She
civilly asked me to enter the parlor. I had suffered enough
already; I made my inquiries, standing on the doorstep. They were
soon at an end. The woman was a stranger in our part of Suffolk;
neither she nor her husband had ever heard of Dermody's name.
I pursued my investigations among the peasantry, passing from
cottage to cottage. The twilight came; the moon rose; the lights
began to vanish from the lattice-windows; and still I continued
my weary pilgrimage; and still, go where I might, the answer to
my questions was the same. Nobody knew anything of Dermody.
Everybody asked if I had not brought news of him myself. It pains
me even now to recall the cruelly complete defeat of every effort
which I made on that disastrous evening. I passed the night in
one of the cottages; and I returned to London the next day,
broken by disappointment, careless what I did, or where I went
Still, we were not wholly parted. I saw Mary--as Dame Dermody
said I should see her--in dreams.
Sometimes she came to me with the green flag in her hand, and
repeated her farewell words--"Don't forget Mary!" Sometimes she
led me to our well-remembered corner in the cottage parlor, and
opened the paper on which her grandmother had written our prayers
for us. We prayed together again, and sung hymns together again,
as if the old times had come back. Once she appeared to me, with
tears in her eyes, and said, "We must wait, dear: our time has
not come yet." Twice I saw her looking at me, like one disturbed
by anxious thoughts; and twice I heard her say, "Live patiently,
live innocently, George, for my sake."
We settled in London, where my education was undertaken by a
private tutor. Before we had been long in our new abode, an
unexpected change in our prospects took place. To my mother's
astonishment she received an offer of marriage (addressed to her
in a letter) from Mr. Germaine.
"I entreat you not to be startled by my proposal!" (the old
gentleman wrote). "You can hardly have forgotten that I was once
fond of you, in the days when we were both young and both poor.
No return to the feelings associated with that time is possible
now. At my age, all I ask of you is to be the companion of the
closing years of my life, and to give me something of a father's
interest in promoting the future welfare of your son. Consider
this, my dear, and tell me whether you will take the empty chair
at an old man's lonely fireside."
My mother (looking almost as confused, poor soul! as if she had
become a young girl again) left the whole responsibility of
decision on the shoulders of her son! I was not long in making up
my mind. If she said Yes, she would accept the hand of a man of
worth and honor, who had been throughout his whole life devoted
to her; and she would recover the comfort, the luxury, the social
prosperity and position of which my father's reckless course of
life had deprived her. Add to this, that I liked Mr. Germaine,
and that Mr. Germaine liked me. Under these circumstances, why
should my mother say No? She could produce no satisfactory answer
to that question when I put it. As the necessary consequence, she
became, in due course of time, Mrs. Germaine.
I have only to add that, to the end of her life, my good mother
congratulated he rself (in this case at least) on having taken
her son's advice.
The years went on, and still Mary and I were parted, except in my
dreams. The years went on, until the perilous time which comes in
every man's life came in mine. I reached the age when the
strongest of all the passions seizes on the senses, and asserts
its mastery over mind and body alike.
I had hitherto passively endured the wreck of my earliest and
dearest hopes: I had lived patiently, and lived innocently, for
Mary's sake. Now my patience left me; my innocence was numbered
among the lost things of the past. My days, it is true, were
still devoted to the tasks set me by my tutor; but my nights were
given, in secret, to a reckless profligacy, which (in my present
frame of mind) I look back on with disgust and dismay. I profaned
my remembrances of Mary in the company of women who had reached
the lowest depths of degradation. I impiously said to myself: "I
have hoped for her long enough; I have waited for her long
enough. The one thing now to do is to enjoy my youth and to
From the moment when I dropped into this degradation, I might
sometimes think regretfully of Mary--at the morning time, when
penitent thoughts mostly come to us; but I ceased absolutely to
see her in my dreams. We were now, in the completest sense of the
word, parted. Mary's pure spirit could hold no communion with
mine; Mary's pure spirit had left me.
It is needless to say that I failed to keep the secret of my
depravity from the knowledge of my mother. The sight of her grief
was the first influence that sobered me. In some degree at least
I restrained myself: I made the effort to return to purer ways of
life. Mr. Germaine, though I had disappointed him, was too just a
man to give me up as lost. He advised me, as a means of
self-reform, to make my choice of a profession, and to absorb
myself in closer studies than any that I had yet pursued.
I made my peace with this good friend and second father, not only
by following his advice, but by adopting the profession to which
he had been himself attached before he inherited his fortune--the
profession of medicine. Mr. Germaine had been a surgeon: I
resolved on being a surgeon too.
Having entered, at rather an earlier age than usual, on my new
way of life, I may at least say for myself that I worked hard. I
won, and kept, the interest of the professors under whom I
studied. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that my
reformation was, morally speaking, far from being complete. I
worked; but what I did was done selfishly, bitterly, with a hard
heart. In religion and morals I adopted the views of a
materialist companion of my studies--a worn-out man of more than
double my age. I believed in nothing but what I could see, or
taste, or feel. I lost all faith in humanity. With the one
exception of my mother, I had no respect for women. My
remembrances of Mary deteriorated until they became little more
than a lost link of association with the past. I still preserved
the green flag as a matter of habit; but it was no longer kept
about me; it was left undisturbed in a drawer of my writing-desk.
Now and then a wholesome doubt, whether my life was not utterly
unworthy of me, would rise in my mind. But it held no long
possession of my thoughts. Despising others, it was in the
logical order of things that I should follow my conclusions to
their bitter end, and consistently despise myself.
The term of my majority arrived. I was twenty-one years old; and
of the illusions of my youth not a vestige remained.
Neither my mother nor Mr. Germaine could make any positive
complaint of my conduct. But they were both thoroughly uneasy
about me. After anxious consideration, my step-father arrived at
a conclusion. He decided that the one chance of restoring me to
my better and brighter self was to try the stimulant of a life
among new people and new scenes.
At the period of which I am now writing, the home government had
decided on sending a special diplomatic mission to one of the
native princes ruling over a remote province of our Indian
empire. In the disturbed state of the province at that time, the
mission, on its arrival in India, was to be accompanied to the
prince's court by an escort, including the military as well as
the civil servants of the crown. The surgeon appointed to sail
with the expedition from England was an old friend of Mr.
Germaine's, and was in want of an assistant on whose capacity he
could rely. Through my stepfather's interest, the post was
offered to me. I accepted it without hesitation. My only pride
left was the miserable pride of indifference. So long as I
pursued my profession, the place in which I pursued it was a
matter of no importance to my mind.
It was long before we could persuade my mother even to
contemplate the new prospect now set before me. When she did at
length give way, she yielded most unwillingly. I confess I left
her with the tears in my eyes--the first I had shed for many a
long year past.
The history of our expedition is part of the history of British
India. It has no place in this narrative.
Speaking personally, I have to record that I was rendered
incapable of performing my professional duties in less than a
week from the time when the mission reached its destination. We
were encamped outside the city; and an attack was made on us,
under cover of darkness, by the fanatical natives. The attempt
was defeated with little difficulty, and with only a trifling
loss on our side. I was among the wounded, having been struck by
a javelin, or spear, while I was passing from one tent to
Inflicted by a European weapon, my injury would have been of no
serious consequence. But the tip of the Indian spear had been
poisoned. I escaped the mortal danger of lockjaw; but, through
some peculiarity in the action of the poison on my constitution
(which I am quite unable to explain), the wound obstinately
refused to heal.
I was invalided and sent to Calcutta, where the best surgical
help was at my disposal. To all appearance, the wound healed
there--then broke out again. Twice this happened; and the medical
men agreed that the best course to take would be to send me home.
They calculated on the invigorating effect of the sea voyage,
and, failing this, on the salutary influence of my native air. In
the Indian climate I was pronounced incurable.
Two days before the ship sailed a letter from my mother brought
me startling news. My life to come--if I _had_ a life to
come--had been turned into a new channel. Mr. Germaine had died
suddenly, of heart-disease. His will, bearing date at the time
when I left England, bequeathed an income for life to my mother,
and left the bulk of his property to me, on the one condition
that I adopted his name. I accepted the condition, of course, and
became George Germaine.
Three months later, my mother and I were restored to each other.
Except that I still had some trouble with my wound, behold me now
to all appearance one of the most enviable of existing mortals;
promoted to the position of a wealthy gentleman; possessor of a
house in London and of a country-seat in Perthshire; and,
nevertheless, at twenty-three years of age, one of the most
miserable men living!
In the ten years that had now passed over, what had become of
You have heard my story. Read the few pages that follow, and you
will hear hers.
WHAT I have now to tell you of Mary is derived from information
obtained at a date in my life later by many years than any date
of which I have written yet. Be pleased to remember this.
Dermody, the bailiff, possessed relatives in London, of whom he
occasionally spoke, and relatives in Scotland, whom he never
mentioned. My father had a strong prejudice against the Scotch
nation. Dermody knew his master well enough to be aware that the
prejudice might extend to _him_, if he spoke of his Scotch
kindred. He was a discreet man, and he never mentioned them.
On leaving my father's service, he had made his way, partly by
land and partly by sea, to Glasgow--in which city his friends
resided. With his character and his experience, Dermody was a man
thousand to any master who was lucky enough to discover him. His
friends bestirred themselves. In six weeks' time he was placed in
charge of a gentleman's estate on the eastern coast of Scotland,
and was comfortably established with his mother and his daughter
in a new home.
The insulting language which my father had addressed to him had
sunk deep in Dermody's mind. He wrote privately to his relatives
in London, telling them that he had found a new situation which
suited him, and that he had his reasons for not at present
mentioning his address. In this way he baffled the inquiries
which my mother's lawyers (failing to discover a trace of him in
other directions) addressed to his London friends. Stung by his
old master's reproaches, he sacrificed his daughter and he
sacrificed me--partly to his own sense of self-respect, partly to
his conviction that the difference between us in rank made it his
duty to check all further intercourse before it was too late.
Buried in their retirement in a remote part of Scotland, the
little household lived, lost to me, and lost to the world.
In dreams, I had seen and heard Mary. In dreams, Mary saw and
heard me. The innocent longings and wishes which filled my heart
while I was still a boy were revealed to her in the mystery of
sleep. Her grandmother, holding firmly to her faith in the
predestined union between us, sustained the girl's courage and
cheered her heart. She could hear her father say (as my father
had said) that we were parted to meet no more, and could
privately think of her happy dreams as the sufficient promise of
another future than the future which Dermody contemplated. So she
still lived with me in the spirit--and lived in hope.
The first affliction that befell the little household was the
death of the grandmother, by the exhaustion of extreme old age.
In her last conscious moments, she said to Mary, "Never forget
that you and George are spirits consecrated to each other.
Wait--in the certain knowledge that no human power can hinder
your union in the time to come."
While those words were still vividly present to Mary's mind, our
visionary union by dreams was abruptly broken on her side, as it
had been abruptly broken on mine. In the first days of my
self-degradation, I had ceased to see Mary. Exactly at the same
period Mary ceased to see me.
The girl's sensitive nature sunk under the shock. She had now no
elder woman to comfort and advise her; she lived alone with her
father, who invariably changed the subject whenever she spoke of
the old times. The secret sorrow that preys on body and mind
alike preyed on _her_. A cold, caught at the inclement season,
turned to fever. For weeks she was in danger of death. When she
recovered, her head had been stripped of its beautiful hair by
the doctor's order. The sacrifice had been necessary to save her
life. It proved to be, in one respect, a cruel sacrifice--her
hair never grew plentifully again. When it did reappear, it had
completely lost its charming mingled hues of deep red and brown;
it was now of one monotonous light-brown color throughout. At
first sight, Mary's Scotch friends hardly knew her again.
But Nature made amends for what the head had lost by what the
face and the figure gained.
In a year from the date of her illness, the frail little child of
the old days at Greenwater Broad had ripened, in the bracing
Scotch air and the healthy mode of life, into a comely young
woman. Her features were still, as in her early years, not
regularly beautiful; but the change in her was not the less
marked on that account. The wan face had filled out, and the pale
complexion had found its color. As to her figure, its remarkable
development was perceived even by the rough people about her.
Promising nothing when she was a child, it had now sprung into
womanly fullness, symmetry, and grace. It was a strikingly
beautiful figure, in the strictest sense of the word.
Morally as well as physically, there were moments, at this period
of their lives, when even her own father hardly recognized his
daughter of former days. She had lost her childish vivacity--her
sweet, equable flow of good humor. Silent and self-absorbed, she
went through the daily routine of her duties enduringly. The hope
of meeting me again had sunk to a dead hope in her by this time.
She made no complaint. The bodily strength that she had gained in
these later days had its sympathetic influence in steadying her
mind. When her father once or twice ventured to ask if she was
still thinking of me, she answered quietly that she had brought
herself to share his opinions. She could not doubt that I had
long since ceased to think of her. Even if I had remained
faithful to her, she was old enough now to know that the
difference between us in rank made our union by marriage an
impossibility. It would be best (she thought) not to refer any
more to the past, best to forget me, as I had forgotten her. So
she spoke now. So, tried by the test of appearances, Dame
Dermody's confident forecast of our destinies had failed to
justify itself, and had taken its place among the predictions
that are never fulfilled.
The next notable event in the family annals which followed Mary's
illness happened when she had attained the age of nineteen years.
Even at this distance of time my heart sinks, my courage fails
me, at the critical stage in my narrative which I have now
A storm of unusual severity burst over the eastern coast of
Scotland. Among the ships that were lost in the tempest was a
vessel bound from Holland, which was wrecked on the rocky shore
near Dermody's place of abode. Leading the way in all good
actions, the bailiff led the way in rescuing the passengers and
crew of the lost ship. He had brought one man alive to land, and
was on his way back to the vessel, when two heavy seas, following
in close succession, dashed him against the rocks. He was
rescued, at the risk of their own lives, by his neighbors. The
medical examination disclosed a broken bone and severe bruises
and lacerations. So far, Dermody's sufferings were easy of
relief. But, after a lapse of time, symptoms appeared in the
patient which revealed to his medical attendant the presence of
serious internal injury. In the doctor's opinion, he could never
hope to resume the active habits of his life. He would be an
invalid and a crippled man for the rest of his days.
Under these melancholy circumstances, the bailiff's employer did
all that could be strictly expected of him, He hired an assistant
to undertake the supervision of the farm work, and he permitted
Dermody to occupy his cottage for the next three months. This
concession gave the poor man time to recover such relics of
strength as were still left to him, and to consult his friends in
Glasgow on the doubtful question of his life to come.
The prospect was a serious one. Dermody was quite unfit for any
sedentary employment; and the little money that he had saved was
not enough to support his daughter and himself. The Scotch
friends were willing and kind; but they had domestic claims on
them, and they had no money to spare.
In this emergency, the passenger in the wrecked vessel (whose
life Dermody had saved) came forward with a proposal which took
father and daughter alike by surprise. He made Mary an offer of
marriage; on the express understanding (if she accepted him) that
her home was to be her father's home also to the end of his life.
The person who thus associated himself with the Dermodys in the
time of their trouble was a Dutch gentleman, named Ernest Van
Brandt. He possessed a share in a fishing establishment on the
shores of the Zuyder Zee; and he was on his way to establish a
correspondence with the fisheries in the North of Scotland when
the vessel was wrecked. Mary had produced a strong impression on
him when they first met. He had lingered in the neighborhood, in
the hope of gaining her favorable regard, with time to help him.
Personally he was a handsome man, in the prime of life; and he
was possessed of a sufficient income to marry on. In making his
proposal, he produced references to persons of high social
position in Holland, who could answer for hi m, so far as the
questions of character and position were concerned.
Mary was long in considering which course it would be best for
her helpless father, and best for herself, to adopt.
The hope of a marriage with me had been a hope abandoned by her
years since. No woman looks forward willingly to a life of
cheerless celibacy. In thinking of her future, Mary naturally
thought of herself in the character of a wife. Could she fairly
expect in the time to come to receive any more attractive
proposal than the proposal now addressed to her? Mr. Van Brandt
had every personal advantage that a woman could desire; he was
devotedly in love with her; and he felt a grateful affection for
her father as the man to whom he owed his life. With no other
hope in her heart--with no other prospect in view--what could she
do better than marry Mr. Van Brandt?
Influenced by these considerations, she decided on speaking the
fatal word. She said, "Yes."
At the same time, she spoke plainly to Mr. Van Brandt,
unreservedly acknowledging that she had contemplated another
future than the future now set before her. She did not conceal
that there had once been an old love in her heart, and that a new
love was more than she could command. Esteem, gratitude, and
regard she could honestly offer; and, with time, love might come.
For the rest, she had long since disassociated herself from the
past, and had definitely given up all the hopes and wishes once
connected with it. Repose for her father, and tranquil happiness
for herself, were the only favors that she asked of fortune now.
These she might find under the roof of an honorable man who loved
and respected her. She could promise, on her side, to make him a
good and faithful wife, if she could promise no more. It rested
with Mr. Van Brandt to say whether he really believed that he
would be consulting his own happiness in marrying her on these
Mr. Van Brandt accepted the terms without a moment's hesitation.
They would have been married immediately but for an alarming
change for the worse in the condition of Dermody's health.
Symptoms showed themselves, which the doctor confessed that he
had not anticipated when he had given his opinion on the case. He
warned Mary that the end might be near. A physician was summoned
from Edinburgh, at Mr. Van Brandt's expense. He confirmed the
opinion entertained by the country doctor. For some days longer
the good bailiff lingered. On the last morning, he put his
daughter's hand in Van Brandt's hand. "Make her happy, sir," he
said, in his simple way, "and you will be even with me for saving
your life." The same day he died quietly in his daughter's arms.
Mary's future was now entirely in her lover's hands. The
relatives in Glasgow had daughters of their own to provide for.
The relatives in London resented Dermody's neglect of them. Van
Brandt waited, delicately and considerately, until the first
violence of the girl's grief had worn itself out, and then he
pleaded irresistibly for a husband's claim to console her.
The time at which they were married in Scotland was also the time
at which I was on my way home from India. Mary had then reached
the age of twenty years.
The story of our ten years' separation is now told; the narrative
leaves us at the outset of our new lives.
I am with my mother, beginning my career as a country gentleman
on the estate in Perthshire which I have inherited from Mr.
Germaine. Mary is with her husband, enjoying her new privileges,
learning her new duties, as a wife. She, too, is living in
Scotland--living, by a strange fatality, not very far distant
from my country-house. I have no suspicion that she is so near to
me: the name of Mrs. Van Brandt (even if I had heard it) appeals
to no familiar association in my mind. Still the kindred spirits
are parted. Still there is no idea on her side, and no idea on
mine, that we shall ever meet again.
THE WOMAN ON THE BRIDGE.
MY mother looked in at the library door, and disturbed me over my
"I have been hanging a little picture in my room," she said.
"Come upstairs, my dear, and give me your opinion of it."
I rose and followed her. She pointed to a miniature portrait,
hanging above the mantelpiece.
"Do you know whose likeness that is?" she asked, half sadly, half
playfully. "George! Do you really not recognize yourself at
thirteen years old?"
How should I recognize myself? Worn by sickness and sorrow;
browned by the sun on my long homeward voyage; my hair already
growing thin over my forehead; my eyes already habituated to
their one sad and weary look; what had I in common with the fair,
plump, curly-headed, bright-eyed boy who confronted me in the
miniature? The mere sight of the portrait produced the most
extraordinary effect on my mind. It struck me with an
overwhelming melancholy; it filled me with a despair of myself
too dreadful to be endured. Making the best excuse I could to my
mother, I left the room. In another minute I was out of the
I crossed the park, and left my own possessions behind me.
Following a by-road, I came to our well-known river; so beautiful
in itself, so famous among trout-fishers throughout Scotland. It
was not then the fishing season. No human being was in sight as I
took my seat on the bank. The old stone bridge which spanned the
stream was within a hundred yards of me; the setting sun still
tinged the swift-flowing water under the arches with its red and
Still the boy's face in the miniature pursued me. Still the
portrait seemed to reproach me in a merciless language of its
own: "Look at what you were once; think of what you are now!"
I hid my face in the soft, fragrant grass. I thought of the
wasted years of my life between thirteen and twenty-three.
How was it to end? If I lived to the ordinary life of man, what
prospect had I before me?
Love? Marriage? I burst out laughing as the idea crossed my mind.
Since the innocently happy days of my boyhood I had known no more
of love than the insect that now crept over my hand as it lay on
the grass. My money, to be sure, would buy me a wife; but would
my money make her dear to me? dear as Mary had once been, in the
golden time when my portrait was first painted?
Mary! Was she still living? Was she married? Should I know her
again if I saw her? Absurd! I had not seen her since she was ten
years old: she was now a woman, as I was a man. Would she know
_me_ if we met? The portrait, still pursuing me, answered the
question: "Look at what you were once; think of what you are
I rose and walked backward and forward, and tried to turn the
current of my thoughts in some new direction.
It was not to be done. After a banishment of years, Mary had got
back again into my mind. I sat down once more on the river bank.
The sun was sinking fast. Black shadows hovered under the arches
of the old stone bridge. The red light had faded from the
swift-flowing water, and had left it overspread with one
monotonous hue of steely gray. The first stars looked down
peacefully from the cloudless sky. The first shiverings of the
night breeze were audible among the trees, and visible here and
there in the shallow places of the stream. And still, the darker
it grew, the more persistently my portrait led me back to the
past, the more vividly the long-lost image of the child Mary
showed itself to me in my thoughts.
Was this the prelude of her coming back to me in dreams; in her
perfected womanhood, in the young prime of her life?
It might be so.
I was no longer unworthy of her, as I had once been. The effect
produced on me by the sight of my portrait was in itself due to
moral and mental changes in me for the better, which had been
steadily proceeding since the time when my wound had laid me
helpless among strangers in a strange land. Sickness, which has
made itself teacher and friend to many a man, had made itself
teacher and friend to me. I looked back with horror at the vices
of my youth; at the fruitless after-days when I had impiously
doubted all that is most noble, all that is most consoling in
human life. Consecrated by sorrow, purified by repentance, was it
vain in me to hope that her spirit a nd my spirit might yet be
united again? Who could tell?
I rose once more. It could serve no good purpose to linger until
night by the banks of the river. I had left the house, feeling
the impulse which drives us, in certain excited conditions of the
mind, to take refuge in movement and change. The remedy had
failed; my mind was as strangely disturbed as ever. My wisest
course would be to go home, and keep my good mother company over
her favorite game of piquet.
I turned to take the road back, and stopped, struck by the
tranquil beauty of the last faint light in the western sky,
shining behind the black line formed by the parapet of the
In the grand gathering of the night shadows, in the deep
stillness of the dying day, I stood alone and watched the sinking
As I looked, there came a change over the scene. Suddenly and
softly a living figure glided into view on the bridge. It passed
behind the black line of the parapet, in the last long rays of
the western light. It crossed the bridge. It paused, and crossed
back again half-way. Then it stopped. The minutes passed, and
there the figure stood, a motionless black object, behind the
black parapet of the bridge.
I advanced a little, moving near enough to obtain a closer view
of the dress in which the figure was attired. The dress showed me
that the solitary stranger was a woman.
She did not notice me in the shadow which the trees cast on the
bank. She stood with her arms folded in her cloak, looking down
at the darkening river.
Why was she waiting there at the close of evening alone?
As the question occurred to me, I saw her head move. She looked
along the bridge, first on one side of her, then on the other.
Was she waiting for some person who was to meet her? Or was she
suspicious of observation, and anxious to make sure that she was
A sudden doubt of her purpose in seeking that solitary place, a
sudden distrust of the lonely bridge and the swift-flowing river,
set my heart beating quickly and roused me to instant action. I
hurried up the rising ground which led from the river-bank to the
bridge, determined on speaking to her while the opportunity was
She neither saw nor heard me until I was close to her. I
approached with an irrepressible feeling of agitation; not
knowing how she might receive me when I spoke to her. The moment
she turned and faced me, my composure came back. It was as if,
expecting to see a stranger, I had unexpectedly encountered a
And yet she _was_ a stranger. I had never before looked on that
grave and noble face, on that grand figure whose exquisite grace
and symmetry even her long cloak could not wholly hide. She was
not, perhaps, a strictly beautiful woman. There were defects in
her which were sufficiently marked to show themselves in the
fading light. Her hair, for example, seen under the large garden
hat that she wore, looked almost as short as the hair of a man;
and the color of it was of that dull, lusterless brown hue which
is so commonly seen in English women of the ordinary type. Still,
in spite of these drawbacks, there was a latent charm in her
expression, there was an inbred fascination in her manner, which
instantly found its way to my sympathies and its hold on my
admiration. She won me in the moment when I first looked at her.
"May I inquire if you have lost your way?" I asked.
Her eyes rested on my face with a strange look of inquiry in