Part 6 out of 8
for wishing to see you."
Knowing perfectly well what had happened, and being one of those
impatient people who can never endure suspense--I offered to go
at once to Mr. Gracedieu's room. The doctor asked leave to say
one word more.
"Pray be careful that you neither say nor do anything to thwart
him," Mr. Wellwood resumed. "If he expresses an opinion, agree
with him. If he is insolent and overbearing, don't answer him.
In the state of his brain, the one hopeful course to take is to
let him have his own way. Pray remember that. I will be within
call, in case of your wanting me."
THE FATAL PORTRAIT.
I knocked at the bedroom door.
Only two words--but the voice that uttered them, hoarse and
peremptory, was altered almost beyond recognition. If I had
not known whose room it was, I might have doubted whether
the Minister had really spoken to me.
At the instant when I answered him, I was allowed to pass in.
Having admitted me, he closed the door, and placed himself
with his back against it. The customary pallor of his face had
darkened to a deep red; there was an expression of ferocious
mockery in his eyes. Helena's vengeance had hurt her unhappy
father far more severely than it seemed likely to hurt me. The
doctor had said he was on the verge of madness. To my thinking,
he had already passed the boundary line.
He received me with a boisterous affectation of cordiality.
"My excellent friend! My admirable, honorable, welcome guest,
you don't know how glad I am to see you. Stand a little nearer
to the light; I want to admire you."
Remembering the doctor's advice, I obeyed him in silence.
"Ah, you were a handsome fellow when I first knew you," he said,
"and you have some remains of it still left. Do you remember the
time when you were a favorite with the ladies? Oh, don't pretend
to be modest; don't turn your back, now you are old, on what you
were in the prime of your life. Do you own that I am right?"
What his object might be in saying this--if, indeed, he had
an object--it was impossible to guess. The doctor's advice left
me no alternative; I hastened to own that he was right. As I made
that answer, I observed that he held something in his hand which
was half hidden up the sleeve of his dressing-gown. What
the nature of the object was I failed to discover.
"And when I happened to speak of you somewhere," he went on,
"I forget where--a member of my congregation--I don't recollect
who it was--told me you were connected with the aristocracy.
How were you connected?"
He surprised me; but, however he had got his information, he
had not been deceived. I told him that I was connected, through
my mother, with the family to which he had alluded.
"The aristocracy!" he repeated. "A race of people who are rich
without earning their money, and noble because their
great-grandfathers were noble before them. They live in idleness
and luxury--profligates who gratify their passions without shame
and without remorse. Deny, if you dare, that this is a true
description of them."
It was really pitiable. Heartily sorry for him, I pacified him
"And don't suppose I forget that you are one of them. Do you hear
me, my noble friend?"
There was no help for it--I made another conciliatory reply.
"So far," he resumed, "I don't complain of you. You have not
attempted to deceive me--yet. Absolute silence is what I require
next. Though you may not suspect it, my mind is in a ferment;
I must try to think."
To some extent at least, his thoughts betrayed themselves in his
actions. He put the object that I had half seen in his hand into
the pocket of his dressing-gown, and moved to the toilet-table.
Opening one of the drawers, he took from it a folded sheet of
paper, and came back to me.
"A minister of the Gospel," he said, "is a sacred man, and has
a horror of crime. You are safe, so far--provided you obey me.
I have a solemn and terrible duty to perform. This is not
the right place for it. Follow me downstairs."
He led the way out. The doctor, waiting in the passage,
was not near the stairs, and so escaped notice. "What is it?"
Mr. Wellwood whispered. In the same guarded way, I said: "He
has not told me yet; I have been careful not to irritate him."
When we descended the stairs, the doctor followed us at a safe
distance. He mended his pace when the Minister opened the door
of the study, and when he saw us both pass in. Before he could
follow, the door was closed and locked in his face. Mr. Gracedieu
took out the key and threw it through the open window, into
the garden below.
Turning back into the room, he laid the folded sheet of paper
on the table. That done, he spoke to me.
"I distrust my own weakness," he said. "A dreadful necessity
confronts me--I might shrink from the horrid idea, and, if I
could open the door, might try to get away. Escape is impossible
now. We are prisoners together. But don't suppose that we are
alone. There is a third person present, who will judge between
you and me. Look there!"
He pointed solemnly to the portrait of his wife. It was
a small picture, very simply framed; representing the face in
a "three-quarter" view, and part of the figure only. As a work
of art it was contemptible; but, as a likeness, it answered
its purpose. My unhappy friend stood before it, in an attitude
of dejection, covering his face with his hands.
In the interval of silence that followed, I was reminded that
an unseen friend was keeping watch outside.
Alarmed by having heard the key turned in the lock, and realizing
the embarrassment of the position in which I was placed, the
doctor had discovered a discreet way of communicating with me.
He slipped one of his visiting-cards under the door, with these
words written on it: "How can I help you?"
I took the pencil from my pocketbook, and wrote on the blank side
of the card: "He has thrown the key into the garden; look for it
under the window." A glance at the Minister, before I returned my
reply, showed that his attitude was unchanged. Without being seen
or suspected, I, in my turn, slipped the card under the door.
The slow minutes followed each other--and still nothing happened.
My anxiety to see how the doctor's search for the key was
succeeding, tempted me to approach the window. On my way to it,
the tail of my coat threw down a little tray containing pens
and pencils, which had been left close to the edge of the table.
Slight as the noise of the fall was, it disturbed Mr. Gracedieu.
He looked round vacantly.
"I have been comforted by prayer," he told me. "The weakness
of poor humanity has found strength in the Lord." He pointed to
the portrait once more: "My hands must not presume to touch it,
while I am still in doubt. Take it down."
I removed the picture and placed it, by his directions, on
a chair that stood midway between us. To my surprise his tones
faltered; I saw tears rising in his eyes. "You may think you
see a picture there," he said. "You are wrong. You see my wife
herself. Stand here, and look at my wife with me."
We stood together, with our eyes fixed on the portrait.
Without anything said or done on my part to irritate him, he
suddenly turned to me in a state of furious rage. "Not a sign of
sorrow!" he burst out. "Not a blush of shame! Wretch, you stand
condemned by the atrocious composure that I see in your face!"
A first discovery of the odious suspicion of which I was
the object, dawned on my mind at that moment. My capacity for
restraining myself completely failed me. I spoke to him as if he
had been an accountable being. "Once for all," I said, "tell me
what I have a right to know. You suspect me of something. What
Instead of directly replying, he seized my arm and led me to
the table. "Take up that paper," he said. "There is writing on
it. Read--and let Her judge between us. Your life depends on how
you answer me."
Was there a weapon concealed in the room? or had he got it in
the pocket of his dressing-gown? I listened for the sound of the
doctor's returning footsteps in the passage outside, and heard
nothing. My life had once depended, years since, on my success
in heading the arrest of an escaped prisoner. I was not conscious,
then, of feeling my energies weakened by fear. But _that_ man was
not mad; and I was younger, in those days, by a good twenty years
or more. At my later time of life, I could show my old friend
that I was not afraid of him--but I was conscious of an effort
in doing it.
I opened the paper. "Am I to read this to myself?" I asked.
"Or am I to read it aloud?"
"Read it aloud!"
In these terms, his daughter addressed him:
"I have been so unfortunate, dearest father, as to displease you,
and I dare not hope that you will consent to receive me. What it
is my painful duty to tell you, must be told in writing.
"Grieved as I am to distress you, in your present state
of health, I must not hesitate to reveal what it has been
my misfortune--I may even say my misery, when I think of
my mother--to discover.
"But let me make sure, in such a serious matter as this is,
that I am not mistaken.
"In those happy past days, when I was still dear to my father,
you said you thought of writing to invite a dearly-valued friend
to pay a visit to this house. You had first known him, as I
understood, when my mother was still living. Many interesting
things you told me about this old friend, but you never mentioned
that he knew, or that he had even seen, my mother. I was left
to suppose that those two had remained strangers to each other
to the day of her death.
"If there is any misinterpretation here of what you said, or
perhaps of what you meant to say, pray destroy what I have
written without turning to the next page; and forgive me for
having innocently startled you by a false alarm."
Mr. Gracedieu interrupted me.
"Put it down!" he cried; "I won't wait till you have got to
the end--I shall question you now. Give me the paper; it will
help me to keep this mystery of iniquity clear in my own mind."
I gave him the paper.
He hesitated--and looked at the portrait once more. "Turn her
away from me," he said; "I can't face my wife."
I placed the picture with its back to him.
He consulted the paper, reading it with but little of the
confusion and hesitation which my experience of him had induced
me to anticipate. Had the mad excitement that possessed him
exercised an influence in clearing his mind, resembling in some
degree the influence exercised by a storm in clearing the air?
Whatever the right explanation may be, I can only report what
I saw. I could hardly have mastered what his daughter had written
more readily, if I had been reading it myself.
"Helena tells me," he began, "that you said you knew her by her
likeness to her mother. Is that true?"
"And you made an excuse for leaving her--see! here it is, written
down. You made an excuse, and left her when she asked for an
He consulted the paper again.
"My daughter says--No! I won't be hurried and I won't be
interrupted--she says you were confused. Is that so?"
"It is so. Let your questions wait for a moment. I wish to tell
you why I was confused."
"Haven't I said I won't be interrupted? Do you think you can
shake _my_ resolution?" He referred to the paper again. "I have
lost the place. It's your fault--find it for me."
The evidence which was intended to convict me was the evidence
which I was expected to find! I pointed it out to him.
His natural courtesy asserted itself in spite of his anger. He
said "Thank you," and questioned me the moment after as fiercely
as ever. "Go back to the time, sir, when we met in your rooms
at the prison. Did you know my wife then?"
"Did you and she see each other--ha! I've got it now--did you
see each other after I had left the town? No prevarication!
You own to telling Helena that you knew her by her likeness
to her mother. You must have seen her mother. Where?"
I made another effort to defend myself. He again refused
furiously to hear me. It was useless to persist. Whatever
the danger that threatened me might be, the sooner it showed
itself the easier I should feel. I told him that Mrs. Gracedieu
had called on me, after he and his wife had left the town.
"Do you mean to tell me," he cried, "that she came to you?"
After that answer, he no longer required the paper to help him.
He threw it from him on the floor.
"And you received her," he said, "without inquiring whether
I knew of her visit or not? Guilty deception on your part--guilty
deception on her part. Oh, the hideous wickedness of it!"
When his mad suspicion that I had been his wife's lover betrayed
itself in this way, I made a last attempt, in the face of
my own conviction that it was hopeless, to place my conduct and
his wife's conduct before him in the true light.
"Mrs. Gracedieu's object was to consult me--" Before I could
say the next words, I saw him put his hand into the pocket of
"An innocent man," he sternly declared, "would have told me that
my wife had been to see him--you kept it a secret. An innocent
woman would have given me a reason for wishing to go to you--she
kept it a secret, when she left my house; she kept it a secret
when she came back."
"Mr. Gracedieu, I insist on being heard! Your wife's motive--"
He drew from his pocket the thing that he had hidden from me.
This time, there was no concealment; he let me see that he was
opening a razor. It was no time for asserting my innocence; I had
to think of preserving my life. When a man is without firearms,
what defense can avail against a razor in the hands of a madman?
A chair was at my side; it offered the one poor means of guarding
myself that I could see. I laid my hand on it, and kept my eye
He paused, looking backward and forward between the picture
"Which of them shall I kill first?" he said to himself. "The man
who was my trusted friend? Or the woman whom I believed to be
an angel on earth?" He stopped once more, in a state of fierce
self-concentration, debating what he should do. "The woman,"
he decided. "Wretch! Fiend! Harlot! How I loved her!!!"
With a yell of fury, he pounced on the picture--ripped the canvas
out of the frame--and cut it malignantly into fragments. As they
dropped from the razor on the floor, he stamped on them, and
ground them under his foot. "Go, wife of my bosom," he cried,
with a dreadful mockery of voice and look--"go, and burn
everlastingly in the place of torment!" His eyes glared at me.
"Your turn now," he said--and rushed at me with his weapon ready
in his hand. I hurled the chair at his right arm. The razor
dropped on the floor. I caught him by the wrist. Like a wild
animal he tried to bite me. With my free hand--if I had known
how to defend myself in any other way, I would have taken that
way--with my free hand I seized him by the throat; forced him
back; and held him against the wall. My grasp on his throat kept
him quiet. But the dread of seriously injuring him so completely
overcame me, that I forgot I was a prisoner in the room, and was
on the point of alarming the household by a cry for help.
I was still struggling to preserve my self-control, when
the sound of footsteps broke the silence outside. I heard the key
turn in the lock, and saw the doctor at the open door.
THE CUMBERSOME LADIES.
I cannot prevail upon myself to dwell at any length on the events
We secured my unhappy friend, and carried him to his bed. It was
necessary to have men in attendance who could perform the duty of
watching him. The doctor sent for them, while I went downstairs
to make the best I could of the miserable news which it was
impossible entirely to conceal.
All that I could do to spare Miss Jillgall, I did. I was obliged
to acknowledge that there had been an outbreak of violence, and
that the portrait of the Minister's wife had been destroyed by
the Minister himself. Of Helena's revenge on me I said nothing.
It had led to consequences which even her merciless malice could
not have contemplated. There were no obstacles in the way of
keeping secret the attempt on my life. But I was compelled to own
that Mr. Gracedieu had taken a dislike to me, which rendered it
necessary that my visit should be brought to an end. I hastened
to add that I should go to the hotel, and should wait there until
the next day, in the hope of hearing better news.
Of the multitude of questions with which poor Miss Jillgall
overwhelmed me--of the wild words of sorrow and alarm that
escaped her--of the desperate manner in which she held by my arm,
and implored me not to go away, when I must see for myself that
"she was a person entirely destitute of presence of mind"--I
shall say nothing. The undeserved suffering that is inflicted on
innocent persons by the sins of others demands silent sympathy;
and, to that extent at least, I can say that I honestly felt for
my quaint and pleasant little friend.
In the evening the doctor called on me at the hotel. The medical
treatment of his patient had succeeded in calming the maddened
brain under the influence of sleep. If the night passed quietly,
better news might be hoped for in the morning.
On the next day I had arranged to drive to the farm, being
resolved not to disappoint Eunice. But I shrank from the prospect
of having to distress her as I had already distressed Miss
Jillgall. The only alternative left was to repeat the sad story
in writing, subject to the concealments which I had already
observed. This I did, and sent the letter by messenger,
overnight, so that Eunice might know when to expect me.
The medical report, in the morning, justified some hope. Mr.
Gracedieu had slept well, and there had been no reappearance
of insane violence on his waking. But the doctor's opinion was
far from encouraging when we spoke of the future. He did not
anticipate the cruel necessity of placing the Minister under
restraint--unless some new provocation led to a new outbreak.
The misfortune to be feared was imbecility.
I was just leaving the hotel to keep my appointment with Eunice,
when the waiter announced the arrival of a young lady who wished
to speak with me. Before I could ask if she had mentioned her
name, the young lady herself walked in--Helena Gracedieu.
She explained her object in calling on me, with the exasperating
composure which was peculiarly her own. No parallel to it occurs
to me in my official experience of shameless women.
"I don't wish to speak of what happened yesterday, so far as
I know anything about it," she began. "It is quite enough for me
that you have been obliged to leave the house and to take refuge
in this hotel. I have come to say a word about the future. Are
you honoring me with your attention?"
I signed to her to go on. If I had answered in words, I should
have told her to leave the room.
"At first," she resumed, "I thought of writing; but it occurred
to me that you might keep my letter, and show it to Philip, by
way of lowering me in his good opinion, as you have lowered me
in the good opinion of his father. My object in coming here is to
give you a word of warning. If you attempt to make mischief next
between Philip and myself, I shall hear of it--and you know what
to expect, when you have me for an enemy. It is not worth while
to say any more. We understand each other, I hope?"
She was determined to have a reply--and she got it.
"Not quite yet," I said. "I have been hitherto, as becomes
a gentleman, always mindful of a woman's claims to forbearance.
You will do well not to tempt me into forgetting that _you_ are
a woman, by prolonging your visit. Now, Miss Helena Gracedieu,
we understand each other." She made me a low curtsey, and
answered in her finest tone of irony: "I only desire to wish you
a pleasant journey home."
I rang for the waiter. "Show this lady out," I said.
Even this failed to have the slightest effect on her. She
sauntered to the door, as perfectly at her ease as if the room
had been hers--not mine.
I had thought of driving to the farm. Shall I confess it? My
temper was so completely upset that active movement of some kind
offered the one means of relief in which I could find refuge.
The farm was not more than five miles distant, and I had been
a good walker all my life. After making the needful inquiries,
I set forth to visit Eunice on foot.
My way through the town led me past the Minister's house. I had
left the door some fifty yards behind me, when I saw two ladies
approaching. They were walking, in the friendliest manner,
arm in arm. As they came nearer, I discovered Miss Jillgall.
Her companion was the middle-aged lady who had declined to give
her name, when we met accidentally at Mr. Gracedieu's door.
Hysterically impulsive, Miss Jillgall seized both my hands,
and overwhelmed me with entreaties that I would go back with her
to the house. I listened rather absently. The middle-aged lady
happened to be nearer to me now than on either of the former
occasions on which I had seen her. There was something in the
expression of her eyes which seemed to be familiar to me. But
the effort of my memory was not helped by what I observed in
the other parts of her face. The iron-gray hair, the baggy lower
eyelids, the fat cheeks, the coarse complexion, and the double
chin, were features, and very disagreeable features, too, which
I had never seen at any former time.
"Do pray come back with us," Miss Jillgall pleaded. "We were
just talking of you. I and my friend--" There she stopped,
evidently on the point of blurting out the name which she had
been forbidden to utter in my hearing.
The lady smiled; her provokingly familiar eyes rested on me
with a humorous enjoyment of the scene.
"My dear," she said to Miss Jillgall, "caution ceases to be a
virtue when it ceases to be of any use. The Governor is beginning
to remember me, and the inevitable recognition--with _his_
quickness of perception--is likely to be a matter of minutes
now." She turned to me. "In more ways than one, sir, women are
hardly used by Nature. As they advance in years they lose more
in personal appearance than the men do. You are white-haired, and
(pray excuse me) you are too fat; and (allow me to take another
liberty) you stoop at the shoulders--but you have not entirely
lost your good looks. _I_ am no longer recognizable. Allow me to
prompt you, as they say on the stage. I am Mrs. Tenbruggen."
As a man of the world, I ought to have been capable of concealing
my astonishment and dismay. She struck me dumb.
Mrs. Tenbruggen in the town! The one woman whose appearance Mr.
Gracedieu had dreaded, and justly dreaded, stood before me--free,
as a friend of his kinswoman, to enter his house, at the very
time when he was a helpless man, guarded by watchers at his
bedside. My first clear idea was to get away from both the women,
and consider what was to be done next. I bowed--and begged to be
excused--and said I was in a hurry, all in a breath.
Hearing this, the best of genial old maids was unable to restrain
her curiosity. "Where are you going?" she asked.
Too confused to think of an excuse, I said I was going to
"To see my dear Euneece?" Miss Jillgall burst out. "Oh, we will
go with you!" Mrs. Tenbruggen's politeness added immediately,
"With the greatest pleasure."
THE JOURNEY TO THE FARM.
My first ungrateful impulse was to get rid of the two cumbersome
ladies who had offered to be my companions. It was needless to
call upon my invention for an excuse; the truth, as I gladly
perceived, would serve my purpose. I had only to tell them that
I had arranged to walk to the farm.
Lean, wiry, and impetuous, Miss Jillgall received my excuse with
the sincerest approval of it, as a new idea. "Nothing could be
more agreeable to me," she declared; "I have been a wonderful
walker all my life." She turned to her friend. "We will go with
him, my dear, won't we?"
Mrs. Tenbruggen's reception of this proposal inspired me with
hope; she asked how far it was to the farm. "Five miles!" she
repeated. "And five miles back again, unless the farmer lends
us a cart. My dear Selina, you might as well ask me to walk to
the North Pole. You have got rid of one of us, Mr. Governor,"
she added, pleasantly; "and the other, if you only walk fast
enough, you will leave behind you on the road. If I believed
in luck--which I don't--I should call you a fortunate man."
But companionable Selina would not hear of a separation. She
asked, in her most irresistible manner, if I objected to driving
instead of walking. Her heart's dearest wish, she said, was
to make her bosom friend and myself better acquainted with each
other. To conclude, she reminded me that there was a cab-stand
in the next street.
Perhaps I might have been influenced by my distrust of Mrs.
Tenbruggen, or perhaps by my anxiety to protect Eunice. It struck
me that I might warn the defenseless girl to be on her guard with
Mrs. Tenbruggen to better purpose, if Eunice was in a position
to recognize her in any future emergency that might occur. To my
mind, this dangerous woman was doubly formidable--and for a good
reason; she was the bosom friend of that innocent and unwary
person, Miss Jillgall.
So I amiably consented to forego my walk, yielding to the
superior attraction of Mrs. Tenbruggen's company. On that day
the sunshine was tempered by a delightful breeze. If we had been
in the biggest and worst-governed city on the civilised earth,
we should have found no public vehicle, open to the air, which
could offer accommodation to three people. Being only in
a country town, we had a light four-wheeled chaise at our
disposal, as a matter of course.
No wise man expects to be mercifully treated, when he is shut
into a carriage with a mature single lady, inflamed by curiosity.
I was not unprepared for Miss Jillgall when she alluded,
for the second time, to the sad events which had happened in
the house on the previous day--and especially to the destruction
by Mr. Gracedieu of the portrait of his wife.
"Why didn't he destroy something else?" she pleaded, piteously.
"It is such a disappointment to Me. I never liked that picture
myself. Of course I ought to have admired the portrait of
the wife of my benefactor. But no--that disagreeable painted face
was too much for me. I should have felt inexpressibly relieved,
if I could have shown it to Elizabeth, and heard her say that
she agreed with me."
"Perhaps I saw it when I called on you," Mrs. Tenbruggen
suggested. "Where did the picture hang?"
"My dear! I received you in the dining-room, and the portrait
hung in Mr. Gracedieu's study."
What they said to each other next escaped my attention. Quite
unconsciously, Miss Jillgall had revealed to me a danger which
neither the Minister nor I had discovered, though it had
conspicuously threatened us both on the wall of the study.
The act of mad destruction which, if I had possessed the means
of safely interfering, I should certainly have endeavored
to prevent, now assumed a new and startling aspect. If Mrs.
Tenbruggen really had some motive of her own for endeavoring
to identify the adopted child, the preservation of the picture
must have led her straight to the end in view. The most casual
opportunity of comparing Helena with the portrait of Mrs.
Gracedieu would have revealed the likeness between mother and
daughter--and, that result attained, the identification of Eunice
with the infant whom the "Miss Chance" of those days had brought
to the prison must inevitably have followed. It was perhaps
natural that Mr. Gracedieu's infatuated devotion to the memory
of his wife should have blinded him to the betrayal of Helena's
parentage, which met his eyes every time he entered his study.
But that I should have been too stupid to discover what he had
failed to see, was a wound dealt to my self-esteem which I was
vain enough to feel acutely.
Mrs. Tenbruggen's voice, cheery and humorous, broke in on
my reflections, with an odd question:
"Mr. Governor, do you ever condescend to read novels?"
"It's not easy to say, Mrs. Tenbruggen, how grateful I am to
the writers of novels."
"Ah! I read novels, too. But I blush to confess--do I blush?--
that I never thought of feeling grateful till you mentioned it.
Selina and I don't complain of your preferring your own
reflections to our company. On the contrary, you have reminded
us agreeably of the heroes of fiction, when the author describes
them as being 'absorbed in thought.' For some minutes, Mr.
Governor, you have been a hero; absorbed, as I venture to guess,
in unpleasant remembrances of the time when I was a single lady.
You have not forgotten how badly I behaved, and what shocking
things I said, in those bygone days. Am I right?"
"You are entirely wrong."
It is possible that I may have spoken a little too sharply.
Anyway, faithful Selina interceded for her friend. "Oh, dear
sir, don't be hard on Elizabeth! She always means well." Mrs.
Tenbruggen, as facetious as ever, made a grateful return for
a small compliment. She chucked Miss Jillgall under the chin,
with the air of an amorous old gentleman expressing his approval
of a pretty servant-girl. It was impossible to look at the two,
in their relative situations, without laughing. But Mrs.
Tenbruggen failed to cheat me into altering my opinion of her.
Innocent Miss Jillgall clapped her ugly hands, and said: "Isn't
she good company?"
Mrs. Tenbruggen's social resources were not exhausted yet. She
suddenly shifted to the serious side of her character.
"Perhaps I have improved a little," she said, "as I have advanced
in years. The sorrows of an unhappy married life may have had
a purifying influence on my nature. My husband and I began badly.
Mr. Tenbruggen thought I had money; and I thought Mr. Tenbruggen
had money. He was taken in by me; and I was taken in by him. When
he repeated the words of the marriage service (most impressively
read by your friend the Chaplain): 'With all my worldly goods
I thee endow'--his eloquent voice suggested one of the largest
incomes in Europe. When I promised and vowed, in my turn,
the delightful prospect of squandering my rich husband's money
made quite a new woman of me. I declare solemnly, when I said
I would love, honor, and obey Mr. T., I looked as if I really
meant it. Wherever he is now, poor dear, he is cheating somebody.
Such a handsome, gentleman-like man, Selina! And, oh, Mr.
Governor, such a blackguard!"
Having described her husband in those terms, she got tired of
the subject. We were now favored with another view of this
many-sided woman. She appeared in her professional character.
"Ah, what a delicious breeze is blowing, out here in the
country!" she said. "Will you excuse me if I take off my gloves?
I want to air my hands." She held up her hands to the breeze;
firm, muscular, deadly white hands. "In my professional
occupation," she explained, "I am always rubbing, tickling,
squeezing, tapping, kneading, rolling, striking the muscles of
patients. Selina, do you know the movements of your own joints?
Flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, rotation,
circumduction, pronation, supination, and the lateral movements.
Be proud of those accomplishments, my dear, but beware of
attempting to become a Masseuse. There are drawbacks in that
vocation--and I am conscious of one of them at this moment."
She lifted her hands to her nose. "Pah! my hands smell of other
people's flesh. The delicious country air will blow it away--the
luxury of purification!" Her fingers twisted and quivered, and
got crooked at one moment and straight again at another, and
showed themselves in succession singly, and flew into each other
fiercely interlaced, and then spread out again like the sticks
of a fan, until it really made me giddy to look at them. As for
Miss Jillgall, she lifted her poor little sunken eyes rapturously
to the sky, as if she called the homiest sunlight to witness that
this was the most lovable woman on the face of the earth.
But elderly female fascination offers its allurements in vain
to the rough animal, man. Suspicion of Mrs. Tenbruggen's motives
had established itself firmly in my mind. Why had the Popular
Masseuse abandoned her brilliant career in London, and plunged
into the obscurity of a country town? An opportunity of clearing
up the doubt thus suggested seemed to have presented itself now.
"Is it indiscreet to ask," I said, "if you are here in your
Her cunning seized its advantage and put a sly question to me.
"Do you wish to be one of my patients yourself?"
"That is, unfortunately, impossible," I replied "I have arranged
to return to London."
"To-morrow at the latest."
Artful as she was, Mrs. Tenbruggen failed to conceal a momentary
expression of relief which betrayed itself, partly in her manner,
partly in her face. She had ascertained, to her own complete
satisfaction, that my speedy departure was an event which might
be relied on.
"But I have not yet answered you," she resumed. "To tell the
truth, I am eager to try my hands on you. Massage, as I practice
it, would lighten your weight, and restore your figure; I may
even say would lengthen your life. You will think of me, one
of these days, won't you? In the meanwhile--yes! I am here in
my professional capacity. Several interesting cases; and one very
remarkable person, brought to death's door by the doctors; a rich
man who is liberal in paying his fees. There is my quarrel with
London and Londoners. Some of their papers, medical newspapers,
of course, declare that my fees are exorbitant; and there is a
tendency among the patients--I mean the patients who are rolling
in riches--to follow the lead of the newspapers. I am no worm to
be trodden on, in that way. The London people shall wait for me,
until they miss me--and, when I do go back, they will find
the fees increased. _My_ fingers and thumbs, Mr. Governor, are
not to be insulted with impunity."
Miss Jillgall nodded her head at me. It was an eloquent nod.
"Admire my spirited friend," was the interpretation I put on it.
At the same time, my private sentiments suggested that Mrs.
Tenbruggen's reply was too perfectly satisfactory, viewed as
an explanation. My suspicions were by no means set at rest; and
I was resolved not to let the subject drop yet. "Speaking of Mr.
Gracedieu, and of the chances of his partial recovery," I said,
"do you think the Minister would benefit by Massage?"
"I haven't a doubt of it, if you can get rid of the doctor."
"You think he would be an obstacle in the way?"
"There are some medical men who are honorable exceptions to
the general rule; and he may be one of them," Mrs. Tenbruggen
admitted. "Don't be too hopeful. As a doctor, he belongs to
the most tyrannical trades-union in existence. May I make
a personal remark?"
"I find something in your manner--pray don't suppose that I am
angry--which looks like distrust; I mean, distrust of me."
Miss Jillgall's ever ready kindness interfered in my defense:
"Oh, no, Elizabeth! You are not often mistaken; but indeed
you are wrong now. Look at my distinguished friend. I remember
my copy book, when I was a small creature learning to write,
in England. There were first lines that we copied, in big
letters, and one of them said, 'Distrust Is Mean.' I know a young
person, whose name begins with H, who is one mass of meanness.
But"--excellent Selina paused, and pointed to me with a gesture
of triumph--"no meanness there!"
Mrs. Tenbruggen waited to hear what I had to say, scornfully
insensible to Miss Jillgall's well-meant interruption.
"You are not altogether mistaken," I told her. "I can't say that
my mind is in a state of distrust, but I own that you puzzle me."
"How, if you please?"
"May I presume that you remember the occasion when we met at Mr.
Gracedieu's house-door? You saw that I failed to recognize you,
and you refused to give your name when the servant asked for it.
A few days afterward, I heard you (quite accidentally) forbid
Miss Jillgall to mention your name in my hearing. I am at a loss
to understand it."
Before she could answer me, the chaise drew up at the gate of
the farmhouse. Mrs. Tenbruggen carefully promised to explain
what had puzzled me, at the first opportunity. "If it escapes
my memory," she said, "pray remind me of it."
I determined to remind her of it. Whether I could depend on
her to tell me the truth, might be quite another thing.
THE DECISION OF EUNICE.
Eunice ran out to meet us, and opened the gate. She was instantly
folded in Miss Jillgall's arms. On her release, she came to me,
eager for news of her father's health. When I had communicated
all that I thought it right to tell her of the doctor's last
report, she noticed Mrs. Tenbruggen. The appearance of a stranger
seemed to embarrass her. I left Miss Jillgall to introduce them
to each other.
"Darling Euneece, you remember Mrs. Tenbruggen's name, I am sure?
Elizabeth, this is my sweet girl; I mentioned her in my letters
"I hope she will be _my_ sweet girl, when we know each other
a little better. May I kiss you, dear? You have lovely eyes; but
I am sorry to see that they don't look like happy eyes. You want
Mamma Tenbruggen to cheer you. What a charming old house!"
She put her arm round Eunice's waist and led her to the house
door. Her enjoyment of the creepers that twined their way up the
pillars of the porch was simply perfection as a piece of acting.
When the farmer's wife presented herself, Mrs. Tenbruggen was
so irresistibly amiable, and took such flattering notice of
the children, that the harmless British matron actually blushed
with pleasure. "I'm sure, ma'am, you must have children of your
own," she said. Mrs. Tenbruggen cast her eyes on the floor, and
sighed with pathetic resignation. A sweet little family, and all
cruelly swept away by death. If the performance meant anything,
it did most assuredly mean that.
"What wonderful self-possession!" somebody whispered in my ear.
The children in the room were healthy, well-behaved little
creatures--but the name of the innocent one among them was
Before dinner we were shown over the farm.
The good woman of the house led the way, and Miss Jillgall and
I accompanied her. The children ran on in front of us. Still
keeping possession of Eunice, Mrs. Tenbruggen followed at some
distance behind. I looked back, after no very long interval, and
saw that a separation had taken place. Mrs. Tenbruggen passed me,
not looking so pleasantly as usual, joined the children, and
walked with two of them, hand in hand, a pattern of maternal
amiability. I dropped back a little, and gave Eunice an
opportunity of joining me; having purposely left her to form her
own opinion, without any adverse influence exercised on my part.
"Is that lady a friend of yours?" she asked. "No; only
an acquaintance. What do you think of her?"
"I thought I should like her at first; she was so kind, and
seemed to take such an interest in me. But she said such strange
things--asked if I was reckoned like my mother, and which
of us was the eldest, my sister or myself, and whether we
were my father's only two children, and if one of us was more
his favorite than the other. What I could tell her, I did tell.
But when I said I didn't know which of us was the oldest, she
gave me an impudent tap on the cheek, and said, 'I don't believe
you, child,' and left me. How can Selina be so fond of her? Don't
mention it to any one else; I hope I shall never see her again."
"I will keep your secret, Eunice; and you must keep mine.
I entirely agree with you."
"You agree with me in disliking her?"
We could say no more at that time. Our friends in advance
were waiting for us. We joined them at once.
If I had felt any doubt of the purpose which had really induced
Mrs. Tenbruggen to leave London, all further uncertainty on
my part was at an end. She had some vile interest of her own
to serve by identifying Mr. Gracedieu's adopted child--but what
the nature of that interest might be, it was impossible to guess.
The future, when I thought of it now, filled me with dismay.
A more utterly helpless position than mine it was not easy to
conceive. To warn the Minister, in his present critical state of
health, was simply impossible. My relations with Helena forbade
me even to approach her. And, as for Selina, she was little less
than a mere tool in the hands of her well-beloved friend. What,
in God's name, was I to do?
At dinner-time we found the master of the house waiting to bid us
Personally speaking, he presented a remarkable contrast to the
typical British farmer. He was neither big nor burly; he spoke
English as well as I did; and there was nothing in his dress
which would have made him a fit subject for a picture of rustic
life. When he spoke, he was able to talk on subjects unconnected
with agricultural pursuits; nor did I hear him grumble about
the weather and the crops. It was pleasant to see that his wife
was proud of him, and that he was, what all fathers ought to be,
his children's best and dearest friend. Why do I dwell on these
details, relating to a man whom I was not destined to see again?
Only because I had reason to feel grateful to him. When
my spirits were depressed by anxiety, he made my mind easy
about Eunice, as long as she remained in his house.
The social arrangements, when our meal was over, fell
of themselves into the right train.
Miss Jillgall went upstairs, with the mother and the children,
to see the nursery and the bedrooms. Mrs. Tenbruggen discovered
a bond of union between the farmer and herself; they were
both skilled players at backgammon, and they sat down to try
conclusions at their favorite game. Without any wearisome
necessity for excuses or stratagems, Eunice took my arm and led
me to the welcome retirement of her own sitting-room.
I could honestly congratulate her, when I heard that she was
established at the farm as a member of the family. While she was
governess to the children, she was safe from dangers that might
have threatened her, if she had been compelled by circumstances
to return to the Minister's house.
The entry in her Journal, which she was anxious that I should
read, was placed before me next.
I followed the poor child's account of the fearful night that she
had passed, with an interest that held me breathless to the end.
A terrible dream, which had impressed a sense of its reality
on the sleeper by reaching its climax in somnambulism--this was
the obvious explanation, no doubt; and a rational mind would not
hesitate to accept it. But a rational mind is not a universal
gift, even in a country which prides itself on the idol-worship
of Fact. Those good friends who are always better acquainted
with our faults, failings, and weaknesses than we can pretend
to be ourselves, had long since discovered that my nature was
superstitious, and my imagination likely to mislead me in the
presence of events which encouraged it. Well! I was weak enough
to recoil from the purely rational view of all that Eunice had
suffered, and heard, and seen, on the fateful night recorded in
her Journal. Good and Evil walk the ways of this unintelligible
world, on the same free conditions. If we cling, as many of us
do, to the comforting belief that departed spirits can minister
to earthly creatures for good--can be felt moving in us, in
a train of thought, and seen as visible manifestations, in
a dream--with what pretense of reason can we deny that the same
freedom of supernatural influence which is conceded to
the departed spirit, working for good, is also permitted to
the departed spirit, working for evil? If the grave cannot wholly
part mother and child, when the mother's life has been good,
does eternal annihilation separate them, when the mother's life
has been wicked? No! If the departed spirit can bring with it a
blessing, the departed spirit can bring with it a curse. I dared
not confess to Eunice that the influence of her murderess-mother
might, as I thought possible, have been supernaturally present
when she heard temptation whispering in her ear; but I dared not
deny it to myself. All that I could say to satisfy and sustain
her, I did say. And when I declared--with my whole heart
declared--that the noble passion which had elevated her whole
being, and had triumphed over the sorest trials that desertion
could inflict, would still triumph to the end, I saw hope,
in that brave and true heart, showing its bright promise for
the future in Eunice's eyes.
She closed and locked her Journal. By common consent we sought
the relief of changing the subject. Eunice asked me if it was
really necessary that I should return to London.
I shrank from telling her that I could be of no further use
to her father, while he regarded me with an enmity which I had
not deserved. But I saw no reason for concealing that it was
my purpose to see Philip Dunboyne.
"You told me yesterday," I reminded her, "that I was to say
you had forgiven him. Do you still wish me to do that?"
"Indeed I do!"
"Have you thought of it seriously? Are you sure of not having
been hurried by a generous impulse into saying more than you
"I have been thinking of it," she said, "through the wakeful
hours of last night--and many things are plain to me, which
I was not sure of in the time when I was so happy. He has caused
me the bitterest sorrow of my life, but he can't undo the good
that I owe to him. He has made a better girl of me, in the time
when his love was mine. I don't forget that. Miserably as it has
ended, I don't forget that."
Her voice trembled; the tears rose in her eyes. It was impossible
for me to conceal the distress that I felt. The noble creature
saw it. "No," she said faintly; "I am not going to cry. Don't
look so sorry for me." Her hand pressed my hand gently--_she_
pitied _me_. When I saw how she struggled to control herself,
and did control herself, I declare to God I could have gone down
on my knees before her.
She asked to be allowed to speak of Philip again, and for
the last time.
"When you meet with him in London, he may perhaps ask if you
have seen Eunice."
"My child! he is sure to ask."
"Break it to him gently--but don't let him deceive himself.
In this world, he must never hope to see me again."
I tried--very gently--to remonstrate. "At your age, and at
his age," I said, "surely there is hope?"
"There is no hope." She pressed her hand on her heart. "I know
it, I feel it, here."
"Oh, Eunice, it's hard for me to say that!"
"I will try to make it easier for you. Say that I have forgiven
him--and say no more."
THE GOVERNOR ON HIS GUARD.
After leaving Eunice, my one desire was to be alone. I had much
to think of, and I wanted an opportunity of recovering myself.
On my way out of the house, in search of the first solitary place
that I could discover, I passed the room in which we had dined.
The door was ajar. Before I could get by it, Mrs. Tenbruggen
stepped out and stopped me.
"Will you come in here for a moment?" she said. "The farmer
has been called away, and I want to speak to you."
Very unwillingly--but how could I have refused without giving
offense?--I entered the room.
"When you noticed my keeping my name from you," Mrs. Tenbruggen
began, "while Selina was with us, you placed me in an awkward
position. Our little friend is an excellent creature, but her
tongue runs away with her sometimes; I am obliged to be careful
of taking her too readily into my confidence. For instance,
I have never told her what my name was before I married. Won't
you sit down?"
I had purposely remained standing as a hint to her not to prolong
the interview. The hint was thrown away; I took a chair.
"Selina's letters had informed me," she resumed, "that Mr.
Gracedieu was a nervous invalid. When I came to England, I had
hoped to try what massage might do to relieve him. The cure of
their popular preacher might have advertised me through the whole
of the Congregational sect. It was essential to my success
that I should present myself as a stranger. I could trust time
and change, and my married name (certainly not known to Mr.
Gracedieu) to keep up my incognito. He would have refused to see
me if he had known that I was once Miss Chance."
I began to be interested.
Here was an opportunity, perhaps, of discovering what
the Minister had failed to remember when he had been speaking
of this woman, and when I had asked if he had ever offended her.
I was especially careful in making my inquiries.
"I remember how you spoke to Mr. Gracedieu," I said, "when you
and he met, long ago, in my rooms. But surely you don't think him
capable of vindictively remembering some thoughtless words, which
escaped you sixteen or seventeen years since?"
"I am not quite such a fool as that, Mr. Governor. What I was
thinking of was an unpleasant correspondence between the Minister
and myself. Before I was so unfortunate as to meet with Mr.
Tenbruggen, I obtained a chance of employment in a public
Institution, on condition that I included a clergyman among
my references. Knowing nobody else whom I could apply to,
I rashly wrote to Mr. Gracedieu, and received one of those cold
and cruel refusals which only the strictest religious principle
can produce. I was mortally offended at the time; and if your
friend the Minister had been within my reach--" She paused, and
finished the sentence by a significant gesture.
"Well," I said, "he is within your reach now."
"And out of his mind," she added. "Besides, one's sense of injury
doesn't last (except in novels and plays) through a series of
years. I don't pity him--and if an opportunity of shaking his
high position among his admiring congregation presented itself,
I daresay I might make a mischievous return for his letter
to me. In the meanwhile, we may drop the subject. I suppose
you understand, now, why I concealed my name from you, and why
I kept out of the house while you were in it."
It was plain enough, of course. If I had known her again,
or had heard her name, I might have told the Minister that Mrs.
Tenbruggen and Miss Chance were one and the same. And if I had
seen her and talked with her in the house, my memory might have
shown itself capable of improvement. Having politely presented
the expression of my thanks, I rose to go.
She stopped me at the door.
"One word more," she said, "while Selina is out of the way.
I need hardly tell you that I have not trusted her with
the Minister's secret. You and I are, as I take it, the only
people now living who know the truth about these two girls.
And we keep our advantage."
"What advantage?" I asked.
"Don't you know?"
"I don't indeed."
"No more do I. Female folly, and a slip of the tongue; I am old
and ugly, but I am still a woman. About Miss Eunice. Somebody
has told the pretty little fool never to trust strangers. You
would have been amused, if you had heard that sly young person
prevaricating with me. In one respect, her appearance strikes me.
She is not like either the wretch who was hanged, or the poor
victim who was murdered. Can she be the adopted child? Or is it
the other sister, whom I have not seen yet? Oh, come! come!
Don't try to look as if you didn't know. That is really too
"You alluded just now," I answered, "to our 'advantage' in being
the only persons who know the truth about the two girls. Well,
Mrs. Tenbruggen, I keep _my_ advantage."
"In other words," she rejoined, "you leave me to make the
discovery myself. Well, my friend, I mean to do it!"
. . . . . . .
In the evening, my hotel offered to me the refuge of which
I stood in need. I could think, for the first time that day,
Being resolved to see Philip, I prepared myself for the interview
by consulting my extracts once more. The letter, in which Mrs.
Tenbruggen figures, inspired me with the hope of protection for
Mr. Gracedieu, attainable through no less a person than Helena
To begin with, she would certainly share Philip's aversion to
the Masseuse, and her dislike of Miss Jillgall would, just as
possibly, extend to Miss Jillgall's friend. The hostile feeling
thus set up might be trusted to keep watch on Mrs. Tenbruggen's
proceedings, with a vigilance not attainable by the coarser
observation of a man. In the event, of an improvement in
the Minister's health, I should hear of it both from the doctor
and from Miss Jillgall, and in that case I should instantly
return to my unhappy friend and put him on his guard.
I started for London by the early train in the morning.
My way home from the terminus took me past the hotel at which
the elder Mr. Dunboyne was staying. I called on him. He was
reported to be engaged; that is to say, immersed in his books.
The address on one of Philip's letters had informed me that
he was staying at another hotel. Pursuing my inquiries in
this direction, I met with a severe disappointment. Mr. Philip
Dunboyne had left the hotel that morning; for what destination
neither the landlord nor the waiter could tell me.
The next day's post brought with it the information which
I had failed to obtain. Miss Jillgall wrote, informing me in
her strongest language that Philip Dunboyne had returned to
Helena. Indignant Selina added: "Helena means to make him marry
her; and I promise you she shall fail, if I can stop it."
In taking leave of Eunice, I had given her my address; had warned
her to be careful, if she and Mrs. Tenbruggen happened to meet
again, and had begged her to write to me, or to come to me,
if anything happened to alarm her in my absence.
In two days more, I received a line from Eunice, written
evidently in the greatest agitation.
"Philip has discovered me. He has been here, and has insisted
on seeing me. I have refused. The good farmer has so kindly taken
my part. I can write no more."
THE NEWS FROM THE FARM.
When I next heard from Miss Jillgall, the introductory part
of her letter merely reminded me that Philip Dunboyne
was established in the town, and that Helena was in daily
communication with him. I shall do Selina no injustice if
my extract begins with her second page.
"You will sympathize, I am sure" (she writes), "with the
indignation which urged me to call on Philip, and tell him the
way to the farmhouse. Think of Helena being determined to marry
him, whether he wants to or not! I am afraid this is bad grammar.
But there are occasions when even a cultivated lady fails in her
grammar, and almost envies the men their privilege of swearing
when they are in a rage. My state of mind is truly indescribable.
Grief mingles with anger, when I tell you that my sweet Euneece
has disappointed me, for the first time since I had the happiness
of knowing and admiring her. What can have been the motive of
her refusal to receive her penitent lover? Is it pride? We are
told that Satan fell through pride. Euneece satanic? Impossible!
I feel inclined to go and ask her what has hardened her heart
against a poor young man who bitterly regrets his own folly. Do
you think it was bad advice from the farmer or his wife? In that
case, I shall exert my influence, and take her away. You would do
the same, wouldn't you?
"I am ashamed to mention the poor dear Minister in a postscript.
The truth is, I don't very well know what I am about. Mr.
Gracedieu is quiet, sleeps better than he did, eats with a keener
appetite, gives no trouble. But, alas, that glorious intellect
is in a state of eclipse! Do not suppose, because I write
figuratively, that I am not sorry for him. He understands
nothing; he remembers nothing; he has my prayers.
"You might come to us again, if you would only be so kind. It
would make no difference now; the poor man is so sadly altered.
I must add, most reluctantly, that the doctor recommends your
staying at home. Between ourselves, he is little better than
a coward. Fancy his saying; 'No; we must not run that risk yet.'
I am barely civil to him, and no more.
"In any other affair (excuse me for troubling you with a second
postscript), my sympathy with Euneece would have penetrated
her motives; I should have felt with her feelings. But I have
never been in love; no gentleman gave me the opportunity when
I was young. Now I am middle-aged, neglect has done its dreary
work--my heart is an extinct crater. Figurative again! I had
better put my pen away, and say farewell for the present."
Miss Jillgall may now give place to Eunice. The same day's post
brought me both letters.
I should be unworthy indeed of the trust which this affectionate
girl has placed in me, if I failed to receive her explanation of
her conduct toward Philip Dunboyne, as a sacred secret confided
to my fatherly regard. In those later portions of her letter,
which are not addressed to me confidentially, Eunice writes as
"I get news--and what heartbreaking news!--of my father,
by sending a messenger to Selina. It is more than ever impossible
that I can put myself in the way of seeing Helena again. She has
written to me about Philip, in a tone so shockingly insolent
and cruel, that I have destroyed her letter. Philip's visit to
the farm, discovered I don't know how, seems to have infuriated
her. She accuses me of doing all that she might herself have done
in my place, and threatens me--No! I am afraid of the wicked
whisperings of that second self of mine if I think of it.
They were near to tempting me when I read Helena's letter. But
I thought of what you said, after I had shown you my Journal;
and your words took my memory back to the days when I was happy
with Philip. The trial and the terror passed away.
"Consolation has come to me from the best of good women.
Mrs. Staveley writes as lovingly as my mother might have written,
if death had spared her. I have replied with all the gratitude
that I really feel, but without taking advantage of the services
which she offers. Mrs. Staveley has it in her mind, as you
had it in your mind, to bring Philip back to me. Does she forget,
do you forget, that Helena claims him? But you both mean kindly,
and I love you both for the interest that you feel in me.
"The farmer's wife--dear good soul!--hardly understands me so
well as her husband does. She confesses to pitying Philip. 'He
is so wretched,' she says. 'And, dear heart, how handsome, and
what nice, winning manners! I don't think I should have had your
courage, in your place. To tell the truth, I should have jumped
for joy when I saw him at the door; and I should have run down
to let him in--and perhaps been sorry for it afterward. If you
really wish to forget him, my dear, I will do all I can to help
"These are trifling things to mention, but I am afraid you may
think I am unhappy--and I want to prevent that.
"I have so much to be thankful for, and the children are so fond
of me. Whether I teach them as well as I might have done, if
I had been a more learned girl, may perhaps be doubtful. They do
more for their governess, I am afraid, than their governess does
for them. When they come into my room in the morning, and rouse
me with their kisses, the hour of waking, which used to be so
hard to endure after Philip left me, is now the happiest hour
of my day."
With that reassuring view of her life as a governess, the poor
child's letter comes to an end.
THE TRIUMPH OF MRS. TENBRUGGEN.
Miss Jillgall appears again, after an interval, on the field
of my extracts. My pleasant friend deserves this time a serious
reception. She informs me that Mrs. Tenbruggen has begun
the inquiries which I have the best reason to dread--for I alone
know the end which they are designed to reach.
The arrival of this news affected me in two different ways.
It was discouraging to find that circumstances had not justified
my reliance on Helena's enmity as a counter-influence to Mrs.
Tenbruggen. On the other hand, it was a relief to be assured
that my return to London would serve, rather than compromise,
the interests which it was my chief anxiety to defend. I had
foreseen that Mrs. Tenbruggen would wait to set her enterprise
on foot, until I was out of her way; and I had calculated on
my absence as an event which would at least put an end to
suspense by encouraging her to begin.
The first sentences in Miss Jillgall's letter explain the nature
of her interest in the proceedings of her friend, and are, on
that account, worth reading.
"Things are sadly changed for the worse" (Selina writes); "but
I don't forget that Philip was once engaged to Euneece, and that
Mr. Gracedieu's extraordinary conduct toward him puzzled us all.
The mode of discovery which dear Elizabeth suggested by letter,
at that time, appears to be the mode which she is following now.
When I asked why, she said: 'Philip may return to Euneece;
the Minister may recover--and will be all the more likely to
do so if he tries Massage. In that case, he will probably repeat
the conduct which surprised you; and your natural curiosity will
ask me again to find out what it means. Am I your friend, Selina,
or am I not?' This was so delightfully kind, and so irresistibly
conclusive, that I kissed her in a transport of gratitude. With
what breathless interest I have watched her progress toward
penetrating the mystery of the girls' ages, it is quite needless
to tell you."
. . . . . . .
Mrs. Tenbruggen's method of keeping Miss Jillgall in ignorance
of what she was really about, and Miss Jillgall's admirable
confidence in the integrity of Mrs. Tenbruggen, being now set
forth on the best authority, an exact presentation of the state
of affairs will be completed if I add a word more, relating
to the positions actually occupied toward Mrs. Tenbruggen's
enterprise, by my correspondent and myself.
On her side, Miss Jillgall was entirely ignorant that one of
the two girls was not Mr. Gracedieu's daughter, but his adopted
child. On my side, I was entirely ignorant of Mrs. Tenbruggen's
purpose in endeavoring to identify the daughter of the murderess.
Speaking of myself, individually, let me add that I only waited
the event to protect the helpless ones--my poor demented friend,
and the orphan whom his mercy received into his heart and
Miss Jillgall goes on with her curious story, as follows:
. . . . . . .
"Always desirous of making myself useful, I thought I would give
my dear Elizabeth a hint which might save time and trouble. 'Why
not begin,' I suggested, 'by asking the Governor to help you?'
That wonderful woman never forgets anything. She had already
applied to you, without success.
"In my next attempt to be useful, I did violence to my most
cherished convictions, by presenting the wretch Helena to
the admirable Elizabeth. That the former would be cold as ice, in
her reception of any friend of mine, was nothing wonderful. Mrs.
Tenbruggen passed it over with the graceful composure of a woman
of the world. In the course of conversation with Helena, she
slipped in a question: 'Might I ask if you are older than your
sister?' The answer was, of course: 'I don't know.' And here,
for once, the most deceitful girl in existence spoke the truth.
"When we were alone again, Elizabeth made a remark: 'If
personal appearance could decide the question,' she said,
'the disagreeable young woman is the oldest of the two. The next
thing to be done is to discover if looks are to be trusted in
"My friend's lawyer received confidential instructions (not shown
to me, which seems rather hard) to trace the two Miss Gracedieus'
registers of birth. Elizabeth described this proceeding (not very
intelligibly to my mind) as a means of finding out which of
the girls could be identified by name as the elder of the two.
"The report arrived this morning. I was only informed that
the result, in one case, had entirely defeated the inquiries. In
the other case, Elizabeth had helped her agent by referring him
to a Birth, advertised in the customary columns of the _Times_
newspaper. Even here, there was a fatal obstacle. The name of
the place in which Mr. Gracedieu's daughter had been born was not
added, as usual.
"I still tried to be useful. Had my friend known the Minister's
wife? My friend had never even seen the Minister's wife. And,
as if by a fatality, her portrait was no longer in existence. I
could only mention that Helena was like her mother. But Elizabeth
seemed to attach very little importance to my evidence, if I may
call it by so grand a name. 'People have such strange ideas
about likenesses,' she said, 'and arrive at such contradictory
conclusions. One can only trust one's own eyes in a matter of
"My friend next asked me about our domestic establishment. We
had only a cook and a housemaid. If they were old servants who
had known the girls as children, they might be made of some use.
Our luck was as steadily against us as ever. They had both been
engaged when Mr. Gracedieu assumed his new pastoral duties, after
having resided with his wife at her native place.
"I asked Elizabeth what she proposed to do next.
"She deferred her answer, until I had first told her whether
the visit of the doctor might be expected on that day. I could
reply to this in the negative. Elizabeth, thereupon, made
a startling request; she begged me to introduce her to Mr.
"I said: 'Surely, you have forgotten the sad state of his mind?'
No; she knew perfectly well that he was imbecile. 'I want
to try,' she explained, 'if I can rouse him for a few minutes.'
"'By Massage?' I inquired.
"She burst out laughing. 'Massage, my dear, doesn't act in that
way. It is an elaborate process, pursued patiently for weeks
together. But my hands have more than one accomplishment at
their finger-ends. Oh, make your mind easy! I shall do no harm,
if I do no good. Take me, Selina, to the Minister.'
"We went to his room. Don't blame me for giving way; I am
too fond of Elizabeth to be able to disappoint her.
"It was a sad sight when we went in. He was quite happy,
playing like a child, at cup-and-ball. The attendant retired at
my request. I introduced Mrs. Tenbruggen. He smiled and shook
hands with her. He said: 'Are you a Christian or a Pagan? You are
very pretty. How many times can you catch the ball in the cup?'
The effort to talk to her ended there. He went on with his game,
and seemed to forget that there was anybody in the room. It made
my heart ache to remember what he was--and to see him now.
"Elizabeth whispered: 'Leave me alone with him.'
"I don't know why I did such a rude thing--I hesitated.
"Elizabeth asked me if I had no confidence in her. I was ashamed
of myself; I left them together.
"A long half-hour passed. Feeling a little uneasy, I went
upstairs again and looked into the room. He was leaning back
in his chair; his plaything was on the floor, and he was looking
vacantly at the light that came in through the window. I found
Mrs. Tenbruggen at the other end of the room, in the act of
ringing the bell. Nothing in the least out of the ordinary way
seemed to have happened. When the attendant had answered
the bell, we left the room together. Mr. Gracedieu took no notice
"'Well,' I said, 'how has it ended?'
"Quite calmly my noble Elizabeth answered: 'In total failure.'
"'What did you say to him after you sent me away?'
"'I tried, in every possible way, to get him to tell me which
of his two daughters was the oldest.'
"'Did he refuse to answer?'
"'He was only too ready to answer. First, he said Helena was
the oldest--then he corrected himself, and declared that Eunice
was the oldest--then he said they were twins--then he went back
to Helena and Eunice. Now one was the oldest, and now the other.
He rang the changes on those two names, I can't tell you how
often, and seemed to think it a better game than cup-and-ball.'
"'What is to be done?'
"'Nothing is to be done, Selina.'
"'What!' I cried, 'you give it up?'
"My heroic friend answered: 'I know when I am beaten, my dear--
I give it up.' She looked at her watch; it was time to operate
on the muscles of one of her patients. Away she went, on
her glorious mission of Massage, without a murmur of regret.
What strength of mind! But, oh, dear, what a disappointment for
poor little me! On one thing I am determined. If I find myself
getting puzzled or frightened, I shall instantly write to you."
With that expression of confidence in me, Selina's narrative came
to an end. I wish I could have believed, as she did, that
the object of her admiration had been telling her the truth.
A few days later, Mrs. Tenbruggen honored me with a visit at my
house in the neighborhood of London. Thanks to this circumstance,
I am able to add a postscript which will complete the revelations
in Miss Jillgall's letter.
The illustrious Masseuse, having much to conceal from
her faithful Selina, was well aware that she had only one thing
to keep hidden from me; namely, the advantage which she would
have gained if her inquiries had met with success.
"I thought I might have got at what I wanted," she told me,
"by mesmerizing our reverend friend. He is as weak as a woman;
I threw him into hysterics, and had to give it up, and quiet him,
or he would have alarmed the house. You look as if you don't
believe in mesmerism."
"My looks, Mrs. Tenbruggen, exactly express my opinion. Mesmerism
is a humbug!"
"You amusing old Tory! Shall I throw you into a state of trance?
No! I'll give you a shock of another kind--a shock of surprise.
I know as much as you do about Mr. Gracedieu's daughters. What
do you think of that?"
"I think I should like to hear you tell me, which is the adopted
"Helena, to be sure!"
Her manner was defiant, her tone was positive; I doubted both.
Under the surface of her assumed confidence, I saw something
which told me that she was trying to read my thoughts in my face.
Many other women had tried to do that. They succeeded when I was
young. When I had reached the wrong side of fifty, my face had
learned discretion, and they failed.
"How did you arrive at your discovery?" I asked. "I know
of nobody who could have helped you."
"I helped myself, sir! I reasoned it out. A wonderful thing
for a woman to do, isn't it? I wonder whether you could follow
My reply to this was made by a bow. I was sure of my command over
my face; but perfect control of the voice is a rare power. Here
and there, a great actor or a great criminal possesses it.
Mrs. Tenbruggen's vanity took me into her confidence. "In
the first place," she said, "Helena is plainly the wicked one
of the two. I was not prejudiced by what Selina had told me of
her: I saw it, and felt it, before I had been five minutes in
her company. If lying tongues ever provoke her as lying tongues
provoked her mother, she will follow her mother's example.
Very well. Now--in the second place--though it is very slight,
there is a certain something in her hair and her complexion which
reminds me of the murderess: there is no other resemblance,
I admit. In the third place, the girls' names point to the same
conclusion. Mr. Gracedieu is a Protestant and a Dissenter. Would
he call a child of his own by the name of a Roman Catholic saint?
No! he would prefer a name in the Bible; Eunice is _his_ child.
And Helena was once the baby whom I carried into the prison.
Do you deny that?"
"I don't deny it."
Only four words! But they were deceitfully spoken, and
the deceit--practiced in Eunice's interest, it is needless
to say--succeeded. Mrs. Tenbruggen's object in visiting me
was attained; I had confirmed her belief in the delusion that
Helena was the adopted child.
She got up to take her leave. I asked if she proposed remaining
in London. No; she was returning to her country patients that
As I attended her to the house-door, she turned to me with her
mischievous smile. "I have taken some trouble in finding the clew
to the Minister's mystery," she said. "Don't you wonder why?"
"If I did wonder," I answered, "would you tell me why?"
She laughed at the bare idea of it. "Another lesson," she said,
"to assist a helpless man in studying the weaker sex. I have
already shown you that a woman can reason. Learn next that
a woman can keep a secret. Good-by. God bless you!"
Of the events which followed Mrs. Tenbruggen's visit it is not
possible for me, I am thankful to say, to speak from personal
experience. Ought I to conclude with an expression of repentance
for the act of deception to which I have already pleaded guilty?
I don't know. Yes! the force of circumstances does really compel
me to say it, and say it seriously--I declare, on my word of
honor, I don't know.
Third period: 1876.
_HELENA'S DIARY RESUMED._
HELENA'S DIARY RESUMED.
While my father remains in his present helpless condition,
somebody must assume a position of command in this house.
There cannot be a moment's doubt that I am the person to do it.
In my agitated state of mind, sometimes doubtful of Philip,
sometimes hopeful of him, I find Mrs. Tenbruggen simply
unendurable. A female doctor is, under any circumstances,
a creature whom I detest. She is, at her very best, a bad
imitation of a man. The Medical Rubber is worse than this;
she is a bad imitation of a mountebank. Her grinning good-humor,
adopted no doubt to please the fools who are her patients, and
her impudent enjoyment of hearing herself talk, make me regret
for the first time in my life that I am a young lady. If
I belonged to the lowest order of the population, I might take
the first stick I could find, and enjoy the luxury of giving
Mrs. Tenbruggen a good beating.
She literally haunts the house, encouraged, of course, by
her wretched little dupe, Miss Jillgall. Only this morning,
I tried what a broad hint would do toward suggesting that
her visits had better come to an end.
"Really, Mrs. Tenbruggen," I said, "I must request Miss Jillgall
to moderate her selfish enjoyment of your company, for your own
sake. Your time is too valuable, in a professional sense, to be
wasted on an idle woman who has no sympathy with your patients,
waiting for relief perhaps, and waiting in vain.
She listened to this, all smiles and good-humor: "My dear, do you
know how I might answer you, if I was an ill-natured woman?"
"I have no curiosity to hear it, Mrs. Tenbruggen."
"I might ask you," she persisted, "to allow me to mind my own
business. But I am incapable of making an ungrateful return
for the interest which you take in my medical welfare. Let me
venture to ask if you understand the value of time."
"Are you going to say much more, Mrs. Tenbruggen?"
"I am going to make a sensible remark, my child. If you feel
tired, permit me--here is a chair. Father Time, dear Miss
Gracedieu, has always been a good friend of mine, because I know
how to make the best use of him. The author of the famous saying
_Tempus fugit_ (you understand Latin, of course) was, I take
leave to think, an idle man. The more I have to do, the readier
Time is to wait for me. Let me impress this on your mind by
some interesting examples. The greatest conqueror of the
century--Napoleon--had time enough for everything. The greatest
novelist of the century--Sir Walter Scott--had time enough for
everything. At my humble distance, I imitate those illustrious
men, and my patients never complain of me."
"Have you done?" I asked.
"Yes, dear--for the present."
"You are a clever woman, Mrs. Tenbruggen and you know it. You
have an eloquent tongue, and you know it. But you are something
else, which you don't seem to be aware of. You are a Bore."
She burst out laughing, with the air of a woman who thoroughly
enjoyed a good joke. I looked back when I left the room, and saw
the friend of Father Time in the easy chair opening our
This is a specimen of the customary encounter of our wits.
I place it on record in my Journal, to excuse myself _to_ myself.
When she left us at last, later in the day, I sent a letter after
her to the hotel. Not having kept a copy of it, let me present
the substance, like a sermon, under three heads: I begged to be
excused for speaking plainly; I declared that there was a total
want of sympathy between us, on my side; and I proposed that she
should deprive me of future opportunities of receiving her in
this house. The reply arrived immediately in these terms: "Your
letter received, dear girl. I am not in the least angry; partly
because I am very fond of you, partly because I know that you
will ask me to come back again. P. S.: Philip sends his love."
This last piece of insolence was unquestionably a lie. Philip
detests her. They are both staying at the same hotel. But
I happen to know that he won't even look at her, if they meet
by accident on the stairs.
People who can enjoy the melancholy spectacle of human nature in
a state of degradation would be at a loss which exhibition to
prefer--an ugly old maid in a rage, or an ugly old maid in tears.
Miss Jillgall presented herself in both characters when she heard
what had happened. To my mind, Mrs. Tenbruggen's bosom-friend is
a creature not fit to be seen or heard when she loses her temper.
I only told her to leave the room. To my great amusement, she
shook her bony fist at me, and expressed a frantic wish: "Oh, if
I was rich enough to leave this wicked house!" I wonder whether
there is insanity (as well as poverty) in Miss Jillgall's family?
Last night my mind was in a harassed state. Philip was, as usual,
the cause of it.
Perhaps I acted indiscreetly when I insisted on his leaving
London, and returning to this place. But what else could I have
done? It was not merely my interest, it was an act of downright
necessity, to withdraw him from the influence of his hateful
father--whom I now regard as the one serious obstacle to
my marriage. There is no prospect of being rid of Mr. Dunboyne
the elder by his returning to Ireland. He is trying a new remedy
for his crippled hand--electricity. I wish it was lightning,
to kill him! If I had given that wicked old man the chance, I am
firmly convinced he would not have let a day pass without doing
his best to depreciate me in his son's estimation. Besides, there
was the risk, if I had allowed Philip to remain long away from
me, of losing--no, while I keep my beauty I cannot be in such
danger as that--let me say, of permitting time and absence to
weaken my hold on him. However sullen and silent he may be, when
we meet--and I find him in that condition far too often--I can,
sooner or later, recall him to his brighter self. My eyes
preserve their charm, my talk can still amuse him, and, better
even than that, I feel the answering thrill in him, which tells
me how precious my kisses are--not too lavishly bestowed! But
the time when I am obliged to leave him to himself is the time
that I dread. How do I know that his thoughts are not wandering
away to Eunice? He denies it; he declares that he only went
to the farmhouse to express his regret for his own thoughtless
conduct, and to offer her the brotherly regard due to the sister
of his promised wife. Can I believe it? Oh, what would I not give
to be able to believe it! How can I feel sure that her refusal
to see him was not a cunning device to make him long for another
interview, and plan perhaps in private to go back and try again.
Marriage! Nothing will quiet these frightful doubts of mine,
nothing will reward me for all that I have suffered, nothing will
warm my heart with the delightful sense of triumph over Eunice,
but my marriage to Philip. And what does he say, when I urge it
on him?--yes, I have fallen as low as that, in the despair which
sometimes possesses me. He has his answer, always the same,
and always ready: "How are we to live? where is the money?"
The maddening part of it is that I cannot accuse him of raising
objections that don't exist. We are poorer than ever here, since
my father's illness--and Philip's allowance is barely enough to
suffice him as a single man. Oh, how I hate the rich!
It was useless to think of going to bed. How could I hope to
sleep, with my head throbbing, and my thoughts in this disturbed
state? I put on my comfortable dressing-gown, and sat down to try
what reading would do to quiet my mind.
I had borrowed the book from the Library, to which I have been
a subscriber in secret for some time past. It was an old volume,
full of what we should now call Gossip; relating strange
adventures, and scandalous incidents in family history which
had been concealed from public notice.
One of these last romances in real life caught a strong hold
on my interest.
It was a strange case of intended poisoning, which had never
been carried out. A young married lady of rank, whose name was
concealed under an initial letter, had suffered some unendurable
wrong (which was not mentioned) at the hands of her husband's
mother. The wife was described as a woman of strong passions,
who had determined on a terrible revenge by taking the life
of her mother-in-law. There were difficulties in the way of
her committing the crime without an accomplice to help her;
and she decided on taking her maid, an elderly woman, into
her confidence. The poison was secretly obtained by this person;
and the safest manner of administering it was under discussion
between the mistress and the maid, when the door of the room was
suddenly opened. The husband, accompanied by his brother, rushed
in, and charged his wife with plotting the murder of his mother.
The young lady (she was only twenty-three) must have been
a person of extraordinary courage and resolution. She saw at once
that her maid had betrayed her, and, with astonishing presence
of mind, she turned on the traitress, and said to her husband:
"There is the wretch who has been trying to persuade me to poison
your mother!" As it happened, the old lady's temper was violent
and overbearing; and the maid had complained of being ill-treated
by her, in the hearing of the other servants. The circumstances
made it impossible to decide which of the two was really
the guilty woman. The servant was sent away, and the husband
and wife separated soon afterward, under the excuse of
incompatibility of temper. Years passed; and the truth was only
discovered by the death-bed confession of the wife. A remarkable
story, which has made such an impression on me that I have
written it in my Journal. I am not rich enough to buy the book.
For the last two days, I have been confined to my room with a bad
feverish cold--caught, as I suppose, by sitting at an open window
reading my book till nearly three o'clock in the morning. I sent
a note to Philip, telling him of my illness. On the first day,
he called to inquire after me. On the second day, no visit, and
no letter. Here is the third day--and no news of him as yet. I am
better, but not fit to go out. Let me wait another hour, and,
if that exertion of patience meets with no reward, I shall send
a note to the hotel.
No news of Philip. I have sent to the hotel. The servant has just
returned, bringing me back my note. The waiter informed her that
Mr. Dunboyne had gone away to London by the morning train. No
apology or explanation left for me.
_Can_ he have deserted me? I am in such a frenzy of doubt and
rage that I can hardly write that horrible question. Is it
possible--oh, I feel it _is_ possible that he has gone away with
Eunice. Do I know where to find them? if I did know, what could
I do? I feel as if I could kill them both!
HELENA'S DIARY RESUMED.
After the heat of my anger had cooled, I made two discoveries.
One cost me a fee to a messenger, and the other exposed me
to the insolence of a servant. I pay willingly in my purse and
my pride, when the gain is peace of mind. Through my messenger
I ascertained that Eunice had never left the farm. Through my own
inquiries, answered by the waiter with an impudent grin, I heard
that Philip had left orders to have his room kept for him. What
misery our stupid housemaid might have spared me, if she had
thought of putting that question when I sent her to the hotel!
The rest of the day passed in vain speculations on Philip's
motive for this sudden departure. What poor weak creatures we
are! I persuaded myself to hope that anxiety for our marriage
had urged him to make an effort to touch the heart of his mean
father. Shall I see him to-morrow? And shall I have reason
to be fonder of him than ever?
We met again to-day as usual. He has behaved infamously.
When I asked what had been his object in going to London, I was
told that it was "a matter of business." He made that idiotic
excuse as coolly as if he really thought I should believe it.
I submitted in silence, rather than mar his return to me by
the disaster of a quarrel. But this was an unlucky day. A harder
trial of my self-control was still to come. Without the slightest
appearance of shame, Philip informed me that he was charged
with a message from Mrs. Tenbruggen! She wanted some Irish lace,
and would I be so good as to tell her which was the best shop
at which she could buy it?
Was he really in earnest? "You," I said, "who distrusted and
detested her--you are on friendly terms with that woman?"
He remonstrated with me. "My dear Helena, don't speak in that way
of Mrs. Tenbruggen. We have both been mistaken about her. That
good creature has forgiven the brutal manner in which I spoke to
her, when she was in attendance on my father. She was the first
to propose that we should shake hands and forget it. My darling,
don't let all the good feeling be on one side. You have no idea
how kindly she speaks of you, and how anxious she is to help us
to be married. Come! come! meet her half-way. Write down the name
of the shop on my card, and I will take it back to her."
Sheer amazement kept me silent: I let him go on. He was a mere
child in the hands of Mrs. Tenbruggen: she had only to determine
to make a fool of him, and she could do it.
But why did she do it? What advantage had she to gain by
insinuating herself in this way into his good opinion, evidently
with the intention of urging him to reconcile us to each other?
How could we two poor young people be of the smallest use to
the fashionable Masseuse?
My silence began to irritate Philip. "I never knew before how
obstinate you could be," he said; "you seem to be doing your
best--I can't imagine why--to lower yourself in my estimation."
I held my tongue; I assumed my smile. It is all very well for men
to talk about the deceitfulness of women. What chance (I should
like to ask somebody who knows about it) do the men give us
of making our lives with them endurable, except by deceit! I gave
way, of course, and wrote down the address of the shop.
He was so pleased that he kissed me. Yes! the most fondly
affectionate kiss that he had given me, for weeks past, was
my reward for submitting to Mrs. Tenbruggen. She is old enough
to be his mother, and almost as ugly as Miss Jillgall--and she
has made her interests his interests already!
On the next day, I fully expected to receive a visit from
Mrs. Tenbruggen. She knew better than that. I only got a polite
little note, thanking me for the address, and adding an artless
concession: "I earn more money than I know what to do with;
and I adore Irish lace."
The next day came, and still she was careful not to show herself
too eager for a personal reconciliation. A splendid nosegay was
sent to me, with another little note: "A tribute, dear Helena,
offered by one of my grateful patients. Too beautiful a present
for an old woman like me. I agree with the poet: 'Sweets to the
sweet.' A charming thought of Shakespeare's, is it not? I should
like to verify the quotation. Would you mind leaving the volume
for me in the hall, if I call to-morrow?"
Well done, Mrs. Tenbruggen! She doesn't venture to intrude on
Miss Gracedieu in the drawing-room; she only wants to verify
a quotation in the hall. Oh, goddess of Humility (if there is
such a person), how becomingly you are dressed when your milliner
is an artful old woman!
While this reflection was passing through my mind, Miss Jillgall
came in--saw the nosegay on the table--and instantly pounced on
it. "Oh, for me! for me!" she cried. "I noticed it this morning
on Elizabeth's table. How very kind of her!" She plunged
her inquisitive nose into the poor flowers, and looked up
sentimentally at the ceiling. "The perfume of goodness," she
remarked, "mingled with the perfume of flowers!" "When you have
quite done with it," I said, "perhaps you will be so good as to
return my nosegay?" "_Your_ nosegay!" she exclaimed. "There is
Mrs. Tenbruggen's letter," I replied, "if you would like to look
at it." She did look at it. All the bile in her body flew up
into her eyes, and turned them green; she looked as if she longed
to scratch my face. I gave the flowers afterward to Maria; Miss
Jillgall's nose had completely spoiled them.
It would have been too ridiculous to have allowed Mrs. Tenbruggen
to consult Shakespeare in the hall. I had the honor of receiving
her in my own room. We accomplished a touching reconciliation,
and we quite forgot Shakespeare.
She troubles me; she does indeed trouble me.
Having set herself entirely right with Philip, she is determined
on performing the same miracle with me. Her reform of herself
is already complete. Her vulgar humor was kept under strict
restraint; she was quiet and well-bred, and readier to listen
than to talk. This change was not presented abruptly. She
contrived to express her friendly interests in Philip and in me
by hints dropped here and there, assisted in their effort by
answers on my part, into which I was tempted so skillfully that
I only discovered the snare set for me, on reflection. What is
it, I ask again, that she has in view in taking all this trouble?
Where is her motive for encouraging a love-affair, which Miss
Jillgall must have denounced to her as an abominable wrong
inflicted on Eunice? Money (even if there was a prospect of such
a thing, in our case) cannot be her object; it is quite true that
her success sets her above pecuniary anxiety. Spiteful feeling
against Eunice is out of the question. They have only met once;
and her opinion was expressed to me with evident sincerity: "Your
sister is a nice girl, but she is like other nice girls--she
doesn't interest me." There is Eunice's character, drawn from
the life in few words. In what an irritating position do I find
myself placed! Never before have I felt so interested in trying
to look into a person's secret mind; and never before have I been
so completely baffled.
I had written as far as this, and was on the point of closing
my Journal, when a third note arrived from Mrs. Tenbruggen.
She had been thinking about me at intervals (she wrote) all
through the rest of the day; and, kindly as I had received her,
she was conscious of being the object of doubts on my part which
her visit had failed to remove. Might she ask leave to call on
me, in the hope of improving her position in my estimation?
An appointment followed for the next day.
What can she have to say to me which she has not already said?
Is it anything about Philip, I wonder?
HELENA'S DIARY RESUMED.
At our interview of the next day, Mrs. Tenbruggen's capacity
for self-reform appeared under a new aspect. She dropped all
familiarity with me, and she stated the object of her visit
without a superfluous word of explanation or apology.
I thought this a remarkable effort for a woman; and I recognized
the merit of it by leaving the lion's share of the talk to
my visitor. In these terms she opened her business with me:
"Has Mr. Philip Dunboyne told you why he went to London?"
"He made a commonplace excuse," I answered. "Business, he said,
took him to London. I know no more."
"You have a fair prospect of happiness, Miss Helena, when you are
married--your future husband is evidently afraid of you. I am not
afraid of you; and I shall confide to your private ear something
which you have an interest in knowing. The business which took
young Mr. Dunboyne to London was to consult a competent person,
on a matter concerning himself. The competent person is the
sagacious (not to say sly) old gentleman--whom we used to call
the Governor. You know him, I believe?"
"Yes. But I am at a loss to imagine why Philip should have
"Have you ever heard or read, Miss Helena, of such a thing as
'an old man's fancy'?"