Part 4 out of 8
"Suppose obstacles get in our way," I said--"suppose time passes
and tries your patience--will you still consider yourself engaged
"Engaged to you," he answered, "in spite of obstacles and
in spite of time."
"And while you are away from me," I ventured to add, "we shall
write to each other?"
"Go where I may," he said, "you shall always hear from me."
I could ask no more, and he could concede no more. The impression
evidently left on him by Eunice's terrible outbreak, was far more
serious than I had anticipated. I was myself depressed and ill
at ease. No expressions of tenderness were exchanged between us.
There was something horrible in our barren farewell. We merely
clasped hands, at parting. He went his way--and I went mine.
There are some occasions when women set an example of courage
to men. I was ready to endure whatever might happen to me, when
I got home. What a desperate wretch! some people might say,
if they could look into this diary!
Maria opened the door; she told me that my sister had already
returned, accompanied by Miss Jillgall. There had been apparently
some difference of opinion between them, before they entered
the house. Eunice had attempted to go on to some other place;
and Miss Jillgall had remonstrated. Maria had heard her say:
"No, you would degrade yourself"--and, with that, she had led
Eunice indoors. I understood, of course, that my sister had been
prevented from following Philip to the hotel. There was probably
a serious quarrel in store for me. I went straight to the
bedroom, expecting to find Eunice there, and prepared to brave
the storm that might burst on me. There was a woman at Eunice's
end of the room, removing dresses from the wardrobe. I could only
see her back, but it was impossible to mistake _that_ figure--
She laid the dresses on Eunice's bed, without taking the
slightest notice of me. In significant silence I pointed to the
door. She went on as coolly with her occupation as if the room
had been, not mine but hers; I stepped up to her, and spoke
"You oblige me to remind you," I said, "that you are not in
your own room." There, I waited a little, and found that I had
produced no effect. "With every disposition," I resumed, "to make
allowance for the disagreeable peculiarities of your character,
I cannot consent to overlook an act of intrusion, committed by
a Spy. Now, do you understand me?"
She looked round her. "I see no third person here," she said.
"May I ask if you mean me?"
"I mean you."
"Will you be so good, Miss Helena, as to explain yourself?"
Moderation of language would have been thrown away on this woman.
"You followed me to the park," I said. "It was you who found me
with Mr. Dunboyne, and betrayed me to my sister. You are a Spy,
and you know it. At this very moment you daren't look me in
Her insolence forced its way out of her at last. Let me record
it--and repay it, when the time comes.
"Quite true," she replied. "If I ventured to look you in
the face, I am afraid I might forget myself. I have always been
brought up like a lady, and I wish to show it even in the company
of such a wretch as you are. There is not one word of truth
in what you have said of me. I went to the hotel to find Mr.
Dunboyne. Ah, you may sneer! I haven't got your good looks--and
a vile use you have made of them. My object was to recall that
base young man to his duty to my dear charming injured Euneece.
The hotel servant told me that Mr. Dunboyne had gone out. Oh,
I had the means of persuasion in my pocket! The man directed me
to the park, as he had already directed Mr. Dunboyne. It was only
when I had found the place, that I heard some one behind me.
Poor innocent Euneece had followed me to the hotel, and had got
her directions, as I had got mine. God knows how hard I tried to
persuade her to go back, and how horribly frightened I was--No!
I won't distress myself by saying a word more. It would be
too humiliating to let _you_ see an honest woman in tears.
Your sister has a spirit of her own, thank God! She won't inhabit
the same room with you; she never desires to see your false face
again. I take the poor soul's dresses and things away--and as
a religious person I wait, confidently wait, for the judgment
that will fall on you!"
She caught up the dresses all together; some of them were in
her arms, some of them fell on her shoulders, and one of them
towered over her head. Smothered in gowns, she bounced out
of the room like a walking milliner's shop. I have to thank
the wretched old creature for a moment of genuine amusement,
at a time of devouring anxiety. The meanest insect, they say,
has its use in this world--and why not Miss Jillgall?
In half an hour more, an unexpected event raised my spirits.
I heard from Philip.
On his return to the hotel he had found a telegram waiting for
him. Mr. Dunboyne the elder had arrived in London; and Philip
had arranged to join his father by the next train. He sent me
the address, and begged that I would write and tell him my news
from home by the next day's post.
Welcome, thrice welcome, to Mr. Dunboyne the elder! If Philip can
manage, under my advice, to place me favorably in the estimation
of this rich old man, his presence and authority may do for us
what we cannot do for ourselves. Here is surely an influence to
which my father must submit, no matter how unreasonable or how
angry he may be when he hears what has happened. I begin already
to feel hopeful of the future.
Through the day, and through the night, I feel a misery that
never leaves me--I mean the misery of fear.
I am trying to find out some harmless means of employing myself,
which will keep evil remembrances from me. If I don't succeed,
my fear tells me what will happen. I shall be in danger of going
I dare not confide in any living creature. I don't know what
other persons might think of me, or how soon I might find myself
perhaps in an asylum. In this helpless condition, doubt and
fright seem to be driving me back to my Journal. I wonder whether
I shall find harmless employment here.
I have heard of old people losing their memories. What would I
not give to be old! I remember! oh, how I remember! One day after
another I see Philip, I see Helena, as I first saw them when I
was among the trees in the park. My sweetheart's arms, that once
held me, hold my sister now. She kisses him, kisses him, kisses
Is there no way of making myself see something else? I want to
get back to remembrances that don't burn in my head and tear at
my heart. How is it to be done?
I have tried books--no! I have tried going out to look at
the shops--no! I have tried saying my prayers--no! And now I am
making my last effort; trying my pen. My black letters fall from
it, and take their places on the white paper. Will my black
letters help me? Where can I find something consoling to write
down? Where? Where?
Selina--poor Selina, so fond of me, so sorry for me. When I was
happy, she was happy, too. It was always amusing to hear her
talk. Oh, my memory, be good to me! Save me from Philip and
Helena. I want to remember the pleasant days when my kind little
friend and I used to gossip in the garden.
No: the days in the garden won't come back. What else can I think
. . . . . . .
The recollections that I try to encourage keep away from me.
The other recollections that I dread, come crowding back. Still
Philip! Still Helena!
But Selina mixes herself up with them. Let me try again if I can
think of Selina.
How delightfully good to me and patient with me she was, on our
dismal way home from the park! And how affectionately she excused
herself for not having warned me of it, when she first suspected
that my own sister and my worst enemy were one and the same!
"I know I was wrong, my dear, to let my love and pity close
my lips. But remember how happy you were at the time. The thought
of making you miserable was more than I could endure--I am so
fond of you! Yes; I began to suspect them, on the day when they
first met at the station. And, I am afraid, I thought it just
likely that you might be as cunning as I was, and have noticed
Oh, how ignorant she must have been of my true thoughts and
feelings! How strangely people seem to misunderstand their
dearest friends! knowing, as I did, that I could never love any
man but Philip, could I be wicked enough to suppose that Philip
would love any woman but me?
I explained to Selina how he had spoken to me, when we were
walking together on the bank of the river. Shall I ever forget
those exquisite words? "I wish I was a better man, Eunice; I wish
I was good enough to be worthy of you." I asked Selina if she
thought he was deceiving me when he said that. She comforted me
by owning that he must have been in earnest, at the time--and
then she distressed me by giving the reason why.
"My love, you must have innocently said something to him, when
you and he were alone, which touched his conscience (when he
_had_ a conscience), and made him ashamed of himself. Ah, you
were too fond of him to see how he changed for the worse, when
your vile sister joined you, and took possession of him again. It
made my heart ache to see you so unsuspicious of them. You asked
me, my poor dear, if they had quarreled--you believed they were
tired of walking by the river, when it was you they were tired
of--and you wondered why Helena took him to see the school.
My child! she was the leading spirit at the school, and you
were nobody. Her vanity saw the chance of making him compare you
at a disadvantage with your clever sister. I declare, Euneece,
I lose my head if I only think of it! All the strong points in
my character seem to slip away from me. Would you believe it?--I
have neglected that sweet infant at the cottage; I have even
let Mrs. Molly have her baby back again. If I had the making of
the laws, Philip Dunboyne and Helena Gracedieu should be hanged
together on the same gallows. I see I shock you. Don't let us
talk of it! Oh, don't let us talk of it!"
And here am I writing of it! What I had determined not to do, is
what I have done. Am I losing my senses already? The very names
that I was most anxious to keep out of my memory stare me in the
face in the lines that I have just written. Philip again! Helena
. . . . . . .
Another day, and something new that must and will be remembered,
shrink from it as I may. This afternoon, I met Helena on the
She stopped, and eyed me with a wicked smile; she held out
her hand. "We are likely to meet often, while we are in the same
house," she said; "hadn't we better consult appearances, and
pretend to be as fond of each other as ever?"
I took no notice of her hand; I took no notice of her shameless
proposal. She tried again: "After all, it isn't my fault if
Philip likes me better than he likes you. Don't you see that?"
I still refused to speak to her. She still persisted. "How black
you look, Eunice! Are you sorry you didn't kill me, when you had
your hands on my throat?"
I said: "Yes."
She laughed, and left me. I was obliged to sit down on the stair
--I trembled so. My own reply frightened me. I tried to find
out why I had said Yes. I don't remember being conscious of
meaning anything. It was as if somebody else had said Yes--not
I. Perhaps I was provoked, and the word escaped me before I could
stop it. Could I have stopped it? I don't know.
. . . . . . .
Another sleepless night.
Did I pass the miserable hours in writing letters to Philip and
then tearing them up? Or did I only fancy that I wrote to him? I
have just looked at the fireplace. The torn paper in it tells me
that I did write. Why did I destroy my letters? I might have sent
one of them to Philip. After what has happened? Oh, no! no!
Having been many days away from the Girls' Scripture Class,
it seemed to be possible that going back to the school and
the teaching might help me to escape from myself.
Nothing succeeds with me. I found it impossible to instruct
the girls as usual; their stupidity soon reached the limit of
my patience--suffocated me with rage. One of them, a poor, fat,
feeble creature, began to cry when I scolded her. I looked with
envy at the tears rolling over her big round cheeks. If I could
only cry, I might perhaps bear my hard fate with submission.
I walked toward home by a roundabout way; feeling as if want
of sleep was killing me by inches.
In the High Street, I saw Helena; she was posting a letter, and
was not aware that I was near her. Leaving the post-office, she
crossed the street, and narrowly escaped being run over. Suppose
the threatened accident had really taken place--how should I have
felt, if it had ended fatally? What a fool I am to be putting
questions to myself about things that have not happened!
The walking tired me; I went straight home.
Before I could ring the bell, the house door opened, and the
doctor came out. He stopped to speak to me. While I had been away
(he said), something had happened at home (he neither knew nor
wished to know what) which had thrown my father into a state
of violent agitation. The doctor had administered composing
medicine. "My patient is asleep now," he told me; "but remember
what I said to you the last time we met; a longer rest than any
doctor's prescription can give him is what he wants. You are not
looking well yourself, my dear. What is the matter?"
I told him of my wretched restless nights; and asked if I might
take some of the composing medicine which he had given to
my father. He forbade me to touch a drop of it. "What is physic
for your father, you foolish child, is not physic for a young
creature like you," he said. "Count a thousand, if you can't
sleep to-night, or turn your pillow. I wish you pleasant dreams."
He went away, amused at his own humor.
I found Selina waiting to speak with me, on the subject of poor
She had been startled on hearing his voice, loud in anger. In the
fear that something serious had happened, she left her room to
make inquiries, and saw Helena on the landing of the flight of
stairs beneath, leaving the study. After waiting till my sister
was out of the way, Selina ventured to present herself at the
study door, and to ask if she could be of any use. My father,
walking excitedly up and down the room, declared that both his
daughters had behaved infamously, and that he would not suffer
them to speak to him again until they had come to their senses,
on the subject of Mr. Dunboyne. He would enter into no further
explanation; and he had ordered, rather than requested, Selina to
leave him. Having obeyed, she tried next to find me, and had just
looked into the dining-room to see if I was there, when she was
frightened by the sound of a fall in the room above--that is to
say, in the study. Running upstairs again, she had found him
insensible on the floor and had sent for the doctor.
"And mind this," Selina continued, "the person who has done the
mischief is the person whom I saw leaving the study. What your
unnatural sister said to provoke her father--"
"That your unnatural sister will tell you herself," Helena's
voice added. She had opened the door while we were too much
absorbed in our talk to hear her.
Selina attempted to leave the room. I caught her by the hand,
and held her back. I was afraid of what I might do if she left me
by myself. Never have I felt anything like the rage that tortured
me, when I saw Helena looking at us with the same wicked smile
on her lips that had insulted me when we met on the stairs. Have
_we_ anything to be ashamed of?" I said to Selina. "Stay where
"You may be of some use, Miss Jillgall, if you stay," my sister
suggested. "Eunice seems to be trembling. Is she angry, or is she
The sting of this was in the tone of her voice. It was the
hardest thing I ever had to do in my life--but I did succeed
in controlling myself.
"Go on with what you have to say," I answered, "and don't notice
"You are not very polite, my dear, but I can make allowances.
Oh, come! come! putting up your hands to stop your ears is too
childish. You would do better to express regret for having misled
your father. Yes! you did mislead him. Only a few days since,
you left him to suppose that you were engaged to Philip. It
became my duty, after that, to open his eyes to the truth; and
if I unhappily provoked him, it was your fault. I was strictly
careful in the language I used. I said: 'Dear father, you have
been misinformed on a very serious subject. The only marriage
engagement for which your kind sanction is requested, is _my_
engagement. _I_ have consented to become Mrs. Philip Dunboyne.'"
"Stop!" I said.
"Why am I to stop?"
"Because I have something to say. You and I are looking at each
other. Does my face tell you what is passing in my mind?"
"Your face seems to be paler than usual," she answered--"that's
"No," I said; "that is not all. The devil that possessed me, when
I discovered you with Philip, is not cast out of me yet. Silence
the sneering devil that is in You, or we may both live to regret
Whether I did or did not frighten her, I cannot say. This only
I know--she turned away silently to the door, and went out.
I dropped on the sofa. That horrid hungering for revenge, which
I felt for the first time when I knew how Helena had wronged me,
began to degrade and tempt me again. In the effort to get away
from this new evil self of mine, I tried to find sympathy
in Selina, and called to her to come and sit by me. She seemed
to be startled when I looked at her, but she recovered herself,
and came to me, and took my hand.
"I wish I could comfort you!" she said, in her kind simple way.
"Keep my hand in your hand," I told her; "I am drowning in dark
water--and I have nothing to hold by but you."
"Oh, my darling, don't talk in that way!"
"Good Selina! dear Selina! You shall talk to me. Say something
harmless--tell me a melancholy story--try to make me cry."
My poor little friend looked sadly bewildered.
"I'm more likely to cry myself," she said. "This is so
heart-breaking--I almost wish I was back in the time, before
you came home, the time when your detestable sister first showed
how she hated me. I was happy, meanly happy, in the spiteful
enjoyment of provoking her. Oh, Euneece, I shall never recover
my spirits again! All the pity in the world would not be pity
enough for _you_. So hardly treated! so young! so forlorn!
Your good father too ill to help you; your poor mother--"
I interrupted her; she had interested me in something better
than my own wretched self. I asked directly if she had known
"My dear child, I never even saw her!"
"Has my father never spoken to you about her?"
"Only once, when I asked him how long she had been dead. He told
me you lost her while you were an infant, and he told me no more.
I was looking at her portrait in the study, only yesterday.
I think it must be a bad portrait; your mother's face disappoints
I had arrived at the same conclusion years since. But I shrank
from confessing it.
"At any rate," Selina continued, "you are not like her. Nobody
would ever guess that you were the child of that lady, with
the long slanting forehead and the restless look in her eyes."
What Selina had said of me and my mother's portrait, other
friends had said. There was nothing that I know of to interest me
in hearing it repeated--and yet it set me pondering on the want
of resemblance between my mother's face and mine, and wondering
(not for the first time) what sort of woman my mother was. When
my father speaks of her, no words of praise that he can utter
seem to be good enough for her. Oh, me, I wish I was a little
more like my mother!
It began to get dark; Maria brought in the lamp. The sudden
brightness of the flame struck my aching eyes, as if it had
been a blow from a knife. I was obliged to hide my face in
my handkerchief. Compassionate Selina entreated me to go to bed.
"Rest your poor eyes, my child, and your weary head--and try at
least to get some sleep." She found me very docile; I kissed her,
and said good-night. I had my own idea.
When all was quiet in the house, I stole out into the passage
and listened at the door of my father's room.
I heard his regular breathing, and opened the door and went in.
The composing medicine, of which I was in search, was not on the
table by his bedside. I found it in the cupboard--perhaps placed
purposely out of his reach. They say that some physic is poison,
if you take too much of it. The label on the bottle told me what
the dose was. I dropped it into the medicine glass, and swallowed
it, and went back to my father.
Very gently, so as not to wake him, I touched poor papa's
forehead with my lips. "I must have some of your medicine,"
I whispered to him; "I want it, dear, as badly as you do."
Then I returned to my own room--and lay down in bed, waiting
to be composed.
My restless nights are passed in Selina's room.
Her bed remains near the window. My bed has been placed opposite,
near the door. Our night-light is hidden in a corner, so that
the faint glow of it is all that we see. What trifles these
are to write about! But they mix themselves up with what I am
determined to set down in my Journal, and then to close the book
for good and all.
I had not disturbed my little friend's enviable repose,
either when I left our bed-chamber, or when I returned to it.
The night was quiet, and the stars were out. Nothing moved
but the throbbing at my temples. The lights and shadows
in our half-darkened room, which at other times suggest strange
resemblances to my fancy, failed to disturb me now. I was in
a darkness of my own making, having bound a handkerchief, cooled
with water, over my hot eyes. There was nothing to interfere
with the soothing influence of the dose that I had taken, if
my father's medicine would only help me.
I began badly. The clock in the hall struck the quarter past
the hour, the half-past, the three-quarters past, the new hour.
Time was awake--and I was awake with Time.
It was such a trial to my patience that I thought of going back
to my father's room, and taking a second dose of the medicine, no
matter what the risk might be. On attempting to get up, I became
aware of a change in me. There was a dull sensation in my limbs
which seemed to bind them down on the bed. It was the strangest
feeling. My will said, Get up--and my heavy limbs said, No.
I lay quite still, thinking desperate thoughts, and getting
nearer and nearer to the end that I had been dreading for so many
days past. Having been as well educated as most girls, my lessons
in history had made me acquainted with assassination and murder.
Horrors which I had recoiled from reading in past happy days, now
returned to my memory; and, this time, they interested instead
of revolting me. I counted the three first ways of killing as
I happened to remember them, in my books of instruction:--a way
by stabbing; a way by poison; a way in a bed, by suffocation with
a pillow. On that dreadful night, I never once called to mind
what I find myself remembering now--the harmless past time, when
our friends used to say: "Eunice is a good girl; we are all fond
of Eunice." Shall I ever be the same lovable creature again?
While I lay thinking, a strange thing happened. Philip, who
had haunted me for days and nights together, vanished out of
my thoughts. My memory of the love which had begun so brightly,
and had ended so miserably, became a blank. Nothing was left but
my own horrid visions of vengeance and death.
For a while, the strokes of the clock still reached my ears.
But it was an effort to count them; I ended in letting them pass
unheeded. Soon afterward, the round of my thoughts began to
circle slowly and more slowly. The strokes of the clock died out.
The round of my thoughts stopped.
All this time, my eyes were still covered by the handkerchief
which I had laid over them.
The darkness began to weigh on my spirits, and to fill me
with distrust. I found myself suspecting that there was some
change--perhaps an unearthly change--passing over the room.
To remain blindfolded any longer was more than I could endure.
I lifted my hand--without being conscious of the heavy sensation
which, some time before, had laid my limbs helpless on the bed--
I lifted my hand, and drew the handkerchief away from my eyes.
The faint glow of the night-light was extinguished.
But the room was not quite dark. There was a ghastly light
trembling over it; like nothing that I have ever seen by day;
like nothing that I have ever seen by night. I dimly discerned
Selina's bed, and the frame of the window, and the curtains
on either side of it--but not the starlight, and not the shadowy
tops of the trees in the garden.
The light grew fainter and fainter; the objects in the room faded
slowly away. Darkness came.
It may be a saying hard to believe--but, when I declare that
I was not frightened, I am telling the truth. Whether the room
was lighted by awful light, or sunk in awful dark, I was equally
interested in the expectation of what might happen next.
I listened calmly for what I might hear: I waited calmly for
what I might feel.
A touch came first. I feel it creeping on my face--like a little
fluttering breeze. The sensation pleased me for a while. Soon it
grew colder, and colder, and colder, till it froze me.
"Oh, no more!" I cried out. "You are killing me with an icy
The dead-cold touches lingered a moment longer--and left me.
The first sound came.
It was the sound of a whisper on my pillow, close to my ear. My
strange insensibility to fear remained undisturbed. The whisper
was welcome, it kept me company in the dark room.
It said to me: "Do you know who I am?"
I answered: "No."
It said: "Who have you been thinking of this evening?"
I answered: "My mother."
The whisper said: "I am your mother."
"Oh, mother, command the light to come back! Show yourself
"My face was hidden when I passed from life to death. My face
no mortal creature may see."
"Oh, mother, touch me! Kiss me!"
"My touch is poison. My kiss is death."
The sense of fear began to come to me now. I moved my head away
on the pillow. The whisper followed my movement.
"Leave me," I said. "You are an Evil Spirit."
The whisper answered: "I am your mother."
"You come to tempt me."
"I come to harden your heart. Daughter of mine, whose blood
is cool; daughter of mine, who tamely submits--you have loved.
Is it true?"
"It is true."
"The man you loved has deserted you. Is it true?"
"It is true."
"A woman has lured him away to herself. A woman has had no mercy
on you, or on him. Is it true?"
"It is true."
"If she lives, what crime toward you will she commit next?"
"If she lives, she will marry him."
"Will you let her live?"
"Have I hardened your heart against her?"
"Will you kill her?"
"Show me how."
There was a sudden silence. I was still left in the darkness;
feeling nothing, hearing nothing. Even the consciousness that
I was lying on my bed deserted me. I had no idea that I was
in the bedroom; I had no knowledge of where I was.
The ghastly light that I had seen already dawned on me once more.
I was no longer in my bed, no longer in my room, no longer in
the house. Without wonder, without even a feeling of surprise,
I looked round. The place was familiar to me. I was alone in
the Museum of our town.
The light flowed along in front of me. I followed, from room
to room in the Museum, where the light led.
First, through the picture-gallery, hung with the works of modern
masters; then, through the room filled with specimens of stuffed
animals. The lion and the tiger, the vulture of the Alps and
the great albatross, looked like living creatures threatening me,
in the supernatural light. I entered the third room, devoted to
the exhibition of ancient armor, and the weapons of all nations.
Here the light rose higher, and, leaving me in darkness where
I stood, showed a collection of swords, daggers, and knives
arranged on the wall in imitation of the form of a star.
The whisper sounded again, close at my ear. It echoed my own
thought, when I called to mind the ways of killing which history
had taught me. It said: "Kill her with the knife."
No. My heart failed me when I thought of the blood. I hid
the dreadful weapons from my view. I cried out: "Let me go!
let me go!"
Again, I was lost in darkness. Again, I had no knowledge in me
of where I was. Again, after an interval, the light showed me
the new place in which I stood.
I was alone in the burial-ground of our parish church. The light
led me on, among the graves, to the lonely corner in which the
great yew tree stands; and, rising higher, revealed the solemn
foliage, brightened by the fatal red fruit which hides in itself
the seeds of death.
The whisper tempted me again. It followed again the train of
my own thought. It said: "Kill her by poison."
No. Revenge by poison steals its way to its end. The base
deceitfulness of Helena's crime against me seemed to call for
a day of reckoning that hid itself under no disguise. I raised
my cry to be delivered from the sight of the deadly tree.
The changes which I have tried to describe followed once more
the confession of what I felt; the darkness was dispelled for
the third time.
I was standing in Helena's room, looking at her as she lay asleep
in her bed.
She was quite still now; but she must have been restless at some
earlier time. The bedclothes were disordered, her head had sunk
so low that the pillow rose high and vacant above her. There,
colored by a tender flush of sleep, was the face whose beauty put
my poor face to shame. There, was the sister who had committed
the worst of murders--the wretch who had killed in me all that
made life worth having. While that thought was in my mind,
I heard the whisper again. "Kill her openly," the tempter mother
said. "Kill her daringly. Faint heart, do you still want courage?
Rouse your spirit; look! see yourself in the act!"
The temptation took a form which now tried me for the first time.
As if a mirror had reflected the scene, I saw myself standing
by the bedside, with the pillow that was to smother the sleeper
in my hands. I heard the whispering voice telling me how to speak
the words that warned and condemned her: "Wake! you who have
taken him from me! Wake! and meet your doom."
I saw her start up in bed. The sudden movement disordered
the nightdress over her bosom and showed the miniature portrait
of a man, hung round her neck.
The man was Philip. The likeness was looking at me.
So dear, so lovely--those eyes that had once been the light of
my heart, mourned for me and judged me now. They saw the guilty
thought that polluted me; they brought me to my knees, imploring
him to help me back to my better self: "One last mercy, dear,
to comfort me under the loss of you. Let the love that was once
my life, be my good angel still. Save me, Philip, even though
you forsake me--save me from myself!"
. . . . . . .
There was a sudden cry.
The agony of it pierced my brain--drove away the ghastly light--
silenced the tempting whispers. I came to myself. I saw--and not
in a dream.
Helena _had_ started up in her bed. That cry of terror, at
the sight of me in her room at night, _had_ burst from her lips.
The miniature of Philip hung round her neck, a visible reality.
Though my head was dizzy, though my heart was sinking, I had
not lost my senses yet. All that the night lamp could show me,
I still saw; and I heard the sound, faintly, when the door
of the bed-chamber was opened. Alarmed by that piercing cry,
my father came hurrying into the room.
Not a word passed between us three. The whispers that I had heard
were wicked; the thoughts that had been in my mind were vile.
Had they left some poison in the air of the room, which killed
the words on our lips?
My father looked at Helena. With a trembling hand she pointed
to me. He put his arm round me and held me up. I remember
his leading me away--and I remember nothing more.
My last words are written. I lock up this journal of misery-
never, I hope and pray, to open it again.
Second Period (continued).
EVENTS IN THE FAMILY, RELATED BY THE GOVERNOR.
THE MIDDLE-AGED LADY.
In the year 1870 I found myself compelled to submit to
the demands of two hard task-masters.
Advancing age and failing health reminded the Governor of
the Prison of his duty to his successor, in one unanswerable
When they have employed us and interested us, for the greater
part of our lives, we bid farewell to our duties--even to
the gloomy duties of a prison--with a sense of regret. My view
of the future presented a vacant prospect indeed, when I looked
at my idle life to come, and wondered what I should do with it.
Loose on the world--at my age!--I drifted into domestic refuge,
under the care of my two dear and good sons. After a while
(never mind how long a while) I began to grow restless under
the heavy burden of idleness. Having nothing else to complain of,
I complained of my health, and consulted a doctor. That sagacious
man hit on the right way of getting rid of me--he recommended
This was unexpected advice. After some hesitation, I accepted it
The instincts of age recoil from making new acquaintances,
contemplating new places, and adopting new habits. Besides,
I hate railway traveling. However, I contrived to get as far as
Italy, and stopped to rest at Florence. Here, I found pictures
by the old masters that I could really enjoy, a public park that
I could honestly admire, and an excellent friend and colleague of
former days; once chaplain to the prison, now clergyman in charge
of the English Church. We met in the gallery of the Pitti Palace;
and he recognized me immediately. I was pleased to find that
the lapse of years had made so little difference in my personal
The traveler who advances as far as Florence, and does not go
on to Rome, must be regardless indeed of the opinions of his
friends. Let me not attempt to conceal it--I am that insensible
traveler. Over and over again, I said to myself: "Rome must
be done"; and over and over again I put off doing it. To own
the truth, the fascinations of Florence, aided by the society
of my friend, laid so strong a hold on me that I believe I should
have ended my days in the delightful Italian city, but for
the dangerous illness of one of my sons. This misfortune hurried
me back to England, in dread, every step of the way, of finding
that I had arrived too late. The journey (thank God!) proved
to have been taken without need. My son was no longer in danger,
when I reached London in the year 1875.
At that date I was near enough to the customary limit of human
life to feel the necessity of rest and quiet. In other words,
my days of travel had come to their end.
Having established myself in my own country, I did not forget
to let old friends know where they might find me. Among those
to whom I wrote was another colleague of past years, who still
held his medical appointment in the prison. When I received
the doctor's reply, it inclosed a letter directed to me at
my old quarters in the Governor's rooms. Who could possibly have
sent a letter to an address which I had left five years since?
My correspondent proved to be no less a person than the
Congregational Minister--the friend whom I had estranged from
me by the tone in which I had written to him, on the long-past
occasion of his wife's death.
It was a distressing letter to read. I beg permission to give
only the substance of it in this place.
Entreating me, with touching expressions of humility and sorrow,
to forgive his long silence, the writer appealed to my friendly
remembrance of him. He was in sore need of counsel, under serious
difficulties; and I was the only person to whom he could apply
for help. In the disordered state of his health at that time,
he ventured to hope that I would visit him at his present place
of abode, and would let him have the happiness of seeing me
as speedily as possible. He concluded with this extraordinary
"When you see my daughters, say nothing to either of them which
relates, in any way, to the subject of their ages. You shall hear
why when we meet."
The reading of this letter naturally reminded me of the claims
which my friend's noble conduct had established on my admiration
and respect, at the past time when we met in the prison. I could
not hesitate to grant his request--strangely as it was expressed,
and doubtful as the prospect appeared to be of my answering
the expectations which he had founded on the renewal of
our intercourse. Answering his letter by telegraph, I promised
to be with him on the next day.
On arriving at the station, I found that I was the only traveler,
by a first-class carriage, who left the train. A young lady,
remarkable by her good looks and good dressing, seemed to have
noticed this trifling circumstance. She approached me with
a ready smile. "I believe I am speaking to my father's friend,"
she said; "my name is Helena Gracedieu."
Here was one of the Minister's two "daughters"; and that one of
the two--as I discovered the moment I shook hands with her--who
was my friend's own child. Miss Helena recalled to me her
mother's face, infinitely improved by youth and health, and by
a natural beauty which that cruel and deceitful woman could never
have possessed. The slanting forehead and the shifting, flashing
eyes, that I recollected in the parent, were reproduced (slightly
reproduced, I ought to say) in the child. As for the other
features, I had never seen a more beautiful nose and mouth,
or a more delicately-shaped outline, than was presented by
the lower part of the face. But Miss Helena somehow failed
to charm me. I doubt if I should have fallen in love with her,
even in the days when I was a foolish young man.
The first question that I put, as we drove from the station
to the house, related naturally to her father.
"He is very ill," she began; "I am afraid you must prepare
yourself to see a sad change. Nerves. The mischief first showed
itself, the doctor tells us, in derangement of his nervous
system. He has been, I regret to tell you, obstinate in refusing
to give up his preaching and pastoral work. He ought to have
tried rest at the seaside. Things have gone on from bad to worse.
Last Sunday, at the beginning of his sermon, he broke down. Very,
very sad, is it not? The doctor says that precious time has been
lost, and he must make up his mind to resign his charge. He won't
hear of it. You are his old friend. Please try to persuade him."
Fluently spoken; the words well chosen; the melodious voice
reminding me of the late Mrs. Gracedieu's advantages in that
respect; little sighs judiciously thrown in here and there, just
at the right places; everything, let me own, that could present
a dutiful daughter as a pattern of propriety--and nothing,
let me add, that could produce an impression on my insensible
temperament. If I had not been too discreet to rush at a hasty
conclusion, I might have been inclined to say: her mother's
child, every inch of her!
The interest which I was still able to feel in my friend's
domestic affairs centered in the daughter whom he had adopted.
In her infancy I had seen the child, and liked her; I was the one
person living (since the death of Mrs. Gracedieu) who knew how
the Minister had concealed the sad secret of her parentage; and
I wanted to discover if the hereditary taint had begun to show
itself in the innocent offspring of the murderess. Just as
I was considering how I might harmlessly speak of Miss Helena's
"sister," Miss Helena herself introduced the subject.
"May I ask," she resumed, "if you were disappointed when you
found nobody but me to meet you at our station?"
Here was an opportunity of paying her a compliment, if I had been
a younger man, or if she had produced a favorable impression on
me. As it was, I hit--if I may praise myself--on an ingenious
"What excuse could I have," I asked, "for feeling disappointed?"
"Well, I hear you are an official personage--I ought to say,
perhaps, a retired official personage. We might have received
you more respectfully, if _both_ my father's daughters had been
present at the station. It's not my fault that my sister was not
The tone in which she said this strengthened my prejudice against
her. It told me that the two girls were living together on no
very friendly terms; and it suggested--justly or unjustly I could
not then decide--that Miss Helena was to blame.
"My sister is away from home."
"Surely, Miss Helena, that is a good reason for her not coming
to meet me?"
"I beg your pardon--it is a bad reason. She has been sent away
for the recovery of her health--and the loss of her health is
entirely her own fault."
What did this matter to me? I decided on dropping the subject.
My memory reverted, however, to past occasions on which the loss
of _my_ health had been entirely my own fault. There was
something in these personal recollections, which encouraged
my perverse tendency to sympathize with a young lady to whom
I had not yet been introduced. The young lady's sister appeared
to be discouraged by my silence. She said: "I hope you don't
think the worse of me for what I have just mentioned?"
"Perhaps you will fail to see any need of my speaking of
my sister at all? Will you kindly listen, if I try to explain
She slyly set the best construction on my perfectly commonplace
"Thank you," she said. "The fact is, my father (I can't imagine
why) wishes you to see my sister as well as me. He has written
to the farmhouse at which she is now staying, to tell her to come
home to-morrow. It is possible--if your kindness offers me
an opportunity--that I may ask to be guided by your experience,
in a little matter which interests me. My sister is rash,
and reckless, and has a terrible temper. I should be very sorry
indeed if you were induced to form an unfavorable opinion of me,
from anything you might notice if you see us together. You
understand me, I hope?"
"I quite understand you."
To set me against her sister, in her own private interests--
there, as I felt sure, was the motive under which she was acting.
As hard as her mother, as selfish as her mother, and, judging
from those two bad qualities, probably as cruel as her mother.
That was how I understood Miss Helena Gracedieu, when our
carriage drew up at her father's house.
A middle-aged lady was on the doorstep, when we arrived, just
ringing the bell. She looked round at us both; being evidently
as complete a stranger to my fair companion as she was to me.
When the servant opened the door, she said:
"Is Miss Jillgall at home?"
At the sound of that odd name, Miss Helena tossed her head
disdainfully. She took no sort of notice of the stranger-lady
who was at the door of her father's house. This young person's
contempt for Miss Jillgall appeared to extend to Miss Jillgall's
In the meantime, the servant's answer was: "Not at home."
The middle aged lady said: "Do you expect her back soon?"
"I will call again, later in the day."
"What name, if you please?"
The lady stole another look at me, before she replied.
"Never mind the name," she said--and walked away.
THE MINISTER'S MISFORTUNE.
"Do you know that lady?" Miss Helena asked, as we entered
"She is a perfect stranger to me," I answered.
"Are you sure you have not forgotten her?"
"Why do you think I have forgotten her?"
"Because she evidently remembered you."
The lady had no doubt looked at me twice. If this meant that
my face was familiar to her, I could only repeat what I have
already said. Never, to my knowledge, had I seen her before.
Leading the way upstairs, Miss Helena apologized for taking me
into her father's bedroom. "He is able to sit up in an armchair,"
she said; "and he might do more, as I think, if he would exert
himself. He won't exert himself. Very sad. Would you like to look
at your room, before you see my father? It is quite ready for
you. We hope"--she favored me with a fascinating smile, devoted
to winning my heart when her interests required it--"we hope you
will pay us a long visit; we look on you as one of ourselves."
I thanked her, and said I would shake hands with my old friend
before I went to my room. We parted at the bedroom door.
It is out of my power to describe the shock that overpowered me
when I first saw the Minister again, after the long interval
of time that had separated us. Nothing that his daughter said,
nothing that I myself anticipated, had prepared me for that
lamentable change. For the moment, I was not sufficiently
master of myself to be able to speak to him. He added to my
embarrassment by the humility of his manner, and the formal
elaboration of his apologies.
"I feel painfully that I have taken a liberty with you," he said,
"after the long estrangement between us--for which my want of
Christian forbearance is to blame. Forgive it, sir, and forget
it. I hope to show that necessity justifies my presumption,
in subjecting you to a wearisome journey for my sake."
Beginning to recover myself, I begged that he would make no more
excuses. My interruption seemed to confuse him.
"I wished to say," he went on, "that you are the one man who
can understand me. There is my only reason for asking to see
you, and looking forward as I do to your advice. You remember
the night--or was it the day?--before that miserable woman was
hanged? You were the only person present when I agreed to adopt
the poor little creature, stained already (one may say) by
its mother's infamy. I think your wisdom foresaw what a terrible
responsibility I was undertaking; you tried to prevent it. Well!
well! you have been in my confidence--you only. Mind! nobody
in this house knows that one of the two girls is not really my
daughter. Pray stop me, if you find me wandering from the point.
My wish is to show that you are the only man I can open my heart
to. She--" He paused, as if in search of a lost idea, and left
the sentence uncompleted. "Yes," he went on, "I was thinking of
my adopted child. Did I ever tell you that I baptized her myself?
and by a good Scripture name too--Eunice. Ah, sir, that little
helpless baby is a grown-up girl now; of an age to inspire love,
and to feel love. I blush to acknowledge it; I have behaved with
a want of self-control, with a cowardly weakness.--No! I am,
indeed, wandering this time. I ought to have told you first that
I have been brought face to face with the possibility of Eunice's
marriage. And, to make it worse still, I can't help liking
the young man. He comes of a good family--excellent manners,
highly educated, plenty of money, a gentleman in every sense
of the word. And poor little Eunice is so fond of him! Isn't
it dreadful to be obliged to check her dearly-loved Philip?
The young gentleman's name is Philip. Do you like the name? I say
I am obliged to cheek her sweetheart in the rudest manner, when
all he wants to do is to ask me modestly for my sweet Eunice's
hand. Oh, what have I not suffered, without a word of sympathy
to comfort me, before I had courage enough to write to you! Shall
I make a dreadful confession? If my religious convictions had
not stood in my way, I believe I should have committed suicide.
Put yourself in my place. Try to see yourself shrinking from
a necessary explanation, when the happiness of a harmless girl
--so dutiful, so affectionate--depended on a word of kindness
from your lips. And that word you are afraid to speak! Don't
take offense, sir; I mean myself, not you. Why don't you say
omething?" he burst out fiercely, incapable of perceiving that
he had allowed me no opportunity of speaking to him. "Good God!
don't you understand me, after all?"
The signs of mental confusion in his talk had so distressed me,
that I had not been composed enough to feel sure of what he
really meant, until he described himself as "shrinking from
a necessary explanation." Hearing those words, my knowledge of
the circumstances helped me; I realized what his situation really
"Compose yourself," I said, "I understand you at last."
He had suddenly become distrustful.
"Prove it," he muttered, with a furtive look at me. "I want
to be satisfied that you understand my position."
"This is your position," I told him. "You are placed between
two deplorable alternatives. If you tell this young gentleman
that Miss Eunice's mother was a criminal hanged for murder,
his family--even if he himself doesn't recoil from it--will
unquestionably forbid the marriage; and your adopted daughter's
happiness will be the sacrifice."
"True!" he said. "Frightfully true! Go on."
"If, on the other hand, you sanction the marriage, and conceal
the truth, you commit a deliberate act of deceit; and you leave
the lives of the young couple at the mercy of a possible
discovery, which might part husband and wife--cast a slur
on their children--and break up the household."
He shuddered while he listened to me. "Come to the end of it,"
I had no more to say, and I was obliged to answer him to that
"No more to say?" he replied. "You have not told me yet what
I most want to know."
I did a rash thing; I asked what it was that he most wanted
"Can't you see it for yourself?" he demanded indignantly.
"Suppose you were put between those two alternatives which
you mentioned just now."
"What would you do, sir, in my place? Would you own the
disgraceful truth--before the marriage--or run the risk,
and keep the horrid story to yourself?"
Either way, my reply might lead to serious consequences.
He threatened me with his poor feeble hand. It was only the anger
of a moment; his humor changed to supplication. He reminded me
piteously of bygone days: "You used to be a kind-hearted man. Has
age hardened you? Have you no pity left for your old friend? My
poor heart is sadly in want of a word of wisdom, spoken kindly."
Who could have resisted this? I took his hand: "Be at ease, dear
Minister. In your place I should run the risk, and keep that
horrid story to myself."
He sank back gently in his chair. "Oh, the relief of it!" he
said. "How can I thank you as I ought for quieting my mind?"
I seized the opportunity of quieting his mind to good purpose by
suggesting a change of subject. "Let us have done with serious
talk for the present," I proposed. "I have been an idle man for
the last five years, and I want to tell you about my travels."
His attention began to wander, he evidently felt no interest
in my travels. "Are you sure," he asked anxiously, "that we have
said all we ought to say? No!" he cried, answering his own
question. "I believe I have forgotten something--I am certain
I have forgotten something. Perhaps I mentioned it in the letter
I wrote to you. Have you got my letter?"
I showed it to him. He read the letter, and gave it back to me
with a heavy sigh. "Not there!" he said despairingly. "Not
"Is the lost remembrance connected with anybody in the house?"
I asked, trying to help him. "Does it relate, by any chance,
to one of the young ladies?"
"You wonderful man! Nothing escapes you. Yes; the thing I have
forgotten concerns one of the girls. Stop! Let me get at it by
myself. Surely it relates to Helena?" He hesitated; his face
clouded over with an expression of anxious thought. "Yes; it
relates to Helena," he repeated "but how?" His eyes filled with
tears. "I am ashamed of my weakness," he said faintly. "You don't
know how dreadful it is to forget things in this way."
The injury that his mind had sustained now assumed an aspect
that was serious indeed. The subtle machinery, which stimulates
the memory, by means of the association of ideas, appeared to
have lost its working power in the intellect of this unhappy man.
I made the first suggestion that occurred to me, rather than add
to his distress by remaining silent.
"If we talk of your daughter," I said, "the merest accident--a
word spoken at random by. you or me--may be all your memory wants
to rouse it."
He agreed eagerly to this: "Yes! Yes! Let me begin. Helena met
you, I think, at the station. Of course, I remember that; it only
happened a few hours since. Well?" he went on, with a change
in his manner to parental pride, which it was pleasant to see,
"did you think my daughter a fine girl? I hope Helena didn't
"Quite the contrary." Having made that necessary reply, I saw
my way to keeping his mind occupied by a harmless subject.
"It must, however, be owned," I went on, "that your daughter
"In what way?"
"When she mentioned her name. Who could have supposed that
you--an inveterate enemy to the Roman Catholic Church--would have
christened your daughter by the name of a Roman Catholic Saint?"
He listened to this with a smile. Had I happily blundered on some
association which his mind was still able to pursue?
"You happen to be wrong this time," he said pleasantly. "I never
gave my girl the name of Helena; and, what is more, I never
baptized her. You ought to know that. Years and years ago, I
wrote to tell you that my poor wife had made me a proud and happy
father. And surely I said that the child was born while she was
on a visit to her brother's rectory. Do you remember the name of
the place? I told you it was a remote little village, called--
Suppose we put _your_ memory to a test? Can you remember the
name?" he asked, with a momentary appearance of triumph showing
itself, poor fellow, in his face.
After the time that had elapsed, the name had slipped my memory.
When I confessed this, he exulted over me, with an unalloyed
pleasure which it was cheering to see.
"_Your_ memory is failing you now," he said. "The name is Long
Lanes. And what do you think my wife did--this is so
characteristic of her!--when I presented myself at her bedside.
Instead of speaking of our own baby, she reminded me of the name
that I had given to our adopted daughter when I baptized the
child. 'You chose the ugliest name that a girl can have,' she
said. I begged her to remember that 'Eunice' was a name in
Scripture. She persisted in spite of me. (What firmness of
character!) 'I detest the name of Eunice!' she said; 'and now
that I have a girl of my own, it's my turn to choose the name;
I claim it as my right.' She was beginning to get excited;
I allowed her to have her own way, of course. 'Only let me know,'
I said, 'what the name is to be when you have thought of it.'
My dear sir, she had the name ready, without thinking about it:
'My baby shall be called by the name that is sweetest in my ears,
the name of my dear lost mother.' We had--what shall I call it?--
a slight difference of opinion when I heard that the name was to
be Helena. I really could _not_ reconcile it to my conscience to
baptize a child of mine by the name of a Popish saint. My wife's
brother set things right between us. A worthy good man; he died
not very long ago--I forget the date. Not to detain you any
longer, the rector of Long Lanes baptized our daughter. That
is how she comes by her un-English name; and so it happens that
her birth is registered in a village which her father has never
inhabited. I hope, sir, you think a little better of my memory
I was afraid to tell him what I really did think.
He was not fifty years old yet; and he had just exhibited one
of the sad symptoms which mark the broken memory of old age.
Lead him back to the events of many years ago, and (as he had
just proved to me) he could remember well and relate coherently.
But let him attempt to recall circumstances which had only
taken place a short time since, and forgetfulness and confusion
presented the lamentable result, just as I have related it.
The effort that he had made, the agitation that he had undergone
in talking to me, had confirmed my fears that he would overtask
his wasted strength. He lay back in his chair. "Let us go on with
our conversation," he murmured. "We haven't recovered what I had
forgotten, yet." His eyes closed, and opened again languidly.
"There was something I wanted to recall--" he resumed, "and you
were helping me." His weak voice died away; his weary eyes closed
again. After waiting until there could be no doubt that he was
resting peacefully in sleep, I left the room.
THE LIVELY OLD MAID.
A perfect stranger to the interior of the house (seeing that
my experience began and ended with the Minister's bedchamber),
I descended the stairs, in the character of a guest in search
of domestic information.
On my way down, I heard the door of a room on the ground floor
opened, and a woman' s voice below, speaking in a hurry: "My
dear, I have not a moment to spare; my patients are waiting for
me." This was followed by a confidential communication, judging
by the tone. "Mind! not a word about me to that old gentleman!"
Her patients were waiting for her--had I discovered a female
doctor? And there was some old gentleman whom she was not willing
to trust--surely I was not that much-injured man?
Reaching the hall just as the lady said her last words, I caught
a glimpse of her face, and discovered the middle-aged stranger
who had called on "Miss Jillgall," and had promised to repeat her
visit. A second lady was at the door, with her back to me, taking
leave of her friend. Having said good-by, she turned round--and
we confronted each other.
I found her to be a little person, wiry and active; past the
prime of life, and ugly enough to encourage prejudice, in persons
who take a superficial view of their fellow-creatures. Looking
impartially at the little sunken eyes which rested on me with
a comical expression of embarrassment, I saw signs that said:
There is some good here, under a disagreeable surface, if you can
only find it.
She saluted me with a carefully-performed curtsey, and threw open
the door of a room on the ground floor.
"Pray walk in, sir, and permit me to introduce myself. I am
Mr. Gracedieu's cousin--Miss Jillgall. Proud indeed to make
the acquaintance of a gentleman distinguished in the service
of his country--or perhaps I ought to say, in the service of
the Law. The Governor offers hospitality to prisoners. And who
introduces prisoners to board and lodging with the Governor?
--the Law. Beautiful weather for the time of year, is it not?
May I ask--have you seen your room?"
The embarrassment which I had already noticed had extended by
this time to her voice and her manner. She was evidently trying
to talk herself into a state of confidence. It seemed but too
probable that I was indeed the person mentioned by her prudent
friend at the door.
Having acknowledged that I had not seen my room yet, my
politeness attempted to add that there was no hurry. The wiry
little lady was of the contrary opinion; she jumped out of
her chair as if she had been shot out of it. "Pray let me make
myself useful. The dream of my life is to make myself useful
to others; and to such a man as you--I consider myself honored.
Besides, I do enjoy running up and down stairs. This way, dear
sir; this way to your room."
She skipped up the stairs, and stopped on the first landing.
"Do you know, I am a timid person, though I may not look like it.
Sometimes, curiosity gets the better of me--and then I grow bold.
Did you notice a lady who was taking leave of me just now at
the house door?"
I replied that I had seen the lady for a moment, but not for
the first time. "Just as I arrived here from the station,"
I said, "I found her paying a visit when you were not at home."
"Yes--and do tell me one thing more." My readiness in answering
seemed to have inspired Miss Jillgall with confidence. I heard
no more confessions of overpowering curiosity. "Am I right,"
she proceeded, "in supposing that Miss Helena accompanied you
on your way here from the station?"
"Did she say anything particular, when she saw the lady asking
for me at the door?"
"Miss Helena thought," I said, "that the lady recognized me as
a person whom she had seen before."
"And what did you think yourself?"
"I thought Miss Helena was wrong."
"Very extraordinary!" With that remark, Miss Jillgall dropped
the subject. The meaning of her reiterated inquiries was now,
as it seemed to me, clear enough. She was eager to discover
how I could have inspired the distrust of me, expressed in
the caution addressed to her by her friend.
When we reached the upper floor, she paused before the Minister's
"I believe many years have passed," she said, "since you last saw
Mr. Gracedieu. I am afraid you have found him a sadly changed
man? You won't be angry with me, I hope, for asking more
questions? I owe Mr. Gracedieu a debt of gratitude which no
devotion, on my part, can ever repay. You don't know what a favor
I shall consider it, if you will tell me what you think of him.
Did it seem to you that he was not quite himself? I don't mean
in his looks, poor dear--I mean in his mind."
There was true sorrow and sympathy in her face. I believe
I should hardly have thought her ugly, if we had first met at
that moment. Thus far, she had only amused me. I began really
to like Miss Jillgall now.
"I must not conceal from you," I replied, "that the state of Mr.
Gracedieu's mind surprised and distressed me. But I ought also
to tell you that I saw him perhaps at his worst. The subject
on which he wished to speak with me would have agitated any man,
in his state of health. He consulted me about his daughter's
Miss Jillgall suddenly turned pale.
"His daughter's marriage?" she repeated. "Oh, you frighten me!"
"Why should I frighten you?"
She seemed to find some difficulty in expressing herself.
"I hardly know how to put it, sir. You will excuse me (won't
you?) if I say what I feel. You have influence--not the sort
of influence that finds places for people who don't deserve them,
and gets mentioned in the newspapers--I only mean influence
over Mr. Gracedieu. That's what frightens me. How do I know--?
Oh, dear, I'm asking another question! Allow me, for once,
to be plain and positive. I'm afraid, sir, you have encouraged
the Minister to consent to Helena's marriage."
"Pardon me," I answered, "you mean Eunice's marriage."
"No, sir! Helena."
"No, madam! Eunice."
"What does he mean?" said Miss Jillgall to herself.
I heard her. "This is what I mean," I asserted, in my most
positive manner. "The only subject on which the Minister
has consulted me is Miss Eunice's marriage."
My tone left her no alternative but to believe me. She looked not
only bewildered, but alarmed. "Oh, poor man, has he lost himself
in such a dreadful way as that?" she said to herself. "I daren't
believe it!" She turned to me. "You have been talking with him
for some time. Please try to remember. While Mr. Gracedieu was
speaking of Euneece, did he say nothing of Helena's infamous
conduct to her sister?"
Not the slightest hint of any such thing, I assured her, had
reached my ears.
"Then," she cried, "I can tell you what he has forgotten! We
kept as much of that miserable story to ourselves as we could,
in mercy to him. Besides, he was always fondest of Euneece; she
would live in his memory when he had forgotten the other--the
wretch, the traitress, the plotter, the fiend!" Miss Jillgall's
good manners slipped, as it were, from under her; she clinched
her fists as a final means of expressing her sentiments.
"The wretched English language isn't half strong enough for me,"
she declared with a look of fury.
I took a liberty. "May I ask what Miss Helena has done?" I said.
"_May_ you ask? Oh, Heavens! you must ask, you shall ask. Mr.
Governor, if your eyes are not opened to Helena's true character,
I can tell you what she will do; she will deceive you into taking
her part. Do you think she went to the station out of regard for
the great man? Pooh! she went with an eye to her own interests;
and she means to make the great man useful. Thank God, I can stop
She checked herself there, and looked suspiciously at the door
of Mr. Gracedieu's room.
"In the interest of our conversation," she whispered, "we have
not given a thought to the place we have been talking in. Do you
think the Minister has heard us?"
"Not if he is asleep--as I left him,"
Miss Jillgall shook her head ominously. "The safe way is this
way," she said. "Come with me."
THE FUTURE LOOKS GLOOMY.
My ever-helpful guide led me to my room--well out of Mr.
Gracedieu's hearing, if he happened to be awake--at the other
end of the passage. Having opened the door, she paused on
the threshold. The decrees of that merciless English despot,
Propriety, claimed her for their own. "Oh, dear!" she said
to herself, "ought I to go in?"
My interest as a man (and, what is more, an old man) in
the coming disclosure was too serious to be trifled with in
this way. I took her arm, and led her into my room as if I was
at a dinner-party, leading her to the table. Is it the good or
the evil fortune of mortals that the comic side of life, and
the serious side of life, are perpetually in collision with each
other? We burst out laughing, at a moment of grave importance to
us both. Perfectly inappropriate, and perfectly natural. But we
were neither of us philosophers, and we were ashamed of our own
merriment the moment it had ceased.
"When you hear what I have to tell you," Miss Jillgall began,
"I hope you will think as I do. What has slipped Mr. Gracedieu's
memory, it may be safer to say--for he is sometimes irritable,
poor dear--where he won't know anything about it."
With that she told the lamentable story of the desertion of
In silence I listened, from first to last. How could I trust
myself to speak, as I must have spoken, in the presence of
a woman? The cruel injury inflicted on the poor girl, who
had interested and touched me in the first innocent year of
her life--who had grown to womanhood to be the victim of two
wretches, both trusted by her, both bound to her by the sacred
debt of love--so fired my temper that I longed to be within reach
of the man, with a horsewhip in my hand. Seeing in my face, as
I suppose, what was passing in my mind, Miss Jillgall expressed
sympathy and admiration in her own quaint way: "Ah, I like to see
you so angry! It's grand to know that a man who has governed
prisoners has got such a pitying heart. Let me tell you one
thing, sir. You will be more angry than ever, when you see my
sweet girl to-morrow. And mind this--it is Helena's devouring
vanity, Helena's wicked jealousy of her sister's good fortune,
that has done the mischief. Don't be too hard on Philip? I do
believe, if the truth was told, he is ashamed of himself."
I felt inclined to be harder on Philip than ever. "Where is he?"
Miss Jillgall started. "Oh, Mr. Governor, don't show the severe
side of yourself, after the pretty compliment I have just paid
to you! What a masterful voice! and what eyes, dear sir; what
terrifying eyes! I feel as if I was one of your prisoners, and
had misbehaved myself."
I repeated my question with improvement, I hope, in my looks and
tones: "Don't think me obstinate, my dear lady. I only want to
know if he is in this town."
Miss Jillgall seemed to take a curious pleasure in disappointing
me; she had not forgotten my unfortunate abruptness of look and
manner. "You won't find him here," she said.
"Perhaps he has left England?"
"If you must know, sir, he is in London--with Mr. Dunboyne."
The name startled me.
In a moment more it recalled to my memory a remarkable letter,
addressed to me many years ago, which will be found in
my introductory narrative. The writer--an Irish gentleman,
named Dunboyne confided to me that his marriage had associated
him with the murderess, who had then been recently executed, as
brother-in-law to that infamous woman. This circumstance he had
naturally kept a secret from every one, including his son, then
a boy. I alone was made an exception to the general rule, because
I alone could tell him what had become of the poor little girl,
who in spite of the disgraceful end of her mother was still
his niece. If the child had not been provided for, he felt it
his duty to take charge of her education, and to watch over
her prospects in the future. Such had been his object in writing
to me; and such was the substance of his letter. I had merely
informed him, in reply, that his kind intentions had been
anticipated, and that the child's prosperous future was assured.
Miss Jillgall's keen observation noticed the impression that had
been produced upon me. "Mr. Dunboyne's name seems to surprise
you." she said.
"This is the first time I have heard you mention it," I answered.
She looked as if she could hardly believe me. "Surely you must
have heard the name," she said, "when I told you about poor
"Well, then, Mr. Gracedieu must have mentioned it?"
This second reply in the negative irritated her.
"At any rate," she said, sharply, "you appeared to know Mr.
Dunboyne's name, just now."
"And yet," she persisted, "the name seemed to come upon you as
a surprise. I don't understand it. If I have mentioned Philip's
name once, I have mentioned it a dozen times."
We were completely at cross-purposes. She had taken something
for granted which was an unfathomable mystery to me.
"Well," I objected, "if you did mention his name a dozen
times--excuse me for asking the question---what then?"
"Good heavens!" cried Miss Jillgall, "do you mean to say you
never guessed that Philip was Mr. Dunboyne's son?"
I was petrified.
His son! Dunboyne's son! How could I have guessed it?
At a later time only, the good little creature who had so
innocently deceived me, remembered that the mischief might have
been wrought by the force of habit. While he had still a claim
on their regard the family had always spoken of Eunice's unworthy
lover by his Christian name; and what had been familiar in their
mouths felt the influence of custom, before time enough had
elapsed to make them think as readily of the enemy as they had
hitherto thought of the friend.
But I was ignorant of this: and the disclosure by which I found
myself suddenly confronted was more than I could support. For
the moment, speech was beyond me.
His son! Dunboyne's son!
What a position that young man had occupied, unsuspected by
his father, unknown to himself! kept in ignorance of the family
disgrace, he had been a guest in the house of the man who had
consoled his infamous aunt on the eve of her execution--who had
saved his unhappy cousin from poverty, from sorrow, from shame.
And but one human being knew this. And that human being was
Observing my agitation, Miss Jillgall placed her own construction
"Do you know anything bad of Philip?" she asked eagerly. "If it's
something that will prevent Helena from marrying him, tell me
what it is, I beg and pray."
I knew no more of "Philip" (whom she still called by his
Christian name!) than she had told me herself: there was no help
for it but to disappoint her. At the same time I was unable
to conceal that I was ill at ease, and that it might be well
to leave me by myself. After a look round the bedchamber to see
that nothing was wanting to my comfort, she made her quaint
curtsey, and left me with her own inimitable form of farewell.
"Oh, indeed, I have been here too long! And I'm afraid I have
been guilty, once or twice, of vulgar familiarity. You will
excuse me, I hope. This has been an exciting interview--I think
I am going to cry."
She ran out of the room; and carried away with her some of
my kindliest feelings, short as the time of our acquaintance
had been. What a wife and what a mother was lost there--and all
for want of a pretty face!
Left alone, my thoughts inevitably reverted to Dunboyne the
elder, and to all that had happened in Mr. Gracedieu's family
since the Irish gentleman had written to me in bygone years.
The terrible choice of responsibilities which had preyed on
the Minister's mind had been foreseen by Mr. Dunboyne, when he
first thought of adopting his infant niece, and had warned him
to dread what might happen in the future, if he brought her up
as a member of the family with his own boy, and if the two young
people became at a later period attached to each other. How had
the wise foresight, which offered such a contrast to the poor
Minister's impulsive act of mercy, met with its reward? Fate
or Providence (call it which we may) had brought Dunboyne's son
and the daughter of the murderess together; had inspired those
two strangers with love; and had emboldened them to plight
their troth by a marriage engagement. Was the man's betrayal
of the trust placed in him by the faithful girl to be esteemed
a fortunate circumstance by the two persons who knew the true
story of her parentage, the Minister and myself? Could we rejoice
in an act of infidelity which had embittered and darkened
the gentle harmless life of the victim? Or could we, on the other
hand, encourage the ruthless deceit, the hateful treachery, which
had put the wicked Helena--with no exposure to dread if _she_
married--into her wronged sister's place? Impossible! In the one
case as in the other, impossible!
Equally hopeless did the prospect appear, when I tried to
determine what my own individual course of action ought to be.
In my calmer moments, the idea had occurred to my mind of going
to Dunboyne the younger, and, if he had any sense of shame left,
exerting my influence to lead him back to his betrothed wife. How
could I now do this, consistently with my duty to the young man's
father; knowing what I knew, and not forgetting that I had myself
advised Mr. Gracedieu to keep the truth concealed, when I was
equally ignorant of Philip Dunboyne's parentage and of Helena
Even if events so ordered it that the marriage of Eunice might
yet take place--without any interference exerted to produce that
result, one way or the other, on my part--it would be just as
impossible for me to speak out now, as it had been in the
long-past years when I had so cautiously answered Mr. Dunboyne's
letter. But what would he think of me if accident led, sooner or
later, to the disclosure which I had felt bound to conceal? The
more I tried to forecast the chances of the future, the darker
and the darker was the view that faced me.
To my sinking heart and wearied mind, good Dame Nature presented
a more acceptable prospect, when I happened to look out of
the window of my room. There I saw the trees and flowerbeds of
a garden, tempting me irresistibly under the cloudless sunshine
of a fine day. I was on my way out, to recover heart and hope,
when a knock at the door stopped me.
Had Miss Jillgall returned? When I said "Come in," Mr. Gracedieu
opened the door, and entered the room.
He was so weak that he staggered as he approached me. Leading him
to a chair, I noticed a wild look in his eyes, and a flush on
his haggard cheeks. Something had happened.
"When you were with me in my room," he began, "did I not tell you
that I had forgotten something?"
"Certainly you did."
"Well, I have found the lost remembrance. My misfortune--I ought
to call it the punishment for my sins, is recalled to me now.
The worst curse that can fall on a father is the curse that has
come to me. I have a wicked daughter. My own child, sir! my own
Had he been awake, while Miss Jillgall and I had been talking
outside his door? Had he heard her ask me if Mr. Gracedieu had
said nothing of Helena's infamous conduct to her sister, while
he was speaking of Eunice? The way to the lost remembrance had
perhaps been found there. In any case, after that bitter allusion
to his "wicked daughter" some result must follow. Helena
Gracedieu and a day of reckoning might be nearer to each other
already than I had ventured to hope.
I waited anxiously for what he might say to me next.
THE WANDERING MIND.
For the moment, the Minister disappointed me.
Without speaking, without even looking up, he took out his
pocketbook, and began to write in it. Constantly interrupted
either by a trembling in the hand that held the pencil, or by
a difficulty (as I imagined) in expressing thoughts imperfectly
realized--his patience gave way; he dashed the book on the floor.
"My mind is gone!" he burst out. "Oh, Father in Heaven, let death
deliver me from a body without a mind!"
Who could hear him, and be guilty of the cruelty of preaching
self-control? I picked up the pocketbook, and offered to help
"Do you think you can?" he asked.
"I can at least try."
"Good fellow! What should I do without you? See now; here is
my difficulty. I have got so many things to say, I want to
separate them--or else they will all run into each other. Look
at the book," my poor friend said mournfully; "they have run
into each other in spite of me."
The entries proved to be nearly incomprehensible. Here and there
I discovered some scattered words, which showed themselves more
or less distinctly in the midst of the surrounding confusion.
The first word that I could make out was "Education." Helped
by that hint, I trusted to guess-work to guide me in speaking
to him. It was necessary to be positive, or he would have lost
all faith in me.
"Well?" he said impatiently.
"Well," I answered, "you have something to say to me about
the education which you have given to your daughters."
"Don't put them together!" he cried. "Dear, patient, sweet Eunice
must not be confounded with that she-devil--"
"Hush, hush, Mr. Gracedieu! Badly as Miss Helena has behaved,
she is your own child."
"I repudiate her, sir! Think for a moment of what she has done
--and then think of the religious education that I have given
her. Heartless! Deceitful! The most ignorant creature in the
lowest dens of this town could have done nothing more basely
cruel. And this, after years on years of patient Christian
instruction on my part! What is religion? What is education?
I read a horrible book once (I forget who was the author);
it called religion superstition, and education empty form.
I don't know; upon my word I don't know that the book may not
--Oh, my tongue! Why don't I keep a guard over my tongue? Are you
a father, too? Don't interrupt me. Put yourself in my place,
and think of it. Heartless, deceitful, and _my_ daughter. Give me
the pocketbook; I want to see which memorandum comes first."
He had now wrought himself into a state of excitement, which
relieved his spirits of the depression that had weighed on them
up to this time. His harmless vanity, always, as I suspect,
a latent quality in his kindly nature, had already restored
his confidence. With a self-sufficient smile he consulted his own
unintelligible entries, and made his own wild discoveries.
"Ah, yes; 'M' stands for Minister; I come first. Am I to blame?
Am I--God forgive me my many sins--am I heartless? Am I
"My good friend, not even your enemies could say that!"
"Thank you. Who comes next?" He consulted the book again. "Her
mother, her sainted mother, comes next. People say she is like
her mother. Was my wife heartless? Was the angel of my life
("That," I thought to myself, "is exactly what your wife was--and
exactly what reappears in your wife's child.")
"Where does her wickedness come from?" he went on. "Not from her
mother; not from me; not from a neglected education." He suddenly
stepped up to me and laid his hands on my shoulders; his voice
dropped to hoarse, moaning, awestruck tones. "Shall I tell you
what it is? A possession of the devil."
It was so evidently desirable to prevent any continuation of
such a train of thought as this, that I could feel no hesitation
in interrupting him.
"Will you hear what I have to say?" I asked bluntly.
His humor changed again; he made me a low bow, and went back to
his chair. "I will hear you with pleasure," he answered politely.
"You are the most eloquent man I know, with one exception--
myself. Of course--myself."
"It is mere waste of time," I continued, "to regret the excellent
education which your daughter has misused." Making that reply,
I was tempted to add another word of truth. All education is
at the mercy of two powerful counter-influences: the influence
of temperament, and the influence of circumstances. But this was
philosophy. How could I expect him to submit to philosophy?
"What we know of Miss Helena," I went on, "must be enough for us.
She has plotted, and she means to succeed. Stop her."
"Just my idea!" he declared firmly. "I refuse my consent to that
In the popular phrase, I struck while the iron was hot. "You must
do more than that, sir," I told him.
His vanity suddenly took the alarm--I was leading him rather too
undisguisedly. He handed his book back to me. "You will find,"
he said loftily, "that I have put it all down there."
I pretended to find it, and read an imaginary entry to this
effect: "After what she has already done, Helena is capable
of marrying in defiance of my wishes and commands. This must be
considered and provided against." So far, I had succeeded in
flattering him. But when (thinking of his paternal authority)
I alluded next to his daughter's age, his eyes rested on me with
a look of downright terror.
"No more of that!" he said. "I won't talk of the girls' ages
even with you."
What did he mean? It was useless to ask. I went on with the
matter in hand--still deliberately speaking to him, as I might
have spoken to a man with an intellect as clear as my own.
In my experience, this practice generally stimulates a weak
intelligence to do its best. We all know how children receive
talk that is lowered, or books that are lowered, to their
"I shall take it for granted," I continued, "that Miss Helena
is still under your lawful authority. She can only arrive at her
ends by means of a runaway marriage. In that case, much depends
on the man. You told me you couldn't help liking him. This was,
of course, before you knew of the infamous manner in which he
has behaved. You must have changed your opinion now."
He seemed to be at a loss how to reply. "I am afraid," he said,
"the young man was drawn into it by Helena."
Here was Miss Jillgall's apology for Philip Dunboyne repeated in
other words. Despising and detesting the fellow as I did, I was
forced to admit to myself that he must be recommended by personal
attractions which it would be necessary to reckon with. I tried
to get some more information from Mr. Gracedieu.
"The excuse you have just made for him," I resumed, "implies that
he is a weak man; easily persuaded, easily led."
The Minister answered by nodding his head.
"Such weakness as that," I persisted, "is a vice in itself.
It has led already, sir, to the saddest results."
He admitted this by another nod.
"I don't wish to shock you, Mr. Gracedieu; but I must recommend
employing the means that present themselves. You must practice
on this man's weakness, for the sake of the good that may come
of it. I hear he is in London with his father. Try the strong
influence, and write to his father. There is another reason
besides for doing this. It is quite possible that the truth
has been concealed from Mr. Dunboyne the elder. Take care that
he is informed of what has really happened. Are you looking
for pen, ink, and paper? Let me offer you the writing materials
which I use in traveling."
I placed them before him. He took up the pen; he arranged
the paper; he was eager to begin.
After writing a few words, he stopped--reflected--tried
again--stopped again--tore up the little that he had done--and
began a new letter, ending in the same miserable result. It was
impossible to witness his helplessness, to see how pitiably
patient he was over his own incapacity, and to let the melancholy
spectacle go on. I proposed to write the letter; authenticating
it, of course, by his signature. When he allowed me to take
the pen, he turned away his face, ashamed to let me see what
he suffered. Was this the same man, whose great nature had so
nobly asserted itself in the condemned cell? Poor mortality!
The letter was easily written.
I had only to inform Mr. Dunboyne of his son's conduct;
repeating, in the plainest language that I could use, what
Miss Jillgall had related to me. Arrived at the conclusion,
I contrived to make Mr. Gracedieu express himself in these strong
terms: "I protest against the marriage in justice to you, sir, as
well as to myself. We can neither of us content to be accomplices
in an act of domestic treason of the basest kind."
In silence, the Minister read the letter, and attached his
signature to it. In silence, he rose and took my arm. I asked
if he wished to go to his room. He only replied by a sign.
I offered to sit with him, and try to cheer him. Gratefully,
he pressed my hand: gently, he put me back from the door. Crushed
by the miserable discovery of the decay of his own faculties!
What could I do? what could I say? Nothing!
Miss Jillgall was in the drawing-room. With the necessary
explanations, I showed her the letter. She read it with
breathless interest. "It terrifies one to think how much depends
on old Mr. Dunboyne," she said. "You know him. What sort of man
I could only assure her (after what I remembered of his letter
to me) that he was a man whom we could depend upon.
Miss Jillgall possessed treasures of information to which I could
lay no claim. Mr. Dunboyne, she told me, was a scholar, and
a writer, and a rich man. His views on marriage were liberal in
the extreme. Let his son find good principles, good temper, and
good looks, in a wife, and he would promise to find the money.
"I get these particulars," said Miss Jillgall, "from dear
Euneece. They are surely encouraging? That Helena may carry out
Mr. Dunboyne's views in her personal appearance is, I regret
to say, what I can't deny. But as to the other qualifications,
how hopeful is the prospect! Good principles, and good temper?
Ha! ha! Helena has the principles of Jezebel, and the temper of
After dashing off this striking sketch of character, the fair
artist asked to look at my letter again, and observed that
the address was wanting. "I can set this right for you," she
resumed, "thanks, as before, to my sweet Euneece. And (don't
be in a hurry) I can make myself useful in another way. Oh, how
I do enjoy making myself useful! If you trust your letter to the
basket in the hall, Helena's lovely eyes--capable of the meanest
conceivable actions--are sure to take a peep at the address.
In that case, do you think your letter would get to London?
I am afraid you detect a faint infusion of spitefulness in
that question. Oh, for shame! I'll post the letter myself."
THE SHAMELESS SISTER.
For some reason, which my unassisted penetration was unable
to discover, Miss Helena Gracedieu kept out of my way.
At dinner, on the day of my arrival, and at breakfast on the next