Part 8 out of 10
that had an especial fascination for the listener. It seemed as if she had
scarcely lived in the dull interval between those charmed days at Hale
Castle and these hours of perilous delight; as if she had been half-stifled
by the atmosphere of common-sense which had pervaded her existence--crushed
and borne down by the weight of Daniel Granger's sober companionship.
_This_ was fairyland--a region of enchantment, fall of bright thoughts and
pleasant fancies; _that_ a dismal level drill-ground, upon which all the
world marched in solid squares, to the monotonous cry of a serjeant-major's
word of command. One may ride through a world of weariness in a
barouche-and-pair. Clarissa had not found her husband's wealth by any
means a perennial source of happiness, nor even the possession of Arden an
It was strange how this untidy painting-room of Austin's, with its tawdry
dilapidated furniture--all of which had struck her with a sense of
shabbiness and dreariness at first--had grown to possess a charm for her.
In the winter gloaming, when the low wood fire glowed redly on the hearth,
and made a flickering light upon the walls, the room had a certain
picturesque aspect. The bulky Flemish cabinets, with their coarse florid
carving, stood boldly out from the background, with red gleams from the
fire reflected on chubby cherub heads and mediaeval monsters. The faded
curtains lost their look of poverty, and had only the sombre air of age; an
old brass chandelier of the Louis Quatorze period, which Austin had hung in
in the centre of his room, flashed and glittered in the uncertain, light;
and those two figures--one leaning against the mantelpiece, the other
prowling restlessly to and fro as he talked, carrying a mahl-stick, which
he waved ever and anon like the rod of a magician--completed the picture.
It was a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes in the great world of art, a peep
into Bohemia; and O, how much brighter a region it seemed to Clarissa than
that well-regulated world in which she dined every day at the same hour,
with four solemn men watching the banquet, and wound up always with the
game dismal quarter of an hour's sitting in state at dessert!
Those stolen hours in Austin's painting-room had too keen a fascination for
her. Again and again she told herself that she would come no more, and yet
she came. She was so secure of her own integrity, so fenced and defended by
womanly pride, that she argued with herself there could be neither sin nor
danger in these happy respites from the commonplace dreariness of her life.
And yet, so inconsistent is human nature, there were times when this woman
flung herself upon the ground beside her baby's crib, and prayed God to
pardon her iniquities.
Austin was much too careless to be conscious of his sister's danger. George
Fairfax had made an afternoon lounge of his rooms in the previous winter;
it was no new thing for him to come there three or four times a week; and
Austin did not for a moment suspect that Clarissa's occasional presence had
anything to do with these visits.
When the three portraits were finished, Mr. Granger expressed himself
highly content with them, and gave Austin Lovel a cheque for three hundred
pounds; a sum which, in the painter's own words, ought to have set him
upon his legs. Unhappily, Austin's legs, from a financial point of view,
afforded only the most insecure basis--were always slipping away from him,
in fact. Three hundred pounds in solid cash did not suffice for even his
most pressing needs. He saw nothing before him but the necessity of an
ignominious flight from Paris. It was only a question of when and where he
should fly; there was no question as to the fact.
He did not care to tell Clarissa this, however. It would be time enough
when the thing was done, or just about to be done. All his life he had been
in the habit of shirking unpleasant subjects, and he meant to shirk this as
long as he could. He might have borrowed money of George Fairfax, no doubt;
but unfortunately he was already in that gentleman's debt, for money
borrowed during the previous winter; so he scarcely cared to make any new
appeal in that quarter.
So the unsubstantial Bohemian existence went on; and to Clarissa, for
whom this Bohemia was an utterly new world, it seemed the only life worth
living. Her brother had been pleased to discover the ripening of her
artistic powers, and had given her some rough-and-ready lessons in the art
she loved so well. Sometimes, on a bright wintry morning, when Mr. Granger
was engaged out of doors, she brought her portfolio to the Rue du Chevalier
Bayard, and painted there for an hour or so. At first this had been a
secure hour for unreserved talk with her brother; but after she had been
there two or three mornings in this way, Mr. Fairfax seemed mysteriously
aware of her movements, and happened to drop in while she was taking her
It is not to be supposed that Clarissa could be so much away from home
without attracting the attention of Miss Granger. Whether that young lady
was at home or abroad, she contrived to keep herself always well informed
as to the movements of her stepmother. She speculated, and wondered, and
puzzled herself a good deal about these frequent outings; and finding
Clarissa singularly reticent upon the subject, grew daily more curious and
suspicious; until at last she could endure the burden of this perplexity no
longer, without some relief in words, and was fain to take the judicious
Warman into her confidence.
"Has Mrs. Granger been out again this afternoon, Warman?" she asked one
evening, when the handmaiden was dressing her hair for dinner.
"Yes, miss. The carriage came home just now. I heard it Mrs. Granger went
out almost directly after you did."
"I wonder she can care to waste so much time in calls," said Sophia.
"Yes, miss, it is odd; and almost always the same place too, as you may
say. But I suppose Mrs. Granger was intimate with Mr. and Mrs. Austin
before her marriage."
"Mr. and Mrs. Austin! What do you mean, Warman?"
"Lor', miss, I thought you would know where she went, as a matter of
course. It seems only natural you should. I've heard Jarvis mention it at
supper. Jarvis has his meals at _our_ table, you know, miss. 'We've been
to the Rue du Cavalier Barnard again to-day,' he says, 'which I suppose
is French for Barnard's-inn. Missus and them Austins must be very thick.'
Jarvis has no manners, you know, miss; and that's just his uncultivated way
of speaking. But from what I've heard him remark, I'm sure Mrs. Granger
goes to call upon the Austins as much as three times a week, and seldom
stops less than an hour."
A deadly coldness had crept over Sophia Granger--a cold, blank feeling,
which had never come upon her until that moment. He had a wife, then, that
dashing young painter with the brilliant brown eyes--the only man who had
ever aroused the faintest interest in her well-regulated soul. He was
married, and any vague day-dream with which she had interwoven his image
was the merest delusion and phantasmagoria. She was unspeakably angry
with herself for this unworthy weakness. A painter--a person paid by her
father--something less than a curate--if it was possible for any creature
to seem less than Mr. Tillott in Sophia's estimation. He was a married
man--a base impostor, who had sailed under false colours--a very pirate.
All those graceful airy compliments, those delicate attentions, which
had exercised such a subtle influence over her narrow mind--had, indeed,
awakened in her something that was almost sentiment--were worse than
meaningless, were the wiles of an adventurer trading on her folly.
"He wanted to paint papa's picture," she thought, "and I suppose he fancied
my influence might help him."
But what of Clarissa's visits to the painter's lodgings? what possible
reason could she have for going there? Miss Granger's suspicions were
shapeless and intangible as yet, but she did suspect. More than once--many
times, in fact--during the painting of the portrait, she had seen, or had
imagined she could see, signs and tokens of a closer intimacy between
the painter and her father's wife than was warranted by their ostensible
acquaintance. The circumstances were slight enough in themselves, but these
fragile links welded together made a chain which would have been good
enough evidence in a criminal court, skilfully handled by an Old Bailey
lawyer. Sophia Granger racked her brain to account for this suspected
intimacy. When and where had these two been friends, lovers perhaps? Mr.
Austin had been away from England for many years, if his own statement were
to be believed. It must have been abroad, therefore, that Clarissa had
known him--in her school-days. He had been drawing-master, perhaps, in the
seminary at Belforet. What more likely?
Miss Granger cherished the peculiar British idea of all foreign schools,
that they were more or less sinks of iniquity. A flirtation between
drawing-master and pupil would be a small thing in such a pernicious
atmosphere. Even amidst the Arcadian innocence of native academies such
weeds have flourished This flirtation, springing up in foreign soil, would
be of course ten times more desperate, secret, jesuitical in fact, than any
purely English product.
Yes, Miss Granger decided at the end of every silent debate in which she
argued this question with herself--yes, that was the word of the enigma.
These two had been lovers in the days that were gone; and meeting again,
both married, they were more than half lovers still.
Clarissa made some excuse to see her old admirer frequently. She was taking
lessons in painting, perhaps. Miss Granger observed that she painted more
than usual lately--merely for the sake of seeing him.
And how about George Fairfax? Well, that flirtation, of course, was of
later date and a less serious affair. Jealousy--a new kind of jealousy,
more bitter even than that which she had felt when Clarissa came between
her and her father--sharpened Miss Granger's suspicions in this case. She
was jealous even of that supposed flirtation at Belforet, four or five
years ago. She was angry with Clarissa for having once possessed this man's
heart; ready to suspect her of any baseness in the past, any treason in the
The Grangers were at Madame Caballero's two or three evenings after this
revelation of Warman's, and Sophia had an opportunity of gleaning some
scraps of information from the good-natured little lion-huntress. Madame
had been asking her if Mr. Austin's portraits had been a success.
"Yes; papa thinks they are excellent, and talks about having them exhibited
in the salon. Mr. Austin is really very clever. Do you know, I was not
aware that he was married, till the other day?" Sophia added, with a
"Indeed! Yes, there is a wife, I understand; but she never goes into
society; no one hears of her. For my part I think him charming."
"Has he been long in Paris?"
Madame Caballero shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know," she said. "I have
only known of his existence since he became famous--in a small way--a very
small way, of course. He exhibited some military sketches, which attracted
the attention of a friend of mine, who talked to me about him. I said at
once, 'Bring him here. I can appreciate every order of genius, from Ary
Scheffer to Gavarni.' The young man came, and I was delighted with him. I
admitted him among my intimates; and he insisted on painting the picture
which your papa was good enough to admire."
"Do you know how he lived before he came into notice--if he has ever been a
drawing-master, for instance?"
"I know that he has given lessons. I have heard him complain of the
drudgery of teaching."
This sustained Miss Granger's theory. It seemed so likely. No other
hypothesis presented itself to her mind.
Day by day she watched and waited and speculated, hearing of all Clarissa's
movements from the obsequious Warman, who took care to question Mrs.
Granger's coachman in the course of conversation, in a pleasant casual
manner, as to the places to which he had taken his mistress. She waited and
made no sign. There was treason going on. The climax and explosion would
come in good time.
In the meanwhile, Clarissa seemed almost entirely free. Mr. Granger, after
living for nearly fifty years of his life utterly unaffected by feminine
influence, was not a man to hang upon his wife's footsteps or to hold her
bound to his side. If she had returned his affection with equal measure, if
that sympathy for which he sighed in secret could have arisen between them,
he might have been as devoted a slave as love could make an honest man. As
it was, his married life at its best was a disappointment. Only in the
fond hopes and airy visions which his son had inspired, did he find the
happiness he had dreamt of when he first tried to win Clarissa for his
wife. Here alone, in his love for his child, was there a pure and perfect
joy. All other dreams ended in bitter waking. His wife had never loved
him, never would love him. She was grateful for his affection, obedient,
submissive; her grace and beauty gave him a reflected lustre in society.
She was a creature to be proud of, and he was proud of her; but she did
not love him. And with this thought there came always a sudden agony of
jealousy. If not him, what other had she loved? Whose image reigned in the
heart so closely shut against him? Who was that man, the mere memory of
whom was more to her than the whole sum of her husband's devotion?
* * * * *
That jewel which Clarissa had given to Bessie Lovel was a treasure of
price, the very possession whereof was almost an oppressive joy to the poor
little woman, whose chief knowledge of life came from the experience of its
debts and difficulties. That the massive gold locket with the diamond cross
would be required of her sooner or later, to be handed into the ruthless
paw of a clerk at the _mont de piete_, she had little doubt. Everything
that she or her husband had ever possessed worth possessing had so
vanished--had been not an absolute property, but a brief fleeting joy,
a kind of supernal visitant, vanishing anon into nothingness, or only a
pawnbroker's duplicate. The time would come. She showed the trinket to her
husband with a melancholy foreboding, and read his thoughts as he weighed
it in his palm, by mere force of habit, speculating what it would fetch, if
in his desperate needs this waif might serve him.
She was not surprised, therefore--only a little distressed--when Austin
broached the subject one day at his late breakfast--that breakfast at which
it needed nearly a bottle of claret to wash down three or four mouthfuls of
savoury pie, or half a tiny cutlet. She had possessed the bauble more than
a month, holding it in fear and trembling, and only astonished that it had
not been demanded of her.
"O, by the way, Bess," Austin Lovel said carelessly, "I was abominably
unlucky last night, at Madame Caballero's. I'm generally lugged in for a
game or two at _ecarte there_, you know. One can't refuse in a house of
that kind. And I had been doing wonders. They were betting on my game, and
I stood to win something handsome, when the luck changed all in a moment.
The fellow I was playing against marked the king three times running; and,
in short, I rose a considerable loser--considerable for me, that is to say.
I told my antagonist I should send him the money to-day. He's a kind of man
I can't afford to trifle with; and you know the Caballero connection is of
too much use to be jeopardised. So I've been thinking, Bess, that if you'd
let me have that gimcrack locket my sister gave you, I could raise a tenner
on it. Clary can afford to give you plenty of such things, even if it were
lost, which it need not be."
Of course not. Mrs. Lovel had been told as much about the little Geneva
watch which her husband had given her a few days after her marriage, and
had taken away from her six weeks later. But the watch had never come back
to her. She gave a faint sigh of resignation. It was not within the compass
of her mind to oppose him.
"We shall never get on while you play cards, Austin," she said sadly.
"My dear Bessie, a man may win as well as lose. You see when I go into
society there are certain things expected of me; and my only chance of
getting on is by making myself agreeable to the people whose influence is
"But I can't see that card-playing leads to your getting commissions for
pictures, Austin, no more than horseracing nor billiards. It all seems to
end the same--in your losing money."
The painter pushed away his plate with an impatient gesture. He was taking
his breakfast in his painting-room, hours after the family meal, Bessie
waiting upon him, and cobbling some juvenile garment during the intervals
of her attendance. He pushed his plate aside, and got up to pace the room
in the restless way that was common to him on such occasions.
"My dear child, if you don't want to give me the locket, say so," he said,
"but don't treat me to a sermon. You can keep it if you like, though I
can't conceive what use the thing can be to you. It's not a thing you can
"Not at home, dear, certainly; and I never go out," the wife answered, with
the faintest touch of reproachfulness. "I am very fond of it, though, for
your sister's sake. It was so kind of her to bring it to me, and such a new
thing for me to have a present. But you are welcome to it, Austin, if you
really want it."
"If I really want it! Do you suppose I should be mean enough to ask you for
it if I didn't? I shouldn't so much care about it, you see, only I am to
meet the man to-morrow evening at dinner, and I can't face him without the
money. So if you'll look the thing out some time to-day, Bess, I'll take it
down to the Quai between this and to-morrow afternoon, and get the business
Thus it was that George Fairfax, strolling into Mrs. Lovel's sitting-room
that afternoon while Austin was out, happened to find her seated in a
pensive attitude, with an open work-box before her and Clarissa's locket
in her hand. It was a shabby battered old box, but had been for years the
repository of all Bessie's treasures.
She had kept the locket there, looking at it very often, and wondering if
she would ever be able to wear it--if Austin would take her to a theatre,
for instance, or give a little dinner at home instead of abroad, for once
in a way, to some of the men whose society absorbed so much of his time.
There was no hope of this now. Once gone from her hand; the treasure would
return no more. She knew that very well and was indulging her grief by a
farewell contemplation of the trinket, when Mr. Fairfax came into the room.
The flash of the diamonds caught his quick eye.
"What a pretty locket you've got there, Mrs. Austin!" he said, as he shook
hands with her. "A new-year's gift from Austin, I suppose."
"No, it was my sister-in-law, Mrs. Granger, who gave it me," Bessie
answered, with a sigh.
He was interested in it immediately, but was careful not to betray his
interest. Mrs. Lovel put it into his hands. She was proud of it even in
this last hour of possession. "Perhaps you'd like to look at it," she said.
"It's got her 'air inside."
Yes, there was a circlet of the dark brown hair he knew so well, and the
two works, "From Clarissa."
"Upon my word, it's very handsome," he said, looking at the diamond cross
outside, but thinking of the love-lock within. "I never saw a locket
I liked better. You are very fond of it, I daresay?" he added
"O, yes, I like it very much! I can't bear to part with it."
And here Bessie Lovel, not being gifted with the power of concealing her
emotions, fairly broke down and cried like a child.
"My dear Mrs. Austin," exclaimed George Fairfax, "pray don't distress
yourself like that. Part with it? Why should you part with your locket?"
"O, Mr. Fairfax, I oughtn't to have told you--Austin would be so angry if
he knew--but he has been losing money at that horrid ecarty, and he says
he must have ten pounds to-morrow; so my beautiful locket must go to the
George Fairfax paused. His first impulse was to lend the poor little woman
the money--the veriest trifle, of course, to the lord of Lyvedon. But the
next moment another idea presented itself to him. He had the locket lying
in the open palm of his hand. It would be so sweet to possess that lock of
hair--to wear so dear a token of his mistress. Even those two words, "From
Clarissa," had a kind of magic for him. It was a foolish weakness, of
course; but then love is made up of such follies.
"If you really mean to part with this," he said, "I should be very glad to
have it. I would give you more than any pawnbroker--say, twenty instead of
ten pounds, for instance--and a new locket for yourself into the bargain. I
shouldn't like to deprive you of an ornament you valued without some kind
of compensation. I have taken a fancy to the design of the thing, and
should really like to have it. What do you say now, Mrs. Austin--shall that
be a transaction between you and me, without any reference to your husband,
who might be angry with you for having let me into domestic secrets? You
can tell him you got the money from the _mont de piete_. Look here, now;
let's settle the business at once."
He opened his purse, and tumbled the contents out upon the table. Bessie
Lovel thought what a blessed state of existence that must be in which
people walked this world with all that ready money about them.
"There are just four-and-twenty pounds here," he said cheerily; "so we'll
He saw that she was yielding.
"And would you really give me a locket for myself," she said, almost
incredulously, "as well as this money?"
"Unquestionably. As good a one as I can find in the Rue de la Paix. This
has diamonds, and that shall have diamonds. It's the design, you see," he
added persuasively, "that has taken my fancy."
"I'm sure you are very generous," Bessie murmured, still hesitating.
"Generous! Pshaw, not at all. It's a caprice; and I shall consider myself
under an obligation to you if you gratify it."
The temptation was irresistible. To obtain the money that was
required--more than double the sum her husband had wanted--and to have
another locket as well! Never, surely, had there been such a bargain since
the famous magician offered new lamps for old ones. Of course, it was only
Mr. Fairfax's delicate way of doing them a kindness; his fancy for the
locket was merely a benevolent pretence. What could he care for that
particular trinket; he who might, so to speak, walk knee-deep in diamonds,
if he pleased?
She took the twenty-four pounds--an English ten-pound note, and the rest in
new glittering napoleons--and then began to speculate upon the possibility
of giving Austin twenty pounds, and appropriating the balance to her own
uses. The children wanted so many things--that perpetual want of the
juvenile population above all, shoe-leather; and might she not even screw
some cheap dress for herself out of the sum? while if it were all given
to Austin, it would vanish, like smoke before the wind, leaving no trace
So George Fairfax put the bauble in his waistcoat-pocket, and whatever
sentimental pleasure might be derived from such a talisman was his. There
are those among our disciples of modern magic who believe there is a subtle
animal magnetism in such things; that the mere possession of such a token
constitutes a kind of spiritual link between two beings. Mr. Fairfax had no
such fancy; but it pleased him to have obtained that which no prayers of
his could have won from Clarissa herself. Not at present, that is to say.
It would all come in good time. She loved him; secure of that one fact, he
believed all the rest a mere question of patience and constancy.
"And she is worth the winning," he said to himself. "A man might serve for
a longer slavery than Jacob's, and yet be rewarded by such a conquest. I
think, by the way, that Rachel must have been just a trifle faded when the
patriarch was out of his time."
He dawdled away an hour or so in Bessie's salon--telling the poor little
woman the news of the day, and playing with the two boys, who regarded
him as a beneficent being, from whose hands flowed perpetual toys and
sweetmeats. He waited as long as he could without making his motive
obvious; waited, in the hope that Clarissa would come; and then, as there
was no sign of her coming, and Austin was still out, he wished Bessie
"I shan't forget the locket," he said, as he departed.
Austin came in five minutes afterwards. The boys had been scuttled off to
take their evening meal in the kitchen--a darksome cupboard about eight
feet square--where the tawdry servant was perpetually stewing savoury
messes upon a small charcoal stove.
Bessie handed her husband the ten-pound note, and twelve bright napoleons.
"Why, what's this?" he asked.
"The--the money for the locket, Austin. I thought you might be late home;
so I ran round to the Quai with it myself. And I asked for twenty pounds,
and the man gave it to me."
"Why, that's a brave girl!" cried Austin, kissing the pleading face
uplifted to his. "I don't believe they'd have given me as much. An English
tenner, though; that's odd!" he added carelessly, and then slipped the cash
loose into his pocket, with the air of a man for whom money is at best a
* * * * *
THAT IS WHAT LOVE MEANS.
The Grangers and Mr. Fairfax went on meeting in society; and Daniel
Granger, with whom it was a kind of habit to ask men to dinner, could
hardly avoid inviting George Fairfax. It might have seemed invidious to do
so; and for what reason should he make such a distinction? Even to himself
Mr. Granger would not be willing to confess that he was jealous of this
man. So Mr. Fairfax came with others of his species to the gorgeous
caravanserai in the Rue de Morny, where the rooms never by any chance
looked as if people lived in them, but rather as if they were waiting-rooms
at some railway station got up with temporary splendour for the reception
He came; and though Clarissa sometimes made feeble efforts to avoid him, it
happened almost always, that before the evening was out he found some few
minutes for unreserved talk with her. There is little need to record such
brief stolen interviews--a few hurried words by the piano, a sentence
or two in a lowered voice at parting. There was not much in the words
perhaps--only very common words, that have done duty between thousands of
men and women--a kind of signal code, as it were; and yet they had power
to poison Clarissa's life, to take the sweetness out of every joy, even a
mother's innocent idolatry of her child.
The words were spoken; but so carefully did George Fairfax play his part,
that not even Sophia's sharp eyes could perceive more than was correct in
the conduct of her stepmother. No, she told herself, that other flirtation
was the desperate one. Clarissa might have had some preference for George
Fairfax; there had been occasional indications of such a feeling in her
manner at Hale Castle; but the dark spot of her life, the secret of her
girlhood, was a love affair with Mr. Austin.
By way of experiment, one day she asked her father's wife a question about
"You seemed to admire Mr. Austin very much, Clarissa," she said, "and I
admit that he is remarkably clever; but he appears such a waif and stray.
In all his conversation with us he never threw much light upon his own
history. Do you know anything of his antecedents?"
Clarissa blushed in spite of herself. The deception she had sustained so
long was unspeakably distasteful her. Again and again she had been tempted
to hazard everything, and acknowledge Austin as her brother, whether he
liked or not that she should do so. It was only his peremptory tone that
had kept her silent.
"What should I know of his antecedents more than you, Sophy?" she said,
avoiding a more direct reply. "It is quite enough for me to know that he
has undeniable genius."
The blush, and a certain warmth in her tone, seemed to Sophia conclusive
evidence of her hidden regard for this man. Miss Granger's heart beat a
good deal faster than usual, and little jealous sparkles shone in her cold
gray eyes. She had never admired any man so much as she had admired this
brilliant young painter. Many men had paid her compliments; as the rich Mr.
Granger's sole daughter and heiress, she had been gratified with no meagre
share of mankind's worship; but no words ever spoken had sounded so sweet
in her ears as those few civil speeches that Mr. Austin had found time to
address to her during his visits to the Rue de Morny. And after having
taken so much pleasure in his converse, and thought so much more about him
than she would have considered it proper for any model villager to
think about an individual of the opposite sex, it was a hard thing to
find--first, that the base impostor had a wife; and secondly, that whatever
illegitimate worship he might have to render, was to be offered at the
shrine of Clarissa.
"Indeed!" she exclaimed, with an air of extreme surprise. "You seemed on
such very friendly terms with him, that I fancied you must really have
known each other before, and that you had some motive for concealing the
fact from papa."
Clarissa blushed a deeper crimson at this homethrust, and bent a little
lower over her drawing-board. It seemed a fortunate thing that she happened
to be painting when Miss Granger opened her guns upon her in this manner.
"He gives lessons, I believe; does he not?" asked Sophia.
"Yes--I--I believe--I have heard so."
"Do you know, I took it into my head that he might have been your
drawing-master at Belforet."
Clarissa laughed aloud at this suggestion. Miss Granger's persistent
curiosity amused her a little, dangerous as the ground was.
"Oh dear no, he was not our master at Belforet," she said. "We had a little
old Swiss--such an ancient, ancient man--who took snuff continually, and
was always talking about his _pays natal_ and Jean Jacques Rousseau. I
think he had known Rousseau; and I am sure he was old enough to remember
the night they locked him out of Geneva."
Sophia was fairly posed; she had been on a false scent evidently, and yet
she was sure there was something. That is how she shaped her doubts in her
own mind--there was _something_. Warman thought so, she knew; and Warman
was gifted with no ordinary amount of penetration.
So Mrs. Granger went her way, with suspicion around and about her, and
danger ahead. Whatever peace had been hers in the brief period of her
married life--and the quiet spring-time and summer that came after her
baby's birth had been very peaceful--had vanished now. A cloud of fear
encompassed her; a constant melancholy possessed her; a pleading voice,
which she ought never to have heard, was always in her ears--a voice that
charged her with the burden of a broken life--a voice that told her it was
only by some sacrifice of her own she could atone for the sacrifice that
had been made for her--a too persuasive voice, with a perilous charm in its
She loved him. That she could ever be weak enough, or vile enough, to sink
into that dread abyss, whereto some women have gone down for the love of
man, was not within the compass of her thought. But she knew that no day in
her life was sinless now; that no pure and innocent joys were left to her;
that her every thought of George Fairfax was a sin against her husband.
And yet she went on loving him. Sometimes, when the dense of her guilt was
strongest, she would fain have asked her husband to take her back to Arden;
which must needs be a kind of sanctuary, as it were, she thought. Nay,
hardly so; for even in that tranquil retreat Temple Fairfax had contrived
to pursue her mother, with the poison of his influence and his presence.
Very often she felt inclined to ask her husband this favour; but she could
not do so without running some risk of betraying herself--Heaven knows how
much she might betray--unawares. Again, their sojourn in the Rue de Morny
was not to endure for ever. Already Mr. Granger had expressed himself
somewhat tired of Paris; indeed, what denizen of that brilliant city does
not become a little weary of its brightness, sooner or later, and fall
sick of the Boulevard-fever--a harassing sense of all-pervading glare and
confusion, a sensation of Paris on the brain?
There was some talk of returning to Arden at the end of a month. They were
now at the close of January; by the first of March Mr. Granger hoped to be
at the Court. His architect and his head-bailiff were alike eager for his
return; there were more pullings down and reconstructions required on the
new estate; there were all manner of recondite experiments to be tried
in scientific farming: there were new leases to be granted, and expiring
leases, the covenants whereof must be exacted.
Since they were likely to leave Paris so soon, it would be foolish to
excite wonder by asking to leave sooner, Mrs. Granger thought. It mattered
so little, after all, she told herself sometimes. It mattered this much
only--that day by day her feet were straying farther from the right road.
O those happy winter afternoons in the Rue du Chevalier Bayard! Such
innocent happiness, too, in all seeming--only a little animated rambling
talk upon all manner of subjects, from the loftiest problems in philosophy
to the frothiest gossip of the Faubourg St. Honore; only the presence of
two people who loved each other to distraction. A dim firelit room; a
little commonplace woman coming in and out; two young men disputing in the
dusk; and Clarissa in her low chair by the fire, listening to the magical
voice that was now the only music of her dreams. If it could have gone on
for ever thus--a sweet sentimental friendship like that which linked Madame
Roland and Brissot, Madame Recamier and Chateaubriand--there would surely
have been no harm, Clarissa sometimes argued with herself. She was married
to a man whom she could respect for many qualities of his heart and mind,
against whom she could never seriously offend. Was it so great a sin if the
friendship of George Fairfax was dear to her? if the few happy hours of her
life were those she spent in his company? But such special pleading as this
was the poorest sophistry; at heart she was conscious that it was so. A
woman has a double conscience, as it were--a holy of holies within the
temple of her mind, to which falsehood cannot enter. She may refuse to lift
the screen, and meet the truth face to face; but it is there--not to be
extinguished--eternal, immutable; the divine lamp given for her guidance,
if only she will not withdraw herself from its light.
Just a little less than a month before his intended departure, Mr. Granger
had a letter from that exacting bailiff, entreating his return. Something
in the scientific farming had gone wrong, some great sewage question was at
issue, and none but the lord of the soil himself could settle the matter.
Very dear to Daniel Granger were those lands of Arden, that Arden-Court
estate which he had made to spread itself so far over the face of the
county. Sweet are ancestral domains, no doubt; dear by association, made
holy by the pride of the race; but perhaps sweeter to the soul of man are
those acres he has won by the work of his own strong hand, or his own
steadfast brain. Next to his wife and children, in Mr. Granger's regard,
were the lands of Arden: the farms and homesteads, in valleys and on
hill-tops; the cottages and school-houses, which he had built for the
improvement of his species; the bran-new slack-baked gothic church in an
outlying village, where the church had never been before his coming.
He was very sorry to leave his wife; but the question at stake was an
important one. If he could have carried his household away with him at an
hour's notice, he would gladly have done so; but to move Clarissa and
the nurse, and the baby, and Miss Granger, would be rather a formidable
business--in fact, not to be done without elaborate preparation. He had the
apartments in the Rue du Morny on his hands, too, until the beginning
of March; and even a millionaire seldom cares to waste such a rental as
Parisian proprietors exact for houseroom in a fashionable quarter. So he
decided upon going to Arden at once--which was essential--and returning
directly he had adjusted matters with his bailiff, and done a morning's
work with his architect.
He told Clarissa of his intention one evening when they had returned from a
dinner-party, and she was seated before her dressing-table, taking off her
jewels in a slow, absent way. She looked up with a start as her husband
came into the room, and planted himself on the white sheepskin rug, with
his back against the mantelpiece.
"I am obliged to go back to Yorkshire, Clary," he said.
She thought he meant they were all going back--that it was an interposition
of Providence, and she was to be taken away from sin and danger. But O, how
hard it seemed to go--never again to look forward to those stolen twilights
in her brother's painting-room!
"I am glad!" she exclaimed. "I shall be very glad to go back to Arden."
"You, my dear!" said her husband; "it is only I who am going. There is some
hitch in our experiments on the home farm, and Forley knows how anxious I
am about making a success this year. So he wants me to run over and see
to things; he won't accept the responsibility of carrying on any longer
without me. I needn't be away above two or three days, or a week at most.
You can get on very well without me."
Clarissa was silent, looking down at a bracelet which she was turning idly
round her arm. Get on without him! Alas, what part had Daniel Granger
played in her life of late beyond that of some supernumerary king in a
stage-play?--a person of importance by rank and title in the play-bill, but
of scarcely any significance to the story. Her guilty heart told her how
little he had ever been to her; how, day by day, he had been growing less
and less. And while he was away, she might go to the Rue du Chevalier
Bayard every day. There would be nothing to prevent her so doing if she
pleased. The carriage was nominally and actually hers. There was a brougham
at Miss Granger's disposal; but the landau was essentially Clarissa's
"You can get on very well without me," repeated Mr. Granger. "I do not
think my presence or absence makes very much difference to you, Clarissa,"
he added, in a grave displeased tone.
It was almost his first hint of a reproach. To his wife's guilty heart it
struck sharply home, like an unexpected blow. She looked up at him with a
pale conscience-stricken face, in which he might have read much more
than he did read there. He only thought that he had spoken a shade too
severely--that he had wounded her.
"I--I don't know what you mean by that," she faltered helplessly, "I always
try to please you."
"Try to please me!" he repeated passionately. "Yes, Clary, as a child tries
to please a schoolmaster. Do you know, that when I married you I was mad
enough to hope the day would come when you would love me--that you loved me
a little even then? Do you know how I have waited for that day, and have
learned to understand, little by little, that it never can dawn for me
upon this earth? You are my wife, and the mother of my child; and yet,
God knows, you are no nearer to me than the day I first saw you at Hale
Castle--a slim, girlish figure in a white dress, coming in at the door of
the library. Not a whit nearer," he went on, to himself rather than to
Clarissa; "but so much more dear."
There was a passion in his words which touched his wife. If it had only
been possible for her to love him! If gratitude and respect, joined
together, could have made up the sum of love; but they could not. She knew
that George Fairfax was in all moral qualities this man's inferior; yet,
for some indefinable charm, some trick of tone or manner, some curious
magic in a smile or a glance, she loved him.
She was silent. Perhaps the sense of her guilt came more fully home to her
in this moment than it had ever done before. What words could she speak to
bring comfort to her husband's soul--she whose whole life was a lie?
Daniel Granger wandered up and down the room for some minutes in a vague
restless way, and then came to his wife's chair, and looked down at her
"My dear, I do wrong to worry you with reproaches," he said. "The mistake
has been mine. From first to last, I have been to blame. I suppose in the
wisest life there must always be some folly. Mine has been the hope that I
could win your love. It has gone now, Clarissa; it is quite gone. Not even
my child has given me a place in your heart."
She looked up at him again, with that look which expressed such a depth of
"I am very wicked," she said, "I am utterly unworthy of all you have done
for me. It would have been better for you never to have seen my face."
"Wicked! no, Clary. Your only sin has been to have disappointed a foolish
fancy. What right had I to suppose you loved me? Better never to have seen
your face?--yes, perhaps that might have been better. But, once having seen
you, I would rather be wretched with you than happy with any other woman in
the world. That is what love means, Clary."
He stooped down to kiss her.
"Say no more, dear," he said, "I never meant to speak as I have spoken
to-night. I love you for ever."
The day came when she remembered those words, "I love you for ever."
If she could have thrown herself upon his breast and acknowledged all her
weakness, beseeching him to shield her from herself in obedience to the
impulse of that moment, what a world of anguish might have been spared to
these two! But she let the impulse pass, and kept silence.
* * * * *
LYING IN WAIT.
Mr. Granger went back to Yorkshire; and Clarissa's days were at her own
disposal. They were to leave Paris at the beginning of March. She knew it
was only for a very short time that she would be able to see her brother.
It was scarcely natural, therefore, that she should neglect such an
opportunity as this. There was so much in Austin's life that caused her
uneasiness; he seemed in such sore need of wiser counsel than his poor
empty-headed little wife could give him; and Clarissa believed that she had
some influence with him: that if he would be governed by the advice of any
creature upon earth, that counsellor was herself.
So she spent her mornings in baby-worship, and went every afternoon to the
Rue du Chevalier Bayard, where it happened curiously that Mr. Fairfax came
even oftener than usual just at this time. In the evening she stayed at
home--not caring to keep her engagements in society without her husband's
escort--and resigned herself to the edifying companionship of Miss Granger,
who was eloquent upon the benighted condition of the Parisian poor as
compared with her model villagers. She described them sententiously as a
people who put garlic in everything they ate, and never read their Bibles.
"One woman showed me a book with little pictures of saints printed upon
paper with lace edges," said Sophia, "as if there were any edification to
be derived from lace edges; and such a heathen book too--Latin on one side
and French on the other. And there the poor forsaken creatures sit in their
churches, looking at stray pictures and hearing a service in an unknown
Daniel Granger had been away nearly a week; and as yet there was no
announcement of his return; only brief business-like letters, telling
Clarissa that the drainage question was a complicated one, and he should
remain upon the spot till he and Forley could see their way out of the
difficulty. He had been away nearly a week, when George Fairfax went to the
Rue du Chevalier Bayard at the usual hour, expecting to find Austin Lovel
standing before his easel with a cigar in his mouth, and Clarissa sitting
in the low chair by the fire, in the attitude he knew so well, with the red
glow of the embers lighting up gleams of colour in her dark velvet dress,
and shining on the soft brown hair crowned with a coquettish little
seal-skin hat--a _toque_, as they called it on that side of the Channel.
What was his astonishment to find a pile of trunks and portmanteaus on the
landing, Austin's easel roughly packed for removal, and a heap of that
miscellaneous lumber without which even poverty cannot shift its dwelling!
The door was open; and Mr. Fairfax walked straight into the sitting-room,
where the two boys were eating some extemporised meal at a side-table under
their mother's supervision; while Austin lounged with his back against
the chimney-piece, smoking. He was a man who would have smoked during the
culminating convulsions of an earthquake.
"Why, Austin, what the--I beg your pardon, Mrs. Austin--what _does_ this
"It means Brussels by the three-fifteen train, my dear Fairfax, that's
"Brussels? With those children and that luggage? What, in Heaven's name,
induces you to carry your family off like this, at an hour's notice?"
"It is not an hour's notice; they've had an hour and three-quarters. As to
my reasons for this abrupt hegira--well, that involves rather a long story;
and I haven't time to tell it to-day. One thing is pretty clear--I can't
live in Paris. Perhaps I may be able to live in Brussels. I can't very well
do worse than I've done here--that's _one_ comfort."
At this Bessie Lovel began to cry--in a suppressed kind of way, like a
woman who is accustomed to cry and not to be taken much notice of. George
Fairfax flung himself into a chair with an impatient gesture. He was at
once sorry for this man and angry with him; vexed to see any man go to ruin
with such an utter recklessness, with such a deliberate casting away of
every chance that might have redeemed him.
"You have got into some scrape, I suppose," he said presently.
"Got into a scrape!" cried Austin with a laugh, tossing away the end of one
cigar and preparing to light another. "My normal condition is that of being
in a scrape. Egad! I fancy I must have been born so.--For God's sake don't
whimper, Bessie, if you want to catch the three-fifteen train! _I_ go by
that, remember, whoever stays behind.--There's no occasion to enter into
explanations, Fairfax. If you could help me I'd ask you to do it, in
spite of former obligations; but you can't. I have got into a
difficulty--pecuniary, of course; and as the law of liability in this city
happens to be a trifle more stringent than our amiable British code, I have
no alternative but to bid good-bye to the towers of Notre Dame. I love the
dear, disreputable city, with her lights and laughter, and music and mirth;
but she loves not me.--When those boys have done gorging themselves,
Bessie, you had better put on your bonnet."
"His wife cast an appealing glance at George Fairfax, as if she felt she
had a friend in him who would sustain her in any argument with her husband.
Her face was very sad, and bore the traces of many tears.
"If you would only tell me why we are going, Austin," she pleaded, "I could
bear it so much better."
"Nonsense, child! Would anything I could tell you alter the fact that we
are going? Pshaw, Bessie! why make a fuss about trifles? The packing is
over: that was the grand difficulty, I thought. I told you we could manage
"It seems so hard--running away like criminals."
Austin Lovel's countenance darkened a little.
"I can go alone," he said.
"No, no," cried the wife piteously: "I'll go with you. I don't want to vex
you, Austin. Haven't I shared everything with you--everything? I would go
with you if it was to prison--if it was to death. You know that."
"I know that we shall lose the three-fifteen train if you don't put on your
"Very well, Austin; I'm going. And Clarissa--what will she think of us? I'm
so sorry to leave her."
"O, by the way, George," said Austin, "you might manage that business for
me. My sister was to be here at five o'clock this afternoon. I've written
her a letter telling her of the change in my plans. She was in some measure
prepared for my leaving Paris; but not quite so suddenly as this. I was
going to send the letter by a commissionnaire; but if you don't mind taking
it to the Rue de Morny, I'd rather trust it to you. I don't want Clary to
come here and find empty rooms."
He took a sealed letter from the mantelpiece and handed it to George
Fairfax, who received it with somewhat of a dreamy air, as of a man who
does not quite understand the mission that is intrusted to him. It was a
simple business enough, too--only the delivery of a letter.
Mrs. Lovel came out of the adjoining room dressed for the journey, and
carrying a collection of wraps for the children. It was wonderful to behold
what comforters, and scarves, and gaiters, and muffetees those juvenile
individuals required for their equipment.
"Such a long cold journey!" the anxious mother exclaimed, and went on
winding up the two children in woollen stuffs, as if they had been
royal mummies. She pushes little papers of sandwiches into their
pockets--sandwiches that would hardly be improved by the squeezing and
sitting upon they must need undergo in the transit.
When this was done, and the children ready, she looked into the
painting-room with a melancholy air.
"Think of all the furniture, Austin," she exclaimed; "the cabinets and
"Yes; there's a considerable amount of money wasted there Bess; for I don't
suppose we shall ever see the things again, but there's a good many of them
not paid for. There's comfort in that reflection."
"You take everything go lightly," she said with a hopeless sigh.
"There's nothing between that and the Morgue, my dear. You'd scarcely like
to see me framed and glazed _there_, I think."
"Precisely. So let me take things lightly, while I can. Now, Bess, the time
is up. Good-bye, George."
"I'll come downstairs with you," said Mr. Fairfax, still in a somewhat
dreamy state. He had put Austin's letter into his pocket, and was standing
at a window looking down into the street, which had about as much life
or traffic for a man to stare at as some of the lateral streets in the
Bloomsbury district--Caroline-place, for instance, or Keppel-street.
There was a great struggling and bumping of porters and coachman on the
stairs, with a good deal more exclamation than would have proceeded from
stalwart Englishmen under the same circumstances; and then Austin went down
to the coach with his wife and children, followed by George Fairfax. The
painter happened not to be in debt to his landlord--a gentleman who gave
his tenants small grace at any time; so there was no difficulty about the
"I'll write to Monsieur Meriste about my furniture," he said to the
guardian of the big dreary mansion. "You may as well come to the station
with us, George," he added, looking at Mr. Fairfax, who stood irresolute on
the pavement, while Bessie and the boys were being packed into the vehicle,
the roof of which was laden with portmanteaus and the painter's "plant."
"Well--no; I think not. There's this letter to be delivered, you see. I had
better do that at once."
"True; Clarissa might come. She said five o'clock, though; but it doesn't
matter. Good-bye, old fellow. I hope some of these days I may be able to
make things square with you. Good-bye, Tell Clary I shall write to her from
Brussels, under cover to the maid as usual."
He called out to the coachman to go on; and the carriage drove off,
staggering under its load. George Fairfax stood watching it till it was out
of sight, and then turned to the porter.
"Those rooms up-stairs will be to let, I suppose?" he said.
"But certainly, monsieur."
"I have some thoughts of taking them for--for a friend. I'll just take
another look round them now they're empty. And perhaps you wouldn't mind my
writing a letter up-stairs--eh?"
He slipped a napoleon into the man's hand--by no means the first that he
had given him. New-Year's day was not far past; and the porter remembered
that Mr. Fairfax had tipped him more liberally than some of the lodgers in
the house. If monsieur had a legion of letters to write, he was at liberty
to write them. The rooms up yonder were entirely at his disposal; the
porter laid them at his feet, as it were. He might have occupied them
rent-free for the remainder of his existence, it would have been supposed
from the man's manner.
"If madame, the sister of Monsieur Austin, should come by-and-by, you will
permit her to ascend," said Mr. Fairfax. "I have a message for her from her
The porter retired into his den to meditate upon his good fortune. It was
a rendezvous, of course, cunningly arranged on the day of the painter's
departure. It seemed to him like a leaf out of one of those flabby novels
on large paper, with a muddy wood-cut on every sixteenth page, which he
thumbed and pored over now and then of an evening.
George Fairfax went up-stairs. How supremely dismal the rooms looked in
their emptiness, with the litter of packing lying about!--old boots and
shoes in one corner; a broken parasol in another; battered fragments of
toys everywhere; empty colour-tubes; old newspapers and magazines; a
regiment of empty oil-flasks and wine-bottles in the den of a kitchen--into
which Mr. Fairfax peered curiously, out of very weariness. It was only
half-past three; and there was little hope of Clarissa's arrival until
five. He meant to meet her there. In the moment that Austin put the letter
in his hand some such notion flashed into his mind. He had never intended
to deliver the letter. How long he had waited for this chance--to see her
alone, free from all fear of interruption, and to be able to tell his story
and plead his cause, as he felt that he could plead!
He walked up and down the empty painting-room, thinking of her coming,
meditating what he should say, acting the scene over in his brain. He had
little fear as to the issue. Secure as she seemed in the panoply of her
woman's pride, he knew his power, and fancied that it needed only time and
opportunity to win her. This was not the first time he had counted his
chances and arranged his plan of action. In the hour he first heard of her
marriage he had resolved to win her. Outraged love transformed itself into
a passion that was something akin to revenge. He scarcely cared how low
he might bring her, so long as he won her for his own. He did not stop to
consider whether hers was a mind which could endure dishonour. He knew that
she loved him, and that her married life had been made unhappy because of
this fatal love.
"I will open the doors of her prison-house," he said to himself, "poor
fettered soul! She shall leave that dreary conventional life, with its
forms and ceremonies of pleasure; and we will wander all over the earth
together, only to linger wherever this world is brightest. What can she
lose by the exchange? Not wealth. For the command of all that makes life
delightful, I am as rich a man as Daniel Granger, and anything beyond
that is a barren surplus. Not position; for what position has she as Mrs.
Granger? I will take her away from all the people who ever knew her, and
guard her jealously from the hazard of shame. There will only be a couple
of years in her life which she will have to blot out--only a leaf torn out
of her history."
And the child? the blue-eyed boy that George Fairfax had stopped to kiss in
Arden Park that day? It is one thing to contemplate stealing a wife from
her husband--with George Fairfax's class there is a natural antipathy to
husbands, which makes that seem a fair warfare, like fox-hunting--but it is
another to rob a child of its mother. Mr. Fairfax's meditations came to a
standstill at this point--the boy blocked the line.
There was only one thing to be done; put on the steam, and run down the
obstacle, as Isambard Brunel did in the Box-tunnel, when he saw a stray
luggage-truck between him and the light.
"Let her bring the boy with her, and he shall be my son," he thought.
Daniel Granger would go in for a divorce, of course. Mr. Fairfax thought of
everything in that hour and a half of solitary reflection. He would try for
a divorce, and there would be no end of scandal--leading articles in some
of the papers, no doubt, upon the immorality of the upper middle classes; a
full-flavoured essay in the Saturday, proving that Englishwomen were in the
habit of running away from their husbands. But she should be far away from
the bruit of that scandal. He would make it the business of his life to
shield her from the lightest breath of insult. It could be done. There were
new worlds, in which men and women could begin a fresh existence, under new
names; and if by chance any denizen of the old world should cross their
path untimely--well, such unwelcome wanderers are generally open to
negotiation. There is a good deal of charity for such offenders among the
travelled classes, especially when the chief sinner is lord of such an
estate as Lyvedon.
Yet, varnish the picture how one will, dress up the story with what flowers
of fancy one may, it is at best but a patched and broken business. The
varnish brings out dark spots in the picture; the flowers have a faded
meretricious look, not the bloom and dew of the garden; no sophistry
can overcome the inherent ugliness of the thing--an honest man's name
dishonoured; two culprits planning a future life, to be spent in hiding
from the more respectable portion of their species; two outcasts, trying
to make believe that the wildernesses beyond Eden are fairer than that
His mother--what would she feel when she came to know what he had done
with his life? It would be a disappointment to her, of course; a grief, no
doubt; but she would have Lyvedon. He had gone too far to be influenced
by any consideration of that kind; he had gone so far that life without
Clarissa seemed to him unendurable. He paced the room, contemplating this
crisis of his existence from every point of view, till the gray winter sky
grew darker, and the time of Clarissa's coming drew very near. There had
been some logs smouldering on the hearth when he came, and these he had
replenished from time to time. The glow of the fire was the only thing that
relieved the dreariness of the room.
Nothing could be more fortunate, he fancied, than the accident which had
brought about this meeting. Daniel Granger was away. The flight, which was
to be the preface of Clarissa's new existence, could not take place too
soon; no time need be wasted on preparations, which could only serve
to betray. Her consent once gained, he had only to put her into a
hackney-coach and drive to the Marseilles station. Why should they not
start that very night? There was a train that left Paris at seven, he knew;
in three days they might be on the shores of the Adriatic.
* * * * *
MR. GRANGER'S WELCOME HOME.
Clarissa left the Rue de Morny at three o'clock that day. She had a round
of calls to make, and for that reason had postponed her visit to her
brother's painting-room to a later hour than usual. The solemn dinner,
which she shared with Miss Granger in stately solitude, took place at
half-past seven, until which hour she considered her time at her own
Sophia spent that particular afternoon at home, illuminating the new gothic
texts for her schoolrooms at Arden. She had been seated at her work about
an hour after Clarissa's departure, when the door opened behind her, and
her father walked into the room.
There had been no word of his return in his latest letter; he had only said
generally in a previous epistle, that he should come back directly the
business that had called him to Yorkshire was settled.
"Good gracious me, papa, how you startled me!" cried Miss Granger, dabbing
at a spot of ultramarine which had fallen upon her work. It was not a very
warm welcome; but when she had made the best she could of that unlucky blue
spot, she laid down her brush and came over to her father, to whom she
offered a rather chilly kiss. "You must be very tired, papa," she remarked,
with striking originality.
"Well, no; not exactly tired. We had a very fair passage; but the journey
from Calais is tedious. It seems as if Calais oughtn't to be any farther
from Paris than Dover is from London. There's something lop-sided in it. I
read the papers all the way. Where's Clarry?"
"Clarissa has gone to pay some visits."
"Why didn't you go with her?"
"I rarely do go with her, papa. Our sets are quite different; and I have
"Duties, pshaw! Messing with those paint-brushes; you don't call that duty,
I hope? You had much better have gone out with your stepmother."
"I was not wanted, papa. Mrs. Granger has engagements which do not in the
least concern me. I should only be in the way."
"What do you mean by that, Sophia?" asked her father sternly. "And what do
you mean by calling my wife Mrs. Granger?"
"There are some people so uncongenial to each other, papa, that any
pretence of friendship can be only the vilest hypocrisy," replied Sophia,
turning very pale, and looking her father full in the face, like a person
prepared to do battle.
"I am very sorry to hear this, Sophia," said Mr. Granger. "for if this is
really the case, it will be necessary for you to seek some other home. I
will have no one in my house who cannot value my wife."
"You would turn me out of doors, papa?"
"I should certainly endeavour to provide you with a more
congenial--congenial, that was the word you used, I think--more congenial
"Indeed!" exclaimed Sophia. "Then I suppose you quite approve of all my
stepmother's conduct--of her frequent, almost daily visits to such a person
as Mr. Austin?"
"Clarissa's visits to Austin! What, in heaven's name, do you mean?"
"What, papa! is it possible you are ignorant of the fact? I thought that,
though my stepmother never talked to _me_ of her visits to the Rue du
Chevalier Bayard, you of course knew all about them. Though I hardly
supposed you would encourage such an intimacy."
"Encourage such an intimacy! You must be dreaming, girl. My wife visit a
portrait-painter--a single man?"
"He is not a single man, papa. There is a wife, I understand; though he
never mentioned her to us. And Clarissa visits them almost every day."
"I don't believe it. What motive could she have for cultivating such
"I can't imagine--except that she is fond of that kind of society, and of
painting. She may have gone to take lessons of Mr. Austin. He teaches, I
Daniel Granger was silent. It was not impossible; and it would have been no
crime on his wife's part, of course. But the idea that Clarissa could have
done such a thing without his knowledge and approval, offended him beyond
measure. He could hardly realize the possibility of such an act.
"There is some misapprehension on your part, Sophia, I am convinced," he
said. "If Clarissa had wished to take drawing lessons from Austin, she
would have told me so."
"There is no possibility of a mistake on my part, papa. I am not in the
habit of making statements which I cannot support."
"Who told you of these visits? Clarissa herself?"
"O dear, no; Clarissa is not in the habit of telling me her affairs. I
heard it from Warman; not in reply to any questioning of mine, I can assure
you. But the thing has been so frequent, that the servants have begun
to talk about it. Of course, I always make a point of discouraging any
speculations upon my stepmother's conduct."
The servants had begun to talk; his wife's intimacy with people of whom he
knew scarcely anything had been going on so long as to provoke the gossip
of the household; and he had heard nothing of it until this moment! The
thought stung him to the quick. That domestic slander should have been busy
with her name already; that she should have lived her own life so entirely
without reference to him! Both thoughts were alike bitter. Yet it was no
new thing for him to know that she did not love him.
He looked at his watch meditatively.
"Has she gone there this afternoon, do you think?" he asked.
"I think it is excessively probable. Warman tells me she has been there
every afternoon during your absence."
"She must have taken a strange fancy to these people. Austin's wife is some
old schoolfellow of Clary's perhaps."
Miss Granger shook her head doubtfully.
"I should hardly think that," she said.
"There must be some reason--something that we cannot understand. She may
have some delicacy about talking to me of these people; there may be
something in their circumstances to--"
"Yes," said Miss Granger, "there is _something_, no doubt. I have been
assured of that from the first."
"What did you say the address was?"
"The Rue du Chevalier Bayard, Number 7."
Mr. Granger left the room without another word. He was not a man to
remain long in doubt upon any question that could be solved by prompt
investigation. He went out into the hall, where a footman sat reading
_Galignani_ in the lamplight.
"Has Mrs. Granger's carriage come back, Saunders?" he asked.
"Yes, sir; the carriage has been back a quarter of an hour. I were out with
"Where is Mrs. Granger? In her own rooms?"
"No, sir; Mrs. Granger didn't come home in the carriage. We drove her to
the Shangs Elysy first, sir, and afterwards to the Rue du Cavalier Baynard;
and Mr. Fairfax, he came down and told me my mistress wouldn't want the
carriage to take her home."
"Mr. Fairfax--in the Rue du Chevalier Bayard!"
"Yes, sir; he's an intimate friend of Mr. Hostin's, I believe. Leastways,
we've seen him there very often."
George Fairfax! George Fairfax a frequent guest of those people whom
she visited! That slumbering demon, which had been sheltered in Daniel
Granger's breast so long, arose rampant at the sound of this name. George
Fairfax, the man he suspected in the past; the man whom he had done his
best to keep out of his wife's pathway in the present, but who, by some
fatality, was not be avoided. Had Clarissa cultivated an intimacy with this
Bohemian painter and his wife only for the sake of meeting George Fairfax
without her husband's knowledge? To suppose this was to imagine a depth of
depravity in the heart of the woman he loved. And he had believed her so
pure, so noble a creature. The blow was heavy. He stood looking at his
servant for a moment or so, paralysed; but except that one blank gaze, he
gave no sign of his emotion. He only took up his hat, and went quietly out.
"His looks was orful!" the man said afterwards in the servants' hall.
Sophia came out of the drawing-room to look for her father, just a little
disturbed by the thought of what she had done. She had gone too far,
perhaps. There had been something in her father's look when he asked her
for that address that had alarmed her. He was gone; gone _there_, no doubt,
to discover his wife's motives for those strange visits. Miss Granger's
heart was not often fluttered as it was this evening. She could not "settle
to anything," as she said herself, but wandered up into the nursery, and
stood by the dainty little cot, staring absently at her baby brother as he
"If anything should happen," she thought--and that event which she vaguely
foreshadowed was one that would leave the child motherless--"I should make
it _my_ duty to superintend his rearing. No one should have power to say
that I was jealous of the brother who has robbed me of my heritage."
* * * * *
CAUGHT IN A TRAP.
It was dusk when Clarissa's carriage drove into the Rue du Chevalier
Bayard--the dull gray gloaming of February--and the great bell of Notre
Dame was booming five. She had been paying visits of duty, talking
banalities in fashionable drawing-rooms, and she was weary. She seemed to
breathe a new life as she approached her brother's dwelling. Here there
would be the free reckless utterance of minds that harmonised, of souls
that sympathised:--instead of stereotyped little scraps of gossip about the
great world, or arid discussion of new plays and famous opera-singers.
She did not stop to ask any questions of the complacent porter. It was not
her habit to do so. She had never yet failed to find Austin, or Austin's
wife, at home at this hour. She went swiftly up the darksome staircase,
where never a lamp was lighted to illumine the stranger, only an occasional
candle thrust out of a doorway by some friendly hand. In the dusk of this
particular evening there was not so much as a glimmer.
The outer door was ajar--not such an uncommon thing as to occasion any
surprise to Clarissa. She pushed it open and went in, across a dingy lobby
some four feet square, on which abutted the kitchen, and into the salon.
This was dark and empty; but one of the folding-doors leading into the
painting-room was open, and she saw the warm glow of the fire shining on
the old Flemish cabinets and the brazen chandelier. That glow of firelight
had a comfortable look after the desolation and darkness of the salon.
She went into the painting-room. There was a tall figure standing by one of
the windows, looming gigantic through the dusk--a figure she knew very
well, but not Austin's. She looked quickly round the room, expecting to see
her brother lounging by the chimney-piece, or wandering about somewhere in
his desultory way; but there was no one else, only that tall figure by the
The silence and emptiness of the place, and _his_ presence, startled her a
"Good-evening, Mr. Fairfax," she said. "Isn't Austin here?"
"Not at this moment. How do you do, Mrs. Granger?" and they shook hands.
So commonplace a meeting might almost have disappointed the sentimental
"And Bessie?" Clarissa asked.
"She too is out of the way for the moment," replied George Fairfax,
glancing out of the window. "You came in your carriage, I suppose, Mrs.
Granger? If you'll excuse me for a moment, I'll just ran and see if--if
Austin has come in again."
He went quickly out of the room and downstairs, not to look for Austin
Lovel, who was on his way to Brussels by this time, but to tell Mrs.
Granger's coachman she had no farther use for the carriage, and would not
be home to dinner. The man looked a little surprised at this order, but Mr.
Fairfax's tone was too peremptory to be unauthorised; so he drove homeward
Clarissa was seated in her favourite easy-chair, looking pensively at
the wood-fire, when George Fairfax came back. She heard his returning
footsteps, and the sharp click of a key turning in the outer door. This
sound set her wondering. What door was that being locked, and by whom?
Mr. Fairfax came into the painting-room. It was the crisis of his life, he
told himself. If he failed to obtain some promise from her to-night--some
definite pledge of his future happiness--he could never hope to succeed.
"Time and I against any two," he had said to himself sometimes in relation
to this business. He had been content to bide his time; but the golden
opportunity had come at last. If he failed to-night, he failed forever.
"Is he coming?" Clarissa asked, rather anxiously. There was something
ominous in the stillness of the place, and the absence of any sign of life
except George Fairfax's presence.
"Not immediately. Don't alarm yourself," he said hurriedly, as Clarissa
rose with a frightened look. "There is nothing really wrong, only there are
circumstances that I felt it better to break to you gently. Yet I fear I am
an awkward hand at doing that, at the best. The fact is, your brother has
"Yes, only a couple of hours ago." And then Mr. Fairfax went on to tell the
story of Austin's departure, making as light of it as he could, and with no
word of that letter which had been given him to deliver.
The news was a shock to Clarissa. Very well did she remember what her
brother had told her about the probability of his being compelled to "cut
Paris." It had come, then, some new disgrace, and banished him from the
city he loved--the city in which his talents had won for him a budding
reputation, that might have blossomed into fame, if he had only been a
wiser and a better man. She heard George Fairfax in silence, her head bowed
with shame. This man was her brother, and she loved him so dearly.
"Do you know where they have gone?" she asked at last.
"To Brussels. He may do very well there, no doubt, if he will only keep
himself steady--turn his back upon the rackety society he is so fond
of--and work honestly at his art. It is a place where they can live more
cheaply, too, than they could here."
"I am so sorry they are gone without a word of parting. It must have been
"Yes. I believe the necessity for the journey arose quite suddenly; or it
may have been hanging over your brother for a long time, and he may have
shut his eyes to the fact until the last moment. He is such a fellow for
taking things easily. However, he did not enter into explanations with me."
"Poor Austin! What a wretched life!"
Clarissa rose and moved slowly towards the folding-doors. George Fairfax
stopped her at the threshold, and quietly closed the door.
"Don't go yet, Clarissa. I want to speak to you."
His tone told her what was coming--the scene in the conservatory was to
be acted over again. This was the first time they had been actually alone
since that too-well-remembered night.
She drew herself up haughtily. A woman's weakness makes her desperate in
such a case as this.
"I have no time to talk now, Mr. Fairfax. I am going home."
"Not yet, Clarissa. I have waited a long time for this chance. I am
determined to say my say."
"You will not compel me to listen to you?"
"Compel is a very hard word. I beseech you to hear me. My future life
depends on what I have to say, and on your answer."
"I cannot hear a word! I will not remain a moment!"
"The door yonder is locked, Clarissa, and the key in my pocket. Brutal, you
will say. The circumstances of our lives have left me no option. I have
watched and waited for such an opportunity as this; and now, Clarissa, you
shall hear me. Do you remember that night in the orchard, when you drove me
away by your coldness and obstinacy? And yet you loved me! You have owned
it since. Ah, my darling, how I have hated myself for my dulness that
night!--hated myself for not having seized you in my arms, if need were,
and carried you off to the end of the world to make you my wife. What a
fool and craven I must have been to be put off so easily!"
"Nothing can be more foolish than to discuss the past, Mr. Fairfax,"
replied Clarissa, in a low voice that trembled a little. "You have made
me do wrong more than once in my life. There must be an end of this. What
would my husband think, if he could hear you? what would he think of me for
listening to you? Let me pass, if you please; and God grant that we may
never meet again after to-night!"
"God grant that we may never part, Clarissa! O, my love, my love, for
pity's sake be reasonable! We are not children to play fast and loose with
our lives. You love me, Clary. No sweet-spoken pretences, no stereotyped
denials, will convince me. You love me, my darling, and the world is all
before us. I have mapped-out our future; no sorrow or discredit shall ever
come nigh you--trust a lover's foresight for that. Whatever difficulties
may lie in our pathway are difficulties that I will face and
conquer--alone. You have only to forget that you have ever been Daniel
Granger's wife, and leave Paris with me to-night."
"Mr. Fairfax! are you mad?"
"Never more reasonable--never so much in earnest. Come with me, Clarissa.
It is not a sacrifice that I ask from you: I offer you a release. Do you
think there is any virtue or beauty in your present life, or any merit in
continuing it? From first to last, your existence is a lie. Do you think
a wedding-ring redeems the honour of a woman who sells herself for money?
There is no slavery more degrading than the bondage of such an alliance."
"Open the door, Mr. Fairfax, and let me go!"
His reproaches stung her to the quick; they were so bitterly true.
"Not till you have heard me, my darling--not till you have heard me out."
His tone changed all at once, softening into ineffable tenderness. He
told her of his love with words of deeper passion than he had ever spoken
yet--words that went home to the heart that loved him. For a moment,
listening to that impassioned pleading, it seemed to Clarissa that this
verily was life indeed--that to be so loved was in itself alone the perfect
joy and fulness of existence, leaving nothing more to be desired, making
shame as nothing in the balance. In that one moment the guilty heart was
well-nigh yielding; the bewildered brain could scarcely maintain the
conflict of thought and feeling. Then suddenly this mental agony changed to
a strange dulness, a mist rose between Clarissa and the eager face of her
lover. She was nearer fainting than she had ever been in her life before.
George Fairfax saw her face whiten, and the slender figure totter ever so
slightly. In a moment a strong arm was round her. The weary head sank on
"My darling," he whispered, "why not leave Paris to-night? It cannot be too
soon. Your husband is away. We shall have a start of two or three days, and
avoid all risk of pursuit."
"Not quite," said a voice close behind him; and looking round, George
Fairfax saw one of the folding-doors open, and Daniel Granger standing on
the threshold. The locked outer door had availed the traitor nothing. Mr.
Granger had come upstairs with the porter, who carried a bunch of duplicate
keys in his pocket.
Clarissa gave a sudden cry, which rose in the next instant to a shrill
scream. Two men were struggling in the doorway, grappling each other
savagely for one dreadful minute of confusion and agony. Then one fell
heavily, his head crashing against the angle of the doorway, and lay at
full length, with his white face looking up to the ceiling.
This was George Fairfax.
Clarissa threw herself upon her knees beside the prostrate figure.
"George! George!" she cried piteously.
It was the first time she had ever uttered his Christian name, except in
her dreams; and yet it came to her lips as naturally in that moment of
supreme agony as if it had been their every-day utterance.
"George! George!" she cried again, bending down to gaze at the white
blank face dimly visible in the firelight; and then, with a still sharper
anguish, "He is dead!"
The sight of that kneeling figure, the sound of that piteous imploring
voice, was well-nigh maddening to Daniel Granger. He caught his wife by the
arm, and dragged her up from her knees with no tender hand.
"You have killed him," she said.
"I hope I have."
Whatever latent passion there was in this man's nature was at white heat
now. An awful fury possessed him. He seemed transformed by the intensity of
his anger. His bulky figure rose taller; his full gray eyes shone with a
pitiless light under the straight stern brows.
"Yes," he said, "I hope I have killed your lover."
"Your lover--the man with whom you were to have left Paris to-night. Your
lover--the man you have met in this convenient rendezvous, day after day
for the last two months. Your lover--the man you loved before you did me
the honour to accept the use of my fortune, and whom you have loved ever
"Yes," cried Clarissa, with a wild hysterical laugh, "my lover! You are
right. I am the most miserable woman upon earth, for I love him."
"I am glad you do not deny it. Stand out of the way, if you please, and let
me see if I have killed him."
There were a pair of half-burned wax candles on the mantelpiece. Mr.
Granger lighted one of them, and then knelt down beside the prostrate
figure with the candle in his hand. George Fairfax had given no sign of
life as yet. There had not been so much as a groan.
He opened his enemy's waistcoat, and laid his hand above the region of the
heart. Yes, there was life still--a dull beating. The wretch was not dead.
While he knelt thus, with his hand upon George Fairfax's heart, a massive
chain, loosened from its moorings, fell across his wrist. Attached to the
chain there was a locket--a large gold locket with a diamond cross--one of
the ornaments that Daniel Granger had given to his wife.
He remembered it well. It was a very trifle among the gifts be had showered
upon her; but he remembered it well. If this had been the one solitary gem
he had given to his wife, he could not have been quicker to recognise it,
or more certain of its identity.
He took it in the palm of his hand and touched the spring, holding the
candle still in the other hand. The locket flew open, and he saw the ring
of silky brown hair and the inscription, "From Clarissa."
He looked up at his wife with a smile--such a smile! "You might have
afforded your lover something better than a secondhand _souvenir_," he
Clarissa's eyes wandered from the still white face, with its awful closed
eyes, only to rest for a moment on the unlucky locket.
"I gave that to my sister-in-law," she said indifferently. "Heaven only
knows how he came by it." And then, in a different tone, she asked, "Why
don't you do something for him? Why don't you fetch some one? Do you want
him to die?"
"Yes. Do you think anything less than his death would satisfy me? Don't
alarm yourself; I am not going to kill him. I was quite ready to do it just
now in hot blood. But he is safe enough now. What good would there be in
making an end of him? There are two of you in it."
"You can kill me, if you like," said Clarissa "Except for my child's sake,
I have little wish to live."
"For your child's sake!" echoed her husband scornfully. "Do you think there
is anything in common between my son and you, after to-night."
He dropped the locket on George Fairfax's breast with a contemptuous
gesture, as if he had been throwing away a handful of dirt. _That_ folly
had cost dearly enough.
"I'll go and fetch some one," he said. "Don't let your distraction make you
forget that the man wants all the air he can get. You had better stand away
Clarissa obeyed mechanically. She stood a little way off, staring at that
lifeless figure, while Daniel Granger went to fetch the porter. The house
was large, and at this time in the evening for the most part untenanted,
and Austin's painting-room was over the arched carriage-way. Thus it
happened that no one had heard that fall of George Fairfax's.
Mr. Granger explained briefly that the gentleman had had a fall, and was
stunned--would the porter fetch the nearest doctor? The man looked a him
rather suspiciously. The lovely lady's arrival in the gloaming; a locked
door; this middle-aged Englishman's eagerness to get into the rooms; and
now a fall and the young Englishman is disabled. The leaf out of a romance
began to assume a darker aspect. There had been murder done, perhaps, up
yonder. The porter's comprehensive vision surveyed the things that might
be--the house fallen into evil repute by reason of this crime, and bereft
of lodgers. The porter was an elderly man, and did not care to shift his
"What have they come to do up there?" he asked. "I think I had better fetch
the _sergent de ville_."
"You are quite at liberty to do that, provided you bring a doctor along
with him," replied Daniel Granger coolly, and then turned on his heel and
walked upstairs again.
He roamed through the empty rooms with a candle in his hand until he found
a bottle of water, some portion of which he dashed into his enemy's face,
kneeling by his side to do it, but with a cool off-hand air, as if he were
reviving a dog, and that a dog upon, which he set no value.
George Fairfax opened his eyes, very slowly, and groaned aloud.
"O God, my head!" he said. "What a blow!"
He had a sensation of lying at the bottom of a steep hill--on a sharp
inclined plane, as it were, with his feet uppermost--a sense of
suffocation, too, as if his throat had been full of blood. There seemed to
him to be blood in his eyes also; and he could only see things in a dim
cloudy way--a room--what room he could not remember--one candle flaring on
the mantelpiece, and the light of an expiring fire.
Of the things that had happened to him immediately before that struggle and
that fall, he had, for the time being, no memory. But by slow degrees it
dawned upon him that this was Austin Lovel's painting-room.
"Where the devil are you, Austin?" he asked impatiently.
"Can't you pick a fellow up?"
A grasp stronger than ever Austin Lovel's had been, dragged him to his
feet, and half led, half pushed him into the nearest chair. He sat there,
staring blankly before him. Clarissa had moved away from him, and stood
amid the deep shadows at the other end of the studio, waiting for her doom.
It seemed to her to matter very little what that doom should be. Perfect
ruin had come upon her. The porter came in presently with a doctor--a
little old grey-headed man, who wore spectacles, and had an ancient
doddering manner not calculated to inspire beholders with any great belief
in his capacity.
He bowed to Mr. Granger in on old-fashioned ceremonious way, and went over
to the patient.
"A fall, I believe you say, monsieur!" he said.
"Yes, a fall. He struck his head against the angle of that doorway."
Mr. Granger omitted to state that it was a blow between the eyes from his
clenched fist which had felled George Fairfax--a blow sent straight out
from the powerful shoulder.
"There was no seizure--no fit of any kind, I hope?"
The patient had recovered himself considerably by this time, and twitched
his wrist rather impatiently from the little doctor's timid grasp.
"I am well enough now," he said in a thick voice. "There was no occasion to
send for a medical man. I stumbled at the doorway yonder, and knocked my
head in falling--that's all."
The Frenchman was manipulating Mr. Fairfax's cranium with cautious fingers.
"There is a considerable swelling at the back of the skull," he said.
"But there appears to have been another blow on the forehead. There is a
puffiness, and a slight abrasion of the skin."
Mr. Fairfax extricated his head from this investigation by standing up
suddenly out of reach of the small doctor. He staggered a little as he rose
to his feet, but recovered himself after a moment or so, and stood firmly
enough, with his hand resting on the back of the chair.
"If you will be good enough to accept this by way of fee," he said,
slipping a napoleon into the doctor's hand, "I need give you no farther
The old man looked rather suspiciously from Mr. Fairfax to Mr. Granger and
then back again. There was something queer in the business evidently, but a
napoleon was a napoleon, and his fees were neither large nor numerous. He
coughed feebly behind his hand, hesitated a little, and then with a sliding
bow slipped from the room.
The porter lingered, determined to see the end of the romance, at any rate.
It was not long.
"Are you ready to come away?" Daniel Granger asked his wife, in a cold
stern voice. And then, turning to George Fairfax, he said, "You know where
to find me, sir, when you wish to settle the score between us."
"I shall call upon you to-morrow morning, Mr. Granger."
Clarissa looked at George Fairfax piteously for a moment, wondering if he
had been much hurt--if there were any danger to be feared from the effects
or that crushing fall. Never for an instant of her life had she meant to
be false to her husband; but she loved this man; and her secret being
discovered now, she deemed that the bond between her and Daniel Granger was
broken. She looked at George Fairfax with that brief yearning look, just
long enough to see that he was deadly pale; and then left the room with her
husband, obeying him mechanically They went down the darksome staircase,
which had grown so familiar to Clarissa, out into the empty street. There
was a hackney carriage waiting near the archway--the carriage that had
brought Mr. Granger. He put his wife into it without a word, and took his
seat opposite to her; and so they drove home in profound silence.
Clarissa went straight to her room--the dressing-room in which Daniel
Granger had talked to her the night before ha went to England. How well she
remembered his words, and her own inclination to tell him everything! If
she had only obeyed that impulse--if she had only confessed the truth--the
shame and ignominy of to-night would have been avoided. There would have
been no chance of that fatal meeting with George Fairfax; her husband would
have sheltered her from danger and temptation--would have saved her from
Vain regrets. The horror of that scene was still present with her--must
remain so present with her till the end of her life, she thought. Those two
men grappling each other, and then the fall--the tall figure crashing
down with the force of a descending giant, as it had seemed to that
terror-stricken spectator. For a long time she sat thinking of that awful
moment--thinking of it with a concentration which left no capacity for
any other thought in her mind. Her maid had come to her, and removed her
out-of-door garments, and stirred the fire, and had set out a dainty little
tea-tray on a table close at hand, hovering about her mistress with a
sympathetic air, conscious that there was something amiss. But Clarissa had
been hardly aware of the girl's presence. She was living over again the
agony of that moment in which she thought George Fairfax was dead.
This could not last for ever. She awoke by and by to the thought of her
child, with her husband's bitter words ringing in her ears,--
"Do you think there is anything in common between my son and you, after
"Perhaps they will shut me out of my nursery," she thought.
The rooms sacred to Lovel Granger were on the same floor as her own--she
had stipulated that it should be so. She went out into the corridor from
which all the rooms opened. All was silent. The boy had gone to bed, of
course, by this time; very seldom had she been absent at the hour of his
retirement. It had been her habit to spend a stolen half-hour in the
nursery just before dressing for dinner, or to have her boy brought to her
dressing-room--one of the happiest half-hours in her day. No one barred
her entrance to the nursery. Mrs. Brobson was sitting by the fire,
making-believe to be busy at needlework, with the under-nurse in
attendance--a buxom damsel, whose elbows rested on the table as she
conversed with her superior. Both looked up in some slight confusion at
Clarissa's entrance. They had been talking about her, she thought, but with
a supreme indifference. No petty household slander could trouble her in her
great sorrow. She went on towards the inner room, where her darling slept,
the head-nurse following obsequiously with a candle. In the night-nursery
there was only the subdued light of a shaded lamp.
"Thank you, Mrs. Brobson, but I don't want any more light," Clarissa said
quietly. "I am going to sit with baby for a little while. Take the candle
away, please; it may wake him."
It was the first time she had spoken since she had left the Rue du
Chevalier Bayard. Her own voice sounded strange to her; and yet its tone
could scarcely have betrayed less agitation.
"The second dinner-bell has rung, ma'am," Mrs. Brobson said, with a
timorously-suggestive air; "I don't know whether you are aware."
"Yes, I know, but I am not going down to dinner; I have a wretched
headache. You can tell Target to say so, if they send for me."
"Yes, ma'am; but you'll have something sent up, won't you?"
"Not yet; by and by, perhaps, I'll take a cup of tea in my dressing-room.
Go and tell Target, please, Mrs. Brobson; Mr. Granger may be waiting
She was so anxious to get rid of the woman, to be alone with her baby. She
sat down by the cot. O, inestimable treasure! had she held him so lightly
as to give any other a place in her heart? To harbour any guilty thought
was to have sinned against this white-souled innocent. If those clear eyes,
which looked up from her breast sometimes with such angelic tenderness,
could have read the secrets of her sinful heart, how could she have dared
to meet their steadfast gaze? To-night that sleeping baby seemed something
more to her than her child; he was her judge.
"O, my love, my love, I am not good enough to have you for my son!" she
murmured, sobbing, as she knelt by his side, resting her tired head upon
his pillow, thinking idly how sweet it would be to die thus, and make an
end of all this evil.
She stayed with her child for more than an hour undisturbed, wondering
whether there would be any attempt to take him away from her--whether there
was any serious meaning in those pitiless words of Daniel Granger's. Could
he think for a moment that she would surrender him? Could he suppose that
she would lose this very life of her life, and live?
At a little after nine o'clock, she heard the door of the outer nursery
open, and a masculine step in the room--her husband's. The door between the
two nurseries was half open. She could hear every word that was spoken; she
could see Daniel Granger's figure, straight and tall and ponderous, as he
stood by the table talking to Mrs. Brobson.
"I am going back to Arden the day after to-morrow, Brobson," he said; "you
will have everything ready, if you please."
"O, certainly, sir; we can be ready. And I'm sure I shall rejoice to see
our own house again, after all the ill-conveniences of this place." And
Mrs. Brobson looked round the handsomely-furnished apartment as if it had
been a hovel. "Frenchified ways don't suit me," she remarked. "If, when
they was furnishing their houses, they laid out more money upon water-jugs
and wash-hand basins, and less upon clocks and candelabras, it would do
them more credit; and if there was a chair to be had not covered with red
velvet, it would be a comfort. Luxury is luxury; but you may overdo it."
This complaint, murmured in a confidential tone, passed unnoticed by Daniel
"Thursday morning, then, Mrs. Brobson, remember; the train leaves at seven.
You'll have to be very early."
"It can't be too early for me."
"I'm glad to hear that; I'll go in and take a look at the child--asleep, I
"Yes, sir; fast asleep."
He went into the dimly-lighted chamber, not expecting to see that kneeling
figure by the cot. He gave a little start at seeing it, and stood aloof, as
if there had been infection that way. Whatever he might feel or think, he
could scarcely order his wife away from her son's bedside. Her son! Yes,
there was the sting. However he might put her away from himself, he could
not utterly sever _that_ bond. He would do his best; but in the days to
come his boy might revolt against him, and elect to follow that guilty
He had loved her so fondly, he had trusted her so completely; and his anger
against her was so much the stronger because of this. He could not forgive
her for having made him so weak a dupe. Her own ignominy--and he deemed her
the most shameful of women--was not so deep as his disgrace.
He stood aloof, looking at his sleeping boy, looking across the kneeling
figure as if not seeing it, but with a smouldering anger in his eyes that
betrayed his consciousness of his wife's presence. She raised her haggard
eyes to his face. The time would come when she would have to tell him her
story--to make some attempt to justify herself--to plead for his pardon;
but not yet. There was time enough for that. She felt that the severance
between them was utter. He might believe, he might forgive her; but he
would never give her his heart again. She felt that this was so, and
submitted to the justice of the forfeiture. Nor had she loved him well
enough to feel this loss acutely. Her one absorbing agony was the fear of
losing her child.
Daniel Granger stood for a little while watching his son's placid slumber,
and then left the room without a word. What could he say to his wife? His
anger was much too great for words; but there was something more than
anger: there was a revulsion of feeling, that made the woman he had loved
seem hateful to him--hateful in her fatal beauty, as a snake is hateful
in its lithe grace and silvery sheen. She had deceived him so completely;
there was something to his mind beyond measure dastardly in her stolen
meetings with George Fairfax; and he set down all her visits to the Rue du
Chevalier Bayard to that account. She had smiled in his face, and had gone
every other day to meet her lover.
Clarissa stayed with her child all that night. The servants would wonder
and speculate, no doubt. She knew that; but she could not bring herself
to leave him. She had all manner of fantastic fears about him. They would
steal him from her in the night, perhaps. That order of Daniel Granger's
about Thursday morning might be only a ruse. She laid herself down upon a
sofa near the cot, and pretended to sleep, until the nurse had gone to bed,
after endless fussings and rustlings and movings to and fro, that were
torture to Mrs. Granger's nerves; and then listened and watched all the
No one came. The wintry morning dawned, and found her child still
slumbering sweetly, the rosy lips ever so slightly parted, golden-tinted
lashes lying on the round pink cheeks. She smiled at her own folly, as she
sat watching him in that welcome daylight. What had she expected? Daniel
Granger was not an ogre. He could not take her child from her.
_Her_ child! The thought that the boy was _his_ child very rarely presented
itself to her. Yet it had been suggested rather forcibly by those bitter
words of her husband's: "Do you think there is anything in common between
my son and you, after to-night?"
For Daniel Granger and herself there might be parting, an eternal
severance; but there could be no creature so cruel as to rob her of her
She stayed with him during his morning ablutions; saw him splash and kick
in the water with the infantine exuberance that mothers love to behold,
fondly deeming that no baby ever so splashed or so kicked before; saw him
arrayed in his pretty blue-braided frock, and dainty lace-bedizened cambric
pinafore. What a wealth of finery and prettiness had been lavished upon the
little mortal, who would have been infinitely happier dressed in rags
and making mud-pies in a gutter, than in his splendid raiment and
well-furnished nursery; an uninteresting nursery, where there were no
cupboards full of broken wagons and head-less horses, flat-nosed dolls and
armless grenadiers, the cast-off playthings of a flock of brothers and
sisters--a very chaos of rapture for the fingers of infancy! Only a few
expensive toys from a fashionable purveyor--things that went by machinery,
darting forward a little way with convulsive jerks and unearthly choking
noises, and then tumbling ignominiously on one side.
Clarissa stayed with the heir of Arden until the clock in the day-nursery
struck nine, and then went to her dressing-room, looking very pale and
haggard after her sleepless night. In the corridor she met her husband. He
bent his head gravely at sight of her, as he might have saluted a stranger
whom he encountered in his own house.
"I shall be glad to speak to you for a quarter of an hour, by and by," he
said. "What time would suit you best?" "Whenever you please. I shall be in
my dressing-room," she answered quietly; and then, growing desperate in her
desire to know her fate, she exclaimed, "But O, Daniel, are we really to go
back to Arden to-morrow?"
"We are not," he said, with a repelling look. "My children are going back
to-morrow. I contemplate other arrangements for you."
"You mean to separate my baby and me?" she cried incredulously.
"This is neither the place nor the time for any discussion about that. I
will come to your dressing-room by and by."
"I will not be parted from my child!"
"That is a question which I have to settle."
"Do not make any mistake, Mr. Granger," Clarissa said firmly, facing him
with a dauntless look that surprised him a little--yet what cannot a woman
dare, if she can betray the man who has loved and trusted her? "You may do
what you please with me; but I will not submit to have my child taken from
"I do not like talking in passages," said her husband; "if you insist upon
discussing this matter now, we had better go into your room."
They were close to the dressing-room door. He opened it, and they went in.
The fire was burning brightly, and the small round table neatly laid for
breakfast. Clarissa had been in the habit of using this apartment as her
morning-room. There were books and drawing-materials, a table with a
drawing-board upon it, and a half-finished sketch.
She sank down into a chair near the fire, too weak to stand. Her husband
stood opposite to her. She noticed idly that he was dressed with his usual
business-like neatness, and that there was no sign of mental anguish in
his aspect. He seemed very cold and hard and cruel as he stood before her,
strong in his position as an injured man.
"I am not going to talk about last night any more than I am positively
obliged," he said; "nothing that I or you could say would alter the facts
of the case, or my estimation of them. I have made my plans for the future.
Sophia and Lovel will go back to Yorkshire to-morrow. You will go with me
to Spa, where I shall place you under your father's protection. Your future
life will be free from the burden of my society."
"I am quite willing to go back to my father," replied Clarissa, in a voice
that trembled a little. She had expected him to be very angry, but not so
hard and cold as this--not able to deal with her wrong-doing in such a
business-like manner, to dismiss her and her sin as coolly as if he had
been parting with a servant who had offended him.
"I am ready to go to my father," she repeated, steadying her voice with an
effort; "but I will go nowhere without my child."
"We will see about that," said Mr. Granger, "and how the law will treat
your claims; if you care to advance them--which I should suppose unlikely.
I have no compunction about the justice of my decision. You will go nowhere
without your child, you say? Did you think of that last night when your
lover was persuading you to leave Paris?"
"What!" cried Clarissa aghast. "Do you imagine that I had any thought of
going with him, or that I heard him with my free will?"
"I do not speculate upon that point; but to my mind the fact of his asking
you to run away with him argues a foregone conclusion. A man rarely comes
to that until he has established a right to make the request. All I know
is, that I saw you on your knees by your lover, and that you were candid
enough to acknowledge your affection for him. This knowledge is quite
sufficient to influence my decision as to my son's future--it must not be
spent with Mr. Fairfax's mistress."
Clarissa rose at the word, with a shrill indignant cry. For a few moments
she stood looking at her accuser, magnificent in her anger and surprise.