Part 9 out of 10
"You dare to call me _that_!" she exclaimed.
"I dare to call you what I believe you to be. What! I find you in an
obscure house, with locked doors; you go to meet your lover alone; and I am
to think nothing!"
"Never alone until last night, and then not with my consent, I went to see
Mr. and Mrs. Austin--I did not know they had left Paris."
"But their departure was very convenient, was it not? It enabled your lover
to plead his cause, to make arrangements for your flight. You were to
have three days' start of me. Pshaw! why should we bandy words about the
shameful business? You have told me that you love him--that is enough."
"Yes," she said, with the anger and defiance gone out of her face and
manner, "I have been weak and guilty, but not as guilty as you suppose. I
have done nothing to forfeit my right to my son. You shall not part us!"
"You had better tell your maid you are going on a journey to-morrow. She
will have to pack your things--your jewels, and all you care to take."
"I shall tell her nothing. Remember what I have said--I will not be
separated from Lovel!"
"In that case, I must give the necessary orders myself," said Mr. Granger
coolly, and saying this he left the room to look for his wife's maid.
Jane Target, the maid, came in presently. She was the young woman chosen
for Clarissa's service by Mrs. Oliver; a girl whose childhood had been
spent at Arden, and to whose childish imagination the Levels of Arden Court
had always seemed the greatest people in the world. The girl poured out her
mistress's tea, and persuaded her to take something. She perceived that
there was something amiss, some serious misunderstanding between Clarissa
and her husband. Had not the business been fully discussed in the Areopagus
downstairs, all those unaccountable visits to the street near the
Luxembourg, and Mr. Fairfax's order to the coachman?
"Nor it ain't the first time I've seen him there neither," Jarvis had
remarked; "me and Saunders have noticed him ever so many times, dropping in
promiscuous like while Mrs. G. was there, Fishy, to say the least of it!"
Jane Target was very fond of her mistress, and would as soon have doubted
that the sun was fire as suspected any flaw in Clarissa's integrity. She
had spoken her mind more than once upon this subject in the servants' hall,
and had put the bulky Jarvis to shame.
"Do, ma'am, eat something!" she pleaded, when she had poured out the tea.
"You had no dinner yesterday, and no tea, unless you had it in the nursery.
You'll be fit for nothing, if you go on like this."
Fit for nothing! The phrase roused Clarissa from her apathy. Too weak to
do battle for her right to the custody of her child, she thought; and
influenced by this idea, she struggled through a tolerable breakfast,
eating delicate _petite pains_ which tasted like ashes, and drinking strong
tea with a feverish eagerness.
The tea fortified her nerves; she got up and paced her room, thinking what
she ought to do.
Daniel Granger was going to take her child from her--that was
certain--unless by some desperate means she secured her darling to herself.
Nothing could be harder or more pitiless than his manner that morning. The
doors of Arden Court were to be shut against her.
"And I sold myself for Arden!" she thought bitterly. She fancied how the
record of her life would stand by-and-by, like a verse in those Chronicles
which Sophia was so fond of: "And Clarissa reigned a year and a half, and
did that which was evil"--and so on. Very brief had been her glory; very
deep was her disgrace.
What was she to do? Carry her child away before they could take him from
her--secure him to herself somehow. If it were to be done at all, it must
be done quickly; and who had she to help her in this hour of desperate
She looked at Jane Target, who was standing by the dressing-table dusting
the gold-topped scent-bottles and innumerable prettinesses scattered
there--the costly trifles with which women who are not really happy strive
to create for themselves a factitious kind of happiness. The girl was
lingering over her work, loth to leave her mistress unless actually
Jane Target, Clarissa remembered her a flaxen-haired cottage girl, with an
honest freckled face and a calico-bonnet; a girl who was always swinging on
five-barred gates, or overturning a baby brother out of a primitive wooden
cart--surely this girl was faithful, and would help her in her extremity.
In all the world, there was no other creature to whom she could appeal.
"Jane," she said at last, stopping before the girl and looking at her with
earnest questioning eyes, "I think I can trust you." "Indeed you can,
ma'am," answered Jane, throwing down her feather dusting-brush to clasp her
hands impetuously. "There's nothing in this world I would not do to prove
myself true to you."
"I am in great trouble, Jane."
"I know that, ma'am," the girl answered frankly.
"I daresay you know something of the cause. My husband is angry
about--about an accidental meeting which arose between a gentleman and me.
It was entirely accidental on my part; but he does not choose to believe
this, and----" The thought of Daniel Granger's accusation flashed
upon her in this moment in all its horror, and she broke down, sobbing
The girl brought her mistress a chair, and was on her knees beside her in a
moment, comforting her and imploring her to be calm.
"The trouble will pass away, ma'am," said the maid, soothingly. "Mr.
Granger will come to see his mistake. He can't be angry with you long, I'm
sure; he loves you so."
"Yes, yes, he has been very good to me--better than I have ever deserved;
but that is all over now. He won't believe me--he will hardly listen to me.
He is going to take away my boy, Jane."
"Going to take away Master Lovel?"
"Yes; my darling is to go back to Arden, and I am to go to papa."
"What!" cried Jane Target, all the woman taking fire in her honest
heart. "Part mother and child! He couldn't do that; or if he could, he
_shouldn't_, while I had the power to hinder him."
"How are we to prevent him, Jane--you and I?"
"Let's take the darling away, ma'am, before he can stop us."
"You dear good soul!" cried Clarissa. "It's the very thing I've been
thinking of. Heaven knows how it is to be done; but it must be done
somehow. And you will come with me, Jane? and you will brave all for me,
you good generous girl?"
"Lor, ma'am, what do you think I'm frightened of? Not that stuck-up Mrs.
Brobson, with her grand airs, and as lazy as the voice of the sluggard into
the bargain. Just you make up your mind, mum, where you'd like to go, and
when you'd like to start, and I shall walk into the nursery as bold as
brass, and say I want Master Lovel to come and amuse his mar for half an
hour; and once we've got him safe in this room, the rest is easy. Part
mother and child indeed! I should like to see him do it! I warrant we'll
soon bring Mr. Granger to his senses."
Where to go? yes, there was the rub. What a friendless creature Clarissa
Granger felt, as she pondered on this serious question! To her brother?
Yes, he was the only friend she would care to trust in this emergency. But
how was she to find him? Brussels was a large place, and she had no clue to
his whereabouts there. Could she feel even sure that he had really gone to
Somewhither she must go, however--that was certain. It could matter very
little where she found a refuge, if only she had her darling with her. So
the two women consulted together, and plotted and planned in Clarissa's
sanctum; while Daniel Granger paced up and down the great dreary
drawing-room, waiting for that promised visit from George Fairfax.
* * * * *
Mr. Fairfax came a little after noon--came with a calm grave aspect, as of
a man who had serious work before him. With all his heart he wished that
the days of duelling had not been over; that he could have sent his best
friend to Daniel Granger, and made an end of the quarrel in a gentlemanlike
way, in some obscure alley at Vincennes, or amidst the shadowy aisles of
St. Germains. But a duel nowadays is too complete an anachronism for an
Englishman to propose in cold blood. Mr. Fairfax came to his enemy's house
for one special purpose. The woman he loved was in Daniel Granger's power;
it was his duty to explain that fatal meeting in Austin's rooms, to justify
Clarissa's conduct in the eyes of her husband. It was not that he meant to
surrender his hope of their future union--indeed, he hoped that the scene
of the previous evening would bring about a speedy separation between
husband and wife. But he had placed her in a false position; she was
innocent, and he was bound to assert her innocence.
He found Daniel Granger like a man of iron, fully justifying that phrase of
Lady Laura's--"_Carre par la base_." The ignominy of his own position came
fully home to him at the first moment of their meeting. He remembered the
day when he had liked and respected this man: he could not despise him now.
He was conscious that he carried the mark of last night's skirmish in an
unpleasantly conspicuous manner. That straight-out blow of Daniel Granger's
had left a discoloration of the skin--what in a meaner man might have been
called a black eye. He, too, had hit hard in that brief tussle; but no
stroke of his had told like that blow of the Yorkshireman's. Mr. Granger
bore no trace of the encounter.
The two men met with as serene an air as if they had never grappled each
other savagely in the twilight.
"I considered it due to Mrs. Granger that I should call upon you," George
Fairfax began, "in order to explain her part in the affair of last night."
"Go on, sir. The old story, of course--Mrs. Granger is spotless; it is only
appearances that are against her."
"So far as she is concerned, our meeting yesterday afternoon was an
accident. She came there to see another person."
"Indeed I Mr. Austin the painter, I suppose?--a man who painted her
portrait, and who had no farther acquaintance with her than that. A very
convenient person, it seems, since she was in the habit of going to his
rooms nearly every afternoon; and I suppose the same kind of accident as
that of yesterday generally brought you there at the same time."
"Mrs. Granger went to see her brother."
"Yes, Austin Lovel; otherwise Mr. Austin the painter. I have been pledged
to him to keep his identity a secret; but I feel myself at liberty to break
my promise now--in his sister's justification."
"You mean, that the man who came to this house as a stranger is my wife's
"What duplicity! And this is the woman I trusted!"
"There was no voluntary duplicity on your wife's part. I know that she was
most anxious you should be told the truth."
"_You_ know! Yes, of course; _you_ are in my wife's confidence--an honour I
have never enjoyed."
"It was Austin who objected to make himself known to you."
"I scarcely wonder at that, considering his antecedents. The whole thing
has been very cleverly done, Mr. Fairfax, and I acknowledge myself
completely duped. I don't think there is any occasion for us to discuss the
subject farther. Nothing that you could say would alter my estimation of
the events of last night. I regret that I suffered myself to be betrayed
into any violence--that kind of thing is behind the times. We have wiser
remedies for our wrongs nowadays."
"You do not mean that you would degrade your wife in a law court!" cried
Mr. Fairfax. "Any legal investigation must infallibly establish her
innocence; but no woman's name can escape untainted from such an ordeal."
"No, I am not likely to do that. I have a son, Mr. Fairfax. As for my wife,
my plans are formed. It is not in the power of any one living to alter
"Then it is useless for me to say more. On the honour of a gentleman, I
have told you nothing but the truth. Your wife is innocent."
"She is not guiltless of having listened to you. That is quite enough for
"I have done, sir," said George Fairfax gravely, and, with a bow and a
somewhat cynical smile, departed.
He had done what he felt himself bound to do. He had no ardent wish to
patch up the broken union between Clarissa and her husband. From the
first hour in which he heard of her marriage, he had held it in jealous
abhorrence. He had very little compunction about what had happened. It must
bring matters to a crisis, he thought. In the meantime, he would have given
a great deal to be able to communicate with Clarissa, and began accordingly
to deliberate how that might best be done.
He did not deliberate long; for while he was meditating all manner of
roundabout modes of approach, he suddenly remembered how Austin Lovel had
told him he always wrote to his sister under cover to her maid. All he had
to do, therefore, was to find out the maid's name.
That would be easy enough, Mr. Fairfax imagined, if his servant was good
for anything. The days of Leporello are over; but a well-bred valet may
still have some little talent for diplomacy.
"My fellow has only to waylay one of Granger's grooms," Mr. Fairfax said to
himself, "and he can get the information I want readily enough."
There was not much time to be lost, he thought. Mr. Granger had spoken of
his plans with a certain air of decision. Those plans involved some change
of residence, no doubt. He would take his wife away from Paris; punish
her by swift banishment from that brilliant city; bury her alive at Arden
Court, and watch her with the eyes of a lynx for the rest of his life.
"Let him watch you never so closely, or shut you in what prison he may, I
will find a door of escape for you, my darling," he said to himself.
The mistress and maid were busy meanwhile, making arrangements for a sudden
flight. There was very little packing to be done; for they could take
nothing, or scarcely anything, with them. The great difficulty would be, to
get the child out of the house. After a good deal of deliberation they
had decided the manner in which their attempt was to be made. It was dusk
between five and six; and at dusk Jane was to go to the nursery, and in the
most innocent manner possible, carry off the boy for half-an-hour's play in
his mother's dressing-room. It was, fortunately, a usual thing for Clarissa
to have him with her at this time, when she happened to be at home so
early. There was a dingy servants' staircase leading from the corridor to
the ground-floor; and down this they were to make their escape unobserved,
the child bundled up in a shawl, Jane Target having slipped out beforehand
and hired a carriage, which was to wait for them a little way off in a
side-street. There was a train leaving Paris at seven, which would take
them to Amiens, where they could sleep that night, and go on to Brussels in
the morning. Once in Brussels, they must contrive somehow to find Austin
Of her plans for the future--how she was to live separated from her
husband, and defying him--Clarissa thought nothing. Her mind was wholly
occupied by that one consideration about her child. To secure him to
herself was the end and aim of her existence.
It was only at Jane's suggestion that she set herself to calculate ways and
means. She had scarcely any ready money--one five-pound note and a handful
of silver comprised all her wealth. She had given her brother every
sixpence she could spare. There were her jewels, it is true; jewels worth
three or four thousand pounds. But she shrank from the idea of touching
While she sat with her purse in her hand, idly counting the silver, and not
at all able to realise the difficulties of her position, the faithful Jane
came to her relief.
"I've got five-and-twenty pounds with me, ma'am; saved out of my wages
since I've been in your service; and I'm sure you're welcome to the money."
Jane had brought her little hoard with her, intending to invest some part
of it in presents for her kindred--a shawl for her mother, and so on; but
had been disappointed, by finding that the Parisian shops, brilliant as
they were, contained very much the same things she had seen in London, and
at higher prices. She had entertained a hazy notion that cashmere shawls
were in some manner a product of the soil of France, and could be bought
for a mere trifle; whereby she had been considerably taken aback when the
proprietor of a plate-glass edifice on the Boulevard des Italiens asked her
a thousand francs for a black cashmere, which she had set her mind upon as
a suitable covering for the shoulders of Mrs. Target.
"You dear good girl!" said Clarissa, touched by this new proof of fidelity;
"but if I should never be able to pay you the money!"
"Stuff and nonsense, ma'am! no fear of that; and if you weren't, I
shouldn't care. Father and mother are comfortably off; and I'm not going to
work for a pack of brothers and sisters. I gave the girls new bonnets last
Easter, and sent them a ribbon apiece at Christmas; and that's enough for
_them_. If you don't take the money, ma'am, I shall throw it in the fire."
Clarissa consented to accept the use of the money. She would be able to
repay it, of course. She had a vague idea that she could earn money as a
teacher of drawing in some remote continental city, where they might live
very cheaply. How sweet it would be to work for her child! much sweeter
than to be a millionaire's wife and dress him in purple and fine linen that
cost her nothing.
She spent some hours in looking over and arranging her jewels. From all of
these she selected only two half-hoop diamond rings, as a reserve against
the hour of need. These and these only of Daniel Granger's gifts would she
take with her. She made a list of her trinkets, with a _nota bene_ stating
her appropriation of the two rings, and laid it at the top of her principal
jewel-case. After this, she wrote a letter to her husband--a few lines
only, telling him how she had determined to take her child away with her,
and how she should resist to the last gasp any attempt to rob her of him.
"If I were the guilty wretch you think me," she wrote, "I would willingly
surrender my darling, rather than degrade him by any association with such
a fallen creature. But whatever wrong I have committed against you--and
that wrong was done by my marriage--I have not forfeited the right to my
This letter written, there was nothing more to be done. Jane packed a
travelling-bag with a few necessary items, and that was all the luggage
they could venture to carry away with them.
The afternoon post brought a letter from Brussels, addressed to Miss Jane
Target, which the girl brought in triumph to her mistress.
"There'll be no bother about finding Mr. Austin, ma'am," she cried. "Here's
The letter was in Austin's usual brief careless style, entering into no
explanations; but it told the quarter in which he had found a lodging; so
Clarissa was at least sure of this friendly shelter. It would be a poor
one, no doubt; nor was Austin Lovel by any means a strong rock upon which
to lean in the hour of trouble. But she loved him, and she knew that he
would not turn his back upon her.
The rest of the day seemed long and dreary. Clarissa wandered into the
nursery two or three times in order to assure herself, by the evidence of
her own eyes, of her boy's safety. She found the nursemaid busy packing,
under Mrs. Brobson's direction.
The day waned. Clarissa had not seen her husband since that meeting in the
corridor; nor had she gone into any of the rooms where Miss Granger might
That young lady, painfully in the dark as to what had happened, sat at her
table in the window, diligently illuminating, and wondering when her father
would take her into his confidence. She had been told of the intended
journey on the next day, and that she and her brother were to go back to
Arden Court, under the protection of the servants, while Mr. Granger and
his wife went elsewhere, and was not a little puzzled by the peculiarity of
the arrangement. Warman was packing, complaining the while at having to do
so much in so short a time, and knew nothing of what had occurred in
the Rue du Chevalier Bayard, after the dismissal of the carriage by Mr.
"There must have been something, miss," she said, "or your pa would never
have taken, this freak into his head--racing back as if it was for a wager;
and me not having seen half I wanted to see, nor bought so much as a
pincushion to take home to my friends. I had a clear month before me, I
thought, so where was the use of hurrying; and then to be scampered and
harum-scarumed off like this! It's really too bad."
"I have no doubt papa has good reasons for what he is doing, Warman,"
answered Miss Granger, with dignity.
"O, of course, miss; gentlefolks has always good reasons for _their_
goings-on!" Warman remarked snappishly, and then "took it out" of one of
Miss Granger's bonnets during the process of packing.
Twilight came at last, the longed-for dusk, in which the attempt was to be
made. Clarissa had put on one of her darkest plainest dresses, and borrowed
a little black-straw bonnet of her maid's. This bonnet and her sealskin
jacket she deferred putting on until the last; for there was always the
fear that Mr. Granger might come in at some awkward moment. At half-past
five Jane Target went to the nursery and fetched the year-old heir of Arden
He was always glad to go to his mother; and he came to-night crowing and
laughing, and kicking his little blue shoes in boisterous rapture. Jane
kept guard at the door while Clarissa put on her bonnet and jacket, and
wrapped up the baby--first in a warm fur-lined opera-jacket, and then in a
thick tartan shawl. They had no hat for him, but tied up his pretty flaxen
head in a large silk handkerchief, and put the shawl over that. The little
fellow submitted to the operation, which he evidently regarded in the light
of an excellent joke.
Everything was now ready. Clarissa carried her baby, Jane went before with
the bag, leading the way down the darksome servants' staircase, where at
any moment they might meet one of Mr. Granger's retainers. Luckily, they
met no one; the descent only occupied about two minutes; and at the bottom
of the stairs, Clarissa found herself in a small square stone lobby,
lighted by a melancholy jet of gas, and pervaded by the smell of cooking.
In the next moment Jane--who had made herself mistress of all minor
details--opened a door, and they were out in the dull quiet street--the
side-street, at the end of which workmen were scalping away a hill.
A few doors off they found the carriage, which Jane had secured half an
hour before, and a very civil driver. Clarissa told the driver where to go,
and then got in, with her precious burden safe in her arms.
The precious burden set up a wail at this juncture, not understanding or
approving these strange proceedings, and it was as much as his mother could
do to soothe him. A few yards round the corner they passed a man, who
looked curiously at the vehicle. This was George Fairfax, who was pacing
the street in the gloaming in order to reconnoitre the dwelling of the
woman he loved, and who let her pass him unaware. His own man was busy at
the same time entertaining one of Mr. Granger's footmen in a neighbouring
wine-shop, in the hope of extracting the information his master required
about Mrs. Granger's maid. They reached the station just five minutes
before the train left for Amiens; and once seated in the railway-carriage,
Clarissa almost felt as if her victory was certain, so easily had the first
stage been got over. She kissed and blessed Jane Target, whom she called
her guardian angel; and smothered her baby with kisses, apostrophising him
with all manner of fond foolishness.
Everything favoured her. The flight was not discovered until nearly
three-quarters of an hour after Clarissa had eloped with her baby down that
darksome stair. Mrs. Brobson, luxuriating in tea, toast, and gossip
before the nursery fire, and relieved not a little by the absence of her
one-year-old charge, had been unconscious of the progress of time. It was
only when the little clock upon the chimney-piece chimed the half-hour
after six, that she began to wonder about the baby.
"His mar's had him longer than ever," she said; "you'd better go and fetch
him, Liza. She'll be wanting to dress for dinner, I dessay. I suppose she's
going down to dinner to-night, though there is something up."
"She didn't go down to breakfast, nor yet to lunch," said Eliza, who had
her information fresh and fresh from one of the footmen; "and Mr. Granger's
been a-walking up and down the droring-room as if he was a-doing of it for
a wager, William Baker says. Mr. Fairfax come this morning, and didn't stop
above a quarter of a hour; but William was outside the droring-room door
all the time, and there was no loud talking, nor quarrelling, nor nothink."
"That Fairfax is a villain," replied Mrs. Brobson. "I don't forget the
day he kissed baby in Arden Park. I never see any good come of a single
gentleman kissing a lady's baby, voluntary. It isn't their nature to do it,
unless they've a hankering after the mar."
"Lor, Brobson, how horful!" cried Eliza. And in this pleasant converse, the
nurse and her subordinate wasted another five minutes.
The nursemaid frittered away a few more minutes in tapping gingerly at the
dressing-room door, until at last, emboldened by the silence, she opened
it, and, peering in, beheld nothing but emptiness. Mrs. Granger had gone to
the drawing-room perhaps; but where was baby? and where was Jane Target?
The girl went in search of her favourite, William Baker. Were Mrs. Granger
and baby in the drawing-room? No; Mr. Baker had been in attendance all the
afternoon. Mrs. Granger had not left her own apartments.
"But she's not there," cried Eliza, aghast; "nor Target either. I've been
looking for baby."
She ran back to the dressing-room; it was still empty, and the bedroom
adjoining. Mr. Granger's dressing-room was beyond that, and he was there
writing letters. At this door--this sacred door, the threshold whereof she
had never crossed--Eliza the nursemaid tapped nervously.
"O, if you please, sir, have you got Master Lovel?"
"No," cried Daniel Granger, starting up from his desk. "What made you think
him likely to be here?"
"I can't find him, please, sir. I've been looking in Mrs. Granger's
dressing-room, and everywhere almost. Jane Target fetched him for his ma
close upon a hour ago; and Mrs. Brobson sent me for him, and I fancied as
you might have got him with you, sir."
Mr. Granger came out of his room with the lamp in his hand, and came
through the bedroom to his wife's dressing-room, looking with that stern
searching gaze of his into every shadowy corner, as if he thought Clarissa
and her baby might be playing hide-and-seek there. But there was no
one--the cheval-glass and the great glass door of the wardrobe reflected
only his own figure, and the scared nursemaid peering from behind his
elbow. He went on to the nursery, opening the doors of all the rooms as he
passed, and looking in. There are some convictions that come in a minute.
Before that search was finished, Daniel Granger felt very sure that his
wife had left him, and had taken her child away with her.
In what manner and to what doom had she gone? Was her flight a shameful
one, with George Fairfax for her companion? He knew now, for the first
time, that in the depths of his mind there had been some lurking belief in
her innocence, it was so supreme an agony to him to imagine that she had
taken a step which must make her guilt a certainty. He did not waste much
time in questioning the verbose Brobson. The child was missing--that was
quite clear--and his wife, and his wife's maid. It was some small relief to
him to know that she had taken the honest Yorkshire girl. If she had been
going to ignominy, she would scarcely have taken any one who knew her past
history, above all, one whom she had known in her childhood.
What was he to do? To follow her, of course, if by any means he could
discover whither she had gone. To set the telegraph wires going, also, with
a view to discovering her destination. He drove off at once to the chief
telegraph office, and wrote a couple of messages, one to Mr. Lovel, at
Spa--the other to Mr. Oliver, at Holborough Rectory; with a brief stern
request to be informed immediately if his wife should arrive at either
place. There was Lady Laura Armstrong, her most intimate friend, with whom
she might possibly seek a refuge in the hour of her trouble; but he did not
care to make any application in that quarter, unless driven to do so. He
did not want to make his wrongs public.
From the telegraph office he drove to the Northern Railway Station, and
made minute inquiries about the trains. There was a train by which she
might have gone to Calais half an hour before he arrived there. He
enlisted the services of an official, and promenaded the waiting-rooms and
platforms, the dreary chambers in which travellers wait for their luggage,
to and fro between the barriers that torment the soul of the impatient. He
asked this man, and several other men, if a lady, with her baby and maid,
had been observed to take their departure by any train within the last
hour. But the men shrugged their shoulders hopelessly. Ladies and maids and
babies came and went in flocks, and no one noticed them. There were always
babies. Yes; one of the men did remember a stout lady in a red shawl,
with a baby and a birdcage and a crowd of boxes, who had gone by the
second-class. Is it that that was the lady monsieur was looking for, _par
"She will go to her father," Mr. Granger said to himself again and again;
and this for the moment seemed to him such a certainty, that he had half
made up his mind to start for Spa by the next train that would carry him in
that direction. But the thought of George Fairfax--the possibility that his
wife might have had a companion in her flight--arrested him in the next
moment. "Better that I should stop to make sure of _his_ whereabouts," he
thought; and drove straight to the Champs Elysees, where Mr. Fairfax had
his bachelor quarters.
Here he saw the valet, who had not long returned from that diplomatic
expedition to the neighbourhood of the Rue de Morny; but who appeared the
very image of unconsciousness and innocence notwithstanding. Mr. Fairfax
was dining at home with some friends. Would Mr. Granger walk in? The dinner
was not served yet. Mr. Fairfax would be delighted to see him.
Mr. Granger refused to go in; but told the man he should be glad to see Mr.
Fairfax there, in the ante-room, for a moment. He wanted to be quite sure
that the valet was not lying.
Mr. Fairfax came out, surprised at the visit.
"I had a special reason for wishing to know if you were at home this
evening," said Daniel Granger. "I am sorry to have disturbed you, and will
not detain you from your friends."
And then the question flashed upon him--_Was she there?_ No; that would be
too daring. Any other refuge she might seek; but surely not this.
George Fairfax had flung the door wide open in coming out. Mr. Granger
saw the dainty bachelor room, with its bright pictures shining in the
lamp-light, and two young men in evening-dress lolling against the
mantelpiece. The odours of an elaborate dinner were also perceptible. The
valet had told the truth. Daniel Granger murmured some vague excuse, and
"Queer!" muttered Mr. Fairfax as he went back to his friends.
"I'm afraid the man is going off his head; and yet he seemed cool enough
From the Champs Elysees Mr. Granger drove to the Rue du Chevalier Bayard.
There was another possibility to be considered: if Austin the painter were
indeed Austin Lovel, as George Fairfax had asserted, it was possible that
Clarissa had gone to him; and the next thing to be done was to ascertain
his whereabouts. The ancient porter, whom Mr. Granger had left the night
before in a doubtful and bewildered state of mind, was eating some savoury
mess for his supper comfortably enough this evening, but started up
in surprise, with his spectacles on his forehead, at Mr. Granger's
"I want to know where your lodger Mr. Austin went when he left here?" Mr.
Granger demanded briefly.
The porter shrugged his shoulders.
"Alas, monsieur, that is an impossibility. I know nothing of Mr. Austin's
destination; only that he went away yesterday, at three o'clock, in a
hackney-coach, which was to take him to the Northern Railway."
"Is there no one who can tell me what I want to know?" asked Mr. Granger.
"I doubt it, monsieur. Monsieur Austin was in debt to almost every one
except his landlord. He promised to write about his furniture,--some of
the movables in those rooms upstairs are his--cabinets, carved chairs,
tapestries, and so on; but he said nothing as to where he was going."
"He promised to write," repeated Mr. Granger. "That's an indefinite kind of
promise. You could let me know, I suppose, if you heard anything?"
"But certainly," replied the porter, who saw Mr. Granger's fingers in his
waistcoat pocket, and scented a fee, "monsieur should know immediately."
Mr. Granger wrote his address upon a card, and gave it to the porter, with
"You shall have another when you bring me any information. Good-night."
At home, Daniel Granger had to face his daughter, who had heard by this
time of her stepmother's departure and the abstraction of the baby.
"O, papa," she exclaimed, "I do so feel for you!" and made as if she would
have embraced her parent; but he stood like a rock, not inviting any
"Thank you, my dear," he said gravely; "but I can do very well without
pity. It's a kind of thing I'm not accustomed to. I am annoyed that
Clarissa should have acted in--in this ill-advised manner; but I have no
doubt matters will come right in a little time."
"Lovel--my brother is safe, papa?" inquired Sophia, clasping her hands.
"I have every reason to believe so. He is with his mother."
Miss Granger sighed profoundly, as much as to say, "He could not be in
"And I think, my dear," continued her father, "that the less you trouble
yourself about this business the bettor. Any interference on your part will
only annoy me, and may occasion unpleasantness between us. You will go back
to Arden, to-morrow, as I intended, with Warman, and one of the men to take
care of your luggage. The rest of the establishment will follow in a day or
"And you, papa?"
"My plans are uncertain. I shall return to Arden as soon as I can."
"Dear old Arden!" exclaimed Sophia; "how I wish we had never left it! How
happy I was for the first four years of my life there!"
This apostrophe Mr. Granger perfectly understood--it meant that, with the
advent of Clarissa, happiness had fled away from Sophia's dwelling-place.
He did not trouble himself to notice the speech; but it made him angry
"There is a letter for you, papa," said Miss Granger, pointing to a
side-table; "a letter which Warman found upstairs."
The lynx-eyed Warman, prying and peering about, had spied out Clarissa's
letter to her husband, half hidden among the frivolities on the
dressing-table. Mr. Granger pounced upon it eagerly, full of hope. It might
tell him all he wanted to know.
It told him nothing. The words were not consistent with guilt, unless
Clarissa were the very falsest of women. But had she not been the falsest?
Had she not deceived him grossly, unpardonably? Alas, he was already trying
to make excuses for her--trying to believe her innocent, innocent of what
society calls sin--yes, she might be that. But had he not seen her kneeling
beside her lover? Had she not owned that she loved him? She had; and the
memory of her words were poison to Daniel Granger.
* * * * *
UNDER THE SHADOW OF ST. GUDULE.
It was about half an hour before noon on the following day when Clarissa
arrived at Brussels, and drove straight to her brother's lodging, which was
in an obscure street under the shadow of St. Gudule. Austin was at work
in a room opening straight from the staircase--a bare, shabby-looking
chamber--and looked up from his easel with profound astonishment on
beholding Mrs. Granger with her maid and baby.
"Why, Clary, what in the name of all that's wonderful, brings you to
Brussels?" he exclaimed.
"I have come to live with you for a little while, Austin, if you will let
me," she answered quietly. "I have no other home now."
Austin Lovel laid down his palette, and came across the room to receive
"What does it all mean, Clary?--Look here, young woman," he said to Jane
Target; "you'll find my wife in the next room; and she'll help you to make
that youngster comfortable.--Now, Clary," he went on, as the girl curtseyed
and vanished through the door that divided the two rooms, "what does it all
Clarissa told him her story--told it, that is to say, as well as she could
tell a story which reflected so much discredit upon herself.
"I went to the Rue du Chevalier Bayard at 5 on Tuesday--as I promised, you
know, Austin--and found Mr. Fairfax there. You may imagine how surprised
I was when I heard you were gone. He did not tell me immediately; and he
detained me there--talking to me."
The sudden crimson which mounted to her very temples at this juncture
betrayed her secret.
"Talking to you!" cried Austin; "you mean making love to you! The infernal
"It was--very dishonourable!"
"That's a mild way of putting it. What! he hung about my rooms when I had
gone, to get you into a trap, as it were, at the risk of compromising you
in a most serious manner! You never gave him any encouragement, did you,
"I never meant to do so."
"You never meant! But a woman must know what she is doing. You used to
meet him at my rooms very often. If I had dreamt there was any flirtation
between you, I should have taken care to put a stop to _that_. Well, go on.
You found Fairfax there, and you let him detain you, and then----?"
"My husband came, and there was a dreadful scene, and he knocked Mr.
"Naturally. I respect him for doing it."
"And for a few minutes I thought he was dead," said Clarissa with a
shudder; and then she went on with her story, telling her brother how
Daniel Granger had threatened to separate her from her child.
"That was hard lines," said Austin; "but I think you would have done better
to remain passive. It's natural that he should take this business rather
seriously at first: but that would wear off in a short time. What you have
done will only widen the breach."
"I have got my child," said Clarissa.
"Yes; but in any case you must have had him. That threat of Granger's was
only blank cartridge. He could not deprive you of the custody of your son."
"He will try to get a divorce, perhaps. He thinks me the vilest creature in
"A divorce--bosh! Divorces are not obtained so easily. What a child you
"At any rate, he was going to take me back to papa in disgrace. I could not
have endured that. My father would think me guilty, perhaps."
Again the tell-tale crimson flushed Clarissa's face. The memory of that
September evening at Mill Cottage flashed across her mind, and her father's
denunciation of George Fairfax and his race.
"Your father would be wise enough to defend his child, I imagine," replied
Austin, "although he is not a person whose conduct I would pretend to
answer for. But this quarrel between you and your husband must be patched
"That will never be."
"It must be--for your son's sake, if not for yours. You pretend to love
that boy, and are yet so blind to his interests? He is not the heir to an
entailed estate, remember. Granger is a self-made man, and if you offend
him, may leave Arden Court to his daughter's children."
She had robbed her son of his birthright, perhaps. For what? Because she
had not had the strength to shut her heart against a guilty love; because,
in the face of every good resolution she had ever made, she had been weak
enough to listen when George Fairfax chose to speak.
"It seems very hard," she said helplessly.
"It would be uncommonly hard upon that child, if this breach were not
healed. But it must be healed."
"You do not know half the bitter things Mr. Granger said. Nothing would
induce me to humiliate myself to him."
"Not the consideration of your son's interests?"
"God will protect my son; he will not be punished for any sin of his
"Come now, Clary, be reasonable. Let me write to Granger in my own proper
character, telling him that you are here."
"If you do that, I will never forgive you. It would be most dishonourable,
most unkind. You will not do that, Austin?"
"Of course I will not, if you insist upon it. But I consider that you are
acting very foolishly. There must have been a settlement, by the way, when
you married. Do you remember anything about it?"
"Very little. There was five hundred a year settled on me for pin money;
and five hundred a year for papa, settled somehow. The reversion to come
to me, I think they said. And--yes, I remember--If I had any children, the
eldest son was to inherit Arden Court."
"That's lucky! I thought your father would never be such a fool as to let
you marry without some arrangement of that sort."
"Then my darling is safe, is he not?"
"Well, yes, I suppose so."
"And you will not betray me, Austin?" said Clarissa imploringly.
"Betray you! If you put it in that way, of course not. But I should be
acting more in your interests if I wrote to Granger. No good can come
of the step you have taken. However, we must trust to the chapter of
accidents," added Austin, with a resumption of his habitual carelessness.
"I needn't tell you that you are heartily welcome to my hospitality, such
as it is. Our quarters are rough enough, but Bessie will do what she can to
make you comfortable; and I'll put on a spurt and work hard to keep things
together. I have found a dealer in the Montagne de la Cour, who is willing
to take my sketches at a decent price. Look here, Clary, how do you like
this little bit of _genre?_ 'Forbidden Fruit'--a chubby six-year-old girl,
on tiptoe, trying to filch a peach growing high on the wall; flimsy child,
and pre-Raphaelite wall. Peach, carnation velvet; child's cheek to match
the peach. Rather a nice thing, isn't it?" asked Austin lightly.
Clarissa made some faint attempt to appear interested in the picture, which
she only saw in a dim far-off way.
"I shall be very glad to see where you are going to put baby," she said
The bleak and barren aspect of the painting-room did not promise much for
the accommodation or comfort of Mr. Lovel's domicile.
"Where I am going to put baby! Ah, to be sure, you will want a room to
sleep in," said Austin, as if this necessity had only just struck him.
"We'll soon manage that; the house is roomy enough,--a perfect barrack, in
fact. There was a lace-factory carried on in it once, I believe. I daresay
there's a room on this floor that we can have. I'll go and see about
that, while you make yourself comfortable with Bessie. We have only two
rooms--this and the next, which is our bedroom; but we shall do something
better by and by, if I find my pictures sell pretty fast."
He went off whistling an opera air, and by no means oppressed by the idea
that he had a sister in difficulties cast upon his hands.
There was a room--a darksome chamber at the back of the house--looking into
a narrow alley, where domestic operations of some kind seemed to be going
on in every window and doorway, but sufficiently spacious, and with two
beds. It was altogether homely, but looked tolerably clean; and Clarissa
was satisfied with it, although it was the poorest room that had ever
sheltered her. She had her baby--that was the grand point; and he rolled
upon the beds, and crowed and chattered, in his half inarticulate way, with
as much delight as if the shabby chamber had been an apartment in a palace.
"If he is happy, I am more than content!" exclaimed Mrs. Granger.
A fire was lighted in the stove, and Bessie brought them a second breakfast
of coffee and rolls, and a great basin of bread and milk for young Lovel.
The little man ate ravenously, and did not cry for Brobson--seemed indeed
rather relieved to have escaped from the jurisdiction of that respectable
matron. He was fond of Jane Target, who was just one of those plump
apple-cheeked young women whom children love instinctively, and who had
a genius for singing ballads of a narrative character, every verse
embellished with a curious old-fashioned quavering turn.
After this refreshment--the first that Clarissa had taken with any approach
to appetite since that luckless scene in her brother's painting-room--Jane
persuaded her mistress to lie down and rest, which she did, falling asleep
peacefully, with her boy's bright young head nestling beside her on the
pillow. It was nearly dark when she awoke; and after dinner she went out
for a walk with Austin, in the bright gas-lit streets, and along a wide
boulevard, where the tall bare trees looked grim in the darkness. The
freedom of this new life seemed strange to her, after the forms and
ceremonies of her position as Daniel Granger's wife, and Sophia Granger's
stepmother--strange, and not at all unpleasant.
"I think I could be very happy with you and Bessie always, Austin," she
said, "if they would only leave me in peace."
"Could you, Clary? I'm sure I should be very glad to have you; but it would
be rather hard upon Granger."
"He was going to take me back to papa; he wanted to get rid of me."
"He was in a passion when he talked about that, rely upon it."
"He was as cold as ice, Austin. I don't believe he was ever in a passion in
* * * * *
It was Sunday; and Clarissa had been nearly a week in Brussels--a very
quiet week, in which she had had nothing to do but worship her baby, and
tremblingly await any attempt that might be made to wrest him from her. She
lived in hourly fear of discovery, and was startled by every step on the
staircase and fluttered by every sudden opening of a door, expecting to see
Daniel Granger on the threshold.
She went to church alone on this first Sunday morning. Austin was seldom
visible before noon, dawdling away the bleaker morning hours smoking and
reading in bed. Bessie had a world of domestic business on her hands, and
the two boys to torment her while she attempted to get through it. So
Clarissa went alone to St. Gudule. There were Protestant temples, no doubt,
in the Belgian city wherein she might have worshipped; but that solemn
pile drew her to itself with a magnetic attraction. She went in among
the gay-looking crowd--the old women in wondrous caps, the sprinkling
of soldiers, the prosperous citizens and citizenesses in their Sunday
splendour--and made her way to a quiet corner remote from the great
carved-oak pulpit and the high altar--a shadowy corner behind a massive
cluster of columns, and near a little wooden door in one of the great
portals, that opened and shut with a clanging noise now and then, and
beside which a dilapidated-looking old man kept watch over a shell-shaped
marble basin of holy water, and offered a brush dipped in the sacred fluid
to devout passers-by. Here she could kneel unobserved, and in her ignorant
fashion, join in the solemn service, lifting up her heart with the
elevation of the host, and acknowledging her guiltiness in utter humility
Yet not always throughout that service could she keep her thoughts from
wandering. Her mind had been too much troubled of late for perfect peace or
abstraction of thought to be possible to her. The consideration of her own
folly was very constantly with her. What a wreck and ruin she had made of
her life--a life which from first to last had been governed by impulse
"If I had been an honourable woman, I should never have married Daniel
Granger," she said to herself. "What right had I to take so much and give
so little--to marry a man I could not even hope to love for the sake of
winning independence for my father, or for the sake of my old home?"
Arden Court--was not that the price which had made her sacrifice tolerable
to her? And she had lost it; the gates of the dwelling she loved were
closed upon her once again--and this time for ever. How the memory of the
place came back to her this chill March morning!--the tall elms rocking in
the wind, the rooks' nests tossing in the topmost branches, and the hoarse
cawing of discontented birds bewailing the tardiness of spring.
"It will be my darling's home in the days to come," she said to herself;
but even this thought brought no consolation. She dared not face her son's
future. Would it not involve severance from her? Now, while he was an
infant, she might hold him; but by-and-by the father's stern claim would
be heard. They would take the boy away from her--teach him to despise and
forget her. She fancied herself wandering and watching in Arden Park, a
trespasser, waiting for a stolen glimpse of her child's face.
"I shall die before that time comes," she thought gloomily.
Some such fancy as this held her absorbed when the high mass concluded, and
the congregation began to disperse. The great organ was pealing out one of
Mozart's Hallelujahs. There was some secondary service going on at either
end of the church. Clarissa still knelt, with her face hidden in her hands,
not praying, only conjuring up dreadful pictures of the future. Little by
little the crowd melted away; there were only a few worshippers murmuring
responses in the distance; the last chords of the Hallelujah crashed and
resounded under the vaulted roof; and at last Clarissa looked up and found
herself almost alone.
She went out, but shrank from returning immediately to her child. Those
agitating thoughts had affected her too deeply. She walked away from the
church up towards the park, hoping to find some quiet place where she might
walk down the disturbance in her mind, so as to return with a calm smiling
face to her darling. It was not a tempting day for any purposeless
pedestrian. The sky had darkened at noon, and there was a drizzling rain
coming down from the dull gray heavens. The streets cleared quickly now the
services were over; but Clarissa went on, scarcely conscious of the rain,
and utterly indifferent to any inconvenience it might cause her.
She was in the wide open place near the park, when she heard footsteps
following her, rapidly, and with a purpose, as it seemed. Some women have
a kind of instinct about these things. She knew in a moment, as if by some
subtle magnetism, that the man following her was George Fairfax.
"Clarissa," said a voice close in her ear; and turning quickly, she found
herself face to face with him.
"I was in the church," he said, "and have followed you all the way here.
I waited till we were clear of the narrow streets and the crowd. O, my
darling, thank God I have found you! I only knew yesterday that you had
left Paris; and some happy instinct brought me here. I felt sure you would
come to Austin. I arrived late last night, and was loafing about the
streets this morning, wondering how I should discover your whereabouts,
when I turned a corner and saw you going into St. Gudule. I followed,
but would not disturb your orisons, fair saint. I was not very far off,
Clarissa--only on the other side of the pillar."
"Was it kind of you to follow me here, Mr. Fairfax?" Clarissa asked
gravely. "Have you not brought enough trouble upon me as it is?"
"Brought trouble upon you! Yes, that seems hard; but I suppose it was my
fate to do that, and to make amends for it afterwards, dearest, in a life
that shall know no trouble."
"I am here with my son, Mr. Fairfax. It was the fear of being separated
from him that drove me away from Paris. If you have one spark of generous
feeling, you will not pursue me or annoy me here. If my husband were to see
us together, or were to hear of our being seen together, he would have just
grounds for taking my child away from me."
"Clarissa," exclaimed George Fairfax, with intensity, "let us make an end
of all folly and beating about the bush at once and for ever. I do not say
that I am not sorry for what happened the other night--so far as it caused
annoyance to you--but I am heartily glad that matters have been brought to
a crisis. The end must have come sooner or later, Clary--so much the better
if it has come quickly. There is only one way to deal with the wretched
mistake of your marriage, and that is to treat it as a thing that has never
been. There are places enough in the world, Clary, in which you and I are
nameless and unknown, and we can be married in one of those places. I will
run all risks of a criminal prosecution and seven, years at Portland. You
shall be my wife, Clarissa, by as tight a knot as Church and State can
She looked at him with a half scornful smile.
"Do you think you are talking to a child?" she said.
They had been standing in the chill drizzling rain all this time,
unconscious, and would have so stood, perhaps, if a shower of fire and
brimstone had been descending upon Brussels. But at this juncture Mr.
Fairfax suddenly discovered that it was raining, and that Clarissa's shawl
was growing rapidly damper.
"Good heavens!" he exclaimed, "what a brute I am. I must find you some kind
There was a cafe near at hand, the cafe attached to the Theatre du Pare,
with rustic out-of-door constructions for the accommodation of its
customers. Mr. Fairfax conducted Clarissa to one of these wooden arbours,
where they might remain till the rain was over, or till he chose to bring
her a carriage. He did not care to do that very soon. He had a great deal
to say to her. This time he was resolved not to accept defeat.
A solitary waiter espied them promptly, having so little to do in this
doleful weather, and came for orders. Mr. Fairfax asked for some coffee,
and waited in silence while the man brought a little tray with cups and
saucers and a great copper coffee-pot, out of which he poured the black
infusion with infinite flourish.
"Bring some cognac," said Mr. Fairfax; and when the spirit had been
brought, he poured half a wine-glassful into a cup of coffee, and entreated
Clarissa to drink it as an antidote to cold.
"You were walking ever so long in the rain," he said.
She declined the nauseous dose.
"I am not afraid of catching cold," she said; "but I shall be very glad if
you will let that man fetch me a fly. I ought to have been at home half an
"At home! Is it permissible to ask where you live?"
"I would rather not tell you my address. I hope, if my being here had
anything to with your coming to Brussels, that you will go back to Paris at
"I shall never go back to Paris unless I enter its gates with you some day.
I am going to the East, Clary; to Constantinople, and Athens, and all the
world of fable and story, and you are going with me--you and young Lovel.
Do you know there is one particular spot in the island of Corfu which I
have pitched upon for the site of a villa, just such a fairy place as you
can sketch for me--your own architecture--neither gothic nor composite,
neither classic nor rustic, only _le style Clarisse_; not for our permanent
dwelling--to my mind, nothing but poverty should ever chain a man to one
habitation--but as a nest to which we might fly now and then, when we were
weary of roaming."
He was talking lightly, after his nature, which was of the lightest,
but for a purpose, also, trying to beguile Clarissa from serious
considerations, to bring a smile to the pale sad face, if he could. In
vain; the hazel eyes looked straight forward with an unwonted fixedness,
the lips were firmly set, the hands clasped rigidly.
After this, his tone grew more earnest; again he pleaded, very much as
he had pleaded before, but with a stronger determination, with a deeper
passion, painting the life that might be for those two in the warmest,
brightest colours that his fancy could lend it. What had she to care for?
he argued. Absolutely nothing. She had broken with her husband, whom George
Fairfax knew by his own experience to be implacable in his resentment. And
oh, how much to gain! A life of happiness; all her future spent with the
man who loved her; spent wherever and however she pleased. What was he but
her slave, to obey her?
She was not unmoved by his pleading. Unmoved? These were words and tones
that went home to her heart of hearts. Yes, she could imagine the life he
painted so well. Yes, she knew what the future would seem to her, if it
were to be spent with him. She loved him dearly--had so loved him ever
since that night in the railway-carriage, she thought. When had his image
really been absent from her since that time?
He insisted that she should hear him to the end, and she submitted, not
unwillingly, perhaps. She had no thought of yielding; but it was sweet to
her to hear his voice--for the last time, she told herself; this must be
the last time. Even while he pleaded and argued and demonstrated that the
wisest thing in the world she could do was to run away with him, she was
meditating her plan of escape. Not again must they meet thus. She had a
certain amount of strength of mind, but it was not inexhaustible, and she
felt her weakness.
"You forget that I have a son," she said at last, when he urged her to
"He shall be my son. Do you think I do not love that rosy yearling? He
shall inherit Lyvedon, if you like; there is no entail; I can do what I
please with it. Yes, though I had sons of my own he should be first, by
right of any wrong we may do him now. In the picture I have made of our
future life, I never omitted that figure, Clarissa. Forget your son! No,
Clary; when I am less than a father to him, tell me that I never loved
This was the man's way of looking at the question; the boy's future should
be provided for, he should have a fine estate left him by way of solatium.
The mother thought of what her son would think of _her_, when he grew old
enough to consider her conduct.
"I must ask you to get me a fly somehow, Mr. Fairfax," she said quietly.
"It is still raining, and I am really anxious to get home to Lovel. I am
sorry you should have taken so much trouble about me; it is quite useless,
believe me. I know that I have been very weak--guilty even--in many ways
since I have known you; but that is all over now. I have paid the penalty
in the loss of my husband's esteem. I have nothing now to live for but my
"And is that to be the end of everything, Mrs. Granger?" asked George
Fairfax, with an angry look in his eyes. "Are we to part upon that? It is
such an easy thing to lure a man on to a certain point, and then turn upon
him and protest you never meant to go beyond that point. You have paid the
penalty! Do you think I have paid no penalty? Was it a pleasant thing to
me, do you suppose, to jilt Geraldine Challoner? I trampled honour in the
dust for your sake, Clarissa. Do you know that there is a coolness between
my mother and me at this moment, because of my absence from England and
that broken-off marriage? Do you know that I have turned my back for ever
upon a place that any man might be proud to call his home, for the sake of
being near you? I have cast every consideration to the winds; and now that
you have actually broken loose from your bondage, now that there is nothing
to come between us and a happy future, you set up your son as an obstacle,
and"--he concluded with a bitter laugh--"ask me to fetch you a fly!"
"I am sorry to wound you; but--but--I cannot bring dishonour upon my son."
"Your son!" cried George Fairfax savagely. "An east wind may blow your
son off the face of the earth to-morrow. Is a one-year-old baby to
stand between a man and his destiny? Come, Clary, I have served my
apprenticeship; I have been very patient; but my patience is exhausted. You
must leave this place with me to-night."
"Mr. Fairfax, will you get me a fly, or must I walk home?"
He looked at her fixedly for a few moments, intent upon finding out if she
were really in earnest, if this cold persistence were unconquerable even by
him. Her face was very pale, the eyes downcast, the mouth firm as marble.
"Clarissa," he cried, "I have been fooled from first to last--you have
never loved me!"
Those words took her off her guard; she lifted her eyes to meet his, eyes
full of love and despair, and again he told himself success was only a
question of time. His apprenticeship was not finished yet; he must be
content to serve a little longer. When she had tasted the bitterness of her
new life, its helplessness, its desolation, with only such a broken reed as
Austin Lovel to lean upon, she would turn to him naturally for comfort and
succour, as the fledgling flies back to its nest.
But if in the meantime Daniel Granger should relent and pursue her, and
take her back to his heart with pardon and love? There was the possibility
of that event; yet to press matters too persistently would be foolish,
perilous even. Better to let her have her own way for a little, since he
knew that she loved him.
He went to look for the depressed waiter, whom he dispatched in quest of a
vehicle, and then returned to the rustic shelter, where Clarissa sat like a
statue, watching the rain pouring down monotonously in a perpetual drizzle.
They heard the wheels of the carriage almost immediately. Mr. Fairfax
offered his arm to Clarissa, and led her out of the garden; the obsequious
waiter on the other side holding an umbrella over her head.
"Where shall I tell the man to drive?" he asked.
"To St. Gudule."
"But you don't live in the cathedral, like Hugo's Esmeralda. Am I not to
know your address?"
"It is better not. Austin knows that you were the cause of my leaving
Paris. If you came, there might be some misunderstanding."
"I am not afraid of facing Austin."
"But I am afraid of any meeting between you. I cannot tell you where I am
living, Mr. Fairfax."
"That seems rather hard upon me. But you will let me see you again, won't
you, Clary? Meet me here to-morrow at dusk--say at six o'clock. Promise to
do that, and I will let you off."
She hesitated, looking nervously to the right and left, like a hunted
"Promise, Clary; it is not very much to ask."
"Very well, then, I promise. Only please let the man drive off to St.
Gudule, and pray don't follow me."
Mr. Fairfax grasped her hand. "Remember, you have promised," he said, and
then gave the coachman his orders. And directly the fly containing Clarissa
had rattled off, he ran to the nearest stand and chartered another.
"Drive to St. Gudule," he said to the man, "and when you see a carriage
going that way, keep behind it, but not too near."
It happened, however, that the first driver had the best horse, and, being
eager to earn his fare quickly, had deposited Clarissa in the Place Gudule
before George Fairfax's charioteer could overtake him. She had her money
ready to slip into the man's hand, and she ran across the square and into
the narrow street where Austin lived, and vanished, before Mr. Fairfax
turned the corner of the square.
He met the empty vehicle, and dismissed his own driver thereupon in a rage.
"Your horse ought to be suppressed by the legal authorities," he said, as
he gave the man his fare.
She must live very near the cathedral, he concluded, and he spent a dreary
hour patrolling the narrow streets round about in the wet. In which of
those dull-looking houses has she her dwelling? He could not tell. He
walked up and down, staring up at all the windows with a faint hope of
seeing her, but in vain; and at last went home to his hotel crestfallen and
"She escapes me at every turn," he said to himself. "There is a kind of
fatality. Am I to grow old and gray in pursuing her, I wonder? I feel ten
years older already, since that night when she and I travelled together."
* * * * *
ON THE WING.
Clarissa hung over her baby with all manner of fond endearments.
"My darling! my darling!" she sobbed; "is it a hard thing to resist
temptation for your sake?"
She had shed many bitter tears since that interview with George Fairfax,
alone in the dreary room, while Level slept the after-dinner sleep of
infancy, and while Mrs. Level and Jane Target gossipped sociably in the
general sitting-room. Austin was out playing dominoes at the cafe of a
Thousand Columns, with some Bohemianishly-disposed Bruxellois.
She had wept for the life that might have been, but which never could be.
On that point she was decided. Not under the shadow of dishonour could she
spend her days. She had her son. If she had been alone, utterly desolate,
standing on some isolated rock, with nothing but the barren sea around her,
she might perhaps have listened to that voice which was so very sweet to
her, and yielded. But to take this dreadful leap which she was asked to
take, alone, was one thing; to take it with her child in her arms, another.
Her fancy, which was very vivid, made pictures of what her boy's future
might be, if she were to do this thing. She thought of him stung by the
mention of his mother's name, as if it were the foulest insult. She thought
of his agony when he heard other men talk of their mothers, and remembered
the blackness of darkness that shrouded his. She thought of the boyish
intellect opening little by little, first with vague wonder, then fearful
curiosity, to receive this fatal knowledge; and then the shame for that
young innocent soul!
"O, not for worlds!" she cried, "O, not for worlds! God keep me from any
Not with mere idle prayers did she content herself. She knew her danger;
that man was resolute, unscrupulous, revengeful even: and she loved him.
She determined to leave Brussels. She would go and lose herself in the wide
world of London; and then, after a little while, when all possibility of
her movements being traced was over, she would take her child to some
secluded country place, where there were woods and meadows, and where the
little dimpled hands could gather bright spring flowers. She announced her
intention to her brother that evening, when he came home at a latish hour
from the Thousand Columns, elated by having won three francs and a half at
dominoes--an amount which he had expended on cognac and syphons for himself
and his antagonist.
He was surprised, vexed even, by Clarissa's decision. Why had she come to
him, if she meant to run away directly? What supreme folly to make such a
journey for nothing! Why did she not go from Paris to London at once?
"I did not think of that, Austin; I was almost out of my senses that day, I
think, after Daniel told me he was going to separate me from my boy; and it
seemed natural to me to fly to you for protection."
"Then why run away from me? Heaven knows, you are welcome to such a home
as I can give. The quarters are rough, I know; but we shall improve that,
"No, no, Austin, it is not that. I should be quite happy with you,
only--only--I have a particular reason for going to London."
"Clarissa!" cried her brother sternly, "has that man anything to do with
this? Has he tried to lure you away from here, to your destruction?"
"No, no, no! you ought to know me better than that. Do you think I would
bring dishonour upon my boy?"
Her face told him that she was speaking the truth.
"Very well, Clary," he said with a sigh of resignation; "you must do as you
please. I suppose your reason is a good one, though you don't choose to
So, by an early train next morning, Clarissa, with her nurse and child,
left Brussels for Ostend--a somewhat dreary place wherein to arrive in
early spring-time, with March winds blowing bleak across the sandy dunes.
They had to spend a night here, at a second-rate hotel on the Quay.
"We must go to humble-looking places, you know, Jane, to make our money
last," Clarissa said on the journey. They had travelled second-class; but
she had given a five-pound note to her brother, by way of recompense for
the brief accommodation he had given her, not telling him how low her stock
was. Faithful Jane's five-and-twenty pounds were vanishing. Clarissa looked
at the two glittering circlets on her wedding finger.
"We cannot starve while we have these," she thought; and once in London,
she could sell her drawings. Natural belief of the school-girl mind, that
water-coloured sketches are a marketable commodity!
Again in the dismal early morning--that sunrise of which poets write so
sweetly, but which to the unromantic traveller is wont to seem a dreary
thing--mother and nurse and child went their way in a great black steamer,
redolent of oil and boiled mutton; and at nine o'clock at night--a starless
March night--Clarissa and her belongings were deposited on St. Katharine's
Wharf, amidst a clamour and bustle that almost confused her senses.
She had meditated and debated and puzzled herself all through the day's
voyage, sitting alone on the windy deck, brooding over her troubles, while
Jane kept young Lovel amused and happy below. Inexperienced in the ways of
every-day life as a child--knowing no more now than she had known in her
school-girl days at Belforet--she had made her poor little plan, such as it
Two or three times during her London season she had driven through
Soho--those weird dreary streets between Soho Square and Regent Street--and
had contemplated the gloomy old houses, with a bill of lodgings to let
here and there in a parlour-window; anon a working jeweller's humble shop
breaking out of a private house; here a cheap restaurant, there a French
laundress; everywhere the air of a life which is rather a struggle to
live than actual living. In this neighbourhood, which was the only humble
quarter of the great city whereof she had any knowledge, Clarissa fancied
they might find a temporary lodging--only a temporary shelter, for all her
hopes and dreams pointed to some fair rustic retreat, where she might live
happily with her treasure. Once lodged safely and obscurely, where it would
be impossible for either her husband or George Fairfax to track her, she
would spend a few shillings in drawing-materials, and set to work to
produce a set of attractive sketches, which she might sell to a dealer. She
knew her brother's plan of action, and fancied she could easily carry it
out upon a small scale.
"So little would enable us to live happily, Jane," she said, when she
revealed her ideas to her faithful follower.
"But O, mum, to think of you living like that, with such a rich husband as
Mr. Granger, and him worshipping the ground you walk upon, as he did up to
the very last; and as to his anger, I'm sure it was only tempory, and he's
sorry enough he drove you away by this time, I'll lay."
"He wanted to take away my child, Jane."
They took a cab, and drove from Thames-street to Soho. Clarissa had never
been through the City at night before, and she thought the streets would
never end. They came at last into that quieter and dingier region; but it
was past ten o'clock, and hard work to find a respectable lodging at such
an hour. Happily the cabman was a kindly and compassionate spirit, and
did his uttermost to help them, moving heaven and earth, in the way of
policemen and small shopkeepers, until, by dint of much inquiry, he found
a decent-looking house in a _cul-de-sac_ out of Dean-street--a little
out-of-the-way quadrangle, where the houses were large and stately, and had
been habitations of sweetness and light in the days when Soho was young,
and Monmouth the young man of the period.
To one of these houses the cabman had been directed by a good-natured
cheesemonger, at a corner not far off; and here Clarissa found a
second-floor--a gaunt-looking sitting-room, with three windows and
oaken window-seats, sparsely furnished, but inexorably clean; a bedroom
adjoining--at a rent which seemed moderate to this inexperienced
wayfarer. The landlady was a widow--is it not the normal state of
landladies?--cleanly and conciliating, somewhat surprised to see travellers
with so little luggage, but reassured by that air of distinction which was
inseparable from Mrs. Granger, and by the presence of the maid.
The cabman was dismissed, with many thanks and a princely payment; and so
Clarissa began life alone in London.
* * * * *
IN TIME OF NEED.
It was a dreary habitation, that London lodging, after the gardens and
woods of Arden, the luxurious surroundings and innumerable prettinesses
which Mr. Granger's wealth had provided for the wife of his love; dreary
after the holiday brightness of Paris; dreary beyond expression to
Clarissa in the long quiet evenings when she sat alone, trying to face the
future--the necessity for immediate action being over, and the world all
She had her darling. That was the one fact which she repeated to herself
over and over again, as if the words had been a charm--an amulet to drive
away guilty thoughts of the life that might have been, if she had listened
to George Fairfax's prayer.
It was not easy for her to shut _that_ image out of her heart, even with
her dearest upon earth beside her. The tender pleading words, the earnest
face, came back to her very often. She thought of him wandering about
those hilly streets in Brussels, disappointed and angry: thought of his
reproaches, and the sacrifices he had made for her.
And then from such weak fancies she was brought suddenly back by the
necessities of every-day life Her money was very nearly gone; the journeys
had cost so much, and she had been obliged to buy clothing for Jane and
Lovel and herself at Brussels. She had spent a sovereign on colours
and brushes and drawing-paper at Winsor and Newton's--her little
stock-in-trade. She looked at her diamond rings meditatively as she sat
brooding in the March twilight, with as vague an idea of their value as a
child might have had. The time was very near when she would be obliged to
turn them into money.
Fortunately the woman of the house was friendly, and the rooms were clean.
But the airs of Soho are not as those breezes which come blowing over
Yorkshire wolds and woods, with the breath of the German Ocean; nor had
they the gay Tuileries garden and the Bois for Master Lovel's airings. Jane
Target was sorely puzzled where to take the child. It was a weary long
way to St. James's Park on foot; and the young mother had a horror of
omnibuses--in which she supposed smallpox and fever to be continually
raging. Sometimes they had a cab, and took the boy down to feed the ducks
and stare at the soldiers. But in the Park Clarissa had an ever-present
terror of being seen by some one she knew. Purposeless prowlings with baby
in the streets generally led unawares into Newport-market, from which busy
mart Mrs. Granger fled aghast, lest her darling should die of the odour of
red herrings and stale vegetables. In all the wider streets Clarissa was
afflicted by that perpetual fear of being recognised; and during the
airings which Lovel enjoyed with Jane alone the poor mother endured
unspeakable torments. At any moment Mr. Granger, or some one employed by
Mr. Granger, might encounter the child, and her darling be torn from her;
or some accident might befall him. Clarissa's inexperience exaggerated the
perils of the London streets, until every paving-stone seemed to bristle
with dangers. She longed for the peace and beauty of the country; but not
until she had found some opening for the disposal of her sketches could she
hope to leave London. She worked on bravely for a fortnight, painting half
a dozen hours a day, and wasting the rest of her day in baby worship, or
in profound plottings and plannings about the future with Jane Target. The
girl was thoroughly devoted, ready to accept any scheme of existence which
her mistress might propose. The two women made their little picture of the
life they were to lead when Clarissa had found a kindly dealer to give her
constant employment: a tiny cottage, somewhere in Kent or Surrey, among
green fields and wooded hills, furnished ever so humbly, but with a garden
where Lovel might play. Clarissa sketched the ideal cottage one evening--a
bower of roses and honeysuckle, with a thatched roof and steep gables.
Alas, when she had finished her fortnight's work, and carried half a dozen
sketches to a dealer in Rathbone-place, it was only to meet with a crushing
disappointment. The man admitted her power, but had no use for anything of
that kind. Chromolithographs were cheap and popular--people would rather
buy a lithograph of some popular artist's picture than a nameless
water-colour. If she liked to leave a couple of her sketches, he would try
to dispose of them, but he could not buy them--and giving her permanent
employment was quite out of the question.
"Do you know anything about engraving?" he asked.
Clarissa shook her head sadly.
"Can you draw on the wood?"
"I have never tried, but I daresay I could do that."
"I recommend you to turn your attention that way. There's a larger field
for that sort of thing. You might exhibit some of your sketches at the next
Water-Colour Exhibition. They would stand a chance of selling there."
"Thanks. You are very good, but I want remunerative employment
She wandered on--from dealer to dealer, hoping against hope always with the
same result--from Rathbone-place to Regent-street, and on to Bond-street,
and homewards along Oxford-street, and then back to her baby,
"It is no use, Jane," she sobbed. "I can understand my brother's life now.
Art is a broken reed. We must get away from this dreadful London--how pale
my Lovel is looking!--and go into some quiet country-place, where we can
live very cheaply. I almost wish I had stayed in Belgium--in one of the
small out-of-the-way towns, where we might have been safely hidden. We must
go down to the country, Jane, and I must take in plain needle-work."
"I'm a good un at that, you know, mum," Jane cried with a delighted grin.
And then they began to consider where they should go. That was rather
a difficult question. Neither of them knew any world except the region
surrounding Arden Court. At last Clarissa remembered Beckenham. She had
driven through Beckenham once on her way to a garden-party. Why should they
not go to Beckenham?--the place was so near London, could be reached with
so little expense, and yet was rustic.
"We must get rid of one of the rings, Jane," Clarissa said, looking at it
"I'll manage that, mum--don't you fidget yourself about that. There's a
pawnbroker's in the next street. I'll take it round there in the evening,
if you like, mum."
Clarissa shuddered. Commerce with a pawnbroker seemed to her inexperience a
kind of crime--something like taking stolen property to be melted down.
But Jane Target was a brave damsel, and carried the ring to the pawnbroker
with so serene a front, and gave her address with so honest an air, that
the man, though at first inclined to be doubtful, believed her story;
namely, that the ring belonged to her mistress, a young married lady who
had suffered a reverse of fortune.
She went home rejoicing, having raised fifteen pounds upon a ring that
was worth ninety. The pawnbroker had a notice that it would never be
redeemed--young married ladies who suffer reverse of fortune rarely recover
their footing, but generally slide down, down, down to the uttermost deeps
They were getting ready for that journey to Beckenham, happy in the idea of
escaping from the monotonous unfriendly streets, and the grime and mire
and general dinginess of London life, when an unlooked-for calamity befell
them, and the prospect of release had, for the time at least, to be given
up. Young Lovel fell ill. He was "about his teeth," the woman of the house
said, and tried to make light of the evil. These innocents are subject to
much suffering in this way. He had a severe cold, with a tiresome hacking
cough which rent Clarissa's heart. She sent for a doctor immediately--a
neighbouring practitioner recommended by the landlady--and he came and saw
the child lying in his mother's lap, and the mother young and beautiful
and unhappy, and was melted accordingly, and did all he could to treat the
matter lightly. Yet he was fain, after a few visits, and no progress for
the better, to confess that these little lives hang by a slender thread.
"The little fellow has a noble frame and an excellent constitution," he
said; "I hope we shall save him."
Save him! An icy thrill went through Clarissa's veins. Save him! Was there
any fear of losing him? O God, what would her life be without that child?
She looked at the doctor, white to the lips and speechless with horror.
"I don't wish to alarm you," he said gently, "but I am compelled to admit
that there is danger. If the little one's father is away," he added
doubtfully, "and you would like to summon him, I think it would be as well
to do so."
"O, my flower, my angel, my life!" she cried, flinging herself down beside
the child's bed; "I cannot lose you!"
"I trust in God you will not," said the surgeon. "We will make every
effort to save him." And then he turned to Jane Target, and murmured his
"Is there any one else," said Clarissa in a hoarse voice, looking up at the
medical man--"anyone I can send for besides yourself--any one who can cure
"I doubt whether it would be of any use. The case is such a simple one. I
have fifty such in a year. But if you would like a physician to see
the little fellow, there is Dr. Ormond, who has peculiar experience in
children's cases. You might call him in, if you liked."
"I will send for him this minute.--Jane, dear, will you go?"
"I don't think it would be any use, just now. He will be out upon his
rounds. There is no immediate danger. If you were to send to him this
evening--a note would do--asking him to call to-morrow--that would be the
best way. Remember, I don't for a moment say the case is hopeless. Only, if
you have any anxiety about the little one's father, and if he is within a
day's journey, I would really advise you to send for him."
Clarissa did not answer. She was hanging over the bed, watching every
difficult breath with unutterable agony. The child had only begun to droop
a week ago, had been positively ill only four days.
All the rest of that day Clarissa was in a kind of stupor. She watched the
child, and watched Jane administering her remedies, and the landlady coming
in now and then to look at the boy, or to ask about him with a friendly
anxiety. She tried to help Jane sometimes, in a useless tremulous way,
sometimes sat statue-like, and could only gaze. She could not even
pray--only now and then, she whispered with her dry lips, "Surely God will
not take away my child!"
At dusk the doctor came again, but said very little. He was leaving the
room, when Clarissa stopped him with a passionate despairing cry. Until
that moment she had seemed marble.
"Tell me the truth," she cried. "Will he be taken away from me? He is all
the world to me--the only thing on earth I have to love. Surely God will
not be so pitiless! What difference can one angel more make in heaven? and
he is all the world to me."
"My dear lady, these things are ordered by a Wisdom beyond our
comprehension," the doctor answered gently. That picture of a disconsolate
mother was very common to him--only Clarissa was so much lovelier than most
of the mothers, and her grief had a more romantic aspect and touched him a
little more than usual. "Believe me, I shall make every effort to pull the
little fellow through," he added with the professional air of hopefulness.
"Have you written to Dr. Ormond?"
"Yes, my letter was posted an hour after you called."
"Then we shall hear what he says to-morrow. You can have no higher opinion.
And now pray, my dear Mrs. Graham"--Clarissa had called herself Graham in
these Soho lodgings--"pray keep up your spirits; remember your own health
will suffer if you give way--and I really do not think you are strong."
He looked at her curiously as he spoke. She was deadly pale, and had a
haggard look which aged her by ten years: beauty less perfect in its
outline would have been obscured by that mental anguish--hers shone through
"Do not forget what I said about the little one's father," urged the
doctor, lingering for a minute on the threshold. "There is really too great
a responsibility in keeping him ignorant of the case, if he is anywhere
Clarissa smiled for the first time since her boy's illness--a strange
wan smile. She was thinking how Daniel Granger had threatened her with
separation from her child; and now Death had come between them to snatch
him from both.
"My son!" She remembered the proud serenity, the supreme sense of
possession, with which she had pronounced those words.
And the child would die perhaps, and Daniel Granger never look upon his
face again. A great terror came into her mind at that thought. What would
her husband say to her if he came to claim his boy, and found him dead? For
the first time since she had left him--triumphant in the thought of having
secured this treasure--the fact that the boy belonged to him, as well as to
herself, came fully home to her. From the day of the baby's birth she had
been in the habit of thinking of him as her own--hers by a right divine
almost--of putting his father out of the question, as it were--only
just tolerating to behold that doating father's fond looks and
caresses--watching all communion between those two with a lurking jealousy.
Now all at once she began to feel what a sacred bond there was between the
father and son, and how awful a thing it would be, if Daniel Granger should
find his darling dead. Might he not denounce her as the chief cause of his
boy's death? Those hurried journeys by land and sea--that rough shifting to
and fro of the pampered son and heir, whose little life until that time
had been surrounded with such luxurious indulgences, so guarded from the
faintest waft of discomfort--who should say that these things had not
jeopardised the precious creature? And out of her sin had this arisen. In
that dread hour by her darling's sick-bed, what unutterably odious
colours did her flirtation with George Fairfax assume--her dalliance with
temptation, her weak hankering after that forbidden society! She saw, as
women do see in that clear after-light which comes with remorse, all the
guilt and all the hatefulness of her sin.
"God gave me my child for my redemption," she said to herself, "and I went
What was it the doctor had said? Again and again those parting words came
back to her. The father should be summoned. But to summon him, to reveal
her hiding-place, and then have her darling taken from her, saved from the
grasp of death only to be torn from her by his pitiless unforgiving father!
No thought of what Daniel Granger had been to her in all the days of her
married life arose to comfort or reassure her. She only thought of him as
he had been after that fatal meeting in her brother's painting-room; and
she hoped for no mercy from him.
"And even if I were willing to send for him, I don't know where he is," she
said at last helplessly.
Jane Target urged her to summon him.
"If you was to send a telegraft to the Court, mum, Miss Granger is pretty
sure to be there, and she'd send to her pa, wherever he was."
Clarissa shivered. Send to Miss Granger! suffer those cold eyes to see
the depth of her humiliation! That would be hard to endure. Yet what did
anything in the world matter to her when her boy was in jeopardy?
"We shall save him, Jane," she said with a desperate hopefulness, clasping
her hands and bending down to kiss the troubled little one, who had brief
snatches of sleep now and then in weary hours of restlessness. "We shall
save him. The doctor said so."
"God grant we may, mum! But the doctor didn't say for certain--he only said
he _hoped_; and it would be so much better to send for master. It seems
a kind of crime not to let him know; and if the poor dear should grow
"He will not grow worse!" cried Clarissa hysterically. "What, Jane! are you
against me? Do you want me to be robbed of him, as his father would rob
me without mercy? No, I will keep him, I will keep him! Nothing but death
shall take him from me."
Later in the evening, restless with the restlessness of a soul tormented
by fear, Clarissa began to grow uneasy about her letter to Dr. Ormond. It
might miscarry in going through the postoffice. She was not quite sure that
it had been properly directed, her mind had been so bewildered when she
wrote it. Or Dr. Ormond might have engagements next morning, and might not
be able to come. She was seized with a nervous anxiety about this."
"If there were any one I could send with another note," she said.
Jane shook her head despondently. In that house there was no messenger to
be procured. The landlady was elderly, and kept no servant--employing only
a mysterious female of the charwoman species, who came at daybreak, dyed
herself to the elbows with blacking or blacklead before breakfast, and so
remained till the afternoon, when she departed to "do for" a husband and
children--the husband and children passing all the earlier part of the day
in a desolate and un-"done-for" condition.
"There's no one to take a letter, mum," said Jane, looking wistfully at her
mistress, who had been watching without rest or slumber for three days and
three nights. "But why shouldn't you go yourself, mum? Cavendish Square
isn't so very far. Don't you remember our going there one morning with
baby? It's a fine evening, and a little fresh air would do you good."
Clarissa was quite willing to go on the errand herself. It would be doing
something at least. She might see the physician, and obtain his promise to
come to her early next day; and beside that sick-bed she was of so little
use. She could only hold her darling in her lap, when he grew weary of his
bed, or carry him up and down the room sometimes. Jane, whose nerves were
as steady as a rock, did all the rest.
She looked at the bed. It was hard to leave that tender little sufferer
even for half an hour.
"If he should grow worse while I am away?" she said doubtfully.
"No fear of that," replied Jane. "He's sleeping better now than he has
slept for ever so long. God grant he's upon the turn!"
"God grant it! And you won't forget the medicine at half-past eight?"
"Lor', mum, as if I should forget!"
"Then I'll go," said Clarissa.
She put on her bonnet and shawl, startled a little by the white face that
looked at her from the glass. The things she had worn when she left Paris
were the darkest and plainest in her wardrobe. They had grown shabby by
this time, and had a very sombre look. Even in these garments the tall slim
figure had a certain elegance; but it was not a figure to be remarked at
nightfall, in the London streets. The mistress of Arden Court might have
been easily mistaken for a sempstress going home from her work.
Just at first the air made her giddy, and she tottered a little on the
broad pavement of the quiet _cul-de-sac_. It seemed as if she had not been
out of doors for a month. But by degrees she grew more accustomed to the
keen March atmosphere and the noise of Oxford-street, towards which she was
hastening, and so hurried on, thinking only of her errand. She made her way
somehow to Cavendish-square. How well she remembered driving through it in
the summer gloaming, during the brief glory of her one season, on her way
to a commercial magnate's Tusculum in the Regent's-park! It had seemed
remote and out of the world after Mayfair--a locality which one might be
driven by reverse of fortune to inhabit, not otherwise. But to-night the
grave old square had an alarming stateliness of aspect after slipshod Soho.
She found Dr. Ormond's house, and saw his butler, a solemn bald-headed
personage, who looked wise enough to prescribe for the most recondite
diseases of humanity. The doctor himself was dining out, but the butler
pledged himself for his master's appearance at Clarissa's lodgings between
eleven and two to-morrow.
"He never disappints; and he draws no distinctions," said the official,
with an evident reference to the humility of the applicant's social status.
"There's not many like him in the medical perfession."
"And you think he is sure to come?" urged Clarissa anxiously.
"Don't you be afraid, mum. I shall make a particular pint of it myself. You
may be quite easy about his comin'."
Clarissa thanked the man, and surprised him with half-a-crown gently
slipped into his fat palm. She had not many half-crowns now; but the butler
seemed to pity her, and might influence his master to come to her a little
sooner than he would come in the ordinary way.
Her errand being done, she turned away from the house with a strange
sinking at the heart. An ever-present fear of his illness coming to a fatal
end, and a guilty sense of the wrong she was doing to Daniel Granger,
oppressed her. She walked in a purposeless way, took the wrong turning
after coming out of the square, and so wandered into Portland-place. She
came to a full stop suddenly in that wide thoroughfare, and looking
about her like an awakened sleep-walker, perceived that she had gone
astray--recognised the place she was in, and saw that she was within a few
doors of Lady Laura Armstrong's house.
Although the London season had begun, there was an air of stillness and
solitude in this grave habitation of splendours that have for the most part
vanished. At one door there was a carriage waiting; here and there lighted
windows shone out upon the night; but the general aspect was desolation. If
there were gaiety and carousing anywhere, closed shutters hid the festival
from the outer world. The underground world of Egypt could scarcely have
seemed more silent than Portland-place.
Clarissa went on to the familiar corner house, which was made conspicuous
to the stranger by encaustic tiled balconies, or glass fern and flower
cases at every available window, and by a certain colour and glitter which
seemed almost a family likeness to Lady Laura herself. There were lights
burning dimly in the two last windows on the drawing-room floor looking
into the side street. Clarissa remembered the room very well--it was
Lady Laura's own especial sanctum, the last and smallest of four
drawing-rooms--a nest lined with crimson silk, and crowded with everything
foolish in the way of ebony and ormolu, Venetian glass and Sevres china,
and with nothing sensible in it except three or four delicious easy-chairs
of the _pouff_ species, immortalised by Sardou. Alas for that age of pouff
which he satirised with such a caustic pen! To what dismal end has it come!
End of powder and petroleum, and instead of beauty, burning!
The lonely wanderer, so sorely oppressed with cares and perplexities,
looked wistfully up at those familiar windows. How often she had loitered
away the twilight with Lady Laura, talking idly in that flower-laden
balcony! As she looked at it to-night, there came into her mind a foolish
wonder that life could have had any interest for her in those days, before
the birth of her son.
"If I were to lose him now, I should be no poorer than I was then," she
thought; and then, after a moment's reflection, "O yes, yes, a thousand
times poorer, once having had him."
She walked a little way down the street, and then came back again and
lingered under those two-windows, with an unspeakable yearning to cast
herself upon her friend in this hour of shipwreck. She had such bitter
need of sympathy from some one nearer her own level than the poor honest
faithful Yorkshire girl.
"She was once my friend," she said to herself, still hovering there
irresolute, "and seemed very fond of me. She could advise me, knowing the
world so well as she does; and I do not think she would betray me. She owes
me something, too. But for my promise to her, I might have been George
Fairfax's wife, and all this trouble might have been avoided."
George Fairfax's wife! What a strange dreamlike fancy it seemed! And yet it
might have been; it had needed only one little word from herself to make
the dream a fact.
"I tried to do my duty," she thought, "and yet ruin and sorrow have come
upon me." And then the small still voice whispered, "Tried to do your duty,
but not always; sometimes you left off trying, and dared to be happy in
your own way. Between the two roads of vice and virtue, you tried to make a
devious pathway of your own, not wholly on one side or the other."
Once having seen that light, feeling somehow that there was sympathy and
comfort near, she could not go away without making some attempt to see her
friend. She thought with a remorseful pang of times and seasons during her
wedded life when Laura Armstrong's too solicitous friendship had seemed to
her something of a bore. How different was it with her now!
She summoned up resolution at last, and in a half desperate mood, went
round to the front door and knocked--a tremulous conscience-stricken knock,
as of some milliner's apprentice bringing home a delayed bonnet. The man
who opened the door; looked involuntarily for her basket.
"What is it?" he asked dubiously, scenting a begging-letter writer in the
tall slim figure and closely-veiled face, and being on principle averse
from gentility that did not ride in its carriage. "What is it, young
"Can I see Lady Laura Armstrong? I want to see her very particularly."
"Have you got an appointment?"
"No; but I wish to see her."
"You're from Madame Lecondre's, I suppose. You can see my lady's maid; but
it's quite out of the question for you to see my lady herself, at this time
"Will you take a message to her, on a slip of paper? I am almost sure she
will see me." And again Clarissa opened her slender purse, and slipped a
florin into the man's hand, by way of bribe.
He was somewhat melted by this, but yet had an eye to the portable property
in the hall.
"You can come in," he said, pointing with a lofty air to a table whereon
were pens and paper, "and write your message." And then rang an electric
bell, which summons brought a second powdered footman, who was, as it were,
a Corsican Brother or Siamese Twin, without the ligature, to the first.
Clarissa scrawled a few hasty lines on a sheet of paper, and folded it.
"Be so kind as to take that to your mistress," she said. "I am sure she
will see me."
The second footman was that superior young man, Norris, whom Hannah Warman
had praised. He stared aghast, recognising Mrs. Granger's voice and
bearing, in spite of the thick veil folded over her face, in spite of her
"My lady shall have your note immediately, ma'am," he said with profound
respect, and sped off as if to carry the message of a cabinet minister,
much to the bewilderment of his brother officer, who did not know Mrs.
He reappeared in about two minutes, and ushered Clarissa duly up the broad
staircase--dimly lighted to-night, the family being in Portland-place, in
a kind of semi-state, only newly arrived, and without so much as a
hall-porter--through the corridor, where there were velvet-cushioned divans
against the walls, whereon many among Lady Laura's guests considered it a
privilege to sit on her great reception nights, content to have penetrated
so far, and with no thought of struggling farther, and on to the
white-and-gold door at the farther end, which admitted the elect into my
Laura Armstrong was sitting at an ebony writing-table, with innumerable
little drawers pulled out to their utmost extent, and all running over with
papers, a chaotic mass of open letters before her, and a sheet of foolscap
scrawled over with names. She had been planning her campaign for the
season--so many dinners, so many dances, alternate Thursdays in May and
June; and a juvenile fancy ball, at which a Pompadour of seven years of
age could lead off the Lancers with a Charles the Twelfth of ten, with an
eight-year-old Mephistopheles and a six-year-old Anna Boleyn for their
As the footman opened the door, and ushered in Mrs. Granger, there was a
faint rustling of silk behind the _portiere_ dividing Lady Laura's room
from the next apartment; but Clarissa was too agitated to notice this.
Laura Armstrong received her with effusion.
"My dearest girl," she exclaimed, rising, and grasping both Clarissa's
hands, as the man closed the door, "how glad I am to see you! Do you know,
something told me you would come to me? Yes, dear; I said to myself ever so
many times, 'That poor misguided child will come to me.' O, Clary, Clary,
what have you been doing! Your husband is like a rock. He was at Arden
for a few days, about a fortnight ago, and I drove over to see him, and
entreated him to confide in me; but he would tell nothing. My poor, poor
child! how pale, how changed!"
She had thrown back Clarissa's veil, and was scrutinising the haggard face
with very womanly tenderness.
"Sit down, dear, and tell me everything. You know that you can trust me. If
you had gone ever so wrong--and I don't believe it is in you to do that--I
would still be your friend."
Clarissa made a faint effort to speak, and then burst into tears. This
loving welcome was quite too much to bear.
"He told me he was going to take my boy away from me," she sobbed, "so I
ran away from him, with my darling--and now my angel is dying!"
And then, with many tears, and much questioning and ejaculation from Lady
Laura, she told her pitiful story--concealing nothing, not even her weak
yielding to temptation, not even her love for George Fairfax.
"I loved him always," she said; "yes--always, always, always--from that
first night when we travelled together! I used to dream of him sometimes,
never hoping to see him again, till that summer day when he came suddenly
upon me in Marley Wood. But I kept my promise; I was true to you, Lady
Laura; I kept my promise."
"My poor Clary, how I wish I had never exacted that promise! It did no
good; it did not save Geraldine, and it seems to have made you miserable.