Part 2 out of 15
rather, good-morning! Just look at the clock. It is nearly three."
The next morning all the guests left Fraylingay, and the family there
settled into their accustomed grooves. Evadne and her father walked and
rode, conversing together as usual, he enjoying the roll and rumble and
fine flavour of his own phrase-making amazingly, and she also impressed by
the roll and rumble. But when it was all over, and he had marched off in
triumph, she would collect the mutilated remains of the argument and
examine them at her leisure, and in nine cases out of ten it proved to be
quartz that he had crushed and contemned, overlooking the gold it
contained, but releasing it for her to find and add exultingly to her own
collection. In this way, therefore, she continued to obtain her wealth of
ore from him, and both were satisfied--he because he was sure that, thanks
to him, she was "a thoroughly sensible girl with no nonsense of
new-fangled notions about her"; and she because, being his daughter, she
had not altogether escaped the form of mental myopia from which he
suffered, and was in the habit of seeing only what she hoped and wished to
see in those she loved. Man, the unjust and iniquitous, was to her always
the outside, vague, theoretical man of the world, never the dear undoubted
papa at home.
Evadne was the eldest of six girls, and their mother had a comfortable
as-it-was-in-the-beginning-is-now-and-ever-shall-be feeling about them all;
but she prided herself most upon Evadne as answering in every particular
to the conventional idea of what a young lady should be.
"The dear child," she wrote to Lady Adeline, "is _all_ and
_more_ than we dared to hope to have her become. I can assure you she
has never caused me a moment's anxiety in her life, except, of course,
such anxiety for her health and happiness as every mother must feel. I
have had her educated with the utmost care, and her father has, I may say,
_devoted_ himself to the task of influencing her in the right
direction in matters of opinion, and has ably seconded all my endeavours
in other respects. She speaks French and German _well_, and knows a
little Italian; in fact, I may say that she has a special aptitude for
languages. She does not draw, but is a fair musician, and is still having
lessons, being most anxious to improve herself; and she sings very
sweetly. But, best of all, as I am sure you will agree with me, I notice
in her a deeply religious disposition. She is _really_ devout, and
beautifully reverential in her manner both in church and to us, her
parents, and, indeed, to all who are older and wiser than herself. She is
very clever too, they tell me; but of course I am no judge of that. I do
know, however, that she is perfectly innocent, and I am indeed thankful to
think that at eighteen she knows nothing of the world and its wickedness,
and is therefore eminently qualified to make somebody an excellent wife;
and all I am afraid of is that the destined somebody will come for her all
too soon, for I cannot bear to think of parting with her. She is not
_quite_ like other girls in _some_ things, I am afraid--mere
trifles, however--as, for instance, about her presentation. I know
_I_ was in quite a flutter of excitement for days before _I_ was
presented, and was quite bewildered with agitation at the time; but Evadne
displayed no emotion whatever. I never knew _anyone_ so equable as
she is; in fact, _nothing_ seems to ruffle her wonderful calm; it is
almost provoking sometimes! On the way home she would not have made a
remark, I think, if I had not spoken to her. 'Don't you think it was a
very pretty sight?' I said at last. 'Yes,' she answered doubtfully; and
then she added with genuine feeling: '_Mais il y a des longuers!_ Oh,
mother, the hours we have spent hanging about draughty corridors, half
dressed and shivering with cold; and the crowding and crushing, and
unlovely faces, all looking so miserable and showing the discomfort and
fatigue they were enduring so plainly! I call it positive suffering, and I
never want to see another Drawing Room. My soul desires nothing now but
decent clothing and hot tea.' And that is all she has ever said about the
Drawing Room in my hearing. But wasn't it a very curious view for a girl
to take? Of course the arrangements are detestable, and one does suffer a
great deal from cold and fatigue, and for want of refreshments; but still
_I_ never thought of those things when _I_ was a girl; did you?
I never thought of anything, in fact, but whether I was looking my best or
not. Don't let me make you imagine, however, that Evadne was whining and
querulous. She never is, you know; and I should call her tone sorrowful if
it were not so absurd for a girl to be saddened by the sight of other
people in distress--well, not quite in distress--that is an
exaggeration--but at all events not quite comfortably situated--on what
was really one of the greatest occasions of her own life. I am half
inclined to fear that she may not be quite so strong as we have always
thought her, and that she was depressed by the long fasting and fatigue,
which would account for a momentary morbidness.
"But excuse my garrulity. I always have so much to say to _you!_ I
will spare you any more for the present, however; only do tell me all
about yourself and your own lovely children. And how is Mr.
Hamilton-Wells? Remember that you are to come to us, twins and all, on
your way home as usual this year. We are anxiously expecting you, and I
hope your next letter will fix the day.
"Ever, dear Adeline, your loving friend,
"P. S.--We return to Fraylingay to-morrow, so please write to me there."
The following is Lady Adeline's reply to Mrs. Frayling's letter:
"HAMILTON HOUSE, MORNINGQUEST, 30th July,
"MY DEAR ELIZABETH:
"I am afraid you will have been wondering what has become of us, but I
know you will acquit me of all blame for the long delay in answering your
letter when I tell you that I have only just received it! We had left
Paris before it arrived for (what is always to me) a tiresome tour about
the continent, and it has been following us from pillar to post, finally
reaching me here at home, where we have been settled a fortnight. I had
not forgotten your kind invitation, but I am afraid I must give up all
idea of going to you this year. We hurried back because Mr. Hamilton-Wells
became homesick suddenly while we were abroad, and I don't think it will
be possible to get him to move again for some time. But won't you come to
us? Do, dear, and bring your just-come-out, and, I am sure, most charming,
Evadne for our autumn gayeties. If Mr. Frayling would come too we should
be delighted, but I know he has a poor opinion of _our_ coverts, and
I despair of being able to tempt him from his own shooting; and therefore
I ask _you_ first and foremost, in the hope that you will be able to
come whether he does or not.
"I have been thinking much of all you have told me about Evadne. She had
already struck me as being a most interesting child and full of promise,
and I do hope that now she is out of the schoolroom I shall see more of
her. I know you will trust her to me--although I do think that in parts of
her education you have been acting by the half light of a past time, and
following a method now out of date. I cannot agree, for instance, that it
is either right or wise to keep a girl in ignorance of the laws of her own
being, and of the state of the community in which she will have to pass
her existence. While she is at an age to be influenced in the right way
she should be fully instructed, by those she loves, and not left to obtain
her knowledge of the world haphazard from anyone with whom accident may
bring her acquainted--people, perhaps, whose point of view may not only
differ materially from her parents', but be extremely offensive to them.
The first impression in these matters, you know, is all important, and my
experience is that what you call 'beautiful innocence,' and what I
consider _dangerous ignorance_, is not a safe state in which to begin
the battle of life. In the matter of marriage especially an ignorant girl
may be fatally deceived, and indeed I know cases in which the man who was
liked well enough as a companion was found to be objectionable in an
unendurable degree as soon as he became a husband.
"You will think I am tainted with new notions, and I do hope I am in so
far as these notions are juster and better than the old ones. For, surely,
the elder ages did not discover all that is wisdom; and certainly there is
still room for 'nobler modes of life' and 'sweeter manners, purer laws.'
If this were not allowed moral progress must come to a standstill. So I
say, 'instruct! instruct!' The knowledge must come sooner or later; let it
come wholesomely. A girl must find out for herself if she is not taught,
and she may, in these plain-spoken times, obtain a wholly erroneous theory
of life and morality from a newspaper report which she reads without
intention in an idle moment while enjoying her afternoon tea. We are in a
state of transition, we women, and the air is so full of ideas that it
would be strange if an active mind did not catch some of them; and I find
myself that stray theories swallowed whole without due consideration are
of uncertain application, difficult in the working, if not impracticable,
and apt to disagree. Theories should be absorbed in detail as dinner is if
they are to become an addition to our strength, and not an indigestible
item of inconvenience, seriously affecting our mental temper.
"But you ask me about my twins. In health they continue splendid, in
spirits they are tremendous, but their tricks are simply terrible. We
never know what mischief they will devise next, and Angelica is much the
worst of the two. If we had taken them to Fraylingay it would have been in
fear and trembling; but we should have been obliged to take them had we
gone ourselves, for they somehow found out that you had asked them, and
they insisted upon going, and threatened to burn down Hamilton House in
our absence if we did not take them, a feat which we doubt not they would
have accomplished had they had a mind to. Indeed, I cannot tell you what
these children are! Imagine their last device to extort concessions from
their father. You know how nervous he is; well, if he will not do all that
they require of him they blow him up literally and actually! They put
little trains of gunpowder about in unexpected places, with lucifer
matches that go off when they are trodden upon, and you can imagine the
consequence! I told him what it would be when he would spoil them so, but
it was no use, and now they rule him instead of him them, so that he has
to enter into solemn compacts with them about not infringing what they
call their rights; and, only fancy, he is so fond to foolishness as to be
less annoyed by their naughtiness than pleased because, when they promise
not to do anything again 'honest Injun,' as they phrase it, they keep
their word. Dr. Galbraith calls them in derision 'The Heavenly Twins.'
"But have I told you about Dr. Galbraith? He is the new master of Fountain
Towers, and a charming as well as remarkable man, quite young, being in
fact only nine-and-twenty, but already distinguished as a medical man. He
became a professional man of necessity, having no expectation at that time
of ever inheriting property, but now that he is comparatively speaking a
rich man he continues to practice for the love of science, and also from
philanthropic motives. He is a fine looking young man physically, with a
strong face of most attractive plainness, only redeemed from positive
ugliness, in fact, by good gray eyes, white teeth, and an expression which
makes you trust him at once. After the first five minutes' conversation
with him I have heard people say that they not only could but would
positively have enjoyed telling him all the things that ever they did, so
great is the confidence he inspires. He, and Sir Daniel Galbraith's
adopted son--Sir Daniel is Dr. Galbraith's uncle--were my brother Dawne's
great friends at Oxford, where the three of them were known as Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego, because they passed unscathed through the burning
fiery furnace of temptation to which young men of position at the
universities are exposed. Dr. Galbraith is somewhat abrupt in manner, and
quick of temper, but most good-naturedly long-suffering with my terrible
children nevertheless. Of course they impose upon his good nature. And
they are always being punished; but that they do not mind. In fact, I
heard Angelica say once: 'It is all in the day's work,' when she had a
long imposition to do for something outrageous; and Diavolo called to her
over the stairs only yesterday, 'Wait for me a minute in the hall till
I've been thrashed for letting the horses and dogs loose, and then we'll
go and snare pheasants in the far plantation!' They explained to me once
that being found out and punished added the same zest to their pleasures
that cayenne pepper does to their diet; a little too much of it stings,
but just the right quantity relieves the insipidity and adds to the
interest; and then there is the element of uncertainty, which has a charm
of its own: they never know whether they will 'catch it hot' or not! When
they _are_ found out they always confess everything with a frankness
which is quite provoking, because they so evidently enjoy the recital of
their own misdeeds; and they defend themselves by quoting various
anecdotes of the naughty doings of children which have been written for
our amusement. And it is in vain that I explain to them that parents who
are hurt and made anxious by their children's disobedience cannot see
anything to laugh at in their pranks--at least not for a very long time
afterward. They pondered this for some time, and then arrived at the
conclusion that when they were grown up and no longer a nuisance to me, I
should be a 'very jolly old lady,' because I should have such a lot of
funny stories all my own to tell people.
"But I shall weary you with this inexhaustible subject. You must forgive
me if I do, for I am terribly anxious about my young Turks. If they are
equal to such enormities in the green leaf, I am always asking myself,
what will they do in the dry? I own that my sense of humour is tickled
sometimes, but never enough to make me forget the sense of danger, present
and to come, which all this keeps forever alive. Come and comfort me, and
tell me how you have made your own children so charming.
"Ever lovingly yours,
Mrs, Frayling wrote a full account of Evadne's presentation at court to
her sister, Mrs. Orton Beg--who was wandering about Norway by herself at
the time--and concluded her description of the dear child's gown, very
charming appearance, and dignified self-possession with some remarks about
her character to the same effect as those which she had addressed to Lady
Adeline. It was natural, perhaps, that the last conversation Mrs. Orton
Beg had had with Evadne at Fraylingay, which was in fact the first
articulate outcome of Evadne's self-training, coming as it did at the end
of a day of pleasurable interest and excitement, should have made no
immediate impression upon her tired faculties; but she recollected it now
and smiled as she read her sister's letter. "If that is all you know of
your daughter, my dear Elizabeth," was her mental comment, "I fancy there
will be surprises at Fraylingay!" But in reply she merely observed that
she was glad Evadne was so satisfactory. She was too wise a woman to waste
words on her sister Elizabeth, who, in consequence of having had them in
abundance to squander all her life long, had lost all sense of their
value, and would have failed to appreciate the force which they collect in
the careful keeping of such silent folk as Mrs. Orton Beg.
Mrs. Frayling was not able to accept Lady Adeline's invitation that year.
This was the period when Evadne looked out of narrow eyes at an untried
world inquiringly, and was warmed to the heart by what she saw of it.
Theoretically, people are cruel and unjust, but practically, to an
attractive young lady of good social position and just out, their manners
are most agreeable; and when Evadne returned to Fraylingay after her first
season in town, she thought less and sang more.
"A little bird in the air,
Is singing of Thyri the fair,
The sister of Svend the Dane;
And the song of the garrulous bird
In the streets of the town is heard,
And repeated again and again."
she carolled about the house, while the dust collected upon her books. She
took up one old favourite after another when she first returned, but her
attention wandered from her best beloved, and all that were solid came
somehow to be set aside and replaced, the nourishing fact by inflated
fiction, reason and logic by rhyme and rhythm, and sense by
sentimentality, so far had her strong, simple, earnest mind deteriorated
in the unwholesome atmosphere of London drawing rooms. It was only a
phase, of course, and she could have been set right at once had there been
anybody there to prescribe a strengthening tonic; but failing that, she
tried sweet stimulants that soothed and excited, but did not nourish:
tales that caused chords of pleasurable emotion to vibrate while they
fanned the higher faculties into inaction--vampire things inducing that
fatal repose which enables them to drain the soul of its life blood and
compass its destruction. But Evadne escaped without permanent injury, for,
fortunately for herself, among much that was far too sweet to be wholesome
she discovered Oliver Wendell Holmes' "The Breakfast Table Series," "Elsie
Venner," and "The Guardian Angel" and was insensibly fixed in her rightful
place and sustained by them.
The sun streaming into her room one morning at this time awoke her early
and tempted her up and out. There was a sandy space beyond the grounds, a
long level of her father's land extending to the eastern cliffs, and
considered barren by him, but rich with a certain beauty of its own, the
beauty of open spaces which rest and relieve the mind; and of immensity in
the shining sea-line beyond the cliffs, and the arching vault of the sky
overhead dipping down to encircle the earth; and of colour for all moods,
from the vividest green of grass and yellow of gorse to the amethyst ling,
and the browns with which the waning year tipped every bush and
bramble--things which, when properly appreciated, make life worth living.
It was in this direction that Evadne walked, taking it without design, but
drawn insensibly as by a magnet to the sea.
She had thought herself early up, but the whole wild world of the heath
was before her, and she began to feel belated as she went. There was a
suspicion of frost in the air which made it deliciously fresh and
exhilarating. The early morning mists still hung about, but the sun was
brightly busy dispelling them. The rabbits were tripping hither and
thither, too intent on their own business to pay much heed to Evadne. A
bird sprang up from her feet, and soared out of sight, and she paused a
moment with upturned face, dilated eyes, and lips apart, to watch him. But
a glimpse of the gorse recalled her, and she picked some yellow blooms
with delicate finger tips, and carried them in her bare hand savouring the
scent, and at the same time looking and listening with an involuntary
straining to enjoy the perception of each separate delicate delight at
once, till presently the enthusiasm of nature called forth some further
faculty, and she found herself sensible of every tint and tone, sight and
sound, distinguishing, deciphering, but yet perceiving all together as the
trained ear of a musician does the parts played by every instrument in an
orchestra, and takes cognizance of the whole effect as well.
At the end of the waste there was a little church overlooking the sea. She
saw that the door was open as she approached it, and she paused to look
in. The early weekday service was in progress. A few quiet figures sat
apart in the pews. The light was subdued. Something was being read aloud
by a voice of caressing quality and musical. She did not attend to the
words, but the tone satisfied. It seemed to her that the peace of God
invited, and she slipped into the nearest pew. She found a Bible on the
seat beside her, and opening it haphazard her eyes fell upon the words:
"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep."
The lap of the little waves on the beach below was distinctly audible, the
bird calls, and their twitterings, intermittent, incessant, persistent,
came close and departed; and the fragrance of the blossoms, crushed in her
hand, rose to remind her they were there.
"They that go down to the sea in ships."
It was a passage to be felt at the moment with the sea itself so near, and
as she paused to ponder it her mind attuned itself involuntarily to the
habit of holy thought associated with the place, while the scents and
sounds of nature streamed in upon her, forming now a soft undercurrent,
now a delicious accompaniment which filled the interval between what she
knew of this world and all that she dreamt of the next. The cycle of
sensation was complete, and in a moment her whole being blossomed into
gladness. Her intellectual activity was suspended--her senses awoke. It
was the morning of life with her, and she sank upon her knees, and lifted
up her heart to express the joy of it in one ecstatic note: "O blessed
Lord of the happy earth! Lord of the sun and our senses. He who comes to
us first in Love's name, and bids us rejoice and be glad; not he who would
have us mourn.
After the experiences of that early morning's walk Evadne did not go to
bed so late; she got up early and went to church. The agreeable working of
her intellectual faculties during the early part of her absorbing
self-education had kept her senses in abeyance; but when the discipline of
all regular routine was relaxed, they were set free to get the upper hand
if they would, and now they had begun to have their way--a delicate,
dreamy way, of a surety, but it was a sensuous way nevertheless, and not
at all a spiritual way, as her mother maintained it to be, because of the
church-going. Sometimes sense, sometimes intellect, is the first to awake
in us--supposing we are dowered with an intellect; but pain, which is the
perfecting of our nature, must precede the soul's awakening and for Evadne
at that age, with her limited personal knowledge of life and scant
experience of every form of human emotion which involves suffering, such
an awakening was impossible. The first feeling of a girl as happily
situated, healthy-minded, and physically strong as she was is bound to be
pleasurable; and had she been a young man at this time she would not
improbably have sought to heighten and vary her sensations by adding
greater quantities of alcohol to her daily diet; she would have grown
coarse of skin by eating more than she could assimilate; she would have
smelt strongly enough of tobacco, as a rule, to try the endurance of a
barmaid; she would have been anxious about the fit of coats, fastidious as
to the choice of ties, quite impossible in the matter of trousers, and
prone to regard her own image in the glass caressingly. She would have
considered that every petticoat held a divinity, or every woman had her
price according to the direction in which nature had limited her powers of
perception with a view to the final making of her into a sentimental or a
vicious fool. When she should have been hard at work she would have stayed
in bed in the morning flattering her imagination with visions of the
peerless beauties who would all adore her, and the proud place she would
conquer in the world; and she would have gone girl-stalking in
earnest--_probably_--had she been a young man. But being as she was,
she got up early and went to church. It was the one way she had of
expressing the silent joy of her being, and of intensifying it. She
practised an extreme ritual at this time, and found in it the most
complete form of expression for her mood possible. And in those early
morning walks when she brushed the dew-bespangled cobwebs from the gorse,
and startled the twittering birds from their morning meal--in the
caressing of healthy odours, the uplifting of all sweet natural sounds,
the soothing of the great sea-voice, the sense of infinity in the level
landscape, of beauty in form and colour, of rest and peace in the grateful
shadow of the little church on the cliff, but, above all, in the release
from mental tension, and the ease of feeling after the strain of thought,
she found the highest form of pleasure she had tasted, the most rarefied,
the most intense. The St. Valentine's Day of her development was
approaching, and her heart had begun already to practise the notes of the
song-significant into which she would burst when it came.
It is a nice question that, as to where the sensuous ends, and the
spiritual begins. The dovetail is so exact just at the junction that it is
impossible to determine, and it is there that "spirit and flesh grow one
with delight" on occasion; but the test of the spiritual lies in its
continuity. Pleasures of the senses pall upon repetition, but pleasures of
the soul continue and increase. A delicate dish soon wearies the palate,
but the power to appreciate a poem or a picture grows greater the more we
study them--illustrations as trite, by the way, as those of the average
divine in his weekly sermon, but calculated to comfort to the same extent
in that they possess the charm of familiarity which satisfies self-love by
proving that we know quite as much of some subjects as those who profess
to teach them. Still, a happy condition of the senses may easily be
mistaken for a great outpouring of spiritual enthusiasm, and many an
inspiring soul unconsciously stimulates them in ways less pardonable
perhaps than the legitimate joy of a good dinner to a hungry man, or the
more subtle pleasure which a refined woman experiences while sharing the
communion of well-dressed saints on a cushioned seat, listening to
exquisite music in a fashionable church. Sensations of gladness send some
people to church whom grief of any kind would drive from thence
effectually. It is a matter of temperament. There are those who are by
nature grateful for every good gift, who even bow their heads and suffer
meekly if they perceive that they will have their reward, but are ready to
rebel with rage against any form of ineffectual pain. This was likely to
be Evadne's case. Yet her mother had been right about her having a deeply
The vicar in charge of the church on the cliff--he of the musical voice,
Mr. Borthwick by name--became aware at once of Evadne's regular
attendance. He was a young man, very earnest, very devout, worn thin with
hard work, but happy in that he had it to do, and with that serene
expression of countenance which comes of the habit of conscientious
endeavour. As a matter of course, with such men at the present time, he
sought solace in ritual. His whole nature thrilled to the roll of the
organ, to the notes of a grateful anthem, to the sight and scent of his
beautiful flowers on the altar, and to the harmony of colour and
conventional design on the walls of his little church. He spent his life
and his substance upon it, doing what he could to beautify it himself, in
the name of the Lord, and finding in the act of worship a refinement of
pleasure difficult of attainment, but possible and precious. And while all
that sufficed for him, he honestly entertained the idea of celibacy as a
condition necessary for the perfect purification of his own soul, and
desirable as giving him a place apart which would help to maintain and
strengthen his influence with his people. A layman may remain a bachelor
without attracting attention, but a priest who abjures matrimony insists
that he makes a sacrifice, and deserves credit for the same. He says that
the laws of nature are the laws of God, yet arranges his own life in
direct opposition to the greatest of them. He can give no unanswerable
reason for maintaining that the legitimate exercise of one set of natural
functions is less holy than the exercise of the others, but that is what
he believes, and curiously inconsistent as the conclusion is, the Rev.
Henry Borthwick had adopted this view emphatically at the outset of his
clerical career, and had announced his intention of adhering to it for the
rest of his life. But, just as the snow under the cool and quiet stars at
dusk might feel full force in itself to vow to the rising moon that it
will not melt, and find nevertheless of necessity when the sun appears
that it cannot keep its vow, so did the idea of celibacy pass from the
mind of the Rev. Henry Borthwick when Evadne began to attend his morning
services. Insensibly his first view of the subject vanished altogether,
and was immediately replaced, first by an uplifting vision of the
advantages of having a wife's help in the parish, then by a glimpse of the
tender pleasure of a wife's presence in the house; and--extraordinary as
it may seem, this final thought occurred to him while the Psalms were
being sung in church one morning, so uncertain is the direction of man's
mind at any time--he even had a vision of the joy of a wife's kiss when
the sweet red lips that gave it were curved like those of the girl before
him. He felt a great outpouring of spiritual grace during that service;
his powers of devotion were intensified. But the moment it was over he
hurried to the vestry, tore off his surplice and threw it on the floor,
met Evadne as she left the church, and lingered long on the cliffs with
her in earnest conversation.
She was late for breakfast that morning, and her mother asked her what had
"Mr. Borthwick was talking to me about the sacraments of the Church,
mother," she answered, her calm true eyes meeting her mother's without
confusion; "and about the necessity for, and the advantage of, frequent
"And what do you think about it, dear?"
"I think I should like it."
Her mother said no more. Young Borthwick was a cadet of good family with
expectations in the way of money, influence enough to procure him a
deanery at least, and with a reputation for ability which, with his other
advantages, gave him as fair a prospect as anybody she knew of a bishopric
eventually--just the thing for Evadne, she reflected, so she did not
This was really a happy time for Evadne. The young priest frequently met
her after the early service, and she liked his devotion. She liked his
clean-featured, close-shaven face too, and his musical voice. He was her
perfection of a priest, and when he did not meet her she missed him. She
did not care for him so much when he called at the house, however. She
associated him somehow with her morning moods, with religious discourses,
and the Church service; but when he ventured beyond these limits, they
lost touch, and so she held him down to them rigorously. He tried to
resist. He even conceived a distaste for ecclesiastical subjects, and
endeavoured to float her attention from these on little boats of fancy
phrases made out of the first freshness of new days, the beauty of the sun
on the sea, the jade-green of grass on the cliffs, the pleasure he took in
the songs of birds, and other more mundane matters; but he lost her
sympathetic interest when he did so, receiving her polite attention
instead, which was cold in comparison, and therefore did not satisfy him,
so he determined to try and come to a perfect understanding, and during
one of their morning walks, he startled her by making her a solemn and
abrupt offer of marriage.
She considered the proposition in silence for some time. Then she looked
at him as if she had never seen him before. Then she said, not knowing she
was cruel, and only desiring to be frank: "I have never thought of you as
a man, you know--only as a priest; and in that character I think you
perfect. I respect and reverence you. I even love you, but--"
"But what?" he asked eagerly, his delicate face flushing, his whole being
held in suspense.
"But I could not marry a priest. It would seem to be a sort of sacrilege."
She was very pale when she went in that morning, and her mother noticed
it, and questioned her.
"Mr. Borthwick asked me to marry him, mother," she answered straight to
the point, as was her wont. "He surprised me."
"I am not surprised, dear," her mother rejoined, smiling.
"Did you suppose he would, mother?'
"Yes. I was sure of it."
"Oh, I wish you had warned me!"
"Then you haven't accepted him, Evadne?"
"No. I have always understood that it is not right for a priest to marry,
and the idea of marrying one repels me. He has lowered himself in my
estimation by thinking of such a thing. I could not think of him as I do
of other men. I cannot dissociate him from his office. I expect him
somehow to be always about his reading-desk and pulpit."
Mrs. Frayling's face had fallen, but she only said: "I wish you could have
felt otherwise, dear."
Evadne went up to her room, and stood leaning against the frame of the
open window, looking out over the level landscape. The poor priest had
shown deep feeling, and it was the first she had seen of such suffering.
It pained her terribly.
She got up early next morning, and went out as usual; but the scent of the
gorse was obtrusive, the bird-voices had lost their charm, the far-off
sound of the sea had a new and melancholy note in it, and the little
church on the cliff looked lonely against the sky. She could not go there
again to be reminded of what she would fain have forgotten. No; that phase
was over. The revulsion of feeling was complete, and to banish all
recollection of it she tried with a will to revive the suspended animation
of her interest in her books.
"All excitements run to love in women of a certain--let us not say age,
but youth," says the professor. "An electrical current passing through a
coil of wire makes a magnet of a bar of iron lying within it, but not
touching it. So a woman is turned into a love-magnet, by a tingling
current of life running round her. I should like to see one of them
balanced on a pivot properly adjusted, and watch if she did not turn so as
to point north and south, as she would if the love-currents are like those
of the earth, our mother."
This passage indicates exactly the point at which Evadne had now arrived,
and where she was pausing.
The attempt to return to her books had been far from successful. Her eye
would traverse page after page without transferring a single record to her
brain, and she would sit with one open in her lap by the hour together,
not absorbed in thought, but lost in feeling. She was both glad and sad at
the same time, glad in her youth and strength, and sad in the sense of
something wanting; what was it?
If she had--Well! She longed, and knew not wherefore.
Had the world nothing she might live to care for?
No second self to say her evening prayer for?
The poor little bird loved the old nest, but she had unconsciously
outgrown it, and was perplexed to find no ease or comfort in it any more.
She certainly entertained the idea of marriage at this time. She had
acquired a sort of notion from her friends that it was good to marry, and
her own inclinations seconded the suggestion. She meant to marry when she
should find the right man, but the difficulty of choice disturbed her. She
had still much of the spirit which made her at twelve see nothing but
nonsense in the "Turn, Gentle Hermit of the Dale" drivel, and she was
quite prepared to decide with her mind. She never took her heart into
consideration, or the possibility of being overcome by a feeling which is
stronger than reason.
She made her future husband a subject of prayer, however. She prayed that
he might be an upright man, that he might come to her soon; she even asked
for some sign by which she should know him. This was during the morning
service in church one Sunday--not the little one on the cliff, which was
only a chapel-of-ease; but the parish church to which the whole family
went regularly. Her thoughts had wandered away, from the lesson that was
being read, to this subject of private devotion, and as she formulated the
desire for a sign, for some certainty by which she might know the man whom
the dear Lord intended to be her husband, she looked up, and from the
other side of the aisle she met a glance that abashed her. She looked
away, but her eyes were drawn back inevitably, and this time the glance of
those other eyes enlightened her. Her heart bounded--her face flushed.
This was the sign, she was sure of it. She had felt nothing like it
before, and although she never raised her eyes again, she thrilled through
the rest of the service to the consciousness that there, not many yards
away, her future husband sat and sighed for her.
After the service, the subject of her thoughts claimed her father's
acquaintance; and was introduced by him to her as Major Colquhoun. He
looked about thirty-eight, and was a big blond man, with a heavy
moustache, and a delicate skin that flushed easily. His hair was thin on
the forehead; in a few more years he would be bald there.
Mr. Frayling asked him to lunch, and Evadne sat beside him. She scarcely
spoke a word the whole time, or looked at him; but she knew that he looked
at her; and she glowed and was glad. The little church on the cliff seemed
a long way off, and out in the cold now. She was sorry for Mr. Borthwick.
She had full faith in the sign. Was not the fact that Major Colquhoun,
whom she had never even heard of in her life before, was sitting beside
her at that moment, confirmation strong, if any were wanting? But she
asked no more.
After lunch her father carried his guest off to smoke, and she went up to
her own room to be alone, and sat in the sun by the open window, with her
head resting on the back of her chair, looking up at the sky; and sighed,
and smiled, and clasped her hands to her breast, and revelled in
Major Colquhoun had been staying with a neighbouring county gentleman, but
she found when she met him again at afternoon tea that her father had
persuaded him to come to Fraylingay for some shooting. He was to go back
that night, and return to them the following Tuesday. Evadne heard of the
arrangement in silence, and unsurprised. Had he gone and _not_
returned, she would have wondered; but this sudden admission of a stranger
to the family circle, although unusual, was not unprecedented at
Fraylingay, where, after it was certain that you knew the right people,
pleasant manners were the only passport necessary to secure a footing of
easy intimacy; and, besides, it was inevitable--that the sign might be
fulfilled. So Evadne folded her hands as it were, and calmly awaited the
course of events, not doubting for a moment that she knew exactly what
that course was to be.
She did not actually _see_ much of Major Colquhoun in the days that
followed, although, when he was not out shooting, he was always beside her;
but such timid glances as she stole satisfied her. And she heard her
mother say what a fine-looking man he was, and her father emphatically
pronounced him to be "a very good fellow." He was Irish by his mother's
side, Scotch by his father's, but much more Irish than Scotch by
predilection, and it was his mother tongue he spoke, exaggerating the
accent slightly to heighten the effect of a tender speech or a good story.
With the latter he kept Mr. Frayling well entertained, and Evadne he plied
with the former on every possible occasion.
His visit was to have been for a few days only, but it extended itself to
some weeks, at the end of which time Evadne had accepted him, the
engagement had been announced in the proper papers, Mrs. Frayling was
radiant, congratulations poured in, and everybody concerned was in a state
of pleasurable excitement from morning till night.
Mrs. Frayling was an affectionate woman, and it was touching to see her
writing fluent letters of announcement to her many friends, the smiles on
her lips broken by ominous quiverings now and then, and a handkerchief
held crumpled in her left hand, and growing gradually damper, as she
proceeded, with the happy tears that threatened her neat epistle with
blots and blisters.
"It has been the prettiest idyl to us onlookers," she wrote to Lady
Adeline. "Love at first sight with both of them, and their first glimpse
of each other was in church, which we all take to be the happiest omen
that God's blessing is upon them, and will sanctify their union. Evadne
says little, but there is such a delicate tinge of colour in her cheeks
always, and such a happy light in her eyes, that I cannot help looking at
her. George is senior major, and will command the regiment in a very short
time, and his means are quite ample enough for them to begin upon. There
is twenty years difference in their ages, which sounds too much
theoretically, but practically, when you see them together, you never
think of it. He is very handsome, every inch a soldier, and an Irishman,
with all an Irishman's brightness and wit, and altogether the most taking
manners. I tell Evadne I am quite in love with him myself! He is a
thoroughly good Churchman too, which is a great blessing--never misses a
service, and it is a beautiful sight to see him kneeling beside Evadne as
rapt and intent as she is. He was rather wild as a young man, I am sorry
to say, but he has been quite frank about all, that to Mr. Frayling, and
there is nothing now that we can object to. In fact, we think he is
exactly suited to Evadne, and we are thoroughly satisfied in every way.
You can imagine that I find it hard to part with her, but I always knew
that it would be the case as soon as she came out, and so was prepared in
a way; still, that will not lessen the wrench when it comes. But of course
I must not consider my own feelings when the dear child's happiness is in
question, and I think that long engagements are a mistake; and as there is
really no reason why they should wait, they are to be married at the end
of next month, which gives us only six weeks to get the trousseau. We are
going to town at once to see about it, and I think that probably the
ceremony will take place there too. It would be such a business at
Fraylingay, with all the tenants and everything, and altogether one has to
consider expense. But do write at once and promise me that we may expect
you, and Mr. Hamilton-Wells, and the _dear_ twins, wherever it is. In
fact, I believe Evadne is writing to Theodore at this moment to ask him to
be her page, and Angelica will, of course, be a bridesmaid."
During the first days of her absorbing passion Evadne's devotion to God
was intensified. "Sing to the Lord a new song" was forever upon her lips.
When the question of her engagement came to be mooted she had had a long
talk with her father, following upon a still longer talk which he had with
"And you are satisfied with my choice, father?" she said. "You consider
George in every respect a suitable husband for me?"
"In all respects, my dear," he answered heartily. "He is a very fine,
"There was nothing in his past life to which I should object?" she
"Oh, nothing, nothing," he assured her. "He has been perfectly
straightforward about himself, and I am satisfied that he will make you an
It was all the assurance she required, and after she had received it she
gave herself up to her happiness without a doubt, and unreservedly.
The time flew. Major Colquhoun's leave expired, and he was obliged to
return to his regiment at Shorncliffe; but they wrote to each other every
day, and this constant communion was a new source of delight to Evadne.
Just before they left Fraylingay she went to see her aunt, Mrs. Orton Beg.
The latter had sprained her ankle severely, and would therefore not be
able to go to Evadne's wedding. She lived in Morningquest, and had a
little house in the Close there. Morningquest was only twenty miles from
Fraylingay, but the trains were tiresomely slow, and did not run in
connection, so that it took as long to get there as it did to go to
London, and people might live their lives in Fraylingay, and know nothing
Mrs. Orton Beg's husband was buried in the old cathedral city, and she
lived there to be near his grave. She could never tear herself away from
it for long together. The light of her life had gone out when he died, and
was buried with him; but the light of her love, fed upon the blessed hope
of immortality, burnt brighter every day.
Her existence in the quiet Close was a very peaceful, dreamy one, soothed
by the chime, uplifted by the sight of the beautiful old cathedral, and
regulated by its service.
Evadne found her lying on a couch beside an open window in the drawing
room, which was a long, low room, running the full width of the house, and
with a window at either end, one looking up the Close to the north, the
other to the south, into a high-walled, old-fashioned flower garden; and
this was the one near which Mrs. Orton Beg was lying.
"I think I should turn to the cathedral, Aunt Olive," Evadne said.
"I do," her aunt answered; "but not at this time of day. I travel round
with the sun."
"It would fill my mind with beautiful thoughts to live here," Evadne said,
looking up at the lonely spire reverently.
"I have no doubt that your mind is always full of beautiful thoughts," her
aunt rejoined, smiling. "But I know what you mean. There are thoughts
carved on those dumb gray stones which can only come to us from such a
source of inspiration. The sincerity of the old workmen, their love and
their reverence, were wrought into all they produced, and if only we hold
our own minds in the right attitude, we receive something of their grace.
Do you remember that passage of Longfellow's?--
"Ah! from what agonies of heart and brain,
What exultations trampling on despair,
What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong,
What passionate outcry of a soul in pain,
Uprose this poem of the earth and air,
This medieval miracle,...!
"Sitting here alone, sometimes I seem to feel it all--all the capacity for
loving sacrifice and all the energy of human passion which wrought itself
into that beautiful offering of its devotion, and made it acceptable. But,
tell me, Evadne--are you very happy?"
"I am _too_ happy, I think, auntie. But I can't talk about it. I must
keep the consciousness of it close in my own heart, and guard it
jealously, lest I dissipate any atom of it by attempting to describe it."
"Do you think, then, that love is such a delicate thing that the slightest
exposure will destroy it?"
"I don't know what I think. But the feeling is so fresh now, auntie, I am
afraid to run the risk of uttering a word, or hearing one, that might
She strolled out into the garden during the afternoon, and sat on a
high-backed chair in the shade of the old brick wall, with eyes half
closed and a smile hovering about her lips. The wall was curtained with
canaryensis, virginia creeper rich in autumn tints, ivy, and giant
nasturtiums. Great sunflowers grew up against it, and a row of single
dahlias of every possible hue crowded up close to the sunflowers. They
made a background to the girl's slender figure.
She sat there a long time, happily absorbed, and Mrs. Orton Beg's memory,
as she watched her, slipped back inevitably to her own love days, till
tears came of the inward supplication that Evadne's future might never
know the terrible blight which had fallen upon her own life.
Evadne walked through the village on her way back to Fraylingay. A young
woman with her baby in her arms was standing at the door of her cottage
looking out as she passed, and she stopped to speak to her. The child held
out his little arms, and kicked and crowed to be taken, and when his
mother had intrusted him to Evadne, he clasped her tight round the neck,
and nibbled her cheek with his warm, moist mouth, sending a delicious
thrill through every fibre of her body, a first foretaste of maternity.
She hurried on to hide her emotion.
But all the way home there was a singing at her heart, a certainty of joys
undreamt of hitherto, the tenderest, sweetest, most womanly joys--her own
house, her own husband, her own children--perhaps; it all lay in that, her
The next few weeks were decked with the richness of autumn tints, the
glory of autumn skies; but Evadne was unaware of either. She had no
consciousness of distinct days and nights, and indeed they were pretty
well mingled after she went to town, for she often danced till daylight
and slept till dusk. And it was all a golden haze, this time, with
impressions of endless shops; of silks, satins, and lovely laces; of
costly trinkets; of little notes flying between London and Shorncliffe;
and of everybody so happy that it was impossible to help sitting down and
having a good cry occasionally.
The whirl in which she lived during this period was entered upon without
thought, her own inclinations agreeing at the time to every usage
sanctioned by custom; but in after years she said that those days of
dissipation and excitement appeared to her to be a curious preparation for
the solemn duties she was about to enter upon.
Evadne felt the time fly, and she felt also that the days were never
ending. It was six weeks at first; and then all at once, as it seemed,
there was only one week; and then it was "tomorrow!" All that last day
there was a terrible racket in the house, and she was hardly left alone a
single moment, and was therefore thankful when finally, late at night, she
managed to escape to her own room--not that she was left long in peace
even then, however, for two of her bridesmaids were staying in the house,
and they and her sisters stormed her chamber in their dressing-gowns, and
had a pillow fight to begin with, and then sat down and cackled for an
hour, speculating as to whether they should like to be married or not.
They decided that they should, because of the presents, you know, and the
position, and the delight of having such a lot of new gowns, and being
your own mistress, with your own house and servants; they thought of
everything, in fact, but the inevitable husband, the possession of whom
certainly constituted no part of the advantages which they expected to
secure by marriage. Evadne sat silent, and smiled at their chatter with
the air of one who has solved the problem and knows. But she was glad to
be rid of them, and when they had gone, she got her sacred "Commonplace
Book," and glanced through it dreamily. Then, rousing herself a little,
she went to her writing table, and sat down and wrote: "This is the close
of the happiest girlhood that girl ever had. I cannot recall a single
thing that I would have had otherwise."
When she had locked the book away, with some other possessions in a box
that was to be sent to await her arrival at her new home, she took up a
photograph of her lover and gazed at it rapturously for a moment, then
pressed it to her lips and breast, and placed it where her eyes might
light on it as soon as she awoke.
She was aroused by a kiss on her lips and a warm tear on her cheek next
morning. "Wake, darling," her mother said. "This is your wedding day."
"Oh, mother," she cried, flinging her arms round her neck; "how good of
you to come yourself! I _am_ so happy!"
Mr. Hamilton-Wells, Lady Adeline, and the Heavenly Twins had been at the
Fraylings' since breakfast, and nothing had happened.
Lady Adeline, having seen the children safely and beautifully dressed for
the ceremony, Angelica as a bridesmaid, Diavolo as page, left them
sitting, with a picture-book between them, like model twins.
"Really," she said to Mr. Hamilton-Wells, "I think the occasion is too
interesting for them to have anything else in their heads."
But the moment she left them alone those same heads went up, and set
themselves in a listening attitude.
"_Now_, Diavolo; _quick_!" said Angelica, as soon as the sound
of her mother's departing footsteps had died away.
Diavolo dashed the picture-book to the opposite side of the room, sprang
up, and followed Angelica swiftly but stealthily to the very top of the
When the wedding party assembled in the drawing room the twins were
nowhere to be found, Mr. Hamilton-Wells went peering through his eyeglass
into every corner, removed the glass and looked without it, then dusted
it, and looked once more to make sure, while Lady Adeline grew rigid with
The search had to be abandoned, however; but when the party went down to
the carriages, it was discovered, to everybody's great relief, that the
children had already modestly taken their seats in one of them with their
backs to the horses. Each was carefully covered with an elegant wrap, and
sitting bolt upright, the picture of primness. The wraps were superfluous,
and Mr. Hamilton-Wells was about to remonstrate, but Lady Adeline
exclaimed: "For Heaven's sake, _don't_ interfere! It is such a
_trifle_. If you irritate them, goodness knows _what_ will
But, manlike, he could not let things be.
"Where have you been, you naughty children?" he demanded in his precisest
way. "You have really given a great deal of trouble."
"Well, papa," Angelica retorted hotly, at the top of her voice through the
carriage window for the edification of the crowd, "you said we were to be
good children, and not get into everybody's way, and here we have been
sitting an hour as good as possible, and quite out of the way, and you
aren't satisfied! It's quite unreasonable; isn't it, Diavolo? Papa can't
get on, I believe, _without_ finding fault with us. It's just a bad
habit he's got, and when we give him no excuse he invents one."
Mr. Hamilton-Wells beat a hasty retreat, and the party arrived at the
church without mishap, but when the procession was formed there was a
momentary delay. They were waiting for the bride's page, who descended
with the youngest bridesmaid from the last carriage, and the two came into
the church demurely, hand in hand, "What darlings!" "Aren't they pretty?"
"What a sweet little boy, with his lovely dark curls!" was heard from all
sides; but there was also an audible titter. Lady Adeline turned pale,
Mrs. Frayling's fan dropped. Evadne lost her countenance. The twins had
There was nothing to be done then, however; so Angelica obtained the
coveted pleasure of acting as page to Evadne, and Diavolo escaped the
trouble of having to hold up her train, and managed besides to have some
fun with a small but amorous boy who was to have been Angelica's pair, and
who, knowing nothing of the fraud which had been perpetrated, insisted on
kissing the fair Diavolo, to that young gentleman's lasting delight.
It was a misty morning, with only fitful glimpses of sunshine.
Mrs. Frayling was not a bit superstitious (nobody is), but she had been
watching the omens (most people do), and she would have been better
satisfied had the day been bright; but still she felt no shadow of a
foreboding until the twins appeared. Then, however, there arose in her
heart a horrified exclamation: "It is unnatural! It will bring bad luck."
There was no fun for the Heavenly Twins apart, so they decided to sit
together at the wedding breakfast, and nobody dared to separate them, lest
worse should come of it.
Diavolo bet he would drink as much champagne as Major Colquhoun, and
having secured a seat opposite to an uncorked bottle, he proceeded
conscientiously to do his best to win the wager. Toward the end of
breakfast, however, he lost count, and then he lost his head, and showed
signs of falling off his chair.
"You must go to sleep under the table now," said Angelica. "It's the
proper thing to do when you're drunk. _I'm_ going to. But I'm not far
enough gone yet. My legs are queer, but my head is steady. Get under, will
you? I'll be down directly." And she cautiously but rapidly dislodged him,
and landed him at her feet, everybody's attention being occupied at the
moment by the gentleman who was gracefully returning thanks for the
ladies. When the speech was over Lady Adeline remembered the twins with a
start, and at once missed Diavolo.
"Where is he?" she asked anxiously.
"He is just doing something for me, mamma," Angelica answered.
He was acting at that moment as her footstool under the table. She did not
join him there as she had promised, however, because when the wine made
her begin to feel giddy she took no more. She said afterward she saw no
fun in feeling nasty, and she thought a person must be a fool to think
there was, and Diavolo, who was suffering badly at the moment from
headache and nausea, the effect of his potations, agreed. That was on the
evening of the eventful day at their own town house, their father and
mother having hurried them off there as soon after Diavolo was discovered
in a helpless condition as they could conveniently make their escape. The
twins had been promptly put to bed in their respective rooms, and told to
stay there, but, of course, it did not in the least follow that they would
obey, and locking them up had not been found to answer. Angelica did
remain quiet, however, an hour or so, resting after all the excitement of
the morning; but she got up eventually, put on her dressing gown, and went
to Diavolo; and it was then they discussed the drink question. Discussion,
however, was never enough for the twins; they always wanted to _do_
something; so now they went down to the library together, erected an altar
of valuable books, and arrayed themselves in white sheets, which they tore
from the parental couch for the purpose, considerably disarranging the
same; and the sheets they covered with crimson curtains, taken down at
imminent risk of injuring themselves from one of the dining room windows,
with the help of a ladder, abstracted from the area by way of the front
door, although they _were_ in their dressing-gowns, the time chosen
for this revel being when their parents were in the drawing room after
dinner, and all the servants were having their supper and safe out of the
way. The ladder was used to go down to the coal cellar, and never, of
course, replaced, the consequence being that the next person who went for
coal fell in in the dark, and broke her leg, an accident which cost Mr.
Hamilton-Wells from first to last a considerable sum, he being a generous
man, and unwilling to let anyone suffer in pocket in his service; he
thought the risks to life and limb were sufficient without that.
Having completed these solemn preparations the twins swore a ghastly oath
on the altar never to touch drink again, and might they be found out in
everything they did on earth if they broke it, and never see heaven when
The wedding breakfast went off merrily enough, and when the bride and
bridesmaids left the table, and the dining room door was safely shut,
there was much girlish laughter in the hall, and an undignified scamper up
the stairs, also a tussle as to who should take the first pin from the
bride's veil and be married next, and much amusement when Mrs, Frayling's
elderly maid unconsciously appropriated it herself in the way of business.
Evadne hugged her, exclaiming: "You dear old Jenny! You _shall_ be
married next, and I'll be your bridesmaid!"
"Oh, no you won't!" cried one of the girls. "You'll never be a bridesmaid
Then suddenly there was silence. "Never again" is chilling in effect; it
is such a very long time.
As Evadne was leaving the room in her travelling dress she noticed some
letters lying on her dressing table, which she had forgotten, and turned
back to get them. They had come by the morning's post, but she had not
opened any of them, and now she began to put them into her pocket one by
one to read at her leisure, glancing at the superscriptions as she did so.
One was from Aunt Olive: dear Aunt Olive, how kind of her! Two were
letters of congratulation from friends of the family. A fourth was from
the old housekeeper at Fraylingay; she kissed that. The fifth was in a
strange and peculiar hand which she did not recognize, and she opened it
first to see who her correspondent might be. The letter was from the
North, and had been addressed to Fraylingay, and she should have received
it some days before. As she drew it from its envelope she glanced at the
signature and at the last few words, which were uppermost, and seemed
surprised. She knew the writer by name and reputation very well, although
they had never met, and, feeling sure that the communication must be
something of importance, she unfolded the letter, and read it at once
deliberately from beginning to end.
When she appeared among the guests again she was pale, her lips were set,
and she held her head high. Her mother said the dear child was quite
overwrought, but she saw only what she expected to see through her own
tear-bedimmed eyes, and other people were differently impressed. They
thought Evadne was cold and preoccupied when it came to the parting, and
did not seem to feel leaving her friends at all. She went out dry-eyed
after kissing her mother, took her seat in the carriage, bowed polite but
unsmiling acknowledgments to her friends, and drove off with Major
Colquhoun with as little show of emotion, and much the same air as if she
had merely been going somewhere on business, and expected to return
"Thank goodness, all that is over!" Major Colquhoun exclaimed. She looked
at him coolly and critically.
He was sitting with his hat In his hand, and she noticed that his hair was
thin on his forehead, and there was nothing of youth in his eyes.
"I expect you are tired," he further observed.
"No, I am not tired, thank you," Evadne answered.
Then she set her lips once more, leant back, and looked out of the
carriage window at the street all sloppy with mud, and the poor people
seeming so miserable in the rain which had been falling steadily for the
"Poor weary creatures!" she thought. "We have so much, and they so
little!" But she did not speak again till the carriage pulled up at the
station, when she leant forward with anxious eyes, and said something
confusedly about the crowd.
Major Colquhoun thought she was afraid of being stared at. He took out his
"You will only have to cross the platform to the carriage," he said, "and
the train ought to be up by this time. But if you don't mind being left
alone a moment, I'll just go myself and see if it is, and where they are
going to put us, and then I can take you there straight, and you won't
feel the crowd at all."
He was not gone many minutes, but when he returned the carriage was empty.
"Where is Mrs. Colquhoun?" he said.
"She followed you, sir," the coachman answered, touching his hat.
"Confound--" He pulled himself up. "She'll be back in a moment, I
suppose," he muttered.
"Dover express! Take your seats!" bawled a porter. "Are you for the Dover
"Yes," said Major Colquhoun.
"Engaged carriage, sir?"
"Yes--oh, by the way, perhaps she's gone to the carriage," and he started
to see, the porter following him. "Did you notice a young lady in a gray
dress pass this way?" he asked the man as they went.
"With a pink feather in 'er 'at, sir?"
"Not pass up this way, sir," the man rejoined. "She got into a 'ansom over
there, and drove off--if it was the same young lady." Major Colquhoun
stopped short. The compartment reserved for them was empty also.
"Dover express! Dover express!" the guard shouted as he came along banging
the carriage doors to.
"For Dover, sir?" he said in his ordinary voice to Major Colquhoun.
"No. It seems not," that gentleman answered deliberately.
The guard went on: "Dover express! Dover express! All right, Bill!" This
was to someone in front as he popped into his own van, and shut the door.
Then the whistle shrieked derisively, the crank turned, and the next
moment the train slid out serpent-like into the mist. Major Colquhoun had
watched it off like any ordinary spectator, and when it had gone he looked
at the porter, and the porter looked at him.
"Was your luggage in the train, sir?" the man asked him.
"Yes, but only booked to Dover," Major Colquhoun answered carelessly,
taking out a cigarette case and choosing a cigarette with exaggerated
precision. When he had lighted it he tipped the porter, and strolled back
to the entrance, on the chance of finding the carriage still there, but it
had gone, and he called a hansom, paused a moment with his foot on the
step, then finally directed the man to drive to the Fraylings'.
"Swell's bin sold some'ow," commented the porter. "And if I was a swell I
wouldn't take on neither."
The Fraylings had decided to postpone all further festivities till the
bride and bridegroom's return, so that the wedding guests had gone, and
the house looked as drearily commonplace as any other in the street when
the hansom pulled up a little short of the door for Major Colquhoun to
The servant who answered his ring made no pretense of concealing his
astonishment when he saw who it was, but Major Colquhoun's manner
effectually checked any expression of it. He was not the kind of a man
whom a servant would ever have dared to express any sympathy with, however
obviously things might have gone wrong. But there was nothing in Major
Colquhoun's appearance at that moment to show that anything had gone
wrong, except his return when he should have been off on his wedding
journey. There was probably a certain amount of assumption in his apparent
indifference. He had always cultivated an inscrutable bearing, as being
"the thing" in his set, so that it was easy for him now to appear to be
cooler and more collected than he was. His attitude, however, was largely
due to a want of proper healthy feeling, for he was a vice-worn man, with
small capacity left for any great emotion.
He walked into the hall and hung up his hat.
"Is Mr. Frayling alone?" he said.
"Yes, sir--with Mrs. Frayling--and the family--upstairs in the drawing
room," the man stammered.
"Ask him to see me down here, please. Say a gentleman." He stepped to a
mirror as he spoke and carefully twisted the ends of his blond moustache.
"Very good, sir," said the servant.
Major Colquhoun walked into the library in the same deliberate way, and
turned up the gas. Mr. Frayling came hurrying down, fat and fussy, and
puffing a little, but cheerfully rubicund upon the success of the day's
proceedings, and apprehending nothing untoward. When he saw his son-in-law
he opened his eyes, stopped short, turned pale, and gasped.
"Is Evadne here?" Major Colquhoun asked quietly.
"Here? No! What should she be doing here? What has happened?" Mr. Frayling
"That is just what I don't rightly know myself if she is not here," Major
Colquhoun replied, the quiet demeanour he had assumed contrasting
favourably with his father-in-law's fuss and fume.
"Why have you left her? What are you doing here? Explain," Mr. Frayling
demanded almost angrily.
Major Colquhoun related the little he knew, and Mr. Frayling plumped down
into a chair to listen, and bounced up again, when all was said, to speak.
"Let me send for her mother," he began, showing at once where, in an
emergency, he felt that his strength lay. "No, though, I'd better go
myself and prepare her," he added on second thought. "We mustn't make a
fuss--with all the servants about too. They would talk." And then he
fussed off himself, with agitation evident in every step.
Something like a smile disturbed Major Colquhoun's calm countenance for a
moment, and then he stood, twisting the ends of his fair moustache slowly
with his left hand, and gazing into the fire, which shone reflected in his
steely blue eyes, making them glitter like pale sapphires, coldly, while
Mr. Frayling returned with his wife almost immediately. The latter had had
her handkerchief in her hand all day, but she put it in her pocket now.
Major Colquhoun had to repeat his story.
"Did you look for her in the waiting rooms?" Mrs. Frayling asked.
"She may be there waiting for you at this very moment."
It was a practical suggestion.
"But the porter said he saw her get into a hansom," Major Colquhoun
"He said he saw a young lady in gray get into a hansom, I understood you
to say," Mrs. Frayling corrected him. "A young lady in gray is not
necessarily Evadne. There might be a dozen young ladies in gray in such a
"There might, yes," Mr. Frayling agreed.
"And the proof that it was not Evadne is that she is not here," her mother
proceeded. "If she had been seen getting into a hansom it could only have
been to come here."
"A hansom might break down on the way," said Major Colquhoun, entertaining
the idea for a moment.
"That is not impossible," Mr. Frayling decided.
"But why should she come here?" Major Colquhoun slowly pursued, looking
hard at his parents-in-law. "Had she any objection to marrying me? Was she
overpersuaded into it?"
"Oh, _no_!" Mrs. Frayling exclaimed emphatically. "How _can_ you
suppose such a thing? We should never have _dreamed_ of influencing
the dear child in such a matter. If there were ever a case of love at
first sight it was one. Why, her first words on awaking this morning, were:
'Oh, mother! I _am_ so happy!' and that doesn't sound like being
"Then what, in God's name, is the explanation of all this?" Major
Colquhoun exclaimed, showing some natural emotion for the first time.
"That is it," said Mr. Frayling energetically. "There must be some
"Heaven grant that the dear child has not been entrapped in some way and
carried off, and robbed, and murdered, or something _dreadful_," Mrs.
Frayling cried, giving way to the strain all at once, and wringing her
Then they looked at each other, and the period of speculation was followed
by a momentary interregnum of silence, which would in due course be
succeeded by a desire to act, to do something, if nothing happened in the
meantime. Something did happen, however. The door bell rang violently.
They looked up and listened. The hall door was opened. Footsteps
approached, paused outside the library, and then the butler entered, and
handed Mr. Frayling a telegram on a silver salver.
"Is there any answer, sir?" he asked.
Mr. Frayling opened it with trembling hands and read it. "No; no answer,"
The butler looked at them all as if they interested him, and withdrew.
"Well," cried Mrs. Frayling, her patience exhausted. "Is it from her?"
"Yes," Mr. Frayling replied, "It was handed in at the General Post Office
"The General Post Office!" Major Colquhoun ejaculated. "What on earth took
"The hansom, you know," said Mrs. Frayling. "Oh, dear"--to her
husband--"_do_ read it."
"Well, I'm going to, if you'll let me," he answered irritably, but
delaying, nevertheless, to mutter something irrelevant about women's
tongues. Then he read: "'Don't be anxious about me. Have received
information about Major C.'s character and past life which does not
satisfy me at all, and am going now to make further inquiries. Will
"Information about my character and past life!" exclaimed Major Colquhoun.
"Why, what is wrong with my character? What have I done?"
"Oh, the child is mad! she must be mad!" Mrs. Frayling ejaculated.
Mr. Frayling fumed up and down the room in evident perturbation. He had
not a single phrase ready for such an occasion, nor the power to form one,
and was consequently compelled to employ quite simple language.
"You had better make inquiries at the post office," he said to Major
Colquhoun, "and try and trace her. You must follow her and bring her back
at once, if possible."
"Not I, indeed," was Major Colquhoun's most unexpected rejoinder; "I shall
not give myself any trouble on her account; she may go."
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, don't say that, George!" Mrs. Frayling exclaimed.
"You _do_ love her, and she loves _you_; I _know_ she does. Some
_dreadful_ mischief-making person has come between you. But wait, _do_
wait, until you know more. It will all come right in the end. I am _sure_
Major Colquhoun compressed his lips and looked sullenly into the fire.
On the third day after Evadne's wedding, in the afternoon, Mrs. Orton Beg
was sitting alone in her long, low drawing room by the window which looked
out into the high-walled garden. She had found it difficult to occupy
herself with books and work that day. Her sprained ankle had been
troublesome during the night, and she had risen late, and when her maid
had helped her to dress, and she had limped downstairs on her crutches,
and settled herself in her long chair, she found herself disinclined for
any further exertion, and just sat, reclining upon pale pink satin
cushions, her slender hands folded upon her lap, her large, dark luminous
eyes and delicate, refined features all set in a wistful sadness.
There was a singular likeness between herself and Evadne in some things, a
vague, haunting family likeness which continually obtruded itself but
could not be defined. It had been more distinct when Evadne was a child,
and would doubtless have grown greater had she lived with her aunt, but
the very different mental attitude which she gradually acquired had melted
the resemblance, as it were, so that at nineteen, although her slender
figure, and air, and carriage continually recalled Mrs. Orton Beg, who was
then in her thirty-fifth year, the expression of her face was so different
that they were really less alike than they had been when Evadne was four
years younger. Evadne's disposition, it must be remembered, was
essentially swift to act. She would, as a human being, have her periods of
strong feeling, but that was merely a physical condition in no way
affecting her character; and the only healthy minded happy state for her
was the one in which thought instantly translated itself into action.
With Mrs. Orton Beg it was different. Her spiritual nature predominated,
her habits of mind were dreamy. She lived for the life to come entirely,
and held herself in constant communion with another world. She felt it
near her, she said. She believed that its inhabitants visit the earth, and
take cognizance of all we do and suffer; and she cherished the certainty
of one day assuming a wondrous form, and entering upon a new life, as
vivid and varied and as real as this, but far more perfect. Her friends
were chiefly of her own way of thinking; but her faith was so profound,
and the charm of her conversation so entrancing, that the hardest headed
materialists were apt to feel strange delicious thrills in her presence,
forebodings of possibilities beyond the test of reason and knowledge; and
they would return time after time to dispute her conclusions and argue
themselves out of the impression she had produced, but only to relapse
into their former state of blissful sensation so soon as they once more
found themselves within range of her influence. Opinions are germs in the
moral atmosphere which fasten themselves upon us if we are predisposed to
entertain them; but some states of feeling are a perfume which every
sentient being must perceive with emotions that vary from extreme
repugnance to positive pleasure through diverse intermediate strata of
lively interest or mere passive perception; and the feeling which emanated
from Mrs. Orton Beg is one that is especially contagious. For, in the
first place, the beauty of goodness appeals pleasurably to the most
depraved; to be elevated above themselves for a moment is a rare delight
to them; and, in the second, there is a deeply implanted leaning in the
heart of man toward the something beyond everything, the impalpable,
impossible, imperceptible, which he cannot know and will not credit, but
is nevertheless compelled to feel in some of his moods, or in certain
presences, and having once felt, finds himself fascinated by it, and so
returns to the subject for the sake of the sensation. In that long, low
drawing room of Mrs. Orton Beg's, with the window at either end, in view
of the gray old cathedral towering above the gnarled elms of the Lower
Close, itself the scene of every form of human endeavour, every expression
of human passion, in surroundings so heavy with memories of the past, and
listening to the quiet tone of conviction in which Mrs. Orton Beg spoke,
with the double charm of extreme polish and simplicity combined--in that
same room even the worldliest had found themselves rise into the ecstasy
of the higher life, spiritually freed for the moment, and with the desire
to go forth and do great deeds of love.
Mrs. Orton Beg had sat idle an hour looking out of the window, her mind in
the mood for music, but bare of thought.
A gale was blowing without. The old elms in the Close were tossing their
stiff, bare arms about, the ground was strewed with branches and leaves
from the limes, and a watery wintry sun made the misery of the muddy
ground apparent, and accentuated the blight of the flowers and torn
untidiness of the creepers, and all the items which make autumn gardens so
desolate. The equinoctial gales had set in early that year. They began on
Evadne's wedding day with a fearful storm which raged all over the
country, and burst with especial violence upon Morningquest, and the wind
continued high, and showed no sign of abating. It was depressing weather,
and Mrs. Orton Beg sighed more than once unconsciously.
But presently the cathedral clock began to strike, and she raised her head
to listen. One, two, three, four, the round notes fell; then there was a
pause; and then the chime rolled out over the storm-stained city:
[Illustration: (musical notation); lyrics: He, watch-ing o-ver Is--ra--el,
slumbers not, nor sleeps.]
Mechanically Mrs. Orton Beg repeated the phrase with each note as it
floated forth, filling the silent spaces; and then she awoke with a start
to thought once more, and knew that she had been a long, long time alone.
She was going to ring, but at that moment a servant entered and announced:
"Mrs. and Miss Beale."
They were the wife and daughter of the Bishop of Morningquest, the one a
very pleasant, attractive elderly lady, the other a girl of seventeen,
like her mother, but with more character in her face.
"Ah, how glad I am to see you!" Mrs. Orton Beg exclaimed, trying to rise,
"and what a delicious breath of fresh air you have brought in with you!"
"My dear Olive, don't move," Mrs. Beale rejoined, preventing her. "We have
been nearly blown away walking this short distance. Just look at Edith's
"I feel quite tempest tossed," said Edith, getting up and going to a glass
before which she removed her hat, and let down her hair, which was the
colour of burnished brass, and fell to her knees in one straight heavy
coil without a wave.
"You remind me of some Saxon Edith I have seen in a picture," said Mrs.
Orton Beg, looking at her admiringly. "But, dear child," her mother
deprecated, "should you make a dressing room of the drawing room?"
"I know Mrs. Orton Beg will pardon me," said Edith, rolling her hair up
deftly and neatly as she spoke, with the air of a privileged person quite
Mrs. Orton Beg smiled at her affectionately; but before she could speak
the door opened once more, and the servant announced: "Lord Dawne."
And there entered a grave, distinguished looking man between thirty and
forty years of age, apparently, with black hair, and deep blue eyes at
once penetrating and winning in expression.
Mrs. Orton Beg greeted him with pleasure, Mrs. Beale with pleasure also,
but with more ceremony, Edith quite simply and naturally, and then he sat
down. He was in riding dress, with his whip and hat in his hand.
"This is an unexpected pleasure. I did not know you were at Morne," said
Mrs. Orton Beg. "Is Claudia with you?"
"No, I have only come for a few days," Lord Dawne replied, "I came to see
Adeline specially, but they don't return from town till to-morrow. They
have all been assisting at the marriage of a niece of yours, I hear, and
the Heavenly Twins have been prolonging the festivities on their own
account. Adeline wrote to me in despair, and I have come to see if I can
be of any use. My sister," he added, turning to Mrs. Beale with his
bright, almost boyish smile, which was like his nephew Diavolo's, and made
them both irresistible--"my sister flatters herself that I have some
influence with the children, and as it is quite certain that nobody else
has, I am careful not to dispel the illusion. It is a comfort to her. But
the twins will not allow me to deceive myself upon that head. They put me
in my place every time I see them. The last time we had a serious talk
together I noticed that Diavolo was thinking deeply, and hoped for a
moment that it was about what I was saying; but that, apparently, had not
interested him at all, for I had the curiosity to ask, just to see if I
had, perchance, made any impression, and discovered that he had had
something else in his mind the whole time. 'I was just wondering,' he
answered, 'if you care much about being Duke of Morningquest.' 'No, not
very much,' I assured him; 'why?' 'Well, I was pretty certain you didn't,'
he replied; 'and, you see, _I_ do; so I was just thinking couldn't
you remain as you are when grandpapa dies, and let me walk into the title?
Then I'd give Angelica the Hamilton House property, and it would be very
jolly for all of us.' 'But, look here,' Angelica broke in, in her
energetic way, 'if you're going to be a duke I won't be left plain Miss
Hamilton-Wells.' 'You couldn't be "plain" Miss anything,' Diavolo
gallantly assured her, bowing in the most courtly way. But Angelica said,
with more force than refinement, that that was all rot, and then Diavolo
lost his temper and pulled her hair, and she got hold of his and dragged
him out of the room by his--my presence of course counted for nothing. And
the next I saw of them they were on their ponies in a secluded grassy
glade of the forest, tilting at each other with long poles for the
dukedom. Angelica says she means to beat Demosthenes hollow--I use her own
phraseology to give character to the quotation; that delivering orations
with a natural inclination, to stammering was nothing to get over compared
to the disabilities which being a girl imposes upon her; but she means to
get over them all by hook, which she explains as being the proper
development of her muscles and physique generally, and by crook, which she
defines as circumventing the slave drivers of her sex, a task which she
seems to think can easily be accomplished by finessing."
"And what was the last thing?" Mrs. Orton Beg inquired, smiling
"Oh, that was very simple," Lord Dawne rejoined. "Diavolo, dressed in
velvet, was caught and taken up by a policeman for recklessly driving a
hansom in Oxford Street, Angelica being inside the same disguised in
something of her mother's."
"I wonder it was Angelica who went inside!" Mrs. Orton Beg exclaimed.
"Well, that was what her mother said," Lord Dawne replied; "and both her
parents seem to think the matter was not nearly so bad as it might have
been in consequence. Mr. Hamilton-Wells had to pay a fine for the furious
driving, and use all his influence with the Press to keep the thing out of
"But where did the children get the hansom?" Mrs. Beale begged to be
"I regret to say that they hailed it through the dining room window, and
plied the driver with raw brandy until his venal nature gave in to their
earnestly persuasive eloquence and the contents of their purses, and he
consented to let Diavolo 'just try what it was like to sit up on that high
box,' Angelica having previously got inside, and, of course, the moment
the young scamp had the reins in his hands he drove off full tilt."
"Oh, dear, _poor_ Lady Adeline!" Mrs. Beale exclaimed.
Lord Dawne smiled again, and changed the subject. "Did you feel the storm
much here?" he asked. "My trees have suffered a great deal, I am sorry to
"Ah, that reminds me," Mrs. Beale began. "A very strange and solemn thing
happened on the day of the storm; have you heard of it, Olive?"
"No," Mrs. Orton Beg answered with interest. "What was it?"
"Well, you know the dean's brother has a large family of daughters," Mrs.
Beale replied, "and they had a very charming governess, Miss Winstanley, a
lady by birth, and an accomplished person, and extremely
_spirituelle_. Well, on the morning of the storm she was sitting at
work with one of her pupils in the schoolroom, when another came in from
the garden, and uttered an exclamation of surprise when she saw Miss
Winstanley, 'How did you get in, and take your things off so quickly?' she
said. 'I have not been out,' Miss Winstanley answered. 'Why, I saw you--I
ran past you over by the duck pond!' 'Dear child, you must be mistaken. I
haven't been out to-day,' the governess answered, smiling. Well, that
child got out her work and sat down, but she had hardly done so when
another came in, and also exclaimed: 'Oh, Miss Winstanley! How _did_
you get here? I saw you standing looking out of the window at the bottom
of the picture gallery as I ran past this minute.' 'I must have a double,'
said Miss Winstanley lightly. 'But it _was_ you,' the child insisted;
'I saw you quite well, flowers and all.' The governess was wearing some
scarlet geranium. 'You know what they say if people are seen like that
where they have never been in the body?' she said jokingly. 'They say it
is a sign that that person is going to die.' In the afternoon," Mrs. Beale
continued, lowering her voice and glancing round involuntarily--and in the
momentary pause the rush of the gale without sounded obtrusively--"in the
afternoon of that same day she went out alone for a walk, and did not
return, and they became alarmed at last, and sent some men to search for
her when the storm was at its height, and they found her lying across a
stile. She had been killed by the branch of a tree falling on her."
"How do you explain that?" Mrs. Orton Beg said softly to Lord Dawne.
"I should not attempt to explain it," he answered, rising.
"Must you go?"
"Yes, I am sorry to say. Claudia and Ideala charged me with many messages
"They are together as usual, and well, I trust?"
"Yes," he answered, "and most anxious to hear a better account of your
"Ah, I hope to be able to walk soon," she said, holding out her hand to
"What a charming man he is," Mrs. Beale remarked when he had gone. "There
is no hope of his marrying, I suppose," she added, trying not to look at
"Oh, no!" Mrs. Orton Beg exclaimed in an almost horrified tone.
Lord Dawne's friends made no secret of his grand and chivalrous devotion
to the distinguished woman known to them all as Ideala. Every one of them
was aware, although he had never let fall a word on the subject, that he
had remained single on her account--every one but Ideala herself. She
never suspected it, or thought of love at all in connection with Lord
Dawne--and, besides, she was married.
When her friends had gone that day Mrs. Orton Beg sat long in the
gathering dusk, watching the newly lighted fire burn up, and thinking. She
was thinking of Evadne chiefly, wondering why she had had no news of her,
why her sister Elizabeth did not write, and tell her all about the wedding;
and she was just on the verge of anxiety--in that state when various
possibilities of trouble that might have occurred to account for delays
begin to present themselves to the mind, when all at once, without hearing
anything, she became conscious of a presence near her, and looking up she
was startled to see Evadne herself.
"My dear child!" she gasped, "what has happened? Why are you here?"
"Nothing has happened, auntie; don't be alarmed," Evadne answered. "I am
here because I have been a fool."
She spoke quietly but with concentrated bitterness, then sat down and
began to take off her gloves with that exaggerated show of composure which
is a sign in some people of suppressed emotion.
Her face was pale, but her eyes were bright, and the pupils were dilated.
"I have come to claim your hospitality, auntie," she pursued, "to ask you
for shelter from the world for a few days, _because_ I have been a
fool. May I stay?"
"Surely, dear child," Mrs. Orton Beg replied, and then she waited,
mastering the nervous tremor into which the shock of Evadne's sudden
appearance had thrown her with admirable self-control. And here again the
family likeness between aunt and niece was curiously apparent. Both masked
their agitation because both by temperament were shy, and ashamed to show
Evadne looked into the fire for a little, trying to collect herself. "I
knew what was right," she began at last in a low voice, "I knew we should
take nothing for granted, we should never be content merely to feel and
suppose and hope for the best in matters about which we should know
exactly. And yet I took no trouble to ascertain. I fell in love, and liked
the sensation, and gave myself up to it unreservedly. Certainly, I was a
fool--there is no other word for it."
"But are you married, Evadne?" Mrs. Orton Beg asked in a voice rendered
unnatural by the rapid beating of her heart.
"Let me tell you, auntie, all about it," Evadne answered hoarsely. She
drew her chair a little closer to the fire, and spread her hands out to
the blaze. There was no other light in the room by this time. The wind
without howled dismally still, but at intervals, as if with an effort.
During one of its noisiest bursts the cathedral clock began to strike, and
hushed it, as it were, suddenly. It seemed to be listening, to be waiting,
and Evadne waited and listened too, raising her head. There was a
perceptible, momentary pause, then came the chime, full, round, mournful,
melodious, yet glad too, in the strength of its solemn assurance, filling
the desolate regions of sorrow and silence with something of hope whereon
the weary mind might repose:
[Illustration: (musical notation); lyrics: He, watch-ing o-ver Is--ra--el,
slumbers not, nor sleeps.]
When the last reverberation of the last note had melted out of hearing,
Evadne sighed; then she straightened herself, as if collecting her energy,
and began to speak.
"Yes, I am married," she said, "but when I went to change my dress after
the ceremony I found this letter. It was intended, you see, to reach me
some days before it did, but unfortunately it was addressed to Fraylingay,
and time was lost in forwarding it." She handed it to her aunt, who raised
her eyebrows when she saw the writing, as if she recognized it, hastily
drew the letter from its envelope, and held it so that the blaze fell upon
it while she read. Evadne knelt on the hearthrug, and stirred the fire,
making it burn up brightly.
Mrs. Orton Beg returned the letter to the envelope when she had read it.
"What did you do?" she said.
"I read it before I went downstairs, and at first I could not think what
to do, so we drove off together, but on the way to the station it suddenly
flashed upon me that the proper thing to do would be to go at once and
hear all that there was to tell, and fortunately Major Colquhoun gave me
an opportunity of getting away without any dispute. He went to see about
something, leaving me in the carriage, and I just got out, walked round
the station, took a hansom, and drove off to the General Post Office to
telegraph to my people."
"But why didn't you go home?"
"For several reasons," Evadne answered, "the best being that I never
thought of going home. I wanted to be alone and think. I fancied that at
home they either could not or would not tell me anything of Major
Colquhoun's past life, and I was determined to know the truth exactly. And
I can't tell you how many sayings of my father's recurred to me all at
once with a new significance, and made me fear that there was some
difference between his point of view and mine on the subject of a suitable
husband. He told me himself that Major Colquhoun had been quite frank
about his past career, and then, when I came to think, it appeared to me
clearly that it was the frankness which had satisfied my father; the
career itself was nothing. You heard how pleased they were about my
"Yes," Mrs. Orton Beg answered slowly, "and I confess I was a little
surprised when I heard from your mother that your _fiance_ had been
'wild' in his youth, for I remembered some remarks you made last year
about the kind of man you would object to marry, and it seemed to me from
the description that Major Colquhoun was very much that kind of man."
"Then why didn't you warn me?" Evadne exclaimed.
"I don't know whether I quite thought it was a subject for warning," Mrs.
Orton Beg answered, "and at any rate, girls _do_ talk in that way
sometimes, not really meaning it. I thought it was mere _youngness_
on our part, and theory; and I don't know now whether I quite approve of
your having been told--of this new departure, she added, indicating the
"_I_ do," said Evadne decidedly. "I would stop the imposition,
approved of custom, connived at by parents, made possible by the state of
ignorance in which we are carefully kept--the imposition upon a girl's
innocence and inexperience of a disreputable man for a husband."
Mrs. Orton Beg was startled by this bold assertion, which was so
unprecedented in her experience that for a moment she could not utter a
word; and when she did speak she avoided a direct reply, because she
thought any discussion on the subject of marriage, except from the
sentimental point of view, was indelicate.
"But tell me your position exactly," she begged--"what you did next: why
you are here!"
"I went by the night mail North," Evadne answered, "and saw them. They
were very kind. They told me everything. I can't repeat the details; they
"No, pray don't!" Mrs. Orton Beg exclaimed hastily. She had no mind for
"They had been abroad, you know," Evadne pursued; "Otherwise I should have
heard from them as soon as the engagement was announced. They hoped to be
in time, however. They had no idea the marriage would take place so soon."
Mrs. Orton Beg reflected for a little, and then she asked in evident
trepidation, for she had more than a suspicion of what the reply would be:
"Anc what are you going to do?"
"Decline to live with him," Evadne answered.
This was what Mrs. Orton Beg had begun to suspect, but there is often an
element of surprise in the confirmation of our shrewdest suspicions, and
now she sat upright, leant forward, and looked at her niece aghast.
"_What_?" she demanded.
"I shall decline to live with him," Evadne repeated with emphasis.
Mrs. Orton Beg slowly resumed her reclining position, acting as one does
who has heard the worst, and realizes that there is nothing to be done but
to recover from the shock.
"I thought you loved him," she ventured, after a prolonged pause.
"Yes, so did I," Evadne answered, frowning--"but I was mistaken. It was a
mere affair of the senses, to be put off by the first circumstance
calculated to cause a revulsion of feeling by lowering him in my
estimation--a thing so slight that, after reading the letter, as we drove
to the station--even so soon! I could see him as he is. I noticed at once--
but it was for the first time--I noticed that, although his face is
handsome, the expression of it is not noble at all." She shuddered as at
the sight of something repulsive. "You see," she explained, "my taste is
cultivated to so fine an extent, I require something extremely
well-flavoured for the dish which is to be the _piece de resistance_
of my life-feast. My appetite is delicate, it requires to be tempted, and
a husband of that kind, a moral leper"--she broke off with a gesture,
spreading her hands, palms outward, as if she would fain put some horrid
idea far from her. "Besides, marrying a man like that, allowing him an
assured position in society, is countenancing vice, and"--she glanced
round apprehensively, then added in a fearful whisper--"_helping to
Mrs. Orton Beg knew in her head that reason and right were on Evadne's
side, but she felt in her heart the full force of the custom and prejudice
that would be against her, and shrank appalled by the thought of what the
cruel struggle to come must be if Evadne persisted in her determination.
In view of this, she sat up in her chair once more energetically, prepared
to do her best to dissuade her; but then again she relapsed, giving in to
a doubt of her own capacity to advise in such an emergency, accompanied by
a sudden and involuntary feeling of respect for Evadne's principles,
however peculiar and unprecedented they might be, and for the strength of
character which had enabled her so far to act upon them. "You must obey
your own conscience, Evadne," was what she found herself saying at last.
"I will help you to do that. I would rather not influence you. You may be
right. I cannot be sure--and yet--I don't agree with you. For I know if I
could have my husband back with me, I would welcome him, even if he
were--a leper." Evadne compressed her lips in steady disapproval. "I
should think only of his future. I should forgive the past."
"That is the mistake you good women all make," said Evadne. "You set a
detestably bad example. So long as women like you will forgive anything,
men will do anything. You have it in your power to set up a high standard
of excellence for men to reach in order to have the privilege of
associating with you. There is this quality in men, that they will have
the best of everything; and if the best wives are only to be obtained by
being worthy of them, they will strive to become so. As it is, however,
why should they? Instead of punishing them for their depravity, you
encourage them in it by overlooking it; and besides," she added, "you must
know that there is no past in the matter of vice. The consequences become
hereditary, and continue from generation to generation."
Again Mrs. Orton Beg felt herself checked.
"Where did you hear all this, Evadne!" she asked,
"I never heard it. I read--and I thought," she answered. "But I am only
now beginning to understand," she added. "I suppose moral axioms are
always the outcome of pained reflection. Knowledge cries to us in vain as
a rule before experience has taken the sharp edge off our egotism--by
experience, I mean the addition of some personal feeling to our
"I don't understand you in the least, Evadne," Mrs. Orton Beg replied.
"Your husband was a good man," Evadne answered indirectly. "You have never
thought about what a woman ought to do who has married a bad one--in an
emergency like mine, that is. You think I should act as women have been
always advised to act in such cases, that I should sacrifice myself to
save that one man's soul. I take a different view of it. I see that the
world is not a bit the better for centuries of self-sacrifice on the
woman's part and therefore I think it is time we tried a more effectual
plan. And I propose now to sacrifice the man instead of the woman."
Mrs. Orton Beg was silent.
"Have you nothing to say to me, auntie?" Evadne asked at last,
"I do not like to hear you talk so, Evadne. Every word you say seems to
banish something--something from this room--something from my life to
which I cling. I think it is my faith in love--and loving. You may be
right, but yet--the consequences! the struggle, if we must resist! It is
best to submit. It is better not to know."
"It is easier to submit--yes; it is disagreeable to know," Evadne
There was another pause, then Mrs. Orton Beg broke out: "Don't make me
think about it. Surely I have suffered enough? Disagreeable to know! It is
torture. If I ever let myself dwell on the horrible depravity that goes on
unchecked, the depravity which you say we women license by ignoring it
when we should face and unmask it, I should go out of my mind. I do
know--we all know; how can we live and not know? But we don't think about
it--we can't--we daren't. See! I try always to keep my own mind in one
attitude, to keep it filled for ever with holy and beautiful thoughts.
When I am alone, I listen for the chime, and when I have repeated it to
He, watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps--
my heart swells. I leave all that is inexplicable to Him, and thank him
for the love and the hope with which he feeds my heart and keeps it from
hardening. I thank him too," she went on hoarsely, "for the terrible
moments when I feel my loss afresh, those early morning moments, when the
bright sunshine and the beauty of all things only make my own barren life
look all the more bare in its loneliness; when my soul struggles to free
itself from the shackles of the flesh that it may spread its wings to meet
that other soul which made earth heaven for me here, and will, I know,
make all eternity ecstatic as a dream for me hereafter. It is good to
suffer, yes; but surely I suffer enough? My husband--if I cry to him, he
will not hear me; if I go down on my knees beside his grave, and dig my
arms in deep, deep, I shall not reach him. I cannot raise him up again to
caress him, or move the cruel weight of earth from off his breast. The
voice that was always kind will gladden me no more; the arms that were so
willing to protect--the world--just think how big it is! and if I traverse
it every yard, I shall not find him. He is not anywhere in all this huge
expanse. Ah, God! the agony of yearning, the ache, the ache; why must I
"Auntie!" Evadne cried. "I am selfish." She knelt down beside her and held
her hand. "I have made you think of your own irreparable loss, compared
with which I know my trouble is so small. Forgive me."
Mrs. Orton Beg put her arms round the girl's neck and kissed her: "Forgive
_me_" she said. "I am so weak, Evadne, and you--ah! you are strong."
The Fraylings had sent their children and the majority of their servants
back to Fraylingay the day after the wedding, but had decided to stay in
London themselves with Major Colquhoun until Evadne wrote to relieve their
anxiety, which was extreme, and gave them some information about her
movements and intentions.
Mr. Frayling spent most of the interval in prancing up and down. He
recollected all his past grievances, real and imaginary, and recounted
them, and also speculated about those that were to come, and mentioned the
number of things he was always doing for everybody, the position he had to
keep up and consider for the sake of his family, the scandal there would
be if this story got about; and described in one breath both his
determination to hush it up, and his conviction that it would be utterly
impossible to do so. Whenever the postman knocked he went to the door to
look for a letter, and coming back empty-handed each time, he invariably
remarked that it was disgraceful, simply disgraceful, and he had never
heard of such a thing in all his life. There was blame and severity in his
attitude toward poor Mrs. Frayling; he seemed to insinuate that she might
and should have done something to prevent all this; while there was a
mixture of sympathy, deprecation, and apology in his manner to his
son-in-law, combined with a certain air of absolving himself from all
responsibility in the matter.
Major Colquhoun's own attitude was wholly enigmatical. He smoked cigars,
read novels, and said nothing except in answer to such remarks as were
specially addressed to him, and then he confined himself to the shortest
and simplest form of rejoinder possible.
"The dear fellow's patience is exemplary," Mrs. Frayling remarked to her
husband as they went to bed one night. "He conceals his own feelings
_quite_, and never utters a complaint."
"Humph!" grunted Mr. Frayling, who scented some reproach in this remark;
"if the dear fellow does not suffer from impatience, and has no feelings
to conceal, it is not much marvel if he utters no complaint. I believe he
doesn't care a rap, and is only thinking of how to get out of the whole
"Oh, my dear, how _dreadful_" Mrs. Frayling exclaimed. "I am sure you
are quite mistaken. You don't understand him at all."
Mr. Frayling shrugged his shoulders and snorted. He despised feminine
conclusions too much to reply to them, but not nearly enough to be wholly
unmoved by them.
Mrs. Frayling spent the three days in sitting still, embroidering silk
flowers on a satin ground, and watering them well with her tears. But on
the morning of the fourth day, by the first post, letters arrived which
put an end to their suspense. One was from Mrs. Orton Beg and the other
from Evadne herself. Mrs. Frayling read them aloud at the breakfast table,
and the three sat for an hour in solemn conclave, considering them.
Mrs. Orton Beg had had time to recover herself and reflect before she
wrote, and the consequence was some modification of her first impression.
"MY DEAR ELIZABETH:
"Evadne is here; she arrived this afternoon. On her wedding day she
received a letter from a lady, whose name I am not allowed to mention
here, but written under the impression that Evadne was being kept in
ignorance of Major Colquhoun's past life, and offering to give her any
information that had been withheld so that she might not be blindly
entrapped into marrying him under the delusion that he was a worthy man.
The letter arrived too late, but Evadne went off nevertheless on the spur
of the moment to make further inquiries, the result of which is great
indignation on her part for having been allowed to marry a man of such
antecedents, and a determination not to live with him. She wishes to stay
here with me for he present, and I am very glad to have her. I give her an
asylum, but I shall not speak a word to influence her decision in any way
if I can help it. It is a matter of conscience with her, and I perceive
that her moral consciousness and mine are not quite the same; but in the
present state of my ignorance, I feel that it would be presumption on my
part to set my own up as superior, and therefore I think it better not to
interfere in any way.
"You need not be in the least anxious about Evadne. She is quite well, has
an excellent appetite, and is not at all inclined to pose as a martyr. I
confess I should have thought myself she would have suffered more in the
first days of her disillusion, for she certainly was very much in love
with Major Colquhoun; but her principles are older than her acquaintance
with him, and ingrained principle is a force superior to passion, it
seems--which is as it should be.
"I am sorry for you all, and for you especially, dear, in this dilemma,
for I know how you will feel it; and I am the more sorry because I cannot
say a single word which would relieve the state of perplexity you must be
in, or be in any way a comfort to you.
"Your loving sister,
"OLIVE ORTON BEG."
Evadne's letter ran thus:
"THE CLOSE, MORNINGQUEST, 4th October.
"MY DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER: