Part 5 out of 8
morning, she was present of course; ready to make herself
agreeable in a modest way, and provided with the necessary supply
of cheerful small-talk. But the meal having come to an end, she
had her domestic excuse ready, and unostentatiously disappeared
like a well-bred young lady. I never met her on the stairs, never
found myself intruding on her in the drawing-room, never caught
her getting out of my way in the garden. As much at a loss for an
explanation of these mysteries as I was, Miss Jillgall's interest
in my welfare led her to caution me in a vague and general way.
"Take my word for it, dear Mr. Governor, she has some design
on you. Will you allow an insignificant old maid to offer
a suggestion? Oh, thank you; I will venture to advise. Please
look back at your experience of the very worst female prisoner
you ever had to deal with--and be guided accordingly if Helena
catches you at a private interview."
In less than half an hour afterward, Helena caught me. I was
writing in my room, when the maidservant came in with a message:
"Miss Helena's compliments, sir, and would you please spare her
half an hour, downstairs?"
My first excuse was of course that I was engaged. This was
disposed of by a second message, provided beforehand, no doubt,
for an anticipated refusal: "Miss Helena wished me to say, sir,
that her time is your time." I was still obstinate; I pleaded
next that my day was filled up. A third message had evidently
been prepared, even for this emergency: "Miss Helena will regret,
sir, having the pleasure deferred, but she will leave you to make
your own appointment for to-morrow." Persistency so inveterate as
this led to a result which Mr. Gracedieu's cautious daughter had
not perhaps contemplated: it put me on my guard. There seemed to
be a chance, to say the least of it, that I might serve Eunice's
interests if I discovered what the enemy had to say. I locked up
my writing--declared myself incapable of putting Miss Helena to
needless inconvenience--and followed the maid to the lower floor
of the house.
The room to which I was conducted proved to be empty. I looked
If I had been told that a man lived there who was absolutely
indifferent to appearances, I should have concluded that
his views were faithfully represented by his place of abode.
The chairs and tables reminded me of a railway waiting-room.
The shabby little bookcase was the mute record of a life
indifferent to literature. The carpet was of that dreadful drab
color, still the cherished favorite of the average English mind,
in spite of every protest that can be entered against it,
on behalf of Art. The ceiling, recently whitewashed; made my eyes
ache when they looked at it. On either side of the window,
flaccid green curtains hung helplessly with nothing to loop them
up. The writing-desk and the paper-case, viewed as specimens
of woodwork, recalled the ready-made bedrooms on show in cheap
shops. The books, mostly in slate-colored bindings, were devoted
to the literature which is called religious; I only discovered
three worldly publications among them--Domestic Cookery,
Etiquette for Ladies, and Hints on the Breeding of Poultry.
An ugly little clock, ticking noisily in a black case, and two
candlesticks of base metal placed on either side of it, completed
the ornaments on the chimney-piece. Neither pictures nor prints
hid the barrenness of the walls. I saw no needlework and no
flowers. The one object in the place which showed any pretensions
to beauty was a looking-glass in an elegant gilt frame--sacred to
vanity, and worthy of the office that it filled. Such was Helena
Gracedieu's sitting-room. I really could not help thinking: How
She came in with a face perfectly adapted to the circumstances
--pleased and smiling; amiably deferential, in consideration of
the claims of her father's guest--and, to my surprise, in some
degree suggestive of one of those incorrigible female prisoners,
to whom Miss Jillgall had referred me when she offered a word
"How kind of you to come so soon! Excuse my receiving you
in my housekeeping-room; we shall not be interrupted here.
Very plainly furnished, is it not? I dislike ostentation
and display. Ornaments are out of place in a room devoted to
domestic necessities. I hate domestic necessities. You notice
the looking-glass? It's a present. I should never have put
such a thing up. Perhaps my vanity excuses it."
She pointed the last remark by a look at herself in the glass;
using it, while she despised it. Yes: there was a handsome face,
paying her its reflected compliment--but not so well matched as
it might have been by a handsome figure. Her feet were too large;
her shoulders were too high; the graceful undulations of
a well-made girl were absent when she walked; and her bosom was,
to my mind, unduly developed for her time of life.
She sat down by me with her back to the light. Happening to be
opposite to the window, I offered her the advantage of a clear
view of my face. She waited for me, and I waited for her--and
there was an awkward pause before we spoke. She set the example.
"Isn't it curious?" she remarked. "When two people have something
particular to say to each other, and nothing to hinder them,
they never seem to know how to say it. You are the oldest, sir.
Why don't you begin?"
"Because I have nothing particular to say."
"In plain words, you mean that I must begin?"
"If you please."
"Very well. I want to know whether I have given you (and Miss
Jillgall, of course) as much time as you want, and as many
opportunities as you could desire?"
"Pray go on, Miss Helena."
"Have I not said enough already?"
"Not enough, I regret to say, to convey your meaning to me."
She drew her chair a little further away from me. "I am sadly
disappointed," she said. "I had such a high opinion of your
perfect candor. I thought to myself: There is such a striking
expression of frankness in his face. Another illusion gone!
I hope you won't think I am offended, if I say a bold word.
I am only a young girl, to be sure; but I am not quite such
a fool as you take me for. Do you really think I don't know that
Miss Jillgall has been telling you everything that is bad about
me; putting every mistake that I have made, every fault that
I have committed, in the worst possible point of view? And you
have listened to her--quite naturally! And you are prejudiced,
strongly prejudiced, against me--what else could you be, under
the circumstances? I don't complain; I have purposely kept out
of your way, and out of Miss Jillgall's way; in short, I have
afforded you every facility, as the prospectuses say. I only want
to know if my turn has come at last. Once more, have I given you
time enough, and opportunities enough?"
"A great deal more than enough."
"Do you mean that you have made up your mind about me without
stopping to think?"
"That is exactly what I mean. An act of treachery, Miss Helena,
_is_ an act of treachery; no honest person need hesitate to
condemn it. I am sorry you sent for me."
I got up to go. With an ironical gesture of remonstrance,
she signed to me to sit down again.
"Must I remind you, dear sir, of our famous native virtue? Fair
play is surely due to a young person who has nobody to take
her part. You talked of treachery just how. I deny the treachery.
Please give me a hearing."
I returned to my chair.
"Or would you prefer waiting," she went out, "till my sister
comes here later in the day, and continues what Miss Jillgall has
begun, with the great advantage of being young and nice-looking?"
When the female mind gets into this state, no wise man answers
the female questions.
"Am I to take silence as meaning Go on?" Miss Helena inquired.
I begged her to interpret my silence in the sense most agreeable
This naturally encouraged her. She made a proposal:
"Do you mind changing places, sir?"
"Just as you like, Miss Helena."
We changed chairs; the light now fell full on her face. Had
she deliberately challenged me to look into her secret mind
if I could? Anything like the stark insensibility of that young
girl to every refinement of feeling, to every becoming doubt
of herself, to every customary timidity of her age and sex
in the presence of a man who had not disguised his unfavorable
opinion of her, I never met with in all my experience of
the world and of women.
"I wish to be quite mistress of myself," she explained; "your
face, for some reason which I really don't know, irritates me.
The fact is, I have great pride in keeping my temper. Please make
allowances. Now about Miss Jillgall. I suppose she told you how
my sister first met with Philip Dunboyne?"
"She also mentioned, perhaps, that he was a highly-cultivated
"Now we shall get on. When Philip came to our town here, and saw
me for the first time--Do you object to my speaking familiarly
of him, by his Christian name?"
"In the case of any one else in your position, Miss Helena,
I should venture to call it bad taste."
I was provoked into saying that. It failed entirely as
a well-meant effort in the way of implied reproof. Miss Helena
"You grant me a liberty which you would not concede to another
girl." That was how she viewed it. "We are getting on better
already. To return to what I was saying. When Philip first saw
me--I have it from himself, mind--he felt that I should have been
his choice, if he had met with me before he met with my sister.
Do you blame him?"
"If you will take my advice," I said, "you will not inquire
too closely into my opinion of Mr. Philip Dunboyne."
"Perhaps you don't wish me to say anymore?" she suggested.
"On the contrary, pray go on, if you like."
After that concession, she was amiability itself. "Oh, yes," she
assured me, "that's easily done." And she went on accordingly:
"Philip having informed me of the state of his affections,
I naturally followed his example. In fact, we exchanged
confessions. Our marriage engagement followed as a matter
of course. Do you blame me?"
"I will wait till you have done."
"I have no more to say."
She made that amazing reply with such perfect composure, that
I began to fear there must have been some misunderstanding
between us. "Is that really all you have to say for yourself?"
Her patience with me was most exemplary. She lowered herself
to my level. Not trusting to words only on this occasion, she
(so to say) beat her meaning into my head by gesticulating on
her fingers, as if she was educating a child.
"Philip and I," she began, "are the victims of an accident,
which kept us apart when we ought to have met together--we are
not responsible for an accident." She impressed this on me
by touching her forefinger. "Philip and I fell in love with each
other at first sight--we are not responsible for the feelings
implanted in our natures by an all-wise Providence." She assisted
me in understanding this by touching her middle finger. "Philip
and I owe a duty to each other, and accept a responsibility under
those circumstances--the responsibility of getting married."
A touch on her third finger, and an indulgent bow, announced
that the lesson was ended. "I am not a clever man like you,"
she modestly acknowledged, "but I ask you to help us, when you
next see my father, with some confidence. You know exactly what
to say to him, by this time. Nothing has been forgotten."
"Pardon me," I said, "a person has been forgotten."
"Indeed? What person?"
A little perplexed at first, Miss Helena reflected, and recovered
"Ah, yes," she said; "I was afraid I might be obliged to trouble
you for an explanation--I see it now. You are shocked (very
properly) when feelings of enmity exist between near relations;
and you wish to be assured that I bear no malice toward Eunice.
She is violent, she is sulky, she is stupid, she is selfish;
and she cruelly refuses to live in the same house with me. Make
your mind easy, sir, I forgive my sister."
Let me not attempt to disguise it--Miss Helena Gracedieu
Ordinary audacity is one of those forms of insolence which
mature experience dismisses with contempt. This girl's audacity
struck down all resistance, for one shocking reason: it was
unquestionably sincere. Strong conviction of her own virtue
stared at me in her proud and daring eyes. At that time, I was
not aware of what I have learned since. The horrid hardening of
her moral sense had been accomplished by herself. In her diary,
there has been found the confession of a secret course of
reading--with supplementary reflections flowing from it, which
need only to be described as worthy of their source.
A person capable of repentance and reform would, in her place,
have seen that she had disgusted me. Not a suspicion of this
occurred to Miss Helena. "I see you are embarrassed," she
remarked, "and I am at no loss to account for it. You are too
polite to acknowledge that I have not made a friend of you yet.
Oh, I mean to do it!"
"No," I said, "I think not."
"We shall see," she replied. "Sooner or later, you will find
yourself saying a kind word to my father for Philip and me."
She rose, and took a turn in the room--and stopped, eying me
attentively. "Are you thinking of Eunice?" she asked.
"She has your sympathy, I suppose?"
"My heart-felt sympathy."
"I needn't ask how I stand in your estimation, after that. Pray
express yourself freely. Your looks confess it--you view me with
a feeling of aversion."
"I view you with a feeling of horror."
The exasperating influences of her language, her looks, and
her tones would, as I venture to think, have got to the end of
another man's self-control before this. Anyway, she had at last
irritated me into speaking as strongly as I felt. What I said
had been so plainly (perhaps so rudely) expressed, that
misinterpretation of it seemed to be impossible. She mistook me,
nevertheless. The most merciless disclosure of the dreary side
of human destiny is surely to be found in the failure of words,
spoken or written, so to answer their purpose that we can trust
them, in our attempts to communicate with each other. Even when
he seems to be connected, by the nearest and dearest relations,
with his fellow-mortals, what a solitary creature, tried by the
test of sympathy, the human being really is in the teeming world
that he inhabits! Affording one more example of the impotence of
human language to speak for itself, my misinterpreted words had
found their way to the one sensitive place in Helena Gracedieu's
impenetrable nature. She betrayed it in the quivering and
flushing of her hard face, and in the appeal to the looking-glass
which escaped her eyes the next moment. My hasty reply had roused
the idea of a covert insult addressed to her handsome face.
In other words, I had wounded her vanity. Driven by resentment,
out came the secret distrust of me which had been lurking in
that cold heart, from the moment when we first met.
"I inspire you with horror, and Eunice inspires you with
compassion," she said. "That, Mr. Governor, is not natural."
"May I ask why?"
"You know why."
"You will have it?"
"I want an explanation, Miss Helena, if that is what you mean."
"Take your explanation, then! You are not the stranger you are
said to be to my sister and to me. Your interest in Eunice is
a personal interest of some kind. I don't pretend to guess what
it is. As for myself, it is plain that somebody else has been
setting you against me, before Miss Jillgall got possession of
your private ear."
In alluding to Eunice, she had blundered, strangely enough,
on something like the truth. But when she spoke of herself,
the headlong malignity of her suspicions--making every allowance
for the anger that had hurried her into them--seemed to call for
some little protest against a false assertion. I told her that
she was completely mistaken.
"I am completely right," she answered; "I saw it."
"Saw you pretending to be a stranger to me."
"When did I do that?"
"You did it when we met at the station."
The reply was too ridiculous for the preservation of any
control over my own sense of humor. It was wrong; but it was
inevitable--I laughed. She looked at me with a fury, revealing
a concentration of evil passion in her which I had not seen yet.
I asked her pardon; I begged her to think a little before
she persisted in taking a view of my conduct unworthy of her,
and unjust to myself.
"Unjust to You!" she burst out. "Who are You? A man who has
driven your trade has spies always at his command--yes! and knows
how to use them. You were primed with private information--you
had, for all I know, a stolen photograph of me in your pocket--
before ever you came to our town. Do you still deny it? Oh, sir,
why degrade yourself by telling a lie?"
No such outrage as this had ever been inflicted on me, at any
time in my life. My forbearance must, I suppose, have been more
severely tried than I was aware of myself. With or without excuse
for me, I was weak enough to let a girl's spiteful tongue sting
me, and, worse still, to let her see that I felt it.
"You shall have no second opportunity, Miss Gracedieu, of
insulting me." With that foolish reply, I opened the door
violently and went out.
She ran after me, triumphing in having roused the temper of
a man old enough to have been her grandfather, and caught me by
the arm. "Your own conduct has exposed you." (That was literally
how she expressed herself.) "I saw it in your eyes when we met
at the station. You, the stranger--you who allowed poor ignorant
me to introduce myself--you knew me all the time, knew me
I shook her hand off with an inconsiderable roughness,
humiliating to remember. "It's false!" I cried. "I knew you
by your likeness to your mother."
The moment the words had passed my lips, I came to my senses
again; I remembered what fatal words they might prove to be,
if they reached the Minister's ears.
Heard only by his daughter, my reply seemed to cool the heat
of her anger in an instant.
"So you knew my mother?" she said. "My father never told us that,
when he spoke of your being such a very old friend of his.
Strange, to say the least of it."
I was wise enough--now when wisdom had come too late--not to
attempt to explain myself, and not to give her an opportunity
of saying more. "We are neither of us in a state of mind,"
I answered, "to allow this interview to continue. I must try
to recover my composure; and I leave you to do the same."
In the solitude of my room, I was able to look my position fairly
in the face.
Mr. Gracedieu's wife had come to me, in the long-past time,
without her husband's knowledge. Tempted to a cruel resolve
by the maternal triumph of having an infant of her own, she had
resolved to rid herself of the poor little rival in her husband's
fatherly affection, by consigning the adopted child to the
keeping of a charitable asylum. She had dared to ask me to help
her. I had kept the secret of her shameful visit--I can honestly
say, for the Minister's sake. And now, long after time had doomed
those events to oblivion, they were revived--and revived by me.
Thanks to my folly, Mr. Gracedieu's daughter knew what I had
concealed from Mr. Gracedieu himself.
What course did respect for my friend, and respect for myself,
counsel me to take?
I could only see before me a choice of two evils. To wait for
events--with the too certain prospect of a vindictive betrayal
of my indiscretion by Helena Gracedieu. Or to take the initiative
into my own hands, and risk consequences which I might regret
to the end of my life, by making my confession to the Minister.
Before I had decided, somebody knocked at the door. It was
the maid-servant again. Was it possible she had been sent
"Yes, sir. My master wishes to see you."
THE GIRLS' AGES.
Had the Minister's desire to see me been inspired by his
daughter's betrayal of what I had unfortunately said to her?
Although he would certainly not consent to receive her
personally, she would be at liberty to adopt a written method
of communication with him, and the letter might be addressed in
such a manner as to pique his curiosity. If Helena's vindictive
purpose had been already accomplished--and if Mr. Gracedieu left
me no alternative but to present his unworthy wife in her true
character--I can honestly say that I dreaded the consequences,
not as they might affect myself, but as they might affect
my unhappy friend in his enfeebled state of body and mind.
When I entered his room, he was still in bed.
The bed-curtains were so drawn, on the side nearest to
the window, as to keep the light from falling too brightly on
his weak eyes. In the shadow thus thrown on him, it was not
possible to see his face plainly enough, from the open side of
the bed, to arrive at any definite conclusion as to what might
be passing in his mind. After having been awake for some hours
during the earlier part of the night, he had enjoyed a long
and undisturbed sleep. "I feel stronger this morning," he said,
"and I wish to speak to you while my mind is clear."
If the quiet tone of his voice was not an assumed tone, he was
surely ignorant of all that had passed between his daughter and
"Eunice will be here soon," he proceeded, "and I ought to explain
why I have sent for her to come and meet you. I have reasons,
serious reasons, mind, for wishing you to compare her personal
appearance with Helena's personal appearance, and then to tell me
which of the two, on a fair comparison, looks the eldest. Pray
bear in mind that I attach the greatest importance to the
conclusion at which you may arrive."
He spoke more clearly and collectedly than I had heard him speak
Here and there I detected hesitations and repetitions, which
I have purposely passed over. The substance of what he said to me
is all that I shall present in this place. Careful as I have been
to keep my record of events within strict limits, I have written
at a length which I was far indeed from contemplating when
I accepted Mr. Gracedieu's invitation.
Having promised to comply with the strange request which he had
addressed to me, I ventured to remind him of past occasions
on which he had pointedly abstained, when the subject presented
itself, from speaking of the girls' ages. "You have left it to
my discretion," I added, "to decide a question in which you are
seriously interested, relating to your daughters. Have I no
excuse for regretting that I have not been admitted to your
confidence a little more freely?"
"You have every excuse," he answered. "But you trouble me all
the same. There was something else that I had to say to you--and
your curiosity gets in the way."
He said this with a sullen emphasis. In my position, the worst
of evils was suspense. I told him that my curiosity could wait;
and I begged that he would relieve his mind of what was pressing
on it at the moment.
"Let me think a little," he said.
I waited anxiously for the decision at which he might arrive.
Nothing came of it to justify my misgivings. "Leave what I have
in my mind to ripen in my mind," he said. "The mystery about
the girls' ages seems to irritate you. If I put my good friend's
temper to any further trial, he will be of no use to me. Never
mind if my head swims; I'm used to that. Now listen!"
Strange as the preface was, the explanation that followed was
stranger yet. I offer a shortened and simplified version, giving
accurately the substance of what I heard.
The Minister entered without reserve on the mysterious subject of
the ages. Eunice, he informed me, was nearly two years older than
Helena. If she outwardly showed her superiority of age, any
person acquainted with the circumstances under which the adopted
infant had been received into Mr. Gracedieu's childless
household, need only compare the so-called sisters in after-life,
and would thereupon identify the eldest-looking young lady of the
two as the offspring of the woman who had been hanged for murder.
With such a misfortune as this presenting itself as a possible
prospect, the Minister was bound to prevent the girls from
ignorantly betraying each other by allusions to their ages and
their birthdays. After much thought, he had devised a desperate
means of meeting the difficulty--already made known, as I am
told, for the information of strangers who may read the pages
that have gone before mine. My friend's plan of proceeding had,
by the nature of it, exposed him to injurious comment, to
embarrassing questions, and to doubts and misconceptions, all
patiently endured in consideration of the security that had been
attained. Proud of his explanation, Mr. Gracedieu's vanity called
upon me to acknowledge that my curiosity had been satisfied, and
my doubts completely set at rest.
No: my obstinate common sense was not reduced to submission, even
yet. Looking back over a lapse of seventeen years, I asked what
had happened, in that long interval, to justify the anxieties
which still appeared to trouble my friend.
This time, my harmless curiosity could be gratified by a reply
expressed in three words--nothing had happened.
Then what, in Heaven's name, was the Minister afraid of?
His voice dropped to a whisper. He said: "I am afraid of the
Who were the women?
Two of them actually proved to be the servants employed in Mr.
Gracedieu's house, at the bygone time when be had brought the
child home with him from the prison! To point out the absurdity
of the reasons that he gave for fearing what female curiosity
might yet attempt, if circumstances happened to encourage it,
would have been a mere waste of words. Dismissing the subject, I
next ascertained that the Minister's doubts extended even to the
two female warders, who had been appointed to watch the murderess
in turn, during her last days in prison. I easily relieved his
mind in this case. One of the warders was dead. The other had
married a farmer in Australia. Had we exhausted the list of
suspected persons yet? No: there was one more left; and the
Minister declared that he had first met with her in my official
residence, at the time when I was Governor of the prison.
"She presented herself to me by name," he said; "and she spoke
rudely. A Miss--" He paused to consult his memory, and this time
(thanks perhaps to his night's rest) his memory answered the
appeal. "I have got it!" he cried--"Miss Chance."
My friend had interested me in his imaginary perils at last. It
was just possible that he might have a formidable person to deal
During my residence at Florence, the Chaplain and I had taken
many a retrospective look (as old men will) at past events in
our lives. My former colleague spoke of the time when he had
performed clerical duty for his friend, the rector of a parish
church in London. Neither he nor I had heard again of the "Miss
Chance" of our disagreeable prison experience, whom he had
married to the dashing Dutch gentleman, Mr. Tenbruggen. We could
only wonder what had become of that mysterious married pair.
Mr. Gracedieu being undoubtedly ignorant of the woman's marriage,
it was not easy to say what the consequence might be, in his
excitable state, if I informed him of it. He would, in all
probability, conclude that I knew more of the woman than he did.
I decided on keeping my own counsel, for the present at least.
Passing at once, therefore, to the one consideration of any
importance, I endeavored to find out whether Mr. Gracedieu and
Mrs. Tenbruggen had met, or had communicated with each other
in any way, during the long period of separation that had taken
place between the Minister and myself. If he had been so unlucky
as to offend her, she was beyond all doubt an enemy to be
dreaded. Apart, however, from a misfortune of this kind, she
would rank, in my opinion, with the other harmless objects of
Mr. Gracedieu's distrust.
In making my inquiries, I found that I had an obstacle to contend
While he felt the renovating influence of the repose that he
enjoyed, the Minister had been able to think and to express
himself with less difficulty than usual. But the reserves of
strength, on which the useful exercise of his memory depended,
began to fail him as the interview proceeded. He distinctly
recollected that "something unpleasant had passed between that
audacious woman and himself." But at what date--and whether by
word of mouth or by correspondence--was more than his memory
could now recall. He believed be was not mistaken in telling me
that he "had been in two minds about her." At one time, he was
satisfied that he had taken wise measures for his own security,
if she attempted to annoy him. But there was another and a later
time, when doubts and fears had laid hold of him again. If
I wanted to know how this had happened, he fancied it was through
a dream; and if I asked what the dream was, he could only beg and
pray that I would spare his poor head.
Unwilling even yet to submit unconditionally to defeat, it
occurred to me to try a last experiment on my friend, without
calling for any mental effort on his own part. The "Miss Chance"
of former days might, by a bare possibility, have written to him.
I asked accordingly if he was in the habit of keeping his
letters, and if he would allow me (when he had rested a little)
to lay them open before him, so that he could look at the
signatures. "You might find the lost recollection in that way,"
I suggested, "at the bottom of one of your letters."
He was in that state of weariness, poor fellow, in which a man
will do anything for the sake of peace. Pointing to a cabinet in
his room, he gave me a key taken from a little basket on his bed.
"Look for yourself," he said. After some hesitation--for I
naturally recoiled from examining another man's correspondence--I
decided on opening the cabinet, at any rate.
The letters--a large collection--were, to my relief, all neatly
folded, and indorsed with the names of the writers. I could run
harmlessly through bundle after bundle in search of the one name
that I wanted, and still respect the privacy of the letters.
My perseverance deserved a reward--and failed to get it. The name
I wanted steadily eluded my search. Arriving at the upper shelf
of the cabinet, I found it so high that I could barely reach it
with my hand. Instead of getting more letters to look over,
I pulled down two newspapers.
One of them was an old copy of the _Times_, dating back as far as
the 13th December, 1858. It was carefully folded, longwise, with
the title-page uppermost. On the first column, at the left-hand
side of the sheet, appeared the customary announcements
of Births. A mark with a blue pencil, against one of the
advertisements, attracted my attention. I read these lines:
"On the 10th inst., the wife of the Rev. Abel Gracedieu, of
The second newspaper bore a later date, and contained nothing
that interested me. I naturally assumed that the advertisement
in the _Times_ had been inserted at the desire of Mrs. Gracedieu;
and, after all that I had heard, there was little difficulty in
attributing the curious omission of the place in which the child
had been born to the caution of her husband. If Mrs. Tenbruggen
(then Miss Chance) had happened to see the advertisement in the
great London newspaper, Mr. Gracedieu might yet have good reason
to congratulate himself on his prudent method of providing
against mischievous curiosity.
I turned toward the bed and looked at him. His eyes were closed.
Was he sleeping? Or was he trying to remember what he had desired
to say to me, when the demands which I made on his memory had
obliged him to wait for a later opportunity?
Either way, there was something that quickened my sympathies, in
the spectacle of his helpless repose. It suggested to me personal
reasons for his anxieties, which he had not mentioned, and which
I had not thought of, up to this time. If the discovery that he
dreaded took place, his household would be broken up, and his
position as pastor would suffer in the estimation of the flock.
His own daughter would refuse to live under the same roof with
the daughter of an infamous woman. Popular opinion, among his
congregation, judging a man who had passed off the child of
other parents as his own, would find that man guilty of an act
of deliberate deceit.
Still oppressed by reflections which pointed to the future
in this discouraging way, I was startled by a voice outside
the door--a sweet, sad voice--saying, "May I come in?"
The Minister's eyes opened instantly: he raised himself in
"Eunice, at last!" he cried. "Let her in."
THE ADOPTED CHILD
I opened the door.
Eunice passed me with the suddenness almost of a flash of light.
When I turned toward the bed, her arms were round her father's
neck. "Oh, poor papa, how ill you look!" Commonplace expressions
of fondness, and no more; but the tone gave them a charm that
subdued me. Never had I felt so indulgent toward Mr. Gracedieu's
unreasonable fears as when I saw him in the embrace of his
adopted daughter. She had already reminded me of the bygone day
when a bright little child had sat on my knee and listened to
the ticking of my watch.
The Minister gently lifted her head from his breast. "My
darling," he said, "you don't see my old friend. Love him,
and look up to him, Eunice. He will be your friend, too, when
I am gone."
She came to me and offered her cheek to be kissed. It was sadly
pale, poor soul--and I could guess why. But her heart was now
full of her father. "Do you think he is seriously ill?" she
whispered. What I ought to have said I don't know. Her eyes,
the sweetest, truest, loveliest eyes I ever saw in a human face,
were pleading with me. Let my enemies make the worst of it, if
they like--I did certainly lie. And if I deserved my punishment,
I got it; the poor child believed me! "Now I am happier," she
said, gratefully. "Only to hear your voice seems to encourage me.
On our way here, Selina did nothing but talk of you. She told me
I shouldn't have time to feel afraid of the great man; he would
make me fond of him directly. I said, 'Are you fond of him?' She
said, 'Madly in love with him, my dear.' My little friend really
thinks you like her, and is very proud of it. There are some
people who call her ugly. I hope you don't agree with them?"
I believe I should have lied again, if Mr. Gracedieu had not
called me to the bedside
"How does she strike you?" he whispered, eagerly. "Is it too soon
to ask if she shows her age in her face?"
"Neither in her face nor her figure," I answered: "it astonishes
me that you can ever have doubted it. No stranger, judging by
personal appearance, could fail to make the mistake of thinking
Helena the oldest of the two."
He looked fondly at Eunice. "Her figure seems to bear out what
you say," he went on. "Almost childish, isn't it?"
I could not agree to that. Slim, supple, simply graceful in every
movement, Eunice's figure, in the charm of first youth, only
waited its perfect development. Most men, looking at her as she
stood at the other end of the room with her back toward us, would
have guessed her age to be sixteen.
Finding that I failed to agree with him, Mr. Gracedieu's
misgivings returned. "You speak very confidently," he said,
"considering that you have not seen the girls together. Think
what a dreadful blow it would be to me if you made a mistake."
I declared, with perfect sincerity, that there was no fear
of a mistake. The bare idea of making the proposed comparison
was hateful to me. If Helena and I had happened to meet at that
moment, I should have turned away from her by instinct--she would
have disturbed my impressions of Eunice.
The Minister signed to me to move a little nearer to him. "I must
say it," he whispered, "and I am afraid of her hearing me.
Is there anything in her face that reminds you of her miserable
I had hardly patience to answer the question: it was simply
preposterous. Her hair was by many shades darker than her
mother's hair; her eyes were of a different color. There was
an exquisite tenderness and sincerity in their expression--made
additionally beautiful, to my mind, by a gentle, uncomplaining
sadness. It was impossible even to think of the eyes of the
murderess when I looked at her child. Eunice's lower features,
again, had none of her mother's regularity of proportion. Her
smile, simple and sweet, and soon passing away, was certainly not
an inherited smile on the maternal side. Whether she resembled
her father, I was unable to conjecture--having never seen him.
The one thing certain was, that not the faintest trace,
in feature or expression, of Eunice's mother was to be seen
in Eunice herself. Of the two girls, Helena--judging by something
in the color of her hair, and by something in the shade of her
complexion--might possibly have suggested, in those particulars
only, a purely accidental resemblance to my terrible prisoner
of past times.
The revival of Mr. Gracedieu's spirits indicated a temporary
change only, and was already beginning to pass away. The eyes
which had looked lovingly at Eunice began to look languidly now:
his head sank on the pillow with a sigh of weak content.
"My pleasure has been almost too much for me," he said. "Leave me
for a while to rest, and get used to it."
Eunice kissed his forehead--and we left the room.
THE BRUISED HEART.
When we stepped out on the landing, I observed that my companion
paused. She looked at the two flights of stairs below us before
she descended them. It occurred to me that there must be somebody
in the house whom she was anxious to avoid.
Arrived at the lower hall, she paused again, and proposed in
a whisper that we should go into the garden. As we advanced
along the backward division of the hall, I saw her eyes turn
distrustfully toward the door of the room in which Helena had
received me. At last, my slow perceptions felt with her and
understood her. Eunice's sensitive nature recoiled from a chance
meeting with the wretch who had laid waste all that had once been
happy and hopeful in that harmless young life.
"Will you come with me to the part of the garden that I am
fondest of?" she asked.
I offered her my arm. She led me in silence to a rustic seat,
placed under the shade of a mulberry tree. I saw a change in
her face as we sat down--a tender and beautiful change. At that
moment the girl's heart was far away from me. There was some
association with this corner of the garden, on which I felt that
I must not intrude.
"I was once very happy here," she said. "When the time of the
heartache came soon after, I was afraid to look at the old tree
and the bench under it. But that is all over now. I like to
remember the hours that were once dear to me, and to see
the place that recalls them. Do you know who I am thinking of?
Don't be afraid of distressing me. I never cry now."
"My dear child, I have heard your sad story--but I can't trust
myself to speak of it."
"Because you are so sorry for me?"
"No words can say how sorry I am!"
"But you are not angry with Philip?"
"Not angry! My poor dear, I am afraid to tell you how angry I am
"Oh, no! You mustn't say that. If you wish to be kind to me--and
I am sure you do wish it--don't think bitterly of Philip."
When I remember that the first feeling she roused in me was
nothing worthier of a professing Christian than astonishment,
I drop in my own estimation to the level of a savage. "Do you
really mean," I was base enough to ask, "that you have forgiven
She said, gently: "How could I help forgiving him?"
The man who could have been blessed with such love as this,
and who could have cast it away from him, can have been nothing
but an idiot. On that ground--though I dared not confess it
to Eunice--I forgave him, too.
"Do I surprise you?" she asked simply. "Perhaps love will bear
any humiliation. Or perhaps I am only a poor weak creature. You
don't know what a comfort it was to me to keep the few letters
that I received from Philip. When I heard that he had gone away,
I gave his letters the kiss that bade him good-by. That was
the time, I think, when my poor bruised heart got used to
the pain; I began to feel that there was one consolation still
left for me--I might end in forgiving him. Why do I tell you all
this? I think you must have bewitched me. Is this really
the first time I have seen you?"
She put her little trembling hand into mine; I lifted it to
my lips, and kissed it. Sorely was I tempted to own that I had
pitied and loved her in her infancy. It was almost on my lips to
say: "I remember you an easily-pleased little creature, amusing
yourself with the broken toys which were once the playthings
of my own children." I believe I should have said it, if I could
have trusted myself to speak composedly to her. This was not
to be done. Old as I was, versed as I was in the hard knowledge
of how to keep the mask on in the hour of need, this was not
to be done.
Still trying to understand that I was little better than
a stranger to her, and still bent on finding the secret of
the sympathy that united us, Eunice put a strange question to me.
"When you were young yourself," she said, "did you know what it
was to love, and to be loved--and then to lose it all?"
It is not given to many men to marry the woman who has been
the object of their first love. My early life had been darkened
by a sad story; never confided to any living creature; banished
resolutely from my own thoughts. For forty years past, that part
of my buried self had lain quiet in its grave--and the chance
touch of an innocent hand had raised the dead, and set us face
to face again! Did I know what it was to love, and to be loved,
and then to lose it all? "Too well, my child; too well!"
That was all I could say to her. In the last days of my life, I
shrank from speaking of it. When I had first felt that calamity,
and had felt it most keenly, I might have given an answer
worthier of me, and worthier of her.
She dropped my hand, and sat by me in silence, thinking. Had
I--without meaning it, God knows!--had I disappointed her?
"Did you expect me to tell my own sad story," I said, "as frankly
and as trustfully as you have told yours?"
"Oh, don't think that! I know what an effort it was to you
to answer me at all. Yes, indeed! I wonder whether I may ask
something. The sorrow you have just told me of is not the only
one--is it? You have had other troubles?"
"Many of them."
"There are times," she went on, "when one can't help thinking of
one's own miserable self. I try to be cheerful, but those times
come now and then."
She stopped, and looked at me with a pale fear confessing itself
in her face.
"You know who Selina is?" she resumed. "My friend! The only
friend I had, till you came here."
I guessed that she was speaking of the quaint, kindly little
woman, whose ugly surname had been hitherto the only name known
"Selina has, I daresay, told you that I have been ill," she
continued, "and that I am staying in the country for the benefit
of my health."
It was plain that she had something to say to me, far more
important than this, and that she was dwelling on trifles to gain
time and courage. Hoping to help her, I dwelt on trifles, too;
asking commonplace questions about the part of the country in
which she was staying. She answered absently--then, little by
little, impatiently. The one poor proof of kindness that I could
offer, now, was to say no more.
"Do you know what a strange creature I am?" she broke out. "Shall
I make you angry with me? or shall I make you laugh at me? What
I have shrunk from confessing to Selina--what I dare not confess
to my father--I must, and will, confess to You."
There was a look of horror in her face that alarmed me. I drew
her to me so that she could rest her head on my shoulder. My own
agitation threatened to get the better of me. For the first time
since I had seen this sweet girl, I found myself thinking of the
blood that ran in her veins, and of the nature of the mother who
had borne her.
"Did you notice how I behaved upstairs?" she said. "I mean when
we left my father, and came out on the landing."
It was easily recollected; I begged her to go on.
"Before I went downstairs," she proceeded, "you saw me look
and listen. Did you think I was afraid of meeting some person?
and did you guess who it was I wanted to avoid?"
"I guessed that--and I understood you."
"No! You are not wicked enough to understand me. Will you do me
a favor? I want you to look at me."
It was said seriously. She lifted her head for a moment, so that
I could examine her face.
"Do you see anything," she asked, "which makes you fear that I am
not in my right mind?"
"Good God! how can you ask such a horrible question?
She laid her head back on my shoulder with a sad little sigh of
resignation. "I ought to have known better," she said; "there is
no such easy way out of it as that. Tell me--is there one kind of
wickedness more deceitful than another? Can it be hid in a person
for years together, and show itself when a time of suffering--no;
I mean when a sense of injury comes? Did you ever see that, when
you were master in the prison?"
I had seen it--and, after a moment's doubt, I said I had seen it.
"Did you pity those poor wretches?"
"Certainly! They deserved pity."
"I am one of them!" she said. "Pity _me_. If Helena looks at
me--if Helena speaks to me--if I only see Helena by accident--do
you know what she does? She tempts me! Tempts me to do dreadful
things! Tempts me--" The poor child threw her arms round my neck,
and whispered the next fatal words in my ear.
The mother! Prepared as I was for the accursed discovery,
the horror of it shook me.
She left me, and started to her feet. The inherited energy showed
itself in furious protest against the inherited evil. "What does
it mean?" she cried. "I'll submit to anything. I'll bear my hard
lot patiently, if you will only tell me what it means. Where does
this horrid transformation of me out of myself come from? Look at
my good father. In all this world there is no man so perfect as
he is. And oh, how he has taught me! there isn't a single good
thing that I have not learned from him since I was a little
child. Did you ever hear him speak of my mother? You must have
heard him. My mother was an angel. I could never be worthy of
her at my best--but I have tried! I have tried! The wickedest
girl in the world doesn't have worse thoughts than the thoughts
that have come to me. Since when? Since Helena--oh, how can
I call her by her name as if I still loved her? Since my sister
--can she be my sister, I ask myself sometimes! Since my enemy--
there's the word for her--since my enemy took Philip away
from me. What does it mean? I have asked in my prayers--and have
got no answer. I ask you. What does it mean? You must tell me!
You shall tell me! What does it mean?"
Why did I not try to calm her? I had vainly tried to calm her--I
who knew who her mother was, and what her mother had been.
At last, she had forced the sense of my duty on me. The simplest
way of calming her was to put her back in the place by my side
that she had left. It was useless to reason with her, it was
impossible to answer her. I had my own idea of the one way
in which I might charm Eunice back to her sweeter self.
"Let us talk of Philip," I said.
The fierce flush on her face softened, the swelling trouble of
her bosom began to subside, as that dearly-loved name passed my
lips! But there was some influence left in her which resisted me.
"No," she said; "we had better not talk of him."
"I have lost all my courage. If you speak of Philip, you will
make me cry."
I drew her nearer to me. If she had been my own child, I don't
think I could have felt for her more truly than I felt at that
moment. I only looked at her; I only said:
The love that was in her heart rose, and poured its tenderness
into her eyes. I had longed to see the tears that would comfort
her. The tears came.
There was silence between us for a while. It was possible for me
In the absence of physical resemblance between parent and child,
is an unfavorable influence exercised on the tendency to moral
resemblance? Assuming the possibility of such a result as this,
Eunice (entirely unlike her mother) must, as I concluded,
have been possessed of qualities formed to resist, as well as
of qualities doomed to undergo, the infection of evil.
While, therefore, I resigned myself to recognize the existence
of the hereditary maternal taint, I firmly believed in
the counterbalancing influences for good which had been part
of the girl's birthright. They had been derived, perhaps,
from the better qualities in her father's nature; they had been
certainly developed by the tender care, the religious vigilance,
which had guarded the adopted child so lovingly in the Minister's
household; and they had served their purpose until time brought
with it the change, for which the tranquil domestic influences
were not prepared. With the great, the vital transformation,
which marks the ripening of the girl into the woman's maturity
of thought and passion, a new power for Good, strong enough
to resist the latent power for Evil, sprang into being, and
sheltered Eunice under the supremacy of Love. Love ill-fated
and ill-bestowed--but love that no profanation could stain, that
no hereditary evil could conquer--the True Love that had been,
and was, and would be, the guardian angel of Eunice's life.
If I am asked whether I have ventured to found this opinion on
what I have observed in one instance only, I reply that I have
had other opportunities of investigation, and that my conclusions
are derived from experience which refers to more instances than
No man in his senses can doubt that physical qualities are
transmitted from parents to children. But inheritance of moral
qualities is less easy to trace. Here, the exploring mind finds
its progress beset by obstacles. That those obstacles have been
sometimes overcome I do not deny. Moral resemblances have been
traced between parents and children. While, however, I admit
this, I doubt the conclusion which sees, in inheritance of moral
qualities, a positive influence exercised on moral destiny. There
are inherent emotional forces in humanity to which the inherited
influences must submit; they are essentially influences under
control--influences which can be encountered and forced back.
That we, who inhabit this little planet, may be the doomed
creatures of fatality, from the cradle to the grave, I am not
prepared to dispute. But I absolutely refuse to believe that
it is a fatality with no higher origin than can be found in
our accidental obligation to our fathers and mothers.
Still absorbed in these speculations, I was disturbed by a touch
on my arm.
I looked up. Eunice's eyes were fixed on a shrubbery, at some
little distance from us, which closed the view of the garden on
that side. I noticed that she was trembling. Nothing to alarm her
was visible that I could discover. I asked what she had seen to
startle her. She pointed to the shrubbery.
"Look again," she said.
This time I saw a woman's dress among the shrubs. The woman
herself appeared in a moment more. It was Helena. She carried
a small portfolio, and she approached us with a smile.
THE WHISPERING VOICE.
I looked at Eunice. She had risen, startled by her first
suspicion of the person who was approaching us through
the shrubbery; but she kept her place near me, only changing
her position so as to avoid confronting Helena. Her quickened
breathing was all that told me of the effort she was making
to preserve her self-control.
Entirely free from unbecoming signs of hurry and agitation,
Helena opened her business with me by means of an apology.
"Pray excuse me for disturbing you. I am obliged to leave the
house on one of my tiresome domestic errands. If you will kindly
permit it, I wish to express, before I go, my very sincere regret
for what I was rude enough to say, when I last had the honor
of seeing you. May I hope to be forgiven? How-do-you-do, Eunice?
Have you enjoyed your holiday in the country?"
Eunice neither moved nor answered. Having some doubt of what
might happen if the two girls remained together, I proposed
to Helena to leave the garden and to let me hear what she had
to say, in the house.
"Quite needless," she replied; "I shall not detain you for more
than a minute. Please look at this."
She offered to me the portfolio that she had been carrying, and
pointed to a morsel of paper attached to it, which contained this
"Philip's Letters To Me. Private. Helena Gracedieu."
"I have a favor to ask," she said, "and a proof of confidence in
you to offer. Will you be so good as to look over what you find
in my portfolio? I am unwilling to give up the hopes that I had
founded on our interview, when I asked for it. The letters will,
I venture to think, plead my cause more convincingly than I was
able to plead it for myself. I wish to forget what passed
between us, to the last word. To the last word," she repeated
emphatically--with a look which sufficiently informed me that
I had not been betrayed to her father yet. "Will you indulge me?"
she asked, and offered her portfolio for the second time.
A more impudent bargain could not well have been proposed to me.
I was to read, and to be favorably impressed by, Mr. Philip
Dunboyne's letters; and Miss Helena was to say nothing of that
unlucky slip of the tongue, relating to her mother, which she
had discovered to be a serious act of self-betrayal--thanks to
my confusion at the time. If I had not thought of Eunice, and
of the desolate and loveless life to which the poor girl was
so patiently resigned, I should have refused to read Miss
But, as things were, I was influenced by the hope (innocently
encouraged by Eunice herself) that Philip Dunboyne might not
be so wholly unworthy of the sweet girl whom he had injured as
I had hitherto been too hastily disposed to believe. To act on
this view with the purpose of promoting a reconciliation was
impossible, unless I had the means of forming a correct estimate
of the man's character. It seemed to me that I had found the
means. A fair chance of putting his sincerity to a trustworthy
test, was surely offered by the letters (the confidential
letters) which I had been requested to read. To feel this
as strongly as I felt it, brought me at once to a decision.
I consented to take the portfolio--on my own conditions.
"Understand, Miss Helena," I said, "that I make no promises.
I reserve my own opinion, and my own right of action."
"I am not afraid of your opinions or your actions," she answered
confidently, "if you will only read the letters. In the meantime,
let me relieve my sister, there, of my presence. I hope you will
soon recover, Eunice, in the country air."
If the object of the wretch was to exasperate her victim, she had
completely failed. Eunice remained as still as a statue. To all
appearance, she had not even heard what had been said to her.
Helena looked at me, and touched her forehead with a significant
smile. "Sad, isn't it?" she said--and bowed, and went briskly
away on her household errand.
We were alone again.
Still, Eunice never moved. I spoke to her, and produced no
impression. Beginning to feel alarmed, I tried the effect
of touching her. With a wild cry, she started into a state
of animation. Almost at the same moment, she weakly swayed
to and fro as if the pleasant breeze in the garden moved her
at its will, like the flowers. I held her up, and led her to
"There is nothing to be afraid of," I said. "She has gone."
Eunice's eyes rested on me in vacant surprise. "How do you know?"
she asked. "I hear her; but I never see her. Do you see her?"
"My dear child! of what person are you speaking?"
She answered: "Of no person. I am speaking of a Voice that
whispers and tempts me, when Helena is near."
"What voice, Eunice?"
"The whispering Voice. It said to me, 'I am your mother;'
it called me Daughter when I first heard it. My father speaks
of my mother, the angel. That good spirit has never come to me
from the better world. It is a mock-mother who comes to me--some
spirit of evil. Listen to this. I was awake in my bed. In
the dark I heard the mock-mother whispering, close at my ear.
Shall I tell you how she answered me, when I longed for light
to see her by, when I prayed to her to show herself to me? She
said: 'My face was hidden when I passed from life to death;
my face no mortal creature may see.' I have never seen her--how
can _you_ have seen her? But I heard her again, just now. She
whispered to me when Helena was standing there--where you are
standing. She freezes the life in me. Did she freeze the life
in _you?_ Did you hear her tempting me? Don't speak of it, if
you did. Oh, not a word! not a word!"
A man who has governed a prison may say with Macbeth, "I have
supped full with horrors." Hardened as I was--or ought to have
been--the effect of what I had just heard turned me cold.
If I had not known it to be absolutely impossible, I might have
believed that the crime and the death of the murderess were known
to Eunice, as being the crime and the death of her mother, and
that the horrid discovery had turned her brain. This was simply
impossible. What did it mean? Good God! what did it mean?
My sense of my own helplessness was the first sense in me that
recovered. I thought of Eunice's devoted little friend. A woman's
sympathy seemed to be needed now. I rose to lead the way out of
"Selina will think we are lost," I said. "Let us go and find
"Not for the world," she cried.
"Because I don't feel sure of myself. I might tell Selina
something which she must never know; I should be so sorry
to frighten her. Let me stop here with you."
I resumed my place at her side.
"Let me take your hand."
I gave her my hand. What composing influence this simple act may,
or may not, have exercised, it is impossible to say. She was
quiet, she was silent. After an interval, I heard her breathe
a long-drawn sigh of relief.
"I am afraid I have surprised you," she said. "Helena brings
the dreadful time back to me--" She stopped and shuddered.
"Don't speak of Helena, my dear."
"But I am afraid you will think--because I have said strange
things--that I have been talking at random," she insisted.
"The doctor will say that, if you meet with him. He believes I am
deluded by a dream. I tried to think so myself. It was of no use;
I am quite sure he is wrong."
I privately determined to watch for the doctor's arrival, and
to consult with him. Eunice went on:
"I have the story of a terrible night to tell you; but I haven't
the courage to tell it now. Why shouldn't you come back with me
to the place that I am staying at? A pleasant farm-house, and
such kind people. You might read the account of that night in
my journal. I shall not regret the misery of having written it,
if it helps you to find out how this hateful second self of mine
has come to me. Hush! I want to ask you something. Do you think
Helena is in the house?"
"No--she has gone out."
"Did she say that herself? Are you sure?"
She decided on going back to the farm, while Helena was out
of the way. We left the garden together. For the first time,
my companion noticed the portfolio. I happened to be carrying it
in the hand that was nearest to her, as she walked by my side.
"Where did you get that?" she asked.
It was needless to reply in words. My hesitation spoke for me.
"Carry it in your other hand," she said--"the hand that's
furthest away from me. I don't want to see it! Do you mind
waiting a moment while I find Selina? You will go to the farm
with us, won't you?"
I had to look over the letters, in Eunice's own interests;
and I begged her to let me defer my visit to the farm until
the next day. She consented, after making me promise to keep
my appointment. It was of some importance to her, she told me,
that I should make acquaintance with the farmer and his wife and
children, and tell her how I liked them. Her plans for the future
depended on what those good people might be willing to do. When
she had recovered her health, it was impossible for her to go
home again while Helena remained in the house. She had resolved
to earn her own living, if she could get employment as
a governess. The farmer's children liked her; she had already
helped their mother in teaching them; and there was reason
to hope that their father would see his way to employing her
permanently. His house offered the great advantage of being near
enough to the town to enable her to hear news of the Minister's
progress toward recovery, and to see him herself when safe
opportunities offered, from time to time. As for her salary,
what did she care about money? Anything would be acceptable,
if the good man would only realize her hopes for the future.
It was disheartening to hear that hope, at her age, began and
ended within such narrow limits as these. No prudent man would
have tried to persuade her, as I now did, that the idea of
reconciliation offered the better hope of the two.
"Suppose I see Mr. Philip Dunboyne when I go back to London,"
I began, "what shall I say to him?"
"Say I have forgiven him."
"And suppose," I went on, "that the blame really rests, where you
all believe it to rest, with Helena. If that young man returns
to you, truly ashamed of himself, truly penitent, will you--?"
She resolutely interrupted me: "No!"
"Oh, Eunice, you surely mean Yes?"
"I mean No!"
"Don't ask me! Good-by till to-morrow."
THE QUAINT PHILOSOPHER.
No person came to my room, and nothing happened to interrupt me
while I was reading Mr. Philip Dunboyne's letters.
One of them, let me say at once, produced a very disagreeable
impression on me. I have unexpectedly discovered Mrs. Tenbruggen
--in a postscript. She is making a living as a Medical Rubber
(or Masseuse), and is in professional attendance on Mr. Dunboyne
the elder. More of this, a little further on.
Having gone through the whole collection of young Dunboyne's
letters, I set myself to review the differing conclusions which
the correspondence had produced on my mind.
I call the papers submitted to me a correspondence, because
the greater part of Philip's letters exhibit notes in pencil,
evidently added by Helena. These express, for the most part,
the interpretation which she had placed on passages that
perplexed or displeased her; and they have, as Philip's
rejoinders show, been employed as materials when she wrote
On reflection, I find myself troubled by complexities and
contradictions in the view presented of this young man's
character. To decide positively whether I can justify to myself
and to my regard for Eunice, an attempt to reunite the lovers,
requires more time for consideration than I can reasonably expect
that Helena's patience will allow. Having a quiet hour or two
still before me, I have determined to make extracts from the
letters for my own use; with the intention of referring to them
while I am still in doubt which way my decision ought to incline.
I shall present them here, to speak for themselves. Is there any
objection to this? None that I can see.
In the first place, those extracts have a value of their own.
They add necessary information to the present history of events.
In the second place, I am under no obligation to Mr. Gracedieu's
daughter which forbids me to make use of her portfolio. I told
her that I only consented to receive it, under reserve of my own
right of action--and her assent to that stipulation was expressed
in the clearest terms.
EXTRACTS FROM MR. PHILIP DUNBOYNE'S LETTERS.
You blame me, dear Helena, for not having paid proper attention
to the questions put to me in your last letter. I have only been
waiting to make up my mind, before I replied.
First question: Do I think it advisable that you should write
to my father? No, my dear; I beg you will defer writing, until
you hear from me again.
Second question: Considering that he is still a stranger to you,
is there any harm in your asking me what sort of man my father
is? No harm, my sweet one; but, as you will presently see, I am
afraid you have addressed yourself to the wrong person.
My father is kind, in his own odd way--and learned, and rich--
a more high-minded and honorable man (as I have every reason
to believe) doesn't live. But if you ask me which he prefers,
his books or his son, I hope I do him no injustice when I answer,
his books. His reading and his writing are obstacles between us
which I have never been able to overcome. This is the more to be
regretted because he is charming, on the few occasions when
I find him disengaged. If you wish I knew more about my father,
we are in complete agreement as usual--I wish, too.
But there is a dear friend of yours and mine, who is just
the person we want to help us. Need I say that I allude to
I called on her yesterday, not long after she had paid a visit
to my father. Luck had favored her. She arrived just at the time
when hunger had obliged him to shut up his books, and ring for
something to eat. Mrs. Staveley secured a favorable reception
with her customary tact and delicacy. He had a fowl for his
dinner. She knows his weakness of old; she volunteered to carve
it for him.
If I can only repeat what this clever woman told me of their
talk, you will have a portrait of Mr. Dunboyne the elder--not
perhaps a highly-finished picture, but, as I hope and believe,
a good likeness.
Mrs. Staveley began by complaining to him of the conduct of
his son. I had promised to write to her, and I had never kept
my word. She had reasons for being especially interested in
my plans and prospects, just then; knowing me to be attached
(please take notice that I am quoting her own language) to
a charming friend of hers, whom I had first met at her house.
To aggravate the disappointment that I had inflicted, the young
lady had neglected her, too. No letters, no information. Perhaps
my father would kindly enlighten her? Was the affair going on?
or was it broken off?
My father held out his plate and asked for the other wing of
the fowl. "It isn't a bad one for London," he said; "won't you
have some yourself?"
"I don't seem to have interested you," Mrs. Staveley remarked.
"What did you expect me to be interested in?" my father
inquired. "I was absorbed in the fowl. Favor me by returning
to the subject."
Mrs. Staveley admits that she answered this rather sharply:
"The subject, sir, was your son's admiration for a charming girl:
one of the daughters of Mr. Gracedieu, the famous preacher."
My father is too well-bred to speak to a lady while his attention
is absorbed by a fowl. He finished the second wing, and then
he asked if "Philip was engaged to be married."
"I am not quite sure," Mrs. Staveley confessed.
"Then, my dear friend, we will wait till we _are_ sure."
"But, Mr. Dunboyne, there is really no need to wait. I suppose
your son comes here, now and then, to see you?"
"My son is most attentive. In course of time he will contrive
to hit on the right hour for his visit. At present, poor fellow,
he interrupts me every day."
"Suppose he hits upon the right time to-morrow?"
"You might ask him if he is engaged?"
"Pardon me. I think I might wait till Philip mentions it without
"What an extraordinary man you are!"
"Oh, no, no--only a philosopher."
This tried Mrs. Staveley's temper. You know what a perfectly
candid person our friend is. She owned to me that she felt
inclined to make herself disagreeable. "That's thrown away
upon me," she said: "I don't know what a philosopher is."
Let me pause for a moment, dear Helena. I have inexcusably
forgotten to speak of my father's personal appearance. It won't
take long. I need only notice one interesting feature which,
so to speak, lifts his face out of the common. He has an eloquent
nose. Persons possessing this rare advantage are blest
with powers of expression not granted to their ordinary
fellow-creatures. My father's nose is a mine of information
to friends familiarly acquainted with it. It changes color like
a modest young lady's cheek. It works flexibly from side to side
like the rudder of a ship. On the present occasion, Mrs. Staveley
saw it shift toward the left-hand side of his face. A sigh
escaped the poor lady. Experience told her that my father was
going to hold forth.
"You don't know what a philosopher is!" he repeated. "Be so kind
as to look at me. I am a philosopher."
Mrs. Staveley bowed.
"And a philosopher, my charming friend, is a man who has
discovered a system of life. Some systems assert themselves
in volumes--_my_ system asserts itself in two words: Never think
of anything until you have first asked yourself if there is
an absolute necessity for doing it, at that particular moment.
Thinking of things, when things needn't be thought of, is
offering an opportunity to Worry; and Worry is the favorite agent
of Death when the destroyer handles his work in a lingering way,
and achieves premature results. Never look back, and never look
forward, as long as you can possibly help it. Looking back leads
the way to sorrow. And looking forward ends in the cruelest
of all delusions: it encourages hope. The present time is
the precious time. Live for the passing day: the passing day
is all that we can be sure of. You suggested, just now, that
I should ask my son if he was engaged to be married. How do we
know what wear and tear of your nervous texture I succeeded
in saving when I said. 'Wait till Philip mentions it without
asking?' There is the personal application of my system.
I have explained it in my time to every woman on the list of
my acquaintance, including the female servants. Not one of them
has rewarded me by adopting my system. How do you feel about it?"
Mrs. Staveley declined to tell me whether she had offered
a bright example of gratitude to the rest of the sex. When
I asked why, she declared that it was my turn now to tell her
what I had been doing.
You will anticipate what followed. She objected to the mystery in
which my prospects seemed to be involved. In plain English, was
I, or was I not, engaged to marry her dear Eunice? I said, No.
What else could I say? If I had told Mrs. Staveley the truth,
when she insisted on my explaining myself, she would have gone
back to my father, and would have appealed to his sense of
justice to forbid our marriage. Finding me obstinately silent,
she has decided on writing to Eunice. So we parted. But don't
be disheartened. On my way out of the house, I met Mr. Staveley
coming in, and had a little talk with him. He and his wife and
his family are going to the seaside, next week. Mrs. Staveley
once out of our way, I can tell my father of our engagement
without any fear of consequences. If she writes to him, the
moment he sees my name mentioned, and finds violent language
associated with it, he will hand the letter to me. "Your
business, Philip: don't interrupt me." He will say that, and
go back to his books. There is my father, painted to the life!
Farewell, for the present.
. . . . . . .
Remarks by H. G.--Philip's grace and gayety of style might be
envied by any professional Author. He amuses me, but he rouses my
suspicion at the same time. This slippery lover of mine tells me
to defer writing to his father, and gives no reason for offering
that strange advice to the young lady who is soon to be a member
of the family. Is this merely one more instance of the weakness
of his character? Or, now that he is away from my influence,
is he beginning to regret Eunice already?
Added by the Governor.--I too have my doubts. Is the flippant
nonsense which Philip has written inspired by the effervescent
good spirits of a happy young man? Or is it assumed for
a purpose? In this latter case, I should gladly conclude that
he was regarding his conduct to Eunice with becoming emotions
of sorrow and shame.
THE MASTERFUL MASSEUSE.
My next quotations will suffer a process of abridgment. I intend
them to present the substance of three letters, reduced as
Weak as he may be, Mr. Philip Dunboyne shows (in his second
letter) that he can feel resentment, and that he can express
his feelings, in replying to Miss Helena. He protests against
suspicions which he has not deserved. That he does sometimes
think of Eunice he sees no reason to deny. He is conscious of
errors and misdeeds, which--traceable as they are to Helena's
irresistible fascinations--may perhaps be considered rather his
misfortune than his fault. Be that as it may, he does indeed feel
anxious to hear good accounts of Eunice's health. If this honest
avowal excites her sister's jealousy, he will be disappointed
in Helena for the first time.
His third letter shows that this exhibition of spirit has had
The imperious young lady regrets that she has hurt his feelings,
and is rewarded for the apology by receiving news of the most
gratifying kind. Faithful Philip has told his father that he
is engaged to be married to Miss Helena Gracedieu, daughter of
the celebrated Congregational preacher--and so on, and so on. Has
Mr. Dunboyne the elder expressed any objection to the young lady?
Certainly not! He knows nothing of the other engagement to
Eunice; and he merely objects, on principle, to looking forward.
"How do we know," says the philosopher, "what accidents may
happen, or what doubts and hesitations may yet turn up? I am not
to burden my mind in this matter, till I know that I must do it.
Let me hear when she is ready to go to church, and I will be
ready with the settlements. My compliments to Miss and her papa,
and let us wait a little." Dearest Helena--isn't he funny?
The next letter has been already mentioned.
In this there occurs the first startling reference to Mrs.
Tenbruggen, by name. She is in London, finding her way to
lucrative celebrity by twisting, turning, and pinching the flesh
of credulous persons, afflicted with nervous disorders; and she
has already paid a few medical visits to old Mr. Dunboyne. He
persists in poring over his books while Mrs. Tenbruggen operates,
sometimes on his cramped right hand, sometimes (in the fear that
his brain may have something to do with it) on the back of
his neck. One of them frowns over her rubbing, and the other
frowns over his reading. It would be delightfully ridiculous,
but for a drawback; Mr. Philip Dunboyne's first impressions
of Mrs. Tenbruggen do not incline him to look at that lady from
a humorous point of view.
Helena's remarks follow, as usual. She has seen Mrs. Tenbruggen's
name on the address of a letter written by Miss Jillgall--which
is quite enough to condemn Mrs. Tenbruggen. As for Philip
himself, she feels not quite sure of him, even yet. No more do I.
The letter that follows must be permitted to speak for itself:
I have flown into a passion, dearest Helena; and I am afraid
I shall make you fly into a passion, too. Blame Mrs. Tenbruggen;
don't blame me.
On the first occasion when I found my father under the hands
of the Medical Rubber, she took no notice of me. On the second
occasion--when she had been in daily attendance on him for
a week, at an exorbitant fee--she said in the coolest manner:
"Who is this young gentleman?" My father laid down his book,
for a moment only: "Don't interrupt me again, ma'am. The young
gentleman is my son Philip." Mrs. Tenbruggen eyed me with
an appearance of interest which I was at a loss to account for.
I hate an impudent woman. My visit came suddenly to an end.
The next time I saw my father, he was alone.
I asked him how he got on with Mrs. Tenbruggen. As badly as
possible, it appeared. "She takes liberties with my neck; she
interrupts me in my reading; and she does me no good. I shall
end, Philip, in applying a medical rubbing to Mrs. Tenbruggen."
A few days later, I found the masterful "Masseuse" torturing the
poor old gentleman's muscles again. She had the audacity to say
to me: "Well, Mr. Philip, when are you going to marry Miss Eunice
Gracedieu?" My father looked up. "Eunice?" he repeated. "When my
son told me he was engaged to Miss Gracedieu, he said 'Helena'!
Philip, what does this mean?" Mrs. Tenbruggen was so obliging as
to answer for me. "Some mistake, sir; it's Eunice he is engaged
to." I confess I forgot myself. "How the devil do you know that?"
I burst out. Mrs. Tenbruggen ignored me and my language. "I am
sorry to see, sir, that your son's education has been neglected;
he seems to be grossly ignorant of the laws of politeness."
"Never mind the laws of politeness," says my father. "You appear
to be better acquainted with my son's matrimonial prospects than
he is himself. How is that?" Mrs. Tenbruggen favored him with
another ready reply: "My authority is a letter, addressed to me
by a relative of Mr. Gracedieu--my dear and intimate friend, Miss
Jillgall." My father's keen eyes traveled backward and forward
between his female surgeon and his son. "Which am I to believe?"
he inquired. "I am surprised at your asking the question,"
I said. Mrs. Tenbruggen pointed to me. "Look at Mr. Philip,
sir--and you will allow him one merit. He is capable of showing
it, when he knows he has disgraced himself." Without intending
it, I am sure, my father infuriated me; he looked as if he
believed her. Out came one of the smallest and strongest words
in the English language before I could stop it: "Mrs. Tenbruggen,
you lie!" The illustrious Rubber dropped my father's hand--she
had been operating on him all the time--and showed us that
she could assert her dignity when circumstances called for
the exertion: "Either your son or I, sir, must leave the room.
Which is it to be?" She met her match in my father. Walking
quietly to the door, he opened it for Mrs. Tenbruggen with a low
bow. She stopped on her way out, and delivered her parting words:
"Messieurs Dunboyne, father and son, I keep my temper, and
merely regard you as a couple of blackguards." With that pretty
assertion of her opinion, she left us.
When we were alone, there was but one course to take; I made my
confession. It is impossible to tell you how my father received
it--for he sat down at his library table with his back to me.
The first thing he did was to ask me to help his memory.
"Did you say that the father of these girls was a parson?"
"Yes--a Congregational Minister."
"What does the Minister think of you?"
"I don't know, sir."
That was all; not another word could I extract from him. I don't
pretend to have discovered what he really has in his mind. I only
venture on a suggestion. If there is any old friend in your town,
who has some influence over your father, leave no means untried
of getting that friend to say a kind word for us. And then ask
your father to write to mine. This is, as I see it, our only
. . . . . . .
There the letter ends. Helena's notes on it show that her pride
is fiercely interested in securing Philip as a husband.
Her victory over poor Eunice will, as she plainly intimates,
be only complete when she is married to young Dunboyne. For
the rest, her desperate resolution to win her way to my good
graces is sufficiently intelligible, now.
My own impressions vary. Philip rather gains upon me; he appears
to have some capacity for feeling ashamed of himself. On
the other hand, I regard the discovery of an intimate friendship
existing between Mrs. Tenbruggen and Miss Jillgall with
the gloomiest views. Is this formidable Masseuse likely to ply
her trade in the country towns? And is it possible that she may
come to this town? God forbid!
Of the other letters in the collection, I need take no special
notice. I returned the whole correspondence to Helena, and waited
to hear from her.
The one recent event in Mr. Gracedieu's family, worthy of record,
is of a melancholy nature. After paying his visit to-day,
the doctor has left word that nobody but the nurse is to go near
the Minister. This seems to indicate, but too surely, a change
for the worse.
Helena has been away all the evening at the Girls' School.
She left a little note, informing me of her wishes: "I shall
expect to be favored with your decision to-morrow morning,
in my housekeeping room."
At breakfast time, the report of the poor Minister was still
discouraging. I noticed that Helena was absent from the table.
Miss Jillgall suspected that the cause was bad news from Mr.
Philip Dunboyne, arriving by that morning's post. "If you will
excuse the use of strong language by a lady," she said, "Helena
looked perfectly devilish when she opened the letter. She rushed
away, and locked herself up in her own shabby room. A serious
obstacle, as I suspect, in the way of her marriage. Cheering,
isn't it?" As usual, good Selina expressed her sentiments
I had to keep my appointment; and the sooner Helena Gracedieu
and I understood each other the better.
I knocked at the door. It was loudly unlocked, and violently
thrown open. Helena's temper had risen to boiling heat; she
stammered with rage when she spoke to me.
"I mean to come to the point at once," she said.
"I am glad to hear it, Miss Helena."
"May I count on your influence to help me? I want a positive
I gave her what she wanted. I said: "Certainly not."
She took a crumpled letter from her pocket, opened it, and
smoothed it out on the table with a blow of her open hand.
"Look at that," she said.
I looked. It was the letter addressed to Mr. Dunboyne the elder,
which I had written for Mr. Gracedieu--with the one object
of preventing Helena's marriage.
"Of course, I can depend on you to tell me the truth?"
"Without fear or favor," I answered, "you may depend on _that_."
"The signature to the letter, Mr. Governor, is written by
my father. But the letter itself is in a different hand. Do you,
by any chance, recognize the writing?"
"Whose writing is it?"
THE RESURRECTION OF THE PAST.
After having identified my handwriting, I waited with some
curiosity to see whether Helena would let her anger honestly show
itself, or whether she would keep it down. She kept it down.
"Allow me to return good for evil." (The evil was uppermost,
nevertheless, when Miss Gracedieu expressed herself in these
self-denying terms.) "You are no doubt anxious to know if
Philip's father has been won over to serve your purpose. Here is
Philip's own account of it: the last of his letters that I shall
trouble you to read."
I looked it over. The memorandum follows which I made for
my own use:
An eccentric philosopher is as capable as the most commonplace
human being in existence of behaving like an honorable man.
Mr. Dunboyne read the letter which bore the Minister's signature,
and handed it to his son. "Can you answer that?" was all he said.
Philip's silence confessed that he was unable to answer it--and
Philip himself, I may add, rose accordingly in my estimation.
His father pointed to the writing-desk. "I must spare my cramped
hand," the philosopher resumed, "and I must answer Mr.
Gracedieu's letter. Write, and leave a place for my signature."
He began to dictate his reply. "Sir--My son Philip has seen your
letter, and has no defense to make. In this respect he has set an
example of candor which I propose to follow. There is no excuse
for him. What I can do to show that I feel for you, and agree
with you, shall be done. At the age which this young man has
reached, the laws of England abolish the authority of his father.
If he is sufficiently infatuated to place his honor and his
happiness at the mercy of a lady, who has behaved to her sister
as your daughter has behaved to Miss Eunice, I warn the married
couple not to expect a farthing of my money, either during
my lifetime or after my death. Your faithful servant, DUNBOYNE,
SENIOR." Having performed his duty as secretary, Philip received
his dismissal: "You may send my reply to the post," his father
said; "and you may keep Mr. Gracedieu's letter. Morally speaking,
I regard that last document as a species of mirror, in which
a young gentleman like yourself may see how ugly he looks."
This, Philip declared, was his father's form of farewell.
I handed back the letter to Helena. Not a word passed between us.
In sinister silence she opened the door and left me alone in
That Mrs. Gracedieu and I had met in the bygone time, and--this
was the only serious part of it--had met in secret, would now
be made known to the Minister. Was I to blame for having shrunk
from distressing my good friend, by telling him that his wife
had privately consulted me on the means of removing his adopted
child from his house? And, even if I had been cruel enough to
do this, would he have believed my statement against the positive
denial with which the woman whom he loved and trusted would
have certainly met it? No! let the consequences of the coming
disclosure be what they might, I failed to see any valid reason
for regretting my conduct in the past time.
I found Miss Jillgall waiting in the passage to see me come out.
Before I could tell her what had happened, there was a ring
at the house-bell. The visitor proved to be Mr. Wellwood,
the doctor. I was anxious to speak to him on the subject of
Mr. Gracedieu's health. Miss Jillgall introduced me, as an
old and dear friend of the Minister, and left us together in
"What do I think of Mr. Gracedieu?" he said, repeating the first
question that I put. "Well, sir, I think badly of him."
Entering into details, after that ominous reply, Mr. Wellwood
did not hesitate to say that his patient's nerves were completely
shattered. Disease of the brain had, as he feared, been already
set up. "As to the causes which have produced this lamentable
break-down," the doctor continued, "Mr. Gracedieu has been
in the habit of preaching extempore twice a day on Sundays, and
sometimes in the week as well--and has uniformly refused to spare
himself when he was in most urgent need of rest. If you have
ever attended his chapel, you have seen a man in a state of fiery
enthusiasm, feeling intensely every word that he utters. Think of
such exhaustion as that implies going on for years together, and
accumulating its wasting influences on a sensitively organized
constitution. Add that he is tormented by personal anxieties,
which he confesses to no one, not even to his own children and
the sum of it all is that a worse case of its kind, I am grieved
to say, has never occurred in my experience."
Before the doctor left me to go to his patient, I asked leave
to occupy a minute more of his time. My object was, of course,
to speak about Eunice.
The change of subject seemed to be agreeable to Mr. Wellwood.
He smiled good-humoredly.
"You need feel no alarm about the health of that interesting
girl," he said. "When she complained to me--at her age!--of not
being able to sleep, I should have taken it more seriously if
I had been told that she too had her troubles, poor little soul.
Love-troubles, most likely--but don't forget that my professional
limits keep me in the dark! Have you heard that she took some
composing medicine, which I had prescribed for her father?
The effect (certain, in any case, to be injurious to a young
girl) was considerably aggravated by the state of her mind at
the time. A dream that frightened her, and something resembling
delirium, seems to have followed. And she made matters worse,
poor child, by writing in her diary about the visions and
supernatural appearances that had terrified her. I was afraid
of fever, on the day when they first sent for me. We escaped
that complication, and I was at liberty to try the best of all
remedies--quiet and change of air. I have no fears for
With that cheering reply he went up to the Minister's room.
All that I had found perplexing in Eunice was now made clear.
I understood how her agony at the loss of her lover, and her keen
sense of the wrong that she had suffered, had been strengthened
in their disastrous influence by her experiment on the sleeping
draught intended for her father. In mind and body, both, the poor
girl was in the condition which offered its opportunity to
the lurking hereditary taint. It was terrible to think of what
might have happened, if the all-powerful counter-influence had
not been present to save her.
Before I had been long alone the servant-maid came in, and said
the doctor wanted to see me.
Mr. Wellwood was waiting in the passage, outside the Minister's
bedchamber. He asked if he could speak to me without
interruption, and without the fear of being overheard. I led him
at once to the room which I occupied as a guest.
"At the very time when it is most important to keep Mr. Gracedieu
quiet," he said, "something has happened to excite--I might
almost say to infuriate him. He has left his bed, and is walking
up and down the room; and, I don't scruple to say, he is on
the verge of madness. He insists on seeing you. Being wholly
unable to control him in any other way, I have consented to
this. But I must not allow you to place yourself in what may be
a disagreeable position, without a word of warning. Judging by
his tones and his looks, he seems to have no very friendly motive